Thursday, December 31, 2015

The hardest puzzle

Elephant Parade, by Heronim, aka Harry Wysocki, was a decided challenge. All parti- coloured fragments. And all that green! Those green pieces are disconcertingly similar.

But it's done now and I wish anyone who reads this a healthy and Happy New Year.

New Year's Resolutions? Just to stop certain things, start others and keep my best habits.

One is to set aside quiet time at home to enjoy the winter solstice with a jigsaw fest!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Looking in the rear view mirror

Looking into the rear view mirror.

It's not the ideal way to live our lives, but sometimes the view can be stunning.

Sadly, this picture does little justice to the real sunset I saw reflected.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A skiff of snow and a swollen creek

A few flakes of seasonal snow made this a lovely day for walking. Watching the swollen waters below this bridge in Bear Creek Park was a highlight, the scene below another.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The puzzle challenge continues

Visiting the Columbia Icefield this spring, we couldn't resist buying this puzzle, and indeed it evoked the memories of this amazing place.

The image shows only the left half of the puzzle. The road leads up to the glacier, an enormous river of ice of which only the tip is visible from the road. The right half of the picture, which includes the "toe," is seen below.

This was a quick and easy puzzle, only 500 pieces.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Jigsaw season

While we're enjoying a lovely green Christmas, this jigsaw picture shows a delightful white one.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Trying out the selfie stick from Santa

Clearly, my technique needs work, but I did manage to get all of us in the picture.

Sort of.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Whitehorse Daily Star and Klondike Sun -- northern papers

Image from ernstversususencana

This recent issue of the Whitehorse Star discusses "fracking," a big issue for the North.

Image below from Klondike Sun.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Victoria Times-Colonist

Image from

As the name suggests, the Victoria Times Colonist goes back to colonial days. Indeed, it is Western Canada's oldest daily. The current incarnation resulted from a 1980 merger that combined two ancestral papers.

The British Colonist was started by social liberal Amor De Cosmos (his adopted name -- he was born William A. Smith) in 1858. After BC joined Confederation in 1871, De Cosmos was elected and served two years as Premier. 

Image of front page headline (2011) from cbc

The Victoria Daily Times (est. 1884) was the other daily that became part of the Times Colonist.

Today the TC publishes from Tuesday to Sunday. It also supports a Fun Run and literacy projects like Canspell and Raise a Reader.

Postmedia sold it in 2011 to Glacier Media. The first sixty years of the British Colonist, (later, Daily Colonist) are available in a free online archive.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Province, Vancouver

May 2015 cover image from thinglink

This cover story refers to one of 2015's big stories. Again and again, local papers have referred to the precipitous rise in Vancouver house prices. There have also been stories of the rapid destruction of livable city homes for the purpose of rebuilding larger and more expensive ones to flip.

The Province, Vancouver's other daily, has a tabloid format, emphasizing pictures as well as dramatic headlines. This daily goes back to 1898. Bought by the Southam family in 1923, it was the city's most popular daily until WWII.

In 1945, a six-week strike caused it to lose market share, and in 1957, Pacific Newspaper Group took possession of both the Sun and Province. Today, both are owned by Postmedia.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Vancouver Sun

We had a skiff of snow a couple of days ago -- a rarity here on the "wet coast." This made it especially pleasant to laze indoors with the morning crossword. The Vancouver Sun has arrived on our doorstep every morning except Sundays since we moved to Surrey -- more years than I care to remember. It came to our Vancouver home before that.

This paper first rolled off the presses in February 1912, (to put that in perspective, just two months before the sinking of the Titanic.) Since then, its reporters, says the website, have carried out their journalistic obligation; they have "comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable."

Local initiatives of our venerable paper include the Sun Run as well as Raise-a-reader and the Children's Fund.

The Sun is also owned now by Postmedia.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Calgary Herald

Image from myfavouritewesterns

The Calgary Herald dates back to 1883, when it was published from a tent by a school teacher and his printer friend when a miner lent them $500 to finance it. The printing press arrived on the first train to arrive in the city, though the transcontinental railway was still two years away from completion.

