I’m a simple soul. I prefer to have a positive spin for most things and I tend not to be deterred or detained by obstacles. There is generally a way over or round them and it just takes a little old-fashioned patience and a dollop of bluddy mindedness to get to the other side.
I married my beloved HB² not quite five years ago in our village in the Cantal and set about working towards the next phase of my life which was to be a life in Massachusetts because that is where he is based. Simple. Except that the process of getting Lawful Permanent Residency is not simple. And if you stick with me, you will learn that simple as I am, if there is a way to eek some drama and comedy out of a process or a situation, I am truly and simply your leading girl.
Whilst we waited, I settled in France. It was the sensible thing to do. We had bought a little house there (these days named, at least in my head, la Maison Catastrophe) and it made sense for me to give up my corporate London career with attendant regulated holidays and be in a place we love, and free to travel and be with His Brainship as frequently as possible. We waited and we waited and we waited. The process was as appealing as digging ones own eyeballs out with a spoon and as swift as paddling a canoe upstream with that same piece of cutlery. Such is life. Rules are rules and resisting them is both foolish and ultimately futile. We waited. We occasionally uncovered evidence that the great beast that is this bureaucratic process actually did have a pulse and it would lurch into life and ask a question or demand information before lapsing back into its apparently dorment state once more. And we did as we were asked and always with a smile and a twirl. And between smiles and twirls, we waited.
During this time, I nested and rooted and felt at home. In France. In 2016 the kindly beast allowed me a special visa so that I could spend the year in the USA but travel in and out freely. I had a lovely time and I felt quite homely . When I left in December I felt rather sad. Back in France I ingrained and entrenched some more and I began to assume that the permission to enter the United States and live there as a ‘Lawful Permanent Resident’ (Green Card holder as it is known in the vernacular) would never arrive. I qualified as an English Teacher. My French improved incrementally and raised itself far above it’s previous Spanish Cow default, for living in a city (Grenoble) rather than in the middle of truly no-whereland (Cantal) with far more opportunity to interact beyond the basics of shopping and passing the time of day with the Monsieur le Maire and the old lady opposite and I felt entirely and completely settled and content that I could count down the days to my husband’s retirement and that all shall be jolly and well in the meantime.
The phone call came at 3 a.m my time and a voice uttered ‘areyousittingdown’ to which I wittily, it must be said, responded that I was lying down since it was the middle of the night. If I had been sitting I would have fallen off my chair. As it was the bed was capacious enough to prevent me from rolling onto the floor. That pesky Juice Man had pressed the green light and all systems were go for the last lap to the finish line. That it was a lumpy bumpy descent I will write of another time but the fact is that I sat for days feeling bewildered. Of course I was thrilled that finally I would be able to live with my love and be what we intended when we married …. to.geth.er. But all of a sudden I was facing leaving France. And that, as one of the positive batalion of my friends named Philippe is sweetly fond of saying ‘Urt me in ze ‘eart’.
So for now I have left France. I will be devoting Friday to France from now on ‘FrenchFriday’ if you will and bringing you the stories that have remained untold from my tenure there.
And to kick off my other series, ‘Melting–PotMonday’ which will bring your stories from this side of the pond, The Bean will guest-write the first instalment. She has been quite disarmingly insistent that her version of events needs to be told and is highly excited at the opportunity to flex her pokey little paws on the keyboard.
To note is the fact that all the pictures in this post have featured before on my blog. I am currently away from base and it proved a step too taxing for the hotel internet to allow me to upload new pictures from my iPhotos library
PS: The title is from one of my favourite songs by one of my first and everlasting loves. Marianne in the context of this article is the National symbol of the French Republic portraying a Goddess of Liberty and representing that liberty and reason which in the end is really what we all should strive for, n’est-ce pas? So long Marianne, keep my place at the table, I’ll be back before too long.
And your bonus, with the added quite gaspingly delicious noisette that when I was at school, my enviably beautiful and absolutely aspirational classmate Sara Trill announced to those of us that affected intellectual by hanging out in the library that my father was the image of Mr Cohen himself – I took this as the highest praise by proxy (and let’s face facts, gauche girls like me had to grab the crumbs where they fell), and blushed decorously whilst purring internally for days. Months actually. Possibly my whole life through if I’m honest …..
