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Cheese and Lobster!

I have returned from a wonderful family wedding–2 days in New York, in the company of the people I love best.
Traveling to NY is no longer the terrifying ordeal it once was, what with doing it almost monthly, but traveling BACK had its moment of angst. Because why?Because the uptown bound subway train DOES NOT STOP at the station by my daughter’s house on the weekends. This happened the last time I visited, but I thought it was simply an accident. It wasn’t, it was the PLAN. So, no problem, you ride the downtown train past FOUR stops and then nip out at the fifth and cross over. Just in time to see the uptown train leaving! Heart beating high, you wait for the next one. LUCKY THING you allowed an hour for the half hour ride! When the train finally comes, you hop on and pray that it will get there on time. It did, but just. Luckily, my Amtrak train was running a little late. Eventually we boarded and were off to DC! By the time we reached Trenton I had calmed down.
WHEW! This kind of wild excitement is a little extreme for an old lady.
And I learned another thing this trip: a Lock Box is NOT a padlock!

This interesting fact is probably known to you, but it was news to me. I broke several fingernails attempting to unlock the lock box from its perch–until finally I was given to understand that it is a BOX with the keys INSIDE IT. It OPENS UP. And so I was able to enter my snug AirBnb.
It was a splendid visit, and a simply beautiful wedding.
Congratulations to my dear niece and her handsome husband!

Billy Budd

Back in my youth, I listened to operas, over and over, Puccini, Verdi, Britten. I LOVED them, magnificent works of art. The ones I favored, they are now etched in my brain.
These days, I mostly listen to music that is pleasant and that keeps the dark away. But every once in a while, I listen to those wonderful demanding masterpieces that I used to keep by me.
And today, I listened to Billy Budd, such a completely brilliant piece of music. Britten wrote the opera to the story by Melville, a short shipboard plot with no women and a terrible inevitable path ending in death. But how powerful the melody and singing that takes us there!
There was an excellent movie of the story, with Peter Ustinov as Captain Vere, and Terence Stamp as a fabulously lovely Billy.

The story is not simple, and the anguish of the good man who must condemn Billy to death is splendidly conveyed in both film and opera– though I can’t help but find it more moving in the opera. Captain Vere, Billy, John Claggart are men thrust together in terrible times, the 1790’s war between the British and the French.
“Don’t like the French,” sings the British sailing master, “don’t like their Frenchified ways.” “Their notions don’t suit us, nor their ideas–Don’t like their hoppity-skippety ways,” agrees the First Lieutenant– “Those damned mounseers!” A simply charming interchange.
E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier wrote the libretto, and it is masterly.
I listen to these beautiful voices, these deeply moving harmonies–and I forgive the world its stupidity, its violence, its terrible tragedies.

I enjoyed the playful prose of Daniel O’Malley, whose entertaining books have now been made into a TV series. But OH DEAR, how leaden and sad the result! I even incurred a monthly fee to watch this show, having had to subscribe to Starz. The books were wild and woolly (I wrote about them here) and filled with hilarity and silliness. A certain amount of VIOLENCE and bad language also, I must admit.
The Starz series is handsome of course–well made, filled with good detail–but ominous and brooding to a point that might bring even the jolliest amongst us to drear despair.
And as for the ebullient fantastical whimsies, they have been carefully drained out and replaced with soulless bureaucratic processes. Instead of a free wheeling jokey hipster story, we find ourselves knee deep in dark espionage.
Sigh.
Maybe it will get better in the next couple episodes!

(Myfanwy and Colleague Demonstrate ‘Despair on the Escalator’)

I was charmed to hear of my grandson’s first encounter with a firefly–he followed it down the street, mesmerized, whispering “Makin its own light..makin its own light..”
And it occurred to me, what happened to all the fireflies? My yard used to be glowing with them–Lawrence often mentioned it, he loved them so–particularly since there were none in Sussex where he grew up. But as I peered out at the dark garden, there they were! One flash, then another, the darling bugs dancing about.

I learnt about Dino’s firefly on WhatsApp, where we have a family group which shares comments and pictures–it is a very delightful little app, even though it is owned by Facebook. This morning I noted that there were suddenly over 30 comments awaiting me, and when I opened up the app I was shocked to find that Dino had banged his head and been rushed to the ER for some stitches. My heart froze, thinking of his fear and pain and his mother’s terror–but all was well, I learned, and the bandaged hero had been comforted with ice cream after his ordeal.

