Friday, November 17, 2017

The Exterminating Angel

Thomas May writes an article called Angel in America for the Metropolitan Opera.

Don't be alarmed.

 This is not Angels in America, but an article on The Exterminating Angel, the Met's NT live performance on Saturday.

The live performance is on Saturday.

I have other things to do, so am going to wait to see it at the Encore.  But if anyone does get there, how about an off-the-cuff review for the rest of us.

It looks fascinating.  You might also enjoy this article from TrendFem.

The Guardian calls it the opera with everything.

I love the MetLive.


Bolshoi Ballet - The Taming of the Shrew

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov
as Katharina and Petruchio
in the Bolshoi Ballet’s “The Taming of the Shrew”
at the Lincoln Center Festival. CreditAndrea Mohin/The New York Times

Watch a preview of Bolshoi's The Taming of the Shrew featuring Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov.

The following link should work:

 Preview of the Taming of the Shrew

The music is Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a (arr. R. Barshai from String Quartet No. 8): II. Allegro Molto" de Vladimir Spivakov & Moscow Virtuosi

Judith Mackrell of The Guardian reviews The Taming of the Shrew by the Bolshoi saying "Shakespeare’s problematic play has tripped up choreographers in the past, but Jean-Christophe Maillot’s interpretation is bold and fast-witted".

The New York Times says "In Bolshoi’s Ballet, No Shrew to Tame".  So there is another take on the ballet.

We are going to try to see this performance, Mary, Naomi, Rhiannon and I.

I go out to the web and see bits and pieces of it.  I am so looking forward to see it on the big screen on Sunday.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Follies - Waiting for the Encore

The treat bowl after both girls had filled their purses.

The notebook contains notes to help me ask questions
about the songs and the performers.
We had done everything to get ready for the Follies.

I had done the trip to Dollarama to pick up the treats (white chocolate and plenty of lollipops for Rhiannon).

Mary had purchased flavoured popcorn at work – a fund-raiser, but now it was doing double duty and was on its way with us to the show. 

Mary had popped some kernels at home as well, “I hate that Cineplex popcorn.”  Good to make everyone happy.

I studied the reviews of the show, making up question for the girls to answer: $1 for every correct answer (or any try) up to $10.

When they came home from school, I told the girls the questions and the answers, telling them that when they saw an example of what we had talked about, they should poke their mother and that would be enough to answer the question. For example, if you see the crumbling brick walls of the set, or the castaway props, or the faded red velvet chairs, or even if you know the names of the characters in the show, then you are on your way to making money.

We arrived just in time to get settled in our seats. The theatre was already full so our seats were in the second row from the front. I pulled out the clip in my hair for I had to slip way down in the chair, lean my head against the back of it and then find a place in my progressive tri-focals where I could get a clear image of the screen.

So far, so good.

I settled in to hear an interview with the artistic director of the show, then another with Stephen Sondheim, and then the show began. Having watched a 1987 production on youtube, I found myself comparing that production with this new one – up to the point when we lost the video on the screen, only to get it back without the audio.  This was the beginning of the slippery slope.

By the time we left the show, there were only a handful of people in the theatre still listening to at least the musical score. For us it just wasn’t working without the vocals. Now we have to go back for the Encore, January 20th, 2018.

Still, I was happy walking out of the theatre and down the steps to the car.  I noticed that I was humming and singing clips, like "Hey, up there".  The music so Sondheim.  Probably the interview with him before the show started was worth the price of the ticket, which in the end was refunded to me.

In the meantime, on the way home, we still answered questions about the show so that the girls could earn their money.

And we began to prepare for the Bolshoi Taming of the Shrew ballet which is on Sunday.

As well, we made a small stop at the Golden Arches.

All’s well that ends well.

The view of the kitchen floor as we walked in from the theatre.
The worst part of the evening was walking back in the door and seeing that the dog had spent the night getting into the garbage and licking every last piece of tin foil, plastic wrap and foam carton in there.

 “No, Arta, you can’t help clean it up. It is my dog,” said Mary.

