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The devils I fall for…

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra

Lately I’ve been reading some wonderful poetry in blogs I follow and I’m thoroughly enjoying them. Since I’ve written some myself through the years, I decided to go back and read some of my own. This one made me chuckle.

 

 

 

cute

The devils I fall for

 

If the man is a cad

He’s bound to be charming

His false words will tumble

Like music from a fresh mountain stream

Right into my thirsty heart.

 

 

brokenheart

A broken heart

If the man is a scoundrel

I’ll find him delightful

My soul, trembling with desire,

Will hunger for him all the while

He is buttering up somebody else.

 

 

 

If the man is a rascal

loves

The good men, my dear, are not half as exciting

He’ll be clever and entertaining

Because the good men, my dear,

Are not half as exciting

As the devils I fall for.

 

 

 

“Isn’t it awful that good men aren’t half as interesting as the rascals?” Joan Tess Smith

(This was the quote which inspired the above poem long ago. Today I have no idea who Joan Tess Smith was. If I did know once upon a time, I don’t remember now. Can you help? Mr. Google doesn’t seem to know her.)

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Love through the ages

lovebirds

Lovebirds

It was Valentine’s Day this week. A time to think of romance and love and, for those of us ribbon-heartswho are older, to remember past loves. We all have a past.

If you think we’re boring and have nothing interesting to tell, you’re missing an opportunity to hear some fabulous love stories. Want to hear about long treasured memories of romantic love affairs? Forbidden loves? Lovers possibly lost, but recalled in old age with pleasure? Try asking.

A few days ago, my dear daughter-in-law Chandra did just that. I was caught off-guard, however, by asking me to tell her about a past love, she let me know she was interested in me. I liked that. I love her. Also, she had me think about someone I hadn’t thought of for many years.

Chandra and Remy, 2007

A weary but beautiful Chandra with little Remy in 2007

We were all young once, and most young humans search for love. Certainly the cave man grunted his admiration for the gal who lived in the next cave and tried to impress her with his prowess before he carried her off.

abelard-and-heloise

Abelard & Eloise together at last at Pere Lachaise cemetery

The tragic love story of Peter Abelard (1079-1142) and Eloise captured my interest and for  years I read all I could find about the famous scholastic philosopher and his beloved. Not able to be together in life, their bones are now joined forever at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

They say there is nothing new under the sun. People have always loved. I love this poem written by a woman who lived during Medieval times. A UBC history professor gave it to me years ago. I like it so much, I still have and treasure it. Here it is:

 

‘Marriage is a sweet thing
I can prove it by my own example.
God indeed gave to me
A good and sensible husband.
Thank God for being willing
To save him for me, for I have truly
Experienced his great goodness.
Indeed the sweet heart loves me well.two-hearts

And he said, with such tender words:
‘God made me live for you
Sweet friend, and I think that he had me raised
For your personal use.’
He did not stop raving like that
The whole night.
Without being any more immoderate
Indeed the sweet heart loves me well.

Prince, he makes me mad for love,
When he says that he is all mine.
He will make me die of sweetness,
Indeed the sweetheart loves me well.

Would you believe? A radar technician…

scan-1

Airwoman 1st Class

My children gently tease me about being technologically challenged. Well, I’ll have you know, you young whippersnappers, believe it or not, I was a radar technician during the 1950s. It was the height of technology at the time and I did it for the Air Force! So there!

The Air Force Auxiliary paid more per hour than I earned at my office job and I was always interested in earning extra money. They provided a free air-force uniform, winter coat and shoes, plus trips to the mountains on weekends, which, because I didn’t date much, were boring anyway.

muriel-and-mary-vien-1950s

Arriving by bus — Mary, a devout Catholic, and I attended Church services every Sunday morning

It proved to be an adventure. They’d drive our ‘flight’ (class) to the Radar Station atop a mountain by bus. It was an interesting experience and I look back at it with pleasure.

