Saturday, August 18, 2018

The 4th and 14th of July, the World Cup and more ...

July went by so fast - it was a very busy month.  I got up early on the 14 of July (Bastille Day) to watch on my laptop the parade down the Champs-Elysees in Paris from French TV.  I also sat in front of the TV quite a lot to see if the French football team would win the World Cup.  I kept notes and pictures.  I also followed the Tour de France live on TV for three weeks, both from Tennessee and Georgia and I'll have a separate post on it.  The first holiday was July 4th, US Independence Day.  I drove to my husband's assisted living place in the afternoon then in the evening I watched the Nashville fireworks on television.  A crowd of 250,000 was downtown Nashville to view the 30 minute long fireworks.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

I did not know that "Music City" as Nashville is called here, hosts one of the country's largest Independence Day party with live music, featuring this year Lady Antebellum, and starting at noon.  The celebrations are not only downtown but each neighboring community celebrates as well.  From my bedroom window upstairs I saw a lovely fireworks display before going to bed.  This 2018 July 4th in Nashville was impressive.  The city tourist office said that Nashville's July 4th "Let Freedom Sing" was its biggest show ever, the largest in the country even before Washington, DC, San Diego, New Orleans and San Francisco that were the runner up cities.  The Grammy Award winning Nashville Symphony performed a medley of songs perfectly choreographed to the fireworks show.  There were more than 60,000 shells, mines and comets launched with ghost shells and water fireworks.  More than 33,500 pounds of explosives and 100 miles of wire were used.  It certainly was spectacular.  (Photo courtesy visitmusic city.)

 On Friday July 13 I was reading French and UK news on the computer to find the best sites to watch the next day the Paris 14th of July parade.  I was very surprised to see the amount of people who had assembled in London that day to protest President Trump's 4-day visit to the UK.  About 50,000 people were expected and 250,000 showed up, on a weekday!  Which is more people assembling in London than people attending the Trump presidential inauguration in Washington, DC.  (The US is larger, so the equivalent would be if 1,500,000 people demonstrated here!)  The previous day, in Brussels, President Trump had said "I think they like me a lot in the U.K."  Wishful thinking as a poll showed 89% of the people in the UK have an unfavorable opinion of this US president and he is deeply unpopular.  A petition signed by 2 millions demanded that Trump should not be honored with a "state" visit.  So, his visit to Windsor (his itinerary avoided London mostly) was a "working" visit.  President Obama and his wife had a formal 3-day royal State Visit in May 2011 with all the pageantry, pomp and an evening banquet with Queen Elizabeth; they stayed overnight at Buckingham Palace.  Mr. Trump and his wife shared a pot of tea with the Queen at Windsor Palace and stayed overnight at the US Ambassador's residence.  (Photos courtesy the Evening Standard.)

The protesters called it a "carnival of resistance" to mock President Trump.  Students, retirees, families, professionals came from many cities to march, even celebrities such as Laura Carmichael who played Lady Edith Crawley in TV's Downton Abbey.  The protesters chanted "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA" and jeered while banging on pots and pans to "bring the noise."  The Brits were so angry at this visit that a crowd-funding campaign quickly raised £20,000/US $22,400 to build a 20 ft orange Trump baby balloon, wearing a diaper and holding a cell phone in tiny hands with Twitter on the screen.  The balloon was hoisted over the Houses of Parliament.

President Trump has a deeply controversial reputation in the U.K.  Londoners were upset that the president politicized the deadly London Bridge terror attack in 2017 and had said that British hospitals were "like a war zone ...knives, knives, knives" in addition to all his easily debunked lies (they are not used to them like we are in the US.)  The march organizers said "We're planning a proper British welcome for Trump." "Change for tolerance, justice and equality is no longer jurisdictional but global," "Moral outrage has no affect on Trump because he has no shame, he's immune to it, but he has a tremendously fragile ego so ridicule is an effective form of protest," "So we want to make sure he knows that all of Britain is looking down on him and laughing at him."  Donald Trump did not disappoint, in a televised interview he lashed at Prime Minister May and her handling of Brexit, but later during a press conference he dismissed the interview as "fake news" as he usually does when he does not like the reporting.  I also watched the Queen waiting for him, looking at her watch, but Donald Trump said that it was he who had been waiting for the Queen ... He had also walked in front of the Queen, not caring if she was all right.  I took the following pictures from my laptop screen.  I just could not believe the lack of courtesy shown the 92 years old Queen.  There were more planned protests in many cities and in Scotland.

