Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In the bleak midwinter

We haven't yet reached mid-winter by calendar, but bleak is certainly the word for this morning. The sun — if there was sun — would have risen less than five minutes ago at 8:06. The sky is very grey, the air itself looks grey. The time of sunrise will not reverse its course until later this week. On a positive note, sunset is now moving by the minute toward spring, and although the sun is not scheduled to appear any time today, it will set before 4:00 pm for the last time this season. So we remain in shortest day mode for this short week between Christmas and the New Year. England of course celebrates Christmas over two days, but with the 26th of December falling on a Saturday, yesterday was the public holiday, so Bob had a four day weekend — four and a half days if you count in the half day of Christmas Eve — to loaf.  And that's pretty much what Christmas is all about for us here. A very English Christmas is eating and watching lots of television. The two-part Cranford was somewhat depressing; and the first part of Dr. Who was a bit incomprehensible, but perhaps the conclusion will explain it all. David Tennant's Hamlet was also a gripper. We skipped the Walk on Boxing Day out of laziness, using the expectation of bad weather as the excuse, but of course that just confirms our un-Englishness. Later, when there were sad reports of an MP dying of a heart attack while on a Boxing Day Walk with his family, we felt vindicated in the wisdom of our laziness.

The UK — and the Continent — has had record cold and snow over the past few weeks. We did have a snowy day with a night in which cars and vans could not get up the snow packed and icy street outside our flat. London was mostly spared the deep snow and transport problems that made holiday travel a nightmare for so many people. Ironically, British Air and Eurostar voted to strike before Christmas making everyone angry until the strikes were called off — then the weather managed to shut both of them down anyway. My Luddite leanings always come out when I see the general public's anger if natural events — like snowstorms — inhibit free movement or access to services. The wonder of technology so quickly turns to entitlement and petulance. Reliance on technological fixes will be the end of civilisation eventually.

Now we must contend with another assault on the globalisation that allowed us to skip off to London without giving a thought to losing easy access to the States. Terrorism and oil prices have made the trips sometimes easier and sometimes harder, both less expensive and more expensive, over the past decade. We had been discussing whether to sacrifice some of Bob's limited vacation days (a limit he has abused a bit over the two-plus years since we became grandparents) to a trip or two that did not involve visiting our children and grandchildren in Massachusetts. We have not yet resolved the Istanbul-versus-Bibs-and-Bobs question, but now this new plane terror threat has been thrown into our faces. Knee-jerk reactions will abound: no potty trips (lets tell the children that one!); no blankies (personally, I have trouble imagining any man, even the most rabid Islamist, reading about third-degree burns in the "groin," and thinking "I could do that"!); and the indignities of the airport searches to come (a political cartoon yesterday has a line of naked passengers boarding a plane!) will make travelling to the States less than pleasant. Huge decreases in the number of passengers has cut the number of flights between Boston and London by half over the last few years. If computers are no longer allowed on board, will that cut the number of business trips? Will fewer passengers lead to even fewer flights with concomitant higher ticket costs? Oh brave new world of the Millennium, you have failed us all — actually we have failed you — but I want to whinge about a world that doesn't let me see my children and grandchildren easily and cheaply.

The children and grandchildren had a grand Christmas from the photos Megan sent through her blog. They had Christmas dinner with Barnz's father and his wife, so the grands (and the son-in-law) were able to celebrate a traditional English Christmas with a turkey and a flaming Christmas pudding. And in the way of children, I see from Megan's Facebook messages, they have all come down with winter ailments immediately following the festivities. Barnz, who is ace at whatever it is he does since he was assiduously courted and interviewed by everyone who knew of his availability after the Microsoft debacle, has a new job, starting this week perhaps, in Providence of all places. So as the world turns, we return to the Providence of our adult youth, and briefly of our children's youth, to continue this chronicle. Fortunately Hingham is on the right side of Boston to make a Providence commute (by train or by car) do-able. Interestingly, a few months ago, in our occasional conversations on where we would go if we returned to the States, Bob and I agreed that Providence would be pretty close to ideal for a life post-London. We did love both our stints in Providence and would never have left if Bob had been able to find a job back in 1983. That was such a painful move, we couldn't bear to return to Providence for the seven years we were in New Jersey, and consequently we lost contact with all our friends from those years. We felt courageous enough to visit Providence in 1991 on our way back from Boston after Bob had had a good job interview, and we believed, correctly, that we would be moving back to New England. We rarely went to Providence during the Hingham years though. I'm never comfortable because for me it is a land of exile.

