Archive for May, 2008

Adventures at Midlife: Three decades

May 30, 2008

It’s true: The Spouse and I will be celebrating three decades of wedded bliss — or mutual tolerance — on June 1. Included in that number are one grandchild, two kids, three sets of washers and dryers, four homes, five refrigerators, nine surgeries, about ten cars, at least a dozen job changes between us and I’ve lost track of how many mortgages and refinances.

We’ve gone from a king-sized water bed to twin beds back to a king-sized mattress (he can’t sleep with or without me). Other than a three-year stint in Chicago, we’ve lived in the same little town we grew up in that, thanks to urban sprawl, isn’t a little town anymore.

We’ve married off one son and will leave London in two weeks to fly to Columbus to marry off the other. I spend Christmas Eve every year with his close-knit family, he goes out to dinner occasionally with my rather dysfunctional siblings. We’ve buried his father and my mother, and if he turns into his father, or if I turn out like my mother, we’ve both vowed to divorce each other. So far, so good.

Read the rest of this entry »


Blog alert: Women Bloom and MidLifebloggers

May 30, 2008

The excellent Ask Allison is featuring my blog this week on Women Bloom, her online community and resource for women in their 40s and beyond. Thanks, Allison! I have been most fortunate to fall in with a group of very supporting and colorful midlife bloggers. Keep on posting, divas!

Update: Oh, dear! It’s a real embarrassment of riches! The always-witty ByJane has included one of my posts on MidLifeBloggers as well. The stars must be in perfect alignment! Thanks, Jane!

About my blog identity, or lack thereof

May 28, 2008

Someone asked me why I blog “undercover,” without using my real name and other details. (It’s apparently called anonoblogging.) One reason and one reason only: I’m afraid of getting dooced. The Rubber Chicken Factory, Inc. — where I am a senior beak inspector — is a large and very conservative organization, and would likely not look happily on some of the stuff I blog about, or maybe even the fact that I blog at all.

I generally like my job and my fellow beak inspectors, and at this stage in my life I’m not interested in looking for another job. I’ve seriously thought about branching out on my own and becoming a beak inspecting consultant, but I’m too, um, chicken. Buh-GAWK! (Sorry. I couldn’t resist that one.)

My favorite quote

May 27, 2008

“Ninety percent of life is showing up.” — Woody Allen

For those of you looking for a goodly gathering of “modern proverbs” — like the mystifying but occasionally very apt “It is what it is” — those deep thinkers at Freakanomics have a fun list. (Don’t miss the comments.)

And if you’re in the mood for sort of a mini-meme: What’s your favorite quote?

The upside of the recession

May 26, 2008

Meghan Daum, writing in the LATimes, has managed to find a bright side to the growing recession, with its flattened house market and $4/gallon gas prices: home repairmen who come immediately, and California’s empty freeways.

Sure, things are going to get ugly very soon. Layoffs will increase, the housing market will go from dismal to awful, and pretending to be in a sci-fi movie set in the future (admit it, you’ve tried it!) will no longer be an effective coping mechanism for the trauma of filling up at the pump. But for the moment, I can’t help but feel that this recession — or at least the evanescent moment before it kicks into high gear — offers a kind of coziness you rarely feel in a booming economy.

Daum, whom I’ve blogged about before, compares the current crisis to her four bucolic years when, after nearly bankrupting herself trying to live in NYC, she moved to Omaha, where she was lucky to make $12,000 a year. Read the rest of this entry »

Your Girl in London: The new face of London

May 26, 2008

Theodore Dalrymple, one of my favorite contemporary essayists, beautifully sums up the unique face of modern London:

London is now the most ethnically diverse city in the world — more so, according to United Nations reports, even than New York. And this is not just a matter of a sprinkling of a few people of every race and nation, or of the fructifying cultural effect of foreigners… Walk down certain streets in London and one encounters a Babel of languages. If a blind person had only the speech of passersby to help him get his bearings, he would be lost; though perhaps the very lack of a predominant language might give him a clue…

A third of London’s residents were born outside Britain, a higher percentage of newcomers than in any other city in the world except Miami, and the percentage continues to rise. Likewise, migration figures for the country as a whole — emigration and immigration — suggest that its population is undergoing swift replacement. Many of the newcomers are from Pakistan, India, and Africa; others are from Eastern Europe and China. If present trends continue, experts predict, in 20 years’ time, between a quarter and a third of the British population will have been born outside it, and at least a fifth of the native population will have emigrated.

