Archive for November, 2007

Anniversary on the land-locked cruise ship…

November 28, 2007

Rumpole has ever been a man reluctant to separate himself from the Law. Thus on the day we were to drive to Harrison Hot Springs he was poring over some tomes in the downtown Law Library. He breezed in at 4pm and proceeded to argue his reasons for why he should not bring a formal jacket, on this, our 30th Anniversary. He cleverly won by reminding me that way back when we tied the knot, he had not worn anything but sweaters and jeans, and the ever so necessary rain-slicker. So why would we not do the romantic thing and dress down in remembrance of our youth? Naturally, he neglected the fact that after thirty years we could both do with considerable spackle and polish, to fill our numerous cracks and bring our tarnished lustre to a dullish glow.

Suitcase in the trunk and digital camera on the front between the two of us, we drove off in beautiful sunshine of the late November afternoon. It was a scenic drive. We found a good rock station with golden oldies rock and sang along, admired the gorgeous views. We were delighted the weather was not a reprise of our honeymoon torrential rainstorm, and high-fived our good fortune. As the twilight settled we had arrived at Harrison Mills.

“Look,” Rumpole mentioned, “The mountain up ahead is on fire.”

I had my sunglasses on, as my eyes were again infected and sore. “Where’s the fire?” I just couldn’t see it.

“Oh, for God’s sake, take off your sunglasses,”said he with an exasperated tone. “See the lights up ahead, the smoke? There – straight ahead.”

Well it looked like fog to me, the kind of low-lying stuff that wreathes the bottoms of mountains this time of year. The lights were the usual foggy star shapes that might indicate an electric light on a pole. But then I don’t see at all well nowadays, and rather than incur a long winded argument between us, I concurred. “Ah yes. I see (fingers crossed, liar liar pants on fire)Do you think it might be campers?”

“Are you kidding? In November? Nope – probably a slash burn.” He didn’t see fit to report it and we drove on.

In dark of late afternoon, we arrived at the lakeshore and drove around looking for a parking spot, near the resort. No joy. Rumpole is an independent sort of fellow; doesn’t like maps, nor signage. So we drove around some more. He was becoming quite irritated. After I figured he was thoroughly fed up, I gently suggested we drive up to the port cochere and ask the attendant where we might park the car. As it turned out, parking was at some distance, and Rumpole didn’t want to drag our suitcase for that long a walk. He let me wait inside the lobby for him, with the bag.  This suited me just fine. I got to scope out the lobby.

Directly in front of the wheezing automatic doors, inside, a large painted chainsaw-sculpture of the cigar-store Indian variety greeted visitors. So far, so bad. Hasn’t it yet dawned on German and Japanese tourists that these artifacts went out of fashion when cowboy movies did? A couple of Japanese business-men in casual attire, both sporting neck-slung cameras took turns gaily posing with the Indian. Brother! Talk about cliche! Political incorrectness, eh?

Rumpole arrived, with reddened cheeks from exerting himself on the long trek from the parking spot, and took a double-take as he spotted the Japanese men checking their digital pics. The Indian was gazing, quite oblivious, into the distant lake vistas. The guys decided to do retakes, and Rumpole threw them an amused glance as he looked about for me. The Indian didn’t twitch a muscle, but I was snerkling under my breath, trying to smother down a loud laugh which was threatening to erupt.

Booking in was a breeze. We were given a detailed map of the premises, key-cards and sent on our way to find our room. As Rumpole grasped my elbow and led me around the Indian  to climb a few stairs, he noted a bunch of older men, wearing white bathrobes strolling toward us. “These guys must be on their way to the lake to practice for their January Polar Bear swim,” he conjectured. We stopped and looked at the map. Yep, either they were on their way out of the hotel and down to the beach, or they were visiting Miss Daisy’s Cafe located slightly to the east of the Indian. Shrugging with relief that dress code here was so informal, we proceeded up the stairs. More people of all ages and physical condition, lounging and strolling around in bathrobes. HMMM.

“Don’t look now – there’s a cop behind you.” Of course, Rumpole just had to look. Leaning against a pillar was a 10-foot tall stuffed toy Grizzly bear in formal Mountie dress uniform. It had its palms upturned as if seeking donations. Very natty,but oh so cliche! He was guarding the fireplace/piano/lounge room where a couple of men in bathrobes warmed themselves by a crackling gas fire, and a mother watched in irritation as two ten year old boys played video games on their laptops.

