Monday, 1 July 2019

Gifts from the Maple Leaf Fairy

The Resident Fan Boy has resumed his custom of draping our dwelling with a flag for Canada Day. He had stopped during Stephen Harper's Reign of Middle Management. I awoke this morning and it was like the Maple Leaf Fairy had left a blessing for the homes of good little Canadians.

So how is one a good little Canadian? Well, there's this much-shared video, which has much that Canadians might recognize, although some things have changed in the three brief years since this was first produced. Note the outdated references to the Raptors, Donald Trump, and Stephen Harper himself.

I was wondering why some of the actors looked familiar, and realized I'd seen them in the YouTube series Convos with My Two-Year-Old, which operates on the strange conceit of a father recreating actual chats with his toddler daughter -- who is played by a grown man.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

June will change her tune in restless walks

Out at 9 am to walk down the long hill via Linden Avenue. I'll miss going by this route on a regular basis.

I'm brought to a standstill by these. I don't know what they are; Demeter would. They are buzzing with bees and fluttering with butterflies - none of which hang around for a photograph.

Never mind, I know that they're there, and, perhaps foolishly, they give me hope for the planet.

Please don't tell me differently.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Might have been the paint fumes (Write of passage number fifty)

The RFB and younger daughter elect to walk Demeter home after dinner at a Japanese restaurant to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

I'm exhausted after a long day of running errands, so I trot in the opposite direction to the bus stop, where an express bus is loading passengers. The express bus doesn't drop me off as close to our apartment as other buses do, but it's a Friday evening and I have no offhand idea about when the other buses might be coming, so I join the queue, and find myself an aisle seat, which is fine, because my destination is a few stops east.

"How are you this evening?" says a man sitting directly across the aisle, about two feet away. He is deeply tanned with grizzled stubble and dark brown eyes.

"Very well indeed," I respond automatically. It's Victoria, and this is a short ride.

"That's good! Where are you from?"

I'm a wee bit startled. "Pardon?"

"Where are you from? Are you anglaise?"

I'm even more nonplussed: a) because no one has asked if I'm English for years; and b) his accent sounds neither French nor Québecois to me.

"Well, I'm from here."


"Yes, I grew up here."

He launches into a description of his plans for the evening. He tells me he wants beer; he wants to bathe in beer.

"Well," I tell him, "fancy ladies use to wash themselves in beer."

"Ah, I paint all day," he says. (His clothes attest to this.) "I want the beer for my head; it will make me right."

I chuckle and rise. "Well, have a lovely evening!"

"Goodnight! I love you!" he calls after me as I step down on to the pavement.

Friday, 28 June 2019

The case against clairvoyance

The Resident Fan Boy and I are trembling on the brink of another major wedding anniversary -- but not this year. Next year.

I post a wedding photo on Facebook each June, in part to preserve photos on the internet, so I decided that this year, not being a major anniversary, but a sizeable one - they get bigger annually - I should skip the usual ones of bride and groom, and go for a shot of the guests.

I chose "before-and-after" shots of the moment that I, having been made to turn my back, threw my bouquet. In the first, the single ladies, all either born in the same year as me, or just a couple of years before or after, are standing in wait. In the second, Double Leo Sister is spiking the bouquet like a volleyball into the arms of a woman due to be married in a month.

And now, years later, I find myself gazing at the young women in their pretty summer dresses, remembering that, of the crowd, only one woman remains single. (She's school principal and a proud aunt.) Another died a dozen years ago. Of the others, about half divorced their eventual husbands; three married twice.

I look in the background, and see my aunt, and others who were middle-aged and older at the time -- all gone now; and a young man with his cup of coffee - years before losing a son to suicide.

Prescience would be such a burden, particularly at weddings.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Fear of watching

I've been trying to finish watching the second season of The Handmaid's Tale.

It's been on the PVR for months. I think I got something like two thirds of the way through.

The trouble is, I need three things in order to be able to watch The Handmaid's Tale:
1) I need to be alone because the Resident Fan Boy won't watch it, and younger daughter shouldn't watch it.
2) Because I have to be alone to watch The Handmaid's Tale, I need to be in a relatively sunny mood.
3) It has to be during the day, because no matter how cheerful I'm feeling, I'm not going to watch ritualized rape, tortures and executions at night.

Of course, now the third season's begun, and I'm really getting behind.

The thing about The Handmaid's Tale, it's well-written, well-acted, and way too damn plausible. Margaret Atwood always said there wasn't anything in the story that hadn't happened, or isn't happening to women.

While I'm trying to get my nerve up, I thought this 2017 parody, with the cast of Saturday Night plus guest host Chris Pine, might be bearable:

Well, I guess it is. It's still way too damn real.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Mapped out

About three years ago, I was trudging through a parking lot in the bleak landscape that is Hades in early May. Directly ahead of me, trundling down Loyer Street, was the Google Car with its tent-pole multi-directional camera perched on top.

It took some weeks, but the next time Street View was updated, there I was, looking a bit like a bear, carrying my cloth shopping bags filled with cake mix for younger daughter's approaching birthday. I screen-saved it, of course. It wasn't the most flattering view of me, but it's a memory, now long gone from Google Maps.

This morning, I walked past our future condo, and noticed the Sold sign from last week had disappeared. I guess it's pretty well ours now, although we can't go in until August. While I was thinking how glad I was that I'd taken a picture of the sign, a white car with a tent-pole multi-directional camera sailed by.

I checked the time. 9:48 on the morning of 26 June 2019. Persephone walking by her future condo on her way to Moka House.
I'll check Google Maps in a few weeks.

Unless it was an Apple Maps car. Or a Bing car. Or....

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

So swishy

With weekly excursions to Pic-a-Flic, I've been seeing a lot of films that I always meant to see. Last night, it was The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - a strange film, even for Wes Anderson. I had decided on it, because I showed Moonrise Kingdom to the Resident Fan Boy last week, and he had loved it.

Life Aquatic almost lost me in the first half, but things picked up. The film ends with a tribute to the march that finishes the 1984 flick The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, which, frankly, is the only memorable thing about Buckaroo Banzai.

Anyway, at the close of The Life Aquatic, Bill Murray hoists a young boy on his shoulders as the credits roll. As he struts determinedly toward his cartoonish boat, he is joined, one by one, by the other cast members. The gentleman in the beige jacket joining the group at just past the two-minute-mark is none other than Bud Cort, the star of one of my all-time favourites Harold and Maude (1971)

I loved the song they were strutting to, but didn't recognize it. All through the film, a crew-member sings various David Bowie classics in Portuguese, sometimes to a bossa nova rhythm. However, this finale was accompanied by the original recording of Bowie himself singing "Queen Bitch", which is from one of his earlier albums Hunky Dory. Apparently, Bowie wrote "Queen Bitch" after going to see the Velvet Underground in New York on his first trip to the United States, not realizing that Lou Reed had left the band.

This made me realize why I was responding to the song - it's very much like the Underground's "Sweet Jane".