The US Embassy in London had advised US citizens there to "lay low."  I hear some even carried Canadian newspapers in their pockets so people would not think they came from the US.  All this is embarrassing and humiliating for the US.  It is also quite sad as this country used to be admired by all in former times.  I just wonder what would happen if people in the US were as upset with D. Trump's lies as the Britons are and the same percentage would protest?  Never mind, let's move on.

"Défilé" is the French word for "parade."  On 6 July 1880 a government decree was introduced to establish a military parade as it is still known today.  In 1886, a woman, member of the 131st Infantry Regiment, paraded for the first time.  This year the 14th of July parade down the Champs-Elysees was memorable, as usual.  There were 4290 military personnel, 220 vehicles, 250 horses, 64 airplanes and 30 helicopters.  A new unit called ComCyber marched in the parade.  This command was created last fall to protect the state against increasingly numerous and sophisticated computer attacks against the French infrastructures and the French Armed Forces; 56 members representing the 3,400 ComCyber staff were in the parade.  The theme of the parade was "Brotherhood of Arms in Uniform: Commitment of a Lifetime."  It honored the soldiers who brought relief operations in the French West Indies after hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Security was high with 12,000 police forces during the parade and 110,000 all round France that day.  President Trump was the guest of honor in 2017 and he was awed by the parade.  He wanted his own parade in Washington, DC next November, and top the one in Paris, but it is too expensive and he has decided to return to Paris instead for the Armistice Day parade celebrating the end of World War I on November 11, 2018.  This year the guests of honor were Japan and Singapore, and seven of their soldiers, with their country flag, started the parade.

Singapore is one of the main partners of the French Air Force in Southeast Asia.  In addition, 2018 is the 20th anniversary of the training of Singapore Air Force fighter pilots at the French Cazaux Air Base were 300 Singaporeans live (largest community of Singapore nationals overseas.)  The year 2018 marks also the 160th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Paris and Tokyo.  Honored as well was the French military troop the 1st Spahi Regiment (pictured below at the bottom left of collage) as a tribute to two of their soldiers killed in Mali last February in an anti-terrorist operation.  Wounded soldiers were in the parade headed by their commander, who had also been wounded.  Following tradition, the parade ended with the slow marching Foreign Legion units, wearing their leather aprons - pictured at the bottom right of the collage below. (Photos courtesy Ministere des Armees.)

For some years now, a concert named Concert de Paris, has taken place at the feet of the Eiffel Tower with some of the greatest performers of opera and classical music.  The program this year was long and eclectic.  It included works by Berlioz, Verdi, Mozart, Borodine, Puccini, Rachmaninov, Debussy, Wagner, Haendel, Shostakovich, Offenbach and more.  (I don't think a classical concert like this would happen here, as not many people in the US appreciate this type of music anymore.)  Up to 90,000 came to watch the concert which was followed by fireworks.  The theme for the fireworks this year was "Paris de l'Amour" / Paris of Love.  It was chosen by the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who said "un peu d'amour dans ce monde de ebrutes." / a little love for this world of ebarbarians.  The fireworks were a colorful pyrotechnic show built around the theme of love.  Paris City Hall had said "The Eiffel Tower will be a gigantic beacon of ephemeral beauty celebrating love, sharing and conviviality."  The show started after La Marseillaise was sung (the French national anthem) in the presence of 500,000 spectators.  Music pieces about love were aired during the show including the Beatles' "All you need is Love."  It ended with the title "Allez les Bleus" or "Let's Go ... Les Bleus" the name of the French national football team.  (Photos courtesy Paris-Match, Le Parisien, City of Paris and Opera on line.)

