Monday, November 26, 2007

Poem of the Day, and then a lot of Rambling...

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solomnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth -

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1866

The reason I bought this anthology to begin with (The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson), was in response to a wonderful recital I attended by the incomparable Marilyn Horne. She sang the song cycle "I will Breathe a Mountain", by William Bolcom, and I read somewhere that it was at her request that he set Dickinson's poem as part of this cycle. Ms Horne had read the poem at her brother's funeral. She sang it so beautifully that evening, that I sought to read more of the wonderful poet who wrote the words. I love to dip into this anthology from time to time. I really know nothing about Emily Dickinson's life, so I shall have to get a biography of her. In Sophie's Choice (William Styron), this poem is quoted:

Ample make this Bed -
Make this Bed with Awe -
In it wait till Judgment break
Excellent and Fair.

Be its Mattress straight -
Be its Pillow round -
Let no Sunrise' yellow noise
Interrupt this Ground -

c. 1864

While I mention Sophie's Choice... this was one of the rare books I have read in my life (granted I was 21 at the time) where I felt bereft at the end for the selfish fact that I missed the characters. I'm not sure how I'd feel about them now, some years on. I have the book somewhere, and I shall re-read it one day. D'oh! It is this half-baked idea that I will re-read everything one day that makes it impossible for me to get rid of books. And this is why they are - in my otherwise relatively streamlined home - double- and triple-stacked at times. I don't even know what I have any more and they are all out of order. I don't mind the latter problem at all, as there is nothing like going on a hunt for a book, only to be distracted by another. And before I know it several hours have passed under the spell of an unexpected seduction. However the former problem of not knowing what I have, means that I often purchase a book, not realizing that I purchased another copy 15 years back.

That night at the Marilyn Horne recital, I remember she sang "I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair" as her final piece, an a capella encore. Someone told me she always finishes her recitals with this piece. It was so beautiful, I never forgot it, and of course I went on a hunt for the composer Stephen Foster, another brilliant, sensitive American of Victorian times.

And, for the record, my place, though basically clean, is upside down with poetry, drying watercolours, lists of Christmas baking supplies, and piles of not-quite-addressed Christmas cards and newsletters. It's quite cheery with the DVD fireplace crackling away. I do feel this huge need to hibernate. Seriously. I would like nothing more than to make a fortress with the bedclothes and hide away with a bottle of scotch and a supply of dark chocolate for the next four months.

SPEAKING OF WHICH... (the ramble continues)... Lindt (those out and out rotters!) have release a new chocolate ball in Canada. Well, I assume it's new, I mean, I haven't seen it before. It's really dark, 60% cocoa content, and comes wrapped in black, shiny paper. Well. What can I tell you? I bought out the supply from the local Dominion, and they are all poured into a tall glass jar sitting atop my china cabinet. And this is how I suggest enjoying them: Unwrap the Lindt ball. Admire the dark chocolate. Place it in your mouth before the melting process starts. Let the ball sit cradled on your tongue, then lightly press the ball into the roof of your mouth. Gently does it. A bit more... the melting is in process, and then suddenly... magic! A little fissure in the chocolate shell breaks and... mmmmmmm... that flowing dark chocolate centre lavas its way over your tongue, sending all the little taste buds into paroxysms of ecstacy.

And now I'm off to bed with a Lindt ball and the Virago Book of Wicked Verse. Among all the erotic naughtiness is... another Emily Dickinson! And an awful lot of exclamation marks. Mmmmm... I wonder what Yankee charmer inspired this in her?

Wild Nights - Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile - the Winds -
To a Heart in port -
Done with the Compass -
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden -
Ah, the Sea!
Might I but moor - Tonight -
In Thee!

c. 1861

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Another Poem

Had I not seen the Sun
I could have borne the shade
But Light a new Wilderness
My Wilderness has made -

Emily Dickinson, c.1872

I'm feeling languid and pleasantly useless, with my study scattered with half-finished water colours and my bed lumpy with poetry anthologies. I made my tea this morning and got back into that warm, welcoming nest, only to stub my toe against Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens. Ow.

