Chapter 32 – We Move to Lyon — linguistics, friends and animals

Our beautiful and wonderful Babish, our first dog in Genas, after Puppy who left us that first summer. She is running toward us with a ball in her mouth (1997)

1986 was a big year. First of all there was the move to Lyon at the end of June.

we had to move to Lyon, since CCPN (Centre de Calcul de Physique Nucléaire) was decentralized to Villeurbanne, a sister town of Lyon. We found a suitable house with just the right size yard in the town of Genas, east of Lyon and close to Lyon. Genas is comfortably close to our former working places, which were on the Campus in Villeurbanne. It is also just 15 minutes drive to the airport, which used to be called Satolas, but is now Saint-Exupéry.

For the big move, we first drove down with the animals — the car jam-packed with stuff, plants and other things not suited for a moving company. John returned to Paris and I was left to take care of Puppy and Lulu for one night. The house was, like most houses and apartments were, at least in those days, unfinished for all practical purposes. Installing closets and kitchen cabinets was a real mess and clothes were dumped in the piles on the floor.There were, in all, two small closets built in, one at the downstairs entrance and one upstairs in what became our bedroom. The rooms were so small we had to make one bedroom out of what was supposed to be two.

That first night, after the pets and I had eaten a frugal dinner, sort of, I slept on a mattress on the floor in the living room. The upstairs floors were not even fit for walking on since the parquet varnish had not dried yet.

Lulu was the problem that night. Puppy took it all  calmly, but Lulu was panicky and she literally climbed the walls. In fact, she left claw marks high up on the wallpaper a bit all over, which I later covered up with cork tiles. They are still there today, but should have been covered over again a long time ago. Lulu was delighted with the cork tiles and used them as scratch posts. Well, the kitchen and the main bedroom were finished soon after that somewhat dramatic beginning — courtesy of IKEA. John put up an entire wall in our bedroom with white-odored closets, a deed he would not have done today. Hats off for John. And that was far from all he did as an IKEA assembler handyman.

The very first year at ESCIL, a chmistry ‘grande école’, I was still employed by Ecole Centrale (for some unknown reason, but which I was extremely happy with), It meant a higher salary than I later made from ESCIL the following three years and, most important, it meant fewer work hours. We worked 12 hours a week at Centrale, and that is what I did the first year at ESCIL..

This state of things was so lucky for me that I might have become a believer in a just and bountiful god, if I had not been such a steadfast heathen.

My friend Ruth had recommended that I take a graduate course in linguistics at a Lyon university, so as to have a French diploma. The French don’t count foreign diplomas as valid of anything. It turned out that my graduate diploma really did not make any difference in my case, but I enjoyed the classes immensely. In New York State, U.S., I had been a tenured French teacher, after an owful lot of haggling with the State Education department in Albany. But my friend Jürgenb who had an Austrian Ph.D had to do his dissertation all over again, in French at that, in order to teach German at French universities. My ‘DEA’ (Diplôme d’études approfondies) might have impressed someone at INSA where I ended up after ESCIL. That’s not at all sure,  but I enjoyed the classes immensely.

We had five professors, two being associate professors and one probably Assistant professor We studeis even more than five subjects since somle courses changed in the middle of the year. The subjects of our classes varied from etymology, morphosyntax (excellent teacher), analysis of discourse (Professeur Petit, professor of English) to the book by John Lyons “Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics” which, among a multitude of other subjects, deals with Professor Noam Chomsky’s methods of analyzing discourse and changing sentences from, for instance, the ‘active voice’ to the ‘passive voice’ and similar studies, via a scheme set up to be computerized.

The most incredible thing was the way my schedule at ESCIL left me just the free time I needed for my classes at Universiié Jean Moulin. Lyon 3,  A puzzle taht was done by pure luck. I remember going up to our main professor of linguistics, le Professeur Baudry, telling him that I was an English teacher at ESCIL, and that I might have to, exceptionally, skip a class once in a while. It happened only once, and a co-student lent me her notes to copy from the class I missed.

