Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Are you ever too old to wear a bikini


Never. It must be a French thing. Or so says a French blogger.

Last year, a minister was quoted saying, "It is a French woman's duty to wear a bikini on a beach." This from the former minister for families, Nadine Morano.
Ms Morano, 51. She provoked a political argument by complaining that she had seen a Muslim woman sitting on a French beach in headscarf, long-sleeved tunic and trousers while her husband stripped off and bathed in the sea.
"When you choose to come to a country of secular laws like France, you have an obligation to respect our culture and the liberty of women. Or you go somewhere else," Ms Morano wrote on her Facebook page.

However this week an attack on a woman in France because she wore a bikini in a public park has sparked outrage on social media.
In Reims, the 21-year-old victim was beaten up by a gang of reportedly Muslim young women – aged between 16 and 24 – when she was sunbathing with two friends. She was attacked allegedly because of exposing herself in the public. Why there, why then? No real explanations from the alleged culprits other than she was indecent.
Protesters wearing bikinis and swimsuits flooded social media.
But apart from the religious divisive issues on bikini's there is an underlying controversy. Muriel, a French woman blogger, brings up 'Are you ever too old to wear a bikini?'

Below, I've quoted what Muriel - a French woman - said in her blog:

 I hadn’t realized that there was a bikini police, but apparently when a woman hits 35 or 40 she has to dress more conservatively. This means that we are not supposed to wear crop tops, mini skirts, or bikinis. I know that it may come to a shock to you but although I feel 25 in my head my official age says something slightly different. What can I say? Time flies. It’s part of the many unwritten rules more mature women have to follow: dress sensibly.
Seriously? Says who?

My response is as follows: enough with the fashion diktats. In fact, I believe that it should be a woman’s duty to wear a bikini. Don’t get me wrong, I am not patronizing anyone here. I just believe that wearing a bikini at the swimming pool or the beach is just as normal as breathing or walking. Why? Because no woman, of whatever age or shape, should be ashamed of her body. There it is
So, tell me, when did we become such prudes? I remember that most women were sunbathing topless in France when I was growing up, and nobody batted an eyelid. Some were well in their 70s or even 80s. Others had scars of an old C-section. And what was wrong with stretch marks again? Nobody cared. Your body was telling your story. Frankly, there was nothing to be ashamed of. Quite the opposite, in fact. You were showing that you were proud of your life story. What happened? Where did it all go wrong?

For various reasons, being fashion, religion or self-esteem, women’s body is now something to hide. Or denigrate. And I believe that’s the real shame.
 Personally, I have had enough. I will do as I please. Yes, I am older, and if I want to wear a bikini I will do so. Period.
I say it’s time to unleash your inner French, and wear a bikini, or whatever you like.  Once again, it must be my French side.

Cara - Tuesday

Monday, July 27, 2015

July 2015: #PONTIFEX morphs into #POTUSINKENYA

The high and the mighty continue this month to stalk my characters.  Now that the Buenos Aires-born Pope Francis has left Bolivia and Paraguay, President Obama has made his way to the land of his ancestry, which also happens to be the setting for Strange Gods, my fourth novel.  I have to tell you, I am loving this!

The POTUS is getting a great reception in the land of his forebears.  If I had a wish for him, it would be to be able to go to the places I went when I was there last August.  He deserves a break from the slings and arrows of his job.  He needs to watch the elephants mommies nursing their babies.

So do I, as you are about to see.  I am feeling my cranky side grumbling in the background as I type.  Here’s why.

The Prez made a pointed reference to corruption in his speech to the Kenyan people.  I could not agree with him more about the hatefulness, the destructiveness of corruption on the part of politicians and businessmen.  It is the height of selfishness.  It harms only the innocent and benefits only the guilty.  I despise it.  Wherever it thrives poor people will not.

But I also have had it up to my neck hearing the sanctimonious diatribes about corruption from the holier than thou whose ancestors spent a lot of their time, and earned a lot of their wealth, sowing its seeds.  (Needles to say I am not talking about Obama here.)

