IMG_20200216_161054Things I have done.

I ran the vacuum cleaner for the first time in about 50 years (hadn’t done that since I was first married). Mopped and dusted and even made my bed one day (threw my back out, so since then I just pull the covers up).

I bought a whole chicken and made chicken and veggie soup (now I have to see what I am going to do with all that, but I guess Salomé will be delighted to share it with me).

Cleaned two shelves in the corner of the living room that is my office, and organized a Twelve Step Codependent Women’s group (in Spanish) over Internet. Threw out a lot of old papers and organized the ones I wanted to keep in new folders.

Whatsapp-ed everyone who I care about at least once every two or three days. Watched uncountable videos, cartoons and jokes over Whatsapp. Have finished two books, one on the Patty Hearst trial back in the 70’s (not worth the time), another American Pastoral by Phillip Roth (good). Just ordered Walden by Thoreau by Kindle… will tackle tonight.IMG_20200221_104425

I have finished the first revision of my Proustian memoires (1386 pages at the moment) and realized I will have to let them sit for a while. Feel frustrated because I am not writing, so decided to hammer out a blog post.

Watched three chapters of the short Netflix series “Dirty Money”; got depressed and disgusted… decided I didn’t need that. Watched a Turkish movie today because Netflix recommended it and it is the best, the very best movie I have seen in years (The Miracle of Cell Number 7).

Have bought and consumed a croissant every day in honor of all the ladies on the Titanic who didn’t eat dessert that last dinner so as not to gain weight. Bought a pint of Häggen Dazs ‘macadamia nut brittle’ and ate the whole thing watching the movie (tch, tch).

IMG_20200306_094958Salomé and I go out four times a day every day so we’re getting our exercise. She has finally given up going straight to the coffee shop. Have hopefully watch Spring burst forth on each walk, in spite of the bitter cold wind this afternoon. It would seem that the winter we didn’t really have keeps trying to stick its foot in the door.

I check the mailbox every time I go out even though I know the post is not passing now (oops, wrong: just ran into mailwoman and she says she comes three times I week… Yea! I can order a book over Amazon. I cover my hand with the sleeve of my jacket to open doors; if it is cold enough, I wear mittens.

I have washed my hands dutifully every time I come back home. I leave the latest meal’s dishes in the sink and wash them at the same time: two for one. Even that way, my hands are so dry they hurt. I have not found a way to take off the semi-permanent nail polish that has grown out half way and is all chipped, so apart from dry, my hands are a mess.

My son called four days ago to say he had the virus and was isolating from his wife (they were caught in a very small apartment rented while they finish the remodeling of their new house). He spent three days with bad fever and now he is better. Feels good in the morning, gets worse towards evening, but the high fever has not come back so he is getting better. He has dutifully kept me informed and I am taking it in my stride.IMG_20200309_212522

I am surprised how good I have gotten at controlling my mind and, therefore, my emotions. When I first heard the news –from him- my mind immediately said ‘What if he dies?’ and I stopped it right there. ‘Nothing has happened yet’ I told myself firmly, ‘he is a sturdy, middle-aged man in good health; there is no reason he would die… and anyway there is nothing you can do about it so take care of yourself and let life take care of him.’ It is surprising how calm I have been, not bothering him every five minutes for updates, waiting for him to offer the news, not even doting on the subject all day or bombarding myself with negative thoughts.

I downloaded a game of Dominoes on my phone and play against the computer all the time. Many times I win. When I am not playing dominoes, I am playing Scrabble against the computer. I bought two newspapers and have played Sudoku in both of them (I can’t do crosswords in French); not too interested in the news.

Things I have not gotten around to: cleaning any drawers; organizing books on shelves and getting rid of those I have no need for anymore.  Writing the second half of my Proustian Memoires. Cleaning out my filing cabinet. Taking out summer clothes (waiting for the warmer weather). Ironing a couple of pairs of jeans I washed. Baking a cake… (no way I am doing that!)dav

So I am being good, I am taking care to not breathe on anyone, to cough or sneeze into my elbow, to wash my hands all the time, to take sips of warm water all through the day, to keep my defenses up, to get a good night’s rest…

And yet today I was suddenly on edge. I think I was tired… tired of trying not to be sad, tired of trying not to feel how strange everything is, tired … just tired. I snapped at my personal trainer with whom I do exercise over Skype and refused to finish the class because I was so uptight. I snapped at Salomé when she took too long to come down the stairs on her last walk. I felt my chest heavy and sad as I walked in the silence of the night. I felt the aloneness, not only of myself but of everyone in the world as we sit out this strange, silent, invisible war. I longed to find myself on a sofa somewhere, with someone loved and let myself be held; I longed to sit at a table with my family sitting around and laugh, or joke or just chat while we ate our meal; I longed to hop on a plane and fly to Mallorca and visit my brother; I longed to take my car and drive to Madrid and have lunch with my best friend there… I longed…

So I try to be gentle with myself. I will help me into my pajamas and crawl into my bed, snuggle down under the blankets, lay my head on the pillow, close my eyes and drift off. Tomorrow will be another day…


“So slow down, friend. Take a deep

and conscious breath. Trust the

place where you are, the place

of ‘no answers yet’, the precious

place of not knowing. This place

is sacred, for it is 100% life.

It is full of life, saturated with

life, dripping with life, drenched

with life. Don’t try to rush to the next

scene in the movie of ‘me’. Be here

in this scene, Now, the only scene

there is. Now is the place where

questions rest, and creative

solutions grow.

Jeff Foster

I take three walks a day, at least, four if I get antsy… Today, around 2p.m. Salomé and I set off for our after-lunch round about in silence as thick as cookie dough and not half as sweet. Somebody that lives in a big city says that now they can hear the birds singing. In Salies, we have always been able to hear the birds singing (small town, not much traffic) but now all we hear are the birds… announcing that it is Spring… a “Silent Spring” pops into mind, the title of a book written by Rachel Carson and published back in 1962 untitleddocumenting the adverse effects of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. I think to myself that this is what the world would look like if we had a nuclear war and were all wiped out by the atomic fallout. Not a soul on the streets, no one looking out of their window, no voices, no music, no cars… nothing. Thick, gooey, uncomfortable silence…

When I get home, I put on some music. Salomé is not convinced. She knows something is wrong and she comes over looking worried. I pick her up and sit her on my lap; she lays across my knees and lets herself be loved. We are company to each other; I love the gentle warmth of her body heating my legs. Afterwards, she seems to be comforted and takes her nap on the chair. I continue working on my Memoires…

Ten minutes later, Salomé is up again. She goes into the bedroom and barks. When I don’t run to see what she wants, she barks again… and again. Finally I get up and walk to the bedroom. “What?” I demand.  She just looks at me and then trots back into the living room: attention is what she wanted. I pick up a ball and lazily toss it down the hallway, IMG_20200318_135716she retrieves it. We play for a few minutes and then I tell her I want to finish writing my blog. She settles down again on the carpet. Thank goodness for Salomé; without her… don’t even want to think about it.

