Hail and farewell to our Miss Marple

June 20, 2016 at 8:36 pm (Cats, Family)

What a giver of joy she has been! We said goodbye to her today with sadness in our hearts, but also with gratitude for the good times we shared.

This house was a happier place when she was in it.


Miss Audrey Jane Marple 2004 – 2016

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Things to do when stuck inside due to (yet another) snow storm

March 3, 2014 at 8:09 pm (books, Cats, Family, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), opera, Weather)

First and foremost, one must acknowledge the supremacy of Mother Nature:

[Video production courtesy of Ron’s Tech Magic]

One can always address one’s piles of stuff with a view to sorting, weeding, and stacking in a neat and orderly manner:


Well, maybe later – much later….
One may escape to Ireland’s Wild River. Poetic and gorgeously photographed – I highly recommend this Nature special. (The river in question is the Shannon.)



One may obsess over one’s son, daughter-in-law (now more like a daughter, lucky me!), grandson and granddaughter. All have lately been vacationing in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming:






Okay: luggage, check; skis, check; backpacks, check; stroller, check. Wait a minute - where's...?

Okay: luggage, check; skis, check; backpacks, check; stroller, check. Wait a minute – where’s…?

One may gaze in awe upon great works of art, such as Parmigianino’s Portrait of a  Man with a Book and the Portinari Altarpiece by Hugo Van der Goes:


Hugo_van_der_Goes_Portinari Altarpiece**************************

One can listen to beautiful music. Fortunately this storm held off long enough for us to  see the Met in HD performance of Alexander Borodin‘s  Prince Igor. What a joy to be able to see live, world class opera in a movie theater fifteen minutes from your front door! Recently I wrote about my fixation on the Polovtsian Dances. This is the opera where that music originates.

It’s a new production, and the choreography for the familiar, well-loved dances is highly unusual. I didn’t think I’d like it, but I did. Click here to view a short segment.

Here’s the trailer for the 2013-2014 season in HD:

A recent Bolshoi Opera production of Prince Igor can be viewed on YouTube:

What gorgeous melodies! This music brings tears to  my eyes.
Oh – and of course one may catch up on one’s reading. For me, this means the following:

bookcover1           978-0-375-71230-2

I’m working my way in leisurely fashion through Miklos Banffy’s  riveting magnum opus, The Transylvania Trilogy.  Here’s an excerpt:

The young people flowed out into the great drawing-room of the castle where the supper was laid. The gypsy musicians vanished to their by now third meal of the evening, and Janos Kadar, helped by a maid, started changing the candles in the Venetian chandeliers. As he did so, young Ferko and the footmen rushed to remove spots of candle-grease from the floor and polish the parquet.

In the drawing-room the long dinner-table had been re-erected to form a buffet and on it was displayed a capercaillie, haunches of venison, all from the Laczoks’ mountain estates in Czik; and home-cured hams, hare and guinea-fowl pâtés and other specialities of Var-Siklod, the recipes of which remained Countess Ida’s closely guarded secret (all that she would ever admit, and then only to a few intimate friends, was: ‘My dear, it’s quite impossible without sweet Tokay!’).

At one end of the table were grouped all the desserts – mountainous cakes with intricate sugar decorations, compotes of fruit, fresh fruit arranged elaborately on silver dishes, and tarts of all descriptions served with bowls of snowy whipped cream. As well as champagne there were other wines, both red and white. An innovation, following the recent fashion for imitating English ways, was a large copper samovar from which the Laczok girls served tea.

As the guests were finishing their supper and beginning to leave the table replete with delicious food and many glasses of wine, the gypsy musicians filed into the room and took up their places to play the traditional interval music. On these occasions Laji Pongracz would play, in turn, all the young girls’ special tunes. At the winter serenades he had made sure that he knew exactly who had chosen which melody as their own and now, each time he started a new tune, he would look directly at the girl whose song it was and smile at her with a discreet but still knowing air.


