Saturday, 10 November 2018

The silencing of the guns - we hope

This morning, I took a different route to the library, and spotted this set-up in the garden of an ancient house near the cathedral. I used to know the people living there, but not well. I'd like to see this at night, when the nest of blue and yellow lights must cast an eerie green glow on the crosses and helmets.

Looks like Remembrance Day is going to be an extra big deal this year with the centenary of the Armistice.

This will be, so far as I can recall, my first Remembrance Day out of the country. We'll be in Seattle, seeing elder daughter, who has flown there for a conference. Years ago, a friend of mine, who lived on Mercer Island, was intrigued when I mentioned Remembrance Day. All those years living next door to Canada, and she had never heard of it. (She was unfamiliar with Boxing Day, as well.)

I've packed four poppies in my backpack, trusting we won't offend any Americans by wearing them. You never know these days.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Full circle

Sitting in the coffee shop at 10:30 this morning, I realized I was coming full circle.

About this time a year ago, the smaller plane from Vancouver to Victoria was curving over the Strait of Georgia.

I remember very little of the journey from Ottawa, begun at an insanely early hour; this is probably an indication that it was a mercifully uneventful trip.  However, I do remember craning to see my first glimpse of Vancouver Island, because, this time, we were finally returning for good.

Much like this morning, the mist was clumping like meringue in the inlets below.

When we flew into Victoria airport twelve months ago, it had been eighteen years since our last October 24th in the city, but the days between September 5th and October 23rd this year were the first of these dates that I had spent in Victoria since 1999 -- nineteen years.  We left for Ottawa on August 31st, 2000, and the longest summer house-sit I'd obtained in Victoria ended September 4th, 2004.

Today, I feel that, to a degree, I have reclaimed my hometown.  As much as I miss elder daughter, Hades has no pull on me.

I feel triumphant and defeated.  Persephone is home.  So much has been lost.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Slow vote to Fernwood

The Resident Fan Boy and I voted in one of the advanced polls in the recent municipal election for Victoria, partly to avoid the crowds and partly to plough the path for younger daughter, as this is her first election in British Columbia.

Good thing we did!  A civic election has to be the toughest of the three levels of elections; municipal politics get less press coverage than provincial and federal politics on the whole, and there's usually a huge selection of candidates, for more positions, so it's not a simple matter of ticking one square for an MLA or MP.

This election, for example, was for mayor, plus (up to) nine city councillors, (up to) eight school board trustees, and, to really complicate matters, a choice of which councillor to send to the Capital Region District, and a referendum.

On top of this, we had a number of hurdles to overcome.  Despite registering online, we were not yet on the voters' list, because that had been released to the elections officials over a month ago.  This meant registering in person at the polls.

When I showed up at City Hall for the advanced poll, I noted the other hurdles - particularly tough for younger daughter's autism spectrum challenges.

Four line-ups:  1) To enter the voting area.
2) To  register, which included answering some questions, and providing the correct ID.  The fellow registering me decided, on principle, to accept my library card (which I had mentioned, but not offered) as ID.  I'd already presented my passport, along with my provincial health card, which confirms my address.  "Library cards are on the list, and -- we can!" he declared.
"Great," I replied.  "I'm a literate voter.  Also well-read."

3) Another line-up to take one's turn in the voting booth.

4) Most daunting of all, a long curving line to "cast the ballot", that is, in this case, feed it carefully and singly, into the sole "ballot reader", a machine resembling a printer.  You had to wait for the confirming click, then they'd hand you your "I Voted" sticker.

The machine, which, I suppose, eliminates hand counting and sorting, takes waaaaaay longer than slipping one's folded ballot into a ballot box.  You can't fold your ballot for one thing; you have to conceal it from prying eyes in a yellow folder, although it wouldn't be hard to guess how you voted in the several seconds which elapse between taking it out of the damned folder and feeding it into the damned ballot reader.

Oh, yes, and the ballot itself had to be filled out by meticulously shading into an oval next to your choice(s) with, and only with, the provided pen, much like the dreaded provincial high school exams for university qualification that I remember with little relish.

On Election Day itself, I searched for illustrating photos on the internet to assist younger daughter with visualizing the process to come, because despite being a veteran of all three levels of elections in Hades, this would be a whole new procedure for her.

You can imagine that part of me was rather hoping she'd give this election a miss, and I did explain, more than once that voting in a municipal election in Victoria would involve four long line-ups and a complicated ballot.

However, even after a long day that included a practice session with her accompanist for an upcoming singing competition, and a trip to Pic-a-Flic to renew her DVDs, she was insistent.  Of course she wanted to vote.  It was Election Day, and she's twenty-two.

