Tuesday, April 30, 2013

At least I got a bruise to show for it.

Today just wasn't my day.  I went to the barn, hoping for some comforting companionship.  I held my face to Lainie's neck and breathed deeply (horses smell so good) and asked her to please be sweet to me today.  Not in the mood to work very hard, I first thought I'd just take her out and let her graze on the lead line.  Once we got out of the pasture, I figured I might as well walk her around some.  We saw a baby fox, walked through the barn and here and there, then, after passing Courtney and pointing out how well Lainie was doing, I decided to take her into a ring and walk her over some poles and amble around.  We were in there for only a couple of minutes when Lanie suddenly, inexplicably, bolted and bucked a couple of times.  I didn't let go of her, but she did almost pull the lead rope out of my hand and got far enough away from me that I didn't have a good hold on her.  Then the hateful little thing kicked me.  I saw it coming and raised my arm in front of my face.  I still held on to her, but one more buck and she was gone.  I know I'm using a lot of words to describe an relatively benign event, but humor me.  Like I said, not a good day.

Courtney told me to make Lanie run until she stopped and turned toward me ready to cooperate.  She ran straight to the stallion (don't they all?) who was standing at the fence line, then all around the ring.  After she calmed down, I picked up the lead rope and as quickly as I could do so without letting her think she'd won, walked her back up the lane to her pasture.

The experience was actually pretty fun, but it took me awhile to feel that way.  Driving home, I was tempted to cry from general frustration about my day until I reminded myself, as I do when I'm upset, that I'm from hardy stock and that I'm sure as hell not going to be a baby after my dad went through what he did as a POW for eight years.  That never fails to pull me up short, so I called Dad to thank him for the toughness running through my veins.  He reminded me that I'd had a complete blood transfusion as a newborn.  Thanks, Dad.  Micah assured me that genetics are set well before blood is present and that your genes don't change when you get a transfusion.  She was probably just babying me because her stupid horse kicked me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The King's Trianon Bedroom

The view was his. The bed is from the period, but didn't belong to him.  Madame Elizabeth,  rather than her brother, the King,  (who visited the Trianon, but not overnight) probably slept in this room.

The Facilities

Top:  These china vessels were on the top shelf inside an open closet-type space upstairs in the Petit Trianon.  As we passed by them, I heard Elissa point them out to our guide as containers that the Court ladies slipped under their hoop skirts when Mass (or other activities that required attendance and attention) went too long without a bathroom break.

Center:  Petit Trianon bath tub

Bottom:  One of several varieties of toilet

Petit Trianon: Private Quarters

1.)  Books from Marie Antoinette's private collection - a small portion… Where are the others?  Stolen, sold, forgotten and tucked away in an attic, unrecognized at Les Puces? It drives me a little bit crazy to wonder where the missing Stuff ended up?
2.) Princesse de Lamballe's bedchamber door - How else is it possible to make a curved door unless you carve it from a block of wood?
3.) Madame Elizabeth, Louis XVI's sister, needlepointed the cover on this chair.
4.)  Hallway in the private quarters of the Petit Trianon
5.)  Loved the window, which was on an interior wall of one of the rooms that was used as a hotel room and opened onto a hallway.  The wallpaper isn't original.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hidden Treasure

