Tag Archive | Oscar Wilde

Graveyards, worth a visit…

Muriel2017It’s been a busy time, so haven’t had time to write earlier. However going through my bookshelves, I found a small book ‘Comic Epitaphs: from the very best old graveyards’ published by Peter Pauper Press. Daughter Susan, who knows I enjoy old graveyards, bought it for me and some of the epitaphs in it are hilarious.

When Susan and I first visited Victoria together, we wandered through their old cemetery looking for Artist Emily Carr’s grave — in the rain. Much to my regret, we never found it.

I’ve wandered through many old graveyards on trips to Europe,

PereLachaise2

Pere Lachaise

but my very favorite is the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Once I spent a whole day there (except for a lunch break), following my carefully-marked map on which I’d circled all the composers, authors, and other special famous people who deserved special attention.

OscarWildePereLachaise

Oscar Wilde’s grave at Pere Lachaise

 

As I made my rounds along the ancient paths at Pere Lachaise, I noticed a moss-covered old crypt with my own family’s surname on it, but by that time was too tired to inquire at the office to try to learn more about them.

 

Here are a few epitaphs from the book Susan gave me. I hope you get as much of a kick out of them as I do.

Here lies Ann Mann

She lived an old maid

But died an old Mann
(Manchester)crossescolor

 

 

 

 

 

 

grim reaper

Here lies Pecos Bill

He always lied

And always will

He once lied loud

He now lies still
(Grand Forks)

 

 

 

Sacred to the memoryskelitons
Of Anthony Drake
Who died for peace
And dear quietness’ sake.
His wife was forever
Scoldin’ and scoffin’
So he sought repose
In a $12 coffin
(Marietta)

 

 

oldjewishcemetBudapest

Old Jewish Cemetery I visited in Budapest

 

Jonathan Grober
Died dead sober
Lord thy wonders
Never cease
(Clinkerton)

 

 

 

Owen Moore
Gone away
Owin’ more
Than he could pay
(Battersea)

Angel

 

Here lies a father of 29
There would have been more
But he didn’t have time
(Moultrie)

 

 

[On an infant]

Since I have been so
Quickly done for,
I wonder what I was
Begun for
Hammondport)

Here lies my wife
A slattern and shrew
If I said I missed her
I should lie here too!
(Selby)

Advertisements

Our schools teaching LGBTQ issues….

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy Kauffmann

Our schools have introduced a program to teach children about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gender issues. Good. I applaud the program. If it’s truly successful I’m sure less people will suffer.

One school trustee has criticized the new policy, calling it ‘child abuse’. What? I hope he’ll be promptly replaced by a more forward-thinking, knowledgeable trustee. The man is ignorant and very much behind the times.

For the most part, when I was in high school during the early 1950s, we didn’t even know homosexuality existed. I certainly didn’t. There was an unhappy girl in our class who, by the way, excelled in sports — something most of us didn’t participate in unless we were required to.

“I wish I were a boy,” she’d tell me, her eyes sad as she said so. It WAS sad. I felt sorry for her. She was what we would now call ‘Butch’. (I remember her name but will not use it. If I still exist, she may too.) I do, however, think of her often and hope she found her place in life and became comfortable with who and what she was meant to be.

In those days many gay people married, not wanting to admit to their families, or at times even to themselves, who and what they really were. It was not acceptable. This led to unhappiness for everyone. Wouldn’t it be better if we were all free to be who we are?

Of course there are parents who still object to their children being taught about these natural differences in people, due to religious beliefs and/or backward traditions. That saddens me. We don’t choose to be born ‘different’. Who would? Life is difficult enough as it is. Why ask for the kind of problems those who are LGBTQ have been subjected to, and let’s face it, it is far from over yet.

I just attended a ‘Music in the Morning’ concert where we were treated to my favorite Tchaikovsky String Quartet. I recall reading Tchaikovsky was ‘outed’ and to avoid the horrible scandal which loomed over him, took his own life. Surely he had more music in him to compose. Our loss…..

tchaikovsky-kuznetsov-crop

Tchaikovsky

Oscar Wilde, that witty writer of plays and stories, was jailed because he had an affair with a man.

Oscar-Wilde-640x360

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

The inhumane conditions of jail at the time destroyed his health. His children were never allowed to see him and had no idea what horrible crime their father had committed. His son, writing about it years later in his book says when he finally found out, his reaction was: “That’s all?” He grew up thinking his father had committed murder or something truly awful. Broken physically, Wilde died shortly after his release.

