02 September, 2009

real life

Well, life in all its complexity and ordinary strife has reappeared! First in line for attention and drama was little Hermione, our smallest and normally most independent, nay fiercest cat. We returned home from America to find her limping and ungroomed, but still wagging her tail when she heard her name, and eating everything in sight. In short, a mixed bag, and as such, we were inclined to leave her to her independence and to see if she returned to normal on her own. I was able to run my fingers along all her limbs and find them intact, so I was not spurred on to begin the unpleasant and confrontational process of getting her to the vet.

However, we returned from Cornwall to find her in much the same state, which boded ill. Another two days watching her limp, and finally I made an appointment with the vet, and promptly spent the duration of hours between then and the booking fretting about getting her into her carrier. Normally she cannot be held, only stroked occasionally on major holidays, and when she is sedated. So the prospect of fetching her into the prison was not appealing. My state of mind on this subject carried over to our tennis game on Monday night, which meant I missed ALL my shots and sent such terrible ones over the net to John that he had to run furiously, scrambling like Andy Roddick, and in doing so... strained his calf muscle. No more tennis for a few days, drat.

Ah well, it was just as well to come home and hunt down the furry patient, which was easier than I thought. She was all the way at the top of the house, which argued for her mobility, but looked terrible, so I was not sorry that I needed to get her to the doctor. She actually let me pick her up, a few scratches along the way to be sure, and was in the carrier. There she began to express herself in no uncertain terms as to her feelings about her condition, the sprinkling rain, her journey in an embarrassing cat carrier, you name it.

The long and short of it is, 170 pounds and two days later, she had an abscessed wound, possibly an animal bite, on her little shoulder. Poor dear. This was dealt with in various ways which I will not describe on the off-chance that you're reading this to accompany a meal. Suffice to say, John brought her home today while I was at Lost Property at Avery's school, and she's shaved and thoroughly humiliated and smelling of vet. Poor thing.

Add to this feline medical drama, and John's tiny immobility, Avery's first day of school today. How my mind went back to this time last year, the fantastic visit of my dear friends Bob and Ann, and the excitement of Avery's first FIRST day at her new school. The anticlimax of the SECOND first day was not sufficient to stop her asking both of us to walk with her, which was lovely: a typical September London day. Grey, shifting clouds, the threat of a sprinkle, and to be greeted at school by an entirely new entrance! And new driveway, and new landscaping! How on earth was all this accomplished in the eight short weeks we were away? We left her there, rushing in with all the other girls, all dressed fabulously casually and uniquely, yet all looking somehow alike. How do they manage that?

By the end of the day, all the fresh newness of the school year had given way to massive annoyance and disappointment. It won't last. But the school play... The school play is being produced jointly with an extremely posh and cool nearby boys' school across the river. Avery was chosen along with just a few other girls to participate and as such, should have felt great. But today was the allocation of parts within this production, and she got stuck in the chorus. This we found out after walking in a stunning autumn evening across the gorgeous Hammersmith Bridge (with its subtle placque commemorating an RAF officer in 1919 who dived into the Thames to save a drowning lady, succeeded in doing so, but died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the effort, poor lad). The sun was shining, the blue sky beckoned in that way it can do only in September, more's the pity, as I always suffer flashbacks. But I rose above it, and the walk was simply superb.

At dinner, we sat down to creamy red pepper soup and her favorite pasta dish, with the BEST little shallots I have ever, ever cooked with, from Ghana of all places, procurable at my local and adored Shepherd's Bush Market (in all its zany, dirty loveliness), at Strawberry Hill Fruiterers. Go get some, aren't they lovely?

Broccoli Pasta
(serves 4)

2 tbsps olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 tiny Ghana shallots, or 2 normal, minced
1 large can, or 2 small, plum tomatoes
1/2 cup pinenuts
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 head broccoli, broken into florets
3/4 lb curly or bowtie pasta
grated pecorino to sprinkle

Saute the garlic and shallots in the oil and set aside. In a food processor, whiz up tomatoes, pinenuts and Italian seasoning till pink and relatively smooth. Add to garlic mixture and heat gently: it will blurb up at you!

Steam broccoli florets till they smell like broccoli, perhaps 4 minutes, then put in cold water with ice to stop cooking. Cook pasta and then mix together with sauce and drained broccoli, top with cheese.