Our Trianon tour guide opened this upper-floor door to reveal an amazing drawing.  I so wish I had access to a Trianon historian who could tell me his/her educated opinion on when it was likely drawn and by whom.  If the tour guide expressed an opinion, I don't remember what it was.  Elissa?  Help me out here.  In which room was this door?  All I remember is that it was after we went through the Campan and Lamballe rooms.  Do the graph paper-like gridlines mean that the soldier was just the beginning of a larger scene?  When and why was the door walled up?  Was there ever a room behind it or has it always been a false door?  What's on the other side of the wall?  Does the fact that the backside of the door isn't finished indicate that it was done after Marie Antoinette's ownership?  I would think if it were done during her time or at the time of the building's construction, the builders wouldn't have neglected to finish even the inside of a false door.  The tour guide didn't definitively answer these questions, but my first thought, that it could've been drawn by Axel Fersen, so stunned me that I don't remember what was said.  Only afterward did I re-think the Fersen possibility and realize that, disappointingly, he probably wasn't the artist.
The drawing appears to be the rear view of a soldier sitting on a hill, holding a rifle.  The Rousseau-esqueness made me hope it was drawn while Marie Antoinette was mistress of the Trianon but, as relaxed as she and her friends were there, they probably weren't relaxed enough to draw on the Royal walls.  Even hidden Royal walls.  Obviously, they weren't likely to draw a man with a gun, even one in a pastoral Trianon-inspired setting.  This seems like a Citoyen-soldier, alone and unregimented, a concept whose time hadn't come while Marie Antoinette and her couterie played billiards and cards within these pastel walls.  Maybe the Citoyen-soldier is guarding the Trianon.

Maybe this was drawn during the period that the Revolutionary authorities and even the populace had access to the Trianon during the early stages of the conflict.  Or maybe the tour guides sketched it out, quickly, a month before our tour, because their tour had gotten stale and they wanted to spice it up.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


From the day the Austrians transferred the commodity that was Marie Antoinette to the French in May 1770, she was subject to the stifling etiquette Louis XIV had, decades before, established to keep his Court close and under control.  According to Madame Campan, at the scene of the transfer, near Kehl, the teenage future Dauphine of France had been "entirely undressed, in order that she might retain nothing belonging to a foreign Court (an etiquette always observed on such occasions), the doors were opened ;  the young Princesse came forward, looking round for the Comtesse de Noailles;  then, rushing into her arms, she implored her, with tears in her eyes, and with heartfelt sincerity, to be her guide and support."  The Comtesse de Noailles, Marie Antoinette's new Mistress of the Household, in a gesture foreshadowing the manner in which she'd respond to situations right up to the actual steps to the guillotine, pulled back from her young charge and informed her that the prerogative of the first introduction belonged not to herself, but to her husband, the Comte, who stood waiting to exercise his rights.  That subtle rebuke was but a foreshadowing of lifetime of mismatch between Marie Antoinette's personality and the life she was expected to lead.

Madame Campan's memoirs go on to say "While doing justice to the virtues of the Comtesse de Noailles, those sincerely attached to the Queen have always considered it as one of her earliest misfortunes not to have found, in the person of her adviser, a woman indulgent, enlightened, and administering good advice with that amiability which disposes young persons to follow it.  The Comtesse de Noailles had nothing agreeable in her appearance; her demeanor was stiff and her mien severe….  The Dauphiness was perpetually tormented by the remonstrances of the Comtesse de Noailles…" Marie Antoinette, in her lighthearted, irreverent way, nicknamed her Mistress of the Household, Madame L'Etiquette.

It takes me off topic, but I have to mention that the Comtesse became, at the least, innocuously demented towards the end of her life.  After being one of those Court members that spread rumors and held grudges against the Queen, thus paving the way for the Revolution, the Comtesse eventually became a victim to the reality she'd helped create.  Someday I'll relate the memoirs of an abbé who accompanied the Comtesse and her relatives to the scaffold.

Marie Antoinette's Trianon bedchamber

Madame Campan and Princesse de Lamballe, two women who knew the Queen well, both mention in their memoirs that Marie Antoinette wasn't comfortable playing the Royal role when in the company of other Royals.  This simple room, with its view of the rolling gardens, must've been a refuge where Marie Antoinette could be herself among friends.

The Princesse, when relating anecdotes about Emperor Joseph II's, Marie Antoinette's oldest brother,  visit to Versailles, wrote,  "Both always endeavored to encourage persons of every class to speak their minds freely, with this difference, that Her Majesty in so doing never forgot her dignity nor her rank at Court.  Sometimes, however, I have seen her, though so perfect in her deportment with inferiors, much intimidated and sometimes embarrassed in the presence of the Princes and Princesses, her equals, who for the first time visited Versailles:  indeed, so much so as to give them a very incorrect idea of her capacity.  It was by no means an easy matter to cause Her Majesty to unfold her real sentiments or character on a first acquaintance."  

