Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Another boy in the neighbourhood

Louise has had a three kilo baby boy, but not without drama. The cord was wrapped four times around the baby’s neck and knotted. When the doctor’s realized it, they threw Franck out of the delivery room and jumped on Louise literally to get the baby out.

The baby’s name is most likely Toby.

La Noisette is open. Franck looks shaken. Louise’s mother will carry good wishes to her daughter when she visits her this afternoon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The first review for the Card

The Card
D-L Nelson
Five Star, Oct 2005, $26.95
ISBN: 1594144176

They met at Boston University in the early 1960s sharing a room; yet no two roommates could be as different as Jane Andrews and Diana Bourque are. They are the opposites in physical appearance, emotional outlook, and mental state. Jane’s goal is to become the best mother and wife ever while Diana wants to run her father’s newspaper the Sarasota Journal. Yet the duo becomes more than just friends, they become beloved sisters.

Every year, one of the pair sends the same Christmas card with a new note to the other. This has helped them cope with distance, cheating husband, a dying spouse, near death experiences, childhood, and the conclusion that marriage, motherhood and business entrepreneurship are not anything like they expected. Through the next two decades plus they remain friends symbolized by the loving back and forth card.

THE CARD is an intriguing relationship drama starring two individuals who love each other like soul sisters though they may be continent apart. Once a year they rotate who informs the other that they still live and whether it has been a good year or not via the Christmas card. Fans of deep character studies will appreciate this saga over the years between two women who rely on one another to survive the trials and tribulations of life.

Harriet Klausner

La Noisette was closed

A note from Sophie the waitress is on the door of La Noisette, ‘Franck, m’appelles’ (call me). The tea room is closed. Everyone on the street is wondering if Louise, Frank’s beautiful blond English wife has gone into labour. Nicole the jeweler, Rosella the potter, Dani the fishmonger, Barbara, Babette and Jean-Pierre, the green grocers all are worried, because it is early. Isa was late. There’s can’t be a cosmic balance of baby due dates. Stay tuned.

A blog on blogging

A friend and a daughter both have said I inspired their own blogs. Josh, an expat (and friend) living in Japan, wrote “I want to thank you for introducing us to blogging... Tomomihas started one of her own (in Japanese). We were inspired by yours.” He also said, “I have lots of stuff I want to post and share with people. Also, I am linking it to the online text I am writing so that my students can get a foreigner's perspective as well as practice reading real English.” His blog gave me the feeling I had visited Japan.

I also like checking in with my daughter’s blog From her blog I keep up with the activities of my grandkitties and how she kept the tradition of the family license plate 49T which has been held by father, me and a cousin in Massachusetts, my mom and dad in Florida and now she has it in Virginia. Some families hand down jewelry, we in a family that barely tolerates the necessity of cars, have a license plate. Although we would have discussed it on the phone, her writing opened another level in the information she shared.

Mary in Scituate and Rose in New York say they read me regularly to see what I’m doing like I read almost-relative Kirk regularly to see what’s new in his life

Besides being a method of checking in on lives, writing a blog serves another purpose for me . I useit as a warm up writing exercise. Instead of doing a ten minute free write in my journal I have switched to the blog.

But in exchanging emails with Josh, it hit me the blog serves another purpose. It lets me live experiences twice, one in real time and when I write about it I can recreate the feelings. Although I long ago chose life in the slow lane, it makes me more conscious of the details that bring color and music to my life.

RB2 descends again

I had just settled down with my needlework and waiting for Jonathan Creek to start on the BBC, when RB2 called. A few minutes later I heard his motor scooter chug to a halt outside. I threw the keys down to the street.

He checked his email then went to work on my computer restoring my Mozilla Firefox, adding webshot photos to my revolving wallpaper, setting me up so I can move from web site to website by a right click and drawing a line in the direction I want to go.

I showed him property for sale sites in Geneva and we discussed the practicality of me buying a place there. He showed me the kid computer he was going to buy for his son. He reported his train loving son thought him a bit of a hero for arriving in Perpignan on Sunday in a double decker TGV. At four it is easy to win the admiration of your offspring. When Tim is 17, I hope RB2 remembers these moments.

