Sunday, March 31, 2013

No more memories to be made

April 23, 1924-March  31, 2013

My father fell in love with my step-mom
when they were both married to other people.
She swirled across the dance floor in a 
white grown embroidered with violets
and into his arms.

They never had his children or her children.
"We have our children," she always said in
a tone that let everyone know 
there was no alternative.

When she visits,
we play cards.
She wipes me out
no dainty widow lady, she.
We go to restaurants,
laugh a lot, 
share memories of my Dad
and build new ones of our own.

Confessions of a page turner

Nope, I’m not talking about about a book that one can’t put down, nor am I writing from the point of view of a book that can’t be put down because it is so fascinating.

Back story 

My grandfather had a reverence for books. When a new one came into the house, which was often, the book had to be put on a table top and opened first from the back then from the front and a finger run down the spine so the pages would be properly opened. When I was four he said something that hurt my feelings, and the only revenge I could think of was to take one of his books and write on it in pencil on one page. He never discovered my treachery making it a wasted revenge that several decades later I can’t forget.

In junior high and high school we were given books for the year and then used paper bags to cover them. Those lucky enough to have a boyfriend in university would have university covers. I was proud of my Northeastern covers with the huskies on the front. I wouldn’t have dared write in those books because they faced inspection in June.

Thus, when I went to university and bought my own books, it was a bit shocking to be able to highlight important passages and scribble notes in the margins. Depending on the course, sometimes I would buy used books already marked up which made studying a bit easier—okay lazier.

Living on Wigglesworth Street in Boston (yes that is a real place named for a Doctor Wigglesworth, a specialist in syphilis at Harvard Medical School across the street) we exchanged books with our eccentric neighbour Hiram, who jotted comments in the margins, making the read much more fun. My favourite comment from him was “Oh no, not another French twist.”

Now comes the confession. I love to mark my place by turning over the page. Not every book like Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace which is a Victorian Madame Bovary comes with an attached ribbon. As I was ready to stop reading, the businesswoman side of me wondered how much that added to the cost of the book.

I love the magnetic book markers. The Swedish paper store in Geneva’s Veille Ville have wonderful ones that I promptly lose.

Dear Readers, you may wonder why I haven’t gone to Kindle. Indeed it is on my list of things to do, but at the moment most of my books are free. Between the American Library in Geneva and an English bookstore owned by my friend in Argelès who doesn’t charge me for the used books as long as I return them, I seldom buy a work. That in itself is a terrible confession of a writer who sells her books. Guilty, oh ever so guilty and a bit cheap.

When I lived on Wigglesworth Street we had a library with hundreds of books. With each move there have been less and less that I keep. In fact most of the books on my shelves these days are copies of my own novels.

Thus despite the ribbon in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, this morning, I turned down the corner of page 49 without even thinking of the ribbon bookmark.

I confess. I did it.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Publisher's Weekly Review

 Murder In Paris due out in June

The heat of a Paris summer provides the backdrop for Nelson’s engaging fourth Third-Culture Kid mystery (after 2012’s Murder in Geneva). Tech writer Annie Young’s determination to take a freelance job documenting an archeological dig run by her Italian lothario ex-lover, Luca Martinelli, causes enough friction to end her engagement to Argelès-sur-mer police chief Roger Perret. Luca is not only leading the excavation in Paris’s Latin Quarter but is also sharing her borrowed apartment. When attractive but not-well-liked team member Amelie LaFollette is shot to death at the dig, police detective Marie-Claude Du Pont investigates. Suspicion is cast on the amorous Luca as well as other coworkers with access to the site and its potentially valuable contents. Flashbacks to a 13th-century monk-in-the-making, Jacques Fournier, enrich the contemporary storyline, which builds to a satisfyingly untidy resolution. (June)

A new old tradition

Friends who live at the top of the village invited us for lunch, a fish fondue and for dessert, a simnel cake.

Although I'd never heard of it, the cakes have been around since medieval days.

It's  light fruit cake (nothing like the horrors passed around during American Christmases) with two layers of marzipan, one in the middle and one on top.

Our hostess had cut out a little Easter marzipan bunny in the middle and marzipan roses as well. She didn't totally cover the top with marzipan in case some didn't like.

The idea is to have for the middle Sunday of Lent, also known as Refreshment Sunday, Mothering Sunday, Sunday of the five loaves. Okay, so it was the last Saturday before the end of Lent, but it didn't effect the taste.