The next morning, Sunday July 15, 2018, I was alone in Nashville to watch the football finale World Cup game on TV.  (All over the world the sport is called "football" and only in the US and maybe Canada it is called "soccer" to differentiate it from American football.)  My daughter and her family had left to visit in-laws in Atlanta.  However, they stopped in Louisville, Kentucky, to see if "les Bleus" were going to win against Croatia.  The French national football team is nicknamed "les Bleus"  the blues.  In 1919 the French Federation of Football (FFF) declared that the team should wear blue jersey, white short and red socks (the colors of the French flag.)  The team emblem is a coq with the letters FFF.  Since 1909 the coq has been their emblem and it is also the emblem of France.  In antiquity France was called "La Gaule" or Gallia in Latin. Gallus means people from Gaul and is also the word for coq.  France won the world cup in 1998 against Brazil in Paris.  I remember that the French Consul in Atlanta invited the French community there to come and celebrate.  I went, and it was fun!  Below are photos of my grandchildren watching the game outdoors in Louisville and photos of the two defending teams.

The 2018 football World Cup was the 21st and took place in Russia, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow (first time in Eastern Europe) from June 14 to July 15, 2018.  Initially there were 31 teams from 31 countries plus Russia's team as the host country.  During the games a total of 64 matches were played across 11 cities.  The cost of these games was over $14.2 billion.  The global TV audience for the final match was 1.1 billion and 3.4 billion people (about half the world population) watched some parts of the World Cup this year (in the US it was less than half of the people who had watched the 2014 World Cup because the US failed to qualify and they usually are not keen on watching other countries' games.)  It was the first time Croatia played in the World Cup - it is a tiny country with only 4.2 million people (in comparison the population of Greater Atlanta Georgia is almost 6.8 million.)  The final game was riveting as France defeated Crotia and won the title.  French President Macron was attending and was jumping with excitement.

  It was raining quite hard at the end of the game, but it did not stop the team and the fans' enthusiasm.  President Putin, shielded under an umbrella, congratulated the team.  There were fireworks under the rain in Moscow.  Antoine Griezmann was the star of the French team.  He either scored or set up eight of the 14 French goals in Russia.  When the game was over the team ran to him.  (He is shown top right in the collage above holding the trophy.)  His father's origins are German and his mother;s Portuguese.  His sister Maud is a survivor of the terrorist attack in Paris at the Bataclan Theater on November 15, 2015, which took place as he was playing against Germany at the Stade de France where there were explosions from the same attack.  The goal scorer, Kylian Mbappe Lottin was born in Paris in December 1998, the year the French team won their last World Cup.  He donated all his earnings from the game to charity.  From Paris to Marseille, Lille, Bordeaux, Noumea in Tahiti, to Cayenne in French Guiana, and St Pierre et Miquelon, French islands in North America, everyone was celebrating Les Bleus, even in foreign cities like New York and Moscow.  Parisians and tourists by the thousands sang, danced, honk their cars, waived the French flag, crowds assembled everywhere: in the Metro underground, 100,000 at the feet of the Eiffel Tower, more on the Champs-Elysees, singing "we won! we won!" "We are champions of the world!"  A young man wearing a Griezmann jersey said "Everybody is in the street - it's crazy.  There's no problem, no racism, everyone is happy together, only football does that."  I really wish I had been there. (Photos courtesy Ouest-France, Le Parisien, l'Equipe.)

Monday, June 11, 2018

A fallen tree

Years ago, when we moved to Georgia, we first rented a small house in Decatur, east of Atlanta and then we bought a house.  But when the first grade teacher of our eldest daughter told us that she was gifted we decided to move to a county where the school system had a gifted class program.  In 1976 we decided on Cobb County because we had a friend who lived there.  On the map below, Decatur is on the middle right hand side and Cobb County, where we moved next, is on the upper left of the map.

This friend had a lovely garden with many roses and ornamental bushes in his 1860 era historic house off the Marietta square.  In 1980 or maybe 1982 he gave me a shoot from his fig tree.  We planted it on the side of our house.  It grew into a large tree, higher than our roof.  It provided us with sweet figs every summer.  I made fig jam for years.  The last bunch I made from that tree, shown below, was in 2014 because that winter an ice storm froze our fig tree to the ground, and it was gone.

