Archive for the ‘staying home’ Category

Joe the plumber in Pleasantville…

October 18, 2008

Up here in Canada we have the Brothers Mackenzie, Air Farce, loggers, habitants, the Montreal Canadiens and the Vancouver Canucks. We also have the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, who now lives in the U.S.of A. We have poutine, maple syrup and Tourtiere. Alas, we do not have Joe the Plumber, who whips up our electorate as he does in the U.S.

Today I met our version of Joe the Plumber. His name is Bryan; he drives a large imposing looking white truck with his company name emblazoned on the sides. He speaks with a juicy Cockney accent, sports a gold ring in his left ear, looks like a pugilist and wields a mighty wit as well as a large wrench, with which he gesticulates to drive home plumbing truths.
You see our water main has burst, which necessitated a visit from Joe, I mean… Bryan the Plumber. He is really good at getting down to the source of the problem. He took a look at our soggy front lawn, took a few steps, whereupon the ground heaved under his feet, and pronounced the source of the leak. Fortunately for us, water hasn’t started to come into our basement.
Naturally, these sorts of things tend to happen just whenever Rumpole is away for one of his male bonding trips with Man of Science, as just happens in this instance. I am the one left alone to deal with tradesmen, not one of my favourite things to do, as I am past the age of disarming them with my charm and good looks to get a good discount. Would you give a woman who looks like Popeye’s grizzled mother a discount? I thought not!
Thus, I gritted what few teeth are left in my head and wrote out a hefty deposit cheque, for work to commence on Tuesday. Bryan summoned the municipality’s operations guy to come out and turn the water off at the main junction. My God! He actually lied to the City guy and said our basement was awash in fresh water. The lie seemed to do the trick, as in no time a municipal operations van was parked out front and disgorged a fellow wielding a metal detector. He promptly found the connection and closed it off. Whew! We are safe, for now, from having a basement double as a swimming pool.
Bryan connected us to Lookingforbeauty’s outside garden outlet, so now we have water until the reconnection is effected, this coming Tuesday. I put in a call on Rumpole’s cell phone and left him a message of outlining the ‘disaster’s specifics’ and the outlay of shekels involved. That should dampen his holiday in Bella Coola, which he was so enthusiastic about. Other people get exercised about upcoming holidays in Turkey and Egypt, the Turks and Caicos, the temples at Angkor Wat. My beloved waxes poetic about the beauties of overland travel through the bush to that hotbed of tourism, Bella Coola.
It seems to me now, that my local candidate for the recently past election might have taken a cue from Sarah Palin and John McCain’s Joe the Plumber exploitation idea. He might have used Bryan the Plumber to sing praises of the union to which he belongs, got his opinion on all matters of concern to the local electorate – the environment, the electoral reforms, resource management and the economy.
Maybe next Tuesday, when Bryan the Plumber comes to reconnect us to the municipal water mains, I shall beard him while he is thus occupied and suss out how he feels about all that. However, I don’t know what I’ll do if he expresses Conservative sympathies and demonstrates jubilation about our newly returned Conservative minority. I guess I’ll have to be subtle and keep my pinko attitudes under my hat, that is, until after he has completed the plumbing job for us. But it’ll really hurt me to write that cheque, should he be be a card-carrying Conservative.


July 13, 2008

An enterprising squirrel planted a hazelnut in the foundation plantings. He thought to be clever and bury it deep down near the roots of some flourishing St. John’s Wart. His little squirrel brain, with its extensive information of sites of buried food for retrieval in the off-season, winter, must have been ovehelmingly full of detail; he forgot about the nut he buried there.

Early in the spring, I spied a couple of spindly hazel branches making elegant arcs over the leafing St. John’s Wort bed. Aha, a volunteer! I did not have the heart to yank it out and foolish me thought to let it stay, to see just how vigorous the hazel’s growth was to be by summer. So, now, in July, the few branches have grown into a young tree; its canopy swishes with the wind against the bug screen of our computer, music room. When one raises eyes from the computer monitor, a subtle green scrim filters out harsh sunlight. It pulses and shifts with the breezes, a lacy verdant curtain, far more desirable than any self-conscious leafy patterned fabric curtain indoors.

I shall have to foray out with shovel and spade, and rudely dislodge it from the foundation bed. The hazel, I now find out, has a vigorous growth habit. After some more development, its roots will disturb the house’s foundation, and make possible leaks to crack the cement. Such power in a natural vegetative force, to be able to encroach on natural and man-made hard materials. Still, I plan to embrace the rest of the summer season and grant a respite for this volunteer. In the Fall, when its leaves have released their hold on the branches, will be the time to pull it out. Perhaps, even, try to plant it in some other area of our little suburban plot. It would be ideal  for suburban plots to have some fruit and nut trees. Mature hazels produce a good crop of nuts, which are also delicious.

