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Posts from the ‘The Man with Two Brains’ Category

The minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight

As previously noted I am fresh and frisky from celebrating my first Thanksgiving.  To mark this momentous, and possibly newsworthy occasion I set about making a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner.  I like the idea of Thanksgiving and would be very happy if more nations adopted the notion.  Pondering, however fleetingly to reflect on what one has to be thankful for can never be a bad thing, surely?   After one of the most epic Googlings of all time I concluded that this year I would be cooking two turkeys in the space of a month and a day because it is unforgiveable to not serve turkey for Thanksgiving and equally de trop to forsake the fowl for Christmas in  England where we will be celebrating this year.  Having settled on what I thought would be a good enough array of trimmings to sink a dry-docked battleship and simultaneously feed the navy on the leftovers I set about the bird.  The fact is that I have never ever been knowingly under-catered and being in this land of the copious plateful  it surely would be hugely rude to break my habit.

Turkey then.  The first challenge was to find one small enough for HB2 and I to eat on our own and not have the poor fellow (and The Bean who is NOT poor) gobbling nothing BUT Gobbler for the rest of November, the entire month of December and ad nauseum (potentially literally) beyond.  But find one I did and once I had apologised to it profusely and several times that it had not been pardoned by The President and instead had found itself in my poshed up paws, I brined it and roasted it exactly as I always do at Christmas. We don’t possess a roasting pan so we bought two disposable ones and cleverly fastened them together to form a sort of dutch oven with the aid of bulldog clips pinched from top secret paperwork Two Brains is working on.   The turkey was duly ready on time, The Bean had welded herself to the the oven door by the snout, intoxicated with the heady cooking aromas of a bird that weighed 1.5 times a Bean.  We lifted it onto its plate and one leg fell off. Fortunately my deft husband managed to snatch it in mid-air before it reached the shark-like jaws of the waiting Bean.  We managed to wedge the leg vaguely in it’s original position and if you didn’t look too closely it looked only slightly inebriated and wholly enticing.  I should own up that our own impending inebria helped this vision enormously.

Some while later and utterly turkey-comatose  we drowsily talked of Christmas.  For what sort of a Christmas would it be without a fine turkey bird bronzed and gleaming like a drumsticked Olympian God?  Well actually last year we were only three for the feast so we had guinea fowl and two years prior to that, our first married Christmas, and alone together in France, we  had a collective rush of blood to the head and opted for a fish.  A turbot in fact which we bore enthusiastically from the fish store on Christmas Eve, like Samuel Whiskers and Anna Maria preparing to set about the unfortunate Tom Kitten with suet and string. On Christmas Day  it occurred to us that we had not asked the chirpy girl on the fish counter to faire vider le poisson (to wit, gut the beauty) which would not be a problem for either of us except neither had the teeniest clue where a flat fish stashes it’s innards.  Hallelujah and pass the tambourine for Google …. a swift search revealed that they are, indeed not remotely where one would expect them to be.   Standing majestic and mighty  over the fish like Christopher Lee in role as a High Priest preparing to slaughter a virgin Two Brains plunged our sharpest knife from on high with lethal accuracy and our sharpest knife rebounded like a comedy rubber blade off it’s innocuous lily white skin as though it were a trampolene.  After a short pause I rather tentatively suggested scissors.  I’m not too humble to share that this was, frankly, a moment of genius.  The fish didn’t stand a chance against my snippers and I rather smugly and, may I say, with positively surgical dexterity, cut it open and  emptied it’s vital workings.  That complete, we stuffed the neat little cavity with herbs and citrus and stood reverently surveying it’s  buttered and lemoned and parsleyed allure … it had the air of a slightly macabre still-life …. strangely attractive (something I was once called by a drunk in  a friend’s living room and which I embraced as a compliment – one must cherish such delights from wherever they stem, I have always felt).  So there’s one personal myth burst … I have merrily told everyone over the years that Christmas isn’t Christmas without a turkey bird but clearly my tongue is forked …the truth is that two out of three of our most recent Christmas meals have been devoid of the indispensible gigantic fowl.

You might ask what has prompted this little sojourn into my various kitchens and indeed what value you have gained (except to know who to call if you ever need to gut a turbot or stick a stray leg back on a turkey) …. the answer lies in this week’s weekly photo challenge titled ‘It’s Not This Time of Year Without ….’ of which a cornucopia of sparkling entries here.

