The house I grew up in had a laundry chute. The clothes ‘travelled’ between the upstairs bathroom and the basement. The chute was big enough for clothes to be pushed down, but not big enough for us kids to throw ourselves down.
That’s probably just as well, but I remember spending way too much time playing in the huge timber cage in the basement that ‘caught’ all the dirty clothes. It was suspended from the ceiling, but was an easy climb to get into. I can see that darn latticed cage in my mind’s eye as if it was yesterday, and yet I moved out of that house when I was about 14.
So maybe you can appreciate that my idea of a chute was something tunnel-like—a way to get from one place to another.
Years later in France, the term puzzled me. Back then, my dear friend, Maggie, and I were travelling around the world together.
This particular adventure was a drive from Brussels in Belgium to the very south of France—Argeles sur Mer to be exact. We decided to avoid the main roads and were rewarded with drives through lots of lovely villages.
We were intrigued by signs displayed on the way into and out of some villages. They said ‘Chute de Branches’, and always marked avenues that were lined with trees such as poplars.
We assumed the trees and their ‘title’ were symbolic. Perhaps they had been planted as, say, a war memorial and the signs served to commemorate them. There are similar tree-lined stretches in Australia. But I was puzzled as to why they weren’t called ‘avenue des arbres’ or ‘avenue of trees’. Perhaps the word ‘branches’ had some special war-related meaning.
So we drove slowly through these ‘chutes’, admiring their picturesque settings, and paying our silent respects to who those died during the war.
It wasn’t until we got back to Brussels and consulted Jean-Michel’s French dictionary, that we realised ‘chute de branches’ has an entirely different meaning. Pictures might have been more helpful in letting us know that we should be dodging ‘falling branches’.
Gulp. And to think we didn’t rush past them. But our confusion gave everyone a very hearty laugh.
Writing this post reminded me of another confusing sign. We spent several weeks in Belgium, and Maggie got rather used to seeing the highway sign ‘Sortie’, which is French for exit. After we spent a few days driving around Flanders, Maggie caught sight of a sign and said Oh hey, I think we went there yesterday. I replied, Yes, sort of, that’s ‘Uitrit’, which is Flemish for exit.
I never got photos of any of those signs, but I’ve shared a few here that are rather more indicative of the definition. Even the ones here with wording at least show an exclamation point or some indication of danger. There’s also one in English, and it’s where we walk the dog several times a week. Haven’t been bonked on the head yet.
I’ve also shared a pic of the tree-lined entrance to Braidwood in New South Wales. I believe it is a real war memorial. But I think falling branches are also a concern.
A few years back, there was some talk of chopping down all the trees as a safety precaution, but there was a public outcry. As a compromise, the speed limit was lowered from 100 to 80 miles per kilometre. So we get to drive by slowly! 🙂
Have road signs ever outfoxed or confused you?
P.S. If you are aware of Poor John’s habit of walking with his hands behind his back, you might check out how he ‘converted’ Jean-Michel’s first son to that style of walking.
P.P.S. Be sure to check out my cooking blog too. Here’s a fabulous recipe for the famous French dish called coq au vin.
This morning’s Australian Radio National program included a feature on International Women’s Day (March 8). I found some of the history fascinating.
The earliest Women’s Day observance was in February 1909 in New York, It was organised by the Socialist Party of America, and was in remembrance of the 1908 strike by the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union.
Over the next years, women’s days were observed in many countries, including Austria, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland Spain and China.
One such observance in Russia led to their revolution. In 1917, demonstrations marking International Women’s Day in Saint Petersburg on the last Thursday in February (which fell on March 8 on the Gregorian calendar) initiated the February Revolution.
Women in Saint Petersburg went on strike that day for ‘Bread and Peace’. They demanded an end to World War I, as well as an end to Russian food shortages and czarism.
Leon Trotsky wrote, ‘23 February (8th March) was International Woman’s Day and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this “Women’s Day” would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without date. But in morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for support of the strike… which led to mass strike… all went out into the streets.’
The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975. Two years later, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.
To mark this day—which has the theme of ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030’—I’m sharing photos that I have taken of women at work in some of the countries places I’ve visited. Most of the photos show women doing traditional jobs.
Next year, on this anniversary, I’ll add photos of women from my travels in Africa. Oh, and in the interest of equal opportunity, I’ll post still more photos and commentary on 19 November to observe International Men’s Day.
P.S. Finishing off this post with a pic of my dear cousin, Jo, who is an amazing cook and a cherished member of my extended family.
