Pot-pourri three-and-forty. A journey in space and time

1 Onraet 27

1910, Brittany. First row, seated, l. to r. great-uncle Philippe, great-aunt Jeanne, my great-grandmother Wilhelmine, “auntie” Irene. Second row, standing: “auntie” Daisy, my grandmother Julie, and great-uncle Jean. When my great-grandfather, Henry-Felix died in India at the end of the 19th century, great-grandma Wilhelmine (Kaiser Wilhelm was very popular in the British Empire until WWI) packed all but one of her dozen kids to Brittany. “Home”? Not really. All were born in India and were trilingual, French, English and Hindustani. India was more like “home”. Philippe was the youngest. Later served in WWI. Did he cross path with my other grandfather? Jeanne was a nurse in WWI. Irene was the prettiest. Married a Count I believe. Jean only showed his left profile to the camera on all photos. He’d been badly mauled and disfigured by a panther in India, tearing all the right side of his face and right eye. In 1910, all women wore long hair and long skirts. See my grandmother, Julie, 3rd from the right?

1 Onraet 32b

1918. Egypt, Suez canal. Left to right: my father Cyril, (he’d have been a hundred years next year), grandmother Julie, and aunt Gaud (without the fancy shoes). My grandmother had already cut her hair. The skirt would follow shortly. A revolution for the women of that time. Most historians agree that the 19th century only ended in 1918.

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Dogon mask, West Africa. Most likely from the 50’s or 60’s. De Young museum, San Francisco, 2016.

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The Devil’s residence, Paris. 2015. Amazon has canceled all deliveries: is the address 14 or 20?


“I‘ve Seen better days”. Traditional house, Tolima province, Colombia. 2014. The house probably dates back to the late 19th, early 20th century.

2016-08-12 17.45.08

Walking down the streets of Montmartre. 2016. “Le petit moulin” means the small mill. Above and below:

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Brewery, Washington DC. 2017. (c) Gini.IMG_5704-B


“One cappuccino to go, Sir?” Tlalpan, Mexico city. 2017. I’m sorry to report that this cute little café has been shut down by the authorities…


Montmartre of course. 2016.

Martin-pêcheur Défintif

Kingfisher, 2017. I just painted this last week as a farewell gift to Daughter # 2, en route to Indonesia. I hadn’t drawn or painted anything in, what, fifty years? Strange how the hand remembers things the head doesn’t. Beware: I might open up a new section: drawings by B.


This is the graveyard wall in Tlalpan, Mexico city. In the wake of Irma, a good bit of that wall fell off:


See the graves beyond the gap to the left? The wall apparently fell on the little red car. Look closely. Taken only yesterday. Can’t help but think of the terrifying power of Nature. Irma is roaming thousands of miles away. And yet, its wagging tail flooded Mexico city on Wednesday night. Best wishes to the people in Florida and Georgia. Board up and leave. Please. No need to expose oneself.


San Francisco. 2016.


Chevrolet Bel Air 1953. Mexico city. Pristine condition. (‘Wish I could say the same, we are different models,  different factories, from the same year.) Found the car by chance yesterday.

Thank you for flying with us. Captain reports the earthquake last night was quite strong, 8.2 on the Richter scale. The ’85 ‘quake in Mexico city that took 10 to 15,000 lives was 8.5. Fortunately, though the house shook quite a bit, we are all right, and it seems there are only very few casualties.

Again, those of you in the Caribbeans and Florida, Georgia, the South in general: be safe. And a lovely week-end to all.

PS. Breaking news. The Orange man’s house in Saint-Martin appears to have been totally destroyed. Yes!


57 thoughts on “Pot-pourri three-and-forty. A journey in space and time

    • Thank you Jenny. I am fortunate to have a lot of family history. That photo in particular, is full of history. The year, 1910, more than a century ago. The dress. The pose, and all I know about each of the family members. My father wrote a book on the family history. My mother typed it. On a typing machine. So one of my projects is to scan it, edit the text and then translate to English. Happy week-end.

  1. Very touching old pictures again. And your description makes them even more enjoyable. I would not mind the new section “Drawings by B”. I have to remember that Equinoxio is Brian ! Superbly done, all.

