Monday, December 31, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

First post from my new MacBook'll be proud, Richard

Richard spent a long time on Boxing Day and yesterday getting my new computer set up and getting all our gadgets synched and working together.  What would we do without this wonderful guy!  Thank you thank you thank you, Richard.

Not an easy task for many reasons not least of which I have a very random (i.e. non-existent) filing system for my computer files so as Richard said  it was rather like solving numerous chess problems to know how to go about it.   In the past when I changed computers,  I did so because my computer crashed and I didn't have a back up so that took care of organizing files...there were none!

My good friend, Patty, will LOL at this as we shared a classroom for a while and also organized an Open House Canada Exchange.  This means lots of essential and important papers come from the government.  I started putting them in various drawers, on a shelf, throwing them loosely in the file cabinet, or wherever.  I arrived to school one day to find a file folder labelled "Janice, ne touche pas!"   Henceforth,  I was not allowed to open any official government mail about the exchange or even touch the contents of the file folder where Patty filed it all away very neatly.
P.S. to Patty...are you still in the land of the living after hosting 18 people for Christmas dinner and out of town guests?

I am now not allowed to use iPhoto on my old computer because synching is a nightmare apparently if I do.  So, Richard has done something similar to "Ne touche pas, Janice!"...he's taken it away...or put it where I can't find it.

I am loving my new computer but it will take a while to get used to it since I'm going up "several generations" as Richard says.  But,  wow...some amazing features like I take photos on my iPhone and they appear on my computer magically without actually physically uploading them.  They are also on our TV! to upload some photos...I hope...

 Chris brought out this golf Rubik's cube at Christmas.  Somehow,  Richard managed to solve it along with everything else.  Perhaps it was child's play compared to dealing with my computer mess!

 My new Macbook it!

Jim's new iPad mini with a wireless keyboard.  I don't think he'll need another computer with this set up.  And yeah...I get the old iPad to myself now that Richard has got Jim set up with everything on the mini.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Another reason why French women don't get fat...

Don sent me this today...too cool!

A Wonderful time with dear old friends

We had a super time with Don and Elaine last night and they treated us to martinis with a choice of premium gins...we chose "Old Raj".  It seems the Scottish Whiskey companies are now doing fancy gins...who knew?  Not us but of course the Curlings are up on all such things!

We had lovely appies to start and especially some salmon jerky from Finest at Sea that is only rarely!  We're definitely going to try to get our hands on some of that.  Then,  the main course was especially for me (since Jim got treated with pasta last time) halibut,  white and green asparagus with chanterelle mushrooms,  and creamy mashed potatoes.  Yum!

Dessert was Elaine's wonderful baking and some very special rum balls.

Thanks so much, guys!  It was a very memorable evening and your place was so cosy.

Jim and Elaine

Elaine, Don, Janice

Elaine, Don

The gin!

Don enjoying a martini

Janice enjoying a martini

 The wonderful salmon jerky!

Don gave Elaine this carafe last year for Christmas.  It's very tall and holds two bottles.  Last night it was filled with some wonderful Alderley Merlot.  When the wine is gone the two faces appear....very cool!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Season of Miracles

I've been thinking a lot about two movements that have begun to gain momentum as 2012 winds down.  It would be a joyful irony if real progress was made on these issues at the exact time when the world was apparently supposed to end according to the Mayan calender.

"The Idle No More" and the brave actions of Chief Teresa Spence to address the disastrous state of Aboriginal health and living conditions on First Nations reserves.

Progress on gun control in the US.

These two issues seem almost to have no solution and yet I am reminded that those of us who grew us with the Cuban Missile Crisis,  imminent Nuclear Annihilation,  the Cold War,  and the Iron Curtain never felt that situation would change and yet the "Wall" came tumbling down.

It is the season of miracles.

Our own personal miracle, our son, came out of a visit to a family behind the Iron Curtain and to the Nazi death camp,  Auschwitz. 

 I wrote a story about it when I was doing my Masters degree in the early 90's.

