Wednesday, September 20, 2017

musical houses

Move one house to the right when the music stops. Or so it seems.

Two years ago we were planning a house sit with a cat, Allison and her husband in one of my favorite cities-Edinburgh. It turned into a house swap with our place in Argelès-sur-mer...but then I was diagnosed with cancer. No need for them to cancel, since my treatment would be in Geneva and the Southern France apartment, which we call The Warren, would be free.

I would have preferred Edinburgh to the chemo rooms at the hospital, but the chemo worked.

Since then, whenever they went away they told us we could use their place. Finally the dates matched and we arrived Sunday night to their extremely homey house. They are in the States but their charming son met us, and showed us where things were. We are planning on four weeks here.

Meanwhile we had thought about getting a dog and asked our friends Barbara and Don, who house sit all over the world if they would sit for us. They had planned to be in Argelès anyway. We didn't get the dog, but suggested they house sit anyway, which worked out well because the mink (red blanket) we ordered a lifetime ago and had given up on-to a point we had the credit card company back off payment-arrived.

However, Don and Barbara were coming slightly earlier, so we suggested they stay in The Nest. The studio, two doors down which I had planned for retirement. As a single person, its fine but is too small for a couple long term...fine for a romantic week or so.

They arrived, settled in The Nest for a few days then moved down to The Warren, the two bedroom flat where we live about half the year, the morning we left.

Meanwhile a friend from high school, Lee, who has been planning to visit for years said she finally had the time. It would be while we were away. She had combined a multi-week stop as part of another trip. She was slated into The Nest while we were gone. Mega disappointment because I would have loved to spend time with her.
Our house sitters  to the rescue. I have no worries that they will all get along famously. Since they've sit cats, dogs, chickens and horses, a friend sit would be easy. Lee doesn't need to be walked and fed is optional. She cleans up after herself.

After Lee leaves and we get back, Don and Barbara will go back to The Nest until they move on to their next house sit.

Hopefully we will all live happily ever after.

There will be a quiz on who is where when.

Monday, September 18, 2017


I was starved. We entered the Lowdown coffee. It was small, just a few table with a good selection of calorie-ladened cakes, croissants, pain au chocolate and pain au raisins.

Two people were working.

The man was carefully putting coffee beans into silver cups and then sealing them.

My mother and my father would talk to anyone. As a child I never knew if I should know them or not.

I had to ask why.

He explained it was a quality control so each cup would have the same strength.

I picked up on his accent. Yes, he was from Paris and we spoke in French for a bit. He knew of Argelès and had been working there for two weeks having moved from London.

Meanwhile Rick was chatting with the waitress.

It made petit déjeuner much more interesting than just a good pastry and cup of tea.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Powerful words

The words were powerful. It was the launch of the 14th edition of Offshoots, the writings of the Geneva Writers Group. Both the literary magazine and the group were the brainchild of Susan Tiberghien (photo above) started in 1993.

It grew to almost 250 members and many published authors came out of it. I attribute the boost to my writing career to the inspiration of the workshops, master classes and conferences as well as the encouragement of other writers.

The readings from Offshoots last night often brought tears to my eyes. The theme was fragility and because we have many members who write in English as a second language and who have stories of war and being refugees the ability to shape essays, poems and short stories grabbed my heart.

It is an honor to have been part of the group and to associate with so much talent.
Contributor to Offshoots.

Friday, September 15, 2017


The first mink (no not an animal and not made of animal) was on Wigglesworth Street in Boston. The thick blanket was owned by my former housemate, a gift a cousin had brought her from was the ultimate in warm and cozy.

When my roommate moved  to New Jersey, she gave it to my daughter (much better than inheriting it from said roommate's death). When we visited my daughter in Boston, Rick fell in love with it.

My Syrian friend who lives in Paris has one, although we did not use it when we were there during the heatwave.

When we got back to Argelès, Rick went on-line and ordered one. We waited and waited and waited and waited and...

Calls produced nothing.

A check of the Better Business Bureau produced a "Oh Oh" and we called our credit card company to back off the payment.

