Memories Of Australia

A friend of mine is turning 80 and his daughter, planning a collective gift, asked me to share a memory of Gerry. I’ve known him since 1976 – 45 years, not yesterday. I thought about my early days at Dalhousie’s Department of Education where we shared office space and often argued on the same side in department political skirmishes.

Then I remembered one of my trips to Australia – I was on sabbatical, in the country for close to three months. Gerry and his family were then living outside Melbourne where he was headmaster of a private school. It was early in the trip when I visited them. Terrific hosts, I was taken to various significant locations you must see when in that part of the country.

One of our stops was in Mornington – at a gallery which showcased contemporary Australian artists. The art was interesting. One particular piece – a large 21″ ceramic plate called out to me:

Bryan Trueman - Ceramic - Gum Trees

Bryan Trueman – Ceramic – Gum Trees

I’d have bought it instantly if I could have figured out either how to ship it back to Halifax so it would arrive intact or how to package it so I could carry it as carry-on luggage for the remainder of my travels.

That was Friday afternoon – I left the gallery without the ceramic. However, I wanted to see it again, so late Saturday morning the whole family and I returned to the gallery and I stood in front of the plate and still couldn’t make the purchase. Once more, I left without it.

That evening, Gerry and his wife and I were at a dinner gathering of friends of theirs and everybody at the party knew the plate. There was a lot of conversation about it and encouragement for me to buy the damn thing and then figure out how to travel with it.

So once again, Sunday morning, Gerry took me back to Mornington where I finally bought the plate. The gallery packed it for me in a huge wooden crate – definitely not carry-on baggage.

I took the crate with me the next day when I returned to Melbourne – by car. I was staying with an acquaintance and we discussed alternative ways I might pack the plate so I could travel with it. Finally decided on bubble wrap and a typically Australian woven plastic zippered shopping bag large enough to hold the bubble-wrapped plate.

Next day I ended up at the post office to purchase bubble wrap. Standing in line I starting kibitzing with the woman in front of me. When she learned what I was looking for she invited me to accompany her home – she’d just had a large parcel arrive from England and had a lot of bubble wrap she could give me.

I went with her, had a nice cup of tea, returned to where I was staying, unpacked the crate, rewrapped the plate, put all my lecture notes and study materials in my checked bag (praying my luggage would arrive with me) and headed to the airport. I kept the plate with me as carry-on when I boarded the small plane to Wagga Wagga. I carried the plate with me on each subsequent flight, and I did finally get it back home in one piece.

The Bryan Trueman ceramic hangs in a prominent place in my apartment, and I think of Gerry and that visit to Melbourne each time I glance at it.

I Guess It’s Spring…

Coltsfoot 2021

People have been sending me photos of coltsfoot they’ve come across – it’s really the first native spring flower here in NS. Until today, March 31, I hadn’t seen any myself.

These two flowers were lurking in the wooded patch beside my building. I went looking because that location becomes covered with their happy yellow faces. it’s an interesting plant – the leaves don’t appear until after the flowers have bloomed. 

So I guess it’s now officially spring here. Last year I saw coltsfoot on May 1. The earliest I’ve previously seen any was on April 14 in 2017. March 31 (actually my friend Marlene spotted some last week I her son’s back yard) is VERY early. 

The question now is how soon will we see Forsythia? In the past the first Forsythia has been close to the first of May.  It will certainly be earlier than that this year!

More iPhone Photography

It was actually a lovely snowy day today – snowing quite steadily but almost no wind. A perfect occasion to wear my Manitoba winter gear (which I’ve not parted with) and to take photos.

Our building superintendent was stoically shovelling (and reshovelling) the sidewalk in front of our building for much of the day. I just love his stylish snow-shovelling gear! I walked around him until I was able to see both feet not hidden by the shovel – I tried editing a bit, but in the end all I did was crop the image a little.

The Epitome Of Snow Shovelling Fashion

On the way back home I had my eye on hydrants as I passed them. This one seemed more sad than the others so I stopped to take it’s picture. Kind of reminds me of a toy soldier with his helmet pulled down around his ears.

Resolute But Sad

Several months ago I noticed this shelter built from fallen branches in the underbrush. I didn’t think a whole lot about it until today – it certainly wouldn’t afford a homeless person much protection! I wonder what the story is beind this construction….

An Untold Story

BTW – It annoys me to hear people complain about the weather – I learned many years ago in Manitoba that if I dressed appropriately for the day I could enjoy every day – rain, shine, snow. When I say I donned my Manitoba gear I mean it:

Wearing My Manitoba Winterwear (taken 2019)

A warm down parka faced with fur, a good scarf and warm boots and mitts – I’m ready for anything. In fact, I was too warmly dressed today so I unzipped the front of my coat a bit. I was snug at -30° C in Winnipeg mid-winter with this coat.

iPhone Photography

I’ve been sidetracked! A couple of weeks ago I signed up for an online iPhone photography course. To do the course justice, I have to be taking photos. The folks enrolled in the course around the world are taking terrific photos with their iPhones. I haven’t been out and about much for the last few weeks so I’m kind of limited to what I have here in the apartment.