We looked around for the elevator. After consulting our maps we and 6 people in wet bathrobes got on the elevator which made herky-jerky progress to our floor. By the time we got off, my glasses had fogged over. Rumpole had to lead me by the hand to our room.

First things first, I just had to find our bathrobes. Yep, they were in the closet where the coats and clothes would hang. I unloaded our suitcase and stashed our stuff while Rumpole, ever mindful of rules and regulations perused the Resort Information Booklet. “Get this,” he announced. “They charge for each phone call made to the desk, for wake-up calls, for concierge help…. haven’t found where it says ‘for breathing’, yet.” Of, so it was going to be like that, eh? “Oh, no” he complained.”It says here I have to wear good casual wear to eat dinner at the Copper Room.” We had arranged the tour package -room for two nights, breakfast for two mornings and our anniversary dinner at the “Copper Room”.

“Maybe they have a “rent-a-jacket” place on premises,”I said. “Or you can go down there tonight in the sweater you plan to wear to dinner tomorrow and ask if that would do? Alternately, we can do a nice drive home tomorrow morning to get your jacket.” Rumpole chose to do a walk about the place, find the hot-spring pools, the gymn, the spa and then casually drift by the Copper Room and ask the Maitre D’ whether he would be acceptable in sweater and good pants. After finding out we didn’t have to drive home to get a jacket, we strolled around trying to figure out with the help of the site map how to get to the Lakeshore Room, where we decided to have supper.

The Lakeshore Room had a huge waiting room with a crowd waiting for seating. We signed in and held up a wall. People there were trying to stave off their hunger with the dough-nuts provided to ease the long wait. It was good people watching opportunity. There was a family with two little girls and a rickety pair of grandparents in tow. The little girls sat in the only two available armchairs with their feet up on the seats, ordering the mother and father to go get them juice and doughnuts, while the doddering grandparents swayed on their feet, almost about to topple over. There was something very wrong with this picture. I waved my hand in their direction and gave Rumpole a disgusted sneer of disapproval. He pursed his lips and looked at this crew over the top of his glasses, looking very professorial. I’m certain he had not failed to notice that no-one waiting here was in bathrobes. Thus we did not fear being overdressed.

Dinner at the Lakeside Room was buffet style. On this occasion it might have been called “buffett” style. As I was raising the tongs to transfer some spinach salad to my salad plate, a Japanese lady of middle years hip-checked me and grasped the tongs out of my hand, filled her plate, smiled nicely and proceeded to do a number on Rumpole. We were so stunned that all we could offer by complaint was a weak, Canadian expression – “Sorry” and watch in bewilderment as the lady continued to make her way backward on the line butting in front of everybody.  About this, I am proud of our Canadian tendency to say “sorry” whenever we have done nothing to be sorry about. Perhaps the English-Japanese guide book needs to make it clear that when we say “sorry” we are not really saying “go ahead, do whatever pleases you”. I noted that was going to be a point I made clear when filling out the visitors experience report after our stay.

“Don’t look now, but that Pushy Japanese woman is sitting right behind you,” whispered Rumpole. And of course, I looked.

“I should just dump my dinner plate on her after I go get my salmon and vegies, and say a cheery “Sorry”,” I hissed back.

“G, now don’t start something you can’t finish,” he admonished. “Just give her an elbow if she crosses you at the trough.”

Sure enough, I had just got my salmon, rice and vegies and decided to go with Rumpole to the Prime Rib area and augment my plate with a Yorkshire Pudding (never mind that’s not taditional accompaniment for salmon, who cares?) and voila, she reappeared again and much to the server’s controlled amusement bunted Rumpole aside and held out her plate for the piece of prime rib the server was about to place on his plate. “Sorry,” said Rumpole, automatically. He didn’t feed her an elbow. I admired his restraint and grinned at him with approval.