Alan-Turing

Alan Turing, brilliant mathematician who broke the Nazi code

Then there was Alan Turing, the mathematician to whom we owe so much. He was the brilliant man who cracked the Nazi code, which not only served his country, but may have saved us all. How was he thanked? Arrested and disgraced for having a homosexual relationship, forced to undergo surgery to ‘correct’ what was ‘wrong’ with him, and finally, miserably, took his own life.

How many other great thinkers and creative people have we lost because of our stupidity? How many more need to suffer needlessly?

Good luck to our school board with this new program. More power to them.

FullSizeRender

Sign I saw at Chandra and Rafi’s home while I visited them in San Francisco this month.  I love it. I love them.

 

 

‘The last time I saw Paris….’

photo by Susan Kauffmann

photo by Susan Kauffmann

9 a.m.: Installed on a bench, I’m pouring over the map of the famous Pere

Through the Chunnel, 1st class boring, regular class more fun

Through the Chunnel, 1st class boring, regular class more fun

Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Friends in England teased me about wanting to visit nothing but dead people. Indeed,

I had taken the Chunnel from London to Paris solely for this reason. It is where the likes of Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Bizet, Chopin, Isadora Duncan, Moliere, Edith Piaf, Marcel

The famous 12th century philosopher Abelard & his Heloise, at last united in death

The famous 12th century philosopher Abelard & his Heloise, at last united in death

Proust, Simone Signoret, Gertrude Stein and Oscar Wilde are buried. Here the 12th century lovers Peter Abelard and Heloise were finally united in death.

If I pay proper homage and breath deeply at the gravesides of these brilliant/talented people, I might even absorb a little of their creativity. I mark the location of each grave I want to see and select the most logical route along Avenue des Peupliers towards Bizet’s final resting place. Just in case no one else has, I tell him his opera ‘Carmen’ (which he believed ‘a definite and hopeless flop’) is popular, famous and beloved today, 130 years later.

Frederic Chopin's tomb, Pere Lachaise cemetery

Frederic Chopin’s tomb, Pere Lachaise cemetery

That duty dispensed with, I turn onto Avenue des Ailantes, looking for Balzac’s grave. What is this? Right between Bizet and Balzac is an ancient, moss-covered tomb with my own family’s surname on it! If I had a name like ‘Smith’, I wouldn’t have given it a thought, but my maiden name ‘Ruch’ is not common. My dad, who immigrated to Canada from Lithuania during the 1920s wasn’t in touch with family left behind, and none lived where I grew up in Montreal.

Was it possible? Could it be? Was I walking around with the same genes as the people in this very tomb? I drop onto a nearby bench contemplating this unexpected turn of events, giving thought to the family I have never known. Unbidden, tears run down my cheeks. I approach the tomb and run my fingers along the rusted gate. I peer within the dark interior, but nothing is revealed. Without flowers to leave behind, I pick up a small pebble from the ground and carefully balance it on the peaked roof as a sign of my visit. Perhaps it is still there today.

Sarah Bernhardt's grave at Pere Lachaise

Sarah Bernhardt’s grave

After whispering goodbye to the “Famille J. Ruch” ghosts, I continue on my way, but that tomb won’t leave me alone. I visit each grave marked on my map, yet questions continue to plague me. How many relatives survived World War II? Where are they? What are they like? Do we look alike? Do any share my interests as well as my genes? Would I like them if I knew them? Would they like me?? How do you locate family you don’t even know?

Later, by mere chance, a friend told me about a genealogy website. I found it, typed in my maiden name and – hey, someone else was looking for people with the same name. I immediately sent off an email to Amanda, who lives in Longmeadow, MA. (USA). We ARE related; our grandmothers were sisters. She has created a family tree and because we found each other, she was able to fill in a few blanks. Amanda sent me a copy. When it arrived, I quickly tore the package open and set to work taping all 20 pages together. There, in black and white, were names and locations of dozens of relatives — in South Africa, Australia, England, Israel, Canada, and the U.S. Some had been murdered during WWII. One, whose dear ones had all perished took his own life; some made it through. Their tragedies and triumphs are, in part, my own.

An inquiry went off to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Could they put me in touch with any descendants of ‘Famille J. Ruch’? They didn’t respond, after all it IS a very old tomb. And, are Amanda and I alike? Well, both of us are writers…..

Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Full of surprises

Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Full of surprises

Death in the Afternoon

Muriel from BlogSpring is my favorite time of year — a promise of things to come. Like all promises, it isn’t always kept, but like a five-year-old, I keep believing this time my little balcony garden will thrive. So, two sunny days in a row and I was already cleaning up winter’s debris, checking on my struggling garlic planted in the fall, seeing which herbs barely survived, and putting in beans, peas and kale. “It’s too soon!” my more pragmatic friend warned, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be out there before the wasps arrive. (I’m a delicate flower —  allergic to their sting.) As for them, they LOVE it here. I’m convinced they’ve passed the word around to all their friends about how great I taste, and they’re also very angry with me.

