Friday, 19 September 2014

Cool comfort

Technically, this is the last weekend of the summer isn't it?

This morning, I watched bemusedly as a young child accompanied his mother to school in a parka with the hood up. I mean, it was chilly, but I found a fleece jacket over a summer top was adequate.

I saw a dead bird at the base of the tree on our front lawn and it looked frozen -- until I noticed its head was missing, the work, no doubt of one of the many felines who wander our neighbourhood before strolling home for dinner from their unsuspecting owners.

When I got off the bus to go to a family history workshop, the girl ahead of me was wearing a toque.
After the workshop, it was a beautiful, temperate afternoon, and I decided to take the twenty-five minute walk down Kent Street to reserve a rental commode for Demeter at the Red Cross. (She's unsure of her bladder control while waiting for the Resident Fan Boy (a Virgo) to emerge from the bathroom.)
I realized that I am totally unfamiliar with the stretch of Kent south of Laurier. At this time of year, it's a leafy parade of houses and townhouses featuring a dizzying variety architecture ranging from beat-up semi-detached to elegant Mission Style (though I can't say I care for the colour of the latter).
The neighbourhood seemed people with older men in baseball caps puttering in their front gardens.
I felt I was walking through a very old part of Ottawa which was totally new to me.
Pretty cool.

But not cold.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The merry face of Grindelwald (write of passage number thirty-two)

It has been established that I hate and dread the after-school buses of September.  I hate and dread the buses before school as well, but younger daughter has been getting lifts in the morning for the past three years, so I'm mostly spared them.

If we're truly unlucky, younger daughter and I are forced to catch the #150 Lincoln Fields which rounds the corner on to Iris and picks up a plethora of JH Putman students who are middle-school students, therefore 12 and 13-year-olds, and by definition loud and self-involved.  They crowd aboard, wrestling, turning suddenly with over-sized back-packs whacking the seated passengers, and pitching their voices so as to be heard throughout the bus.

Our agony is, mercifully, short-lived.  We get off at Queensway Station -- only to board Transitway buses crammed with Algonquin College students who are older, and slightly less obnoxious, usually hooked into their phones and earbuds. We are joined at Lincoln Fields by Woodruff High students, who vary in their loudness and obnoxiousness, and we climb off with some relief at Bank Street to await a #7 -- which is crammed with Glashan students, another blessed middle school. I use the term "blessed" ironically; elder daughter survived her early adolescence there.  Barely.

Two lovely girls see younger daughter and I struggling to the back and offer their seats.  I accept gratefully, but younger daughter has already sat down and when I point out the available seat by the window, she pushes past the astonished girls, shoving me aside with a "Move, Mum!"  I thank the girls again and see others in surrounding seats turning to stare.  I pull out my newspaper, turn to the Suduko, and bury my embarrassment in the squares, deciding to pass on a treat at the coffee shop today.

Many passengers get out at Rideau Centre, but they are more than replaced by a parade of Lisgar students, and to my despair, more than a dozen De La Salle students troop on the bus near St Patrick, as the driver attempts to bully them to the rear.  Soon, my ears are being assaulted by teenaged angst and loose back-packs.  Two girls are hanging (well, swinging) from the railing and looking over my shoulder as I attempt to focus on my Suduko.  One of them points at a square:  "That one's a five, you know."

I gaze up into her laughing eyes.

"Thank-you," I say, meaningfully.  Returning to my puzzle, I'm thinking grumpily: The merry face of Grindelwald….

When the last wave of kids board at Beechwood (gawd only knows from which school), I'm beyond caring, although I do curse under my breath. Our stop is next.

Usually, by October, the after-school activities kick in; some students will find lifts; others will drop out. Eventually, there will be a little more room on the buses.  I'm hanging on to that.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The fifteenth September

This is our fifteenth September in Ottawa, but only our fourteenth September in our house.  When we arrived on August 31st, 2000, our semi-detached was still occupied, and we took up residence for five weeks in a hotel on Cooper Street.  The windows faced north, and in the morning, we could see the high school students arriving at Lisgar Collegiate, from which elder daughter would graduate ten years later.  We didn't know that then.

