‘Farewell to Love’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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For a complete list of chapters in numerical order please go to this page.

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Chapter Eighteen

‘Farewell to Love’

We took the Northern line back to Bank where we transferred to the Central line for our last ride home. We hugged Drizel, misty eyed, but realistic, and wished her well. Waving goodbye we faced forward as you must when parting from loved ones.

To every greeting there is a farewell. Time is an arrow shooting holes in the fabric that swathes true friends. No matter how frantically we sew the rents in the cloak of love, time is constantly unraveling our life’s thread.

So stop. Stop trying.

Stop trying to rethread the loom. Life will happen to you no matter how much you try to avoid living.

So stop. Stop dying.

Stop dying every day and instead live every second with passion and awe towards the incredible power of love.

“Quantum Ghosts”

pale traces left behind
thoughts, looks, touches
layered sediment of existence
to slice through a core
life
countless others before
their hopes crumble
dreams melt exposed
foam churns echoes
yet another coat
painting the quantum ghosts

© Rose Dewy Knickers

“Ann, to every meeting there is a parting, and after ten days, your guests were preparing to leave. First of all, had this holiday met with your expectations or was it something more?”

“You know, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I always say if you expect nothing then you won’t be disappointed, which is quite a tough philosophy to live by because life is full of let downs, but this wasn’t one of them. Dewy, I would never have invited them if I didn’t believe there was already a connection; our meeting was something that was bound to happen, something that was meant to be. We must have spoken on the telephone at least once a week, or even more, during the previous year. For me, it was like meeting old friends… well I’m old, not them, they’re young.”

“I know from Rose’s perspective, you have a very young heart. She really enjoyed how much zest and pep you have. I know this holiday was beyond anything we could have dreamed. I am sure you concur Ann.”

“Dewy, their holiday surpassed my dreams. My initial concern was to make them feel comfortable and welcome in my home; that they should feel my home was their home and that they could make themselves at home. Secondly, wanting to make sure they had a great time; their holiday became mine too. I took time off work and did the touristy things with them; the things that locals don’t have the time or necessarily the mindset to do when caught up in everyday life. It was fun. I like fun. I now have the most wonderful memories of the things we shared, the places we visited, the conversations we had. I still picture them around the house. I remember their laughter when I very seriously told them I wanted to keep them hostage and not let them go, but nothing lasts for ever, least of all holidays; all good things must come to an end.”

“Meeting Rose and seeing her constantly writing in her journal, did you have any idea it would turn into this book?”

“I loved watching Rose writing in her little notebook and wondering what she was up to. She did share her thoughts and her words and you could see a pattern emerging, but it was still very raw. Her excitement and her enthusiasm were so appealing, particularly when she met her fellow blogging poets. Dewy, I had no real idea how she was going to handle her book; I thought maybe a diary of daily events and innermost thoughts and witty observations. Rose is truly amazing; life can’t be easy for her. She is incredibly intelligent, smart and sharp with a very strong mind of her own and I think her writing just gets better and better. I am truly impressed with everything she’s achieved, especially this book. I’m hope she gets the recognition and success she deserves. Dewy, Rose is one very, very sassy girl.”

“Diane seems to have been folded into your family effortlessly. What drew you to her Ann? What traits allowed you to love her so unabashedly?”

“Diane has to be one of the sweetest people I have ever met Dewy, but that’s not to say she’s a pushover. She is wonderful company and has a great take on life. She has been through the wars one way or another, but takes on each new battle with stoicism and determination. Rose may think she’s sassy, well so is Diane; she has a fantastic way with words, she’s very quick witted and I loved, and laughed at, some of her turns of phrase. It’s easy to be drawn to Diane… anyone would be.”

“Saying goodbye to Brian must have been hard. Did you wish that the ten days were much longer?”

“Saying goodbye to Brian was hard and I wished the ten days could have been forever. Does that sufficiently answer your question Dewy? No, I didn’t think so! Dewy, our friendship began when I surfed and found his poetry, but no place to comment. However, no shrinking violet, Brian’s email address was in his profile. I had to write to praise his work, I couldn’t possibly read it and ignore it… also I had to ask, “Who are you?” Innocent enough you would think, but who would have ever thought we would have come this far. Brian and I share amazing conversations where we comfortably talk about anything and everything. He is a very interesting and an erudite man, with a wealth of knowledge he willingly shares. I don’t think I ever come off the phone without learning something new. Yeah, it was horribly hard and sad to say goodbye, but it’s not a last goodbye, it really is au revoir, until we meet again. I believe, no, I know, that was merely the first time. We will see each other again, won’t we?”

“My last question for you Ann is simple. If you had a poem that summed up the holiday, would this be the one you choose?”

“Yes Dewy, this poem is the holiday for me.”

“The Only Way”

Day dawned ordained

Long distance strangers

Each existence unknown

Hand of fate played

Poetic words connected

Enquiring thoughts exchanged

Denial powerless

Closeness beckoned

Magnets pulled unseen bond

No choice

It had to be… fascinated

Their word; they had to meet

Curious, compelled

Searching each other

Voyage of discovery was hers

Greeted two bodies

Three souls, two beating hearts

Three minds, four friends side by side

Barriers down

No more mere words alone

Real flesh and blood, to touch, to hold

Their lives distinct

Knowledge, wisdom diverse

New experiences taught, learnt

Initial steps stumbled

Acquaintances to friends to beyond

Long, deep, enduring, indestructible bond

© Ann Raven

“Thank you Ann for your time on my show. I have come to a better understanding of your relationship with all of us. Thanks also to my special remote guests Jo and Drizel. Thanks to Rethabile as well and best wishes for a peaceful resolution. Diane, what can I say? You have a pure soul and a warm heart. It’s been an honor having you grace my stage. Brian as well, it was all right having you here; don’t get a swelled head. Lastly, dear Rose. We did it, you and I; we pulled it off. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Dewy Knickers signing off. Until the next time, keep flashing those knickers and living and laughing.”

‘To Camden Town we did Ride (Before the fire in February 2008)’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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For a complete list of chapters in numerical order please go to this page.

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Chapter Seventeen

‘To Camden Town we did Ride (Before the fire in February 2008)’

The three divas, Diane, Drizel and I, the one and only Rosie, decided, after bidding a warm farewell to Jo and Marie, to ride the Northern line to Camden Town. It was a fairly long walk from the Tate Modern to the Bank station and then onto the very crowded trains. The entire Circle line, parts of the District line and Northern line were closed this weekend for maintenance so the available cross lines were getting a heavy workout. Plus, Camden Town is a huge weekend attraction all by itself. Did we have a fun time? A fantastic time! There was a teeming swarm of shoppers both looking for bargains and to be seen in their finest clothes. Due to the chilly weather most of the crowd was bundled up and there were very few outlandishly dressed people although the entire area is a curious mixture of funk and hip. Those who paraded in bright colors or bizarre clothing were, for the most part, barkers. The sidewalks being so narrow and the mob being so large, most were practically forced into the street. If I may make a recommendation here, it would suit the area better to convert Camden High Street to a pedestrian mall with stalls down the center of the pavement. The vehicular traffic is both a hazard and distraction. Even more crowded still were the various flea markets that have sprung up in the open cobbled courtyards amidst the permanent stores. We had only a few hours to explore and we decided to strike off in random directions and shop the areas that meandered through a labyrinth of old buildings and halls.

Since we had hundreds of pounds left unspent from our budget and we had bought nothing of substance in Paris, I wanted something permanent to remember London. I found what I was looking for. A very cool and funky shoulder bag that was all me, black with pink leopard spotted handles and highlighted with a white skeletons of a cat and a fish. After a snack of fresh jelly doughnut it was time to plunge headlong into the cramped passageways. By some large stroke of fortune, we came across a tiny shop that had the best bargains we had seen the entire trip. Racks and racks of second hand leather jackets for only ten pounds each! Amongst the large collection of dark brown and black jackets, I was instantly drawn to a gorgeous sea foam green coat. It had dark green satin lining with gold buttons and lots of pockets. I tried it on and it fit perfectly. No stains, no rips; a well broken-in garment. It was perfect for me. Diane and I browsed through the rest of the stock looking for something for her. We found two, the first was a stunning demi-jacket in bright purple suede and the second was a brilliant medium blue leather coat with a vent in the back. An amazing shop with great merchandise and to purchase three leather jackets in great shape for only thirty pounds was fantastic.