Banffy does a magnificent job of evoking an elegant world, now utterly lost. Originally published  between 1934 and 1940, these novels were only recently translated into English from the Hungarian by Patrick Thursfield and Mikos Banffy’s daughter, Katalin Banffy-Jelen. Miklos Banffy’s work here is strongly reminiscent of the Tolstoy of Anna Karenina. He is in fact sometimes referred to as the Transylvanian Tolstoy. High praise indeed, and from what I’ve read so far, deserved.

I’m also about two thirds of the way through An Officer and a Spy, Robert Harris’s novelized retelling of the notorious Dreyfus Affair.  I’m in awe of the gifts and versatility of this author. He’s made something of a specialty of historical thrillers, and in my view, he’s better at it than just about anyone else. Pompeii, Imperium, Conspirata – all three excellent. Harris has also penned contemporary thrillers that are equally compelling. I’ve read two: The Fear Index and The Ghost. The latter was filmed as The Ghost Writer. Harris wrote the screenplay; the director was Roman Polanski. The film more than did justice to its source.


Finally, I’d like to close by giving credit where it’s due, to that irreplaceable aid to concentration, the cat. IMG_0542-M  Yes, it’s Miss Audrey Jane Marple, whose fidelity to her role as Companion Animal is unsurpassed!

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Cats in the news

January 23, 2013 at 3:50 pm (Cats)

First, there’s the amazing tale of Holly and her 200-mile trek down Florida’s east coast. The story of Holly’s arduous undertaking put me in mind of the children’s classic by Sheila Burnford. IncredibleJourney  In that novel, Tao, the Siamese cat, had the companionship of two dogs. Holly, on the other hand, seems to have made her way all on her own.

Holly, reunited with her grateful owners

Holly, reunited with her grateful owners

The January 21 issue of the New Yorker had an especially fine cover:

"Herding Cats," by Barry Blitt

“Herding Cats,” by Barry Blitt

(Three guesses who the herdsman is; the first two, naturally, don’t count.) This was an exceptionally fine issue, too. I recommend especially David Owen’s “The Psychology of Space.” Here we are introduced to the fabulous Oslo Opera House and its designers, the firm of Snøhetta Architects.    Full_Opera_by_night

“Becoming Them” is James Wood’s  eloquent,  supremely poignant account of his ever changing relationship with his aging parents. And I enjoyed “Experience,” a short story by Tessa Hadley, author of The London Train.

Finally, my daughter-in-law gave me these delightful towels for Christmas: cattowels

Miss Marple, our resident feline, greatly approves of the subject matter of this post:  marpleextraordinary

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Christmas at our house

December 25, 2010 at 9:39 pm (Cats, Christmas)

At our house, Christmas Day has been  spent in morally elevating and intellectually stimulating pursuits, to wit:

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As Christmas draws near, remember the animals

December 18, 2010 at 9:48 pm (Anglophilia, books, Cats, Photography)

I’m deeply grateful for “Think before you buy that puppy,” an article by artist and writer Betsy Karasik. It appears on the Op-Ed page of today’s Washington Post. This is the concluding sentence:

Saving an animal from starvation and homelessness is its own reward, but the beauty of rescuing an animal is that from an emotional standpoint, it turns around and rescues you right back.

Some of us know the truth of this from experience.


And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to sing the praises of one of the most precious books I own:

The pictures are marvelous; the stories, simply told and charming. The “cover cat” is named Blackie. In 2005 she went to live at Burford Priory in Oxfordshire, England, having been given up for adoption by a hairdresser who had developed an allergy to her fur. Author and photographer Richard Surman tells us what happened next:

She is a rather grand cat, more used to the scent of hairspray and pomade than rigours of community life, and thoroughly resistant to the allure of the Priory’s wild woodland. It certainly took some time for Blackie to settle in: carefully guarding a pink ball that was her treasure, she was very wary of this radical change of environment, and for a while all that could be seen of her was a pair of startled eyes staring from the undergrowth in the garden, or from deep in the shadows in the priory entrance hall. But both the present Abbot, Father Stuart, and Sister Mary Bernard, devoted a great deal of time and patience in encouraging Blackie to be more at ease, and little by little she came out of her shell.

