Monday, October 31, 2005

Cannes July 25 1976


July 25, 1976

Dear Mom and Dad,

Hello, sorry to hear that your weather hasn’t been all that great. We must be getting all the good weather.

The course in Cannes hasn’t been exactly what we expected so we’re going to Paris for August to take a course either at the Sorbonne or the Alliance Française. You can write to us there:

c/o Alliance Française
101 Blvd Raspail
Paris, France

We’ve enjoyed our stay in Cannes and there have been good things about the course but one month is enough. The excursions and activities have been excellent and we’ve met some really great people. However, most of the profs leave much to be desired. I guess I’m a bit spoiled after having Monique.

We had an excursion to Monaco and Monte Carlo last Sunday. Very, very pretty. Unfortunately it rained so we didn’t see that much; however, we did see the changing of the guard at the palace - a very colourful and elaborate process.

Last week we went to another art museum (an artist called Léger) at a neighbouring village called Biot. The teacher who does the art is very good and he comes along with us to these museums. As well, at this village, there is a glassworks factory that we visited. All the articles here are blown by hand, individually, and the process was very interesting. We bought some large champagne glasses and had them shipped to Canada. It makes for a practical souvenir as they can be used for any type of wine.

This morning we went to Nice to pick up our visas for Poland. We are really looking forward to our stay there. On our way, we’re going to stop off in Germany for a few days. That should be interesting too as we’ve never seen that country. On our way back to London we’ll be stopping off at Amsterdam and seeing that city with our friends from Holland. September promises to be an interesting month but I’m sure by that time we’ll be tired and ready to come home.

Tomorrow we have an excursion to the villages inland that are “perched’ on the mountainsides. They are supposed to be quite spectacular especially Vence. We’ve made all our arrangements for Paris and I hope we’ll find a course there that suits us better. At any rate, Paris is always an exciting place to be!


Jim and Janice

We visited Vence again on this past trip to France and these are the pictures we took in 2005.

This picture was taken in 1976 and I'm not sure which of the perched villages it was.

This picture was taken on our 2002 trip. We had only just arrived in Nice and we were enjoying the fabulous view from our balcony at the Hôtel Suisse on the Promenade des Anglais. We were very jetlagged but the view and the wine revived us. Thanks to Monique for recommending this hotel. Don and Elaine stayed there too when they came to visit us in Carqueiranne this past year...they loved it too!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Raclette Party

And now for an announcement from the present time...

We had a super raclette party last night...even though Don had to go home to get his raclette maker since our old faithful broke down! We had our first raclette in Annecy in 1976 with Monique and her family and continue to enjoy this fun way to have a meal with friends. Our old raclette maker was given to us years ago by Monique's parents. You weren't able to buy one locally then but now they are very available. I saw a very nice one made by Cuisinart at Linens and Things...will probably buy that one as a replacement.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Cannes, July 13, 1976


July 13, 1976

Dear Mom & Dad,

We’re very pleased to receive your mail regularly. It means a lot when you’re a long ways from home. You people seem to be pretty busy and are living the good life with your dinners out and everything. We’re living pretty simply now because we’re trying to save money.

We’re pleased with our course and are geting a good introduction to French culture and civilization. We have a number of different profs...some better than others but it’s good to listen to different accents and different manners of speaking.

The best thing, of course, is the contact you make with other people and the course has attracted a number of extremely interesting people. Even the grand daughter of Miguel de Unamuno (a famous Spanish philosopher). We’ve become particular friends with a fellow from Poland and two women from Amsterdam. The women are French High School teachers and the fellow is a professeur of French at the University of Katowice. They’re very advanced in French and we learn a lot from them as well as having a lot of fun together.

The women from Amsterdam are completely fluent in four languages, Netherlands, French, English, and German. They’ve invited us to Amsterdam. One has a large apartment we could stay in. I think we’ll drop in on our way back as it’s on the way back and Amsterdam is a pretty interesting city that we’ve never visited. And we would certainly have a good time with them.

