The previous post but one has lost me a follower, I notice. They must have taken me at my word.
London - as always - had its highs and lows. Absolute hilarity mingled with extreme angst - often running concurrently.
Sometimes when I have visited remote and far-flung parts of its suburbs, I have actually given up trying to find my destination and just turned around and gone home. I really have.
I have just bought a Sat-Nav, and realised that I should have bought one years ago. Four satellites patiently guided me through unspeakably horrid parts of South London until I arrived at my destination of East Dulwich. If it weren't for the fact that I hit the outskirts at the Friday rush-hour, it would have taken me a mere two hours, not four. Even when I took a wrong turn, the voice in the box (an English woman's) simply said she was re-calculating, rather than screaming at me for ignoring her advice, as H.I. would have done.
What was supposed to be an empty house turned out to contain six female students, so rotas had to be worked out for the showers and breakfasts. Girls - I have discovered - are much less tidy than boys. This fact astounded me.
The following day we went to a very fancy restaurant indeed, somewhere near Bond Street. It had a glass box at the entrance which contained three enormous black truffles, just to make everyone jealous.
The year before, it had one white truffle which was about 10 inches in diameter, and the owner somewhat tastelessly told us how much it was worth. Any guesses? £30,000.
We sat at a table for eight, with me sitting next to Step-Daughter. All went well, and when we had finished the main course we waited for the surprise birthday cake which had been pre-ordered about two weeks before, at huge cost. It was - I am told - an enormous thing piled high with various fruits on an exotic sponge base. Then we waited a bit more. Then we waited a bit more.
After about 20 minutes of waiting, a black-tied Italian waiter beckoned to Step-Daughter to come round the corner for a quiet word, which she did.
She got back, sat next to me and - with tears of hysteria in her eyes - whispered in my ear, "They've dropped the cake!"
I asked her to repeat what she had just said and when she did, we both screamed with uncontrollable laughter. H.I. became very confused, and it was not until the waiter brought an inferior substitute (rustled up in 20 minutes) that we were able to explain.
Everyone jokes about this sort of event with large cakes, but it is extremely rare for it to actually happen I think. There is that excruciating video of a waiter cutting a wedding cake in front of 200 guests, and the whole thing collapses in slow motion, landing on the distraught man.
I only wish we had photos of them actually dropping our cake, rather than all the selfies the kids took over the weekend.
Inspired by the simple civility of the Hattatts - and the Doctor above - I am going to try and be a bit more polite on this blog than I have been over the last few years.
I'm not going to start gushing (not that I think they do, mind you), and I'm not going to start calling Heron 'Darling', but I may be a bit more generous in one way, and a little less mean in another.
I don't intend to water this blog down in any way, but it is easy to bully people without even knowing you are, and underestimating the effect you have on others is only a symptom of low self-esteem. I don't need to attend self-assertiveness classes.
In their last comment, they mentioned that the cyber world which we all inhabit is far too full of vitriol and mindless hostility, so by presenting themselves to others in the way that they do is only an attempt to redress the balance in what could be seen as a small way, but probably has more effect on the world than might be imagined. This sort of thing is easily misunderstood as escapism, but we all need to escape at some point, don't we?
In any event, you won't hear from me until Sunday at the earliest, as we are all off to celebrate H.I.'s 70th. Doesn't time fly when you are having fun? Last time we went to London, we visited Johnson's house, and I came home with a similar attitude.
I've got the whole weekend to think about it, and I am sober as I write this. I will probably fall straight off the wagon as soon as I get back, but if I do, I promise to try and not lose my sense of humour the next I rant.
You are all back on my radar now, so if I don't comment from now on, it's because I cannot think of anything to say - not that that normally stops me.
Last night, I was going to put up something about that 9 year-old girl who shot her 'instructor' in the head with an Uzi machine-pistol, but it all got a bit too contentious anyway, what with various other comments about how I relate to my fellow bloggers - real or contrived personalities, shaped according to the time of night or the quantity of alcohol consumed.