The front on the ‘Quai du Rhône’ of my beloved ‘Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3’ For languages and liguistics we walked in from the little street in the back, rue Cavenne. (Wikipedia)

I loved going to my classes at the old university building on the Rhône for Université Lyon 2 and Lyon 3. I felt that I belonged. Also, in those days it was always possible to find a parking space for my little Fiat Uno, usually right in the rue de l’Université. I was of course way out of the ordinary age range of the students, but I did not look my age, and I felt accepted. My French was good and I did not stand out like a sore thumb.  Between students, times had already become ‘modern’, and they said “tu” to each other. So it got to be ‘tu’ when they addressed me too. “Ils me tutoyaient”. I liked that very much.

The day of the big final exams in late spring or early summer, we had oral exams in the morning and two written exams in the afternoon. I knew that the morning exams had gone well. Professeur Baudry had made little rolls of paper with questions written on them. I took one little roll and was not sure I knew what the professor wanted me to talk about. I asked if I could possibly take another roll. I knew the professor was positive to me, and he said “of course” right away. After I had answered that question I asked him if what he wanted as an answer to the first question was such and such, concerning Chomsky. He said Definitely. You didn’t need to ask for another question.

In the afternoon we had the two subjects Morphosyntaxe and Démodialectologie, which was probably my favorite subject, taught by a young man who could not have been more than an Assistant professor, probably what is called Maître de conférences in this country. His subject dealt with the way a language — in this case the French language — changes with time and with level of education. And, by the way, also from the laziness of the speakers. He placed tape-recorders in cafés and public places, and he also amused us with things he had heard in the street. I will never forget a fun little episode of a couple waiting for the green light to cross the street at a pedestrian crossing place. Two young people ran out fearlessly against the red light. The man said : “Et puis ils se plaignent comme quoi ils se font tuer.” Very funny. I think we all broke up. Also the subjunctive is sadly disappearing.  The example was “Il fait rentrer le foin avant qu’il pleuvra.”  (instead of “…avant qu’il pleuve”)

Ruth had also recommended a little book to me,(which I would never have had to read, but did anyway) about how you write a proper essay, with introduction ta, ta, ta an,d conclusion. I knew that perfectly well from gymnasium, but Ruth obviously didn’t trust the Swedish school system. I could perfectly well have written good essays about the questions we had to answer, both in morphosyntaxe and in démodialectologie. However, I was so carried away by answering the questions that I simply forgot that I should make my answers into an essay, which would not have been very difficult. When in the fall, after handing in my thesis about l’Enseignement Assisté par Ordinateur (in English called CL, Computer Assisted Learning), I found out that my grades in both the written subjects were just passing, I was first dumbfounded. But after a while I understood. I got very good grades on the two seminars I presented and probably also for le Professeur Baudry, so after all, I got a “Mention”. There were only two “Mentions”, and I could well guess who the second one was. She was a true scholar.  I was very please, even though a bit mad at myself for not realizing where those silly essays were coming in.


After an early visit to Brand, that same summer there was the BIG party in Giessen, north of Frankfurt in Germany at our German friends’ place, Fritz and Renate Lange. They celebrated 25th and 50the anniversaries for just about everything, birthdays and graduation year from pharmacy school, among other things.

John, Siv, Tucker, Neall, Marjie right on the edge of the glacier, which, after all,  we decided not to walk on. – 1986

After that, we were invited to Sachseln in Switzerland by John’s parents. Sister Marjie and Neall and Tucker were also there and it was a fabulous treat for all of us.

Among other things, we took a train from Sachseln to Zermatt to see the real high Alps, Matterhorn, above all. We the young ones, took a hike to a glacier that we had planned to walk across, or at least walk on. But somehow we didn’t. Possibly the deep crevasses that we saw in the glacier made us rethink our plans for that walk.(See picture below)

Crevasse in the glacier which, very understandably, turned us away from strolling across it.

