Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I've a desk, I've a desk

Sure, sure, sure...I could have gone up to the nest to write...it's only five steps and three flights of stairs away, but Rick and I've worked out such a pleasant routine of writing in the warren that I don't. 

He had the desk, I camped out on the sofa--and yes he would have switched, but his style is to spread out with papers everywhere and from the photo above you'll see that this is about as much paperwork as my desk will ever have. Even that is unusual, because I'm using the cards to integrate chapters and work on continuity in the next novel.

Our original plan was to check out the May 1 Vide Grenier (giant flea market--empty attic) for those items, but he came back from taking our friend Barbara on errands (and eating at McDos) with a grin. "I think I've found your desk."

They'd stopped at the new Depot Vente so Barbara could check for futons. He'd spied the desk and came to get me to check it out.

We walked into the store and with ten minutes the desk was ours, also the armoire (for his papers) next to the desk, four chairs, a matching dining table to replace the temporary one we were using, and an office chair. These were all things we had planned to buy BUT the idea of going to store after store to find them was on my priority list, right after being water boarded and locked in solitary confinement without anything to read.

  • I love them all. 
  • I also love being able to find everything I wanted in minutes
  • I love him for scouting out the desk.

The owners delivered the pieces today and took away the extra furniture. The price of everything was less than a new desk in a regular store.

We (read he did most of the work) and set up my office space in the snore room where either I escape to or he's banished to if the noisy gets too loud at night. 

Now I'm working on the next draft of Murder in Schwyz in greater comfort.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Number 98 out of a 100

The Complete Works of the Mayflower Pilgrims

by Caleb H. Johnson

I have edition 98 out of the 100 published and it is 1,172 pages of documents and additional information such as the 1643 list of men able to bear arms in Plymouth County. That includes Scituate where my parents lived for many years.

My father I should add, did not come to the US until the 1920s although the Boudreaus with a variant spelling arrived in the 1620s but in Nova Scotia. I've no idea of the name of ship.

My mother's family as far as I can tell arrived on the Blessing a few boats after the Mayflower. I know my ancestors fought in the American Revolution.

It includes things telling about early life in the colony like the inventory of Mary Ring such as
  • 1 peece of gray kersey 2 yrds
  • 3 pillow of ffethers
  • 1 lamp and candle stick
  • 1 ffrying pan
but the list goes on and on. All her worldly goods were minimal compared to today's item-packed homes, but I'm sure she did not miss having a Wal-mart nearby.

It has wonderful phrasing of sentences: "This year arrived in New England those three worthy instruments, Mr. John Cotton, Mr. Thoams Hooker, and Mr. Samuel Stone, who were gospel preachers, of excellent worth and use in their places, until God took them out of the world unto himself."

or "Loving friend, which I writ my last letter, I hoped to receive one from you well-nigh by this time. But when I writ you in December I little thought to have seen Mr. John Pierce till he had brought some good tidings from you." (I can just imagine what they would have thought of email or Skype as communication tools in places of letters that took months to be exchanged.)

I used the book as part of my research for Murder in Caleb's Landing. Rick brought it down to the warren from the nest so once again I can open it anywhere and delve into lives long past but fascinating.

The author said "I have brought it together, under one cover and with one comprehensive index, all the significant documents written by the Mayflower passengers. I have also included a large selection of works that were written by visitors to early Plymouth Colony."

The book is now available in Kindle, again something that would astonish the quill pen and homemade ink pilgrims. A kindle would not havehe autographed copy that I own.

I don't know if Johnson is still alive. My startpage.com search has many references but none that tell me about him.

This is one book that I won't give away.

Being in a Drudge Report

I never thought I'd see my name in The Drudge Report

However, http://news.yahoo.com/more-renounce-us-citizenship-deny-stereotype-162509477.html that appeared Saturday night there I was. The article appeared elsewhere because it was an AP story called More rennounce US Citizenship but deny stereotype.

I'd talked with the writer Adam Geller as did many others. He quoted me accurately. There was a photo. I do wish he'd mentioned FATCA.

