Friday, December 18, 2020

An Unlikely Warrior - Wild Boar in the Hood

--today we have a guest author and illustrator - Tom Vieth

Susan wrote a blog about getting lost in the woods.

I finally figured out why it is so easy to get lost in our local forest. It has to do with animal tracks and thorn bushes.  The forest is chock-a-bloc full of quadrupeds. There are  two species of deer— small ones with little prong horns and big ones that, oddly, bark with a sound like a dog with a bone stuck in his throat.  The forest is home to foxes, weasels, and badgers.  But there is an undisputed king of this jungle:  the sanglier, the wild boar.

Sanglier are all muscle. They weigh the same as a St. Bernard, but are much more dense. To eat wild boar meat you have to cook it for TWO DAYS.

These animals have created a vast network of well-worn paths.  Many of the paths seem like an  inviting, believable human trail. Go ahead, you tell yourself, it's a fine path. Until you hit a patch of thorn bush. Welcome to the gates of hell.

The thorn bushes aren’t really shrubs. They are wild blackberry vines, brandishing uncountable three meter-long branches that create, for humans, a horrifying mass of pain and suffering.

Once a vine has you,  you turn.  Turning causes the vine to spool you into other vines  The more you struggle the more deadly becomes the embrace. You are hit by a tsunami of panic that obliterates reason and any sense of direction.  You will do anything, move in any direction, to get untangled. Finally you are free!  And now, completely disoriented, you are lost.

An Unlikely Warrior

Every December the usual pattern of cold and rainy, rainy and cold is broken by a couple of days of improbable sunshine and mild temperatures. On the train route to Blahsville,  someone put in a hidden magical stop.

Susan, our neighbor, Marte, our deaf Cavalier King Charles, Daisy, and our ridiculously cute Cavalier/Chihuahua, Little Bit, had just entered the forest for a Sunday afternoon walk.  The dogs were off-leash. Susan was wearing an orange vest because hunters hunt on Sunday. 

The wooded valley we were in is deep and steep.  The path is cut into the sidewall, with a bunch of space going down through the brambles and trees below us and another rise of brambles and trees towering above us. We were moving along the path, fragments of  conversation tossed out to the rhythm of our footsteps. 

Suddenly we heard Little Bit cry out.  She was across the narrow valley.  The call she let out was not from a cute little half-breed.  It was a chilling siren wail.  Something was wrong.  We stopped to listen.  Gradually we heard the sound of twigs crackling and wood snapping.  It is the same sound you hear from a bonfire, louder than you would expect, it is an angry noise from an amassing of thousands of bits of destruction.  But there was no smoke. Then we saw the beasts.  Susan yelled, “Get behind a tree!” Four sanglier were pushing through the brambles below us. We know that in a disaster time seems to slow down. It seemed we were experiencing that when the snorting, thrashing beasts were coming upon us.  In fact it was like a movie in slow motion.  Parallel to our path, the panicked sanglier were off the track and running straight through the brambles.  The wild boars, a total of 800 pounds of brute strength, were surging through the thick mass of thorns like they were pushing against a wall of flood-borne debris.

Just as they got even with us, the wild boars turned to cross our path, searching for escape on the slope above. Three sanglier cut between us and Marte.  Marte was perhaps three meters from us.  From where we stood the beasts were nearly close enough to be in the pee-in-your-pants zone. As the last beast blasted by we saw what had spooked the wild boars. Yapping hysterically, Little Bit was on their heals and heading after them up the side of our valley! All I could think about were the scars I’ve seen on dogs that hunt sanglier.  And those were all big dogs without a trace of Chihuahua in their bloodlines.

Hoping to stop this madness, we were screaming and blowing the whistle.  Our cries were joined by the barking of a pack of hunt dogs. Over this was the noise of the hunters’ horns trying to call back their dogs. I headed up the slope after Little Bit.  A large deer bounded past me heading down hill.  I could hear the cacophony of barking dogs, indiscernible French from Susan and the equally indiscernible French of the hunters speaking in the local dialect. But no Little Bit.