The fellow from Poland has invited us to stay with him and his family...they have a spare room. We’re not quite sure if we’ll go or not as yet but it’s a country which interests us tremendously and this would be a perfect opportunity. We need to apply for a special visa; however, that shouldn’t be any problem according to our friend.

Last Sunday we went on an excursion to an island very close to Cannes and spent the day at the beach and had a picnic. It was really nice because the beaches were much less crowded and you could find your own private little niche. The water was beautifully clear and clean.

In the evening there was a dance and a wine and cheese party. The wine was fairly ordinary...not bad, mind you! But the cheese was from all over France and was delicious. This Friday we’re going to have another dance, only this time it is going to be beer and saucages (fancy like salami). It should be good as they make excellent saucages in France. Each region seems to have a specialty. The week after that it’s going to be “crêpes”...very thin pancakes and cider.

Yesterday afternoon we went on an excursion to Antibes, a town between Cannes and Nice. There is an excellent art gallery there with the works of Picasso. Very interesting and the prof who takes the art is a real character. I really enjoyed his lecture.

Tomorrow is Bastille Day so there are lots of classes. Tomorrow night there is a dance in the streets. It goes on all night and is supposed to be really great. And there will be a spectacular fireworks display. So we’re looking forward to that.

It rained for a short while yesterday and it was fantastic. I never thought I would be glad to see rain after all the rain we had this winter!

That’s all the news for now. Say hello to everyone there. We would be glad to see Emil and Helen if they come. I’m sure they would enjoy Cannes.

Jim and Janice

P.S. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Our apartment and our friends from Amsterdam (Dorli & Evelyn) and Marian from Poland.

A great way to learn the language...we actually do always speak French since some people don't speak English.

Marian, Dorli, Jim, me and some troubadour that joined us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Cannes July 6, 1976


July 6, 1976

Dear Mom and Dad,

Bonjour! We’re settled nicely into our apartment here. It’s much smaller and less comfortable than our apartment in Annecy but it’s a place to sleep and eat at any rate. We’re in a very French quarter - no tourists at all. I guess that’s why it was fairly cheap. It’s a little on the noisy side but other than that we’re quite pleased with the area. Lots of shops close by so shopping isn’t a problem.

Began our course the other day and are very pleased with college. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly yet serious...we have classes this Saturday because there is a national holiday next week! They don’t want us to lose any time. Jim and I are both taking the most advanced class and the other students are very interesting people from all over the world - Greece, Holland, U.S., Spain, Poland, Korea, Austria, Austalia, England, Sweden, Germany, Italy, and Canada. Quite a mixture for a class of about 25 students! They are mostly French teachers in their own country.

The course itself promises to be very interesting - it’s a course on French Culture and Civilization. There are a number of different professors and we cover a wide range of topics - French literature, history of the language, linguistics, grammar, philosophy, geography, and history of the Côte d’Azure, etc. Formal classes are from 9-12 and then there are excursions and activities either in the afternoon or evening. When we’re not involved in an activity or class we’ve been reading French novels, looking at TV, or listening to the radio so we’ve been getting lots of French. In fact, as I’m writing this letter I have to think twice about how to spell the occasional word in English!

We enjoyed our time in Annecy very much and are very grateful to Monique for our time there. After Monique left we met a very nice couple about our age with whom we passed two very enjoyable evenings. They insisted on taking us to the railway station and seeing us off when we left. As well, they invited us to come back to Annecy on our way back and spend the week-end with them in their apartment. They want to take us to see Chamonix and Mont Blanc. We were going to rent a car and go with Monique but we didn’t have the time in the end.

I think we’ll take them up on it as we’ll have some time in September before we come back. Also, Monique’s parent have invited us for dinner if we come through Annecy again on the way back. We would enjoy seeing them again as they are fun to be with andvery obliging.

Hope you’re having a good summer - the weather here is so good that I would almost like to see a bit of rain for a change! I don’t know if you’re heard about it in Canada but France is having a very serious dry spell. It’s not really affecting us except that the prices of food may go up in August because of the agricultural problems.

