Never Ending

I’m standing in front of the mirror brushing my teeth.  Feeling pretty dang proud of myself. The house is clean!! I had even gotten down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the kitchen and the bathroom floors. It felt so good to be done.

So I’m looking in the mirror while I brush my teeth when suddenly my eyes refocus, no longer do I see my face and the toothbrush, all I see is spots and streaks on the mirror. 
Dammit. So I guess I’ll wash the mirror tomorrow morning. I’m done for today. Will this never end?

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Philosophy of Cleaning

Did you ever (here I go again, Andy Rooney) notice how the mind wanders while cleaning? I am preparing for my visitors next Monday. OK, she has three kids under 8 – I know I don’t have to clean too much as the younger you are and the more kids you have, your cleanliness standards can lower for a bit. So that got me thinking about my own standards.

Living alone in Paris there is only me to please in terms of cleanliness – unless I invite someone over but in these cramped quarters, I prefer to meet in cafes. But I am not a total slob! Yet, today as I put some elbow grease and Comet into my actions, I was quite surprised to see that the Formica in the kitchen was a bit lighter than when I started. I wipe the counters often, but apparently I need more than a simple sponge. That led to more cleaning – suddenly I looked with new eyes and found grime in many places.

The old adage is that we clean frantically before our mothers visit. I wondered about my mom’s standards. Frankly, I can’t remember her having me re-clean something that wasn’t to her in initial satisfaction. My siblings may say I was spoiled. So? I do remember my brother on his hands and knees scrubbing the cork tile flooring in the Minnesota house. Glad we moved before I got old enough to be roped into that job.

So my obsession today with cleanliness came from? Cleanliness, they say, is next to Godliness. If that means I get to sit by God for a bit- til it gets dirty again which will be soon given the dust in the French air (remember the dust bunnies from a former post?), if I get to side by him or her, I will ask about the mess going on in the States and the World. And I realized, He or She will probably tell me to listen to the masters he/she already sent – like Jesus or Buddha or even Dr King… the only response is love. OK I do recall the Dali Lama saying something about worldly consequences… about Bin Laden… Oh this gets too complex for me.

Fortunately, I have finished so my musings can stop. Even the floors were washed! I didn’t do much more than vacuum the parquet as I am nervous about doing something that might damage it. It is quite beautiful.

OOPS. Can’t rest on my laurels yet – have to clean the tub. I’ll put on Party Rock to sing and avoid musing. I’d love to play Hamilton but when I do, all the songs are stuck in my mind for at least a week! It’s worse than It’s A Small World from Disneyland!

Noise saga

The noise across the street has shifted. From regular jack hammering and concrete block dumping to intermittent hammering …(sans Jack) (or is that Jacques?) and occasional block dumping. This is progress I guess.

The floors are almost empty of detritus and work things. (Alert! This is the first time I have used the word detritus!) This building has the main entrance off Ave Charles de Gaulle then comes around like a U with the back side across from me and a courtyard in the middle. I can see the windows have all been installed on the main avenue side. And even on the courtyard side of my side. That bodes well. Right now I hear the noise of the ceiling and pipes installation. So that will stop soon when the windows go in. But they are going to do something with the façade. Hopefully that will simply be pounding, not jack hammering. And at some point they must reach the bottom of the parking garage. It seems like the never-ending pit. Or maybe they are digging another floor? I wouldn’t think that possible, but who knows?

Oh my! I just checked. They have jack hammered two openings into the garage…. Meaning HOLES in the ground floor that open to the garage. What on earth will that be? A skylight? But its in the building so there won’t be a lot of light. Maybe stairs? But why? Or as the French say, pourquoi pas? Why not?

At least it has been cool enough to shut the windows in the morning and most afternoons and that lessens the noise considerably.

French Language

[I wrote this before the last blog so it’s a bit out of sequence…  I saw my first returning Frenchy today.  (Why am I suddenly calling them Frenchies???)]

My French friends are still out for vacanes.  But three come back this week starting on Wednesday.  It will be delicious to catch up.

Speaking of French, England was a nice break, but as I said, I had more trouble with their accents than I think I do with the French.  And some of that is because many were not native English speakers.  This is NOT a racist comment, it is simply an observation.  I’d be a terrible worker in France as my accent is probably incomprehensible to the regular French.  I think that maybe the English could understand very well the non-native English speakers who live there because it’s a foreign accent on top of the English accent.  I have realized that I have to listen carefully to the English accent itself –  add the foreign accent on top and I am lost.  (It took me 3 days to understand anyone in New Zealand!)

