Thursday, July 20, 2006

They're At It Again

When we last met ”Keith”, he was busy with his product placement and attempting to interest us in the visceral world of sausage casings. He must have been checking sales orders, because he has clearly decided that flesh and offal are a lost cause as far as this family is concerned. Adopting an obscure cognitive model, he has now theorized that we are more likely to buy up-scale female athletic clothing. You know, a kind of G.I. Jane meets Heidi Klum line of garments. Wrong again, Keith. Did you miss the first week of Marketing 101? The other day a catalog arrived from Title Nine. Cute name, bad idea. Anyone who knows me understands I am unlikely to be scaling the North face of the Eiger anytime soon, and I am not one of those women who goes to the supermarket looking like she’s just come from a vigorous workout.

Nice try, Keith. Can’t wait to see what comes next.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What a Difference a Dust Jacket Makes

What attracted me to this book at the library? It certainly wasn’t the title. “The Secret Life of a Schoolgirl!” No thanks, not interested. Was it the notes inside the front cover?:

But one day Rosemary’s life changed forever. At a cafe where she had gone to escape from a party her father insisted she attend with him, she met Richard Burton, the dashingly handsome Welsh actor who was then the toast of the London stage. She had seen him in Under Milkwood some months before. She was an adolescent schoolgirl. He was twenty nine.
At this point is was pretty obvious where the book was headed and I still wasn’t too interested. No, what drew me to the book was the dust jacket, with the sepia photo of earnest schoolgirls and even more earnest teachers lined up and squinting into the sun. School photo day was a big occasion in my youth and the photo brought back vivid memories.

The book itself turned out to be interesting on several levels. Rosemary Kingsland’s family gives new meaning to the word dysfunctional and she steers a wobbly course between a charming but often drunk womanizer of a father and a mother who was brought up by nuns in a convent in the Himalayas and couldn’t imagine how she would cope with four children in an austere post-war England. There is a fascinating and bloody glimpse of life at the end of the Raj, when the family was forced to flee the comforts of India for the precarious safety of England. There is a wonderful account of the horror expressed by Doris Day, who, on her way back from entertaining the troops, was forced to share a cabin with the author’s family. “These are the worst children I have ever met,” she is quoted as saying. “Six weeks at sea with them will kill me.”

For me the enjoyment came from the memories evoked by the music and general ambience of teenage life in the 50’s in England, even though I occasionally thought that her lists of pop favorites were derived from Google rather than actual recollection.

Of Richard Burton and the part he played in Rosemary Kingsland’s coming of age, the less said, the better. Neither protagonist emerges gracefully. When Burton finally learns that the teenager he is juggling with his wife and Claire Bloom is only fourteen, his first thoughts are of himself: ”I could get seven years in the clink if this ever comes out.”

There was much I wanted to check about this book. I discovered that the paperback edition had the kind of sleazy dust jacket which would have totally repelled me. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the book had also been published under the name Hold Back the Night, this time with the dust jacket graced by an enormous profile of Richard Burton. One book, two titles, three dust jackets?

I don’t feel like sorting that lot out. I prefer to pull out my old photos (I’m the surly looking one, back row, third from the left) and wonder which of my earnest looking fellow prefects could have been living her own “secret life.”

Monday, July 10, 2006

4 rms river vu

You have to love the way Real Estate agents play fast and loose with the English language. I use the cumbersome phrase “Real Estate agent” rather than “Realtor”, because like the infamous “nuclear”, realtor is impossible to pronounce without the addition of an extra syllable. We all know by now that “priced for your decorating ideas” means they have knocked off some money to compensate for the 1970’s wallpaper and orange counters (I had some of those once), and that “charming antique touches throughout” means “Don’t even think of going to Sears for a new toilet seat. They have to be special ordered at an exorbitant cost or they won’t fit”.