Ok: fallout from the Coronavirus: The rebirth of this blog-page; more time on Whatsapp; contact with people I haven’t heard from in years; more time doing The Work over internet, music. I seldom listen to music, I am too busy and my hour or so in the Café mornings chatting is usually enough noise for me to look forward to my two or three hours of silence before lunch. Now, as I do my exercises (stretching) I put music on the computer (YouTube), as I wash the dishes I listen to music, when I play with Salomé the music keeps us company… This is good.

I have never been much of a talker, but now I am convinced that by the time this is over I will have forgotten how to carry on a conversation, so I try to have at least one a day –over Whatsapp, usually- with my daughter, my son, a friend… anyone. I have decided that The Work I do over internet is another way to keep in touch and am now offering two sessions for the price of one; if this goes on long enough, I’ll give them for free.

IMG_20200320_125010Yesterday I went out for our morning walk and the first thing I saw was a man driving his car, all alone, windows rolled up… and he had a mask on. I wondered who he was protecting himself from… Today I noticed another woman with the same thing. I don’t have any masks; I haven’t even asked at the pharmacy because I know they are all gone, just like the hand disinfectant (I’ve been told more will be arriving next week). In the meantime, I wash my hands more than I have ever washed them in my life, but so as to not wash them double or triple times, I leave the dishes from my latest meal in the sink until I get back from my walks and then I wash them, along with my hands, of course.

Then, as suggested by Whatsapp, I take a clean Kleenex with me when I go out and use to hold onto the banister, to open the door and even to grasp Salomé’s leash. Today, instead of kleenex, I used one of the disposable dog-poo bags over my hand and it was the perfect glove… ummm mitten. Even though I have temporarily given up makeup, I still change my shirt every day; I have been living in the same blue jeans, though, but at least they are blue jeans. The other day I saw a woman out walking her dog in a jacket and pink flowery pajama bottoms! I wondered if she was just absent minded (and forgot she hadn’t taken off her pajamas, or actually thought that no one would notice).

I have taken to going to the bread shop for a croissant every morning, after all, if you think of all the ladies that last night on the Titanic who didn’t eat dessert so as not to get fat… At the bread shop, people now stand in dots rather than lines as they keep the reglamentry distance one from the other. I become a dot in the line. With my croissant in hand -which I will take home to eat with my home-made expresso- Salomé and I take off IMG_20200320_161149for another walk around the block. Salomé looks at me crossly: she wants the cracker she always gets at the Café. I patiently explain to her that the Coffee Shop is closed and I will give her a cracker at home. She doesn’t believe me and pulls stubbornly in the direction of town and the Café. I follow her: it is the same difference to me which way we go home.

As we approach the Coffee Shop, Salomé sees the flower pots still in front of the door and realizes it is closed. She lets me lead her in the direction of home. I will give her a piece of croissant. Strangely enough, I am convinced she knows something is wrong. Since lockdown began she has become constipated and I had to call the vet and get a canine laxative for her after two days with almost no production. We are now doing well, but I continue with the laxative.

Once home, the unexpected happens. My body which is not used to doing housework and has been made to arrange the bed covers after three days of use, decides to protest and I throw my back out. A lumbar vertebra apparently moves, I feel a sharp pain and suddenly I am bent over like a 99 year old. I call my osteopath: both his phones go directly to messaging where I am told the message boxes are totally full. No help there.

I connect with my personal trainer in Madrid with whom I have been working over Skype since moving to Salies. He is an angel and directs some exercises that help. When I am finished, I can at least stand up more or less straight and go out with Salomé. After I have taken care of my back, I go into the bathroom, look in the mirror and discover I have developed a sty in my right eyelid. A sty!!! Haven’t had one of those since about the age of 15. Things are definitely deteriorating!

IMG_20200318_191125But then I work for a while, listen to some more music, go for another walk and have a conversation –keeping our distance- with someone also walking their dog whom I have never seen before, come home and write this blog and it is time for supper.

One more day gone by… I have lost count: is it four or five or more?

We are living in strange times, in the times of IMG_20200319_110909‘never before’, in the times of ‘I hope this doesn’t last’, of ‘Please keep my family safe’… and also of, Thank you, thank you… I am so grateful for all I have. After all, it is Spring and there is a bright pink tulip in a flower bed to prove it.



026 (2)

March 17, 2020

Again, I awake at 5 a.m. Again the mind begins to race: Am I coughing, does my throat feel funny, what am I going to do if I get sick, who will take care of Salomé… on and on. Stop!!! I tell my mind that as soon as it is light we will go to the computer, we will find all the answers, we will write them down… go to sleep, sleep… I drift off again and don’t reawake until Salomé shakes her ears telling me it is breakfast time.

Hmmm, day one of lockdown. As I switch on my cell phone a message pings. It is from Gouvernement, the French government. Every single answer to my questions, every single instruction is there. By the time I have finished reading I know exactly what to do and what not to do. Good! I feel protected, I feel cared for, I am grateful.

Day one of lockdown. What a relief: there is no need to put on makeup as I will not see any of my friends, so I wash my face, clean up and dress in blue jeans and a sweater. sdr_softSalomé is asking for her breakfast; Salomé does not understand lockdown, Salomé only understands food-or-nofood. I fill her dish and serve my own cereal in a bowl and add some milk. I have stocked up on milk.

Breakfast done I sit at my computer thinking it would be nice to go back to bed; I am sooooo sleepy I could drop off in a wink. Maybe I am getting sick… Stop mind! Then I realize: it is –of course- caffeine suppression syndrome: I need my morning coffee.

As there are no cafés open, I take out my ground expresso and prepare a pot of coffee. Even the smell knocks the sleepiness out of me. With my nice hot cup of morning expresso, I decide to do my “café” over Whatsapp and begin sending messages to friends and family near and far.

As I have saved myself the 20 minutes of makeup duty, Salomé and I leave early for our walk (the instructions say that it is permitted to do some exercise or take your dog out for its needs). My doggie, thinking –of course- that we are going for our coffee, heads right off in that direction pulling at the leash. It is obvious that her dish of dogfood –as always- has not been nearly enough and she is anxious to get to the café and the sweet biscuit I always share with her.IMG_20200317_101803

“We’re in lockdown,” I tell her, “the café is closed. No biscuit today.” She looks at me. She knows what she knows. When we get to the café, she runs to the closed door, sniffs, peers through, turns her head to look at me, looks back at the door and then sits down to wait.

“I told you it was closed” I tell her pulling gently on the leash. Reluctantly she follows me, looking back a couple of times to make sure I am not trying to fool her. When we get home, I give her half a biscuit and she is happy.

