Thursday, June 29, 2006

Smart Cars

The tiny 40 mpg car that has been toodling around for Europe is going to be sold in the States for around $15,000. If I were in the States and if I HAD to buy a car that would be it. Then I could drive guilt free that each mile I put on wasn't hurting the planet to the same degree as if I were driving a car that got half the mileage. I also thought they were cute, but fortunately I don't need a car at all, although as I said before in the interest of honesty I do sometimes use my housemates and share a friend's when I visit Argeles. However last year the later car being driven by two people went less than 500 kilometers in a 12-month period.

Espresso brownies

I still see no use for Starbucks in Switzerland EXCEPT for one product I discovered when I ducked in there while waiting for a bus in the rain and had to buy something.

Espresso brownies.

They’re wonderful.

Although the Swiss do sell more and more brownies, that is not a local product and an American company can do it better.

I would still kill for a raison cinnamon bagel from Dunkin Donuts which has some stores here. I found one in Prague.

Meanwhile I will slip into SB for those brownies.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Dibs and dabs

I just learned that I live in an extra good neighborhood. My housemate drove me and my four-star guest (see below) down a side street I never knew was there that leads to the lake. We passed a château surrounded by many mansions. The château belonged to the late King Saud and the mansions were built for his 100 servants. Nearby is the mansion of the Aga Khan. Of course neither of them know/knew or care/cared they live in the same neighbourhood as the international writer, D-L Nelson. Dommage. is by a young woman who puts her talent where her beliefs are. So young and so principled. I hope she can maintain it. Sadly she has received threats for her courage.

Four star guest – these past few days I’ve been hosting a man I met in Damascus, a friend of my good friend. He is a tour guide and gave me an incredible tour of the old city there as we mapped out a future novel that I want to set in that fantastic city. I showed him Geneva’s old city feeling a bit strange calling it an old city since his goes back to pre-Biblical days and mine is only centuries old. He is the guest from heaven in his consideration and his openness. As my housemate says, he can come back anytime and not just because he helped take the garbage out.

I did have time to use my new 30 CHF movie pass good for a solid year to see Marie Antoinette. I save 7 CHF each time I use it, so I suspect it will pay for itself rather quickly. Considering I will probably be at Versailles with my four-star guest this weekend, it was nice to see the locale again (this will be my fourth trip there). However as beautifully filmed I am not sure how I feel about modern music (although courageous of Coppola to use). I do know that the actor and actress playing the King and Queen were as bad as the rulers they were portraying. Fortunately we don’t behead bad acting.

Geneva was drop-dead beautiful today. It was one of those perfect-weather days with the colors intensified and sparkling, a light breeze from the lake. How I was so lucky to have ended up here, I do not know, but if we are rewarded in this life for things we did in other lives I must have been a saint to deserve this.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Olivier has moved on...

and the Café du Soleil is just not the same.

He’s gone to another job, who knows where. For the thirteen years I have been going there he was there to greet, comment on those with me two or four-footed, offer a kir, give the three-cheek kiss sometimes a hug (which was especially fun when he was dressed as a cow) find me a table somewhere, etc., etc. etc. He is intertwined with my memories of the place.

He is even mentioned in an article I published in two anthologies although at the time I thought he was the owner not the manager.

My writing group used to meet at the Café monthly, and now we just use it for lunch at our monthly sessions and our end of year readings.

My daughter when she arrives in Geneva doesn’t consider she has truly come back until we eat there. It has to be the first night, and likewise my buddy RB2, considers it a must-do whenever he is in Geneva.

Then there was the night I was having fondue with a friend. Stuffed, I hid the long fork under the paper table cloth to prevent myself from eating more. Olivier invited me to come upstairs to show me the new dining room that was remodelled. Mika, the waiter who shared the name of my small Japanese chin, came up after us and whispered to Olivier that he thought I stole the fork.

I said no, and told Olivier where it was and why. “That makes sense,” he said always ready to be the perfect host

I am not sure it did, but the next time I went to Café du Soleil no fork was at my place. I asked Mika for one, who didn’t believe I didn’t have one. Olivier had to intercede. The next time I went, I took my own fork making both Mika and Olivier laugh.