At the same time our friend had given my husband a shoot of his black walnut tree.  We planted this shoot in the front yard and a couple of years later, two trunks developed from the base.  The tree grew well and my husband loved it.  The Black Walnut tree is native to eastern North America (Juglans Nigra) and produces nuts in the fall. After several years our black walnut tree gave us black walnuts.  I never ate them because their thick covering is so tough that unless you drive on top of them you can't remove it to get to the nut kernels.  I did eat black walnuts that I bought at the market.  They have a more robust and pungent taste than the common English walnut.  Below are two engravings from circa 1865 which show the tree, the leaves, the green outside cover and the nuts.

Below is a photo of a black walnut tree like ours - with two trunks.  The leaves of this tree are dark green, rounded at the base with a long point; they feel soft and hairy on the underside.  The covering of the new nuts on the tree is lime green.  In the fall the leaves turn bright yellow. It really is a pretty tree.

Some years we did get a good crop of nuts and they delighted the squirrels - the nuts disappeared quickly.  In December 2016 I gathered the nuts in a basket to show on one of my Chalkfest posts.  The nut covering had by then turned yellow and even black.  This hard shell is quite difficult to remove from the kernel and will stain your hands badly.

This was my husband's favorite tree.  Our yard has many trees, mostly pines, but this tree was special to him.  He enjoyed placing a chair next to the hydrangea bush and read in the shade, under the spread of the branches of his black walnut tree, like in the picture below.

Below is another picture of him reading again under his black walnut tree.  This photo was taken on 17 June 2016, on our 49th wedding anniversary.

Next Sunday is June 17, 2018, our 51st wedding anniversary.  Unfortunately he will not be aware of it.  About ten days ago my husband woke up with a pain in one of his feet and could not walk.  He was in the bedroom upstairs, in Nashville, and could not go down the stairs.  With my knee surgery I cannot go upstairs yet while holding a tray of food.  For his own safety and mine I had to admit him into a nursing home memory care unit, close to Nashville, on Sunday June 3rd, 2018.  By now his Alzheimer's disease has greatly progressed - he cannot say more than 4 or 5 words in a day, does not understand much and is unaware of his surroundings.  The nurses told me that they were surprised at how well he was still doing physically after almost 12 years with the disease.  When I returned home in Nashville that Sunday I received a photo in a cell phone message from our neighbors in Georgia.  There had been heavy rain and high winds all week from the remains of a tropical storm and a tree had fallen on our roof.  Below is the picture she had sent me.

So I had to drive to Georgia to inspect the damage.  The drive from Nashville was pleasant because it was a warm and sunny day.  I stopped at my usual little rest area on highway I-24.  It is a small rest stop for cars only, no trucks but the view of Nickajack Lake is peaceful and relieves the stress of highway driving.  Below is a photo I took last November when going to Georgia and the one, on top, I took last week.  I usually stop and drink my coffee, eat a cookie and watch the water.

I was hoping that the tulip poplar tree or one of the small oak trees in the front yard had been the one to fall on our roof.  However, arriving at the house I realized, sadly, that is was my husband's black walnut tree.  The tree was not dead, just uprooted.  It had fallen the day my husband went into a nursing home - strange coincidence.  No one now will read under its branches, for ever more.

 The next day, last Thursday, a tree cutter team removed the tree from the roof and took it away. (Click on collage to enlarge.)

I asked them to give me a small disk from the tree.  After they left I picked up a little branch on the ground that still had some immature black walnuts.  I wish I knew how to carve wood.

Walking back to the front yard it looked strange now without the black walnut tree.  Behind the hydrangea bush there was a large empty space.  Next to this bush, my husband's planters did not have the usual colorful annuals; weeds had grown into them instead, and the pots look forlorn.  A lone black walnut, its tough casing about gone, was hidden amongs the leaves.

The hydrangea had certainly grown and had many lovely blossoms.  We had bought it in a small pot in LaGrange, Georgia, during their Hydrangea Festival in June 2010.  (I still have to write a post on this.)  I need to find out when is the best time to transplant it so I can take it to Nashville.

