Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stampeding in Calgary!

Contrary to my best predictions, Calgary was up to the challenge to put on one amazing stampede extravaganza despite the flood.  "Come hell or high water, the stampede will go on" was the mantra.  Part of the river bike route was still blocked, but for the most part, clean up was done and I was just so delighted there were no big hills (even though there were warnings to slow down on the hills).  Although the headliners weren't able to perform in the Saddledome, KISS actually showed up at the Grandstand event.  Quite exciting for those of us who knew KISS in our youth!  There certainly was a sense that the very best had been brought out not just in the mayor but in all people in Calgary as they reached out to help those in need.  Even the tradition of a free pancake breakfast continued all over the city. Good will abounds! 

It felt like going to another country.  Much like visiting Texas.  Larkyn went to the stampede last year and gave us the heads up to choose the winner of the chuckwagon races ahead of time.  Excitement and interest in the details about the drivers and horse goes up immeasuarably when there is a vested interest.  I was amazed and horrified with how young some of the competitors were in the rodeo.  I thought trials riding, downhill biking and cheer were frightening at times.  The women beside me agreed we were quite happy NOT to be their mothers.  I was proud of the barrel racers - the only female competitors.  All those women patted their horse once they were over the finish line.  Girls and horses!

The Grandstand show was spectacular and very reminiscent of the the Olympics.  Pianos, mechanical horses  and performers were suspended in the sky, performers who seemed to be right out of Cirque du Soleil and mass participation of so many talented, young performers.  Add the fireworks and the positive vibe - very impressive!

We joined the Napoli-tymos (love this, Larkyn) at the Hughes House B&B in Calgary.  Great host, lovely deck to relax on and yummy breakfasts.  More family arrived and off we went to a boisterous dinner at Caesar's.  Good fun eating Italian in Calgary.  Buzzards was a great addition to our trip - stampede decor, cowboys hats all around, prairie oysters, loud music AND one of my students from days gone by working the bar.  Such a gentleman he's become!  A great way to celebrate my cousin, Don's, momentous birthday.

Sofia and Simone made sure that Uncle Brad and I did our fair share of scary, fast rides and drops.  Darlene ensured that we all had ample opportunity to appreciate the slow and uneventful pace of the skyride.  Giovanni brought an appreciation of the shopping opportunities.  All of us avoided the deep fried butter but not much of anything else.  And a good time was had by all. 

My advice...you have got to go at least once.  And don't forget the hat.  It adds to the experience.


Road trip! Destination Penticton

Nothing like kicking off the summer with a road trip!  I headed up to Penticton for the Canada Day long weekend.  Tough leaving Kits and Vancouver sunshine but the drive was gorgeous and the space much appreciated.  Morning golf.  Soaking up the sun and reading by Okanagan Lake.  Wine tasting in the afternoon with Allison.  Fireworks from the railway tracks.  Just what the doctor ordered:)

Alison and I started our wine tasting ventures together many years ago when I was presenting at a reading conference in Kelowna.  I booked the B&B.  She booked the wine tour and opened up a whole new world for us that didn't include our treasured children running around.  We have fond memories of  The Red Rooster winery because we were introduced before it was truly discovered and we LOVE the wine.  Hillside, Wild Goose and Blasted Church (especially the sparkling) were fun as usual but the best time was certainly Tinhorn Creek.  The gentleman pouring was delightful and provided a cooler, plates, napkins and a chilled rose to enjoy with our bread and cheese.  We headed down to a table by the vineyard.  The rows of different grape varieties reminded me of Napa.  We were able to go unnoticed until long after closing and catch up on our latest and greatest thoughts, feelings, ponderings...  "Practically perfect".  Sometimes life is that good!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Oh, there is nothing so sweet as coming home.  So good to see Brad and catch him up on details of life that are not mentioned long distance.  To hear of Tyler's life with all of the vivid description he supplies in the wee hours of the morn when he's most awake.  And to track down Larkyn to listen for tone and discover what she is actually thinking.  Then there is sleeping in my own, wonderfully cozy bed.  When the kids were growing up, they always believed that our bed was the very best bed in the world.  Brad and I figured it was the chatting, stories and snuggling.  But, it actually is the bed :)

Just got back from yoga and all is right with the world.  A lovely cup of Earl Grey from England.  The sun is shining.  The ocean is sparkling.  The birds are chirping.  The cherry blossoms and daffodils are in bloom.  Gardeners are trimming hedges and moving lawns.  New beginnings.  new perspective.  So nice to come back to Spring in Kits.

