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.
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 hard to find a suitable time to put pen to paper or just sitting in front of the computer to wait for an inspiration. But here we are at last. Charged and ready to share a few moments.
Yes, we are on the verge of experiencing the first winter chills. I can see that when I first wake in the morning and see the valley shrouded in the heavy mist, the beams on the veranda are dripping with heavy dew and of course the sun rises much later. The atmosphere is more damp and a chill in the air is definitely present…Woollens are a must in these early hours. The days reach a very agreeable temperature of around 22 to 25. But not for too long as the cold approaches toward 15h..
The wood heater is already burning. The animals: dogs and cat refuse to stay out when the night falls and the chickens go to their perch early. The cows have started to demand their winter ration, the grass is still long and plenty but they are spoiled beasts and bellow as loud as they can as soon as they see one of us. The calves have also started to imitate their mums and the concert gets louder every late afternoon.
it has been a very busy few months. The Gallery is in the middle of its extravaganza and everyone worked very hard to make it happen. Many artists joined us from interstate as well as quite a few local ones. Many works have sold and we are all very proud and happy that it is going so well. After 15 years it has become an icon of the Northern Rivers. We get an average of 300 visits per day. Not bad for our little village! See our Facebook page@Nimbin Artists Gallery.
In the meantime, our son and his partner Tum who live in Thailand have joined us for a week….too short but happy to have stolen a few days together where we enjoyed some superb food as usual. A glorious green curry prepared by them was truly appreciated by 2 of our friends who joined us for lunch one day. And of course very lively conversations ensued as it is usually the case in the family. The beef was from our property, all the ingredients freshly harvested from the garden for the green curry paste, the green papaya freshly picked that morning and the bitter gourd grows wild on the chicken fence. Such a pleasure!
Sulma and Peter had a go at playing their flute and improvise on some jazz tunes. Peter played also some pieces during opening hours at the Gallery. Music has always been part of Peter’s life and the boys.
Sulma and Tum went for a lovely drive with our friend Magali in the rain forest near home where they enjoyed a picnic and a walk around.
The garden has not been neglected. Our friend Scott Harrower, has taken to transform the front garden with flair, vision, aesthetic, colours and shapes. It is visually superb now. A feast to the eyes ….and he has cleared up the branches obstructing the large pond which gives to the whole place a sense of depth as the expanse of a water feature always add such a calming touch. Especially when all the purple and cream water lilies are blooming.
We also had the incredible good luck to have hosted for 1 month 2 lovely guys from Vanuatu who have cleared the property, constructed a retaining wall, built a wood shelter and split some wood for winter. Trimmed some mighty bamboos, cleared the chicken run and coop, gravelled the drive with Peter, brush cut around the dam and so many other tasks that I am sure have forgotten to mention. Thanks to Murray and Joel for facilitating the whole process, feeding them, driving them and took them back to Port Vila . They all flew back to a devastating sight. The mighty cyclone had created havoc in this small town and the surrounding islands. Murray and Joel raised some money to alleviate the plight of the villagers. Joel had not heard from his sister for 2 weeks as she was in the top island of Efate with no means of communications. All is fine now. Food and hospital needs as well as reconstruction materials were a priority. A mighty effort to say the least on their part to have attended to the need of the people of Vanuatu.
In between all the effervescence of these last few weeks I have knitted a baby blanket. No, no babies in perspective. But I might just sell it at the Gallery. While knitting, listening to my audio books from the library made the hours pleasant and a little calmer.
The winter veggies are under way : Cauliflowers, cabbages, peas, broad beans, fennels, radishes, a few beans and lettuces. I have to wait and make sure that the cabbage moths or white butterflies stay away from them.
I wonder if we will be there to harvest them! A trip is in the pipe line.
Well, after waiting for more than 3 weeks the new balustrade to be brought in and Peter installed it. He always says” won’t take too long” but with one thing and another not going right it ends up being much longer….much longer than expected. It is done now and the painting is finished. Some more deck planks needed to be replaced as a result of the overall design. Peter has been actively pursuing the finishing touches.
