Sunday, February 26, 2006


Because of Sunday bus schedules I arrived at the movie theatre 45 minutes before I was due to meet my friend. Despite the grey day I decided to walk to Place Neuve. The place is a park surrounded be high black iron bars tipped with gold fleur-de-lis. Immediately inside the gate before the grassy area starts are giant chess pieces and checkerboards marked on the pavement.

The King and Queen pieces are thigh high, the pawns are knee high to a medium sized-man. On a day like that with the mist swirling I expected no one to be playing, but groups of men were standing around all the boards, hands in their pockets. One group stood out. A still young man had a mane of white hair. Another sported a Dali moustache. The pieces made a hollow thump as they were picked up and put down in different squares.

I watched, also with my hands in my pocket and my shoulders hunched to keep warm inside my duvet coat, until it was time to see Pride and Prejudice.

The movie was good, better filmed than the BBC, but Mr. Darcy should have been played by Colin Firth again and not the wooden Hugh Grant wantabe.

I decided to pick up my tram outside Place Neuve after the film and although it was almost dark, one group of men, Mr. White Hair and Mr. Moustache were still playing.

A young couple, very much in love, by their tender looks and touches, were toeing checker pieces around the board. She wore her hair under a boy’s cap. His flowed to his shoulders. It would have made a wonderful scene in a movie.


Sunday…another grey day. Geneva is still awash in grey. When I wake the grey outside my window makes it look like the sun decided not to get up.

But, in front of my window is a cup filled with almost irridescent orange and yellow tulips, a thank you from my housemate for help with a project that involved envelopes as far as the eye could see. From downstairs comes the smell of the lasagne that we will have for lunch. After lunch I will go into the grey to meet a friend to see Pride and Prejudice. The weather may be grey, life is NOT.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Besson quitte la scéne

Besson quitte la scéne. The headline hung from the box where the Tribune de Genève was sold. Like all death announcements it is written as if the person who died made a conscious choice. The readers are eased into knowledge of his death in the second or third sentence where we were told the age of the director and that he died (they used the word mort) in Berlin.

I’ve blogged before about the way deaths are announced. However, although this man walked off the stage of life it will not beat Arthur Miller going to join his beloved Marilyn.

What would my obit be if I acheived more writing success than currently I have?

Nelson will play no more Cubis 2

Nelson has stroked her last keyboard

Nelson will no longer ride the trains

Nelson has finished her last fondue

Grey gray gris grau

Today was mega grey as only Geneva can be. Not only were the Alps invisible, the Salave and France could not be seen across the lake. The whole thing leaves a heavy feeling. However, tonight I will knit, watch the skating gala and relish the cosiness of a later winter evening. Tomorrow a movie night is planned with the DVD of Beyond the Sea.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Schoching the headline in the Swiss paper wrote. Shocking. The two SCHoCH brothers took gold and silver in the Giant Slalom. Switzerland, about the size of MassaCHusetts has 13 medals, only seven less than the US. Of course the letters that stand for Switzerland are C and H meaning the Confederation of Helvetica, the name Switzerland’s was given by the Romans. The brothers have the double CH in their name, double medals, and the country is CHeering.

Bird flu and cat collars

Cat collars with bells have been sold out all over the country since an article appeared that cats could be vulnerable to bird flu by eating dead birds. All domestic poultry has been locked up, but with all the lakes, swans and wild ducks are loose. So far all the dead birds found have died from other causes. However, the disease is in nearby France and Italy. Italy is about an hour away and it is possible to go to France for coffee.

My housemate pointed out that Munchkin, our grey and white sweetie who turns killer at the flap of a wing, catches small birds, which so far seem to have escaped bird flu. “She doesn’t do swans and ducks,” my housemate pointed out. I had an image of this delicate creature (cat not my housemate)dragging a dead swan at least 40x her size home from the nearby lake by the neck with the same pride she displays her other trophies.

Meanwhile Florian’s business which includes the sale of chicken products is as the papers say in Chute Libre, free fall.

And in Britain the Minister for the environment is keeping a cool head. The Guardian reported she said, “No, they are not quarantining something called "the national flock" at the bidding of the tabloids. No, they are not hiring every agri-spiv in the land and paying them millions to cull, jab, immobilise or incarcerate birds. No, they cannot see any argument for poultry vaccination when not a single case of avian flu has occurred in the British Isles and not one chicken has died in Europe. If zoos want to vaccinate their prize parakeets they are free to do so. It is up to them.” At least she didn’t threaten to declare martial law, as Bush did, should an outbreak occur.

