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 Langden". 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 make me want to at least remember the product, if only to prove that 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.

Woof-woof

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.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

A lullaby for post-modern children

It's Mother's Day, and I'm a mother and a daughter, and it's the end of the steeple chase that led up to Easter, through an obstacle course of birthdays, past a recital to today with its cards and love offerings.

This song wasn't written for the mother/child relationship, but it kinda fits.  Actually, that's one of the first things I noticed when I became a mother.  A lot of love songs work just as well for how you feel about your kids.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Re-cyclamen

Remember when I said I had a black(ish) thumb?
A year ago, I bought cyclamen plant for younger daughter's birthday. I chose it for two reasons: 1) it wouldn't topple off her breakfast tray; 2) the cluster of blossoms were a satisfying shade of hot pink, just younger daughter's style.

Not the reasoning of a knowledgeable plant-owner, you'll agree. 'Cause I'm not. Not by a long shot. I fully expected the plant to die at some point, particularly residing in younger daughter's mostly darkened bedroom. I'd sneak in periodically and water it, opening the bed curtains.

After some months, I brought the pot into our dining room, which has lot of natural light. As the year wheeled into autumn, then winter, the last of the flowers fell.

I watered it very occasionally - the instructions said only if dry - and it didn't do much of anything, not even bothering to die.

Sometime in late March, I spotted a tell-tale furl of new growth. It turned out to be a leaf, but it was followed by a definite promise of defiant pink.

Demeter, who has been struggling with a balcony refurbishment for the past month - you really don't want to know - gave me a larger pot, and some compost to top it off.
I think it likes it.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Natural shocks (that flesh is heir to)

Another birthday season is drawing to a close at our house, with the birthday of younger daughter, which is near the end of a rather long line of family and friendly birthdays - complicated by Easter this year, and Mother's Day every damn year.

As I do annually, I think back to a distant May day, not nearly as warm as today is, and the shell-shock of bringing another person into this world.

Perhaps the biggest shock is how different it is every time.

We are all so very shocking, in our very different ways.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Left-leaning line troll

On a glorious spring morning (rather a lot of those in Victoria -- just sayin'), I'm in line at my favourite coffeehouse, behind an elderly bearded fellow, who is leaning, a tad precariously, on his cane.

He turns to me and growls, "This place has become too crowded."
"It's not so bad on weekdays," I respond with a patient smile.
"Yes, it is!" he glares.
"At this time of day, it isn't," I reply mildly. I have my eye on my favourite cherry-yoghurt Danishes. They're not in every morning, and there's only two of them left this Sunday morning.

Growly glaring cane man seems to have conceded my last point, but has now entered into a rather strange diatribe about "the left-leaning communist types" who frequent the place.
"I thought it was running and cycling clubs," I deadpan.
"Same thing. You should go to Oak Bay. You don't want to be mistaken for one of them."

"I frequently am!" I laugh, assuming he's referring to the left-leaning communist types, and not the cycling clubbers, who seem to consist mainly of sixty-and-seventy-something males, who tend to stand back while waiting for their coffee-orders, with their skinny butts in the faces of those sitting at the surrounding tables.

Before the growler can resume, I deftly direct his attention to the waiting barista.

There are online trolls, and there are line trolls. I know the latter when I see one.

Besides, one of those cycling types had held the door open for me, and I'm feeling charitable.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Over the rainbow

I'm tired. I'm taking the Randy Rainbow escape. Because he is an escape. A big, campy, over-the-top escape - with a spot-on parody of the opening of Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

(Am I the only person who thinks William P. Barr looks like Elton John?)

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

You know best, dear (Write of Passage Number Forty-nine)

There's an older couple sitting next to me in the bus shelter on Fort Street just up from Douglas Street. They look a bit like tourists - lots of white in their clothing, comfortable shoes.

Nuthin' wrong with that.

They're conferring about something, looking at a bus schedule in the wife's hands, and although I'm not listening in (I swear!), I hear them say 'the 24 bus".

I decide to intervene.
"The 24 doesn't stop here," I tell them, gently and politely, I hope.

The husband gestures westward.
"We saw it pass down there; it has to come up here."

I'm a little taken aback by his logic, but actually get up to check the sign.

Sitting down, I say, "The #24 is not on the lists of buses that stop here." (I knew this, having taken buses in Victoria for years, but he sounds so sure of himself, he's got me doubting myself.)

