Thursday, April 27, 2006

Voting in Switzerland

Just got back from a Radical (centre right fiscal, centre left social) Party meeting to which all foreign voters were invited to introduce them to their party in particular. There are seven main political parties here.

In Swiss Romand (French speaking section) foreigners can vote in local but not Federal elections. We represent 33% of the canton and 48% of the city.

The speakers kept saying giving us the (foreigners) right to vote wasn't a gift, we are giving Switzerland a gift with our new ideas and contributions to the society and culture.

I am still hoping my last and hopefully final interview next month for my citizenship which will give me the right to vote at all levels. The right to vote is sacred, a viewpoint passed down to me not only from my family but from my Boston neighbour Kelley who made sure you voted each election or she wanted to know why and it better be good.

One man from Ethiopia who has been here since the 1960s stood up and said almost in tears that he has never had a chance to vote in his life and he was so appreciative of the right. He had tears running down his cheeks.

People died so I could vote. People died so I could live in a democracy. I owe them to take my responsibilities of keeping that democracy alive my vote.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jesus Loves me

Jesus Loves Me...a song we all sang. Against it are beautiful pictures. Take a look and be proud.

Snails, sun, snow drops, snow at St. Cergue

“I think the picnic is still worth it,” my writer friend said. She is the mother of my two favourite little girls ages three and five. I agreed despite the peek-a-boo sun and she picked me up shortly after.

The drive up the mountain to St. Cergue is twisty. We were surprised that patches of snow still existed and even more surprised that in between them snow drops both purple and white bloomed. ( only take away about 85% of the snow and put in grass and flowers). The temperature left us comfortable with jackets, although both little girls operating on a more powerful heating system shed theirs.

We crossed a stone wall that would have done Robert Frost proud and settled on our blue quilted blanket for our chicken in tortilla sandwiches. There was lots of healthy cheese, tomatoes, juice and cukes, but a less healthy chocolate Easter bunny saw his last moments.

The area was deserted with clumps of pine and we walked along the wall to find all kinds of treasures from walking sticks to snail shells and even an earring in the shape of a violet was put into a pocket to be taken home for washing. They discovered things I would never have and their enjoyment was boundless and contagious.

I dare you to watch this

It is painful to watch the clip - An Iraqi writhes on the ground. Bullets are fired. He is still. “We got him.” Cheers and yahoo. Pure glee. Then a clean faced youth that should be taking his girl to a movie says, “That was awesome, let’s do it again.”

Watch it if you dare then ask yourself if you are doing everything possible to stop the war for the sake of our troops whose souls we are killing never mind the Iraqis who never did anything us.

It’s the Dahr Jamil’s article subject to the penalty of death.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Katie Curic is traumatized

One of the great things about the internet is that I can always listen to videos of programs like Meet the Press.

There are others. Yesterday I listened to one from the Today show where Katie Curic talked about being traumatized by trying on bathing suits. This is the same woman that Dan Rather said must show seriousness about news.

Anyone who is traumatized by a bathing suit probably should get a good dictionary and look up the word traumatized. A person who has had their house bombed in Iraq is traumatized. Probably the victims of genocide who have survived in Sudan are traumatized. The Pakistanis still living in tents months after the earthquake are traumatized.

If Katie is traumatized at a bathing suit, I suggest she not anchor the news and they get a real reporter in who understands the real world’s problems.

More about the Dissipated Santa Claus

Scott made dinner last night, roesti, the Swiss version of homefries. As we listened to music, ate the talked, I mentioned the Dissipated Santa Clause street person I’ve written about. He knew of him, and said he thinks he is a former professor of philosophy who has deliberately chosen this as a life style. It explains the reading. I am tempted to talk with DSC, but I am not sure I wouldn’t be intruditing. On verra. We will see.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Back to may favourite marché

For almost 11 years at least two Saturdays a month found me out of the house early to go the Ferney-Voltaire outdoor marché. Marché shopping is fun where grocery shopping is boring. So much better to taste a bit of cheese, talk about which is the best honey for a cake than to drop stuff into a shopping cart with nary a human communication in the process.

People who did not realise that I lived on the Swiss side of the Swiss-French border but just four short bus stops from the French border didn’t quite understand if I said, I was going to France for coffee, dinner, leave my dry cleaning whatever. However, now I live the other side of the lake and dropping into the marché isn’t as convenient as it was before.

This past Saturday I was meeting a friend, who lives in Ferney. What a delight to march through the marché again. It takes about an hour to wander through looking at all the out door stalls and tables, some with gay awnings and coloured umbrellas that surround the statue of Voltaire who peers down in metal britches, stockings and buckled shoes.