Passport Control - by Janice Sexton

An old passport of mine is stamped numerous times from a country I have never set foot in and that no longer exists. In 1976 we had only a transit visa to pass through East Germany by train to our destination in Poland. I do not have any stamp in this passport from Spain although we spent a couple of weeks in this country in 1972. We entered Spain from Biarittz in the south of France on the Atlantic coast. The Spanish border officials were enjoying lunch. The procedure was to slow down and wave your passports out the window. They nodded and raised their wine glasses to us. It was a warm invitation to enjoy their country and we encountered many such warm invitations during our stay.

Some countries do not invite one so warmly. Taking the Orient Express route to Poland from Paris, one had to enter East Germany, then leave East Germany, then enter West Berlin, then leave West Berlin to enter East Berlin and East Germany again. A part of ancient history now. Intimidation seemed to be the name of the game as our passports were verified and stamped numerous times. We went through Berlin in the middle of the night and were rudely awakened by “passport control” shining flashlights in our eyes. Scrutinizing our real faces and the representations on the passports many times.

We began to get nervous as we had false information on our visas. Glancing out the window to see guards with machine guns didn’t provide much encouragement. The false information seemed so harmless when we were in Nice at the apartment of the representative of the Polish government that arranged for the visas. We were spending five months in France before doing a year’s graduate work at the University of Oregon. We were heady from the wine, the sun, the people...the myriad of sensations that make up the south of France.

Our friend, Marian, was a professor of French at the University of Katowice and had invited us to spend a couple of weeks with his family in Poland. We had met at a summer course in Cannes and had enjoyed each other’s company so much we cancelled our plans to go to Italy for our last two weeks to take advantage of this opportunity. We reasoned that we could always get to Italy but getting to an “Iron Curtain” country with a family was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Our friend had convinced us to claim we were “family” so that we only needed to exchange $2.00 a day at the official exchange rate, otherwise we would need to exchange $10.00 a day. This would allow us to exchange more money on the blackmarket, which meant three to four times the official exchange rate. He patiently explained the system in Poland. Basically, this meant that the system didn’t work so everything had to be done on the sly...on the blackmarket, the unofficial way. It was an accepted fact. For example, to buy a car you had to have the price in full then wait three to four years. Except if you could produce currency from the West, then you got it immediately. This worked for most things.

We expressed concerns about ending up in the Polish equivalent of Siberia. He assured us Polish officials “s’enfichaient litteralement”...i.e. “no one gives a damn”. He forgot to mention about East German officials who really seemed to be caring who went through their country.

The next morning we were still in East Germany and the train stopped inexplicably for over two hours. Our compartment companions assured us this was quite normal. At least, that was the message we picked up. Our companions who had begun the 32 hour journey with us in Paris were Polish and were returning home. We didn’t speak Polish and they didn’t speak either French or English but we felt like long time friends when we parted. Initially, we spoke French because we had been speaking French for so many months and they spoke Polish. After a while we figured we might as well speak English since the actual words weren’t being understood anyway. It was surprising how much was understood.

Before we finally left East Germany, officials came on the train and searched every nook and cranny for stowaways. It was a relief to be in Poland except that an abscess tooth began to bother me and I was in agony. We hadn’t booked a sleeper to save money. It was night as we journeyed through Silesia, the heavy industrial part of Poland, on our way to Katowice. I had never experienced such an area...slag heap after slag heap and raging furnaces intensified the pain of the tooth. I thought this must be what Hell is like.

So many images of those weeks in Poland come to mind. The instant acceptance of our friend’s family and their friends. The layer of soot every morning on the windowsill in our bedroom. Angele, Marian’s wife, cleaned it up every day, but the next day the same layer of soot was there. Because of the pollution, their children, Agathe and Simon, were small for their age with respiratory problems and had to be sent to the mountains in the summer for their health.

The empty shelves in the food stores and the lineups whenever a truck appeared out of nowhere with some food for sale. The paradox that food actually seemed plentiful in people’s homes but little seemed to be distributed officially. The blackmarket. The system didn’t work. No one expected it to anymore. People adjusted.

We were invited to another home where the people had a backyard. They had built a campfire outside for us as a special treat to make us feel at home since we came from Canada. Perhaps they thought everyone in Canada were cowboys. I was asked whether I had Indian blood since I had such dark hair. For a brief moment I was tempted to say yes, and talk about my people, the Haida, who lived in the rainforest. It seemed so exotic to be part Indian so far from home! I resisted the temptation.

