Daily Prompt: Touch a City

New York 1993

Cities are animals, waiting to devour you, waiting for you to turn a wrong corner, find yourself in a place that is uncomfortable, perhaps even dangerous. They can be your friend, familiar places and voices, even faces, but do not let yourself be mislead. A week in New York – great. Everything grows in New York, horizontally and even the streets have numbers. There is noise from the traffic, from the people, but wait a moment, you turn a corner and something is missing. No people, no noise, just complete and utter darkness. It is evening and that guy over there looks suspicious. He is approaching and puts his hand in his pocket. Shall I run, he might have a gun. He produces a map of the city, he is lost. I am lost, we are all lost between these walls. There is a mist arising from the drain in the road and it smells, like, New York. I can hear the noise of the crowds and walk further, I am saved, I am standing opposite one of the Hilton, or is it the Plaza hotel. They all look the same, but something is wrong. Is there really a human clothed with a large black plastic bag and shivering on a street in New York City, one bare foot poking out of the bag, the other foot wearind an old woollen sock. Her framework is barely covered by her skin and people are walking past, ignoring her presence, although she is shaking an empty tin cup and stretching her bony fingers for a dime, or penny or whatever they are in New York language. I saw some great stuff in New York, the top of buildings with their restaurants, bars and jazz clubs in Greenwich village, but they had no beggars outside. Perhaps  it was not worth begging where the tourists are.

Champs Elysees

Paris is different, or is it? It is a town like any other, but do people live in this town. I suppose if you take a metro train, or even a bus, you arrive in the town streets where people live, eat and breathe. Paris is a town of many characters. The Champs Elysee with its perfect restaurants: the Arc de Triomphe at one end and the Louvre museum at the other. A wonderful walk seeing Paris life at its best. What do we have here, a street seller selling his goods. He is handicapped, from a war perhaps, but he is known and photos are taken by the tourists. Let us go to Montmartre and have a portrait made while you wait, from a Paris artist of course. There are many of them, waiting to pounce with the crayons and pencils – no room for a palette or a paint brush. The finished product must be done quickly for the tourists, they have no time. In half an hour they will perhaps be in the Louvre, or Notre Dame staring at the paintings of the ancient masters. Paris is a small town, everything organised for the tourists, the paying guests.

Bishopsgate

The bustle of London, Bishopsgate bordering the city, the changing face of 1989. A rest of the old buildings that were not destroyed in the war still remaining with their soiled red bricks: but wait there is a new building in the distance. The first of many to arrive over the years. I know London, I am a Londoner, but it is no longer my London. I still visit once a year. The red buss is still there, although not as red as it used to be, even the shape has changed. The people are still the same, although the Londoners I knew have long gone. The english business man still exists although his origins may be from another country, in the second or third generation. London is a city of opportunity all are equal no matter where you come from. The cockneys of London are diminishing, making room for the new generations. They still speak with the London intonation, but it is not the same. Let us go with the crowd and go shopping. Shopping in the center of London is for the tourists, those that do not know the city. The locals prefer to remain in their own area, where they know the stall holders along the road, the shops where you can buy the bargains. London is tiring, it exhausts you, physically and psychologically. It is a city of many facets.

Look, a Londoner, take a photo and show it to the folks at home. He looks tired, exhausted, his shopping is completed, his bought items in his plastic bag.He is now looking forward to boarding the underground train that will take him home to his cup of tea.

Dad on the platform of an underground station

Daily Prompt: Touch a City

Daily Prompt: Price

Montmartre

If the price is right, then do it, and why not? I am not sure if Mr.Swiss was happy with me sitting next to a sort of stranger, his arm around my shoulder, but he was laughing putting a good face on the situation probably. Where were we? A very good question. We were sitting outside of a restaurant in Montmartre, Paris some time in the late 1980’s I think. It was our second holiday in Paris. On the first we took our two boys with us, but they were now older and so we were on our own. If you are in Montmartre, it does not take long to meet an artist who wants to draw your portrait. We were the ideal victims as we could employ two artists. We found it would be a good souvenir of a week in Paris. Somewhere in our archives in the cellar I still have the portraits. I think the cost was around 100 French Francs. It was in the days before the Euro. Oh yes, those two knew how to charm the tourists. It was probably one of their colleagues that took the photo, there were enough of them around, all budding Picassos or whatever.

