Sunday, August 31, 2008

You never know what you'll see

When you go out on the streets of Argeles to buy your daily veggies be it the local version of St. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band playing Beatle hits with a jazz beat or Brazilian dancers shaking bodies that most women only dream of having whether they choose to shake them or not.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dreams of Obama

Last night I set the alarm to watch Obama's speech, then at some point during the pundit's (whom I would like to put a bounty out on no matter which side they are on) I fell asleep. I dreamed about needing to catch a train, but having to go to the bathroom and there was an outdoor toilet in a fenced in area with western fort type fencing.

The toilet was surrounded by rusting equipment (probably a symbol for the decaying American infrastructure) and the grass was almost knee high.

When I finished, I went through the door of the fence surrounding the toilet. Obama was there in a yellow t-shirt and he began giving his speech again. I put my arms around him and whispered "Don't forget habeas corpus." I woke to realise CNN was rerunning the speech.

However, Obama, don't forget habeas corpus...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

If the dogs can have a bar

So can the humans.
Canines in France are allowed in restaurants and hotels without comment. They even have their own watering hole labelled for the multi-lingual mutt.
As for the human café above, sitting under figure trees with their almost-ripe bounty, watching butterflies flitter in numbers great enough to expect they were part of a tour, and sipping a diablo fraise, well it doesn't get much better.

A Fun Day

I jumped at the chance to go with M1 and M2 to Rennes-le-château, the site of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and the material written about the renegade priest who came into an unexplained fortune at the turn of the 20th century. Theories range from the successful selling to thousands of masses, to finding the lost treasure of the Templiers, to discovering that the Virgin Mary had survived and come to the region and her descendents still exist. Not that this was my first trip. I am not even sure if it is the 6th or 7th, but I wanted to photos to add colour to some scenes in a book I haven't finished, and a day spent going through the beautiful countryside with nice people, would have been enough in itself. This is the view as you go up the mountain to this still tiny village. There are remnants of the old road, a path next to the modern on.

Voilà, the entry to the home the priest built. In all my trips, I never saw it during my other visits, but the colours of the windows in the late afternoon sun were wonderful.
Also above is the church the priest rebuilt. When he arrived there was no roof and the floor was crumbling, but he somehow found the money to rebuild the church, the road up the mountain, and a small mansion totalling what would cost millions of Euros today.
(And Rose: the pottery you considered buying when we were there, is still there)

So that's how they do it

I never thought about how the many flower baskets in small towns all over the region stay so fresh. If I had thought about it, I would have assumed natural rain would take care of it, but if I thought more deeply, I would realise that we often go long periods between even a drop. As M1 and M2 stopped to check the map, I noticed the truck with the large water tank and a hose dousing the flowers. However, just as the red light on the camera clicked green, they retracted their hose. The good news was we were on the correct route.

A Fun Day (Continued)

When M1, a Catalan gentlemen suggested we stop at a building I had passed many times, we saw no reason to disagree. At the very minimum I could add a photo to my Trompe d'Oeil collection.
Inside were original decorations such as these painted vines with glass vases and leaves, and a one-star restaurant. To amuse our mouths, there was a fresh well-seasoned salmon. I had tiny calamar with bean sprouts in a mango sauce, beef so tender I could use a fork, with a layered potatoes flavoured with cinanmon and for desert a baked banana with tiny bits of mango.

August no buy

I thought I would make it through August without buying anything. Even in Iceland, I bought nothing for myself, but did get Christmas gifts, but gifts were never included in the no-buy rules.
Then at the end of the month I blew it.
I went into a store in Rennes-le-château that had hand blown glass, and I found a glass pen. I would have resisted, but M. who was with me, tried it. I had to try it and it writes better than any pen I ever used.
So it does meet all three of my criteria for buying something.
1. It is useful.
2. It is beautiful.
3. It has a memory with it.
Naturally, I will not be able to tuck it into my pen case, but I can leave it in Argeles to be brought down when I handwrite notes, cheques, shopping lists.
I can do a half a page on one dip.
No regrets.

Just because

I like these photos I am adding them.
Fruit bowl filled with peaches, green figues, nectarines and mirrabelle. All were melt in your mouth good.
The umbrella tops of the marche show through the flowers of a neighbour's window.
The colours are so intense that they make my eyes happy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Down with Pundits

I woke this morning having slept through Clinton's speech, which I had wanted to hear. In fact, I had fallen asleep a little before midnight and didn't budge, not even for a potty trip until 7:43, at least an hour before my normal waking.

The night before I was up almost all night listening to the Democratic Convention or rather I spent more time listening to the pundits TALK about their opinion of what was going on yet not ONE WORD about the demonstrations going on outside, not one word about the police NOT wearing identification names as is required, NOT one word about the harrassment of the citizen journalists who have formed as a group to film abuse against demonstrators... what was that thing in The Constitution about free speech???? Free to be rounded up, free to never meet the mass media or enter your ideas into the public dialogue.

