Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas One and All That Muck

And so we have another Christmas Day. My 65th Christmas and I still end up sooner, if not more often later getting all excited and spirited. I love the anticipation just before the Day begins. I love looking at everything before it all gets torn apart.

The fire has now been lit in the dining room and the table is almost set. The pots and pans are sitting on the stove with vegetables and soup already prepared. All is in readiness. The presents wait to be given out and there is yet no disappointment; nothing has failed -- so far so good. It's the magic time of Christmas. This year we have even got a bit of snow still unmelted. Tomorrow it will probably disappear forever. Magic is still in the air.

Now it's Boxing Day and my mood is entirely different. Christmas dinner turned out to be a worse than mediocre affair -- and all because Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless wouldn't listen to She Who Should Have Been Obeyed. The menu was thus: First course: fresh leek soup -- turned out delicious; second course: fois gras with brioche and salad garnishes -- superb; 3rd course: Roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, honeyed parsnips and peas and carrots -- this was the disaster part.

For several years we had fillet of beef, which most of us enjoyed. Me especially because it meant that the menu could be completed the day before and the meat just needed a very hot oven for 30 minutes. However, He Who Shall Remain Nameless felt that it just didn't have the flavor and yearned for a more traditional roast beef meal. So last yearShe Who Should Be Called Nitwit in order to make Nameless happy prepared a sirloin of beef roast that even though it was a great deal more work for the new menu, was absolutely delicious. And the cut, though expensive was quite a bit less expensive than the fillet of beef. And so we come to 2009. It's Christmas around the corner and Nameless and Nitwit go shopping to Tesco for another what would have been delicious sirloin of beef roast. And there in the middle of the meat aisle began the argument/discussion. Amidst a flood of different cuts of meat -- all at a reduced price Nameless had discovered large joints of topside rump very cheap. So did Nitwit get the roast she knew would be wonderful or did Nameless prevail by quickly tossing 3 largish pieces of meet into the shopping trolley? Nitwit tried to convince Nameless that this was a mistake and indeed it was. A terrible mistake -- tough as old boots.

Did Nameless admit his mistake -- almost -- until he considered for a while and came up with blaming the supermarket for a 'con'. So its Boxing Day and Nitwit is fuming about being a Nitwit and sulking because of the long hours in the kitchen on Christmas Day when everyone else got to play with his toys -- or whatever!

Today's menu is duck. That's what Nameless should do -- duck!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

All Emotional and Teary-Eyed

This morning came the news that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has brought forth the Senate's Health Care bill. Senator Reid also claims there are 60 votes needed for cloture. Ever since the House passed its own version of a health care bill by only 5 votes, there has been a great deal of speculation about the Senate's ability to come through with a bill not only acceptible enough to get through a Senate vote, but also to get through the reconciliation process that both houses of Congress must go through and vote on before it reaches the President's desk.

I believe the benefit of the reconciliation process is that it enables the Senate to limit debate on the bill and so avoid the dreaded filibuster. Reading that Reid believes he has the votes for cloture suddenly gave me hope that maybe after all my native land will have some form of health care with a public option -- well, it all made me feel very emotional and teary-eyed ...

But, I'm still holding my breath. Someone on the republican side said it will be a "holy war". I shake my head in wonder. Another article among today's offerings on the Internet reported that prescription drug prices have risen extortionately despite the recession. How fortunate I am to live in a country where all my prescriptions are paid for and have been since I was 60. Any American who thinks it's not a blessed relief to know that if you need a doctor or medication it's there for you, well any American who thinks that is not thinking. For sure, the NHS is not perfect and needs improvement, but few here would be without it you can be sure.

Well the tears have abated now. I'm holding my breath again as I have since medicare passed. I hope the spirit of Ted Kennedy is successfully haunting the halls of Congress and that somehow our legislators can think beyond the dollars of lobbyists and the political rhetoric to the public good and general well-being of our nation. So far the halls of the mighty have rung with sounds of apathy and injustice, with talk of 'holy wars' and so on and on.

Last November with the election of Barack Obama I felt a new hope for my long lost country. I felt that at last the people had woken up to a greater sense of nationhood than the selfish stand of the individual. But it will always be a battle to sustain a caring society; it will always be a battle for liberty and justice for all and not for the few. But it would behoove the 'few' to remember well that as distant from the 'many' as they deem themselves to be, wealth and success derives from those they would not be.

