Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Debbie in front of her beautifully decorated cake—Christine's handiwork (with a little help from Susanne)!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010


About six months ago I heard on France-Info (the only radio station I occasionally listen to) that there was a new production planned of Verdi's Aïda in Paris. And the icing on the cake was the venue: the new Stade de France with its seating capacity of 80.000!

Like a lot of things France does, this stadium is full of superlatives and it'd be nice to see it—this was an ideal opportunity! However when I connected to their web site I soon lost immediate interest when I discovered that the concert wasn't planned until October of 2010. It seemed so far away.

Well, you can imagine what's next: A couple of weeks ago I suddenly realized that a date that seemed so far away in the spring was now almost upon us as I heard another announcement on the radio—the opera is for the 2nd of October and that is now only a couple of weeks away.

I didn't grow up with opera but have learned to enjoy it in small doses. But when Sarah and I took our cruise in January we noticed that Aïda was playing one evening so we thought we'd give it a go. It turned out to be a filming of a production put on at La Scala in Milano and produced by none other than Franco Zefferelli! It was playing on a large LCD screen so we sat down to watch thinking we could always get up and walk out if we didn't really like it.

Well, we sat there enthralled enjoying every bit of it for the whole three hours! We only had a brief idea of the story line and our Italian was woefully lacking in vocabulary but it helped to have the subtitles. We loved it!

All that to say: be sure to check back here in a few weeks to get our report of the event in Paris. I went to buy the tickets over the phone and they said only 12 seats of the Category IV were left! (These are the 'cheap' seats at €25—not the deluxe ones at €169 where they greet you with a glass of champagne!)

So this is going to be fun! I'm loading up the van with seven of us and we'll make an evening of it! See you in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 11, 2001

Dear children,

I've been thinking of telling you something for some time now. A long time ago when you were very young something very important happened in a big city called New York in America. It has affected everybody in the whole world one way or another.

You were too young for explanations at the time and we who were adults didn't have the words or wisdom to be able to explain it to you anyway. We didn't even understand it ourselves.

You see, this week nine years ago, on the eleventh of September in the year 2001 a tragic event came about that cost nearly three thousand people their lives. That is a terrible loss. But what struck everyone to the core was the way it happened: it seemed as if big aeroplanes were being flown into high towers with everyone on board!

Almost everyone has travelled on a plane and so this crash really shook everyone up.

Well, this event has become known as 911 mostly because of the American way of writing their dates. (They wrote the date 9/11/01 whereas we wrote 11/09/01—but this doesn't matter.)

These high buildings were called the World Trade Centre and within a couple of hours these buildings, which were very high—over 110 floors—came falling down with many people still inside. The day was a day of total confusion, shock, and loss.

The funny thing was the way they fell down; they collapsed in a matter of seconds. Many people were trapped inside and died trying to get out. This was a very traumatic thing to happen to New York and to America and to the world.

This crazy, evil world has always had people who are called kamikaze or "suicide bombers" because they are willing, in a war, to voluntarily give up their own life to kill others because they think their cause is just.

But this event was so horrible that most people could not even come to grips with it. The world had never seen such an act as this—it seemed nowhere now was safe. Everyone was deeply affected.

Almost immediately the government of America started preparing for war. They said they had an idea who was behind this act and sent many soldiers and war planes to kill people in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan because they thought these countries were involved in some way.

Of course this was not a Christian reaction but most people in the world more-or-less agreed with what the Americans did because they felt so sorry for all the destruction that had been caused and all the people who had died.

The Americans asked around to see if anyone wanted to go to war with them. A few countries did go with them. England was quite willing to get involved in the wars that came about over the next few years. But I am glad to say that France would not agree to send its soldiers to fight. (Later governments did get involved in a limited way, but that is not the point now.)

The question that everyone was asking themselves on that day was: How could such a thing happen? Aeroplanes had been hijacked before but never without guns or bombs. Airport security was so high that most people couldn't even understand how these people—there were 19 of them, apparently—could take control of these huge planes. There were many questions that needed answers.

Well, by the end of the day we had all these answers presented to us. This is called the official story because it is the story that the government of America said was true.