See, now, I totally get that.  Maybe I feel such empathy for Marie Antoinette because, in everything I've read, I feel that I'd respond the same way or feel the same way she did.  

So, on to Madame Campan's memoir, describing a visit from the Grand Duke of Russia and his wife,  (traveling under pseudonyms,) where she says, "When the Comte and Comtesse du Nord were presented, the Queen was exceedingly nervous.  She withdrew into her closet before she went into the room where she was to dine with the illustrious travelers, and asked for a glass of water, confessing "she had just experienced how much more difficult it was to play the part of a queen in the presence of other sovereigns, or of princes born to become so, than before courtiers.""

Which brings us to the question of, if it was difficult for Marie Antoinette to conquer her insecurities, how must it have been for Louis XVI, who was famously awkward and introverted?  That poor man!   It's fascinating to watch him develop, as he grew older and wiser, from a sort of bumbling lout to a wise self-aware man fully sure of who he was and what he stood for.  For what he stood.  Man, I hate dangling prepositions. 

"Thank Heaven I am out of harness."

Who wouldn't prefer sitting in the Trianon gardens, Temple of Love in the background, to wearing those stiff, scratchy, beautiful dresses?  Princesse Lamballe's memoirs quote Marie Antoinette as saying, after being relieved of court dress, "Thank Heaven I am out of harness."  In one of her early letters to her mother, she said that she put on her face in front of the whole world.  That's how it must've seemed to her as she stood, shivering, waiting for whichever member of the Court had the rights of honor to hand her the required dress, the stockings, the (overused) rouge, unable to just call Bullshit on the whole system.

In a somewhat extreme example of the preposterous reaches of etiquette, Princesse Lamballe also relates the following, "…  it will be readily conceived, how great a shock this lady (Countess de Noailles) must have sustained on being informed one morning, that the Dauphiness had actually risen in the night, and her ladyship not by to witness a ceremony from which most ladies would had felt no little pleasure in being spared, but which, on this occasion, admitted of no delay.  Notwithstanding the Dauphiness excused herself by the assurance of the urgency allowing no time to call the Countess, she nearly fainted at having not been present at that, which sometimes others faint at, if too near.  This unaccustomed watchfulness so annoyed Marie Antoinette, that she ordered an immense bottle of hartshorn to be placed upon her toilet."  In other words, Countess de Noailles was upset at the fact that Marie Antoinette got up during the night and used the restroom without the Countess being notified so she could accompany her.  Such are the lengths that members of the Court clung to the privileges of their rank.  I'll leave it to the reader to look up hartshorn, if inclined.

Madame Campan

Madame Campan was Marie Antoinette's Mistress of the Bedchamber.  She was well-educated and intelligent and had been a reader to Louis XVI's aunts.  Her position at Court placed her such that her memoir is a huge source of inside information.  From it come many of the well-known anecdotes of the time.

The rooms were numbered

Elissa had done a private tour before and was told that the numbers on the doors of the Trianon were put there after the Revolution when the building was used as a hotel.  Our guide told us that wasn't the case, although she acknowledged that it had been a hotel.  She said they don't know why the numbers are there.  Hotel seems like a logical reason, but who knows?

Campan's bedchamber

Most of my pictures lack imagination, but the real thing was amazing.  This room had a cool little space closed off by a grate.

Belonging to the Princesse de Lamballe

This room belonged to the Princesse de Lamballe. There's no bed in it, but I didn't think to ask if it was originally a bedchamber or if she had a suite of rooms.  It's easy to imagine close friends around a crackling fire in that gorgeous marble fireplace.

Princesse Lamballe

The Princesse Lamballe is one of those subjects that has, so far, been too much for me to tackle.  For my purposes here, let's just say that she was Marie Antoinette's first close friend in France and, as such, had her own bedchamber at the Petit Trianon.  When Elissa, Matt and I took our private tour of the normally unseen parts of the Trianon, we stood in her bedchamber, spellbound.  To THINK that she actually inhabited, lived in, the room and to imagine her there was profound.

