Thursday, 31 May 2012

Dancing before falling down

I spent the last day of this particular NaBloPoMo baking pies. For some reason, there appears to be a pool of cooking oil in the bottom of the oven, and by the time I put the third pie in, smoke was seeping out and our smoke detector went off. The Resident Fan Boy reports that this is the first time the Accent Snob was actually quite eager to go out for a walk. The pies taste fine, but I'm stopping at four. (Bake sale at younger daughter's school tomorrow.)

This completes my eighth NaBloPoMo month. For the record, I've done February and September 2009; March, August and November 2010; April and October 2011; and now May 2012. For my next feat, now that I've acquired a laptop, I will attempt to NaBloPoMo July 2012 while travelling to Victoria, BC and house-sitting a place with a 1980s computer. This should be fun...

As my May swan-song, I'm dredging up a video I was originally going to use for a review of La La La Human Steps, a modern dance troupe from Montreal. Unfortunately, I saw them a year ago, so I'll skip the review (the evening was disappointing anyway, from what I vaguely recall), and share the video which is from the glory days of the company when Louise Lecavalier was still their lead dancer and Edouard Lock was in his prime.  You'll see them both dancing here in this video which features Quebecoise actor Carole Laure singing "Danse avant de tomber", the French version of "Save the Last Dance for Me".  I chiefly remember Ms Laure for her role in the deeply weird 1978 film that actually won Best Foreign Language Film:   Préparez vos mouchoirs (Get Out Your Handkerchiefs)
(I doubt it would even get made these days.  It involves a woman not coming out of her depression until she takes up with a thirteen-year-old boy -- it was billed as a romantic comedy... )

(2015 update: The French language version got yanked off YouTube, so I'm linking to the English version which doesn't have quite the same feel, although the dancing is identical.)

I think what I love best about this is how the rather dangerous and hostile feel of most of the video is contrasted with the safe and tender dance of Laure and her mother. That's probably just me.

And this is also just me, signing off. I hope to get a few posts in during June before recklessly trying to NaBloPoMo July. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A day in May

Look, I'm bushed.
Wiped out, okay?
Two more posts for May.
And I've hit the wall.
I'm not short of ideas.
Just energy.
So I took these in May.
Just not this May.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tornado watch

I always know we're in trouble when the clouds have a greenish tinge to them. This morning, Environment Canada mentioned in passing that a tornado was possible in "Eastern Ontario, near the Québec border". Uh... That's us....

The Resident Fan Boy has vivid memories of a summer a few years ago when he was alone in the house while I house-sat in Victoria with our daughters.  The guy on the Weather Network was practically gleeful in his excitement:  "A tornado is going to hit Ottawa!!!"  The RFB and our next-door neighbour were not quite as thrilled.  They stood on our shared porch watching slack-jawed as the khaki-coloured clouds billowed, before it occurred to them that they really should be sheltering in their respective basements.  The tornado touched down some kilometres to the south-east, and did some damage there.

This morning, I quickly tapped out warning messages to the RFB, elder daughter at work in Nepean, and younger daughter's head teacher.  Our server dropped our internet connection shortly afterwards, a common occurrence when the barometer plunges.  I set off into the hot, humid, and seemingly relentlessly sunny afternoon to retrieve younger daughter.  As I walked up to the school, I could see the greenish tinge and odd clumpy shapes of thunderheads.  By the time we left for the bus stop twenty minutes later, the sky had darkened and as I heard the first rumbles, it occurred to me that younger daughter and I were running across a field....

The fat, well-spaced raindrops were hitting the pavement as we made it to the shelter, and as I gazed out anxiously for our bus, I saw a ghostly green swirl above the open field across the street.  I blinked disbelievingly and our bus appeared.

By the time we were looping up Baseline toward Maitland, the windscreen on the bus was splattered with rain, and I noticed a bus going in the other direction bearing an ad for the upcoming Ottawa Jazz Festival:  "Be prepared to be blown away."  Oh dear.  A stage actually got blown down at Blues Fest last summer.  You'd think they'd choose their slogans more carefully.

For the record, we did get home safely, but our bus got blasted with fire-hose-force rain and hail which poured through the roof vent that someone had opened, in spite of the air-conditioning.  I hope we don't get blown away before I escape to Demeter for the summer...

Monday, 28 May 2012

Dancing juice

I'm working on another post which is taking too long, so I'm cheating with a recent viral video. If you have been living under a rock this past week, some fella in Portland, Oregon, with the help of his friends, family, and his girlfriend's friends and family, turned a not-at-all romantic song into a touching "lip-dub" marriage proposal. I particularly like what they did with the expression "dancing juice" (alcohol):

It's a beautiful night,
We're looking for something dumb to do.
Hey baby,
I think I wanna marry you.

Is it the look in your eyes,
Or is it this dancing juice?
Who cares baby,
I think I wanna marry you.

Well I know this little chapel on the boulevard we can go,
No one will know,
Oh, come on, girl.
Who cares if we're trashed got a pocket full of cash we can blow,
Shots of patron,
And it's on, girl.

Don't say no, no, no, no-no;
Just say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah;
And we'll go, go, go, go-go.
If you're ready, like I'm ready.

I'll go get a ring let the choir bells sing like oooh,
So what you wanna do?
Let's just run girl.

If we wake up and you wanna break up that's cool.
No, I won't blame you;
It was fun, girl.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Intimations of Mortality

Yesterday, I made myself wade into past Mays, but you can also get pulled into the past, yanked backward by a sharp hook of memory.  This morning, I found myself in a May when I was eleven, having the last birthday party of my childhood.  As I recall, it wasn't a terrific birthday party, and I was perfectly content in following years to simply take a friend to a movie, and eat at a diner or fast-food restaurant.

 My father, who was attempting a doomed reconciliation with my mother before disappearing from my life forever, had given me an inexpensive box camera, probably second-hand -- the flash wouldn't work.  We were living in the Gorge area of Victoria, BC, so I took my guests down to the local park where I could take pictures.  My sister, being nine and a pest, snuck into every single one.  Except this one.

Tori was pretty, way prettier than I could ever hope to be.  Because her surname had the same first two letters as mine, we were always in the same homeroom.  Our fathers knew each other, but we never mentioned this to each other, possibly because my father fell off her father's balcony at a party.  He was drunk, of course.  We had known each other since age nine, but only as well as two people who are in the same classes know each other.  The pool of people you know gets bigger as you move up through the school system, and she was at a different end of the pool.  I knew when she got married to a wealthy restauranteur, and heard not long after that that the marriage had failed.  Victoria is a small city.

When I saw the name in the obituaries this morning, I was a little surprised by the feeling of shock and grief welling up slowly like blood from a deep cut.  I thought of my mother who is at the age when familiar names in the obituaries are nearly a weekly occurrence.  I thought of Tori's parents who have lost two of their four children in the past two years.  (Tori's brother was a patient of my mum's after a devastating motorcycle accident put him in a wheelchair not long after graduation.)  And I thought of Tori, the pretty girl who came to my last birthday party on a windy, sunny Saturday in May during that rather sad year when I turned eleven.  She turned eleven a month after I did.  She died on her birthday last week, leaving a daughter a bit older than mine.

I feel diminished, and know this is only the beginning.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Fixing my little red wagon

This is, I believe, my eighth NaBloPoMo, and for seven of the eight months covered, I've gone wading through my old diaries to look at that particular month over the years of my misspent life. (Couldn't do August because I was in Victoria at the time, and my diaries were in Hades.) It's a surprisingly depressing exercise, because although I do stumble across happy memories, I also run smack into unpleasant ones, and frankly, that just makes the loss of the happier times sting more. However, I'm nothing if not slightly obsessive-compulsive, so I hauled out the dusty beaten notebooks to go through past Mays.