The paper began as a weekly called The Calgary Herald, Mining and Ranch Advocate and General Advertiser. In 1884, Sir Hugh Quentin Cayley, a former reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, became editor. In 1885, the now daily Herald began publishing humour and political commentary. Interesting historical highlights can be seen here.

The Southam Company bought a majority of shares in 1908, and in 1939, the name was changed to The Calgary Herald. Southam itself was bought by Hollinger in 1996 and by 2003, Southam had been absorbed into CanWest Publications. Currently, the owner is Postmedia.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Lethbridge Herald

Image of the Lethbridge Herald December 1941 from Maritime Quest

The Lethbridge Herald appeared as a weekly in November 1905, just months after the Province of Alberta became part of the Canadian federation.

The first issue carried a story about the CPR survey that was going on in preparation for building The High Level Bridge, now a historic structure.

By December of 1905, an Ontario newspaperman called William Buchanan had bought shares in the Herald, and by the end of that year, he owned it. He launched the Daily Herald in 1907 and that remained a separate publication for half a century.

Buchanan was named to the Canadian Senate in 1925, but kept his paper alive through the challenges of the Dirty Thirties and the wars. After hr died, his son Hugh took over, but moved on after F.P. (Free Press) Publications took control of the company. Lethbridge's community newspaper was sold to the Thompson newspaper chain in 1980.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Edmonton Journal

Image from the front page of the Journal from December 18, 1946, sixty-nine years ago.

The Edmonton Journal, a Conservative paper, began in 1903 as the Evening Journal. The first run of 1000 papers was produced on a hand-fed press.

In 1908, the founding editor of the Vancouver Sun, J.P. McConnell, bought the Journal and turned it over to J.H. Woods, who also owned the Lethbridge News. Woods hired Milton Robbins Jennings, an experienced newspaperman, to manage and edit the Edmonton Journal. When Jennings made the paper politically independent, readership soared.

In 1912, Jennings hired Balmer Watt as an editor, and the two created an editorial campaign in favour of women's rights. After the untimely death of Jennings in 1921, John Mills Imrie, the new managing director made Watt editor-in-chief. Together, the two men went to bat for freedom of the press in 1938 by campaigning against the Press Act of the Social Credit government of William Aberhart. Their work earned a special Pulitzer Award for the Edmonton Journal, the first awarded outside the US. The wire story from New York was headlined in the Journal. It read, "a special public service Pulitzer Prize in the form of a bronze plaque was awarded to the Edmonton Journal for its leadership in the defence of the freedom of the press in the province of Alberta.'" (Canadian Encyclopedia)

Since then, the Journal has won numerous national awards and citations for its coverage of human rights issues. It has a strong interest in Northern affairs and maintains a bureau in the Territories.

Also technologically advanced, in 1984, the Journal became the first Canadian paper to employ satellite links to transmit photos. Along with its popularity in Alberta, the paper has subscribers in BC, Saskatchewan and even as far north as Inuvik.

Here's what the online version (there is also a paper version) of the Journal looks like today.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Regina Leader-Post

Recent issue image from Shaw Global News

The Regina Leader-Post originated in 1883 as a weekly called The Leader. It's proud to be the third oldest continuously operating business in Saskatchewan, behind the Bay and the CPR.

Nicholas Flood Davin, who began the paper, was born in Ireland, studied law in England and worked as a reporter in the British House of Commons.

He arrived in Toronto in 1872, to practice law and write editorials. In 1882 he went west and decided to start a newspaper in what was then the village of Regina. His biographer Ken Mitchell says he was a "loose cannon," a poet, and a shameless supporter of the Conservatives.

He also campaigned for women's votes in the 1880s, thirty years before they got them. And he disguised himself as a priest and managed an interview with Louis Riel when he was on trial for treason after the Northwest Rebellion.

In 1887 Davin was elected MP for Assiniboia West. He had sold his paper to a Liberal, Walter Scott, who defeated Davin in the election and took his seat. Some time later, Davin shot himself.

Between 1900 and 1910, Regina grew from 30,000 to 300,000. The paper grew with it, and found itself in competition with several others, two of which eventually merged into the Post. The two papers joined in 1922 and became the daily Regina Leader-Post.