To set the stage and provide perspective, a short description is in order… The princesse was reportedly so sensitive that she fainted at the least provocation, so much so that something I read recently suggested that she may have had epilepsy.   When Marie Antoinette gave birth to one of her children, the Lamballe, witnessing the event, collapsed in a faint and had to be carried from the room.  Sensitive she may have been, but when the chips were down, she was made of iron.  She, alone, of Marie Antoinette's friends, stayed at her side and, because she refused to denounce the King and Queen, died a most horrible death.  There's more to tell, but later.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Picket Fence

More quaintness to go with my stove picture.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Only my dad loved the river more than Terry did.

I'm reminded of what a fantastic father Terry has been to our children by the fact that a new little boy in the neighborhood left a birthday party invitation for him on our front porch today.  When kids knock on the door and ask him to come out and play,  he'll go out and fly gliders, throw the football, ride the skateboard, or whatever, and really misses doing those things with David and Micah.
I'm fascinated with 18th Century history, but am more well-suited for the Fifties.  Or, rather, the Sixties with an old stove.

Elissa is on a farm and posted some pictures (http://thetravelingpear.com) one of which had an old stove in it.  Made me think of mine.

Stove Door Interior

Cranberry Bread

…  as seen through the stove's peek-a-boo mirror feature.

Of this I'm sure

Tricia, sweet Tricia, loves me.   She's loved me for about forty years.  She'd love me no matter what.  She's incapable of seeing the bad in anyone, that girl.  I couldn't ask for a better friend and am sure there's not one out there.  This was taken at Michael's house in Richmond in 2006 on a weekend that will go down in history as one of the most fun ever.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cornerstone Sport Horses

In the blink of an eye

This has been the fastest year of my life.  I can't believe Lanie is almost 13 months old.  We've had to retire the cute blue flowered halter that was initially way too big and go to a new solid blue grown-up one.
Lanie has gotten less resistant to the lead line concept since this was taken last summer.  It's a good thing, because she's also gotten larger and stronger.  Because I want to protect Micah's investment and her self, I work with Lanie three or four times a week. Work being a loosely applied term here. Terry has gone with me, too, some.  Neither one of us is temperamentally inclined to be strict.  About ten days ago, Lanie was particularly excited, pretty much running circles around Terry, because she didn't want to be separated from Sophie.  As he was leading her out of the barn, trying to calm her down with a soothing voice and patting her, Courtney stopped to chat with us.  She reached over and grabbed a "pressure point," specifically a muscle in Lanie's chest that, when grabbed, immediately gets her attention.  She immediately stopped in her tracks.  It was miraculous.  We stood there and talked about ten minutes and every time Lanie moved, Courtney did it again.  It only took a few times before all she had to do was touch Lanie on the chest and she'd snap to attention.   A few days later, Courtney gave me a private lesson in horse domination and, since then, Lanie's and my little training sessions have become much better.  It can still be unnerving when she gets excited and sometimes I'm afraid my nervousness is being transmitted up the lead line straight to her brain, informing her of what a scaredy-cat I am, but for the most part, all's well.

Sand itches


Last September, Lanie and Sophie went to Holsteiner Approvals where they were rated and, damn that burns, branded.  Lanie was weaned at the same time.  The first day that she and Liberty were separated,  they paced back and forth along the fence lines of their respective pastures, whinnying and calling to each other.  It was very sad, but I was philosophical, knowing it had to happen sometime.  All the same, I decided to stay away until they were accustomed to it.  Figured it would take a couple of days.

