Sunday, 30 September 2018

Phishful thinking

Some weeks ago, the Resident Fan Boy and I were ambushed by a 6 am phone scam.

Here is a creative way to deal with some kinds of scams - obviously only an option with those with plenty of time to kill.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

A little fight music

Not long after the current President of the United States was inaugurated, Bernice King, daughter of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, posted a list of guidelines for coping with the coming chaos. She evidently wasn't the originator, as she speaks of "wise advice circulating", but she was definitely taking the high road.

So, the following is definitely not the high road, but halfway through that man's administration (which is probably a misnomer in itself), I can't help but find this - oh, I dunno - a relief?

Be warned, the lyrics are simple, but profane:

Friday, 28 September 2018

Mapping out the sky

With the arrival of autumn, Victoria's limited but beautiful fall palette has appeared, along with cultural opportunities.

Last Saturday, we accompanied one of elder daughter's godmothers for a "live-streaming" (not live at all, but a specially filmed stage performance) of the Broadway musical version of An American in Paris at the Silver City Tillicum, courtesy of Cineplex. I really wish these streamed plays and ballets were better attended; they're a remarkable opportunity.

As a former subscriber to Broadway Across Canada, I've partaken of a number of movie-to-musical offerings, mostly of films I'd never cared that much for in the first place. Dirty Dancing? Meh. Flash Dance? Bleurgh.

As a result, I was expecting a pretty faithful rendering of the 1951 film, starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, and Oscar Levant.

Instead, we got a rather dark interpretation, showing a version of events set in a recently post-war Paris: disablement, displacement, retribution.

Also, rather more Gershwin tunes than were featured in the frothy, light-hearted film, where the darkest it got was Gene Kelly's character worried, in typical 1950s fashion, about being beholden to his older, more cynical, and, most critically, female, mentor. The male lead in the "live-stream", we saw, incidentally, was not the actor featured in the above trailer.

We were seeing the London West End production, and the singing was fabulous, and the dancing - wow. Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, whose CV in the ballet world is downright intimidating.

There was a high standard of acting, including a fine turn by Jane Asher, who, although a well-known and successful actor in Britain, will probably go down in history as the girl Paul McCartney never got around to marrying.

Seeing as WNET appears to have had a hand in the filming of this production, I expect it to show up on PBS soon.

On Sunday, we began our stint as subscribers to the Victoria Symphony. It turns out that a new Principal Pops conductor has taken over. His name is Sean O'Loughlin, and, of course he seems wildly qualified. Having been subscribers to the NAC Pops for a chunk of our time in Hades, we have grown to appreciate how a conductor can attract impressive guest artists. This certainly seemed to be the case for a concert celebrating Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim on Broadway (with Stephen Schwartz and Richard Rogers getting dragged in for good measure). We had a soprano named Lara Ciekiewicz, who is certainly Canadian-trained, and David Curry, who has connections to the Royal Academy of Music in London, and Le Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

I was enjoying them well enough until Curry stepped forward to sing "Finishing the Hat" which is probably my favourite song from what is probably my favourite Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George. (Completely coincidentally, I'm reading Sondheim's critique of his own pre-1980s works in a book called Finishing the Hat. Sadly, Sunday in the Park with George isn't included, being a 1980s musical.)

Anyway, Curry, who played the lead role in a Paris production, actually made my jaw drop. He was that good. I don't have a video of his rendition, but there's this rather fuzzy clip from the original Broadway production, starring a very young Mandy Pantinkin as French pointillist George Seurat:

After the intermission, they were going to do, naturally, numbers from West Side Story. And Curry got me again. It turns out that he's played Tony in a number of productions, and his control was stunning. (The songs from West Side Story are deceptive. Everyone knows them, but they are fiendishly difficult to sing.)

This is from about ten years ago, when he was considerably younger. As were we all.

At the close of the concert, we waiting to file up the aisles. Since we're fans of the front rows, this was taking some time, and suddenly Mr. Curry himself emerged, about to make a bee-line to greet the wife and young daughters of the conductor. I quickly grabbed the opportunity to tell him that "Finishing the Hat" is a particular favourite of mine and that I'd particularly enjoyed his performance. He thanked me courteously and I moved along promptly.

