Lassie, Monkey and Memories

Banner and Bea

Bea’s banner goes up at the Botanical Gardens

Each morning at 7.30 a.m. David runs across the terrace, knocks on, and then opens the door and calls out, “Granny”! For there is book reading to be done or green play-dough dinosaurs (dinosaurs are green at the moment) to be made before breakfast. But today David came early only to help Granny with her morning yoga and then left. He took his Mama off to Palermo, to his music class and then for Bea to hang the banner for her show that opens on Saturday at the Botanical Gardens by Plaza Italia.

So I’ve not felt this morning stillness since arriving in Buenos Aires two and half weeks ago. The early delivery of food crates for the restaurant down below have been stacked and we won’t hear more until later this afternoon when it is time to chop vegetables for the evening meals.

Lassie and Monkey

My Monkey – and sofa too

Lassie has come to join me as he (yes he) does everyday now. The ‘Abuela Dome’, as we have named the little studio, is a quiet place where he can rest his tired old body on the sofa, paws wrapped firmly around monkey.

This morning after laying my breakfast carefully out on the little table, I looked at every piece of china and food and saw memories alongside of breakfast.

Breakfast

Breakfast for one in the Abuela Dome

There is honey from our bees in Bolinas, and homemade strawberry jam made by Bea. The stewed apple are in one of two Johnson Bros, Indie bowls that I found at the street market at Plaza Dorrego one Sunday.

We got the money honey.

“It is an antique.” No, I first had that set in London thirty-five years ago. Does that make an ‘antique’? The petal-pink teapot came from the San Telmo Market when we first knew we would make a little home here. On it is the tea cosy I knit for the tea pot in the work kitchen of Tetro when the film crew were based in San Telmo in 2008. The bright and cheery butter dish was bought as a souvenir from our overnight visit to Uruguay last year. A surprise storm kept us there where we were lucky to be able to return to our hotel and ‘if’ we could find cash, still get a good deal.

The French Jacques Cout un Jandin …en plus milk jug came from a small village shop in Corsica. We went to visit old friends for the weekend and stayed on in their villa for ten days after their return to Paris, celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. One afternoon a big thunder storm came across the bay and we stood naked, watching from the tall glass veranda doors, mesmerized as the darkening clouds and rain came closer and closer to finally wash over us and leave a calming stillness in its wake.

The Heirloom Royal Albert tea cup and plate belonged to my mother-in-law Katharine. I remember her at the end of a long day in New York City, sipping her tea while often smoking a cigarette. If my husband’s memory is correct this tea-set would have been from her mother, Mary Elizabeth Scott and probably sent as a wedding present from England to Mary Elizabeth MacCallum on her marriage to Thomas Beckett Scott in Canada. The tea-set was soon packed up carefully and taken to Ceylon in 1893 where she and her husband worked as medical missionaries, directing the Green Memorial Hospital and starting a nursing school. In 1913 Mary and Thomas retired and returned to the States where, until 1925, they ran the Walker Missionary Home at Auburndale, Mass, caring for the children left behind from other missionary workers.

Tea time, on another continent, with another generation

How much of the set made it back from Ceylon, now Sri Lanka? Did Mary Elizabeth sit at the end of her day and draw comfort from the delicate china as well as the tea, as did her daughter Katharine? After Mary died in 1941 was the tea-set divided up between her four daughters? Who got the tea pot, milk jug and sugar bowl?

This day began with old memories and ends with new. Lassie has returned to the sofa to hug his monkey. Beatrice joins me in our quiet catch-up ritual, sipping our late afternoon tea in San Telmo, Buenos Aires.

The little tea-set has traveled many miles over many years, bringing comfort along with tea to four generations of women. We have been blessed and are grateful.

A Letter from Madrid

By Saturday morning the sun had come out in Madrid, where we were staying at the Hotel Reina Victoria in the center of town. Around the plaza and on the sidewalks the cafe owners had already pulled out their tables. Tourists and workers were stopping for their first cup of coffee. As I began to write I was given courage and comfort that we are nestled in the Barrio de las Letras, home to Lope de Vega, Cervantes y Quevedo.

The Barrio de las Letras

My days began with an hour and a half scribbling in my notebooks at breakfast. As I came downstairs Walter would be all ready to leave for the film school. He had two and a half full days of lectures to give and, while he loves the speaking, thinking and people, he would be tired by Sunday.

WSM thinking about what to say next

The hotel restaurant is a destination unto itself and through the early morning quickly fills with hotel guests, tourists, city residents, and business folk meeting and breaking bread together as they plan out the day ahead. At 10.30 a.m the music, though still easy listening, gets turned up 4 decibels to remind us all this is a happy place. The three young people beside me all start out their breakfast with a full bowl of pineapple and a tall glass of orange juice. I think how disciplined they are until the second arrives, scrambled eggs and pancakes with syrup. They are young.

Choosing breakfast

On my first morning after breakfast, I left the hotel and turned left, down a one-car-width cobbled street, knowing that three lefts would bring me past the Teatro de la Comedia and the National Teatro Real, which is performing a play by Virginia Wolf, and back into the Plaza St. Martin. The streets were quiet and not all the shops were open. Deliveries were being made. A man stood in the middle of the street speaking on his cell phone while leaning on a roll away bag full of medical equipment. A young man scooted by, propelling himself with one foot on his dolly which was stacked high with boxes of supplies. Older, maybe than me, women walked slowly with crumpled shopping bags only half full. Some were pulling their reluctant toy dogs along with them. The poorer women come out early and are alone. It is the middle-class women who have time for companionship and coffee.

