Sunday, June 29, 2008

We're expecting weather in the mid and high nineties tomorrow and Tuesday. It's been muggy lately, but cloudy. When the sun does appear, the temperature soars, so I'm closing my shutters today to keep the cool in.

Today is the pony club "fête" and we made paper flowers to decorate the ponies. I'll take photos!

Yesterday we had a meomorial trophy at the polo club in Bagatelle for my fahter in law, who was the pro there for over 40 years. The polo game was fine - afterwards we gave trophies and posed for a photo. Very chic. And we had lunch. Ver expensive. I had a gaspatcho soup that set me back 20$!

Then I drove back from Paris, and just as I arrived at the pony club near my house, the car broke down, the front wheel literally fell off the axel as a huge piece of metal broke. Thankfully I was at a near stop, and neither I nor my daughter was hurt, but just ten minutes before I'd been whizzing down the highway, and if it had happened then, well, I don't even like to think about it. So I waited for the tow truck and felt ill for a while. Today I have to go to town and do the things I needed to do yesterday afternoon while I was stuck at the pony club. Well - all's well that ends well is true, after all.


Looking at life from a slightly different angle today!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


August chasing the blackbird in our garden

I had a lot of work to do today at the computer, so, before I sat down, I thought I'd do something fun. I filled a plastic basin with hot water and added baking soda and a handful of thyme - sat down to work and soaked my feet. When the water got cold, I used it to clean the steps where the dogs sit. Then I put into the same plastic tub a cup of olive oil and a cup of sea salt, sat down, and rubbed my feet in it as I worked.
It was lovely.
My feet are SO soft and smooth now. But when I went into the kitchen to wash out the basin, my silly dog Auguste darted in and gulped down a huge mouthful of sea-salt - and it made him sick. (He's better now) but it also gave him gas. Not funny.
The windows are wide open.
Auguste is sitting quite happily at my feet.
I have to breathe - lightly.
Silly Auguste. I went out and mowed the lawn, and there is a young blackbird in our garden. He's fearless, loves to tease Auguste, and hopped along, right next to my lawnmower, eating whatever he could. At one point he had a worm dangling from his beak as he walked beside me, as if he were accompanying me across the lawn. Then Auguste noticed and gave chase. The saucy bird flipped into a low tree and started cackling at the dog, by now foaming at the mouth and hysterical.
I had to stop the lawnmower, shoo Auguste into the house, and shoo the bird out of our garden.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Book Roast

After the bonfire, the book roast...

There's a new site out in the wide, wide web. It's all about books - and what's best, you get to meet the authors, take part in games, and have a chance to win BOOKS!!So, trot over to Book Roast!

- From their website:
Each week we're open for business, Book Roast cooks up five authors from different genres. Stop by to hear about their books, jump in the oven and poke them with a meat thermometer to see if they're done.If you haven't dined with us before, you'll find contest ingredients and other information in the sidebar. Ready? Then find a seat and let's get started!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The St. Jean

Last night the village had a fête to celebrate the St. Jean. On the menu was grilled sausages and andouillet (tripe sausage) french fries, and lots to drink. There was the traditional bonfire, and the dancefloor was set up near the tent, while a disk-jockey played lots of funky music.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Solstice!

(The Curious One - statue facing the public library in Hamelin, Germany.)

Today is summer solstice, and there is a big fête planned in the village tonight. We're all quite excited about it - already I've had people asking if I was going, and the kids keep running down to the river to watch the men set up the tent, dance floor, and huge bonfire in the field.

It's a hot and muggy day - we've had rain the past week (lots of it) and the ground and vegetation is soaked. The weather has also been cool (if not chilly) up 'til now, and today a heat wave is rolling in, so the sky is that curious gray-white color it gets when evaporating moisture shimmers up and hides the sun. It's supposed to clear up and get sunny later on, which will be nice. And tomorrow the thunderstorms will boom - brought on the heat and the wet.

