25 May 2016

244. HAPPINESS IS...

Happiness is a Wednesday afternoon with the kids. Yes, Madam!

Wednesdays in French schools is a day off or at least half a day off. So, my grandchildren come for lunch with me every Wednesday. Today we had a small appetizer of "mozzarella di bufala" with some cucumber slices dipped in balsamic vinegar. Quite danty! That Italian cheese is made with bufalo milk. It has a definite taste, not like the usual mozzarella with regular cow milk. For a main dish we had fried potatoes with steak tidbits cooked with shallots, not chives, the real "Èchalottes". For sweets we had a ready made "floating island" that you buy in plastic containers and that kids love, a floating island being a meringue floating on custard... you've got to have imagination in life.

What to do in the afternoon can be a problem at times. But today the weather being favorable for picking fruit outdoors, we drove (in my "sports car" of course) some 20 km to a place where you can pick your own strawberries and pay for what you picked by the weight. We picked some 5 kilograms of big red sweet smelling strawberries. And we drove home.



This is where it becomes interesting. We drove home with the hood down under the sun and in the wind, stuffing our faces with strawberries as it went. Just heavenly. Through the forest on a small country road. With birds singing. And clouds following us above our heads.

At one stage we came across a place with horses and carts and things. We veered in and asked for info. on horse riding etc. The place is called Laleuf, they have a website and are on FaceBook. It looks like a place we will visit again.

After that, we drove on to town. The kids sitting in the back were finding dolphins, dragons and sharks in the clouds! 

  

I love Wednesdays with the kids. 

21 May 2016

243. Welcome home







"Welcome home" is a phrase you often hear in English. It sounds lovely. It stems from the heart and carries benevolent feelings. In the scriptures, it is what the old man could have said to his prodigal son when he saw him a the end of the path, coming home.

I have two examples in memory when hearing it stirred me to tears: that time in 1997 when we made it to port late at night after three days of howling weather sailing a boat into Auckland harbor. It is what the Customs officers said to the Captain. Welcome home! It was not addressed to me, New Zealand not being my homeland, but it felt real good.

The other memorable occasion is when flying from Europe to the U.S.A. in 1980, it was announced the plane was beginning its approach to the Kennedy airport. Americans in the plane clapped loud and clear. They were delighted to be landing back in their homeland.

I don't want to sound bitter and bickering here. I only want to state how it feels when you are a French expat coming home. There's no phrase equivalent to "welcome home" and Customs officers have no special benevolent feelings for you. A phrase I heard once when arriving from a distant land was: "qu'est-ce que vous êtes allée faire là-bas?" (something like: what on earth did go there for?) You get no special treatment for belonging to your homeland. In Britain back in the 60s there were two queues for people arriving at Customs, one for British citizens and one for "aliens", foreign people for which Britain was not their homeland. Fair enough. I do think that nationals should not be treated just as anyone else. In my view your nationality is a very precious part of yourself. It is not something you can put on or off like a hat. It should be "inaliénable", i.e. hard to get if you are not born into it, indeed very hard to acquire, but "inaliénable", i.e. an inalienable right to belong to a definite nation. Then, that nation is your homeland. The land you regard as your home, where you are welcome wholeheartedly when you return from a long stay away. No matter what.

5 May 2016

242. ART de VIVRE

I often clash with friends and even members of my family about ways and manners of doing things. Specially, being French, about table manners. It is said that the French have a special ART de VIVRE concerning food and eating habits and other things as well. When looking for a translation into English of this particular phrase, I found that people were at a loss with it: "art of living" does not really translate the concept.

Let me explain my views on this. It has to do with esthetics and the epicurean philosophy. As applied to life it means: the manners showing your sense of beauty with which you tackle a given situation or activity. Your "art de vivre" shows you have an ideal for beauty. Linked with epicurian philosophy it shows you have the ability to see beauty in every simple gestures of human activity and you derive pleasure out of it. Your perception of beauty triggers a feeling of pleasure.

For my part I have a highly developed perception of beauty and it triggers in me a strong feeling of pleasure when the level of beauty is achieved. I am not talking of the beauty of ladies as seen by men. I am talking of the harmony, sense of peace and balance, you can find in everything. French culture, as I know it, has developed this need for harmony, balance and peace in every field of life and particularly with anything to do with food and eating habits. The contrary applies when my sense of harmony is aggressed and the peace is destroyed by anyone who has no "art de vivre", I get very depressed.

For example... say I'll have someone for lunch. It will be at the table simply decorated, the plates perhaps matching the color of the tablecloth, a glass above the plate and in the middle of it, cuttlery on each side. The food is served, not out of the pot in the kitchen and then delivered, but in a nice dish at the table so that everyone is free to help themselves for the amount they require. The food is eaten as accompaniement to a pleasure giving conversation, not gulped in a hurry to satisfy mondane needs. The food is eaten completely to show respect for those who prepared it. Harmony, peace and pleasure converge.