We have not been in Spain for 53 years and, as we drove in from the airport on Thursday afternoon, it was strange to look around and not recognize anything from that time. But the dry scrubby landscape reminded me of the drive into the city of Buenos Aires from that airport in their summer time. Entering the city I become aware of the influence of Spain, as strong as any Parisian or Italian, on Buenos Aires and am suddenly homesick for that city.

When the first evening’s session came to a close a group of ten of us, some from the school and some professionals and academics from Barcelona, returned to the hotel. Gathered around a long table we were quickly served with a series of small plate tapas and glasses of rioja. We began to unwind and explore each other’s lives. Riccardo is a sound designer, now living in Barcelona, and was the one who drove us back from the school into the city. He is from Argentina. He is a grandparent like us, his little Otto lives in Berlin, while our David is in Buenos Aires, where Ricardo comes from. Our grandsons are born on the same day and we are full of simpatico laughter as we talk about our comrades in film, our grandchildren, and struggles with each other’s languages. He assures me that the tiny little fish balls he is offering me are a type of Jaws and it takes us all a while to understand he means shark!
“You must come to Argentina again and see us there.” I say. His face turns serious and he quietly replies, “I will never go back.”
“When did you leave?”
“1974.” And he looks at me with deep sadness as I take in what he is saying. He left, fled, during the troubles.
“There are many Argentines here in Madrid and in Barcelona.” He repeats, “I will never go back. Here in Spain the dictatorship was forty years, in Argentina only seven but the results were very similar.”

Slowly it dawns on me, or do I suddenly come to understand and accept something I have known all along, that the displacement of peoples, one tribe for another, by one government for another, a nation overtaking another, is a constant occurrence. That the sweeping push of power that flows over and through continents, brushing peoples down and away, always crushing many even as a few can rise, survive and thrive, is ever with us. The big questions are found in the smallest of gestures and remain for us all. Who will help the other? Who shares the open hand and gives from the heart?

That first evening a taxi was waiting outside of the hotel to take me to the film school. The driver spoke little English but had a picture of his three year old son on his phone. We talked of sons and grandsons. After over twenty minutes driving through and out of the city he stopped at the address he had been given but we were both unsure. That building looked very closed up. I got out of the taxi and rang the buzzer on the locked door. Soon an elderly guard came out and looked at my instructions. Luckily the young driver had waited and talked with the guard before he held the door open again and gestured for me to get back into the taxi. We drove further on and around a corner to the ECAM. A woman leaned out of a window and told him where I needed to be. He opened the door again and I gave him my hand. I really am too tall for taxis. I was grateful for his kindness as he pointed the way forward, where I should, and he could not, go. I thanked him in shy Spanish and with a smile. He held onto my hand for a moment longer and looked at my face with a masculine appreciation. Whatever happens next, I am grateful.

Photographs of WSM from the ECAM staff and twitter feed

WSM and some ECAM Staff at the close of the seminar

This is the end – my friend

Letter from A. Broad

Letter from A. Broad

Is Back.

It was bound to happen, but I was never sure how or when. Now this blog section is birthed from letters produced biweekly for KWMR.

The Letter from A. Broad title came from a suggestion by Susan Stone when we were mulling over what would be fun and ‘different’ to air on KPFA radio. It was she who laughingly came up with A Letter from A. Broad as a catchy title.

“You should do it.” She said.

“Can’t.” I replied, “It would be too like Alastair Cook’s ‘Letters from America,’” (1946-2004) But the idea stayed. We continued to joke about it long after we had both left KPFA. In the spring of 2004 while in England something, probably political, got up my nose. I decided to write, record and produce a piece. It was no doubt too long but I did write and edit, record and edit, bounce and burn the CD. Then packaged it up and sent it off to KPFA and KWMR. But as I turned to leave our local post office, which is tucked in the back of the newsagents, I was stopped by the evening papers headline, “Alastair Cook has died.” It was stunning news in itself but the timing was shocking. I felt that permission had been granted, maybe even a blessing of sorts and so, for the next six and a half years, I produced a Letter from A. Broad for KWMR. Occasionally I managed to post them on PRX and other stations would pick them up. But I was never as together with marketing as I could have been. I was happy to be in the hands of Pete Horner at mixmonkey.com who composed and recorded the theme music and somehow slipped the programs into podcasts.

Eventually the letters became over-demanding, cutting into all other written or radio work I wanted to do. It was hard to let them go. But having done so, other work has been able to emerge, including this little website and its blogs. Though I wonder why is so much so often bundled in threes? Is it the strands of life folding over each other to make one big braid? So here again these blog posts fall in three strands. The Farm writing, the Nursing notes and now Letter from A. Broad.

It is fun to see and read the news from those of us lucky enough to travel in our lives, Janet Robins sends us fascination PostCards from Paris where she spends half the year with her husband. Beatrice writes and posts her photography from Buenos Aires while Amy Scott has a podcast of interviews with intrepid travelers like herself.
Maybe in the not too distant future I will get back to broadcasting. At the moment I’m thinking about bird song and memory. But for now this writing will hold.