Monday, June 2, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

In the past few days New York has welcomed the warmth of early summer weather (no matter what the calendar might require) and has also seen yet more deaths arise from falling construction cranes that are supposed to be regulated, inspected, and are required to continue our building boom. Some of you who live outside the States will have read that we are in an undeclared recession and that a real estate bubble may be the latest suspect for this problem.

When new 25-storied, and taller, buildings are erected on the site of demolished shorter buildings, the contractors and financial wizards in charge of the construction do require the presence of towering cranes. These intricate pieces of machinery are delivered to the street where the construction is ongoing, and then erected themselves, bit by bit, until they reach a height beyond that of many nearby buildings. Windy days may tempt danger for construction sites, from falling debris, or from unstable cranes, or from other possibilities.

Our city needs to constantly reinvent itself, to show it is thriving, to climb upward, upward physically and symbolically.

Our city and our country are showing signs of economic weakening. Shortcuts may currently be taking place in the construction industry. The construction industry has connections to the financial and political worlds. It is often difficult to find a reason for a disaster, after the disaster occurs. Meanwhile, the mostly male construction crews are glad to make the money that their very difficult, dangerous jobs pay. Until there is a disaster. Then the story makes a few news cycles and many of us who live in the city try to avoid blocks where we can see cranes teetering above.

Some memories will fade. More old buildings will be demolished, and more new towers will be erected.

Having delivered that less than lovely tribute to late spring in New York, I would like to once again thank all the fellow posters for showing so many beautiful pictures of their spring gardens. Those images are the source of my country dreams.

I would now like to tell a more uplifting tale of how small our world can be.

Many of you are aware that I manage a shop. The advertising campaigns for our company have for some time featured photos of a beautiful model who has lovely long, grey hair. She is also a friendly, multi-talented person, as I have discovered on visits she has made to the shop.

A few weeks ago, I assisted a Swedish customer, who was visiting New York, from her home in France. We have many international visitors. This is one of the charms of being in the shop.
The Swedish lady confided to me that she was a playwright, and that one of her plays was currently being performed in a major Stockholm theatre. But there was more. She told me that one of the characters in her play was actually inspired by our model with the beautiful long, grey hair. In fact, a special "peruke" had been designed for the actress playing the role.

I just found this story so delightful, and promised to mention it to our model when I next saw her.

This past week, I received a square, white envelope bearing a wonderful collection of French stamps. Opening the envelope I found a sweet note from the playwright, and also a copy of the official playbill from her play. The playbill is in Swedish, a language I cannot read or write. The cover of the booklet features a dramatic color picture of the lead actress, with her beautiful long, grey wig.

In a week that was filled with local news that could frighten us all, it was a great pleasure and very reassuring to receive this message from France. We can connect in happy ways, though the news may often try to convince us otherwise.

Pleasant dreams to you all, in or out of your spring gardens.


  1. Lovely blog as always. I thought of you when I saw the news item about the collapsed crane - I'm only surprised it doesn't happen more often (though you should be glad you don't live in China, where the scaffolding is made out of bamboo!). By the way, you can get the playbill translated at (some of them are rather fierce, so you have to ask nicely!) or do it yourself with BabelFish at

  2. As ever F you bring us am image of New York Life that is far beyond our imaginings and beautifully well written.

  3. How scary about all those cranes - they must be something of an occupational hazard to an island city continually growing upwards. And how inspiring to read about your model whose beauty sounds quite different from the usual run-of-the-mill twenty-somethings (and younger) that seem to adorn the majority of hoardings. I recently read an interview with an artist who said he thought women over 40 were often more beautiful than in their 20s, because an older face shows more of your character.

    Beautifully atmospheric, as always.

  4. It is a great worry if the construction industry is taking such risks with peoples lives. Industry dangerous enough when they do do all things properly let alone corner cutting.
    They are building a new swimming pool at our local school and a man died when his digger machine toppled over into a ditch. I could never work on a crane.
    Used to love a TV children's Prog called mary , Mungo and Midge, they were animals and small girl living in a tower block, they'd watch the building across the way and Midge the mouse, wanted to see the crane, so Mungo the dog carried him and he went up and sat in the crane box!

    Loved your story about the model and the scananavian/french customer. Lovely blog as always.

  5. Thanks for all the comments, and Edward, I will see if I can get that playbill translated with the aid of the sites you mention.


  6. Francis, what a lovey coincidence about the model and the play. It is so good to hear of a fashion company that doesn't only use skinny teenagers to promote its goods. Are you able to let us know which company you work for? I'd love to have a look at the website.

  7. That was a lovely and thought inspiring blog Frances. I have never really thought about the danger these construction sites can bring yet it seems obvious to me now. The sheer height combined with such strong winds can only be a recipe for disaster.

    Love the tale of the playwright and the model too. A lovely note to end on xx

  8. A dread yet curiously tantalising image of a city constantly degenerating and rebuilding. But on a practical level quite frightening too.
    I love the tale of the lady with the long grey hair - such a fabulous image and I am sure I know who you mean.
    Your comment on my story was as perceptive as always - thank you so much.

  9. One of my favourite images of New York is the wonderful picture taken in the 1930's of a group of men sitting out on the arm of a crane, it makes my toes tingle when I see it,last time I went up the Empire State building I tried to imagine what it must have been like to have built that all those years ago with out the modern Health and Safety precautions that are about today. Even with those in place we can see the sad result when it all goes wrong.
    Lovely Blog as always Frances.
    Thank You.

