Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I would like to express my thanks.

Unfortunately, I'm going to be mixing metaphors in the process, but please bear with me. I think it will all come together in the end.

I knit. I am not a great knitter, as I find out every time I venture into one of the knit-and-bitch sessions at my favourite yarn shop -- but I love the feel of wool in my hands, the way simple movements of my needles create patterns that make sense. When I make a mistake, I know how to work my way back to my mistake, correct it, and go on with the project. I don't despair. I don't just rip the wool off the needles and throw it away.  Now, if only I could carry that attitude on to the rest of my life.

Reya Mellicker (The Gold Puppy) truly spoke to my heart today, and I am grateful to her. She talked about starting and re-starting, about transitions. I have always thought of my life as a shelf full of books, opened and closed one after the other, rather than as chapters of one long story, related by the story's theme and by the characters who inhabit it.
When a part of my life is over, I say, it is over, and I move on. I cut my losses, and I start anew. At least, that's what I try to do. It must be obvious to even a casual observer that  this doesn't work. An old friend told me long ago (Why didn't I listen?), No matter where I go, there I am. I find myself in awe of the people around me who live where they grew up, who have friends from their childhood, whose lives are, for lack of a better word, a gestalt. Mine isn't. Even my bookshelf metaphor is far too neat -- much neater than my life.

This September, Robin and I will board The Turtle and head back to Ontario. I am excited about seeing my daughter and son-in-law, who moved back east two years ago, and I'm already counting the days -- but there will be more to the visit than that. I will be going back to a place where I spent more than twenty years, where I loved and was loved, where my children were born, where I lost my marriage, lost the continuity of my own story, and went into a predictable tailspin. I'll be going back to a place that I left abruptly, heartlessly, and tried to forget. I'm full of conflicting emotions, bouncing between elation and trepidation. Maybe I will find that everything has changed, that I have succeeded in becoming a stranger. But is that really what I want? Maybe I'll encounter old friends. I don't know quite how I feel about that. A way-too-big part of me wants to buy a wig and some oversized sunglasses. When I'm tempted to do that, I will try to remember Reya's example. I will try to hang onto the thread of my life, to remember that the earlier chapters of my life still have valuable lessons to teach me, if I only have the courage to work my way back, to correct my mistakes -- or to accept that I can not correct them, and that they simply make up the unique pattern of my life.

Brave words, eh? Wish me luck -- and thanks again to Reya.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Am I Blue?

Well, yes, apparently. My mind is following my body, and my body is following my mind down, down, down into the centre of my own personal, possibly viral tornado. Someday this will pass. Meanwhile, I've been told by family and friends that they miss my blogging. I responded that I really had nothing to say, but they didn't care. My husband claimed he had no idea what he had been doing for the past few weeks, because I hadn't documented it.

"But, but, all I'm doing is working and sleeping."


I sighed.

Yesterday, though Jane and I went out during the afternoon and did some shopping, which livened me up, as our expeditions always do. Then we came home, and Jane went to fetch Franco. Robin had made prawn curry. Jane and Franco brought over some crab that a mutual friend had caught on the weekend and delivered to their house. It had been cooked and flash-frozen. All I had to do with the crabs was put them into a pot of cold, salted water and bring it to a boil. Presto! Fresh crab! So that's what we did -- we all feasted on crab followed by prawn curry. Oh, my. It's a good thing I had recently re-labeled myself a "flexetarian" instead of a vegetarian, because I dug in with abandon (and a fork). Soon I was up to my wrists in crab meat and feeling pretty good -- not blue at all.

Tonight, it occurred to me that staying away from Blogland isn't just annoying my family and friends and making me feel worthless. It's also cutting me off from resources that could actually help me get my bearings by providing ready-made topics -- like Theme Thursday, Friday Photo Shootout, the Poetry Bus, etc. -- so here I am, hopping on the Theme Thursday wagon early, because this week's theme (Blue) just seems so apt.

So. Am I Blue? Yes. Will I always be blue?  God, I hope not. I'm hoping to emulate my son's ex-girlfriend, who told me that she gets depressed, but it never lasts very long because she has a short attention span. "I go 'Oh, my, Boo-hoo,'" she said, "and a minute later I go 'Oh, look! A shiny thing!' and it's all over. I can't stay depressed because I'm too easily distracted."

