Thursday, 27 August 2009

Back from the Wedding

I guess we had summer last week; to-day I am wearing a sweater and a fuzzy and am contemplating putting the winter duvet back on the bed. Do you think if I do that the weather gods will send us a heat wave? I am half afraid they will. It does not do to annoy the weather gods.

However, it is so cold the bugs have pretty well vanished and I was therefore able to paint the garage door without slapping myself with the paintbrush. After almost three years of bare untreated woodiness, the door is now a fine shade of dark green, to match the trim. Also we have a new roof on the house, also a fine shade of dark, dark green. The roofers arrived at 7:45 last Friday and seven of them climbed up onto the roof and started scraping and shovelling. And banging. And running back and forth. JG could not stand the noise and spent most of the morning wandering around outside watching them work. By noon they had the field half of the new roof done and about a third of the front. At this point the sky darkened and the rain came down by the bucketful, causing seven men to scramble off the roof, pick up their tools and depart. They left us in good shape, with a small strip of plastic protecting the seam between the old shingles and the new ones. Not a drop leaked anywhere. They returned on Monday and finished the job.

We were not here on Monday enjoying the fairy footfalls on the roof, as we had travelled to a wedding in Toronto on Saturday and then gone on to Fort Erie to visit with my mother-in-law. It was some wedding! JG's great niece, whose father is part of a big Canadian/Italian family married a young man from an even bigger Canadian/Greek connection. There were about three hundred guests. There were five bridesmaids. The groomsman danced around the reception with a loaf of bread on his head and the rest of the guests (mostly from the groom's side) prancing after him. The bridesmaids had not practised this traditional dance; the results were rather chaotic. The bride's family had arranged for a six course dinner, this after a serving of antipasto which would have made a fine meal all on its own. And when we left, the groom's family were laying out a dessert table that it broke my heart to miss. It was an amazing event, all in all. Both the bride and the groom's families pitched in to put it on; I have a sneaking suspicion that there might have been a bit of Italian/Greek competition somewhere in the mix.

The whole question of what kind of wedding to have is, in my view, a fraught one. Big versus small. White versus colour. Time of day. What to eat and when. Photo ops. Dresses and what are the men going to wear. It amuses me to check in our local weekly paper for the 25th and 50th (and other marker years) anniversary announcements. It is easy to spot which anniversary it is by looking at what the bride and groom are wearing in the (obligatory) wedding photo. Glasses with pointy frames? Fiftieth. Long hair and a pale coloured coat on the groom? twenty-fifth. Strapless dress? First through tenth. Some of the announcements put in a 'before and now' pair of photos and it is huge fun to look at how the married pair have changed over the time span.

The great niece went the whole nine yards with her dress. (Literally!) She had a tulle veil that trailed behind her and on which the junior bridesmaid stepped as the happy couple was leaving the church, bringing the triumphal walk down the aisle to a fast stop. She had a bolero jacket with train over a strapless dress, the latter fitted with tiny buttons in back and, let me tell you, fitted pretty dern tight, also with train. Under all of this I am sure she was wearing one tough set of underpinnings. She looked spectacular. So did the bridesmaids who were in a uniform colour but each with her own choice of design for the dress. A smart move, in my opinion. My best friend once put me into a floor length turquoise tube, with overskirt, and I still shudder when I think about it. In August. In an un-air-conditioned church and hall. There is something to be said for strapless after all.

Wedding traditions. Ah, sigh. The same best friend also had a trousseau tea at which, as the matron of honour, I had to 'pour'. Even in 1966 this particular torture was going out of style. A lot later, my now ex son-in-law was determined that all of the Scottish traditions to which he was accustomed would be carried out in the ex colony where he was being married. He wanted a Real Fruit Cake for the wedding cake; none of this Canadian angel food stuff. He wanted a glorious outdoor background for the wedding photos. (This was Ottawa in early April. He got the inside wall of the church.) And I got to run the whole thing. It turned out fine, but I sure sweated the preparations, especially when my father got involved in what we should eat at the reception. Smoked salmon, he wanted. For one hundred people. He paid.

