Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Ego of the Idiots.

I'm constantly thrown off balance by people's self-absorption. Last week, I thought it odd that there had been absolutely no post for four days. That's not impossible, but it is unlikely, considering there had been no junk mail either. I asked someone else whether they'd received any post. No. There were some workers in the post room and I asked them whether they'd seen Canada Post deliver. No.
It just happened that Kevin had a meeting of the complex's council in the room that evening, so he asked and one woman
assured him she had indeed received mail that day, thus derailing the whole thing. Instead of questionning herself, which I would have done, she had to be contrary, even though as it transpired, she couldn't possibly have had mail.
The next day, no post, no junk, so I went down to the sorting office, who had been keeping our post back for no reason they could see, all week.

On the way back, I was coming to an intersection and could hear an emergency vehicle. Although I had a green light, I stopped, as did everyone else on the road except one person, who came barrelling up the lane beside me, shooting across the intersection as the lights turned to red, like a car in a chase in the old fashioned TV shows. The fire engine, that was coming across with lights flashing at that moment, almost cut the car in two, which some may well think is what the driver deserved, except for the fact that the fire engine would then have been delayed getting to the emergency. Considering that here, the fire brigade are first responders and attend emergencies an ambulance might, that delay could have been a matter of life or death.
Beggars belief.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Addiction

I really don't know where this came from, it seems like it struck out of the blue, but another thing that
has become a truly addictive pastime for me, is Sudoku. From time to time, I've eyed it speculatively on the last page of The Week, but then I actually filled one in and that was it. I think it has saved me from madness over Christmas, in the sense that, I feel once I've done one, my mind has been straightened out. On the other hand, I didn't have any space for another activity in my schedule, and yet, I have managed to fall into something that requires all my attention until I've finished it. I don't understand why it draws me, or why it's so fascinating. The only time I ever fear boredom, is when I'm flying, but I think a few Sudoku puzzles might defeat that.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Waiting List

Sometimes, the crashingly obvious stumbles around beside me, making all sorts of noise, which I don't notice.

In the autumn or late summer, our local bookshop closed. It was a nice shop, with helpful, intelligent staff - more or less as you'd expect in a bookshop.
I do miss WHSmith though, waiting to sell you a paperback, often two for the price of three, on every corner or at every railway station or airport.

Where was I? Ah yes, Chapters closed. Parking wasn't easy there, it must be said, it was a popular little plaza. Anyway, it closed, which meant that you either had to go to the town centre one, a minuscule jumble of a place, or get on skytrain and go downtown.
And then I discovered the library. I should say, 'discovered'. Alex uses it frequently whenever she's over, as does Laurence. I realised that I hadn't used the library for borrowing fiction since I was a child. My father used to take us to the library in Cosham I think. But since then, I have only used the university libraries when studying - of course my studies were long before you could just get access to everything by internet.

When I was teaching, I would take the classes to what was now a Learning Resource Centre, point out the useful books and places where you could study, even use the computers. Oh, libraries above all else, have evolved, responding to the changing times.

But best of all in our, I have discovered, better than the lovely seating area and the use of magazines
and newspapers, is the waiting list. This pleases me so much. I go online, search for and add the books I want to read. I can be experimental, put books on my waiting list I wouldn't have bought because I'm not sure about them.
I can check in with the waiting list - see where I am in line. And when something is ready to be picked up - I get an e-mail. The only flaw in this is me. I have been so excited about the waiting list, I now have a pile of books to read in a limited time.

It's extraordinary how much this whole library thing fits in with my mindset. I don't have to store them afterwards, just take them back. I don't have to keep a paper list, the library does it for me. I can check out the books for myself, so it takes me less than two minutes to go in to the holding section, run the thing under the scanner and make my escape.

If only they'd invented libraries sooner. And if only they had more paperbacks.

Monday, 5 January 2015

A Newish Year

The beginning of a new year, Christmas specials watched and decorations down and packed away. Mince pies almost all eaten.

Yesterday, we'd been promised a winter storm. Turns out a winter storm can come in many forms - ours was belting rain that came at us for hours on end. The roads here are badly lit, the lines on the roads are painted in some kind of substandard non-luminous paint that doesn't stand out much in the dark in the best of weather, but given the inclemency visited upon us from above, they become almost invisible. That and the severe lack of cats' eyes, and yesterday's weather was a treachery too far.

The year ended for me with a visit to the doctor's. She'd received the results of my blood tests, and numbers were going in the wrong direction, so I have to focus on health - diet and exercise of course, but also a referral to an endocrinologist.

News from England of two deaths of former colleagues - friends, or in one case the shocking and unexpected death of a former colleague's wife. The Fates sometimes visit cruel devastation on lives, robbing us of the ability to make meaning.

