Days 304-314 – Julia

Well, I hit burnout and ended up having a 12-day computer fast, broken only briefly by an i-pad in Paris. I feel terrible for abandoning this beloved blog, but I also feel much much better for letting my brain look at things other than screens for a while. the glorious 10 day Easter break ends today, and while I am not any further along with any of the big things on my to-do list, I’ve been able to cram in a good 10 separate adventures.  Here, in no particular order, is a long list of things I’ve been grateful for in the last 2 weeks:

1. Restored communication with wife.  We hadn’t really seen enough of each other for a few weeks and my clever plan to take a trip to London and Paris together got foiled by A’s work commitments (and her decision not to tell me about her work commitments because she didn’t want me to be mad at her for not coming to London with me)…  So it’s been excellent to spend 3 days walking, organising, and moving furniture around together. We’ve now dealt with most of the things on our Christmas DIY list, which means we’re only one bank holiday behind.  And we’re both on the same page again, which is excellent.

2. I am well enough to travel (long distances! to exotic places!) by myself.  Well, not so much long distances as long travel times (eugh, budget travel options), but all the same I was very pleased to negotiate buses, trains, subways and passport control on my own.

3. I am feeling in control of my body again and am no longer terrified of tunnels. This is quite convenient, seeing as how I took the Eurostar. There comes a point, far beneath the English Channel, where one must concentrate very very hard on not thinking about one’s current location. And I can now mitigate fear like a normal person; I’m not sure if this is because I feel I’d be able to physically run away if I needed to (not much use in the Under-the-English-Channel scenario) or just because I feel generally happier, but either way it’s good news.

4. I haven’t seen CMJ for far too long, and I got to see Paris (a city she knows like the back of her hand) with her again. She’s 86 but shows few signs of slowing.  She coped well with having a broken-ankled daughter, a wobbly granddaughter, a food poisoned granddaughter, and a 12-year-old in tow; in fact she had a 17-minute nap and then went off without us  to a conference on Mali while we were all too shattered to even buy anything at Le Bon Marche.

5. My grandmother outed me by standing up for me at the most awkward dinner party I’ve ever been to [and that’s including my last French dinner party, where the hostess (who used to run a high-class lingerie store) uttered the words, “I love gay men. But you can always smell a lesbian.” And then turned to me and said, “And you? What do you do?” ]

But back to this dinner party in Paris: They were utterly lovely and impeccable hosts, with a gargantuan and impeccable Parisian flat and a 5-course dinner party they had delayed their holiday to their house in the Dordogne to host for us. Unfortunately,  while the drinks were being poured they expressed reservations about adoption,  gently but in the presence of my adopted 12-year old Chinese niece. This was a little bit awkward, and perhaps down to rusty English and patchy French rather than prejudice…

Over the champagne and almonds it transpired that our hosts had been marching against homosexualite’ all weekend, and that they were vehemently opposed to marriage and especially to children for gay people. I started to say something about how it’s important to know what you believe in a tactful cowardly attempt to change the subject.  And my astonishing grandmother looked them in the eye and outed me. I was mortified (mostly with myself for not having had the guts to do it), and ever so proud of her.  Things could only go downhill, but it was hard to foresee just how far down and just how many different hills.

Over the red pepper mousse starter, I reassured the hostess that I had no intention of having children. Four times.

Over the turkey and avocado mole, we noticed that the gold candlesticks on the table had slaves on them.  Heavy gold bases, heavy gold sconces, ornate leafwork. And beneath each sconce, wrought black figures were bent double, under the weight of bringing gold and light to the table.  The candlesticks stayed undiscussed but conversation turned to how buckwheat is called Saracens in French, because it makes a brown flour.

Just before the cheese course, the impeccable hostess left the table to show us a pricey watercolour of their farmhouse in the Dordogne. She tripped on my grandmother’s cane, landing with a thump that broke both the watercolour and her humerus.   She remained impeccable and firm to her beliefs that dinner parties should continue and gay people shouldn’t touch anyone. She eventually let me have a look at her shoulder, but changed her silk blouse before using an ice pack.  Despite her obvious agony and the fact that a night in the ER was clearly on the cards, she insisted we stay for the cheese and fruit salad courses.  We did skip the coffee and cognac eventually, but boy was that a long dinner party.

6. I am grateful that my life does not ordinarily involve dinner parties with people who function at that level of decorum, impeccability, and prejudice.  Downright relieved in fact, although in retrospect it would be a much weaker anecdote if she had been neither steely nor tested.

7.  We spent some of Monday’s bank holiday starting to clear out A’s grandfather’s house; he sold everything anybody liked some years ago, but there were lots of little sentimental objects and it was lovely to watch A’s family going through photos.

8. Some furniture that was in A’s grandfather’s house (but belongs to A’s father) has very elegantly solved a storage dilemma.  Huzzah for free furniture! Huzzah for A’s mum, who was willing to let us embark on a furniture-moving adventure despite some serious reservations (only slightly alleviated by quadruple-measuring of all the extra space). Huzzah for A, who helped as far as she was willing and said no when she needed to. And double-huzzah for A’s dad, who was willing to help me schlep the components of an 8′ cabinet up 2 flights of narrow stairs.

9. It’s cold cold cold here.  There’s ice on the pond.  Whilst this is not in and of itself good news, it does mean that gardening is out of the question, and *that* means I’ve had to do things like study instead.

10.  Sun!  It’s only 4C outside, but it’s gloriously sunny out there. And if I stop writing this post, I might even have time to go outside for 5 minutes at lunchtime.


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