A very crazy Daisy trying to launch herself after the sanglier.

This isn’t a movie, so the drama passed and everything eventually got straightened out.  The hunters gathered their dogs and moved on.  Marte and Susan were wearing down the adrenaline jolt by talking through what had just happened. From a direction in which I was not heading Little Bit returned, safe but completely bonkers with the excitement of her chase. 

As we settled down we began to think about how long it took the wild boars to push their way through the brambles.  It was long enough for me to catch Daisy, leash her and yank her out of harms way. It was Long enough for Susan to shout get behind a tree several times in English and then, remembering Marte, several times in French.  As it turns out it was not quite long enough for Marte to find a living tree.  The tree she first went to wouldn’t stop a sanglier because this tree was dead.

In the bear populated American West, forest rangers tell you that the best way to survive a charging bear is curl into a ball and take the first swipe.  If, through the ensuing great pain you can play dead, the bear might move on.  I asked Susan if her poise in shouting out “Get behind a tree!”  was what she had been told is the standard wild boar version of “Curl and take one!”  She said no, in the moment of chaos, it just came to her.  She’d be good in tornados, too.

We turned around and finished our walk by passing through the village and up along the ridge that runs through thousands of acres of wide open, sanglier-free farmland.

Last week I listed a few Blogs I go to to escape or to dream - how could I forget Corey Amaro's adventures into the brocante world and her beautiful, dreamy images of France. French la Vie

and here is our WARRIOR at peace

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Garden Misfits

What are two obsessed Sunday Morning Antique Fair shoppers supposed to do when they run out of room for any other thing? Every nook and cranny of the house is filled and all the spaces in the garden with more than 2 inches of soil are fully planted. Our obsessive “antique” shopping is funny because we never go shopping together for anything else. If the antiques would just stay in the antique shops we’d be fine. But no, we are lured out to the antique fairs rain or shine, cold or heat, lured to see what treasure might reveal itself and loosen our purse strings. You could tell us it would be more sensible to stay home, to show some restraint, but that is prudent advice. Being prudent is a rational thing. Craziness is irrational. We know full well that we’ll see all the sad bits and bobs that the antique dealers have been lugging in and out of their sad vans for months, possibly years. Before any junk arrives here in the hinterlands, the cream of the crop has been skimmed off, the better bits sold off, and we will be shopping through the dregs.

But there could be wonders hidden in the dregs! It’s easy to nose out treasures when you are the kind of people that every year buy the scraggly Charlie Brown Christmas tree that no one else seems to want.

Because our house is crammed full and the flower beds are overflowing we have narrowed our treasure hunting down to stuff that can be used in some way or another outside. Most of the stuff wasn’t intended to be placed in a garden.  All of it seems to be very heavy: a seven-foot long carved stone lintel from 1704, two 12-foot oak doors with cast iron grills, cast iron fire place backs, zinc trim from the 1800’s, two iron windows with stained glass.   Even the things meant for the garden are heavy:  cast-stone pots, carved stone well-heads (think precursor to the cute wooden wishing wells for lawn decoration.) 

Once we have spotted our object of desire the trick is to stand there in the middle of the junky, bustling antiques fair and try to conjure up some creative way to incorporate the thing into the garden landscape. Our imaginations have to slide around the treasure’s original purpose. Surely there is a way to give new joy to this misfit. (Our treasures are always a little dented, chipped, or weary from the years.) Most of the time one of us can cook up some fanciful proposal. Sometimes we just say what the heck, we’ll figure it out once we get the dang thing home.

The whole time we are cooking up our idea we have to be sure not to look too interested or too enthusiastic in front of the seller. Our next step is to ask the price. We hold our breath. We either let out a gasp and walk on, or we look sideways at each other and convey the signal “yes”, or “let’s haggle”, or “let’s think about it”. 