Wife is checking the timetable she's clutching again.
"It says "Maplewood'," she begins, but husband overrides her.
"We saw it pass by down there," he repeats, pointing, "and it has to come by somewhere."

In this face of this brand of reasoning, I decide I don't have the time or inclination to argue.

"Well, there was a big fire downtown this morning; maybe the bus has been re-routed," I remark, in my placatory Canadian fashion.

My bus, which bears one of the numbers on the bus stop sign, has pulled up, so I board it, with my dark, indignant thoughts.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Oh pardon me, but Mister Three, why must you paint them red?

Younger daughter and I were descending the hill on Yates Street near our apartment building. In the distance, I could see the pearly-grey smudge of a large fire that destroyed an old deserted building downtown. I can no longer smell, but I felt the scratch at the back of my throat, and a hint of sour taste in my mouth, which reminded me of when the forest fires across BC had even sea-surrounded Victoria with an air quality index of !0+, worse than Beijing.

The sun shone brightly, though, and I veered suddenly into the pathway of the apartment next door. I had spotted a splash of scarlet amid the creamy blossom of a flowering shrub, and thought that surely, it must be from another plant.

It wasn't; it was indeed a lone red flower growing from the same bush. Younger daughter and I gazed at it, before continuing the journey down.

"It reminds me of the cards painting the roses in Alice in Wonderland," I remarked.

Younger daughter chuckled to herself.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Because sometimes, women just get fed up

There's a lot about the perils of social media being discussed these days, but there are a lot of pleasures too.

No, no, I don't mean those. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Because I "like" BBC Comedy on Facebook, I get plenty of clips from a spoof news show entitled The Mash Report, one of the many shows BBCCanada is withholding from us in order to show end-to-end episodes of Top Gear.

Here's a brief sample, but be warned, this particular clip is rife with f-bombs.

As far as I can tell, the show itself isn't particularly that profane, but I happen to like this bit, so you know what you can do.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Staring through the bars

As April gives way to May, the tiny green caterpillars parachute on silken threads from the cherry trees. Fortunately younger daughter isn't in the least bit squeamish, and regularly spots and plucks the creatures from my hat and sweater.

The tulips have peaked and the lilacs are taking over.

Last week, I was striking out on my morning mocha quest, and spotted these:

As I gazed beyond the fence at these flames, this came to mind:

Friday, 3 May 2019

Maybe he should have asked Lily first

The only reason we chose our service provider over the other one available in Victoria was because it offers Boston's PBS station WGBH as the "time shift" option.  (The other service offers Detroit's WTVS, which isn't as execrable as Watertown's WPBS, but is still pretty bad.)

Last night, I was yet again not disappointed.  I'd left the television on between shows, and hadn't muted it as is my usual practice.  A concert exerpt came up and as the music progressed, I found myself asking the usual questions when I'm about to acquire a *new favourite:  What is this? and Who are these guys? 

* I say "new", but, as has been demonstrated in the past, I'm always a few years behind.

The following video is not the clip I saw last night, but it's the best version I can find, which comes closest to what I heard.  I love the driving drums and the backing vocals.



The lyrics are sadder than you'd think.

I'm leaving this place behind
And I'm heading out on the road tonight.
I'm off for the hinterlands
Way up north where the tall trees stand.

Before I commence my ride
I'm asking Lily to be my bride.
I know there's another man
But he ain't gonna delay my plans.

I know she's gonna be my wife,
Gonna fall in love, I'm gonna live my life with her.
You know I bet he's not so tough.
Ain't afraid of him 'cause I'm a fool for love.

I've come far to find Big Jim,
Well, here I am and I guess you're him.
I see how you got your name,
You're tall as hell, and broad as a train.

They say you are a hard-broiled man
And the baddest guy in the whole wide land.
Well, I'm not afraid to fight,
Let's step outside and I'll show you why

I'm humming like a revved-up truck
Never mind the odds, I'm gonna try my luck with her.
Just tell me when you've had enough.
I'm dangerous 'cause I'm a fool for love.

You know you don't hit half bad
For my love I will lay you on the ground tonight.
Just wait until I catch my breath,
Gonna send you off to an early death.

I lie in the drifting snow,
Bleeding out as it covers me up.
If Spring comes before I'm found,
Just throw my bones in a hole in the ground

I lost friends along my way
I knew I'd meet them eventually,
No, I'm not afraid to die,
Just mad I left Big Jim alive.

