Thursday, 16 December 2010

Monday, 6 December 2010

Time is not linear.

On Saturday morning I sat down with a walking, talking, breathing fragment of my past from forty years ago. As he so beautifully put it, “It was like looking over a chasm of forty years, and you stood on the other side. In a breath’s time, the chasm disappeared as though it never existed.”
As I say often, and you will hear again, I’m an incredibly lucky woman. To have such a precious opportunity to revisit myself from forty years ago as seen though the eyes of someone who only saw the best in that young girl was like taking a trip in Doctor Who’s Tardis.

After the greeting hug, the years fell away, and standing in front of me was that dashing young pilot who showed me devotion, passion, and romance in its best form, when we were both so very young. As he spoke, I looked into those sapphire blue eyes, that are wiser now, but still fathomless – I remembered the Old English definition of fathom: “ something that embraces; hence, a unit of measurement based on the span of the outstretched arms.” How very appropriate.

We spoke of his life now, my life now. There was a cursory, due to time restraints, trip back to our lives from then to now. We found we have evolved to many of the same interests and views. We have both known death and danger, we have both known love, we both are blessed with children, and we have both evolved into better versions of ourselves.

We spoke quietly of events shared only between us. There was the, I knew it was coming, reference to the time I wrecked his snazzy Thunderbird…. The time he sent me roses because “it’s Thursday”… sigh, so romantic.

It was an all too short, but precious comma in the ongoing sentence of our relationship. I don’t believe the Universe does anything by accident. I’m sure there’s a reason it was a good idea to made the seed of the avocado that size, and our finding each other again after all this time also has reason and purpose.

I left that meeting feeling younger, prettier, and more at peace than when I arrived. I am very grateful he came into my life forty years ago, and very pleased he has returned to me.

Find someone today and show them the meaning, in the Old English, of fathm.


Monday, 22 November 2010

I'm pissed!

Watching yet another program on the news about the excessive intrusion of the TSA pat downs and the unknown amount of radiation being pumped out of the scanners (a worry for those like me who already glow in the dark from medical scans) – not to mention those images can be stored for someone’s private collection, and no one is monitoring the pat downs – that anyone who objects gets thrown off the plane and hit with an $11,000.00 fine is continuing to shock me that this is taking place in the U.S. Where is the ACLU?

If I want a pat down, I have to tell you I prefer the adorable husband to someone at TSA who has no training and unlimited power to determine my fate. I do think it important that the public - that's us, send letters to the head of TSA, and comment on articles like Saturday's CNN link. The pat downs and excessive radiation has kept not one dangerous person off an airplane.

PROFILING does! Why oh why have the authorities not simply gone to Israel and ask for assistance? When was the last time a terrorist blew up a plane from Israel aye?

I lived in Morocco for two years - trust me, they profile and NO Muslim woman checks her own headscarf as CAIR is saying they should be allowed to do in the U.S.

The lines move quickly at Ben Gurion Airport, and there was no intrusive scan or pat down that in America has always been reserved for the police when they have a valid reason to believe a suspect is armed with a gun!!

The man who had his urostomy bag ripped off and urine dripped all down his clothes with no apology or assistance from the T.S.A. agent who caused the problem, is not going to make you safer. This occurred after the agent ignored the man, who was trying repeatedly to tell the T.S.A. officer about the bag. The T.S.A. guy had no idea what it was. All -ostomy patients face this difficulty. How can these people be considered trained to deal with the public when such a glaring error is exposed? What about a woman who has had breast surgery for cancer or any other reason, or someone who has to wear a catheter?

His is not the only case by far, as well as the inappropriate touching, and lurid comments reported. Until a public outcry they were patting down children under 12 years of age! Again, the last time a tike blew up a plane?

A little boy who had his shirt removed. The woman who had to remove her artificial breast (after going through breast cancer!).

PROFILING!! And Intel from the agencies trained to get it is the only effective measure. Again, why are we not seeking assistance and training from the one country with the best record? Israel!

And I don’t know about you, but I’m mildly pissed that the pilots are getting a pass. So, we have forgotten that there was a plane brought down by a pilot in the name of Allah? So we just are supposed to give that a pass but pat down Grandmother. And yes I take it personally.