The Resident Fan Boy heard a lady tell David Curry that she hadn't realized how tall he was. He was undoubtedly gracious to her, as well.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Did you know Jake Gyllenhaal could sing? Me neither.

We've been entertaining a cousin from England this week, so, although I have several blog entries nearly ready, I'm falling back on a YouTube video that showed up when I was searching for something else.

This is Jake Gyllenhaal singing an oddly repressed version of "Finishing the Hat" from Stephen Sondheim's musical Sunday in the Park with George, but that's not the point.

The point is:
a) he's singing a difficult song (Sondheim's ditties are no walk in the park, even if they're from a musical entitled Sunday in the Park with George);
b) he's singing while descending a staircase;
c) I didn't know he could sing at all.

Have a listen.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Moon chaser

I walked fifteen kilometres today. One of the Resident Fan Boy's cousins is in town, and since the RFB is at work, I was escorting her.

For that, and a number of reasons I don't wish to discuss, I was making my way home through the dark streets. As I reached the corner of Cook and Fort, I looked east and nearly keeled over.

An enormous peach-coloured moon was rising over the hill. Of course, all I had was my phone, but I snapped and snapped anyway, chasing it up the street. This is the best I could do, shading the glare of the street lamps with the telephone poles. The orb is still blurred, and not nearly as clear and certainly not as peachy as it was.

I'm exhausted. G'night.

Monday, 24 September 2018

I know it sounds a bit bizarre

After a weekend of musical theatre - which I'll tell you about tomorrow, all being well -- I was in the mood for something shorter, but equally as musically pleasing and witty.

Gawd I love this guy. The production values, the incisive (with considerable incisors) commentary, the clever lyrics, the wigs, the pink pussy hats....

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Arise, arouse, a rose

It's something like this that really makes me miss my sense of smell. This was along my route home this morning. It used to be a bed-and-breakfast, which was bordered with many different roses, but there are a few left. The ones this colour usually had a glorious fragrance. I breathed in through my eyes instead.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Storm front

The first indication that anything was wrong came in an email on the Resident Fan Boy's computer at work.
Now, as it happens, the Resident Fan Boy was ensconced in his lonely basement office in Victoria. (Safe from any tornado in Ottawa, but safety is a relative term. Last winter, they cleared his building in a bomb scare, but no one remembered he was in the basement. He came up to look for someone to go for coffee, and found the floors deserted. Someone eventually ran back in to look for him.)

Our problem is that Elder Daughter and the Accent Snob live in Ottawa. The RFB texted me, I turned on the Weather Network, and sat clutching my phone as I gazed at maps featuring large swathes of violent pink and orage orange, which traced a line of storms making their way from the Great Lakes to the Ottawa River.

After a couple of worried texts from me, elder daughter, at work and about to go out to dinner, gave up and phoned me, assuring me that there had already been a tornado watch earlier in the summer that had come to nothing.

She seemed to forget that she was talking to someone who lived in Ottawa for seventeen years. Yes, I know that a tornado watch/warning usually pops up at least once every summer, and it usually comes to nothing -- but not always. About ten summers ago, the RFB was alone in the house in New Edinburgh, when the sky turned a kind of dark green, and the meteorologist on the Weather Network was burbling in excitement that a tornado was heading straight for the city. The RFB and our neighbour, who had the other half of our semi-detached, played chicken on the porch before heading down to their respective basements. The tornado veered and hit near Cornwall, a small city to the south-east.

Anyway, elder daughter assured me she was all right, and checked on the Accent Snob in her apartment, before hailing an Uber with a colleague to go to a farewell dinner for another coworker in some place called Cedarhill - which turned out to be about five kilometres west of the Merivale Power Station, which was completely knocked out by the tornado, or a related storm, and about five kilometres south of Arlington Woods and Craig Henry neighbourhoods, which looked like this today:

Gatineau, Québec, across the Ottawa River from the centre of the city, and Dunrobin, Ontario, a rural community to the northeast of Ottawa, got the worst of it. Casualty reports are still small; no reported deaths, but at least half a dozen seriously injured people, one with "life-threatening injuries".

