Thursday, October 17, 2019

Crawling Out of the Pub

Dueling blog - read D-L's version at 
What fun! We checked another box of things we had missed doing the first time we were in Edinburgh two years ago -- a pub quiz.

Our expectations were low, and we met them. We finished next to last of the teams on this night. Our major downfall was identifying the artists or titles of pop songs based on hearing part of the music. We missed all 10. Not a clue.

We did best on general knowledge with answers such as Korean kimchi, Marilyn Monroe as Andy Warhol's favorite actress subject, alchemy as the medieval term for chemistry, Ian Fleming as the author of the James Bond novels, etc. Got more than half of the questions right out of the 40 non-music themes.

Pub quizzes have been around since perhaps the late 1960s or 70s, and became so popular there are national competitions in the UK with thousands of bars participating. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pub_quiz). I anticipated it would be a rowdy, interactive event with the quizmaster calling out a question and everyone in the pub trying to shout out the correct answer. But it was more sedate -- we sat with our teams at the table (D-L was my other team member) and wrote our answers on paper, 10 questions at a time in 5 categories, and handed in our paper after each round.

There were bonus points for best team name and for most legible handwriting (when Donna-Lane heard that, she quietly put her pen back in her purse and let me be the designated penman.)

There are more than 40 pub quizzes around Edinburgh each week, and an enterprising company manages many of them, providing the questions and the quizzmasters. It's almost the "home game" version of TV quiz programmes such as "The Chase," which we watch often (and on which one of our British friends appeared a couple years ago.)
Sign over the door says
"Children and dogs welcome"


Monday, October 14, 2019

A Backpack Weekend in London

Wet feet solution - matching kitchy socks

It was a pleasant, quite unexpected surprise. Improbable a year ago. My daughter, who had never traveled internationally before she and her family visited us in the south of France in June, sent me a message that she was coming to Barcelona – just over the border – for a technology conference. And, since her return flight was routing through London, would I be interested in spending a couple of days in the UK with her? Of course I would. When you live an ocean apart, you don’t get that many opportunities to see your kid, so you jump at any chance.

At the end of her conference, I drove down to Barcelona to meet her, and since she’d been pretty much stuck at the conference centre the whole time, we did a quick bit of sightseeing: checked out the Sagrada Familia (https://sagradafamilia.org/en/history-of-the-temple), the gaudy Gaudi-designed cathedral that’s been under perpetual construction for 135 years. Then we headed for the beach area (she’d heard Barcelona was near the sea, but hadn’t the opportunity to get over there); we had a late lunch and watched parents play with kids and dogs, millennials working out at an outdoor gym, and a few hardy souls trying for the late-season suntan. Then a drive up the coast road toward Girona and across the border to France.

We booked her into L’Hostalet, the best little hotel in the south of France, and had a wonderful evening conversing on our patio, fire burning in our chiminee, with D-L and her daughter Llara (ie, Alicia’s stepsister, whom she was meeting for the first time.)

Next morning, back to Barcelona to fly to London Heathrow. Checked into a hotel near the airport, and jumped on the Piccadilly line to the West End theatre district. Great seats to see Matilda, an incredible production. Alicia took copious notes, as her daughter Georgia has the lead in a community theatre presentation of the same show in north Texas; Alicia is also the “show mom” and very involved in the staging.
The next morning, Covent Garden, where she bought souvenirs for family and friends back home. Then a ride on the Hop On Hop Off bus tour to see the basic landmarks of London. We jumped off at Buckingham Palace, but Liz didn’t seem to be home to receive us, so we wandered down to Westminster, the Houses of Parliament, and the under-restoration Big Ben. Got the last couple of dress circle tickets to The Play That Went Wrong, and laughed so hard at times I cried.

Passed the next morning on visiting Windsor Castle, not enough time really before she had to catch her flight back to Dallas and me back to Barcelona.
It was a great time to catch up on what’s been going on in her life, the kiddos, the theatre gang, the job, and for her to get a glimpse, albeit soggy, of another of the places I love to visit.

Much to D-L’s surprise, I made the trip with only a backpack. Which got soaked on Saturday (glad there was a hair dryer in the hotel room).