The house insurance adjuster told me on Friday that a new roof is required as the strong winds have damaged other parts of the roof, and the roof is old.  I'll have to get busy getting estimates for this now instead of clearing out the house.  Driving on the roads around the house, it looks the same.  But when I come back to the house - it is not the same.  I am alone among the boxes, but still, Georgia feels more home than Nashville - I have been living here almost 42 years now; everything is familiar and gives me some comfort.  The years have gone so swiftly by, speeding by as I was busy working, traveling, blogging.  Now my husband will not come back to this house, and our two special trees have left as well.  With this harsh reality should I have depressed thoughts?  No, I won't go gentle into that good night ...

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.  - Dylan Thomas

To warm up our thoughts here is a bright bouquet of hydrangeas by Japanese watercolorist Tsukiyo Ono.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Armchair traveling to ...Simla, India

Just a few more knee therapy sessions and it will be over.  It seems that this second knee surgery was easier than the last one.  But in the last few days I have developed more pain in my left ankle and foot - I had an injury there years ago and the ligaments are gone.  I'll see an orthopedist soon.  As the character of Gilda Ratner, Roseanne Roseannadanna, in the TV show Saturday Night Live used to say: "'s always something - if it ain't one thing, it's another."  C'est la vie!  I spent much time reading the first few weeks after surgery, not in an armchair, but in a sofa bed since I was not allowed to step upstairs to my bedroom.  (Below painting is "Reading Girl on a Sofa" by Isaac Israels (1865-1934) a Dutch Impressionist painter.)

The last time I went to our house in Georgia I gave about 400 more books to the library, but there are thousands more to go through.  For years my husband and I gathered books from book sales and second-hand bookstores.  Many are still unread and it is difficult to decide which ones to keep - of course my husband, because of his advancing Alzheimer's disease, cannot read anymore.  I brought several boxes of books to Nashville and while recuperating from my knee surgery I read "light reading" mysteries.  Then I decided to read a slim paperback I had bought in Monreal, Canada, years ago.  It is called "The Pool in the Desert" by Sara Jeannette Duncan.  It contains four novellas originally published in 1903.  The back of the book says "Sara Jeannette Duncan was the first Canadian woman to achieve international success as a journalist, novelist, and travel writer.  Born in 1861, she wrote more than twenty books during a career which took her to the Far East, India and England."

Sara Jeannette Duncan was a vey interesting and successful woman.  She was the first woman to be employed full time in a daily newspaper, the Toronto Globe, in 1886, and also worked for the Montreal Star.  She embarked on a world tour with a fellow journalist and while stopped in Calcutta, India, met Everard Cotes, a British civil servant.  She returned to India within two years to marry him.  She then spent the rest of her life in India, although visiting her family in Canada often and traveling to other countries.  Most of her books describe India in realistic local colors and her stories are in the setting of the manner of the Anglo-Indians of the British Raj, as the ruling party, the British Crown, was called in the Indian subcontinent from 1858 to 1947.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)

The book The Pool in the Desert contains only 189 pages but it provided me with hours of research and travel.  The stories are set in Simla, India, as it was called then; now it is called Shimla.  I researched this city and its history.  It turns out that starting in the early 1800s the British took refuge from the summer heat in this western Himalaya town because of its cooler climate.  At some 2,100 m (6,889 ft) above sea level, Simla, surrounded by deep forests of cedar, oak, deodar and pine, was a cool hilly town with green pastures and snow-capped peaks.  In 1864 it was confirmed as the British imperial summer capital of India.  It was nicknamed "The Queen of the Hills."  Below are some old engravings of Simla (be sure to click on collage to see well.)

Every year close to 5,000 British civil servants (imperial clerks and staff,) viceroys, military attaches, wives, children and servants made the tiring 1,200 miles journey from Calcutta to Simla.  There they built houses, cottages and bungalows (bungalow is an Indian word) in timbered houses, in mock-Tudor architecture, flower gardens, etc.  They also established several schools, a theatre, art exhibits, a post office, a mall with exclusive shops and a big bazaar.  They played croquet on the lawn, golf, and took afternoon teas.  It became a popular British "Hill Station."  Here are some vintage postcards.

To serve the Anglican British community Christ Church was built in 1857.  Below is a vintage postcard of the church back then and the way it looks now.