I know I should've never looked back,
But you ain't gonna win a woman's heart like that.
I never should've called his bluff,
I was born to lose cause I'm a fool for love.

I stare into the endless sky,
And I saw a tale of my life go by.
I drift into the great unknown;
I really don't know where I'm going.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Life cycle

If I've been down in Cook Street Village for a coffee, I usually drop in on Demeter on my walk home.

This morning, the main bathroom door is closed, so I know she is probably bathing. I spot a full bag of recyclable materials waiting in the entrance hall, and figure, rather than just sitting and reading, I can save her energy and time by zipping the stuff to the bins in the parking lot.

I'm carefully depositing the paper first, so the tins and plastic don't go tumbling in the wrong receptacle. A car is just parking, and a couple emerges, with a cat in the carrier. The woman approaches me, introduces herself and gently touches my arm.

"We wanted to give you our condolences on the loss of your mother."

A split-second cool wave of confusion washes over me, as I stare at her. It is comprised of three thoughts:

Nope, I was just up there.

Dang, I should have knocked on the bathroom door.

And finally: This is how it will be; people will say this to me.

The woman spots my hesitation, and double-checks who I am. We have met briefly before, but that was months ago. It turns out the people who have moved into the apartment above Demeter have recently lost their mother. I guess there must be a resemblance. We exchange empathetic observations about the stress on these new neighbours and have a quiet chuckle about the mistake.

I make my way back up to the apartment, where Demeter, getting dressed, greets me cheerily and thanks me for taking down the recycling.

What will be, will be.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

It's not your birthday, baby

My birthday, and that of eldest daughter, find themselves on a collision course with Easter every few years. Sometimes it's a direct hit; my birthday has fallen on Easter Sunday three times during my lifetime thus far. Elder daughter had her eighth birthday on Easter Sunday and won't have it again until she's 87. I'll only get another Easter Sunday birthday if I manage to become a centenarian.

However, my birthday this year fell on Easter Monday. The last time it did that was on the day I was born. That made it rather special, and I had a lovely time, thank you very much.

It's not my birthday today, which is one of the reasons I like this song, which has been playing rather a lot on weekday mornings on CBC Radio. When I first encountered it, I heard: "You're gonna hurt yourself; it's not your birthday, baby. If there is nothing wrong, why am I gone so long?"

The correct lyrics are supplied in the following video, and frankly, I don't think they make much more sense. However, I do like the song and the singer - especially the fact that she has a gently self-deprecatory air, which tells me, without checking, that she's Canadian.

If you do check, you'll find she's from Winnipeg.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Gucci on a Ritz

There have been a lot of retrospectives of The Carol Burnett Show in recent years. None of them ever include this splendid (and affectionate) spoof of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Roger musicals of the 1930s.

The songwriter Irving Berlin had a strict proviso against any parodies of his songs, so the songs here only hint at the Berlin originals - with the exception of the singing gondolier who warbles a garbled version of "Putting on the Ritz", which includes a reference to "Fred Austerlitz" (Fred Astaire's real name).

Other delights include Ken Berry's dancing (not what he was famous for in the television of the 60's and 70's), and Roddy McDowall's rather good impression of Edward Everett Horton.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Appalled when it comes to a Baldwin

I think Randy Rainbow's videos are clever, hilarious, and loaded with high production value. They can also sting, and not just his targets. This one makes me laugh and wince.



Maybe I need to sing "Cockeyed Optimist" to myself at bedtime?

Thursday, 28 February 2019

This is a hold-up

Got a message from elder daughter this morning. I was in the middle of my art lesson at the time, and my fellow students looked around for the harp. (I find it less stressful than the whistles and bells usually used for notification.)

When you have library fees, she texted from Hades, you are a "delinquent" user. Just one more delinquent book to go and then I should be on the straight and narrow.

She's been piling up and extending library holds since obsessively insisting on reading all seven books in the Harry Potter series in French. She thought she could do it over the Christmas holidays. She was wrong. She finished last week, and there's an impressive stack of library books on her coffee table.

Not that I can talk. I annually insist - that's "annually", not the other adverb you might be inserting - on watching as many Oscar-nominated films as I can manage before the Academy Awards ceremony. I got to five of the eight so-called Best Film nominees, plus a half-dozen films that figured in other categories.

