Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sitting here in limbo...

...waiting for the plane to come.

Checkout time at the hotel was noon. Our plane leaves tonight at 11:40.  We have booked a hospitality suite from 7-8 p.m. so that we can shower and change clothes before we go to the airport. Some time this afternoon we will probably go see a movie. Apart from that, we're doing a lot of hanging around. It's hot and muggy today. I am trying to appreciate that, because I checked the weather in Nanaimo. High of 5C, low of 0C (freezing). Oy. I think we're in for a shock.

Before we checked out, we went to Don the Beachcomber (the hotel's restaurant) for lunch. I had a rare tuna sandwich on focaccia, (Did I spell that correctly?) which came with sweet potato french fries with a ginger remoulade for dipping. Oh, my.

And...I finished my book about Plath & Hughes, and I've started reading the Ann Patchett book (The Magician's Assistant). I generally figure an author has about fifty pages to draw me into the story. Ann Patchett did it in two sentences. The book begins "PARSIFAL IS DEAD. That is the end of the story." Gotcha. The trick now is to keep from finishing the book before I get home.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I should never have mentioned cockroaches.

Last night, I took my book to bed.  Robin was out in the living room, watching the Federer-Tsonga tennis match. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Something was running along the top of the wall over the open balcony door. Like a good wife, I yelled "ROBIN!" He came running. "WHAT IS THAT?"  He had no idea, but he chased it down and after a few comical moments, he killed the beast. It looked sort of like a cockroach, but it was nearly two inches long. I remember that the ones in Mexico were over an inch long and they were fat. This one wasn't fat, just big. "I didn't know cockroaches could fly," Robin said as he finally squashed the bug. So maybe it wasn't a cockroach. I don't know. Whatever it was, it was big, and it was running around on my hotel room wall, and I was not happy. Maybe that's why I'm so tired today - a night of standing guard, even in my sleep, against the invading hordes.

We tried again today to find Green Sands Beach. Did I tell you about that? We tried the other day to find it. It is on our map, but there are no directions for actually getting there. The last time we tried, we ended up at South Point, ostensibly the southernmost point in the United States. We drove down a twisty road off Highway 11, pulling off several times to let other cars go by in clouds of dust the colour of curry powder. We parked at the end of the road and set off walking along deep ruts in the curry powder. We found a little beach, but it wasn't green. A local man who was there with his family told me that we should have kept going down the highway a little farther, then taken a road that led to the gate, and from there it would be a two-mile walk to Green Sands. It was midday, and we didn't feel up to hiking in the heat, so we settled in at the little beach for a while, then made our way home. As we drove, it started to rain, which was just wonderful. We got out of the car at Safeway to pick up something for dinner, and it was like stepping into a steam bath.

Yesterday, we went north instead, found a very pretty beach at a resort, another one at the big ocean thermal energy conversion plant at Keahole Point. I had fun there, playing in the tide pools and trying to catch a photo of the waves at their peak.

Today, we tried again to find Green Sands Beach. We couldn't find the second road my informant had mentioned, and everyone else we asked told us to go down to the end of the South Point road and take a left - but that's what we had already done. Just now, I went hunting for a website about Green Sands, and I found one that says " To get to this beach, one must either use a four wheel drive or hike six miles from South Point, Ka Lae, the southern most tip of the United States." SIX miles. Whoa. I'm glad we didn't attempt that. A twelve-mile hike in that heat would have done us both in.

And today, when we came home, it rained again. It's an awesome responsibility, being the ones who have to trek to the south end of the island and bring the rain back.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Now, where was I -

before I was so rudely interrupted? The last few days have been interesting, wi-fi-wise. Enough said.

So. Monday. We went south, hunting for Captain Cook's Monument. It's on our maps, but somehow we had gone right past it on the way to the volcano, without seeing the sign. So off we went. I saw on the map that the monument was at something called Kealakekua Bay, so when we saw the sign for that, we turned off the highway. Down and down and down we went, Robin driving, me trying to sit in his lap to keep from falling off the cliff. All that got me through the experience was knowing that on the way back, we would be on the other side of the road. (I can't help wondering whether I was always such a wuss, or whether old age has done that to me. I think there was a time - no. No, actually. I remember being terrified in similar situations when I was a teenager. Control issues. I'm much better if I have the steering wheel!) Eventually, we got to the bottom and found a parking lot. There were several other cars there, along with a big truck full of kayaks. Robin asked the fellows with the kayaks whether they knew how to find Captain Cook's Monument. "Sure," they said. "It's right over there." They pointed along the coast to the monument, which was about a mile away and accessible only by boat. Oy. They were just packing up to leave, because the ocean was a little too lively for the kayaks. So we stood for a few minutes and looked along the coast to the monument. I am hoping that if your computer screen is bigger than mine, you may just be able to discern the white, Jefferson Memorial-shaped object on the distant shore.

