Fun is Fun

I don’t know how the least few years have been for you, but the last, oh, two decades have felt like an ever accelerating roller coaster ride … after you ate the chili dog and large soda. The last three years, in particular, have been grim ones for me and my family. This is a large part of the reason this blog has lain dormant. My mind was more than full of things that are not appropriate to be delved into in public forums, and there was little authentic left over to be broadly discussed (except for cats. Cats are great. Hero and Leander became best friends and are a joy, delight and constant source of mischief.)

But if we were going to survive this all and still like each other at the end, we needed to bolster what was good. And my husband and I realized … we needed to have fun together, or nothing would seem worthwhile.

You remember fun, right? It’s that thing you do where you feel happy, and have good memories and enjoy yourself? You know, like laughing and light-hearted? Yeah. We’d kind of forgotten too.

But in the moment where society started carefully emerging from pandemic isolation – like a groundhogs sensing the coming spring, Adam got us tickets to an Event. The tickets said “Cocktail attire required”. And so we got dressed up and drove into Boston and sashayed around the common in the cold and went to this Beacon Hill mansion and got overpriced cocktails in a glamorous library with other well-dressed patrons and watched a magic show and re-creation seance.

And guys, it was SO MUCH FUN. And as we drove home, glowing with pleasure, we decided that we should do a Fun Thing every month. A thing we wouldn’t otherwise do. Dressing up preferred. I began the hunt for fun things, and here’s how it went.

March – Four Handed Illusion
This is the event that started it all. It’s held in this glorious setting (Although the books in the library are clearly for show and not for reading, which makes me sad). I actually super appreciated the formal nature of the attire – something about having to put on your finest and make an effort makes being a participant in the audience even more fun. Adam and I have both read rather extensively on the Spiritualism movement (for a fun time, ask me about the Mechanical Jesus next time you’re at a cocktail party with me), and the second half séance was a tour de force of just how the Fox sisters did it. I was grinning from ear to ear under my mask the whole time.

Happy people at a magic show

April – Tea at the Boston Public Library
No sooner had I heard that tea at the Boston Public Library was a thing than I knew I had to go. We’ve enjoyed teas across the world (ok, Victoria and London) and there’s something about crustless sandwiches that just makes you put out your pinkie finger while you drink your beverage. Good times are often better when shared with good friends, and we thoroughly enjoyed dragged our camping companions and gaming buddies along with us to a fancy dress occasion. Who knew they looked so good cleaned up? The only regret about this adventure is we had to get back to town in time for the soccer game (Adam coaches) and couldn’t linger in the library.

Two women in the middle of a fancy table with their hands resting on two men, nicely dressed to either side. Fanceeee

A number of very fancy small cakes and confections Don’t ask how old I was when I figured out how you actually pronounce petit-fours

May – Sculler’s Jazz Club
What I was going for: speakeasy vibe with dinner. What I got: awkward dinner in a nearly empty restaurant where the only other diners were the band and _extremely_ experimental jazz. This was fun, but probably the biggest mismatch between price and enjoyment we’ve had so far. We went in cold to the ensemble and, uh, they would have benefited from some of our prior knowledge. And the dinner was fine at prices that were exceptional. As I told Adam, if all of our adventures are huge hits, we aren’t being adventurous enough. We were adventurous here, at least!

Two women wearing dresses standing back to back
We took so many pictures while we were all dressed up.
A jazz trumpeter and a drummer under creative lighting with the word "Scullers" in the backdrop.
The band.

June – Belle and Sebastian
This group is a favorite of our pandemic podmates, and when I found out they were heading to Boston, it was a no brainer that we’d be there to greet them. We’d seen the Mountain Goats together in the fall, and it had felt really weird in the masking and “are we supposed to be distancing” space of fall 2021. But Belle and Sebastian was just a fantastic concert in a brand new venue – Roadrunner – in Boston. The floor wasn’t even sticky yet. We danced and sang and had a fantastic time under the black lights.