On that note, as it were, here is my musical contribution to the theme:

Happy Theme Thursday, everybody.Better early than never.  ;>)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew --

That's what the road signs call them: 327 acres of plants from every part of the world where a plant will grow, I suspect, and a safe haven for plant species that might otherwise disappear altogether.

We walked over to the gate at around eleven in the morning and got in without any fuss, because our friend Pat is a member. We had brought a picnic lunch, and our plan was to start by riding the land train right around the gardens, then decide where to go eat our lunch. What actually happened was that we got onto the train and started around the park, then discovered that our £4 tickets were good all day, as often as we wanted to ride -- so we hopped off near the lake and went in search of a shady bench. There were lots of benches, both sunny and shady, and lots of people opening their own picnic baskets, but we finally settled on a place with a serene view of the lake. We munched on Scotch eggs and cheese sandwiches with Branston pickle while the local goose gang circled us, waiting for somebody to drop something. Now, you may wonder why I've bothered to post a picture of a jar of relish in the middle of this story, but I have a good reason. If England has produced anything that can be termed a delight to the taste buds, Branston pickle is it -- or rather, the cheese is it, but the cheese is even better when it's accompanied by Branston pickle. There. If you can find it,  do try it.

But I digress. We managed to eat our lunch without actually being attacked by the geese, and then we walked on to the palm house, which was beautiful and hot. We climbed all the way to the top of the wrought-iron spiral staircase and walked along the balcony, from which we had a bird's-eye view of the many palm varieties. When breathing became an issue because of the heat and humidity, we descended the stairs, only to find that the stairs went down beyond the ground floor  to an aquarium -- a room full of aquariums, actually.

There were fish, of course, but my attention was drawn to a couple of strange denizens. This one sent Pat scurrying, but I stared deep into his eyes and discovered that he was actually kinda cute.

Robin had fled the building in search of oxygen, so before long, Pat and I followed. All over the gardens, there were babies -- ducks and coots and geese and swans all had their various young in tow.

We watched this little coot for quite a while. He seemed to be in distress, and we suspected that he had fallen out of the nest. His parent was having trouble getting him to eat. Finally, though, we saw the little fellow eat something, and we decided he would be okay. At least, we hoped he would.

We wandered until our feet and backs gave out. Pat had heard that one of the hot houses was featuring a  butterfly display, so we headed there. For a while we thought the exhibit was over, but then I happened to wander through the correct door, and there they were, flying everywhere around me, being nearly as beautiful as their surroundings.

When we had walked as far as we could, we flagged the train down and rode around the gardens again, enjoying the view, sending pedestrians scurrying. We didn't get to see everything, but we saw enough to make it a day we won't soon forget.

I'll tell you what just happened. First, I had to go make a cheese and Branston pickle sandwich, because it was past suppertime and my mouth was watering. Then I went back to my Kew photos, trying to decide which ones to show you -- and I was reminded how beautiful the place was, how many times (108) I had stopped to photograph something -- and in the end I decided to embed a slideshow again. I've omitted a few shots because there were children in them, and I didn't want to publish their photos without parental permission, but other than that, you're getting my whole manic clicking experience. I do hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

So. About our Last Two Days in England --

 Our final billet in England was right beside Kew Gardens, so of course we spent a day there. That was the second day, though. On the first day, we had lots of other things to do.

First, we wandered through the Walled Garden at Sunbury and went into the Embroidery Gallery to admire the beautiful Sunbury-on-Thames Millennium Tapestry. The Walled Garden apparently started life as the vegetable garden for a house that no longer exists. Now it is a charming place to wander or to sit on a marble bench

and admire the plantings. One of our guides (a friend of our friend) was a long-time resident of the area. She was able to point out familiar figures in the tapestry and reminisce about when Queen Elizabeth came to visit, which brought the whole thing to life for me.
Then it was time for the garden party. (Raise your pinkies, everybody!) Actually, it was a public garden party, so even the likes of us were allowed to attend. The party is an annual event to raise funds for the Princess Alice Hospice. It was held on the grounds of Monksbridge, an eighteenth century house on Thames Street. (The link I've provided takes you to the representation of Monksbridge on the Millennium Tapestry).

There were craft booths and champagne stands and balloon races -- though nobody seemed to know where the balloons were racing to, or how anyone would know who had won!