FATCA is the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act. It requires banks, pension funds, insurance companies, investment houses all over the world to report on Americans who have accounts with them. If they don't there are huge penalties payable to the US government.

Many countries have had to change their laws to comply. (I don't want to go into the arrogance of one country demanding another change their laws. I can't imagine the US changing its laws to report on French citizens at the demand of France.) 

As a result banks all over the world simply close the accounts of Americans which means no bank account, no credit card, no car loan, no debit car, no P2P, no mortgage. Some mortgages have been called in for full payment. Technically US expats are not allowed to have a bank account from a foreign address so that means absolutely no way to do ordinary banking transactions.

As of this writing 7:39 Monday morning there were 10,362 responses.

Many missed the point of the story.

Some went off on their own agendas. It wasn't about gays, abortion, Obama, socialists, liberals, etc. It was about people who need to protect themselves and their families.

The responses fell into a few categories.

Why not?
A few said let people make up their own minds with little condemnation. They were in the minority.

Millions want to be American
Respondents cited illegals who want to be in America. Well yes.

People from Latin America do come to the US for a better life. Just like Africans flock to Europe for the same reason. Most want to feed their families. No one looks into increased immigration numbers after NAFTA when the dumping of American products caused untold numbers of farmers to lose their livelihood.When you're looking to escape poverty you go to the closest better country.

They did not consider when a person lives in another country for an extended period of time and plan to stay in that country they want to become a full part of that country with voting rights, etc.

Many expats were transferred for work reasons and found they liked where they were living. Some married locals and have raised families there. The ties to the US become weaker. Sometimes the only tie was the annual tax filing.

Accidental Americans
The accidental Americans are those that were born in the US when their non-US parents were visiting, working or studying there temporarily.

Some never lived in the US more than a few days, yet every cent of their earnings are the subject of the US taxes forever and ever and ever and they are losing their right to bank accounts all over the world. 

Imagine if you were born in England when your parents were on holiday. You never set foot on English shores again. How happy would you be if every cent you ever made or would make would be subject to English taxes and your American bank accounts were being closed because the English government was too threatening to the US banks? Sounds pretty ridiculous doesn't it?

There's no place as good as America
Hmmm. What is better in other industrialized countries? Health care, cost of higher education, quality of education, roads, bridges, safety legislation (products such as US makeup are banned in Europe because the chemicals are not deemed safe) food safety, violence or lack there of, holiday leave (4-6 weeks), maternity leave. All the countries do NOT offer a perfect life. These items were gathered from a number of international reports by reputable researchers that show the above list are better in most industrialized countries than in the US.

America is really good with income inequality, child poverty and number of prisoners. We make the top of those lists.

Does this mean America is horrible? No, it means people have chosen to live else where for many reasons.

American Expats get a $96,000 deduction

True on salaries. Unemployment, investments, pensions, SS are double taxed.

Everyone should pay taxes
Yup they should. Where they live. It is the price of living in civilized society. Taxes should mean we have good schools, a reasonable safety net for the weakest, safe food, safe water, safe roads, safe bridges, etc.

Think if you were born in MA and moved to NH? How willing would you be to continue to pay MA income taxes on everything you earned? What if you couldn't bank in either state? How loyal would you be to MA then?

Renouncers are tax dodgers
Not really. We pay taxes where we live. Most resent paying taxes twice. Many resent having to spend thousands to stay in compliance to learn no taxes are owed. My accountant's bill was three times what I owed but I had the assurance that I wouldn't be hit with fines anywhere from $10,000-50,000 if I messed up in the filing.

Renouncers hate the US
No, but many of us are sad at the state of the US today not because we are liberals or socialists. We see the boarded up houses, the crumbling roads, the ignorance of people about what is going on in the world. Many still have family and roots there. It's just our lives have taken other turns.

Renouncers should be forbidden to ever enter the US again
Actually a law was proposed on just that but it died in Congress. Other "Punishments" were suggested such as confiscation of property, SS, pensions. Hmmm. I wonder if these people think those who take American citizenship should have England, Holland, South Africa confiscate whatever they have left in their birth countries? Admittedly many people who did go to America sacrificed everything but in this global society changing countries isn't all the unusual.