And because this is a post about feeling forlorn about leaving a favourite, and because WordPress in their infinite wisdom have cancelled their weekly photo challenge making me and so many others a little wan and sad, and because their last challenge is ‘All-Time Favourites’ and I don’t have one, I will instead include this in the veritable feast of entries to be found here and bid one of the best things about WordPress adieu with a heavy heart.
At seventeen, in keeping I imagine, with most seventeens I could not wait to be eighteen and proclaim myself adult. Adult enough to do all the things thus far forbidden even if I was really too timid or scared or plain perplexed to really want to try them. Nothing would be out of my reach, I would emerge from ugly duck-dom as the rightful swan and I would, clearly discover all the things that the adults before me had failed to find. I would invent love and sex and I would invent drinking and I would travel to far flung exotic places and I would absorb by osmosis more wisdom than any adult before me – dullards all – could ever hope to. At seventeen.
At seventeen I bought a book which seemed to wink at me even though it’s cover was pummelled and punished, tired and tawdry in the second-hand shop I favoured in our local town. Favoured because I was not yet allowed to go out and make my fortune and my mark on the adult world and therefore I did not have a purse distended with high-value notes. Of course that was bound to change when this mythic majority was attained. At seventeen. The book was ‘The Little Prince’, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s charming, touching and poignant allegory of a small prince who leaves his own tiny planet and travels the universe, odyssey-style experiencing all the whims and foolhardiness of adult behaviour and eventually encounters the narrator who has crash-landed his plane in the desert and whose life will be forever altered by their sojourn together. I am sure that the fact that I read it first at seventeen cemented my love affair with this book all the more thoroughly.
These days I keep two copies at home, wherever my home at that moment is. One in English, the other in French. If you stay in my home wherever that home is at that moment, you will find a copy of the book by your bed (in the language I think you would prefer). There is no instruction nor implied obligation that you should read it and I expect, in reality, most of those staying in my home wherever that home is at that moment, tactfully leave it where it lies putting it, I hope affectionately, down to well-meant eccentricity.
These last few days I have found myself more wistful than usual and I simply couldn’t put my finger on why. Then yesterday my youngest daughter sent me a film clip of her birthday party. Surrounded by her closest friends she is opening their joint present to her. The delight, the laughter, the tears of piquant joy keenly tangible. I felt an aching sadness watching because I was not there. As neither should I have been. My daughter was born in 1995 which even for one as mathmatically disabled as I, means she was twenty two this birthday. She had previously reported to me that this implies that she has no choice but to be a genuine adult going forwards. She has run out of excuses. She is no longer eighteen nor twenty-one. And she is not seventeen. I realised watching this little video that my melancholy is born of something quite simple. Thirty years of being mummy to my child-children is now formally over. They have all crossed quietly over to that place I longed for at seventeen. And I shall mourn their passing softly whilst delighting in the young women they have become. The adults inventing love and sex and drinking and real wisdom that old dullards like me surely never knew.
But I hope they never lose the child that lurks inside them. The child I cared for and nurtured and protected. The child that believed in fairies at the bottom of the garden, the child that positively hurt with excitement on Christmas Eve, the child who saw things through naïve eyes that prompt the profoundest wisdom of their lives. The precious child within. The essence of our adult self, if only we remember to protect it with all our might and never let it go.
The photograph of The Old North Bridge in Concord MA was taken by my daughter when staying with us last summer. That she captured it and that it presents a perfectly reflecting image in tandem with the recent crossing of her own bridge to fully fledged adult, whatever that implies, made it, in my mind, rather appropriate.
PS: The title of this piece, is of course, a quote from the book. In context, it concerns the little boy trying to understand why, if thorns can’t protect a flower from a marauding sheep, why the rose would bother to grow them. The narrator, preoccupied with ‘matters of consquence’ fobs him off with the instant and unconsidered answer that flowers grow them out of spite. The tyrade this illicits from the far wiser mind of the child goes thus:
“I don’t believe you! Flowers are weak creatures. They are naïve. They reassure themselves as best they can. They believe that their thorns are terrible weapons . . .”
I did not answer. At that instant I was saying to myself: “If this bolt still won’t turn, I am going to knock it out with the hammer.” Again the little prince disturbed my thoughts:
“And you actually believe that the flowers–“
“Oh, no!” I cried. “No, no, no! I don’t believe anything. I answered you with the first thing that came into my head. Don’t you see–I am very busy with matters of consequence!”
