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.