Following on from yesterday’s uplifting reblog about a Muslim woman who was shown much kindness by a stranger, I’m pleased to share another good-news story. This one is about this weekend’s 21st annual Multicultural Festival in Canberra.
We’ve seen this festival grow and grow since it’s first outing in 1996, and have watched scores of cultural performances, learned about differing cultures, and eaten all sorts of interesting and tasty cuisines.
Usually we try to attend as a group so we can buy plate after plate of food to sample and share—it’s the best way to try up to 10 different dishes—but today it was just Poor John and me.
We set out early (11am) to be sure to get a parking place. I have a secret selection of spots that are hidden away and free of charge on weekends, and sure enough there was one waiting for us. No, don’t expect me to tell you where it is, but it is on the edge of downtown and only two streets away from the start of the festival action.
We started with a shared plate of Iranian food—saffron rice with chunks of chicken and lamb kebab pieces. Oh my, these were so perfectly seasoned that I could have eaten another plate on the spot, but we thought we had to spread around our custom and challenge our taste buds.
As we enjoyed our Iranian food, another couple sat down next to us and we were immediately tempted by their plate of Czech potato pancake, which looked like a giant hash brown. With all it’s buttery goodness, it was as good as it looked. The server kindly cut our share in half.
Before indulging in yet another course, we figured it was time to explore the stalls and check out some performances. There were about a dozen stages with activities taking place on about half of them. We saw acts (musicians, dancers and/or singers) from Tonga, China, Poland, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Macedonia and Indonesia.
We also visited embassy and country-info stalls for the USA (to sample homemade lemonade), Zambia, Palestine, Jordan, China, Ethiopia (for a sip of their local coffee) and Egypt, which just happens to be where Poor John and I met all those years ago.
Couldn’t resist having our picture taken at the Filipino stall. If we’re lucky, we might win the trip to the Philippines they are giving away. Fingers crossed.
Our last stop was at the main Tibetan food stall. We visited them on our way in, only to learn that the steamed momos (their delicious vegetarian and/or meat dumplings) wouldn’t be ready for quite some time.
We first had momos in Tibet in 2011 and then again in the north of India in 2013 (in Mussoorie). We’ve had them a few times since, but the Tibetan and Mussoorie ones were the best. Today’s were pretty darn good too. I could have gone for a second plate, but just didn’t have room. The chilli–soy sauce was a perfect addition.
Planning to revisit the festival tomorrow. Just have to wait until I feel hungry again. I’m thinking I need a German sausage, a Thai or Indian curry, and maybe a South American empanada.
P.S. Sorry I didn’t take pictures of the actual food on plates. Too keen to eat. Maybe tomorrow.
For many years, I’ve lived and travelled in Muslim countries and known countless Muslims. I’ve always been welcomed and treated with courtesy and respect. I don’t know where this encounter occurred (country or city) but I am so gratified to learn that people are making an effort to get to know and accept Muslims as they find them. Please read down to the last paragraph where the author recognises that sometimes our opinions are shaped by misinformation.
P.S. This is the first time I have ever reblogged someone else’s post.
The bus was empty so I decided to sit on the lower deck, at the front, there was only one other passenger on the bus who sat in front of me, a few minutes went by and I noticed that she kept turning back and looking at me. Every time I smiled, she would quickly look away, as funny as it seems she was not very good at disguising it. I didn’t mind the starting it was normal I know some people do it out of curiosity, because they feel sorry for me and others do it out of ignorance, but whatever the reason it didn’t bother me. The glances kept exchanging back and forth throughout the entire journey.
Until we came to a stop where she picked up her bag and stoop up, to my surprise she turned facing towards me and slipped a folded note into my hands…
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Today marks a sad anniversary—50 years ago today my father was killed in a car accident in Omaha Nebraska. He was 45 years old and on his way to pick up my mother at the hairdresser’s.
There was freezing rain and he hit a tree in Elmwood Park. Workmen in the park thought they saw him try to miss hitting a dog. Maybe he had a heart attack. We’ll never know. I no longer remember how we knew the police officer at the scene, but he was stunned to learn that dad had died on the way to the hospital. He had seemed alert and stable at the scene.
If rescue squads (as they were then called in the US) had been as sophisticated and well equipped as they are now, the outcome might have been different. Essentially dad died of shock and a ruptured pancreas or spleen. Unbelievable that I can’t remember which organ it was.