I'm up on the eleventh floor and I'm watching the cruisers below
He's down on the street and he's trying hard to pull sister Flo
Oh, my heart's in the basement, my weekend's at an all-time low
'Cause she's hoping to score, so I can't see her letting him go
Walk out of her heart, walk out of her mind, oh not her

She's so swishy in her satin and tat
In her frock coat and bipperty-bopperty hat
Oh God, I could do better than that

She's an old-time ambassador of sweet-talking, night-walking games
And she's known in the darkest clubs for pushing ahead of the dames
If she says she can do it, then she can do it, she don't make false claims
But she's a queen and such are queens that your laughter is sucked in their brains
Now she's leading him on, and she'll lay him right down
Yes, she's leading him on, and she'll lay him right down
But it could have been me, yes, it could have been me
Why didn't I say, why didn't I say, no, no, no

So I lay down a while and I gaze at my hotel wall
Oh, the cot is so cold it don't feel like no bed at all
Yeah, I lay down a while and I look at my hotel wall
And he's down on the street, so I throw both his bags down the hall
And I'm phoning a cab 'cause my stomach feels small
There's a taste in my mouth and it's no taste at all

Bud Cort, incidentally, has a connection with the sort of arts scene that Bowie was witnessing on that trip. He was in a play, and living with someone whose name escapes me, who was either with Andy Warhol or the Velvet Underground (or both).

Monday, 24 June 2019

Moon moments

With our lives and living quarters on the brink of change, I find myself thinking of what I'll remember and miss about the apartment that has been our home for nearly two years.

Chief will be the view from windows and balcony, where we have a front row seat to the schoolyard, far more entertaining and less intimidating than we'd feared, and sightings of many of the celestial events on offer.

Six months ago, I had a cold and clear encounter with the eclipse of this year's Wolf Moon. First, the bottom was nibbled away and the orb seem to slowly vanish into its own cloud, leaving a pewter marble, with a hint of an orange glow,  hanging above the schoolyard.

As the earth's shadow finally engulfed it, the stars became clearer. There were two bright stars above it seeming to point to this globe that I could almost pluck out of the sky, and after a few minutes, I noticed the constellation of Orion twinkling to the right through the bare branches of the tree next door. Below, a group of men chatted as they passed around a telescope, and a woman strode down the sidewalk, not looking up at all.

I ventured out every twenty minutes or so, watching the dark disc rise higher and higher, and remembering another blood moon, maybe about ten years ago in Hades, when the dark red moon glowed between our house and our neighbours', and people trudged by. I wanted to shout at them: "Did you see it? Can you see it?" The Resident Fan Boy remembered another one in Victoria, when he couldn't convince four-year-old elder daughter to come see it. I was able to persuade younger daughter to come out on the balcony to see this one.

Six months later, a recent treat has been the Strawberry Moon, rising at the same time as an unusually close Jupiter, who glittered through the thick summer leaves, if you knew where to look.  Across the street, a rather grungy fellow had enthroned himself on someone's discarded armchair - it's also the season for our neighbours getting rid of unwanted furniture.  Not particularly wanted either, he grumbled to himself under the moon, and ignored the huge planet over his shoulder in the southeast.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Twenty-first century shopping

I was in quest of an appropriate gift for the daughter of Friend Who Sings and Gardens.  Having finished medical school, the daughter is off to my birthplace of Edmonton to do her internship.  This meant finding something that might help her through the winter, yet not take up space in her suitcase.

I decided on a Mountain Equipment Co-op gift card, since she might find something warm, or, barring that, something to ward off the summer mosquitoes.

The membership number on our MEC card had worn off twice over the course of seventeen Hadean winters, where Mountain Equipment Co-op is practically a matter of survival, either first or second-hand.  I was perfectly prepared to take out a new membership - even though you don't need one to purchase a gift card - but the cheerful young man at the till was game for some detective work.

I seemed to remember it was under the Resident Fan Boy's name, and the till-man found his name -- on the wrong street in Hades.  (The RFB has a rather popular name.)  After assuring him, we'd lived nowhere else but in Hades and Victoria - at least since becoming MEC members, we tried my name.  No luck.  Did I remember my Ottawa phone number? 

Oh gawd.

I could remember the last four digits, then deliberately tried not actually thinking about it, to see if the full name came unbidden from the outer edges of my brain.

It did.  And there it was, on his database.  The RFB, for reasons known only to himself, had added some initials -- possibly due to that other guy in Hades bearing his name.

The cheerful young man scrawled the membership number across our ancient card in indelible ink, just as they had in Hades a dozen years ago.  It will probably wear off again.

Then I purchased a $25 gift card.

"She can get a nice pair of socks," he said.


Saturday, 22 June 2019

Writing a letter to myself

In the early days of the new summer, I find myself remembering this delightfully offbeat and aestival video from 1988, all shot in primary colours with people wandering and scampering in the fields in their socks.

Just write a letter and mail it to yourself
Read it out loud but to no one else
Pick your pocket a measure of time
And never leave these memories behind
You'll sing 'til tomorrow
And the days that will follow
But it's never the same
When you feel you're insane
On the bed where you lay
There's a plan that was made
But it's never the same
When your hopes go astray
Just write a memo, and hang it on your wall
A small reminder of why you're here at all
So look around, and groove to the sound
Let's see those feet rise up from the ground

Now the princess washes dishes
She's done more harm than any good
I am a witness of hugs and kisses
Loneliness is never understood
So paint a picture of things that aren't real
Remember shame when it's time to kneel
And don't forget the things that you say
Could all come back to you some other day

Friday, 21 June 2019

Reverse sunset

On the eve of the longest day of the year, and it's pretty long in Victoria - we're farther north than you'd think - we looked east out our window, and were startled by what appeared to be a sunset in the east, glowing pink and mauve.
Click on this if you'd like it to be bigger.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Racism and yelling and bullying, oh my

I was in the middle of my art lesson when the phone rang.

It was elder daughter, shaken, upset, and full of guilt.  She was on her lunch break, hurrying back from tending to the Accent Snob, who caught his paw in her apartment elevator as a fun conclusion to last weekend.  She's been soaking his paws in epsom salts.  He finds it very relaxing.  I'm not sure she does.

Heading back to her office, she walked smack into a situation.  Several people were waiting for the light to change at the crosswalk.  Out of the blue, a "scary and crazy" man started yelling about "Trudeau's immigrants", how they were living off taxpayers, and stealing jobs.  You know, the usual original ideas that obviously come from deep thinking.

Elder daughter felt helpless, wanting to stand up to him, but not daring to.

"What did the people he was yelling at do?" I asked, absent-mindedly adding a few strokes to my painting.

"Nothing; they kinda ignored him."

"Sounds like they had the right idea; you say he was scary and crazy."

Sitting with my paints in Victoria, I "walked" her back to work, listening as her ragged breathing slowed.

My fellow students discussed the issue after the call ended.  Best not to challenge a larger, nuttier fellow spouting epithets, they agreed.

Coincidentally, I'd sent elder daughter the following clip from John Mulaney, one of her favourite comedians.  It's about racism and bullying too, except with humour, something non-inclusive people often lack.
Elder daughter had already heard it, of course.

I like to think she appreciated the gesture.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

A cold and friendless time

Nineteen years ago, when the move to Hades was looming, and the Resident Fan Boy was transferring, I'd take younger daughter to a gym class at the Y, while elder daughter was in school.  It was a fairly unstructured class, more of a playtime.  I'd hover while younger daughter climbed, and half-listen to a tape of Disney classic songs that played at each session.

