Monday, 31 December 2018

Parting shot

And so 2018 ebbs away. I've got family to be with (and laundry to do -- because I'm that exciting -- and so I'll cheat, as usual.

I'd just like to point out that elder daughter, at age 26, didn't recognize any of these hit tunes, but I suspect it's the holiday lyrics that make them bearable.

See you next year.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

A horse in a hospital

This is not new.

Nothing on my blog is, it seems.

Elder daughter posted this on my Facebook wall last night.

It was only when I went looking for it this morning that I realized that this has been around for about a year and a half - long enough for people with loads of spare time to actually make animated YouTube videos of it. I've decided to stick with the video elder daughter shared.

Please be aware that it is rife with F-bombs and other salty language. Oh, and it may not be clear from the posting, but the comedian here is John Mulaney.

Trump is a horse in a hospital from Rich Porter on Vimeo.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Eating crow for Christmas

No one does a rant quite like David Mitchell, and we've been favoured with two Christmas rants this year. The first is as himself - or the grumpy public version of himself; I like to imagine that he is more cozy and affable in private with his wife and family.

The second is in his role as William Shakespeare in The Upstart Crow, a BBC comedy series which has been described as "Blackadderesque", mainly because it's written by Ben Elton, who also wrote Blackadder. It's witty, and more accurate than you might think.

However, I would like to point out a flaw in this latter rant. January 6th is Epiphany. Twelfth Night is actually January 5th. And today is the Fourth Day of Christmas, so make merry.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Tree rings

It's the third day of Christmas, and this post might be more appropriate for the fifth day of Christmas, but what the heck?

I was making my way home yesterday, and happened to glance to my left as I turned up Richmond Road for the zigzag that leads me to the crest of the hill where we are living. This minuscule tree, perhaps with pretensions of being a majestic evergreen someday, was festooned with four tiny plastic Christmas rings, rather than five gold ones.

(And yes, I know that "five golden rings" refer to a ring-necked pheasant - probably well-roasted.)

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

The usual snowfall for Christmas Day in Victoria

Younger daughter was so disappointed that there was no snow this morning, she refused to accompany the Resident Fan Boy to church. Elder daughter fled out into the morning, and surprised her father at the cathedral. (He was so surprised, he didn't initially recognize her. This will take years to live down.)

Younger daughter recovered, and diligently participated in our other rituals.

The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs, is about an unexpected snow on a Christmas Eve, like the Christmas miracle we had a year ago. The Christmas special, based on the book, continues to be a poignant favourite with both my daughters, now no longer children.

The song "Walking in the Air", which features in the special, was sung by a boy soprano named Peter Auty, but it was 15-year-old Aled Jones who made it famous. This video, made twenty-five years after Jones' recording, is already more than eight years old, but I'm tired and my resistance is low.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Our childhood's pattern

The light is fading from the sky.

Younger daughter is baking cookies for Santa. Judging from the paucity of chocolate chips in the grocery stores, I'd say Santa is going to be chocolated and chipped out.

Two more gifts to wrap and label, left to the last minute only because the gift I wanted to present has failed to arrive, along with another parcel. No matter. There's twelve days of Christmas to come, and Demeter's birthday is in early February.

Tonight, I plan to accompany the Resident Fan Boy to the midnight service, where he has warden duties. That's one of my Christmas gifts to him.

The service will probably begin with "Once in Royal David's City", but if there's a soloist, I'm sure he or she will not be subjected to the extra frisson of fright accorded to the King's College Choir soloist.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Flushed with triumph

The Resident Fan Boy and I had tickets for a "Festive Baroque Christmas Concert" at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church.

St Andrews is one of two St Andrews in downtown Victoria; the other is a Roman Catholic cathedral. Having lived in Victoria for several years - not counting those seventeen hellish years in Hades - I naturally assumed I'd been there at some point; I've passed it several times.

As soon as the RFB entered through one of the red inner doors leading to the sanctuary itself, I realized I'd never been there before. It's a lovely church but quite claustrophobic, and not just because the place was jammed for the concert. Each door leads to one aisle, or one balcony only, and consequently, it's really difficult to maneuver around the place, or get a clear idea of where the unoccupied pews are - if you're there for a jammed Christmas concert, that is.

You get up to the balconies by ascending one of four winding staircases. After trying three doors and finding the section of balcony behind each door appeared to be crammed, we made our way to the very front where we sat three rows up and overlooking the performance space from behind.
This was fine for hearing the musicians, although I couldn't really hear the soprano from behind. It turned out the ensemble was being led by violinist Jeanne Lamon, who, from 1981 to 2014, was the artistic director of Tafelmusik. Another featured guest musician Kris Kwapis, who is from Seattle, and plays her baroque trumpet all over the place. The baroque trumpet is a very long instrument that made her look like a plum pudding sort of Renaissance angel.

Scanning my programme in the dark balcony, I recognized a lot of the names of the fifteen musicians in the Victoria Baroque ensemble because a few of them play in the Victoria Symphony and a few of them bear the surnames of prominent musical families in the city.

At intermission, the lady next to me picked up my programme, stuffed it in her bag and departed with her companion. I was bemused, but reasoned I needed a leg stretch anyway, and decided to try the door behind us. It led to yet another red winding staircase and I descended into a long line of ladies waiting for the tiny washroom. "Good luck," one of them grinned.

My need was not yet desperate, so I wove in and out of doors, and aisles until I found a stack of programmes. Finding my way down the opposite side of the sanctuary, I tried another door, which led to another winding staircase. This one was also red, but very dark. At the top, another door, rather brown and ancient, which I thought might lead back across the church to my balcony. Instead I found a dark sort of seminar room, or kitchen -- I didn't want to linger to find out -- but there was also a cubicle with a toilet.

