Saturday, December 31, 2011

A very special Christmas and New Year

It's been a very special Christmas meeting Richard's new girlfriend, Emily.  We had super times together and also had a great time with Richard and Emily and Emily's parents at Le Bon Rouge for lunch the other day.

We wish everyone all the very best in the New Year and hope to share many happy times together in the future!

P.S.  Yes...they do look a little like Clark Kent and Lois Lane don't they...

Friday, December 30, 2011

The end of a year....

I have so enjoyed having Oscar, the cat, and my many many photos of him greeting me every day this year.  I think I will have another theme for next year...gee,  it just might be the south of everyone's surprise I'm sure.

Goodbye Oscar....we still think of you fondly.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Itty Bitty Book Review: "The Crossing Places"

"The Crossing Places" by Elly Griffiths

Another new mystery writer on the scene and I quite enjoyed this first novel of hers.  She has created an interesting character in Ruth Galloway.  I didn't finish the second Tana French novel.  It wasn't that bad but just didn't really capture my interest.  I think Elly Griffiths has more possibilities and she does have a new novel out I believe.  Will have to check the library.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas letter from France

This came via email today from folks we met while Jim was teaching at the University of Toulon.   I'm not sure it's a typical Christmas letter that people write in France but it does seem typically French.  Jean Georges (who was chair of the English Department) and Christiane are lovely people and we very much appreciated their hospitality to us.

Dear friends and relatives

Some might say “What a year!”  Indeed, what with all those Prime Ministers here and there getting the sack for mismanaging their countries’ finances or prospective presidents getting entangled in mysterious dealings with the cleaning team in American hotels or falling the victims of unexplained memory lapses.

This is rather comforting because it shows that the ordinary citizen is not the only that suffers from what William Somerset Maugham called “Human Bondage”.
Our local or rather national concerns revolve very much about the next presidential election, something which would have been complicated enough if foreign “candidates” did not try to interfere, I mean Mrs Angela Merkel of whom some think she is the model to follow blindly while others think they can hear German tanks rolling down the “Champs Elysées” once again. If you add to this another typical French dispute triggered off by the disaster which befell Japan and more precisely its nuclear industry, you will conclude with me that this was indeed an eventful year.
“Yes but” you will say. “We know about all this, and as far as I know, a newsletter is not a newspaper and our correspondent has not turned into a reporter in the world service of an obscure French magazine”. You are right but this is only to mask how uneventful our own lives were. Things go on as usual, which is not quite surprising as we all are or used to be, the children, Christiane or myself part, of that most sedate category of people the French call, sometimes scornfully, “fonctionnaires”.

So let’s come to the point. As you know, Christiane retired last year and she doesn’t seem to miss her former job too much. She enjoys a stressless and free life. She is highly active though, as she hikes every Thursday in the local hills and mountains with other retired people, a group from which I am still excluded, but just wait and see. She also goes swimming once a week in the swimming pool at her former grammar school and also exercises there. She has become really keen on gardening and spends much of her time weeding, planting, harvesting, and of course, considering the place, watering. Nothing serious has befallen us concerning the catastrophic flooding which hit the area as we live on the smooth slope of a small hill, so, the water just rushes past.
For my part, I still work but I will have to retire at the end of June. The French system does not allow wage-earners to work after sixty five, however  strong your motivation might be. This is just the point. My motivation is no longer what it used to be. It is certainly invigorating to deal with young people and I will certainly miss that, but on the other hand, what I teach (literature and literary translation) are subjects which seem to require a discipline which our digital generations are no longer capable of. In addition, the system itself seems much more concerned with financial streamlining than educational efficiency and the “shopkeepers” get the final word and no longer the artists. So… I might soon no longer be excluded from the Thursday hikes.

Our children are all well. Stéphane still works in Montpellier, which, if you happen to visit France is certainly a place to go to.  He travels a lot around France for his job. This does not seem to put him off traveling in general. He is what seems to be called now an urban trekker. He visited Stockholm, Sweden, then he came with us to the US last summer and led the way across Boston, Philadelphia among other cities. Then he went to Montreal in October to see his cousins who live there and after Christmas he plans to go to Nepal, which is also trekking, but not really urban.
Benjamin teaches biology in the same school. With his girl friend, he is still busy improving his house, building sheds for her horses, collecting hay or carting off horse manure. He used to be a man of the city (Marseilles) but he really seems to enjoy the country now.

Last summer, as I mentioned, we went to the US for the Ankenman family reunion, which took place in Tennessee in a Christian holiday camp. All was really perfect there and it is always a good experience to live among “real” Americans. We had  a great time there with our American cousins we love meeting every five years. There were lots of activities for all ages and tastes, quite impressive. It corrects the vision we might have from France through papers, TV programmes or academic essays. We took advantage of this trip to visit Virginia, Philadelphia, the Amish country, where we had never been, and also to go back to Boston and Washington, places we really liked. Academics cannot avoid being academics so we stopped at Charlottesville, Yale, and Harvard. Going to the US is still exciting though, what struck us this time was a more visible poverty, more dilapidated roads or housing.

