International Women’s Day … so what?

I don’t know what International Women’s Day means. March 8th around the world. So what? Does it mean that for one day only, on March 8th, men should not strike, beat, strangle or kill a woman? In France: only 90 women were killed in 2020, 56 less than in 2019. Only 90 women killed – is that a number to be proud of? That’s 90 too many! Two-thirds of those deaths, leaving behind traumatized orphans and broken families, could have been avoided. Femicide: the killing of females by males because they are female. 

Does it mean that for one day only, on March 8th, forced marriages and FGM (female genital mutilation) should stop?

Does it mean that for one day only women’s sanitary products (tampons and other products, classed as ‘luxury’ and ‘non-essential’) should not be taxed? Non-essential? After pulling out of the E.U. (European Union), the U.K. detaxed sanitary products in January 2021.

Does it mean that for one day only men should pay women a higher salary? Women earn 77.9 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Does it mean that for one day only men should stop harassing women in the street, office and elsewhere? Women the world over face sexual and non-sexual harassment in the workplace which range from unwelcome verbal, visual, non-verbal or physical harassment.

75% of women who find themselves subject to hostile situations in the workplace do not report their harassment for fear of being fired. People often ask “why did the victim not report?” I know, because it happened to me on more than one occasion. I found myself out on the street and unemployed for no other reason than I was harassed (one of my harasser’s was a female senior lawyer.) When I reported my tormenter’s actions to HR, they were utterly untrained and clueless as to how to treat harassment cases. “Just get rid of her” seemed the easiest option for those involved.

Does it mean that for one day only employers should put an end to Maternity Discrimination? The Guardian reports that over 50,000 women lose their jobs over pregnancy discrimination.

I guess my point is – why haven’t we, in 2021, repaired these injustices? Why have we not detoxified our societies of damages and discrimination toward women? The photo below, showing one of the biggest contaminators, is one explanation why.

Most of the above refers to First World “advanced” nations. I shudder to think what women in Second and Third World countries go through.

Let me share with you a chilling photograph that iced women’s blood around the world, including my own. This is what patriarchy, misdirected power and misogyny look like. In other words, a horror show.

The Trump administration rolled back important women’s rights protections with an executive order that enabled more employers and insurers to assert objections to the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

This photo sums up Trump’s assault on women’s rights

from an article written by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett (The Guardian)

Look at these men. Look at them. Gathered around the most powerful man in the world – a man who has openly bragged of sexual assault, who refers to a vulva as a woman’s “wherever” – as he signs away the reproductive rights of women in developing countries. 
 
The stupidity of the blinkered, religiously motivated agenda on display here is that no matter what legislation these men implement, they will never succeed in banning abortion, per se, only safe, legal abortion. As a result of the reimposition of the global gag order, the loss of their services alone could result in 6.5m unintended pregnancies during Trump’s first term, 2.1m unsafe abortions, and 21,700 maternal deaths. In passing this law, these patriarchs have fathered millions of unwanted children, helping to create lives that could very well turn out to be painful and potentially motherless.
 
Nothing quite says powerlessness like the removal of your right to bodily autonomy, at the behest of a group of people who will never – can never – know what that feels like. There’s a reason women are using the word patriarchy again, that it featured on so many signs during the Women’s Marches: if you are emasculated by the notion of a woman making her own reproductive choices, then you were never much of a man to begin with.
 

I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only,’ not ‘as long as’. I matter. Full stop. Chimamanda Adichie, Nigerian writer

so what’s going on this Friday night in Paris

Not much. It’s deadsville here and very quiet on this beautiful cold, clear Friday night. I have three days off. Bliss! Saturday, Sunday and I’m taking Monday off. The weather is forecast to be cold and sunny this weekend. I think I’ll head over to one of my favorite small parks tomorrow or Sunday, the Parc Monceau, in the 17th arrondissement; haven’t been there in ages.

Sitting here with a large bottle of red wine at my side – an organic Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil 2018 – and listening to Led Zepp’s Stairway to Heaven through my JBL headphones ……if there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now, it’s just a spring clean for the May Queen …. As you’ve no doubt noticed, I’m currently in a Led Zeppelin phase. I drink no alcohol during the week. All week long, I’m very very good foodwise. On the weekend I splurge, that’s a good balance for me.

