Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My fourth no buy month

This month my intention to buy nothing material, not a book, not a sock didn't go as well as last month where I only bought a mop at 2 Euros. I consoled myself that I said I could replace stuff. Imagine if the innards of my toilet went yet again (French toilets leave much to be desired) and I had to wait eight months to flush.
The computer needed replacing. A writer can't be without a computer.
But today I plunked down 1500 Euros for a car. Those that know me will say "She bought a car??????? She hates cars. She thinks everytime they move they are killing the planet."
Well in Argeles I share a car with a friend. We don't drive much between 300-500 Kilometres a year. I mean sometimes one tank of gas lasts nine months. But the car, which was over 20 years old, gave up.
The garage had this car, my friend didn't have the money, I did. Therefore I bought the car, BUT I gave it to her. It is in her name, it is her car.
Technically, I never said I wouldn't buy gifts for others, so I can consider it either a replacement or a gift.
Thank God I don't own a car. I would consider myself a terrible failure if I couldn't figure out how to live without one. At least it gets good mileage, a tiny, tiny, tiny consolation to my participation in planet murder.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Israel wants to be safe

Israel wants to be safe
Israel killed four children in Gaza in a bomb attack. I guess three year olds fire rockets.

Israel wants to be safe
Israel rejected the Hamas offer of a six-month truce. I guess with a truce you can't kill Palestinians if they aren't killing Israelis. (I have not seen this offer reported yet in the many American papers I read/scan)

Israel wants to be safe
They are protecting themselves by blocking gas deliveries so the UN cannot get food to the Palestinians who are already on meager rations.

Israel wants to be safe.
Maybe they should work as hard on making peace as making war.

Okay so it is a Soccer month

Someone dropped the ball. (See photo of where it should be, suspended on top of the Jette d'eau, in an earlier blog...)

My housemate after reading the earlier blog did point out that it was soccer not rugby...I did n0t tell her, how as a cub reporter sent to take a picture of a famous Boston Celtics player, that after asking how to spell his name, I told him I didn't know much about BASEBALL.
Some things I guess never change.

The sign said

Parking complet
...I don't think so

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Today was the day.

Tired of being rushed to the hospital with sirens blaring, tired of having every heart test ever devised to be told my heart was strong and healthy, I swallowed the miniature camera to allow a good view of my innards last January. My problem was finally diagnosed as a spastic esophagus. I promptly named the tube E. Sophie Gus, to put it into context.
A number of things were advised.
1. An Alkaline diet. Check...easy to do, the things on it mainly veggies and fruits which already formed a good 80-90% of my diet.
2. More exercise. Check. Just walk more, although I already walked whenever I could.
3. No bubbly water. Check. It was only recently I learned to like it at all.
4. Lose five kilo. Check...cut back on sweets combined with more exercise.
5. No Coca-Cola...oops.
Since I was a child, Coke has been my beverage of choice. My mother alloted three wonderful bottles out of a six pack to my brother and I. As an adult there were no limitations. I drank it for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and inbetween. When my GYN told me to lose weight, I stopped bringing it home and confined my self to one a week. Eight pounds disappeared. But in the last year I was drinking a Coke each time I ate out and I eat out a lot. Dommage.
Never having another Coke is just too depressing, but rolling around on the floor in agony, isn't much fun either, so I have limited myself to one Coke a month and today was the day.
Because I had two editions of my newsletter to get out and because I was alone in the house I decided to walk to the next village (exercise) to one of my housemates and my favourite eating haunts rather than cook. Thus with my salmon in chive sauce and a five veggie salad I had my monthly Coke. I took little swallows letting the drink swirl in my mouth like the best brandy. Feeling virtuous I did leave a quarter of the bottle.
Then I walked home enjoying the snowy Alps on my right, the Jura with its filagree of melting snow on my right, the newly-leafed trees, the apple, cherry and lilac trees in full bloom and the pink, white, yellow, lilac and purple wild flowers in the fields not yet under cultivation. I am content three kilos have disappeared.
Only 30 days to go to my next Coke...