The crevasses in this glacier reminded me very much of those in the Kebnekajse huge glacier in my early youth, 1947. You don’t just walk across cracks like those. In 1947, however, we had a guide who held out his hand to steady us as we jumped across. How my stepfather Arne made it is a mystery to me. He was just 40 though, but I do remember how exhausted he was on the way down actually leaning on the guide.

There were quite a few of those pretty wide cracks at the time. I have no idea what this glacier is like today, after global warming has melted a lot of the piled up and thoroughly frozen snow on the top of the mountain. Kebnekajse was 2123 m. high at the time and today, it has shrunk to 2017 meters. Soon the north peak will be higher than the south peak.


Benny and Babette are investigating the newcomer to our menagerie.

Our house in Genas has now so much become part of our lives that we could barely imagine living anywhere else. Our three animals, at this time, a (type) collie dog, Katia,  and two cats, brother and sister, Benny and Babette, are totally happy in this house and in the yard. Both house and yard have been updated and greatly improved on over the more than 30 years we have now lived here.

In fact, they are so happy with us that it hurts to leave them at a “pension” when we go on vacation. It hurts, but at least we have a very good and safe pension where they are safe and well taken care of. Katia is let out and played with every day, even though I am not sure how well she plays with the young people at the pension. They are willing, but maybe Katia is not. 

Katia, a newcomer to our house, just a few months old

I doubt t if you will ever see animals happier than our three treasures. Each one is more lovable than the other, and it’s impossible to have a favorite.

There remains the fact though that Benny is special because of what happened to him in 1914, as we came back from two weeks in Iceland. Our cats were at a pension where they did not have double doors to the cages. The lady,, a former nurse, who generally took care of the cats was in a wheelchair because of a complicated leg fracture, and her daughter had to take over. The daughter was obviously quite careless and Benny escaped through the single door of the ‘chatterie’. He could not possibly find his way back here where he wanted to be, since we had taken the cats by car to this house in Bron, right outside Lyon, and he could not have an idea of where home was. To make a long story short, he was gone for 47 days.

We had put up posters all over Bron with a picture of Benny and promise of reward. We got to know a very nice lady who had clearly seen Benny close to her apartment building and later in a nearby huge park, a joggers’ paradise. We walked with her through the park one day, but there was no sign of Benny. We got calls from people who had visibly seen our Benny close to a hardware store, Leroy Merlin in a huge shopping center. John went there (I had gotten sick in the meantime with a nasty infection.), but he did not see Benny.

One day, as we were having lunch, the telephone rang. It was our vet who said that she had just been shopping at Leroy Merlin and she had by sheer coincidence seen Benny? She called him, and after a couple of failed attempts, she managed to pick him up. She was pretty badly scratched, but no infection fortunately. She said I am holding him in my arms. We put down our knives and forks, got into the car and hurried to her ‘cabinet‘, also in Bron.

Benny back home in his natural habitat, – in November 2014 . Our lives have mended ever since.

It was absolutely unbelievable. Here was our beloved Benny, just a bit less well-fed, but seemingly unharmed.

The next day we brought our wonderful vet ten long-stemmed magnificent roses. Of course she said, as the French do “‘Il ne fallait pas“, but of course we would actually like to give her even more, but we couldn’t think of what that might be. This woman, Mme Cara, has now become a very dear friend in a way and we will never ever forget what she did to make our lives complete again.

Both Katia and Babette had clearly been wondering what had become of Benny, and they were all happy to get back their brother and playmate. All three are very much attached to one another. Babette’s standard, when she comes in from the outdoors is to go by Katia’s sofa (a Japanese futon) and rub up against her friend. Yes, Katia has her own sofa. It just so happened. She first had a dog bed, but one day she probably felt she was now grown-up and she moved over to the futon. I put a cover over it to keep her from dirtying it too much and the futon soon got to be her ‘home’. 