How are we able to afford these treasures for our ‘garden of divergent purposing’? Here are three examples of how flea market misfits came to our gardens:

At one Sunday morning antique fair we spotted two stained glass windows We thought they were magnificent. Our imaginations started feeling around for just where in the garden these two crazy things could be put to use. They were regal windows, but not too fancy to be abused in a creative sort of way. To our surprise the price was right. The young man selling them was sick and tired of cautiously loading them in and out of his truck. Tired of living with the anxiety of shattering them every time he hauled them to another antiques fair where people just walked by saying “oh those are beautiful, but I don’t live in a chateau. Mighty drafty. Mighty heavy. Mighty shabby.” The deal was made, we went home to get the trailer, the young man joyously helped cradle the windows into the trailer, and then we anxiously and cautiously drove very slowly home.

There are the three concrete captains chairs we lugged home form Bordeaux. Actually we had to make a second trip for those because we had deliberately left the trailer at home in order to restrain our imaginations to only things that would fit in the back of our car, but… (what did I say about prudence?) Who could have imagined that we’d find things so big, so heavy, so ugly, and that we just had to add to our oddball garden decor? We asked the price. We held our breath. The vendor was from some place hours away and really did not want to return home with all that weight. It was the first day of a two-week fair and he figured a bird in hand was better than wondering if any other suckers would come along. He gave us a great deal on the condition that we were responsible for getting them out of there. He would lift them -one more time -into someone else's trailer, but that was it. Good riddance and drive carefully.

Another Sunday we walked up to the antique fair right here in Bourdeilles. The mile walk home would keep us from buying anything. We were ambling among the sad stuff when suddenly Tom said, “that was interesting.” “Hmm” I said, “did you see that weathervane?” That was it - the object of our desire. It’s a weather vane, the indicator doesn’t turn, there is no N for north and the E is missing it’s bottom half. There are blobs of metal here and there where someone has tried to hold everything together with poorly done welding. We ask the price. “What you see is what you get and you have to get it out of here.” You could see the astonishment on the sellers face when we did not haggle with his reasonable asking price. Tom grabbed the top half, I grabbed the bottom half, and off we carefully paraded down the main street and over the river to see where this zinc weather vane version of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree would fit into the garden landscape.

There are oh so many more objects of desire sprinkled in the corners of the not yet filled up yard, but you’ll just have to come visit to see them. It’s an obsessive garden but not a secret garden.

Finally one that was too big even for the trailer - there were two of them. Imagine them in a small village in france. Tom was tempted.

Follow our adventures on Instagram-

Since we are still on strict travel restrictions, and no Sunday Antique Fairs, here are some places I go for a vicarious adventure:

Southern Fried French "So, we've been doing a lot of walking around Beaune, and one of my favorite pastimes is to take a closer look at all the architectural details of this charming historic city. And what has caught my eye this week is another sort of confinement tool: the garde corps. 

My French Country Home "When it comes to a recipe repertoire, it’s very easy to fall into a rut, using the same recipes over and over because we know they work.   Which is why I am always on the look out for new ideas.     In our magazine My French Country Home, we always include recipes for French dishes.  And in the current issue we turned to cookbook writer Kate Hill.  Kate lives in South West France, in a beautiful country home.   As well as writing her books, she also offers cooking courses, and now I’ve tried out her recipes, I’m thinking I should go!"

The Good Life France It’s a little gloomy here in France to be honest but you probably all know this already so I won’t dwell on that but on the joyful things I find in life. Like Bread Man."

Friday, November 20, 2020

Lost Inside Your Bubble

The French government has declared that we are confined to our own personalized bubble from now until the first of December. With a declaration form in hand you can, for one hour, leave your house to get some exercise in the the outside part of your bubble. There is no stopping to visit with anyone else, no dilly dallying outside the little grocery (if your bubble includes the little grocery). One’s legally binding bubble is restricted to a one kilometer radius circle around your home (about 2/3 of a mile.)