There was one song, though, that, even if I couldn't quite hear the lyrics, always brought me to the edge of tears.  I'd swallow them back, and attend to the task at hand.

I'd never seen Pete's Dragon; it was one of those kids' films that post-dated my childhood, and predated my motherhood. (I did see the 2016 remake with younger daughter, and remember next to nothing of it.)

Listening to it today,  I'm just as glad I couldn't make out all the lyrics.  Mind you, back then, I probably wouldn't have realized how apt they were - although I think a part of me knew.  It's that desperate promise every mother longs to keep: that she'll always support you, guide you, never leave you.  Sometimes, she can manage it for the first fleeting years, but children can't be shielded forever.

I'll never let you go.

We have to, eventually.  It's the point of the exercise.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Looking back across the canyon

Our favourite server at John's Place, near City Hall tells us it's her last week.  Her belly is billowing beautifully.

"Do you have an idea of who's coming?" I ask her.

Her face glows.  "It's a little girl!  I'm due in two weeks; I can't wait to get this over with.  I've had it with being pregnant!"

"Oh, I dunno," I say.  "When I was expecting, I used to tell people: 'Right now, it's all being done for me!'"

"That's a good point!"

I hasten to add: "But when the baby is out, you'll be doing the work, but you'll feel okay!"

There is a deep canyon that runs between certain women.  On one side, there are the women who've given birth, and on the other, those who have yet to make the perilous journey across the chasm.

Telling them the truth won't help.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Father's day

Nearly every Sunday morning, for the three years he was at law school, the Resident Fan Boy would pack the week's laundry into a duffle bag and ride the Bloor-Danforth line west, where he would join the Sears Man for church, Sunday lunch, and Sunday dinner.  Everything about the meals was Sunday.

Every Sunday evening, the RFB would return to his student digs, and groan the evening away after ingesting rich foods in several courses.

The Sears Man was an enthusiastic cook, and a generous host.  He and his family made their home ours when we visited Toronto with elder daughter and younger daughter when they were still quite small.  It was the Sears Man who rescued us when my daughters and I found ourselves stranded at Pearson International Airport during the big blackout of the summer of 2003.

It's another Sunday evening, and we've just learned that the Sears Man left the planet today.

On a Sunday morning.

On Father's Day.

It fits.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

A moment's paws

When I look at older pictures of family and friends, I find myself peering at the backgrounds:  kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms.  Odd memories are triggered by the sight of long disappeared place-mats or floor tiles.

It occurred to me a few weeks back that there are little details about this apartment building that will vanish from my memory -- unless I do something about it.

So I snapped this photo of the doorstop in the laundry-room downstairs.  There's probably some story about it that I'll never know.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Canine caveats

One of my Facebook pals shared this very amusing cartoon today, but you know me - well, you don't, really - I like to cite sources. I noticed the signature in the lower right hand corner, and googled it.

Turns out this is by cartoonist David Coverly, which led me to another very funny canine cut-up.
Sometimes it pays to give credit.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Heart-heart-heart, gotcha daddy

Oh my goodness, I've been looking for this for years! This is Lily Tomlin and the All-Nurse Band in the sixth show of the very first season of Saturday Night Live, which aired November 22nd, 1975.

I've never quite heard "St James Infirmary" sung this way anywhere. (That's a ridiculously young Paul Schaffer, born in Thunder Bay, and relatively fresh from Toronto, playing the piano.)

st. james infirmary blues from jednooki jack on Vimeo.

For a more traditional (and infinitely weirder) take on "St James Infirmary", take a look at this clip of a beautifully restored 1933 Betty Boop cartoon by Max Fleischer, featuring the singing of Cab Calloway.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Rocking in the deep

Younger daughter has always been a Mr Bean fan, and lately has taken Mr Bean's Holiday out of the library more than once. We saw the film when it was in cinemas a dozen years ago, and I remember being rather bored by it.

It turns out that it's a film that improves with re-watching, but I was charmed in 2007, and remained charmed now, by the closing scene, where Mr Bean reaches his holy grail, the beach at Cannes, and is joined by the entire cast in a joyous rendition of Charles Trenet's La Mer.

La mer
Qu'on voit danser
Le long des golfes clairs
A des reflets d'argent
La mer
Des reflets changeants
Sous la pluie

La mer
Au ciel d'été confond
Ses blancs moutons
Avec les anges si purs
La mer
Bergère d'azur,

Près des étangs
Ces grands roseaux mouillés

Ces oiseaux blancs
Et ces maisons rouillées

La mer
Les a bercés
Le long des golfes clairs
Et d'une chanson d'amour
La mer
A bercé mon cœur pour la vie

Here is Charles Trenet singing it some time in the early to mid-sixties, judging from the beehives in the audience.

If the rather awful translations I've seen online are any indication, these are very difficult lyrics to render in English (the moutons - sheep - for example, probably refer to whitecaps). No wonder we ended up with "Beyond the Sea", which has its own charm, but has nothing to do with the original, aside from the melody.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

The music of the spheres

It was one of those evenings - most evenings, to tell you the truth - when I didn't want to go out.

However, we had tickets for Tafelmusik.

Seventeen long years in Hades, and I never got the opportunity to see Tafelmusik. They were either sold out, or the schedule didn't permit. We made sure of this opportunity by buying a small subscription to the Early Music Society of Victoria.

Steeling myself against my Taurean tendencies to warmth, comfort, and indolence, I reminded myself that this was Tafelmusik, for heaven's sake, and that it wasn't raining, and that, instead of a long Hadean wait for a bus-ride, the Resident Fan Boy and I could take a fifteen-minute stroll to Alix Goolden Hall.

I forgot my cushion, of course. I have such first-world problems.

Fifteen musicians and one actor took the stage, and it was like a revolving constellation of waves of beautiful music. The narrative followed the day-to-day life of the citizens of Liepzig, where Bach and his large family lived. Without leaving our pews (Alix Goolden is, of course, a former church), we were transported by slide and music to the town hall, and the churches. We were shown where the music students lived. Concerts at the coffee house were re-created. The sumptuary laws of the time and place, which determined how different classes in Liepzig dress, were explained. There was a great deal of emphasis on who made the instruments and how, using images of current instrument makers.

There wasn't much mention of women, alas, although a third of the Tafelmusik ensemble - and their director - is female.

Still, it was like a time machine, and the musicians turned and swayed, and rearranged themselves, some dropping back to chairs to await their next turn.

At one point, the audience was invited to sing the eight notes that make up the Goldberg Variations; at another, violinists appeared like shadows in the balconies, passing along an air.

Tafelmusik performed two movements of the third Brandenberg Concerto, and Schafe können sicher weiden (Sheep may safely graze). I felt those around me pulled and rocked by the familiar music.

The rest was not quite so famous - although I recognized the tune of Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Awake, calls the voice to us) as something sung in church to other lyrics.

Two women stepped forward for a brief bit of Klezmer in the section about market days, the only days Jews were allowed into the city. Everything else was very Lutheran.

At the end, I sprang (well, struggled) to my feet to applaud.  This is rare for me.