What’s the 5:2 diet? Eat what you want five days a week, dramatically cut the calories for two. I do it in reverse.

Work is great, largely because 70% of my colleagues are working from home and the office is near-empty (and very quiet.) Working from home in France is called télétravail. It appears that people are happy working from home. “Why is that?” I ask. No interruptions, better concentration on their work and no commuting on public transportation, is what they say when they come into the office once a week or once every two or three weeks for a day or two. And why don’t I choose to work from home? Because I love my 20 minute walk to the office in the morning (and walking home in the evening), I call it my morning meditation. Because I prefer to keep home and office separate. Because I really like my office space and the view from the window while I stare out of it as I drink espresso from my machine on the windowsill. Because I like to go out on my lunch hour and walk to the shops and get some exercise. And because of the absence of my colleagues, it’s very quiet so that I too can concentrate better on my work (translations, organizing our annual shareholders’ meeting and a dozen other things.)

I bought Mariah Carey’s memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey. I’m sorry to say it, but from what I’ve read so far I don’t think it’s very well written, but that’s just my personal opinion. I shouldn’t comment at all because I know how hard it is to write a memoir! As for Netflix, I really enjoyed THE DIG. I’m a huge fan of Carey Mulligan. I also enjoyed Behind Her Eyes for the aesthetics even though the ending was strange. As for I Care A Lot, I won’t watch it because I don’t find elder abuse and predatory guardianship amusing. The Queen’s Gambit was so good, I think I’ll watch it again. I also rewatched The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story. One word: brilliant!

And on that note, it’s nearing 11 pm on this quiet cool Friday night on March 5, 2021 – the COVID pandemic a year in now. Where will we be in one year’s time? Will all this be a distant memory? Let’s hope so.

I admit that I did deviate from my diet this afternoon by buying a lemon tart at one of my favorite boulangerie-patisseries. Enjoyed with a cup of Darjeeling tea, it was delicious. (I didn’t eat the whole thing, I split it with my Franco-Lebanese colleague.)

lockdown rock

We’re in lockdown here, everything shuts up tight at 6 pm and we’re told not to socialize. So what’s a girl to do other than drink wine and listen to rock music? No, seriously, I work all day at the office then sit at home with a glass of wine or a beer and listen to music, mainly rock, on YouTube.

From my memoir –

I remember the first time I heard Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. It was in Lynda Scott’s basement, her parents were away and there was a Saturday night party. Someone put the album on the stereo, and the sound that blasted from the speakers electrified me. I had never heard anything like it. It was raw yet refined, sprawling yet tight, earthy yet mystical; decadent, dangerous and utterly thrilling. It was a journey to an exalted sphere, a musical ride to a place we’d never been, and all throughout the lead singer was telling us we needed love (every inch of it) and he was gonna give it to us. I was thirteen years old.

The expansive stylistic range of Led Zeppelin, Canada’s egalitarian ethos, feminism and the rebellious 1970s became my creed, my gospel to which I adhere to this day.

 

Hear this soundtrack of Since I’ve Been Loving You. Over 11 million hits. (best listened to with high-quality headphones)

(224) Since I’ve Been Loving You (Remaster) – YouTube

the permanent closure of my favorite London hotel

I am so sad after learning that my favorite London hotel is closing down permanently because of COVID. The Penn Club. Not a fancy place. Cozy as a warm teapot. Quaker-affiliated. (That’s the Quaker movement, not the oats.) No elevator. Simple, clean rooms. A full English breakfast served in a pleasant dining room at communal tables. For years I had stayed there, my mother too on a few occasions. I feel like an orphan now.

Oh, sure, London is full of hotels and I’ve stayed in many of them. But this place was special, not to mention superbly located in central London in the lovely leafy district of Bloomsbury. A 20-minute walk from St. Pancras train station where the Eurostar arrives from Paris, steps from the world-renowned British Museum and my favorite book and teashop. Gosh, I miss London. 

I had some memorable moments there:

The morning I was awakened by a rustling sound at 5 a.m. I went to my window, looked down onto the street below and saw the most magnificent fox sauntering down the sidewalk. A fox! In central London!  He’d been rummaging in one of the rubbish bins.

Reuniting with my two childhood friends, Kathy and Claire, in December 2018.

Meeting up with an ex-boyfriend (oh, there were so many ex-boyfriends …).