I guess the idea of moving to Providence for a third time would be at root a way to capture what was lost in 1983, but nothing would match the pain of leaving London. Sometimes we joke about a future of sitting in rockers thinking about what we would be doing if only we lived in London. Yesterday was a very good London day. After a weekend of lethargy, we stirred ourselves into action because we had hot theatre tickets for the evening. After a slow start, in late afternoon we headed off to the Royal Academy to see Wild Thing, a sculpture show of Eric Gill,  Jacob Epstein, and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, three young artists who came together in London in the early 20th century. Just the right size show, with a room devoted to each man. Gill's work is astoundingly beautiful, and remains astoundingly beautiful as you remember this maniacal Roman Catholic nutcase of a man sexually abused his daughters, his sister, and even his dog whilst producing exquisite religious art.  Then another excellent supper at Bentley's in Mayfair before heading off to the National Theatre to see the new Alan Bennett play The Habit of Art. The play is a play-within-a-play of an imagined meeting between W.H. Auden and Benjamin Britten in Oxford in 1973. Richard Griffiths plays the actor who plays Auden and Alex Jennings plays the actor who plays Britten. The play-within is possibly the worst play ever with parts written for Auden's mirror and for his easy chair, rhyming on their places in the poet's life.  Clever and satiric, the cast and crew are engaged in a shambolic rehearsal of the play-within, while moving deftly between their roles as actors and as characters played, to show us the work that goes into creating art. The strains that arise personally and professionally, the compulsion for an artist to continue to create — the habit of art — and with an emphasis on the shared experience of gay artists, closeted or not.

One of the great gifts of living in London has been the good fortune to learn that drama is an art form that can endlessly remake itself. Before I moved to London, I understood drama to be a static art form: written lines put together by an author and then spoken by actors on a stage, sometimes interesting, often not.  I know now that great drama is transcendent: an alternate world is created on the stage, and as a member of the audience, you share the physical space of that alternate world; through the magic of art, you become part of the other, the transcendent world. I vaguely remember learning something like this in a college course on theatre history when we studied the meaning of drama for the ancient Greeks. There is no one way to create the magic that draws the audience in. In His Dark Materials, it was the puppetry; in After Mrs Rochester, it was the physical action of the writhing mad woman; in The Habit of Art, it was the mutiple layers of reality.

Time to look ahead and list those resolutions which are pointless to make because no one ever keeps them according to scientists! Suggestions to help include keeping them positive, keeping them simple, telling all your friends about them, and keeping a diary. Well what's a blog for but using as a diary, so I have one out of four already — and still two days until next year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Fog in London

Sun-up was at 7:56 this morning according to the BBC weather site, and we are having our first foggy morning of the season. The skyscraper tower of the Royal Free Hospital two blocks away — considered a blight by Hampsteaders — is not visible from the dining room window at the moment. These foggy days are a prelude to Christmas every year. A new weather front is dropping the temperature every day, and for the next few mornings we can expect freezing fog to linger. The sidewalks — I can never remember they are called pavements here — will be wet and slick; the damp air will penetrate the woolen defenses of scarves, hats, and gloves, making the temperature seem much colder than it really is.

