Saturday, 5 November 2011

May-July, or, Why we weren't "At Home"


My family’s visit was the precursor to a very event-filled summer. The last term of the year was rushing towards its end, culminating in May Week (in June), which is a week of garden parties, formal dinners, and balls. In the two months following my family’s departure, we had five out-of-town guests come by for a visit. On top of this, David was busy with his various projects and I was spending a lot of time down in London for work-related reasons. It was hectic but very fun. Highlights:

- Dave and I decided to take in the Cambridge Beer Festival. It is, as the name suggests, a festival of beers. We went on a Saturday, when the admission price was discounted. As it was during the day we didn’t have to brave any drunken hoards, which was a huge plus. We spent our pennies sampling ale (orange & chocolate porter counts towards one of your 5-a-day, apparently), perry (that’s cider but made with pears), and mead (spiced mead is just...wow). We also split  a ham & cheese board in order to soak up the alcohol. This was a huge hunk of bread, carvery ham, and artisan cheeses. We had a great time and the whole event felt very English...and also very hobbitish (at least with the ale, ham, cheese, & bread). 


- My friend Hannah came up for a visit from London. We kept things fairly low-key, but on her last day here, she & I went to a concert at David’s college. The music was excellent (both opera & classical) and after the performance we feasted on strawberries & cream and pink champagne in Old Court. It was a very relaxing, summery evening and certainly got me into the vibe of May week/summer vacation.

- The Clare May Ball. This year’s theme was Alice in Wonderland, and it was a delight to see Old Court transformed into a true wonderland (complete with spinning teacups). Our friends, the Williams, were back from the USA for the ball and we had a lovely time with them & some other friends. It was raining, pouring at times, but that couldn’t dampen our spirits. My particular favorites bits this year were dancing to folk music, in the rain, while watching the fireworks; the nighttime puntride, this time complete with lots of bats; dancing to a very crazy klezmer band with some of my friends; and a very early morning stroll home with David. Dave & I left at around 5am this year, as all the performances were over and neither of us could hold any more food so there seemed to be no point in waiting for breakfast. I had had my fill on paella, thai curry, deli buffet, hog roast, mini donuts, cotton candy, and probably a bunch of other stuff that I’ve now forgotten. It wasn’t as magical as our first year, because in some ways we knew what to expect, but it was still a roaring good time. And coming home at a slightly decent hour meant we could go for brunch later when we woke up. 


- We had a couple surprise visitors. This did mean that I suddenly found myself throwing a number of dinners in a short space of time, but I reason that there’s no point in my spending so much spare time cooking if I can’t whip together a few excellent meals at short notice. The mother of one of David’s best friends happened to be in town, so we had her over for dinner and then she took us out to see Antony & Cleopatra, part of the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival. The following week, David’s supervisor from the University of Alberta was in town so we invited him over for supper. I was happy to finally meet the man who has always been so encouraging towards my husband, and it was an honour to get to make a meal for him.

- We took a trip to London. We spent the weekend at our friend Hannah’s. The original plan was to coincide one of David’s research trips with one of her book quiz parties, but it ended up working differently. Dave couldn’t get the books he needed in time from the library, so he ditched the library and spent the Saturday with me. I loved this, as I got to drag him around to the Glamour of the Gods exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery and to the V&A. We also did some used/rare book browsing on the way. Disaster almost struck at the V&A, however, when we discovered that they were sold out of Cult of Beauty tickets for the day. The very last day of the show was the following day, Sunday, and after that it would be gone forever. I had been hoping to see this exhibit on the aesthetique movement since I found out about it in March. Fortunately my husband handles change much better than I do, so he managed to fanagle a couple of tickets to Sunday’s opening, and Hannah is a very gracious hostess who had no problem with us disappearing the following day as well. So bright & early on Sunday morning we set off again for the V&A, where as an anniversary treat David surprised me with breakfast at the V&A’s glamerous dining room and then treated me to the exhibit, and I got my fill of art and the gift shop got its fill of my wallet. We made it back to Hannah’s in good time for the book quiz, and our team came in second, so it was a great weekend all ‘round. 


- As a beautiful ending to the social rush of May-July, our friend Harrison came for a [too short] visit. We had such a lovely time with him. He & David only stopped their chatter long enough to sleep each night. I was working for most of the days he was here, which meant that Dave took him around to all the bookstores & libraries & pubs in town! At night I’d come home and cook supper and we’d chat and just enjoy each others company. It was a really refreshing time. Nothing like having an almost-priest in the house to answer all your theological and moral questions! 

There is so much in here that I haven't mentioned. Looking over my pictures it was a very event-filled three months. We went on a pilgrimage/retreat day to Our Lady of Stone with our church; there was the CUHAGS feast, for which David wrote a Latin poem for the new president, our friend Pippa; we spent a Sunday afternoon buying books and chasing sheep at Wimpole Hall... I am surprised I managed to make it through alright with such a hectic schedule. Fortunately the Spring Cleaning was done before my family arrived!
Quoting Vergil & chasing sheep
Madam President, in her beautiful gown which I covet
David reading his poem to the CUHAGs assembly