Renouncers won't be protected by the embassy in time of trouble.
No, the US embassy won't. But the embassies of their other country will. Maybe even better.

If you don't like the government you have the right to vote out the government
Not really. US choice of candidates is limited. Had I been able to bank I would have continued to as a US citizen because I was politically active calling Congress regularly on proposed legislation. 

Different country elections vary but in Switzerland we've voted on whether the air force can buy planes, whether to join the UN and EU, the retirement age and many, many, many other topics that I couldn't vote on in the US.

Soon we will be voting on whether to grant every citizen a minimum income.

We vote many times a year on legislation proposed by the citizens or that enacted by the parliament on which we disagree. Sometimes the vote is stupid, but at least it is decided by the citizens.

Renouncers want to escape payments to the US
If you have under $2 million in assets (and they can be all outside the US) the cost of giving up US citizenship is $450. Over $2 million it's now up to 23% of all your assets (and they can all be outside the US) Any American heirs will pay a much higher rate on whatever their renounced parents leave. So when they talk about the Facebook guy who was a naturalized citizen giving up his US citizenship to escape US taxes and what a traitor he was, it was his second country, he did not plan to live in the US again and he didn't like being double taxed, but he still paid a small fortune for giving up the passport.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

We're under attack in the warren*

Scooby II: MOOOOMMMM!!!! What are those little things coming at us.

Petite Gougar:  Don't worry I'll protect you.

Herr Hare: They look like rabbits.

First rabbit: We are rabbits. Don't worry, we won't hurt you.

Honey Bunny: Why are you here?

First rabbit: We've come to work. We're knife holders.

Petite Cougar: Knife holders?

First rabbit: We sit on the table and people put their dirty knives on us to save the table cloth.

Scooby II: What happens when they serve rabbit and polenta?

Petite Cougar: Shush...

*Warren is what Rick and DL call their flat.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What a day

Fête de St. Jordi (George) in Peripignan. All along the flower-decorated quai, were tables from indpendent book stores and several tables featured authors with their books. A place that celebrates writers and writing is wonderful.
I doubt if the dog had written any books but he was happy to enjoy watching the passer bys.

We ate at one of the restaurants along the quai. They had Bric, a Tunesian dish with cheese cooked in phyllo dough.

We headed over to the movie theatre that has been in operation since 1911 and which shows vo films.
I always want the version original with or with out subtitles. We saw The Best Offer with Geoffrey Rush and munched sweet popcorn.

Then we visited the different flowered fountains. The one with hoses has been there since the 1400s. Each fountain had music and there was dancing in the streets. One young man was dancing with an older woman until she said she loved dancing but just didn't have strength to keep dancing.

We stopped at a garden store and escaped WITHOUT buying the cutest little black fuzz ball. I could just imagine my housemate's face when she gets back from the US to find it in her living room. She's a marshmallow, but I'm sure puppysitting when we're in Russia is NOT on her list. But it was so, so cute.

Ice creams were absolutely necessary on the way home. We stopped at the beach so I could read from Murder on Insel Poel. We are trying to get videos for each of my books to add to my website www.donnalanenelson.com 

A stop at the golf club and the kebob place put a perfect end to what was a perfect day.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The acorn does not fall far from the tree

As a teenager my room was a disaster (are you reading that Llara?).

My mother would say over and over, "don't put it down, put it away." I didn't grasp the concept then.

However my first husband expected a totally spotless house. We were stationed in Stuttgart at the time where he was in the Army band. In those days before Betty Frieden and Women's Lib, I tried to comply. A friendly sergeant  in the army who liked us both enough to want to save our marriage would stop by my apartment and "inspect" it to make sure Rick One would be happy.

Yes, first and last husbands share the same name, but that's all. I may make many mistakes in my life but I seldom duplicate one.

Still my ex would arrive and find some trace of dirt even if he had to stand on a chair and check the top of the doorway (yup he did that and lived to tell the tale).

He created a neat freak.

Flash forward years later after the divorce. 