As the atmospheric fog drops, the fog of my eternal head cold seems to be lifting. The week after my return from the States, I never left the house except to buy some  head cold medication. I just slept and worked on breathing. Fortunately, there were no dates to remember on my calendar. This week has been a gradual entrance back into the swing of living in London.

I hosted a quilt group pot-luck lunch on Monday and attended one on Thursday. The Monday group always holds the pot-luck lunch here because we have more Christmas decorations than anyone else.  Most of the group members are ex-pats living in rented and often furnished flats who will only be here for the months or years of their husband's overseas assignment, so naturally they haven't brought the family decorations from home. I usually welcome the party to unpack our beloved Christmas decorations, but I am afraid last weekend I made a rather half-hearted effort, so I have to finish the job this weekend. Alas, we have another year in which the storage box of Christmas themed fabrics has not been touched. The old "Christmas in July" craft magazine promotions need to be revived. Speaking of magazines, Borders bookstores in the UK are closing down, so my easy access to US magazines is now closed off. Borders US expanded to the UK shortly after we moved to London, but was sold off a few years ago to a UK private equity group and then to a management buyout, but Waterstones has the high streets sewn up having bought up all the other high street chains. Borders opened up some huge US-size bookstores around the country. Those empty spaces are going to make big holes in shopping districts.

I loved seeing Megan's Sanctimommy photos of decorating Hingham. Some are ones she grew up with and requested when she and Barnz chose to have Christmas on their own. It has been nine years since we spent Christmas with Megan. I would never ever want young children to spend Christmas away from home. I still have memories of a Saturday night in a tiny hotel room in Washington, D.C. with two little girls deeply worried the Easter Bunny would not be able to find them for basket delivery room service. (He did.) As of yesterday however, I have formed a new holiday plan. In a few years, I want Megan and the children to come for a visit the week after Christmas so, as dual citizens, they can experience an important cultural component of their English nationality: the theatre. The English live and breathe theatre, unlike Americans who have very little access to theatre productions unless they live in New York with money to spare. Outside of New York, there is the one professional repertory theatre in big cities, the non-professional drama club in small cities, and the ubiquitous high school musical. I wonder if high schools even put on plays any more. My high school had the annual musical plus a Junior Class Play and a Senior Class Play where we were introduced to classics like Blithe Spirit and The Man Who Came to Dinner. Hingham High School had a vaunted drama program, but after the annual autumn musical, all I remember being invited to see was the 15 minute entry into the all-important Massachusetts High School Drama Competition, which recognises technics and techniques, but offers no appreciation of drama as art.

Yesterday, when an English friend with a three year-old granddaughter listed the number of performances they had already attended with her and how many more were coming up, I realised the national love of drama begins with the pantomime season at Christmas. Time Out magazine lists 27 productions under the Children's Theatre heading in this week's issue. They include The Cat in the Hat at the National Theatre directed by Katie Mitchell (a very hot young director), The Enchanted Pig, an opera by Jonathan Dove at the Royal Opera House, and The Forest at the Young Vic. Then there are the annual productions based on beloved story books, Raymond Brigg's The Snowman told in dance (suitable for age 2+ to start them really young), Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo, and a new production of her book Stick Man. The year-round children's theatres, the Polka, the Angel, the Unicorn, have seasonal productions too. So of course I want my grandchildren to come here to spend a week attending the theatre every day. When they outgrow the children's productions they will graduate to the adult panto productions. Fairy tales told with an edge of sexual innuendo and cross-dressing with B-list celebrities, popular stars of past decades, soap opera stars, and reality TV competition winners and losers in the special roles. We went to a few high-class pantos — Angela Carter's posthumous Cinderella — years ago, but looking through the listings, perhaps we need to book a real panto this year.