Apparently the Senate bill has pushed back the date for implementation of the legislation from 2013 to 2014. I worry about this ... what are so many uninsured people supposed to do until then? I worry this is a ploy by republicans and conservative democrats to be able to overturn the legislation before it takes effect should the re-election of President Obama fail. I wonder though, if it is possible to implement the change earlier if democrat numbers increase in 2010. What are the chances of that, though -- greater than electing a black man president do you think?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Hairdryer's behind the Chainsaw! Part 2

As usual our car was packed with lots of stuff -- In addition to the usual suitcases there were tools, food, wine, bags of sundries such as shoes, make-up and so on. When we left I had put my essentials where I could reach them -- taking care to stay clear of Neil's greasy tools. But in the course of taking out our overnight cases things got moved about. As I was about to drift off to sleep yet again in Sommieres, I suddenly realized that the bag with my hairdryer, was now behind the chainsaw. You realize, of course, that this piece of equipment is difficult to pack tidily. Not only does it hamper neat organization of a packed estate car/station wagon, but it is quite heavy, very dirty and not easily moved around -- at least by me!

in the morning, I gave up all thought of washing my hair, scrunched it up under my pink Route 66 baseball cap and we headed for Nimes, the first stop on our intinerary which had been terribly slashed as we realized that we were too short of time to be able to include either Avignon or the Grand Canyon of Verdon. And I had already given up going to Orange. In her book The Road from the Past, Ina Cato had written a wonderful account of seeing the Roman triumphal arch that had been built to commemorate the victory of Julius Caesar over the Gauls. Her poignant description on the enslaved Gauls in the carvings on the eastern wall meant that I really wanted to see them for myself. Alas! and Alack! this must wait for another day ...

I had briefly been to Nimes sometime in the mid 90's. It was in August and the traffic was so terrible that we gave up all thoughts of trying to park, let alone trying to find a hotel and slunk our way to the outskirts and one of the chain hotels found all over French outskirts -- It was a hot evening and our boys enjoyed far more the long dip in the swimming pool than they would have Roman ruins. And I learned the secret of serving Provencal Rose -- very cold and in frosted wine glasses! Now in the September of 2009 on a bright sunny Saturday we returned, sans boys! But first a quick stop in a supermarket bakery for some croissant and bread. Very good it was, too.

A quick reconnoitre around the center and we found the Maison Carre -- unfortunately trussed up in scaffolding, but nevertheless for this lover of Roman ruins a lovely sight. It was fairly early in the day and accordingly we benefited in being able to find a convenient parking place by the canal and a block or so away from our first destination. I climbed the steps onto the ancient portico thinking about the thousands of years that had passed since its construction by Agrippa in 19 BC. It is miraculous that it should have survived so intact. As magnificent as the building is in its present setting, I was disappointed to discover upon entering a modern cubicle and people selling tickets to a movie being shown inside the temple. I have since learned that the inside is very small and without decoration, so perhaps I'm happier not having paid my money to enter.

Nimes was very busy and around the temple a band was busily setting up and we got the impression that there might be some kind of festival brewing. As indeed there was ...

But our next destination was to find the Roman Ampitheatre, which I understood to be still in use. First, though we had to figure where it was and this is where navigational expertise broke down slightly. But the good thing was we had a nice tour around the old city as we wended our way away from our ultimate destination.

It became more and more apparent that there was something major going on in the city of Nimes that
day. In particular I remember a kind of jazz band dressed all in pink wandering around the streets singing their hearts out. In our search for the old Roman structure we kept coming upon them entertaining the growing throngs. Finally, in desperation we looked at our plan of the city and soon figured out we'd gone in the opposite direction and headed back down the street we had been going up. Aha! The market place and the market stalls were out.

More and more people and a real celebratory air was developing around us as the Amphitheatre came into view. Wow! It is huge. On the day we could hear the cheers and shouts of the crowd coming from within. It took several minutes before wound ourselves around to the entrance. We saw some horses and assumed, wrongly, that there was a horse show going on. Then I saw a butcher's van and assumed, again wrongly, that this was in case a horse had to be put down, the butcher was there to prepare it for the local super market ...

Sometimes I cannot fathom my own stupidity. I had read about Nimes many times. I knew that it was one of the few places in Europe outside of Spain that had bullfighting. The cheers we'd heard were for the kill! We did not get to go inside. I'll just have to go back there again some day! In the meantime, I have been to Verona to the opera! We left the bullfighting arena and made our way up another avenue with lots of cafes and special tables being set up for whatever Nimes was celebrating. There were lots of bands, lots of music -- a perfect day for a French festival. But we did not linger. Now it was time to leave and to head for the Pont du Gard.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Live in Hope, but I Despair ...

I despair. The news coming out of the Senate does not bode well for the Health Care bill. Democrats don't seem able to count on their own to support legislation. We shrink from our ideals and conform to fear. The battle is about survival to fight the next election.