“You had recommended to Rose that the afternoon be spent shopping at Camden Town. Was this a part of London you enjoyed Drizel?”

“Oh yes Dewy, the shopping in Camden, that place is another love of mine and I was so happy to share it with Rose and Diane. I kinda imagined you would love the place too. It was fun seeing how Diane and Rose interacted, I still say Diane is amazing, just for the fact that you guys are best friends, one can see it.”

“What drew you to Camden Town Drizel? I know you didn’t care for London all that much, so why this place?”

“Why I like Camden so much Dewy is because there are millions of different people there, punks, Goths, tourists and the silly chicky like me and everyone just takes the streets over and blends the cultures, to make one very funky spunky cake; okay not space cakes, but I am sure if one searched hard enough you’ll find some.”

“Space cakes Drizel? I thought we had doughnuts?”

“Silly Rosie I know that. The treats we had were oh so yummy. What I meant was it was good just to walk and talk. I am happy we decided to go to Camden because it is like my favorite place on earth, and I got to show you. And thanks for the dress you got me… whoohooo… rock on.”

Horses

The three of us wandered for several wonderful hours taking in all the sights. There were food places scattered everywhere, not that we snacked, and it seemed that anything you could want was available somewhere. I was surprised to see several canals offering barges tours and in one market there was a wall with dark bronze horse head sculptures mounted in place, commemorating the horse market which once stood there. Despite the changes and commerce, there seemed to be an attempt made to preserve some of the history of the area. Progress of course moves on and not everything old should be saved, but Camden Town has made a good effort to bridge the ancient with the modern. Alas, all good things must end and we made our final stop in an enormous multi-level Goth store. Drizel picked out a sweet black satin miniskirt with ribbons and a white ruffle. I offered it to her as a gift to remember me by.

“How did you feel about parting from them Drizel? You’d only had a few hours together, was it as good as you’d hoped it would be?”

“I was sad to go and had so much fun. There was so much I wanted to say to Rose but did not know the words. It is like one meets amazing people in life and they pass through and in time one will forget them. I actually wanted to cry when I said bye to you guys, because there are other people one meets in one’s life that leave a mark, a print on one’s soul. Makes one a better person, because I understand and feel more love for human life and souls. This is what you left on me my dear friend Rosie, I will never think the same about people again; I have gotten a new dimension to me and it is all thanks to the amazing soul that you are.”

“Ekstase lê hier”

tydelik het ek die skoonheid gesien.
deur oë van ‘n lustige jong man,
ek het nie omgegee nie, ek het gesien.
die stad was groot en my hart,
was meer gebreek as heel.
ek kon nie kies of ek moes bly,
of miskein het die heelal vir my gekies.
gebroke siel in die ysterstad,
koue vloere, mure vol urine,
hoe soek mens jou siel hier?
ek het myself verloor om agter ‘n deur;
iemand anders te vind.
gee op, nie ek nie.
kry seer, meer as een keer.
liefde vir jouself;
liefde in ‘n gebroke stad.
waar jy jouself ‘n slaaf noem.
waar jy soos ‘n soldaat bloed volg, geld volg.
seer en rou is ek tot ek weer kan asem haal,
in die blou lug van die moederland.
My ekstase lê in Afrika

“Ecstasy lies here”

shortly I saw the beauty.
through the eyes of a lustful young man,
I did not care, I saw.
the city was big, and my heart,
was broken more than healed.
I could not choose if I stayed,
or maybe the universe chose for me.
broken soul in a steel city,
cold floors, walls full of urine,
how do you search your soul here?
I lost myself behind doors,
to find someone else.
give up, I could not.
get hurt more than once.
love for yourself.
love in a broken city.
here you call yourself a slave,
you follow money like a soldier follows blood.
sore and raw, until I can breathe again,
in blue skies of the motherland.
My ecstasy lies in Africa.

© Drizel Burger

‘Let’s Meet at the Big Spider’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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For a complete list of chapters in numerical order please go to this page.

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Chapter Sixteen

‘Let’s Meet at the Big Spider’

Saturday morning began with clear skies after several days of gloom. We got up late after a sleepless night, restless excitement on my part and an unfulfilled hunger in Brian’s mind. Not leaving the house the day before had left me feeling edgy. Diane and Ann had gone out shopping Thursday afternoon before Les Mis, but Brian and I had stayed in for two days in a row now. Diane makes handmade greeting cards with rubber stamps and other craft items and she had asked Ann to drive her to several nearby hobby stores. One thing that stood out to Diane was the differences in hot crafting trends between the two countries. Different products were being offered for sale in England as compared to America, and she had a great time browsing the shops. Diane and Ann also spent the time talking and discussing matters of personal importance, without us being present. I was able to write of course, but that was not satisfying when there was a whole country to explore.

Now on the twenty-minute walk to our local station, Diane and I rehashed the week’s events and I expressed my severe disappointment with my overall lack of activity. Perhaps I am being too hard on myself, but I really believed it would be different and I had done little so far on the trip for my pleasure. That was about to change as today was all about me. By email and then by phone I arranged to meet my friends Drizel and Jo at the Tate Modern by ten o’clock this morning. This was why I was so restless. The shops we passed by, the restaurants and the pubs all were a reminder of what we’d not done. Diane was disappointed as well that her health had deteriorated so abruptly preventing her from being more active. We found out after we returned home that Diane had been having a reaction to her medications causing her legs to swell and her doctor quickly resolved the problem.

Since we had used up our one-week Travelcards, I had to buy us both one-day passes and the ride to central London and St. Paul’s began once more. The ticket machines are very easy to use. You simply select cash or credit, then a single or an all-day pass by zone then quantity and the ticket(s) print out. Slide them into the gates, retrieve on the other side and pick your platform. My observations of the Tube as you know have been favorable. While expensive to ride and crowded during most times of the day and night, it has been quick and on time with regular and frequent service. Everyone takes the Underground, young or old, business or pleasure, every ethnic group from every strata of society. I overheard scores of different languages from residents and tourists alike. Although nighttime travel revealed fashions run amuck on the town, weekends and days were for the ordinary. There are thousands of random timelines crossing again and again in a beautiful dance of souls. But more than that, someone else is doing the driving.

Wobbly

Retracing our steps across the Millennium Bridge the skies, after a promising start, had been consumed by pale thin clouds. The temperature was cool but without rain the day remained pleasant. Over a century had passed since the last bridge over the Thames was constructed and the Millennium Footbridge was designed to be a showpiece linking St. Paul’s on the north bank, to the borough of Southwark. The eagerly awaited opening on June 10, 2000 was even more exciting than anyone could ever have anticipated. With nearly 2,000 people at a time walking across the 333-meter span, an unexpected phenomenon occurred when a critical mass of pedestrians began to subconsciously march in rhythm. This caused the bridge to begin a gentle side-to-side sway. With more and more walkers trying to compensate by matching the increasing sway, the result was a very serious lateral movement, ceasing only when enough pedestrians stopped walking entirely. This feedback loop was alarming enough to cause the closing of the bridge only two days after opening. Nicknamed ‘Wobbly’, the bridge remained shut while experiments were conducted into the cause of the lateral sway. Due to the local zoning restrictions in both height and width, the best engineering solution to control the horizontal movement was found to be the retrofitting of thirty-seven fluid-viscous dampers to dissipate energy. In addition, despite no reports of any significant vertical movement, fifty-two tuned mass dampers for any inertial energy were also added to the underside of the walkway. Similar in function to dampers installed at the top of skyscrapers that will move in opposition to wind and other forces, since the reopening in February 2002 of the Millennium Bridge, these dampers have successfully counteracted the naturally occurring frequency generated by the moving pedestrians.