The performers bowed and bowed -- and left with no encore.

It was enough.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Hosts in the bathroom

We watched the Tonys last night, and they actually made some sense this time, perhaps finally recovering from the in-jokey weirdness of the 2017 Emmys, hosted by Ken Spacey, before his plummet from grace.

This broadcast actually featured shows that I wouldn't mind seeing - assuming I had scads more cash than I do - including the award-winner for new Musical - Hadestown. (Gee, I'd have to see the appeal in that one, wouldn't I?)

One of the more amusing moments was a special musical number parodying a musical that didn't feature in the Tony nominations at all, but might turn up in next year's, as it's new on Broadway. I don't remember much about last year's awards at all; I'd even forgotten that Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban had hosted.

I can't embed the clip; I suspect there were copyright issues, as James Corden had it up on his YouTube station this morning, and it has been taken down. However, CBS posted it on their Facebook page, and I believe you can still see it here.

And here's the original, from the musical Be More Chill. It's kind of a complicated plot, but you'll get the idea that it's about the usual teenage problems.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Only in Victoria

As I'm going into Pic-a-Flic, I have to make way for a gentleman who is emerging from the shop. He's rather memorable, being clad in - and I'm not making this up - an olive-green tweed suit with plus-four cuffed trousers and matching socks.  All this is topped with a clerical collar.

He looks like he's strolled out of a 1920s/1930s British novel, I'm thinking P.G. Wodehouse, or G.K. Chesterton - probably the former, as the collar looks more Anglican than Catholic, but what would I know?

I discreetly keep my thoughts to myself: I don't think we're in Hades anymore, Toto...

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Flower children

I was an ESL (English as a Second Language - they call it something else now) teacher in my young adulthood, before second daughter arrived, and I discovered my ESL training would come in handy, even if I couldn't figure out what her first language was.

During one of the sessions in which I was an instructor, there was a 1960s theme dance. Instead of my usual bun - pinned up primly for my students, who were only a few years' my junior, yet thought I was as old as the hills (I didn't disabuse them of this notion) - I wore my hair down and donned one of those floaty, Indian-made frocks that usually sway on racks in front of the funkier shops.

I was standing with a fellow-teacher, when two Québecois students (not, thankfully, mine) approached.

"You look good," remarked one. "But then, it's your epoch, no?"

For the record, the sixties were not my era.

Last Sunday, we decided to support my Friend Who Sings and Gardens by attending a concert being given by her community choir.  This too was a Sixties theme, featuring lots of favourites from the late sixties and early seventies.

Most of the choir members had chosen to wear flower-power clothes.  The Resident Fan Boy joked that they had raided the backs of their closets - they looked pretty authentic - but, oh, it really hit me as I gazed at them, that these clothes celebrating the cult of youth make older people look ancient.

We've seen the choir several times; the members are on the mature side, but, dressed in evening wear, it's not the first thing you think of.  The tie-dyes, colourful prints, and scarves wrapped around their foreheads merely emphasized the years that have rocked and rolled away.

After intermission, they returned, dressed in circus garb, which, oddly, was more flattering.

This performance was in aid of a kids' choir programme set up some twenty years ago in the elementary schools.  Before that, most schools had their own glee clubs, run by teachers, and there was class time set aside for singing, even if a school pageant wasn't planned.  I know, from following both daughters through the school system, that this is no longer the case. You only get arts education if someone funds it.

So, in contrast to the aging hippies in the risers, several dozen children in gauzy white tops and dresses, looking to be mostly in the six-to-seven-year-old range, were guided on to the stage.  It really looked like herding kittens.

Once all the kids -- from the four elementary schools where the programme is run - had been shoe-horned into place, they sang three songs, and there was something to watch wherever you looked.

Three girls clutched hands, looking for all the world like a high school clique in bud. While many of the ankle-biters zoned in and out of concentration, one girl focussed on the director determinedly, singing as if the world depended on it.  Another had a similar focus, but on the audience on one side.  She stepped away from the others, angled her body to that section of the auditorium, and sang loudly and expressively.

It was a helluvan act to follow.  No wonder the grown-ups dressed up.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Time is starting to hurtle a bit

Change is in the air, something like the fleeting azaleas on Linden Street last week, along with a-not-so-fleeting Garry Oak -- although it looks like it's in a bit of a hurry too...

Thursday, 6 June 2019

No, Perkins

With the television schedule full of D-Day ceremonies, and endless re-showings of The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan,I find myself looking for a little light relief.

I'm not sure this is it.

One of the earliest performances of the Beyond the Fringe skit "Aftermyth of War" took place at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1960. As you can imagine, there were far more World War Two veterans about in 1960, and, sixteen years after D-Day, these vets were still pretty young, vigorous, and easily annoyed by what appeared to be a disparagement of all their sacrifice and suffering.

The creators and performers - Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller, the late Peter Cook, and the late Dudley Moore - maintained that the sketch was not meant as satire about the war itself, but of the way the war was portrayed in movies and other media.

This is the latter half of "Aftermyth", which contains all my favourite bits. Watch until the end to see the reaction of the audience, a few of whom are not applauding very enthusiastically. The dark humour of Beyond the Fringe was, after all, a bit ahead of its time.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Librarians have the best senses of humour

You'll need to click on this picture to enlarge it.
Gotta love a library with a Monty Python quote over the entrance.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Curfew shall not ring tonight?

Sometimes one wonders if the planets have lined up some odd way.

The morning had begun peacefully enough. I was up early and well on my way into Cook Street Village by 9 am. By 9:30, I'd answered an email, and sipping on an iced mocha, half-listened to the piped-in music as I arranged my journals ready for tackling.

That's when the phone rang.

Elder daughter had been ambushed by a major crisis at work, and had phoned me to vent, given that she has an open invitation to do so. I pushed aside my journals. While I was listening intently, I heard a beep that indicated another phonecall, something that almost never happens to me, as most of my communication is through texts and emails. My FitBit is linked to my phone, and it told me that the call was from Double Leo Sister in Prince George, whose calls are as rare as hens' teeth. Elder daughter understood the implication immediately, and rang off.

DLS was succinct - also unusual for her. The Lifeline people had called her, she said. They believed Demeter had fallen, and, as no designated neighbours had answered their calls, they were summoning an ambulance. I threw everything into my packsack, and fled north towards Demeter's condo, a five-minute walk, shorter if one is in a controlled panic.

It was 9:50. As I race-walked uphill, my phone rang again. Resident Fan Boy had been contacted by Lifeline. As I struggled to get my packsack centred on my back, and give a coherent answer to the RFB, a faint question was in the back of my brain: Why hadn't they called me?

However, all my thinking space was consumed with nightmarish scenarios and keeping myself calm.

Jigging from one foot to the other. Change, light. Change! No sign of an ambulance. I fumbled with the fob, eschewed the elevator to dash up the stairs, concentrated on getting the key in the door, and nearly fell in. My heart sank. Much of the apartment was dark.

But the kitchen light was on. And there was Demeter, fixing breakfast, and unaware of my precipitous entrance because she had not yet put in her hearing aids.

She started telling me what happened. On the fourth of each month, she presses the Lifeline button to check in with the call centre. Usually someone responds, Demeter reports in for the month, and that's it. It's the monthly test to ensure the line is open. This time, however, the phone rang and rang.

