Friday, 31 October 2008

Hallowe'en in Hades

Ottawa, unlike other Canadian cities in which I've lived, tends to treat most holidays like Christmas. There's a long run-up to Canada Day which, I suppose, is only natural in a city that is, and constantly refers to itself as, The Nation's Capital.

However, the first thing I noticed when we moved here in the autumn of 2000, was the long Christmas-like anticipation of Hallowe'en. Around the Thanksgiving long weekend, the pumpkins are parked on porches and front steps, while other spooky decorations begin adorning the neighbouring houses in early to mid-October. This year, the pumpkins were caught outside in a snowstorm, so we've been passing some odd juxtapositions this week:

Mind you, this is not all that odd; I doubt there are all that many Canadian kids who have not experienced at one time or the other the fantasy-dampening sensation of wearing a winter coat and boots (even, gawd help us, ski-pants) under a costume when going trick-or-treating. (We sang out "Hal-lah-ween-ah-puls!" on the frozen prairie of my youth; do they do that anymore? "Trick or Treat!" is so lame...) However, today is sunny and reasonably temperate for the time of year. The snow has plummeted from the flash-frozen golden leaves and (mostly) retreated from the grass. There's a promise of cloud cover for the evening which should hold in what warmth there is like a blanket.

The Resident Fan Boy carved the jack o' lanterns last night, according to his daughters' design. Here's elder daughter's:
... and here's younger daughter's.

Madness has reigned at younger daughter's school all week. There's talk of teachers in Toronto changing October 31st at school to "Black and Orange Day", presumably to fade the religious (or not-so-religious) implications of Hallowe'en. However, this is unlikely to ease the stress at younger daughter's school where Hallowe'en merely precedes the massive Book Fair held in early November, and the ambitious and annual Remembrance Day play, complete with uniforms and dance numbers. The special ed teacher is fully tentacled this morning, but has lost her voice. I've packed up younger daughter's vampiress costume (complete with good set of fangs; second-class fangs on reserve at home), because her teacher has decreed that costumes may not be donned until after lunch. I hand over Old Dutch potato chips and our traditional Hoot Owl cookies before stashing the costume in younger daughter's locker and checking that she knows where her fangs are. (She'd probably like to bite me by that point.) I'm inches from a clean getaway when I realize that her lunch hadn't made it into her packsack (gawd, I love Hallowe'en). Still, the extra two-kilometre walk is probably a good idea, given that I'm on my way to the grocery store to pick up the chocolate bags for shelling out tonight. (I don't dare have that stuff in my house before the day...)

The cashier is dressed rather attractively in a sea-foam two-piece top with a beaded necklace. It takes me several minutes to realize that this is her costume; to me, she looks ready for a nice night out. "What are you?" I ask. "Retro," she shrugs.

We get a lot of teen trick-or-treaters like this. When challenged on not wearing a costume, they declare: "This is my costume; I don't usually look like this!" I am prepared for this kind of malarkey, because to my mind, dressing in a different style from your normal day-to-day wear is not true trick-or-treating; it's merely a fashion statement. I smile pleasantly and remark: "There's a traditional term for treat-or-treating without a costume, you know."
"What's that?"
I then hand over Witches Fingers instead of chocolate bars to these interlopers. (They look gross, but are actually quite delicious and quite easy to make.) I haven't been soaped or T.P.-ed yet, but it's only a matter of time. May you make it through to All Saints' Day in one piece. Happy Hallowe'en indeed...

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Just what I need with winter closing in...

The axe has fallen. Curfew has rung. David Tennant is leaving Doctor Who. Music cue:

Okay, maybe it isn't. But damn...

(This YouTube video is the work of Marlene Steinberg of California, who is obviously very creative and clever. And possibly somewhat disturbed. As am I, at the moment...)

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Four Meme

Stevyn has tagged me for the "Fourth of Fourth" meme making the blog rounds this week. I acquiesce, despite the fact that as I write this (about 11:30 am HDT [Hades Daylight Time]), he has failed to produce the drawing I requested even though he said he would. Hmph. Anyway, the idea of this meme is that you go into the fourth folder of your photo files and pick the fourth photo from that folder. Capiche? (The Urban Dictionary tells me that using "capiche" implies a threat. This is not my intent. Except to Colgan, who needs to do his drawing.)

