Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Every day we take a walk somewhere in Bath--to the Roman Baths, or the park by the river that costs a pound to get into, or to an antique store--and then we find a place to exercise the two-year-old. Generally it's on the lawn in front of the Royal Crescent, an astonishing semicircular block of townhouses around the corner from the flat we're renting. (The real estate agent's term is a "maisonette," meaning it feels like a house but is two floors of a 5 story building.) There's a bit of private lawn for people who live in the crescent or are staying in the fancy hotel at its center, and then there's a big sloping lawn that makes you feel, as you move across it, as though you are in a bowl, and the top of Royal Crescent is the rim, and the sky is the lid just lifted. From here you can hear on weekends the sound of brass bands from the nearby bandstand. Weekend before last, the band was from Wantage.

But today we climbed the hill behind the Royal Crescent up to Lansdown Crescent. There is a lawn in front of that Georgian crescent, too, but instead of Japanese tourists and midday drinkers and visiting two-year-olds, it is occupied by grazing sheep. The views over the city are pretty astonishing just on the street. I looked in the windows and, as I often do, mulled over how I'd arrange such a house. Kitchen on the garden level in front, playroom behind, with doors out to the garden. A dumbwaiter from kitchen to dining room, of course. Studies up high.

But most of the townhouses have been broken into flats, and besides, I'm strictly from Wantage.

Then we went to the excellent Museum of Bath at Work, where we learned (among other things) that Plasticine was invented in Bath and at one point was exclusively made here.

We came home to our own once spectacular townhouse--our maisonette--now made sad by the scaffolding that's gone up the back: they're repainting the trim on the windows. Our once glorious view over the alottment gardens, to the bit of the Royal Victoria Park where the hot air balloons are launched is now interrupted by pipes and boards and men's feet. Makes me feel a bit from Wantage, actually. Or claustrophobic at the very least,.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We went to Walcot Reclamation yesterday, a salvage business housed in a series of great rambling rooms. To date I have never even owned a house, and I'm exceptionally unhandy, but salvage companies always fill me with a great sense of hope. Reclamation and redemption: look at that nearly perfect stained glass window; I can just see it at the turn of the staircase. (What staircase? I have no idea.) And that ticket booth! A real 1930s ticket booth, with the brass-trimmed archway for money and ticket sliding! Surely there's something clever and useful to be done with a ticket booth!

(Probably not: I first saw that ticket booth three years ago, when we first went to Walcot Reclamation.)

But the bathtubs are the best--six foot long Edwardian tubs, waist-high copper soaking tubs, one amazing 7500 pound tub/shower that looked like Jules Verne invented it, though whether it is for marine or space exploration I'm not sure.

And also: a decorated Delft porcelain toilet. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Very beautiful, but deep down I think I believe that toilets should be pale and modest and quiet, like members of the clergy in a neurotic church. I'm not sure you could trust a Delft toilet with your secrets.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The First Candle site explains it better than I do--Sen Lautenberg of New Jersey has filed the Stillbirth and SUID Prevention, Education and Awareness Act of 2009.

This is a bill to help raise awareness of stillbirth, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death of a Child). Among other things, it aims to better data collection on such deaths, and to offer support to families who have lost a child.

If you follow the link above, you can read a fact sheet or the full text of the bill. They even give detailed instructions on how to write to your congresspeople and senators.

Monday, July 13, 2009

We are in Bath. By my reckonings, this is the 19th place the DE & I have lived in the seven years we've been together. By "lived" I mean we have no other address, and we've unpacked. I suppose that means I could also count the six nights we spent on the Queen Mary 2 last summer, but even I'm not daft enough to claim that I lived on the QM2.

I have vague ideas of writing a little bit about each place I've lived as an adult, though some of them barely warrant a sentence: I have nearly nothing significant to say about my first apartment in Somerville, MA. Autobiography through accommodation. I like the idea.

Sometimes when we travel our digs are a step down: we had a good summer last year in two tiny cottages, one in Burnham Market in North Norfolk, and one in Scotland. Both were miserably small when it rained. This year, we seemed to have stepped up in the world, and are renting what the agency called a "maisonette," two floors of a townhouse. The back windows overlook allotment gardens pitched up on a hill all Grant-Wood-like, half flowers, half...not flowers. Vegetables, I suppose. Right now someone is whistling expertly while he tends his plot. Look at that: I assume it's a man, it's a whistle con brio, but I wonder, Are all the great whistlers of the world men?

The trip to North Norfolk this year was lovely: we went to Pudding's beach, and Gus stripped down and got in the ocean, the only person there brave enough. He laughed and laughed at the waves. Then we went back to Edward's parents place, which was very nice, too. Really, the only dark spot so far was when Matilda was sitting on the lap of a crazy old lady friend of my in-laws, and I had to stop crazy old lady from giving Matilda, 7 months old, a sip of Pimm's Cup. Which has ALCOHOL IN IT.

Friday, July 03, 2009

I write to you from Cavendish, near Sudbury. My parents-in-law live in a large former rectory called Over Hall, a name I once found highly risible but now I don't even hear as a pun, which shows, perhaps, that I have become inured to the comedy of English names. Wait, that's not right: I'm still highly amused by Nether Wallop and Little Snoring. Three years ago, the DE and I drove past a sign that abbreviated Little Snoring to Lt. Snoring, and I always imagined a small exhausted WWII cartoon character, Lieutenant Snoring. Probably he was Private Snafu's superior.

Once again we are Between Homes, having packed up our Cambridge apartment. That all went pretty smoothly, with one, well, snafu: the handsome brothers of the new tenant arrived, as arranged, to deliver a bed the day before the lease ended. That was what we agreed upon: one bed, because we had hired someone to clean the place and had a few sundry things to do ourselves. Except that the brothers had brought all of her things. An entire truck full. And now I guess I am officially someone complaining on a blog about other people's terrible behavior, so I'll stop.

So yes, we are between homes, without an address. It's an odd feeling. At the airport hotel, we handed over our old Cadillac to my friend Rob, and then the DE had nothing on his keychain and I had nothing but keys to padlocks--three storage rooms, one moving crate on its way to Iowa. In a week, we'll be in Bath for the summer, renting a summer place. Lovely though that will be, it won't count as living somewhere. This morning I was filling out a Q & A for the paperback of my memoir, and one of the questions was, How has living in so many places changed your writing? I said, I am much better at writing while sitting on the edges of beds now.

Monday we drive to North Norfolk, to stay on the Holkham Estate for two nights. The day we scattered Pudding's ashes on Holkham Beach, we then drove onto the estate and saw dozens and dozens, maybe hundreds of deer, an astonishing sight. It seemed like Nature consoling us. Later I learned that there are something like 800 fallow deer on the property, and huge crowds of deer are pretty common. Which is even more consoling of Nature: it means that we can see something like what we had that morning often, whenever we're here and we need it.