He left well after midnight.

Years ago when he was working in Frankfurt and I was in Switzerland, he called at 5 in the afternoon. “Wanta play backgammon tonight?” Five hours later he pulled in and we played all night. After a nap, a good meal prepared by my friend Florian, he was back on the road (he is a computer consultant and works all over the world).

I expect the unexpected from him.

May he always drop in unexpectedly.

A picnic by the lake

The sun on the lake in Le Boulot sparkled with thousands of stars in the middle of the day. Barbara and I were there with P&P, an English/Rhodesian couple, their incredibly beautiful inside and out teenage daughter and her poised and culturally aware friend. Despite one level of maturity they giggled about what to name the gila lizard belly button pin the daughter wore. Gerald was the final decision. In between plans for an art museum there was a discussion on what to wear on their dates with French local boys that night. The dichotomy reminded me of my daughter’s musical taste at their age. I would pass her room and hear first Duran-Duran, then Cats then Bach.

We sat under a tree. Barbara was in a chair because her bad back, although better, made it wise that she not spread out on the grass.

The lake is a quarter of a mile across and triple that in width. In the distance three layers of mountains went in color from dark blue, lighter blue and grey.

When I lay down and looked up through the green leaves the sky was almost royal blue. Everything was iridescent.

Our picnic was baguettes, tomatoes that tasted like those of my childhood, fresh goat cheese and melon so sweet it was almost caramel.

The day ended with tea on P&P’s rooftop terrace. They look out on the mountains, thick with pine trees, folded into ridges. Before the mountains is a river. Pine trees boughs that graze the top of the tile roof are cone ladened. The air smelled fresh and sweet.

There was no grand climax to the day, no drum rolls, no spectacular revelations – just a tremendous feeling of peace from using my senses and being with good people.

Isa is home and better

Walking slowly from our parking place near the river to our homes (parking on narrow streets built in the 1400s is not possible), Barbara and I wondered if Isa was home from the hospital. She and her husband Greg run a business where he is a technician for stage performances and she had a small elephant, Goran, then promptly ended up back in the hospital with an infection.

As we passed their house the door opened and Greg came out with his parents. Isa was home, they think the damage to her heart is minimal, the baby has outgrown his tub (he was huge) and things are looking up.

This is a lovely young French couple who have the courage to live life on their terms. Because they rennovated a house, I have a great deal of empathy, having done the same with Susan and Bill on Wigglesworth Street, Boston. When she is stronger, we will go see the baby.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The end of the pan saga and other misc. stuff

The pan saga is over. The copper pots look so beautiful hanging between the baskets and dried plants from my wooden beams means I am going to keep them. Beauty is one of the criteria that I buy things. Sabrina, the antique dealer is on the outlook for someone to reline them and also for tin-lined copper pots.

Cooking strike – despite a surfeit of pots, I have had no desire to cook this weekend. Except for fruit, nothing to eat is in the house – except for fresh fruit. I ate at Les Flowers last night: magret de canard in a Banyuls sauce and resisted licking my plate. La Noisette served me a Scottish breakfast, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Pizza tonight. One of the delights of living alone is that meals can be eaten whenever I want with whatever I want. Most of the time when I do cook, I lay the table so it looks wonderful improving my meal. Like my mother, I sometimes read old Gourmet magazines with my meal.

Franck, the owner of La Noisette, is looking frazzled. The end of the season, the end of his wife’s pregnancy, his mother-in-law from India staying and helping are all are taking their toll. If the waitress Sophie can open the next two Mondays, he’ll stay open. If not he’ll begin the off-season schedule of closing Sunday afternoons and all day Monday.

Barbara will be able to walk up the stairs to share a pizza as we watch the Sunday US and British political talk shows. The French ones seem to have been suspended for the summer.

The only thing I want to buy except for food between now and the end of the year is a raincoat, but only if I pass one in a store window.