The English novelist, journalist, writer and poet Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) visited Simla yearly with his family.  His father, Lockwood Kipling was asked to serve in Christ Church.  Kipling wrote often about Simla.  Other personalities visited and some built summer homes there, including Lord Kitchener, commander of the British Army.  Artists visited Simla as well, such as the English artist and poet Edward Lear (1812-1888) who drew a series of watercolors of Simla and the surrounding areas.  (Shown below courtesy The Houghton Library, Harvard University.)

During the era of the Raj Simla had a reputation for being exclusive and expensive.  It also had a naughty reputation because of the concentration of so many unattached men (civil servants, engineers, soldiers, merchants) bachelors and women visiting during the hot weather season.  Young single women came from England in search of a husband among all the single English men there.  Rudyard Kipling said in a letter that Simla was a place for "frivolity, gossip and intrigue."  An area in Simla is even called "Scandal Point" because of its improper past.  It is a small square between the Ridge and the Mall Road.

Because the British viceroys spent from early April to late October in Simla and ruled the entire Indian subcontinent from there an official residence was built 2+ miles (3.5 km) from Simla in 1888.  British Viceroy Lord Dufferin and Lady Dufferin were the first to occupy the lodge on the 331 acre site, on top of Observatory Hills.  It was state of the art for the time, the first building with electric lighting, its own steam generator, and running hot and cold water.  Below is a vintage photo of the Viceregal Lodge, Lord Dufferin (1826-1902) Lady Dufferin (1843-1936) and one of the dining rooms - photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons Canada.

This magnificent building was in the "English Renaissance" style with elements from castles of the Scottish highlands, and interior walls covered with teak wood from Burma.  Its gardens were a perfect setting for garden parties; the immense lodge could host 800 guests.  At the time it employed a staff of 700.  Notable personalities were its guests and even Mahatma Gandhi visited the then  Vicery in 1940.  Below he is surrounded by a crowd upon his arrival in a rickshaw in Simla in 1940.

After India independence in 1947 the Viceregal Estate went to the President of India who just spent a few days a year there.  In 1964 the building renamed "Rashtrapati Niwas" (Presidentiel Residence,) became the Indian Institute of Advanced Study with the support from the second president of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a scholar of comparative religion and philosophy.  Now the Institute offers 2-year fellowships for research and study of cultures, civilization and meeting of different viewpoints.  The building has been renovated.  Several rooms are still open to the public.  (Photo below courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

India is a large country with an abundance of diverse and beautiful sights to visit so Shimla is not on the regular tourist circuit of common Western travelers.  Shimla is now the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Owing to its romantic setting Shimla has become an ideal destination for Indian honeymooners in summer and also in winter, under the snow.

In 1903 to afford easier access to their summer capital the British built a narrow gauge 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) railway from Kalka, near Delhi, into Shimla.  Until then everything, including official documents, came to Simla via mules and porters.  This railway is still in working order and a great tourist experience providing dramatic view of the hills and villages of the lower Himalayas.  This toy train travels at a clunky 15 miles an hour through 103 tunnels and 865 bridges.  It is one of the steepest railways in the world climbing from 2,152 ft (656 m) and ending at Shimla at an elevation of 6,811 ft (2,076 m.)  The journey takes almost 6 hours and goes through 18 small stations and 102 caves, making 919 curves and turns where many monkeys appear.  Originally known as the "British Jewel of the Orient" the Kalka-Shimla Railway became part of the Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008.

Once in Shimla one can stop at an outdoor cafe on a hill and observe the mountain tops nearby such as the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas, more than 19,000 ft high, the Rakt Dhar at 20,100 ft and the Badrinath at 23,190 ft.  Trekking circuits from Shimla are also popular - one day's travel will bring you to Dharamshala where the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government are in exile (also in the state of Himachal Pradesh.)  It is a spiritual center for Buddhism.  Every year Shimla hosts one of the toughest mountain bike races in India - the MTB Himalaya biking race which covers 400 miles (650 km) in 8 stages and draws competitors from around the world.