I hope that Saturday's bride will have wonderful memories of her great day, just as I have of mine. She is now, I believe, sorting through several thousand photographs of the event. Two photographers caught every glorious moment. And, poor thing, writing hundreds of 'Thank-you's'. Fifty years from now, I hope the wedding picture looks timeless.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

True Days

Chani has a very moving post up - about saying the truth and being the 'real you'. Also links to another blog that inspired her. She is suggesting that people who want to do some soul searching with support might wish to put 'True Day' in the title of a post about their authentic feelings about something.
I have a neat little sketch that might make a 'button'. It is this. It is by William Thakeray, called 'Vanity' and I believe it is public domaine.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Speaking American

I've just finished reading 'Do You Speak American?' for the second time. It's a fairly fast read because it is a fleshing out of a television series of the same name and, because it was written in 2005, it is rapidly going out of date in the some of the sections, voice recognition in computers being one. But it is still a fun read. A fascinating one, in some respects, for this Canadian.

Born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, just across the river from Detroit, I grew up on American radio and then American television (which arrived at our house when I was about 12.) And so, yes, I do speak American. I found this out when I arrived at an Eastern Ontario university and got jumped on for my 'American' accent. I turns out that I have a characteristic vowel shift in found

one of the largest American dialect areas. [This] most dramatic change involves about thirty-four million people around the great Lakes - Chicago, Syracuse, Rochester, Cleveland and Detroit - the area Labov calls Inland North.
It involves a thing called 'oo fronting' - saying the word 'do' more like 'dew', for example. In the Northern Cities Shift, the fronting is found in several vowels; "block" becomes "black", "buses" sounds like "bosses" and "socks" becomes "sacks". Labov, whom the authors quote extensively, calls this "a revolutionary change".

I spent four years of university frantically trying to correct my accent and expressions, with some success. Although I will probably never attain the gold standard of "oot" for "out", I was once asked, on a street corner in York, England, if I were Canadian. I still say 'fer' for 'for', and use some typical 'American' expressions, things like 'you guys' for a mixed group. Partly this is a tin ear inherited from my otherwise wonderful father, a man who said 'lie berry' and 'la SAG na' all his life, in spite of my mother's hissed corrections.

One thing this book says is that there is, indeed, a Canadian accent. Imagine my giggles when I read the following: "One of the reasons there are so many technical-support call centers in Ontario is that the Canadian accent is not perceived by Americans as regional". Peter Jennings, anyone? Of course, that was then. We are all now very frequently instructed by voices with the Indian sub-continent's rhythm and sing. Or, in one joyous experience I had, by a voice with the characteristic round vowels and drawl of Newfoundland.

The main thesis of this book is that accents and dialects are alive and well in the United States of America. 'Y'all' and 'You all' are perceived as friendly and are spreading like kudzu. the Mid Texas accent and expressions are flourishing. And what is referenced as either 'Black American English' or 'Ebonics' is holding its own in spite of the best efforts of frantic pedagogues to erase it. In fact, it is now being studied to death and people are trying to decide if it is a creole. People want their speech to reflect an identity inside mainstream America, the authors say, and in spite of the levelling influence of television, they cling to their vowels, expressions and cadence. 'Valley speak', notably the overuse of 'like' and the rising sentence end inflection, may be here to stay. My francophone step grandson has been putting three or four 'like's' in every sentence for years, and so this saddens me greatly.

The book also addresses the surging use of Spanish, but avers that by the third generation most children of immigrants traditionally have lost the second language. The authors see no need to declare the USA as an English only zone. American English, they surmise, will acquire a second round of Spanish words and expressions and remain the main language of communication, a victory for the 'melting pot' theory of integrating immigrants.

Canada does not do 'melting pot'. Here some language groups make a determined effort, funded in many cases by the federal government, to teach their children the 'old' language. A great deal of government money also goes into maintaining French as an official language. My personal bias is that it is a very good thing to teach children a second language when they are young enough to soak it up easily. Unfortunately, a second language that is not used is often buried or even lost. Even so, I think that a second (or third or more) language is well worth knowing, if only for its different insights and ways of thinking.