The first block is mainly clothes, jewellery, soaps, cloth, pocketbooks. Then come several blocks of all kinds of food from roasting chickens, to bread that was in the oven hours before. In Saturday’s spring sunshine, the smell of strawberries wafted out. A man showed me his spring onions and said they had been picked last night after dinner.

All French towns have marchés one or two mornings a week, run by farmers, artisians, and small business people, but this one will always be my favourite.

My daughter when she lived in Geneva often went with me and one day, she started to laugh as we crossed the last street before the roads were blocked for the marché. “What is it?” I asked.

“We’re in France, right?”

I nodded.

“Look at the license plates.”

I did. Geneva, Geneva, Geneva, France, Geneva, Geneva, Geneva, France, France, Geneva Geneva, Geneva, Geneva, Geneva, France, Geneva, Geneva, Geneva, France, Geneva Geneva, Geneva, France, Geneva.

And this day I was reminded of it because as I wandered around, I ran into old colleagues and other people I know from the other side of the border.

The First Picnic of the Season

The day was such that staying inside would have been a crime. Flowers were in abundance, their colours translucent int he sun. My girlfriend and I decided the only thing to do was to go on a picnic. Having stocked up on pâté, cheese, olive bread, artichoke-olive-sun-dried-tomato-celery-salad and grapes we headed off to find the for the perfect spot.

A small river runs through two small villages on the French/Geneva border and we walked the trail along the banks until we found a place for feast and blanket. The river was filled with melted snow and it sang to us as it foamed and rushed over rocks.

The sun, filtering through the trees, warmed us.

My friend will be in a play and we went over her lines. She is a good actress. Every now and then hikers would come by and a couple in hip boots and with fishing poles tried their luck in the river.

Water in rivers has a certain smell that cleans the mind as well as the nostrils.

This spring, maybe because it arrived both late and suddenly, seems worth some pagan celebration. I suppose we could have danced naked along the river bank, but we didn't. The image is better without bare feet stumbling on sticks and stones.

La Doublure

I love French movies. The theatre at Ferney-Voltaire was showing La Doublure ( for a clip) has all the elements of an unfaithful husband, a clever wife and cleverer mistress. The director is the same man who did Huit Femmes, which to me was one of the best French films in years. for a clip. If you have problems try googling for the film title and allocine

If that wasn’t enough moving, we then went home and watched the video of Snow Falling on Ceders. No complaints. Like you can never have too much chocolate (unless you are a dog named Vixen or Albert) you can never watch too many movies.


Okay, when I speak French, there is no doubt as my daughter would say, my accent sucks out loud, but I get through.

Friday night I spent with my Indian friends. The couple was going to a dance recital in Bern and although their teenage daughter is capable of being left alone, they knew they would be more relaxed if an adult were in the house.

I arrived in the late afternoon and was greeted by a gaggle of teenage girls preparing for a party all who go to the International School. I have long been used to the fact that Nandita’s chums can be from any country and over the years I’ve met, Latvian, Indian, Korean, French, etc. little girls. Now they aren’t quite so little.

The next day Nandita said two of the girls were American. “They knew you were from Boston,” she told me. I had said one sentence something about not wanting to disturb them. I wasn’t surprised. If my French accent is terrible, I do a great Bostonian accent and that’s without trying.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Where my ancestor walked

A while back looking for my missing brother on the web I came across my father's and step mom’s names to find the complete history of the family going back to their settlement in the early 1600s in Canada

The Boudreaus (Boudrots) arrived on the continent a few years before my mother’s (Stockbridges) in 1636, which is a shame that my mother didn’t know. My mother thought of my father’s family as foreigners and newcomers although they didn’t get down to New England until the Depression and Boudreau was definitely an unWASP name for our New England Yankee community.

Then tonight while staying with the Indian family to be there for Nandita when she herself got home from a party, I started going back though the list until I found the village in France where the Boudreaus migrated from.

Lordy, Lordy, it has a website: Sometime before the end of the year, I think I’ll go and have a look-see. The writer part of me wonders what Michel Boudrot would have thought when he sailed off for the new world to know that almost 400 years later his descendent would walk down the same streets he walked down, albeit with a bit more traffic

Eating outdoors

The red table cloths matched the tulips that grew from the cement planters surrounding the Auberge’s terrace. Leaves on the ivy against the stucco walls were just beginning to bloom.

My writer friend and I chose a grilled fish that was brought on a copper plate. The owner deftly filleted the fish, filled our plates with rice and fennel placed in stripes and served it with a fresh pepper and coriander sauce.

