Posted May 6 2013.
Poetry is white:
it comes from the water covered with drops,
it wrinkles and piles up…
Yesterday afternoon, I watched a movie and ironed. I used to hate ironing but now I don’t mind it so much. Women in France iron everything from sheets to underwear. I bow to tradition a little and iron pillowcases and table napkins.
Yesterday I ironed more – t-shirts and skirts and blouses and sweaters, anything I could find wrinkled in the laundry room (except the underwear) because when I do anything as frivolous as watch a movie in the afternoon, I have to do something productive as well. I simply can’t relax.
As usual, time escapes me. I have been travelling, first to Northern Ireland to help Gill bake 90 cupcakes for the wedding of the daughter of my first cousin and then to spend time with some of my dozen of cousins at the wedding celebration. At one point, I noticed that I was dancing with two of my mother’s sisters’ daughters and though we were raised with an ocean between us, I still feel a part of my Irish family.
The day after the wedding, Rob, Gill, and I left for London. The first evening, Rob and I met Fanny and Dave (friends from Castelnau who still work and live in England) for a fancy Indian meal and the next night we met another young friend whose parents live in our village for a Mexican feast. The first full day, I spent alone wandering to Cork street, the Royal Academy, and the Tate Modern. The second full day, I spent with Gill looking at fashion. I bought nothing.
I arrived home and took care of a few problems re the rental house and read a book or two, and yesterday, for the first time in a long time, the sun was shining and so Rob, Gill, Rosemary and I went to the morning market at Lisle sur Tarn and then to Lombards where I bought a rose bush. I think this is the first time that I’ve bought one and I wasn’t planning to but when I saw one perfect scented yellow rose amid numerous red ones, I wanted it – a small extravagance – something beautiful to place outside my office window.
My daughter has moved home and I love having her around. After a heart-breaking number of months in Toronto, she is re-locating in Europe and wants to re-invent herself or perhaps it’s not a re-inventing but a finding herself and her place in the world. She is so full of grace and kindness, intelligence and wit. She retreats to her room, goes for long walks, and then joins me to talk most often in the kitchen where she loves to cook and I am content to be her sous-chef. Listening to her, talking about her life and her “amazing family”, I see the world through her eyes. (I am often too self-critical and her words allow me to see myself in a more positive light.) When she is vocal about her love for me, I feel more lovable. I imagine that most have moments of disillusionment with self even the bravest and most self-sufficient among us – and to have another’s reassurance and praise is a gift.
My daughter is a gift. I listen to her play her music. She’s not as country as her mama. One song in particular plays in my head – “When I was your man” by Bruno Mars:
“My pride, my ego, my needs and my selfish ways
Caused a good strong woman like you to walk out my life
Now I never, never get to clean up the mess I made
And it haunts me every time I close my eyes
It all just sounds like uh, uh, uh, uh
Too young, too dumb to realize
That I should have bought you flowers and held your hand
Should have gave all my hours when I had the chance
Take you to every party cause all you wanted to do was dance
Now my baby is dancing, but she’s dancing with another man.”
I think about love a lot – my love for my children and my man (especially as we will soon celebrate 43 years of marriage). I think of music too – how it’s a bit like love in that it can soothe and heal. And my thoughts return to ironing and how it allows me to slow down, iron out the wrinkles, and enjoy my life.
“Poetry is white:
it comes from the water covered with drops,
it wrinkles and piles up,
the skin of this planet must be stretched,
the sea of its whiteness must be ironed,
and the hands move and move,
the holy surfaces are smoothed out,
and that is how things are made:
hands make the world each day,
fire becomes one with steel,
linen, canvas, and cotton arrive
from the combat of the laundries,
and out of light a dove is born:
chastity returns from the foam.” (Pablo Neruda)
Posted March 30 2013.
Posted March 29 2013.
I woke early but later than usual. It is 4:55. I am happy. I make myself a coffee and read the two birthday cards I received by mail and saved to open today. One has a poem, a beautiful poem that reminds me of my birthday gift to myself. (No, I won’t tell. I don’t have to tell everything. It’s my birthday.)
After a while, I go back to bed and have the most amazing birthday dream. I am in my office and I hear noises in the next room. I think I hear Brendan and I wonder as I have been told that he’s in Milan. I hear Michael, Kenzie, and Gill laughing. What a great surprise, I think and go from my office into the sitting room and the place is decorated with evergreen hanging like a curtain along the back wall with glittering lights, and the room is filled with small trees and I feel as if it’s Christmas. I go upstairs and Rob hands me a huge present and the table has two more presents but really there are many as each parcel has a dozen little presents, tied together with a ribbon.