That is the great thing about posting stuff up like this - it's a bit like how everyone's personality used to change as soon as they got behind the wheel of a car. On foot, they would not dream of barging in front of an old lady who is trying to enter the doorway of a shop, but once they were clad in metal with a couple of hundred horse-power under the bonnet, it suddenly seemed to turn into a dog eat dog world.
My persona is not too far off the one I portray here, but I still occasionally fall into the trap of thinking that there is no use or room for inhibitions in the blogoshpere. The reason I am so consistently polite to the Hattatts is because they are always so unfailingly polite to everyone else. Simple as that. Even when they have been told to 'fuck off', they respond with a polite apology before complying with the request.
The other aspect of blogging which is relentlessly exploited by some who think they are isolated in the rarified atmosphere of this make-believe world (guilty, before accused) is the sure fact that if you express any extreme or untrammelled opinion about any world event, your comment hit-rate goes through the roof. Example: Recommend the nuking of Islamic extremist murderers - that should do the trick.
Thus, someone whose comment rate rarely rises above 10 or 15, will suddenly accrue about 50 in the space of an hour or so. The quality of these comments is not always what you would call 'top-grade', though, and often amount to just a couple of words, one being 'fuck' and the other being 'you'.
I am always astounded by the little piece of advice at the top of the Hattatt's comment box, and it says something like, "If the comments left here amount to more than 200 in number, there may be an additional box created in order to accommodate them." All this for posts involving art, interiors and a life-style which can only be maintained by living behind what used to be called 'The Iron Curtain'.
I have - in the past - harboured unworthy suspicions about the Hattatt's hit-rate, hearing somewhere that it is possible to buy great sheaves of hits for modest amounts of money, but I cannot imagine Mr Gray going to the expense of that, so all those reactions to rivers of dog-shit must be genuine.
The only contentious thing that I will (deliberately) say in this post is that there can be no reason for anyone to be given a military assault weapon to play with, let alone a nine year-old girl - even if it is in an Arizona theme park called 'Bullets and Burgers'.
I saw the video, and the 'instructor' casually leans over the little girl to switch the machine-pistol to automatic mode, then stays leaning over her as the thing writhes out of her hands and swings in the direction of his unprotected head.
This maybe a harsh thing to say, but I feel for the girl far more than I do the foolish instructor. At least he doesn't have to live with this ghastly childhood tragedy. If it had been the girl to shoot herself, then the balance of my sympathy might have been reversed.
First of all, I am sorry you have not had the benefit of any of my comments on your own posts recently - this is because Blogger keeps telling me I am not following anyone, so I haven't seen them. No matter how much I refresh the page, I still seem to be alone.
For all I know, I could be missing out on some real gems and I hope I can see all yours by the time I get back tonight. For now, I am going to imagine what you all might be saying behind my back - well some of you, anyway.
Cro will be talking about food. It could be the beginning of the mushroom season down there, whereas we have to wait for another month or so. It is only a matter of time before he asks us about what he can do with all those quinces.
Rachel will - no doubt - make a passing reference to Manchester United losing 4 - 0 to an under 14s team from nowhere.
Brismod will be looking forward to the Summer and getting her man to put a fresh coat of paint on the portico.
The Hattats will have seen a couple of operas with a good friend who also happens to be an interior designer, in between taking in a couple of exhibitions with a beautiful and floppy boy.
Sarah Toa will have mentioned a couple of 19th century whalers and included a few shots of a breath-takingly beautiful inlet, only approachable by sea.
Weaver may have made a little trip to Harrogate, just to sample the toffee - teeth allowing.
John will have completed an arduous night-shift, only to arrive home to find the floor, walls and ceiling of his cottage covered in dog-shit.
Cher will have shown off her topiary and roses, having generously allowed us through her garden gate.
Iris may have mentioned Berlin from the far-off perspective of the USA, in contrast to Britta's more immediate viewpoint, and the two will never be reconciled.