Bird flu has caused a few deaths and millions in lost income, but will it become the pandemic fear mongers claim. So far the threat of AIDS is far more real.

Sponge candy

The sponge candy looks as if you can take a bath with it. And it looks like a real sponge, one that someone had to dive for not make in a factory. It has a molassesy taste. I was given three bags at Christmas by my daughter and I haven’t finished the first, not because I don’t like it but because I ration it out, a bite a day. Some of the pieces are large enough to take almost a week to eat.

Harbingers of Spring

The living room and winter garden were filled with boxes of printed materials and envelopes. The folding machine clunked downstairs. My housemate was preparing a mailing. As good housemates we help each other, so I stuffed envelopes to Barbara Streisand’s and Barry Gibb’s singing.

After a respectable amount of work we decided to escape to dinner to our favourite local restaurant. It’s not the Café du Soleil but it will more than do.

A glance at the menu was the same as spring time. ASPARGAS, the first of the season. There were choices, with mayonnaise, vinaigrette, cheese, cream sauce, cream sauce and cheese or tips on a pizza. Choices, choices, the pressure. I ruled out the pizza no problem, but the battle was between the mayonnaise and the vinaigrette. The mayonnaise there is especially good (I suspect they make their own), so it won.

The asparagus was green on the top and white on the bottom. Both colours are sold here and I’ve listened to long debates over which is better at Florian’s.

After dinner we headed home to more envelopes and more music, with the knowledge that with restaurants serving asparagus, spring is close at hand.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Playing Hookey

Mondays are usually heavy writing days, but this Monday, I decided I was going to play hookey with a friend. With predictions of snow proving to be false, we went to our original plan, a visit into small villages between Belgarde and Lyon.

Now any excursion with this friend results in a flood of conversation on anything from personal to scientific, creative to nostalgia and back again always interrupted by observations of what is around us.

With the rock formations, confectionate sugar dusting of the Jura, valleys and rivers flush with melting ice water sending thousands of temporary diamonds our way many sentences were paused with “oh look”s followed by the ahhh that couldn’t have been stopped.

One of our discussion topics was living in the present and with all our senses engaged we were present even to the pizza stop (so many restaurants close on Monday in France that we took what we could find). The waitress not only gave good service, she gave good directions. My friend had learned my navigation skills left much to chance something my daughter would confirm had my friend asked. The walls of the restaurant were decorated with what at first we thought were batik but closer observation turned out to be painted cloth with a decided Asian feel.

We found our cloister and church going back to the ninth century. The current priest had been born a Jew of Russian descent and was headed for a career in the theatre, following in his father’s footsteps until he converted. Later the father taught theatre and his students could be found listed on any cinema’s coming attractions. The priest hadn’t given up his artistic desires totally. He was active in producing the baroque music that the church produced, even initiating their own label.

On a February Monday we were alone in this tiny town with a big sound. The toilets were locked. We asked at the tourist office and they kindly let us use theirs.

A girl friend long ago complained she was like a vacuum cleaner with some friends. She felt after a short time she had whooshed them up and there was nothing more to learn or share. This friend is different, our discussion list grows, our things-to-share grows in the present and in the future.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Kitchen Games

The house has a new game called redesign the kitchen. Last night the three of us kept offering suggestions from sliding doors, reducing the double sink to a sink and a half, blocking off the door to the garden, reducing the number of cabinets, increasing the number of cabinets. Would BBC send a crew over to film us for one their design shows? Will we create a new book 1001 Nights of Kitchen Planning? If we make a decision will be go through with it not wanting to interrupt the design fantasies?

Bread Problems

French take their bread seriously. So do Swiss-French. One of the most successful local chain bakeries has been exposed to a major scandal. A Frenchman has claimed the recipe for the bread that is behind the success of the chain was stolen from him. Tests are going on to determine the accuracy of the claims. I wonder if bread can be copywrited?

Bus Entertainment

No wonder I love riding buses so much. There is more entertainment on a trip into downtown Geneva than any television show.

My father and mother both talked to anyone they passed and the conversations quickly went to a depth that I never knew if I should remember the person or not. More often then not when we walked away and I asked who it was they would say, “Never saw him/her before.” That conversational ability must have been transmitted from both in a DNA strand.

