Life's been pretty exciting for the past week.
We had a wonderful visit from Linda Branagan, a friend from San Francisco.
Her husband had intended to come with her, but his father's sudden death a
month earlier had impacted his work schedule and he needed to stick around
to finish a project before joining his wife in France. So instead of seeing
John, we got to meet Linda's cousin, Jo, who lives here in London. The four
of us went out on Tuesday evening to see the RSC production of _Pericles:
Prince of Tyre_ at the Roundhouse. Built for turning trains, it is an
enormous round barn. For this show, set in various locations around the
eastern Mediterranean, they created the atmosphere of a huge tent, with
incense-scented fog filling the air, oriental rugs piled on the floor, and
about fifty different lanterns hung from the ceiling that were raised and
lowered as appropriate.
This is not one of Shakespeare's best plays--in fact, its authorship has
been debated and it is now considered to have been a collaboration with
George Wilkins. Its dramatic arc is weak, the language doesn't have the
majestic ring of the Bard's greatest works, and it is filled with even more
absurdities than usual. Our favorite moment came when the protagonist's
daughter, about to be murdered by her foster mother's henchman, is suddenly
kidnapped by pirates. None of the acting was especially stellar, although
everyone did a serviceable job and we'd be interested in seeing more of a
couple of the actors. What made it a real treat was the spare-yet-effective
staging of various scenes to create a real sense of the place and
action--the previous suitors' severed heads, the billowing sail of the storm
at sea, the bored belly-dancer in the brothel, the throng of starving people
in Tharsus. The best of these was the goddess Diana's visit to Pericles in
a dream; so often the deus ex machina is the cheesiest moment, but having
her descend on an enormous scarf like one of the aerialists from Cirque du
Soleil was beautiful and appropriate.
After the show we tried a new restaurant nearby. Odette's is an
unpretentious place with whimsical paintings on the walls and a cozy back
room. Together we killed a bottle of delicious champagne and another of
Chenin Blanc, while we worked our way through a succession of delicious
dishes. Our appetizers included: mushroom risotto with thin slices of
truffle; a selection of crab salad, breaded softshell crab, and a slice of
seared tuna; cold potato and leek soup; and a fabulous warm rabbit salad.
Our entrees were equally spectacular--pan-seared crispy halibut for Jo and
me, slices of grilled lamb for Jason, and duck with foie gras for Linda.
Then came the desserts, of which I remember baked figs with marscapone for
me, the chocolate fondant for Jo and the panna cotta with fresh berries for
I had warned the others that we were expecting a phone call from Beckie, who
was out that afternoon looking at houses with our fantastic realtor, Polly.
The call came as we were finishing our puddings, conveniently, since
B. wanted to know how quickly we could get home to see her pictures of a
place she really thought we should buy. We hopped in cabs and scurried back
to the flat--arriving before Neil actually got the photos to us in email.
When we looked at them and heard B.'s report on the place, we had to agree
with her assessment of the place. So she put the offer in on our behalf at
11:00pm--apparently the sellers woke their lawyer up to find out if our POA
Jason went up to work on Tuesday and Linda went off to see more of London
(and Martin McDonough's latest, _The Lieutenant of Inishmore_), while I
spent the day scrambling around, making arrangements for us to get to Boston
the next day and coordinating with Beckie to be sure that everything was
happening--she was doing a stunning job of herding all the different
professionals into line to make things happen on our timeline.
We flew to Boston on Wednesday morning--got upgraded to bigger seats, always
nice--and headed to the house as soon as we landed. Polly met us there and
we walked through the whole place. It's really a wonderful house. It's not
huge, but the space is broken up very efficiently and in ways that we think
will work for us. The sellers are an architect and an interior designer and
they have decorated the place very simply and nicely and kept it very clean
and beautiful. It's on a corner lot, with lots of trees and a small pool.
It's currently landscaped to require almost no mowing and very little
maintenance. The ceilings are fairly low, which will take some getting used
to after the enormous ones in our flat here, but high enough that Jason
doesn't need to worry about bumping his head and that's what matters.
Overall, while there are things we'll probably change, we liked it very much
and think it will make a good home for us.
After seeing the place we drove down the hill to Mass Ave. and along there,
looking at what will be our local shops and restaurants. Then we picked up
Beckie and Neil and took them to Tea Tray for a celebratory dinner, in
thanks for the great job they'd done. I couldn't resist the seared fois
gras starter, while Jason had a salad of arugula, walnuts and smoked
cheddar. Neil had the salmon tartare and Beckie tried the sweet corn and
lemongrass soup with lobster toast. It was Jason's turn to have the Three
Shakes of a Lambs Tail (lapsang souchong marinated lamb served with greens
mixed with lamb sausage and a lamb reduction). Neil went for the all-salmon
meal, trying the grilled fillet with apples and bacon and deep-fried
oysters. Beckie had the soft-shelled crabs, while I picked the steak--the
chef there is a dab hand with the grill. None of us were terribly excited
by any of the desserts on offer (although B. kept threatening to order the
fois gras), so we just shared a plate of cookies to go with our hot
drinks--B. had the raspberry cream tea, Jason the "Creme de la Earl Gray,"
and Neil a lovely cardamom tea. I tasted all of those, but opted for coffee
Even with the coffee, by the time the meal ended jet lag had taken over, so
we dropped Beckie & Neil at their place and headed back to 10K. Jason
called his folks and I was asleep before he hung up. We had planned to
visit Tom, steve & Linda that evening, but were simply unfit for human
On Thursday we spent the morning going over what we needed to do and looking
back at the pictures Neil had taken, with an eye toward decorating. I went
over to MIT and had a nice lunch with Anne. In the evening we went over to
Fern Street, where Tom, steve and Linda had agreed I could invite people to
hang out. An eclectic crowd showed up and we ordered pizza and had a fun
time together that lasted late into the night.
