Tuesday, February 23, 2016

TV, music, old postcards and photos of Paris ... and more

This will be an eclectic post as it has been a busy time for me and I was unable to prepare a post.  I re-read the comments on my last post and thank you all heartily for your good wishes for my recovery.  I think the pneumonia is gone - I'm seeing the doctor next week for my 6-month check-up and feel sure that he will tell me I'm OK.  Even feeling weak in early January I made sure to watch the first episode of the final season of Downton Abbey on TV.  As my blogging friend, Shammickite, guessed, the ending photo on my last post was from a book on Downton Abbey.

I also read "Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey" my second book by Fiona, the current Countess of Carnarvon.  I read it in two evenings as it brought to life such a fascinating look at the events in Highclere Castle during the 1920s and 1930s.  I was surprised to read on a French site that this show is not as popular in France as it is in England and here.  The article "Why the French don't like Downton Abbey" was in the news site 20 Minutes.  You can read the article here, if you speak French, or can use Goodle Translate if not.  The article explained that for the French, their modern history starts at their revolution of 1789 - when they guillotined a large number of the aristocracy as well as their queen, Marie-Antoinette, and her husband.  For fun though I checked French aristocracy on the web and was surprised to find out that there is a current head to the former Imperial House of France.  He's the great-great-great-grandnephew of Emperor Napoleon I of France, who had not direct heirs.  His name is Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoleon Bonaparte, and he is quite handsome (and not married yet...)

Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoleon Bonaparte, born July 11, 1986

Frankly, I had not heard of him before as the French have no interest in their aristocracy.  I found more information concerning him on British sites as Prince Napoleon Bonaparte was invited by the British in June 2015 to take part in the bicentennial celebration of the Battle of Waterloo (lost by Napoleon I.)  In top middle photo below you can see his tall figure at the battle ceremony (like his father, Jean-Christophe is tall, about 6 ft 6 (2 meters.)  On top left photo is Jean-Christophe next to his sister, Princess Caroline, and his mother, Princess Beatrice de Bourbon-Sicile.  On top right photo he is talking with King Philippe of Belgium and Queen Mathilde.  In bottom left photo Jean-Christophe is standing next to his grandmother, Princess Alix Bonaparte, at the Dome des Invalides in Paris (which contains Napoleon I's tomb.)  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

In early February we drove to Brentwood, TN, to celebrate my husband's birthday with our younger daughter and family.  Our daughter who had been in Paris and India with her family during the Christmas-New Year holidays was very upset to hear about my pneumonia.  She, and our son-in-law, insisted that we move to Nashville soon.  We did buy a house in Nashville a while back but thought we would rent it while we take our time to move there.  It will be difficult for me to clean out our house here (by myself,) in which we have lived in for 40 years, because of all our accumulation in it.  Our house in Nashville is a 1930 craftsman bungalow, in an historic district of Nashville, very close to Vanderbilt University, and a bit bigger than our current house in Georgia, but with a small yard (here we have an acre.)  It has fewer rooms than here but they are larger with 10-feet tall ceiling.  Here are some of the rooms below.

We won't move all at once, as this would be too hard.  We may move most of the furniture but keep some in Georgia and then live in both places for a while.  It won't be easy and it will be very time consuming.  This is the reason I can't visit blogs or write posts as often as I would like.  I'm sorry that in the last several weeks I have not checked my dear readers' blogs.  Taking care of my husband who needs help with all day living tasks because of his Alzheimer, as well as 24/7 supervision, is tiring and stressful.  His care is not difficult, it is just constant, with little free time.  We had a good visit in Tennessee and enjoyed the grandchildren.  I was given my Christmas gift of items bought in Paris - my current favorite perfume, Lancome's "La vie est belle" (which means life is beautiful) and a French Godiva box of chocolate (I say French because I found out that Godiva Belgian Chocolates (!) had been bought out by a Turkish corporation and that the chocolates were no longer made in Belgium but made in each country where sold, to the palate of that country's taste - in the US that means more milk, sugar and caramels and no liquor flavoring.)  My special French mustard was welcome as I use it often in my vinaigrette.