I wish the news stations spent more time SHOWING what is going on and less time TELLING us what is going on. Interesting while US pundits are talking about Hillary voters going to McCain, Al Jazerra is interviewing Hillary supporters who are saying that the issues are more important than the people... Making news or making up news???? understatement. Today I will head to Rennes-le-Château for the umpty umpth time, this time taking photos to round out a novel where I have included it but have yet to add the colour. Michel and May will make better company than Wolf Blitzer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Women's Room

When I was in high school, I tried to read Atlas Shrugged and couldn’t get through it. When I was an Army wife, I read it, and thought it wonderful. Then after university with a better education, I read it and recognized it for drivel.
Reading can be subjective depending on where we are in life.
When I first read The Women’s Room by Marilyn French in the late 1970s, I thought I was reading my biography. The stories of some marriages were the marriages of my mother’s friends (she never followed the traditional route).
Although the scenes in Cambridge were places I knew as intimately as the characters did, that was not what hit me. Unlike much fiction I read about male-female, this was the real story, a variation on the hundreds and hundreds of conversations I have had with women friends.
Last week I entered the Church where the American Library makes it home. At the entrance is a bookcase where books are placed for people to take. I picked up a copy of The Women’s Room, and decided to reread it.
Unlike Atlas Shrugged, I found the truths in the book were as valid today as they had been 30 years ago. The wars might have changed, but the power structure, if anything has gotten worse. If I look at my own personal relationships, I have refought the same battles, only maybe they were skirmishes rather than full-fledged battles. Maybe that is personal progress, but not much.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A new kind of flush

When my daughter was little, we used to eat out a lot. Making dinner after work often took too much energy. Sometimes she was bored, despite the books and/or colouring stuff we brought with us, and alleviated the boredom by going to the ladies room. In fact she probably could have written A Children’s Guide To Ladies Rooms in Restaurants in the Greater Boston Area.

When I went to Europe and she stayed home, I suggested we both keep diaries and then compare them when we get back.
Mine included all the different kinds of flushing mechanisms I saw during my trip (several pages).

Today when I was having my bone scan (no osteoporosis), I used the toilet on the way out. I didn’t get the knickname Bitty Bladder for nothing. I couldn’t find the usual flush device. Turns out it is the two black bars that I thought were decoration. The left is for light flush, the right for a hard flush.
Although my daughter is now an adult and spends less time in ladies rooms than I do, this column is for her.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer lush reward

As I get ready to go back down south for the next six weeks, I have my usual list of things to get done before I go: bank, library, post, pick up ticket for trip to Bern, reserve a place for a Christmas Market in Stuttgart in December, etc. etc. Each day I tick off a few, and as a reward after yesterday's rain, and this morning's efficiency, I decided to walk back from the next village through the vineyards and farms. Everything sparkled.
This patch of land with its veggies, flowers, manicured lawn and little cabin is like so many mini gardens throughout the country. People from the city come to grow their vegetables, but they often spend the day, have a picnic or whatever. Reminds me a bit of my Victory Garden on the Fenway a lifetime ago.
I would love to have a real garden (IF someone else tilled it) with tomatoes, carrots, raddishes, lettuce, flowers, brocoli, beans and even real corn like the kind produced in New England, but I am never in one place long enough to properly tend it.
Still the cherry tomatoes are ripe in our garden and if that and parsley are the only two crops, it is still a treat to pop either in my mouth.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I am so embarrassed

“Do you speak English?” The man was dark with his hair close cut. He held two waxed cartons side by side. “What is the difference between them?”

His girl friend stayed closer than I am comfortable with, but they were East Europeans and I thought maybe their comfort zone was different from mine.

“I speak English, but not Icelandic.”

We laughed. I moved on to buy some fruit and noticed they left the store immediately.

Walking back to the bus, I reached for my camera in my right hip jacket pocket. It wasn’t there. I searched my backpack. Nothing. My left hip jacket pocket. Nothing. I assumed I has been pick pocketed.

Our guide was upset. “It almost never happens here.”

I assured her I knew that the Icelandic crime statistics were some of the lowest in the world.
The other people on the tour were lovely, asking if I were all right, encouraging me not to let it ruin my trip. It wouldn’t.

A camera is a thing and I figured this was Odin telling me to stop being lazy and learn the better Cannon camera that I traded for editing a novel.

I arrived home three days later, threw my jacket on the bed. As I was emptying pockets, I realised there was a breast pocket which I never use. Unzipping it revealed the camera.


When the jacket was on the seat of the bus, that pocket must have been closest, and assuming it was a side pocket I put the camera in it.

Dumb, dumb, dumb and apologies to the non-pick pockets

I ate an iceberg

Well not the whole iceberg, but a nibble as we took a duck boat and sailed around over 50 or more icey giant some which were the lightest blue. A rubber raft with a motor zoomed and zig zagged ahead of us to make sure that we didn’t hit ice under the water.