May has always been a problematic month for me, since I associate it with struggling to be ready for the summer and always falling short. When I was in school, it meant leaving the safety of the known for the unknown. It wasn't that I was particularly happy in any given grade, it was just...I'd gotten used to it, y'know? When I was in university, it meant my courses were over and now I was faced with the task of trying to get a summer job. Now, it's a case of setting up stuff for younger daughter, and never feeling I'm getting it right.

Strolling through those past Mays, I did find points of light:  younger daughter was honoured at district-wide school awards ceremony when she was seven; elder daughter was identified as gifted in a long-past May.  (Actually, the second item was a double-edged sword in the long-run, but how lovely to hear only positive things from a developmental psychologist!)  Most Mays, though, were just darn stressful.

I'm thinking in particular of the May just before the Resident Fan Boy got hired by the federal government.  He had been let go from a small private law firm the previous September and in fact, went in to apply for Unemployment Insurance benefits six hours after seeing his dead mother in her hospital bed.  Eight months of uncertainty followed.  We had just taken on a mortgage, of course, (no kids as yet, thank goodness) and I was midway through a part-time Master's degree.  Each month, we waited for the UI payments to be cut off, while I got what sub-teaching and short-term contracts I could.  By May, the RFB was in despair, and I was struggling to stay afloat emotionally and spiritually.  I attended Quaker meetings and was working myself through the Ira Progoff books on journalling, which included the concept of the seven-syllable mantra.  So I found myself writing way more revelatory diary entries than usual (frankly, I squirm a bit re-reading them) and making up seven-syllable meditations such as: "waiting for the fog to lift", "fork in the road will appear" and rather less obvious, "steps go down to the water" (from a school memory -- I was looking for meaning anywhere).

I was also listening to Jane Siberry, and her latest album at that time was Bound by the Beauty which included a song called "The Life is a Red Wagon" which seemed to fit just what the Resident Fan Boy and I were going through.  With a start, I realized that the title contained seven syllables.  A few weeks later, the long agonizing wait ended with the Resident Fan Boy's new job -- which eventually took us to Hades.

Watching the video so many years later, I'm startled to recognize younger daughter's face and mannerisms in Jane Siberry's performance.  Maybe there's meaning in that.

Maybe not.

You watch the slow train moving through the city late at night
adjusting back and forth against the darkness and street lights
I know that you're feeling bad but I'm glad you didn't lie
easy to get caught up...but you know,
you can always you can always
you can always walk away

the life is the red wagon rolling along
the life is the red wagon simple and strong
the life is the the red...oh, it's no big deal
but when the feet are draggin'
you pull for me
and I pull for you

past the teeming marketplace and the blur of faces there
past the silent dockyards and the darkness looming there
maybe it won't work this time but that's the risk you take (and you want to
take it)
and just as long as it feels right doesn't matter
just as long as...doesn't matter
gotta feel good even though you don't know why

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Bard of Avon meets the Fab Four

I spent all day waiting for the thunderstorm, taking the Accent Snob for walks while nervously scanning the lowering sky and wearing too much clothing for the oppressive sticky heat. The storm arrived at dinnertime, sheets of rain, flashes and claps very close together. The Accent Snob cowered in front of my knees under the desk as I worked. Finally, shivering, he wedged himself under a neighbouring chair. When the storm passed, I strolled out past torn off branches and watched the pavement beside Rideau Hall mist and steam in the considerable heat of the setting sun. Spring has hoisted her skirts and fled.

I feel too wrung out to write much, but I stumbled across this gem while looking for Yellow Submarine stuff last night, and showed it to my delighted younger daughter after dinner this evening. Shakespeare and the Beatles! Two of her favourite things ever! (Elder daughter shrugged and said she'd seen it on Tumblr ages ago.)One of the hecklers is Long John Baldry, well-known to Canadians because he eventually settled in Vancouver. (I may be mistaken, but two of the other hecklers look very much like Peter Cook and Eric Burdon.) The actor who opens "Pyramus and Thisbe" (the play-within-a-play from A Midsummer Night's Dream) is Trevor Peacock, most famous these days for playing Jim Trott in The Vicar of Dibley (the no-no-no-no-guy).

However, he has a huge and impressive CV in classic theatre, and on top of that, he's a song-writer. Probably his best known ditty is "Mrs Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" which became a big hit for Herman's Hermits in 1965:
A whole story within a wistful little song. If you're interested, compare it with the original, sung in 1963 by none other than Tom Courtney with images of a very young Julie Christie: That's enough of the sixties for now, innit? I think I'll delve a bit into the nineties tomorrow.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

It's all too much

Back in the hazy days of my childhood and youth, there was a studio called "Open Space". It was a very versatile place, on the second level above the street, though I can't recall just what it was above. I went to craft fairs there, concerts (very small concerts), plays -- was even in a couple of them, and movies. In the summertime, you could go to double, even triple features. I saw my first Marx Brothers films there. They brought in risers, set up a small screen, and hawked fruit, nuts, and chocolate at intermission. I think they did rather well at that. For one thing, there was usually a rather ropey smell shared by the audience who were usually pretty hungry, for some reason. For another thing, a really popular double feature was Disney's Alice in Wonderland followed by Yellow Submarine. Far freakin' out. Too much, man.

I was thinking about that this evening as I watched the audience trickle in at Silver City.  They were screening a one-night-only showing of a hand-restored print of Yellow Submarine, complete with digitalized soundtrack.  I'd say about fifty people showed up, most of them grey-haired, and a number of them struggling with the steps.

We took younger daughter who has been looking forward to this for a week.  Yellow Submarine is one of her long-time favourite films; she's loved the Beatles since she was two.  She wasn't the youngest person there -- a fellow with hair streaming past his shoulders brought in his kids who looked to be pre-teenagers.  They had "home-schooled" written all over them, but the funny thing is, those kids and their dad could have walked into a showing of this film forty years ago and not looked out of place.  They didn't look out of fashion; they looked outside fashion, timeless.

The film began abruptly, no intro, no trailers, and best of all, no "pre-show".  It was crystal-clear and damn loud.  Someone must have scurried outside, because the volume dropped abruptly during the second song, but the music was divided into half-a-dozen tracks, which did give that surrounded-by-sound sort of experience, but I think they failed to turn down all the speakers because sometimes the vocals were considerably fainter than the instruments.

It was a strange experience to sit through the film and really watch it.  After repeated viewings by both daughters, I'd tended to drift away to accomplish things whenever it was on, and now I found myself noticing details because of the large screen and clear image, and even getting jokes for the first time.  (Ringo says he dated Frankenstein's sister Phyllis -- I never got that before.  Also, the Resident Fan Boy pointed out the pun "I'm a born lever-puller."  Get it?  I'm not sure I'm glad I've got that one now...)

Perhaps the strangest thing of all was that no one laughed.  I don't think there was a single person in the cinema that was seeing this for the first time.  I remembered howls of laughter when I first saw this film.  Okay, maybe they were more like dizzy giggles...

Speaking of dizzy giggles, this is a great song for that kind of thing.  Not that I would know, children.  I heard it for the first time when I watched Yellow Submarine for the first time, and I still rather love it.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Canadian actors need work too

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1)Still Life by Louise Penny

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I'd have given this four stars if I'd read the book instead of listening to it. Not that I have anything against Ralph Cosham as a narrator -- he's been haunting me for the past six months, showing up as the reader of Watership Down and The Woman in Black.

The thing is, those are both British books, and Still Life is a Canadian novel set in a small town outside of Montreal. There are no shortage of English accents in Canada; I grew up surrounded by them, but there are no such accents in Still Life; the characters are all anglophone and francophone Quebeckers. Come to think of it, I had similar problems with a collection of Alice Munro's short stories read by an American reader. Canadians do pronounce words differently, no matter what non-Canadians think.

