Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking back at 2014

A new year is just about here!  And so I get to think back to 2014.  And I have absolutely no complaints.  It was a great year…I almost don't have anything more to say… I loved being in Vancouver and I loved the trips I took-Florida, a Caribbean cruise, New Orleans, Christina Lake, Quebec, Ontario, Vancouver Island, Whistler, Seattle.  I got to see so much beauty, took so many wonderful walks,had good  times with wonderful friends.  I still loved living in my house and in my neighbourhood.

 Of course it is not always smooth sailing.  I have a garage still falling down, I broke my wrist, I got exasperated with the government during the teachers' strike, but in the end I just feel very lucky.  I loved teaching but I love the freedom of being retired.  And I still get to go hang out at school volunteering two mornings a week, mainly with those cute first graders.

And I have taken thousand of pictures…Because the world just is one beautiful place!  In all seasons!

So I have been reading others' great resolutions, goals for 2015 and I certainly can think of a few, but I just have these feelings of gratitude tonight.  And I look forward to new adventures in 2015.  I am quite excited that I will be going to a new continent, South America, this year.  Two left-Africa and Antarctica… So my word for 2015 is just to be open, open to possibilities, ideas, opportunities, adventures, to understanding.  

And wishing all of you the best 2015 possible!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Christmas Playlist that just might come in handy...

A friend sent me a Christmas Playlist and I know Christmas is over for this year but you never know when you may need a playlist!!!  Literacy takes all forms here!

I thought it was really fun so here it is with his permission.  I have decided that it is still the holiday season so here you go and thanks for sending this, Michael C.  I just put in the hyper links as my contribution!  

I first met Michael in 1973 when we worked at a summer camp and he had just returned from a Rolling Stones concert so some things really don't change.  I personally might have other favourites such as Robert Downey singing Joni Mitchell's River but you are spared!   I could't resist a few comments in brackets but from now on the words are his! 

"Hi there, I just did this list because I was looking at the 2000 miles video and it led me on a search for a few others.I like 1,2,3 and 5 the best. I didn't include Band-aid which I really like because it annoys some people due to its being overplayed over the years.I would like to avoid annoying people wherever possible.There is no Mariah Carey or similar artists because it is my list and she is very high on my annoying list. No.s  11 and 12 don't have anything to do with Christmas but represent an opportunity to break away from the Christmas theme and cleanse one's soul through other means,like though fun.
   I didn't include Monty Python Christmas in Heaven which is rather funny and I like their Finland is the Country for Me which is even funnier but it has nothing to do with Christmas.( and 12 is a nice round number even if it is 11 plus a place holder).To be  completely honest I can't watch the Sting ones all the way though unless I was doing something else at the same time while I can watch my favorites over and over with no need for distraction.I have a CD with Sting and the Chieftains which kind of fits the overall theme and is very atmospheric but I couldn't find a YouTube clip except for Sister's of Mercy.
  There I have used atmospheric and haunting in the same email, I can tick that box off. There is a Kinks' Christmas song which is ok ,Father Christmas , but I left it out in deference to Chrissie Hynde and her opinion of Ray Davies. 

1.Christie Hynde : 2000 Miles , very pretty song and nice arrangement. Coldplay and others do a version. Her repetitive little riff is very catchy and her quirky voice fits so well.

Here is the original version, more electrified , with a goofy and dated video

2. Fairy Tale of New York, note the  Matt Dillon cameo.He like to play cops ,it would seem.Don't look at Shane McGowan's teeth.Beneath that drug and alcohol addled exterior there is or at least was a genius..this is the original version with the late Kirsty MacColl.

3.Dido. I really like her voice..haunting...the song is ..Christmas Day has a bit of Game of Thrones feel to it,horses Knights and fog,in the overall impression of it ,if not the words

3.Bruce S live ...Santa Claus is coming to town...he is such a good guy and a good sport how could anyone not like it.

4.Keith R "Keef" Run Run Rudolph. Keith doing a Xmas song seems odd but in his other life he is a regular guy, walks the dog and writes children's books ,therefore  he must enjoy Christmas...the song is a tribute to Chuck Berry in any event.Hail Hail Rock and Roll...good movie.

5.Emerson Lake and Palmer.  I believe in Father Christmas.Nice pipes from Greg Lake. I think that is him...actually it might be the solo version without E and P..I didn't see any drummer in the cliffs...I Believe in Father Xmas...They don't get much Air play these days but they were pretty good in their day...

6.  Queen...Thank god it's Christmas, I miss Freddie Mercury's voice.So over the top but so much fun.

7.John Lennon, Now this is Xmas. jangly edgy John with the Plastic Ono Band.