In the late 70's, the Leader-Post helped writer Richard Wagamese get his start in journalism, letting him in on a writing challenge, without demanding proof of official qualifications. Good call, Regina Leader-Post. Since those early days of his career, Wagamese has gone on to become one of Canada's most revered writers. He has 13 books out, and now writes a column for the Calgary Herald.

The Post went online in 1995, but the paper edition remains available.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

La Liberte, Winnipeg

Image of original 1913 issue from rci premiere

La Liberte, the only weekly francophone paper in Manitoba, was founded by a St. Boniface bishop in 1913 and has served French-speaking Manitobans for over a hundred years.

In 1970, it was taken over by Presse-Ouest Ltee., which is owned in turn by a cultural organization, la Societe Franco-Manitoban.

Winnipeg Free Press

Image of E-edition from Winnipeg Free Press

Long ago when, someone came to our door selling subscriptions to The Free Press Prairie Farmer, a weekly supplement. Dad, a former farmer, took a five-year renewal and was rewarded with an enormous plush teddy bear. Dad and I shared a birthday (I was born on his 49th). That day, I was turning sixteen, so I claimed the teddy; I called him Rufus.

The Prairie Farmer ceased publication in 1965.

The predecessor of the Winnipeg Free Press was the Manitoba Free Press, founded in 1872, just two years after the new province of Manitoba joined Confederation. The following year, Winnipeg incorporated as a city. No doubt one could find reportage on the Northwest Rebellion and the Red River Settlement behind the paywall in the newspaper's archives.

In 1913, the Manitoba Free Press reported on the Titanic disaster.

In 1920, the paper proved its freedom by winning a court case against its pulp supplier, Fort Frances Pulp and Paper, which it accused of violating the WWI War Measures Act.

In 1931, the name of the paper was formally changed to the Winnipeg Free Press. This important newspaper continues to be widely read and to evolve along with the province of Manitoba.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ottawa Citizen

Image from wikipedia

This newspaper began its life in 1845 as the Bytown Packet, as  Bytown was the original name for Ottawa. Like many other major papers of central and eastern Canada, the Citizen, as it was renamed in 1851, is older than Canada (by 16 years).

The recent history of the Ottawa Citizen includes a certain amount of controversy and some major changes in editorial perspective. Long owned by the Southam family, it was sold in 1996 to the Hollinger empire of Conrad Black, then sold again to CanWest Global in 2000, about five years before Black was first sentenced to a jail term in the U.S. for fraud in 2005.

Under Southam ownership, the paper had a liberal leaning and opposed free trade, a contentious Conservative policy of the late 1980's. When Conrad Black owned it, the paper supported the ultra conservative Reform Party of Preston Manning, and in 2006 it actually went so far as to endorse the Conservative Party.

In 2002, publisher Russell Mills was dismissed after an editorial calling for then Liberal P.M.'s resignation. In 2004, the paper was caught red-handed by the CBC after changing the wording of a press release put out by Associated Press. Substituting the word "terrorist" for the words "insurgent" and "militant" used in the original story, the Ottawa Citizen caused a furore when the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations accused the paper of being anti-Muslim.

In 2010, PostMedia Inc. purchased the paper. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, it enjoys a circulation of 140,000.

Early archives of this early paper from Canada's capital are now available online through the Ottawa Public Library.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Peterborough Examiner

Image from the manners club

The masthead of this 2003 edition includes the words "since 1847." Today the front page of this pre-confederation paper also has a blue banner with the web address, similar to that of the Kingston Whig-Standard.

The Peterborough Examiner was established twenty years before Confederation. Between 1942 and 1955 it was edited by the well known novelist and playwright Robertson Davies.

He remained the owner under the editorship of Ralph Hancox for another ten years until the daily was sold in 1965 to the Thompson chain.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Kingston Whig-Standard

Image from

By the 1600s, the Huron and Iroquois people had settled in the region around the eastern end of the Great Lakes. After the arrival of the first European settlers, severe smallpox epidemics in the 1640s devastated aboriginal populations.