As you can see from the map our personalized bubble includes the bakery, the little grocery store, a pass across the river, and short, dead end jaunts up and down any street in the village. What the map does not show are the little woodland paths that criss-cross the back woods surrounding the village. Funny because if you asked any one from the village about the forest they would say they were all cut down years ago.

The locals know these ancient pathways well. They have used them to get to and from school, down to the shops, up to church services, over to pastures to tend livestock, or just for taking the shortcut to visit a neighbor. 

But what could happen if they leave these well worn paths? Can they count on the fact that they can’t be lost even when they are no more than one kilometer from home? I’ve heard some tales of folks turning around and around searching for their way home while still within their home bubble radius.

Tom and Daisy the dog

I had a late appointment so Tom went out alone for the evening walk. Taking advantage of my absence he decided to “explore”. I hate to explore because it really means bushwhacking. He headed up the prickly path behind us that we never take because it is too prickly, fades to rabbit tracks and goes to nowhere. Up the hill he went, then he turned east over a ridge looking to meet up with the path that heads south back into the village. He managed to make his way east over the ridge, but he wasn’t finding a path that headed south. Figuring he hadn’t gone far enough he went across a second ridge. Still no path down. Where the heck was he? He could hear the village bells ringing. There had to be a path down towards the village just down there…

In the meantime I had returned home and was wondering why Tom and the dog were still out in the dark. I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I walk along the riverbank to see if one of them had fallen in? Should I get in the car and drive along the ridge to see if one of them had broken their leg? What if the phone rang to tell me they were having drinks with the HappyPeople and would be home soon? I paced around further frustrated knowing that Tom doesn’t have a phone. Really. He didn’t forget it. He does not have one. Finally our phone rang. 

“I’m lost.”

“Well you’re calling me so where are you?”

“I don’t know! The lady who's phone I’m using says I am in Gueyzat. Where am I?”

Gueyzat is two hollows and two lanes over….. I hopped in the car and collected a very rattled Tom and a worn out dog all of 4 minutes away from home.

Madame Pink

We were driving back home late one afternoon when I saw a drunkard sprawled out in the roadside ditch. A few seconds passed by beforeI realized I knew who that drunkard was. It was sweet, elegant Madame Pink! “Turn around turn around. We have to go help her.” Sure enough it was her, barely recognizable, but her. Madame Pink is usually all bright happy clothes and extra bright pink lipstick. Today her hair was plastered to her forehead, her clothes were disheveled, and her makeup was melting. I hopped out of the car and a tiny voice said, “I don’t know where I am.” Here she was on the main road into the village. Was she having a stroke? No, and she wasn’t at all drunk. She had just been too engrossed in collecting mushrooms and forgot to pay attention to the time. Now she was too hot, really thirsty and terribly disoriented. “Can you please take me home? I have no idea where my car is…..” Now when I run into Madame Pink in all her elegance we laugh at the thought of the drunkard in the ditch.


Martha was born here. She grew up roaming the hills and dales of our river valley. She knows every hamlet, who lives in each house in the hamlet and how many dogs live in each house. But even the best country girl can get lost in her own back yard if she gets too distracted. Martha loves to tell this tale on herself. She had finished all her morning chores including shelling the peas for today’s lunch. The weather had been perfect for mushrooms so she decided to put everything out for the mid-day meal and take a quick hour to go on a mushroom hunt. No one would notice her absence and she’d be back in time to have lunch on the table at 12:30 on the dot as always. The mushrooms were plentiful and she kept saying just one more, just one more, one more. When she finally looked up she had no idea where she was.

“This looks like the stump up by the Fortins. I’ll be home just in time if I start heading back from here. Might even find some more mushrooms.” 

But suddenly there wasn’t a mushroom to be seen. Once flustered you loose the spell of the mushroom hunter. 

