Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Bird in a guilt cage

Birdseed Arguments
Originally uploaded by CB Photography
The house we're currently sitting is the reason we have a squirrel-proof bird-feeder at home. This is the third time we've sat this house and one of the things I loved most about it (in addition to the hot-tub under a canopy of Garry Oaks and a large hill-top garden in which I only have to water potted plants because professional gardeners visit twice weekly) was the marvelous bird-feeder on the front porch where I could watch finches, nuthatches and many other birds. There were two non-squirrel-proof feeders in the back garden and one morning younger daughter and I watched in disbelief as a squirrel systematically scraped the rope back and forth on the tree limb from which the contraption hung until it plummeted to the ground, carrying several breakfasting birds with it. ("Jack! This is where we met!")

I speak in the past tense, alas. While receiving my final instructions from the owner, he informed me that he was no longer filling the bird-feeders.
"The birds come anyway," he shrugged.

Except they don't. I lasted one week before sneaking around to the pet supply store near where younger daughter is having swimming lessons. Somehow, I feel this is probably unethical. It's his house. I'm not sure why he's leaving the empty, dusty bird-feeders up; maybe he intends to feed the birds during the winter months only. But, oh, it's lovely to have them back. I sneakily hose the seed shells off the porch, and plan to stop refilling just before they return. I'm a ba-a-a-a-d house-sitter...

And that's not all I'm bad at. During this morning's illicit birdseed run, I held the shop door open for an attractive gentleman about my age and his winsome teenage daughter. He thanked me and addressed me by name. My heart sank. I've described my problems with face-blindness before. Even when he mentioned the name of his pretty daughter it didn't help, although he said it was she who had recognized me. I assumed it was a fellow-parent from elder daughter's co-op preschool days as we were in the general neighbourhood, chattered a bit and politely parted. I was shoveling birdseed from one of the bins when it hit me. The man is the widower of a high school and university friend who died two years ago, leaving two girls then aged ten and twelve. I have a photo of the family that I took in seven years ago on my fridge. The daughter has completely changed since then...but her father hasn't. Damn. Damn. Damn.

Burning with shame and with the sun that is unseasonably hot for Victoria this year (Ottawa is unseasonably cool, of course), I headed home with my shopping and waited out most of the afternoon's heat in the lower level of the house. Few houses in Victoria have air-conditioning; a week to two weeks' worth of above 25 degrees Celsius isn't worth the expense.

Unlike Ottawa, Victoria's summer heat quickly dissipates in the evening, so I decided to take younger daughter on an expedition to get ice-cream, envisioning the trek down the hill in the golden evening light with the sea breezes wafting fragances. Instead, the sun hung stubbornly above the western horizon in a blazing ball. We arrived at the local Thrifty Foods, passing parades of young children in tow behind their mums. I realized with a twinge how all of these kids would have been born after we left for Hades nine years years ago.

The supermarket aisles were deliciously cool. I encouraged younger daughter to make a selection, narrowing it down by category: "It has to be Island Farms because we can't get that in Ottawa; do you want chocolate? No? Vanilla? Here's six variations on vanilla." She chose the chocolate chip one, of course. Near us, a small family were also mulling over the selection, debating over ice milk or frozen yogurt. The dad, an early thirties civil servant type, called after his wife: "Well, you're the one who has to wear the tennis skirt. It's your choice...." I watched her walk off towards the cashier and briefly considered bouncing my deposit bottle off his bean, but thought the better of it. It might have upset the two young children this lithe woman had borne him, evidently without gaining an ounce.

The climb back up the hill is deceptively steep and relentless, taking twenty minutes of steady plodding. By the time we'd reached the house, I was in an Ottawa-worthy sweat, and checked the computer to confirm my suspicions. Yep, 28 degrees Celcius at seven pm, with a humidex of 33, the equivalent of a mild summer day in the nation's capital. Hades has followed me home.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Spot the annie

Frozen dancers at Luce
Originally uploaded by pearl_ady
I have blogged before on my troubled conscience in being a balletomane. This feeling came back in spades earlier this week when I purchased tickets to see "Ballet Under the Stars", two short ballets performed by local company Canadian Pacific Ballet. Economic times being what they are, this is a tiny company, in fact all of the costumes are designed by one of the danseurs. The technique, however, is good. A lot of the younger dancers had that smile-held-in-place-by-pins expression, but one of the leads had that air of control and calm that allowed me to just relax and watch her.

It wasn't long before my gaze drifted to the bone-white limbs of one of the other dancers. And I do mean bone. As she turned, I saw the sinews in her neck, and where her shoulders met her upper arm in a startling knob. Mentally, I gauged how my fingers could easily encircle her humerus, and I have really short fingers...

At the intermission, I stole over to greet someone from church who is, believe it or not, writing a Unitarian Latin mass with the aid of a composer who used to accompany the music activities at elder daughter's preschool. (Victoria's like that; everyone is separated by three degrees, rather than the more usual six.)