After spending so much time with Simla and its history I was hoping to find other books with stories set there.  At the Brentwood library I found the whole 12 mysteries written by British author Barbara Cleverly.  They cover the adventures of Inspector Joe Sandilands of Scotland Yard, after WWI, while on assignment in Simla.  Cleverly recreates the atmosphere of the Raj with wonderful descriptions of the area during the waning years of the colonial culture.  I kept my iPad close by to look up many of the Indian words she mentions.  One of them was "tiffin" as in a character saying "... will  you come and join me for tiffin ..."  Tiffin is an Indian English word for a type of meal, from a snack to a light breakfast or luncheon.  It is still popular today and usually is a packed snack or lunch.  A whole industry now produces tiffin boxes of different sizes.  In a Nashville Indian grocery shop I bought a small tiffin box to carry a snack when I'll drive back and forth to Georgia.  I even found a book of reminiscences and tiffin recipes from an expat from India.  I have read five books of the Simla mysteries and will read the next seven.  I'll be armchair staying in Simla for a while longer.

You could say I am immersing myself with nostalgia for the atmosphere of the old British Empire, but I am reading fiction.  In reality, I think that under the guise of helping faraway lands, Western powers plundered these countries like India on a huge scale.  Instead of being beneficial and humane colonialism robbed them of vast economic resources and wealth.  Imperialism had contempt for native populations, it was arrogant and self-serving.  The British were not benign and considerate, they were in India to exploit and for the benefit of their home country, not the local population.  For example India in the 18th century was prosperous with a 23% share of the world economy but when the British left in 1947 it was only 3% and 90% of the population was poor.  In 10 years (1891-1900) 19 million Indians died in famines alone.  I am just armchair traveling, escaping the realities from the pain of my surgeries, the stress of being a 24/7 caregiver for my husband and the difficulties of moving from Georgia to Nashville, TN.

I'll end this post with a quote from Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan who, with Prime Minister Jawaharial Nehru, registered in 1964 the Indian Institute of Advance Studies now located in the former Viceregal lodge of Simla, India.

"The greatest event of our age is the meeting of cultures, meeting of civilizations, meeting of different points of view, making us understand that we should not adhere to any one kind of single faith, but respect diversity of belief.  Our attempt should always be to cooperate, to bring together people, to establish friendship and have some kind of a right world in which we can live together in happiness, harmony and friendship.  Let us therefore realize that this increasing maturity should express itself in this capacity to understand what other points of view are."  - Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Le Carnaval de Nice (The Nice Carnival, France)

Because of my upcoming right knee surgery I won't be able to write a post for awhile.  I was going to wait until summer for this second knee surgery but the surgeon had a cancellation in a few days, and my knee is super painful now and prevents me from doing much.  I thought about writing a post but do not wish to talk about surgery, or my husband's Alzheimer's disease which is progressing - I may have posts on those subjects later on, but I wished to write about something fun, alive and French.  I have been unable to go back to France, my country of origin, since 2014, because of my husband's illness, and I miss it.  In 2012 we spent some time in Nice, one of my favorite cities.  Unfortunately, most of those photographs are still in Georgia, I just have a couple here with me in Nashville: a panorama, buying a souvenir, getting ready to take a picture of an old street and my husband eating Turkish sweets in our studio in Nice.

I have written about Nice in several posts.  Look at my July 20, 2013 post Nice and the Tour de France,  and at my addendum to my post of July 15, 2016 - here. The Nice Carnival is coming up and that is a fun subject!  First of all the word "carnival" is very old.  If you look for it in the American web, after you go through many entries on the Carnival Cruise Line, it will tell you that "Carnival is a Western Christian festive season that occurs before the liturgical season of Lent.  The main events typically occur during February or early March, during the period historically known as Shrovetide (or Pre-Lent.)"  Not quite, though.  As usual, the early Christian church took over the carnival festivities, as they did with many other festivals and holidays, such as the Christmas tree, etc., from the Pagans.  The carrus navalis was the boat on which Dionysos, god from the sea, entered the Greek Islands.  It is the oldest definition and pre-dates the Christian one.  It was in winter and was ritualized to bring back spring and thus the New Year.  Primitive men adorned themselves with animal skins.  Dionysos, below, from an early Tunisian mosaic.