What is today the city of Kingston, Ontario was first occupied by Europeans in 1783. It grew rapidly and in 1841, became the capital of the Province of Canada.

Today the Kingston Whig Standard, like so many other Canadian dailies, is owned by Postmedia. Whig is derived from an old British party wit liberal leanings; it stood in contrast to the Tory party, which roughly corresponds to today's Conservatives.

The British Whig was founded in 1834 and in 1926 this paper merged with another daily, the Kingston Daily Standard, and became the Kingston Whig-Standard.

This past summer, Wayne Allen made an interesting find. while repairing an old barn to make it insurable. He came across some reproductions of the Whig Standard from 1929, which he speculated were possibly used in the printing process. Apparently they later served to insulate the barn walls. He also found some copies of the Daily Mail and Empire, along with a 1912 employee pass for the historic Grand Trunk Railway.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Globe and Mail

Image of 2010 Globe redesign from cbc

The Globe and Mail dates back only to 1936. However, it was established by combining two earlier dailies, the Mail and Empire and the Globe. 

The Globe was founded in 1844 by George Brown and a group of like-minded Liberal Reformers. The new paper took off quickly.

Immediately popular among educated and business-oriented Torontonians, it was soon delivered to Hamilton and London by special trains. In 1882, a Women's Section was added, and soon afterwards, the inclusion of drawings and engravings made the paper attractive to advertisers. After 1900, with the words "Canada's National Newspaper" on the masthead, the Globe began to woo readers across the country. 

The Mail and Empire was formed from two Conservative papers. The Mail began publication in 1872 and absorbed The Empire in 1895. By 1900, this daily had over 60,000 subscribers, as compared to almost 70,000 for the Globe.

In 1936, George McCullagh purchased both papers and combined them. As the flagship of FP Publications, it developed a strong Report on Business section, and was sold to the Thompson Corporation in 1980.

Though Toronto still gets its own edition, the Globe and Mail national edition is published across the country and reaches a million Canadian readers. It maintains journalists in Canada, the US, Europe, Asia and Africa.  According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, it has developed a reputation as a "writer's newspaper" (think Michael Valpy or Jeffrey Simpson).

Friday, December 11, 2015

Toronto Star

Image from thewalrus

This newspaper goes back to 1892, when it was established first as the Evening Star, and then as the Toronto Daily Star. The paper prospered under this incarnation between 1899 and 1948, under the editorship of "Holy Joe" Atkinson, an early champion of social causes including unemployment insurance, old age pensions and health care.

The Star's opposition to Nazism made it one of the first North American papers to be banned in Germany.

Between 1910 and 1973 the Star Weekly came out as a weekend supplement. In 1971 the word "Daily" was dropped; the paper became the Toronto Star.

Claimed on its site as "Canada's largest daily," this paper has an interesting ownership history. A proponent of social justice causes and investigative journalism, editor Atkinson transferred the ownership of the paper to a charity shortly before his death.

However, after his death, his wish to protect the independence and future of his liberal paper was nearly foiled.  An Ontario law passed in 1949 made it illegal for charities to own large portions of money-making businesses. The charitable trustees then stepped in and bought the paper, and Torstar is still owned by the "five families" who are the descendants of those original trustees.

Today Torstar publishes books as well as newspapers. The original five Atkinson Principles remain on the website as the guiding values of the company.

Since 2012, the online paper, has had a paywall for anyone who reads more than a few articles per month, and the Star Touch tablet app was introduced in September of 2015. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Montreal Gazette

Image from wikipedia 

The Montreal Gazette, formerly titled simply The Gazette, began publication in 1778 and is the oldest daily paper in the province of Quebec.

At first, it was in French, but the publisher, Fleury Mesplet, ran into trouble when his paper was deemed an organ for pro-American propaganda. It was shut down when the Revolutionary Americans occupied Montreal in 1779, and  Mesplet and an associate were jailed for sedition.

In 1785, Mesplet began a second paper in a French-English bilingual format. Topics covered education and religion, as well as foreign and local news, and later, advertising and announcements.

