Retired School Principal. Loving to work on the land, computers and travels and above all thinking about us humans. I also like to write and share my insights and reflections on life. My life on the farm has brought all sorts of new feelings and blogging about it is a real joy.
The world is in turmoil at the moment. Pessimism, optimism..who knows?
Different voices, different view points, lies, truths, Who knows?
Black is white, white is black , who knows?
When do I know if it is right? When do I know if it is wrong? Who knows?
Is the world going to change? Who knows?
Are we at a turning point in our history? Who knows?
So many questions. Will we have an answer? Who knows?
How will I know? who is going to tell me? Who am I going to rely upon?
The internet is full of rubbish. But the internet is also full of interesting things. How do I discern in this cacophony of information?
What a quagmire! The human being has never been so lost. Where are going? Who knows?
Exciting times or doomsday time? Who knows?
One thing I know is that I am well and feel good in my being. I enjoy the fresh air, the birds, the early morning sun on my face, the magpies wobble on the trees next to me, the fish in the pond waiting for their feed, the cats with their fat bellies sprawling next to me… and you know what? they are waiting for me to stand up so they can follow me in the kitchen to get fed, the dogs looking at me from their kennels with mournful eyes, and finally the steps of P. coming down and peeping through the window.
The air is crisp, the sun warm, the slight chilled wind brushes against my face and arms and it is 6AM.
Early chores will start soon. Cleaning, cooking, gardening, weeding, sweeping the floors. All very Zen. Life on the farm away from the hustle and bustle and the frenzy of cities. Where simple chores and routine take on a different dimension and meaning.
I am happy to be alive and I am happy to be doing what I am doing in this beautiful setting .
How long have I thought of writing something and not doing it? All these months hundred events occurred but where to start? I have not idea at all. What should I say? I don’t have a clue. Should I say something for that matter? Am I obliged to do it? Of course not. So, what pushes one to feel compelled to put pen to paper (sort of) to do something?
A year is about to start, yes another one. I ought to feel gratitude that I am still here, alive and well….Oh yes, gratitude the new buzz word. You have to grateful for everything nowadays. Like a prayer at the beginning of every meal. There is something noble in that except the fact that I do not have a hint of religion inside me.
Indeed, we forget how very fortunate we are. I should speak for myself. I am not complaining and am very lucky to be where I am presently. Good health and be able to attend many tasks and travel and above all to have a companion with whom I can exchange some meaningful conversations.
Just going back to the word gratitude. I ask the question of a person who has hardly any food to eat, living in a war zone without knowing whether she will be alive tomorrow or in a few hours, whose partner just got shot, whose child or children have been blown up by a drone while going to school, who has to walk to fetch some clean water…would this person feel any gratitude?
Or a person who lives under the bridges and has to be beg for for every cent, who lost his job, has no family. Would this person feel gratitude? So, I truly wonder about this meaning. Is this because I am doing Ok and not like the beggar in the street or the person in war ravaged zone? Is it because I am lucky to be where I am and be what I am?
I really don’t know in the end if it is for my position in life that I am grateful and better off than someone else. Is it really gratitude or just selfishness?
Anyway, I was just going to muse on my procrastinating and my reluctance to start writing something. It is really funny how easy it is to deviate and follow a different path while writing. Words take you on a journey and lead some weird directions and at times you look at it a have to marvel at the potential of thinking and how the most extraordinary adventures happen. Let’s see what happens next time I feel like writing something….not too long I hope till I feel the need to do so and wonder about whether I will or will not.
Till next time.
PHOTO TAKEN IN MYANMAR ON THE BEACH IN NOVEMBER 2018
We are at the start of spring. New leaves are appearing on the Chinese Elm, the Silky Oaks are in bloom in their deep orange flowers. Some of the azaleas are struggling to open up, but others are already showing their marvellous flowers. The epiphites or stag horns are drying up. The grass is browning everywhere. The earth is crackling with deep slits showing signs of distress. Somehow the bougainvilleas do not seem to be that disturbed by a lack of rain.
All water is being recycled to prop some of the most vulnerable plants. So, we recuperate all spent water in buckets to provide some sort of relief to them. We put buckets under the washing machine hose when it disgorges its water from the wash and rinse cycles. We use Eco- friendly detergent, so hopefully it should be fine.
The washing up water is also emptied in ugly and old buckets as well as the showers that we have, all in big containers and we carry carefully our precious drop to the plants around the garden. Good exercises!