As we had the furthest to travel I expected us to be the last to arrive and halfway over the bridge to the looming brick pile that is the Tate Modern, I was anxiously scanning the crowd for Jo and Drizel. The museum was just opening at ten o’clock so the patrons were still light, with more pouring in from every direction. I spotted Drizel first; she had her back to the Thames, leaning against the railing and her long red hair was a bright beacon of friendship. I also thought I saw Jo sitting on a bench at the far opposite end of the plaza but she was with another woman so I wasn’t sure. I raced off the walkway leaving Diane behind in my enthusiasm and over to Drizel. Her face lit up with excited recognition and we hugged, giggled and exchanged “luffies”. After introducing Diane to her I excused myself and we left them to chat and went over towards the woman we thought was Jo. Getting closer we were positive that it was she and making eye contact she also broke out into a wide and delighted grin. We hugged and I said hello and then she introduced her mother Marie. We weren’t sure how much Marie knew as she greeted Brian instead of me, so he popped out and whispered to Jo asking if her mother knew about Rose. She reassured us that ‘everyone’ knew and that’s why her mother was here.

We all came back together in the shadow of the big spider: Louise Bourgeois’ 30-foot tall spider called “Maman”. Created in 1999, the sculpture had been previously displayed at the Tate Modern in 2000 and 2004, sandwiched around a world tour in 2001 that included such places as Canada, Spain, New York and Russia. Born in Paris in 1911, Louise credits her artistic vision to her childhood memories and diaries. She was quoted as saying, “My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery and it has never lost its drama.” Certainly “Maman” is dramatic, but for me, a bit sad. Trapped forever in iron are her eggs that will never hatch.

Eggs

Spider

After everyone had met and exchanged hugs and greetings I explained the ground rules. Unless someone asked a question of Brian, I was free to roam until further notice and the ‘face’ was hereby known as Rose. Since we were the only ones in the group to have visited the Tate before, the first order of business was seeing the ‘Crack’ again – “Shibboleth” – and Jo was enthralled. I don’t think Diane, Drizel and Marie were as enthused as we were, but we all used it as a backdrop for group pictures. It was very hilarious to watch everyone taking pictures of myself with Jo and then Drizel in turn. With the flashing of cameras and the calls to face this way and then that, I felt like a celebrity. A minor one to be sure, but my smile would have powered the former turbine once housed here where now we stood together in friendship.

The Tate Cafe on the ground floor provided a welcome place to sit and bond over tea and biscuits. I felt right at home talking about my life and goals and to meet girlfriends like these was a very liberating experience. Drizel and I clicked right away, as I knew we would, and she gave us both gifts. Mine was a wonderful and sassy book of poetry by Mark Haddon called “The Talking Horse and the sad Girl and the Village under the Sea”. She gave a book about South African wildlife to Brian along with two gorgeous hand-painted canvas bookmarks. I handed out cards that Diane handmade to Drizel and Jo including a sympathy card to Marie and Jo. Marie’s husband, Jo’s father, had passed away at hospice earlier in the week and they were using this outing as a means of healing. Their pain was fresh and raw though; we gave them what comfort we could.

We talked and talked about many different topics, poetry and blogging, writing and the frustrations inherent with too many ideas and not enough time. Drizel has a degree in Psychology so she has always understood me to be a woman and told me that she had to explain over and over again to her friends that I was ‘normal’. It’s interesting as I’ve grown and expanded how some people are attracted to one of us and not the other. Drizel and Brian have a brother and sister relationship and have felt that since the very beginning of their friendship. They call it, ‘siblings from another mother’. For me though, even before she moved from South Africa to England and then back again, she was a close girlfriend and she happens to be an extraordinarily gifted writer with a deep insight into the dark psyches.

Jo had found me through poetry blogs and instantly became my friend. She also had a book of poetry as a gift for me, “New Selected Poems 1966-1987” by Seamus Heaney. In her case she didn’t make the connection between Brian and I until much later so she didn’t know that much about him. In person, Jo turned out to be warm and caring and projected a sense of poise and fierce strength, presumably from her career in journalism and from living in many places around the world. She is a loving mother of two young boys and she reacted most strongly to me when I related our history and told her about Little Brian. The tears in her eyes showed the true depth of her compassion.

After we had exhausted all possible topics of conversation, we decided to take a quick tour of the exhibit floors before Jo and Marie had to leave. The 2nd and 4th floors house a wide variety of Modern Art. I capitalize this because art that desires to be called modern cannot make sense. I mean this in the most generous of ways. For an artist to be called modern he/she must be able to create something that looks like you’d buy it at IKEA and assemble it yourself. It must be strange, deranged even and many times incomprehensible to the untrained eye.

Here is where I part company with many folks I am sure. I loved everything about this museum and the works of art that adorned the floors and walls. It matters not a whit to me that the art is a large canvas with blotches of random paint. Or a series of videos of a dog tripping a man, each shot from a different perspective. Metal squares and painted blocks; translucent nudes and jagged iron sculptures reaching for a tortured sky. I didn’t understand many of the displays, but that didn’t matter. I understood enough to know that the artist had a vision. A vision that haunted their dreams and waking days driving them to create something that was real only to them.

“Welcome back everyone to ‘Flashing Knickers With Dewy’ and this chapter where we discuss Rose’s second journey to the Tate Modern. She’s written eloquently about the experience meeting her friends, but what about the museum itself? She promised back at the end of Chapter Seventeen that she’d talk about the time spent here. My first question for you Rose is based on the paragraph above. Do your visions haunt you as well?”

“You have no idea how much Dewy. The courage, the inspired madness that fuels art is what I strive for. My stories and poetry allow me to reach into that bubbling stew of human emotion and ladle out a helping of nonsense. I am haunted by what I feel and what I think. I write to provoke, to sooth, to touch my readers and show them a different way of thinking. For me being so young, the world seems fresh and untrammeled. I write about things that interest me.”

“This is for all of you to answer, starting with Ann. What did you like and what didn’t you like about the Tate Modern?”

“Dewy, sadly I wasn’t there on the same day as Jo and Drizel, however the previous Monday’s walk along the Thames had culminated at the museum. Surprisingly, I’m ashamed to say, I had never been to the Tate Modern before so was eagerly looking forward to the visit. I didn’t expect to be, but I was really taken by the ‘Crack’ because I wanted to see if it was all that it was cracked up to be… excuse the pun! I’d read loads about it in the press over the few weeks prior to opening. I really was more impressed than I thought I would be, mostly I think because of the sheer scale and in a way the audacity of it, but I couldn’t share the artist’s vision of what “Shibboleth” meant to her.”

“How about you Diane? Did you enjoy the two visits to the Tate Modern?”

“Let me think a minute Dewy. I was impressed by the variety of art, however the style was not to my liking. I spent most of the tour talking with Marie and we agreed on most points that the art was pointless. It didn’t strike a chord with me. I want to see something I recognize. Modern Art is too freestyle for me, too weird: no bearing on reality. I prefer art that depicts more real life settings, such as landscapes and portraits. I do love the Impressionists, Monet in particular, although I suppose he was Modern for the times.”

“Thanks Ann and Diane for your insights. At this time I’d like to introduce another special guest to the show. Please welcome to our discussion about the Tate Modern museum Rose’s sistah in flashing Traveled Jo. I’m sorry you couldn’t be here today in person Jo, but I understand you’ve got your hands full these days with family.”

“Thank you Dewy for having me, I’m thrilled to be here, even if it is by remote from England.”

“You are most welcome. Now Jo, getting back to Rose, this was the first time meeting her in person. Were you nervous considering you had only corresponded by email before?”

“Not at all Dewy, because I was excited about the opportunity to talk to someone I can usually only read. I did wonder if it would be difficult to engage with a person who is effectively inside somebody else, but from the second Brian came over I knew Rose’s voice – though for politeness sake I did check! We sat and chatted over coffee and for a few minutes it felt a little disorientating, like talking to a friend in disguise perhaps, but I realized quickly that the gestures, the movement, the essence were pure Rose and Rose, well she’s wonderful. Does that make sense, Dewy?”

“It makes perfect sense Jo, I think you’ve explained the feelings quite well. I know the circumstances were not the best at that time for you and your family, but did meeting like this with strangers help you in your grief?”

“It was a very difficult time Dewy, yes, my father had died and we were feeling very heart sore but the distraction was welcome – just to get on a train and physically move away from where it had happened was therapeutic. And Rose and Diane were so very kind and compassionate that it helped; I was particularly touched by the beautiful card which Diane had made.”

