Archive for the ‘pleasures’ Category

Old to you, new to me…

November 7, 2009

Lookingforbeauty and her friend Carole are doing a timely bit of business together. They are holding and Art and Antiques Sale at LFB’s house. They have been preparing for this sale for about two weeks, dusting, washing, polishing, displaying and pricing wares they have obtained by various means during the past 20 years and which they have been amassing and stockpiling due to their true nature as magpies. Magpies love shiny pretty bits of things, and true to their nature collect little caches of found treasure that attract and please their eyes. These two ladies are truly the magpie Sisters. And now, they plan to divest themselves of these treasures, and share them with others.
There is a lot of “stuff”, objects of desire, if not always of utility, circulating out in the world. Daily more and more stuff is created to add to this mass of materal goods. There is always something new to seduce the eye, the desire for novelty and luxury and to stir a lust for acquisition or gifting.
Over my lifetime, I have successfully resisted the siren call of goods. It is not that I do not admire beauty, utility or clever and ingenious design, it is simply that I have not the need, want or desire to weigh myself down with things which give momentary stimulation or which must be stored, guarded or maintained. My possessions must not define me; I resist the pigeonholing one must submit to in order to allow possessions to signify who I am. This may be a form of perversity, of my constant need for rebellion.
One of my great pleasures is to go about looking at everything, considering the importance of things in the scheme of existence. Old stuff is fascinating; they give clues to ideas about what constitutes a good life as expressed through material accumulations, what is valued, at what level of valuation as signifiers they sit. Old stuff gets passed from generation to generation; their value being association and sentiment which have uncounted value and yet propel forward as weight which is carried and then added to with new stuff to create even more weight, impediments and preventers of a baggage free life. At once a blessing and a curse, we pass around compilations of goods to benight the next generation. I am not exempt from this behaviour.
Last evening, I braved blustery fall weather to nip over to LFB’s house to peruse the offerings she and Carole had displayed for today’s sale. I pored over the goods with the same zeal that I had demonstrated while digging in the backwoods middens of early BC settlement at Wells some 20 years ago. What treasures might beckon my magpie eyes? What wonderful objet would call out to me. “So, or so might enjoy having this for themselves?”
Well. A mold made glass plate, an example of Depression glass, caught my eye. Martha would enjoy serving pickles from this at one of her many buffet dinners with which she welcomes guests. Only $5.00. Done! I set it aside. Of! Look! there is a bisque porcelain pelican, the one I have been admiring, while it was sitting on top of LFB’s linen press for several years now. Barb loves birds and loves intricate and delicate detail and a lovely surface. This is perfect for her Christmas present this year. has Barb ever seen a live pelican? Maybe a well crafted stand-in would do, in case she never has set eyes on this wonderful bird, or may never, in her lifetime. Set it aside!
Oh, yes. YES! There is a set of beautiful etched drinking glasses, each one a different colour of glass, each one decorated with a lush exotic bloom. Lucky would enjoy handling these and serving sparkling mineral water from them to her family. Put these aside on the pile, also!
I meander around, looking, considering, wondering who had handled these during a life at which I can only guess.
There are baskets of silver, polished for presentation. Ah, but look – there is a pile of odds and ends sitting in a box. What stuff is in there, jumbled, ready to be discovered by the curious eye? What is this black and red square of about 1 inch proportions? I poke around and lift this up. It is an enamelled ear-ring, of 60’s beatnik vintage. Poke, stir, turn… aha! here is its pair.
I get a moment of flashback and nostalgia to the mid 60s, when my friends Myra, Terry and I used to go to artsy craft shops and admire goods for sale. We never had enough money for any more than our bus tickets to and from such places. But we handled and admired the hand-crafted offerings. These ear-rings might delight Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis. She loves hand-crafted ear-rings, especially arty ones. Place them in my pile of findings.
Poke around some more in the box from which these ear-rings came. Yes! A primitive looking fish pendant! It’s made of aluminum, I think and say so to LFB. “Nope!” she comments, “that is Pewter.” I scratch the back of the pendant with my fingernail, and announce to her that it is aluminum. We haggle; LFB being the friend she is lets me have it for a half-price reduction.
This one is perfect for Emma, my niece – she is a Pisces. I put the pendant in my growing bit of stuff. But I am not yet done.
Stacked by the fireplace are piles of old books. I kneel down and start to read the titles on the spines. There is a slim volume in a dustjacket. It is a 60s compilation of aphorisms on the French take on Love and Life. I open it and begin to peruse the contents. Some great stuff in here. I say to LFB, “Are you sure you want to sell this? There is a huge possibility for you to work up a Conceptual series of drawings from these. Wouldn’t those be fun to undertake?” LFB gives me a considering long look. “Okay,” she finally mutters, ” I guess, now I’ll have to keep this.” She sets the book aside on her kitchen counter, so she can give this idea more thought.

