Saturday, 30 April 2016

Moon escape

I took this photo about two thousand, five hundred and fifty-five days ago, but the moon looked pretty much like this when I looked up at the sky early this morning. I shivered and comforted myself with how very much colder it is up there.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Symmetry? Serendipity? Spooky?

Seventeen days ago, I wrote a post about the origins of my favourite Sheryl Crow song. Eight days ago, Prince died. So I was a little startled when this showed up in my Facebook feed today.

If that isn't weird enough, Sheryl Crow is wearing a David Bowie tee-shirt.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Snake hips and jelly legs

Made it through my online family history research class and language practice - elder daughter has initiated me into the very addictive language web site Duolingo and I'm attempting to learn some German and Welsh. (Ja. Diolch.) There's the small matter of getting something posted today.

How about this? This is a really recent addition to Postmodern Jukebox, the organization of talented musicians that take songs from the 80's to the present and re-imagine in styles from 1912 to the 1970s. Here we have blond bombshell Addie Hamilton tackling, of all things, "Are You Going to Be My Girl" by Australian retro-blues/metal group Jet, hauling it back from 2003 to the swing era. Along with the fabulous musicians, she's accompanied by the boneless jive of Ksenia Parkhatskaya. (Have mercy!) Don't miss either of them!

And, in case you want to compare, here's Jet appealing to their 14-to-24 male demographic:

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Yeah, that's the problem

I'm in the midst of Birthday Season. Several friends and family members - including me - have birthdays between April 22nd and May 11th). This is partly why I missed much of the festivities for the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. (Yay! Shakespeare's dead!)

Fortunately, rather a lot of the programming appears to have been put online at the BBC website, so it's just a matter of finding the time to listen and watch.

An additional complication: I foolhardily signed up for an online genealogy course as a birthday "treat". First online chat is tomorrow. Have not done a lick of homework.

Emergency measures are called for. Here's one of a series of loopy videos by a woman with the unmistakably American name of Malinda Kathleen Reese. She seems to have quite a Disney fixation, but she took a break from that to strut and fret upon the stage at the Folger Library, having run the text of Hamlet's most famous soliloquy through Google Translate. The results are mystifying and rather metaphysical.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Claiming London, Part Two

Sometimes YouTube gets a pretty loopy idea of what videos I'd like to see. If I click on something by accident, or out of curiosity, I get bombarded with offerings, some of them downright weird or disturbing. Thank goodness that this isn't usually the case. I had been exploring videos by Polly Hudson Design, because some of them illustrate changes in London over years and centuries. I posted one of them a couple of weeks ago

As a result, the video below showed up in my recommendations last week. It's a creation of Brighton animators "Persistent Peril" and is based on an essay by Peter Ackroyd. (I read his London: the Autobiography about seven years ago, if "read" is the proper word.)

The animation is delightfully detailed; watch for what happens in the insets, and pay attention to the tiny figures that scamper across both Cripplegate Without and Cripplegate Within. (You may want to view this on YouTube and enlarge it.) I particularly like the stork that drops a bundle down a chimney -- which turns out to be the infant Thomas More!

I have a connection with Cripplegate - but not in the time-frames described in detail in the video. My great-great-grandfather claimed to have been born there in his entry on the 1871 census -- his 1859 admission to the Freedom of the City showed him as being born on Hackney Road, which is considerably to the east and outside the City of London itself.
Clicking on the map should enlarge it.
However, I do know that my great-great-great-grandparents lived near where the Barbican Centre is now, and I'm including a detail of one of my family history Google Maps. They ran an inn in Bridgewater Square (the pink marker with a halo around it - you can click on the picture to make it large) in 1817. Later, they moved to Jerusalem Passage in Islington (the pink marker in the top left-hand corner), then to Butcher Hall Lane in Smithfield (pink marker just to the north of St Paul's Cathedral) in the early 1830s. I tracked them through the christenings of their children and my great-great-great-great-grandmother's 1833 will.

The Resident Fan Boy has a Barbican connection as well. The little green house with a flag denotes what I believe to be the location of the White Cross Street Prison, where one of my husband's great-great-grandfathers, a struggling solicitor, was imprisoned for debt in 1846. When a boy, he lost two young brothers, who were both buried on April 19th, 1823 at St Stephen Coleman Street, the gold house-shape on Old Jewry Street (the church was at the north end), south of London Wall. As you might expect from the video, St Stephen was destroyed, just as most of Cripplegate was, in 1940 by German bombers.

The purple marker is about where I figured Shakespeare was living during his London years, judging from books on the subject and a podcast of the Shakespeare London Walk tour. The video suggests that he lived north of the London Wall -- perhaps he moved!

At the bottom, south of Cripplegate Within, we see three blue markers and a pink one. The first blue is the location of the leather goods shop on Godliman Street, the longtime business of one of the Resident Fan Boy's great-grandfathers; he ran it until his death in 1894. Just to the east, the approximate address on Cannon Street where the same great-grandfather lived with his sister in 1861; both had just arrived from Berlin. Further along on Bucklersbury, the solicitor's office where the RFB's great-great-grandfather articled with his uncle -- some years before both went bankrupt. Finally, in the bottom right-hand corner, the Lombard Street office where my great-great-grandfather printed The Daily News from the 1850s to the 1870s. He was the one who had claimed to be born in Cripplegate -- but, in all likelihood, had not.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Musical chairs

I have to admit that Kiwanis season is not among my favourites -- particularly the Musical Theatre section.