I became tired of nit picking with the agents who wanted to throw out my $220.00 jar of La Mer and give me back the 99 cent bottle of hand wash! I now triple bag everything, put it in my checked bags and hope for the best. I also pay extra for non-stop flights.

There is no logic here people, and little to no protection for the public! When tall, redheaded, sixty-year-old white women began blowing up airplanes I will cease to complain. Until that time let me encourage you to write comments on the articles posted in the newspapers online, and join the Internet outrage until the policies are changed. Send a letter to the T.S.A. and your senators and representatives – no matter their party affliation!

Just an aside: I do love that Mama Bush, when ask about Palin said that she was “very beautiful” and “should stay in Alaska”. Yeah! I love Mama Bush.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Only a bit of insanity...

I have to say I feel very special. Apparently my last post, the meltdown in Carmel, had quite an impact on my friends and family. I’m fine now – all right I’m exhausted but I’m fine. I’m back to my optimistic, if exhausted, self.

The Carmel Bust remains a bust, albeit we had a grand time when we went down into the city, filled with charming shops and fairy tale cottages. We made the requisite walk on the beach, which was both beautiful and romantic. The Carmel Valley Ranch was a huge disappointment. Had we been expecting what it was – more a campground/golfer retreat, it would have been fine. We would have gone somewhere else. However the website (and the price!) advertised it as a luxury resort. We don’t ask for a lot on vacation, we ‘re good at entertaining ourselves, but we are very big on room service as I like to get up early to work and the adorable husband likes to have the unusual chance to sleep in, it puts us on a different timetable than the average restaurant. When making the reservations, the adorable husband specifically asked about room service, and was assured they had a full menu – not at all, not even anything worth taking the time to bother, nowhere to walk but to their restaurant which was also not so great and had only set hours. Ug. And for me the chance (as in NYC or Paris) to take off out the door and be able to walk is a treat, as Houston has no sidewalks even when the horrid weather permits one to venture out without dying of the humidity and heat. But at this place there was nowhere to walk but the golf course…

As to the meltdown – that was mine alone. It ‘s all a time issue. This is my first novel and I’m treading unknown ground. I attended Surrey two years ago to learn something about the business side of writing, and did so; but this year I was there to break into the published ranks. So…. When some agent assumes your book that they are very interested in, is finished…. You don’t contradict them do you?

The problem is that when I began the manuscript it was one story, but involved into another with a running side plot! Once I honed down the first three chapters for submission I found the main story line. Which means that now I am removing huge chunks from the manuscript (thankfully enough for two more books, one of a completely different genre) and rewriting like mad to connect the dots of what is left, and to create the end – which is thankfully in my head, but not yet on paper. My biggest fear right now is that one of the agents that I sent a submission is going to ask to see the rest of the manuscript! Therefore I feel like I have to get it done NOW.

I find it a never-ending source of personal amusement that after careful study of the religions of the world I chose Buddhism, and Mahayana at that – which is inherently about moderation – the Middle Path. Moderation is NOT something I have ever been good at; it is the mountaintop for me, the end of the marathon. Hence I have been at the laptop almost every waking moment and have put all kinds of pressure on myself – certainly no one else is doing so as I have unconditional support from the adorable husband, and the rest of my family.

Last night I had the most wonderful and funny talk with the adorable husband. With the abating of the migraines due in some mysterious and unknown medical reason to the Red Bull consumption, I am left with only two physical problems. I have chronic fatigue for some unknown reason, and I will say publically for the first time – some form of PTSD – consequently I have chronic nightmares (the wake you up screaming and crying kind), and nights concurrently with only three hours of sleep. Which yes, could explain the problem I have with fatigue; albeit I think that also has to do with my problem with moderation. I will get up and go and go until I fall over, as I have always done. Really sometimes I think there was a mistake with the IQ score! Along with the problem with moderation, I’m also really, really, bad at asking for help. Really bad. Really.

Back to the talk last night – due to my complete attention to the manuscript, attentions to the adorable husband, which are normally at the tear your clothes off stage, have dropped off dramatically. The conclusion we came to, this is the funny part, is that unlike most people – when the wife withholds frequent passionate kissing sessions, it’s because she thinks the husband will take that as a signal that sex is on yes? In our household, it’s because the wife, who is exhausted, knows once she starts kissing on the adorable husband SHE will be the one to insist on it leading to sex! So how do you like them apples?

