Spring Reading

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 12.45.38 PM.pngUs David Nicholls, 2014 This delivered on its promise of laugh-out-loud moments—maybe more like cry-out-loud moments! Narrated from Douglas’s wry and often endearingly baffled point of view, Us navigates through a variety of situation, life stages and events, un-peeling the different ways in which each character responds and evolves.  As The Guardian review said, Nicholl’s is “…acute and astute about the dynamics of relationships”. Trying to rescue his marriage and improve his barely existent relationship with his son, these efforts are set within a trip across Europe, down memory lane and looking to the future.
Arranged through 180 chapters with teasing titles, I wonder if he structured it this way to appeal to the bite-sized attention span we are now struggling with! Either way, the titles and their subsequent reveals kept me up late, wanting more. 

The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared Jonas Jonasson, 2009
I really liked this book. The central character, centenarian Allan Karlsson’s adventures cross back and forth between the past – fantastic episodes and crazy encounters from his long 20th Century life,  and the present – crazy encounters from his current day excursion… Unbelievable, but woven together beautifully to make it plausible! From the Manhattan Project to Russian submarines, encounters with Truman, Franco and Stalin, the butterfly effect of Allan’s movements and the crossed paths/ 6 degrees of separation, remind you of the ripples your own life may have, whilst giving you an entertaining ride with the police chase!

The Humans Matt Haig, 2013
I enjoyed this book. An alien arrives on earth to destroy all evidence of the newly found proof of the Reimann Hypothesis by a distinguished Cambridge mathematician. This requires killing and assuming the body of aforementioned (not very nice) mathematician, then attempting to interact with his friends and family to determine who else needs to be killed to keep the theory unknown. Much of the novel is taken up by his puzzled analyses of primitive human ways. The conceit may not be original, but it’s a good read with a couple of laugh out loud moments. The reflections on humans inhumanity as well as our capacity for love culminates in a letter of life advice for his depressed son – a 97-point list six and a half pages long…. this may have been his inspiration for his 2015 book Reasons To Stay Alive (which I have not read, I am basing this off the title). The book has generated a wide array of reviews from lovers and haters… yes, you have to suspend disbelief, there are inconsistencies.. why can the alien do this but not that, but it is a fictional novel after all!
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Rachel Joyce 2012
I enjoyed this book. An unexpected yet inspired walk from the south coast to the north of England, Harold Fry has some lovely countryside to describe and an array of interesting characters to encounter. Though laced with loneliness, and time enough to reflect on the twists and turns of life, the disappointments and sadness is tempered with a sense of quiet celebration, new openness and discovery of life.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist Moshin Hamid, 2007
I liked this book. Sitting in a Lahore Cafe, Changez, our narrator/host, tells an American stranger about his time in America, studying at Princeton, working in a top NYC consulting firm, and his unrequited affair with Erika… then his abandonment of America after 9/11. It was a gentle, intricate read. Ambiguous and unresolved… leaving you hanging, or to conclude as you wish. Now a film, it will be interesting to see what they pushed and left out.

paris musings – the locksmith

There are times when I feel literally overloaded with thoughts… what I need to do, what I need to remember to do, for home, for work, for school; what I want to do, what time is it, am I on time, or not… usually the latter…. and it means that not everything happens as it should!

I was happy that I had found a local place for S. to do some sports on a Saturday. As a result, I now had a sacred me-hour in the morning! Running late, I raced to get S. ready for judo, so I could go and have my nice relaxing coffee & reading for the hour. All went according to plan until we got home. Where the hell were the keys? I emptied my bag and stared and the content rubble… no keys.

Thank god I had my phone…but the battery was low. I called my landlord who I had become aquainted with due to the flood a month before. He didn’t really speak English, but I managed to establish that he didn’t have a spare key- I had both the keys … in the apartment. So I called my French friend- what do I do? who should I call. She offered to call a locksmith on my behalf, saying she would call back once she had sorted it out. I sat in the stair-well and explained to my four year old that mummy had very foolishly left the keys inside the apartment and as there was no way to scale the building and climb through a window like Spider-Man, we needed to wait for the locksmith to come and help open the door. My friend called back. she had identified someone who should be with me within the hour.

With the phone battery at an un – optimistic 10%, I told S. that we had to go to the cafe and see if they would be willing to help. Up the road at Les Ondes, I explained our plight to the waitress and waved the dead phone in front of her. How would I know when the locksmiths arrived with out juice?! She took sympathy and plugged the phone in to her adapter behind the bar, so we sat in ears shot for the anticipated call, and had a drink to pass the time. About 50 minutes later, phone working, locksmiths arriving, we returned to the apartment.

The two men met me in the hall way and without checking any ID or asking any questions, they got out a drill and quickly zapped the lock. The door didn’t open. They then got out a tired looking piece of X-ray film… slide it into the frame of the door, down to the lock, kicked the door and it popped open!