It was me who left the garbage open, but at this time of night, who is going to argue.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Planning Meeting

We are trying hard, very hard, to figure out what we should do tomorrow.

"I think I will just sit on your lap for a while,
mother, while we discuss this."
My take on the day is that we should pretend we are in London, and head off to  the National's Oliver Theatre to see Stephen Sondheim's Follies.

We can do this by going to the local theatre, eating our treats, seeing the show and coming back to the best beds in the world -- those at home.

Mary warns me that her girls aren't big soda drinkers, and they are still recovering from Halloween candy overdose.  So I don't know what there is to do but just go and enjoy the show.

I have not only been immersing myself in the reviews of the show, but I went out to find a youtube version of it, and watched the whole 2 hours, filmed over the shoulder of some patron who was in front of a camrecorder.   That is the way to see the show with the worst sound and colour.  But I couldn't stop myself.

Will Naomi and Rhiannon be able to get up to go to school the next day?  

As a grandmother, I say, thrown caution to the wind, and if no one can get out of bed the next day, who cares -- except that we do have to send Mary off to work.

The four of us have had a grand day today.  Mary told me to buy marbles at the Dollar Store, for Rhiannon wants to play them at recess with her friends.  I think the price was $2.50 for half a pound of marbles.  I bought two bags when one would do.

I asked Rhiannon if she wanted to youtube refresher on how to play the game,  

"You know how to do it, Grandmother, just get playing."

The score was 2 games to one, but I expect tomorrow I will do better.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Antigone at WHP

From Rebecca:

Just got back from Toronto (a workshop with Indigenous documentary film makers and law professors mixed). It was pretty fun!

Click on the link to read the text on the poster.
Last week was the prison symposium  which was amazing.

William Head Penitentiary is the federal minimum security prison (mostly life sentence people but near the end of their sentences).

We have a PhD student who is there (he went in as a 20 year old, and is going to be doing at least 10 years before the possibility of parole…. I think he is about 27 now).

The prison has a society which does theatre in the prison: 37 years of theatre!? It is run by the prisoners, and the public goes in to watch. They just did Antigone
Last year they did a piece where they wrote the play as well as doing all the set, costume, and acting.
So I saw Antigone, and then we went back a week later for a Symposium inside the prison for activists, academics, theatre people, community volunteers, prisoners, prison staff/warden etc. to talk about the past/present/and future of WHOS (William Head On Stage).

It was a full day in the same room, and so inspiring. This theatre company is something really special. It is also totally funded by the prisoners (through a society): they work with community volunteers, but have to raise all their own money for staging, costuming, snacks, etc.

There is no “govt money” that supports this. Nor are the guards paid to do all the overtime necessary for when the public comes in: the prison guards ‘volunteer’ their time.

 None of it would happen if the warden (both present and past) did not have a commitment to let it happen… and the assistant wardens coordinate with management and operations, etc to make sure things can happen.

Really, it is like a strangely fragile flower that somehow has been able to survive for over 35 years. 

Almost impossible to imagine.

 And the theatre work itself is really transformative for the men.

Quite an experience.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Tim's Band at the National Music Centre

This is Tim Oldham's Band at the National Music Centre in Calgary ... and other selected pictures from a fabulous event ...

looking down on the band from the top
 ...Audra in the sound booth with her cousins ...
Zoe at My Regrub
... dancing ...
Sound Booth
... Theresa on drums ...
 ... Regrub Restaurant before the first bite ...
Audra with Fred Penner

Tim said they painted the collapsible wall behind them
 the night before so they  couldn’t open it and play in the music hall. 
They crowded onto the balcony.

A Splendid Moment

From Moiya


I went out to take a picture of what I thought was a splendid moment.

My sunglasses were on because I had a shot in both eyes this morning.

That was about 2 hrs. ago.

Now I went to open this up on my e-mail and come to see that there was even a rainbow out there.

I certainly did not see it until now!


Can¹t wait for all of you to come and enjoy what is all of ours.

