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.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Tonight I board a flight to England and this time tomorrow I'll be in Wales. This time next week, having spent a couple more days with the family in London, I'll be on my way back to Canada with my mother. My sister's going to fly over later, to join us.

In four weeks from now, so my husband has just informed me, I may be in Hangzhou, China. That's Hangzhou in the picture. We might be spending a month there on a business trip which has cropped up out of the blue. I'd be the accompanying spouse ... It would be good practice for George's and Sha's wedding in Beijing next May, anyhow.


I have attended four funerals or memorial services this year, two for elderly ladies (Elizabeth and Claude), one for a friend of my own generation (Regina) and a long mass at the Notre Dame Basilica last week for the teenaged children and niece (who died in a car crash last month) of a lady from our German conversation group (Katarzyna). I've thought many thoughts about all of these people, but writing about them seems impossible at the moment. Maybe I shall try again later. Music featured in each funeral and it seems as though this must help the chief mourners. I do hope so.

After Claude's funeral on Saturday I had to drive to the Flying Club to look after a little girl while her parents and her brother went up for a sight-seeing flight with Chris. She was 8 months old and after my very recent contemplation of the other end of life, her soft, warm company and her cheerfulness did me a world of good.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Standing up in front

(photo by Carol Hinde)

The first CFUW Diplomatic Hospitality event of the new season was held at the Vanier-Richelieu Community Centre this morning, a venue that had plenty of space for the coffee & cakes and the mingling; it also had a stage. Members of the Executive Committee (that's me in the pink jacket) had to display themselves to the assembly during the welcome speeches ... and now that I'm processing the photos, it really does remind me of our old school assemblies at Scarborough Girls' High School in the 1960s, with the music teacher at the piano (my dad in those days, though the chap in today's photo is university prof Frédéric Lacroix at an electronic keyboard, not his usual instrument) the headmistress at the podium (today, in Canada, it was Sheryl as our "chair") and the prefects standing behind her on stage. The young lady on the right (with her accompanist) was a special addition for today's occasion; she sang an aria by Bellini.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Struggling against the stream

I have recently watched two very good films (if upsetting can be synonymous with good). One was Stephen Spielberg's Amistad, based on the true story of a shipload of slaves from Sierra Leone imprisoned in the America in 1839 after they had escaped from their chains, run amok and killed most of the crew. Their plight was aggravated by a lengthy process in the law courts until they were finally vindicated in their bid for freedom, with the support of an ex-President, 74 year old John Quincy Adams, played by Anthony Hopkins in this film.

The other one was Dennis Gansel's Die Welle about which I can't stop thinking (the German adaptation of another true American story). This one deals with the terrifying ease in which a movement of mass destruction could (or can) begin, reminiscent of Lord of the Flies or the Hitlerjugend movement in the 1930s. Give restless young people a uniform, strict discipline and a sense of belonging to something that will change their world for the better and they nearly all become malleable; the unstable ones among them unfortunately may also become crazed. Die Welle has a predictably horrible ending, so don't watch it unless you're feeling strong. Two or three of the kids caught up in the wave manage to resist it. All the teenage types represented in the film were recognisable to me, because I used to be a high school teacher. When my daughter was at school she learned the proverb
Nur tote Fische schwimmen mit dem Strom.
I must admit I encouraged her not to be one of those dead fish carried along by whatever current.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

An apparition

Who knows what you might come across, walking round the park by the river in the dark, in the wind and rain?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tigers, monkeys, Arctic char ...

Miào-miao, girl's first name.
Don't roll r.
bù: 2nd tone if neighbouring word demands it
xiānsheng = husband, lit.= first birth, because husband is usually older than wife. In different contexts, zhàngfu and aìren also mean "husband"
-ung combination not used in mainland China, only in Taiwan.
nín used to older people and strangers
Tiger is king of animals (wáng). When no tigers, monkey is king.
Wáng is the most common surname in China. 100 million Wangs. Also huge number called Lǐ.

Those were some of the notes I took during my four hours of Mandarin lessons this week. The tutor, Allan Yin, is giving me copious examples of Chinese characters, but I can't really take them in at this stage, so am concentrating on the pinyin. Even there, the rules of pronunciation are very complicated. The trouble is, pinyin was created by a committee, a Chinese communist committee at that; if a westerner had been on it, he might have requested rather different spellings. That word for husband, for example, spelled xiānsheng in pinyin, sounds a lot more like "shieng-shung". When one says "thanks" xièxie seems to be pronounced something like "share sea air," rather than "shee-shee," as one might have supposed.

During Lesson 3, I'll be learning the phrase: What is your favourite number? 

Jill and John last weekend
Fascinating stuff, but other business has been distracting me from it this week, including work on Crosswinds, the RFC's newsletter. I'm getting some good input for this issue from friends and acquaintances, including an description by Jill of flying in John's plane to Newfoundland where they climbed Gros Morne. (I commissioned this article.) Another one was a report from a trio of club members, all male, who took a plane to Oshkosh and back, also in July. Another page will feature Chris' IFR instructor Kathy Fox who won a prestigious award this summer. Not only is she a famous aviatrix, she does other adventurous things, such as this ...
Kathy's catch
"From Aug. 2-15, I paddled the last 400km of the Coppermine River, from the Northwest Territories into Nunavut, most of it above the Arctic Circle. The Coppermine River is wild with a combination of lake, lazy river and whitewater paddling (my first such experience in rapids). Our intrepid group of twelve, including two Black Feather guides, had numerous adventures and wildlife sightings along the way, including a grizzly bear that wandered into our camp late one evening when we inadvertently camped close to a fresh caribou kill. This required us to beat a hasty retreat - packing up, paddling downstream and across the river to re-establish our camp. Fortunately we still had 24 hours of light, though the cloudy skies made it quite dusky.

One of the highlights of the trip (for me) was catching a large Arctic char. In all we caught 6 that day which we enjoyed for dinner that night, and the next day's lunch, and dinner...etc. I had never fished before and caught this estimated 12-13lb. char on my 4th cast! It was the biggest fish of the entire trip! I'm hanging up my rod now since any lesser catch would only be a letdown...."