Isabel is due home tomorrow. She is a French neighbor. Her husband, a historian, gave up teaching to do technical lighting for the theatre. She is the business end. They have renovated a house and she just had a baby or a small elephant. Between the size and the fact he wanted to come out rear end first, they took him by caesarian. Worn out, Isabel fell victim to an infection and spent the last week back in the hospital. Sister-in-law and best friend Valerie who also gave up teaching to start her own business, lives with the couple in the four-story house. Meanwhile Goran is contentedly eating and sleeping. There is something wonderful about seeing young people refusing to do what they dislike for things that they love. They also organize the theatre festival that I wrote about earlier.

The markets are awash in fresh figs that fall apart in sweetness in my mouth. It is hard to believe anything that good was good for you. However I went to my favourite nutrional web site However, it doesn’t diminish my desire for chocolate.

Speaking of chocolate a truck loaded with chocolate syrup caught fire and the smell of burning chocolate conjured up images of chocolate delights anywhere in the region where the winds carried the smell.

Christina, the hotel and art studio owner, has gone to Denmark for a week. She has given me the key to her house and I have an open invitation to sit on her terrace over the atelier where the artists work anytime I want.

This afternoon I will write. Life is good.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The fry pan saga goes on

Walking by the Vieux Cinema Sabrina came out to tell me she has found a set of copper pans. They are beautiful and I bought them even though they are unlined.

A check of the internet on healthy cooking alternatives show that using unlined copper pans is not good. I already knew that Teflon was unhealthy as is aluminum.

Now I need to find a place to reline my pans.

However they look wonderful hanging there. If I can’t find a place to reline them, I will have to return them.

Meanwhile I have given the extra fry pan and pot away.

Somehow I feel a bit ridiculous about this whole thing. Once my mother was playing golf. She was in the middle of a divorce, trying to get a business going, worried about my almost hype active brother and worried about her off and on gall bladder problems. Her partner Marion was in a funk. "What's wrong?"my mother asked.

Marion sighed deeply. "I really can't sleep at night until I solve this."

"Maybe I can help," my mother said.

"I don't know if I should buy a new mink coat or not this year."

There are problems and problems.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Two fry pans

When I wandered into the antique store I found a tin-lined copper fry pan. Having been unhappy with my two enamel lined pots and one enamel fry pan (I only own four cooking vessels, five if you count a pie plate and that serves me to make meals for myself and guests with absolutely no problem whatsoever) for a long time, I grabbed it. It is my goal now to replace each with copper and tin as I come across them. However, I haven’t thrown out the old one. I am 98% sure I will never use the old one again.

Today I went to A 10 BAL, a local store where all items are under 10 Euros (bal) to buy nails so the new and old pan could hang on the beam that runs the length of my flat. The other fry pan is pretty, one of my three criteria on keeping something. Only after I left did I realize that I was short changed 10 Euros.

In the great cosmic universe, I suppose there is nothing wrong with having one extra pan, but I can’t help but believe only half kiddingly that the 10 Euro loss were a punishment for allowing an extra possession to creep into my household.

Then as if the universe was reinforcing the message when I checked there was an interview with a psychiatrist who wrote American Mania, that “urges Americans to stop our endless quest of accumulation unless we want to witness a mass psychological and economic meltdown.”

I don’t think I will meltdown because of an extra fry pan. I don’t believe my financial life is threatened, but having that extra fry pan is annoying.

If I haven’t used it by the time I leave for Geneva, it goes out, probably to the kids downstairs who have nothing, not out of philosophical believe, but out of youth and poorness.

Today a fry pan, tomorrow an extra dish, then before I know it, my flat is full. Since I cleaned out my mother’s house after she died, I made the decision that when my daughter has to clean up my possessions, she will be able to do it in a morning with plenty of time to drink tea as she does it. Then again, she may never clean out this place choosing to rent it.

And when there are so many real problems in the world, worrying about an extra fry pan is probably not important, but since I can't stop pollution or the war, a fry pan is controllable.

On verra as they say. On verra with the fry pan too.

Summer is winding down

People are getting in their last beach trip before they leave this weekend.

The merchants are glassy-eyed having been open 7/7 since mid-June. Soon the stores will close Sunday afternoon until Tuesday mornings as well as for their three-hour siesta at noon.