It is impossible for me to understand how any intelligent and educated person can fail to see that the American people must have universal health care. The country is already sliding into lower and lower status when compared to other first world countries. My country's legislators or blindsided by rhetoric of big money and the agenda of insurance companies and pharmaceuticals. How can anyone in public office not comprehend the enormity of the problem facing so many Americans -- how can they consider themselves to be righteous, to be Christian, to be caring? How can they pursue this way?

I feel I am watching a struggle between the forces of good and evil and it looks as if evil is ... But I must not go there. Not yet. I don't have to worry about health care. I live in England. All my prescriptions are covered by the NHS. If I'm really too sick to go to the doctor, the doctor will come to me. I don't have to accept a $15,000 deductible. It's not perfect here ... but it is so much better. Anywhere in Europe is so much better. My son has had to leave the US and move to Korea. He couldn't get a job and couldn't get health insurance in Washington State. So he found a job in Korea and he is family now have health care.

I fear that not only will there not be a public option of any kind in the new legislation, but that the present situation will be made worse ... That somehow there is a hidden agenda that is being pushed behind the scenes. I can not believe that there are not some Republicans in body of the Senate that do understand the importance of health care for everyone. It depresses me no end that our politics is so sick, so marginalized that there can be such a lack of brave and forward seeking people that this legislation is even in the slightest danger of being passed.

And as far as Senator Liebermann and Senator Nelson are concerned: Shame on both of you. Shame on your cowardly selves.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Anger of Friends

This afternoon I had an unpleasant encounter with an old friend -- though she would probably not be thinking of me as a friend right now. She has been going through a traumatic period in her life for over three years now. She is angry, very angry with me and feels betrayed because I have not taken her side; though I have always been on her side in that I have wanted her to find peace of mind and a more positive direction for her life. The quandary for me is finding the best way to approach her, because she is really not up to the business of getting on with her life because she has this great need for the injustice that she believe she has suffered to be rectified and for the unjust to be punished. She has been defeated by bitterness and anger. Most of her friends are now alienated and she finds herself surrounded by defeat. She is very very sad; she is very very unhappy.

What would I do if this, this, this and this had happened to me? And I had to admit that I did not know ... except that I would have sought spiritual guidance, which I know she would not. In fact this is probably the most significant difference between her and me. I have throughout my life been fortunate to have had a spiritual life to sustain me when things have gone wrong. I wish that she could find that for herself, but first she would have to let go. But I will keep her in my prayers and hope that she will find her way and a better answer to her prayers than vengeance and retribution.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Hairdryer's behind the Chainsaw!

In mid-September we left Aynac for an all too brief tour around Europe -- through Provence, into Italy, north to Germany via Austria, and home across Luxembourg via Boulogne-sur-Mer. In 10 days! As is usual with our travel plans we had built into the trip an immovable date, that being son Andrew's birthday on the 22nd. Therefore, we could not take an extra day or two which would have been welcome for me as we weren't really able to explore Provence as we might have otherwise done. But still I did get a second chance to explore Nimes somewhat successfully and I did walk across the Pont du Gard!

But our first great sighting was not the old bridge in Remoulins, but the new viaduct in Millau! What a brillian wonderful beautiful bridge! It's a great huge sailing ship across the Tarn Valley, it really is. First we stopped by the special Aire created for the crowds to stop and take pictures. I really was a boob, but the wind was blowing fiercely and I really didn't feel like trudging up the wind blown path to be bowled over by nature, thank you very much -- and besides it was nippy outside and I'd gotten very cozy and comfortable. As I do feel rather an idiot to have been so inclined, nevertheless it is absolutely a wonderful site and I live in hope there will be a 'next time'.

Languedoc is very beautiful and although we travelled on the motorway there were many tempting old towns and villages along the way -- La Couvertoirade, par example: "This mediaeval village, located at the confines of the Larzac plateau, reflects the military power of the Templar Knights and the daily activity of the Hospitaliers (Knights of
Saint John of Jerusalem), through its exceptional state of conservation. Classed as a Most Beautiful French Village, La Couvertoirade constitutes a veritable "miniature" of the mediaeval city. Few mediaeval sites in France ..." Right up my street, but we travelled on determined to get to Provence and to find a place for the night before dark.

And so we did ... a look at the map and Neil headed for the town of Sommieres, which looked enough off the beaten track to be interesting and so it was. We stayed in a hotel that had been the railroad station in days gone by and which had an authentic feel to it. The room was small and rather disappointing and there was no elevator, but the place itself was pleasant and the staff friendly enough. The owner, I believe, recommended a restaurant, which was very good, in the middle of the walled city. This medieval town was on a river and the bridge we drove over had been around since Roman times. We had to leave early the next morning, which was a shame as it was market day.

