Archive for December, 2008

A Christmas wish…

December 24, 2008

The snow falls steadily here at my home. The day is pure white light, as it can be on a snowfall day. For once, the streets are quiet; no cars roar down the street at ten second intervals. The silence is welcome after the frenetic pace out there during the past two weeks.

I hope for all of you a pleasurable and peaceful exit of the old year and much health, contentment and love from friends and family. May some sanity, thankfulness and peace prevail everywhere. G

Martha travels to India for Christmas…

December 20, 2008

Rumpole was off this evening, having gone into the city for dinner with Man of Science. So I made dinner of gulyas for Martha, Lookingforbeauty and me, what I jokingly called “The last Supper”, given that Martha will be enjoying more exotic fare during the next two weeks. You see, she is flying off to Delhi tomorrow, where she will meet her sister-in-law to travel around together. To prepare her palate for more spicy food, I had been rather liberal with tossing in hot Hungarian paprika into the gulyas while assembling it this afternoon. Martha dutifully choked back the meal, but it was a bit apparent that it was a slight bit too hot, as she consumed many glasses of water during the meal. She is far too polite to make pointed comments, but is known on occasion to grab her throat in a dramatic fashion and cough dramatically, but it is not something she did tonight. She just drank her copious amounts of aqua and regaled us with airport experiences.

It is apparent that she dislikes the airport checking-in routines, and maybe is dreading her upcoming experience at YVR tomorrow evening. She fears being singled out for extensive searches and frisking with the screechy wands. As she puts it, if there are several Hell’s Angels types languishing in the lineup with her, it is inevitably she who is selected to have her suitcase ransacked and picked apart with close scrutiny – she who looks like your average middle-aged lady teacher of French, complete with matching sweater set, sensible shoes and perm, jauntily accessorized with a cavalierly tossed long scarf about her neck and shoulders. Sort of like your every day middle-aged female terrorist, she snarls with sarcasm.

As well, she may be anticipating being mugged, because dinner conversation thoroughly covered the topic of older people being set upon by hooligans on the prowl for easy pickings. She and Lookingforbeauty engaged in a lively exchange over a recent sting operation set up by the Vancouver Police Force. With the aid of local film make-up artists, they made male and female decoys up as elderly or indigent persons and sent them out on the mean streets to entrap the thugs who victimize the helpless and infirm. There seems to be a theme during our women’s dinners that keeps cropping up lately with more frequency than I can remember from previous years. It is the theme of personal safety, and how fearful and increasingly cautious each of us is becoming when out and about on our peregrinations.

Martha smartly pointed out to us that her chances of being mugged, here in our own small municipality, is as great or maybe even greater than that happening to her in India. Of course, I was too busy stuffing my face to counter-argue with an observation that whilst one is in familar territory with known landmarks and a businesslike manner of moving positively toward known goals and not distracted by unfamiliar and fascinating sights and details, one tends to be more attuned to what is happening in the immediate surroundings. Hence, more watchful, aware, and less likely to be taken by surprise, although that possibility does exist even here, on known turf.

Martha demonstrated to us how she planned to carry her money and Visa and her passport – in a small zippered purse she can sling around her body and grab in front, close to her body, with one hand. Killjoy that I am, I pointed out how I could come up close behind her on a crowded sidewalk, cut her purse-strap and yank the purse from her grasp. Of course, she pooh-poohed my cautions and asked how on earth she was supposed to visit restaurants and shops with her goodies hidden in a pouch under her clothes.
“What, am I supposed to do a strip-tease every time I want to buy something?” she asked irritably.
Lookingforbeauty commented that chances of being mugged are probably higher in Italy than in India. Martha was going to India. She was going with a tour and would be safe. But, Lookingforbeauty reminded Martha never to leave her purse on the floor, or just sitting at her side at a restaurant table.

Bur surely, tourists from North America stick out like sore thumbs whilst in India. And not just because they walk about gaping at everything about them, either. Their clothing sets them apart. Oh, well, both Martha and Lookingforbeauty dismissed me as a well-meaning Nervous Nellie and changed the subject. As I ate my way through dinner, I half-listened to them chatting about previous overseas adventures, while being distracted by thought of what kind of footwear Martha might choose to wear on this trip.

As a non-sequitur I blurted out, “I hope you are not planning to wear sandals. There are monkeys about in India, and they bite.”
I was visualizing Martha hopping about on one foot screaming her lungs out in pain, while the offending, biting, monkey sauntered off licking its bloody chops. Then the rabies shots at the local clinic, and what have you, AND limping about with a bandaged foot at the ghats in Varanesi.