Every year in the weeks before Christmas we book so many Christmas concerts, there is no room for anything else. Looking at my calendar I see six concerts coming up over the next two weeks. Speaking of music, I am surrounded by stacks of CDs — our collection of Christmas music (minus the extensive, but outdated collections of LPs and tapes) that Bob has been using to write his review of favourite Christmas music available on Bazzfazz (11 parts) and on Scholars and Rogues, which has 14 parts. A Big Day in Hingham was the day the Atlantic Wire website picked up Part 4 from Scholars and Rogues. I can't find the actual link because my computer is not picking up links very quickly right now, but the Atlantic Wire bills itself as "tracking the most influential opinion makers," and on the night in question, everyone else on The Ticker was indeed someone notable from their 50 most important pundits list. I feel the title of Bob's post, which included the words "Medieval Babes" had something to do with its selection by an A-list political site with cultural pretensions. Megan and Barnz, who can do these things, captured a "screen shot" so we have a record of this event on Bob's laptop.

In addition to the two pot-luck lunches, I went to two book groups this week. My regular "Sevens" group read Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, a book I did not like in the 1980s when I first read it, and which I found I still don't like when I reread it earlier this week, although I keep reading that I should like it as it is some sort of classic. The group was split on opinion, but those who liked it kept citing the magnificent prose, which is usually the reason given to call it a classic. One thing I don't like is the writing style which I found made up of oddly patched and overblown phrasing. Our moderator found an interview in which Robinson said she began writing and saving metaphors when she was doing a graduate degree on Shakespeare, and later she realised she had the voice of Ruth in her random collection. In other words, she did patch together the prose.

The second book group was an extra meeting of the "Literary Ladies" to meet  Ruth Waterman, the author of When Swan Lake Comes to Sarajevo. Ruth is an English violinist who studied at Julliard and lived in New York for years before returning to England. In 2002 she was invited to guest conduct the Mostar Sinfonietta in Bosnia. She returned to Bosnia to lead concerts in 2004, 2005, and 2006, when funding for the orchestra ran out. As a BBC contract presenter, the BBC gave her recording tape and suggested a radio show if she found any interesting material. She collected personal experiences of the devastating war years from her young orchestra members that were used for a Radio 4 programme, and ultimately for this book. I bought the book from her, so haven't read it yet, but she played excerpts from the voices of the musicians and discussed the sadly deteriorating situation in Bosnia at the moment. The meeting was heightened by a visiting friend of a member who told of her escape to Rio de Janiero from Bosnia with her 9 year-old daughter after, as she said, "my mother's body was found in the river and my grandmother was killed." She is also a violinist, explaining she was in Bosnia when the war began because she had returned from living in Paris when asked to represent Bosnia in an international competition, and told us of her desperation when her only chance to stay in Rio was by securing a seat in the city's symphony orchestra. The room certainly went silent as she told her story, giving us an inkling of what Ruth went through when survivors poured out their experiences.

Finally, we went to a gallery opening of a print exhibition organised by the husband of a quilting friend. David is an artist and designer, and his design has been chosen by the Royal Mail for the Olympic Sports series of stamps issued earlier this year. David's stamp is for Badminton. To celebrate he invited other stamp designers to exhibit their work as prints made by Epson photocopiers. What a great show. The link to the ROA Gallery lets you see the wonderful work on display. We chose at least a dozen. Next week we will have to hone our choice down to Christmas gift level.

At last I feel like I am back into the routine of life.  Tomorrow we get our tree, and I begin to organise what needs doing between now and the New Year. We haven't even caught up on the Advent Calendars. Christmas is only two weeks away!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Jenni Not in London

I see it has been a full month since my last post, and that is because I was not in London for most of November. The few days I spent in London before leaving for the States and the few days now back in London have been blighted by a head cold — perhaps the same head cold since I was downing sinus decongestants off and on all month. Then the day before my return, the head cold hit full force, and as everyone knows, an airplane flight doubles the misery, so I have been mostly laid up sleeping and not feeling energetic enough to post anything coherent about my wonderful month with children and grandchildren.

