The Remains of the Day


(Breakfast scene from “The Thomas Crown Affair” remake starring Renée Russo and Pierce Brosnan.)

There are three of my easy and elegant rituals that I miss during these hectic summer months with the kids. (Or maybe it’s because they are getting older and so are more demanding of our time.)

Books, movies and music. I didn’t say “reading” because I still read– snippets of magazines and a tonne of blogs — and, as always, I am amazed by the depth of knowledge and the quality of writing out there. (Y’all are very good.)

Not long ago, when the children were infants, I began each day listening to music. Mostly classical first thing in the morning — “The Hour of the Guitar” on NPR, some baroque chamber stuff or the soundtrack to “Brideshead Revisited” (highly recommended) — while preparing breakfast. On Saturdays, there would be bossa nova brunches. Five o’clock would have cool school jazz or standards from the American songbook on the stereo in the bar. Now I know the lyrics to most of The Wiggles’ songs and my son is most soothed when I croon the themes to “Speed Racer” (he particularly likes my falsetto of the final verse: ” adventure’s waiting just aheaaad…”) or “Veggie Tales.”

At the weekend, Mrs. E. and I would spend at least one day watching an entire season of “Jeeves and Wooster” or numerous episodes of the “Sharpe’s” series and at least half of “Brideshead.” These days the household maintenance swallows up those precious hours.

How nice to have a man to do some of those things for you, as Mr. Crown so aptly demonstrates above.

I used to end each day by reading before turning out the bedside lamp (Lowe’s — cylindrical shade.) These days I’m lucky if I get to read the titles on the spines of the ever-growing pile before passing out from sheer exhaustion at 9:30 PM. (And I just heard an NPR interview with Ethan Canin, a favourite author, who has released a new novel “America, America” which I have added to that pile, too…)

On the whole the bookends of my day helped me to slow it down. Time is the ultimate luxury, after all, and the pursuit of elegance demands a leisurely, if measured, pace.

What remains of your rituals for stretching the days?

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8 Responses to The Remains of the Day

  1. Fairfax says:

    I am not sure how old the children are, but this group is highly recommended by the children I know. They’re also friends. Be aware that this plays music when you launch the site.
    http://www.milkshakemusic.com/

  2. Larc says:

    I also found some Wiggles’ song lyrics which prove helpful since some of their songs are so long 🙂

    http://wiggles.littletoons.com/

  3. Hi Fairfax, they are 3 1/2 and 2. Proper little house apes at the moment. Thanks for the recommendation. “They Might Be Giants” has a kids CD out that I may have to invest in…. that or The Beatles.

  4. Thanks Larc, you have a very useful site, to paraphrase Thomas the Tank Engine.

  5. My rituals have all but vanished. I will start them anew and let you know how I succeed.

  6. The soundtrack to Brideshead has always been one of my favorites. I remember listening to it in my younger NYC years where we all gathered to watch it the first time. I’ve fared better than Sebastian since then, but had an inkling he was too close to my own skin. Though he lived much better than this poor Irishman. At least he was an equal bad Catholic. On the last night of the first showing we all dressed in Black Tie , the Ladies equally resplendent, with Champagne and appropriate accouterments.

  7. Eva says:

    My daughter at that age loved poppy new wave songs.

    I have two solid rituals that are essential to my sanity, as constant travel is physically stressing and needs to be combatted in any way possible.

    When I arrive in a new city, I adjust to the time zone by lazing in the hotel room.

    In the mornings, I spend two hours with a financial news program on and lazily eat and stretch and do yoga, etc. Starting the day earlier seems to render it less stressful than rolling out of bed at the last minute(if only I’d realized that in my youth).

    At night, I put in earplugs, grab a glass of something like wine or a martini, and read something entertaining, never anything heavy. Cookbooks and home decorating stuff often. If I do read social or what-have-you commentary it has to be delightful, like Howard Jacobson or A.A. Gill.

  8. Michael Poplawski says:

    Rituals? Well, when I am cooking dinner on Sunday and sometimes Saturday about a half hour before serving I will play some modern 60’s type jazz and make my self a martini or a manhattan (in the colder months). Oh, and I am dressed well, no sweats or t-shirts.

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