Of course, Martha is excited by an opportunity to ride on an elephant at one of the stop-offs. Shades of her camel riding adventure in the Australian outback! I just hope, this time her room-mate, her sister-in-law, doesn’t end up Mace-ing her during her elephant trek. But true to form, Martha will have somethings unlikely and unexpected happenings during her India adventure, with which she will entertain us for months upon her return.

As she prepared to leave for home, Martha complained that she probably not going to get much sleep tonight. She was nervously excited. I imagine she will unpack and repack her bag several times during the night just to double and triple-check that she had everything she might possibly need on this trip. I nipped into the bathroom drug cupboard and brought the over-the-counter sleep aids that I use from time to time. Whatever is in it sure knocks one out cold, with no lingering morning hangover. I doled out 4 tablets and read her the dosage instructions while she wrapped the pills inside a twist of paper.

Martha wrapped herself up in her sheared fake beaver coat, wound her long Bolivian scarf around her throat, struggled into her winter boots. We hugged and kissed good-bye at the studio door and she went out into the bright snowy cold night.

“See you in two weeks,” she called back from her car.

“Stay well and have great adventures! We’re looking forward to your marvellous reports!” I closed the door and waved at her through the window as she drove away.

Red and white cane…

December 11, 2008

No, not the diagonally striped one made of candy, so seasonally appropriate right now. This one is a collapsible aluminum white cane with a red bottom portion such as used by those with limited vision as a way to warn others around them that someone who might make unpredictable moves is about, and should be looked out for.

A week ago, Rumpole took me to visit Dr. Seemore. We hoped to hear reasonably good news about me getting a new lens in my left eye, maybe early in the new year. Instead, Dr. Seemore viewed my eyecondition with reservations, and while he did not say in so many words that I would be sightless in that eye, after all the numerous operations during the past two years, he telegraphed by carefully chosen words and phrases that the prognosis might not be as I had hoped. More tests in the new year, to see if blood supply into the retina is adequate to make it worth installing a new lens.

On the drive home from the office, Rumpole essayed to draw me out as to how I interpreted the conversation between myself and Dr. Seemore. As if interpretation needs to be made by doctors’ pronouncements! Unfortunately, it has been my recent and not so recent experience that doctors are notoriously loathe to give bad news, and in their avoidance manoeuverings end up severely pissing off a patient, such as your truly, who might wish for some necessary and unvarnished truths. I was righteously annoyed, and kvetched and carped about my chagrin all the way home.

Once we arrived, we partook of a good cup of coffee. Rumpole took his cup and disappeared into the front office. After several moments, he called out to me to come and join him there. He had logged onto the computer and got into the CNIB site. He patted the chair next to him and said it was time for me to order a white cane, which might be useful in warning off people walking near me to look out for my wild swings and lunges toward my blind side. And how did I feel about this anyway?

I felt okay, I guess. I spend half my time out in publick apologizing to people for knocking into them or slapping them with my wildly gesturing left arm, that is whenever I don’t cut them off in their eagerness to pass me by. The white cane will help shut me up in public; save some breath.

So my cane arrived in the post today – a tidy collapsible and lightweight pole good for probing ahead but not of cudgel-like proportions to knock others nearby senseless. It’s rather jaunty, like a fencing rapier, but not as dangerous seeming. Sort of reminds me of cross-country skiing poles, minus the stabbing bit at the tip. It collapses in a jiffy and fits inside my purses. A very practical little stick.

I wonder how long it will take for me to get used to using it. I’d really rather fake it, and pretend I see just fine, but unfortunately that ain’t the case. I bet Mousey will like my cane. We can play magic tricks with it – collapse it and hide it, use it to loft stuffed animals about the house, lift curtains with it to see who is hiding behind. I wish Rumpole wore a toupee on his bald head; I’d delight in flipping it off his head with my cane. The Mouse would chuckle with great glee. Maybe I can victimize some other poor toupee-wearing schmuck on the streets nearby.

They don’t beat up an old blind woman, do they?

Christmas wrapping, chez moi… furoshiki

December 7, 2008
2 gifts for women friends

2 gifts for women friends

Rumpole asked me to acquire a gift for his business partner, a woman who loves artisan made objects. Her gift is in the smaller silk scarf wrapped box. he is pleased with how festive it looks. I found the scarf for $1 at a second hand shop, washed and ironed it and in less than two minutes fashioned this wrapping – furoshiki style.
The second, taller object, is for a woman friend – an artisan made vase of glass. I inserted it into a tall box and wrapped it within a polyester scarf found in a second hand store for .98 cents.
There is no tape anywhere on these gifts. Also, they need not have labels, as the material for both is so unique that memory serves to know for whom the gift is intended.
This year, all my gifts are to be wrapped in fabric, sans tape, and so far I have yet to obtain any material that will be discarded by the recipients of the gifts. I hope the idea carries forward, and friends and family adopt a method which is sure to be economical, aesthetic, ecological and adaptible for all manner of presentation of goods.