The restaurant was practically empty when we entered -- we have found it a good idea to get to French restaurants before 8.00 as we tend to get our orders in well before the rush. And indeed there was a rush as the tables were suddenly gone. A lovely Italian couple who lived in Switzerland sat next to us and we had a fun conversation -- but they were very patient with our stilted French and it was fun to talk to some fellow travellers.

We left the restaurant well fed and well cheered, a quick drive to our hotel and one of us was soon snoring and the other periodically getting up and discovering the stars were bigger than I'd ever seen them -- kind of like Van Gogh painted them in Arles!

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Audacity of the Peace Prize

Today the President was told he had won the Nobel Prize for Peace! What a surprise -- apparently for him, too. At first I wondered if it was a bit early for such an award. But the Nobel Committee's explanation makes sense to me. Those of us who live in Europe have been so relieved that Obama has made such a positive impression on other countries, in fact just the relief of not being embarrassed by our government ...

This President has shown a willingness to reach across the chasms of mistrust and even hatred to use the methods of diplomacy and dialogue with nations that been openly hostile and mistrustful, not only of the United States, but of all western countries. Some of those critics in the United States of the Nobel Committee awarding its prize to Mr. Obama, should remember that our country is the leader of the world, that what we do and how our President is seen to behave and the gestures that he makes are vital to the way the world sees us. And after the eight long years of the last presidency, the way the world saw us was damaging and dangerous. Hatreds were deepened, mistrust was enhanced; we were ugly America.

In a few short months the international attitude towards the country has changed from suspicion and mistrust to hope and respect. We should remember that as the leader of our country he represents the people of that country, whether they voted for him or did not. And in that context the Nobel Peace Prize belongs to the people and is a tribute to the country which elected him. Not only must Obama prove himself to be worthy, so must we all.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I just love(d) him

Ted Kennedy. I loved him for the man he was and the man he wasn't. I grew up with him being there ... just ahead, leading the way. And as he aged he aged with wisdom and compassion earned from the learning of past mistakes.

He could so roar and he did upon the senate floor: Remember this? What a statement, what passion, what greatness! I hope and pray he is not the last of his kind, but it would seem he was the only one of his kind in the halls of Congress for a long long time.

I loved Jack and Bobby, too, but Ted was of closer to my generation and he was able to be part of my leadership for my adult life -- being there supporting the same liberal causes that have been part of my being, giving voice, where I would not be heard. Thank you Ted for that. Thank you so much.

And with every fibre of my being I will continue to promote the last cause he fought so hard -- healthcare -- and it may just be that that he will live on in our psyche and our spirit and will so inspire those of us who believed in him and in this cause of his to never give up until Americans acquire the right, the just right of healthcare for every one.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care is a Right

The debate going on at the moment in the US over healthcare has made me fear for my country. It is for me a very dark debate that doesn’t seem to have changed for thirty or more years. It is a debate that is a lie, a debate that is based on the fact that millions of people believe has to do with the future of their health care, but which is really driven by big business and the need to keep a large and powerful country a feudal society.

That is the irony of American democracy. That is the cold hard fact about a capitalist society. Keeping people tied to medical insurance through the workplace enables feudalism, distorts freedom and cripples liberty. Those angry faces on the television of people ‘not wanting America to become like Russia’, do not understand how they have been manipulated by their fears into believing that somehow having the right to medical care will undermine the country and lead to a ‘socialist’ state. The word ‘socialist’ is another one of those propaganda words that the capitalist forces have been able to abuse so that the ‘tethers’ in place, remain in place.

Most American people understand that the medical system is a disaster. As more and more people travel to other countries they have learned that what has in the past been sold to them as ‘socialized medicine’ and therefore a terrible idea, is in fact a liberating force within those societies. For many people in the United States life without the right to medical help is hellish nightmare that can include losing ones home, bankruptcy, and death. And just because you have health insurance doesn’t mean you are covered either. In addition to 46 million people without insurance are at least 25 million and untold millions more who are underinsured. So the message is to stay healthy and continue paying for insurance that you may find lets you down when you need it the most.

But I believe that most Americans know this. The media blitz is using old scare tactics, but these tactics are no longer pulling the wool over our eyes. The signs of hate and words of fear are from a different time when a media blitz could undermine our needs and our basic human right could be denied: the right to healthcare.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Relaxation and Reflection

It’s great to be back again in France for the summer. So much has changed for me in the past year that it’s comforting in a strange way to be here where things are so much the same as they were two years ago! We don’t do very much that is exciting – rather it’s a time for relaxation and renewing our psyche.