Once I am home, nothing is any different from any other day –except that I know we’re in lockdown. First I go back to the Gouvernement instructions to see about a document (attestation) I have been asked to have to go out after noon today. I find the form and print it out. It is very simple: I fill in the spaces, check off ‘dog-walk’ and sign it. Then I put it in my purse, just in case…

After, I have an appointment over internet which lasts from 11:30 to 1 p.m. (I do all my work over internet) so when I am finished it is time for lunch. I usually do lunch in a small restaurant in town called ‘La Grignotine’, but all restaurants are closed. However, a while ago when I was doing a diet I discovered a service called ‘Kitchen Diet’ that IMG_20200317_154017delivers ready-cooked, vacuum-packed meals that are pretty tasty and help you lose weight. Upon realizing on Friday that restaurants would be closed and we were probably going into lockdown, I ordered my two-weeks of pre-cooked meals which  arrived this morning. I was all set.

Took out one of my favorites (penne with salmon and sauce), added some stir-fried veggies I had prepared two days ago and heated it all up in the micro. For dessert I had a tangerine (fresh), a handful of nuts and a square of bitter chocolate.

So far, not that much has changed with the exception of the morning coffee group. During lunch I work on my Memoires which have become a Proustian job because I can remember soooo much (I wrote it all down in diaries, ha ha).

At 3:30 Salomé gets up from her after-walk nap and barks once to tell me she wants to play, or go out or eat something and that I should stop working immediately and entertain her. Obedient mom that I am, I leap up, don my coat and we’re off again, this time to the center of town.

IMG_20200317_152300I want to see exactly what is open and what is not, and am specially interested in a small shop that sells grains, pastas, nuts and lots of etcetera’s in bulk so that you must take your own container.

Once again Salomé is terribly disappointed because our afternoon café (where they actually have dog biscuits) is closed, but this time she is not even fooled because they have placed the large flower pots in front of the door. The restaurant next door is also closed, but IMG_20200317_152551surprisingly the French government considers wine and liquors as a primary necessity and the liquor shop is open, as is the tobacco store (I once again thank the powers that be for my almost 28 years without tobacco or alcohol).

IMG_20200317_152435My little shop is also open and at the door are the instructions for entering. One is to sterilize one’s hands with the alcohol gel provided in a small bottle, only two people are allowed in the shop at the same time and everyone is to keep a distance of at least one meter from everyone else, and only the store attendant can dish out the produce. Ok, understood.

Once inside, I open my purse to take out the paper bags I have brought for my products and the owner yells at me as if I had pulled out a snake: I am to put them back and she will give me new bags. ‘That’s a waste,’ I think to myself as I obediently put the forbidden objects back into my bag.

I buy almonds and walnuts and pay for them with a credit card as has also been instructed on the rules sheet. As I am leaving, a beautiful head of fresh lettuce catches imagesP3UUIVHFmy eye and –keeping my finger far enough away so there is no mistaking my gesture as a desire to touch the greenery- I ask how much.

Lettuce safely tucked in bag, Salome and I set off once more for home. No one has stopped us; no one has asked for our ‘attestation’ which I have so carefully filled out… actually, there is no one around. Town is deserted.

Once home, I have my afternoon coffee (taking care to give Salomé half a biscuit) and settle down to write this blog-piece. Day One has not been so different from my usual days here… except that I know it is different


oznorFor a long time I have been saying what a wonderful life and what fantastic luck I have had, to have been alive at a time when I haven`t had to go through any wars, not personally anyway. The wars I have heard about have been far away and have not touched my life in any damaging way. I have not known a World War as my parents and grandparents did. I have not lived in a country being invaded or under siege.

I still say it, although in somewhat of a state of shock. Covid19, the Coronavirus whose worldwide attack we are now all suffering from in greater or lesser degree is about to prove me wrong. There are no bombs or helicopters, no invading armies shooting at Fotos Galaxy (411)each other, no canons bombarding buildings and shelters… yet we are under attack, the human race as a whole. Yesterday, Spain declared a State of Emergency with which special powers were given to the government to close down every non-vital business and center, meaning only supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open for business; France is now following suit, closing restaurants and social gathering places and discouraging travel.

It is a strange feeling, a feeling of being under attack by an invisible enemy; a feeling of something lurking unseen in every corner. Everyone in town has stopped the customary kissing of everyone else, handshakes are out too. We say ‘hello’ to people we care about from a distance, we wash our hands so many times a day they are dry and cracked, we open public doors with our elbows, and now, we find ways to not leave our homes.

Internet becomes our umbilical cord to the world, our phones –always important- are now life-lines to our loved ones nearby and far away, and even to neighbors as we stop leaving our houses. It is strange… the enemy is invisible, soundless, scentless… It could be a story, fake news… yet we know it is real.

davThere is a strange feeling of apprehension and also of underlying awe at the grandiosity of the whole threat. Suddenly, there is the understanding, with a great amount of disbelief and a frisson of excitement, that we may be living a turning point in history, a shift for humanity… For the better? For the worse?

As the countries of Europe curl in upon themselves like threatened snails while being told they are now the epicenter of the pandemic, I sit in my little French town and wait for news to get to me the same way it has since three years ago when I stopped watching or listening to it on television or radio, or reading newspapers: by way of mouth. Someone sends me a text message: restaurants, cafés and the like ordered closed in France; Spain shuts down… The frontier is probably closed. From someone else, a set of rules arrives on how to best avoid contagion. Over and over again we are told to wash our hands as if we were dirty little children rushing in from the playground. It is all unreal; there is a feeling of living in a bubble that will burst any moment and we will discover it has all been a bad dream.

I awoke at 5 a.m. this morning. My nose was all stopped up (“the corona virus does not affect the nostrils the way a common cold does”)… still; I decide it is just this allergy I have had for some time now, but the feeling of fear persists. I am alone; it is 5 in the morning… what if? I cough a couple of times… Is it a wet or a dry cough? I cough again… yes, there is a little wetness in it. Whew!

The emergency number: is it 212, 211, 112,121…? ¡fuck! What is wrong with my cofmemory… It is 112. I would dial 112 and they would ask me in what language I want to be spoken to. Should I say ‘French’ and run the risk of getting confused or not being able to describe my symptoms adequately, or ‘Spanish’ and run the risk of being switched back to French when they ask me where I am located. “¡Stop! It is 5 a.m. Just breathe deeply and go back to sleep.” Breathe… is that deeply enough, am I having trouble breathing deeply? I take a few more breaths and they seem adequate; I turn over on my back. My nose clears immediately and before I know it I have gone back to sleep and awoken at 8:30 this morning.

Today I get a message: “embrace your fear, don’t try to push it away”… Yes, that is good: treat yourself like a frightened child, don’t stress, wash your hands, stay away from public places, eat well, wash your hands, breathe deeply…

There is an incredulity about all this. Here it is: the 15th of March 2020, the year of great visibility, the year we should be seeing clearly (20-20 vision), and I sit in wonder of what it is that we will be seeing tomorrow and the next day, and the next. Last night, as I watched a movie, I noticeD how reality had become much more Hollywood than Hollywood, more unpredictable than the best plots.