    • Merci Gilles. Coming from you it is a great compliment. I’ll never draw as well as you do. Mais… je vais essayer de m’y remettre. Bon week-end.
      “Brian” (alias Brieuc)

    • Thank you Tish. It is. Colourful. My family was in India since the 18th century. My little sister was the last to be born there. (Servants of the Empire?) 🙂
      Gives a different perspective on the world, I guess.
      Be good.

      • Haha! It’s been done in part. By my parents, mostly. But it is more like the family history going back to the first identified ancestor, Karel Onraet, mid 1400’s in Flanders. There is a typed version in french, which I need to scan, translate into English and complete with more recent histories. (Like the ones I write about Pakistan, Cambodia or Africa.) Working on it. (Will you help me find a publisher?) 😉
        Enjoy September. The countryside must be changing colours.

  2. Truly beautiful aunt Irene, she wears a Mona Lisa smile. Sorry to hear about great-uncle Jean’s accident.
    Glad to know you’re alright after all the dreadful events.
    Have a safe and calm weekend!

    • Tried our best during the week-end. Despite the small second earthquake. Hope yours was good. have solved the sink issue? The interesting thing about Jean – and the people of his time – is that (so I heard) he never whined about it. Shit happened and people went on with their lives. A lesson to consider.

      • Bad things never come alone, do they… Hopefully you pulled through just fine.
        All good down here. Sink issue’s been solved long ago.

        Some things we may take as they come, nothing to do about it, usually when it’s about ourselves; other times we just can’t accept it and keep crying in and/or out until life force decides to leave us. There simply isn’t always a choice.

      • Yeeees and no. We can chose to carry on. Dragging our feet, but moving along. We are travelers, rather confused mayhap: we don’t know where we come from, nor where we are sometimes, and definitely have no idea where we are going to… 🙂

      • Some are travelers, some are trees dragged away by the flow of the River of Life, unable to put roots…

      • I know what you mean. And it’s not people’s fault, it’s just lack of proper education. Worldwide.

      • Yes. Worldwide. And a growing recurrence of resorting to violence for just about anything. Tsss. And it is Education. If the orange man had had a couple of spankings before he was 5, we would all be much better off. 🙂

      • Remember the Law in the original “Planet of the apes”: “Ape shall not kill ape”.
        Apparently humans have a long way to go before reaching that level.
        Captain, can we skip forward a few hundred/thousand years…?
        Or should we go… back?

      • Let me ask Scotty. He seems to be a bit reluctant to push his trade on the Time-Travel thing lately. Thinking back, objectively I hope, it seems to me that the sixties – probably influenced by the memories of the not-so-distant last major slaughter – was relatively free of generalized massacres. Of course, you have to discount the 6 day war, the PLO, etc…

      • If only it would’ve been the sixties forever… 😉 Something like Groundhog Day.
        Would it have been boring…? Would a life devoided by evil be boring?
        I’d like to find that out first hand. Not in this life, I presume.

      • I think it is devoid of… Well it may be boring, but, to be true, especially in the wake of yesterday’s earthquake and other events, I could do with less evil for a while…

    • It has passed. Fortunately for all in Florida and the islands. There is a fascinating story behind the panther encounter. It is already written (by my father) and typed. On a machine. Seriously. By my mother. In French. Need to scan it and translate/adapt it.

    • Not sure I looked like him. when I was a child, half the adults we met would say: “Oh, he does look so much like his mother!”, and the other half said: “his father’s spitting image”. 🙂 I think I looked more like my mother, but doesn’t really matter, we are always combinations. And thank you for your good wishes. I tried in New York ten years ago, got so many… standard, hypocritical letters I dropped the matter. I think it is time for me to go back into that fight. ‘Hope you are well. You are going to the US soon, right? Before your surgery in October?

      • Surgery is in November, so I am going in October. Cannot wait.
        Oh I can imagine the publisher world 😦 Materials you have are precious. Such book would have a great value for those interested in geopolitics etc. Also, you should cooperate with some good artist and publish a children book with cool illustrations.

      • Thank you Inese. again you are too kind. Actually I wrote “A night in Penang” and “Breakfast in Isatanbul” around Tiffany Choong’s drawings. We’ve dropped a manuscript at “Actes Sud” in Paris. We’ll see.
        October is quite close already. You probably already have your suitcase packed? 😉

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