Saturday, 4 April 2020

The middle ground


This is probably in a meme somewhere. I don't care.

It was new to me, as I zigzagged between others to maintain the six-foot difference. I chortled out loud.

Actually, the opening lines of The Twilight Zone are indeed, pretty damned pertinent:

It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge.

Doo-di-doo-doo, doo-di-doo-doo....

Friday, 3 April 2020

Don't stand so close to me

I need a breather. I also need space. (Looks like we all do.)

Thursday, 2 April 2020

The pharmacy quadrille

It had been an unexpectedly stressful afternoon. We've gone to London Drugs, the boxy drugstore in the Harris Green neighbourhood of Victoria, more than once to pick up prescriptions for Demeter, when she has been unable, due to personal health or the weather, to trundle her walker the ten blocks. Normally, it's a reasonably easy process. We simply provide her name, phone number, and address, and they hand the drugs over.

You may have noticed that these are not normal times.

I arrived to find that the drugstore has introduced a carefully spaced line-up area outside. You enter when the required number of customers have left, and while you're in the queue, you can peruse a whiteboard listing what isn't available.

Inside, there were similar marked out line-up for the tills. I fell into the odd quadrille so prevalent these days, looping, backing off and retracing steps to keep the sacred six-foot distance between myself and my fellow pilgrims. The line-up for the pharmacy was also carefully spaced with blue disks with white feet outlines on them. Most people carefully stood on the markers, with the exception of a few men, usually on the younger side. One fellow, dressed inexplicably in capris and flip-flops, on an afternoon with a high of eight degrees, stood halfway between the markers, and stared sideways into space.

The holy grail was the pharmacy pick-up desk, staffed by two rather anxious young women, whose task was to take information, then desperately rifle through several racks of hanging baggies, before returning for payment -- or to tell the unfortunate customer why their order wasn't there.

I was both: Demeter had two prescriptions, one of which wasn't there. It took several minutes to establish this, while I gave apologetic glances at those six and twelve feet behind me. I think they said something encouraging, but they were too far away for me to hear.

So I got sent to another line-up for a consultation with a pharmacist, who disappeared in search of a substitute for Demeter's prescription. I spent the time being grateful that I was able to sit, before being sent back to the original line to pay for the second prescription, which contained tiny irregularly-shaped pills, which Demeter will have to cut into quarters.

Trudging back, I decided that, despite my aching limbs, I would take a route past our old house, because the cherry tree is in bloom, and I have pleasant memories of gazing out our bedroom window into clouds of pink.

As I approached, I spotted what looked like a grey vase with a shiny bronze patch on it.

Then I realized it was a cat, lapping up the late afternoon sun, stress-free.

I resolved to do the same.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

I like to be in Llandudno, okay by me in Llandudno...

So, after a run of peaceful nights, I woke up at 3 am, and still found myself awake at 4 am. Grrrrr. I got up, felt my way into the living room, carefully closing the bedroom door so that the Resident Fan Boy, who rises shortly after 5 to prepare himself to work online with his Ottawan colleagues on their time, could sleep undisturbed.

Good thing I shut the door. I went down the Twitter rabbit-hole, and encountered this inspired tweet:


I bellowed with laughter, and hastily shushed myself. I'd been following the reports of the Llandudno goats on the BBC News website. They've been known to descend from the Great Orme headway when the winds are high, but they apparently have never come so far into the town of Llandudno before. The people-free streets have emboldened them.

Similar encouraged wildlife have been reported in other parts of the world, including boars in Bergamo in Lombardy, an area of Italy particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

A month ago, a world away

And this long, long month ends.  I look back at the end of last month, at a different time, a different world.  I was aware of the coming pandemic; it's in my journals, but it was still so far away.

I donned my commuter coat on a cold Saturday, because it was the last day of February, and an extra one at that, and it was my very last chance to catch the One Tree Exhibit.

This happens every two years, and I was determined to make my way to the Robert Bateman Centre (which used to be the Royal Wax Museum), because a) I missed the last one in 2018; and b) a gifted wood craftsman, who went to high school with the Resident Fan Boy and who used to be married to the friend who introduced me to the Resident Fan Boy, was listed as one of the participants. You could say he was a classic Victoria connection, the city where everyone is separated by three degrees.

The One Tree Project works like this: an ancient tree that has to come down because it’s reached the end of its lifespan is divided amongst 80-100 artists and artisans. The tree for this year’s project was a Big-Leaf Maple, which stood for more than two centuries near Westholme in the Chemainus River Valley, on Halalt First Nation traditional land. It was on the farm of the Barclay family for a very long time.

I arrived at the Bateman Centre, and, being my first visit, went into the Gift Shop to purchase tickets, not knowing tickets were available at the door upstairs. (I was later very glad I did.)

Once upstairs, I moved quickly through the exhibit, using my usual museum strategy – noting stuff that “called” to me, so I could zoom in on them during my second round. Of course, I was mainly looking for the gifted wood craftman's contribution; having owned three of his pieces (made specifically for us), I figured I’d spot them.

After moving through twice, seeing furniture, sculptures, paper, art, jewelry, anything you could possibly make from a tree, I hadn’t located his work. Finally, I found an interactive exhibit, which showed the tree, as it had stood in the farm. You could choose a section of the tree and see the names of the artists and craftspeople associated with it. I recognized few names on the list, and the one for which I was looking wasn't there. Since he was on the initial list, and participated in 2018 (I think it was an oak tree that time), I think he must have been signed up and for whatever reason, didn’t have a submission. I knew several of the craftspeople involved this year were former students of his – including his current wife, who works with him in their woodworking business up-Island.