Love Moiya

The Toe Story

From Wyona

I went to the Music Museum on Saturday to hear Tim's band play.

I attended with Tonia, Marcia, Audra, Kalina, Theresa, Charise and Zoe.

I had a really bad fall/trip. I might have been doing the Charleston to the music as I walked along.

I think I tripped on my Left Foot Toe, did a few fast unbalanced steps forward but my feet would not catch up to the upper part of me so I did a face plant right in front of Kalina and two strangers.

I had to lay on the floor to get my balance, then hobbled over to a bench with all the above people fussing over me.

Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre - Calgary
I took off my shoe and my three toes were fat and turning purple etc. My knees are swollen, one elbow, my nose and my three toes are fat and black.

Theresa sat by me on the bench to keep my company because her feet had been bothering her while walking around the museum.

When I took off my shoe, Theresa took off her shoe.

She never put her shoes back on, went around the museum bare footed after that and she sat on the bench to recuperate with me.

The shoes Theresa wore were too small and she said they hurt her feet. She has a cut on her toe from shoes that were too small.

Thus endeth the toe story.

Now-at the lake

Moiya sends this picture with only the words
Now-at the lake

I guess one pictures says it all.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Primary Presentation - Ottawa Style

... standing in a row at the water's edge ...
It was the Primary Presentation today. 

Rhiannon was ready to go to church about three hours before it was to begin.

We have the 1 pm meeting, and she had practised her talk numerous times and also taken out her Cool Maker and Styled the mannequin’s hair with an elaborate fish braid. 

But by the time she got to church, the color had gone out of her own face, her jaw seemed longer and the rest of her face drawn. It was all she could do to stay upright and lean against her mother’s shoulder.
... my first glance at the seagulls this morning ...

As to Mary, she holds a special position in the primary: primary support worker.

I asked her exactly what that means. She said she is assigned to help a 3 year old girl on the autism spectrum.

So that made sense of what I saw as the children sang one of the songs.

I know -- bad composition
But it still seemed interesting to me.
Mary was sweetly singing the song. She had squatted down and was cheek to cheek with that little girl’s ear. The little one was showing the audience her own version of a sign language for what Mary was singing, the movements of which have nothing to do with American sign language. I have never seen a child do so many geometric changes with her hands and fingers.

A little later she dropped a paper she was holding and it had fell on the other side of the panel of boards that extends out from the pulpit.

She was motioning for anyone in the audience to pick it up … anyone? At one point I just about got up and got it for her. She was very good at motioning for help.  Even I was drawn into her captivating  drama  What held me back is that sometimes when I get in the crouching position to pick something up, I can’t get up on my own. I didn't think I needed to add to whatever else was going on.

Leo said he just about went to get it for her as well. Of course it is fun to watch the children, all dressed up in their Sunday best. One little African boy had on a stunning orange and geometric print shirt.

... the gulls in a close-up ...
Another little boy had a bow tie on a white shirt. The whole thing accented with a small version of a suit.

Another three year old has taken to wearing a body suit every day for the last 2 weeks.

It doesn’t matter what ever else her mother puts on her, she has it taken off and is back in the body suit, so we saw her doing a few tumbles across the the area just in front of the first pews.

Ah, I get such happiness from diversity.


The St. Lawrence

... the sun can't quite break through the clouds ...
I waslked down to the St. Lawrence this morning.

Who can say that about this day.

It was Sunday and everyone in the house was asleep but me.

I slipped on my walking clothes, put a sweater on under my coat, wrapped a scarf around my neck and headed down to the water.
... the view of the clouds in the water of the St. Lawrence ...
I looked across the St. Lawrence and I couldn't tell if the horizon was tilted or straight across. My intellect suggested that it was straight but when I held my phone up and tried to make things level, they just didn't look that way. It didn't matter to me. I was so interested in the refection of the sky in the water.  And I was enjoying the cool, moist air as it filled my lungs at each breath.

A few joggers passed me and I say two cyclists go by -- men who had children in a chair behind them.  I could hear their conversation with each other.  They rode on the side roads so that they could ride abreast of one another.

