Friday, December 31, 2010


For years my resolutions was not to make resolutions and that was easy to do. I also made boxes titled things like finances, work, relationships, than coloured them depending on how much work was needed.

Last year I did resolutions and in cleaning out my electronic files came across the list. How did I do?????

1. To do for my Mom all I can without destroying myself.
Yup, did that.Will continue with this for next year.

2. To continue to try and be a good and supportive daughter, mother, friend, housemate and hope that they all have such a good year that they don’t need support just friendship
95 percent Will also work on this next year.

3. To bring my German level up to functional
Okay I failed on that one. How back burner can this be. I do still have the book by my bed. Do you think the vocabulary will jump from the book into my head as I sleep?

4. To continue to improve my French
50 percent. This will be a battle as long as I live.

5. To submit Murder in Argelès, finish the Experiment and begin Murder in Geneva which is playing more in my head than Murder in Damascus which will be next.
MIA accepted for Dec. 2011 publication, MIG, first draft almost finished. Experiment ignored. Ok, I cannot not write so it is only which things I am working on and what I do with it.

6. To continue to develop
Big time. This is truly a labour of love. If all goes well we'll expand into the other anglophone countries this year except for the US.

7. To be prudent financially
Swiss banks not allowing Americans, even duo nationals to invest caused a game changer. This year prudence will be even more necessary.

8. To be less anal about neat…but not completely.
Neurotic is in the idea of the beholder and I've decided I like things neat. Deal with it.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Loving winter

On the walk to the library, I found the snow filled tiles interesting. This was my fantasy during lat year's canicule.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Out of my paws

One of the joys of retirement is getting up when I want.

It might be 5:30 to watch BBC's Hardtalk. Or I might select to read one more chapter then one more until I finish the book at 10:39.

There are a few mornings, of course, where an early morning appointment (which I try never to make) my bladder or hunger drive me out of bed, but even those have an element of my choice.

Not today. One housemate is in the New Forest. No. 2 son left for Paris to join his sweetie.

Thus it was a rude reminder of my office days when Munchkin informed me in no uncertain times that I was to get out of my war bed and let her out and that she had no intention of using her litter box, which although clean she considers beneath her except in emergencies.

I obeyed. And writing this was interrupted by equally plaintive meows on the roof outside my window where she had climbed to inform me that her majesty was ready for reentry.

photo taken during an earlier summons.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Munchkin's presents

For Christmas Munchkin got new kitty dishes and a ball that when she bats it, food escapes. She consented to eat from the dishes,but made it clear that she does not expect to work for her food. If we want to bat the ball, we are welcome to, but she has more dignity.

My mother wouldn't be able to cope

With a table setting that wasn't traditional. But just for fun why not put the tableware at an angle?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The winter solstice

The shortest day, the longest night, the day when the sun begins it return to a time when it can nourish the earth once more.
I have a sprig of evergreen on my desk in celebration.


Unlike parents who only get to name their only offsprings, as a writer I can name hundreds of characters. Names have fascinated me, especially how they can identify a country or generation even in the Anglophone world.

My grandmother’s generations of Florences, Mauds, Walters and Gordons, gave way to my mother’s of Alices, Dorothys, Isabels, Evelyns. Then my generation produced Barbaras, Susans, Dianes, Richards, Roberts and Charleses.

There was a bunch of Lauries and Lisas after me followed by Jessicas and Jennifers. Then we had Tiffanys and Ashleys and now Madisons. Boys names evolved more slowly with Scotts, Jasons being added.

In England, depending on age and social class, we would have Nigels and Simons, Camillas and Jeminas.

Thus I cannot have a 60 year old woman born and raised in a small town in Wales named Tiffany.

In writing Murder in Argelès, I went to the cemetery for names. For Swiss names, I look at the death notices or phone book.

For the UK characters, I ask my Brit friends.

For my future Murder in Damascus book I will ask my Syrian friends.

However, when it came to writing about Geneva in the time of Calvin, naming became a major problem. Street names for important people in that time were only a minor help.
Then my housemate produced her book Histoire de Genève.

