a journal of...

A journal among friends...
art, words, home, people and places

Monday, May 18, 2020


This morning, damp and gray after nearly a week of beautiful skies and breezes...a little hot the last two days maybe but still drawing me outside as much as I could...it seemed like a good time to stay in bed with a good book. Sleep has been broken these past nights...why I can't figure out; some reel of odd worries that certainly one can't deal with at two a.m. keeps playing and the button to shut them off remains elusive.

At the sound of others waking up in the house above, I picked up Mavis Gallant's From the Fifteenth District, a collection of short stories I'd owned since at least the 'eighties.  The night before, I'd finished Pagnol's My Father's Glory, a charming remembrance of his childhood in the south of France, but didn't feel like starting the nonetheless anticipated pleasure of his second half, My Mother's Castle, so soon.  So a hand to the bookshelf brought out the Gallant, also about that part of Europe but in the hard period during and after the war.  The contrast between the two couldn't be sharper, but the French film maker Pagnol's views are so artfully witty, that the interior tensions of the Canadian expatriate Gallant's were their own draw.

This is all the review of them I'm going to get into, I promise.  I'm just saying that I am in the mood these days to spend a lot of time imagining life, for better or worse, in the south of Europe with large dollops of Paris on the side.  (My read before Pagnol has been The Paris Hours, a novel by Alex George,  that filled that criterion topically if not as satisfying.)  If the world weren't so closed off, I'd probably get on a plane and head there now.

I wonder why, this minute, I feel that pull.  There are so many unknown places I have yet to explore. Certainement, I have loved my small trips to Paris and to Aix, to the Luberon and the southern coast, mais oui, absolument.  Watching a film last night, which happened to be subtitled in French, I found myself reading those phrases more than hearing the English...it startled me how that language was suddenly gelling after my years of clumsy trial.

I guess that in these days of at least partial isolation the pleasure of those freeing journeys outside oneself rise up not so much out of memory but out of sensual instinct.  You can hardly blame me for my wanderings that recall what my spirit seems to need right now.  That lovely painted cover of Gallant's book has me placing myself in it, the broad-brimmed-hatted woman at the cafe table, a wine in hand, waiting for nothing in particular. (I could, in fact, be outside on the terrace here among the roses with a glass of wine, my pink hat on the table, waiting for nothing in particular, but I am guessing it would be second best.)

Back in reality, there is still a lot of pleasure in this lovely small place...a kind of substitute, it occurred to me the other day, for that wonderful Aix Airbnb Mary Ellen and I stayed in last summer...

Also, I've been wandering over to put my hand to helping Joseph with his rock walls and terraces at the house.  (They remind me a lot of the Luberon.)

I'm not, I'm sorry to say, any use digging, discovering, rolling and placing boulders, but give me a plant to insert or leaves and ivy to remove or weeds to pull or branches to cut up for the dump, and there I am.  Poking around in the garden is one thing I have missed since I've taken up apartment life, so it's nice to have that chance to cultivate earth only a few blocks hence. And also to be a small part of the evolution of that nondescript front slope into something more definite than I could have imagined, though goodness knows I tried to while I lived there.

There's that word again:  so much of life nowadays seems lived at once in immediate need (for health, for safety, for supplies, for closeness) and in the imagination.

Reading, for me at least, takes on its own necessity.  This time it's not so much a good plot or interesting characters or fine language;  it's the sense of a certain place, one I could recognize in a stretch of recollection (to borrow from Wordsworth), or of wish, an other-world that I seek (and no, I don't mean alien life on Mars).  I want to travel again to the certain pleasure those former places retain for me.

What a difference from last year, when my imagined itinerary insisted on places I hadn't been before, places that would widen my knowing the world, footfall by footfall exploring.  The world still shrinks more and more, even when we can't get to it, but somehow it is the sense of, and the memory of, travel that I want to find between those pages these days.