Mika left before. Now Olivier is gone. Fortunately the fondue is still good, but it isn’t quite the same.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Another technology piffle

Ebay keeps writing me.

Today they sent me this message which is interesting because I never sold or bought anything on ebay although sometimes I do look at the site. I am not even sure what a Swiss Verstad is but I am glad it is brand new. I hope they work it out. Meanwhile such emails bring the oh piffle response.

shadow69696 has informed eBay that they have not yet received item 9303607451, K - SWISS Verstad, BRAND NEW, UK Size 9.5, Color NAVY.>> There are many reasons why this might have happened. Perhaps the item is still in transit, the payment has not yet cleared, or maybe it was accidentally sent to the wrong address. In addition, buyers can sometimes have unrealistic expectations about how much time it can take for payment, postage and delivery. As a result, no action is being taken by eBay at this time. > > However, it's important to remember that when you sell an item on eBay you're agreeing to a contract between you and the buyer. If you don't send an item that a buyer has purchased you may be committing fraud. > > Most Item Not Received disputes can be solved with direct communication between the buyer and seller, and we encourage you to work with your trading partner to resolve this situation. Click the link below to view and reply to the information submitted by the buyer. >

Please Don't Eat The Daisies

On Jack Parr sometime in the 1950s I remember he had Jean Kerr, a humorist and playwright on his show. I don’t know why I was allowed to stay up, but I was. Those were the days when late night television guests did witty conversations instead of just plugging whatever book or movie or CD they had just released.

Kerr had said how embarrassed she was when she made a dress for a party only to discover her hostess had made curtains using the same fabric, but it was okay, she just stood near a wall pretending to be a curtain. Last night in the attic while searching for something to read, I found her book Please Don’t Eat the Daisies published 49 years ago. The title comes from her awareness after having four sons that everything forbidden had to be specified no matter how remote.

This morning in my week of doing nothing but showing a friend Geneva, I woke early. The cool breezes from Lake Léman filtered through my window along with birdsong.

One of the glories about my life is the freedom to arrange my time as I see fit, but in summer I tend to wake with the sun, but read until a desire for pee, tea and breakfast override the pleasure of reading and napping.

I giggled my way through the entire book only rising when I had finished it.

Here’s some excerpts: “I don’t know that the twins had any concrete picture of their dream house. On thing they didn’t want was a playroom, since they really prefer to cut up the new magazines in the middle of the kitchen floor while I’m trying to serve dinner. I have tried to explain to them about playrooms, but I can see that the mere notion a room in which there was nothing to break fills them with panic and frustration.”

“I was reading another volume of collected letters last night, and it sent me right back to worrying about that old problem. On what basis do you decide that your friends are going to be famous, and that you ought to be saving their letters?”

“When they (her four sons on a day she has decided to be a good mum and not lose her temper) are finally seated at breakfast, I watch the twins spell out their names in butter on the plastic place maters – but I refused to get riled. When they all decided to make sandwiches of boiled egg and puffed wheat I remind myself that after all they’re just little boys and we can cope with this sometime in the future. Then I notice Christopher, stirring his orange juice with my pocket comb. At this point everything in me snaps and my wild, sweet soprano can be heard in Mamaroneck.”

I checked the internet to see if by any chance she was still alive. She died three years ago. However, if she were alive, I am sure she would love to think someone was enjoying her writing 49 years after publication.

The Fête de St. Jean

Three are two fêtes I try never to miss. One is Geneva’s Escalade celebrating victory over the French and the other is Argelès’s fête de St. Jean.

The origin of the holiday in France was the pagan celebration of the summer solstice; a celebration of light and a symbol of hope. In the reign of the French King Clovis, the annual event was Christianized and became a religious celebration of the birth of John the Baptist, who is known as the Precursor of Christ, the light of the world – thus the link with the solstice and the bonfires.

The festival of Jean Baptiste had particular importance for all the Catholics of Europe, especially those of France. The King of France would light the bonfire in the nights of June 23 and 24 in Paris.