Over the Christmas period, both Laurence and Whisky were ill, hacking coughs and runny noses in both cases. Nothing too serious, but always worrying, particularly when it drags on.
We had some clear blue skies and crisp, frosty days, and on one of these, I spotted a female Anna's hummingbird shuttling between a cedar and a bare, ornamental oak tree in front of our house. The hummingbird feeder had been cleaned and put away in mid-August when the Rufous hummingbirds had migrated south. Now it's been filled with sugar solution and re-hung from the balcony's overhang, just beyond the bird feeding house where we get finches and sparrows and on the balcony itself, Towhees scavenging what has been dropped.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Violets and Daisies

It's been so long, I've forgotten how to do this. In any case, I found it hard to log in.

It's 2nd November, an important date. My father died 14 years ago. It's also the second day of National Novel Writing Month. Neither of these is why I suddenly decided to return to the blog. Although.....maybe the second one is.

I've created a writing diary for November, The Daisy Diaries. This is because this novel I'm writing as Daisy Davis. It's quite different from my Horse-sur-mer novels, so I thought a different person should write it.

The picture made me do it. I took the picture of one of our planters down in Birch Bay, this morning. A friend on Facebook had tagged me to post a picture of flowers and I'd been given violets. I'm not very good at the whole posting things on Facebook. I wanted to post a picture of my violets, and although they're not in flower, they still have beautiful leaves - shape, colour, even fragrance. I also liberated the original root from someone else's garden. They seem to be happily liberated.

I had 'write a blog post' on my list for over a year now. My friend, Di, had mentioned that she used to keep up with my news when she e-mailed to wish me Happy Birthday. Last year.

So...uninspiring post, but post it is. Rock and Roll.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Mistresses of Mystery

Last year, I was introduced to the most amazing British mystery writer, Ariana Franklin. Her first novel in the Mistress of the Art of Death series was called, not surprisingly, 'Mistress of the Art of Death'. These books are historical detective stories, much in the way of the wonderful Murdoch Mysteries by Maureen Jennings. The writing is flawless, the historical research impeccable and the plots skilfully woven. The author's speculation about what might have been possible in the way of forensics, gives a very satisfying dimension to the works.

Sadly, Ariana Franklin died last year, so this addiction needed to be replaced.

My next find - quite by chance, in the book shop at Heathrow, was another Brit, Scottish crime writer Denise Mina. I read 'The End of the Wasp Season'. Mina's detective novels are set in Glasgow and are as gritty as you would expect. But her characters are nonetheless sympathetic. Her detective, Alex Morrow has baggage, is flawed, but she is good at her job, dogged, determined. And all of this makes for compelling reading.

My most recent addiction is Canadian Author Louise Penny. And good gracious am I addicted. I was strangely drawn to the first of her Three Pines series 'Still Life', whilst standing at the checkout in Save-on Foods supermarket. I didn't read it straight away, but when I did, I was almost instantly drawn in. Her characters and imaginary village are so well portrayed that I felt as though I'd been there and knew the people. Her plots are also page-turningly intricate, like a carefully stitched appliqué.

In many ways, Louise Penny has replaced two well-loved authors for me. Her work also has the 'snuggle under the duvet with a bar of chocolate and a damned good read' factor that Maeve Binchy's writing had for me. Sadly, Maeve died in the past few days.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Three Fine Books

Three books that I have read and loved this year all have a backdrop of extremes of temperature. 

Hilary Mantel’s ‘Eight Months on Gazzah Street’ is based on the author’s own experience of living in Saudi Arabia. As the situation and the institutionalised misogyny entrap her more deeply, the feeling of powerlessness is heightened by the constant and inescapable heat, until like her, we are not sure what is real and what is imagined and we welcome the news that she and her husband have permission to return to England.

Heat and powerlessness haunt the women in 
Dipiki Rai’s ‘Someone Else’s Garden’. Probably one of the most beautiful books I’ve read, it takes us on a journey from the most abject poverty of the Indian countryside and a community where inhumanity towards women is just accepted, to a different impoverishment as one of the protagonists reaches the sprawling city. Yet here she finds a freedom and personal growth she’d never experienced. Throughout the book, she is supported by her spirituality, which gives the book a feeling of intimacy.

By contrast, in ‘The Seige’, by Helen Dunmore, it is the cold that creeps up on us and stalks us. I found Dunmore’s writing compelling. Life in Leningrad in the summer of 1941 seems harsh by modern standards, yet far worse than we can possibly imagine is to come. Somehow Dunmore gives us a taste of the harshness of it. She makes us glimpse shadows out of the corner of our eye, yet still it seems sudden when war is upon us. And the siege isn’t just the army of one formidable nation besieging the people of another, it is also the winter which pushes them to the limits of their endurance. They never lose their belief that the Red Army will break through, that the siege will end, and that the soul of their nation is shared in its greatest writing.