I was somewhat floored by the flyer that was printed up, surely at considerable expense, and tucked into the Grosse Pointe News a while ago. I have already mentioned my dislike of the phrase gourmet kitchen. Here we have “granite kitchen”. I understand what they mean, but somehow granite kitchen is reminiscent of a cave in which Cro-Magnon Man roasted a lump of mastodon flesh. When we move on to architecture, the author of this flyer is on more shaky ground. What in the name of Frank Lloyd Wright is a “Victorian tudor?” Is “Victorian” an adjective, in which case why is it capitalized? What a schizophrenic house this must be. I might be tempted to check it out, but if there is one thing Real Estate agents are good at it is summing up possible buyers, and they would spot immediately that I do not have a spare $975,000.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Marmite is an underappreciated delicacy. It is possible to buy it in the US, but I avoid doing so. Spread thickly on toast and butter, it is delicious and I can easily work my way through half a loaf at a sitting, but Dr. Goldsby doesn’t approve, so I limit myself to what I can eat while in England and to what I receive from visiting friends and family.

It looks (and in all honesty sort of tastes) like tar and it is definitely an acquired taste. Anyone who watched the Olympic Games in Australia will remember the commentators talking in disbelief about Vegemite, the Australian equivalent of Marmite.

This bottle, a very contemporary squeeze bottle, was brought over by my visiting brother and his wife. It is now empty. I was idly surfing so I could educate you all with a list of ingredients and I came across some fascinating sites here and here. If you get a chance, try some Marmite on toast. You just might like it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Bee Balm Boom of 2006

Last August 17 I addressed the Foxglove Glut of 2005. That was a phenomenon which fizzled out. Most of the foxglove rosettes which nestled under the winter covering of garden debris were gone by spring. I suspect that the virtual absence of snow deprived them of the moisture they needed to put on their usual brave show.

Those same weather conditions were obviously kind to monarda. There’s an abundance of it this year, most of it in totally unsuitable places. I have a big clump at the front of a bed in front of the bird bath, and I can’t bring myself to eradicate it. Besides, it fills the spot where I removed lilies last fall. That was a big mistake, because they are not tall enough to make any impression where I planted them. Back to the drawing board.

Friday, July 07, 2006

But I Didn't

That's my new mantra. It works.

Like so many people, my life is governed by "I should have", "I meant to", or "I was going to". Life is a lot easier if those phrases are unapologetically capped by, "But I didn't." Then I move on.

This Blog is supposed to help me remember the goings on in my life. But for three or so weeks I have neglected it. Once again, when my family says, “Do you remember when . . .?”, I will have to bluff my way through with nothing to jog my failing memory. I did take some photos. Not as many as I should, but enough to remind me of a wonderful time with my brother and his wife. We visited gardens galore, both private and public. Brian and Brenda took us to dinner at Benihana and Andiamos. We loved the Millennium Park in Chicago. (That's the Cloud Gate in the photo.) So what if Brian corrupted his photos by trying to download them on my Mac? Back in England he got them all back. He taught me how to fish, or rather to assemble, wire and install outdoor lighting. I have a new skill.

So, I should have kept this blog up to date. But I didn’t. I can live with that.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Gody's Birthday

Happy Birthday to our daughter-in-law Godelive. We are looking forward to seeing her, Al, and those three delightful boys at the end of the month.

Gody has mastered her fourth language and now is working to take her National League of Nursing test. She already has a degree in Nursing from Pisa and a graduate degree in tropical Medicine from Brussels and she is hoping that before long she can claim her title of Registered Nurse. We are all rooting for her to figure out those perplexing figures of speech. Meanwhile she works at the weekends at Providence Hospital in DC and has made herself indispensable.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Oldest Kid Turns 39

I love this photo of Al laying down the law to his three children. What a role reversal!

Thirty nine years ago today—I remember it well. We were pretty inexperienced parents. In fact we didn't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies, which explains why we were driving around town instead of staying close to the hospital. We ate brunch at a famous west side kosher restaurant, which later made my answers to the admitting nurse pretty bizarre:

Religion? Catholic
Last Meal? Lox and Bagels

It was also the day of the Belle Isle Hydroplane Race, and we thought we would see what all the fuss was about, though driving over the narrow bridge to the island wasn't the brightest idea in the world.

We made it back to our apartment and from there to St. John's Hospital. We had practiced the 10 minute ride—but we got lost. And at 3:23 a.m. our first child was born. Happy Birthday, Al.