Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The last sunset of September

I was walking the Accent Snob on the dirt pathway in New Edinburgh Park this evening when I shoulder-checked the flaming bronze platter disappearing around the bend of the Rideau River.  It occurred to me that this was the last sunset of September, so in order to get a last unimpeded view of the departing sun,  I took a firmer hold on the poop bag and dog-leash in my left hand and, using my right hand as a brace, made a series of jumps down three boulders that lead to a favourite fishing perch.  The momentum sent me skidding on the dirt at the bottom and damn near over the edge into the water.  Another last for me, I think.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Over the fields and far away

Click on the photo for the full version.
I have mentioned that, when younger daughter's school moves five miles further west in less than two weeks, there will be things I will not miss.

The above is something I will miss.  Not that much, because it's really only at this time of year when it's this beautiful.  It's the Experimental Farm Parkway which meanders in a huge curve to the north of younger daughter's school, from the Experimental Farm itself near Dow's Lake to Woodroffe Road (which is not nearly so lovely at any point of the year).  This is what the parkway looked like today.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Whose side are you on?

This is fun, but is she portraying an office bully, or someone surrounded by idiots?

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Some days you don't even have to look up

The autumn colours are coming to Hades early this year.
You never know where they'll turn up.

Friday, 26 September 2014

What I'm watching this minute

Oh gawd.  Emma Thompson.  Bryn Terfel.  Stephen Sondheim.  I've been waiting for this for weeks….

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Holy father of. . .

What I wanted to write:

Dear Fellow Ancestry Member,

I have watched with horrified fascination over the past week as you have saved record after record that I have posted, from my family tree to yours.

Just one question.  How on earth do you think you are related to the people in your own tree, let alone those in mine?  

I hardly know where to start.  Don't you think it's odd that the great-great-great-grandfather you've assigned for your home person was, according to you, married seven times, and that four of those marriages are double marriages to his own sisters-in-law? Or that the 32 children you're claiming he fathered are mostly duplicates (mercifully) of nieces and nephews, and in a couple of cases, great-nieces and first cousins?

Sorry, that's three questions.

Let me tell you about the man you think is your ancestor.  He was blind from childhood and he taught music, played the organ, and tuned pianos.  How do I know this?  Because I have checked -- and this means I actually read -- each census between 1841 and 1891.  Do you know what else the censuses tell me?  No children.  None of those 32 children you have with them, a number with different surnames.  (Didn't that puzzle you?)

He married Sarah Mason in Islington in 1847.  She may have been his cousin; the Mason name appears in older generations.  She certainly wasn't his aunt, as you have indicated for the two Sarahs you claim he married.  The age difference might have been a clue to you.

I don't even want to get into the dog's breakfast of erroneous ancestors you've mixed up for him out of a hodgepodge of family trees you've borrowed from Ancestry.  I cringe, frankly, to see that you've listed my tree as a source.  Clearly, you have never looked at it. 

I would also like to point out that the grandfather you've assigned for your home person is highly unlikely to be related to you at all, so everything else is moot.  You claim he came to the States and married a Lillie Dubois in 1890.  I found him in the 1891 British census, living in Islington, London with his parents and siblings, and studying the law.  In 1901, he's still living with his parents who have moved to Surrey.  You've saved this record to your own tree.  Did you bother to read it? He's listed as a solicitor and he is single.  You have him as the father of  six children by then.

Eleven men named Frederick William Hales were born in England between 1845 and 1871 -- it is not an unusual name.  I am positive that the Frederick William Hales in your tree is not your ancestor.  I think you should remove the documents you have copied from my tree; it is a poor use of them and you are proving absolutely nothing.  

And I really wish you'd remove the reference for my tree.  You're embarrassing the hell out of me.


What I actually sent:

Dear (her name), 

You are, of course, free to ignore this.

I have noticed, with some interest, that you have been saving copies of various documents I have posted to my tree, connected with my great-great-grandfather, my great-great-great-grandparents  and their family.  I am somewhat dismayed to see them attached to the wrong people, especially since I am sure you would like your tree to have your real ancestors in it!

