Saturday, December 24, 2011

My best present

My best present is curled up in the next room reading a book. Having my daughter with me both Christmas Eve and Christmas day, is a treat. Even when she was little, her holiday was divided between me and her father, which we thought was fair. Only a couple of years ago, did I realise she wanted to stay home. As she said, "I didn't think I had a choice." (note to parents--look for what your children don't tell you.)

And then there are the years that neither of us can travel to the country where the other is living. Phone calls, emails and now Skypes are not the same as having her in hugging distance.

I sometimes envy parents whose grown children live in the same city or same area. On the other hand, I am lucky to have been blessed with knowing this kind and wonderful woman and sharing so much even after she left my roof (or rather I moved the roof and she began her own life).

Thus my walking-talking Christmas gift keeps on giving me great waves of happiness not just for two days, but for my lifetime.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The longest night

The longest night is coming, and for me that is more important than Christmas. It is the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. It is very important to me have something evergreen in the house as a symbol of the end of one year and the start of a new year. Every year, no matter where I am, I make sure I bring in at least a tiny evergreen branch.

For many years, although I've had wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Christmases, I've not had a real tree with the ornaments Llara and I made when she was three. This year I do.

The tree is tiny, but it's real. I've put cotton on it to reflect snow. I don't use lights or real candles as so many people who live in parts of Europe do.

It might surprise people when I say last year was a good year. One might disagree pointing out I had four eye surgical procedures, breast cancer, 27 nukings, and I lost my oldest and dearest friend. She's crazy, people might say.

On the other hand, I now see better, I've had wonderful medical care in the Swiss health system. I've made new and cemented old friendships, had a good writing year and seen another book published with a contract for the next, found a wonderful partner for my business, enjoyed trips to Saskatchewan, Scotland and Germany. I've laughed a lot. I watched a good friend turn 75 surrounded by people who love her. My daughter is in grad school in Edinburgh.

Soon the sun will bring longer days. In the spring new plants will once again push up through the dirt. To get to the new year, I celebrate the longest night.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The first snow

I usually love the first snow of the season. It hides the world and is an excuse for lots more hot tea, fuzzy socks sweat shirts. I get lots and lots of good writing done. I can play Christmas carols and I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas seems like more than a dream.

Today I don't love it. My daughter is due to fly in from Edinburgh. We were going to go the Café Soleil, a first meal tradition.

We've talked twice this morning, and I've emailed her ways to get here by bus. If the new bus routes in the city are confusing to those who use the system daily, she may end up in a strange place not realizing what bus goes where. That is if Cointrin stays open...please, please, please let it be open.

At least the The car will stay in the garage -- despite years of driving in New England snow, it is not my car and my housemate is too nice a person to have to be told that now is the time to buy the car she was vaguely considering buying because hers is a heap on the side of the snowy road. Geneva has too many drivers from tropical places and they don't know how to drive on a snow-covered road.

As much as I love living here with the view of the lake, this would be a time that it would be great to be in my old flat within walking distance of the airport.

Still, the most important thing is that my daughter gets here safely, no matter what time.

Meanwhile I'll drink tea, write and listen to carols but NOT I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas."

I took this photo

I took this photo just because it made my eyes happy.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Great Mattress Maneuver

My housemate led me to the attic to show me the spare mattresses. "S will probably be borrowing one." S is a neighbour and she has more guests than mattresses and beds. My housemate has more mattresses and beds than guests. In fact, since I'm alone I could sleep in a different bed each night for a week without being charged with sluttishness. And even when my daughter and good friend show up for Christmas they too can sleep around (the house).

There is a group of friends who do what they can to help one another out. S was one of the lovely people who drove me to be nuked and when she left on holiday, she found a friend who would do the same.

Sure enough S showed up with her son and took a mattress. I showed her the extra slatted frame.

"My husband and son will be back for it," she said.

They came, they conquered, they discovered the mattress too big for the slatted frame.

"Would it be too much to ask you to measure the other ones?" she asked in an email.

I wrote back, I would go on a measuring tape safari the next morning, which I did and found smaller ones. "Better have your husband double check me, though, I'm a number numbskull."

Within a few minutes Hubby and Son were back with measuring tape for the mattress swap.

As I pushed the button to close the gate after the car with the departing mattress drove away I hoped every will sleep well tonight.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Patience NOW

My new book won't be shipped from Amazon, wrote a friend who buys all my books. I don't ask her to, but I'm glad she does. She wrote about the delay "as you know, patience is not my strong point. I pray every night,'God please give me patience and I want it NOW!!!'"

Monday, December 12, 2011

One of the saddest days

Part of me will always love the man I thought my ex-husband was. After trying everything, I divorced the real man.

Part of me will always love the country I thought I grew up in. Like trying to save my marriage, I tried everything. I’ve made hundreds of overseas calls to Congress and sent thousands of emails. I’ve followed legislation from committee to signing. Most was about Bill of Rights issues such as the loss of habeas corpus. If the president does not veto the new amendment just passed by the Senate, than the military will have the power to arrest anyone, anywhere with no charges, no trial indefinitely. I have made no calls and sent no emails on this one. I am disengaging.

Today I divorced my country. The decision was not easily reached with too many facets to recount here just like I won’t recount the whys of my divorce to my ex-husband.
The U.S. Consulate is in Bern. The rain on my umbrella drowned out normal street sounds.
I was told I could tap on the door. A guard came out and growled I couldn’t bring in my pocketbook.

“What should I do?”

“Leave it in your car?”

“I haven’t a car.”

“The bakery down the street to the right will keep it for you. Three Swiss Francs.”

The woman at the bakery was friendly and told me I also had to leave my phone, my camera and my medicine. I could take my wallet and my passport.

Back at the consulate there was an airport-type examination, and then I went down stairs for a second examination. This man was friendly and we chatted as I waited my turn.

A woman called my name and asked for verification on the information I already provided.
Then the Counsel came out, a thin man with glasses.

He told me that my decision was irrevocable—I could never live or work in the U.S. again. I could never get my citizenship back--not tomorrow not in 30 years. I signed that I understood.

He asked me to raise my right hand and swear that I was renouncing. My eyes blurred. “Are you certain you want to go through with it.”

Then I had to take a second oath. “What if I change my mind here?” I asked. I didn’t want to change my mind, I was just curious.

“Then I would take this back and we could probably . . .”

I shook my head. “It hurts, but I’m sure.” I took the second vow.

Within two weeks to two months I will get my cancelled passport and my certificate of renunciation. I will then pay $450. I can take that around to the banks so I can resume normal banking relations because I will not be subject to U.S. FATCA legislation that has caused so many problems for Americans and will continue to cause problems and other financial institutions. If Switzerland and the US do not come to agreement about the US have access to Swiss police records, it is possible I would need a visa to enter the U.S. It is also possible I wouldn't get one. I knew when I started this that I might never be able to enter the U.S. again.

Leaving the consulate to retrieve my bag at the bakers, I vomited.

Like the day I was divorced, this was one of the saddest of my life. I don't regret the choice.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Sunrise in Insel Poel

The sunrise our last morning in Insel Poel, I had to do a sunrise alert to my housemate who quickly got her camera.


I will admit I swallowed hard when the passport control invalidated my Swiss passport albeit for a good reason. I was about to do the necessary things for the biometric passport. There was a glitch. For some reason after my first Swiss passport was stolen in Barcelona a few years ago, it was still listed as valid.

This will be solved.

Rather then get my new biometric post in the mail, I will pick it up at passport control and sign a declaration of the theft in Spain.

