5/17/13

Fear







In 2010, I wrote a post about my encounter with one of the con men who were trying to make money out of rings... This was happening in Paris but it was still very occasional.

Three years later, you can’t walk in Paris in a tourist spot without hearing a ring jingling right by you and then a whining woman’s voice trying to call your attention to this godsend.

I wonder how many tourists believe that this ring is real gold but the  swindlers do work a lot. I’d say that within less than one half mile, I was stopped four times by four different women.

I am not really benevolent nor easy-going with them. And I know very well that if I were to stop, I’d better watch for my purse because men are lurking about. Actually they represent the most dangerous side of the problem if you stop and listen to the women long enough because they are very talented pickpockets.

Last February, the Seine was in spate.

Usually, the river goes peacefully through Paris. And it is wonderful to take a walk along its banks.




For a couple of weeks, it was quite impossible to take a walk on the banks so one day, I decided to sort of zigzag along the Seine from one bridge to another one.

Musée d’Orsay was to be the start of my stroll because I wanted to cross the Seine over the Passerelle L. S. Senghor.

I was walking through the esplanade of the museum when the women started pestering me.

I shooed them away not very gracefully. (I have to admit that once you rebuff them, they leave you alone.) And I kept walking leisurely.

I got to the Passerelle and I spent several minutes taking pictures with my back to the Grand Palais, facing Notre Dame instead. I was more or less alone except for two very young American students who were admiring the many padlocks lovers fasten to the guardrail in token of ‘Love Eternal’.

 





Then I turned around and I caught sight of a group of men and women standing right in the middle of the Passerelle. There they were. I recognized at once the three women who had been trying to con me with their ring. They were not paying any attention to me. They were having a heated discussion with the men.

I don’t know why I did it but I did something terribly stupid. I had to take a picture of the group even though I knew they probably would be on the look-out for danger.

I started taking a couple of pictures that would not attract their attention  or so I thought. And then I moved my lens towards them and took a picture as fast as I could.






But they really were on the look-out. They had obviously noticed me before I even saw them. The oldest man who probably had been warned by one of the girls came up to me. He said aggressively: “No picture.” For a fleeting moment,  I thought that he was going to grab my camera. He kept on yelling at me: “Me work. No picture. Me work.”

I had to stand my ground at least for a few minutes to show him I was not afraid. I can’t remember what I said to him but I did try to sound threatening. It obviously worked since he walked back to his friends while shaking his fist at me.

I had no other choice than to walk away to the other side which meant that I was turning my back on them.

And fear swept through. The students were gone. I was alone on the bridge. The problem being that I was not really alone. I could feel their eyes on my back.

I kept walking because I knew that once I’d cross the Seine, I’d be safe by Les Tuileries with many people around.

Brilliant! What a brilliant idea indeed!

Have I mentioned that the Seine was in spate? Yep, I have.

Well, the way I chose to go ended up this way...


I felt trapped. Taking a picture of those people was very dumb but walking into such a snare was even dumber.

I was very much alone on the last step. Not a friendly face around at all and I was getting very scared.
You see, I was expecting the men to walk down the stairs. They’d come up to me. They’d grab my camera and my purse. And then they’d push me into the Seine. Or my foot would slip because I’d be fighting. End of the story at any rate. “News in  brief.”

I tried to stay calm. As calm as I could be. Just imagine!

So I kept taking pictures while I was desperately waiting for someone to walk down those stairs, someone I would tell my story to, someone friendly enough who would get me across the Passerelle safely back to the Musée d’Orsay.



The Seine was rumbling at my feet. 
 
 

I wanted so much to hear footsteps which would mean safety and at the same time, I was in dread of hearing footsteps which could well mean danger.

So there I was. It was cold, very cold. I was very angry. Mad at myself for being such an idiot. And above all, I was furious because those people were ruining my life just by being there while conning innocent tourists.

Time went by. I remained alone for quite a long time. No footsteps. No noise other than raging waters and roaring cars on the other side... on the safe side.

And then I heard voices. A couple was getting closer. They were laughing. They did not even bother to walk downstairs. They turned around and I hurtled up the stairs four at a time to catch up with them.

When I emerged on the Passerelle, there was no one in sight other than this sweet couple who was so very much in love that they didn’t even notice me.