I was on my own here for not quite 10 days. As the house is several miles from the nearest town – though only one kilometre from the village of Aynac it meant that I was left to my own devices and at home for all of that time. I admit I could have walked into the village, but I am far too timid when it comes to confronting various animals that tend to go ‘walk-about’ along the route that I would have to take! At any rate, I was very well stocked with food and drink and lived the life a recluse for a time.

It’s interesting to have to please no one but oneself. All my choices were my own – what to eat, when to eat, what to watch on TV, what movies to catch up on – when to get up or nap or lie in the sun. As time went on I became more and more aware of being alone and of my own vulnerability as a lone creature. I didn’t tell anyone and none of my friends here knew until the day before Neil returned, when the ‘outside’ actually came by … And I realized again that other people are important; it is important to have bonds, friendship, loving relationships – people who care.

As I get older, I find myself becoming more and more insular. Some of this is because I am afraid of ‘bothering’ people; that friends and relations, etc. do have their own lives and problems. But I also think maybe I am becoming lazy. Having friends means making an effort and I’m finding that more and more I don’t want to make an effort – I have to talk myself into it. This is not very nice of me really. So, I need to change this tendency of mine – which is a good reason why it’s better for me to leave France after a few months of self-reflection and relaxation and return to Southport and be out and about once again.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Musings about Lincoln and Obama

It's no secret that I love Barack Obama. There has been so much criticism of him the past few months -- mostly because changes are not happening fast enough for some people -- especially progressives -- which I more or less am. Patience, I say ... it is important that when important changes take place, that the ground work is carefully laid, and that the structure of success is well-conceived.

Two weeks ago I finished Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. What a wonderful tome. For it is indeed a "tome", but I relished every page. I read the book because it was often referred to during the presidential campaign as being influential on Obama. Clearly Lincoln was a great role model for our current President -- from announcing his candidacy from the same place in Springfield, Illinois to using Lincoln's Bible on Innauguration Day. And there are many ways in which he reminds me and others of the 16th American President up to and including his own Cabinet Team of Rivals. Like Lincoln, I believe that Barack Obama is a man of great patience and one who understands the importance of seizing the right moment.

I read with great interest, for example how Lincoln was able to bring about the Emancipation Proclamation when the time was right, when the Congress would pass it. No one knows for sure if Lincoln's intention from the beginning was to end slavery in every state of the Union -- it was a long and drawn out process and the timing of its acceptance was a matter of knowing not only when, but how.

I think of this often now. My greatest political wish is to have single payer healthcare. I have not been happy with the plan put forth by Obama during the campaign. And many of us are not sure what to think about an alternative 'Public Plan' and none of us want the 7 year trigger -- that is ludicrous. However, over the past several days concern is raining down because 'Obama is looking at the 7 year trigger'. Obama is smart -- he has to look at the plan -- if only to know what it says in order that hopefully when he says "no" he can give definitive reasons why it is a bad idea -- because, as he famously put it to one television reporter "I like to know what I'm talking about". The best way to defeat an idea is to understand the idea and the ramifications of that idea.

A few weeks ago at a Town Hall Meeting the first question he was asked was about why Single Payer health care wasn't part of the current discussions. He said that if it weren't for the fact that we were a country that had in place an insurance based system and if the country could start from scratch, Single Payer Healthcare is what he would want. I can't exactly explain why but that admission on his part made me think that maybe, just maybe he was trying to work our way there -- one step at a time.

And it also makes me think that it is important for all of us to work toward that goal with him so that he has plenty of back up. In Lincoln's day he didn't have the luxury of the people at his finger tips. Politics was at the mercy of the politicians much more than it is now. Obama said, "We are the people we have been waiting for". We got him elected and with us he/we can succeed in making the changes that we want happen. If Lincoln managed to get the Emancipation Proclamation incorporated into our Bill of Rights, we can manage to help Obama get every American healthcare for all and I believe he is on the case.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's Almost Always Being 40.

We have been inundated with friends and relations going through 'difficulties'. Rarely are the reasons simple, straightforward, etc. In fact, it's probably never simple or straightforward! And it's always sad. And almost always, but not always, bitter, childish and futile. And the other thing almost but not always one of the people involved is around 40!

Lets face it if you've been married/together any length of time you've probably run out of fingers and toes to try to count how often you've wondered what you ever saw in your significant other, partner, husband, wife. But arguably the worst breakup is a marriage breakup with children.

It's hard on the children because, of course they are children, and it's hard on the parents because so often they revert to being children themselves. And that really does piss me off! There is something almost obscene about a 40-year-old, or a nearly 40-year-old or a just past 40-year-old reverting to childhood. Especially when they use grown-up words like appropriate, for example. I've just been told, in no uncertain terms that my behaviour was inappropriate because I had dinner with the enemy. It is obvious that the meaning of the word was not understood and that its use was inappropriate. What I believe was really being said was "Please give me reassurance that you still love me, you do, don't you?" and "You love him more than you love me, don't you?" and most of all "Help me!" All because when you are 40 what the f--k is this all about really hits you hard. And the answer hits you hardest of all: yes, this is it ... this is all there is ...

