Oh 'deer', we are in Brittany

Hard to believe but it’s summer vacation time for Popeye, Olive and Byerly!

We’ll be settling in ‘Les Tertres’ for a few weeks.

I did the packing while Popeye was still at work. He got home in a hurry. We had to get out of Paris before 4p.m. to avoid the usual dreadful traffic jams.

The sight of ‘our’  too many bags almost choked him. He should be used to my last minute packing... 100 books, 10 cameras + everything I might be missing in Brittany, just in case... even though the house is filled with everything we need and more (books included).

JC knows. He used to get so upset at me everytime he had to help us load or unload the car!

Popeye never gets upset though. He just looks at me and says: «It will never fit in.» But I don’t get upset either because it always fits in the car despite the fact Byerly always travels in a big dog cage on the back seat because he is such a large cat.

So everything fit in as usual. We left and hit some bad traffic jams... Popeye was busy making ‘important’ phone calls so it wasn’t this bad. Byerly was asleep. And we were listening to Ry Cooder’s ‘Paris,Texas’ score in between phone calls.

After a while, things started looking good once we were well away from the Paris area. Sunny weather. Almost empty freeway. And this would be the first real holiday for Popeye in more than one year (3 or 4 days away from work from time to time are not holidays...)

Things looked real good until we got to Rennes, one hour away from Les Tertres. There, we were warned that there were big traffic jams ahead, due to... well, we’ll never know since Popeye turned right as soon as he could and we ended deep into ‘unknown’ country and no map... (We have a GPS but we never use it! Popeye likes to travel according to the sun in the sky... He’s a sailor, remember!)

Well, we knew most of the villages by name either from their train stations or from the exits on the freeway.
But we never had gone so deep into the countryside by car.

Small winding roads, beautiful old farms, green fields with grazing cows...

We had forgotten one thing. We have a very depressed old cat who hates winding roads...

He hates travelling so much that we have to sedate him. Nothing too strong though. So a winding road is bound to wake him up and he starts feeling scared... which usually ends up with him emptying his bowels... He does it very gracefully, never gets dirty but as soon as the ominous smell starts filling the car, we know we have to stop. For him and for us! It’s quite unbearable.

We know this can happen any time so we always bring ‘Byerly’s backpack’ along. It’s filled with wet cleaning towels, baby lotion (!), toilet paper, air freshener, plastic bags, etc.

The poor cat looks so ashamed he almost breaks our hearts! So we clean the mess (well, I usually do) and take off again. It only happens once anyway...

So I was cleaning the mess and chatting with the cat, trying to cheer him up when Popeye said: «Don’t move and look up.»

Which I did, even though it’s kind of hard to look up while cleaning out Byerly’s cage.

Surprise! Two beautiful deers were getting ready to cross the road from our left... I knew there were deers in rural Brittany but I had never seen one.

I’ve shared my garden with one wild boar and two badgers and tens of rabbits and hares but I've never seen one single deer around.

I locked Byerly back in his cage while watching the deers who decided to cross the road and run away in a field on our right, so gracefully it was breathtaking.

Of course, no camera in my hand, just a plastic bag... Oh well, memories are sometimes more precious than pictures.

Popeye was grabbing Byerly’s cage to put it back on the back seat when we both saw at the same time the most beautiful fawn looking shyly at us from behind a tree, not daring to cross the road because he had to get very close to us.

We froze instantly. A few seconds later (maybe minutes), he decided it was safe to cross. As soon as he landed into the big field on our right, he didn’t run away. He started leaping about, springing up in the air, wild with joy.

We were standing there, open-mouthed, lost in wonder. We waited until he finally disappeared into the safety of a neighboring small wood.

And then we left... on our way to ‘Les Tertres’.

Thank you so much, Byerly, for offering us this incredible encounter. First time in your life, your stress gave us so much joy!

It was worth ‘backpacking’ with you for the past 14 years.

(About our train travels through Brittany: All about (French) trains )

*Good Night, and Good Luck*


Am I getting younger or older?

Ode to youth - ⓒ'Madrid 2009'

Happy birthday to me and many happy returns.