Just a lovely morning was for a couple of hours.


The Canadian Museum of History is highlighting an exhibit from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

To back up a step or two, in Ottawa, after 5:30 pm, museums are free on Thursday.

So last Thursday, Mary and I went to the National Gallery to see their 2017 Biennial Exhibit.

Then Leo picked us up, drove us across the river, and we went to the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Museum of Civilization).

No one else from the family could come in, so it was Rhiannon who got to enjoy the Hot Wheels -- Race to Win exhibit -- complete with runways and little mattel cars.
"Speed, power, performance… buckle up and race with the most famous toy vehicles on the planet — Hot Wheels®! Be part of a dynamic race team working together to build and test the world’s fastest (and safest) speed machines, using Hot Wheels die-cast cars to experiment and play"
An amazing interactive museum exhibit.  I must say that I tried out some of the Mattel cars myself. 


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembrance Day

We had hoped to go to the National Memorial Service today.

I am good with walking for a couple of hours, but not with standing still for a long while, so instead of going downtown, I headed out with Rhiannon who goes to orchestra practise each Saturday morning.

Mary says this is mostly the students of one teacher.

They practise in the same building that 2 other youth orchestra’s use. When it was time for the 11 am minute of silence, all of the orchestras gathered in the same room. One young man played Taps to honour the men and women who have fallen in battle. He was dressed in a tux and stood on the corner of the stage with his horn. The rest of the youth orchestra were there on a stage which was filled with young musicians who were in the middle of practising Holst’s The Planets. There were instruments, music stands, stools and the bodies of all of those kids crowding each other. We who sat in the auditorium with them enjoyed the silence with them and then the lone trumpet played Taps again.


Trell came for the afternoon.

In the evening Mary finished up the last of the October pumpkin that we had roasted, making chocolate chip pumpkin cookies which had hints of cinnamon and cloves.

I don’t know what the right number of cookies is to eat, coming out of the oven hot like that. 

Somewhere more than three and less than six, I think.


Halloween - 2017

From Bonnie Wyora Johnson:

This is David's first Halloween in a long time
where he selected a scary costume.
I think the last one was 2006, and the costume was a spider outfit.

David was a Necromancer for Halloween this year. 
Moiya and I went to a movie while 
David went trick-or-treating with his friend Connor.

Too bad no one else was here but Moiya
to enjoy the "after-trick-or-treating" feast.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Christmas Cards and Being Canadian

Alfred Joseph Casson,
Good Cheer at Christmas ca 1923-1928
Library and Archives Canada

There is that red sleigh, the snow and the cabin
to show what being Canadian is really like.
I have never been much of a card person, though I did enjoy Christmas cards as a child.  

We used to have a cardboard sleigh into which we would put the cards.  

They came to my parents, but I think I used to enjoy the greetings as much as they did.   

I will always remember the card we received from Lawrence Kearl’s sister.  It said, “This is the last Christmas card you will be receiving from us.  

Forthwith we will be giving the cost of these cards and the postage that it takes to send them, to the poor in India.”  My mother told me me that they had recently made a trip to India and this was probably what made them do this.

As I said, I rarely send cards to others.  Kelvin always received one, two, even maybe more from his siblings when it was his birthday.  Nadine, Molly and Grant never missed and I am sure that Sharon bought one even though it might not have been sent.

I was surprised after Kelvin died, how much the cards meant to me at his funeral.  I often send people a letter after a funeral.  For some reason, I had never thought that I would be in a position to receive sympathy cards.  But there they were at the end of the funeral, ready to be opened at my leisure.

The cards really must have been important, for on two separate occasions I sat down and had someone  read through them again and then talk about Kelvin’s connection to those people.

 This Brook, Algoma- Algoma Sketch CXXVII 
by Lawren Harris
At any rate, when I was in the Library and Archives Canada Building, I looked at the Group of Seven Christmas cards by A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris that were on display.  

Jackson saw the land as the essence of Canadian identity.  