I think it a good thing if at the age of sixty if you can still be amused by your own behavioral quirks. So there you have it. Problem with moderation, adorable and supportive husband, loving and concerned family, fans insisting you ‘write something on your blog’, and a sex drive that rivals the twenty-something set. Not a bad situation is it?

And before the suggestions pour in, I have a doctor on the case of the fatigue, and I’m pretty sure that my diet has been poor to crappy, and I’m taking steps today to change that. The treadmill in my office now, assures regular exercise I’m happy to say – that and the new series of Dr Who that I only allow myself to watch while on the treadmill. At the suggestion of the adorable husband, and the insistence of my child, I am going to call the local Veterans’ Hospital and ask for a referral to someone who has experience in the area I need addressed.

So for those who love me, I’m fine – just the normal insanity, and for those who enjoy reading me – THANK YOU, and as soon as I get this bloody manuscript finished I will be here daily. Until then I shall do my best to get some deep and meaningful or at least amusing post up more frequently.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

As anyone who reads my Blog knows, I am annoyingly optimistic...

BUT I am in the depths of angst right now - an uncomfortable but not unknown geography to me. I have convinced myself (and yes as the adorable husband in all goodness and love keeps saying, "it's only been ONE week.") that no one will publish my book, that I can't write, that I should stick to articles and be glad people give me money for them, that I have no expertise about anything worth writing about, that the agents who asked to see my first three chapters were only being nice, or were charmed by my admittedly adorable self... and the list is longer. A pond, no a lake, no a fucking sea of self pity!

I, who have so very much to be grateful for, should be ashamed of myself, and I am. Last night after we were shown to our suite/apartment at the Carmel Valley Ranch, I burst into tears and nothing the adorable husband said could comfort me or make me stop -and he did try everything.
I felt terrible and guilty (another very rare emotion for me) - the adorable husband works so hard, and looks after everyone, especially me, and here I am on the vacation he wanted (he didn't want to go to a city or out of the U.S.) being a pissy, horrid, ungrateful, person. Which of course, made me cry harder. Because he did ask me, and I said this would be fine. I was lying, but that's what you do sometimes when you love someone. But you DON'T then act a total twit and make them feel terrible for doing what you said was perfectly fine - you don't unless you are a horrid selfish person.

I don't like it here. I don't like paying an exorbitant amount of money to stay somewhere that is not as nice as my own house! They lied on the web site (Carmel Valley Ranch). This place, which was advertised as renovated, is old (the chair in the bedroom has a stain! of what is the worry). The room service menu is limited, very limited, and we are big room service people on vacation. The television has no movie channel, no pay-for movie channel - which is the only TV I watch. How can you run a resort and not have pay-for movies and a spa that only does "plain" manicures - which meant that I had to rip the lovely gel covering off my nails last night (after the crying jag, I guess I thought I deserved the pain) which was applied in NYC and I just loved. I had not found anyone nearby in Houston who does the gel manicure (it's new) and I did not even consider that I would not be able to have it done at a place that is advertised as posh (and cost it) as this one! I mean it's a resort-spa! Would you not think that would mean they would do all sorts of wonderful 'spa stuff'? If I had I would have made the time in Houston to have the gel applied. So now I have serviceable once more, but quite unattractive set of nails... See what I mean, a real twit I am!

The adorable husband is sleeping in, as I also kept him up all night with nightmares (not an unusual occurrence but don't you think I could have abstained after making him so distraught earlier?). I shall be amazed if I'm still married when this vacation is over. I wouldn't marry me.

So there you have it - the confession of an absolute twit and horrid, selfish person. Now you know the truth, or at least the truth right now. Sigh.

Epilogue: What a lucky girl am I. So... this morning, moments after I finished constructing my hair shirt and was buttoning it up, the adorable husband made his appearance. He assured me all was forgiven, he loves me, and isn't going to trade me in for a better model. He also pointed out to me, and rightly so, as I had come to the same conclusion during my morning meditations, that we all have some nasty tapes from our childhood that play in our heads in times of stress - it does not make them true. And I, because I spent quite a bit of time with the monks exorcising my demons from the past, I did not recognize them for what they were yesterday. I, you see, have never failed at anything I really wanted to do - that makes failure more terrifying not less - and I really very much want to be an "author" not just a writer. So you mix all that up in a bag and throw in a disappointment like the Carmel Valley Ranch (which by the by the adorable husband says he does not like it either, they misrepresented it in their website and on the telephone with him. So we are leaving. We are going to see Carmel today and have lunch. He will play a round of golf tomorrow, to justify lugging his clubs all the way here, and we will go home. Like I said, what a lucky girl am I. I love my husband.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

We are off for a week at the Carmel Resort and spa for a week. It looks really lovely, and quiet, and remote, and quiet, and really quite lovely (sigh) - a city girl at heart apparently.