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Liquids, Gels, Explosives

There are reports that the limitations on bringing liquids aboard airplanes may be relaxed, owing to new scanning technology. Don't expect it to be rolled out worldwide anytime soon.

Certainly easing the restrictions, even increasing the size limits, would save me money. I fully understood when TSA Orlando confiscated my Swiss Army Knife, which I thought I had packed in my checked luggage. But banning the Body Butter Massage Cream (last year) and the three tubes of KY (last month), just because the containers were more than 100ml/3.5oz each seemed a bit extreme. (Does security re-sell the stuff they seize?)

The liquids restrictions have been in place now since 2006, when British intelligence intercepted a terrorist plot to assemble explosives during a flight by using an altered plastic water bottle. At first there was overreaction of banning all liquids, and eventually the rule limiting each passenger to one quart-size plastic bag (with exceptions for baby food and meds).

When I held a Global Express trusted traveller certificate, I was not required to remove the liquids, the computer, or even my shoes before going through the security line. I let that lapse because I was not visiting the States all that often. Maybe I should re-apply. And then go buy more Body Butter.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Respect

The French proclivity to not pick up after their dog is, to me, a symbol of the general lack of respect for other people in the world. Even though provided with plastic sacks for scooping the shit and garbage cans no more than a block or two away, many cannot be bothered. Do they care that someone, perhaps a small child, may step in the goo? Obviously not.

The humans in the world are steadily becoming more dehumanized. Individuals, whether the man on the street with the dog or elected or quasi-elected leaders of entire countries, care only for themselves. To them, others are obviously lesser people, either valued for what they can do for the haughty or altogether inconsequential.

This lack of respect for others - whether because of race /ethnicity, gender, financial status - is a strong contributor to the unprecedented polarization we are seeing between nations and within nations. When we abandon basic human decency, it becomes much easier to rationalise abuse, stealing, killing.

Will respect ever return to human relationships? Not so long as the examples at the top are the leading role models of shit-spreading. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Time to Think

In the course of our daily lives, do we ever take time to think? Just think?

I know we think about things we are doing or planning; we have to in order to make decisions or make semi-intelligent conversation. But we (or at least I) generally are doing something else while thinking - at the computer, while eating, watching TV, dressing / undressing, running errands, socializing, walking the dog.

I've had a lot of time recently to think … while doing nothing else … while driving alone. I've driven eight separate trips of 2 1/2 to 3 hours each, or about 20 hours total, with no one else in the car, no decent radio station connections, no CDs to listen to, no paper for taking notes, and certainly no mobile phone while driving. Just think.

Lots of things run through my mind: D-L, writing projects, upcoming travel, Swiss citizenship, family, hickory golf, politics, global issues, local issues, how much longer to my destination, French, Sherlock, D-L, golf … Hopefully, the brilliant thoughts I have will return from my memory when I am no longer driving and can do something with them. 

I'd like to say I also do some pure thinking before I go to sleep at night, but I tend to zonk out so quickly I doubt there's a complete thought there.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Time Traveller

Just like that, my life fast-forwarded five days.

Yesterday, when my flight to the States was cancelled, I moaned about the wasted hours going to the airport and back, in vain.

Today, I feel as if I have "found" five new days. Instead of visiting my mother as planned (now rescheduled for next Tuesday), I am able to start working on my "MacArthur list" (ie, things to do when I shall return).

First priority, updating D-L's website to reflect publication of her newest (and best!) novel, Triple Decker (http://donnalanenelson.com/).  BTW, her 12th novel, plus one co-authored novel, plus two non-fiction books: 15 books published since 2003, another coming out fairly soon, and her 17th, Day Care, with first draft completed and now into serious editing. Not to mention a Russian translation and two German translations. 

I hadn't been able to get to the website before because of client deadlines - you know, the cobbler's kids … But now with nothing on my agenda for the day other than walking the dog a few times, I could dive into the website update. It's like leaping forward to next Wednesday, when I planned to do it.

It took me a bit longer than it might have in the past. I realized I had no decent photo-editing software on my computer, so I purchased a licence for "Affinity," (https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/) which had good reviews, but it required a modest learning curve, including watching parts of a couple video tutorials. What I do is not complicated, but Affinity's interface is a little different than the Photoshop I used for many years. (It also has some interested advanced features I'd love to try in the future.)

