Saturday, September 30, 2006

Londres en Amoureux

Courtesy of Petite Anglaise. Who knew Parisians thought of London as a sexy destination or perhaps this ad, cleverly placed in the Paris Metro, is intended to convince them that it is indeed such a place.

You do have baked beans with your fried eggs, don't you? We do.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Words to Follow

Some photos from the Eastern Sierras, California

Mono Lake and some of the fabulous Tufa piles.

The Ritter Range

Tuolomne Meadows in Yosemite

An ancient Bristlecone Pine

Friday, September 22, 2006

To Go or Not To Go

Paper towels, olive oil, crunchy demerara sugar, hot Italian sausages, dry roasted and honey-sweet and sesamed almonds, La Posada sherry vinegar for the tomato and onion salads and an aged balsamic for anything that is leafy, a thick, grass-fed London Broil, tomatoes on the vine (diameter no bigger than 1.5") and Italian tomatoes on the vine for pasta sauces, frozen and fresh fruit and non-fat vanilla soymilk for smoothies, organic free-range brown eggs, La Brea Bakery bread hacked in half and frozen for the week ahead, English sausages and bacon, HUGE tasty portabellos, the white wine, good beer and the list went on. This was our obligation...Buzz and Susan were doing the rest of the list which is equally extensive and included the other color of wine.

All of this for a week in a cabin on a lake (with electricity!) and hiking trails and my own pillow and my own duvet and oh, did I mention, about a ton of food? And excellent company! And electricity, sweet electricity.

As the winds begin to whip up here in the Southland and the air is strangely hued and scented from the long-burning Day Fire and with threats of Santa Ana's and an increased fire threat on our own doorstep, we were still excited to be headed northeastwards...that is, until we got this news.

And the owner of the lake-side cabins where we'd be staying called Buzz this morning just to let him know that he'd evacuated the cabins, none of the access roads were currently open and oh...they'd lost all power. No electricity. None.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


The flight was fine, comfortable even. Sitting upstairs on a 747 is an entirely different feeling to downstairs. I wasn't flying Upper, but Premium Economy (thank you F.F. miles) on Virgin and my seat was comfy and roomy. On Virgin you can buy an economy seat, and do a combination upgrade with miles and $s to get a big seat. I sat next to someone that I recognized from television but due to my occasional pop culture gaps couldn't identify. On take-off I eyed the location of the empty seats and noted the pair of empties directly in front of us. "Nothing personal," I said, "but I'm headed to those empty seats when the seatbelt sign goes off." I know he thought, "Wow, if she were 30 pounds lighter and 30 years younger she'd be my kind of woman." I wrote earlier and briefly about flying on that day and how I felt and will let that suffice, but here's how my week progressed. I knew I'd be alone as Himself was in Vancouver on biz all week so relished the slow re-entry that would be possible.

Monday: After successfully finding my husband's car at LAX (it really is worth parking in those smaller and more expensive lots where you call for a pick-up and have them drop you directly in front of your car), I stopped at Bristol Farm's (new close to airport location and reminded myself why I never shop there...those cowboy outfits the staff are forced to wear, the insanely high's like an even more expensive Gelson's) for some milk and bread and then proceeded to the Canyon. Noted new road surface on Topanga Canyon Blvd and thought what an unnecessary, premature job but how nice and smooth. It was hot and I was wiped out tired. Made it up the stairs with my computer and vowed to go get my luggage after a cuppa tea, which I did. After fighting the dreams, I finally succumbed to bed at 7:30 PM. From the time I'd got out of bed at my Mum's in Eastbourne at 4:30 AM UK time, to the time I fell into bed, 7:30 PM Pacific time, 23 hours had passed.

Tuesday: I awoke refreshed at 3:30 AM and since it was 11:30 AM in the UK, called my Mum just to chatter a bit. Then I popped open my two suitcases and the previously clean and tidy house (thank you Rosario y Leslie) exploded in a sort of chaos that made little sense. At 10 AM, I resisted the urge to nap and instead tried to put all the crap I'd brought home into piles. The piles had the following names: Colin, Jane, Roger, Lottie, Sophie, Baby Anders, Betsy (birthday gift), Lin. The chaos was now organized somewhat, but I had little time to gloat. The phone rang. It was a location scout asking if one of their photographers could take some pictures of the house. We were being considered for a Tylenol ad. There's no way I can say no to such easy money so I said late afternoon would suit me fine, 3 PM was agreed upon, and as I clicked off the connection, the chaos of the unpacking overwhelmed me. I sat down. It was now noon and I had to 'stage' the house. That meant simple flowers and table runners and putting all the decorative cushions outside and generally making the place look as lived-in and tidy as possible. SHIT. I ran around in a daze, but achieved the look I know they like (by repacking almost everything) by 3 PM. He got here around 4:30 but since the place was ready on time I just thought I'd lay down on the couch in the family room, watch a little TV and relax for a few minutes. I must have fallen asleep because his persistent knocking is what woke me up. Thank Christ he didn't wander around the side of this fishbowl of a house because if he had, he'd have seen me in all my drooling wonder. As it was, he just saw me in all my creased-face glory. Nice. I managed to stay awake until 8:30 PM and then collapsed into bed.