Reading has after all been, since I was a child and first learned the power of placement words evoked, a kind of traveling out from wherever I was.  I could get lost somewhere and still come out again.  I could be someone, somewhere else if I wasn't easy with who or where I was.  (It's the same story a lot of readers would tell.) Here again, in a closed up world, I'm traveling through pages by necessity.  Or call it yearning, if you wish...you wouldn't be far off.

Ah.  I see I am rambling a bit.  Be well, all.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Hunger, or The Art of Living

It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it … and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied … and it is all one. 
                                                                                                                                        —M. F. K. Fisher, The Art of Eating 

As you can see, I've been delving into old favorites for reading these days.  Unpacking books a few weeks ago, I recovered ones my eyes once glazed over, so long have they been on the shelf.

Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher's fine essays and stories always center around food, but they aren't only about what we eat.  Whether we eat to live, or live to eat, nourishment means so much more than food, she illustrates. It's a lesson that these last few months have made us learn, as we re-evaluate everything of worth...what and who we live for, what sustains us, and also the world, essentially.  

My friend Katharine, in her early nineties now, isn't, thankfully, without daily help to shop, do errands, clean around the house, but somehow even she, a woman who, I have always known, eats to live rather than the opposite, seems to see the certainty of dinner as the polestar of her day.  "I get up every morning," she told me on the phone from San Antonio, "pull myself together, and first thing go down to the kitchen to see whether there is anything for supper."

My mother, still at the breakfast table, used to ask whoever was in hearing, "Now what are we having for dinner?"  Sometimes we'd blink our eyes, bemused at that question so early in the day.  But since no one could accuse anyone among our family and friends of eating only to live, food for the day naturally seemed her organizing principle, too.  And no wonder, considering the uncertainty of number and tastes she would be feeding.  Anyone could, and did, drop in.  She and her generation grew up in the Great Depression, when a kind cousin had a farm and would share their produce; still, some days they ate oatmeal for supper, she would tell us.  (I wonder whether they complained?)

Though we are no longer in  quite so dire a depression, my cousin Barbara mentioned the other morning that she'd made baked oatmeal for breakfast, because the Cheerios box was empty, and she wasn't about to risk the supermarket just for that.  The grocery, even the smaller markets, are places we go now only at getting-to-dire need, first dressing in hats, gloves, and masks.  Some of us can order ahead for delivery; for that, however, you have to keep your fingers crossed that you have charted your needs correctly for the next few weeks. 

For those of us brought up to cook and serve whatever is on hand, being out of one's usual cereal isn't a big deal (and surely, baked oatmeal is no mean substitute, even for dinner).  We know how to make do, as our mothers and grandmothers, ad infinitas, did.  It's especially useful for the ad hoc way we need to live our lives these days to remain healthy and productive.  But Barbara's mother, our Aunt Sadie, is staying with her now, plucked out of her locked-down senior apartment before the Covid-19 virus could reach her from down the hall.  So she has an even greater reason both safety and nutrition concern her.  


As it happened, the same morning found me wondering (in a turning-into-my-mother moment) what we could have for supper...lemon risotto, shrimp, meatballs for Alexander who doesn't do shrimp, avocado and ? ? salad...  But like Barbara, I'd be working with what was already on hand. That risotto, the thought of which actually began in an email from David Lebovitz, his Citrus recipe using grapefruit and lime, had to be adapted to the lemons I had instead.  (It turns out that Lebovitz had to adapt his citrus ingredients, too, so we're square.) 

Plans, of course, change (another thing our mothers knew).  Joseph, coming in the door, reminded me that it was Cinco de Mayo, so he thought we ought instead to have...tacos!  Fortunately, he had the major ingredients at hand, since I somehow missed a chance to order this week from Goodness Cooks, two young women who make wonderful fresh, local, organic foods and had a perfect menu for the day.  

Alexander whipped up a batch of pina coladas (sin rum) to toast with...he knew the recipe.  We cut out flags.  The risotto will wait for another hunger.  That's life, too, as Mrs. Fisher means it...the fine reality of hunger satisfied, injected by more than necessity, that siren song of celebration or season.

