My little nephew Scott just turned 5 (and it seems like yesterday I was on the phone with his father at 1:30AM Melbourne time getting updates on his birth, dancing around the kitchen in excitement/sleep-deprived delirium – does it go even quicker when they’re your own?). We’re working on a little project for him and we need the weather to seriously start cooperating because we can’t do it in rain, cold and wind.
Speaking of birthdays, it’s also my mother’s today. But I’m not working on a project for her involving paper and scissors… I know, I’m playing favourites… Sorry Maman…
I must sharpen my kitchen knives – the point at which I have to use force to cut a tomato is long gone… I hate doing it and blame Jean-Claude Dreyfus (Delicatessen cannibal butcher if you recall) for making it seem so creepy… But I sliced into the cushion of my little finger last week and it still hurts (the cut is healed, but the trauma from how much force I was using when the knife came down – aïe ouille).
Wouldn’t you think twice about going anywhere near a knife or sharpening one after watching Delicatessen? Me too.
On occasion my mind pulls out of nowhere a little gem from back home that makes me at once nostalgic and very giggly. For no apparent reason I started to think about the FLNJ yesterday (that’s ‘Front de Libération des Nains de Jardin‘: ‘Front for the Liberation of Garden Gnomes‘) – and I am not punking anyone: it’s real.
France takes freedom very seriously – it’s in our country’s motto and it was stamped on our coins until we joined the Euro. The ‘Front de Libération des Nains de Jardin‘ is basically about kidnapping garden gnomes that are perceived as enslaved and open to ridicule as ornaments of private gardens. They are taken out to forests or parks and ‘released’ back to a more natural habitat, free to frolic and do their gnome thing.
I wasn’t familiar with the FLNJ until I saw one of their posters in Montmartre in 1999. And my vague understanding is that there are branches throughout France that have periods of activity and then lay low for a while (it’s a bit like Fight Club so it’s hard to find information – I suspect the first rule of FLNJ is, well, you know).
And let’s be clear: the liberators aren’t just thieves after some adrenaline kick – although I can’t imagine jumping a fence and plucking a gnome from a bed of lettuce is much of a kick – they always leave an FLNJ manifesto in the letter box. And even go as far as revealing the location where the gnomes will be released so their owners can retrieve (and re-enslave) them.
I love how useless and nonsensical it is. And I secretly suspect my sister of moonlighting with the FLNJ because when I pointed to the poster in Montmartre, she immediately knew what it was and explained the FLNJ’s philosophy. The stronger she denies it, the stronger my suspicion will be. My sister is after all a born righter of wrongs.
(Image from here).
I’ve observed myself before when I’ve had to deal with loss and the subsequent ‘life goes on’, so I know a thing or two about what’s good for me in that situation, and what’s bad.
Good: go through Mira’s toys, medication, pillows and blankets immediately and make a washing pile, a donation pile, and a keep pile.
Bad: clutch Mira’s pillow and sob into it (I only did five minutes of that one, so I’m giving myself a gold star).
Good: clean up – no particular room, just go around and throw away things that never get used and tidy, tidy, tidy.
Bad: go around and focus on the absence of Mira under our desks, on the couch, in front of the fridge staring me down for food or between my legs when I’m cooking waiting for bits of vegetable to fall to her level.
Good: keep up habits. That means on Saturdays, try to make it to that little Brunswick op shop that’s only open for three hours. Look for a buddy to come along.
Last Saturday buddy turned out to be Suzie. Now Suzie is really delightful: she has the tiniest face and ears and a pixie haircut. She can hoola-hoop, like me she loves to photograph decrepit houses, and she has a very contagious laugh and enthusiasm for life. So going to little Brunswick op shop with Suzie: good. Very good.
Even better: spotting a lemon tree with plenty of lemons hanging over the fence (score!) and the ensuing conversation on how to make them ours. It may or may not have involved a debate about climbing on Suzie’s shoulders – and my weight. It ended in Suzie’s resolve to hit the gym to withstand my 55kg, or bring back a stepladder next weekend. We want those damn lemons (seriously, don’t they look good?).
Then: wedding shoes (I only wore them on the day).
Now: today’s shoes (will definitely be worn again).
Then: new scent for wedding (Le Feu d’Issey).
Now: my current favourite (Cassis Rose from the Body Shop).
Then: wedding hair (fresh white flowers).
Now: I actually bought these 10 years ago intending to wear them for our wedding, but decided against it last minute and ran to the florist for fresh flowers instead.
Then: just married! Walking to our wedding lunch.
Now: married ten years, about to have anniversary dinner.
I actually never planned to write this. Back at the end of June when it all started I couldn’t manage a post in two weeks so wrote a quick and vague ‘Things are sad!‘. Then proceeded to list things that made me happy, so I would focus on the bright side of my life.
I can honestly say the last three months have been some of the hardest I’ve ever lived… Maybe reading this you’ll think it’s all very sad. Maybe you’ll think there are worse things. I think both views are true.
