29 September, 2008

making sure I have a whole week to panic

So a week from tonight, I can hardly believe it, I will be far away in a little village in Devon all by myself, having spent my first day at my week-long writing seminar. I must confess that except for one two-night trip to Los Angeles when Avery was a baby, to try to find a published for my eventual book, I have never left home! Can that be possible? In nearly twelve years? I guess it can be possible. Of course, John often leaves home, Avery regularly leaves home. But I? As close to NEVER as you can get except for NEVER.

I don't think of myself as a controlling person, at least in terms of controlling OTHER people. But I like to have control over myself! I never don't know what I am going to have for dinner, or what color my sheets are (they should be only white, in my opinion), who I'll be spending time with... all strangers! That part actually sounds like fun. Leaving behind Avery and John, not so much fun.

But surely I need to do this: a week with other food writers, being taught by published, famous food writers... and I'm packing up my comfort novels about other people who have gone off on seminar retreats and adventures. Goodness! A week with no mobile phone, no internet. It all promises to be an adventure of comic proportions.

Look at this little creature! We spent Sunday morning at the fabulous indoor swimming pool associated with Avery's new school (with glass roof tiles that made me think of the Great London Expositions of the late 19th century!), learning how to receive swimmers on the rota system we've all signed up for. On the way home, this little guy emerged onto the pavement! "Save him, save him!" Avery cried, so we all tried to lure him onto a leaf to put him up in the grass above the sidewalk. Finally John said, "Hey, there's no rabies on this island," so I scooped the little thing up in my hands and turned him out onto the grass. As we did so, a little boy and his dad walked by. "We just let him out of our house," they laughed. Avery was in heaven.

So as not to appear callous about the global economic situation, I must utter the words "credit crunch," "700 billion dollar bailout," and "global economic meltdown," and take a drink of my cocktail for each phrase, and then never utter the words again. What I'm worried about, as my friends and I discussed today, are waiters and waitresses, cleaning ladies, florists, and local shopkeepers, not Wall Street. So I did my share today: I left a good tip at lunch with my friend Dalia, I paid my fabulous cleaning lady for the week, sent flowers to my dear husband and bought an entire boneless roast duck at the new Chinese grocery store, Oriental City, in Queensway. That, and taking care of my family, is about all I can do in a worldwide mess of such proportions that Avery's questions at dinner ("what's wrong with having a mortgage?" and "why does anybody in England care what happens in New York?") are really insurmountable. Even John is stymied. But what luxury we live in, not to be panicked.

And then there's the election! I keep thinking, "Why does anyone want an 'ordinary person, someone I can relate to, someone like ME!' to be president or vice president?" For heaven's sake, the last person in the WORLD I want in the White House is someone like me! An ordinary person? Not on your life! When it comes to people cutting my body open, or flying the enormous airplaine containing me and my family, or running the country, I want EXTRAORDINARY people! The very best, the smartest, dare I say it, the most ELITE people I can get. How does anybody want everyday people in charge of such matters? Checking out my groceries, my library books, sure. But running the country? No thanks. That's scary.

Our neighbors here in England are simply agog, and alternately completely unsurprised. "These Americans are capable of anything," seems to be the general consensus, which is frustrating when we are living here trying to act like normal people. It is increasingly hard to explain anything happening on our erstwhile native shores!

Well. All I can do is to immerse myself in the relative sanity of my adopted land (which looks increasingly like my permanently adopted land, if current trends back "home" continue). We spent Sunday afternoon, after dropping Avery off for her afternoon of slave labor cleaning tack and scooping poop, at our friends' Vincent and Peter's loft eating every sort of quiche you can imagine. How does Vincent just turn out these dishes seemingly effortlessly? But he does. And there was our friend Boyd, from our Morocco adventures last year, and Mark, my art installer extraordinaire. I love it when I can introduce people to people they like. We scared ourselves looking through photography books in Vincent's collection, like the work of Loretta Lux, who struck me an a combination of Diane Arbus, Sally Mann and... someone else really creepy. Children dressed in impossibly dated, perfect clothing, big heads, weird props. And then we repaired to three quiches: one with asparagus and fresh cherry tomatoes, one with caramelised onions, goats cheese and black olives, and one with lardons and Gruyere cheese. The most PERFECT lunch. Salad, and then Peter's homemade ice cream: ginger and honey, and hazelnut. And conversation? We talk for hours and hours while a bit of me sits back and feels intensely grateful for their friendship, for the support I feel behind me, should I ever need it: the love of longterm friendships, people who really love you. Irreplaceable.

