According to Garrison Keillor “a postcard takes about fifty words gracefully, which is how to write one… fifty words is a strict form but if you write tiny and sneak over into the address side to squeeze in a hundred, the grace is gone and the result is not a poem but notes for a letter you don’t have time to write…” These are my Postcards from France:
The staggering scenery reminded me of Switzerland. Astonishing, high in the black mountains, to see so many young teenagers on bikes – the car had scarcely made it to the peak. Downhill to a lake for a quiet afternoon kayaking. Only it wasn’t quiet. Though ancient in beauty, surrounded by forested hills, roaring speed boats ploughed up and down, up and down….
Woke in dramatic scenery to the sound of seriously excited cicadas. The quality of light here is astonishing. Though two hours from home, it’s like another country: hotter, drier, mountainous, Mediterranean, ancient. Mountains clad in forests of chestnut and oak, kestrels circling overhead and, so I don’t feel homesick, a chainsaw roaring somewhere nearby!
I’ve never seen such large dragonflies or grasshoppers. I’m staying with an old friend who lives at the end of a steep narrow track in a light-filled house with staggering views of primitive landscapes. There’s an inviting pool for refreshing dips and nearby, lakes, where I’m going to try out my new inflatable kayak.
This week, the RNIB gave me The Garden magazine instead of Woman to read. Initially, my tongue stumbled over and crashed in to the Latin names for plants, but it was heaven to read about rooftop garden designs and parisitoid wasps – and learn that the president of the Royal Horticultural Society is called Mr Weed.
I’ve criticised neighbours for using scarecrows to frighten off birds, believing there’s enough fruit for all. But when flocks of 50 and more starlings descend for three weeks making a terrible racket, pooping everywhere and devouring kilos of figs, I revert to bird scare tape and disco-spangly spirals. Which do nothing whatsoever to deter the birds.
If you can ignore Russell Brand’s monstrously supersize ego long enough to listen to what he’s saying, it can be worth the effort. In The Emperor’s New Clothes he incites you to “Shop a banker” with lines like “A cleaner working in the City would have to work for 300 years to make the same money their boss makes in a year.”
A friend writes “You will need to teach executives many of the same things you used to teach grade school kids because art education has been severely cut for generations.” So full of hope the pandemic was an opportunity to break everything apart, reinvent, live sustainably, learn from the past, I am beginning to accept that was utterly naïve.
The headline reads “Trump kids look likely to turn on dad.” Estranged niece Mary says “the former president’s adult children won’t think twice before sacrificing their father to save themselves. His relationship with them, and their relationship with him, is entirely transactional and conditional.” How very King Lear.
As one son heads in to a 24-hour shift in A&E (during a pandemic; I try not to worry…) other son heads into make-up before taking the catwalk at Paris fashion week. Bizarre to have produced two such wildly different children. Each phones in riveting stories from their radically different worlds.
Older son phones in tales of drug overdoses, knife fights, suicide attempts, broken bones, crack heads, cops, refugees, long shifts and missed meal breaks. His brother, hair stiff with spray, wearing a 4000€ suit in sweltering heat on a hillside outside Milan talks of the boredom hanging around between takes on a fashion shoot.
In a funky industrial building in the 13th arrondissement of Paris – famous for street art & murals – young men paid obscene amounts of money strut sulkily or expressionlessly over cobbled stones in clothes that cost obscene amounts of money. Giant screens project multiple versions of each model from all angles. I try to admire the art, ignore the politics.
Watching a British TV show with my two favourite actors but oh dear, it paints an utterly bleak picture of what passes for normal – young kids watching pornography on their phones at school, women little more than commodities to be used for sex, put food on tables, ignored.
I volunteer to read for the visually impaired. Yesterday, an article about women making up to £250,000 a month selling their bodies online. Celebrities and housewives alike says it “gives them control”, that “they hold all the power.” A middle-aged woman says “I’m making money while I sleep” and Danielle, a mother of 4, “as long as you’re happy and it’s good for your confidence, good luck.” What happened to feminism?? Suddenly that TV show makes sense…
In the Pacific North-West temperatures are soaring, roads buckling, power cables melting, Canadians experiencing Saharan temperatures. But the money is going to Covid and “getting back to normal”. China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam plan to build more than 600 coal power units increasing coal power investment by 80% as all around, sea levels rise.
Dame Vivienne Westwood, 78, the queen of punk who twirled knickerless at her Buckingham Palace investiture, stands in a bathtub in platform shoes and wig, sounding off about racism, capitalism, pollution and the arms trade. Her partner, Andreas Kronthaler says ’We already have enough clothes in the western world to last us for hundreds of years.’
Talking of Arms, Brexit Britain’s economy will make billions selling arms and military equipment to at least 39 of the 53 countries with the worst political and human rights records. Meanwhile the Scottish National Party talks about changing the way we govern, using collectively selected values as a compass, focusing on policies that prioritise the creation of a wellbeing society.
The founding principals of Scottish Parliament opened in 1999 were Wisdom, Justice, Compassion, Integrity – “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.” First Minister Donald Dewar talked of a very Scottish conviction that honesty and simple dignity are priceless virtues not imparted by rank or birth or privilege but part of the soul a poem at birth in the government’s box of essential things.
Scotland’s national poet died aged 37, having made pitiful little money from his work, but a new study from the University of Glasgow says Robert Burns generates £200million each year for Scotland. Ironically, Walter Scott, a literary GIANT in his lifetime, is largely unknown outside Scotland today. Edinburgh’s station is named after his debut novel as is the grand hotel next to it and bridge behind it.
Iran’s nuclear programme is much in the news. The only nuclear deterrent is to have no nuclear deterrents. No nuclear at all, if we care about the planet. On the radio the other day I heard someone say there are leaks from nuclear reactors all the time. Only they don’t make headlines.