blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Friday, February 26, 2010

An Olympian torch bearer

In the 1956 an athlete called Jackie MacDonald (b. 1932) took part in the Melbourne Olympic Games, competing in the discus throwing and shot put events. She had won a silver and a bronze medal for Canada in the Commonwealth Games. She is still regarded with respect for these achievements and for this year's lead up to the winter Olympic Games in Vancouver she was one of the famous Canadian sportspeople allowed to carry the Olympic Torch. Apparently there were about 12000 of these people across the provinces and as many torches too! The bearers had the option of buying their own torch (I hadn't realised that) which they could then keep. Each of these elegant objects was made by Bombardier and did not come cheap. There were words engraved on the side, quoting from the National Anthem:

with glowing hearts/ les plus brillants exploits

At the Nigerian Ambassador's house this morning a group of us met Jackie MacDonald; she told us about her experiences bearing the torch and passed it around so that we each got to hold it. It felt heavier than expected, weighing 1.6kg.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Arson

As if I hadn't enough to do with cardboard boxes (with all the full ones cluttering our living room), this afternoon Elva and I, afterwards joined by Chris, volunteered to construct and fill a great many more. This was at the company premises of our friends Don and Carol and not for fun: on Wednesday night their headquarters was broken into and set on fire. Not all was lost: a snowplough driver happened to notice the smoke and called the fire brigade in time to prevent the company archives and computers going up in flames, but unidentifiable small objects that had melted are lying around in profusion, the offices are unusable and everything salvageable is covered in soot. As are we, after this afternoon.

It couldn't have happened to nicer people. Apart from the hundreds of hours of extra work Don and Carol have put in at the Flying Club since November masterminding the construction of the hangar, apart from spending further hours lately helping (helpless) me to replace my kitchen and their (far less helpless) son to replace his bathroom, a close friend of their family died this week and they have been keeping his bereaved wife company and helping her for several days too. Because Carol's parents came up from Toronto to attend the funeral, she also had to make arrangements for their stay.

It occurs to me that whereas our friends have magnificent coping skills, the arsonists presumably don't. Goodness knows what thoughts are passing through their mean minds at the moment.

Anyway, talking of boxes, I'm due to see dozens more over the next couple of days when IKEA delivers the component parts of our new cupboards, in two installments—don't ask!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

E-books

With the house all dusty and disrupted I spent more time than usual "on the road" (or simply out around the corner) last week and one of the essentials I carried with me was something to read during lunch in the coffee shops. Chris had encouraged me to try out his Kindle (his Christmas present from me which had proven such a boon on his recent journeys to England and back) and every time I sat down to use it in a public place, it attracted a good deal of attention.

"Excuse me, what's that you've got there? I couldn't help noticing ..."

"Oh, is that a Kindle? If you don't mind my asking, how much did you pay for it?"

"Do you like it? Is it easy to use? How many books can you put on it? Can you buy anything you want? How much do the books cost? Do you think you'll stop reading ordinary books now that you've got one of these? Sorry to ask so many questions but my sister keeps a small bookshop!"

To bookshop owners, the Kindle is a major threat. Perhaps they're right to worry. The technology is still in its early stages and the number of available books is still limited to what Amazon thinks will sell well, plus the free-of-charge classics (out of copyright) that can be downloaded from the Project Gutenberg website. Even so, perhaps traditional books will soon go the same way as the papyrus scrolls and waxed tablets of ancient times so that electronic literature become the norm, with the result that our bookshelves will become obsolete. Well, the consequence will be less lifting and carrying, and less dusting.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this post.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Two Roberts taken prisoner

Rideau Place, one of the poshest "retirement residences" in town, was where I had tea this afternoon. Half way through my visit a young man in the house uniform interrupted with a selection of teas and sticky little tarts and an encouragement to take home a brochure and consider patronising the place on a longer term basis. Not yet, thanks, not yet!

Five of the eight ladies in the lounge had lived in Paris or came from Paris, so their French was beautiful to hear. Simone was a war bride who'd come to live in Nova Scotia in 1951 and, because she fell in love with the country as well as her Canadian soldier, had never since left Canada. Stella was born in Algeria. As young girls, so they discovered at the end of last month, these two had grown up on the same street. There's an overt solidarity between all the Parisian ladies, calling themselves the maudites françaises as opposed to the die-hards of Quebec. The only corner of Quebec, they said, where an approximation to proper French is spoken, is the Chicoutimi region. Interesting. I've heard this before but have not been up there yet.