We are having lunch on the new veranda almost everyday. It is just exquisite and so holiday like. We do say to ourselves: “Who needs to go anywhere and pay such an enormous amount of money to just enjoy the views of the few cows on the opposite property, or just watch the passing cars, the joggers up and down the country lane, the familiar site of a little red van, the tractor from next door marching slowly to the adjacent house and hearing the voice from John down the path bellowing at his cows or dog. The birds are also much closer and the fact that we are sitting enjoying our lunch or a cup of coffee seems that we are engulfed with a closeness to it all. Of course our little butcher birds which have multiplied to 5 by now are incessantly chirping to demand food. It is never enough.. But, they are always watching for the little cat which might be hidden under a chair or a towel. All these scenes take on a different atmosphere and a sort of closer to home feeling. Yes, the familiarity with it all. A sense of tranquility and security envelopes one. But I do have a slight objection to the word security. Why? because security is only fictitious at this point in time. And above a making of the self.
It is amazing how we do want to possess all of it. The mind goes on incessantly wanting to bring back everything to a narrow frame. A frame that is old, obsolete, of no consequence to the NOW. As we catch ourselves doing just that, there is at the same time a feeling of wanting to possess the moment. In fact not accepting the vastness of what is beyond description. Just because it is beyond it all. How can we just describe this moment of “ISNESS”. No words can come close to it. And yet, that is exactly what the mind wants to do. Describing the impossible. How hard it is to accept just what is. When one is engulfed by this feeling there is no staying with it. Hard for the mind of course. We are so accustomed to wanting to do so, that is how restless it is.
Yet, this feeling of belonging to this totality is very real and present. The whole body-mind is witnessing a moment that is itself in the present and it is the present that the mind does not seem to accept. The reason is simple. Present is not part of it. It knows the future and the past and these are the only referential points that it has. Hence the need to bring it back within its confines. Description, reduction, limitation, appropriation of a sort.
The mind does not accept space or what is. The proof is the encounter with nature. Surrounded by its immensity it becomes speechless for a moment then very quickly tries to describe it. Sitting having lunch in this new setting accompanied by birds, trees, skies, clouds and all the wonders of nature, one is truly ONE with it all and for a brief instant a sort of bliss overwhelms one. Boy! what was that? What did I feel? What happened? Suddenly I had no ME. But instead of accepting it, we rush to the description and trying to rationalise it, to appropriate it. And here we descend into the narrow confines of the mind of reducing this bliss to words.
That in itself is not an issue at all. You might even say normal activity of the mind, it does that, just that. So where is the problem? Well, there is no problem as long as you are aware of that movement and don’t try to erase it or suppress it. The seeing of it is already a freedom and an understanding of how we function as humans.
But most people want to hang on to this moment. Wanting to re-create it, re-live it, possess it, to crystallise it, but it is gone and the next one is never going to be the same. How can we do that? A moment that is passed is passed. Oh yes, we must remember it for ever in our memory. OOPS! Memory, that means in the realm of what is gone. Why is it so hard to accept the present for what it is? We are scared of loosing our identity, our position and our raison d’être. An identity mind you, that is a total fabrication of what everybody has told us for decades, centuries and millennia of what we should be and we believed them so readily. We build a persona entirely on fictitious hearsay…. and we accept it no question asked. Well, we have no choice at the start. But as we mature….if we do, then we could start asking some real questions.
The existence of our life is precious and asking simple questions, observing, contemplating, investigating, pondering and finding out what and who we are is the very purpose of our humanity. So that we can “become” an enriched human being. That would be of benefit to the entire planet….but I am getting carried away.
Half way across the world…on a huge half empty Boing 747…Bangkok is far behind. The Emporium just a dream as well as Robinson’s and Paragon. These huge shopping complexes are very attractive, but are totally devoid of charm and character or warmth. Consuming is the only motto among “nice things” to look at, all pointing to elegance, money, class, envy, a bargain, an attraction that is irresistible. We are drawn to it like bees to flowers. Something is calling us to be there, to get there, to meander from shop to shop aimlessly in search of ? That is the question? What is it that we are looking for?
A state of mind drawn to desire and satisfaction in order to avoid maybe that void inside us, that emptiness that make us look for the elusive dream of belonging to that category of people that is privileged enough to spend as they please. To emulate this can be a trap of course. But before we go into that, the question we need to ask is why this emptiness exist and why are we running away from it?