Politically, the stance of this new Montreal Gazette was anti-clerical; it supported the principles propounded by the French Revolution, and pressed for Quebec to have its own legislature.

After the death of its founder, and then his wife who had published it after him, the paper changed hands a few times. It was bought by the Southam chain in 1968. Today Quebec's only major English language daily is a survivor: after being taken over by Postmedia, it was stopped briefly in 2014, and then relaunched as part of a project called Postmedia Reimagined.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Le Devoir

Image from Le Devoir

Established in 1910 by Henri Bourassa, it'ss described in the Canadian Encyclopedia as "pan-Canadian nationalist, pro-French Canadian, pro-Catholic, anti-British [and] independent." 

To mark its hundredth anniversary in 2010, the paper chronicled milestones in the life of "an independent newspaper," one that has become a Quebec institution, and a Canadian one as well.

During both world wars, Le Devoir campaigned against conscription, and opposed the political patronage system espoused by long-time Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis.

In the 1980s, Lise Bissonnette gave the paper a sovereigntist orientation. This was an important moment in Canadian history when Quebeckers were preparing to vote in the first referendum on whether Quebec should leave the Canadian federation.

Beneath the banner headline of Le Devoir, the words still appear: Libre de penser may be roughly translated as free to think.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph

Image from fruitrootleaf

The Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, an English language paper published in the venerable city of francophones claims on its banner to be the continent's oldest, and arguably, it is. The Halifax Gazette (1752) was really just a gazette.

Established in 1764, The Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph is over 250 years old, and describes itself as the "descendant of several newspapers published in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries." During the crisis that followed the 1765 Stamp Act, and again in 1775-6 when the Revolutionary war began and the city was besieged by American troops, there were interruptions to service. Besides these historic disruptions, the newspaper has operated continuously since.

In its early days, the paper was a weekly, with separate editions in English and French. Later, it became a daily, and French and English editions came out on alternate days. In 1874, the Quebec Gazette was joined to the Morning Chronicle.

When the Daily Telegraph appeared in 1875, it offered a more liberal perspective to the city's newspaper readers. However, as the English-speaking population of Quebec City declined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the two papers joined forces due to economic pressures. The paper returned to its original weekly format in 1971.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bald eagle moves house as White Rock fells beachside trees

As I walked along the beach, I saw some people craning their heads upward. They were gazing at this eagle on West Beach, watching out to sea. Someone said the eagles had been forced to find new trees when they were driven from their old haunts on East Beach. 

With permission from the City of White Rock, BNSF Rail has finished cutting down the lovely stand of mature trees that used to flank the railroad on East Beach. This is what it looks like now.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Early New Brunswick newspapers

Image of Miramichi Leader from flickr

When Canada was still a group of colonies, the main purpose of the early newspapers, called gazettes, was to inform colonists about government appointments and new legislation. These also carried some marriage and death notices, but only those of "important" people.

The Saint John Gazette was published between 1784 and 1807 and the New Brunswick Courier from 1811-1865. Between 1829 and 1880, the Gleaner served Miramichi and Northumberland County. Many other newspapers came and went during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Royal Gazette, first seen in 1785, continues to be published in Fredericton by the Queen's Printer.

The Daily Gleaner, a Fredericton paper, dates back to 1889. I have been unable to learn when the first issue of the Miracmichi Leader was published. Perhaps it goes back to the days of the Loyalists.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Guardian, Charlottetown PEI

Image of a 1922 edition  from pei archives

The Guardian began publishing as a daily in 1887 as the Morning Guardian. Over the years, this paper has also been known as the Guardian of the Gulf and the Charlottetown Guardian.

I'm sure this paper was read by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and probably by her fictional creations, Matthew, Marilla and Anne of Green Gables as well.

In 2014 Mark Leggott, a Librarian at the University of PEI, put the Guardian archive online, making it possible to search back through issues from 1890 to 1957.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Acadie-Nouvelle, Caraquet NB

Image from cbc

The French language Acadie-Nouvelle, in Caraquet NB, is a recently established paper *available online since 2003).