At the moment I am composing my shopping list for Easter. I hate the Easter holidays, it is a purge on the modern day housewife.  Tomorrow is Wednesday, my supermarket shopping day. Thursday I stay at home and Friday I complete the week-end shopping. Unfortunately Friday is Good Friday, and I am still trying to find something that is good about it. Switzerland is very strict when it comes to religious holidays, and thus everything is closed on Friday, meaning I will have to get it all, or most of it, tomorrow. Of course I can also go shopping on Thursday, but Thursday is not for shopping, it is reserved for cleaning the shower and windows.

However, where there is a Mr. Swiss there is hope and he sort of volunteered to go shopping alone on Thursday, although he actually wante to visit a drumming lesson. I think he has pushed that onto the afternoon. My list in my iPhone is growing. Mr. Swiss told me not to just list things we need but to organise it according to the meals we are eating. OK, I am doing it, where there is a mobile phone there is hope. Actually it is quite a good system. The first step is a skeleton of the days, dinner being the main theme. You add to  your ideas constantly, checking in the fridge and kitchen to see what you have and what you need. Are you following me? I do not have to sit for a solid hour on this job, I do it in between. I already have Wednesday through to Saturday complete. I also have Easter Monday which is another day when everything is closed. Sunday is a big question mark, but I will show Mr. Swiss and explain to him tomorrow in the supermarket what a leg of lamb, or a rolled leg of lamb looks like and perhaps even take a photo or two for his iPhone. What could possibly go wrong? I cannot buy the meat too early, otherwise you would probably smell it before it was cooked.

As I said Easter holiday is a purge on the housewife. I would never enter a shopping center on the Saturday in between. It resembles a siege, a fight with no rules, every woman with barred teeth armed with a supermarket basket on wheels, ready for an all out attack on the others. I am sure the hospital ER wards are full of victims with bruises broken bones resulting from the attack of a trolley, their limbs bearing prints of the wheels as they drive over their bodies. That is another reason I am sending Mr. Swiss on Saturday. He is so good at it, and I think the housewives tend to take pity on a lonely man in a supermarket on that day. The usually make a large circle with their trolleys to avoid the masculine shoppers.They do not harm and wait patiently at the till until it is there turn without uttering the battle cry “I was here first”.

What does this all cost? You do not measure it in a price, in Swiss francs or Dollars or whatever you happen to use as a currency. No, it is measured in nerves that might be frayed, torn or lost in the battle. Money is no object as long as you win the supermarket siege.

Daily Prompt: Price

Daily Prompt: Edge of the Frame – Let’s visit the Graveyard

We often capture strangers in photos we take in public. Open your photo library, and stop at the first picture that features a person you don’t know. Now tell the story of that person.

“Another one of those strange photos in a Paris cemetery.”

“I didn’t see her when I took the photo, really not. I was just so disappointed that someone had removed Jim Morrison’s head from his grave again and I snapped to show I had been there and seen it. She looks strange, all dressed in black, with a black hat and ther figure is almost a little transparent with some strange ghostly outlines. She might not be real, a ghostly tribute. Perhaps she was one of his departed groupies calling in to see the grave.”

“Your imagination is running away with you, again. The markings on the photo are just a figment of light.. Perhaps she had stolen the head the day before and wanted to check to see if it had been missed. I am sure she had put some flowers on the grave. I knew it. If I let you loose in a graveyard, especially when it is populated with the well-known dead, you know no borders. You are taking photos all over the place. I don’t even remember that you were or are a fan of Jim Morrison; another addition to the collection of grave pictures. You have the most depressing collection of photos sometimes.”

“They are interesting; you just do not have the sense of creative death. Now when I am gone I want my web address on the stone, and you can keep the website going. People will tune in to my famous blogs and I will have a memorable place in the Internet world, preserved for all to see.”

“You can be really morbid sometimes. And what if I go first, then there will be no “www” inscription.”

“Of course there will. I will deposit it my wish at the lawyers.”

“We have no lawyer.”

“OK, then I will pass it on to the next of kin with a notice.”

“I thought you wanted a cremation and the ashes scattered in the river.”

“I am still thinking about that one. Perhaps I might, and write an Internet obituary to be released on the occasion of my demise and you can throw the ashes in the river all the same. Save a bit of money and who needs a gravestone? And what is this all about. I just happened to take a chance photo of a lady in the background of Jim Morrison`s grave: a fluke. She was probably only there on the way to her husband’s grave, all dressed in black. They might have only buried him a few days ago and she is still in mourning.”

“You think so. I thought they only buried famous people in that cemetary.”

“Perhaps her other half was a famous philosopher, writer, musician or something like that. You know what, return to your nice bench in the sun and read the newspaper or the Guide to Paris Monuments.”