Local children shop for their new book bags, pencil cases, pens and notebooks, which they show to the tourist children. Their voices from the street below float through my window as I write.

The teachers from St. Etienne are packing up, but this year they are leaving their daughter who is “reading” elementary education at Perpignan University. She will live in their house all year. She learned English-English so she reads a subject rather than studies it.

The first squash has appeared in the green grocers, although there are still plenty of summer fruits. I await the walnuts, kaki fruit and pumpkin.

The sun no longer shines from 5:00-22:00 as in June, and the street dances always need the lamplights when they start at 21:00.

The newspaper says the sanglier hunt is about to start. Last year over 7000 boars were shot in the region. The man who sells saucisson will be able to replenish his supply of sanglier saucisson. The year I lived in Toulouse, the butcher at Christmas had a boar hanging from a peg outside his shop. Each day there was less as locals chose the section they wanted for the Christmas dinner.

When the vendage will start is being debated. Some of the smaller green grapes are almost ready, but the red need a couple of more weeks, although when I passed a vineyard they hung heavy on the vine. They looked ripe to me, but what do I know? I am a city girl at heart.

In September there will be another smaller group of tourists, older people, who no longer have children in school.

I am getting calls and emails asking when I’ll be back in Geneva. It depends on my last round of guests. Although I wrote a lot this summer, I find myself thinking of my winter writing schedule, my writing friends, walking along Lake Lehman, filet des perches, and a fondue at the Café du Soleil, the chestnut stand near the Gare Cornavin.

Summer is winding down.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Barbara's back -- a neighborhood affair

Valerie, who sells hand painted T-shirts through Barbara’s shop, shows up to hang some of the higher things, although she is occupied with Isabelle, her sister-in-law and best friend, who has had a hard time delivering her son, Goran. Isabelle has been put back in the hospital and Valerie does what she can to help out running back and forth between the needy women.

Valerie’s father, an osteopath, has come to check her out as a courtesy, not as a fee-paid trip, although doctors do make house calls here for approximately $40.

Chris, the London set-designer, who has his second home (he thinks it is his first) is fixing her mattress with a board under it. He is also there to lift what she can’t or hang things when Valerie can’t show up. Chris is down here on a painting commission.

I have watched the store until boredom has driven Barbara downstairs from where she lives over the shop.

Rosella, the potter, also has offered to help where she can.

Dani, the fishmonger, provides humour. Almost as wide as she is tall, she was convinced that Barbara came back to Argelès late because of a fiancé. She asked if Barbara had been too sexually active with the fiancé that must be hidden away.

Hopefully Barbara's back will be better soon. Meanwhile everyone in the neighborhood is here to do what they can. Afterall we are coming up to the end of the tourist season, and no one can afford to close down.

Chavez vs. Robertson

Pat Robertson has apologized to Chavez, who is talking about making oil available to America’s poor, more for the publicity I am sure. Robertson recommended Chavez's assassination.

I have a far greater respect for Chavez than Robertson. Chavez is seen as a threat because he wants his country free of American domination. He professes that the resources of his country should go to his people not stockholders in America. Unlike previous rulers, money does filter down. His poor are now better fed, better educated and have more access to medical care, although their situations are still desperate. He is crawling the walk as well as talking the talk.

CNN International did a program this week on many of America’s covert actions in Latin America, giving credence to our illegal activities. Often when I mention them to Americans they don’t believe me. That they are making their way into mainstream media is optomistic.

As for Robertson, good Christians, don’t push for murder. Religious fanatics do, and I see little difference between Robertson and the clerics who are now being ejected from Britain because they talk about assassinations and murder.

If there is a God or Gods, if they are good and justice, they must smile more on Chavez who actually support the poor as well as the rich than any religious fanatic that condones death and destruction be they Christian, Moslem or Jew.

Meanwhile my daughter buys Citgo as I would if I were in the US. Citgo is the Venezualan oil company.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Dinner at Magali's

Magali, the artist whose work now dominates my flat, included my New York guest Rose along with her dinner invitation to Barbara and me.

She also added her artist/sociologist friend Brigitte and her historian/Cathar/anarchist husband Serge.