To make matters worse she could hear the village bells sounding noon and she still wasn’t exactly sure where she was. She needed to get herself sorted out because her husband counted on a hot mid-day meal. When she finally scrambled into the kitchen it seemed he wasn’t so much worried about where she had been, or why she was late, but why the peas tasted funny and the quiche was cold. They had a good laugh that he was eating raw peas and that Martha had been lost right there in her own back yard.

As you can see the locals have more space in their bubbles than meets the eye and the government can only control so much of your wanderings. It’s up to you to pay attention to the limitations of time and space. And nobody ever got lost buying mushrooms in a store.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

One Ugly Vegetable

In the commotions of a virulent virus and a nerve racking election,I’ve had a hard time getting my brain to focus on what to write about. I’ve been searching for something not too serious, or opinionated, fluffy, but real. In searching for a topic I find that I have to stay tuned to that hidden muse that keeps her eyes open for me. I’ll suddenly start noticing the same thing popping up again and again. Sometimes the muse has to beat me over the head. This thing showed up among the winter root vegetables at the farmer’s market, was served at a dinner party, kept popping up in the titles of recipes, and was mentioned four times in the fluffy book I am reading. Weird coincidences for such an ugly thing that I had never seen or heard of before moving to France.The muse was shouting, “Pay attention - it’s céleri-rave “, aka celeriac.

No I am not misspelling celery. The two vegetables are related, but you cannot swap one for the other in recipes. Celeriac is probably the ugliest thing you will ever bring into your kitchen. It’s a white, scabby ball with stringy roots popping out all over. I say it’s a ball, but it can be distorted in all sorts of ways. Appearances won’t matter once you cut into it.

Along with the potato, celeriac is the most versatile vegetable cultivated in the West. You can boil it, steam it, roast it, mash it, grate it, fry it, and cream it (for a soothing winter soup).

I encountered this vegetable for the first time in a slaw-like dish called, celeri remoulade. I’ve watched Americans as they tuck into this crunchy slaw for the first time. Without fail, folks love it. The question is always, “what’s the secret ingredient?”

At some point I noticed that every time I asked a friend what was the secret ingredient in her delicious side dishes the answer was always céleri-rave. Celeriac in mashed potatoes, roasted celeriac, celeriac gratin. Every bite extra rich and tasty and it’s not just the butter…

Heated, the root’s flavor is sweetened and mellowed.

Here are some ways to savor this deliciously ugly vegetable:

To roast the celeriac bulb whole, rub it with olive oil and the leaves from 6 sprigs of thyme or a spice like cumin or coriander. Wrap it tightly in foil, set in a pan and roast for 2 hours until soft. Spread the foil open and roast 30 minutes more to crisp up the skin. Cut into wedges, drizzle with hazelnut oil and lemon, sprinkle with sea salt.

The most classic of comfort food, a steaming, creamy gratin. Slice equal quantities of peeled potatoes and celeriac and layer them with thin slices of one onion in a gratin dish. Season, cover with cream and dot with butter - did I say cream and butter again?  Bake at 180C/350F for about an hour or until bubbling and golden.

Celeri Remoulade

1 tblsp sherry vinegar

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 tblsp mayonnaise

6 tblsp plain yogurt

2 tsp Dijon mustard

salt and pepper

—puree the above ingredients

—pour over

1 1/2 pounds celeriac peeled and grated, about 4 cups

sprinkle with capers if you like

Simplest Soup:

Place finely chopped leeks and onion in heavy casserole and brown in butter till soft, throw in chunks of peeled celeriac and let everything soften in milk or stock. Blend and finish with a generous pour of cream. A sprinkle of crisp bacon will top it off nicely.

Roasted celeriac wedges with sage and walnuts  - mixing Vermont and our region, the Perigord Vert. Get out your metric measures!

1 tablespoon olive oil

135 ml maple syrup or honey

1 kg celeriac, scrubbed clean and peeled

15g fresh sage leaves, shredded

1 teaspoon sea salt

175g walnuts

preheat oven 400F/200C

Beat the oil and syrup together in a jug. Cut the celeriac into 2.5cm wide wedges, and spread over a roasting pan. Drizzle half the liquid over the wedges and toss them to coat thoroughly. Roast for 20-25 minutes till the wedges begin to soften, turning them halfway through.