What can I not do without as I join the merry carnage that constitutes the season of goodwill and until this year was all about Christmas but now includes Thanksgiving too in my half-baked paradise?

Snow.  I absolutely must have snow.  Or at least I must hope it will snow.  And that is really what it is all about for me.  The notion and hope of decency and delight.  The idea that people can be kind to one another.  The concept that sharing is the right thing to do.  I have always included waifs and strays at my table.  And I always will.  Maybe in the run up to Christmas I will include a few of their stories.  Not because I have a trumpet to toot but because humble stories can speak to good hearts.  And because a humble story is where it all started ….

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PS:  The essential PS.  The title is from ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ by the masterly Dr Seuss.  My third daughter can still recite it word perfectly having done it as her School Christmas Play at the age of 9 and her younger sister can recite it word perfectly because she sat in on all the rehearsals waiting for this inevitably late mummy to pant up the school drive to pick them both up.  The very end goes like this:

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
And what happened then? Well...in Whoville they say,
That the Grinch's small heart Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light,
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he, HE HIMSELF! The Grinch carved the roast beast!

This perfectly Christmassy image of snow covered holly was taken in Cantal.  In February.  Holly is called ‘houx’ in French (pronounced oo) which I always take every opportunity to say because it amuses me.


							

A beautiful and terrible thing

You may recall in a post from a couple of months ago entitled Two Lymes and a Lemon I told our collective tale of woe.  To recap The Brains and The Bean were both being treated for Lyme disease and I had taken a fall on little more than a gentle stroll up Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh.  The Lymes are doing well, though those familiar with the disease will know that it is the hidden damage that is hard to quantify … there may be none, there may be much but life, in our collective opinion (Two Brains and I have pulled rank on The Bean and made the decision for her) life is too short to worry about mightbees.

But.  Big but. It seems little old attention seeking me has been less fortunate.  My leg continued to give me grief and it became apparent that I have something called Foot Drop (which sounds like the Dropsy so loved of Shakespeare but is in fact a condition that means I can’t lift my foot.  So my left side wafts with my usual elegance and grace (no, really) and my right side has a high step and flop-foot  like a bizarre half human-half duck creature).  Eventually, having travelled to France for a couple of weeks and back to Britain for a couple more weeks with the Agèd P and returned to Massachusetts, I was able to present myself back with the Doctor who was clearly concerned that I was still having problems and indeed those problems had increased.  So I had an MRI.  Actually I had two, because I’m greedy …. one for the ankle and one for the calf.  That thing when your Doctor rings and opens the conversation with ‘you sure did a number on that leg’, that thing is the unwanted herald that you know  the news isn’t going to be an invitation to pop the cork on a good bubbly.  And it wasn’t – a fractured tibia at the ankle, a severe tear to a tendon and muscle down thereabouts and a fully snapped ligament. And moving up to the calf a further fracture to the fibular and somewhere in the whole mess a squished perineal nerve which is the thing that sends the messages to your foot to move up and down.  Hence the one-sided duck-walk.  I’d prefer a cake-walk.  For now I have to settle for a comedy walk since it appears the ligament (its the one that joins the tibia to the fibular) may be responsible for the fact that my foot is increasingly insistent that it needs to, really and honestly needs to, veer outwards giving me a gate that amusingly resembles the waddle of a penguin.  An odd bird indeed, that 6′ penguin-duck-bird.  One specialist has given me a prognosis of running again next summer, tomorrow I see a second.  What will be will be but the whole damn sorry scene does bring to mind Dumbledore in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone ‘The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing and should therefore be treated with great caution’.  I really, really wanted the truth but it turns out not THIS actual truth.  Heyho.  So many worse off.  Too many.  Far too many.  And I dedicate this piece to all of you.  You know who you are Terry and Clare and Kerry and AJ and Kat and I’m sorry I can’t do links because my Mac has decided I’m moaning too much and has malfunctioned to take the attention away from my whingeathon.  Next stop Apple Hospital.

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I picked this image for no particular reason except that the tree that has fallen into the water is absolutely perfect and it’s reflection entirely unblemished, the water itself seemingly unpeturbed.   Which is probably how I appear.  Deceptive these appearances can be, don’t you find?