Poem of the Day

How happy I was if I could forget
To remember how sad I am
Would be an easy adversity
But the recollecting of Bloom

Keeps making November difficult
Till I who was almost bold
Lose my way like a little Child
And perish of the cold.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Quote of the Day

"Whatever I feel like I wanna do. Gosh!"

Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite (2004) upon being asked what he is going to day. I love his philosophy and his general sense of outrage.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Desert Island Discs

This was (and still is) the name of a radio show on the BBC I used to listen to growing up. On the show each week, a celebrity would be interviewed and required to list 10 recordings they would take to a desert island. And as they were led through their list (with excerpts being played), they would tell why this record meant something to them. It was usually some connection with a memory of their life and usually fairly eclectic for that reason. It was also not necessarily a list of their 10 most favourite recordings, just ones they would feel compelled to take, knowing this might be it for life. At the end of the program they would have to pick the one recording they would take if they only had one choice. Also, they would be asked what one book they would bring, and what one single item they would take, that had to be of absolutely no practical purpose.

I thought about this for a while today. Here is my current list of 10 desert island recordings (in no particular order) without the personal explanations:

- John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
- Don Carlo (Domingo, Caballe, conductor: Giulini, Royal Opera Orchestra)
- J. J. Cale: Gold
- Concerts a deux violes esgales du Sieur de Sainte Colombe, Tome II (Jordi Savall, Wieland Kuikjen)
- Moby: 18
- Marcello Oboe Concerto in D Minor (Jozsef Kiss, Ferenc Erkel Chamber Orchestra)
- Cesar Franck Symphony in D Minor (conductor: Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra)
- Sarah Vaughan Collection
- Lone Star (movie soundtrack)
- Don Giovanni (Raimondi, van Dam, conductor: Maazel, Paris Opera Orchestra)

If I could only pick one? Getting my list down to 10 was hard. But if were just one, I guess it would have to be the Don Giovanni. And historically, on Desert Island Discs, if Mozart was in the top 10, he was often the final solo pick.

My one book (it's in one volume!) would be the collected works of Shakespeare. And my one impractical item would have to be a group picture of my loved ones.

UPDATE: Nah, it's not going to work. I've already thought of at least three CDs that would have to knock three of these listed off the top 10. Argh!! I guess I'll just have to put off going to a desert island. Unless of course I get to take a musician with me, who can play a lot of the music... so then... hold it... hmmm, I've got some ideas already.

The Straight Story

Tonight I watched David Lynch's The Straight Story (1999) for the first time. The soundtrack has been one of my most-played CDs for years. It was given to me a while ago by someone who knew that I'm a fan of Angelo Badalamenti.

Richard Farnsworth is - as usual - understated and brilliant as the aging and frail Alvin Straight. Estranged from his brother for 10 years he decides, on hearing his brother is ill, that he must see him and make amends. Not well enough to drive a car, he decides to drive his John Deere lawn mower about 350 miles, hauling a makeshift trailer behind him. Along the way he meets an assortment of characters and you hear more of his story, and some of their stories. The photography is stunning and the camera travels slowly over the beautiful fall Iowa scenery. It's a pace that feels comfortable for an old man whose eye sight is fading and for whom every movement is painful.

Alvin tells a young hitchhiker this story about his kids when they were young:

"I'd give each one of 'em a stick and, one for each one of 'em, then I'd say, 'You break that.' Course they could real easy. Then I'd say, 'Tie them sticks in a bundle and try to break that.' Course they couldn't. Then I'd say, 'That bundle... that's family.'"

A dear friend lost a brother last night and so this film takes on a special meaning with its themes of aging, loss, love, and family.

Quote of the Day

Mr. Mackenzie: Look at the size of that boy's head.
Tony: Shhh!
Mr. Mackenzie: I'm not kidding, it's like an orange on a toothpick.
Tony: Shhh, you're going to give the boy a complex.
Mr. Mackenzie: Well, that's a huge noggin. That's a virtual planetoid.
Tony: Shh!
Mr. Mackenzie: Has it's own weather system.
Tony: Shh, shh.
Mr. Mackenzie: HEAD! MOVE! I'm not kidding, that boy's head is like Sputnik; spherical but quite pointy at parts! Now that was offsides, wasn't it? He'll be crying himself to sleep tonight, on his huge pillow.