Page 146 gave me all I needed to know.

As today when events can change the naming of children (e.g. the popularity of Aidan when there was a wonderful man named Aidan on Sex and the City) so it happened in Calvin’s time.

Old names such as Claude, Francois, Guillaume, Antoine, Nicholas, Jean (and their feminine versions) gave way after 1550 to Daniel, Isaac, David, Samuel, Judith, Suzanne and Rachel. And although I had not planned on using the name Claude, with the town of St. Claude and its relics of the St. it totally disappeared.
Now I can go back to my manuscript and adjust names as necessary.

Thank you, housemate.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Schnee/Stau Tour Speyer and onward

Polzei to the right of us. Polzei to the left of us. And our little rental van in the middle.

Was the hotel robbed?

Was there a terrorist attack?

No, some kind of police meeting leaving the hotel filled with policemen and us, two not so little, not so old ladies. My teddy bear decorated suitcase is almost drowned by the testosterone running through the corriders.

We walk up to the centre of town for dinner. The GastHaus is filled.

"English? You speak English?" The waiter asked.

We nod.

He put us at a table with an American colonel (ret.) and his wife. The colonel left the service immediately after his last tour of Iraq. He has a civilian job for three years, and they consider this beautiful spot a hardship post. Smiling must be against his religion. They can hardly wait to go back to Texas.

When they leave Julia and I say in unison, "Smug Americans." We fantasize what we could have said, how we love what Assange is doing, how we hope our birth country does not attack any more sovereign nations. I suppose there is merit in politeness.
We would not have changed his mind.

The next morning we check out a small Christmas market that has not opened, but a bookstore has this display outside.

Orpheus stands 15 metres outside one of the museums. We fall in love with him.

Overnight there was a storm. In the pristine snow between the hotel and the Tecknik Museum we write words in the snow by walking the letters with our boots.

On the road we cross into what would have been impossible 35 years ago, the former East Germany. We see a few watch towers and hundreds of beautiful wind turbines. Although much time has passed, I was surprised by the appearance of prosperity every where we looked. Some of the houses were built long before the wall came down.

Our enemies have become our friends and our friends have become our enemies. How many are dying to fight our future friends?

Schnee/Stau Tour/ Poel

The Island of Poel, our goal.

This is what we have been planning for months. We will pick up the painting Julia has loaned to the museum. Mac, our Tom Tom, has brought us here through the storm.

Now we can walk the streets that the fishermen have walked. To see the harbour where they drove their spikes through the ice. To share a sunrise like the ones they have seen. Taking the painting home, was the excuse for the adventure.

Poel at sunrise

The harbour.

We have a wonderful suite. It could easily be a studio and we design where we would put the kitchen, the tables, and the living room. Despite the below freezing temperatures the floor tiles provide the heat.

We enter the museum to be greeted by the curators. Te painting is hanging at the top of the stairs, the largest one in the exhibition. For six years I have wondered about these two men, and Julia has wondered for decades. The younger one resembles her No. 2 son.

We learn their names were A. Waack and Edouard Schwarz. The sticks they carry are to poke holes in the ice. There are other sketches of them in the Gast Hof and in the exhibition.

The curators of the Museum give us a history of the island, how it is the only double star shaped island anywhere, how the Swedes owned it for two hundred years, how a German ship Cap Arcona was bombed towards the end of the war. I may write Murder in Poel as the next book in my series as a result of this visit.