The group of men and women had disappeared from the bridge and its vicinity. They had vanished into thin air.

 And it hit me very hard.

Those people are crooks indeed. They steal and rob without scruples. But it was fear that made them look worse. My own uncontrollable fear because they were so different from me and my friends. Being different, they were dangerous. No other way.
 
They even had to be dangerous to the point where they would try to get back at me for taking their picture. My fear. While they had probably run away from me because they had felt threatened by me. Their fear.

This experience really shook me up. I remembered writing a post about violence and fear. And when I got home, I was terribly shocked to read what I had written two years ago.

“...please, when very unpleasant things happen to us, let us not pass judgment on people as a whole. Let us refrain from passing judgment on foreigners, strangers, people who are so different from us. We have to resist temptation. No social exclusion. No cultural exclusion. No racial exclusion either.”

What a sanctimonious hypocrite one can be (me, of course)!

The worst thing being that at that time, I was  so totally positive about my stand.

Why do I feel like telling you this story where I am not showing myself in flattering light?

Because last night, our roofer came to Les Tertres to finalize his estimate. He told me that his workshop had been burglarized a couple of weeks ago. When the police arrested the culprits, he was horrified because... they were young people from his neighbourhood. “From the village,” he said quite shattered. It would have been so much easier to reason out the whole thing if they had been strangers and/or undocumented foreigners...

It is not for me to pass judgment. Not anymore.  






*Good Luck, and Good Night*

5/16/13

Arfons and the Miracle of Renewable Energy






I love windmills. Good thing I do because there is a big project in our area - one huge offshore wind farm ‘not very far’ from Les Tertres (even if distance at sea becomes very relative).



Two years ago during our unforgettable trip to Arfons, my beloved childhood village, we couldn’t help but notice several windmills on the ridge above the Lampy.

Kind of strange to see them looming over a place that used to be so rustic and bucolic.

But like I said, I love windmills. Those strange and huge birds. Why do I always think about birds when I watch a windmill revolving in the wind? It is a propeller on top of a huge pole, isn’t it? But somehow windmills are part of a very private and personal bestiary from my hyperactive imaginative world. Oh dear...




After our walk through Arfons I already described in minute detail in my blog, Popeye drove me to the place he knew would really make me happy. I was feeling so depressed about “the slow death of my village”, remember?

We found them quite easily of course. You can’t miss windmills! I was totally ecstatic. I was! They are noisy birds all right but so beautiful! Please just humor me for a few more seconds.






While I was truly distressed because of the decay of my village and family memories, I needed to calm down and the windmills did just that.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister called me. “Did you hear what’s going on in Arfons? It was on TV yesterday. Twice.”

I didn’t even have time to remind her that we do not have a TV set... She was totally tripping, blabbering on and on and on. I finally managed to understand that somehow Arfons had hit the jackpot. And it was something about windmills and millions of euros and on and on and on.

When she finally hung up, I turned quietly to my very best friends in life for help... my computer and the web! I do not own a TV but I am a computer nerd.

Well, it was easy. Very easy. Arfons was creating a real buzz on the web. At a time when the world economy is reeling (at best), a small deserted and forsa
ken village finds out it is fabulously rich. Not because it came into an inheritance nor because of a subsoil that abounds in crude oil or whatever...

The birds... The birds... My huge gigantic birds... The windmills!

A few years ago, the village council and its members lead by the mayor proved themselves extremely visionary. They got the approval of the village residents (minus one so I read) to invest in renewable energy hence the windmills.

The winds of chance and good prospects blew a very positive gale. And Arfons is slowly awakening in a golden downpour! I told you that my birds were benevolent deities, didn’t I?

So now there is a new problem. (Who said that money can’t buy happiness?) Well, the villagers are very happy but the money has to be spent very wisely. And they came up with the most interesting ideas when asked what to do with 2.5 million euros (over 3 million US dollars and 2 million pounds, every year for the next 20 years.

I love the way people reacted. Such a simple life. Getting rid of hornets for one thing and cleaning up the public phone booth for another thing... This is not an exhaustive list, of course.

I love it so much that people remain quite unfazed by such a manna.

They probably do not realize yet that the windmills will change their life and their children’s lives and their  children’s children’s lives and other people’s lives as well. And maybe this is the way it should be for a while. Some latency period. I used to dread changes too.