I also had my very first marriage proposal (from a regular airman) whom, I believe, really meant it. I shall never, ever forget that! He was from Prince Edward Island and handsome in his uniform. I’ve never been to PEI, but have always wanted to visit there because of this memory. Perhaps he was attracted to me because I was the first virgin he ever dated. He told me I was, he respected me for it, and never attempted to change my status.

airforece-auxiliary-1950s

No, I didn’t get garbage detail, but already had a twisted sense of humor

Some other flight colleagues obtained jobs at Montreal’s Dorval airport. It was miles away from my home and I didn’t drive. The mere thought of bracing dark winters on public transit all the way out there didn’t appeal. I just didn’t have the courage. Thus, I was perhaps saved some health issues.

My friend Philip was a WWII pilot. Now, he chuckles when he tells me that on the way out on flying missions, he’d turn hot and cold, a cold hand would clutch his innards and oops, the poor guy would throw up — in the cockpit. It was embarrassing and humiliating for him, and unpleasant for others. Surprise, surprise — they didn’t want to fly with him. So Philip was grounded — and he believes probably survived the war as a result.

Recently, I heard on CBC Radio that Radar Technicians from the 50s are trying to get compensation from the government for health issues resulting from electromagnetic rays they experienced from those early radar screens. I could have been one of them. The only reason I’m not is — I was chicken.

Former radar technicians complain of ‘headaches, fatigue, weakness, sleep disturbance, irritability, dizziness, memory difficulties, sexual dysfunction and occasionally shortness of breath after exertion……

‘During the 1960s and 1970s, ophthalmologist Milton Zaret, under contract with the Army and Air Force, examined the eyes of thousands of military and civilian personnel working at radar installations in the US and Greenland. Large numbers of them, he found, were developing cataracts….caused by chronic exposure to radiation of the eye at power densities around one milliwatt per square centimeter — a level which is regularly exceeded by each of the two and a half billion cell phones in use today.’ (Birenbaum et al. 1969, Zaret 1973)

I did develop early cataracts, which my eye specialist called ‘juvenile cataracts’. But they were probably as a result of my juvenile brain rather than being caused by 1950s radar screens.

projectionist-certificate-mur

Okay, so I don’t know how to scan these and get them straight, but I’ll learn

I looked for some of the photos taken then with one of those Brownie cameras, (remember?) and also found my official R.C.A.F. Projectionist Certificate. Hey guys, look at me!!! This old gal was up on the newest technology of her time — the 1950s. Have some respect.

 

 

 

(For more information on older radar screens, microwaves, and televisions, try Google.)

If you notice me singing, do join in…

mom-thinking-2I often walk to my favorite cafe in the morning. Since my right knee complains with every step, I sing as I walk. My brain isn’t capable of multi tasking, so trying to remember the words of old songs seems to lessen the pain. It works to some degree. When someone comes by, I lower my voice so I won’t be heard. Yet, what fun it would be if strangers joined me in song just like they did in the old musicals I so enjoyed when I was a kid. Ta-da….

judy-garland-fred-astaire-in-easter-parade

Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in Easter Parade

Even then I remember feeling a little silly as I watched some of those movies. The goings on onscreen could be unrealistic. For example, all the passersby knew the words of the songs and the dance steps and so were able to join Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in the ‘Easter Parade’ — dressed in their Easter best. Young as I was, I knew that didn’t really happen.

Yes, there were a few mindless plots weakly held together to

singing-in-the-rain-gene-kelly

Gene Kelly in Dancin’ in the Rain

showcase the talent of the stars in them, and Gene Kelly did dance in the rain on the sidewalks of New York in ‘Dancin’ in the Rain’, but you can’t deny he was entertaining.