Schnee/Stau Tour: A bit of luxury

Thia is a day of hazardous driving through snow covered, wind swept roads. We are amazed at the number of wind turbines.
"Ballerinas," Julia says.
She is right, they are dancing in the storm, beyond beautiful.
Because of the weather we decide Frankfurt is too far and look for small towns.
"Celle," I suggest.
Mac leads us at long last out of East Germany to the Autobahn.
20 minutes from our cutoff, a Stau stops us. We move only a few feet in 25 minutes.
Julia, seeing that there is a cut off in a few metres, angles the car between giant trucks and off the Autobahn.
"Turn around, Turn around." Mac is having another hissy fit at our change in plans.
Not for the first time do I imagine two men working for GPS talking.
"Ya, ya, I thought that when they assigned me two little old ladies, it would be easy," Mac says to his co-worker.
"Ya, my client is 26 and has a Porsche and he does just what I say," the coworker says.
"Oh, oh," Mac says. "Can't talk now, they've taken a turn ... where are they going?"
We turned into a hotel and Julia went in to check on the availability of rooms. She comes out again having made an executive decision that we earned a night in a luxury hotel.
No arguments. Last night's suite, with its heated was only 45 Euros and this was three times the price but we were off the road, snug and cozy.

Schnee/Stau Tour: Freiberg

The woman at the hotel in Bad Homberg tells us that there were over 800 km. of Stau that we escaped last night.

We can compare the four star of Day 4 to the no star hotel of day 5. The room was smokey BUT BUT BUT the owner brought us breakfast to our room. In chatting with her (well Julia chatted and I did my best to understand) experiences were exchanged. And she followed us out and brushed off our car for us before wishing us a good trip.

We veto the idea of making a run back to Switzerland to explore Freiberg and its Christmas market. The streets and sidewalks are clear. Shoppers are everywhere. I cannot remember if Germany ignores the 2 p.m. Saturday store closings except for the First Saturday of the month before Christmas or if they have done away with the early closings altogether.

I finally get my Kartofelsalad (?sp) which was the final item on my list of things to eat on the trip. The restaurant on the right has waitresses dressed in local folk costumes (the cleavage is natural). We look down on the market from the first floor window seat at the market. A man strolls by with a donkey. A stand sells baby Christmas trees in pots where they can be replanted.

J. finds her final item on her food list KaseKuche...

As we head towards

Schnee/Stau Tour: Last day on the road

We wake for our last German breakfast. We are in Müllheim, not that far from the Swiss border. Our VW Caddy has no fresh snow and the temperature is warming up to 0°C.

For the first time since Day 1, it is clear with dry roads. We decide to write haikus for each day we have been gone as il Divo sings to us and the kilometres fall away.

The most unusual honey dispenser I've ever seen.

Saint Nicholas greeted the people for breakfast

The carving in the chandeliers.

Day 1
On the outward road
Traffic flowing free, no snow
Polzei everywhere

Day 2
Orpheus greets us
Pristine snow covers Speyer
Snow starting second day

Day 3
Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow
Wind turbines and watch towers

Day 4
Finally at Poel
Frozen harbour, museum
Faithful Fishermen

Day 5
Snow slows autobahn
Small, slushy streets through forest
Luxury reward

Day 6
Smokey hotel room
Going around in circle
Woman cleans car

Day 7
Eyes seeing too much
beauty surrounding our souls
leaving us peaceful

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Smartbox dreams

No 1 son gave my housemate and me a new Smartbox, which is a booklet of getaway hotels in Switzerland, France and Italy. We can spend one night at one of them.

Each page shows different chalets, castles and medieval villages.

Thus the dreaming starts:

Do we visit Heidiland in the far end of the country?

How about the one with the 15th century dining room?

Then there is one that is farm.

Or look at those canopied beds where we could be aging princesses...

but being in the heart of Colmar would be nice.

We have 14 months to decide but we can dream each day.

Friday, December 03, 2010

A wonderful day

It is -3°C

There is snow on the ground


I am dressed in jeans, ski sweater, socks, jeans, leg warmers.

My new laptop is my new love.

Munchkin is asleep on my bed.

The makings of nice pasta lunch are downstairs.

I don't have to go anywhere.

he he he

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Looking out the window after the storm

Geneva should know how to handle snow, but yesterday's storm closed the airport and messed up traffic. Although most of the buses continued to run, a glitch in the IT system meant that the electronic information boards at each stop gave little to no information.

Still, during the summer canicule I fantasized weather like this, although I did rethink the idea of making snow angels.