Mike Myers playing his character's dad, Mr. Mackenzie (which he played with a thick Scottish accent) and Anthony Lapaglia as Tony in So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993.) It's as funny a film as when I first saw it at the movies. "Head" was Mr. Mackenzie's younger son, and played by a very young Matt Doherty, who took his father's abuse with good-natured patience.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Poem of the Day

Each season of the year I will be forgetting you
all over. Each season, every year.
I will need to forget you each summer, spring... autumn and winter.


I will be forgetting you each day and every hour.
Each night and day, each hour something
wonderful and dear of you will ring my heart and knock upon my mind.


I will be forgetting you in silence and in song... in silence will I
dream dreams of you too wonderful to dare aloud -
and of words I shall not use for anyone but you I shall make poems.

When a star falls, I shall wish for you.
When the moon is new, I shall wish for you.
When a bird looks into my window, when a leaf falls before me, when I find
a fern in flower - I shall wish for you.

Except from "Entry August 9", This is My Beloved by Walter Benton (1943).

I fell asleep at 8 p.m. like a twit. Now it's 2 a.m. and I'm recalling melancholy love poetry. Shall take my anthology of e.e. cummings and head back to bed.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

For the last few years I have put together a family Christmas newsletter. It's an interesting experience, going back over the previous year. It's not one of those annoying lists of magnificent accomplishments... primarily because there are no magnificent accomplishments. Which reminds me of a great quote from a friend whose mantra in life was "Dare to be average." She took a different path from many... but wow, what a gorgeous, fulfilled woman she is.

Anyway, I'm collecting some photographs for this newsletter and I came across this from a trail walk in the summer. It was so hot, we had pause under every tree we came to. What a lovely day it was.

I usually don't make New Year's resolutions, but I am this year. And it's "Find a new trail."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

How in Sam Hill....?

How in Sam Hill do I run out of olive oil???

It happened, but... there was just enough to do the pork last night, with the added help of some butter, and that was a treat indeed.

So I softened some onions in the remnants of the olive oil and a little bit of butter. Removed, and added the pork tenderloin (studded with garlic spears) and seared it well. Removed and deglazed the pan with some red wine. Everything went back into the pan including salt, pepper, sage and marjoram and some water. It was really just the way I do my lamb shanks, but with my favourite s. and m. instead of rosemary. I let it cook for ages. The scent was heavenly... sweet, porky, buttery... sheer heaven. I removed the loin, sliced it on a diagonal and put the slices back into the pan to cook a bit more and soak up more of the juices. It was melt in the mouth when at last I got to eat dinner, with a beautiful sauce.

Darlinks, I am highly recommendink!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tibbles Says "Hello"


I realized with delight that it is well past cold enough to start taking baths instead of showers. I love bathtime - immersing myself in juniper-scented bubbles with a glass of wine and a book of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, each story being just long enough for one bath. In the right mood, I fall asleep there, just waking occasionally to add some hot water using my toes on the taps.

My other option is to turn on the red heat lamp in the ceiling, play my water-sounds CD, and imagine I am in a red grotto. It can really feel that way. The CD is wonderful... ocean waves, river sounds, a thunderstorm... There is almost no better way to send me to bed and into the most heavy-limbed, delicious sleep. I could certainly never have one on a weekday morning as I'd never get anywhere... which in itself is a lovely idea.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Apologies (and Hopeful That I Don't Wake up Tomorrow with a Mouthful of Plush and Batting)

Apparently I might have worried some teddy bear lovers out there, who thought I might be serious about putting the bears away in a cupboard. Of course I could never do such a thing. I speak sternly sometimes to keep them in line. It doesn't work.

