20 October, 2008

theatre of the absurd

I am concentrating on this lovely photograph as proof that by the dinner hour, my household is always quite peaceful. I need this reassurance today because, frankly, things are quite mad here. I will try to describe.

As many of you know, to my intense chagrin and serious inconvenience, I am allergic to horses. This would not be a problem ordinarily since I can take horses or leave them, but as you also know, my child is quite addicted to the creatures and as a result, a fair amount of my time is spent getting her to the stable and getting her back, not to mention watching a lesson if it's in the ring and not simply wandering around Hyde Park. The hours, the hours I have spent watching a little girl go around and around a ring, whether in the Bronx in the old days, the Cotswolds or Scotland on holiday, and then of course here in the park. Boredom vies with sneezing on these excursions.

Last night I went to collect her at the stable and we took the rare luxury of a cab home, because public transport was severely messed up. It was the first mistake: she was far too cold and wet for me to have the window open, so we spent the half hour journey completely cooped up and with the dreadful smell of barn suffocating me. Home to throw her in a bathtub and make my bolognese. I decided to ignore my sneezing because I cannot bear the super-intense thirst that comes with taking an antihistamine: like having a mouth full of paper towels. Not nice.

However, when at 11 o'clock or so I saw her filthy half-chaps and boots under my desk, I picked them up, dumped them in her rucksack and... rubbed my eyes. With horsey fingers. Instant misery. I could not see, struggled to breathe. I could feel my chest closing up and that is always scary. Rush to the cupboard, take TWO Benadryl, and... I functioned for awhile, and then it was like being hit by a truck. Simply dead to the world. When at 8 a.m. I awoke to the DOORBELL, I could see that I had slept without moving for the entire night: every pillow perfectly in place, as if I had been a medieval corpse with my hands folded over my chest. Who on earth could be ringing my doorbell at 8 a.m.?

"It's Faux Frost, Mummy!" Avery was bouncing around looking sickeningly energetic, to a person with a Benadryl hangover. What an ignominious hangover that is, to be sure. No carousing, no hanging around a bar flirting with some investment banker over an Absolut Citron... no, I have to get MY hangovers from allergy medication. So not cool.

I staggered up. You may recall the tragi-comic episode from last summer, where our sofa and bench were held hostage for months by Mr Frost, at first merely a doesn't-answer-his-phone upholsterer who became, in due time, a completely dead upholsterer who went to his reward without, apparently, telling anyone where our belongings were. Well, over the course of the summer the objects were located, ALLEGEDLY, although the fabric to do them up had disappeared (a winding sheet, perhaps?). Mr Frost's successor, Faux Frost, assured us that all would be well... we chose fabric again, he came for a consultation, and when he left we held hands like children in a forest, thinking the story might have a happy ending after all.

Months passed, AGAIN. I became quite fond of the empty spots in our house where there should be places to sit... it was minimal, and sort of elegant.

Then last week Faux Frost turned up out of the blue and said he would be around on Monday (oh dear, today) with our stuff. "What percentage do you give that?" I asked my long-suffering husband, who said he thought about 20.

But here they were, first thing in the morning, disgustingly cheerful and chatty. And we have our furniture back. The sofa cushion is very, very odd, sort of enveloping the unwary sitting person in a crunchy and yet also feathery embrace. John will HATE it. Of this I am certain. But I didn't have the heart to send it away. Maybe it will grow on us. I'm just afraid that the day will come when we can't find one of the cats and it will be folded into the cushion, trapped and hungry. Or even Avery. She's not that big.

For heaven's sake. As the Faux Frost Helpers were carrying the sofa upstairs, Avery and I looked out the open front door to see a tiny little lady facedown on the pavement just outside our gate. Hmm. We decided to investigate. As we approached, asking, "Are you all right?" she slowly pulled herself to a sitting position and said, "I've broken off my toof." And sure enough, six inches or so away from where she had been lying was a little white thing. How awful. She stood up and was not any taller than Avery, but clutching in her hand an even smaller scooter. "I nicked my son's scooter to run an errand or two, and now... this. Does it look awful?" She grimaced at us, and then said disconsolately, "I can see from the look on your faces that I'm in a real pickle now." She said she'd better go home and call the dentist, whereupon Avery volunteered, "I have to go to the dentist today too... just a checkup, though, sorry." Apologising for not having broken her own tooth off. For heaven's sake.


The Frosts have retreated, the cats are fascinating by the reappearance in their lives of a well-remembered napping spot, and I'm drinking everything in sight trying desperately to dispel this lame, tame, uninteresting hangover. The only thing cheering me up is lunch. You could even eat it without a toof, I think.

Mixed Bean Salad
(serves lots, and improves with time)

1 soup-size can each: borlotti, cannellini, black beans
1 cup edamame, steamed and podded
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 ears sweetcorn, cut off the cob
1 bunch scallions, sliced on the bias including green parts
1 red onion, diced
handful sugar snap peas, sliced as you like
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced

juice of 2 lemons
good slug chilli-infused olive oil (I am loyal to Apulia)
sea salt to taste (it can take a lot, I find, with the mildness of the beans)
fresh black pepper to taste

Shake the dressing vigorously in a jar till thoroughly blended. Rinse beans well in a colander and then mix everything in a large bowl. Perfect with a couple of baguette bites and a fillet of smoked mackerel on the side.

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