Wednesday: This is my day for volunteering at a homeless shelter and right now I'm counseling moms on how to find a job, create a resume, etc. As I've said before, it is truly a case of the blind leading the blind, but they're great and I hope I'm helping them. Before that, I popped over to my daughter's to see the girls and at least transfer some of the clutter from my house to my daughter's. It was wonderful seeing the babies again. Lottie was now a kindergartener and Sophie almost three weeks older and crawling all over the house and pulling herself up on anything and everything. By the time I got home it was 9:30 PM and if I'd thought myself tired before, I was now almost delusional.

Sophie standing and Lottie wearing her new outfit from Jenny in Wales.

Thursday: I decided to make this the day I went back to the pool, ignoring (stupidly) the fact that my ears had been a little blocked since landing on Monday. I had a slight cold and the fluid balance in my head isn't right. By Thursday afternoon, my left ear was blocked completely and, oh, I had houseguests arriving any minute. Fortunately, these folks are beyond easy and nice and the best houseguests a girl could want. Linda and Al pulled up the driveway at 4 PM and at 4:30, Linda was helping me set up the guest shack with fresh sheets and towels. Also, realizing I was still jetlagged and a little under the weather, they'd stopped by Whole Foods and brought dinner and breakfast. How great is that??? They're early to bedders which worked in nicely with my current schedule.

Friday: Linda & Al were heading down the driveway by 11 AM, and I still had some suitcase rubbish to unpack. The clobber that needed posting (to my son and Baby Anders) had gone out on Wednesday, as well as the stuff for the girls. Most of the crap left was staying in this house and needed ordering. It also needed tidying up before my husband flew in on the 9:20 PM flight from Vancouver. Since Lottie's birthday was fast approaching, before the airport run I had to make a trip to the American Girl store in The Grove. It is Lottie's most fervent prayer that she get the Mollie doll for her birthday. I like these dolls, and
after spending an hour there, came to appreciate the wholesome, sly way they sucker you into their world...their very expensive world. I then popped over to my daughter's so she and her husband could go out for a nice meal and get away from the wee ones for a while. It was slick hand-off of power. They got in at 9 PM and I headed to LAX to collect mon mari who I hadn't seen for three weeks. The airport was a zoo and I made a note to self never to fly in on a Friday night. We did find one another on only my second drive around and my happiness at seeing him rounded off a rather crazy week with a quiet comfort.

Next weekend we're going somewhere in Northern California for a week with friends Buzz and Susan. I need to find out exactly where.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Keith Olbermann's 9/11 Post

If you never read Keith Olbermann's blog, perhaps it's time to give it a try. And if you read no other of his words, please read his very personal posting on "The hole in the ground."

At least one news commentator isn't holding back.

Charlie at Willowtree

In defense of my dear friend, Jenny, who is a dog trainer (and I've got the pictures to prove it), the dog you see here...the one standing in Jen's dishwasher, is totally deaf and had a stroke. He is allowed many privileges the others aren't.

So here is Charlie at Willowtree, Llandewi Velfry, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

United Airlines, Flight 93 and Jim's Wife, Kristin

That's how we knew Kristin, as Jim Gould's wife. She was much more, of course, but that was our point of connection. My husband admired Jim Gould and considered him somewhat of a mentor, and not just in engineering. A couple of years before his illness and subsequent death, we'd had lunch with Jim and his lovely wife, Kristin, in New York. I didn't know her well; we only met that once, but she made such an impression on me. A warm, charming, beautiful, intelligent woman. I can only imagine what her last moments were like. It was Kristin that I thought of yesterday, as I flew home from London.

Kristin was memorialized in a number of articles. Here's one that I felt captured the woman I briefly knew.

Passenger: Kristin Gould White

Sunday, October 28, 2001

Sins are sins, Kristin Gould White believed, but ignorance and boredom were two of the most egregious.

Kristin Gould White
dot.gif Freelance medical writer, 65, New York City
Daughter, Allison Vadhan
She was on her way to visit friends in California

Fluent in several languages, conversant in music ranging from Mozart to Michael Jackson, an author and inveterate traveler, White made a point of keeping both at bay through her capacious knowledge and a worldwide circle of friends.

