Archive for April, 2004


Here is some information about my husband.

My husband has a thick, curly red beard and wavy ash-blond hair. People admire the effect and ask him how he dyed it.

My husband is thirty-three years old and has never held a driver’s license. He says he’s getting around to it.

My husband owns one pair of boots, three pairs of pants and about fifty t-shirts, all with interestingly abstract designs. My husband does not own a suit.

My husband has been in Australia for the last few weeks, and I have been in California. He’s back now. I am so glad.

goodbye orlando


pensees, in reverse chronological order

I just selected all the messages in my work Inbox and dumped them into an archive file. My empty Inbox gives me the illusion of achievement. Quiet satisfaction.

Last night after the nice policemen woke me to let me move my car instead of having it towed, I was curled up in bed listening to the clock tick. All of a sudden Claire, who had snored through the entire episode, kicked me in the scapula and said very clearly: “Daddy.” I looked over. She was still asleep.

For some reason she likes to sleep on her face, arms folded, butt in the air.

Yesterday evening, as the thought of cooking and eating yet another meal for just me and Claire was filling me with silent horror, Jamey called and invited us over for tofu curry. I grabbed the Delicato shiraz and threw the baby in the Jetta before Jamey could change her mind. The wine was great and the curry, superb.

Yesterday Bryan and Shannon went to inspect a house perfectly situated half a block from ours. Unfortunately, as Bryan observed, this house will stay on the market until the owner finds another elderly gay funeral-home fetishist to take it on.

I wonder whether it will open as a tiny B&B, by and by?

One thing I particularly like about Breakfast with Enzo is that Enzo doesn’t smile unless there’s some concrete reason to do so. I can’t bear so-called children’s entertainers who leer at the kids the whole time. They’re hiding something.

Home Remedies on Valencia is closing, snif, but I bought the last two Cornish Blue mugs at 20% off. Also the last two pairs of 12-18 month Robeez for Rowan and Claire. “Pink for girls and blue for boys,” I thought, then, “wait, NO. Cats for Claire and rabbits for Rowan.” “I can’t believe you got him pink bunny slippers!” said Carole. “That is SO COOL!”

bukes redux

Of course I read ravenously while stranded in Oz, but to be honest it was mostly garbage. I am, obscurely, more ashamed of having plugged my way through the nasty, sexist and pretentious The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury than the rabidly conservative, sexist but unpretentious and immensely readable Score! by Jilly Cooper. The History Man, which is supposed to be one of Bradbury’s best, is, like the TV adaptation of Lucky Jim I recently endured, Comic without being funny and Literary without being any good at all. The main character is so sickeningly unsympathetic that he makes the foul Ray Finch from Norman Rush’s Mortals seem, errm, slightly less awful by comparison. Maybe I’m just allergic to academic novels. I don’t like David Lodge or AS Byatt much either. I do like Philip Pullman’s Oxford and Terry Pratchett’s Unseen University, but then they’re imaginary, right?

Hmm. I’ve been thinking a lot about Ankh-Morpork and Trollope, as you do: fictional Londons, their origins and uses; Discworld, Barchester and Palliser, why so addictive. I love Pratchett better and better over the years, in belated homage to my woefully unappreciated high school librarian Marie Sutching, may her name live in glory forever, who recommended to me many books that to my shame I did not read until years later and whose recommendations were never wrong. As well as Henry Fielding and Victor Hugo and Elizabeth Gaskell all of whom I now adore and could not live without, she tried to get me to read The Colour of Magic. I dismissed it as bad imitation Douglas Adams and ignored Pratchett for another ten years until I met the man himself and heard him read at Trinity. He was wonderful, duh. Granny Weatherwax, Angua and Carrot are old friends now, but Sam Vimes is probably going to end up recognized as Pratchett’s masterpiece. He just gets more and more complicated and vivid in every book.

I wonder whether Mrs Sutching liked Jilly Cooper? Bad as her books unquestionably are, with their uniformly appalling politics and puns more dire even than mine and cliched tropes you can smell a mile off (every left-wing character without exception has deplorable hygiene and just needs a wash and a shave and jolly good shag from the charismatic blond(e) Tory hero or heroine), Cooper has the same moreish quality as Pratchett. In her case I think it’s her acute sensitivity to tiny but telling class-indicators – she actually wrote a book in the Nancy Mitford U and Non-U tradition, titled simply Class. In it she spells out a lot of what’s implicit in the rest of her books. You can always tell her aristocracy, for example, because they’re potty about animals and don’t give a crap what anyone else thinks of them; the working class come across in almost exactly the same way, whereas lower-middle class social climbers tend to be grim, insecure and all-around unpleasant to know.