Elder daughter and her coworkers ended up having a candle-lit dinner when the power failed, but the food was already cooked. She made it home safely to the Accent Snob, who apparently had a "panic poop" and covered it with a blanket. Elder daughter has power, but thousands across the city don't, including our former neighbour, who reports that it seems to be just "our block". She's had a baby recently, and was able to retreat to her own parents, while the food spoils in the fridge.

Elder daughter reported the strange post-tornado vibe: "The way the weather immediately cleared up is super misleading downtown, because it's all too easy to be like "huh what a lovely day . . . hey, why can't I buy bread?" (Massive line-ups at the stores that aren't closed.)

As for us, I think of where we were exactly a year ago -- having to vacate the house several times a week for showings -- so happy to be here.

Of course, we're in major earthquake territory here. Last winter, I slept through a tsumami alert.

My chief indicator of how serious the situation in Ottawa is?  The Ontario Genealogical Society cancelled their presentations today.  Try telling that to elder daughter....

Friday, 21 September 2018

The drums echoing tonight

As has been established, I love Postmodern Jukebox, and I love Casey Abrams in PMJ. Never been that crazy about the lyrics of Toto's "Africa", but what the heck:
I think this video is rather fun -- if not quite live, and I'm delighted to see the inclusion of Snuffy Walden, who is also known as "W.G. Snuffy Walden", and has scored several television shows, including My So-called Life, one of the few shows that showed high school life authentically. (Also loved the music of the opening.)

Thursday, 20 September 2018


A memory from late spring:

There are two logs where the turtles sunbathe on a sunny afternoon, such as this. The closest one is in a bed of water lilies, and today, we see it lazily rolling while a turtle clambers on and the others slowly shift to stay aboard.

I know younger daughter will take a long time gazing and snapping photos with her phone, so I make a beeline for a bench. The tall woman sitting there makes to move over, but I assure her there's plenty of room. We discuss the turtles and the high mortality rate amongst the ducklings.

The lady tells me that she saw a crow make off with a baby duck one day, and that the parents swam endlessly in circles where the little one had been.

As she speaks, I realize she's transgender. We sit companionably in silence, watching the turtles and ducks, while I ponder about how many LGBTQ people there seem to be nowadays, before it occurs to me that they were always there. She gets up and we both say it was nice to meet.

The wind has picked up, and I see younger daughter standing under the willow tree with the strands billowing out. It's the real Wind in the Willows, and I think that Kenneth Grahame may have had a scene like this in mind, with ducks and adolescent ducklings dabbling, up tails all.

It's not a river, though, and there's no sign of Mole nor Rat.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Shell game

I took this picture exactly eight years ago, by the Rideau River.

I have a Victoria story to tell. It involves turtles. A bit. It will have to wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

A lousy choice for a first dance at a wedding

I heard this in a restaurant, identified it with "Shazam", and looked it up on YouTube. In the comments for the official video - a video which I found unfunny and slapdash - someone said it was the first song at her wedding reception. An odd choice, if you listen to the lyrics.

This isn't the official video, by the way.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Remembering September

Oh. A Victorian September after an absence of nineteen years.

The last full September I spent in Victoria was in 1999.

And it's green, with hints of gold and red. (I mean the leaves, not the riots of gold and red coming from the flowers in this photo. But that, too.)

The air is fresh and cool, even in the sunlight, which is warm but not oppressive.

If I could smell, I'd breathe in the wet pavement and damp leaves between showers that dampen, but do not soak.

I'd forgotten this.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

There goes Jupiter; here comes Mars

One thing I finally managed to do after years of just missing, was attending a bit of the "B-film Festival" at the Cameron Bandshell this past summer. The festival originally showed honest-to-gawd B films, but has evidently found that family-friendly classics and action films draw the crowds, so I settled into my hard bench to watch Some Like It Hot.

This was a good choice because I've seen it many times before, so could slip away in time to catch a bus home, because downtown Victoria is a wee bit creepy on a Saturday night, and I was on my own while the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter visited elder daughter in Ottawa for Chamberfest.

It was a clear night which meant it got cold very quickly, and I caught a glimpse of a shooting star spitting to the south, and a bird of prey circling uncomfortably close to the blue heron nests next to the clearing.

