We rode out to Fen Ditton and sat cross-legged at the edge of the river, drinking wine from plastic cups and watching the May Bumps. For those who might be confused, this is an event that used to happen in May (along with the Balls) and nobody bothered to change the name.
The basic idea is that rowing teams race toward town, trying to bump the boat ahead of them. If a boat is touched by another it is out of the race. Or something along those lines. The most interesting thing about the whole event is how shockingly athletic the teams are; I spend all of my time on the river and still had no idea.
During the May Balls (translation: each college throws a big party, kind of like a prom, but way more elaborate) the city was suddenly full of youngsters in black tie or ballgowns. The boys appeared more confident than they normally do but most of the girls didn’t exactly know how to wear fancy outfits; they looked so fragile in their silks and satins, shoulders hunched, tottering on heels.
Each of these parties involves massive decadence of a variety I have never before witnessed, including fireworks displays and partying until dawn – all month. Everyone else is used to the phenomenon but we were bemused and spent quite a bit of time stretched out in the middle of Jesus Green, watching the sky light up.
According to the BBC, the temperatures here were higher than Greece or Miami or anywhere else except Egypt. I had to carry a parasol and still scuttled from one spot of shade to the next. Plus it was windy; I’ve lived here nearly a year and I’m still not used to the fact that my skirts are constantly flying up. I’ve never lived in a place this windy – that is simultaneously too hot.
Midsummer Fair brought an encampment and huge rowdy crowds to the commons. In the past there has been trouble with vandalism so all of the boats moved — which is complicated, because there isn’t enough room for us elsewhere. Some people went above the lock, others double moored, and many boats left town entirely. I couldn’t leave but some boats shuffled along to make space for me to moor.
Between the solstice, the full moon, the raging parties, the fair, and the oppressive heat, people started to act a little strange. There were fights, and half-dressed people rolling around making out in every park, and strangest of all, some folks decided to swim in the river.
I was surprised that anyone would want to jump in the lock. I was shocked when I saw people jumping off the Victoria Bridge into what might be the most shallow stretch of the river. To put this in context, it is a lot like jumping off a typical American freeway overpass into a mud puddle.
One day while I was riding my bicycle and worrying about my sick kid a young gentleman who might be described by a newspaper as a “yob” (I can’t translate this; the word says it all) jumped in front of my bike in a partially jokey, mostly harassing way. The point, I presume, was to make me stop.
Unfortunately for him, he picked the wrong female to bother. I didn’t pause or think, I just turned my wheel directly toward his gut and ran him off the path. He stumbled away, hands up, and his friend said admiringly nice glasses.
Father’s Day arrived and the children presented Byron with a DVD of the first season of Knight Rider. Belated best wishes to anyone else who holds that honorary title!
It has been brilliantly sunny and hot enough that I had to abandon my normal summer outfit of long sleeved black shirts. I don’t like to wear t-shirts featuring the magazine or my books, and today the first suitable option I encountered was a Chorus shirt.
Dwayne designed and cut the stencil of two hands clasping while we were all camping just before performing at the original Ladyfest. We all used it for years, and I remember exactly when I shook a bottle of black spray paint to make the shirt I pulled out of a box today.
James was visiting from Chicago, long before he moved to Tokyo. Per was visiting from Sweden, and we were trying to persuade both of them to move near us. That week was a long dreamy sequence of sunny days and hot nights, sitting out on the stoop or lolling on the porch, leaning against each other and talking in the dark.
I threw one of my big parties. Was it the going-away party for Amy Joy? A costume party? The travelers party? I don’t know. But the day after the party we used the stencil and spray paint and made shirts for everyone who wandered by. Then I sprayed the design on the wood of the front porch.
Some of those friends send letters and email and call. Others have visited, and I was in Portland a few weeks ago. But I don’t live there any longer. Today I put the shirt on and stared at myself in the mirror and missed my friends more than I thought was possible.
I took the shirt off and put it back in the box.
My daughter has been mysteriously sick for awhile, and a series of tests have ruled out the easy answers. I will not discuss the details publicly because she deserves to have a private life. But this situation is very difficult for all of us, and the fact that I am a skilled advocate makes very little difference when she is in pain.
I do not allow myself the indulgence of denial. There is no point avoiding despair; but there is no justification for letting sadness drown out everything else.
My children need to believe that everything will be fine. I need to believe that too.
I’m not going to write about illness and fear.
Instead I will play records at top volume, go for long bicycle rides across open fields, sit on the banks of the river, read a novel, and love my family with fierce devotion.
It is with profound sadness and a wrenching sense of loss that the staff of Hip Mama have learned that our valued colleague Allison Crews has died.
Allison was the producer of Girl-Mom for nearly five years. During that time she worked endlessly hard to build a strong, dynamic community. Through her work on the site, her accomplishment in creating the National Day to Support Teen Parents, her writing, and her life, Alli created social change. Alli was brilliant, forceful, and talented. She changed lives; she helped people. We will miss her.
The Girl-Mom moderators are collecting money to be used to help Alli’s young family in this profoundly sad time. If you would like to contribute, please send a donation via the site.
Lessons in Taxidermy has been nominated for a Quill Award.
Lavender’s memoir is exquisite, precise and deeply affecting from beginning to end.
Bookslut review – click for more.
The writing is beautiful… Lavender is living proof of how much strength and determination one human being can possess… Reading Lessons in Taxidermy will pull your head out of pathetic self-pity. You will think again and realize that you are not all alone in this world. You will discover your own strength.
Home again and so jetlagged I cannot possibly begin to describe the adventures of the past few months. I’ve changed time zones so many times I no longer know night from day.
This afternoon I was running errands in the city centre and when I walked out to unlock my bike there was a huge crowd swarming in front of one of the colleges. The scene was so intense I had to push my way to the bike, then ask three people to climb down from the posts while I unlocked.
I asked one of the people pressing forward what they were waiting for; he stared at me with a baffled expression and said The Queen.