It caters to francophone Maritimers, and its name (meaning the Acadia News in English) refers back to the Acadians. These French pioneers settled in the Maritimes, arriving as early as 1604. They were deported from Nova Scotia in 1713, after France ceded Nova Scotia to England in the Treaty of Utrecht. Still a strong ethnic group, they enjoy this French language paper. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Chronicle Herald, Halifax

Image of new of the Halifax disaster of 1917 from oceanliners

Among Canada's oldest independently owned papers, this daily (except Sunday) began as the Halifax Herald.

The accompanying image shows the report of Halifax Disaster that happened during World War I when a munitions ship collided with another in the harbour. This newspaper described the explosion (the worst human-caused one to date) and its horrible aftermath.

In 2013, the Chronicle Herald, then 189 years old, stopped publishing the Sunday edition it had instituted fifteen years before. The publisher stated that the day of print journalism is not over, but it continues to adapt.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Telegram, St. John's NL

Image of first issue from Heritage Newfoundland

Now called simply The Telegram, this newspaper soldiers on, including of course, an online version. Notice the biggest headline: "Latest by Telegraph." At the time, the undersea cable had recently been laid across the Atlantic from Ireland to Heart's Content, Newfoundland, now a historic site.

This evening paper got its start in April 1879. It would be another 70 years, however, before the final province joined the Canadian federation, so this was not a Canadian paper -- yet. From 1879 to 1958, it was published daily except Sundays.

My mother, a Newfoundlander had to emigrate when she married: she left in 1946, three years before Newfoundland joined Confederation. She always had fond memories of the Evening Telegram, and I remember, even as a child, being surprised that this paper came out in the evening. Did one miss or ignore the morning news? I later learned that many newspapers had both early and late editions.

There were Newfoundland papers more venerable than the Telegram. The Public Ledger, the Patriot, the Times and the Newfoundlander, However, though they started as early as the 1820s, did not last out the nineteenth century.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Canada's oldest newspaper

Don't look too closely at the image. Then answer without stopping to think. What was Canada's first newspaper?

Image of first issue from the Canadian Encyclopedia

If you said the Montreal Gazette, the Ottawa Citizen, the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, or Le Devoir, you'd be wrong.

The Halifax Gazette was first published in 1752, 115 years before Confederation. It would have come out sooner, if there had been any local news, said publisher John Bushell. Technically, it's still alive, after morphing into the Nova Scotia Royal Gazette, a government information publication.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Horizonless vista

The weather is only lightly clouded, but what little cloud there is has obscured the horizon completely.

Memory assures me it lies just beyond that outcrop of land, but disorientingly, it remains shrouded in mist.

This blurred transition reminds me of how I've been feeling the last while. I know where I've been, and that I'm no longer there, exactly.

But what is coming next, and when will it arrive? At present all I can see is the blurred horizon of change, shrouding a new phase, the precise shape of which remains invisible, until the clouds dissipate.

Meanwhile, I hold to patience and faith.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mystic fishermen

On a misty afternoon, the eye cannot descry the horizon, nor can it identify the fishermen.

This gives the picture a mystic feeling.

For as long as men have walked the earth near lakes, rivers and seas, they have gone fishing to gather food from beneath the waters.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Gulls behave as if at a formal affair

Approaching the party of gulls at White Rock Beach, I'm surprised by the formal seating arrangement. Males and females alternate as they would at a Victorian dinner. All are decked out in evening garb. The males seem to wear serious expressions, along with their grey suits and white shirts. The plumage of the lady gulls is soft, their colours sober, understated.

Gulls are sensitive to the click of a camera; some members of the party had left before I could snap the picture. I imagine them at table. Dinner is about to begin but one female is in the powder room and a last minute arrival is seen practically skidding in to his place.

As for the two at the near end, they've flouted custom and seated themselves. The hostess will be obliged to request that they switch places before the meal.  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

One leaf caught in the act of falling

To create the autumnal carpet we see on the ground, each individual leaf must part company with its tree.

The leaves let go and fall one by one.

