Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Who was IM

It is not often one can find what a complete stranger was doing on a certain place, date and time 13 years, five months and one day ago.

I received a wonderful book about Eleanor of Aquitaine for my birthday, one of the most entertaining ones, I've ever read. At page 132 I discovered the ACCESS slip for a Continental Airlines (merged with United since 2012).

I was intrigued.  As a person who loves history and not just the big events but the social and cultural mores of other times, this was a tiny bit of history.

What I know is that an Iain Murray should have and probably did board a plane on 14 March 2004 around 7 p.m. for a 7:35. Murray would have walked thru gate 14 (no photos available on Google images)  of Gate 14 of Washington-Reagan Airport.

The plane landed at Houston-Bush airport at or around 9:50 p.m. after covering 1,208 miles. I could find nothing about that flight being delayed, crashed etc.

It is a safe assumption that Murray had the book with him either to read on the plane or to give to someone. The book is not typical flight reading that is more the best seller or business advice genres. Either he or the potential recipient of the book had to have been history buffs.

I wondered if I could locate Murray. It is a common name.

Wikipedia has three
None seemed possible.

Yandex (I don't use Goggle, only search engines that do not report to the NSA. duckduckgo is another)

An Iain Murray, a Scot and at a University, would have been much too young to be on a flight in 2004.

There were pastors, businessmen, scientists and ordinary people who popped up on Yandex and Facebook but none close enough for me to follow up. Twitter produced a Labour MP who seems to like history, but nothing to indicate that he might have been in the US in March 2004. Certainly not enough to ask him.

I guess I will never find my Iain Murray, although he isn't really mine. He might not even be alive.
If he is I would like to thank him for a morning of pleasure doing research (and offering an excuse not to make the bed, unload the dishwasher, review some French and work on my book.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Anti Tourist

I understand the anti-tourism reactions in some of European larger cities such as Barcelona. I don't care how beautiful it is a city I will never go to under any circumstances because of its high pickpocket rate so it can't be anti-me.

Still living in a small village along the Med, Argelès-sur-mer grows 10X, 20x or more during the summer. The sand at the beach is hidden by blankets, restaurants are full and even walking down the street, especially during the Wednesday and Saturday marchés can feel like swimming in an overly fertile school of fish.

On the other hand, these people are the life blood or money blood of the area. Events of all kinds flourish from huge dragon parades to lessons to learn the local Sardane dance. Then there are the Tuesday night village street dances with different types of music each week.

We look forward to the regular summer people who come from many countries and have become friends.

So for two months, the crowds are worth it.

We are lucky as a tourist because we don't have children. We can travel off season, a summer place when it is chilly winter for example.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Off Grid

No news from CNN, BBC, I24 France 24, Al Jazeera, RT

No Facebook

No email

No phone (mobile). We answered our landline.

My husband and I decided to have Off Grid Saturdays.


When we stayed in the Bubble in Austria, there was no working wifi. We survived.

What did we do?

Had a good café sit with friends at the marché.



I went thru all my old photos, throwing many out and dividing them between the ones I'd keep, the family ones going to my daughter when I see her in Scotland next month, and a few to scan.

We had a lovely dinner with friends on a balcony and waiting for the promised shooting stars.



This morning we learned of the hatred in Virginia. North Korea is still a problem. Sides hurl epithets of liberal and conservative as if they were subhuman. Brexit is causing headaches. Nothing we can do anything about.

I can hardly wait until next Saturday when we are off grid again.

Friday, August 11, 2017


One things I love about Facebook is reading about ongoing stories by friends -- one has been the story of  Titi, a little bird who came into the life of a friend.

He was someone I met almost thirty years ago. He visited me with one our mutual friends when I lived in the tiny village of Môtiers, Switzerland. We had no other connection until we became FB friends.

He lives in Paris and found poor Titi, a baby. Taking it home, he nursed it into adulthood.

She flourished. He posted her progress. Then came the day he was due to release her.

Titi was happy in her greater space, but the idea of living outside full time? Not when she had comfortable accommodations with my friend.

Will she continue to return home? Maybe when she meets the love of her life, she may decide to build a conventional nest. Meanwhile my friend seems happy to have her around.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Four years ago today we were rushing around preparing for our Commitment Ceremony. Forty people from seven countries were invited. It had been a week of festivities with friends flying in from different continents leading to special dinners and precious time together.