But for more explanation on the bears... you see the the one in the pink dress, the only one actually clothed? Well that little dress was made for me by my grandma when I was a baby. It's the softest pink brushed cotton with tiny white polka dots. She was a trained seamstress and made a lot of clothes for everyone in the family. I love the detail of the smocking which you can see in this picture of the bear wearing it. I think he quite likes it too. Click on the picture for a larger view of the delicate work.

And as for other teddies, I took this picture a while ago of some teddies on the move through Stratford. They were temporarily parked at the time, but obviously ready to roar off on another road trip. I love the huge aviator kind of shades on the big one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Scotch and Sparklies...

Host: Can I top up your scotch?

Me: No thank you. I can't drink much. This will probably last me the evening.

Host: Wow, you must be a pretty cheap date.

Me: Well, the cost of the jewelry adds up.

Point taken I trust? From a past party.

Two Things that Start with T: Teddies and Trouble

So, in preparation for my long-term house guests, I've been moving things around in my place. And one of the smaller moves was taking the teddy bears from the spare bedroom and putting them on the little sofa under the window in my bedroom. Every morning now I wake up to five sets of curious eyes. I'm not sure this is going to work. They might end up on the top shelf of my cupboard. Either that or I really have to start sleeping - and waking - on my right side. Yes, yes, they're cute. But they're trouble too. I mean... look at the size of their paws. Huge.

Quote of the Day

"A cat held a little piece of bony fish tentatively between its sharp teeth. He was afraid to swallow it, but he couldn't bring himself to spit it out either."

from Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Whipoorwill's singing
Soft summer breeze
Makes me think of my baby
I left down in New Orleans

Magnolia, you sweet thing
You're driving me mad
Got to get back to you, babe
You're the best I ever had

You whisper "Good morning"
So gently in my ear
I'm coming home to you, babe
I'll soon be there

"Magnolia", by J. J. Cale

Monday, November 12, 2007


I lit all the candles tonight (including the four floor-length candlesticks), turned on the DVD fireplace, opened a bottle of red wine and set two small lamb shanks to braising. To the strains of Marcello's oboe concerto, I searched for my copy of Speak, Memory, to no avail. Picked up Suite Francaise, and was plunged into despair over the human race. Then Elegy for Iris by John Bayley. More despair. Finally turned to my old Tin Tin comic books, a stand by from childhood for when I want to retreat to bed and be comforted. Full of lamb and wine (with enough lamb for dinner tomorrow), I let myself dissolve into the world of that ace boy reporter Tin Tin, his faithful terrier Snowy and all their sidekicks. I love those books, especially those drawn in the 30s and 40s. Not sure what my favourite is... The Seven Crystal Balls (the first one I ever read)?... King Ottokar's Sceptre?... Red Rackham's Treasure?

Quote of the Day

Concerning Quince:

"It has the perfume of a loved woman and the same hardness of heart... it had a cloak of ash-covered down hovering over its smooth golden body and when it lay naked in my hand, with nothing more than its daffodil-coloured shift, it made me think of her I cannot mention."

by the Caliph of Cordoba (10th century), and printed on a tag by a friend, afixed to a jar of home-made quince jelly. It was completely delicious.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dennis Yates

When I was 13, we moved to the High Park area. Our neighbour was an 79-year-old man called Dennis Yates. He became a friend, not really a surrogate grandad at all, just a good friend. Most days after school, I dropped in for a cup of tea. I can still remember the smell of his kitchen which had not been renovated for a long time. He kept his home nicely, considering he'd been widowed for quite a few years at that point.

Dennis had moved to Canada from England when he was 12, in 1910. He'd had to go out to work almost immediately, and remembered seeing - in a very Orange city - signs saying "No Jews or English need apply." He got work somewhere, I can't remember what it was.

When the war broke out, Canada - still part of the Empire - of course went to war on the side of the British. Only 15 years old, Dennis thought it might be a lark, and went to sign up. He lied and told the recruiting officer that he was 16. He knew by the look in the officer's eyes that he was aware of the lie, but he was accepted anyway. When Dennis returned home in his new uniform, his mother burst into tears. So he went to train, then he shipped out and went to fight. He celebrated his 16th birthday in a trench, where he was given his first drink.