Love to all,

Jim and Janice


Dad, sorry about Father’s Day. We completely forgot about it. However, even if I managed to find just the right card here, you wouldn’t understand it!
Happy Father’s Day, after all!

I liked this picture of Cannes I found on the Internet.

Our college in Cannes and Dorli and her car.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Our month in Annecy

Annecy, France

June 7, 1976

Dear Mom & Dad,

Arrived at Annecy a few days ago and we’re all settled into our apartment. It’s a beautiful apartment, very large, nicely decorated, and with a fireplace. It belongs to two teachers who are away at the present time. The apartment is rith on the lake and we have a magnificent view of the lake and mountains. Monique certainly wasn’t exaggerating when she said that Annecy is the most beautiful city in France.

Monique’s parents are extremely nice and have taken us around by car and had us over for dinner yesterday. They have a lovely apaartment all furnished with beautiful antiques. We had a fantastic meal. We began with cold cuts of a saucage that is a speciatly of the area and a paté. After that, a salad of tomatoes, eggs, and onions with a delicious sauce with a mustard base. The main course was a roast of pork stuffed with prunes - extremely delicious. After that, a cheese that is a specialty of the region, and then fresh strawberries marinated in wine. The French certainly know how to eat!

Except for the occasional special meal, we’ve been eating very moderately. And I’ve actually been losing weight! There is a tennis club very close to our apartment which we have joined for one third the normal price because of our International Student Card. There is a golf course nearby which is half price to students as well. Being a student in France certainly pays off.

We have a heated pool very close which we probably make use of, although the weather has been very warm and Monique thinks the lake should be warm enough to swim in in a few days.

It’s really nice to get up in the morning and watch the swans and ducks in the lake, usually there is the occasional fisherman, sailboats, row boats, etc. Lake Annecy is the cleanest water in all of France. The city itself is immaculately clean and is famous for being the most flowered city in all of France. There are lovely canals through the city that are bordered with flowers and the swans add the finishing touch.

We went to Cannes before going to Bandol to meet Monique and we were very fortunate to find an apartment for July and August at a reasonable price. Monique was surprised because Cannes is one of the most popular places in Europe. Our apartment is very close to the college where we’ll be taking our course. The college itself is very nice, set among Palm trees etc. and we’re looking forward to our course.

We’re thinking now that we might stay in Cannes for Sept. as well instead of travelling around Italy as we will probably be quite tired and it’s going to be rather hectic moving to Oregon and getting settled. Just before we left Vancouver we heard that we got an apartment in the married student housing. That was good news as now we don’t have to worry about getting a place down there.

So far, things have been working out very well. Hopefully, they will continue to do so. I’m writing this letter from the balcony of our apartment. The sun is beautifully warm and the lake is a wonderful turquoise colour. I’ve never seen a lake quite that colour before.

That’s about all the news for now. Looking forward to hearing some news about the home front. Monique sends her regards. Say hello to Craig.

Love, Jim and Janice

Very similar to our view from the apartment.

Overview of Lac d'Annecy and the surrounding mountains.

The old town of Annecy and one of the canals.

When we were in Cannes in May the film festival was going on. The poster is from "All the Presidents Men".

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Europe: 1976

Now that the weather is turning I’m continuing my organization of old photos and memorabilia. In 1976-77 we took a year or so out from our teaching jobs to travel in Europe (mainly France) for five months, then returned home to go to the Univesity of Oregon in Eugene to do graduate studies for nine months. I’ve been re-reading the letters I wrote my parents during when we were travelling in Europe. I’m very glad my mom saved them.

We left Canada in May, spent some time in London, then on to Paris for a while, then went to the south of France where we met up with Monique and her parents in Bandol and stayed with them at the Hotel Splendid. We had been to the south of France on our 1972 trip to Europe but this was the first of many times we stayed in Bandol at the Splendid.

It was a pretty good deal at the time for a hotel right on the Mediterranean. We had a sea view room with a terasse for the equivalent of $20 a night and this included breakfast and dinner for the both of us. Them was days!

