Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

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.

Is it a vole…or is it a rat?

July 28, 2008

Our last morning on the island, Jeanine was unloading the dishwasher, Martha was organizing the recycling, and I was folding dried bedding. We were cleaning up our traces of a week’s habitation in Ron’s house. The sky was leaking fat dollops of rain, the first rain we had seen in several weeks. Our stay on the island had been full of sunshine and miraculous sunsets. The day’s rain made it easy to leave such idyllic a setting, to return to our suburbian lives rife with traffic and the roar of lawnmowers.

I was mentally reviewing a magical sighting of ravens winging overhead and calling to each other with their stones-dropping-into-water knocking sounds, when Martha’s urgent call beckoned.

“Quick, you guys, get over here, RIGHT NOW!!”. She had her nose plastered against the sliding glass door of the dining room and was gazing fixedly toward the outdoor bird feeding station. Jeanine and I converged and pressed our noses to the glass as well, eager to see some exotic new bird. Some rosy headed finches were chasing each oher around the feeder. A rufous-sided towhee muscled its way to the preferred area of the platform and put the finches to flight into the surrounding hedge.

“It’s the same old birds,” complained Jeanine brandishing a fistful of mixed cutlery. “Nothing new here. I’m going back to my labours.”

“Stay a moment and watch,” suggested Martha, “Just keep looking at the bottom of the feeder post.” We stayed put and watched, waited.

Soon a low rodent slinked out of the shadows at the bottom of the hedge, made a run to the base of the feeder, curled its body into a ball and proceeded to chow down on fallen seeds. It had cute round ears and button black eyes, a rounded head and fawn-coloured fur. I opened the sliding door, whereupon the beastie scurried back into the safety of the hedge. It flashed a longish tail.

“Eeuw!!” exclaimed Jeanine. “It’s a rat!!!” She slammed shut the sliding door. We stood on the inside, gazing out to get more sightings of this rat.

The animal made several forays into the grass around the bird-feeder’s base. It sat there munching away, undisturbed by the birds above, and by us shut safely behind glass doors. At every opportunity I studied its movements and conformation. While it shared rodent characteristics with rats, it looked distinctively different, shorter and rounder in body and with a compressed face that reminded me of a gerbil’s. Its eyes were bigger and more button-like, not beady like a rat’s.

“That might be a vole,” I conjectured. “There are voles living out in the wilds here. While it kind of looks like a rat it is too rotund, and its belly is a lighter colour.”

“Pshaw,” said Martha. “You are half blind, G. You can’t mean to tell me you can actually see it has a lighter underside. It’s got to be a rat!”

“Well, I can see flashes of beige.” I asserted. “Go look it up on Ron’s computer.” Yep, we were on an island, but the internet has extended its hooks even here, even if it was only by dial-up.

“We don’t have time to check,” said Martha, peevish. “We have to get our garbage down to the transfer station. I still say it’s a rat.”

“Yuk!” uttered Jeanine. “Just think, here we have been lolling around in the mornings and evenings with all the sliding doors open, and these rats may have taken up residence inside the house. What will Ron think when he comes home and finds his house infested with rats?”

“Well,” said Martha in her reasoning manner, ” he may rethink feeding birds outside. I had to stop doing that at home when I saw rats that were getting fat on fallen seed from my bird-feeder.”

“No kidding, you guys.” I repeated. “There are such things a voles. It’s probably just a vole who has discovered an easy source of food.” I opened the sliding door and returned to my chore of folding sheets and towels.

Here I’m back home and after greeting Rumpole and having a coffee with him, after playing with Jessica and giving her a dog cookie, after picking up the General and ruffling his fur, I repaired to Google the flora and fauna of the island we had been staying on. Sure enough, there are both voles and rats on that island. But after looking the photographs I am only halfway convinced that what we saw there was a vole. How can I be sure, me with my poor vision?