I can tell you that the Frederick William Hales and his ancestors -- at least as you have placed them on your tree -- cannot possibly be related to you.

Will you permit me to tell you why?

You say your ancestor Frederick William Hales, the father of William Nallard Hales, married Lillie Dubois in 1890 and fathered eight children during the following 16 years.  My third cousin twice removed Frederick William Hales (who is the grand-nephew of my great-great-great-grandparents, not their grandson as you have in your tree) was living with his parents at the time of both the 1891 British census and the 1901 British census, where he is clearly noted as being a solicitor and and single.  In 1903, he was a godfather to the son of his eldest sister Edith Eliza Seymour (née Hales) at a christening at St Andrew Alexandra Park in north London.  He married Margaret Evelyn Rawson at the very same church in 1920.  He is noted as a 51-year-old bachelor - not a widower. 

None of this fits with the details you have provided about your ancestor who is clearly another Frederick William Hales.  This means, I'm afraid, that none of the ancestors, uncles, aunts, and cousins that you have for your Frederick William Hales, nor the documents you have attached,  belong in your tree. There were eleven men named Frederick William Hales born in England between 1845 and 1871.  I'm sure, with some research and detective work, you can find your true ancestor, the Frederick William Hales who belongs on your tree, and learn his story.  Have you considered joining a family history society?  They could be of tremendous help to you.


See?  This is why I need to wait three days before trying to correct someone on the internet.  She may get ticked off with me anyway, but I, at least, think I don't sound as angry in the second draft.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

And we danced

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been listening to old episodes of "Desert Island Discs".  This, of course, has got me thinking about what I would choose were I to be stranded on an island with only eight songs. Limiting the choice to eight is, of course the toughest task, but I would probably narrow down from the "Most Played" list on my iPod.

I don't plan to do a list right now; besides, rather a lot of them have appeared on this blog, where I tend to put my favourite things.   However, I don't seem to have posted this one.  As with most songs, I far prefer the song to the video, but this video isn't bad. It fairly shouts "1985!", doesn't it?

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Transit Theatre (write of passage number thirty-three)

Most of the challenges I encounter on my daily bus trips stem from the self-absorption of others.

Take this afternoon, for example, when a young woman made me clamber over her to the seat by the window while she clung resolutely to the aisle seat, refusing to either slide over or to rise to let me on.

"I'm getting off," she said brusquely when I glared at her.  Eight Transitway stops later, I had to clamber over her again.  I was getting off.

However, there are a minority of people who turn outward, rather than inward, on the transit system.

So I was standing in front of the entrance of the Tunney's Pasture Station, checking the time and wondering where my bus was.  I was listening to a podcast of an old episode of the BBC Radio series "Desert Island Discs"on my iPod (Frank Skinner back when he was still single), when a man wearing a backwards baseball cap strode out of the building, making a pulling motion from his ears to indicate he wanted to talk to me. I pulled out my earbuds.


He shouted the entire time.  There was a big smile on his face, so I wasn't alarmed.  Before I could reply, a blonde woman in a sort of quilt coat emerged, and launched herself into the conversation which was evidently already in progress before I laid eyes on them.  She was shouting too, but I'll spare you the upper case:
"I told you this would happen!"
"No, listen, I know exactly where it is; it's the Codway Estates."
"But I didn't bring a map…'

Where on earth is my damn bus, I thought, but I got out my phone anyway and quietly entered "Codway" into Google Maps.
"Uh, do you mean Caldwell?"

They nodded absently, but I was no longer part of the act -- if I ever was.  Besides, there was my bus, finally.  I left them squabbling amiably and theatrically.

As the bus pulled away, Caldwell Avenue came up on my sluggish phone.  It's off Merivale, not Carling. They should have stuck with the 176.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Rain every day

Last Friday, we took youngest daughter to the Fourth Stage at the National Arts Centre to see a show entitled "Swinging the Bard".



