13 January, 2008

it was only a matter of time

Before I locked us out of the house, that is.

Because I'm just that sort of girl. I have my housekey in my bag, unless I don't and it's in my coat pocket. One of my coats; not necessarily the one I'm wearing at the time. But normally, or at least in the incredibly luxurious life I've been living the past year with my husband at home, he lets me in. It happens all the time. And I knew that, sooner or later, while John's away I would lock us out. Today was the day.

I had been so good while Avery was at the barn: folding laundry, finishing my photo album, cleaning the kitchen. And when it was time to collect her, I thought, "I have efficiently shopped for dinner ahead of time, and her breakfast for tomorrow is sorted, so guess what? I don't to bring anything with me except my car key!" The door had no sooner swung to with a resounding bang, than I cursed myself. Thoroughly locked out. I rang Janet next door, she of the Tacy visiting fame, and thankfully she was in. She looked up the phone number of our outrageously expensive landlords with their much-touted 24-hour concierge service. Well, it turns out that it might be 24 hours, just NOT IN A ROW. Because these particular weekend hours, the lovely porter is enjoying his much deserved rest. "And the management agency itself has no keys to our flats?" I asked in amazement. "No, it's not necessary because you have a dedicated caretaker who has your keys." "Well, dedicated he may be, but he's in Kent!" I nearly shouted.

Finally she allowed as how she could call a locksmith to break the lock and let us in, but she wanted me to know that I'd be liable for the costs. I said in desperation that I'd be happy to fight that out with the management tomorrow, but that I needed to get in my flat TONIGHT. So the locksmith was duly ordered.

"Wait a minute," Janet's Texan husband John said. "Let's see if we can't work this out on our own. It'd be a sight cheaper, for example, to replace a window pane than a lock." So he and I tiptoed out with a flashlight to break into my flat. It turned out to be ridiculously easy to do, the finer details of which process I will not divulge here for obvious reasons, but whose weak links will be addressed forthwith. Suffice it to say, we're in. No thanks to solid gold Grosvenor the Landlords.


The earlier part of the day had been quite nice, actually. We slept late (it's so nice to have a child who's old enough to help herself to a blueberry muffin and thus leave her mother to lie in!), then I took Avery to the barn for the day. And, feeling in the need to do something self-indulgent, I took myself to Angelus, the new restaurant adjacent to the mews where the stables are. For years it was a pub called the Archery, and since Avery's been riding at Ross Nye it's been derelict and quite sad. Then late last year the nice lady who owns the Village Shop from which all the children at the barn get their treats told us that it was being turned into a French restaurant. I greeted this remark with major skepticism and some disdain: how snooty could you get? And what good with that do any of us barn mothers and fathers, who need a place to have a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon while the children are in the park on their horses?

Well, I could not have been more wrong. The place opened in September and I just have not had the chance to go. Well, there was one day that John and I agreed to meet up there with Twiggy and Ed, and it wasn't open at 11:30 as the website said, but noon. The maitre d' was completely nutty, putting his arm around me in a MOST un-English manner and pulling me firmly to him as he explained his intense regret at not being able to let us in. I was mildly put off by this intimacy, and we repaired to a pub.

Well, what with our sadness this week, and the sort of unhappy lead up to it over the week before that, I have not had much of an appetite. And what I did eat made me feel unwell. Chicken soup's been about it. But today I woke up feeling enormously hungry, made myself a huge glass of fresh juice (beetroot, apple, two kinds of parsley, ginger, carrot and tomato, so virtuous), and even then by the time I dropped Avery off, I was famished. So off I went to Angelus. And it was well worth the wait.

Seared scallops with little round slices of steamed Charlotte potatoes, little wilted greens and a very subtle thin sauce. Then foie gras two ways: a normal sort of round slice of cold foie gras, and then, magically, a tiny pot of "creme brulee," which sounds ridiculous but was SUBLIME: foie gras meltingly smooth and the precise consistency of creme brulee, with the smallest amount of Demerara sugar and a sprinkle of poppy seeds, crackling on top of warm mousse of goose liver. You have never had such a thing! Or maybe you have, in St Barths or some such fancy place. But I never have! The waiter and maitre d' were so pleased that I was so happy. And I was the only patron! Until I was nearly ready to leave and then a very snooty Frenchy couple came in and made noises about wine. I know it's a fate worse than death for some people, to go to lunch alone, but I love it. I took along a good book (The View From Morningside, by my friend Constance Colby, a perfect story of growing up in Manhattan), listened to the atrocious French pop music (the sort I remember from my high school days in Brittany: lots of intense lovespeak, with a crooner mooing "que tu es belle" in the background, just awful), watched the awnings sway in the wind, and listened to the occasional clap-clap of horses' hooves going by the back door. Go, do, you won't be sorry. I read in the review I linked here that it's well known for its incredible wine list: doubtless I made the waiter cry, with my bottle of Pellegrino. But you try the wine and let me know.

Well, it's everything on a pancake for dinner, so I must run. All our thoughts under the benign surface are in Iowa, where tomorrow promises to be a most difficult, but probably very fulfilling day. Our hearts are with you, our loved ones.

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