Sunday, 1 March 2015

Life of the party

Ottawa has been called, on occasion, "the city that fun forgot", but it can have a sense of humour - usually of a political nature.

I glanced across the street while having a hot beverage at younger daughter's favourite coffee shop just below Parliament Hill.  This replaces an a poster featuring grinning young white-collar types emblazoned with "We love meetings!".

Probably another Public Service in-joke….

Saturday, 31 January 2015

A scent of January (write of passage number thirty-four)

Younger daughter has the day off school because of mid-terms, but her voice lesson goes on as usual. So about three o'clock on one of the colder afternoons this month - which has been the majority of them - we hurry out to our bus stop.  The sun, which has been clinging to the horizon for most of the day, is smack in my eyes.

Dazzled, we find seats.  I've just got warm enough to remove my hat and gloves when a tall girl boards the bus somewhere in Lowertown. Her dark brown hair with wavy strands of gold emerge from beneath her toque and blend with the faux fur of her hood. She lowers herself into the seat ahead of me and I feel a cool halo; a frosty fragrance brushes my cheeks and forehead, before it slowly warms and fades.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Someone has my number

I follow Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches on Facebook with a horrified fascination.  

She gets a little too close for comfort on a regular basis.

This also gives you a clue to why I have little in the way of a post today.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Mickle melody

I have memories of both this carol and of the King's Singers, but not together.  I've seen a number of concerts with the King's Singers, not in their most recent incarnation, and certainly not singing this.

The song is one I've also not heard in a long time, and mainly remember: There was mickle melody at that Childe's birth/ Although they were in Heaven's bliss, they maden mickle mirth. I sang it long ago with a small choir, a different setting than this, and certainly not as beautifully.  When I hear it, I see the dark streets of Toronto at Christmastime.

Merry Fourth Day of Christmas.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Not for the faint of heart

My husband has a German last name, inherited from his very English father, an Anglican archdeacon. His grandfather had a German forename as well, hastily anglicized during his service in the Royal Naval Reserve during the First World War, although he could speak German, having been tutored by his Berlin-born paternal aunt.

When I submitted my husband's DNA for testing about two years ago,  I felt sure that we might find out more through the Y-chromosome testing.  However, not a single instance of his surname showed up on the matches.  What was clear, though, was something we've long suspected: 14% of his genetic make-up comes out as Jewish - Ashkenazi, to be precise, with possible national connections to Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania.  Also, despite the relatively small percentage of his total DNA, the vast majority of his matches at the Family Tree DNA website, both for Y-chromosome and autosomal,  appear to be American Jews.

With no surname match, things went a little dead in the water - until about a month ago, when his surname turned up in the family tree of a recent autosomal match with connections to Berlin and Poznan. The latter city is currently in Poland, but has links to Germany.  I wrote a quick email to the American who had submitted his DNA.  He told us that he had a cousin living a few miles away in his home state of California who shared the Resident Fan Boy's surname and that this cousin would be taking the Y-DNA test soon.

So we wait.  If this cousin shows up in the Resident Fan Boy's Y-DNA matches, we will have a better idea of where his paternal line goes.  If not, it's back to the drawing board, though I'm anticipating an autosomal match at least.

There is a painful side effect and it's one I've long been expecting.  In the family tree of the man with the autosomal match are, as I've said, several members bearing my husband's surname. They are in the line of this man's paternal grandmother.  With a sinking heart, I noticed there are families whose death dates are all in the early 1940s.  When I clicked on the profiles, I saw the words: "Auschwitz" and "Theresianstadt".

Yes, I knew this would happen eventually, but all the intellectual preparation in the world doesn't lessen the blow of seeing the names of people with the same last name as my husband and children, knowing how they died, and knowing that, somehow, they are ours.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas March

Normally, when I head out for an afternoon walk on Christmas Day, I enjoy the peace of the seemingly deserted neighbourhood, an oasis of winter quiet in the centre of the pleasant, but slightly excessive sensory overload at home.
However, this year, Christmas Day seemed to have slid into March. Rain throughout Christmas Eve had been blasted out by a nighttime gale. The Resident Fan Boy said it sounded like the house was coming down. After an evening of frantic gift-wrapping, I had slept through it.