However, younger daughter loves singing in the Kiwanis festival and she has always loved musical theatre. One of my earliest memories of her singing was when she was about eighteen months old. I was searching for something up in the stacks at the Greater Victoria Public Library when I heard her vocalizing tunefully. The tune turned out to be "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" from Godspell.

So, a couple of weeks ago found us on the long bus-ride out to a part of Nepean near where her school used to be. I was tense, dreading the competition, dreading having to sit through yet another production of The Sound of Music the next day -- in short, not tapping into my higher self, because both are things that younger daughter adores, in a world where her autism bars her from quite a few pleasures.

I got a grip on myself and used the long journey to focus on the best outcome. I've been back to creative visualization -- call it magical thinking if you will, but I got a bit more centred by the time we got out for the fifteen-minute walk through the suburbs to the church where this shindig is held every year.

I suppose it was a good thing I felt centred, because things almost immediately began to go sideways after our arrival. Younger daughter vanished into the washroom with ten minutes to go before her section was scheduled to start. She was the first of the competitors.

Time ticked by and when I popped my head in to remind her of this, she hollered at me to get out. I only had time to register that she was applying eye make-up. Her accompanist was enlisted to approach her -- younger daughter rarely hollers at non-family-members -- and our singer emerged with thick eye-lashes drawn in around her eyes. She reminded me of Victor Garber in the aforementioned Godspell.
"This is so I will look like a little girl for the second song," she told the Resident Fan Boy.

This is her fourth time participating in the Musical Theatre section. Up until now, she has been the only competitor to not bother with a costume change -- the other girls often do quite elaborate changes with plenty of props. This year, she and her teacher worked out a very simple change. She would be in stocking feet and wearing a sweater over her dress, presumably to look more like an auditioning chorus line dancer.

I've never been a fan of A Chorus Line, but "Nothing" is one of the better songs. It is also very wordy and quick.

Younger daughter plunged into it with admirable energy -- expressing bewilderment, anger, and the final resignation and shock quite eloquently, I thought. (I am her mother.) At Kiwanis, the adjudicators sit halfway back from the stage and all spectators are expected to sit behind them, so her make-up didn't look garish at all. I wept a bit with pride and started to relax a little.

Too soon.

Younger daughter vanished into the little change-room offstage and reappeared almost immediately, still sweatered and stocking-footed. She caught herself, disappeared, and came back with her flats on. It took her a second or two to realize that she still had to remove the sweater, so she returned to the side-room and we could hear her grunting and struggling, talking to herself. When she entered, she remembered she was supposed to change her hairband.

This all seemed to take forever, as I sweated with embarrassment, but it probably didn't take much longer than two minutes, which is a good thing, as both songs must be delivered within twelve minutes.

Younger daughter's second song was "My Party Dress" from a not-terribly-well-known musical called Henry and Mudge. It's another challenging number, with more than a hint of ADD -- the song, that is, younger daughter, as you may know from previous posts, is on the autism spectrum with a recently-diagnosed anxiety disorder -- which actually makes this a rather good fit.

Once again, she performed it flawlessly and remembered to acknowledge her excellent accompanist.

There were only two other performers in this age category. Both had the same accompanist, who sauntered up to the piano in his own time.

The first girl performed two songs from musicals I've heard of, but haven't attended. She was good, had stage presence and a strong voice.

The second girl did a charming number from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and the famous "Adelaide's Lament" from Guys and Dolls. She did the first well, and the second competently.

Phew, I thought. We'll be home soon.

Except that the star adjudicator, the one with the lengthy CV that included the Stratford Festival, decided, as there were only three competitors, to hold a mini-workshop.

She asked younger daughter who the Chorus Line character is singing to.

Stammering and playing for time, younger daughter did what she always does when put on the spot - she tried to give the right answer. She started telling the adjudicator who Diana Morales is: "Her name's Diana, but the teacher calls her 'Morales'..."

Well, it turns out the adjudicator had an issue with all three singers, in their choice of audience, in their use of props -- very bewildering for three young women who had been coached to use props. For example, she didn't like younger daughter's using a chair because there's no chair on a stage during an audition.

Then she had all three girls sing, asking if younger daughter's accompanist were still there. (Of course she wasn't - accompanists can't hang around; they're rushing off to accompany someone else, usually in a different part of the city.) The accompanist for the other two young women said he could do it, and the adjudicator confused younger daughter further by requesting that she start with the opening monologue. There hadn't been one. The accompanist obligingly struck up in a different key than the one rehearsed, but he was playing from memory. Younger daughter managed -- and this is damned important -- she kept eye contact, as requested, with the adjudicator.

I thought of a day early last September when it took eight tries to get an ID photo because younger daughter was unable to look straight ahead, and I blessed her anxiety medication.

Afterward, we quickly repaired to the washroom to attempt to remove all that eye make-up. She hadn't brought make-up removal sheets, so I dampened toilet paper with water and tiny amounts of hand-soap.