My daughter got back from Germany. She had a wonderful time. Her class visted Osnabrück and Hamelin (village famous for the Pied Piper) and Bremmen, (village famous for the Bremmen Town Musicians). She went to the zoo, a science museum, and went riding at a German riding acadamy. In all a great trip. She brought her camera, and her pictures reflect her interests. Most photos are of the zoo - some were of the medievel buildings in Hamelin and Osnabrück, and some were of ponies. But she took pictures of every statue she came across. I didn't realize how interested she was in sculpture - but she raved about them, explaining them to me as we looked at her photos. I love finding new facets to people. I thought I knew my daughter - but I found out something new.
This statue struck a chord in me as well - it expresses such curiosity, interest and delight in learning - something I hope I'll never lose!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Slaving Away

Work keeps piling up, which is good and bad. I love to keep busy - but I also need time (lots of time) for 'moi'. I love to play golf, which is a time-consuming sport, and I love to read, and I love to write. I love working in my garden, and I adore spending time with my friends and family. But all that is 'in between' stuff, because of work.
The ancient Romans (the citizens of Rome - not the slaves, who made up easily a fifth of the population sometimes) worked until noon, then knocked off for the rest of the day. The afternoon could be spent at the baths (imagine a huge spa complete with gym, swimming pools, and massage parlors...) evening was spent at some sort of entertainment like the races or a play. And at night there were dinners and galas. They ancient Romans would regard us all as slaves, I'm afraid. They would also probably have loved golf. I'm surprised they didn't invent it.
I love imagining Rome, and how it would have been at its apogee. In one of my Iskander books, Alexander and Ashley find themselves in Rome. They take a guided tour...

“Roman citizens in this line, barbarians over there,” called out a man in a strong voice as we got in line to buy tickets to the show at the coliseum.

“Barbarian? I’m Greek,” sputtered Plexis.

“And I’m...” He got no further. I clapped my hand over Alexander’s mouth.

“We want to see the show, not star in it,” I said, shaking my head and whispering fiercely. “Can you imagine what would happen if anyone got wind of who you were? How much do you think you’re worth? Don’t you know that there are some that would pay a fortune to see you in the arena? It’s big business here. The charioteers and gladiators are almost all professionals. They are both extremely successful and rich beyond belief, or dead. So don’t, I beg of you, don’t breathe a word to anyone about your identity.”

“What about the papers we filled out in the customs building?” He asked, a glint in his blue eye.

“No one really ever reads official documents. They just get stored. The only ones who pour over them are archeologists who find them thousands of years later and go into ecstasies over all that useless information. Now get into the barbarian line and be quiet.”

Plexis bit back a laugh as Alexander glared at him, but the glare lacked conviction, and I thought he was strangely quiet for the remainder of the afternoon.

“What do you suppose he’s thinking of?” I asked Plexis, drawing him aside as we toured the palace behind a quiet group of Egyptians, two large, hairy Gauls, and a rowdy bunch of Iberians.

“I don’t know, but I heard him muttering, ‘barbarian indeed’ a couple times. I don’t like the look in his eyes.” Plexis whispered back. “Wow, did you see that staircase? A whole regiment could march down it abreast. I think the statues are creepy, especially the eyes. In Greece we don’t make them look so life-like. Granted, we paint the marble pillars and the robes, but we don’t do eyes like that.” Plexis leaned towards a statue and would have touched it but the tour guide barked at him and he drew back.

“I hope he’s not going to do anything foolish,” I said to Plexis worriedly. “Alexander is acting strangely.” He was unnaturally silent, preoccupied, with his head tilted and a far away look in his eyes. I bit my lip. He used to look like that when I’d first met him. When he was in the midst of battle plans against his biggest enemy, Darius, or when he was dreaming up some impossible scheme. Although to do him credit it usually worked. I sighed and turned to Paul. “What do you think of Rome?” I asked my son.

“Amazing,” he said, “really eely.”

