Thursday, May 31, 2007

Video - Women in Western Art

A beautiful piece of video art created by Eggman913 - with the help of a few of the renowned - and not so well-known - artists of the past 500 years. And his Picasso and Civil War videos are exceptional pieces of video, you might want to check them out on YouTube.

Wish I knew what the cello piece is!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Et Tu? Reesie!

Reesie RecumbantRather than slap me against the side of the head - which I deserve for forgetting to mention it - in that sweet gentle southern manner of hers, lynette reminded me that I hadn't said anything about the most important man coming to Rome: Reese.

Yes the Reeser Man is coming with us, if he couldn't go I wouldn't go - simple as that.

In the way of special handling he has to:
  • be mircochiped
  • have up-to-date rabies shots
  • be given a clean bill of health by a Canadian Vet
There is no quarantine requirement - that only applies to places like the UK, Australia, the Caribbean - so he can enter Italy with us. And friends at the Embassy have recommended a good vet to look after him once we're there.

Airlines no longer allow pets in the cabin - I can understand the reasons though I don't like it - so Reesie will be going as checked baggage. I've explain to him that its actually Canine Class and its a very special cabin all his own. Working with the airlines taught me that the last thing to do is give him a tranquillizer - those things have a stronger effect because of the altitude; more animals die of over-doses on flights than you'd think. The best thing to do - and no this isn't a fetish thing - is to put a pair of sock or underwear that you've worn in their kennel. The smell of someone they know comforts them.

Reese on the moveThis will be his second trip to Europe - and given his age probably his last. He's fairly well-travelled. He got us in Crystal Lake, Illinois when we lived in Chicago. We realize now that the kennel - though AKK registered - was a puppy mill and many of his health problems stem from over breding. Be that as it may he's still my best bud and one of the gentlest creatures on God's earth. He has been with us on moves back to Ottawa, down to Montreal (five times), over to Warsaw, back to Ottawa-Aylmer and now onward to Roma. He should have frequent flyer points.


Two of my favorite bloggers - Tater and my blog mama lynette - talk about ghosts and memories.

Tater writes - as only he can - about the ghosts in the attic.

lynette chronicles her search for family memories and ghosts this past weekend. And being lynette she kept us in suspense through not one, not two , not three but four postings. And there were a few of us going to give her such as slap after posting number three.

Speaking of the supernatural, I just went over to Big Ass Belle to check the urls for the links and lynette has linked to Tater too (gosh that sounds cute) and my most recent post about Rome. Coincidence or the para-normal at work? Scary stuff kids.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Fantastic Fotos

Venice by AaronIt's probably just my imagination but it seems that Aaron over at Meanwhile goes on vacation at least once a month. Aside from being envious of his travels I also envy his incredible eye for what makes great photography.

This past week he was in Venice and Ljubljana and a click on the photo above (one of the most incredible night shots I've ever seen of Venice) will take you to seven days worth of great pictures.

And now that I've found out the Ljubljana is only 4 hours from Venice by train, I've added another destination to the growing list for the next four years.

Quo Vadis?

Google Map of Rome, Italy
Well its been confirmed, much like St Peter we're vadising to Rome - though with no intention of being martyred. Mind you there are probably a few things there that could kill us: the pollution, the crazy drivers or the high cost of living.

My blog "momma" lynette (Big Ass Belle) has asked: What's with Rome? When are you going? Why are you going? What's the story? Such an enquiring mind!

When are you going?
Well that handy little countdown at the right says it all - I was going to include milliseconds but thought that was a bit of overkill.

What's the story?
For 25 of the 29 years we've been together Laurent's been in the Canadian Foreign Service (Diplomatic Corps.) He's been posted to Mexico City, Cairo, Chicago, Amman, Warsaw and currently Beijing. Until 1999 I remained - like Penelope at her loom - back in the old Patria. Then, after 33 years at Air Canada, I packed it in and joined him in Poland. At all the other posts I've was there as often as I could be - working for an airline helped a lot.

