Thursday, 20 December 2012

Sidewalk smarts

I made a quick trip down to the mailbox to mail what I hope are the last of this season's Christmas cards. (Fat hope. Invariably something comes in during the twelve days of Christmas which makes me moan "Oh damn!" in that charitable holiday style I have and hastily fill out another card and envelope.)

Within seconds, I'm slowing down and picking my way over and, where possible, around stretches of black and white ice, marvelling at my fellow pedestrians striding by, some on phones, some absorbed in texting. I only see one of them slip, but it doesn't seem to be an edifying experience.

I manage my errand and the Resident Fan Boy helps me force Yaktrax over the soles of my sneakers for the long trek up the hill to the library. I may not have street smarts, but I have sidewalk smarts and trembling on the brink of my thirteenth winter in this godforsaken city, I know there will wide, solid, slippery streams frozen in mid-flow from the driveways intersecting the pavement. Yaktrax may not save me there (Ice on a slant? Are you mad?); I'll walk around that, thank-you, but it will help me stand a chance -- literally -- on those treacherous stretches in front of condo-buildings where the inhabitants resolutely expect the city to clear and salt for them. I learned this the hard way but then, I got all my sidewalk smarts the hard way.

It's a bit nerve-wracking making my way up a hill that is just short of a kilometre in the icy dark, juggling a bag of library books, a bag of poop, and the jittery Accent Snob who isn't that fond of walks in ideal daylight weather. I spend the uphill trek crankily snapping at the dog as he attempts to convince me to go back by frequent stops to look longingly over his shoulder, and the downhill trek compensating for the inexorable pull of gravity and the slightly more exorable pull of the Accent Snob who recognizes that I've finally come to my senses and turned homeward. I compensate by walking like Groucho Marx, knees bent, slouching gait, the whole effect helped, I'm sure, by the cigar-sized flashlight I'm holding out to make out ice patches in the dim glow of the posh Rockcliffe Park street lights. Also the moist gleam of my philtrum, resulting from my runny nose.

There are beautiful Christmas lights on the way, but it's difficult to appreciate them under these circumstances. A winter storm is on its way and the trees are beginning to moan ominously. I just pray it is actually a winter storm. If it's more bloody freezing rain, I just may be more in favour of the end of the world which is supposedly occurring at about 6 am our time.

See you later. Maybe.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

For a wintry and starry night in Hades

It's not often I hear a Christmas song I've never heard before, and even less often that I will like it. This came on the CBC "Seasonal Favourites" web radian station at their music web site (an eclectic mix and actually quite bearable) yesterday afternoon while I was waiting for younger daughter to come home. It was recorded in 2004 by James Taylor and written by Academy-Award-winning score writer Dave Grusin with lyrics by fellow-songwriter and singer Sally Stevens



Who comes this night, this wintry night,
As to the lowly manger?
The shepherds and the kings did come
To welcome in the stranger.

Who sends this song upon the air,
To ease the soul that's aching?
To still the cry of deep despair
And heal the heart that's breaking.

Brother Joseph bring the light
Fast, the night is fading.
And who will come this wintry night
To where the stranger's waiting?

Who comes this night, with humble heart,
To give the fullest measure
A gift of purest love to bring
What good and worthy treasure.

Brother Joseph bring the lamb
For they are asking for him
The children come this starry night
To lay their hearts before him.

For those who would the stranger greet
Must lay their heart before him
And raise their song in voices sweet
To worship and adore him

Brother Joseph bring the light
Fast, the night is fading
And who will come this wintry night
To where the stranger's waiting

Brother Joseph bring the lamb
For they are asking for him.
The children come this starry night
To lay their hearts before him.

Pure of heart this starry night
To lay their hearts before him.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The sweetest sound in the world

Got home from sitting in one of our local eateries, having written another eight or so Christmas cards. Turned on the computer to be confronted with horror. Various Facebook statuses, one of them that of elder daughter finishing her university term in Halifax, spreading the word. An elementary school in Connecticut, equipped with same buzz-in devices that I've encountered at my daughters' schools over the past decade. But the gunman was one of the dads, so they let him in. (*Dec 16 This was based on "information" that appeared at the Globe and Mail web site and the BBC web site when all was still confusion.)

The phone rang.

"Mum! You picked up!" My younger daughter, somewhere out there on the autistic spectrum, sounding delighted and astonished.

"Of course I picked up, sweetie!" I say, keeping my voice light and dabbing at my eyes. "I was listening for you."

She's going to be home a little late. Her lift was delayed by traffic.

Have I been grousing? I take it all back. My girls are coming home.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Melisma

I have a Twitter account even though I know a grand total of four people on Twitter. (These are the kind of cutting-edge friends I have.) Since these four people have composed about half a dozen tweets between them over the past three years, I don't actually use Twitter for communication.

I use it for stalking.

One of the people I stalk is Colin Mochrie, our very own Scottish-Canadian improv wiz. Recently, he shared this celebration of Mariah "Have Yourself a Merry Little Melisma" Carey, and I can't resist either:
Rather a shame that the still image gives away the surprise, robbing us of the slow reveal of that perfect Christmas look: rose-coloured leotards and striped knee socks. Particularly on a fella.

I guess this illustrates what pop music has known for decades: what a girl really wants is a sexually-ambiguous boyfriend. Or a gay BFF.

The dancers/choreographers here are Alex Karigan and Zac Hammer of the Amy Marshall Dance Company. And I do think they're rather good.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

In passing

I'm trying to get ready for Christmas. I really am. This probably means I should stop checking John Reid's blog Anglo-Celtic Connections. This time, he was passing on a tip about links to birth, marriage and death registrations at the Royal British Columbia Museum web site.

So, instead of addressing more Christmas cards and getting my parcel to Victoria ready to mail, I was diving into the registrations of the handful of relatives I know to have BC connections. What did I discover? Well, for one thing, BC marriage and death registrations are very detailed, particularly the death registrations: place of death, last address, every physical malady that contributed to the death and how long they were sick, names of parents, spouse, what they worked as and for how long, length of time in British Columbia... I found out that the reason I've been having trouble chasing down one cousin is that she had a radically different middle name than the one I had in my records, and her funeral was held where my sister was married. I learned that her sister was married in Christ Church Cathedral in 1910. Christ Church Cathedral is just up the hill from our last home in Victoria. Younger daughter was christened there. Elder daughter went to Sunday School there. The Resident Fan Boy's father's funeral service was held there.

So much for yesterday.

This morning, I still couldn't leave it alone. Family research is a disease, didn't I tell you? I remembered hearing that my great-great-aunt by marriage emigrated to Canada with her daughters. Within a few minutes, I had the details of her death before me.

I've walked past the graves in the churchyard at St Luke's in Victoria several times. I caught my first glimpse of the Resident Fan Boy at a wedding there, months before I met him. His sister was married there. His parents' ashes are interred there. I never guessed that I was passing the grave of a member of my own family, buried on a September's day in 1947.

When I told the Resident Fan Boy about this, he told me that his parents will have a significant wedding anniversary this year and he'd like to visit their graves when we're in Victoria next summer. I'll slip in among the older graves and see if I can find my grandmother's aunt. I wish my gran had known she was there.

One of the main reasons I got into family history was that, as a first generation Canadian, I didn't have a strong feeling of my family's past until I visited England for the first time. How ironic that distant and rather lateral aspects of it were lurking in places I strolled by daily.

I've finished packing the parcel and have written one more card. I'll get it all done, especially if I stay away from John Reid's blog.