When we water the poor thirsty plants, we can observe that the earth at this time is so parched that the water runs straight off. So, little by little we empty the bucket and give it time to penetrate inside the ground. We have been doing it for the last 15 days.
It is lucky that we have 2 huge tanks and this allows us to irrigate our vegetable garden. The dam further down is also a God sent as it permits us to pump water if need be.
Not a drop of rain on the horizon at this stage. We should have a dance for rain in the garden.
On a different note, I remember scattering red hot chillis around the compound in Malaysia to actually stop the rain. A folk tale imparted to me by the then French Honorary Consul in Penang. It worked! Especially when the 14th July was celebrated at the Alliance Française.
Mid September in the Southern Hemisphere…the end of winter the beginning of spring. The winds at present are gentle. A soft breeze caresses my skin. The bamboos are swaying gracefully while the sun still warm is about to leave room for a more cooler evening.
The dogs are sprawling on the veranda seemingly out of it, but one can see the ears pricking up at the slightest sound or nonchalantly scanning the periphery.
One cat, the orange one called Minou blends nicely on the orange towel, or lazily winking on the sofa, but today I am glad he is out there on the bench.
Hopefully he will terrify these horrible birds…. PeeWees.
The Pee Wee birds or mud larks are they are sometimes called and depending which state you happen to live in, are making a mess on the windows splattering them with mud. I absolutely loathe them. It keeps me having to clean them almost every week. And the car outside mirrors are equally filthy. We cover them with cloth. So, they have given up this game with the car for the time being, but they are taking their revenge on all the windows around the house. May be I should leave them to dirty the car…less to scrub.
It looks like some swallows are going to nest under the eaves. I can faintly hear their tweet and their graceful flight around the house chasing insects.
The cars are making their presence felt as their engines roar down the road. But they are not frequent and do not disturb the peaceful nature of the place.
Pigeons, crows, minahs, butcher birds are singing around the house. Calls sometimes are made to warn of a predator. At the moment a Bazza, ( a type of hawk) and his partner have taken lodging near the house. We see them frequently flying from tree to tree with a unique and distinctive cry. Other birds do not like it at all and make sure they gave it a good chase accompanied by shrieking cries.
The cows are patiently waiting for their 4 o’clock feed and they are slowly gathering and making their way next to the fence. Lucerne now is imperative. The grass is a little scarce at this time of the year and the bonus feed is devoured with gusto. No rain has fallen for a while and it is indeed a meager feed in the meadows at the moment for them.
The perfume of the white wisteria in bloom is spreading right through the veranda.
Some weird insects are sprawling on a branch. Quite an amazing spectacle, but do not know what they are.
The air is clear and fresh. The warmth is going slowly to disappear leaving us with another cold night. Stillness prevails. The atmosphere has a serene quality where everything is enveloped with beauty and calm.
This beauty and quietude cannot be put into words. It just is. As one sits here basking in the last warm rays of the sun, one can sense this.
The only music is the calm that the mind seeks desperately but unable to provide as it roams the labyrinths of its thoughts ceaselessly. Not music then but a lot of brouhaha. Always wanting to be at the forefront and trying to ignore the present.
One thought triggers the next one and on it goes. One thought hooks itself up and starts meandering….then another one starts. Seemingly with no connections to the previous one. It is like a merry go-round with its engine out of order.
Where does it stop? Maybe when all is over. Death you may want to call it but also the ceaseless and useless pursuit of trying to achieve peace. Peace is not an achievement but a state of being. A calm, a serenity, a joy.
If an incident of a disturbing nature were to occur during the week that had not been elucidated, talked about or just shared, one can observe the proliferation of justifications and how busy the mind gets to try to re-establish some sort of equilibrium. And what I mean by that is that he mind / thoughts redefine its original image of what it thinks it is. Nothing wrong with that you might say. Sure. But are we aware its movement?
We always try to redefine what we ought to be. Nice perspective of our self, nice image, good person, we shower our self with some kind thoughts. Again, normal. But there is a trap. We only look at the best side of what we think we are. Most of the time that is, forgetting that we are the product of not only our nature, but also in the way we have accumulated ideas about ourselves throughout our existence.
Just a short video of the amount of rain falling down here in Nimbin, NSW.
Not even the birds are out. Not a sound. Apart from the rain cascading down the drive, along the stairs and flooding the road. Not even a sound from the frogs which are usually quite deafening in rainy weather.
The Goolmanghar creek has busted it banks. The roads and bridges are of course totally out of action.
The ski is white. The mountain is shrouded in a thick whitish grey mantle.