Richard Surman’s work is beautiful. To see more of it, click here.

We find Blackie’s resemblance to our own Miss Marple rather striking:

(Research on Burford Priory revealed that it has passed into private ownership. I hope and trust that provision was made for Blackie.)

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Boundless Gratitude!

November 27, 2009 at 12:48 am (books, Cats, Family, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), Music)

There is nothing like another superb meal at Tersiguel’s – I had “La Dinde Traditionelle d’Amerique (traditional turkey dinner), in honor of Thanksgiving –  to remind me of just how lucky I am:

For my brother David and his wife Joan, out there in sunny San Diego (O please ship some of that sunshine East – we’re starved for it!);

For my brother Richard, and for Donna, the wonderful woman who now shares his life;

For “the jewels in my crown:” my son Ben and his lovely wife Erica, who are currently basking in the beauty of Utah’s red rock country  ;


For Italy last May, and for England, always;

(The “Adventure” referred to, by the way, was mine! I went to Yorkshire in 2005 with The National Trust for Historic Preservation. This slide show was assembled from my photos by the ever-resourceful Ron; the music is Ralph Vaughan Williams’s luminous Lark Ascending.)


For Miss Marple, singular sensation of the feline world! (and deeply beloved pet)  ;

For my dear friends from the library;

For my friends of many years’ standing, whose love and affection I’ve been able to hold on to for an astounding amount of time: Nancy – almost forty years! Charlotte and Helene – more than fifty!

For the books I love, both read and as yet unread – for this – a book that in itself is the quintessence of everything precious and priceless in the reading life.


More than anything, for my  husband Ron, who gave me a second chance at happiness, and for the love of music that brought us together…

(If you go to the bottom right hand corner of the video and click on “YouTube,” you’ll go directly to that site, where further information on the performers can be found. And while you’re at it, click here for my favorite recent musical “find” on YouTube.)


Finally, here’s a piece on Chef Michel Tersiguel:


I thank God for these and many other blessings.

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Puppy love

June 27, 2009 at 11:44 am (Animals, Cats, Dogs, Magazines and newspapers)

No, it’s not my puppy – though I rather wish it were. On Wednesday June 24, in a column in the Washington Post, Michael Gerson declared himself to be in love – with this little guy:

Latte, the Havanese puppy

Latte, the Havanese puppy

Gerson confesses himself amazed at this turn of events, since, as he states in his opening sentence, he has never liked dogs. Admittedly, for some of us reading this piece, the thought arose at once: What took you so long?

Never mind – better late than never.

“A Latte To Warm the Heart” goes from sentimental to discursive, then back to sentimental at the end. No matter; Gerson could have interpolated a discussion of particle physics for all I care, so completely delighted am I by his conversion to animal lover.

The article concludes with these words from A Christmas Carol by Dickens:

“Many laughed to see this alteration in him, but he let them laugh and little heeded them. . . . His own heart laughed and that was quite enough for him.

So…how long must we wait before introducing Michael Gerson to the likes of:

Miss (Audrey) Jane Marple

Miss (Audrey) Jane Marple

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Oh deer! In which Mother Nature makes a welcome visit to the suburbs

February 8, 2009 at 9:03 pm (Animals, Cats, Nature, Photography)

Several days ago, I awoke to this delightful sight out our back windows:




The above three photos were taken with a Panasonic FZ-20 digital camera with a 12x zoom lens. The two below were taken with the same camera in the optional wide screen mode. Be sure and click to enlarge; these look beautiful in full resolution.



The other Dear, Miss Marple, sleeping through the excitement, as usual!

All pictures were taken by my husband Ron.