Today my seat mate was a Peruvian Jew who speaks French, English, Hebrew, Yiddish and German. We spoke in French. The conversation went to the worry about his wife who had gone from being sweet and loving to snappy. He wanted me to speak for the all women, something I am not willing to do. The conversation tilted toward our children, my 37-year old daughter and his six-year old son, the values we want(ed) to instill in them. They were identical.

Meanwhile a woman in her sixties got on with a caddy cart and two bichons dressed in identical red rain coats. She took a seat nearest the door and the pups settled down, one at her feet and one in her lap for a nap.

Two stops later a heavy set man, white goatee, longish hair and the type of cap that would look good with knickers for a 1920s country weekend in the UK. He was blind, and she offered him her seat. She was able to get one dog out of the way in time, but not before he tripped on the second. Hands from all over, including the Peruvian I’d been talking to, reached out and grabbed him, saving him before he hit the floor.

“What kind of dog?” the blind man asked not the least bit upset.

She told him and added, “Two.”

He felt down to pat them. “Sweet.”

No one said anything about the rain coats.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fantasy with tasselled heels

My housemate’s neighbor’s husband travels a lot. He always brings back English magazines which are shared with my housemate who shares them with me. I was sitting looking at one fashion magazine and I saw THE PERFECT PAIR OF SHOES.

They were gold four-inch pumps with the heels designed like a curtain tassel. I imagined myself with a slim gold evening dress sauntering down a red carpet in those heels.

Then I remembered. I don’t wear heels, the last time I needed an evening dress was 1995, and the one I imagined wasn’t right for my body and red carpets and I are relegated to hotels which have red carpets all year round.

Down with Anonymity

One of the few times I yelled at my poor ex-husband was when he innocently said someone saw me cut into traffic. The reaction was so strong that I am sure if someone reported that I had walked naked down Main Street throwing bombs at the stores on both sides, he wouldn’t have mentioned it.

Fast forward several decades and change countries. I no longer delight in anonymity. Today on the bus my neighbor C, a pretty blond, got on one stop later and we caught up on news until we both got off at Eaux Vives.

In the library I saw a woman I used to talk to on the bus as we rode to work. Then I saw Mrs. S, an older woman that we often included in our dinners. Although she was in her 80s, she was as modern as any of us. She loved to travel, but when I saw her last fall she told me, she was slowing down and wasn’t traveling. Then she confessed she was going only to Malaga for Christmas. She is beautiful both in spirit and face.

Today her face was bruised. “I took a tumble.”

“On the ice?”

“Pavement,” she said. She changed the subject to brag that she was about to celebrate her nonante birthday, the Swiss way of saying 90 rather than quarter-vingt-dix of the French. She was with another former neighbor who had agreed to accompany her downtown.

Instead of wishing to be invisible talking to the people I like was a treat.

Support Our Troops

Yes, Yes, Y E S, Y E S! The cameraman’s voice is almost orgasmic as he cheers on the Brits kicking and beating the Iraqi teenagers. I am not sure which is more sickening, his enjoyment or seeing the soldier kick the kid in the genitals. Other soldiers stroll by and do nothing.

When we say support our troops, we think of our kids as the good guys be they Brits or Americans. But when we ask them to kill and humiliate others aren’t we destroying their souls. No one talks about the atrocities we are asking our boys to perform, but if they were raised with a sense of moral justice, is it little wonder so many are suffering from post traumatic syndrome. Sadly the National Guard men aren’t eligible for help, so support may be meaningless even here.

Now there are new photos of torture from Abu Ghrahib done by our boys.

I can’t support their actions and more I can’t support the government that asks us to support them in an illegal war. We are supporting them to do unthinkable acts because we do not want to think about what we are doing to others

The American Mein Kampf

The new long war defense plan that will cost billions each year lays out the US plans for conquering the world as clearly as Mein Kampf warned the world what Hitler wanted to do.
Hopefully the world will see it and stop us.

The same time the plan was being announced there were articles saying a database has identified 325,000 terrorists in the world, more than pre 9/11. They are spread all over the world, not located in one place. Why then do we think we will stamp out terrorism by attacking countries that have some living there?

We are spending $1.6 million per terrorist per year but instead of going after the terrorists we are buying planes, tanks and other weapons of mass destruction that will maim and kill the innocent in whatever falls into the crosshairs of the Americans.

