...with love all things are possible

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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Old work day

Remembering the old work days ...

           The TV clicks on at 5.30am shattering the dark hush of a morning that hasn’t yet even been born.
“Good morning, it’s 5.30am on the East Coast and in our breaking story this morning an octogenarian woman is clubbed to death outside her suburbia home while neighbors look on in horror.  We’ll take you to the scene, but first a check on the weather outside your front door.” The screen flickers, then flickers again.
“And now for a check of your local traffic at 5.45am.”
Oh no.
How did that
Push covers,
Flip out,
Feet on cold
Tile floor.
I can never figure out quite how I lose those ten minutes in the morning, as I run to the toilet, behind schedule again.
Rinse and spit.
Splash water on my face;
Throw on
Grab keys
Rush to the gym
My I-Pod is playing loud, stirring music in my ears so I don’t have to hear the screaming of the MTV music videos overhead.  I’ll take 70’s classic rock any day over the head-banging stuff of today.  
Grunt and groan;
Sweat till it
Drips down my neck;
Trot and stretch;
Drive back,
Get mail
Get going.
The news is still blaring when I walk in the door, still talking about the same old same old.  I’m almost impervious to it.  The weather is doing what the weather is doing – in fact the weather is always going to do exactly what it feels like and I can do nothing about it.  Why do I bother to listen then? 
Peel fruit
Chew, eat
Chug vitamins
Gulp, drip,
Run for the shower
Check the clock, time’s whizzing on.  Heck, it doesn’t wait for me.  What’s on the agenda today? In the steaming shower I lather up my hair and brush my teeth while thinking about another morning’s meeting at the office.

I've given up on the news these days and running in the rat race of the old work day.  It's changed my life and I'm so grateful.

Monday, 24 October 2011

PART V - Girls in a car

"It's all white!" I shout and right away slap my hand over my mouth.  I'm in Switzerland, on my balcony in the mountains, at the foot of the Matterhorn and everyone sleeping it’s so early .
Looking out of my bedroom window, I get the princess’s view of the mountain range soaring above all the brown roofs.
I’m sorry, this is so childish, but when you’ve grown up in Montevideo, Uruguay then moved to Florida, USA and winter sports are not your thing, this first experience is mesmerizing.
As fast as possible after a delicious breakfast, we’re sitting in the little train on up to the top of the mountain.
It’s climbing from the moment we leave Zermatt at 1620 feet.  No!  Wait a minute, it’s Europe, they’re metric aren’t they? 1620 metres!
Pop, pop, pop go my ears.
Up, up, up goes the train.
Pound, pound, pound goes my head.
But I don’t care.
No one on the train is as excited.  The older couple across the aisle is all coochie-coochie (I think they’d rather be in bed they're so hands-on), the free-lance photographer, with all the kit tossed on the floor, is nonchalant.
“Findelbach,” says Jackie pointing at the little map, “this is where we’ll walk to on the way down.”
I’m looking at the altitude 2000 feet, No! 2000 meters, and my stomach lurches, “Great!” I grin.  I don’t care, I’m going to do it all no matter how ugly I feel.  When will I ever get a chance like this again, eh?
Pop, pop, deaf.
Pound, pound, head.
Up, up, the train.
Riffellalp, Riffelboden, Riffelberg, 2582.
Will I Riffle-barf when I get there?

“Look!” I’m shouting way too loud, “Snow everywhere!” Jackie laughs. To the veteran winter-vacationer this is as common as sun and sand is to me.  Everything’s laced in white.  Magnificent pristine outlines on the dark branches and pine spindles.  Stalactites dripping off railings.
“Oh, wow.” 
Snap, snap, snap I’m shooting pictures and the freelance dude raises an eyebrow (in despair?) I don’t give a damn.
Pop, pop. 
Rotenboden, Riffelsee.
Then the final pull to the top.
GORNERGRAT.  3089.  We leap out of the warm train and I turn into an icicle.  A chunky icicle.