You will find me up early mornings working on the manuscript while the adorable husband sleeps in - and well deserved it is too.

He's bringing his golf clubs, so I may be working afternoons as well!


Tuesday, 2 November 2010


Go see "RED"! NOW! It's brilliant. Dame Helen Mirren with automatic weapons. I wish I had written the screenplay; better yet I wish they had let me come and play too. I can only imagine how much fun they had making this movie. It's brilliant I tell you - go! The 50+ crowd is taking over you young whippersnappers so watch out! :-)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


I am returned from the Surrey International Writer’s conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. Once again I feel it was time and money well spent. I learned so much. My brain feels a size too big for my skull. I hope I can retain at least the majority of what I learned.

If you are a beginning writer, or someone who wants to get started but needs the nuts and bolts (me two years ago at my first conference), or a writer who has something to sell – I highly recommend this particular conference.

I attended the Master’s Classes on Thursday, then every class I could work in for the following three days. I’m exhausted! There is no end to topics, no matter what you need, they will have it there.

Now, for my big news – several things actually.

If you recall two years ago, I went on and on about how brilliant I think Hallie Ephron to be, that opinion has not changed. What a good teacher. She is a writer of mystery (has a book out that will be a movie – Never Tell a Lie – I’ve just downloaded it to my Kindle). This year I was able to have a couple of ‘real person’ conversations with her, and drinks after one of our long days. May I tell you she is as lovely up close and personal as she is behind a podium? I know, I know, I’m gushing; well, I do that! I also had my appointment with her for my Blue Pencil session (where an author gives you an opinion and advice on your writing); that was very exciting.

Next – not one, not two, but THREE agents want me to send them the first three chapters of my book! Ahhhhhhhhhh! All that means is that they will read it, hopefully. They may one or all think it’s crap and that’s the end, or… one or all may love it and offer me a deal! It’s terrifying.

I am spending the rest of this week polishing those chapters one more time before sending them out so I’ll take any good wishes, hopes, crossed fingers, whatever you’re offering.

It was lovely and cool in Vancouver the few times I was able to venture out of the hotel. I was unable to visit Nobody Important and her wonderful Scientist Guy this year as I was rushing in and out of town. Back in Houston it’s still bloody summer! At least it is out of the nineties – so that’s something eh? The adorable husband, in spite of his black thumb, did very well with not killing my garden, everything looks quite well.

We are off to Carmel in a couple of weeks and that will be fun I’m sure. Meanwhile I am at the keyboard and my favourite holiday, Samhain, is coming up soon. I must get my spider up!

I shall do my best to be here more and not ignore my blog as I have of late. I owe “Powder Room Graffiti” several articles as well – as I said, I’ll be here at my keyboard!


Saturday, 16 October 2010

and I am...

writing, and writing, and writing.... three more days to go... writing...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A real artistic legend leaves us

Joan Sutherland is dead at age 83 years. My first reaction I must admit, is "she was 83?!". For me and millions of other opera lovers she will be forever young and fixed on the stage, taking us with her on a musical journey of extraordinary beauty. I am an opera lover. I say it with no apology. She was one of the greats and the world is less without her in it.

October 11, 2010
Joan Sutherland, Flawless Soprano, Is Dead at 83
Joan Sutherland, one of the most acclaimed sopranos of the 20th century, a singer of such power and range that she was crowned “La Stupenda,” died on Sunday at her home in Switzerland, near Montreux. She was 83.

Her death was confirmed by her close friend the mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne.

It was Italy’s notoriously picky critics who dubbed the Australian-born Ms. Sutherland the Stupendous One after her Italian debut, in Venice in 1960. And for 40 years the name endured with opera lovers around the world. Her 1961 debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” generated so much excitement that standees began lining up at 7:30 that morning. Her singing of the Mad Scene drew a thunderous 12-minute ovation.