He stared at me, thunderstruck.
“Matters of consequence!”
He looked at me there, with my hammer in my hand, my fingers black with engine-grease, bending down over an object which seemed to him extremely ugly . . .
“You talk just like the grown-ups!”
That made me a little ashamed. But he went on, relentlessly:
“You mix everything up together . . . You confuse everything . . .”
He was really very angry. He tossed his golden curls in the breeze.
“I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: ‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man–he is a mushroom!”
The little prince was now white with rage.
“The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have been eating them just the same. And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them? Is the warfare between the sheep and the flowers not important? Is this not of more consequence than a fat red-faced gentleman’s sums? And if I know–I, myself–one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing–Oh! You think that is not important!”
His face turned from white to red as he continued:
“If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, ‘Somewhere, my flower is there . . .’ But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened . . . And you think that is not important!”
He could not say anything more. His words were choked by sobbing.
The night had fallen. I had let my tools drop from my hands. Of what moment now was my hammer, my bolt, or thirst, or death? On one star, one planet, my planet, the Earth, there was a little prince to be comforted. I took him in my arms, and rocked him. I said to him:
“The flower that you love is not in danger. I will draw you a muzzle for your sheep. I will draw you a railing to put around your flower. I will–”
I did not know what to say to him. I felt awkward and blundering. I did not know how I could reach him, where I could overtake him and go on hand in hand with him once more.
It is such a secret place …. the land of tears
I always cry my own tears when I read that passage because it permeates to the heart of my own protected child-self nestling deep inside.
Your bonus because her wonderful song, which in truth, apart from her petite figure in contrast to my rather more gangly frame, WAS me at that precise age, has been shamelessly ransacked in the text of this piece, your bonus therefore is Janis Ian:
In the interests of keeping things lighthearted, particularly when the going has been a little less polished and serene than I might have liked, I have often wise-cracked that there has clearly been a dreadful mistake and that I am in fact supposed to be living a different life. Usually the whimsy life referred to contains a palatial home and whatever accoutrements the unfortunate recipient of my frolicking wit cares to embellish it with. In fact it is not at all uncommon for me to help myself to a counterfeit life just for the helluvit and to make fictional daydreaming sugar whatever the reality of the bitter medicinal pill of the moment is. It is fair to comment that in my own make-believe there is much detail in the sketch. Details like tall columns and ornate plaster-work and rooms big enough to dance in. It’s a trifling and inoffensive affectation. Harmless, I am. Occasionally deluded but entirely inoccuous.
Now imagine this, if you will. When I knew for certain sure that we would be spending the first six months of this year in Grenoble, a city we visit often and of which I am fond as one is fond of a rather nice passing acquaintance – that person who always seems so cordial and kind and whom you don’t really know at all but with whom you are certain you could be the bosomest of buddies given the chance. That was Grenoble for me …. a hint of something possible and tantalising. So once I knew we would be here, my reverie started in earnest.
The rapidly gilded fantasy had some concrete and real decisions attached. We wanted to live right in the middle of town to get under the skin of the city at it’s heart, not at it’s suburban fingertips and we wanted to live in an old building. Around this time, as my frenzy of searching for flats heltered and skeltered hither and thither bouncing round the internet like a manic squashball I came across a place which prompted me to forward the detail to the long-suffering Husband with Two Brains with the covering note ‘Please can we have this one? If you let us have this one I will live with no furniture and will exist on a diet of dust and air for the whole six months. I actually will. So please please please say we can’. The Brains responded with the email equivalent of a non-commital smile and nod.