Today the world is looking brighter — literally that is — the sun is shining. I have turned lights off in the daytime, something that I have not done on either side of the Atlantic in weeks. I'm sure we had a few sunny days in Hingham, but all I remember is perpetual dusk, morning, midday, and night. Partly because a very old Cape Cod style house with low ceilings, tiny windows, and surrounded by trees is never filled with light. A life lesson learned: if you like a light filled house, never buy a house in the woods. I do love the Hingham house, but the Victorian flat in London on the second (UK)/third (US) floor, with high ceilings and huge windows is a much pleasanter place to live. The weather was pretty terrible for most of the month with a continuous series of driving rain storms and blustery winds, with intermittent days of plain, dull gloom. Surprisingly warm temperatures though. No frost yet which I think may be a record since the frost date average is more than a month ago.

I flew into Boston a week before Bob. Megan picked me up at Logan, and we were back in Hingham in time for greeting Bibs when she was waking from her afternoon nap. Bibs has a world-class memory for a 2.33 year old, so she remembers me, and calls me Gam-ma — her "r's" have not quite come in yet. Eventually we will have to work out the appropriate terminology for having three grandmas, but we figure Bibs will come up with something herself. Bobs who is 9 months now is of course a completely different boy from the 4 month old we saw in June. He was a different boy by the time we left three weeks later. By then he had discovered he could grab objects and play with toys. So he is at

the wonderful age where you can sit him on the floor with a pile of toys, and he will happily pick up and manipulate and explore — with his mouth of course – everything within reach.

Here he is with his baby doll and his favourite book That's Not My Puppy on his favourite page because he can grab the puppy's long furry ears.

Bibs is a force of nature. Bright, quick, clever, verbal, beautiful, opinionated, stubborn, determined, and adorable.  Here she is having one of her regular tea parties with Dolly. The tea set is all gingham  (bought by Bob at the Country Living Fair here in London last spring, but when opened in Hingham discovered to be from Tiverton, Rhode Island), and little Lady Bibs likes nothing better than to set up and pour tea for Dolly. By the way, the furniture is second generation: table is one of two bought for Megan and Susan when Susan was Bib's age; chairs from a yard sale at our church in East Brunswick, New Jersey! Bibs has an active life. She is a Montessori student, four mornings a week, and loves going to school. On the extra weekday, she participates in a play group that has been meeting since birth. The baby boomlet of two year olds gives her lots of playmates in the neighbourhood and at local playgrounds in the afternoons. She has become enamoured with ballet since Megan showed her clips of a video of The Nutcracker. She like nothing better than putting on her dancing dress —the blue dress to the right of the chair in the photo below — and emulating the pictures in a ballet book Megan has from the library. Perhaps all little girls like ballet, but Bibs' paternal grandmother danced with the Royal Ballet here, so perhaps she has the right stuff too. One milestone passed in November when Megan took Bibs to her first theatre performance of a singing and dancing version of Alice in Wonderland by the Sixth Graders at Derby Academy. Megan said she was riveted and glared at the other two year olds who made noise.

Bob arrived a week after I did, so our baby sitting needs were met since Bob loves nothing more than getting down on the floor to play with babies or sitting reading a book with toddlers. We had a very quiet visit. The children are of an age when they are not easy to take out to many places. Shopping is boring; meals need to be quick. The daily schedule —morning school for Bibs and a nap for Bobs, afternoon naps for both, dinner at 5:30 — tends to chop the days into small segments. The generally bad weather cancelled some of the outdoor excursions we had planned. When I arrived, Megan presented me with a classy knitting project: Knit Picks Holiday Ornament Kit and said I want these for a children's Christmas tree. So I spent spare time knitting a string of lights!