Although I had a 6:30 train to Geneva the next morning nothing would keep me away from the Fête de St Jean. Children marched to drummers into Place Gambetta carrying their piles of sticks wrapped in Catalan ribbons of yellow and orange stripes. They carefully layered them onto the wood stacked for the bonfire.

While waiting for the flame to come down from the top of Mt. Canigou, there was dancing including the local native dance, the Sardane with its whiney music and simple three step pattern that after years and years and years, I haven’t mastered.

Then the flame arrived and the bonfire was ignited sending sparks hundreds of feet into the sky.

Then the drums began and beat and beat and beat and beat and beat followed by men dressed in costume (I assume fireproof) with giant sparklers throwing their stars 20 or more feet in circles as they danced and danced and danced. The spectators sometimes had to duck as the wind blew the sparks in their direction. One man wore his sparkler on his bank shooting a wall of stars to the stars. He ran in circles followed by other men using sparklers that flew in crowns. The performance lasted almost thirty minutes and sometimes the circle was filled with white as if the sun had made a quick guest appearance on earth. When the last one died, the drummers led the witnesses in a drum only march.

The days will grow shorter now. The grapes on the vineyards will ripen. The courgettes will become to numerous. The seasons will flow one after another until we reach the winter solstice when we will bring trees that once lived into our homes to bring back the healing sun.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer Solstice

It’s here…

The longest day of the year celebrated throughout history by almost all know peoples. It is also known as Midsummer, Litha, Alban Heflin, Alben Heruin, All-couples day, Feast of Epona, Feast of St. John the Baptist, Feill-Sheathain, Gathering Day, Johannistag, Litha, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide, Vestalia.

The long winter is over, the crops are growing. Succulent apricots, peaches, nectarines and melons fill the markets.

People are looking forward to holidays.

Throughout Europe the Feast of St. Jean will be celebrated with bonfires and flares. People are gathering at Stonehenge to watch the way the sun hits the stones.

For me, it is a reminder that the sun, planet and nature are far more powerful than whatever we silly humans do in our nanosecond of a nanosecond of a nanosecond of existence in comparison to the length of time of what all around us has existed is existing and will continue to exist long after our species had disappeared.

I will celebrate being allowed to have that nanosecond of a nanosecond of a nanosecond on this earth. To me this is the joy of the solstice.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I do not support the troops

At the risk of sounding like Ann Coulter but on the other side, I do not support the American troops. They are an occupying army, illegally in a country that did nothing to us, and in fact has been used by us in the past. I am sorry for the families of the two soldiers that were killed recently, but that’s two out of 2500+. I am equally sorry, if not more sorry, for the families of Iraqis who were killed by an invading army, sadly ours. Sadly there are many more of them. The Iraqis did not ask us to come. We went, some eagerly. Had those men not volunteered to be part of immoral killing machine, they would be alive today.

One man on CNN said he wanted the murderers found and brought to justice. Good God, if our country was attacked and we were defending it, would we turn anyone who killed one of the invaders? No, we would honor them. The Iraqis are defending their country. We are the bad guys.

Often soldiers say they are fighting in Iraqi streets so they won’t have to fight on American streets. Turn the sentence around. They are doing to others what they don’t want done to us.

And did those young soldiers die to bring Democracy to a people? Just read the memo from the American Ambassador to Condi Rice published in the UK Paper The Independent and we know we have made their country worse especially for women as the country turns more fundamentalist.

Yes our army was lied to on why we are there, they are not equipped as they should be, and we know they will not receive proper help when they come back. That is our government’s fault. So our government is not supporting the troops either.

However, the soldiers that sign up have the responsibility as citizens to understand and learn what our government is doing. Right now one Lt. has refused what he considers and illegal order to go to Iraq citing the US’s position during the Nuremberg Trials. I support him although it will not do much good. People who stand up to wrong are too few. People who give into it are too many, which is why we are in this mess today.

At the same time our educational system has failed in teaching many young people critical thinking skills as well as all of US history. Few have the academic desire to look beyond the propaganda.