The hairdresser’s place was only a few blocks from the scene of the accident. When my mother heard the sirens, she said, ‘I hope that’s not why he’s late.’
Dad left behind a wife and four daughters, and whole life ahead.
The day had been full of promise.
It was the first day of his last semester of university to earn a degree in engineering. He’d been studying part-time for seven or eight years, and doing that around his full-time job as the civilian pilot for the US Army Corps of Engineers and later as the private pilot for the Central National Insurance Company of Omaha.
It was also the day he would take delivery of a new plane (a Queen Air 88) for the company—a plane he’d chosen after months of research, testing and deliberation.
While I’ve written this post to mark the half century since his death, I also wanted to share, especially with my sisters who are all younger than me, a bit of history about dad and airplanes.
On the evening of Thursday, 18 December 1952, dad crashed a DC-3 at Stapleton Airport in Denver Colorado.
Not surprisingly, it made front-page news in the next day’s The Denver Post. Here’s the article.
Four in crash of plane here escape safely
Puzzled investigators launched a probe Friday into the crash of a twin-engined transport plane from which four persons escaped just seconds before it caught fire at Stapleton airfield Thursday night.
One of the passengers was Brig. Gen. C.H. Chorpening, assistant chief for civil works in the office of the U.S. corps of engineers in Washington D.C.
Like the other three, he jumped from the plane after it skidded to a jolting stop that ended a 100-mile-an-hour takeoff attempt. None of the four was seriously injured.
The others were civilian employees of the corps of engineers—Pilot J.H. Austin of Omaha, Neb.; Copilot N.H. Hansen, also of Omaha; and George Beard, an engineer from Washington.
Treated for bruises
Chorpening and the two crew members were treated for minor cuts and bruises at Fitzsimons Army hospital and released. Beard did not require medical treatment.
The plane, a DC-3 owned by the corps of engineers, was sent here from Omaha Thursday afternoon to pick up Chorpening, who was on a routine inspection of civil engineer projects.
Chorpening said the craft was only a few feet off the runway when it suddenly went out of control and piled up in a wheat field on airport property. The time was 6:32 p.m.
The plane went up in flames shortly after the four got out.
The pilot could not explain the accident. He said the plane reached a ground speed of about 100 miles an hour when it veered sharply and crashed at the south end of the field.
The investigation was ordered by the civil aeronautics administration. AC Goddard, CAA safety agent, said Friday the cause of the crash was ‘a total mystery.’
‘The pilot doesn’t know, which means that a physical inspection of the wreckage will have to determine what happened,’ he said.
Both engines were torn from the plane and thrown twenty feet in front of the fuselage. The pilot’s compartment was caved in and the entire plane swept by flames.
Six companies of firemen from the Stapleton fire department had the blaze under control in about fifteen minutes.
Less than two hours after the crash. Chorpening and his crew left Denver on a commercial flight to Omaha. The general had come here from the west coast by commercial plane.
The 19 December evening edition of the Omaha World Herald also carried an item, which had additional details.
Plane burns but 4 escape: Army engineer general shaken in crash
Four men, one a high ranking general in Army Engineers, narrowly escaped death Thursday night when a plane from Omaha crashed and burst into flames at the Denver municipal airport.
Brig. Gen. Claude H. Chorpening of Washington, assistant chief of engineers in charge of civil works, escaped with a wrenched left shoulder, bruises and cuts.
George L. Beard of Washington, chief of the planning and development division in the office of the Chief of Army Engineers, came out of the flaming plane almost unscathed. He is a civilian.
On inspection trip
The pilot, Jules Austin, 5118 Leavenworth Street, and the acting co-pilot, Norman Hansen, 1811 North Forty-eighth Avenue, also got out safely. Mr Hansen normally is the plane’s engineer, but as a licensed pilot fills in as co-pilot on occasion.
The plane, a C-47 transport assigned to the Missouri River Division of the Army Engineers here, had gone to Denver to take General Chorpening on an inspection trip of the Army Engineers projects in South Dakota. He had come from the Pacific Northwest, where he had toured projects under construction in that area.
The accident occurred about 7 o’clock just after take-off when the plane was about 10 feet in the air.
Looped on ground
General Chorpening said the plane shuddered violently, then dropped its left wing sharply. The wing tripped on the ground, he said, and the impact flung the plane over to the right side. It looped on the ground and came to rest off the runway.
The outside of the plane started burning, and flames broke out in the compartment that separated the cabin from the pilot’s compartment.