“Really eely?” I asked.

“Everyone who’s anyone says that,” he explained. “Scipion’s cousins told us that.”

“Maybe they were just teasing,” I said. But then again, young people had always had their own slang, even in these times. Really eely?

We passed a gymnasium where women in bikinis were exercising. The women were just visible if you peered through the arched doorways. The bikinis they wore were rather interesting I thought, made of what looked like suede or knitted material. The women were jumping rope, playing with a large inflated ball, or jumping in unison in a sort of aerobics class. Afterwards they could swim in the heated pool inside the gymnasium. There was a women’s side and a men’s side, and I kind of wanted a glimpse of the men but Alexander took my arm and pulled me away.
“We’re losing the tour group,” he said.

“It’s a very nice city,” I said for the hundredth time, strolling up the main street, called Cando, which ran north to south. It was perpendicular to the second main street of Rome, called De Cumanus, and running east to west. All the streets were parallel to these two streets, creating perfectly square or rectangular city blocks, called insulae. It was quite hilly, and we hiked up and down, with alternating views of the river and city.

“Not as nice as Alexandria,” he said with a shrug.

I looked at him but he was busy measuring the width of the street with his eyes, taking in the crosswalks and the garbage bin placed in the alley. “Too many policemen,” he said, shaking his head. “They are everywhere.”

“Waiting to catch someone pissing, swearing or spitting so they can fine them,” I said.

“I suppose they need funds to pay all those policemen. I wonder if they have quotas,” Alexander said.

“I think it’s a pity everything nice is reserved for the Roman citizens. Even the nicest hotels. Alexandria is much more democratic,” I said.

“I wonder how long that will last. Ptolomy is rather a snob.” Alexander stopped speaking for a while and we wandered after the group, listening to the guide as he spoke about the wonders of Rome. Paul and Axiom were paying close attention, Plexis was looking in the boutiques, and the Iberians had started to sing a loud song. A policeman was moving towards them with a determined look on his face and a wax tablet in his hands.

“No singing unless it’s praise for the Roman gods,” he said sternly, “rule number sixteen. If you continue you’ll be fined three sesterces.”

The Iberians were outraged; they’d been singing a song about good food and wine, and a very fine song it was indeed. However the policeman wouldn’t budge, so they reluctantly quieted down and went on their way, until one of them got the idea of replacing the names of the food with the names of the Roman Gods. They started again, braying in Celtibere all about delicious Junon, spicy Venus, and hot and tasty Minerve, which made more than one Roman turn and stare.

Alexander grinned and then sighed again. He looked almost melancholy.

“What is it?” I asked him. The Iberians were now kicking in rhythm, narrowly missing a matron out walking her dog. The dog barked frantically, yap-yapping as little dogs tend to do.

The Iberians all stopped and stared. Small dogs were not at all common in Iberia.

“What is this?” asked one, bending over and peering at the curly-haired pet. To get a better look, he reached down and picked up the dog by its tail, making it screech.

The others gathered around, ignoring the fuss the woman was putting up. She was nearly purple. “Put my Popsia down right now!” she cried, waving her arms.

“What is a Popsia? Is it a cat?” asked one of the big men.

“What can it be? It’s quite unique! Look, all those curls! Where did you find it?” asked another Iberian to the Roman woman.

The woman snatched her dog out of his hands and hurried down the street, muttering angrily about barbarians and how Rome was going to come to a bad end if they didn’t crush them all now, immediately, before they overran the city completely. “Get civilized!” was her parting shot to the bemused Iberians.

The tour-guide came back to get the Iberians, hastily explaining to them that small dogs were cherished pets and that they were not to bother them in the future.

“Is it in the rules?” asked the tallest Iberian, the one who’d started the singing. “Rule number thirty six, no holding cherished pets by their tails on public streets!” He mimicked the policeman perfectly, causing his friends to howl in delight.

The tour guide started to get a haunted look.

