05 September, 2007

turn up the volume: we're home

Goodness, was it just a week or so ago that I was describing our sense of relaxation, nay, even peacefulness?

Well, we're home.

How do they do it? The powers-that-be in our London life, sucking the self-confidence right out of me, sending me back into a "what now?" state of nerves.

Don't misunderstand: I'm happy to be home. I love having "Balderdash and Piffle" turn up on the BBC, calling our attention to the development of colloquial English with phrases like "a Glasgow Kiss," or "spiv," or "taking the mickey." I'm thrilled too to have my trip to the local supermarket turn up absolutely incredibly sweet and flavourful tomatoes under the forgettable moniker of "little plums," just a fantastic quality of produce with no flashy headlines. The same for the blueberries and chicken:no special label, no big price tag, but just an accidental encounter with perfect ingredients. I'm not sure what happens to a lot of American raw ingredients, could it be the breadth and width of the country and oceans that stuff has to traverse? Maybe the smallness of my adopted island means that the foodstuffs are just better, automatically. I love it.

And the grey skies, with the occasional flash of blue between scudding clouds, are a pretty welcome-home.

A glorious afternoon's catch-up with Becky, with the easy shorthand of friendship where a couple of sentences suffices to describe someone, or the exchange of news about someone else, or reports of our summer activities. Avery and Anna of course were blissful to be reunited, and it was so cosy to sit in Becky's kitchen like a lazy lout while she made pizza and pasta and fed everyone in sight: all the little girls with new haircuts, and lord knows in my jetlagged state I was more than happy to be fed.

No, the nervy-making thing is... school. And not even my school, it's my child's school! First day today. I must have residual first-day anxiety from my own childhood (lord knows I have residual any-kind-of anxiety for any situation!), because every first-day of school of her life I've felt stressed. It used to be separation anxiety (for me! not my hard-hearted child), then it was concern over all-day school (again, only me), then the move here, now, I have no idea what would make me anxious. I think it might be the relative unfamiliarity of all these other parents, and the sense that I really don't have a place. Partly because the school isn't really all that interested in parental involvement, and partly because the cross-section of parents in the school, perhaps particularly our class, is so mind-bendingly varied! I feel still a bit out of my depth socializing with every nationality, religion, socio-economic profile under the sun, with people who can speak many languages fluently, have lived all over the world, have three children older than Avery and so have seen all these exams and processes many times before. Somehow all my own dubious accomplishments desert me at these times and I just stand, silly with intimidation.

At the meeting tonight to prepare us parents for "the hardest five months of your daughters' lives" (surely this cannot be true! how about PhD orals, or dare I say it, pregnancy and labor?), I felt completely overwhelmed. Not just with information, but with the sense that this is all way more important than I can ever really conceive it to be. Or (possibly) I have the right idea in thinking school issues to be less than earth-shattering, but I'm in the tiny minority? The headmistress always scares the living daylights out of me (can she be real?), and the unquenchable perkiness (and yet stunningly English composure) of the teachers just makes me feel like a child myself. When we got home John said, "Why do you feel that way? You're plenty smart..." I don't know what it is, but I always do just fade. We stood around the kitchen when we got home, analyzing my paralysis, while I chopped up some garlic and fried sage leaves in butter, to pour over ravioli.

Ravioli in Sage Butter
(serves four)

1 lb fresh ravioli, stuffed with whatever
6 tbsps butter
1 clove garlic, minced
dozen leaves of fresh sage
1/2 cup pecorino cheese, grated

Melt butter in a heavy skillet and lay the sage leaves out in an even layer. Bring pasta water to a boil as the leaves simmer, then cook pasta. Throw the garlic into the simmering butter and cook gently as the pasta cooks. Drain pasta and toss with sage leaves and butter. Top with cheese.


Lunch yesterday with Vincent at FishWorks in Marylebone, much catching up over summer activities. For him, a spa in Switzerland and a trip to the south of France to visit his parents. Who ARE these glamourous people I'm surrounded with? I had the most sublime grilled scallops with a hollandaise sauce, followed by a whole little seabass grilled with rosemary under its skin. And a side of cavolo nero, which I have to say I do not love, not being a fan of leafy greens. I know, I know, they will save my life someday, but I find them... chewy.

I am thinking: is a sofrito the Italian version of the French mirepoix? Each of them being a dice of carrots, celery and onion, with variations of garlic or peppers? It always makes me laugh when all I have going in the kitchen is garlic simmering in olive oil, and both John and Avery say, "Something smells really good!" It doesn't take much to make them happy.

Let's see, today is a trip to Harrods for Avery's school shoes. Like clockwork, as soon as everyone else in London has descended on John Lewis to buy school shoes, she discovers that hers don't fit. So we end up somewhere else. I think John and I will walk over there today and work off all that butter from last night. We've got to get set to play tennis here, since we got so enthusiastic over the summer. Becky and Vincent both recommend the Harbour Club, but I fancy outdoors, actually, so we may be looking more at just Regent's Park. We'll keep you posted.


Anonymous said...

Dont worry Kristen - my son Thomas started at his new school yesterday and he was just fine. Looked very grown up in his new uniform, like his Daddy in miniature. If you manage to get over to MMO sometime Ive left you a message.

Nice to have you back in the UK


Anonymous said...

Welcome home.

jane222 said...

Welcome back! Look forward to hearing more about how it goes in London.

Kristen In London said...

Thanks, everyone, for your welcome! It's good to be back.