After Monday I will have no passport until the biometric is in my hands. Fortunately I can still travel between European countries with my Swiss identity card, but I can't go to the US, Canada, Australia and many other places until all is sorted.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 4

The trip is going wonderfully. Yesterday we toured the island and got a feel of where the bodies washed up on the beach. When we saw the triangular stones over the graves, we didn’t understand, but at the museum this morning they explained that the prisoners, even the Jews, didn’t wear the Star of David, but the triangle with the colour explaining what type of prisoner they were.

The women at the museum greeted us warmly. This is where we came last year to pick up my housemate's painting done by a local artist and loaned for a special exhibition.

One of last year’s employees, who just retired came back to help us. At coffee break time, she’d brought ribbon and we worked on making Christmas decorations.

My German is so rusty but I caught about 1/3 of what was being said. My housemate was invaluable in the other 2/3rds.

The man Julia had worked with last year over the transport of her painting came with his wife to take us to a fish restaurant for lunch. His father had taught the artist who had done my housemate's painting and he showed us the house where the artist had grown up.

His wife had been raised on a huge farm, which was confiscated by the communist government, but the current government has made retribution by giving all five sisters a piece of a forest.

Interestingly, I always thought of the shape of the island as a lobster claw, but if you look at it another way it looks like a Gorilla with its hands on the ground.

The island didn’t get electricity until the 1950s and most was provided by wind power.

What seems out of place is the number of thatched roofs some with solar panels.

And as my housemate said, travel is broadening. When she said it we were eating a German breakfast with the fish, wursts, käse und brotchen

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 3 was for the birds

We were learning the island, driving from one small town to an even smaller town. We’d visited the site where the bodies had washed up on the beach after the British bombed the Cap Arcona were buried.
As we turned into a country lane I thought the bush had strange flowers or puffs. They turned out to be a flock of birds.
“Stop,” I said.
My housemate slammed on her brakes.
As soon as she saw what was there, she reached for her camera. None of the birds seemed upset when we rolled down the window to take photos.
Routinely, 50 or so would take off, circle and then come back to settle in the bush or stop for a drink in the puddle below. Suddenly their normal tweeting took on a higher pitch and the birds buried themselves among the branches. A hawk swooped over them then flew away. The birds remerged, their numbers intact.

Day 2 Insel Poel

We arrived to the same place we stayed last year and where the next novel was set. But instead of a studio we had a two story house at the same price we paid for the Best Western hotel in Göttingen. The luxury seemed almost obscene after the camp.

Neuengamme Concentration Camp

The door wouldn’t open. Several people tried it until it gave.
I’d felt more than a moment of panic. I was at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp in Bergdorf, Germany and had spent the last two hours listening to survivor stories and looking at photos.

I’d seen the basement cave where prisoners were crammed together to make cloth.
The cold parade ground where prisoners had roll call every day was cold and wind swept. Even in my duvet coat and winter hat I felt the cold. What had the prisoners felt in their striped uniforms without any protection from the elements? The handwritten death book brought home individuals who died.

The medical lab was used to experiment with tuberculosis on children. They were murdered at the end of the war to keep the secret of the experiments.
A weeping willow still stood near one wall. The French prisoners were forced to raise food, although their own meals were coffee and a roll of breakfast, watery soup for lunch and coffee for dinner. Many died for causes related to malnutrition.
Concentration camps have been written about for years. It is another thing to see one and feel one. And the reason I was there was to get background for my next novel which deal with the Cap Arcona, a ship where inmates were taken with the idea of scuttling the ship. Instead the British, not knowing who was on it bombed it.

The door was finally open. Unlike the prisoners I could leave and return to my comfortable world.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

German research project day 1

We logged 800K more or less and are installed at a Best Western in Gottingen.

Mack, our Tomtom (GPS) had a bit of a temper tantrum and refused to program itself even for Basel, but after Lausanne it behaved admirably. It helped us find the hotel, and we opted for the first possible to top driving/riding as soon as possible especially because we've at least another 400 K tomorrow and we want to stop at the concentration camp in Hamburg to research where the victims of the Cap Arcona came from.

The hotel in Kirchdorf has confirmed our reservation.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A tender moment

I saw the woman walk to the Rue Du Lac bus stop from my bus window. She held the hand of a little boy, three at the most.

The bus stopped.

A man jumped out, gave the little boy a hug and kiss, waved good bye and hopped back in the bus.

The little boy with a huge smile waved and blew kisses as the bus pulled out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What I'm thankful for

Today is the American Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for...

1. My health
2. The wonderful Swiss medical system
3. My daughter who is healthy, happy and living in Scotland
4. My housemate/friend/editor of the 20 pages
5. My friends at all levels from those I have a cup of tea with to those whom we share our hearts and souls.
6. The people I've lost because I had them in my life. (I still wish they were here in body, but nothing takes them from my memory)
7. The absolute natural beauty that greets me each day and makes my eyes happy.
8. My writing
9. My journalistic work
10. The right to vote on so many things--from the unimportant to the very, very important. It's being a full participant in the democracy in which I live.
11. My curiosity
12. My sense of humour and/or the ability to laugh, a gift from Mardy and Susan
13. Enough pain, worry, sorrow to make me realize that each minute is a blessing to be treasured.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Crisco and security

"We are doing a Thanksgiving dinner," my daughter told me on Skype. "Can you get Crisco at the American store for the apple pie."

Never thinking, I happily packed the can in my suitcase until we hit security and my carry on (all Easyjet allows) was pulled aside.

The security man, who was probably in his 20s pulled out the can and held it up. "What is this?" he asked in French.

"It's for a Thanksgiving apple pie. I'm taking it to Scotland where my daughter is cooking the meal for her friends."

The conversation went on including the recipe.

He put it back in the suitcase and zipped it up.

"Have a nice Thanksgiving," he said.

Moving cow

The Corsier Cow gets around. She is now in her third grazing place in front of the post. Although if we have two cows we could refer to them as "kine" according to my roommate who could hardly wait for a chance to use the word after she learned it. The Corsier cow didn't give her a chance, but the two cows on my daughter's dorm bulletin board did.

Scotland Weekend

Visiting my kid in Edinburgh was truly a gift.

However a second treat was meeting The Major, owner of our hotel which is also the club site for the Guards. He was dressed in kilt, tie, shirt and vest and we talked for just under an hour as he told me how as a tyke he had sailed from Newfoundland to Norway only to have the Germans confiscate his father's boat.

Another boat was lost to his family when the builder went bankrupt. And his father's suggestion about putting him in school was not impressive.

We spent most of the time enjoying pub grub, scones, walking around the city between construction projects (even more than in Geneva if possible) and having a great meal with her flat mates.

We've booked the hotel in May when my daughter will do a half marathon.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Zurich belly dance lesson

My housemates’ sons give us Smart Boxes for Christmas. Depending on the type, they contain a series of things to do, see, stay or go to in Switzerland and the surrounding countries.

We’ve enjoyed nights in a castle and other fancy hotels.

This year on top of the hotel Smart Box we received a wellness (massages, etc.) and an adventure Smart Box.

On the adventure one we eliminated elastics that dropped us distances, anything with water where we might drown. Horses had some potential as did paintball, except between my cancer treatments and both our travels, expiration dates abounded.

Trying to decide what was left we spied a Belly Dancing lesson. Belly dancing is not new thanks to Arab friends, but a lesson? Sounded like fun.

The lesson was in Zurich. We debated staying with a friend’s, staying at a hotel but a crowded schedule and with two trips planned for Scotland and Germany in the next couple of weeks, the idea of sleeping at home was almost a luxury.

Bless the Swiss train system. We picked up the noonish train, had a wonderful lunch of Alpine macaroni and cheese in the dining car then had time to wander around Zurich for a couple of hours before locating the class.