Cosham's accent wraps itself awkwardly around the colloquialisms in both languages (his bio says he speaks French, but evidently not Quebecois French), and robs some of the funnier bits of their humour. Please understand, he's won awards for book narration and deservedly so, but he is ill-suited for this book. Would you enjoy a British audiobook read by an American, French, or Spanish reader? Wouldn't you find it distracting?

In spite of these reservations, I quite liked the style and plot of this mystery, even though I'm not an unreserved fan of the genre, and look forward to reading more of Louise Penny's books. Reading them, not listening to them. (Sorry, Mr Cosham; I'm sure I'll enjoy your renditions of other British works, just as I have in the past.)

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Very supercilious (write of passage number twenty-five)

I have a number of issues with the Number Five bus.  It's the best bus for getting to the Resident Fan Boy's church, and goes up Elgin, which is my favourite street in Hades.  However, it has to be the least reliable route in the OC Transpo system, and that's saying something.  It also gets assigned the least ergonomic buses, usually the kind where the aisle at the rear narrows down so much that you have to move sideways to exit at the rear.

On this particular day, there are several people standing near the back, and our stop is approaching and being on the Number Five, we're late, so I decide to leave from the front of the bus, giving myself plenty of time.  There is a young man standing in the aisle, deep in conversation with someone who is sitting down.  I approach him,  wait a few beats for him to notice that I am standing behind him, and when he doesn't, I smile pleasantly and expectantly, saying, "Excuse me," in what I take to be a cheerful tone.

His reaction is very much like the fellows in the above photo, although he isn't wearing face powder or a white wig.  He straightens up, fixing me with an offended stare, and slowly, with great ceremony, switches his back pack, which is also quite effectively blocking my way, from one shoulder to the other before cooly waving me through.  I watch this performance in some bemusement, wondering what rule in this guy's private code I've just broken.  I suppose he could be operating on the assumption that I have interrupted his conversation, but I (ass that I am) have always thought that this doesn't really apply when one is blocking an aisle in the bus.

I  thank him warmly for moving aside.  I'm thinking, in that uncharitable way that I have, that this is far more likely to irritate him than if I give in to my initial impulse to throttle him.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Land of my Victoria

Today, the Resident Fan Boy, elder daughter, younger daughter and I spent an hour getting out to a branch of the Nepean Museum.  Elder daughter has a job interview tomorrow and high hopes of getting last year's summer job back at the same museum, so she wanted us all to come to the Victoria Day Tea, presumably to make a good impression.  (All past evidence to the contrary.) We arrived, found a deserted white tent, and a beautiful old house, empty except for the sandwich board advertising the tea locked inside the front door.  It seems that the tea was yesterday.  Nothing for it but to spend another hour going back.

See, we're from Victoria, so Victoria Day means Victoria Day, not the Sunday before Victoria Day.  This is Hades, though, where organizers would, quite correctly, consider Monday as the day when everyone is hurrying to travel back to wherever it is they came from.  And indeed, the bus there and back carried many people lugging suitcases and bags. A powerful-looking man heaved two enormous bags into the space where the wheelchairs and stroller ordinarily go, kissed the hands of his elderly father and mother in her veil, and pressed his forehead to the back of their hands, before asking the bus driver to let him off.

In Victoria, BC, Victoria Day means the big parade.  If you've grown up in the city, you've marched in the parade at some point.  I marched three times with my school band, as did the Resident Fan Boy, and elder daughter marched with the Brownies.  It's a mile from the Mayfair Shopping Centre to Douglas and Humboldt, and the trick is to avoid the horse droppings. This coming week, the first sunburns of the year will be everywhere because the May sun shines in Victoria, but it doesn't feel all that hot, so you forget to take the precautions..

No sunburns in Ottawa, because we have the humid heat to remind us to wear sunscreen and hats, although it's nowhere near as warm as it will get in July and August. Downtown is crowded with tourists here for the last weekend of the tulip festival, but in our neighbourhood, we've been living in a ghost town.  The Victoria Day weekend means the opening of cottage season for them-that-has-'em.  Last night, I went out for a late evening stroll, and was rather spooked by the number of dark and deserted houses.  I couldn't help but wonder if this is also a wonderful season for burglaries. Tonight, I walked out again and the driveways were full of SUVs, with people in shorts putting out the garbage and recycling, and watering their gardens.  (The Victoria Day weekend is also the official start of Ottawa's very brief gardening season.)

I continued down by the Governor General's residence, the clustering of trees along the stone wall starting to look dark and forbidding.  Ahead, I saw a corner of setting sun reflecting off a glass tower of one of the quasi-Arts-Deco condos.  I fancied that the brilliant orange light might spread to the gathering dark clouds, but the most colour they achieved was a mourning sort of mauve.  I wandered home by way of the Rideau River, blundering into clouds of gnats, dreaming of long, mild May evenings in Victoria.  There'll probably be fireworks over the Inner Harbour tonight.

Here?  We're supposed to be in for a lightening storm...

When I was a little girl, I thought this song was about the city in which I grew up.  
Long ago life was clean
Sex was bad and obscene
And the rich were so mean
Stately homes for the Lords
Croquet lawns, village greens
Victoria was my queen 

Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, 'toria 

I was born, lucky me
In a land that I love
Though I'm poor, I am free 
When I grow I shall fight 
For this land I shall die
Let her sun never set

 Land of hope and gloria
 Land of my Victoria

Canada to India
Australia to Cornwall
Singapore to Hong Kong
From the West to the East 
From the rich to the poor
Victoria loved them all

Sunday, 20 May 2012

All things must pass

It was a sunny, but reasonably cool afternoon earlier this week when I decided to walk in to younger daughter's school from the Iris Transitway Station. It takes me about 25 minutes, so I had my iPod in my breast pocket, pulling it out periodically to advance to good walking songs. There's a sneaky uphill grade on Navaho that requires an energetic tune like, say, "Architects and Engineers" by Guster.

Made it to the school, and with younger daughter trotting in my wake, strode down the steep green hill at Copeland Park just recently shaved of thousands of dandelions,  and took up our stations at the bus stop.  Hmmn, I thought.  Better slip my iPod into my purse for safekeeping.

That's when I noticed that there was nothing else in my breast pocket.  There had been two bus passes there when I started my walk down Iris.  I've spoken before about how you tend to go through Kübler-Ross' Five Stages of Grieving in quick order for a minor loss.  A bus pass is, I suppose, a minor loss at $96.25 (that's about sixty pounds to any Brits listening in).  Of course, I'd lost younger daughter's as well at $76.75.  I went rapidly through disbelief, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally a wry kind of acceptance.  I could take some chilly comfort in that we were halfway through the month, and that I haven't lost my bus pass in over five years.

Of course, that time, I got it back.  The phone rang not all that long after younger daughter and I had made our way home, after a stop for scones with Devonshire Cream and lemon curd to salve my self-disappointment.  It was a fella who had found my pass at Iris and Woodroffe, and it turned out that, like the Resident Fan Boy, he worked for the Department of Justice, only in a different department on Sparks Street.  We made arrangements for my dropping by to retrieve it the following day.  I wondered if I would be lucky enough to get another phone call about younger daughter's pass, but reasoned it would be a long-shot indeed.

That night, I lay on my side and found myself grieving younger daughter's bus pass, and troubling myself with sad imaginings of it lying off the dark pavement somewhere, with her picture obscured by dirt.  I had to remind myself sharply that the genuine article was tucked up safely down the hall.

My cheerful plump saviour handed over my pass in the vestibule of his office building.  He told me his wife had told him to drop it in the mailbox but he told her it wouldn't get to me for weeks.  I answered that I was delighted to get it back at all, but particularly so quickly.  As I moved back into the street, I noticed it was a bit bent and a felt a little stab when I saw that the emergency bus tickets I always keep in the plastic holder were missing.  My CPS had not been the first person to find it.  It was then I knew I would not be seeing younger daughter's bus pass again.  From a distance, my daughter's picture could be of any young girl with long brown hair; I know the bus drivers seldom give more than a cursory glance.