Far be it from me to disenfranchise anyone, let alone my own daughter.

We set off to the nearest polling place, the high school, at 6:30 in the gathering darkness, reasoning that we were bound to finish long before the polls' closure at 8 pm.

It took some time to locate the entrance and we were directed to the other side of the building -- where an enormous line snaked out into the parking lot.

After chatting companionably to our fellow queue occupants for - I dunno - twenty to twenty-five minutes, we were finally in the gymnasium, where younger daughter still had to be looked up on the voters' list, even though we told them she wasn't on it.

We joined the queue for registration.  At the advanced polls, this had been quick, but, even with four people at work, it was clear that the filling-out of the form took out an inordinate amount of time.  When younger daughter sat down, one of the questions put to her was if she knew the final three digits of her social insurance number.  This was after she presented her health card, passport, and birth certificate.  The Resident Fan Boy deflected some of the sillier questions.

We had told younger daughter that she need only to vote for mayor.  We were talking to someone on the spectrum.  She took several minutes filling out every part of the ballot.  I took some comfort in noting that others were also taking a long time, and somewhat less comfort in watching the line for the ballot reader grow longer and longer.  By the time the RFB and younger daughter joined this final queue, it had been over an hour since our arrival.

Worn out, I went to sit on the concrete steps leading out of the gymnasium.  In the hall behind me, a long line-up of people still waiting to enter had been brought inside so the outer doors of the school could be shut and locked.  The polls had closed - it was now 8 pm - but those inside would still be permitted to vote.

From my perch, I watched the long line of voters approaching the lone ballet-reading machine.  I marvelled at how different this population of the electorate was from those coming to the advanced poll.  When I voted, I was surrounded by mainly middle-aged and elderly, mostly smartly dressed people.  Tonight, it was a Fernwood crowd:  parents with babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and primary graders; people with dogs;  people who looked like they rode motorcycles,  many, many young voters evidently casting a ballot for the first time.

Despite my weariness, I was touched by the faces as each person waited for the confirming click, then slapped their "I Voted" sticker into place, beaming.

One last heart-clutching moment when a young woman attempted the machine, then was directed back.  Evidently, her ballot was not quite correctly filled out.

Oh gawd,  I thought.  Will younger daughter's ballot be okay?  It's been over an hour and a half...

It was.  I gave her a thumbs-up, and we walked out under a night sky with planets glowing in it.

We got home two hours after we had left.

Somehow, we feel affirmed and confirmed as residents of this city.

Monday, 22 October 2018

If the dew should rise in the web

This morning, I looked out at a sea of fog.

As I sat on the edge of my bed, and applied my face, I saw vague figures emerge from the mist, getting clearer and more distinct - although still shadowy - as they approached the chain-link fence that surrounds the middle school across the street.

Then, just as suddenly, they retreated in a raggedy line strung out across the school yard, running, chasing and racing like the edge of the ebbing tide. They vanished, one by one, into the off-white.
And I saw spiderwebs everywhere, edged in moisture.
There's a web-wreath in this picture!  Click to enlarge and see if you find it!
When I had dressed, and was heading down the street that faces my balcony, on the way to my morning coffee, I got a closer look at the wreaths and doilies, so retrieved my camera from my knapsack.
As I snapped, a woman called to me.
"Have you seen these?" she asked, and I joined her to gaze open-mouthed at a shrub festooned with dripping webs, rather like a Christmas tree draped with spooky lace.
"It's like an infestation," she said. "There hasn't been rain or wind to destroy them."
I pointed out that spiders are actually a pretty good weapon against far nastier infestations, and told her how all this put me in mind of my favourite play. (You can say such things to a stranger in Fernwood.)
In The Lady's Not for Burning by Christopher Fry, Jennet Jourdemayne, an accused witch facing the prospect of immolation at dawn, describes how approaching death has brought her into a sharp awareness of life and time:

I've only one small silver night to spend
So show me no luxuries.  It will be enough
If you spare me one spider, and when it spins I'll see
The six days of Creation in a web
And a fly caught on the seventh.  And if the dew
Should rise in the web, I may well die a Christian.

Saturday, 20 October 2018


On this day, last year, we left our house in Ottawa for the final time, moving into a hotel for our final days in Hades.

Younger daughter and I have discovered that, if you make your way to the Sunken Garden at Butchart's in late October, you can have a taste of an Ontarian fall -- without the rest of the Ontarian year.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Artist and artisan

So I was heading up Cook Street this morning, and was startled to see this mural on the side of the dry-cleaners next to Wong Grocery.

How have I missed this? I asked myself, before noticing the painter on the scaffold.