Today I take a walk through town. Salomé –my schnauzer- thinks we are going for a coffee and her usual biscuit, but the coffee shops are closed, the restaurants are closed (one has a sign on the door saying they with attend ‘take-away’ but there is no telephone number), the stores are closed because it is Sunday but they will be closed again t20140406_145414omorrow and the next day and the next… The town is almost empty of people in spite of the fact it is a beautiful spring day, warm and sunny. We walk through the semi-deserted town and on home where I give Salomé a compensation biscuit.

I can’t concentrate, on movies, books, my daily chores, the memoires I am writing… It is as if I am waiting, waiting without knowing what it is I am waiting for; a state of suspended animation, a stillness that is filled with sudden starts.

There is a sense of expectation, as if something were about to happen, as if someone were going to come knocking at my door suddenly to announce the first case of Coronavirus to be diagnosed in Salies, a wonderment about what everyone is doing in their individual lives now that we are under attack. Do I have enough food to last out the lockdown? Will I be affected by the virus…? Will the bookstore stay open? What about the bank? Will someone let me know when it is all over? Will it ever be all over?

Yes, I was grateful that I had lived a lifetime without war… and I am still grateful even though  I now find myself –at 78- involved in the strangest, most unknown war of all: the war against an invisible enemy. I sigh and fall back on old ways of coping: take it One Day at a Time, Let go, let God… trust that this too shall pass.



If we believe that death separates our loved ones from us,

we will push them away when their memory comes,

remembering the only thing we keep of them: their death.

We won’t let them ever live again, shutting ourselves down to their visits

and to the love we could still keep feeling for them until the day we join them.

As we believe that their death is painful, when the thought of them comes,

instead of feeling the love we always felt when we thought of them,

we feel the pain of their supposed separation, and we push them away.

Death, July 28 2017

Lolipop has gone. I had her for 16 months and 26 days and in that time she became a happy dog. I am grateful for that and for all the wonderful moments we had together. Once she began to get over her fear, she was a delight. And she could run like the wind. I would take her into the garden and say Run! Run! and she would be off like lightning oznorround and round. Then she would race up the front stairs, jump up on the guard post and be King-of-the-Mountain until Salomé and I got to the top. She often wanted to play with Salomé, baiting her in her doggie way, but my little old lady was too oznorGrand to play with a little mutt. When we walked into town, Salomé was her usual dignified self, walking in a straight line and only occasionally stopping for a sniff or two, but Loli was all over the place, running from side to side, up and down and over and under till the two leashes that I tried to keep organized would be so entwined that I would have to stop and spend time untangling them.

She was still scared of thunderstorms but she got used to the trucks rumbling by (as I have) and it was only with howling winds that she would stick her head under the chair believing that if she couldn’t see you, she was well hidden. But most of the time, when at home she just lazed on her easy-chair IMG_20181026_170519.jpg(I have two and cofeach dog chose their own, so that I seldom got to use either).

Eating was a another matter: she wouldn’t even go near the dish if anyone was looking at her, so I would place her food under the table between the two chairs in the picture and then leave or turn my back so she could eat in peace. The protection of the table and the fact that she thought no one was watching allowed her to eat, but it was a fussy process. She would take a mouthful of kibble and carry it out to deposit on the rug. Then she would eat piece by piece. Most days I ended up collecting dog food spread about under the table and on the carpet, or just let Salomé go in and vacuum it up with her insatiable appetite. IMG_20180602_144306.jpg

As for sleeping, Loli decided that a dog bed was not her cuppa, and slept every night on one of the two chairs in the living room. But come morning, she would trot into the bedroom to see what was going on. Once or twice she climbed into Salomé’s bed but  my older dog was not the cuddling type and would usually leave the room in disgust although once or twice she just seemed puzzled. IMG_20190808_081510.jpg

IMG_20180715_182625.jpgAs for preferences, there was nothing, but ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, Loli liked better than having her tummy scratched. Therefore, she spent more time on her back than on her four paws.

So life got good for Lolipop and I was quite content with our little family of three. We went everywhere together and the whole town -before quite familiar with Salomé- now knew Lolipop as well

Then, as always, things began to change. Around the end of September, beginning of October, Loli stopped eating. She fussed, smelled her food and walked away. She would, however, eat any treat offered and frequently, during our walks, would find an old chicken bone or some other horrid delight that I would have to extricate from between IMG_20180922_123049.jpgher sharp little teeth. I noticed she was eating only the wet food, licking or sucking it off the dry and spitting out the small kernels of dog food. So I began separating wet from dry. Then, one day, she stopped eating all together. I changed to another wet food and for a few days she ate that, then stopped again. By the third week in October I got seriously worried because she was losing weight and had become listless so we went to the vet’s.

The diagnosis was renal insufficiency. A friend immediately reminded me that it is fear IMG_20190716_145501.jpgthat affects the kidneys and I knew Loli had lived in alot of fear most of her life, first being left in a pen with larger dogs when she was very young and then being abandoned the better part of the day and night all alone on a terrace where the wind and rain must have kept her shaking with fear and loneliness.

For two days, the vet kept Loli, in a cage, with an intravenous needle in her front paw, in an attempt to flush the toxins out. I took her home. She refused to eat until I cooked up some turkey breast. That she ate one day.

Two days later, another blood test served to prove that she had only gotten worse inspite of the efforts. I decided she would undergo no more torture and took her home, knowing that if things got bad I would not let her suffer. Sunday morning, things got bad. I called the vet, he put her to sleep in my arms. My sweet little Lolipop went very quickly IMG_20190207_123805.jpgbecause she was so weak. I spent most of the morning crying, and today -because life will guide you if you let it- I read the above opening quote from an old blog post on death and made the decision to let Loli keep on living in all my sweet, sweet memories of her.


Well maybe all this is enough for the present; heaven can wait. What have I done to be gifted such joy. I mean it, to live in this fantastic, beautiful, friendly little French town where, when it doesn’t rain and the sky is blue, it is the bluest of skies I have ever seen.

sdrOk, first an apology: I know it has been almost 6 months since my last post but… (and here is where I reveal the secret of my silence)… I-am-writing-a-book… Yes, I can finally say it is happening, after umpteen false starts that never went farther tan 3-5 pages, and a ton of frustration as inspiration hid its beautiful face, I realized that the Universe had been subtly -and sometimes not so subtly- pushing me in the direction to take. First it was the letters that my children’s father had kept and that were handed toimg_20180412_153312.jpg

me with all his mementos from our relationship a couple of Xmases ago; then it was the flood in Salies last June where my cellar storeroom was flooded and the cardboard box containing all my journals since 1992 was half soaked. In both cases, I had to decide if I wanted to throw out the memories or keep them. As I decided to keep them, reread the letters and began to dry out the notebooks containing cofall my diary writings, I realized suddenly that the Universe kept poking me to tell me that everything I needed was there and I should begin to write… whatever: a memoire, a novel… it will be what it will be, for the moment I am just filling page after page (320 single-spaced so far). How do I know this is what I am supposed to be doing? Because it is flowing without any effort and I even found a narrative structure immediately which is working wonderfully. So this is the reason that I haven’t continued this blog up to now and probably won’t be posting much in the near future.

