Friday, July 28, 2017

Brimfield Antiques Fair: The Animals

Here are some animals I saw at the July Brimfield Antiques Fair: dead, alive, and imaginary.

Let's get through the worst first: Taxidermy was a recurring motif. I grew up with it and have a high tolerance, but I had trouble with the first animal I spotted: it seems to be a decomposing boar with something blue in its foamy-looking mouth. This has to be the worst critter I've ever seen at Brimfield. The little gramophone is a winner, though:

Someone was doing big business in recycled metal animals. This is the goat collection:

A couple of armadillos and a frog with wheels:

The roosters were the best:

This lobster, about five feet tall, looked like it needed a long vacation:

I wonder where the other antler is:

Insects and fish in clear acrylic. No, thank you.

A deer trophy tucked away in a corner:

Many dealers bring their dogs:

I see maybe one cat per show. This one was not happy about its fancy collar:

This fox doesn't look happy to be stuck in a fake tree stump, or whatever it is. I hope it's not a piece of an elephant.

Cheerier foxes for the garden:

A dealer's dachshund keeps cool in the grass. It was a sultry day:

My favorite, of course: A pensive lion, with oak leaves and acorns.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Recent Adorableness: Mantel Decor

Harris has claimed the mantel as his territory. I can't remember when I last saw anyone else up there. He occupies that corner almost every day, often when I'm sitting in the armchair nearby and he wants his supper. From that perch he keeps a watchful eye on me from above. When I look up, he's usually staring down at me, like a hawk or a vulture (a cute one) staking out its prey. I don't mind.

He is the most imperious, entitled cat I've ever had. His remarkable self-esteem is often written all over his face:

I've had to remind myself lately that not all cats are as well-mannered as mine. I've heard and read lately about cats who maliciously attack, scratch, and bite their people. Possum smacks us a fair amount (without claws) because we don't obey him as much as he wants but he doesn't hurt us. And Harris will quietly bite my hand if I'm working on a difficult mat in his fur, to remind me to be careful, which is fair. When I was a kid, we had a vicious tiger who made life exciting, but my current five are uniformly sweet and gentle.* Even Wendy, who still has a feral streak, has never once tried to harm us.

I'm always surprised when I talk to non-cat people, who think it is normal for cats to be nasty and unpredictable and to draw blood. When I hear this, I instinctively blame the people, not the cats. I always assume that a nasty cat is a mistreated cat, one that has learned to protect itself. Yes, they are designed to be little killing machines, with claws, fangs, and powerful jaws, but only for prey and predators. People don't belong in either category, and cats who think otherwise usually have their reasons.

If you learn to respect and read cats, to communicate with them, and if you aren't a jerk, the claws and fangs will never come out. Learning to speak cat is a lifelong project, endlessly interesting because every cat is different, but they all like to be understood, just as we do.

Harris believes the world is his and he never needs to lift a paw, or use a claw, to prove it.

* Except for the last time Lion had went to Angell Animal Hospital after swallowing string. He escaped from his cage, and as two vet techs struggled to catch him, he bit one hard enough to draw blood, and somehow gave the other one a head injury. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Last Postcards from Paris, I Promise

After I kept finding little notes in our Paris hotel room, I was half-tempted to start leaving them around for myself. I might even do it here at home. I could put a little sign in the cupboard. "If you smile  😀 you won't be able to stuff your face 💀with cookies 🍪."

This is the Hôtel de Sens a medieval mansion turned arts library and exhibition gallery. We walked past it in the Marais every day and kept admiring its turrets, towers and red trim. The garden is a pleasant place with all sorts of flowers.

The exhibition gallery was closed when we tried to go in.

Here's the Canal Saint-Martin. It is supposed to be a trendy area for housing and nightlife, and there are markets further along the way, but nothing was happening when I was there, early in the morning.

The Rue de Croissant had to be photographed:

Speaking of pastry:

The pistachio eclair was excellent. Why can't we get them here? We can barely get vanilla. It's unfair.

On a more wholesome note, there was a fruit stand near our hotel that had exquisite displays, priced as you would expect:

I wanted everything:

We should tie pretty ribbons on our melons:

Here is the lobby and breakfast room in our hotel. I like the odd juxtaposition duck-egg paint and blue upholstery.

Modern reliquaries with humorous tags. I would be Saint Hairball.

This pistachio eclair was not a great as the previous one but it was still better than almost any American eclair:

An exceptional Jewish food and spice shop in the Marais. The open bags of spices made it smell like the souks in Egypt:

Someone was always sitting on this point of the Ile Saint-Louis. This time there were picnics.

What did we bring home? Caramels. Tea, more tea, and extra tea. A colorful cotton scarf edged with tiny tassels. A hard-to-find Barbara Pym novel from Shakespeare & Company (I had to climb to the top of the ladder to reach it). Three of the simple, colorless toothbrushes I always buy in Paris. Chocolate-orange biscuits from Marks & Spencer, advertised on the package as "more chocolate than biscuit." A pretty, faceted and stripey mineral from the rock shop on the Ile, which I will show you later.  Three big, bright, plastic wristwatches that were a promotional gift for my husband from his colleagues — he loves them; I do not. I'd been planning to buy a certain green suede, fringed bag from Sézane, which I'd admired on their website. But when I saw it in person I didn't like it. So no big splurges, but that's okay.