Goodness Cooks' Triple Radish Salad
But what happens when even the mother of invention can't come through?  When not only Cheerios, but the stuff of any meal at all is missing?  Then both nourishment and the spirit fade.  And lots of other things, like a family's health, the ability to keep a job, to keep children able to learn, and a roof overhead, a safe home.   Hunger is at the root of so many things we take for granted.  But it's not something confined only to our kitchens.

Debbie Horwitz, PORCH Chapel Hill food sort, Covid-19 version
I am thinking that the prime intimation of Mrs. Fisher's quote is that we need continually to find ways to help nourish the community around us who are in more need than we, while we keep ourselves and them safe, too. Security matters. Health matters. Care for others matters. Sharing, as much as self-preservation, matters, because it is self-preservation, especially when the usual isn't the usual any more.  That ought to be something born or bred into us.  It's difficult to see, as we look at and listen to the sometimes petty, often selfish, and too often xenophobic complaints about the way we need to live these days, why it's not.

Thursday, April 23, 2020


The weather report claimed 73% chance of rain this morning until early afternoon, then again in the evening, but it is hardly a drizzle as I begin this, not my kind of rain at all.  On a morning when I can stay in bed a bit longer, reading until some inspiration flies in to do something other (like this), a more definite downfall is a preferable excuse for lying in.

Perhaps, I think now, if I keep typing, it will gain strength, drop from the patio umbrella at more regular and frequent intervals, and show itself cleverer on the glass tops of the small iron tables I have set between chairs outside the umbrella's reach.

The roses, just budding into color now, would certainly appreciate it after the drying (lovely bright) two or three days past.

In a way, I wish this spring would not rush on so.  Though we are in stay-at-home mode, the days seem perversely to whiz by.  I hardly noticed the azaleas bloom before they began to wilt.

In fact, the daffodils were still holding up in the shady places when the elegant royal irises down along the waterbed opened all at once.  I don't believe I ever saw a tulip closed...the ones I came upon a month ago were Joseph's, from his trip to Holland, their scarlet and gold petals already bending backward toward their fall.

The large, bulbous irises I planted a few years ago, white mostly, held their own for a while, proudly, and briefly I caught the one whose color I call young cabernet.  But I missed seeing the dark, nearly black few under the tulip poplar that defines our yard from the one behind it.

Defines is probably too definite a word for our back lot line.  I had a surveyor draw it out, it's so irregular in places...taking a 6-foot slice off the back neighbor's macadam driveway, in fact, though our gardening has taken up a good slice of another (long-deceased and so far uninherited) neighbor's plot of land to the west.  Soon after I moved in, I had to have taken down a secretly, but dangerously, eroded huge sugar maple (how sad I was) and planted pots of flowers on the decay-carved stump, then spread out from there into the newly opened sun to put down a path and other things.  Some time after that, I found out it wasn't actually my tree.  But the holding bank in Virginia hasn't ever written to correct my misplaced efforts.  Since then, Joseph has added his compost bin, and removed a plant or two that needed more attention than no-man's land could give it.

All's fair in root and rain, one could say.

Well, I'm sorry to say that the drops from the umbrella have nearly ceased, and barely a leaf of the roses is bending.  The birds have come back out of shelter to chirp orders for the day. I suppose that means it's time for me to go do something useful. 

Be well, all.

Monday, April 13, 2020

An ordinary day

Hah!  you are thinking...what's that, anymore?  The strangeness of these pandemic days has been going on long enough so that the aberrant has become nearly normal.  People complain of the closeness of living indoors and the often empty spaces between us outdoors, but I think some are settling in more than they realize to work and school at home, and home as the place where all the things that drew us outward, and often separated us, now come to rest.*

Imagination makes it happen easier for some...personal and family games take over organized sports, walks and bike rides instead of crowd-gathering.  There is time to read and listen, talk among instead of at each other, observe and wonder.  The space between us lets us breathe a little, even in confinement.  I love the way those fewer cars still on the road (less than a quarter what they were in this bustling town) seem to keep more distance from one another.