Today, however, I couldn’t help feeling the joy of my life, and I needed to share my gratitude publically. Not only is the Spring temperature delightful, not only is the sky so blue it’s hard to believe, not only are both my doggies fine and happy, not only am I going to eat in my favorite daily restaurant today sitting on the terrace,… but also my walk home was strewn with love. First I went to La Pause Gourmand where they have the best coffee in Salies. There, Salomé and Lolipop get their morning bisquits and I have a café alongée noisette (which means it is American style coffee -long- with a drop of milk). There I said hello to the gentleman who sometimes sits at a table in the afternoonIMG_20190323_165937.jpg and plays his guitar and sings, and to a nice lady who I know from the other café where I usually go (closed on Wednesdays) who asked to sit at my table. When I finished, I drifted -doggies in tow- over to the other café, owned by a Vietnamese man, that has just opened after repairs from the flood (yes! there are still places in need of repairs). There I had a normal coffee and chatted for a while with a group of people I know.

Having finished my morning coffees without having been joined by any of my regular group of friends, I decided to take a walk through town. A few minutes later my phone rang. Now answering a call with two dogs and a bag of dog-poo in hand is not easy, but I managed and it was my artist friend, Yvette. We were near each other so we met up by the Monument to the fallen of WWI (there are three Domecq’s there: Felix, Clement and Pierre) and then I walked with her back to the Mairie (Town Hall) where we parted 20140406_143817ways.

It was time to start home. As I crossed the parking lot of the Temple (the protestant temple), I spied Christophe’s small red car. Christophe is one of my favorite people in Salies. He fixes my computer or my cell phone when needed -which is handy, to be sure- but apart from that I adore him just for who he is, which is a generous, loving human being. As I passed the first house on the corner, where another friend, Michele, lives, the door opened and out came a big, black dog. I recognized her immediately as Christophe’s dog named -incredibly- Blanche (White). Holding fast to her harness was Michele, who was trying to stop her from running into the street; he was carrying his little dog, Pepette, who immediately wanted to say hello to Salomé and Lolipop. Close behind came Christophe and it was kisses all around and dog pets and a morning exchange of greetings. And then Christophe insisted on going back inside because he hadIMG_20190430_174210.jpg to finish fixing Michele’s computer in time to see another client.

I continued on my way and a few meters later ran into Nichole who lives in an apartment a little ways from mine. She is the mother of one of our local writers and hails from South Africa. We speak in French for a moment commenting on the beautiful weather, I ask her where she is going to eat and tell her that I will be at my regular haunt, the Grignotine, and we say good-bye promising to have that cup of tea we are always saying we will share and never do.

A little further on, when I am just thinking how wonderful it is to live in a community where one runs into friends every time one steps out and trying to take in the blueness of the sky without losing my breath, I meet Nicholas. Nicholas is a handsome man, probably in his late 50’s or early 60’s with a lovely wife named Genevieve. He heads up several volunteer organizations in town: the Resto des Couers where I used to volunteer until it became obvious that there were more volunteers than needed; and something called the imagesQCC8BODY.jpgCoquelicots, which refers to a red poppy flower common in the fields of Europe in general, an association formed to protest against the use of pesticides.

Nicholas is another one of my local loves and we stop and chat for a good ten minutes about the future meeting of the coquelicots and the blueness of the sky (he says it was bluer in Tibet because it was closer due to the height… whatever).sdr

So by the time I say goodbye and arrive at my building, I have spent 45 minutes since my last cup of coffee, received and given several loving hugs, interchanged conversation and information with several people and realized over and over again that I live in the friendliest, most beautiful place in the world. oznor

¡How could I not be happy!


IMG_20181111_151326.jpgThere is no doubt my life is richer since I have a dog… or two. One dog -you’ll perhaps think- is enough, but I can tell you that two dogs are even better. It seems I walk more with two than with one.

Ever since Lollipop arrived -my second dog, the little one-, I have been walking at least two times more and twice as far each time than I used to walk with Salomé, my older doggie. You might ask why… Well, it isn’t because of the dogs, of that much I am aware; rather it is for the pure pleasure I have found in the walking.

I leave in the morning and stroll to my regular coffee shop to meet with my Frenchoznor friends, two dogs in tow … or racing ahead as the case may be. Usually it is with one racing ahead (Lollipop, being the younger) and one trailing behind (Salomé who -as the queen of the realm-takes her time). An hour later, when I leave to walk home, I take the long way around, or go to the park before returning. By that time, it is 11a.m.

IMG_20180929_134106.jpgAround 90 minutes later, I foot it back into town for lunch and take another, longer walk afterwards. Then, again, about three in the afternoon, it is time to trot into town anew for an afternoon coffee at the shop in the center where they offer dog biscuits to Salo and Loli (for short). Both canine damsels know they are going to get treats and pull desperately to get there first. IMG_20181111_161210.jpg

The way home takes us on another loop around the other side of town and sometimes we slip into a smaller road or some alleyway we haven`t been up before and discover a special corner that offers a new view.  At 5 o’clock, it is doggies’ time for dinner so it’s back home again. When everyone is fed, out we go for yet another stroll, this time heading for the roads behind our building, to the public vegetable gardens and the general compost deposit, where I will leave my little gathering of vegetable peals and wilted lettuce leaves.

Our walking is done until after my supper and perhaps watching a movie or writing a blog or playing solitaire, and then about 9:30 pm., a last turn around the block for a nighttime pee. IMG_20181113_095358.jpg

It sounds like a lot of work, but actually it is a gift. I am obligated to get up from my computer, or the book I am reading and go outside. And outside is where life is. At this moment it’s where autumn life is. What colors I see! What fantastic combinations! What unexpected natural Works of art hidden in corners or down an alley between two brownish houses; at the far end of the park, across the street, in front of the neighborhood supermarket (unfortunately closed since the flood and with no sign of reopening)…sdr

These are places I have passed a thousand times in the last 8 years, but suddenly an unexpected autumn color, a previously unnoticed combination of forms, a slant of sunshine that makes everything look new will catch my eye, and the camera comes out and the photograph is captured.