Wisdom according to Munchkin

If I don't look at her, she won't see me sitting on her scarf.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas 1

Today is Christmas Eve.

Crossing the Mont Blanc Quai last night, the city was alive with slivers of three-foot long coloured lights--blues, reds, yellows--hanging from the trees along the lake. The tree in front of the Duke's tomb was hung with giant lighted red snowflakes.

Today we will decorate the tree, open presents, listen to carols and have our Christmas Eve feast.

Don't run for your calendars. You did not miss a month. Although it is not December 24th, it is when my daughter is here and won't be after Monday. International families celebrate when and where they are together.

My biggest present, however, has been this week of having my daughter so close.

Merry Christmas 1...

Notes on Thsnksgiving, holidays, hearts etc.

Despite being in Switzerland for 20+ years, despite getting my Swiss nationality, the one time a year I feel homesick for New England is Thanksgiving...

Not this year...

Part of it is the presence of my daughter, and anytime with her is a time of celebration.

For the past two years my housemate and I have put on a huge Thanksgiving spread, but this year we opted to eat at a restaurant in Hermance. The ambiance is Swiss, but the decorations were typically American.

We were joined by my baked bean/cassoulet friend and her French husband and the meal was typical.

When we chatted with the owner, we found out she had lived both in our native Boston and in a town next to my daughter's outside of D.C. We ran into other friends who were also wanting the Thanksgiving meal without the work. "No dishes," was the byword followed by a sigh, "but no hot turkey sandwiches the next day." (we are talking about buying a turkey leg to remedy that little problem).

There was a bit of gloating when we checked the Boston Globe. My high school Reading beat Stoneham, Llara's high school Boston Latin beat Boston English in their traditional Thanksgiving Day football games.

Tomorrow night is Christmas. This will be a year of mini Christmases since children will be scattered. Llara, J. and I will put up the tree, exchange presents,listen to carols. Dec. 4th will be mini Christmas no 2 with son No.1, Christmas Eve is Son. No. 2.

Plans to go to the North Pole were put on hold with no real regret, but remain on the table for another year.

They say home is where the heart heart is asleep in the other room, Munchkin curled up besides her...or at least it is until Monday when we take my heart to the airport and put her on a plane. Thankfully my heart knows how to split itself, so if part is heading across the Atlantic, another part comes back to the life I so enjoy here and that is something to be thankful for 365 days a year.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

When I grew up

My daughter and I had just ordered to-die-for hot chocolate in the Geneva tea room...hers was called Kama Sutra and mine Lapone Italianne and came complete with raspberries. Under the whipped cream, it was necessary to eat the thick chocolate with a spoon.

Around us people nibbled on pastries worthy of any gourmet magazine photographer, and from their smiles, the taste must have matched the beauty. People chatted in French, English and other languages.

An elderly man used his umbrella as support to pick up one of the newspapers in a rack that patrons could read. He dropped a paper, and one of the waiters swooped in to hand it to him.

My daughter and I have never been at a loss of topics to discuss, but this discussion turned serious when we reviewed a major problem that had existed between the two of us about four years ago. Because we have had so few disputes in our lives, we are not good at them and this one I handled badly...very badly.

"I missed you during that time," I told her.

She nodded. "I kept hoping you would grow out of it," she told me.

Now that's a role reversal, I am not sure I WANT to admit to, but I WILL.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How do you feel about?

Those words,"how do you feel about..." are uttered often at Chemin du Port. The can be followed by anything from sushi to a trip to Iceland.

Thus when my housemate added "spending a night in a castle," what could a girl answer but, "YES!" Number 1 son had bought her a night for two at an escape of her choice. The reservation was made and we set off.

"How do you feel about lunch at the Co-op Wok in Lausanne?" Another resounding yes and we parked by this statue.

The view climbing to the château was beautiful even if the weather wasn't. It took a little while to locate the Bolivian concierge, who was also minding the baron-owner's children. The little girl informed us "C'est le château de mon père," as her brother jumped from couch to table to couch and she scrambled after him. We never met the father.