Were musicals all silly, mindless fluff? I think not. Many important issues were covered in Broadway musicals — issues which society would not have been ready to confront in any other format at the time. Just as comedy was, and continues to be, used to help us deal with the serious and even unbearable, musicals often sugarcoated difficult themes. Without realizing it, audiences were encouraged to look at and hopefully rethink their ideas and attitudes.

thomas-carey-carol-brice-porgy

Thomas Carey and Carol Brice in Porgy & Bess, 1934

Gershwin and Heyward’s ‘Porgy & Bess’ is often regarded as the first great American opera. The music is brilliant but at the same time, the story makes a strong statement on the difficult position of blacks in America — as valid today as when it first came out in 1934, years before Martin Luther King came along.

Even earlier, in 1927, Kern and Hammerstein touched on black and

paul-robeson-1936-old-man-river-showboat

The great Paul Robeson, Showboat, 1936

white issues in another timeless musical classic ‘Showboat’. (In my opinion those who protested against the show in Toronto some years ago, could not have seen it.)

Then, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘South Pacific’, which came out in 1949, tackled racial discrimination head-on. A real inter-racial love affair takes place on the stage/screen. It was a daring move which clearly defined the needless tragedy that results from racist thinking in Lieutenant

mary-martin-and-ezio-pinza-in-sp

Mary Martin & Ezio Pinza in South Pacific

Cable’s romance with a Polynesian girl, Liat. The American Nellie, portrayed so well by Mary Martin, is shocked when she discovers Emile, a Frenchman, has children who are half-Polynesian. In the end, Nellie chooses to deal with her own prejudices and marries the man she loves. (By the way, Mary Martin, who washed her hair in each performance, claimed all that hair-washing did no harm.)

‘Hair’ about the hippy movement, free love and the drug culture, raised many an eyebrow with its passive nudity in 1968. I remember being shocked myself when I first saw it. Those scenes seem mild to us today. Modern audiences probably don’t understand what the fuss was all about.

I’m reminded of these productions when I find myself singing some of the old show tunes while I walk in the morning. If you catch me at it, do join in.

 

Napoleon and (Josephine) Marie

Muriel's 80th-Me&Remy

Me with a special love, grandson Remy

For years I was captivated by Napoleon, (1769-1821) and read many books about him. On my bookshelf still sits a set of four volumes ‘The Private Life of Napoleon’ by Constant, his valet. Constant thought Napoleon brilliant and tells us, as an example,  that when Marie Louise of

Napoleon by Antoine-Jean Gros

A young Napoleon

Austria didn’t become pregnant immediately, she did so only after Napoleon instructed her not to bathe. I love old books. (The English translation was copyrighted by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1895.)

Study of Josephine

study of Josephine

My own impression is that Josephine (1763-1814) has been badly treated by historians — mostly male. As Napoleon’s first love, she opened doors for the young officer. She already had important contacts, and probably was the brains behind much of his success. Napoleon didn’t realize how much he owed to her.

You can’t deny things went rapidly downhill when he, as self-proclaimed emperor, became too big for his britches and wanting an heir to the throne, he divorced Josephine and banished her from the palace. Big mistake…..

300px-Ingres,_Napoleon_on_his_Imperial_throne

Self-proclaimed Emperor Napoleon

Maria_Walewska_by_François_Gérard

Marie Walewska, Napoleon’s mistress

Of course Napoleon had lovers along the way. Power and money are sexy. There are always women willing to give themselves to men like him. Yet, in all the reading I did, nowhere did I find a word about Marie Walewska, (1786-1817) a Polish noblewoman who became his long-time mistress. I read, sometimes wearily, of battle after battle and his prowess in the battlefield, but never much about his prowess in the bedroom with this beauty.

The young Marie, married off to an elderly Count by her family, (because of an inconvenient prior pregnancy) was not smitten by Napoleon when he marched into Poland. The Poles, however, adored him — they desperately needed his help. No sacrifice was too big to win his favor. Marie, a mere child of 18, was pushed into the affair by Polish nobles and, yes, even her elderly husband. After all, what was one woman’s honor compared to the freedom of your country? Marie obeyed. Well, she WAS patriotic. Wouldn’t you? If you were patriotic?

