Friday, June 30, 2017

Forgotten doodle rediscovered

My daughter is getting married and moving, and in the course of clearing out the old apartment, found this drawing, which she claims was done by me.

No doubt I scrawled it down on one of the many occasions when we sat together at a table, talking, laughing, drawing or writing.

I'm touched and flattered that she found it worth keeping, but I have no idea what it's about. The kepi suggests the French Foreign Legion, but why would we have discussed that?

Unless it dates back to high school history days...

'Tis a mystery.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Historical fiction hits Main Street: Kate Quinn, Jennifer Robson, Janie Chang

Last evening, Tracy Sherlock interviewed three authors about the historical fiction. The event was held at The Book Warehouse on Main Street. The trio will appear in Whistler tonight.

Dragon Springs Road is set in Shanghai and portrays the trials of an orphaned Eurasian girl in the 1930s. Vancouverite Janie Chang (right) discussed her research and explained how the fox spirit of popular culture in China got into her latest novel. She also mentioned that although female Fox deities were socially "demoted," they still challenged gender roles. 

Torontonian Jennifer Robson (centre), whose books are set in WWI and WWII England, also discussed her research. To fill in detail for Goodnight from London, she consulted many and varied sources, including her own PhD thesis, an oral history project she did at Oxford University some years ago. She also spoke with affection and admiration about the real journalist who once worked for The Province. Her late grandmother inspired the fictional journalist in the book. 

Californian Kate Quinn enjoys writing about "female bad-assery." The Alice Network, her latest work, portrays female spies from both world wars. Its author engaged the audience with anecdotes. She related how her librarian mother provided a list of "good WWII massacres" she could use to get rid of a certain character, and then revealed how on the road, she and Jennifer helped each other disentangle story problems. "We can't fix our own plot problems, but we can fix other people's," she said. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Pinatas now for sale in IGA

Once this Mexican local artifact was exotic to Canadians, and available only to tourists who visited Mexico and shopped in places like Pueblo ViejoOkay, full disclosure: they were for sale in the Puerto Vallarta airport too.

Now the Mexican-style pinata has arrived here in force, and can be seen in your local grocery store.

Ole, it's fiesta time!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mathematical memory: triangulating the distance across the Kalum River

Image from mwpr

Fisherman's Memorial Park marks the confluence of the green Kalum with the Skeena. Long ago, at the behest of my Grade 11 Math teacher, I stood on the bank near this bridge and calculated the distance across the river. I wanted to measure the Skeena, but it was too wide. In order to use triangulation, I had to select and keep my eye on a particular tree on the forested bank opposite.

I have another memory of the Kalum River. During one spring flood, I was standing on the bank with my brother, watching the roiling river. I turned away for a moment, and heard him mutter. "Rats!" But his voice was coming from too low down. I looked back and saw that his head had disappeared from shoulder height and reappeared at waist height. The bank had given way under him, and he was scrabbling at the willows in an effort to clamber out of the muddy water.

Monday, June 26, 2017

What Vancouver stands to lose in the real estate mania

These days, when a Vancouver house with a mature garden grows a For Sale sign, we know what to expect.

Will a family renew and refurbish a charming and cosy home like this one? Probably not. More likely is the destruction of a mature garden and a wrecking ball for the house. The very features that give Vancouver such appeal are rapidly being sacrificed on the altar of Mammon.

People used to buy houses mainly to live in. Now, as investment trumps living, the green and quiet city is going down: tree by tree, house by house, street by street. Along with affordability, our region's livability is being lost as homes are snapped up by investors. Public schools are under threat of closure as families are driven out, leaving their city an exclusive playground for the very rich.

Gardens go down as land is bought up. Cash-strapped middle-class Vancouverites can barely to afford rent in the city, let alone buying homes. As they flee across the river, Surrey and Langley are reeling from the effects. It seems like every time we leave home, we see more missing trees, felled to make way for building to feed the boom. Richmond, with its rich delta soil, was once a farming paradise. Its proximity to the city and airport means it is now being built up and paved over.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Buffalo pound

Image from You Tube

Waterton Lakes Park is one of several places where wild buffalo still roam Alberta. Within a large paddock, they roam free as they did of old. Aboriginal people used the buffalo pound, a round trap, to catch these all-important animals that provided food, clothing and shelter to the people of the plains. The name of the great chief Poundmaker refers to this skill.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Golden Ears writers Open Mic -- Getting in on The ACT


Tuesday evening the Golden Ears writers hosted an open mic at ACT. Ronda Payne took pictures, while performing writers chatted at the break.

Below are some intriguing lines from the evening's performance.

First to go is the Jackie Kennedy look.

If you don't speak for yourselves, your silence will speak for you.
She's learned it from the camels, he says.
And don't go cloning the grocery boy!
Gophers whistle...before upending themselves in their holes. Bottle brush, buffalo grass, porcupine grass...
I gear down and stand on my pedals...The wheel wobbles like a loose tooth.
Stinky got loose again...Crashing through carrots, leaping over lettuce, and pooping in the peas.
When the last petal falls...Two goats live in an abandoned asylum for children.
From my roomette...I kept looking out that window until it was dark.
The clothes pretty well stand on their own.
The knife I gave my daughter is more of a talisman.

Good performance, everyone. Have a happy writing summer.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Canadian Authors ushers in summer break with open mic

Random lines heard during Wednesday evening's delightfully varied readings: 
From Bora Bora to Glacier Bay/we drank our beer/I don't care if my stomach grumbles/I don't see your name here, Herr Doktor/The feminist femme fatale is a humanitarian/living gloriously and free/a gaudily dressed woman on a horse/eyes scanning the sacred grove/I dance and my feet go into the earth/We cheer for rains of hope/Build a hoist, fix the pump, set traps/shine and fly, laugh and cry/permanently on guard against the terribleness of the unknown/God help me, I want the risk/I wanted to savour his wrongness/Choosing a barbarian woman, a campaign wife/fighter pilot father I'm pretty sure he didn't have/Regret is a good teacher/What's your view of coincidence?/Dear humans, you got it all wrong/You can go back to the time before they taught you to hate/Silence war. Sing peace.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Goodnight from London, by Jennifer Robson


Historical fiction is educational as well as entertaining, and this one excels at historical verisimilitude. Even though WWII is a period I've researched lot, there was plenty to learn from this latest novel by Jennifer Robson.

While following the ups and downs of Ruby, an American columnist on loan to a London magazine called Picture Weekly, I learned new details about daily life during the blitz and women's roles in WWII.

The author sensitively conveys the confusing cultural differences that Ruby must meet with understanding and tolerance. As the shy American orphan adapts to a new kind of life, she learns to value the courage and tenacity of her beleaguered hosts, and finds friends in whom she can confide. She also adopts a homeless cat and falls in love.

I'd heard about Morrison shelters, but Morrison sandwiches were new. I knew a fair bit about rationing, but was unaware that all restaurant meals were off-ration. It was also fascinating to learn how much time and effort famous actors and singers devoted to entertaining military personnel and others doing war work. ENSA performers included Vera Lynn, John Gielgud, Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier.

Having read a great deal about SOE, I suspected long before Ruby did what her sweetheart was up to that made him so secretive.

This novel was partly inspired by the author's journalist grandmother, her historian father, and the many WWII veterans she interviewed in the course of her history studies at Oxford. Jennifer Robson has also written a fascinating trilogy of novels set in WWI. Definitely, a writer to watch.