Pratchett and Cooper have quite a lot in common in this respect. Vimes’ wife Lady Sybil, with her dragon rescue organization and her interchangeable Sarahs and Emmas, would feel right at home with Rupert Campbell-Black’s wife Taggie and her heroic mongrel Gertrude. Vimes’ acute self-consciousness is more insightfully drawn than anything in Jilly Cooper, but she has made stabs at the same kind of thing with Jake Lovett, for example. Even Cooper, with all her bizarre prejudices, has more time and temper for likeable and humane characters than Bradbury and Lodge and Byatt put together. Tenure seems to make people a little bit misanthropic, don’t you think?

Marie Sutching had some kind of Parkinsonian disorder, which made her hands shake and her handwriting lurch off the library card like some species of spider. I was phobic about that. After I finished my first degree I called her and told her how I’d done, and she wept for joy. I wish I’d stayed in touch. She’s not in the phone book any more. I wish I’d talked to her more and read the books she recommended and remembered everything she ever said to me. I didn’t have the intellectual equipment back then to appreciate my luck in knowing her. She’d won the University Medal at Sydney and studied overseas; London, I think. She won a major poetry prize for a coronet of sonnets. When she got back to Sydney her father had burned all her poems. “You won’t be needing those now you’re getting married.” She never forgave him, and never wrote anything else. Her husband was a foul vampire who sacrified her academic career to his own, then ran off with the departmental secretary. She was good-naturedly resigned to her fate, and beyond brilliant. Having a woman like her working in the library at this godawful suburban high school was like having Charlotte Bronte as your English teacher at a dreadful little college in Brussels. I owe her so much.

chicken soup for the stomach

Take the chicken breasts that have been in the freezer lo these many months, and defrost them.

Chop up an onion, a carrot and half a punnet of mushrooms. Throw them into the big pot with a little bit of butter. Wash some baby spinach and throw that in as well. Add the half-bottle of Pol Roger left over from Claire’s party. Add a carton of organic chicken broth.


Slice the chicken breasts and fry them in the skillet with red chili flakes, bay leaves, rosemary and thyme. Throw them into the big pot.


Turn everything off and go to a party.

Come back and heat it all up again. Eat. Say to toddler: “Wow, this is amazing soup.” Give soupy vegetables to toddler. Watch toddler devour same with terrifying appetite, even after hefty servings of cereal and cheese. Sing, with toddler, an impromptu Song Of Soup:


Despite plan to eke said soup out for a few days, share nearly all of it with toddler. Wonder if it’s possible to justify buying Pol Roger just for use in chicken soup, and conclude, reluctantly, not.

I am the Elizabeth David of Eugenia Avenue.

the weather was jolly nice

Over various unpleasant events of the last couple of weeks, permit Yatima to draw a discreet veil. Let us reflect instead upon the not inconsiderable delights. I found a picture of my mother aged about two, looking exactly like a sepia-toned Claire. My sister and I gave each other necklaces, hers a silver teadrop, mine a diamante cascade. My nephew Ross adopted Alex, jewel-eyed prince among medium-hair brown tabby cats. During a lengthy lunch at the Stamford hotel in Brisbane, Claire learned to skewer sultanas (golden raisins for you Americans) with a full-sized silver fork.

I finally got to meet my personal trio of Australian baby boys, Harvey, Korben and William, all huge-eyed and irresistible. We caught up with many, many old friends at a glorious picnic on the Lane Cove River: Tash blooming in her last trimester; Keith and Tracy, Matthew and Melinda newlywed; Justin and Paul taking a well-earned break from their latest startup, which, along with Claire, constitutes our mutual excuse for seeing one another in Australia rather than in San Francisco where we all live.

The park at Lane Cove is a little like Tilden but far more beautiful to Jeremy’s eyes and mine. The eucalyptus trees in California look nothing like the pink-fleshed scribbled-over Murray River redgums that grow in their native habitat, with spiky grevillea in the open heath under their canopy, and whip-birds and butcher-birds and currawongs and bell-birds and kookaburras and rainbow lorikeets providing the unforgettable soundtrack of home. It was already April, very late autumn, but still far warmer there than it is here in San Francisco in early spring.


Now Claire and I have returned, and goop is back on its feet thanks to the indefatigable efforts of one Mister Walsh of Amalgamated Durables. Normal service is expected to resume.