Ms. Sutherland’s singing was founded on astonishing technique. Her voice was evenly produced throughout an enormous range, from a low G to effortless flights above high C. She could spin lyrical phrases with elegant legato, subtle colorings and expressive nuances. Her sound was warm, vibrant and resonant, without any forcing. Indeed, her voice was so naturally large that at the start of her career Ms. Sutherland seemed destined to become a Wagnerian dramatic soprano.

Following her first professional performances, in 1948, during a decade of steady growth and intensive training, Ms. Sutherland developed incomparable facility for fast runs, elaborate roulades and impeccable trills. She did not compromise the passagework, as many do, by glossing over scurrying runs, but sang almost every note fully.

Her abilities led Richard Bonynge, the Sydney-born conductor and vocal coach whom she married in 1954, to persuade her early on to explore the early-19th-century Italian opera of the bel canto school. She became a major force in its revitalization.

Bel canto (which translates as “beautiful song” or “beautiful singing”) denotes an approach to singing exemplified by evenness through the range and great agility. The term also refers to the early-19th-century Italian operas steeped in bel canto style. Outside of Italy, the repertory had languished for decades when Maria Callas appeared in the early 1950s and demonstrated that operas like “Lucia di Lammermoor” and Bellini’s “Norma” were not just showcases for coloratura virtuosity but musically elegant and dramatically gripping works as well.

Even as a young man, Mr. Bonynge had uncommon knowledge of bel canto repertory and style. Ms. Sutherland and Mr. Bonynge, who is four years younger than she, met in Sydney at a youth concert and became casual friends. They were reacquainted later in London, where Ms. Sutherland settled with her mother in 1951 to attend the Royal College of Music. There Mr. Bonynge became the major influence on her development.

Ms. Sutherland used to say she thought of herself and her husband as a duo and that she didn’t talk of her career, “but of ours.”

In a 1961 profile in The New York Times Magazine she said she initially had “a big rather wild voice” that was not heavy enough for Wagner, although she did not realize this until she heard “Wagner sung as it should be.”

“Richard had decided — long before I agreed with him — that I was a coloratura,” she said.

“We fought like cats and dogs over it,” she said, adding, “It took Richard three years to convince me.”

In her repertory choices Ms. Sutherland ranged widely during the 1950s, singing lighter lyric Mozart roles like the Countess in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and heavier Verdi roles like Amelia in “Un Ballo in Maschera.” Even then, astute listeners realized that she was en route to becoming something extraordinary.

In a glowing and perceptive review of her performance as Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello” at Covent Garden in London in late 1957, the critic Andrew Porter, writing in The Financial Times, commended her for not “sacrificing purity to power.” This is “not her way,” Mr. Porter wrote, “and five years on we shall bless her for her not endeavoring now to be ‘exciting’ but, instead, lyrical and beautiful.”

She became an international sensation after her career-defining performance in the title role of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at Covent Garden — its first presentation there since 1925 — which opened on Feb. 17, 1959. The production was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by the Italian maestro Tullio Serafin, a longtime Callas colleague, who elicited from the 32-year-old soprano a vocally resplendent and dramatically affecting portrayal of the trusting, unstable young bride of Lammermoor.

Mr. Porter, reviewing the performance in The Financial Times, wrote that the brilliance of Ms. Sutherland’s singing was to be expected by this point. The surprise, he explained, was the new dramatic presence she brought to bear.

“The traces of self-consciousness, of awkwardness on the stage, had disappeared; and at the same time she sang more freely, more powerfully, more intensely — and also more bewitchingly — than ever before.”

This triumph was followed in 1960 by landmark portrayals in neglected bel canto operas by Bellini: Elvira in “I Puritani” at the Glyndebourne Festival (the first presentation in England since 1887) and “La Sonnambula” at Covent Garden (the company’s first production in half a century).

Ms. Sutherland’s American debut came in November 1960 in the title role of Handel’s “Alcina” at the Dallas Opera, the first American production of this now-popular work. Her distinguished Decca recording of “Lucia di Lammermoor,” with an exceptional cast conducted by John Pritchard, was released in 1961, the year of her enormously anticipated Metropolitan Opera debut in that same work, on Nov. 26.

