Saturday, April 7, 2018


Second World War buffs know about Ouistreham. It's a small town at the mouth of the Orne river on the English Channel, the port of Caen, the main city 14 kilometers inland. You cross the Pegasus Bridge to get here. The movie "The Longest Day" is supposedly about the liberation, here, but they didn't shoot it here, so the geography is wrong and so are some of the events.
Notice the thick columns
I'm in Ouistreham for the day because we are celebrating Carrie's life, today. I got here yesterday afternoon and walked into town to see what there was to see. Ouistreham is very small. There's a church, which used to be an abbey, called Saint Samson. It was built in the 12th century, Romanesque architecture and since I'm still reading the Cadfael books, it's good to see the architecture of the time -- mid-twelveth century. Of course all of the windows in the church are modern, but there are few of stained glass windows. There's one in particular which is a commemoration of the British liberation.  

Ouistreham was the eastern extremity of Sword Beach. It's not where they landed, but rather where there was (is, now a museum) six-storey German bunker. If you think that bunkers are small enterred structures along the beach, well, this one and others like it along the Atlantic front were enormous, six stories high and when you get to the top, you have a panoramic view of the beach. On D-Day, I'm sure they had a clear view. Now, there are so many houses and trees, you don't even see the beach right in front. The Germans had razed the whole seafront by 1942. There was a casino not far and it was razed in 1942, but somehow, in the movie, The Longest Day, it was decided to show its destruction on D-Day. I visited this bunker today and it's interesting -- not as interesting as that Arromanches museum, thought. It's in pretty bad condition at almost 80 years. I don't know if it will have a natural death when the iron reinforcements finally give way, or if they'll end up taking it down. It was not captured on D-Day, but rather on June 9th, as the troops progressed towards Caen
Now the beach is for sports. There's lots of wind on the beach for "sailing". I have no idea how far out the sea was. I didn't go that far.

From the port to the church

We took a boat out to international waters to disperse Carrie's ashes. It was a moving moment. There were so many of us that the boat had to make three trips out. I was in the first group. There are always moments of sadness at these celebrations of life but those moments are offset by the happiness of seeing old friends and some friends that we just recognize from our hospital visits. We're going out to dinner later this evening. I'm sure we'll have a celebration!

As we were coming back to port the ferry from Portsmouth caught up to us. The hotel I'm staying at is right across the street from the ferry terminal.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

More this and that

I haven't felt like writing. I've been binge reading Ellis Peters' Cadfaël mystery novels. Several years ago, one of the French channels showed the British series starring Derek Jacobi as Cadfaël and I enjoyed it. Reading the novels, I'm enjoying the stories even more. It's a time (mid-12th century) I know little about, except, of course, the abbeys and churches all around France that are often pre-Gothic architecture, or with a Roman base and early to late Gothic add-ons. I'm learning a bit of Catholic liturgy and history, too.
I've been knitting, too. This t-shirt took me a long time to do. The cables are hand-manipulated on the machine and I could only manage one or two hours at a time. I had to remember to do cables at row numbers 6 times an odd multiple in x columns and at row numbers 6 times an even number in y columns. And remember where I left off after an interruption. I'm happy with the result. I had to do the neckline 3 times before I got it to lie flat. It fits. It could have been smaller, but that's okay, I can wear it.
That, and a pair of socks for S. He asked. The old socks are now in C's drawer. He also chose the yarn. Slowly but surely I'm working through my stash.
I've also got a promise to buy my bulky knitting machine from a young woman who lives in the southwest, in the Pyrenées. Since we are going that way, soon, to visit E, I'll take the machine down with me and meet her husband at the Montauban train station for the pick up. This is the machine I got in England last year for my birthday. It's a good machine, but I am not going to use it enough to warrant having it. I have discovered I don't really enjoy knitting thick yarn. And when I do, it's still not so thick I need the bulky gauge. I still have the simple mid-gauge machine, which is fine for the yarn I use. I've got two standard gauge machines, but I am tempted to rid myself of the electronic one. It's more than I need.
Last Saturday, there was a Paris version of the March for Our Lives. It was a standing demonstration -- no marching. We had a part of the Trocadero, across the Seine, facing the Eiffel Tower. The weather was perfect! I don't know how many of us there were -- a few hundred. We shared the place with other demonstrations: a group of Togolese -- a small group, but with drums, so very loud; a tiny group of people in support of Tariq Ramadan, the cleric accused of several sexual assaults, including rape; and a tinier group that looked like they were just dancing. Four groups competing for space. The photographers -- there were several photographers for our group -- spread out all over the place.
I went up to the Hague a couple of weeks ago for a day trip to see Barbara, one of my best friends from high school. She and I reminisced and talked of Erica, who died on March 1. (I posted about the trip with Erica two and a half years ago.)
I'm still trying to distance myself from the issues of Americans living abroad. I'm not disinterested, just not actively advocating these days. I needed to step back. At the AARO Annual General Meeting on March 21, I was honored to receive recognition for my years on the board.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