So that’s it! Usually I do not like to talk about myself but today is my birthday, so let’s go!

Am I really getting older? I imagine I am since no doubt about it, I’m turning 62 because I was born in 1948 and this is 2010.
But I’m not really sure even though I kind of get the idea the clocks didn’t stop ticking just for me.

Well, the main thing is that I cannot feel bad about getting older!

Another year added to my life, such a happy celebration...

Time no longer has the same meaning for me. For the past seven years, I’ve gone from one treatment to another, from one check-up to another, mostly feeling real sick or awfully exhausted without really noticing the years were passing by.

Lucky all this happened after 2000. I’d still be living in the XXth century for sure!

Seriously now, I do think I kind of lost track of ‘real-time-for-real-people’.

Maybe it’ll take many years before I do realize I’m aging... and then I’ll be such a very old lady. So much fun! (I do believe I am going to be a funny crazy old lady!)

I do not believe I’m getting younger either, don’t misunderstand me.

I’m a lot different from what I was in 2003 but I do not feel a bit older. Wiser probably. More alive certainly. But not older. Not older the way my friends around me start complaining about.

I feel different, that’s all.

I don’t care about white hair (which I wear proudly and very short to boot).

I don’t care too much about loosing my younger sylphlike figure even though I like to look good which I do, thank you so much! (‘If you want something doing, do it yourself’.)

I don’t care about the lines on my face because they show I laughed a lot which I still do. They mean that I lived, fought and survived!

I’m still very enthusiastic about learning new things every day. My awareness of the ‘outside’ world has expanded. So have my reactions to whatever happens around me. (Maybe this is getting younger, almost feeling like a teenager but without all the doubts and hurts going with that time of life, so rich and so difficult to stand sometimes.)

Teen Years - ⓒ'Montparnasse 2010'

That's it! I'm not getting older. I'm growing up!

Just about time!

*Good luck, and Good Night*


My great-grandmother was born a slave in Guadeloupe

Swee'Pea was 18 months old (1981) when we moved into our first house. It was quite small but it had a tiny backyard, wonderful for playing outside. No more sandpit for Swee'Pea.

Our house was part of a very cheap housing development so there were lots of young couples with young children.

Quite perfect for an only child.

There were a lot of protected areas for the children to ride their bicycles, etc.

A true paradise.

Swee'Pea who didn’t go to school very much still made a lot of friends from the neighboring houses. I was working at home, starting quite early in the morning until 4:30 when school closed.

Many mothers were working so a few children would then come to our house, have their afterschool snack and play with my son until their mothers came back from work. It was fun. I remember I used to bake hundreds of chocolate cookies every month. (I knew the recipe by heart.) Yes, a true paradise.

Among Swee'Pea’s great friends, there was one boy and his sister who came from Guadeloupe (in the French West Indies). They lived in our street. Their mother was a night nurse and their father was a 'football star’ in the local police department. The family was nice. The children were extremely bright and fun to have around. Swee'Pea was a huge fan of Cedric who was a very quiet young boy.

In 1985, some bad news went around quite fast in our small world. A new baby had been born into the family (good news) but the father chose this time to leave mother and children. He went back to Guadeloupe with another woman.

Our neighbor was a very dignified young woman. She never let anyone see she was having problems. The children looked sad from time to time but they were young so when they were around other children, they still laughed a lot.

Then one night, around 1:00 am, someone rang our doorbell. Two policemen. Our neighbor had tried to kill herself but just before it was too late, she had called her sister for help. Her sister who lived quite far away had in turn called our city emergency services. An emergency medical team had arrived in time to pump her stomach.

In France, whenever you spell suicide, the police comes over and usually the patient is taken away to the hospital where he/she may remain for quite a long time under psychiatric care.

My neighbor didn’t want to go to the hospital. She was a nurse. She knew what she had done. She also knew that she didn’t want to die after all. Remember, there was a 6 months old baby and two children (5 and 6) asleep in the bedrooms close to hers. Her sister was already en route but it would take her at least 5 hours to get there.