Well, we all seem to share the difficulties of the domination of the financial system (sorry for those who worked in it). It is also comforting to note that the French, who are often mocked for this, are not the only ones to be able to botch air travel. On our flight back, we were delayed because of thunderstorms at take off in Philadelphia and rerouted to Marseilles over Munich, instead of Brussels. The people from American Airlines just forgot to reroute our luggage so that it was not on the flight. It was Lufthansa, the company which brought us from Munich to Marseilles which had to track the luggage which had actually gone to Brussels, the people in Philly didn’t really seem to have cared. Fortunately, it was delivered to our house two days later. We did not really enjoy flying with American Airlines. There was an atmosphere of suspicion for passengers, which does not really make your trip enjoyable. I know, there is terrorism, but there is no need to look down on every passenger as a possible criminal. The French administration is often called meddlesome and scornful. I am pleased to note that this is not a national characteristic and that, given the chance, you might find such people among all nations.

This is it. I must admit that when I started to write the letter, I feared I might not have much to say, hence the long introduction. You may skip it, but once you get to this point, it is too late, sorry.
We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We go very low key with Christmas gifts..

Richard opens an intriguing gift from Don and Elaine.

Richard's gift to me and I can't wait to read it...loved Rin Tin Tin as a kid!
Jim's stack of second hand books selected especially for me...gets harder every year to find things I haven't read...
I actually managed to find some film books Richard didn't have...yeah.
Ian recorded the complete discography of Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell for!
Jim mainly got "smelly old clothes" (family joke) and a pen and pencil set...almost a tradition.
Richard gave us some newspapers so we wouldn't be without our print crutch on Christmas Day.  Loved this photo on the front page of the Sun.
And Don and Elaine always spoil us.  This year a wonderful travelling wine case with fabulous glass, linen napkins, and of course a very special bottle of Bordeaux.


Monday, December 26, 2011

The Christmas Season

The season began with meeting Derek and Mary at The Penny Farthing on Dec 22 and having a great meal and chat.  Then,  Don and Elaine invited us over for a "round the world" scotch tasting and wonderful!

Richard arrived for Christmas Eve and we enjoyed Fern's wonderful tourtiere and chutney.  Christmas dinner was with our neighbour's, Chris and Susan, our families, and Monique.  We all had a very wonderful time.

We do feel very blessed with our family and friends.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Dinner

John delivered this wonderful tourtiere, tomato chutney, and mince tarts all made by Fern.  She is a fantastic cook and baker and our Christmas Eve dinner have been supplied by her for many years now.  Merci beaucoup, Fern!

Doll house at the library

I really enjoyed this Christmas dollhouse display at the library.  I never did have a dollhouse and have always been loved them.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Itty Bitty Book Review: "Tigerlily's Orchids"

"Tigerlily's Orchids" by Ruth Rendell

I had gone off Ruth Rendell a bit but saw this in the Fast Reads and thought I'd give it a try.  What are holidays about if not reading a good mystery.  I enjoyed it a lot...very funny and all the foolish bad people got what they deserved and the good people got what they deserved...all very "Christmassy"...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Photo size test

I think I finally figured out how to get photos bigger with this new template but as Donna said,  landscape views do bleed over.

Our villa in Carqueiranne.

First Christmas as a Blogger

Not much interesting is happening at the moment so I was wondering what to post on my blog today.  I figured I really needed to find something since I told Donna recently that her readers were missing her blog and she didn't really have to be doing interesting things...just look around and dream something up.  That's part of the fun!  So I thought I would look at what I was blogging for my first Christmas as a blogger.  It was fun to go back and of course we were geared up for Jim's teaching gig in the south of France.


 Friday, December 20, 2002

We're all booked for, car, apartment. We decided to go back to our apartment in the port of Carqueiranne. I'm thinking of that wonderful fresh fish I bought off the fishboats already...who knows...perhaps this time when I paint them they won't turn out red, blue, and yellow!
So, we'll be seeing this sign quite a bit very soon.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Merry Christmas everyone! Just taking a little break...turkey's cooked, gravy is made, Richard did the vegetables. Jim and Richard are having their Christmas chess game. Our very dear friends, Don and Elaine, will arrive in about an hour. We're all really looking forward to having a quiet Christmas together and remembering family, friends, and being thankful for being so blessed.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Happy New Year to everyone!

For the next while I've decided to post some of my first drawings that were inspired by la belle France and also the letters I wrote last winter when we were in Provence. I've been typing them up and it's really fun for me to read about these thing I've partly forgotten already.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Frosty morning

Lots of frost today but the cat across the street seemed very cosy on her porch.  I bet she's still thanking her lucky stars not to be harassed by our darling Oscar who used to visit here then head across the street the torment her!

Monday, December 19, 2011

50 fascinating facts: Kim Jong-il and North Korea - Telegraph

Grief and hysteria in the streets for "Dear Leader"....good grief!

I hope there isn't anyone crazier in a leadership position in the world today but that's probably being too optimistic. The facts in the article are fascinating!