I have always wondered if the cold war hadn’t existed what could Russia have done for its people? If the war on terror didn’t exist what could the US do for its people? However, as long as the phony terror war does exist, real solutions where we try and solve the problems of poverty by treaties and peaceful means will never be found.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine's Dinner

Les Marrioner is a restaurant not far from the house, a place where my housemate has gone for years. It is in a large yellow stucco building with forest green trimmings and a green car of late 1940 early 1950 vintage always outside.

Having much to be happy about we decided it was a perfect place to spend Valentine’s Day not as lovers but as friends. Celebrating friendship is equally important. It was about the 12th time I had eaten there and my taste buds were primed for filet des perches.

Although we usually just sneak in, we made reservations. Had we not, we would have not been able to eat. They were booked solid.

Hearts of all sizes decorated the windows that are open in the summer leading to the terrace, which on this wintery night was sealed. The owner seated us next to the supplementary heater.

I had to give in to ketchup with my fries not mustard or mayonnaise for local customs and not vinegar for British customs. The waiter laughed and bought it. He switched to English. For all the times he has served us this is the first time he let on he spoke English.

So often our dealings with people are anonymous. This is especially true of service people.

This time we learned of his multi nationalities, his birthplace and how he had lived in London for years and years. He had come back to Switzerland to raise his children.

We were the first to arrive and the first to leave, happy in a good meal and the days events including the filet des perches and learning a bit more about a person who had an interesting life. Had we not asked we would have missed out.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Catch up with the Kid

It was a quick conversation with my daughter. She had hunkered down for the snowstorm in DC which to her New England mind is not really a snowstorm. She told with amusment of store shelves being emptied when only a couple of inches were predicted.

She caught me up on Morgana’s and Gwen’s antics. The two purring fuzzballs are fascinated by the squirrels that run up and down her balcony, a sorta kitty TV. Sometimes it switches to a bird station. It keeps the girls entertained. Although I wouldn’t admit it to her, I did enjoy them for the short time they lived with me.

My friends in Geneva are constantly asking about her. Many became her friends. I can report she is working, although on this day when snow was falling she was content to play Sim on her computer and let her animals watch living nature.

Olympic Ceremonies

I am a sucker for Olympic opening ceremonies. It’s not the different spectacular clothing or the dancing or the singing, although the acrobatic dancing that ended up with the performers forming the dove of peace in mid air was pretty moving, I watched on France 2, with the English and Italian be translated into French.

What moves me is watching the entrance of the young athletes. In each face is years of dedication and work. Only a few will leave with medals, and some will say, too bad he only won a silver or a bronze. What is forgotten is that each of them is the best their country has to offer. What a thrill it must be to travel from small to great distances, to meet with others from all over the world and to test yourself against the others. So no matter all the hype behind the event.

There are billions on people on this planet. Only a teeny, teeny, teeny percentage were good enough to walk into that arena Friday night. And that leaves me with tears running down my face.

Nixon then and now

BBC did a special on Nixon’s drinking, drug-taking, and wife abuse. Although at the time of his administration, had we known the depth this man was not in control, we would have been terrified. The sources were from his own cabinet and his doctors and his drug supplier. At one point his Secretary of Defense talked about meeting with the Chiefs of Staff and deciding that they would disobey an immediate order to drop a bomb on a foreign power unless they all agreed because they were worried about the stability of the Commander-in-Chief.

Vietnam was a sad episode in our history. Watergate proved the strength of the Constitution. People fought back in the way they aren’t doing today as another president erodes the civil rights of population and destroys the economy.

I doubt if I will be alive to see the BBC’s documentary of GWB in forty years. Or maybe it will be a documentary on where the American people gave their country away.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


She pulled an old shampoo bottle from her box. Two small sticks had been drilled through the front and back. Four bottle caps were attached to the sticks making tires. Another “truck” was made with an old pill box. “These are the toys the children made. They have to make their own.” She returned the two “trucks” to the bottom of the box which was a hand drawn checker board.

I met her by chance in a store and we ended up having tea and coffee together. Although she was the Brit and I was the American she had the coffee and I had the tea. A grandmother, who looked as if she could have just graduated from university, she stumbled on a Kenyan orphanage during a trip and it was a life-changing moment.

Now her entire life is spent providing for the 100+ kids, former street children whose parents died of AIDS. She doesn’t want much, clothes, games, books. And toilets. There aren’t any and they orphanage may have to close if they can’t get more sanitary conditions.