The sunshine was too refreshing after the winter to hide under any umbrella. None of the other diners wanted shade either. We couldn’t imagine their conversation was as much fun as ours as we delved into conflict in writing and what should and shouldn’t be in first drafts, but that was probably because we are so passionate about our subject. Still I hope they were as passionate about theirs.

Dessert was seven different ice creams all made by the restaurant, served on a ceramic painter’s pallet with each ball served in an indentation.

This was the first outdoor meal of the season after a winter that went on too long.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Accidental Cinema

I didn’t mean to go to the movies. After three days of self-imposed exile (everyone was gone out of the house) and with a writing schedule that I deliberately slowed to nothing, I was using the time just to be… to wake up and feel the sheets under me, to listen to the birds sing and Munchkin clack at them.

Today, I decided I needed Texmex and headed to town, the first day a jacket wasn’t necessary. The colors were breathtaking from the yellow forsythia and dandelions to the purple pink cherry blossoms.

The dissipated Santa Claus was in his usual place, surrounded by his shopping carts, sans his girlfriend, but engrossed in a book.

At the bus change I saw Nigel, who used to work for me, then took over my team while I went onto other projects. He later quit because he didn’t want to work for a while, a man I can respect for taking time to be. However, he was dressed in a suit, shirt and tie and admitted sadly he was working again.

All the cafés and restaurants had their tables filled with people in shirt sleeves.

The Texmex was as good as I thought it would be and as I wandered back to walk by the lake I saw the movie at Chantepoulet was The Secret Life of Words. No writer can resist a title like that, especially with Tim Robbins in the starring role. The film was starting in minutes.

This is what film making is all about. Excellent, Excellent, Excellent…

Monday, April 17, 2006

The walk

Munchkin is the world’s best barometer. On a bad day she centers herself on my bed giving out illness-producing looks to anyone who would dare suggest she move. On a good day she can’t get out fast enough to consort with Goose, the neighbor’s cat, and keep the garden free from footed and winged critters.

Today her purr woke me and she did that two-legged walk she has so perfected to lead me to the door.

Her accuracy was right on, and I decided to take advantage of this holiday and do something I’d been meaning to do since I moved almost two years ago – walk from Corsier to Geneva.

Walking allows you to see what isn’t visible from a bus. A pansy face is more intense up close. A toad is only visible when walking, but it also conjured up memories of my daughter at 18 months when after work each night she wanted to go to a place that toads gathered, a reptilian conference so to speak. Llara would hunker down and the toads of all ages held her attention for up to 15 minutes. I learned more about toads that summer than before or after.

Today it was ladybirds/bugs that littered the sidewalk and I was careful to step around. Two seemed attached like a double lorry as they ran in tandem. I wondered if it were some kind of mating ritual.

One of the mansions along the lake, turned out to be four apartments probably broken up a while back. Up close I could examine the details of the villas and chalets that the bus rushed by.

And I could smell the water as the boats bobbed on the surface.

The walk took about an hour and a half and I did catch the bus back. Coming back to the house Munchkin was no where to be seen. She obviously was not ready to let go of being outside.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter surprise

My Easter surprise had nothing to do with eggs but with the telephone. After a wonderful dinner in Payerne, I headed home and before my coat was off the phone began to ring. Each call was nicer then the one before, old friends and family wishing me a nice Easter. However the absolutely best was from Czech and my old neighbors and friends.

So often in Geneva people do not bother to make friends with people because so many are transient. Some feel why put in the work if people will jsut disappear after three, four, ten years.

On the bus last night I heard two people tell their friends they were moving back to Norway (their common language was accented English) after being here over 25 years was a reminder of the ever changing nature of the human climate.

My theory is that is better to have friends for three or four years then miss them rather than not knowing them at all. But just because people move, doesn’t mean a friendship has to end. I am amazed how many people have stayed in touch with regular phone calls, card, letter, e-mails and/or visits. Yes, it is different then when people are in dropping in distance, but the richness can be preserved and new memories can be made.

The Couple Czech was always extra special in my heart. Our communications were sometimes in French, sometimes in English, never in their language and it involved lots of shared meals, shared laundry nights, diplomatic bread which was bread they had flown in from Prague in the diplomatic pouch and totally different from what I could buy locally. Half a loaf would be left on my door, half they would eat. She made baked goods that would earn her a post in any pattiserie and he loved my peanut butter cookies.

This is the couple that one of my chins would have moved in with in a shot. I always knew when they were home because Mika planked himself down in front of their door and had to be physically carried to our own flat. When they retired back home they left a hole, although the Indian couple that moved in also became special, special friends. That is the way in Geneva.