Oh well, whoever you are, I hope you really, really needed this break.  Use it in good health and think kindly of the little girl in the picture.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

This way sadness lies

The Resident Fan Boy, younger daughter and I came in from the brilliant and warm last Saturday of the Tulip Festival to the dark glowing interior of the Theatre in the National Arts Centre complex. We took our seats in the front row of the right side of the thrust stage (thanks to rush tickets), listening to crickets.  Soon, from somewhere below, we heard a few thumps building into a steady rhythm and the voices chanting the drum blessing.  Some minutes later, a handsome young man appeared at one of the vomitoria, gazing around the stage and occasionally toward the gathering audience.  He was dressed in what resembled an early 17th century gentleman's oufit, but with a feather adorning the back of his black hair and round gold discs hanging from his ears.  Finally, another young man with waist-length black hair swept past him, mounted the stage and approached the fire at the centre, banging a salute to each point of the compass, then the ground and the heavens.  You can see him to the left in the picture above.  Through the palisade gates at the back of the stage came two men wrapped in fur capes.  The elder of the two pointed out the young man waiting at the foot of the stage and introduced him as his bastard son Edmund.  So King Lear began with a cast of some of the finest First Nation actors in Canada.

Does it work?  On the whole, yes.  Director Peter Hinton and his cast kept it simple and stripped down.  Three powerful female actors stole most of the fire as the three daughters of Lear:  Tantoo Cardinal as a mocking, confident, terrifying Regan, Monique Mojica as a regal and dissatisfied Goneril, and Jani Lauzon as wronged Cordelia, then almost unrecognizably as the daring yet helpless Fool, which gave a whole new meaning to the line "My poor fool is hanged".

Lear was August Schellenberg whose impressive CV is pretty august in itself, but he didn't seem to hit his stride as Lear until his scene with the blinded Gloucester which is very late in the play.   He obviously had the physical stamina to tackle this, but I felt he was reciting most of his lines, more than acting them.  The final "Howl, howl, howl" carrying in the hanged Cordelia was very affecting, though.  I was touched to see him discreetly smooth her skirt down as he wept over the body.

We had prepared younger daughter for the blinding scene which always traumatizes me -- instead of fleeing up the aisle as I have been known to do in the past, I covered my eyes and plugged my ears.  Younger daughter seemed more distressed by Gloucester's later entrance in his bloody blindfold, but she assured us afterward that although she was scared, she knew it wasn't real.

We're glad we went, and are sorry to see Peter Hinton go as artistic director of the NAC English Theatre division.  It's certainly been an interesting seven years.

Friday, 18 May 2012


One thing I've learned from the past two weeks using a laptop: much of what I do depends on Adobe Flash.

So today, after logging into the Apple Care, and realizing that their trouble-shooting instructions make as much sense as any help page on the computer, I slipped my new precious in a bag over my shoulder and entered the Apple store at the Rideau Centre, looking as lost and expectant as possible.  This had the desired effect of attracting a blue-shirted guy with a long dangling earring in one ear.  (Okay, it may have been an earpiece; computer stores make me sweaty and anxious.)

I explained to him that I'd had my laptop for two weeks and had been having a lovely time, but I'd tried to download Adobe Flash only to have it ask me for my "administrative password" -- which I don't seem to have, although I do have Apple Care... (Both elder daughter and the Resident Fan Boy had said, "Tell them you have Apple Care.")

So Earring (or Earpiece) Guy took me over to two young men talking to one young lady and told me that "Albert" will help me.
 "Tell him you have Apple Care," he reassured me.
  Albert studiously ignored me for several seconds and then acknowledged me, so I told him my sad story.

"Oh," he said glumly.  "The trouble with that is if I try to set you up with a new password, that will probably wipe out all your programmes."
"I have Apple Care," I offered, hopefully.
"That won't make any difference."

Right.  "So what would you recommend?" I asked, thinking muckle, but not daring to say it.
"Well, let's open it up," he shrugged, leading me to one of the tables.

"There's the puppy," he said.  "What's it doing down there?"  (I'd dragged it out of the way and lined it up with the other icons which had clearly been a bad move -- sorry, buddy...)

After a few clicks, he informed me, "You don't have a password."
No kidding.  "Uh, no.  I don't..."
A couple of more clicks.  "There you go."
"Excuse me?"
"Well, I guess you didn't set a password when you set your profile."  (I didn't set my profile; the Apple guy selling me the computer did.)
"You don't need the password; you just click through."
"Uh, should I get a password?"

 Why is it I always leave an Apple store feeling less intelligent than when I entered?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Visual listening

I feel a little nervous sharing these three videos, due my own woeful lack of knowledge about the issues of American Sign Language (ASL) vs Signed Exact English (SEE).  I do understand that ASL is not English, and has a completely different syntax.  I think I understand that ASL is generally used in Canada, but that there is a variation of British Sign Language called "Maritime Sign Language" that may also show up here.

These three videos are interpretations of popular songs done by hearing persons learning ASL.  Not being conversant in ASL (I took a YMCA course and was rubbish at what I now think had to have been SEE), I'm not certain how much this first example ("Cell Block Tango" from the musical Chicago) veers into SEE.  It's certainly entertaining:

You may need to watch this one at YouTube in order to see all the women performing here. The other two videos are by the same fella, Stephen Torrence. I suspect his signing is closer to true ASL, and he has thoughtfully provided a gloss of both the English lyrics (of "Fireflies" by Owl City) and the ASL signs he's using. (If there's a short commercial in this video or the next one, I do apologize and it is very brief): I plucked up the courage to read the comments for this one (YouTube comments in general make me despair for humanity), and noticed that a number of deaf viewers appear to have enjoyed this. Stephen apparently had his loyal viewers vote on a song for him to sign before bowing out from video-making for a while. The winner was, predictably, "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen: I notice in the comments for this one that an ASL interpreter doesn't feel his translation goes "deep enough" for the true ASL experience, but I'm in no position to judge.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Spot the lilac

It hits me in the nose with a light purple biff.  I know it will take a matter of seconds to locate the source, and there is, lilac bush at ten o'clock.  A few paces, it happens again:  quick scan and -- lilac bush, two o'clock.

Sometime during May, Hades and Victoria fall into step.  The temperatures are the same, and the lilac bushes in both cities bloom.  Then Hades will stride ahead, headlong into humidity.  Something similar will happen briefly in October, only Hades' fall colours will be shorter-lasting and more brilliant.

I venture out into this ready-to-vanish window of evening temperateness whenever I can, although this month, I have to, if my pedometer is short the day's 10,000 steps.  Also, the Accent Snob needs his walk.

Try telling him that.

We thought the warmth of spring would revive a doggy enthusiasm for strolls that has been noticeably lacking in the five months since he joined our household.  He's certainly sniffing the greatly-expanded menu of intriguing smells with some gusto.  (Not sure if the scent of lilac is among these.)  Unfortunately, the re-emergence of olfactory delights also brings out other summery things, and we've discovered the hard way that somewhere back in the ten years before we met him, the Accent Snob developed a phobia for skateboards.

Take a recent evening, as I trotted westward (ho!) down McKay Street.  I noticed the Accent Snob doing anxious shoulder checks, and immediately scanned the immediate vicinity.  All I saw was a lady in a bright pink Spandex concoction jay-jogging toward us.  It took me several minutes to make out a small boy behind us, still a block or so away, pushing slowly along on a skateboard alongside his strolling father.  The Accent Snob's sensitive ears had picked up the dreaded sound.