My dress was ready, made by my late friend Barbara  and my friend Marina rushed to the florist to pick up my  floral headdress.

Llara, Julia, Marina and I walked the couple of blocks to decorate the hall. Patricia was busy preparing the food.

Rick and I had written our vows.

Then it was there.

We exchanged our vows, led by Father Robbert, and aided by my daughter, ate very well, danced to "Love is better the second time around" chatted with our friends.

Like all newly formed couples we weren't sure what would happen next.

What did has amazed me. I am happier than I have ever been in my life and I've been happy most of my life.

Our problems were external such as living permission, a birth certificate issued with a wrong date, filling out tons of paperwork.

We were tested with my cancer which only made our couple stronger.

We learned to humor each other, talk things out, negotiate. Mostly we have had fun in little and big things. Watching a DVD at the end of the day or a romantic evening in Liechtenstein, trips to exotic places or walking to the tearoom around the corner.

Once we were able to clear away certain legal idiosyncrasies of three countries' legal systems, we had a legal ceremony (In many European countries only the ceremony at city hall is legally valid) on May 17, 2015. This time there were two guests, our witnesses, as much family as is possible with not blood. A lunch at restaurant nearby included champagne.

What a surprise my friend had for us that night. Friends and neighbors came into celebrate with us.

The legal ceremony may keep the authorities happy, a good thing.

What really counts for me was four years ago when I shared my heart and soul with a wonderful man.

Today I reread our vows. They have been lived up to.

Donna-Lane's Vows

Rick …
I cannot give you my heart today for you already have it. You came back into my life when it was full and you made it even fuller.
I know you’ve made tremendous changes so we can blend out lives and every day in every way I promise that I will make you glad you did.
I want to encourage you in your great strengths: your kindness, your lovingness, your creativity, your warmth.
I will be there for you when dark clouds cross our horizons and together we will find the sun even on the blackest days.
I loved you, I love you, I will love you.

Rick's Vows
Donna-Lane ...

You are my soul mate, my life partner. I believe I have loved you from the day I met you. We have been given a unique second chance to be together.
And I intend to devote the rest of my life to making you happy.
You did not need me in your life. You have an abundance of people who love you, and whom you love.
You have welcomed me into that very special circle and I will do everything I can to be worthy of your turst.
I want to bring you joy and laughter.
I want brush away tears, to comfort you in sorrow. I promise to support you in your aspirations, challenge you to be the person you want to be, and to honor and respect your individuality with my whole heart and soul.
Je t’aime ma chérie, je t’aime.

Monday, August 07, 2017


I have friends with beautiful homes. I am so grateful they are theirs. I am happy they are happy.

I must be lazy.

I don't want the work of a big house. I don't want to mow lawns or worry if the gardener will show up. I like when there's a problem, I call the landlord.

Saying the having a home is important to me.  But the smaller (to meet our needs) the better. And filled only with essentials, beauty  and memories is also the better.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

last Saturday on the grid

"What do you think...?"
When my husband starts any sentence the next words will be interesting.

We were eating breakfast on a terrace in the view of the castle residence of the Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein.

The night before we'd been in Austria sleeping in a bubble on a roof top.

We'd eaten with the family and had a wonderful conversation filled with laughter and understanding even though we were multi-national (Swiss, American, Austrian and Scottish).

By the time we climbed into the bubble and tried to check email, the WiFi wasn't working. There were no bars on Rick's smart phone. I only have a dumb phone and seldom know where it is.

The next morning we said our good byes and went on to our Liechtenstein hotel when we reconnected with the world.

"Oh my God, the Mooch was fired." We almost said this simultaneously. "We've only been out of touch 24 hours."

I should explain, we do not use our cell phones t hat much because of the thick walls where we live in Geneva and Argelès.  We are constantly on the internet for pleasure, business and writing. We are news junkies, checking either on the internet, television stations and newspapers from all over the world. And then there is Facebook where we follow new and old friends, participate in a photographic group, deal with FATCA issues and more.

"What do I think about what?" I asked. I finished my pear juice.

