Thursday, December 29, 2005

Gift giving in 2006

I received wonderfully thoughtful Christmas presents this year including (but not all) a mouse pad with Japanese chins, a blank book for my haikus that is already a work of art, penguin pens and a handmade notepad with my daughter’s photo. I appreciate them all and the time and thought that went into them.

I have to admit when I get a package there is an oh-no moment that another thing will be added to my possessions. The sinking feeling at each gift usually goes away as I open the present to discover how well my friends know me and I know how hard they have worked to find it.

However, this year if anyone is thinking of giving me a gift I wish they would make a contribution to one of the following organizations (based within their own value systems of course). These organizations can use the help far more than I need another gift. This is an organization run by an incredible woman who is trying to bring a public defender system to China, Cambodia and Vietnam. She is doing the impossible in human rights work. or Both organizations are speaking truth to power in these dangerous times for our democracy. (if you click on the last site there is a way to help fund poor women’s mammograms and I hope you do that anyway) for their social work.

Of course there are others, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Oxfam or any group that is working to improve the lives of the poor or the health of the planet.

The idea that we are all making the world a better place is a gift more precious to me than anything in a box.

Hopefully you will all understand.

Santas phone number

The four-year old’s 'brown eyes bewitch. Her smile is entrapping, but the enticement should not be mistaken for weakness. She knows what she wants and pushes to the ultimate. Glory, glory Christmas was a perfect time for her mother to threaten calls to Santa Claus to encourage obedience.

The little one was sitting on the toilet. “Mama, I want Santa Claus’s phone number.”

The mother was silent.

“I mean it. Every one has his number but me, and they’re telling him lies about my life.”

On exile

Christmas Eve Llara and I went to visit some friends of our hostess. The friends live in the shadow of Notre Dame and down the street a piece. The flat could have been used for any set for a French movie set in a Paris apartment. The table bore the results of a lavish meal, the marble fireplace was decorated with boughs and drapes were swagged in the floor-to-ceiling windows. Three generations mingled around.

The languages because of my daughter’s presence went from French to German and English, bouncing back and forth.

The hostess was an active participant in helping Indian girl orphans making sure that they have work opportunities, but even more interesting was the Tibetan woman, who only after I left did I discover she was the niece of the Dalai Lama. I thought she just had an interesting history of exile and could make a wonderful milky marsala tea.

I choose to live outside the country of my birth. With the exception of one week in September 2001 I know the only thing from keeping me hopping on a plane is my own desire. But not to be able to return to the US because of an occupying force is different. Living outside our birth cultures and returning became a major topic of conversation.

When the Tibetan woman was exiled, she was a child and she grew up in India. Children adapt, but as we settle into a new culture, we become half breeds with comfort zones in our new cultures that we miss when we return to the countries of our birth. That doesn’t even begin to cover change. As the saying goes we can’t step into the same river in the same place. However, choosing to leave the river and being thrown out are so different.

I used the analogy of buying a plant at a nursery. The original roots go into the soil, but then they extend going deeper into the new soil as the plant grows upward. If you dig out the plant and cut off the new roots the plant will die, but if you cut off the original roots, the plant will also die making the plant an accumulation of its new and old growth.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The biggest advent calendar I have ever seen

I love where Marina lives. The Puteaux town hall is covered in white lights and a forest of white lit trees have been installed in front. It is magic.

Doing last minute shopping I rushed to Monoprix only to pass a Maison d’Advent. I’ve always loved advent calendars, but this was a little chalet with 25 windows. All but one was shuttered. The rest were opened to designs of candles, stockings, teddy bears, etc.

Interesting the little house which was bigger than most tool sheds by at least four was near the Mosque. This is a heavily integrated working class community. Arab women run around fully veiled and men wear long robes. There are blacks from misc. countries and white French.

During the riots Puteaux was spared, maybe because much is spent on beauty, people have work, and although they may not mix socially there is mixture in public of events important to all. It can be done.

Joyeux Noël

one in five

Usually when I arrive at the Gare du Lyon, I take the Metro to Marina’s, but with a suitcase full of heavy Christmas presents I splurged on a taxi. I have thought of doing a series of Taxi Driver stories starting from the driver in Berlin who sang Porgy and Bess songs to me, to my favorite Algerian driver in Puteaux who takes me to the airport from Marina’s place. He and I solve the problems brought on by the crazies from both our worlds in each trip.