Recently there was a surprising new addition to Salies’ potpourri of shapes and colors, and it wasn’t a pleasant one. Someone, during the night of Saturday to Sunday last, had painted several walls with black, anti-Semitic slogans, calling the Holocaust a fraud. I was shocked that something that seemed so evil and violent had appeared in our peaceful little town and it seemed that everyone else was too. I had to actually look up what or who “Faurisson” was. It turns out that Robert Faurisson was a French Holocaust denier who died last month. Then -of course- the words Resistance and Shoah Escroquerie (fraud) suddenly made sense. place-du-temple-a-salies[1]

All day Sunday, everytime I went past the painted walls or looked out of my living room window at the small electric station 20180832-1[1].jpgacross the way, I wondered who in the world would do such a thing, and the ugly words became the talk of the town. Then, yesterday, something beautiful happened. A local graffiti artist, who signs as Athorn, started covering the aggressive expressions with beautiful flowers, and turned something of hate into something of beauty. I saw him as he was finishing his work on the old, abandoned barber shop near my home, and I went over to thank him from the bottom of my heart. oznor

“I do this without pay,” he humbly offered as an explanation, confirming what I oznorsuspected: his was a work of love.

So today, the walls of Salies have sprouted multicolored flowers and a feeling of peace returned to my heart.

Tomorrow, I’ll venture forth again with my trusty cámara and -of course, my two little doggies.




oznorIt is incredible how much a small dog can disrupt a life. This was not what I believed. Quite the opposite: ‘She’s so tiny: she’ll be no problem, make no noise, disturb not… Just a small dog.’ I should have looked more closely at the matter. After all, a flea in the wrong place –like an ear, for example- can raise havoc… But, as usual, I didn’t… think that is. I didn’t think she would make much difference. I didn’t even think about not thinking.

It was the merry month of May (couldn’t resist the cliché!) and I was off on a much awaited trip to the volcanic Isle of Lanzarote in the Canaries off the coast of Africa with my friend, Tamara. I did the usual, which is to drive to Madrid, stay over one or two nights depending on what I had to do and then fly from there leaving my car with the magnificent service that picks it up at the terminal when I leave and has it washed and waiting for me at the terminal door when I arrive. On my first morning in Madrid I decided to walk from my hotel (my home in Madrid, I call it) down to the park near where I used to live. It’s a lovely park, full of friendly people and their dogs, and cozy cafés where one can hang out for a cuppa or two. The day was bright (it seldom isn’t in Madrid) so I took a long stroll around the park. Up towards the playing fields I ran into a man with his small dog. It was so cute I reached down to pet it and, as I did, the small dog flipped over onto her (I could then see it was a female) back and started to writhe in the dust with what could only be termed extreme delight. I scratched her velvety soft belly and laughed.oznor

“Do you have a dog?” the owner asked. I confirmed and he said: “Oh. I was hoping… You see, I need to find her a new owner. I can’t take care of her; I work all day and most of the night and she is always alone; it’s not fair.”

I looked down at the little beige and white thing still scratching her back in the sand. She stopped for a moment and looked back with the cutest pair of big, round brown eyes set in a button of a face. “Oh, I’m sure you’ll find someone,” I said, “she is sooo cute. If I didn’t already have a dog… But give me your phone number and I’ll ask amongst my friends” (I had a friend in mind already). And that was it. We smiled; said ‘good-day’ and both went on our ways.

When I got back to the hotel and was about to message my friend telling her about the dog, I realized it would be necessary to have a picture of her and not just the description IMG-20180516-WA0006‘adorable, little jack-russellish doggie with joyful personality’. So I Whatsapp-ed the owner registered under Loli-dog (her name plus ‘dog’) on my phone asking him to send me a photograph. A few moments later, I received the following picture which I promptly sent off to my friend with a note: “This little long-haired mostly Jackie is about 4 years old, has all her vacs and her chip. She is adorable, loving, sweet and so tender. Her owner can no longer keep her and I would take her but I fear Salomé would be so jealous. I thought of you…”

She said she would think about it and that was the last I heard. I was off to Lanzarote.

Lanzarote was all and more than expected. I loved the island, its enormous lava fields, it’s volcano-cones, the starkness of it, and I enjoyed the visit with Tamara. All in all we had a splendid time. On the first day, I showed Tamara the davphoto of the little dog. “Isn’t she cute?” I said, “I can’t stop thinking about her.” Tamara predicted that I would end up with her, but I said ‘no’, I had enough with Salomé. Tamara was right. Every once in a while I would pull out my phone and gaze into Loli’s eyes and with the excuse of finding her a new owner I showed everyone the photo, not only during the trip but also once I got back home. This went on for two weeks while I lamely looked for someone to take her. It took precisely those two weeks for madness to settle in. At the end of May I messaged the owner of Loli-dog asking if he still wanted to give her away. There was no answer. I began to feel an inkling of disappointment in my stomach. I messaged again asking if he had given her away: still no answer. 24 hours went by and I began to panic so that, when the message that she was still available finally came in, any doubt or dithering had completely disappeared.

On the 1st of June I loaded Salomé in the car and we drove to Madrid. The test of fire would be Salomé accepting her, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible, but somehow I knew deep down that Salomé would: Loli was so tiny, so offenseless and so submissive that she would pose no problem in Salomé’s preferred pecking order which, of course, was Me First.

Did I have doubts? Of course I did. Every once in a while my enthusiasm would sour and I would think ‘Oh dear, what am I doing?’ But the much needed voice of wisdom did not kick in loud enough and on the following day I found myself standing in a veterinarian’s office in Madrid signing the proper papers, buying a sweet, pink leash and walking off with two dogs instead of one.

oznorSalomé behaved superbly: she simply ignored the rat that I plopped into the car beside her, looking the other way and not even bothering to sniff the newcomer. LoliPop (yes I had already renamed her), on the other hand, immediately became a ball of fluff and terror and absconded rapidly under the front seat convinced that she was being dog-napped. I knew exactly how she felt as it is impossible to forget the absolute fear experienced when one is forcibly removed from one’s usual life and held captive by strangers[1]. If I had been thinking logically, I would have left her under the seat but her fear pained me and I wanted her to know she was safe. So with extreme care and unheard of contortions of my own poor body, I extricated her and placed her on the seat. She trembled and looked away through my whole explanation of how happy we were going to be and, when I let go, she immediately dove under the seat again. After the third time I had to get down on my hands and knees and twist my body so that I could somehow get my arms under the seat and ease her out without harming her (but not without harming me). I finally managed to attach the leash to the head-rest in a manner that didn’t allow her to reach the floor of the car. By this time, I was suffering from a back ache from all the exertion. To add to my frustrations, Salomé, seeing that the newcomer was getting all the attention, decided that she wasn’t going to jump into the car on her own and sat decidedly down on the pavement by the door. I pulled and coaxed and scolded to no avail and finally had to pick her up (all 8 and ½ kilos of her) and plop her in her seat. Add to the unexpected challenge of caring for two dogs, doing the almost 1100 kms of Salies-Madrid-Salies in two days (one day down, next day back) and, I was exhausted by the time I got home.

mdeIn spite of her small size, LoliPop became an immediate problem. Her fear wouldn’t allow her a normal doggie behavior: eating, playing, cuddling, sleeping. Rather her existence became trembling, cowering and hiding. Our first tour around the garden to pee, was a disaster. In spite of having lived in a city (on a small and thus quiet street), Loli was totally unaccustomed to the rumblings and clankings of the trucks that roar by my building (which I have managed to white out so that they no longer bother me) and was terrified. Fortunately I had her on a leash so she couldn’t dive into the shrubbery where she would have been inaccessible, but peeing and pooing were definitely out of the question. Walking into town was the same problem: every car that honked, every motorbike, every heavy truck slamming by was a motive of panic. The poor dog lived in terror.