When we (the we being the couple I lived with for over a decade and Llara) were renovating the Wigglesworth house which meant it was always a disaster, I reverted to my messy teenage ways. At one point I heard Susan ask, "You're going to nail her underwear to the wall?" Tired of seeing my panties pile up in the still unfinished bathroom Bill stapled them to the wallboard. (It was an idea I copied later in life with another messy teenager only I used tape not staples.)

Fast forward to when I lived in a finished place. I wanted the rooms always neat...everything in its place. Llara's room wasn't included but door-shutting was recommended. I had the same attitude for the other places I lived.

This continued to a 89% degree at my housemate's. In the Argelès nest it was always everything in its place 99% of the time when I was alone. I never imposed my OCDness on my house guests.

Now Rick and I share the warren, and I don't say anything when I see a dish put on the counter and not in the dishwasher. Nor do I mention the candy wrapper that should have been in the trash rather than put on the counter...after all he shared the chocolate from the candy wrapper. We count chocolate as salad because it comes from a plant. I suspect he's neater than he would be on his own and I'm mellowing. But I can still hear my mother saying, "don't put it down, put it away."

If my mother would still alive, she'd be giggling and saying, "I told you so."

I guess I'm the acorn hanging out near the tree but trying to roll away a little bit.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Magic cookies

A few years ago in the Medieval walled city of Carcassonne, I found a wonderful cookie shop La Cure Gourmande with beautiful decorations of yesteryear.

It was a bit of magic.

Never did I go to the city without stopping there, and anyone visiting that city I told them to go there.

I've been writing Murder in Schwyz which involved a cookie factory. I love the research I do for my novels, which is usually historic, but I had no idea how to portray a modern cookie factory.

Then I found a store in the train station at Montpellier. I'd route myself through there just to buy the cookies.The clerk at Montpellier told me the headquarters were in nearby Sete and they give tours in the summer.  I hope to have finished the novel by then, but harm would it to do to ask for a private tour? I wrote.

M. Berlan wrote back and set up a date. Apr. 24. Rick and I drove up leaving Argelès about 7 for a 9:30 for meeting.

M. Berlan arrived a few minutes after we did. He is not just the PR person, but the creator of this enterprise that went from a shop in the town to stores, some franchises, all over the world. The main store is now in the old train station and also has the same magic as the one in Carcassonne. Every detail to the molding on the ceiling to the border on the plasma screen taking away the too-modern feel is brilliant.

The next hour was great for my novel as his talented staff showed me how the cookies are made. I picked up tons of little details to sprinkle through the novel--slippery blue slippers to keep dirt out, cookies in revolving ovens, quality control methods, shipping methods, interchangeable molds weighing hundreds of kilos. Because my novel has happy employees based on the way the factory is set up, I was thrilled to see my imagination in reality here.

What imagination!

What a sense of marketing! The little girl on many of the boxes is his daughter.

Rick will be doing a blog on this. http://lovinglifeineurope.blogspot.fr/  He filmed the tour and equipment so I will be accurate in the novel but I love the pictures he took.

Sometimes magic is destroyed when we know how it is done. In this case, the magic became better.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cooking is sensual

You eat to live or live to eat.

I fall into the second category. My mother was a gourmet cook, my grandmother a plain New England cook but meals at our house were always an important part of each day. Not only did we enjoy the food, it was time to catch up on the days events if not to discuss food, politics, books or whatever felt right at the moment. The table was nicely set and manners were taken for granted or else...

The pewter pitcher, which now holds my cooking spoons, forks and spatulas, was filled with ice water causing beads of moisture on the outside. I loved to run my finger down the pitcher creating rivulets.

Except for having to drink my milk, it was a wonderful time of day. My mother and grandmother did allow me to add Bosco to help me swallow the horrible white stuff. Mostly there was laughter.

As a parent as well as part of a co-operative where my daughter and I lived with two other adults until she was a teenager, our schedules were such that meals together usually involved a sacrosanct Friday night and weekends. Even when we were in process of renovating a house, good smells would override the paint odors as a stew or spaghetti simmered on the stove to be enjoyed at the end of the day. Sunday night before we started the next crazy week was especially meaningful because we could truly enjoy each other's company.