When we arrived in Grenoble just before Christmas to arrange viewings through the Institute that HB2 is working with, The Director (a fellow I have always liked) made a cool and frankly rather too razor-sharp exit saying that renting places in Grenoble is like extracting well-rooted teeth with no anaesthetic and sweetly wishing us well as he fled for the hills. The unfortunate and delightfully stoic young assistant assigned to us, started to work through our list of properties. She arranged two viewings that afternoon and two the next morning The first place, the top floor of an historic monument facing l’ancien Palais du Parliament, was love at first sight, albeit unfinished. The second would certainly do with a lovely double aspect salon and excellent location. I should explain two things at this point. The first is that we are experienced at renting in France. Here, you will normally sign a lease for three years after which you can extend for a further three or six years. The rights remain with the tenant – the landlord can’t kick you out but you can terminate with notice at any time. That is hugely over-simplified but you get the gist. So apartment number two was shown to us by a young estate agent who seemed incapable of standing up straight but favoured leaning provocatively on any available solid object of sufficient height, facial expression impassively composed somewhere between nonchalant and fashionably bored. The deep inpenetrably dark eyes of this glacially chic individual flickered with contempt when we explained that we only wanted the place for six months (something that in the UK a landlord would be generally delighted to bite your hand off for, particularly when the agreement will be with an institute of standing in the city meaning no risk at all on the landlord) …. six months? No. That absolute, resolute ‘non’ beloved of the French when there is positively no wiggle room, no negotiation and it’s been a pleasure, bonne journée. Never mind. We still have number one and that was our favourite. Or do we? The assistant called the agent who escalated her to the manager and the manager called the landlord to confirm that it would be ready mid-January and with the lovely early Christmas present that they had secured good tenants through a venerable institute for six months thereby neatly bypassing the winter months when rentals are lean in the city and dropping them into prime renter-reaping territory in mid-summer. And there was that word again ‘non’ … not because they didn’t want us for 6 months but because they were unsure that they could get the tiny amount of work required to complete the flat done before …. March.
The following morning we had number three, a sprawling loft inhabited by a seemingly endless cascade of student girls and filled, predictably with all the necessary and un-necessary detritus of girlie-ness which took me ricocheting back to the years and seemingly endless years of four daughters and one bathroom and no-one ever in a matching pair of socks. I put my bravest mummy face on, Two Brains walked round with a visible and clearly disgusting smell under his fine Gaelic nose. I was stoically convinced that it could work, that once the girls had erradicated the landfill and revealed the space that I could get a certain urban edgy vibe going in this place and release my thinly veiled inner bohemian on the unsuspecting Grenoblois population. And I might have continued in this vein were it not for the casual statement by head girl that the broken door to the building had been like it for months but the landlord was tired of fixing it so he’d decided not to repair it ever again. Now don’t get me wrong, I can fantasise about a bit of gritty living, indeed I was at that very moment inventing a bit of latterday Beatnicking but the idea of absolutely random anyone being able to walk into the place uninvited at absolutely random any time was not appetising in the slightest. Really, not at all. Oddly enough. Number four was in a good location, a good building (Haussmannian) with high ceilings and lovely floors. But compact. Very very compact. Particularly the shower with resplendent puce toilet squished next to it – the colour enhancing the fact that it was clearly extremely uncomfortable with it’s situation. The cubicle was so small I am confident that I would have got wedged whilst washing and warbling and had to be prized out with grease-guns and crowbars by a team of jolly pompiers (firemen) thus making the wrong sort of headlines in le Dauphiné. Or worse, le Monde and picked up and flashed round the world by Reuters. I felt quite faint at this inevitable prospect and the place did not make the list. Which left us with precisely no list and no choice but to drive to England for Christmas knowing that instead of planning removals we would be living out of a suitcase in a hotel at the start of January.
And so it was that at the dawn of 2017 we arrived back in Grenoble filled with the resolution that New Year’s inevitably ingender and fixing our determined chins, set about finding our perfect nest. The valiant assistant made more phone calls working her way through the new list we had drawn up. She netted three visits from six possible roosts and off we set to visit the first one. I was filled with zealous hope for this one. In the Quartier des Antiquaires the dossier showed a beautifully presented place with high ceilings and lovely floors and oozing appeal and charm. We arrived on the nose of the appointed time and a waxy rather sallow skinned fellow opened the door. He reeked, positively seeped from his every pore, of smoke and clearly not just cigarette smoke. If you catch the fetid drift. I am fairly certain that he never ventures outside and if he does it is certainly not in daylight. His eyes were hollow and red rimmed and I am quietly confident that he had not seen this hour of the day in many a decade. This was not an advertisement for spritzy healthy living. The flat, as it turned out was quite hard to see being entirely rammed solid with his enormous volume of possessions. In fact the place had the air that if you moved too quickly and caused the tiniest zephyr it would simply burst. He told me happily that he and his wife were performance artists. I wondered idly if this place were actually a set for one of their plays because it was like wandering through a hellish series of tableaux – you know those performances in several parts where you walk from set to set and are treated to seemingly disconnected installments that somehow in the minds of the creator make sense. And you adopt that air of serene interest whilst all the while looking for an escape route. That. There are no doors you see, just a series of depositories for some of the most seriously cluttered clutter I have ever seen. None of which has ever been cleaned. I enquired politely if the kitchen furniture would be staying. Which it wouldn’t. This (and it is not at all uncommon in France) meant that the kitchen would consist of a space with a tap in it. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or dismayed as my addled mind tried to find a way of making this Danté-on-dope-interior work for us. I failed. Had I succeeded and decided this was the one, I would now be going through the rigours of divorce – HB2’s expression was granite-set and distinctly unpretty. As we left, the fellow invited us to his wife’s next performance. I smiled and nodded and remembered that I have not the teensiest smidge of space in my schedule for the next many aeons.