Bibs chose the sweater ornament design; Megan really wanted the pickle. I am still working on the popcorn and cranberry string. This kit is a terrific bargain and loads of fun to knit although circular knitting on dp needles with 3-4-6-8 stitches is a bit tricky. I don't think the company ships to the UK, but the website lets you download some of these patterns free. And the excellent lump of coal is not in the booklet and must be downloaded. Megan—in one of those motherhood is not a blissful time moments—decided she would award the lump annually to the child who was not getting any gifts because the naughty outweighed the nice.

We visited with our Hingham friends for a delicious homemade chili dinner at the Macmillans, but everyone was heading off for Thanksgiving visits so there was not much time to knit and dish. 

We did embark on a wonderful three day road trip to New York and New Jersey.

Here I am relegated to the back of the minivan with Megan, but we didn't mind because we were on our way to Purl, the craft world's trendiest knitting and quilting shop. We had both been to Purl Knitting, but never to the newer fabric shop, both on Sullivan Street in Soho. Yes, we were taking the minivan into Manhattan. An internet search turned up the Peanut Butter & Co restaurant's website, which listed local parking garages, also conveniently on Sullivan Street (Noho, however).

Megan's prediction the restaurant would be empty since every child in Manhattan is allergic to Peanut Butter turned out to be true. Here we are enjoying our Fluffernutter sandwiches — okay, Barnz is eating the bacon and PB, since Fluff is not part of an English childhood — but for all you New Yorkers, YES, that is a Vanilla Egg Cream in the photo!! So far things were working perfectly, but the rain forecast for the evening moved in 12 hours early, so the directions for the menfolk to take the stroller —without the forgotten rain cover — to the local celebrity-filled playgrounds (everyone lives in the Village, Noho and Soho, of course) was not going to work to plan. Megan and I were so close to our goal, we decided not to care, and let the ex-NYer grandfather use his imagination for the hour we needed. (Answer: the NYU bookstore.)

The Purl Fabric store is just as tiny as Purl Knitting, but the concentration of wonderful fabric was enough to keep us happy for an hour. Megan bought Japanese prints for children's clothes. I have nearly stopped buying fabric these days, but I did buy some wool felt packs, one Japanese cotton, and small pieces of a some solids for a quilt for Bibs' bed to see if I can get the room's unusual colour right.

Then on to Highland Park, New Jersey for a visit with Frank and Deborah and some nostalgic walks down Memory Lane. We moved to Highland Park when Susan was just two years old, so this photo of Bibs could be Susan 25 years ago as we walked to the Highland Park Library, still the greatest library in the universe. The children's room has been refurbished and expanded since our day, and Bibs and Bobs loved going to the library as much as Megan and Susan once did.

We once owned a Fisher Price horse just like that one.
Then we had to walk to our old house which is keeping to the standards of creative chaos that we lived in. I still miss that wonderful front porch.

One terrific change is the Farmer's Market held weekly in the parking lot that is just to the left of our old house in the photo. The week of our visit was the last market of the season, so we helped Deborah stock up. The food was lovely, but so expensive. We bought bread and cheese and chocolate for lunch, and some honey to bring back to London. I just opened it to put some on my yogurt and fruit lunch.

In the afternoon, the children went off to Park Slope in Brooklyn to visit one of Megan's high school friends from Commonwealth. Bibs loves the big city.

Bob, Deborah and I went off to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers where we saw two great shows. Lois Lenski is one of my favourite children's book illustrators because she illustrated the early volumes of Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy book series. I knew she had written books because Strawberry Girl won the Newberry in 1946, but we didn't know that it was part of an extensive series of books on the varieties of experience of childhood in regional America that pulled no punches on how difficult some of those lives were. The second exhibit was on American woodcuts from the 1890s to the present. The visit to the Zimmerli was nostalgic because Bob was greatly taken with an exhibit we saw during the New Jersey years on Japonisme, the influence of Japanese woodcuts in American and European art at the turn of the 20th century, so this show was a perfect follow-up.

