Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Midsummer Bee-yoo-tee


Perhaps it's just part of being a contrarian, but I can't help wondering why today (or maybe tomorrow) isn't the day called 'midsummer' as in Midsummer Night's Dream. After all, August 4th is pretty much midway between solstice and equinox -- in other words, the middle of summer, i.e., midsummer. 

The midsummer festival is apparently a very big thing in many places, especially in Sweden, with much in the way of eating and drinking and even doing a sort of 'froggy' dance as part of their celebrations

This year, as part of my trying to learn more about this observance (as truly, it has puzzled me a long time, at least as far back as Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy), I poked around and even found a novel The Hidden Beach

The book is set in Sweden, and the festivities feature prominently. Unfortunately, I only made it about halfway through, as the sub-plot proved to be overly romantic for me. Maybe I gave up too soon, but really, an awful lot of other books are always calling to me. 

As for me, I think I will do my own celebrating tonight. The moon is nearly full, and we're just about exactly halfway along the path from summer solstice to the arrival of autumn on September 22nd. Until then, I'll keep picking blackberries while the bees buzz their work-songs in my ear, and be glad that we're all still able to spend so much time outside. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

More of what we're calling the 'new normal'

This is the way authors now go about promoting their books -- with a virtual reading and conversation. 

I can't really say that I'm complaining, especially not today, when it's hot outside (at least for here, 28 degrees), so travel into Vancouver (had he been present, and not online) would have been miserable. I would likely still be caught in traffic or riding a train or bus, trying to get home.

Though really, for a chance to hear David Mitchell, a writer I quite love (having read all but one of his novels), I may well have braved the travel, especially where this latest one, Utopia Avenue, is set in the 1960s, an era I know all too well. There was talk of the "strange convergence" between much of what's happening now, and all that was happening then -- change, change, and more change.

The conversation was meaty (and fun) enough to keep me feeling I've had a small fix of literary entertainment, something I can never quite get enough of.

Part of signing up for this particular Zoom event included the option of buying the new book, but drat, it hasn't arrived yet. I can only it's going to be here soon. An in-person event would have meant I could buy one on-site, I am sure, and who knows, maybe even snag an autograph. Ah, the stuff of groupie dreams.



Saturday, July 18, 2020

The trouble with masks

They make me sweat. They make my nose itch. They bother my ears.

They protect those around me in case I have to sneeze, cough, or speak. They afford me some safety as well.

In other words, they're not so troublesome at all.

I remember when seat belts were first introduced. Up to then, the only time I'd ever used a seat belt was on a plane. And really, I hate to say it, but aside from keeping us in place during light turbulence, on a plane they are more a matter of mental safety than survival equipment.

But seat belts in a car make a huge difference in a crash. They've been mandatory in British Columbia since 1977, earlier than that in other jurisdictions, including the US. Although poking around for information about their use, I've discovered there's no law regarding them in New Hampshire. 

When they were first introduced, there were plenty of gripers -- belts were uncomfortable, they wrinkled your clothes, they seemed unnecessary. Yet, as time went on, we all grew accustomed to them, to the point where most of us now would be uncomfortable driving (or riding) without one.

As we keep seeing the numbers of COVID-positive cases rising, especially in the US, it's getting easier by the day to take the time to don a mask. Soon, I can only hope (at least while this pandemic reigns our lives), the matter of putting on a mask before entering a store or public place will become as automatic as getting into the car and clicking the belt.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Response to a bad idea, badly timed

I'll admit that I've never been a big fan of the police -- just as I'm sure there've been times they've not been too fond of me. Still, I don't pretend for a minute that we don't need them. There've been times I've needed to call them, and times too when I wish someone had called them for me.

But whatever ambiguous feelings I may have about them, I'm not alone in worrying about proposed changes for the police force in our city.

Our mayor was elected at least partly on the promise of replacing our police force (the RCMP) with a local Surrey force. He hardly received an overwhelming mandate, winning only 41.1% of the votes. This was in part because there were two serious opponents, and though neither of them accrued a higher total than he did, the votes they received together (in other words, votes cast against McCallum) constituted 51% of the vote.

As you can see, there are signs on lawns opposing the move to oust the RCMP. And though petitions filled with many signatures (40,000 by February) have been presented, Mayor McCallum remains hell-bent on his plan for this new force. Despite petitions -- both online and on paper -- asking him to reconsider his stance, he continues his persistence, with pleas from the public falling on deaf (or perhaps plugged) ears.