The afternoon brought strange yellowy sunshine and brownish-grey clouds rolling on gusts of damp wind. It resembled late winter/early spring in Hades - never my favourite time of year.
I tried to take comfort and joy from the Christmas lights clinging to stripped branches.
I thought a stroll by the Rideau River might do the trick, but I quickly realized that wet melting pewter-coloured ice with muddy puddles and my street shoes would be a perilous combination, and the Accent Snob and I turned around and made our way back through the bleak streets.
On the last side street before home, I saw bright globes in the gutter glaciers.
They had been whipped from this tree. (You can see the uppermost ornament being blown outward.) I rescued the baubles from the street and placed them in a porch corner, before continuing on to prepare Christmas dinner, feeling rather depressed and disappointed.

Oddly enough, when I headed out this afternoon on Boxing Day, taking the same route, the air felt gentler, the light softer. I exchanged pleasantries with my fellow dog-walkers (pretty well the only people abroad), and, booted this time, made my way along the riverbank where ducks hopped up onto the parts of the water that were still frozen over. I felt a whole lot better, and so lucky that there are twelve days of Christmas.

So many opportunities to get it right.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Another Whovian Christmas

Our neighbour spotted our Tardis lights
and popped this into our mailbox!


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Heavenly peace

Against all the odds, the tree is fully decorated, wrapped presents under its branches, and the Christmas cards are sent, although not likely to reach their destinations until the beginning of next week, I should think.

I'm not sure exactly why I failed to send cards and wrap the presents earlier; perhaps every now and then, I need to know where the bottom is.  The price of my procrastination has been the loss of some of the peace of Christmas Eve, which is so rare, so sweet, and so fleeting, that I think I will used the memory of this year to ensure I'm a little more ready next year.  I hope so, anyway.

Television programmes this evening are already tainted with early ads for Boxing Day Sales.  I find myself retreating to YouTube, of all places, for the type of programming that seems to have vanished from Canadian television.

We used to be able to see "Carols from Kings" here, on Christmas Eve.  I see someone has been religiously posting it (pun intended) since 2008, and this year's edition was uploaded just a few hours ago.  These carols vary a bit from year to year, but always seem to end with "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", and begin with that most English of sounds, the lone boy soprano, about to process with the rest of the choir as the pale late afternoon sunlight glows through the stained glass of King's College Chapel. 

I stumbled across this video channel this evening because I was searching for a 1980's video of Sting's version of "Gabriel's Message".

I rather love the shots of the plump children's feet stamping in the blanket of feathery fake snow, while Sting playfully grabs at their passing hands.

Oh, good night.  Time to surrender the brief peace as our corner of the world drifts into Christmas.  I hope wherever you are, you are warm and content.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

"Nobody cares"

I'm a little grumpy from writing inadequate messages in Christmas cards all day, cards that will arrive at their destinations by Epiphany, if I'm lucky.

Anyway, this video is probably viral, but I don't care.  I don't watch Downton Abbey; I gave up after the second season, and this very clever and funny spoof explains why.  Pay attention at 2:32, when Hugh Bonneville and series writer Julian Fellowes have an exchange.

Eighteen cards to go.  Then I can think about wrapping presents….

Monday, 22 December 2014

Not feeling too good myself

I was in a coffee shop downtown, having mailed my Christmas parcels and working on addressing envelopes, when the Resident Fan Boy texted me that Joe Cocker had died.

What a year for losses!  But then, it's not going to get any better, is it?

This guy didn't just sing songs; he transformed them.  Here's my favourite of his interpretations, a rendition of an old Traffic ditty.