PS:  Since the author of Harry Potter (J K Rowling like you didn’t know) is a resident of Edinburgh and the taxi driver who took me to the A&E there sang her praises loudly as the most remarkable woman who gives so much quietly, it felt appropriate to use a quote from one of her characters in my title.

Mirror was the Weekly Photo Challenge a couple of weeks ago …. this is my belated entry

Truly ‘t is a rare bird in the land

Those of you familiar with my nonsense will know that I refer to my spouse as The Husband with Two Brains or HB². But he has another moniker, one that arose when he wasn’t even in the same country as the protagonist, let alone the same room.

Some while ago, probably 6 months after I moved to France, I was taking coffee with Raymond (adopt French accent, for he is indeed a proud Frenchman). Raymond came into world of HB² quite by chance some 20 years ago. A knock on his office door, a frantic colleague needing help with someone he suspected to be a Frenchman who had appeared uninvited in the lab. Under gentle interrogation it transpired that Raymond had spent all his savings on a single air fare to New York in pursuit of an Astronomy Professor that he particularly admired. He being, at the time, a student and general helper at the Astronomy faculty in Nice. Picked up by the Police wandering aimlessly, he somehow persuaded them to put him on the Amtrak to Boston from where he found his way to Harvard and there the story brought him into my husband’s orbit. Struck by his tenacity, his extraordinary affinity with the night-sky, which is akin to the ancient astronomers who first mapped and tried to understand the world beyond our globe, and touched by his desire to learn, my husband took him in and found him work in his lab. Eighteen months later he returned to France to complete a degree having finally accepted that to be taken seriously in the world of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Cosmology and all the attendent highbrow orbits he fancied dabbling in, he must have a degree. Since that time, Raymond remains devoted to Two Brains and I would suggest with some reason.

Back to the café where I had enjoyed a coffee and a chat with the same Raymond and asked his advice. I was concerned about my husband at the time for reasons I now fail to remember – living lives separated by 3,000 miles nurtures anxiety, or at least that has been my experience. As we stood to say our au revoirs, Raymond clasped me by the shoulders and, as he faire les emphatic bises (the air-kiss-kiss we do in France but with supplementary vigour to impart fortitude), declared that my husband is really un cochon rouge – a red pig. I queried this with a smile intended to make me the fool and a gentle ‘quoi?’ and he repeated ‘il est un petit cochon rouge’ – so in fact not just any red pig , but a small red pig. My husband stands almost 6′ and though of light and lean frame is not one to ever be described as little, particularly in France where most men are of, let’s say more concise hauteur. Including Raymond. To be doubly belt and braces sure that I understood him Raymond then announced in English ‘he is a red pig, a small red pig’.

Later that evening on the phone to The Brains I asked him, having Googled colloquial, slang and vernacular French all afternoon in vain. I enquired in a roundabout Winnie the Pooh sort of casual way what calling someone un cochon rouge or indeed un petit cochon rouge might mean. The answer came back ‘red pig or little red pig’. So not helpful at all. Accordingly spurred by what had now become an obsessive need to understand, I made a full confession, including sharing my troubled mind over he who owns both brains and was subjected to a stunned and complete silence. The identical stunned silence it turned out that Raymond employed a few weeks later when asked what he had meant by calling The Brains a red pig. He claimed he had said ‘un petit cochon rose’ and meant that my husband is more sensitive than he lets on. Less macho, less girder-built. I can firmly report that he did NOT. No sir. Not. At. All. I heard him entirely distinctly and he called my husband a little RED pig. Of course it has stuck. It begged to and would have been dreadfully rude to ignore it.

Therefore, when staying in Boothbay Harbor, Maine as recommended by my blogging friend ‘The Weird Guy with a Dog’ whom I wholeheartedly urge you to check out, and confronted with this wingèd porcine outside a pretty store selling eccentric ironwork, I was minded to abduct it but made do with a photograph for now. I perfectly intend to own it when we have a house to put it on – after all who can resist such a wondrous hog, seemingly dancing in the air, gleeful cheeks a-puffing, perky ears a-flapping and that tail uplifted with such blithe abandon. Nothing at all like my husband but portraying perfectly the joie de vivre I suspect we all aspire to and with the added advantage of telling you which way the wind blows. It is a rapturous porker, a piggy I will dream of until I return to make it my very own. I was inclined to share this story by the Weekly Photo Challenge prompt this week ‘Rare’ – if it piques your interest, you can see a sensational selection of entries here.