The teacher was a smiley women of an indeterminate age dressed in aqua. Six other women and one man were suitably dressed. We were almost suitably dressed. The teacher provided us with bells on pretty cloth to tie around our waists. We jingled and jangled as we moved.

For 1.5 hours we shook things not often shaken, moved our arms in fluid motions and watched ourselves in the mirror with the growing realization belly dancing as a profession was a route that was closed to us.

The other dance students were impressed we’d come all the way from Geneva to the class. We were too.

Buying a pretzel was a necessity for the trip back.

Twelve hours after we left we were tucked in our respective beds, smiling at a day that we rated nine on a scale of 10.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Clock Changes

Clock Change 1

“I’m confused. I’m not sure how to change the time,” my Mom says.

I look at my clock. 17:15. Outside clouds hover over the lake. She has told me that the lake behind her house in Florida is bigger, maybe as big as mine. I don’t contradict her. Her lake will never be Lake Lehman in Geneva. “It should be 11:15 your time,” I tell her.
When her bedroom clock is correct, I suggest she change the other clocks, or wait until Mary her caretaker arrives to help. She decides to wait.

“The tree hasn’t fallen on my house yet.” She is worried about the tree, but as I remember it is not close enough to the house to hurt it.

“Your husband, no your father bought it when we first moved. I told him to get a tiny tree and he did. It grew.” In thirty years it should be bigger.

“The tree will be fine,” I tell her.

“Your daughter sent me a card. From Scotland. Hold on.” She gets the card and reads it to me several times. She loves my daughter. The card has brought her great happiness.
When we hang up I want to cry.

Clock Change 2

My clock reads 8:42. It is really 7:42. The time change mechanism doesn’t work, but I don’t mind it being wrong half the year. The radio still works. I listen to NRG (The French letters are pronounced energy).

I pick up my book to read a chapter before starting the day.

I snuggle under the warm duvet.

Autumn: my favourite time of year as we hurtle toward the winter solstice. I appreciate the warm bed especially after I get up to let out Munchkin or make a morning run to the toilet, knowing I do not have to get up permanently.

As the days get shorter, the house gets cozier. But outside there are the wonderful smells of fallen leaves (not quite as colourful as their New England counterparts, but pretty nevertheless) that are good for kicking as I walk down the street. The ones to be raked, maybe a little less appealing, and the acorns bonking me on the head as I sweep up their brothers and sisters, strike me as cheeky at best.

As the French say, Je suis bien dans ma peau. I feel good.

Family myth

One of the real luxuries of not having a regular job is being able to wake up and read rather than rushing to get out of the house.

This morning as I was walking in the wonderful autumn sunshine by 8:30 and later over my morning tea, a certain sentence from Tess Gerritsen's Silent Girl kept rolling around in my mind.

"Family mythology has far more meaning to us than the truth. It helps us cope with the sheer insignificance of our own lives."

I realize my identity is tied up in my family history, my WASP grandmother's devotion to her husband, her brother's persnickety demands to only eat white eggs, the death of her one-year daughter in her arms, my great-grandmother's husband's desertion, the importance of being able to join the DAR.

Likewise there's my father's Franco-Canadian background being raised on a lighthouse island off the coast of Nova Scotia, my aunt being sent to a relative because her mother couldn't cope with her daughter trying to scale the lighthouse walls to life-threatening heights, their their move to the Boston area for a better living. There's the aunt who made beautiful clothes and the one who had a life-long affair with the married owner of the restaurant where she worked.

How many of the stories I was told as a child are true, I really don't know. Maybe they've been enlarged over the years either by the teller or my memory.

Whatever the truth, they are the foundation, on which I built my own identity and myths. My life is insignificant to most of the world. Hopefully to my daughter and some close friends, it has significance. Even if it doesn't it is significant to me.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

My idea

Brian Williams reported on a faster way to board airplanes, which I thought of years ago.

After the first and business cards and people who need board all those in the window seats starting back to front, then all middle seats back to front, then all aisle seats, etc.

Ah well...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Verbal Agression and Double Jeopardy

It started out as an ordinary stop at the post. My friend Pierre and I were chatting in line, when a man, wafting a strong odour of alcohol, came in and tried to push in front of the line.

Unsuccessful he picked up my American accent as I was speaking French to Pierre. "You don't belong here, you're not European." Then he spied the Swiss identity card that I was holding ready for my turn in line. "Swiss are racists. Swiss steal people's money."

I turned my back to him. "You don't understand what he is saying?" Pierre asked in a whisper.
"Sadly, I do." We were still in French.

As the man continued his rant and I continued to ignore him, I noticed several people had placed themselves between me and him. The person ahead of me gave up his position for me without me asking. Getting no reaction, the drunk staggered out of the post.

No one said anything. One person checked to make sure he was gone. There was a certain amount of embarrassing feet shuffling. I smiled keeping my back straight as I finished my business.

When 9/11 happened strangers from everywhere offered condolences. This later turned to nasty remarks about Americans whispered behind and sometimes in front of my back after Abu Grahib. Any mention of the name Bush brought frowns. I saw jubilation at Obama's election and more congratulations from strangers.

I do not make either Swiss or American domestic or foreign policy, although I wish I did. In the later it would far different, in the former, I would tweak a couple of things. This was the first time I have faced criticism for being Swiss, and never for being two nationalities at the same time.

The last thing Pierre said to me was, "Don't be upset. He was drunk. He was crazy."

"All nationalities have some." I said appreciative of the undercurrent of protection I'd received.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The evil black and white box.

I knew it was trouble when my cable company announced they were sending a new and improved decoder. No extra charge.

I’m not a technophone. I use the computer hours on end every day, but “New improved” usually means that they’ve taken what works wonderfully and mess it up.

Take the new Microsoft office suite. What used to take one click to do can take anywhere from 3-5 at best.

Then my web server upgraded which meant at least 5-10 clicks to do what I used to do in one. I will give them two improvements hidden in the many inconveniences.

The new black and white box arrived within 24 hours. I read the manual. Manuals in English are often as incomprehensible to me as those in French.

On the street I got down on my knees and begged Pierre to come help, which he did. He attached everything like the manual said. The screen read patientez to connect. Three hours later of patience and no connection.

I don’t want to bother Pierre again. I called the television technician. He can come Jan. 4. I was able to reconnect the old decoder box.

I would take a photo of the box, but I suspect like some evil spirit it would not allow itself to be recorded.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I think I'm going to miss you for a long, long time

That is a lyric from a Linda Rondstadt song.

Today I received an email from the partner of the friend I lost a few months back, a friend of over half a decade with whom everything we did was shared. With it was a photo of the two of us together in Geneva, and it removed the cover on the hole that her disappearance has left.

Her friendship was worth the pain but I still wish she were here so we could talk about it.

However, the only thing I would exchange for the pleasure of looking at the photo and the memory was to have her back again.

A typical Argeles morning with a couple of variations

After watching Max Keiser, I went out for my daily walk, a 30 min project give or take.
Annie, the woman who owns the framing shop, was back from vacation and we discussed what a good time she had.

Madame Martinez gave me a hug. Her dialysis is going well. She’s the lovely neighbour who waters my plants when I’m away, and sometimes when I am home.

As I passed La Noisette I was invited for a tea with Pierre and Frédéric followed by a conversation with Christine who was walking by. We set up a lunch date for next week.
Then Stephanie who has the new restaurant on the street came by with 18-month old Margo. Margo, has a love—Jean-Pierre who is the owner of the épicerie on the corner. Whenever they see each other it is like a sunshine storm. He takes Margo out of her push chair and they walk up and down the street. He doesn’t mind bending over, and she holds tightly to her fingers, although today for the first time, she has advanced to one finger. Her entire body is smiling. So is his.