Add the sage, salt and walnuts to the remaining maple syrup and oil, which then spoon over the cleric. Continue to roast for 10 - 12 minutes more, or until the celeriac just begins to caramelize.

And one more soup - I told you celeriac kept appearing on my radar….

1 big bulb of celeriac

1 pear

3 potatoes

1 onion

1 garlic clove


crème fraîche

salt and pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes and cleric into little morsels. In a heavy weight casserole sauté diced onions and garlic in butter for 3 minutes. 

Add potatoes and celeriac. Just cover with water. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 30 minutes. 

Peel and deseed the pear. Cut into cubes and add to the soup 10 minutes before the end of its cooking time.

Blend with a mixer.

At the moment of serving add a big spoonful of crème fraîche. Serve hot.

—decorations: sprinkle with diced black olives or chopped hazelnuts

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Three Wild Pumpkins, a Small French Boy, and His Curious Grandmother

The three pumpkins sprouted unintended from our compost pile. Their appearance there was quite a surprise as it has been a few years since I carved “American” style pumpkins (French pumpkins are flat and red and only for eating). It seemed a miracle that some seeds had survived and germinated after several long, hot summers laying dormant.

The small French boy normally lives in Bordeaux, but was in our small village visiting his curious grandmother.

The curious grandmother is not curious as the French typically use the word, “interesting or peculiar”, but curious as an American would typically use the word, “interested or inquisitive”.

I spent the summer defending the pumpkin vines from Tom and his impatience to dig into the compost pile. By the end of August it was obvious that I was only going to harvest three poorly formed, medium sized, pumpkins. Tom picked them, set them aside, and used up the compost pile by the end of that afternoon. The pumpkins sat out in the shade of the magnolia tree through the months of September and October.

I hadn’t quite decided who I would share my orange gems with, so when my friend mentioned her grandson was coming to visit, and that she was looking for activities to keep Small French Boy occupied, I knew I’d found the perfect audience.

At three o’clock on the dot Small French Boy arrived, grand mere in tow. He was eager to play with the dogs, he was eager to come up to the house to see what project awaited, but he didn’t seem all that eager to approach the three pumpkins lined up on the table. His eyes did light up momentarily as he cradled one of the pumpkins in his arms, but that spark of interest changed to confusion as he tried to work out what he was supposed to do next. He thought hugging the pumpkin was as much of an interaction as he was going to have with that oversized vegetable. Small French Boy was entering a foreign experience. He had no frame of reference for creating a jack-o-lantern. He’d never designed a face to fit a pumpkin’s unique shape. He didn’t understand that it helped to trace a face on the pumpkin and then carve out the design leaving gapping holes. He didn't know that we would place a candle inside the transformed pumpkin so that the gapping holes would glow a spooky jack-o-lantern face. He didn’t know that he could take the jack-o-lanterns home and set them shinning on his doorstep. 

Curious Grandmother looked a little perplexed too. She had never carved a pumpkin either. This came as a surprise to me. 

I knew what we were up to, but the two of them were baffled. Cut off a lid, scoop out the guts, trace out a face, all steps repeated every October from my earliest memories, steps so ingrained they seem to have “naturally” passed on from parent to child.

Stars, triangles, eyebrows, scraggly teeth?

Why do we have to clean the insides out? 

Why do we put a candle inside? 

When will it be dark?

I’d forgotten how slimy the inside of a pumpkin is. I tried to get Small French Boy to repeat the word slimy in english. Small French Boy was having nothing to do with slimy, not the word, not the muck. My coercions to touch the goo brought on tears so I had to back off. I had assumed that my excitement for all of this would translate to immediate joy for Small French Boy. Why had I assumed this?