In 2001 we came back to Canada; I landed a job with the Federal Government; we bought a beautiful heritage home in a small town near Ottawa and settled into a fairly normal life. Then three years ago he was offered Beijing - we knew that I could not join him but decided that for various reasons we would live with it. Well we have lived with it - and haven't enjoyed it. We've decided enough is enough - time we started living together again.

Why Rome?
When posting request time came Laurent put in for three cities that we knew would not create any problems for us as a family; being the Foreign Service none of those choices where offered.

Instead they came up with:

New Delhi - Don't think so! Given the homophobic attitude in India I have a feeling our little family unit would be less than welcome.

Moscow - Strangely enough I would have had full diplomatic status - who would have thought? And we've never been to Russia and it could be fascinating. However cost of living, living conditions and security were major concerns.

Rome - Need I say this was the most appealing! We both love Italy and Laurent is sure that he was an Emperor in another life. Problem is that Italy does not recognize same-sex or common-law relationships for diplomatic status. There were various suggestions - including the time-honored tradition of me entering as a member of Laurent's household staff (yeah right!), my true station in life confirmed by the Italian Government.

Solution - I hold an Irish (EU) passport under dual-citizenship and that allows me to move pretty freely within the European Union. Mind you I've received three different versions of what to do when I enter Italy - the Mediterranean confusion starts already!

How long will we be there?
The normal post length depends on the country and the hardship level. As an example Beijing is normally two years while a place like Rome is four. So, if things go according to plan, we should be in Rome until summer of 2011.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

According to a recent report from Statistics Canada men are more likely to suffer depression after a divorce than women. This soundly supports the theory that women are stronger then men – something I’ve never disputed.

The study began in 1994, before Same-Sex Marriage became legal in Canada (2003), and it’s based on statistics from straight couples only. Guess they’ll have to start again with same-sex couples.

Now that could produce an interesting set of statistics. As an example, in gender-defined relationships will the butch one be more depressed than the femme one when they split up. Or in a lesbian relationship will both parties simply move on while in a gay one both guys will become depressed, weepy and a burden to their friends who will have to listen endless repetitions of “I gave him the best week of my – sob - life!”

Hmmm… may have answered my own question right there.

Okay I may be taking this Rome thing a little to excess with Sedaka singing Breaking Up Is Hard To Do in Italian but.....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Nostalgia - Victoria Day

Victoria Day Picnic - 1949?There was a time in this fair land when Victoria Day - the 24th of May - was a big celebration - at least in English Canada. We celebrated the reigning Monarch's birthday, commemorated Queen Victoria's birthday, cried hip-hooray for the British Empire and trumpeted our British heritage. It was all very WASP, all very jingoistic. A celebration of an Empire that was fading away.

On the Saturday cottages were opened for the summer and preparations made for the weekends events. On Sunday, after a suitably solemn service of Morning Prayer with special anthem, family and friends gathered for the first picnic of the year. We proudly strung Union Jacks and Red Ensigns from house to tree, ate our hot dogs (though my mother frowned on that - you never knew what they put in those things!), drank our lemonade and when it finally got dark lit our fireworks. The Burning School House was a great favorite but I particularly loved the fairy light fascination of the sparklers - shades of things to come?My brother Albert

On the Monday a street parade formed up at Horner Public School and marched the four blocks over to the Alderwood Community Park. Lead by the local scout troop (my brother proudly carrying the Union Jack), The Maple Leaf Forever blaring from a tinny speaker mounted on an old Ford pick-up, the Girl Guides giggling and waving their Union Jacks, followed by a throng of costumed kids with decorated bikes, trikes and wagons. The rearguard was brought up by the Alderwood Volunteer Fire Brigade truck the blast of its horn scaring the smaller kids who were lagging behind.

