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Posts from the ‘Paris’ Category

The soft look your eyes once had

I was fortunate to have two Grannies when I was small.  In fact I had two until I was nearly 16 but unhappily one succumbed to dementia and was in a nursing home for nearly 8 years before her life extinguished.  So, at the time, half of mine was spent with her vibrant, outspoken and faintly outrageous personality, full of bell-like tinkling laughter chiming through her house replete  with rather exotic and eminently touchable artifacts and half with a shrinking, fading somewhat pathetic reminder of whom she had been.  I remember being vaguely scared of her when we went to visit as she evaporated slowly away.  She was withered and bent and painfully thin with skin parched and almost transparent through which the vessels carrying her aged blood were defiantly visible.  Dessiccating.  She had the faint odour of care home and often didn’t utter a sound except the thinnest of hints of breath in and out.  When she did speak she had a habit of rambling in guttural spitty Arabic having lived in Egypt in the 1920s and 30s during the up-market tourist boom of that era when my grandpapa was chief accountant for Thomas Cook.  Sadly it was a relief to be sent outside to play with the nursing home dog – an unfeasibly large pyreneen mountain dog called Uggles who resembled Nana in Peter Pan and was similarly hard-wired to nurse-maiding children.  When she died at the age of almost 92 there were few left to mourn her so her funeral was tiny – eight of us including my cousins, my elder brother and I.  So feeble were our collective voices that the crematorium put a cassette tape of the Kings College Choir singing our chosen hymns to bolster us up.  Outside it was cold and damp and I realised my father was crying.  I realised my father was a son.  I realised my father was a feeling, emotional creature just like me.  It was a seminal moment.

As I’ve grown older I miss her even though I barely had opportunity to acquaint with her and I wish I’d had the moment to know her better.  I’m told I’m like her.  I take it as the greatest  compliment – she lost an arm in the First World War when nursing in France.  Gangrene.  Not carelessness, just caring for others in greater need.  When we were small children she used to swing one armed into a string hammock and then pull us all in with her, one at a time and read us stories under the lilac trees.  She also had a wonderful and positively enormous cat called Kim who resembled an overstuffed fur cushion.  She was, therefore Granny Kim.

This lady sitting in les Jardins de Luxembourg hijacks me, reverses time and  delivers me to a presentday now past and long forgotten yet seamlessly evoked.  A time I wish I had noticed when the then was now.  She knows nothing of her curious power of course as she casually soaks in the sunshine.  Behind her the children play, the lovers drift hand in hand, friends gossip on benches.  Every one of us growing older as time relentlessly moves us forward.  Carpe diem.

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I post the picture in response to The Daily Press Weekly Photo Challenge entitled ‘Time’ – you can see all the other, far worthier interpretations here

PS:  The title is from one of  the most touching and bittersweet poems I know ….

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

WB Yeats

Joie de vivre

Here is The Bean in a bag.  A Bean bag if you will.  She looks so full of life, so vibrant.  Which she is.  A positive ball of energy madly running around nose to the ground sucking up whatever scents are assaulting her snout with a joie de vivre that leaves us breathless much of the time.  This particular day was excessively hot so we popped her in a handbag to save her overheated, fatigued legs.  We are careful of this Bean.

Last September we made the trip from home in the Cantal to Paris (about five and a half hours by car).  I had an appointment with the US Embassy and in deference to my tense disposition at the thought of the impending Green Card interview, my husband booked us into our favourite Hotel des Dames du Pantheon.  We have stayed before and The Bean is treated like royalty and always referred to by name by the excellent and delightful fully multi-lingual staff.  As ever we were given a room with a ‘vue impenetrable’ of the Pantheon in all it’s beauteous glory.  I had an appointment with an Embassy endorsed physician (there are two of them in Paris) for my medical.  I was nervous.  I’m not very good at medical for me.  During my morning away being examined by this charming Irishman, having chest X-rays and blood tests and vaccinations for things I have never heard of and am sure I certainly don’t want to be acquainted with, The Bean reclined regally in our room.  She had taken the air of the Cinquieme Arrondissement before breakfast, enjoyed a little smackerel of brekkie stashed in a napkin and smuggled back to the room for her delectation and was entirely happy to be fully relaxed and generally recumbant.  In the afternoon we walked.  She doesn’t get to run much off the lead in Paris but people are largely very dog-friendly and she is always happy to take a petit café an apero or better still, a meal with us because folk have a habit of slipping her a pat and a morcel of something nice.