Back to my point.  Yes there was one.  Revenons a nos moutons!  I find myself thinking in French.  That should be good.  As I was walking yesterday, I noticed that.  Then I was trying to figure out how it was happening.  Was I thinking in English first and then translating?  Didn’t seem to be…  So I was thinking in French?  Like the words formed?  But how?  Did I have an image? A sensation of what I wanted to think about?  Like perhaps the bakery and when I saw that in my head, the French word appeared?  Or.  Did my brain just move on its usual track of wondering where I go next and the boulangerie just appeared because I am in France and therefore I use French words?

Oh it twisted me up so, this weird analysis.  I am putting off any further investigation until I speak with my two friends who are language teachers.

August

Not the most august month in my mind, but probably the Frenchies worship it.

Been on a walkabout. Covered probably 5 blocks in my neighborhood.  With lots of small shops.  Only 4 were open – one clothing, one lingerie, one jewelry, and one kids clothes.  That’s it.  That’s on 5 blocks – both sides of the street!  It’s truly a ghost town.

But the bakery is open again.  I stopped in on my way home.  Got a HOT baguette.  I didn’t take the first bite until I reached my kitchen.  However, I think I made a mistake by bringing it out here by the laptop…

I tried to chat with the bakery lady.  Same bakery as the past two years, but new lady this trip.  She is so happy and welcoming.  Remembers me.  Little bit of chat.  Today I was brave and after I paid her, I asked if she had a good vacation.  It took twice for her to get it and she responded tres vite and I didn’t quite catch it but nodded meaningfully and left smiling but quickly. Oh well.

Today my conversations started again – after everyone else’s vacations and my brief trip to England.  One this afternoon, one tomorrow, another Friday after the Monoprix delivery and then one on Sunday.  Saturday is reserved for the house cleaning and final wash before my visitors arrive on Monday.  It was nice to see a friend again and nice to see he could still understand me.  We talked about colds.  And I was able to tell him about the Remedy of Two Hats.  He laughed!  So he understood.  Nice way to end the day.

Visitors

I am starting the complicated process of getting ready for visitors. There will be two, in a week. My general rule is no more than one person as the tiny apartment is cramped with just me. But in this case, I made an exception because one is a mother and the other a 7 year old little girl. I think that counts really as only 1.5 visitors.

No matter. The place has to be clean and the washing needs to get done. Readers from two years ago will recall the complications of washing and drying here. In fact, doing the washing was a pleasure when I got back to the States. An actual dryer! Imagine – tossing towels directly into the dryer and taking out fluffy towels some time later. Here I must hang everything. And towels dry more like scratch boards… There are only so many places to hang things to dry so I am starting now a week early, laying out a washing campaign as if I was Napoleon. Oh. No. Boadicea. Better to have a female reference. So what can I wash now and store? What has to be washed just before the arrival yet with ample time for drying? Furniture also needs to be moved. The laptop and printer can shift into my bedroom so there will be room for suitcases. I have also made cubes available for the normal “stuff” people bring that they want quick access to. Bathroom space is being arranged. It’s all good. Nice to anticipate guests. Plus it keeps me here in the apartment and making sure my incipient cold fades away. Soon.

And HORRORS. I was putting some things up on my ingenious drying rack (French and all Europeans are good at using space) that hangs over my bed room door. First off, the doors are quite high. Almost 8 feet! I noticed this year that I had to stand on tippy-tippy-toes to get things on the rack. I was busy. Didn’t think much about it. But today as I stretched and stretched, I wondered. How did I do this before? Did I always climb on the bed? Did I just toss? And suddenly I thought, no, I think I did it like this but without the stretch… and does that mean I have reached the age to start shrinking????? HORRORS. It is such an awful and depressing thought that I have shut it out of my brain and refuse to even consider it. I shall climb on the bed from now on.

Traveling Fatigue

Every day in Britain, I walked more than 5 miles.  And on one day I walked more than 7 and a half miles.  No wonder I am tired.  I got home Friday night.  There was a parking space – actually an empty loading spot – across from my building.  I asked the Uber driver to carry my bags up and he did.  I gave him 5 euro which was probably too much and I don’t think he expected it.  But it was worth every penny to me.  Remember? I did shop in London so the bag was much heavier!