I'm pretty sure that one of the other girls was weeping in the centre cubicle.

When we finally got home, we discovered that the written adjudication was surprisingly constructive. And the dreaded Sound of Music? Quite enjoyable, really.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Doing the subcontinental

A couple of years ago, I accidentally came across an extraordinary video. (I never actually look for these things; they always show up when I'm supposed to be doing something else.)

It's David Brubeck's "Take Five", but played on subcontinental instruments. I liked it so much that I shared it twice on Facebook.

It turns out that the viral video begat a documentary film and when it showed up on the calendar for the Bytowne Cinema, I knew I had to go!

I love that it's PG-rated for "violent images and smoking". (The violent scenes were from newscasts.)

The film opens with a man singing a haunting song, accompanying himself on a hand-pumped harmonium.  This is Nijat Ali, and the film introduces us gradually to him and several other Pakistani musicians struggling to keep their music alive in Lahore.  We learn that Lahore once had a thriving musical scene until a truly creepy guy named General Zia-ul-Haq took over and it was decreed that music was anti-Islamic.

Zia-ul-Haq eventually had his day, but it wasn't long until the Taliban stuck in their oars.  As a result, the musicians featured in this documentary were careful to play only in places with sound-proof walls.  Traditions were dying - it was hard to earn a living, and hard to train up sons (never daughters) in music.

Finally, a wealthy financier named Izzat Majeed, who remembered the "Jazz Ambassadors" visiting Pakistan when he was a young boy, made a bid to re-establish Lahore's reputation as a musical centre.  He remembered hearing Dave Brubeck all those years ago, and establishing the Sachal Studios and gathering musicians, recorded "Take Five", and put it on YouTube.  Brubeck, who heard this version before his death in 2012, sent a message expressing his admiration.

Not so long after that, they heard from Wynton Marsalis.  The second part of the film follows a select group of half a dozen musicians representing the Sachal Studio, as they make a great cultural leap in travelling to New York and performing with Marsalis and his jazz orchestra.  At Lincoln Center.  The men don't speak English nor read music.

The video below is one of the numbers they played, but is not from the film, but from a performance in Paris in August 2013.  (Which is odd, because as far as I can make out, the Lincoln Center performance took place in November 2013.)

There are three videos with the Wynton Marsalis Quintet and the Sachal Jazz Ensemble on Marsalis's YouTube station, but a fellow named Hassan Khan has a myriad of Sachal Orchestra videos, including several numbers with Marsalis, including this gem:

I was a bit worried about an aging violinist interviewed in Lahore in the first half of the film.  He wistfully tells us at the close of the documentary that the string section wasn't able to travel to New York. However, he is getting more chances to play; Sachal Orchestra has its own YouTube channel as well, and they've been recording their own versions of pop and rock tunes, among other things.

The documentary's co-director is Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who is Pakistani herself and an Oscar-winner for her documentary Saving Face. The story of how a woman manages to make a film about an all-male group of musicians in a profession where women, if they participate at all, participate only as singers would make a documentary in itself. (You can read about the challenges here.)However, that's not just a Pakistani problem. You constantly hear Marsalis address his orchestra as "my brothers", because there's not a single female musician among them.

The music's great, all the same.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The awful truth

I used to, thank goodness, keep journals of what the girls said when they were very young; otherwise their childhoods would have slipped away from me completely.

One morning, when elder daughter was three and a bit, she came to talk to me in my bed, as was her habit at the time. When I affectionately called her "baby", she protested: "I a girl!"
That's right, you used to be a baby, but I know you're a girl."

Thoughtful pause.

"Is you growing into a man?"
"No, I'm a woman. I'm grown. You'll grow into a woman too."
Disbelieving laughter.
"No! I a little girl!"
"Yes, but you will grow into a woman."
"No!" More laughter.
"What are you growing into, then?"
"A baby!"
"You've already been a baby, then a girl, then a woman. Daddy started out as a baby, then he was a boy, then he was a man.'

Slight pause.

"I'm going to tell him."

From the bathroom, I heard: "Is you a baby?", followed some time later by "Is you a man?" She got an affirmative answer to the second question.

During her birthday lunch today, we discussed the hurdles of her new job as communications specialist for a small but influential arts group, and told her our own work stories of eventually shedding the embarrassment of not knowing things in the beginning.

And that conversation was about growing up, too.

I'm so glad I wrote things down about the long-vanished little girl, as much as I love the woman she grew into.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Hazed and Confused

This morning, I glimpse rainbow-coloured macintoshes and arty umbrellas from the window as I sit on the bed and stretch. If I'm going to just get older, I might as well try to maintain the use of my trunk and limbs.

Younger daughter's clock radio is blaring vintage rock and pop tunes as she struggles to rise and face another school day. Enter the Resident Fan Boy in mid-rant.

"It's wall-to-wall Prince," he complains. "That's all CBC is playing downstairs and I come up here and it's 'Scuse me while I kiss this guy.'"

I peer at him from over my shoulder. I've never been all that flexible, so this isn't easy.

"Um, 'Purple Haze' isn't Prince."

The RFB doesn't register this, as he has now launched into a lecture on the laughability of eulogizing Prince's desire for privacy.