Peace and play are back again, Benny playing with Katia

Play and fun on the Indian bedspread upstairs in fall 2014.


Our first dog in France, Puppy, German shepherd, much written about in the La Fontaine chapters, died our first summer here in Genas while we were in Brand, Austria. Oh tears when we got back home — Puppy will always be very special to me. He was my dog.

Our next dog was beautiful Babish, (she came with a name tag to her.) our little collie lady, always so elegant.

Babish, not yet a year old won trophies in a baby show in 1986

She won trophies in two shows, and the second time was the funniest. When she got into the ring for all collies, tricolours, and bicolored males and females, the judge asked me as soon as I showed up with Babish: “What did I say about her this morning?” (for the female tricolors only) — “That she didn’t perform well”, I said. Without another word, she looked at Babish’s number and read it out over the loudspeakers — 973 (or whatever the number was). I had to do a double-think. Had my dog, just like that, won the big price for the whole show?

The funny thing was that the judge didn’t seem to even look at the other dogs. Babish won ‘hands down’. She was obviously the clear champion at the show.

During the Babish era I was still working at ESCILand then at INSA de Lyon, where I had my own computer workroom. It started out very well, but after a few years all due to a conspiracy between a hydra of a woman named Veronica who was supported by the Directeur des Humanités, André. I have never known a more ruthlessly ambitious woman in my life. Everybody who wasn’t dancing to her tune had to be blacklisted and finally made to leave. Little  strokes of intrigue here and there added to her power. And she apparently managed to get supporters, some just because they thought they might climb up via her back, as I see it. She was hated and feared. But somehow lots of people did not see how despicable and scheming she was. How do that kind of people get their power? I would say they grab it.

However, that is now water under the bridge. Evil people exist and that’s that. But to the point. All those years I was working at ESCILand and then INSA we had to find a solution for Babish. There was a space behind John’s garage, which we arranger so it could be locked from the garage and the door out to the yard left open. The fun thing here is that it got to be called Babish’s room, that is what it still is. So, if it ever rained cats and dogs when we were at work, she could take refuge in “Babish’s room”. Things have changed on either side of “her room” during our latest construction in 1917, but “her room” is pretty much intact.

Many friends have passed through our house in its various stages — forever changing, it seems. I am just sorry that John’s parents never got to see the enormous improvement our addition in 1994 made to the entire house. After we first had our veranda built in 1987 — my sister Gun’s idea, in fact, who was our very first guest) the living room actually got to be darker yet. 

Our very first friends coming for a visit to our new home. Not one thing in this picture is still around, except, Tillma, Kayser’s painting and my precious old Wharfedale speakers. Where is Puppy?

Our very first friends to come and see us here were my colleague from Ecole Centrale, Ann Wellington-Marguet and family. I remember well that Puppy was still with us when Annie and Louis-Henri and sons were here in 1986. Little Philippe was afraid of him and kept saying “Maman, j’ai peur” The boys were brought up to be bilingual and I remember the American r sound when Philippe said ‘peur’ in French. Dear Annie, and we missed her and husband Louis-Philppe this summer, even though they spent six months in France. They live in New Jersey where I visited with them in 1988 when John had meetings at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. They brought up their family in the U.S. and they all seem to be pleased to go on living in New Jersey.

I have had health problems for quite some time and it was just never the moment to get together with old friends, be they ever so dear to me.

Maggie and our Lulu who lived to be 21. – the big visit year of 1988

Our oldest friends, or definitely John’s oldest friends, the Mostellers, were here in 1988. There is a picture I love of young yuppie Maggie and our wonderful Lulu who lived to be almost 21 years old. Jim and Sandy came back in 2014, after Jim had gone through his first horrible cancer operations. This first visit in 1988, after Maggie took a solo trip in their rented VW Golf to the Côte d’Azur (the Riviera)  we all went on to Brand via Switzerland, where we visited a few places that were new to John and also me. The Mostellers are just one group of friends and family that we introduced to the Königer family, our hosts and friends in Brand. We were all having a good time, going on various hikes, and I will never forget how Maggie, a little speck of red in the far distance, was running down far ahead of us on the way down from the pretty tiring walk to the Sarotla Hütte. Tiring? Not for Maggie.

