Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I once had a guest who used three rolls of toilet paper a day to my one a week. It is not that I begrudge toilet paper to my guests nor do I belong to the Sheryl Crow school of one-sheetness, but I never understood how anyone could use so much, considering they she was out most of the day.
The opposite extreme was an uncle once who explained how to use toilet paper frugally and even sat on the closed toilet seat to explain how much to tear off and he held the paper on his knee as he shared his wisdom and until he could put it back on top of the roll for the next person, a true non wasteful New England Yankee.
When I was in fourth grade, a friend of my mother’s went to
In the early 60s as a new bride, living in a room in
However, it is strange to think of the pleasure looking at pretty toilet paper can give as well as give rise to memories of toilet paper long gone into unnamed sewers.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Ten little Indians
Laying on a bed
One rolled over
Nine little Indians…
I’ve song the child’s backward counting song since nursery school, on Rainbow bus trips, with my own daughter (although she often asked me not to sing or sing softly). Always I pictured each Indians almost as Fisher-Price figures with a black Dutch-boy cut, leather head band, single feather, different primary colour shirt and pants and for some strange reason bright round black shoes.
Only recently did I take it as a metaphor for life and death. The older we get the more often one little Indian rolls over never to be seen again. How do the other little Indians feel? Would Indian number 2 cut back on his cholesterol? Would Indian 5 and 3 jockey for a place to keep his place on the bed a bit longer? The song doesn't go into any of that.
Then were the Indians always on that bed. Did perhaps Indian 2 come from another bed? How did the loss of Indian Number 6 get back to those on the other bed – smoke signals? How did the Indians from the former bed react to the news? Did they rush to comfort Indian 2 or shouldn’t No 2 go to the first bed to comfort those left there. Can smoke signals comfort as much as hugs?
So many questions from a childhood song. So few answers.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
If my first day in Argelès was the vide grenier, it was appropriate that the last before returning home to
I should have walked to the Château instead of spewing more pollutants into the environment. It is only about 20 minutes on foot and I would have been able to appreciate the flowers and vineyards on route, but I hadn’t realised that there were sidewalks all the way. Next time.
Those who know my anti-shopping stance may wonder, why I did this…
Well having trailed my friend through fairs, shops and auction rooms, I had learned a lot. Combine that with several BBC programs on antiques, I have learned a bit. So each time I go, I “buy” stuff for my imaginary farm house.
My purchases this time included
- A wooden trunk with all edges covered in iron to hold linens
- A Napoleon daybed for my office in case I have an overflow of guests
- A Scandinavian style pitcher and glasses in a triangle shape coloured chocolate and mint
- A five toothpick thick silver stick with a retractable ball and little silver threads to debubble champagne (the woman explained for people who can’t take the bubbles)
- A geometric paining of lavender in a style that could have been done by an offsping of Gauguin if his genes were mixed with Van Gogh
- A red corner cabinet painted with half moon laughing faces perfect for storing CDs
- Three book cases with light green and stencilled painted cabinets under the shelves for my library
As I left the brocante, a man with a hooded falcon on his leather-gloved wrist, talked to one of the ticket takers. Below the
For 2 Euros I had two hours of entertainment. No worry about deliveries. No worry about rearranging anything. No worry about credit card bills coming in. One of the great advantages of furnishing my imaginary house.
Outside the church little girl after little girl shifted in place or ran to greet friends. All were dressed in white. They were leggy in the way that young girls are. Parents stood around before the service. Unlike many Sundays the worshipers were not predominantly grey haired, although the regulars were there with their canes and twisted backs.The bells began to peel. Deductive reasoning tells me it is First Communion combined with Pentecôte services.
People who know me, know I chafe against mass production as well as things that have to be shipped distances. Now I can buy soap made locally -- good soap, beautiful soap.
Last summer at the beach crafts market, my
That same young woman has opened a Savonerie in the village. The soaps are in all different shapes and colours, including a tube shape in the Catalonian yellow and flecked with orange. For those who want to give an assortment as a gift, there are choices of baskets. Or it is possible to buy just one for personal use.
Something as simple as washing my hands, now has become a pleasure, not just for the beauty of the soap, but the sense that I know who made the soap, what her mother looks like, where she went to school.