We'd sat down to talk about the War, i.e. World War II, because Chantal had promised to read to us from the cahiers de journal de captivité written by her father, a handsome lieutenant in the French army. Captured in 1940, he'd become a Prisoner of War in Silesia, like my own father. Fin des illusions, he had written, against the picture that showed him wearing his prisoner's number badge. This French Robert had been incarcerated in Oflag VIIIG, Weidenau, in his thirties ; Robert Tullett, my father, in Stalag VIIIB, Lamsdorf, in his twenties. Paper being so scarce and precious during their POW years, both men used miniscule handwriting; Chantal said she'd had to use a magnifying glass to transcribe it. She showed us a photo of some of the French prisoners playing in a chamber music group; my dad created and directed a prison choir.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Blogging made romantic

I watched two American "chick flicks" last week, Sleepless in Seattle (1993)—terribly predictable as to its outcome—and Julie and Julia (2009), with Meryl Streep larger than life. This second film was the more original, but both films shared the distinction of having a double plot in which the lives of their two main characters hardly intersected at all: in Sleepless ... the two main characters only make one another's acquaintance in the last few minutes of the film, and from the beginning to the end of the other one, Julie never actually meets Julia. The plot is the true and recent story of a woman who becomes famous by keeping a blog, a likely story! Well, it didn't seem very plausible to me. This post, for example, originally published on September 1st, 2002, is the origin of one of the moments dramatised on the big screen where you see 29 year old "Julie" eating her first ever poached egg.

No big cooking projects to blog about in my house at the moment unless you want to read all the details of how I'm coping with my one square foot of work surface on Carol's collapsible table in our living room. We managed to have home made split pea soup from the slow cooker with ham sandwiches, tonight.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Deconstruction before the reconstruction

This is what is happening to my kitchen, one day at a time. David the renovator tells me he is very interested in Picasso, in his cubist period, who wanted to show us all sides of the picture at once. Apparently my old toilet, washbasin and oven can be donated to Habitat and I also heard about a chap who goes dumpster diving (aka skip dipping) who might benefit from my old floorboards. David himself says he is going to make use of my old floor-to-ceiling cupboard in his garage, for the storage of his tools. I'm pleased about all this recycling.

Different circumstances

(Written on Feb. 4th, photos added today)

This morning Chris is overseas on a business trip to England, and I'm not writing this at my desk at home but at my friend's kitchen table in Kanata. She is suffering the effects of chemotherapy so just wants to sit quiet on the settee while I'm here; later I'll make some lunch for her in the hope that she'll feel like eating something. In the meantime, the kitchen renovator is doing some replumbing for me. He arrived before 7:30 as I was moving the car out of the garage and promptly set to work unloading his tools and asking me where things were. I'm not used to all this lively action before breakfast, but I daresay I'll get used to it. I made him a flask of coffee, handed him a key to the house and left him to his own devices.

I shall be going out tomorrow morning, as well. There's a snowshoeing session at the German Ambassador's residence: I'm the designated photographer. On the last two Fridays we visted the American and Barbadian residences. The Americans served us coffee, with stars and stripes on the cups and serviettes, and we could help ourselves from boxes of chocolates. Both hostesses commented on how much they enjoyed the atmosphere. Mrs Greaves from Barbados said, “You brought some life into this house!” We also brought a great many bags full of boots, woolly hats and mittens, and the plates of home made sandwiches tend to leave a trail of crumbs, but that doesn't seem to matter. The hostess gifts being presented this season are packs of greetings cards made by me. Each pack is tied together with ribbons. Apparently my cards are sent all over the world; people tell me I ought to credit myself by signing them. I've left them anonymous until now.

This is a picture I took in the grounds of the U.S. residence, the snow-shoers (left to right) representing Canada (Darlene is the leader of our group this year), Kazakhstan, the United States (the lady in the middle is the Ambassador's wife), the E.U./Belgium and Estonia/Canada (Ülle was last year's leader of our group).