On the way down the hill, we had seen a sign pointing toward something called The Painted Church, so on the way back, we detoured up another road to see that. I wish you could have seen my face when we got there. "OMG," I said. "They've painted it white!" Robin's jaw dropped, too. Nonetheless, we

parked the car and went to check the place out. The painting referred to on the sign, we discovered, referred to the inside of the church. There were pillars painted like whimsical barber poles, and the walls were covered with murals.

St. Benedict's (for so it was called) reminded me of a mission church we visited near Tucson, AZ a few years ago.

On Tuesday, we drove over the Saddle Road again (the one we took to get to Mauna Kea.) This time, we went all the way to Hilo. I like Hilo. Dorothy Parker might have said there's some "there" there. I can't say the same for Kailua, by the way. It's rather too much like Disneyland for my liking. Hilo has beautiful parks and neighbourhoods and hostels and cafes, and no doubt rats and cockroaches, but it's real. We spent half an hour or so strolling around in this gorgeous park. An old man stopped to talk to me. He didn't seem to have any agenda. He was just friendly. I could hardly understand him, but I appreciated the gesture.

Aha. I've just looked out the window and seen Robin approaching. That's my cue to finish up here and go get some exercise. Tomorrow, I'll try to catch up on the week.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mauna Kea -

The Mauna Kea observatories are located at an elevation of 13,800 feet. Robin got it into his head that we should go pay them a visit.

"But, but, but..." I said. "Don't you remember when my sister took us up Sandia Mountain in New Mexico, and we felt really sick, and that was only 10,000 feet, and it was about ten years ago?"

We went anyway. We got into our little red PT Cruiser and we drove to Mauna Kea. Along the way, we said hello to the wild turkeys, of which there are many on the island. I photographed a pair of them, but we've encountered flocks of a dozen or more along the road. We meant to ask whether they are indigenous (probably not), but when we talked to the ranger at the observatory visitor's centre, we forgot. We did ask about the mongoose. We kept seeing them, and we wondered where they came from. It seems that the mongoose were imported to deal with the rat problem. The only problem with that is, the rats are nocturnal and the mongoose are diurnal, so they never encounter each other. "So now," said the ranger, "we have rats AND mongoose."

Speaking of things encountered along the road, I keep meaning to mention the peculiar graffiti here. A good bit of the island is covered with black lava, and in many places we have found messages spelled out in white rocks on the black lava. It took a while for us to figure out where the white rocks came from, but we have seen them now, on some of the beaches.

Anyway, we went to Mauna Kea yesterday. We drove along the belt road, which is truly awful in places, pot-holed and falling apart at the edges. Up and up and up we went, and the upper we went, the unhappier little PT became. By the time we got to the visitor centre at 9,000 feet, we were toddling along at 18 miles an hour. We went into the centre, watched a video about the observatories, read the warnings about the terrible things that can happen to people who attempt to go up to 13,800 feet, heard about the 20% grade we were about to encounter on the road, looked at PT, and decided that really, 9,000 feet was high enough. By the time we got up that high, though, we had come out of the perpetual haze and found clear air. I can see why that mountain is a perfect place for an observatory or two or three or four or...Oh, look. I just found a link to webcams up there.

I'm a little giddy, what with finally having a decent internet connection. When I get home, I'm going to have a lot of catching up to do, a lot of visits to your blogs. We only found Starbucks yesterday. And this morning, I made another discovery. I went to the tower next to ours (part of the same hotel) to do our laundry, and discovered a beautiful pond with peculiar fish in it. There are huge goldfish - but also some smaller, white-ish fish with enormous lips. I swear that is the silliest looking fish I've ever seen.

Meanwhile, Robin wandered a little farther and found the salt water lagoon I had seen advertised in the brochure. I think we'll take our snorkel gear over there, later today. There were some lovely fish in there - lipless ones.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I was misinformed...

...or perhaps just wrong. I don't know. I thought that we would be able to spend our first afternoon in Hawaii at the movies, watching Avatar in 3D. When we got to the theatre, we found out that it was in 2D. I would have to go to Honolulu or something, said the man at the ticket booth, to see it in 3D. So we skipped Avatar that day. However, on Friday we changed our minds and went to see it anyway. I'm glad we did. I found it beautiful. When we get back to Canada, we'll go see it in 3D, if it's still playing, but I won't be disappointed if it's gone, because 3D might just be gilding the lily.

Yesterday, we decided to check out the place that one of our tourist maps bills as, basically, the end of the world.

“Do not drive past this point!” warns the brochure. Rental cars are forbidden to go into the Waipi'o Valley. However, there is a view point just south of the valley, and apparently there is a waterfall – so off we went.