Website update complete, I can turn my attention to some other projects I have been putting off ... and thought would have to wait until next week. But now, next week is this week (or weekend) and this week's travel plans will re-boot for next week. Kind of like daylight savings time "spring forward, fall back," all in the space of five days.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Wasted Days

Even though I am technically "retired," I despise unproductive days and hours. Such as spending too much time on Facebook scanning rants by semi-literate but fully opinionated people. I prefer to go to bed at night, even if it's 3 am, feeling that I'd accomplished some of what I set out to do for the day.

Worse than wasting hours is blowing an entire day in unproductive manner. Such as today, in which the only thing I can say I checked off my to-do list was having lunch. Oh, I drove a couple hours to Barcelona airport (where I had the pretty-good hamburger), but then drove right back after my (Norwegian) flight was cancelled. All together, including the check-in queue, the security queue, the customs queue, lunch, and killing time checking the departures board for a gate number, plus the two drives (with modest bouchon / traffic jams), a 9-hour roundtrip for nothing. Okay, I did do some thinking about projects on the drive back and forth but couldn't exactly write anything down or work on the computer. Considering maybe taking the train next time, though that has its own hassles WRT Barcelona, a city I have learned to loathe.

Last week, the unproductive time was at the hospital, waiting for the results each time they drew D-L's blood or wired her for an EKG. It wasn't as bad as driving alone because she was there. And at least we learned her heart etc. are okay. She read most of a book. I managed to find a chocolate muffin for brunch.

I'd be glad to forego the burger and muffin if I could get those two days back.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

I Married a Celebrity

I didn't know she would become a celebrity when I married her. And I had nothing to do with her rising fame. But she's certainly getting a lot of airtime.

Today, Donna-Lane spent the entire afternoon around Argèles-sur-Mer with a film crew from France's Channel 3, recording for a segment that they expect to air sometime next week. (Alas, we'll have to wait for the YouTube, as we will be back in Switzerland by then without access to the local Occitanie channel.) They filmed at our flat; they filmed on Rue Vermeille; they filmed in front of the centuries-old church; they filmed at Cote Place behind L'Hostalet.

And here's the kicker - she did the entire recording in French.

The subject of their segment revolves around D-L's mystery novels, particularly Murder in Argèles - the book opens with a priest being pushed off the church bell tower, and heroine Annie's house is remarkably similar to D-L's "Nest" studio.

Several of D-L's murder mysteries are available on Amazon: Argeles, Paris, Geneva, Schwyz, Ely, Insel Poel, Caleb's Landing  - https://www.amazon.com/s?k=d-l+nelson+murder&i=stripbooks-intl-ship&dc&qid=1565814570&ref=aw_s_fkmr2.

The filming idea was triggered by a conversation she had with Philippe Georget, a French novelist who lives in Perpignan but whom D-L met a couple years ago when he was in ASM for a book signing of his novel, L'été Tous Les Chats S'ennuienthttps://www.amazon.com/s?k=philppe+georget+inspector+sebag&i=stripbooks-intl-ship&ref=nb_sb_noss. When she saw Georget last week at a signing for the English translation of another novel, Autumn All the Cats Return, he struck the idea of interviewing her about her own writings (in his day job, he works for France 3, France's second largest public television network).

About five years ago, Donna-Lane was interviewed by Swiss television (in French and English) about the fight of American expats to change the onerous US laws, FATCA and CBT, because they are shutting US citizens living overseas out of having bank accounts, mortgages, investments, etc.

A couple of years ago, she testified in front of a Congressional Committee on FATCA; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4N9aW5NdE4. She was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the US government.
Donna-Lane has also been interviewed by numerous newspaper and online news organizations.

What makes me most proud is that her celebrity is for all the right reasons - accomplishments (a dozen novels plus two non-fiction books) and causes (fighting for the benefit of others).