This means I will be reading books from my own suddenly burgeoning holds list. Most of the films were "based on real events". We all know what that means, don't we? Two books on Dick Cheney (Vice) have just become available, and I expect my requested book on Queen Anne (The Favourite) to follow fast. I'll have to wait quite a bit longer for the books Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Black Klansman, the latter being the inspiration for this:

For the record, my favourite of the bunch was Roma, and my least favourite was Bohemian Rhapsody.

Sure, I like Queen, but this movie had every cliché in the book - which isn't on hold.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Leaving out the whistles and bells

This Twelfth Night, I look at a string of blue Tardises shining against the curtain, and our tree, gradually decorated by our daughters in the week leading up to Christmas.
The presents underneath have gradually disappeared; we opened the last gifts this evening.

Tomorrow, as was our tradition before leaving Victoria, and is becoming so again, a couple of long-time friends will come to dinner and help us put away the tree for another year. We may leave up the other lights until Candlemas.

This evening, enjoying the quiet glow for one last time, I stumbled across an old favourite song, by a group that takes its name from one of my favourite movies. The song is about another blue light, a canary-shaped nightlight which is and isn't your friend, and muses about a lighthouse, its ancient ancestor.

I'm your only friend
I'm not your only friend
But I'm a little glowing friend
But really I'm not actually your friend
But I am...

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch,
Who watches over you,
Make a little birdhouse in your soul.
Not to put too fine a point on it,
Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet.
Make a little birdhouse in your soul.

I have a secret to tell
From my electrical well.
It's a simple message and I'm leaving out the whistles and bells,
So the room must listen to me,
Filibuster vigilantly.
My name is "blue canary", one note spelled l-i-t-e.
My story's infinite;
Like the Longines Symphonette, it doesn't rest.

There's a picture opposite me
Of my primitive ancestry,
Which stood on rocky shores and kept the beaches shipwreck free.
Though I respect that a lot,
I'd be fired if that were my job,
After killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts.
Bluebird of friendliness,
Like guardian angels, it's always near.

(And while you're at it,
Keep the nightlight on inside the
Birdhouse in your soul.)


There wasn't a readily available internet when this song was first popular, and in checking a few details, I discovered a cover in an equally quirky television series of the aughts, Pushing Daisies. This fan video captures a few seconds of it, along with a number of other old favourites sung by Kristin Chenoweth, who played a smitten pie-shop proprietor named Olive Snook in the show. Her singing partner for "Birdhouse in Your Soul" is none other than Ellen Greene, the original Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. (Their eye-patched driver is Swoosie Kurtz.)

"Candle on the Water", which we hear briefly later in the fan-vid, also has strong memories for me. Maybe I'll tell you about it sometime. Maybe I already have...

Friday, 4 January 2019

Brolly secrets

Beautiful sunny morning, after a bleak rainy day filled with reports of up-Island rivers sloshing over their banks.

My National Gallery of Canada umbrellas fortuitously arrived early in the soggy afternoon. Now, I'm sort of hiding them from the Resident Fan Boy, who got me a lovely, if small and flimsy umbrella for Christmas, festooned with First Nation moons, and made in China.
Empress Hotel and the Butchart Gardens
Oak Bay Marina and BC Legislature
Emily Carr's birthplace 
Craigdarroch Castle and Tally-ho carriage
It was meant to replace my treasured, but now leaky and rusted Robert Amos umbrella, which gave me such comfort (and limited shelter) in Hades.

I've secreted my new William Morris patterned "Strawberry Thief" umbrella in my packsack, and concealed my larger and sturdier Norval Morrisseau behind other brollies. The Resident Fan Boy, not the keenest of observers at the best of times, hasn't noticed yet. He will, and his feelings will be hurt.

But this morning is blue and clear, and the first thing I spot is a crow hopping along the curb in front of our building. One for sorrow.

I exclaim out loud when I spy another crow up the road on the next block: "And two for joy! Thank you!"

I realize, too late, that I'm right next to a lady in a wheelchair, parked on the sidewalk just around the corner, having a smoke. I explain the folk-rhyme to her.

"I'll have to remember that," she says, squinting up into the sunshine.

I stroll off to rescue worms.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Ambushed by 2019

Woke up this morning with a start. The Resident Fan Boy had gone to work - back after more than two weeks off, and I realized that it was January 3rd, and the things that seemed so far off during Christmas - aren't.