Out behind Rumpole’s woodworking addition, another squirrel has planted an acorn from one of the oak trees two blocks away. As far as I have been able to discern, the parent tree is one of two for many blocks around. Our little acorn seedling had such a bonsai appearance in its early establishment that I didn’t have the heart to dig it up. It has character; a persistent raddled beauty – awkward, its immature branches contorting from the West Winds prevalent on that side of our place. It is now as tall as me-a regular character with its gesturing thin main arms rising from a trunk slowly increasing in girth.

It makes me wonder just how many seasons must pass before the appearance of its fruiting, the acorns which hang in small clusters. It seems fortuitous that I have become interested in preparing my own drawing ink. The acorns will relase oak gall, which makes ink of a lovely character. The ink may not have many centuries of permanence, as all natural dyes it will fade when exposed to light for years. There is something so satisfying in the thought of preparing my own materials for drawing.

An acquaintance has a stand of black walnut trees. She is selling her property this fall, and she has many small black walnut seedlings which have volunteered to grow where they had fallen. Black walnut liquor makes a wonderful drawing ink. I shall ask to buy one of her volunteers and transplant it on the West side of out house; also ask her for the seed-hulls from her Black Walnut harvest this Fall. Soaking the seed coverings results in a beautiful ink. Like an old witch toiling over a vat, stirring, stirring, I can make drawing ink to give to artist friends and keep some for my own use. Then the newly transplanted volunteer will grow over the years and provide both ink and edible walnuts. Perhaps, not right away, but soon in the future.


October 26, 2007

This morning we woke to infernal grindings and bangings. Machinery howled outside, nearby. The house shook on its foundation. The floors trembled, the dishes in the sideboard set up a symphony of silvery tinkling. The General streaked by my feet in a panic and ran from room to room seeking shelter from the dangers posed by this unexplainable noise. Wrapping my fuzzy bathrobe around my girth, I staggered from window to window, seeking out the source for our rude awakening. Out on the street a long-armed mechanical monster sawed at the concrete roadway. It made repeated passes, howling in protest against resistance from the hardened surface.

Rumpole emerged from the bedroom. “What’s going on?” he croaked. “Coffee, I need coffee!” He made his way from room to room and to suss out where the noises were coming from. Meanwhile I set up the coffee-maker. As we were waiting for the coffee to drip through we leaned over the sink to look at all the bustle outside. Trucks beeped as they backed up to loaders. The concrete saw progressed toward the corner by increments followed by a machine that pounded the sliced pavement into rubble. Under us the floor shook. The General whizzed by our ankles as he made a mad dash for the safety of the bedroom .

Rumpole poured himself a cup. He looked rumpled and bleary eyed. “What’s the progress on the hedge?”he asked. “Are you sending Bob to get the little shrubs from Pickett’s today?” We discussed the uselessness of going through with the insurance claim. The deductible is an obscene amount. Being somewhat of an instant gratification kind of guy, Rumpole expressed that he prefers the hedge to return to instant normalcy, as if it had never been damaged. We debated the wisdom of this. I pointed it out to him that we were going to be in this house until we were carried out feet first, so we did have the time to let cedar seedlings take their time to grow. “What’s the rush?” I put to him. He capitulated to my reasonings. I can be persuasive, when motivated. Also stubborn in getting my own way.

As Rumpole left the house, he wondered aloud if it would take him a long time to get out of our driveway. I watched for a while as he approached the workmen near our lawn to ask for help in leaving. Then he sat for a long time in the car, waiting to be given the go. He is not a patient fellow, so I was very impressed with his calm demeanor while waiting. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so impressed. What choice did he have anyway?

After a longish idle in the driveway, he drove off, dodging heavy equipment. I sat at the kitchen table, nursed my cup and let my mind wander.

Today, By-Line Woman is one day post-op. She had her first shoulder-replacement yesterday. This is a repair to help ease her constant pain and inability to use her arm to do all manner of chores. She should be back home by this evening. Will her pain be managed well? It’s frustrating to realize that I cannot help her in practical ways. On the other hand, she does have a close and helpful family, and they will be doing everything to ease her healing time.

This evening Obsessive/Compulsive Shopaholic and her mate Prissy German Tourist are arriving to spent the weekend with us. OCS had an accident at work a couple of weeks ago. She fell into a three-foot hole in the floor of the copy room at the new building to which her nursing unit was moved. She cracked four ribs, sprained her ankle and was concussed. These days, she no longer has to use a walker to get about, and has stopped howling in pain. So, she is bored and needing entertainment. I guess this is best provided by visiting friends. Anyway, I am happy to see them both, to get caught up on their trials and tribulations of nudging their growing sons into adulthood. Maybe help the healing process by providing opportunity for laughter, kvetching,eating curry and watching a video together. I can bug PGT about getting his act together and sending his digital images to the LA gallery which wants to show his work. He needs encouragement, pats, maybe some strong language to convince him that he should risk exposure.