I was gesturing at my ears: "Put your hearing aids in!"

My phone rang. It was Double Leo Sister. As soon as Demeter could hear, I handed her my phone, and heard the rest of the story. Apparently, Demeter decided to call the local Lifeline office. A man answered and immediately asked if she needed an ambulance. She said she did not. They told her that her phone was off the hook, she insisted that it was not.

DLS rang off and I suggested that Demeter contact Lifeline to see about getting her machine reset; it was still blinking in alarm mode. I grabbed the opportunity to speak with the Lifeline gentleman and ask why I had not been called.

"Your number has been disconnected."
"Excuse me?"

He read off the number. It was our Ottawa number. I was flabbergasted. When Demeter went into hospital briefly last June - that's a year ago, folks - Lifeline called the Resident Fan Boy when I took her Lifeline pendant home from the hospital, because the knocking of my bag set it off, and made it appear that she'd had a fall. He gave them my cell number told them what had happened, that I now lived in Victoria, that this number was now the correct one, and asked to be moved to the top of the contact list, as I was now the closest available family member. I guess that must have been the main office in Ontario; clearly the information had not been noted in the local records.

I consoled Demeter by telling her that this had been an excellent drill. Almost immediately, the phone rang yet again. It was one of the designated neighbours, who must have been out and come home to see the message.

Oh, well. You can't say there's no back-up. As calm as I thought I'd managed to be, when I went to leave, I noticed I'd failed to shut the apartment door.

Curfew shall not ring tonight ---- I think....

Monday, 3 June 2019


I gave younger daughter my Nikon, so she could snap scores of pictures, a thing she likes to do at Butchart Gardens. This means waiting while she takes pictures of everything: the sky, the ground-cover, butterflies, the water, individual flowers, beds of flowers.

I looked down and saw this plant, which looks sun-dappled -- but isn't.

I used my phone.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

The answer, my friend

Weather's getting warmer here in Victoria, but down in Fairfield, the ocean breeze is steady. I went in to pay the dentist's bill, and as I left, I stopped to admire this trio of seed pods, which blow in the wind -- whether it's there or not.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

I'm not sorry I met you

Last weekend, CBC Music hosted its annual music festival at Echo Beach, Toronto - a place that will have echoes for anyone remembering Martha and the Muffins in 1980.

This year, one of the attractions was Stars, who would be performing their 2004 album Set Yourself on Fire live, from beginning to finish.

I got social media notifications throughout the day, hearing that the weather had turned rather nasty, and rained out a couple of the acts.

However, I got back from whatever I was doing, and tuned into the livestream, because Stars was (were?) on stage.  I'm not that familiar with the order of Set Yourself on Fire, so it took me a few minutes to realize that I'd missed the first song, which was, of course, the very song I wanted to hear.

I enjoyed the set, though.  The musicians moved through a haze that was, I think, a residue of the sudden storm.  Atmospheric, to say the least.

It was clear that there was also a haze of nostalgia.  The audience appeared to be in the 30's to 40s' age range, some hoisting small children onto their shoulders.  The expressions were of joy, and intense longing, these fans hearing songs that had meant so very much to them as teenagers and twenty-somethings.

When this single was released in early December 2005, I wasn't particularly aware of it, although I'm sure I must have heard it, on the periphery of my misery.  It was the end of a stressful and heartbreaking year,  when I had young children of my own, so this song doesn't have the stamp of a particular time and place for me, as it so clearly has for those young-ish adults in the audience at Echo Beach.

I do love the official video for the song.  It is so quintessentially central Canadian, appropriate for a band that has roots in Montreal, though its band members grew up in Toronto.  At the time, I was living five hours from Toronto and two hours from Montreal, so trust me: if you're going to lie down on the ice on a winter's night in central Canada, you'd better be more warmly dressed than Stars are.

Incidentally, the actor who points at us and declares, "When there's nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire" (which, of course, is the title of the album), is the late Douglas Campbell, a venerated stage actor in Canada, who is also the father of lead singer Torquil Campbell (an actor himself).

God, that was strange to see you again
Introduced by a friend of a friend
Smiled and said, "Yes I think we've met before."
In that instant, it started to pour.
Captured a taxi despite all the rain.
We drove in silence across Pont Champlain,
And all of that time you thought I was sad,
I was trying to remember your name.
This scar is a fleck on my porcelain skin.
Tried to reach deep, but you couldn't get in.
Now you're outside me,
You see all the beauty,
Repent all your sin.
It's nothing but time and a face that you lose.
I chose to feel it, and you couldn't choose.
I'll write you a postcard;
I'll send you the news
From a house down the road from real love.
Live through this, and you won't look back.
There's one thing I want to say, so I'll be brave.
You were what I wanted,
I gave what I gave.
I'm not sorry I met you;
I'm not sorry it's over;
I'm not sorry there's nothing to save

Friday, 31 May 2019

We readers are very witty

So, I'm minding my own business this morning in the coffee shop. I've just taken a big bite of my cherry/yoghurt Danish (my favourite, which is not always available), when two gentlemen approach my table. They're a bit Mutt-and-Jeff-ish - does anyone know what that is, anymore? - one fellow is pleasantly plump with a short groomed salt-and-pepper beard, and the other is very tall indeed with white hair and mustache.

The shorter man excuses himself and begins: "This may seem a little strange..." I chew and swallow quickly and apprehensively.
He continues: "We're from the Zone, and we noticed that you have a lot of books on your table. Are you a reader?"

I know The Zone is a local radio station - that's about all I know about it, except it's a rock/pop station, and, thinking they're doing some sort of survey, I quickly explain, "Well, these are mostly journals, but..." I pluck a library book from the pile. ". . . I do have an actual book here."

"So you are a reader!" they exclaim.  One of them fishes out a envelope.
"We'd like to present you with this fifty-dollar gift certificate for Bolen Books!"

My surprise and joy is unfeigned.  Bolen Books is the largest independent book-store in Victoria; they have everything.  I stare at the envelope and say, in a rather high-pitched rush of emotion:  "This is like coke!"

The two men laugh heartily and walk away, wishing me a wonderful day.  The tall one says, over his shoulder, "That was very funny."

He apparently doesn't realize that I wasn't joking.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Losing time at the movies

Opportunities to see films in Victoria must be snatched, because, unlike in Hades, they are unlikely to say more than a week or so. I guess too many Victorians are outside, enjoying the temperate weather.

One place to go to catch a movie before it disappears is the Cinecenta at the University of Victoria. While it's always spooky to return to UVic, which, for me, is littered with memories, the actual auditorium is completely unchanged, so I can almost imagine going back in time - except that I now found myself surrounded by grey-haired people. The current students were, no doubt, holed up in their dormitories, apartments, basements, and bedrooms, streaming stuff on their devices.

When I was a student here, films were usually well-attended by a young audience, many avoiding their homework - like me. The films were never first-run - they often are now - but usually art-house classics: King of Hearts, Bedazzled, Women in Love, The Seventh Seal.

After watching the film in the hard seat that, at least, discourages the movie-goer from nodding off (that much hasn't changed), I emerged, blinking, into the lobby, where I was flung into the present. The concession is very much fancier than I remember, and there's a dental clinic just down the hall. The washrooms are huge.