Back at our table, we ate and chuckled at the vagaries of travel to foreign places, at misunderstandings of manners. I jokingly told him that the resort should have a Buffet Etiquette book, translated in several languages in every room, and while they were at it might post a rule about people schlepping about all over the place in the near altogether in soggy white bathrobes. Seeing all those bloated bodies with bad hair, wet hair, hairy legs and poor posture might turn people off from eating altogether, never mind they had an obstacle course to follow at the buffet, with tourists nearly snatching morsels from proffered plates.

After dinner we went for an evening constitutional on the lakeshore, went back to our room and read in bed.

By morning my eye had swollen and took on the bright colouration of a sailboat’s port light. And it was sore. After breakfast buffet at the lakeshore Room, we had our eyes peeled for the Japanese lady, lest she come near us to snatch our croissants from our hungry grasp, or scrape butter pats from our plates. No such adventure to be had. She was most likely soaking in one of the hot pools, bless her.

I was concerned about my eye, as after we returned home from the weekend I was slated to go for surgery on Tuesday morning. Here it was a Sunday, so where could we find a doctor handy? Rumpole went off to bring the car from parking in the boonies, and I went off to the concierge desk to find out if there was a local medical clinic open. The concierge called around to Hope, nope, the clinic there was closed. The nearest clinic, in Aggasiz, was also closed. But, Bingo! The clinic in Chilliwack, a mere half-hour drive away, was open. She made us a good map, and by the time Rumpole arrived with the car at the porte cochere, we were good to go. Only it was raining really hard, which kind of ruined the scenic aspects of the drive.

The clinic in Chilliwack was not full with patients, so we got to see the doctor quickly. She took a look at my eye and said to Rumpole “You’ve got to stop punching this poor woman.” I took an instant liking to this doctor; however Rumpole didn’t seem to approve of this light-hearted, put-the-patient-at-ease banter. He sat looking quite crest-fallen as I hastened to encapsulate the medical history of my eye over the past 8 months and made it perfectly clear that it was not result of a wife beating. The doctor was adamant that I cancel the upcoming Tuesday operation, gave a scrip for antibiotic drops and sent us on our way. We filled the prescription at a nearby pharmacy and went back to the resort.

The rain was pouring down in earnest. Rumpole decide to parade around in the resort in his white bathrobe while I took a nap. Much later in the afternoon, with him refreshed from his soaking in hot mineral water and me in a warm bath in our room, we decided to explore thoroughly all the amenities of the hotel, and do a long indoor walk, interspersed with climbing many stairs. On the way back to our room to change into our finery, we stopped in at an expensive ladies wear shop in the lobby, where I admired the lacy, gauzy and beaded confections that were more suited to women under 40, than to a woman of my vintage. Rumpole found a lovely metallic grey silk shawl that brought out the highlights of my gun-metal grey hair, wrapped it around my shoulders and said to the clerk “This, my wife will wear to the Copper Room for our anniversary dinner,” and bought it for me. We nipped upstairs and changed into our fancy duds. We looked pretty good together, we thought.

Off we went to the Copper Room, holding hands on the long walk there, severely overdressed compared to the bathrobed figures flitting here and there. We were seated at a table with good view of the dance floor. The band was good, in a cheesy Las Vegas kind of way, the singer had the mellifluous voice of a younger Wayne Newton/Englebert Humperdink cross and the food was delicious. We drank no wine, just water, and watched the dancers and sang along to old standards. There seems to have been a recent resurgence of ballroom dancing, because many couples on the dance floor strutted their stuff. Rumpole does not dance. He feels about dancing as cats do about being immersed in water. But he made an exception for this occasion; he would dance to a song I requested in honour of our anniversary. I perked up – goody, I get to dance a wee bit. I asked the Maitre D’ to send my request to the band, Eric Clapton’s “You look wonderful tonight.” Soon, the band made the announcement. Rumpole took my hand, and I dragged him to the dance floor. The band began to play “Yooo loook boeetifoool too meee….. can’t yooo seeee….” Gag, Barf, Ick….. the song both Rumpole and I absolutely loathe. Rumpole was helpless with laughter, so much so that he couldn’t keep rhythm and lead. Not that he could anyway even when concentrating. So I led us around the dance floor, and we giggled as we stomped around, trying not to interfere with skilled dancers. Well, we were the oldest people on the dance floor, and the worst dancers, but we had an excuse – we came from a generation where ball-room dancing was the antithesis of cool.