The word simenl was first seen in print in 1226 in the sense of the Latin simila or fine flour. A medieval scholar from Oxford and the University of Toulouse thought the word simnel was equal to placenta.

No matter the meaning...the cake was good.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Biscuits, blooms and bunnies

Biscuits and bunnies outside of a Lucerne bakery

A flower shop below the old town.

A bouquet from my love to my housemate and myself supporting us in our joys and sorrows.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Random adventure

“Name a track,” my housemate said.


We rushed up to catch the train and didn’t know its destination, Lucerne, till we pulled out of the Geneva train station. Armed with passes that would let us ride all the trains and buses in Switzerland we decided to just pick randomly what we did all day.

Never, ever do we get tired of the Swiss countryside and even though it is allegedly spring, the snow added to the magic of the day. It was like looking at beautiful black and white postcards in a country that is a postcard.

Three hours later we ended up in Lucerne and as we walked through the train station we saw a clock with its time keeping for the world (although it hadn’t allowed for various countries changing to daylight savings times on different dates.) As the second were counted off little red dots traced the movement of time.

“You have to walk across the bridge,” my housemate said referring to the landmark Chapel Bridge from the 17th century which was rebuilt in the 90s after a fire destroyed it. No problem at all. 

She was sure she remembered a restaurant where she’d eaten earlier and walking through the old town, she found it as fast as any homing pigeon. We devoured spinach späzli in a cheese sauce.

Back at the train station, it was her time to name a track for the next step in our random adventure. 


Oops that was a local train. 

On track 5 a train was ready to pull out. Thus we ended up in Zug, followed by Zurich. From Zurich we hopped a train to Biel/Bienne and made another change toward Geneva via Neuchâtel, my old stomping grounds.
One should never come between my housemate and her afternoon coffee and the cart came by just in time and perhaps a quarter of an hour late. In a chat with the waitress at the restaurant, my housemate so charmed the young woman, that we left with an Easter cake that disappeared almost as fast as the coffee.

 Now we need to start planning our next adventure.

Monday, March 25, 2013

I am not a pedophile

My friends will not be surprised at this.

However, I think I was mistaken for one.

My housemate asked me to pick her up after her physio. She is still not supposed to drive. At best she is a bad passenger and my driving does not bring comfort to her. Thus her choice to take the bus the few stops to the physio and have me pick her up--half the mental anguish of riding with another driver.

The physio's office is across the street from a grade school.

Because it is cold, I left the engine running as I parked between the two places and was enjoying watching the children play at recess.

A man came out of the school, a frown on his face. "What are you doing?"

I explained.

"This is a school."

I knew that.

"Move your car, now."

I did, up to in front of the physio's entrance.

I'm sure he was protecting the children, a good thing. However how many little old ladies--albeit it redheads who I say with all modesty look younger than their years but still not young--are pedophiles. Of course I might have been a granny ready to steal my grandchildren in the case of a troublesome divorce.

In any case, I'm innocent and it is good to know that the children are well looked after.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

It may not be the best photo

But this house with the two giraffes flaking the gate (Sorry, I cut off the head) and the painted decorations was a perfect end to a perfect afternoon with two friends and a fondue.

Friday, March 22, 2013

a bird goes fishing using bread as bait


Blueberries in champagne, shrimp, wonderful cheese, a fresh baguette. It must be a celebration. For what?  The wonderful words, "no more treatment, they got it all, no chemo."

Huge sigh of relief . Cross roommate worry off the to do list.

How appropriate that it happened at the spring Equinox, Ostara and the time of new beginnings.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sometimes I can't have what I want

My stepmom is in the hospital.

She has reached a period in her life where she doesn't want to get out of bed, her mind sometimes remembers people, sometimes doesn't. She asks people why I don't drop in not remembering I live on another continent. I suspect the cards I inundate her with is why she remembers my name at all.

She has been less afraid since she has been in the Veterans Home. Her last couple of years at home with the caretaker were not happy because the caretaker couldn't be there 24/7. Her fears were trees to far to reach would land on her house and other imaginings.

I love my stepmom. We've only had one cross word that I remember and that was when I put a hot iron away. She said in an annoyed tone, she wished I hadn't done that.

She always thought, I was intelligent and competent. I was great mother and a good writer and although she wasn't a reader, she read my books. Like my father she bragged about me to everyone I know and when I visited she always told people "This is my daughter from Switzerland."

The last few years have been one crisis after another. Her grandson and I have teamed up to do what we can to make her life as easy as possible when both of us are thousands of miles away from her.

