|At Home at the Villa Muscato (artist's impression*)|
So we're home again, and enjoying it. The weather in these parts has been almost suspiciously mild for this time of year (in part because of the three weeks of sandstorms that have been shielding us more or less entirely from direct sunlight), but it's some measure of having lived here too long that I stepped out at lunchtime today and thought, "well, yes, it is starting to warm up a little," and then got into the car and discovered that it was in fact 104° in the shade.
We do enjoy, Mr. Muscato and I, our quiet times at home. It's really rather dull, I suppose, but we sit placidly in our upstairs sitting room, some old Egyptian movie or soap opera playing in the background, me doing a crossword or tapping away on the laptop and him with one or more dogs draped creatively over his large brown chenille easy chair, and we're really happy as clams. Sometimes I wonder whatever did happen to those chandeliers I used to swing from...
There is, however, a little stir heading our way, for my old pal Miss Rheba is jetting out this coming weekend, bringing along her Longtime Long Distance Companion (a surprisingly sensible arrangement - they share everything but a Zip Code), and we'll have to make an effort, get the guestroom tidied, think of places to show off, and all the things that are attendant with having houseguests who've traveled halfway 'round the world to see one.
One drawback of this sandland capital of ours is that there is really remarkably little to do. Take visitors to the mosque and to the trademark Insane Showcase Hotel (highlights: the gold vending machine, the gold foil that features heavily on all the tea salon baked goods, and the acres of - you guessed it - gold leaf adorning every exposed surface including the bathroom taps. Subtle, it's not - although it is, for what it's worth, the original of what was reduced to but a pale approximation in the lamentable Sex and the City II), and you're basically done. There are grand plans for museums, theatres, quaint faux-bohemian Arabesque going-out districts, and much more, but they're all years or decades off, and for the moment, after mosque and hotel, it's all malls, all the time.
Fortunately, after 30-odd years (and some of them very odd indeed) of acquaintance, Miss Rheba and I are are remarkably self-basting (as it were), and Mr. Muscato has welcomed her and hers as just more of the bizarerie that came into his life when I did. Come this time next week, we'll probably all just be sitting in the upstairs sitting room, desultorily working crossword puzzles, dogs snoring, the only real difference being that the Egyptian films will have been temporarily replaced by Miss Rheba's speciality, unexpectedly amusing exploitation pictures. Truth to tell, we'll probably have as good or even a far better time than we did swinging from those chandeliers all those years ago.
* Replace the Hanoverian sprogs with terriers for greater verisimilitude. Also, while Mr. Muscato always looks dashing, I rarely go for anything so low cut until far later in the day.
Oh, all right. This is of course not, in fact, chez nous. It's Mr. and Mrs. Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and their progeny, by the divine Mr. F.X. Winterhalter, my guilty-pleasure favorite portraitist. It always reminds me of the apocryphal story of the Eminent Victorian who, at a performance of Antony and Cleopatra, was heard to exclaim, "How different, how very different, from the homelife of our own dear Queen!"