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.