Partygoers who look blue in a blacklight, with a few pops of neon color
Smurfs or partygoers?
A band playing under about 16 spotlights with the words "Belle and Sebastian" in lights behind them
So cool.

July – New England Revolution
Mixing it up from our concerts and 19th century entertainments, we went to Foxboro (my first time for not a vaccination) in July to catch the New England Revolution home opener. We do really love watching football, and while men’s football isn’t my first choice, we actually were at the very last professional women’s soccer game in Boston and will have to wait a while for it to return. I went to three professional sports events this year: 3 of us for soccer, 2 of us for Mariner’s baseball and 1 ticket for Patriot’s football. I paid the same for all three events.

Three people in a full stadium, wearing masks, watching soccer.
Of the three events, we had the best seats for soccer

August – Roaring 20s Lawn Party at the Crane Estates
On one of the hottest days of a roasting summer, we dressed in our finest and drove up Cape Ann to Ipswitch to the beach… wearing our finest duds and preparing to drink squash and jitterbug to our heart’s content (although I had the foresite to pack swimming suits). And we had a blast, in the pounding heat. Adam did a ton of dancing. We enjoyed the very on point outfits and setups. And when the heat finally overwhelmed us, Nathan and I went down to the water and cooled our hot selves while finding horseshoe crabs and throwing rocks into the water.

Three people dressed in formal attire underneath an umbrella
The “parasol” was critical
A woman, a boy and a man standing next to each other wearing 20s attire
Ah, the old days when I was still taller than Nathan

September – Essex Dinner Train
I admittedly was starting to feel the heat of having to find a cool new thing to do every month. I mean, how do you find cool things to do? Some of the above was serendipity. Much of the rest was Googling. I keep looking for public murder mystery dinners, but to no avail. But I found a ball (tragically sold out) on a dinner train, and figured we could at least do the dinner train. So Adam and I drove down to Essex and then took this dinner train ride. Which was … fine. Perfectly fine. Much better if you were perhaps over 60. Nothing wrong with it, but not on my list of most memorable meals ever.

Two people holding hands at a dinner table, with a train behind them.
It was sitting. With dinner. And moving scenery.

October – Fancy Dress gaming dinner with Paul of Wandering DMs
OK, so this probably doesn’t _actually_ count since I would have done this without the challenge. But October is the busiest month in the Flynniverse. For Adam’s birthday we asked our college friend Paul, who is as close to a professional role player as you get, to run a game for us. Ideally where all of us were formally dressed. I’m happy to report that Tobin brought the evening to a rousing and successful conclusion with a bit of murder and pumpkin-spelunking. Those villagers will never know what hit them.

Three women and three men dressed in evening attire. The women are mostly wearing pastels, and one of the men is in a pepto bismol pink suit.
The pastels were pure, but happy, coincidence.
A table full of papers and  drinks, with six people around it. The people are playing an RPG, and a man in a pink suit is standing at the end of the table.
A formal gaming table.

November … requires a writeup all its own.

But folks, I have a problem. I’m running out of ideas. So please … what should we do? What depths of cultural experience have gone unplumbed? What opportunities to dress up have we missed? How can we be fancy and fun and make memories we’ll never forget? Let me know – no idea too crazy to be considered! Also, what have you done lately? Are you having fun? What’s between you and that epic funness? What amazingly fun things have you done lately that we should put on our agenda?

Corde pulsum tangite

Last night, I worked late, stayed in my flat and attempted to fix a code bug while watching Euro 2012. This would probably have been less galling had I actually fixed the bug, but despite a late-night-shower inspiration, I failed in my attempt. I went to bed feeling wasted, and woke too early to head back into the office.

I vowed not to repeat the mistake tonight. It’s actually a hard one not to repeat, since my customers and colleagues are just revving up for the day when I need to boot down. The nice part about UK work is that you have this lovely, uninterrupted morning to do things that require concentration. The down side is that it is hard to tear oneself away at 5.

But tonight! I would not do so! I confess that part of my ill-choice was that it is intimidating to venture into London alone, and not appealing to return to the flat. My planned collegial outing is for Thursday. So what to do with myself? Today I scoured teh intarwebs for appealing events in walking distance: compline services, plays, concerts, bands. Whateva.