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Dr. Michael W. Fox

December 11, 2008 at 7:13 pm (Animals, Cats)

I’ve long been a fan of Dr. Michael W. Fox’s column,  Animal Doctor. Today Dr. Fox addresses a question about grief for a lost pet.

Dr. Michael W. Fox & friends

Dr. Michael W. Fox & friends

His response to the query “Can Pets Contact Us From the Great Beyond?” was so deeply eloquent and compassionate that I wanted to be sure that my fellow  animal lovers saw it. (Be sure you go to page 2 to get the full text, after which you can watch the Good Doctor tackle the somewhat more prosaic but nevertheless endearing question of whether dogs should eat cheese!)

Have a look at Dr. Fox’s website. It’s a terrific resource, and bears witness to the lifelong commitment of this humane and dedicated veterinary doctor.

Miss Audrey Jane Marple, whom we love truly, madly ,deeply

Miss Audrey Jane Marple, whom we love truly, madly ,deeply

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Weekend Miscellany

April 26, 2008 at 10:49 pm (books, Cats, Food, Mystery fiction, Uncategorized)

What I’m reading:

Hamlet, Revenge; by Michael Innes, a Golden Age classic (written in 1937) that’s out of print and hard to find. I got my copy several years ago from a small British publisher, House of Stratus. They do not currently stock any copies! And so we beat on, boats against (contemporary publishing) currents, borne back ceaselessly in our search for (out of print) gems from the past (with apologies to F. Scott Fitzgerald).

Waterloo Sunset, crime fiction set in Liverpool and written by the dependably engaging Martin Edwards;

The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby. Well, yes, I do identify with all those irrelevant intellectuals, but so far, Jacoby is preaching to the choir (and that’s one of the problems she addresses in the very first chapter).

The Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain, by Martha Sherrill. The story of the man who almost singlehandedly saved Akitas, referred to in Japan as “snow country dogs,” from extinction as a distinct breed.

An especially meaty issue of The New Yorker. “Uncluttered” is about the Danish/Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, whose work I recently saw at MoMa in New York. And there’s a fascinating piece by Rebecca Mead on The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in the Berkshires. It seems this venerable dwelling is at the moment threatened with foreclosure. Even the great Edith Wharton has been unable to escape the nation’s current subprime mortgage crisis! [This article is not available online.]

The Mount

Finally, there’s Daniel Mendelsohn’s meditation on Herodotus, occasioned by two new versions of The Histories. [Attention, children’s librarians: The New Yorker cover is by the late William Steig, author of one of my all time favorite children’s books, Dominic.]


What I’m listening to: The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman. George Guidall’s readings of these atmospheric novels of the Southwest are quite simply a joy.

[Geogre Guidall]


What we’re watching – and that would be on our brand spanking new 32-inch Toshiba 32RV53OU : The Wire, Season Two. I have nothing to say about this astonishing, harrowing program that hasn’t already been said. We finished Season One two weeks ago; I was so wrapped up in what was happening to these characters – especially Kima – that I was going to sleep obsessing about them and then dreaming about them.

[First picture: Dominic West and Wendell Pierce as Jimmy McNulty and “Bunk” Moreland; second picture: Idris Elba and Wood Harris as “Stringer” Bell and Avon Barksdale]

How did they find these fabulous actors? (There was an interesting article about David Simon, creator of this landmark series, in a recent issue of Atlantic Monthly.)

Unscheduled event of the weekend:

My husband’s brave but ultimately futile attempt to convey a piping hot Pepperidge Farm Chicken Pot Pie from the oven to the table resulted in said pie landing with a great splat on the kitchen floor. I’ve eaten this item before – from the table, I hasten to assure you! – and it really is quite tasty. But perhaps there should be a warning on the box concerning methods of conveyance. I’d suggest a picture of the pot pie imploding as its container crumples. A second graphic would have the pie’s crust and innards liberally spread hither and yon, while one’s pet – in this case, Miss Marple, a cat ever alert to novel culinary situations – comes racing in and careens right through the middle of the mess. Don’t try this at home, folks!

The cat in question…

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