Also on CNN today was a Latin American police leader who is on trial for the disappeared in his country. Charles Taylor is on his way to trial. I imagined seeing Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld all being tried as the war criminals they are. It made me smile.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day

The churchbells peeled at noon and I can hear them as I write. Today is Father’s Day in the States and my dad is on my mind. If he were alive he would be 95, but he died the day after his 69th birthday and after he shot his best round of golf ever.

As a child I really didn’t know him due to a crazy family dynamic, but when I was at university, a friend rushed up to me. “They’ve been looking for you everywhere.” At Administration he was waiting for me. I had not seen him for five years.

Perhaps if he had been there for my teenage years we wouldn’t have been able to form such a close relationship as we did as we did, adult-to-adultm which was started by that visit. Later I learned that my stepmom was the one who encouraged him to make contact despite his fear of rejection. I will always be grateful to her.

From that time on he was there for me, giving me loans when my university lost patience with my slow paying of my fees, encouraging me, standing behind me during the pain of my divorce.

He used to joke that he needed an address book just for my moves alone.

When I would tell him my latest crazy idea, he would say “Did you think of…” rather than “That’s the dumbest I idea I ever heard.” Over the years I learned whatever he cautioned me to think about was what happened, and part of me wishes just once he was wrong. I wish I could do the same with my daughter, but sometimes I get more directive and I have been wrong more in giving her advice then he was pushing me to think of this or that.

Only years after my divorce did I realise that he didn’t approve my husband.

And there was the time my sister and I discovered he was using Greecian Formula to die his remaining hair. In itself that secret was nothing, but his teasing on our ever changing rainbow of hair colors made it fun to return the teasing.

I still regret that I never realised that he was a bit jealous of my relationship with my Uncle Pat, another father figure who I also miss today. The two of them went into together to buy me a briefcase and I can picture the two of them, both who disliked shopping, making the sacrifice to enter stores to pick out just the right one for their budding executive.

My dad would neither have approved nor discouaged my move to Europe. He would have burst with pride that my books have been published. I wish he knew.

It was because of my dad that I knew I was right to “retire” early to have time to do the things I want.

After he died my Stepmom sent me a photo taken at his 69th birthday party. It is shot from the back so I see his bald spot and his Greecian Formula colored fringe. A birthday cake decorated with golfer figurines takes up half the photo. He didn’t have many birthday parties because he was born so close to Christmas. I started to cry as I looked at it.

My daughter, then almost 14 came into my bedroom. “Don’t cry,” she said. “As long as you remember him, he isn’t really gone.” Today he isn’t really gone still.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Toilet bowl cleaner Part II

I had an email from a friend (I won’t mention her name to protect her privacy) asking about the toilet bowl cleaner I had found and written about in an earlier blog.

When I sent it to her, she sent me a limerick well crafted (she’s a good writer) about toilets, toilet cleaners and blogs.

Since I bought the product in France I promised her if she couldn’t find it in Migros or Coop, the major Swiss grocery stores, I would get some for her the next time I was in France there and bring it back. Usually our conversations are about our writing, books, families, etc. Probably because she is a writer she talks in a way that I can see clearly what she is saying just as if I were watching it on a movie screen. Now it includes toilet bowls, adding another layer to a budding friendship.

Buying teas and a discovery

The baby crawled across the tea and coffee shop floor. The last time I saw him he still wasn’t able to sit up.

The shop is long with burlap bags of coffee beans one one side, tables on another for those who want to drink their tea and coffee there, and a collection of cups, saucers and teapots to buy.

The owners are the baby’s parents, a young couple. He’s dark and she’s light.

Behind the counter are cans and cans of teas in green metal canisters each labeled.

“Smell this,” the man says. He opens one of the cannisters. The teas are from all over the world or at least the parts that grow tea. He aromas are of well-known teas such as Earl Grey or mixtures with fruits, cinnamon, vanilla. I settle for oolong fancy. He scoops it into a small and narrow red paper bag and seals it with the wire in a gold strip that I can use in the same way someone rolls up a toothpaste tube with those little doohimjigas.