Along the way, we stopped at Borders to replenish my book supply. (I read The Lovely Bones on the journey and Dismantled since we arrived. What ever made me think that two books would suffice for a two-week holiday?) I found an Ann Patchett book – The Magician's Assistant – that looks interesting. If it's anywhere near as wonderful as Bel Canto, I'd better have smelling salts at hand. In a remainder bin, I came across Her Husband: Ted Hughes & Sylvia Plath, which I've begun reading. I find it unsettling. So much violent emotion, even at second hand, feels dangerous. And they've only just met.

Anyway – the holiday. We drove through England again (Have you been there? Do you see the resemblance? This island is amazing, in that you can drive for a couple of hours and seemingly travel from continent to continent) and at the top of the trip we found this stunning place, the viewpoint that overlooks the Waipi'o Valley.

It's no wonder rental cars aren't allowed into the valley. In fact, only 4-wheel drive vehicles are allowed down there. At the top of the hill are signs warning of falling rocks and leptospirosis and how downhill vehicles must always yield to uphill vehicles and I hadn't the slightest desire to go down there. I did, however, enjoy the view from above. I couldn't see any waterfall, but it didn't really matter.

I met a goat there, tethered beside the road, indifferent to all the tourist traffic.

We followed an old road back to the west coast. It was reminiscent of Cornwall, which of course made us think of ice cream (Cornish ice cream is fabulous) so we stopped for an ice cream cone on our way to Hapuna Beach for our afternoon swim. My “cone” was a scoop of caramel-macadamia nut ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal-raisin cookies.

When we got back to town, Robin dropped me off at the Farmer's Market, where I topped up our papaya and avocado supply and bought a head of Romaine for salads. The market is open Wednesday through Sunday (or is it Thursday through Sunday?) so today I have to go buy enough papayas and tomatoes and avocados for the next several days. Now that I've found a reliable source of papayas, I can reproduce my $10 breakfast (half a papaya, yoghurt, granola) for less than half the restaurant price. My box of Cheerios is languishing on the shelf.

This morning, as every morning, I've tried to photograph the whales that come into the harbour for a visit with the swimmers. (If you ever want to get rid of a whale, call me. I'll point my camera at him, and he will disappear.) Even from my fourth-floor balcony, the morning whale visit is quite an event to see, but I do wish I were a strong enough swimmer to join the group that swims/snorkels across the harbour every morning. When the whales appear, the swimmers stop to watch. It must be wonderful to hover there, trying to get close to the whales but not too close, hearing their breath, perhaps making eye contact.

Friday, January 22, 2010

We went north again –

...all the way to Hawi, and then a bit to the east, to this beautiful place whose name I meant to remember and didn't, where I sat to write a card and take a few photos.

On the road leading into this park, we noticed some trees that we dubbed "tripod trees." Now that we've seen some full-grown banyan trees here in town, we suspect that these were babies - but we're still not sure.

On the way north, Robin came all over weary – he hadn't slept well – so we pulled in at Hapuna Beach State Park, which remains the only proper beach we've found (We insist on at least some sand). He pulled the car into a spot of shade while I took my book and headed for the beach. It was only about 11 o'clock in the morning, and the tide was still fairly low, so this time I walked around the big rocks and down to the end of the beach. When I got back to the rocks I set my cell phone for ten minutes and sat on a log in the shade to meditate. When I opened my eyes and stood up, Robin was walking toward me on the sand. Good timing.

From Highway 19 we turned onto 250, then 270, and finally back to Highway 11, the main north-south road on this side of the island. We had noticed a sign advertising Pua Mau Botanic Garden, so we stopped there on our way home.

 Most of the plants were the same as the ones we've seen all over the island – hibiscus, plumeria, lantana, bouganvillea, angel's trumpet, azalea – but there were others, not so familiar,
and there were whimsical metal sculptures all over the garden.

We came home again through Kailua's rush hour traffic. I suppose that by the time we leave, we'll have figured out a better time to come home than 4:30 in the afternoon, but so far we've managed to choose that time almost every day (following our stomachs, I suppose.) Given that there is only one north-south highway, that means that the last several miles are bumper-to-bumper. At any rate, we got home in time for me to stop in at the farmer's market, which is open from Wednesday to Sunday. I bought a papaya, several tomatoes, a couple of bananas, and an avocado the size of a football (not really, but it seemed that way. The only ripe ones on hand were the big ones, called Butter Avocados, so I bought one. Robin and I shared half of it in our salad last night, and half is left – probably for tonight's sandwiches. The true size of the avocado is something like a Nerf football – at least twice the size of what pass for large avocados at home.) When I got home, I saw that the vendor had stuck a small bunch of cilantro into the bag, so I sprinkled some of that onto our salad greens. Considering that we have no stove, we are finding some tasty things to eat 'at home.' I made a dressing out of mayonnaise and orange juice and dressed a salad of romaine, radicchio, cilantro, tomato, avocado, and chopped macadamia nuts. That, along with cheese and tomato sandwiches on the really delicious 12-grain bread we've bought here, made up supper.

