I finally saw the Beach Boys play at Expo ‘86. I was 18 that summer and worked at one of the McDonalds there. That’s what I remember about Expo ’86, walking out of the wrong end of the Expo site when I was leaving for home, and ending up in a really bad
I remember when I was 23 and my Mom got a new car. It was right before I went to England. It was a ’92 Acura Integra is a teal green color. It was definitely a sports car and I was so proud of her. My mom had owned a bright orange Volkswagen Beetle once,
I can remember hearing Boston songs like Peace of Mind and More than a Feeling being played on the radio, as I was growing up, along with all the other big rock songs from the 70′s. In my early 20s I listened to a lot of music from the local scene, or from Seattle,
When I was 18 I was living in White Rock and had finished school, had finished working at McDonalds that summer at Expo ’86 which was my first job. I was then working in White Rock, part-time at Muffin Break, and also at a gift shop in the mall.
When I think back to 19 years ago, it surprises me how time has passed, and I wonder why I write about things when I do. I think sometimes it helps to distance myself geographically first. Some times it matters if I am in a relationship or not. Other times, I am sure there is
She poured herself a glass of port and looked out the windows onto the moors, and the road towards Peak Forest. A mist had moved in and she couldn’t see any moon or stars, and she drew the curtain over the front door and stoked the coal fire. She sat back on the settee to warm herself and to think.
Her husband was a jazz musician and he was away playing a gig in Penzance. Earlier he had called her from outside of a cafe when he arrived. She could almost smell the salty air right through the words that he spoke. It had been a long drive down but there were palm trees, he said, and fishing boats. He was often away playing. He would have two or three nights somewhere, then maybe a gig somewhere else along the way before he was home again. The nights he was away, she would watch a film or stay up late and read. They had recently moved into the cottage in Derbyshire, which was at least 150 years old. They loved it there. It was once a laundry cottage connected to the main house when it was first built. It had long oak beams across the ceiling in the lounge, and a red brick floor in the kitchen, which felt smooth under bare feet.
She didn’t mind him being away, it had always been this way, but just recently she had experienced strange pangs of homesickness. She wondered why this was. Just a feeling she had sometimes when she went outside and walked down the street. It’s as if things rubbed her the wrong way, like an annoying label on a dress or an itchy sweater. She felt as if she was in the wrong place. The buildings look wrong, or people’s voices didn’t sound right. She was originally from the U.S., from the east coast, but had lived in England for quite a few years now. She had fit in quite well. It felt like home not long after she was there, even though she was far from the coast and the Augusts in Derbyshire were filled with humidity and thunderstorms, instead of a gentle sea breeze.
When Leland was home, they went out the other night, and these feelings arose. They had been at the Opera house to see a performance about Noel Coward. She had worn her blue velvet coat she had bought at the antique clothing shop in town and they had gone for a couple of pints at the pub across from the theater first. She had become a connoisseur of good bitter since she had been with Leland. When they first started seeing each other, it was always him on the phone first, “I’m back in town.” She would then jump into a cab and meet him at the pub. She soon knew which pubs had good bitter and which didn’t and could make a solid assessment within a moment or two of tasting it. The best pint they had was at a pub along one of the canals a village or two away. The day they had gone there, it was sunny and despite this the pub was quiet and the bitter was good, as if it sparkled on her tongue, and they had sat by the water’s edge and watched the water. There were canal boats there, and Leland had said he always wanted to live in one of them, instead of a house.
After the pub, they went to the Opera House and took their seats. Well into the play, there was a scene where the actor playing Noel Coward was in New York and he was looking out onto the Atlantic and thinking about England and was missing it terribly. She felt her eyes start to sting and she couldn’t stop it. Before she knew it she felt tears start to roll down her face and she was crying. The more she dabbed them and pretended they weren’t there, the worse it got, and it took a while before she got herself together. She was glad that it was dark, but you could still see people’s faces because of the stage lighting. Leland had noticed her sniffling and had whispered to her asking if she was alright. She had muttered something back to him, assuring him she was alright, and then pretended nothing had happened. After the show, they walked home and talked about it, past the shops shut-up for the night, and the hanging-baskets in decline after the summer. They had laughed about it then. She wondered though if she needed a trip home.
There had been the odd teething problem with moving into the house. It seemed apparent that they had a ghost issue. There had been several incidents, experienced by both Chloe and her husband. They all seemed to focus around the master bedroom. Once when she was in the house alone, she was vacuuming upstairs in the hallway and she went to open the master bedroom door, but she found it was stuck. She couldn’t open it. It had something like a Suffolk thumb latch lock on the door. She had never seen a lock similar until she lived there. It wasn’t like the lock wasn’t working on the outside, it was as if someone had locked it from the inside of the room. She struggled with it but it wouldn’t budge. This had never happened before. She took a break, and when she went back about an hour later and tried to open it, it opened as easy as anything.
Often there were spooky incidents at night. One night she was alone and Leland was away. The master bedroom was of a typical size. It had an old sash window with a view. At night you looked out at the lights of the town, the tops of buildings and church steeples against the dark rolling hills in the background. She was drifting off to sleep in bed, sleeping on her side facing away from the wall, and she could feel something pushing her, as if there was a palm of a hand at her spine, pressing it in waves, pushing her out of the bed. It was as if someone was in the bed and wanted it for themselves, or she wasn’t supposed to be there. It wasn’t as if it terrorized her. She was aware of it, it half awoke her, then she must have gone back to sleep. In the morning she woke up and thought about it for a while, as if trying to decide if she imagined it. But she remembered the sensation clearly.
She told Leland about it when he got home. He then experienced the same thing himself a couple of days later. He had just come home from a long drive from York and hadn’t had much sleep the night before. He went upstairs for a nap and of course the same thing happened to him. Soon it was happening all the time and Leland said he was willing to give anything to get rid of the ghost. He felt like he was being pushed out of his own home, and his own bed specifically, which he was.
Leland had a large collection of jazz and blues records and other sorts. In his collection there was Lead Belly, Robert Johnson, Billie Holiday, Scott Joplin, Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band, along with some early Stones albums and some Pink Floyd. In the early days of the summer when they were moving in he unpacked his record collection and filled the bedroom shelves. Some of it she hadn’t heard before. She had grown up listening to American radio and she had never heard the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. The first time she heard them she couldn’t believe her ears. She had heard nothing like it before. She laid back on the bed as he played some of the records as he went through them. He played See Emily Play and said it was his favourite Pink Floyd song. He said if he had a daughter he would call her Emily, and go live on a canal boat. Chloe rolled her eyes at him.
Some records were worth more than others and he said he didn’t care about the worth, it was the music he loved. He even had a signed copy of Billie Holiday’s Body and Soul that was probably worth a few thousand pounds. He never played it, but because they were celebrating their move into the house, he played a song. He played Moonlight in Vermont. Chloe thought the song was like all the seasons in a mixing bowl, all nice things, and the moonlight constant right through it. It was summer, and it was still light out late at night then and there were midges about, and the smell of cut grass, but listening to Billie sing about the moonlight was nice. “It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I’m not going to sell it.”
It seemed though, when Leland was home playing his records, there were fewer ghost incidents. She thought the ghost must be enjoying the music. This lasted for a while, but then it seemed to lose its effect.
One afternoon Leland was playing Scott Joplin’s Pineapple Rag on the record player in the bedroom and the door slammed shut and locked him in there. She had gone to the shop for a pint of milk and when she had returned, she could hear him banging and shouting over the music.
She was able to open the door and let him out, but he was in quite a state and had been imprisoned for almost the entirety of the song, so at least three minutes. She herself, quite liked Pineapple Rag, and couldn’t understand the behavior of the ghost. Leland had been more stressed lately as he had given up smoking the twenty roll-ups a day, but he was doing quite well.
So that night, with Leland in Penzance and one of the last nights in October, she sat in front of the fire and drank the port. She thought about all these things and then went and had a sound sleep.
The next night she was to go trick or treating with her nieces. The plan was she would walk down to their house, and take the girls in their costumes around to a few of the houses in the neighborhood. The nieces had fun. One had dressed as an evil queen, and the other had dressed as a pirate. People brought change or sweets to the door for the kids. One of her nieces gave her a chocolate bar as a gift for taking them out. Then she took them to a Halloween party where there was apple bobbing and other games and soon it was time to go and she took the girls home.
Walking up the hill from the market on her own, the leaves crunched under her feet and she could smell smoke from the odd chimney. She realized she still had a chocolate bar in her coat pocket which her niece had told her to eat, but she had already had too much sugar. She tried not to handle it as she didn’t want it melting.
On the way back, she saw a greyish figure walking by the roadside. At first she thought it was a man in some type of elaborate costume. He was wearing a helmet and it looked like some type of shield as well, and a skirt. Then she could see that the man was walking, but was only visible from the knee upwards above the road.
She realized then that it was the ghost of a Roman soldier who was walking along. A Legionnaire. He was on his own with no other troops in sight. She said hello to him and he stopped. “You do realize you’re walking on the old Roman road and it looks like your legs are chopped off below the knee as you walk. I just wanted to point that out to you.”
“I’m sorry I look ridiculous,” he said. “I’ve been walking on that road for so long now, I didn’t realize there was a new one.”
She asked why he was there and what had happened to him. He said that back in the day, he was dating a local village girl and some of the Celts didn’t like it. One day he had left his troops and had been on his way to meet her and had been caught by some cruel locals who had murdered him. He said he had been buried not far from here, and so there he still walked.
She asked him if he missed Rome, and he said of course he did. “But it seems I am stuck here now, like I’m in some sort of loop in time.”
“I too feel like I’m in a loop,” she said. Then she muttered something under her breath about Noel Coward, gazing out onto the ripples of the Atlantic.
But the Roman ghost had excellent hearing and caught what she said. He asked, “Who’s Noel Coward?”
“British playwright,” Chloe said. “He’s dead now too.”
“Oh,” said the soldier. He seemed confused by this.
Chloe asked, “Can I do anything for you?”
The Roman said he was hungry and she reached into her coat pocket and found the chocolate bar and handed it to him. He unwrapped it and started to eat and thanked her for it.
“We have a ghost in our house, my husband and I, that we can’t get rid of,” she said. She proceeded to tell him him about their ghost.
“All I can suggest is that perhaps the ghost wants something. Maybe give it a present, and it will be happy and go away.”
Soon the Roman was finished eating his chocolate and Chloe wished him the best of luck and said she hoped he wasn’t stuck there too much longer as it seemed quite a tedious predicament he was in.
That night when she got home she thought about what the Roman soldier had said. She didn’t know what to offer the ghost or what it might like, as well it had seemed rather uncommunicative, unlike the Roman ghost, who was the type of guy you could sit and have a pint with. He was very easy going. She doubted it would work, but when she got home that night, she thought of what she could leave out for the ghost. It wasn’t as if she believed it would take it. Maybe it would just appreciate the thought and leave them alone. Some sort of peace offering.
After she had locked up and brushed her teeth, and before she turned off the light, she took the signed Billie Holiday copy of Body and Soul and placed it on the end of the bed, then she turned off the light. She slept soundly and woke up the next day and the record was gone. It was no longer at the end of the bed. She got up and looked for it, maybe it had slid off the bed, but she found it nowhere. It was gone.
She had one of those days that you do when you are bracing to give someone bad news. After more frantic searching, she had eventually given up. Leland had played two nights in Penzance and then had a long drive home. In the evening when he walked in the door, still holding his guitar, she told him what had happened. ‘The ghost took the autographed copy,” and then she explained.
He did not take it well, in that he said nothing, then turned with his guitar and walked out the door again. Some time passed, a few hours perhaps and she thought it was best she go out looking for him. After some creative searching she found him collapsed on a nearby golf course, drunk, with his guitar beside him.
“You’re piddle-poddled,” she said. She picked the guitar up and collected him and they started on their way home in the cool air, and there was a moon that night. After they were home with the doors locked and tucked in, what they didn’t know was that they had their house back. There would be no more pushing and shoving and slamming doors. The ghost must have liked Moonlight in Vermont. The Roman soldier was right, and the house was peaceful from then on.
It was a Sunday in Dauphin, Manitoba, the day my Great-Grandfather Arthur decided to take his own life. He was a farmer, and at around 5 o’clock in the evening that day, he shot himself in the head with a .22 rifle. He was 59 years old. The day was June 19, 1932.
I am not sure if he was a churchgoer, or if he had been to church that day. I don’t know where his wife Antonina was at the time, or whether she found him. I do know that the sun set at two minutes to ten that night, and if it was a typical June day in Dauphin it would have been warm and sunny and around 22 degrees Celsius.
In fact, most of the family were unaware Arthur’s death was a suicide for many years after, as the facts about his death were hushed. Herbert, his eldest son would have known as he signed the death certificate. Arthur’s wife died 7 years later, so the rest of the family, thinking he died of natural causes or an accident must have pieced together the truth later on, after reading personal papers of their father’s, where he expressed that he had been in a depressed state for some time.