And then, I find the perfect treasure for myself. It is an olive coloured, leather bound book – its front cover loose and detached. It has a gold-embossed laurel wreath with ribbons swirling from the wreath. On the ribbons is engraved “Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat.” I hold it in my hands and feel the buttery soft binding. Turn it to look at the highly decorated spine – Land Surveying, the author, HJ Castle. On opening the book, a series of chapters on mathematical and trigonometry problems, introduction to the theodolite, leveling and surveying complete with illustrations appear, and at the end ofthe book a table of logarhythmic sines and tangents and traverse tables. For some reason, this book appeals to me – I must have this for myself. I have long been fascinated with geometry, topography and about these concepts. Illustrations explaining mechanics of breaking down information I have long considered an art form. So, this is the finding which I was happy to come uon for myself. LFB said that the book had been one of her Father’s text-books from Upper Canada College. Her dad had been a professor of Civil Engineering at UBC. His old textbook was new to me. I plan to reattach the cover and interleave its pages with appropriate diagrams I will most likely find in my peripatetic way of uncovering information – maps, graphs, photos having to do with terrain, the landscape.

It is my hope that the treasures I have obtained from LFBs magpie collecting will have the effect of novelty to the people to whom I plan to gift these.
Of course, they may not really like to be further burdened with additional stuff, however, if they so desire, they can pass these things forward. Old stuff can in this way remain new.

The Yenta strikes again…

September 20, 2009

Pssst… don’t tell anybody, but, Hungarian Yenta is about to strike again.
Yes, busybody me has set the scene and invited Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis, a single matron of 51, and Rob, a single man of 61, to a Hungarian repast the object of which is to introduce these two chronically single souls to each other. Rumpole, good natured as he is, is merely groaning and rolling his eyes at the prospect of such a dinner, which might be a disaster. However I placated him with promise of a Schnitzel, roasted cabbage, roasted potatoes, pickled beets and shrimp salad menu.
A bit earlier, when I was pounding the daylights out of pork cutlets with my trusty metal tenderizer, he wandered through the kitchen and accused me of overkill. He did stop to smell the roasting cabbage and announced it smelling delicious. Odd, though, he didn’t mention that cabbage might be too flatulence-inducing to be appropriate for a match-making dinner. Did I err, in selecting cabbage as an accompaniment to schnitzel? I mean, we are all adults who are going to sup together, and what better way to break the ice than a few choice farts wafting from under the regions of the dining room table.
Poor Jessica may, however, be overcome by the compendium of olfactory effects, hanging around under the dining room table as is her wont during meals.
Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis expressed some concerns about the timing of this dinner. She is after all coming off day-shift this afternoon and is concerned with presenting herself as buffed up and pretty. Will she have time to adequately prepare herself for meeting Rob? And is he not slightly too old for her.
Nah, I told her. She is perfectly presentable as long as she is not wearing her uniform. Just comb your hair, I suggested. And, don’t wear your Red Door perfume – it’s likely to make us all pass out from sheer delight, and excess. (She does tend to douse herself in the stuff!) And, no. He is not too old. Just think, if things go well between you two and you hit it off, then you’ll have a chance to use your nursing skills on him in the not too distant future, I reminded her. This seemed to reassure her a little. She, after all, loves what she does for the living. And oddly, she seems to attract special needs men of the paraplegic sort, and I hastened to remind her that Rob has full use of all his limbs, and can do stuff, even – like walk and run, for extended periods, fix things, and think with all his perceptual faculties intact. He’s a real catch! Why? Because Hungarian Yenta has expressed that opinion, and is not to be questioned about things pertaining to romance between the two major sexes.
Well, things will turn out as they will. No point in second-guessing, no time for doubt. I just hope both Rob and Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis don’t rebel and act out. And I hope the Schnitzel doesn’t burn.
A perpetually hopeful, and busy-bodyish Hungarian Yenta, who keeps score, needs another win in the Romance Sweepstakes.
Wish me luck?