PLEASE notice this is about perceptions.  It does not
include a question about the way the people near the
top of the chart behaved when they invaded the countries
at the bottom of the chart.

My ire about this subject began to reach continental proportions as the Northern European ire over Greece got splashed across the world media.  “We are tired,” a friend reported his Scandinavian friends complaining,  “of people wanting a handout.  Their country is rife with corruption.  We want them to pay their debts.”  No admission was given that the poor of Greece will suffer while the corrupt sail off in their yachts.  In fact, as far as I can see, the EU powerbase does not care how many people are starving, how many young lives are ruined, as long as they get “their” money back.

Just about everywhere one goes, one hears a lot of distain from the well-off for all those corrupt, darker-skinned folks south of Alps all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope.  In my hemisphere, it’s from the Alamo all the way down to Tierra Del Fuego.  I have heard a lot of this same drivel within the Italy: The northerners “tired” of the meridianali, blaming them for their poverty.

But where did this susceptibility toward corruption come from?  Is it a genetic propensity linked somehow how to skin color?

As it happens, I have spent the past couple of decades researching the history of Latin America and Africa and most recently, Sicily.  Here is what I know.  None of these places were sinks of depravity before more powerful and technologically advance people invaded their borders, destroyed their indigenous cultures, and grabbed whatever they could get to make themselves rich.  Almost invariably, the technological superiority involved ways of killing people.  And almost without exception the invaders came from the north.

The Brits, for example, found many clever ways to impoverish the African tribal people and then turned the word “beggar” into a pejorative when describing them.  Hey, Jack, they weren’t beggars before you got there.

And by the way, Jack, do want to give back the “Elgin Marbles” so the Greeks can use them to pay down their debt?

A small sample of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum

The scene of the crime when they were stolen

The cleverest beggars imitate their outsider overlords—they grab whatever wealth they can.  They see getting rich as the only way to a satisfying life.  Usually they take the lucre under the table.

President Obama is trying to help the people of Africa find ways to develop their legitimate economies.  I pray his efforts succeed.  I do not pray that the self-satisfied people of the north will stop calling the Africans (or the Greeks, or the Italians, or the Spanish) nasty names, and labeling them all as corrupt.  People have been praying for that for centuries.  God is not listening to those prayers.  The powerful may be right when they tell themselves that God is on their side.

Maybe the Pope can change God’s mind.  I sure hope so.

Annamaria - Monday

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Oh, Deer!

During my recent trip to Japan, I spent a day in Nara, the capital city of Nara Prefecture and one of Japan's most important historical cities.

Nara lies about an hour south of Kyoto--slightly less if you take a direct train out of Kyoto station. It was the capital of Japan during the "Nara period," which lasted from 710-794.

Today, Nara remains a major tourist stop for Japanese nationals and foreigners alike. It is the home of Todaiji, a Buddhist temple that dates to 728 and houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana.

 The Japanese call the statue "Daibutsu" ("giant buddha"), and the hall which houses it, "Daibutsuden."

Daibutsuden - home of the giant Buddha

During our visit, my son crawled through a hole in one of the Daibutsuden pillars which measures the same diameter as the nostrils of the giant buddha (18", in case you were wondering). According to legend, passing safely through the Buddha's nostril means your soul will reach enlightenment.

Finding enlightenment by escaping the Buddha's nose.

In the case of my 6'2" son, it also means you'll get a loud ovation from the crowds around the nostril.

We also visited Kasuga Taisha, a famous Shinto shrine that will feature heavily in one of my upcoming novels--and also, another blog post here at MIE, so I'll leave that story for another day.

Main gate of Kasuga Taisha

Another of Nara's unique attractions--and one that draws almost as many tourists as the historical sites--are the sacred deer.

That's not a cow, deer...

Sika (which, in Japanese, means "deer") are sacred to Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, one of the four gods enshrined and honored at Kasuga Taisha. According to Japanese history (which mixes with legend the farther back you go), Takemikazuchi appeared in the area riding a white deer many years ago, and the deer which remain are the descendants of that sacred steed.