Bob plans to fill the gaps in the hedge tomorrow. I am waiting to hear from the retinologist on Monday to give me a date for the operation to put a new lens in my left eye.  This repair will much improve life for me. It promises me a return to  a semblance of independence.

This confluence of occasions for repair amazes me. Life is like that. 

On the mend…

May 8, 2007

A quiet sunny morning.  It is unseasonably cool for May. The apple tree outside my kitchen window is snowing its petals onto the grass. “Rumpole” and I had a quiet breakfast, he read out loud of the newspaper to me this morning. It promises to be a long and slowly moving day, just perfect for recuperating.

The lens was removed from my left eye during the third operation. Some light and dark shapes make themselves manifest when I close my right eye, which the surgeon says is a good sign.  However with infections and haemorrhaging in the left globe the retina may fail to seat itself correctly.  Only time will tell what the end result might be. So I am assuming for the time being that being one-eyed  is the short and medium term prognosis.  This is fine, with me, because better to have some residual sight than none at all.  I can read for a little while now, so that provides certain satisfaction for every day.

So the days pass, I feel better and more hopeful, and am plotting different ways to make adjustments. And most thankfully, friends and family don’t treat me as if I am about to fall apart or must be carted about with my tender sensibilities swathed in cotton batting. This is good!

And I read all your blogs happily.  Thanks for being there!

Surgery update…

April 23, 2007

Hi all…. am most grateful for your many well wishes for the recovery.  Surgeon thinks the operation went well, but won’t be able to tell for 8 more days. The eye is badly swollen, to be expected, and I am not operating at any good speed at all – can’t read for too long, can’t drive, no depth perception. it will take up to 6 weeks to get eye function back on operated eye, so audio books and music are the daily mainstays.  getting good loving care from friends and family.  but yay, i did manage to type this, and will keep reading all your blogs. 🙂  Cheers! G

Anitra’s Dance…

April 13, 2007

An early overcast morning, at the beginning of November 1956.  Father has gone again, Mother is clearing out breakfast dishes, Ildiko opens up the piano and begins to do scales. I take up “War and Peace” and continue reading, lying on my stomach on the divan.  Eva our maid arrives to make beds, dust and sweep.  Quiet, subdued, she moves around with girlish grace doing her chores.  The light in the room is under-watery, low, peaceful.

Mother comes into the room and announces that Tibi is in the hall asking for me.  She spies the book I am reading, snatches it up, looks at the title. “You are too young to understand this book!” she announces, as she goes to replace it in the bookshelf.  “Go, play with Tibi!”

Tibi and I lie about the steps in the stairwell, exchanging news we have sussed out despite our parents best efforts to keep us in the dark about what is really going on.  That very morning, he had overheard his Father mention to his Mother that our town was most likely going to be bombed the coming evening. We decided to call out Marta and Karolyka to confer with us about what we could do ourselves about this. The four of us met in the main lobby to draw up our plans. We agreed that Ildiko should be kept out of our doings as she was known to rat us out whenever she thought we were doing something the adults would not approve. Marta  and Karolyka were delegated to scrounge up food from their family larders, water in empty wine jugs and sneak these into the basement. Tibi and I were to raid the maids’ rooms off our kitchens and remove matresses and blankets down to the basement via the elevator.  We dispersed to get on with our appointed tasks.

I ran back into our apartment.  Mother was in the kitchen preparing food. I needed to get her out of there. So I sat in the waiting room and deliberated at length as to how I was going to distract her. Through the doorway into the front room filtered the strains of piano music. Ildiko had warmed up and had moved on to playing “Anitra’s Dance”, and it seemed to be rough going for her – she got stuck at the same place over and over again, struggled with the fingering of melody. Aha!

The solution presented itself, rather naturally.  Mother was quite anxious that Ildiko be very competent playing the piano, and could be easily convinced to stand over her making multiple corrections.  So, I casually strolled into the kitchen and mentioned to Mother that Ildiko was having considerable trouble with some passages and needed immediate help. She bustled off to do the piano practice monitoring, and thus left the coast clear for me to move the mattress and blankets from the maid’s room to the lift. I hauled my treasures down to the basement and dragged them into a far corner.