“You’re so very welcome Jo, it was a pleasure making it for you. I just wish we could have done more.”

“It was enough Diane. My mother and I appreciated your gesture very much.”

“I have to ask you Jo, after hearing Rose’s enthusiastic description of the museum visit, don’t you think she’s a bit over the top?”

“You’re asking the wrong person Dewy! I think that the Tate Modern is fabulous from the bricks up. The building was originally a power station and was dubbed an industrial cathedral because of the enormous central chimney, so it’s the perfect venue for cutting-edge art. And there’s something about being in a place so full of creativity; it gives you a spark. I’m just sorry this last visit was so rushed.”

Foot

“Ann I need to ask you here again about your visit earlier in the week. There seems to be a division about ‘the Crack’, but how did you feel about the rest of the museum? Did you get a chance to peruse the galleries?”

“I remember Dewy that after the pleasure and thrill of seeing the ‘Crack’ we headed upstairs to Level 3; Poetry and Dream. This surely was made for me… a dreamer with my head in the clouds and a wannabe poet, as I call myself. I really was excited and it didn’t disappoint, I was enchanted even though I’m no art maven. What little I know can be written on a pinhead, but you just know if something appeals to you or not. Here was an Aladdin’s cave of contemporary art. One particular piece caught my eye. I now know he’s a well known artist and apparently a painting of his sold recently for $1.6m, but I’d never heard of him, showing my ignorance here.”

“Oh come on Ann, you’re not ignorant. Tell us which painting drew your attention and fired your imagination.”

“The artwork was Francis Picabia’s ‘Otaiti’. If ever a painting exuded a vision of a dream, this was it. The central figure is a beautiful naked full lipped full bodied woman and then it is layered with other objects… from what I remember there was a hand, leaves, another face, a sheep, a fish, a violin. This piece spoke to me. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, well I felt it really was talking to me. You know Dewy, I’m learning you’re never too old to be open to new things.”

“I agree with Ann as well, Dewy. Both Rose and I liked this painting very much and had fun peering into the complexity of the design. What did you think Rose?”

“Yes Brian, I did enjoy the painting. It’s such a deep and layered work, that in the end you simply have to stand back and marvel at the talent. You see so many sights every second, but very few you actually retain. This was one of those works of art that needed no debate. It was Art.”

“Thank you Ann, Brian, Rose and Jo for your insights. At this time I want to welcome yet another friend of Rose’s. Thanks for joining us all the way from South Africa, Drizel. As you can see I have Brian, Diane, Ann and Rose here in studio and Jo is on video remote from her home in England.”

“Thanks for having me Dewy. Hi Diane and Jo, good to see you again. Hey Brian, brother from another mother; sorry we couldn’t meet in person Ann. Hey chicky!”

“Hi you. You’re looking good my Body and Soul sistah!”

“Thanks Rosie, you too. So what do you want me to share Dewy?”

“Well Drizel I would like to know what was your first reaction when you saw Rose in person?”

“Initially Dewy I was calm about it, I knew it would be a shock to me to see her in a man’s body as I think of Rose as a chick. So I think I kinda prepared myself to just not look shocked. But actually when I saw Rose I was not shocked. I knew it was her in every way and I knew that Rose was a chicky.”

“Thanks chicky, you’re one too. I was wondering why you were so quiet though.”

“I didn’t know what to say at first Rose, because you’re so smart and I can sometimes be a bit goofy so I just stayed quiet for a bit. Plus I was in awe of you and Diane. I met Brian only briefly and it was fun getting two hugs.”

“What did you notice Diane? When Rose went over to greet Jo, what did you and Drizel chat about while you were waiting?”

“Actually Dewy I spoke briefly about our trip so far and we shared tales of London. I knew it was Drizel as well when I saw her red hair from the vantage point of the bridge.”

“Overall on a sliding scale, how much did you enjoy the Tate Modern museum Drizel?”

“Tate Modern was something that blew life into me Dewy, I went there with friends after we were there; twice actually. The big crack still baffles me, but one person’s art is another’s junk. I loved the place. I kind of was starting to get into London life, but like everything in life things change with a blink of an eye.”

“Now that I have you all together, here you were, five women sitting around a table in a cafe talking as if you were old friends. I assume being across from Jo and next to Drizel had you fairly excited Rose.”

“That’s correct Dewy. Jo and I were chatting up a storm about blogging and writing. I thought maybe Drizel wasn’t having a good time because she was so quiet.”

“That’s not true Rose. I loved being in the coffee shop with you guys and I had to concentrate for my jaw not to drop open. I really have so much respect for you, Brian and Diane. I just really wanted to take everything in. Just seeing you talk and seeing the difference between yours and Brian’s handwriting was an eye opener.”

“What was so eye opening about Rose’s way of talking and writing Drizel?”

“As you know Dewy, I studied Psychology and in school they teach you the words. Never did I imagine I would have the honor of meeting Rose. We are all humans and perfection comes in different forms. I will always, always consider myself very fortunate to have met you, Rosie, as there is no one on this planet in your perfection. So if one sees it like that Rose, you are your own art, poetry and soul.”

“That is so sweet chicky. I miss you so much and I wish South Africa wasn’t so far away. Luffies.”

“Thank you Drizel for your time and I hope that you and Rose will be able to meet in person again someday. Jo before you go as well is there anything else you wish to add?”

“Just a few thoughts Dewy. I really loved when Rose read some poetry to us and it was a wonderful experience. She has a perfectly pitched voice that can really nail the rhythm of a piece. I think you should make a recording of some of your writings Rose.”

“Jo, I have actually recorded my voice before reading some of my poems and stories. It’s just one more of those things that needs time.”

“I also remember Rose you reading to us from your travel diary and this was so exciting, to listen to the first drafts – and I was amazed by how little was crossed out, I write from bare bones, with many drafts, your work seems to come out almost fully formed.”

“Well Jo, I spend so much time thinking that my writings do come out nearly fully formed at times. I do edit of course, but I seek to have the core intact before even writing a single word.”

“What about Rose’s personality Jo? Given that you had only a few hours together, what was the lasting impression you were left with?”

“Dewy when you meet with Rose in person, you are left with the sense that Rose is full of enthusiasm – for life, art, writing. When we were talking I felt that Brian’s chronic fatigue was a source of great frustration for her, though she did not complain. I find it frustrating having to fit my writing in around looking after my family, Rose has to share writing time with Brian, who works long hours – it must make for a difficult balancing act, but they are both writing great stuff so it is working! I would definitely like to get together again with Rose and have more time to talk over writing and art. This first meeting was too rushed, here’s to the next visit Rose!”

“Thank you Jo for all your wonderful love and help in making my dreams come true. I know there will be more books I’ll write and more visits with you.”

The museum was wonderful and I have vivid memories of the art that adorned the varied surfaces, but what made this visit so special was the friends who were there as well. Art may be in the eye of the beholder, but then so too are friendships. All different colors and sizes, friends make everything seem brighter and the world a better place.

‘Shabbat Shalom again’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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Chapter Fifteen

‘Shabbat Shalom again’

Friday, the second Friday of our holiday and a cold, gray damp day once more had our tropical loving skin shivering. Looking outside, an executive decision was made to stay in as we had major plans to meet Jo and Drizel on Saturday and needed to recuperate after the previous evening’s gala theatre outing. After a light lunch, (saving room for dinner) we snuggled up on the couch and watched ‘Moulin Rouge’ on video and “helped” Ann with the cooking. We hadn’t seen the movie before and Ann kept popping her head around the corner to sing and dance to her favorite tunes. We laughed and talked and had the most marvelous afternoon. As it turns out it was the same the entire week; she didn’t need any help cooking as she’d been doing this for her family a long time. Ann keeps a kosher kitchen and for our needs we had eaten off milky dishes most of the week. Shabbat was for meaty dishes and a finer grade of china at that.

Since the first Friday was the day of arrival and we had all been a little groggy, I took this opportunity as we rested to ask about the specific rituals we had witnessed a week ago. Ann was delighted to explain about Friday nights and why Saturday was a day of rest in the Jewish faith.

