Saturday, 22 August 2015

This painting is by my neighbour Caitlin.

I've been back in Hades for nearly 48 hours. I smile at people I pass on the street; they glance at me and focus on some point beyond my left shoulder. Down by the Rideau River, the din of the crickets and cicadas is deafening. The Resident Fan Boy let slip today, during a family chat in a restaurant, that one of his cousins has held a grudge against me for a year and a half, as a result of something I did in all innocence, and out of genuine affection for her late mother. My soul, recently opened by sea winds, mountain views and conversations with friends, is closing back in on itself like a blossom without sunlight.

This evening I wander home after taking the Accent Snob for a stroll. On a corner near our house is a string pulled across a front gate, with drawings attached with clothes pins, fluttering gently in the evening breeze.

25¢, reads the sheet in the centre.

A little girl the colour of summer is curating her collection, and I sorrowfully tell her that I don't have change.
"I'm supposed to give them away," she informs me gravely.
"Are you sure? The sign says '25¢'."
She assures me that I can choose a picture.
I ask her her name so I can write it on the back when I get home, and tell her my name and the name of my dog, aware that asking a child's name in these times borders on the creepy.

As I reach my front walk, a lady with a golden Lab cross asks me about the Accent Snob, and we exchange information on our dogs, but nothing about ourselves.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Butterscotch sunset

Restoring Demeter's wifi proved a simple matter - persuading her to phone the gentleman who installed it for her was rather less so. Our major concern was that younger daughter was using her phone to access the internet instead. I'm not looking forward to her next phone bill, but then I'm not looking forward to much, anyway.

On my final evening in the house-sit, the fog-horns beckoned, and I set off on my last walk around Ross Bay.
The setting sun shone quite brightly through the thin layer of mist which hung like a cheesecloth over the trees lining the cemetery. The sky was a light lemon yellow.
Bodies from the cemetery used to get washed out to sea quite regularly. The beach along Ross Bay has been artificially shored up with pebbles. There was a reasonably strong surf this evening, and I stood watching the waves build in sequences of three or four, retreating with a sucking hiss that sounded like hundreds of rattling marbles.

It's like labour pains, I thought.
By the time, I turned east to return, the tips of my fingers felt like they do in a Hades October. There was a pall over Oak Bay - a rain cloud or smoke from distant forest fires? The mountains across Juan de Fuca Strait turned pale pink.

When I retrieved the laundry from the line, it was damper than when I had hung it up.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Wifi disaster

We've moved out of our house-sit, only to discover that Demeter's wifi is mysteriously unfunctional. Try explaining this to a teenager living on the autistic spectrum.  From a cafĂ© a few blocks away, I offer you an image from our final peaceful evening, about thirty-five hours ago.
That's not a bird, by the way. It's a kite-surfer. He's even nuttier than I'm rapidly becoming.

Sunday, 16 August 2015


I've taken advantage - although not nearly enough - of the locale of this house-sit to stroll down to the sea and through Ross Bay Cemetery.

Early in my stay, I discovered this charming memorial.

It's a husband and wife: his name is Anglo-Saxon and he was born in British Columbia; hers is Japanese. I love the multi-levels of the phrase "A Pacific Family". Born on different coasts of the same ocean. Peaceful and peace-loving.

Last evening, on one of my last strolls, I found the walks closed off, as the pathways are being upgraded this summer. That's how I came upon this tiny marker, separated from the other stones and memorials by a large expanse of summer-dried grass.
Clicking on the photo will enlarge it.

I guess I should rejoice that someone cared enough to mark his/her grave, but it's a lonely testimonial to life in Victoria for those who were different.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Room 63 on the 42nd floor

I stumbled across an obituary yesterday. I realize that the older I get, the more likely this is to happen. This one opened the floodgates of some rather unpleasant August memories from several years ago.

We had recently made a move from the Gorge area of Victoria to the municipality of View Royal. I remember being busy in the basement - I may have been hanging laundry - and listening to my father singing the same song over and over: My wife was two-timing, fickle as can be/ With a man named Smith, she was double-crossing me/ So one night, I followed them to even up the score to Room 63 on the 42nd floor . . .

This was during that agonizing summer of waiting for my father to leave. He clearly wished to convey to me that my mother was dating the man in the obituary.

I can only recall going on one outing with the man along with his large family, including one daughter my age. I didn't particularly like him; I found him supercilious and brusque. I have no idea whether my mother was actually involved with him; it seems an uncharacteristic thing for her to do while my father was still living with us (not to mention when she would have found the time), but if my father thought this man was the chief factor in the final deterioration of their marriage, he was overlooking his own drinking, the resulting accidents, and the mountain of debts - which he was soon to leave behind. To say nothing of his own numerous infidelities. My chief sense of the summer was my dawning realization, at age eleven, of how flawed and foolish grown-ups could be.

The obituary describes the man - whose name was not Smith - as a "pure light" and declares that "to know him was to love him, and that was his effect on everyone".