Elder daughter was entering Grade Three, so mornings soon featured a scramble with younger daughter in her stroller to the elevator, then to Elgin Street to catch a bus to New Edinburgh, followed by the fifteen minute climb up the hill and past our future residence with all others who weren't school-bussed or driven.  One of elder daughter's classmates made the climb with his mother reading aloud from the latest Harry Potter as they walked.

I thought about those things as I waited out in front of our house for younger daughter's lift to arrive this morning. I thought about neighbours who have moved and the changes in the neighbours who have stayed.  Across the street in a house that was renovated over four years from a tiny bungalow to a two-storey house four times larger is the home to three platinum-haired children who squabble as they tumble and leap from their porch to the tank-like car which is one of the family vehicles.  I think the eldest must  have graduated to middle school; she often leaves separately with her mother now.

Next door, the tiny children who peered out curiously at the Accent Snob and me last winter are now escorted to the school bus by their father.  The little boy waves at me when prompted, trying to drag his eyes from the dog standing next to me.

I consider the changes I see in the cars bearing toddlers to teenagers up the road to two private schools, one Catholic school, and one public school.  It's alarming how many parents I see on cellphones with their children strapped in expensive carseats in the back.  I've even seen a mother holding her phone at arm's length as she proceeded slowly through the intersection at our corner.

Across the street, a new neighbour is bringing in the garbage and recycling bins, talking to what appears to be a largish squirrel.  It's a dog which he picks up with one hand and tucks under his wrist.

As that first of the fifteen Septembers we've spent in Ottawa drew to a close fourteen years ago, Pierre Elliot Trudeau died.  His funeral was televised the day we moved into this house.  His eldest son, then a twenty-something, spoke eloquently at the service.  He now has three kids and lives up the hill, the leader of the Liberal Party.

I had an eight-year-old and a four-year-old.  One has graduated from university; the other will graduate from high school by the time the next September rolls around.

No, I wouldn't call those Septembers back.  I watch them flow by me like the nearby river.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

A not very shaggy dog story

This is one of the stories I was telling elder daughter after her lost dog adventure:

When I was about twelve, I used to go on long walks down the railway tracks after school.  It was a long-disused route that roughly followed the Trans-Canada Highway, and it was beautiful, lined by dense trees and rock faces.  If you walked far enough, the landscape opened out into meadows where I didn't venture after I discovered they were full of enormous spiders.  This was usually where I turned back.

I was reaching this point one sunny afternoon when, directly in my path, sitting on the railway tie, was a tiny black Labrador puppy, nose in the air, and howling for all he was worth.  The minute he saw me, he sprang to his feet and trotted up to me, tail shaking.

"No, no," I protested.  "Don't follow me; go home!"  Undeterred, he pursued me, and after a while, I gave in and picked him up for the long stroll home.  He promptly fell asleep in my arms, and I fell into my accustomed rhythm, stepping along the rail ties, the late afternoon sun on my back as I cradled the tiny black bundle.

My mother was home from work when I got back, and the cat was most offended by what I had brought in.  The puppy frantically drank the water we set down in the kitchen while my sister and a playmate descended upon him in paroxysms of joy, shrieking and crooning endearments.

I don't quite recall how we got the information -- maybe it came via the playmate, maybe my mother made a few calls --  but it was not much later when we made the trip down our street and across Helmcken Road to a small hobby farm which we could see from our backyard.  I knew the family slightly, vaguely remember the kids as being a bit obnoxious, and I was annoyed that my sister had commandeered the puppy I had rescued.

As we walked up the driveway, we saw what appeared to be a herd of Black Labradors, at least a dozen of them, each one a carbon copy of the little lost dog.  Evidently he had wandered away from his brothers and sisters and no one had noticed.

Not long after we moved away from the neighbourhood, the small farm was sold and the huge complex of the new general hospital was built on the site.  It seems odd to think of my twelve-year-old self standing dazed, relieved, and just a tad resentful, close to the spot where my daughters would be born.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Go, fetch

Elder daughter was returning from doing errands downtown one bright morning in Victoria.