The furniture was great. The only other guests were a young couple who went out for the evening leaving us alone in the great hall. Conversations about being princesses, my imaginary husband off to Rome to meet with the pope, seemed appropriate. We played tile rummy in front of the giant fireplace (sans feu). Even though radiators were placed strategically around the room it was cold, but probably not as cold as when the château was built in the 1400s. If you look closely at the bed, you will see each bed post has a man, which we guessed was an apostle.

My housemate had a thick duvet. my bed did not, but fortunately my down coat came to the rescue. In keeping with the environment, I pretended I was sleeping under a bearskin rug.

It worked, and I drifted off to a cozy sleep dreaming of knights in shining armor that resembled George Clooney.

In the morning, despite the rain, we were headed back home, but not without one more look at the château. My imaginary husband, the king, still had not come back from Rome. If he wants to find me, he can look in Geneva.

And the next time someone says, "How do you feel about..." I am game. Just point me to it.

There's a cow on the dashboard

With a road trip to the northern most part of Germany planned for next month my house mate thought it was time to buy a tom tom.

Then came the hard part.

How to use it.

We gave it a test run.

We realised that it had a series of sounds the tom tom could make when her foot became to heavy on the gas pedal. Bells, horns, sirens just didn't cut it.

Until we heard a moo. After all, we are Swiss.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sometims a painting should not be hung

I received the painting of old Damascus for my birthday. Almost every day I have thought, today I should hang it up. Instead I have left it on the corner of my desk.

Not a procrastinator by nature, I wondered why I wasn't going for the hammer and nails.

Today I realised why. As I am writing at the computer, I glance at the picture often. I feel myself there right around from the bakery where the pita bread is shoved into ovens, the store where nuts and seeds are sold, where the fountains plash in courtyards, where green flags hang over the street, where water fountains have a cup for the thirsty.

I feel when I look at that painting I am at Auntie's house drinking matei, waiting for the next round of women to share lives with.

I am sitting in a café near where G. has taken me near the window where St. Paul made his escape. We are having another discussion that will resonate with me for months.

I am listening to a concert of young singers.

I am talking to an artist in his studio.

I cannot go to Damascus as often as I wish, but that painting draws my heart into a city I love with people who have welcomed me with open hearts and have touched my heart and soul as well.


Remember the poem, I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree???? The trees seem extra beautiful to me lately.

This is looking straight up by the garage.

These two photos are from the grassy plage.

The evil red button

My housemate and I have over 36 years of education between us. We are not stupid women. But we were almost defeated by the evil red button.

Our TV/DVD system has an unseen cloven hoof mark all over its set up.

The number of remotes would allow us to open a remote store. We have one for:
The French stations
TheSwiss and misc. stations
the DVD
Number 2 son's games
Volume control.

Wires used to be needed to be changed in the back of the screen until my housemate bought a single feed.

We watch little television, but a lot of DVDs: Gilmore Girls, Everwood, Friends, Boston Legal, movies, etc. Had we vanquished the knight of darkness from our media centre?

No, no, a thousand times no. The underworld was still at work keeping us from our goal.

We pushed all logical spots on all the remotes to get from the TV to the DVD. Our snakcs were waiting. Andy Brown was waiting in Everwood CO.


"Maybe something became disconnected," I suggested.

My housemate was quickly on her knees -- not in homage to any underworld deity and much to the cat's disgust because she had been dislodged from the lap.

All connections were go. The DVD was not.

Then she saw it.

The evil red button.

She pushed it.

The hills of Colorado appeared sent from the DVD machine.

We were in business.

Am I being an old lady curmudgeon when I think fondly of the days when one turned on a TV and that was it???????????????????

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pink snow alerts and other things of beauty or interest

"Pink snow alert." My housemate stood at my bedroom door.

I scrambled out from under the lovely warm duvet and into her room to gaze out her balcony window. The snow on top of the Jura was indeed pink and the moment lasted such a short time I couldn't even grab my camera, but the memory is imprinted in my head.