Since they moved the Couple Czech and I’ve stay in touch. I have visited Prague, they have come back. Today I was thinking of them and Florian had asked about them. I made a mental note to buy a card and send it. (I had talked to their son by email not that long before) As if by ESP they knew and called. The man explained they hadn’t been in touch for a little longer than usually because the wife had had cancer but waited until everything looked like it was going to all right. Their son hadn’t wanted to tell me about his mother.

We caught up on the news. The warmth was almost as good as when they lived two doors down the hall, but not quite only because I would have loved to see their faces (and perhaps sample one of her pastries). Still it reminded me of the important of taking the effort to stay in touch and that moving away doesn’t mean friendships have to suffer. They just change format. What that format is depends on those involved.

Yup, the phone call was better than any huge black chocolate Easter Bunny.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

He has a girlfriend

The street person looks like a dissipated Santa Claus (DSC). He “lives” on a small island in the middle of traffic crossroads at Place Eaux Vives where a small chalet houses a news stand. On one side, under an overhang is a long wooden bench. DSC has stored his two shopping baskets filled with his treasures there, and they provide some privacy for him when he stretches out on his blankets to sleep.

During the cold weather he was often huddled there on and under blankets. Sometimes he leaves his baskets. I am not sure why the owner of the newsstand hasn’t had his stuff carted away when DSC isn’t there, but it hasn’t happened in the months that I have ridden past on the E bus.

No matter what the temperature, his pants are always cut off at his knees and his red legs only add to the Santa Claus image. I’ve never seen him with alcohol, but I have seen him sit there watching traffic with a smile. Sometimes he is in other parts of town without his shopping baskets.

Geneva does not have a lot of street people in compared to other major cities, but this isn’t why he stands out. He carries a sense of dignity within the small home he has established.

Today when I passed he was sitting with a woman with long gray straggly hair and poorly dressed. They were holding hands. It made me feel good.

The lyrics to a Christine Lavin song beat in my head.

I was standing on 6th Avenue at the corner of 53rd Street
Waiting for the bus
Token in my hand
Thinking about Dinner and what I would eat
That's when I saw him all dirty and ragged
Begging for nickles and dimes
I got on the bus
Rolled away
But one thing stayed in my mind.

He once was Somebodys Baby
Someone bounced him on her knee
Do you think she has any idea
What her little boy's grown up to be?

I was walking through riverside park
On a beautiful afternoon
Telling my neighbor about the vacation
I planned to be taking soon
That's when I saw her all dirty and ragged
Drinking a bottle of wine
I turned my head
Walked right on by
But one thing stayed in my mind.

She once was Somebodys Baby
Someone bounced her on his knee
Do you think he has any idea
What his little girl has turned out to be?

In the back of a checker cab stopped at a light
Heading toward Broadway
To see the latest critically acclaimed
Pulitzer Prize winning play
That's when I saw them outside the shelter
Forming a ragged line
We pulled away
I didn't look back
But one thought stayed in my mind.

They once were somebody's babies
But somewhere their lives went all wrong
Next time you see them don't think the worse
Why not try to think of this song?

Memories of Motier

When I was first in Switzerland I lived in Môtiers, a tiny village in the Vals de Travers between Neuchâtel and the French border. I describe it as having 600 people, 6000 cows and 6 million flowers, which was more or less accurate and as a city girl I fell in love with country life. Never before had I been awakened to cow bells as their bearers marched down the street on their way to pasture next to where I was living.

Today I found its website and I was transported back to the village with its fête des fountains (check out the photo with the gnomes – it is on top of a fountain) where once a year each neighbourhood decorates the fountain closest to it. I could almost hear the waterfall where Jean-Jacques Rousseau pondered weighty topics. I visited the cave where champagne was distilled in the old abbey. Before a dinner party I would lead guests to it and we would sample what I would buy for our apero. And I saw the fields where my chins Albert and Amadeus played. I couldn’t help remember the time they routed out a soldier hiding behind a hay roll as part of his military exercises. Less pleasant was the memory of Albert fresh from his bath rolling in a fresh cow patty. He was proud of his new odor, I rebathed him.

Today has been a day lived in my imagination and memory. Tomorrow I will live once again in real time. But then, I may also take a real-time visit to the village and stock up on my Mauler & Cie champagne even if it can’t call itself champagne officially it tastes just as good.

Imaginary Farmhosue

The marché de puce (flea market) is every Wednesday and Saturday at Plainpalais, but I hadn’t been there in years. Why I woke with an urge to go is beyond me, but then again why not?

Do look at the web site with its photos because the feel is very much the same and with the gray day even the sepia seems realistic.

As I walked among the furniture and dishes I mentally bought for my imaginary farm house that I have furnished and decorated then refurnished and decorated over the years.

The house itself is real. Robbert and I found it in one of our wanderings in the Pontalier region of France just over the Swiss/France border from where we lived. It backed up to a rock cliff and had a stream running by.