White's passion was people -- whether they were the ancient Greeks, neighbors near her brownstone on New York's Upper West Side or the medical pioneers she depicted during her more than 30 years as a freelance writer.

Born Olga Kristin Osterholm to wealthy parents in Long Island, she was a high school valedictorian before graduating from Cornell University in 1957. She was married three times and divorced twice.

As a single mother of a 3-year-old daughter, White embarked on a career as a freelance writer, specializing in medical issues for such publications as Medical World News, Environmental Health Perspectives and the Journal of Women's Health. An equal opportunity freelancer, she even penned stories under a pseudonym for the National Enquirer tabloid.

Five feet 8 inches tall, she favored big sweaters and the low-keyed couture of Ann Taylor. Zipping around New York in her Saab convertible, she attended plays, concerts and the ballet, rarely going more than a week without listening to live music. Her retention of information was staggering, from the finer points of a biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge to the German lyrics of an obscure song from the Three Penny Opera.

While proud of her Scandinavian heritage, White trumpeted the bit of Irish blood in her genes, and read everything she could about Ireland, from Yeats to anonymous playwrights.

One of the latter was a New York acquaintance of White's, a struggling author who in 1996 published a memoir about growing up in poverty-stricken Ireland during the 1930s and 1940s. White's friends say she loved the book but thought its style might keep it from reaching a broader audience. She bought 100 copies of the book, titled "Angela's Ashes," and handed them out to friends. The book and its author, Frank McCourt, won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for biography.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Today I flew home from England. Heathrow was a series of questions and queues, body pat-downs and queues, frustration for some and unease for others.

The flight was comfortable and uneventful, but if there was anyone sitting on that plane who wasn't thinking about 9/11, I'd be surprised.

I found it impossible to stop the tears as I looked out the small airplane window to the blue beyond. Did they look out their windows at the blue beyond and think what a beautiful, perfect day?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

20 Things

And this is what Gwendomama sent and if you knew her, you could no more hate or shoot her than you could shoot or hate the woman in the moon. Ergo, here are 20 things...from a year ago. But first, what Miz Gmama said.

"i don't know it this is called tagging...i have never done that and as you know am hardly technolingosavvy.....but if it is, then howabout a post on the same (not before i blogged, but a year ago - 20 things -- today ?)

of course y'all have probably done that 10 times before i ever set sight on a blog. if so, so sorry.
don't hate me. i am so full of love.

of course if you think this is in any way bordering on chainletter ilk, not only should you delete this, but shoot me."

And are 20 things from a year ago.

1. Colin, my son, was in NY doing freelance copywriting work and looking for a challenging job with health insurance. (mission accomplished, woo hoo)

2. My daughter, Jane, was four months away from delivering the fabulous Baby Sophie.

3. The spectacular Charlotte was just days away from being a four-year old and plans were busily in place for the birthday party (at our place).

4. Matt (son-in-law) and Jane were getting ready to move into a cute little 1920s Spanish bungalow in West Hollywood.

5. Husband Roger and I were doing last minute prep so we could safely leave our house for a few weeks and head to the UK and then onto Italy.

6. Definitely getting excited because Colin was headed L.A. way for a week.

7. Still reeling from Hurricane Katrina.

8. Geeks for Hire organized a new underwear drive for Katrina victims. That resonated with me.

9. Katrina made it hard to think straight during that September.

10. Took a bunch of pictures of my house so I could put them in a safe deposit box so if our house burned down while we were gone, our insurance gestapo folks wouldn't argue with us about what was or wasn't here.

11. Deleted the pictures I took because I hadn't tidied up enough and the place could look better.

12. Didn't take more pictures before we left.

13. Katrina and 9/11 were warring in my head. Hard to understand how we could be so pissed off at other countries and not pissed off at our own for not protecting these people.

14. Honestly thought about moving out of this country.

15. Thought about it some more and spent hours doing some hard thinking about where to go and how that still wouldn't change one thing.

16. Lost myself repeatedly in the joy of being a grandmother and a mother.

17. Did a lot of packing and unpacking.

18. Worried ad nauseum about fires in the Canyon that could happen while we were gone.

19. Couldn't get Katrina and 9/11 out of my head.

20. Looked at my husband, daily, and knew that in spite of our frequent frustration with one another, that I had been beyond lucky in spending my life with such a terrific person.

And here are 20 things from today.

