Husband has not been invited to this year’s Court Leet, the men-of-the-village-only dinner that’s been going on continuously since the thirteenth century that he was so proud to have been invited to for the last two years. He thought P. was just winding him up when he asked him if he had received his invitation yet, but it turns out the invites really have gone out and one has not come through our door. He is more upset about this than he’d like to admit and has come up with several conspiracy theories by way of explanation, including the fact that we hang out all the time with our gay weekender friends, R&R — if this is really the case I tell him he should be proud to be excluded — and that he made the faux pas of wearing jeans to last year’s event. In a fight over the weekend I tell him it’s because he has developed a reputation for being loud and obnoxious and everybody in the village can hear him screaming and yelling at me. Despite my assertion I feel bad he’s been excluded, like the mother of the only kid in the class not invited to the birthday party.
I too have my own exclusion worries. On Thursday my company announced they were laying off 12% of my division, not totally unexpected. I tell myself I am not in the bottom performing 12% and other rationalizations meant to reassure, but on Saturday night I wake up at 1AM and can’t go back to sleep for the stress. Read Rachel Johnson’s hilarious book about her first year as editor of The Lady to calm myself back down. All she was asked to do was lower the average age of readers from 78 to 40-something and double circulation in the middle of a recession to prevent the magazine from going under, which helps put my job stress into perspective.
So I finally picked up a copy of The Lady, A Journal for Gentlewomen, which I blogged about back in January. I was grocery shopping and, being short of bathtub reading, susceptible to such impulse purchases. It contained some entertaining light reading, including a dissection of the seven tribes of incomers to the countryside. (After some consideration husband and I both concluded we were closest to the description proffered for the group of incomers called The Realists; we certainly weren’t The Hassled Parents or The Bling Brigade, although I am guilty of wearing “witty Wellingtons” à la the Cath Kidston Weekenders.)
The Lady also came in handy in aiding the escapist fantasies I am prone to have when work starts to get too stressful. This class of fantasy tends to involve quitting my job to become a chef or a wedding planner or to take over the local post office and add on a tea shop selling tasteful tat. My last few weeks in my real life office have included several crises, a volcano ash cloud stranded manager (without whom I had to handle the crises alone), a launch in India, and a narrowly averted business trip to Beijing this week on impossibly short notice. In short, I was primed for escapist fantasy when I starting skimming the classified pages of The Lady and found this advertisement under the cryptically named section, Situations & Appointments:
Opportunity for semi-retired couple: Part-time housekeeper/lady’s companion and gardener/handyperson required. Excellent accommodation in detached, two-bedroom cottage; own garden, parking, rural views to sea. Terms and conditions negotiable. Near Whitby in North York Moors National Park. Visions of Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins and the tragic romance of Remains of the Day flashed through my head providing just enough escapist fantasy to propel me through the remains of this week.
My new year’s resolution last year was to read something by Proust. I really wanted to read Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life but somehow that didn’t see like a very legitimate thing to do without having read anything by Proust first. A year later the red spine of volume one of In Search of Lost Time is still staring back at me from my bedside table, nestled between Any Human Heart and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Unlike those book club mandated tomes, the pages of ISOLT remain unsullied by my nub nailed fingers.
So this year I made another new year’s resolution, one that would enable me to keep last year’s, albeit behind schedule. I’d let my subscription to The New Yorker expire in February and reallocate NYer reading time to ISOLT. It seemed like a good plan until this morning when Rachel Johnson, sister of the slightly mad Boris the mayor of London, appeared on BBC Breakfast to talk about the magazine she is now editing, The Lady.
Now why didn’t anybody tell me about The Lady? It’s taken me years to unravel so many of the mysteries of proper British life, things like marmite, the difference between hunting and shooting, and what a gilet is and how you pronounce it. And yet all along—125 years to be exact —there has been a magazine to guide me in the ways of British ladyship. According to the news anchor its reputation of late has been the best place to advertise if you are in search of a nanny, but Ms. Johnson has livened up the old dowager. It even has literary and Cotswoldian links, having been established by the grandfather of the Mitford sisters. Coming up on my one year anniversary of becoming a Brit I feel I am practically a lady anyway. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than subscribing….to yet another weekly.