At about 10:25, just before Tony Curtis and Marilyn Munroe got into some heavy necking, I crept from my seat and felt my way nervously around the dark duck ponds, rather wishing I had the nerve to stop and star-gaze. Good thing I didn't because my bus came five minutes early and fifteen minutes later, I found myself crossing a nearly deserted Yates Street, and there was Mars, hanging red and clear above the schoolyard.
As I turned south, Jupiter shone silver to my left.

I trotted home to the apartment I'd carefully lit before leaving, and missed my family, while drinking in my solitude wistfully.

It wasn't until the morning that I discovered the mosquito bites. They were clear and red too.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

The isle is full of noises

With the coming of September, we get odd cloud formations, catching strange shadows. I look out the window and see green and grey, with splashes of gold, which are either patches of sunlight, or the first of the yellow leaves. I think back to the earlier part of the summer, when I was locked out of this blog, but free to walk out. Two beautiful outdoor art experiences come to mind.

One is from a rare rainy evening in early July, before St Swithin swept the showers away. We watched The Tempest on the grounds of Camosun College, under a mushroom cap of grey clouds, as the Garry Oaks swayed and rustled, giving atmosphere to Prospera's (yes, a woman playing a woman) spells, and to the tempest itself, which opens Shakespeare's play.

Caliban crawled across the ground, a cross between a jackal and a spider, then racoon-like, bellied under the low platformed stage and didst painfully remain there for a good ten to fifteen minutes.

A young deer wandered across the lawn behind the actors, and clambered up the volcanic rock into the brush.

I felt six raindrops, but no more. As the sun, visible only on the edges of the mushroom cap, sank in the north-west, a handkerchief chunk of broad rainbow hung on the southern horizon at intermission.

The next day, we headed down to the Cameron Bandshell in Beacon Hill Park to hear Dixie jazz -- but got The Choir and The Chorus instead, two non-auditioned singing groups under the same director. They sang Sarah Harmer, Radiohead, and a host of Indie Rock songs -- adapted for choir -- including one of my favourites, "Walking on Broken Glass" by Annie Lennox.

As the music hummed and soared, a shower of tiny golden leaves drifted over the audience. I looked down and saw two in the crooks of my arms, so took them in my fingers and made wishes for my daughters.

Above our heads, dragonflies zoomed like tiny Sopwith Camels.

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

Friday, 14 September 2018

How about it?

As usual, I was looking for something else when this video turned up. The song is a favourite of mine, and the only disappointment is that, despite the title, Emmy-Lou Harris doesn't appear.

Wouldn't have that been wonderful? I still was spellbound, and came close to weeping; this is a gorgeous arrangement.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Gone with the woodwinds

These Vivaldi Guys have a page on Facebook, which features two videos and says next to nothing about them. If you google them, you won't find much, except the CBC Music article that brought them to my attention.

Are they Italian? French? Something else? I dunno.

For the first few seconds of this video, I actually thought they were clarinetists. Whoever they are, they are clever musicians. Not bad dancers, either....

Wednesday, 12 September 2018


Some time after I cross Rockland, I start hearing the music.

It's a male voice singing in a swooping, sad sort of ballad. It sounds like he's being accompanied by a trombone; I don't know how likely that is. The music seems to be coming out of someone's backyard, but fades as I pass, only to issue out of a garden gate. The melody, what I can make of it, swings around houses, first on the right, then the left.

I realize, as it echoes from a balcony, that the performer is far away, perhaps Beacon Hill Park, or at Ocean Point, or the Inner Harbour, or even in Centennial Square downtown. This is a feature of a summer evening in Fairfield; I used to hear eerie echoes of concerts at the Cameron Bandshell while standing by my front gate on Collinson Street.

Perhaps the concert will still be going if I head into the park, I tell myself.
I walk through the ancient arch of maple trees on Chester Street, hearing the song ricochet, and then a voice seems to say, "Thank-you."

But in the park, I hear no music, and the sun is sinking goldenly into silence.

On the logs where the turtles sunbathe during the day, a long row of ducks are grooming in preparation for bedtime.

A sign informs me that an old tree is deceased and diseased, and will be taken down. I touch the rough bark and whisper goodbye, before going to catch the bus home.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Face-plant in Chelsea

Elder daughter suddenly appeared on FaceTime on my phone this morning. She wanted to show me her teeth.

Maybe I should explain.