Writers retreat…

August 20, 2009

S, H, D and I, members of a writing group comprised only of our four selves, decided to spend last weekend, hole up in luxurious comfort and write, work on manuscripts, share meals and leisure in the late evening hours.

It was the most revivifying getaway; just what I needed to get down to polishing a piece of creative non-fiction weighing on me for the last several months. Rumpole bought us a new to us laptop. He felt I should have ease in editing my work. I decided to wing the process long-hand; a way which always helps me attain the meditative focus I need when working.

We stayed at D’s Mom’s waterfront Belcarra home. It perched up-hill from a rocky shore. The vista from my room was of Deep Cove across the inlet and of the tip of Belcarra at the end of the little bay where the house was situated. Ravens called; water lapped the shore with hypnotic regularity. The resident cats perched on lawnchairs next to me where I wrote at a patio table overlooking a delightful garden.
My writer friends were tremendous companions for a weekend of self-imposed silence and labour.

After dinner, we gathered in the comfortable lounge, shared progress reports and played “dictionary”. Inventive wordsmiths come up with some truly hilarious word definitions. “lanuginous” was one word for which invented definitions caused us to laugh hysterically and for me, to roll on the floor in helpless abandon. Some of the definitions cannot be told in decorous company, they were so risque.

I feel rather pleased with my progress last weekend. I rewrote and edited for submission an @1500 word non-fiction piece. It took about 12 or so rewrites, edits and continuous polishing. I received some excellent advice from my retreat companions and acted on them to arrive at a (for now) finished bit of writing I am not ashamed of submitting. It is as clean and spare as I could make it. And I feel more confident of the editing process.

All in all, it was a great weekend!

The Auld Sod – here and there…

July 20, 2009

Rumpole, Renaissance Man, Glasgow Girl and Mousey have travelled to the Auld Sod, Scotland, to visit Glasgow Girls mother and to make the pilgrimage to the Gathering of the Clans in Edinburgh. I am left behind, thankfully, to tend to the animals and the garden, in its current incarnation.

Rumpole has been keeping me updated with news of their various doings via e-mail. Mousey is not acclimatizing at all to the time change and she keeps them up until 3am at night. Rumpole finds himself having to drive the busy streets of Glasgow in a hire car; he is terrified of driving on the left hand side of the road, which, surely, takes some getting familiar with. Glasgow Girl is partying with her school mates, and Mouse is entertaining the neighbourhood matrons and little children with her own peculiar brand of Canadian wild childhood. Rumpole and Renaissance Man are doing father and son bonding and trekking around Glasgow taking in the sights and getting lost. I am happy watering and critter entertaining, so all is well with the Stepford-Rumpoles.

Yesterday, Lookingforbeauty, Moira, OurLady of PerpetualCrisis and I had a yard sale chez moi on what had to be the hottest day of our summer yet. I tried to offload such interesting items as Rumpole’s old pre-amp, kitchen chairs, crystal, my favourite conversation piece – my Osama Bin Laden Zippo-clone lighter, some jewelry that hasn’t seen the light of day in 20 years, rubber boots, a vintage 1930s pedestal ashtray of interesting provenance ( it comes from a demolished funeral home and has been the repository of many extinguished cigarette butts from generations of mourners), a crab trap, a dressage helmet and hand-painted mexican tiles.

Osama got a lot of varied responses from the die-hard Garage salers out and about on this hellish morning; some outright indignation, some chortling and some questioning – “Where on earth did you get this?” I managed to offload…er, sell, Rumpole’s pre-amp, and have already decided what to do with the loot gotten for its sale. He may not exactly approve, but he won’t be here to weigh in with negative comments on what I plan to do with the money. I also sold some jewelry. And that was that.

We girls decided that our Yard Sale was a bust. None of us did at all well for all the work involved in hoisting stuff outside, setting up and sitting sweltering in the sun for 4 hours, let alone the bringing stuff back inside when the sale time was up. We figured our timing for the sale was off – too hot, wrong time of the summer, we didn’t have stuff people wanted. But who’s to know? Except for Lookingforbeauty, the rest of us were Garage Sale beginners. Honestly, I didn’t like the whole experience, not being cut out for the badinage required to engage prospective buyers. I hate stuff, anyway, and the less stuff I have the more at ease I find myself.