With the strain of being a care-giver, cleaning out the house toward a move is a challenge.  Some days I feel pushed to the limit, exhausted and a bit down.  I read that the emotional, physical and psychological toll on caregivers is soul destroying - but it won't destroy mine.  I am pleased that I have inherited the national French trait of "joie de vivre."  The French invented this expression which means joy of life.  "Happiness" is different from "Joy."  Happiness is something that is temporary and transitory.  One can be unhappy but still find moments of joys.  Joy is a belief, or attitude, which erases even the most sorrowful of situations.  Joy comes from within, it is something that lasts within you - joy is an inner, conscious belief.  Happiness is external.  It is not easy for me to explain it, so I call it my joie de vivre.  For me, joie de vivre, is a mindset that makes me look at my daily life events in a positive light - a victory over gloom, if you wish.  I enjoy living in the present, and finding some joyful moments in the present.  Because what is the alternative?  Being embittered and resentful of the past, complaining and being depressed of the present and anxious or scared of the future?  If one drags its past misfortunes and its future anxieties, it is too heavy - it become impossible to rejoice.  By coincidence I found out that the museum Palaix des Beaux-Arts in Lille (a town in northern France) just ended an exhibit entitled "Joie de Vivre."

Brochure of Joie de Vivre exhibit with Two women running on the beach by Picasso (1881-1973.)

One hundred and twenty works by Veronese, Boucher, Fragonard, Renoir, Rodin, Picasso and many other artists were selected because they showed the joyful pleasures of life - leisure, friendship, sun, family, party, laughter, play and anything that recalls the reasons we have to rejoice.  Because la joie de vivre is expressed through countless "small" transient pleasures it requires an acceptance of life, as it is, in the present.  I think, personally, that joie de vivre is simply to be happy "to be alive."  The sculpture below, by Richard MacDonald (American born in 1946) and entitled "Joie de Vivre" represents this sentiment very well; this feeling that sallies from within.

The Lille museum brochure explained "joie de vivre" thus - (I'll translate it below)
« la joie de vivre est la capacité à jouir du simple fait d’être au monde, d’apprécier certains instants agréables, qu’on les ait suscités ou qu’ils s’offrent à nous. La joie de vivre est vécue ici et maintenant. Elle peut être indépendante des conditions extérieures, et même s’éprouver au cœur de la plus terrible noirceur. Elle est plus attachée à l’être qu’à l’avoir, à l’être ensemble qu’à la possession ou la consommation de richesses.  »

"The joie de vivre (joy of life) is the ability to enjoy the simple fact of being alive in the world, to enjoy some pleasant moments, whether we made them happen or they came to us. The joie de vivre is to be lived here and now.  It can be independent of external conditions, and even be felt during times of most terrible darkness.  It is more committed to the notion of "to be" than "to have," to the total person than to the possession or consumption of wealth."  Below are some paintings from this exhibit illustrating la joie de vivre - joy of life.  Top left, Coco playing by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French 1841-1919.  Below is La Nana jaune of Niki de Saint Phalle, French 1930-2002.  Top right is Repas de Noces by Albert Fourie, French 1854-1937.  Center is September evening by Maurice Denis, French 1870-1943 and Loisirs (leisure) is at the bottom, by Fernand Leger, French 1881-1955.

I'll give you some examples of joyful pleasures I have had in the last couple of weeks.  Our eldest daughter is moving to Pittsburgh, PA, and wished to pick-up her large desk from her former bedroom in our house.  This is an antique British roll-top desk, very large and heavy.  It took me about a week to clean up all the various items on it and in its drawers, and that was quite tiring.  When the desk was moved several CDs which had fallen behind it were found.  One was a CD I bought in 1999 by a French "musette" group called Les Primitifs du Futur.   Musette is the accordion genre music played in France.  I usually do not listen to that type of music often, but finding this CD after almost 17 years made me very joyful - it sounded like Paris.  I played it while cleaning the rest of the room and I was smiling, no longer tired.  I found one of the cuts on YouTube - here it is below.