I’ve been trying close-ups of the orchids and the amaryllis which is blooming again. I’m limited because my iPhone XR has a single camera (I don’t want to use the zoom, for technical reasons) unlike the latest iPhones which have either two or three cameras – one of which magnifies 2X. So I’m limited by how close I can get to my subject and still have the camera focus.

In this photo I was trying to keep the dots in the throat of the flower reasonably sharp. Then I edited the image trying to blur the background a bit and strengthen the veins in the petals and sepals.


I tried the same thing in this photo – not quite as sharp – I’ll have to try again on a brighter day. I was aiming to get the petals to be almost translucent

I was quite happy with this close-up of my amaryllis – I wanted to retain the pale green at the centre; I was also aiming to position the camera so the stamens were in focus. Here, your eye zooms in on the floral centre but then follows the stamens and the lines in the petals outward.
I’ve also tried a couple of portraits – using that mode it’s possible to blur the background in an interesting way. I need to take many more images before I’d say I can control of that function of the camera!

I now can intentionally take bursts of photos, use the “Live” function. On to the next module to learn more about what the iPhone camera will do.

And I have to get back to “At Five Islands” later today!

Putting Words To How I Feel…

Yesterday I got to the point where I could verbalize how I was feeling: disappointed and let down. Then my sister Donna sent me a link to Frank Bruni’s piece in the NYT:

Photo From The NYT

It’s always assumed that those of us who felt certain of Hillary Clinton’s victory in 2016 were putting too much trust in polls.

I was putting too much trust in Americans.

I’d seen us err. I’d watched us stray. Still I didn’t think that enough of us would indulge a would-be leader as proudly hateful, patently fraudulent and flamboyantly dishonest as Donald Trump.

We had episodes of ugliness, but this? No way. We were better than Trump.

Except, it turned out, we weren’t….

Some 46 percent of the Americans who cast ballots for president in 2016 picked him, and as he moved into the White House and proceeded to soil it, most of those Americans stood by him solidly enough that Republicans in Congress didn’t dare to cross him and in fact went to great, conscience-immolating lengths to prop him up. These lawmakers weren’t swooning for a demagogue. They were reading the populace.

And it was a populace I didn’t recognize, or at least didn’t want to.

Read the complete article yourself – he wrote it a week or so before the election, I wonder what he’s got to say now. I will keep an eye out for his next article.

How Maps Deceive

When I look at the current election map of the US I am mystified by the enormous red expanse. I’m supposed to believe that the US is almost entirely Republican:

Normal Vote Representation by State

And then I came across this map showing population density – now the election results make some sense! People in the US are clustered on the coasts and in a few central locations – and the vote distribution is clearly more equal:

Vote Map By Population Density

I came across the map in a tweet by Sarah Cooper and then tried to find out more.

“Land doesn’t vote. People do”

Here is the visualization by data scientist Karim Douieb:

Data scientist Karim Douïeb figured that a more accurate way to represent how people voted is to use colored dots, varied in size proportionally to the population of each county. He turned the results into this GIF, which provides a clearer picture:

Pretty eye-opening, no? And yet, while this is clearly an improvement over the ham-fisted method of the first map in this entry, even this is not quite accurate. Within each of those large blue dots, you still have plenty of people who voted red, and vice versa. These results only show you which party won the vote in each region.

What do you think we’d see, if these data represented actual individual votes and we could zoom in on each one? The country is now more divided than ever, and just about evenly split. So all I’m certain of is that zooming out, we’d see a perfect shade of purple.

I guess it’s important to think more deeply about the mundane.

The Day After…

A Gloriously Sunny Day

A gloriously sunny day, if cold, and I feel profoundly disappointed. Sad so many people chose the path they did. Last time wasn’t a fluke – just a harbinger of things to come. Yes, I know populism is spreading globally, but I’d hoped the folks in the US would see possibility in voting for the ideals expressed in their constitution. I guess they understand it very differently than I do.

People will continue carrying on – grocery shopping, visiting the dentist, managing in whatever ways they are managing in the middle of the pandemic. The stock market will go down and then up and then down again. This snow on the ground will melt tomorrow – the temperature is predicted to reach 12° during the day. Fall will march on, I have an appointment to put my snow tires on at the end of the month. Winter will come and go. Life goes on.

I don’t feel like sewing today. Maybe back to the mystery novel, maybe take a morning nap.

4:12 pm

After some conversation (and a few tears) I can now describe my feelings: profoundly disappointed and LET DOWN.

For more than 4 years I’ve invested huge emotional energy being informed and trying to understand American political happenings even though it’s not my country, and I don’t have a vote, but I have friends living in the US who were doing their damndest fighting for social justice for everyone.