For the month of June we had rented an apartment with Monique in Annecy, her home town, and a place we had heard a lot about. Annecy is on a lake in the French Alpes close to Geneva. In July we went to Cannes for a month to take a French course, then went to Paris for the month of August to study more French at the Alliance Française.

August isn’t usually the best time to go to Paris since Parisians leave in droves; however, we didn’t find this to be the case in the Pigale district where we found a cheap apartment. This is the district of “working women” and I guess these people stay around for the tourists in the summer so we found the area to be very animated and very little was closed. And for us Paris is wonderfully fun at any time of year.

After that we were going to go to Italy but we had been invited to Poland and also to Amsterdam by friends we made at the course in Cannes and so we figured it was a good opportunity to see a country “behind the iron curtain” and to see Amsterdam. We felt we could always see Italy. We almost got to Italy on numerous other occasions but didn’t actually get there until 2002!

I took surprisingly few pictures and most of those were slides. I should be able to scan the slides and make JPEG's but that aspect of my scanner doesn't seem to be working. We weren’t really into picture taking and we often left our camera at home because we didn’t want to seem like tourists. I had some slides made into photos a number of years ago. You'll recognize those by the faded quality. I also felt that I would remember everything and didn’t need pictures....well, so much for that theory...

I’ll post the first letter tomorrow.

Jim, with Monique and her parents having breakfast on the terasse of the Hôtel Splendid, Bandol.

The hotel in 1976.

This is a painting I did of the hotel on an Oak Bay Dump treasure.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Teachers' Strike

Let's hope this will be over today. This Potshot by Ashleigh Brilliant seemed appropriate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

NYC Museum of Modern Art Posters - 3

And some more....

This one is for Patty - 1965


Two anti war posters- 1966 & 1967
* The one with the flag says "Bring our boys home"

A tribute to Thelonious Monk - 1986

Monday, October 17, 2005

Yumm...great icing!

Happy Birthday, Richard!

Have a great day and hope you enjoy the icing on your cake as much as you did 25 years ago!


Mom and Dad

For my Mom

My Mom and Richard have the same birthday and since I can’t wish my Mom a Happy Birthday this year I would like to share a few thoughts about her and my father. In the letter I wrote to my parents when I got married I thanked them for their love and support and for giving me the best gift parents can give their children...a happy marriage.

When we were in Vancouver recently we scattered my mother’s ashes in the ocean around Lumberman’s Arch in Stanley Park. It was just the three of us but it felt good to say goodbye in a little more formal way even though my mother didn’t want a service.

Our family has many happy memories of picnics at Lumberman’s Arch and enjoying the beaches of Stanley Park and English Bay. My parents and Jim and I all grew up in Vancouver and Richard has become a real Vancouverite so we all share this love of the city.

I remember my mother telling me that she often went to English Bay and Stanley Park as a young child with neighbourhood friends and they always spent the nickel they were given for return busfare on chips and told the bus driver they “lost it in the sand”. I’m sure he was very used to these poor ruffians and their excuses for having no money to get home! A nickel was a lot in those days and chips at the beach was a real treat I’m sure.

I wrote a letter to my mom at Christmas the year after my father died and I would like to share this now as I was thinking about all these things at Lumberman’s Arch and today.

My Mom about age 20

Christmas, 1996

Dear Mom,

I think we both approach this Christmas with mixed feelings of sadness and gratefulness. Sadness, because we lost Dad a year ago but also gratefulness, because he lived a good life and was fit enough to the end to be able to drive and live independently. We know how difficult it would have been for him not to be able to do these things.

Something that helped me through that difficult time last year was realizing you and Dad still kept and treasured that old letter I wrote the year Jim and I got married. The fact that I referred to your 27th year of marriage and that Jim and I were now celebrating our 27th year of marriage helped me accept and appreciate the cycles of life of which death is a part. Also, it’s all the happy memories I have of you and Dad and our family life together that have made this past year easier.

I think the first memory I have is the big tractor tires that Dad cut in half and that we used to sail our boats in. I just remember hearing about all the steering wheels under the porch for our friends but it sounds just like Dad to want to make sure every kid on the block could drive their own car even if it was just pretend!