Which left us with two places to visit. One of my favourite parts of Grenoble are les quais and the second place was on Quai de France which is historic and convenient albeit the other side of the river. The call of water, a view of water has me every time so my hope-ometer was registering off the scale for this baby when we arrived early the following morning. Do you see a pattern forming? You are correct. The pictures of this apartment must have been at least a decade old when, un-lived in, the owner had restored it and dressed it for the Estate Agents to lure people like us in. Or not people like us actually …. this had been a co-location (flatshare) for years. The young people were delightful but let’s be brutally frank with self …. I have children who are older than these bambini. I am no longer content with student digs in fact I might venture that at my lofty age it could be construed as a teeny bit infra-dig. That and the off-hand remark by the young man showing us around that despite having two bathrooms they only ever use one because the other one is dangerous. The pompiers flashed through my mind again. Will I ever find a place where I can make my ablutions without fear of torrid headlines or death or both in this city?
The final place on Cours Jean Jaurès which is the main artery of Grenoble was lovely. Honestly. No catch. It was delightful. Good Belle-Epoque building (not Haussmannian but with views over those that make up the bold and bustling corners of the streets facing the river); high ceilings; shower that would not risk entombment every time I entered it, nor, the slightly bewildered agent assured me in that ‘humour her, she can’t help it, she’s foreign’ way when asked, any other lurking dangers in the bathroom; fitted kitchen to include white goods (we have them but preferred not to have to move them if possible) and all in all a jolly good fit. But of course we still had to traverse the, apparantly insurmountable, six months issue so we wanted another as back-up.
Except there were no more choices. Don’t get me wrong, the little hotel-appart was very comfortable but living in a space where swinging a cat even if we had one and thought that was the reasonable pastime of a sane person, was not in the plan for six months. What to do? The poor assistant was developing an unbecoming facial tic and I really didn’t want the guilt associated with this developing further into a full-blown twitch. At this point, I suggested in the faintest of whispers that I actually knew that the place I had suggested we live in with no food nor furniture for six months was still available. I let my sentence trail ephemerally into sweet silence and waited for the inevitable pounce of desperation. One. Two. Three … Two Brains and The Assistant politely, and to my possible shame, predictably, obliged and later that afternoon, I walked through vast coaching doors into my own dream. The ceilings are at least 13′ high with panelling and moulding and ceiling roses that would grace any fine born abode, pillars and a 65 foot hallway with lovely tiling, parquet floors and a kitchen sporting a piano. No honestly a piano. Un piano de cuisine is a range cooker. This one is vintage if you take vintage to include sometime in, at a guess the early seventies. I’m a sucker for a good cooker and this one has me smitten. You can opt to take the gorgeous old elevator complete with pull-down highly polished wood seat on brass fittings, or glide up the lovely gently winding stone staircase. The double front doors to the apartment are high, heavy, adorned with beautiful brasswork and so finely balanced that they seemingly float open and shut with the merest whisper of pressure. The windows are floor to ceiling and open onto plant balconies, the internal doors mostly double have glazed panels to let the light flood the place. But did I mention pillars? Pillars! It has beauteous ornate columns supporting it’s dizzingly high ceilings. The views from the front are of la Banque de France, itself a gorgeous, unmistakeably French, almost Chateauesque building. The ground floor of the building also houses a bank so if I get bored with living my go-to daydream I can press reset and imagine myself Bonnie plotting with Clyde to pull off the heist of the century. I could happily sport that beret ….