There were prizes for the best decorated bike - guaranteed if you used Union Jacks, a picture of the King or Queen or red, white and blue streamers you'd win some sort of prize. There was a prayer from the local Anglican minister asking a blessing on the Monarch and their loyal Dominion of Canada, speechs from our MPP and Alderman and God Save the Queen shrilly led by the public school choir and rousingly sung by one and all. Later that night was the "big" fireworks display - 15 or 20 rockets donated by the Hands Fireworks Co., some Catherine Wheels and more sparklers for all the kids.

Like the Empire we celebrated back then most of the May 24th traditions have faded away. It's now just the first long weekend of the summer. This past few days people opened their cottages and there were BBQs and picnics, but there were no parades and I haven't heard a single firework all evening. Sure there's fireworks on Canada Day, July 1st but I always thought how lucky I was back then: I had two chances to burn that old schoolhouse.

I think the picture at the top of the page dates from 1949 and that fine looking pair of gentlemen at the left are my father Ab (Albert) and me (notice that damned tuft of hair again.) The lady behind us is my beloved Aunt Lil. Until the day she died she kept her Belfast accent and she was the only one who could get away with calling me Billy when I became an adult. The way she said it was musical.

CPP* Day - Let the Excitement Begin!

March 1947 Who would have thought that 60 years and a bit after this photo was taken (don't you just love the antimacassar - Isabel, my mother, crotchet it between changing my diapers) this adorable infant would be applying for his Canada Pension.

The middle of last week, with trembling hand, amidst the chuckles of my young co-workers - damn I remember the day one of them was born - and the cheers of my fellow sexagenarians (and no that ain't a dirty word,) I submitted my electronic application. Starting August I can join the stampede of seniors to their mail boxes on the first of the month - though I won't be heading to Timmy's to compare tax deductions afterwards. Guess I'll just have to spend mine on some of those marrons glacés that Opera Chic was talking about the other day.

* Canada Pension Plan - I've been contributing to it since my first job back in 1966; my first contribution was $58.59 for the year. If I recall my take-home pay that year was around $7000.00

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Out Of Apathy

Parliament Building by Steven W. Dengler
I don't normally post anything on political matters. It's not that I'm not a political animal it's just that after all of these years I've become disillusioned with politics or more particularly politicians. However one more week like this past one on Parliament Hill and I may be dragged out of my apathy and turned into a raving political activist.

Though I won't go as far as to say the current Conservative minority government is a swindling bunch of crooks any more than their predecessors where or that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a cold calculating bastard with a hidden agenda, those thoughts have been popping into my head unbidden.

This week alone we have seen some interesting example of our "New Government" at work :

  • A conservative member of Parliament [MP] strode across the floor, a parliamentary no-no, and shoved a liberal MP - a real big parliamentary no-no. And where the hell were the Sargeant-at-Arms and Speaker during all this?

  • Non government organizations who depend on federal funding to employ summer students have found that funding cut or refused. The minister in charge says he has a list of worthy organizations that will receive funding but refuses to release it.

  • The Executive Assistant of the Conservative leader in the Senate leaked false information accusing opposition Senators of cheating on travel expenses. Both the Senator and the EA have refused to apologize and the EA has been given a promotion.

  • A 200 page handbook detailing how to stall parliamentary committees and filibuster during debate has been distributed to select Conservative MPs. Its instructions have been followed on at least three occasions this past week causing parliamentary gridlock. All the while the "New Government" - and they insist on being called that even though they've been in power for over a year - has been blaming the opposition for the situation.

  • The Prime Minister is using parliamentary privilege to indefinitely delay giving a deposition in a defamation suit launched by a longtime Conservative party member.

So much for "Canada's New Government" and its commitment to openness, transparency and high ethical and moral behavior. O Canada - who stands on guard for thee? Damn if this keeps up it may have to be me.