In one way I want her to slip out of this life and find the peace that has been missing. But mostly I want her healthy, happy and beating me at gin rummy.

I can't have that and I prefer to think I'm crying more for that than any other reason.

Sometimes a nasty word works

There have been no surveys on this, but over the last couple of weeks telling friends of my housemate's cancer the first word out of all but one person's mouth or on the email is "shit". For those that don't know after surgery she is doing well in body and spirit.

Even the most ladylike of friends have reacted this way.

I had a professor who used the word f--k the was most people use the verb to be. It was a word that would send my birth mother into spasms. I have to admit when I was at my wits end with her I would use it. Not nice I know, but self defense is sometimes necessary.

Mostly I don't swear, but not from remembered admonishments from my grandmother on the importance of always being a lady. When one doesn't ordinarily swear, when one does boy it is ten times as effective.

A daily happy moment

One of the joys of being in Geneva is to wake up, wander into my housemate's bedroom and look at the lake. The photos show a variation of the moods over a few days but it doesn't show the variety of colours. Sometimes the lake is almost navy, other times aqua, brown, striped, grey.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I am loving this book

I have the English edition written several years before but it is a fictionalized story of the maid to Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.

I've checked out the historical facts and its right on. Also interesting insights into class differences of the period.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

T shirt wisdom

I love clever t-shirts.

One of my favourites was a gift from my daughter that said, "Be careful or I'll put you in my next novel." And another was my name written in Arabic (although I'd never wear it on a flight)

I've often made up t-shirts including one for her saying, "I'm spending my inheritance at Napier University."

However, I think she topped them all with one she was wearing as a night shirt with the message in the artwork below. I'd not looked at it closely the first night she wore it, the second night I did. I couldn't stop giggling.

Although my daughter knows I adore her, she doesn't really believe that the world revolves around her, but she does believe in amusing t shirts.

Must be the DNA working.

Not enough crayons in the world

To show all the colours of the lake on different days.

Angel badges

Thoughtfulness above and beyond.

Ok, my housemate had to have surgery and I was due back from the South of France immediately after to do whatever is needed AND to enjoy life with her as we normally do.

I went directly train to hospital and was much relieved to find her in high spirits in the hospital. HUG is such a wonderful place. All is well.

I get home to a house that has been empty since Monday and there's my favourite bananas and apples with a note Happy Eating... Good Lord, the woman knew I wasn't going to be able to shop my first day back and even under stress thought of someone else.

Thoughtfulness is time of stress, especially like this situation, merits more angel badges than exist.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Leaving Argelès

"Skiing?" Jean-Pierre asked as I walked by dragging my teddy bear suitcase. He was putting out his baskets of fresh vegetables in front of his green grocery store at the end of my street. We've danced in the rain, shared stories for years and he's laughed at me when I return for the third time within an hour for something I've forgotten. The joys of having everything in walking distance..

"Que Genève," I said.

"Domage," he said. Too bad.

It was 6:30 in the morning and because of the very fine mist, less off the marché stand operators were setting up. However, the man with the roasted chickens already had been up long enough to create wonderful smells as the birds turned on their spits.

Laurent was unlocking the doors of La Noisette. No time for a tea.

Fresh bread smells were coming from the boulangerie.

My suitcase's wheels made noise against the brick sidewalks, as I headed to the train station.

Let it be unlocked, I muttered. YES! It was lit up and I could compose my ticket in warmth and dryness.

Leaving Argelès. Always sad.

Arriving in Genève. Always happy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Guilt and dumb

If I were to say to my daughter, I suffered in labour with you for 18 hours, she'd roll her eyes and say "Mother, mother, mother, I don't do guilt trips."

Usually I don't feel unnecessarily guilty about things, unless I deserve it by doing something really dumb, but this is a day I feel guilty for something not my fault.

I am in my nest. It looks like it will be a beautiful day. My daughter is with me, which in different times past and most like many times in the future, is a luxury. Who knows when she finds a job and how much time we will be able to spend together. Without apology I'm "guilty" of liking my kid and have no intention of stopping. Liking is a bonus on top of loving.

The weather looks like it will be beautiful. My daughter and I are treating ourselves to lunch at Barteveille, my favourite restaurant run by a lovely, lovely couple. Atmosphere, delicious food at reasonable prices and a friendliness that matches being at home--what more could I ask for.

However, today a woman I care about deeply is having surgery, a variation on mine two years ago, and similar to one she underwent 15 years ago. Although everything looks like it will be successful I am deeply sorry that she is going through it. I don't like my friends to be in anything but wonderful situations. And as good as HUG is as a hospital, I want her to be at her computer, eating at Marro, or watching a DVD and laughing.