We become inappropriate and at the same time we become pathetic! We want to prove that we are still young, that we are not over-the-hill that indeed life does begin at 40 ... And so it's time to begin all over, start again -- off with the old, on with the new -- blah, blah, blah.

And so in a mad dash we throw it all away, let the chips fall where they may, the hell with it. Unfortunately most of the time, the other person has a different perspective and doesn't have a clue where you are coming from. And you, the mad cow, are not inclined to explain it or understand it yourself. So it all gets nasty. The vendetta is sprung. I've always admired Yoko Ono greatly for her understanding of what John Lennon was going through when he went off for a year of dallying and to him for knowing enough to go back. And I've also admired Prince Andrew and Sarah for remaining best friends and for putting their girls first.

The past few years I've heard horror stories of betrayal and unhappiness in marriages. I've been amazed at acts of forgiveness and magnanimity as well as endless acts of bitterness and revenge and pettiness. Sometimes I've thought a marriage could be saved, but wasn't and sometimes I've thought it couldn't be, but was. It's all about your character and character is about the past ...

In the past, marriage was a sacrament. Most people have no idea what a sacrament is, means. It means it was and by some still is, deemed holy. And if you don't know what holy means, I suggest that if you were to find out, you might also find out that life as it is at 40, is not "all there is".

Monday, April 20, 2009

Susan Boyle: Yes, Yes, Yes

Well, I sure hope Susan Boyle will be OK, once the media get through with her! I wish they would stop talking about her being 'ugly' (which she isn't -- at worst you could say 'plain' if you go down that road at all). But hey, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder!

What struck me the most the first time I watch her on YouTube was that as soon as the music started her whole look changed: she was transformed. What we saw and heard was real beauty, the kind of beauty that moved many of us to inexplicable tears. For goodness sake, Simon Cowell looked positively angelic; he was transported to another world -- as were we all. Suddenly Susan's body stood straight, her gestures were perfection. In those moments I would not have changed one atom of her. The audience -- that was really amazing as all were carried away with the sheer beauty of the whole thing.

So before anyone decides that she needs to be 'made over', maybe 'anyone' should think again. I hope those that are in charge of 'minding' her take good care of her. I read a little while ago that she didn't go to her church yesterday and hasn't been at her 'local' for days -- sounds a bit like being imprisoned to me and I hope she is in charge of the keys!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Here I Am again!

Now I'm visiting, before I was living -- interesting change of dynamics. On the one hand, looking out the kitchen window a little while ago, it felt as if nothing at all had changed. I still know where everything is, the details of day-to-day life are the same -- the weather is as grey as last March, the boys are a few months older, but not altered very much, and so on. But now my life is in England and this is but a brief sojourn.

In May, if all goes according to the plan, I will be in France again, after missing a year. Last year was the first year since we bought the little house, that we didn't get back and I missed the annual renewal of my psyche. There are many others who also spend the warm months in Aynac in the Lot and then leave it to return to cooler climes and their other lives. When the summer is a good one with lots of sunshine and regular evening showers -- after midnight -- the Lot is Paradise. Our little fermette, with its small orchard and cosy fire, not to mention a sumptuous terrace that bathes in the sun and cools in the shade is perfect for us and a pleasure for those who share it with us.

In the meantime, there are suitcases to pack (and re-pack), a birthday to celebrate, family to see, banquets to share and money I don't have to spend! I look out the window here and see buds on the cherry tree starting to open. Yesterday I could see the yellow promise of forsythia on Cooper Point Road and remembering the loveliness of last year hope I might have just enough time to see it again before I leave.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Sense of Time or a Sense of Place

I went to a very good lecture last Wednesday: Reading the Ordinary: Walking the M62 by the Rev'd John Davies, Vicar of The Good Shepherd, West Derby. He walked from Hull to Liverpool in 2007 as a sabbatical project. Since the Theme of this year's Lenten lectures is Religion and Pilgrimage it was interesting to look at this experience as a kind of modern pilgrimage.

Davies carefully explained that he did not literally walk the M62 -- to do so would have meant certain death! Rather, he used the highway as a marker to guide him through alternate roads and pathways and took his time -- over two months to complete the journey. He wanted to experience people and places and the spirituality of those people and places in a new, perhaps mystical, way. I was particularly interested in the Ghost of Ghoul and the idea of the spirituality of 'place'. And also of the end of his journey being Liverpool, where he grew up and how much he wanted to experience his 'home town' with new eyes. He seemed a bit uncertain as to how successfully he had done that.