Anyway, what turns up is a bit of a surprise. See, I've recently switched photo cards in my Nikon, and the result is that photos from the first card are being mixed in with those from my second card. This photo is DSC_0020 from my first card, and it's right next to DSC_0020 from my second card. As a result, photos from my very first photo file are being pushed down into later folders. So this is, in fact, one of the very first photos I took with this camera on April 22, 2007. It was a landmark birthday, my entire immediate family banded together to purchase me my first digital camera, and now they don't have to buy me anything for ten years. Very efficient of them. I sat in the living room frozen with terror, then forced myself to walk down to the Rideau River to take pictures. I soon realized that my new Nikon was similar in shape and weight to my old Nikon, and I began to relax a little. A few months later, I was even able to take it off "automatic"...

Oh, here's the worst bit: Who to tag? Oh, let's bother Rob at Eine Kleine Nichtmusik (he's been ranting a lot lately and needs to do something fun); Vanessa at Stopping to Eat the Roses because she's a photographer, a good sport, and has just had a birthday (Happy Birthday, kid!); Jaywalker at Belgian Waffle because she has such a odd collection of images of the weird goings-on at her house; and an open invitation to anyone dropping by to try this for Tag #4 (just let me know you've done it so I can come visit and look, okay?).

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Stevyn Colgan can sleep sound tonight

drawing personality

What does your drawing say about YOU?

I just stole this from Volly's blog. Frankly, I think the same effect can be achieved by imagining a splendid landscape (such as that I can't create) and answering the questions about it, rather than actually drawing this travesty. Now, I might point out that this was done with a computer mouse, but who am I kidding? Had I the finest drawing pencils in the world, it wouldn't have looked much different. (G'wan, Stevyn, do it! Just to embarrass me...)

Oh, and apparently: The results of your analysis say:

You tend to pursue many different activities simultaneously. When misfortune does happen, it doesn't actually dishearten you all that much.
You are a thoughtful and cautious person. You like to think about your method, seeking to pursue your goal in the most effective way.
You like following the rules and being objective. You are precise and meticulous, and like to evaluate decisions before making them.
You have a sunny, cheerful disposition.

Of the four statements, second and third, about right; fourth, not so much; first, bosh.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The wee small gremlins of the morning

If I should wake sometime between 2 am and 6 am, the gremlins usually come and find me. Sometimes it's a global warming gremlin, sometimes it's a killer comet gremlin. Or the world financial situation. Or Yellowstone National Park blowing us all sky high. (Oh, don't bother me about that last one; go ask Bill Bryson...) Or worse, there are the gremlins of things I'm failing to accomplish in my day-to-day existence such as helping younger daughter in her daily struggles or maintaining exercise resolutions. This morning, I woke from a fitful dream of taking photographs in a haunted library (which involved climbing a ladder and so slowed down my escape from the spectres), and a really nasty gremlin had me by the guts. The Resident Fan Boy returned from the bathroom to find me in a sweat: "If you die, I'm screwed! What will become of the girls? I don't know where the will is, or how to pay the mortgage, or where to send your body...."

Now, this is probably not something a husband wants to hear at the best of times, certainly not at five thirty in the morning of the day he's due to set off on a four-day business trip to Québec City. Add this to the fact that I'm addressing my concerns to the one of the chief Worrywarts of the Western World. This is a man who has spent days pacing and wondering why he hasn't received his free golf towel from the local pub. (He doesn't golf.)

Anyway, to give him his due, he held me close and whispered tenderly, "The first thing you do is notify the bank, and the second thing you do is notify my office." Of course, then I wondered about the wisdom of this because a) the bank would immediately freeze his accounts; and b) I only have his work number which leads to his voice mail ("Uh, hi darling, you're dead, so will your boss check this?"). However, I decided to leave such questions for the morning. Or slightly later in the morning, as RFB's alarm clock then went off and he had to get up. I went back to sleep and dreamt I was at some sort of Jerry Falwell camp and I needed to pack, take a shower and clean out some drawers that were full of grey muddy grunge.