Dogs are inert on their pad inside the house and the cat stretched languorasly on the sofa. All oblivious to the torrential rains that are soaking the land in a thunderous fashion
The huge tanks that we use for our drinking water are filling up and overflowing.
Many people are stranded in town unable to reach their destination. It will not be wise to venture on the roads at the moment.
The 2 little bridges down the road are totally impassable and one could be in real strife if that was attempted.
What is the best ting to do right now? Well, I am going back to my book and enjoy this lazy day.
It has been said that this was and still is the hottest day in New South Wales for a very long time. Bush fires are erupting, firemen are on a high alert, electricity supply can be cut off or in some areas it may have been. So, no one is outside. Even Nimbin Artists Gallery where I do some voluntary work has shut down for the afternoon. Not a soul in the village apparently.
What a better time to sit down and finally scribble a few words.I had not done so for quite a while, but the hot weather is almost forcing me…well, sort of, to sit down in the quiet of the home. I do say quiet. The bird songs are almost inaudible. A few crows around as usual probably spying on the egg situation in the chicken run. All is quite still as the sun pounds hard on the earth. Its rays ferociously harsh on the plants. Where to hide? In the coolest place in front of the fan where everyone has assembled. Dogs, cats and humans are all enjoying the coolness of the room.
But this did not stop me from baking bread today!
So, here I am rambling about the weather. How mundane? For a long time I have been delaying to put pen to paper choosing instead to read. But given the present situation what a better time to finally sit down and start and meander through the year that was.
Last year we had the visit of my cousin on my mother’s side. he only relative that came and stayed with us for a few days. My son Sulma and his lady Tum, were among us and it was the first time that Claude and him met. They did have a few days together in Nimes when they were 4 and 5. Both played and fought according to my aunt Georgette. The reunion was just brilliant. Many friends came to join us for a BBQ and a chat. It was a very pleasant afternoon. Claude and I remained in the study for a while to catch up on family matters. Just before they left to fly back to Paris, we were all invited to visit them in Aix en Provence this year. We are all going. My aunt will be absolutely delighted .
Tickets have been bought, houses rented, and itinerary worked out. We can’t wait!
Then, later in the year, we traveled to Thailand and stayed with Sulma and Tum. My oldest girl friend Elizabeth, came from Frejus and spent 2 weeks with us all. It was just so pleasurable to be all together.
We flew to Phnom Penh where we met some very old friends, enjoyed the city again and I went for a checkup at my old dentist. Still there after 20 years and enjoying the life in Cambodia.http://www.eurodentalcambodia.com/ Elizabeth took a short trip to Siem Reap and loved it, while Peter and I feasted on some delicious Italian food and French gourmet chain .http://maison-kayser-cambodia.asia/our-story-and-mission/. We scoured Russian Market again, Psah Thmey and our favourite jeweler, M. Kim Seng and his family where we splashed yet again. We were received like old friends and exchanged news of our respective families.
Relaxed in the pool at the hotel and took short trip to around the town showing El the sites and meandering through the busy streets. And not to forget the fabulous cocktails Mai Thai at the hotel we stayed at called “Le 252”
The most important part of the trip was the meeting with of our Khmer family if I may call it that. Hoeun, Panha and M. Kit. All used to share our home where we lived in Phnom Penh. Diners, lunches and trips around Phnom Penh on their motor bikes. The good old days! We all spent delicious moments together.
It is hot, very hot. One of the hottest summer we experienced in this region for a very longtime. It is not really possible to go out in the garden and work. All the garden works are done pretty early in the day between 7am and 10am.
That gives me enough time to do some watering and weeding, as well as looking after our new brood of chickens. 7 of them all pretty famished and keen to jump onto any scraps that you may give them. Mum, is so protective that she will attack any other hens that come too close. She is quite fierce and relentless. But we have noticed that a huge Python is marauding around the house as well as the crows and buzzers that abound around here. Hence vigilance is of the order.
In the last few weeks we managed to ward off about 5 crows and their youngs who were hanging around. For weeks we had no eggs and did not cotton on the patterns that was occurring. But after a while, when we were hearing the hens cackling….eggs were being laid, we thought, yes they are laying but when we went to the coop to collect them… no eggs.
We decided to keep the hens in the coop the whole morning. Crows were still around but soon after they dissipated. Hahaha! We thought that is it! They were stealing the eggs. So, we kept the hens for 3 weeks inside. Crows were still around but they less inclined to hang around. Yes, the hens were cackling but they could not get to steal our little bounty.
