Paris in mugshots

Daughter and I embarked on a mother-child bonding adventure in Paris, France. It was a perfect setting for finding common ground for it took our joint breath away and it made us contemplate things greater in life than our daily squabbles.

Places to visit in mugshots for those wishing to soak in some culture, history and arts in one potent cocktail, shaken – and – stirred:

Basilique du Sacre Coeur

Chateau de Versailles

Jardin de Versailles

Cathedral of Notre Dame

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The Eiffel Tower

Cruising on the River Seine

The Pantheon

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Louvre

Palais du Luxembourg

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We were swept off our feet, humbled, elevated and so very proud to be European. Admiring the wonders of architecture, sculpture, paintings and arts, wondering about the great minds – philosophers, writers and thinkers who laid the foundation of the unique European culture which shapes us today, remembering the history our ancestors built together, the blood they shed and the blood we share as it curses through our veins and makes us all one and same people, we couldn’t shake the sense of loss that is Brexit.  Cutting Britain off the face of Europe is the proverbial cutting one’s nose off to spite the face, an act of self-harm.

A few snippets of what we are -metaphorically at least – leaving behind:

 

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The Prom Queen and an Ugly Duckling

I am an emotionally charged Mummy. Yesterday was Daughter’s prom. Fab day for Daughter, a rollercoaster of emotions, dramas, malfunctioning Satnavs, makeup disasters and bare-knuckle fights for me.

A whole day off work was requisitioned so that I could assist Daughter in her transformation from her customary leggings/baggy t-shirt getup and an aversity to hairbrush to… well, this amazing beauty I hardly recognised. I hasten to add that by assisting I mean chauffeuring to and from appointments, getting under her feet, stabbing her with a mascara brush in the eye and tying her shoelaces. I left the proper stuff to the professionals. And here comes my Prom Queen:

I am amazed and proud, and taken aback by her confidence and grown-up poise neither of which she got from me. And I thank her lucky star for that!

To illustrate my point, I will take you back in time to my own prom. What a tragic affair that was! For I was the ugly duckling who had never made it to the rank of swan.

First of all, it was a social event. Social events weren’t for me. They scared the living daylight out of me (still do, but pst…) as I had no idea what to say and felt deeply uncomfortable rubbing shoulders with all those people who knew exactly what they were doing. My thoughts were far away in lands fantastical and if I were to articulate them, my peers would regard me with contempt, I was sure of that. So I kept my mouth shut. I had no boyfriend. I had zero social acumen.

On the morning of the prom, while other girls were having their hair and nails done, I was away attending the final of The Young Writer 1985 competition. Instead of shoes and makeup, I was contemplating restless ghosts and the sound of a black horse’s hooves on a cobbled road in my gothic horror piece. Incidentally, I came third so that wasn’t a runaway success either.

From that event, my Dad drove me home at breakneck speed (in his car, not a black-horse-and-cart). With half-n-hour to the start of the prom, I hurriedly refreshed, washed the ink away from my fingers and wrapped myself in my new shiny dress (my Mum had chosen it for me on her own. I had been too busy doing something much more important at home).

It wasn’t only the dress that had been chosen for me behind my back and without my input. It was also my partner for the evening. Did I mention I didn’t have a boyfriend? But I did have a few good-Samaritan friends. One of them had recruited their brother’s mate to accompany me. So there I was in his arms on the dance floor, breathlessly counting the steps and never taking my eyes off my feet. Poor guy, it must have been the worst night of his young life!

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When you want to go invisible – step by step instructions

When you want to go invisible:

  1. You climb under the tiniest footstool in the house;
  2. You keep your tail tucked under your backside and avoid wagging it;
  3. You put on an innocent, but sheepish face;
  4. You pretend the legs and tail sticking out from under the stool have nothing to do with you.

Visual guidelines:

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This dog has performed the invisibility manoeuvre. The causes are still under investigation – I am checking all my slippers for bite marks and whether my bed has been slept in by uninvited guests. The local cat population is being examined for missing tails and ears. Husband will inspect his flowerbeds for signs of tunnelling. Meantime, Dog remains invisible.

Canada in instalments: 5(and last) Wildlife

Canada is brimming with all manner of creatures, large and small. But mainly large. They have the capacity to stop the traffic, and they often do. It is as if the entire effort of our human civilisation has passed unnoticed in this wild part of our planet. Quite rightly so!

Last few images from Canada to enjoy:

Canada in instalments: 4 Nature

God has created Canada in his image – no doubt about that.  The Canadian mountains carry themselves with dignity. They are simply magnificent: ancient, rocky, covered with a thick blanket of impenetrable forests. They sit in splendid silence, letting Nature do her talking.

The Canadian Lakes are equally majestic. They are filled with spirits and dead souls, hiding dark secrets within their depths. Legends are told about them, passed from generation to generation. Some are sacred and you don’t have to be told to know that. You can sense it.