Our backyard with the big tires to sail our boats in.

Of all the gifts we received over the years it was the things you and Dad made, often out of scavenged materials, that meant the most to me. My favourite toy of all time was the “stove” made out of four butter boxes with jam lids painted black as cooking elements. That got me really interested in cooking and I remember you always letting me make a little pie or cookies in your oven since my “stove” didn’t have one.

And then there were the inner tube rafts that doubled as air mattresses when we first started camping and couldn’t afford air mattresses. We couldn’t afford sleeping bags either at first and you made some out of old blankets. The first year I think all we had was the tent, the coleman stove, and the cooler. You managed to cook the best meals on that old coleman.

The old Plymouth loaded up with camping gear.

Another toy I was very proud of was the little racing “bug” Dad made for me from an old railway tie. It just had kiddie car wheels and rope with a T-stick for steering, but I could keep up with the big boys on the block with real racing bugs and that was quite an accomplishment for “just a girl”.

Dad often came home from work on a warm evening and suggested we drive to White Rock to have a swim and eat our dinner. You were always such a good sport about packing up what was for dinner and cooking it on the Coleman stove on the beach.

And all the good times at Gabriola. I remember Dad buying that old row boat for five dollars that weighed a ton and Craig and I rowing back and forth all day in the rain the first week-end we had it. Remember our neighbours in Vancouver kidding Dad about having a whisky still up on Gabriola because of all the old wine barrels he brought up there? That was quite an ingenious system for getting “running” water.

I remember how we used to play poker in the evenings by the light of the coal oil lamps and you always pretended you didn’t really know how to play and usually prefaced laying down a Royal Flush by saying “I don’t really think I have anything”! Somehow you convinced Craig and I that those slimy things called oysters were really good to eat. And all the neat things like collages, tables, etc. you did with driftwood gave a real flair to the decorating of the Gabriola "shack".

Some of my Mom's driftwood treasures.

I chuckle thinking about Dad worrying about me. I remember the rope he brought over to our apartment that was on the fourth floor. He really needed to be assured that I would keep it under the bed so it would be there in case of fire. Then there were the warnings about driving under highway overpasses because he had heard about sudden flash floods where people had drowned, and warnings about being in parkades because people had been asphyxiated by fumes at rush hour when everyone was leaving at the same time. And of course...flying. Dad always thought I was on borrowed time when I was in the air!

Do you remember the fairy godmother outfit you made for me for a school play? I loved that almost as much as the bunny outfit you made for Halloween one year. I was particularly proud of my “magic” wand with a silver star on the end of it. I was a bit deflated when I overheard someone saying it looked like I was hammering the dickens out of Cinderella with it during the performance. I guess I was really trying to make sure those wishes came true!

My bunny suit.

I know I didn’t really appreciate that lovely doll and chest of beautiful handmade clothes that you won in a raffle, but I remember the neighbourhood girls enjoying playing with the doll while I cooked dinner on my “stove”. And I did enjoy all those books you bought us over the years. Reading remains one of my greatest pleasures.

Now knowing what it’s like to work and have children, I appreciate the time and interest you took in our school work and activities and the time you spent helping out at school and encouraging me to join various organizations. It expanded my circle of friends and experiences.

Life does work in funny ways. I must admit, at the time I wasn’t always thrilled that you spoke out and expressed yourself more forcefully than all of the other mothers of my friends. I’m proud now that you did things like get the union in at the hospital where you worked and were the first Shop Steward. You were ahead of your time in terms of women’s rights.

You always had an independent fighting spirit and this has helped you through this difficult first year of losing Dad and will continue to help you. I have that fighting spirit too and I’m proud to be your daughter.

Merry Christmas, Mom.



My mom, myself and Richard just before leaving for France this last February. Richard and I have fond memories of this last visit with my mom.