So cool were we, that after watching the antics of some really fine comic ballroom-dancers, we started yawning and decided to repar to our room to read in companionable collapse. My eyes were sore, so I managed a page before dozing off. I was suddenly snatched from blessed oblivion to find Rumpole sneakily easing a couple of pillows from under my head. “Go back to sleep,” he groused. “You’re such a pillow hog. I need some extra pillows for reading.” Ah, loving, romantic words from my husband of thirty years.  He never said that thirty years ago!

The next morning, a horrible windstorm accompanied the torrential rains. We had to leave this land-locked cruise ship experience and return home to daily routines. But first, Rumpole had to brave the elements to go get the car and bring it to the front of the Resort. Of course, being British Columbians from the Lower Mainland, we need umbrellas as winter accessories. But being us, we left them in the trunk of the car, so poor fellow made his way in the downpour and arrived back with the car, soaked to the skin and with the windows badly fogged up. After loading up, we waited for half an hour until the car’s heater could deal with his evaporating clothes and our moist exhalations.

We drove home, singing and chatting and listening to the weather reports. Shades of our honeymoon trip thirty years ago!Trees were downed everywhere, power outages beset a large number of people, the ferries were not running on schedule and hundreds of people were stranded on either side of Georgia Straight on the last day of this Remembrance Day weekend. About fifteen miles from our town, we came upon a road block, were rerouted on unfamiliar back roads and arrived home two hours later than anticipated. Our luck held. No power outage at our house, and it was nice to be back in our comfy digs.

It occurred to us as we were drinking coffee in the kitchen after unloading the car, that we had not taken a single picture of our weekend, or had another tourist take our picture grinning and mugging in front of the cigar store Indian, or the Grizzly in Mountie uniform. But then this comes as no huge surprise, we have not one photo from our honeymoon either. But we do have memories to share. That’s what counts to me,

Guilty pleasures meme…

November 19, 2007

TIV at  has tagged me in true sand-lot fashion, and  I will try to play the game to the best of my ability. I should be good at this one, as a lapsed Catholic, I have had many unforgettable moments in the confessional, and while guilt carries with it the promise of certain burning pain of incipient punishment, it also proves perversely pleasureable.

Six guilty pleasures no one would suspect me of having

–    I enjoy going to all kinds of church services, despite being assured at an early age that there was only one religion – the Catholic one. Rituals from different faiths yield me similar feelings – this I find amazing as well as reassuring.

–    I enjoy reading mythology

–    The obituary pages have always fascinated me, even when I was young. Beats me why.

–    I love the scent of many people in close quarters. Even the ones who reek of garlic and old socks. Before Rumpole leaves me for the day, I have to take deep snorts of his neck, behind the ear. If I don’t, somehow the day doesn’t progress as it should.

–    it gives me great pleasure to have regular visits with the podiatrist. I like the matter-of-fact way he uses the dremel on my toenails – it tickles!

–    If I could afford it, I’d go three times a week to have my hair washed at the hairdressers. That is such a delicious luxury.

six guilty pleasures I wish I had the courage to indulge

–    to do a weekend marathon of all movies with Peter Sellers in them – I wish I could learn how to talk like Inspector Clouseau and drive my family crazy with the impersonations.

–    I wish I had the nerve to prepare toilet paper out of 6 different types of unexpected materials, install them in the ladies’ toilets at the local art center, plant myself in a cubicle with a tape-recorder and record the reactions of visitors to the particular material they find in their stall, and the kinds of dialogue that would result in asking persons in the next stall to hand under the dividers the material they find themselves provided with – then make an installation, using the tape and types of toilet paper material.

–    I wish I had the nerve to wear only clothing which I feel totally comfortable in, never mind how it looks to others.

–    art books, books of poetry, dictionaries of all types and all the time in the world to read them

–    taking to-do lists and feeling free enough not to have to cross of any item as having been done – If I make lists, have to be compulsive about performance

–    To have a live monkey for a pet – to indulge my lifelong fascination with monkeys

Six pleasures I once considered guilty but have either abandoned or made peace with

–    reading too much, not “doing” mundane chores enough

–    eating too much cheese and pate – my recent cholestrol levels have caused me to abstain – aaargh!