Then I spy it. Mate vert. He opens the canister. I inhale. YES. It is the same type of mate I was served in Damascus at each house I stopped at. Hours of women-conversation over mate came back along with memories of living rooms with high ceilings, the sound of a horse-drawn cart clip-clopping by outside, tales of children and husbands, recipes, hopes fulfilled and not.

To make mate a glass slightly smaller and narrower than a juice glass is filled with the leaves. Cardamom is sprinkled on top. Hot water is poured to the brim. Silver spoons with tiny bowls that hide holes and are really straws are inserted. Let the talk begin.

I was explaining it to my friend and told her I had the spoon/straws bought in the home that I could find the mate. Although she is Anglophone we were speaking French to include the shop owner. She was fine with the description until I got to the word cardamom. We switched to English. She still didn’t understand until I said it was used in Indian cooking.

Between my French accent and the Bostonian accent the word came out Cahhhdahmom. Ah well. She and I will share a glass of mate and stories as soon as I get to the marché to buy that spice however you pronounce it.

Paris, je t’aime…

This is not news. Thanks to the TGV I can train to Paris from Geneva for lunch and sleep in my own bed at night. I have done it several times, although I often prefer to stay a few days curled up in my friend's apartment and making small forrays into the city. I've been known to buy a baguette jsut to feel more Parisian. That doesn't even begin to cover the smugnes sof knowing my way around the metro, the streets, etc. and not jsut the well known place.

However, Paris, je t’aime is the name of a new movie I’ve got to see when it comes out on the 21st.

It is really a series of 18 love stories all shot on this city by different directors of different nationalities within two days and not on a big budget, although it has big international stars. Each lasts about five minutes.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I speak good what????????????????????????

I had a number of errands to do yesterday, popping into a store to have a battery replaced, buy envelopes, etc. I also decided to prowl though and antique store where I had bought a tea pot as a thank you gift and I wanted to report that it had been appreciated to the owner, a woman well over 80 who dies her hair black and holds her shoulders military-straight.

Because it was a slow business day, I chatted with each person. They all told me I spoke good French. I am wondering if this is a Chamber of Commerce ploy to encourage more anglo speaking customers. Maybe it is that Europeans have such low expectations of Americans to speak other languages.

I will admit to having a good vocabulary brought on by reading. However, my accent is terrible and my grammar is either simple or flawed. Some people ask if I am English but I suspect that it is because of that my Boston accent bangs through my Ca vas, ce fait beau aujourd’huis, etc.

In any case the stage I have reached in speaking French has arrived at the price of a terrible battle and the sense of accomplishment when I dream in the language, switch from one language to the other without realizing it, or read a book is worth every skirmish.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Tyrannical To Do List

I know I let my to-do list become a tyrant, possibly because I take on too many projects. It is this trait that makes my daughter say her mother is retired followed by a loud, derisive “HAH!!!”

But since I am living the life I always wanted to life, a writer/journalist living in Europe with an active social life with people I really care about, my days are full. Often there’s a feeling of not getting anything done, but that is more because in writing a novel or covering a story, things do not have a beginning, middle, end in the same day. As for the novel that can take a couple of years so the feeling of having gotten something done by the end of the day is ephemeral.

Does this mean I am unhappy? Not at all, because even with the to-do list looming, there’s time to do a café sit, go to lunch with a friend, read a book, work on needlework, whatever. It is all part of my patchwork quilt of daily events that make my life.

And the to-do list? It is now a running list kept from the first of the year and when I feel nothing was accomplished I look back on all the items checked off.

And oh yes, sitting looking at the water, is an activity that is much more important than whether my floor is washed today or tomorrow or the day after.

That's why -- Enjoy myself -- is always an item on my to-do list and that is the type of tyrant I can live with.

Prize of Good Advertising

The D-L prize for clever advertising. A grizzly old man stands behind his shop counter. Sausages hang behind it. Another old man comes in, ducks down then pops up and pretends to shoot the store keeper. They have a fake gun battle until the store keeper works his way to the end of the corner where the two men embrace. The product is an airline, the message, visit someone you love. As a writer I am told to show not tell. This is a best example. No words are necessary to know the story behind the story.