At Ms. Sutherland’s first appearance, before she had sung a note, there was an enthusiastic ovation. Following the first half of Lucia’s Mad Scene in the final act, which culminated in a glorious high E-flat, the ovation lasted almost 5 minutes. When she finished the scene and her crazed, dying Lucia collapsed to the stage floor, the ovation lasted 12 minutes.

Reviewing the performance in The New York Times, Harold C. Schonberg wrote that other sopranos might have more power or a sweeter tone, but “there is none around who has the combination of technique, vocal security, clarity and finesse that Miss Sutherland can summon.”

Even for some admirers, though, there were limitations to her artistry. Her diction was often indistinct. After receiving steady criticism for this shortcoming, Ms. Sutherland worked to correct it, and sang with crisper enunciation in the 1970s.

She was also sometimes criticized for delivering dramatically bland performances. At 5-foot-9, she was a large woman, with long arms and large hands, and a long, wide face. As her renown increased, she insisted that designers create costumes for her that compensated for her figure, which, as she admitted self-deprecatingly in countless interviews, was somewhat flat in the bust but wide in the rib cage. Certain dresses could make her look like “a large column walking about the stage,” she wrote in “The Autobiography of Joan Sutherland: A Prima Donna’s Progress” (1997).

Paradoxically, Mr. Bonynge contributed to the sometimes dramatically uninvolved quality of her performances. By the mid-1960s he was her conductor of choice, often part of the deal when she signed a contract. Trained as a pianist and vocal coach, he essentially taught himself conducting. Even after extended experience, he was not the maestro opera fans turned to for arresting performances of Verdi’s “Traviata.” But he thoroughly understood the bel canto style and was attuned to every component of his wife’s voice.

Yet if urging her to be sensible added to her longevity, it sometimes resulted in her playing it safe. Other conductors prodded Ms. Sutherland to sing with greater intensity: for example, Georg Solti, in an acclaimed 1967 recording of Verdi’s Requiem with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Chorus, and Zubin Mehta, who enticed Ms. Sutherland into recording the title role in Puccini’s “Turandot,” which she never sang onstage, for a 1972 recording. Both of these projects featured the tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who would become an ideal partner for Ms. Sutherland in the bel canto repertory. Ms. Sutherland’s fiery Turandot suggests she had dramatic abilities that were never tapped.

Joan Alston Sutherland was born on Nov. 7, 1926, in Sydney, where the family lived in a modest house overlooking the harbor. The family garden and the rich array of wildflowers on the hillside near the beach inspired her lifelong love of gardening.

Her mother, Muriel Sutherland, was a fine mezzo-soprano who had studied with Mathilde Marchesi, the teacher of the Australian soprano Nellie Melba. Though too shy for the stage, Ms. Sutherland’s mother did vocal exercises every day and was her daughter’s principal teacher throughout her adolescence.

Ms. Sutherland’s father, William, a Scottish-born tailor, had been married before. His first wife died during the influenza epidemic after World War I, leaving him with three daughters and a son. Ms. Sutherland was the only child of his second marriage. He died on the day of Ms. Sutherland’s sixth birthday. He had just given her a new bathing suit and she wanted to try it out. Though feeling unwell, he climbed down to the beach with her and, upon returning, collapsed in his wife’s arms. Joan, along with her youngest half-sister and their mother, moved into the home of an aunt and uncle, who had sufficient room and a big garden in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra.

Although Ms. Sutherland’s mother soon recognized her daughter’s gifts, she pegged her as a mezzo-soprano. At 16, facing the reality of having to support herself, Ms. Sutherland completed a secretarial course and took office jobs, while keeping up her vocal studies. She began lessons in Sydney with Aida Dickens, who convinced her that she was a soprano, very likely a dramatic soprano. Ms. Sutherland began singing oratorios and radio broadcasts and made a notable debut in 1947 as Purcell’s Dido in Sydney.

In 1951, with prize money from winning a prestigious vocal competition, she and her mother moved to London, where Ms. Sutherland enrolled at the opera school of the Royal College of Music. The next year, after three previous unsuccessful auditions, she was accepted into the Royal Opera at Covent Garden and made her debut as the First Lady in Mozart’s “Zauberflöte.”