But, whatever it was, it was doing a fair job of fattening itself for the winter ahead, and also had secured itself a source of ready food for the leaner months. This is all to the good, providing it was a vole and not a rat. Ron may not be happy to have a whole population or brown rats he is feeding in perpetuity. And heaven help him if they take up domicile in his garage or basement. He will be inundated.

Surely he must be aware of that possibility. Maybe its us squeamish suburban matrons who need to take  deep breath and relax about the whole thing. Maybe I need to convince myself that it was just an innocent vole who we had sighted. Who knows?

A break from blogging…

July 19, 2008

I shall be away from the computer for a week. Going to an island, for some pleasurable distraction and change of place. Although it wont be a desert island, it is small, home to sheep and lavender farms, with great places to walkabout. Looking forward to some fresh fish meals, the eagles coasting on air currents, and the liquid glottal calls of ravens in the mornings. G


March 21, 2008

The following is a writing practice theme suggested by SloWalker on As usual, the prompts from Red Ravine makes me want to clatter on the keyboard – so many thanks to the good folks there.

Paul Lim, a local gallery owner, took it upon himself to educate me about Chinese cuisine as it was practiced in the Chinatown enclave of the 60s. He treated me to my first samplings of Dim Sum in a clean and well decorated Pender Street establishment where I happily sucked cooked chicken toes and declared them delicious. To allow me a glimpse of the places frequented by senior Chinesemen after their gambling sessions in the Social Clubs, he took me to eat at the Green Door, one of the alley restaurants between Pender and Hastings Streets.

Here in a long narrow space, tables and chairs were squeezed in between dingy smoke and grease stained Chinese-newspaper wall-papered walls. Numerous elderly men chattered and drank from brown paper-covered bottles. The atmosphere was heavy with a fog of cigarette smoke mingled with steam from the rice cookers in the adjoining kitchen. We squeezed into an available spot. A young man plunked a cracked tea pot and glasses in front of us.

“Now, they’ll bring along something for us to eat.” explained Paul as he struggled out from his wet pea-jacket.

“Don’t we get to choose from a menu?”

“Relax! We’ll eat what they bring.”

Sure enough a dish of something unidentifiable arrived, along with two bowls of steamed rice and chopsticks. No forks and knives in this place. Paul dumped some stuff from the dish on top of his rice, then placed the same on my bowl. As I watched him dole out our feast, my eye was distracted by a grey shiny bug scooting across the table between our two rice bowls.

“Eeeuw! What was that?” I clutched my soggy coat about me for protection.

“Just some free protein,” commented Paul as he raised food to his mouth, calm as you please. “Okay… a cockroach, if you want to know.”

This did not put me off my feed, and I poked back the delicious food and noted other ‘cockroaches’ lazily walking up the newspaper-covered wall next to our table. Because they nearly blended into the wall-paper, I amused myself during the meal by counting to see how many of these bugs might make a relaxed appearance. No-one else in the room was trying to crush these with slaps from their shoes; there was no mass hysteria. I didn’t want to bring attention to myself as the only round-eyes  AND female in the room. Even though this was my first cockroach sighting, I wanted to maintain a mien of ‘cool’, to not come across as some squeamish suburban girl.

The next time I saw a cockroach, my reaction was far from cool. It was, dare I say it, a great remove from neutral. Rumpole and I were flying home from the British Virgin Islands. The  first leg of the flight, early in the morning, brought us to the San Juan, Puerto Rico airport. There we were to wait for the connecting flight to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.

The seedy San Juan airport lounge didn’t have the usual amenities of coffee-shops, restaurants, bars of North American airports. We were desperate for a cup of coffee. Rumpole sent me off to explore and see what I could rustle up. I wondered the hall, half-asleep, and bought two paper cups full of disgusting looking black dreck from a hole-in-the-wall vendor. No milk available to cut the taste.

I sauntered back to Rumpole, handed him his coffee. He took a sip and declared it undrinkable. I slumped onto the grey plastic chair beside him, sulked and tried to stay awake as I sipped the foul brew. I calmly looked around to note the details of the waiting room. Lots of empty chairs. Garbage strewn on the floor everywhere. Straggling groups of travellers trying to make themselves comfortable on the hard plastic chairs as they waited for their connecting flights.