About three weeks ago, elder daughter was in London. She had arrived three days before, booked into an AirBnB in Hampstead, done a London Walk, taken the Chunnel to Paris to meet up with a Belgian friend for a day-trip, and on a Wednesday morning, was on another London Walk in Chelsea. I think it's safe to say that she may have been still recovering from jet-lag, although I'll bet she'll hotly deny it.

She'd paused to take a picture of a rather unremarkable sculpture in front of a Mercedes-Benz dealer, noticed the group had progressed up Cheyne Walk, so ran to catch up. Somewhere in front of Keith Richard's old house, she slid home, leading with the left side of her face and torso. Her fellow walkers helped clean her up a bit with wet-wipes and bandaids.

I believe she completed the walk, but was unable to go "home", because she had a ticket for Ian McKellen's King Lear at The Duke of York's Theatre in the West End that evening.

To say this put a dent in her visit is a understatement. It put several other dents into her, as well.

By the evening she was sporting a burgundy shiner to compliment a road-rashed jaw and scraped knuckles.

A brisk exchange of texts ensued, whenever both she and I had WiFi access, mostly pleadings on my part to get a gel pack and ice, ice, ice.

On the train to Sutton Coldfield to visit cousins the following day, she developed a chronically painful shoulder. By the time she was en route to Heathrow, a little over a week later, she was in agony from sore ribs.

She had to wait through the Labour Day weekend to see her doctor. The receptionist told her that they were booked for the day -- until elder daughter mentioned "slight" problems breathing, and the receptionist's voice went up a couple of octaves.

So elder daughter has been on anti-inflammatories for a week, at which point she chose to tell me that her front teeth are no longer symmetrical.

Well, they looked okay, but I told her that her grandmother knocked three teeth loose when she was a teenager. About a decade later, I came out, and so did one loosened tooth. The other two made their exit with my sister.

Elder daughter will consult with her doctor and dentist. I've told her to blame it on her crazy mother. They've met me, after all.

For three weeks, I've had "Brimful of Asha" on the brain, except I find I'm substituting "Face-plant in Chelsea", and "Ev'ryone needs a pavement to fall on; ev'ryone needs a pavement..." My twisted psyche strikes again.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Corn fed

A lively gentleman with dark skin and an American accent has been enjoying various conversations with friendly strangers while sitting on the cushioned bench that lines the outside of the patio at Moka House. By the time he's winding up his third conversation, this one with an older gentleman at the table next to mine, he's negotiating for Silver Rill corn, to be delivered to him at the outdoor piano at Oak Bay. (You can't get Silver Rill corn in a store, you have to head out to Central Saanich.)

Still rhapsodizing about Peaches and Cream corn, he spots me dissolving into giggles, and pushes his palms up on each side: "Can you believe this?"

I can.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Taking direction, Pt 2

As we swing toward the equinox, I become aware of the darkness of the evening streets again. I'm walking Demeter home after celebrating the Resident Fan Boy's birthday.

It has been one of those twenty-first century family gatherings, with elder daughter watching the proceedings from our computer screen. Demeter jokingly offered her image the first slice of birthday cake. (And yes, younger daughter did manage, after half a dozen tries and several admonishments at me to stop hovering, to light the candles herself. To be fair, the match box is ancient; even I need an attempt or two to strike a light.)

A lady approaches Demeter and me, as we trundle with Demeter's walker past a cabinet left by the sidewalk.

If this were twenty years ago, she tells us with a Texas twang, she'd be picking this up and taking it home.

She falls into step with us, jovially assuring us she's not stalking us, but would like to ask if we've heard of the Beagle.

"The pub down in Cook Street Village?" I ask.

She's asking for directions, so I give her two sets for walking there, telling her it will take her about twenty minutes.

It's only after she has walked on and turned into a driveway where a car with California plates is parked, that it occurs to me that I'm talking to an American, and that means that it's unlikely she'll be walking.

A few summers ago, one of my American cousins came up from California for a visit, and because her son helps design haunted houses, we took them on one of the city's Ghostly Walks. They had rented a car for the visit, and I was mildly surprised when they didn't offer me a lift home. Later in the week, they came to visit me at my house-sit and were astonished that it was so close. They had assumed, when I told them that it took me about half an hour to get home, that I was referring to the driving time, and not a bus journey.