This year the Carnival of Nice will be held from February 17 through March 3, 2018.  The carnival is opened by its "king."  The topic of the carnival is taken from the King's theme.  For example in 1890 it was the King of the Bicycle, in 1908 a Diplomat King, in 1927 King of Toys, in 1953 King of the Circus, in 1995 King of Movies, in 2010 King of the Blue Planet, in 2012 King of Sports, in 2016 King of Media and this year it is "King of Space" (Roi de l'Espace.)  It includes 6 carnival parades, by day and night, with more than 1000 dancers and musicians from all over the world along 17 made-up floats.  It also includes the traditional battle of flower parades with flower decorated floats and extravagant costumed models.  The Carnaval de Nice is the largest and oldest carnival in the world and the most important festival on the French Riviera.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

The Carnival of Nice was first mentioned in 1294 by the Count of Provence, Charles Anjou, who said he had "passed some joyous days of carnival in its good city of Nice."  The carnival of today started in the 19th century.  In 1873 a Committee for French Festivals re-organized the carnival of Nice.  They established the first street parades to provide a real spectacle for the community.  It became an annual celebration.  On various days throughout the Carnival, "Batailles de Fleurs" / battles with flowers, take place and thousand of fragrant fresh-cut flowers are thrown to the crowds from the floats.

In 2009 the carnival attracted 1.2 million visitors.  The carnival brought together 1,500 street artists and 1,800 people as security guards, escorts, trackers, etc.  It required 4,000 hours of work spread over six month, twenty tons of confetti, fifteen countries, 190 journalists, media from 19 countries and a lot more.  The Nice Carnival has been famous for a very long time.  Below are some vintage postcards on the carnival.

In addition to postcards, attractive posters have been created along the years, some by well-known artists.  The poster in the heading is courtesy Christian Estrosi, current Mayor of Nice.

Wouldn't you love to attend this famous carnival in Nice?  I certainly would!  How much fun to be there and watch the grand parade with all the themed floats and large puppets and all the attendants in outrageous costumes.  The floats parade around the streets of Nice, day and night.  On the last day of the celebration the King Carnival, who this year is the King of Space, and stands in the main float, is burned in the Baie des Anges.  This amazing spectacle is accompanied by a massive firework and music.  Oh la la!

Being France, they love to make fun at politicians, French and international.  This year the president of the USA, Donald Trump, will be depicted as a giant gorilla.  I read in a French newspaper that in one or more floats giant caricatures of Donald Trump, Theresa May, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin will be included as leaders of the "Planet of the Apes."  It is not surprising as in just one year the median global approval of U.S. leadership has fallen badly, according to a recent Gallup poll (the largest single-year decline.)  After just six months of Trump, confidence in the U.S. leadership fell 75 percentage points in Germany, 70 points in France, 57 points in Britain and 54 points in Japan.  So, no wonder they love to make fun of him, really all over the world.  Below is a worker making his final touches on the Nice Carnival puppet.  ( Courtesy of WAPO.)

This year's theme is drawing on real-life recent events that have been in the news, such as new solar systems being discovered daily, the upcoming sight-seeing trip around the moon, and events in science and education as well as news from world politics.  Some people may not approve of this, but this is untamed France with a long history of satire, as you can remember with the famous newspaper Charlie Hebdo.  (See my post of January 22, 2015 Charlie Hebdo and French Satire.)  This newspaper says "Charlie Hebdo is a punch in the face... Against those who try to stop us thinking.  Against those who fear imagination.  Against those who don't like us to laugh ... Charlie Hebdo has no need of God, nor any need of Wall Street.  Charlie doesn't need two cars and three cell phones to be happy.  To be happy, Charlie Hebdo draws, writes, interviews, ponders and laughs at everything on this earth which is ridiculous, giggles at all that is absurb or preposterous in life.  Which is to say - very nearly eveything.  Because life is so awfully short that it would be a pity to spend it whining in dismay instead of laughing it up a storm."  And more.  What better way to chase off the gloom of winter, health problems and disillusion in world politics than going to a fun carnival in beautiful Nice?  In Nissa la Bella! (shown below along the Nice hymn sung in the Nice dialect.)

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