We had planned to eat in her garden which overlooks marsh grass leading to sea. The Tramontane put an end to that unless we would have wanted to hold down everything in the gale-force winds.

Her house is tiny and was dominated by the table set with square glass plates. Candles provided the light and African music the background.

The food was Mideastern a tribute to her growing up in Morocco.

Magali’s daughter, Sarah adopts strays. Therefore Hubert, a teenage boy who sleeps in a tent in the garden and his fluffy pup with its patchwork grey and black fur welcomed us. Hubert helped cook. The pup’s responsibility was to sit in laps. Charlotte, the Siamese cat, another foundling, shared that job. Later Miriam, another Sarah adoptee, walked in. She was staying there after yet another fight with her mother.

The conversation was lively. As always politics -- American, French, German, English, the war
--was a major part. Serge told of a vignerons uprising in the early 1900s in nearby Narbonne. They wanted tougher standards for the wine. The government sent in troops, but the troops refused to fire on their fellow countrymen and shot into the air. Other artists’ work was discussed.

After the taboli, salads, spiced meat had disappeared, Brigitte cut the multi-plum tarte she had baked. Magali produced a bowl of fresh figs, picked from her tree that afternoon.

Outside the wind howled. Inside things couldn’t be much better.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

What Makes a Friend

This week a former business acquaintance and current friend has been visiting me in my nest. Now for two women to share a small space should be a challenge, but this certainly isn’t. This woman is a five-star guest in terms of consideration, humor, helpfulness and fun.

As we talk we discover – despite being raised in different places, different religions – our similarities are frightening similar. She describes a poster she has in her kitchen: I had it in my Geneva kitchen. Both our fathers, born around holidays, never had a birthday party except for a surprise given within a short time of their deaths.

For me, it is always a pleasure to share the things I love, so we walk to the beach, visit the goat farm, head for a restaurant in the mountains. We meet up with my friends, do the almost obligatory café sits, check out the marché and just enjoy being. We look at the cemetery, not because we are morbid, but it is one way to look at cultural differences.

She has said if the space gets too tight she will be happy to go to the hotel down the street, but I doubt that it will be needed. Instead we’re having a prolonged pajama party interspersed with daily activities that I find much more fun than any sleep over I experienced as a kid. Maybe because over the years we’ve developed so much more to share than we had as teenagers.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Jazz on a summer evening

« Je ne veux pas travailler. Je ne veux pas déjenuer » the jazz singer sang as she and her key board accompanist entertained the small group at La Noisette. Franck had added tables across the street going up to the church door. He wove in between the tables on both sides delivering sangria, kir royals and beer. In between orders he sat on the church steps and listened.

Usually he closes at night, but decided to try this out. It was informal. There was a breeze that broke the heat of the day. People came and listened for a while, and left. More people arrived.

Franck’s very pregnant wife and partner, Louise, arrived. Her mother has come from England to help out until and after the baby is born. Even if we hadn’t been introduced we would know they were mother and daughter.

It was nothing major, just a pleasant couple of hours with good music and good neighbors.

The smell of bean

The refrigerators were defrosted leaving room for more goat. Barbara and I headed for the goat cheese farm run by the Dutch couple. We sat under the trees at their trees-shaded wooden table drinking a beer. Their two cats and dog waiting to be patted.

“Do you want some legumes too?” the wife asked. We often speak in franglais.

We walked to the back land where a small farm of vegetables stood in weedless dirt and perfectly lined up by catagory. With a knife we hacked Swiss chard and a cabbage that filled one basket. We picked beans, carrots, tomatoes and onions.

The only garden I’ve had in the past three decades has been a small box with herbs on my Swiss balcony (I called it my “back forty”—forty inches not acres), but this French garden brought back the pleasure of our Victory Garden on the Fenway. After work (when the Red Sox weren’t playing because parking was impossible on those nights) we would go over, weed and admire our growing crops. My daughter was still little and we would play games like “I packed a trunk and in it was an apple.”

When I was at Glamorgan University doing my masters in creative writing, Lynne Reese, a poet wrote about the smell of bean on a hot day. The Dutch woman broke off two extra long beans from Indonesian seeds, she said. Barbara and I each inhaled the warm bean smell, broke it in half and bit into it.