Having pleasant conversations with total strangers while tucking into a plate of sausage, bacon, eggs and baked beans with toast (English breakfast) at a shared table in the dining room.

Returning to the hotel after walking 7 or 8 hours all over the city and relaxing in the quiet Cadbury Room with the daily newspapers and surrounded by books. It was a warm and welcoming place, not swish or posh, but cozy and tranquil. I’m not a swishy person. I have friends who insist on staying in swank and trendy hotels when they travel, but I don’t.

Why is it called The Cadbury Room? Because the management maintained Quaker values of integrity, equality, tolerance and simplicity, honesty and fairness in all of their dealings. The great English confectionary companies: Cadbury of Birmingham, Rowntree’s of York, and Fry’s of Bristol were all rooted in Quakerism in their early years.

Goodbye, Penn Club. Thanks for the memories (sniff).

Here’s the email I received last week –

Dear Friends,

With profound sorrow and regret, the Board of The Penn Club must now inform you that in its present situation The Club is unsustainable and must cease business from the end of March this year.

As you know, COVID19 resulted in two closures in 2020 resulting in a significant drop in occupancy rates with serious financial consequences. Even when open between lockdowns, bookings were at a level which made The Club unviable for the foreseeable future and whilst vaccines offer some hope, too much uncertainty remains.

We recognise how very sad this news is for all users of The Club. It is especially poignant in this 101st year of existence and particularly given the money and effort invested in major upgrading over the last few years. We can take some comfort in acknowledging and honouring how special The Club has been to so many users during its history.

With sadness and in Friendship,

The Penn Club Board

On a cheerier note, here’s a blog post (link below) that I wrote way back in the summer of 2014 entitled My London – Bloomsbury. It mentions The Penn Club. If you’re in the mood for some armchair travelling, I did a whole “My London” series that covers all my trips to that great city. Just scroll up to the top of this page and click on LONDON.

My London – Bloomsbury | Juliet in Paris

new, recommended facemask in France

FFP2 it’s called. Cloth masks are discouraged, these are the recommended new ones.

I bought a bunch of them at the pharmacy the other day. Monday to Friday, from the moment I step out of my building in the morning to when I return at night, I’m wearing a mask. I wear a mask on the bus or metro. Or if I walk to work. I sit at my desk 7.5 hours a day wearing a mask only to take it off to drink coffee. In the staff cafeteria, plexiglass panels have been positioned on all the tables so that when we eat with our colleagues, the panel separates us.

FFP2 stands for “filtering face piece”, with the number indicating the level of protection. 

Here’s a really good article in WIRED, UK version, explaining the different types of masks and their level of protection –

What are N95 and FFP2 face masks? | WIRED UK

Paris!

The video below was filmed yesterday when it was cold and sunny. But the cold spell is over now. The temperature is forecast to shoot up to 16°C (60.8°F) this weekend.

I stumbled across this amateur video on YouTube. It’s not the most exciting video in the world, but was filmed yesterday (Sunday) on a few streets in the 5th and 6th arrondissements (Left Bank).

Further below is a better video taken in the 16th arrondissement –

(205) Live streaming in Paris 14/02/2021 – YouTube

freezing cold in France and nut milks on this sunny Saturday morning.

For the first time ever, and because it’s so c-c-cold, I’ve had to move my chaise longue away from the window because of the freezing air that was seeping in … from where? The windows are double-glazed and properly sealed. And then I remembered. The ventilation slits above the windows. The French believe that ventilation, otherwise called aération, is très important and certain apartment buildings, depending on what year they were built – mine was built in the 1970s – have actual round holes in the wall for that purpose, usually in the kitchen under or above the window.

Above my windows are narrow openings. I climbed up on a footstool last night, put my hand against one of them and yelped out loud. You could feel the damp freezing air pouring in. It was minus 5 degrees celsius outside.

See those black things above the window? They’re a pair of old socks. I stuffed a sock into each slit and my action helped a lot. No more frosty draft blowing onto my body as I recline on the chaise longue. Most of western Europe isn’t prepared for cold weather like this. “But you’re Canadian!” people say to me when I complain. I know it, but I haven’t lived there for a long time. Plus Canadian houses are well-heated and insulated, not necessarily the case here.