Some movement below the row of chairs facing us distracted my eye. It was purposeful, not a particularly scurrying motion by a large black something the size of my hand. I watched in fascination as it stopped its passage and considered its next direction. Elbowed Rumpole smartly and squeaked, “What the hell is that thing?”

“Shit!” he snarled. “You made me spill my coffee.”

The thing started to move again. “Look, there goes a rat or something. Under the chairs. Right across from you!” I hauled my duffel bag into my lap and tucked my feet up on the seat under me. “Oh God! That’s huge!”

“That’s not a rat. It looks like a big bug. Maybe a cockroach.”

“I have seen cockroaches before. They were not black, nor huge.” I huddled on the plastic chair, clutching my duffel, trying to make myself invisible. Maybe the black thing would not choose to wander under my chair if it could not see me. I wondered if cockroaches could see. And I certainly didn’t want to bring one home as a souvenir.

I was seriously creeped out. Imagine unloading the duffel bag at home, pulling out snorkel, fins, swimsuit, towels, shirts and pants, along with an unwanted hitchhiker who would jump out and maybe make a panicked run for the safety of our fireplace.

Whatever happened to that “cool” young thing I used to be?

Killing time…

February 4, 2008

A rosy mackerel dawn sky, fractured between the spaces of the winter-bare apple tree, beckoned me outside this morning. I drew my housecoat around me, ran my fingers through sleep tousled hair and stepped out to stand beneath the tree. The dawn silence, so precious, was interrupted by the jet drone of a large passenger plane headed south-west to land at Lulu Island.

How strange the world looks from up there. If, indeed, passengers are not busying themselves with stashing books and magazines in their bags, pushing their folding-tables back into place on the seat-back in front of them, steeling themselves for the change in engine sounds as the plane descends or as the plane’s wheels thunk down from the wheel-wells and brace for the landing impact.

I took bracing breaths of the chill morning air, lingered briefly in the slowly changing light, then went back inside to read the paper with the first coffee of the morning. This is not a copy of our regular newspaper, but of the other daily which has today a section of the Weekend Thriller Contest, to which both Martha and By-line Woman sent in  a second chapter installment. Had to have a look-see at what second chapter was chosen to continue the plot. Otherwise this paper I refer to, disparagingly, as a “rag”. There is of course no news of what our neighbours to the South are undergoing in their selection of Presidential Candidates. There was a heart-rending write-up of a family dog who gave her life to a cougar in exchange for her master’s. I browsed through the various sections until I reached the travel section. At this season of the year people who travel by plane often encounter long lay-overs, flight cancellations and rerouting – all due to winter weather conditions. The article that caught my eye and attention was:

“Tips on ways to kill some time at YVR

TRAVEL B.C.: There is a plethora of creative activities awaiting you at the airport”

by Rebecca Stevenson, CANWEST NEWS SERVICE

It’s like a sudden loss of altitude in the pit of your stomach: that sinking feeling when you hear your flight is delayed indefinitely.

In the blink of an eye, you’re reduced from a peppy jet-setter to an aimless loiterer.

Stranded travellers, don’t despair. Beneathe the surface of any airport lies a plethora of creative activities to while away the hours.

Here, we discover the secret world of Vancouver International Airport, or YVR.

*The sound of music: Instantly nix about 225 minutes in the domestic terminal by getting thyself to Virgin Books and Music’s CD listening station, where you can sample three full-length CDs.

*The medical/dental plan: Proceed downstairs to the dental clinic, where you can get a one-hour tooth bleaching session for only $375. next door, at the medical clinic, travel vaccines and flu shots are on order.

*Massage or a manicure: The next best thing just might be a treatment at Absolute Spa, which provides hair, make-up, massage, facials, manicures and the rest. There are three specialty “flight-delay” packages ranging from $75 – $95.