After a while the crows disappeared and we let the chickens out, the patterns have been disturbed. They are not hanging around anymore. We won that round.
But we are still weary of the python. They hear the baby chooks and are obviously attracted by them. Will it eat them all? Will it find them? So, at night we lock them in a python proof little coop. We are waiting to see when it will come around if it does!
The dogs and cats are not too happy with the heat and beg to come in and breathe some cool air inside the house. They lay sprawling on their bedding asking for nothing more. Mind you our ginger cat is in the habit to take the whole sofa to stretch its whole length and when we come to have a rest a rest in the afternoon it is a squeeze. The sofas are not that long and the cat takes virtually all of it. So we try to lay next to him, asking him the share, but he refuses. We persist till he decides to go on the floor. At last the sofa is mine…or Peter’s. The other one is the same…Marco has taken on so bat habits!
The vegetable garden is not as productive this year. After planting zucchini and melons we hardly got anything. But the eggplants have been quite good and managed to make a Parmigiana for dinner.
The cows seem contented with the grass growing profusely given the rains that we had a couple of weeks ago.
Hi T.It is with great reluctance that I am sending you this note. But my heart tells me so.
P. and I can see that we have been relegated to the leper’s colony. You might chuckle at this. But this is how we feel, dumped like we never existed in your life.
What I wanted to say to you as an ex VERY GOOD friend for the time being is that you are in the habit of doing that sort of it to many people and this is not a very healthy pattern.
It causes all sorts of psychological angst and frustration without counting the sleepless nights that you may endure. Remember Lucia the hurt that she caused you. You talked about it for days on end. Obviously you did not like it and you felt cheated and deeply hurt after all that you had done for her. You tasted there your own medicine. No?
Well, T. we feel the same. The way you are treating us. Why this sudden change? What did we do to cause so much aversion and fear in you ?
This pattern that you developed is so pronounced…10 people that we know of that you did this sort of thing
But this stemmed from a deeply disturbed upbringing Your dad rejected you…inflicted pain on you, never said a word to you because you were different from the others…That suffering and pain and rejection you felt really never healed from it and you are inflicting the same patterns on others who have ever been kind to you and took you the way you are. One word the wrong way and it is total rejection. You want to take revenge the same way your dad did. You want to hurt people the same way your father did. Dump them. Really ? to what aim?
Is this the way real friends behave? Is this the way to cherish and love the people who have been kind to you and with whom you share so many good times, warmth, travels, food and company?
I am sure that deep inside you wish to God that you were not like that and wish also from the depth of your heart that you’d behave in a different way. But, I don’t think you know how and that is why you just dump people tho you like them. You do not know how to forgive because you father NEVER FORGAVE you. One bears those scars for a lifetime in a very unconscious way.
This has been and still is a great burden for you and causes enormous suffering. I am very aware of this from you. You want to feel loved, you want to feel accepted, you want to be part of a family, you want so much to belong, surrounded by good friends. You strive to please, to be nice. Then comes the rejection with no explanation and that makes you feel STRONG. But it doesn’t it weakens you because you feel pain and suffer. In that state one is not strong at all but miserable and forlorn.
But you see T. relationship is give and take. No one is perfect….and we accepted you the way you are. You deeply offended us on 2 occasions. But we thought about it for a long time and for the sake of friendship we passed. Because that is what friendship is all about…pass, forgive, and enjoy the warmth and attention that the others may offer. Relationships are complex and fraught with unknown…bad things…good things, anger, frustration, rage, but also a deep camaraderie and understanding. Tell me who is perfect? We don’t pretend to and when we have issues we try to work them out. This is the best way to go about it. Hiding them just makes it worse.
I will therefore ask you very sincerely to rethink your position and we are ready to offer you an olive branch. Because this is so silly don’t you think so?…..avoiding each other, ignoring each other, pretending to each other with this horrible feeling hanging in the air every time we see each other…which we are bound to do in the village and the gallery. Not very pleasant for either of us.
Think about it. Take your time… If we don’t hear from you and decide to terminate our friendship that is OK and we’ll understand…. If you feel deep in your heart that you would like to renew the friendship all is forgiven and let’s have a coffee together and chat. It is not very hard. I can assure you because we like you.
This would be the T. we know. Bubbly, helpful, funny and ready to land a hand, warm and friendly. That is what you really are!