Here's one last bateau-mouche before we head home and unpack, and then go west to Brimfield:

Au revoir, Paris.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Postcards from Paris 8: This and That

Enough of Paris! (Did I really write that?) I've been home for two weeks! And Brimfield happened during that time and I have some ridiculous photos from there.

But I also want to show you a little more of  Paris. I promise there will be just one more post after this one. And Brimfield will come first.

I'm perpetually bewitched by the big tourist boats ploughing up and down the Seine. I love watching them but when I've taken them, I'm less thrilled by the loud tour guides and music on board. I'd been planning to take one on this trip, but the idea of being inside under glass or sitting on a deck with the sun beating down and the racket wasn't appealing. So I admired from a distance:

Descendant of Claude Monet in front of Shakespeare & Company:

Shakespeare & Company is loaded with atmosphere inside, and even has a nice tabby cat upstairs in the library area, where people play the piano and everyone wanders around feeling artsy. (They also have a coffee shop next door, because even famous Parisian bookstores need to find new ways to survive.) Alas, they don't allow any photography inside. Except in this book, so go there and look at the photos.  It was too crowded for me to take a decent photo outside, but you've seen those a million times anyhow. I've always liked this sign:

For us, every trip to Paris includes a visit to the medieval Rue Galande, where there is a very good archaeological bookstore among other little shops:

I usually sit downstairs and read my guidebook among their antiquities (that's probably how they survive) while my husband checks out their new and rare books. Twenty years ago, when we told them we were on our honeymoon, they gave us a Ptolemaic coin as a good luck charm. It worked! And now we always go back.

Early in the morning, you can choose the best seat at the café:

Where is everyone? Don't worry, soon almost every seat will be taken, and when you get the last one, the people on either side of you will all light up cigarettes at the same time.

We need more pastel graffiti here in America:

I had a fast, tasty lunch from a crèpe stand in the Marais. My crèpe had ham. olives, and mushrooms buried in all that cheese, which turned crispy from the griddle. I sat at the counter and watched the crèpemaker sway to "Like a Prayer" as he cooked— his radio was blasting American oldies and the beat proved irresistible.

I'd return to the hotel in the afternoons to find little notes on the bed or in the bathroom. I figured out that they came from the shy, smiling young fellow who sometimes served breakfast. It was weird but charming:

Churches stay cool in the hottest weather:

This probably accounts for the religious fanaticism that flourished from the Middle Ages to the 20th-century development of air-conditioning. There's a Ph.D. dissertation topic in there somewhere, blending the history of HVAC technology with religion — and you are welcome to take my idea and develop it, because I don't plan to. I just like to park myself in churches, especially when I get lucky enough to listen to the organist practice. As I sat in this one, I heard Bach fugues and the Pachelbel Canon. (I guess they aren't so tired of it in France.)

Everyone flocked to the Seine on hot summer evenings. Several days after we left, "Paris-Plages" began — sandy beaches are built along with river, with floating swimming pools, palm trees, and other amenities. (Click that link to learn how this year is different because of The Orange One.)

A hot and hazy sunset, around 10 pm:

I heard that, two days after we left, Paris got 2 inches of rain in one hour. Part of the Louvre's basement level flooded. If I had still been there, I would have enjoyed getting drenched — and cooled to the bone.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Postcards from Paris 7: The Panda Roux

One hot day, I decided to walk to the Jardin des Plantes, imagining that it would be cool and shady. I was mistaken. Here's some of the shade I found, and there wasn't enough.

I could have walked off the paths to find more shade, but no one else was doing that and I didn't want to get even more lost ("loster"?) than I was. And I was lost. I got turned around and, when I thought I was near the exit, which I wanted badly, I found I was on the opposite side of the park,. I had a very long hot walk to get to where I needed to be, which was at a Metro stop to go home, take a shower, and drink luke-warm water.

But this bee house was pretty neat:

There's a menagerie in the garden but I didn't go in. But as I walked alongside its wall, I looked up high into the trees and spotted this sleeping critter:

It's a panda roux, or red panda or red bear-cat. It is adorable, I want one, and I think the cats would like one, too. It woke and yawned:

Then it slowly got up and started climbing higher on the poles in its habitat. Look at its ringed tail:

Check out its white-rimmed ears and face. While I think Possum and Harris would be happy to make friends with him or her, Toffee would be a little more cautious. And Lion and Wendy would probably skip the party.

It was very hot and the panda roux moved slowly. Here it's either panting, yawning, or muttering to itself:

I had to zoom my iPhone to the max to get these photos and I remember wishing that I had a better, bigger camera for these situations. And then I realized that I wouldn't enjoy lugging it around. For a camera I can keep in my pocket, maybe these shots aren't so bad.

The panda roux sat and seemed to watch me for a while. It might have been making sure I got decent photos, or perhaps it was giving me a taste of my own medicine.

Then it stretched out:

And then it dangled his feet over the pole and started another nap:

I had been hot, thirsty, cranky, lost, and tired before I saw this critter. When I saw those little dangling paws, I perked up. I got myself out of the garden and onto the Metro, bought an eclair from our local patisserie, helped myself to a few macarons from the plate in our hotel lobby, took a long shower, and then had a less precarious afternoon nap of my own.