 I sat beside the Thames and communed with the local wildlife. I had forgotten about wagtails. They are charming little birds, and aptly named.

After the garden party, I figured we would be heading home, but our new friend called her husband, who motored up in their boat, picked us all up, and took us for a little cruise up the Thames. We sailed happily along, drinking tea, eating chocolate cake. While the gentlemen manned the tiller and discussed manly subjects, the ladies sat at the stern and talked about the long-time affair that Edward VIII allegedly carried on with Freda Dudley-Ward, the (then) lady of the house at Monksbridge, before he met Wallis Simpson. We also competed for the attentions of the Affenpinscher who belonged to our friends-of-a-friend. He moved from one lady to the next, sharing his affections with all of us, equally. Smart little dog, that one.

After our Thames adventures,
we walked back to the car and drove home. That's when I spotted this road sign. Robin saw it and said "It's not really a zebra. It's just a camel with stripes." I tell you, those English.

Anyway, that's enough for one day. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about Kew.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Well, that was quite a trip. We did fly home on Friday. We left Richmond at 7 a.m. (11 p.m. the night before, here in B.C.) British Airways had paid for our flight on Air Canada. I managed to get the two seats that Robin and I like (way at the back of the plane, in one of the two-seat rows). The plane turned out to be a Boeing 777, and we actually had leg room. It was wonderful. We both enjoyed the flight. One of the movies on my menu was "Alice in Wonderland", so I tried to watch it - did manage to see Antony House - but then fell asleep about ten times in the course of the movie. I'll have to watch it again some time, when I'm not on a plane.

I did watch two other movies, both chick flicks, but I can't remember what either of them was. That may be because after the very pleasant flight, things got complicated. We landed at Vancouver around noon, got our luggage, took the Sky Train to Burnaby, picked up our car, and drove to Horseshoe Bay. We were trying to catch the 5 p.m. ferry back to Nanaimo. We got there at 3:30 p.m.

SIX AND ONE HALF HOURS LATER, we sailed for Nanaimo. I'm still not sure what the problem was, but I know how it affected us. We drove into our carport at midnight, 25 hours after we left for the airport in London.

I had to be at work at 6:00 a.m., so I basically walked through the house, dragging my suitcase behind me, and  collapsed into bed.

One advantage to jet lag, at least coming this way, is that when I had to get up at 4:45 in the morning, it was after lunchtime in my head, so I bounced out of bed and headed to work. I got through the day without falling asleep. On Sunday, I went to work again, but I started feeling ill in the course of the day, and after I got home I got sicker and sicker. There went the next two days. Tonight, I'm coming back to life, it seems.

You know, I should never fly. I get sick every damned time. If I could drive The Turtle to England, I would.

Anyway, this is the first time I've even plugged the computer in. I hadn't even unpacked it. Now I'm back to catching up. It seems that I'm always trying to catch up. Oh, and I suppose I should finish unpacking, eh?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

On the Road Again

Just a quick note: We are in Dorset now, spending the night in the home of Robin's brother and his wife, who kindly postponed their own plans to spend a few days in Devon, in order to accommodate our unplanned delay. Tomorrow, they will drive down to Devon, and we will head to Richmond to spend two days with our Luddite* friend Pat before we catch our plane home. Meanwhile, I've taken this opportunity to print out our new e-tickets. Don't you just love computers?

*I can't think of anyone else I know who doesn't own a computer  -- not a single computer. Pat doesn't even have an e-mail address.I found out the other night that she has finally got herself a mobile phone, so perhaps an i-Pad will be next, though I can imagine her rolling her eyes at the very idea.

We did go to Avon Dam again yesterday. The weather was beautiful, and the rhododendrons had come into bloom since we were last there. (Oh, dear. I just went to put a photo in here, and I got my brother-in-law's photo albums instead of my own. It took me a moment to realize what was wrong. Oh, yeah. This is not your computer, Sandra.)  Never mind. I'll show you the photos another time. On our walk to the dam, we stopped a couple of times to rest, and then we sat down by the dam itself, and each time we stopped, I worked on the poem I was going to take along on the Poetry Bus -- but then I had no internet and I missed the bus. I guess that's another thing I'll put off for a few days. Maybe I can make my poem fit the next assignment.