–    wasting time dancing around the house to blaring music – these days I’m too sore to do too much of this

–    Love affair with paper as a material, and the sheer luxury of excess availability of all kinds of paper goods – I’m having a hard time coming to grips with this one

–    luxury underwear, of wonderful material, no longer find essential or even desirable

–    wanting to own art objects of interest, beauty, utility, a huge guilty pleasure – am happy to browse museums and emporiums, just seeing the stuff, don’t need to “own” them

I’m tagging –,  Nicolemarie at, Kay at, Donna at,  D at and Dejan at . I look forward to what these individuals might want to share about their own guilty pleasures, because as I have been taught “confession is good for the soul”, and I must admit to be relieved that I have done my bit here. Whew!

He said, she said, and all that cheese…

November 18, 2007

During the past two weeks and some days, no morsels of cheese, my favourite food, has passed my lips. Sad to say, unfortunately, my hunting and pecking forefingers have generated enough cheesy byproduct, of the written variety, to satisfy the most discriminating palate. I have created a range of “fromage” of a staggering variety, from subtle Boursin, tasteless dry curd cottage cheese to absolutely reeking Roquefort.

Poor Rumpole and poor brave souls who enter our house begging for a cup of tea. I serve up tepid cups, and insist on reading to any too polite to say “please, no” the latest installment of my cheesy novel, “The Completer Set”. I do preface boring friends and loved ones  with my dramatic readings with a modest “cover your nose. My prose reeks of a cheese counter that has not been refrigerated for a week.” But, bless them, anyhow, they have listened, if not with rapt fascination, then with polite and patient utterings of encouragement.

I feel much loved and propped up in my delirious and obsessive attempts to wrestle a tale into existence. Rumpole has taken to calling me “Ernestine Hemingway”, and has kept me supplied with that Hemingway-an libation, red wine, to lubricate the Muse and keep her chattering inside my head with plot twists, character development, descriptions and dialogue with which to drag my story kicking and resisting toward some sort of completion.

To date, I have pounded out a bit more than 36,000 words, some with really creative spelling, and my story keeps on gathering steam. This morning, I considered just how soon this thing will peter out, and end. Is there some point where a writer hits a wall, and decides to end it all, no matter how abruptly, or does a writer manfully keep at it until the last bit of sense has been wrung out of the story and the ending arrives like a train chuffing into the train station and coasts to a stop?

I know, when a drawing or painting is in danger of being overworked. This writing business may be more like modelling with clay, like sculpting. Right now I’m piling on layers and layers, building up a core that has perilously bloated forms protruding from it, everywhere. For now, I’ll allow this excess; later will be the time to whittle away and pare down. But all this is very new to me, and I am amazed at the complexity of the task that awaits if I should decide, later to tackle the daunting task of rewriting.

Thank God for intimates and friends to keep one a realist, to help one not run amok with illusions about the worth of ones essays, in writing, in art, in living. I must say, that this whole experience has been mostly enjoyable, even when sitting in front of the computer with a blank look is all I could manage some days. The cheese pile is growing. “He said, she said” litters the ream of pages. Some of the really stinky passages are fun to re-read. I celebrate their badness. I actually managed to unearth this really awful stuff from inside somewhere. Go figure!

I will keep grinding away, sip my red wine in the evenings, and try to carry on the pretence that I am a housewife.

Rumpole deserves beatification after this NaNoWriMO month. So do Kay, Martha, BLW, OLPC, OCSA and PGT. Renaissance Man is convinced that I am nuts; and Glasgow Girl’s suspicion that I am a few cards short of a deck has been confirmed. Only Mousey treats me now as she always had – grabs the glasses from my face, tosses them away and roughs up my already messy hair. She sees it’s the same old me, leans her little forehead to mine and grins. She doesn’t care what I accomplish; I am simply Gramma. I’ll share a slice of cheese with her tonight at supper. Better a slice of cheese within the lips, than pouring out from under the fingers onto a page.

Then and now…

November 10, 2007

Thirty years ago today, Rumpole and I married in a small chapel of a Vancouver Anglican church. He was a divorce; I was a Catholic and had a seven year old son. Renaissance Man believed he, too, was part of this ceremony, that he was also getting married. “We are getting married” he kept repeating, rather joyously, in hindsight.

