Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Freddy and the Dreamers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, even the Beatles: I could relate to them. They looked liked boys I could have gone to school with, groups who might have played a gig at the church hall. But the Rolling Stones, they were something different. A little darker, a little more worldly wise.

Who knows what happened to Freddy, and Gerry probably has a pacemaker now. We all know about the tragic deaths of John and George. But forty years later, Mick Jagger, the Energizer bunny of rock, is going strong.

Tomorrow night, if our trip to Washington goes well, we will be tucked up in bed in Andrew’s house in Rockville, MD and the Stones will be in Detroit, performing at Comerica Stadium. You look a little worse for wear, Mick, but don’t we all?

The sixties, now those were the days . . .

Monday, August 29, 2005


At the risk of appearing shallow and frivolous, I confess that one of my favorite timewasters is Manolo's Shoe Blog. I chuckle at his caustic comments on style and admire the shoes he sprinkles over his pages. In his August 24th entry, he cites other shoeblogs of which he approves, including, for you British readers, Shoewawa.

Why does this make me feel left out? Just about everyone I know in my age group has already lost the battle of the bunion and we have all opted for comfort. Even my stylish friend Lynne, as she entered her eighties, stacked up a large number of boxes marked Louis Ferragamo, size seven, narrow, and is now thinking about selling them on eBay.

Nice shoes won't work for me any more, but I have been introduced to the magic of the pedicure. A couple of weeks ago, I was reading the wedding reports in The New York Times.(Shallow? Frivolous? Moi?) The groom quoted his aunt as saying, "A woman with clean toes is a woman who's well-rounded, well-mannered and well-presented."

If that's good enough for Apratim Dutta's aunt, it's good enough for me.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dear Grosse Pointe Public Library

When you hire a children's librarian, don't you think it would be a good idea to make sure he/she has taken a course in child development as well as requirements in dinosaur literature and Harry Potterography?

I took Alex and Frederick to the library this morning. For a kid who is not quite sixteen months, Frederick has a good vocabulary. He tends to say everything three times, and I admit he is pretty loud, but anyone who knows anything about children that age knows they yell in church, they yell in libraries and if you tell them to be quiet . . . they yell even louder.

Yours truly,

A GPPL patron for thirty six years.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Did you ever see the picture of we three?

That's the cultural literacy quiz for today. I'll buy a beer for the first person who recognizes the quote.

It is a quote that came to me as I responded to the giggling from the room across the hall the other morning. They each had their own bed, but these guys know the value of a good snuggle.

Ten days ago Gody left for Rwanda. She has one sibling remaining in Kigali, her brother Jean-Baptiste. This is the week of his wedding, and as the senior remaining member of her family, Gody flew over to represent them all. Patrizia is there too, so this will be a reunion for them, as well as a chance for Gody to spend a little time in her native country.

Normally, this would present no problem. But, as luck would have it, Al will start teaching in a new school after Labor Day and the 152 new employees of the South County Secondary School in Fairfax County, Virginia are being brought together for two weeks of orientation. I had volunteered to go out and look after the boys, but wiser heads prevailed and suggested that Al bring them here, where I am more familiar with the parks and libraries and ice-cream stores. They have been here for nine days and so far things are going well.

I'll add to the report and post some more photos before we leave on Wednesday to take them back home. By the way, that's Emmanuel (seven), Frederick (sixteen months) and Alex (just three.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Happy Birthday, Jeff

Birthday wishes go out today to my son-in-law, Jeff. Elizabeth and Jeff met at John Carroll and have been married since 1992. Often when Elizabeth came home for college breaks, she would ask us to drop her off at the Ambassador Bridge, where she was going to meet "this guy who is driving back to Cleveland." It was a long while before the penny dropped!

For the first years of their marriage, whenever they were over for dinner, I would always know where Jeff was: up to his elbows in soap suds, doing the dishes. Now they have four children under four, so he is usually up to his elbows in diapers. It won't be that way for ever, Jeff.