Anne, my new neighbour across the way, stopped me. “I met a Danish couple last night who know you and want to see you. They’ve stayed in my house, she said.

“Was the man dressed in black and flamboyant? His wife in white?”

She nodded. “Tomorrow night at 5 p.m. we’re getting together. I’ll find out where.”

“YES!” I&K, my favourite film director and surgeon. I wandered to the house where they stay, but they were out.

I stopped at my friend’s Barbara to tell her about I&K and finalize dinner plans for Wednesday night.

Then I picked up some fruit and talked with Babette, the wife of Jean-Pierre.

Spike, the cat, was waiting outside the store. Now Spike is not a stray, but Jean-Pierre always puts a bit of food out for him. As soon as I told Jean-Pierre about Spike waiting and his having returned Margo to her parents, he rushed out with the box of kitty food. Spike has fallen in love with Mr. Bill, Jean-Pierre’s aging poodle. Whenever the dog is taken for a walk, Spike appears and walks along side of the dog. He has also been known to curl up next to him for a nap. However, Spike is forbidden entrance to their house ever since he tried to mark it as his territory, an error that has been forgiven, but not forgotten. Spike does have an owner at the other end of the street, but he believes the entire street and everyone on it, is there for his benefit.

Marie-Christine was sweeping the street in front of her house and we exchanged the fact we prefer cleanliness to a messy house. She shares my love Emily Dickinson.

My last stop was at Jackie and Pierre’s, neighbours for Switzerland who are down here for the Toussaint holiday. Although I only intended to stay for a moment, it resulted in tea and Egyptian pastries and lovely conversation catching up on the news since we last saw each other in August.

At one time I was worried that in Argelès, I would be lonely. When I told my daughter that, she laughed and laughed. I wonder why...

Monday, October 17, 2011


The chimes ring, and I look out the window and see that someone has pushed my doorbell.

Now, most of you will think this is nothing, but from my 4th floor (American) and 3rd floor (European) loft in this centuries old house with walls thicker than the length of my arm, I never thought it would be possible to have a doorbell.

People stood in the street and hollered my name.

Thus when a visiting friend offered to put in a doorbell, I nodded doubting the possibility.

Within in 24 hours I had a doorbell. And I can select the music. Too bad I won't be here at Christmas to listen to a Jingle Bell song when some comes visiting.

This is truly a gift that keeps on giving in the most wonderful way.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The day birds flew backwards

J and I sat overlooking the beach in Banyuls-sur-mer waiting for the fête de vin to start. Waves crashed on the beach, the water thrown by the Tramantane howling overhead.

"Look," J said and pointed to the sky.

Birds trying to make headway into the wind were truly flying backwards. No matter how fast they flapped their wings, they went in the direction of their tails, not their heads.

It was a lovely start to the fête. Music announced the parade made up of children with grape leaf crowns, a band and donkeys laden with grapes. The harvest was put into tubs and the children stomped on them as they would have in the old days as the band played that old French song, "Down by the Riverside". A priest gave his blessing to the harvest, and unlike during last year's, the donkey's intestinal track made no donation to the event.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Publisher's Weekly review

Murder in Argelès:
A Third-Culture Kid Mystery
D-L Nelson. Five Star, $25.95 (338p) ISBN 978-1-4328-2551-5
Those looking for an offbeat alternative to conventional crime dramas will enjoy Nelson’s suspenseful second Third-Culture Kid mystery featuring freelance tech writer Annie Young (after 2010’s Murder in Caleb’s Landing). At the end of a business trip to Zurich, Annie, an American who grew up partly in Europe, is looking forward to getting back to Argelès-sur-mer, France, where she has a small apartment, and meeting her handsome priest friend, Père Yves. But when she enters Yves’s church, she discovers his body crumpled on the floor. Annie reluctantly turns for help to her ex-boyfriend, Roger Perrin, the town’s police chief. When Roger returns with Annie to the church, however, Yves’s body has disappeared. Still, blood on a broken angel statue suggests foul play. Nelson elegantly weaves historical fact and fiction in a whodunit whose heroine discovers more than just the guilty party. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011


“Your nails have ridges.” The sales girl at Calgary airport said. She could not have been in her mid-twenties and adorable as only the young and enthusiastic can be. “Healthy looking but ridged.”

Having never noticed that before, I looked down stared expecting to see something like the Blue Ridged Mountains having formed since I washed them twenty minutes before.

They looked the same as they always did.

Admittedly, my nail care is eating well and cutting regularly. I don’t bother with polish, although I would love to have the wonderful designs that my favourite banking teller has. To now I’ve been too cheap.

“Let me show you something.” The salesgirl said. She took out a cube. “Give me your hand.”
She rubbed one nail with one side of the cube, switched to another then another, then another.

“See,” she said.

The nail was a little shiner than the others.

“Isn’t that wonderful. The cube is just $20.”

I did have $20 Canadian dollars still on me. I’d planned to buy a book.

I moved my hand to the left and right. In some lights the nail recovering from ridge syndrome was shinier but in another light it looked about the same.
“I don’t think so,” I said.

She was a good sales girl, and had I trained her, I would have been proud when she asked “Why?”

My hands are not that of a young woman. Veins show. However, they work wonderfully, doing and undoing buttons, opening doors, typing on a keyboard, all the things one wants hands to do. They do not have to have shiny nails.

She looked amused.

So she wouldn’t get discouraged I told her I’d done sales training, and she was really good.

For the past week I’ve gone around with one shinier nail. I’ve sat in a way that only that nail shows. No one has stopped to admire it. Nor has anyone compared my ridged to non-ridged nails or gasped in horror at the ridges.

And with $20? I bought the book Help. I think I’ll get more pleasure out of it than shiny nails.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

From D to A

I know, I know...

It's usually A to Z or A to B, but yesterday it was definitely a backwards alphabet situation.

My plane into Frankfort was late leaving me less than 20 minutes between flights. Anyone who has been through Frankfort knows--it's huge--a mega airport.

I came into terminal D. The board for my Geneva flight was A.


Thanking all the travel gods and goddesses that I had checked my carry on suitcase and only had my laptop case, I started the dash. Why do they wax airport floors? No, I didn't fall, but I skidded.

The passport control line was long. I mustered my best German to ask a man if I could cut in front of him. "You can, but this is the EU line," he said.

I held up my Swiss passport, which although not EU lets me into the EU line and he let me in. I told him I wished that someone would do something wonderful for him that day.

I glanced at the clock as the line inched forward. Boarding had started 15 minutes before. They waved me through.

Another mad dash only to come to security. I chose the shorter of the two lines and got through with amazing speed. Five minutes till take off.
I then ran the rest of the distance. The people of the desk plunked my boarding pass on the machine to read the bar code, pointed me to stairs that I ran down. The stairs led to a door that was closing just as the bus taking us out to the plane was ready to leave. Bursting through the building doors, the driver opened the doors for me.

When I worked for Interskill years before running to meet a plane was normal. That I haven't lost the ability, is good...but if I don't need to do it again, it will be more than okay.

I had an interesting night

"I had an interesting night, last night," my seat mate on the Regina-Calgary flight said to me as soon as the seat belt sign was turned off. He was probably in his late fifties, a full head of white curly hair, slim neither handsome nor ugly.

As a writer, my immediate thought--what a great opening for a piece of fiction. I looked interested and he continued to tell me about his adventures.

His flight to Calgary, the last out, was cancelled. The airline tried to book him a room, but all the rooms in Regina were taken. The same with the B&Bs. They offered to fly him to Toronto where there was a room then fly him back in the morning to Regina for the first Regina-Calgary plane. The thing that made it interesting was the geography.

