Thursday, May 30, 2013


numbers,symbols,temperatures,thermometers,weather,mercury levels,concepts 

In 2003 30,000 people died from heat-related causes in Europe. At my office we turned off the lights, they brought water bottles around to keep us from dehydrating and we were sent home at 15:00 in the afternoon.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate heat because it saps my energy.

My daughter did a hissy fit until I bought an air conditioner for my nest, and each time the temperature gets above 22°C (see the conversion temperature on the right) I email her and thank her.

I love winter with its sweaters, gloves and sweat shirts. I love it Dec, Jan, Feb that is.

But even more than winter I love seasons: the daffodils and flowering of the trees, the rape seed making the fields almost sunglasses necessary, sitting in an outdoor café with a cup of green tea, kicking waves in the sea, the slowly darkening days, the first fire in the fireplace, kicking fallen leaves with their musty smell, finding the decorations for the Christmas tree. 

This alleged spring we've had the daffodils. Tulips lined the lakefront on the route into the city. However what we haven't had is spring temperatures. Maybe they got drowned in all the rain.

The summer clothes I rehung in the closet go unused in favour of the couple of winter outfits I kept out "in case" and it has only been "in case."

As we end May we are expecting a high of 11°C today with mostly rain adding to the already soggy soil from all the other rainy days. The weekend forecast is not much better. 

Llara and I are going to an open mike poetry reading tonight and J and I have a Garou concert tomorrow night. We'll bundle up and take umbrellas.

When I used to go to Florida to visit my dad in winter, he would say, "Shut the door as you close the door when you cross the Mason-Dixon line. We don't want any of that cold weather here." 

If any of my friends are coming from the Sahara, would you please leave the door least a little.

Onion friends


I had lunch yesterday with another onion friend. I have many. 

Onion friends are people whom I've known for years, but I'm still discovering new layers much like an onion has layers and layers and layers and  . . .

Onion friends have gone beyond the casual descriptions we give out to sharing the times that were difficult, challenges faced and surpassed, beliefs deeply held, ideas developed or discarded. 

This onion friend is a talented writer, journalist, who dares to risk and explore. Over the years she's been plucked from one country to another several times and has learned how to put down roots that she knows may well be transplanted and still make the most of her time. She's faced scarey period, lonely periods and has emerged stronger. She also has had wonderful experiences.

Another onion friend of well over 35 years is still telling me stories that I will respond "I didn't know that." She is one who has risked much, hasn't always won, but is a model on trying again.

When an onion friend shares a new layer the layer is not necessarily limited to a past story. In the way an onion transmits its flavour to a dish, the sharing adds flavour to the life of the listener.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Amsterdam--Bikes, bikes and more bikes

The temperature when Rick and I arrived in Amsterdam was colder than it had been on Christmas Day. We were there to meet up with my Cape Cod cousins, who would be friends if they weren't relatives and who routinely come to Europe. Wherever they are I go meet up with them, creating wonderful memories of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Frankfurt, etc. Amsterdam was to create a new memory as they satisfied they urge for "old world" life. My cousin had found a charming hotel, not a chain. His only complaint there were no croissants for breakfast, but I thought the cheese with cumin and raisin bread more than made up for it.

Monday, the temperature went up and we decided to do the hop on hop off canal boat tour. Why this photo? Look closely at the word next to the window and O ticket shop. I don't think many tickets were sold.

Years ago in Milan I felt I was being attacked by 50 million Fiats. This trip to Amsterdam was 50 million bikes. Bikes to the right of me, bikes to the left of me. At least it was never a bike on my face. I do understand though why everyone is in such good shape. We could count the overweight people on the fingers of one hand. I can just imagine what Amsterdam would be like it all those bikes in the bike parking lot were cars.

As we crossed a bridge, we saw locks on the chain of the lock.I don't know the story behind it.

The view from our hotel window. So many of the buildings were decorated with tile. If there is an ugly part of the city, we missed it.