At Passchendale, he was in a trench built for nine with just one other man. He remembers, kneeling in the mud at night, hearing the "whizz-bangs" coming over, and his friend (an older married man) cursing up a storm. In the next instant his friend just disappeared, completely annihalated by what had come over. Dennis had taken some shrapnel in the back of his thigh, and he was shipped out. In a make-shift Oxford hospital, he had the large piece of shrapnel removed. Out of anesthesia, the nurse gave him a piece of rubber to bite down before they performed the procedure, and said to him, "You go ahead love and swear all you want!" When he told me this story, his eyes got big and he said, "So, I did. I swore! I said 'Jesus Christ!'"

So Dennis survived the war, as did his brother Walter. During the depression he worked as a farm labourer during harvest time, all over Canada. He got three big, square meals a day and worked extremely hard. The way he saw it, he was doing a lot better than many at that time. In his late 30s (I think), he met his wife. I was always so moved when Dennis spoke of his wife. I could kick myself for not remembering her name, but he loved her so much and would tear up sometimes remembering her. I gather she was a strong woman, which helped the courtship process as Dennis was quite shy. They married and had two children, a boy and a girl. Dennis worked for O'Keefe brewers and they attended the premiere of Camelot in Toronto, in the early 60s, to celebrate the opening of the O'Keefe Centre. They saved over the years, for a magnificent European vacation. Before they left, Dennis's wife was diagnosed with cancer. They took the tour with two friends, another couple, and Dennis showed me the lovely holiday diary his wife kept. It was the first time he'd crossed the Atlantic since WWI. The tour went well, but then she got quite ill and was in pain, and so they came home, where she passed away.

Dennis railed against war. He also believed that if it had to happen again, they should send old men like him out, and save the young. He saw a generation destroyed. And then - of course - twenty years later, it happened again. I don't think it will ever end, this need to go to war, for whatever reason.

A few years later, on my return to Canada, I dropped in on him. It was apparent that he had some memory loss, as he didn't recognize me at first. He thought he did towards the end of our brief conversation. A few months later, I heard that he'd passed away. Knowing Dennis was a lot more interesting than the truly dreadful history classes I had at school. He was living history and a good friend.

I'm lucky to be when and where I am. And I'm so grateful to people like Dennis who fought so that I could live how I do.

Top Ten Things That Make Me Wander WHY???

10. Lunchables: Let's destroy the environment AND our kids's digestive systems!
9. Meg Ryan's career: hammily aware of the camera, she's just so damned awful in everything she's ever done. I don't get it.
8. People who flap their fingers at their eyes when the risk of tears appears. As though they might undo the eyelid job or something. Why?
7. The celebrity industry. I just don't even know what to say. I mean, even when there's really not even a guilty pleasure involved in following them, when they are so achingly boring that I... I can't even finish this thought.
6. Cocktail parties: no thanks, I'll stay home and re-sort my socks.
5. Keanu Reeves' career. I don't care if he has symmetrical features or whatever. They make him even duller than he might be otherwise, say if he had Owen Wilson's nose or something. And I'm including Speed. In comparison, the bus gave an Oscar-winning performance.
4. Scrapbooking: why? WHY????
3. Pop-classic "artists". Oooh... they're not quite pop, they're not classic. They could try to do one or the other really well, but no... they're just MORONICALLY DULL IN EVERY RESPECT.
2. Concious cruelty.
1. Bearing in mind the fact that war makes a pile of people a pile of money and so economically I sort of understand, I still have to ask WHY???

Quote of the Day... and Books and Operas

"The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness."

This is the wonderful first line from Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited, by Vladimir Nabakov. This was recommended to me a while back by a friend, and it's what I'm reading now. Nabakov is one of his favourites.