She's staying with Demeter indefinitely while job-hunting in hopes of saving money for grad school.  My envy knows no bounds -- except for the challenges of day-to-day life with Demeter who cherishes the idea that frequent comments on short-comings is a helpful and loving thing to do.  Elder daughter is discovering the painful reality of this.

Anyway, elder daughter was making her way back home through the neighbourhood in which she spent her first eight years of life.  In fact, she was heading east on the street where she used to live when she noticed a dog trotting toward her, wearing a harness and trailing a leash.

Uh-oh.  She managed to catch the small dog, not that difficult, as it seemed rather relieved to be way-laid, and settled on the ground quietly beside her.  Squatting on the pavement, she looked up and down the street, hoping a frantic owner would scurry into view.  Several minutes passed.  She considered knocking on doors, but she had no way of knowing how many streets the pooch had wandered.

Examining the dog's collar, she found a tags with phone numbers.  No one answered the cell number, but there was also a veterinary clinic tag, so she phoned them for advice.  Well, no, they couldn't give her an address; she'd have to phone Animal Control.  Elder daughter balked; Animal Control sounded forbidding.  (This may be my fault for letting her watch The Lady and the Tramp when she was little.)  They rushed to assure her that the Animal Control people were very nice and would contact the owners, as would they.

Little dog, who had sat so peacefully while this was going on, suddenly became frightened and distressed when the young fellow from Animal Control came to put her in his van, despite his gentle manner and (as elder daughter noticed) his good looks.

Later that afternoon, she missed a phone call from the owners themselves who evidently had received her message first and had not retrieved their dog.  No answer again when she returned the call.  This time she had her laptop and did a reverse look-up.

The little dog lived at our old house, where she and younger daughter spent their first few years.

The next morning, elder daughter and I were strolling downtown to meet the rest of the family.  I told her about a couple of my own dog-rescuing adventures, and we wondered if the family living in our beloved former house had managed to make contact with Animal Control, after all. I deliberately took a detour to our old street, and to my daughter's horror, knocked at the door. (She has been somewhat contaminated by Ottawa reserve, I'm afraid.)

No answer, again.  Except for the barking of a little dog inside.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Bus-nuts (write of passage number thirty-one)

One sunny August Sunday morning, I make the daily heart-stopping dash across Quadra Street to the bus stop to catch the #6.  One of the old red buses pulls up, not an unusual sight on this route.  Nor is it particularly extraordinary that two twenty-ish/thirty-ish men are chatting animatedly to the driver; this is Victoria after all. Their voices are genial, excited, happy. They exude joy and boyishness.

I'm about to focus my attention elsewhere when an older man boards the bus, and asks about the bus number.  He's asking about the 4 digits above the window, not the route.  (I can't quite remember, but I think it's an 8000 number.) When the driver inquires why he wants to know, he shrugs and chuckles: "Just a bus-nut."

Well, the younger men go crazy, they shake his hand, and the three of them sit companionably at the front (one actually perched in the luggage recess) and reel off digits and letters:  "Oh, that's the LTC-DTC, the ones with the white steering wheels…."  The driver adds his two cents every now and again.

I smother a grin and look out the window.  I'm in Victoria.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Sitting up and taking notice

Well, finally.  I was getting rather lackadaisical about Doctor Who.  And a little depressed, frankly, because, looking back at Matt Smith's third season as the Doctor, I couldn't remember the plots of any of the episodes.  Well, okay, I do remember "Asylum of the Daleks" which introduced Jenna Coleman as . . .  not the new companion quite yet, but someone clearly related to her.  That one was pretty good. I can vaguely remember what happened in "The Angels Take Manhattan" because that marked the departure of the characters of Amy and Rory.  However, I don't recall getting that worked up about it, although everyone else seemed devastated.

The sad thing about this is,  I liked Matt Smith's Doctor.  I liked the characters of Amy Pond and her husband Rory, even if they killed him several times too often.  I like Clara.  However, in the last season, I just didn't feel compelled to pay attention.  I didn't watch episodes more than once, and as a consequence, didn't recognize references in episodes because I couldn't remember the episodes to which they referred.