Arthur, in many ways had lived an exceptional life, and had survived many things, and up to then was a survivor. As a child in Wiltshire, England, he survived a neglectful father, and the death of his mother in a workhouse when he was only 10. He had survived in England for the next four years, possibly in care the whole time, then he survived the boat trip to Canada. When he arrived in Canada, he then made a journey soon after to visit his sister Sarah Andelina where she lived in Utah, almost starving to death along the journey. He left her after a short time, and she felt bad that she couldn’t help him. Arthur was also a Home Child.
I didn’t know what a Home Child was until recently. From 1850, for many years there was a movement in the UK of sending children experiencing tough economic times to ‘white’ commonwealth countries such as Canada and Australia. The idea was that the children would go to the land of milk and honey and have someplace to stay and be trained to work on a farm. Unfortunately, the people conducting the emigrations had no idea as to the needs of the children or what could possibly go wrong once they emigrated to a new country.
Many children were taken from parents who were still alive, who may have been sick or poor. Once they reached Canada they worked in slave-like conditions which could be quite abusive. Many of the children suffered emotional trauma and some committed suicide. One of the organizations sending children to Canada was Dr. Barnardo’s.
On Tuesday, May 17, 1887, Arthur sailed on the SS Parisian from Liverpool, and arrived in Halifax 11 days later. He was listed as being in a group of 209 boys of the Dr. Barnardo’s party.
After Arthur had arrived in Canada and gone to the US, after he had left his sister Sarah Andelina, there are a few years where we don’t know his whereabouts. It could be, as he was a Home Child, that he spent the remainder of his teenage years suffering from abuse and hard living working on a farm for his keep.
But Arthur reappeared in Manitoba in 1899 and applied for a homestead and on May 26, 1899 he got it. Then a couple of months later, on July 13th, he married Antonina, and in subsequent years they had nine children who grew up healthy.
So in asking why Arthur took his life, we can look at several factors. The Great Depression had started before his death, and Manitoba and the Western Provinces had been hit hard. During the Depression there was an increase in suicides. Arthur, though, had expressed in journals that he had been depressed for some time. One might raise questions about what really happened in those years of his youth, around ten years when we don’t know his whereabouts, and whether he had suffered emotional trauma then which he didn’t recover from. The death of his mother and his stay in care in England would have also been scarring. His parents had both come from educated families with money, but there was a sad reversal of fortune.
The British government has issued a formal apology with regard to the Home Children. In 2010, Gordon Brown apologized to the British Home Children and their families:
“To all those former child migrants and their families, to those here with us today and those across the world, to each and every one, I say we are truly sorry. We are sorry that instead of caring for them, this country turned its back. And, we’re sorry that the voices of these children were not always heard, their cries for help not always heeded. And we’re sorry that it’s taken so long for this important day to come and for the full and unconditional apology that is justly deserved.” – Gordon Brown, apologises to the British Home Children and their families, Wednesday February 24, 2010.
Arthur was born in Westerbury Leigh, 20 miles from Stonehenge, and a couple of miles from the Westbury White Horse. Set in the green fields of Wiltshire, the town would seem the place for a blissful childhood. The Westbury White Horse is set high above Salisbury Plain. Legend says that a version of the horse was carved there to commemorate the Battle of Ethandun, won by King Arthur in AD 878.
Arthur returned to England on a trip once in 1920. He took a picture of the house he was born in. The X on the photo marks the room where he was born.
The picture included at the start of this post is a painting by Eric Ravilious, who painted “Train Landscapes” of the countryside outside of Westbury Leigh in 1939. By that time Arthur would have been dead 7 years, and Antonina gone that very same year.
Arthur must have remembered times as a boy, looking out onto the hills and seeing the Westbury White Horse. It is interesting to imagine Arthur living on, and not taking his own life, maybe being back for a visit, and on that train, looking out at the white horse on the hill, the view largely unchanged from how he remembered it.
A special thanks to Tony Sainsbury for his assistance with research and for his book:The Sainsburys of Westbury Leigh – Their Story- By Anthony Sainsbury, August 2008.
Off Colour Horse That’s Looking All White Again – James Chapman, Daily Mail (London) October 9, 2001.
I never remember being afraid of heights when I was growing up. I was afraid mostly of loud noises and lack of light. I didn’t like being on deck when the loud horn on the ferry sounded when we were leaving Horseshoe Bay. I didn’t like cutting through my neighbour’s yard in the dark when I was coming home from my friend’s house at night when Clifford Robert Olson was at large. I shouldn’t have been cutting through it anyway, but it knocked about 10 minutes off the journey home. The yard was long and dark and full of tall fir trees, and the only light I could see to guide me was the light from the porch or the faint streetlights. I didn’t like going downstairs to the basement in our house. Not for any sensible reason, it just made me nervous.
Now I’m older, I am more wary of towering landscapes, either urban or natural. Being high above the ground. If I am out for a run, and I fall, it hurts more when I land than it did when I was a kid. So maybe it is the height that bothers me, and the fear of falling, or failing.
When I was a kid, down at the end of our property, past our yard, there were very tall, very old fir trees on the way down to the beach. The trees were old and straggly and had chunks of branches missing, but these were the types of trees the bald eagles liked. They would fly to the top of the highest trees and we would see their white capped heads, and I would think their white heads meant they were very wise. I knew that from their point of view, they could see everywhere, all down the railroad tracks and way across White Rock Beach across the Bay to the US.
When I was 12 or 13 my friends and I would sometimes go shopping in Surrey for something to do. Clothes shopping, and looking in the record store, and then getting a hot dog and a malt. If we really wanted to upgrade our outing, we would go by ourselves downtown Vancouver. There was a bus called the 351 that we used to catch, and it would take us all the way downtown. Downtown had A & B Sound on Seymour then to buy records, and more shops than Surrey Place or Guildford, and we were old enough. We had been taking the bus down there for a couple of years.
One day, I was on my way to go shopping with my friend Charleen to Vancouver and we had managed to secure a ride with her Dad downtown. Charleen’s Dad drove an ex-police car. I couldn’t quite grasp when she told me this, because I always thought police cars looked a certain way, and had a siren on top, and these cars didn’t. Anyway, her Dad drove us into Vancouver, and we were in the South Granville area, in traffic waiting at the light at 16th and there was a car in front of us with a small child in the back seat. The child had turned around, obviously without it’s seat belt on and was staring rather gobsmacked out the back window at us. I remember then Charleen’s Dad said something funny. He said,”Oh look, there’s a peanut with a face painted on it.”
We then laughed and then the traffic started moving and the child sat up properly and did something else. So when we got downtown, her Dad dropped us off at a place where we could access a mall door within a short walking distance. That was Pacific Centre Mall then. But that day, we had the idea that we were going to go somewhere nice for lunch. We looked our age in jeans and t-shirts, and I probably had my ski jacket on, even though I didn’t know how to ski. Somehow we decided to go to the spinning restaurant in the Sears Tower. Like all these spinning restaurants, it was just like a skyscraper with a spaceship on top. Neither of us had been up there before. I just remember when we went up in the elevator, it shot up like a torpedo straight up into the air and I could feel my stomach go woosh.
We went in the restaurant and asked to be seated at a table by the window. We had a fancy waiter with dark hair and a spotless white shirt on and a French accent, which was something I didn’t hear everyday. I must have stared every time he opened his mouth as I had only heard French people on TV. I assumed this is what happens when you go to restaurants like this. Everything is very clean and cultured. It wasn’t like Brownie’s Fried Chicken where you sat in a booth dipping your fries in the extra gravy.
For some reason I was obsessed with chicken cordon bleu at the time. I think because it sounded like something from France, and I had never had it before. It just happened to be on the lunch menu. I must have thought I had better order it, since we had this French waiter and all. I think we had a little basket of bread too with proper butter, so we worked at scoffing that while we were waiting.
As we ate and chatted, I looked out the window too. Sometimes it was as if it was spinning so slowly I hardly noticed. Then I realized I was starting to face a different direction. First there was Stanley Park, where I used to love to go see the Aquarium when it was my birthday. Then there was North Vancouver where the Sea Bus goes, and where we had gone to Park & Tilford Gardens once at Christmas to see the lights. The mountains which were green most of the way up then snowy and icy on top. Then over to other parts of Vancouver and some areas I didn’t know. I could even see Mount Baker far off in the distance. All the time I was up there, it never bothered me I was so far away from the ground.
What I do remember was after I had my lunch and we had paid the bill, I scraped up what change I had left which I think was 68 grubby cents, and handed it to the waiter as he had come to say goodbye to us, and said, “You can keep that.” I had no idea how to tip or how much I should have left. I thought I was being quite sophisticated. In spite of this he was very gracious after I put it in the palm of his hand and said thank you very much for it.
Charleen’s Dad picked us up to drive us home. He asked us if we had bought anything and we both said no. “No!?” he said, as if saying what was the point. In the traffic driving out of Vancouver, it was if in my mind the downtown folded up and put itself away, until next time. Staring out the window as I always did, watching the line of the sidewalk pass by, I thought about the eagles in the treetops on the way to the beach, and how they could probably fly to Vancouver in about 5 minutes.
thatMerriam-Webster: that definition: the person, thing, or idea indicated, mentioned, or understood from the situation. →
In 1897, two days before her 17th birthday, Antonina boarded the SS Prussia in Hamburg along with some of her family – her father, her brother and two sisters. They were sailing to Halifax, and would reach Canada eleven days later, then would make their way to Manitoba. Her mother and her youngest sister sailed several months later, going through Ellis Island before joining the family.
Antonina Skakun was my maternal Great Grandma and her family came from Galicia, which was a historical area including SE Poland and Western Ukraine, the North Carpathians and bordering on Slovakia.
She was born in Warwarnyce, called Varvaryntsi on the map which is a village just south of Ternopil, off the N18 in the Ukraine.
From the google map photo Varvaryntsi is quite a small village and set in the countryside. The population now is only around 1,300. In the late 1800’s in the Ukraine, there was a large emigration of settlers to Canada. In particular between the years from December 1896 and December 1898, there were around 10,000 Ukrainians that emigrated to Canada. Many of those were from the Galicia area.
I spoke to my Grandma about her mother sometimes. Grandma said her mom’s family wanted to leave the area because her brother would have to join the army. They didn’t want this so they decided to leave. In ‘Old Austria’ a conscription did go into effect in 1868, meaning every man had to serve three years of service in the military. She had a brother who was two years older than her.
The history of the nearby city Ternopil is complicated. From 1772 the city was under Austrian rule then from 1809 it was under Russian rule. In 1815 it was under Austrian rule again, in accordance with the Congress of Vienna.
Times I spoke to my grandma about her mom, she said that Antonina had remembered an experience of going into a big city as a child to have a procedure done on her eye, and she believed it was Vienna that she went to.
In 1861, Galicia won limited autonomy in the Austrian Parliament. In West Galicia people spoke Polish and in East Galicia people spoke Ukraine. These two languages along with German were made official languages. The Jews there were refused recognition by the Austrian Government. As far as religion in the Skakun family I have found only a reference to the Greek Catholic religion at this point, and this is mostly from Canadian census records.
Because of the many political changes in the area, it was an administrative nightmare for those dealing with the Galicians emigrating, as many of the people from the same area referred to themselves as being Galicians, or Ukrainians, or Russians, or Austrians or Ruthenians.
Galicia had been designated as an agricultural zone with peasants being dependent economically on landowners that owned 40% of the land, and this led to the land holdings for the peasants being small. Although there were some agricultural networks set up that helped, many of the Galician peasants still found village life too difficult and by the end of the 1800′s had emigrated.
The family settled in Dauphin, Manitoba and worked as farmers. Antonina soon married my Great Grandfather Arthur Sainsbury, who had emigrated from England as a teenager and was a ‘home child’.
Between 1900 and 1919, Antonina had 9 children, plus two that died in infancy. From the above picture I knew both Marjorie and Elsie quite well while I was growing up. Last time I saw Elsie was when she was 96 and she ended up living past 100. Unlike Antonina and Arthur, many of their children lived well into their nineties or lived to a good age.
Although I am just putting together some of the details of their life in Manitoba, it can’t have been easy being a settler. Antonina’s husband Arthur eventually committed suicide in 1932. I know too that Antonina died in 1939, before she was 60 years old.
My grandma was 32 when her mother died but Antonina had ailed with a kidney disease or condition for quite a few years and when my grandma was in school in Dauphin growing up, she had to quit school in order to look after her mom when she was ill.
Antonina’s father was from Galicia, I am unsure of the birthplace of her mother. I am still looking into family links in the Ukraine. It would be interesting to find relatives who had stayed in Eastern Europe. I have to say I had always been told my great-grandmother was from Austria, but I didn’t realize the complex political history of the area.
The future of the area was war-torn. The area around Ternopil was a mix of Roman Catholic Poles, Greek Catholic Ruthenians and Jews. In WWI the city passed from German and Austrian forces to Russian forces a few times. It was burnt down in 1917 by escaping Russian forces. It was occupied by Germans in 1941. Nearly all the Jews in Galicia died in WWII.
In fact looking at the Shoah database online, there were people from the village of Warwarynce (Varvaryntsi) that died in the Holocaust, and there are a lot of Jewish Skakuns that died in the Holocaust.