Think Bangor-Boston or Geneva-Zurich flights. Short hops really. You could almost taxi the distance. They were sending him as far away as Washington DC or Stockholm and not bringing him back to his final destination but to another destination.

"I'm too old for this," he told them. Finally they booked and taxied him to a hotel in Moose Jaw called Oasis, which he claimed wasn't, and taxied him back and put him in a seat next to me.

We continued chatting. He is a geologist, travels all over the world and has one son, a journalism student, battling cancer. During that short trip we delved into a variety of subjects.

He may have had an interesting night, but he made the morning for me into an interesting flight.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Touching gold

As editor/publisher of I get to do all kinds of neat things and meet neat people that I would never do or meet otherwise.

Right now I'm in Regina SK at a conference and one of the speakers was Brad Gushue, captain of the Canadian Olympic team that took the gold in Torino 2006. Now as a non-Canadian, I never quite understood curling, but then again I never understood baseball. Too much waiting around for nothing to happen on baseball, and in curling...well it's really nice that all those people are trying to keep the ice clean so fast.

Still listening to Gushue speak was a true pleasure. He admitted to being a sook (?) spelling probably best translated into his Newfoundland slang as a wimp and crying when his national anthem was played. And he gave an insight to the events behind the scenes that was fascinating such as they didn't realise the huge bird in the opening ceremonies was made up of human bodies until after it was all over.

He passed his medal through the audience and only a couple of times asked where it was. People touched it, put it around their necks, had their photos taken with it.

Even if I find the Olympics often too business driven, I admire all the athletes who worked so hard to get that to the stadiums and rinks. It always infuriates me when some announcer says, "Too bad he only took a silver (or a bronze)" Getting to the Olympics is such a major accomplishment in and of itself or as in my case yesterday, just being able to touch a gold medal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Another point of view

Going to our post is always an adventure with our OCD postmaster. Today there was a line and he was making sure their packets destined for Italy were perfect before accepting. Then he dealt with a Japanese woman and with a wonderful accent spoke to her English.
I knew that he knew French, Spanish, and German. Being able to speak four languages is an accomplishment. I also know he is an accomplished runner.

I complimented him on his English accent and he blushed. He said in French (the only language we use) that he was a “debutant.”

He may be frustrating at times with his microscopic attention to unnecessary detail, but he is also a man of many accomplishments.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Friend speak

Years ago I had this conversation with a friend.

Me: Esther called today.

Her: Semi colon or colon?

Me: Colon.

Of course no one else would have understood that Esther was a board member who regularly found fault with my punctuation not to mention the fact that any two-page direct mail letter I sent never had a full sentence ending on the first page, a trick to encourage people to turn the page over. I'm sure if Esther were alive today, she would find a typo in each of my novels and call me to tell me about it.

We knew what we meant because we were friends and could speak in shorthand based on shared experience.

Thus when my housemate talked about a blackberry moment, I knew she wasn't speaking about the taste but the time that I not only dropped them, they flew over my head and although I thought I'd gotten them all, we were finding blackberries in strange places for days.

And speech can be as multi-lingual as faux amies in French/English. Blackberry moments for my late friend Mardy and me would mean a moment of soul searching, based on a walk we'd taken at her parents' Maine cabin where we'd walked in the woods, shared our deepest hopes and fears while eating blackberries not a spilled something.

"Utterly ridiculous?" is a trigger for another friend and I to make plans to do something fun. The term came from her then boyfriend who thought our plans to ride each of the Geneva buses from end to end for a day, hoping on and off to have a coffee or investigate at will was utterly ridiculous. Now that he is an ex I'm wondering what he would have termed the time we took the sheep herding course?

I wonder if I said to my housemate that that I was doing a local postmaster trick, she would pick up that it was something obsessive compulsive. The thought crossed my mind when I arranged the file cards on my desk neatly.

After all friend speak vocabularies enlarge with time, so I'll try either doing a Daniel (the postmaster's name) or doing a postmaster later today. Just for the hell of it.

Friendly benches

I love the bench that invites you to sit and rest.

The last day in the mountains

When my housemate asked on our last day at the chalet, "How do you feel about taking the telecabine up to the top of the mountains and walking down?" my irrational mind said, "terrified."

My rational mind worked my mouth into saying "sure." I hate heights. However, for years I'd told my daughter that being scared was a reason to stop you from doing something. And one of the problems with giving advice like that, it is necessary to take it.

I also know that telecabines are far less accident prone than automobiles.

Thus we were out the door and into the telecabine and every second of the view was worth it.

At the top is a restaurant. The view from the terrace was beautiful: the glacier, the back side of Mt. Blanc.

Walking by pines for 2+ hours. The smell, the fresh air, the bird song, was wonderful. It would have been even better had I proper walking shoes with thicker souls, but then again, the pressure of the stones, is a guarantee to forever appreciate smooth services. Next time we go up there, I'll have the proper equipment.

Wooden barriers to stop avalanches.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chicken safari

On one of my walks in the mountains I saw the most unusual chickens, beige and grey and feathers that looked more like fur. Admittedly, I'm a city girl or at least a village girl with limited chicken-knowledge that does not involve a receipe.

A black cat hovered over the chicken coop as if thinking recipes, but did grew bored and walked away.

Sadly, I did not have my camera--when will I learn never to go anywhere without it?

This morning, I got up early to go on chicken safari.

The coop was empty.

The cat, I thought, but then out of curiosity, they popped out of their little house and came down to examine me.

I expect my chickens to look more like the one in the famous Migros ad with the cow.

The way the chickens looked at me and my camera, I half expected them to ask if they thought their right or left side was more hygenic.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Living in a jigsaw puzzle

No school days when I was a kid was a reason to light a fire, watch the snow and to do jigsaw puzzles. Many of them were of Swiss villages. Never, ever did I dream that someday I would be able to go to one once much less on a fairly regular basis.

My housemate and I were supposed to be on a research trip for my next book in the north of Germany, but we had to cancel at the last minute. Spending the same time in the chalet removed any trace of disappointment (we'll do Germany in late November).

And we had to go our favourite Auberge for a fondue with neighbours. We ordered two: goat and sheep cheese and never could decide which was better. The last of the raspberries for desert topped off the meal.

Even mail boxes and garages are made beautiful.

The gardens are lush, but this one sunflower caught my eye.

I thought I would take this photo after my hike, but decided to take it then and there. Good thing I did, because when I came by, the bull had been taken to another pasture.

Looking down the main street of the village.

Flower in the tiny garden outside our window.

Living in a jigsaw puzzle

Monday, September 05, 2011

It seemed so simple

My housemate and I sat out for the UBS in a nearby village, a picturesque ride though the fall-lush Swiss countryside with a view of the lake and the mountains. We passed a château or two and just as we approached the bank I asked, "Did you bring what you wanted to put in the safe?"

A funny look crossed her face and without saying a word, she turned the car back towards home.

I could have made fun of her, but I didn't.

Once again we made the same drive, a picturesque ride though the fall-lush Swiss countryside with a view of the lake and the mountains. We passed a château or two. This time we made it into the parking lot for UBS and I as reached for my wallet with my bankcard to withdraw funds I uttered an "Oh, oh?"

"You don't have your wallet?" My housemate asked.

I shook my head.

We both laughed. No recriminations. We just chalked it up to a memory to be giggled over sometime in the future.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

If the Queen's standard

If the Queen can fly her standard when she's in residence at Windsor, Balmoral or Buckingham Palace, the residents of Chemin du Port 15, have their own standards that face out when we aren't travelling. Since we roam a lot, it is lovely when all four standards are facing out.

Of course, Munchkin's idea is to sleep either inside or find a sunbeam outside so her standard is almost always facing out.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A French Marriage

Unlike in the US a church wedding has no legal status whatsoever. Love and promises to God have no bearing on the couple at all in the eyes of the state.