Guess whose work called to me? I've failed to find a picture that does it justice. It’s a medium-sized casket/jewelry box, with removable sections and divisions inside. A map embossed on the lid shimmered and undulated. Apparently the craftswoman specializes in something called “marquetry” – creating pictures using different types and colours of wood. I overheard a couple commenting on the high level of craftsmanship, and later, when I returned to the gift shop, the lady told me that particular piece sold on the first day of the exhibit, way back in November for about $1200, and that her skill-level had been the finest many experts had seen.

*Not* the cajóns I saw
Another piece, from another artisan, that intrigued me was a cajón, which is a kind of Peruvian percussion instrument. There was a smaller one in the gift shop, and when I asked about it, the lady was kind enough to find two videos on her phone for me. Apparently the drummer from Tears for Fears, if you please, made a special visit to the exhibit, and with permission, tried the cajón out.

And I hurried home into the morning sun, thinking of what I'd seen, of the beautiful box, of the woman who had made it, and how very much she looks like my friend, the gifted wood craftsman's first wife.

Monday, 30 March 2020

The privileges of irritation


The Resident Fan Boy is beginning his third week of working from home, which entails his work laptop on the dining room table, phone conferences, and video meetings.

That's not so bad. I can work around him. I can visit Demeter.

The tough thing is, RFB's volunteer work has also followed him home.

At various times of the day, and also on weekends - especially Sundays - our computer screen fills up with the faces of church volunteers, people who are mostly retired, and for whom such meetings are a welcome distraction.

For me, it's a bit like the 1990 movie Truly, Madly, Deeply, in which the heroine finds her home filled with her deceased lover's music-playing, video-watching dead friends. It spurs her to move beyond her lover's death and find a new love.

Not exactly an option for me; I'm still reasonably fond of the Resident Fan Boy.

Besides, if I needed perspective, it arrived in the form of a tweet this morning. Of course, I can't find it now - the volume of tweets on Twitter these days is considerable - but I believe it came from India, and the gist of it was this: Social distance is a privilege. Self-isolation is a privilege. Even a lock-down is a privilege. Many people don't have the personal space to "social distance" themselves. Many do not have comfortable homes in which to self-isolate - or a home at all, which means hand-washing is a hell of a challenge - to say nothing of WiFi. Let's not even get into the financial hardships being created/exacerbated by this thing.

A few tweets later, in an unfortunate juxtaposition, came this viral video. It's very popular. With people with large kitchens backing on a garden with parents who miss dining out.


Our kitchen is a tiny little galley kitchen, and our dining room is a corner near the window that would look over the parking lot, if not for the translucent reeded glass window. However, we have a large window overlooking the landscaping and the road beyond. The Resident Fan Boy has work. We have a home. We're together and, so far, everyone is healthy.

We'll skip the sommelier.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Signs of the times

Click to enlarge and read the children's message.
One of the things we rather like about our building is the variety of residents.

Not that we see much of them these days.

Among our number are retirees, young professionals, students, and four families with young children - the latest are our neighbours, a couple of willowy lawyers who gave birth to a daughter about two weeks ago. We didn't know until five days after her birth, when we heard what younger daughter described as an angry cat.

That's life lately, snatches of sound, and glimpses of movement. The hallways are deserted. It's even easy to get time in the laundry room.

This morning, I headed out to pick up some milk for Demeter, apparently the last time I'll be permitted to use my own cloth bags for shopping. It was colder than I'd anticipated, despite the bright sunshine, so I doubled back to get my coat.

That's when I noticed the signs taped beside the front door of my building.

What a strange time to be growing up. What will they remember?

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Kicking at the darkness

Elder daughter has been flattened by the COVID-19 crisis.

No, she doesn't have it, but it has struck at a crucial time of transition for her, and has put all her dreams on hold. She posted this on social media yesterday, saying it gives her "casual full body chills". I think I know what she means, but am not sure why they are "casual" - it's an adjective she uses a lot.


She's too young to remember the original.

I'm not.



When elder daughter was about two months away from being born, the Barenaked Ladies, who were almost, but not quite, famous (and still had Steven Page), had this cover all over the airwaves. It's, arguably, an improvement on the original. The video is brimming with Canadian nostalgia and self-deprecation. Also early-nineties-style jeans and jackets.

And this copy is wildly low-definition.

As a Canadian, I can only say, "Sorry".

Friday, 27 March 2020

Sedate gate-crashers

We were out for a socially-distanced walk when keen-eyed younger daughter spotted the five deer a few houses ahead. I squinted, and managed to catch the movement. Urban deer certainly blend in well with the surroundings, particularly in early spring. I shot rather blindly across the street, and I can only make out about three deers in this resulting photo.

They made their way up the avenue and between the houses, searching for and finding fresh spring snacks. (Poor house-bound gardeners.)

Then one of the youngsters spotted something.

She sprung over the fence, light as air.

The others followed.

Except an older member of the quintet, who walked the length of the fence with graceful dignity, and entered by the gate. (I can only see four deer in this photo. They really blend in well.)

Thursday, 26 March 2020

But I get quiet and I get lonely just like everyone

Mary Chapin Carpenter's music soothed me in the 1990's and into the cold and lonely aughts. This song is ten years old, and I never heard it until this week.

There are some blessings in this strange time. These "social-distancing" videos are among them.

(And you rarely get such articulate comments for a YouTube video. Believe me.)


Her dog and cat are irresistible.