This one was caught in midair by my cell phone camera at the park on Kits Point.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Willan Choir celebrates a centenarian

Helen, who has sung with the Willan Choir for 36 years, celebrated her 100th birthday last week.
On the right, she shares a laugh with Choir Director Patricia Plumley. Helen also did Tai Chi into her eighties. She knows the value of song and laughter in promoting healthy longevity.

The Willan Choir will perform both on its own and with other massed choirs on Friday, November 27, at 7pm in the Atrium of Building B at Vancouver Community College. All are welcome to come and hear our choral renditions of a variety of Ave Marias by Brahms, Dvorzak, Haydn, Arcadelt, Rachmaninov, and more. The last will be sung in Russian, the others in Latin.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Falling into the sky in Bear Creek Park

On a recent walk, we enjoyed looking over the bridge rails into this backwash. Sometimes, there are beavers; their dams are visible.

Owls have been known to roost in the nearby cottonwoods, possibly preying on the rabbits.

Buffleheads and mallards are often seen diving for food and kicking up their orange feet.

On this day, the reflection of the sky looked so inviting we felt we could fall into it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Seeing through fresh eyes

Each year around this time, I enjoy sitting in this lovely room at Hycroft, listening to music performed by choristers and harpists.

This year, sitting on the partner sofa of this one, I soaked up the sun streaming in through the window.

My position was also perfect for seeing the carved eave of the old house through the top pane.

From where I sat, I noticed how that pane was reflected perfectly in the shiny surface of the coffee table.

However, the window was so full of light from the sun and the lamp that the picture hardly does justice to the very special perspective I enjoyed from the cozy couch.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Atmosphere of the past at Hycroft

Patterns of moss on the wall surrounding Hycroft Manor, home of the University Women's Club of Vancouver.

The iron gate, the high wall and the rampant ivy that enclose the private garden evoke other places, other times.

The Christmas Fair continues till Sunday evening.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Kerrisdale Bell Ringers at Hycroft

The Hycroft Christmas Fair is an annual event I haven't missed in many years. Our annual pilgrimage began when my daughter was young and went on until she left home for UVic, and even after that. Now I go with a friend or alone. The lovely old house, the decorations and the variety of Christmas music continue to appeal.

This was the first year ever that I got to the fair on opening day. Thanks to the bell ringers, who played there only on that day.

I'd always wanted to hear bell ringers, but had little idea of what to expect. It was impressive. With two bells each, these four ladies played an amazing variety of carols.

Meanwhile, back at Kerrisdale Community Centre, there's a whole lot more bell-ringing going on. Jean, the leader of this travelling Christmas bell ringing troupe told us with a gleam in her eye that the bell ringers, "an orchestra really," played all kinds of music and had "chimes, drums, mallets, lots of things." Unfortunately, a lot of the instruments aren't too portable, and a lot of venues can't host such large numbers of performers.

But let me tell you, after having our ears delighted by the small travelling Christmas quartet, next year I intend to go to the  annual home concert. This year it's on December 6, but we were already booked. Meanwhile, the harps, choirs and fair continue until Sunday evening at Hycroft.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Six year blogging anniversary

Image from British Council

One of my earliest blog posts was a cooperative effort. Silvia Pandini, a teacher from Brazil, was brushing up her English in my ESL class. "I will if you will," she challenged, and so we promised one another. Together, we posted a piece she wrote called "Teachers and Mills." The original was in Portuguese; Silvia translated her ideas; my contribution was to make the English smooth.

Silvia returned to Brazil soon after. But the blogging bug had bitten me, and I carried on. At first occasionally, then weekly and bi-weekly. A couple of times I tried to quit, but I missed the new opportunity to formulate my passing thoughts in words. For the past three years, this has been more or less a daily discipline. I post on books I've read, and also on non-fiction subjects that require time-consuming research. Meanwhile, I have other writing projects.

Recently, I was about to quit blogging again when something strange happened. For the first time in ages, I went ego-surfing and saw, to my astonishment, that "Carol Tulpar blog" is now a search term. The Google algorithms appear to have noticed me. Does that means I should carry on?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Wily O'Reilly

Image from Patrick Taylor author site

A retired medical specialist, Dr. Patrick Taylor has been writing all his life. While practicing medicine, he wrote textbooks and edited a medical journal as well as contributing a regular humour column in Stitches: The Journal of Medical Humour, keeping his readers laughing at the antics of the lovable reprobate, Ulster GP Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly.