Lotta in our backyard with Babish, once again, 1988

In 1990 Britt and Ingvar with their youngest daughter, Lotta, came to see us.  Lotta was in her upper teens.

We visited all over the region with these dear old friends — Vieux Lyon obviously, the medieval walled city of Pérouge, the vineyards of le Beaujolais and more of the uppermost seaworthy spots in this area. The Roman amphitheatres of course up on the hill of la Fourvière. I remember that the stage was set for an opera when we were there with Britt and Ingvar. Britt commented on the fact that they actually do productions there today again.                                                                                                                                                                          

A piano duo

Roberto came to see us twice in Genas, once with adorable Marta and once by himself. I don’t quite know how Marta and I managed to have a conversation going, but we did. Mainly she spoke Spanish and I spoke French, if I remember right. My spoken Spanish has never been worth mentioning. The Peruvian teacher we had in Lund was nul, and I also skipped a lot of classes.

John bought a piano a few years before we left Paris for Genas. He made good progress in Paris where he had a teacher, but from Genas on, his piano playing got set on the back burner, and the final coup de grâce was when he started having pains in his hands. We managed finally to sell the piano, but at a price that was far too low. It was a superb piano that our Parisian pianist friend Jean-François had chosen. I remember well how, around closing time, Jean-François was playing to an audience of the entire personnel in the store. We finally let them close the store, however.

The year 1986 when we moved to Genas got to be an incredibly busy year, mostly as far as our own traveling goes, from Paris to Genas, to Austria, to Germany, back to Genas, to Switzerland, and back to get installed in our new house which was at this time pretty much a ‘chantier‘ (indoors construction site). But also there were the several visits already mentioned or not mentioned. Sister Gun had come before and after Ruth and Jürgen came the visit by the Marguet family. 

1986 was quite a year for visits to Genas, There was first a visit by dear Paris friends Ruth and Jürgen, one of many visits which have been repeated several times since then. And of course it was the year Babish joined the family. But the moving  in before the arrival of Babish was a bit of a nightmare. With the entire kitchen waiting to be installed, as well as the closets upstairs in the bedrooms, it was pretty much chaos. Clothes were piled up in the middle of the bedroom floor. The kitchen came first of course. But once the IKEA closets arrived which now cover one entire wall in our upstairs bedroom, John had his work cut out for him. He would not do that today.

After the Marguet family visited in 1986 there were our American friends, the Mezgers (Wes, physicist and Patsy, haute cuisine chef, graduated from the haute cuisine school in Paris.) with sons Mark and Karl from Nijmegen, Holland.

Later on, in 1988 there was Roberto, that time with, Marta, his wonderful woman and a psychotherapist from Buenos Aires. We loved her and of course we did the usual rounds of ‘special’-nlaces. They were followed by John’s parents and nephew Tucker who arrived from the Netherlands where he had visited with a friend. Next came the very dear old friends, the Mostellers from San Diego with daughter Maggie. We traveled quite a bit with them, through Switzerland, visiting a lot, on our way to Brand and Haus Kella Egg in Brandnertal, the Austrian Alps.

Music at breakfast. Ondine, about 4, is playing the violin for us and Ariane, about, 2, is busy with something else. This is in 1987, but the verandah had been installed at least.

In the early winter 1987 the Génat family came to spend a couple of days with us on their way to skiing in the French Alps. They were among our very earliest friends to visit us. We knew them very well in Paris and we have also been back at their two-grand-piano apartment in Boulogne Billancourt at least a couple of times. Ondine has stayed with the violin and Ariane is an excellent pianist, like Dad.