A family member of choice is with her real family, also people I care deeply about who have taken me in and shown me incredible warmth.

They are all in a war zone. I don't like people I love being in places where they can be bombed, shot or arrested with no solution anywhere in sight.

So what does that have to do with guilt?

A lot?

I don't want to change places with them, and I know if I'm having a miserable time it will do nothing for their situations. They are doing what they have to do. And I know it isn't reasonable that I can change anything for them so guilt at being helpless is dumb.

Maybe dumb and guilt go together. Maybe it is the price of caring.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I don't understand the bureaucratic mind

It isn't just culture difference, although that showed its head last week when I wanted to sign the contract for our Aug. 10th commitment ceremony hall. Get it off my plate...the Argelès Mairie doesn't issue the contracts until the week before the event. I know I'm a bit neurotic about getting things done in advance, but still.

Earlier this week we, the we being Llara and me, went to Crèdit Agricole so she could be listed on my account. I had done the same for my friend Barbara on her postal bank account (Post Offices also serve as banks in many countries).

She opened a different account and wanted me to have access to her funds. If something happens to her, I'll be able to get funds to her daughters.

It wasn't even a different account, but an extension, but we had to go through the listing process all over. They have a dossier with all my required paperwork.

I brought my identity card and a statement from Crédit Agricole to show I was still at the same address.

Not so fast. It has to be an electrical or phone bill for a landline. Both payments were listed on the statement on my account, but that wasn't good enough.

A Swiss or French driver's license wouldn't have been any good either even though they are government issued.

I don't understand the bureaucratic mind. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013


The rain has been replaced with blue skies. It felt good to be walking through the village without being pelted with water which had been much like consecutive buckets being thrown within nano seconds of each other from a second story window.

My first stop was to take a photo of the river. Yesterday the water was to the trees. Why I found it so intriguing, is that for the first 18 or so years that I've been coming to this village, I never saw water in the river. In the summer when the circus comes to town, camels, zebras, buffalos and horses are put into the river bed to graze. Dog owners use it as a runway for their pets because they don't have to worry about cars.

An elderly man stopped to talk with me as I took my photo. He pointed to his house along the bank and said he had about six inches of water on the his ground floor.

Next errand: bank and the ATM followed by a stop at the butchers to pick up as close as I can get to salt pork for the Boston Baked Beans I'll make for my daughter. I still use the bean pot of my great grandmother. This pot is in its third century of use.

Then I took my Elizabeth George novel while I drank tea at La Noisette. My daughter had a phone interview and I wanted to give her privacy so I was looking for things to do rather than go home. There were short chats with a number of the regulars at the tea room.

Up the street apiece is the gift shop where I bought my niece's wedding present. Stephanie from Barteveille, my favourite restaurant, also in walking distance came in. She looked tired and told of how they had a flood but on an upper floor through the area around the windows. Prior to the storm, they never knew that they had a problem because in ordinary storms nothing ever dripped or leeked.

At the green grocers (we are still on the same street), I ran into my writing pal who is looking for boxes for her upcoming move. Also chatted with Babette, the owner, as I bought onions to make a close imitation of Bill's onion soup. It would be impossible to make it as good as he did. My daughter on her first trip to Paris when she was ten ordered onion soup only to say Bill's was better. She was right.

Heading down my street, one of the neighbours was patting a cat that resembled Spike, the kitten I adopted for a day during another storm two years ago when his pitiful meowlings were beyond bearable. Spike had grown into a red tiger angora fluff ball, and had been the official greeter of anyone who walked down the street. "Two bad he disappeared," I said.

"He's living two streets away. He demanded to be adopted and the two boys took him in," the neighbour said.

What good news. I thought Spike had died and headed home after my village ramble.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Pouring is an understatement.  For the last two days the rain has not pit-a-patted on the roof, but sounded more like the Edinburgh tattoo’s largest marching bands. The river, which is usually grass is threatening to run over the banks.

My friend Lydia and I went to check out the beach. We saw waves out in the sea that were several stories high, looking more like geysers.

Those hitting the beach were up to five meters.

Then we checked out the other beach. The water had come up to the houses hiding the long beach. There too the geysers rose and fell many metres out and the once hitting in the beach were at least five metres.

The water under the foams was the colour of milk chocolate from the sand picked up.

Un-damaged was the wine bottle tree outside one of the bars closed for the season.