The William E. Coutts Co produced a catalogue of cards in those days, from which you could order the cards you wanted to send.  

There was a 'Coutts Painters of Canada Series’.  The catalogue for the cards was hard backed, maybe 12” x 18” and 4” thick.  

The charm of the book is that a painting of Jackson graces the cover of the catalogue, beautifully framed.

Could they ever have known  it would end up in the National Archives?

At the far end of the exhiition is a beautiful oak desk with chairs surrounding it. Old card catalogues are also around the room. The drawers that I pulled out were empty with the ghosts of card catalogues that I used to look through in my local library when I was a child.

The following questions were on the desk again:

How would you describe Canada?

What does being Canadian look like?

I sat down and tried to give my answer on one small 3 by 5 card.


The Queen's Funeral by the Treaties

I do not know how the book of “The Queen’s Funeral” by Emily Carr go in the same room as the Robinson-Huron (1850) and the Robinson-Superior Treaties (1850) but there it was – a brown book with writing on the left page and a beautiful image on the right page.

I took time to sketch a piece of it in my own notepad for the images were making me laugh quite hard inside.

Here is here lovely poem which describes the black and white sketch she did to illustrate it.
Saith Kendal ‘Won’t you Bobby’ Please
Show us a spot where we can squeeze
I stood behind and hid my stool
Because you know it was the rule
No chairs or stools should be allowed
To persons standing in the crowd.

Emily Carr

What does Canada look like?

For Chambly (1856)
by Cornelius Krieghoff
Remember those two essential questions: How would you describe Canada? What does being Canadian look like?

Sometimes the answer to that is given by painters, in this case, Cornelius Krieghoff in his painting of Fort Trembly. He shows us a frozen river, a red sleigh, a habitant’s cabin, children playing in the snow.

Now isn’t that just the stuff of what being Canadian looks like?

I hung out a long time, just enjoying this painting in the Library and Archives of Canada in Ottawa.


Visit to the Library and Archives Canada

I had a wonderful time today in the National Archives of Canada. I didn’t really know I was going there when I rode the bus with Mary into Ottawa. I had in mind to see the Bank of Canada Money but Mary pointed out the names of the buildings to me along the street that runs past all of the important government buildings, and I thought, why not start down at the very end, since I have all had an interest in what has been collected in archives. Actually the name of the building is Libraries and Archives of Canada (LAC).

They have a display up for the centennial and were asking two essential questions: how would you describe Canada? and what does being Canadian look like. I glossed over the questions, reading them, but not really responding as I might have if I were writing an exam. There was a room in which paintings, maps, coins, old leather books and movie posters were on display. There was also a desk and some 3 x 5 cards asking people to write the answers to those questions for they were going to be collected and some of the best would be retained to go in the archives. At that point, I began to be more thoughtful about the question, for I took a pencil in my hand to respond.

Colonel John Hale
Library and Archives Canada

see the Temple Doors that are being closed on war
in the upper left hand side of the picture
Among the showcases where I stopped to look at artifacts was a letter written by Voltaire called “A Letter to a French Minister”. He was not singing the praises of the new land called Canada but rather telling people this might not be the place to come. But hey! It was Voltaire. I hung out of the display case that held an original leather bound copy of a book by Samuel D. Champlain. I loved the huge fold out map at the back of the book which had been fully displayed – and was lots of fun since the map showed what they wanted the new world to look like, not what it really looked like. That included a beautiful big sea at the top of the North pole. The purpose of the book was to advertise possibilities in the new world to investors.

While I was in London I saw lots of pictures painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The one that hung on the wall was entitled Colonel John Hale.

The painting was a product of its times

Behind Hales was a painting of the war on the Plains of Abraham. The desk on which he was resting his arm had books and pamphlets from both English and French friends.

The Selkirk Treaty signed by the 5th Earl of Selkirk,
for King Charles III

 ... you can see the animals at the bottom of the treaty ...
Hanging out alone in an archives display is not everyone’s cup of tea. Nor is taking an online course and indigenaeity, but I am doing that as well.