Maybe you should listen to the mayor... Alain Couzinié, my childhood friend I told you about in a post. He sounds quite flabbergasted and so serene all the same.
video

(If you don’t understand what he says, please drop me a note, I’ll be happy to send you a transcription. I know he was interviewed by the BBC too but I couldn’t find the link... at least in English. I found it in Portuguese and Spanish though! Very funny indeed!)

Of course, ever since my sister called, I have been pestering Popeye to find a house in Arfons for good since I sometimes feel so rootless. Well actually I have been longing to go back ever since Popeye drove me there in 2011.

Oh, I know, I know - Les Tertres are where we put down our roots as a family.

Yes but even so... It would be so exciting to be part of the reawakening of Arfons... Listen to me -- the girl who run away at a time when the village was slowly dying... But I am not totally inexcusable though! Am I?

Oh well, one of these days, my dream will come true. (Besides overcoming cancer once and for all that is!) Maybe? Maybe. Or maybe not!







*Good Luck, and Good Night*

5/15/13

Good day to you, my dear Osteospermum!







My friend Yves came by this afternoon to check on the garden which is still in the making. New plants have arrived. (I mean, he brought new plants even if from time to time some do migrate and we find baby oaks, etc. all over our place.)

He had to set them right where he wants his gardeners to put them in tomorrow since he’s the landscape designer - the mind behind the spade!

My tradescantia really worries me. I brought one of the two pots with me from Paris where they winter. One really needed to be repotted, something I can’t do in Swee’ Pea’s apartment. And repotted it is now but it does not look very good. It probably feels lonely. I am kidding. I do not think it likes being outside, that’s all!




Yves being around, I asked him what could be the problem... “Too much sun,” he said.

“Too much sun?” The weather has been everything but sunny. I mean it’s been a little bit sunny from time to time but Spring is turning back into Winter, seems like...

While I am writing, it’s raining cats and dogs and the gusts of the Northern wind are up to 62 miles/hour (so they said on the radio a couple of hours ago). Impressive! The sea is flecked with white caps (horses, my British friends).

“Too sunny?” I said again while pointing at the South African daisies that were as closed up as they could be even though it only was 4:00 p.m. (In May, in  Brittany, the sun sets well after 9:30 p.m.)

We had a good laugh about those seemingly dainty daisies because actually Osteosperma are very hardy perennial plants.

Osteosperma -- Osteopermums in the plural if you are not a latinist and Osteospermum in the singular -- The name was created from Greek [“osteon” - bone] and Latin [“spermum” - seed]. Don’t ask me why... Well, “seed” makes sense, of course! Any idea about “bone”?

Is Osteospermum a “Dimophotheca”? Well, I love being a bluestocking there. It truly was formerly called “Dimophotheca” except that there is a real difference between the two plants. They look alike but the “Dimophotheca” is annual and the “Osteospermum” is perennial. Easy, isn’t it?



 Everything is splendidly explained in a wonderful website that is all about one passion: Osteospermum. I learned a lot there about my South African daisies which are definitely Osteosperma because mine are perennial and they are very hardy indeed because they survived a very cold and snowy and freezing winter and very dry spells, last year.

I was very worried about them almost as much as I was about my Wollemi Pine and my Camellia sinensis and my Romneya coulteri...

You are probably thinking -- How stupid to worry about daisies? Daisies are so ordinary. Well, not my Osteosperma!

You’ll want to know why, of course. Won’t you now?

Well, you see, they are growing in the (flower) bed that is right by our door so I walk by them all the time. And you know what? I don’t even need to look at the sky to know whether or not it is cloudless or cloudy. Those flowers are extraordinary. They only open out if the light is strong and they will close up as soon as it gets cloudy and then they’ll open out again with the lightest ray of sunshine...

And then they go to sleep at night by closing up completely. They wake up again in the morning and open out fully if... 



Fully awake and basking in the sun light...
"Clouds coming! Oh dear!"
 
Weathering cloudy skies
Surviving heavy rains
I have quite a few very strange and exceptional flowers and plants in my magical garden but those simple and yet beautiful Osteosperma are the closest to my “Alice in Wonderland” idea of a garden.


Good Night to you, my dear Osteospermum!





*Good Luck, and Good Night*