When I have teenagers for lunch who nowadays don't have this "art de vivre", destroy the beauty and kill my pleasure, I get quickly angry and depressed.

Can you teach "art de vivre"? or is it innate, inborn, inbred? How did I learn about it? At home? At school? in books? in films?

Will this French "art de vivre" survive my generation or will it disappear within the next decade?


Those manners, not necessarily table manners, showing a definite sense of beauty with which any given situation or activity is tackled, have been developed over the last few thousand years, in France and on continental Europe in general. This age old ideal for beauty shows best in our old cathedrals and in our landscapes. Beauty for its own sake. Linked with the epicurean philosophy throughout the centuries, every little gesture of human activity was made to gain and give pleasure. 

To finish, here's an article in "The Local", France's news in English, entitled: The French eating habits the world should learn from.

3 May 2016

241. Know who you are (2)





We are in 2016 and in the Chinese zodiac we are in the Year of the Monkey. Yay! My year, this year!!! It had better be a good one...

In the effort of getting to know who I am, the Chinese zodiac can also help. We can shrug our shoulders today on what old wisemen in the depth of the past came out with. Who can be sure that the findings of an Albert Einstein will not look ludicrous to people in three or four thousand years from now? So I will not discard getting to know what it says about who I may be. And here it goes, as taken on websites on internet:

The Wu Xing (Five Elements) sign of the Monkey is Metal (Jin), so the animal stands for brilliance and perseverance. According to Chinese zodiac analysis, people born in a Year of the Monkey always have smart, agile and active characteristics. They are endowed with highly adaptable abilities because of their complicated living environment.

People born in the Year of the Monkey according to the Chinese zodiac always have enviable abilities and wisdom. Their skills and smart ideas can be seen by others when they are very young. A sharp foresight and a unique perspective promote their development in every aspect. Other people are always amazed at their acute intuition and predictive powers. If there is an established goal, they apply strong actions to achieve it. A strong curiosity causes them to want to bravely try everything interesting. All bark and no bite is not their lifestyle. They win a high popularity among others because of their amicability and kindness. They always try their best to help others in daily life. An upbeat attitude always influences them and everyone around them.

Monkeys are lively and sprightly, which tends to lead to their impatience. When things develop in unexpected ways, they appear to be irascible, fussy and upset. Sometimes they are not willing to listen to othersí advice or ideas.  A stubborn personality influence their original judgments and decisions. They lack enough prudence when something fails. When having some small successes, they are always satisfied with current conditions. Being short of long-range plans, they often get into trouble on their way to success.

Having a strong adaptability to their environment, they can be competent in almost any job. They are naturally persuasive. Superb communication skills, strong logical proposals and high-efficiency working plans get a lot of appreciations from their bosses or group leaders. In their eyes, pleasures are more important than jobs, thus they are likely to give up their current jobs and seek their ideal ones. Fresh and novel work always attracts their eyes. Their enthusiasm and curiosity urge them to finish tasks with high quality.

They have sprightly and energetic personality traits, so jobs related to social intercourse and brain work will be their preferential options. As for group work, they have great potential to be the leader.

Suitable Jobs: diplomatist, journalist, writer, or entertainer

Smartness and flexibility always bring them wealth in their whole life. Saving money and living economically life also accumulate a large amount of money. However, they always feel satisfied with their current achievements. They seldom invest more money in other fields, so they often miss some golden chances in daily life. Their wealth accumulated in their youth is the guarantee of a comfortable life in old age.

People with the Chinese zodiac Monkey sign are amiable and easy to approach. There are always pursuers attracted by their lovely character. Someone of the opposite sex with an honest, easy-going and kindhearted personality will catch their eye easily.

Before confirming a stable love relationship, they are accustomed to considering all aspects, including future marriage life, children and family conditions. Excess consideration often leaves an irresolute and half-hearted impression.



However, if they have decided on a soul mate, started a love life, or gotten married, they will be very faithful. They are attentive to their partners likes, interests and habits, in order to fulfill the perfect role of a husband or wife. They need their partner to be loyal to the love relationship and family as well. These responsible traits make them an ideal sweetheart.

Best Matches: Ox, Rabbit
Bad Matches: Tiger, Pi

240. KNOW WHO YOU ARE (1)




An ancient Greek philosopher once said: translated into English "Know who you are", translated into French "Connais-toi toi-même". Having followed the classics at College I was drilled into this way of thinking in my teens in France in the 50s and early 60s. I wrote a diary trying to see through the lines who I was. I sent my handwriting to a graphologist, a would-be science in vogue at the time, in order to hear what they had to say about who I was. And then at 19 I hit the road! There in the action I quickly had to find out who I was. Now in my 70s I think I know. I won't paraphrase another Greek philosopher by saying: I know I don't know. I do know who I am and I can predict my reactions to various situations and people.