It was easy to imagine tables and chairs on the tiled side garden with fresh tomato salad from my own garden flavoured with olive oil and my hand-picked basil that grew with abundance next to my string beans.

In my imagination I bought the old wooden bread trough that probably had been at some bakers and a cupboard for the upstairs bedroom that would hold some of the antique linen. There was even a person selling old fashioned nightgowns that would have to be worn in my imaginary home.

Clear glass and hand painted with flowers cups, low and long, would be wonderful for fresh cold berry soup also to be served outside. The berries would come from the patch next to the house where my two Japanese chins would play. This time they would be a girl and boy named Tristan and Isolde.

There as no danger the two-foot copper plate with JFK in the middle would hang in the hallway (I saw the plate in a box in front of one stall with each item for sale more ghastly than the one before), between the two Queen Anne style chairs with maroon fabric that I did buy mentally.

There were fewer vendors than normal, for the Cirque du Soleil was stationed in the middle of the field. I half wondered what the performers sleeping in their trailers with their satellite dishes on the roof felt with the hubbub around them. Their curtains were drawn so there was no way to see in.

The sky darkened, and I headed for the tram. I love my imaginary farm house and it in no way reflects a dislike of anything in my current life. One of its main advantages is that it never needs cleaning, the plumber would always show up on time IF it were to need a plumber, which would never happen, the beds make themselves automatically and nothing is ever out of place while it has the warmth of a lived in home. Just like my imaginary Japanese chins never shed.

If I were to become extremely wealthy, which is not likely, I just might try and turn my imaginary farm house into a real one, but then again, I might not. I am so content with what I do have, that I doubt if much would change. Besides, the fun of an imaginary place is it is just that.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Friday was so beautiful that it was almost painful to look at. Snow capped Jura rose over the lake being crossed by a lone Easy Jet plane on its way to Cointrin airport. The apple orchard shook out the first of its white blossoms that resembled flickering candlelight more than full blooms as they danced in the early morning breeze. The cloudless sky was blue while the grass shone in multitudes of shades of green.

Thank goodness the vineyards hadn’t begun to sprout leaves leaving their tortured branches as a small reminder that perfection isn’t possible. Still even with their twisting and turning, they represented a form that would do a bonsai designer proud.

I had chosen to walk up the hill to the post office even though everything is closed for the four-day Easter weekend. If I weren’t a writer, I would say tighter than a drum, but that is a cliché. Since I’ve just been reading old fashioned mystery novels let me try tighter than a size 34 blouse on a dame with a 36D bust. No one else was around, just me and beauty. A gift.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Walking, more than exercise

The walk was familiar from my old apartment house to my old office. For almost ten years I was able to walk to and from work, taking about 20 minutes to do so.

I had stayed last night with former neighbors, enjoying catching up with the news and basking in the warmth of their friendship and hopefully sending out some of my own.

I was meeting a former colleague for lunch.

There are two routes to my old office, one that is grassy with a short cut through a mini wood. Since the cherry tree in front of ILO still isn’t in bloom, I opted for the Route de Ferney, more heavily trafficked and the one I used to use when I walked in the dark. However, I still passed the field with the horses, and I noticed chives were sticking up along the side of the road. Nestled between them were violets, my favourite flower.

Although it hasn’t been that long since I stopped working, the new WIPO building has wiped out a vacant lot where trees sprouted mushrooms that would make seats for elves with weight problems or dwarfs without. The two-story, three-legged chair symbolizing the damage of land mines is gone as a huge redevelopment project is taking place in front of the UN.

The temperature was good.

After lunch I continued walking downtown to finish the rest of my errands enjoying each flower along the way. Nothing spectacular but excellent for inner peace. And I will go back in a week or so to catch that cherry tree, and again a week later. Whenever it sheds its blossoms it looks as if there had been a pink snowstorm.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Geneva is number 2

The list of the best places in the world to live is out. Zurich is 1st, Geneva is 2nd and Vancouver 3rd.

My writer friend and I discussed the quality of life in Geneva over lunch in a pub-like restaurant with long planked wooden floors and couches surrounding tables. Because it was the noon rush we were seated on each side of the bar. She had salmon tartare and I had a poulet tangine with couscous and lots of veggies and we split the gateau du chocolate de la maison (which if the judges had eaten any would have pushed Geneva into the number one spot.)

We decided that over all it is the basic respect people show each other as part of the culture. The excellent transportation system, clean and safe streets, good education system, fine hospitals (and universal health care although paid for by the residents is affordable--but universal health care exists in all but one industrialized country so that couldn't have been a factor.). Of course we can find scandals and mistakes like anyplace but the best way to summarize Geneva in particular and Switzerland in general, it works better than it doesn’t and it works better than most. The judges who decided the best places in the world to live must have thought so for at least two of our cities.