Today I languished, wiped out by the experience. So I did three loads of laundry and cleaned the basement floor. I hung out the laundry to dry, which happened really fast, it being infernally hot again today. No complaints here.

This afternoon, I invited Lookingforbeauty over to harvest some zucchini, while I harvested some lettuce about to bolt and some sorrel for dinner to which Lookingforbeauty invited me and another friend. We got a good crop; especially one spectacularly large zucchini which I plan to wrap, Furoshiki style and gift, anonymously and with great night-time stealth, to my neighbours Gary and Laurie.

Boy, will they be surprised tomorrow morning. And will Rumpole be delighted that I have less zucchini to process and freeze to augment winter dishes, unbeknownst to him, and ostensibly to convert him, although he is completely unwilling to become a zucchini consumer.

Going to the dogs…

April 11, 2009

This past month has been health month for Jessica, our, Scottie, and me, both. I have undergone numerous tests for a heart blockage and for measurement for a new lens for my left eye. Jessica had to have some dental cleaning done and some blood tests to determine her overall health, after all, she is a ten year old, but vigorous, Scot. She welcomes visits to the vet’s – there are cookies there, and plenty of admirers to compliment her on her greying black sleek body, her shiny black eyes and her remarkably loving temperament.

Now that she is through with the trials of teeth cleaning and ear-hair plucking, she is feisty and energetic as is appropriate for any being in the new Spring-time. Last week she also went to the groomers and recieved her spring clip, which always make her have a little vanity induced sprightliness. She seems to feel, as I do, the same insouciant joyfullness whenever she is freshly groomed. Yesterday, I too went to have my spring hair-cut, so we both prance about the house and yard like a couple of ageing divas. Rumpole is amused with our new-found flirtatious gadding about. Spring has sprung at the Stepford household.
Meanwhile, the yard has also gone to the dogs, so to speak. Our fences are falling down and no longer will stand up when propped into proper position. Time to bite the bullet and have new fences installed. According to all the local wags, “good fences make good neighbours”, so I have to beard Lookingforbeauty, next door, to agree ro a simple and effective separation of our two plots of suburbia. She wants, it seems, a new re-reiteration of our old fence – with no embellishments such as latticework, which she deems as trifle fussy, and frankly so do I.

On the other side of the property, Gary and Laurie seem also to want a repeat of the six-foot fence that separates our back yard from theirs. My own idea is to lower the fence to four feet there, so we can get more afternoon sun for my planned vegetable garden. Next Saturday, our garden Guru, Matthew, is coming by to break turf on the back yard and rototill the manure and compost for the planned vegetable beds. I have wonderful visions of Swiss Chard, rhubarb, beets and beet greens, pole beans and herbs to start out my little gardening effort. Also maybe some yellow Hungarian peppers.

Since Jessica is almost a vegeratian, I will also have to plant zucchini, as she really likes to chow down on smallish zucchinis. (She always raids my weekly vegetable sack and extracts any zucchini in it as her treat.) Any garden plan has to take into consideration the eating habits of any dog which might currently be living with us. It may be that turnips should be on the to-grow list, as Jessica is wild about chomping turnips, as well.

I figure I have two good months of establishing a little veggie plot before my late June eye-operation, which will prevent me from mucking about in the soil. Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis is going to have some growing space here for herself, in exchange for weeding in July and August, while I recuperate from the operation. We should be able to share in any growing bounty at harvest time, and then plan to increase the size and scope of the veggie garden next year.

Thirst…

March 20, 2009

Captive in the padded bucket seat
you peer ahead through metronomic sweeps.
Windshield wipers clear arced fans,
dry apertures, through cascading rain rills.
Your right hand swipes and smears
exhalations which fog the glass.
Water outside; water vapour inside,
yet, your mouth is parched.
On impulse, you turn the car into
a Petrocan lot, exit and forget to
turn your seeking lips toward the offering sky.
You dash inside the station, and
buy a plastic bottle, full of tap-water.

GM, March 2009

How do I love you…

February 14, 2009

Last Saturday, when Rumpole took me to shop for fruit and vegetables at the local farmer’s market, we spied a pile of Blood Oranges. Now, Blood Oranges are a spectacular seasonal treat, only available this time of year. They are my February obsession; I have to purchase 5 to 7 of them to hold, admire the variegated peel colours and to strip, cut open in different ways and assemble for a painted study. Then wolf them down, smacking the lips all the meanwhile. They are an acquired taste. This year’s selection, which we picked up, did not have the peculiar bitter sweet tang of previous years’. But their peel was so beautiful, that I decided to make a Valentine’s treat of candied orange peel for friends and family.

