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Friday, May 20, 2005

UNWINDING

FRIDAY, May 20 Ahhh...a day 'off'. Well, sort of, at least no more lessons as they all finished up last night. But still some things to do, though most of the running around and errands are finished.

I went for a relaxing lunch today with my son, Steve, his wife, Sue , and my travel companion Ingrid. Aside from having to wait an hour to be fed (a computer glitch!!) it was a good lunch and a nice conversation. Later I ran into I. in the supermarket too so she gave me a lift home which was good as I was already exhausted and it's only mid-afternoon.

At least now there isn't much to do except putter around the apartment, possibly do some writing, and start a load of laundry so that I can pack. I want to be able to relax for the couple of days before we leave (Monday night). And I've even booked a massage appt. for Sunday morning! Ahhh...do I ever need it!

I've an invitation to a friend's tonight. Fortunately the meeting I was supposed to attend got cancelled so I will be able to spend an evening vegging out, drinking wine, talking, maybe pop into the LQ on my way home later on. Tomorrow (Saturday) will be another busy day with various activities planned. I'll be glad to get on the road (or should I say --- to fly away) on Monday night!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

ME AND THE GUYS

WEDNESDAY, May 18

After class tonight I went to the L.Q. to hear some jazz and there were two of my guy friends sitting side-by-side waiting for me to arrive. The Funny thing being they'd only met last week and weren't really that acquainted. But after I got there, they were.

One was my Havana Buddy and the other The Babylonian. Both excellent fellows and I felt really nice that they were waiting for me. We had a pleasant evening, later joined by a third guy friend Cliffy (the dancer) and a good time was had by all three of us. Excellent music and talk.

I'm filling in the Havana Buddy with some of my past adventures, tonight in particular, the Greek stories (some of them) linking them to people he knows here, places -- like the Waterfront Corrall owned by the Greek family who 'adopted' me into their village in Greece.
And the Babylonian and I have been collaborating on the program for his next performance production in that I edited his director's notes for him.

So a lovely evening was had by all and later the Babylonian walked me home. By then the rain had stopped and the funny thing was, the umbrella I'd brought was one he had loaned me several years ago (he'd forgotten). I offered to give it back. He declined.

This is my count-down now to my departure and I'm getting keyed up, eager and excited.
This weekend will be a few more parties at the L.Q. and then on Monday I fly away.
Everyone is getting my travel blog address to check into:
http://travelthroughhistory.blogspot.com

That's where you'll find me from next week on til the end of June.

Monday, May 16, 2005

OFF TO A GOOD START

MONDAY, May 16 and one week to go. Am I ever excited!
I got off to a good start this week, up early, did some house chores, and if I do a bit each day I won't have the last minute stress that usually happens just before a big trip. I have to leave my house in order for the house-sitter and so far I have most of the bedroom cleared of it's piles of books and papers, went through most of the back-log of unread newspapers and magazines, dusted, cleaned mirrors and tiles, vacuumed. Whew! I did manage to accomplish a lot today!

It's a rainy day, so good for doing indoor chores, but I did take a trip up to the shops and got a few things, picked up some films and walked home just to get some fresh air and exercise.
Tonight the writers are coming to my place for our weekly critique group. And tomorrow I have a couple of appointments as well as night school classes the next 3 days.

I won't start packing til the weekend. We are endeavouring to travel light. That might be difficult, but I shall try my best. At least this time I won't be taking along my usual stack of manuscript papers, research notes and books as I am not intended to do anything more than make hand-written notes or write on my palm pilot when I'm away this time. It's going to be mostly a fun and adventure trip, being my friend's tour guide and visiting friends and family.

So now it is only mid afternoon and I have some time to look at my writing. I'd really like to finish a bit more of the novel before I take off.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

'WHERE DID YOU GO?' 'OUT.' ' WHAT DID YOU DO?' 'NOTHING!'

SUNDAY, May 15. A whole week has gone by since I last wrote in this blog. What have I been doing? Mostly working! But this weekend I've (so far) had some excellent 'down-time' relaxing and having fun with my friends.

It was a special treat Friday when my good friend Rosie arrived to spend the weekend. Since she lives in another town, we don't often see each other, and we had a lot to catch up on. Went out dancing Friday night, too. She's great fun! Saturday I went to the Blues jam with my pals Paul and Jim (my Havana Buddies) as they wanted to meet my son Steve. P & J both do radio shows and often play cuts from Steve's CD. The Saturday jams (hosted by Steve and his band, The Westcoast Blues Review) are always a lot of fun. This time my two long-time pals Jude and Cheryl came in to town and Rosie joined us later too. So it turned into a really fun party.
Afterwards, Jude drove me out to meet Suzaki and I went to her place to spend the night.

That is also a special treat as Suzaki has a beautiful town house on the edge of the woods with a rushing river nearby, so you are surrounded by nature. A great way to relax! And today, before coming home, we went on a river walk just after a heavy rain so the air was fresh and pungent and everything so bright and green.