Sleeping in your own bed (especially on the new mattress that she bought in June) is heaven after traveling.  On Saturday I was successful.  I set a goal for the day and I totally accomplished it!

The goal: to do nothing.

Well, I did walk over to the grocery for needed supplies.  But other than that, I loafed on the coach between taped episodes of La Reine de Shopping and Chasseurs d’Appart and reading.  Heaven.

I picked up a tiny cough in London and I don’t want it to blossom into a huge cold so I am continuing my goal for this week end.  And I have to rest up for my visitors Monday week.  A friend and her 7 year old daughter.  It will be a full 12 days of fun!

I also had a minor goal of talking to a friend BEFORE she read my blogs so I could actually have a conversation and not have her say, oh yeah, I read about that…  The trials and tribulations of a blogger.

France is White, Britain Red (and a note about Burkas)

Or brown.  The buildings in London and much of the rest of Britain are built with red or brown brick.  OK, I will give you that the John Nash houses are white.  And yes, there is Buckingham Palace and Whitehall.  But there is also St James Palace and Harrods and most buildings on Kensington High Street.  And the mewses.  All brick.

And as our train whipped through the south of Britain to Dover and the Chunnel, again I saw that brown reddish brick used extensively.

I missed Paris.

And when we emerged from the Chunnel, oh the French countryside and the white farmhouses.  And the buildings in Paris.  Lovely.

Just down the street from me, a building has emerged from the scaffolding that has been there since I returned in May.  The routine required cleansing.  I have heard every 7 years, every 10 years and even every 20.  I am not sure what, but the buildings stay pretty fresh.  I have photos take in 1960 of Notre Dame where it appears to be black.  Since my regular visits starting in 2007, it’s been white!  Or pretty white.  Hmm.  That’s 10 years and I haven’t seen scaffolding on it… so it must be more than 10 years for the cleaning.

Oh.  A note on burkas. I say this because I saw more in London than I see in Paris.

People get this confused all the time.  This is a great site with pictures. http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/24118241

 

burka

The hijab is the scarf that covers the hair and neck.

The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.

The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body, often leaving just a mesh screen to see through.

I mention it because I saw many Niqabs in London.  I was surprised.  And several women wearing Hijabs had a surgical masks on.  I wasn’t sure if it was for pollution or to have the impact of a niqab but be more acceptable to the public.  (I see Chinese tourists in Paris with those surgical masks… )

In France I do see the hijab.  But the burka is illegal in France.  I guess the niqab is not.  Several other Europeans countries have joined the French.  Apparently not the UK.  Although I guess a school can make it illegal.   I won’t start on my personal opinions re feminism and these outfits.  But I will say in this day of terrorism, I am ill at ease with the burka, jiqab and chador in public settings.

My Mini Vacation

So the French exodus bug got me.  I went to England for 5 days.   Several objectives.  To see a friend in Brighton, to see a play, and to shop.

(The language was a problem.  Seriously.  My ear was not ready for their accents.  I think I asked them to repeat what they said more than I do in France!)

Two years ago I visited one of my favorite memories from my childhood – the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.  I recall seeing it in its splendor when I was 10 – all Chinese-y and exotic.  It was also the setting for many a Regency novel by Georgette Heyer.  I do NOT say Regency Romance as that has the flavor and connotation of the bodice-ripper novels.  (Did you know that sales of such novels apparently skyrocketed when e-readers were created?  The readers no longer had to hide a cover! Or so the thought goes…)  Georgette Heyer was a respectable mystery writer also.  And a quasi-historian.  Her books are set very accurately in the Regency period.  OK. Enough of my defense of my reading selections.

While on our self-guided tour of the pavilion, we asked a question of a … and I still don’t know the right title – more than docent but not guide…  Pavilion Specialist, let’s say.  The one question opened the flood gates of her knowledge.  She was so excited about her subject and knew so much, we were entranced.  This was in the dining room and when we finished with the kitchen and came up on the other side of the dining room, she met us and pulled the rope away to usher us to the center of the table so we could see what it looked like if you were seated at the head of the table.  At that point, I invited her to join us for dinner but she declined, having children to go feed.  But she gave me her Facebook contact.  We have been friends since.  And terribly exciting, she received a medal in the Queen’s Honors List – Medal of the British Empire, I believe.  For her work in adult learning.  Oh my.