1. I'm in England, not America, but will fly home on Monday.

2. I'm trying to ignore the fact that Monday is 9/11.

3. I met GrannyP (a terrific writer) in Lewes, East Sussex for lunch today. She trained it down from London and I drove in from Eastbourne. This was our first real-life, non-ether meeting and I'm hoping there will be many to follow.

4. I had fewer hot flashes today than I did a year ago...something to celebrate.

5. I hardly have any neuropathy left in my feet. Another fact to celebrate.

6. Today I'm five years and four months away from that pesky cancer thing.

7. Last year on this date I was driving on the right hand side of the road and not the left.

8. Monday I will be driving on the right, if I can find where Roger is leaving the car for me. (he flies to Vancouver on Sunday and will leave the car at a parking lot at LAX). Ever been to LAX?

9. Today the temperature is about 35 degrees cooler than it was in Topanga on this day last year.

10. This morning I had breakfast with my 82-year old Mother.

11. My step-father made chicken curry for dinner tonight...Jamaican style. It was good.

12. I watched The Weakest Link with my Mum tonight...repeating all the questions for her in my loud voice and missing almost every answer since I was screaming the question. She has a little hearing problem.

13. I hung clothes outside on my mother's clothesline in Eastbourne. The wind dried them in under two hours.

14. I'm getting used to my mother ironing everything I own.

15. I'm getting used to my mother doing my washing for me.

16. I'm getting used to my mother telling me to go where I want, do what I want and to take as long as I want to do it. "You're on holiday," she keeps saying. She is one of those rare mothers who doesn't make you feel guilty about stuff.

17. I'm still finding it hard to believe that she's in her 80s.

18. I miss my husband, I miss my kids, I miss my grandchildren.

19. I miss dry air.

20. It's time to go home.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Visiting Lush Maggie, Part Two

So I won’t go on any more about the incredible amount of liquor that Maggie could put away and still remain upright, though part of me is impressed that she could remain standing and chatting; the rest of me is still disgusted. The only other boozie thing I will say is that her kinda gay/kinda straight husband made the most fantastic hot chocolate I have ever, ever had in my life. He put a little rum in mine, guaranteed (or so Maggie assured me) to make me sleep like a baby and made Maggie’s half choccie/half rum. As she toddled up the stairs to their room, I asked her if she still frowned on smoke ‘above stairs’ and she assured me she did, making it possible for me to sleep knowing she most likely wouldn’t burn the house down.

Getting to Maggie’s
The drive wasn’t bad. I’m staying at my Mum’s house in Eastbourne on the South Coast of England so getting to the Northern edge of the New Forest (Fordingbridge in Hampshire) wasn’t too long a drive and like most driving in England, straight-forward and well signposted, as long as I remembered to stay left. I touched on the edge of the Forest, wild ponies on heathland…just beautiful and still familiar. We’d lived on the other side of the Forest when our daughter was a baby, in Lymington, Hampshire. Next to Topanga, I do believe I loved living there the most. And so going back to that part of the world was something I looked forward to…that and seeing Maggie again.

Ponies wandered onto and off the road, while tourists (including myself) tried to find places to pull over and take a picture. It never worked so I headed off to Fordingbridge. We were to meet (don’t act all surprised or anything) at a pub just on the other side of the river as you drive into the small town, but since it was only 10:30 AM there were barrels being unloaded and the entrance to the pub parking lot was blocked. I fiddled about in town and couldn’t find anywhere to park so headed back over the river again where there was a small parking lot. I thought I could give Maggie a call from my mobile and give her a head’s up as to where I was.

But instead of doing that, I drove into the side of another parked car as I was trying to park my own. SHITE. SHITE. SHITE. My brand new VW Jetta with SIX forward shifting gears had a scratch on it, but worse than that were the expressions of the people sitting in the car that I just scratched. You see, I didn’t realize that I’d scraped the length of their car (on the plastic anti-ding strip, not the actual car itself). Looking at their disbelieving, raised eyebrows, I kind of returned the look with one of my own. One that said, “WHAT??? Why the hell are you looking at me like that?” We got out of our cars and then they rather terseley explained just what I’d done. I was immediately contrite and full of abject remorse and apology, and then they lost all anger towards me and were trying to make me feel better (which was nice…considering). So, we exchanged info and I then had to go back into town, hoping to find Lush Maggie…which I did. She put out her smoke and hopped in my car, directing me to a parking lot behind the main shopping area. I kind of thought we’d just head over to her place or go out for a coffee or stroll along the river or a million and one other benign activities, but we went into the pub so she could start drinking. While we sat there having a relatively sober chat (remember it's 10:30 in the flippin' morning), she and her husband asked me if there was anything particular I wanted to do the next day and I was all over going to Salisbury, Sarum and maybe Stonehenge...all places I hadn't been to since my early 20s. They seemed keen(ish), too.

