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.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Family reunion, continued

Meeting George at Heathrow worked as planned. As we emerged from the baggage retrieval and customs hall into the bright light of T2 Arrivals, there he was at a Caffe Nero table. Hugs and congratulations all round. Meanwhile our daughter was sending us excited welcome messages. We took the X26 bus from Heathrow to Teddington, tried and failed to check in at the Travelodge where they don't tolerate early arrivals, although at least they were willing to stow our luggage in the office while we went out again. Breakfast at the Caffe Caffe on Broad Street is always a good option in such circumstances, and then we were able to meet Emma who slipped out of NPL between meetings to greet us by the bus stop and lend us her house keys. More hugs.

"It's been a long time since we the last time all four of us were together," I said.

"And we haven't changed a bit!" added George, ironically.

(Am writing this three days later on the Cardiff train, currently pausing for 10 minutes while they find the driver, who is on another platform, apparently.)

The rest of the first day was then spent either trying to snatch a few moments of sleep or eating small, light meals, or walking for miles to stay awake. On Friday we did better, crossing the Thames footbridge at Teddington Locks and walking a short way along the Thames Path that follows the river (very full at this time of year) downstream. Occasional beams of sunshine brightened up the views. Emma escaped work for the afternoon this time, and joined us for lunch where everyone except me talked about Bayesian distributions, George describing his problems with "curvelets" and the Lutz-Kelker bias in the measurement of distances between stars. Not following a word of this, I just sat back observing the family interactions. The two men were argumentative, my daughter saying she could see both sides. Later in the afternoon, while George was cooking a gong bao ji ding (without the proper ingredients), Chris and Emma brought the boys home from school. Chris succumbed to a feverish cold that evening and had a rough night. He is still not better.

(The train is taking us on a picturesque detour via Stroud, the sun coming out again.)


I abandoned this post for lack of time to complete it. See the rest of our journey log here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A family reunion

Chris and I are sitting in the 14:20 train from Ottawa to Dorval, en route to England again. Through the windows of the train the views are extraordinary, seemingly endless sheets of shining ice on top of the snowy fields after the latest snow-thaw-rain-freeze cycle in this part of the world. Only a few dried grasses poke through, lit pale yellow by the bright sun today. The ice, reflecting the sky, has a blueish sheen.

Our son, meanwhile, has no clear view from his window. He is on Qantas Flight 1, presently over the southeastern coast of India, making rapid progress towards Dubai in the middle of the night. In Dubai he'll transfer to the second leg of his flight which will bring him down into Heathrow early tomorrow morning. We are going to catch the Montreal to Heathrow Air Canada Flight this evening to land at approximately the same time, if all goes well. I've arranged for us to meet at the Caffè Nero in the Terminal 2 Arrivals hall. Let's hope the plan works. We're likely to be feeling pretty tired at that point.

Later in the day we're also going to meet our daughter and her family. I'll have to rack my brains to remember when we were last all together as a family. I did spend a moment with Emma and George in the spring of 2010 when George and I got stuck in Europe because of Eyjafjallajökull erupting, but on that occasion Chris was stuck in Canada, same reason.

At the weekend we are going to accompany George to Wales to visit his 98 year old grandmother. He last saw her more than four years ago when she still lived in her own home with had better eyesight, etc.; I'm afraid he may find her too much changed. Even so, I'm anticipating a happy reunion.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The coldest capital

Setting off to the shops on January 14th
For a while, this winter, Ottawa was designated the Coldest Capital In The World, beating the capitals of Mongolia, Greenland and "the stans" with its low temperatures. Then last week, for a short time, the thermometer showed +11℃! and most of the snow on our roof melted. That was odd, although a January Thaw is not unheard of; I remember a similar occurrence in 2008 while George and Jonathan were staying with us for Christmas and the New Year. Last weekend though, down we went again to a windchill of minus 30 or more, resulting in more frustration for Chris who hasn't flown his plane for ages, which makes him antsy (1838, American English). The thing is, you cannot fly if your wing-covers are stuck to the wings with ice from the freeze-thaw-flash-freeze cycle. You have to persuade a kind, tall friend (Chuck, in this case) to help remove them by force and bring them home in the car, so that you can drop them on the kitchen floor and let them melt, soften and dry out before driving back to the airport to slide them on again in a bitter wind, with your wife holding the ends up above the snow.

Having no choice but to put up with the weather, we wrap up well and carry on going for walks outside, or to the warm and humid gym for exercise, in all weathers. Yesterday we walked into town via the frozen Rideau Falls, as weird and wonderful, although not so vast, as are the famously frozen Niagara Falls, just now.

The two most attractive spots in town this month are the new seating area surrounded by tropical plants on Level 2 in the Rideau Centre, like one of those outdoor "parklets" (modern, wooden structures that sprang up around Ottawa a couple of years ago), and the Paper-Papier store in the Byward Market, which sells flowers as well as paper products, and which smells wonderful the moment you walk in. The Central Experimental Farm has a tropical greenhouse too, which is worth visiting in mid-winter; I haven't been there recently, but must do that soon.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

For the record

The months last year when I failed to publish blog posts were August and December. Those were the months when the most was happening, which meant that I hadn't the mental energy for writing. By degrees (à la recherche du temps perdu), I'd like to try to recover some of my memories by cheating, setting the date and time of each post to an appropriate moment in 2017.