Still, I was so distressed I forgot my breakfast and burnt the bacon–and then rushed off to ballet without my ballet bag. But –deep breaths, calm restored–I was able to return home for it and still make it to class in time.
So, best wishes for a speedy recovery to the little fellow!
And, slow down running through those damn playground sprinklers already!

Teaching the Young

Wednesday is my Day of Challenge, when I plod home from work–and then rush back out to go to ballet class. HOW much easier to stay home, pour a glass of wine, and watch some dopey Netflix soapster!

But VIRTUE prevails, and off I go.
Yesterday I entered the classroom to find an alien teacher had invaded our turf–the usual lady out junketing I suppose–and here was this brash young man in her place. The initial impression was not good, he talked too fast and grinned too frantically, but I know that we are a threatening bunch–a few dour oldsters like me and then the shining stars who could do triple pirouettes by elementary school–so we did what he said and gradually came to an understanding.

The piano player was not the brilliant Armenian who usually plays–a sweet and smiling youth whose music lifts the heart, and brings us through the most complicated exercises with his sensitive understanding of timing and melody. But the lady who took his place at the piano did very well, a fine player, if perhaps not the one to bring joyful tears to your eyes.
So, not a bad class, at that.
I chatted with a friend in the dressing room after class, who told me that our substitute had been something of a horror when he first started, but was more modest and amiable now. And she told me about a grad student in her lab, who had been insufferable, arrogant and quick to argue–a jerk, in fact. He knew about some processes that she and her colleagues didn’t, so they were somewhat at a loss. And then another scientist joined the lab, a dazzling star in those processes, who was, moreover, a very pleasant and modest man. And the young jerk learned to shut up and behave.
Perhaps the young man who taught us had a similar humbling experience, she said.

On his last visit, my 2 and a half year old grandson adamantly proclaimed that he would NO LONGER sleep in the crib but only in the bed (preferably his mother’s), which meant it was time to replace the hated device with a Big Boy Bed. And–in what I now see was an excess of grandmotherly zeal–I took apart the crib and stored it out of sight.
However, as you might expect, the crib is now needed for the second grandson (who so far is content to sleep wherever his parents put him.) SO, I got out the bits–MY, there were quite a lot of them–and stared at them dubiously from time to time.
Then, last weekend, I began the assembly.

I had bought a special tool for taking it apart–a long handled Allen wrench–which now drove the bolts back into their little holes with satisfying force. HOWEVER–each hole was equipped with an inserted socket which moved about in a feckless and whimsical manner, so that the bolt couldn’t find it. Added to this aggravation is the way the crib bars are carefully placed VERY close together (so no angel baby foot can get trapped) which means access to the tricky inner areas is limited. I’m sure experienced handymen have a better way to tackle this vexing problem, but what I finally did was push a little sticky wax onto the socket to hold it in place while I carefully inserted the bolt.

THAT settled its plaguey tricks!
So, the crib is put together and will be ready for my darling grandson once I have found the sheets. Which are surely somewhere safe.

A weekend in NY

Watching my grandson grow up is very different from how I watched my children growing up, mostly because I DIDN’T watch my children growing up so much, being involved in growing up myself as I lived with them, cared for them.
This weekend I visited the lad and watched him with his peers, the children he spends his days with. I was pleased to see how he loved them, how happy he was to be with them. And I was so moved by the stalwart women who manage his day care center–hard working, good hearted women, who somehow got eleven small children suited up–each child in a red t-shirt with the name of the center on it–and transported to the playground. Where they created a FIELD DAY for their small charges–with races and prizes! These are tiny children, some of whom can barely walk, and two are babies who can’t walk at all! It was a triumph of human endeavor, and I honor those ladies–the children raced, carried eggs in spoons, hopped in sacks–perhaps not very well, but with such good humor and spirit!

And then I took the lad home and that evening we went out to dinner followed by a trip to the ICE CREAM STORE! That the world can hold such joy! The next day we played in the park, both grandmas in attendance, and then home for lunch. After which I left for home, a little warm but not at all astonished. The subway to the train station gave me a nasty turn–NO UPTOWN TRAINS–but I was told how to foil this horrid trick (go downtown 4 stops and then cross over), and soon found myself boarding the train at Penn Station. Good bye, lovely Brooklyn!

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