Some of this may sound familiar to my American friends - Mr Harper has expressed his undying admiration for George W. Enough said.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Opera Chic's Milan

La Scala logo As well as her quirky and ultra-hawt postings on opera, Opera Chic (I'm a young American woman in Milan.... and you're not. I go to La Scala alot.... and you don't) has taken to giving us insights into her fabulous life in Milan... where we're sadly not!

Today (May 18th) she's highlighted a few of her favorite spots - other than La Scala... where we're sadly not! - in and around the Duomo. I can almost taste those marron glacé and damn it the minute we get settled in Rome I'm heading up north to do exactly that - and maybe, just maybe catch a performance at La Scala.

Under MilkWood -

I had just completed a 400 word post with links etc under the above title using Blogger's new auto save. But it appears it did not ... autosave that is... and unfortunately being Blogger it is not possible to contact anyone about it. I worked long and hard on it. The moral being - do it in Word first then copy and paste because Blogger's autosave is more bug ridden than a convertible windshield on a summer night. I am royally pissed.

Good night all..

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Metaphor of Faith - Sicut Cervus

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
Psalm 42:1 – King James Bible, 1611

It's been a long time since I've read any of Robertson Davies but yesterday on CBC Radio’s Studio Sparks, Eric Frieson prefaced a performance of Palestrina’s great motet Sicut Cervus with a quote from Davies' novel Fifth Business:

If he hoped to make an atheist of me, this was where he went wrong; I knew a metaphor when I heard one, and I like metaphor better than reason. I have known many atheists since Sam, and they all fall down on metaphor.

I consider myself lucky that during my period of strong faith I attended a parish church (St Thomas Anglican – Toronto) where music – both sung and in the spoken language of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer - was an integral part of worship. Not that the parish community did not listen to reason: reason played a part in the Senior’s Home we built to celebrate our centenary, in the day care centre we operated in the church hall, in the neighborhood and University outreach programmes. It even played a part in the Parish support of Caesar Chavez and the California grape boycott – but frankly being Anglo-Catholics who really bothered with grapes unless they were fermented? And it may have played a part in a few of the sermons that were preached. But mass, evensong, matins – all the feast, fast and ferial celebrations of the church year – those were pure metaphor.

I fell away from the church many years ago and perhaps it is approaching old age but these days I think I miss the reason but I know I miss the metaphor.
As a sidebar, God' Secretaries, The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicholson is an intriguing look at the period, the politics and what influenced this brilliant piece of English literature.

Monday, May 14, 2007


You think maybe he's posing? It appears that Venice's macho Gondolieri - much fabled in Gilbert and Sullivan as the gay gondolieri but that's another story - are up in arms. These men's men of the canals - I've included a few pictures taken on a A waiting Gondoliervacation back in 2000 to show just how macho these boys are and 'cause hell beefcake is beefcake - are horrified that a woman is attempting to break into their manly domain. Alexandra Hai - a foreigner and a "gasp" woman - has won the "limited" right to navigate through the waterways of la Serenissima.

An article in today's NYTimes quotes one veteran gondolier as saying "Let's leave one tradition intact." And Venice is a city that loves its traditions. However you will notice that none of these gentlemen are wearing the traditional straw boater with the long flowing streamers - guess it just isn't manly and besides it would get in the way of those traditional Armani sunglasses!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

To Hell In A Handcart

Last week one of the commenters on Big Ass Belle referred to the idiom: going to hell in a hand cart and bingo one of those memory drawers popped open.

When we were living in Warsaw Laurent and I decided we needed a vacation break between Christmas and New Year's. For some reason, don't ask me why, I decided that Dresden would be a great place to see. I was right. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable vacations we've ever had and the source of the first travel article I had published.