So maybe they were better off leaving and settling in a new land. I hope Antonina had many happy days in her life. I just wish I had quizzed my great aunts more when they were alive, but sometimes getting people to talk about the past is a bit of an art.
Article title: Galicia (historic region, Poland and Ukraine). Encyclopedia title: The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. © 2012
The Sainsburys of Westbury Leigh- Their Story – Anthony Sainsbury August 2008
When I was in my senior year in high school one afternoon a bunch of us sat in the bleacher-like seats in the classroom where I normally played my flute in band. I was sitting in the second to last row near the back, and that day I believe it was some type of career talk the soon-to-be graduates were being given. I remember we were asked what we wanted to do for a living. We each spoke in turn and one of my classmates said he wanted to be a journalist. When it was my time to answer, I said I wanted to be a journalist too. Twenty-five years later, that classmate now is a reporter for Global, interviewing some of the most interesting and influential people in the world, and visiting some of the most war-torn and dangerous places. He has been doing this for quite a few years now.
I have taken a somewhat alternative path, or maybe it was the long road, and I’m still working at getting to where I am happy to be for a while – some kind of sunny rest-stop with a tailgate picnic, a cold pop out of the cooler and sandwiches to eat like we did on road-trips with Mom and Dad as a kid. I have shoes that have been mostly comfortable, but nothing fancy, and they have always been there on my feet with occasional holes, but keeping my feet dry. Sometimes the shoes have been taken in for repair, or glued at home, or in my gig-going days of my early ‘20’s patched up with electrician’s tape. They have been on my feet in the same way that I have always managed a roof of some sort over my head, and food, even if it resorted to a colleague buying me something for lunch on a rare occasion. But I have always been involved with writing, so there have been glimpses of journalism along the way.
Things started off with poetry. I had first started submitting poetry to the West 49th magazine at Langara Community College when I attended in the late eighties and then I was accepted into the UBC Creative Writing program (a program started by Earle Birney in the 1960’s). My Creative writing degree was kind of split between UBC and finishing a similar program at the University of Derby in England where I graduated with a degree. This is because after a year at UBC I had ended up living in the UK and then had to put in time as an ordinary resident in order to attend university there. I had more poetry published in some small magazines in England. While studying for my Creative Writing degree I used to take the TransPeak bus through the Peak District in Derbyshire to Derby where I had studied anything from writing poetry to writing for children and radio. When I was there too I completed a research project on why women poets began to write. (Out of the several women I studied most of their writing was triggered by the death of their father).
Then in the next few years I had some more opportunities to write in the UK and during a short time I was back in Canada, so in 1999 I did some free-lance article writing for the Peace Arch News in White Rock featuring some local women in business. Back in England I did some work for a PR company for a while, writing articles for building companies that built high-end warehouse loft apartments in places like Nottingham. Even when I worked in admin in the planning department of the town hall in Cheshire I was writing some articles relating to the planning department for local papers. I did a short stint at the Matlock Mercury in Derbyshire helping with proofreading, but I didn’t really do any writing when I was there.
What does it mean that I said I wanted to be a journalist? I said I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was 15 and what did I know, I was useless at science. I took chemistry in high-school and my science teacher told me I should never take a science course, “Ever, ever, again.” I think I just liked the idea of scuba diving and examining all the sea creatures. I had wanted to be a hairdresser when I was seven and I had experimented by cutting all the hair off one of my dolls when I was at my grandmother’s, and was scolded by her. The doll’s hair looked terrible, all uneven and the worse thing was she couldn’t grow it back.
There were those that inspired me. I had a chance to go to Gloria Steinem’s book signing at the UBC bookstore when I was 22. I told a friend I was going and I didn’t know a good question to ask Gloria. She suggested asking if they were still running short stories in Ms. Magazine, she had heard that they had stopped. So when I had my book for her to sign and I was in front of Gloria Steinem, I asked her and she answered no they’re still accepting short stories, and she had a concerned look on her face when she said it. I thought oh no, I didn’t know if she liked my question. I felt worried for maybe a minute or two when I walked away, then the excitement of meeting her returned where it remained for the rest of the day.
So while I was managing to have the opportunity to write in small amounts here and there I still hadn’t found the opportunity to write for a living in any long-term way. It was a little while later I got side-tracked and went to law school. Even at law school what I found most fascinating was the story of the ordinary people that were in the cases we studied. Nowadays most of my writing is on my blog, and I have other goals in my life. I like running and I like dreaming of travelling and visiting places I haven’t been to. I have always been athletic but I appreciate sport more now than I did years ago and enjoy watching baseball and hockey. I still even dream of having the family that I have not quite managed to have.
So it was only recently when I found out I was being laid-off at my job that I thought about what I really wanted to do. I saw that Langara had a journalism program and I thought this would be an opportunity for me to update my education and focus on learning the field. It would be a gift to myself at this point in my life to be able to go back to school, yet again.
At 44 I am hoping to go back to Langara, where I took classes 25 years ago. Those were days of personal growth. I can remember standing at the bus-stop after classes waiting outside of Langara, and finishing the last few pages of War and Peace. Things have changed at that campus I’m sure. With the skytrain the travelling should be easier, with not having to take three buses from Kits like I had to in the old days.
So here I am in my usual way, making my own life changes, and trying to get my marks from overseas. Some of my marks are so old they are actually archived. I had to contact a special team (like mark anthropologists) to dig them up first before I pay the $50 so they can be manually typed out before they can be whisked to me across the universe via email.
Recently I was in the grocery store and the young girl mentioned she had just finished her exams and how glad she was. I asked her where she was going to school and she told me. I mentioned I was hoping to go back to school and I was applying to take a journalism course at college. She asked me if I was a journalist. I said well…I’ve done some stuff.”
And I have done some stuff, quite a lot of stuff. But I would like to do more stuff, and stuff that is meaningful to me and makes me feel like I am contributing to society in a good way and is making my life happier. Not everyone is in the position to tell their own story, or bring certain topics to the attention of others. I also realize that there is a lot for me to learn, even still.
In the late eighties, for a little while I worked on Robson Street at a clothing shop called Gemini. It was one of the last old clothing shops on the street before all the expensive chain stores moved in to the neighbourhood. Soon there would be a Chanel shop nearby and already a big pink loungerie shop had opened across the street, and we were told The Love Shop was doing so well on Granville that they were moving onto Robson. Gemini looked a bit like it was falling apart, but it was a character shop and I guess sadly it would soon be ejected from Robson because of the high rents.
I would take the bus from Kits, over the Burrard Bridge to downtown Vancouver and then walk up Robson. Every morning there would be a homeless looking guy sitting up against the wall on the street, and I walked past him usually in a hurry trying to get to work on time. I worked for a German lady and once or twice she stood in the doorway of the store frowning at me when I arrived in a rush. She was kind of a hippy though, so it wasn’t as if she was ex-military or something. She saw the homeless guy in the morning too. Every morning he said the same thing, “Can I have fifty cents for a cup of coffee, can I have fifty cents for a cup of coffee.” One day my boss was carrying a cup of coffee, just a normal cup of coffee before the Starbucks days, and he asked her if she had fifty cents for a cup of coffee. She said, “No, but you can have my coffee,” and she handed it to him. She said he looked at her like she was crazy.
In the shop I would work with my friend Jennifer. There were a lot of flowery things in the shop. Velvety skirts and long white blouses. If we weren’t helping customers or steaming new clothes, we would usually be talking and watching people walk down Robson out the big shop window. Or we would be drinking coffee and eating candy to ease our boredom, as it was retail.
I had recently reunited myself with candy. For a while as a teenager, I didn’t really eat it, because I thought it was something that kids did, and I wasn’t one of those anymore. I think it was my roomate that was eating candy one day, like lovehearts, or winegums or something like that, I had a think about it, and wondered why I had stopped doing that, and figured, I should start eating it again.
So one sunny day, Jennifer and I were in the shop chatting away. I was standing by the counter, drinking coffee, looking out the window watching people walk by, and all of a sudden I saw a face I recognized. It was an actor – he was walking past the window and as he glanced up he obviously saw that I recognized him and he had a hidden look of, “Oh shit.”
I, in a caffeine and sugar infused panic, said, “That’s the guy from Cagney and Lacey,” and bolted out of the shop after him. It was 1989 and it was Martin Kove that I saw. He was also in Death Race 2000 and the Karate Kid. Anyway, I ran down the street (I think he had been walking pretty fast after he saw me), and I got to him and I just stopped. I said nothing to him. I remember looking up at him as he was tall (he’s 6 foot 1) and I didn’t say anything civilized like, “Sorry to bother you Mr. Kove, but I watch you on TV and I just wanted to say Hi.” I just stood there, stupidly, for which seemed like a long time. Whether he saw me there or not, I am unsure, but he did not make eye contact. So after what seemed like an afternoon standing in the middle of the sidewalk on Robson, staring at Martin Kove, and me not saying anything civilized at all, I made my way back to the shop.
I guess before those days there hadn’t been a lot of filming in Vancouver until then, and maybe it was just getting going. It wasn’t often you saw people from TV around and about.
Last time I saw my boss she was shopping in the pink 24 hour Safeway in Kits, in the dairy section. I haven’t seen her since. It wasn’t too much longer until the shop closed down, as the $4,000 bucks rent (or whatever it was) was way too much. Something else took it’s place - some new clothing shop with overpriced, shoulderpadded monstrosities and cream stone flooring, the kind that makes all the dust bunnies collect in the corners where you have to vacuum them out.
And now, although I thought I was bored at the time, I look back at those days at Gemini as good days. Even if I made a fool of myself on the street, how boring would I be if I just sat there and never reacted to anything. That’s not what life’s about.
Another place I lived in during the Kits era, was the big green monster building by the Burrard Bridge. I only lived there for around six to eight months. I spent a lot of my time there playing solitaire, eating greek salad, staring out at the lights of the city and listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was the spring and summer of 1990. I thought what strange neighbours I had – a bridge, a Molson Brewery, and a Planetarium.
I remember the school field trips I used to take from elementary school in White Rock to the Planetarium as a child. The bus trip to the Planetarium seemed to be going such a long way into Vancouver, and we all had to bring a paper bag lunch so we could sit outside the Planetarium and eat it when the show was over. I remembered the big pond in front of the Planetarium with the big shiny metal pointy crab it had sticking in the middle. I sat on one of the benches around the pool and watched the water spray up into the crab’s face while I unwrapped and ate my sandwich. I think I was pretty interested in all the pennies at the bottom of the water. I always thought the Planetarium looked like a spaceship that had landed there.
Now one of the favourite things about my big green building, was that I could leave the kitchen light on when I went out at night. I would be in a friend’s car going over the Granville Bridge, and I could see my apartment half way across the city, and I could point it out to everybody. Also, it was handy that I lived there, because then it would give my friends the opportunity to say they knew somebody that lived in that building. I didn’t realize this was an important factor, until one of my friends mentioned it.
It was an odd building, as it had a centre core, and then three wings of apartment building that stuck out on each side, and essentially was built in a ‘Y’ type shape. It was built in 1960, designed by Peter Kaffka, an architect from Hungary. Also, as I recall, I lived on the twelfth floor, and there was no thirteenth floor, so the one above was the fourteenth. I didn’t know that at the time, I just looked that up recently.
So what did I observe in this building? I found that if I woke up in the middle of the night because I couldn’t sleep, there was a guy on the same floor at the farthest apartment to the left that always had his light on. Sometimes I would see him wander about the apartment, the curtains open, doing things with purpose. I observed that some other people must work nights because why else would they have tin foil all over their windows. I also observed that if I had to come home from my work on 4th Avenue with a really bad cold, I could take Neo Citran extra-strength, and go to bed, and it would pretty well knock me out for the rest of the day.
Also I observed some times it wasn’t very nice travelling in the elevator late at night because it smelled like pee. I also remember getting in an argument with my sister on the phone and telling her to F-off before I had gone out to the Town Pump one night. Even after I had paid cover, I was still mad that night. I think sometimes I just got so frustrated. Anyway, good thing we’re still friends.
At the top of the Molson Brewery there was the Molson Clock. It was quite handy because I always had a big clock telling me what time it was when I looked out the window, including the temperature. So I knew that in March, a lot of the time it was 11 degrees Celsius. I would look down onto the street and see the cars stop at the stoplight and then flow onto the bridge and it kind of relaxed me. One time I was walking through the neighbourhood and I passed a bagel shop a ways away. I looked up and there was a man sitting at a table, that looked just like Martin Sheen. I thought to myself, hmm. That looks like Martin Sheen. It was back in the time when there was quite a lot of filming in Vancouver and the provincial government wasn’t trying to squash the film industry like it might a tiny bug.
But I looked over as I walked, at the man who I was pretty sure was Martin Sheen, and then stopped looking and kept on walking, home to my apartment. It never really felt like home there to me. Me and the Molson Brewery, and the Planetarium, we got along. But maybe there was too many windows, I was too distracted by the view and everything that was going on in the city, instead of my own thoughts. I think I just had to get out of there, to live in a place where I didn’t feel like I was going to grow right into the walls, and be there looking out at the city until the building was torn down one day.