This time the driver was a happy fellow who struggled under the weight of my suitcase. He had an accent I couldn’t identify in his French so I asked.

“I’m Greek,” he said and he turned out to be like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding telling me all that was wonderful about his country. However, he was equally in love with France and his French wife.

He confided to me with a great sense of pride that among the 15,000 taxi drivers in France there were only five Greeks. I was lucky to get one of them.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

About Christmas Trees

Last night I felt another reason to look forward to Christmas in Paris other than to be spending it with Marina and my daughter. I called to tell her the time to expect me, not that she has to be there since I have a key to her cozy apartment near La Defense.

“I’ve decorated the tree with pictures of people I love,” she told me. Her adored niece is on the top.

I melted at the thought. Christmas trees to me are more important than the presents and have been since I was a little girl when Dar (my grandmother), my brother and I would set up the tree and take out the ornaments one by one. Some were from Dar’s childhood. My favorite was a thin opaque pink nest in gold mesh with a small bird perched on the edge. When I was 14, we opened the box to find pink shards, but the memory of that ornament is on every tree I’ve had since.

Memory has a lot to do with trees. I went through a stage where decorator trees (including a rather ghastly aluminum tree with blue bulbs) to my twenty-year old taste were sophisticated. That stage passed. Part of the desire to have decorator trees may have been in response to my first married Christmas in Germany when there was no money for decorations and I used chains of safety pins and my red hair curlers for decoration.

No tree can be decorated without memories of trees set up at Sam and Eva’s the Sunday before Christmas followed by Chinese take away, a meal repeated Christmas Eve. They hung plastic icicles that glowed when the living room lights went out.

When Llara was three she and I painted wooden ornaments cut into sleighs, people skating, presents, Santa, etc. She once told me that she felt I did it so much better than she did, but I treasure the clock and mouse with the blue paint outside the lines because I cannot look at it without seeing her sitting at my mother’s table in her lavender jumper and white turtleneck shirt and tights dipping her brush into the blue pot.

A tree at Wigglesworth Street isn’t really a tree without Susan’s Sputnik that she made in third grade, a rather gangrenous green ball with toothpicks. It’s not the beauty but the continuity. She would have ditched it long ago, but no one else will let her. “Where’s the Sputnik?” someone who wasn’t there for the decorating will invariably ask.

When I am in my home for Christmas I bring in a real tree preferably on the longest night, a symbol of the dying year and the year to come. To me that moment when the real tree enters my home is Christmas much more than the presents and the rest of the hoopla. It connects me with nature and the cycle of life. Years I am not there, I still bring in a bough before I leave. And as wonderful as the smells of baking cookies and other Christmas culinary delights are, the smell of real evergreen in the home for a short period renews every ion of my being for the coming year.

Tonight I will sleep in a tiny Parisian apartment of a good, good friend with a real tree decorated with pictures of her loved ones while I wait for my daughter. My Christmas will be complete on the 22nd of December because of that tree and its loving decorations. The rest is extra.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Standing in the hall

Standing in the hall last night before we went to our separate bedrooms, J, S and I exchanged plans for the next, day, cracked a joke and wished the others pleasant dreams. Nothing special, just a warm ending to a nice day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Montreux Christmas market

The Montreux Christmas market is 120 tiny chalets selling crafts, jewelry, antiques, decorations, candles, spices, wine, cheeses and whatever else you might imagine. The chalets are lined up along the lake. A split of sunshine glistened across the water to the snowy Alps that rose straight up into the heavens.

As I wondered up and down the pine chipped paths, I passed the sausage and cheese chalet three times the size of the others. I noted the wares laid out in Gourmet Magazine beauty. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. A dog that had to have had a passing St.Bernard in his DNA sat patiently in front of the stand.

The market went as far as the Freddie Mercury statue The rock stars flames for eternity his microphone held high over his head. In the background Bing Crosby crooned Christmas carols, although in my head Mercury’s voice singing “we will, we will rock you” almost drowned out Bing.

My first Christmas Market had been in Stuttgart as a bride and although I couldn’t afford to buy even a one mark ornament at the time, I loved the cold and the spirit and wandered through every day.