After preparing food and cleaning all day, as sunset drew near, Ann bathed and dressed up in finer clothes and then approached the sideboard where two white candles stood ready. She told us that it is a mitzvah (commandment from God) for Jewish women to light several candles every Friday night, in order to usher in Shabbat, the day of rest. In the Jewish tradition the wife generally has more influence over the spirit of the home, therefore Ann had always lit the Shabbat candles in her household. I asked what happens if a man lives alone, and she replied then he should light the candles just as he should if his wife for any reason is unable to perform this mitzvah herself.

“Ann, I have a question here if you don’t mind?”

“Not at all Dewy, I’ll be happy to answer any questions.”

“Is there a special way to display and light the candles?”

“Well Dewy, the candles must be placed where they can be seen and away from any breeze so their flame can spread light around the room. In addition they must burn naturally for at least 3-4 hours and not be extinguished.”

“And if they stop burning or are extinguished Ann?”

“It doesn’t matter too much Brian as the mitzvah was still performed.”

“Rose, when you wrote this next part of the chapter, what were your thoughts at the time?”

“Dewy I remember feeling included in Ann’s family blessing. The first Friday we were all so tired and hadn’t really been able to grasp the nuances, but this day was different. As you will read we had a more in-depth discussion this evening as to the specific ceremonies that take place every Friday in many Jewish homes around the world.”

Before proceeding with the actual lighting, Ann went on to explain why two candles are kindled, one specifically to ‘remember’ and the other to specifically ‘observe’ the Sabbath day as referenced from the following passages. The first is the Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” and Deuteronomy 5:12 “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” In some households the mother lights extra candles for her children, but it is Ann’s minhag (tradition) to light two only. In Israel her daughter-in-law lights four candles as she has two children; that is her minhag.

After lighting the candles, Ann waved her hands three times over the flame and then covered her eyes and recited the following blessing in Hebrew.

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has made us holy through His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Sabbath light.”

When she finished reciting the blessing, she uncovered her eyes and stood quietly for a brief period of time before picking up a prayer book and reading silently to herself in Hebrew another prayer for her family. She explained later that she finds this prayer particularly meaningful and heartfelt as a mother asking Hashem to shine his countenance on her family.

“May it be your will Hashem, my God and God of my forefathers, that You show favor to me, my sons, my daughters, my mother, my grandchildren and all my relatives; and that You grant us and all Israel a good and long life; that You remember us with a beneficent memory and compassion; that You bless us with great blessings; that You make our households complete; that You cause Your Presence to dwell among us. Privilege me to raise children and grandchildren who are wise and understanding, who love Hashem and fear God, people of truth, holy offspring, attached to Hashem, who illuminate the world with Torah and good deeds and with every labor in the service of the Creator. Please, hear my supplication at this time, in the merit of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, our mothers, and cause our light to illuminate that it be not extinguished forever, and let Your countenance shine so that we are saved. Amen”

After Ann had finished her prayer, I could sense a deep sense of peace and harmony wash over her. Her smile as she turned to us was relaxed and joyful and we returned it with equal measure. We chatted amiably while we waited for her family to arrive, this week we would meet her mother for the first time. In preparation Ann had dressed the table with a white tablecloth, set six places with her best ‘meat’ dishes along with the wine, salt and challot. By lighting the candles and ushering in Shabbat, the light served as a physical and spiritual boundary between the workweek and the twenty-five hours of rest to come. In fact the entire week in the Jewish faith is structured to lead up to Shabbat and the day of rest mandated by God.

When Jamie arrived home from synagogue and we were seated around the Shabbat table, (Jamie explained some of the proceedings as we went along and he gave us books in Hebrew with the phonetics and the translation) Shabbat was welcomed by a song called Shalom Aleichem “Peace be unto You”. This is a welcoming and an offer of hospitality to the angels who accompany worshipers and the Bride (as the Shabbat Queen, the symbolic presence of Shabbat is sometimes called) home from synagogue.

“Angels of peace, may your coming be in peace; bless me with peace and bless my prepared table. May your departure be in peace, from now and forever. Amen”

Everyone round the table sang this song with happiness and joy. Smiles filled with love were exchanged and we felt part of the song. Shalom Aleichem! It is the old traditional greeting used when two Jews meet in addition to the name of the song that begins the Shabbat meal Friday night. Shalom Aleichem — May peace be upon you. We indeed felt peaceful and welcomed. Shalom… peace… from the Hebrew word shalem, which means complete.

“Ann, from your standpoint, what is the meaning of this song? By singing “Shalom Aleichem” with such joy and love what do you accomplish?”

“On the most basic level Dewy, by singing this song, we are asking God to bless our home with peace; that there should be no conflict between friends or family, especially on Shabbat. The Talmud says that when a man comes homes from shul on Friday night, a good angel and a bad angel accompany him. If the table is beautifully set and there is a peaceful atmosphere in the home, then the good angel says, “So may it be next week,” and the bad angel is forced to say, “Amen!” (So may it be!) However, if the house is in a poor emotional and physical state then the bad angel says, “So may it be next week,” and the good angel is forced to say, “Amen!” This then is what I hope to accomplish at the end of the week, a place where my family, friends and angels feel welcome.”

“Brian, did you feel welcome as well?”

“Oh yes Dewy. Ann and her children, her mother as well as Lucy welcomed us with open hearts. This song in particular felt so warm and filled with peace.”

“Did you feel that as well Diane?”

“Yes I did Dewy. They were warm and friendly. The songs touched my heart and I could sense the love and closeness of her family.”

Next we sang Eshet Chayil, it translates as ‘A Woman of Valor’.  This hymn is customarily recited on Friday evenings, after singing “Shalom Aleichem”. It is a Jewish custom for men to recite the Eshet Chayil at the end of the week, and thus think about and be thankful for all his wife has done for him and their family throughout the past week.

After Eshet Chayil was Kiddush, the blessing over the wine. Jamie poured a large ‘becher’ goblet of wine and two smaller cups, one for Brian and one for Diane then recited the Kiddush. Every household has a different custom when it comes to reciting Kiddush, some stand, some sit, some stand and sit… in Ann’s household the tradition is to stay seated.

The blessing is recited in three parts; the first is to say God had blessed the seventh day. The second part is the blessing over the wine itself and the third part is blessing God for sanctifying us with his commandments and for bringing the children of Israel from Egypt and for sanctifying the Sabbath day.

After Jamie drank of the wine, the large silver goblet was passed in turn to the others at the table while Brian and Diane drank from the small cups.

The final blessing was the motzi, the blessing over the bread. Jamie uncovered the two loaves of challah that had been draped by a decorated challah cloth.

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.”

Jamie sliced enough challah for all of us and put salt on each piece. After eating his portion, the plate was passed around and we ate our slices. This ritual is the connection to the 40 years spent wandering in the desert by the tribes of Israel and the manna from heaven that sustained them. The dual loaves of challah represent the double helping of manna they received on the Sabbath so that the day of rest could be observed.

Now dinner could be served and what a feast it was!

Having spent two Shabbatot in Ann’s house I felt that these rituals were much more than rote recitation, but a fulfillment of the covenant with God. The words, the food, the wine all had a role in reminding us of the desire of God that humans rest once a week and reflect on the past deprivations. Throughout the Jewish year there are constant holidays and festivals that mark the relationship of a living faith.

“I’d like to add here Dewy, that I feel that Shabbat is a gift, a G-d given gift to rest with no feelings of guilt, but to accept the day in good faith and with good spirit. That is also why I was unable to join them on their Saturday outings because I don’t drive or spend money, amongst other things, on Shabbat.”

“Thank you for that, Ann. Did you feel that way as well Brian about Shabbat?”

“For myself Dewy, I have to say that although we didn’t rest on Saturday, the Friday evenings were very special. More than being mere guests in Ann’s home, Shabbat made us part of her family. I know Rose was relieved.”

“I agree Brian completely. For me having Ann and her family talk to me as Rose meant so much to me. I was worried that they would feel uncomfortable and worried. Thank you Ann for your friendship and love and for the respect I felt from your family. I sensed a larger gathering than what was around Ann’s table.”

“Diane did you also sense the connection?”

“Yes Dewy I also felt like family. Shabbat was something I excitedly looked forward to celebrating with Ann. The tradition in the ceremonies helped me feel a closeness with her family.”