A lady was rescuing popcorn bags from the trash.
"This drives me crazy," she told me briskly. "They're perfectly recyclable!"
And she tucked them into the paper recycling bin.

It's been several years, but I guess some people just never left.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Going postal in Canada

As the time stretches out, I find myself shifting from foot to foot, shifting the weight of my prepared parcel.

The line-up in the post office isn't long, but there appears to be a mini-drama going on at the counter. Granted, it's rather one-sided; the postal clerk is listening attentively to a lady dressed in flowing, multi-coloured garments, which say "aging hippie" elsewhere in Canada, but "business as usual" here. She is gesturing expansively with her back to me and I'm the third person in line, so I can't quite make out what she's saying, but she has a rather battered looking parcel. Talking steadily, she periodically waves slips of paper for emphasis.

The women just ahead looks back at me and raises her eyebrows. I grin back.

After what seems like a rather long time, the clerk asks her if she has a receipt. There is a slight pause.

"I was kinda hoping you would believe me."

There's an almost imperceptible collective sigh of exasperation from the line-up, but no one yells.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

That we won't be mentioning

Double Leo Sister reminded me at dinner last night, that I used to send her tapes in the 1990s. This was chiefly because I was horrified that she was limiting her listening to classic rock stations, but I didn't bring that up.

Now, she wants digitalized versions of the songs she really likes, so she was asking about "Ing", from a presentation of Prairie Home Companion that I taped off the radio in about 1993, I should think. I told her the song was by the Roches, as in Terre, Maggie, and Suzzy Roche, and not the kitchen vermin. Among other things, the sisters got their big break singing back-up for Paul Simon, and Suzzy Roche dabbled in acting and had a daughter with Louden Wainwright III. (We heard that daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche, in concert with her half-brother Rufus Wainwright a year ago.)

Here's how "Ing" sounds on the 1992 album "A Dove":

This changes everything
Why is it happening
I got a feeling
That you are changing
The sky was darkening
When we went out wandering
It got confusing
And I started singing

Ing - Ing - Ing

Will we be marrying
Instead of parting
Or are you still singing
The praises of waiting
I had a gift to bring
A simple little thing
I had a little fling
That we won't be mentioning

Where is all this leading
Is there any meaning
Are we just careening

I'm always wondering
When it starts thundering
Which is the better thing
To be still or running
You with the broken wing
Who fell down flying
How is it dancing
With any old Earthling

The thing with "Ing" is, I heard it first as a live performance, albeit on the radio. I've found this rather fuzzy video that, nevertheless, shows the sisters in action. They always remind me of a quirky quartet of sisters I knew when I was a young woman.

I think this must be an early performance, because the album on which "Ing" appears wasn't released until the following year. The laughter is that of an audience hearing the lyrics for the first time.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Energy vampires

I knew this was going to be a challenging week, even before this turned up on the Facebook feed for Demeter's church this morning.

I have just survived a short dinner with Double Leo Sister. She's an extrovert, and extroverts are supposed to draw their energy from other people - I'm just not sure they are supposed to suck other people dry, are they? Persephone the introvert (are you surprised?) is spending what remains of the evening drawing energy from herself - and from the occasional servings of espresso ice cream that she's making the Resident Fan Boy bring to her.

Later this week, I resume watercolour lessons with younger daughter. That's okay, but one of the students, who didn't make the last session, is a saccharine, platitude-spouting nice-as-pie woman who reminds me strongly of my late mother-in-law. I've tried to conceal my dislike of her, but I'm pretty sure she knows.

I've always suspected that people I have trouble liking probably have traits I hate in myself.

Am I a platitude-spouting energy vampire?

I want more ice cream....

Sunday, 26 May 2019

The invisible holes of a neighbourhood

Yesterday was dark and rainy, and the gutters became cataracts.

Today is the epitome of a perfect day in late May - something it's best not to mention to those I know in Hades.

This morning, I paused by a large bush of California lilac, listening to the powerful buzz of scores of industrious bees at work, their abdomens orange with pollen.

All the flowers and greenery have responded exuberantly to the combination of rain and sun.

Cook Street is white with tents for their annual street party. I walked along here last year, and browsed through boxes of DVDs as Pic-a-Flic downsized for their impending move after three and a half decades on Cook Street. I didn't know that then, but I knew their site was optioned to make room for yet another condo, and I feared they would go altogether.

I seemed to spend most of my time in Hades watching books stores and video stores die off. My two favourite bookstores managed to survive, but a video rental by a pizza place, preceded by another small establishment specializing in art,documentary and foreign films, succumbed a few years after my arrival, leaving me to depend on the public libraries.

Through the Victorian summers in the years of my Hades exile, I always had Pic-a-Flic, with its long corridors of films and television series from around the world. I also had other fixtures of Cook Street, for example, the grey and gaunt proprietor of the old-fashioned grocery stand, whom Demeter and I called "Grumpy" - never to his face, of course. Grumpy seemed to mellow over his decades in the drafty recess where he sold fruits, vegetables and flowers. I learned that he was a regular entertainer at the coffee house across the street, where he sang, of all things, folk songs by the likes of Gordon Lightfoot.

Shortly after Pic-a-Flic made the move to Stadacona Park and a much smaller shop, I saw the notice that Grumpy was retiring, and not long after that, the coffee house where he sang disappeared.

I gather that Grumpy is now strumming his guitar at the local pub, and other businesses have sprung up where he displayed his wares and sang his songs.

I still feel a pang when I walk past the refilled gaps, because I know there are gaps. It's okay; holes rarely remain empty for long -- even invisible ones.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Memory: lost, retrieved, elusive, concussive

Younger daughter and I have been taking watercolour lessons over the past year. As a result, I'm becoming a wee bit more familiar with the materials required and the ones which I prefer.

Recently, I dropped into Island View Print, which is the most convenient art supply store, relative to my haunts and wanderings. We've been painting long enough to begin running out of supplies, and I've developed a liking for a brand of paper called, oddly, "The Langton". Demeter picked a pad of it up from Island View Point about seven years ago. It's difficult to pinpoint or even describe why I like it. It's soft and giving (does that make sense?), and I think what I manage to produce somehow looks better on it.
I had looked it up online, and it's there, but doesn't look readily available, so I asked the nice fellow in the shop about it.

He shook his head regretfully.
"I doubt they make it anymore."

He directed me to the watercolour paper shelves, to see if I could find something to my liking.

To my astonishment, I spotted the familiar green cover in the bottom shelf. I extracted it and waved my trophy at the assistant in delight.

"You must have found the very last pad we have!" he exclaimed.

I was cradling it triumphantly as I advanced to the cash register, when I saw a lady with a familiar face enter. I smiled warmly at her; she also smiled - politely - and proceeded into the store.

I finished my purchases, and was juggling my treasures while trying to retrieve my cloth bag from my knapsack. The lady came up to pay for her supplies, and placed a card on the counter, explaining she was a teacher - for a discount, I guess. And I was juggling, struggling, and thinking: Jessica? Jessie? Last name?

I would have tried to surreptitiously read the name on the card, if I hadn't thought this would be a rude and disturbing thing to do.