What we call emptiness can be the gap that exists, happens, or manifest itself when the mind is in a state of complete rest. But there is one problem with this, the mind does not know emptiness, the mind does not know that void, hence the search to fill this gap that it haunts its thoughts. It fears it for its existence depends not on the emptiness but on being distracted from it. Having emptiness equates not being. Should it be the other way around? We fear being…not nice. Of course, i will not say that we have to be alone. We are social creatures and it is normal to be with people. That is not the aim of what I am saying at all. It is important to just see for the sake of seeing how we search for comfort externally instead of inwardly.
We are running away from this for one reason or may be many reasons. First, there is the fear of being nothing. That void is not comforting at all, we need to fill it with millions of distractions….shopping malls do the trick…for the sake of what I am talking about now, our eyes are for ever inundated with images of consumption for a perfect world. Hence like zombies we frequent them attracted to an elusive dream. Anything wrong you may ask? No, nothing. Just keep shopping if that’s what you like.
After coffees, cakes, cinema, shopping for bread and milk and lunch all under one roof, the perfect consumer, we gasp at the hot and humid air of the streets of Bangkok. Assailed by the smell of cooking oil, sautéed noodles, mangoes, fish on flames getting crisp, little tables along the pavement where men and women sit on these plastic chair enjoying their favourite food. But what is amazing is the constant flow of old decrepit buses, bikes, coloured taxis, luxurious cars and not so luxurious beeping their horns, belching smokes at times and roaring as they eat. I guess, fumes and food can be a great combinations. Normal way of life up here .
I have been thinking recently about words and what they mean, especially when someone passes away. We feel most obliged (at times) to say “I am sorry for your loss” I am really sorry ” “my condolences” . We write all sorts of formalities on cards also, some are already pre arranged/pre formatted for us so that we don’t have to think too much of what we could say. We buy flowers if needed be, we attend funerals and look solemn. Even wear black…mind you for the Chinese it is white.
Now all these little things are as I said above etiquette and things that we should say or do during these times. I have been asking myself after seeing all that, if they really convey our sorrow, our grief, our hurt, our loss. Do we really mean it? Of course you would say we do. It is terrible to loose someone, like your mother, father, son, daughter and dear friends or any other family member that was close to us. It is normal to express through words the extend of our feelings.
I recall an incident that happened many years ago. I was just around 8 or 9 and my uncle who was living in the same building passed away. The whole house hold was in turmoil. women crying and lamenting, tears flowed freely. My grand mother was very distraught, it was her brother. All the family members arrived at 10 o’clock in the evening and everyone was surprised. How did it happened? Why now? My uncle, Phallo, was so nice…that was not true in my eyes, he was such a stingy man, severe, opulent, strutting in the street with the first black car in the area. A chauffeur by his side and at his beck and call. He owned a candy wholesale business that was located right under the house on the ground floor. You could imagine a little girl at the time passing in front of his door almost everyday after school and seeing mountains of lollies and biscuits all piled up. I used to say to him when I came back : “Good afternoon uncle” he hardly replied and went counting his stock. Day after day was the same routine. Mind you, he could have thought that it was in my interest to say such things. He hardly uttered a word and the thing that used to afflict me… or should I say …yes, you guessed it, was the fact that he never ever came out and offered me a biscuit or a lolly. I was really horrified at his stinginess. In my mind I would think “why is he like that”? But I never got a response to my questions. I remained perpetually baffled by the attitude of this man…a member of the family! Mind you, I used to sneak in the big room and look at the packets of goodies just gloating when he was at the back talking to clients, he never heard me or saw me….I supposed.
So, that night when he passed away, I never felt anything and my first thought was, what was going to happen to all the packets of lollies and biscuits? I did not feel the need to cry or felt sorry. But when the funeral went underway, everyone in the street was crying, screaming a real concert of lamentations. I was not allowed to go to the funeral as I was too little ( so I was told) and I stayed on the balcony watching the procession slowly coming out the house. I started to feel uncomfortable, my God! I am not crying, what should I do? The maid was also shedding some sort of tears, so I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a big onion and started rubbing it on my eyes. Yes, I started to cry and join all the people in their “suffering”. Could be genuine of course. When they came all back to our home and talked about it my grandmother and parents asked almost in unison: “You have such red eyes was it because of uncle Phallo ? I must have overdone it with the onion I thought. I did not answer as I was a little scared to say the wrong thing. I just stood there and just looked at everyone. All their eyes were on me. Dad came around as well as grandma and put their hands around me. I was really not at ease at all. So I ran to my room while the adults stood all dressed in black were milling around with cups of teas and coffees and other food that was on tables. Candles were lit everywhere for days on end. It was really nice to see all these lights. But as you can imagine, I was in a turmoil inside. People really believed I was crying for my uncle while in fact I despised him with all my heart. A few days later or maybe weeks, stories starting filling our house about all his Scrooge like approach, penny pinching and worse. Oh!boy I thought, I am not the only one. They thought the same I though all these years about him, but were they faking their crying too? I never asked them. Dad told me many years later that he was a real mean man and recalled some stories of his own. I felt vindicated. I told him the story about the onion. Mum and dad burst into a belly laugh for quite a while.