Later, I wake and hear Rob in the kitchen making coffee. “I’ll have one too,” I yell and he brings me one to bed and presents me with two gifts. One is a beautiful moleskin, leather-bound journal and the other is Part Two of our life together. He gave me Part One years ago. And his small card reads “I love how you love me” with lots of hugs and kisses. He touches my heart.
Before the morning is out, I receive two more birthday cards – one is hand-delivered and the other comes in the mail. And there are more on my computer. Thank you everyone.
I love my birthday and it’s only begun.
Posted March 14 2013.
My beloved middle son and one of my favourite brother-in-laws have already celebrated their birthdays. Mine is coming up. Sixty-four. “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” (I asked Rob that question and he didn’t answer my email.) I’m planning a party at Pizza Queen in Gaillac. It is one of the ugliest restaurants in the area but it makes the best fresh salmon, steak in peppercorn sauce, and the frites, fried in duck fat, are, in my opinion, the best in the world (or almost.)
I haven’t written a blog in a month as nothing much happens in this little village. You’d think I would have time to think on deep matters and write something profound. Nope. I’m too busy. This month, I designed a brochure, updated a website, am managing a house renovation (designing really and making all purchases from toilet to lighting fixtures), clearing and cleaning another house, editing a novel, and trying to get some work done on Gill’s and my books. I am also helping sort and write orders from my second trip to Paris this year for a boutique in Vancouver.
I have decided that I will not accept any more work. I will be 64 soon and it seems impossible for me to slow down. The problem is that I love being busy and feeling useful.
This morning I looked out my window and snow was falling. One day last week, Rob and I sat outside a cafe sipping coffee in 24 degree sunshine. I think the snow beautiful but prefer the countryside rich green rather than white.
As I write about the weather, I wonder if this is what my life amounts to, being so bored and so boring that all I can write is polite conversation. Where are my head and heart right now? I am strangely content although I do have my anxious moments when I long for complete solitude and nothing to do but sit and read a good book.
I have been reading such crap lately – anything that can be purchased cheap for my Kindle or iPad – but I am also bored with my reading. I long for something literary and exciting, something that will give me a hint about how to spend my next 20 years.
The other evening six of us met at Rosemary’s for a poetry evening and dinner. The theme to welcome spring was “prospects” or “optimism”. (Rosemary cooked a stuffed crown roast of lamb that deserved a Michelin star.) I spent several delicious hours in the afternoon reading poetry and finally decided on one by Adrienne Rich called “Prospective Immigrants Please Note”
Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.
If you go through
there is always risk
of remembering your name.
Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.
If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily
to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely
but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?
The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.
I need a new door. I ask myself “is this what your life is about? Trying to create beautiful spaces, dining and reading poetry with friends, looking out windows and observing the weather” – although when I write it down, it sounds pretty good.
I want more. I am trying my damnest to find a spark, a passion, something that will consume me, fill me with joy, make me feel as if I am living my life, or rather designing my life, and not simply responding to the moment.
I want my life to be in individual, mine, and not depend on anyone else, least of all another’s approval. I want to be truly content and more in control of my days and nights. What do I mean by control? No that’s not the right word as I would like to lose control. A better word would be disciplined.
So my birthday wish is to be more disciplined, find my way to my writing again (even if it means tying myself to a chair) and I really really want to find the time to ride my bicycle.
Posted February 13 2013.
I am angry. I read a lot of books – a lot of crap but a lot of good stuff – and I am addicted to my Kindle because I can have a book in under a minute and, when I travel (which I do a fair bit) my suitcase is lighter. I understand that publishers must stay in business and the price of ebooks must be high enough to allow them a profit but nothing pisses me off more than when I want a book and the price of a Kindle one is more expensive than a hard copy. This doesn’t happen often but when it does, I refuse to buy the book. For instance, when “The Cat’s Table” by Michael Ondaatje was released, the Kindle price was higher than the paperback and so I waited until the price fell. Now the ebook is lower in cost than a bound copy. The price difference does not have to be much. If I can have a Kindle version for a couple of dollars less, I buy it.
This morning, Amazon.com sent me a notice about a book similar to one that I’ve just read: . The Kindle book cost $21.18 and a hardcover $17.13. I won’t buy it until the price comes down though I’ll probably forget the book exists and not buy it. The price difference is not fair to the reader, the writer, or the book seller.
This has been bothering me for a while and I simply cannot understand the rationale behind such an action.
Posted February 8 2013.
“Sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind
Had to get away to see what we could find
Hope the days that lie ahead
Bring us back to where they’ve led
Listen not to what’s been said to you
Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express”
I don’t like to write about what I don’t like. I’m an optimist at heart so I’ll only mention briefly that Marrakech scared me. I didn’t like the central square with its snake charmers, henna painters, fellows in strange colourful caps who would wrap an arm around a tourist’s shoulder and smile for a photo and then hold his hand out for money and then trail along beside you until you paid for his smile. I’ll hardly mention the stall after stall of cheap souvenirs where you have to barter for a bargain or the numerous horses and carriages and taxis and mopeds that whirl though the medina and create quite a scent. This is an old old city and much of it looks weary and aged and when you step aside for a donkey and its weathered wooded wagon, you wonder what century you’ve come across.
Nevertheless, thanks to a wonderful host, Helen and I did come across beauty in this legendary city. Our riad or guest house was exquisite. When we arrived at the door of the Riad Cherrata, I was worried. The street where its exterior door is situated is not pretty and I wondered what Helen had arranged for us. Stepping inside, I immediately relaxed. Valerie, the owner welcomed us, led us to soft chairs by a small pool (and while I’m not sure of its purpose, it was beautiful) and served us mint tea and pasteries. Fresh flowers were everywhere and as we sat and drank, our host explained to us, how to move around the city and be safe. If you are braver than I then this is the place to stay.
My second experience of beauty was the Majorelle Gardens, belonging to Yves Saint Laurent and his former partner, Pierre Bergé – though they were lovers at first, they split after a number of years. At Saint Laurent’s funeral, Bergé said “I remember your first collection under your name and the tears at the end. Then the years passed. Oh, how they passed quickly. The divorce was inevitable but the love never stopped.”
The third scene of beauty was the Saint Laurent art gallery amid his gardens which held his yearly “love” card to his friends. And the fourth beauty was the Berber museum on the site.
In retrospect, I’m happy I went but I was also happy to return home.
Posted February 8 2013.
The tagines in this restaurant were exquisite and wonder of wonders, we were also able to have a glass of decent Moroccan wine with our meal. Lonely Planet raved about this restaurant (though it was closed at the time of the review) and while looking for another, Helen noticed this one had reopened. Up the stairs, we went to a cosy, funky, two-roomed little restaurant with great food, great service, and great prices. We enjoyed our evening so much, we returned a second evening. The next day, we caught a bus to Marrakech.
Posted February 2 2013.
Posted February 1 2013.
When I am moving, traveling, working, I don’t write my blog and something is lost. Writing makes my life richer, more cohesive and calmer, still when I’m busy, I cannot make myself sit down and write anything.
On the 25th of January, I at least wrote in my journal.
“I appear to have the good fortune to travel to exotic places. Three days ago, I was in sophisticated Paris. Today I am in the small coastal town of Essaouira in Morocco which was once the port where black men were chained and carried across the ocean to become American slaves. Helen and I are staying in the medina, the ancient city centre, surrounded by tall stone walls. Unlike my French village, the streets are so narrow that cars cannot enter and men with carts (slightly larger than wheelbarrows) pull suitcases, food and dry goods from arched entrances onto the city streets. Except for the tourists, most women are covered from head to toe and fewer but still many men wear long robes with hoods.
There is little similarity to Paris except for the hoards of people on the streets. In both cities, our greatest pleasure has been eating.
I arrived in Paris on the 16th of January and met up with Helen at the airport. We caught a taxi to our apartment and later, caught another to my son’s apartment – much fancier than ours – where we celebrated with a glass or two of champagne. We then walked across a bridge over the Seine to L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon, rated as one of the best restaurants in the world. This is not my usual style. I love good food but cost has always been a consideration. Not this evening. The restaurant is not swanky or pretentious but has a casual elegance. Only forty people can dine at one time, and all sit in one of two rooms, each with a horseshoe-shaped bar. We perched on our stools and my son ordered champagne and appetizers. Every morsel brought a sigh of delight though except for the foie gras I had no idea what I was eating. My son and I ordered steaks and Helen a pasta with slivers of truffles on top. The sommelier poured us a goblet of fine Cahors wine. Across from us, Helen noticed Jean Reno though we were more consumed with the pleasure of eating than with the French movie star… still, his presence made me pause. I was out of my element and yet I did not feel overwhelmed. I simply enjoyed.
A month or two earlier, Rob had sent me a link to a column about fine dining and the gist of the article was that everyone should once or twice in their life, splurge, really splurge, and enjoy the finest food the world has to offer. The experience will create unforgetable memories. My friend Susan would agree. She says that the two best things in life are food and sex and people don’t talk about them enough or enjoy them enough.