How could we possibly pass it up?

It had been an exhausting day, the kind when I'm really resenting evening performances.  (I've always preferred matinées, which are a relative rarity in Hades.)  I was even more resentful when we became embroiled in the general admission politics which bring out the competitive killer instincts in Ottawa concert-goers.

However,  when Diane Nalini took the stage and began singing settings of Shakespeare songs -- and a couple of the sonnets --- which she had written some years ago, all negativity drained away.  The music    ranged from swing to blues to a folksy sort of jazz which reminded me strongly of Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs.  The Resident Fan Boy bought both CDs for younger daughter during the break (naturally, she loved the performance).  Couldn't find a video, but there's a link at the Canadian Adaptions of Shakespeare Project websitto three of the songs she sang and I rather like her version of "When that I was and a little tiny boy" from Twelfth Night.

While I was looking all this up, I discovered that Dr (yes! Doctor!) Nalini is a -- wait for it -- physics professor who was a Rhodes Scholar.  She's also married to Adrian Cho, who played the bass and directed the Ontario Jazz Orchestra through Duke Ellington's Shakepearean jazz work "Such Sweet Thunder" after intermission.  These are seasoned jazz musicians, so they'd only really had one rehearsal. This backfired, but only slightly, when Mr Cho introduced one segment as featuring "a chorus of coronets", then played through on his own. Evidently, a cue was missed.

"We'll try that again some other time," he said calmly, before proceeding to the next bit.

That's jazz.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Homesick and tired

It's been a gruelling weekend with something like fifteen hours' worth of family history conference, so I'm cheating with a video a Facebook pal posted.  This is aimed at visitors to Victoria, but I guess that's all I am now…..
The Checkerboard Guy was one of our favourite acts at the Buskers' Festival this summer, and the berries are definitely a part of my Victoria summer.  (The zip-lining, not so much.)

Saturday, 20 September 2014

You can read their address by the moon

One recent morning, I was tuning in CBC Radio Two because younger daughter likes to listen to music during breakfast before she heads to school.

This song came pouring out and it was one of those surreal moments when I found myself wondering "What is this? Who on earth is singing that?" It's Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, backed up (I believe) by Kate and Anna McGarringle, performing a 1999 cover of Leonard Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy".

I guess I missed it the first time around because 1999 was one of those years.

Oh the sisters of mercy,
they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought
that I just can't go on.
And they brought me their comfort
and later they brought me this song.
Oh I hope you run into them,
you who've been travelling so long.
Yes, you who must leave everything
that you cannot control,
it begins with your family,
but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well, I've been where you're hanging;
I think I can see how you're pinned.
When you're not feeling holy,
your loneliness says that you've sinned.

Well, they lay down beside me;
I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes
and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons
tear off and condemn,
they will bind you with love
that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping,
I hope you run into them soon.
Don't turn on the lights;
you can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous
if I hear that they sweetened your night.
We weren't lovers like that
and besides, it would still be all right.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Cool comfort

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

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

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

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

But not cold.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

I gaze up into her laughing eyes.

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

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

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

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The fifteenth September

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

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

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

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

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

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

As that first of the fifteen Septembers we've spent in Ottawa drew to a close fourteen years ago, Pierre Elliot Trudeau died.  His funeral was televised the day we moved into this house.  His eldest son, then a twenty-something, spoke eloquently at the service.  He now has three kids and lives up the hill, the leader of the Liberal Party. Last September, we ended up sharing a table with him, his pregnant wife and two tiny kids at the restaurant down the block which features "family dinners" (set menu, shared platters) on Mondays.  It was a bit awkward, really.

In 2000, I had an eight-year-old and a four-year-old.  One has graduated from university; the other will graduate from high school by the time the next September rolls around.

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

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

A not very shaggy dog story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 15 September 2014

Go, fetch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 14 September 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Sitting up and taking notice

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

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

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

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

And I've only seen it once.

I intend to see it again.