*The next level: And once you’re reduced to molten flesh, there is no telling what you might do next. Potential inductees to the famous “mile-high club” might want to pick up some condoms or lubrication at Pharmasave.

*Looking Good: Don’t forget to beautify at the Body Shop’s make-up testing counter.

*Food and drink: Gorging on calories and boredom often go hand-in-hand. But instead of defaulting to a personal dozen at Tim Hortons, why not add some flare to your consumption? Saunter down to the 7-Eleven in the Domestic Terminal and relive childhood by making your own root-beer float, or sipping a slurpee.

Treat yourself to a swanky meal at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport’s Globe @YVR or jetside Lounge restaurants, where you can sink your posh derriere into stuffed armchairs and take in the executive view of the runways.

*Drag your bloated body back to the Fairmont and use the Health Club ($10 for just the shower and sauna, $15 for the gym and pool). You can even drop into yoga and pilates classes.

*Shhh. had your fill of these sushi-eating, downward-dogging West Coast health maniacs? The Fairmont’s Quiet Zone Day Room ($99 for four hours) is literally the stuff lazy dreams are made of.

*Culture Vultures: Refreshed travellers can flit about the airport and soak up a bit of culture. First Nations art installations – including a massive Haida jade sculpture – are scattered throughout both terminals.”

(Sunday, February 3, 2008   THE PROVINCE)

After reading this article I realized once again why I hate reading newspaper Travel Sections (among other sections) where what purports to be an article is really nothing more than editorial advertising with copy-writing of the most breathless order.  Even the headline’s “ways to kill time” phrase panders to the most unthinking among us. Oh, sure, I know it’s just a figure of speech, but what a profoundly mindless one it is. But to couple it with the phrase”plethora of creative activities” and then to follow that up with a list of “consumer” services which cost a small fortune really insults a reader’s intelligence.

Nita at  posted on February 2, 2008 her writing about a truly creative act related to travel and flying, by a former Indian Airlines flight engineer, Bahadur Chand Gupta who created an opportunity to experience what it is to be inside a plane for people who would otherwise never set foot in an airport, enter and sit in a plane or rise above the surface of the earth. Nita’s piece, titled “A dream come true for those who will never fly.” is one which throws into painful contrast the attitudes we in developed countries have toward travel, particularly of the resource-consuming sort we take for granted such as air travel, against the realities of limited access to creature comforts, let alone opportunities for travel experienced by people living in  other parts of the world.

Here, where I live, to buy into so much sybaritic comfort made possible so that I and others can while away or “kill time” in superficial pleasures  requires a suspension of disbelief. The modern airport is an extension of the modern shopping mall, if I interpret The Province article correctly. Waiting, in transit between one place and the next, I must be entertained, pampered, pandered to in order to be lulled into acceptance of the “urge” to keep in constant motion around the world, otherwise I may have a spot or two of time where I may begin to think for myself and realize that travel is not what I would rather want or need to do.

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,

You’ll be sorry…

July 25, 2007

A couple of summers ago while over for supper with us Martha  mentioned that she would like to go on a camping trip with me to Kaleden. Her brother kept his trailer parked in a trailer park that had been carved out of a retired apricot orchard.  Here he would bring his wife and two sons up to camp out a week or two at a time; they rented the camping spot for one month every summer. Martha had the campsite for five days this particular July.  Did I want to go, she asked?

“You’re out of your mind asking G to go camping with you” warned Rumpole as he attacked his steak.  “Martha, you have no idea at all how awful it is to share a sleeping space with her! Be warned -you’ll be sorry!”

With that he launched into a painful description of the last camping trip we had taken together at Cultus Lake, where he had to spend nights sleeping on the deck of the pickup, while I peacefully slept inside our little travel trailer, oblivious to his mounting irritation with my tendency to snore. “Unless we have separate rooms, I will no longer travel with G” he stated. “Even then, it’s like sleeping next door to a hibernating bear.  You cannot imagine how awful her snoring is.”

“So does this mean our romance is over?” I asked, sarcastically, tucking into the Greek salad with gusto.