As Demeter and I make our slow way through the darkening streets of Fairfield, I comfort myself with the idea that our Texan lady is unlikely to drive into the ocean.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

If I only had the time

Today, the Resident Fan Boy is celebrating his first birthday in Victoria in 19 years.

Younger daughter has informed me by text that she also wants to light the candles this year, because she is "22 years old!". Pray for us.

While she was meticulously baking and decorating the cake yesterday, I entertained her with this latest Randy Rainbow concoction. I swear the man has the tidiest eyebrows on YouTube.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Not quite so early one morning

On my morning descent, I notice that someone has dangled an ornament beneath the large gnarly branch of an ancient Garry Oak. It's the sort of quirky thing you'd expect to see in this part of the city, a tiny rendition of a birdhouse.

An older gentleman in stretchy light-grey pants notices that I have stopped to snap a picture and falls in step with me briefly, remarking on the neighbourhood, and how amazed he is that a family with small children lives in an enormous old house on the corner.

"Grandparents with money, I'll bet," I sigh. I can't think of many young families in the past couple of decades who could afford a large house within the old city limits without parental help.

"They've got a dog, too," I add. "They let him out in the yard by himself, I wish they wouldn't."

A friendly city worker cheerfully directs us to the other side of the street to avoid a cherry-picker, which is trimming back another Garry Oak from the lines and wires.

My stretchy-panted friend takes his leave and continues southward in his flip-flops.

Later in the day, the blessed rain finally falls.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Smoke gets in your eyes

I'm afraid I took this picture myself.
When I look back at this summer during which I was effectively locked out of this blog, I will remember three key things.

The third (I may discuss the other two later) is the relentless spread of wildfires across the province of British Columbia, even to the northern end of Vancouver Island -- an American cousin thought the the Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca could shield us. Even if the fires had stayed beyond the water, the skies darkened for days at a time. In the Interior, it was for weeks, and is still a problem from time to time.

For the worst of it, we had an Air Quality Index of 10+, which is worse than Beijing.

I kept the windows closed, and didn't stray far. The air had an orange tinge and a taste that scratched the back of my throat, which reminded me of the August smog in Ottawa before limits on industrial emissions largely cleared the skies about eight years ago.

This song by Kate Bush drifted through my mind, like the smoke outside.

She was singing of nuclear fall-out, but really, how hopeful are the implications of what seems to be becoming an annual event?

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Vish list

Cons and scams are not just for those we think of as vulnerable: the elderly, the ill-educated, the inexperienced, the chronically-ill. The fact is, we're all at risk, and we ourselves are naive if we think we're immune to nefarious tactics.

Take the Resident Fan Boy and me this morning. 6 am. He's in the bathroom, preparing for work -- and let's leave at that. I'm in bed, having taken two extra-strength night-time cold remedies the night before.

So when the ringing jars me out of my sleep, I think the worst. Demeter is elderly and, although at present in good health, spent a week in hospital for a digestive malady a couple of months ago. Elder daughter is in Hades, having just returned from a trip to London where she had a close encounter with a pavement while running to catch up with a walking tour, and just had a chest X-ray yesterday.

I leap to the phone, which, for logistical reasons, is perched across the room. (We need a landline to operate the entrance door to our apartment building.)

It's an automated call with a woman's voice telling me dispassionately: "We wish to inform you of two recent purchases on your Visa account. One was a (moderate sum) -dollar iTunes purchase, and the other was a (ginormous sum)-dollar eBay purchase. As these are not usual purchases for your account, we are alerting you to a possible illegal use of your card. Press 1 to approve these purchases; press 2 to cancel these purchases; press 0 to hear this message again."

I press 0, and in a voice hoarse with a miserable cold which has kept me house-bound for four days, scream for the Resident Fan Boy, who finishes what he's doing (don't ask), and lumbers over to listen. He asks me to hand over his credit cards and in the haze of pre-dawn panic, my first penny drops. His card isn't missing.

The RFB can't make out the numbers on his card, but as I go to the light switch, I say: "Shouldn't you call Visa?"