The photo was taken in July at Henry's baptism. Love from all the family.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs is my new best friend. We were introduced a few weeks ago by my son-in-law, Ron, who in addition to being a copy editor at the Detroit Free Press, reviews mysteries for the Sunday edition. "Pardonable Lies" is the third book in Jacqueline Winspear's series about a remarkable young woman in post World War I England. Her card reads "Psychologist and Investigator", and although the level of psychological training available to her at that period has hardly given her skills we expect of the flamboyant profilers who are the product of modern criminal psychology classrooms, Maisie is a dab hand as a investigator.

She is a worthy inspiration for the likes of Kinsey Millhone and V. I. Warshawski. Under stress, however, they tend to run for miles, jump in the shower, pull on a t-shirt and jeans and get to work. Not our Maisie. She understands the restorative powers of hot water (A bath had been drawn for her, and the vapor of lavender lingered in the air), but when she sets out for France to sift through the physical and emotional debris of war and to confront her own demons, she wears "a gray-and-blue tweed jacket with a pale gray silk blouse, light gray woolen trousers, black shoes, and, to top off her ensemble, a dark gray hat with a broader brim than usual, a black band and a dark blue feather on the side, which was attached to the band with a deep blue stone in a sapphire cut. . . The clothes were not new, though she had retrimmed the hat herself recently."

There is much more to Maisie than a snappy outfit and the account of her adventures is both exciting and thought-provoking. Ron's point about the perspective of past history making comments on modern war more palatable, or at least less critical, is worth pondering.

Here's his excellent review

I look forward to going back to read the earlier books which introduced our protagonist and I await further Maisie Dobbs books from Ms. Winspear. I'm also wondering whether Kinsey and V.I. need to sharpen their images with a bit of creative hat-trimming.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Great Foxglove Glut of 2005

This is the time of year when people usually barricade themselves behind doors, avoiding the parade of neighbors arriving and announcing, "We grew a few extra zucchini and we thought you might like some." My surfeit is foxgloves. I don't quite get this biennial business, but I do know that I had three foxgloves growing this year. Last year, however, I had a lot of them and they clearly did their thing. The garden was awash with little seedlings this spring and they are now growing large, ready to form rosettes, take all the ice and snow the winter throws at them and become the stars of next year's garden. I am trying to find a home for them all. This happened to me once before and I vividly remember taking an offering to my sister-in-law in Chicago. She decided to plant them in her garden on the first Saturday of the college football season. The cable connection for the TV ran right under her flower bed and anyone who knows John can just imagine his reaction when the spade dug right through the buried cable.

As for zucchini, we only planted a few cherry tomatoes this year, so slicing tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini will be gratefully accepted.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Gardening can be dangerous

Fibrils. Now that's a word you don't hear often. In fact it's a word I had never heard of until this afternoon, when I was stretched out on an examining table and the doctor was removing some from my hand. With a scalpel. The dictionary defines a fibril as a small, slender fiber and in my case they were material left behind after several hornets attacked me.

I was completely unaware that hornets had built a nest in the compost heap. A week ago, on the first cool morning for a long while, I went out and removed some of the lush vegetation that had sprung up in the heat and humidity and decided to transplant a few items. So I went over to the compost heap, plunged a spade into one side and found myself the object of several hornets' rage.

Benadryl and a topical ointment seemed to be doing the trick, but over the weekend the swelling and itching returned worse than before and I decided it was time to get medical attention. A few nicks of the scalpel later I was off, clutching a prescription for antibiotics and steroids.

Just a few weeks ago I had gone to the doctor with an unrelated problem and mentioned I couldn't get rid of a painful sliver of wood in my finger. Out came his trusty scalpel and in seconds that problem was solved (as the bill said: removal of foreign object from finger, $172.) Fibrils are much smaller. Let's hope it cost less to remove them.