Mousey has never tasted candied orange peel before. So I am especially excited that my little labours will provide a first taste ecperience for her. She may not find the flavour exactly to her liking, but it will be a first exposure to a new taste sensation.

While Rumpole was off on Wednesday evening to his weekly guitar lesson, I carefully peeled foor blood oranges. The white spongy inner membrane required cutting off. None of my paring knives were sharp enough to be up for this task, so I had to sit patiently sharpening the blade of my favorite small knife to razor conditions. That in itself is a relaxing, meditative task – honing the blade, testing it, resharpening until the perfect cutting capability was achieved.

Once the knife was capable of slicing the peel from the pith with ease, I took off my glasses, took up one quarter peel at a time and, taking a deep centering breath, made tidy work of stripping each section of peel. Since I can see up close with one eye, it was fine and calming work, that suits well my degree of sightedness.

After all the work of separating pith from peel had ended, I sliced each peel into thin slivers. Then a liquor of supersaturated sugar solution is required to be made, for slowly simmering the peelings for about three hours, in order to reduce the sugar solution considerably. I kept a close eye on this process to ensure no burning could possibly occur. The pot on the stove smelled delicious. I know this as I frequently hung my head over to sniff the citrus scent evaporating from the batch. MMM!

At the conclusion of the simmering process, I drained the sugar-saturated peels and laid the slips onto parchment covered cookie- sheets. (They sat out overnight to dry and harden.)

At breakfast, the following morning, I dredged the bits of sugared peel in a bowl of sugar. Rumpole snagged a slip and munched it with his coffee. Then he took a second sliver and pronounced it “addictive”.

During the morning, Jessica and I hiked to the local grocery store to buy some chocolate bits, which when melted might coat the ends of each sliver of peel. I came home with the dog after our walk, energized, full of resolve to do a bang-up job of coating the orange bits with chocolate.

(Now I am not a chocolate-loving person, and don’t cook and bake with variations of cocoa and chocolate. Why, the one time I ordered Mole Chicken at the Mariachi Restaurant in Tucson, on New Year’s Eve, twelve years back, I was horrified at the taste of a spicy chocolate coating on that fowl which should never, in my opinion, be treated with extreme flavours. So need I add at this point that chocolate is not a staple in my pantry or a favoured taste?)

I nuked the half the chocolate in the microwave and it came out a mess of steaming pumice textured stuff. No way was that flowing and liquid enough to coat the ends of my bits of candied peel. (I am still soaking and chipping out the bowl from the mass of vulcanized chocolate, and that, three days later.)

That endeavour being a complete failure, I settled on the tried and true double boiler method of melting chocolate. Yay! It worked.
Just at the point where I was ready to start dipping, Flora arrived at my studio door. She breezed in, uncoated herself, snaffled a candied peel, then another and yet another. So I poured her a coffee to slow her down. Instructed her to wash and dry her hands and to start dipping the peels one after the other in the chocolate.
Every fifth one she popped into her mouth and mumbled, while chewing, “God, I’m going to have to work extra hard at my spin class this evening to work off all these calories! Slap my hands, if I take any more of these to eat.”

“Just keep dipping.” I ordered her.

Flora made short work of dipping half the peels. We figured some of my loved ones and friends may have allergies to chocolate, So they should be able to partake of naked peels. She popped the chocolate coated peels into the fridge, and we sat down to discuss Gallery business and ideas for bringing in the public in numbers, over another cup of coffee.

Before Flora left to go on to the rest of her late afternoon, we packaged up the naked peels, and then the cooled chocolate ones. One batch was to go to Amy and her sons; one batch was to serve as after Valentine Day’s dinner treat for Martha’s do tonight; a group of us to eat a fabulous meal prepared by Martha, after which we will look at her photos from her trip to India over Christmas.

Tomorrow Mousey, Glagow Girl and Renaissance Man are coming to our house for Valentine’s dinner. Mousey will get her first taste of the third package of candied orange peel. Glasgow Girl gets a reprieve from having to cook Sunday dinner after working 5 evenings this past week. And Renaissance Man has a taste treat which is a blast from the past.
No trite Hallmark cards for any of us. No over-packaged commercial chocolates or flowers from far away places. Just each other’s company for pleasure, and a tiny bit of labour from me to show they are important in my life.