I'm mentally organizing myself for the busy coming week as it's only 8 more days I'll be boarding a plane for England! Saturday morning I had brunch with my travel partner Ingrid and Rosie to make last minute plans. We're getting so excited! But as always, the time is creeping up quickly and there's still lots to do. For one thing, as I'm sub-letting my place I have to tidy everything up. Wouldn't want to leave a mess for the nice young Brazilian girl who is going to house-sit for me.

My classes wind up this week too, and hopefully I'll manage some writing time between that and meetings and setting things in order.

Monday, May 09, 2005

A LOVELY WAY TO SPEND MOTHER'S DAY

MONDAY. Yesterday was Mother's Day. I didn't see either of my kids although both of them phoned and we had nice long chats. I spent most of it trying to work on my novel and relaxing.
In the evening, I met a friend at the Playwright's Centre to take in another of the excellent play readings that have been held all week. This was my third play. And this one was by Michael Ondaatje ("The English Patient") titled "Coming Through Slaughter". An excellent play about the legendary cornet player Buddy Bolden of turn-of-century New Orleans. The bonus was a huge buffet of ribs and slaw and corn-bread etc etc provided by the Memphis Blues Cafe. Yummy! So that made up for not going out anywhere special for dinner with my kids. A real nice way to celebrate Mother's Day for this writer Mom.

I got home late and of course can't go to sleep right away as I'm all keyed up, so I ended up watching a late night docu about "Remembering the Camps" which was narrated by Trevor Howard, and showed old film clips of the liberation of the death camps in Germany. Such a horrible thing to have on my mind after a delightful day. But it provoked some kind of odd dream which was partly erotic and partly weird. I wonder where these images come from?
I was marrying a gorgeous tall, good-looking guy who evidently was Jewish and so it wasn't a real wedding ceremony although I had a bride's dress and a lot of attendants all dressed up in pretty gowns. There were several glitches in the actualy 'ceremony' but it ended up okay and this man (whoever he was) was a darling! (Gosh, wish I could find one like that for my very own in real life!) . But there was one funny (odd) thing and that was when we eventually went to bed he didn't have much down below. I recall being shocked, but figuring out 'well, he's a lovely man anyway so there's other means and ways....' I guess this was provoked by the fact I'd seen so many naked dead stick-like figures being shoveled into the burial pits in these camps and it was plain to see some of their private parts. (Hideous!) And also a memory of a gorgeous German engineer I once had a brief fling with who was a real he-man mountaineer type but in the end had nothing more than a baby-finger's worth of equipment. (How embarassing for both of us!) Anyway this strange dream of mine seemed to end up okay except some Asian girl showed up who evidently knew my groom and wanted to hang out with us and insisted on showing me her Siamese cat. Where do these dream ideas come from?
The dream was so bizarre and interesting that I almost hated waking from it. And who was that tall, handsome fellow? Hmmmm???

Saturday, May 07, 2005

I REMEMBER V-E DAY

SATURDAY.
Yesterday I was listening to CBC radio and they were playing things from their archives, dating back to V-E day, 60 years ago. It was an immediate flash-back for me, then an 11-year old, whos daddy was overseas serving as a Chaplain in a Field Hospital in Holland.

Every night, in those war year times, we'd sit by Grandpa's radio and listen to the BBC News. So yesterday, hearing Winston Churchill's speeches brought it all back.

One of the women in my Memoirs group is from Holland, and the town where they are celebratiing the liberation, is her town, so she has also been reliving those days when WW2 was coming to an end. She told how they had been hiding in a haystack when they learned that army jeeps and tanks were coming, thinking it was the Germans. Then her grandma ran out shouting "They're here! They're here!" and it was the Allied troops coming to liberate them.
Dad was in Holland at that time. He made friends with many Dutch people and kept in touch with them for a long time after he returned home. He brought us pieces of Delft china, and from the building where the armistice was signed in Antwerp, a pendulum clock wrapped in the big Nazi flag that had flown over the building. Inside the clock was a cache of pewter jewelry which my Mom kept for many years. My son has the clock now. The Nazi flag was made into a Santa Claus suit to be used at the Christmas celebrations for our Sunday School.

I remember V-E day mostly because there was a big parade in which all the children were invited to participate. I lived in Stratford Ontario then, at my Grandpa's house. Mom, my sister and I had a suite upstairs which Grandpa had built for us when Dad left for the War.
Grandma and Grandpa lived downstairs. The house was very old, over 100 years old when Grandpa bought it and fixed it up. I still have so many fond memories of living there.

I can't exactly remember which costume I chose to wear in the parade. I loved dress-ups and used to bug my mom relentlessly to make me costumes, which always had to be correct. She was a fine seamstress and willingly indulged my childhood fantasies. I might have just worn my Brownie tam and uniform that day. At any rate, it was a big parade with pipe bands and drum majors, and armed services personell as well as us kids. The whole town was celebrating because practically everyone had a dad, uncle, grandpa or brother serving overseas. V-E Day meant they could finally come home!