We had a wonderful visit with Frank and Deborah who became grandparents this past summer. Their granddaughter is not too far away in Virginia and would be arriving in a few days for a Thanksgiving visit. Frank and Deborah's legacy project is attracting positive attention in recent days with a Kansas City Star editorial endorsing a Buffalo Commons National Park appearing a few days before our visit. When I was Frank's T.A., he was just beginning to play with the idea of overturning Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Theory — which declared a county no longer part of the frontier if population rose above 6 people per square mile — by counting the number of counties that had 6 or fewer people in the 1980 census. There were nearly 400, and when he mapped them, the grasslands of the Great Plains states appeared in living colour. The initial hostility of Plains residents has slowly morphed into acceptance of reality as communities and services disappear with continuing outmigration from these depopulated counties. 

Bibs was instantly smitten with Frank, as Susan was 25 years ago when I was his Teaching Assistant for one semester, but she wasn't sure what to call him (I doubt if it occurred to us to specify a name), so she settled on The Man. Every time he left the room she would say, "Where's The Man?"  The pile on the floor is The Man's catch-up reading.

We left New Jersey for a new adventure — at least for me. 40+ years after high school I have reconnected with some of my classmates through Facebook. We were on our way up the Hudson Valley to Poughkeepsie to visit Charlotte who I had not seen since the day before Thanksgiving in 1966 when we saw each other at Grand Central Station in New York on our way home from our respective Massachusetts colleges for the holiday. We survived the crowds on the shuttle to Penn Station and took the train home to Bellerose together. Charlotte found me on Facebook, and we have messaged each other for a year. She invited us to stop in for lunch on our way back to Massachusetts.

While I was in Hingham, I had a long phone chat with Barbara who I have known since 2nd Grade, and who taught me many of the most important things I have ever learned, such as how to dance (the Twist, the Mashed Potato), cool music to like (Del Shannon, Rolling Stones, Janis Ian), what to wear (Madras plaid, purple when it is the colour du jour, Saddle shoes), TV shows to watch (Route 66), movies to see (anything with Hayley Mills), and she had a real Davy Crockett coonskin hat. Without Barbara's aid, I would not have even risen to the level of nerd in middle and high school. Barbara was hoping to come to Charlotte's, but a trip from the eastern end of Long Island to Poughkeepsie is an undertaking, especially the weekend before Thanksgiving, so will meet up on a future trip.

We had a wonderful lunch with Charlotte and her husband John that included birthday cakes for Bob and I, from a local bakery that were superb. The visit just wasn't long enough to remember what to ask and then to ask all the questions that popped up in shaky memories working their way to the surface. We did have time for photos.

Then it was time to point the minivan back for the long drive to Hingham — this time with Bob in the backseat with me.

Next Grandparents Day arrived at Bibs' school. We all had a great time. The children were rather confused why their orderly world had been interrupted for the day, and unfortunately the rain meant we all had to stay indoors.

Stacking blocks built into two towers by Bibs.

The day after Grandparents Day was Thanksgiving. This is the first year Bibs will imprint on the cultural importance of holidays, so Megan put on the Macy's parade which is now just a running advert for terrible TV programmes and for the toys you don't want to have to buy for your children with a few intermittent bands from Kentucky and balloons from Disney. Very sad. Nevertheless, Santa came, so the holiday season can roll.

Bibs looked at her Turkey Paper Doll Book.

Bobs wore his Turkey suit and played a tune for us.

Bibs puts on patent leather.

for Buffet Dinner at the Langham Hotel in Boston.

Then we were down to our last few days in Hingham. Lots of rain. Lots of lobster. A little bit of shopping. My birthday. And then the sad part of having to leave our lovely children and grandchildren. Bibs was upset until Megan told her we had to go visit Auntie Susan, so it was okay then. I think we will be spending our lives bouncing back and forth visiting Bibs and Bobs and visiting Auntie Susan for awhile. Here is Auntie Susan greeting us. in London.