My Mom and Dad in 1988, Dad, 79 and Mom, 75

Sunday, October 16, 2005


I've been reading a very interesting book friends lent me called "London 1945" by Maureen Waller. It recounts London in 1945 with shortages and rationing etc. Citizens were even "ordered" to keep their used bus tickets so they could be used for salvage. Reading about some of the recipes and advice for making things stretch is quite amusing. Here's a tip for those of you making school lunches. Women were advised that "well-seasoned mashed potato and chopped spring onion and parsley make an excellent sandwich filling".

Reading this has inspired me to reupholster my desk chair in the spirit of London 1945. Richard was quite appalled by the duct tape I was previously using (it is his cast off chair in the first place) so I put to good use a pair of old socks my friends and family will be thrilled to see me no longer wear...

For all the excesses of the boomer generation I think we hesitate to waste things almost just as much as our parents.

Uploading pix problems will have to use your imagination as to what wild socks were relegated to being desk chair arm covers!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Hey...want to buy a laptop for $100?

Richard mentioned this very exciting project that MIT is doing in trying to create a laptop for $100 that would be available to education departments in developing countries. The idea is governments would sign up for a minimum of a million computers. Apparently 15 countries have expressed interest. It sounds like a pretty interesting way to get educational resources to the poor. It would have wireless capability and a crank generator so it could be used in areas that don't have electricity. It would also have a screen that would serve as an e-book reader. Just think how cheaply books and other educational resources could be provided. Sounds like B.C. should sign up since our education system can't seem to pay for enough textbooks for students.

I love the idea that this high tech device will be driven by a crank...just like the starter in the vintage cars I posted recently.

For more info and photos of the prototype look at MIT $100 Laptop

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I'm in love with iPod...

Richard set up my iPod and updated software, operating system, etc so I can do all this neat iPod stuff...thanks, Richard! I am so impressed with this technology and especially intrigued and excited by the world of podcasting. In addition to being able to load all this music, audio books, download my can get all these great radio broadcasts already and there will soon be a gazillion available. It's the way I want to listen to radio...completely out of time and space.

And the most amazing thing to the technically challenged like myself is the whole process is idiot proof. Anyone who has struggled with programming a VCR must get this technology just to enjoy the process! For example, once you subscribe to a podcast with one little click, your computer will then download the radio programs when they become available. You plug in your iPod when you feel like it and it transfers the broadcasts to it. Dead easy...I love it!

I see Apple released a new iPod today that does video now although being black and white and on a very small screen I think it will need to get a little better before I would be interested in that one. It's got great potential as Apple has done a deal whereby you'll be able to buy TV episodes the day after they are aired for as little as $1.99. The deal isn't with Home Box Office so we won't be getting the Sopranos the next day but who knows what they will negotiate next. For more info on the new iPod

I thought the packaging of the iPod was very cool..a black box with white lettering very reminicent of the NEXT computer packaging. Steve Jobs got it right this time for the package and the product.

Well...I was going to post pix of the packages but Blogger doesn't seem to be doing that at the moment. I'll try again
tomorrow morning.

More vintage cars

We saw these cars while we were waiting for the Saltspring ferry during the summer. We saw them to see some of them being cranked up. Must be quite something to keep these in running order.

Jim admiring his favourite....a convertible, of course.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Dirigible passing by my window

I just happened to see this Bell dirigible pass by the window while I was posting to my blog yesterday so had to take a picture of it. Jim is quite fascinated by these craft...figures they would be a great way to get to Vancouver.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

My Architect

This is a great documentary on Louis I. Kahn, the architect, who did some rather amazing buildings like the National Assembly in Bangladesh and the Salk Biological Institute in La Jolla. It was made by one of his illegitimate children (he had three "families") and is really very moving. I.M Pei (Christian Science Centre in Boston, Pyramid at the Louvre) was interviewed and spoke with such reverence about Kahn's work.

The film has inspired me to look at architecture books and also take another look at Moshe Safdie's work of Habitat '67 fame. I remember being very excited by the idea of possibly living in such a place and was glad to read recently that people still do live there and tend to be long time residents.