Monday, July 29, 2019

Stateless

It's been awhile since I've posted a blog. Been too busy traveling to pause and write about the travels - Stockholm, back home to Geneva, south of France where we met up with my daughter, SIL and grandkiddos, as well as numerous friends from around Europe and elsewhere, back to Geneva, over to Vienna for D-L's birthday (she has been blogging much more often - http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.com/), and now in Geneva again. A couple of other major events in there - D-L published her novel, Triple Decker, which I think is the best fiction she's ever written (https://www.amazon.com/Triple-Decker-Novel-D-L-Nelson/dp/1733269614/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Nelson+Triple+Decker&qid=1564408852&s=gateway&sr=8-1), and our Geneva apartment was flooded (when we were not there), leaving us homeless for maybe a few months, except of course for WarrenPeace in Argèles sur Mer, kind friends in Switzerland, and travel to Davos, the US, UK, Scotland and Berlin.

For a couple hours today, it appeared I might not be traveling anywhere near-term, at least nowhere that required a passport. I had misplaced mine.

Mild panic when I discovered it at the commune mairie, where D-L was picking up a certified copy of our Swiss marriage certificate to use in her application for Canadian citizenship. (She qualifies because her father was born in Nova Scotia.) I happened to look for my Swiss ID card, my "titre de sejour," and it was not in my wallet. Neither was my US passport.

Okay, last place I remember having them was at the airport in Vienna. There'd been some brief confusion, as I was using an app with both our boarding passes on my mobile, and it took me a bit to navigate to the second QR code. From there, I don't remember what I did with my passport.

Thought they might be in my sportcoat pocket, as I wore it on the plane. Nope. Did they fall out on the aircraft? Drop them at the departure gate? I "chatted" online with an easyJet rep, who was generically helpful but did not have specific information about my docs.

Started searching the US Embassy in Switzerland website for instructions, as we would have to drive to Bern (2+ hours each way, depending on central Geneva bottlenecks) to get a replacement. First, they wanted a copy of the police report about the loss. Plus other documents, new photos, and money.

D-L was getting ready to go out to sushi lunch with our host, and I thought before she left (I don't do fish, raw or otherwise) it was worth a chance to check her purse / pocketbook / sack. Voila. There were both our passports and the ID; I had handed them to her when I was futzing with the boarding pass app.

This is not an isolated episode. We are regularly looking for wallet, glasses, keys, camera ... My dad used to say I'd lose my head if it wasn't stapled on.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Marcello, Street Chess Champion of Stockholm

DUELING BLOG: Read Donna-Lane's version at http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.com/
We were on our way back to the hotel after a fascinating afternoon at the Vasamuseet, perhaps the best museum I've ever visited, focused solely on a ship that sank in the 17th century on its maiden voyage (after sailing only about 100 feet). We'd figured out what combination of buses and trams to get us back within walking distance of the hotel, and had treated ourselves to waffle cone ice creams (pistachio for D-L, cookies and café for me), when we came upon a street chess match like the ones they have in Place Neuve in Geneva.

What struck me at first was the intensity in the face of the old man who was playing the giant black pieces. His younger opponent, the one with arms crossed across his chest, was equally focused.
We became transfixed by the competition, staying at least 45 minutes, perhaps an hour, even though it became colder and started to sprinkle. We found ourselves discussing the players' strategies, sometimes suggesting (between ourselves) what moves they should make, even though neither of us has played chess in decades. (I quit when my then-three year old brother beat me in about five moves.)

As the duel progressed, a larger crowd gathered to watch, including a couple of people who could probably be classified as mentally ill. One old dude was chased away by the man playing black, but quickly returned, performing calisthenics against an electrical box. Another guy walked across the middle of the chess board and stamped his feet on one of the empty squares. The man playing black admonished a couple of young men that their talking was interrupting his conversation. (We kept our voices to a moderate whisper.)

At times, there would be two or three rapid moves in succession, the players obviously anticipating the other's move and knowing how they would respond.

The man playing white neatly lined up the pieces he had taken off the board. The man playing back tossed them at random. (Reminded me of D-L and me; you can guess which is which.)

As it got colder, I offered to Donna-Lane that we might leave, but she wanted to see the outcome. We huddled together on a park bench for warmth.