“Look! It’s snowing for real!” I shout, but my teeth are clenched in one huge chatter and I’m sounding more like the Tin Man when Dorothy discovered him in the forest.
“Hang on, are you alright Noon?”  Jackie grabs my arm as I lose my balance.
Pounding head. 
Splitting head.
Dizzy and breathless. 
Dizzy in Denver was nothing compared to this, but I don’t want to miss a thing.  I don’t want to miss a thing.
“The café is at the top, can you make it?”
It seems like miles away.  But I’m determined and Jackie’s already pulling me up.  I don’t want to miss a thing.
Pop, puff, pound-pound.
Pause. Woah!
I’m so giddy I feel like I’m floating and crashing at the same time.
I’m giddy writing about it.
But I did it.  We got to the top.  3100.  Meters.
And chocolate.

When I glance at the news the next day, they say it had been minus 10 degrees up at Gornergrat.  
Hah!  I didn’t miss a thing.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

PART IV - Girls in a car

I don't write anything down and now I only have these glorious pictures Jackie took when my camera broke down.  Heavenly paintings right there under the arches, there for me and everyone else to see, to approach, touch if we want to.  No guards, no ropes, no rules about what we should and shouldn’t do to enjoy these masterpieces.  I’m awed and grateful that Jackie decided to have lunch here.
But, I digress; we’re already back on the road and as the tarmac flies under our wheels I’m starting to shriek in the co-pilot’s seat.  Don’t worry, Jackie’s doing an amazing job with the driving, which allows me to have an ocular orgasm as the Alps fill the entirety of the windshield and my window.  They go up, and up, and up right into the mist and puffy clouds overhead.  I’ve never seen mountains so high except from the air, and while that’s breathtaking itself, this is awesome.

Songs from films and lines from stories itch in my throat as I ogle at the sight.  Poor Jackie, I think I chattered her silly, she’s a good listener as I’m babbling away and having all sorts of emotional seizures.  Yes, I take dozens of photos of the mountains, in the mist, in the clouds, in distance, up close, far away … and dozens get erased too.

Pop, pop, pop, the hairpin turns take us closer and closer to the summit along the Simplon Pass.  I’ve missed the sign for the tunnel with all my screaming and yelling, so poor Jackie has to drive, pop, pop, pop, up this winding mountain road.  I’m thrilled about my mistake!  We arrive at the top at last and I dash out of the car, forgetting how high we are and how badly heights affect me (imagine this: I get breathless at Denver airport!)  We’re twice as high here and my running looks a bit like Tiny Tim’s.  Slightly pathetic and after ten paces I’m wheezing.

But the air is brisk, thin and Alpine.  It’s a scratch and sniff moment.  We go for a short walk, (hey that’s the best I can manage, OK?) but I do give Jackie a quick rendition of “The Hills are Alive …” about two lines and then I have to stop.  I’m out of breath.  Well, actually she’s begging me to stop.  What a let down, I always thought I could be the Julie double, y’know I’ve got the short hair and all, the stickie-up nose, maybe I’m a bit fatter than Julie … OK, a lot.  Right, deep-six that idea and we press on.

Finally, Zermatt, at the foot of the Matterhorn, is just up the road.  It’s pedestrians only, so we park the car in a town just after St Nicklaus, and a taxi takes us to the point of no return, where a little elfin-like electric 6-seater bus awaits us. It looks like an overgrown piggy bank!  The drivers are all speaking Portuguese.  It seems there’s a huge Portuguese colony in Switzerland, so we make the most of our fluent Spanish.

Meantime, I’ve run out of pops in my ears and my head is pounding, but I don’t want to miss a thing.  I’m here!  I’m in the Alps, in a little Swiss village, with all the little Swiss houses and little Swiss people walking around.  Well, I think I spot a couple anyway.  Then with a silent thunk, when I'm not watching, the thermometer drops below zero and it starts to snow.

