Cuba – Written On The Streets

Cuba Part 1.
Look up if you dare, but look around

I needed a distraction after a very tough week of nursing and subsequently losing a much-loved chicken, so I thought that some photos – not too much writing – would take my mind off things a bit

So, I thought of last year’s trip to Cuba. Oh, where to begin?

Perhaps I should first explain that Havana is not for those who worry about health and safetyIMG_1005

Indeed, much of Havana in August 2016 was shrouded in wooden scaffolding and/or covered in vibrant and often large-scale graffiti. Some bits that weren’t (held up by lumps of wood) threatened to tumble without notice, and local people shouted warnings as we approached dangers more visible to them than to us:IMG_0908

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Whatever your view of graffiti, it is hard not to be impressed by the quantity and variety in Havana (I have hardly touched the surface here). I honestly did not know where to start with last year’s pictures of Cuba, because it is such a massive resource, so I’ll start with this less obvious subject matterIMG_1675

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I still need to post photos of the buildings, the people, the old cars (Oh, those cars – it’s all true), but for now at least I have finally committed to a series of posts about Cuba

With no legal drinking age in Cuba, C enjoyed a pina colada or two. On the last evening as we were enjoying cocktails, I said, ‘I suppose this is the last of the Mojitos’

But I was wrong

We have just returned for a second trip within a year to this extraordinary place …

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty Versus Usefulness

a tale of tiles and toilet talk

The long-awaited first bathroom is still (long) awaited, but getting ever closer. As I head back to France this weekend, I don’t yet know exactly when we will have a working toilet etc, but I do know that we are making progress

I showed Baz the beautiful tube-lined tiles I had found online as we sat on the sofa one morning before work

That’s when he used the ‘F’ word at me

‘Functional’

What he actually said was ‘Don’t you think we should go for something functional in the first bathroom?’

Functional is not a word we often use in our house – dysfunctional, yes, but functional, no. For instance, I would probably never buy anything purely because it was ‘functional’. So this suggestion was a real shocker for a woman finally reaching the stage of planning something decorative in this so far very un-decorative project. And I guess he must have awoken my inner dark passenger, completely unafraid to use her own ‘F’ word:

Functional? Don’t talk to me about (f******) functional! Finally I get the chance to do something gorgeous and you talk about functional?

There was more, but I risk wearing out the asterisk on my keyboard

‘OK, OK,’ said Baz, grimacing. ‘Just. Please. Never make your face look like that again’

I did realise that he was – at least partly – right. Our choices should be fairly sensible (yes, I hate that word too – and you might notice that I used the word ‘should’). While I still dream of art nouveau splendour and art deco sophistication, we cannot justify those tiles. This little bathroom may not be all it could be, but I am nonetheless very excited at the prospect of starting this project and I now have the scheme completely mapped out, barring the practicalities!!

‘You’re thinking about tiles again, aren’t you?’ said the all-seeing Baz, one day as we were driving home. I was, but it was just a daydream

So this morning, when I received an email from the smiley (he thinks/knows I’m bonkers) plumber asking me to start thinking about how I want the bathroom to be equipped, I was totally ready for it

I even offered to draw him a plan…

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tube-lined tile from Conway Road

 

 

 

What Remains

Elle ne rit plus

After a day of noise aplenty, this evening is extremely quiet. Even the pigeons have packed up and left

Downstairs is now a full-on building site, and barely feels like our house at all

That’s OK. I know there has to be a time like this, when there is less house than there was – literally, as we are three walls down from my last visit. Numerous pickups loaded with rubble from the false walls and the huge stash of charbonne have been a sobering reminder that there are some things best entrusted to the ‘better equipped’ than we are. We could not have done this part of the work

Newspapers show that the last time anyone lit a fire here was January 1973. Makes sense

The house is temporarily without radiators, and the hallways are suddenly broad and impressive. Every single pipe of any sort in the house has been cut with an angle grinder. Plus, the sink, the bidet and the disgusting laughing toilet are all gone

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‘Elle ne rit plus’**

** That’s the last of the toilet humour, I promise

The defunct monster boiler and fuel tank have been removed, as well as three monolithic cookers of various weights and ages, two of which were up on the second floor and required huge effort to move. There is a double bed wedged into the top staircase at the moment, yet somehow that doesn’t seem important. The air is thick with dust and I have retreated to let it settle overnight

But I feel that it has been well worth coming down for this. There is now a definite commitment on both sides and stuff is happening

There will be a bathroom of sorts this summer. And a (relatively) clean area to make toast and coffee until we get a kitchen built

Feels good. Feels really good

A Candle Lit in Carcassonne

A Week of Red Wine and Reminiscence

The sun was rising over Carcassonne, but I was alone as I explored the Medieval Cite

Mum and I spent a week in France in October, just us. I cannot remember the last time we spent alone together like this, and I was delighted that she wanted to see our project

I slept at our house but installed her in our neighbour’s apartment, and the nicest parts of the days were the evenings when we’d have something to eat together and then settle down with a glass or two of red wine, and simply natter

Through the week we discussed various family histories (and, we decided, perhaps a few myths). We also talked about her childhood and siblings, of her experiences and loss as a young girl during World War Two, and then of her long and happy marriage to Dad

We stayed overnight at Carcassonne on the way home, as I wanted to share the Medieval Cite with her

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I was tired, having picked up ‘something’ which turned out to be a chest infection and struck me dumb for eight full days once I was home. Still, the early October weather was kind and we sat in the sun with afternoon drinks, and then wandered off to soak up the al fresco atmosphere at dinner within the city walls

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The next day was our last, so I went out early to take a few snaps. The solitude and peace was totally different from the previous evening, and the light was just catching the Cite

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I noticed someone else: a nun, on her way to open the Cathedral

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I followed inside. She glanced at me, perhaps slightly disapproving, but didn’t ask me to leave. Inside, candles still burned in dedication from the day before, and the enormous windows were illuminated in the golden morning light

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I continued to wander a while, before heading back to breakfast with Mum. We were travelling with only hand luggage and so we were quickly packed and out again to explore. I was keen to show Mum the Cathedral, and the day was deliciously warm

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That day Mum and I lit a candle of our own, as if to mark the end of our week together. It felt right, somehow, and I think of it often


I wouldn’t normally include travel notes, but:

Carcassonne is not ideal for anyone who uses a walking aid, such as my Mum, but it is worth the effort and we just took our time. We saw a lot of wheelchair users managing too

The little road train provides a cheap and convenient tour. However, it is very bumpy so I strongly recommend wearing a sports bra!

 

 

Our hotel was pretty much opposite the entrance to the Cite. Even if you just fancy a sit down over a cuppa or a glass of wine, I can recommend it Hotel du Chateau

There is a beautiful old cemetery just outside the Cite entrance. Worth a look if – like me – you like cemeteries

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New York’s Ground Zero

Charlotte and I enjoyed a trip to New York in April 2015. Skimming through the pictures, I was reminded of how peaceful and beautiful the memorial is at Ground Zero, and how impressed we were by itGround Zero reflectionThe expanses of glass on the main building create fascinating reflections Ground Zero rainbowThe waterfalls are mesmerising and the light plays in them as you watch. The names of the lost are engraved around the top of the pools with touching tributes left along the wayGround Zero roseThere is a real feeling of peace contrasting with dynamism. I had been sceptical about visiting this memorial to so many people but was utterly moved Ground Zero vertical