The man playing white seemed to be the aggressor, attempting to move his queen into position to capture the black king. But the man playing black was cagey, and had a spare bishop to protect his king. They seemed at an impasse, sometimes repeating a sequence of moves. It looked like neither could win. But then the man playing black began moving his lone pawn, on the far side of the board, forward, in between defensive moves, reaching the end of the board and then - with a flourish -swapping the pawn for a previously captured castle. This seemed to change the game dramatically, and his opponent suddenly acted as if he was late for a meeting and walked away with a friend.

We applauded the victory.

The man playing black came over to us and told us his name was Marcello. Said he was the champion of the city. Complained that people in the crowd would talk and smoke on his side of the game board, but not on his opponents' side. Clearly people were jealous of his success.

But he had proved once again, at least in the game we watched, that he is the Grand Master of Kungsträdgården. We walked back to the hotel in the rain, laughing at the humanity and absurdity of street theater.



Sunday, May 5, 2019

Gasping Through Airports

I knew I had booked a tight connection, only 95 minutes between flights (they recommend at least two hours), but EasyJet doesn't have many flights a day from London Gatwick to Toulouse, and I didn't want to waste the whole day getting home.

My Virgin Atlantic flight was due to arrive at 0650 from Orlando, and the EasyJet to TLS scheduled to depart at 0825.

However, in between, I had to get off the plane, go through customs, back through security, then do the duty-free slalom before reaching the North Terminal gate area. My friend, on a similar tight timeframe, was landing at South Terminal on BA and had to retrieve his checked luggage as an extra step. I had only carry-on, and my main challenge was getting the overstuffed bag past the baggage nazis.

Oh, by the way, the Virgin flight, which I would have thought might arrive early with west-east tailwinds, was 25 minutes late, slicing my available transfer time to 70 minutes max.

If I missed the flight, I would have found another way to TLS. But my pet peeve is surrendering bottled water at the security gate.

I was fortunate to be seated in the exit aisle near the stairs of the 747, so as soon as the plane landed I grabbed my suitcase and manbag and was the third person off the aircraft. I scurried as fast as my 68-year-old legs would take me, and fortunately had saved some water I could swig when I got parched.

Until I got to security of course. Where the idiot in front of me couldn't figure out how to get his digital boarding pass on his "smart"phone screen, losing precious minutes. Once through the first gate, I asked the attendant where the "fast pass" lane was, and she directed me without checking my ticket (no, I was not "premium eligible.")

Surprisingly -- no shockingly -- they did not shunt my bags aside for manual checking, as they had done when I left Orlando, and as they almost always do because of all the wires and cords which show up on the xray. But by the time I made it through the total waste of time duty-free stores, j'avais extrêmement soif, and with no time to buy another bottle of water.

Next surprise, the EasyJet flight was delayed an hour. Good news that I would make the flight. Bad news that I thought I might die in the process. Wish I had known of the delay before I nearly died of thirst and did the OJ through the airport maze.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Disconnected

This is a dueling blog. D-L’s perspective on the topic can be found at http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.com.
Some days, we go off-grid by choice. No internet, no email, no TV news.

Today was not our choice. Swisscom failed us. And I’ve been sitting here wondering what people ever did with themselves all day before Al Gore invented the WWW.

Well, there’s reading. There’s eating. There’s sex. (Has the birthrate declined since the introduction of the internet?) There’s eating. Oh, I already mentioned that.

I’m looking at my to-do list, most of which I cannot todo without an internet connection. Call the hotel in Stockholm to extend our vacation; need the internet for their phone number. Write a magazine article; need the internet for further research. Apply for media credentials to a couple of aviation events; need … Download documents sent to me; need … Put out a call for Sherlock sitters for a couple of future travel dates; need … Check out the hearing test records sent by the ear doctor – which require a network connection to access. Send a design to be made into a t-shirt so I can pick up the shirt on Friday; need … Play some mood music; yup, need that connection.

I have had limited access to email, social media, and web browsing, but only on my smartphone, and only if I go outside to get a decent signal. I had a phone call with an AP reporter who needed some leads for a story on aviation training, and I had to sit in the car to stay warm enough to make the call.

At least I know the world has not imploded. Theresa May’s world is imploding though. Rachel Maddow’s collusion delusion world is imploding. Clean air, clean water, and safe food in the US are imploding. And my buddy Alan is still keeping us informed about the latest news from Washington and Barcelona.

