Archive for July, 2007

Neophyte sailors 1…

July 14, 2007

Back in 199o, Renaissance Man returned to live at home with us after a year up north at college. Rumpole and I had already moved to the Lower mainland that early spring, and we spent much of our leisure time wandering the many docks, looking at boats and ships of all types.  Rumpole loves the things of the sea, most particularly the conveyances that ply the waters moving goods and people about.  I love the character of the waters, their luminosity, reflectiveness and many moods.

In 1991 in anticipation of his birthday, Rumpole requested that we all take sailing lessons as his birthday gift. RM was delighted, but I was not too thrilled. Water is  an essential and marvellous material, but I do not necessarily like to be on it!

We signed up for sailing lessons comprised of two months of classroom theory and three months of actual sailing practice.  Off we went to buy the textbooks and sailing gear – yellow plasticized weather gear and gumboots.  We took out many books from the library on sailing, read and discussed them after dinners, whenever RM took time out from his studies to relax with us. These two men christened me “Landlubber” for my known love of solid footing on land, I called Rumpole “Ahab” and Renaissance Man as “Boy”.

Sailing classroom studies in theory and sailing nomenclature were once a week in the dark of winter evenings.  Along with a group of other eager learners we listened, made notes, tried to ask not terribly stupid questions. In amongst the motley group of classmates there was much competition to learn in theory what we would soon have to put into practice in a couple of months.  There were only two women in our class, myself and a pathologist form the local big hospital; the male students tended to curl their lips at us, as if we just would never, ever, cut the mustard as sailors.

“You’r hopeless,” Rumpole would remind me. “You’d better study hard to pass the exam, Landlubber.” I read my notes carefully, constructing elaborate scenarios of sailing down a channel and trying to remember the sailing “rules of road”, what various channel markers indicated.  Mentally I hoisted sails, read the tell-tales, tacked and jibed without getting swept overboard, being beheaded by the boom or ever being caught in that dreaded situation of “inadvertent jibe”.  I studied the problems of lee-shores and how to stay well clear of them, how to read charts to avoid shoals and hidden by the tide rock outcrops that would sink the unwary sailor.

Rumpole and Renaissance Man, snug in their conviction of male superiority in matters pertaining to conveyances, largely ingnored me and went about their learning after their own fashion.  They bet that of the three of us I would have the lowest score on the final exam.  That was sure like waving a red flag under a bull’s nose – I redoubled my study efforts!

Came exam time.  We travelled in the dark of a February night down to the classroom near the marina downtown.  On the way there, Rumpole and Renaissance Man quizzed each other and would lob the occasional tough question to me.  I felt serene and sure of what I had managed to learn.  Nothing they could throw at me would phase me.  After all I had played competitive tennis during my teens and knew full well the psychological games played prior to matches. And, this was no match among the three of us, I was just trying to pass the damned exam so I could get out  on the water on a sailboat!

The exam was a long one, very thorough, taken very seriously by all the examinees.  Rumpole sat next to me and kept his non-writing arm protectively around his exam papers, much like a dog-in-the-manger would protect his food bowl.  As if I’d stoop to cheating?! Renaissance Man had his cute smug look while tackling the various questions. We wrote for well over two hours and then handed in our exam papers.

The following week we were to attend class once more to receive our marks and our practical lesson schedules.  I was merely hoping to pass!

We attended the final class eager to hear how we did on the exam.  We were also curious as to how we would be grouped for the practical lessons on boats.

I got the highest theory marks of the three of us, second from the top of the whole class.  The lady pathologist got the highest marks of the group.  She and I and a gay couple were slated to be boat mates for the sailing lessons on actual sail boats.  Rumpole and Renaissance Man were really irritated by my test results.

“Good thing the four of you are together for the actual sailing,” grumbled Rumpole.  “There is a lot more to sailing a boat than theory, Landlubber!”

This fact I was soon to find out, for myself.

Hot and Cold…

July 12, 2007

It promises to be yet another scorcher of a day today.  Yesterday a number of records for high temperatures in British Columbia have been surpassed.  It is odd that as little as a week ago the temperatures were so chilly that Rumpole insisted on turning on the heat for a couple of evenings. Water conservation rules have been put into effect, and there has been discussion about water metering being instituted.  This is timely as many people here in suburbia insist on washing their driveways and hard landscaping, which to me is a phenomenal waste of water.

I toddled next door to Looking for Beauty’s yard and watered her many plants in pots she is to transplant to her new garden as soon as she moves out here.  Wore a long-sleeved shirt, floppy hat and sunglasses for the traverse across her tarmac to her back yard gate, and the paving was so hot that surely it could have fried an omlette.