I have often felt that that places do have a spirituality and have often mused about that aspect of churches and particularly cathedrals. Canterbury and Chartres particularly resonate for me, York Minster does not. I love old houses, old towns and cities, because of the spirituality of place that I experience: a mystical sense of being connected to the passage of time. Rome is for me the most sensational and most mystical of experiences. I've yet to get to Greece or Egypt, but expect the experience could possibly be overwhelming for a time!

Which brings me to a recent observation. Now that I am grouped among the 'elderly' and as I see my generation giving way to the younger, as I more and more often join with the 'grumpy old men and women' of this time, I conclude: I belong to my time and my time belongs to me. And I wonder if that means that I belong to the time more than the place. I can certainly adapt to different places over a period of time, but that sense of who I am, that is I think more to do with the time that belongs to me. So my question is what part of our natures can transcend our time -- our place in time?

A great deal of the discussion following the lecture was about the pilgrimage home -- what is the wish/need to do this. Davies commented at one point during the evening that he was glad not to have found the answer to that ... it would have been interesting to hear more about that. I do not have a sense of coming from one place as much as I have of belonging to three places: New England, Southport, and Aynac, France. New England is my 'home place' and if I have to describe myself I would say I am a 'New Englander', rather than a Connecticut Yankee or a Vermonter. Unlike most people, I lived in different states growing up, but from the age of 2 until 18 I lived in New England.

So does that mean I have been deprived or does that mean that I have been liberated -- or is about something else altogether?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Have enough already

I ask myself all the time: Why does anyone need to acquire multi-millions of dollars -- or pounds or euros year after year. What do people do with that sort of money after the houses are bought and the life-style acquired? Isn't all that money just too much for any one to handle -- Now I grant you that it's nice to be rich enough to have beautiful homes, and lovely clothes and not to have to worry where or if the next dollar is coming and to be able to travel in comfort and have beauty treatments and so on -- but surely the millions we are hearing about -- even billions in some cases -- well it just doesn't make sense (cents?) to me. Oh and I'd like to be able to eat out wherever and whenever I want, too.

I grew up thinking a bonus was for work well done, goals not only met, but exceeded. Silly me? I'm not thinking about $1,000 or £1,000 bonuses given to workers who should have been paid more to begin with -- I'm thinking about millions being paid to executives who are already being paid millions. Now, I do have to laugh when I hear government officials and ministers saying that these people will leave and go elsewhere if they don't get paid these generous amounts ...

Now I bet you anything, I am not alone in wondering, with current catastrophe we are in the midst of -- why we shouldn't be happy to see the back of them and who in the hell would want to hire them anyway, considering how "well" they've done to get us where we are now!

No one knows how bad things are going to get for all of us. Like most people I could use more 'dosh' right now, but at least we are retired and our pensions are probably going to remain stable -- in some way we are the 'rich' ones -- the ones with 'enough' -- the ones who can still sleep at night and feel comfortable in our own skins because we are satisfied with our lot.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Weather and cocoa or not etcetera

I am so cold. The central heating is blaring away, the meter is whirring around as the gas flows and the radiators heat up -- but this old Victorian house and my study and the kitchen in particular are refrigerators. The ceilings are high and the walls are not insulated and neither are the floors. Now by New England standards the weather here is quite mild, but the houses in America were built for extreme cold.

Before the economic crises was recognized as such -- say last year -- I could go shopping and the stores would be so warm you could hardly stand it! But not anymore. The stores are cold, too -- though not as cold as this house -- though I could be wrong about that as I don't continue to wear my coat around the house (usually) ...

With a little luck we'll spend the summer in France and the weather will cooperate and spew forth sunshine and warmth. Chances are the English summer will be disappointing -- I have almost never ever been too warm here. (Save for shopping in downtown London). Time now for a nice warm cup of tea. Oh hell, I just realized -- I forgot to get cocoa yesterday! This always happens when I forget the shopping list -- especially when I remember putting the list in my handbag -- only to find when I get to the supermarket, that I must have remembered from last week! Life is being forgetfully confused. Darn -- cocoa would be just right right now ... Tea it is then ...

I have to laugh at the British newscasts this week -- There has been unusual amounts of snow here ... first there was headline news about schools and whether or not it was necessary to close them and now it's all about running out of salt and grit for the roads!!! Number one news stories. I haven't heard it said yet -- I'm just waiting for it -- "... to make sure it never happens again ..." so far the public has been spared that -- at least within my hearing. Southport has only had a few flurries even though all around us there are apparently piles of the stuff. I actually like the snow -- probably because I've barely seen it for so many years. England's climate is really quite boring -- never VERY VERY cold and never VERY VERY hot. No such thing as spring or autumn here -- it's either summer or winter -- thus 'midsummer' is on 21st June and 'midwinter' 21st December -- which until I came here I could never understand.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One Week into the First Year of Obama 2009

Things seem to be moving right along! Now the pundits talk about the first 100 hours instead of days ... It would seem that we have chosen well this time and it should be quite a ride.

