Wednesday, 2 December 2009

I Shall Go To The Ball!

Cory English and Sara Jane Alexander depart Mandarin Oriental
for the White House

White House Reception
Hosted by President and Mrs Barack Obama

These are excerpts from some of the words typed onto our itinerary. Cory has been asked to perform at this year's Kennedy Centre Honours where Mel Brooks is among the honorees. He will be performing with two of his colleagues as part of a 10 minute medley of his hits sung by a host of respected performers. Its a kin to our OBEs but somewhat more glitzy. And televised. As I type I am falling over the words, overcome with excitement as I am. Further down on the itinerary the words Red and Carpet and Arrivals and our names are in very close proximity. I have been skittish around the city in search of suitable attire (black tie has been specified). Cue visits to Saks and the like with horrendously priced gowns donned on diminuitive and at the same time somewhat ample stature person. Oh to be 5ft 11 or more. What I would save in alterations. And then we (mum and cousin are here hoorah!) discovered the Petite section. A diplomatic label for the vertically challenged. Everything for the regular folk, just a whole lot shorter. After squeezing myself into most of the dresses in the city I eventually settled on a wham bam chocolate coloured thank you Macy's ma'am number, which with a little help of a saver's card from the father in law was bagged for under £100 and the shinny shimmy please-don't-let-me-fall-off shoes for under £30. You can take the girl out of Golders Green......I couldn't possibly be doing any of the above without an army of help of course. When we leave for DC Mum will be babysitting back in Chicago with actor friends from the show popping in and out throughout the day to give her a break and get their Sammy fix. One of our friends in the cast and his fella are even taking Sam to dance class on the Monday as we won't be back in time. Lovely. It will be our first weekend away from the little fella since his arrival three years ago. I'm sure it will feel a little strange. We will simply have to distract ourselves with whatever delights the Mandarin Oriental can offer us. Gloat over. Almost.

Suffice to say that Washington fever is alive and well in our house which has been stuffed full of family and parties and food food food. You've got to love this giving Thanks thing. No meaningless presents or last minute for the sake of it STUFF just a pure meditation on gluttony and the joy of family and friends, oh and did I mention food? Thanks was officially given at a 20 strong table and McCormick and Schmidt's round the corner with turkey stuffed and then stuffed into us. Followed by blueberry pie back at the flat followed by a week full of impromptu dinners and drinks with family and friends. It seems our bimbo thrives on pressure. When my iphone and I were not on speaking terms (literally, it cuts out in the middle of most conversations, or else I put it on silent and then leave it at the bottom of a cupboard somewhere) and I didn't realise that family were joining us around dinner time did I panic? Did my bimbo and I fluster? No sir. We just got busy. In under 20 minutes 12 people were fed. Not a take away in sight I'll have you know. Just the pure taste of homemade german designed fast bimbo-d food (pasta in red sauce to you and me). Delish. In between food we have seen the show and visited the local Christkind market round the corner, where stall holders, toy makers, crafty types and bratwurst cooks have travelled all the way from Germany to set up fairy lit shop in wooden huts huddled under an enormous christmas tree in downtown Chicago. We enjoyed potato pancakes, glu wine, sausage, pork loin. Unfortunately we mis judged our hunger (when will we learn?!) and forgot leave room for fresh warm pretzels and chocolate covered raspberries. There's always tomorrrow, they will be here till christmas eve. We have also admired skaters. From afar. The city is dotted with rinks this time of year. I will not be partaking. I skated once, fairly well as I remember, but my first visit to New York City when Cory and I were still courting cured me of the habit. Sufficed to say, that this cowboy hat wearing tourist lost all kudos the afternoon I insisted Cory take me to the central park rink. He made his excuses and told me he would film me instead. Should have known then he had an incling that the footage would go down in my personal worst moments history. I have hidden the video since. No one wants to be remembered as the walker desperately clinging on to the side whilst olympic twirler lets rip a few yards away in the centre of the ice. But enough of reminiscing, our week has carried on at this frenetically social pace with another highlight being Kingston Mines. My cousin and I (one suffering from jet lag, the other from over entertaining) chucked back the coffee, plastered on "awake" faces with the help of our favourite ingredient, one Cornsilk bronzer circa 1982 (only very low shelves of random pharmacy's house it) and hit the town to dig down deep at the famous blues joint in the city. It has been a hub of bluesy talent for the past forty years and serving up tangy moorish soul food this place attracts music pros and tourists alike. Oh yes and loud groups of musical theatre cast and crew. The latter, for the record, making the most noise of the two. We head bashed, we slow danced, we wiggled and giggled and busted moves. One of the headliners, Joanna Connor (who has become the company's idol) did things to her guitar that players only dream of. And made it look easy. She did that awesome air-guitaring thing we all do extraordinaire. Only with a guitar. Amazing talent. We are still paying for it though. It is an unspoken law that parents who get into bed after a big night out around or after 3.30am will be woken before 7 the next morning by a bright and bushy tailed child. No rest for the wicked. Or the gown searchers. Or the manic cram-everything-into-5 days-for-visiting-cousin tireless travellers. I am suddenly distracted by young girls singing ethereal soprano lines in a Norweigan church illuminated only by the candles they hold. They are on the TV beyond my screen. Reminds me of that tingly christmas feeling. I think I might make a secret pack to try and always be over here at this time of year. Between the tykey's birthday, Thanksgiving and all the trimmings of Christmas and New Year its one long trimester of celebration.

It will be three years that my aunt past away in a few days time also, so it is not wholly a hedonistic overload for us. In Sardinia a mass will be read in rememberance of her and here we will find a cosy corner of a church to send our prayers her way. On our travels so far I have stopped counting the times I have seen things and almost bought them for her. How our minds play tricks. She still feels so very present in lives it doesn't seem possible she is not actually here in body. I think I will stick to the denial side of the fence. When I don't, I start crying at incongrous moments. It's probably not the first time someone has shed tears in the perfume department I'd hazard a guess. I left a few leaks on Macy's floor the other day, where I was lured into a free but not free gift on a perfume counter. Upshot is I now have a gold clutch for the Gala Supper Dance after the Kennedy awards. I'm sorry am I bragging? Damn straight. If there ever were a time to do so. Perhaps I should be a bit more dignified about the whole thing, my blog is probably being tapped by the secret agents as I type so they have the history of every person attending. I hope they don't misconstrue any footage they see of my Sardinian widow character over the internet. You never know. It is an honour to go during this administration especially I feel. Sentiments echoed by Mel Brooks himself who is said to have refused to accept the award under previous presidents....

I only hope I won't be lynched on the red carpet. Our cousin who lives just outside the city saw me flaunting my dress the other day (at home in the presence of family only) and made the astute observation that I will positively freeze in the december Washington weather. Two days later and her son drops over with a vintage blue fox coat which has been donated to the cause by a kind friend of hers. As I opened up the garment bag and donned the animal I not only started to cook but felt like my aunt Patricia was standing behind me with a nod of approval. it is she who handed down a vintage mink stoll for Cory and my registry office service back in January 2002 and I know had she been here, she would have, without a doubt raided her overstuffed wardrobe and presented me with yet another classic clothing masterpiece or abomination depending on your politics. I shall raise a glass or two to her. You can bet on that. Its just too sad that I have no-one to steal cutlery for anymore.

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