When I was first in Europe and Radio Free Europe was a client I managed to see them on Fridays in Munich before Christmas from 1990 to 1993. After the call I headed to nearby Garmish to visit my cousins and on Saturdays we visited the Munich market in the shadow of the Cathedral buying a mug to hold out glüh wine to warm us as we went from stand to stand. Würst and brotchen were usually added. Once my daughter came down from Männheim and we ate pastries and drank hot chocolate in the tea room that overlooked the market and we could watch the shoppers bustling between the stands as snow fell creating a living Christmas Card.

This year my Christmas shopping is just done. Usually it is done by late summer, but I wasn’t able to fall across things I wanted for people so during the last two weeks I’ve finished the bits and pieces. Thus I resisted the merchandise on sale in Montreux. However, I wasn’t about to resist lunch. A large chalet with wooden walls had been set up. The tables were long with benches. The table cloths and curtains were red checked and the waitresses all had the traditional red Swiss blouses. I ordered the macaroni de chalet, piping hot with cheese, cream, bacon and parsley. All my beloved Swiss desserts, meringues and double cream, berries and cream were also on the menu. I told the waitress as an adult I should be able to order dessert before the meal so I would have room for it. She laughed as she handed me the desertless check.

Outside the sun was still shining, the Alps were still snow covered. Dean Martin had taken over Christmas Carol duty. The dog was still sitting in front of the sausage stand. Christmas is a time of hope.


The train ride from Geneva to Montreux is beautiful with the lake and mountains on one side and vineyards on the other. The conductrice was young and pretty with her pixie cut frosted. On the way back she was on my second train of the day. “I’ve taken your ticket,” she said.

“On the way down.” I handed her the ticket to stamp again. “You’ve a good memory.”

“It’s the glasses.”

It’s true my glasses are huge. I don’t like being able to see the rimes. Almost everyone, except my hair dresser tells me they aren’t “in.” He says he loves my look, I am original.

“They aren’t in, but I like them,” I told her.

“I do, too,” she said and moved on to the next passenger.

Smoking is Banned on Swiss Trains

Smoking is now banned on all Swiss trains. They have advertised it with posters picturing a typical train station, a train in the station and a Marlboro cowboy smoking on his horse outside the train. Today I saw a new one. Everything was identical to the other except a camel was standing where the cowboy had been.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Back in Geneva

The life size cow statue outside the optician’s who normally wears a pair of glasses, now has a Santa hat as well as the glasses. A book has been published with all the cows that were on display this summer.
I so did NOT want to go to Payerne on Sunday. But Florian and I were celebrating an early Christmas. Julia was baking cookies and playing Christmas Carols. The Christmas tree was waiting for its final decorations and it would have been so cozy to stay at home. However, as soon as the E bus started down the hill, I was rewarded with the sun shining on the snow- covered Jura behind the lake. Even if breath-taking beauty is the norm, I never have taken it for granted.
The second reason for feeling guilty at not wanting to leave the house (or more accurately STAY IN the house) was my Christmas gift. Florian long ago learned just buying expensive jewelry wasn’t appreciated all that much. He learned that when Llara brought me a bag of American snacks for my birthday. He realized finally the thought far outdid the price. He had suggested we go shopping and pick out an outfit that he would like to offer me. He knows I prefer going to the dentist to shopping. I said, I would rather have something he chose for me. Well, he went to one of the Payerne shops and picked out four outfits and “borrowed” them so I could choose one without shopping. They were all beautiful. I selected a brown,gold, black gypsy skirt with a brown turtle neck top. He noticed the skirt I was wearing and suggested that I take the aqua top which would go well with that skirt.
In and out of old age. When I turned 63 last June my monthly bus pass was decreased to 45 CHF, a real buy when each daily ticket costs 6 CHF. However, Jan. 1 the retirement age for women will be raised to 64. I am only 63 so I am back to paying 70 CHF a month, still a good deal. In July after my birthday, I can once again go back to the old price. I joked with the man, it made me feel younger, but less rich.
The bus system has placed a large bus in the center of downtown. The bus had huge wooden cutouts of multi-colored bags decorating its roof. People can check their packages free of charge.
Depistage is French for mammogram. I had mine today, free to all women over a certain age in Canton Geneva. Many words make sense in translation. Depistage does not. Piste is the word for ski trail. I kept thinking of miniature skiers getting crushed in the machine that was imaging the inside they were being depisted.

When Americans say pissed they mean angry. A Brit means drunk. Neither were my breasts angry or drunk or eliminating bodily fluids.