Friday, 12 September 2014

My happy place

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

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The last September

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

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

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

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

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

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

 But it's in bloody Kanata.

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

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

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Listening to the deadlines whooshing by

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

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

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Rocking pneumonia (with walking)

This has to be seven years old (older than this blog), but I didn't see it until today.  Alison Krause, Robert Plant, T Bone Burnett, embedded treadmills, and an Everly Brothers tune.  Lots of fun. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sleep aid for fan boys

Geez, I'm tired.  It was the Resident Fan Boy's birthday today so in a warped way, this is for him: 
Sleep well, Whovians.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Jukebox musical treatment for the Doctor

Running out of time for today, so cheating with this very clever Doctor Who fan-vid from about four years ago.  Gotta love the involvement of the Ninth Doctor in this. Di Wey, the creator of this mad musical tribute to David Tennant's Doctor, lives in Brazil and is promising something for the Eleventh Doctor.

For the record, I love Peter Capaldi's (Twelfth? Thirteenth?) Doctor so far, but aside from the first episode of the new season, haven't been beguiled by the plots.  Haven't come across any musical fan-vids for his tenure yet.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Yellow to Hero

For the past few years, I've been trying to follow the philosophy of "Show up", meaning making more of an effort to get out and attend things.

Today, I got out and attended Boyhood, which was shot over twelve years.  They cast a seven-year-old boy and the director's seven-year-old daughter as his older sister.  I think she's supposed to be about two years older, but luckily, the developmental lag that boys seem to have worked in the movie's favour.  Shooting for a few days a year for a total of 45 days between the spring of 2002 and the autumn of 2013, all the characters, the boy and the girl, and the adults that surround them (including Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as the parents) age 12 years without the need for prosthetics or special effects, and even though the film is close to three hours long, you barely notice it.  (Except for the part where I had to run to the washroom.) 

Both young actors were born in 1994, so their childhood and adolescence is contemporary with that of my daughters.  The story, though, is a very American one and it's set in Texas which is damn near a universe of its own.

While I'm not sure how much of the characters' experience would be recognizable to my children -- the American school experience was very foreign to me, even though I had close American friends as a teenager -- they would certainly recognize the music.  Starting in 2002 with "Yellow" by Coldplay, we hear snatches of Blink 182, Britney Spears, Weezer, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, and of course, Gotye, among many others.  The song that stayed with me as I hurried out into the night and damn near got run over by a car bearing down on me in the lit crosswalk, was "Hero" which I've certainly heard before -- somewhere.  The lyrics are particularly apt, especially as the main character, now age 18 drives across Texas  to start college.  The original video, I discovered, is also a bit of a heart-breaker. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

Even more Doré

Can't resist adding a couple more items about Gustave Doré as a result of searching around the web for things to illustrate yesterday's post.

As I mentioned, there were three or four screens dotted around the galleries, showing works by Doré followed by film clips showing his influence.  One particularly surprising one were these engravings from The Divine Comedy

 followed by a fairy scene from the 1935 film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

There were also several links with various film versions of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.  However, while I was looking up images last night, I came across this

and was immediately reminded of this scene from 1951's Scrooge, my very favourite rendition of A Christmas Carol.

I also searched high and low for excerpts from the documentary shown at the National Gallery of Canada with English subtitles, but all I could find  (aside from the usual slightly tedious promotional video from the National Gallery) was an overview of the exhibit from the Musée d'Orsay which features many of the same speakers (though not Tomi Ungerer, alas). Although I recognize much of what is glimpsed in this video, I'm left with the impression that the show at the Musée d'Orsay was considerably bigger. On the other hand, as I observed in yesterday's post, I'm pretty sure I didn't see everything, even in two visits.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Adoring Doré

Saute-Mouton (Leap Frog), a small sculpture by Doré which might have been inspired by a tale by 16th Century writer François Rabelais
I've been trying to balm myself (as opposed to embalming myself) with things I've saved for after our return to Hades in late August.  One of those things is the Gustave Doré exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada.
Actually, when I first got wind of the exhibit last spring, it was all I could do to keep myself from running down to the National Gallery right away.  I've mentioned my teen obsession with Doré's wood engravings of Dante's Inferno before.  Last week, I took younger daughter to the exhibit, and she enjoyed the various screens showing clips illustrating how Doré's art influenced film in the twentieth and twenty-first century.  (She particularly enjoyed the links to Shrek II and Oliver!)  However, she has her limits, so I cast quick glances at what I could, and made a mental note to return when she was back in school.