Around Christmas 1988 Andy and Trudy Davidson came to see us, a very special visit. Andy was a very special Ecole Centrale friend from Paris and Trudy his delightful and very young English wife.

Fritz and Renate Lange from Giessen in Germany came to visit the following year, 1989, and in 1990 there was a wonderful visit from our Stockholm friends, Britt and Ingvar with their youngest daughter, Lotta, as mentioned above.

What a wonderful few years. And there had been a time when we thought that our friends wouldn’t bother to come and see us in Lyon, because… well, because it’s not Paris.

With all our visiting friends we made the standard tours of Vieux Lyon, the Roman amphitheaters up on la Fourvière in the west of Lyon, the medieval walled city of Pérouge, and the vineyards of le Beaujolais, which is well worth a day’s tour with a pleasant lunch to break up the day. The Gallo-Roman museum right next to the Roman amphitheaters  on la Fourvière is a treasure, but there is also a wonderful old art museum downtown. And along with all these visits and our own travels there were longish visits to Brand in Vorarlberg Austria, which became our home away from home. 

Our animals

We have now had a pretty long row of wonderful pets since John’s first French cat, Mélisande, started the line in John’s little apartment in la rue des Saints-Pères in le 6e arrondissement. There are oodles of photos to remind us of how adorable they were.

Puppy in 1977 at La Fontaine, his paradise

Our wonderful Puppy died at the age of 13 during the summer of 1986 after our first summer in Genas. Sad but normal for a big dog. He is very present in my two chapters on La Fontaine (Chapter 27 – La Fontaine – our little old ‘fermette’).

He was far from unhappy in Paris, and I usually found green places where he could run a bit, but of course La Fontaine was a paradise for him. Puppy and Mélisande were our two pets during those years.

Babish was the prettiest little girl imaginable, obviously also from a pedigree point of view. But before Babish came Lulu who won us over completely when we went to the couple who had taken care of her but who could not keep her.

Here is our beautiful girl, still in Paris, 4 years old

Lulu sat majestically in an armchair that seemed like the master’s chair as we came in. She hopped down and came over to say hello to us.. What better sign can you ask for? She clearly told us she wanted to come with us. I held her in my arms as we walked the short distance to our place.

It seemed to us that Lulu was with us for a lifetime, but actually it got to be over twenty years. She was a beautiful tabby, like Mélisande? John’s first cat in the United States, Lucia, was also a gorgeous tabby with a big white spot on her chest. John liked to give names from operas to our animals, but it got to be mainly our cats.

Baby Mackie 1999 who was with us until 2013.

 Lulu is an opera by Alban Berg. Lulu born 1981, got to be very good friends, not just with Puppy and Babish, but also with Mackie who joined the family in 1999.

The death of a beloved animal is always very difficult to get over, but John and I are among the people who believe that the best, or really the only, way to get over your grief is to get a new dog or cat. It does not in any way mean that the former pet could ever be replaced. Puppy, Babish and now Mackie will be with us for ever. Our Katia, who joined us in 2013, the same year as Benny and Babette is now our favorite dog, simply because she is here. 

But we must definitely not skip the magical (our friend Girv’s name for one of his cats) of all times, Figaro also called Figge. At home in Malmö we had two cats called Figaro, one after the other obviously, black Figge and white 

Our ‘magicat’ Figaro, one year old.

 Figge. Arne chose the name because Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro’ was his favorite opera. Figge one and Figge two were both the best of friends for our beloved Sappo who would actually guard Figge against other dogs when we were out in the park in front of our apartment building, for a picnic or some such thing. What a wonderful memory, the whole family out in Öresundsparken, White Figge (Vite Figge) up in a tree and Sappo sitting at the foot of the tree making sure that no foreign dog would get at his Figaro.

Above is a photo for which John got a prize for best cat photo by the site ‘Evolution is true‘. A sculptural and regal king of cats.

Our animals in Genas– Part one

Our animals in Genas– Part two


Continued Chapter 33 — More about Lyon