I asked myself then, how is it that people behave in such a way and pretend like that? I do not have an answer to that today. People are what they are and behave indeed in a strange way, I guess just hypocrisy I suppose. They have to. We all have to do weird things and pretend. Do we do that all the time?
How can we really put ourselves in other people shoes in such event? What words can we convey in times such as these? I also suppose that everyone shows their grief in a very particular manner. For me words are just a tool to describe something. an approximation of reality. Never the event itself. They are the map not the territory as someone would say. They only try to convey a fragment of what is taking place. If you are at the scene of an event and have 100 persons witnessing the same thing, not one recalling of that event will be the same. We all have a different perception of what took place. What are we seeing then? Of course, I am speaking on the psychological level, not in the realm of building a house for instance, where we need exact measurements and tools to perform the job.
If I were to describe to you the taste of an exotic fruit such as a durian, I will use all the vocabulary that I know of to describe to the best of my abilities the taste, the texture, the form, the consistency, the appearance. I will use all the imagery that is available to convey MY experience. It will stop there. Until you, yourself, go through the experience of it, it will have very little meaning. That is where I see the limitations of words. In the psychological realm, they are only an indicator, a pointer. Hence a limitation.
So, sometimes it is best to say nothing in moments of grief. A kiss, a touch, a look and above all a silence. Silence may communicate more than words. But we are all addicted to words and already made sentences, already made cards, already made formula, already made attitudes, already made reactions and beliefs. Of course, if we send some flowers or a card, the other person is going to see that we thought of her/him. they might be pleased or touched. What I am saying is that we are have to be AWARE of our actions at the time of doing so. Where does it come from? What is the motif behind it? Is it out of obligation? Just being aware of that, may change our response to many situations. Easier said than done hey? But, it is the stalking of our movements, our actions, our sentences already pre determined by our upbringing that is going to liberate us of our loaded ego. The incredible lightness of being has some merits.
I “ll leave you with a photo taken at dawn of a spider web in front of our veranda taken by Sulma Warne
It is truly comforting to see that the people that I frequent and talk to or even correspond with, are interested in a different view of the world.
I was dabbling with a sight that rambled about the doom and gloom of the world. I spoke to a few people about it and found out in the end it was all about conspiracy theories. Well, at time what they said seemed to make sense, it was well written ( not all the time) and espoused SOME opinions that I was familiar with. But it was non-stop. My mind was being filled with a lot of data that did not “advance” me at all except that I was seeing the world in a big mess (which it is), but that is not all that is around one. Sure, corporations can be corrupt, unethical, greedy, unscrupulous, domineering, sure we live in a world that has gone eschewed, lack integrity, surely that is not all the world. Sure, our politicians have also been caught on this bandwagon of folly. Equally corrupt and dishonest, equally lacking in integrity and common sense, caught up with the spin of their lackeys, they are governing with some special interests in mind and once elected they forgo their initial impetus at reforms. They back pedal and become another breed of people. A breed that alienate the very people that have elected them.But, there are also people around that are trying to make it a better place and above all have distanced themselves from this madness. Realising the farce and the lies one has to move away from this circus. In it but not of it as my father would say.
What matters in the end is where you are inside. How you deal with people and friends, how to be conscious of what moves us and understand that there are other dimensions to living . Is it running away ? No, it is about keeping one’s sanity and instead of filling our mind with petty tid- bits of infotainement, pseudo news that are forever churning out the same propaganda, the same views of the world, the same lies and deception from one interest group or another, the same sensationalism, it is much better to be away from this rubbish and focus on the beauty of our world. Not I want to escape it, I can’t but just to liberate my mind of all this rubbish that is truly polluting our spaces at all levels. No joy in all that.