In case I've worried any of you out there (I know there's at least five or six of you who check in here), we emailed our lawyer in Victoria for copies of our wills (because we can't find them); we phoned the insurance company (which has changed hands twice since we took our our policy); and we located the local branch of the Memorial Society (because our membership in the BC Memorial Society is unlikely to do us much good). The last has a fabulous web site which actually has a check list of "what to do when death occurs" --- in case you too were wondering. So if the Resident Fan Boy meets with tragedy in Québec City (say, if someone discovers his last name while he's touring the Plains of Abraham and takes umbrage)....well...I'm still screwed, but at least I have an idea of what to do.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Catch a falling star leaf

Are all superstitions delusions or proof of impossibly magical thinking? I think superstitions can be useful metaphors. Take lucky pennies (and I do, at every opportunity). I found five last weekend, and I saw them because I was not rushing, I happened to look down, and I was willing to stoop to scoop them up. The Resident Fan Boy is fond of saying that luck is preparation plus opportunity. A lucky penny illustrates that nicely. If I'm with someone, I hand it to them, saying: Find a penny, give it away; have good luck for the rest of the day. That's not magical thinking; that's a reminder.

So every autumn, I try to catch falling leaves. It's actually devilishly difficult. If the wind is high, they whoosh above my head. If the wind is low, there are few leaves that appear to drift lazily down, but dip and slip off in a random directions even as I reach. Others fall in scores just where I'm not standing. See, I read in a book in the school library that every leaf caught while falling is good for a wish. I aim for six leaves each year, three leaves per the two most desperate desires from my own personal Mirror of Erised. (Check Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets if you don't catch that reference. That J.K. Rowling knows some dark truths about the human psyche.)

Thus, every tree becomes a tree of dreams: fiery ones, crimson and scarlet ones

and golden ones.

And what prevents me from catching leaves? Sometimes someone is approaching me and I feel too self-conscious, sometimes I simply don't have the speed or agility, sometimes I don't want to trespass or get run over, sometimes my arms are full, and sometimes a child is holding my hand. See? It is a metaphor...

This morning, I made the time to catch leaves, but I always seemed to be standing in the wrong place. As I made my way down the hill, a gust blew a shower of them across the street, and I swept my arms towards my chest, looked down and two golden maple leafs were clutched to my left collarbone. I kissed each and made my wishes, tucking them in my breast pocket. A few minutes later, an ash leaf sailed by and I simply reached out and snatched it from the air. This brings my total to four because last week when I was taking most of these pictures (in fact, it was while I was taking this very picture), a leaf swooped down and landed on my left shoulder. I tell you, my friends, in all my years of leaf-catching and wish-snatching, that has never happened before. Nor is likely to happen again.

Oh, and as for my Mirror of Erised wishes? They may be on their way, but no signs yet. And if I tell you what they are, everyone knows they'll never come true. (No, nothing to do with David Tennant...)

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Identity crisis

We're heading into High Autumn now, and this particular one is reaching the high and colourful standards of the fall of 2001 when we first came to Hades, which, come to think of it, also followed on the damp heels of an unseasonably rainy summer. So this morning, for the first time since 2001, I saw the striped sidewalk effect, due to the droppings of three particularly vivid maples lined up the next block up from our house. It looks like the Doctor's scarf; too bad the effect was spoiled by this morning's clutter of garbage cans and recycling bins, delayed by yesterday's Thanksgiving holiday.

Today is Election Day, and while all true Canadians whinge about the weather and government, they cannot rightfully do the latter, in my opinion, unless they've bothered to vote, no matter how futile it may seem. Particularly at our house this year. I'm voting with my conscience, even though I find all four leadership candidates depressingly unprepossessing; the Resident Fan Boy is voting strategically, even though our riding has gone to the same party since 1974.
"When are you going in to cancel my vote, darling?" I call to the RFB as he heads out for work. Oh well.

