Monday, October 31, 2016

Hiding from Halloween

Image from Woman's Day

To everything there is a season, and that includes Halloween. This year, though, I am in a resting phase.

I was a purist. No plastic pumpkins, and the pumpkin's innards had to be scooped out and used for seasonal cooking. I've done many years of preparing pumpkins, roasting seeds, carving lanterns and cleaning up the resulting messes. This year I'm off.

I have excuses, if anyone thinks I need one. I'm saving us from having to eat the surplus candy after the trick-or-treaters have come and gone. Even better, I'm saving energy for the Halloween fun I hope to enjoy once more when we have grandchildren.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween fun with the Willan Choir

Left: Conductor Patricia Plumley shows off a poster info about an upcoming A Capella Plus concert in Victoria: Nov 19, at 2:30 pm at Arbutus Ridge Golf Club, near Cobble Hill.

Choristers show off their costumes below. Beware the vampire!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Noonday by Pat Barker

Historical novelist Pat Barker is known for the Regeneration Trilogy, an incisive portrayal of the social and political history of World War I. It won the Booker and was made into a movie in 1997.

Noonday is the third of a trilogy that ends during World War II. Once more Barker unpacks the moment-by-moment feelings of the era. Reluctant to separate, as if "the mere fact of being known, recognized, addressed by name could protect... from the random destruction of bombs," Londoners use "So long," since "nobody these days risked saying 'Goodbye.'"

A more subtle effect is seen through the images of people in parks and squares "basking in the doorways and windows, raising their eyes to the light, storing it up against the blackout."

Heartrendingly, victims call out to rescue workers, repeating the names of loved ones so recently alive beside them, as an ambulance driver broods on the endless stream of death, loss and tragedy. "On and on it went. Unbearable, you'd have said, except they all bore it."

Yet, along with the All Clear, "the dawn wind, tainted by the smell of high explosive," brings "the assurance that they were still alive." Life during the blitz has an unreal quality. Even Paul, who was wounded in WWI, lives as if he were safe beneath the constant bombardment. Only when his house takes a direct hit does all the "ungrounded confidence" he had before swirl away "like dirty water down a plughole" leaving him to face "the certainty of his own death."

Many children have been sent away from their London homes to places of greater safety. Adults who have somewhere to go also flee the bombs. In contrast, Paul sits outside a pub with a fellow rescue worker having a drink in the sunshine while they share "the smugness of the stayers-on." Paul and Elinor are bombed out twice in one week, and still they carry on with their work, their art, their quarreling and rivalries, both artistic and sexual.

The book reads more a series of connected vignettes than a cohesive story. This structure reflects the random feeling of the times. Kenny is assumed to be dead after the school collapses. Later he turns up in the most unexpected place. Elinor's sister Rachel comes into view when their mother dies after a long illness, but is not seen again. Her husband Tim is only briefly glimpsed.

Mrs. Mason, a painfully obese woman visited by ghosts, ekes out a living giving seances, pursued by an official who vows to stop her "taking advantage" of the bereaved. Caught in a building collapse, she finds herself in hospital, on the verge of joining the legions of spirits. Her visions concern the last war, still recent. The devil is less the Prince of Darkness than "a commercial traveler down on his luck."  He resembles "the men you used to see after the last war, selling silk stockings door to door, twitching that much they could hardly count out the change."

The residents of London are constantly barraged not only by bombs, but by dirt, plaster dust, smoke and endless exhaustion. As the war wears on, people are so tired that more of them risk everything "for the comfort and (spurious) safety of their own beds."

Friday, October 28, 2016

Camouflage truck

The next door neighbour's truck is hiding behind a bush with only the wheels showing. And without seeing those wheels, who'd know the truck was there?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sikh Temple dome seen at night in Surrey

As dusk falls on Bear Creek Park, the dome of the Sikh temple glimmers against the evening sky.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Great lines by mystery writer Sue Grafton

The Kinsey Millhone alphabet series of novels by Sue Grafton have reached the letter X. After reading A is for Alibi many years ago, I dipped back into the work of this prolific, disciplined and talented author and started reading at T. After catching up to Sue at X, I returned to B and am now working my way towards S.

The powerful female lead gives the stories their strong energy. Kinsey Millhone, PI, grows, develops and constantly questions her own motives along with those of others. She's not above judging by appearances, but she's always aware she has. Her intelligent comments -- about the human condition, often bring a laugh and a twinge, the greatest combination a writer can produce.

In a few words, she evokes images that reach beyond the scene and character to the real and imperfect world that any reader can recognize.

In B is for Burglar, she delivers this poignant punch: "Insecure people have a special sensitivity for anything that finally confirms their low opinion of themselves."

