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Back in September—MONTHS and MONTHS ago–I got a little notice from the state informing me that in six months my license would expire. SIX MONTHS! For heavens sake, I had better things to do than worry about things a HALF A YEAR AWAY!

  • Then came October: HALLOWEEN! And work stuff.
    Thinking about license expiration: NONE.
  • Then came November: My new grandson was born! AND Thanksgiving! And work stuff.
    Thinking about license expiration: NONE.
  • Then came December: CHRISTMAS! And work stuff.
    Thinking about license expiration: NONE.
  • Then came January: visiting new grandson! And work stuff.
    Thinking about license expiration: NONE.
  • Then came February. Valentine’s Day! And work stuff.
    OMG! The damn thing is due next month!

And it happens that my state now demands a vast assortment of documents to prove that I am who I am.
Which I am.
BUT, couldn’t find the birth certificate, and my passport had expired. I sent off for a new one but it turns out this is a procedure that takes 6 weeks if you don’t ask for chop chop service which I foolishly didn’t.
And this is why, dear friends, I spent the morning of my birthday driving to the local hangout of the Department of Motor Vehicles and humbly begging for an extension of my license so that I could continue driving legally until the passport ambles home.
Well, well, at least it didn’t take me 10 years. Odysseus still wins the prize in the procrastination sweepstakes.

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I know we are all glad that Pakistan released Wing Commander Abhinandan back to his cheering countrymen! With perhaps a few bruises—but, alive and free.

Particularly since war is thereby averted. AND the meeting my office has planned in Islamabad at the end of the month doesn’t have to be cancelled. NOTE: our last Pakistan meeting was cancelled when hordes of screaming men shut down the country in their ardent desire to have one of their countrywomen murdered for drinking from the wrong cup.
THIS time, reason prevailed.
But the MAIN take away from this affair is of course–Abhinandan’s absolutely fabulous facial hair fashion! The internet is AGOG, and there is non stop discussion of it: "It heavily resembles the gunslinger, but also has some characteristics of the horseshoe, the Hungarian, and the wild west moustache."

All over India, men are attempting to copy the bold commander’s style. And even beyond India.
Men, such cute!

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I have just returned from a bang up 3 day trip to New York, babysitting for my charming 2 and 1/2 year old grandson. The boy is an ANGEL (well, aside from some bedtime issues) and we had a grand time together. I have to say that a relaxation in the former rather strict nutrition rules–which now allows previously forbidden sweeties–has certainly made otherwise impossible procedures suddenly possible. Bribery, so effective. The lad has a magnificent mane of beautiful hair, which he completely forbids one to groom. BUT–when offered a tiny marzipan candy in the shape of a fruit (from a dainty box in the fridge) he was completely at his ease– engrossed in the confection–as I plied the brush. AND with a brilliantly blue lollipop at his disposal, he calmly waited for the bus to the zoo without the tiniest hint of impatience. Even when we found that the zoo was not yet open on our arrival, his mood continued sunny–and let me add that it was FREEZING COLD. Once allowed inside, we LOVED the aminals! And the fishies! And the peacocks! And the kitty! A Pallas’s cat, said the sign.

Who was politely coughing up a hairball as we watched.
Where did I fail in perfection you will ask. Well, I simply could NOT fasten the lad’s seat belt in his stroller so that TWICE he tumbled out. He came to no harm, but my granny stars of servitude–earned by changing so many diapers–have been stripped from my unworthy shoulders.
Still, what fun to spend time with this small–but passionate and fascinating–human being!

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Recently my peaceful morning bus commute has been interrupted by loud recorded announcements detailing the name of each bus stop passed by, in the tones of a faintly bored superior older man–your uncle, maybe, blandly offering you a lollipop–which is irritating enough, but that was not what had me slavering with rage. No, it was the sharp female voice that preceded each announced stop, trumpeting harshly: "RACHE" or perhaps "ROUCHE"–I couldn’t quite hear it.
But WHAT was the angry lady telling me? Was it perhaps… a Spanish term meaning stop? A code word understood by all commuters but myself?