Wasps love it here

Wasps love it here

Here I must confess, I’m responsible for the death of hundreds of wasps! Not “WASPS” (Women Airforce Service Pilots) or “WASPS” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), but wasps, the stinging, mean guys who are now apparently out to get back at me. How did this happen?

"WASPS" Women Airforce Service Pilots

“WASPS”
Women Airforce Service Pilots

I was innocently, diligently working away at my computer, when I glanced out my office window to drink in the glory of the mountains. There was this smooth, round, light-brown, globular-shaped structure about the size of a large grapefruit hanging

A wasp nest with entrance on the bottom

A wasp nest with entrance on the bottom

perfectly-centered and straight down from our building’s over-hang. Strange, I thought, I never noticed it before. I wondered why it was there and what its function was.

Like a female Sherlock Holmes investigating a mystery, I perused it with care, and, upon closer inspection, noted activity — much activity. Traipsing in and out of the entrance at the very bottom of the beautiful dome, for beautiful it was, were numerous tiny, busy creatures. Aliens? No, nothing that dramatic.

They were wasps, wasps with stingers! Hundreds and hundreds of them flying in and out their basement door. “Aha!” I declared aloud to the empty room, for Watson wasn’t here. “This smooth, round, light-brown, globular-shaped structure about the size of a large grapefruit hanging perfectly-centered and straight down from our building’s overhang clearly seems to be a — wasp nest!”

Was I scared? Did I panic? No! I was safely indoors

Was I scared? Did I panic? No! I was safely indoors

Did I panic? Did I cry out in fright? Did I scream for help? Did you hear me? Of course not! Sure, I am allergic to their sting, but they were outside and I was safely inside, so I was able to be courageous. The industry of the little devils was fascinating. My computer’s screen-saver had to kick in while I spent the next hour or so observing the goings-on out there. What an interesting thing to have so close to my window. I liked it!

“Well, if you find it so beautiful and interesting,” said the gal (somewhat incredulously) at our building’s management office over the phone when I called “Perhaps you’d like to keep it for a few days before I order an exterminator out.”

Was she kidding? Some years ago, after a wasp sting, my arm developed a plateau-like, angry, painful, red welt, which three weeks later grew larger, hotter, angrier, redder, even more painful and itchier. Medication was required to calm things down. No way! Fascinating as it was, the nest would have to go.

Wasp circular hotel rooms within nest

Wasp circular hotel rooms within nest

A calm, business-like exterminator arrived next afternoon, canister and long metal tube in tow. He sprayed right into the wasp “Home-Sweet-Home”. The displaced creatures flew about in a tizzy, hither and yon, while chunks of their beautiful nest collapsed and fell away, at first leaving the circular inner structure of hotel-rooms, built around a perfectly round elevator-like shaft, exposed.

The circular stairwell at the Hotel D'Alsace in Paris where Oscar Wilde spent his last days

The circular stairwell at the Hotel D’Alsace in Paris where Oscar Wilde spent his last days

It reminded me of the Hotel D’Alsace I’d visited in Paris, where Oscar Wilde spent his last days. I still remember looking up at that circular staircase that goes up and up and up….

Oscar Wilde, who died at the Hotel D'Alsace in Paris

Oscar Wilde, who died at the Hotel D’Alsace in Paris

Still safely indoors, I peered into those wasp hotel rooms, wondering if I might observe any improprieties in progress, but any amorous activities taking place had already been rudely interrupted, so I cannot tell you anything new about the birds and the wasps.

The exterminator looked at his work and saw that it was good. “When the wasps stop coming back in a day or two, you can knock the rest of it down.” he announced and left, not at all troubled by the murder and mayhem we two had planned and carried out.

In relating this grisly tale to friends, I found some confusion existed as to the social structure of wasp society. Some friends thought wasps, like bees, have a queen, others thought the life of a wasp was totally different. My encyclopedia said they are both right since there are so many species of wasps. The nest building kind apparently do have a queen.

Does that mean I’ve committed regicide???

Honesty? Is it the best policy?

Muriel from BlogI’ve been agonizing over whether I should have an honest, open talk with a dear, dear friend. It’s a difficult decision to make. You want to know your thoughts will be received in the way they are intended and, your friend needs to really trust you.