And of course I am learning about treaties and proclamations that are absolutely new to me.

 One is the Selkirk Treaty so imagine my delight when I saw this document in a case before me with original signatures. The Chiefs’ names were there, and beside them were pictures of animals: 2 fish, a fox, a bear and a lizard.

Oh, lucky Canadians, to have such wonderful archives!


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Poem by Richard Allen Taylor

Richard Allen Taylor
author of
"The Next Generation of Mourning"
Eric sent this poem to me on Sunday.

He heard it on the radio and typed it out, and sent it to my kids and their spouses.

He does this about once a month.

I tell him to stop it, that I hate poetry. Here is the poem from this week.


The Next Generation of Mourning

I have begun, like my mother before me,
to cross out names. She lived to read the obituaries
of all her friends. In my generation, the first girl
I ever kissed is dead, complications of pneumonia.
I saw the email on the way from something
important to something suddenly not, and felt
nothing, as if a high-powered bullet had passed
through me without hitting heart or head or bone.
Later: the ache as I remembered
when we were 16, in a state
of mutual crush, and rode to the lake—
that parent-approved, church-sponsored
alternative to a real beach trip
with tiki bars and carnal temptations—
and made out in the back seat of a red ’64
Chevy Impala with Ray driving and Mable
looking back now and then to wink and grin.
Soon the romance was over and we moved on,
but never forgot that date, and when
I saw her forty years later we still joked
and smiled about that ride and wondered
whatever happened to Ray and Mable.

-Richard Allen Taylor


Something in the poem made me pensive. It was the title, I think, and the Chevy Impala and the fact that the voice was male.

I wanted to tell what that girl was thinking in the car … her first kiss and all. And I thought that girl was going to be me that I was going to tell about in my poem.. But then something happened that happens to me often. I start to write something and it ends up being something else. So the poem I was going to write was "My first Kiss"

Instead this poem turned out to be

The first woman I ever heard say she wouldn’t mind having a second wife

I looked at her as she entered
the church for Sunday School,
the same faded print dress
Sunday after Sunday.

I knew she had 9 children.

The slow slouch of her shoulders,
the skin on both hands cracked ,
worn with work … and work…
and work….

Her nails, always with dirt from gardening
lodged in the crevices
around the moons of her fingers

And those were the only
words I ever heard her utter.

Hard to shop?

November 4, 2017

Today I took 2 ten year olds and a 17 year old to an Indian/Indonesia/Thai shop and told them they all had a $30 limit, each. I had found the shop when I was out for my walk this morning. Just 20 minutes from the house. Mostly everything was 1/3 or 1/2 off. One of the ten year olds, Hebe, couldn’t find anything she wanted to buy. She wanted to head off to Target.  My choice of shops was a complete bust for her.

 Catie, now17 years old, could only find one $5 necklace. Even upon forcing her, she could only find one small wire ring.

How can I imprint myself on people who don’t want to shop!!
Japanese Buddhist Singing Bowl Bell

At least they got to smell the incense and hear the ring from the musical bowl — you know the Buddhist one that will produce the ring with a metal tong circling its rim. Unfortunately it was $90. 

Just a bit outside of our single budgets. 

Plus I was the only person who wanted to buy it.

Shopping isn't always fun.


Sondheim's Follies

This morning we were discussing our options for this Thursday. We are going to see a new showing about Canada's history at the museum.

Next week we are going to hear Sondheim's Follies.  Here is the small blurb from their website.


picture from NT Live Website
New York, 1971.
There’s a party on the stage of the Weismann Theatre. 
Tomorrow the iconic building will be demolished. Thirty years after their final performance, the Follies girls gather to have a few drinks, sing a few songs and lie about themselves.
Tracie Bennett, Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton play the magnificent Follies in this dazzling new production. Featuring a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, it’s directed by Dominic Cooke (The Comedy of Errors).

Michael Billington of the Guardian says of the production,  "Sondheim's showbiz stunner returns in breathtaking style".