We've decided to make today a not much of anything day. Robin has been doing too much driving. We'll wander down to the farmer's market again, maybe catch a movie this afternoon.


P.S. As we were leaving the hotel this morning, a trolley stopped right in front of us. It was heading south on a 6 or 7 mile loop, and it cost a dollar, so we hopped aboard, rode south a bit, found a beach (with sand) that we hadn't noticed before, came back to town and got off at the far end of the strip  from our hotel. On our walk back, we found a place to have lunch. Mine was a plate of fish tacos (blackened walu) with salad. I couldn't find anything vegetarian on the menu, so I went with fish, and I'm glad I did. The tacos were delicious. So here I am, doing my morning posting in the afternoon.  Robin has gone on to the hotel room, carrying the papayas we bought at the market. We will likely head to the movies in a little while - but first, I think a nap is in order.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


The View is Terrific -

or it was, before I ate it all. Yesterday, Robin and I came to Lava Java to eat breakfast and use the internet. We managed the breakfast part, but the internet eluded us, and eventually we gave up  in disgust. In the meantime, though, I heard somebody talking about Lava Java's best breakfast, and this morning I came back to try it out. It consists of half a papaya filled with yoghurt and then smothered in a house-made granola that is heavy on the coconut and almonds.

When people ask me what I liked best about Hawaii, I'll have to say "breakfast." Oh, and I sleep really well here. Maybe that's because during the day, we're driving all over the island, so by the time we get home, I'm fighting to stay awake long enough to have a bath and watch the Australian Open (tennis) on television before I collapse. Not that I'm driving. For the first time, I'm strictly a passenger. Robin is the only official driver of our bright red PT Cruiser, so I'm just along for the ride. It is a very strange experience.

On Tuesday we drove to Volcano National Park, about ninety miles south of here. Along the way we found a fruit stand where we bought "lemonade"  that did have lemon juice in it - but didn't taste like lemonade at all. The dominant flavour was passion fruit. I considered moving in and living on lemonade for the rest of my life. We also stopped to check out Black Sand Beach, which was just that. I saw my first sea turtle there, but unfortunately he was dead. I'm hoping to see some live ones before we leave the island.

When we got to the park, we paid our $10 and drove in, only to discover that most of the park is closed off indefinitely (something we would have known if we had troubled to read the brochure before we set out) because a new vent opened not long ago, and the sulfur dioxide levels are too high to allow for safe travel in many places. So we saw what we could. People keep telling me that the best way to see the volcanoes is to take a helicopter tour, because the helicopters go right over the volcanoes and you can stare right down into fiery death while you listen for the tail rotor to give out. (Actually, they don't say that, but that's the image that comes to my head while they're gushing about how stunningly beautiful the experience is. Right.)

Having sort of seen the volcanoes, we headed back to Kailua Kona by way of Hilo, on the far side of the island, and then over  the road that cuts across the island. I don't know how high we had to go to get across, but the temperature dropped from the mid-80s down into the 60s - no - the high 50s - in the course of the drive. I seem to remember being at 4,000 feet, but that was two days ago, and my memory is short. Not only that, but part of that road is just awful, and we were both thinking more about getting back to the coast (and the highway) before dark than about anything else.

Yesterday, we drove north in search of several destinations marked on our map. We got all the way to the top of the island, from which we could see Maui (I think) in the distance. It is very windy up there. We got out of the car to check out a whale (we saw lots of whales yesterday) and I nearly lost my Tilley hat. Finally, unable to find the sites advertised on our map, we gave up on the north end of the island and headed south to the beach that we discovered the other day (the one that reminded us of Cornwall). This time, we had our bathing suits. Robin went into the water and played for a long time. Finally, I put away my book and joined him. The water temperature was perfect, and we were both glad that we had worked on our tans before we came to Hawaii. We came away glowing but unburned. There was a NeNe (I've been waiting to see one of those. It's a bird, btw) somewhere along our trip, and in the parking lot at the beach there was a cardinal chirping furiously from a tree. We have also seen all sorts of birds that we can't identify. One is black and white with a bright red head.

Hmmm. I just tried to put a photo in, and the internet started acting squirrelly again. I think I had better post this while the posting is good. Aloha.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Turtle Has Landed!

 (Written on Monday night.)