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Unless by Carol Shields and the ultimate luxury of reading this book (or any) in bed before starting the day--I was enjoying her lush language, the fresh spring air coming through my window, the light playing off the trees.
Munchkin aka. Munch, the Munch, the Critter, Mouse Breath decide it was time to relate pushing herself between me and my book, marking the pages with her chin, twisting and turning and finally settling under my chin with loud purrs.
I enjoy reading in bed UNLESS there’s a cat between me and the book…but then again I enjoy the purrs.

Senior Dorm

I do not like the term senior applied to me, although I love the discounts only wishing that the issuing person would ask for proof of age. My housemate is a few years away from the title and the discounts, but we are both CALLs, Children Adults, Lived Life.

Thus when we both found ourselves at home unexpectedly on a Friday night, we exchanged a look and said, “McDreamy.”

Out came the shrimp, popcorn and chocolate and the cans of champagne (pronounced the American way SHAM-PAIN. In flutes and from a bottle with grapes from the Champagne region it is SHAM-PAN-YA.

Up to the TV room and the search for the remote that necessitated a phone call to No. 2 son, whom although grown now occupies space under the eaves as a third roommate. In went the DVDs.

We are on the second season of Grey’s Anatomy and we watched Denny die and McDreamy ravish Meredith then tell her he loved her.


We both started to talk about the story in Bleu Martin that reported the problems with bugs that Patrick Dempsey had while filming in a kilt in Scotland and laughed that in the French version McDreamy become Mamour.

The evening ended with a Swiss black chocolate that melted slowly in the mouth.

It was so reminiscent of the dorm life of youth without the angst of tests and will-he-call? moments. Another ahhhhhhhh.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Book Sale Solution

One of the things I love is the American Library book sale, held in the American church. It reminds me in a way of the Christmas fairs at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Reading where I grew up.
This year I am in a condonrum since it is a no buy year and nothing material is to be added to my house.

I solved the problem by:

1.Eating lunch there.
2. Buying mango chutney (eatable things don't count.) My housemates thoroughly approved.
3. Over paying for the food.
4. Being part of the clean up crew at the end of the sale.
5. Offering to help with publicity.

That way I have helped the library without bringing anything new into the house while revelling in the ambiance of their tea room surrounded by books, arches and stained glass as I munched my egg salad sandwich and chocolate cake.

A Proud Polyanna

Sometimes I am so happy that I could burst. Just walking by this place near the Grotte in Geneva gives me pleasure, as does the realization I am Swiss, talking with good friends, McDreamy nights with my housemate (the shrimp and champagne do add to the joy), writing, working on my newsletter, going to the film festival, reading my friends' blogs, sharing stories on email, etc. etc. etc.

Even today, running around doing diddly squat errands I found people who helped with a couple of things I didn't understand. I couldn't believe when my obsessive-compulsive post master saw I wanted to transfer money out of my savings account he took the time to show me what the post had to offer was a better deal. Or maybe it is because he's obsessive-compulsive.

And on Tuesday when I head back down south, there will be more little joys whipped up into waves of happiness. Inshallah.

And if that is being Pollyannaish, so be it.

The first picnic

After days and days and days and days of rain when I met up with a former colleague during his lunch hours on a day which knew how to be spring, a picnic in the park seemed to be the only reasonable choice. Like me he is a Swiss American and as well read if not better than I am. We both delve into papers from many different countries before forming our opinions.

As citizens of both countries, he told me how he took a day off from work to go to Bern to manifest for Widmer-Schlumpf. She replaced Christian Blocher, the far right leader of the UDC. He was ousted as one of the Seven Dwarfs in the executive branch. In turn, the party is trying to oust her, although her election was totally legal in every way.

My political buddy said that about 12,000 people were in the square in front of the Parliament in Bern. Between the crowds and rain he couldn't see much until she came out to speak...and in the best Hollywood tradition the sun came out, the umbrellas came down and he had a great view.

He doesn't like her policies, but he felt as a citizen he has to actively protect the democratic process. It is a lot of work to live in a democracy.

Why I'm gettin' out of Dodge

No way, no how do I plan to be in Geneva during June when Foot 2008 is going on. As a non sports fan who isn't sure whether its soccer or rugby being played, I do know the crowds it will bring will be great for the economy and a nightmare for residents
Basel and Bern are other Foot cities. Already the souvenir shops are going crazy, the floor of the train station has been painted, they are talking about rickshaws to help with transportation.
In Basel one café has to take in their sidewalk tables because they don't sell the official biere of the tournament.
The ball will be suspended above the jette d'eau until the end of June. Last night it was resting on the water looking like one of the old balloons from the 60 series, The Prisoner. Yup, I'm getting out of Dodge.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A visit

When my visitor, the young woman I call my French daughter, saw my Japanese Chin mousepad she giggled. She had had many experiences with my dogs when I lived with her and during her many visits to me from her childhood on.