". . . he made a damn film about it!"

I straighten up from another stretch and try the other shoulder. "Yes, Purple Rain. 'Purple Haze' was Jimi Hendrix."

"What? Well, I never was a Prince fan, so I didn't keep track of his songs...."

"And it's my birthday and you're ranting," I say placidly.

He concedes my birthday and shuffles shamefacedly to the closet to change. I apply my makeup and smile out at the rain -- which isn't purple.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The thousand natural shocks the flesh is heir to

Is it just one of those years, or the beginning of the avalanche as the boomers reach the end of the conveyer belt?

This is my favourite cover of a song by the artist now permanently known as Prince. Tom Jones was 49 when he recorded "Kiss", eight years younger than the age Prince was when he died today on the 90th birthday of the Queen.
Isn't life (and death) strange?

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Blink and you'll miss it

I was on my way to the coffee shop this morning and stopped short of the driveway. For the very first time, I saw the leave-buds starting to open.

This is a terrifyingly quick process in Hades. Once the leaves start bursting forth, the bare branches are liable to vanish by the end of the week, so I ran back into the house, grabbed my camera and set it on manual mode.

I ran back in, replaced my camera on the desk, re-alarmed the house, and set off for the coffee shop. I was wearing a warmish top, but no jacket. It was 5 degrees Celsius at 9 am, and even though I avoided the shade, my fingers began to sting a little.

The coffee shop staff had anticipated this.
Note the pale green of the grass. It was khaki a couple of days ago. Two days hence, it will likely be a poisonous green, and our brief spring will be over.

Unless it snows again.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Time warped

I was about to go to bed when I remembered I'd forgotten to post anything today. I took this years ago in Victoria on Fort Street. G'night!

Monday, 18 April 2016

Hooked on a Peeling

According to the file accompanying this photo, I snapped this about 1:30 in the afternoon of April 4th, 2010 - drawn to the texture and the weather-beaten-ness of the ancient trunk. (If you're going to take pictures in Hades in April, shape and texture is pretty much all you'll have to go on.)

I suspect that, seven years later, I would be unable to find this tree. They've done a lot of lopping along the riverbank.

Ah, April.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Never wanna leave

One of my favourite cheats - Post Modern Jukebox resetting yet another pop song from the 80's to the present-day in a style from 1912 to the 1970s.

This is a jazzed-up version of Ex's and Oh's which was a hit last year for Elle King, who, incidentally, is one of the daughters of Saturday Night Live alumnus Rob Schneider.  It's a great song either way.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Springing back

It's 8 am on one of the first weekend mornings this year that can be described as being anywhere near spring.

The Resident Fan Boy has slept all the way in to 7:45 am, two hours later than his weekend rising time.  Now he's ensconced in the bathroom for his morning ritual, which, as  befits a Virgo, is meticulous and time-consuming.

I peer near-sightedly down the stairs and there, at the foot, is the Accent Snob lying on the mat by the door, meaning his need is urgent.

I know the RFB won't be available for at least half an hour, so I slip on a black long sleeve teeshirt under a fleece jacket that I leave open, its zipper having lost its zip years ago.  Shoes over bare feet, no contact lenses because they're in the occupied bathroom, glasses on my makeup-less face.

No matter - I'm over forty, and thus have been invisible for years.

The streets of New Edinburgh, on a weekend morning before 9 am, belong to joggers, dog-walkers, and taxi-cabs --  and very few representatives of these categories.

I head out towards the Rideau River and note a young woman in a parka and wellies supervising her tiny leash-less terrier.  I don't feel particularly cold myself, but nearer the river, my hands sting a little.  Nearly all the dogs we see on the riverbank are off-leash.  Not strictly legal, but an off-leash dog is a badge of honour in this neighbourhood, a sign of the owner's skill as a trainer, I guess.  The Accent Snob is never off-leash, but apparently I get points for his being a "rescue dog" - he stands out amongst the mostly pure breeds we pass.  The most common question:  "What is he?"

By the time we loop back through the nearly deserted streets, we're starting to encounter the occasional walker - whose lycra leggings that stop just past the knees declare that this is serious business and no simple stroll.

The later hour also brings out the first of the skateboarders - both of the day and of the season.  Remarkably, the Accent Snob does not flee nor even flinch as he would have in bygone days.  Is he acclimatized or merely deafer?

Both terms could apply to me.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Thar's gold in them thar winders

To say the last thirty hours have been stressful is an understatement.

This evening, I looked across the street and saw gold. I've been striving for better thoughts, my higher self. I fail several times a day, but that's no excuse.

Thursday, 14 April 2016


This morning, I left the house early to travel down to the southern edge of Hades to catch a morning screening at the South Keys Cineplex. The film was not one I'd ordinarily go to. It's a political and military thriller entitled Eye in the Sky.

The story was told in real time: you see a sixty-something woman rise in the early hours, leaving her husband to sleep while she slips across her backyard, accompanied by her dog, to a small office where she opens her computer with her fingerprint, and we realize that she is a high-ranking military officer setting out to deal with a crisis. The officer is Helen Mirren (the part was, of course, originally written for a man, and she demonstrates how unnecessary this was), the film is produced, in part, by Colin Firth, and the reason I travelled across Ottawa to see it was because this is the last film performance by Alan Rickman.