All of a sudden, the AS bolted and the handle of the retractable lead flew from my hand.  To my horror, he dashed into the street which, fortunately, was early-evening quiet.  Calling futilely, I followed as he dashed up the opposite sidewalk.  After a few panic-stricken seconds, he realized he was pelting towards the problem, wheeled around frantically and dashed right into me.  I was able to grab his lead.  He continued to pull away -- he's damn strong when he's scared -- and I desperately looked for a side-street that wasn't there.  I finally hauled him back to the other sidewalk and held him until the young boy coasted by obliviously.

Clearly, I need to transfer my lilac-spotting skills to skateboards.  I wonder if I could learn to smell them.  However, given that their occupants are usually pre-adolescent, post-adolescent, and downright adolescent boys, I doubt I'd want to...

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Taking dictation from Charlie Chaplin

Seeing as it was younger daughter's birthday last week, elder daughter didn't want to get her a "family movie", but something more befitting a sixteen-year-old. Younger daughter was introduced to the films of Charlie Chaplin a couple of years ago by the head teacher of her independent school. She adores the physical comedy -- and the captions!

 Elder daughter decided on The Great Dictator (no captions, alas!)  and this past weekend, we all settled down to watch it.  I have never seen the entire film through, and only recognised the famous "world-balloon ballet":
It's an odd film. There is dialogue, and a sort of plot that holds together the Chaplinesque black-outs which follow the story of a little Jewish barber who miraculously survives the battlefields of the first World War, ending up in a clinic with amnesia.  While he's "out", his homeland of Tomania is taken over by a dictator named Adenoid Hinckley.  Predictably, the little barber is eventually mistaken for Hinckley and finds himself addressing a vast rally of soldiers who have invaded neighbouring Osterlitz where the barber's girlfriend (Paulette Goddard looking remarkably like Vivian Leigh) and her family have fled to escape the violence and injustice of the Jewish ghetto.
In what has to be one of the strangest moments in cinema, the speech is given, not by the little barber, but by Chaplin himself who steps out of character to speak to the camera and in doing so, suddenly seems to age several years.  My understanding is that he had rather a different ending planned, when word came of the invasion and capitulation of France.

Meanwhile Goddard's character, prostrate in despair in the newly conquered  Osterlitz, rises to her feet as she hears the broadcast voice of the barber, speaking directly to her.  She, too,  looks much older, for all the hope in her eyes.

This film was released in 1940 and was Chaplin's most successful film.  Watching it from the distance of more than seventy years and knowing that, at that moment, the great slaughter of Jews, Romani, and other "undesirables" had not yet hit its stride, the speech has a poignance, desperation and grief that was far beyond what Chaplin intended.  He did say that, had he known the full extent of Nazi atrocity that was to come, he never would have proceeded.  I think it's safe to feel glad that he did.

Monday, 14 May 2012

You need never read this book

Neverland: J.M. Barrie, the Du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter PanNeverland: J.M. Barrie, the Du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan by Piers Dudgeon
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

First off, I finished reading this book out of pure altruism: so you won't have to. All right, it's also because I paid for the damned thing. I found it in the bargain bin of my local bookstore and it certainly looked interesting.

And it's not a boring read, it's just a really really really irritating read. I was about a third of the way through when I pulled Andrew Birkin's J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys out of my shelves to remind myself what a good book on the subject is like. (And seriously, Andrew Birkin's book is what you need if you want a better picture of the truly eerie story of James Barrie and his relationship with the five young Llewellyn-Davies brothers; trust me, the film Finding Neverland is nowhere near what really happened.)

Then I found myself reading other, totally unrelated books because I was wasting too much time hurling this one across the room.

Finally, I forced myself to finish it and will now try to get Piers Dudgeon's general arguments in a nutshell. This will not be easy because his book swings back and forth like a pendulum, between the DuMaurier family -- particularly Daphne DuMaurier, author of Rebecca and The Birds among many other things, and her grandfather George DuMaurier, creator of Svengali -- and Barrie himself. (Daphne's aunt Sylvia DuMaurier was the mother of the five Llewellyn-Davies brothers.)


James Barrie, author and playwright and creator of Peter Pan, was Satan.

He used his plays and books as "alchemic texts" to ensnare and mesmerize Sylvia and her vulnerable sons, as well as Daphne DuMaurier and her handsome and shallow father Gerald DuMaurier. This was apparently done by Barrie's imagining what he wanted his targets to become (inspired by the works of George DuMaurier, even though there is no evidence that the two authors met -- although Dudgeon thinks they did and says so repeatedly) and then writing them into his plays and novels, thus gaining power over them: "Theatre-goers lapped up his supernatural plays, but never quite understood why," Dudgeon claims, even though he states in a later chapter that Peter Pan is the one work by Barrie that has endured. Are we to gather by this that only early-twentieth-century audiences were susceptible to Barrie's demonic machinations?

Furthermore, J.M. Barrie was apparently responsible for the deaths of:
a)his brother David (no actual evidence, but Dudgeon thinks it's likely);
b)his sister's fiancé (Barrie gave him the horse that threw him);
c)Captain Robert Scott (Barrie apparently planted the idea in Scott's mind that he was a heroic explorer and dissuaded him from using dogs in his fatal expedition to the South Pole);
d)Arthur and Sylvia Llewellyn-Davies (who both died of cancer four years apart, but Dudgeon assures us that Daphne DuMaurier killed off Gertrude Lawrence the same way, also by the use of "alchemic texts");
e)Michael, Peter, and Jack Llewellyn-Davies (possible suicide, definite suicide, ill heath -- but Barrie, by then long-dead, had never liked Jack that much...)

Remarkably, Dudgeon does not seem to blame Barrie for the falling in battle during the First World War of his favourite Llewellyn-Davies brother, George, nor for the demise of his producer Charles Frohman who was on his way back to England at Barrie's request on the Lusitania which was torpedoed by the Germans.

At one point, Dudgeon quotes Daphne DuMaurier's biographer Margaret Forster who criticized Daphne for mixing documentary fact 'in the most awkward fashion with entirely imaginary suppositions, greatly to [the book's]detriment'. That sums up this book perfectly. Go read Birkin's book instead.

Now, I'm going to toss this into the give-away box, but not before marking it up in pencil to warn the unwary. Then I'm going to read something by someone who writes well, has a good editor, and doesn't use speculation instead of research.

View all my reviews

Sunday, 13 May 2012

A bit of Tom Lehrer can improve anything

So the great day is here and I'm happy to report that I got my Purdy's plus a whole bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream (which isn't large enough, but never mind) to guzzle while I watch Sherlock tonight. The Resident Fan Boy gave me a card with a dog resembling the Accent Snob on it. I have firmly pointed out that if he's suggesting I'm the Accent Snob's mother, what is he suggesting I am, really? And to think carefully before answering...

Younger daughter brought me a rose from church and gave me a button to wear. Elder daughter took me to a sushi lunch and presented me with possibly the greatest Mother's Day card ever. (Not to denigrate the magnificent hand-made cards I've received over the years.)

But I think, to give the proper classic tone to today's celebration, I should share the Tom Lehrer ditty that I found myself singing in the shower this morning.
 You're welcome.
From the Bible to the popular song,
There's one theme that we find right along.
Of all ideals they hail as good,
The most sublime is motherhood.

There was a man though, who it seems,

Once carried this ideal to extremes.
He loved his mother and she loved him,
And yet his story is rather grim.

There once lived a man named Oedipus Rex.

You may have heard about his odd complex.
His name appears in Freud's Index
'cause he loved his mother.

His rivals used to say quite a bit,

That as a monarch he was most unfit.
But still in all they had to admit
That he loved his mother.

Yes he loved his mother like no other.

His daughter was his sister and his son was his brother.
One thing on which you can depend is,
He sure knew who a boy's best friend is!