She is in Geneva as part of her job, now fully grown, with a career that makes her eyes shines when she talks about it.

We took a long walk through the vineyards and talked about everything.

The visit was an unexpected and tomorrow she heads home, but I am grateful for the time of intense sharing adult to adult. A gift.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Film Festival

The cheery red kiosks and the white double line with Vision de Réel written between that wended its way on the sidewalks of the old Roman city of Nyon set the perfect mood for the Nyon Vision de Réel, an international week-long festival of documentaries. For years I have missed because of work or not being in the country. And today I finally had a chance to go. I met up with a writer friend who is covering it, we ran into another writer/photographer, and by chance picked up a Parisian photographer who joined us for a quick lunch near the lake. All the better to discuss the films.

The three films we saw were:

Operation Filmaker: An Iraqi student who wants to be a film maker doesn’t take advantages of tremendous opportunities. The film maker’s last lines were: I wanted a happy ending, now I just want an exit strategy.

Pa’Lante by a Venezuelan film maker interviews Cubans about their country. During the question and answer period following, the director when asked about freedoms in his country and Cuba he insisted that under Chavez there was great freedom of speech and freedom of the media.

Summerchild was a Finnish film. An 11-year old child who lives in an orphanage spends the summer with a Finnish couple. Her feelings rung from joy to homesicknesses.

And even if there were lots more that I wanted to see, I will plan better next year. Inshalla


Bears are a sore subject after the shooting of bear JJ13, a two-year old that no matter how many times he was taken back to the mountains returned to the ville for a good meal from garbage cans. Italy is mad at the Swiss. Conservation groups who were planning alternatives are angry.

This little bear, however, is just another spotted by a writer friend that new I collected photos of funny statutes used outside stores.

An eye for an eye

A trompe d’oeil that is an eye…giggle.

Bostonian Killer Rabbits

The man in the train seat opposite me had on an orange t-shirt with a cartoon rabbit wearing a diabolic expression on his face and rather jauntily dressed and eating a carrot. The rabbit had one foot on the back of a dead well-dressed rabbit, who had been stabbed in the back with another carrot. I giggled. When I told him in French I loved his T-shirt—okay I have a sick sense of humour--he said in Bostonian English he didn’t speak French. Seems he lived just a few blocks from The Riverway one of my last Boston addresses

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Where have all the flowers gone

When I said I wanted to stop and see if my favourite cherry tree near the ILO was in bloom, my friend knew immediately which one I was talking about.

We were eating a wonderful Indian breakfast, a vegetable couscous thingie that I had tried to make myself which although good never compared. I’d had a sleep over the night before in my old stomping grounds, watched a Tollywood Movie with her and her husband– yes there is a Tollywood and a Mollywood along with a Hollywood and Bollywood.

Back to the tree. I have periodically checked on the tree to see if it is in full blossom. I had about 11 springs where for about three weeks on the walk past the tree and have my eyes enriched by the pink colour.

About half way through the season half the petals would be shed making a pink reflection. By the times it was only leaves on the tree, the petals looked like pink snow.

Sadly the tree is only in bud. Maybe next week.

Look what I found at the post

I know this is a no buy year, but, but, but, I never said I wouldn’t replace-- and the old laptop was getting sicker and sicker. After almost four years only a few of the letters such as the least used q,z j.

The new one is almost a kilo lighter, something my shoulder will love as well as I tote the laptop through train stations around Europe.

Now what has this got to do with the Post? Well that’s where I bought it. The Swiss post has gone into sale items of everything from candy to electronics. And because I knew the day was coming their prices seemed reasonable, several hundred CHF less than my favourite computer store.

My computer angel helped me set it up.

So I happily type away on letters I can read, smile that I have a built in web cam, love my new speakers and microphone which is of a better quality which is good for interviews and chats with friends on Skype or VOIPcheap.