Simple foods, simple pleasures.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Bless You

In Texas a woman is saying what our alleged national leaders on both sides of the aisle should have been saying for years. Cindy Sheehan questions an illegal, immoral war. Bush drove by her to meet donors, but she is donor. She donated her son.

It is refreshing to see guts shown by someone. Now it it were only from our mealy mouthed leaders, Cindy Sheehan could go home.

Gas Guzzling Tirade

From Will Lester of AP

‘WASHINGTON More people are feeling record-high gas prices soon will have their wallets running on empty.Almost two-thirds of those surveyed for an AP-AOL poll expect fuel costs will cause them financial hardship in coming months. That’s sharply higher than in April, when about half felt that way.

“I filled up last Monday and it cost me $53,” said Gary Spaulding of Fulton, N.Y., referring to his Ford Explorer. “One of the cars, we’re going to get rid of. We can’t afford both of them.”’


Suffer baby suffer. Everyone driving a big car that isn’t as fuel efficient as they possibly can afford is killing the planet and is contributing to the deaths of those in Iraq on both sides. Let ‘em go bankrupt.

Yes I am angry. Yes I am not nice about this. People with gas guzzling cars are being irresponsible to their planet and to every living thing on this planet. Sadly, this includes some of my friends who I still love, but I still think of anyone with an SUV or a fuel inefficient automobile as aiding and abetting death. If each of us does not take responsibility for what we do and thus set examples to others, we are doomed as a species. Maybe this is a good thing. Humans have not been good for planet earth. Humans have not been good for other humans.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Marilyn, the moose and other TV observations

When I was five, the smell of popcorn woke me and I toddled downstairs. As usual our living room was full of people watching a flickering black and white television screen, one of the first in my childhood town of Reading.

I had my favorite program, Big Brother Bob Emery where we patriotically toasted the president with a glass of milk, part of the propaganda that I didn’t realize was propaganda until years later when at a Rotary meeting in Boston with my Swiss boyfriend, we started with the pledge of allegiance. Rituals leading to blind patriotism.

When I Love Lucy became popular if I were in my pajamas and all ready to go to bed, I could stay up that extra half hour on Monday night to watch her.

I like TV, especially overseas where I can watch news from several countries. I find it interesting that CNN international has the dramatic sign LONDON ON ALERT when it reports on the fall out while the BBC gives it far less emphasis in its matter-of-fact style. France covers it with a mention of the expulsion of some of the radicals, one of whom was interviewed the other night on BBC's Hardtalk.

American series can dominate. There was a period that almost every country was showing Friends. However, Mash was never shown.

I had left the states when Northern Exposure became popular. Visiting Boston I saw it, loved it, and my friend Bill taped many episodes for my next trip. (He and I indulged in mega marathons of West Wing on my last two visits.) Since I thought NE was one of the better series that the US had produced I never understood why it wasn’t picked up by the international networks.

My daughter bought be a NE DVD. However, I have discovered that the series channel shows three NE episodes back to back in English on Thursdays nights and even better than the original the only commercial interruption is between episodes. So now I can watch Marilyn and the Moose.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Monbiot says it for me

“I don't hate Britain, and I am not ashamed of my nationality, but I have no idea why I should love this country more than any other. There are some things I like about it and some things I don't, and the same goes for everywhere else I've visited. To become a patriot is to lie to yourself, to tell yourself that whatever good you might perceive abroad, your own country is, on balance, better than the others. It is impossible to reconcile this with either the evidence of your own eyes or a belief in the equality of humankind. Patriotism of the kind Orwell demanded in 1940 is necessary only to confront the patriotism of other people: the second world war, which demanded that the British close ranks, could not have happened if Hitler hadn't exploited the national allegiance of the Germans. The world will be a happier and safer place when we stop putting our own countries first.”

