Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Kate is 45

Kate and family are up in Che-boygan, returning tomorrow. So let me say "Happy Birthday" to a gracious, kind and talented woman.

And just in case Patrick, Charlie, Daniel and Eleanor want to know something about the day their mother was born, it was while we were still living in our little duplex on Marlborough in Detroit. Al, who was 13 months, slept in one of the bedrooms and Ernie had appropriated the other for a study—shade of things to come—so we were sleeping on a rollaway in the living room. I was a little smarter than the last time, and I woke up knowing we should get to the hospital right away. Ernie was teaching summer school and the time for handing in grades had come and gone. He was, I am afraid, notorious for being late with grades and he was determined to get this set in before I was allowed to have a baby. Fortunately his chair lived a mile or so away and would be able to take care of the problem, but Ernie was (and is) the kind of person who needed to shave, put on a clean shirt etc. before dealing with an emergency. Unlike Kate, I was not too gracious. Time was running out, We made it, although I cannot for the love of me remember what we did with Al.

And that evening, my parents, who had never met Ernie, landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, in the midst of a mid-western heatwave.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

In Which She Muses about Mewses

I spent my undergraduate years in this Hall of Residence. Lindsell Hall was located in Swiss Cottage and there is some pretty spectacular architecture in that borough and the neighboring St. John's Wood and Hampstead. Obviously Lindsell is not a shining example. The bay window on the top floor with two heads in the window shows how the large rooms were divided to make two smaller rooms—the heads are in different rooms. It was in those rooms that little groups of us gathered late at night to drink coffee and to plan our future lives.

My little clique included Jane King (Chemistry), Audrey Ashworth (Classics, and that's her head in the middle row), Sylvia Smith and Jackie Walker (Geography), and Gillian Levesque (Biology).  There must have been more and if I could only find a photo I have of one of our gatherings, I could come up with more names. One of our plans, influenced I am sure by the local real estate, was to graduate and move into a cozy mews. I suspect a Mr. Rochester look-alike with a nice income came into it somewhere, and for some reason we thought married life included dinners of duck a l'orange.

The graduation part came and went and some of us stayed in London. No mews for me, but a share in a shabby apartment across the street from the former residence of Dr. Crippen. We kept in touch in various ways with some of our late night coffee drinking friends and I knew Gillian married her long-time boyfriend, Colin, right after graduation. I also knew Colin was working as a teacher and I think Gill was too. One day I and probably Sylvia, though I can't remember, received an invitation to dinner with Gill and Colin. They were living in a lovely little mews cottage and—you guessed it—we had duck a l'orange for dinner.

I have tried frequently to get in touch with Gill and she came back to mind a couple of weeks ago.  I love the Friday Arena section of the Wall Street Journal where they describe real estate both in the States and all over the world. I have read avidly about luxury developments in Hong Kong and New York, condos in Miami, stark residences in San Francisco and cozy cottages in New Hampshire. The editors are very fond of writing about London and the expensive developments with floors excavated below ground, and the other week the subject was mews. A mews, two mews ? Two mewses?

Can you read that? $10.49 million. Gill and Colin were such modest people and I do wonder what happened to them.

Gill Levesque, where are you?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hold on Tight

The birth of this child has received huge coverage in the States. I must admit I peeked in once the Duchess was in labor. I love listening to reporter  Jonathan Hunt, an import from England, but please don't make me explain Anthony Wiener. I did, however, miss the original video of the Duke and Duchess appearing on the hospital steps with the baby, but I saw it several times on the news.

I was aghast. I am not used to this—a woman one day after giving birth, trotting down steps with the future king of England in her arms, rather like a football. Let me explain. In this country a new mother who is being discharged from hospital is required to wait in the room until an orderly comes with a wheel chair and pushes her all the way to the waiting car, where she is assisted into her seat. In the footage I saw, I missed the pedestrian sight of the Duke of Cambridge putting the baby into the baby seat. In this country the seat is inspected for safely and the parents are instructed in all the necessary procedures. I believe they are even provided with a child seat if they do not have one. The video with the Jonathan Hunt footage shows the Duke of Cambridge swinging the seat in rather a cavalier manner, and while I can see the point of the Duchess standing with the baby in her arms and walking unaided down the steps, it scares me. Here she is looking up at the photographers and not down at the steps. And I think she was even wearing heels.

Is there a doctor or a nurse in the house? Any comments?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Addendum to Yesterday

Somehow I forgot (how could I?) to add two things that made July 19 memorable. The first is recorded here. I took it at about 4:30, and though it is not the hottest I have recorded on my iPhone, it is bad enough. The little rainy, cloudy icon means they expected it to rain, and boy, did it. Everything in the garden is flat, but the wet, accompanied by a certain degree of heat, is way too tropical to get out there and check for damage.