I feel let down by all those women, LGBT, Black, Latino, other vulnerable people (who ought to have voted Democrat but obviously didn’t) whose social, financial, and health prospects will now be severely diminished because they supported the Republican ticket maybe even electing trump and returning a Republican senate which (if Biden/Harris are elected) will result in unimaginable acrimony and chaos for the next 4 years.

We don’t know the outcome yet (likely won’t for a few days) but you can certainly expect trump (even out of office), hanging around pulling Republican strings for as long as he wants.

It’s like being betrayed by a very close friend. It’s that same let down feeling. The best you can do is sever ties and move on with your life.

That’s it. I’m cutting out the news  – I can now invest the 2-3 hours a day I spent trying to stay informed reading novels, doing things that reduce stress levels. It’s time to turn my back on this nightmare I can’t do anything about.

Nov 3 2020 – Getting Through The Day

My day started as usual and being a Tuesday I first went to have my hair cut, then visited the chiropractor. Came home and had lunch. Next a bit of sewing:

I started a new small “purse” yesterday – 4 small zippered front pockets and one side pocket, to carry “my stuff”. I’m carrying less and less these days: a couple of credit cards (I probably could dispense with those since they’re in a card app on my phone, but I still carry three), my health card, drivers’ licence, car registration and insurance card, a bit of cash, a couple of loyalty cards, 2 low dose aspirin, and a wee bit of change.

The “change” thing, I realized this morning, was only for parking meters; I don’t use change for anything else – I’ve taken the coins from my purse and put them in a small change purse in my car – now I no longer need to put up with the weight.

My “Purse”

I made it from some leftover PUL fabric which I used the other day to make an outdoor heater cover for my sister in Toronto (I forgot to take pictures of that project – maybe she’ll send one when she receives it).

I’d sort of finished the purse last evening but didn’t like how I’d handled the side zipper so after lunch I took the two side and the bottom seams apart and redid the side zipper. It works better now.

Completed size: 4 1/8″ x 5 1/2″ – a wee bit large to fit easily in my front jeans pocket but it’s great in a jacket pocket.

It means I don’t have to carry a purse (my chapstick is in my iPhone case along with some cough candies and chewing gum).

It’s now 3:05 – I started a Thomas Perry novel yesterday (The Burglar) – I’m going to pass the next couple of hours – a tall glass of sparkling water with a couple of lemon slices at hand, and a the book.

Last night I fed Ruby and me; tonight she’s returning the favour so I don’t have to think about dinner.

It’s snowing out quite hard right now – even accumulating on the ground:

1st Snowy Day of the Year

I can barely see across the parking lot. I may put my snow gear on and go for a short walk in the storm in an hour or so – fresh air to clear my head.

Tonight, I’m gonna try to avoid any network TV – I’ve got the latest season (Season 4) of “Somebody Feed Phil” on Netflix – a great light, amusing way to pass some time. This season Phil Rosenthal is visiting Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Singapore, the Mississippi Delta, and Hawaii. All sure to be entertaining. 3 and 3/4 hours of binge watching.

When that’s over, I probably won’t be able to resist checking out MSNBC to see what Rachael Maddow has to say about the incoming election results. God I hope Biden/Harris are leading at that point. I’ve been preparing to feel like I did on Nov 9 2016 – as if people close to me have died. The polls have consistently been favouring Biden since last winter – surely that’s how the election will turn out – but like everyone else I’m nervous. I can feel the tension everywhere in my body.

I just read something by Charlie Cook (editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report – someone people consider “in the know”) – here it is: “Don’t Expect A Contested Election” – he should only be right!

And I’m Canadian – eh? I don’t have a vote in this contest. But it will affect my world in ways I can’t imagine right now.

Oh, well. Enough of this time wasting – gotta get to my mystery novel….

The Last Day Of Summer

It’s a week ago – October 22 – I spent the day with my friend Deb on the South Shore (of Nova Scotia) looking for bayberries.

Bayberry

They’re small, hard, waxy berries (birds eat them) wonderful for cleaning the soleplate of an iron. I collect them, remove twigs and leaves, and sew them into small cotton bags. Ironing with a hot iron melts the wax (which dissolves the gunk on the bottom of the iron) and the hard roughness of the berries scrapes it off.

However, there were none to be found where I’d previously harvested them. I checked with Margaret who was with me on previous excursions – turns out a house was built on the small stretch of dune where we’d found them before. Bayberries all gone! I’m going to have to locate another source.

Because it was such a lovely day – 20° C – highest temperature in Canada that day – Deb and I stopped at a stretch of nearby beach. Deb decided to have a wade – mostly so I could take pictures for her to send to family back home in Manitoba where they’ve been having snow!

The Last Day Of Summer

We had lunch at the LaHavre Bakery, then moseyed our way home. The next day, the temperature dropped substantially and while we’ve had some gorgeous sunny days it’s been quite a lot colder.

Summer’s over.