I walked to the foot of the structure, and called up to the lovely young lady at work: "Was this always here, or have you just put it there?"

She gave me a dazzling smile. "I've just put it here! It's not done yet; I'll be adding to it!"

"Wow! And I'll be watching out for that!" I said, before marching on, as she wishes me a good day.

I think the figure is meant to be Chinese Canadian, although the hat that she's wearing looks a little like a Coast Salish cedar hat.

October in Victoria. I love it.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Look at those cavemen go

In this days when singers do auto-tuned eardrum-splitting calisthenics, I especially appreciate a vocalist who demonstrates beautiful dynamic control, to say nothing of a convincing muted trumpet imitation.

And yes, you can get off my lawn.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Wha' Who?

Sorry, gotta go to bed, but I found this -- which will only appeal to Doctor Who fans....

....although it's not an inaccurate intro for someone who has never seen the series. Might be a bit off-putting though.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Not so much a gallop as a trot

When I was a youngish girl, not quite a teenager, it was my almost daily habit to walk a long length of railway track behind my house. I was young, vigorous, and unafraid, and I would cross the middle of a unsided trestle high above Helmcken Road, and then stepping on the ancient railway ties, go for miles, although it probably wasn't much more than a kilometre or so. Did this for three years, and although I met with a handful of adventures, only met one creepy guy and got one tick - not at the same time.
That's the Bay Street Bridge through the berries

Some years later, they transformed the old unused line into a network of paved trails, leading from Vic West all the way to Sooke - easy for walkers to do sections, and safe cycling, as well.
A few years before we left Victoria for Hades, they rebuilt the old Selkirk Trestle, which links Vic West with the neighbourhood of Burnside across the Gorge Waterway.
Southern half of the Selkirk Trellis, taken from the middle hump
And yet, despite returning to Victoria for seventeen summers, I never made it over to the Selkirk Trestle, although I'd seen many beguiling pictures of it.

I was determined to right that omission today. CBC Radio informed me that it was "perfect autumn weather", and I had carefully checked my route, because Vic West is one of a handful of Victoria neighbourhoods that is unfamiliar to me, even though I lived in Esquimalt for years.

For the first time, I made my way over the new, silver Johnson Street Bridge, which, amid much controversy, has replaced the blue one. I turned right on Harbour Road and six minutes of trotting past industrial areas brought me to the winding path that hugs the shore looking out over the Upper Harbour, just below the Bay Street Bridge.
Harbour taxi
Pick-up points for the tiny Harbour Taxis double up as look-outs; they seemed to be doing a reasonable business taking Japanese tourists to and fro.
And kayakers were having a lovely time, ignoring the roar of machinery near Rock Bay and a pile of crushed cars sparkling in the clear October air.
I noted the locations of restaurants for future reference, and was grateful for a clearly indicated and well-timed public washroom, but on the whole, I was startled at how residential this leg of the Galloping Goose is. It's lined with colourful condominiums and apartments. Every picture I've seen of "the Goose" is quite rural-looking, and there have been a few news reports over the years of muggings and sexual assaults in the quieter areas.
I, however, was surrounded: by dog-walkers, stroller-pushers, cyclists, young families, snow-haired seniors, tourists and, of course, joggers. It wasn't crowded, y'understand - just not isolated.
Northern half of the Selkirk Trellis, taken from the middle hump
I reached the Selkirk Trestle much sooner than I'd expected. It's a long foot-bridge which curves across the Gorge, and has a hump in the middle to permit boats to pass underneath. You do have to watch out for the bikes - just as on any shared pathway. The bicycles do come zooming through, including one gentleman, who was old enough to know better, with his eyes glued to what I swear was his cell-phone in a special holder. He seemed to be swerving toward me, and he sort of glanced up casually, and frowned slightly, as I flattened myself against the railing.
The Gorge Waterway stretches way into the west
From the south end of the trestle, I could peer west into my own past. As a nine-year-old newly arrived in Victoria, I lived a couple of bridges down the Gorge, in the Craigflower area. (You can't quite see that from the Selkirk Trestle, but I know the Gorge quite well.)
From other angles I could gaze back to towards Victoria itself, shining behind a dazzling reflections of the sun in the water, or I could simply look down at the odd scales created by the shadow of the chain-link sides of the bridge.
Ancient arbutus

I had resolved to return home via Gorge Road, and had used Google Maps Street View to find the off-shoot from the trail on the Burnside side.
You can click on this to enlarge it.
As I climbed the rather steep path past yet more apartments and condos, I was confronted with this whimsical mural. (It wasn't until I got home that it occurred to me: Oh, yeah! A galloping goose!)
Take a closer look at it, yourself. One of the crows is real.