I love, for example, the French expression 'ventre à terre'. It means 'at high speed' but it translates literally as 'belly to the ground'. But, according to Little Stuff, the bilingual grandchild, I don't pronounce it properly.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Quick Notice

I've got a Chinese spam generator that somehow linked to my blog. I have turned on the Verification tool to block it. Apologies, those of you who are not bots.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

A Day on the Water

When this rainy summer provides you with a rare sunny day, you take advantage of it. And so, when the view out the window corresponded with the forecast one day last week, we hurriedly packed up sandwiches, a cooler of frozen water bottles, maps and I threw on a bathing suit, we hitched up the boat and chugged off to our favourite launch onto the Rideau Canal system.

It was a glorious day; a bit windy but sunny and promising warmth. We decided to stay off the wide and probably pretty rough Big Rideau lake and, instead, headed downstream toward Ottawa. This route takes you through a series of locks, some in the town of Smiths Falls and onto the Rideau River as it winds its way toward Manotick and Ottawa. I slathered sunscreen onto the vulnerable spots, JG put industrial strength blocker onto his ears and nose and we cruised down the first part of the Rideau to Poonamalie Lock.

This is a shady and beautiful spot and several pontoon and houseboats were tied up there for the day, leaving little space for down bound boats to tie up on the lock approach. And JG has been having rouble with the throttle lever on the outboard being stiff and sticking before going into neutral. And so we were approaching a small space at a relatively brisk pace. I reached for the quay bollard with the boat hook just as he decided the approach was too fast and put us into reverse. And the boat hook slid through my sunscreen slippery hand, poised for a moment over the water, gave a derisory glug and sank.

Some kind folk on the wharf roped us in and marked the spot where the boat-hook had gone down. A helpful gentleman from one of the houseboats ran and got his 8' reaching pole; he could see ours but it was in water deeper than he could reach. JG rolled a blue eye at me and said, 'You had better dive for it.' Ah, well. I did a couple of duck dives beside the spot Mr Helpful was marking and I got down to the bottom alright, even with 50 lbs of fat to pull with me, but I could not find the wretched pole. When I came up the second time empty-handed, Mr Helpful came into the water with me. If I could do it, so could he, he said and down he went and up he came with the pole, a yard or so off where I had been diving. JG and I were very, very grateful. And when Mr Helpful and I clambered back into our boat, we were both bleeding. Zebra mussels on the walls, the lock master informed us with some amusement.

Luckily it was a fine day to sit in the boat and drip dry. And a fine day to cruise through Smiths Falls where the docking slips and camp grounds beside the canal were full of happy vacationing folk who all waved at us cheerfully. There were not, however, any boats proceeding with us. And so, when we came to the deep hydraulic lock in Smiths Falls, we went down in solitary splendour. It is a long drop - the new lock replaces three older ones, now converted to a fine waterfall landscaped with flower pots.

There are only a few modern locks on the Rideau System, due to the efforts of concerned canal lovers protests when the first few were converted. It is now a world heritage site and Colonel By's handiwork is carefully preserved, leaks and all.

The historic locks are wood, as shown, and are operated with a system of geared gates driven by muscle power. There is a lock master at each lock or series of locks and the muscle power is supplied by bilingual summer students in green shorts and amazing sneakers. One of the prettiest is Old Slys, a double lock, where you look out into the sky from the top of the first one. After that comes Edmunds, the farthest we had ever previously gone, and then Kilmarnock. We went that far, still all alone in each lock, but were worried that we would miss the last lock through at Poonamalie so we turned there and started back.

I had put a shirt on over my bathing suit but had not buttoned it up. And, suddenly, I noticed that I had a very sore spot on my upper chest. I guess I had washed my sunscreen off in the water because I had a nasty burn along the top of the bathing suit. As I write this, days later, it is still peeling and hurting and annoying me greatly. Must never forget to reapply the gook after being in the water. Snarl. (YD is not allowed to comment on this, hear me?)