General Chorpening’s seat to which we was bound by his safety belt, was broken from its fastenings and flung the length of the cabin.
General Chorpening and Mr Beard freed themselves and felt their way in the darkness to the rear door, where they jumped to safety.
‘When we hit the ground we started pedaling as fast as we could go,’ he said. ‘The tanks were what we were afraid of. It was a miracle they didn’t explode.’
Mr Austin and Mr Hansen climbed out through escape hatches in the pilot’s compartment.
General Chorpening, who was given emergency treatment at Fitzsimons General Hospital, came to Omaha by commercial airline Friday and left on his inspection trip north by rail. Mr Beard returned to Washington.
Cause of the crash was being studied Friday at Denver.
And a bit more of the story
Norm, the co-pilot on that trip, had more stories about that day and the aftermath.
For starters, he said General Chorpening and Beard actually managed to lower the stairs so managed to walk from the plane rather than jump. I know this is true because in one of the photos, you can see the stairs are down.
Once back to earth, the general asked dad and Norm if they would go back into the then burning plane to retrieve his dress hat which he’d forgotten to grab. They declined.
I can’t find the outcome of the investigation online, but my best recollection from Norm and my mother was that much of the blame was placed on an air traffic controller who had allowed a plane to takeoff across and in front of dad just moments before he took off. The officials surmised that had created a wind squall that hit dad’s plane.
Norm had a different view. He said General Chorpening thought the world of my dad and that Chorpening’s take on the cause of the accident was that ‘the earth swung out of its orbit and hit the plane.’
Not long after, the Army Corps of Engineers bought the shell of another DC-3.
Dad, Norm and Harry Hildeburn, dad’s usual co-pilot, refurbished the interior of that plane to make it an executive aircraft, which seated 21 and had a galley kitchen, sofas, easy chairs, card tables, curtains, pot plants and magazine racks. Oh how, I remember that plane. One day I’ll do a post on it.
Footnote: When the Army Corps of Engineers sold that DC-3 in 1960–61, Harry retired to his home state of Oregon. Norm went on to fly for others, and Dad went to work for Central National. Harry died in 1977, and Norm died in 2011 at age 87. We corresponded for years. What a trio they were. I’ll try to share more stories about them.
Another footnote: Remember I said dad died on the first day of his last semester in university? In a wonderful and heartwarming gesture, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (then called Omaha University) awarded dad’s degree posthumously to my mother.
The word ‘cornucopia’ has always reminded me of an American Thanksgiving with its groaning tables of food, sincere goodwill and heartfelt hospitality being extended to all. My mother taught us that no one is to be left out at Thanksgiving.
Sadly, this week delivered a different kind of ‘cornucopia’ in both America and Australia. This particular show of ‘bounty’ was marked by bigotry, threats and intolerance.
I admit that I was not surprised by President Trump’s announcement today to restrict access to the US for refugees and some visa holders from seven mostly Muslim nations: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
While it’s not a necessarily a sign of intolerance, it is what he threatened to do. I now wonder how it might affect our elder daughter, who was born in Syria in the 1980s. Luckily she has an Australian passport and no Syrian passport—a daughter of a diplomat.
For now, I won’t go into further comments about the days ahead in the USA.
But I digress.
What concerns me most this week is the bad behaviour being shown by a small group of Australians that have objected to a billboard that promotes Australia Day.
The bad behaviour started last week when a billboard went up in Melbourne. It depicted two Muslim girls celebrating Australia Day and waving Australia flags. The problem seemed to be that they were wearing headscarves (hijabs).
Such hypocrisy. Good grief, nuns wear headscarves.
That said, some Australians complained that people/migrants don’t assimilate when they arrive here. Of course, when migrants try super-hard to fit in (such as the billboard image above), the complainers say it’s not enough.
Of course, no one checks whether the ‘targets of criticism’ are migrants or people who are third or fourth generation in Australia (which is often the case). It really doesn’t matter. I embraced Australia from the day I arrived. I suppose that my good fortune is that, until I speak in my American accent, I look to be a typical white Australian. Even after I speak, I am accepted as ‘belonging’ here. I wonder how it would be if I were black?
The agency that erected the billboard shown above was so bombarded with threats (including death and bomb) that they removed the sign. That prompted a groundswell of public support (yay Australia!). Crowd funding raised $130,000 in a couple of days and that has been spent on posting even more of the same billboard in other major cities.