Yesterday I attended the wedding of M and D at the Mairie in Argelès.

The Salle de Marriage, is a pretty room with plants, paintings and a photo of Sarkozy along the wall. (I half expected that many of those in attendance would ask to have that covered, but no one did). Chairs are arranged before a table. The bride and groom have two throne like chairs.

The bride wore a simple white sheath along with a white flower in her hair.

The stand in for the mayor had well-pressed jeans, a starched white shirt and wore the red/white/blue ribbon of office draped from his shoulder to his waist.

Before starting he invited people to take photos.

The ceremony included reading the law including numbers and dates of approval on the rights and responsibilities of marriage including those of future children. The bride and groom shook their heads on that one.

Then they agreed to the terms, signed the document and they were married.

More photos.

The assistant mayor gave them copies of the document they had signed, their livret de familie, the booklet that all families have showing all relevant information with many pages for children and a present from the village. He took his droit de seigneur and kissed the bride.

And it was done.


It's normal to wish the best for friends and family.

It's normal to worry when things go wrong or that they are facing some difficult task. Until my daughter got her acceptance at Napier University in Scotland, I didn't so much as worry, but the wonder of what would happen was always in the back of my mind, and sometimes the front.

But since the beginning of 2011, worry has taken on new dimensions.

First my writer friend M, whose work I respect and whose company has always been a pleasure, was in Egypt, his home country, during the uprising. Emails flowed back and forth between those who share my feeling and finally from his wife and finally from him. All was well.

Then there was Josh and his family in Japan. His bulletins were as good as CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, or RT. They are now resettled in the US.

And although not directly involved, there are all those people I love in Syria, people who opened their homes to me, women with whom I've shared matei, nuts, seeds and stories. People who've been in my home in Geneva. What will happen to their country, with its rich, rich history and centuries of upheavals?

The earthquake on the East Coast was only a minor concern for those that I care about there.

Now there's this weekend with Betty in Ocean Grove next door to Asbury Park, where NJ Governor Christie told people, "Get off the beach. Get off the Beach in Asbury Park." And there's Fanny in NY and Bill, Susie, Llara in Boston. Irene is bearing down on them all, and although I know they are taking all precautions, I worry.

So come on earth...enough is enough is enough.

Can we stay out of disaster zones and get back to just normal problems.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Greedy greedy greedy

I am greedy.

I live two lives in one.

During the last week in either life, I sadly let go one as I reve up for the other with excitement.

This week I'm saying goodbye to the street parties, the café sits, the walks among the gardens and up towards the mountains, the local fruits and veggies, the knowing of almost everyone I see from the moment I leave the house until I come back. Leaving is sad.

I look forward to my rose room, the messages from the basement where my housemate is working to my computer where I'm working on the 1st floor European, second floor American for lunch at Marro, Miko, or Manana or or or. I look forward to DVD nights with champagne and shrimp or veggies and dip or old fashioned popcorn.

I look forward to seeing my writing friends.

I look forward to wandering into my housemate's room and out on her balcony to see the lake and Jura.

I look forward to a stroll in the now the should be lush.

This trip I won't be spending much time in CH with trips to Germany and Canada planned, I'm looking forward to that too.

And I realise how greedy I am to want it all all the time. I must remember to be so grateful that I do have it all over and over and over.

It's been a wonderful summer. Coming up...a wonderful autumn.


I went to the bank to pick up my new checkbook.

"You have to see a counselor," the teller told me.

Panic, panic, panic. I had changed the nationality on my account to Swiss, but my Winchester MA birthplace hadn't changed. Would it be like in Switzerland and many other countries because of the new US legislation many banks are refusing to do business with Americans? I thought I would plead the usual, that I've an appointment to renounce my nationality in 2013, the earliest I could get and beg to keep the account open.

M. Clerc told we could speak English. His mother was an English teacher and he loves using it.

The problem was the money transfer to pay for the flat I bought last year. They needed a bit more paperwork to prove it wasn't money laundering.

I happily signed with a sigh of relief.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

travel schedule

I have thought my housemate has itchy feet with her travelling but ignoring clichés about pots, kettles and the colour black here's mine...Inshallah

Aug. 30 Geneva
Sept.5-12 Hamburg and Islet Poehl--research trip
Sept.18-22 Regina SK to give a talk and attend conference
Sept.22-? Geneva regular life
Sept ?-Sept 30 Paris visiting friends
Sept 30-Nov ? Argeles regular life Argeles plus visits from friends
Early Nov.-mid Nov. Geneva regular life
Mid Nov 4 days Edinburgh Scotland check out daughter's lair
Mid Nov. Late Nov. Geneva regular life
Late Nov. Early De. Vienna Austria spend time with writing mate
Back to Geneva until after Christmas then on verra.

Am I tired yet?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Flo is the pup in front and has come to watch her owner, Gerard tile the front hall. She met with an accident and one of her rear paws is in a cast. Gerard tenderly carries her every where include the several blocks from his house to mine with his tools slung over his shoulder.

Rossi is the pup in the back and is thrilled to have Flo as his friend. He has to reminded to be gentle.

Together the pups accept all the pats by passers by. They believe, based on their owners, that the world is there to adore them.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Early morning walks and talks

Because the temperature was supposed to hit the mid-thirties, and because I did not want to spend the entire day locked into my air conditioned nest, I took an early morning walk through the vegetable gardens that are so lush with tomatoes, beans, etc.
A grey-haired man straddled the brook across from the garden. He was trying to pull up the metal gate that allows the water to flow freely. He responded to my smile and we held a conversation in French.
“Are you looking for the beach?” he asked.
“No, just out for a walk.”
“You’re English?”
“You will find it hard to believe, but I’m Swiss.” I love doing that. It may be mean to enjoy people’s expressions so much when I say I’m Swiss. “But I grew up in America which explains the accent. Your ears were right.”
He smiled. He then explained how he wanted to get the water flowing, showing me where algae were growing and once the water flowed, it would stop.
We wished each other a pleasant day.
I passed the garden where a man sells his produce until 11 in the morning. Ahead on the path were a grandfather and his tins granddaughter. She had Shirley Temple curls and wore a green sundress.
He carried an old wicker basket with leeks and other greens sticking out. The scene could have taken place anytime in the last hundred years EXCEPT he was talking on a cell phone. It reminded me of the gaucho on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat over his ponytail and a long flowing sleeved shirt. We were searching in the Spanish forest for a house that had been occupied by deserters from both sides during the Civil War. The gaucho was talking on a mobile too.
As I headed back into the village, Emil was out on his bench next to the gate he’d painted of a Catalan dancer. His voice is now weak. Even with his cane he can no longer wander even the short distance to the bench in the village where “the senators” meet. They are old men and old friend and every morning after they finish their coffee they sit and solve the world’s problems.
Back in the air-conditioning, I think how much I love my life.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I drove I drove

Okay, that should be nothing special for a woman of my age and intelligence, but driving is something I did rarely for years. In fact once months went by and I didn't even get in a car. I could walk to work and buses and trains took me anywhere I wanted to go.

However, for the last two years, I haven't driven because I couldn't see. The eye surgery changed that.

Need, want and opportunity changed. I needed a new electric kettle and I wanted to shop at the bio store. Both are a long walk which is possible but not practical with the heat and carrying what I wanted to buy.

I used my friend's car. I did all five gears, hill stops, roundabouts just like I had driven yesterday. I even used power steering--mine...Anyone who steers that car on a long term basis will never have flabby upper arms.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Authors without borders

Monday, August 08, 2011

49T and counting

My daughter loves bumper stickers, many of which were a statement against the beliefs of the company she worked for, but they accepted her anyway.

