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a few notes on a cold morning


Everyone, in some small sacred sanctuary of the self, is nuts.

-Leo Rosten, author (1908-1997)

Couldn’t agree more. Words to live by.

In this flat, the fridge door and a shelf in the kitchen hold useful things left by previous tenants – olive oil, balsalmic vinegar, Dijon mustard, fig jam, spices, honey, tea. Some very kind person has left a small jar of Skippy peanut butter. Those of you who follow this blog know what that means to me. I may be in the land of great cheese, but peanut butter still rules my heart, especially on such good bread. I wouldn’t buy it here myself, but to find it, like manna … a great blessing.

The weather report for all this week and next – cold and rain. Paris is freezing! This trip, I have certainly not been lucky with the weather. But that’s okay, I’ve been lucky with everything else. Though there are still worries about my mother, still in hospital, and now I’m counting the days till I go home (eight). I will not be making any more long journeys away from Canada in the near future.

A few other scattered notes: On display at the Leonardo exhibit yesterday were a tiny notebook where he made meticulous drawings and notations, and a big one in which his drawings and notes were on a bigger scale. How I loved seeing that – the artist, like the writer, always talking to himself on paper, noting, noting, noting.

As I’ve written before, one of the great pleasures of this society is stylish, vibrant people who happen to be old – an 80-ish woman on the bus yesterday in long swede skirt with, below, gold high-top sneakers, and another in a bright purple beret, striped multi-coloured socks and sweater. No one in Paris is going gently into any good night.

The other day, walking around north Paris before the Peter Brook show, I happened upon the end moments of a street market, packing up at 3 p.m. There was tons of food left on the ground – oranges, beans, a crate of zucchini – and many people were avidly picking it up and stuffing it into backpacks, including a thin young man who looked like a priest. There are a lot of beggars here, as everywhere, gypsies, kids and street people, and I don’t know what the city does for them – but here was a moveable feast, for free.

I was sorry to learn that Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal is going to be here while I am, but it’s completely sold out. Perhaps I should do what I did in London and hang around waiting for an audience member to have a fight with his girlfriend and give her ticket to me. Chances of that happening twice, anyone?

The election is roiling around – people are handing out leaflets all over the city, and last night I watched the TV news about the huge candidate rallies over the weekend. It’s hard for an outsider to distinguish between the many leftist parties – the Communists on the far left, the Socialists of Francois Hollande, the Greens, the more moderate lefties, then Sarko on the centre-right and Marine Le Pen, the ultra right-wing. Last week’s “Elle” magazine had many pages about a meeting, organized by “Elle” itself, demanding that the candidates address issues specifically about women. Try to imagine “Vogue” doing such a thing. Most of the candidates came, though Sarko sent a female delegate. Le Pen, who makes much of having been a single mother, surprised me by saying she’s not against abortion. Even the ultra right, here, is to the far left of the left-wing of the American right. (Got that?)

Tonight I am going for dinner at the home of a man who contacted me through the internet. Fear not – he’s 90, a friend of my dad’s in 1946, when both were at the Sorbonne after the war. Apparently we visited him and his family in 1964, when we lived here, though I don’t remember. In his first email to me, he scanned a marvellous letter Dad sent him that year, announcing that he was back in the sacred country. I can’t wait to meet him, across the Luxembourg Gardens on the rue Vavin. My favourite kind of gathering – celebrating the past.

P.S. Monday’s – yesterday’s – Jon Stewart show was particularly good – a clever exposé of Fox News “war on women” hypocrisy and a beautiful interview with Jane Goodall about her new film on chimpanzees. Highly recommended.

It’s bitterly cold and wet here – sleet. I went out for a baguette, fresh and hot, and ate most of it at lunch. What rain?



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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