I wafted around the place with a look of the contented Tigger when he had tried the haycorns and the thistles and the hunny and discovered that Roo’s strengthening medicine was actually what Tiggers are meant to eat. In the same vein, Osyths are meant to live in this place for this six months. Of this I am thoroughly certain. In fact, I may chain myself to the fine vintage radiators on move-out day and go on hunger strike. It is love. In 1822 Stendhal noted in ‘On Love’ that ‘there are as many styles of beauty as there are visions of happiness.’ Welcome to my vision of happiness ….
PS: There is learning in most everything if one is open to learning. Some years ago and not of choice I lost most of what I owned. All the things that I had moved and moved and moved with and which had enabled me to make each place that my daughters and I arrived in, a home in a jiffy. What I now have is very little. And it is not of any significant value. Were it to be auctioned I imagine it might buy a bag of soggy chips but that is the sum of it. There are some pretty things, there are my father’s plants, and of course there are books but what were always referred to as our ‘things’ are gone. Most of what I have is second hand Ikea. And here is the lesson. I worried and worried that my skimpy collection would be ridiculous in this space. I had japed about living with no furniture but I had serious misgivings that we would simply look ludicrous. As it transpires, when you have bones as beautiful as this place has you can artfully arrange a very few things (and I speak as a magpie who may finally be embracing her suffocated inner minimalist going forward) and hey presto bongo … house beautiful. Rather like the notion that Audrey Hepburn or Sophia Loren could wear a bin-bag and be elegantly alluring. It turns out that it’s not a notion at all but rather it is a solid, unassailable truth.
And if you are wondering … the place that stole our hearts at the very start? Is still under construction. And the place that wouldn’t have us for six months? Still to let.
My home is in France. I will reside in the USA until mid-October. My heart breaks for this place. Of course my heart breaks for France. It’s my status quo. That my heart is breaking is hardly surprising. Here, numerous lives wasted by guns. In France, just about to lift it’s highest possible security alert after the abominable attacks last year, 84 literally mown down and numerous others injured many left in a life-threatening condition which you can seamlessly translate to ‘if they live they will have a steep slope to climb if they are ever to live a full life again’ in Nice on 14 July. A bloodbath on 14 July in France, by the way, is akin to a massacre on 4 July in the USA..
And then there are those others. The copious blood spilled in numerous locations which cannot have escaped your attention, lives exterminated, bagsfull maimed in other places. None of it is justifiable to a reasonable person let alone a pacifist. None of it is right to a rationalist let alone an idealist. All of it bids to erode my inate and possibly foolish optimism. But I will not let awful un-lawful acts rule my life. I will strive to find a way through.
How so? How on earth? First I must comment that what happened in Nice is in all likelihood not a terrorist attack. You can play with the semantics, of course and you can tell me that most nutters root back to religion, politics or any combination therein that feeds their sick souls but I don’t count that. An organisation has taken the most half-hearted responsibility for the 19-tonne truck deliberately barrelling down le Promenade des Anglais just when it was bound to be full of revellers gathered for le Fête Nationale. They were clearly going to. Fear bolsters up their macho resolve, so to claim responsibility is almost inevitable. Some sort of tenous connection makes us all feel even more scared. When I was growing up in England it was the IRA – any mention had us quivering in our boots, soiling our knickers and feeling very very insecure. The world moves on. Though I must say that I fear that the IRA never really went away. And the recent British Brexit vote that narrowly resolved to leave the EU (or UE if you are French) will add fuel to that nicely weakening fire. So claims are made and responsibility often falsely attributed and we all quake and shake and wonder if we can really really go out of our front door safely and if our babies and their babies and their babies not even thought of are ever EVER going to be safe.
I put two notions to you.