Plexis and Axiom were waiting impatiently with the Egyptians, the Gauls having abandoned the tour to find something for lunch. Paul, Alexander and I were standing nearby, watching the antics of the Iberians and wondering who would get fined first. Alexander wanted to bet, making me retort that he was getting as bad as the Roman soldiers were. Paul giggled and said he was betting on the tall fellow, and father and son put their heads together to decide how much they would bet, and what the loser would have to do.

We set out again, Plexis and Axiom listening carefully to the guide, the Egyptians walking in single file and not making any comments about anything at all, then the Iberians, Paul and Alexander, and me, bringing up the rear. I was content to walk slowly, savoring the sights and smells, listening sometimes to the guide and sometimes to the Iberians. They were wondering where they could get a good dinner and asked the guide to recommend a restaurant. We were not far from a small bar, called a thermopolia, which sold cups of wine and pickled fish and eels. There were also different sorts of bread, some cheese, and a choice of fresh fruit. We all elected to stop and have lunch, and so we ate, standing up at the counter.

That was my introduction to Rome and I thought I could probably get to like it. The city was clean and spacious, the citizens on the whole were pleasant, and the food was, well, interesting.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Another World

I'm getting tired of this one. All Bush's fault. Things were a lot more fun when the only making the Americans squawk was a bimbo and a cigar in the Whitehouse with Bill. So lets create another world. In this (more perfect) world, Bush choked on that pretzel and Cheney had a heart-attack after reading his wife's purple prose.
The new president (Nancy Pelosi, we're stretching time here, but so what) got the congress and the house and everyone else, to pull the troops out of Iraq, and somehow convinced the UN to take over. (Fantasy land...) and the Iranians, in a sulk, decided they'd better toe the line a bit, and let the inspectors in. They also admitted that the reason they were so intent on getting nuclear reactors was because the oil WAS running out, (is running out) and they wanted to be able to keep their electric grids up and running.
Most people believed them, except Israel, who announced it was going to attack Iran. Saudi Arabia yawned, while the new US president suddenly cut off all financial aid to Israel and Africa. "Unless you give the Palestinians their own state, you can just get your funds from the UK", announced Pelosi, in her toughest, LA accent. And to the African states she said, "No more buying arms from Russia, you losers. It's time to clean up your act." And in an unprecedented move, she also raised taxes on oil companies and said any oil company doing business with dictators or thugs would be taxed at 150%. This meant oil shot up to 18$ a gallon in the US and Europe. The Europeans were used to this, and just gritted their teeth.
The Americans, too involved in the latest TV shows, cried 'foul!" but didn't react. But a manufacturer from India, Tati, introduced a car that ran on water, and suddenly the Tati company was the richest on earth, surpassing Philip Morris, Dow, Microsoft and Shell. The Indians, flush with their new fortune, dragged Dow to the courts and prosecuted them for the Bhopal disaster. Dow was dissolved and was bought by the Chinese.
Of course, the arms and oil companies all over the world were supremely vexed. They had been raking in gadzillions with the various and sundry wars and oil price spikes. Even the Saudi’s lost their bored look and started to send envoys to the US in order to try and get them back into buying oil. Chavez, who had long been a thorn in the US's side, lost his seat as president, but was elected supreme high chief of social advancement and the Colombians gave him his own TV show, so he was happy.
Cuba, no longer blockaded, suddenly became a millionaire's playground, as they flocked there for low-cost liposuction and face-lifts. The island of Cuba was now richer than Monaco, and joined with Switzerland, Luxemburg, the Caymen Islands, the Isle of Jersey, and Monaco in an exclusive club - the UTMOST (Un-Taxed Millionaires Or Such Types) which so angered the reactionary revolutionists left over from Castro's supporters, they formed and army and easily took over UTMOST and formed the LOST club (Leftists Or Such Types) and forced all the companies (and stars, billionaires, and such types) to pay all their back taxes.
The money went into an educational fund for all the schools in the whole world - providing creationalism was NOT taught. The result was a surge in educated people, making most television shows obsolete, but a whole new slew of inventions and advancements saw the light of day. In the Arab world, the collapse of oil sales led to a huge upheaval, where the women took over and created democracies. Only women could run for office though. Men were expected to learn to cook, clean, and work in the garden.
Child labor was abolished, and all children were enrolled in the schools financed by LOST.
In France, Sarkozy's wife (Carla) decided she wanted to live in Monaco, so they ousted the royal family and installed themselves in the palace. Monaco became part of France, which pleased no one, except Carla, who took to wearing a tiara and putting diamond studs in her guitar. The English, after seeing that, decided they would keep their royal family, after all, and annulled the vote which stripped them of their titles. They did, however, take all the royal residences but one and turn them into housing for the poor.
E-books became insanely popular, and the Iskander series, once an underground cult book, suddenly became a humungous best-seller, especially popular with the Macedonians. "Time for Alexander" went on to beat even the bible in terms of sales.
Global warming was arrested, (as were Bush and Blair who were also convicted for war crimes). And poverty and famine was eradicated as the western world learned that fair taxes and eating less was good for everyone. And Tati's cars were a big hit with everyone.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Green dragonfly