I too had experienced a similar lack of understanding of a seasonal celebration when we first started coming to France. About mid-October I was befuddled by the sudden arrival of thousands and thousands of beautiful chrysanthemums for sale, but there was not a one to be seen on a front stoop or in a garden.  My experiences with chrysanthemums were all about big potted plants on the front stoop to celebrate the last glorious colors of Autumn. Here in France chrysanthemums are only used to decorate gravesides to commemorate deceased family. In one country the flowers are welcoming. In the other the flowers are saying we miss you. I had no starting point to understand why suddenly there was a parade of villagers on their way to the cemetery. What are the steps? What are the tools? What is the vocabulary? That lack of reference must be how Small French Boy was feeling as I badgered him about drawing a scale sized face for an orange gourd that normally is for eating. He has only experienced jack-o-lanterns as pictures or plastic toys.

In the end Small French Boy played with the dogs while Curious Grandmother watched me struggle to cut the silly faces. 

How do you know how much to cut? 

Why can’t you cut more? 

It’s not a good idea to burn it in the house? It will stink? It already does.

Where should I place them? 

It’s funny what three poorly formed, medium sized pumpkins can bring into one’s life. The joy of a child’s surprise, the humbling awareness of our cultural differences or maybe even misunderstandings, and the universal marvel of things that glow in the dark. 

Thank goodness that Curious Grand Mother is intelligently interested and Curious American Susan is interestingly peculiar. Thank goodness for the time to share an openness for curiosity with Small French Boy and all that that curiosity can lead to.

That night I received a picture of a very happy Small French boy and his magical, glowing jack-o-lanterns.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Lemon Drop, la Deux Chevaux, 2CV

By and large I have to admit that most people seem to like me.  Except when everyone hates me.  Which would be when I am driving my 1981 2CV. 

AKA  Deux Chevaux  (French for 2 Horsepower) or Lemon Drop. I can’t say that I blame them. Lemon Drop stinks. The garage has worked on the engine, completely replaced the chassis, she has all sorts of new this and new that, and she still stinks. I’m never stuck behind her, but Tom says it’s just about unbearable -and a little bit smokey. (I have to hope that I am making up for my flagrant polluting by my almost non-existent use of any other combustable engines.)

Possibly worse than stinking is that she is slow. A 2CV rules the road - until you can manage to pass it. These cars were never made to be sporty. They were conceived in the 1940’s for farmers and built to replace work horses and carts - 2 work horses to be exact. And they still only go about the speed of 2 horses. Well a bit faster, but if you have the misfortune to be behind one in a modern car you wouldn’t think so.

You know what?  When I am tootling along down the road in Lemon Drop I don’t care that nobody likes me. Tant pis - too bad as the french say.

Me, I’m in pokey driver heaven.

Routine is a big part of driving Lemon Drop. You have to be one with the car or you’re going to find yourself where you do not want to be.

Starting her up is all about listening and gas pedal work. Not enough gas she stutters out. Too much she’s flooded out. Her latest trick is that she gets going and then just when you think you’ve coddled her to the running stage she lets out a big fart and punks out. She must feel better after a good flatulant explosion because the next turn of the key and she starts right up. 

A 2CV is like a Volkswagen in that they have their very own distinctive sound. No need to turn your head to know what vehicle is passing. But, you do look because you have to know what color this 2CV is and note any small differences from your 2CV.

I have yet to master getting the old girl into first gear. I reverse out the drive and grind into first.  From a stop I stutter into first gear. The gearing is so low that I could probably just proceed from second and leave first gear for all-terrain farming adventures. The rest of the gears are easy to hear and to get in and out of. The gear shift is like nothing an American has ever seen. The shifter comes out towards you from the dash board. There isn’t a lot of cabin space in a 2CV. I can’t imagine how anyone longer than I am can fold up to get in, unfold to get out, or move their legs and arms enough to change gears and hit the gas.

I never pull out onto the road until I am sure there is not a car to be seen in either direction. 