I had seen the posters advertising the masque display at the Barbier-Mueller Musée but hadn’t really thought about going until one of my writer friends suggested it. The museum is in the Vielle Ville, nestled in an ancient building where Calvin could have tapped his cane on his way to his church.

A noted poet was asked to write a poem for each mask and they came from all over the world. His words captured the essence of each one. Not only were we entranced but we quickly noticed that those from Papua or New Zealand were always elongated, while the oriental ones were rounded. One looked as if it were made of fine gold threads. We grew better at guessing the locations of each.

“Guess where this one is from.” My friend covered the location. It was horrible with horns and vampire style teeth and it looked out of place. I guessed wrong. Ohio 1960s. There were other American masks, a baseball umpire’s, protection for soldiers in combat, one for a diver and another for miners. They looked out of place with those that were for theatre, marriage, religious rituals and carnivals. But we thought about it and maybe our rituals are war and sports.

Neither of us could remember if American Indians had masks, although there were several from Alaska. We thought maybe they could have included carnival masks from New Orleans, but they did not have any of the carnival masks from Venice either.

We’ve decided to create a mask that is symbolic of how we see ourselves for the next time.

A few of the masks can be seen at

Monday, April 10, 2006

Flowers and cities

The Boston Globe web site had a photo of the cherry blossoms along Comm Ave. What a beautiful street that is with its red Bulfinch or Bulfinch styled buildings on each side a grassy divider, part of the Emerald Necklace, the green area that makes Boston such a great city to walk in.

Meanwhile Geneva is alive with flowers. Pierce neige (not sure of the English name, but it translate as pushing through the snow) are in abundance on lawns and you almost need sunglasses against the yellow forsythia. Daffodils, pansies, planted by private and public people are seen in window boxes and town planters.

I still haven’t checked out the flower clock. Look at the photos of the clock and other beautiful parts of this beautiful city.

I did drive by it yesterday on the way to spend a day with a friend, doing housework (she has a bad back) eating a great stir fry she made and seeing Memoir of a Geisha. I was too busy worrying about the traffic. Cars and spring do not belong together. From the bus I can appreciate the budding beauty without guilt.

How was I lucky enough to end up living in two incredible places in one lifetime???

Friday, April 07, 2006

Ritual return

Coming back to Geneva is almost ritualistic now. It doesn’t matter if it is a weekend, a week or more.

1. Stop at potty before going through customs. The handicapped has more
2. Clear customs and make sure passport is safely away.
3. Stop at bank
4. Buy tailleul bread.
5. Check window for new colored pencil animated display. Nope this time it is still the two Eskimos fishing while a polar bear looks on.
6. Buy monthly bus pass, a great deal at 70CHF and will be even better when I turn 64 in July and the price drops to 45 CHF.
7. Check to see if any LeMatin papers are left
8. Hit Boky, Mikado or restaurant under the train station for sushi. The
location depends on what I am toting, time and temperature (I wanted to say
weather but decided to use three t’s)
9. Grab either the 8 or 16 to Rive then the E bus. Admire the Lake, jet d’eau,
and mountains if it is daytime. Imagine them if it is dark.
11. Check out the life size cow with the glasses in front of the optometrist’s in
12.Get off at Corsier Port.
13. Walk down the hill, totally entranced once again by the beauty.

In this case 13 is a lucky number.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

French dental costs jump

I read in the newspaper….

From 14 Euros a visit to 17. That means instead of paying $17 per dentist appoint people will now pay $20.90. Insurance does take care of 75% of that. And how much do you pay for your dentist visits?

I have to admit my Swiss dentist is a lot more expensive.

I miss Peggy et. al.

I miss Peggy, Jess, Katie and Bridget. I have lived with them for 15 months. They are the characters in my new novel Triple Deckers and they are as real to me as Barbara, Chitra, Julia, Susan, Marina, etc. I have watched Jess fall in love with a reporter, Katie try to loosen up over the alleged immoralities of her daughters. Mostly I miss Peggy who has survived the loss of her son in Iraq and moved beyond her self imposed limitations and Bridget who was one of those strong, strong women who fight for their families.

They have come to me in the middle night and have told me that they wanted to demonstrate at at Fort Bragg or sell their house. Bridget shared her concerns for her husband. Jess reminded me of what it means to fight for what you believe. They have sat on benches with me and warned me that if I wrote something a certain way, they wouldn't do it. With them I walked through my old Boston neighbourhood and didn't buy a house a Florida.