George Monbiot summed it up well. Blind patriotism is dangerous. I am about to become a Swiss national because I want to be full participant in a country that has done well by me. My roots will always be traditional American or maybe mythic American because more and more I uncover the lies I was taught over the years. However, that does not negate the value of the principles spoken if not lived up to. In many ways I see myself as an international at home more in Switzerland or France than the country of my birth for many reasons, one of the largest being quality of life issues and social responsibilities felt by the society for others. I have equally discovered no place is perfect but it is part of my responsibility to not make it worse.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Another way to have a quiet evening

My needlework was ready. Two good mysteries were on BBC. I settled myself on the couch.

The phone rang.

“It’s Fanny.”

This is the young woman who I consider a French daughter. I first met her when she was an olive-eating three year old. We first communicated in German as she told me her feelings about her parents’ divorce. She tried to teach me French. We’ve shared time in Boston, Payerne CH, Conway NH, Toulouse, Môtiers CH, Geneva, Aix-en-Province, Neuchâtel, Carcassonne and Argelès

Fanny now works in Holland where she lives with her Dutch boyfriend. Besides being a Jacqueline-Kennedy-type beauty she speaks French, Dutch, English, German and has some Italian. She is a whiz in creating web pages.

“I am waiting for a UN contract, I’m going to New York,” she said. We talked for almost an hour of new times ahead for her, of old times.

“I’ll be thirty,” she said, reminding me that twenty-seven years had passed since I met her and over six since she, Robbert and I sat in an Argelès café after she graduated from university and was not having much luck in finding work. “With your languages, you can go anywhere,” he told her and within a month she was working Germany.

We hung up after catching up on our mutual acquaintances. I settled down with my needlework and the next mystery.

“Donna.” Robbert (RB2)’s voice drifted in my window. Auditory hallucination. He was back in Switzerland.


I looked down the three flights to the street. The auditory hallucination was accompanied by a visual one.

Rb2 had stayed another day. The 23:02 train connecting to the overnight one to Zurich that he took Sunday nights didn’t run Monday nights, a factg he had learned about ten minutes before.

Of course I would drive him to Perpignan to catch his train. We set out for Barbara’s car, only I remembered I didn’t know where it was parked. A quick lap to her house and we found out.

Rb2 made his train with a half hour to spare, although his learning that Fanny was thirty caused him to stop walking. “That was your age when I met you. In fact I gave you a Tex-Mex birthday party shortly after.” Rb2 will be 45 this year.

My quiet evening was different than planned, although it was still quiet. It had a quiet of the soul that only exists when people you love share a bit of themselves.

The new fan

The fan had appeared in my studio sometime in 1993. People who I loan the flat to often leave me things they think I need in place of the rent I refuse to accept. A place that nourishes my soul should not be a profit base.

The fan stood about as high as I am. This year it became too noisy, and its head drooped like sunflowers that have gone too long between rains. Those who know me understand that I don’t replace or buy easily. I really, really, really need to want something before I buy.

Thus when I passed a new fan on sale for €29.30 while doing errands with Barbara it went into the shopping cart faster than Superman leaping buildings in a single bound (only the direction was down not up).

Some assembly was required. When the talent to put things together was being handed out, I was in the elbow line. After only three attempts, the fan was standing upright and working. I emailed my daughter, who usually gets a list of things to fix when she visits me. She told me to pat myself on the back, but I suspect she figures she will need to do some adjustments next time she is here. She won’t.

Unlike the old fan which took up a lot of space, this one stands hip height, is rectangle and is about six inches square resembling a modern piece of sculpture, far less intrusive in a small space than the old one, which was happily accepted by the young kids living under me. Droopy fans are better than no fans. It works as well. I hope it lasts as long.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

“Billet?” the conductrice demanded in her thick Spanish accent. She stood in front of the steps of car 43 of the Spanish night train to Barcelona and clutched her clipboard.

I knew my print out wouldn’t cut it.

Robbert, RB2, had bought the ticket for me and he still had it with him. He got on in Zurich where he is working and I would get on in Geneva and we would travel together to Perpignan. That was the plan.

Before I could answer or look for RB2 an arm came down over her shoulder. It was Rb2’s and his hand held my ticket.

He showed me my room. Second class sleepers on Spanish trains unlike French have better linen, mattress and limit the number of people to four rather than six. Men and women are separated. RB2 said he was in the next compartment.