Avery has eaten so much of this dish, in the past, that I called her the "snake who ate a rat," and then could only flop flat and try to digest it. It's guilt-free and completely wonderful, especially with these lovely shallots! I know I should feel guilty about their being flown in from Ghana, but I confess: I thought it was cool.

Well, cat emergencies and drama dramas aside, plus the odd tennis injury, the year has begun (I persist in observing September rather than January as the beginning of that "real" year, the academic one) normally enough. Today I headed off to Lost Property, just to accompany the volunteer who would turn up on this first day, to be greeted with... CHAOS! Dirty, smelly, room-filling CHAOS! I simply stood and stared for one disbelieving moment, at dozens and dozens of black garbage bags (they aren't any less smelly if you call them "bin liners" as they do here) filled to the dusty brim with, I kid you not, apple cores, empty Diet Coke bottles, muffin liners, THONGS, mouthguards for lacrosse, not to mention hundreds of discarded post-GCSE books, and then what you'd rightfully expect: lacrosse sticks and tennis rackets, PE skirts and the odd incredibly valuable cashmere jumper or Juicy Couture jacket.

Beyond the pale! What on earth had happened? Well, the answer was not long in coming. It's the case of the New Broom. Our gorgeous young caretaker appeared, indignant at our distress, and explained all. "There's a new administrator, and he made it his business to clear out every corner of this school [this news thereby spoiling ALL my pleasure at how clean everything looked!], and to banish all bins. So everything came... here."

Rats. My fellow volunteer and I were simply dumbstruck, not to mention grossed out. We dug in. Girls appeared, from time to time, looking as if they might want something, and we growled at them, "Take whatever belongs to you, and whatever you recognize of your friends', too!" Tomorrow I shall be back there, suffering anew. But with the new list of girls, and the names of their teachers, so I can begin to make new labels for all the boxes. What a job!

It's at moments like these that I must take refuge in one of my nameless "Why I love England" games, and today, it was the "Town Names on Motorway Signs You'd Never See in America." Take a look.

Barton Clovelly
Cheriton Bishop
Tedburn St Mary

Crooked Soley
Goldfinch Bolton
Upper (and of course Lower) Basildon

I simply dote on these names. No one boring or pointless could possibly live in them. Maybe, in fact, they're inhabited only by badgers. Who drive vintage cars.

Clearly I need more sleep.

Ah, well, tomorrow will bring another set of challenges. I am craving the clam linguini dish Keith made for us, but I have sausages I must cook, so I'm thinking: a clam and sausage dish? If, that is, there's room in my house for that much drama.


Shelley said...

Did I mention that there is a name in Alberta, Canada called (and I kid you not) Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump??

This has nothing to do with your lovely slice of London in September...but those town names did remind me of my HSIBJ trivia.

...and you have no idea how jealous I am of those shallots.

Anonymous said...

With ever-increasing arthritis in my wrist I find the little fiddly shallots quite difficult to prepare sometimes. I absolutely adore the long thin version (sometimes called 'Banana Shallots'), although they are quite hard to find at the moment.

Just to keep up the place-name momentum, here in Lincolnshire we passed by Caenby Corner into Spital-in-the-Street last week (on the way to the somewhat less than romantic-sounding Scunthorpe I might add!!) Oh and for good measure, Caenby Corner isnt - a corner that is - it's a roundabout where the main A15 road meets the lesser A631.

I just love this sort of trivia.

Caz xx

Kristen In London said...

Oh, Shelley, this makes me LAUGH! My mother used to tell about an obituary from her hometown newspaper in Indiana detailing the life of a man who "moved to Dismal Seepage, Ohio, and finally died." Enough said!

Caz, I hate to hear of arthritis. I love the long shallots as well. Made a fantastic French sauce this evening for beef, of shallots, marsala, creme fraiche and beef stock. Marvellous!

As far as name (or street) places go, I have friends who live in Seaman Street, adjacent to Cumming Avenue. Say it out loud, then... don't blame me!

Foxi Rosie said...

And in Dorset we have:
google it for your amusement...

Canford Bottom, Lower Bottom and Upper Bottom and near Dorchester a place called 'Plush' (lovely pub there called the Brace of Pheasants - I digress) and another called 'Piddletrenthide' with the river Piddle running through it. AND you can buy Piddle water to drink!

Kristen In London said...

Piddle it is! Love this, Rosie...