Putting the pedal to the metal I might just get to 70 km per hour -75km/h- if I really push her and if I am going down hill. Nope, she doesn’t even get a good rolling speed as she heads down hill. I think if I pushed just that tiny bit more that it would take to get to 80km/h (the posted speed limit) Lemon Drop would just burst into a rolling bowl of nuts and bolts with a windshield wiper or two thrown in, eyeball shaped headlamps flopping around hilariously. I’d be all legs and arms flailing in the swirling mess.

As opposed to the driver chomping at the bit behind me I feel like I’m zipping right along. Wind swirls in through the defrost vent under the windshield. Air whistles in the windows that go up, yep up, not down. I look like a flamenco if I stop to talk to someone. Summer days I cruise along even “faster”. Well at least the sensation of speed seems more exhilarating. It’s convertible time. To pop the top you roll the canvas back like a sardine can lid and attach it with various straps and hooks. I can’t forget any of them or things will start to spring.

It’s hard to say what I like best about Lemon Drop, the steering wheel or the fact that I finally have a convertible. I guess I’d have to say the steering wheel because every single time I drive out there is a sense of euphoria as I swoop around corners. She does not hug the road. Think more the old fashioned baby buggies or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She swoops and floats. Driving down the road in Lemon Drop takes me back to the days when I would float in a tube down the New River bobbing and swaying to the rhythm of the current. The road flows out before me. No hurries no worries. Just let the world pass on by. The ole girl and I will get there -eventually.

Funny this side of me that is a gearhead. I just wish I had figured that out earlier and learned a bit of car mechanics. Knowing how to wrench the ole jalopy could come in handy as I pop, stutter, and buoy on down the road.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Positive Outcomes

In the early 1800’s Paris was not the Paris that we know today. She was a grand city started in Roman times, rambling through the middle ages never having a central plan for her growth just evolving higgledy piggledy.

The Medieval sunless, airless passageways were choked with heavy wagons, carriages, horses and especially people cheek to jowl. On a good rainy day “cleansing” streams ran down the middle of the streets to sweep away all sorts of waste, including human, into the inadequate sewers. The sewers ran into the river Seine. Parisians got their drinking water from the Seine.

In the early 1800’s the population of Paris doubled to 1 million as peasants in search of jobs poured in from the impoverished countryside. In the early 1800’s cholera was lurking. Epidemics are opportunistic. Cholera was unleashed and swept through the rambling, overcrowded streets.

By 1832 people were dying in ever increasing numbers and with increasing speed. “Victims were said to look like corpses even before they died and some had ice-cold tongues. The cure of the day did little to arrest the spread of the disease: a hot bath infused with vinegar, salt and mustard, some lime tea and a sensible diet. “With these precautions, we need not worry about an epidemic,” an official declared with wild optimism in August 1832.” 19,000 citizens died in six months.

The city and it’s chaotic organizational structure were putting people in the path of the pandemic.

There was little that could be done as cholera swept through the city. When the outbreak was finally under control the city organizers rallied to plan on how to keep from repeating this humanitarian disaster. How to prevent disease was a driving force in urban planning. What would it take to keep the population safe and sound? Wider streets and sidewalks came as a result of the cholera, as well as developing a proper sewage system and running water in all housing.

To say the least change wasn’t easy. Neighborhoods were flattened, buildings cut in half and construction dust floated over the city for years.

By 1870 Paris had the sunniest, most beautiful, and functional streets ever seen. The elegant and practical results were copied throughout the world.

Today Paris has 2,100 kilometers of sewer tunnels and the capability of processing more than 2 million cubic meters of wastewater every day. The streets are swept and washed early every morning while the city gears up for another bustling day.

Are there lessons and examples from this historic event about ways we can work together for the better of all? Are we searching for positive outcomes from our current pandemic and humanitarian crisis?

——and yes Paris and all of France is confronting a new opportunistic infectious disease. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. 

—-“The Epidemic That Shaped a City”, The Bugle May 2020
----all images copied from Google Images