I’ve only been on EI, employment insurance once. I was 19 or 20 and living in Kits. I had worked in a few retail stores, and I was at a shop called Jai on Broadway, on Broadway. It was ideal because I only lived a couple of blocks away at the time. I lived in a basement suite on 7th. It was my first home, other than Mom and Dad’s. They had built a big pink 24 hour Safeway across the road too, so when I eventually went to college and university, I could study and then go shopping in there at 2 in the morning.
This shop that I worked in, as I said, was called Jai on Broadway. It was quite a large spacious shop, not far from Kentucky Fried Chicken. The clothes were nothing special, they were nice enough, quite conservative, they weren’t clothes that I would have worn then.
At the time I would go out and see quite a few bands in Vancouver at night, and I was interested in music. There was a mix of people who worked at the store, and I can remember a conversation I had there with one of my colleagues. We were talking about music and she asked me whether I listened to Lou Reed. I had to admit in my naivety that I had not and she seemed quite shocked. She then told me which albums to listen to. I had probably heard his music before, I thought. I just hadn’t realized it. That was the first conversation I ever had about Lou Reed, standing in the middle of the clothing store, waiting for customers to come in and buy something.
One day I was at work, and the staff were told about the gypsies who were frequenting stores, and shoving large amounts of clothing under their large skirts. We were warned to look out for them, and make sure they didn’t take anything. Once I was in the store, and I was on my own, and a couple of large women, with large skirts came in, and I kept my eye on them, but I didn’t see anything suspicious. To be honest I was a little frightened of the legend, of them being able to shove half of a clothing rack under their skirt in one fell swoop, and nobody noticing. I wouldn’t mind seeing it for myself.
I had only seen someone steal something once, when I worked in a clothing store in Pacific Centre. I was near the cashier desk straightening clothes on a rack, and I could see a girl on the other side of the counter. There was a basket of woolly gloves there, but there was a ledge that was higher than the basket. I couldn’t see the basket, or where the girl’s hands or purse was, but our eyes met, as if she was watching to see if I was going to do anything. But I couldn’t see anything, so I couldn’t say anything in time, and then she was gone.
But it wasn’t long after we were told about the gypsies, that we were told one day that the store was closing, and we were getting laid off. I felt a little lost as I had only just recently begun my career in retail, and this place was only a couple blocks away as I had said, which allowed me to spend about an hour deciding what I wanted to wear, before sprinting out the door to work.
Our neighbourhood was pretty good. It was famous too, because Stakeout was filmed a couple of streets down. I can remember at the time my room-mate came home, and said “they’re filming in that alley over there.” It was easy enough for me to get around on the bus, whether I was going downtown, on the Broadway or the Macdonald bus, or later going to a college class somewhere. I used to go to clubs late sometimes, like Luvafair, and there was no point in going there before 11, because the place was empty. Once I was waiting on Broadway for the bus, late at night, to go out, and there was a guy sitting at the bus stop, probably about 35 or 40. He said, “I’ve got a big cucumber in my shorts. Do you want to go back to my place and smoke a joint?” No thank-you, I replied.
There was also a library on Macdonald not far away, and I went through a time when I did a lot of reading. I read The Executioner’s Song, and a lot of books about Canadian and American politics and a few novels. It was a good thing that library was close by, because when I was on EI, I spent a lot of time reading. In fact, I became a total night owl. I was applying for jobs, but then I would just read books, and I would read sometimes late into the middle of the night, and when I thought it was late enough, so that the next day’s Vancouver Sun or Province would be out, I would put my book down and have a wander to 7-11 and buy the paper, so I could look for any jobs. It was probably late spring, early summer, so I liked it outside at that time, it was quiet and peaceful. Then, after I got home with my paper I would go to sleep.
Other people I suspected were on EI, spent a lot of time at Kits Beach, because I would see men who had a tan much too good for a working person. I wasn’t a tanner though, I was a reader, and so I read into the night. I didn’t need a lot of money in those day – my rent was cheap, then I only needed money for beer and covers for seeing bands, food such as bread, stuff for greek salad, and nachos. As far as clothes, black tights and the kilts and old suede jackets at the thrift store. Then I needed money to get back and forth, and for laundry. Eventually the time came where I got another job, or started college or something and my time on EI was over. Ah, those were the Salad Days.
In 1987 after my 19th birthday, I decided I wanted to move from White Rock to Vancouver. This was mostly because White Rock was too far from what my desires were getting to be, which was to have a place of my own and be able to go out and see bands in Vancouver, without there being a major transportation issue, like you were on another planet or something.
I can remember once, I had gone to visit a friend in the South Granville area. It was late, because there was a party, and I ended up sitting at a bus-stop, waiting for the 351 at about 2.30 in the morning. I must have got drunk and miscalculated the last bus home. I had no choice other than to sit there and wait until a bus showed up, I had no other bright ideas. It just happened that a police car pulled up and the police-man asked me what I was doing there. I explained to him that I thought I had missed the last bus to White Rock, and I had no other choice but to wait for the first one in the morning. He said that I wasn’t going to be doing that. He pointed out to the building surrounded by a fence behind me. “That’s a half-way house,” he said. “You can wait at the Denny’s down the road.”
So I walked down to the Denny’s and sat in there, trying to think of what I was going to do to waste away the time until morning, but agreeing in my head with the policeman without actually ever admitting to him that it was a better idea to be in there, than sitting at the bus stop in the dark outside of the half-way house.
It wasn’t long while I was in Denny’s (I didn’t have much money on me either, so it wasn’t as if I scoffed a plate of their beige food when I was there) when sure enough the cop and his buddy showed up and sat at a table about three down from mine, and kept his eye on me the whole time, as I drank my coffee. Finally I checked the bus schedule I had in my purse, and was rather relieved to see I could finally go sit at the bus stop again. I must have been there at least three hours.
So this was one of the reasons I wanted to move out to Vancouver. I just wanted to be closer to everything that was going on. I had spoken to a high school friend of mine, and she had needed a roommate, and we decided to find a basement suite in Kits. It was a sunny day when we had gone to look at a particular suite in Kits, where we ended up living. We had looked at the suite, and then I was just having a wander down the street to see what the neighbourhood was like.
It was then, when I was walking down the sidewalk on 7th, that I stopped in my tracks. There was something blocking my path. It was some sort of behemoth cat stretched out across the sidewalk sunning itself. It was twice the length and size of any normal cat, and I estimate that it could have weighed 25lbs, only it wasn’t fat. I could tell by it’s eyes it took notice of me, but made no effort to get up, meow, run, hiss, or purr, or do any other cat things. I could just see the eyes looking up at me, in a glazed over way, and that was it. I turned around and went back to the suite, where my room-mate was talking to the landlord. “I’ve just seen a tabby the size of a German Shepherd,“ I said. “Oh, that’s Oscar,” my landlord replied.
After we moved in we got to know Oscar a little better. We had windows on the side of the basement suite, level to the ground, where there was a walk to the back yard. Our door to the suite was down a couple of steps, and then it was the kind of door, that unless you had it bolted, it could be pushed open with some effort, by a person of some strength. We would see Oscar wandering past the windows and then soon there would be a pushing at the door, and he would just enter, and wander around the basement suite.
You didn’t say no to Oscar. You didn’t shoo him, or shake your foot at him, or tell him to go away. He would just wander in, take a look around as he pleased, and then leave when he wanted. He even barged into my room-mate’s bedroom once while she was changing, as the suite was built in a circle, where the route lead from the kitchen, to the bathroom, to where her room was. We would just say ‘Oh Hi Oscar. Oscar’s here,” in a ‘warning the other person’ kind of way. I can’t remember if I even ever tried to pet him. He wasn’t a scary looking cat except for his size. I believe he probably had quite a pleasant personality, he was just very majestic, and was used to getting his own way.
I don’t know what they had been feeding Oscar. I had never seen a cat that big in White Rock. Maybe Oscar was getting leftovers from the late night crowd at Denny’s on Broadway. Or maybe there was some big rats in the neighbourhood. We wondered if they named him after Oscar Peterson. I spent most of the time between September 1987, to May 1992, living in Kits or on Oak Street. I always wanted a place of my own so that I could be in charge. But I think maybe Oscar might had been the one in charge. And what if the incense I used to like to burn actually causes cancer. And what if I thought my records I was proudly accumulating might be dispersed into nothing after living away for so long. It was fun living in Vancouver during that time, even if the old lady on the Broadway bus told me my ripped, patched up jeans were disgusting one day. I was only going to Langara – did she expect me to dress up?
It is 1972. I am around 4 years old and it is the week before Christmas. It’s in the evening, and my sister and I are in one of the classrooms on the second floor of Semiahmoo Senior Secondary School. I think we only had one car back then, so Dad would have driven Mom and us to the school in the ’67 dark green Cougar, and parked in the lot in front of the school where the teachers parked. Dad’s car was quite cool, although he did have another teacher friend who had an old corvette. I didn’t know what cool was though, when I was four. » Read more..
I am sitting on the lawn of the first house I ever lived in. I am going to say it is the summer of 1972, and probably just before or after my fourth birthday in July. The lawn is like a large green expanse with the edges sloping down, and I am sitting in the middle of it. It is pleasantly warm, not in an uncomfortable way, but the sky is clear, and it is sunny. I think it is the summer of 1972, because in 1973, we moved into a new house, the house where I started kindergarten. So it is the last summer in my first house.
As I sit in the middle of the lawn, near Crescent Beach, I look out onto the bay towards Delta, and I see the blue water, and some of the tide coming in, and the mountains, The Lions in the background. All I hear are things like bees, faded voices of people talking in their back yards, the sound of a plane in the sky going to the airport. Then I hear a strange siren. There were no car alarms in those days, it wasn’t a fire truck or an ambulance. It sounded almost like an air raid siren, with a voice afterwards, speaking after it. It only played once. I never heard it again. I asked my mom about it, and she didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know if it was a test of some early warning system.
It annoyed me that it interrupted my day, my peaceful sit on the lawn, that I then heard it quite clearly, couldn’t define what it was, and then was not supplied the correct information by any of my elders as to what the noise was. Even forty years later, it still bothers me.
July 1972 was a nice month weather-wise in Vancouver. There were highs of 26 and 27 degrees Celsius early in the month, from July 3-5, and there was only rain during one five day period. During that month, Jane Fonda toured North Vietnam, Bloody Friday happened in Ireland July 21st, the day before my birthday, and George Carlin was arrested by Milwaukee police for citing his “Seven Words you Can Never Say on Television.”
It was a month in music where the following albums were released: T. Rex released The Slider July 21st; Harry Nillsson released Son of Schmilsson on July 31st, the same day Curtis Mayfield released Super Fly. Rod Stewart released Never a Dull Moment, and Van Morrison, Saint Dominic’s Preview.
So all this was going on, and all I was doing was sitting on the lawn, wondering what the funny siren was. Later I probably had one of those chocolate bars that I called ‘space bars’ for some reason. I still don’t know what those were really called either. The one thing I did know was I had an imaginary friend named ‘Ankle”. I relayed this information to my mom when she was in the kitchen one day and I was watching TV. She said, ‘I don’t think so, an ankle is a part of your foot.” Some people just don’t understand.
In the 90’s I lived with someone in England for a few years who was 14 years my senior, and was interested in music. He was old enough, that the Beach Boys albums he had, he actually bought them when they came out. He had been to a couple of the big rock shows in the late sixties, early seventies, and remembers going down to London as a kid with his friends, and just camping out in some field outside the city somewhere. He liked bands like Wishbone Ash, which I had never heard of before, but he also was a John Peel fan.
I didn’t know who John Peel was then actually, growing up near Vancouver, I hadn’t heard of him, despite the fact that he was such an important DJ. My ex had lots of cassettes of Peel Sessions that he had taped off of Radio 1, over the years. As I recall, there were a couple of rows of cassettes on the shelf, which were all Peel Sessions. Some of the bands I had recognized and seen before, like Echo and the Bunnymen. Some of my favourite shows of music that were on TV were Top of the Pops 2, which always replayed parts of Top of the Pops from years back, I liked catching The Old Grey Whistle Test too which was sometimes shown late at night, again, shows from years before. I also liked watching Jools Holland, and he was described once to me as being a ‘muso’.
So in the years after I listened to some of the Peel Sessions, and learned more of what the sessions were, and saw John Peel (real name John Ravenscroft) on This is Your Life, and Room 101. I was saddened like everyone was, when he died in 2004.
The Peel Sessions started in 1967, because of the restrictions of ‘needle time’ on the BBC, which were enforced by Musicians Union rules. The Peel Sessions were sessions where the bands had a day to record at the BBC, they would usually play 4 songs, and then it would be played later on the radio on BBC1.