Now I have released their friendships to their new lives and I am going on with mine.

I need to fine tune my mysteries before I can start on a new novel although I’ve done some research for two. Since I will be in Geneva, I will probably work on the Geneva one.

In general I declared April a non-fiction writing month, although words still bounce in my head they are for my articles and my blogs.

Peggy and her family are moving further away from me as Liz, Jane, Diana and other characters that have shared my life, and it leaves me feeling sad and at loose ends

The woman in the window

The woman sat in her kitchen with its window looking out on the marché. She was peeling potatoes for lunch and her friends were leaning against the house talking to her. Next door the smell of cooking onions and meet wafted out.

The flower dealer had deep purple iris in a vase that seemed more beautiful than the tiger lilies and mixed bouquets, but I decided not to buy anything because I am heading home to Geneva tomorrow.
The mini-vacation down here has been fun, but I am looking forward to a master writing class, a meeting with a political party that wants to sell its message and a dance performance by my Indian family.

I need to do some work on my web site and I need a long walk along the lake even if there’s no woman peeling potatoes sitting in her kitchen window.

She would make a good painting by Vermer or Chadin.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Klutz Time and Things That Go Wrong

A simple withdrawal and paying for airline tickets should be simple right?

Nope. The ATM machine had a 300€ limit and I needed 620. I waited in line. Monday mornings people go and do stuff, even though a lot of the stores are closed. Those that open have long lines. Tellers at Crédit Agricole no longer give cash, but they give you a card to withdraw money from the ATM.

Money in hand I headed to the travel agent. Since there was a line I went to buy bread. No chatagne bread until next year. They are out of chestnut flour.

Back to the travel agent. Only one person was there. He wanted to go to Miami. Forty-five minutes later after discussing every flight possibility he ended up going to San Francisco through Madrid via Toulouse. I didn’t have my passport number so the agent couldn’t issue the ticket, but she did accept my money and gave me her email so I could send her the info. Granted everything I was doing was in walking distance of the house which is wonderful.

Once home I broke a glass followed by dropping a package of cookies. It was toss up which had more little pieces. If my broom were a living creature it would probably be in mental collapse at this point.

I may spend the rest of the day under the desk. I can always nibble on any cookie crumbs the broom missed.

Cemetery Art

I love French cemeteries. Many graves are decorated with metal and ceramic books with messages and photos. There’s a new store in town that sells these, but they are far more elaborate than others I’ve seen. Two examples:

A farm scene with a tractor. The background is painted with a blue sky. The words are for Papy, grandfather.

Another has a bronze man dressed in 1930s style with knickers pedaling a bicycle.

Of course there are the ceramic books with messages from families and friends, scenes of rivers flowing, gardens, etc.

I haven't checked to see if any are already on display in the local cemetery.

Chocolate Merry-go-Rounds

Lopez sold his bakery and tea room. He lost a son, and his wife has had two bouts with cancer. He obviously needed a change. The new owners are the ones who made the chantagne bread (chestnut flour bread). Lopez at Easter decorated his window with chocolate art.

The new owners have created a one foot chocolate merry-go-round with the horses being made of multi-colored frosted horses. Not quite as fine, but still worth a smile.

The copper bowl

Dust from the fireplace had fallen on the pine cones in my Paul Revere-style copper bowl that decorates the middle of my hearth. Since seeing how nice Betty’s hearth looked sans fire but with decoration, I threw away the logs and used the fireplace as decoration.

In the early 70s I wanted to sell copperware on the party plan. At the time I was a bad salesperson and hated asking my friends to give the initial parties that would have sent me on the path to riches. I did end up with some beautiful copperware however, including that bowl.

As I was dusting, I realized I have had that bowl almost 30 years and for the entire time, whenever I look at it, it brings me pleasure both from the shape and the color.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Farm Fair

As a former city girl, it may seem strange that I love farm fairs. The one held April 2nd was at the Salle Polyvalante and was only a ten minute walk through sunshine. Inside the hall cheese, olives, anchois, sausages, honeys, sausages, herbs, nuts and other produce were displayed in abundance. Another stall featured beautiful hand-knitted sweaters made from the stall owner’s own wool.

Outside piglets tried to nap on straw despite one piglet wanting to lick them all up and down and around. However, it was a bit disconcerting to see pork recipes displayed above the enclosure. If I wanted to buy a pig, the farmer would raise it until fall then return it to me in chops, slabs of bacon and sausage. Although it was enough to turn me off pork, I know if I smell bacon cooking I won’t be able to resist not even for a second. If I were to buy a pig at least I would know that it wasn’t stuck in a building but ran around happily during its short life. However, one pig has more pork than I have eaten in the last thirty years combined.