My daughters were exposed to Alan Rickman at an early stage and on the Valentine's Days preceding their respective births. I was six months' along with elder daughter when the Resident Fan Boy and I went to see Truly Madly Deeply in February 1992.

I wept profusely, and it was not all down to the hormones. I could weep now, each time I remember that I failed to purchase a DVD of this film, copies of which are now only available at exorbitant prices.

Younger daughter was on the way when I saw Rickman in Sense and Sensibility.
I didn't weep, but I did buy the DVD, thank goodness - Emma Thompson's commentary alone is worth every penny.

My daughters, of course, mourn the man who portrayed Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. I do, too, but I had been a fan of his since just before their births, and can't help but feel that somehow, they are favourably marked by these two films which they attended in utero.

Eye in the Sky is very much an edge-of-your-seat sort of experience, and, of course, I soon forgot it was Alan Rickman playing a grandfather trying to locate and purchase a required toy, before revealing himself to be a lieutenant-general trying get a decision out of Whitehall politicians while lives hang in the balance in Nairobi. Naturally, he gets the very best line in the whole movie: "Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war." He delivers it without a hint of self-righteousness nor heavy-handedness.

While I am relieved that there are so many of his performances caught and preserved, I am so very sad that there will be no more.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Stumbling into ballet

I discover the best things while looking for something else.  Today, I came across a collection of videos from the Royal Opera House, in particular a series of demonstrations using Royal Ballet soloists to demonstrate the history of ballet called Ballet Evolved.

I grew up poring over books about dance, but this series tries to give an idea in sound and motion about what older forms of ballet were like.  Here is one of my favourites, an informal look of the style of Auguste Vestris:

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

I've been wondering if all the things I've seen were ever real

My day-to-day life has always been a tad on the surreal side -- not particularly fascinating, just surreal.  Bits of last week were just odd.

We were heading out to yet another parent/teacher conference in Nepean.  Younger daughter's teachers have proposed a part-time arrangement for next year which would involve some counselling, life skills practice, and  job experience.

I've been a bit worried of late about ambushing younger daughter with plans for her future -  English being her second language (we've never been quite sure what her first language is), it has never been easy to gauge just how much she has understood and, trickier still, just how she has understood it.

Her acquisition of a cell phone last year has opened a whole new world of communication.  It turns out she's boffo at texting.  In addition, during the past few months, we've turned to typing up letters on Word, leaving a sheet of paper on her bed.  She tends to respond by Word as well, attaching it to a blank email with titles such as "My Answer to Mom".

She started initiating notes - pretty well always because she was mad as hell about something:  "My Cross Letter to Dad", for example.  It can be painful being at the receiving end of her fury, but there's the mitigating aspect of relief that she has an outlet after years of what must have been bewildered rage and frustration.  Now, finally, she can indicate to us why she's so angry.

I swallow back the injustice of her accusations, and respond with every bit of compassion I can muster.  Missives buy you the time to do that, and I must say that after all those years of collecting books in the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense series by the late Suzette Haden Elgin, I now have opportunities to practise looking for the bait, ignoring it, and responding to the feeling instead.

Anyway, this week I wrote a letter to leave on younger daughter's bed, briefly outlining what her teachers are suggesting for next year -- translating from the edu-speak that teacher use with parents and older students.

On the bus out to the school, the road wound by the Ottawa River on a brilliantly sunny and cold day.  I've said this before, but I've seen the surface of the river in so many shades of colour:  black, brown, khaki, silver, white, pewter, and any blue hue you can imagine.  I couldn't place the colour this time, it was a strange misty kind of light brown laced with blue.

I realized it was the shade of my mother's eyes:  hazel.

This song was recorded in 1996, the year younger daughter was born. A few days ago, I learned that Sheryl Crow wrote it about Paul Hester, the drummer of one of my favourite bands, Crowded House. Sheryl Crow used to open for Crowded House, and knew and liked Hester, who suddenly quit Crowded House mid-tour, telling lead singer Neil Finn: "Every day is a winding road, mate." (It's Neil Finn singing back-up vocals in "Every Day is a Winding Road".)

Hester didn't have a daughter named Easter; her name was Sunday. Sadly, Hester committed suicide in 2005.

I've always been lifted by the hopeful, driving chorus, and haunted by the lines:  "I just wonder why I feel so old; why I'm a stranger in my own life"; and "I've been wondering if all the things I've seen were ever real -- were ever really happening…"

Monday, 11 April 2016

Claiming London

Both the Resident Fan Boy and I have London roots, mine on my paternal side, his on three or four branches of his father's and at least one branch of his mother's.  This is probably why I find this video eerily beautiful.

 London first appears as a knot at the centre of the Thames, then bulges and spreads, surrounded by satellites of the farms and settlements that would become villages in Middlesex, Essex, Kent, and Surrey before morphing into Greater London neighbourhoods.

My husband's and my London ancestors first made their appearances in the city during the eighteenth century.  The earliest record for the RFB is the marriage of his Huguenot great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents in Blackfriars in 1717 - three years into the reign of George I,  when the music first changes in the video.  The earliest record of my ancestors in London is the 1769 apprenticeship record of my Worcester-born great-great-great-great-grandfather, then fourteen, in Aldgate -- George III had been on the throne for nine years.