Looking at the steps required to become a member of the RCMP, the process appears to take quite a while with interviews followed by training, which in itself takes half a year. Especially with recent events demonstrating a widespread call for better, extended training for those serving as officers, it isn't the right time to employ any shortcuts to selection or training.

Unless Mr McCallum plans to have a police force that's undergone a much less rigorous application and training process than the standards set for the RCMP, it looks like anyone wanting to apply will have to hurry up, as the timeline is getting awfully tight. Yet not even the website for getting information on how to apply is active yet -- only an announcement that a board has been hired.

Canada Day was barely a week ago. That day meant there were exactly nine months remaining until April 1, 2021, the day when this supposed police force is scheduled to take over from the RCMP.

While it may only take nine months for a human pregnancy to be fulfilled, I suspect the transformation of Canada's largest RCMP detachment will take longer. Maybe the gestation period of an elephant (the one in the room?) would be a more appropriate time span to allow.

Friday, July 03, 2020

The delight of reading children's books

I used to work in schools, most of the time as a teacher-librarian. People used to comment about how lucky I was to be able to read all the time. Ha! It was rare to get any reading done beyond reviews, requests from teachers for particular titles, or documents outlining curricular changes (ugh). It was only when school finished at the end of June that I could once again dive into the pages of any book, simply for the pleasure of reading.

Only I found I wasn't able to start right in on what might be called 'adult' books. My regimen would always be to start off on a few Tintins. After that, I'd wean myself from pictures to words, but I'd still stay with what are called (foolishly perhaps) children's books.

Usually, these would be books I'd read before: The Secret Garden, the Narnia books, the lesser-known but wonderful Greene Knowe series by Lucy M. Boston.

The other day I ran across a list of favourite children's books as reported by various 'grown-up' authors. I was familiar with many, though not all of the titles -- but as you can imagine, I've started requesting some of them from my public library. Even though it's still closed, they've worked out a system so we can pick up requested titles when they come in, and for that I am grateful.

So, where it's now July, I'm giving myself permission to go back to some of those kids' books, as I suspect they'll be very good at helping me get back to feeling some of that old summer magic.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Magic in the forest

Even though Solstice has come and been, it hasn't been easy to convince myself that it's summer. It might be officially so, but the weather hasn't agreed. It's been cool temps, with the occasional light rain spitting just enough to dampen spirits.

Although I've put in some hours on a contract project, made a few jars of jam, and kept up with the usual domestic chores, with the weather so cool, I've mostly just wanted to curl up with a comforter, quietly turning pages, reading. And while I've managed plenty of that, yesterday brought a different kind of interlude.

A friend had done some repair work on an old violin we've had poking around here, and when he brought it over, he also brought his own. Not only did he bring it, he played an entire concert for us --
outdoors, of course, complete with the requisite social distancing.

It was pretty magical looking into the trees of our mini-forest while the music drifted over us. And maybe doubly magical for me, as the book I've been immersed in, Greenwood by Michael Christie is permeated with such a deep understanding of the forest and the interrelatedness of the trees that abide in it. It feels as though I've been living and breathing trees all week. Not a bad feeling at all, especially when accompanied by a private concert.

And now, I am hearing that there are violin concerts across the US, commemorating yet another man beaten to death by police. Devastating.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Row on row

The other day, because I had a small somewhat out-of-town errand to run, I had the good fortune to drive past a place I call my 'favourite' field. The farmer was on his tractor and in the process of cutting the hay.

A lot of people would likely sneeze at the thought of witnessing such an event -- and probably if I'd hung around for any length of time, I would have too -- but I found it so beautiful I had to stop and take a quick photo. The shot doesn't begin to match how gorgeous (at least to me) it actually was, still, it might give you a bit of glimpse of the freshness and the greenness of the tidy rows.

And then, because I always like to find some kind of theme for a post, I started fiddling around and looking for something along the line of rows.

Of course, "In Flanders Field" came up, but I knew that wasn't what I wanted, so on with the search I went -- until I found this very old poem, "Row On", credited to being found in the logbook of a whaling ship. The chorus especially, with its line, "There's dawn beyond the night" seemed apt for the difficult days we're in, a reminder that hope lies over the horizon, but that it's there, waiting.