Cows were segregated by colour. Some were the soft brown that I so love and there were a number of grays as soft as the sky before a gentle rain. Each was named. I met Tulip, Amande, Sabine and Amelie nose to nose. They had their history on purple placards. I new their birthdates, weight at birth and at 120 and 210 days. I knew who their fathers were and if the names were confirmed all though one had a father whose name was a guess.

The cows have already lived longer than the pigs will. One had passed her 17th birthday. She watched the goings on. Maybe she likes farm fairs too as a change of scene from her pasture.

A woman didn't shop for a year

Susie sent me the following link with the email heading – Right up your alley. A Consuming Life Could you live a whole year without shopping? Author Judith Levine did. Here's what she learned.

I send it on to my mega shopping pal Rose. I am probably between the two -- Rose and Judith. I did shop on my mini vacation buying a new phone (I can now hear what people are saying and it works when my ASDL line is plugged in unlike its predecessor) and a new CD-player. What good are CDs without something to play them on? The old phone and CD-player have already been sent to the decheterie /dump and disposed in the proper recycling bins. Even if I had an attic, they would never be put there until I decided to fix them as my Swiss gentlemen friend does. We both know they will never be fixed, but it makes him feel better so why not. I also purchased a new printer ribbon. So I do shop.

Disliking shopping is not new for me. I remember when I ran away to my father’s (too long a story to go into) and we had to go shopping for clothes for me. I was in an out of that store so fast that it became a building block of our relationship. I didn’t know he hated shopping and it was a real act of love and need that he had taken me.

Part of the dislike is that I don’t want the things that shopping brings cluttering up my life. Things have to be dusted. Things have to be taken care and I do. My oven and food processor still look almost new despite three and five years of use respectively. When I have too much stuff it gets lost.

However I am not sure that I would want to give up ice cream, movies, going out to eat or wine as Levine did. We all have our levels of consumerism don’t we?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

French Strikes

I love the French. The students and their adult supporters have taken to the streets to say they don’t want job insecurity – some three million of them out of a population of 60 million. The students estimate that for everyone in the street and we can’t assume it is the same 3 million each day there are another five in 100% support of them. Mathematically that means one in 4 agree whole-heartedly against the government. As for numbers as I talk to my neighbors while on my mini vacation, I have yet to find anyone who disagrees with the students. They probably exist, but I haven’t found them yet.

The French love their social contract. It is nice to know if you lose your job and it has to be for cause and even then you will have a roof over your head and food in your bellies. You will have health insurance. No one needs to be homeless in this country. Admittedly for business, it is expensive and frustratingly unwieldy, but good businesses survive. There are less super rich but there are also less super poor. I don’t hear a lot of people dreaming about being rich but having a home, a family and free time to enjoy them.

And if strikes are a pain and trains schedules and bus schedules are perturbed so be it. It is what a democracy should have, the people telling the government what they want. Chirac said he heard, but what he offered wasn’t enough. Neither did De Gaulle in 1968 and it not only changed the presidency it changed the country. Like in 1968 I suspect this strike is training a whole new generation of leaders that will influence France for decades to come.

The students, although they want work, they want fairness in the workplace. And there are other implications. If they are hired under the system, few landlords will rent to them because they do not have a secure salary. Likewise employers can take advantage of lower wages to keep all salaries depressed or have a turning door of cheap workers. Of course some would be kept, there’s no question, but how many.

In the US businesses have the legal status of people with the benefits but not the responsibilities to the society in which they operate. In France it is the reverse.

De Villepin may be a sexy man, but he made the mistake of not checking with the unions and the students before announcing the new law. Interestingly, many business leaders have said that they wouldn’t change their hiring practices, sorta like the 35-hour work week was supposed to increase jobs. It did give lower level employees more free time, but les cadres, the managers, took up much of the slack of work that had to be done.

Meanwhile in Britain people are striking against reducing pensions.

Latin America is slowly rejecting the IMF and World Bank policies of privatization and cuts in social contracts.

The EU was founded on the idea of free movement of trade, capital and people, but globalization is only the free movement of trade and capital. People are locked into their home countries and if jobs flee to cheaper locations, they can’t move after them. Now if workers globalized and demanded the same salary structure, job security, pensions and health insurance everywhere, it would truly be the level playing feel they talk about in free trade which is far different from fair trade.

I respect any people who stand up to power when it is against their interests. America did it in 1776. The new immigrants are doing it now in the US. But will it happen world wide? I doubt it.

I may sound anti-business, which I am not. However, for a healthy society business needs to take all interests into consideration: the employees, the stockholders and the clients. Without any of them the business can’t survive nor can the society that it lives in.