“I do not have a guide to Paris or the monuments, only the book about the famous dead of Paris, or how to find a famous grave. It was the only book about Paris you bothered to buy. I will take a nap on the bench and let you hop around between the graves. Look! It’s that lady again from the Jim Morrison grave. She is leaving the cemetery and just put some money in the box belonging to those musicians outside the cemetery. Perhaps she was a groupie.”

“Who knows, this is interesting. So stand up.”

“What for?”

“We are leaving the cemetery. I have all I need for today. Simon Signoret and Yves Montand are in the camera together with Serge Gainsboro. Let’s see where she is going.”

Daily Prompt: Edge of the Frame – Let’s visit the graveyard

Daily Prompt: A Tale of Two Cities and other places

If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?

Arc de Triomphe by night

Now that is really a difficult question. Would it be Facebook, or WordPress? Yes I have my foot in both places as well as my computer and my brilliant ideas on life, the world and blog. What do I hear? They are not places; they just exist in the cyber world? You cannot live there, spend time there. I spend a lot of time there, sometimes too much according to Mr. Swiss, although I am quite happy there. My neighbours are friendly and I can even ignore them or in Facebook cancel them when they are too trying, so what could possibly be better. Now and again I get a like and a comment. I never get likes in the place where I live, and probably also not in another town, but that does not seem to be the point of this exercise. I must choose two places, towns, in the world and split my time with them.

I did not fetch my wonderful photo of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, just to be admired by all fellow bloggers; it is there for a purpose. Although I would add that my mum would never have approved this choice of one of my cities. Her opinion of the French was very negative. She found they eat garlic and horse meat and they do not like the English, so the English do not like the French. The must have put my basket in front of the wrong door when mum found it, although she did say there was a little crown attached to the handles. However, my blanket did not have a fleur-de-lis pattern, just dog-tooth check I believe.

I admit I very much like garlic, to the extent that Mr. Swiss told me to go easy on the garlic in the salad sauce, as he could not taste the salad so well. I also like horse meat. It is quite tender. Mr. Swiss is not so keen, so I only cook it now and again, perhaps once a year. My mum made one visit to France before the war on a day trip by boat across the English channel. Did she tell me about those good looking French blokes, about the wonderful architecture, the great food? No, the only memory she seemed to have was that she was stung by a hornet, so this might have been the reason that she did not like the French and she was sure the French told the hornet to sting her on purpose, because she was English.

I have been to Paris a few times and I love it. They have many wonderful cemeteries. Père LaChaise, Monmartre and Montparnasse were the three I was lucky enough to visit. I always have to find a comfortable cemetery so that Mr. Swiss can rest on a bench in the sun whilst I am dodging from grave to grave with my camera. Did I mention I am a cemetery tourist? My first visit to Paris was when I was 19 years old, fresh out of school with a female friend. I had then not discovered the cemeteries, but was busy discovering other things of interest. I remember a visit to the Follies Bergère, just to say I had been there and seen it. It no longer exists.

With Mr. Swiss I discovered the more modern part of Paris, known as Défense. He had discovered this on a few business trips to the city. We had a wonderful meal in a little restaurant in Montparnasse. I remember potatoes were served with the dish and the waiter, who was probably a descendent of Henri Landru, a French serial killer, had to fetch the potatoes from the cellar – descending the stone steps and arriving with the steaming vegetables piled on a plate. I was glad the meat was prepared in the restaurant where you could see it. There was also entertainment, and an aging guitar player arrived and serenaded us with flamenco music. Luckily we had arrived at the desert when he began to play, and could make a quick getaway.

But this is only one town; the other town is of course Solothurn, Switzerland. I do not have a choice, I live nearby in a small village where the fox and hedgehog say goodnight to each other. Mr. Swiss grew up in this part of Switzerland and my felines do not want to move. I love the surrounding countryside and the Rive Aar which flows just down the path to where I live. I also have my money in the local bank, a Swiss bank, and I am the receiver of a Swiss pension, so why should I move. We also have two cemeteries near where we live, yes two, and they even found three skeletons when they were building near our apartment, so what could possibly go wrong. Apparently it was once the site for a chopping block in our village.

In the meanwhile I will visit the town of WordPress to discover what other interesting blogs have been written today and combine this with a tour of the world. Afterwards Facebook will be waiting where I crosspost my fantastic words of wisdom, and scan the status reports and walls to see what  imperative information has appeared. We must not forget, perhaps we have been mentioned somewhere on this fantastic social site of information.

A Tale of Two Cities and Other places

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