Indescribable feelings of déjà-vu ripple under my skin, as we walk around, hundreds of cascading geraniums in window boxes, clean streets, beautiful views, rushing water.
Dinner at the hotel restaurant is a Swiss theme times ten.  Like the hotel, everything is red-and-white, wood, and utterly charming.  I’ve fallen in love with this place, headache, breathlessness and all.  They're so polite they even "turn off" the giant bonging clock at night, so we can even hear our bubbling cheese fondue!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

PART III - Girls in a car

            Thursday morning and I oversleep!  The oh-so-romantic (ear shattering,) BONG! of the town clock makes sure I hit the ceiling every hour.  It reminds me of the Wizard of Id, when the town crier calls out
“Two o’clock and all is well!” 
One night he falls asleep, jolts awake (much later) and calls
“Four o’clock and all is well”
A window is thrown open somewhere in the village and another voice yells out,
“Hey! What happened to three o’clock?”
Yeah, I felt like that somewhere in the middle of the night, but it was such an old and lovely hotel, steeped in Italian history and ghosts, that I forgave the damn clock.  In fact I only remembered it now as I was writing!  Ha, ha!
But anyway, Jackie forgives me for not being ready (she’s so nice like that) and after a quick breakfast (did I say croissants? Mmmm,) we jump in the car and set sail in the general direction of the Italo-Swiss border.

Oh, oh, oh.  I’m not going to flood you with photos, (because I took a disgraceful 455,) but the scenery just gets better and better.  Little cobbled roads flanked by rows of terracotta tiled houses, give way to the busy highway, which pulls traffic along at a serious pace.  More than once we top the speed limit when we think no one is watching.  Great feeling!
As we fly past Torino we’re tempted to dive and take a look, because it’s one of the older cities in Italy.  But, with nearly one million inhabitants and being something of the automobile capital of Italy, (Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo), we look at each other grinning,
“Nah!” We roar with laughter.  No boys in our car, remember?  Heh, heh.
I’m not telling, however, about the road works around Torino and how we get lost … nor how I find a way back to the highway by a most circuitous route, but rather about how we’re giggling and shaking the dust off our Italian-Motown shoes and starting up the foothills of the Alps.  My skin is tingling.  I’m so excited.

White water races down the rocky mountain face, splashing into winding rivers which turn green-blue as they meander along the emerald valley.  They must be icy cold and I feel as if I’ve fallen into a National Geographic calendar as my ears go pop-pop-pop.
“I want to have lunch down there,” says Jackie pointing to a spot on the map without taking her eyes off the road. It’s the Lago Maggiori.
“OK, I’m on it.” I start looking for a good exit off the highway that’s beaded with tunnels and bridges (and did I mention I get very easily carsick? Especially when it twisty and in-and-out of tunnels!)  But I find an exit and we roll downhill, pop-pop-pop, into the pretty little town of Baveno just north of Stresa, because I can’t find the road that would take us to Stresa, plus I’m getting hungry and dizzy, so we park and tumble out of the car.

When you sit on the edge of an enormous, peaceful lake, surrounded by misty blue skies, birds, water and little boats coming and going – something rather wonderful happens.  We rest, we laugh, we get a little teary-eyed; then, in silence, we share the moment in a magical way you can only do with someone in who’s company you’re entirely comfortable. 
Italian food is simple and delicious and in honor of Dad, we take our time to enjoy the pasta and fresh bread.  I think we have dessert as well – for Dad, you know?

