Despite the short days, I usually look forward to November. November in the UK has good things (no Thanksgiving, a holiday I never really enjoyed - no presents, pumpkin pie) and not-so-good things (random fireworks going off at all hours, anti-Catholic bonfires). But Christmas is coming, bringing with it the chance to festoon everything in sight. It's still sort-of autumn here in the northern hemisphere. The long nights feel cosy rather than oppressive, the way they start to feel in, say, February.
Three of my family have birthdays this month: my father, who turns 80 on Friday; TMiddy, whose age cannot be listed for legal reasons (i.e. he will instigate a law suit); and my niece, Rebecca, who will be 23 at the end of the month. I think it's 23: I was living in Vauxhall and watching CLARISSA on TV the night my mother called with the news, so that sounds about right. Last week in my Spanish class I had to pose as a twenty-nine-year-old, as we were only doing numbers up to 30. My conversation partner (hola, me llamo Paula, tengo una hermana y un hermano, etc) told me I looked younger, but I think he doesn't understand numbers in Spanish yet.
This November there are some other good things happening: we're going to Barcelona at the end of the month to celebrate Tom's birthday. My sister and brother-in-law will be flying in from New Zealand on Tom's birthday itself, and then we're going to the coast for a week, to stay in a house owned by friends in a village by the sea. Lots of other friends are flying in - mostly from Britain, but some from Belgium and Switzerland, and maybe from Luxembourg - and we're having a party. The details of this party are still vague, but TM has declared it will have a 60s theme, and involve some games, including charades. TM alleges that he has only played charades once before in his entire life. How is this possible? His life is still very mysterious.
Despite the prospect of a fine time in Spain later in the month, I'm feeling quite low - still trying to wish our friend, Sarah Doerries, back into the world of the living, and recovering from two recent operations, with the prospect of radiotherapy and endless medication looming. These surgeries were nothing to do with my foot, which continues to look and feel strange, though it's slowly improving. Maybe soon I'll be able to wear high heels again. That will make me feel much better.
A lot of people have been in touch since Sarah's death. I think the news shocked a lot of us into being much more open about how much we all mean to each other. This reminds me of the maudlin song I liked when I was a little girl, Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World" - 'I see friends shaking hands, saying how-do-you-do/They're really saying: I love you.' I'm not someone who says 'I love you' very much, except to TM, who demands it. I guess I just hope that people know. It's why I send Christmas cards, even - especially - to people I haven't seen for years. They're really saying: I love you.
TM is pacing the floor, complaining that he's shocked every time he looks in the mirror because his hair has turned an unrecognizable colour. He claims that this colour is "tan-brown." Clearly his eyes are going, along with his mind. Perhaps if I tell him that I'm twenty-nine, he'll accept it without question, even if I say it in English. It's really hard to say in Spanish, in my opinion, because a v is a b, or something along those lines. Between that and all the lisping, I'm making slow progress. In Barcelona I'll be able to tell people that I'm twenty-nine and live in Sheffield; I'll be able to spell out my name, observe that I have los ojos marrones, and say "Me doy" if I'm asked a perplexing riddle or held in a wrestling grip. Unfortunately, everyone around us will be speaking Catalan; they'll probably pretend not to understand.
Some of you have asked about my evening at the Man Booker Prize, which was great but feels like a hundred years ago. I was there to tweet and blog for the Listener, and you can read my blog posts (in reverse order) here. My interview with Donna Tartt is in the print edition, hidden online behind the pay-wall, as is my review of Joanna Trollope's take on Sense and Sensibility. Another good thing about November: I have nothing to review, and I'm not teaching. I can read whatever I want.