I have no idea what our culinary experience cost as it was a gift from my son but someday I will take Rob there and ignore the prices on the menu and hand over my credit card without noting the total.
After dinner, we went by private car, to Harry’s Bar where Hemingway and Sartre used to hang out. This was an extravagant evening and one I’ll never forget. (I love having grown-up children.)
Several nights later, Helen and I caught the metro to meet up with her cousin and his wife. He (also a “foodie” like Helen) suggested the meeting place – Le Baratin – with an extrarordinary reputation. Apparently Pierre Hermé ‘visits this cheerful little bistro and wine bar at least every two weeks to fill up on Raquel Carena’s homely cooking with the occasional exotic twist. Typical of her style, which draws on her native Argentina, are tuna carpaccio with cherries, roast Basque lamb with new potatoes and spinach, and hazelnut pudding.’ I had the lamb. Superb. The organic wine was also wonderful.
After another amazing gourmet evening, Helen and I had a day at the sales and then went to work, eating helter skelter though we did find a rather extraordinary Italian restaurant while in the Marais. When I find the card, I’ll give them credit.
A week later, we were en route for Morocco.
(I will add to this later. We are back in Castelnau and Helen is preparing a Greek feast. I’d better set the table.)
Posted January 14 2013.
I read somewhere that organizing is liberating so I have tried to keep myself organized. When I wake, I read my emails and answer them if they only require a word or two, then I work on my novel – usually a couple of hours and I have to stop myself so I can move onto editing and formatting Gill’s travel book (we’re behind schedule), and then I take care of other business like overseeing the renovation of the rental house and searching for fixtures and furniture for it, making market appointments as I leave for Paris early Thursday morning for a Pret a Porter show, and finally tackling the mundane house chores like laundry and cleaning and washing floors. Sometimes I don’t get dressed until early afternoon as I don’t want to stop.
In the evening, after dinner, I usually do a bit more computer work and then read. The past few weeks I’ve read three of Frances Murray’s Kindle books as I love her writing and less important but notable, she lives in the village. She is one of the most extraordinary women that I have ever met. At 85, she accomplishes more in a day than I do in a week. (This is probably and hopefully a slight exaggeration but she cooks up feasts for a dozen people at a moment’s notice and still finds time to keep her house looking good, keeping herself well and fed, and rewriting old manuscripts and, with the help of her daughters, converting her polished words to Kindle format and publishing them.)
Her last three books are worth mentioning and I’ll try and provide links. I first read “Expectations”, a sequel to Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice”. I’m stealing the book description from Amazon: “This book is for those readers of Pride and Prejudice who might want to know what happened after the weddings of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet. In it they will again encounter Mr. Bennet and his heir, Mr. Collins, the formidable Lady Catherine de Burgh, and Mr. Collins’ wife, Charlotte. There will be glimpses of Lizzie and Jane, and their husbands as well as of Mary, Kitty and Lydia and the Gardiners. However the story must needs have a new heroine and concerns itself more with Phoebe, the daughter of Lady Catherine’s estranged niece and a naval officer. The author hopes that she has not taken too many liberties with Miss Austen’s characters and that the readers of this pastiche will enjoy it as much as she has enjoyed writing it.” (The price is $1.66.)
I next read Murray’s “The Coral Strand” which is “an historical novel, a story set in the mid-nineteenth century. The action moves from an English stately house near a growing Midlands industrial town, to India during the Mutiny (as it was then called). At the centre of the action are two ruthless murders which cause the hero of the story and his sister to be driven from their home. However, the story cannot be described as a murder mystery as there is never any doubt as to who committed the murders, only how he may be unmasked.”
I would call it a mystery novel (a genre I love) as one never knows what will happen next and sometimes the tension is so great that I think I can’t bear another page, and always – her timing is so good – the situation is resolved and I breathe easy until another frightening event occurs and the tension builds again. This novel, like all Murray’s novels, especially pleases me as a strong woman, a rebel of sorts, directs the action. ($1.66)
The third Murray I read is a continuation of Anthony Trollope’s ‘The Last Chronicle of Barset” and takes a minor character from the story and tells her story – “Whatever Happened to Mary Bold.” Although I am not familiar with Trollope’s book nor style, a friend (Susan) says that Murray has done an admirable job of imitating Trollope. Ignorant as I am, I still enjoyed the story and the many characters – often hilarious to the point of absurdity. ($1.65)
After Paris, I am disappearing for a week to some sunny little town south of Marrakech – a escape planned by my friend Helen. There I shall throw my organzing to the wind and simply relax (hopefully.)