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PS: The quote is Martin Luther, Priest, Scolar, questioner and reformer ‘A faithful and good servant is a real godsend; but truly ‘t is a rare bird in the land’. Raymond has been a good and faithful servant to The Brains these more than twenty years and as you will discover when I write more of him is surely one of the rarest of birds you will encounter in a lifetime. Actually Luther was uncommonly fond of his rare birds giving the accolade to wise princes and even more to upright ones. That would probably apply today though to politicians rather than princes, I would suggest.

I’ll be your dog!

On a beautiful day nearly two years ago, The Brains, The Bean and I set off for a walk that starts in the wonderfully named St Poncy (if you are English this will make you smile – my American is not good enough to know if Ponce means the same in your vernacular). Along the way three became four and this is the piece I wrote at the time – I hope you will enjoy it.

Half Baked In Paradise

We walk.  The Bean and me and HB2, when he is here makes three.  There are 340 marked PR (petit randonnees) across le Cantal and I have set myself the ideal of walking all of them.  In keeping with the rest of France these are marked walks, mostly circular and varying in length and difficulty.  The simple colour coding system tells you if it is easy (blue), longer and more difficult (yellow) or very long and varying in difficulty (green).  One weekend recently we decided to drive to the far north east of the departement (a drive of about 1.5 hours) and do a nice long green walk.  The duration was estimated as 4.75 hours for the 14.5 km.  We packed a picnic of cheese and bread and tomatos and set off.  The day was glorious – sunny, hot and with a fair scattering of the fluffiest white clouds dancing…

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Good God (or The Devil) is in the detail

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.

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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.

In my mind I am free

I consider myself to be pretty fortunate.  It’s not that I have led a seamless life.  It’s not that they had a canteen of silver spoons at the ready to shove into my gaping, greedy mouth at birth, it’s certainly not that life has dealt me no challenges.  Not at all.  I’ve lived a life.  On occasions a seat of my pants-on-fire scorching my behind sort of life.  But the thing is this.  I embrace the challenges, I smile at the misfortunes because they make me the person I am now and they led me to where I am now and in the great scheme of things I am pretty damned prosperous …. which is not to say monetarily rich.  I do not measure wealth and success in pecuniary increments.  So although I may not do it immediately, I do always search for whatever the mechanism is that works to put whatever the adversity may be in a positive place and I do always get there in the end.

Around two months ago I went back to France for a quick visit to make sure my plants weren’t expired in my flat and my car hadn’t entirely given up the mechanical ghost.  From there I flew to England to make less necessary checks on my ludicrously independent and gloriously enduring mother.  And my daughters (the three out of four who live there) came and visited.  One daughter (one more than I might expect) said it was a shame I wasn’t staying longer.  I explained that I had an important follow-up appointment with my physician after my oncologist had delivered her verdicts.  This left the said daughter entirely unmoved (we lived my cancer a few years ago which is hard on children of any age and  it’s easier for them to button their ears to any talk of the on-going care I have, easier to imagine I am now immune.  I am, after all,  their indestructible mummy).  So I mentioned an appointment with a bloke the same afternoon.  This had the said girl-child herding me tout de suite to the airport to ensure I did not miss this incredible, enviable and  priviliged opportunity.

So who was it that so impressed a 20-something?  Who could it possibly be?  Royalty?  No.  Hollywood A-lister?  Nope.  Rock legend?  Nah.  I cogetated this and I realised that there are only a tiny handful of people who could possibly engender such a response from pretty much anyone.  A response that is mid-way between hugely impressed and achingly envious.  The Pope might be one.  The Queen of England another.  The third and in this case the actual is Stephen Hawking.