We landed on Sunday night, in fact – after midnight to us, after ten p.m. Local time – but by the time we got to our hotel by shuttle – we were w-a-y too tired to rent the car and drive it, especially as we had no idea where we were going - it was after midnight even here. We were barely capable of getting up to our room. In the morning, we found out that internet service at the hotel costs $9.95 per day (we're booked in for two weeks!) and I proceeded to have a major panic attack. After some thought, I figured there must be an internet cafe somewhere, and calmed down a little. In the course of the day, I never did see an internet cafe, at least not one advertising itself as such, but when the sun had gone down and we had sorted out the problem of parking our rental car (that costs $10 a day, too – this hotel is very big on charging $10 for this, $10 for that) I overheard something about a nearby cafe where I can go to use the internet for free. I'll happily buy a cup of coffee in the morning in order to have access to the internet, so that's the plan. I'm writing tonight, posting tomorrow. Shades of Mexico.

In fact, we keep being reminded of Mexico. First, there was the swimming pool, which we tried out this morning. It was colder than we expected (the water, not the air temperature, which is pretty well perfect) but once I got used to it, I was reminded of the pool at the tiny RV park where we stayed in Zihuatanejo. I nearly wore that pool out. Then, this evening we were sitting on the balcony, looking out over the surf and down the length of the beach. There's a restaurant that is lit with torches. The last time I saw that was in Zihuatanejo on the night of last year's Super Bowl, when we walked down the beach to the bar that was televising the game on a big screen.

This afternoon, though, we found a place that brought back altogether a different memory. Thirty-two miles north of our resort, we found a state park that looked interesting. We walked along a crowded beach (crowded by Vancouver Island standards, anyway) until we came to a lava outcropping that blocked our progress. The tide was coming up, I had no shoes on, and I was not inclined to clamber over the sharp rocks with camera in hand (and laptop, which I was carrying just in case I found an internet cafe) so I stayed at the outcropping while Robin waded around the rocks and walked to the real end of the beach, another ten minutes or so along. Something about the layout – plus the fact that a little girl had made a sort of camp for herself among the rocks near me – reminded me strongly of a beach we visited in Cornwall, England last year.  I smiled at the memory and practised my Tai Chi on the beach until Robin came back and we headed for the car. As we left the beach, Robin said “This reminds me of someplace else we've been, but I just can't place it.” “Cornwall,” I said. “Yes! Perrenporth!” replied Robin. So it wasn't just me.

I need to back up – for a couple of reasons. The first is to report that the cabin crew on our WestJet flight were just as friendly as their ads promise. One fellow had a standup routine that included a few groaners, but altogether made the dull business of laying out the rules a little more bearable. For instance, he told us that like all West Jet flights, this one was strictly non-smoking. “If you are caught smoking,” he said, “you will be asked to leave the plane immediately.” It did break the tedium. Really it did.

Then came this morning, when we drank the coffee we had made in the room, then headed down to Don the Beachcomber (the hotel restaurant) for breakfast. Robin went for the buffet, but I ordered a short stack of pancakes.

(This calls for a paragraph of its own. Read on. You'll understand.)

They were buttermilk pancakes, two of them, topped with macadamia nuts and served with whipped butter and coconut syrup. OMG.

Before we go home, I must go back and order those pancakes again. We've bought our box of Cheerios now to be our everyday breakfast, but at least once more before we go home, I will partake again of that absolutely orgasmic breakfast.


Okay. Catching up now. It's Tuesday morning, and I'm sitting at an outside table at Lava Java. It's noisy here, but the coffee is good, the internet is free, and in between words, I'm gazing out across the road at the Pacific. The sky is overcast today, at least so far. Danny, the cab driver who drove us back to the airport yesterday (so we could pick up our rental car) said that twenty years ago, when he moved here from the Philippines, the sky was always clear in the morning, but the mountain has been producing more and more steam, so now there is always haze over the mountain. Today, I suspect there's more than volcanic activity going on. We might even get some rain. Meanwhile, the breeze is deliciously cool, still quite comfortable for shorts and sandals. It's time for me to meet Robin back at our room. We've decided to have breakfast at Don the Beachcomber's again this morning. I should have brought some bigger clothes. ;>)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not Quite Hawaii

but close. We are in Vancouver. We spent last night playing with the grandbabies, and we will be flying out this evening. I do apologize for my extended absence, but everything suddenly got to be too much for me and I kind of  folded. I went through the motions of everyday life, but I didn't have anything left over. (Come to think of it, I was sick for a while there, wasn't I? Maybe that had something to do with it.)

There was a highlight to this week, though. I went with one of my co-workers  to see "It's Complicated." The theatre was maybe two-thirds full, and all through the movie, there was a wave rolling through the place as most, if not all, the people rocked in their seats, convulsed with laughter. This is the first time in a long time that I can say - the trailer doesn't do the movie justice. The movie is better. Funnier. We came out with stomach aches from laughing so much. Maybe that was when I started coming around.