When my daughter and I lived on our own, sitting down to a meal was important not just for the food but for the conversation. Sometimes we did have "rude" meals where manners gave way to picnics in front of the television, but again "breaking bread together" was more than the sum of its parts.

Rick and I may get our own breakfasts and suppers, but the noon meal is a must with a properly set table and work put aside. Sometimes we opt for a restaurant, but more often I cook and he cooks sometimes.

Today, cooking was a joy. 

We'd been out to the shops to get the ingredients, chatting with the owners as we made our decisions on what would be best. It's chilly again and our cheeks tingled just a little. Even though we didn't buy bread, the smell of it baking wafted out on the street as we passed on the many boulangeries.

Once home, Rick went back to work, and I began to prepare lunch.

I seasoned the lamb chops with rosemary and thyme, browned them in local olive oil and added bouillon and balsamic vinegar that I reduced for a light sauce.

The peas were fresh and local. Opening them was like opening a gift. Some of the peas were tiny, some were oval. All were small enough to cook quickly.

To leftover couscous I added finely chopped fresh mint, left over chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and cucumber for our salad.

The smell of the fresh herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers as well as the cooking meat were part of the pleasure as was the colours and feel of the herbs being pressed into the meat. As the title says, cooking is sensual.

When everything was ready, Rick broke from his writing chores and we sat at the table and talked, looked at the new hibiscus and pansies blooming on the terrace.

The enjoyment of the routine reminds me that each minute of each day can be special, but it is up to me to make it so.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

No more supermarkets for me

Gone are the days when I'd rush into Stop& Shop and Purity and frantically push my cart around the aisle throwing things in from the ridiculous number of choices. I once counted 15 different types of oatmeal.

Even Migros and Co-op in Switzerland, although smaller, are impersonal, although choices are far more rational. A joke is you know you've lived in Switzerland too long when you think it is normal to have only one brand of anything on supermarket shelves. That is less true than a few years ago. Now Migros carries BOTH Coke and Pepsi instead of just Pepsi.

Food shopping in Argelès is different -- personal and fun.

Elisabeth is one of three green grocers. Where else when you bring an avocado to the cash register does the merchant shake her head and say, "Not good enough. Go get another?"

Her honey in a comb, the local fruits and veggies (origins are labelled) are good. If by chance she does not have what I'm looking for such as the day she would of fresh coriander, there's is another green grocer around the corner.

When there's time we chat, and rarely we might end up drinking coffee together at La Noisette.

Today when I bought potatoes as tiny or tinier then my thumb nail we exchanged ways to cook them. She does them with a little oil and garlic and I like to add sage. I'll try them her way and vice versa.

She flirts with "Rek" and gets him to use his French.

In Argelès there are six boulangeries because woe to the French family that doesn't have its French bread fresh from the oven at least once if not three times a day. This one tends to be our favourite for its cereal bread. Although bread is sold in loaves, baguettes and boules, they do slice it. Once it was mainly baguettes but now a variety of flours and shapes are available.

For years I'd used Michel's as my butcher. His fresh made mayonnaise I still believe is the best in town, but Rick encouraged me to try this one because of the young couple who are now running it. They are all smiles.

In both butchers, advice on how to cook it or meats cut to exactly way I want them is normal. And on the days they have off (for stores do close entirely one day a week and Sunday afternoons), there's a third.

All butchers offer prepared dishes. I did notice prawns in a salmon sauce, that I may want to try in the not too distant future.

This little grocery store has been here since I first came to Argelès in the 1970s. It was first owned by Jean-Pierre's parents, but now he and his wife Babette own it. It's less than 50 steps from my house and perfect for when at the last minute I realise I've forgotten an egg, a carrot or or or...

Jean-Pierre gives great advice about what wine to buy when I tell him I'm cooking this or that. He's never been wrong. He doesn't always choose the most expensive, but the one he thinks will marry best with the meal.

Babette is used to me shopping then coming back ten minutes later for the things I have forgotten.

