Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hypothermia at Easter...

Happy Easter, everyone.  This has always been my favourite time of the year.  It's spring, but to me it's the official start of summer.  When I was growing up on Vancouver Island, as soon as Easter weekend was over, that was our cue that summer was here, and it was time to go swimming. We would run home after school, put on our bathing suits, and head off down to Rogers Creek.  The water was just barely melted ice, but you can actually feel quite warm, once hypothermia sets in.  On Easter Sunday, our family would wear our "Sunday best" and go to the morning service at All Saints Anglican Church.  I sang in the choir, with my little robes and velvet bow.  But the best part of Easter is the renewal of all that has been dormant over the past few months.  The Japanese plum tree outside my window is in full bloom, in all its glory.  To me, that has always had a connection to the resurrection.  Life, rising again.

Have a wonderful Easter, everyone.  I hope the Easter bunny found you.  In Canada, this is a four-day weekend, and it's just what the Easter bunny ordered.

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Who Would You Be...?

Every month Vanity Fair magazine interviews various people with the Proust Questionnaire.  One of the questions is "If not yourself, who would you be?"  I would definitely be one of the grand ladies of the silver screen, such as Greer Garson or Deborah Kerr. They were ladylike, elegant, and with just enough mischievousness to make them interesting.  They were never vulgar or crass.  Whatever life threw at them, they faced with determination and humour.  In a way, they were the role models for the women of their generation.

In any case, and without further ado -- drum roll, please -- here are my answers to the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your greatest fear?

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Queen Elizabeth the First.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

What is your greatest extravagance?
Spending money on my family.  Unfortunately, I won’t have a fortune to leave to them, but I love treating them to things now.

What is your favorite journey?
Anywhere I don’t have to fly.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Following orders.

On what occasion do you lie?
To spare someone’s feelings.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Where do I start?

Which living person do you most despise?
Anyone who lies in order to start an unnecessary war.

What is your greatest regret?
My lack of university education.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
A lady doesn’t kiss and tell.

When and where were you happiest?

Which talent would you most like to have?
To be a trained classical pianist.

What is your current state of mind?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My bank account.  And my eyebrows.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Raising my daughter to be a well-educated, accomplished person in her own right.

What is your most treasured possession?
Any gifts that people give me.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Losing a friend.

Where would you like to live?
Anywhere I could do a lot of travelling without having to fly.

If not yourself, who would you be:
Greer Garson or Deborah Kerr.

What is your most marked characteristic?
My nose.

What do you most value in your friends?

Who are your favorite writers?
Maugham, Steinbeck, O’Hara, Cheever, DuMaurier

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Tall Bob Smoke in “Tortilla Flat”.

Who are your heroes in real life?
People who are not afraid to speak their mind.

What is it that you most dislike?
Political correctness.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
An apple tree.

How would you like to die?
Do I have to?

What is your motto?
“Never look out the rear view window.”

Saturday, March 23, 2013


When I was a little girl, I thought my mother was a movie star.  She was beautiful, and possessed a very French je ne sais quoi, much like Coco Chanel.  She wore Chanel suits and Chanel No. 5 fragrance, and she never left home without being impeccably dressed.  Often, when she and I went shopping, we would meet some of my friends from school, and the following day they would say to me, "Omigoodness, your mother is so beautiful; what happened to you?"  *sigh*  I inherited most of my genes from my father's side of the family, along with his rather pointy Gallic nose.  My mother was a brilliant artist, she was well-read and extremely intellectual, and she was very, very funny, with a slightly off-colour sense of humour.  Wherever she went, she was the centre of attention, and she knew it.  One year we were invited to a Christmas party in West Vancouver at the home of the C.E.O. of one of Canada's major banks.  The party was filled with snooty doyennes from the British Properties.  My mother walked in, sat on one of the chesterfields and began chatting with folks.  Within ten minutes, everyone in the room had gravitated towards her as she entertained them with her wonderful stories.    I laughed, "Oh, yes."

My mother, "Gambie" was very fond of my daughter.  They had a special connection, and I do believe those connections endure.  Some scientists believe that time is not linear, but an endlessly repeating loop.  So, what is happening now has happened before, or will happen again, or is perhaps even happening at the same time.  It might explain some strange events.  Last year my daughter took Phinnaeus and Marigold to Victoria on Vancouver Island for a three-day outing.  On their way back to Vancouver, they stopped at my mother's final resting place just outside Victoria, and took her some flowers.  They phoned me and said they were there, and I told them it was a wonderful coincidence, because -- unbeknownst to them -- it just happened to be her birthday on that very day, and she would be pleased to meet Phinnaeus and Marigold, and receive flowers on her birthday.