This may appear quite unusual in many ways to tell the story of my parents’ first meeting many moons ago. I gleaned some information from family mainly. Of course one has to be aware of many aspects when one talks to family. It is their perception and how they view the world, then sometimes their distorted recollections of events…Like all of us when we try to remember an event that happened long ago, it will be tinted and distorted…as events fade with time. But is it not how stories are told when time is at stake? Recollections…some dreamed of, some fantasised, some imagined, some tinted with one’s own wishes and some true of course. This story is a mixture of all of them I think.
I will try to put together some sort of my own recollection of my parents’ story.
My grand mothers and aunties and uncles, all of them told me a story about mum and dad…But mum never told me anything about their encounters. She was too withdrawn and I felt at times that she wanted to keep it a secret. It was always dad that took pride in recounting events and occasions of their life.
So, how did it start? But before we get on with the beginning of their romance it is vital to have a glimpse into their background. Let’s start with Mum.
Mum had one sister and 2 brothers..so 4 in the family. One brother and her sister are still alive, Pierre and Georgette, but the other has passed away as well as mum.
A very tough and unhappy childhood. Born in 1929 mum was the 2nd of the children down the line. My grandfather, Simon was a bit of a Don Juan and was playing around quite a fair until he left everyone for Paris to join one of his mistresses. I did meet her. She was not very beautiful at all.
Photos above : centre My maternal grandMa …from left to right, my cousin Nelly and me, Fernande, my maternal grand father Simon, my cousin Charley, Mum at 18 years old
When the Algerian war ended in 1962, my grandfather invited us to stay with them for a little while because dad was still in Constantine to wind up his business. A rather perilous undertaking where he was almost lynched by a group of armed “fellegas” ( the people who fought against the French ) as we used to call them. He got caught in a march celebrating the independence of Algeria and were it not for an Arab friend who knew dad and dad did speak a smattering of Arabic helped, pretending to be one of “them” he went along with the march and his friend alongside shouting slogans. He managed to walk away stealthily with his friend after 10 minutes and got back to his atelier where he started to pack his sewing machines to be expedited to France.
Back to grand Pa….He nevertheless had 6 children with my grandmother Fernande. 2 of them died in infancy. I still remember him quite well. He came often to our house with all sorts of promises for me. I was his first grand child and he was quite fond of me. Always promising me some things that never eventuated. Yes, a bicycle was my dream…I am still waiting today.
But that is a diversion. After my grand father departed for Paris, he left his whole family without a cent.
My grandmother had to scrounge and fight everyday to bring food on the table. The latest child Pierre, was only 6 months old when Grandpa left. So you can imagine the resentment my grandmother harboured. No electricity for the children to do their homework, no regular food on the table, perpetual struggle to survive. Mum knitted socks for the army, grandma would apply her skills as a dress maker to sell her goods and go to people’s place to clean. Neighbours from the street understanding her predicament and her difficulties would bring her food. The headmistress from the school next door would also help the children with books, pens, blouses an so on. Even gave mum a scholarship later on to further her studies in order to become a school teacher. Mum had a lot of aptitudes and was very good learner as well as very strong intellectually. She loved literature and had some perseverance in what she undertook and above all wanted to succeed and to show her skills and and strong desire to shine. She also was an accomplished writer.
According to my uncle Jacques, (husband of my Aunty Georgette) he always kept mum’s letters and would read them again and again as he enjoyed her style and her prose. He told Peter and I this one summer that we spent with them in 2011.
Mum had always felt a pull for adventure and Aunty Georgette told me that when they were around 8 and 10 years old, both went on a train on their own from Constantine to Marrakech in Morocco. I was just dumbfounded. Who would allow these things today? 2 very young girls travelling on their own.
The whole family was brought up with deprivation, fear, even shame knowing that they saw the neighbours bringing food and seeing how their mother would fight for a living and be very hard on them for every minute thing that was not done properly. Food was never discarded as it was scarce and too precious. My grandma was very strict and severe with all the children Aunty Georgette will recall and it was their grandmother who would step and in and reprimand her own daughter for being too harsh with my mother. Milk was sometime the only sustenance they could have. Mum could not bear the sight of milk later on in life after that and anything or food that had a white colour was abhorrent to her. Nothing would change her mind at all. She was very rigid on many fronts.