The next morning the sun was bright and a deep cold had set in - a day for museums. One of the legacies of Augustus the Strong's mania for collecting is the Green Vault housed in the Albertinium Museum. I now know how Ali Baba must have felt entering the cave: diamonds, gold, silver, enamels, jewelry, miniatures, serving plates, trinkets-including a wonderful fat gentleman in silver being transported by the devil "to hell in a hand cart." And only a curator with a sense of humor would arrange it so you stumbled out of this Baroque riot into the Tim Burton-like sculptures of Thomas Reichstein and Andreas Feininger's black-and-white photos of a long past America.

Excerpt from Messin' Near Meisen - Warsaw Business Journal, February 5-11, 2001.

For some reason amongst all those treasures that fat little gentleman charmed me most with its mix of humour and silversmith's art.
To Hell in a Handcart - Thomas Lindenberger, Nurnberg - 1562And here he is, ain't he a beauty? And Lynette unless I'm mistaken that's a terrier at the Devil's heels.

Spring Has Sprung - VI

I realize I have become a trifle obsessive about the garden - perhaps it's because I know at the end of July I will turn it over to other people to care for.

A colleague asked me why, if the house was sold, would I waste my time working in the garden?

Good question. Possible answers:
  • Pride - damned if I'll turn over the garden in a sorry state to its new owners.
  • I enjoy it.
  • Plants are living things that, like all living things, need care and nurturing.
  • It keeps me off the wild streets of Aylmer!
Bishop's Scourge to meLynette (Big Ass Belle) was asking what the pretty variegated ground cover was on a previous post. I knew it as Bishop's Scourge but it is commonly known as Bishop's Wort or Gout wort. Lovely but invasive - I've needed a machete to cut it back the odd time. But it is still a spectacular ground cover for the ferns, hostas and day lilies.
Tall Bleeding Heart
Spreading Bleeding HeartThere are several types of Bleeding Hearts - I believe the low, spreading one is a Japanese variety. The two by the shed have become a good size in the past four years.
Raspberry canes
A few strawberry plants
    When the house was built back in 1885 the kitchen garden was where part of the family room and deck are now. Most of the back was vegetable and fruit gardens (there's an aerial photo from the '40s in the City Archives showing the garden and fields down to the river bank.) Every year the remnants of the strawberry and raspberry patches spring up. I just leave them - they bring extra colour and life to the garden.

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    Stuff - III - The Kitchen

    I've gone through the kitchen and realized that between the house and Laurent's apartment in Beijing we have enough kitchen "stuff" to open an intimate bistro. Do we really need all those pots, pans, casseroles, the two woks, the bamboo steamer? I certainly haven't used them much in the past three years - but then I haven't been entertaining all that often. And when was the last time I used that ginormous wire whisk? As a kitchen utensil? ..... Never mind!

    A design on Hunting SceneAnd the dishes!!!! We have Tante Fernande's china (York Rose - a rather lovely set that she collected in DUZ detergent during the 40s and 50s, a cup, a plate etc per box), my Crown Staffordshire (Hunting Scene, "a favorite of horse lovers....") that cannot go in the dishwasher, the old Robertson Stoneworks every day set, the Chinese blue and white set, the.... well you get the picture. And Laurent just bought another set in Beijing to go with those celadon rice bowls we just had to buy in Hong Kong at Christmas.

    The one item I am loathed to chuck out is my Cuisinart Food Processor. I bought it when I first moved to Ottawa over 31 years ago - it came with a James Beard Food Processor cook book that included a recipe for Gazpacho. Gazpacho? Thirty years ago nobody in Ottawa served gazpacho - except at 210-1833 Riverside Drive where it became a find-a-boyfriend-for-the-winter-dinner-menu staple. I even got all the attachment - and of course ended up using only the chopping blade. The motor still runs fine, the blade is still as sharp as a newly-stropped razor but the plastic bowl is cracking and finding a replacement is next to impossible. Question is: do I want to cart it all the way to Italy? Something to think about.

    As a sidebar: In this week's NYTimes Style section the Minimalist maintain that a good no-frills kitchen can be equipped for $300.00 USD. And he's right - so maybe I'll just throw everything out and start all over again!