In the time since this happened many people have questioned this official story. I started asking my own questions in 2003 and did a lot of reading. There were so many things I couldn't understand.

Well since then many theories have developed and you will doubtless hear of them sometime. Some are quite fantastic and just as unbelievable as the official story. We mustn't believe everything we're told by politicians but there's no point in being sceptical just for the sake of it.

If you ever hear the expression "911" you will know what it refers to. I think that the world will never really know what happened to cause this tragedy while those rulers are still alive. They are too powerful and there is too much at stake. The truth cannot be told.

Probably in forty years or so, when almost all those people have died, then the real story will come out. I saw that happen in my own lifetime. I was just fourteen when the American president John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was also a great shock to that generation and signalled a new spirit of that age.

But we never knew for years what really happened to that poor man and who was really behind his death. I expect that is what will happen with this incident, too. People of the world don't like the truth and cannot receive it, as Jesus said, "... the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."

God bless you with the truth. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Re: Conference topic

Raph, this is OK -- just word it in French to put the accent where you want it.  It will be good!  We just need to get them to come.  And the mailing needs to go out asap.

By the way, I looked at your DVD which is excellent, as I expected!  I think every adult should get one as a souvenir of our thanks.  DO we have a list?  Let's make copies ourselves and send them all to Karel to distribute.  Have you made a label yet?  It'd be the cherery on the cake.  I can help you by duping them if you want.

For Aida I think maybe we should just take a Jumper load -- I'll talk to you about it tomorrow.

Also the workplace-health people called me today (did I mention that to you yesterday?) and I explained my proposition and he said he'll call me next week.  It'd be great if we can rent that plane!

Pellerot faxed me a quote for finishing up the kitchen this morning so I approved it and sent it back.  They want just over 1000 so it'll be orth it to get it done right.

Is your headache still gone?  Hope so!

See you tomorrow,


---- Envoyé avec BlackBerry®

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Emptying my mind


1. I think I'll show the DVD tomorrow night since it's the weekend.

2. Mlle Pommier called today; we sign the compromise Thursday morning at 10.

3. That's the day Etienne is coming for lunch and I'll talk to him in the afternoon.

4. I gave Joel a cheque this afternoon to cover all outstanding bills.  We're now up to date.

5. I went to see the manager at the CIO to tell him to expect it.  I said I was signing to sell the hotel on Thursday and he said he'd give me an authorisation to go overdrawn until then.

6. I found out from the BPO that we bought the hotel in August 2005 spread over 12 years so today we only owe around 74K on it.

7. I also found out that we'll have to pay plus value of around 24% on our gain.  We'll see -- it's complicated.

8. Six months ago I heard an ad on the radio for the opera Aida in Paris but forgot about it since the date was in October.  That date is now here : Saturday October 2.

9. I think the older ones will want to go; do you too?  It will be in the enormous outdoor stadium Stade de France and tickets start at 25€.  I haven't told Mum yet but will tonight.

10. I booked a night in Paris for Mum & me not far from the Louvre (Smartbox) for the first Sunday in November, as October was full.

11. I went over all our plans for MTC with Joel -- I need to talk to you about it; he has some ideas.

12. We also went over the whole Ludovic/drain thing and came to some conclusions.  I need to see you about this, too.

13. I faxed the order to Chèques Déjeuner but need to go to the bank and make the money transfer tomorrow.

14. If you think of it, would you get out an announcement to tous about this so we can see how they feel about it?

15. Didn't you make a mistake in the year for Maxim's contract?  Isn't it 2 years?

16. I told Joel I wanted to rend n°40 and asked him to take his sign down ("Encore un réalisation de ...") and he said he would.

17. He said Dr D (santé au travail) was looking everywhere for a local so as to get out of his trucks but to offers had fallen through.

18. He said to call him de sa part which I did but had to leave a message on his answerphone.  If he calls you'll know why.

19. I've had a busy day and am worn out.

See you in the morning,


---- Envoyé avec BlackBerry®

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Ultima Veritas

Recently – yesterday, actually – I ran across a poem by the 19th century Congregational pastor Washington Gladden. It voices the kind of what I would call reverent agnosticism I think we have to have on some issues. There are times when we just don't know and things must be boiled down to the absolute basics. I like this poem very much.