Friday, August 12, 2005

What's your major?

The concept of a college major being something of a movable feast is a strange one for the English. At least it was. In my day, and that phrase alone indicates that I am "of a certain age", we applied for a place at university directly into a specific department. And we never took a class in anything else. I can defend that system, but I also admit that I am woefully ignorant in vast areas of knowledge. I have never been able to remember the order of the planets, or why plants need sunshine and I was actually relieved, rather than insulted, when my doctor presented me with a booklet purporting to explain cholesterol, in which the illustrations included a rather cute liver, complete with eyes and a large nose.

I just received my latest university Alumni magazine (the concept of Alumni, or in my case, alumnae, didn't exist "in my day") and I was quite amazed how majors have proliferated over the years. In the 30's through the 60's, people had traditional majors like History, English and Zoology. In the 70's I begin to see some combined degrees, like Mathematics and Music, Biochemistry and Psychology and a shift to "studies": Classical Studies, Management Studies, Drama and Theatre Studies. The degrees of the 90's are more esoteric. We have Quaternary Science, Basin Evolution and Dynamics, Victorian Art and Architecture and Geography of Third World Development.

I hope I live long enough to learn which majors my grandchildren elect and I hope one of them can explain why the liver has a nose.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

And Ernie is . . .

. . . well, let's say he had another birthday. It turned out to be a glorious day and we had a picnic at the Woods park. Good food and delightful guests. Most everybody went swimming at least once. Happy birthday Ernie!

Friday, August 05, 2005

And Lynne is 85

This remarkable woman is going to be upset because this photograph doesn't do her justice. There is a beautiful photograph that accompnied the article Lucy wrote for the Grosse Pointe News in their "Pointers of Interest" section. There are countless other photos where every hair is in place (and bright red.) But this photo of Lynne and Henry captures her as a nurturer.

Lynne, I found this profile of a Leo:

"You are an out-going person basically and have a wide circle of friends. You are a well-loved person since you speak attractively and have good manners. You can't tolerate your failures because you want to rule and you are impatient to reach that level. You don't let anyone come in the way of achieving power. You are brave and don't spend sleepless nights on major or minor worries provided you have been sincere and just. Basically an extrovert, you reach out to people in all walks of life. "

I think this says it all. Thank you for your friendship, your tolerance and your generosity.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Alex is three today

Happy birthday to my grandson Alex. He is a total charmer, with a big, ready smile and a great sense of humor for a little kid. I enjoyed having him and his two brothers here for a week this summer and I hope to be back in Virginia with him again soon. Like most small children, he loves to make funny faces for the camera, so I was fortunate to get this shot with his beaming smile. Little did he know when I took this photo that he was about to get into the car for the long ride back to Washington.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Scott of the Antarctic

I can remember only one occasion when my parents went to the movies, or the pictures, as we said in England. They took me (and I presume my brother, I don't remember that part) to see John Mills in "Scott of the Antarctic." It was after the war and we were still in need of heroes. The snow was pretty and really didn't seem menacing, the protagonists looked a little chilly, but there were no graphic shots of frost-bitten extremities, and when Titus Oates left the tent, uttering his famous farewell, "I am just going outside and may be some time," there wasn't a dry eye in the place.

Since that time, I have read many biographies of Scott. He has been described as everything from a great leader and a visionary to an ignorant amateur who failed to appreciate the value of skis or understand the relative merits of dogs, horses, machines or manpower to move the vast quantities of provisions. There was always a justification for these judgments, but the authors seemed to have their own agendas as they deified or vilified Robert Falcon Scott.

This latest book by Sir Ranulph Fiennes is a pleasure to read. As a polar explorer himself, Sir Ranulph evaluates Scott's decisions and strategies with an eye to the realities of the situations and compares Scott's expeditions to those he has made. We even get to see photos of what frost bite really looks like! It is a first class book. I recommend it.