They took us to Krakow, the university they both had attended, the university where Copernicus studied. They showed us a memorial to commemorate the time Poland had been annexed completely by other countries and didn’t exist at all. That night they played nationalistic music and tried to explain the history of Poland. They mentioned they knew that North Americans liked to make Polish jokes. You could sense their hurt and confusion about why people did this. Our indifference to our own country and lack of nationalistic feeling puzzled them.

One of the days we visited 
Auschwitz the Nazi death camp where over 4 million Jews had been murdered. Since it is a memorial it is very quiet, but the exhibits are shouting at you all the time. The gigantic rooms full of shoes, of eye glasses, of children’s toys...the Nazi’s saved everything and didn’t have time to destroy it all before the Allied Forces arrived. The shouting was so overwhelming. How could one truly relate to such atrocity?

At the end there was a chapel. People lay down fresh flowers and knelt. The hallway leading to the chapel had photos of inmates from the prison within the camp. A prison within a prison. Friends and relatives had lain flowers on some of these photos. The shouting stopped. We knelt as well and felt a real communion with the people who had lost their lives in this place. Jim and I talked about it later. It was something about the fresh flowers placed by the living on the portraits of the dead that lead to being so deeply touched.

We felt so affected by this experience and warmed by this family that we decided to finally take the plunge and have a child. We had been discussing the pros and cons for 10 years. In the end it was a completely emotional decision. We kept in correspondence with this family and we were all thrilled when we could reunite in Paris in 1987. They met our son, the child we might well not have had if we hadn’t met them.  A year later, their daughter wrote to tell us her father had died from a massive heart attack. We felt a profound loss.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ian and Beau

Richard sent me this...just had to post it!  I guess his photo turned out so well because he has the latest iPhone...that's my excuse.

Old home movies with the Clebant family

It begins at our first house in Victoria on Forbes St.  Monique's dad then mom appears.  Then we're up at Gabriiola.  My mom is holding the flowers the Clebant's brought.  My dad is the tall one.  Tim,  you recognize the famous lamb bar-b-q...wasps were terrible that year.  The swimming pool is at an apartment where Monique used to live.

Christmas Day at the Bings

We had a wonderful Christmas yesterday....thank you so so much,  Susan and Chris.  Excellent food and warm fellowship and many laughs and of course dearest Beau was the star of the show.    Many bad photos as usual but at least I manage to make some record...

Maybe the next trend will be bad Christmas photos kind of like ugly Christmas sweaters....we can compete!

 Emily and Richard opening the gift from Don and Elaine.  We feel very blessed to have two such wonderful young people in our lives.

 Richard doing the carving as a tradition.

 Jim and Tiny in anticipation of the bad Christmas cracker jokes.

 Monique and Susan

 Dear darling Beau.
 Ian, Beau, and Chris.
 In our family,  we always took a photo of the empty table...can't lose that tradition.

 The turkey!
 Emily and Richard  had a lot of fun with Beau and Beau loved them.  Beau started nibbling Richard's ear then headed for the "nether regions" ....typical guy :)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Family memories

My friend, Donna, posted some of her old Christmas family photos on her blog:

and mentioned her father's company Christmas party for families and the wonderful presents for the kids.  My Dad worked for B.C. Electric and they had fabulous parties and presents too.  Usually the present was either the best or among the best present I received for Christmas.  Each child received the same gift according to age and gender. There always was some lovely entertainment too...jugglers, musicians, magicians.  It was quite a thrill for families like my family who didn't have very much.  And then there was the big ham that Canada Packers gave all the workers.  My mother was particularly appreciative of that!  Once the union came in,  no more hams.

Those were the days of people burning mainly coal for heat and driving home from this magical evening was almost always in pea soup type fog.  I'm sure my Dad didn't appreciate it but it was all part of the magic for me.

Grannie Cavallin, me, Dad, Craig, Mom.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Richard and Emily bring cheer to the "sick house"

Richard and Emily braved the "sick house" and brought much cheer.  We opened our Christmas cornucopia of goodies from Richard and Emily...thank you so much!

So glad to have Emily back safe and sound from Indonesia....was a wonderful experience.