What could compare to the beauty of a newly formed rose or plant around the garden.( Yes, I am in a privileged position to do just that) and I thank whatever force, energy, or god if you like, to show me that my greatest joy lies in waking up in the morning and seeing the beautiful spectacle that is in front of me.
Of course, the people in other parts of the world may not be as fortunate, I fully realise that also, I witness their suffering, their agony, their misery, their lack of water and food, their horrible living conditions. No, no sense of guilt there, but that teaches me to be more aware of what I have and not squander the resources that are on loan to me for my time on this earth.
Just to see how the chicken are producing the food that we consume :eggs. Everyday faithfully they produce an amazing little oval shaped ball that is nutritive. Just here in the garden among the trees and the straw, among the birds and the grass. I think that is truly a little miracle in itself. The same could be said about the abundance of vegies growing and producing our food. Freshly picked, freshly cooked, freshly consumed…another miracle and a testimony of what we are being given. OOPS, here I am again in the garden.
This year the harvesting of small gherkins has been phenomenal. Everyday my husband comes back with a handful of them. I have made jars upon jars of picked gherkins and we have been eating so many of them raw. Huge pumpkins, okra, lettuces, basil, bitter gourds, beans and I am sure I have forgotten many. I think we’ll be right for gherkins for a very long time.
Well, another shower of rain has just arrived and will be over soon. Time to potter in the garden again away from the maddening crowd, or I might listen to my book and get on with my knitting!
It has been a while now since the last post. I did finish my red jumper and just love it. But here, at the moment it is another day with clouds and rain. I was hoping to get a few hours in the garden to plant a few things and tidy around.
But I am here instead, in front of the computer typing away at my blog. Nice you would say, yes, but I’d rather be out. This rain has finally got to me. I had a an awful cold and that kept me feverish and miserable for days. Just getting over it with lots of VD3 and VC and probiotic and so on. I am bound to get better.
My sister in law has asked to knit her a jumper and my dear husband has also asked me to redo his cardigan that I had knitted last year. As one can imagine, I am not being short of a job or things to do.
Since I am in form to be in the kitchen again, this morning, I have made a beautiful sweet. Nothing new, just a family tradition. Since, we are a little tired of cakes and biscuits, dates and nuts were in order. It took me about 1 hour to do about 1.8kg of these bars which will keep for months in the fridge. Many of you would be familiar with this Desert Nougat, because not only of the family background but also the treat f receiving it and tasting it.
The stove is burning away on this winter day and I feel nice and cosy being inside. I also would love to thank my sons for being so close while being so far. Enquiring about how I was during all of last week. That was comforting as P. would fuss around with lemon ginger drinks and tending all foods and drinks.
After all the above and chit chat, the real reason for wanting to blog to day is to spend a little time with my father. It has been 5 years today since he left us with a deep sadness in our heart. There has not been a day when my thought did not wander for just a few secondes towards him. A picture in my head, a thought, a few words of what he used to say. Or at times his stern behaviour or amazing laughter and giggles, his religious silence or sharp tone of being indignant. His serious attitude and at the same time indulgent and giving and forgiving.
Dressed with his blue cardigan that mum knitted for him, his beanie and his hair, yes his white curly hair, never brushed, never combed or hardly…and when one day it was too long, he just took a pair of whopping great scissors (that he used to have in Paris to cut his material) he would grab a white lock of hair and just snipped. Yep, just like that. He would say then, he could not be bothered either brushing it or going to the hairdresser ( which he never did anyway). getting the scissors was the best way to deal with it. That used to make us laugh and he laughed with us as well given the burlesque of his situation.