We are not Jewish but the heritage of the Western religions of Christianity and Islam flows from these prayers and blessings and all three faiths worship the same God. To have faith is to have a belief in something outside of one’s self. God is a mystery far beyond the ken of mere mortals such as I. Even if you do not believe in any God whatsoever or that we are here for one life and then no more; even if your faith in humankind to do good has suffered, even then, even you would be moved by the deep faith of others.

‘Les Misérables Curtain Up’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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Chapter Fourteen

‘Les Misérables Curtain Up’

The flickering neon of adverts bouncing off the damp pavement illuminated the eager faces surging through Piccadilly Circus. In pairs and in groups large and small, the crowds were sucked through the beckoning doors of each successive theatre. Our destination on this wet but mild evening was the Queen’s Theatre and her marquee drew us ever closer, reeling in her patrons with the promise of a good time. Opened October 8th, 1907, she looked great for her age.

Row H in the Stalls, seats seventeen to nineteen were ours to claim. Excellent seats in plush red velvet close to the intimate stage, but far enough back to comfortably see all the action without straining your neck. My initial reaction was surprise at the small size of the stage. It seemed that the space would inhibit the production, but none of the audience seemed to be concerned. Ann did mention that before April 3rd, 2004 Les Mis had been showing at a much larger theatre, but she was willing to give this smaller venue the benefit of the doubt.

A fashionable throng dressed up for an event, unlike the half-naked young things shivering outside in the damp. For our hostess, these schoolgirls were nostalgic; the showing of vast areas of skin in all weathers a rite of passage for teens having a holiday night out on the town. It was ironic as well considering that yesterday we were in Paris and here we were back in London for a play about the French poor and the selling of one’s body and soul in order to survive. For most of the audience, and indeed for the fashionable girls outside, that desperate fight for survival was merely a play, a musical, and had no bearing on the comfortable life they lead.

We were virgins when it came to Les Misérables, unlike the majority of this evening’s clientele. Although we’d heard the music and had a basic idea of the story the emotions and expectations from the audience were palpable. Not excitement exactly, but more like the anticipation of meeting an old friend after an absence of years. When the lights went down and the pit orchestra began the prologue, all was hushed.

‘At The End Of The Day’ begins Act I and writing this reflection a day later in the comfort of Ann’s living room has given me a clearer perspective on what we saw. The play itself was good. The stage direction was excellent, making full use of the limited space available resulting in the production appearing larger than the area actually was. The set props were brilliant in the way they complemented and framed the ensemble allowing the characters space to breathe. The lighting was judicious and most effective in the pure white light utilized when death had claimed another victim. I did have a quibble with the musical score, which at various times overpowered the dialogue.

What of the cast then? I had no basis of comparison at that time, but overall the performers seemed flat and lifeless. Individually there were several outstanding performances. Drew Sarich, who played Jean Valjean, emoted well and gave me insight into the character’s growth as a representative of man’s ability to do good in the face of suffering. His voice was brilliant when he sang and it touched the audience deeply. Inspector Javert, portrayed capably by Hans Peter Janssens, was also well done and created a sense of sympathy for a man trapped by his perceived duty to the law. A harsh mistress is Justice and his suicide scene was cleverly staged and a highlight of the evening.

The rest of the players showed flashes of promise, but struggled at times with projection and passion. Eponine, played by the understudy Rachael Louise Miller, sang her solo ‘On My Own’ beautifully and with tender nuance befitting the moment. Of all the characters, she alone died with the sense of bewilderment and pathos that came the closest to Victor Hugo’s vision. The biggest disappointment for me was the performances of M. and Mme. Thénardier. Their introduction in the play as the guardians and abusers of Little Cosette was not at all brutal and chilling, but rather comic. The ensemble song ‘Master of the House’ lacked the depth of cynicism and greed that would have stood in stark contrast with the exploited and foolish tavern customers. Although the characters of the manipulative innkeeper and his suffering wife are supposed to be funny, it is not the fun of farce but rather the grim humor of the gallows that motivates their every dark action.

The majority of the thrilled audience clearly considered this number the highlight of the musical and reacted with enthusiastic delight. It seemed to detract from the overall play and none of the other players got through to me. The scene of the mass deaths of the students upon the barricades was anti-climatic and felt rushed and glossed-over. I am not sure if the audience empathized with Javert when he sat on the broken barricade amongst the dead, holding his anguished face in his hands. This scene and the next were the most moving and well done of the entire production.

For Javert to kill himself because he was unable to reconcile his perceived duty to the law instead of taking the path that Jean Valjean took; for me this is the choice we all face. To care about others and what is right and just or to blindly accept what is done to us in the name of corrupt laws and government lackeys. Javert is the moral compass of Les Misérables and he fails at the end of the day to do what is right.

“Wow Rose, this is a pretty harsh review. Did you not enjoy the play at all?”

“Honestly Dewy, I did enjoy the play. My thoughts are more in the vein that the sense of anticipation did not match the actual production. The audience seemed to have a set vision of Les Misérables before it started and were willing to overlook any flat spots in favor of the shared collective experience.”

“What about you Brian, did this evening meet with your expectations?”

“I have to disagree somewhat with my friend Rose here. I had a marvelous time and thoroughly enjoyed the actors and actresses. I thought the singing was very good and the chemistry between the leads was very evident. It had been a long time since I’d seen a live production and it was worth going.”

“Ann I’ll ask you to weigh in with your opinion here as you have seen Les Mis three times now?”

“Actually, Dewy this was my fourth time. How could Brian, Diane and Rose come to London and not see a West End production? I would be failing in my duty as a hostess. Anyway, apart from one or two other possibilities, I realized it simply had to be Les Mis, no real competition. It’s such a wonderful show. I just hoped they would enjoy it as much as I do.”

“In that case Ann, do you share Rose’s opinions as to the merits of the overall production?”

“Gosh Dewy, considering Rose had never seen the show before, her analysis is pretty accurate. I was a tad disappointed with certain aspects of the show too, but it’s the music I love and that was marvelous and the lead actors were excellent. I think it’s a shame the show had to move because no matter what anyone else thinks, I don’t believe a smaller stage did it any favors.”

“Diane what was your take on this subject? Did the experience of the play meet or exceed your expectations?”

“Oh I was very excited about the Les Mis outing Dewy. It exceeded my expectations in many ways, however the innkeeper’s scenes disappointed me. Overall though the lead characters impressed me very much and their performance was very impressive!”

“Did you have a favorite song or character after seeing them live?”

“I think my favorite character was Jean Valjean because he was so strong and portrayed the story so well. I understood everything that was going on and the emotional struggle he faced. The song I loved the most was ‘On My Own’.”

“Dewy I’d like to add that my main goal of the evening was to ensure my guests enjoyed the play, coming away with an appreciation of live theater and having a great night out. I hope I succeeded in that goal Rose.”

“Oh you did Ann. Despite my review, I would like to see Les Mis again some day with you. Maybe in New York or even someplace more exotic.”

‘Dogs and Guns’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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Chapter Thirteen

‘Dogs and Guns’

Boats

Our overnight trip to Paris came to a rather abrupt end. We strolled along the Seine the length of the Île de la Cite to Pont Neuf; watching tour boats sparsely populated with bundled-up tourists cruise slowly upstream. On the other side of the narrow street was the imposing facade of le Palais de Justice. Part of the former royal palace which still houses Sainte Chapelle, today it is guarded by stern faced gendarmes in blue while rows and rows of police vehicles line the sides. Despite the presence of so much security, the streets and sidewalks were open to the public, although the unblinking stares of the corniced windows did hasten our steps somewhat. We had planned to keep walking until we reached the Tuileries Garden and then travel to see the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, but Diane could do no more.

A quick check of the map and we rode le Métro from Pont Neuf to le Musée du Louvre. There we saw the courtyard, took a picture of the glass pyramid and then decided it was too cold to go anywhere else. Back onto le Métro then transferred to the RER B line and rode one stop north to Gare de Nord. I must mention that the sprawling RER station at Châtelet-Les Halles was amazing with three different RER lines converging and trains in both directions on multiple platforms constantly. When combined with the two stations and the five lines of the connecting Métro it’s the world’s largest underground station in area with more than 750,000 passengers every day. The boys were in heaven.