The Argelès cowboy

He wore cowboy boots and a western shirt, but he was from Argelès. We were sharing a compartment on my way home to Geneva. He had helped me lift my gift-laden suitcase onto the train (when will I learn to buy LIGHT presents?).

“I love America,” he said as soon as he pegged my accent. He showed me two language dictionaries he had bought for his planned trip to the wild west in June. They weren't the traditional, “I would like to buy a pair of size 42 shoes” dictionaries but had phrases like “Up shit creek without a paddle.”

Even if I was from the east coast and only had seen a rodeo in Boston Garden, he still had to thank me for the intervention of American troops in WWI and WWII. I wondered if he were joking, but he told me how he had an American flag in his house, and posters of the films The Magnificent Seven and High Noon. He knew more about Hollywood westerns than I did, and quoted lines from them that I could only guess were right in translation.

His girlfriend telephoned while we were talking and he happily told her about his luck in sharing the ride with an American woman. She went into jealous mode, was I prettier then she was (she had a loud voice), was I younger, ending with a plea to be faithful. He reassured her, but part of me wonders if I had cowboy boots, a Stetson and lasso what might have happened.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Add on purchases

More and more products seem to be sold these days to be used with additional stuff to buy. I see an espresso machine that only works with coffee capsules purchased from the same company. Then of course there are mops that have to have a new paper cover added each time that allegedly work better than other mops. I still think my old string mop works better than anything I ever used. Mine is now 18 years old and still going strong and I found it. How is that for saving money and having a clean floor at the same time, although washing floors are not something to get thrilled about?

Polaroid made money on their film not on their cameras, but cameras (pre Digital days) needed film.

Clever marketing. Over the years I have been taken in by advert claims: e.g. that PH blanace made a difference in ny hair (it doesn’t), bacteria is waiting to kill me on my counter tops (the antibacterial soaps are proving to be more dangerous) and that showing a panty line under slacks wasn’t attractive (no one noticed before pantyhose companies made a thing of it). Thanks to a friend I wasn’t taken in by HRT claims of being necessary—lets face it menopausal women are a drug company’s cash cow.

One of the wonderful things about aging is now I realize when advertiseres are trying to make a fool of me. We are playing a new game some of my friends on how we can create add-on products so instead of a one-time purchase we can keep buying and buying. Here’s what we came up with at lunch.

Lipstick – Can only be put on with a one-time use brush. Women would need to buy at least two brushes a day rather than one lipstick every few months. It will be sold on the idea of hygiene and how much better the brush works to make your mouth beautiful.

Panty liners to match your panties. You always have to buy the same pattern to feel sexy. With my love of co-ordination in color, my friends decided I would probably buy them. I have to admit I would think about it IF I used panty liners which I see no need for until I have a bladder problem or won't get a chance to change my underware for several days, a rare occurence.

Clothes that disintegrate after you wear them. Gotta be careful they don't disintegrate as you wear them.

Vases that need “magic water” to keep your flowers longer. (The ceramic of the vase will have some chemical in them that if used with normal water causes your flowers to die).

Paper slip covers for furniture that look like cloth so you change your décor daily or weekly. To be advertised by showing a woman shamed that her furniture was the same color for two parties she gave.

Pan liners. Throw them away after cooking so you don’t have to wash pans. That one may have some merit.

Any other ideas on useles add ons out there?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Santa Claus and Father Whip

Christmas decorations are up in Argelès. The yellow and red striped Catalan flags hanging from buildings on each side of the street have been replaced with Christmas wreaths and candles of plastic that light after dark. Stores have tinsel, snowflakes, and pine boughs. For the first time ever Jean-Pierre and Babette have decorated their green grocery.

La Noisette, Franck’s tea room, has a Père Noël in the corner, tinsel hung gaily and a Joyeuse Noël red carpet. Somehow hot chocolate tastes even better in the Christmas setting.

Saint Nicholas walked through the village with his friend Père Fouet (I am not sure of the spelling, but it translates as Father Whip). The later is dressed in black, and although he is supposed to whip bad children, he must have had a change of heart because he kept dipping into his wagon pulled by a sleepy donkey to throw candy to the watching crowd.

Most European Santas have these black-dressed friends. A couple of years ago on a train to Saint Gall, we looked out the window to see Saint Nicholas walking through a snow-covered field with his companion, Schmützig (dirty) also dressed in black and ready to strike terror into the hearts of bad children.