Thence through the gorgeous late-afternoon skies over Tower Bridge, talking to John's mom ("I think it's very cool to be talking to somebody who is crossing Tower Bridge!" she says gleefully), past the Savoy, past the Houses of Parliament, through Trafalgar Square... what a day.

This week I'm looking forward to a book signing by Stephen Fry! A book about his experiences in, of all places, America. And then there's the afternoon at a certain London cathedral which shall go unnamed for reasons of privacy (ha!) where the girls of Avery's school will meet up with the boys of the brother school in an atmosphere of unheard-of (at least in my life) splendor... And I must spend plenty of time worrying about how my family will do without me, and I without them, next week. Wish me luck.


TBEEB said...

I couldn't agree with you more about who should lead this country - I too want someone smarter and better educated than ME to make the complicated judgements involved in running this enormously complicated and diverse nation! We'll do our best to get the right people in office. Can you still vote?

Kristen In London said...

Yes, we can still vote, but I've got to make sure my absentee ballot is alive and well. I know we applied, but then we moved in the summer... good luck handling all the complicated matters back "home"!

A Work in Progress said...

Good luck! You will have a great time. (Maybe pack some crisp white linens from home just to be sure?)

We received our absentee ballots in the mail yesterday. I am recording Thursday's VP debate, though I may not watch it due to the likelihood of "I can't watch" moments.

The funny thing for me is that I actually went to law school with Obama (he was 2 years ahead of me). I didn't know him (though I knew of him), but I really do have to overcome my mild feeling of "contempt for the familiar."

Kristen In London said...

Well, what I'm afraid of is that our ballots went to our old house and have gone astray, as we moved in May... I've just downloaded the form for late write-ins just in case.

Fascinating that you knew Obama; are you saying that he's sort of too much a real person to you to seem "presidential"? Reminds me of his wife's comment awhile ago that if the people could see him leaving his socks on the floor they wouldn't be so impressed!

I know exactly what you mean about not watching it live: that's how I felt watching the convention speech of a certain someone. Have you been keeping up with Tina Fey?!

min said...

I am much like you in terms of leaving my family at home. For work purposes, I have done it a few more times than you in about the same amount of years but not many. It is funny, but as my kids get older it seems harder not easier--so many schedules, lessons, and projects to think through before going. Myy husband travels quite frequently and although he misses us he never seems anxious about it but me on the other hand....
Anyway, once I am out the door, even as soon as I am in the taxi on the way to the airport, I can begin to relax and actually enjoy the freedom and solitude of the adventure. Hopefully, you will feel the same.
On the political front--I am with you and I hope enough voters are as well.

Kristen In London said...

Hi min,

It's stuff like this: suddenly at dinner Avery announces that trampoline club is tomorrow instead of Thursday. But wait: I had arranged for her to play with a new friend tomorrow. She has to decide. What would my husband do in this situation? How would she reach him? Turn on her mobile and call him, he says. But it makes me nervous! And what on earth will they EAT for dinner?! I can't decide which would be nicer: to find out I'm dispensable, or to find out I'm... NOT. But thanks for your reassurance! So far I haven't got to the point of looking forward to the adventure, but I hope I will.

S. said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments about leadership. I wouldn't want someone like me to be president...I want someone much more extraordinary! I don't know why we should want our leaders to be anything other than capable and above the norm. That isn't elitist, it's intelligent. Oh well. I can only hope the right people are chosen at the end.

Kristen In London said...

well, I've been away for a week and things certainly seem to be going our way?