Then we found an interesting connection as I started babbling on about Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky's opera, which happens to be one of my absolute favourites. I've seen it live in Toronto several times. But the best ever was at the Met in NY (courtesy of Dave) in the then-new production directed by Robert Carsen and designed by the brilliant Michael Levine. It was remounted last year with Fleming and Hvorostovsky and broadcast by the Met as part of the live-to-cinemas project. I taped it off the tv when it was later broadcast on PBS. It truly is a great production. But, back to my Nabakov-recommending friend: We've both read Pushkin's poem Eugene Onegin (on which the opera was based) but what I didn't know is that Nabakov's four-volume translation and notes on Onegin was a major achievement, and what he didn't know is that Onegin (the opera) must be seen and heard (in my passionate opinion). He picked up the DG recording I recommended (with Thomas Allen, Mirella Freni and Levine conducting, from 1987), and I'm searching for Nabakov's four-volume set. One of the elements of friendships I treasure is where there is always something new and exciting to discuss, and things to learn.

And, lucky girl, another friend (the same one who treated me to the Zimerman last week) sent me an early Christmas present: a DVD of a film of the opera Onegin, filmed on location with actors dubbed by singers (Bernd Weikl in the title role - yay!). I'm dying to see it. Makes me wish I had two tv screens, so I could have my DVD fireplace playing on one, and a movie on the other. Okay, that would look stupid. You get my point though? As for adaptations of the original poem, there is a lovely movie of Eugene Onegin (1999) by Martha Fiennes (Ralph's sister, what a talented family - and there's a brother who's a gamekeeper... how very Lady Chatterly's Lover). It stars Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler. The ballet, too, is wonderful, and it uses Tchaikovsky's music. I saw Patricia Ruanne dance it in 1984, and she won the Olivier award that year for it. So yes, you can tell I love this story, in all its versions.

I finished The Golden Compass yesterday afternoon and I"m champing at the bit to get the other two in the trilogy. So much to read! I love this time of year, it's a perfect time to read, to bake, to sigh... and this year I'm making time to do all of them. Dusting will wait till I'm ready for it. Ooh, time for lunch. My weekly marmite sandwich awaits!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Quote of the Day

"The idea hovered and shimmered delicately, like a soap bubble, and she dared not even look at it directly in case it burst. But she was familiar with the way of ideas, and she let it shimmer, looking away, thinking about something else."

From The Golden Compass (the original title is Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Wallace: Won't you come in? We were just about to have some cheese.

Wendolene: Oh no, not cheese. Sorry. Brings me out in a rash. Can't stand the stuff.

Wallace: [gulp] Not even Wensleydale?"

Peter Sallis (voice-over) as Wallace and Anne Reid (voice-over) as Wendolene Ramsbottom in Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave (1995).

I think this is my favourite of the series, closely followed by The Wrong Trousers (1993). In A Close Shave, Wallace finds love and loses it, and not just because Wendolene's dad had created an evil cyber-dog, but also - and let's not downplay the seriousness of the issue - because of her loathing of cheese.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Quote of the Day

"That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks: but that I will have a recheat winded in my forehead, or hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick, all women shall pardon me. Because I will not do them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the right to trust none; and the fine is, for the which I may go the finer, I will live a bachelor."

Benedick (before the fall) in Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever.
One foot in sea and one on shore,
to one thing constant never."

Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare... who knew banter.

Shakespeare certainly knows his banter, and the war of the sexes between Beatrice and Benedick, and their mutual defeat, is so wonderful. I'm going to quote it for a few days. Blimey, I could just transcribe the whole play bit by bit.

(And I'm feeling fine this morning, just a bit sore all over from the jolt!)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Safe in Bed

So I was coming home, dark out (first work night of Daylight Savings), pouring rain, and I get hit - NOT SERIOUSLY - by a car! Sore, shaken up, cheesed off, I came home, I got ready to take to my bed, and - checking emails and YouTube, I saw this baby laughing and laughing as he rips paper. He's 100 proof, Grade A enchantment.

I'm going to bed and ripping some paper. Then I'm going to read The Golden Compass.

Nigella Lawson said "The answer to almost any question invariably is trifle." I'm sort of with her there, especially as she was referring to her chocolate cherry trifle which - even with my not-very-sweet tooth - is my favourite food in the world.