The first is this. We have become an increasingly tiny planet. By this I do not mean that the world has physically shrunk from a big fat fully inflated and energetic basketball to a teeny weeny, possibly depressed ping-pong ball but rather that we know what goes on in every crevice and we feel a part of it where once we did not. Media and especially social media shout and scream at us even when we sleep – buzzing and bleeping and flashing that something is happening. I remember Gerry Anderson’s ‘Thunderbirds’ – I remember those puppets being woken by the bleep-bleep of a catastrophe. And they went out and resolved it. Solved it. Made it all right again. Kept us safe. Now we all bleep and buzz and ring and weep. It is not healthy. We cannot absorb it all. Leeloo in the 1990s sci-fi film, ‘The Fifth Element’ starring Bruce Willis, of all people, could not absorb it without breaking down with the sheer emotion of it, and she was manufactured to be the savior of humankind – it’s too bluddy much for one person, one creation, to take in:
The second notion is born of my idealistic nature. I think that if we can, and do spread love and decency and kindness and tolerance eventually (not in my short life-time), eventually the world will see sense. I will leave the notion of spilling blood to others. But I will give you this thought. This weekend I had a situation that should have ruined my relationship with my husband. This weekend I was told I was hated by his son, by one of his son’s closest friends. This weekend I could easily have told my husband I wanted to terminate our relationship because of his closest kin, his spawn. But I didn’t. I squawked and I cried and I shouted and I threatened but I stayed. Out of love, I stayed. I am imperfect. If I can reach into my vat of love, we all can. I say this because I am absolutely unperfect. Blemished and scarred and not at all pure. So it stands to reason in this tiny brain of mine that we CAN all tolerate if we firstly want to and secondly put a little thought into the process. Here’s the thing, we can all be decent just because we want to be decent. It is absolutely in all our hands and minds and hearts to want to change and to stop being selfishly driven by our own needs and to accept that we are all particular and that none of us is a better particular, a more worthy particular than any other.
The picture is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge ‘Detail’ – my title is a bastardisation of the known (‘The devil is in the detail’) and the less known but proper (‘le bon dieu est dans le détails – ‘The Good of God is in the details‘). With my mish-mush belief system I can take from both and manipulate you as all good terrorists do. What I will bring to you is the detail of harmony, peace and tolerance – not things that just magically happen but things that require work. My picture illustrates this through the idea of a diversity of lichens co-existing on a rock.
If this is my rock then let it be known that every religion,whatever colour, LGBT, men, women, straight and yet to be determined, able bodied, disabled, are welcome, Don’t rock me and I won’t rock you. Fact.
PS: I find it interesting that ‘The Devil is in the detail’, most notably attributed to 20th Century German Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is the accepted venacular over the original le bon dieu est dans les détails which is attributed to Gustav Flaubert (author of my beloved Madame Bovary) who died twenty years before the turn of that century. God-Devil. Good-Bad … personally I think we are better placed attempting to be good ourselves rather than bathing in books and falling back on them when their language will surely fail us so long after they were supposedly penned.
It’s a new dawn! it’s a new day! it’s a new blog! … well not entirely, Michael Bublé, but I AM feeling fine and the style it is a-changing. And you might notice a new title in the next few days. It is time. I have published my first book, Russians Love Their Children Too in France and am now well entrenched in the second which needs some of my stories to feed it and so the blog needs a different emphasis. Et voila! it will be a little more life-stylee … Eat Pray Love meets Gertude Stein on the set of ‘Allo ‘Allo if you will. There will be food to share, some house renovating (our little project in the South) and much house searching for that elusive maison principale, crucial questions like ‘what should I wear to le marché on Thursday’ and ‘what do I do when cornered by the local buveur (boozer) on Sunday morning whilst taking coffee, tout seul‘ will be asked and possibly answered, all against a backdrop of an English siren dropped into a sparcely populated area of a foreign land whilst her love labours for a deaf super-power. And of course photos with lyrical or poetic associations – and stories too … old habits die hard – now there’s a thought … Maria von Trapp meets Bruce Willis – by George, I think she’s got it!
PS: The quote, appropriately, is Pablo Neruda, ‘Sometimes I get up at dawn and even my soul is wet’ in ‘Here I Love You’ which forms part of his exquisite first collection Twenty Love Songs and a Song of Despair
Sometimes, not often, I grant you but occasionally, I AM lost for words. To find that the lovely and gifted Melanie had dedicated this post to me left me dumb. It is a beautiful piece, written as she ever does, straight from the heart. What prompted her was knowing a little of my story. The story of Two Brains and I. Separated by 4,000 miles and with the clock ever ticking, we both thank Melanie for thinking of us and for giving us the most precious and ever-lasting gift of words and pictures.
PS: I’ve just thought … since I am struck dumb, this can be my Wordless Wednesday contribution, it being Wednesday as I write!