Happy New Year from Paris

France is the only country that I know of that does not send Christmas cards as a rule but instead sends New Year’s cards.  We have the whole month of January to get the cards out.  Ergo, I feel just fine wishing you all a Happy New Year fourteen days into 2018!

I took quite a bit of time off from this blog–I spent two wonderful weeks in London.  I’d heard for many years about the lights and store windows of Harrods, Fortum and Mason, Selfridges and was looking forward to a festive time. I exchanged homes with a wonderful family from Finchley, North London.  They stayed in my home in Oakland, Calif and I stayed in their home 25 minutes by underground from the centre of London.  For the Christmas season, it felt like the best of two worlds.  London centre was alive with tourists, shoppers, lights, thousands of people swarming the sidewalks while Finchley was quiet and peaceful.

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Arriving at St Pancras station

The first week was very cold.  My friend, Meg, from Antibes joined me.  A Brit by birth, I had the luxury of just hanging on to her coattails and following her as she led me all over the place and we never got lost!  On Saturday, Dec. 23rd, we had tickets to hear the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Westminster Abbey.  It seems that a tourist must pay 22 pounds to visit Westminster.  However, with this ticket, I entered for free and heard the beautiful Westminster Boys Choir.

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Westminster Abbey

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The next evening, Christmas Eve, Meg took me to dinner at a long time friend’s home.  The family couldn’t have been more welcoming.  They gave me presents and thanked me so much for joining them for dinner.  Hello, shouldn’t I be thanking you??  The Brits are quite a people.

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Christmas Eve dinner with our paper crowns from the crackers

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Meg told me that for Christmas Day, every good Brit stays in their pjs and watches TV all day long.  It must be true because most of the channels had movies – of which we watched quite a few.

Meg took off on Wednesday to stay with her brother in southwest London and I prepared for my Paris friend, Barbara, to join me for the second week.  One of Meg’s friends introduced me to Todaytix.com which sells tickets to West End shows for a discount.  We got excellent seats for An American in Paris for 20 pounds each.  Barbara struck up a conversation with the couple next to her and found out about two more sites Lovetheatre.com and Amazontickets.com, that sell discounted tickets.  Through Lovetheatre.com, we bought terrific seats for a new West End production Girl from the North Country, a show based around Bob Dylan songs and Kinky Boots which I’d heard wonderful things about and Barbara was willing to go along with.

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Sara
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Barbara at Kinky Boots

 

Twenty years ago, coming to London to go to the Theatre was probably the best deal in the world.  Prices were extremely low and even more so if you were willing to stand in line at the HalfpriceTix stand in Leicester Square.  No longer true.  I saw the prices in black and white but had a hard time adjusting to the extraordinary fees for tickets.  The Book of Mormon ran 200 pounds a person and were only slightly discounted on the good sites.  So I was so happy with Rush prices and discounted prices.

New Year’s Eve, we had planned to go to a movie and watch the Fireworks on the Thames on the TV from the comfort of our couch.  As it turned out, we picked a movie that was playing at Piccadilly Circle.: Call Me By Your Name.  We both wanted to see it as it was receiving nominations already and there were (still aren’t) no signs of it coming to Paris in the near future.  As far as I’m concerned, it deserves all the rave reviews it is receiving.  Reviewing it will be another blog!  We left the theatre at 11:15pm and were told that all the underground stations nearby were closed for the Fireworks show.  So we walked to Oxford Circle.  Regent Street was closed off to car traffic and we, and thousands of others, were walking in the middle of the street.  There is something so freeing and lighthearted about walking on a main street in a busy large city and there is no traffic.

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Regent Street close to midnight New Year’s Eve
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Sara with wings!

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I found myself on January 4, not wanting to leave London.  That is what a good vacation is supposed to be.  One leaves wanting more instead of dying to get home  What was especially wonderful and surprising for me was that I hadn’t really wanted to go.  I thought it was far too soon to travel when I’d just returned from California a month before.  So to have the two weeks be so relaxing, so entertaining, so Holidayish if you will, was really a wonderful Xmas present.

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Fifth floor tea shop at Fortum and Mason
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The famous Fortnum and Mason baskets

I will close by telling those of you who don’t already know about the Charity Shops in the UK.  I love them.  I’ve been going to Newmarket every October for five years and discovered a Charity Shop every 100 yards or so.  Whenever I am in London now, I look for the Charity shops first.  I always walk away with something that I fall in love with.  This time, I found a wonderful sweater, a pair of gloves (mine weren’t warm enough) and a little wallet for my Oyster card and UK money.  These aren’t consignment shops that are almost too expensive for someone like me.  I like a good bargain but also something I can use.  I bought some Christmas tree balls just for a lark and got home to Paris to find that Bijou, the cat, had managed to bring down my little Christmas tree and I had less than half of the decorations I started with.  The joys of cat ownership!!!!