There’s a few glitches to set things up as well or better under VISTA, but all in all, I am a happy puppy.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Happy List

A thick book called 14,000 To Be Happy About was in my friend’s bathroom.
I started to think of all the things that made me happy in the last 24 hours.

1. The smell of water in the air.
2. The mist hiding the lake visible through a path flanked by two stone walls.
3. That it stopped raining after six days.
4. That I did the puzzle find 7 errors, find, find, find, find, find, find, pause, pause, find.
5. My mammogram was perfect and the technician and I giggled throughout.
6. I made all the bus connections quickly.
7. Purple pansies.
8. My accountant said that I had given him everything he needed to do my taxes. Far better than the year he stood with me in the lobby of UBS and announced in a voice that everyone could hear, probably up to the fifth floor, “This poor American has been here three times for a form and no one has helped her. Who will help her now?” Now quite as happy as the year he gave me olive oil pressed from his own trees…
9. One white oval petal as large as my hand, beaded with moisture, on the sidewalk and untrampled.
10. Seeing bison on the way to Ferney-Voltaire.
11. Finding a new pizza place that makes a great crust.
12. Seeing the Indian countryside in the movie Darjeeling Express then discussing with a friend why we didn’t like the script while loving the trip to India and the filming techniques.
13. Sleeping over at girlfriend’s house, an adult pajama party and discussing which look would be better for her formal dinner the next night just one item on a list of girlie topics.
14. Sipping ginger tea.
15. Fresh pineapple for breakfast
16. A new colt running in the field with adult horses next to the ILO.
17. A master writing class on plot.
18. The chandelier at the Geneva Press Club reflected in opposing mirrors to infinity.
19. The extra long head massage from my hair dresser when he cut my hair.
20. Seeing a photo of Raphael and his hours old son, Gabriel.
21. Learning Fanny would be here next weekend.
Now only 13,979 to go.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Toothpaste, who'd have thunk it?

“T O O T H P A S T E ! ! ! ! ! ? ? ? ?”

“Toothpaste,” my housemate replied. She is an intelligent woman. When we disagree on something it is often because we are each working with a different set of facts, and when we discuss how we came to our conclusions, one or both of us modify our opinions depending…
Thus when she told me that toothpaste would help my acne, I was willing to listen, after recovering from the shock of it all.

I have been plagued by skin problems most of my life. Pimples, although usually an affliction of the young, is not a way I want to maintain an appearance of youth. I do not want to be the only little old lady in a nursing home with the skin of a 16 year-old on her way to a dermatologist.
There was one period when my skin was English rose beautiful and that was when I was pregnant with my daughter. As much as I love her, producing 20-plus children to maintain a nice complexion was not practical financially, emotionally or physically.

Somewhere in my 40s I discovered that certain foods added to the problem. By giving up my daily glass of orange juice, outbreaks reduced significantly. Pineapples, kakis, and grapefruit also add to the problem and most have been banished from my diet.

A couple of days ago I could not resist a beautiful blood orange, and every swallow was worth the hard red spots on my cheek s a few hours later.

I figured I’d give the toothpaste trick a try. Over the years not much has worked except massive doses of Tetracycline that leads to another problem that involves wanting to scratch violently in impolite ways. Creams and lotions plus tons of prescription creams—I’d tried enough to open my own skin product department.

Thus I went to bed with cheeks a beautiful Crest blue. I woke up with all the bumps smooth, and only a slight discoloration. I figured a second application would help, but decided to wait until after I returned from town. I doubt if toothpaste, blue or otherwise, will ever catch on as a makeup trend.

Meanwhile, I must remember to ask my housemate about the vinegar and something she uses for cleaning drains…wise woman, she…

Monday, April 07, 2008

Heston Has Passed His Guns Left

That is the translation of one paper's announcement of Charlton Heston's death. They continued to say someone has finally pried his gun from his cold, dead hand. The rest of the obit described his acting career and his conversion from the left to the right. This is part of the contuining series about the way the francophone world looks at death. The photo is from an Argelès
grave with the decorative plaques.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


This photo is up here for no other reason than during my last day in Argelès, the skies went from blue to torrential rain in a very short time with the drops beating on the roof . I reached for my camera and was able to catch the water sheeting on the window. Oh…and the elephants on the curtains are all Democrats for Obama…