It puts the personal into what before was impersonal.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The wind blew hard. Cars left parked outside are dust covered.
Few cars have garages, which could almost make
The dust has entered my flat leaving a fine coat on my sideboard, dishes, table, mantle and floor. I dust. I sweep it up, realising that it has travelled across the
No matter what happened to it before its journey, it had no control at all of its destiny. In a way it is like humans who can make little decisions, but are unable to change the direction of a hurricane, a downsizing company firing them, or a nation deciding to drop bombs on their home.
Sand doesn’t talk. I wish it did. There is much I would like to talk to it about.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
When I was first in
Now approaching two decades later it still becomes a question of food. I often think of
Dunkin Donuts raisin bagels
Dunkin Donuts blueberry muffins
Stouffer’s welsh rarebit
Among other things. My daughter used to bring the muffins whens he flew from Boston to Geneva despite being teased about fear of hunger by the attendants, and a friend arrived once complete with an assortment of donuts that were gobbled up with joy.
And there was a time when having an email from a friend who talked about eating a blueberry muffin in her library with a cup of tea when an overwhelming wave of homesickness hit. I shared the feeling with one of my team. She went home and had her mother bake me blueberry muffins to make me feel better.
And it just isn’t stateside food. I never arrive at Cornavin without going directly from tracks to the sushi place and then to pick up taillaiul bread for my breakfast the next morning. Filet of perche from
But then when I return to
So imagine my pleasure when doing errands when I saw a café with the sign “Ben et Jerry’s ici” Memories of the
Monday, May 21, 2007
Monday morning. The 5:30 Hardtalk was an interview with the president of Ikea. I have fresh melon and a cup of tea and I’ve finished my tweaking of Triple Deckers for the day and am on to my column for Writers Forum. It is due today, and although I wrote it a week ago, I want to give it a look-see now that some time has passed to tweak that as well.
Through the window comes a wonderful, wonderful smell of freshly brewed coffee. I can’t drink coffee because it makes me feel as if ants have moved into my skull, but that doesn’t destroy the pleasure of the wonderful aroma.
I recently bought coffee for my coffee-drinking friends from the tea and coffee shop down the street. They roast and ground the beans there, so just walking by produces wonderful sniffs.
My friends get the Guatemalan beans (sadly not fair trade) but I also asked for this amount of their cheapest beans. I held out my cupped hands.
Those beans now sit in a small crystal dish with a tea candle in the middle. My ode to coffee.I want the main section in English
The planet is in crisis and I know that every bit of electricity I use is destroying life. I know every second a car engine runs the planet is in more danger.
Now although I can reduce driving to a minimum and make sure no electricity is wasted, I am just one person.
I also know flights represent a real danger to the planet, but I do need to go to
Then I read how Desjardins Group is planting 97,000+ trees to balance the energy used by their members to attend their annual meeting.
I made the decision that I will plant a tree for every flight I take. So I am sending to messages to friends with land – so many have apartments – that if they let me know I will buy them a tree.
Will my trees save the planet??? Absolutely not, but then again, it may balance just a tiny, tiny bit of the damage I am doing.
So friends who read this and want a tree, let me know.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
I decided to take a 38 hour break from my “work activities” although I don’t consider them work because I have so much fun doing them. Producing this article gave me a sense of pride www.thewip.net/contributors/2007/05/a_chair_can_be_a_powerful_symb.html my tiny, tiny part against the violence in the world. However, I decided to shut the computer off for 36 hours which meant…
- No emails
- No writing for thewip.net
- No working on Triple Deckers
- No editing
- No articles for Writers Forum
- No emails to senators or congress men
Now despite all these things that I love doing, there are other things I take pleasure and do regularly, but I thought I would revel in them so for 36 hours I…
- Did a café sit with a poet/play writer that I bumped into in a book store
- Watched three movies (see knitting, multi-tasking) while I still have Canal Plus
- Ambled to the beach taking in the scent of the flowers that I can identify as pink, blue, purple, yellow
- Had sesame encrusted salmon with a hollandaise nappe at La Reserve as I watched white caps dance on the water
- Took a long nap
- Read, read, read
Now, I do realise that there’s so much in life I love doing, that maybe I need to compartmentalize a bit…or not.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
We are coming up to the longest day. I love waking as the light is breaking. Although my windows are covered with quilted curtains, the skylight gradually turns from blue-black to gray. Items in my room appear first as shapes followed by the details. The rock wall made with stones placed there 400+ years ago begin to show colour: greys, browns and even a dark rose. For centuries they must have looked at grain (for that is where food was once stored) or unused items from a time nothing was discarded. I wish they could talk about what the people who lived in this house have felt.