I knew any day that starts with a pink snow alert has to be good.

It is leaf raking time. That patterns of light, the smell of the leaves almost make it a pleasure.

Rainbows can be found in the strangest places. This was in my ophthalmologist's office.

I just loved this statue near the University of Geneva. Does it have relatives on Easter Island

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Taking a measure

Not everyone takes a tape measure to the airport, but my housemate and I did. Our first stop was for coffee and a chai latté, then we headed not to departures or arrivals, but to the car rental lots to measure vans.

Next month we are driving to the northern most part of Germany to pick up a package.

One car rental employee happily lowered a seat of one model so we could check all possibilities. Another wasn't in the mood to help at a all, while a third juggled many priorities and still made us feel like he really, really cared that we solve our problem.

We still don't have a final solution. All we know at some point in December we'll be on the road.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Signs of fall

Autumn will always be my favourite time of year.

First we get one hour extra when the clocks are changed.

Qt the top of the street today, a tres dressed in sunshine yellow was against the dark blue sky. Leaves will never match new England's, but this was a moment of extreme beauty.

The smell of fallen leaves feels clean and the fallen leaves crunch under my feet.

At night smoke from fireplaces fills the air.

It is the time of fuzzy socks and sweats, snuggies and flankets, while watching DVDs.

Nothing is quite as cozy as after getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom then to jump back under the covers to find the bed still toasty.

Need I go into hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts?

And Fall is the American Library sale. This year as in some other years, I helped set up. My first chore was cookbooks, and I wanted to stop and thumb through so many of them. However, I know if I buy them they will rest on the shelf so I resisted, but I wasn't as good about other books, which I will read and return for the next sale. Giving to the library is just in my best interest because I could never feed my reading habit.

All kinds of volunteers lay out books, stopping only for a mid-morning tea break.

Tomorrow I will go back to see what goodies the bake sale part of the event is offering.

At today's press conference

When he entered the hall where the press conference was held, the flashes and clicks of the cameras were almost blinding and drowned out any attempt to speak.

He is taller than I thought he would be, his skimpy blond hair not quite combed and it is clear he does not spend his organization’s money on clothes. His demeanor is almost shy.

His host, the head of The International Institute for Justice, Peace and Human Rights introduced him, and he humbly thanked them for the kind introduction, although he admitted he didn’t understand a word of the French but assumed it was nice by the reporters’ reactions.

Between coughs for 40 minutes he reeled off facts and figures…

Hundreds of thousands dead.

Thousands tortured.

Countries like the UK and Denmark are launching investigations into the alleged violations of international law. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN have all called for investigation, not of his organization, but the violations of international law and also of US law.

The US is launching an investigation into him.

The Pentagon has refused a Danish request for unredacted documents.

Bradley Manning’s mother's house has been searched by the FBI in WALES

A Free Bradley Manning supporter was detained crossing into the US from Mexico, and although not charged had his computer confiscated.

He quoted Article 5 of the UN Declaration of Rights which states no one shall be the subject of torture. The US and UK are both signers.

He then read of one sentence descriptions from different reports that included beatings, whippings, electricity, water, not for a few hours but days.

He told of a man told to dig up an IED while the US troops counted 1,2,3…

He told of the US Assassination Squad with a list of 2,000 names but no judicial overview. The US press has not covered this story, the international press has. He said the NY Times were going to report it but killed it.

His organization does not just pick on the US, but have reported on corruption in over 100 countries since their founding. They have 100s of other documents they want to verify, but are releasing material in order of their importance and they do not have the research staff to do everything that needs to be done.

When asked about his personal danger, he said that it wasn’t just the US that has threatened him. His camp in Kenya had been attacked when revealing corruption there.
Seventy percent on his budget goes to fighting attacks on his organization such as against his computer system or the companies that allow for on-line donations. His organization is financed by himself and donations. However, they could do much better work if they could concentrate on ferreting out the truth against the wrong doers. He wishes that the media would do more to expose the lies and corruption that exist.