They will retire at the end of June, which they deserve because they work hard. Jean-Pierre puts out his vegetables for the early morning shopped about seven and lugs them back in when the shop closes at seven at night. For their three-hour lunch break, for in Argelès shops close for three hours, they merely cover the produce with a blue tarp.

She knits and does cross stitch during the slow periods behind the counter. I watch her work progress.

They are also quick to help my good friend Barbara if her back is bothering and have been known to cat sit in a pinch.

Shopping isn't a chore anymore, it's an experience, a sharing of daily life in the village. And the best part, most of what I spend stays within the village and gets recirculated.

Finding the right name

Parents get to select names for one or more of the children that they have. Too bad it's limited to the offspring total, because naming people is fun.

I've one daughter. She still hasn't forgiven me for the second L in Llara, although I've pointed out that she can change it. I think she prefers to complain. I just wanted to make sure her name was original.

I still wish royalty was more original when they name their princes destined for the thrown. Louis1-15, Henry 1-8, George 1-7, etc. It makes it harder to remember which number did what and when.

Pet owners can enjoy naming Fidos or Fluffys. For dogs we had Kimm, Kaiser, Nikki, Albert, Amadeus (I wanted to name him David, but my daughter said that was a stupid dog's name and Ama did fit him better), Vixen and Mikadoo. For cats we had more choices since my brother had a tendency to adopt pregnant cats.

But as writers we can choose hundreds of names for our characters BUT...

They need to be appropriate. Thus the picture above of a grave in Argelès where I went to find names for characters in my novel Murder in Argelès.  My wonderful and talented housemate, Julia Schmitz-Leuffen did the cover photo for the equally talented Deidre Wait, who did the design.

Murder in Caleb's Landing's character names were easy. I grew up in New England. However, I couldn't use the name of the town Rockport, where I visualized the book taking place. My publisher worries about lawsuits. They don't worry about lawsuits from European cities. Caleb was the name of the man whose book I used for research. He had compiled a massive book of every document he could locate from the founding to Plymouth Plantation and Massachusetts and certainly sounded what could be a town's name along the Massachusetts North Shore.

Book names can change over the period they are written. The original title for Caleb's Landing was Underground Railroads. The story centered around both the pre Civil War war underground railroad and a modern one bringing abused wives to safety.

Since we were trying to establish the series, the underground title was thrown out and the series  became Murder in (city), a Third Culture Kid Mystery. So even titles become part of the naming process.

For Murder in Genèva and Murder in Insel Poel, I used the phone book. This time it helps to have the paper not on-line version. Again there was the Julia-Wait collaboration on the covers. And instead on "in" it was "on" for Poel is an island.

Murder in Paris, wasn't all that difficult. French names are all around me with friends, friends of friends, relatives of friends. Here's a secret on the cover, though. The skeleton on the cover photo was unearthed in the Corsier Port church and dates back to the 7th century. We never will know his name. In the novel it was a she and Madeleine.

I have done all the research for Murder in Damascus, which would have also taken place on the dig in Ebla, but the civil war has put an end to that. One of my Syrian friends, gave me a list of names for Christian and Muslims. Maybe some day that wonderful country will find peace and the book will feel be written. I want to apologize to the University of Rome professor who spent so much time with me. He'd done the translation of the 17,000 cuneiform documents found there including names.

Murder in Ely, which is almost under contract with a publication date of April 2015, was easy for the modern time with all my Brit friends, but what about the names come from the 7th century? How many Etheldredas do you know? I'll bet no one reading this was ever tempted to name their son Tonderct, Etheldreda's husband. Naming them Ethel and Tom wouldn't have been authentic.

Authenticity is another problem. You can't have an 80-year-Swiss woman named Tiffany or Madison.

Name lists helps. I discovered my mother's name Dorothy was the third most popular name in 1917, her birth year. It surged the year of the movie Over the Rainbow. I did give a Dorothy a minor role in Murder in Paris.

I wish I'd named Annie my heroine's love partner anything buy Roger. It is not pronounced like Federer's first name but has the French Row-shay. I'm sure most of my readers don't care. And his daughter Gaëlle requires two keystrokes rather than one for the ë, something I didn't think about during her creation.

Names of my mother's friends are now showing up in my younger friend's children.