She took this photo before taking them off the first car she ever owned. It has done her well for a number of years. Like me, a car is to get you from place A to place B, C, D, etc. She took good care of it.

The car will be sold prior to her move to Scotland. Y E S ! ! ! !

The license plate is family tradition. My father had the original 49T given to him in the 50s by Governor's Volpe's administration. When he moved to Florida in the early 70s, the license plate was passed on to me. In Florida he got a Florida plate with the same number. He always drove a huge car. I drove a compact. When the two were parked side by side with the same number (different state) plates, we looked like a boat and its dinghy.

Llara was able to get a 49T plate when she moved to Virginia. I doubt she will get a car in Edinburgh and even if she did, I'm sure that a 49T would not be possible, a small sacrifice.

Do love that kid.

Monday, August 01, 2011

There's a new mural

On the wall opposite the church.

Remember Spike?

Spike was the kitten with the outsized personality that cried so piteously on a cold October day, that I invited him inside. He promptly surveyed the place and made himself at home. I found the owner.

Spike has now grown into this beautiful fuzzball and he still oozes personality, a willingness to let you love him as he tries to control who and what goes up and down the street.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Birthdays and longevity

My Dad's 69th birthday cake had little plastic golfers and a stick with a triangular flag, a miniature of those they stick in the holes on greens. He had shot his best round of golf ever the day of his birthday party filled with friends and surprises.

Even the birthday party was wonderful for him. Born right after Christmas, one of ten children in a poor family his birthday got lost. Even as an adult, his birthday was a non event after the holiday rush, except for his 69th year.

Although I wasn't there in Florida to celebrate with him, I have a photo of the cake, shot over his bald head. I've been told it was one of the happiest days of his life in a life with many happy days.

The next night I received a call from my uncle? "Are you sitting down?"

I said yes, although I was standing. I've no idea why I lied: maybe because my uncle was a jokester and I thought a joke was coming. No joke. I fell to my knees. A few hours later I was on a plane to Florida.

Sunday I turned 69 and walked in the mountains, admired the snow and spent the afternoon tucked cozily in the chalet watching Hitchcock films with a good, good friend. It too was a wonderful day in a series of wonderful days.

Yesterday, I did ordinary things, worked on the newsletter, did a bit of paperwork, got nuked, took a photo of the flowers outside the door, enjoyed the beautiful, but cool, Geneva summer.

And today, I woke up having outlived my father by one day and aiming for years more of days. I owe it to him to make the most of each moment as he would have done had he been allowed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The vitamins have arrived

A friend's mother used to be the queen of taping, but my friend R. has inherited the crown. Bless her heart, she answered my plea for calcium pills.

They are one of those things that just aren't as good over here. With airline regulations being so hard on weight, I hesitate to ask anyone coming over to bring them, so I asked her if she could mail me some...I was willing to promise my first born child (unbeknowst to Llara of course) and would have understood if my friend had said no.

But she said yes. Today they arrived and I had to giggle when I saw that every inch of the package was taped. Our OCD postmaster mentioned what a great taping job it was. I suspect the two of them in competition with tape would make an interesting contest, although I've never seen a package from the postmaster, but since he inspects the writing on an envelope to make sure its clear and has customers write it over if it doesn't meet inspection, his complement to her taping was a gigantic complement.

And I love my friend's packing putting the pills in paper towels and baggies to reduce the weight.

Mostly though, I love our friendship which over the years despite an ocean apart has been built by a great bunch of memories, laughter, and a tear or two.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Washing Machine Saga

GULP! The washing machine door wouldn't open. My wet wash looked out including what I wanted to wear that evening.

I tried shutting the machine off, turning it on. It growled.

I tried prying the door open.


I went next door for help and my nice neighbour tried.


As much as I didn't want to bother my housemate on holiday in California, I emailed her. She Skyped me back. "It's probably the filter, bottom left hand corner. You'll need a 20 centime piece to open it.

All I saw was four Phillips screws and I couldn't find a screw driver.

I went back to my room and Skyped her back. "Doesn't look anything like you said."

"I must have been thinking of the old machine."

Let me show you. I carried my laptop downstairs and had to turn it upside down so the webcam could see the filter thingiemabob.

"Turn and pull," my housemate said.

In a moment of great wisdom I put the laptop on top of the machine BEFORE turning the thingiemabob. It came off, followed by a flood. If my laptop could talk, I'm sure it would have thanked all the laptop saints that it didn't end up swimming.

I hit the open door button.

It opened.

We are back to normal in the laundry room.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Cell "+*ç%&/() Phones

Granted, I'm in and out of France regularly and every time I change countries my cell phone company lets me know about roaming charges.

I am NOT a fan of cell phones except when lost or late, although I do like listening to other people's conversations.

Did Maria give in and go on the vacation her mate wanted?

What happened to Tom and Elaina and why was Elaina upset about Tom finding another women when everyone knew what a bitch she was to him.

Will Pierre remember tomatoes, wine and steak?

I don't want to take pictures or surf the net with my phone (I do that enough on my beloved silver laptop with the filigree back).

The phone did not endear itself to me at 3:08 this morning when it rang. Middle of the night phone calls usually mean bad news from the States. My daughter was staying home on the holiday weekend, so she might be safe? My Mom? A Jordan? What?

The phone was in my a bag in my backpack in my closet. By the time I found it, it had stopped croaking (I set it to a croak so it won't remind me of a telephone).

I checked the messages.

"Roaming charges in France ..."

I wasn't in France. I was in Switzerland.

The phone is still in one piece. I was too sleepy to chuck it out the open window.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Three non nuke days in a row

I have three no nukes days ahead of me. I decided this would be a good time to get my hair cut and act like a human being that wasn't being nuked four times a week. Normalcy is getting my hair cut. My hairdresser also uses his salon as a gallery. This is the exhibition after a vernisage by an art school that were doing collages based on Klimt's work.

Changing Flags on the Quai Mont Blanc. All kinds of flags fly depending on events, but I never thought about how they were changed. Two men come along with a basket with the new flags, pull up the flagpoles straight, switch the flags, then bend the poles back over the water.

Who says the Swiss don't have a sense of humour? Just look at their new disposal units for plastic bottles?

And as a final treat I decided to eat at Little India, the best Indian restaurant I've found in Geneva if I don't include home cooked meals at my Indian friends. However half way through the meal, exhaustion hit. I did finish every bite made it home, staggered into bed where I slept as if my eyes were closed with super glue.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On the bus

On the bus, sitting opposite me were two women.

One was a Muslim, with only her hands and face showing. The other was a woman probably the same age in short shorts and a bare midriff. I so wanted to take a photo, but I know that is in an invasion of privacy.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A tree ignored

The final stop of the E bus from Corsier Port into the city is Rive where the E, G, 1 and 33 buses and the number 12, 16, 17 and 27 trolleys exchange passengers.

The TPG sells monthly/yearly bus tickets in a squat building. In winter a man puts up a hot chestnut stand facing the TPG store. His wares warm my hands while waiting for the E.

A Starbucks is on one corner and "real" cafés are on the opposite side of the circle with its complicated traffic patterns.

The Halle, a long building running through to a neighbouring street, has stalls where fishmongers, butchers, green grocers and caterers sell their wares, four aisles of culinary delights, a Swiss food souk.

In the midst of this city life, sheltering the TPG building, is a single tree with a gnarled base reminding me of the Chinese lion statues or even a bit of my old Japanese chins who also reminded me of the Chinese lion statues.

The tree, the bark, the sidewalk all have so many textures just like the lives of those that walk or drive by it without ever stopping to look at it. There is an ugliness bordering on beauty, another dichotomy in our lives filled with dichotomies.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A portion of my heart has been cut out

For some reason I didn't want to answer the phone and the first words I heard were "I didn't want to make this call."