Try these lines from D is for Deadbeat: "The hairstyle suggested he was hung up in the past, his persona fixed perhaps by some significant event." Another fave from that book describes a mourner at a funeral who "smelled virulently of Lily of the Valley." Still at the funeral scene, Kinsey wonders why people "study" the dead, thinking it "makes about as much sense as paying homage to the cardboard box your favourite shoes came in."

In the course of her investigations, Kinsey does a lot of driving. It's before the days of good car stereos, or her car is too cheap to have one. Either way, on one early morning road trip, she listens to an early morning evangelist on the radio, and tells the reader, "by the time I reached Ventura, I was nearly redeemed." The cottage she arrives at is "a shaggy brown shingle, the perfect little snack for a swarm of hungry termites" (H is for Homicide).

In M is for Malice, Kinsey shares a downside of being single: "You tend to sleep with your mental shoes on, ready to leap up and arm yourself at the least little noise." Explaining her devotion to jogging along the beach, she says "Pain was better than anxiety any day of the week and sweat was better than depression."

She is well aware, even proud of the fact that she's an "expert at using words to keep other people at bay." Yes, Kinsey is on intimate terms with her own weaknesses, as we see when she shares the fact that "I omitted the reference…thinking if I didn’t write it down, the subject wouldn’t exist."

Kinsey owns one serviceable black dress. For the rest, the turtleneck, jeans, boots and bomber jacket serve. Unless she wants to dress up. Then she dons a tweed blazer. But she's well aware of what other California women do to their looks: "I could tell she had her eyes done, and probably her nose as well. In fact, just about everything I was looking at had been augmented or improved by some merry band of surgeons working on her, piece by piece." She also comments on the maintenance of the "clean look" that "probably cost her dearly, and had to be redone every other week."

In N is for Noose, Kinsey allows herself some scope for biting social commentary. Society evolves, but that doesn't always imply progress. Witness her views on the law: "These days, a trial isn’t about guilt or innocence. It’s a battle of wits in which competing attorneys, like intellectual gladiators, test their use of rhetoric. The mark of a good defense attorney is his ability to take any given set of facts and recast them in such a light that, presto change-o, as if by magic, what appeared to be absolute is turned into a frame-up or some elaborate conspiracy on the part of the police or government. Suddenly, the perpetrator becomes the victim and the deceased is all but forgotten in the process." 

The American health care system is another target of her sarcasm: "Medical insurance is only valid if the benefits are never used. Otherwise, you’re rewarded with a cancellation notice or a hefty increase in rates."

To close, I'll share one more piece of Ms. Millhone's philosophy: "My general policy is this: if your mind isn’t open, keep your mouth shut too."

Respectfully submitted,
Carol Tulpar

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Postmodern Nunavut

St. Jude's Cathedral in Iqualuit (left) resembles an igloo, and is sometimes referred to as the Igloo Cathedral. Originally constructed in 1976, it was destroyed by fire and later rebuilt.

The mace seen above is one of the remarkable art works in the building below left.

The Legislative Building of Nunavut was designed by the Arcop Group, Full Circle Architecture.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Yukon buildings then and now

Mary Ellen Read stands in front of Waterfront Station in Whitehorse, one of her designs. It's a sharp contrast with the Old Log Church below, that dates from 1900.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Yellowknife Architecture moves into the 21st Century

Framed by the northern lights, the Nadji Architects' Tlicho Government Building in Yellowknife reflects the far north atmosphere.

Above, the Wildcat Cafe is a relic of an earlier, more primitive era.

The Children's First Centre in Inuvik, created by Kobayashi and Zedda, won a Canadian Architect Award of Excellence. The firm is known for sustainability and First Nations architecture.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Moravian Mission and ancient funerary monument in Labrador

The Moravian Mission at Hopedale dates back to 1782. But Labrador had a much earlier spiritual tradition. Below is a 7500-year-old burial of a child at L'Anse Amour. Covered with red ochre, the remains were wrapped lovingly in skins and supplied with tools.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Newfoundland architecture and historic structures

This is the former Bank of British North America. Built in 1849 in the Italianate style, Newfoundland's first bank is now part of the College of the North Atlantic.

St. John's Basilica, below left, was an enormous project built between 1841 and 1855. This Lombard Romanesque building stands on the hill overlooking the city and facing the Narrows. The original design was done by a German, but Irish architects from Dublin, Cork and Clonmel also had a hand in creating the church that would be the biggest in North America to date. 

Below right is the Cable Building in the town of Heart's Content. Now a museum, this was built in 1913 as the main relay for the transatlantic cable. 