By the time I'd stepped out to the bus stop, I was sure I had known her from my teaching days at the university. We had become quite good buddies. I'd even been to her house in my days of early motherhood.

But she showed no signs of recognition, and I hesitated.

At home, I rummaged through my journals, and found her. The journals told me her last name, and that she'd visited me in the hospital after I'd given birth, and that she and another friend became estranged.

I'd forgotten all of this. I'd even mentioned the estrangement in passing at the time, no doubt certain I'd remember the details without writing them down. She'd clearly drifted out of my life with the birth of younger daughter, and I hadn't even noticed.

Writing things down helps, but it doesn't always prevent the fading away.

You think you'll remember. You won't.

Friday, 24 May 2019

On the conveyor belt

Yesterday, I took my first bus ride into Esquimalt in several years.

Esquimalt, the community beyond Vic West across the Johnson Street Bridge, is the municipality where I spent my adolescence and my first years as a young married.

I used to take the #23 bus to trundle down the length of Esquimalt Road, but now it's the #15 Express, which, in the opposite direction, can take you all the way to the University of Victoria. I sure could have used that when I was a student.

The Resident Fan Boy and I rode past divider islands that run down the centre of the road, planted with flowers and trees. Those certainly weren't around when we lived there.

Some of the stretches are depressingly the same; other stretches have been condo-ized and still others shopified, so bits of Esquimalt look like the busier bits of Shelbourne.

However, the sorts of people clambering on and off the bus are much as I remember - elderly and clearly struggling (in every sense), young and gritty (also in every sense).

So many memories - interrupted by the astonishment of unfamiliar buildings, fronted by mature trees, reminding us how very long we've been away.

We were on our way to a so-called Celebration of Life, so-called because the gentleman in question died a month ago, and this post-funeral/memorial-service gathering accommodated his far-flung family.

The bus took us to the very western edge of Esquimalt. Despite my long history of living in the municipality, I'd never been beyond the south end of Admirals Road, where I'd ridden my bike to junior high, and where the taxi took me when I was in labour with elder daughter.

So we rode deep into "Pongo-land", and alighted by the blue waters of Esquimalt Harbour, making our way up the volcanic rock where the Ward Room sits, with its million-dollar view (well, millions of dollars, these days) out over Juan de Fuca Strait.

The man we'd come to remember and honour had been one of the RFB's very first bosses, and he, along with his business partner, had been a kindly older gentleman of the same vintage as my father - except with honesty and integrity -- are those sour grapes? (Vintage? Grapes? Get it? Oh, never mind.)

The widow seemed truly touched we'd come, and we told it was our pleasure, and meant it.

On our way home, the Resident Fan Boy was contemplative.
"It's just that...they're gone ..."
"...and the conveyor belt rolls on," I finished.

Yep. So many reminders that afternoon of the relentless passage of time.

This isn't going to get any easier.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

You bad cabbie, you!

I make a habit of ignoring advertisements - that's what mute buttons and fast-forwards are for.

However, every now and then, there's a delightful ad that makes me want to at least remember the product, if only to prove that a witty commercial works just as well as an annoying commercial.

I was thinking of a few of them this evening - but could only find a video of one of them, this very funny - and epic - promotion of a 1990's style Toshiba laptop.

 If you've got a minute, take a look.  (A minute is all I have.  Good night.)

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

But I can stand a little pain

 CBC Radio "Mornings" has introduced a "Question of the Week".  This week, because everyone is pushing for summer (but how loud will they complain when it gets here?), they're after candidates for the quintessential Canadian summer song.

Their two top contenders are "Summer of '69" and "Call Me Maybe".

Here's my choice:

Well it's hot and it's sticky, 
Think I'll get myself a micky
I'm so parched and dry...

Yep.  I can wait for summer...

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

After a fashion

With Victoria Day out of the way, I hear people claiming it's summer.

No, it isn't.  Not even in Victoria, where a run of cool days have resulted in a mixture of clothes downtown:  from quilted winter coats to tee-shirts.  An older gentlemen just walked by dressed in shorts with a fleece jacket --- Look!  There's another one!

I wouldn't be intrusive enough to snap pictures to illustrate, but I can do a sort of written snapshot.

Here's something I wrote over my bowl of oatmeal (with maple syrup, bananas and sour cream) at the Blue Fox Cafe last February, when no one was in shorts.  Not even in Victoria.

The girls my daughters' ages are wearing toques in neutral shades, pulled down to just above their ears, with the toque-tips arranged in artful pockets, and their wavy tresses carefully flowing down from beneath.

They wear layers, some draped over the backs of their chairs:  cable sweaters - also in neutral shades - sheep-skin-lined patchwork jackets (but not real sheepskin - that's cruel), broad shawl-style scarves perfectly covering their shoulders in soft folds.

At the next table, a lady with bobbed, noticeably tousled, dark, dyed hair looks out from what's left of her eyebrows.  She's wearing what appears to be an exact replica of the close-knit midnight blue pullover worn by the honey-blonde (possibly also dyed) taupe-toqued young girl a few feet away.  The lady has a gold band hanging from a pendant, heart-shaped.  Her close-fitting jeans are folded up to reveal her stylish ankle-boots.

Women dress so much more deliberately for the company of other women.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Before the parade passes by

I've mentioned this before, but I found the Victoria Day weekend in Hades depressing beyond belief. It was a long weekend when those who had cottages left town to open them, and those who didn't finally planted the bedding plants as the weather began to get hot.

Being neither a cottager nor a gardener, that left me with little to do but sweat and look for things for younger daughter to do.

Here, we have the Victoria Day Parade.

Younger daughter decided not to accompany us, but never mind.

The Resident Fan Boy and I headed off into the morning rain, which had tapered off by the time we reached Douglas Street. We found a free edge of pavement near the end of the parade route past Broughton. A fella with a small daughter proudly pointed out his son to us, a large lad, like his dad, beating his drum with the one local school that had enter this year.

My junior high entered every year; our normally affable director turned into a snarling sergeant-type for the week preceding the parade as we stumbled around the school field. We always came in third -- second, if only two local school bands had entered.
The parade hasn't changed much since those far-off days. There are still long lines of vintage fire engines, plus Shriners and Job's Daughters, albeit in much diminished numbers.
There are still racing cars, sponsored by local pubs, with young girls riding the hoods. (I haven't seen a puppy on one before.)
However, Victoria isn't nearly as homogeneous as it once seemed, and the parade has gradually began to reflect that.
Younger daughter saw these pictures, and told me she'd like to come next year.

I think she liked the puppy.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Mr Woof-woof

There are fleeting things that make a neighbourhood.

When we lived in Fairfield, it was The Whistler, a cheerful 50-something cyclist who became our gauge for how late we were.

After the morning struggle to get elder daughter dressed and breakfasted, I, with younger daughter strapped into the stroller, would stride east, the rising sun blinding all three of us. Out of the glare, the Whistler would emerge, peddling smoothly and swiftly, but we'd hear his steady whistling first, interrupted by a friendly "Good Morning" as he whipped past.

In Hades, I'd watch the platinum-blond trio of sibling neighbours burst from their front door, tumbling down the porch steps, quarreling all the way to the tank their mother was warming up (probably out of self-defense).