The day breaking also reminds me the silliness of ownership. The earth is millions or billions of years. Man exists individually maybe 100 years, but most much, much less. How do we really think we can possess anything?
When the light is full, a hirondelle, a swallow struts across the glass, the feet making little clicking sounds. I get up to start the day.
I do not understand my TV cable service. They shifted stations around. For the month of February I had Canal Plus, a series of stations with great movies. Then they went off except one for a couple of hours. Okay. Because I live in
Now they stations are back and happily just in time to watch the opening of the Cannes Film Festival. They ran short clips from the entries, a good insight what I want to see in the future.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
8:03 As I walk out my front door, my Catalan neighbour comes up to me waving his hands. He has a full head of white hair and has told me how he makes his wife breakfast every morning and how he loves her more than anything although they have been married over 50 years. He speaks so fast I have to ask him to slow down. Then he points to where a table USED to be holding some of his plants.
Rue Vermeille, my street, is considered the prettiest street in the village. Plants in planters line both sides of the narrow street and overhead wisteria and some red flowering plant make archways of colour and shade canopies.
However, this morning, several of the plants and their holders are missing. He drags me to where I once had two Spanish rectangular pots. Only one is there. I had bought them across the border in Bisbal, a factory outlet town for Spanish ceramics. Thank goodness I had only paid 5 Euros for them. The two big blue pots that flank my front door and are the same colour are still there, one over flowing with pansies, the other with patients still not in bloom. Other plants on the street are missing. A Catalan old lady is stomping up and down angry that someone took her pot of peppers and her pot of spinach that was just ready to be picked.
It is the second robbery on the street. About three weeks ago when I was still in
8:15 I excuse myself to have breakfast at La Noisette. Today is marché day and I like watching the vendors set up their tables. Michel offers me the paper to read and it talks about Sarko's swearing in today and the beginning of the Cannes festival. Michel is a nurse in
Franck sets my hot croissant and baguette, tea and orange juice down. The butter is sweet. I know most of the people and I don’t get a chance to read my book L’étudiant étranger.
8:50 The marché is set up. The table next to the café is piled three two feet high with artichokes, about the size of a normal balloon. The centers are open and filled with iridescent purple spikes. I know from experience how meaty the leaves are when dipped in vinegarette and pulled through my teeth, but I pass. Today I am looking for melons.
The olive dealer, who offers marriage and romance despite having a wife and twin daughters, with his selections is busy proposing to another woman but winks at me as I pass by. I still have olives from Saturday.
At the boulongerie the line is short. The smell of yeasty bread baking floats around us. There is a sign that tells me about le coeur Catalan and I ask about it. The woman describes the honey and apricots in the bread and I tell myself to go tomorrow. They are selling it for the holiday, although I can never remember whether is it Ascension or Pentecost.
9:05 I stop at Pedro’s for tofu burgers made with mushrooms. He is a shy man and it took years before he spoke to me.www.virtourist.com/europe/argeles-sur-mer He is still unhappy that the writer described his shop as esoteric in the write up with the photo on the website above. We discuss the exhibition at the Gallerie Marianne where poets described the paintings done by local painters.
Back at the house I put my purchases away to get to work, grateful I make my own schedule. It has been a good morning.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Music Story No 1.
I was taking a pair of too-tight brown shoes worn less than once and a backgammon game (I have another) to the charity shop and took the short cut through the building with the hall where the elderly go for lunch each day. This time music rang through the hall. An organ grinder dressed in a red and white striped crew neck jersey and a straw hat looking like he had been attacked by Yves Montand or Maurice Chevalier led the group in singing old French songs. I paused at the door and listened. I knew some from watching the variety shows on television.
An older man painfully made his way to me. “Entrez-vous,” he said.
I did, and despite being considered as part of the troisème age, the audience were anywhere from ten to thirty years older. I might be sprier but they could out sing me.