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Spring Has Sprung - V - Trilliums

    A single trilliumWe were always told as kids that it was illegal to take a trillium out of its natural setting in Ontario. According to the Wikipedia entry this is not the case though it is the law in a few States of the Union and Provinces of the Confederation. Though it may not be against the law, picking or Two trilliumstransplanting a trillium can cause permanent damage or arrest growth. It takes a plant fifteen years to reach the flowering stage and if a flower is picked chances are the plant won't bloom for another seven years. The seeds are disseminated in a strange way - in ant excrement (see the link above for an explanation, I found it fascinating.)

    I do not know how the three in the corner of our garden got there but Trilliumsthey have bloomed the four springs we've lived in the house so I can only assume they've been here for at least eleven years. This is the first year they have been so predominant and I only wish there were more of them. Maybe if those ants get busy the new owners will end up with a glorious ungrowth of white in the spring.

    Shortly the entire back of the yard will be covered with a jungle of ostrich plume ferns - at last count there were 51 of them - and the trillims will be hidden as the flowers fade. That back bed is wonderful come early July - shades of green and white with the odd flash of yellow, blue or purple: periwinkle, hostas, day lilies, ostrich ferns and even the accursed Bishop's Scourge.

    Ferns in the South West corner

    I Have My Doubts.......

    My "blog mama" Lynette over at Big Ass Belle posted her Tarot Card results and the link. And if its on BAB I will always take a look.

    I swear I answered the questions as honestly as I could but there are a few things I question about me being the SUN: intellect? youthful energy? clear thinking? Maybe we should deal again?

    You are The Sun

    Happiness, Content, Joy.

    The meanings for the Sun are fairly simple and consistent.

    Young, healthy, new, fresh. The brain is working, things that were muddled come clear, everything falls into place, and everything seems to go your way.

    The Sun is ruled by the Sun, of course. This is the light that comes after the long dark night, Apollo to the Moon's Diana. A positive card, it promises you your day in the sun. Glory, gain, triumph, pleasure, truth, success. As the moon symbolized inspiration from the unconscious, from dreams, this card symbolizes discoveries made fully consciousness and wide awake. You have an understanding and enjoyment of science and math, beautifully constructed music, carefully reasoned philosophy. It is a card of intellect, clarity of mind, and feelings of youthful energy.

    What Tarot Card are You?
    Take the Test to Find Out.

    Saturday, May 05, 2007

    Spring Has Sprung - IV - May 4, 2007

    Conversation the first spring we were in the house - April 2003:
    Blue flowers called???? Laurent: Oh look at those blue flowers. They've bloomed over night.
    Me: Yeah, very pretty.
    More blue flowers called???? Laurent: What do you call them?
    Me: Fred and Mildred.
    Laurent: No seriously, they must have a name.
    Me: Damned if I know.
    And more blue flowers called ???
    And I call myself a Gardener!

    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    You Should Wake Up In the Middle of the Night....

    Molly Picon
    I only saw the great Yiddish actress/singer/composer/writer Molly Picon on TV. Back in the '60s, when stereotyping was a form of shorthand, she made guest appearances on Car 54, Where Are You? as Mrs. Bronson, the Yenta of Yentas. She was in her mature years but still had a pixie charm and a way with a raised eyebrow.

    What made me think of her tonight? At a briefing for Foreign Service employees and spouses today the subject of our fears and concerns about our postings abroad came up. I mentioned that not only would Laurent and I have to learn to live together again after three years but we would be doing it in the foreign city. One of the participants, who will be leaving his wife behind as he heads out to Kabul, asked me what I was looking forward to most when we are reunited. I repeated a line of Mrs. Bronson's when she opened up a matchmaking service for older couples:

    It's nice, you should wake up in the middle of the night and be thirsty, there's someone you can nudge , they should get up and get you a glass of water.

    You got it Mrs Bronson!