Today finding myself with no more steps to climb, no more loads to unload, little to do except hang some art, I had to sit for a while to reorient myself to the new ordinary.  My new living space has been, as I wrote to my friend Pam, a mental as well as spatial challenge.  I am not unhappy about the latter; I have come to see that what I am fits just as well in this small space as it did in the larger, and frankly, I kind of enjoyed the task of fitting things just so.  It's crowded in here, yes, but I have managed to bring along what I am...at least what I am now...and am content with that.  It's just that it's harder to make peace with what I have left behind.

Anyway, eventually I made myself some lunch, and afterward felt like taking a walk.  Last night's wind and rain had stopped, leaving branches and twigs strewn across everything, but the sun was out and it was getting hot and muggy.  I had a card to mail (only a week or so late...sorry, E. and J.), so I headed toward the post office in town, cutting through the arboretum.

I'm also loving, I might add, the way Instagram has heated up with photographs of people's wanderings, lots of flowers, wonderful inside and outside visions of corners we might otherwise take for granted.  All the while I was buried under bundles, they kept me cheerful, those pictures of a flowering world going on without regard to the viral net we are caught in.

Along the way, some strollers met me...a couple my age with a dog who seemed not to keep up with even its owners' slow pace, two men with two children each talking across one of the entrances to the park, regulation feet apart, and a man in mask and gloves who was so closely monitoring the campus gardeners I thought at first he was one of them.

At the Post Office, I spotted a friend just leaving it, and after I'd called out to him three or four times (I think he must be getting deafer than I am), he turned around and we chatted (regulation distance) for a few minutes.  He seemed to look much older than the last time I saw him...his face lined, his hair nearly to his shoulders, a little droop in his posture.  Goodness, I thought, he's five years behind me...I wonder what I look like these days.  Is it ordinary age or the unraveling of the ordinary that does this to us?  {Or is it just that nobody can manage to get a haircut?}

But it was good to catch up for a minute, and then go on our ways, promising (as we always seem to, even in ordinary times) to get together when things settle down.

On the way back home, I dawdled along the arboretum's paths.   My favorite flower, the iris, is showing off its elegant variety everywhere.  (And our visual irises, given time, are focused on them.)

Even the roses, in this heat and rain, unfold from what only a few days ago were very tight buds.

At home, I put some pots of herbs by the door, and sat down again to think...what next?  what ordinary task can I resume now?

It didn't take long to find a pile of ironing to see to, a shirt sleeve to sew, a favorite book to unearth and begin again [Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's The Nature of Passion].

But I'd barely opened it when the urge to write about this finally ordinary day overtook me and here I am, at the window where the newly installed umbrella sways in the returning wind, and the sun slides to the west to avoid as long as it can the returning gray.

On the radio, the jazz station is playing something smooth, and out my window a blue bird lights on the favorite perch of all the birds, the lamppost.

In a while, I will make another batch of egg salad,  heat up some asparagus soup for supper,  and settle into a movie, or the book.  The ordinary, however trite, makes me quite happy right now.


* I am not, be assured, discounting the price paid by those whose jobs are disappearing, whose homes are under siege from hardship, who are working or living at risk, unsafe where they are or with whom they reside, while others feel only discomfort.  This ordinary day of mine rests on a lot of gratitude and worry for others.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Living small

Good morning, friends.  Can you guess from the photo what my last two weeks have been like?  The current stay-at-home order seems a restful and calm dream, but I'm trying.  Soon I will be able to take part in it more than the 3/4 time I have now.

I'm moving again, from this apartment to a much smaller but nearer and dearer one.  So, except for the day that the moving company came (the same three fellows who have moved me that many times so far) to put most of my too-bulky furniture into storage, my days are spent slowly descending those 36 steps to pack the car with bags and boxes, riding to the new place (more about that in a minute), unpacking them and putting what fits into place, then returning with the empties to isolate as I am supposed to.

