Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kitty coup

My daughter informs me there’s a kitty coup going on in her flat.
Gwen, The Lady Guievere, the first cat, the tiger, probably takes Garfield as her hero seemed to be the dominant.

Morgana, the grey and white cat as a kitten was adopted by college students in Boston then abandoned when they left for the summer.
Each established their own spaces and habits despites moves from Boston to Geneva to Boston to Malden to Leesburg and then Vienna VA.
However, last week at bedtime Morgana took over Gwen's sleeping place. disgruntled and perhaps with an I'll show her attitude, Gwen settled into Morgana's place. Morgana didn't care.
The next night the same change of place. Some nights Morgana goes to bed before anyone.
The next round is the bathroom. Gwen seemed to think my daughter needs help and advice getting ready in the mornings and watches her intently. Now my daughter reports, this duty was assumed for the first time by Morgana.
Gwen talks a stream of meows while Morgana USED to remain silent. This too is changing. Gwen does not seem to know how to combat this coup. On verra.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Inernational Panic

When I lived in Boston and a plane crashed at Logan airport, two of my international friends, knowing I took semi-frequent trips from Logan, called to check to see if I was okay. I also remember my ex-boss rushing into my office when the victims of the crash in Peggy's Cove was released and pale-faced asked me where my daughter was. There had been a Tara Nelson not a Llara on the plane. The impulse to immediately worry about those you care about, is human.

Thus Monday night when I awoke at three for a piddle run I flipped on the news for a few minutes to learn of the D.C. Metro crash. My daughter rides the Metro. She would have been on it in rush hour.

With shaking hands I dialed her cell, telling myself that a no answer would mean only it was shut off as it often was. It rang, rang, rang.

Then her voice came on the line.

"Mom?" She was amazed I was up and even as a news junkie had heard about the crash. She was home, safe and sound, having come home on other trains.

My relief was only matched by sorrow for the families of people who weren't so lucky.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dancing with petals

The Tramantane is at first force leaving the sea white with a few blue caps. My street with its overhanging flowers is a wind tunnel which is pulling many of the petals off the stems creating purple and pink carpeting on the pavement. As I walked down the street I was caught in a swirl of petals twisting around me, going as high as my shoulders then dipping in a floral curtsy--a magic moment.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Visit

My former housemate who read the blog below reminded me of another memory around typewriters.

She and I ran a typing business to supplement our incomes. Prior to word processing, professors were loath to type their own work, and since we were surrounded by universities in walking distance,* there was no shortage for clients for our business named Worth Associates both as a shorter version of our street address Wigglesworth Street and a value statement.

We had rented an IBM Selectric and had invested in many of the golf balls to offer our clients a wide choice of type faces.

Then IBM came out with a new Selectric model and the rental company wanted us to switch. However, the new machine would require all new golf balls. We balked. They insisted and although we tried to stay nice, they were getting nasty.

I wrote the then IBM CEO Tom Watson. A few days later there was a knock at our door. I should add at this point we were in the process of rennovating a five-story brownstone (even if it was painted gray). The typewriter was in my bedroom on the third floor. The stairs were in half finished condition. However, the dining room to the right of the entrance hall was at least finished.

The men were dressed in business suits and had excellent posture. They handed up their business cards. They had been dispatched from the IBM headquarters in New York to solve our problem.

I do not know why they thought we were important enough to fly to Boston. My letter did not imply we were the huge client they obvioiusly had been expecting. A quick call to the IBM office and our problem was solved. In fact the rental IBM selectric had become ours.

As they left, the older turned to me and said, "Next time you have a problem, please don't write Watson, call us directly."

I promised. I can only guess what they muttered on their flight back to New York about a waste of time, etc.

Fortunately, my small Japanese chin Albert, waited until after they were gone to run downstairs with a treasure in his mouth (a used tampon). I'm not sure the VPs could have taken the final indignity.

*Schools in walking distance of our house...Northeastern, Mass College of Art, Harvard School of Medicine, Harvard School of Health, Harvard School of Dentistry, Wentworth, Northeastern, Simmons, Emmanuel, Berkeley School of Music, Museum School of Fine Arts, Boston University. In many ways it was like living on a huge campus.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Framing Memories

I see Annie, The Framer, almost daily at La Noisette (a.k.a. Franck's tearoom). Her framing shop is two doors down and we chat on any number of topics. When I had two precious things to frame, I naturally turned to her. Although I believe in supporting local business, I also love her work.

We had so many colours to chose from, but I also wanted to hang the poster along the stones, and she spied the perfect frame. She spied the perfect tone of grey with a slight design.