Confesson Number 1

Okay, okay I admit it. I have fallen in love with Desperate Housewives. The first season is being shown on M6, but not in vo (version original). Tuesday nights which are sacrosanct when two episodes are shown.

And evewn if I can't imagine have a watching orgy of Desperate Housewives like I did with West Wing, I am hooked.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Confession Number 2

Although I tend to be fanatic about cleaning, making sure no fingerprint is on any light switch, no dust ball no matter how tiny is under my furniture and my appliances look as if they are taken out of their boxes, I do this with two cleaning products, a cleansing powder and dish soap. The rest to me is just a waste of money.

That's not my confession. It is that I gave into advertising. At the risk of sounding like a TV advert my one cleaning problem was my toilet. Brown calcare had built up making it on the resemble things that it wasn't. I saw an advert for a bowl cleaner. I bought it, used it, and glory, glory, it works.

Now I have four cleaning products under my sink. The fourth is laundry detergent. That’s enough.

Political this and that

1. Major Thomas Fleener is a brave man. As a lawyer for the defendants at Gitmo, he has said the trials are show trials. He says his clients were tortured.

2. The reaction on BBC to the remark that the Gitmo suiciders did it for PR was torn apart with listener reactions posted on the site, although a few think the only good terrorist is a dead terrorist. Who is a terrorist depends on which side someone is on.

3, I am on a “baddies” list as the token liberal, the only WITT (We are all in this together) with a number of YOYOs (Your on Your Own). Yesterday I heard one of them, who was my age, was killed in a car crash. Only one other member on the list, a former co-worker and I were against Iraq, predicting exactly what would happen. The man who died was shocked when two years ago I said that the sooner the US lost the better. He couldn’t imagine an American saying that. The billions we’ve wasted in pushing death would not have been squandered. However, more important if we hadn’t gone in or lost early on, a lot of Americans and Iraqis would be alive today. To me, we will lose, the only question remains when. Although I almost never agreed with the man, I will miss him.

4. Seeing the founder of DailyKos on Meet the Press was great. They had a conservative to balance. If only they balanced each conservative with a liberal and a few on the inbetweens wouldn't be bad either.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pigeon 1, Woman 1, Croissant crumbs 0

Breakfast at the café on a narrow road across from the church with tea, tartine and croissants.

A car starts up the road.

A pigeon jumps off the sidewalk and looks at the car and stops Tainmmen Square defiance in its body.

The woman can see the pigeon over the steering wheel and stops.

I take another bite of croissant, chew it and swallow followed by a sip of tea.

No movement from the opponents.

I finish my croissant.

The bird ruffles his wings and settles back down.

The woman inches forward, but she can still see the bird.

I butter my tartine and take a bite.

Slowly the bird turns and walks toward my table.

Laughing the woman drives on.

The bird pecks at crumbs from my croissant that have fallen to the ground.

The propogranda machine is alive and well

As a writer I know it is the choice of details that tips a story. Thus watching Wolf Blitzer’s A Week in The War in Iraq, I can recognize slant.

After being warned that scenes might be disturbing, viewers saw inside a hospital with wounded American soldiers. It was blander than ER. Compared to the pain of the wounded man or the pain of the Iraqis who live without electricity and water and see their loved ones shot, it was less than nothing. An American medic was saying how proud he was of what he was doing and implied his work was making his own country safe from other 9/11s and Pearl Harbors, neither of which ever involved Iraqis but CNN didn’t point that out.

A young wife told of the pain of her husband’s death highlighting the ultimate price paid by an American in Iraq. The implication? It was worth it and maybe for her it was. For others it wasn’t but that wasn’t mentioned.

A military man told of the need to convince parents that it was good to send their children to the military and that it would cost a lot.

They mentioned the billions Congress approved for the war effort without ever mentioning the million already spent that is unaccounted for.

They talked of Zarqwai’s death and what a victory it was, but they didn’t show Michael Berg, father of the beheaded contractor who spoke eloquently of his not feeling joy at another’s death and how violence only begats violence.