Heron will have cast a few hexes on me, their awesome power and potency undiminished as they flash through the universe, all the way from Ireland.
Donna may have mentioned a couple of piggies.
Joanna will have got the wrong end of the stick, but in a charming and caring sort of way.
Jack@ will have said something Carry-On risque, followed by XXXXXX!
Sherry may have put me right on a couple of mistakes, possibly to do with who is alive and who is dead.
The Country Girl will have bottled a few pots of jam, taking as much care over the labels as the contents.
I know I have missed about 100 of you out, but this is only because I have to go and move £250,000 worth of marble six inches in one direction - again - without breaking it, but you are always in my thoughts.
I wonder what I would have written about this morning?
I had two small bottles of healthy ale last night, then went to bed at 8.30 to listen to the radio. Sunday radio is unremitting crap as soon as The Archers has finished, so I fell asleep at 9.00. I slept for 13 unbroken hours.
I can't say I feel any better for it, but at least I do not have the debilitating hangover of yesterday. I eschewed your unanimous advice about hairs of dogs, and I am glad I did - well, all but for two very small hairs: the sort used as a substitute for clean water by medieval Suffolk monks.
You taught me something yesterday - that all Caryatids are female. I then - when checking up to see if you were lying - discovered that they all represented dancers who performed with baskets of live reeds on their heads, to celebrate the nut trees of the village of Karyai.
They were not down-trodden slaves condemned to hold up heavy temples for eternity because of some female wrong-doing as perceived by despicable men. They were carved in stone to celebrate real women, semi-deified to honour the nuts of the village. They must have been bloody good nuts, is all I can think of.
There are certain carvings of men - sometimes goat-like men - which were often used to hold up masonry when not simply free-standing as sorts of wayside markers or whatever, but since they turned into formal masonry from the shoulders down, they were called 'Terms', as in 'terminate'.
Then there are the hoards of conquered fighters turned slaves which you find at the base of triumphal pillars, usually with the victor's feet on their heads. This is how I felt yesterday morning.
The more muscular of these slaves were also often employed to hold up very large bits of masonry, and were frozen in the supreme effort of doing so for eternity. The city of Ljubljana in Slovenia has many 19th century doorways held up by these poor men, so the tradition has carried on for a long time.
Pax Romana in the form of subordination was one symbol, and in the 18th century, we had carvings of Africans holding up serving-trays, which is obviously a much less arduous duty, though maybe just as humiliating.
If ever I win the Lottery, I will design myself a mansion which has - as a doorway - two massively-built and muscular lesbians supporting the ornate pediment above, and this will be a form of celebration which will be in no way disrespectful to women.
It may take some explaining, but I will have teams of people to do that for me - most of them female.
I saw the grotesque (grotto-esque) caryatid face in the corbel bracket as the light faded the other night. It is easy to see where the inspiration for those carvings came from - the indistinct faces of demi-gods which haunt underground places, trapped in the stone from which they are made.
Like those clever camera apps, we are programmed to see faces in the simple juxtaposition of four separate shapes, which is probably why cyclops are so shocking.
"Make any mark you like with this pencil on this paper," I once said to my brother, "and I will turn it into a fish." There is no mark that cannot be turned into a fish by the addition of one other. Give it a try.
I am shockingly hung-over today. I went to bed at 7.00 am this morning, after a dinner-party to wave goodbye to a friend who goes back home to the USA in a week or so, and it all went tits-up in the pub later.
I can hear the mournful strains of Albinoni's Adagio coming from the kitchen as I write this, and as I wait for H.I. to finish her breakfast so we can go out and have a fried one in a nearby cafe. I really need a fry-up.
Ok, I know Albinoni didn't actually write it, and I wish I didn't. It spoils it for me to know that it is a pastiche of the real thing, albeit a good one.
It's like the Desiderata that used to be pinned to everyone's wall in the late 1960s - 'Go placidly amidst the noise and haste...' etc. Written by a bloody Hippy, albeit well written.
My kingdom for a sausage - but not a Linda McCartney one.