"Going off grid a day a week?" he said.


Then I thought about it. It sounded peaceful. "Okay."

So we set up some rules.

Off grid is:
  • No television
  • No internet
  • Our landline can stay on.
  • Midnight Friday night to Midnight Saturday night. This was chosen because Saturday we have the marché where we meet up with friends for coffee, followed by a lunch usually purchased on the marché.
  • We can use the laptop for writing.
  • No smart or dumb phones 
  • It's okay to set the alarm for midnight Saturday, but better not to.
Next Saturday when we are back in Argelès from Geneva will be the first time.

Our last Saturday on grid. 

Friday, August 04, 2017

A love story

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a robot lawn mower named Günther, who worked at a very nice hotel in the Austrian Alps. His job was to once a day mow the grass on top of the roof that overhung the reception area.

He was diligent in his duties, going up and down, up and down, although sometimes just for fun he would cut diagonally across the roof, although he felt guilty. When he docked, he felt good about his work, but he was lonely. There was no one to talk to not even a gardener. There were lots of flowers on the hotel grounds, but none on the roof. 

The grassy roof opened onto a patio that had a glass door. He thought there was a guest room because he could see maids making up beds and people coming with suitcases and leaving with suitcases.

Sometimes guests sat on the patio. He tried to cut the grass when they were there. He invented moves to entertain them including going in circles. Mostly they didn't notice, but every now and then they did. One woman thought it adorable, but the man with her wondered if Günther were broken.

Then one day he looked into the room. Going back and forth over the rug was the most beautiful black and gray vac robot.

He felt what the French call Coupe de Foudre, love at first sight.

He undocked, but by the time he reached the edge of the patio, she'd been taken away.

Regina had noticed Günther too. Unlike him, she had other cleaning robots to talk to. When she was back at the robot closet, she told the other robots. One had seen him, but thought he was a showoff.
Another said he cut down grass, which was destructive.

For the next few days, Regina was taken to other rooms, but then she was assigned the room with the patio and the grass roof top.

Günther felt Regina's presence. He dedocked and rolled over to the patio doors, which were closed.
The two robots moved back and forth with the glass door between them, frustrating to both.

A week went by before Regina was back in the room, but this time the patio door was open.

"Let's run away," Günther said. All he knew he had to be with her. The door to the room was open and the pair started down the hall. They were too far from their docking stations and they had to stop outside room 45.

A maid noticed them. "What are you doing here?" She took them both back to their docking stations.

Günther, although exhausted from lack of connection to his docking station, slept as he recharged. He dreamed he and Regina would be together someday, somehow. He would make it happen.

He just didn't know how.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The bubble

"Look at this," Rick said. He was planning Part III of our four-part honeymoon visiting the four European principalities. We'd already done Andorra and Monaco. Now it was time for Liechtenstein.

I went to his computer. It was a BnB that was in a bubble.

"Let's do it," I said.

"Even though it's in Austria?" he asked. I nodded.

The drive thru the Austrian Alps, was full of ohh and ahhhhhh moments. Despite getting lost, we arrived to find champagne waiting for us. Rick had mentioned honeymoon, so this was a special and thoughtful treat.

We climbed up the stairs to the bubble which has a double entry to keep it inflated.

Inside the two beds were beautifully made up. Conveniences like tea and coffee making equipment, a tiny fridge were available. Yes, it was tiny, but we had all we needed.

In fact we had more than we needed.

The host, hostess and their daughters were charming. Although this isn't typical we ended up eating with them, their youngest having made a Thai meal for her visiting older sister and there was a surplus of food. We met the family pets although Blackie preferred to wander off.

One in bed, we could see the stars. Sunset was beautiful and in the morning, we watched the trees dance in the wind before going down to breakfast.

Our host said when there is snow, it is like being in an igloo, although a bit warmer.

We hadn't expected breakfast but in the morning we came downstairs to find a table with just about everything one could want. And there were the little touch, like a decorated strawberry and a mint leaf on the sweet butter.

Then it was time to go onto Liechtenstein. The next night we were in a four-star hotel, that was wonderful, but nothing will ever be as special as this truly unique experience with these creative people.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Writing of

I am documenting the process of writing a creative non-fiction book called Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles about abortion in the US before Roe v. Wade. Part of the process is to document the progress or non progress along the way. I hope that other writers who live with distractions will be able to identify.

