Con: Cat pissing on things, leading us to become ever more baroque in our habits in order to keep him and tempting piss-spots separated at the times of day when extracurricular pissing tends to occur. Rapidly decreasing likelihood that I will be able to keep up the pretense of a viable academic career for the duration. Concomitant anxiety about ability to be happily self sufficient, or indeed self sufficient at all. The need to go on performing onerous ceremonial duties despite aforementioned diminishing prospect of payoff. Bright red remains of pimple on neck, of all places. Laundry backlog.
Pro: The usual embarrassing and obvious assortment of familial blessings. Also the weather is absurdly gorgeous. The first day of classes, which I had (as always) been dreading, was (as always) fun and stimulating, and indeed even more than usual. I am reading The Dud Avocado, which is as entertaining as advertised.
Before that I was reading Joan Aiken's insane children's book Black Hearts at Battersea, the first sequel to The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. (I am delighted to learn, via Wikipedia, that Joan Aiken had a brother and a sister, named John and Jane. Oh, Conrad Aiken, you card. "If only there had been a Jean and a June," Steve said. Greedy.) It has two best things:
First, the wonderfully offhand way that Sophie explains her unconventional upbringing.
"Who looked after you before that, then, child?"
"An otter in the forest," Sophie explained. "I can still recall how difficult it was to learn human language, and how strange it seemed to eat anything but fish."
Second, the depiction of the Duke of Battersea's apparently IMMENSE hot air balloon, "capable of carrying at least eight persons and their luggage for hundreds of miles." It carries not only our heroes, but also their dominoes, playing cards, spilikins, billiard balls, and telescopes, with room left over for Sophie to sew topazes onto a large velvet dress. It sounds like a highly comfortable way to travel:
In fact, the wicker, galleon-shaped car, with its high-decked ends and low waist, was excellently adapted to their needs. Dr Field and the Duke played chess at the forecastle end, Simon steered on the poop, directing the balloon's progress, when necessary, by means of a pair of dangling ropes, while Sophie with her dressmaking and the Duchess with her Patience occupied the central portion.
Even better, at night everyone is tucked well up under piles of furs and sheepskin rugs, with a charcoal brazier to ensure that any last trace of chill is chased away.
By midnight, generally, every creature in our house is gathered together into one small bedroom. Adults in the bed, cat curled up somewhere on top, baby in her infant cot-tent on the floor nearby. Because the house is poorly insulated and entirely unheated, the door is closed to give the gently glowing space heater in the corner a manageable amount of space to heat.
I like to imagine as I drift off that we are in some extra snug yet adventuresome and unlikely location like the Duke's balloon. Sometimes it is a specially eiderdown-laden version of the Kon Tiki. Sometimes it is a Victorian train car, or a biodome on the moon, or a Swiss Family Robinson treehouse.
TONIGHT, however, we are in a large fancy room at a large fancy hotel, so that I can attend Large Academic Conference. (All the small and unfancy rooms were sold out before I got around to making reservations.) There is a king-size bed! There are free cookies from the Executive Lounge! A loveseat! A six-foot-tall houseplant! There is even a corner, so that the baby can sleep around it from us.
And, god be praised, there is a real, true, functional BATHTUB. Not even the Duke of Battersea's balloon can compete with that. I can hardly believe my luck.