I am seldom lost for words.  This is a trait.  A personality thing.  I’m articulate and gregarious when the need arises.  I write words down  too and from time to time I believe they are almost coherent.  But this day.  April 19th 2016.  In Cambridge Massachusetts I was humbled to the point of speechless.  I had no concept of what to expect.  The preparation that goes into getting this man into a room however big or small is immense.  The deference with which he is treated I would mostly sneer at since essentially the circus is just that, an act put on for an audience who need to believe that this person is not of the same world as the rest of us.  But in this case it is entirely justified.  That he gave a talk that I mainly understood even though it was to an assemblage peppered with the greats of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Harvard University; that he is brave enough to sit before any gathering, withered in his chair and at the effect of software to speak the words he has written for the occasion and the pregnant pauses in delivery that are inherent in the system; that he has such a self-depracating sense of humour.  All of this I had not imagined even though I imagine I have quite a fertile imagination.  I simply had not gone there.  Which is the point.  This is a man whose life should have been at it’s end at 21 years of age.  He says everything else has been a bonus.  And he has taken that bonus and run with it.  I felt the withered insignificant teeny tiny little squib in the room.  This was like listening to God (I have my own mish-mash belief system that does not allow for a single deity and which I need not share since it is merely mine).  I came out of that room entirely changed.  A better person.  Purer.  Which is the other point … the title of this weeks photo challenge is Pure.  And this man, with his failings, with his warts, with his reliance on science to keep him going is about as pure a mind as I have ever encountered.

The picture I have selected to illustrate this fact is taken at altitude above San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.  HB² (my husband to the uninitiated) built a tiny observatory there some years ago simply because he could.  I love this.  Just do it.  Because you can.  That is the Hawking way.  You can if you will.   Stephen Hawking may not have visited this observatory but he will surely know that you need the purest atmosphere to observe the stars.  To find the answers he seeks.  The answers we all silenty crave.  The observatory is in the picture but you may not be able to see it.  A man like Hawking sees what we cannot see, makes sense of what we cannot make sense of, delivers it to the world in a form that from Nobel Prize Winners to young children everyone can have a piece of.  And that, if I may is pure genius.

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And of course PS: Hawking is responsible for the quote in the title ‘Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free’ (‘How to Build a Time Machine’, 2010)… and that freedom is purety incarnate, surely and defines what I feel makes ME fortunate.

You can find all the other, laudible entries to the challenge ‘PURE’ right here

More stern and splendid than mere kindness

I’ve mentioned before the wise advice of a friend to ‘find the purpose in the way things are’.  The last three months have necessitated reaching out to those words and hugging them close and often.

Let me elucidate.  When I moved to France.  To Cantal.  To the pays perdu that I persist in calling home, I cleaved to it.  I knew I was home.  Clock forward two years, two months and a few days and  I was thrust into a New World.  The New World.  A doddle for a cosmopolitan gal like me.

Or not.  The fact is that I struggled to settle and root even a  little here.  The fact is that my heart and my eyes and ears and all my senses were gazing, reaching and yearning for  France.  The fact is that I went through the motions every day.  I strove to get myself into a groove on my long playing record that would make a melody that I could sing along to.  Hallelujah and pass the tambourine, I got there.  I AM here.  And I now honestly  feel that I can love the one I’m with (or more accurately, in).  I have retrieved my inner explorer and pressed re-set.   I am finding so much to be enraptured by.  And why on earth wouldn’t I?  What an opportunity I have.  To live on another continent, find the beauty and the warts and the eccentricities and get under the skin of a place that is such a collosal collision of cultures that a few meagre months or years can never do it justice.  And, I finally get to live with my Two Brained husband –  one love.  My love.

And as it happens (such a coincidence) One Love is the prompt for the Weekly Photo Challenge beautifully represented here by people far smarter and more creative than I.

The picture?  Walking up Mount Eisenhower in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  It was a tough walk up because, apart from being relentlessly uphill and steepish, at the time I had neither crampons nor poles to walk with and above the line it was frozen to the sleekest shiniest glass  whenever the canopy of trees gave a skimpy opening for the glacial breath of winter to polish the ground with her frigid glaze.  And all of a sudden this …. my Narnia moment.  Paradise frozen – water (my enduring love) stopped in it’s tracks until Spring decides to wave her wand, scatter her fairy dust and let it flow once more.

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PS:  The quote is C.S Lewis from The Problem of Pain … known for the Narnia Chronicles it is worth getting to know Lewis, the Christian writer whether or not you believe in his God.  He said ‘love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness’ and though I am a true devotee of kindness I support his assertion unreservedly.