My friend of 53 years is no longer alive.

I want to call her and tell her about it, the first tragedy I haven't been able to share with her.

We went through all our problems in our teens and twenties and then when things started to get better, we hadn't talked for a while. Then she called, "You know we are more than foul-weather friends," she said.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Midnight in Paris

I know I've become frenchified when I rave about a Woody Allen movie. I loved his latest and not just because a writer was the hero (or anti-hero) and it featured Hemingway, Dali, Fitzgerald. Nor was it because I recognized so many of the places in Paris.

It just was a fun movie.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bol d'or

The deluge did not stop the Bol d'or...and from our balcony we had a fantastic view as they sailed by.

However the music festival is this weekend, and I bet a lot of the outdoor acts will not be able to perform. And I wonder what will happen to all the pianos they were planning to leave around the city for anyone to sit down and play.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Getting through Customs

Not me but another writer Sophia Tellen.

Sophia had a reading last week of her new book Getting Through Customs at Payot. The book is a delightful collection of fifteen true stories about her experiences in South Africa, Israel, London, the Seychelles. But it is more than a travel log, because customs can mean more than men sitting in a booth, and getting through can mean the transitions of life.

I'd already enjoyed a thorough romp with her Uncle Joseph in Walking into Moments, a wise man with a fascinating life. I don't know if Tellen meant to or not, but Uncle Joseph is a perfect illustration of how important a loving male figure can be to a young girl.

Watching Tellen read contained two pleasures. One was totally objective, a good writer giving a good read.

The other was more symbolic. We are both members of the Geneva Writers Club that has nurtured our work for almost two decades. And in many cases it has produced friendships that go beyond the sharing of words on the page to words of the heart.

The Spider and the Toad

“I don’t know whether to eat breakfast at Manor, Palentrie or La Recre,” My housemate said.
I was already on the computer to get stuff done before my physio and radio today.
She mentioned a few more things… visions of croissants danced in my head.
“Ok, I agreed, “You want company?”
“We need to celebrate your first day of radio,” she said.
As we approached the garage, we saw that a spider was spinning her web. In the sunlight the tiny, tiny strings glistened like opals.
“Do you want a photo?” I asked. She rushed back into the house, but the normal garage background lost the beauty of the web. “What if I get a paper to hold up behind it?” I rushed into the house and came back with both white (it hid the light) and blue paper. As I lifted the blue, I caught one of the strings, undoing the work of the poor spider.

Speed backward to my youth: on summer evenings my family would sit on our porch and catch up with the days’ events. My brother and I would catch fireflies.
A toad would appear and eat the insects that were zapped by the light we always left on.
One day my grandmother saw our toad (how she knew it was our toad, I’m not sure) was being swallowed by a snake. My mother—not deathly afraid of snakes like my grandmother—ran to the garage and found a tool and chopped the snake into several pieces.
The toad started to hop away when my mother tripped and crushed it to death making one think when it is the time to go, fate steps in.
And we suspect my grandmother had identified the toad correctly, because no toad ever appeared again to clear our porch of insects.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Magic Weekend

The house was quiet this morning, unlike the weekend when it was full of people, a friend of mine, the girlfriend of number 2 son. I strolled across the hall to my housemate's bedroom to check out the lake. It was striped by whatever tides lakes have. The mountains rising above the lake had a few wisps of cotton batten clouds decorating some of their tops.

The holiday weekend had been hectic.

My former neighbor came in from Paris. She kept saying, "I'm so glad you're alive." I am too, but I felt a moment of sadness that I've caused worry in those I care about.

We talked, ate fondue at the Café du Soleil under the vined terrace, laughed, cried, watched the DVD Victoria and one a friend of hers had made and had been at Cannes (better than the winner of the Palme d'Or, but my daughter's performance of Little Red Riding Hood at the age of three was better.)

The highlight however was when we went to our Indian neighbors. When we shared a floor there were guests, meals, hopes, dreams, TV shows, families shared. We might wander down the hall in pjs for a group breakfast, go to a dance performance of one of us, sympathize with an annoying boss.

The daughter went from not being able to each the button for the six floor to being taller than I am and is looking at universities.

The five of us sat in their living room. The sun streamed in the window. Together under one roof recapturing the past although we all have wonderful current lives.


Roger and Annie are living with me

The contract for my seventh novel, the fourth Third Culture Kid Mystery series is in my hand. I'm 132 pages into the seventh novel, Murder in Paris.

Roger and Annie, my hero and heroine are misbehaving at worse and acting stupidly at best.

I've lived with them so many years they are almost as real as my housemate, her son, my daughter, my friends in Argelés. Come to think of it Roger and Annie live in Argelés. They are my friends there along with Barbara, May, Marina, Alain...

It was about seen years ago I decided to try a mystery. I love finding new scenes, researching the historical part of each novel. Sometimes I miss creating a novel around totally new characters, but I can always introduce Annie and Roger to someone new.

I realised after a series of emails with a friend, that there are characters and people who let life happen to them and others who try to have them happen to life. Over years we are in both situations but one or the other seem to dominate our personalities in various degrees.

At 68 and 11/12th as a full-time writer, as a human, I'm still learning. I find that as wonderful.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The suggested cover for my new novel

It won't be out until the end of the year.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


Friday nights used to family night. We would have a meal in Harvard Square buy our books at a book store and in good weather armed with quarters we'd listen to the street musicians.

I just read in The Boston Globe that the Curious George Book store was closing. The last time I was there the Square had been turned into a mini mall with the corporate stores everywhere. All the interesting little shops and the many independent bookstores were no longer there.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

June 1

Rabbit Rabbit

Tired of not finding enough light things to wear, I finally put my winter clothes away and brought out my summer ones.

So what happened?

There's snow on the Jura this morning. I'm digging in my closet for anything that might be relatively warm.

I do not have to miss the vagaries of New England Weather. Geneva is the same.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The memory sweater

After several days of temperatures in the mid to high 20s I figured it was safe to get out my summer clothes.


Yesterday the paper reported and I believe them, a 12 degree drop. Brrrrr.

Fortunately I did leave out some sweaters including a favourite bought in Mirepoix on a great trip with a friend who browbeat me into parting with some money after we spent an enjoyable night (not sexual) in a picturesque hotel in converted 12th century jail.

I'm glad she did convince me to buy it. I still love it.


I grabbed the last Spenser novel from the library. I'll miss him. I suppose I could always get the DVD of the series. Hard to believe that both Robert Urich and Robert Parker are gone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A new worst movie for my worst movie list

Song of Norway
The Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.

and now drum roll

Tree of Life...if it was the winner at Cannes of the Palme d'or I would hate to see the losers.

In the ladies room afterward we exchanged opinions. The kindest was "arty farty" others were clap trap, pretentious, pseudo Hollywood intellectual, I didn't get the meaning."

Meaning? It meant I wasted my money.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The price of international friendship

Geneva is again Mighty Mom free but for three glorious days this lovely and talented woman was once again walking our Genevan streets.

The problem with international friends is that they move on to other countries.

It isn't just Mighty Mom who left, but the couple Czech, and a certain Syrian doctor among others. We stay in touch. We Skype. We email. We read blogs. We see each other from too long time to too long time.

There are people who won't make friends with internationals because they know they will lose the possibility of daily contact. Then there are those that wouldn't want to pass up the opportunity to share time and activities. It is a variation of not replacing a loved dog because of the pain of losing the next one rather than relishing the time with the new dog.

What make face-to-face contact even more wonderful when it does happen is that not only does it bring back good memories it creates a new one.