Martha reassured Rumpole that her brother’s trailer was large and allowed for sleeping at long removes at either end. “Besides which, I sleep like the dead.” she added.

“Well, just be sure to fall asleep before G does.” warned Rumpole. “Anyway, don’t ever say I didn’t warn you, Martha!”

So, off Martha and I drove off on our “Thelma and Louise” road trip. We sang along with the car radio, gawked at unfamiliar terrain, felt the wind whip through our hair (Martha’s car had no airconditioning so open windows were necessary).

We arrived in the early afternoon at the campsite in Kaleden and found the trailer battened down under a couple of mature apricot trees.  They were full of ripe fruit! We unloaded the necessities from the car, checked out the swimming pool at the site, stocked the fridge with our groceries and decided to head to the beach at Kaleden to refresh ourselves.

At early evening, back at the trailer, we cooked dinner on the barbie, set up the lawn chairs to take in the view on the opposite shore and watched the skies darken.

We were quite pooped and decided to turn in relatively early. Martha reminded me to stay awake until I figured she had gone to sleep in the bedroom on the opposite end of the trailer.  No problemo!  I had a good book to read, and  read until quite late, to allow enough time to elapse for Martha to fall into a deep sleep.  I took my glasses off, perched them on the bedside table, shut the light off and drifted into a comfortable sleep.

Came morning, I woke up in a silent, bright and hot front bedroom. I puttered around getting a glass of water from the fridge while getting the coffee ready. Martha’s curtain was open and her bed unoccupied.  Boy, she is an early riser – I mused, as I stepped outside into a hot sunny morning bearing the coffepot and a couple of mugs. I figured she was off having a shower and would appreciate a cup of coffee on her return to the campsite.

The apricots looked ready for picking, so setting down the coffee stuff on the campsite table, I wafted about in my voluminous white cotton nightgown gathering apricots for breakfast. I came upon a blanket swaddled figure scrunched down in the lawnchair and said a cheery hello.  Martha emerged from her blanket cocoon, bleary eyed and looking decidedly displeased.

“Good morning!” I chirped, stretching. “boy, did I ever sleep well!”

“Well,” muttered Martha, “at least one of us slept! I’m sure none of our neighbours did!”

“Have a cup of coffee” I urged. “I promise to sleep outside tonight.”

“Nah, you won’t need to” she replied,”I’ll probably sleep like the dead tonight.”

Except for Martha’s inability to sleep, we managed to get along quite well and did have a lot of fun on our trip. However, on the way home, as we were speeding along the highway, Martha did say she would never admit to Rumpole that she got little sleep on this holiday. “He’ll just say ‘I warned you so!’ and I’ll never hear the end of it.”

I’m not at all surprised that Martha has never again asked me to go on a road/camping trip again. It is a good thing I am getting older with no more prospects for camping trips with anyone – husband, friends, children- for I fear solitary travel is now my lot!

Leaving Stalin Utca…

June 23, 2007

Our building door closed behind us. There was little motion on the street. Few people were walking to work, the soldiers patrolling the tanks in front of the buildings walked up and down, stamping their feet in the cold skiff of snow. Apu took out his cigarette case, extricated a cigarette and lit it. He waved at the soldier directly in front of our building and said “Good Morning” in Russian.  “Cold today” greeted the soldier.  Apu offered him a cigarette and lit it for him.  They conversed briefly.  Ildiko  and I stood by Anyu, shuffling our feet, looking around at the familiar landmarks which we would never again see.  Apu ended his conversation, came over, kissed us all goodbye and waving, walked off in the direction of the ambulance station where our car was parked.  Anyu shepherded us in the opposite direction, her ususal route to go to the shops.