Despite that, we had a very productive morning. I picked up Beckie and
breakfast and we had just collected Jason from his errand in Harvard Square
when B. got a call from our lawyer saying that he had a draft of our P&S
ready for us to review, but he was leaving in an hour. Since his
home/office is between Harvard and Arlington, we managed to stop by and pick
it up on our way. That also gave us a chance to actually meet him, which
was convenient, and to see his fabulous home. All that and we still arrived
at the house before Polly. The inspector, Scott, was already on the scene,
so we got started immediately.
While Scott identified several areas that he would recommend modifying--more
ventilation in the roof, re-grading the front yard, fixing some electrical
weirdness--overall he described the inspection as "uneventful." No problems
with the roof or foundation, no signs of termites or other bugs, and no
major problems with the plumbing or electrical systems. It was very good
that we were there to walk through with him, not only to hear his comments
and concerns, but to get the hands-on explanation of how to drain the
boiler, where to have additional outlets installed, etc. and to get his
off-the-record comments on things like the appliances that don't fall into
his official purview. It was also good to identify the various switches,
find the thermostats, etc.
The main purpose of our trip fulfilled, we hit the Greek Corner for gyros
and dropped Jason off to work while Beckie and I went shopping. I didn't
find much, but it was a fun break from the tension of house-buying. After
that we made a flying stop at Office Max to copy the inspection report, and
then B. went home while I went back to 10K to get Jason...only to turn
around and fly back over to B.'s on realizing I'd forgotten to give her a
very key item for the purchase. I made it back to the house, where Jason
had shoved the last few things in our bags and was ready to go. We had a
magical T journey--the route from Harvard to the airport is kind of complex,
with two line changes and a bus transfer, but at every stop there was one
waiting for us.
Arriving at the airport, we were confronted by a line at least 100 people
long (I think twice that, but Jason cautions me against hyperbole). I
parked him in line and went up to the First Class desk to ask if there were
any other options for people not checking bags. Turned out we could skip
the line and check in there! Boarding passes in hand, we went through
security--boy howdy were they unhappy with my solid-metal pocket watch
thingy--and arrived in the international waiting area two hours before our
flight was scheduled to depart. This is one of the most boring airport
waiting areas we've been in recently--one snack bar, a newstand and a
stall-sized duty free store focused on alcohol and tobacco. We grabbed
sandwiches--really tasty roast beef, I must say--and magazines and read
until boarding. No upgrade this time, but we did manage to sit in the
bulkhead row, so we had extra legroom. I sat next to a guy suffering from
what looked like MS--couldn't walk and didn't have use of his right hand at
all. I volunteered to help him with a couple of little things (cutting up
his meat at dinner, unwrapping his silverware, helping him to put away his
tray table, etc.) and we had a pleasant chat. He had just been back for a
visit to the camp in the mountains of Vermont where he had spent several
summers as a counselor, "back when I was alright, y'know."
Our flight was smooth and we managed to sleep quite solidly for at least
three hours. On landing we were confronted by long lines at immigration,
but they had a lot of staff on duty and moved us through very quickly. With
no bags to claim, we made it over to Terminal 3 in no time and found a nice
table at which to sit in full view of the arrival door. Susan & Daniel
arrived in a timely fashion and we all got on the tube together. It was
rather strange to be just as jet-lagged as our guests, but at least it put
us all on a similar schedule.
Back at the flat, we showed them around and then all went to bed for a nap.
I'd planned to be up in two hours, but it was more like three. I pulled
together some lunch and we sat around and noshed for a bit. Then I insisted
that we should all conquer our lethargy and get out in the beautiful day, to
help ourselves adjust. None of the London Walks were conveniently
scheduled, so we took the bus to Camden Town and wandered through the market
and down the canal to Regent's Park. We strolled around the lake there and
then back out onto the streets. It was a gorgeous day, warm and sunny, and
everyone was out enjoying it after the recent spate of cold, rainy weather.
We walked down Great Portland Street to Oxford Circus and then down Regent
Street. Our feet were starting to give out by then, so we cut through Soho
to YMing. They actually had a table for us this time and were pleased to
see us and we had a very tasty meal, as usual. Susan ordered the chicken
with mango, a new dish for us, and it made a nice counterpoint to the strong
savory and spicy flavors of the other dishes. By the time the meal ended,
we were pretty tired, but ice cream still appealed, so we skirted the edge
of Chinatown and went into Leicester Square to the Haagen-Daz place there.
Oooh--their toffee creme is amazing!
After a brief detour back to the restaurant for Daniel's camera, we got on
the tube and managed to stay awake long enough to get off at the right
stop. I was asleep before 10:30pm and had every intention of getting up at
my regular time today, but instead played snooze-tag for three hours--and
was still the first one up!
Jason has gone off with Susan & Daniel for a boat ride on the Thames and
possibly a short visit to the Tate Modern before meeting me for dinner at an
old favorite--Pierre Victoire. I'm taking the opportunity to catch up on
house stuff and the things I would have done this week if we hadn't suddenly
gone to Boston.