The TV is also out. Which means we can’t watch the Swiss “Coleurs Locales” (https://www.facebook.com/couleurslocales) programme or the 19h30 Swiss news, both of which keep us informed and help me learn French. Alas, we will also miss the ITV English dramas to which we usually fall asleep between the second and third murders. (We don’t have a DVD in the Geneva apartment.)

So we’re left with limited, but nonetheless pleasant, choices. Reading, eating, sex and eating. Not necessarily in that order. Welcome back to the 70s.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Madame Smith Goes to JC


The best memory I have of French class in high school, perhaps the only memory of the class, was the day I left early to go play in a golf tournament.

Madame Smith was not happy.

From some of the comments of my Johnson City (NY) High School classmates, Madame Mary Smith was not often happy with her students. A few of them related stories in which she kicked a student out of class, or multiple students, for not answering a question the right way.

Almost 50 years later, I’m in French class again, in Geneva, Switzerland. And our teacher hasn’t thrown anyone out of class. Nor is she likely to. Indeed, she is a very upbeat, well-informed young lady (young enough to be my daughter, whereas Madame Smith was old enough to be my grandmother – one of my classmate’s fathers had her as a teacher.)

Attempting to learn the things I never learned five decades ago (and would have forgotten anyway from disuse) has me going back to basics – nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs – grammar that I hadn’t consciously thought of for years while writing millions of words in English … plus the French twists of gender, passé compose, toniques, etc. This week, reviewing a French translation for this blog, I realized I had made an error in the document in the English! I’ll count that as progress.

Okay, the other memory of Madame Smith is that she drove a “Jheeep” from her home in the countryside, and she had attended the Sorbonne, probably France’s most famous university. (The park between the Sorbonne and the Cluny Museum is the setting for my wife’s novel, “Murder in Paris.” - https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Paris-Third-Culture-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B00EUGGOBE/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=d-l+nelson+murder+in+paris&qid=1552484507&s=books&sr=1-1-fkmrnull.)

A couple of people mentioned her bringing in French cheeses (Brie, Camembert, Roquefort), their first exposure to something other than the faux American processed spread, Velveeta.

Classmates also described apparent episodes of dementia and a final meltdown by Madame Smith in which she walked out of her class in mid-semester, never to return. This would have been after I had served my required two years to qualify for a Regents diploma, so not part of my memory bank.

She was a small woman who, shall we say, had plenty of “esprit farouche.”

***

Le meilleur souvenir que j’ai de la classe de français au secondaire, peut-être le seul souvenir de la classe, c’est le jour où je suis parti tôt pour aller jouer dans un tournoi de golf.

Mme Smith n’était pas contente.

D’après certains commentaires de mes camarades de classe de l’école secondaire Johnson City (NY), Mme Mary Smith n’était pas souvent heureuse avec ses élèves. Quelques-unes d’entre elles racontaient des histoires dans lesquelles elle expulsait un élève de la classe, ou plusieurs élèves, pour ne pas avoir répondu correctement à une question.

Près de 50 ans plus tard, je suis de nouveau en cours de français, à Genève, en Suisse. Et notre professeur n’a jeté personne hors de la classe. Elle ne le fera pas. En effet, c’est une jeune femme très optimiste et bien informée (assez jeune pour être ma fille, alors que Mme Smith était assez âgée pour être ma grand-mère – un des pères de mon camarade de classe l’avait comme enseignante.)

En tentant d’apprendre les choses que je n’ai jamais apprises il y a cinq décennies (et que j’aurais oubliées de toute façon de la désuétude), je suis revenu aux notions de base – noms, pronoms, verbes, adjectifs, adverbes – grammaire à laquelle je n’avais pas pensé consciemment depuis des années en écrivant des millions de mots en anglais… plus les rebondissements français de genre, passé compose, toniques, etc. Cette semaine, en examinant une traduction française pour ce blog, j’ai réalisé que j’avais fait une erreur dans le document en anglais! Je compterai ça comme un progrès.


Quelques personnes ont mentionné qu’elle apportait des fromages français (Brie, Camembert, Roquefort), leur première exposition à autre chose que la fausse tartinade américaine, Velveeta.

