01 January, 2007

last adventures

Well, the inevitable has happened: Annabelle, Alyssa, Elliot and Steve have gone back to New York. Waaah! What will we do without hearing the endless performances of "Bop to the Top," Elliot's earnest explanations of the plots of plays he has seen, Steve's parade of crisp choices (I think in the end "Chinese five-spice babyback ribs" may have won, if not the good taste award, then the disgusting ingredients award), and basically everything about Alyssa? If she has a flaw, we didn't see it over our week together. How sweet of her to bring matching pajamas and socks for the girls for their week-long sleepover, and their treasured latch-hook rug kits? What fun was had by all.

And the last two big adventures were the panto and the fair in Hyde Park. Both of which sounded, in advance, like candidates for hot needles in eyeballs, but au contraire: while John and I were getting soaked and having bad Polish food on our anniversary, everyone else was having the time of the century at "Dick Whittington and His Cat." And true to my predictions... Dick was played by a girl. Avery actually got to go up on stage and take part, as you can see. Here are her personality and Annabelle's in a nutshell: the opportunity to go up was actually presented to Annabelle and because she is a good and generous friend, she let Avery go instead. Also, as she explained to me, "I don't like to go up on stage when I don't know what they're going to ask me to do." Fair enough. And Avery? Any stage is a good thing.

Sandwiched virtuously between the play and the fair was a trip to the British Museum. The kids dutifully got educated all about the Elgin Marbles while we adults debated the relative merits of the Turkish government's and the Museum's claims to the sculptures, the latter's seeming to win out with its stance that Lord Elgin determined the buildings were falling apart and the sculptures at risk in situ, and that they'd be better off in London where they could be properly looked after. In other words, in my analysis, the "Madonna goes to Malawi and comes home with a baby" argument. Doubtless little David is better off in London, but... I still think it's questionable.

Also questionable to my "please don't let anything about London change" mind is the move of the British Library away from the Museum to its new, hideous, and doubtless extremely efficient headquarters near King's Cross Station. I know, I know, progress. But I spent so many happy, happy old-fashioned hours at the blue leather desks marked "GG5" and such, handing in my hard-won slips of book requests, after learning the byzantine system of classification. Oh, the satisfaction when I had conquered the information hidden within the green leather books that hung from little chains from the central request desk (all the little book elves behind the desk had holes in their jumper sleeves, always... perhaps it was a uniform). I'd turn in my slip and then fold my hands on my little desk and wait, and an elf would come with a stack and say, "GG5?" or whatever desk I had that day, and I'd run my eye down the stack and say, "Yes, that's me, thanks very much," and be so proud I had asked for the things I meant to ask for! Simple pleasures. I kept my reader's ticket for years after we had moved back to New York. I wonder if they have reader's tickets now? Probably bar codes. Harumph.

Anyway, I bit the bullet and visited the Reading Room that was, now the location for all the museum history bits. And it was still beautiful, the soaring blue and gold ceiling interspersed with cloudy windows. So cute: there's a gorgeous carved panel with names of "Notable Holders of Readers' Tickets" printed on it, and Avery and Annabelle stopped quite seriously to look for my name. I think once they saw "Rudyard Kipling" and "Vladymir Lenin" they kindly refrained from pointing out the obvious.

Then we were off to The Fair. I have to be honest and say that for several reasons, the fair had not been getting very good publicity in our house. For one thing, living at Marble Arch, right by the entrance to the Fair, we got kind of sick of the glaring lights and spinning ferris wheels. Also, the presence of all the rides and people and trucks and whatnot had sadly curtailed riding lessons, since the ring was inaccessible. And, frankly, while I don't love zoos, I really don't love fairs perhaps even more. I don't like scary rides, or games of chance, or cotton candy (candy floss, as it's called here, which is completely consistent because sewing thread here is called both "floss" and "cotton"). Gee, I am a really unappealing blend of curmudgeon and purveyor of useless vocabulary today. Anyway, we went. At least, Alyssa went to Marks and Spencer and the rest of us went. And they had a blast. I shivered and took pictures, while the boys and Avery and Annabelle slammed into each other at the "dodge 'ems," the English equivalent of "bumper cars." They had so much fun. Then Avery and John went on a very scary ride and I consoled myself with half a hot dog with fried onions and cheese. Just half! That's the best diet advice, I think. Have half. But I didn't get half a case of indigestion, I got the whole thing. Then it began to pour down rain, so we ran for home, and Avery, Annabelle and I all took hot baths! So cozy.

To our comfort restaurant, the Mandarin Kitchen, for a blowout New Year's Eve dinner! I always feel good when we're the only non-Asian people there, although I am sure we order very conservatively. But so delicious! What didn't we eat. Let's see, since there were so many of us we got a round table with what my family call a "Lazy Suzanne" on it (my poor mother being named "Suzanne" of course), so there was no annoying passing this or that. We just spun that baby around and simply chowed down. Crispy seaweed (does anyone know what the ground spice is that they sprinkle on top? it looks like nutmeg but I don't think it has such a strong flavor), fried soft-shell crabs with red and green chilis, lemon chicken and sweet and sour chicken for the kids, vermicelli noodles with scallions and bean sprouts, whole fried prawns in their shells with dried garlic, spicy beef with carrots, wonton soup with dumplings, holy cow it was all good. Fried rice flowed. Tsing-tao beers flowed. So, so good and so much fun. Finally when we had eaten every scrap, the boys went home with Annabelle and Avery, and Alyssa and I walked home together under our umbrellas, trying to fit in the last minutes of gossip, mutual admiration for our children, discussions of our husbands' jobs (or lack thereof!), recipes, clothing and hair advice, stories about sisters and parents, how her new business, "Momcierge," is doing, running the lives of New Yorkers and their party needs. All the usual things that I took for granted were always available on a given rainy evening, and now I truly value. What fun to have a visit.

And the girls stayed up until midnight! Alyssa and Steve took Elliot home to their flat, and John and I sort of flopped down watching dumb year-end chat shows, and then the fireworks! So magnificent, from the London Eye and boats on the Thames. Much lovelier than anything I've ever seen in New York, really. Maybe next year we'll brave the crowds and hang out on the Embankment. When we hit the mute button on the telly remote and opened the window, we could hear the explosions. Happy 2007!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the 'spice' on your seaweed (most likely fried cabbage) would be a powdered shellfish, possibly clams. That would be a typical accompaniment to seaweed in most Asian restaurants here.