Soon, Tibi arrived with his load of bedding.  We set to making separate family spaces, and made up the “beds”. The elevator disgorged Marta.  She was wearing several necklaces of sausage and had a round of cheese under one arm and a bundle of bread cradled in the other. We found a pile of bricks and made a little pallet to put all the food on. Karolyka descended next and dragged several big jugs of water to the corner.  We were most satisfied with the results of our efforts and lounged about on the mattresses discussing what it might be like to be bombed the coming evening. We imagined our parents being pleasantly surprised that we had the forethought to provide some little comfort for us all while we found ourselves hiding out in the basement. Tibi thought it might be a bit scary to be down there in pitch black, so suggested we go back and steal some candles from our pantries. Karolyka said he would be the music director and distract us all during the long night hours by organizing us kids as an entertainment troupe. We argued about what kinds of songs we could perform, and I  put forward that I knew some disgusting variations on folk-songs which might provide some humour and distraction.  So we practised these in the half-dark basement.

Soon, it was time to go to our apartments and have an afternoon snack, so we dispersed. I let myself quietly into our hallway, hoping to get by Mother without being noticed.  She heard me anyway, came out of the kitchen and scolded me for having misrepresented Ildiko’s difficulties with her practice.  She ordered me to go inside the front room and sit quietly listening to Ildiko practice.

Chastened, but privately pleased with myself, I climbed up on the divan and quietly sat.  Ildiko played “Anitra’s Dance” over and over again.  The sprightly tempo echoed my feelings of pleasure and excitement with having had a part of making a little haven of safety for my family and those of my friends.

Pursuit of the Picturesque…

April 9, 2007

Certain acquaintances have made painting pilgrimages to Tuscany. These have involved month-long sojourns in small villages and hill-towns where daily activities of “plein-air” painting are interspersed with leisurely long lunches and prolonged wine-soaked dinners.  They return home to suburbia, laden down with numerous picturesque paintings and also with a plethora of photographic references which can be used to churn out yet more pictures.

A friend had travelled to Russia – St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, and came back with many pictures of the Soviet Wedding-Cake architecture of Moscow, and of the ornate Imperial architecture of St. Petersburg.  She expressed huge frustration about how the locals discouraged her from making photographs which might broadcast negative impressions of their homeland. They were insistent on what was worthy of being photographed, and frequently interrupted her efforts to take images of subjects of a non-picturesque nature.

My daughter-in-law’s mother and friend visited here last summer.  They had come from the Scotland, bearing their cameras.  They wanted photographs of the main gate in China-town, of the groomed exotic nature of the Sun Yat Sen Garden, of the view seen from the gondola as they rode up the mountain in Whistler – a panorama of peaks diminishing into hazy distance. While walking near the river, they may have noted small tugs nosing floating logs into booms, or the occasional log-handler jumping from log to log, but an image like this they did not deem worthy of photographing. They did not note the peculiar beauty of the sulphur hills by the waterfront, it did not fit their idea of the picturesque.

It seems to me that many people traverse the globe, ceaselessly and persistently, seeking the unique, different, exotic and memorable views that are already plentifully available in their own little corner of the world – if they bothered to look and consider with fresh eyes.

How she travelled from home to work….Transitions…

January 31, 2007

Friends are revealing all sorts of fascinating preoccupations, joys, sorrows, questions everywhere in suburbia.

This morning a really wonderful gift arrived form a “friend” in Karachi. It makes me want to go out and find cans of automotive paint and paint my sedate old truck with all sorts of colours, and stick on its body some decorations.  Yes, it reminds me to realize that “Real Men” do make embroidery, in all kinds of ways, though!

Drop in and visit –

Stuff in life….landscapes of consumption…

January 29, 2007

This Canadian photographer has made an amazing body of work during his career….

The result of our obsession with novelty , status,  acquisition of  power, pleasure and need to ease of innate fears has had profound consequences on us – in how we live, where we live and our ecologic impact as a species.  Sure, we read all about this every day, but think back on the way the bombing of the Twin Towers in 01 held most of us spellbound (because it so closely affected us).

As I type this on my rebuilt computer and brand new monitor…. niggling in the back of my mind are the pictures Burtynsky has captured.  They should be played all day without surcease on Televisions in suburbia.  Pictures can sometime be worth a thousand words!

This film  of Burtynsky’s has been playing in Canada in 2006…..Profoundly affecting…..a dirge!

Manufactured Landscapes

Variable Weather in Suburbia….everywhere in the world

January 28, 2007

Some of you dropping by have reported variable conditions  today – snow in Belgrade, stormy in Cornwall.

It’s sunny here, and lovely, but miss snow. If you are an armchair traveller who doesn’t get around much any more stop by at:  – “St Sava – All Schools’ Slava”

He gives good tours!