Les camarades de classe ont également décrit des épisodes apparents de démence et une dernière crise chez Mme Smith, au cours de laquelle elle a quitté sa classe en milieu de semestre, pour ne jamais revenir. Cela aurait été après que j’aie purgé mes deux années requises pour être admissible à un diplôme Régents, donc pas une partie de ma banque de mémoire.

C’était une petite femme qui, disons-le, avait beaucoup d’esprit vaincu.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

One Thing at a Time

I can't multi-task.

I do one thing at a time (and generally do that thing pretty well, whatever it is … though not always).

I can be totally focused on one thing, but not if I try to add a second thing.

For example, I can't write and listen to D-L … at least not well enough to remember everything she said. If I have put something in the oven or on the stove to cook, and I leave the kitchen for awhile, and maybe get back on  the computer … this is not a good habit. (At least in ASM we have an oven that turns itself off.)

The other day, D-L kindly brought me a cup of ice cream. I thanked her, vaguely aware that she had set it on the table near me. Then I continued to deal with whatever I was researching or composing. After a bit, when Sherlock indicated he needed to go out, I realized I had not touched the ice cream - quick, put it back in the freezer until I returned with the dog. Then eat the ice cream (and do nothing else until I finished it).

I have been blessed with the ability to be totally absorbed in something. One something. Writing an article. Hitting a golf shot. But don't bother trying to talk with me when I'm absorbed. It won't penetrate.

I have a favorite tee-shirt. So much so I bought a new one when I wore out the lettering on the first. It reads: "I live in my own little world. But it's okay, they know me here." When my daughter first saw it, her reaction was: "That is so you!"

And you guessed it. While I was writing this blog, I have no clue what else has been happening around me. But it's okay, they know me here.

(My blog triggered a dueling blog from Donna-Lane: http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.com/2019/02/differences.html)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sudden Life

I've decided to develop a 25-year plan for my life, our life. The things we'd like to do, people to spend time with, places to see, tomes to write.

Yes, such a long-term plan is audacious. Especially at nearly 68 years of age. The plan would take me to age 93 in the year 2044. (For that matter, maybe a 31-year plan to 2050 and age 99. Why not. My mother is nearly 96 and going relatively strong.)

Truth is, none of us knows if we'll have even 25 more minutes on this slowly spinning orb.

A few days ago, someone I have known many years had a stroke. In almost an instant, they went from a normally functioning person to losing motor skills and even a sense of who they are or where. They may be confined to a wheelchair for whatever is left of their life, relying on someone else to take care of them.

Living of itself is not necessarily a goal. Quality of life is important. Having a reason to crawl out of bed in the morning. Making a contribution to the societies you live in.

I am not sure I would want to have someone burdened with taking care of me daily, hourly, if I had a stroke or Alzheimer's or something equally as mentally debilitating. I might tolerate having to roll around in a wheelchair if I still had the mental faculties to be somewhat productive. Maybe even learn to play golf on wheels.

We just simply do not know whether life will continue as we know it, or take a radical turn.

When my mother was a nine-year-old girl, her Uncle, my Great Uncle, pioneering aviator Richard Bennett, was preparing to leave for an air race in Niagara Falls. He wanted a kiss good-bye, but she was too shy. He died in the race when his plane's engine exploded. When my brothers and I were growing up, my mother insisted that whenever we left the house, we gave her a kiss.

Kiss and hold the ones you love. Today. And everyday you have them.

Transitions

The transition time between the two wonderful places where we live has its share of challenges. (I know, first-world problem, right?) Which clothes to take, based on anticipated ranges of weather, including any travel while in the "other" place - for example, winter in Switzerland with perhaps a trip to Florida or Texas. Which papers to take, ie notes for writing projects, and in this timeframe bank statements, receipts, etc. for tax preparation (including a third country, the US). I know, I should scan everything and not haul paper over the mountains. Which electronics, and cords, and adapters. And don't forget the autoroute tolltag device.