Right now (Saturday morning) it’s brilliantly sunny and minus 3 degrees outside. I’m off to my local supermarket to stock up on food. There’s no lockdown in France, but there’s a 6 pm curfew which makes it difficult for working people to do their food shopping Monday to Friday. The good news is that I’m on vacation for a week, a week to stay home and finish the manuscript of my memoir. I’ve been given an editorial deadline of February 28th, in other words my 60,000 words need to be polished and ready to go by then. I have a new London-based editor who has agreed to take on my manuscript; she’ll be free on March 1st. She edited the memoir of André Aciman, the man who wrote the novel, Call Me by your Name, that was turned into a movie. I’m thrilled at the opportunity to work with her.

Anyway, back to the supermarket and nut milks. I could eat dairy all day long – whole milk, cream, butter, cheese – but the truth is that eating too much of it is bad for you. So as an alternative to animal-derived milk, I make my own nut milk and it’s delicious. Weekends, I pour a generous amount into a big mug of coffee, sometimes with an added splash of coconut milk, and it’s a treat to look forward to. I use a mixture of almonds and cashews.

“But why don’t you just buy nut milk?” people ask me. Because when you look at the ingredients on the side of the carton, it’s loaded with sugars, salt and unpronounceable names of weird stuff. When making your own food, it’s you who controls the amount of sugar and everything else.

Buy good quality nuts, soak them all night in water, throw away the water the next morning, rinse thoroughly then throw them into the blender with filtered water and strain. Add honey, dates or dessicated coconut for natural sweetener if you want. Here’s a video from The Kitchn on the subject –

How To Make Nut Milk from Cashews, Almonds, and More | Kitchn (thekitchn.com)

 

Grace Kelly’s grand-daughter, Charlotte

Tragically, Grace Kelly died at the age of 52 in a horrendous car accident in 1982 on a steep and winding mountainous road above the principality of Monaco where she lived. She was a ravishingly beautiful woman, inside and out.

It was during the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 that she met Prince Rainier III, the sovereign of the Principality of Monaco, located east of Cannes on the French Riviera. By this time, Kelly was a successful actress, but her biggest role was as Princess of Monaco when she married Prince Rainier in April 1956.

They had three children: Caroline (1957), Albert (1958) and Stephanie (1965). In 1986, Caroline gave birth to a girl, Charlotte. Tragically, Charlotte’s father, Stefano Casiraghi, an Italian industrialist, was killed in a speedboat racing accident in 1990.

Charlotte is eleventh in line to the throne of Monaco.

Here’s the 34-year old Charlotte Casiraghi today discussing books. What strikes the viewer are two things: her deep voice, and her resemblance to her mother when Caroline was younger.

What strikes me is the sad fact that Charlotte Casiraghi never knew her grandmother, Grace, nor her own father.

(195) In the library of Charlotte Casiraghi — CHANEL – YouTube

Charles Aznavour, La Bohème

Well! My previous post of Barbara Pravi skyrocketed with hundreds of views from all over the world. (I swear, I have the quietest blog readers … aside from my small, loyal fan base, not many readers leaves comments!?)

So I’m thinking that in these troubled times people are craving authenticity, humanity, connection. Because music connects people emotionally, I thought of the well-loved Charles Aznavour.

Aznavour was French-Armenian. He died on October 1, 2018 at the age of 94.

Here’s his signature song on YouTube. 24,163,836 views –

(193) Charles Aznavour – La Boheme – B&W – HQ Audio – YouTube

who is Barbara Pravi? winner of Eurovision 2020

Standing in front of my bathroom mirror yesterday morning putting eye makeup on and listening to the radio, this alluring voice came on. I put down my eyebrush and listened attentively. Who was it? A young Parisian woman – une parisienne – named Barbara Pravi. She won the Eurovision song contest last year and will be representing France in the 2021 Eurovision song contest with her song, Voilà.

Born in Paris in 1993, Barbara’s paternal grandfather is Serbian; her mother is Iranian.

Watching her in the video below, one can almost see the ghosts of Aznavour, Brel and Piaf in her studied body gestures. It’s not an easy song. It’s rare and refreshing to see a young new singer bring back the tradition of the cabaret style of the 1950s and 60s. It’s also true that the beauty of the French language is enhanced in song. Here she is in the sound studio of RTL radio station –

(191) Barbara Pravi – Voilà (Live) – Le Grand Studio RTL – YouTube