Friday, February 23, 2007

teenage years redo and hi teched

I am so far out of the teens that I can barely remember when the number 1 was the first number in my age. But I remember talking on the phone and sharing music.

This was updated last night when I was Skyping with a friend in the states. We looked up stuff on and I gave her some of my French favourites. We would bring them up, listen and she was able to translate some of them.

Then we started on finding songs that we used to sing when my daughter was little such as Tennessee Bird Walk. Mornings before work we would often dance around the house to Candy Man. My friend played many of the Kris Kristofferson songs. We saw him in concert in Asbury Park after a hurricane and the roof kept flaking down.

We went to the Sonny&Cher Comedy hour videos and recalled how we watched Sunday nights after Llara was in bed, the last breath of freedom before work on Monday.

Two hours+ on Skype and a walk through a shared past. Although the worries about money, work and raising my daughter, the tiredness from doing too much were always there, they were hidden under the laughter of all the silly things we did like making giant pillows and losing control of the filling which filled our living room as if we were in an I Love Lucy episode.

Somewhere over the Rainbow led us to the memory of a party for my friend’s father where we turned the dining room into the Emerald Café and had yellow bricks leading into the house.

Even then I think we knew they were the good old days and even if we are living the good new days, they are built on too many happy memories to count.

Interconnectedness or coincidence

Perhaps the thing that attracts me most to paganism is the interconnectedness of everything in nature. There needs to be no interpretation.

However, sometimes interconnectedness is another form of coincidence and extends to who we meet, where and how.

My Geneva neighbour left a pile of books for me to donate to the library. Not having time before i left, I did grab one Marquis by George Millar, a memoir of his advantages as a Brit fighting with the French resistance during WWII. I took it to Argelès to share with my friend Barbara (and yes I plan to take it back to Geneva to give to the library when I go home next month.)

Today I was working in her store while she was in Barcelonawith her visiting daughter and grandson. An elderly man came in. “You aren’t Barbara.” I already knew this and had much the same feeling when I used to answer the phone and the caller who wanted another member of the household would say, “No one is home?” Then I wanted to say "You are talking to a recording," and this time I resisted saying "I'm not, I thought I was." I am glad I resisted.

“I have something to show her,” he said. Then he looked at me. “Are you the friend who read Marquis?”

I nodded.

He brought out a black scrapbook larger than any coffee table book that was about two inches thick out of the reusable blue bag that grocery stores sell so we won't waste so many plastic bags when we pack our purchases. Inside he had pasted stories about WWII heroes, mostly obituaries that he confessed was one of nine such books. He turned the page to the obituary of George Millar. Next to it was a first day cover, stamp and all, signed by Millar. I don’t want to go into the possible connections between Geneva, England, Besancon during the war, a small French village and a person who met the author of the book and a person who came across the book by chance. I just assume it makes sense if you take interconnectedness and coincidence into consideration.

He entrusted the book to me while he went to have his hair cut. I found myself crying. Each page told a story of incredible bravery, risk taking and belief in something beyond the person. There were men, women, Poles, Czechs, Brits, Canadians, Americans. There were stories of the resistance, prisoners of war, hospitals and pilots. I knew had these men and women not existed and did what they did while I was still in diapers, I could not have lived the comfortable life I am living today.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Manufacturing Desires

In my daily perusal of international papers I came across this in the Guardian by Timothy Garton Ash: “Our planet cannot long sustain the momentous worldwide embrace of the manufacture of desires.”

When I and my friends bought the house on Wiggleworth Street, my daughter’s closet was miniscule and not deep enough to put a hangar crosswise as in other closets, but certainly large enough to hold all the clothes the original occupant had.

If we look around our homes we see riches that weren’t even imaginable until the middle of the last century.

Meanwhile we run around and fill our homes with junk that is eating up the planet. I remember an advertising campaign long ago for pantyhose that solved the horrible problem of a panty line when women wore regular pants under slacks. Was that really a problem?