Inauguration day was wonderful and so human. Such as flubs with the oath and romantic snuggles. Not to mention despair when Senator Kennedy was victim to an attack which reminded us that he is indeed a very sick 'lion' and with Senator Byrd's collapse at the sight of the 'lion's distress . .. Despite the coldness of the events nothing spoiled the party. We had some 'bubbly' and a steak dinner.

The next day Fox News worried that perhaps President Obama wasn't really President because the oath had been flubbed -- by the Chief Justice. Some were amused that the 'perfectionist' Justice Roberts had blown giving the oath to the one who had voted against his confirmation! Rather deliciously that same day the oath was re-administered in the White House with a mere 9 witnesses and no 'bible' -- this is ok because the Constitution does not demand one.

There was some controversy about the clothes that Michelle Obama decided to wear. I thought she looked gorgeous -- but worried that she must be cold -- 16 F is colder than people in Britain can appreciate -- it rarely ever gets that cold here. So for me she was not only chic but brave! As for the evening dress -- hey -- anybody who has her man looking at her the way he did is doing everything right -- no mistake about that ...

And since then things have been moving so fast that we can't really keep up with him. I expect he will make some mistakes, but I for one don't doubt that it isn't about 'him' it's about 'us'. He is not about making people's pocketbooks rich, he is about making people's lives richer. His inaugural address was a great speech. On the day it was hard to appreciate how much he said and how important all that he said was. I have read and re-read it and each time am more impressed than the time before. He spoke for our time and for our future and he reaffirmed the past that was framed by our founding fathers and he did it in a way that speaks not only to our citizens, but includes and invites peoples around the world in our hopes and aspirations.

Friday, January 16, 2009

As We Get Older

Yesterday I went to the Eye Clinic here for my annual check for Glaucoma. For the first time, I felt I was regarded as 'old'! Not that I'm 'not' ...

The first shock was the comment that there could be seen the beginnings of a cataract in my right eye ...

"Damn," I said.

"It happens to all of us when we get older," came the 'comforting' reply. I don't know if the rather attractive blond woman was a doctor or a technician -- but I didn't think she looked all that much younger than I! I almost asked her if she had early signs of them as well!

That said and done the examination concluded with the decision that as the pressure in my eyes was slightly on the high side, as a precautionary measure she was prescribing eye drops to be taken every night just before bed. Ho-hum.

Later, thinking it all over, I had to be grateful to be living in a country where all this is carried out without having to worry about how to pay for this or that including the many medications that I need to take every day -- including the eye drops that adds up to seven different ones every day! Gawd! I am getting old. Now I'm even blogging about my illnesses.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Time, It's Ridiculous!

TIME! Good Lord, I was sure I'd posted since Christmas! What a forgetful old fool I feel like. I can't believe I've not posted since my return to England. But it did take a while to get myself together and with Christmas and dinner party planning demanded by the Man, my brain has in the end, failed me. Gosh in less than 200 hours Obama will be our President.

It amazes me how soon I've settled, for the most part, back in the British life. I still don't know when or even 'if' I'm returning to Olympia so my life and brain are in flux and I feel kind of weird and unsettled most of the time. I've seen lots of friends and had lots of enjoyable company, but my presence on the scene is certainly tentative. I had been away almost a year (bar one month) but certainly being back seems more familiar and homelike. Of course the Pacific side of the US never felt homelike and familiar to me and I realized not to long before my return that if I were to return to the US to live I would be happier on the Atlantic seaboard and probably in New England. It's hard to explain exactly why. I am not comfortable with the spread-outness of everything on the west coast -- everything connected by big highways and lots of driving. It doesn't feel to me 'settled'. It's beautiful and grand-eloquent, but for me it lacks the 'intimacy' of familiarity. It is strange to say I like 'being' there more than 'living' there.

The economic situation here seems more dire than it did in the Pacific Northwest. Businesses are closing and jobs are difficult to find -- especially for the young. It's not easy now to look to the future and feel hopeful. Since Obama's election things in the US do feel more hopeful than they do here. The British newspapers are full of dire predictions for the American economy and sometimes I wonder if it's not really 'wishful thinking'. The British pundits are notoriously wrong in predicting things American and the understanding here of how things work across the pond is often mysterious to me. The really don't quite 'get' us and they always think they have!