It makes sense that our forebears should appear in London with the sudden burgeoning of the capital in the Georgian era.  By the mid-twentieth century, no one in either of our direct lines remained in England's capital city.

As much as I like to imagine an ancestor attending a Shakespearean play at the Globe or the Rose, or walking the same streets as Geoffrey Chaucer, so far it seems that those of our great-grandparents who put down roots in London, came to the great city with millions of others in the eighteenth century.
"The Enraged Musician" (1741) - William Hogarth

Sunday, 10 April 2016

My meme is true

This meme is ancient, and this variation is unlikely to be recent.

I don't care.  It's so true, it hurts.

Saturday, 9 April 2016


A few weeks ago, I received a trio of lengthy and indignant texts from younger daughter.  We were at a local pub, and she was texting from the washroom, having stormed from the table when her cruel family exchanged less-than-complimentary remarks about our fellow-Canadian Justin Bieber.  She wasn't exactly a fan of his, she said, but she thought we were being unfair.

I was thinking about this when CBC music featured the following video.  It's one of the latest in a series called "Kids React to ...."

I'm not sure where they get the kids -- I suspect they're progeny of CBC Radio employees -- but the idea is to have them listen to a track and respond off the cuff.  The series started off with old Canadian classics such as "After the Gold Rush" by Neil Young, and "American Woman" by the Guess Who, but lately they been tackling recent tracks, mostly by Canadian artists, although they included Adele's "Hello".

Watch at about the 40 second mark for the moves displayed by "Charlie" who, I'm pretty sure, is a girl, and who is probably also a handful.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Through a glass, sneakily

One of the wisest things I've done this month is to "like" BBC Culture on Facebook. I've been getting links to all sorts of interesting articles.

The five regular readers of this blog - I may be overestimating, but I'm a fan of self-delusion - know that as a non-driver, I amuse myself at times with the mini-dramas that take place on buses. I call these "Writes of Passage", because I think I'm being clever - that self-delusion thing again.

George Georgiou, a London-born photographer who now makes his home in Folkestone, Kent, has been capturing what he calls "micro-dramas", but these are taking place outside the bus.  An article on the BBC Culture web site  describes one of his latest projects, Last Stop.  Georgiou would spend as long as twelve hours, riding  the length of London bus routes, sitting by the window with his camera in his lap, gazing into a right-angle lens, which looks something like this:
This, according to the article, allowed him to take his pictures undetected -- although if you peruse Last Stop (and you should), you'll see a couple of definitely suspicious stares.

I'm now tempted to purchase a right-angle lens and follow Georgiou's lead, except for four problems:
1) the cost of a damn right-angle lens;
2) the legality of snapping people without their knowledge;
3) the fact that Georgiou is a far, far better photographer than I;
4) the mud that cakes the windows of OC Transpo buses at this time of year - and depressingly enough, from November to May.

Reason Number Four is why most of my "Writes of Passage" concern dramas within the bus.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Heavy metal melted down

Back again to one of my favourite YouTube subscriptions - Postmodern Jukebox, which, with their roster of talented musicians, take songs from the past thirty years and imagine them in older styles.  What, for example, would happen if a Guns 'n' Roses staple of the 1980s had been composed in New Orleans fifty or sixty years earlier?

Naturally, a boffo tap specialist will kick it up a notch higher!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Snow birds?

I don't know why Ottawans are so indignant when it snows in April.  It snows every damn April, often in late April.  It is a bit depressing, of course -- this morning, I was noting that with a very few exceptions, the worst of the glaciers had retreated from the front yards.  Now, I look out the front door and it's as if we have been hurled back in time.

The birds on the back deck seem to be taking it in stride.  Well, flutter.  They're buzzing around the feeder like bees, some "nesting" in the accumulated snow on the deck railing, resting up to battle the others for seed.

I believe these are pine siskins.  There is one chubby adolescent, who seems disinclined to join the struggle.  He's bedded in the snow drift, trying to look cute enough to feed.  Typical.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Slightly used

It's difficult to gauge just how old she is; from across the coffee shop, she looks quite middle-aged. My mum's eye knows that the baby she is cradling hasn't been here long.

I'm delivering my cup and plate to the grey wash bin at the back, and so I pause at her table:

"Now that person is brand-new!"

She looks up at me and smiles and the years fall away from her face.
"He's two weeks."
"He's gorgeous; congratulations!"

She resumes her rapt perusal of his sleeping face.

I remember that.

Today, the Resident Fan Boy and I are attending yet another parents/teachers conference concerning younger daughter's plans for next year. Wish us luck.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Impressions of a knee-jerk nay-sayer

The Resident Fan Boy is not, of course, known as the "Resident Fan Boy" in his own household. He's known as the "Knee-jerk Nay-sayer", the master of the automatic "no".

Some years ago, I wanted to go see Catch Me if You Can but the RFB/KN balked. He couldn't stand Leonardo Dicaprio, he declared. Upon further questioning, it emerged that his aversion to Dicaprio was based on a couple of movie performances and the RFB's general impression that Mr Dicaprio is a smarmy smart-alec.