The ultimate in celebrity endorsements

Having oogled George Clooney in watch ads and noticed what other celebrities lent their name to famous brands like Cage and Pitt, I couldn’t stop giggling when I saw this celebrity endorsement.
When I was at Les Invalides in Paris I never noticed if there was a watch belong to Bonaparte in the personal effects on display or not. (right click on the photo if you want to see it close up)

Point of View II

This is the flat I lived in for 11 years. In fact the curtains were ones I bought. Although the design is industrial ugly from the point of view of the camera, if I were standing on the balcony, I could see France, children playing on the grass below, the Jura and the château across the street. During Augusts, the sky filled with rainbows night after night. All summer the balcony served as another room with a flower-laden garden and window boxes that I had loving stencilled. I kidded about a pink box being my back forty, not acres but inches, where I grew basil, sage, parsley and coriander that I snipped as I prepared gaspacho or pasta sauces... Or I can see my mom waving goodbye to me from the balcony.

The walls are embedded with my happy memories: finding Syrian meals in my frigo when I returned from trips, finding bread baked in Prague in the wee hours of the morning and flown to Geneva in a diplomatic pouch and hung on my door knob to eat with my lunch, of Indian breakfasts with neighbours in their flat still in pajamas on a Sunday morning, of two years with Llara living there, and weeks when RB2 bunked on my couch. And there was our English neighbour who would call Timothy her cat by jiggling her keys. The entire building knew Timmie.

The flat is vacant now and part of me would love to rerent it. It is not practical financially for I would need to sublet it whenever I was away for a time, hassles I don’t want. The neighbours responsible for so much sharing and memories are in other places and we continue to share but differently. Of course, I could build new relationships, because the flat is in what I call the international ghetto and is filled with transients working at the UN, NGOs and consulates in the area so when each new family moved in, I would make contact as I did with Syrian, Czech, Indian, Japanese, Kenyan, English, Italian, etc.

I f I were to say, “I want to rent the flat again,” I could, BUT BUT BUT that would mean losing out on my sharing a home with my former landlady and family. When I would come back from Argelès there would be no sign on the kitchen white board saying. “Marro or champagne” and deciding we could both go to the neighbourhood restaurant and have champagne.

I would miss out on preparing a tray of treats, veggies, dips, tapenade and shrimp, and settling in to watch several episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. I wouldn’t have seen Munchkin the cat, convince my housemate she merited a little of the shrimp and then watch her nudge herself into an almost sitting position between the chair arm and my housemate to watch the last episode. Is McDreamy's charm so pervasive that it extends to female cats?

I would miss out on sharing chores that need to be done, the good conversations in the hallway, the walk to the lake in seconds, and a thousand other little things that make life living with people I like a joy.

So again it is a point of view. I can find rainbows in ugly architecture. I can find rainbows in people. I can find rainbows and that’s a point of view I don’t want to lose.

Reclaiming Genève

Whenever I return to Genève I reclaim it by walking and walking and walking… I love knowing my feet are trodding above where people from before Roman days have walked. Even Julius Cesar spent time here.

It’s the mixture of old buildings, cobbled streets (and yes, also the modern that would send Prince Charles into spasms of agony) against the lake and mountain. Wednesday, my first day back I literally walked across the city from Rive to Grand Saconnex and back down to the lake.

I wanted to check on my favourite cherry tree across from the World Council of Churches. Sigh. It was in bud not rosy bloom. but I continued my walk through the alphabet buildings of the UN are. A woman stopped and asked me how to get to the lake. I told her I would walk with her and that was the serendipity. She was a Russian translator with an apartment down the street from the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. We exchanged cards and invitations to visit. But in the 20 minute walk we also exchanged details of our lives, laundry and myriad details. Had the cherry tree been in bloom the time it took me to photograph it would have meant I missed this brief encounter that left me smiling a good part of the day.

Macho Mallards
Four days passed before I could walk by my beloved lake (okay it belongs to the Canton of Geneva) near the house, which is different than the lake downtown with its traffic. A female duck was swimming and a male was trying to get her attention. Suddenly a second mallard appeared and the two engaged in canard fisticuffs to get her attention. She gave them a look that probably if translatable would have said idiot and flew to the other side of the dock. Neither the males noticed.