Kate Kellaway of the Guardian says of the production, "Follies is like a distinctive taste that you either love or hate". 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Matching books

 ... our background is a totem pole ...
After Naomi’s orthodontic consultation for a root canal, the thought of which was about as harrowing as actually having the root canal, Mary dropped Naomi and me off in downtown Ottawa with a small city map in our hands, telling us she would pick us up at Chapters after work.

Mary said that she wished the map were more specific.

It had no street names, just blocks laid out and a few line drawn for us on it about when to turn east and when to turn west.

Mary dropped us off at an intersection across from which was a vintage store. What we found there that was slightly interesting was a wicker basket full of earrings, all of which were gold and shaped like a molar. Yes, like a tooth.  We had a slight urge to buy them to wear for the dentist when the root canal really happens.

I was a few steps behind Naomi for part of the day. The ends of her angel-bone length hair have been dyed a scarlet red colour. The laces from her untied shoes trail past her ankles and sometimes bounce off of the ground as she walks. Her $3 purse can certainly be called vintage, having been purchased from a second hand store. By the end of the day I was privy to all that she carried in her bag: a banana in a banana shield, 5 mandarin oranges, her wallet containing a gift certificate for Chapters, some meds, a pencil,  a water bottle and a baggie full of Halloween candy. The browns and golds and auburn colours in her purse matched her orange jacket – not a neon jacket. A jacket that will hide itself in any crowd.

Naomi and I have never spent an afternoon together – alone. We decided to only walk into shops that were interesting to her. So now every fascinating ethnic food store had to be skipped over and we mostly entered gift shops or stores selling ethnic jackets, purses and jewellery. All were too expensive for her.

Drop into the Bank of Canada Museum
after the National Remembrance Day Ceremony
and continue your
day of remembrance.
Join Chief Curator Paul Berry
for a 40-minute guided tour about money in wartime.
We walked along Sparks street, passing the Chateau Laurie.

I saw a store front that was called The Bank of Canada Museum and tried to get her to go into it.

“The history of money doesn’t interest me, Grandmother.”

Well, that was blunt.

Chapters was another thing.

We roamed the store stopping in all of the general categories of books. We lingered in The American Girl boutique, looking at the dolls and accessories there that Rhiannon might like. American Girl now comes with a horse and a stable, with a beauty parlour and ear-piercing salon, or with her own umbrella and beach accessories. There are clothes so that you can wear an outfit that matches the doll you carry. And the doll comes with every hue of skin and hair cut imaginable: maybe 40 of them in one case showing the different options. That was the head shaker part of the shop.

I have no idea why we started looking at day planners. Just about everyone who walks by a planner shakes their head and says, “I am terrible at planning”. Naomi was no exception. So we began to play a game that I often do with any companion: the game of “if I had to select one, which would I choose”. I do that in clothing shops, art galleries, museums,  at jewellery counters and even in book stores. Naomi and I began to look closely at the size and weight of the planners, at the tabbed pages and coiled bindings, at the artwork on the cover pages and at the texture of the pages.

... at the end of Sparks Street ...
Chapters has day timers and binders to die for. 

We were soon moving around the counter that had initially caught our eye and were at the back of it, thumbing through more choices, and then we walked to shelves along the wall, touching the leather journals.

Now that was a mistake.

We finally left to look at other things in the store: matching scarves, mitts and hats that looked like they had come right out of a Charlie Brown special. We lingered longer at the bath and beauty section, reading ingredients on bath salts, skin oils and perfumes. We turned over Gardenia scented hand soaps admiring their packaging. We looked at perfumes bottles that have roller-ball tops. I know we shouldn’t have but we laughed a bit over essential oils and products made from charcoal or the bottom of volcanic seas.

“Are these real dried flowers?” Naomi asked when we were parsing out the ingredients in some bath salts. “It looks like Epsom salts is a common ingredient in all of these,” she noted.

“Let’s get home and look into your mother’s beauty products”, I said to her.