In brief, August 2017 was when 11-year-old Toni Aschentrup from Beilefeld came to stay with us in Ottawa, on her own --- a happy visit! --- and December 2017 was a typical December, during which I allowed myself too much respite. We didn't even go to Sindelfingen, as in previous years. We made the most of staying at home.

Charismatic twins at a jazz concert

I had an email from the artistic director of the DOMS concert series advertising yesterday's jazz concert:
These guys are outstanding musicians, and charismatic and virtuostic performers besides. 
So I thought it would be an event worth attending, even though I'm not very familiar with jazz. It was. That outburst of praise had not been an exaggeration.

Many other people were lured in, packing the church. Elderly Ottawa citizens come out in all weathers; they are tough. The average age of the DOMS noon hour audience must be around 75 and the local care home reps were serving cookies and free coffee beforehand, as usual.

On stage were the identical twins Peter and Will Anderson from New York City who had "travelled all the way here for today's concert". Adam Moezinia, the guitarist and equally talented third member of the trio, lives in Ottawa. All three musicians are Julliard School alumni.

The title of the concert was Magic of Benny Goodman. The Anderson brothers have been doing something along these lines at NYC's Lincoln Centre, as well.

Goodman (1909-86), from humble beginnings in Chicago, was a classical musician as well as becoming rich and famous as a clarinetist in the jazz world. Influenced by the New Orleans style of jazz, Benny Goodman in the 1930s "defined the swing era," as one of the twins said. Nearly all the music we heard yesterday was from those days.

What we heard: Soft Winds, as a trio for clarinet, sax and guitar, followed by These Foolish Things, same combination. I have found a YouTube recording of them playing this one with a different guitarist:

"Now we're going to play fast!" said the "younger" twin (born 10 minutes after his brother and growing one inch taller, so he told us) and they launched into the swirls and syncopation of Seven Come Eleven. The Andersons teased Mr. Moezinia, informing the audience that "he started taking guitar lessons about two weeks ago" (obviously not true)! A duet for saxophone and guitar followed, improvising on Gershwin's Embraceable You, which features in the old movie, Girl Crazy. The saxophonist for that item was the "older" twin whom his brother introduced to us as "the more romantic one." During the next number, Back Home Again In Indiana, the guitarist tapped his instrument like a drum. Stardust, by someone with the extraordinary name of Hoagy Carmichael, was another slow piece, for which Will Anderson picked up a flute, his eyes closed for concentration as he played it. This man seemed equally at home with all three of the instruments he'd brought on stage, an incredibly skilled musician. Towards the end of Gordon Jenkins' Goodbye which he played on the clarinet, with the guitarist accompanying, he gave us a solo cadenza as impressive as anything I've heard in classical clarinet concertos.

The trio also played two numbers not listed on the program, a New Orleans favourite, I can't give you anything but love, with which they finished the concert, and the an item that had been specially created for the twins on their clarinets plus guitarist by the composer Kyle Athayde, an Appalachian Mountain Song which combined classical and folksy styles of music with the jazz.

Here's a recording of yesterday's trio performing at a similar concert in Arizona, a year and a half ago:

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A constant watch, and a holy practice

Plenty of exasperating nonsense about making resolutions is written at this time of year, especially in the magazines and inspirational blogs, although this one (link posted by a Facebook friend) included a paragraph that made me pause. The author says it's pointless trying to change what is not within our control. So far, OK, so platitudinous, but ...
What do you control? Lots, actually. How about your thoughts [...]What about [...] how honest and kind you are [...] how you use your time, your tone of voice or how much [...] you judge others?
Paying more attention to my tone of voice might be a good idea. My husband tells me I don't hang up promptly enough after phone calls so that my audible sighs or mutterings probably offend people at the receiving end.

Another Facebook friend suggests scribbling on a slip of paper and putting it into a "memory jar" every time something positive happens in your life. At the end of the year you tip out all the memos, read them, and realise what a good year it has been.

If I manage to keep updating this blog, I hardly need to do that, the blog being my memory jar. If only I wrote it as well and consistently as Alan Bennett writes his diary entries!

I suppose that making reasonable resolutions and taking note of what happens is all about mindfulness, which buzz word I thought to be of Quaker origin (like "centering down"), but apparently it was coined by a scholar of Buddhism, Rhys Davids, in 1910, so claims the Huffington Post.

Another phrase we often read these days definitely comes from the Quakers; it was "a charge given to Eighteenth Century Friends" to speak truth to power and it's strange to think that this phrase and notion have gone so mainstream now. Actually I should be careful saying notion, because that had negative connotations for the early Quakers:
Men are too apt to let their heads outrun their hearts, and their notions exceed their obedience, and their passions support their conceits, instead of a daily cross, a constant watch, and a holy practice. ~ William Penn, 1644-1718