Although it doesn’t reflect the happy, must have good self-esteem concept, there may be some merit in the idea that bad actions bear consequences that in limited quantities could be a positive effect on today's children.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bad and Good

It was a horrible a week. A long cherished dream died and followed quickly by a shock that touched every ethical eon in my being. The second reduced the importance of the first. Maybe I should say it was even a more horrible day because it happened almost at the same time. I would say it was the worse day I can think of in the past 23 years.

Then a phone call came from my agent saying that my German Publisher of Chickpea wants to publish The Card. The contrast was striking.

People talk about bouncing off walls. I live in a studio so bouncing space is limited, but I was bouncing big time. My friend Barbara hearing of the two events rushed over. She sat with a cup of coffee, knitting and listening as I paced. I didn’t cry. I vomited. My usual consolation to disappointments is that it will make great material for my writing. I just realized that I didn’t think of that until just now as I write this blog.

Barbara told me of a correlation study which talked about some chemical in women’s brains that in times of stress make them seek out other women for support. I didn’t need a study to know that I could not have recovered from any of the major problems in my life without the life and support of my women friends, Mardy, Susan, Pat, Marina, Barbara.

Mardy was there for my divorce often boosting me with humor and joking about my husband’s tiny feet when I found rubbers in his clothes going to the dry cleaners and I was on the pill. She changed my tears to giggles in the lady’s room of Middlesex Court they day of my divorce. No matter the time of day or night, she would take my calls, play a game of cards and listen, doing what I needed. She got me through.

Susan got me writing plus sharing thousands of daily problems and one major life-changing one. She got me through.

When my mother died and I was cleaning out her apartment there was a knock at the door. I opened it and Pat stood there, dressed in jeans. “No one should have to do this alone,” she said. When we stopped for lunch she cried for me, because I was still putting the last two decades of that nightmare relationship to rest. She got me through.

For five years Marina and I shared, although during that time there were no real negatives in my life, just annoyances. She got me through.

Barbara with her wisdom helped me cope with my mother’s dying by helping me put it into perspective. “She didn’t ruin your life,” she said to a sulky me, “You are stronger despite or because of her.” Shit. The woman made the point that forced an unwilling me to the next stage of something be it maturity, acceptance, responsibility for my part in my own life. She got me through.

Slowly life will be put back into perspective. I am not living in the cold in Pakistan. I am not being shot at in Iraq. I have my health. Nothing much will change in my daily life. I am not quite ready to count my blessings, but maybe peek at them. I can find new dreams. I can seek my own ethical levels and accept related failures as mine. Strangely in accepting that failure I am also living out my conviction of accepting the choices of those I love, but no one can make me like this dichotomy. (picture child kicking and screaming on the floor, yelling – you can’t make me)

No where is it written that a life as blessed as mine has been can’t have set backs. I’ll get through. And that is the good after the bad.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Olfactory Memories

Barbara is redoing her office/livingroom/kitchen. Gérard has already exposed the beams from several centuries ago and redone the ceiling. He added a fan with lights. However, he left the painting for her.

Yesterday I went to help her paint along with Valerie, a French woman who uses Barbara’s store to sell her T-shirts. There was one beam that was covered with paint and Valerie was applying her heat gun.

The second I walked in I was taken back to Wigglesworth Street when weekend after weekend after weekend after weekend after…I was with my heat gun removing layers and layers of paint. The smell brought it all back.

I think I prefer the memories of brownies baking (assuming Llara and I didn’t eat all the batter first), the cold snowy air, roasting chicken, the salty sea air and fill in whatever thirty blanks you want…

Talking with my "French Daughter"

When I first met my “French daughter” she was barely three and was scoffing down black olives at a Parisian restaurant. Over the years on frequent visits I watched her develop into a very determined, intelligent young woman. She always has resembled Jackie Kennedy, a quite beautiful person inside and out.

I lived with her father when she was in "college" French junior high. We first communicated in German as she poured out her heart on her parents’ divorce while we were camping, giving my faltering German a workout. Convinced that I wasn’t learning French fast enough she prepared lessons that not only helped me advance, they were fun. I suspect the lessons were prompted when I told her in French that I ate her cat instead of I fed her cat.