According to the European zodiac I come under the Aries sign. Believe or don't believe. I don't regard this as an act of faith. Simply facts you can observe. A theory to be confirmed or not. Take it or leave it. The thing is that the moon has a lot of influence on what happens on the surface of the Blue planet. Why couldn't stars have some influence on human babies at their birth? In any case I recognise myself in the description of the personality of an Aries woman. It goes like this:

"The Aries woman is typically confident, fiery, bold, spontaneous and independent. Very modern and self reliant she is often an inspiration to other women.

Often highly motivated and ambitious this isn't a woman who takes no for an answer, at least not for long! She will typically make a good living, though probably isn't the best at saving the money she makes, instead preferring to enjoy it as it arrives.

In touch with her inner child, on the plus side she tends to be very fun loving and adventurous, and on the negative she can be very sulky if she doesn't get her own way or is ignored. She tends to be very competitive, but unlike some signs also has a strong sense of fair play - she wants to win for herself; to prove to the world she could do it, and isn't interested in deceit or cheating. She hates to be bossed around, or feel trapped.

Aries is a mixture of fearless warrior and undisciplined child, and this is one of the easiest signs to understand. These are action people, extroverted and assertive. They want to be in charge, the boss, the hunter, the instigator. Uncomplicated, bold, aggressive and impulsive. Sometimes they are selfish, insensitive, domineering, blunt, outspoken and impatient. They're never afraid of taking a risk. Lacking in self control they more than compensate in resilience - this is one tough cookie, who will live life to the fullest.

As to relationships, she tends to be either totally into one, or not interested, often there's no middle ground. She's outgoing and can be somewhat flirtatious in a fun and challenging way. The men of other fire signs tend to find this especially hard to resist."

"You are an Aries if you were born between March 21st and April 20th. In a couple of words, the Aries woman personality is energetic and passionate. You will rarely find an Aries woman who is worn out or that has no energy to her.

Aries women live to do things. They wonít want to settle for sitting on the sofa all day. The Aries woman personality traits show she would much rather get up and do something with her day.

The Aries lady is likely to wake up early in the morning in her older years to get her day started. She wants to be productive and get her goals done, and she canít rightly do this if she is sitting around in bed all day.

The Aries woman traits needs her independence if she is to be happy. An Aries woman isnít one to be tied down. If she is committed to anything, itís going to be her career.

While the Aries woman doesnít love the idea of saving money, she will at times because she knows that itís always a good idea to have a financial safety net in place. The Aries female will want a job that she can see herself leading in.

The Aries woman characteristics show she won't want to settle for a simple retail or fast-food job. She would much rather have a job that put her in a position of power. To put it simply, the Aries woman wants to be the boss. This idea is especially attractive to the Aries because when you're the boss you get to make the rules.

She doesnít want to be told what to do by superiors, she wants to be the superior who tells people what to do. Also, a job with a high level of responsibility will pay well. And with a decent paycheck every couple of weeks the Aries woman doesnít need to worry about depending on anyone else for money.

The Aries woman personality traits show she is loyal to her friends and family. Although she may not want to be committed to a romantic relationship, she doesnít mind being committed to her friends and family. Part of the reason that the Aries woman works so hard is to impress the people that she cares about.

While the Aries girl does not need approval to do what she wants, it can still help to boost her self-esteem. The Aries womanís self-esteem is rarely higher than when her family is proud of her.

The Aries woman trait shows she loves her friends, and will do whatever she can to help them, but she will also help to start an exciting adventure or a party. The Aries woman wants to be loved for her skills, as well as her exciting lifestyle.

Since the Aries woman will do whatever it takes to keep herself moving, she is prone to be rather impulsive, even on a daily basis. Her ideas are flowing constantly through her mind.

And when an exceptionally good thought passes through her head she is likely to act on it as soon as possible. This can lead the Aries woman to be more rash than some of the other zodiac signs.

But this also adds to the Aries woman's exciting lifestyle. The Aries woman traits: she is one to take chances. She's not afraid of a little risk in life. In fact, she doesn't see the point of life without a little risk.

The Aries woman personality doesn't want to be with someone who can't match her enthusiasm for life. She will look for a partner who can be as intense and passionate as she is. The Aries woman characteristics shows she is more likely to have flings and one night stands than some of the other star signs.

The Ram lady will want excitement in her life, more than she needs commitment. Anyone who gets into a romantic relationship with an Aries woman should be prepared for a wild ride. The Aries woman is likely to take her partner on adventure-like dates and be wild in the bedroom as well."

(copied from websites on the net)

254. END OF THIS BLOG

I started this blog in 2005 under a different name. When I deleted it at one stage its title was stolen, borrowed, hijacked by someone ...