In the company’s landmark 1952 production of Bellini’s “Norma,” starring Maria Callas, Ms. Sutherland sang the small role of Clotilde, Norma’s confidante. “Now look after your voice,” Callas advised her at the time, adding, “We’re going to hear great things of you.”

“I lusted to sing Norma after being in those performances with Callas,” Ms. Sutherland said in a 1998 New York Times interview. “But I knew that I could not sing it the way she did. It was 10 years before I sang the role. During that time I studied it, sang bits of it, and worked with Richard. But I had to evolve my own way to sing it, and I would have wrecked my voice to ribbons had I tried to sing it like her.”

In 1955 she created the lead role of Jenifer in Michael Tippett’s “Midsummer Marriage.”

During this period Ms. Sutherland gave birth to her only child, Adam, who survives her, along with two grandchildren and Mr. Bonynge, her husband of 56 years.

Immediately after her breakthrough performances as Lucia in 1959, Ms. Sutherland underwent sinus surgery to correct persistent problems with nasal passages that were chronically prone to becoming clogged. Though it was a risky operation for a singer, it was deemed successful.

In the early 1960s, using a home in southern Switzerland as a base, Ms. Sutherland made the rounds, singing in international opera houses and forming a close association with the Met, where she ultimately sang 223 performances. These included an acclaimed new production of “Norma” in 1970 with Ms. Horne in her Met debut, singing Adalgisa; Mr. Bonynge conducted. There was also a hugely popular 1972 production of Donizetti’s “Fille du Régiment,” with Pavarotti singing the role of Tonio.

Though never a compelling actress, Ms. Sutherland exuded vocal charisma, a good substitute for dramatic intensity. In the comic role of Marie in “La Fille du Régiment,” she conveyed endearingly awkward girlishness as the orphaned tomboy raised by an army regiment, proudly marching in place in her uniform while tossing off the vocal flourishes.

Ms. Sutherland was plain-spoken and down to earth, someone who enjoyed needlepoint and playing with her grandchildren. Though she knew who she was, she was quick to poke fun at her prima donna persona.

“I love all those demented old dames of the old operas,” she said in a 1961 Times profile. “All right, so they’re loony. The music’s wonderful.”

Queen Elizabeth II made Ms. Sutherland a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1978. Her bluntness sometimes caused her trouble. In 1994, addressing a luncheon organized by a group in favor of retaining the monarchy in Australia, she complained of having to be interviewed by a foreign-born clerk when applying to renew her passport, “a Chinese or an Indian — I’m not particularly racist — but find it ludicrous, when I’ve had a passport for 40 years.” Her remarks were widely reported, and she later apologized.

In retirement she mostly lived quietly at home but was persuaded to sit on juries of vocal competitions and, less often, to present master classes. In 2004 she received a Kennedy Center Honor for outstanding achievement throughout her career. In 2008, while gardening at her home in Switzerland, she fell and broke both legs, which led to a lengthy hospital stay.

Other sopranos may have been more musically probing and dramatically vivid. But few were such glorious vocalists. After hearing her New York debut in “Beatrice di Tenda” at Town Hall, the renowned Brazilian soprano Bidú Sayão, herself beloved for the sheer beauty of her voice, said, “If there is perfection in singing, this is it.”

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The adventure continues..

What a brilliant time I am having in New York with my child. On Wednesday we did a hard-core walk about and shopping in the city and rewarded ourselves with a late lunch at Grenouille. It’s like eating inside a jewel box. Apparently it is “the place to go to see old money in New York”. I can believe it; I saw more Chanel suits than on a rack in Paris!

The service was impeccable! Just enough attention but not so much you can’t enjoy your meal. They treated us like we had been coming there for years, and the food! Oh boy the food was luscious! We both had the calf’s liver and it was done with sweet onions and spinach – perfectly cooked. I had the green pea soup, which was made with real crème and so rich it could have paid for the meal. Q had terrine de campagne, equally good. For desert I had, yes you guessed it – 18-year-old McAllan’s, and Q had melt in your mouth chocolate mouse’ and café’.

The portions were just right, European and just right. We were satiated but still able to walk back to the hotel.

Yesterday Q was off to teach and try to enlighten the youth of America, and I worked in the hotel room, taking a long walk about the downtown in the afternoon.