I live in the ACT—Australian Capital Territory—which decided to post the image (using their own funds) on the neon sign over the government-owned Canberra Theatre (see above). They announced this on their Facebook page.
The reaction (although small) was vicious, threatening and downright illegal. There were suggestions that the theatre be bombed, blown up or set on fire. Most of the comments came from a splinter group of radicals. But the comments were enough for the government to remove the post from Facebook. This is so wrong. Thankfully, they have not removed the sign.
I don’t think I’ve ever shared a politician’s comments, but I was impressed by what Andrew Barr, our Chief Minister, had to say. He called the complainers racists and rednecks. He got it in one. Here’s a link to a main article.
Tomorrow is Australia Day—26 January. Many issues surround this day. It marks when white folks landed on the continent or, as many Indigenous people rightly say, when the white folks invaded. There is discussion, even arguments, about a best day to celebrate Australia Day. I’ll try to keep you posted and hope that bigotry dies down here.
In the meantime, Happy Australia Day!
We’ve visited India three times in three years—mostly in search of wildlife—but the elephants have often managed to elude us.
I have to admit that on our first two trips, we saw elephants in a couple of national parks, but they were almost always specks on the horizon or shrouded by jungle. Should I say I’ve seen an elephant in the wild if all I’ve seen is a grey rump or a waving trunk or a flicking tail? I think not.
Of course, I’m not counting the working elephants we saw. These weren’t tourist elephants, but part of India’s parks and forestry department. The first ones we saw were on a mission to guide a roaming tiger back into its national park. The bottom line was to save the tiger’s life and the lives of any citizens who might get in the way.
We also saw a lone tusker in the distance in Rajaji National Park on the same day we saw three leopards. He moved so quickly I couldn’t get a photo, but he was huge.
While I think of it, I’ll mention that most of India’s national parks no longer offer elephant rides as a way to let tourists look for tigers. And even when such rides were offered, we didn’t take them.
So I was pleased that this trip delivered elephants, elephants and more elephants, and virtually all of them in the wild.
Frankly, it was to be expected. Elephants seem to be more common in the south, and this trip focused on the south—from Bhopal in the middle to Kanyakumari, on the country’s most southern tip.
Our first encounter was in Tadoba National Park, where we saw two adults and a baby. But that was only just the beginning because the farther south we travelled the more elephants we saw.
Every sighting was reassuring, especially when we saw the babies. These amazing beasts are considered endangered. Surveys indicate there are 35,000–40,000 Asian elephants left in the wild. About three-quarters of these are in India, with other populations spread across the many countries of southeast Asia and the subcontinent (although there aren’t any known to be in Pakistan).
Asian elephants are generally smaller than African elephants. They reach a shoulder height of 2 to 3.5 metres and weigh between 2000 to 5000 kilograms (up to 11,000 pounds). Females are usually smaller than males and have no or only small tusks.
Their appetites are huge. Adult elephants eat up to 150 kilograms of grasses, plants and trees per day. And they poop throughout the day. Anand always says the only way to know how old elephant dung is, is to stick your finger in. We didn’t need to know that much, but when we were walking, we saw what looked like a lot of fresh dung.
After Tadoba, our next elephant encounter was almost two weeks later in Nagarhole National Park. Then over the next two weeks we saw probably 50 elephants of all ages and in different settings. We saw an especially large herd in Periyar National Park, but I’ll write a separate post about all the wildlife there.
We even saw elephants on the side of the road (not in a national park) as we travelled from the state of Karnataka to Kerala. We stopped and watched them for quite some time and then some knuckleheads came up behind us and got out of their vehicle. Needless to say, the elephants skedaddled and the knuckleheads were lucky they weren’t attacked.
I felt bad about a young French couple we later met at the state border. They had taken a taxi from their hotel in Kerala and hoped to cross into Karnataka, where elephants are quite common. Turned out their taxi driver didn’t have an all-India travel permit, so could not cross the state line, and no other taxis were around.
So if you’re ever travelling by road in India, be sure the vehicle is allowed to cross state borders (although there is a plan to scrap the border regulations).
Update on the guy illegally parking in a disabled space
You may remember my rant about the guy who was parking in a disabled space at the gym. Once I had photographic evidence (of him striding away) I called the city’s hotline to report him, but a few weeks later he was still parking there.
So I called the hotline again and said I’d be calling every time I saw him. Haven’t seen him again. 🙂 But if I do, I’ll get an elephant to sit on his car. Maybe one of the fellows below.