I was quick, because the cubicle didn't lock, and it was kind of creepy. I had one nasty moment, when I thought the big brown door through which I'd come might not open again, but it did, and I fled.

When I found my way back to the RFB, I told him of my explorations, and the bathroom no one else seems to have discovered.

"Where is it?" he asked.

"I'm not telling you! It's mine!" I said, and we settled to enjoy the rest of the concert.

One of the pieces was the first half of this concerto by Francesco Manfredini. It's called "Pastorale per il santissimo natale", but is also known as "Christmas Concerto", and was published in 1718. The group in the video is smaller than the ensemble we heard, but the swaying dancing motions of the violins is familiar.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Gold and Frankincense

Our second Christmas back in Victoria, and the memories from my daughters' early Christmases (to say nothing of my own) feel closer and spookier.

Elder daughter has once again crossed the continent to join us, despite arriving at Hades airport twenty minutes after the check-in dateline. Badly sleep-deprived, she had underestimated the travel time. She was scolded by the first agent, who passed her on to a kindlier agent when she burst into tears. Second agent passed her a box of tissues, and informed her she could still board -- if she sent her suitcase, laden with Christmas gifts, back to her apartment. More tears which sent him ticky-tacking at his computer, and for $75 dollars more, he rebooked her, with suitcase, on a later flight.

I'm beginning to think that airlines abuse their power, rather.

Demeter has secretly transferred the gold chocolate coins for the stockings to me, and this brought back a memory of elder daughter from twenty years ago. Unfortunately, I checked my blog, and I've told this story not once but twice. However, it's a long time since the last retelling, and I'm reasonably sure no one reads this blog but bots nowadays.

Here, slightly adjusted, is how it appeared in my journal of December 1998:

On the last day of school, I bring a Santa Hat for elder daughter to wear home. The schoolyard is full of kids in Santa hats. Elder daughter is so excited, she dashes into a driveway in front of a car, something she's never done before. After a shrill warning, she runs forward again, but stops carefully at each driveway in a semi-squat, looking several times each way. The pom-pom flips back and forth.

She's rather concerned about a few classmates with Santa agnosticism, but doesn't let this interfere with her own belief. Cookies, eggnog, and cheese are left out for the big guy, and she's thrilled to get the craft kit things she has itemized in her letter to Santa. Half awake, I can hear her enthusing about getting pencil sharpeners. She's mildly put out that some stocking-stuffers are from her aunt and uncle - "I don't get it!" - but is delighted to get "frankincense". (The chocolate coins have republique française inscribed on the tin foil.)

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Storm shelter

The wind moaned in the bathroom vents this morning, but didn't really get going until we were thinking of walking into town to catch the new version of Mary Poppins.

I looked out at the seagulls surfing on the invisible hurricane gusts roaring across the school field, and listened to the windows rattle. It was only the second day since Mary Poppins Returns opened, and I thought about being surrounded by tiny movie-goers at the matinée, but I had promised elder daughter that we would go see it as a family.

And it wasn't bad. I found the plot a bit cheese-clothy, flimsy and full of holes, but P.L. Travers' books didn't have plots so much as episodes, and this was striving to stay closer to the spirit of the sequels of the original, by being set in the 1930s (as it originally was), and with Mary Poppins being rather more snarky and forbidding.

Actually, although Emily Blunt played Mary Poppins less sweetly than Julie Andrews, she was still quite a bit more amicable than the nanny of the books. And who could complain when Dick Van Dyke showed up, singing and, heaven help us, dancing in his nineties?

The lights came up during the final titles, and I could see elder and younger daughter swaying to the music. As the endless track of gold-lettered credits spun out, a young boy appeared on the stage in front of the screen, spinning and leaping to the music. He was joined by five other children, all about seven or eight years old. They began cart-wheeling across the stage, as the music played on. We watched them, entranced.

I thought about being seven or eight, five days to Christmas and the second-to-last day of school, and having just seen Mary Poppins. Will the cartwheeling kids remember this? I think they might.

Some days, it's the right choice to go to the cinema, even if the hail stings your neck on the walk home.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Double-takes and ladders (Write of Passage Number Forty-eight)

It's a double-decker, but late afternoon on the last Wednesday before Christmas, and most of the seats are taken near the front. I squeeze to the back, where the long rear seat is unoccupied.

I'm rather startled when a young woman plops down next to me, as it isn't elder daughter, in town for Christmas and - I'd thought - on my heels. This girl is long and lanky, with laddered black leggings that she has evidently shredded herself. (I gather this is a thing.) She looks a bit tired -- or stoned. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Elder daughter slides into the seat facing me, and we exchange glances. As the bus rolls on, I remark, glancing up at the lack of headroom directly above my seat,"Good opportunities for concussion here, when we try to get out."

Before my daughter can reply, laddered lady drawls, "Yeah." After a pause, she adds, "I always come close to crashing down the stairs from the upper level."

This is Victoria, so I smile and nod amicably, while elder daughter carefully covers her confusion.

We all alight at the same stop - none of us has bumped our heads - and we see laddered lady saunter out ahead of us across Fort Street.

"That was so bizarre," chuckles elder daughter, who has lived in Hades for eighteen of her twenty-six years. "She thought you must have been a friendly lady just randomly chatting to her."

That's how we roll here, toots. Anyhow, judging the direction she's taken, she may very well be a neighbour in our building.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

It is the best of times....

It is the worst of times.

It's Advent.

Today, I was especially reminded of friendships.

And I was painfully reminded of my shortcomings as a mother of someone on the autistic spectrum.

I was locked out of this blog. Again. This time, it's something to do with Chrome. However, I went to Safari, of all places, and got back in.

I'm tired. Can we do this tomorrow?

I like this Advent carol. I've mentioned this before, but I like it.

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.