The canals made me wish Bruegel was there to paint the scene.

The port of Amsterdam is nothing like the Jacques Brel song (see  the end of the blog for lyrics and youtube). No sailors pissing anywhere. The old ship Amsterdam is beautiful.

Rick discovered what people warned him about me was true. We arrived at the airport almost three hours early for the flight back to Geneva. I admit after working for Interskill and running through airports often with my shoes in my hand to be the last one bursting into the cabin, I'm neurotic about not missing a flight or rushing except to rush to be early. He's a just-in-time person. Neither of us are right or wrong, but as he said, he "enjoyed yanking my chain" once we were at the airport asking, "Do you think we have time to (fill in the blank) before the plane leaves. The fact that the gate hadn't been posted, just made him smile more. However, he didn't object to the nice lunch we had. 

In the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who sings
Of the dreams that he brings
From the wide open sea
In the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who sleeps
While the riverbank weeps
With the old willow tree
In the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who dies
Full of beer, full of cries
In a drunken down fight
And in the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who's born
On a muggy hot morn
By the dawn's early light
In the port of Amsterdam
Where the sailors all meet
There's a sailor who eats
Only fishheads and tails
He will show you his teeth
That have rotted too soon
That can swallow the moon
That can haul up the sails
And he yells to the cook
With his arms open wide
Bring me more fish
Put it down by my side
Then he wants so to belch
But he's too full to try
So he gets up and laughs
And he zips up his fly
In the port of Amsterdam
You can see sailors dance
Paunches bursting their pants
Grinding women to paunch
They've forgotten the tune
That their whiskey voice croaks
Splitting the night with the
Roar of their jokes
And they turn and they dance
And they laugh and they lust
Till the rancid sound of
The accordion bursts
Then out to the night
With their pride in their pants
With the slut that they tow
Underneath the street lamps
In the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who drinks
And he drinks and he drinks
And he drinks once again
He drinks to the health
Of the whores of Amsterdam
Who have promised their love
To a thousand other men
They've bargained their bodies
And their virtue long gone
For a few dirty coins
And when he can't go on
He plants his nose in the sky
And he wipes it up above
And he pisses like I cry
For an unfaithful love
In the port of Amsterdam
In the port of Amsterdam

An Angel for R

From our hotel in Amsterdam all the way to Long Island

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Better late than never

I usually don't procrastinate.


However, when it came to setting up my website, the procrastination went from weeks, months to years.

Yesterday my Fiancé set up camp in the living room. By the end of the day he had created a website for me... far better than I could have done for myself. 

Why is it we can market others better than ourselves?

And I know it sounds strange, but I'd never looked at my writing as a body of work, but a lot of different parts.

Off to Amsterdam tomorrow to line up with my cousins and going happily as the proud owner of a website.

Friday, May 24, 2013

That will be another $100

aircraft,airlines,airplanes,careers,employees,females,flight attendants,jobs,occupations,passengers,people,people at work,persons,transportation,travel,vocations,women,workers,working

Airlines now days advertise low rates and keep adding extras. One US airline charges $50 for a CARRY ON bag. Yes, they are charging people to carry their own luggage. Easy Jet charges you to use your credit card although to get your ticket you need to pay by credit card.

My little marketing brain came up with an advert for an airline that is not playing those stupid games.

Clerk at airline counter and woman in black dress. "That will be $25 for wearing black."

Same clerk to man with book. "That will be $25 to carry the book on to the plane, $40 if you read it."

Same clerk to pregnant woman. "There's a $150 charge for each unborn child. You're not carrying twins are you?"

Stewardess serving a cup of tea to a customer: "That's $5 for the tea and an extra $2 for the cup."

Voice over: If you're tired of being nickled and dimed on YOUR flights, fly with us YXYX Airline. One price covers everything."

Cue music and plane disappearing into the clouds.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

This is a book I wished I had written. It is a wonderful allegory of modern life, the problems of aging, miscommunication, loss and life all done in beautiful language. 

