21 November, 2008
it doesn't get better than Branagh
I have sprained my left ankle, in a very minor and yet extremely irritating way. How? Not as you might expect in my weekly very energetic tennis lesson with the man Rocco, nor in crossing a perilous street in London rife with construction detritus. Now, I have sprained it in descending the three, or is it four, steps from my study down to my dining room. The disaster lies, as it turned out, in my lack of understanding of PRECISELY how many steps it was. I am in mortal pain.
And on the eve of Avery's school Christmas Fair, for which I worked tirelessly all day helping the other mothers of her class sort the thousands of donated books into The Book Stall, which will be a thing of beauty when we open our doors tomorrow. Dirty, dirty, can I tell you, donated books are dusty. And games. And puzzles. But the extreme labor was mitigated by the atmosphere, well-remembered by me at least, of Fairs gone by, both here in London and at what I persist in calling, sometimes, Home. School volunteering: my strongest memories are of PS 234 in Tribeca, home of her kindergarten days and hence her post-September 11 days, where volunteering meant the difference between the school staying in business and NOT. And then the super-precious days of her primary school here in uniform, learning the ropes of words like "Tombola" and "Lucky Dip," which trip off my tongue these days like baseball and apple pie.
And while I was slaving away, pre-sprain, at the Book Stall? She was swimming in the city's only salt-water swimming pool at no less than the Riverside Health and Racquet Club Chiswick with her new friend Lissa. This child was born and raised in Paris until a few years ago when she arrived here with her American and British parents to attend the school most likely to feed into (awful phrase) Avery's current school. So added together, this girl is sort of the coolest profile you can imagine. American accent, fluent in French, coming from the best British school, and now with a ticket to a virtual sea on land. Avery was in heaven. "Mummy, they have machines to dry your suit! And special shampoos in little silver containers, and..." Mentally comparing this Shangri-la to our own grotty school pool where I drag home our wet suits inside our mandatory rubber swim caps and Avery flatly refuses to wash her hair with my tiny travel bottles... not cool! Well, she'll have to wallow again on Tuesday evening. At least the food at the cool pool was awful.
Anyway, I came home from volunteering and met up with Avery at the skating rink, then home for dinner, only to fall down the steps and into my current ignominy.
Which does not in any way reflect the Extreme Excitement of our evening last night. Ivanov! At the Wyndham, with Kenneth Branagh in the lead role. To see the curtain rise, reveal a tiny (not cheesy) bit of dry ice representing the Russian barren landscape, and Branagh himself, head bowed, back to the audience... you get an inevitable thrill of "there is the man, the man himself." I had never seen him perform live. It is a revelation. The compactness of his body, every single movement thought out and brought to life with decision and passion, his unexpectedly strong arms and hands, gesturing all the despair of a character we could all identify with! Midlife crisis! Restlessness, a sense that life around us was fragile... so many references to contemporary financial crises that John and I wondered how much Tom Stoppard, the playwright's translator, had played around with the text.
Just wondrous. I would say run, go, but... you probably can't get a ticket. Ours came months ago as a fundraiser from Avery's school, more spoiling. We loved it. And our pre-theatre dinner at Gaby's Diner was a hoot. Pretty darn good salt-beef, a close second to Katz's Deli in our beloved Lower East Side of Manhattan... and salads galore for next to no money. Credit crunch, here we come. But not until my ankle heals.