Or maybe it was when we went to the tanning salon yesterday, then off to Parksville for my de-furring, then to the ferry and Vancouver. Now I have visions of pineapples dancing in my head.

Tonight, I'll sleep in Hawaii.

Monday, January 11, 2010

One of Those Days

I'm having one. One of those days. The days when your skin doesn't fit and everything -- absolutely everything -- is irritating. Like the fact that suddenly I was typing in italics, even though I hadn't asked for italics, so I had to go back and un-italicize my text. Or like the (really very lovely) music playing on the television right now. It's a flute sonata. I think I could maybe handle a cello piece right now,  but high-pitched sounds seem to shoot into my ears and bounce crazily off the inside of my skull (didn't there used to be a brain in there?) so the gist of this is, I'm not very good company. I think it's my cold trying to get back in, even though I have banished it.

I did go to my Tai Chi class this morning. We learned (or relearned) the first four of the 108 moves in the Taoist Tai Chi set. I was interested to see that I really don't remember much at all about the moves, but I am able to tell that I'm not turning my feet correctly, or that I'm leaning  back and compressing my lower spine (a definite no-no). I may not be doing it right, but at least I know I'm doing it wrong, and that's progress. I went to the open house yesterday and signed up quickly, before I could change my mind. I have greatly missed not only Tai Chi itself, but the community. I recognized several people -- instructors, mostly -- and some people remembered me and came over to talk. I told them that nothing has changed. I'm still very undependable, because of my work schedule and the fact that I tend to keep leaving the country for a month or two or three at  a time, but that I will do my best to show up regularly. They seem to be fine with that.

After Tai Chi, I came home for lunch, then headed out with Robin to buy our Out-of-Province medical coverage, do some shopping, and stop in at the tanning salon. I had high hopes that a dose of Vitamin D would banish my grouchiness, but alas, it didn't.

Have I mentioned that the sky is falling? It's raining and raining and raining. Of course, that's not altogether a bad thing. As long as it's raining, it's not snowing, and snow right now would be a Very Bad Thing.

There. I've found a (metaphorical) ray of sunshine. At least it's not snowing.

Ooh. That reminds me of this clip from Young Frankenstein. The line I love comes just after 5:05.

There. I guess I'm not all that grumpy, after all. A little Tai Chi, a little Vitamin D, a little Marty Feldman -- good for what ails me. I hope you like it, too.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Photo Shootout - Fences

This week's prompt is brought to you by me. For more Friday Photo Shootout posts, click on the camera over on the sidebar.

This is what I wrote over at FPS to introduce the topic of fences:

"All over my town there are fences - tall ones and short ones, old and new, elegant and shabby. They all have something to say - like "Keep out," "Be careful!" (like this one) or "Stay right where you are," "I'm utterly exhausted" or "Look at me. Aren't I splendid?" Some have gates; others simply define a space or support a heavy vine. What kinds of fences are there in your town? Do they really make good neighbours? Or do they just isolate us? "

So when I went out looking at fences, I tried to bear those questions in mind. I found  some very chatty fences, indeed. Nanaimo seems to attract them.

This fence winked at me and said "I've got a secret." In my travels, I was surprised at how few such fences I saw.

Much more common were fences like this one on the left, which yawned, scratched itself, and inquired, "Are you as bored as I am?"

Not far from the secretive fence was another that intrigued me. I kept hearing a small voice say "Help!" and when I followed the voice, I found this a poor, overburdened metal fence peeking out from behind some very pushy plants. There wasn't anything I could do for the poor fence except take its photo and try to publicize its plight.

I was still wondering about the real purpose of all this fencing when I came across this example, which is more of a psychological barrier than a physical one. It appears to be reminding drivers that the parking lot really doesn't go on forever, but it's doing so in the most subtle manner. Just in case, though, it changed its approach at one point and started saying "Harrumph!" in case drivers didn't get the rocky hint.

One kind of fence that appears frequently in Nanaimo is what I call the Chia Fence. Like all things chia, it requires a lot of TLC in order to look its best., and it does tend to be rather a bully (see the "Help!" fence above.)

This next fence made me sad. It just stood there, weakly, moaning "I'm so confused!"

Yesterday, I went to Qualicum with Jane, to raid the consignment store. While we were there, I saw one fence that I simply had to include in this collection, because it was too good to resist. I don't know whether it had anything to say or not. If so, I couldn't hear it over all the caterwauling.

As to the last question I posed - do good fences really make good neighbours, or do they simply isolate us?  Generally, I think they tend to isolate us, create artificial barriers to symbolize the emotional and psychological isolation we feel and, for whatever reason, want to protect. I am not prepared to say that we should take down all the fences, but I would like to see some of them, the really tall ones, replaced by fences over which we could see - peek, if you will - at our neighbours, and they could peek back. Maybe that would help us to understand each other.