At Gare de Nord we emerged from the train to find ourselves in a vast shopping arcade. We had taken le Métro only yesterday from here and had not seen this area because it was part of the RER station. It was a sprawling complex but the only restrooms we could find charged a euro to utilize. We were three hours early and could not check-in to the Eurostar terminal so we sat on our backpacks and waited an hour until they let us through. While we waited I looked around the terminal at all the frantic activities. Each platform was rarely empty, as soon as one train would depart, another TGV or a burgundy Thalys train would enter the station. (Thalys is a service provided jointly by the Belgian, French, Dutch and German railways and has replaced nearly all short-haul air travel.) There they would be cleaned and restocked and within the hour would depart once more filled with business travelers. All except the Eurostar trains, which were arriving twenty to fifty minutes late on their two segregated platforms. Departures were on time though so I could only assume that trains were being swapped assignments.

The other very noticeable presence was the gendarmes in large numbers, both singly and in groups. However, the active security provided by paratroopers bearing assault rifles was even more visible. A combat patrol went by while we sat against the wall. An officer was on point and two soldiers in a triangle formation followed behind with fingers near triggers slowly walking and scanning the area for hostiles. We merited but a brief sweeping glance, seen, analyzed and dismissed in a fraction of a second. Steady hand signals from the front directed the action. A short time later another soldier came by, followed by his handler; a free roaming German shepherd sniffing for foreign substances.

The security procedures were similar to yesterday’s at Waterloo, except here, the French Border Police stamped your passport upon exit and sent you round the corner to be processed through the United Kingdom immigration control. For a brief period of time, we were no longer in France, but not yet admitted to the U.K. We were in no man’s land and the feeling was distinctly unsettling. This was by far the most stringent checkpoint we encountered during the entire journey and we saw several passengers being interrogated quite strongly as to the reasons for wanting to enter Great Britain.

In the departure lounge, because we were so early, there were still two scheduled trains leaving before ours. We found seats and rested our weary feet for an hour and a half. In the far corner, with lots of boxes and luggage filled with purchases, there was a small group of Korean couples traveling together. They wound up sitting next to us on our coach and seemed to be having a grand time. As in Miami when we flew out, there were also lots of children toting Disney souvenirs. Eurostar runs one daily excursion train from London direct to Euro Disney, but with changing at various stations along the line including service on the RER A line to Marne-la-Vallée, there are numerous times and directions throughout the day that families can arrive at Disney.

It’s at night when a train journey most feels like flying. Except for distant lights and the ‘whump’ and rhythmic compression of an express scurrying by in the opposite direction, you are reduced to your seat and to surreptitiously studying your fellow passengers. I’m not one to romanticize anything, so the Eurostar service, while quick and efficient, showed the strain that marks shuttles the world over. Sacrificing luxury and leisure for speed and practicality, as the distances between place and destination continue to shrink, what is lost is the time spent relaxing and becoming. In fact, it was very jarring to enter in Paris and exit in London; somehow, it didn’t seem real.

The ride home on the Eurostar left on time although we were a few minutes late in arriving, primarily because north of Brixton we traveled a different inbound route. It must have been quite a sight to be waiting at a small urban station in the dark and see an express train sweep through instead. The Tube journey home was without incident although for ten o’clock at night the trains were still packed with passengers. Ann picked us up at the station and took us home. Home, our temporary home had become a welcome retreat.

So what were my overall feelings towards Paris? The average person in the street was always scurrying somewhere but the shopkeepers at least were eager to serve. Everyone, without exception, would say ‘bonjour’ and wish you ‘bonne journée’ when you left the store. There was though a weary sense of fatigue to the City of Lights. A perverse pride in the tight parking, the crowded boulevards, the extremely high prices, the swarms of tourists and the resultant dirt and trash that coated the sidewalks. Perhaps this patina is what marks all great cities, but here in Paris, it detracted from the beautiful history blossoming around every corner.

“Any comments anyone? Yes Diane?”

“Paris fell short of my expectations Dewy, but I did have prior illusions of grandeur. I was expecting a trophy city, pristine and welcoming. I thought it would be bigger than it was, but even being so compact, it was difficult to find your way around. I found Paris to be a very fast paced city; maybe the problem is they don’t have time for tourists. I guess I expected there to be more of an effort to guide visitors. Instead it seemed to be that you had to find it yourself. Is that how you felt Brian?”

“It’s interesting you remember the fast pace Diane because I compare Paris to New York City in the sense of purpose and culture. I enjoyed Paris for the history and would like to return someday to explore all the museums and monuments. My overwhelming impression was the sense of distrust and distance when around others in public. This contrasted with what Rose pointed out, that the service people were very pleasant and accommodating. An interesting contradiction and one I’m sure that has been noted before.”

‘God Is Hungry’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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Chapter Twelve

‘God Is Hungry’

Passy

On our way to Notre Dame Cathedral, we bought one-day Mobilis passes at the Passy station and then transferred after traveling one stop to the RER C line that runs along the Seine. The RER (Réseau Express Régional) is a regional train system run in part by RATP – Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens – that since 1948 has also operated all Paris bus lines and le Métro as an integrated transit system for le Île-de-France. We found the signage even more confusing than le Métro and wound up on the wrong platform at Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel, (forgetting that the RER ran opposite side from le Métro) but the error was quickly realized and corrected. The view was stunning as this particular station is open to the Seine and there were many decorative house barges complete with requisite bicycles tied up along both stone banks. When our train pulled in on the left-side tracks headed east, the large double-decker coaches were clean inside although many had graffiti on the outside. Every tunnel and rail line we saw was covered with graffiti right up to the third rail.

Conceived as the link between the underground Métro of central Paris and the overcrowded main rail stations serving the greater Paris region, the first stages of the RER were constructed and opened in the years between 1962 and 1977. The first station opened on December 12, 1969 and the A and B lines began full service under the RER name on December 9th, 1977. The RER A line is in fact the most heavily used transit line outside of Japan and should be avoided whenever possible by using le Métro 14. To relieve the overcrowded original two lines, the ever-expanding service has now reached a total of 365-miles of track on a total of five separate lines. Lines C, D and E however, are actually operated by SNCF, since 1938 the national rail service of France. Over two billion passenger trips are taken yearly on the combined system of le Métro and the RER and this has allowed, for the first time, the integration of the capital with the dense population in the communities that encircle Paris.

As with the London Underground the Paris Metro offers a wide variety of payment options. The Paris Visite Card is a 1 to 5 day pass that covers all Metro lines, buses and the RER and some suburban SNCF rail lines. The single day is $27 up to the five day at $70. As a single one-way ticket – valid for up to 90 minutes – is 1.50 euros or about $2.25, you’d have to take between six to twelve trips a day to use up the pass versus only a trip a day in London. The daily Mobilis pass offers travel within various zones starting at 5.60 euros up to 9.30 for all zones. Again though, for traveling in central Paris you would need to take four separate trips before it would save money over buying single fare tickets each time. You can buy a packet of ten tickets called the Carnet for 11.10 euros or the equivalent of the Oyster Card called the Carte Orange for weekly and monthly travel. Both long-term passes do require an attached photo ID for all users.

We found that since we were arriving mid-afternoon and leaving the following evening that a single journey ticket the first day and a Mobilis pass the second day worked out the best economically. One caveat in this is the comfort of having a pass already in hand. Although the ticket booths in the international area stations may be used to dealing with foreigners, the same may not be true in other areas. The same can be said of course in London or in fact any country in the world where your particular language is not readily spoken. A smile, a bonjour and a merci go a long way in Paris.

The day was cold but with a brilliant blue sky, the sun was dazzling when we emerged onto the plaza to the west of Notre Dame de Paris. Having seen pictures many times before we were still moved by the way the cathedral is at once stunning yet quiet and dignified. Despite the brisk wind chill there were throngs of tourists entering and exiting the front doors and in the plaza, lots of beggars. On the trains, at the stations, here in front of Notre Dame as well we saw many beggars working the crowds. Some had children with them while others asked if anyone spoke English. If someone said yes, then an appeal for money was made based on the loss of a ticket or a valuable being stolen. The locals studiously ignored the begging and we took our turn to enter Notre Dame. The mid-day service was nearly over and we quietly joined in circling the nave counter clockwise.

