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Mama Mia

Books Cotswolds Random

Redemption Looks Like Tom Cruise

Last weekend the pheasants appeared en masse in the Cotswolds, the humble brown hens and their queenie male companions tarted up like Louis XIV out for a country stroll. They have invaded the sheep fields, pecking and skittering about the flocks. The first time I saw a pheasant last year I was enamoured. The delight faded after the third or fourth time husband was forced to slam on the brakes to avert a panic-stricken pair who decided to run out in front of the car. They are stupid birds, and I pity the sheep.

The pheasants were the most idyllic thing about last weekend. It was tits up* from the start, which was marked by an aborted attempt to get out of town on Thursday night that ended with an argument at a West London gas station. We made it out on Friday in time to attend a long planned dinner party where I drank too much. Attempts to exorcise the hangover on Saturday with painkillers and fresh air failed where dinner at a Mexican chain restaurant in Cheltenham succeeded. The pleasure of the latter was promptly undone by going to see Mama Mia!.

Oh, Meryl.

The film produced an allergic reaction in me, triggered I suspect by Pierce Brosnan singing. The upside was that my sneezing drowned out the sound of husband’s blame for the film selection all the way home.

Sunday started full of promise with a trip to a charitable country house car boot sale (aka a flea market). It was planned for the grounds of Lord Vestey’s estate, Stowell Park, but was moved to a disused airfield in the next village over due to flooding. It’s been dry for a good week so I am cynical about the motives. I think Lord Vestey thought better of having the masses invade his estate, who were indeed a different crowd than the plant loving elderly crew from the previous open gardens day at Stowell Park.

Lord Vestey had hinted at royalty in attendance in the promotional interview I had read in this month’s Cotswold Life magazine. Instead we got Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen (think cable show interior designer if you’re American) and donations to a silent auction from HRH Princess Michael of Kent. She proffered a purple velvet bag of potpourri and a set of miniature wooden Christmas figurines, both of which looked just about worthy of a shelf in Oxfam. Honestly, she’s letting the royals down. Charlie is going to have to open another organic food porn store in the area (have I mentioned the newish Highgrove shop in Tetbury?) to make up for it. I had to go sit down in the shade with a half pint of 7.7% Old Rosie cider just to get over the disappointment.

Sunday descended into nothingness with husband bitter, complaining, and getting on my nerves—a pheasant to my sheep. On cue, the alarm failed to go off Monday morning and when we did get back to London there was no hot water thanks to some fault with the boiler.

Things only got better last night when we went to see Ben Stiller’s flick, Tropic Thunder. Tom Cruise as Les Grossman showing off his best dance moves since Risky Business was alone worth the price of admission.

*Speaking of “tits up,” I recommend Annie Proulx’s new book. One of the stories, “Tits Up in a Ditch” was published in the New Yorker earlier this year and, like Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, the book is worth the purchase price for it alone.