Below: The iconic Cabot Tower was designed by William Howe Greene for placement at the narrow entrance to the snug harbour of St. John's and built in 1897 to commemorate the arrival of John Cabot 400 years before. In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal from Signal Hill, ushering in the age of radio. Cape Spear lighthouse was built in 1835 at the easternmost point of North America. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Charlottetown architects and the buildings of Confederation

Fanningbank Government House is the home of the Lieutenant Governor of PEI. Built in 1834 by Isaac Smith, it follows the Georgian manner with Palladian echoes and Doric columns. 
Above right is the room where the first four provinces of Canada joined together in Confederation in 1867. Though the original 1864 negotiations took place in Province House in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island was not among the members of the new federation. Below, actors garbed in the fashion of the times stand in front of the assembly, originally called Colonial House. Second only to Nova Scotia's legislature in age, Province House PEI, another Isaac Smith creation, was built in the Neoclassical style. Beaconsfield Historic House, seen below right, is a fine example of Victorian architecture. This lovely home was designed by William Crichlow Harris.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nova Scotia architectural heritage

St. John's Anglican Church in Lunenburg, which is now a UNESCO Heritage site, was built of wood between 1754 and 1763 in the style of a New England meeting house. Later alterations have earned it the epithet "Carpenter Gothic." Damaged in 2001 by fire, it has been restored.

The Quaker Whaler house in Dartmouth, above right, dates back to 1785. Built by William Ray, it follows the Nantucket style of his original home. Below left is St. George's Round Church in Halifax built in the unique Palladian style, as is the seat of government, Province House, right. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New Brunswick legislature and old fortifications

New Brunswick was one of the four original Canadian provinces to join Confederation in 1867. The Legislative Assembly was designed by J.C. Dumaresq in Second Empire style, and built in 1882, replacing Province Hall, which had burned down two years before.

Seen below left, the Carleton Martello Tower in Saint John was built after the War of 1812 to guard against American invasion. It was used again for defense during World War II. Below right is Fort Howe, which defended Canada during America's Revolutionary War.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Stellar panel rounds out 2016 Whistler Writers Festival

The 2016 Whistler Writers Festival included many great events for readers and writers. Aside from the fantastic pitch opportunities, what I found most enjoyable was the Sunday Brunch hosted by Bill Richardson (right).

Doing readings and chatting with their host were Emma Donoghue, Madeleine Thien, Anosh Irani, Affinity Konar, Gary Geddes and Cea Sunrise Person. From Person's Paris model who is an escapee from life in a tent with hippie parents to the Bombay hijra in Irani's The Parcel, this work concerned stolen childhoods.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Venerable buildings of vieux Montreal

The Royal Victoria, above left, was built in 1893. To fund the construction of this free hospital on Mount Royal, money was donated by two Scottish immigrants, Lord Strathcona and Lord Mount Stephen. The architect was Saxon Snell, and the style Scottish Baronial. The Royal Vic is affiliated with McGill University, a historic site in itself. Above right, the delightful brick building that now houses the Centre d'histoire de Montreal was originally designed by Joseph Perrault and Simon Lesage and built as a firehall in 1903-4.

Below left is a portion of the enormous and attractive Bonsecours Market. This was designed by William Footner and built between 1844 and 1847. For a brief time in 1849, it housed the Parliament of the United Canadas. The Old Saint Sulplice Seminary, below right, was designed by the versatile priest Francois Dollier de Casson. This photo was taken by Dickbausch.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Quebec City architecture

That iconic hotel, the Chateau Frontenac, was designed by architect Bruce Price. Begun in 1892, it is a splendid example of the chateau style railway hotels that follow the ribbon of steel from Victoria to Halifax.

Founded in 1608, Quebec is one of the oldest cities in North America, and the only one on the continent with a wall, a portion of which can be seen above right.

Other surviving structures that date back to New France include the Ursuline Convent, below left, (1642), Notre-Dame de Quebec Cathedral (original 1647),  and the former Quebec Seminary, now a museum (1663.) Not surprisingly, Quebec City is a UNESCO heritage site.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Modern Gothic Revival -- Canadian Parliament in Ottawa

In 1857, Queen Victoria selected Ottawa as the new Capital of the Province of Canada. The East, Centre and West Blocks of the Parliament buildings were constructed before Confederation in 1967. In 1916 a fire destroyed much of the building. Even as World War I was being fought, the Parliament buildings had to be replaced. After John Pearson and Jean Omer Marchand designed the new Gothic Revival building, it was finished in 1922.

The Peace Tower was completed in 1927. This structure is decked with strange gargoyles, one of which is seen below. Its clock was a gift from the United Kingdom and the carillons, based on centuries-old instruments from the Netherlands and Belgium, has 53 bells and weighs 54 tons.