Harold, a retiree in a sterile marriage, gets a letter from a former colleague who is dying of cancer. He answers but when he goes to post he decides to deliver in person by walking from the bottom of the UK to the top. Every time I wondered how she could keep the simple plot going, she brought in another detail.

Rachel Joyce, the author, weaves, the past, present, other peoples' lives, secrets in and out.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Change is constant

This is the front of the Reading Post office. I grew up in Reading, MA and a high school chum told me it was to be sold. Built in 1918, it is not a historical site, but could be . . .  any sale is to include preservation of the front paragraphs in the agreement. As a child I thought it a pretty building, a forever thing.

I have my own memories of the fountain burbling in the middle. Of being told to buy 103 cent stamps by my mother and given $3 (rates have changed) doing so then being too embarrassed to return them for for 100 three cent stamps with no change to keep. Eight year olds don't have a lot of courage for this sort of thing and my mother did it for me, letting me see how easy it was.

When I was engaged and my fiancé was at the Naval School of Music in Washington, DC we used to write each other every day. I had all colour and designed stationary with different colour inks. When I didn't get a letter in the morning mail around four in the afternoon I'd go to the post office. Bunny Clarkson (Bunny was male and I have no idea why he had that name) worked behind the counter and would check. More often than not he would appear with a small white envelope with my fiancé's neat printing. Of course, that meant no mail the next day, and the cycle continued.

No. 1 son here in Corsier has been told our tiny commune post will close in the fall. For all my complaints about our OCD postman, I'll miss him. I've learned to talk about running, the weather . . . anything to keep his mind off checking to make sure the writing on the envelope is legible.

In Corsier the post and the tea room are all that exists in the centre. 

Change, however, is constant. Wonder if we'll keep the tea room?

living statue video

Posted on my love's site

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


A day with clouds and sun, warm enough to be coat-free spent exploring museums in a castle in Milano. The courtyard was perfect for buying a sandwich from one of the vendors and watching the children try and catch the pigeons and the pigeons try and catch the crumbs.

Kites were given to children to play with  and they ran around the courtyard as they inflated a big fish balloon.
 My housemate loves to photograph reflections. I know she'd have done a better job with this out our hotel room.

To look at this, one would never, ever think it really was above the sinks in a woman's toilet at the castle.

What fun it was to look at musical instruments and how they were made, the medieval armour.

Because  this was a business trip which included a wonderful dinner (how can asparagus risotto be anything but wonderful?) with journalists, the touristy moments made Rick and I feel as if we were playing hockey, even though the events did not start until after our adventure.

Thank goodness he can spend hours investigating museums and has the historical background to put things into context.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Tale of the Ogre (a not true story)

As Rick and I were walking in the woods, we decided the roots of the tree were really an ogre's face. Of course there was a bit of debate about open or closed eyes, tongues sticking out, Jay Leno chin, and fist or foot under the cheek. It is also possible to see more than one face. Rick is going to post his own version of this at his eventually.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a handsome prince who lived in the land of Les Marecottes. It was a tiny land in the mountains. Although the prince was handsome, he knew it and he felt everyone should do whatever he wanted not because he was the prince but because he was so handsome. 

He married the beautiful Princess of Salvan, a land just down the mountain from Les Marecottes. 

Unlike the prince, she did not rely on her beauty but her good deeds, because she liked bringing pleasure to others. She was soon much beloved by the villagers of Les Marecottes for her all that she did: playing with their children, bringing the soup if they were sick, helping them with chores.

The handsome prince became very angry because he felt, and rightfully so, that his subjects loved his princess more than they loved him. Because even though she was beautiful, he was even more handsome than she was beautiful.

He issued a decree you will love me more than her, but no one obeyed.

Eventually he took it out on the princess and beat her badly. He told her never to help any of his subjects again.

A young woodsman in the village had become a good friend with the princess and she with him. They talked about ways to help the villagers who needed it. They found ways to make chores fun such as singing as they worked in the fields, or dancing down the street on a sunny day. 