So, given the background of poverty, the war, the resentment of the children toward their father, and the hatred of my grandma toward him….the atmosphere was very gloomy indeed… I know for a fact that my grandma absolutely hated him. Many a day I used to cross the road from school and be at her place where I spent the night or the day with her. At night she used to tell me all sorts of stories about her husband. She used to sing me songs of the 20’s and 30’s…”J’attendrai” by Rina Ketty…(listen to it on you tube) as we snuggled n bed. She described how she had been a very beautiful woman and many men coveted her and used to ask her to dance. She surely made a big mistake with that one she moaned many times. Every night for years grandma told me these stories and sang dozens of songs…I used to love these moments even if they meant nothing to me….Just the fascination to be with her in the warmth of her big bed and her huge duvet and waiting for the stories to start. A little anecdote there that I remembered for years….Grandma used to pass wind with force when we were in bed together and I used to be horrified and hid under the duvet away from her. She would then say to me “just don’t move the duvet, stay still and it will pass”. To this day I recall these incidents with a big grin on my face. I felt secure with her in spite of the independence war that was raging in the streets in Constantine in the 50’s and 60’s.
I could feel her pain and her regrets. Her bitterness and her sadness. She was so hurt that she called herself a widow and vowed that she would bury him and never speak to him. She wanted to to addressed as ” Veuve Tabet” . It reminded me of “Veuve Cliquot” minus the bubbles. He never gave a cent to bring up all the children that he had with her. One could understand her misery and suffering.
She did indeed passed away well after him at the ripe old age of 101. One day my Aunty Georgette (my mother’s sister) told me that they were all having lunch at her place in Nimes with grandma and her grand children when my grandfather appeared. Apparently a disheveled old character walked slowly toward the house and my Aunty was quite taken aback when she saw who it was. She asked him to come him. Of course my grandma recognised him and as he sat with them she never glanced at him or spoke to him. The atmosphere was to be cut with a knife Aunty Georgette told me. The whole lunch happened without a word among everyone. Grandma just ate and went away in the garden. Grandpa was really old and not in good health at all and Aunty Georgette took pity on him. In fact, she was the the only one that offered a meal. All his other children would not speak to him or see him.
Anyway back to mum. So as you can already figure out that she did not have such an easy childhood. At the age of 17 she put her name down to be part of a political movement where my father was the leader. She did not know that at this stage, but was avid to get out and meet people of her own age and flee the depressing atmosphere of home with all its constraints. For a young woman in her late teens what better than to evade the narrow confines of her home. She was no
doubt bursting with enthusiasm and hope and eager to mingle with young people like her. An escape too good to miss.
It was love at first sight. Dad told me at some stage later on that he knew that she was the woman he meant to be with. They eloped to Paris and my maternal grandma alerted the police. Mum was not yet 21 and of course a minor in those days. They both came back under police escort says my uncle Pierre, my mother’s little brother. It was a scandal in the family. All the family members were told and both were severely reprimanded. Her mother was outraged and worried of the shame that was brought on to the family by the attitude of her daughter. But the romance went on. No question of being together before the wedding, especially when one lives in a provincial town where everyone gossiped. It felt like the whole town knew about their adventure. I am not sure whether they cared or not. But for mum these meetings and reunions were her only purpose. A dedication to a cause, an adventure with her lover, a chance to be with dozens of other young people to forget her background and her constricted life. She was a brilliant student at school and almost qualified to become a teacher. The only handicap was the opposition of Grandma forbidding her to go to the remote regions of the country where she would start her apprenticeship. Her father also denied categorically that she should travel. Another disappointing moment for her and a chance to get away or forge a life for herself. The independence movement started to agitate in the remote regions of the country. But the youth group saved her sanity by the look of things.
But before the wedding took place a brief background on my dad. He came from a larger family that was quite wealthy. There were doctors, lawyers, dentists and attorneys. Money was never an issue. My grandfather was a saddle maker for the French cavalry army and had his workshop underneath our home. It was a huge 3 storey Victorian mansion that he had built and where we all lived also and where I spent my childhood till the age of 13. My paternal grandma was illiterate and was counting on her sons and daughters to guide her through her life. But that did not bother her too much. She was such a gentle soul and I loved her more than anyone else. The saddest thing for her was the loss of her husband when dad was 4 years old.
So, dad lived without a father and under the rules of tyrannical brothers who did not mind using the whip if necessary. He was kicked out of school during the war and never finished past the third year of secondary school. He went on to learn a trade with one of his older sister’s Fortune who had a very successful clothes shop in a chic part of town. The saddle making went under the management of my uncle Simon, the oldest of the family and I heard through the years that he was giving some sort of allocation to his mum. The business prospered and my uncle went to built a beautiful 4 storey villa in the better part of the town called Belleville. It was sumptuous. I went there many times to attend guitar lessons with my cousin Freddy and played around in the big villa for hours. My father would have his business there also in the same ground. He would become a well-known dress designer and was fitting all the fine gentry of the town as well as the uniforms for Air France.