So for three days she guided me about.  We went to Preston Manor where a ghost reputes to inhabit.  We saw nothing.  But I must say, there is one spot on the first floor (second to the US readers) where it is incredibly cold.  For no reason.  This place as medieval roots and is more Georgian and Edwardian, but they did not have air conditioning or duct work or vents.  The rest of the floor – the other 4 rooms – did NOT feel this cold.  It was eerie.

Then she took me to the cemetery to tell me the dreadful story of Celia.  I am not going to repeat it – google Celia Holloway and Brighton if you are interested.

Next to a better vibe place: Chichester and the Weald and Downland Living Museum.  (http://www.wealddown.co.uk/ ) Let’s say you have an old building that is standing in the way of progress.  They come out, inspect, take it apart and eventually put it back up here.  Reassemble every timber.  I guess the plaster is new.   Shrug.  They also figure out the best display – maybe it was built in 1505 but had undergone extensive changes.  They can put it back to the 1505 version or maybe they decide the 1589 version is better.  Pretty amazing.

And after, a quick drive past Arundel Castle and dinner at the Black Rabbit pub overlooking the river and castle.

The last day was a private tour of the Pavilion.  Dang, the tunnels were closed due to emergency electrical work.  I was looking forward to that- tunnels that the Regent had made so he could go visit his horses at the stables without walking outside through the public.  (Victoria moved out because she felt too much in a fishbowl in that palace.)  (BTW I did really say “dang” and my friend was amazed and repeated it several times…)

But we still had a great walkabout with so many interesting stories and details and peeks into little closets and servants’ hallways.  Then a walk through medieval Brighton – of which pretty much nothing is left – big fire in the 1500s.  Still we stopped at the Old Ship Hotel where she inveigled the staff to give us a tour of their rooms and cellars.  Reminding me of Bath, there were two assembly rooms, pretty much as they would have been in the 1800s.  And the cellars have a beam that is from one of the ships Elizabeth sent out against the Spanish Armada.  Except two days later she posts on FB “allegedly came from…”  I was utterly disappointed but apparently this is a word of mouth fact, not with evidence.   Fine.

Back up to London where I shopped for shoes and clothes and saw a musical.  Audra McDonald is a famous Broadway star who got her start in Fresno of all places in the Good Company Players junior group.  So it felt right to see her in London since I am not going to be in NY soon.  It was Lady Day – about Billie Holiday and it was marvelous.

Historically speaking, I did get to the Victoria and Albert Museum.  This museum is my absolute favorite in London.  This time there was a Balenciaga exhibition.  Actually, the first clothing exhibit I attended was on him at the DeYoung in San Francisco.  It was a history of my mom, actually.  She sewed most of her clothes, but used Vogue patterns and bought expensive material.  I saw so many dresses at that exhibit that reminded me of her.  There is a Balenciaga expo in Paris right now, but all the dresses are black.  Even Dior said Balenciaga was the one they all looked up to.

And there was a Pink Floyd exhibition.  Last year I went to the V&A Revolution expo that was about how rock changed the world in the late 60’s and 70’s.  Now, that was my life.  Even to the photos of Altamont – I was there!  But Pink Floyd?  I was never a big fan.  What everyone said would take almost two hours I did in 25 minutes.  Shrug.

And before I hopped on the Eurostar, a quick visit to the British Library.  I discovered this gem several years ago.  No, not the British Museum.  They have special exhibits but there is an ongoing exhibit of their gems.  Documents.  Magna Carta.  Notes from John Lennon.  Oscar Wilde.  I recommend.

Who IS here in August?

Chantiers!  That’s workmen/people to you.  I walked over to buy some wine and passed many of those closed signs.  The butcher is also closed, but it’s full of activity.  They are totally remodeling.  There was a nice sign saying they were closed for remodeling and be open mid August (I bet September) and have a nice vacation everyone.

The printers, however, are closed.  Every day at the Metro you can pick up either Avec Nous or Direct Matin –  daily (M-F) rags for art and activities or news and ads.  But not from the last week of July.  Well, I guess I can figure that out…  and the trains that used to run every 1 to 2 minutes are now more like 3 or 4.  Everything slows down.

For a reader… it is City of Light not Lights.  Hmph.   And more for the Enlightenment than street lighting, btw.

And did I sound surprised by the exodus in July and August?  Not at all.  I just continue to be fascinated by it.  A tradition that might be going away slowly – large department stores are now open on weekends and SUNDAYs.  But it’s just so French.