He was very unhappy about the way she was treated by the prince.

His mother had magical powers and he went to her with his concerns.

"Never fear my son," she said. "If the prince hits his princess again I will turn him into the ogre he really is, but a special one. He will be the roots of a tree that must nourish that tree in contrast to how he didn't nourish his subjects."

That night when the princess came back carrying an empty pail which she had used to carry soup to feed an old woman who could no longer get out of bed, he was so angry that she hadn't obeyed him, that he raised his hand to hit her.

The curse took effect and he disappeared. 

People, when they were walking in the woods, noticed the face of the ogre in the tree roots, but they never associated him with the prince. And although they missed the prince, they were glad he was gone.

As for the ogre he hated how he looked and hated how his presence made the tree grow tall and strong while he was trapped at the bottom.

As for the princess she and the woodsman continued their kind deeds. 

(I bet you thought I'd make them a couple and they'd live happily ever after--they did live happily ever after but not as a couple but as great friends)


It doesn't have to be boring

As a bride in Stuttgart Germany, we put the trash out in silver-coloured metal cans exactly like our neighbours creating a line of identical trash cans identified only with a tiny, tiny nameplate.


I suggested to my now ex-husband, that we paint tiny red roses on them to make them pretty.

He said no.

That's not the reason he's my ex.

Computers used to be boring-looking too until Apple came out in colours. I bought a mini computer because the blue colour would be perfect with both my room in Geneva ANd my nest in Argelès. There was a dusty rose mini, but that wouldn't have worked colour-wise in Argelès. My current laptop has a pretty design etched into the cover.

Mailboxes usually rank high on the boredom scale. Over the years, on different walks, I've found a few that aren't. Yesterday in the mountains, I came across the these.


There is something heart cockle warming about the creativity of taking the mundane and giving it a twist to make it special.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Scrambled eggs

Had the bell on the electric gate rung two minutes later, I wouldn’t have heard it from the shower. 

Fortunately, I was still dressed as I ran downstairs to push the clicker to let in our egg delivery man. At first I couldn’t understand the horror on his face.

Then I saw as the gate swung open it was crushing the eggs he had just delivered and shoved under the bottom of the gate as it moved back toward the wall.

Only two eggs were shattered while the rest survived being pushed.

In French he said, "Wait," and went to his car and picked out six more eggs from the large box of eggs on his passenger seat and put them in a carton.

“Mais, j’ai besoins de que deux,” I said, showing him that only two eggs were smashed. I didn’t mention they were dripping on my hand.

Non, non, six,” he said.

He asked how to prevent egg smashing in the future. I showed him where to ring the bell and reassured him that we were almost always home.

“Ah, bon,” he said. I will do that.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The race

It's about a twenty minute walk to Marro, our favourite restaurant in the next  village. When Rick and I learned the menu du jour was roast chicken, cooking seemed undesirable and cleaning up even less so. 

We set out on a rare spring day. Vineyards, mountains and yellow fields of rapeseed are on one side of the road. More yellow fields, the lake and mountains on the other. 

I do the walk often, but if I'm at one of the five bus stops between the house and the restaurant when a bus pulls up, I feel the universe is telling me to ride. We passed the Savonnière stop at 12:13. The bus was due at 12:17.

 "Do you want to wait?" I asked him.

"Will it be on time?"

"This is Switzerland," I answered.

Instead he challenged me. He would walk the rest of the way I would take the bus. There was no forfeit.

12:15 no bus.

12:16 no bus

12:17 no bus

I could see Rick in the distance, walking only slightly faster than we had walked together.

12:18 no bus. Rick was out of sight.

12:19 the bus came around the bend.


I hopped on for the next three stops. Rick was waiting for me. I've learned something new in our relationship. 

He can smirk, but at least he does it in a loving fashion.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Telephone memory lane

My housemate brought back an old fashioned telephone from the states after the owner passed on. It brought back memories of other phones. To use it, there is a dial on the bottom.