I've had some much appreciated help on the weekend from Joseph, Alexander and a student who is wonderful at keeping distance, wearing his PPE, and cheerfully carrying my endless boxes of books to be distributed among the rescue mission, Joseph's house (sorry about that), and the new apartment...an even number each, it turned out.  Today my helper is coming back to carry the kitchen boxes (see above) while I take whatever bags my knees will tolerate.  The rest of the weekend will be about weeding art supplies, most of the framed and 3-d art going to a closet in the house nobody is using.

All this is pretty uninteresting, I'm sure, except for the part about much smaller.  "You have a LOT of stuff," my sister Ann reminded me sternly, when I told her about the one-bedroom idea, but she encouraged me nonetheless...she's always been a proponent of leaving a smaller print physically while living larger spiritually.  I can't blame her; it feels good to unload...except for the art and books, which, as you see, I have managed to palm off elsewhere for the time being.  I don't even mind how long the time being is.

As I put things in place in the new place, I have even come to resent some of the things I have to keep.  Every day finds me sneaking another item into to the give-away pile.  Will I miss this, I ask myself?  Nope.  The response comes quicker than my next breath, sometimes surprising me, mostly not.  I'd be willing to bet that the next few weeks, isolating calmly, will find me looking at possessions with an even more exacting (as in the knife) eye.

So, you are itching to comment, Where IS this place?  

It's on the corner of the University (really), three blocks from Joseph and Alexander's house and my old beloved neighborhood, one block from the arboretum, across the street from the Forest Theatre and Battle Park, and three more blocks from the campus libraries and Memorial Hall, where the concerts are.  It's a few more blocks to the middle of downtown CH, and walking distance to everything I have and want to do.  I can take the bus, too, if I've groceries.  I'll send photos when I settle in.

It's lovely, the place and the location, and it fell suddenly into my lap in the way of the universe when it tries to shake you awake.  Or, if you prefer the more realistic, it's on the ground floor of the house of friends of friends...of a few friends, in fact...though I hadn't met them before, we share a small slice of history.

Outside the apartment the patio slopes down to a peaceful garden.  While I was unpacking yesterday's lot, Joseph and Alexander rode bike and scooter over to surprise me, and we visited out in the nice day...or rather I sat there, and Alexander took turns playing hide and seek, running races, and rolling down the grassy hill.  I'm living small on the inside, but outside it's wide and wonderful.

Back to do my daily car load now.  Just wanted you to know there's nothing sedentary about life here, my sincere dedication to stay-at-home notwithstanding.  Is there ever?

Thursday, April 2, 2020

A small peace of Wales

Oh, dear, this long-delayed post is early November travel...I worked at it a bit at a time, so my apologies if it reads a bit distantly and probably a bit disjointedly.  I thought I would get it out to you now, before I write one more in the present tense, and pretty much (except for my few days in London) finish last year's journeys.

The train from Glasgow to Cardiff had us waiting at an interim stop--Bristol, on the English side of the border with Newport and Cardiff directly across the Bristol Channel.  By then it was cold, rainy, windy, and the evening was crowded with weekenders going in many directions...gangs of young people, some celebrating already, whole extended families heading somewhere they would call home, workers in yellow road jackets and more workers with laptop cases, short skirts and skinny jeans, white shirts and tightly wrapped scarves, school children still in uniform.

We waited a while in the unusually seedy cafe on the track, finding an empty couch by chance, but after a while, I went downstairs to the main corridor where there were a few shops of the usual sort...a small M&S, a Costa...and walked while the notice board pushed our train time farther and farther out.

Darkness was closing in.  We were due at our Airbnb, but as it was fitted with a key-box, no one would be inconvenienced awaiting us.  It would just be good to get there and settle in after the long day's journey.

I was looking very much forward to Cardiff, at first hoping to get to the north of the country but realizing that time didn't permit it this time.  Cardiff, however, a port city with plenty of places to explore, would also bring me to meet Alastair, my uncle's nephew, whose path I had never crossed as we were growing up or later traveling.