I’ll be your dog!

We walk.  The Bean and me and HB2, when he is here makes three.  There are 340 marked PR (petit randonnees) across le Cantal and I have set myself the ideal of walking all of them.  In keeping with the rest of France these are marked walks, mostly circular and varying in length and difficulty.  The simple colour coding system tells you if it is easy (blue), longer and more difficult (yellow) or very long and varying in difficulty (green).  One weekend recently we decided to drive to the far north east of the departement (a drive of about 1.5 hours) and do a nice long green walk.  The duration was estimated as 4.75 hours for the 14.5 km.  We packed a picnic of cheese and bread and tomatos and set off.  The day was glorious – sunny, hot and with a fair scattering of the fluffiest white clouds dancing across the bluest of blue skies.

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The walk was glorious too … and along the way we three became four.  About 5 km into the walk having marvelled at a tiny Roman bridge, failed to find a museum founded by two young boys aged 11 and 16 in the 1990’s housed in a pain four they restored themselves, and nattering contentedly whilst watching The Bean foraging and ferreting as she does, we entered a petit hameau.

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 As we exited the village it could not escape our notice that a young and very boisterous German Shepherd dog, ears yet to stand upright so probably no more than 8 months old, was running along beside us.  We stopped and shooed him home.  We walked back up the road to encourage him but, oblivious, he continued out of the village.  After a kilometre we were concerned – he was haring in and out of fields, he was very very happy, joyous in fact, but he clearly was not clear about where he lived.  Let me put this in to context – this is a huge and rural area … houses are scattered and he did not appear to belong in the hamlet we had traversed.  The Bean was getting fed up with being carried to prevent canine fisticuffs so we decided to release her and let them bond or not.  DSCF8108At this point I named the dog Boomerang for not so subtle reasons.  We spoke to him in French – he was quite forgiving of our accents but he obviously had absolutely no notion whatsoever of discipline.

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An hour later, so three hours into the walk, we decided it was time for lunch.  The puppy sat nicely on the other side of the track on whose grassy verge we had plonked our behinds and watched intently as HB2 wielded the Opinel (as essential a French accessory as a mobile phone to an adolescent, this is a wooden handled foldable knife which comes in a huge variety of sizes … the blade on ours is about 3 inches) to cut cheese and bread.  What lovely manners I murmured – he clearly knows not to disturb his humans when they are eating.  DSCF8109The words barely vapourised in the air, he leapt up and floored me and I, like a beetle on my back, was helpless to fend off his face-licking.  ‘Non’ bellowed Two Brains at which the dog fell back looked around and seized up my spectacle case before bounding up the path and lying down with his trophy triumphantly pinned between his front paws.  We hastily finished our peturbed picnic and packed up.  The dog surrendered the glasses case and off we set again.DSCF8142

The day was hot and of course got hotter as hot days always will, so when we entered the sweet and tiny hamlet, no more than a farm, a couple of houses and the remains of a church now welded to a barn, we were gently fatigued.  DSCF8123Actually we failed to notice the welded church as we searched for the table d’orientation so that we could regally survey the landscape laid out below us.  We found, we surveyed and we assumed l’ancien eglise must have succumbed to the elements at some point because it was no-where to be seen.  Assume, as our youngest daughter regularly reminds me, makes an ass out of you and me.  And as we walked on now following yellow markers (we had been following green and then green and yellow together which is not unusual – the paths often link for a while) and occasionally consulting the book for reference points the terrible truth began to dawn.  We, The Bean and the adopted dog which showed absolutely no sign of fatigue were on a different walk.  And the walk was taking us in entirely the wrong direction.  In this terrain it is not a simple matter of backtracking so we took the decision to continue in a circle back to the village with the viewing point.  And from there try to find our own walk.  That this meant in total a deviation of 6 km with a stray dog seemed perfectly reasonable to our heat-shrunk minds.  And so it was that this raggle taggle foursome made its way back into the village and joy of joys there, beside the welded church which we had failed to notice before which was indeed (as the book told us it was) opposite a table d’orientation (not the one we had found earlier but one looking in the opposite direction – so we have now regally surveyed the entire 360 degrees of landscape laid out before us in this lovely spot), joy of joys in addition there was life – there were people.  Real people.  A woman coming out of her milking parlour, two little girls of around 6 years old and a smaller little boy and, as it turned out, the most joyous of all – Granny!  The imposter dog disgraced himself by hurling upon the children with us shouting – ‘he’s not ours – he’s following us’.  But as deranged as this must have sounded these lovely people helped us.  Granny really.  The younger woman did not understand a map which is entirely reasonable given that she knows perfectly well where she is and doubtless can find her way anywhere necessary with no problem at all.  They clearly thought us mad to be wanting to walk but Granny showed us the way, even tipping us off for a shortcut and with much waving, sighing relief and many thanks we continued on what would be the last 5 or 6 km of our epic journey.  The dog was still with us – Granny had advised us to find the mayor in the town and pass the problem to him.  We felt rather bonded to Boomerang by now and agreed that if we were by now in our own house with a garden (the search is on) we would keep him.DSCF8141