So all this week, listening to the commentaries, watching on TV the veterans who have returned to Holland for the big day recount their experiences, reviewing my own recollections of those war years, I have relived that particular time in my childhood too. Lest We Forget!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

THANKS TO THE TRAVEL GOD (That would be HERMES)

WEDNESDAY.
Well I do declare! For someone who never wins anything I just found out that I've won an all-expense paid trip to Malaysia, courtesy of Tourism Malaysia and the B.C. Association of Travel Writers. What great good fortune! I couldn't believe it with I got the call. This was the second draw for the contest as the original winner had to reneg on the ticket. I had put my name back in the hat quite awhile ago and to tell the truth had forgotten about it. Then I got the call: "Pack your bags, you're going to Malaysia!" I could hardly believe my ears.

The ticket's good for a year so I will have plenty of time to organize myself after my trip to Europe which happens in just a few weeks. Malaysia is one of the pretty countries I've looked at lots of brochures about but didn't think I could afford to go to, unless I got a FAM trip which didn't look to likely. So imagine my thrill to get an all expense paid trip, return airfare, first class hotel, meals etc. In return I shall try my best to write some nice stories about my trip, of course. It's only fair for me to do that. After all, I am a travel writer and it was because of my membership with the Travel Writer's Assoc. that I got a chance for this trip.

I'm so excited I can hardly believe it. Wait til my friends find out! Wow!

So, there's lots and lots to look forward to in the future, not only my up-and-coming trip to England and Greece, but after that, an opportunity to see a whole new different part of the globe!

Monday, May 02, 2005

SOARING EAGLES AND SHOOTING STARS

MONDAY.
This weekend my writer's group, the Scribblers, went on one of our bi-annual writer's retreats to one of the Gulf Islands. This time ten members went, 3 men and 7 women. We always go to the same lodgings and get the same two units where we party in one, dine in the other (and sleep, of course). We spend the weekend hiking, doing writing exercises and enjoying each other's company. There's always a theme, and this time it was "Romantic Springtime". This includes appropriate costumes which we dress up in for the Saturday dinner. The dinner, prepared by two of the members, is usually a gourmet affair.
This time it was salmon done in a delicious mustard sauce, rice and asparagus. Served with good French wine. As it was one member's birthday the previous week, we had ice-cream 'cake' dessert topped with birthday candles.

We arrived at the lodge Friday night after a relaxing ferry trip from the mainland. To get us in the mood, we sat around recounting 'romantic' tales. We were laughing so much that the manager came over and asked us to pipe down! Afterwards some of us went for a midnight stroll, up the pitch dark road to the beach. The sky was brilliant with stars, and our Suzaki, who is an astrology expert, was showing us the various stars, planets and constellations, when a bright meteorite shot across the sky with a long, long silver tail. Quite an awesome sight. Earlier in the day, on the ferry ride, we'd spotted to circling eagles. All these good omens portended another excellent weekend (which it was!). Down on the beach, there was phosphorous sparkling like tiny stars in the water. Far out from shore, we could hear the growls of the sea lions who perch on the reef. Our Dora loves to call them and the funny part is they always reply. Aaarrrffff....Aaarrrffff...It's quite hilarious!

Saturday some of us hiked out to the Point and spotted herons, various water fowl and a playful little otter out fishing for his lunch. Of course, being an otter, he had to show off for us.
That evening was our 'dress up' and dinner night. Such romantic costumes! (Except the men who didn't participate so we have threatened to dress them up ourselves next time!) Suzaki and Di prepared our delicious gourmet meal. Afterwards we sat around the fire to read romantic poetry, and listen to romantic music. It was such an elegant evening!

Sunday we always hike to the Circle Tree, in an arbutus grove up on the mountain-side. The tree has grown into a circle where you can sit. So we always have a group picture taken there.
Suzaki climbs one of the arbutus trees and collects leaves that have been marked by some kind of insect. From the patterns on the leaves she reads our fortunes. Then, we all write little messages about our visit which are placed into a plastic film cannister and hidden inside a hollow space in a stump. We have quite a collection of these messages going back to the early days of the retreats some years ago. They are like mini time-capsules. We tote wine up to the grove and lift our glasses in a toast to the Forest Spirits, and especially to the Muse, then splash the dregs in their honour. It's a traditional ritual of ours and quite special!

In the afternoon, while we waited to leave for the Inn where Allan always buys the group dinner, we read the magical realism stories we had written over the weekend. That was quite a hit with the group as it was something we'd never done before. Dee won the quiz prize on Friday night and also the Magical realism story prize. And that was special too, because she came all the way from Victoria for the retreat and is a long-time member from when we first started our writer's group over 10 years ago.

Then we traipsed off to the Mayne Island Inn for our special dinner treat. Such a happy group of friends and another special weekend on our favourite island!