When my mother passed away, I inherited a lot of furniture that I didn't have room to keep.  I kept the pieces that I loved the most -- her Queen Anne desk and a few other things -- and the rest I sold.  One piece that I regretted selling was a footstool that she had done in needlepoint.  I have looked for it over the years, but could never find it.  Yesterday, my daughter took Phinnaeus and Marigold on a day outing to some antique stores in the Fraser Valley.  Yes, you guessed it -- there was the footstool.  My daughter sent me a text with the image of the stool, and I recognized it immediately.  It's a little worse for the wear after several years, but it's the same stool.  

Today is my mother's birthday.

Do we receive messages from beyond the veil that divides us from the people we have loved and lost?  No one knows, but it is comforting to think so.  At some place in time, Gambie is very pleased that she has not been forgotten, and she is sending everyone reminders that, yes, she is still here.  We just have to look.  And yes, my daughter bought the stool and took it home.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Heart of Vancity

Lately, I have not done much blogging.  I haven't felt as if I have anything interesting to say, here on my boring little blog, in my boring little life.  But today is the first day of spring, and I am looking forward to summer.  This is the year that I have finally decided to quit working.  We are all of us allotted just so many minutes on this earth -- no more and no less -- and unlike money, when we run out of time, we cannot get more.  I want to spend some time doing the things I enjoy, and I live in a wonderful city in which to do them.  This photo is a picture of English Bay here in Vancouver -- yes, we have palm trees -- and this is my favourite part of the city.

Yesterday someone posted a wonderful video of Vancouver on YouTube, so I thought I would share it with you.  It really is a beautiful city.  Prepare to be amazed somewhat amused.  In the meantime, I'm going to concentrate on getting back my groove.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Separated at Birth...

It has occurred to me recently, that I really do need to get a life.  Seriously.  I have way too much time on my hands.  Yesterday evening I was watching a Jonathan Pryce movie -- he is one of my favourite actors -- and I realized that he looks exactly like the fellow who was just elected as Pope.  Faces fascinate me.  Mythology says that we all have a doppelgänger somewhere.  Some folks have glimpsed their own doppelgänger, but science has explained this as an epileptic seizure of the left temporal lobe.

Not long after my mother passed away, I saw her doppelgänger in the produce department of our local supermarket.  It was strangely comforting, and I followed her around for about 15 minutes, trying not to look obvious.  Everything about the woman was identical to my mother, including her mannerisms.  It was a surreal experience.  I shopped at the same supermarket for months afterwards, and never saw her again.

Do you have a doppelgänger?  You never know.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tradition, Pomp and Circumstance...

I'm not particularly religious, which in any case is not the same thing as being spiritual, but I find today's election of a new Pope is rather historical. The last time a Pope abdicated, over 500 years ago, and a new one was chosen, Michelangelo had not yet painted the beautiful frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, under which today’s vote took place. In the larger picture, we are witnessing history, a history that has a long connection to the past. Whether we agree with Catholicism or not, today was a historical process.

Life is awfully boring without a little pomp and circumstance occasionally. In many ways, our traditions and cultures are what define us and make us feel part of the larger community.  The church is a very old organization, and like any large, old organization, it has its problems. Lots of problems. I believe the church will address its problems, and I wish Pope Francis the best of luck.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Photoshop...? Just Say No

This is one of my favourite photographs, by one of my favourite photographers.  To my untrained eye, everything about this picture is perfect.  There is a stillness to the picture, but at the same time, one's eye moves over it from left to right, and then back again.  The stately old barn is all that is left of the homestead, and it tells a story of days long gone.  I love the dead, windblown grass in the foreground.

When the photographer had the photo developed, he was told he could tweak the snow and make it whiter,  using Photoshop.  His reaction was ... "No."  Why would anyone want to do that to this wonderful picture?  If you look at the snow, it is actually filled with colours -- blues, browns, even some greens.  Tweaking the snow to make it whiter would turn the photograph into a ghastly Thomas Kincaid picture.  Sometimes less is more.

Photoshop is a wonderful program, I'm sure, but I think it has ruined more photographs than it has improved them.  Folks tweak perfectly wonderful photographs until they are shades of greens, yellow and pinks that do not exist in nature.  Sometimes more is just ... garish.

To me, this photograph is lovely, and what you see is what you get.  Photographers don't need Photoshop to make their photos better.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring Forward? Not If I Can Help It...