I found that in the Barbican, not a block from the flat, a concert was planned. Sold. I rushed some tickets (you can get really good tickets when you’re one person by yourself), grabbed an excellent dinner expedited for me by a local restaurant and presented myself literally front-row-center.

The Barbican is a very interesting place. One expects age, marble and crystal for the home of the London Symphony Orchestra, and a cultural center of a cultural center. But the Barbican is a carpted, paneled, non-linear space with curves and corners and carpet that needs replacing. The concert hall looked more at home in Scandinavia than London. It was small – it can’t seat more than 300. It was dedicated – there was really no room for staging or a curtain or a pit orchestra. It is clearly intended for the symphony and only the symphony. There was a complete dearth of gilding or chandeliers. The back-panels were all carved wood, the floor the butt end of 2x4s, and the upholstery in mixed colors.

The crowd, for a symphony in London, was similarly un-hoighty-toighty. I mean, I watched a man in full evening dress walk by as I ate my dinner. You would expect that man’s destination might be the symphony. But I saw children, jeans and t-shirts in abundance, and not a single monocle. Even the musicians were a touch underdressed – one of the key soloists would not have been out of place in any pub in London.

But ah! The music! The evening started with a world premier, Galgenhumoresque by Martyn Harry. It was extremely rhythmically complicated – the kind of piece where you’re never actually sure if the orchestra is playing it correctly because it’s written so it doesn’t sound quite “on”, which is actually devilishly difficult to perform. I enjoyed it. The composer took a bow during the applause, which is always fun.

The next piece was Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A. I’m very familiar with the first movement. I had a CD with it when I was a young girl, and I vividly remember listening to that particular concerto while writing letters to the concert master of our orchestra from my front porch. (What can I say? He’s now a successful musician in California, and I often think fondly of our correspondence.) You will understand when I say “not a swank crowd” when I tell you that they applauded after the first movement. I mean, Seattle definitely knows better. (Seattle, I think, feels as though it has a lot more to prove.) Anyway, the soloist was about 12 years old (ok, maybe 22 but I still felt old). It was a tremendous performance, and a joy to listen to. A guy in a suit gave him an award afterwards, there was much applause, and he gave us a lovely encore.

After intermission was Carmina Burana. All the classical music cred I just earned for being penpals with our concertmaster will disappear when I tell you I’ve never heard Carmina Burana before. It is a piece perfect for a 21st century audience. Although it takes a while to perform, each piece is very snappy and interesting, but yet simple enough that you can immediately understand what you’re listening to. I promise that you, dear reader, no matter how classical-music-averse, have heard at least some of Carmina Burana, probably O Fortuna. Carmina Burana requires a huge set of performers. There’s the full symphony orchestra, two grand pianos, extended percussion, a huge choir, a children’s choir, and three soloists. (Pity the poor contratenor who has to sit up front the entire time and only sings one short song!) I’m pretty sure there was about a 2 to 1 ratio of audience to performers tonight. (Foley – have you ever sung it?)

I also found Carmina Burana a lovely combination of mysterious and funny. On the mysterious front, in the middle of a song, the language switches abruptly from Latin to German – the German repeating the refrain originally started in the Latin. Then without warning we switch back again a few songs later. The children’s choir, meanwhile, only sings things that are completely inappropriate to children. They are present doing the wooing section, and sing a lovely bit during the winning section, “Oh! Oh! Oh! I am bursting out all over! I am bursting all over with first love! (iam amore virginali). New, new love is what I am dying of!” And of course, they were serious-faced British children. It was great. You hope no one explained the words to them. The baritone also did an excellent drunken abbott impression, giving you the feeling that he has done some opera.

Anyway, I was pretty much in tears by the time it was over. It was awesome.

Tomorrow night? I’m not sure. Maybe a long linger in a pub? Perhaps an after-work walk of the Thames? Guess we’ll find out! I can feel the pull back to the states – I will not linger much longer here.