Killing, or even harming, a sacred deer in the Nara region was punishable by death until the 17th century, and they were officially considered sacred until after World War II. At that point, the deer lost their official status as sacred animals--but received the designation "national treasure," so it's still illegal to harm or molest the deer. (Deer molesters, take note.)

Is that a cracker I hear?

Today, it's legal to feed the deer, provided you purchase "deer crackers" ("BAD TASTE FOR HUMANS," according to the signs) from one of the licensed vendors in Nara Park.

The deer know this, and also know when someone is purchasing crackers. They will swarm you until the crackers are gone--and woe betide the unfortunate soul who tries to hide one in a pocket, or run away.

He bought crackers...

They will hunt you down like fuzzy, wet-nosed terminators.

These people have no crackers.

Ironically, the deer have also learned the universal sign for "please don't mug me, I have no cookies and I surrender." Raise your open hands in the air, and the crowd dissipates immediately--or at least, as soon as they've sniffed your pockets and tucked a nose up the back of your shirt to ensure there isn't a cracker in hiding somewhere.

The deer have no objection to being touched, and some of them walk over like dogs, hoping for a pat or a scratch behind the ears (or a cracker, if you don't mind...). I'd heard about them before my trip, and "seeing a deer up close" was high on my list of hoped-for events.

Dozing under the trees...dreaming of crackers.
I did buy crackers--and did get to pet them--and seeing them up close was even better than I hoped.

No bicycles...Yes deer.

As it turned out, I also saw--and petted--the sacred deer on Miyajima Island, which are more relaxed than their counterparts in Nara (perhaps due to the total absence of deer-cracker sales on that island, so the only reason for deer to approach a person is the aforementioned scratch around the ears).

Relaxing on Miyajima Island

Whether they're mugging you in Nara, or just hanging out on Miyajima, sika are special. And, at least to me, it's not very difficult to see why.

Yes, he really did try to follow us in for lunch.

-- Susan, who finds the sika quite...en-deer-ing.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

An August Moment

FaceTime is messing up my life.  Last Monday I left Greece, making 2015 the first time in a decade I won’t be spending August on Mykonos.  That alone is a downer.  But then I have my Mykonian buddies making sure not to pass up any opportunity of reminding me of my misfortune. 

As if endless barrages of photos and film clips showing quintessential Aegean island scenes were not insidious enough, there is now the daily FaceTime call, with happy faces popping up posed against familiar Mykonos haunts, and cheery voices (orchestrated for sure) asking me, “So tell us, Jeffrey, how’s the weather in New York?”

Brutal, simply brutal.

No, not the weather (at least not yet), I’m talking about those callous FaceTiming souls I need not name in order for them to know the error of their ways.  And believe me, summers on Mykonos offer oodles of err to attribute to their ways.

I guess I should be flattered and take all their attention as a sign that they miss me—rather than as the cautious among them merely seeking confirmation that I’m finally off the island, like plague. :)

I must admit FaceTime is a godsend of a way to stay in touch.  My daughter and two-year-old granddaughter did it practically everyday I was away, making the baby’s jump to two and a half not all that startling.  Proximity helps keep events in perspective. 

Which got me to thinking about my feelings on leaving Greece. I felt as if I’d walked out on my family in the midst of a crisis, if not a full-blown disaster.  Though my return to the USA had nothing to do with events in Greece, and my remaining behind would not have made an iota of difference, I still felt deeply uncomfortable at leaving.

But a strange process has taken hold.  I’m not sure if it’s sheer physical distance or a burst of insight that’s responsible for my thinking, but what I sense is that a good many Greeks in Greece and I share the same perspective at the moment:  We have absolutely no idea what the future will bring—and are taking a time out. 

We just don’t want to think about the hard realities.  We’ve been stunned, if not shocked, by a government doing the direct opposite of what it so often solemnly promised to do, a Parliament passing measures with the far left, center, and far right aligned in common cause on matters literally unimaginable a blink of an eye ago (and denounced as wrong by practically every lawmaker voting for them), ministers now welcoming with open arms (?) the very same foreign financial “overseers” they once denounced as occupiers (though due to “security concerns” they’ve not yet found a suitable place in Athens for the reunion), a barely functioning banking system, a 400% increase in illegal immigrants flooding across the nation’s borders, etcetera, etcetera—all amid political egos far more comfortable with displays of public masturbation than in doing what they must in private to assure the chance of a better future for the people they’ve sworn to serve.