That day was today and I am so glad I did!  The exhibit is so rich and dense, I could probably go back a couple of times more and still make discoveries.  (But I won't.)

I had a little more time, but really not that much more staying power than younger daughter, so I made a bee-line for the end of the exhibit and worked my way backward - which is also a great way to see some works without crowds, as people tend to cluster in the first few rooms.  I remembered what I'd already seen and zeroed in on what I'd skipped, sitting down on the very low benches and dialling in the requisite numbers on my audio-guide.

For example, this painting -- Doré sketched, sculpted, and painted in oils and water-colours -- was one featured in most advertisements for the exhibit.
It's a strange, dark, and disturbing scene (like rather a lot of the pictures in this exhibit) of a devastated battlefield.  It's difficult to see in this small example - most of Doré's paintings are huge, and I think you can click on it to enlarge it - but there are bodies, including that of a mother and child, piled in the foreground, and the Winged Victory, representing France, has thrown her arms around the neck of a Sphinx who gazes back into her eyes impassively.  The painting is called Enigma and it's on the wall with two other allegorical paintings with the Winged Victory in similarly desperate situations: The Black Eagle of Prussia and The Defence of Paris.  I learned from the audio guide that these three paintings formed a triptych as part of Doré's response to the Franco-Prussian War, and that they have not been seen together since 1885, two years after the artist's death.

I moved through the galleries and focussed with a purpose on wild Scottish landscapes (Doré was an avid climber), book illustrations, and paintings ranging from the disturbing to the sentimental.
This watercolour is entitled Christmas Eve and shows the German Christkind who delivers the gifts in Germany.

I also spent a chunk of my limited time looking at wood engravings of scenes of London, from Doré's collaboration with Blanchard Jerrold entitled London: A Pilgrimage.  There were a limited selection of what had been scores of wood engravings portraying the destitute and the wealthy of London around 1870.  (The book was published in 1872.)

Apparently, Doré did hundreds of surreptitious sketches and incorporated them into scenes in streets, parks, theatres, and even opium dens.  For someone who had ancestors living in London in the 1860s and 1870s, it's quite an eyeful.  As the film presentations around the galleries demonstrated, pretty well every film version of a novel by Charles Dickens has scenes lifted almost directly from these pictures -- although Dickens himself passed away in 1870.

This engraving was featured at the exhibit and is entitled Asleep Under the Stars. 
Finally,  I couldn't resist entering one of the screening theatres to see a fairly lengthy but utterly delightful French documentary on Doré, which began with a series of his drawings from ages five to eleven (prodigious, of course) and ended with even more film parallels (with rather a lot of scenes from various editions of King Kong.  The interviews included Tomi Ungerer, whose books formed a weird and wonderful part of my daughters' childhoods.  He described the drawings he remembered best from Gustave Doré's works.

It explained a lot.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Flash and burn

The Resident Fan Boy's sister forwarded an email from her future daughter-in-law's sister.

Apparently this young woman thinks it would be a fabulous idea to surprise my husband's nephew and his bride with a flash-mob at their wedding reception next month:  The effect will be much better if EVERYONE participates. Even for those people apposed [sic] to dancing please try your best, and stand near the back if you want.

Unable to restrain our curiosity, we took a look at her video on YouTube and the first thing we noticed was that it is seventeen minutes long.  It begins with the Maid of Honour - she actually signed her email to the RFB's sister with this, like a rank or position - a fresh young thing who looks about, I dunno, fourteen, but is probably ten years older - standing in a well-appointed hallway in shorts, her bare feet in fourth position.  Her biography at her sister's wedding website describes her as a business major who loves long walks on the beach and organizing her sorority.  Her first name (withheld for obvious reasons) pinpoints her squarely as a nineties baby.