When I returned a few days later to find Liberty in the same place, still pacing and whinnying, my own apparently crazy, latent, unresolved attachment issues hit me and I cried and cried watching it.  It was so pitiful and, to make matters worse, the horses in Liberty's new pasture wouldn't let her eat.  My food issues are much less latent than the separation variety.  I couldn't stand to see her in distress over Lanie, then see her get chased away from her food.  At least I knew how to fix that problem.  I bought a couple bags of grain and went to the barn every day after work to feed her and shoo the other horses away.  I'd call her name and she'd come trotting, then cantering, across the pasture.  Made me happy.
David enjoys riding his motorcycle to class in Austin.

But, no interest whatsoever in riding horses.  Note hand in his pocket to avoid getting it horse dirt on it.
You'd have thought it would occur to me to put down the camera and help Nelson, but no.  It would've been the right thing to do especially after he'd had been so nice to me when he caught me in the weaning cry-fest incident.
Liberty may be full of spirit under saddle, but in the herd she's always the most submissive.  The horses haven't fully accepted her yet, so these are her best friends in the pasture.  They make the most God-awful sound!


We, or, rather, Micah (let's be clear about ownership and, more importantly, financial responsibility) had no choice but to buy Lanie.  Who could resist a filly with a crown?

Helping Micah with her Civ Pro

Darling Girls

Liberty and Penny Lane (Lanie)

Lanie's half-brother

This is the newest foal at the barn.  Courtney thinks he's going to be a gray like his father.  He's big and strong - only a week old in this picture.
When Liberty was bred the first time, she lost the foal very early.  The second time around, Courtney hoped to stimulate her hormones by putting her in a pasture with baby Sophie.  It may have worked, because she did get very attached to Sophie and did carry the second pregnancy to term.

Even though we sold Liberty to Courtney in 2009, she, eternally generous, let's us pretend we still own her and encourages Micah to ride her whenever she's home.  On this occasion, we took Liberty out of the pasture she shared with Sophie and she was whinnying for her.  Of course, she wouldn't do it for the camera, even though I cruelly tried to provoke her into it.  But, she's such a beautiful girl, she's going on the blog.

Baby Sophie

Sophie and Lanie share a father, so are half-sisters.  The relationship is complex, though.  Sophie is only a year older than Lanie, but after being weaned from Liberty, in September,  Lanie started nursing on (off? What's the proper nomenclature?  I, of all people, ought to know that, but don't.) Sophie and hasn't stopped yet.  She's a good sport about being a giant equine pacifier.

Sunday morning

The glare is too bright for me to see this picture. Hopefully, I got Lanie in the frame. No one else is at the barn. It feels so good out here in the pasture that I might just make a day of it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The clock on the Palais de Justice

L'horloge: Before and After

The clock on the Palais de Justice has been restored.  The top picture was taken when Micah and I were there in 2010;  the bottom in 2013.  Picture quality is lousy, but the improvement is dramatic.

More Old Stuff. Really Old Stuff.

If one looks closely, while wandering the streets of Paris, one can see the remains of the Medieval city.  It's necessary to look closely, because unlike Americans who'd have capitalized on the money-making side of it by strategic placement of neon arrows and tacky billboards and an on-site gift shop featuring a line of plastic knights and damsels with every conceivable accessory (plus the requisite tee shirts), the French may or may not place a minute, discreet sign in the vicinity.  The bottom picture in this set is a tower that was once part of a wall built by King Philippe-Auguste to protect the city in his absence during the Crusades of the 13th Century.  If not for my Walks Through Lost Paris book (by Leonard Pitt, available on Amazon), I'd never have known it was there.  Nor would I have known that the tower once housed a blacksmith shop.  Now it's inside a restaurant in the passage that contains Marat's print shop and where Danton and Desmoulins used to live.  The passage is where the moat used to be.

The two top photographs are of a section of the same fortification in another part of town.  Elissa and Matt took me there.  It looks like any other wall next to a school playground.  Kids probably bounce basketballs off of it.

The third and fourth photographs in the above set are remains of the same Philippe-Auguste project;  a fortress that was the  original Louvre and is located under the current Louvre.  It was discovered during excavations in the 1980's.

I realize this is more than anyone will want to know nor bother to read, but sometimes I simply can't stop writing.