Week of July 24
My birthday. I didn’t want a party. I wanted to visit Abbey Fontevraud, where Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II and Richard the Lionhearted are buried or rather their tombs are the central point in abbey. As a history buff whenever I visit the graves of a person I’ve read about or read their works, it is like a personal introduction.

I know their bones were desecrated during the French Revolution, but it is still is an emotional/intellectual exercise of the past coming together with the present. In a way it is not unlike the research I am doing this book.

The hotel is part of the abbey, the former leper hospital. I describe the style as Medieval Modern. The architect was able to make it both ultra modern and keep the Medieval feel with things like shutters, candles and wood.

The drive is almost eight hours as is the later drive from Fontevraud back to our Geneva home. My husband and I seldom lack things to talk about, we play music and I do tend to fall asleep. We joke that if I can’t sleep some night he should take me for a ride in the car like they do with teething babies.

In our silent spells I mull over the next chapter I want to tackle. Over the next couple of weeks, chance to transcribe some of the Norma McCorvey interviews will be slim.

I have copies of many articles and video of interviews on documentaries about and with Sherri Finkbine, the Miss Sherri of the Phoenix, Arizona Romper Room. She took 36 Thalidomide just before it became aware of its connections to malformed infants. Her fight for an abortion resulted in the FBI having to protect her family. A trip to Sweden was the only way she could obtain the abortion.

In between sightseeing and travel, I write the chapter, first in my head and then onto computer. I see a recent story by Karina Bland with an email. I contact her and ask if Sherri is still alive. She is and promises to forward my email to her. By now Sherri must be 82.

Sissy Spacek stared in a movie about the abortion in a movie called A Private Matter. The entire film is on youtube and I listen to it. I know screen writing can manipulate the truth, but almost everything in it matches what Sherri has said in different interviews picked up in print or on documentaries where she is interviewed. Of course, the scenes of cooking breakfast probably aren’t accurate as to what the family ate but that is not important to the story.

What delighted me was that she has written children’s books to help youngsters deal with bullying, gun violence and abuse.

When I unpack in Geneva, I can’t find my blue flowered notebook. Since I started the project whenever I find a name that I want to follow up on, I jot it down. My husband is shocked, because I almost never put anything on paper preferring to keep everything on laptop, saving to my hard drive, my USB key shaped like a pig and Dropbox. To recreate it will be impossible.

I’ve lost at least a week’s work if not more. I hope as I research/write the things I remember other names and incidents will come to me.

Two days later he holds up the notebook. 

We are going away again for a couple of days and more work time lost, but life time gained.

Sunday, July 30, 2017


I've been accused of always being happy. Not totally true. The people who say this haven't been around at the times when I'm down.

People look at me when I say much of my cancer was fun. I certainly wasn't talking about the weakness after chemo, but the wonderful nursing staff that made each session like a ladies tea party or how it cemented my new husband's and my relationship. (Still would have preferred to miss it, but then again, I wouldn't have met some wonderful people and confirmed that I married the right guy.)

I usually can make the best of any situation, even if rising to the occasion does get tiring. With a new problem there's the "Oh Shit Factor" of knowing what has to be dealt with than searching for anything from "This is Okay Factor" to "If This Hadn't Happened, I Would Have Missed Out On (fill in the blank) Factor.

One of my thrilling experiences was interviewing Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland,  former head of High Commission for Refugees and a personal heroine of mine. When I asked her how she could still be optimistic after walking thru bodies in Rwanda, she put her hand on mine, looked me in the eye and in her wonderful Irish brogue said, "My dear, I find the glass always a quarter full."

And then there was the day that my writing wasn't going well and several small annoyances marched across my screen. My housemate at the time heard me muttering.

"Stand up," she ordered. "Turn around and keep your eyes shut."

I obeyed. I kept my back to the computer for several minutes.

"Now turn around."

I did. What I saw was not my computer, but the window above it. The sky was bright blue and contrasted to the spring green of the tree outside. Beautiful!

I managed to keep my calm for the rest of the day. She and I took a break at a nearby restaurant and at night we had popcorn and a DVD, the annoyances a thing of the past.