The second is that I was so enervated that I sat with he-who-shares-the -house and watched the British Open. (Usually I find golf the most boring thing on the face of the earth.) I would have appreciated some of that wind. What time do they start televising it today?

Friday, July 19, 2013

I Play the Role of Samuel Pepys

Today I don the hat of Samuel Pepys. Rather his wig. I had no intention of writing a post today, but I think I should record this date and make a note of its significance. I am certain that everyone has heard that Detroit has declared bankruptcy. What does that mean for a gritty city which helped countless poverty stricken hard workers earn a decent living? There is still footage of the thousands of southerners pouring into the Ford factory to claim their $5 a day. The Henry Ford in Dearborn is a mecca for automobile history. How did this brave city become a plundering ground for the likes of Kwame Kilpatrick and a City Council who rode around in shiny, chauffeured Escalades, and, if the story is not apocryphal, was governed by a Board of Education with a member who announced he couldn't read?

I do not live in Detroit, because even 47 years ago when we arrived here, we realized that we would be unable to send our children to the Detroit Public schools and would be saddled with private school fees.  I know many people who do live within the boundaries of the city and who are working constantly to improve conditions. Both Ernie and I spent our working life in Detroit and our daughter works there now. I was most impressed with the Emergency Manager who was appointed by the Governor but I am not surprised he could not forge an agreement between the warring parties.

There are many who think that bankruptcy is the right way to go. Let's wait and remember this date.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Perfect Morning

I like to get up first, make coffee, set the table and grab the newspaper. I have been having a problem focusing lately. I think it is too much pain medicine and my ophthalmologist doesn't think it constitutes an emergency. But that's another story. I can still read the paper, drink coffee and I try to disappear before I have to make breakfast for the other occupant of the house.

Then it is my choice. I go to the garden, I go shopping, I attack laundry, but whatever I do, the morning is my prime time for action. Of course, most of the time I go to the computer.

How I love the descriptions of the lady of the house slipping into the morning room and writing gracious "thank you" notes to family and friends. Thick vellum paper and a quill pen. Our heroine, and Jane Austen comes to mind, sends out invitations for tea and occasionally a ball. Perhaps this woman is pondering who to invite to her daughter's "Coming Out" party. Those invitations are always carefully arranged by a scout on the mantle shelf of a room at Oxford or Cambridge (think Brideshead Revisited.) Of course, for a suitor, a degree from those august institutions would be no good without a title and an impressive estate.

Sad to say, in my case, I whip out my lap top, erase some redundant e-mails, check on library books to be returned, send e-mails to kith and kin and see what Facebook has to offer.

And before I know it, it is lunchtime.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Is it Wrong . . .

. . . to hate an appliance?

First let me say that this is about the sixth post I have started. Five of them are preserved as drafts and may or may not be resuscitated. I am sure most of you know what happens when you feel you can't resume writing after a long period without writing the most splendid post ever—and it is easier to write nothing.

For now, suffice it to say we have had sweltering heat and enough rain to make Noah happy, and sufficient wind to bring down several trees and to provide employment for crews with noisy machinery. While we have not had to water much, pots have been swimming in water and mud has taken the place of grass. There have been three sad deaths in dear families, and the birth of a great-nephew in England with the lovely (and classical) name of Milo. And I should not forget good news concerning employment and a family member. Perhaps some of this will be described in more detail: that's the trouble with having a Facebook account. I do not feel the need to to write a splendid—or even a grammatical entry on that platform.

I realize that sturdy grandsons are coming tomorrow to chop vines and weed, then the Mitsubishi man is coming, so it is now or never. The washing machine died a premature death, although it turned out to be a problem with electricity, not the machine, so that helped.

This, however, is public enemy number 1. When we finally—after almost 35 years— got the kitchen remodeled over 10 years ago now, I was talked into a counter-depth fridge. In all honesty, I didn't have the room for an appliance like I had before, which projected into the kitchen. I felt like all my neighbors with the water and ice dispensers in the door, and although I had the feeling that a bottom freezer would make more sense, at the time they didn't make them. I think I have about 3 square feet of room in each side of the freezer/refrigerator combination. Totally useless, even for two of us. But the worst part is the design flaw which means that the hose bringing in the water for the cold water and ice in the door is so near the compressor that it melts, sending water over the floor periodically. For about three years we have had the water turned off and used bags of ice, but I am going to make one more attempt next week. "Rick" assures me he can wrap the hose so that it will not melt again.

Meanwhile, I hate my GE refrigerator.There, I said it.