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near London Post Office–Regent Street

I hope your New Year is starting off well.  And may 2018 see some change toward the better for the world.  With so many body blows on a daily basis, it is often hard to stay open to the hard work and action required to make this world a better place but if not us who?

A bientôt,

Sara

 

One foot in Paris and one foot in…..

Christmas time is a season I love….for all the wrong reasons!  I love the fading light as the days get shorter, especially walking in Paris when the sky is a pinkish grey turning to dark purple then to nighttime black.  I love the lights around the Champs Elysees and the Ave. Montaigne.  Many arrondissements have also decked themselves out near the Mairie in an array of colours and blinking tiny little lights that tell you that FairyLand is around the corner.  The windows in the Department Stores are a delight for everyone of all ages.  There are tables set for Christmas Eve dinner with animals prancing around, chasing each other and having wonderful fun.  Mama Bears are serving up a meal and Papa Bears are cutting a turkey.  In another window, there are trapezes with more animals and dolls all sporting the the bags and clothes of the Designer who is sponsoring the window.  I don’t care.  It’s a treat!  In front of the window are families.  The adults in the back and the children up at the windows with their hands out wishing they could touch what is inside. My gardienne put up a large tree with wrapped presents under it.  The lights twinkle day and night.  I’ve never seen an apartment building like that before.  I think I have a very special gardienne.

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I’m not religious so I don’t need all the icons that go along with Christmas.  I don’t go to the Christmas concerts unless it’s Sing Along Carols.  Those I love.  My friend, Meg, is taking me to a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Westminster Abbey when I’m in London.  This is quite religious but at least this year, I’ll hear it in English!  I can be talked in to most kinds of music with the codicil that I can leave early if I’m not happy.

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I even love giving presents.  I’m not the person who shops at the last minute which probably makes a huge difference in how much I enjoy gift giving.  I shop all year long looking at things and thinking “my sister would love that”.   I buy it and put it on my gift shelf to be wrapped at a later date for a birthday or Christmas.  So unless someone tells me that their house is bursting at the seams and not one more thing can come inside, they will get a gift from me no matter how old they are.

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Last summer, when winter and Christmas seemed light years away, a family in London asked if I wanted to do a Home Exchange.  They would spend the month of December at my home in Oakland, California and I would spend at least two weeks at their home in London.  I’ve always heard that London really knows how to throw a Christmas party.   Each time I mention to someone that I’m going to London, I hear “You have to go see the windows at Harrods/Fortnum and Mason/John Lewis, etc”  So more windows to appreciate.IMG_0062.jpg

Yet, while all this beautiful and festive time of year surrounds me, my mind and heart are partly in Princeton, NJ where my uncle Stan still lies in a hospital bed in the Skilled Nursing floor of his Retirement Home.  Very little has changed.  I’m told his appetite is coming back and the hope of everyone that loves him is that this will make him stronger.    And being stronger, his Physical Therapy will go better.  Which means he will become more mobile.  Being mobile is critical as Medicare, the great American social insurance plan for adults over 65, will assess him soon and tell us and him what his future will look like as far as living conditions go.  I feel strongly and passionately that I don’t want Medicare being the boss.  I want to be there and with his family and friends, tell Medicare this is what we can do for him.  We will make it happen.  Stan needs to stay in his apartment, there is no doubt in my mind.  Enid, his wife of 61 years, lived there with him and her presence is everywhere.  His computer, which is his lifeline to the men who are still living and flew with him in WWII, is there.  All his Princeton Basketball paraphernalia is there.  He has tapes of games going back for years.  He still watches them.  His freedom is there.  On every phone call with him he says “I am so helpless.  I can’t stand it”

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Cousin Joan and I are determined to create a bedroom for him that can have a hospital bed and a bedroom for a live-in aide–hopefully a strong male aide.  Joan wrote a letter to Stan’s lawyer asking for some kind of contract that Stan could sign saying he won’t hold Stonebridge responsible if anything should happen to him.  Even if Stan lives less months that he would if he were moved, the months would be as “good as it gets” months for him.  That is what is important.  That he leave this world with the things he loves and the people he loves surrounding him.

Those of you who have read Being Mortal recognise that some of my strength is coming from reading this book, this text for how to humanise the end of life.  And I’m not foolish enough to think that reading is doing.  I think it is going to be quite hard to talk about this stuff with the doctors, with Stonebridge, maybe even friends and family.  We Princetonites are supposed to be intelligent and educated.  So we’ll see.  I have planned a trip back there in January.

Meanwhile, it’s off to London.  It has been a long time since I spent any time in London.   More to come in these pages……!

A bientôt,

Sara