Then, onto preparing cakes or cookies when we used to come up and have coffee with them in their log cabin in Emerald. Mum, would start boiling the water, she was the first one to get the coffee moving. Then dad, would start meticulously to grind it and go through the ritual. But before all that the cakes had to be decorated, finished. Cream added, napping it with all sorts of goodies…a raspberry( from the garden at times) coulis that would give it a fabulous colour. A delicious filling of stewed apples, based on puff pastry that he used to make. He would arrive tray in hands while Mum served the coffee. Everybody was waiting to get their teeth into the cake. Inevitably groans of ” huuummmm” would echo from everyone as we sank our teeth into the apples and the succulent pastry, the raspberry and at times a little ice-cream if he had it around. Everyone would focus on the flavours. But the worse part of it all, we had to bear was, that chorus of criticisms that would spring out of everybody’s mouth. Hence, Mum would say : “maybe a little more sugar” or dad would add: ” I should have added a little more rhum” or P. would say, : “I find it just right” or I would reinforce with my strong voice ” it should not have cooked longer, the pastry is a little overcooked, but it fits with the apples”. So, everyone would not rest till our mouth totally filled with luscious morsels would find the little facet that would bring dad to say to cesse all discussions : ” well, I will try better next time” and all will explode with interminable laughters. As we knew really deep inside that the cake was really delicious as not a crumb would say on the plate and even have second helpings, especially P, who would say sheepishly, ” that would be nice” and dad would cut him another slice while mum topped up his coffee cup.
Then, dad would sit there and roll a cigarette and initiate a discussion, after this moment of bliss, another form of bliss would follow. The interminable explorations that we used to have on any topics. Religious, social, political, personal, psychological books that we used to read together and discuss. Passges that would take us hours to dissect and go to the bottom of it all. Or so we thought. The pros and the cons, the deeper aspects of Castanada, Alan Watts, Pierce, Kelleman, Grinder, Bandler and so on. These colloquies that went on for close to 30 years.
How can we forget? How can that be brushed under the carpet? How not to think of a moment of these times that we shared so deeply? Never these moments would engrave themselves into our life and our being forever and become part of us and our own daily explorations till today.
Camellia in bloom at the moment and they made a beautiful pink carpet.
Winter is really upon us. Mornings are really cold and it takes ages to warm up in the morning, so bed for now is the best place you could say. But not for long. In spite of the chill there is plenty to do and above all I want to show you around the garden and what is going on at the moment. I have planted the the broccoli, the cauliflowers, the turnips, radishes of course, the lettuces, the leeks and not to forget the broad beans. The bandicoots (type of big rabbit like marsupial typical to Australia, but they are not rats as they have a very long nose to DIG ) have also rallied around the garden beds and they are making sure that everything that I plant is turned upside down. Dug deep, scattered everywhere and asking me to fix it so that next time they’ll do the same thing. Not next time, in fact this very evening it will be back to square one. Peter has plugged all the holes…in vain!
The rain has arrived and we are back inside for a coffee and a cake.
The other day the Monty mighty resident pythons managed to infiltrate the chicken coop and had one for dinner. After it went back into the shed an rested for the day or a few days. Well, you can see for yourself the photos were taken just a little while ago. Since then, after doing a mix of concrete for the studio, there was a little left over and all the holes in the chicken coop have been plugged. Hopefully no more rats or pythons.
In fact around here we do not have any of the big rats that are found in towns but bush rats which are different and not so aggressive. Nevertheless they never miss a chance to eat my peas or any other seedling that I just manage to plant. So, I do them indoors now and plant them when they mature enough. BAd luck!
Today was a beautiful day. Sunshine, crisp and real fresh and cool air. Many people dropped in and looked around. Nobody bought anything. Visitors from many continents. But mainly the Euro zone, and given the state of this currency comparing to the Aust.$ the mood is not for spending but for hanging on to your cts as long as possible. That was clearly the mood of the day. Lovely smiles, easy conversations.
I wonder what they saw. Seeing and looking are different state of mind. Seeing implies a deep (how deep I am not sure) of a world that is not necessarily according to you description of the world.
Looking is just glancing with no particular topic in mind. No effort or concentration. No reflection, or in depth of our immediate surrounding. One thing struck me… they all looked. Very few saw the meanings of these painting or collection that was on display. So hard as everyone looks for something that is going to appeal to them. No one person stayed in front of a painting and actually saw what it meant or said. They fleeted by nonchalantly, bored, blaze, aloof. In and out. Been there done that! Oh! yes I have been to Nimbin Artists Gallery, that glorious Sunday. Yes, beautiful. Yes, they had some nice stuff! ANother Sunday spent in a little village in Northern New South Wales where the Hippies from the 70’s still hang around. looking haggard, eyes bleary and much much more.