Later in the day I was back in the same tea room and a five-year old was brought in. While his mother and aunt had tea, they tried to keep him amused with toy after toy they carried with them. “I have nothing to play with,” he complained. “I want to go shopping,” he whined.

I wanted to show him the shampoo bottle.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A belated thank you, Rose

I am probably one of the few older women in the world that misses PMS. My form was hyperactivity that I channeled into chores that seemed too onerous during the rest of the month. My roommates loved it and had lists of things for me to do when I realized that now was the moment that ceiling needed washing with a toothbrush and a small one at that.

Today I had one of those surges and I took that moment to go through everything. Now I tend to be fanatic about how clean my place is, but I do skip corners. One of those corners was the area under the kitchen divider where I hide my flour, sugar, and some spices. Since this was the day I was going to reorganize every possession I own, it was the first time that I’ve pulled everything out.

I saw a thin package wrapped in brown paper, tied with red ribbon and marked “From Rose with Love.”

I open it to find a book called “Thank You For Your Hospitality.” Each page has an impressionist painting by Henri Le Sidaner’s home, rooms that make you want to sit down on the chairs and have a cup as you look out the windows at the countryside beyond. Rose and I did so much of that during her visit last year. I am looking forward to her return this year.

The book is incredibly beautiful. I alternate between being embarrassed I hadn’t found/opened it before and delighting in its art work as I drink yet another cup of tea and think of the good memories we created and the new ones coming up.

Ptah II

Ptah II has his name because his owner felt she would call the white cat Ptah after her deceased tiger cat so rather than have his name Ptah-Fuzzy or Ptah-something or other, she took the easy way out.

Usually he is confined to her apartment over her shop, but the folding door is off the hinges.

On market day he slinks down the stairs into the forbidden zone. He peeks out the door to the narrow street half filled with people carrying baskets to fill with vegetables, olives, and other marché purchases.

Across the street is the fishmonger. Ptah II darts out but only a few steps then seeks the safety of the store. He repeats it over and over during the morning, each time making it closer to his target. Each time a dog, a child sends him flying back.

He doesn’t see Lola or Bianca the other cats who have long ago mastered this outside world and have the attitude the street is theirs and they will allow these two-footed creatures into their world.

Ptah II never makes it. The marché ends and the store is closed for lunch. He goes back upstairs, snuggles in his basket in front of the heater. Did he dream of fish not found?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Spring A Hope

I am at my computer and its 17:30 and I still haven’t had to put on my lights. The first time I noticed the longer days I was on a train to Payerne a week or so ago and I was amazed at the time of day and light.

Between Christmas and the end of January the darkness at night seemed to arrive all at the same time, but now that is changing.

Before Christmas I like the long days. Curtains can be drawn, hot cups of tea steeped. Sweats and fuzzy slippers warm the body.

But as February approach I look forward to spring and the longer days are even a better harbinger than a robin.

However, spring still is a long way off. It’s just the drape drawing and tea brewing takes place later in the day.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A bad smell triggers good memories

The smell of cooking fish was far less pleasant than the fish chowder had been. I reached for my incense holder, a small white ceramic fish that holds both stick and cone incense. It had been a gift from a couple who visited me this summer, the son and daughter-in-law of a friend who had died.

Despite the cold I remember the pleasure of sitting in a sun-drenched café with them talking while eating fish in a restaurant near a château that had existed since in some form since Roman days, sharing ideas and hopes.

I remember the man sketching out a garden design for his wife in another restaurant in the mountains, and she approving it.

I remember the writer Lauren Davis giving me incense when she and her husband stayed with me, saying "you can't have too much stinky stuff." Stinky was definitely a positive in her usage.

The smell of violets replaced the smell of fish. The memories do not need replacement. You can't have too much stinky stuff, or too many good memories either.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My mom is better

“Hello.” My step mom’s voice was clear, nothing like the weakened tone that greeted me last week at this time. I had been trying to get her for several days, which in itself is not unusual, but this time I had a nagging feeling something was wrong.

I was correct. She’d been hospitalized with the flu and pneumonia. She lives alone in a Florida retirement community, and the operative word is community. Her neighbors drove her to the hospital, visited her, and helped her out when she was back home.

One of the hardest things about being an ocean away is that I can’t help for short term emergencies.

Both my sister and I said we would fly there to take care of her, but she remained adamant (and she is 100 pounds of fighting adamant) to only come when she felt well so we could enjoy each more.

Tomorrow I will go to the travel agencies and ask about flights for later in the spring.