A really interesting website I came across is Great Buildings

I really liked this travel sketch Kahn did of the Campo in Siena, Italy. The "Campo" is the town square where they have the horse races in the summer known as the "Palio". The sketch is done in winter and I can imagine the bell tower does cast such a long shadow and also the bright colours suggest the colours of the riders and their standards.

Sketch by Kahn of the Campo in Siena

Friday, October 07, 2005

NYC Museum of Modern Art Posters - 2

More of these great posters...

Italian Airline ad - 1933

Nivea skin cream ad - 1948

Ad for the magazine "Paris Review" - 1967

IBM ad - 1982

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Another walk downtown

A few images from another walk downtown Victoria last week. Don't think there will be too many of these strolls in the sunshine for a while.

A sneak shot inside the Fran Willis Gallery.

Government Street

This dog didn't bat a closed eye even though numerous people stepped over him.

In front of "Dig This"....I love the boots!

Monday, October 03, 2005

What I've been reading lately...

"Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro

I believe the bookies in the UK have it as the front runner for the Booker. It's a dystopia about cloning but while the ethics are an issue the real heart of the novel is characterization and how people would act and relate to each other. Just like "Remains of the Day" could be said to be about social class and it was; but characterization and relationships were key there as well.

It's quite brilliant the way he builds the suspense about what's really going on and just like the students at Hailsham we somehow know more before we really know it. While it it somewhat difficult to believe our society would ever raise clones for the sole purpose of harvesting their organs, it is certainly true that we need to think very carefully about what we begin as once we have cures for cancer, heart disease, etc. we will certainly never let go of those cures. This is a major premise of the novel.

Hailsham (I guess it's a play on "hail a sham") was an experimental cloning centre where the students were encouraged to be creative and who were protected from the truth of their purpose so they could have a "happy" childhood. They believed to the end this helped them to cope with the reality of their future. Art work from the students was collected to try to prove the clones had "souls". In the end this experiment was abandoned and all clones now up knowing their purpose and being suffciently branwashed to accept their purpose in life which is to "donate" and to eventually "complete" (die).

The novel is very moving and poignant in depicting the Hailsham students who hear rumours that they are "special" and can be given extensions before beginning donations if they prove they are in love or rumours that they could actually work in a normal workplace for a while. These all turn out to be rumours without any truth and it is quite heartbreaking.

As absurd as the premise of the novel seems, I can't help thinking that the advantaged of this world provide similar heartbreaking scenarios for the disadvantaged continually and yet we don't recognize the absurdity of this situation.

"Rockbound" by Frank Parker Day

This was originally published in 1928 and is about the fishing communities on Nova Scotia's South Shore. It's been recently republished and I see it's won the CBC Radio Canada Reads contest. Really quite interesting and especially since the author was almost murdered by the inhabitants of this area when he went back to visit because the book portrayed "us humble inhabitants on four little island as ignorant, immoral, and superstitious...when our Island can boast of three school teachers, and there isn't a child that can't read and write".

Each chapter starts with a quote from the Canterbury Tales. This quote from the novel gives a flavour of it and also seems rather fitting after reading about a colleague of Jim's who is currently on a year's sailing trip, and appears to be spending most of the time in the fog off the California coast. Sounds like the fog there is coming in like Godzilla rather than the "little cat feet" of Carl Sandburg.

"David took a course on Rockbound before the fog shut out the island, and kept his ears alert for the sound of breakers. The deep-laden Phoebe moved sullenly, her jib flirting from side to side of the stay with a vixenish snap. Now, had David had a draught of rum, or even pipe and tobacco, he would have been comforted, for the stoutest heart is lonely on a fog-shrouded sea."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Victoria is still a small town after all.

I guess we'll know Victoria has irrevocably changed when people don't feel comfortable putting out their fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc. and having an honour box for people to pay.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What the hey?

This week we learn that Diet Coke makes you fat and fruits and vegetables don't necessarily ward off disease. I guess we'll be hearing next that positive thinking has a negative effect! Sort of reminds me of when I was pregnant and reading parenting books. It was rather comforting to know that just about anything you did had an advocate for it being the right thing.

I wonder how much of our economy is devoted to people taking surveys and doing studies....