Accessible Museums in England

Museums in England

The range of choice to learn about human culture is vast.  However one of the things that is most striking is the effort to make it accessible to everyone in England.  The fact that you can walk into The National Gallery or The Tate Modern for free is a credit to the government itself. The fact that you pay to access visiting shows ties the costs directly to covering the costs of the exhibit.    It is interesting that Canada and the United States are supposedly the great democratic unions that do not carry the same hierarchical structure that exists in England.  And yet, our cultural learning is available only at a cost.  The best that we can hope for are reduced student rates or family memberships.  At best this creates a greater access but not an equitable access.

The last time I was in England, I was 17 years old and I had just graduated from Magee Secondary School.  As you would expect, how I viewed "art" was from an entirely different perspective.  Having always been of the journalist bent, I can remember or read my journal entries about my interpretations as I stood in front of "famous" paintings, sculptures, or architecture.  The interpretation after having walked the path of ultimate joy and ultimate despair lends itself to an entirely different viewing.  It certainly creates a good case for regular access throughout the formative years and beyond in the grant quest to create meaning in our lives.

I overheard one of the docents asking the group of young students in The National Gallery, which was their favourite painting so far.  She made it very clear that they didn't have to have a reason.  They needed to just respond as opposed to creating a rationale framed on "expert interpretations" for their choice.  When our children were young, they regularly attended sessions at The Place Des Art in the COQ and Super Sunday Family Day at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  By the time they were 6 and 8 years old and trekking through the galleries of Italy,  they considered themselves artists and would seriously pour over their drawing books and provide their response to what they were seeing.  As young adults, they are not as tied to the convention of a "right or wrong" or even a need to rationalise their thoughts or feelings or response.  I think it is something that is quite freeing and has allowed them to express themselves without adherence to external expectation.  Tyler it plays out directly in his studies.  For Larkyn is plays out in her art as she expresses her feelings.

Tea Time in England

Tea Time

Darlene managed to book reservations (due to a last minute cancellation) for us to have tea at Claridge's months ago.  This lavish affair is the site of important birthdays, meetings girlfriends and out of town guests, and a lovely place to take Mummy.  Certainly a very civilised affair.  A huge Murano glass chandelier adores the main room and photos of very young guests such as Audrey Hepburn, Yule Brenner, Princess Margaret et al.., adorn the walls.

We started out with champagne- brut or pink.  This was followed by our selections of tea and a plate of finger sandwiches:  smoked salmon, egg, chicken and cucumber.  I believe because we ate ALL of the sandwiches, another plate was promptly delivered.   Then came the hot cross buns, scones (raisin, apple, plain) with jam and clotted cream, and selection of cakes and tarts.  Yes, the amount of food was excessive and there was no need for dinner.

What I love about tea time in England, is the opportunity to just sit.  It is the prompt to slow down and relax.  Due to this pause, it is also a marvellous time to people watch.  When I was in high school drama, my friend, Carla Smith, and I did the famous tea time scene from The Importance of Being Ernest".  It felt like we had entered this microcosm of British class based society.  One older mother was sitting kitty corner to us with her two grown daughters.  The roles that each played in the family was abundantly clear and the disdain palpable.  All around the room, you could observe a variety of mini series in play.  Good fun.

I particularly enjoyed the daily ritual of Cream Tea.  Choice of your favourite tea (Earl Grey for me), two scones with butter, jam and Devonshire (clotted cream).  Not two much food but a nice little snack and still some time to walk it off.  It certainly made me think of my daughter, who is the queen of the perfect scone.  It was also a necessary way to warm up in the frosty weather of England this Spring.  Hard to believe the flowers and trees were in full bloom last year.

Shopping in London

Shopping In London

There are so many varied opportunities to shop in London.  We are staying very close to The High Street Kensington Station on the Circle Line.  Nice main street just down from Kensington Palace for shopping and money to be saved.  Lots of big name chains, including TK Max (TJ Max in US) and The Body Shop.  Head over to Harrod's and window shopping is the do-able form of shopping unless you are in the market for tea, food and Harrod's wine label.  My kind of shopping is at the Spitalfield Market.  Having cut my teeth at $1.49 day at Woodward's as a child in Vancouver and at The Gap Warehouse store in L.A. in the 70's, I have a good eye for a bargain.  In fact, if it isn't a good deal, it just doesn't feel like a huge coup.  