"What did you think?" I asked.
"Well," she sighed. "It doesn't take much to pick out the two "annies" in the company, does it?"

I had noticed the rather skinny limbs of another dancer as well. My acquaintance has apparently attended workshops with members of the company and has learned that two of the artists dance under a doctor's supervision, and that their reward for keeping above a certain weight is permission to perform. In the meantime, it is suggested, they have a community of support.

So, maybe you see my dilemma. In purchasing tickets, am I in fact supporting something that keeps these skeletal young women going, or am I part of the problem?

The second ballet was a truncated version of Midsummer Night's Dream. The hollow young woman I'd first noticed before the interval had the lead role of Titania with a flowing empire-waist shift that concealed the shadows beneath.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Rape of the Lock

Originally uploaded by Lump Of Hesitation
It all started with the naked little old lady.

Okay, it didn't. It started when younger daughter's morning swim lesson was rescheduled to accommodate a disappointed swimming student whose lesson had somehow been mis-scheduled. The lady who co-ordinates private lessons at Oak Bay Rec asked me if I would do her "a huge favour" and bring younger daughter in at 9 am this morning. Fine, only that entailed leaving the house an hour and a half earlier, so to be sure, we caught a bus instead of walking in and arrived shortly after 8:30. This meant that the change room was full of little old ladies. Nothing wrong with that; I have aspirations to becoming a little old lady, especially considering the alternatives (Joan Rivers or death, as far as I can figure). It's just that after seventeen years of navigating change rooms with my daughters, I've learned that little old ladies who come to recreational centres have a certain, shall we say, proprietorial attitude to said change room. This is particularly true in Victoria which is often called "land of the newly-weds and nearly-deads", except that the feisty and assertive elders in Victoria have none of that apologetic am-I-in-your-way air of older people in Ottawa. They've been using the facilities since before-you-were-born-young-lady, so this morning when I saw the naked little old lady set up camp in the corner we ordinarily use, I cast about quickly for a different locker, and set about stashing our stuff.

It was only after I turned the key that I realized younger daughter's goggles were inside. Philosophically, I accepted the loss of twenty-five cents and re-inserted the key. To no avail.

"Is that 206?" inquired another little old lady. "I had trouble earlier this week with that one. The lady at the counter had to open it for me." I silently wondered why no warning notice had been posted, but smiled cheerily at my informant, instructed younger daughter to stay put and padded out bare-footed to the front to fetch help. She came, armed with keys and a chain and commenced her assault, watched with great interest by a posse of LOL's. No dice. She saw me glance at my watch.

"Are you on your way to work?"
"No, but my daughter's goggles are locked in there." She told me to go back out and ask the desk to lend me some goggles. The desk was in the middle of telling me that this was against policy when the private lesson coordinator hurriedly okayed it and dashed to the change room to help. By the time I'd got some goggles, with instructions to submit them for sterilization, the locker had been jimmied open and younger daughter was wailing because she couldn't locate her goggles in the bags. I hurriedly handed back the unsterilized goggles and produced our own unsterilized goggles (which evidently don't need sterilizing) before escorting younger daughter to the pool deck with five minutes to spare, wondering if the new locker was going to jam, and listening to one of the youthful pool instructors repeat over the public address system several times that lessons were about to begin, and thus the hot tub was closed. The two little old men in the hot tub studiously ignored him.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Persephone goes home to Demeter

I've now been one week in Victoria and the chief problem I have with this is...that means only five weeks left in Victoria...

The guy on the radio was warbling about this week being "unbelievably hot" -- at 27 degrees Celsius. That's a mild summer day in Ottawa, although the humidex would push the perceived heat into the early to mid-thirties. Here, depending on how close to Juan de Fuca Strait or Georgia Strait you are, a steady sea breeze will comfort you, and the temperature is guaranteed to plummet at sunset, something that almost never happens in Hades.

On Saturday, younger daughter and I were able to stroll from our house-sit to the Moss Street Paint-in . We were able to attend for the first time in three or so years because a) it wasn't scheduled the same day as a Harry Potter book release; and b) it wasn't scheduled the same day as Luminara which is unbelievably what they did last year. Who failed to talk to whom? Despite the claims at the link, there have been rainy Moss Street Paint-ins over the past twenty years. Victorians are notoriously forgetful about weather. However, this year the weather was, well, picture-perfect, a warm day with an ocean breeze wafting up the dozen or so blocks of Moss Street. Younger daughter delighted in the many varieties of dogs out for their strolls. I doubt they appreciated the art; aren't dogs colour-blind? I focused on the stuff that appealed to me and there was something to pretty much any taste, barring the pornographic. I particularly like the work of one fellow (and if I can remember his name, I'll find a link) who specialized in Breugelish, super-real folk-tale-like paintings.
We managed about five blocks which is about my limit for having all senses assailed.