And, as added bonus, I learned how to and not burn chocolate. This old dog continues to keep learning.

The Green Dress…

February 11, 2009

Twenty-three years ago, after seeing an afternoon client, I made my way to the fabric store to browse through the selection of swing-season fabrics. These to me were fabrics that might see one through Spring and Summer, of the colour temperature suitable for those burgeoning, bright and longer days. “Saturated, jewel colours” I kept in mind as I parked my Toyota Landcruiser a block from the fabric store.

It was the beginning of February, which up North meant sunny cold days, hoarfrost on the trees, with a hint of the promise of lengthening days and hence the arrival of Spring. Third Avenue was slick with ice. The berms at the side of the parking spaces had much reduced due to alternating days of warm and cool. A habitual hangover from driving lessons more than twenty years before, I turned the front wheels of the truck toward the edge of the sidewalk, disembarked and walked in my mukluks up the block to the only fabric store in town. The sky toward the west had a warm glow. It promised another clear and gorgeous winter day for tomorrow. The street was mostly deserted of pedestrians, and on my brief walk I ruminated over just exactly what I wanted to buy.

I had earlier determined that I wanted to make two dresses to serve as a sort of formal uniform for dress-up occasions. I hated the selection available at the local dress shops. They had nothing to suit my austere taste. I liked clothing which skimmed my body loosely, allowed for free movement, a certain modesty, simple details, well made, of beautiful colours. No elaborately opulent patterns for this simple middle-aged woman, Thank You. I also like materials which were of good quality and had good weight and drape.
This was a tough call for a Northern City, where most of the stores had the recent styles on hand, but little of classic nature which might outlast the switching diktats of the fashion world. The closest one could come to acquiring this kind of clothing was to find a skilled dress and pattern-maker, cloth of good quality and have something tailor made. I didn’t have a lot of money to hire this chore out, so decided to wing it, buy and alter a pattern, myself, and do the cutting, fitting and sewing over a period of months.

Once I entered the fabric store, I headed directly to the pattern section. I liked Burda patterns at this time, and spent some time browsing the selection of dress patterns available. The right design presented itself, fortunately, and it promised to be one which could be altered in different ways, as a sort of variation on sleeve lenght, neck detail and skirt length. It was classic, subtly constructed and attractively austere. It just needed the cloth of the correct weight and drape and colour.

It took me less than 5 minutes to find the correct cloth. Beautiful mid to light-weight rayon, solid coloured in the most delicious jewel colours. I stood and drooled over the colour selection, playing with the drape and the sizing in the fabrics. In the end a marvellous Winsor Blue solid and what might be called a Grass Green solid were the ones I selected, hauled up to the cutting counter and presented for measuring into the needed lenghts. I also found some muslin which I bought in the same amount. I needed to make a muslin variation to practice altering and revising the pattern before committing it into the final versions. Then found some thread and zippers, interfacing, buttons and seam binding to match both colours of cloth.

I was so thrilled to have this project to begin working on. Rumpole and Renaissance Man were treated to a fashion parade of me, flouncing about, bedecked in the two fabrics. The Grass Green fabric was for a dress to be worn for weddings, engagements, bridal and baby showers, and the Winsor Blue was to be made into a dress to serve for more emotionally somber occasions – funerals, memorial services, retirement parties, partner dinners. I figured to have my formal dress needs looked after for the next fifteen years.

Diagnosis and treatment for Leukemia (AML) intervened and put stop to my sewing plans. However, two years later, after we relocated back to the Lower Mainland, on a sunny February morning, I pulled out the pattern and the muslin and coloured fabrics. I took and noted my measurements with my Anyu’s help, and began cutting and constructing the muslin version of the “dress”. Lots of pinning, unpinning, altering, basting and pulling of stitches – until a pale facsimile of the dress took form. And – it fit and flowed and draped beautifully, reassuring that the making of the Green Dress would result in a successful Garment – one which would have an extended and valued life.

By the end of March, the dress was complete, with an inside worked by hand to be as beautiful as from the outside. It gave me enormous pleasure to work the unseen parts of the dress, and the pleasure of hand-stitching a beautiful edging repeated in the observation of the same. The dress, finally hemmed and pressed, was beautiful. It hung from my shoulders gracefully; draped over my poitrine modestly; flowed with movement and its hem was a perfect edge.