He quoted Daniel Ellsberg's fears the change in the US government will make it a greater crime to reveal the truth when laws are broken than to commit the crimes themselves.

The lack of a free press only leads to abuses. The US, he said, does not have a free press and he compared it to other countries that carry stories that the US press does not.

He said that the type of behavior exhibited in Iraq and Afghanistan is not acceptable to the world community. He does not think it is the best interest of the US to conduct their affairs by committing violations of both their own laws and international laws.

He will next talk to the UN as an expert witness.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The first apero

The first apero in the new kitchen.
Number 2 son was back from the South of France for a week. He is an Erasmus student there. I, too was back from Argèles. This is the first time since August we were all under one roof and the first time we were together in a finished kitchen and not roughing it when it came to anything involving food.
So what was more appropriate than having some champagne and nibblies of cheese, meats and salmon while we caught up on news and also chatted about
An American artist visiting Geneva
The artistic spirit
How we create
How we see things
Cross cultural observations
Upcoming holiday plans (more or less because we still don't know if it will be Geneva, the North Pole or Argelès)
and whatever else popped into our heads
Outside the wind blew. Inside was warm not just in temperature but in sharing.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

On the road again

I've changed lives again going from Argelès to Geneva once more. And immediately we set off for the mountains via a lunch time stop in Montreux (sans Jazz festival) for a lunch of spaghetti with black truffles. Granted we did not know that would be the menu. A walk along the lake with its gardens, wind chimes, statues, mountain view. Life does not get much better.

the trees were hung with wind chimes that played melodies in the wind.

The poor woman must have a tremendous back ache by now.

Broom decorations for Halloween.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Strikes again

France's retirement age was last set in 1983. Since then, GDP per person has increased by 45%. The increase in life expectancy is very small by comparison. The number of workers per retiree declined from 4.4 in 1983 to 3.5 in 2010, but the growth of national income was vastly more than enough to compensate for the demographic changes, including the change in life expectancy.

Once again I am in France and don't know about getting back to Geneva. There is a plan B. If I can make the border, I can train to Barcelona and make it to the airport and fly back, an expensive alternative that I didn't have last time. We expect no more volcanoes to stop flights. Meanwhile I have met only one person here who is not on the side of the strikers.

I keep hearing we can't afford it from governments. I like the ideas expressed in a Guardian editorial today written by Weisbrot.

"The situation is similar going forward: the growth in national income over the next 30 or 40 years will be much more than sufficient to pay for the increases in pension costs due to demographic changes, while still allowing future generations to enjoy considerably higher living standards than people today. It is simply a social choice as to how many years people want to live in retirement and how they want to pay for it.

"If the French want to keep the retirement age as is, there are plenty of ways to finance future pension costs without necessarily raising the retirement age. One of them, which has support among the French left (and which Sarkozy claims to support at the international level), would be a tax on financial transactions. Such a "speculation tax" could raise billions of dollars of revenue – as it currently does in the UK – while simultaneously discouraging speculative trading in financial assets and derivatives. The French unions and protesters are demanding that the government considers some of these more progressive alternatives."

Reitrement is not mandatory at 60. Full pensions do not kick in until 65.

Will Sarkozy give in. I doubt it.

He suffers from PMS (Petit Man Syndrome)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Killing time in Collioure

I had two hours to kill before the Argelès Gospel Singers' concert in Notre Dame des Anges church in Collioure. It struck me as a wonderful time to wander with my camera. This town, the anchovy capital of France with its ancient streets, château and church, its pebbly beach is so much nicer off season when there are only a few weekenders out to enjoy the last of the warm days.

The bright day despite the Tramantane that made me think if I flapped my arms, I could be blown half way home to Geneva with no worries about train strikes produced sunlight and made for wonderful colours and shadows even on the side streets.

Almost all the hotels are closed. Some restaurants are opened and stay open all year long. And there's more to buy than just pizza. One of the restaurants, Les Templiers, has walls covered with painting from the Impressionists including some famous ones, who at the time were too poor to pay for their meal and offered a painting in place of coins.

