So, WordPress congratulates for having my blog one year today. And I realise my attempt to capture a whole year of my life for my children and for prosperity didn’t quite work out. It was the summer that did it. I booked a holiday to Manhattan at Easter and immediately regretted it. And everything kinda went downhill after that.
At this point I am tempted to copy and paste a load of Facebook statuses (?): I can’t remember the last period of my life when I was so sociable, the ‘dates’ just kept rolling in – an excellent season at Theatre Clywd, I seemed to be skipping in and out of the underground car park every five minutes.
And then there was a wedding. As ever I dreaded it – I hate weddings, and I especially hate wedding parties. There is this exotic mix of people from all the different parts of the couple’s and their families’ lives – schools, workplaces, social clubs and anywhere else friendships spring from. They invariably have little in common – except being absolutely over-joyed at the prospective happiness these wonderful people can now look forward to! This almost heady enthusiasm for the next 40, 60 or even more years of mortgages, gas bills, nappies, toddler and then teenage tantrums, Christmases spent spreading themselves between in-laws both loved and loathed, had always seemed forced and false to me even before I got married/divorced, but since I got divorced – and so many of the people whose weddings I have been to have also got divorced, nowadays it all seems totally unrealistic as well. Fortunately, this was an O’Brien wedding and the dread of the tired lettuce leaf decorated finger buffet, with the almost statutory processed ham and blurrr paste sandwiches and scrawny, dehydrated chicken legs would not be a problem: O’Briens have always known how to feed guests. However, even an O’Brien wedding involves the most dreaded element of all: the wedding/wedding party uniform. This is an odd combination of formal, slightly posh but not too formal, smarter than smart-casual but not quite prom. Dresses continue to dominate the female wardrobe – this is still the one place even the silkiest, satiniest trousers will not do. Having given up even trying on dresses two dress sizes/two babies ago, I knew I would end up praying someone else had had the bottle to dare to dress up a pair of flares – and sure enough, yet again my prayers weren’t answered. Oh well.
Next up was Bon Jovi ‘Because We Can’ at Manchester. But Richie ‘couldn’t’ and a very brave little man had to stand in for him. Courage is a universally respected human quality: unfortunately it is no substitute for talent – and I wanted to rip my ears off half way through the ‘Bad Medicine’ solo. ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ got a round of applause but we all knew it was for effort. Jon worked his bollocks off as usual, but it was a Roll-er firing on 3 cylinders.
And then it was July. I remember thinking that I hadn’t seen many wasps for years. When I was a kid they were a perennial part of summer. And then the day before the dreaded holiday was due, from out of nowhere there seemed to be millions of them in our garden. Most of them outside my kitchen window. In a moment of madness I tried to clear them out by hosing them- their retaliation was swift and emphatic – three of them stung me on the head. It was like a scene from a cheap, slapstick 40’s comedy – one of my hands was slapping my head and hair, the other was frantically clinging a thick spray of water from an out-of-control garden hose pipe. Squealing. Like an hysterical Stan Laurel. I can still feel the needle-like stingers jabbing into my skin. The rest of the day the stings were a bit throbby and that night, as I checked and rechecked everything for New York the next day I put down not being able to sleep to the dread of the long flight and the fear of whether there would actually be an apartment at the end of it of. And this is how the great Manhattan/Harlem adventure began – and pretty much ended.
I was already itching and unwell when instead of the plane continuing to drvie down the runway, the pilot announced the first 20 minute delay. I was itching worse and really unwell by the time we eventually took off 7 hours later. All forms of modern communication were employed to contact the host before we finally got to the apartment: email, text and finally mobile phone. And the first thing I had to sort out was a pharmacy/local store which sold anti-histamines.
The next three weeks were dominated by first this wasp sting, then an allergic reaction to possibly some shampoo which made my eye, and then my whole face swell up and finally an insect bite on my arm. Even walking along Madison Avenue didn’t feel the same. Gary Martin was frustrated I didn’t feel like wandering around on my own – which I usually did with total confidence, so had to hang around with me all the time. We did the usual and the galleries were awesome this season. ‘Starry Night’ and Pollock’s ‘Let’s just chuck a load of paint around’ were breathtaking; the Frick was WOW! and the MoMA’s Monet was massive! Harlem was hot, and noisy and full of jazzy-kinda stuff, very atmospheric! We did the 9/11 Memorial, which despite its obvious commercialisation was still extremely moving: the blue and white John Lennon Memorial, which despite its obvious tininess continues
to be the most moving and respected 6 foot of New York. We discussed Washington and Boston, and then discovered they were both even hotter, couldn’t agree on how to get there, and so came home a week early. Into the even bigger nightmare of E’s new boyfriend – which fortunately lasted only five months and is best forgotten beyond the now-obvious lessons learned by all.
And so it was back to school: record exam results all around – including the English Department’s, which did not beat the Maths’ and were, therefore, still unsatisfactory and the Head pointing this out to the whole staff, pretty much set the tone for the rest of this school year.