A green dragonfly, like some sort of living emerald creature, hovered over the stream. I'm sure it's quite common. After all, I've seen blue and red damselflies, and there are brilliant green ones as well. But I'd never seen this particular blue-green , so I had to get a photo of it.
Afterwards, I thought to myself - I could have capture it and kept it in a jar for all to see. (Zookeeper mentality) Or, killed it, and put it on a paper with a pin and a a carefully written Latin name. (Museum mentality) But really, all I wanted to do was capture it on film. But that's not enough. It shows the insect, but doesn't describe what he did.
He flew in all directions. He hovered, then shot backward, went straight up, swooped, looped, and made a perfect three point landing on a leaf. He held still long enough for the picture, then lifted off again, hovered in one place, then shot into the shadows - a glint of green in the dark, like a twinkling Christmas tree light.
I had to find out how he did it. I read that dragonflies are the masters of flight. Their wings are the exact opposite of our airplane wings - instead of using the airstream and taming it, they create disturbances and eddies that twirl them around. They are masters of unstable aerodynamics. They deliberately create and use turbulence with their 4 wings - each wing independent of the other and one third to one half of their body mass devoted to flight muscles. They are the fastest insects on wings, (clocked at 35 mph!) and can lift more than double their own weight (human aircraft can't even begin to approach that!).
Here is the book I read:
Spineless Wonders by Richard Conniff. (Strange tales from the invertabrate world.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I really shouldn't read the news. For one thing, Bush is mentioned constantly, and just the sight of his name is enough to give me hives. And then I stumbled on this gem in the NY Times (I really, really have to stop reading the NY Times - the Guardian is better for my blood pressure...) "Women who get operations to restore their virginity". (Here). At first I figured, what the hell, they can do what they like. But reading on, I discovered women terrified that they will be beaten, abandoned, or shamed because they lost their hymens. When I read one woman's claim that to lose one's virginity was to become dirt, I decided that women were fools, and men were dolts to insist on something so mundane. After all, there's nothing special about virginity. We're all born virgins. It's stupid to prize something so common and so easy to fake. Why not prize intelligence? Common sense? Independence?
I won't ever, ever, prone virginity to my children. Safe sex, yes, but virginity? Never. Life is too short to obsess about something so ridiculous. Sex is an important part of any marriage, and you wouldn't buy a car without driving it first, would you? Or buy a house sight unseen? What if you married someone without finding out if you were sexually compatible? Wouldn't that be awful?
I say to hell with virgins. (Stomping off to find a good erotic romance to read...I know I have one by Summer Devon in my docs. That should cheer me up.)

Monday, June 09, 2008

My Town Monday ~ Medieval Fayre

Here I am at the fayre!