My father was a total atheist and even a rebel who refused to believe in conventions or at times the rule of the law. He just wanted to be independent and not forced to comply. His mum and brothers did not want him to marry my mum. She was not good enough, no money and not a good background. No father and no standing in the community. So, they tried to hook him with one of lady of “better standing”. Eliane was the sister of my uncle Ernest ‘s wife. He is my father’s second brother. A severe man and a teacher. He is still alive at the time of writing. The only one remaining of the 6 brothers and sisters. My father suffered a lot under his harsh discipline. And maybe a motive for him to get out of the family demands and be independent.
So, Eliane was the answer to my father’s “mistake” of choosing to go on with my mum. Meetings took place between Eliane and dad. All sorts of convenient times were arranged for the 2 to meet. Dinners, drinks, dances under the watchful eye my uncle Ernest. This went on for a while apparently until my dad just blew up and said that he was not interested in getting to know her in spite of her good credentials and that she was not very interesting, and tying further the bonds between these families. (??) He told his mum and said that “he was not going to live his life with religious fanatics”. Eliane’s grand father was an eminent rabbi and quite orthodox. Her sister also was going to marry my uncle Raymond, my father’s brother. Dad was just furious…according to my aunt Georgette…3 sisters of these fanatics in our family that was not religious in the slightest. Dad desperate and concentrated all his energy in building up the group that he was attending with mum. That group called “Betar” was going to be his lifeline.
If his brother chose that path he was not going to walk in his footsteps. And above all (vvv) adhere to their code of behaviour.
Dad had abandoned by this stage all beliefs and faith in any religious denomination. “The hypocrisy of it all is sickening,” he said to me many times. The religious community whatever it is, is full of contradictions and nonsense. In those days he was not quite clear on how to articulate these thoughts that came to his mind. He just rebelled. But later on as we spoke and had thousands of conversations around coffee and sumptuous meals (vvv), he enunciated quite clearly the fallacy in all beliefs and doctrines that require a following, a guru, a power that will dictate one’s actions. To him it was the antithesis of a free and enquiring mind. No tolerance and compassion would arise from doctrines that are rigid and where everyone would follow without questioning their positions and attitudes.
The family was totally staggered to hear him saying such things. It was against all odds and my dad was nicknamed “the bête noire”.
Then, one day after meeting mum in the youth camp that they frequented for a while dad proposed while everyone around him tried to dissuade him. It was a big jump for him. He knew, he said to me that marriage was trap and a loss of freedom. But it was clear that he chose to do so. Mum was ecstatic for obvious reasons. A ticket to freedom, independence, a life of her own with the man she loved at first site. Dad also said that when he first set eyes on her he knew she was the lady for him.
So they got married simply and left the town towards a new adventure.
Many years down the track, I still recall as a little girl the envy on people’s face when they saw mum and dad together. They were the talk of the town. Mum, with dark hair and green eyes, slim and always extremely well dressed….of course Dad use to make her the most beautiful garments. Jealousy is the word that one could see on every person’s lips. They were indeed a beautiful couple. I might add that they knew it. They were together against all odds and had to surmount the spite of my father’s siblings. So much so that the 2 brothers that married the rabbi’s daughters, hardly came to visit. The relationships were cordial but that was it. Their resentment was palpable and as a young girl I felt it intensely. Dad would refuse to engage in discussions about religion or political issues saying again and again that they were not worth the paper they were written on. All the preaching and discourses by clerics or politicians would irritate him profoundly and was continuously questioning their premises. He certainly was different and had a spirit of his own.
Mum and dad had a cosy life. They frequented the top end of the town. Lawyers, business men, artists, and a score of other people that entered my life and do not recall. I also felt that they were really unique and used to really “hate” when I saw mum getting dressed in a beautiful evening dress with a gold necklace that dad gave her for her birthday or wedding anniversary falling gracefully on (vvv) slim neck…a few sprays of perfume, high heels, little black purse and a shawl wrapped around her shoulders…and off they went to a night club leaving me wondering why I was not going with them as tears fell down my cheeks. Grandma would gently put her arms around me and singing a little lullaby put me to bed while I was still sobbing.
