Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Which She Rambles—Again

The  wedding was ten days ago and I still have beds to strip and towels to wash, dishes and glasses to put away, floors to sweep and vacuum, coats to put back in closets, thank you letters to write, people to call  . . . Well, you can imagine. Not entirely unforgivable, because I have had a rib-shaking, debilitating  cough, which Ernie seems to have inherited.

 I think we got off lightly. A number of my grandchildren —and therefore their parents—have a nasty virus and there have been a few incidents which make me so glad we chose the weekend of the 19th to celebrate this:

What did I do? I did peek in the laundry chute to discover the table cloth I had intended to use on the brunch table. That was, in fact, plan B after the Venetian linen cut-work number which hasn't seen the light of day since the last wedding seventeen years ago and which I realized, too late, probably needed ironing: I looked in embarrassment at the nasty stubs of soap which should have been replaced by the Yardley's Lavender, which is  . . . well, I don't know where I put it. My vision of reading and eating hot soup as the snow came down was somewhat dampened by the realization that I would have to MAKE the soup, and worse still, go shopping for ingredients. I did start on cleaning out my e-mail. I have tried in the past to keep my "in-tray" to less than 50, but I had almost 500 e-mails with addresses and names and phone numbers, attachments of invoices and, even worse, because of another situation the family is dealing with, legal briefs.

Mostly, I sat by the fire and read. I decided that the ease with which I found The Casual Vacancy at the library was a portent. But I am not sure of what. I hate it when I read a book which I think I am supposed to like—and I don't. I keep getting the title mixed up with The Accidental Tourist. It is the kind of cause and effect book which Ruth Rendell could have pulled off with more depth of character and nuanced writing in half the number of pages.

But there was one vignette which I read avidly because it took me back to an event in my own life: one which I have tried to forget but which Ernie pushes back into my memory. J.K. Rowling introduces us to a character, Samantha Mollison, who, as her husband runs for office, makes every attempt to be a middle class housewife. She invites Gavin and Kay to dinner and then, when the newly-widowed Mary turns up, she includes her in the invitation. The conversation is stilted, the casserole is burnt with flecks of black floating in he sauce.

In my graduate student life at The University of Southern California, after I had moved from residence living to my own apartment, I decided to invite the Classics Department Faculty to dinner. Heaven only knows why. Heaven only knows why most of them came. The menu was to be beef casserole and scotch. No Chopped back then to inform me that not all ovens bake evenly, no internet to help me translate Centigrade to Fahrenheit, no realization that at some point I should slide the casserole out of the oven to see how it was doing. Kingsley Amis and Lucky Jim had nothing on me!

But I had plenty of scotch and received full marks for my bravado.

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