We went around the block, rejoined Apu at the ambulance station. On the brief walk there, I took in the grey sameness of the various buildings we passed, the warmly lit windows which signalled daily routines were taking place inside, the familiar skeletal trees lining the street. There was to be no more strolling, running or playing with friends on these streets for Ildiko, me and our friends. Anyu and Ildiko walked at a business-like pace, not saying anything, holding their private musings to themselves.  We rejoined Apu to find him tinkering under the hood of the DKW (Deutsche Kinder Wagon). The ambulance station attendant, smoking a cigarette, leaned on the car and conversed quietly with him. In between fiddling with bits of machinery, Apu told him that he was taking us to  line up at a shop near the clinic he was to visit first.  We piled into the car and drove off toward downtown.

After some time of driving roundabout to get back on the main road leading out of town, Apu drove west.  The pollarded trees lining the edges of the road were brushy sentinels, dark grey against the tarnished silver sky. The car took us through villages huddled close to the earth, past stubble fields, past stripped-bare orchards and lacy copses of woods. We were silent in the car, each of us immersed in our own thoughts. There were no other vehicles on the road except for ours. The engine sounds sputtered a rhythm that established a tempo for an internal symphony and I hummed quietly, elaborating the melody under my breath, all the while looking, looking, hungry, at the passing familiar world.

“Where are we going? asked Ildiko.  “To a village near Ferto To” replied Anyu, “north of Sopron”.  “Who are we staying with? For how long?” I queried.  “Only for five days” answered Apu.  I quietly chewed this over in my mind.  What was there for the two of us to do for five long days, in a village we had never been in before and with people who we didn’t know at all?

Soon Apu turned the DKW off the tar-mac main road onto a rutted dirt path.  The landscape had changed. There were no settlements, nor scattered villages to be seen, just lacy masses of woods interspersed with fallow fields.  Shortly, in the distance appeared a whitewashed mass of low buildings, huddled on the ground and punctuated in the middle by the spire of a church.  This place was where we were headed toward, an isolated country outpost.

Apu slowly drove into this village and stopped outside a small house from which extended a high whitewashed wall with a gate large enough to allow passage inside of a farm-wagon.  He left the car, casually sauntered up to the house’s front door and rapped on it. A grey-haired older man cracked open the door, poked his head outside, waved at Apu, then ducked back inside and closed the door. Apu stomped around on the stoop and waited. The man came out, all bundled up against the cold and motioned toward the gate in the wall.  Apu got back in the car and drove slowly toward the gate, which the man hastened to open, drove inside and announced, “Well, we have arrived.  You girls hurry out and into the house.  No one in the village must see you!” Anyu stepped out of the car and hurried us out.  The man had closed the gate behind the DKW, and we found ourselves in an enclosure containing a barn, a small yard and the side of the house where the door opened and an older woman waved us inside.

Ildiko walked ahead, quite grown-up and proper, and said a polite hello. I came up in next, clutching “War and Peace” to my side, under my coat.  Anyu bustled in and embraced the woman in greeting. We found ourselves in a kitchen similar to the one in grandmother’s village home, with a large, scarred table surrounded by simple wooden chairs and a big kandallo warming up the room. Anyu helped us out of our coats which then were hung on pegs on the wall.  The woman invited us to sit down at the table, and this we did, and then waited quietly for whatever was to happen next.

Apu and the man came inside, hung their coats up and sat with us at the table.  The woman brought us cups of warm milk in pottery mugs.  Apu began to give us our instructions on how we were to behave and spend our days. “You are not allowed to go outside at all, and when you are indoors must be behind curtains.  No one must know you are here. And you must listen and do as Mr and Mrs Ferenci tell you to do.” Mrs Ferenci took us into a small room where we were to stay most of the day, where we were to sleep. Then she showed us the outhouse, outside in the compound, near the kitchen door. If we needed to use this we had to do it quickly, with no lingering outside.  Our meals, we would take with the two of them in the kitchen.  Anyu reminded us that we had to be quiet and not cause problems for the Ferencis.

Anyu and Apu took their leave of us soon afterward.  The hug and kiss from them and reminders we would see them soon temporarily had to satisfy us both.  Anyu and Apu always kept their word; whenever they left us anywhere, we were certain to see them again as they promised.  This time would be the same as ever, they would come for us, I reasoned.  However, I was somewhat afraid that this time might be different, circumstances were more difficult and less predictable.  I grasped Ildiko’s hand and asked:

“Would you read to me from “War and Peace”? When you get tired of reading, I’ll take my turn.”