Fortunately, I have a close friend whom I know will always be absolutely honest with me and I treasure her. I know I can share any thought with her and can always ask her opinion when I am at a loss myself. I love her and trust her completely. I am grateful for all my friends, but am particularly grateful for her.

Nonetheless, at times other people may ask for an “honest” opinion about something they are doing, but I’ve learned to be careful about that. Many don’t want an honest opinion at all. Often they are hoping for us to say that whatever they are doing is absolutely wonderful — and nothing else. If you suspect this to be the case, run away from it as fast as you can!

Years ago I was employed by a man who knew I had extensive experience in his field. He welcomed me into his firm warmly, said how delighted he was to have me, and asked me to be sure to let him know if there was anything he was doing that could be improved. I believed him. When I did see his business was losing thousands of dollars by a most cumbersome, delayed billing practice, I said so. His response?

"How dare you suggest you know better?"

“How dare you suggest you know better?”

“How dare you suggest that after my running this business for 35 years you know better than I do?” He was furious! Obviously, he just wanted me to tell him he was a brilliant business-man who did everything perfectly right. I did see other wasteful and costly methods within his organization afterwards, but had learned my lesson. I kept quiet about it.

The author believes the work to be excellent....

The author believes the work to be excellent….

As a writer, time and again I have been asked to read someone’s book, memoir, play, etc. Invariably, the author believes the work to be excellent, that it could never be improved in any way, shape or form, and the whole world is breathlessly awaiting his/her masterpiece. No matter how diplomatic I have tried to be, my comments, or suggestions were most often met with sometimes repressed, but evident resentment. I don’t do it anymore.

If you are asked for your opinion in such matters and want to make (and keep) friends and influence people, decline, decline, decline! Say no! Say you have no time, that you are going up into space on the next mission and are therefore busy with astronautical training or something — anything, but get out of it. Once I understood just what was expected, I no longer agreed to do it. I now refuse all such requests, so don’t ask.

What they really want is to hit you on the head with an umbrella..

What they really want is to hit you on the head with an umbrella..

Honesty….how to explain the word? Sometimes those who say they will be honest with you don’t have good intentions at all. Sometimes what they really want to do is hit you on the head — hard, with an umbrella or a bat, but since physical violence is not acceptable, they’ll hurt you instead with devastating “honest” words. This kind of “honesty” can cut to the core.

The subject of honesty is a terribly complex one. We teach our children not to lie. We punish them if we catch them at it. Our society frowns on compulsive liars and those who are chronically dishonest, and rightly so. Yet, the naked truth can be so hurtful and damaging in some people’s hands, it can be used as a knife with which to pierce the heart. How to deal with the whole confusing concept?

We teach our children not to lie.

We teach our children not to lie.

In the oh-so-successful novel “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden, Sayuri, the protagonist (a beautiful geisha) has just been reminded she is aging — which is true. Her response? ”There are good facts and bad facts. The bad facts are best avoided.” Sayuri, of course, knows how old she is and doesn’t need to be told.

"I never saw any good that came of telling truth" John Dryden (1631-1700)

“I never saw any good that came of telling truth”
John Dryden (1631-1700)

Authors whose work has offended others enough to be banned are particularly interesting,  and John Dryden (1631-1700) whose comedy “The Kind Keeper” was banned during the Restoration, is thus someone I find intriguing. His thoughts on the topic of truth? “I never saw any good that came of telling truth.” I also love what William Blake, (1757-1827) the multi-gifted English poet, painter and engraver, put so well: “A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.”

"A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent." William Blake (1757-1827)

“A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.”
William Blake (1757-1827)

"He would be the best of fellows if he did not always speak the truth." Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

“He would be the best of fellows if he did not always speak the truth.”
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Who can discuss the truth without referring to one of my favorite authors, the incomparable Oscar Wilde, who has given me endless hours of pleasure both at the theatre and curled up with a book. Wilde didn’t much believe in telling the truth at all. He said: “The telling of beautiful untrue things is the proper aim of Art.” (The Decay of Lying) and “He would be the best of fellows if he did not always speak the truth.” (The Sphinx Without a Secret).

We do require another word to replace the word “lie”, when lying is a kindness. What is wrong with being considerate and kind and refraining from hurting others with painful, even if factual, truths? In most cases, the “truth” is known anyway and we don’t need to rub it in. Some of the meanest, deepest and most agonizing hurts are delivered under the pretext of “truth”.

We also can use yet another word for a different meaning of the “truth”. The great American writer and libertarian, Thoreau, said “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” He was talking about something totally different when he wrote about that oh-so complicated word which has so many different meanings, both positive and negative.

How confusing can this language of ours get????