But here is my variation: The answer to almost any of life's questions, invariably, is "bed".

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fall Food

I love the cool days and nights of Fall. It's got me all juiced to start cooking again in earnest. I started gently today, with triple-chocolate chip cookies. Tonight I am making pork sausages with mushrooms, sweet peppers, marjoram, sage and - for the alcohol portion of the dish - ice cider from Quebec. I figured the appley taste would go perfectly with the pork... how wrong can it go? I'll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE: The sausages worked perfectly with the ice cider. Possibly a little too perfectly. D'oh! They were supposed to last longer than they are going to last but I have already eaten.... well, four. D'OH!

Quote of the Day

"This is the most uncomfortable coffin I've ever been in. You are wasting my time."

Martin Landau, in an Oscar-winning performance (Best Supporting Actor) as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood (1994).

This is one of my favourite movies. I had a rather intense crush on Bela Lugosi when I was 13 (strange kid!) and I first saw the real Ed Wood's movies in a series on BBC television in the 1980s, of the worst movies of all time... and believe it or not, not all of them are Ed's movies. Of course, Plan 9 from Outer Space took the top honour, but there were other classics like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Mars Needs Women!

Johnny Depp is brilliant as Ed Wood, and according to the trivia page on, he played it as a combination of "the blind optimism of Ronald Reagan, the enthusiasm of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Casey Kasem."

How one of the most beautiful men in the history of the world can pull off such a dorkily likeable oddball as Ed says a lot about Johnny Depp's talent. I love how he and his real-life partner, Vanessa Paradis, have matching cheekbones. You could cut diamonds on either set.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Dagnabit, Another Post

Okay, okay, after this I will go and tackle the store room, honest guv.

So here is a picture of Herr Fafner, my incense-holding dragon, except now he has a feather in his mouth. This is a swan feather, left on the grass last weekend when I was in Stratford. The downy bits at the base are so soft, that if you stroke them, you can't even feel them. I think it looks like a plume of smoke... kind of.

Okay, okay, here I go... storeroom, look out, you are about to be organized! Grrrrrr... here I am, a daughter of Boudicca, a child of Nature, a quaffer of Guinness, a hay-sniffing fondler of feathers, a consumer of chocolate... stand back and be tamed!!!

UPDATE: The store room door is shut and that is the most that can be said for it. AND I had a Guinness. And honestly (here comes another swing of the pendulum) I feel quite triumphant over my attempt to be disciplined. All this work will be there for another day.

Dream of Wheat

Instead of cut flowers, I decided last week to buy some wheat. Yes, a kind of sheaf of it I suppose. Of course it turned out to be more than I had anticipated when I actually unrolled the bundle. Now I have two large vases of it in my home and if I hover near them, there is a lovely scent of mown hay. I can lay on my sofa, one arm over my head, the other toying with a frond of wheat, imagining I am lounging in my very own barn, on a break in the countryside between international book-signing tours. It certainly does smell barn-like... without the concomitant crudities of the livestock.

Why did I post this? Because I'm procrastinating. There is something I must do and I don't want to do it. I have bribed myself with chocolate, but I ate it already without completing my task. Whatever discipline I possess completely disappears on the weekend, which is how it should be I suppose. I think I'll go and inhale the wheat again.

Saturday Soundtrack

The cleaning, the cooking, etc. is of no consequence. Not with this music in the background: Krystian Zimerman playing the Chopin piano concertos 1 and 2 AND the Debussy preludes. I was the lucky recipient of a courier package of two CDs from a friend. Gosh... DOUBLE GOSH. I'm in heaven!!

That reminds me of the only time I saw Zimerman in concert. I leaned over to my companion during the applause after the ecstatic experience of the Rachmaninov piano concerto no. 2 and whispered... "Wish I smoked," and he said "Why?" and I said, "Because I need a cigarette," and he replied "I'll join you."

If you're reading this Signor Professore W, as a son of Poland, a musician and an appreciater of the finer things, you'll understand I'm sure. :)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Quote of the Day

"If I ever forget my lines in Shakespeare, I always say 'Crouch we here awhile and lurk!' That seems to do the trick."