Friday, 14 October 2011

PART II - Girls in a car

            I wake early Wednesday morning, at Jackie’s beautiful home (Mas du Suve) in the South of France.  Cool air filters through the slats in the shutters and I can’t wait to stick my nose outside.
The pool’s already closed for the winter, but the mist on the hills in the distance together with the beautiful blue skies promises a hot autumn day.  Everywhere I look it’s paradisiacal, but no time much for looking as we jump on the bikes to have breakfast in the village down in the valley.
“We’ll take a little ride around the basin first,” says Jackie, “then we’ll freewheel into Plan de la Tour.”
Ha ha ha.  Little ride my ass! Fifteen hills later and a near heart attack for me, we’re finally at the coffee shop.  I don’t know what hurts more, my bum, my legs or my pride.  It’s awful how out of shape and fat I am; yet with that depressing thought I sit (collapse) and tuck into fresh tangerines, grapes and a croissant.  Mmmm.  The French know how to make their stuff, don’t they?
Back on the bikes again and up the hill to the house, I’m really looking forward to that comfortable front seat in the Chrysler for the ride over the border to Italy.
When we’re finally ready to leave, we’ve put everything away, battened down the hatches and filled the car with Moscatel grapes and fresh pears to snack on.  The blue sky beckons and we sail off in the direction of the Mediterranean, seeking that incredible highway on “stilts” the A10, which follows the coastline from Cannes to Savona.

Breathtaking is such a poor word to use.  Everwhere I look we’re soaring over houses, villages, and hills – when we’re not barreling into tunnels going right under the mountains above.  
"It's such an amazing feat of engineering," Jackie says not taking her eyes off the road and I agree, but am so grateful to be in an English car because it means I'm sitting on the far side of the precipice!  I never tell Jackie about my fear of heights.  Traffic moves easily, but there’s a definite change of air, Italy on the move reminds us of our South American friends.  They’re a little more excitable and a little less respectful of the rules of the road.

Jackie’s driving is impeccable and we’re soon on the North tranch to our destination in Italy: Castello di Verduno.

But wait!  We have no schedule, no crying babies, nor fussing dogs, so we take our time enjoying the sights along the way.  I’m snapping pictures as fast as my little instant camera will take them and all too soon the sun is dipping into the misty hills as we turn off the highway into the quiet countryside towards our destination.

Ahhh, supper al fresco in a private little garden, in shirt sleeves.  We’re laughing so hard and chattering so loud people are looking over their shoulders to see what’s going on. 
It’s a seven-course meal (light they said "leggero" – ha ha!  yeah right) Starting with four separate plates of antipasto, the pasta, then meat, somewhere at the beginning a little amuse-bouche (what do they call that in Italian?) then dessert and coffee and tea.  Pffft.  I’m glad I rode the bike in the morning, but I doubt whether I pedaled enough to earn this meal as well as the croissant and lunch!

What a brilliant day.  
Never mind … I’ll diet when I get back home.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

PART I - Girls in a car

It’s been such a long time since I’ve done something like this …  Wait!   Wait a minute! I don’t think I’ve ever done something like this. 

My sister and I in a car for 4 days and 5 nights?  Never!  On our own? Jamais! No kids, no dogs, husbands, boyfriends or anything – not even a plan hatched, other than getting the car back to London by Sunday afternoon. 
That’s how it starts, a plane ride to Nice Airport, in the south of France, and then the lure of European highways, the beauty of the countryside all buttered by the ease of a comfortable, lifelong friendship.

Where to go?  Anywhere!
What to do?  Anything!
When to do it?  Anytime!

Ahhh – what a treat.

Bienvenue a la belle France …

At Nice Airport we track down the Chrysler Grand Voyager, which has been left there by Jackie’s son, Nic.  Lot number 8, tucked in backwards as requested, but no gas – ah, well you can’t have it all, can you?