Now, the challenge in voting for the past couple of years lies in the new identification rules. Apparently, even with sinking voting participation with each election, there are fears of illegal voting. (I wish I thought people cared that much. I wish I thought I cared that much.) This means perusing a rather large pamphlet with long lists of combinations of IDs which will be acceptable at the polling place. Most people can get away with their driver's license, but I'm a militant non-driver. This means I need a piece of government ID (a birth certificate or a passport), and (here's the rub) something on the approved list that shows my address. Up until recently, that was my health card, but it came up for renewal last April and the new ones don't bear addresses for "privacy reasons". A utility bill is also acceptable, but I just paid my bills last week and the bit with the address on it is what's returned with the cheque. I email the Resident Fan Boy for the location of our Canada Child Tax Benefit statement and he tells me that he shreds them. Oh dear. I have a letter from my mum but the stamp isn't cancelled, and letters are not on the lengthy list. Fortunately, Resident Fan Boy hasn't paid the hydro bill yet, and that bears both our names. Whew. I stride down to the United Church, where two lovely Indo-Canadian ladies tell me that everything is in order. "You mean I get to vote?" I cry with mock-glee. Fortunately, these ladies are not "election day Hitlers" and they laugh, and hand me my ballot.

Now I'm going to find somewhere to blot out the world. The Resident Fan Boy may be an election coverage junkie, but I'm not. This year, the polls don't close until 9:30, so I have the option of retreating to bed and watching Gavin and Stacey. I wonder if DVD rentals spike on Election Night...

Monday, 13 October 2008

Today's goal

Once the Resident Fan Boy has finished with this morning's pancakes, I will reclaim and clean the kitchen (which should take about 45 minutes), then embark upon creating the pastry for my famous pumpkin pie. (Last year's is shown.) This year's challenges: 1) our blender (our last surviving mechanical wedding gift --- RIP) died while I was trying to make pumpkin pie for last week's house-guest. Pumpkin pie made with an electric beater simply doesn't cut it. This means I am using the new blender for the first time. On Thanksgiving. Is this wise? 2) The Resident Fan Boy and elder daughter went out yesterday to procure whipping cream, as our supermarket will be closed for today's holiday. There is none to be had, neither in spray can, nor whip-it-yourself form. (Also, the half-decent vanilla ice cream is sold out.) They plan to re-check the convenience stores today, on the basis of a vague promise from a shady proprietor. So we face the prospect of pumpkin pie sans whipped cream. Younger daughter is in despair.

I blame this on the coming Aries full moon which hits full strength tomorrow. On Election Day. God save us.

Anyhow, with some trepidation, I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian lurkers. Say "hello" to me sometime, will you?

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

As the granddaughter of an entomologist, I'm ashamed of myself

So, I'd just waved bye-bye to our house guest who has departed after a pleasant three-day stay. I sauntered into the kitchen to fix myself lunch, and while bent over the counter, felt a light brushing at the nape of my neck. Without thinking, I reached back and...yow! My pinkie was really pink! Something had stung me. Well, folks, I totally lost it. In a blind panic, I turned on the tap full blast and started splashing water over my head, too terrified to reach back again with my fingers. I snatched up a tea-towel and frantically batted the back of my head. It then occurred to me that whatever it was...



...may have fallen down the back of my top, so I feverishly undid oh, I dunno, twelve buttons and ripped it off, shaking it vigorously. (Much later, it dawned on me that our kitchen has no curtains.) Clutching my top and the tea-towel to me and using very unscientific language, I barreled upstairs, and leaving a trail of clothes scattered in the hall, immersed myself in a warm shower, having finally summoned the courage to yank out my scrunchy. While shampooing, periodically examining my pink pinkie, I noticed that the water was getting colder and colder. I managed a rinse, and giving my clothes some final cautionary shakes, re-robed and descended the stairs, shivering from shock and cold. I discovered I'd left the kitchen tap on at full blast which explained my very refreshing shower.

Somehow, I think my grandfather (a noted researcher of the tsetse fly, if you must know) would have thought my behaviour extremely silly. I felt even sillier while watching the Rick Mercer Report last night.

If you click on the link this week (October 7th to October 14th), it will take you right to the video in question. Otherwise, the video will be on the list to your right and it's entitled (shudder) "Beard of Bees".

Okay, nobody can accuse me of courage when it comes to bugs. And there's a dead mouse lying by our front path. I'll bet this is going to be a great month for vermin... (And yes, I know house centipedes are great for controlling much nastier household insects. They're still creepy. Leave me alone.)