When he found what he had done,

He tore his eyes out one by one.
A tragic end to a loyal son
Who loved his mother.

So be sweet and kind to mother,

Now and then have a chat.
Buy her candy or some flowers or a brand new hat.
But maybe you had better let it go at that!

Or you may find yourself with a quite complex complex,

And you may end up like Oedipus.
I'd rather marry a duck-billed platypus,
Than end up like old Oedipus Rex. 

Saturday, 12 May 2012

You'll have to have them all pulled out

 I'm reasonably sure I'm getting Purdy's chocolates tomorrow.  Purdy's are from British Columbia.  They are the best.  At least I've always thought so until today.

So the Resident Fan Boy, younger daughter and I went down into deepest darkest New Edinburgh to check out the "Locavore Artisans Food Fest".  (Elder daughter elected to stay home with the Accent Snob and take him for his midday pull -- he doesn't care much for walks.)  My main reason for going was because I knew I could get Harvest Honey there.  I was hoping they still made their Irish Cream Honey Spread, but had to settle for several jars of their Cinnamon Honey Butter and Chocolate Honey.  (Listen, I need something for thank-you gifts, okay?)

After standing in long lines with more new-borns than I'd seen at our prenatal graduation class for wood oven pizza and rather strange soda drinks without the soda (they'd run out), we ventured back in and wandered a little too close to the Koko Chocolates booth.  Oh geez.  They had milk caramels.  And raspberry truffles.  (Raspberry, I tell you.) And white vanilla rum truffles.  And bacon truffles.

Wait.  Bacon???

"It's one of our seasonal flavours," she explained.
"Bacon is seasonal?"
"Well, normally, we offer them in November, but I've made a special batch for this event."
"Well, I thought, yeah, closer to Christmas.  I've read Charlotte's Web..."

The Resident Fan Boy had to take a moment to recover from that one, but in the end, couldn't resist making the bacon (see what I did there?) one of the six lucky truffles we took home with us.  He decided it wasn't really worth repeating the experience.

I tried the Raspberry truffle, even though I'm not that fond of dark chocolate.  I started kind of vibrating and making odd noises.  When I came to, I realized I was rocking slightly and rubbing my thighs.

 Good thing I was alone.

I'd tell you about the fresh donuts and the ice-cream sandwiches made with brownie crusts, but you've probably had enough food porn.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Billy Collins is not a kind of drink

Through the wonders of live-streaming, I can pop into Sunday services at Demeter's church.  I watch her toddle up after the offering to light a candle, and sometimes I see her bun hovering at the bottom left of the screen. It's oddly reassuring.

One recent Sunday,  I tuned in to discover that the morning service would be a lay-led poetry reading and that my mum was among the readers.  To my delight, my mother's selection was from a poem-a-day anthology I'd sent her a year or so ago.  With a world-weary wryness that matched the tenor of the poem beautifully, she read "Forgetfulness" by Billy Collins, and told us afterwards that she was unprepared for the laughter. The lady who had organized the service, a long-time friend of my mother's, made a comment afterwards about Billy Collins being "accessible". I have a nasty feeling that she was not being complimentary (she's a writer and artist herself and can be a wee bit snarky about those kind of things), but hope I'm wrong. Here's the man himself reading "Forgetfulness" and a poem that is particularly pertinent with Mother's Day coming up -- "The Lanyard":
I first became aware of Billy Collins when he was a guest on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion, about the same time he became the US Poet Laureate. Almost immediately, I got myself a collection of his poems, accessibility being a plus for me. It must have been about 2002 because elder daughter was turning ten, and I knew this was not the moment to show her this poem:

On Turning Ten 

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in a bad light ---
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
 It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends, 
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I would shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees.  I bleed.

- from The Art of Drowning (1995)

Another favourite of mine is called "Passengers" and I'm putting a link to it for two reasons:  1) you may like the option of hearing it read as well as reading it; 2) if you're travelling by air any time soon, you may want to skip it.  Trust me.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Second Child

With Mother's Day bearing down upon us, if you'll pardon the expression, it seems that the media is brimming with items on the life-changing event of having a baby.  Some years ago, there was a particularly cloying and sentimental ad from a nameless manufacturer of disposable diapers that featured a new mom burbling about giving birth:  "It was the ultimate experience of my life!!!"  (Really, lady?  How unfortunate for you and your motherless child.)

What no one seems to discuss is the fact that the child that will change your life irrevocably is the second one.  With one child, you can still hang on to vestiges of your old life; you can pursue sports and hobbies, and your friends will stay your friends, to whom you will be "Bart, Miriam and little Jasper". With Child Number Two, you become "Bart, Miriam, and The Kids", your child-free friends will float from your life, and you will not have the strength to woo them back.  You may not even realize that they have gone.

Another hazard of moving from a one-child to a two-child family is dealing with the assumptions that you know what you are doing.  One assumption comes from yourself:  "I have a kid, right?  I know what I'm getting into."  No, you don't.  Child Number Two (and every subsequent child, should you be foolhardy enough to continue) will differ in every way from Number One; everything that worked with the first kid will fall flat.  Children aren't just children; they're individual human beings.  I was what they called a "home support worker" in my misspent youth and I was often sent into help mums with a new baby.  Whether it was Baby Number Three or Baby Number Six the cry was the same:  "None of the others was ever like this!"

The other assumption comes a wee bit earlier.  It is assumed that if this is your second pregnancy that you remember what to do.  I don't know about you guys but I had a severe case of porridge brain throughout my first pregnancy and thus had very little to go on when I got knocked up the second time.  Oh, both children were planned;  what I mean is that I was very nearly as clueless the second time around.  The fact that there were four years between my daughters didn't actually help.

Plus, of course, just as every child is different, every pregnancy is different.  So the months, weeks, days and hours before younger daughter entered our lives sixteen years ago were full of surprises.  Like gestational diabetes, for example.  I was informed, as my third trimester began, that my blood sugars were elevated "slightly" and that I would be going in for nutrition counselling.  By the end of the morning, they were showing me how to inject myself with insulin.  "I feel like the bloody Balkans," I protested.  "First I was a border skirmish, now I'm a global crisis.  What gives?"

Things got even more fun when I was required to go in to the hospital (two-hour round trip bus ride) for weekly "non-stress tests", usually followed by a one-to-four-hour wait for a brief consult with an obstetrician who informed me with grim delight on one occasion (he was a rather grim man) that I was dilated 3 centimetres, so he merrily stripped my membranes.  Never said what he was doing, of course, just left me recovering from what had seemed to be one hell of a rough pelvic exam.  I was wiping the cold sweat from my upper lip when I noticed the blood on the examining table.

And so on through hours of induction culminating in an emergency C-section in the wee hours of the morning (I could have told them that was coming), then a spinal fluid leak from the epidural, resulting in headaches whenever I sat up, resolved by sealing it with a blood patch. Golly that hurt.  Oh, and did I mention the rigour?

And yet? And yet.  The most danger I was ever in of having more than two children was when I gazed at the ineffable beauty of my second-born.  I thought the beauty of my first-born was a fluke, you see.