Perhaps the trickiest challenge is eating up whatever's left in the refrigerator … because we turn it off when we're not going to be around for several weeks. It can lead to some creative menus. Donna-Lane used up some leftover chicken by combining it with fruits and nuts in a tasty salad (which would work well without the chicken). She also cooked a delicious soup with a gourd/pumpkin, which we had happened to transport from Geneva because we hadn't used it there.

This morning, we had no bacon for my traditional Sunday morning breakfast of bacon and eggs. "How about corned beef hash instead?" "No, that's reserved for lunch." Oops, also forgot to get crème fraiche for the scrambled eggs (itself a substitute discovery one time when I had no milk) … so I used some of the remaining whipped cream. Sweet. Oh, and tossed in some leftover cheddar cheese.

What we don't eat in the next couple of days, especially frozen potatoes, cheese, etc., we'll give to a friend in the village.

When we get to the other end of the trip, we'll start all over stocking the other frigo. And at the end of the sojourn there, repeat the process.

At one point, we almost were going to live in three places, the third being Oxford in the UK. Never quite got there. Disappointed not to have ready access to the Bodelian Library at Oxford University, but relieved we don't need a third set of clothes, papers and refrigerator.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Three in a Bed


New York. Paris a couple of times. Orlando twice. Texas. Stuttgart, Strasbourg and Neuchatel. Madrid. Lucerne. Annecy and Chamonix. We slowed down a bit on the travel in 2018; Sherlock complicates the logistics, requiring sitters, but he's worth hanging around home with. He's all energy during the day, and he's maturing enough to let him off the leash when we're well away from cars. Love the sight of him running back and forth at full speed, doing "zoomies."

The best news of the year - no major health problems for either of us. Yes, lots of aches and pains, and going back into the house 2-3 times to retrieve whatever we forgot before we go somewhere (but that's not age - always been like that).

Donna-Lane published her first non-fiction book, and it's a significant work of research. "Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles" chronicles the tragedies of abortion before Roe v Wade, and we've sent it to all the members of the Supreme Court and many Senators and Congressmen/women to remind them that making abortion illegal again will only kill women; it will no more stop it than prohibition stopped the consumption of alcohol. The timeline and bibliography alone will be great sources for students and others who explore the topic. https://www.amazon.com/Coat-Hangers-Knitting-Needles-Tragedies-ebook/dp/B07DHYJ26L/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1546505786&sr=1-1&keywords=coat+hangers+and+knitting+needles

At the moment, we're putting the finishing touches on her "Triple Decker" novel, which is about an extended family in Boston and the impact of a grandson's death in a Middle East war. She's found a new publisher, who may also produce her new "Murder in Edinburgh" (probably the last in the Annie / Third Culture Kid series) and maybe even some of her earlier novels which have gone out of print.

I played less golf during the year, but was surprisingly more productive. Our team won the IITSEC tournament, first time ever I think, though we've won the WATS scramble 3-4 times on the same course. And our team won the Scottish Cup, staged on a mountain course in the French Alps. My next quest is to buy a set of hickory-shafted clubs and begin playing in hickory tournaments around Europe, including perhaps the World Hickory Open in Edinburgh.

The Lucerne trip was to research a book I'm writing on the history of aviation in Switzerland. Long-term project, and I hope to have it translated into French and German. As far as I can tell, no one has covered the topic comprehensively, certainly not in English. The inspiration was a small monument down the road from our house outside Geneva, honouring the Dufaux Brothers, the first to fly across Lac Leman and pioneers of the tilt-rotor concept: https://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/the-birthplaces-of-aviation-35726318/

We bought a new (to us) car, a silver Renault Modus, and covered it with butterfly stickers, which makes it easier to spot in a parking lot. More important, it has four doors - easier for friends to get in and out of. And air conditioning - the last trip to Geneva in the old Peugot, with no AC, we drove late at night so as not to overheat Sherlock … and at 3 am, got stopped and breathalyzed by the gendarmes (we were about the only car on the autoroute); my Coke Zero blood level was quite high. 

Had the apartment in Argèles sur Mer painted and added a wood-burning cheminee to the patio for cool spring and fall evenings.

Now it's really getting mundane.

A wonderfully unexciting year, just the three of us and the ebb and flow of hundreds of friends.

Oh, and there was the wild boar and the TGV.

Wishing you an interesting, healthy, happy 2019.