This weekend was the Medieval Fair in Houdan, a village nearby. It's one of the longest running fairs in France, dating from sometime in the 16th century. It used to be held in the village itself, but because of traffic problems and space, it is now held in the large feild behind the village. This has enabled troops of performers to hold jousting tournaments and mock fights! (this weekend was the English against the French - the crowd really got into it, lol.)

There are illuminators, troubadors, cooking stands, weapon makers, tanners, compass makers, archery stands...well, you name it. It's quite a lot of fun, so we make sure to see it.

Everyone gets into the theme, young and old alike.

The costumes are what makes it so fun. (Check out the group right behind my son.)

The battle was quite loud (orders from the captain - "When we yell 'Fire!' plug yer ears and open yer mouths the lot of you!" - after the first volley of ear-splitting explosions, we followed orders!)

After the battle, the captain yelled "The Dead May Rise!" and they did. That, we thought, would be a splendid ending to any battle.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Living with wildlife

I just read an article in the NY Times that severely raised my blood pressure. It was about people from the city moving to the country starting a garden, and finding themselves competing with the wildlife. One women was terrified of snakes, even harmless ones, and bought a '22 rifle to shoot them. Another woman traps squirrels and drowns them. Another kills woodchucks and rabbits. All I could think, as I read the article, was 'Why the Hell didn't they stay in the city and buy their produce from the farmers' market???'
In my opinion, people that can't adapt to the country shouldn't kill everything that scares them, they should move back to the city. Leave the country and its critters to the country folk. We can deal with them. I have a garden and cherry trees, berry bushes, and grow flowers and vegetables. But I know the creatures that live with me on my property, and what they like to eat, so I don't plant salad and carrots (rabbits love them) nor do I bother with sunflowers. I can buy them at the local 'pick your own' farm. I grow zuchinni and tomatoes (rabbits won't touch them) stringbeans, leeks, peas, corn and lots and lots of nasturtiums to keep the insects off the veggies.
I let the hedgehogs creep in the garden - they eat slugs and snails, and I keep the birds out of my cherry tree with tin foil ribbons ried to the lower branches, and anyway, I can't eat all the cherries myself. The birds are welcome to the uppermost branches.
I wouldn't dream of shooting snakes, they kill mice and insects, and if I did kill the rabbits they'd end up in my stewpot. We don't have squirrels here, except in the autumn when they come for the walnuts. And there again, we have so many walnuts it doesn't matter. There was one woman who said she killed bees because they bothered her. You don't want to know what horrible fate I wished upon her.
I spoke to the farmers around here about the deer and wild boar. They put up electric fences around their sensitive crops, and hail is more of a problem than deer.
So, for all you city folk looking for a second home in the country here is a word of advice. Find a house in town, or an apartment. Don't try to have a garden, or think about competing with the wild animals. Leave the country to the country folk.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A Free e-book

I'm giving this book away as a present for my readers! Please surf over to my website and click on the cover to download a pdf copy. If you have any difficulty, let me know.
Tell your friends! (for ages 16 and up - not erotica)
Thank you!!
May Day!

Meet May, the vampire killer. She's quick, clever, and deadly, and she takes life very seriously having been killed once before by a mob of rogue vamps. Her father, a powerful necromancer, brought her back to life. She's MUCI's (*Mutant and Undead Criminal Investigation*) best man, er, woman, well, zombie actually, for catching and killing rogue vampires, so when two kids show up with all the signs of having been killed by a rogue, May gets the case.
Clues lead straight to a certain Bartholomew Aelfrith, a vampire, whose sense of humor and tall blond good looks are enough to convince May he needs killing...even if he's not the killer. If he makes one more joke about her chop-sticks, she's going to stab him in the heart with one. The problem is, Bartholomew is probably the only person who can catch the real killer, so May has to put up with his insouciance and his wise-cracks...and his penchant for picking up strays of all kinds.
But if he says, "I've got a plan" one more time, she's going to scream.