Following that, we had the dilemma of the bed… my bed under which she dove the moment she discovered it. She is very small, especially when she curls up into a terrified little ball, and the bed is 140cms wide so it was impossible to get her out. Perhaps this wouldn’t have been a problem except that the bed seemed to tickle her ears so she shook her head every five minutes producing a flapping-scraping sound that wasn’t going to let me sleep. When coaxing and pleading didn’t do the job, I had to recur to the broomstick, thus terrifying her more. Once I had her out, I stuffed access to the under-bed with every cushion in the house.

To make things worse the second night home there was a thunder and lightning storm asoznor I have seldom experienced. Even I was scared and Salomé and Lolipop were quaking their little hearts out. I ended up with both of them in my bed, all three of us huddled under the covers, until the war-storm was over.

It seemed that every sudden sound would send poor Loli scuttering for cover: if I dropped my keys or banged a plate in the sink or allowed a pen to roll off my desk the little dog scrambled under any place that offered shelter. On our third day walking into town, she appeared to be starting to grow accustomed to the street sounds and was a bit calmer, and then France won the World Cup and all hell of honking and clanging and fireworks broke loose and I thought she was going to have a heart attack. I had to carry her all the way home, covering her ears.

The whole ruckus convinced her that outside was a very dangerous place so she decided it was safer to pee and poo inside. Seeing as this was not acceptable, I further frightened the poor creature by yelling and waving hysterically, and carrying her two floors down to the garden.

Eating was also a problem because she couldn’t stop being scared and vigilant long enough to put her head in the dish. I finally figured out that she needed protection and put her bowl under a table. There she could eat, although it has taken her well into two months to finish a dish in one go.

oznorOne day I realized that I was tiptoeing around the house, being very careful not to drop or knock over anything and suddenly I understood that this was the wrong approach. I purposely let a spoon drop on the tile floor of the kitchen and followed the loud clatter soothingly saying: “It’s all right Loli, it is just a noise and noise won’t hurt us”, and other platitudes like this, always directing an even voice towards her but without drawing near. After a few days, she was much calmer and had accepted a certain amount of routine noises.

Little by little she is falling into our routine even though noises are still her bugaboo. Today I let her off the leash in the park thinking there would be no disturbing noises. Then someone closed a window in the distance and her head and ears went up. I took a step towards her, another window was closed and she was off running as fast as she could (and she can run really fast) in the opposite direction of the sound with me racing after her screaming her name and dragging poor Salomé behind. Fortunately, she cofstopped at the first street crossing (her previous owner had disciplined her to do that) and I was able to put her leash back on. Salomé is getting deaf but Loli can hear a pin drop; sometimes I wish it were the other way around.

Apparently no one has ever played with Loli and she is frightened if I throw a ball for Salomé. One day, at the beginning, she approached a squeaky toy dog which –naturally- squeaked as she picked it up. She dropped it as if it had been a bee that stung her and hadn’t gone near the toy basket since. However, for the first time yesterday she approached it and, after digging around for a few minutes, appeared with a bright pink ball in her mouth. It was the smallest ball in the basket and had been given me by a neighbor precisely for her, but until that moment she had been afraid of it. I watched as she carried it gingerly in her mouth and jumped up onto her chair where she proceeded to chew gently on it for a while before losing oznorinterest. It’s a beginning.

So a small dog has disrupted my routine, and she has also brought me great pleasure as I see her slowly adopting to a new and probably kinder life. Salomé mostly ignores her, but she doesn’t seem to mind having her around and I am finding her a delightful addition to my little family.


[1] The experience of my kidnapping in Mexico is told at length in my novel, Eleven Days, a translation of the original Spanish version: Once días… y algo más.


oznorYes… disaster hits and everything changes. The flood has changed Salies. The hoarders have been forced to throw out all they have hoarded over the years, the car owner who was saving up to buy a new one but has put it off because the old one still worked, must now go and choose what make and color he/she wants. The coffee group that met at Rose’s Café where I went every morning has dispersed some going to the Casino and others to the La Pause Gourmand in town (the only two functioning of six cafés); my friend Isabel has stopped coming to coffee altogether. Three places to eat of the fifteen there were before are doing good business. People mill around the center of town and once a week the Mayor offers music and things to eat and drink around the Hotel de Ville. Some restaurant owners have been obliged to take that long needed vacation and don’t hope to see business-as-usual at least until September. Only one of the five bakeries has remained open. Of the six hairdressers only one is open and can’t handle the load. Unfortunately for Salomé her beauty salon (the oznoropened last week and she has had her summer coif. The banks are closed and for cash one has to go to the only supermarket open on the outskirts of town (my usual market around the corner shows no sign of opening soon) or to the next town. The one café open in town has gotten a temporary license to sell liquor because the two bars will be closed for another six months, so it has now turned into an all-service stop offering coffee, ice-cream, beer and wine, a daily menu consisting usually of a quiche-Lorraine or a Croc Monsieur and salad, the daily news (both newsstands are closed) and a place to leave and pick up your dry cleaning. It is where the book-club meets and where the English-French language exchange convenes twice a week. The two Bio shops –one fresh produce sdrand the other dried goods- have been wiped out and who knows it they will reopen. The Tourist Office is closed as is the auditorium and the large gallery where Salies hangs its expositions during the various art festivals of the year.

The help that has poured in has been unbelievable (C-Discount, an Amazon-like internet store, donated an extraordinary amount of refrigerators, freezers, micro-wave ovens, washing-machines, and toaster-ovens, along with mattresses and chairs); people have given so much clothing that they have now stopped receiving donations. Those who were not affected dragged everything usable out of their storage rooms and offered it to the victims, and helping hands came from all over the region to join in with the cleaning, washing and gutting of the affected houses and shops. Most of the immediate work has been done now and people wait for insurance companies to come and settle, hoping they’ll get enough to replenish their losses and fearing that they will get next to nothing. Someone was told by her company cofthat they would not replace any of the kitchen ware lost because it was insured against breakage but not against flooding. When she asked what she could do, they said that she should plug everything in and hope it stopped working in a few months and then the insurance would cover it. Absurd but true: ‘Fine print syndrome’. And after the insurance comes the wait for the overburdened plaster, paint and carpentry companies to show up at each person’s house or shop. The estimate for everything to be fixed is over a year.

cofAs for myself, it is the second time in less than 12 months that the Universe has seen fit to plop the past in my lap. First it was my ex-husband’s letters and mementos which I wrote about some time ago. Now the flood has dredged up my journaling notebooks, jottings from all the years of my transition from my first life to my second: 1991-2010. They were in the storeroom in the basement, in a cardboard box, and there they would have stayed, abandoned and mostly forgotten had it not been that the storeroom flooded. A quarter of the notebooks were wet, so I pulled out the dry ones and contemplated throwing the whole smelly mess out. But as with the letters, I didn’t. I hung the wet davnotebooks on the contraption I use for drying clothes when I can’t hang them outside and daily went through the arduous chore of unsticking page after page so they could dry and be read. Through this salvaging the past has surfaced and now all the notebooks are in a dry market bag in my apartment. As with the letters, when I get back from my trip with my granddaughter I plan to re-read them and, as with the letters, I am sure they will inspire me to continue writing my life.