They talked about the treasure trove of information gathered in raids this week, and an expert talked about how if just one phone number in the US had been found in someone’s pocket how that could stop another terrorist attack. They never said a telephone number was found or most of the insurgency in Iraq was more concerned either with getting the US out or getting control of their own country. The implication is Iraq is a danger to us.

Giving them their droplet of due they did have a reporter say that in the Middle East the reputation of the US has never been lower.

I often wonder where the rage is the US, not just against the war, but the social uncertainties that would be impossible in other industrialized nations. Maybe because there are too many slanted programs.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Double duty goat head

The goat’s head soup had every fresh vegetable available from the local market plus a few black-eyed peas. My friend Barbara served it with flourish to me and my former neighbours from Grand Saconnex. They now live in England and were visiting.

Silence reigned as we scoffed it down. Only at the second serving did they start laughing about the head serving double duty. I didn’t understand.

They explained about their picnic Sunday where they crossed the border to investigate a different country.

“The head really served its purpose,” Robin said.

“Purposes,” Barbara said.

I had begged off because of a minor tummy upset leaving me a desire to have a toilet within close distance. Seems the head was frozen solid. Barbara had used it in place of ice to keep her potato salad chilled. On the way back it cooled bottled water.

“And the was still frozen when we got back,” Barbara added, which was why we didn't get the soup until Thursday. It still had to thaw.

Testosterone in the streets

The shots of Munich on CNN are familiar both from the times I visited my daughter there and when I had Radio Free Europe, based in that city, as a client. However, now the streets were filled with football fans dripping testosterone and wearing strange hats, nationally-colored hair and waving flags.

The World Cup crazies have begun. €100 tickets are being scalped for €1100 (Around $1300) and my not even be valid if names aren’t on them. 29,000 tickets for a game have been reserved for corporate sponsors while fans have to scramble for 8000.

Germany is holding fan fests for those that don’t have tickets, the police have no hope for a day off until it is over and their forces have been augmented by police from all over the world.

Men are searching for big screens to watch their favorite games and most women are putting their marriages on hold until it is over. Will I watch some of the games? You bet. And hopefully will also be able to catch Federer at the end of Roland Garros too.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

May is back

May is back and we celebrated despite the wind on a terrace that at least was sheltered by the surrounding buildings. We were her friends: English, Scots, Danes, Canadians and an American or two. And there was champagne, nibblies and a buffet supper.

May wore shell earrings and her shell that proved she had accomplished the 800k+ or – kilometer walk of the St. James Compostelo pilgrimage. Those who complete the walk are awarded the shells. Because so many people wanted to talk to her, I will get more of the story next week or the week after when we can have a long chat over lunch when I hope more of the little details come out about her tendernitis, the weather, who she met, the conversations she held, what it was like to sleep in a room with eight snoring men.

One thing I did not want to know now led to a second natural question. The question was, “would you do it again?”

“Yes,” she replied. Her blue eyes flashed. May is a beautiful woman even in her sixties. “But I would do it differently.”


“When I started out I had washing liquid for my clothes, face soaps, shampoo. At the end I only carried shampoo. It is amazing how little we need.”

I also want to hear more about the Frenchmen whose phone number she lost. But we’ll save that for lunch.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Rabbit, Rabbit

Rabbit, rabbit. I remembered to say the words first thing. If those words are the first spoken on the first day of the month, good luck is supposed to follow for the next 30 days.

I had awakened almost with the sun, well before six. The light will continue until almost ten marking the lazy, hazy days of summer. Well almost.

Instead of wearing my flimsy pink nightdress with the grey lace, I am in peach flannel pajamas. My crisp and cool raspberry and beige sheets are in the closet while I cuddle underneath my duvet with its penguined flannel cover. The air smells crisp and the curtain is standing almost straight out. As I rush to the window to shut it, the tile under my feet seems to inject them with icicles.

I head back to bed, pick up my book to read before I start my day, one of the true luxuries of my life. Since the age of ten I dreamed of being a full time writer, living in Europe. Now I am. However, when I was dreaming my dreams, I never specified the type of weather I would live in.

This is not a complaint. Last night it snowed in Germany. And the cool leaves me much more productive than when a canicule (heat wave) strikes.