I just came across this YouTube video that seemed to fit the theme. It may be naive, but it's something to be hoped for - that someday we may not need all these fences.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Theme Thursday - Polka Dots

This week's theme was suggested by Siobhan. For more Theme Thursday posts, click here.

I offer this post with apologies in advance, in case I am repeating myself. It's just that when I saw "polka dots" there was one story that popped to the front of my mind, and I just had to tell it, because it haunts me. I loathe polka dots - with good reason.

I think I was eleven years old when it happened - or maybe ten. It was a turning point in my life, the moment when I saw a door close.

I was a good student, for the most part. I loved anything to do with words or music, and I could hold my own at math and science. There were only two classes that defeated me. One was physical education. I enjoyed exercise, but I lacked self-confidence, so team sports were (and are) torture to me - but that's another story.

My second nemesis was home economics.  Anybody who has seen my house knows that I am still, shall we say, challenged in the matter of housekeeping, but at the age of ten(nish) I was completely hopeless. I remember my frustration with cooking class, where we had to measure and/or weigh every single ingredient for every single dish, which I found intensely boring. I would still rather ad lib in the kitchen, thank you. However, I muddled through.

Then came the second semester of home ec class, the half that still makes me tremble with fear. That was sewing. With a machine.

We made aprons. I have absolutely no idea what the apron I made looked like, which is strange, considering what happened in the course of its construction.

We laid out the fabric and applied the pattern, pinning it in place; then we cut out the pieces and assembled the aprons, using straight pins to hold the edges together. I went over to my assigned sewing machine and prepared to sew.

I was dressed that day in a circle skirt. You remember those, don't you? Some of them were decorated with poodles or monograms. Mine wasn't. Mine was a navy blue percale with white polka dots the size of quarters. I was very fond of that skirt. It was almost as pretty as the one Audrey Hepburn wore in Roman Holiday.

You know where this is going, don't you?

I placed the yet-to-be-sewn apron on the sewing machine's work surface, raised the foot, slipped the fabric under the needle, lowered the foot, and pressed on the foot pedal. The machine whirred, the needle went up and down, up and down, up and down with alarming rapidity, and I did my best to keep up. My panic was such that it didn't occur to me that I had any control over the speed with which the machine worked. I just laboured on like Lucy on the assembly line, losing ground with every scream of the motor - and it was screaming, because my pedal foot was in a state of rigour.

Meanwhile, it transpired, one of the straight pins with which I had joined the sections of the apron had become entangled in my beloved navy blue and white polka dot circle skirt. As I - or the demon machine - secured my apron's seam with thousands of tiny stitches, my skirt was drawn up into the maelstrom, and soon skirt and apron were inextricably joined, like Humpty Dumpty in reverse. All the king's horses...couldn't get skirt and apron apart again. My tearful attempts resulted in nasty little holes all over the front of my skirt. I don't know what happened  to the apron, and I don't care.

Let's see. There must have been a bright side to the story. Oh, yes. The other girls in my class got a really good laugh out of it - and I learned bright and early that I would never be a seamstress. That saved me ever so much time, being able to wipe a career path off my list like that. To this day, though, I am intimidated by sewing machines, and whenever I make something (once in a while I decide that it can't have been that bad, and I try again) the item I produce looks as if it were made by a ten-year-old. And a search of my closet would not produce a single polka-dotted item.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Little Haiku in the Night

The touch of your hand
soft at the nape of my neck:

This is my response to the January 3 prompt at Haiku Bones. I'm a bit late, but I'm struggling to catch up on my blogroll, so I never saw the prompt until tonight!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Bearing fruit, breathing fire...

I have been living up to my one New Year's Resolution (not bad, eh? It's January 4, and I'm still on track!) -that being to write every day, no matter how much or how little.  You'll recall that Paul Anderson of Write Anything inspired that resolution, and it's a good one. If I start to feel lazy and put upon, I look straight at the resolution in my sidebar and say something like "Come on. Just give me one sentence!"  Once I write that one sentence, of course, at least a few more follow - if only to finish my thought. Of course, I was writing most days anyway, but that little push from Paul is just what I needed - and I am pleased to report that my efforts are bearing fruit. I'm carrying a notebook or two everywhere I go, taking advantage of ten minutes here, five minutes there to write something. A lot of the time what I write is pretty mundane Dear Diary stuff, some of which isn't even interesting to me, much less to anybody else - but last night I had a bit of a breakthrough.

I was using one of Natalie Goldberg's techniques - starting with "I remember" - and suddenly I wanted to write about an ex-prostitute I knew about forty years ago. I couldn't - and can't - remember her name, but I'll call her Barbara. I remember a lot of other things about her - starting with the fact that she had been set up in business at the age of fourteen by her mother. (Doesn't that just warm your heart?)