Finally to Cardiff, we grabbed a taxi outside the station, as we didn't know the city well enough to walk...we were tired, too, and the rain coming down hard by then, and the unlit dark, prevented us mapping it.  The driver, however, didn't seem to have memorized the streets of Cardiff, and only Denise's phone's intervention eventually got us where we needed to be.  Hidden between a tiny cul de sac and one of the small closed canals (called docks or basins) that lead by paths to the port on Cardiff Bay, the two-story apartment seemed quiet, though strangely unready for guests.  True, home-store style signage everywhere welcomed us, invited our remarks and congratulations, pointed to cabinetry, and explained the digital heating system (a challenge even for our diverse experiences...heat going off at odd hours, etc.), but cupboards were full to the brim with the owners' foods and supplies.  Are they new at this? we wondered.  How did others before us manage?  We unpacked our dinner, some hot food we picked up at M & S in the Cardiff Central station, much more welcoming than the one at Bristol, and with some wine the owner(s) had left us, settled in.  At least the beds were comfortable, though undressing I had to drape my clothes over the television which overtook the dresser top and over my suitcase to avoid wrinkles...there wasn't a speck of room in the closets, chocked with the owner's things.

After a confused first night, morning bloomed cheery over the basin, where white swans dunked for food and a blue heron perched on a fountain in the yard next door.  People emerged from the surrounding houses with coffee cups and packs to work or school, families gathered on doorsteps and dispersed, and I couldn't wait to begin exploring.  The narrow table in the bow window downstairs  was a perfect place to have early tea and watch Cardiff open.  I was greatly looking forward to this day, Sunday, when Alastair and Jayne would meet us, he had written, and tour us around a bit, as they both worked the other days of the week, he in a tech office and she in a music school she and her sister run...long hours for both.

Here are my journal notes from our first day in South Wales:

Alastair and Jayne came about 10 to drive us around Cardiff...we should first see, they said, a round of the central city, from the Bay just below us to the park near the University of South Wales and the Museum where they were busy setting up the Christmas carnival.  We stopped there and walked a bit in the welcome sun.  Cardiff on a pretty Sunday is lively and full of walkers, bikers and children.  We found one of their favorite cafes and stopped for cups of tea, coffee, and a snack (I had a seed bar with dates, perfect).  


We sat awhile, talking, catching up, trading stories and opinions, then found the car again, meaning to drive to St. Fagan's historic site, which was a preserved farm and town that was a favorite spot for such a nice day.

Jayne wasn't feeling her best, but insisted on accompanying us...in fact she was our driver, as she said she felt better doing so.  The colors of leaves, the scent of flowers, and the warmer air followed us to an entirely erroneous route out into the countryside where sheep farms along narrow and narrower paths (one couldn't quite call them roads with the correct connotation), some still flooded with yesterday's rains, which made an adventure through the beautiful Welsh countryside, an adventure which, for us tourists, was worth every mistaken mile...we'd never have seen such bounty outside Cardiff otherwise.  Even Jayne, who is native to Cardiff, hadn't seen parts of it!

Hero of the day, she drove on til the GPS told us we'd arrived.  At this juncture of two even smaller paths, nothing but hedgerows to define it, however, St Fagans was nowhere in sight.

Fifteen miles later, after backtracking a bit, then traveling through St. Donat's, the storytelling capitol, many more tiny paths led us to the site and we had a fine afternoon--Jayne recovered a bit to good humor and smiles, or the bravery of them, as we walked through the old village farm, stores, houses, barns, sheds, following children as they ran here and there.   (Would they find it so wonderful if they lived in such a place at such a time, I wondered?  Who is there to ask, except Jayne?)