We are now in our Geneva home. People staying in our Argèles flat Facebooked us to say it had arrived.

When Barbara wrote and said how heavy it was I responded, "I am looking for a crane with a remote to pull it off us in the morning."

She responded, "You may need it. Don suggested ropes and pulleys."

Time to reactivate the payment and wait for our chilly winter nights.

No animals were harmed in the making of the blanket.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Off the path

We do a lot of car travel usually on autoroutes but on the way to Geneva from Argelès-sur-mer there was so much traffic we took a side road and found a medieval town full of little passageways.

Then the next day from Geneva to Colmar, France we found a New England type farm selling pumpkins and gourds.

And we stumbled across a Roman village.
And rather than eat the normal autoroute food in a Swiss village we found the Cafe Knaus, which served us a a great Spätzle.

Makes the clichés of off the beaten path and roads less travel ring true.

Apple 10 Slave makers

$1000 are they kidding? For a telephone?

What if you already have a working one? Why would you throw $1000 on a new phone that doesn't do the dishes, make the beds and wash the floor?

If I had an extra $1000 I would use for any of these things or divide it between them:
  • Pay off a credit card
  • Reduce my mortgage
  • Pay down my student loan
  • Reduce my debt on my car
  • Donate to a worthwhile charity
However, I don't have on those loans. At the risk of sounding smug, because I don't fall for the need to have the latest stuff shoved at me by a corporation who wants to fool me into thinking I'm cool to have it, I don't have any of those debts. I buy cars and property with cash. My credit cards are paid off every month so interest charges don't make bargains very expensive.

I have savings to allow me to live free.

By not having debts I was not a slave to a bad employer or even a good one.

I had options.

I never sang, I owe, I owe so off to work I go.

I don't need to be cool.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The diary

When Rick was preparing The Nest (the studio where I lived until I married) for guests, he found my old diaries from high school.

Nothing in them would foretell of later writing success. Trying to read my writing is like working with a medieval manuscript. The diary is a five year one, but I turned it into two.

At random I opened to July 15 1954. It read "Dad hit mum at the club. She is going to file for separation and custody. In the afternoon we went to the club."

I have no memory of my father being violent. I do remember constant fighting and being forced to choose sides.

On July 16 I wrote, "Mummy went to see a lawyer. Dad came home. Afternoon we rode on a toy train and after played mini golf."

 After that there is little mention of the divorce or my father. I remember being one of three children in seventh grade whose parents were divorced. The other two were twins. Although I wrote nothing about it, I played on the sympathy of the teachers. It worked for a while.

Life took on a new normal, a better normal.

Only as an adult was I able to develop a relationship, a good one, with my father and began to understand what I had ignored as a child.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Hunters save 2

FOREST, DE--Hunters saved two people, a grand mother and an eight-year old child from certain death, this morning.

John Malden and Aidan Staples were out hunting when they heard screams coming from a cabin in the woods near Ely Pond.

The rushed over to the cabin which was in total chaos. A wolf in a nightcap was chasing Amber Red around a bed. The wolf, they said was wearing a nightcap. The nightcap had belonged to Amber's grandmother who was tied up in a closet.

The hunters subdued the wolf.

"He wanted to eat me," Amber told reporters.

"The grandmother was too old and tough to eat," the wolf said as he was led away by forest rangers.

"I met him on the way to Grandma's house," Amber said. "I was bringing her this basket of goodies." She pointed to a basket that had been overturned. Brownies, apples, a bottle of juice were on the floor.

"Mummy told me not to talk to strangers, but he seemed so nice and asked me where I was going." She wiped tears from her eyes.

The Grandmother, who had been recovering from the flu and was taken to the hospital to make sure she wasn't in any danger from her trauma, told reporters later in the day, "The wolf knocked. When I opened the door, he overpowered me and tied me up." She still had marks on her face from the tape where the wolf had gagged her.

"The worse part was I could hear everything. Amber said things like 'What big ears you have, Grandma and big teeth. Really, the kid can't tell the difference between me and a wolf. I told her mother she needed glasses." Mrs. Hood will be released from the hospital today.

The Wolf will be arraigned in court on Monday.