Once inside the cathedral, at every section there where signs asking for donations. Two euros for a votive candle, one euro for a tea light candle, five euros for a tall glass votive with a picture and two euros for a devotion; two euros and up for anything and everything. The gift shop was doing a brisk business with the treasures of the Pope. I realize it takes vast sums of money to maintain a functioning church and certainly for all its grandeur and inspiring architecture, Notre Dame the religious church gets lost in the swarms of visitors. But where is the line between faith and commerce?

Last night on the walk after dinner we had encountered a homeless man and nearing the hotel Brian saw him again: bedded down upon cardboard on the cold concrete sidewalk with another man to spend the night outside. He gave them each two euros and they thanked him, but what for? A simple gesture but futile in the end. What then should we have done? Here were living examples of the boulders swept past by society’s river of prosperity yet all the money we had on us would not make a change in the lives of these two homeless men. So give two euros to the poor or light a candle in prayer? Which one is more effective? Which one means more to God?

I felt slightly overwhelmed by the masses of people inside the cathedral. The interior space is larger than it appears from the outside and a slight queasiness occurred when looking up. It’s apparent that the design was intended to create a sense of awe and humility in the worshippers, but I felt uneasy at the scale of construction. It didn’t feel warm, but rather distant and chilling. I was relieved when we left and felt that I could breathe again. From across the Seine, in many ways the exterior of Notre Dame is even more impressive. Certainly the stained glass windows are magnificent seen from the interior and the care and love shines through each panel. The stories they tell are a visual reminder of the faith in a higher power. For me, the towers, the flying buttresses, the gargoyles were more accessible; the entire history of France for the last 850 years is etched in the stone facade. Even though it is a large edifice, the view from the street seems to be more human scaled. Perhaps it was the hunger we were feeling, but the few hours we spent here left us slightly unsettled. Respect yes, but also the acknowledgment that Notre Dame de Paris represented an era when the Church was the State and for many, that was not something worth celebrating.

ND

By now lunch was badly needed after the croissant and raspberry tart consumed for breakfast. It’s been observed by friends that we are obsessed with food but that is incorrect. Both Brian and Diane suffer from medical conditions that require regular meals. Any outing of sustained length must have prior plans for food breaks. Waiting until hungry will cause impaired judgment and in some cases, medical intervention. We knew that a diner called ‘Breakfast In America’ was only a few blocks away at 17, rue des Écoles, so off we schlepped to partake in some home cooking. It’s a small storefront restaurant whose bright crimson awning can be seen from a fair distance away. Once inside, there were four red stools at a short laminate topped counter and a handful of red vinyl booths with room to accommodate four people. A few tables at the front and at the ends, it was an intimate space and every booth was occupied. We sat at the counter, which was fun. Memorabilia covered the walls and familiar American music played in the background while the metal utensils clanked out a loud tempo on the short order grill. The lone waitress was named Leslie and she had moved from Toronto, Canada, two and a half years earlier. She informed us in English, or Canadian – she spoke French away from work – that she was friendly and the food was reasonably priced for Paris plus the bonus of being very tasty.

The restaurant was busy and in America we would call this place the local hole-in-the-wall where town politics and Little League sports would be discussed over endless cups of coffee. A place that exists in the mind of many as the ‘real America’ but which is a place that has faded from most people’s view. It is still there. In every town, in every state, there exists a place like this that the locals call their own and where the waitress calls you ‘honey’. The food is old-fashioned, greasy and heavy and the way life never was, but should have been, becomes real once more. Here in Paris, many of the patrons spoke French – obviously – but even so, there was a sense of camaraderie and connection. Despite our differences we were welcomed and never more was a more sincere ‘bonne journée’ heard than when we left.

“Rose you raise some salient points in this chapter about the conflicts between religion and commerce.”

“Or when religion and commerce are the same Dewy. This was my impression of Notre Dame, not anyone else’s. I do feel that God is hungry and for much more than a devotion or a prayer in a resplendent building.”

“Yet you also include the conflict that having so many tourists creates. Aren’t you then part of the problem Rose?”

“I told you at the beginning Dewy that I hadn’t solved the ethical dilemma of travel. I loved the history and grandeur of Notre Dame and Paris in general, but I also understand the complex relationship between residents and visitors; and between religion and faith and wealth and poverty. The distance I felt from the city and its people did not diminish the accomplishments they’d achieved.”

“All right, fair enough, Rose. What about lunch? Diane the ‘American Diner’ sounds like a place you would enjoy.”

“Yes it was Dewy, I’m the kinda girl that enjoys a hearty meal and a juicy burger. I actually selected a fish sandwich with fries and a salad though. I wouldn’t recommend the iced tea in Paris; it was weakly brewed. I had read about the restaurant in our guidebook, ‘Paris for Dummies’. There are two locations, both within walking distance of Notre Dame.”

“Brian, as a vegetarian, would you say that your trip offered a greater variety of food than back home?”

“That’s a good question Dewy. I think ten years ago the answer would have been yes, however, in almost all American restaurants today, you can order at least one vegetarian entrée. There is also an increased selection of vegetarian products available in supermarkets, but I still think we lag behind Europe in that respect. Here I selected a veggie wrap that I could have eaten anywhere which came with a ton of fries. I also had a root beer, which brought back some good memories for the boys. Another thing I liked was the carafe of water available on the counter. I always dislike waiting for refills.”

“Rose you write above about the atmosphere in the restaurant. Did you feel at home?”

“Not as such Dewy. It was more the relaxed and comfortable feeling that the whole place generated. We felt like we were among friends and the familiar clinking sound of utensils on the grill was so soothing. Watching them eat, I was happy they were having a good time. You gave the food a thumbs up, right Diane?”

“Yes I did, especially the mountain of fries! Dewy it was like they gave us each a full meal of them. Real good though, long and thin and crunchy and slathered in ketchup, they were so good. Like I said, I enjoy comfort food.”

“What about the waitress Leslie? How did you know her name Rose?”

“While Brian was eating, I was busy writing in my notebook Dewy. I came out and asked her for her name and I explained that I was writing a book. I wanted to make sure she was ok with being in the finished result. I also wrote her a note, then signed it and planned to send her a copy.”

“Overall Diane, how were you faring with all the walking and sightseeing?”

“I was holding up Dewy, being stoic. So much to see; I didn’t want to stop. Notre Dame was beautiful, absolutely breathtaking. The windows? Indescribable and the atmosphere felt ancient. You could hear all the times gone past when you were staring at the stained glass.”

An interesting observation that I had in Paris was that most people assumed Brian was French. He’d say ‘bonjour’ and the person would smile and let loose a rapid-fire volley of Parisienne French to which Brian would be forced to shrug and resort to pantomime. Despite the language barrier though, most service people did speak some English and greeting them politely in the native tongue smoothed most transactions. “Deux croissants si’l vous plait” was the phrase of the visit. After our lunch we walked back towards Notre Dame and made several stops for provisions. Since we were headed home that evening, we wanted some food for the return train trip to London. A fruit store yielded a pear and an apple, while at a bakery nearby the choice was a loaf of fresh peasant bread. The pantomime came into play with the desire to have the loaf sliced. Some postcards and a liter of water completed the sum total of our Paris purchases. Not counting the hotel, we had spent 90 euros in 24 hours, a drop in the bucket.

Considering the compact size of Paris it does a tremendous volume of business. [All figures based on 2006 numbers.] Around 1.7 billion dollars is the size of the daily economic impact of the Paris metropolitan region. By comparison London’s daily economy yields 1.8 billion dollars. In the United States New York City generates a daily business of 2.7 billion dollars while the world leader is Tokyo at 5.4 billion dollars created every day. Just these four cities have a Gross Domestic Product of 11.6 billion dollars in one single day, day after day. Compare that to the Sudan, a country that has a yearly GDP of 98 billion dollars, mostly from oil. Residents in and visitors to London, Paris, New York and Tokyo generate in little over a week what a country of 40 million does in a year. Of course civil war and genocide in Darfur tend to put a damper on discretionary spending.