  10. We were very sad when we heard the news of the crane disasters. What a terrifying job it must be.
    How amazing, the coincidence of your model!

  11. How frightening it must be to live amongst the construction. A wonderful city though with amazing buildings and a fascinating ambience.

    Crystal xx

  12. a lovely blog. Those cranes are horrifying. All is fine, I suppose, until it isn't and then it goes terribly wrong. I used to love Mary Mingo and Mudge or whatever it was, Muddie, too.

  13. Yes, I saw the reports about the crane collapse too and thought of you. I'm so glad you told us the story of your model and what she inspired.

  14. Every day indded brings many things - some awful, and some heartwarming. The model with the long grey hair is stunning - I have seen her on your shop site. What a lovely surprise in the post. R might be able to help - he lived in Sweden for a while!

  15. Ohh Francis, I think I know the model you mean, I am sure she models for Gudrun Sjoden catalogues too (unless there are two beautiful grey long-haired models. Which is always possible).

    I thought of you first, when I heard the awful news about the crane, absolutely dreadful.

  16. That was a nice story about the Swedish lady and the model.
    I know the model who does the Gudrun something adverts, would it be her? She is mature in age and has long grey hair.

    I had not heard about the crane accident. My son works in construction so it is a big worry.

    But a lovely blog as ever Frances.

  17. oooh, now i am wondering if your shop is an eileen fisher shop. my favorite favorite favorite.

  18. (but even if i'm wrong, that's a lovely story.)

  19. A really lovely blog Frances, and you write so well.

    So frightening to hear about the Crane collapsing,just hoping for you to be safe too Frances.

    Oh I think I have seen photo of that Model in Adverts here in England, and she does have long grey hair.

    How lovely to have that surprise in the post for you Frances.


  20. I love your last line, Frances, especially in these times when mass hysteria threatens to pull us apart and unravel the relationships of generations. We CAN connect in happy ways and cross the barriers that seem to be popping up regularly.

  21. Good to see you yesterday, Frances.
    I think your shop has become an international meeting place.
    Probably because you are so friendly and so we all come to visit and network.
    We are feeling quite positive about New York right now in spite of everything.
    Will pop by to see both you and the blog very soon
    all best

  22. A lovely blog and I also love your connection with the playwright and the model.
    it is pouring down here today again so not much in the way of beautiful spring gardens here!

  23. I do so adore New York, so it was a pleasure to pop over and see you.
    So thanks for that.

  24. Hello Frances, I am glad you enjoyed a little look around Brantwood. I wasn't around when you all started blogging at C L magazine but I did see Milly's exhibition at Brantwood.
    Milly has a regular "Drawings from Nature" feature in C L magazine now and I just discovered she has a blog,

    I must have missed the story of the collapsed crane in the news, I find it quite shocking, I just assumed they would be so well regulated but as you say when money becomes tight corners are cut.
    I still think it would be fascinating to actually watch one of the sky scrapers going up, from a safe distance of course!
    Best wishes.

  25. Hi Frances I arrived via Blossom, after visiting "Sweet Irene" (Nora). She has changed her website and could not get in touch to let you know. Her new site is Debs x

  26. Hello Frances, Lovely to hear from you. You have such a busy life so I know it must be hard to fit everything in. Glad you have now been able to see more of Brantwood and to see how beautiful it is. Hope there is some holiday time coming your way.Milly x

  27. Hi Frances
    I'm coming up to see you on 5th Av on Friday, I hope.
    all best

  28. Hi Frances,
    Fruit picking: It's nearly all done by machines now, they just go up and down the rows stripping the plants. Only Pick your own for children these days!

  29. Hi Frances, loved the story of the grey haired model and the playwright, such interesting things happen in your shop!

  30. What a lovely slice of New York life your blog is! So glad you can report the beauty in your wonderful city. I've spent a lot of happy days there. Greetings from Lincolnshire, England.

  31. Hi Frances it's ages since I visited you on your blog - and I'm pleased I've eventually popped back. I know the model you mean, I get a few US magazines and see the ads for your company - always makes me think of you! That's what I love about blogging and PC, I now have 'friends', people I think about in so many places. She is an inspirational model, so elegant and beautiful. It is refreshing also to see a company that makes use of so many types of women in their ads, not just the young, flawless blonde girls so often used.

  32. Just trying to catch up-haven't read any blogs for ages. Think you must be busy as always as I haven't missed many thank goodness.

    I don't know the model but can picture her. You do write so vividly-I can see whatever it is you describe.

    My Hubby is definitely doing the New York marathon in November but unfortunately we cannot all afford to come over. I don't want to leave the boys so he will be going with his brother. I will get there one day...he LOVES NY.

    warm wishes

  33. come along, madam, time for another blog! It's been over a month...

  34. Greetings from Australia Frances.You write beautifully and, as a first time vistor I also enjoyed reading older posts where I could really feel the atmosphere and images you shared.I have been to New York twice in my life, but that was over thirty years ago, so it is a pleasure for me to catch up with this amazing city in your posts. Thank you.

  35. Hiya Frances! I have tagged you to tell us 6 random things about yourself! xx

  36. Frances, just popping in to say hello, (don't have an email for you, so will write briefly here) I am just catching up with everyone, and thank you for still visiting me, when I am so infrequent, my most elegant of blog friends.

  37. hi francis, i've just seen that cowgirl as tagged you so i can't never mind ... that was a lovely thought provoking blog i didnt hear about the crane accident how awful. "and we worry about trees blowing down"!!xxo whats your shop site ??