I'll shut up now before I start to sound like an insufferable commercial for disposable diapers.  (For the record, I used cloth.) 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Being left behind

Younger daughter should have had her birthday today, but a series of frustrating events resulted in her being born in the wee hours of the tenth of May. If I feel up to it, I might reminisce tomorrow. In the meantime, there are two songs I associate with the month younger daughter entered our lives. One is "Big Bang Baby" by the Stone Temple Pilots, but I can't find a clear video that also doesn't feature a lengthy air freshener commercial. So I'll stick with Canadian Content or Can/Con (a rule by which radio stations in Canada had to play a certain percentage of Canadian music in a given time frame). This is the first Tragically Hip song I actually recall liking. There have been more since, but this was the first time I realized I could like the Hip:  

First thing we'd climb the tree
 and maybe then we'd talk
 or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
 with illusions of someday casting a golden light
 no dress rehearsal, this is our life
 that's where the hornet stung me
 and I had a feverish dream
 with revenge and doubt
 tonight, we smoke them out

 You are ahead by a century

 Stare in the morning shroud
 and then the day began
 I tilted your cloud, you tilted my hand
 rain falls in real time and rain fell through the night
 no dress rehearsal, this is our life
 That's when the hornet stung me
 and I had a serious dream
 with revenge and doubt
 tonight, we smoke them out

 You are ahead by a century
 but this is our life
 and disappointing you's gettin' me down

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Mariage blanc

While I understand that arranged marriages can be a success, I can't help but wonder if some of them are like my relationship with the city of Ottawa.

We first met almost exactly twelve years ago when I took then about-to-be-four-year-old younger daughter on her first cross-country plane trip to meet the Resident Fan Boy, who was already working in Hades while I attempted to sell our house in Victoria.

The trip had an inauspicious prelude when, in the flurry of last-minute preparations, I managed to lock myself out of the house with younger daughter inside.  I ran across the street and got a neighbour to phone my mum who had elder daughter at her condo a few blocks away.  Younger daughter, when my mum rushed over with an extra key, had not noticed my absence.  Then I had to rise before dawn, take a protesting and sleepy preschooler in a cab to the airport and spend five hours on a plane in the days before they had entertainment centres on the back of the seat in front of you.

I had left Victoria in the green and leafy splendour of early May, and first glimpsed my new home beyond the wing-tip of the circling plane:  brown fields with patches of frost.  The taxi took us past forests of flattened and grey tree trunks, victims of the Ice Storm of '98.

There followed six days of being driven around by a real estate agent through neighbourhoods that meant nothing to me, to see bleak brick houses that looked weather-beaten and grim.  We also made the rounds of museums and libraries, struggling without a stroller (I had lacked the courage to lug one on the plane), and I tried to imagine a life here in this city where my daughters would grow up.  We went to the local Unitarian church and my heart sank.  The sermon was a diatribe against Conrad Black (before his prison term), and reference was made to the beauty of a member's home and the fact that the choir had sung for the Governor-General.

We celebrated younger daughter's turning four in the hotel suite in which the Resident Fan Boy was living, and by the time we were readying ourselves for the flight home without him, the trees were finally showing green fuzz and the tulips were beginning to open.  I tried to push my doubts aside.  Surely, my home was where the Resident Fan Boy was.  Surely I could make this work...

Getting back to Victoria meant hauling my new four-year-old through three plane rides.  At Toronto Airport, she climbed up inside a play structure and I fought rising panic when I couldn't get her to come down.  I could see our flight boarding.

In Victoria, our cab took us past trees fully in leaf, blowing in a temperate and gentle sea breeze.  Flowers everywhere.   My relief was tempered with the knowledge that the next time we left, we would not be returning to our light-filled house.  The city that I had not chosen was waiting.  And you know, it hasn't even been a convenient marriage.  (No, Resident Fan Boy.  I'm not talking about you.)

Monday, 7 May 2012

When spring doesn't

It occurred to me the other day that I haven't strolled out and just taken pictures in ages.  Part of the reason for this is that I'm usually either on my way somewhere and don't want to be carting my Nikon along, or I'm in the company of the Accent Snob who is always anxious to get home, no matter how short a time it's been since we've left the house.

However, yesterday I was short a few thousand steps from my daily pedometer goal.  (Along with "NaBloPoMo"-ing, I'm trying to make 10,000 steps for every day in May.)  However, elder daughter was taking the Accent Snob for his preprandial walk, so I stuffed my camera in a bag and set off along the Rideau River, determined to switch off the auto-focus.

This is, alas, my twelfth spring in Hades, and it's safe to say there's been no other spring like it in my experience.  An Ottawan spring generally lasts two weeks, three weeks tops.  In March (which still counts as winter in Hades), we hurtled into a week of summer temperatures.  It felt damned odd walking in a humidex along streets lined with barren trees and brown grass.  The trees and the grass themselves got wildly confused, throwing out green shoots, only to get flash-frozen when winter temperatures abruptly returned.  Then the temperatures rose and we were surrounded by bewildered Red Monarch butterflies which got blasted by the next cold spell.  By then we were in April, and the daffodils, tulips and dandelions (for Pete's sake) all appeared at the same time.  (This never happens.)

So now it's May and instead of the sudden green hemorrhage that normally heralds the end of the brief spring, we have timid green leaves cautiously venturing out on the branches overhead.

No turning back now.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Persephone enters the previous decade

I'm aware that I'm a dinosaur, and not just because I have adolescent daughters.  I also have the news media to remind me that just about every item I use is tottering on the edge of obsolescence: our land line, the DVDs, the CDs, network television, the PC, even, heaven help me, my cherished iPod.

This week's life-changing event was my acquisition of a lap-top.  In fact yesterday's post was a mile-stone:  my very first post composed and posted entirely in my lap.  Kind of a cyber-lap-dance, only way more expensive.

I've been yearning for my own lap-top for some time, particularly after both daughters acquired theirs to navigate university (because you can't do university these days without one) and high school (because when you have a severe learning and language disability, along with less than fabulous fine motor skills, you need all the help you can get).  I had neither excuse, but a desire not to go through another summer house-sitting a place lacking a DVD-player and sporting a dial-up.  Also, neither daughter will let me use her lap-top.  Ever.  It's the Harry Potter books all over again.

So last Friday found me standing in a cold sweat in an Apple store, looking pleadingly at elder daughter whenever the salesman asked me a question.  The session turned into a practical exam, because when my new device was "loaded", it involved my entering things with trembling fingers used to a PC keyboard under the watchful eye of the salesman/techie.

"How bad was I?"  I whispered to elder daughter as we exited with my trophy in a bag over my shoulder.
"Let's just say you've come across as more intelligent on other occasions," muttered elder daughter diplomatically.

That bad, huh?

"What about that Apple Care, though?"  Having dropped what seems like an enormous amount of money on this thing, the salesman managed to talk me into paying extra for whatever tech support would be needed, even though elder daughter flatly refused it for herself.
"Well, I think you're a better candidate for that kind of thing," she said, holding precariously on to her diplomacy.
"So you think I'll be dropping by the store with questions all the time?"
"Mum, you will have me.  I'm kinda your live-in one-to-one tutor."

Which, of course, was why I'd timed my purchase for the beginning of elder daughter's return from Halifax, in the hope that by July, I'll have this MacBook stuff under my belt.  It's just unfortunate that Blogger chose this time to switch to a completely new format at the same time I'm struggling to understand the re-designed NaBloPoMo.

So this has been an interesting weekend while I attempt to retrain my personal-computer mind and digits into the configuration of a MacBook Pro.  It may be working.  I still do a few things at the PC, due mainly to my failure to figure out what my "administrative password" is, which means I can't download things like Adobe Flash (which, I'm discovering this weekend, I need).  This morning, I caught myself stroking the bar below the PC keyboard, before remembering to reach for the mouse.

I'm not sure why elder daughter has barricaded herself in her bedroom, though.  I miss her.  Also, I have another question....

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Another fool moon

I don't know why it is that I seem to attend performances of A Company of Fools on full moons.  It's appropriate, but not planned.

This particular evening, we had only a few blocks to walk,  past young basketball players in the street and  people sitting on their front porches sipping beer bottles, on a Friday evening that had suddenly changed from lowering skies and fat intermittent rain drops to slanting golden sunshine.  We strolled down to the United Church hall and took our places in line behind a man in wildly printed trousers and scarlet socks beneath his sandal straps.  And he was an audience member.