I don't know when The Whistler ceased wheeling his way west, because we moved. Gradually, the Battling Blonds across the street grew more independent, setting off separately to different schools with different companions.

In our current neighbourhood, a feature has been Mr Woof-woof. That's not his name. It's what I'd hear as I strolled to or from our apartment.


Not bossy, not threatening, just deep and carrying. A huge white dog, usually sitting on the steps of his large house, tied to the railing, behind a gate reading "Beware of Dog".

I always felt rather sorry for him; he seemed to spend hours outside on his own. You're not supposed to wave or call out to dogs, according to those online articles - it's supposed to count as teasing - but I couldn't help calling out a soft "Hello, Mr Woof-woof", as I passed on the opposite sidewalk.

Just before Christmas, the Resident Fanboy ran into Mr Woof-woof, walking out one evening with his owner, who did tell him Mr Woof-woof's actual name. She also told the RFB that her dog had cancer.

And one day, I noticed the gate was open.

Years later, when we recall these little everyday details that made up where we lived, we might say, "Oh yes, it was always like that; that went on for years."

But it didn't.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Flower flow

Gotta scoot. This is what's been dangling along Fort Street below Wentworth Villa - a place I've been meaning to visit since we came to the neighbourhood. I have another neighbourhood story tomorrow -- it's a sad one.

Friday, 17 May 2019

I just thought we locked the gate

 Sometimes when I'm getting up and listening to the radio, a song will make me dive toward the speaker to listen, then fumble for my phone, where I've bookmarked the playlist for CBC Radio Morning.

Lately, I've been diving for this bouncy little ditty from Vampire Weekend (a group I've always rather liked) with rather depressing lyrics.  Seems to be the thing these days.

This evening while I was looking up the video, I couldn't believe my luck when I spotted a Jimmy Fallon video featuring a recent appearance by Vampire Weekend -- with Haim (another favourite) singing back-up!

Here's the official video which, sadly, doesn't provide the lyrics, but looks a bit like some of my high school biology labs.

This one reminds me of an absolutely gorgeous video by Talk Talk, which makes me shiver like an early morning when I watch it.  The high definition in this night-time imagery was really quite a startling thing in the eighties.

And the lyrics are a tad more upbeat.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

What a wonderful world

You know, I think it's important to keep current.

However, I've read, watched, and listened to the news this week, and today, I've really become rather afraid that I'll sprain my middle fingers.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Aren't we all?

When I was an early teenager with the reputation of being the only dependable babysitter in my building, one of my favourite clients had a fabulous record collection that I could explore once my young charges were in bed.

It was rather hippy-dippy - very folksy with dashes of "prog-rock" and light jazz.  Among the discs were several Harry Chapin collections.

I haven't thought of Harry Chapin in years.  He was famous for his epic song-stories:  the tale of the wistful baritone Mr Tanner, sorting through the clothes in his dry-cleaning shop; a disc-jockey at WOLD, begging his wife to take him back; a rough-but-kindly frontier farmer meeting his mail-order bride at the train station. He's probably best known for "Cat's in the Cradle", a song about being too busy for a young son.  He was pretty young himself when he died in a car accident at age 38.

It seems to be Seventies Week at the coffee shops I've been visiting, a reminder of the rather odd songs that became hits in that decade.

As I worked, I realized "Taxi" was playing. As I half-listened, the middle section came on, which is in two dreamy sections - the inner monologues of the taxi driver and his passenger.  For the first time in years, I heard this familiar lyric:

I've got something inside me, not what my life's about
'Cause I've been letting my outside tide me over 'til the time runs out

And I stopped working for a moment.  I guess it takes a bit of living to understand that lyric.

You certainly don't get it when you're thirteen.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

The magic dress

I'm not an enthusiastic shopper.

As a result, I've learned to tackle Christmas and Birthday Season - the latter being the thirty-day run between the period before I must post my parcel to elder daughter in Hades to Mother's Day - in manageable purchasing bursts, none more than ninety minutes.

I found younger daughter's birthday approaching rapidly, but despite my careful planning and plotting, had failed to find an item of pretty clothing to join the gifts of movies, music, and makeup.  Usually, I wander into a likely shop and something will call to me.  Although I'd heard elder daughter's name floating out at me in April, nothing whispered about younger daughter.

With two days to go, I wandered into a shop in Cook Street, mentioned the specifications to the employee there - something feminine for a petite stature with a generous bosom, as younger daughter takes after one of her paternal great-grandmothers.  (She certainly didn't get it from my side of the family...)

I spotted it a split second before the clerk did, a simple sundress, reminiscent of the late Fifties, early Sixties.  Flower print, modest boat neck, slightly pleated skirt, and defined waist. Sort of Sandra Dee without the sly overtones.

She showed me several others, but I kept saying, "That one's calling me."

I presented it to younger daughter on her birthday, and she wore it the very next day for her part in a fundraising concert.

It was like magic.  The dress, which fit perfectly, seemed to endow her with extra social grace and confidence.  She maintained poise as garden tours strolled past her and planes droned overhead.  I was delighted (and careful not to say so) when she excused herself at lunch - a new thing in itself - to reapply her makeup in the washroom instead of at the table.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Then I got tired and left

Last November, I made time.

So often, I've looked at the Gorge Waterway from the bus, as it takes the loop en route to Silver City. It was a glorious morning, so I left home a good hour before I had to, and got off the bus, misguidedly, at a hairpin curve on Gorge Road, but made it across unscathed.

And there it was. My adolescence.
An uprooted tree, had toppled head down in the Gorge, wasps buzzing around its corpse. Was it there when I cycled along here in Grade Nine? Am I really so old?

There were the same steps, the one leading down into the water. I used to sit here, waiting for the boy I secretly loved - who was in love with my best friend, of course.
I almost wanted to balance along the very edge, as I did as a nine-year-old, when the bricks were being slowly piled. Beyond was the playground, swings still there, but in a slightly different location. No teeter-totters in this litigious age. The clammy change-room for swimmers oblivious to concepts such as fecal counts stands behind, and in front, a bank of vegetation blocks the view of the beach.

I turned up the steep incline leading to the crosswalk. My legs remembered it better than my head. At the intersection, there are now traffic lights, and a push-button walk signal in the direction of my old elementary school.

No more "Stop students! Traffic through!" sung out by a military-inspired student crossing-guard trio, marching down to their corner:  
Left! Left! Left! Left!
I had a good job and I left! I had a good job and I left!
First, they hired me, then they fired me, then I got tired and left!
Left! Left! Left!

Up Admirals Road, where a huge yellow seniors residence has replaced the corner-store, and a couple of houses. I glanced in, and a lady in a dressing gown waved.

I waved back.

On up the hill to the duplex. An older lady was already peering down the drive.

"I never realized there was a house back there."
"It's a duplex. I lived in this one by the street, and the Wardens lived in the back one."

She told me how she and her husband, newly-wed, got together a thousand dollars for a down-payment on a modest house we could see from our standpoint. I thought to myself that a thousand dollars would have been a humongous amount when this lady was a young married. She was telling me her life story as the bus I meant to catch rolled by.

I caught the next one.