In the novel I'm working on currently, Murder in Schwyz, I'm using popular Swiss German names.

Rick and I will never have children, but we are thinking about a dog. Thus another opportunity to name a breathing creature. Then again, maybe not, because our first choice would be a rescue dog, and she might be confused with a name change. It's okay. I can put a dog in my next book and name it whatever I want.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Switching channels

Easter morning...

I'm working on a list of emails to give to Rick for his thanks yous. We are side-by-side. I am working on the computer.

Cereal, melon, tea are in on the coffee table in front of us.

Rick is flipping through news channels.

France 24--Live coverage of released journalist hostages from Syria being greeted by Holland
RT--Ukraine/Russian crisis from Russian point of view
Al Jazeera--Algeria power struggles
NHK--work uniforms
BBC--special program on sculpture
CCTV--interview of an Olympic winner Stephon Marbury

At almost any given time by checking international news stations we may get an idea of what is going on the world. Emphasis on different stories and different points of view are fascinating.

I'll never learn about the world by just one source and definitely not from just one country.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I was ironing my pajamas when

Yes, okay, I admit it. I iron my pjs. They feel better. I also admit that I don't iron them carefully. 

Suddenly I wondered about the woman (and I'm sure it was a woman) who sewed them. 

How much was she paid? 

Did she have children and if so how many? 

How many hours did she work?

There's something about having clothing that has travelled the world from places where I never was to make me aware of a connection although very feeble with another person.

Unfortunately there's no way to check to see that the company who made my clothing is fair to the people it employees.

I'll never be able to sit down with that woman and have a cup of tea, compare our lives, talk about our children. If we did I would not want to say things that would show my privilege and I am privileged, because I can stand in a pretty flat, in a pretty place, with enough food and alternatives that I'm sure the woman who sewed my pjs will never have.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Her name was Florence

This was my grandmother, Florence Stockbridge Sargent, a name that reeks of New England Yankee, which she was. She could trace her family back to the Revolution. She lived like a Yankee with a strong moral code, made baked beans every Saturday night, was frugal. Torn sheets were mended, double sheets turned into singles, ironing board covers, rags. Sheet saving was only one example of her way of spending every penny twice.

When I met her some three decades after this picture was taken her face had changed. She never thought of herself as attractive, but I think she was quite pretty here.

She didn't like her name. When she was born in the 1880s it was a very popular name. Now in the US almost no one is named Florence. I don't know if she knew that it came from the Latin name Florentius or the feminine form Florentia, which were derived from florens "prosperous, flourishing". Florentius was borne by many early Christian saints. The name crops up often in France but with a different accent. Its popularity is increasing in Wales.

I christened her Dar, short for darling, and Dar she became to everyone including her childhood friends. She liked Dar.

If I had to name the most influential person in my life, it was Dar. Although she died on Good Friday 44 years ago, I would still love to be able to talk with her, listen to her wisdom, laugh with her...and eat some of her meals such as a good New England boiled dinner and the following red flannel hash.

What was her greatest lesson? She taught me how to love.

My name is Donna-Lane and I'm a computer game addict

Okay, so I've never found a computer game addict anonymous. 

I've loved games all my life from the tiddlywinks I played as a child, through the Saturday night games with my family (with the exception of Monopoly because I thought getting property and money boring).

My father's side of the family thought playing poker was the perfect activity after the Thanksgiving turkey or the Christmas roast beef before the apple pie.

Then came computer games. When I was first in Môtiers, that tiny Swiss village RB2 and I would go to the café where the kids hung out and play Tetris until our coins ran out. We were often the only adults. Then I bought my own game box.

Different games have come and gone. With Cubis I froze my shoulder the night I discovered it. Maybe if I had moved between 10 pm and 5 pm when I got up it wouldn't have happened.

The latest is the Letter Garden sorta a letter Tetris.

On a more serious note after playing, I'll dream the game such as S P I N  do I have an A, no but there's an E.

Maybe the game is affecting my brain. They say games keep you sharp. That's S H A R P. I wonder how many points.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

photos along the alleged river

Every summer for the last few years there has been wonderful photography exhibits along the beach...