She demonstrates the choreography, which, mercifully, is for only two minutes of flash-mobbing, saying earnestly in uptalk that it is "not too hard" and reiterating her desire that everybody join in.  The next fifteen minutes (although I have not been able to bring myself to watch more than the first five minutes) consist of her breaking up the dance into little pieces and repeating them a few times each, complete with instructions of who is going to be doing what.  Apparently, there will be different moves, according to whether you're connected to the bride or groom -- so not complex at all.

After each segment, she plays the damn music again.
So we can "practice" (sic).
It's One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" mashed with some other song I don't recognize.

Did I mention this dance involves two moves that involve dropping down to nearly touch the knee to the floor?

Golly.  I'd bless her cotton socks, if she were wearing any.

So the Resident Fan Boy and I chuckled kindly -- she's almost endearing in her sweetly controlling way -- and decided against sending a video of the song "Schadenfreude" from Avenue Q to elder daughter, the one who actually has to attend this wedding.  The RFB did forward the instructional video. The responding texts began to appear within minutes:


"Seriously though, if my maid of honour plans that, she is to be stopped."

"If I end up with a dancing infant as my maid of honour, I am to be stopped."

We pointed out that hiding in the washroom for two minutes should be easily accomplished (provided there is room), and I did send this YouTube snippet of an early episode of Friends.

For some reason it came to mind.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tired and scared of living on the edge too long

So, the day we'd been dreading came, and when daughter came downstairs, I asked her if she'd like some music, thinking she might like something different, but no, she wanted CBC Radio Two, just like every school-day morning.  I turned it on in time to hear an intro to what the host described as one of the less-appreciated songs by Blue Radio.

Can't quite remember what it was, but it wasn't my personal favourite, the first song I remember hearing from them: 
Strange, after all these years, the only part of the video I really remembered was the part near the end when the keyboardist does a little jump to the high-hat crashes.  (Although, watching it again, I did remember the oddly concave-topped feet of the woman.  Blue Rodeo had more than one bare-foot woman strolling through their videos, usually getting dressed before wandering off.)

Before Blue Radio became well-known - as they are in Canada - they were more of a punk/new-wave band called, among other things, Fly to France, and, not long ago, I heard a recording of the band  performing this song in that style. I found this snippet:  
I like the country version better, but I think you always prefer the version you hear first, don't you?

Oh, and younger daughter went out to her lift without a fuss and seemed to have a relatively good day.

Monday, 1 September 2014


It had been an odd day, anyway: a bomb scare to the north of us which faded from the social media as suddenly as it had appeared.  The city blackened under a sudden violent shower, followed by a double rainbow.

I missed both, but heading out in the early evening with the Accent Snob, noticed that our neighbour hood was ringed with thunderheads.  Saffron walls of cloud to the east and the south lit the streets in an eery glow.  I'd left my Nikon at home, of course.

To the west, the sky was mauve and peach, behind houses lit from the east, so it felt like morning and evening at the same time.

It was rather spooky, to tell you the truth.  The streets were nearly deserted, although I could hear voices from yards where Ottawans were determined to barbecue, damn it, on this last weekend before the year begins its turn in the direction of autumn and winter.
As I walked on, the thunderheads to the south and the east took the peach from the clouds in the west, and the upper windows of the houses blazed with lights -- although no one was home.  The dog pulled mightily on his leash; he wanted nothing of this nonsense and tried to go home. I only dropped my phone once, cursing him.
I don't suppose the view east -- yes, east! -- up McKay Street inspired his confidence, particularly when  I stood in the middle of the deserted street to get this shot, hauling him back with one hand, while poking the phone screen with the other.  The next morning, the sun rose in the east as usual.
But not as spectacularly.