Gerard Horan as Carnforth Greville in In the Bleak Midwinter (1995), as it was known in the UK... here it was known as A Midwinter's Tale.

Moi? A Saucepot? Why yes... yes I am!

Friend: "You know - you're a saucepot. You're going to have to work on that."

Me: "I have worked on it my whole life. I have dedicated my existence to the honing and refining of my saucepottishness."

Point taken, I trust?

Quote of the Day

"He stirs my sluggish pulse like wine,
He melts me like the wind of spice"

from Christina Rossetti's poem Sit Down in the Lowest Room (1864).

The poem itself is quite long, but well worth the reading, as is all her poetry. I believe the title of the poem is from the bible, the book of Luke, chapter 14. Christina Rossetti was one interesting woman, as were her family, her fellow artists and friends, leading us (oh Mark, here's a surprise for you) to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and William Morris. (Mark claims no conversation with me ends without me mentioning William Morris. Of course, the other side is that none of our conversations end without a reference to The Simpsons and that usually comes from Mark. UPDATE: Hey, maybe Marge might have quoted Rossetti when she developed the crush on the French bowling instructor. Remember what a smoothie he was? "Margggggge... meet me for bronche... eet ees not breakfast... eet ees not lonche... but eet ees feeling and you get a slice of canteloupe on the side"... or words to that effect.)

Anyway, I always liked the way John Fowles described her (Rossetti) in The French Lieutenant's Woman: "the hysterical high priestess of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood."

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Does this city have one good jazz bar left in the downtown core? I don't care for any outside the downtown core as (a) I live downtown and (b) jazz in the suburbs doesn't make sense.

Top of the Senator - gone
Montreal Bistro - gone (SOB!!! This was my local!)
Courthouse - gone

Tell me... what in Sam Hill is going on?

Outlandishly Good

So, a few years back, a certain Jen convinced me (it took a few tries) to read Outlander (known as Cross Stitch in the UK) by Diana Gabaldon. And was I ever pleased she did. It's only part one of a series of fat, small-print books (hovering around 1,000 pages each on average) that now number six... with at least two more volumes to come apparently!

Diana Gabaldon is a very smart, very attractive 50-ish American who has won the hearts of women around the world... women grateful for the most irresistibly gorgeous hero ever written, Jamie Fraser... but more on him in a minute.

Outlander, the first novel in the series, starts with Claire Beauchamp, a clever, forthright English nurse, taking a second honeymoon with Frank, her historian husband, in the highlands of Scotland, Inverness to be precise.

Long story short, Claire is whooshed 200 years back in time and stumbles upon a whole lot of adventure, most of it wrapped up in the tall, red/auburn/cinnamon/ginger-haired, strapping figure of the lusty young Jamie Fraser.

At this point, my post might become an illiterate, drooling lust-fest of Jamie-fever, but I shall attempt to control myself and tell you this: you have a strong, admirable heroine; a gorgeous, manly, kilted, brave, haunted, succulent hero; the highlands of Scotland (and other parts of the world) magnificently described (I'm sure Gabaldon has boosted Scottish tourism); a sweeping saga of unforgettable personalities and in-depth depictions of historic events; violence a-plenty and good dollops of lusty sex (these are novels that men can enjoy as much as women, don't be fooled otherwise); fantastically detailed accounts of social history; the challenging and irresistible idea of time travel... all set to the hypnotic sounds of thick Scottish accents. AND you have six volumes of it to enjoy so far! Yes, book #5 does take a while to get going... but who cares? Pah! - not me!

So... my point is - don't even pause to think. If you have yet to succumb to Gabaldon's world, I urge you to give it a go.

Quote of the Day

"We should never have come. I never know how to dress in this bloody country. It is so easy to dress in England. You just put on warm clothing."

Maggie Smith as Diana Barrie in California Suite (1978).

The story line with her and Michael Caine was beautifully played, full of humour and pathos. As for the quote, it applies to right here, right now.