It’s almost too much to take.  And so Greeks in Greece are suspending serious thinking on the subject. Instead, they’re focusing on getting through August, the month at the very heart of the nation’s tourism—the biggest driver of Greece’s economy.  September will be here soon enough.

The question is, will the government?  And, if so, in what shape?  Oh, and let’s not forget the 3.2 billion euro payment due the European Central Bank on August 20th.

But I digress. 

Happy August everyone…no matter where you’re enjoying it.  Kalo mina.


Friday, July 24, 2015


According to Wikipedia "wit is a form of intelligent humour, the ability to say or write things that are clever and usually funny. A wit is a person skilled at making clever and funny remarks. Forms of wit include the quip and repartee."

I have always wanted to be witty.  I can be  very witty about ten minutes after the great wit  was actually needed.  I think that one of the great things about being a novelist is being able to put wise and witty words  into the mouths of characters as if it flowed from their tongue. When, in actual fact, the writer has spent  a good fortnight thinking up that effortless quip.

Having said that, a friend of mine once commented, ‘Caro, you should have gone into surgery as a career, with a tongue like yours you’d never need a scalpel.’

So here are some well known quips and put downs...

Famous put down to a heckler…  “If I throw a stick will you leave?”

Or as Billy Connolly used to say ‘Do I come to your work and show you how to sweep up?’ More about him later.

When John Pentland Malhaffie heard of the illness of the man who had beaten him to the provost ship of Trinity Dublin, he said ‘Nothing trivial I hope?”

 “I am inclined to think…..’
‘Then you should  do so.”   This is a famous  Conan Doylism.  

My friend  has a habit of saying 'I've just had a thought.'  It's too easy to reply, 'Well that's a start, isn't it.'

       “Her brain is a cage of canaries.”  Virginia Woolf on this lady...

       Lydia Lopokova, when the dancer claimed she  has a serious thought every day.
                                  That's sisterhood for you!

“He has the sort of face that makes you realise God does have a sense of humour.”  – Bill Bryson.

        Barbara, about to make a start on the hoovering.

One of my favourites from Clive James who had just interviewed Barbara Cartland  “Twin miracles of mascara, her eyes look like the corpses of two chalk crows which had crashed into a cliff.”

               Gregor Fisher and his comedy comb over.

“Never trust a man who combs his hair straight from his left armpit.” – Alice Roosvelt Longworth.

“The covers of this book are too far apart.” -  Ambrose Bearce.


Nancy Banks Smith’s review of The Far Pavilions, “This is one of those big fat paperbacks intended to while away a monsoon or two which if thrown with a good over arm action will bring a water buffalo to its knees.”    

“Listen dear you couldn’t write f*** on a dusty venetian blind.”  Alan Bennet’s great retort to somebody who had disliked his screenplay.

“She plunged into a sea of platitudes and with the powerful breast stroke of a channel swimmer made her way to the white cliffs of the obvious.” – Somerset Maughan in a Writer's Notebook.

‘I liked your opera I think I’ll set it to music.” – Beethoven to a fellow composer.

“He is a modest man who has a great deal to be modest about.” – Winston Churchill on Clement Attlee.

“So boring you fall asleep half way through her name.”  – Alan Bennett on Ariana Stasinopoulos.

Mary Higgins Clark said with great honesty.... “Some of the editors wrote rejection slips which were more creative than what I had written.  On my tenth submission to Red Book … “Miss Clark, your stories are light, slight and trite. ”My first novella was returned with this succinct note.  We found the heroine as boring as her husband had.”

“A critic is a man who knows the way but can’t drive the car.” – Kenneth Tynan. Indeed, and there are no great statues of critics!

“When I look at these works, culture only makes me think of yogurt.” – Edna Veiss. 