How much "stuff" in our homes is based on desire created by outside forces rather than our own minds? How much "stuff" do we have that we never use and don't even remember we have?

Today on the news on France24 models strutted down the catwalk in Japan with designer phones. Now you don’t only need(?) just one, you need one for each outfit.

No wonder the planet is in trouble.

Note: interesting website

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I am writing again

Several of my friends mumbled about my new interfering with my creative writing and it was true to a certain degree.

I was writing news articles, I was writing my blog, I was writing monthly articles for the English Magazine Writers Forum. I was teaching creative writing and editing novels. But I wasn’t doing my creative work.

In April I had “finished” Triple Deckers, what my agent wants to be my breakthrough novel propelling me from Chick Lit to a more substantial writer. My two published novels Chickpea Lover and The Card although published were still learner novels. Arthur Fiedler who for years conducted the Boston Pops and was adored by Bostonians always felt he had failed because he didn’t conduct a major symphony. As hard as it is to get one novel published never mind two in more than one country I want to write on a deeper level.

The book is about a typical Irish-American Catholic family living in Mission Hill in Boston and how the death of their son/grandson changes their perceptions of their relationships, their loyalties and their country.

I did not disagree with my agent who said TD still wasn’t there. I just didn’t know what to do next, although I can easily diagnose other writers’ weaknesses. I tried the old put-it-in-a- drawer trick hoping the words would rearrange themselves. Each word stubbornly stayed where I put it originally.

Then last Saturday I went to the Geneva Writer’s Group meet the agents session. Another agent looked it over and made suggestions that made sense. The sun came out on a rainy day, the orchestra started playing, I was handed a triple scoops of chocolate chip, chocolate and pistachio ice creams.

I have begun the revisions, changed the emphasis of my prologue, rearranged chapters, eliminated a character, know how to rewrite the grief scene. I still have a lot of work to do but I know where I am going again.

So to my friends who were not letting me not write but were humouring me when I said I was writing in other mediums until the end of some timetable that only they knew, I say thank you.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A little more distance

Instead of staying in my home I’ve been spending a few days with my Indian friends. This family, my Syrian girl friend and I all used to live on the same floor in the building next door where there was a lot of meal sharing (sometimes Sunday breakfasts still in pjs), cookie making, a belly dance lesson or two, raclettes and events too numerous to mention. No one missed anything big that the others participated in. There was sharing of frustrations but between us all the joys big and small prevailed.

Now we are spread out. I live across the lake and spend a lot of time in France. My Syrian friend is in Paris so time together with any of these good people is precious.

During my visit this time, we have been running our own Indian film festival with new DVDs he brought back from a recent trip to India, a greater treat because my host and hostess are quick to explain the subtleties of the culture that I would otherwise miss.

Thursday I am going to Paris to catch up with my Syrian friend.

As my hostess was standing at the stove preparing one of her vegetable dishes, the smell of cumin scenting the air, we were discussing my plans. “It is like the old days,” she said, “but instead of walking across the hall when you see us all you have to take a train.” Or two buses and a tram.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


His voice carried throughout the car on the Geneva-bound train and was broken only by his father’s hmm and un-huns. The father, dressed in a grey business suit, turned the pages of the paper he was reading.

Tired of sitting, the little boy popped up to greet the woman sitting behind and within a short time they were deeply engaged in conversation about the sun, cars and trucks visible out the window. He was bearing the weight of being two, a condition that would be relieved in April when he would be three. The point was emphasised with a third finger being added to the other two.

The woman gave him a paper and pen and he disappeared only to reappear and explain about the whale, boat, fish, castle he had drawn. He instructed her to draw a whale and a discussion about what whales do followed.

Every one nearby was watching and smiling, but the father just continued reading.

The little boy produced a small car and the woman had him play which-hand-is-the-car-hidden-in. He tried guessing both hands, but she insisted one or the other. He won. Then it was his turn to hide the car, and although the car was visible, she picked the wrong one which led to gales of laughter.