"Look at Titanic," he argued.
"Titanic," I retorted, "was a success because Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet are skilled enough actors to rise above that dialogue."

We went to CMiYC.  The RFB enjoyed it.  I don't remember if I restrained myself from saying, "I told you so."

I doubt it.

So, this past weekend, I wanted to go see Born to be Blue, starring Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker, the troubled and tragic jazz trumpeter.  Guess what?  The Resident Fan Boy couldn't stand Ethan Hawke. "Based on what?" I asked in exasperation.

It turns out that the RFB hasn't actually seen anything Ethan Hawke has been in, but he thought EH was annoying on the Graham Norton show.  A quick check doesn't indicate that Ethan Hawke has ever been on the Graham Norton Show, and, at any rate, younger daughter wanted to go because she loves jazz, which means the RFB needed to come because he's been Favourite Parent for about five years.

My own impression of Ethan Hawke is favourable, because he's an actor who takes on risky projects.  Born to be Blue is a risky biopic because it concerns a few years in the middle of the life of Chet Baker, a man who apparently seldom told the truth about anything.  In my experience, biopics are seldom accurate anyway; real lives are never tidy enough for a satisfactory two-hour movie plot.

The movie takes some elements of Baker's life, doesn't sugar-coat them, but at the same time deals with Baker with compassion -- and from what I can gather, portrays him as a much more sympathetic person than he really was.  Ethan Hawke plays him convincingly and should you see the movie, he will break your heart.

(Keep an eye out for Canadians. Much of this was filmed in Sudbury, and k.d. lang has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo as a sexually ambiguous invitée to Baker's recording comeback.)

At the end of the film, younger daughter said it was a good movie:  "I'm just upset."

The Resident Fan Boy was impressed.  I don't remember if I actually said, "I told you so."

But I probably did.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Kind hearts and coronados

I'd worked out the bus I needed, but I misplaced my glasses and left the house late. The bus that eventually trundled along had the correct number on it, and it practically wafted to a halt. The fellow wasn't driving particularly slow, but we stopped at all the stops, and each time, he carefully docked at the curb like a ferry boat.

By the time we reached the Rideau Centre, I was getting a little antsy and groaned inwardly when I realized it was a change-over, because the departing driver needs to pack up his stuff, and have a chat with the arriving driver, who then has to adjust his seat several times and recheck the mirror.

While this ritual was going on, a woman boarded the bus with her toddler, and loudly inquired, "CORONADO??" Both drivers regarded her with mild incomprehension. She began talking rapidly, both to them and to her cell-phone, repeating, "Coronado? CORONADO???" Meanwhile, the long line-up of would-be passengers began squeezing past her and stepping over the waiting toddler.

A young family ahead of me conferred across the aisle, and the mum headed up to the front, while the dad sternly indicated to the little boy sharing her seat that he must stay put. Another woman grinned at me; I must have been looking perplexed. "She's on the wrong side of the street," she explained. "She needs to go on the other #7."

And as the young mum returned to her seat, the Coronado lady disembarked, toddler in tow, and we could finally leave -- hitting every single stop light.

By the time I ran into the National Arts Centre from the Elgin Street entrance, I had less than ten minutes to make it through the whole complex to the Studio theatre on the far side, and this year, the complex is more complex than usual, due to renovations. Finding my usual way blocked, I hurried back upstairs and slipped through the lounges of Southam Hall, race-walking past the main theatre, and joining the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter waiting for the matinée performance of Concord Floral.

Younger daughter was methodically reading through the cast list. I should have done the same; it might have helped.

The title itself is a bit of a riddle. I gathered through the course of the play that it was the name of the abandoned greenhouse that is a clandestine meeting place for suburban teens. Although we're told that the teenaged characters live in a neighbourhood bounded on one side by the Queensway (27-year-old playwright Jordan Tannahill grew up in Orleans, the eastern Ottawa neighbourhood bisected by the Queensway highway), Concord is a neighbourhood in the southern end of the township of Vaughn, just north of York University in Greater Toronto. On the Google Maps Satellite view, there is a huge rectangle of discoloured and patchy grass just north of where Highway 7 and Highway 407 wind by, which, I suppose, is where the greenhouse used to be, and will soon be the site of - no surprises here - condominiums. The production we were seeing had been re-set in Ottawa.

What followed was part supernatural chiller, part urban myth, part extended metaphor, and apparently, loosely based on the Decameron. Directors' notes and reviews all stressed the vital importance of having real teenagers perform, and the cast consisted of ten 16-to-19-year-olds, all local high school students except for two, who are studying drama at the University of Ottawa.

The trouble with young performers is that few of them have the skills to project and enunciate. These young actors were all miked, and performing in the Studio Theatre, which is a relatively small space, yet the only performers I could hear consistently were the two now studying theatre at U. of O. I'm all for authenticity, and certainly, these budding actors were convincing, but the authenticity also involved the rapid speech and dropped voices of adolescence -- which meant I sometimes missed key remarks.