But I will let the photos tell their story:

Canada in instalments: 3 Its People

As mentioned previously, size matters in Canada. People there have big visions and they live in huge log cabins (you could carve a Titanic-type cruiser out of one of those logs!). Inside their enormous homes, they drink lots of spirits out of gigantic bottles (photographic evidence to follow in the slideshow below). They are also biiiig party animals. Every night they hold five-course meals for themselves and the legions of their many friends. Did I mention that Canadians are extremely sociable, chatty and generally great mixers?

But when in Canada one tends to go searching for the Last of the Mohicans. As did we. We tracked them down in the end and, although they didn’t resemble Daniel Day-Lewis closely, I felt like I caught up with the ghosts of the land. And I felt honoured to speak to those amazing – and elusive – people. That brought back memories of my childhood when I would always be an Indian when we played Cowboys & Indians. I even had a bow with arrows and a feather headdress!

 

 

 

Canada in instalments: 2 Glaciers

Even at the height of summer, you can find a cool spot in Canada. You can go further than that and find a place that is frozen rock-solid. All you have to do is to catch a ride on a huge, Moon-buggy like vehicle with wheels the size of a house all the way up the mountain to a nice and shiny glacier. And there you are: freezing your backside off and sliding like a caterpillar on a wet leaf!

The glacier is sprawled on a side of the mountain like a giant knee cap on an ogre’s knee. It is slippery and treacherous, and if you set foot over the boundary, you may just slip into an icy tube that will take you all the way to nowhere.

When you decide to visit the glacier, remember to ditch the bikini and put on ear warmers, scarf and mittens. Bon voyage!

Alternatively, take a look at some photos:

Canada in instalments: 1 Port Edmonton

Canada is big. You will hear a lot of that in this travelogue. The country is big. The mountains and the lakes are big. Animals are bigger than our equivalents of them. People are big and they are also big-hearted. Following in this tradition, Port Edmonton is big too. You don’t know where it begins and where it ends. It just sits there in the windswept and open plains, which may be prairies, or may not be prairies at all, but they are vast, flat, blanketed with weather-beaten grasses and punctured with coniferous trees. So to me that equates prairies. Port Edmonton is sprawled in the middle of that vastness.

Whilst there, our wonderful hosts took us back in time to Port Edmonton of the yesteryear. You might think that there is no history to speak of in Canada and you might even be excused in thinking that any trip back in time will take you straight to the Stone Age. But you will be wrong. Take a look at this little gem of the Wild (Canadian) West:

The Grand Old Duke of York…

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It was time for crossing the North-South divide and following the grand old Duke of York to the top of that hill. We travelled to York ready for a frosty reception and the War of Roses. But it was a friendly and warm place, and it offered peace to the world on all fronts.

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For a few days we lived in the friendliest little B&B, run by a Viking-type character with red hair, plenty of tattoos and non-nonsense approach to hearty, protein and fats-packed breakfast, bless him! We dined on traditional Yorkist food, slowly becoming full-blooded troopers.

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For some diversity, we lounged in Turkish Baths: a whole evening dedicated to sweating, braising our bodies on full heat and then dipping them in an ice-cold pool. Something akin to making wrought-iron swords of ourselves. There was some hyperventilating on Husband’s part, but he recovered quickly and without grumbling.

On a cultural front, we visited York Theatre Royal to watch Agatha Christie’s murder mystery (nearly wrote mysery!). It was excellent, stylish and true to Miss Marple.

But the most satisfying was just loitering around York and inhaling its atmosphere. We scaled the walls and were nearly swept off them by the gales. We trotted to and fro in the Shambles, searching for ghosts of the past.

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York Cathedral took our breath away. It’s a living form, not a building. It sits on ancient foundations which outdate the Romans, and it rises all the way to heaven. One can just settle down in a pew and soak in the spirits that float there free and unobstructed by the twenty-first century.  Some of them have their heads immortalised in one of the chambers.

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Bath – time

 

My gorgeous bestie back from the ancient days of our primary school visited me this month, all the way from Canada. Naturally, we concurred that we had not changed (or aged) one bit: me – still deliciously chubby and pale, her – still tall, slim and gorgeous.

First thing first: Dog had to be bribed and made friends with. It took just a few minutes and plenty of treats.

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Having conquered the dog, my friend was free to take over Bath. Bath is the most wonderful place on Earth if you’re into history, culture, shopping and Jane Austin (or Mr Darcy by proxy). So, we shopped. Oh yes! Big time spenders, us! Then we detoxed through the cultural experience of watching the yummy Laurence Fox (Hathaway in Lewis for those who don’t know him – yet) in The Real Thing in Bath Theatre Royal. Finally, escorted by my husband to avoid scandal, we bathed, sweated and performed heat-yoga at Roman Baths. Hot stuff! And decadent!

Of course, we dined and we wined. I’d recommend the oldest eatery in the world, Sally Lunn and her amazing buns filled with hearty, finger-licking food.

And finally: did you know that Bath is the stag-hen parties capital of the world? Now you do! We found ourselves a hunk of a stag to drape ourselves over and Husband wormed his way into the heart of a sitting duck ( I mean – hen!).

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