Another unexpected joy was when I was almost finished cleaning up the floor to ceiling shelving cabinet in my daughter's room and saw a very large box.  I opened the box and to my surprise, oh joy, it contained hundreds of vintage postcards.  I must have placed it there, decades ago, at least in the late 1980s, before sorting them out, and totally forgot about it.  What a gift!

I spent two evenings happily looking at these postcards - the box even contained postcards sent to my grandpa during World War I.  Like these 3 postcards of the castle of Crevecoeur where his father and mother, my great-grand parents, lived for many years.

There was such a variety of postcards - landscapes, international cities, flowers, monuments, people, etc.  I selected several to give you an idea.  Click on the collages twice so you can read the titles on the postcards.

The only postcard without a title above, top right, is the Hotel St. Gellert Szallo in Budapest, in 1916-18.  I found a current photo of the hotel - which is still in business - on Wikipedia, see below.  It mentions that this hotel, built in the Art Nouveau style, and renovated in 1962 and 1973, is one of the most beautiful hotels in Budapest.

Some of the postcards have stamps and writing on their back, others are blank.  Speaking of hotels, one of the postcards is of Hotel Regina in Nice.  I was surprised to read on the back of the colored postcard below, top right, long loving phrases by a woman, covering the entire back of the postcard, writing to her lover I guess, and telling him to be careful around her husband and to make sure that he never finds out that she had slept with him (her lover) - at this hotel ... Oh la la!  The Excelsior Hotel Regina built at the top of Blvd de Cimiez in Nice on the Riviera, is a splendid Belle Epoque building.  It was especially built in 1897 so that Queen Victoria could stay there, in style, while in Nice.  She travelled with a staff of 100 and took over the whole west wing.  In 1912, a statue of the Queen was erected in front of the hotel.  It is now a luxurious and very upscale apartment building.

Some of the postcards were quite old, as far back as 1899.

The postcard on the left is a coffee seller in Zanzibar.

But one of the greatest joys happened last Friday, February 19th.  I have a French friend I have known since the late 1950s.  She now lives in Iowa and I see her once in a while when she visits Atlanta.  Last Friday I received several emails from her containing old photographs.  She said that she was looking at some old photos and thought I might like them.  I was totally speechless when I saw them.  They were photographs that I had never seen.  She had photos of the dining room of my parents' apartment in Paris.  I had no photograph of this room. This is the Paris apartment where I grew up and went back to until I was in my mid-thirties.  Just imagine if suddenly you saw a dining room of your former home - a room you had not seen in 45 years!  As you can see my father liked antiques and the furniture was too large for the room.

The photo below shows part of the piano in my room where my father played Chopin.  The armchair next to the piano was made of leather and not very comfortable.

This friend, Marika, sent me several emails with pictures.  The last ones delighted me the most - again, I had never seen these photographs, and here I was in Normandie in August 1971 with my eldest daughter, Celine, who was about 2 years old then.  Marika had visited us in France in the early 1970s when I went on vacation to my parents' summer home in Normandie.  Here are the photos below - some with my mother at the market in Dieppe, I think, or Mers-les-Bains.  I cannot describe the joy of looking at the pictures of my mother, photos that were unknown to me.

My philosophy of joie de vivre might sound a bit simplistic, but the little moments of joy in my life keep me optimistic and able to go through the moments that are more difficult and stressful.  I'll end this post with a painting from the exhibit in Lille, showing an example of joy - "The Laughing Boy" painted in 1625 by Frans Hals, Dutch, 1580-1660.  The artist has captured the wonderful sparkling eyes and cheerful smile of this boy - he radiates joy.

 Looking at him makes one feel good and able to understand the ...


Note: top photo was taken on the Alameda shore, California, in July 2015 with San Francisco in the background, and the last picture I took off the coast of Martinique.

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