I had got up yesterday morning after a poor night’s sleep, coughing and hacking, my head stuffed with cotton wool, nose red and running and feeling very chilled.  It is weird to be going out and about on such a blasting hot day and feeling chilled.  It just seems that just after getting over another eye infection that necessitated two visits a week with my doctor, that this dratted cold got me.  Am I whining?  You bet!  Summer colds are not much fun.

It is Glasgow Girl’s birthday on Saturday, so it is unlikely that I will get a visit in with her, Renaisssance Man and Mousey.  If Rumpole doesn’t come down with this cold also, he can go and celebrate, whilst I languish here in my nightgown.  Well, what the heck!  It wouldn’t be doing the young ones any favours to infect them too.

The one good thing about this hot weather – the lawns are not growing fast, which means that the weekend will not be noisy with the sounds of lawnmowers, weed-eaters and leaf-blowers – so blessed silence will reign!

The neighbours across the street have spent the past two weeks constructing a skookum tree-fort for their growing little people.  Soon there will be the sounds of chatter from the young residents of the tree-fort, which is always amusing as kids discussions can be quite entertaining, and eavesdropping on them is one of my favourite summer past-times.  The twins have moved from next door, and our complement of children has dwindled.  Last summer they kept me in stitches playing at being CIA (in Canada) and arguing about who was to be head honcho.  They spied on the neighbours and made a running commentary on their activities, suspicious and otherwise.  The girl twin always got to be the underdog who noted on paper the movements of the people they were spying on, and her complaining was really quite eloquent, but usually to no avail.  The boy twin scanned the neighbourhood with his mother’s bird-watching binoculars, making terse commentary which he expected his sister to note down carefully.  I sure will miss these two, they were most amusing to hear chattering in the background.

Off to make some lemonade from tap-water – and thank God we have plenty of potable water from taps here.  I have already resuscitated my wilting hydrangaea, and hope to resuscitate my dry throat with some cool lemonade.

I realize that south of us in the Western States there have been horrendous hot spells, not to be compared with this minor one of ours.  However, it is really odd to be experiencing such a heat wave here.  What can this augur?

Eight facts about my life…

July 11, 2007

MariaChristina at WordPress has tagged me to provide eight little known facts about my life.  These are very ordinary facts, known well by all my intimates.

–At nineteen I travelled around Europe, stayed in France for three months and attended the Alliance Francaise school  in Paris to learn French.  At the same time I was working as Au Pere and searching for an apprenticeship as a printmaker.

-During my youth I was designated “mother” and “caretaker” for my Mom and older sister, rebelled and left for the north to try and devise my own life.

–I have kept up the habit of journalling since my early twenties, much of this will meet with a backyard fire, one of these days.

–Rumpole and I have been together for 32 years, and there are still mysteries unfolding about him as a person. This makes our relationship feel fresh.

— I have an incessant curiosity, which others may call nosiness.

–I dislike having the radio, tv, or records on as background, even in the car while travelling.  I have to sit and listen and then turn off the sounds and process what I have heard.  Ambient sounds are very important for me to have a handle on surroundings.

–I love young people and older people, find much to be learned from them.  Kind of like all sorts of people, particularly those who live coherently with their strong beliefs, are passionate and follow their own path.

–I am addicted to cheese, red wine, substantial breads, fruit of all types.

The Weekend…

July 9, 2007

Prissy German Tourist phones.  “Hi G.  I’m at the airport.  How and where do I catch the West Coast Express?”

So I give him a detailed explanation and ask him to call again when he is on the train.  A quick phone call to Rumpole confirms that he is on his way home and can pick PGT up from our local train station. I pull out the bottle of wine I have been saving for PGT’s arrival, check out that the guest bedroom is ready for him and start preparations for dinner.

The men arrive at seven o’clock.  Rumpole helps PGT bring in his travelling gear. I uncork the wine. PGT mucks about in his bedroom, unpacking things.  Rumpole goes off to shed his work clothes.

Rumpole, wearing his new shorts and a boxing t-shirt emerges from the bedroom. He checks out the arrabiata sauce on top of the stove, takes a spoonful and makes smacking sounds. PGT surfaces from his room, also wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and bearing his white Apple laptop.  He makes a bee-line for the wine, pours a glass, sighs and folds himself on a kitchen chair.

“Do you want supper now or later?” I ask him.

“Let me drink my wine now and show you guys my pictures from Ontario”, he says. “Also, I need to take a lie-down, afterward. Can we eat later?”

“Sure”, says Rumpole. “Let’s look at some photos.”

Being somewhat of an eternal handmaiden, amanuensis, or otherwise a Stepford Wife ( a real stretch!) I set aside dinner to cool, and sit down, ready to be treated to some pictures.