The woman then started folding paper into hats and boats that the child moved through the air and talked of storms.

I thought the father a bit uncaring but as we pulled into Geneva and were standing in the aisle with our coats and cases, he started talking.

“He never stops,” he said. “He barely sleeps.”

Hearing my accent the little boy switched to English. "Hello, Madam."

“We were in the states until six months ago,” the father explained. “I was a student.”

I learned they were African and on their way to visit the man’s brother in Gex a French town near Geneva.

As we started to leave, the little boy with the biggest brown eyes said au revoir or good bye madam to everyone who had been watching him getting the language right for their conversations that he must have overheard. He looked up at his father and hid his little hand in the big one. The father stroked the child’s closely cut curls and beamed at him.

I cancelled my thoughts of indifference and substituted the word “weary” and added “pride” and “love” as the child beamed back.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Grève at the Post

I am late sending my daughter her birthday present because I didn’t think I would find what I wanted to give her in France so I was waiting until I got home to Geneva. To my surprise I located it, waited for the latest cross stitch magazine to come out, bought the box with the coding and packed it up.

On my last day in France I hurried to the post to get it off to her.

No line…One man behind the counter. Then I saw the sign…



I love the French. They strike over everything. If it is Monday it’s the nurses, if it’s Thursday it’s the post, etc. I really respect their standing up for their rights.

I wish America did it more.

They seem to say:

“We have no health insurance, okay.”

“Offshore our jobs okay.”

“Non reliable voting machines, okay.”

“Medical costs out of sight, okay.”

Bleat, bleat, bleat.

The French if they even think some one might consider thinking about considering reducing one their rights they are out on the street.

Sure it is a pain at times, but leaders back down on bad ideas (and sometimes good ones, but in democracy nothing is perfect)

The man behind the counter and told me in French to come back tomorrow.

“I am leaving and don’t know when I’ll be back,” I said.

“I am sorry, it’s the grève. I don’t have any money,” he said.

“It’s prepaid and I have the declaration.”

He shook his head.

“It’s for my daughter’s birthday.” I was saving the story of why it was late but it wasn’t necessary.

“D’accord. But it won’t go out until tomorrow.”

“Merci mille fois (1000x)” I told him one day was better than weeks or maybe months. Then I gave him my blessing. “I hope someone does something really nice for you today like you did for me.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I admit it I am a...

I admit I’m a neat/clean freak slightly less compulsive than Martha Stewart and it is one reason I am a minimalist. Today was my monthly cleaning, the one where I wash under the fridge, behind the toilet, under the sink, etc.

That leaves the rest of the month to do cleaning chores as needed, such as wipe off a spice bottle that is sticky because my fingers were sticky when I picked it up, make sure there are no fingerprints on light switches or appliances etc. Again because the place is small it is easy to keep,

I do mind that the maker of my oven put on a decorative ridge where junk gets stored and it is necessary to go after it with a toothpick, but overall my oven despite two years of use is still new looking as is my food processor after five years of grinding, shredding and cutting.

And I give my dustpan a thorough soaking rather than a rinse. Before you call the white coats, let me say because I never liked dustpans I had an artist paint me a special one-of-a kind at a price that made it too cheap not to use but too expensive to not take care and mostly it gives me a smile when I use it rather than a groan.

Overall, because I have such little space I can do a thorough cleaning in about 1.5 hours including rearranging all my closets and making sure the floors are dust free.

Saying that, I know as I arrange things in perfect order, hang clothes in rainbow order, stack my lingerie in perfect piles, the first time I need anything, I will do a dig that would make archaeologists hire me on the spot – well maybe not because they go slowly. Professional diggers would hire me.

Although my surfaces will always be clean, although everything will be in its place, my closets and drawers become danger zones.

Now I sit getting ready to work in my spotless and well-ordered apartment and feel good and don’t worry about the closets tomorrow.