That November tenth was a miserable, stormy day, a Friday. Rumpole was waiting with Renaissance Man at our house. He had brought him home from after-school care, and had him bathed and dressed in his new olive-geen thre piece suit.

When I flew in, bedraggled and wet from my teaching job in North Delta, my two men were dressed and sipping hot chocolate at the kitchen table.

“You have exactly a half-hour to get ready to go to church” reminded Rumpole. “Your Mom and Dad will be here then to drive us to the church.”

Hurry up, Mom,” said Renaissance Man. ” you need to look pretty for your wedding.”

I scrambled-around like a mad-woman, showering and washing my hair, blowing it dry and throwing on my excrement-brown cocktail dress that Mom had insisted was the appropriate wedding dress for a fallen woman such as I to wear at her wedding. Off-white was absolutey out of the question, she insisted. I barely had time to smear on some lipstick before Mom and Dad drove up. We piled into the back seat of Dad’s car and sped off in the blowing, blustery night to the Anglican Church in East Vancouver. Rumpole’s parents’ car was parked, windshield wipers madly labouring away as we arrived in the church parking lot. They had recently arrived off the ferry from Nanaimo. We dashed into the church, and without further preamble, the minister married us. As we left after the ceremony, a group of people waiting at the church entrance commented on what a nice rehearsal our wedding had been. Rumpole coreected them “that was the real thing”. And then we were off to our house to sit at table, and eat a meal of cold-cuts and other savouries. Rumpole’s father had brought champagne, my father provided a lovely Dobos Torte from Szasz’s.

My Father and  Mother took RM home with them. Rumpole and I and his parents stayed at our house. The following morning, Rumpole and I drove off on our honeymoon  trip to Oregon. He had in his mind a little set of cabins on the beach near Seaside for our honeymoon destination. We were excited and happy as we drove through driving rain across the US-Canadian border and south to oregon on the I5. On the way, we stopped in small towns and explored. It was evening by the time we arrived on the Northern end of the Coast road.

Daylight ends quite early in November. We drove through the dark and decided  to keep going until we arrived at the Seaside. Rumpole kept his eyes peeled for the cottages, but said he didn’t recognize them in any of the establishements we had passed. ” I’m sure it’s just around the next corner” he kept reassuring me. It was getting on to nine o’clock, and he was becoming quite exasperated. I was getting a wee bit peckish, after all we hadn’t eaten since noon, in a small town somewhere in Washington State. “All right,'”he decided, “the next place we come to we will stop for the night.” I was only too eager to concur. My legs had gone to sleep, and I was getting very fed up with driving through the wet night.

“The Inn at Otter Crest” announced a brightly lit sign after our prolonged driving along a dark highway that seemed to ribbon ahead to nowhere. We were releaved, and very hungry. But where was the inn? “Parking-please park your vehicle and use the call box to call the front desk. A hotel bus will be along shortly to deliver you to the Inn Office,” a sign in the huge parking lot instructed. We did that, and waited in the rain under a shelter near a sign indicating “Inn Transport”. Soon a small bus emerged out of the drizzling gloom, loaded us up and delivered us to the office. No soon had we signed in that we were advised to get back on the bus. It would next take us to our room. The clerk warned us the dining room was due to close in an hour, so if we were to eat anything at all, we had to get to the restaurant as soon as possible. Off we went on the bus to find our room.

The Inn was huge, several levels high, several separate buildings, joined by a road that wound to each level and then to each room. The bus deposited us in front of a row of doors. Each door had a light above it. If this light was lit up, that meant that people were about to emerge from their room. It was a warning for the Inn bus driver, so he wouldn’t run  over residents as they came out from within their room. He explained this to us carefully. It seemed to be knowledge that we needed to have as guests to survive the Otter Crest experience. He cautioned us repeatedly to make sure we understood the danger to our persons from buses that drove around all the time from level to level, from building to building. We escaped to our room and dropped our bag. There was no bed in the room, just a hide-away couch that opened up for sleeping. Ther was a plus, a fireplace, but only one skimpy presto log with which to build a roaring romantic fire. We looked at each other and started laughing. Weird, we decided. But we were starving and had to brave the night and find the restaurant.