Since all of my presents are either artisan-made or consumable ,we will not have added to the vast amount of goods circulating this Christmas, and will not have supported an out of neighbourhood economy.

The Japanese Government has a web-site for methods on furoshiki wrapping. I think it is a brilliant concept. Trust the Japanese to come up with a concept that is so eminently practical and beautiful.

Saint Nicholas Eve…

December 3, 2008

November 5, 1952. Anyu held the heavy carved church door open for us to precede her out into the dark of a lightly snowing evening. She retied her scarf snug under her chin and pulled on her knitted gloves. She fussed with our jackets collars, pulling them up to sit jaunty against our cheeks. Ildiko hopped from one boot-shod foot to another, trying to keep warm. I gazed in silence at the Cathedral square, its cobllestoned dark perimeter lit up by lamps which gave the illusion of dandelion seed-heads against the gloom. Snow coasted in fine specks as we negotiated the cathedral steps to the square. The snow squeaked under our boots. It was as if both we and the night held our breath this eve of Saint Nicholas.

It had been our family custom to attend Mass on the eve of Saint Nicholas. The priest had made a lovely sermon of the story of the three little boys the Bishop had brought back to life and of the story of the dowry he had provided for the three daughters of a poor man. He told about Bishop Nicholas being an intermediary with God for the safety of sailors on the sea, and on behalf of the poor. It was a story long familiar with yearly repetition, and as usual we had sat solemn and silent hearing yet another retelling.

The half-hour walk on the way home to our apartment took us through the ancient part of our town.
In some of the small side streets we stopped to look at candle-lit windows where children’s shoes were lined up, well shined, in anticipation of a visitation by Saint Nicholas sometime during the night.
Ildiko and I skipped from one house to another, thinking of the children inside who were, the same as us, eagerly waiting to creep to their window at first light to see what had been deposited innside the shoes – whether chocolate coins for children who had been good during the previous year, or a lump of coal and a switch of broom for the bad ones.

The closer we were to our home destination the more subdued I became. I was not at all certain that I had been a consistently good child the previous year. I had taken any and all occasions to torture Ildiko, spoke back to Anyu, argued with everyone, actively resisted practising the violin and had sneaked around spying on any adults who visited our home.

Meanwhile, as my doubts were starting to weigh heavily on me, Ildiko positively glowed with goodness and virtue, her face alight with a confident expression reserved for the truly wholesome and self-satisfied child. As soon as we arrived home, no sooner had she unlaced her boots, but she went to fetch the shoe-shining kit Apu kept in the bottom of the hall armoire.

“Hurry up and take your boots off, Gabi,” she ordered. “Dry them off well. Then I’ll show you how to use the shoe paste and brushes.”

I fooled around struggling out of my coat and mitts, and ran off in my wet boots into the kitchen to snag a cookie or two. Busy stuffing my face with a Speculaa and munching away, I began unlacing my boots and drying them off with a cloth.

Ildiko sat on the settee, poked her finger inside a flannel bit and started to smear her boots with an ox-blood coloured paste which smelled really pungent. She showed me how to wrap my forefinger into the flannel and how to scoop the right amount of paste for my one boot. By this time, she was busy swiping her own boot with the shoe brush, sending up that nice aroma of wax and tar. I was smearing my boots carefully with the stuff.

“Make sure you work the paste into the lines of sewing in the leather,” Ildiko instructed in her best school teacherish tones. “If you don’t do a good job, Saint Nicholas will leave you coal and broom inside them. Which he should, anyway, because you are usually so awful to everyone.”

What did I know, anyway? I was a six year old brat. Ildiko, the golden child, was only eight herself. But she seemed so sure of herself. She buffed her boots with the brush in confident strokes, and then segued to bring up a high shine on the dark red leather. She passed the implements down to me so I could bring my boots to a semblance of decency, but was critical of how streaky my buffing job had been.

We took our boots into the salon. In the window seat, Anyu had set up two taper candles in candlesticks. We placed our boots, shined and laces looped, beside the candles.

“After you dress in your pajamas,” Anyu said, ” you can come and light the candles before you say your goodnight prayers.”

We scurried off to wash our teeth and change into night wear. When we returned to the salon, Anyu had dimmed any overhead lights. She lit the tapes and Ildiko and I knelt in front of the window, hands clasped. We said our prayers, quietly, privately.

I prayed and hoped Saint nicholas might not find me altogether horrible and maybe a little bit deserving of a scrap of chocolate. I fervently wished my lot would not be to find an iridescent dusty lump of coal, and a desiccated scrap of broom inside my shoe the following morning. If that would be my lot, I’d never hear the end of how bad I was from Ildiko, for the rest of my life, even.