What he says is literally true: When I walk down the streets here, I am as likely to hear a foreign language as I am English, and much of the English I hear is strongly accented. We have very little to compare with it in the US, outside of New York City. Read the rest of this entry »

About blogging

May 22, 2008

ByJane has a thought-provoking blog on, well, blogging. “Blogging is just another genre of writing, not inferior or superior to any other in and of itself,” says Jane, who advocates for good, well-considered blogging and against any mentality that would make blogging some kind of ugly stepchild of “real” writing.

May I commit a sort of sacrilege and paraphrase Annie Dillard, who should know about such things, in The Writing Life?

Putting a [blog] together is interesting and exhilirating. It is sufficiently difficult and complex that it engages all your intelligence. It is life at its most free. Your freedom as a writer is not freedom of expression in the sense of wild blurting; you may not let rip. It is life at its most free, if you are fortunate enough to be able to try it, because you select your materials, invent your task, and pace yourself… Read the rest of this entry »

Your Girl in London: Shopping, or not

May 21, 2008

Got a blister on my left foot wandering Oxford Street yesterday — wrong shoes. I started at Oxford Circus with the obligatory stop at Niketown London. (If you’ve raised boys, you’ll understand.) I then detoured for a few minutes to Liberty (a beautiful store with beautiful things that has gotten too upscale for me) and what was left of Carnaby Street. (Doesn’t that name take you back to the Sixties? Yardley Slickers lipstick! Mini-skirts! Mary Quant! Twiggy! Going with my friends to “A Hard Day’s Night” at the movies and screaming at the screen!)

As I walked down Oxford Street, I stopped in most of the major stores — John Lewis, Selfridges, Marks and Sparks, Debenhams — and was really disappointed in what I found. I am (she said, sighing heavily) too old for most of the clothes, which I thought were quite skimpy and came in a lot of garish colors (for summer, I suppose). I know I’d probably feel the same way wandering through Macy’s or Forever 21 or the Limited in the US. And most of the sizes in the UK stores stop at a US size 18 or so — and I’ve seen PLENTY of women who are much larger than that. Where do they shop? I could fit into those sizes, but I didn’t see anything I even wanted to try on. If you’re twenty-something and a single-digit size, you’d be delighted with what I found, but if you’re a women of a certain age — and size — you may be discouraged.

By the time I reached Primark at the end of the road by Marble Arch, my foot was killing me, and I decided I’ll save it for another day. The place was jammed, and the prices seemed more than reasonable, so I’m looking forward to returning and checking it out. I also found a list of plus-size stores on the UK-based Too Fat for Fashion that I’ll consider. I’ve found a lot of lovely scarves for me and for my gift-list, but I still need to find a dress.

Your Girl in London: Harrods

May 19, 2008

Knightsbridge today, and Harrods, “the world’s most famous department store.” I took a bus, but then just walked back to the flat, it was so close. I can’t possibly afford anything in Harrods, and I mean that sincerely. I sometimes think only the Saudis can afford to shop there, particularly in its “Rooms of Luxury,” and there were plenty of them there today. (Harrods actually charges you to use the loo!)

No, I go to Harrods for its Food Court, which I think is one of the wonders of the world. The store has moved some its food operation across the street since I was here last, but the original one is still pretty spectacular: Rows and rows of gleaming counters and food bars, with all kinds of meats, seafood, cheeses, breads, sweets and all kinds of delicacies, including a caviar bar and — EGAD — Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, which was doing a booming business!

I discovered a fascinating corner where you can buy really interesting kinds of oils and flavored vinegars, which they will decant for you in special vases of all sizes. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I picked out two kinds of quiche and some lovely rolls for our lunch as well as fruit scones for breakfast, and will likely go back for some sushi next week. I also got some little candies, meringue dipped in dark chocolate, nice and light. When I handed the clerk my Visa card, I was given the option of paying in dollars or pounds, a first for me.

Harrods’ distinctive dark green shopping bags remind me of Chicago and Marshall Fields — RIP, another distinctive shopping experience that is now only a memory. (When I lived in Chicago, I couldn’t afford to shop at Marshall Fields, either!)

Your Girl in London: What I’ve seen so far

May 19, 2008

Plays and musicals, with star ratings:

Pygmalion with Tim Pigott-Smith (from The Jewel in the Crown glory)**** He was chewing up the scenery but good, and Eliza was enchanting. No happy ending here, which would have pleased Shaw, the old grouch.

Never So Good with Jeremy Irons (about British PM Harold MacMillan)**** Britain throughout the mid-century, with scandals aplenty, including the long-running affair between MacMillan’s wife and a British gangster. Jolly good fun in the Suez.

War and Peace, a two-part, six-hour dramatization of the epic novel done in the style of the Nicholas Nickleby that was such a hit several years ago.***** Lovely, imaginative theatre, and dinner at McDonalds across the street between Parts I and II. Read the rest of this entry »