DECEMBER 3, 1948
PARIS, Thursday —Anyone who is trying to travel anywhere by any conveyance during these days in Europe is completely upset by the weather. Even those of us who simply have to go from our hotel to our offices and committee meetings in the Palais de Chaillot find ourselves travelling around in a kind of dense fog that makes one wonder whether at night it will be possible to get home.
Planes are not flying; trains have accidents; automobiles go over embankments. Altogether, if one could be a person of leisure and stay at home it would be a pleasure. There might be one drawback to that, however. The houses over here are so cold that, in spite of having learned to wear warm clothes, no one enjoys sitting around indoors.
I was talking to someone the other day who had been over here working with the Quakers during the winter right after the war ended. She told me she had a little attic room with no heat and no hot water. She worked out a way of getting a bath by going on different days to friends in different parts of town who had hot water for a few hours on certain days and permitted their friends to share it with them. She couldn't bear getting into her clothes in the morning after she left them lying on a chair during the night, so she evolved a method of taking them to bed with her and thus keeping them warm.
There are many apartments here that have no central heating, and the difficulty of getting coal and even wood for fireplaces makes it sometimes impossible even to have an open fire.
There is always a silver lining in every cloud, though, and those of us who are going back to the United States will appreciate more than we have in the past the comfort of a warm room. In the apartment in New York City where Miss Thompson and I spend an occasional night, we sometimes complain that we have too much heat. But I think both of us now feel we will be as quiet about that as we are about some of our other difficulties, which arise occasionally from the fact that we do not understand the way people live in Europe.
For instance, I dashed away from a meeting one day, hoping before lunch to visit a little shop where I was told they had attractive lingerie. But the door of the shop was firmly locked and a notice, in French, said: "Closed from 12 to 2 for lunch."
When I was talking to a Frenchman yesterday regarding the difference in the average woman's life here and the average woman's life in the U.S., he said, "Well, of course, our women regard a meal as something really important and a work of art, and they rarely take less than four hours to prepare it."
Then he added that when he was in the United States he saw how many American women, with the help of canned foods and mechanical devices, put a meal on the table in a very short time. But, he maintained, that is not the kind of a meal that French women would prepare or think sufficient, a remark that is completely truthful and which denotes real difference in the tempo of living in the U.S. and Europe.
The people take longer to enjoy life as they live it here, and I am not sure they may not get more out of if than we do at home. We seem always to be rushing to the next thing and not really getting the full flavor of enjoyment out of the thing we are doing.