10 September, 2006

the only problem with a tall husband

Is that it's hard to fit him into a Mini Cooper! But we're going to try. We've been carless for too long, we've decided, so yesterday we started on the road to official adoption of an orphaned Mini and test drove a model at Park Lane BMW. One of the dubious distinctions of living in Mayfair is that within three blocks of our flat, one can purchase an Astin Martin, a BMW, a Bentley, or... a Mini. It's the cutest car ever. But very tiny, so John had to fold himself up like a clown in a phone booth to get in. At first, the saleslady Anita was very skeptical (or "sceptical" as they insist on spelling it here), watching his head graze the roof, his knees tucked under his chin, and poor Avery completely squashed in the back when he pushed the driver's seat back to its fullest extent. But life, including car purchases, involves compromise, so I sat back in my comfy passenger seat and watched as John and Avery negotiated who got what amount of room. He started off with the suggestion that she merely ride at all times with her legs crossed on the seat, which was greeted with a guffaw and the countersuggestion that we get a convertible so he can put his legs out the top and drive with his hands. Finally seats were adjusted to everyone's satisfaction and we took turns driving around Hyde Park, marveling at how it turns on a dime, or a sixpence, the surprising amount of engine power for such a teeny little vehicle. And Anita, whose accent suggests her origins in someplace ending in a "stan," assured us of its remarkable "safetyness," which is reassuring, and surprising considering all the other cars on the road top it by several if not many inches.

So John is headed off to New York for the week this afternoon, and when he gets back on Saturday we're going to look seriously for a nice used Mini for our very own. I actually felt quite comfortable driving, which is astonishing since my last remembered driving experience in London ended in my being hit by a tour bus full of visiting Finns, then ricocheting into a Jeep owned by a Greek diplomat. The poor bobby who attended the scene said he felt like he was stuck in a NATO meeting. The poor car was totalled, or rather 100 pounds shy of being totalled which meant we had to get it fixed. I was fine, but it has left me (and the British driving community) a bit hesitant about my taking the wheel again. I think some nice driving lessons would be good.

Other that, I confess to a bit of boredom. None of the tasks staring me in the face seems interesting: sewing on more name tapes, folding laundry, gluing photos in the album, grocery shopping. I need an adventure. Wait, I'm going to have one! I almost forgot. The second weekend in October, Avery and I are going to journey off to Paris, to stay in a darling little hotel with my dear friend Sarah and her daughter Eve. It's Eve's tenth birthday present, and it will be a nice time for the two girls to parlay their long-distance, mother-motivated friendship into a real time friendship. You see, Sarah and I met ten years ago when I was planning a conference session at the College Art Association annual meeting, and one of the papers I accepted for the panel was Sarah's, on the English painter Gwen John. It later turned out that Sarah had been living right in my neighborhood the last time we were in London, and taking a course at Christie's and doing all her research right smack where I was doing mine, at the Victoria and Albert Museum library. We are convinced that we imprinted on each other without ever meeting, which accounts for our incredibly close friendship as soon as we met. Immediately we corresponded by email several times a day, with letters that were equal parts art history, pregnancy, and food. Years went by when, as she reminded me recently, we each knew what the other was having for dinner every single night! By the time the conference took place lo these many years ago, Eve was nine months old and Avery three. It was very convenient to have Sarah in my life, because at the other end of a keyboard was a faithful report on exactly what to expect Avery to do, eat or say in six months' time.

Then we decided to turn the panel discussion into a book, which sounded very simple but actually took forever and a day to accomplish. We used to joke that our children would be able to read the darn thing by the time we finally published it. And it was TRUE. And they weren't particularly early readers, either. Our husbands refer to this work as our "get rich quick scheme." I recently got a bi-annual royalty report from the publisher assuring me that as soon as my royalties for the last half-year reach $50, they will issue me a check. Ah, well, what price friendship. And do you know what? By googling Sarah I got to an Amazon page that solemnly informed me of the following facts: in our book you get 3,133 words per dollar and even more important, 4,837 words per ounce. I think that's a bargain. And only 24% of books available on Amazon contain a higher frequency of complex words than our book contains. Again, so much bang for the buck.

But seriously, October 14 will find the four of us happily eating our way through Paris, watching the puppet shows in the Luxembourg Gardens, showing the girls all the magnificent artworks that inspired us to be art writers and curators, and one of us a fabulous artist herself. Even more important, it will give Eve and Avery a chance to discuss what college they want to go to (my money's on Bryn Mawr College, where I got my incredibly useful and lucrative PhD). Because we're planning that they'll be roommates.

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