Barbara didn't say much about her father except that he had been a cross-dresser.

Barbara was blonde, beautiful, and very successful. She told me about some of her customers, but I've tried three times now to tell you one of those stories, and my delete button keeps stopping me. (Not yet ready for prime time, I guess)

So, moving right along...Barbara was involved in a terrible auto accident. She was shattered. She spent many months in hospital, and for much of that time her jaw was wired shut, so she lived on milkshakes that she sipped through a straw. As a consequence, she gained over a hundred pounds. Her face was permanently scarred. Her career as a prostitute was over.

When I met Barbara, she was married. I can't remember a single thing about her husband except that she had one. I do, however, remember that they shared a house with a seven-foot tall, blond fire breather named Marcel, who wore purple shirts. I think maybe Barbara's husband just wasn't all that memorable. It would be hard to compete with his wife and housemate.

So. The moral of this story is that if you just keep writing, you will eventually get through the layers of "what I had for breakfast" and find Barbara the ex-hooker and Marcel the seven-foot fire breather waiting to be remembered and written about and maybe turned into characters (not that they weren't characters to start with!)

Oh. Also. Do you know that if you google "Free Clip art prostitute," you won't come up with anything at all useful?

History of Fire Breathing -- powered by

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Birthday Boy

Here he is, Robin, celebrating his birthday at The Fox and Hounds (where else?) - where he enjoyed a totally disgusting steak and kidney pie. I mean, it wasn't disgusting to him. He thought it was wonderful, to which I can only say, in the words of Miss Jean Brodie, "For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like."

I, on the other hand, was having a serious Stilton craving, so I ordered a Ploughman's Lunch. This delicious Ploughman's turned out to consist of a green salad, a pickled onion on a bed of Branston pickle,a dill pickle, three thick slices of bread, and an obscene amount of cheese - not just Stilton, but Brie and two kinds of Cheddar. I couldn't finish it all - particularly because I had to save room for dessert - so I wrapped some of the cheese in a napkin and brought it home. Robin ate it on a sandwich today.

I couldn't convince Robin to order dessert, so I  ordered sticky toffee pudding, which arrived with a sparkler in it so that I could sing Happy Birthday. It also came with two spoons, so that we could share it. We did. Shortly afterward, we heard Happy Birthday being sung in another part of the restaurant. It turned out that there were three separate birthday parties going on, all at the same time. Before we left for the night, we made the rounds, to say happy birthday to the other celebrants.

Today, my two days with two sick grandchildren have come home to roost. I hab a code. Just a little one, so far. I'm gargling like crazy and taking Cold FX and keeping my fingers crossed, which last is interfering with my typing. I haven't done any writing yet today, although I have had several writerly thoughts (heh). Oh, I did write a paragraph to go up at Friday Photo Shootouts, as I am the Prompter of the Week.   Now, though, I must go dig out my notebook and write down some of those writerly thoughts.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Friday Photo Shootout - Under Construction

Thanks to Gordon for this week's prompt. For more FPS posts, click on the big black camera on my sidebar.

Under construction in these photos:

1. People

2. Imaginary architecture

3. Family memories

We spent a belated Christmas in Vancouver, mostly with the grandbabies. We carried our gifts along - not too many, as the young family is in danger of outgrowing its very tall house just because of the number of toys they have. We bought books for the children - Tin Tin books from my husband, Fancy Nancy and Green Eggs and Ham from me. I suffer from an irrational fear that our grandchildren will grow up to have USB ports surgically implanted (in their jaws, maybe?) and never know the pleasure of holding a real book. I was pleased to see their mom reading to them -- and to see that the books we brought along weren't the only ones they owned. (I knew that. Really I did. It's just that  electronic toys and learning tools are ubiquitous now. It's not that I feared their parents wouldn't provide books, but I was afraid that books might not be able to compete with the flashy new technology for the children's attention. Never fear. Books still work their magic.)

But the #1 hit present of the season was this one:

It consists of a bench in which there are eight holes and eight brightly coloured pegs that fit into the holes - and there is a mallet.  In a fit of gender bias, I bought Jasper a hard hat and the workbench - which, by the way, became known immediately as Bang-Bang. What happened was that Jasper played with it, Jasmine set aside her princess dress-up stuff to play with it, their mother and father and uncle played with it...Well, you get the picture. Everybody loved playing with the Bang-Bang.

The adults also had a wonderful time watching the children play Bang-Bang and seeing (particularly little Jasper's) eye-hand co-ordination improving as we watched.  Of course, for all the banging, no actual structure got built, but in the imagination of the children, it seemed whole cities grew right there on the playroom floor.

Mostly, though, what was built was one of those memories that make parents and grandparents go all soft around the eyes, the kind that will be revisited again and again over the years.

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