This year along the river that runs through the village, there are photographs and information about the flora and fauna in the area. The information is in both French and English and the English is excellent.

Thus I learned about the love ant, the Massane, but I already knew that when the cork bark was harvested the tree itself looked as if it were bleeding.

Nice to see the village getting some attention.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I know it's stupid BUT

On Facebook there's a cartoon of a chocolate half eaten Easter bunny. His front half is dragging along and he's screaming in agony. 

I felt so sorry for the bunny that I'm not sure I will ever be able to eat another chocolate bunny again. 

Not rational because I eat real rabbit and I definitely can not imagine life without chocolate just not in bunny form.

Flowers with attitude

We had the copper pot in mind when we brought the daisies home from the marché des fleurs. Suddenly, there is a whole new row of buds and tiny flowers pushing themselves up. I can imagine buds saying "We can't see," and pushing themselves up higher and higher.

I've always been told that hibiscus flowers should only live a day. This flower is going its fourth. Maybe it's trying to be the oldest hibiscus in the world.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Point of view

As a writer point of view is in each sentence. It combines with descriptions, characters, actions, dialogue to make up the whole story no matter what the length. Each tiny piece has its own strength making its contributions to the completed work.

My computer screen background is a series of photos including the one taken on a beautifully warm day at the boatyard around the corner from where I live. In a way it is an analogy to writing of how examination of the different parts make up the whole.

That cat's contentment in the sun shows. The tree has not begun to bloom. Sadly no photo can capture the smell of the lake water or the feel of the slight breeze tickling my cheeks as I stood there hoping the cat wouldn't move. Those things need to be captured in words.

I loved the colours: the blues, the reds, the rusts, the browns...

I captured a moment in a photograph that made me happy. But if I continue with the analogy of this being a story I need a main character and that is the cat.

So by cropping the photo I focus in on the cat.
What if I came in even closer to the cat? If this were a movie there would be soft music.

Was he dreaming of a mouse? A bird? Did he think that maybe if the sun was any hotter he'd have to move? The lake, the table, the yard the environment around the cat has disappeared and it is just a cat sleeping in the sun on slab.

If the photo were a story focusing on the twigs takes a twist. Instead of a spring day, it could be a winter day. What about the shadows cast on the wall? Are the roots of the tree healthy or are they fighting being part of a closed in garden? But what about the cat's point of view. When the tree blooms, will he enjoy its shade?

Looking through the fence toward the lake, the cat is no longer a part of the story. Maybe the car is. There could be a driver that owns a boat that he doesn't want to sell, but he has too because he's getting a divorce. Maybe he has parked and is taking his boat across the lake to see his lover. Maybe it is a stolen car.

The new point of view is a rust-coloured building, a semi-grungy yard. There is no lake, no cat. There is a sense of being unable to get to the building. Except with the miracle of cropping, the house has moved closer. A person could yell loud enough to get the attention of anyone inside. If someone came out the person behind the three blue bars still has protection.

One photo can create many different scenarios, many different point of views. If I were teaching a writing class, I would ask my students to each choose one of the parts and do a story, and one student to do it as a whole.

But I'm not teaching, I'm playing with a photo before I start my day, that will include writing. And why not?


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Marché des fleurs

 The coeur of the village was a mass of flowers as different florists and garden stores displayed their wares.

We were able to pick up a few plants to colour up the terrace.

Of course we ran into so many people we knew that it became a chat, look at flowers, chat, look at flowers chat, look at ... Many were dressed having been at Palm Sunday Mass. Others were in jeans or shorts.

Women decorated as plants paraded through the village then held a fashion show on the main street between the rows of flowers.

In one corner there were sheep, goats, rabbits and one adorable baby duck.

Not a flower merchant, but one vendor had all kinds of antiques posters. In the middle are the three great men of French music is Brel, Ferrer and Brassons. Rick gave into a 1902 photo of the Argelès route to the sea. One of the buildings is now our butcher.

The temperature was perfect.

Much better photos of the Marché des Fleurs on Rick's blog http://lovinglifeineurope.blogspot.fr/