I did manage to follow the story -- sort of. It consists of small scenes and narrations - including the viewpoints of a fox, a bird, a couch, and the greenhouse. Fortunately for me, the "greenhouse" narrator was one of the clear speakers. One of the most confusing elements is a lengthy stare-down when the cast lines up at the edge of the performance area and eyeballs the audience for what seems like an eternity. At the performance we attended, an audience member eventually started clapping in the apparent belief the show had ended. Maybe this happens every time; maybe it's the signal to continue. I found it a bit precious and baffling.

At the very end, the "greenhouse" quotes Susan Sontag, saying that ten percent of the population will embrace cruelty, ten percent of the population will embrace mercy, and the other eighty percent could go either way, and that this was a cause for hope. Commendable, but oddly unconnected with what had just gone on. I left the theatre feeling mildly irritated, but not sorry that I'd come.

The trip home on the #7 was so uneventful that I forgot to look out to see if I could see where Corona Street was.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Four-century see-saw

This is London Bridge in 1616, in a famous engraving by Claes Janz Visscher.  If you look at the lower right hand corner, you'll see heads on spikes, a little public service announcement for people considering treason. (Click on the picture, if you must.)
And this is the same scene in 2016, drawn by artist Robin Richards.

If you go here, you can spend hours of fun, sliding back and forth between two years that are four centuries apart.

Not me, though. I'm going to bed.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Blinded by the wait (write of passage number forty)

I have found out the hard way that expressing fear, frustration, or anger to younger daughter is not helpful. Such feelings ricochet off her autism and create more damage, so, if I can, I sit on my emotions until she's not here.

And she wasn't here.

That's why I was crying uncontrollably.

It was the middle of a nutty week. Elder daughter, after nearly two years of making it on to shortlists, had finally been offered something close to a dream job. However, that afternoon, she was flipping out over contract negotiations, over-thinking, and reappearing from around the corner with yet another worry. Younger daughter had informed me that morning that she'd be needing chocolate-chip-cookie therapy after a stressful evening trying to adjust to her new radio alarm clock - a series of unfortunate events that had spiralled into an impassioned late-night text about being sick of school. (A mixed blessing about texts -- we now have a much better idea of what younger daughter is thinking - she evidently finds them easier than struggling for words on the spot.)

Meanwhile, I was finishing my last-minute assignments for an online genealogy course while baking the aforementioned cookies.

Just before logging on to the course-end chat (7:15 pm Greenwich Mean Time; 3:15 pm Eastern Daylight Time), I texted younger daughter to inform her that elder daughter wanted to have dinner out at a local pub to celebrate the new job, knowing that younger daughter should, by that time, be on the first of the two long bus rides that bring her home from her school in Nepean.

I submitted my assigned question to the chat, and after half an hour, the topic had shifted to something of interest to only three of the participants. I made myself a quick snack, checked my phone and noticed that younger daughter had not responded - unusual for her. I texted again; by this time she should be waiting downtown to transfer.

Watching the online chat sporadically, I began to worry, but just a little. Four o'clock came and went. I phoned and the call went to voice mail. Five minutes later, I tried again and younger daughter's head teacher picked up, apologizing for answering a phone that wasn't hers. Younger daughter had left her phone at school. I thanked her, telling her that we were far happier knowing the phone was safe. I didn't tell her younger daughter was late, because she wasn't late enough.

She was late enough as the online chat wound down without me; I hastily signed off.

Younger daughter always waits for the #1 bus because it drops her off at our front door.  She didn't get off the next bus that rattled past our house.  I went outside to note the number of the bus stop, texting it to check the GPS of the next bus while elder daughter assured me that her sister often arrived at 4:30 -- not true, and when she has, it's been on days she's had a lift.

At 4:33, the next bus passed without stopping.  I checked and re-checked the GPS for arrivals at our stop.  I don't think I'll ever forget those four digits.  The next bus was due at 4:55 pm.  She's never been that late.

Up to this point, I'd been calm and prosaic.

And then I wasn't.

I was blind-sided by a storm of tears, hearing myself wailing, "Where-is-she-where-is-she-why-did-she-forget-her-phone-there's-nothing-I-can-do-why-isn't-home-she-can't-reach-us-I-want-her-to-come-home...."

Over and over.  Elder daughter put her arm around my shoulder.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" I wept heartbrokenly.  This was supposed to be a wonderful day, a time to celebrate elder daughter's emergence from months of applications, interviews and dashed hopes.

"Where is she?  Where is she?  What if she got on the 118?  She could be anywhere and I can't help her!  She can't tell us...."

Elder daughter asked for the number of OC Transpo.  I was too beside myself to help her look up the number.  Instead, I staggered to the door, thinking I could scan the street once more.  I halted.

"She's here!  She's here!"

She was wandering up our street, having evidently caught the #7.  I saw her gazing up the hill at something.

I couldn't let her see how upset I'd been; previous experiences have taught me this.  I asked elder daughter to check the damage to my make-up, knowing it would take younger daughter several minutes to retrieve her keys from her back-pack.  She doesn't like us to open the door for her.

"I'm glad to see you," I told her, my voice shaking only a little.  If she noticed, she gave no sign.  It turned out her first bus had been half an hour late.

"May I have a hug?" I asked, because she's on the spectrum and I can't just embrace her.

She let me hold her for a few seconds.

Her hair smelled of the coming spring.