The featured image, if compared with this photo taken today, gives you an idea of the depth of the wáter the morning of the flooding.

Today is the summer equinox, the longest day of the year: June 21. I remember such a day 16 years ago as the day the end of my second marriage began. My husband at the time, had been without alcohol for at least 13 years, longer than I had, but he was having a hard time adjusting to our new life in Madrid and his solution was to hit the bottle. If I had been more vigilant I might have suspected it because his paranoia about what I was doing or not doing began then. He began slyly suggesting that I might not be doing legitimate things with my free alone time; that I might be unfaithful while he slaved away.

In a way, he was right. I was being unfaithful: I had fallen in love with Madrid! Living in Madrid was something I had not even dared dream about because I considered it all but impossible, and yet my non-dream had come true and, upon arriving, I discovered what it was like to live in the so-called First World. I had never experienced such freedom: physical, emotional and psychological. As a woman living in Mexico City, one’s freedom is restricted both by real and imagined dangers, and certainly by unpleasantries. If one walks alone down a street in the city, the least one can expect are wolf-whistles sometimes accompanied by lewd invitations or threatening movements. Women (and men) wear no real jewelry or anything that looks real, and even the cheapest of watches can sometimes call unwanted attention. Your handbag might be swiped as fast as you find yourself lying in the gutter or flat on the sidewalk. Going to a movie alone is inviting some aspiring one-night lover to sit next to you and put his hand where it plainly isn’t called for and being in a restaurant without company (especially male company) makes everyone else look at you as if you had either been stood up or were discretely soliciting. So street-life in Mexico City is usually in a car with the windows rolled up and the doors safely locked or accompanied by a man who poses as a bodyguard, be it your husband, brother, uncle or eldest son.

Madrid, on the other hand, seems populated mostly by single women. They fill the restaurants and loll at the street cafés; they make up the movie’s most numerous public and they can be seen strolling down the sidewalks even in the less reputable areas of town. They go everywhere alone; they drive down the avenue with their car windows down and their arms, decked in Cartier’s or Rolexes, resting freely on the sill. When I saw that, I could hardly believe it. Suddenly I was free! I could go anywhere at any time and not feel I was going to be robbed, raped or kidnapped, not even molested! I walked down the streets of Madrid with my bones singing and my body feeling totally alive, I would smile at everyone I passed as if I were a bit loony or had had a couple too many glasses of wine at lunch. I bubbled, I floated, I chortled, I sang like a bird suddenly let loose of its cage. I had little time for anything else (including my husband): I had fallen head over heels in love with the city of my choice.

Then I fell in love again, and my second love was Salies de Béarn where I have lived for the last 8 years. A peaceful, tranquil, nothing-important-ever-happens-here town, a place where one comes to nestle, to nest. Sometimes it rains too much (is that true?) and sometimes it is too hot or too cold, but in general it is a middle of the way town where one can age peacefully without bothering the very few youths who occasionally burst through town on their motor bikes making as much noise as possible as if to show all us oldies that they are actually here. In other words, it is peaceful… until it gets the rain of a month in 24 hours and the River Saleys rampages through spreading destruction and mud everywhere.

That was one week and a day ago, and as soon as the water receded the people arose, like a team of coordinated ants carrying, washing, cleaning, throwing out stuff, travelling from house to house with one question: How can I help? Firemen and civic workers poured in from nearby villages that hadn’t been hit so hard. Neighbors who had been spared helped clean the houses of those that had been flooded and housed their tenants until they could go home again. An army of volunteers served lunch and dinner all week long for anywhere up to 250 volunteer workers and affected neighbors. Mayors from nearby towns sent their cleanup teams, their plows and trucks; one sent a carload of flowers to refill the drowned planters all around town. The Mayor of Salies offered the food served to all the workers and flood victims, ordered portable cabins set up in front of stores and shops that had been gutted in order for the owners to be able to do business from them while their establishments were mended. Thousands of bottles of water were distributed. Food was handed out to the needy. Companies donated refrigerators, microwave ovens, freezers and other kitchen equipment both to private houses and to the restaurants and cafés that had lost their livelihood. Clothes poured in and furniture and distribution centers were rapidly set up, and the information providedoznor from house to house so that everyone knew what was available and where they could go to get it. The Red Cross set up their tent in the center and attended anyone who needed it.  Salies was a hive of activity and goodness. Trucks heaved through the muddied streets collecting everything that had to be thrown out and taking it to parking lot I walk through every day which was used as the village dump. A mountain was formed by fridges and stoves and sofas and beds and every imaginable object that could not be restored to previous conditions.

Yesterday, one of the downtown coffee shops –their personnel and helpers having worked around the clock- was able to open and for the first time in a week I got my morning coffee and Salomé her biscuit (Loli too). The center of town finally began to look half-way clean. I went back to the coffee shop after lunch, noticing how glorious it felt to


On the black sign on the wall, the last row of three dots at the bottom marks the height of the wáter at its worst, at least 20 cms above the head of the man sitting next to it.

be able to have my coffee whenever I wished, and found that there was a gentle man (yes, a gentle man) playing a synthesizer on the sidewalk to entertain the people on the terrace. To my delight, he even played a Mexican melody –Sabor a mí (the taste of me)– which set me to singing the words under my breath. And now, this evening, Salies celebrates the summer equinox with its very own Music Festival.

It is a tradition in France that all the cities and villages celebrate the 21st of June throwing a music festival. Usually, different organizations put up stalls and sell food and drink to the crowds that gather to hear the music. Tonight there is a smaller crowd than usual (perhaps the tourists who usually attend festivals in different villages have been put off by the dramatic photographs in the news), and all the food and drink is free, its cost being absorbed by the Mayor. It is good to see the center full of people again; it is good to hear laughter and singing. And there is no doubt that the unfortunate event has left a positive result overall in a feeling of oznorcommunity as I had never before experienced. I find myself talking to all kinds of people with whom I would have barely exchanged a ‘bonjour’ before because now we have something common to talk about. The conversation may stray to other topics after a bit, but the introductory questions are: “were you affected?” and “are you all right?”

If before the flood I had already tasted the delights of living in a small community, now the profound benefits become palpable. My heart expands with love for each and every one of the people I have come to know here, as I turn to leave and return home, leaving the sound of the Bearnaise choir filling my ears and my soul.