8.Enya …We wish you a Merry Christmas.  gothic gaelic swell music( as in swelling ,building up to a crest as opposed to the jocular " it is swell music").Seriously I used to listen to my one Enya CD a lot but not so much lately...Orinoco Flow anybody?

9. I looked for a Moody Blues  Xmas song but it seemed to be blocked. So this is a placeholder...their music seems to fit with the seasonal mood....Ride my see saw while on an sleigh in the snow? Never Comes the(Xmas) Day...(holiday) Nights in White Satin

(Now I am going to interject-I found this one which I kind of liked A Winter's Tale-I personally used to love the Moody Blues and went to a very nice outdoor concert here.  I did find links for the others but they might have been ones Michael would have picked-oh well..).

10. Sting with his wintry disposition deserves honourable mention...he is a bit pretentious but he is a serious musician and goes some places that other musicians would never go and that tantric stuff as well....he has my respect if not my patient listening. Soul Cake.

More Sting with talking explanation of his winter themed cd, Deutsch Grammophon already.  If on a winter's night.

11. Romantics , What I Like About You...old school one hit wonder.It has legs and what about those outfits and hair, makes you want to jump about.  (me again, I had forgotten about this one…)

12. AC DC Highway to Hell at River Plate ...what better way to blow away all that seasonal introspection and melancholy than watching Angus and Malcolm  in front of vast numbers of crazed South American fans singing along...kind of hypnotic, actually not kind of ,very very hypnotic, I might even wear those horns if I see them live. (let's hope he doesn't but kind of cheery I have to admit)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas letters

Christmas virtual bouquet
I have been writing form Christmas letters since 1986 when I had a really bad year and didn't want to keep writing bad news over and over so I thought this way I could write it once, photocopy, and send.  Then it became a habit-I threatened to quit doing it but I actually had people tell me I wrote the best Christmas letters.  It became one more Christmas tradition.  Now with email and Facebook it really seems redundant.  Also if you want to put nice coloured pictures in it, it is expensive to reproduce.  My letters tended to run to three pages which also makes it difficult to stuff in with a small Christmas card.

I could just email it off as most people have internet, but now that I have become the recipient of Christmas letters, I know that it is nice to have them on real paper to read I guess.

Now that I am retired, I seem to have blogs galore (just check the side of this blog) where I post pictures of Vancouver and of my trips farther afield.  I also am a bit addicted to Facebook sharing pictures daily.  So the whole Christmas letter writing process didn't really thrill me this year.  I whipped the letter off and managed to keep it to one page.  If anyone wanted coloured pictures they could check my blogs, and I had ideas of doing a better version that I could email.  Well it is now December 17th and that hasn't happened yet-it may happen today but not sure about that.

the day I was having my annual Christmas party
last year there was a snowstorm
Last night I worked on writing my Christmas cards.  And somehow it just seemed like such a chore, something just to get done.  I reread my Christmas letter-definitely not the best and I seem to have a lack of adjectives, lovely being used at least five times.  As a teacher I probably would have given it a C+ if that.  Just thinking-I think in the past writing the Christmas letter was a bit of a fun change of scene after writing report cards

And then there are the cards-I always buy my Christmas cards at post Christmas sales.  I try to buy nice ones, but somehow they seem to be small, hard to cram papers into those envelopes.  I keep thinking of doing my own and last year did all my overseas ones digitally (and that will probably happen again).  This is time consuming to produce the first one but the recipients get them as real cards and I don't even have to put a stamp on them.

I have been torn between actually getting the Christmas cards to people before Christmas or doing them more thoroughly and mailing them after Christmas.  And when I was teaching I often ended up writing them late-i think one of the best jobs  I did was the time I was writing them on the ferry on a beautiful Christmas Day going to Victoria.  I could justify my late cards because that way you got a personal note as well as that infamous Christmas letter.

my dining room looking Christmasy
Last year I had to take my car in for something and I was writing them in the waiting room at the Acura dealership-they provide cookies and coffee and The View so why not.  There is also a big coffee table and a nice sofa so I could spread myself out.  They might find it a bit odd if I just sat there when my car wasn't there though.  Writing them last night in front of some Christmas movie didn't seem to be working too well.

Well this is a warm up so I will let you know if I come to a resolution but right now I think it's time for coffee and an ocean walk!  Meanwhile Merry Christmas!

I actually do read Adult Books…the latest Ian McEwan novels, Sweet Tooth and The Children's Act

Sometimes when people ask me what I am reading I have to think… I used to read a book a week, sometimes less when I was teaching, and sometimes more.  I think I thought I would read more when I retired but that hasn't actually happened.  One problem may be the accessibility to all sorts of reading due to wifi and iPads and iPhones making it all so portable.  Now I do read books on my iPad especially when I am on holiday, but I still like real books.  Thinking about it, I think for me non fiction or something light works best as ibooks.