She already had one son, and was to be the only woman to give Napoleon a son of his own who lived to adulthood, Count Alexandre Florian de Walewski (1810-1868). Her husband, the patriot, continued to be cooperative and willingly gave the child his name. After all, the man loved his country and Napoleon had promised to make Poland a strong, free kingdom. (He never kept this promise.)

Obviously a generous guy as well, when Marie, who grew to love Napoleon, (the guy could be magnetic) divorced him in 1812, Walewski gave her and her oldest son half his estates, which made her wealthy in her own right. She had also moved to Paris in 1810, where Napoleon set her up in splendor. Not bad….

For awhile, the lovers did discontinue their affair for political reasons because Napoleon wanted to divorce Josephine and thought, under the circumstances, it wouldn’t look good. But their feelings for each other persisted.

His marriage to Marie Louise of Austria (1791-1847) produced a son too, who died in

marie_louise of Austria3-f

Marie Louise of Austria

childhood, but Marie Louise fled when things got rough and later became the mistress of a Count. Marie Walewska, on the other hand, remained true to her famous lover although she did marry again. She visited Napoleon while he was in exile and disgrace at Elba to (ahem) console him. This surely was a woman who cared. She later died in Paris while Napoleon was a prisoner at St. Helena. They say the very last word she ever uttered was: ‘Napoleon’.

If you like this kind of thing, you may enjoy ‘Famous Affinities of History’ by Lyndon Orr, published in 1909, which can be found on:

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Category:Bookshelf

Beethoven as a lover?

Mom with earringsA recent visit from a favorite Taiwanese family of former students reminded me that I learned much more from my students than I ever was able to teach them. Some students studied music — seriously. They had to learn about the lives of famous composers as well as how to play their chosen instruments. While they prepared for their exams, I learned too.

What did I learn? Beautiful music can be produced by people you’d never want as a lover or even a friend. For instance, consider the despicable Wagner,

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner

who’d have taken large amounts of money from you and then dropped you like a hotcake, lived as a guest in your home and then thanked you by sleeping with your wife or turning against you without hesitation. I would have preferred to hate his music, but I can’t. The work has little to do with the person who creates it.

Then, how about the great Beethoven, another truly damaged and unpleasant man. If you

Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven

met him on the street, you’d have thought him to be a homeless bum and mad as a hatter. You’d not want to be his landlady, maid and certainly not his lover. The brilliant composer was a miserable, physically ugly, rather ill and difficult man. He was rude, prone to physical assaults and would smash anything in sight, including people or pianos.

Beethoven lost his mother, whom he loved, when he was 16. He was terribly abused by his alcoholic father — and developed into a vile-tempered, pathological, manic-depressed adult. Then, the deafness which plagued him from his early 30s and lead to total deafness by age 47 must have been devastating for him. (I wonder if his drunken father’s beatings around the head may have caused this.)

Did he have any lovers? We don’t know of any, although he did manage to contract gonorrhea, but most probably at a house of prostitution, a solution he professed to hate. He did propose to the young, beautiful, talented soprano, Magdalena Willmann, who turned him down because, as she said, he was ‘so ugly and half-crazy’. He never found Mrs. Right, always choosing women way above his station, much too young, and much too beautiful — and longed for love all his life. Beethoven could only see women as Madonnas or whores.

Young Beethoven

A younger Beethoven

The poor guy had pockmarked skin, no manners, spat in company, was terribly clumsy and badly coordinated. (Vestibular Disorder? Related to the beatings around the head?)  All his belongings were damaged because they got knocked over or broken. He was such a terrible tenant, he had to move from one place to another almost every year. Beethoven was just a disaster — in spite of his musical genius, he was unable to dance or even conduct in time to his own magnificent music.

Rossini in 1820

Rossini in 1820

Nonetheless, there were those who understood and admired Beethoven. Rossini, known as a nice guy, was one of them. He was able to see the most appealing qualities in Beethoven and understood the great sadness the brilliant composer lived with.

Would we have such magnificent, beautiful music by Beethoven if he had actually found happiness during his lifetime? I wonder…..

