04 July, 2009

a great goodbye picnic and play

Praise me, please: for once I'm telling you about a play JUST as it opens, so you can all go to see it. "The Importance of Being Earnest," a play so dated it is timeless, is playing now at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, and it is pure delight. A fabulous mirrored set (so clever, with all the double identities going on in the play), a curious klesmer group that I'm not sure added anything to the evening, some hilarious mishaps with a garden full of waving roses that each had to be "planted" individually during the interval, and then were stepped on and tripped over in the second act! It was the first night, so we have to imagine they'll work out the kinks in the coming days. And there were some troubles with bits of the floor not fitting properly as the set was changed and having to be stuffed in by the admirably cool backstage crew. "I don't think you really want to have your stage crew get applause," Avery whispered. "They should be invisible, really."

But this is all churlish commentary on what was a truly charming and very fresh rendition of Avery's absolute favorite play. The girl playing Cecily was completely adorable, and there is one scene between her and Algernon that was a completely original interpretation involving a giant dollhouse: I won't spoil it for you!

The trees waved, the sun set, the fireflies and swallows circled above us. As always, a beautiful night, and we were so lucky with the weather! Take along a picnic and have yourselves a gorgeous summer evening.

Our picnic, eaten in the setting sun on the grass of Regent's Park on a funky little blue plaid rug was this: Giggly Pig Welsh Dragon sausages with Maille Dijon mustard, Pave d'Affinois cheese, cornichons, potato salad with cilantro, yogurt and red onion, egg salad with curry, Spanish cherries and English meringues for Avery, Ketel One vodka in my silver flask, Fever Tree tonic: such a European feast!

It did make me shake my head, aiming as we are today for America and for American food: beefsteak tomatoes, basil, crabmeat, lobster from Maine, sweetcorn in all forms (just off the cob, scalloped with cream and cheese, in salads with black beans and red onions and sugar snap peas), baby back ribs, rock oysters for broiling with cheese and spinach, chicken breast salad with spinach and pine nuts...

By the time we arrive, the lovely American Andy Roddick will or will not have trounced the arrogant Roger Federer with his pretentions of golden robes (in his case, waistcoats, t-shirts with gold-lined collars, sneakers with golden rackets representing the number of times he's won something or other). We'll be in New Jersey in time for fireworks, for the first time in four years! There has always been something a little... off, about spending the Fourth of July with Avery in school and NO celebrations (fair enough).

I must just set down here what a funny time I had at my pool reception duty this week. Avery's friend Merrie came by with her houseguest Jonathan, a 17-year-old boy, son of friends of her parents. He was so touching, teetering on the brink between childhood and manhood, smiling fondly on the "little" girls, shaking hands with me very charmingly, then starting visibly when he saw the lifeguard, daughter of one of my Lost Property mothers. "I met her at a PARTY last night!" he whispered in some mixture of excitement and dismay. "Well, go and say hello," I encouraged, "she's a nice responsible girl and if you fall in, she'll rescue you. What are you doing in town with Merrie's family, anyway?" "Oh, we don't have a house right now, so they're taking us in," he explained. Merrie and I said at the same time, "Don't tell her that!" "Well, we do have a house in the South of France..." he hesitated. "Tell her that!" we chorused.

So he went in and they all swam, and he spent quite a bit of time on the lifeguard's bench, chatting up his prey. I could NOT believe that as a person just a year older than he is, I was ready to choose my life's mate! And I did an awfully creditable job, to be sure. But still. Heavens.

They all came out, dripping and pulling on their going-home clothes. Merrie took one look at Jonathan, wearing a towel as a sort of sari, and said, "I'm not walking home with you looking like THAT," and he looked down. "What's wrong, because I'm wearing a towel, you mean? Let go of your self-consciousness, Mer!" he called after her as she stalked out of the building. I said, "She can't let go of it yet, she just got it, you know," and he said, "True, true," looking down at Amy, Merrie's little 8-year-old sister. Amy chimed in, "I'm not self-conscious!" "Yet," I said.

Jonathan looked suddenly quite old. "Wouldn't it be nice if they could stay that way," he said. What a dear. The future has a brighter look than I thought, with boys like that coming up. If only I could put a sort of hold on him for Avery, in ten years' time or so. Ten? Who am I kidding? It's right around the corner, with her teenage years looming in just November.

Right, we're off to Heathrow. Happy Fourth of July, everyone, and we'll see you from Connecticut!


Shelley said...

Oh there is a delicious innocent transparency to the way you describe Jonathan - a compliment to both you and he.

As you always do, you made me wish that I could have been there enjoying the play with you...

How fun that you were seeing fireworks at the same time we were!!

Dear friend I cannot WAIT to see you!!

Kristen In London said...

we are on tenterhooks to see you too, dear friend!!

ah, the deliciousness of innocent youth, no doubt...