We look at photos of PGT’s Mom and Dad, his sisters, their spouses and children.  There is a great shot of his Dad, tilted back in a chair directly under one of his paintings. There is a pink shadow on the wall behind his head, a ghostly double of delicious colouration.  We discuss this at length.  PGT tells us his Dad was a journeyman house painter trained in Germany in the 40s and that his avocation was painting landscapes which are “pretty good” in PGTs estimation.  His Dad paints in somewhat similar manner as the Group of Seven, and why shouldn’t he, living as he does in Ontario where there are many GofS landscapes to be seen. The next group of photos are of Ontario lakeshore landscapes, and of the peculiar skies typical of the area. Definitely, these landscapes are ones which appear in variation in many G of S paintings, we agree.  Rumpole rolls his eyesand commands “no more artspeak”. PGT and I, chastened, change the topic back to details about his family, his visit on this occasion of his Mom’s 70th birthday and of how pleased she was to have him home to celebrate this occasion.

Unfortunately, PGT and I slip badly back into artspeak when he mentions how his Mom was instrumental in the birth of a good art gallery in her Ontario town, and pulls out a catalogue of a photography show to show us. Rumpole likes black and white photography so he happily looks at them, but as soon as PGT and I begin to debate, in earnest fashion, about certain cliches that crop up in this body of work, he moans “artspeak” and leaves in a huff. PGT takes his half empty wine glass, excuses himself and goes off to have a nap. The General, our Maine coon cat, slopes through the kitchen, makes a disparaging cattish comment and follows PGT into his room.

I am left in the kitchen, dinner cooling, abandoned by the males in the house.  So I journal and plan the next day’s excursions with PGT.

Next morning.  The three of us are drinking coffee, reading the papers.  Rumpole asks PGT and me what our plans are for the day.  PGT wants to go shopping for summer shirts.  I want to go to the nearby municipality’s art gallery to see a drawing show and go to a bookstore and browse.  Rumpole gives PGT keys to the truck and house and reminds him not to let me drive and to keep me under a watchful eye when we are out and about. “And wear your sunglasses, G”, he adds. He goes off to dress for work leaving PGT and me to discuss the order of how we will do our activities.  First shopping, then book-store, then art gallery. Rumpole goes off to work, PGT and I venture out to the local mall to look for shirts.

At the mall, at Winners, we browse the aisles in the menswear section.  PGT is an efficient and decisive shopper.  He finds a couple of light cotton shirts while I unearth a pair of cream silk slacks from a nearby rack.  These are made of gorgeous feeling material and are a good price. PGT goes off to try this on, comes back and announces “I like!”. Then he finds a tiny flaw near one of the pockets.  We debate as to whether or not this flaw is forgiveable.  I suggest I go up to the till and bargain down the price, and if he finds it then a good buy with a reduced price, then he will have a nice pair of pants. I take the pants and dicker with the sales clerk, who magnanimously drops the price by five dollars.  PGT is pleased and pays for his purchases.  We leave after having spent only twenty minutes in the store.  Off to the next stop of our itinerary, the bookstore.

Here we browse for a good hour. PGT finds nothing he wants to buy, but I find a beautiful illustrated book by Art Spiegelmann which Renaissance Man will love to have. It is a terrific price and I am very glad to have found such a lovely book for my son.  I pay up and we leave to go on to the gallery.

Here is a show of drawings by a young artist.  His theme is skateboard culture. Quite fascinating, I find.  PGT really dislikes the drawings because he finds them stiff and lacking in “gesture and movement” that he associates with skateboarding.  I quite appreciate them because of reminders of punk aesthetic and the deliberate downplaying of draftsmanlike skill.  We argue, sotto voce, our differing points of view, and we end up taking the argument outside in order to not disturb the gallery attendant. Driving home, we carry out a lengthy discussion for the hour it takes us to get back to the house.

Back at the house PGT escapes to have a nap.  I google Raymond Pettibon, because PGT is determined that this young chap’s drawings are “derivative” of Pettibon’s work and even his manner of clustering a group of drawings.  I plan to waylay PGT with further discussions about this comparison, so am gathering ammunition. 

Poor PGT, the rest of the weekend I keep referring back to the argument.  Even right after watching the first season of “Weeds”with Rumpole and him, I find  a way of bringing the topic back to this drawing exhibition. Rumpole is exasperated with me.  “Will you drop this topic and give PGT some respite?” he orders. I cease and desist, and leave off the art talk for the rest of the weekend.

However, this afternoon as we were driving PGT to the Ferry terminal, I took another shot at this argument from my back-seat in the car. Really got some sparks flying, furthering the argument.  Rumpole shut me down. At the terminal, PGT made his escape.

It was a most satisfying weekend for me.  Rumpole reports having enjoyed PGT’s company.  We both enjoy having him come and visit!