I bolted out of bed and turned on the radio.

This song, which has been getting a fair bit of airplay on CBC Radio for the past month or so, is about other things that are far off. Hawksley Workman is singing about the towns of Battleford and North Battleford in Saskatchewan, but he grew up in Huntsville, another small town in Ontario, during the 1980s.

Most Canadians growing up in any Canadian town or even city in the latter half of the 20th century, though, will recognize elements of this song.



I feel less panicky this evening. I got a few things done.


Wednesday, 2 January 2019

More story than history

We like to begin the year with a film, but this year, it just wasn't possible.

Elder daughter took off for Hades in the middle of the afternoon, and we're bound to drift off in an evening screening, so we delayed our film until midday today - well, after the twenty-five minutes of car commercials, public service ads, reminders to turn off our cell-phones dove-tailed into cell-phone service provider ads, and oh yes, several trailers.

Our choice was The Favourite due to the cast, the premise, and the fact that it's likely to figure heavily in the Oscar nominations, if the Golden Globes nominations are anything to go by.

The Golden Globe nominations are, predictably, rather mystifying for this film. For one thing, it's been nominated under the "Best Comedy or Musical" category, even though what humour is in it is very dark. The soundtrack features baroque stuff, of course, with a rather strange ditty from Sir Elton John playing out over the illegible, but highly artistic credits. There's also a dance sequence that is so weird, I wondered if it might be a fantasy brought on by one of Queen Anne's ailments.

This brings us to the second thing: Olivia Coleman has been nominated for a Golden Globe as a lead for her role as Queen Anne of Great Britain (1665-1714; reigned 1702-1714); her costars Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are nominated as "supporting roles" - in a film with a title that indicates the story is about them - each is a "favourite": Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, and her less fortunate cousin Abigail Hill (later Baroness Masham). This sort of thing seems to happen a lot with women's film roles, lead roles are interpreted as supporting roles, so they can be fitted into the categories.

At any rate, it's a strange film, but quite a beautiful one. The camera angles are sometimes folded into panoramic shots, or stretched into oval fish-eyes, with the shadows, highlights and shades of Vermeer paintings, lots of dark blues, black-and-whites. You can't find fault with the acting. It's the sort of film that makes me say inwardly, as I gaze on tastefully filmed scenes of royal lesbianism and bunnies (not in the same scenes): Goodness, I wonder what really happened?

Because it's a mistake to equate film-going with a history lesson.

Don't get me wrong; do go see it, and then find out how much is likely to be true. I suggest you start here - a web site entitled History Vs Hollywood, which, currently, provides historical context on about 200 recent movies, most of them made since 2000, although films such as Jaws and Schindler's List are included.

If you're like me, you'll want to check afterwards, not ahead of time, as facts do get in the way of a good story.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Welcome to the glass house

Elder daughter, who is on her way back to Hades, is a fan of Tim Minchin, who has released this bitingly funny - and I do mean "ouch" - video, as a harbinger of a new album and the new year.

The album looks promising. The year?

Let's be careful and kind out there.


By now, we thought that there would be jetpacks and flying cars,
Robots to do the cleaning-up for us,
And help with the shopping.

We'd all be famous for a bit,
That's what Andy Warhol said,
Thought we'd all get our coloured heads,
Well the truth would rock him.

He would be surprised to wake up and find that we have weaponized humiliation:

In the future, everyone
Everyone will have fifteen minutes
Fifteen minutes of shame
Fifteen minutes when they are unforgivable.

Pick up your pitchforks and your torch;
We'll go hunt the monster down,
But keep an eye out for uneven ground;
We'll turn on you if you stumble.

Don't need perspective or a heart;
Leave humility at home.
Welcome to the glass house; hope you brought your stones!
Are you ready to rumble?

I'm scared to write anything that might upset my tribe.
Never mind, 'cause in the future, everyone will have fifteen minutes
Fifteen minutes of shame,
Fifteen minutes when they are unforgivable
Irredeemable
Inexcusable
Scum
Fit only to be strung up in the village square.
I will see you there!

I am scared to say anything that may be taken the wrong way.
But, *$#% it, baby!
In the future, everyone
Everyone will have fifteen minutes,
Fifteen minutes of shame,
Fifteen minutes when they are unforgivable,
Irredeemable,
Inexcusable...