On examining the opened door, they said they needed to replace the lock unit, and this quickly evolved to needing to change the entire door frame… one of the men was already unscrewing the metal frame whilst the other was telling me that this was all necessary… But why? and how much money are we talking about … 2000€ – WHAT??!!  I exclaimed – oh you’re insurance will cover it… “but I don’t know that” I cried, “I need to call them…” Interspersed in the activities, I had been txting the trials of the day back and forth with another friend. I texted him this latest update and he immediately called me and said this was a joke and told me to put him on the phone with the men. I’m not sure what they said to each other, but voices were raised – the phone got handed back to me, the unscrewing of the door frame stopped, I was handed a piece of paper to sign and pay 500€ because they had “had to ” drill the bolt, and they were waiving the “visit” charge so I should be happy, then they left, leaving be with a dodgy lock, screws and metal frames on the floor. I called my friend back who said he was looking for another locksmith for me.

With a couple of names, I called the newly identified locksmiths for a quote. The challenge here lay in the fact that they both said they had to come and see the door before they could quote. I told them I didn’t want them to come until they told me approximately how much it would cost to replace a lock. I managed to agree with them both that i would send them photos of the lock and door for an estimate. The next challenge was that my phone memory was full and wouldn’t take any more photos. I deleted images, took new images, and finally sent the images to the two potential locksmither’s to aid in quoting. One of them called again and insisted he should come and look – I reiterated that I wanted a quote first, but that if he didn’t charge me for coming, that he could come round, so he said he was on his way.

Whilst waiting, I re-screwed the doorframe back together. As locksmith #2 turned up, I received a quote from locksmither #3. #2 quoted 200€ more than #3 so I thanked #2 very much for coming round but I was going to use #3. #2 then insisted that I pay him for the house call… “No, no” I said… “on our phone call I had told you not to come without providing a quote, but you had insisted… I told you I didn’t want to pay for a house call without a quote…” He grabbed his papers and stormed off saying it just wasn’t right… it was in appropriate not to pay… my goodness this day was an ordeal…

# 2 disappeared, and I waited for # 3. Whilst waiting this time, I decided to try and replace the existing lock, so by the time # 3 arrived, I had managed to reinstall the lock that had been removed by the #1s. A fairly polite and unassuming chap, #3 looked at the door, the lock, the key, that still actually worked despite the drilled lock face, then said while I could continue to use the preexisting lock and key, he still recommended replacing it as there was no guarantee it would continue to work based on the drilling that had happened.
he then also told me it had been totally unnecessary for the first guys to drill the lock. they should have started with the X-ray film then proceeded to show me how he could open the door with his X-ray film. Great! Remember to double lock in future! I decided to accept his advice and replace the lock. he didn’t have the right lock with him so he dissappeared off to buy the necessary type, but then he called to say he wouldn’t be able to get it until Monday.

So, using the dodgy door for the next couple of days, come Monday, I had a new lock, an insurance claim filed, and a war story of the 2000€ door frame proposal by some Locksmith con artists. What amazed me in the subsequent days were the number of locksmith shops I walks past in my neighborhood. I had been blind to them the week before.

Lessons Learned
1. Don’t leave home without your keys
2. Locate a local locksmith on moving into a new neighborhood in advance of needing one
3. Don’t let anyone drill the lock until they have tried the X-ray film

4. sign up for the key repository of Paris  –  https://keyper.fr/   !!



life musings – dogs and bones

Sam would often head-butt my leg whilst growling through his teeth, tightly clenched around a stick. If I moved, even slightly, to take hold of the stick, he would quickly pull away, before coming at me again. His head thrashing side to side, ears flopping, and tail wagging. I would grab hold, usually of a drool covered end, and yank and yank, and pull him up so high his hind legs would raise off the ground, and would he let go? No. Eventually I would feign disinterest and as he let go of the stick, I would lurch forward, swipe it away and then throw it as far as I could, Sam running joyfully after the ever shrinking stick, that he would catch, chew, and bring back to repeat the whole routine again.

As the evening wore on and the wine flowed, loosening tongues, I watched with fascination as Pierre relentlessly pursued our friend! It reminded me of myself, with a few glasses of wine warming my belly, the inability to let go of certain conversation points, feeling that either people were not understanding what I was saying, or that they were missing the point, or that they were not responding the way that I either wanted or expected.

Pierre, who also seems to get a certain amount of pleasure out of teasing (or torturing) his friends wife, just would not stop. Knowing that he was winding her up royally, he kept going and going, asking her the same thing over and over again, in different ways, trying to explain his reason for, what seemed more like an attack rather than genuine interest at some points, as “conversation”. Throwing up his hands up in the air he exclaimed “Alright, we wont talk about this, let’s talk about what ever you want to. YOU pick a topic”.

“Oh, I don’t know what to talk about! ” came her reply.

Leaping out of his chair, he charged at the book shelf and produced the “Century” trivia book . Thrusting it at her, he demanded “Find something!” Her husband, watching with an inane grin while nursing a tumbler of scotch, finally chipped in, “Let’s talk about the benefits and disadvantages of traveling across the alps in pajama bottoms.”

And we moved on to the Gods of Travel and Genish which then led us to Buddha’s and their various depictions.

I used to consider Pierre so black and white in his point of view, that he neither accepted nor tolerated shades of gray. Now I know he sees multiple points of view and our conversations demonstrate his broad awareness, knowledge and openness to exploring all and any subject and issue. Though still quite entertaining, full of informed points, and with some semblance of a logical path, after several glasses of wine, the discussions still tend to become more aggressive, less open.

Too little wine, not enough truth?
Too much wine, not enough of anything!!