Today, younger daughter and I grabbed an opportunity to visit Munro's Books and to slip in for drinks and treats at Murchies. This being our ninth summer since being banished to Hades, I know all too well that I must visit my favourite haunts quickly before the chances slip away with the all-too-brief summer weeks. Even if I'm miserable, the Resident Fan Boy will point out: "At least you're miserable in Victoria!" He's all too right.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Another disadvantage of living in Hades

I've been having fun playing at being a DJ at blip.fm. Just "blipped" a favourite of mine: "On the Atchison Topeka and the Sante Fe", as sung by Bing Crosby. Apparently, no one else has blipped this, although a lot of them are busy blipping Michael Jackson who, I gather from the extensive news coverage, is still dead.

At the bottom of the screen, I'm instructed to enter my postal code "to find out where Bing Crosby is playing" near me. I have no say in these matters, but I doubt Bing Crosby is playing Hades. More likely that other place....

Sunday, 5 July 2009

A Fool Moon

We had planned to take in Much Ado About Nothing, The Company of Fools' latest Torchlight Shakespeare Production, on Friday night but lost heart as the rain dripped on steadily through suppertime. I spent the evening hunched over the computer watching a twenty-year-old Ontario Stratford Festival production of As You Like It, and envisioning elder daughter taking in the play at The Globe Theatre, occasionally pausing to scan London web cams to help my imaginings.

When elder daughter returned home yesterday afternoon from a week on a youth group "pilgrimage" to Iona (during which she avoided prayer at every opportunity), we learned that she had missed the play when the group was trapped by delays in the Underground coming from the airport. Instead, they spent three hours tramping around Eastcheap and Tower Hill, although nobody seemed to know exactly what it was they were looking at (aside from many unmistakable drunks).

So, as elder daughter set up camp to make up for a week away from the internet, the Resident Fan Boy, younger daughter and I set off for Strathcona Park. Younger daughter and I have but a week remaining before we flee to Victoria, so we felt delaying seeing M.A.A.N. might result in missing it altogether.

And that would have been a pity. The four or five regular readers of this blog may recall that we saw the Company of Fools' version of Romeo and Juliet last summer. That had been a mild summer day by Ottawa standards, rather like stepping into a warm tub. This particular evening was like a summer's evening in Victoria, although a tad more buggy. I got the folding chair, while the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter settled on a duvet, and soon I was swaddling myself in my fleece jacket against the chill. Trust me, this was the first time I'd ever had to do so on a July evening in Ottawa.

Much Ado About Nothing has never been my favourite Shakespearean play, mainly because I usually spend a good chunk of the time wanting to throttle Claudio for being such a self-righteous git, and wondering why Hero still takes him on after his appalling treatment of her. I was relieved of such unpleasant sentiments this time, because the Company of Fools, for reasons of brevity, soul, and wit, have a rather cartoonish take on Shakespeare and Claudio, as played by AL Connors, is a big handsome empty-headed twit, and Hero, as played by Emmanuelle Zeesman, is a tiny gorgeous empty-head twit. Fine by me, much more palatable. (And a good thing, as I seemed to be swallowing rather a lot of gnats.)

Now here, I should mention that AL (yes he capitalizes it that way) Connors also played Margaret the maid. And about five other people. Emmanuelle Zeesman also played Hero's father Leonato. And the prince Don Pedro, among others. Margo MacDonald, a co-founder of the Company, was our Beatrice, and also the arch-villain Don John (who apparently possessed the ability to give people chills and never failed to exit without a diabolical laugh). Oh yes, she played other people too. Scott Florence, our Benedict with muddy knees (due, no doubt, to the raininess of the previous evenings) also played three or four other characters. Since M.A.A.N. often requires more than four of the characters on stage at a given time, use was made of several mannikins with flower-pot heads, as you may see from the publicity shot taken by Andrew Alexander who attended the rainy July 3rd performance that we, wusses that we are, missed. Whenever a mannikin's performance was taken over by a flesh-and-blood actor, the latter would don the hat and apron. It took about five minutes to get used to this, and then the story and performances took over. In fact, when the actors took their bows, it was a tribute to their efforts that I was startled to count only four actors.

The evening, as I've mentioned, was cool and lovely. (Native Ottawans would hate it.) At one point the crowd was startled by the sudden emergence of a black squirrel from the gathered mass of bodies seated on the ground. Claudio stared dumbstruck for a moment, then continued his line with a shrug and a grin. Younger daughter loved the physical comedy, and gazed delightedly as a rabbit hopped leisurely along the pathway, the one passerby that didn't stop to watch the show. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt in younger daughter and she was delighted to recognize the actors, particularly Margo MacDonald and Scott Florence, who were the pair of ice-cream-loving clowns in last winter's production of A Midwinter Dream's Tale.

After the show, they passed the hat, and we folded things up and strolled home under a mackerel sky, another rare thing in Ottawa. To the east, a nearly full moon hung over the Rideau River, looking exactly like the moon elder daughter had photographed over the Tower of London only the evening before.