“Are you tired?” he asked.

“Not terribly,” I said even if it was 23:30.

“Let’s celebrate your birthday. Late,”

He led me down the ultra clean and carpeted corridors to the dining car and bar. We split a split of Spanish champagne and got caught up on our news only tiptoeing into our compartments when we had exhausted the information we wanted to share.

At 6 we got off in Perpignan, headed for the café across the street for petit dejeuner until the train for Argelès arrived. We found new topics, but why should I be surprised after 15 years of friendship should I ever wonder if we would run out of something to share. As my girl friend says, RB2 is the brother I always wanted to have.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Sunflower

There is a field of some kind of grain near my home in Corsier. Maybe not a grain, but a small beige knob. The plants stand about 18 inches high. Next to the field on one side is cow corna nd on the other are grape vines. In the middle of the field is one very tall sunflower, supervising everything.

Does it feel lonely, being away from other sunflowers, or is it proud to be different? Does it feel rich that when it turns in one direction it has a clear view of the lake, that it could never have if it were stranded in among the millions of sunflowers? Did it bribe the wind last year to carry its seed away from its sisters and brothers? And will it escape being harvested and turned into oil by daring to be different?

Cow update

Earlier I wrote about the cow statues all over Geneva. Now I see a pattern. The cow with the glasses is outside the optomitrists. The silver cow is outside the UBS bank office and the cow with the parts of meat is outside the butcher's. Not all are aligned, but what we have here is corporate cow sponsorship.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

This and That

Today was a mythical day…perfect temperatures, a light breeze…for doing errands around Geneva: insurance, library books, buying new lingerie at H&M at 70% off, walking along the lake, having a hot chocolate Café Auer, dropping a book off for Dennis, etc. Walking along the lakeside, tents are going up for the fête. The water smelled fresh as it raced by.

Fête de Genève…starts tonight. I bet if I walk out my door and look at the lake I will have a great view of the fireworks.

Music camp…coming back from Paris on the TGV train I sat with a group of kids 9-16 going to a holiday camp where they would learn English and Math while doing camp-like things. I sat with two of the teachers. One is a young woman who wants to open a special cultural guided tour business starting with the 100 anniversary celebrations of Cezanne’s birthday in Aix next year. The other was from Uruguay, had lived in the US and was now a Paris art student. Amazingly how fast three hours go when talking with intelligent people. Only once did any of the teachers have to calm the 25 kids on the train.

Terrorist warnings…Last month one group gave us a warning that Denmark, Italy, the UK and Holland would be hit if they didn’t withdraw their troops by August 15th. Today another group warned the US that something big and bad was coming. It will come. There is a feeling that our leaders are doing exactly the wrong things for the wrong reasons. I just hope those I love will not be among the victims. Sadly, everything I predicted would happen in Iraq has happened. To be wrong at times is better than to be right. The fear of things to come hangs heavily.

Cartoon of Uncle Sam with bombs strapped to his body. Each is labelled fossil fuels. The caption is suicide bomber.

New idea…there was an advert in the paper for a flat that I could afford both the down payment and the monthly payment. The flat was huge and the result of a bankruptcy. Although the agent didn’t call me back, it got me thinking that I might be able to buy a studio in Geneva, rent it out part of the year and live in it the rest. Certainly worth looking into after the summer. If it is meant to work, it will. As my daughter said she wouldn’t mind inheriting property in Geneva.

Scare…When Susie and Bill visited Llara there was a mixup on pick ups and S&B were convinced something happened to her. Although it was cleared up Susan wasn’t sure which would be the worse – the pain of losing Llara or having to tell me. Fortunately it was a mixup. When Llara was a kid the only time I was really worried was when there was a misunderstanding of where she was going to be at a certain time. The panic is unbelievable. May all the scares be only misunderstandings.

Lunch...Chitra and I ate at Sagano, a Japanese restaurant we both love. There is a feeling of sneaking away for nice girl talk. She was the one who directed me to the advantages of a Geneva studio as a possible purchase. One of the wonderful thing about friends is throwing ideas around. It stretches the possibilities, dreams shared, examined, etc.