It’s late, (for us, 9pm French time,) so it means straight to dinner before the long drive up to the tiny little village of Plan de la Tour.
“Where to?” Jackie asks.
“I have no idea.”
“Well, I know this lovely place on the seafront in Cannes which we go to sometimes.  It’s perfect, because it’s open late and the food is rather good.”
“Cannes?  Like the French town where they have all the movie awards, Cannes?” I’m hopeless at these things of the rich and famous.
“OMG.  Sign me up skippy!  Let’s go.”
The rich and famous are all there in their glamour and anorexity.  With polished expertise, Jackie picks a perfect people-gazing table and we’re seated for the waterfront show. 
I mean, you hardly need to talk here, there’s so much going on all around.  The harbor is glittering with pretty boats and mini ships all ablaze with fairy lights in competition with the sidewalk’s low wall/seat which is underlit by everchanging colored swashes.
The food is divine, the conversation brilliant and everything going on around us completely out of my league.  I give a little sigh of relief when we round the corner and plunge into the darkness of the highway that will take us out into the beautiful (and quiet) French countryside. 
Way too much glitz for me down in French tinseltown.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Road Trip!

Jackie and I set off on what started off as an innocuous (yeah right) trip to pick up her car and drive it back.  

Little problem:  the car was in the South of France (shame) and we were in England (someone had to do it, right?)  Somehow we (the two sisters, famous for our antics after bedtime,) masterminded the 5 day trip of a lifetime which went something like this:  London to France (Nice, Cannes, Plan de la Tour,) France to Italy (where I'd never been) spending a night there in a typical family hostel (aptly named Castello di Verduno) then Torino, Stresa and Lago Maggiore, Italy to Switzerland (I'd never been there either) and we're now here in Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn.

Tiny set back: I wasn't able to get insurance to co-pilot the car, so I was demoted to map reader and conversationalist.  Luck was in!  I'm good at both.  (Bad luck Jackie).

So here we are in Zermatt.  I've never been this high up and I'm high as a kite.  1,616 metres above sea level has me loopy as a bowl of spaghetti, so amid much laughter we took a train up the mountain this morning to see what would happen at 3,100 metres.  Bad news.  It was worse.  Much worse but it was worth it just for the ridiculous movie I made up there. 

Blazing sunshine to icy blizzards in three days driving ... what can I say?  I'm all talked out.  Jackie?  She drove well, no napping at the wheel for her yet I find she's a little hard of hearing these days, so I sometimes have to tell the stories  twice and explain the jokes.  

The only mistake the map reader made?  Made us go over the Italo-Swiss border via the pass instead of the tunnel (clever mistake, eh?)  Never mind, Jackie got a really good rendition of "The hills are alive... with the sound of music ..." at the top of the Semploni Pass.  Now you can't beat that, can you?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Love, when you lose your Dad

Brian Kenneth Rathbone
RIP May 13, 2010

There’s no way, I tell you, to quite describe
The void that’s left when your Daddy dies.
The clocks still tick, the noise goes on,
But deep inside the music’s gone.

You sit, you reflect, then you try to hear
His giant laughter from somewhere upstairs;
But all you get is a silent hole,
A space in your head with no sound at all.

Then quick as a flash you hit rewind
On the giant old film inside your mind
Which flickers and whirs and fills your head
With pictures and images of him instead.

Accepting he’s gone is like swallowing grit
Your mouth is all dry and lacking of spit
As hard as you try the lump won’t go away
The pain’s still there day after dark day

You’re smart and you’re clever and ever so bright
You know death can’t possibly chew up the light
Of your love for your Mum, your siblings three
Your children, your friends and family.

But how can it be that this huge black ball
Can feel like it’s pushing out love of them all?
You see them, you love them; that it is clear
So what’s with the emptiness prompting this fear?

For inside each one no matter how old
Is a small little child who won’t be consoled;
It cries and it frets and wrestles with sleep,
Eating, not eating, rebelling to weep.

Soothe then the child with a grown-up voice,
Give it some boundaries to express its loss.
Then tighten the saddle and jump back on:
This life’s to be lived and lived full on!

I tell you this now, I have made up my mind
To burst this black bubble, this poison maligned!
I’ll fill up the space with the best of the best
Faith, family, friends: the great 3 “F’s.”

Because love conquers all, of that I am sure
I’ve seen it succeed including post war;
Both God and my Daddy have said it to me
“On love it is built, my family.”

Cath Rathbone, May 13, 2010