Some of the famous Peel Sessions were with Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and T.Rex. Nick Drake did a Peel Session. The Black Keys did three. Syd Barrett apparently freaked out in the middle of the first session, and they had to start it over again. Nirvana ended up doing three sessions. John Peel said he did the last session. The manager at one point came into the studio and told the band that they had gone platinum in the States. Kurt Cobain seemed more interested in the other information he just received, that Fender had delivered six white left-handed Stratocaster guitars to his hotel room. John Peel, when asked if he had ever been properly introduced to Kurt Cobain, said that he hadn’t. He said the closest he had got was when he was at Redding festival with the kids one time, his daughter Alexandra was standing nearby, and Kurt Cobain stepped on her foot by accident.
So I’ve been enjoying listening to some Peel Sessions recently. One of my favourite is David Bowie’s I’m Waiting for The Man from the 1972 session, and Echo and the Bunnymen’s Seven Seas from from the 1982 session at Maida Vale. I still don’t understand The Fall, but they are the band that did the most Peel Sessions, with 32 sessions total. John’s all-time favourite song was Teenage Kicks by the Undertones, and the song was played at his funeral.
Two things I haven’t been doing enough lately, is listening to radio, and going to see live local music. Recently I have started to see a few bands out, which included going to the Vancouver FanClub on Granville to see Big Top and The Trespassers (I had recently seen The Trespassers at the Railway Club). I had never been in the Vancouver FanClub before and I liked it to see a band. I managed to find a comfortable booth to hide in and order a beer and I found it comfortable, and I liked the atmosphere. The weather was gross that night, freezing rain, and so I was glad to curl up in there for the evening and see a couple of bands play. Scott McLeod’s Big Top did one set – if you get a chance pick up one of their cd’s, they are only $10. Then the Trespassers were on until around 1am, and played No Fun, one of my favourites.
Then on the way home I had a conversation with a friend of mine about radio, specifically BBC Radio 6, and what a wide variety of music they were playing these days. When I lived in the UK I usually listened to Radio 1, or even sometimes Radio 4. I had promised myself to listen to BBC Radio 6 this weekend, and that is what I’ve been doing. Hope the New Year is treating everyone well so far.
John Peel – Room 101 -
John Peel – This is Your Life
Growing up we used to go to a place called Sakinaw Lake on the Sunshine Coast. We used to spend time there in the summer as my Dad was a teacher and that was when he had his holidays. There were a couple of wooden docks there by our cabins, where we would sit out during the day when it was sunny. » Read more..
I finally saw the Beach Boys play at Expo ‘86. I was 18 that summer and worked at one of the McDonalds there. That’s what I remember about Expo ’86, walking out of the wrong end of the Expo site when I was leaving for home, and ending up in a really bad part of town where a bunch of old drunk men were laughing at me. » Read more..
Macclesfield Years Story #1 – The worse Christmas ever? – Petrol Stations, 10 milers, and the 24 hour flu
What ever happened to the 24 hour flu? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says it doesn’t exist. I know that one Christmas morning as I kid, I woke up with it. So I believe in the 24 hour flu. Christmas Eve I felt fine. Christmas morning I woke up feeling like barfing, alerted my parents to this fact. Went downstairs to open my presents and could hardly manage to unwrap the packages. Went back to bed. Stayed there the whole day. » Read more..
I remember in my first year of Junior High I started having to take the bus to school for the first time. In elementary school I had just walked up the hill, and school started at 9. I was at the big school now, and it started just after 8, and I had to take the bus.
Today I ate a persimmon that I bought from the store yesterday. I’d never seen them in there before. I looked for them a few months back. Suddenly, they’re they are. Must be in season. It says on the sticker they are from New Zealand. The last and first time I ate a persimmon I was probably about 21 and visiting my grandma in her apartment. She had one on a plate, cutting into it with a knife. She asked me if I had ever had one before. I said I hadn’t. I had never even seen one before. She gave me a piece to try. » Read more..
Three girls stand in the dust of the playground making a decision as to who is going to be who. We are playing Charlie’s Angels and if you want to bagsy the role of Jill Munroe played by Farrah Fawcett, you had better be quick about it. » Read more..
Ertha Kitt used to scare me. I mean no disrespect to her memory. It was just a stupid little reaction kids have. When you see an adult on TV and you don’t understand them. I saw her once on TV when I was at my grandparents- my Mom’s parents at their apartment. She looked like a scary cat lady. I changed the channel anyway. I was staying overnight on a weekend. » Read more..
Al Capone was in Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia for a one year sentence. He was arrested on a concealed weapons charge in May 1929. This was his first jail sentence. » Read more..
“I like to point out that our nature is basically compassionate because we are social animals. What brings us together is love and affection.” – Dalai Lama
I wrote this blog piece a couple of weeks ago, and I wasn’t going to post it because I hadn’t really felt the need, and I had been working on some other things. It was when I read about the suicide of Amanda Todd of Coquitlam yesterday, a student that was bullied, that I changed my mind.
In elementary school, I was bullied somewhat. I had red hair and was kind of quiet. I can remember being bullied by the older sister of a classmate, and running into the bathroom to hide in one of the toilet stalls so her and her friends would leave me alone, and not knowing what to do about it. In junior high there was the odd incident. I can remember a girl I knew borrowing my hair brush in class, and then when I asked for it back, she wouldn’t give it to me. It was all the usual shit.Things like that. I was never beaten up or pushed. When I played in league soccer teams as a kid there was some of the ‘leaving out’ I had to endure as I wasn’t part of the ‘in crowd’ on the soccer team. There were probably other things too that I’ve just blocked out of my memory.
In my 20’s in England I lived with someone who was older than me for a few years. He had children and the mother was not around. When I saw how they were bullied, it made me think I had not been. I can remember one day, my partner’s son, I’ll call him my stepson here, complained that there was a girl bothering him, kicking him on the way home from school. She would wait till she saw him, then would go and try to kick him as he tried to walk home. She apparently was older, and he was afraid of her. I used to walk him to school sometimes. He was probably eight or nine at the time and of a small build. I was walking him home, and he pointed out the girl to me, who lived just down the street. The girl that was doing all the kicking was on her way home from school. She was considerably taller than my stepson. I approached her, not in a threatening way, but I just wanted to talk to her to find out why she was kicking him.
When I spoke to her, I could tell she was angry. I was quite shocked by her reaction. Instead of being sort of quiet and denying it, she shouted back at me right away, saying that she hadn’t been kicking him and that he was lying. She was very aggressive. So feeling my attempt to make my stepson’s walks home any safer had failed, we just walked home.
Next thing I knew, after we got home, I had explained to my partner what had happened, and there was a knock on the door. When I opened the door, it was the girl’s mother shouting and bawling at me. I tried to explain to her that I had not been attacking her daughter but she didn’t seem to be listening, so I let my partner finish off the conversation. The rest of it did not go well. She left, and then her husband showed up at the door, shouting at us because we had upset his wife. Eventually he finished shouting and went home. I’m not sure if the kicking stopped after that, I assume it did. Nobody likes being booted along on their way to school.
I have found with me, and I’m not sure if other people are like this, but I tend to be quite defensive of certain people in my life, or that I admire, say in the public eye. It doesn’t matter if they are of similar age to me, or not, male or female. Once I am in someone’s corner I tend to be quite stubborn in defending them. I think it is good to have people in your corner. However, sometimes people feel that they don’t have anyone in their corner for them.
I remember once when I was a kid, I was kind of unsettled. I had been used to one teacher when I was 8 or 9. The next year I was put in a different class. It just didn’t feel right. There was a lot of people I didn’t know in the class and a teacher I didn’t know well. I wanted to see if I could be put in the other class with the teacher I had the year before. It was arranged that I would switch classes, and I guess the teacher had told the class they were getting a new student, and when I walked in the class and they saw that it was me they expressed their disappointment. It was a bit like A-Rod getting booed only I was an 8-year old kid. Really I would have liked to just say. “Oh, F-off everybody,” but you couldn’t do that when you were 8 years old in school. Maybe that has always been the problem.
We had a class in our school for children who had some learning difficulties. Like I said, I wasn’t a bully, but I remember one day, a girl out of that class calling me a ‘carrot top’. I couldn’t believe it. I had never said an unkind thing to her before. It was a bit of a tame thing to say really, but I thought wait a minute, why are the bullied kids starting to call me names. I was always told by my parents that if I was nice to people, they would be nice back.
Bullying seems so much more severe these days. It’s more violent and there seems to be a lack of respect and caring for other people that is really concerning. The opportunity to cyberbully makes it even worse, as people have the opportunity to post things on facebook etc, to bother you, without actually coming out and saying it to your face. Maybe we need to start calling behavior between children what it is, harassment and assault, and they should be punished accordingly for it.
I can remember one day I was on the schoolyard, and there was a classmate that said something to me, I had just about had enough I guess. I’m not sure if I pushed him in response and he ended up on the edge of the gravel field. There was a bunch of other kids around, and they stood around us. They said to me to kick him in the balls. I had never done that to someone before, and wasn’t a violent person. I wasn’t really sure what an effect it would have. But after they said it, I did it. I kicked him in the family jewels as he lay there. I didn’t feel right doing it, I felt bad after I had done it, and I could see he was in pain. But I also felt tired of all the subtle bullying and I guess he just caught me on a bad day.
I would like to say to teenagers that bullying stops when you become an adult, but I am a pretty strong person, and I’ve encountered forms of it in the workplace before. So what are we to do? It seems we just wait till we lose another Amanda, and the Premier says how bad bullying his, and everyone says how sorry they are that it has happened. So where is the compassion?
My parents had a fair sized garden when we were kids and we had a pumpkin patch in it. For some reason we had a number of years where the patch grew enormous pumpkins. We put it down to my Dad’s seaweed fertilizer that he used to drag up from the beach. Anyway, the pumpkins that grew were enormous.
It just happened that there was a nursery a few miles away that had a pumpkin growing contest. So we entered it. My sister won it, and she won a yellow 10 speed bike. So I wanted to win the next year, so I would have a bike too. I had a bike, but it didn’t have any speeds whatsoever. The whole idea of having a bike with speeds was pretty exciting.
So the next year, when it was time for the contest at the nursery, the pumpkins were indeed big that year. I chose the pumpkin that would be my prize-winner and I entered the contest. And I won. And what did I win? $25. Where’s my bike I wondered. My Mom said they must have rethought the funding for the first prize. I was quite disappointed.
We lived on a street that sort of curved down far away from where all the action was. We would buy some candy every year for trick-or-treaters, but we never expected many, and we always just assumed it would be split between my sister and me at the end of the night, and my Mom took this into account when she bought the candy in the first place. After trick-or-treating we used to put our candy in what would normally be mixing bowls for baking, and put it in the cupboard.
It used to be quite something if there were more than 5 or 6 people in total, or people that we didn’t recognize or that weren’t our neighbours. We would feel like it had been busy.
The candy received when we trick-or-treated depended on location. We would collect a fair amount from neighbours. From the big house on the corner that had Twilight the horse, she gave us a caramel apple one year. I had only read about caramel apples and had never seen one. It was quite heavy and I wasn’t quite sure how it would get along in my bag with all my other sweets. Also I found out when I ate the caramel apple later, once you ate all the caramel off the outside, you were left with just an apple in the middle, and I had eaten lots of apples before, so it wasn’t too strange.
A couple of streets up were the high population trick-or-treating avenues. Houses there could get 100-200 kids a night. Just the thought of that many trick-or-treaters amazed me. If you went there you had to wait a minute or so at each house, and pickings were rationed with such competition. You would only get one or two of those tiny dark Halloween candies in white wrappers. The kind of with the orange witches on them. But still it was worthwhile to go so you could say you had been there to your friends.
One of my favourite things to do was to carry around with me my bright orange UNICEF box, which was part of a 50 year tradition that unfortunately ended around 2006. The orange box campaign would donate around $3 million every Halloween and almost every house I went to used to donate a few coins to my box.
Every year we’d arrive home with a huge bagful of the witch candies, small chocolate bars, love hearts, jujubes, chips, licorice, suckers etc. And every year over the next couple of weeks my sister managed to make her Halloween candy last twice as long as mine.
One year my trick-or-treating came to an end. I was 5’7” when I was 12. That was my last year of trick-or treating as a kid. I remember going to one house and them saying, “Surely you must be too old for doing this now.” Sigh.
I think back to those nights. Even the ones where it was cold or rainy and we had to wear a coat over our costumes. We always had fun. I was with my sister or with friends. There were never any bad memories of Halloween. We lived in a good community that participated, and wanting to make sure the kids enjoyed themselves and were safe. We were lucky and I am thankful for those memories.
Lizzie Dean was a scullery maid that used to work at the Sun Inn, in Chipping, Preston in the early 1800′s in Lancashire, England. She was a pretty, pleasant girl who used to wear colorful clothing.
In 1835 she met a local man of substance who said he loved her. He proposed to her in order to get her to sleep with him. She did so, and then he told her he wanted to break it off. She was heartbroken and to add to it, he then told her he had proposed to Lizzie’s best friend. Against Lizzie’s wishes, her best friend said she would marry him. It seems that her boyfriend had previously been involved with her best friend, but had said to her that it was over.
The wedding was to be held at St. Bartholomew’s Church, in the town. On the day of the wedding, while the wedding procession was taking place, Lizzie went up to the attic in the Sun Inn that overlooked the churchyard. It was just too much for her to cope with. She wrote a suicide note and hung herself there.
