dialectic and praxis, women and love

Look, I know how foolhardy it is to even try to recreate one perfect day; so sue me. We were up as I mentioned at hideous a.m. and out of the house by 8, having coffee and a sausage roll and a meringue at my favourite Cambridge delicafe, Origin8. Then we caught a double-decker bus to the station and Grant just materialized at our side, handsomer and funnier than ever. And we took a taxi out to the Orchard Tea Rooms.

Where it was frickin freezing and we huddled, chilly, in deck chairs grimly eating scones. Oh, whatever; it wasn’t until we were walking back through the meadows and I stood in a fresh cowpat that I realized that none of this actually matters, that I was just so very happy to be with my best boys and girls. There were cows, well, steers, grazing by the river. I had been reading Temple Grandin’s Animals In Translation, in which she describes the charming curiosity of cattle, so I got down at eye level and one of the beasts did come up to us, all liquid eye and prehensile tongue. Then Claire made a sudden move and he trotted away.

I had a funny exchange with Grant, then or later; about how hilarious I find it that I have such a great job, since I had assumed from an early age I was too delicate a flower, by which I mean too utterly useless, ever to survive in a market economy. That I needed a tenured job because otherwise I would not be able to hold down a job at all. How weirdly things turn out.

“Have you considered,” he said, “that maybe you were wrong in the first place?”

The kids made it all the way back to Cambridge, more or less, and we met Kirsty and Chris at Fitzbillie’s and had rather great brunch, and then walked to an art store and bought sketchbooks and paints and markers for the girls, and then to the pub in Midsummer Common, the Fort St George, for cider. Lovely wandering conversation, gossip and politics and ideology, dialectic and praxis, books; mad fun for wonks.

I failed fast that evening, shivering like someone woken at 3am, and indeed the girls were already out like lights. But Jeremy had the perfect cure for what ailed me: Doctor Who! In real time! Sleep fell from me, and it was a splendid episode and all. Chris cooked for us, a fabulous eggplanty pasta sauce. And then I was gone.

Hangover! It was brutally hard to get started on Sunday morning but at length we were all in a punt on the Cam and I was bonding with Rory, our guide, a townie, over politics, to Jeremy’s considerable amusement. Then to Dry Drayton where I was introduced to Thokki and reacquainted with Freydis, two very respectable Icelandic horses (they are not ponies, no matter how small; they are dignified.) Keir dropped us at home where Grant was waiting to roast a chicken with us, and Chris came by as well. We blanched broccoli and made spinach salad with pumpkin seeds and roasted an eggplant and put away two bottles of only-passable sauvignon blanc, made delectable by the company.

On Monday I was hungover and jetlagged and exiled from my happy home, bound for London with a rolling suitcase that broke en route. The bus took a ludicrous 45 minutes to get to the station. All was dire! Until I got to the hotel and saw all my colleagues and realized, possibly for the first time, how smart they all are and how much I like them. Then I met Grant and Kirsty and Jo for dinner and had the same revelation about them.

I think this is the first time I have been in England medicated and healthy and sane. I kept having strange third-party high realist visions of myself as a competent and likeable person. Odd. And with this it is suddenly possible to not feel threatened by new things or people; to respond to things as they are, instead of continually dancing around all the abysses only I can see. At one point during the conference our CFO was making incredibly stupid jokes, and we were all half-laughing half-groaning, which was his point, and I put my arm around him and said “I love you,” which is a thing I never do; but it was true.

The conference went okay. The other best moment, for me, was when a newish colleague called me “Amanda” by mistake, and later explained that it was because she thinks I look exactly like Amanda Seyfried. Since I’d been feeling oldish and frumpy around the new women hires, many of whom are seven feet tall with glossy hair to their waists, no lie, and since I have loved Amanda Seyfried since the first season of Veronica Mars and not only despite but secretly even because of Mamma Mia, this made me gloriously happy. I walked on air all the way back to the Underground.

What with the good mood and the sanity and all, I spent the whole journey to Kings Cross looking at the other people on the train. Good Lord! Women of London, you are so beautiful and stylish! Your colour choices are fashion-forward, and your statement necklaces fill me with awe! Straight men and lesbians of London, how do you not fall madly in love every time you turn your heads?

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