Why is this poster in my studio? I found it on a memory-trip to the Christmas market in Stuttgart last December. My father once had the Underwood typewriter franchise for West Virginia, and I had an Underwood when I was a cub reporter for the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune.

As my fingers fly over the laptop keyboard, I remember the pressure needed to depress the keys. In those days, electric typewriters were barely heard about. When they were I dreamed of having one. It was an Olivetti, made in Yverdon, Switzerland, a place I never heard of. Only later would it become a town I went through almost weekly. That factory has long been abandoned.

To think I once dreamed of owning then acquired an IBM with its golfball fonts, then a computer, then a laptop and now my baby laptop. As a writer all of these machines are my version of a quill pen used by writers of long ago.

The fire screen sampler was made for me by a friend of many years, who when I use to pop into her office at noon I would find munching a sandwich as she worked on one beautiful sampler after another.

We'd spent a weekend in a freezing apartment near the Bastille in Paris so we could attend a needlework exhibition that showed embroidery from the Middle Ages through to a designer wedding gown. We've shared sheepherding lessons, movies and meals, tea-toast-telly, picnics, sad moments, and times of unbelievable silliness, hopes and dreams. Thus is both a pleasure and an honour to have her needlework in my flat.

Annie came to my studio to make sure the measurements for the sampler/fire screen was the right size. She had never seen feet for a frame that my friend had provided brought back from the UK. There was much discussion on whether the frame should be rustic or modern but when we spied the exact colour of the letters, we knew -- there was no other possible choice.

Thus, I am happy to have two more possessions (yes Rose, you read that right) but they are both the item and a raft of memories to be savoured.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

From Geneva Lunch

The annual Economist liveability survey of 140 cities worldwide ranks Vancouver in first place with an almost perfect 98 score out of 100. There are four European cities among the top 10. Vienna is in second place, Helsinki in seventh, just ahead of eighth-tied Geneva, Sydney and Zurich.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A lovely present

Deciding what to give people are always a problem over here. Yes, often I opt for a charity, but my girl friend, a member of the Argelès Gospel Choir has a daughter turning 50 back in Boston. This is a special birthday and called for special thoughts.

Then her musical director and she hatched a plan. Why not record A Piece of the Sky, Happy Days Are Here Again and Happy Birthday and email the recording? The recording session was held and the musical gift sent out into cyberspace to land in Brookline MA in time for the big day.

Love like that cannot be bought in any store.

I was head butted by a baby camel

Yes, I am still in Argelès and I had to run an errand yesterday and used Barbara's car which was parked by the river, which was waterless as it is most late springs and summers. I caught something hairy out of the corner of my eye. Two camels and a horse were nibbling on the grass.

Then something butted me. It was a baby camel. Unlike the adult camels he was not tethered, probably on the assumption the baby would not stray far from his mom. So much for that theory as the baby camel wandered among the cars parked at the edge of the river.
I thought of my sheep herding diploma languishing in Genève but there were no trained dogs around to round up the camel. He quickly lost interest in me to nibble grass. The adult camels were also nibbling away. No one seemed concerned, so I went on my way.
This morning I have not seen any bulletins for missing camels, so I assume the baby checked in with his mother.
Sorta reminds me of having teenagers, who go on mini adventures but then come home again.

Honey comb

Elisabeth had the first raspberries of the season from local growers but she also had a pan of honey still in its comb and quickly cut off a small piece for me. It is waiting, its scent pervading the room, to be spread on pancakes tomorrow morning or perhaps on bread made with chestnut flour and with a thick crust baked in a wood oven or both.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The singing iron

Okay my iron is 17 years old. It has moved from Geneva to Argeles. It has been treated with respect and not overworked.

I am wondering why it is singing. When I set it upright after it bravely has removed a wrinkle or two, it makes a singing/whistle noise.

Since it still does it job well, I don't think it is a death song. Maybe it just likes to whistle because it is happy with its new spacious place under my sink now that GiGi has installed shelves.

Unfortunately it is a Johnny One Note singing iron... There are no words to explain why it has decided after all these years to break into song, but it has.

Does it want to try out for Star Ac, the French answer to Britain's Got Talent.

All I know is that:

Elle chante, elle chante.