The following summer I wore that green dress to two weddings; the following fall to a memorial service. Every year for the next fifteen years, that Green Dress took me to many weddings, christenings ,bridal and baby showers, summer trips to the theatre.
I always felt like a million dollars in it. I dressed it up with inherited jewelry, scarves and costume jewelry from second-hand stores, shawls and a variety of shoes to suit the occasion.

Finally, last year ,my body had changed enough in its conformation that the dress no longer looked so great on me. My breasts had settled to a lower part of my torso, and the fit of the Green dress no longer seemed the same. The fine handwork I had done on the unseen side of the dress had held up well during the many years it was worn. The cloth also had maintained well, and still hadn’t broken down to seem old. I took the dress down to the Salvation Army Store, hoping that some younger woman might see in it a labour of love and good use, with still some useful wear in it. It had served me well, as the only Spring, Summer and early Fall dress that I owned and wore for well over a decade. I loved that dress, and then released it.

The beautiful Winsor Blue material I made into a cullotte and blouse outfit. That lasted me for fifteen summers, before being relegated to the resale aisle of the Salvation Army Store.

I have always felt that clothing was to serve as a beautiful second skin; that it should be comfortable enough to forget while wearing; that it make us add colour and pattern to the world in the manner of butterflies and; that they should be made beautifully and last a long time. The Green Dress saw me through a period of my life – from the age of a young matron of 43 to an older woman of 60. it was time to let it go, and for me to find a new uniform more appropriate to my current chronological age and my ageing physical appearance.

Now I am on the hunt for a pattern and colour of a dress to make as a uniform to last me into my mid seventies. This is my February and March Challenge this year. And I look forward, with the help of Rumpole this time, to construct this new all-purpose dress.

I figure owning two dresses in thirty years is an accomplishment of a modest sort.

First solo ‘white cane’ outing…

January 19, 2009

The morning started out foggy; the suburban streetscape softened and made mysterious seeming by the enveloping haze. The huge cedars across the street loomed a half-tone grey in the pearly atmosphere. The bus stop sign, directly across from my house, was a marginally visible standard. It was to be my destination upon making my first foray, alone and without companions, into the streets. The objective was to travel the few miles by bus, downtown, and run some errands with a hopeful and uneventful return home within a couple of hours.

At breakfast, Rumpole gave me my marching instructions. These were to move slowly, cross streets with great care paying especial attention to my blind left side and to deploy my brand new cane while doing so. “Give drivers exta time to spot you, before crossing a street,” he cautioned, “and, brandish that cane to make yourself noticed.” Then, he added, “for Heaven’s sake, don’t get yourself run over!”

“Yassuh, boss-man,” I growled at him while unsnapping my cane and taking an “en Garde” position to skewer him, if my depth perception might allow. I made a feint to my left and promptly knocked my sunglasses off the table. “You know very well I am not completely blind.”

“Yeah, right.” He shrugged into his winter coat and braved his way over to plant a kiss on my lips. ” Take care, but enjoy yourself,” he said, smiling, as he let himself out the back door.

I began making preparations for my outing. Dug out the bus tickets from my purse; detached a chit, and put it into my coat pocket. Retrieved my sunglasses from the kitchen floor; double checked the bus schedule; downed half a cup of coldish coffee; readied my carry-all; shrugged into my coat; grabbed my purse and keys and took a final look at the kitchen clock. Only ten minutes to go before the bus would stop across the street. But wait! That allowed just enough time to nip into the bedroom and blast myself over thoroughly with my Elizabeth Arden perfume. Even if I am one of the invisible group of ageing women, people might as well smell me from a mile away! (Lookingforbeauty, whenever she drives me downtown makes hideous gagging noises and covers her nose if I have been the slightest bit spritzer happy with the perfume bottle, or, rather if I had forgotten she cannot breathe in the presence of perfume) I figured by the time the bus arrived, the miasma of Elizabeth Arden within which I moved might be somewhat dissipated by the foggy air outside, so the bus driver would not be overcome by my olfactory splendour.

