Monday, 30 May 2011

Going Solo

Kindred Spirit
I don't much like flying alone. At least if you travel with someone else you can be certain that though you might end up sitting next to a bore or a snorer, you will be forewarned - you chose them. 

And, while I'm aware that travelling takes organisation and time management, I can't seem to achieve either unless there's some unlucky soul about (say BOF) to hassle me, or else start practising Bikram yoga poses with a freneticity that hints we're about to miss something again. 

So when on Saturday I was heading to the Land of the Swimming Pigs to visit Daddy Mason, I checked with BOF how much time I should leave for getting to the airport. 'Leave at half 6' was his response. I made it out the door just after 8, and spent the journey to Heathrow fretting that I'd miss my flight. It wasn't so much DM's rage when I failed to arrive at the other end that troubled me, rather the thought of BOF's weary disappointment when I returned to the Pad flightless.

Travel-sized toiletries:
what successful holidays are made of.
Another potential hazard is packing. Every time I pack I decide that this time will be when I really get it right. To this end, I'd bought a magazine containing 'THE' guide to the perfect capsule wardrobe. I then squandered precious packing time fretting that I didn't have any travel-sized perfume bottles or own a kaftan. 

Terminal 5 is very shiny and very distracting. I steamed through security with efficiency born of the fact that I was quite late. Then congratulated myself with a large latte from Pret. Large. It was much too big. I'm not in Friends. The resulting jitters made it difficult to carry my hand luggage or find my passport. 

Ever nervy about boarding planes after a recent flight marred by baby-vomit, I slinked on to find I was (astonishingly) seated beside a non-obese, sane-looking American woman. We even chatted as I sat down. 

This soon prompted internal disquiet. (Was I being too friendly? Would she tell her friends later about the mad girl on the plane who wouldn't shut up?) After take-off, I fell silent. More concerns. (Was I now being too standoffish?

It was at this point that I accidentally threw my drink over her [white] jeans. 

She squawked awkwardly and we didn't speak for the rest of the trip. This was something of a relief.

Fancy being Kate in the Countryside's chaperone? Get in touch. 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

When Kate in the Countryside went to meet the Goths

Yeah. Bit like this.
With less sex
A friend of mine invited me to his gig the other day at an alternative music festival in Camden. So far, so unlikely. He performs experimental cello music to people with names like Sky and Heather, often in dingy basements. Occasionally he attends dinners and says belligerent things to very important, somewhat elderly people in the classical music industry. They love it. With his media-ish glasses and youth, he's exactly the old folks' idea of what an engaged young musician should be.

But this was something else entirely. Instructed to arrive after lunch, a pal of Pegson's (I've not been very inventive here) and I made it for 5ish, and found our way to the venue's central chamber where Pegson would be performing. There, dim lights, silent glassy-eyed individuals and distant drumbeat from upstairs meant the place felt oddly like a library under attack.
Girls in holey bodystockings stood behind men in adolescently daubed t-shirts sprawled out across the floor while grown women bobbed enthusiastically, eyes closed, tapping their bottles of sparkling water. Yet more glared pointedly about as they danced, to check that the rest of us were really enjoying it enough.

In case you missed it

Pal and I exchanged uneasy looks (might we be ousted for not being truly alternative?), made some cursory attempts at interpretative dance and then resigned ourselves to the fact that we stuck out as much as two stoats in a supermarket. I was wearing purple leggings for God's sake. When Pegson said quirky festival attire, I thought he meant Glasto. Not Marilyn Manson tribute.

Round the next corner was Man in Leather Waistcoat. I began to fear that sullen hostility might turn to open warfare when Pal pointed excitedly at the chap to attract my attention. But happily Pal was soon distracted by a small man in full bondage gear, hanging out with a girl with more piercings than face.