Each day on the Icelandic trip was more exciting than the one before.

Standing almost on the spot (the actual spot has been shifted by earthquakes) where the Althing, the first Icelandic government, was formed in 930 A.D. I could just imagine the men, the tents, the vendors rushing around. This was only topped by the last day where I was able to look at the manuscripts of the Sagas some going back to the 1100s. Their first laws were written during that period, and those too were illustrated and bound. To look at letters penned by someone, who had lived 1000 years ago, connected us through centuries. I wondered how he felt at the end of the day, did he have a wife? Children? Did his hand get tired. The Cultural House had a display of powders for coloured inks along with explanations of how they were mixed to get the illuminated mauscripts. How did the writers decide which colours to use? Did one’s pen break and did he throw his work across the room in frustration?

The development of the scripts over the centuries was explained with clear examples, something I either never learned or forgo. The entire museum made my medieval-loving little heart beat faster.

Than there were the volcanoes, the glaciers, cascades,geisers and black sandy beaches with the landscape changing every few miles. We saw mud pots, bubbling and boiling against a moonscape like background. For wild life we saw whales cavorting in the fjords, reindeer and puffins so close we could almost touch them. I suspect they would sigh and think, okay, here’s more tourists. Should we fly or hop around for them? Do they want us to eat a fish?

We saw maceraux (? Spelling) Birds who build three chambered nests, one for the toilet, one for sleeping and a third that they decorate with pretty stones.

Many of Iceland’s national roads are unpaved. We bounced along guided by the cairns made up of volcanic stones. At one stop, the cairn had been built to almost a storey high, and we added our own stones, a reminder of having been there.

Two impressive things. They close a national road each year for a month because it would disturb the nesting birds. Also they mention writers, artists and sculptors as national heroes.

Most of our hotels had TV. The programs were Columbo, The Biggest Loser, a film with Karl Malden and Dr. Phil all with Icelandic subtitles.

Iceland pics

For my crazy statue photo collection, this modern day Viking is outside a souvenir store. Iceland has 300,000 people and 500,000 tourists and a place to buy sweaters and other local products seems to exist where ever
I love taking photos of people taking photos. The Volcanos aren't neat the way they strew rocks all over the place.

This village has a phalus museum, but not very big and forget the jokes. From the port, whale watching tours go out.

Iceland pics

A museum village from the remants of yesteryear. The living space is underground and quite cozy if you consider the long, cold winter nights. The grass roofs are still used, but rarely, on modern buildings. The modern church in the backgroun adds a bit of colour.
As a child each morning, no matter where I hid a spoonful of cod liver oil was forced down my throat. Thus, I passed up the shot of fish oil that was offered as part of a breakfast buffet. When I saw how full the bottle was, I knew I wasn't alone.

The Icelandicers have no doubt that Leif Erikson was the first European in America. This statue is of his wife and of the son that was born there.

Iceland pics

The place where Iceland began its democracy in 930 A.D. Today its 300,000 inhabitants have a low infant mortality rate, one of the most equal societies with no real poor and few rich, college education for no more than $800 a year, nationalized health care, no army, and consider their national heroes writers, poets and artists. I doubt if the original 420 families could have any idea of what they began.
Our money. For months, my roommate and I had been saving money in a can, a franc when we didn't eat out, anytime we weren't sure who owed what, the results of a bet. In total it gave us our spending moneym excluding the gifts we bought.

Iceland is a seething under the ground. A good percentage of their homes are heated from the boiling underground. Icelandicers refer to volcanoes and earthquakes as expected events. They are aiming to be carbon neutral within a couple of years and are almost there.

Friday, August 01, 2008

I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane

All my bags are packed, I'm going away,
I won't be home for many a day...

I'm off to Iceland, my dream-trip since before I found out I couldn't work in a Icelandic fish-packing plant for six-months a year: It seemed like such a good idea, work six months, write six-months. Ah well, my life turned out okay anyway and I am planning to have a wonderful holiday. Inshallah...

Happy Birthday Switzerland

Swiss flag nibbles, napkins and picks, grace the table for the Swiss national day.

Switzerland is 717 years old as of yesterday. We celebrated with an open house, although the guests were from more than Switzerland (France, America, Brazil, Italy, England and who knows where else if you count dual nationals.) Unfortunately rain dampened many of the celebrations, which include the commune offering everyone breakfast, having stands of local eats, and of course some of the traditional alpine horns. The rain stopped long enough to allow our neighbours to do a half hour firework display over the lake that riveled that of many communities.

But back to our private celebration. My housemate came up with the patriotic nibblies: tiny zweibach, tomato paste and gruyère cheese cut in crosses (not quite white as the flag, but good enough).

"I feel a blog coming on," I said and headed upstairs to get my camera.

"My housemate feels a blog coming on like some women feel hot flashes coming on," she called after me.