The following day we made our way by car (which had hitherto been parked in the underground carpark nearest the hotel) to the Place de la Concorde.  We were a little late out of the starting gate and had to be at the Embassy promptly at One to get through security.  These were our emphatic and clear instructions and we did not want to put a foot wrong.  We had about 49 minutes to park the car,sneak a quick lunch, return to the car to deposit dog and get in line for the main event.  Lunch would need to be somewhere around Fauberg St Honoré which runs along the back of the Embassy and about 5 minutes walk from the car.  We hot-footed it, taking lengthy and rapid strides towards our goal of a likely lunchery.  The street is fairly narrow and we were stuck behind a posse of rather bulky people walking excessively slowly.  So I put my  foot on the imaginary throttle and powered past, The Bean (the Athletic Bean as she perceives herself) gambolled along behind me.  It must be noted that I was at this point in my life uptight to boil-over point.  We had been waiting for two years for this moment, jumping through a seemingly endless series of hoops and I had absolutely no idea what questions I was going to be asked.  It is rather akin to being asked to interview for a job but with no job description to guide the prep.  As I passed the entourage a woman’s voice rang and twang in my ears ‘oh that poor little thing being dragged and choked near to death’.  I snapped.  The world slowed down as I span round like Wonderwoman and eyes flashing squared up to the offender.  ‘She is neither dragged nor choked so I suggest you SHUT UP!’ I spat – my clipped, polished and perfectly enunciated English worthy of Maggie Smith at her most pithy.   The woman was clearly appalled at this deranged firebrand addressing her.  I imagine she had assumed I was French.  Assume as my youngest daughter reminds us makes an ASS out of U and Me.  For my own part I have only just recovered my equilibrium, so livid was I at the unjustness of the flung accusation.  It was only as I glided on my way, sure in the knowledge that I had put that wench squarely in her place, that it occurred to me. She being American and in the street that runs down one side of the Embassy building that she might, might easily be the same person who would interview me for the fabled Green Card that very afternoon …. mercifully this was not to be an occasion to add to my overstuffed portfolio of ‘oh bugger’ moments.  If she is on the Embassy staff she at least wasn’t confronted by me twice that day.  But not for the first time, I wished I was that person who has the ability to just waft by situations.  Lunch did not slip down easily as the lump in my throat expanded.  The Bean, yet again was the winner …. she rather likes saumon fumé au fromage frais de chêvre though I believe she was less than enamoured of the salade.

Bean Bag!

Bean Bag!

PS:  I post this in response to the Daily Press Weekly Photo Challenge entitled Vibrant.  For me vibrancy is about a state of being not simply about vivid colour (though that is a reasonable interpretation of the word and many have quite brilliantly here) and The Cruelly Treated Bean is vibrancy incarnate.

When you don’t have the strength

I selected this image last night – I had just the story to go with it.  But what a difference a  moment makes.  I wandered past my drawing room where my TV was still on, left talking to itself when my youngest daughter rang for a chat some 2 hours earlier.  But here was no frou-frou Friday entertainment, here was our Giant Panda lookalike of a President looking shaken and grave.  Paris riven assunder AGAIN by terrorists.  Reports of death and maiming and pointless, unspeakable, unthinkable violence.  Our borders closed, we are on lock-down and in a state of emergency for the first time since 2005.  This morning, the community I live in is numb, shocked, shattered by proxy to the core.  We have shaken hands and dolled out les bises with tears in our eyes and rolling down our cheeks.  The last post I made on here was about bells.  Our bells have tolled their mournful E flat for a full ten minutes every hour this morning.  Peeling for the dead.  Peeling for the bereaved.  Peeling for the battered, mutlilated injured.  Respect.  Respect.

So I give you this image of Napoléon on his Marengo – a strange fabricated effergy that I photographed in Paris in September.  Just off Rue Saint Honoré close to the Place de la Concorde I have no idea what he is doing up there waving his banners like that.  But somehow I feel that he IS appropriate today.  When the very fabric of the country is waivering, reeling, tested to it’s extreme.  Maybe a molded dictator riding bare-back and tied down by guy-ropes is an accessible image of victory we can embrace.  Victory not of one party over another, nor one country over it’s adversery.  But the victory I dream of that love will prevail.  Because I do believe that in the end love is all we need.  And we must not let the bile of retribution get in it’s way.DSCF3479PS:  I was posting this in response to the Daily Press Weekly Photo Challenge entitled Victory – the other more remarkable entries can be found here.

PPS:  The actual Napoléon is responsible for my title – my favourite of his attributed quotes ‘Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength’.  Today of all days, those words resonate.

#jesuischarlie #jesuisparis #parisattacks #prayersforparis #jesuishumanité