The suicide note was very specific in that she said that she wanted to be buried at the entrance to the church so that her ex-lover and his wife would have to walk past her grave every time they went to church. Possibly because she was a suicide, she is actually buried under the elm tree that faces The Sun Inn. People wonder whether this is why she still haunts the pub, as she wasn’t granted her wish regarding where she was buried.
There have been some sightings. There was a story from a man in Edinburgh from June 1999. He had gone into the pub, and had bought a pint, and sat down and lit up his pipe. It was just before noon, and he was the only person in the bar. He suddenly felt the temperature drop and he looked to the corner of the bar and saw a girl there with her hair in brown ringlets, and wearing a colorful dress that looked well-worn, like the colors had ran together. He said good morning to her, but the girl just walked right past him into another room at the bar.
Apparently, according to the Bolton News, in August of 1998, the ghost was said to have been seen recently then, “She drifted from the stairs leading to her bedroom across where some lads were playing snooker. She cleared the room pretty quickly.”
Nobody seems to know the name of her ex-lover. She also was very specific in her suicide note to say that she cursed her ex-lover, and that she wished his children to be born deaf and mute. Village legend has it that he did have several children, and all of them were in fact born both deaf and mute.
DON’T PANIC. If you try to open The Pirate Bay’s site, you will get an error message. This is only temporary, and due to a power outage on its servers, The Pirate Bay team have confirmed, according to Torrent Freak. The Pirate Bay are now saying on their Facebook page that it could be tomorrow (Oct 3) before the site is up and running again.
There were rumors flying about the file-sharing site, which calls itself, “The Galaxy’s most resilient,” which connected the site being down to a raid from the Swedish Police at the hosting company PRQ. The site has already been down for several hours.
On The Pirate Bay’s Facebook page they state: ” Dear Internet. We have not been raided. We are not shutting down. We like turtles, waffles, and you.” They also suggest on their page that, “If you want your daily fix of crappy American TV shows, get it at EZTV.”
The Swedish Police did visit the hosting company and took away four servers containing copyrighted material, but at this point nobody knows why that was. “In comparison with some of PRQ’s customer base, the Pirate Bay is about as offensive as puppies frolicking in beige flowers,” says The Register. The Pirate Bay website was founded in 2003, and has over five million registered users.
In the meantime, Slashgear says, Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm, is still going to be in jail for another two weeks or so, because he was accused of hacking into a Swedish IT company called Logica, which works with local tax authorities.
Also, the Canadian Government were a bit embarrassed this week when they had to temporarily suspend an online marketing campaign after banners appeared for it on The Pirate Bay, says Geek System. The Department of Finance Canada is blaming Yahoo. Yahoo is blaming Sympatico.The adswere for the Departments Economic Action Plan. The Economic Action Plan banner was run alongside ads for an online gambling site, and online dating service.
So everyone sit tight. You should be back downloading your favorite Breaking Bad episodes in no time.
Since Halloween is a month away, I thought I would do a few blog posts about my favourite ghost stories. The first one is about the ghosts of Winnats Pass, in Derbyshire, England.
Winnats Pass is a narrow limestone gorge which lies west of the village of Castleton in the High Peak area of Derbyshire. This video gives a good view of what the pass is actually like – Driving through Winnats Pass.
Winnats Pass used to be included as part of the Kelloggs Tour of Britain bike race. I remember we drove through it once, when we went to Castleton. Castleton, if you are in the Peak District, is a great place to sit outside and have a pint at a pub in the summer, and it’s beautiful around Christmastime, when it looks like this:
This “ghost story” is the story of a young couple named Alan and Clara. Alan and Clara, in 1758, decided to leave their home in Scotland in order to get married at the Chapel in Peak Forest, in Derbyshire. Alan was from a poor family and Clara was from a family with money, and Clara’s family objected to the match. Clara’s brother threatened Alan, and so the couple decided to elope to the Peak Forest Chapel. That chapel was known as the ‘Gretna Green’ of Derbyshire.
They made their way to a nearby village called Stoney Middleton, where they stayed at the Royal Oak Hotel.
The next day they went to Castleton and stopped overnight at an Inn there. There was a group of rowdy drunken miners at the inn at the same time. They saw the couple were dressed well, and followed them when they left the Inn and headed up Winnats Pass. When the men caught up to them, they robbed them of the 200 pounds they carried, and then brutally murdered them.
From the “Derby News” 28 April 1788:
“In 1758 a young gentleman and lady came out of Scotland on an expedition and were robbed and murdered at a place called the Winnats, near Castleton. Their bones were found in 1768 by some miners sinking an engine pit. James A, Nicholas C, Thomas H, John B and Francis B, meeting them in the Winnats pulled them off their horses and dragged them into a barn and took from them two hundred pounds. Then, seizing on the young gentleman, the young lady entreated them in a most moving manner not to kill him. But they cut his throat from ear to ear. They then seized the young lady herself, and though she entreated them on her knees to spare her life, yet one of the wretches drove a miner’s pick into her head, when she dropped down dead at his feet. On the second night they buried them.”
Alan and Clara’s horses were found four days after the murder and the red leather saddle on display in the Speedwell Cavern Museum belonged to Clara. It is said that the couple’s remains were brought from the mining shaft where they were found and buried by the eastern gate of St. Edmund’s Church in Castleton.
The miners that killed the couple were cursed and later met unfortunate fates. Nicholas C fell from a precipice near the place of the murder and was killed. Thomas H. hanged himself. John B was walking near the place where the couples bones were buried, when a stone fell from the hill and killed him on the spot. Francis B went mad and died miserably. James A was tormented in his conscience and on his death bed in 1778 he confessed to the killings.
It is believed that the couple’s spirits are still said to wander Winnats Pass, and on a dark night their voices can be heard begging for their lives.
My favorite story as a child was The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. My Grandparents were responsible for me reading the story, as they had it on their bookshelf, beside the loveseat in their apartment where I used to sit and read when we used to stay over there sometimes. My Grandpa would be watching wrestling or something, and my Grandma was getting dinner ready, I used to search the bookshelf for something to entertain me, (I wasn’t that keen on wrestling), and it was there amongst the other books I liked to read.
I don’t know what it was about the story. The only other book I can remember that was a runner up was the book about the bear with a missing button for sale in the shop. Corduroy, I think that was called. I don’t know what it was about The Happy Prince. I think the first time I read it, all the way through I just wanted the swallow to go to Egypt. Every night the Happy Prince asked him to stay and do another good deed, I wanted him to go save himself. The swallow died, and the Prince had given away all his jewels and gold.
The Prince was melted down, except for the heart, which wouldn’t melt, and that was chucked away with the dead swallow on a pile somewhere. As a child I was shocked by the sadness of the ending. I wasn’t sure if the compensation of living forever in heaven made up for it. It was the swallow being late for Egypt and all the sunshine that concerned me the most. The swallow’s loyalty to the statue was what charmed me about the story.
The Happy Prince was part of a selection of children’s stories published by Oscar Wilde in 1888, called The Happy Prince and other Tales. They dealt primarily with themes of love and selfishness and tended to be sad stories with a moral to them. He wrote the collection during a period of six years, which were good ones as far as writing goes. He was placed in history then as one of the best poets and playwrights.
In one of his letters Oscar said that he had written The Happy Prince in order to address the issue of modern art in Victorian Society. The 19th century art movement was suggesting that which was not beautiful was not useful, and he wanted to combat this. The statue of the happy prince went from being decorated and beautiful to very plain and grey. But despite being ugly in the end, it represented far more beauty because of its sacrifice.
In the 19th century there was a ‘homosexual panic’. Wilde spoke against this with the story of The Happy Prince. In the story he had two male, but non-sexual main characters (the statue and the swallow). He contrasted the relationship with that of the heterosexual couple (the swallow and the reed). The swallow undergoes a character change from being selfish to selfless. Wilde believed that the homosexual relationship, especially that of a non-sexual nature, was the purest kind of love. The fairy-tale went uncriticised because the self-sacrificing actions of the main characters invoked the image of Christ.
The Happy Prince was written in the wake of one of Oscar Wilde’s first homosexual encounters. The movements of the 19th century upheld Christian beliefs and condemned non-normative relationships, which explains the historical context around the story.
Rupert Everett will be making his directorial debut with a comedic biopic on Oscar Wilde, which he is calling “The Happy Prince”. Rupert Everett will also star as the Irish playwright, and Colin Firth will play Wilde’s friend Reginald Turner. Filming will take place in the summer of 2013, and will be based in Germany.
The film will focus on the final part of Oscar Wilde’s life, after his two year prison sentence of hard labor which caused injuries which eventually led to his death. Rupert Everett has said that he wanted to focus on this time, because so many productions stop telling the story before he goes to prison.
Oscar was imprisoned in 1895 for sodomy and gross indecency. He was imprisoned first in Pentonville and then Wandsworth Prison in London. The two years of hard labor entailed “hard labor, hard fare and a hard bed.” It was harsh for Wilde because he was used to the creature comforts. His health began to decline and at one point he collapsed due to illness and hunger. When he fell, he ruptured his right eardrum, and this is thought to have contributed to his death.
He died in Paris in 1900 from cerebral meningitis, when he was 46. As his health declined, on one of his last trips outside of the hotel where he stayed he said, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go.”
I think back to myself reading that story, with my grandparent’s electric fireplace flashing its orange lights, and the faint men’s voices of the wrestling, or the tv news, and the warm smells of my Grandma baking scones to go with dinner and other things, back in the late 70’s. I think of how far away I was in time and in place from Oscar Wilde writing that story. I knew nothing of his background of his life story when I read it. Now I am glad that I know. Back then it was just a piece of magic on the bookshelf to me that was brilliant writing for children.
I remember when I was 23 and my Mom got a new car. It was right before I went to England. It was a ’92 Acura Integra is a teal green color. It was definitely a sports car and I was so proud of her. My mom had owned a bright orange Volkswagen Beetle once, which was pretty cool. It had a rainbow sticker in the back window. This was the first sports car she had ever owned, though. It was actually shiny and I can remember we took a picture of her in front of it. » Read more..
I went for a run today, 10 miles this morning in the dark, and when I got back the sun was just coming up, but it wasn’t. I realized this is the first cloudy day we are having. We’ve been lucky this September in Vancouver. Often it can start to rain the first day that school is back and continue to April. » Read more..
I’m browsing through my Twitter feed earlier this week, and suddenly I see something on Barry Davis’s feed about the incident with Yunel Escobar on Saturday and whether he will do a press conference in English as he never has before. I thought, wait a minute, what’s going on here? I gradually became updated on what happened. I understand why Yunel was suspended, but I don’t think he should have been. » Read more..
I can remember hearing Boston songs like Peace of Mind and More than a Feeling being played on the radio, as I was growing up, along with all the other big rock songs from the 70′s.
In my early 20s I listened to a lot of music from the local scene, or from Seattle, and I didn’t really listen to bands I remembered from my childhood like Boston or Cheap Trick. » Read more..
The other day, I was thinking about a house that I lived in growing up. This was the house that I had the richest memories of. Not just how everything was inside the house, but how the garden was, and how the trail to the beach was, and what the beach was like. I had lived in a house previously up to the age of 5, that I had some memories of too. But this house, it felt like I spent most my childhood there. » Read more..
I have never been a “fast” runner, but five or six years ago, I was usually averaging a 10 min per mile pace, and sometimes faster after events. When I had moved back to Canada in late 2007, I had just done my 3rd marathon in Florence, Italy, and I had done some training runs out in White Rock where I was staying when I first moved back.
It’s 3.30 or 4 in the morning and I’ve sat down on a bench in the park, tired of walking. I’ve walked everywhere.
I’m afraid to go home. I wonder how I’ve ended up, sitting in the park, in the middle of the night. When I’m 29.
I’ve even been to the women’s shelter as a last straw. It was summer, in England, so it was still warm out. I had to stand in the street and press a button on a metal box that was on a pole and speak to the man that answered. He asked me what was up, or something like that. I had said my partner was really drunk and he had been shouting, and I was afraid to go home. He said, has he hit you? I said no. He said, well, he’s probably passed out by now, if he hasn’t hit you, we can’t really let you stay here. Oh, I said.
So I wandered to the park, and here I sit, trying to get the nerve up to go home. In front of the bench there is a cement path and then the lawn and the pond, well it’s basically a small lake. In the day there are swans and Canada Geese there. There are too many Canada Geese in the UK it seems and they are like pests. I think it is funny that the Canada Geese and me are both from Canada and we are both there in England. Now in the park there are no birds, although I think I might see some bats flying over the trees towards the Pavilion.
Before the shelter, I had knocked on the door of a woman who knew us around the corner, I thought maybe she might still be up, because it was the weekend, but she didn’t answer. I had knocked a couple of times, but I gave up on thinking she would answer, and I didn’t want to be rude and wake up the neighborhood knocking.
We had been to a barbecue at some friends on the edge of town. It was a mile or so walk home downhill. We had walked there and back because it was a nice evening. The three of us, my partner and his son who was about eight or nine at the time I think. It was on the walk home that things turned to the worst.