They also told me at length about this fantastic pub in the Forest where they'd made reservations for dinner that night. Incredible food they both assured me. Christ knows why I even took them seriously because by two in the afternoon, after they'd drunk two bottles of wine, a couple of beers and ciders, I asked if I might just grab a sandwich or something. They pointed me towards the fridge and ate nothing themselves. I knew then food didn't rank too high on their list of importance. At seven that evening, knowing I damn sure wasn’t going to be driven anywhere by them, I volunteered to drive, allowing them to be the designated drunks. The pub was everything they said it would be and as we were shown to our table, Lush Maggie asked if we couldn’t just have our meal in the pub and not the restaurant since she couldn’t smoke in there. That’s where she ate the one grilled sardine I mentioned in my previous post and smoked about 10 cigarettes in two hours. The cigarette pack had a pretty serious warning on the side..."SMOKING KILLS."

Next morning Maggie said, and I quote…”You don’t really want to go to Salisbury Cathedral today, do you?” I made multiple excuses for her to not go, and took off at 10:30 that morning. Twenty-four hours. That’s how long I’d been with her. It felt like 72.

Ciao Lush Maggie. I’ll miss you.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Some Friendships Go the Way of the Bottle, I guess

Flippin' 'enry, but that was a nutty visit. Maggie is loaded and chain-smoking all the time, from what I can tell. Her new husband is very nice and I liked him, but he’s a pussy. Almost effeminate in a way that annoys me when women are like that, but not gay, you know what I mean. She wears the boxers and they muddle along together. House not clean, food not offered because she weighs NOTHING now and never eats. She ate one sardine in the 24 hours I was there, but drank the following, starting at 10:30 AM yesterday and 10 AM today.

yesterday: two pint glasses of cider before 11, between them two bottles of wine (she drank about one and a bit bottles on her own), a pint beer, a couple of whiskies, two glasses of wine at the restaurant and a stiff shot of something in her hot chocolate before bed. she weighs approximately 85 lbs and I’m not kidding. this morning, cuppa tea and her first beer at 9:30 AM. Then I fucking left.

yesterday she'd said what do you want to do tomorrow. Since we'd been looking at a map and since her husband used to teach in Salisbury, and since it's only 10 miles away, I said I’d like to go to Salisbury cathedral. This morning, Maggie said to me you don’t really want to go to Salisbury do you? I said um, yeah, and made up excuses for her not to have to go with me and I left there at 10:30. I went to Salisbury, which is still AMAZING, then Sarum, also amazing and then STONEHENGE! YAY! Great day, out of the fucking smoke of that house. thought I was gonna pass out and I'm not exaggerating. fucking gross.

we can chatter tomorrow

now I’m back at mums. YAY!

Lin xoxoxoxox

So that’s the email I wrote to my husband, minutes after I arrived back at my Mother’s house in Eastbourne last night. Here’s the background.

An old friend of mine, Maggie, who knows nothing about computers and even less than that about blogs (so I feel fairly safe writing this), got married a few years ago to this fellow, David. She was living in Majorca at the time and they met in a bar over there. His wife had recently died after a five-year war with colon cancer and a friend of his had persuaded him to get away and have some fun. He met Maggie and she is/was fun. I’ve known Maggie from our years in Newcastle-upon-Tyne where she impressed me mightily as an extremely uber-capable woman. She could watch her own three kids, I could drop my two off and she could cook a seven course meal for a dinner party that evening, tidy the house, amuse the children AND reupholster a chair. She was one hell of a multi-tasker and good fun, to boot.

She and her then-husband, Frazer (2nd husband who is now married to a Spanish Opus Dei(er) and lives in Madrid and has two small children [haha]), moved to Minorca (the smaller Balearic Island), opened a bar and a restaurant, finished raising her two kids from her first marriage (at 16) and their one child from their holy union and then he left…for the Spanish mainland. Maggie sold the restaurant, finished raising the kids and did it pretty damned well. She entertained my daughter and her girlfriend when they were doing their round-Europe summer and then I didn’t hear from her for a while. The odd beautifully written letter would arrive, alluding to too much partying and too much booze, but she was still in control. After I finished my chemo treatment, she and her daughter visited from Spain for a couple of weeks. She was still industrious, still a heavy smoker and on her way to being a mighty heavy drinker. She cooked and cleaned and repaired curtains and did her smoking either outside or in front of a roaring fire and except for the drinking, which didn’t happen until dinnertime, we mucked along fine together.

And so I looked forward to seeing her in her new home at the edge of the New Forest and to meeting her new husband, David.

To be continued…