For grown-ups, St. Fagan's village brought memories of toasting bread on fires and sewing on slim machine as they came along in the graduated years of the houses on the Terrace alley.  On the way out, I stopped for as long as I could at an exhibit in the front hall called "Anchor People", sponsored by the University to record voices of people whose skills and leadership had pulled together communities in difficult times.  Tall photoboards of standing folk, all sorts in all sorts of array and poses and expressions, looked mostly straight at you as the recorded voices, heard through headphones, spoke their piece. So well coordinated and arranged, it was a statement part sociological, part historical, part artistic that made you want to listen, to watch, to learn what strengths and trials ordinary people in Welsh towns counted.

Admiring the Welsh handcrafts in the gift shop window, I listened while Jayne pointed out the Welsh gold, rare now, and mentioned that her mother's wedding ring had been made of it.  What a story she has...

Growing up not far from St. Fagan's, her mother blind and with five children under 7, their house burning, Jayne was called on to fetch her baby brother from the upstairs and come downstairs through the smoke.  "Count the stairs, Jayne," her mother called to her and they were all got out.  They never went back to that house again.  They moved nearer their grandmother, so that each could be a help to the other. 

The music school Jayne runs with her sister clearly inherits that resilience.  They work at it from 8-8 each day, and Jayne also teaches in the school and helps with church music.  You can tell their investment in it is heart and emotion first.  She talks about her students not only as musicians but as children with potential for a good life...the multicultural lot of them from the polite, diligent Japanese to the militant, physical drive of the Chinese, and other Welsh from poorer backgrounds whose music lessons are an opening into a wider view of the possibilities...there are older students (and their parents) who come in to help the younger ones with piano, violin and school work, often influencing them to go on to university (sometimes to the wary surprise of their families who might not have figured that).  Many, surprisingly, go into the medical field.  We speculated why...the math? the practice? the hand work?  At the end of the day, Jayne drove us by her studio, a first floor over a dentist who owns the building.  There is a large waiting room, she said, with two pianos, then a hall with a kitchen and bathroom nearby, a few more teaching and practicing rooms...all of which she is justifiably proud of.

She and Alastair met when he taught the Alexander technique, not far from the cheerful pub we ended up in that night, one of their favorites, where good food and drink after a long day gave us a respite from the returning rain.  Talking and talking (and why not? among people who are passionate and concerned about the world and slowly getting to know one another), the theme continues.  I hadn't known or remembered that Alastair was a nurse, to begin with, but eventually left because administration, the only way to increase one's advantage in the field, didn't appeal to him.  His job now, as a software developer, seems to suit him...he likes the puzzles of getting out quirks and kinks in the programs they do, which much enhances, I'd think, the company's reputation.  [And sure enough, just before the holidays, comes a photo from his proud mother of Alastair and a colleague being recognized for their work!]

A good day, a treasure of the trip to Wales.

The following few days had us exploring the port and riding on the water to get a sense of the city from its sea borders, visiting the Senned, Wales' parliament (see photos below), and the small castle (the house there was so much more interesting to me) and its grounds.

One day we explored the museum where the folk art and beautiful Welsh crafts especially attracted me,

and later took in a concert at the famed music school, at the edge of one of the most beautiful and natural parks I'd seen (and, believe me, I've seen quite a few)...

I walked up and down its tree lined lane at every chance, in any weather, and sat on one or another of its benches, the quiet and peace of the place so much an inspiration.

One morning I got up early and, at the suggestion of one of the Parliament agents, attended a committee meeting held to inform and question its Parliament member on children's rights, particularly as it referred to their health.  I couldn't take photos of them, but they had no qualms about letting me listen to their spirited and quite focused debate, the Parliament member getting quite a drilling.  I was proud of them for unearthing all kinds of World Health Organization rules being obtusely ignored by the Senned in regard to children's care.  It was clear that they brought their case well-researched and sent their member back (not without some shame, it seemed) to right matters.

There was so much to this small southern corner of Wales...I wish sometime to return to see the rest of the country.  And certainly to spend another day or two with the Alastair and Jayne, listening to their stories.  For Wales is a country full of music and stories the more personal the better.