I was suddenly reminded of that charming moment in Sherlock Holmes, there is a word scribbled IN BLOOD above a corpse, "RACHE" –the Bumbling Police decide there is a love triangle and a lady named RACHEL is involved. Our supremely cool detective examines the scene, and notifies the Bumbling Police: “One other thing, Lestrade,” he added, turning round at the door: “‘Rache,’ is the German for ‘revenge;’ so don’t lose your time looking for Miss Rachel.”
HA HA!
So I listened more closely and eventually realized she was saying "ROUTE."
Dopey, rather. I much prefer the Conan Doyle interpretation.

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Declining the Dismal

I was looking through the book reviews in the Journal and came across this particularly dispiriting note: "The scorched and battered specter of Job rises up anew in the novels of the young, prodigiously talented writer Chigozie Obioma"…I thought, NOPE, not interested in scorched and battered.
Not that the story of Job isn’t wonderful: "And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it."

A character in A.S. Byatt’s excellent Frederica quartet is devastated by the death of his wife, and when he is asked where he has been, he replies with that exact phrase, the devil’s words. It gave me a chill–I have never forgotten it. But his story is one of many in the series, and the books are engrossing, charming: NOT dismal, but witty and well written
So many modern books seem determined to make my meat to creep (quoting dear O’Brian) and I simply refuse to listen. I’ll take Midsummer Night’s Dream over King Lear any day. Which is not to say that I don’t appreciate King Lear, and in my youth I enthusiastically read all the grand tragedies and epics.
Well, MANY of them.
Perhaps it’s just old age, but I am turning more and more to farce and good cheer. Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?

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Everyone knows the Cinderella story–the sad girl, the wicked stepmother, the glass slipper, the handsome prince. It has been retold so many times, and its charm remains–age cannot wither nor custom stale its infinite variety.
IMDB comes up with 24 movie versions, and I can check off a few, first of course being the lovely 1950 Disney cartoon, which set the vision of Cinderella for a generation and more.

There was the 1998 version, with Drew Barrymore, not so dusty–Jeanne Moreau starts it off, and Angelica Huston made a fabulous wicked step mother.

Kenneth Branagh’s 2015 movie was simply delightful, with Lily James as Cinderella and Richard Madden (AKA Robb Stark) as her prince–and Cate Blanchett as her deliciously vile stepmother.

And in 2016 I was entranced by Christopher Wheeldon’s lovely ballet, so engaging, so beautiful–with, as I described at the time, such an astonishing vision of the coach that takes her to the ball, enchantingly created by the dancers with some masks and wheels.

And Saturday I was entertained by yet another Cinderella: Matthew Bourne’s version, set in London during the blitz, with very clever stage business–ancient news clips, fire flaming about, buildings falling down—and such entertaining dance, very clever, very gorgeous–to Prokoviev’s excellent score (as was Wheeldon’s). In this version, the prince is a wounded RAF pilot, and most of the men are in uniform–and at no time did I feel any lack of respect for the misery and tragedy of that time. It was not played for laughs. I was taken aback by how moving the moment when he finds her lost shoe, glittering in the bombed rubble of the club where their ravishing dance had taken place.
I own I was a trifle baffled by the crowd of people in Cinderella’s home at the start, but it turns out that in addition to the nasty stepsisters, she has nasty stepbrothers in this version. And not only is she is a drab little nobody, she WEARS GLASSES! Horrors. Also, she must tend to her old dad who is confined to a wheel chair (NOTE: of course no one on stage is actually OLD–dancers are gently settled in old age homes the minute they turn 30).

Her magical godmother was instead a magical godfather, who whips her off to the ball on a motorcycle, very dashing indeed–a beautiful man in a silver suit with silver hair. In some reviews he was also called the angel of death, what with all the explosions and sirens (surround sound, quite effective) and ominous visions of war.
It was a lovely show, just lovely. Here is a trailer.

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Wearing the Plumage

I saw an amusing article about the Pitti Peacocks–men attending the menswear show in Florence, whose sense of style is flamboyant and will not be denied. These gentlemen will never say no to whatever stupendous vision can be encompassed by a tailor and a heart that beats high.

Let them strut! There is something heartwarming about the lads and their efforts.

Not that ANYTHING can rival our ancestors in this department, for heavens sake.

Oh my, those KILLING looks over the shoulder…through those tumbling curls. Guys, you are IRRESISTIBLE.

Still, let us not disdain today’s dandies. And do check out this charming little documentary (includes a really fine Attenborough imitation).

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