In the bitter waves of woe, beaten and tossed about
By the sullen winds that blow from the desolate shores of doubt –
When the anchors that faith had cast are dragging in the gale,
I am quietly holding fast to the things that cannot fail:

I know that right is right; that it is not good to lie;
That love is better than spite, and a neighbour than a spy;
I know that passion needs the leash of a sober mind;
I know that generous deeds some sure reward will find;

That the rulers must obey; that the givers shall increase;
That duty lights the way for the beautiful feet of Peace; —
In the darkest night of the year, when the stars have all gone out,
That courage is better than fear, that faith is truer than doubt;

And fierce though the fiends may fight and long though the angels hide,
I know that Truth and Right have the universe on their side;
And that somewhere, beyond the stars, is a Love that is better than fate;
When the night unlocks her bars, I shall see Him, and I will wait.

Monday, September 06, 2010

A letter from Ken & Barbara

We had been wondering whatever happened to our new friends Ken & Barbara from Vancouver who visited us last month, but I know how it is; after a holiday you get quickly caught up in daily affairs. Well, this morning we received a letter from them with Barbara doing the penmanship and it wasn't hard to understand why—she has a real way with words!

Far from being just a nominal "Thank you" it was seven pages of details of the rest of their stay in Paris and mentioning most of us by name and asking for news—it was a joy for everyone to read. Here, to give you a taste, are a couple of paragraphs from the beginning:

We had a splendid time in Marçon and truly appreciated the efforts you undertook to chauffeur us around the countryside, ensuring we tasted the flavour of the valley’s historical significance and were blown away by the beauty of the area with its rolling hills, its large expansive green fields, unusual birds, and the huge, majestic poplar, lime, and chestnut trees that lined the roads and pathways along the highways and in the parks and towns.

The white limestone houses, farms, shops and churches were quaint and exuded a refreshing coolness that looked welcoming. The castles and cathedrals were remarkable and gave one pause to think what lengths people will go to build such structures in the times they did. Rural France is different from Paris – more relaxed, less pretentious and opulent, and certainly less expensive and more convivial. It’s easy to see why Parisians flock to their country homes on the weekends and during the holidays.

We enjoyed meeting all of you, eating those wonderful meals together, listening to the music recital given by Rebecca and Christopher, participating in evensong and family games and getting a feel for the farm and its activities. The wine, cheese and bread were delicious and my taste buds are spoiled for the cheese I buy in the supermarkets here.

It was a magical experience and the visit was over much too quickly. We trust that the time we spent together did not unduly inconvenience you and that you were able to resume your activities without much fanfare. If time and finances permit travel by any of you to Canada, we look forward to extending the same hospitality to you as you did to us, and will do our best to see that you love Vancouver and the surrounding area as much as we do.

Isn't that nice? God bless them both for having the kindness to come!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Fête du chausson aux pommes

Our washerwomen girls were such a hit last year at the annual festival in Saint Calais (remember it? -- Click here if you don't.) that they were called on to join the team again this year—the 380th!

So yesterday it was off to the grand parade with its marching bands and all the display of notable people, the bakers carrying an enormous apple turnover (four of them needed to bear it!), the medieval jugglers and assorted knights which made the whole day a wonderful break for us all that seemed to signify the end of the summer season and the start of back-to-school days.

This year we all went (including Bertrand & Fabienne and children) and Sarah joined on the stand with Rebecca, Claire, Christine, Eve, and Céline. Claire brought along her spinning wheel and she and Sarah manned it alternately. A lot of people stopped, curious, to see how it all worked.

It was all a lot of good-natured fun and everyone enjoyed themselves immensely.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

A nice picture

I have been so busy lately this blog has suffered a little.

One thing I wanted to share with you was this picture of Sarah and I in front of "59" as the house is simply known—my Uncle John's place in Southampton.

The picture was taken by my cousin Katherine the day we went over for Uncle's funeral and sent on to me last month. I had meant to post it here before now but am just now getting around to it.

I thought it was a particularly good shot of the house. :-)