A friend on Facebook published the photo at the top and said she thought of me. It is a perfect example of how point of view makes such a difference. There is a lesson besides the words themselves. Sometimes we need look from a different direction to see what is good.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Meeting Eleanor II

July 24th was the day.

As a child, whose mother consider going two towns away the end of the earth, I could only dream about seeing the things I'd read about.

As an adult, my geographic area has  expanded from a few miles outside my hometown to wherever I want to travel. Thus I feel I've "met" Elizabeth I, Mary Tudor,  Mary Stuart, Henry VIII, William the Conqueror and other historical figures because I've stood at their tombs.

I've touched Collette's tomb with a stone and keep the stone near my computer in The Nest (my studio) as well as the burial places of many other writers.

I've "heard" the guns at Lexington and Manasses and imagined the carnage at Culloden. The vibes of history transcend the centuries to today.

Today, though I "met" one of my heroines, Eleanor or Aliénor d'Aquitaine.

The weather is several degrees below the predicted heat, and my husband loaned me his jeans jacket. I had brought nothing warm enough. The ground as we walked to the visitor's center was wet. Bird sang in the trees.

"C'est en français," the woman who sold me the tickets for the abbey tour. I told her I understand
French much better than I speak it, Merci dieu. The guide, a blonde who knew her history backwards, forwards, up, down and around shared details of how the Abbey of Fontevraud came to be and then...then...then we were there.

Ahead of me were the tombs. It seemed forever to walk the distance to where Eleanor had once been put to rest. Her bones were later removed, but she had been there.

She was reading a book. I suppose it was meant to be a prayer book, but with her love of literature and music, a book of poetry may have been more appropriate.

I felt a little smug when I could answer who else was buried there, Henry II, Richard the Lionhearted and Isabella, King John's wife, although I flubbed the latter. I should have known.
I am not sure how Eleanor would have felt about spending eternity next to Henry II. His keeping her prisoner for years might not have endeared her any more than his famous love affair with Rosamond.
Still being close to her favorite son Richard should have pleased her.

The centuries have dulled the colors of the clothes the royalty were wearing on their tombs. Her belt was a pretty blue, and Henry still had his boots and spurs. Part of Eleanor's crown was broken.

The rest of the abbey was fascinating. The hotel where we are staying was once part of the leper hospital. A wall separated the nuns from the monks. The success of the abbey was correlated to its wealthy patrons and the economic times. Napoleon turned it into a prison. Walls today that are just white stone were once covered in religious paintings.

Today it is restored and a UNESCO heritage site. And today, I was so lucky to once again touch history.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Meeting Eleanor I

Eleanor of Aquitaine fascinated me from university days. Married to Louis VII of France, then Henry II of England, mother or Richard the Lion Hearted and John who sign the Magna Carta. Owner of he Aquitaine in France.

After reading another biography of her and seeing Stephane Bern's television program on her life and rewatching Katherine Hepburn's portrayal of her in Lion in Winter for the umpty umpth time, I decided on trying to visit places where she'd been, excluding her crusade to the Holy Land.

What better excuse than my 75th birthday.

This morning we drove thru miles of sunflowers and cornfields to arrive at Fontevraud, where she was buried although her bones have long since disappeared. Still I will be where she was, can imagine what it was like in the 1100s when she helped rule England and part of today's France.

In a way it is like meeting her personally.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The book

Week of July 17th
I’m still undecided how to present Norma McCorvey/Jane Roe in my work-in-progress Coat Hangars and Knitting Needles. For three days I worked on the Hardtalk, Tim Sebastian interview. I had created an almost word-for-word transcript but because this creative non-fiction, I needed to add my reactions, including Sebastian’s atypical kindness to McCorvey.

There are many other videos on the internet featuring McCorvey. Since this isn’t an academic book, I wonder how many I should use. I am leading toward one of the sections being “The Quest for the Real Jane Roe” or something like that.

I’ve moved onto a Nightline story. I will never like the listening and relistening, the watching and rewatching, but accuracy is important.

I know next week will not be productive as we are going on holiday to celebrate my birthday and then home to Geneva where we have bills, appointments and people we want to see, not to mention celebrating the Swiss National Day.