This weekend is the beginning of daylight saving time.  We will gain one hour of daylight in the evenings and lose one hour in the mornings.  I have never understood the reasoning behind this.  One of the first proponents of daylight saving time was an Englishman named William Willett.  He disliked having his evening round of golf cut short by the setting sun, so in 1905 he proposed advancing the clock during the summer months.  During the First World War, daylight saving time was adopted as a way to conserve coal and save electricity.  We live in a 24 hour schedule here in the 21st Century, and our schedules are no longer governed by the movements of the earth in relation to the sun.  We are surrounded by light, noise and electrical gadets.

"First electricity, now telephones.  Sometimes I feel as if I'm living in an H.G. Wells novel."  ~~ Countess Violet Grantham

I detest daylight saving time.

Most living things are biologically set to a circadian rhythm.  We need a certain amount of daylight and a certain amount of darkness, and our biological functions are tied to the light-dark cycle.  One of the most important of these biological functions is sleep.  Modern humans already live in a desperately sleep-deprived environment.  Indoor lighting and other stimuli already disrupt our circadian rhythm and our sleep-wake patterns.  This, in turn affects our health.  Why in the name of all that's wonderful do we need more light at ten o'clock at night?

Did I mention I detest daylight saving time?  The residents of the animal fraternity house next door will begin to stir, they will venture outdoors blinking at the bright blue sky, and they'll party down -- until the wee hours of the morning.  I'll be lucky to get four hours of sleep.  Folks will haul out their barbeques -- what is it about a summer evening that compels people to cook huge slabs of meat until they're charred to a crisp?

I'm thinking of buying a double-barrelled super soaker water blaster, but I would probably be arrested.  I hear jail is very noisy.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Faces, No Two Are Alike ... Or Are They?

Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)
Leonardo da Vinci

The Mona Lisa is the most famous portrait, and arguably the most famous painting.  By today's standards, she would not be considered "cosmetically" beautiful, but her expression still speaks to us from 510 years ago.  Da Vinci captured her perfectly.  He was also not able to paint her hands correctly, and if you look closely, you can see where he has made a couple of attempts to correct the position of her fingers on her left hand.  To me, that gives the painting a human touch -- no pun intended.  But her face is what draws the eye.  The words most used to describe her are enigmatic and mysterious.  Our faces tell so much about us; a movement of a single muscle can change our expressions and convey a message to the people observing us.

Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by human faces.  Like snowflakes, no two faces are alike, but sometimes they can be very close.  Last weekend when I was watching all the celebrities prancing and preening walking the red carpet, all that was going through my mind was, "Hey!  She looks just like..." or "He looks just like..."  It was a hoot.  So, in no particular order, and for no reason whatsoever except it's fun, I put some faces together.  See what you think.

Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain

Michelle Williams and Carey Mulligan

Julia Roberts and Steven Tyler

James Marsden and Rachel McAdams
If they ever married and had children, their kids would look just like both parents.

The next time you're standing in line at the supermarket, or in a crowd of people anywhere, check out people's faces.  They're fascinating and amazing, and you will always find someone who look just like someone else.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Little Town Over the Hill...

An old farmer was working in his field one afternoon.  It was fairly hot, and the only sound was his older tractor.  He heard a car on the gravel road.  It was driving fast and kicking up a lot of dust, but it slowed down as it got closer to him.  The car came to a stop.  The old farmer saw a young man get out of the car and walk towards him.  “Hey!” the young man called out, “My family and I are moving to that town over the hill.  What’s it like?”

The old farmer looked at this rather sullen young man.  “What’s the town like you live in now?” he asked.

“Pretty bad,” the young man snapped.  “People are so backward.  They are so cliquish.  They don’t like me because I didn’t grow up there.  The police pick on people, the taxes are too high, the teachers are not very good, there’s too much gossip.  We can’t wait to leave that town.”

The old man said, Well, son, I’m sorry, but that little town over the hill is just like it.”  The young man walked away, dejected.

A while later, another car pulled up.  This time a young woman got out and walked into the field.  “Hi!” she smiled, “Can I ask you something?”

The old farmer was impressed with this young woman.  She was pleasant and polite, and he liked her even though he did not know her.  Like the young man earlier, she said she and her family were moving to the little town over the hill.  She wanted to know what the new town was like.

As with the young man, the old farmer asked the young woman what the town was like she lived in now.

“Oh, it is such a great town!” she exclaimed.  “We love it and are so sad to be leaving.  The school is so good and they care so much for the children.  We will miss the teachers so much, and the kids just love their school.  And our neighbors are so nice.  People really care for each other – nice churches, progressive government, good stores.  It is a really nice town.”

The old farmer smiled and said to the young woman, 

“Well, I have good news for you.  That little town over the hill is just like it.”