“My mom doesn’t have any beauty products. My dad is allergic to smells.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “You have snakes, frogs and turtles in your house and they have smells.”

“Still, my mom has none of these.”

O.K. I could see that the fragrance counter would not be the place to spend her money.

I wanted to walk back to the front of the store, but three times Naomi went over to look at the leather journals.

Hand-made in Italy.

Leather binding.

The tiny labels on the back cover also had the price – somewhere between $24 and $48, depending on the product.

I just couldn’t see her buying one without me getting one as well.

Now every night as she writes in her leather journal, I write in mine.

Some days are just too glorious.


I’m an Old Grandmother

"I'm an old grandmother!"
Hebe Jarvis was concerned when I was about to arrive at her house, wondering what it is that a grandmother does. She told Catherine that probably an old grandmother just lounges around on the couch all day.

 I tried to break the stereotype when I was at her house: making pumpkin soup, walking to church with her, snuggling in bed, reading English books with her, playing the L.O.L Doll board game; and wearing my spider/spiderweb earrings for her at the church Halloween party.

She still tells me that all the old grandmother’s do is lounge around on the couch all day.

Now I am in Ottawa.

I am still trying to break the stereotype. I am going to make another double batch of pumpkin soup. Rhiannon also told me that it would be nice to have the smell of cinnamon buns in the air when she walks in the house. Leo told me that there is no pressure, but that the fresh pineapple would be delicious if it were cut. Mary said that I didn’t have to make brownies, but she put the cocoa out on the table just in case I had time.

Instead of lounging around on the couch all day, I am going to take a walk and then see how far I can get through, at the very least, making the pumpkin soup.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Into the Water

Catherine warned me about aqua size – not really a warning, but more an invitation. She goes to aqua size on Fridays. That would be on the Fridays that she can gewt there. She, too, is like the rest of us: signing up for something and then not being able to get there.

The class was more than fun – so energizing and hitting muscles groups that have been long forgotten. I was filled with amazement as I started moving them for the first time in months – probably years. I was spending my other time, when I probably should have been concentrating on muscle groups, thinking of how I can get to aqua size when I get home. How hard can it be? The university pool is available and only a few steps less, I have community pool? How is it that the inertia can keep me home, when it is so delicious to have that feeling.

Part of the time my body was filled with laughter. I get a flutter board, and I was wondering if it had brakes, for I couldn’t get it to move. I was just as bad with the pool noodle. Catherine came over to shoved it down deeper for part of it was in front of my face, knocking my nose on every kick. My arms were to be above and out of the water. And this was my first time with barbells. When we did first the left side, and then the right side, my body slide smoothly across the pool until I was shoulder to shoulder with Catherine. She just gave me a shove back and told me that it would get easier.

I am not quite able to figure out if I am under-exercising or over-exercising. At one point the instructor gave me a silent questioning look and I nodded that I was fine, though I wondered, what fine really is. It is too hard to know in a pool for there is no sense of heavy sweat. Catherine said that is the part she likes best – no sweat. I was reminded of our instructor in the heart class who talked straight to the “I hate sweating, so I don’t exercise” people. She was young and fit and said to them, “I hate it as well. But do what the rest of us do. Buy some baby wipes and have them with you all of the time and use them when you sweat.” I can’t figure out why I find that so funny. I think because of her no nonsense attitude: you don’t like exercise because you sweat? There is a way around it, so use it.”

I was going to undress in the common room. It is taken me decades to be comfortable to do that. I have finally made it to that point. Now, I just couldn’t care less. As I went to swing my top over my head Catherine pulled it down and said, “No old ladies naked here. Use the dressing room.” What? Again that made me laugh so hard. And then when we entered the big swimming pool room, there were 2 classes going on. “That one is the hot pool and for old arthritic people. Do you want to go in that one. The exercise is not quite so hard?” Man. I think that girl is loosing her bedside manner.

Afterwards came that hot shower and the shampoo and then a good towel rub. One of life’s wonderful pleasures – exercise and then love hot water and even some steam. A joy to be alive.