Would I stay with the young woman until her sister’s arrival? She was not supposed to fall asleep and shouldn’t be left alone. She had asked for me.

I said yes... What else could I say?

I was a little bit worried because even though I knew the kids extremely well, their mother and I, we had never been that close. (Actually she kept to herself a lot which I thought was due to shyness.)

So it was a long night. We spent it talking and bonding. She was a very proud young woman from a family who owned a farm and made sure all the children went to school.

She talked about her husband.  He had been her high school sweetheart. She talked about her children. She loved them very much which was the reason of her desperate phone call to her sister.

She talked about her 'country', so far away from France. Her children didn’t speak creole, neither did she. That night, I discovered that she could speak English too since her mother was British.

She asked me about my background. I told her about my farming heritage. I told her about my grandmother and my great-grandfather and my village in Southern France.

Dawn was breaking when her sister called to let her know she was 30 mns away.

We were exhausted. The children were still asleep.

She looked at me very intently and said: ‘Tonight you helped me survive. I’ll be forever grateful to you. But we will never be friends.’

I was a bit surprised even though I never expected us to become friends just because of this one night. I knew she had told me things that she would never have told me in different circumstances. I knew she was a proud woman. I knew she was shy.

But I never expected what she said next.

‘You see, my great-grandmother was born and grew up a slave in Guadeloupe. Her father owned her mother. I do not feel quite at ease with "French white people". We do not share the same history and never will.’

What can you answer to such a fierce statement? Besides I was stunned because I was so sure slavery had been abolished by the French Revolution.

Her sister got there a few minutes later so I left.

We met many times after that but we never exchanged anything more than a smile. The children kept coming to play with Swee'Pea until we moved away to live closer to Paris.

This story kept bothering me for a long time because I’m the type of person who never notices differences whether ‘racial’, religious or social. Well, difference exists of course but to me, it’s very rewarding. Life would be so dull otherwise.

Today I was reading an article about slavery in France. So it all came back. She had been right. Slavery had been abolished in France in 1789 but Napoléon Ier had rescinded the law in 1802 (I think). And slavery was only officially abolished in 1848.

My one night friend had been right. So sad but she had been right. There was a huge difference between slavery and freedom.

A wound hard to heal.

*Good Night, and Good Luck*


Popeye and Olive Oyl went boatin'

All year long, Popeye dreams about going boatin' along with his ever-loving Olive Oyl who, all year long, dreams of spending her days leisurely reading in her beautiful garden.

Life is very strange. There are concessions to be made all the time.

Which is why Olive Oyl goes boatin' all summer long!

Guess what Popeye and Olive did last June? They went boatin' of course.

Olive Oyl who is not a very good sailor almost lost the boat hook while they were docking. She shouted angrily. Loosing the boat hook is not the best thing to do when docking in a very crowded harbour.

Popeye jumped off to her rescue or so she thought. Actually he jumped over Olive Oyl and grabbed the boat hook! Well done, Popeye. Girls should never be allowed on a boat anyway.

It was a very rough time for poor Olive Oyl who ended up screaming to the top of her lungs... She also ended up in the hospital with a cracked rib and a mangled right ankle (so bad that she'll need a walking cast for the rest of the summer).

By the way, Popeye still eats a lot of spinach.

So Olive Oyl was very reluctant to go back aboard when they came back to Brittany for a few days.

She tried to find a thousand excuses not to go boating.

There still was a lot of tidying up to be done in the house. Lame excuse.

There was shopping to be done - lame excuse again, oh so lame.

The weather was not this good. "Are you kidding me?" said Popeye who really loves boating. This truly was a poor excuse to boot... Calm seas. No winds. Sunny skies.

So Popeye and Olive Oyl went boatin'...several times.

I'm glad to report that Olive Oyl came back safely every time (still with her cracked rib and walking cast though).

Only because as soon as they'd get back into the harbour, she'd go into hiding in the cabin down below.

This is how they found out that there is always someone around ready to lend a hand when Popeye is all alone on deck.

Too late for you, Olive Oyl, my poor Olive Oyl!

*Good Night, and Good Luck*