Before I had knocked on the neighbor’s door, I had turned around on the walk home when things were escalating and walked all the way back up to our friends who had the barbecue, to see if they were still up. They weren’t. Everything was in from outside, all the lights were out, everything was quiet, they had gone to sleep.
It all started out as a nice evening, we were with friends, in their nice yard, it was sunny and we all sat and ate dinner, there was a few of us. And we had drinks. And there was a fun atmosphere. He was getting loaded, but at the time it was still funny. There were some kids there, and he was pretending to eat slugs from the garden. He would pick one up, and dangle it near his mouth, and then make it look like he had put it in his mouth. The kids were screaming with laughter. One of his old girlfriends was there. I could see she started to look concerned. She was older like him. He was a few years older than me.
But it was getting later, and like always, when he drank out of the house, it seemed to get out of control all of a sudden. I had seen it countless times before, and we rarely went out. Once we had been in a pub, and one of his friends had spoken to me, and he turned and head-butted him against the jukebox.
So this night, as things were getting late, it was dark, and we started walking home. It wasn’t long before he was shouting. Shouting at me. I can’t even remember what it was he said. Nasty drunk things. Probably stuff about how I would eventually leave him, and things like that. But we were walking, his son was walking with us, and the shouting upset his son enough so that he had burst into tears and was walking down the street bawling, and I had crossed to the other side of the street as I remember. And that is when I had to get out of the situation and turned around to go back where we had come from. I felt bad for leaving his son.
I’m tired of walking but I get up from the bench at the park to go home. I wondered what had happened when they got back to the house. When I got there and entered the man from the shelter was right. My ex had passed out on the first landing on the stairway up. I hoped his son had just gone straight up to sleep in his room before his Dad had passed out. I think I checked on him, but I’m not sure. I just left the drunk man where he lay on the floor and crawled into bed.
I was 24 at the time and working at a second-hand bookshop.
The shop was at the top of the hill, across from a large pub, and my job there was the kind of job every body asked, how I got it, all the time. Thinking I was so lucky. Actually it meant for some long days because sometimes an hour or two could pass before a customer came into the shop. In the time in between there wasn’t much to do except for read, or just sit and think.
When I arrived there in the morning on days I worked, the shop had a system. First thing in the morning you opened the outside door, then the door inside to the shop. In the hall there was a tray of harlequin romance books that we pulled in every night and set out every morning on the windowsill outside. I would sit at a desk every day. Beside the desk was a shelf of old books. 100 years old or more. There was no cash machine, there was just a tin that was locked in a drawer of the desk.
I had been in the UK for a few months then. I had sorted out my immigration issues. I had been allowed to stay in the country for 6 months because I was a commonwealth citizen, and then I had applied for Leave to Remain for four years, because of ancestry. My grandfather on my Mom’s side had been born in Forfar, in Scotland. I had been organized and when then end of the time was approaching, I had applied and been accepted for Leave to Remain in the UK for another four years.
The job in the bookshop was not full time, I was putting in time, living in Britain then so I could go to University there, you had to be 3 years resident in order to be able to have a grant and go to University.
One of the days I was in the bookshop, I had a phone call. It was a young man on the phone and he said he was from the Immigration Office. I said, oh yeah, and waited for him to speak. He said that there was a problem with my immigration status because I was only supposed to be there for six months, and I was still there. I was shocked and kind of annoyed and I said something to the effect that of course there wasn’t a problem. I didn’t know why he would be calling me. I said I had just sorted all that out and everything was in order. He said something to the effect that in order to solve the problem that perhaps we could arrange to meet. I said I was at work and I would call the immigration office when I got home and find out what the problem was. The person said, “Ok, and then we can meet.” Fine I said and hung up. But it was afterwards I thought, why would someone from the immigrations office need to set up a meeting with me. It really bothered me.
I phoned my boyfriend at the time, and his mom answered and I told her what had happened. She said, are you sure it isn’t someone being funny. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind, I had just felt annoyed really, because I had put so much effort into sorting out my status, and then to get that phone call. I said I didn’t think so, there was only one or two people who I had mentioned the 6 month commonwealth thing to, but it didn’t make sense why anyone would try to arrange a meeting with me. People at the immigrations office wouldn’t do that, I thought. I imagined they would be just trying to get through the paperwork. She said if they call again, I should call the police.
I went home after work feeling really anxious about the phone call and decided I would call the immigrations office for the area. There was two of them. I called the first one, and explained why I was calling. The fellow was nice and said no, there hasn’t been any action taken on my file recently, there would be no reason for someone to call me. There was concern in his voice and he said I could try calling the other immigrations office, that sort of dealt with the same area, but he said nobody had called from their office. He said I should maybe call the police. I had known that impersonating an immigrations officer was illegal anyway.
I called the other immigrations office, and spoke to someone who was extremely rude, sarcastic and kind of scary to be honest. If I wasn’t so caught off guard by what he said, I would have contacted his supervisor. When I explained to him what had happened, and that the man at the other office had suggested I call their office, he said, put it this way, maybe you’ve pissed off some ex-boyfriend somewhere along the line and this is their way of getting back at you. I was shocked when he said it.
To be honest, I didn’t have many ex-boyfriends, I had two that were dead, and there was only one that I had split with on fairly good terms and we were friendly, so I couldn’t see any motivation anywhere. After the phonecall though, I was afraid to go out of the house for about two days. I never received any more phonecalls, and I never found out who it was that called me.
When the future dies, our imaginations are compelled to carry it on – Gloria Steinem.
Last weekend we marked the 50th Anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death. My first thought was, has it really been 50 years? Her staying power has been remarkable. Especially since it was estimated last century that someone’s influence in popular culture would probably last 10 years tops, considering how fast culture was moving.
She died six years before I was born, and I guess as a child, seeing her in films on tv, I had grasped that she was an actress that had died, but I didn’t really know what an overdose meant. When I was in my early twenties, I read more about her, and it was really her personal story that fascinated me, more than her films. I had started to encounter some of the conspiracy theories surrounding her death, and of course the information about her childhood and who she had been married to.
One thing I can’t understand is, how someone who had survived such a difficult childhood, could not have been taken seriously. Most people know the story. She was placed in the foster system after her mother had a nervous breakdown after her husband left her, with two children and pregnant with Norma Jean at the time. There seems to be a series of horrific experiences from when she was a young child, through growing up through the foster system. These include being almost smothered to death with a pillow by a demented neighbour next-door, who almost succeeded until she was dragged away in time – this when she was two years old. In one of the foster homes she was told she was wicked, and if she talked back she was whipped with a razor strop. Another set of foster parents treated her like she was a maid, and she had to scrub the floors before she was even five years old. She also lived with a family of seven who bathed once a week in the same tub, and as the orphan girl, she was always last to use it. At six she was raped by a grown man, “a friend of the family,” Marilyn had said.
The fact that some biographers don’t believe that the rape took place, also baffles me, considering her vulnerable situation. It was after then that she began to blame herself, and started to have feelings of wanting to take her own life.
In 1957/58 Marilyn tried to start a family with Arthur Miller, which resulted in an ectopic pregnancy. There seems to be mention in some articles about previous miscarriages throughout her life. It was after her ectopic pregnancy with Miller that her mental health declined. It must have felt like another personal defeat for her, if she had been struggling to have a child.
In Gloria Steinem’s writings about Marilyn in 1986, she talks about the response she received from the 1972 issue of Ms. Magazine. They had wanted to mark the 10th Anniversary of her death. The magazine did a cover story about Marilyn called “The woman who died too soon.”
The response to the story were woman writing in who identified with Marilyn because they too had suffered sexual abuse as a child. In fact the information they learned from the response ended up developing into the statistic of one in 6 girls that it is now. As far as Marilyn being handed over prescriptions for her anxiety, instead of the doctors trying to figure out what was causing her issues -other women had had the same experience.
She wanted to be taken seriously but was also missing the protection of a father, so she married for protection and identity, first a hero, Joe Dimaggio, and then Arthur Miller. Other women had done the same. Marilyn had suffered an ectopic pregnancy. Other women had as well, and wrote in about it.
So in fact she was taken seriously by a great deal of women, who identified with her, as her story gave others the opportunity to speak about theirs.
Those questions we had about her future….would she have met someone who loved her for who she really was, overcome her addictions, maybe adopted children?
Marilyn, as a young child remembered a dream:
“I dreamed that I was standing up in church without any clothes on, and all the people there were lying at my feet on the floor of the church, and I walked naked, with a sense of freedom, over their prostrate forms, being careful not to step on anyone.”
Our imaginations are still working – check back in another fifty years I guess.
My Dad is 75, and I can finally talk to him about sports.
Why has it taken so long? I don’t know. It was never a goal of mine, it is something funny that has just happened. I played sports as a child, and as a teenager, but I never watched them on TV. That was what Dads did, and brothers. Although I didn’t have a brother.
I had participated a lot in sports when I was in school, and ran cross country and track, but never really trained properly. But in my early 30′s I started running again, and sometime late in 2004 I decided to run my first marathon. » Read more..
When I was 11 or 12 I had hair that was far past my shoulder blades. I decided I needed it trimmed, I can’t remember why. I can’t remember if it was to tidy it up, or keep it healthy, or whether my Mom was getting her hair cut and I decided I would get mine done as well, something to make it look better. And of course in those days, if you were a young girl, you thought you would go in to the hairdressers and come out looking ten years older and like something out of Vogue. So we went to the hair salon at Ocean Park and I sat down to get my hair cut. » Read more..
One summer when we were up at Sakinaw Lake, Mom explained to us that there were some tall trees behind the cabin, and that the next day there were going to be some loggers come by to top the trees, otherwise they would risk the cabins nearby, namely ours, our Uncle’s and a couple others. The trees were not that close to the cabins, but they were in the actual forest area behind it, set back which was pure trees, pure forest. The trees were so tall, not like any tall tree you would get chopped around home. They were kind of cranky looking, missing quite a lot of branches and stretching way into the sky where only the seaplanes and the eagles went.
So the next day the loggers were there, and they would have come in a boat, because that was the only access to the cabins. There were no roads. On that day Mom said we could take the paddle-wheeler across the lake and sit across on the big rock across the Bay and watch the loggers fall the trees from there in the sun.
The big rock was only accessed by us by paddlewheeler or canoe. If you were my older cousin, (I had a couple, and one was 10 years older) then you could swim to the rock and back to the dock again, because you were showing off. Or something that made me even more envious, was that when they swam to the rock, then then climbed up on the rock, sat down and had a rest in the sun, then dove off the rock and swam back again.
The big rock was covered with moss, and had a smooth rounded sloping face, with easy ridges to climb. It grew warm in the sun, and you could see the peeling bark of the arbutus trees as you climbed up the side of it. In those days, Mom used to take arbutus branches and macrame owls and things onto them and then hang them in the cabin, or, sometimes hang a plant from them.
The paddlewheeler was a large boxy thing, painted bright yellow, with a long yellow box on each side that it floated on, a seat in the middle for everyone to sit on, and then there were pedals to push to make it move, and a lever to steer it. I can’t remember what time it was, in the middle of the day, and it was sunny, that we got into the paddlewheeler, probably with something to drink and some sandwiches, and paddled across the bay to the rock. There was three of us, so one of us didn’t have to paddle, and that probably was me, so that I just sat on the paddlewheeler bench with my life-jacket on. And probably not a lifejacket that I liked. It was probably the one that was like a red pillow with a hole stuck in the middle.
The lake water amazed me, it was always so dark, almost like black velvet, and I knew that at the bottom of the lake it wasn’t like a swimming pool, there was a layer of old trees, who knows how old the branches were or how long they were down there for, or how they got down there in the first place. Sometimes, if I was playing by the dock, and I concentrated, I would grab onto the ladder on the dock and sink down with my eyes open and try to see the bottom of the lake, and I could see some of the slimy grey branches, because it was more shallow there, but farther into the lake it was deep. I would also sometimes see little schools of tiny fish. And no matter how sunny the day was, the lake water was always like dark velvet.
At the rock, there was an old rope that was tied to the pole on the seat of the paddlewheeler and we just tied it to an arbutus tree with a fisherman’s knot. And the paddlewheeler just sat in the water waiting for us, occasionally making a bit of a squeeking noise, with being tied to the tree, or brushing up against the side of the lake or something.
So we climbed the rock, so we could have a view, and we could see the tall tops of the trees, all scraggly towering above the others, and the sound of the chainsaws. There were two trees that would be trimmed. And when the top of the tree fell, it made a sound like someone smashing an enormous pile of peanut brittle with a mallet. Sort of a muffled crashing, and I was imagining what I couldn’t see – the tree top (which was about the size of a normal tree) falling below the tree line, and how it fell onto the forest floor. And the gap in the sky which was now blue.
And later when I was asleep that night, it was the longest sleep, in my sleeping bag, the zipper pulled up, in the bottom bunk, in the little green cabin with the white face, and the footworn paths still leading from the little cabin’s door to the dock past the firepit and to my uncle’s cabin past the huckleberry bush, the lake still velvet and quiet at night, and the forest sleeping too, only a little shorter in places.