The Sunday Market is good fun, particularly at the end of the day when they are closing up.  Many young designers are peddling their very unique creations and trying to  drum up business for their online ventures.  Others are copying designs of other designers like Desigual, and selling them as their own.  Shoes, jewelry, purses, coats, Lebanese baklava, baking, Turkish delight, vintage buttons, tea, hats - all there "for a very good price".  I managed a sweater, coat, hat, dress, skirt and earrings for under £100.

Trek down to Brick Lane and the area gets seedier and the clientele gets younger.  As well as tea and coffee, there is now also mulled wine and many Indian Food Restaurants.  There are many Vintage Shops and spaces are darker and have a clandestine vibe.  Authenticity of stones, silver, and "valuable" buttons are guaranteed but dubious.  It's the kind of place that evokes Dicken's descriptions of The Artful Dodger.  My kids would LOVE this place.  Next time...

The pièce de résistance was shopping for shoes on the second floor of Selingers.  There is a section for each designer to display and sell their latest collection.   The store is packed with no one seeming to bat an eye at dropping a substantial chunk of change for the latest and greatest addition to their own personal collections.  I'm fairly certain we could solve world hunger on this floor.  Larkyn use to bemoan the day when I would come to buy shoes when she was working in the mall.  Fortunately my girl in the Kurt Geiger Collection was very patient as I worked my way through ultra trendy and très chic shoes before settling on a stylish but  practical and responsible choice.

By departure day, I felt fairly certain that I was safe and could escape prior to any new expenditures.  It was busy when I arrived at Heathrow and the kiosk would not print my baggage tag so I waited quite awhile in line.  I thought I would have just enough time to head for the gate and read.  Interestingly enough, my gate was not posted on the display terminal until boarding time.  Once again I fell victim to the shopping mecca of Heathrow.  This time, one additional bonus was added.  NO VAT, the 20% tax assigned to all merchandise.  Fortunately, although Kurt Geiger and I were good friends, it was extremely difficult ( although not impossible) to get my very popular shoe size.  Although at many airports, there have been an increased adherence to carry on luggage limits, not so at Heathrow.  I arrived my my large purse, backpack, and array of bags and got nothing but smiles.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Blessing of the Palms, Procession, and Sung Eucharist

Experiencing Worship in the Abbey

Today I got up and braved the cold to go line up at the Big West door of Westminster Abbey to attend the Palm Sunday service.  Several groups of people were willing to do this, including the tourists who arrived on Sunday to discover that The Abbey was only open for worship on Sundays and it was this or nothing.  The second group were tourists who realized they could get in for free if they were attending worship.  The third group were the music enthusiasts who appreciate the quality of the organist, the pipe organ and the choir.  Then there were the people who regularly attend services at home and felt like they should.  The final group were those of us looking to experience the awe inspiring worship in community with other pilgrims.

As a tourist, the first impression is often of the opulence and political nature of organized religion.  Evensong at The Abbey in Bath and Palm Sunday at Westminster Abbey were far more about the reflection on the presence of God.  The pipe organs and the high ceilings create the same sense of smallness that I get being beside the ocean.  The amazing quality of the choir, the beauty of the stained glass windows and the church are so conducive to quiet reflection of those things that matter most to me.  Sharing the experience with people who have come from all over the world who are on the same journey to understand, is just so cool.

This morning, as we entered we were presented with our palm leaf crosses and we gathered in the nave.  The line of people spiraled outside.   Then the choirs of Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's Church (Westminster Abbey) led us singing All Glory Laud and Honour around the sanctuary, through the Quire Screen and to my seat in the Lantern facing the northern transept with Christ with welcoming hands in the centre of the rosary window.  People continued to fill up the Transepts and the seating area in the nave. The Passion according to Luke (Victoria Missa Laetatus sum Lassus) was sung as was much of the service. As we lined up for communion down into the Quire, I was surrounded on either sound by the choir singing.  Sometimes life is just that good and it evokes the same feeling as when the light is separated by the clouds and it feels like the hand of God.

I was also pleased to discover that half of the collection was directed to a Jewish/ Palestinian peace project.  Evidence of a working a church :). I'm so glad I went