It was the terrifyingly attired that seemed to find Pegson's set the most moving. They mobbed him afterwards to wring his hand and hail him a mystical man of music. As for Pal and I, we were richly rewarded for our attempts to blend in by Pegson. He treated us to a share in his artists pass twenty quid meal voucher, before nicking us some free beer from the green room after we were shrilly ejected from the space ('This is for ARTISTS!').

Once safely home in Pimlico I regaled BOF with an account of more brushes with the law, goths, ardent music fans and piercings than I'd ever encountered in my life. I'd forgotten what a cool kid young BOF used to be: he looked only mildly bemused as he humoured my wide-eyed tales. They don't have alternative music in Oundle. Or goths. A Londoner I still am not.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

College Mascot

Not Mine.
In an awesome act of boho chic, one of my University friends SAM (Surprisingly A Mother) has produced a Sprog. This was slightly surprising. Even more amazing (to me only) is that I'm not his GODPARENT. I've got so much to offer surely? Training in punctuality, advice on aggressive entertaining and, most useful of all, a mild fear of children. A couple of our friends did make the cut: their triumphal cufflink-shining as they prepare for the big Christening bash in December grates daily.

In an unrelated event, my University English group learned that our Director of Studies - the gentleman that interviewed us and then nurtured us through the shock of it all - is retiring.

At our college, an arcane law requiring fellows to leave in the year of their 67th birthday means that one of the best teachers I came across at Cambridge will be arbitrarily ousted months from now. True, the statute did prove a convenient way of getting rid of that insane Nazi bloke who used to pose naked in the windows of his rooms when male freshers walked past. But in Mr Goodling's case, it seems a total waste.

Anyway, the connection between these two facts is this. Sam and I decided to make a day trip to Cambridge to see Mr G and lament that he's leaving. Ever portable, Sprog came too.

Ambling into your university town months after leaving with your friend and her baby prompts a certain crisis of nostalgia. You know that it's not your town any more - Sam's baby proves we're not about to pop into a supervision - but it doesn't stop you spending half an hour at the Porter's Lodge making the Porters agree that the college isn't as much fun these days. Something they ultimately do, only because you've distracted them with a tiny baby.

Happily Sam had explained to Mr G about the new addition to our English group before we arrived. He had apparently asked so sternly on the phone 'And what is your news?' that she'd blurted out 'I've had a baby!' before hanging up, barely waiting for a response.

I felt fairly limited when my response to the same 'What is your news?' question ended with me gabbling nonsensically about Kate in the Countryside and my fledgling writing ambitions. I was back in first year again, hoping not to let him down.
I exaggerate.

Elegant as ever, he knew all the right baby questions to ask and pretended not to notice as Sprog mewled and puked with increasing regularity throughout the afternoon. And he enquired so delicately about our careers that I almost told him what I do for a job, despite how out-of-place it felt in the oak-panelled book-lined haven.

And as we caught the train back to London, clutching gifts of books (including The Lustful Turk - which Mr G owned in duplicate), soothed Sprog fell asleep straight away. I could see Sam thinking the same thing as I was: is it too late to ask Mr Goodling to be Godfather?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Good Timing

If preparing to have small groups round for supper proved mentally draining, imagine the  confusion that ensued when BOF decided he wanted a polite drinks for his birthday.

While I have become more Mother-Dearest than is comfortable about Pad entertaining, BOF, for his part, is making a study of punctuality. For this, he models himself on the esteemed Daddy BOF (D-Bof if you will). Though, as a military man, D-Bof has some excuse for his enthusiasm for regimental timing.

Gone are the days when BOF would complain to me at the end of term that D-Bof had planned to be up at Cambridge for half seven in the morning to pick him up. Such timing is necessary, D-Bof would say, so that one can pack up the room, return home and be out for a morning jog by 9.30 - having purchased and assimilated the papers somewhere between London and Cambridge.

Will resist urge to go down
rabbit-pun route
The BOF of today would be pacing his room by 7.15, wondering what could be keeping D-Bof, having eaten breakfast, been for his pre-jog run and composed eloquent missives of thanks to the college cleaning ladies.