When I separated from her father and returned to the US to care for my dying mother, she visited. Within a couple of weeks we were holding in-depth conversations as the sun set on my deck. Her language skills now means she’s fluent in French, Dutch, German, English and has a good knowledge of Italian. I am jealous of her abilities, but I know it is part natural gift and part hard work.

She visited me wherever I was: spending a boring New Year’s Eve in Môtiers, Switzerland, studying for university entrance exams in Grand Saconnex, Switzerland and celebrating more than one Easter in Argelès. I visited her in Toulouse and Aix-en-Province.

We were sitting in an Argelès café after she graduated from university and was job hunting. RB2 was with us. “Why don’t you look outside France,” he said.

She ended up in Germany and then Holland and she has just gone to work for the UN in New York. “We have a white city,” she said to me from her Roosevelt Island flat last night when I talked to her on the telephone. Although I don’t take credit for her successes, I have a great deal of pride in her strength, her intelligence and her courage to forge her own way often in difficult circumstances. She is a good person, and although she will never be my real daughter, I think the world of her as I do my own child. My life has been enriched by having her in my life.

What struck me after I hung up was she is now close to the age I was when I first saw her scoffing down those olives.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Another marché

They were no bigger than chocolate-covered raisins and they were the color of dark and milk chocolate, except they were olives.

“Pourrais-je gouter?” I asked the olive dealer. She wore gloves with the tips of the fingers cut out and was stamping her feet to keep warm behind her table that was covered with the yellow and orange stripes of the Catalan flag.

“Bien sûre.” She had a filigreed metal scoop that she dipped into the large bowl identical to the other bowls that held different flavoured olives. All the others were normal size. She held it out for me to sample.

Usually I bought the basil or garlic-flavoured olives, but these had almost a cinnamon taste. I took a scoop and put them in my olive dish with the little indentations for the seeds.

There is something about an olive dealer that is so much more fun than buying a jar in a supermarket. The most fun is in the eating.

Under the duvet and other joys

One of the small joys in life on a cold Sunday morning before the heat is on is to get up for the morning toilet run and go back to bed and find the place left is still toasty warm making for a mega snuggle. Even more pleasurable is to pick up a book and read.

Although I am retired (Hah!), I do a great deal of writing and maintain a full work schedule. The difference is I write when I want, my commute is across the room and except for a few deadlines can arrange my time as I want. This means I can still read a bit in bed before I get up. So Sundays shouldn’t be special, right? Wrong!!!!

Part of the joy about arranging time to suit me, is to keep Sundays as a special time. In Geneva stores are closed and in Argelès food stores are only open until noon, which encourages the downtime mentality.

However, the cozy, get back in bed under a warmed duvet is good Monday-Sunday.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Single and happy

Marit, a Norwegian artist along with the Danish sculptor Nils, had a joint exhibition at Christine’s atelier. Marit ended up working it alone, because Nils had to go back to a hospital in Denmark.

Because it was cold, not many people came to the last day. Many of the works had been sold, but were still displayed.

Barbara and I ended up talking with her as the sun set. All three of us were saying how good our lives are now that we no longer are dealing as being part of a couple. We say we can do what we want, when we want, how we want, everything from reading in the middle of the night to doing our work without interruption.

None of us regretted our previous marriages and relationships, it was just a time in our lives for a different kind of life.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Thanksgiving encore

M, the woman who owns the goat farm was standing in Barbara’s store with our Thanksgiving Capon in her hand. The poor bird met his end on Sunday. Yes, I know it is past Thanksgiving, but it is the idea and Barbara waited until I got back to Argelès to do a meal for me and Rosalie, another American.

I offered to take it upstairs so I could say hello to Gérade who was doing major reconstruction work. He was the same man that perfected my nest.

The floor that holds Barbara’s frigo (fridge) is one large room half kitchen, half office. Gérade had all the furniture against the frigo.

We did the double-cheek kiss, and I didn’t go for the third that I usually do after coming from Switzerland. We caught up on news.

Rather than ask him to move everything, I asked him to put “Le Capon” on the ledge.

He pointed to the bag. “Tu as Al, dedans?” He pretended to shoot up the room with a machine gun.

“It isn’t capon?”

“Chapon,” he said stressing the ch sound.

Ah well, another word mispronounced.

One of my friends has suggested I shadow talk to the TV or radio, which means saying the words behind them. Maybe that will improve my accent so when I use my more than adequate vocabulary, the words are recognizable. Now that would be something to give thanks for.