It was on this last part of the journey that I realised that he had clearly been a commando in a previous life.  He took to leaping up high banks and running ahead of us only to explode down on us again when we least expected it.  This was very funny except when we were walking high above a small river and he decided the best approach was to divebomb The Bean and see how funny she would look bouncing down the sides of what, in my tired, vaguely emotional and borderline delirious state seemed to be a very steep ravine.  We put him on her lead (perfectly adaquate for her, this slender piece of leather looked more than faintly ridiculous on the overgrown puppy).  It was clearly a new experience and took all of Two Brains strength to keep him vaguely steady.  At the end of the path, relieved that we were coming into the last village before our destination, we let him run again.  We were just congratulating ourselves at how clever we were to train him a teeny bit in the hours (and by now it had been 5 hours) he had been with us when he bowled us the googly of the day.   At the entrance to the village was a huge, very old and very deep water trough – the sort that entire small herds of cattle could take their fill at when moving from field to field or field to barn for milking.  The sort that appear in Constable paintings of rural idyll in the 18th Century.  DSCF8152Rambiggles the divebombing commando dog went over to look, braced himself and leaped in.  Being steep sided he could not get out.  That in itself was bad enough but I should tell you that the water was gloriously embellished with hugely swollen cowpats across its entires surface … how, why, I know not.  I prefer to keep it that way.  Sighing the sigh of the resolute and exasperated, Two Brains walked over, hooked the dogs collar and pulled.  I held my breath so hard I think I may have turned blue because Two Brains can’t swim.  Images swam infront of my tired eyes of me, anchored by The Bean, having to pull the pair of them out.  Or me diving in and shouldering them as The Bean hooked them out.  I was well and truly scared.  I am happy to report that none of this came to pass and the dog was liberated.  And liberally drenched us with stinking water as he shook himself dry.

Onwards to our destination and we sank onto the tailgate of our car, changed our boots, ate biscuits and wondered what on earth to do … Sunday night is not the night to find a mayor and we didn’t feel like ringing 112 and declaring an emergency.  Lights from the Auberge called us like moths and we walked in – it was quite a chic establishment and we looked and probably smelt like something you would cross the street to avoid,  but thankfully the lady in charge was sweet and accomodating and took control.  Dog was fed, shut in and the Mayor informed in the morning.  We have since heard that he has been returned to his rightful owners.  For how long is a dubious question – this dog is in dire need of a high fence, a strong lead and Barbara Woodhouse (or for those of you not old enough to remember her … Dog Borstal!)DSCF8132

PS:  The necessary PS.  So touched were we by the lovely attitude of the family high up on the rounded hill who helped us that the following week we returned with a box of sweets to thank them.  The look on the face of Granny and the children was enough to warm my heart for the rest of my life.  We chatted for a while – she said she was pleased to have helped us, that she could no longer walk where we had walked but she used to and is sad those days are behind her.  She told us she had been to our part of Cantal and that she liked Saignes (about 10 km from us) because of its beautiful Roman Chapel.  The children, dark limpid eyes fixed earnestly on the tin with its sweet delights to come, listened, smiled and waved us off as we drove away.  I am certain that they thought us dotty but they didn’t judge us, had never expected to see us again in their isolated spot where they have lived and will live out their lives, and will live in my memory for the rest of my life as an example of who I would like to be.

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