As we left our room, Rumpole snatched me back from the open door. The light above the door outside, failed to come on. “New bride gets flattened by Otter Cress guest bus.  Bereaved young widower throws himself from a nearby cliff. A honeymoon tragedy!” he said in his best newscaster intonation. We made our way, gigling in the dark, trying to figure out which direction to go to find the restaurant.

The restaurant was packed, much to our surprise. He asked the waiter how come there were so many guests out of season.  “It’s an Oregon State Social Worker’s Conference. They’re here for the whole weekend,” the waiter told us, handing over menus. We studied the menus, then started to laugh at the same time. “Did you notice that every item on this menu has Parmesan cheese in it” Rumpole pointed out. “Look, here it says “petits peas a la Anaglaise.” I said, laughing. “this place must have discovered parmesan cheese as an “in” ingredient. And, of course, nothing says expensive and classy than a menu in French, never mind it’s in bad French.” Rumpole made me a bet, “I bet you don’t have the nerve to ask fro Parmesan Ice cream.” I told him “get your money ready, because you are about to lose this bet. Just watch my smoke!”

The restaurant had marginally better food than a Boston Pizza. But it had a good jazz band, and diners who were thoroughly sloshed and obviously having a good time. We had a great time watching people, paid the bill and strolled back to our room, ever vigilant for an Inn bus to whip around the corner of a building and wipe us out. We made it into our room, lit the presto log, and sat on the balcony under cover, listening to the surf pound an unseen shore.

This afternoon, Rumpole and I are driving to Harrison Hot Springs, for a weekend celbration of our thirtieth anniversay. Today has been sunny, the night promises to be a clear, moon-lit one, altogether very different fom the first evening of our honeymoon way back then. I plan to ask for all courses of our evening meal to have some Parmesan  cheese as an ingredient, and will request Parmesan cheese ice cream for dessert. He should get a kick out of this weekend.

“Ernestine” and the retinologist…

November 8, 2007

“Hello! Is this G?” grated the voice, instantly recognizable as “Ernestine’s”. “Dr. Blindside wants you in the office on Monday morning at 8am sharp.” She neglected to ask if I could get someone to drive me to this ‘instant’ appointment. This call came in late last Friday afternoon. If I got on the blower right away, maybe, just maybe, I would find someone to drive me to see Dr. Blindside. I knew Rumpole had to be in court on Monday morning, representing one sort of reprobate or another on a matter of LIFE and DEATH. Okay, maybe, not so important, but you’d think his clients all assumed they might lose their freedom, reputations, or life savings if his measured, dulcet tones might not ring out in a courtroon on their behalf. Besides which I did like to eat meals other than of the customary feasts of baking powder biscuits that had sustained us during his law school years, so I had to find some one else to drive me to this appointment.

Bless her little red socks, but Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis, recognizing a potential crisis when she heard the gory details, came to my rescue, and offered to schauffeur me to hear what Dr. Blindside had to impart. I told her I dreaded the appointment, in case he might tell me that the last tests proved that no amount of putting a lens into my left eye might restore vision  to that eye, and hence a sense of depth to my vision. “Chins up, kiddo” OLPC advised, “I can deal with it. Don’t assume the worst.”

On Monday morning, she stumbled to my studio door, yawning and half awake, eager to hit the road and the morning taffic jam. We listened to a Rock Radio station on the trip, just loud enough to keep us both from falling asleep in the front seats of her snappy Toyota. OLPC had worked overtime on her shift at the hospital last night, and filled me in on the shoddy state of the healthcare system from her vantage point as we drove to the appointment. Her reportage doesn’t entirely fill me with great confidence in the current medical system in Canada. And added to my recent experiences as health care consumer, and first hand views of the lack of good housekeeping in the starship hospital in our province, I was filled with distinct unease at a possible new operation on my eye. So, I kept falling asleep on the drive.