I felt so shallow. I loved the fiftieth anniversary special. Did I only watch for David Tennant, after all?  If so, why did I like the first New Who season with Christopher Eccleston?  I was  excited by the choice of Peter Capaldi for the Twelfth (Thirteenth?) Doctor, and really enjoyed his debut episode, "Deep Breath".  Saw it twice on television and once in the cinema.  And then came another episode with bloody Daleks.  Elder daughter tells me I'm not a true Doctor Who fan because I'm not enamoured of Daleks and Cybermen. This was followed by a story with Robin Hood which was supposed to be light-hearted and whimsical, I guess, but just struck me as silly.

But tonight.  Tonight's episode "Listen" was something I've been waiting for.  A regular episode that isn't a special or an season opener (the season closers are often a disappointment), which also manages to be gripping and a dripping with meaning without being maudlin.  I'm remembering this one.

And I've only seen it once.

I intend to see it again.

Friday, 12 September 2014

My happy place

Ran out of time again.  This was most mornings in July in Victoria.  Sigh.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The last September

Five years ago, I wrote a post for every day of September.  It was the first September younger daughter began attending her current school  and I was struggling with the adjustment of the long hours of transit.  I started composing the Writes of Passage, because I was obsessed with buses and so damn tired of riding them.

This month, I'm once again trying to write a post every day.  It's the last September younger daughter will be attending this school.  She gets a lift most mornings and over the years, I've found ways to make the long round trip to bring her home bearable.

This evening was the annual barbecue, one of thousands of similar events held across the country in schools everywhere, the first parent-teacher meeting of the school year.  I figure it's the twentieth of such first-month-of-school events I've attended, given the overlap of two daughters.  I've had it up to here with them. (The events, not the daughters.) But it's the last one, I told myself consolingly as the bus came to a halt, far away from home late in the afternoon.

As I clambered down, I remembered how much more difficult it is to alight (with a heavy thud, in my case) when the sidewalk is icy, especially when the bus hasn't quite pulled in to the curb.  Then I thought of the coming winter and the required circumnavigation of the school building, gingerly penguin-stepping the slick parking lot, because the surrounding park is shin-deep in snow, and because the upstairs daycare no longer permits us to use the main entrance due to so-called "safety requirements".  (Evidently, teenagers and their parents entering by the front door put the toddlers at risk.  We're obliged to be buzzed in at the side entrance by the other daycare which is in the basement.)   My heart sank, but I reminded myself that this is the last winter I'll have to do this.

The barbecue was set up outside, but we ate inside because the temperature had dropped from a humidex of 30 in the morning to 14 degrees Celsius by five o' clock.  Then the teachers called us into another room for a presentation, something that hasn't happened before.

It turns out the school is moving in early October.  To Bell's Corners.  Bell's Corners is five miles further west.  The school will have a building to itself.  It's a four-minute walk from the bus stop where we can catch a Transitway bus.  Unlike the old building shared with two daycares, the new building is close to coffee shops and stores, and has air conditioning and two bathrooms.  (The daycare will no longer let us use the bathrooms in the far hall, even though it's technically shared space.)

 But it's in bloody Kanata.

We were lucky with the buses home this evening, and I watched the sun set into the Ottawa River and considered that I would have the pleasure of riding beside the river everyday until next June.  When I got home, I checked the bus times between our house in New Edinburgh and bloody Kanata, and, given that most of the route is on the Transitway, the bus trip shouldn't take much longer than it currently does.  And we'll not be picking our way around a flash-frozen parking lot, nor along a sidewalk that has flooded, frozen and half-thawed.

At the end of another long winter, we'll know how it's going to be.  But it also will be the last time.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Listening to the deadlines whooshing by

Oh Gawd.  I've got plenty of posts to write; it's just a matter of knuckling down and writing them.  I look up and the day has disappeared.

I stumbled across this when I was supposed to be writing.  Marie Phillips, who has just published her second nifty book, was discussing how The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy influenced her life and work this morning.  I've been nattering on about Doctor Who, even though I've only really liked one of the new episodes so far, but it seemed a happy coincidence to discover a clever meshing of the two.  This is about five years old.  I don't care.  I have to go to bed.