Itty Bitty Book Review: "The Paris Wife"

"The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain

I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone.  Told from the point of view of his first wife,  Hadley Richardson, and their days in Paris in the '20's.  I feel like reading Hemingway again and got A Moveable Feast from the library....his memoir about his time in Paris and with Hadley. 

Media outrage at NRA statement


Good on you...American Eagle!

The statement was could be a Saturday Night Live sketch.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Snug

Jim and I went to The Snug last week and split a fish and chips(very ample for a lunch) and I had the Heather Ale and forget what Jim had.  It was busy so started at the bar which was a good thing since the bartender let us sample all these Saltspring Island beers we weren't familiar with.  Then a table came open so we had the best of both worlds.

I guess I'm on their Facebook page so this little video came through.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Pieman cometh....

John arrived today in proper Pieman uniform and delivered Fern's wonderful tourtiere and homemade chutney.  Looks delicious as usual....thanks so much, Fern, you know it is always very very appreciated and enjoyed.  John left his hat so now this will become one of our Christmas decoration treasures.

 Fern's pastry is unbelievable,  not to mention the chutney, the tourtiere,...

 Special delivery.

The hat will be part of our Christmas tradition now.

Fern took a better photo of John.

My new Macbook Air

Jim picked up my new Macbook Air yesterday.  I LOVE the way Apple packages things.  It's such a pleasure to open.  Wow...seems as light or lighter than  our generation I iPad.  I think I'll wait for Richard to get it all set up.  Having this wretched cold is bad enough....don't think I can deal with tech hassles as well. 

This is kind of cool packaging too.  Some apple grower in Japan has grown Apple stuff on his apples.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thanks to my dear friend, Elaine.

I had to cancel our Tuesday swimming and lunch date because I've come down with this miserable cold....haven't had one for ages and had forgotten what it's like.  This is worse than usual...more like a "Jim" cold...but I can't blame him although he often blames me for colds even though I hadn't had one.  He insists I'm a "carrier" like Typhoid Mary.  Ah well...what are wives for?

It really brightened my day when Elaine dropped by with this card.  Before I opened it,  I commented, "I wonder if there is a cat in it?"  Elaine replied, "Now, why would you think that?"  I think Elaine has bought every cat card in the city and has holds on any new ones coming in!

Thank you, dear friend.

 Looks a little like our old Max...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

True spirit of Christmas

Since I have my blog I find I don't really use Facebook much for posting but I do enjoy postings from others.

Friends of Bronwen's made this little video which I just loved.

And Kate posted this at about the same time:
Something to keep in mind during the final week before Christmas, courtesy of an excellent letter to the editor in The Globe and Mail: "The opposite of scarcity isn't abundance - it's enough. Our material possessions add to our happiness when we learn to appreciate what we have; they add to our suffering when we aways want more than we have."

Tis the season for mysteries

Two more mysteries by Louise Penny....both very good.  I think now I only have The Murder Stone and her latest in hardback left.  I think I'll give mysteries a bit of a rest....very very intrigued by Hemmingway at the moment since I'm in the middle of The Paris Wife.

Monday, December 17, 2012

In Our Time podcasts with Melvyn Bragg

In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg

This is for you radio lovers out there.   I've never really been into listening to the radio in real time but I love the idea of podcasts.  This series is amazing and you can download them and listen at any time.  They run about 45 minutes which is just about right.  Lots of great guests and Bragg is a wonderful moderator.  We listened to a very lively discussion last night called "Sensibility" which focused a lot on "Sense and Sensibility" by Austen.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What lost is found....

I was really thrilled to come across my bag with our maps in it.  I had given it up for lost in the shuffle.  No big deal to buy another map but lots of sentimental value since these were the maps we used to travel around with.  And thanks to Elaine I have at least local maps of Bandol and Carqueiranne.   When they were with us in France she is the one who had the suggestion of picking up local maps at the tourist bureau.  I suppose I have a few more around somewhere or other for other places but usually we have a guidebook and use that.  They do make great souvenirs and perhaps the ones I have are even more special just because I don't have them from all the places we've been.

 X marks the Hotel Splendid where we always stayed in Bandol.

X on the water marks our apartment on the port where we stayed in 2002 & 2003 and where we hosted Maureen and Roland.
X a little further in marks our wonderful villa where we stayed in 2005 and hosted Don and Elaine and Susan and Alan.