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch…”

May 27, 2007

Yesterday, the blues and rock garage band of which Rumpole and Renaissance Man are members did a gig at the local Legion hall as a favour for newly married friends for their post-wedding reception. Rumpole plays a mean bass guitar, and has kept up weekly lessons since 1992 when I gave him a months worth of lessons for his birthday gift with a guitar teacher who had played with Ike and Tina Turner’s back-up band and really knew his stuff.

Having missed a chance to be a chick-magnet during his earlier years as a “rock musician” because he was thoroughly engrossed in things scientific and academic, he was thrilled to get a second chance ( by now, to attract late-middle aged women, I assume) to try for rock and roll fame, of sorts.

He had gone off earlier in the day to help set up, which took a number of hours. He returned home late in the afternoon, sore and tired from hefting heavy amps, and immediately retired to the bathroom for a long soak in an epsom salt bath. After the bath he requested a thorough massage with A535, a somewhat malodorous substance, not exacly an attractive scent, and one which I am convinced that those aging Rolling Stone band members would not allow anywhere on their persons – I mean, they would reek of decrepit old athlete! I obliged, by massaging his ageing and acheing neck and shoulders, after which he sauntered off to put on his cool band duds. On the way out the door, he grabbed his peaked black hat with the added false grey pony-tail (he unfailingly wears this to gigs because as he puts it, “it keeps my bald head from competeing with the shine of disco balls.”)

After he left, I did the required drops into my eye, taped on my raffish aluminum patch and repaired to bed to read.  That did not last long,  and I lay there musing about Rumpole and the amazing colour and verve he had brought to my life. What a fortuitous stroke of luck to have shared years of living with him!

How did we end up together?

“Ardent Feminazi” and I formed a fast friendship during our University Design course, where we commiserated about the unfair evaluations given both of us by “Mrs. Redbrick” our demanding, menopausal design professor.  We were the only two young women in that class who also were raising a young child while studying for a degree.  “Ardent Feminazi” was married to “Man of Science” who was at the time working on his Marine Biology master’s degree. Their young son “Junior Entomologist” was 3 years old, while “Renaissance Man” was two; they played together quite happily while “AF” and I spent long hours working on our course papers and projects. I considered “AF” and “MoS” the prefect modern couple. They considered me a completely inept young woman, and “AF”, keen on projects took me on as one.  She embarked on a three year plan to bring me up to snuff as a “good catch” in the marriage market.

The makeover sessions addressed my appearance, which so obviously lacked in any come-hither appeal to young men. “Man of Science” victimized a number of his academic compatriots as test subjects to assess my painfully slowly growing aptitude and attributes as  an attractive female specimen. (After numerous attempts to mold me as a presentable, marriageable young woman, Mother and Father had long ago washed their hands of the whole business.  Thank God!) “Feminazi”, after energetic efforts, also gave up, somewhat to my relief, and “Man of Science” quite bored with this mania of his beloved mate, finally threw in the towel also.

We all were granted our degrees and dispersed to our geographically distant new careers and lives. For years we spent long holidays with each other, and our children happily grew in friendship. The matchmaking pressure had eased, until one fateful summer, during which “Renaissance Man” and I had a two month stay at a seashore cabin in Metchosin, near “AF” and “MoS” country home.

“Man of Science” was working as a Pollution Control biologist for the Provincial Government. He and “Rumpole” were professional sidekicks;  part of their job, as a team, was to travel around the Island’s communities and test for sewer outfall pollution of coastal waters. “Ardent Feminazi” decided that, as a last ditch effort, she had to contrive to get “Rumpole” and me to meet, and then to let fate and the gods ( and her makeover skills) do their matchmaking magic.