Music Story No. 2
He had a red clown nose, a drum on his back with Teletubbies La La and
The street musician complied and soon they were chatting in basic French. The English artist stood a bit taller each time the musician understood and taller still when he himself understood. The artist’s progress in French has been slow and he is unsure of himself, so anyone who speaks to him slowly and in simple terms he considers a gift. Finally the musician started to move on.
“A bientôt,” the artist said.
“See you later,” the musician replied.
“You speak English?” the artist asked.
“Of course, I am from
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
I know why I adore my life. It was a busy day wrestling against time to get my newsletter out www.cunewswire.com and setting up interviews. However, I took three breaks, one to wander around the marché, one to have lunch at La Noisette (easier then cooking and washing up) and a third to meet with a rather new but dedicated writer who lives nearby. I traipsed to at La Noisette for a second time. Everyone should have a neighbourhood tea room around the corner.
We sat in the shade, the sky a royal blue, the 700-year old church across the street in various shades of ochre.
Sophie, the waitress as disgustingly beautiful as ever with her Catherine Zeta-Jones hair and Sophia Loren lushness, delivered une boule de café glace with chocolate sauce and one cappuccino.
The writer and I talked and talked about her new writing group, writing projects, my writing and a workshop I am planning.
However, I knew I was with a kindred spirit when she described a woman, not as beautiful, tall, thin, funny, but as someone who chooses good verbs.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
I have a friend in
I bought a new mirror for over my fireplace. Did you hear that all the way to New York???? I confess not only did I buy it, the second I saw it I couldn’t imagine not having it, but then again it does fit one my criteria for a possession, it is beautiful and so original.
The mirror is round with a five inch leather frame. The interior edge is cut to reflect the design, which includes elephants and jungle plants. The colours of blue and green with touches of rust for fruit match the other colours in the flat. The clock that was there was moved to the side wall over the couch, the tapestry designed needlepointed by my daughter that was where the clock now is was transferred to the place where a copy of a grave rubbing of a medieval noblewoman bought decades ago on a trip to the UK was and that was put in the outside hall next to my front door.
However, I do make have to make it clear to one and all that these are Democratic elephants cavorting on the mirror not Republicans. I will be flexible on some things but siding with the war thugs in
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
In France 1 May is a holiday. and I returned to Argelès to make sure I didn’t miss the Vide Grenier (empty attic) which is a giant flea market mostly with people selling their own stuff and a few professionals thrown in. I had no idea it would be so big. The area normally covered by the marché was full of blankets with everything from a carved apple to a stuffed zebra, some junk, some nice stuff. The Vide Grenier covered all the main streets and ran along the river and took up the parking lots.
As a non-shopper I loved browsing hoping for a copper fry pan that was tin-lined, no luck. If I had found a Clarice Cliff vase I would have been thrilled. No luck.
However I bought two replacement Chinese ceramic spoons to replace one I broke for 1.5 Euros. One broke before I got them home.
For 9 Euros I bought 10 wine glasses with blue stems to replace the mishmash I have been using and they co-ordinate perfectly with my dishes.
I did not look at all the places, it was too much. I suspect there were at least 500 sellers. And that doesn’t count the those selling kebabs, sauscissons, chickens, crêpes, waffles, etc.
I had planned to do another quick tour at the end of the day to pick up the Lilies-of-the-valley that are traditional sold on the first of May, but looking out at the red tiles of the house across the way I see they are wet. I suspect people are putting their wares in boxes and folding their blankets and their attics won't be empty once they get home and put the stuff back.
I concentrated on getting the wifi and TV working (it takes a while before the cable kicks in after being off for several weeks), my suitcase unpacked and made the executive decision to wait until morning. I wasn’t hungry (and after seeing the mould wouldn't have been even if I had been) since my friend Barbara had, as is our tradition, fed me. This time it was lasagne instead of the promised goat stew because the goat cheese man hadn’t delivered the goat. Chris, the artist whose house is www.virtourist.com/europe/argeles-sur-mer photo 7, joined us. He had lifted my suitcase up the three flights of stairs. My back thanked him.
Sleeping seemed a much better alternative but it is not a solution to the blues (mould). The next morning, I was ready to tackle the job. I doubt if my frigo has ever been so clean, and that leads to anything but the blues.