It was a long time ago. Maybe he changed.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Rest in post

Our stay in Victoria is hurtling to a close, even more so with the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter in residence. I'm relieved to have them with me, but miss slipping out to the ocean and the cemetery. You take what you want, and you pay for it.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Peachable Offence

Last Sunday, I made a peach pie.  I strolled into the backyard of our housesit and plucked about ten ripening peaches from the tree coiling up the side of the house.  I did notice that several of the peaches had been sampled by something.  Some were gouged, and in a few cases, bitten in half.  I thought an animal had climbed up into the branches for a nosh.  Demeter and other friends felt sure the culprits were birds.  Birds? I thought. Birds can bite a peach in half?

Two days later, I set out on a warm evening to hand-water the garden. I rounded the corner and halted, aghast. A large branch, laden with peaches, dangled almost to the ground. The leaves were limp. I reached up and the whole branch came away easily in my hands. I lifted and dragged it to the compost pile and quickly harvested all the ripe and partially ripe fruit.

I left the hard green peaches on the severed branch, figuring they were beyond help.

Returning to the scene of the disaster, I saw the break and noticed that one of the tethers supporting the tree and anchoring it to the wall had snapped.

Looking to my right, I saw an unmolested branch bearing rosy fruit hanging down.

My deduction? The branch at the far right can't support an large (ish) animal, while the doomed branch could. Until it couldn't. A squirrel? A racoon, perhaps? My bet is on the squirrel; I think racoons can pick and pluck.

Yesterday's photo shows what I did with the slightly more than a dozen not-quite-ripe peaches. It works! I was able to store half the peaches today, and the rest should be ready in a day or two.

As for the tree, I think it'll live -- the leaves are glossy and firm with about half a dozen delectable rosy globes out of reach.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A figure of peach

This is something I'm trying from a "lifehacker" website to overcome a fruit fatality. Details tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Tempest fugit

When I was briefly footloose in late July, I snatched at opportunities to do things without negotiation or coercion. One of those things was taking in a play by the other summer Shakespearean company in Victoria, Shakespeare by the Sea, who have been competing in a friendly manner with the far better established Victoria Shakespeare Festival. SbtS has been at this for about three years, and so far I had failed to find the time to attend.

So I set off on a Sunday afternoon, after glimpsing heads in sun-hats and brilliant sunshine from the front window of the house-sit. By the time I reached the bus-stop, I knew there might be trouble. The sun had fled, and black clouds crowded the northern horizon behind Government House. The clouds were emitting loud rumbling noises.

Resolutely, I boarded the bus and disembarked near Dallas Road for a five-minute trot toward Ogden Point. I noticed uneasily that the Sooke Hills were vanishing. I smelt the rain before it began to spit around me. I hurried into the Breakwater Cafe for a comfort break before a long Shakespearean sit, and emerged into curtains of water -- more Ottawa-style precipation than Victoria. The Resident Fan Boy and I refer to such downpours as "shoe-fillers".

Cowering under my umbrella, I searched the surrounding area for a tent and saw several, including those being hastily packed up by merchants. I asked one or two for directions and was told: "Down there, if they've decided to go through with it."

They had, indeed. I joined The Tempest in full swing with the hapless passengers of a shipwreck looking suitably drenched, having to make their exits and entrances from outside the shelter. I use the word "shelter" advisedly. The audience was being steadily dripped on, and alarming balloons of water were appearing in the overhanging canvas. The cast were slipping improvised watery witticisms into the text and my neighbour kept draining her umbrella into my lap.

Reluctantly, I decided to depart at intermission, but you couldn't say that the production lacked atmosphere.

Monday, 10 August 2015

The house that might have been

Before the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter arrived from Hades, I took advantage of my unfettered state and walked around the neighbourhood of this current house-sit often. My eye was often caught by this house, largely due to its eye-catching colour and oddly leaning-in shape. Friend of the Right Hand tells me it was once red and white. It stands at the foot of what is now the Dallas Waterfront Trail, on the eastern end of Ross Bay.

I told Demeter about it, because I had been considering trying to paint it for the water-colour class we've been taking together this summer. She told me that in the days when she was a single mom of two slightly-used daughters, trying to break free of rental headaches, this was a house she had briefly considered buying. It was too expensive, even for those long-ago buyer's market days, and she felt that the oddity of the house and the vast fixing up it required would make it impossible to sell later. She bought a brand-new, tiny townhouse condo in Esquimalt instead.

I gaze at this quirky quasi-castle, a short stroll from the charming bungalow I'm house-sitting. It must be worth a fortune now. What would my life have been like if we'd moved into what was then an undoubtedly rickety and crafty curiosity? Demeter would never had had the money - nor, probably, the desire - to renovate it. But we would have lived by the sea, and I would have gone to sleep lulled - or terrified - by the crashing waves.

I will go down to look again. It's not often you see the parting of the ways so clearly.