24 September, 2007

September in London

Naturally on a sunny autumn Sunday in London, young ladies' thoughts turn to... a little scooping detail after The Blessing of the Horses. Not that you'd know it to look at them, but the girls had a thoroughly good time on Sunday (I turned these photos black and white because they looked SO Dickensian with their brooms and baskets). After last year's experience with this arcane and bizarre (but somehow very sweet) ritual, we definitely were not going to miss the ceremony. Simply dozens and dozens of horses clamoring for attention, whinnying and rearing, lining up in the square to be blessed.

Avery was put in charge of the barn dog, Zola, and struggled along with Ava who had hold of the family dog Holly. The riders were chosen by lottery, and sadly none of our girls won out, but the dog duty was pretty nice as well. Then home for a quick lunch while Avery ate hers at the stable, and we all met up again at the ring on the Knightsbridge side of the park for the gymkhana. Avery has progressed (or simply aged, I guess) to being in charge of the little ones and spent most of the show trotting with a lead rope in her hand, kicking up immense amounts of dust while she led a little girl across the jumps. But she was rewarded by being classed with the big girls for the real jumping later! A glorious afternoon hanging out with Becky and Mark, and Avery was more than happy to repose for a long time in a warm bath afterward.

We spent Saturday evening with Avery's friend Julia's family seeing "As You Like It" again, at the quaint little Curzon Mayfair cinema (a hidden little Mayfair jewel)and I would highly recommend it if you have a chance. Great casting wtih lots of faces you'll recognize (Kevin Kline and Adrian Lester among them), and all the girls enjoyed it. Pizza afterward at a little joint in Shepherd Market and lots of conversation about the upcoming school poetry reciting competition (they can find ANYTHING to compete about at that school!), plans for October break, the hidden Jungian meaning of the play (well, that was Julia's intellectual mother, not me). A really nice night.

Saturday itself was one of those afternoons that makes me truly love living in London, on a gorgeous sparkly autumn afternoon. We dropped Avery off at her acting class (she says a casting agent came to watch!) and then John left me up at the top of the Marylebone High Street to run a couple of errands, and it was such a pleasure! Starting off at the little food and clothing market that runs on the weekends, I was able to pick up a bottle of my favorite Danilo Manco super-spicy chilli-infused olive oil, which makes any salad better. And a great olive-oily rosemary foccacia from The Flour Station, and even a stem ginger cake from Rummanco. Such nice people, and so pleasant to buy real food from actual people who made it.

From the market I sauntered on to Daunt Books, always a dangerous thing to do, especially if I have my wallet with me. I ended up with a copy of Amsterdam, the Booker Prize-winning novel by Ian McEwan, whose Atonement is such a stunning film this fall. I can't stop thinking about that film, although it could be that I just can't stop thinking about James McAvoy. An understandable obsession these days! Plus, some travel books about Ireland, to get ready for our October break: two days in Dublin and four days at a haunted castle in County Kilkenny! Can't wait for that. There's something about the experience at Daunt that makes me feel there's hope for us all: staff who genuinely want to help you find something good (and they're nice to Avery, which always makes a big difference), piles of books you would never find in America like biographies of obscure gardeners and diarists), a soaring sunlit travel section (I love it that Shakespeare appears in the English travel section), and lots of contented customers perusing the dark wood bookshelves.

It was but a step from there to FishWorks, which while I recognize is a chain of sorts, and not the family-owned fishmonger that used to inhabit the shop, is nonetheless a solid purveyor of great fish, and the guys in the front who filleted my lemon sole for me are so kind. We discoursed about my discovery of The Fish Society as a place to buy softshell crabs, and recipes for lemon sole, and I felt happy. To be here! I suppose someday all these little errands will become commonplace, but not yet.

Right now I must eat some lunch (yellowfin tuna with red peppers, red onions, lemon zest and horseradish, anyone?), but then I'll tell you about..."Saint Joan." What a play! I'll leave you with a perfect simple autumn recipe. It just about invented coziness.

(perfect for a little girl's breakfast)

4 seasonal apples (I love the classic Bramley)
1 tsp each: cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup brown sugar
splash apple juice

Put all ingredients to simmer and let the smell comfort you as you try in vain to understand your child's maths homework. Factors? Never heard of the things. After about half an hour you can mash the apples with a potato masher (or leave them chunky if you like it that way. Perfect with an oatmeal cookie.

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