Of course, the next thing he finds out is that it isn't easy to hang up on the message. It doesn't occur to either of us that he can simply make the call from his cell phone -- where he apparently gets notifications of every Visa purchase.

While the RFB listens to Muzak, waiting for a Visa employee, the second penny drops for me. At no point has the RFB's name been mentioned.

Eventually my husband is talking to a polite and reassuring person who tells him that Visa would never call at that hour. Visa-guy also shares that he himself once got about fifteen calls in a row from a scammer. Something to look forward to, because, in his panic, the RFB pressed 2 to cancel the purchases, which means they know someone has answered, which puts us well and truly on the vish-list.

The RFB works for the CRA, and together, we have laughed heartily at the attempts to defraud us, particularly with the famous CRA scam. So you might think we'd know better.

Apparently not at 6 am.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Grief encounter

Nurses, I find, tend to be tough-love care-givers, with strong streak of skepticism and a sense of humour as dark as dried blood. I've worked with them as a youthful home support work, and as a hospice volunteer, and rather liked knowing where I was with them, even if it was a bit uncomfortable from time-to-time.

I ran into an ex-hospice-nurse last week. Our paths have crossed once or twice in the past few months, but she didn't seem to recognize me, so I didn't waylay her -- after all, I was just one of hundreds of volunteers. I remembered her as a mother of young children, with a grim set to her mouth (which may have been scar tissue), and a no-holds-barred way of speaking which was disconcerting even by nursing standards. I like her well enough, but was wary of her jarring candour.

I was striding up the aisle in a smallish drugstore, and I nearly ran straight into her. She greeted me by name, so she clearly remembered me, and as we caught up, I realized she wasn't aware I'd been out of the city for seventeen years.

Not that it mattered. Her husband died a couple of years ago. He had a neurological disease, and being an LPN himself, didn't want to stick around for the inevitable, so he committed suicide. All this related matter-of-factly, of course.

Since we were both hospice veterans, I found myself casting around for the training I'd been given years ago. The volunteers were trained in what was called "active listening". The point is to feed back what you're hearing, so that the speaker can hear what you're understanding. It's actually a pretty exhausting way to listen, and I'm out of practice, which is a shame, because it's a useful skill.

She spoke of the toughness of the second year of loss: "During the first year, there was such a lot to do, to iron out. Now I feel his absence. I wish ---" She pauses, and grimaces. I remember that about her. "I wish I knew where he was. My children dream about him. I guess I don't because he's in my conscious mind all the time, and dreams come from your subconscious. I wish I could feel him."

I say, "The older I get, the more I think that every gift we're given will be taken back."

That's not active listening. But I feel a nasty jolt of truth when I say it. Probably not helpful for her.

She embraces me as we say goodbye. She says she's seen me many times. Perhaps as many times as I've seen her?

Sunday, 2 September 2018

The summerside

Everyone talks about summer being over, even when it doesn't officially end for at least another three weeks.

This is the time when Ottawans steadfastly put on their autumn clothes, despite the humidex -- just as they don open-toed shoes in late March to walk through the slush.

However, we're in Victoria, which never was that clothes-conscious, probably because we're not that seasonal.

I've been inside with a miserable cold for two days, but there are lovely views out the window, but not this one, which is a few blocks away.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Taking direction

So I'm crossing Fort Street at Linden Avenue. It's a well-marked zebra crosswalk without a light. In Ottawa, no one would stop for it, but I'm in Victoria, so a car stops, and because I'm not quite the fool you might think, I smile and peer nervously around the halted vehicle to make sure I won't get mown down by whoever is coming up in the right lane.

It's a motorcycle and as I catch his eye to make sure he's stopping, he calls out to me.
"Am I heading downtown?"
"No, it's behind you."

He turns right on Linden, and by the time I catch up to him, he's consulting his phone.
"You can turn right at the next corner to head back," I tell him.
"Wouldn't it be easier to head back down Fort?"
"Well, Fort is one-way. You could take Ormond." I point out the street, which we can see from where we're standing. "Ormond will take you to Yates, and Yates will take you right back downtown."

He shakes his head doubtfully.
"I think I'll just turn."

Off he goes, hanging a right on Rockland.

It's only later that it occurs to me that Rockland only goes as far as Vancouver Street.

Oh, well. Maybe he'll listen to somebody else.