Few galleries are still open such as Joce's. She has transferred one of her paintings to an umbrella that was absolutely drop dead beautiful, but 120 Euros was much too much to pay when I know it might end up on the E bus in Geneva, a train, a store or restaurant. This is not one of her works, however.

I had stopped at the cookie shop, which will remain open on weekends until Toussaint, and then I found a spot on the bench to sit in the sunshine and read and/or people watch where the wind couldn't touch me.However, dried leaves, clattered along the cobbled dock.

As I walked through the town I had seen a bridal party walking to the church after their city hall wedding (the only one that is legal). As I sat in the sun, the couple and the photographer arrived to take a picture with the château which has existed in some form since Roman days.

About a half hour later it was time to go to the church for the concert.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Forming a syndicate

Today I met with my co-owners to form a syndicate. One women slightly younger than myself who will live in the building, a young man who will live there, a man from Nice who will it use for holidays and when he has business in Perpignan and the man who owns the garage (probably the most valuable property considering the narrow streets and the necessity to park by the river or at one of the few communal lots.

No problems at all to come to the conclusions that will benefit all.

Than the man who renovated the once huge mansion, who was in charge of getting the syndicate up and running prior to resigning as his last step in the project, brought out the champagne, the cheeses and the local chacuterie.

I like this touch. Along with the nice fluted glasses, it was a class act all the way.

Monday, October 11, 2010

He's not staying

But he was meow-ling pitifully a good part of the morning. The wind is blowing and the rain comes and goes.

I brought him in, borrowed kitty litter and cat food from my friend who has called the Cat Assistance people.

Meanwhile he is at least warm tonight and fed. Now he is asleep on my printer after being told my computer keyboard was out of bounds.

He is not staying. I won't name him. He is not staying because I don't stay here myself.
He's not staying...

Anyone want a kitten?

Seasonal fruit

I love eating things that belong to the season. And this is the first kaki fruit of the year. No matter that it makes me break out. Each bite is worth every bump.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

a comment on the times

When I was a child Three Musketeer bars were sold with an add that you could share with two of your friends. I just saw an ad for the candy on the web and a friend reaches to take one from a friend who says, "Don't even think about it."

I was sickened by the people who said the TN fire department was right not to put out the fire on a man's house because he hadn't paid his $75 fee. Probably they wouldn't share their candy bar either.

What have we become?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

It was a surprise

to be sitting in the notaire's office signing a purchase agreement on my new studio flat.

Six weeks ago I had gone for a walk before the heat of the day made it unbearable and happened by the real estate office near the gare. A picture of a studio within my price range (read very, very, small) was in the window.

Hmmm I thought and wandered on, but after lunch I went back. Jean-Charles, the agent showed it to me. The building had been renovated top to bottom with only the best materials. The studio itself, although tiny, was also renovated with only the best materials. I could have started cooking in the kitchen immediately.

I do know the prices in Argelès having helped anglophones look for places. No, I decided, I won't buy it.

The next morning I went back and made an offer, and in the afternoon, the seller and I signed the purchase and sales agreement. Back in Geneva, I transferred the money (raising questions from the Crèdit Agricole was I laundering money, a terrorist or a Mafiosa--the answer was no).

Thus today, I found myself seated with Jean-Charles and another young man in the notaire's office signing my name or initials on page after page after page until my hand hurt, but not too much to accept the three set of keys for the outside door, the inside door and the letter box.

Tomorrow I will sign the contract with Jean-Charles to manage the rental and care of the flat.

When I used to play Monopoly -- which I never really liked because even then money bored me -- I always tried to get the two cheapy properties as a solid base. I guess I am still doing that.

A friend commented when I told her what I'd done, "I know you hate shopping, but when you shop, you really shop!"

I am still surprised that I did this...surprised but content.

This is the living area.

I can't get a good shot of the kitchen but it is beautiful. take my word for it, the cabinets are a beautiful ruby red.

The flat is in the bottom corner and the house is kitty corner to the one owned by friends Pat, Jeff, Tony and Carol.