Falling in love, literally

If at all possible, I go out for breakfast in the morning. There are a few others in the neighborhood who do likewise. We’ve gotten to know each other and chat over coffee or tea. It can make for a stimulating, interesting, or amusing start to the day. Last week, Nancy and I, who talk about everything and anything, were sharing some of our embarrassing moments. Isn’t it amazing how years later we can laugh about things that seemed so awful at the time they happened?

Here’s one I shared: When I first met my husband, I thought him handsome and charming and mysterious. The ‘r’s’ rolled off his tongue and his accent was irresistible. He seemed to hang on to my every word as his hazel eyes gazed into mine. After meeting, our first date was on New Year’s Eve. He gave me only the obligatory kiss at midnight which was okay for a first real date. When he said goodnight, he invited me to go with him the next afternoon to the Arboretum. (A beautiful, large garden in Arcadia, California, where I had never been.) After that, he said, we would go out for dinner.

I was pleased. I accepted. That year on January 1st the sun shone brilliantly in Southern California. It was a perfect day for an outing. We strolled under the sunshine along an all-but deserted pebble path between colourful, blooming camellia trees. It was lovely. Great. Magical.

He kissed me, right there...

He kissed me, right there…

Suddenly, with no one else around, he took me in his arms and kissed me — right there. This was our first rrreeeaaalll kiss. I’m cool. I wanted to impress; to seem sophisticated; to act as if it were no big deal for me to be kissed like that right out there under the sky and the sun and the flowering trees in front of the whole wide, beautiful world. So, pretending to be absolutely collected and unfazed, with what I believed was proper dignity and decorum, I calmly turned from him to continue walking ahead along the pebble path and —– fell flat on my face.

He helped a somewhat shaken and very embarrassed, humiliated me to my feet. What would you have done in my place???? I could do nothing more than draw on what was left of my sense of humour to survive the devastating moment.

`”See what happens when you kiss me?” I laughed, though I didn’t at all think it was funny. I wanted to die at that very moment. I wished the earth would open up and swallow me whole, so I could disappear forever and ever and never have to face him again. And, surely, I had blown it anyway and would never hear from this man after that clumsy fiasco.

We were going out to dinner together, remember? Those were somewhat more formal days in my life. I was wearing a dress, pantyhose and high heels, appropriate restaurant wear, but frankly, not that great an idea for an afternoon in the park, but I had wanted to look my best.

My knees were dirt and pebble-encrusted and altogether a bloody mess. My pantyhose were shredded at the knees, hanging loosely with long decorative runs going in all directions interwoven with dripping blood running downwards as we walked, making matters worse.

In vain, I tried to wash my knees at the first public bathroom I saw, which had no soap, only cold water, and those dreadful, hard, brown paper towels they sometimes have in such places. There was no choice but to discard what was left of my damaged hose, and to continue on my way stocking-less in my high-heeled shoes. (I always did, and still hate to be barefoot in shoes. I don’t understand how anyone can do it. )

Nonetheless, he gallantly took a somewhat disheveled me, sans stockings — scraped, bleeding knees and all, out to dinner to a very romantic French restaurant up in the hills. We walked through the lovely garden grounds in the cool of the evening, and when he later dared kiss me again (miracle of miracles) I hardly felt the pain in those knees. (Later, they became infected and I had to go see my doctor.)

To me, he seemed a thoughtful, soft-spoken and good-looking Continental who recited French poetry with passion.

I could not resist....

How could I resist….

Ribbons and hearts(Not that I always understood it all, but it certainly sounded good.) Besides, he would tuck charming little notes under my front door, and buy me daisies because, he said, they are very French. How could I resist?

What happened next? I fell two more times in his company. (High-heels, I realize, were always a problem for me.) The third time, he announced that he’d just have to marry me because I needed someone to hold me up. And, after all, we did marry.

Some tips from a lady who has been there:  After marrying the person you choose, continue doing some of the lovely things you charmed him/her with in the first place. And, try to keep your promises.