She embarked on teaching me how to do my long hair with curlers and sprays so it would fall in enticing curls. I preferred the “au naturel” look, as in let the hair fall how it wants to, just keep it out of my eyes! She insisted that my clothes have a closer fit, in order to show off my feminine assets in a tasteful fashion. Makeover boot-camp was a total drag, and she harped on an on as mercilessly as a drill sargeant. After she felt assured that I could keep up appearances to her satisfaction, she and “MoS” decided on the occasion on which I would be presented to “Rumpole” for his consideration.

They plotted to have “AF” me, “JE” and “RM” embark on a long camping trip to Long Beach, where “Man of Science” and “Rumpole” were stationed for an extended study of two communities’ tidal basins. “Ardent Feminazi” and I outfitted and provisioned our small group and we loaded gear and young boys into the family LandRover for the long and hot drive to Long Beach. We arrived all bedraggled and bitchy and met up with the young scientists, after a grueling trip. “The catch”extricated herself from the vehicle, dusty, carefully set curls disarrayed and ratty and makeup melting to meet her match, her hyper 5 year old unleashed onto the campground and racing about suddenly freed from being cooped up for a long journey.

So much for a well-orchestrated and auspicious first introduction! Poor “Ardent Feminazi” had the best of intentions and brought all her knowledge and experience to this situation, but forgot that unlike God, a matchmaker cannot possibly predict unexpected influences nor completely have control of a given situation. What happened next surely had a little something to do with her subsequent bra-burning spree while muttering Wiccan curses, and her baptism by fire into her  “au naturel” make-up (and brassiere) free feminist persona.

The weather conspired against ideal matchmaking conditions. We emerged daily from within soggy tents and sleeping bags, cold, disheveled and disreputable-looking to labour over a weak campfire to cook up victuals for whining young boys, and camp-fire coffee, weak and full of grounds, for us adults.  The scientists squished away to their vehicle and their work-chores (and probably a full breakfast at a nearby greasy spoon) while “Ardent Feminazi”and I organized the days’ entertainments for the two boys. At days’ end the scientists returned to the sorry-looking, wet group huddled around a wispy campfire, trying to cook up a culinary treat for supper – mostly weiners roasted on sticks, by the juvenile sous-chefs, and delectable canned pork and beans carefully heated up by “the Catch”. We spent until bed-time each night huddled around the fire, miserable and unable to maintain interest in any kind of sustained conversation. We all smelled of wood-smoke, a pleasant scent sometimes, on infrequent occasions, but a smell not often associated with the matchmaking arts. Sleeping arrangements were scientists in one tent, women and children in another.  This was a good thing, because Rumpole complained in the mornings of the horrific snoring sounds from our tent, for which “Ardent Feminazi”, still in marginal matchmaker mode, admitted responsibility, claiming poor sinuses. We resembled Neanderthals on a camp-out in an old-growth rainforest.

The evening before the day we were to break camp and drive home to civilization, the skies cleared to reveal a gorgeous moonlit and starry night. After the children were tucked into their sleepingbags, the four of us adults gathered around  a more vigorous camp-fire and shared some wine and pleasant conversation.  At one point, during a lull, “Rumpole” asked me, “Have you ever seen phosphorescence?” Being a suburban woman, I had never heard the term and replied “No.  What is it?” “Come along, I’ll show you.” he said, grabbing a flashlight. “Ardent Feminazi” and “Man of Science” shot each other meaningful glances and looked very smug.

“Rumpole” and I picked our way through the undergrowth in the dark, and found our way down to the sandy beach.  He found a washed-up log for us to support our backs as we hunkered down on the sand. “Wait for your eyes to acclimatize to the dark, and then look at the breakers as they approach the shore – soon you’ll see the phosphorescence” he suggested.

The phosphorescent sea was magical and I was entranced. Rumpole dispelled the romantic mood by launching into a precise scientific explanation of the phenomenon. I found this charming and endearing as well as quite humorous, and told him so! He made a sarcastic comment about his lack of good romantic moves, chuckled and held my hand.

“The rest”, as the saying goes, ” is history!”