“About as cuddly as a cornered ferret.” – Lynn Barber on Anne Robinson. I still prefer ferrets to Anne Robinson, ferrets are some purpose at least.

 “Tony Hately had it all, the only thing he lacked was ability.” – Tommy Docherty. Talking about football but I can think of a few writers that  could apply to. 


Golf is not a sport.  Golf is men in ugly pants walking.” – Robin Williams. Yip!  Did you see the get ups at the British Open at St Andrews or did you miss it, thinking it was sub aqua golf?

“Like an octopus falling out of a tree.” Which was Feherty on Jim Furyk’s swing. I had no idea what that was about, but it is a you tube sensation. I'll leave golfers to comment more (Stanley?). but he will need a good osteopath soon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTuTrpWCZhU.... if you want to see the swing!

         Colin is better at golf than Mildred the warthog.

“Colin Montgomery has a face like a warthog that has been stung by a wasp.”

  A probably apocryphal flying quote. Plane has landed, Air Traffic Control say to pilot 'You landed a bit to the right of the runway.'
'Yes, ' replied the pilot, 'And I think you will find my co pilot landed a little to the left.'

                                                                                 Bonnie Langford as the child star. She's now a very good, all grown up, actress.

"If they had stuffed the child’s head up the horse’s arse they would have solved two problems at once.” – Noel Coward on Bonnie Langford’s performance after the horse defecated on the stage.


Some of my favourite Connollyisms....

"Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares? He's a mile away and you've got his shoes!”

 "There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter".

"Scotland has the only football team in the world that does a lap of disgrace.''

And one my Dad uses.  His grandchild is trying to play the piano....
'He certainly has an ear for music. Shame it's Van Gogh's ear.'

Caro Ramsay  24/07/2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Once upon a time,

there was a bookstore in Minneapolis called Once Upon A Crime.  It is still there - a place where mystery readers flock like moths to a flame.  However, it's not clear how long it will be in existence, because owners Pat Frovarp and Gary Schulze have decided to sell it.

My kind of shop!

It was started in 1987 by Mary Trone, who sold it to Steve Stilwell in 1991.  Steve ran this little gem until Gary and Pat bought it from him in 2002.  Now, thirteen years later, Pat and Gary are finding it too much for them - Pat claims she's too old, and Gary hasn't been well.

So they are looking for a buyer.

It's very hard to imagine Minneapolis without Once Upon A Crime, so go to your Contact lists and rustle up a buyer or two.


Pat and Gary with Kristi Belcamino

Before buying Once upon A Crime, Pat had left Park River, North Dakota, at a tender age, and had worked at various law firms and at a Psychiatic Hospital on the West Coast.  Gary hails from Glastonbury, Connecticut, and is a musician at heart - a tuba player with two Masters degrees in music! - and. amongst other things, has worked as a piano technician.  On the personal front, Pat and Gary have been together for the last fifteen years.

Many of the contributors to Murder is Everywhere have had events at Once Upon A Crime.  Michael and I have launched all our books there.  It is just plain wonderful to see a crowd walking down the steps to the basement store and to have people jammed between shelves of mysteries welcoming a new one.  Launching at Once Upon A Crime is very special.

Cara with Kent Krueger

Rapt audience

Once Upon A Crime

Go Lisa!

Pat and Gary with Kristi Belcamino

Even old MIE members are represented!

Félicitations, Cara

The other Michael Sears

Our founder, Leighton Gage

New hard covers

Go Zoë; go Charlie 
In the back room

A very desirable First Edition

Books in the back room

The contribution Pat and Gary have made to the mystery scene was recognised in 2011, when they won the Mystery Writers of America's Raven Award.

Kent Kruger (with his Edgar); Pat and Gary (with their Raven)
We love you, Pat and Gary!  And Shamus.  Thanks for all you've done for mystery and thriller writers from all over the world.  And for readers, some of whom travel great distances just to shop with you.

Shamus - a Once Upon A Crime fixture

Whatever happens to the store, you will remain in our hearts.

Stan - Thursday