I left the house and locked up. made my way gingerly across the road at the corner and took up position by the bus sign. To busy myself while waiting for the bus to arrive, I carved little animal footprints into the nearby snowbank with the tip of my cane, and then to leave permanent mark of my passage carved in my initials. This activity occupied me until the bus arrived. It slid to a stop on the icy road; the door sighed open and I clambered aboard. Had a bit of difficulty remembering which end of the bus ticket to feed into the reader. The driver, tiring of my attempts to turn the blasted card this way and that in a confusing and idecisive manner, smartly plucked the ticket from my fingers and fed it in. He grabbed it from the machine and read off for me for how long the ticket might be effective. I had 90 minutes to do my stuff downtown. I sat down behind the driver, figuring that he might appreciate the wafting of delicious smell from behind him; after all, he did not pass out while I was fooling around at the ticket reader. He did not gag, but then maybe he was holding his breath, because he was kind of surly and quiet when I attempted to engage him in small talk. Maybe he was deaf?

Since my last trip by bus downtown, the vehicles have been equipped with a system whereby a woman, who sounds suspiciously like the woman they have on recorded messages for all local utility companies, read out the names of all stops. Very irritating, this. She sounds a bit like a breathless radio announcer. Maybe all the bus drivers in the Bus Drivers Union demanded that a recording spare them from using their voices; or at least maybe this installed system allows the bus company to interchange drivers at will – they won’t have to know where they are if unfamiliar with the routes. Sally tells them where they are.

This driver was in somewhat of a hurry because he took turns as if in the LeMans car race – with great verve and insouciance. It was a fun, but brief, trip to town centre and I felt as if I had survived a wee bit of adventure. I clambered down from the bus at the end of the line and took my bearings. Still the fog; not too many cars going by; not many persons on the street. I pitter pattered my way south in the direction of the mall where I had to do some business. Played with my cane, tapping and testing all and any surfaces along my passage to learn their characteristic sounds – ping, for metal; thunk, for wood; swish, for shrubbery; crisp scrunch, for frozen snow-banks; and finger-nail-file scraping for concrete. The place where crossing became necessary I misguaged the depth of the sidewalk and came down hard and short. Stood there craning my neck in all directions to spot moving cars and waited for them to roll to stop and let me make passage across. The left side vision is problematic for me, so I held out the cane and waited before proceeding. What a bother. No more nipping and skipping across the streets for me. Aargh! I hated feeling so vulnerable.

The walk was not the usual brisk one; it was more of a cautious creeping. The terrain was not familiar, and like all unfamiliar terrain must be learned to negotiate from scratch. No more automatic pilot for this old Gal! The walk, slow as it was, did feel good though, especially since I was independent and alone. The air felt moist and cool on my face; my hands were warm inside gloves; and I was snugly buttoned up in my wool coat.

I did my errands in the mall. Dropped in on a shop-keeping acquaintance, checked out her new shipment of beautiful spring clothes and gossiped a bit with her. Her shop dog, a spoiled Bichon Frise, bared her fangs at me and snarled. Nothing has changed there! Checked out a big sale of discontinued foot-wear, which did not tempt. Went into the childrens’ shop and browsed for books for Mousey. Nothing caught my interest there. I decided to retrace my steps back to the bus loop, if indeed I would be able to return home on my ticket before it expired.

I tap-tapped my way back and noted the metal grating around the trunks of decorative trees planted in the middle of the side-walk. Explored the pattern of the grating with my cane and the music that could be made by riffling the cane tip across the patterns. Very charming sounds! The tree trunks were smoothish, and I dragged the cane around the girths to hear the texture. This way of moving about intentionally gives rise to new and different sense experiences. One’s passage is accompanied by novel (to me) soundscape. The walk took me back to where the bus had ejected me. The time it took to take the walk was immeasurable. For one, I do not wear a watch. For another, I was happily occupied with new sensations.

The bus ride home was more leisurely; the driver more amenable to chatting. We exchanged sightings of Julia Major, a local woman who parades around topless as soon as the weather turns springish, and who is the bane of all public utilities which have to provide service for people with all kinds of ability and disability. She is litiginous in the extreme, and I told the driver of a Julia sighting where she threatened to sue Translink, when the bus’s ramp for wheelchairs broke at the stop she was insisting on getting off via the ramp, rather than walking off as she had walked on. The driver joked, that had Julia been on the bus with me this day, she would have given him an earful of diatribe for him allowing me to climb solo on to the bus without him helping me. We had a good chuckle.

The driver stopped the bus next to my driveway, so I wouldn’t have to stroll across any snow or ice. I thanked him and waved my cane in good-by, let myself in through the back door, hung up my coat and made myself a cup of coffee. It had been a satisfactory first outing with my white cane, and I had enjoyed myself.

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.