Yes, they were the talk of the family especially. Siblings, nieces and nephews would drop on them at times and tell at length their love life. Dad was a great listener and always impartial. In his judgements never taking part in family quarrels that might end up in dramas. They were loved for that and attracted it. It seems to me that their love was shining upon everyone with a mixture of jealousy and envy…Loved, hated all at once.
To illustrate the point above, I must recount a little anecdote when the family was sharing some meals together during the festive seasons in Constantine. One of my cousin Nelly, was the oldest of 4 girls and in love with a young man called Guy. He was pursuing some studies in France to become a professor or a lawyer, I do not quite recall which one it was. So, while she was in Constantine, he was in Paris and was not quite sure what to do. She opened up to my parents about her dilemma. I was in those days around 11 years old and I was especially enthralled in stories like these. After lengthy discussions of which a lot escaped me at times, my cousin said to Mum and Dad : “ you two form a real loving couple, you are so nice together and I can see that you are very close, I only wish I could emulate that”.
My cousin Charley, now a famous hairdresser in Paris, spent a lot of time with mum and dad when we all in Paris and said to me one day: “you know Gigi, your parents are a great couple and so fitted to each other, like 2 peas in pod, they are very special”.
Again and again these words about them had an impact on me during all these years…But that might be a story for next time.
It has been many years now that my parents passed away and I miss them very much. But there are a few things that have been gnawing at me ever since. Just a little context.
When dad left us, mum said to me just a few days after dad had left that all the inheritance would go to my sister. I was first dumbstruck. But in the circumstances of dad being just gone I did not have the temerity to say anything. So, I replied…”of course that is understandable given the fact that my sister never made it in life and had nothing to her name”. We all felt so distraught by its sudden departure that I was in no position to say anything. Was mum calculating that I was in a vulnerable position when she said it? Was she planning it all along? I will never know. The fact remains that my sister got the lot.
As years went by I had some weird feelings coming and going. My cousin, whom I visited last year said to me as we were walking and meandering in the streets of Paris hand in hand: “do you know that under french laws children can’t be left out of a will”? No, I did not know that at all. She urged me to follow it up and find out what my rights were, I may have a case after all.
This thought has then been in the back of my head and could not get rid of it. What was I going to do? Ideas zapped through my mind. Should I contact a lawyer? Should I write a letter to my sister? What should I do? I decided to speak to my son and also try to open the matter with my husband which I did. The first thing that they mentioned was : what would I get out of pursuing this matter? That got me going….I tried to find all sorts of reasons: revenge, pride, feeling of having won in the end, showing off, being right, superior, better than my sister, in the end a whole string of ideas that were not really tempting. The more I envisaged them the further away from them I ran.
Why would I not pursue it in the end? After all this idea has been planted in my mind and I was somehow determined to go ahead and claim my rights. Then after having pondered on it for a few days, I realised the futility of it all. Why would I want to stir the hornets nest? Why would I want to enter litigation with my sister for maybe a doubtful result? Why would I want to encumber my mind with for months or maybe years fighting and wasting not only money but my time and my present well-being? Why would I want to give my brain space and entertain the idea that I might win in the end? Just to show her that I am capable.
In the end who care about all the legal procedures? Wasting my time on such a trivial pursuit. I must say that after all these ideas came and went I do not feel the urge nor the need to go after her. It is her in the end who is the loser not me. And she knows it. She is the one living with all this burden on her conscience. Not me. She has not not even phoned her nephews…my two sons… to ask them if they might have wanted a trinket from their grand parents. How low can you go I thought! I feel she is hiding from it all being scared that I could do something to upset all the financial reward that she received. She could rest assured, I won’t. I have not spoken to her in 7 years.
She mostly lived from help from mum and dad on many fronts. TV, house deposit, and many other material things from us . Hardly had a steady job. But in all fairness she has a son who is highly disturbed ( was at the time of me knowing her) no husband, and having to deal with raising 3 boys. But I know and knew many women who have struggled with similar issues and managed to cope and had a job. Obviously she could not that is why mum and dad decided to give her everything I suppose. She did not cope with life. In the end, yes, I feel sorry for her. And that is one of the reason, today I decided to let go.
But the real reason apart from her tragedy is that I do not need any financial help and I said before I feel there is no point. My present situation is too precious to get entangled with hounding someone with revenge or prove a point in law. I prefer my mind to be still and have the space to continue to do the things I enjoy in life.
It was easy to come to this conclusion in the end for my own sanity to forget and forgive. I feel much better and my mind is lighter and breathe easier. I could also say that is a closed chapter in my life. I thank my husband and my son for their insights.