Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The World is Not Enough

Whew! I just got back from a week in 12th century France, courtesy of my friend Zoe Olderbourg. (slaps a flea biting her arm) I bought this book, The World is Not Enough, a while back, and have tried to read it several times, but couldn’t get into it. This time, man, I got into it and couldn’t put it down!

We enter at the wedding of Alis to Ansiau, she (slapping the flea on my neck) the 14 year old daughter of Joceran of Puiseaux, Ansiau the son of Ansiau the Elder, castellan of Linnieres, who knows he is dying and wants to see his line continue before he goes.

“The two of them, standing there, were moved, as two children must be who have just been washed, dressed, lectured and left at teh altar by their parents in front of all the guests, their brothers, their sisters, their uncles, their playmates. They were so little alike. He was a boy and she a girl.”

Alis and Ansiau marry and fall quickly in love. (checking the bedding for fleas) They hunt, they go to tournements, Ansiau goes off on Crusade to the Holy Land – twice. Alis runs the daily life of the castle, has twenty pregnancies, 12 children who live. Ansiau has a mid-life crisis. In their late 50’s, we leave them, scratching one another’s flea bites and looking off into the sunset.

Reading this book, you are totally immersed in the daily life of the nobility. The nobility, as it turns out, are the original credit-crazy spenders – they borrowed against their inheiritance, they borrowed against their lands, they borrowed against their doweries. They were constantly short funds, and constantly mortgaging their future for a few baubles today.

The “castle” had a great hall downstairs, where most of the men slept and where cows and horses and chickens and sheep were brought if it got too cold in the stables in the winter, and up a laddar, one great room where there was one big bed for the king and queen and whoever else they invited to sleep there, and a couple other beds, mostly shared by four or five people. This was where ladies slept, and hung out, and embroidered, and (scratching at a fleabite on the ankle) exchanged gossip.

It was a fascinating visit into a world with no running water, no heat, no air conditioning, where babies died at birth as often as not. It was a world where people caught smallpox, and the lucky ones, those who survived, lived the rest of their lives with pock marks like craters on their faces. It was a world where the nobility didn’t read, and there were no books except in the monasteries. Only priests were authorized to read and explain scripture. It was a world where wolves and bear still roamed the forests of France.

The book is set near Troyes and Langres, in the Champagne area of France. Zoe Oldenburg captures the poverty and brutality suffered by the majority of people, rich and poor alike, without sacrificing the human joys and kindnesses which brightened the world, and made life worth living. The book is so realistic and richly detailed that you will be looking for flea bites when you finish!


September 27, 2006 Posted by | Books, Family Issues, Fiction, France, Uncategorized, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

Kuwait City Meat and Vegetables Market

September 27, 2006 Posted by | Kuwait, Middle East, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Heritage Market


I couldn’t resist this photo. I love the art work in the Heritage Souk. Cat looks pretty content, too. I bet he gets the leftovers.

September 27, 2006 Posted by | Kuwait, Middle East, Travel, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Driving in Kuwait – Traffic Stop

Sitting on the side of the road waiting to catch speeding drivers, a
Kuwaiti traffic policeman sees a car puttering along at 30 km/h. He thinks to himself, “This driver is as dangerous as a speeder!”

So he turns on his lights and pulls the driver over. Approaching the car, he notices that there are women – two in the front seat and three in the back, wide-eyed and white as ghosts. The driver, obviously concerned, says to him, “Officer, I don’t understand. I was going the exact speed limit, 30 km/hr. What seems to be the problem?”

The policeman, trying to contain a chuckle, explains to her that 30 was
the road number, not the speed limit. A bit embarrassed, the woman
grins and thanks the officer for pointing out her error.

“But before you go, Ma’am, I have to ask, is everyone in this car OK?
These women seem awfully shaken.”

“Oh, they’ll be all right in a minute, officer. We just got off Road 303.”

September 27, 2006 Posted by | Fiction, Joke, Uncategorized | 2 Comments