The night's offering was Shakespeare's Dead.  So apparently was the leading man, whose portrait glowered from the stage in a very Barrymore fashion.  As the three Fools (AL Connors -- first name not a typo, Margo MacDonald and Scott Florence) informed us, in varying degrees of sorrow, the late leading man had had a passion for Shakespeare matched only by his passion for Jack Daniels, and both had had a hand in his demise.

Things got a little weird after that, which is business as usual for the Fools.  Anyway, Scott Florence's character (named Brie after the cheese) ended up ingesting the cremated remains of the Barrymore look-alike and being possessed by the spirit of William Shakespeare, and if you find that preposterous, you have no business attending a Company of Fools show.

One thing led to another:  Romeo and Juliet performed in rap; Macbeth as a musical (younger daughter loved the parodies of West Side Story, South Pacific, and The Wizard of Oz); and a dizzying parade of bloody Shakespearean deaths which involved the actors hauling yards and yards of scarlet rags from various parts of their clothes.  (I guess you could say the deaths were fabricated -- ahem -- fabricated -- oh, never mind...)

Perhaps most surreal of all was a murder scene from Richard III.  Actually,  I'm not sure if it was Richard III; I kind of lost my concentration amid the flying cat toys.  See, the trio explained that if an audience in Shakespeare's time wanted to express their antipathy towards the villains in the piece, they would hurl vegetables, fruit, and live kittens.  To forestall the evening's audience from indulging in something too similar, they handed out a large variety of cat toys which then hit the stage and, frequently, the actors with soft thuds and disconcerting squeaks.  It was also at this point that a handful of younger audience members (in the eight-to-twelve-year range, I'd say) who had, so far, restricted themselves to smart-alecky remarks and throwing themselves to the floor in death throes, threw restraint to the winds along with their cat toys and scrambled on stage to retrieve them in order to hurl them again.  Not a word from their dignified parents, but frankly, it's that kind of neighbourhood.  The Fools had to intervene for themselves.

The night's entertainment ended with, naturally, the dance sequence from Michael Jackson's Thriller.  It made some sort of sense at the time.

The Resident Fan Boy looked askance at the number and denomination of bills that I thrust into a waiting Fool's cap, but, dammit, a Company of Fools is one of the few things that almost makes coming to Ottawa worthwhile.  Well, nothing about Hades is worthwhile, but the Fools come close.

We left the hall and were confronted by the "Super Moon" which reaches its fullest splendour tonight.  About now, actually.  I'd better go take a look.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Yo Yo Man (write of passage number twenty-four)

He must have got on at Tunney's Pasture station, because it seems as if his barking voice comes out of nowhere:  "Yo.  YO.  Don't you disrepect me. DON'T YOU DISRESPECT ME!  YO. YO! YO!  I'm not your boyfriend.  I'M NOT YOUR BOYFRIEND!  DON'T YOU DISRESPECT ME!"

And so on.  I look resolutely to the front, but out of the corner of my eye, I can see that younger daughter can't resist glancing back.  She's starting slightly at each YO!  Sound sensitivity is a common thing among those on the spectrum.  I smile at her reassuringly.
"It's okay," I say softly.
"What?" she asks, not so softly.
"YO!" says Yo-yo Man.  "I'm coming to your house.  I'M COMING TO YOUR HOUSE!"

We're pulling into LaBreton Station.
"I'M COMING TO YOUR HOUSE!" declares Yo-yo Man, moving swiftly and purposefully through the throng of bodies in the aisle. "'Scuse me!"  He has absolutely no trouble getting to the exit, and strides off.

"Goodness," I say to younger daughter.  "I'm glad he's not coming to our house!"

I see heads turning to grin at me and other shoulders shaking. 

I gather there's a consensus.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Daytime viewing

I've blogged about ghosts before:  ghosts in houses I've been in, my husband's dream encounter with his recently deceased mother, and, most unnerving of all, a haunting by someone who is still alive.  Do I believe in ghosts?  Let's just say I've never actually seen one, nor do I particularly want to.  But I will admit that one of my guilty pleasures is Celebrity Ghost Stories on the Biography Channel.  I guess I don't mind other people's experiences of the paranormal.  Frankly, I feel rather the same about family weddings -- they're great if they're happening to someone else's family...

I've just had a birthday recently and a rather ghoulish theme emerged in the presents I was given.  This was not by design; the Resident Fan Boy has found it simpler to consult a rather ancient wish list I set up at, and thus I was rather startled to receive an old Granada Television anthology of ghost stories first transmitted in the early eighties entitled Shades of Darkness and the audiobook version of The Woman in Black.

Just as well the days are getting longer because there was no way I'd be working through these at night.

So I settled myself down with the DVD which features six stories, and discovered I'd remembered two of them well (which was why it was on my wish list), one vaguely, and the other three not all.  These are very old-fashioned ghost stories, none of them set any later than the 1940s, and filmed in the leisurely detailed way  which is verboten these days when the greatest crime of all is to keep anyone waiting.  The two I remembered the best were the two I found the creepiest:  The Intercessor, based on a short story by May Sinclair, with John Duttine (above) encountering the pitiful spectre of a little girl , and Afterward, based on a short story by Edith Wharton about a ghost which isn't revealed to be a ghost -- until afterward...


About six years after these stories appeared on television, some bright spark came up with the idea of dramatizing The Women in Black, an 1983 novel by Susan Hill, for British television --- on Christmas Eve, of course.  (Is this a British thing?  Why does their Christmas programming involve vampires, murder mysteries and Doctor Who?)  Being a Canadian, I didn't see this production until a year or two later (and definitely not at Christmas), but I remember being scared rigid by it.  I don't remember being quite so frightened by anything else on television with the possible exception of the Gulf War.

Based on the memory of that, I headed off to an early evening show of the latest incarnation of The Woman in Black starrng Daniel Radcliffe, having made a pact with Friend With Whom I Have Coffee.  (I figured this film might be a bit too intense for younger daughter.)

 I understand that many showings have turned into adolescent scream-fests.  I'm happy to report that this was not the case where we were, although FWWIHC and I may have cried out involuntarily from time to time while futilely attempting to climb into our medium popcorn bags.  For most of the flick, I coped by watching the action through my fleece top, and concentrating on the anachronisms (example:  death certificates would not have been typed; I'm a family historian -- I know about death certificates), and clinging to them like lifelines.  At one point, I willed myself to imagine the film crew in the haunted nursery with Daniel Radcliffe, anything to take myself out of the story.

So yeah, the movie was scary. FWWIHC told me, as we worked on suppressing our shivers during the drive home, that she would definitely not be taking her three daughters who range in ages from eleven to fifteen.  Smart move.  I've met her daughters. No point in giving them more ideas. They share a macabre sense of humour.  At least, I think they're joking...

By the end of the week, I'd calmed down a bit and wondered if the 1989 production (which stars, ironically enough, a young Adrian Rawlins who would later portray Daniel Radcliffe's father in the Harry Potter movies) was indeed as scary as I remembered.  I found it on YouTube of course and spent a cold afternoon watching it.  Like Shades of Darkness, the story-telling is at a slower pace, aimed at viewers from an era of  longer attention spans and perhaps a lower threshold of squeamishness. It's a quite different story from the current movie, set in a later time and featuring an ending that doesn't resemble that of the film in the slightest. (And the book is something else again, by the way.)

I found it creepy but not quite as terrifying as I remembered.  Until I walked into the kitchen and glanced out into our neighbour's backyard and saw someone standing by the fence....

It was a sagging line of coloured pennants which had somehow tricked my eyes.  I fixed myself a warm drink and sat down until my heart stopped pounding.

The episodes of Shades of Darkness are also available on YouTube.  Take a look if you have a taste for that kind of thing.  But I'd recommended viewing them in the daylight.  With someone in the house.  Alive, that is.