This does not sit well with Kate in the Countryside, and combines painfully with my MD-style worst-case-scenario attitude to entertaining. This means I formulate plans that demand we move all of the Pad's furniture into a single room to prevent breakages. Or fretfully tack all of our 643 fairy lights to the ceiling so that no one breaks a bulb and gouges herself to death on the broken glass [you know who you are]. All sensible policies.

However, BOF's time-love means that I now team obsessive list-making and furniture-moving with a crippling fear of being ready late and spoiling BOF's whole evening. Though since merely anticipating my probable (inevitable?) lateness is agony for the poor chap, nervousness feels like the only reasonable response.

Suspecting the other day that my flexible attitude to time might not be the best way to approach catching trains, visiting parents etc, I allowed BOF to advise me on the time buffer required when travelling from the Pad to King's Cross (by my reckoning, a twenty minute journey).

It was as follows: 'Right, you need to allow half an hour for getting there, then fifteen minutes to buy a ticket and five minutes to find a platform. And don't forget time for walking to the station. An hour!' Beaming at his usefulness and the thought of my impending once-in-a-lifetime on-time journey, he consulted his watch. 'Oh dear. (Crestfallen) Too late already.'

And though when BOF's birthday drinks started I was decidedly in the shower, he was   easily sedated with fizz and a homemade cocktail involving sloe gin. Something to bear in mind for the future I think.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

A good day for Kates

While it is eternally perplexing to me that millions might not watch my wedding online or livetweet the action seconds at a time, it would churlish for Kate in the Countryside to ignore the Big Sloane Bash, so here it is - the view from Pimlico:

First, in Hello mood, here's some detail on my personal affinity with the BSB. My initials are KM, my first name is Kate and well, my walk to work traces the wedding route from the Palace which shows how particularly well-placed I am to comment. I'm practically Kate Middleton. If she had a job. Obviously. 

On my way to work on Thursday (Royal Wedding Eve) I amused myself by rootling around within the depths of my bag near Buckingham Palace and watching as police officers wiped sweat from their brows fearing terrorist threat. Gone are the days when a bearded half-Iranian friend and I would scurry past police officers and plot fictional plots in loud whispers yet evade arrest. These chaps looked so troubled that not even my unthreatening pink jacket could reassure them.

Happily I continued unarrested, pausing only to admire the battalion of portaloos stationed along the Mall. Everywhere you looked were photographers in search of corners to capture. One in particular had taken up residence in my cheeky work shortcut. Believe me, dear reader, the internal vitriol I silently aimed at the hapless chap cannot have been good for my soul. 

The day itself brought out a fairly surprising level of bright-eyed enthusiasm from even some of my more cynical chums. When one started a Facebook group announcing his intention of camping on the Mall for Wedding Eve, I (wrongly) assumed it was a spoof. But when others started finding nice things to say about Beatrice and Eugenie's universally-derided-dresses, I knew that wedding fever was in fact a damaging social condition.  

BOF and I live on the cusp of the action, but our boho-Pad is so on trend that we have no TV with which to actually view it. BOF was at work, livetweeting from the office (the perfect place to assimilate the atmosphere…), so I ducked into a pub to see the Dress and munch regal brekkers. 

Inside, in the only room without a monster TV playing out the action, were a family of four with two young children. The father was steadfastly involved in his paper. His daughter, by contrast, kept hopping down from the table to scuttle into the TV bar. Each time, she returned brimming with excitement: 'I saw a princess Daddy!' 'Very good,' said her father, not looking up from his Guardian. 'Sit down and eat your toast please. Much more interesting.' Fighting an uphill Republican battle there I fear.

Later that day I celebrated the understated nuptials with some citrus ale in a microbrewery in Leyton, followed by garage music in the trendy east. Just as Kate would have wanted.