After we fed the voracious maw of the parking meter near the medical building, and braved the guillotine doors of the building’s elevator, we arrived safe and on time in the waiting room of the retinologist’s office. At 8:15 am, the place was packed with people blindly peering at out of date magazines, whenever they were not swabbing their sensitive drop-laden eyes. “Ernestine” screeched a fingers-scraping-down-chalkboard “hello”, and waved us to chairs on opposite sides of the room. OLPC settled down with a dog-eared “House Beautiful” and I slumped down to wait my turn to be summoned into the “sanctum sanctorum” where Dr Blindside would minister to me, terse “Oh Yes”, “looks goods”, “see you whenevers”.

Patient after patient groped their way into the examining room, from within which Dr Blindside shouted his observations of their condition, loud enough for the rest of us waiting outside to be able to compare our paltry problems with more weighty ones. He’d yell out to “Ernestine” instructions to set up operation dates at various hospitals, order tests or let a particular patient, as well as the rest of us waiting on the assembly line, know he or she was freed for 6 months or a year.

OLPC shot me disapproving glances from her perch across the room. At least, they may have been disapproving glances, knowing her as I do, despite the fact I could not see  her facial expression at all clearly. In the background “Ernestine” fielded  numerous phone calls, her officious voice scraping away, sounding quite efficient.  She sure is a good receptionist, I mused, maybe she could do with voice lessons so she’d sound more like a CBC Radio woman announcer, rather than a woman on a chicken-plucking assembly line, or maybe even like one of those silly kids who sucked air from a filled balloon and talked with goofy high-pitched voices.

“Mrs. G Stepford” intoned Dr. Blindside. Ah, finally, I thought  to myself as the previous patient apologetically squeezed by me and lined up for some rousing chatter from Ernestine at the counter.

“Sit”, Dr Blindside commanded.  I sat, I stayed, like a good dog, er, patient. He dropped some stuff in my eye that caused me to see purple where there was black in the room. It was quite unexpectedly pretty. “Prop your chin in this” he ordered as he shoved the looking-in-the-eye-apparatus against my ample breast. Being somewhat amply endowed in the “poitrine” I couldn’t fit my chin in the chinrest. Momentarily looking somewhat askance at my chest protuberance, he raised the gizmo a few degrees, looking put out by the time this had taken him. What, large breasts interfering with the smooth clockworks of his medical practice? Tough, I was thinking.

He glanced through the magnifier, then stood up and poked at my eye as he looked deep into its blind depth with his hand-held ocular device. “Hm, hmm, er” he said, “we’ll get you back as much eyesight as possible.”

“What is it you were operated on for anyway?” he asked as he whipped around to riffle through the chart.

“Pre-retinal membrane,” I offered modestly.

“Oh yes! I remember now!” he shouted. “You’re the one with the infections. Well, that will set you back a bit. BUT DON’T YOU WORRY, WE’LL FIX YOU RIGHT UP” he yelled for all and sundry to hear, probably even the “hearing challenged people” next door at the ENTs office. “ERNESTINE” he yelled, “SET MRS STEPFORD UP FOR AN OPERATION DATE AT MOUNT ST. MARY’S NEXT WEEK.” Then he walked out and called out,”Mr Lim, come in now.”

I scrambled to grab my purse and get out of the way of Mr. Lim, the next patient, and squeezed by Dr Blindside, bidding him a quiet goodbye. “Ernestine” squawked, “I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know what time you have to be at the hospital”. At that summary dismissal, I grabbed my jacket and motioned at OLPC to get the heck out of there.

Going down the elevator, OLPC was irate. “That man has the bed-side manner of a slug. He obviously couldn’t care less for patient privacy or confidentiality.”

I was rattled and annoyed, as is the usual case after leaving Dr Blindside’s office. “You can imagine I’m not exactly thrilled and confident to undergo his knife.  Besides which, he poked at my eye in a careless fashion.”

On the drive home. I blinked my teary sore eye, and tried to keep it closed against the light of a sunny fall morning. OLPC yawned and said she could hardly wait to drop me off at my house, go home and hit her bed. I hugged her in thanks as she dropped me off, and announced I too would retreat into sleep to forget this morning’s divertissement with “Ernestine” and Dr. Blindside.

“I’ll phone you in the afternoon,” OLPC said. “I hope your eye settles down.”

Today, my eye is bloodshot and very sore.  “Ernestine” has recently called and reminded me in her inimitable voice that I am to do a ten hour fast next Monday night.  Oh, boy.  I can hardly wait.