50 fascinating facts: Kim Jong-il and North Korea - Telegraph

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Itty Bitty Book Review: "Death Comes to Pemberley"

"Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James

I really enjoyed reading this novel.  Wow...not only another reading treat from P.D. but it was almost like getting another Jane Austen novel.  P.D. kept very much in the times and it was most interesting to get an insight into the courts and legal system.  I'm sure she researched this and everything would be as accurate as possible.  And what fun to get more of Elizabeth Bennet.  I'm not sure Jane Austen would have approved but I think Elizabeth would have loved it and had a good laugh and no doubt numerous witticisms to share.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Best Christmas shopping experience ever...

Well, it didn't quite start out so great having a problem getting a parking place at Hillside but as I was going into the mall I noticed a woman beside three colourful birds that were in a bush. I commented to her that I wondered where they came from. She said there were hers and she was just picking them up after shopping. I asked to take a photo and then she said she'd take a photo of me and proceeded to place the birds on me.

They are Black Capped Conures, a smallish parrot-like bird, and she said she had trained them since they were babies not to fly away. They had never been in a cage and they were bonded so they had no need to fly away and didn't want to leave each other. She takes them everywhere apparently. They love to get out and about.

More info on these birds:

Black Capped Conures make beautiful, intelligent, and fun-loving pets for the right people. While they do require a great deal of attention from their owners, they always seem to reward human efforts with their hilarious antics. Known to be little clowns, Black Capped Conures can be mischievous and curious, and have a tendency to get into things that they shouldn't when not properly supervised. For this reason, it is important for those who are interested in owning a Black Capped Conure to be sure that they have plenty of free time to spend with their new pet.

Even hand-raised parrots can reject human interaction if neglected, and the same holds true for Black Capped Conures. Handling these birds every day is an important part of building a bond with them and having them accept you as a flock-mate. While they are not known to be especially good talkers, Black Capped Conures can learn a few words from time to time, and delight their owners with their chatter when they do. They can be very loud, noisy birds, and because of this, they are not recommended as good birds for apartments.

In a nutshell, Black Capped Conures make the best pets for those who are true bird lovers -- those who don't mind cleaning up a mess from time to time or waking up to screeches and screams every morning at sunrise. Black Capped Conures pack all of the personality of a larger parrot into a small package, and for this reason, they are best for experienced bird owners. For the right person, however, they make extraordinarily loving, affectionate pets, and will surely enjoy their place among the most popular pet bird species for years to come.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thomas De Quincey's mother's chair

The Camosun English Department had a Christmas gathering yesterday at Moira's house and she told us this story about how she acquired the chair. She was visiting someone in England who had it and the person gave it to her when she said she was doing her thesis on Thomas De Quincey. How amazing is that!

And she is very kindly going to give it to Dove Cottage which is where Wordsworth lived and where he himself lived.

From Wikipedia:

"His acquaintance with Wordsworth led to his settling in 1809 at Grasmere, in the Lake District. His home for ten years was Dove Cottage, which Wordsworth had occupied and which is now a popular tourist attraction."

Thomas De Quincey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Can we get rich?

I was googling Gwynne, the Santa Woodward's photographer and came up with this on a blog. Guess there's a market for old photos like this!

holiday theme | Tumblr: Purchased at a flea market in Los Angeles, California 2010.

Back Text: “16.50/2241 Grav(obstructed) Van. Bl.

THIS IS A ‘Childhood Memory’


Woodwards Wonderful Toyland

XMAS 1956 Photo by GWYNNE

2241 Fraveley ST.

Mr. and Mrs. Victor Spataro



[signature: Frankie Spatari]

Photos with Santa

Donna posted a photo with her and her sister with Santa at Woodwards on her blog....take a look.
Donna's Report

This gave me the idea of looking up some old photos and sure enough ours and Jim's family ones are all taken at Woodwards. On the back are the words "This is a children's memory photograph. Taken in Woodward's Wonderful Toyland. Photo by Gwynne and I can read two of the three dates given.

This was taken of my brother and me in 1949 so I was about 2 12/ and Craig was 4 1/2. I found it interesting that Craig is dressed in short pants whereas I seem to be quite bundled up with leggins and all. I seem a bit wary of the whole process.

The date got removed by scotch tape on this one but I would say I was around 5 or 6 and Craig 7 or 8. Craig seems particularly warmly dressed in this one!

This one is of Jim in 1951 so he would have been 4 1/2. Cool cowboy boots!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas is here at home

It was fun getting the decorations up yesterday and I'm glad we've always tried to keep Christmas quite simple since it was always a busy time of year teaching. And yet so many of our decorations are things we've picked up travelling or from from friends so they have a lot of meaning for us. I love our new little tree (our last one bit the dust in Vancouver while we were trying to stuff it fully decorated into our storage locker). This one is a little bigger and just perfect for our smallish living room but should store nicely in the basement all decorated for next year.

My new decoration this year is a peacock and I've placed it at the top of the tree. I like to change what I put there. Elaine wasn't too impressed with the mouse I put there one year...