After retiring from active practice, O'Reilly grew and developed as Patrick began his fiction career in earnest. When his tenth novel in the Irish Country Doctor series came out in 2015, fans were unsurprized when it followed its predecessors onto the New York Times and Globe and Mail bestseller lists.

Throughout the novel series, the crafty WWII naval veteran protagonist, village GP Dr. O'Reilly is described through the point of view of Dr. Barry Laverty, who is first his locum, and later his partner and friend. The books bring to life a typical though fictitious Ulster village from before WWII through the post-war period, casting light and shadow on every aspects of life in Ballybucklebo.

The Wily O'Reilly (Forge, 2014) is a series of vignettes about the same crusty widower, selected from earlier humour columns. Now middle-aged and self-confident to a fault, O'Reilly is devoted to his Jamieson's whiskey, his widowed housekeeper's cooking, and to making sure the patients never "get the upper hand."

Fingal O'Reilly is a "classical scholar, bagpiper, poacher, hard drinker, and foul-mouthed country GP." The first time his foil, Dr. Taylor, reports for duty as a locum, he observes his new employer: a large man, "six foot thirteen'' with "the shoulders of Atlas." The fact that his nose tip is "an alabaster white" turns out to be an omen of the doctor's anger. Indeed, at this moment, he is propelling a hapless young man out the door for showing up with filthy feet. A moment later, the doctor pleasantly informs the prospective patient that although surgery hours are over, he'll wait and see him if he washes his feet and returns within an hour.

After this startling juncture, the new locum is obliged to introduce himself. Timidly, he asks, "Doctor O'Reilly?"

No, ripostes the other, "John--bloody--Wayne."

As he shares his medical experience with Dr. Taylor, O'Reilly confuses his hapless locum by habitually speaking in bizarre non-sequiturs. He also involves his unwilling assistant in a series of ludicrous adventures and schemes, many of which the young doctor foresees will end badly, adding "And yet his patients loved him, and I suppose in time, so did I."

Taylor's humour is refreshingly light. Though he refers in passing to darker subjects like war, disease, and social inequality, he does so in an oblique fashion, often by larding his tales with linguistically lush and bizarrely exaggerated military and sporting similes. After explaining how the landed gentry purchased, raised and "coddled" their pheasants, he then goes on to describe shooting season when the "bewildered birds...flapping fearfully in full flight," are set upon by "hordes of happy hunters" who blaze away "with all the enthusiasm of Montgomery's artillery during the warm-up to the away match at El Alamein."

His description of poaching follows. He makes much use of alliteration, here using the letter p (once characterized by Margaret Atwood as the funniest in the alphabet). This avian theft by "lesser mortals" was "frowned upon by the upper crust" who historically "spent considerable resources to ensure that vast tracts of Australia were populated by platoons of penurious peasants who'd purloined or pilfered privately purchased pheasants."

Exaggerated though these tales are, the book carries us warmly to a past time and another place, where pints are sunk at the "Mucky Duck," a pub that serves stout to dogs but where women cannot go, and where the Christmas pageant is disrupted by a fainting nun who, along with the rest of the audience, is scandalized by a young actor who happens to be Fingal's nephew. Miffed by his demotion from the role of Joseph and grudgingly playing the part of the innkeeper, he invites Mary to come into the inn but tells Joseph to "feck off."

For this infringement, the sinner is catechized to stop him swearing and made to eat his meals standing up for an extended period. He also has his pocket money stopped for three months. Ere long, the intrepid child overcomes this hurdle when an unexpected business opportunity presents itself, allowing him to rent his school cap to other boys sequentially, for reasons I will not reveal.

The Wily O'Reilly is of a different style and format from the novels, which are historically accurate and more serious, though still warm in tone and filled with funny moments. Having finished the vignettes, I look forward to choosing one of the two that wait on my chair as we speak.