I still remember my childhood phone number (about the only one I do.) 944-0188. Back then there were private and party lines. We had a private one, but we gave an operator the number of the person we were calling. Being an operator was considered lifetime job security in the 50s. So much for job lifetime security.

The day I went for my driver's license, the first phone call I made, the operator, who was also in my driver ed class, asked "Did you get it?" 

Somehow mobile phones just don't have that connectivity--but they do have more privacy. Now it maybe the government listening in, not an operator.

A former housemate gave me a Snoopy phone to keep me from taking myself too seriously. It worked. Snoopy may be long gone from my telephoning moments, but I still don't take myself all that seriously.
 And then there were the princess phone both dial and push button. Push buttons were pretty snazzy not to mention that they came in different colours to match the decor of the room. This was long before you had portable phones much less mobiles. Now sometimes it is necessary to use the mobile to find the portable receiver and vice versa.
Then there were the old French phones that I used when I first moved to Europe. I'm not talking the elegant porcelain ones of the movies but the box kind that had an extra ear piece so that two people could listen at the same time. That was also the period of the Minitel, which was an ancestor of the web...sorta like a pre-Neanderthal is the ancestor of humans.

Thus this morning when I had to call up to the chalet where I'll be going tomorrow, I used the old rotary dial only to remember how long it took and the click-click-click the dial made as it went back to zero. All this for a woman that really doesn't like to talk on the telephone.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday morning memories

Part of any new relationship is getting to know the person. Albeit Rick and I met 34 years ago. In the beginning we were professional friends that did not lend itself to more revealing stories. Recently we were discussing my writing and how it came about which brought up a waterfall of memories.

I wanted to write ever since I can remember, maybe because I loved being read to and wanted to create my own so I had stories with me always not just when my mother and grandmother had time to read to me.

I tried scribbling my stories on paper at four but those scribbles could not be reread. Then I started writing orally describing wherever I was and adding, “he said,” or “she laughed” after the grown-ups in my life spoke. It came to an abrupt end when my grandmother and I were walking to the mailbox and I said out loud, “The little girl said laughingly holding the fat cook’s hand.” Although my grandmother encouraged creativity and was proud of her cooking ability she didn’t appreciate the word “fat” and my verbal utterances stayed inside my head at the request of adults around me.

Later, as I told Rick, I discovered the Beverly Gray series. No Nancy Drew for me. Beverly was a revelation. She was everything I wanted to be and how I wanted to live.

Wikipedia describes the books as “The Beverly Gray Mystery Stories, published between 1934 and 1955, were written by Clair Blank, pen name of Clarissa Mabel Blank Moyer. The series began as a series of school stories, and followed Beverly's progress through college, her various romances, and a career as a reporter before becoming strictly a mystery series. Beverly is portrayed as an extraordinarily determined individual: There was a driving ambition in her heart that would not let her idle her life away.

And like my grandmother who will always be a role model in values, Beverly became my model in life. 

This morning, I did a search (I prefer it to google) and I found a website describing both the writer and the books.

The website has Clair's photo and it is a pleasure to see the face of the woman who had so much influence on me. More than once when I’m in England or writing a news article or having an adventure, I’ve thought—I’m like Beverly.

For the first time I learned about the writer herself. Her real name was Clarissa Mabel Blank Moyer. She was born Aug. 5, 1915 and published her first book at age 18.

If Beverly travelled the world, Clarissa, didn’t. She died of cancer August 15, 1965.

Beverly was determined and could do anything she wanted. In that way, she was like my own mother who was anything but traditional having had several careers at times when women didn’t do those things.

I must remember to thank Rick for asking the question that led to a Sunday morning of pleasure bringing out good memories. Aren’t memories the brick foundation of our lives? And isn’t today the foundation for tomorrow memories?

Like Beverly I don’t want to idle my life away…today, tomorrow or next week. I only wish I could meet Clair to thank her.