In the first neighborhood that I ever lived in, there were some other kids on our street, next door, that we sometimes hung out with. Two boys about the same age as us, maybe a little older. One was called David, I can’t remember the name of the other one, Anyway, across the street from them was a family that also had at least one kid. » Read more..
A few years ago I had moved in with my partner at the time I had noticed the inside of the front door of the house, in the hall, was covered with a thick plastic and stapled all around fairly roughly, so as to keep out the cold, but it was all rather ghastly to look at. I said to him, “What, you just plastered all that plastic all over it and didn’t care what it looked like?” He said, yes, he did that at a time when he didn’t care. » Read more..
It was April 1, 1984, and my friends and I were at Camp Alexandra in Crescent Beach. It was a school event. We were camping there for several days. We weren’t counselors there yet but would be next year, when we were in Grade 10 and the whole idea of that amazed me, because we had never been in charge. I was 14 at the time, 3 months before my 15th birthday. » Read more..
When I was 18 I was living in White Rock and had finished school, had finished working at McDonalds that summer at Expo ’86 which was my first job. I was then working in White Rock, part-time at Muffin Break, and also at a gift shop in the mall. » Read more..
When we used to live in White Rock we lived on a street, in the second house I ever lived in. It was like an afterthought, a street that curled down from Marine Drive as if it was trying to get down to the ocean but the trees grew up from the beach and stopped it. The street was quite popular with the ten-year-olds which were the skateboarding crowd. » Read more..
When I used to live in Macclesfield I used to go running. In the summer I would have a route that would leave Macclesfield, go out to Prestbury, then up Chelford Road and I was in the Cheshire countryside. I used to run between the villages. If I ran to the end of Mottram St. Andrew and back it was 10 miles. If I ran to Alderley Edge and back it was 16 miles. If I ran to Wilmslow and back it was 20 miles. » Read more..
There were hundreds of times growing up in the Surrey/White Rock area where I was in the car with Mom and Dad and we for some reason or other drove past the Elgin Hall on the way to go shopping somewhere or visit family. Me sitting in the back seat watching all the green trees on the winding Crescent Road, that always ended with the car dealership on the corner, and the driving range where Dad sometimes went.
I would always see Elgin Hall sitting there. It kind of looked like an older building, but I had no idea of when it was built, or of the history of the Elgin area, which was what we were driving through. Now I find myself looking into the history of the area, and there was quite a lot of it.
It turns out, Elgin Hall was built in 1922 by the Community Association. Everyone in the valley and in the area at the time helped to clear and grade the land for the hall to be built. On the night of the opening on March 23rd of 1923, they hired a six-piece orchestra for $45, bought a stove to cook on from Fraser Valley Co-op in Cloverdale, and borrowed the old wood stove from Elgin School.
There was a Scottish man named J. Alex MacDougall. He acquired the land around the Nikomekl River and he named the place where the Semiahmoo Trail met the Nikomekl River, Port Elgin, after his hometown in Scotland. The town he was from in Scotland, called Elgin, is in the region of Moray, and is the smallest city in Scotland (and famous for its whiskey, such as Glen Moray).
The Semiahmoo Trail was a wagon road built in 1873 so that people could settle in the area of Surrey. Before that, you could only get there by water. When the Semiahmoo Trail was built you could then travel from the U.S. all the way to New Westminster. It ran from what is now Blaine, Washington, to an area near where the Patullo Bridge is today.
Around the same time they also built a bridge over the Nikomekl River (which was later replaced around 1911). And they built the Elgin Hotel which had a barn, blacksmith’s shop, a post office and a county store. People could rest there and give their horses water. It used to be located on the land between the King George Highway, and where the Semiahmoo Trail is marked on the south bank of the Nickomekl River. The Elgin Hotel was torn down in the 1940′s.
In 1885 pioneers built Elgin United Church with lumber that had floated down the Nikomekl River. The Church was located at Semiahmoo Road and Wade Road (now King George Highway and 44th Avenue). It was torn down in 1966, and now Art Knapp’s nursery is there.
Starting in the 1880s, a 9-seat stage coach made two trips a week from one end of the Semiahmoo Trail to the other. It shared the Semiahmoo Trail with people walking, or on horseback, and also ox-carts. As the area grew, then the built Elgin School in 1921 – this was to replace the condemned Mud Bay School.
The Mud Bay School was built across for the Elgin United Church and operated as a school until 1921, when it was closed for health reasons. It became a tramp shack during the 1920′s until some students cleaned it up, and it operated for a short time as a manual training centre.
I am glad to know that Elgin Hall and Elgin School are Protected Heritage Sites. Crescent Road is also considered a heritage site, and it protected by a Heritage designation bylaw. Crescent Road is considered the last built by pioneer engineers of Surrey. It was built from 1910-1923, following the natural shape of the landscape, joining Elgin with Crescent Beach. It is important to preserve our older buildings. The buildings have their own stories, and when we look into their stories, we understand our own much more.
A few years ago when I was first back in Canada, I was staying in White Rock, and I ran 10 miles one day from the pier, to 28th, the old street that we used to live on above Crescent Beach, when I was only little. I wanted to stand on it again, and see the view I saw when I was three, and where the corner store used to be, and where our neighbours had lived. There had been so many times where I had sat on our lawn, in the middle of a huge green expanse on a sunny day, and listened and taken everything in.
There was a ravine at the end of our road, and on the other side of the ravine was the church we went to, but I only thought of the church bells being there, because that is all I could hear. You could hear them even when you were in the house. But when I heard them, I only thought of the green leaves of the ravine.
In our house there was a hallway that was circular, and I used to run around it for entertainment, or something to do. We had a rock fireplace that was en-route. One day I ran into it head-first and I had to be taken to the hospital where they had to put a special bandaid on the cut, and I was good as new, after that.
Part of my world centered around the television. There was hockey on it that my Dad watched – the Vancouver Canucks , and the Banana Splits, which I watched, along with The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show, and frankly I got tired of the coyote’s bad luck. And I wondered where all these ACME products came from anyway. I had never seen anything like them before. Then there was that commercial for Grange Mattresses that was on TV constantly. The commercial was a silent film, “Gotta Getta Grange” it said. And it had a woman and a man in it, and I think something to do with a mattress and a flight of stairs.
And there was a back yard that we had. It had a sandbox at the back, and a couple of big trees in the middle, and a porch where Mom had hung the bird feeder above. Once we had guests, our cousins over, and my cousin, who was about 10 years older than me, stole my Barbie and climbed up one of the big trees with it and wouldn’t come down, and I was mad at him and wanted him to give it back to me. Another time one of the neighbour’s kids got on my horse with the springs that was set up in the back yard and broke the thing, and that was frustrating. So it wasn’t always good times.
Below our street there was Crescent Beach, which was like a little village that had train tracks, and a store where you could buy icecream, and a bunch of little cottages with pretty lawns. My Dad on occasion would take us down to Blackie Spit Park, by Crescent Beach, and he just had to drive around down the hill. And we would take a kite and fly it. It wasn’t always on a sunny day, sometimes it was grey, and the kite was up in the sky against the grey. And I found the hardest thing was when the wind dropped and then the kite came careening down to the grey sand and you didn’t have time to pull in the string. But lots of the time it flew fine and I liked being out on the sand with the salty air.
Up on our street when I sat on our lawn I could look out at the ocean view and across the water, or the Mud Bay Flatlands when the tide was out and all you could see was mud. Once I asked my Mom if you tried to walk on the mud, would you sink into it, and she said “I think so.” And above the blue water or muddy bay I could see the Lions, the mountains far away. And some days it seemed that they were calling to me.
So all I can say, as I stood and had a drink from my water bottle on my old road, was that the road seemed very small. It was good to be back, for the first time in 35 years, but after having a look around, I still found myself going back to the memories. The view when I was three, was still in my head anyway.
My grandparents on my Dad’s side lived in Cloverdale. Like my other Grandparents (fortunately I knew all of my grandparents) we would often go to stay there for a night or two on the weekends. They lived in an apartment. When we went to the apartment there were several activities we did. It usually started with my Grandma saying, “Lorn, are you going to take them to…” or my Grandpa saying, “How ’bout we go for a walk to….” and my Grandpa putting his leather jacket on. Sometimes my grandpa took us down to the exercise room (this was just for fun) so we could try out the funny machine with the band that you put around your stomach and made a vibrating noise, the purpose of this we could not understand. Sometimes we would go down to the pool room and have a game of pool if nobody else was playing. » Read more..
During the dark mornings lately, there are times when I wished I could have had a do-over of decade old decisions, a chance to clean up messes. I missed sunlight waking me. Family vacations. When I was a kid there were times we went to California. When we did, Mom and Dad used to wake us up at about 4.30am to make it through Seattle before rushhour. I thought it was a crazy time to wake up in a good way, which meant it was exciting. We packed everything the night before. In the morning we would just wake up, get dressed, eat cereal. We’d brush our teeth, and grab our pillows from our beds. It wouldn’t be long before we slipped through the border. Soon I drifted off, the car still dark, passing lights outside.
The first time we went we had an orange truck with a matching camper (it had orange stripes). We drove past Portland, my sister and I had our gigantic puzzle books on our laps, 3 inches thick, with 500 crosswords. I tried to finish the ones that I started, but sometimes if I was stumped on figuring out a word the books were so thick that I could find an entirely untouched section on it’s own. We listened to the radio when we could. The Eagles, or The Doobie Brothers, or whatever we managed to listen to without it being
switched away. The truck also had an 8-track cassette player. The tapes were big and clumpy and were kept in the glove compartment. They would get warm, so the title labels on the tape would wrinkle in places, and develop a melted plasticy smell.
We took the coastal route, along the Cabrillo Highway and along by San Simeon. My mom mentioned Hearst Castle, and pointed out the road going up to it. I couldn’t understand how there could possibly be a castle that wasn’t in England or Europe somewhere. Worn green slopes slipped down to the water and the waves rolled in uninterrupted by islands.
Farther down the coast we stopped at a place to park the camper for the night right by the ocean. It was hot and sunny and there was a pier. Before dinner, I walked out on the pier and there was a man fishing. They were not large fish he was catching, but big enough. He had them in a bucket. I went and asked him about them and he gave me two fish. He said I should clean them and explained to me how to gut the fish and then cut the bones out so you were just left with fish and no bones. I was so pleased about this and thanked him and went back to the camper and told my Mom about what the man had given me. I had started to clean the fish as he said, I gutted them, on the cutting board, and then went to fillet the fish and was not successful. I ended up butchering the dead fish even further, instead of making a tidy fillet
like I had hoped. When we ended up frying them for dinner, there wasn’t much of them still intact. I remember feeling bad that I hadn’t done a better job of the fish.
But at least the man had given me the fish, and I was in California. I awoke in my sleeping bag, with the sun pouring in the window and could hear the seagulls over the bay.
I remember being at my Grandma and Grandpa’s, on my mother’s side, at their old farmhouse in Cloverdale at a very early age. And I remember the Christmas Eve there I first watched Frosty the Snowman on the old tv. I think my parents had probably gone to Harrison Hot Springs or something, and we had gone to stay there. Their house was a two-story house, bedrooms upstairs, with a big yard, garden, barn and garage and there were fields behind with cows. I don’t think the cows belonged to the neighbour.
I just remember in the summer the garage had big open doorways, and it had kittens hiding in it, and my grandpa’s old white ford with burgundy seats that had that wonderful smell of old leather. And the garden had corn growing in it which was so much taller than me. This was the house that my Mom was a teenager in and had graduated from high school. My Grandma had an old fashioned ringer washing machine – I didn’t know quite what to make of it. And once I sat at the kitchen table and chopped my barbie’s hair off, because I had it in my head I
wanted to be a hairdresser. And I remember my Grandma sounding a little cross as I sat at the table and saying , “I should really spank you for that.” Woops, I thought. I don’t think she really meant it though. Upstairs there was a room I slept in with my sister. There were 2 beds and old sash windows and the floor was covered with cracked linoleum and the pillowcases were embroidered. The room seemed absolutely enormous. I know, it was probably, in reality very small.
So, there was the old tv, with Frosty on it, the tinselly Christmas tree. Above the tv on the shelf was the old Grandfather clock that my sister ended up with. My grandparent sold the house and moved to an apartment in White Rock when I was probably about 7. There, all the old memories of the house were fit into 800 square feet. To me as a kid, it never made any sense to me why they would move from a house like that.
The room was dark so we could see the Christmas lights on the tree. Even the cartoon scene in the greenhouse, I was somewhat distracted from. Probably shortbread did the trick. And years later, as a teenager I visited my grandparents as they lived not far from Johnson Road, not that far from junior high or highschool, I would sometimes go there after school and it was like a neutral escape, it was like stepping off of the world for a while and having a breather. Grandpa used to sit in his recliner and look at his old photos of the war, explaining them to us. As the years went by, the Christmases seemed to get smaller. I got farther away, and soon, my Grandparents were no longer.
Then it was a kiss goodnight from both, and up the stairs to the beds with the embroidered pillowcases, where I lay, just wishing I’d fall asleep quickly.