You might be familiar with the little furry face that is Mira’s if you’ve come by a few times. Mira is an 11 years old little grey schnauzer and she is very, very sick. We think of our family as a unit of three, but she is not our surrogate child, nor do we don’t dress her up in clothes or treat her like our baby (except at Christmas – she gets to wear a Santa hat and totally resents it). She is a huge part of our lives: a trusty and utterly valued little companion that brings us bucket loads of joy.
We found a tumour on her spleen at the end of June and it was taken out. The day of her surgery could have been her last one but it wasn’t – at 4PM we heard she was recovering really well and the rest of the day was joyful. For dinner we had salad with walnuts and grilled haloumi (grand miam).
She started chemotherapy and tolerated it really well. But in the last three weeks she hasn’t been doing so good. She’s had seizures, and we’re fairly positive there’s a brain tumour in her little head causing them. Her heart is much larger than it’s supposed to be, and her lungs are getting tired too.
She amazes her vet by how happy and bright she is all things considered. She amazes us. But in all honesty she is near the end of her life and I know it. And it feels so damn unfair – she is such a sweet and loving and clever little creature and I don’t want her out of my life.
And yet the life we have now is incredibly hard: it revolves around 5 different types of medication, monitoring her breathing and adjusting dosages, stroking her head and talking to her when she has seizures and panics, being overall as churpy as possible so she can enjoy our company as usual and some sense of normal. Watching her being slower, older and responding by making sure she is comfortable for as long as possible. And then, I can’t even say it.
I’ve been told how long she’s got to live at most, the three most likely ways she’s going to die and what I have to do to help when it happens (thankfully it involves giving her the same medication and jumping in the car each time so that’s easy to remember). I have timed how long it takes to drive to the vet (10 minutes in good traffic) and have already made peace with losing another 3 license points if I speed a bit on my way there (first strike was a red light…).
It’s in my nature to be optimistic but it’s hard right now not to dwell on the incredibly hard things yet to come. We joke a bit about her being a senior citizen, her sleeping and farting most of the day, and her obsession with going out onto the balcony (she’s scratching on that window every five minutes – and keeps on scratching when it’s open…).
I don’t know how to deal with this, some days are downright awful and others are tolerable. Most of the time they’re a mixture of both.
I love my Mira and that also means I’ll have to let her go. But for now, she’s snoozing next to me. And farting. And that’s strangely comforting…
PS: I wrote this yesterday but didn’t have time to publish it as things went a bit pear-shaped and she spent the night at the animal hospital. So right now, she is snoozing and farting next to a poor unsuspecting nurse, not me.
- I have a tiny grater called Alexander – and he is my favourite kitchen implement. I didn’t name him, but I will admit his name was part of the buying decision…
- My favourite lolly is liquorice.
- I dream in both English and French. But never in the same dream as far as I can remember – I seem to be very compartmentalised that way.
- I don’t know how to cartwheel – I never managed to learn and now I’m too afraid to break my head. I’ve always regretted it.
- I’m shaped like a column: I have no waist to speak off.
- I haven’t ridden a bicycle since the age of 6, and back then I wasn’t very good at it or steady. So it’s safe to say I can’t really ride a bicycle.
- I keep a jar of L’Occitane L’Eau des Vanilliers solid perfume on my bed side table and I put on the teeniest amount when I go to bed. There’s nothing like drifting off to sleep smelling like vanilla.
You reading this, would you like a little award? It will feel like getting a gold star – consider it yours and start writing your list.
*If you don’t read Honest Fare you’re missing out on amazing looking food and witty text. I warned you.
This fountain is one of my childhood landmarks – and if I had to explain the concept of time this is the most poetic way I can think of.
The garden and the fountain are at the back of a humongous ‘hôtel particulier‘, in a street I skipped down every Wednesday to go to my weekly music lesson. Behind a dark green gate – so my only ticket to seeing the fountain was if the gate was open. Because aged 6, I was predictably too short to peer above the gate. I can’t tell you how many times I was crushed when I caught my breath in front of that damn closed gate… Arghhhh, so close!
Until I grew to a surprising 1.75m in height (maman and sister Sophie are both a little shorter) – and then, ha ha, could see the fountain whether the gate was closed or not, any time, any day. And I never got tired of looking at it. I always found it as magical and beautiful, and spared a thought back to my shorter, younger version who fumed in disappointment so many times being denied a peek…
This is a poor quality image taken with a disposable camera on an overcast day, but I am biding my time until I can take proper pictures with my good camera… Next trip…
Some quick orientation: the Music Conservatory that was for sale for 12 million euros? At the end of the street, same side as the garden and fountain. The Horseman on the Roof – shot a few metres down on the ‘Place des Quatre Dauphins‘ and adjoining streets in 1995. I used to walk down during my school lunch break to look at the set (my school, few streets up). There you have it.
I was not really familiar with the Swedish Chef from the Muppets until last night, when Christian showed me a bunch of videos on youtube.
I laughed so hard I cried. My favourite is Doughnuts, although the one where he thwacks a chocolate cake with a bat is up there too. Oh, and how about the one where he plays tennis using meatballs with the cantankerous senior citizen in the balcony?
The Swedish Chef has his own youtube channel (you know where I’ll be this weekend!). And I am going to start throwing my utensils around when I’m in the kitchen from this point forward.