Transition completed

I've temporarily left my life in Geneva with its wonderful view from the balcony of the house, my fun housemate, her son, my writing friends and other friends, the pleasure of sharing a place with the last minute sushi runs, the emails from the basement to my desk upstairs to propose this or that, DVDs to shrimp and champagne and Munchkin the cat.
I'm temporarily in my second life in Argeles with its beautiful street, my local and international friends with whom I while away the hours in cafés, the fresh vegetables where every ordinary purchase becomes a personal transaction. I've the TV, music events, my nest where every where I look in the flat my eyes find pleasure.
There are difficult transitions and there are hard ones. This is definitely the former.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Here is how I've avoided editing the galleys for Family Values so far today. It is 13:42 when I start this blog.

5:30 Woke and watched Paul Krugman on Hardtalk.

6:00-7:30 Read detective story in bed

7:30-8:30 Made bed, showered, watched Telemartin, had breakfast (mutli grain fruit pancakes.)

8:30-9:00 Washed down the front door and two blue pots outside. They were still covered with sand blown up from the Sahara. Even washed the two garbage bins that make even our flown-bedecked street less pretty. Planted some pink flowers. Don't know what kind, ^just know they are pink and pretty.

9:00-10:00 Took new cobalt blue mini computer to Franck's for morning tea...the computer didn't want the tea. I did. Mike wanted to see it, the computer. We were eventually joined by Yetta, Morgans, Pascal, Roy and Daphne. Was teased that my mini lap top is now colour pleasant with both Argeles and Geneva. So far I have talked with six nationalities.

10:00 Went to see Daniel to arrange for him to come to install software for printer on said cobalt blue mini laptop. Exchanged news of village.

10:15-10:20 Bought lentils, spinach, garlic, ginger, etc. at Elisabeth's for making dahl for lunch. Chatted with young man who is starting to work for her for the season. Chatted with her on village news.

10:20-10:45 Stop at Franck's again. Chris has returned and is drinking coffee. Showed him the Geo Magazine which features a photo of the trompe d'oeil of his house. The caption claims it is true Catalan. I guess they didn't know he is a London theatre set designer.

10:45-10:53 Drop copy off at Rosella, the potter, so she can see Chris's house in Geo. Leave magazine so she can read about North and South Catalonia, the main subject of the magazine.

10:54-11:45 Amble to the house I once owned. Gertrude and Froed are in residence. We discuss her latest film and NGO projects, elderly mothers, writing and make plans to get together next week.

11:45-12:05 Head home (I've not really gone more than four blocks in all this time). Chat with neighbor Christine, a retired school teacher from Lyon, about the merits of living alone or with people. We discuss the neighbour's suicide, the motor cylcles that make too much noise and the cascade of flowers that hang in tank-size clumps of orange, purple and pink making arches across the narrow road.

12:05-13:42 Make dahl, listen to Obama's speech, turn on computer. Try and think of another delay. I know. Some things need to go to the charity shop (also within the same four block area.)

I will get to those galleys...yes I will...I will, I mean it...I will

Monday, June 01, 2009

Lazy but Lucky

I admit it. As a writer I'm a lazy researcher. For example, I need to include soap making, candle-making, etc. in my new novel, but I am content to find the directions on the internet and not test it out.

On the other hand, when a character had to drag a corpse up a hill in my novel Running From the Puppet Master, my poor daughter became the corpse to see if it were possible.

If it is history I am more apt to read more deeply rather than commit a gaff, but sometimes there are things I don't check. TWA flew out of Miami in The Card although someone told me after the book was published that wasn't one of its routes. I hadn't even thought to check that one.

My character Abigail had been a student at Le Rosey in Switzerland. I chose it based on my neighbor, Hiram Manning's experiences there. I needed just a few sentences and in the back of my mind I was thinking of going to one its two campuses when I was in Geneva for the last two months, but kept postponing it, as I've postponed meeting with the expert on the last witch in Switzerland for another novel I'm researching. I'll get to it..., the witch expert that is.

This morning, as I was making my rasberry-cinanmon-oatmeal pancake, ARTE had a program on Le Rosey...I have my sentences without any effort. What luck.

This happened once before when I was writing Triple Decker, still trying to find a publisher. By setting it in my old neighbourhood, the Triangle of Roxbury Crossing and Mission Hill, I did not need to do research to know the sidewalks were brick and what the triple deckers looked liked either inside or out. However, when it came to the church, the church where I attended midnight Mass on Christmas Eves, I couldn't remember what it looked liked.

Lo and behold, it was the time the Pope died and CNN broadcast from inside the church on some of the issues on the errant priests. I had my brief description without asking a friend to walk around the corner to check it out.

That's why I say I am a lucky researcher...and yes, a lazy one, too. But that doesn't mean I don't want to be accurate, but I'll celebrate any bit of luck that comes my way.