Anyway I seem to be back into reading.  It must be these dark nights and short days!  So here's a bit of what I have been reading in the last couple of weeks!

The Children's Act is Ian McEwan's latest book.  I am generally a fan and I love listening to him being interviewed because he is always just so interesting.  I had heard quite a bit about The Children's Hour before I read it.  And that is not always an advantage.

The last book of his that I had read was Solar which I really liked despite the both obnoxious main character  imaginable.  This time I couldn't help but wonder about his choice of a heroine or rather why he wanted to write in the voice of a woman.  I am still not sure I really am totally convinced by Fiona but that didn't stop me really enjoying this book.  Fiona is a a family court judge whose husband has just announced he wants to have an affair which makes her want him out of her marriage.  I guess that would put your nice safe life in jeopardy.  And then  she gets a case where a teenage boy not yet 18  has leukaemia and is supposed to have a blood transfusion but his family are Jevohah Witnesses.  She goes to visit the boy and discovers him to be an intelligent musically talented young man.  She does rule in favour of him having the blood transfusion and there are of course, unexpected results.

I liked how we saw into the world of judges.  I also like how Fiona feels confident about her ability to make good judgements until things begin to go very wrong first in her personal life and then it affects her professional life.

I recently heard an interview with a retired Ontario Supreme Court Chief Justice again looking at how hard it is to deal with some cases and coping mechanisms.

I think one thing I like about McEwan's books is how they make me think, question, as his characters are forced to do (well generally).

Since I was on a bit of an Ian McEwan roll, I started reading Sweet Tooth which actually he had written earlier.  I had read the first chapter as a preview on Ibooks, and it didn't grab me enough for me to want to buy it.  I heard him interviewed about the book and that was interesting.  At the library, I saw a copy of Sweet Tooth, and thought I would try again.  This time I am half way through and felt as if I needed a break.  I find myself wondering why McEwan keeps writing from the perspective of women. If I had difficulty seeing Fiona as three dimensional, I definitely have even more difficulty relating to Selena.  If I didn't like the main character in Solar, in some ways I think I like Selena even less.  And I just don't know anyone quite like her, but of course, since I don't really care for this fictional character, I guess I wouldn't be seeking out a real life version.

Selena, apparently quite beautiful and the daughter of a bishop,  ends up taking Maths and not doing particularly well,  at Cambridge (to strangely please her mother) although she would much prefer to be studying English.  She becomes involved with a young man who introduces her to one of his professors, and then she has an affair with this older married man.  He serves as a bit of a mentor to her and encourages her to enter the civil service, but after preparing her for this, rather unceremoniously dumps her much to her shock.  Confused and for her, heart broken, she does get a job in the civil service or rather to be exact MI5, in a branch that has one project fighting communism by infiltrating the intellectual world.  Her particular mark is a young writer whom she tells she works for a foundation that is encouraging young writers and will enable him to write without having to teach.  She reads some of his short stories before meeting him and is quite enamoured by his writing.  We get the replay of these short stories.  Currently they have embarked on an affair.  There is also a strand running that implies her mentor was a double agent.  It also comes out that he knew he had cancer when he broke things off with her.

It all seems so sleazy and far fetched-but no doubt based in truth.  It is interesting in that the setting is the early 70's and Selena is roughly my age.  Anyway as I write this I think I will return to finish reading the book.

I did finish the book.  And I got my explanation about why this book was written from my female perspective.  A bit of a surprise ending, but once again I have to appreciate McEwan's cleverness.  I also understood more about why we had to read summations of her mark's short stories and novella.  Apparently, these have plots similar to McEwan's own early work.  Using the work did  all made sense which I do appreciate when I come to the end of a book.  It had that quality of the spy novel of having to figure out what is real, not real.

It made me want to read more about this subject and era.  I found some things almost unbelievable in this book but life can be quite unbelievable so… And I actually did like Selena better by the end of the book as she "wrestled" with her conscience.  We also seemed to have been reading the same books then.  I also enjoyed going back to 1973/74 in Great Britain.  I actually was there in the late summer of 1974 for over a month but not sure how aware I was.  It struck me that life was a lot economically more difficult there than in Canada, but I really wasn't very well versed on British politics, more aware of North American politics.  I was basically skimming along as a tourist.  The England described in Sweet Tooth seems kind of grim while I had a certain feeling of that but as a North American felt the glitter and the history.

Now I just checked and McEwan is younger so was actually only a teenager in this time period. Hmm… Also a reviewer thought this was one of his happiest novels, well I found the mood rather bleak.

But  yes, in the end, Sweet Tooth, was well worth reading as was The Children's Act.