I remember snow forts

Donna-Lane wrote a blog post the other day that I just read, today. It's been snowing in Europe and it's been a very cold week. She's been in Geneva for a short stay. We've been home, in Nogent. Actually, Paris just got a light dusting of snow and it's the south of France, and even further south -- all the way to the pyramids in Egypt -- that have gotten heavy snow.
Back to her post. She remembers the fun of snow days, when schools were closed and going outside, building snow forts. That sparked my own memories. First thing was to go over to Patty's house ready to go to the bus stop, if necessary, and listen to the radio announcements of school buses that were cancelled. We had a clump of bushes out front, by the entrance to the driveway to our house. When it snowed, those bushes would form a single mound of snow, but if you knew where to dig through, inside was like a cave. that was our snow fort. We also made snow angels, of course, and snow men. (I guess the generic, politically correct terms would be a snow person, and snow people, now.) When it was cold for a long time, Patty's dad would test the ice on the river with an ax and, if it was deemed thick enough, we'd clear the snow off a patch of ice and go skating.
When we did have to go back to school, I remember that we girls were not allowed to wear pants, so we had leggings and sometimes snow pants that we'd have to take off and hang up with our coats. And we wore snow boots over our shoes, not instead of shoes. 
Once we moved to Philadelphia, snow was not so much fun. There was less of it. No skating. The subway and buses ran, so no snow days off. No next door friends to play with, even if we could have a day off.
A few weeks ago, here, we had a real snowfall, here, and it stayed cold enough to last until the weekend, when the kids came over and got to play with the sled (bought 2 or 3 years ago and never used). The snow was too dry by then to build an upright snow man, so they built a sleeping snow man. It had been a long time since we've had enough snow to do anything like that, but not really exceptional. I remember making a video a few winters ago, when A. was just about 18 months old and experiencing snow for the first time. When my kids were little, it snowed enough for great play in the yard, but not every year.
Paris, France, in general, has become more chaotic during snow, though. There is such panic, pre-snow, that they close the highways, shut down bus service, tell people not to drive, ... (Shutting down bus service and telling people not to drive is counter-productive.) Our newspaper is not delivered. And then, we get maybe 2 or 3 cm! (That's an INCH!) Snowplows are nowhere to be seen. People do not know, or conveniently ignore, that they are supposed to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes. If you don't have a shovel, a broom will usually do fine. That is all the news. Nothing else happens in the world. It's all about the snow and cold - the warning that it's on the way, the pictures of gridlock on the roads when it's come, the meteorologic analysis of why we are having a cold winter, then the recap following the snow.
As an adult, what I love about snow days is the quiet. And the sunshine that follows. Reflecting off the snow, the light is just so much brighter.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

And we are back to gray

Just a little update on the last post, really. That sunshine didn't last long. I went to the hairdresser immediately after posting -- leaving home by about 9:30. It was already gray by the time I walked back before 11. It's been gray since then, but not raining. And more rain is predicted, here, but at this instant, it's not raining. The rain has not stopped elsewhere and the rivers are still rising. The Seine is expected to get up to, maybe even go over, the 2016 flood, which was pretty high. There are plenty of photos of Paris and the rest of France on the Internet.
Nogent sur Marne is on the Marne river, a tributary of the Seine, not far from the confluence. The mayor of Joinville-le-Pont, just across the river from Nogent, has initiated an evacuation order for some homes. I've read that the Marne is at the highest in 40 years.
Don't worry about us, though. We're on the other side of the hill that rises from the river to the main street of Nogent. That hill keeps rising after a first crest. The Fort de Nogent, which is really in Fontenay-sous-Bois territory, is at the high point and we are not far below that. Here's a map. The blue dot is where we are, right up next to the Fontenay border.
Today, I'm going to visit Victoria, in Versailles. Those who know me, know I am an avid reader of her blog, which is also listed on the sidebar, here, on the right. She wants to learn to knit - handknitting. So, I've got to go, now, and collect some yarn and needles. I'm driving. The RER C, that I would normally connect to in Paris, is cut off because of the flooding.