As the light gets longer in the late afternoon, to my mind things become more beautiful than in the stark glare of noon. This is a photo of Poonamalie lock as we entered it on the homeward journey. And if getting sunburned is the price I had to pay to be there, it is worth every itchy minute.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Sing a Song of Summer

The sun is shining. The air is dry. I am putting laundry on the line as fast as I can wash it, lest the weather deteriorate. Environment Canada's weather forecast is for possible rain tomorrow and then two days of sun. Unfortunately we had 3/4" of rain yesterday afternoon in as many minutes and so the door and decks that need paint and stain are too wet to work on. The rain also whomped my geraniums and the blooms are now all drooping or hanging their heads; I should really have dragged all the planters under the eaves when the sky turned black. Oh, well. More buds are popping up daily.

We have all been noticing how beautiful the wild flowers are this summer. The Queen Anne's lace is thicker than I have seen it since I was a child in Essex County, there are cornflowers and black-eyed Susan and buttercups and Canterbury bells and purple loose strife in quantities all along the roadsides, plus others that I do not know the names of; little yellow ones and big yellow ones and a spiky purple one and ....! Lots. And I am told the wild raspberries are good -- I will go and investigate after I get the wash line filled. A day in the sunshine, indeed.

Tomorrow I guess I will spend ironing. Such are the vagaries of housework in the land of little summer. At least we don't have forest fires this year. The newspaper has a photo of a house that was totally burned following a lightning strike yesterday, but I doubt you could get the forest to burn if you worked at it. Poor old B.C. has the opposite problem. I wish we could sent them a few days' worth of this waterfall we are having. I may also get at the windows since they haven't been washed yet this year, between my bad back and the weather. And vacuum the earwigs off the floors.

I don't know if earwigs are as much of a plague elsewhere as they are in southern and eastern Ontario. They are nasty, black crawly critters, mostly completely harmless but loathsome. They get into and under and between things and squish horribly when stepped on. I have bait out and am spraying poison into the dark, damp patches under the porches where they breed, but nothing stays through the rain and they can get into the house, I am not sure how. They also eat plant leaves, which plays hob with the landscaping. And they like toothpaste, for one. You haven't lived until you have picked up a toothbrush to put in your mouth and found an earwig clinging to it.

We also, of course, have biting bugs outside in huge quantities - mosquitoes love the rain and subsequent puddles. And we have deer flies in the bush and horseflies everywhere else. When I was a kid my parents had a cottage on Lake Erie, close to Point Pelee. In August the horseflies would arrive and the thing I hated most was that they would land on you when you were swimming and bite. I learned to be a champion underwater swimmer because of those flies. We don't have many of them close by, but we do have the smaller, vee shaped deer flies and they bite just as hard.

Deer flies will go for your hair and ears and the backside of your arms and your ankles and if you don't notice them land they take a noticeable chunk of flesh out and leave you cursing and bleeding. I am pretty well immune to mosquito bites - there is a mark for a few minutes and then it disappears - but the deer fly bites fester and itch for days. We have a neighbour who goes for walks with a butterfly net, waves it around himself, catches the deer fly and squishes it. You can also buy sticky strips which attach to your hat and the flies land and stick to the strip, buzzing and struggling until they finally die. Neither of these methods is perfect protection, but they do give the sufferer some satisfaction.

The biting flies will be gone in six weeks or so, but the mosquitoes last until frost, around Canadian Thanksgiving, if the summer has been wet. I don't want to live in the city but dwellers in the bush do pay a price for the absence of traffic noise, pollution and people. It is a price I am prepared to pay. I have two hummingbird feeders up and there is a newly fledged family at each of them, buzzing and cheeping and being chased off by the alpha male. There are also lots of American goldfinch around, blitzing the nyger feeder (a big bag of nyger seed costs about $80.00 but it's worth it.) We had a juvenile blue heron on the roof, of all places, on Monday. It flapped clumsily away and I hope it gets better flying skills soon. I love the birds, and that is only one of the joys of living 'in the bush'.

My favourite spot this time of year is our screened porch. It sits a storey above ground and is surrounded by trees, making you feel as if you are in a tree house. Nuthatches run up and down the adjacent tree trunks, the wind makes a wonderful noise in the leaves and cools you as you sit in the shade. And all the wretched flies are outside, frustrated.

I had planned on adding a lot of pics to this post, but the laundry machines are buzzing and it is almost lunch time. I may get back to it, she said, laughing.