Last night we went to the New York City Ballet at Koch Theatre at the Lincoln Center and it was SPECTACULAR! We both have husbands who will take us to the opera but draw the line at the ballet, so they were happy we were there as well. The adorable husband, the go to guy for tickets, got us front row center orchestra seats, and I mean front row! We were right behind the conductor, like sitting behind home plate at a Yankees game!

The first act was “The Magic Flute” and was well done, big cuteness factor when they brought out all the future company (ages 8 to 10 years) to join in the fun. The second and third act was quite well done, but the pie’ce de re’sistance was the fourth and last act.

We were on our feet and shouting Brava! The chap was quite good, very athletic and engaging. The featured ballerina, Sara Mearns, was brilliant! It’s very difficult to be sensuous when you are a ballerina, most of them have no hips and no breasts, and their attention is not on the audience but the movement. This young woman took our breath away, not only was she technically on point but she was delightful to watch. We could not take our eyes off her. She flirted with the audience and then followed a beguiling look with a round of perfect pirouettes that covered the entire stage! It was the perfect ending to a wonderful show.

After managing to snag a taxi, no mean feat after a major event, we came back to the hotel and had drinks down in the piano bar. We decided dinner would be room service, where we could dress down and watch “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe – so not worth the time to watch! They mangled history, the legend, and the characters and gave you nothing to replace it with as believable or just plain old entertaining. Awful, awful, movie. Dinner however was yummy, quick to the room, and fun to eat in pajamas!

Today Q is off to run Central Park while I work on my book, then are going walk about and have tea at Alice’s Tea Cup, Chapter Three.

After this trip I shan’t be able to eat for a week!


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Big Apple

Hello New York City! Yesterday proved a lucky day all ‘round. First I got an Exit seat on the aisle, for free, with an empty seat beside me on the non-stop flight from Houston to JFK. Granted the plane was a crop duster and normally I don’t care for the smaller jets but this one was quite satisfactory. The flight attendants, for a change, were friendly and helpful.

I arrive in NYC where it is drizzling and cool – some of my favorite weather conditions. I pulled in at the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue (quickly becoming an old friend) and asked to upgrade to a small suite since our Katie may be able to come over from Boston to visit us for a day, and that would give us room for her to stay overnight.

“I’m sorry Mrs. H but all our suites are booked up,” said the lovely young woman at check-in.

“Oh that’s fine then, no worries. I’m sure the ‘superior room’ I have booked will be fine.”

“Now wait just a moment and let me see if we have one of our ‘boudoir rooms’ available, it’s a bit more room and has a large bathroom.”

She found me the room AT NO EXTRA CHARGE. And here is where the luck continues, the room number is 1313! 13 is one of my lucky numbers! The room is lovely. A large bedroom, an equally sized boudoir room with two extra closets and a dressing table, and the bathroom is almost as big as the dressing room!

I was starved, having been up since three a.m. and having nothing but Red Bull and water with a small latte. I rang Q but she was still knee deep in students who desperately needed her help apparently. I ordered a Cobb salad from room service and I swear it was here before I finished unpacking! And it was delicious, as well as so huge that when Q did arrive, she had the rest of it for her dinner! She arrived after six, starving and exhausted. She had been having office hours all afternoon with her students who are apparently in need of quite a bit of help.

Housekeeping arrived with my supply of extra pillows and a refrigerator and I was set.

We divested ourselves of clothing, washed up and watched “Iron Man 2” which was as advertized – explosions and broad humor, just the thing for a nighttime story.

Today is workday, find the great French restaurant for lunch day after the gym, and get a manicure day. We shall see what else falls out and I will get some photographs for you!


Saturday, 2 October 2010


Just checking in to say, 'I'm not dead.' Writing is LONELY work. Writing a book once you have done the story part is work-work. Especially if the book began life as a simple romantic tale and turned into a blow 'em up with hot sex and tortured love!

Thanks to the adorable husband, who put in more time than I can tell you, reading through the rough draft and giving me his perspective (he is a very good editor) I have an idea of just how much work there is to do! Backstory! Backstory is tough. I mean you have to tell the reader who this person who has entered the story is, but not too much, and not too early; but if you wait too long they are confused and won't care about the character.

"Show, don't tell!" Arghhh. You must make your characters engage in actions that demonstrate to the reader their personalities; you can't just say she was sexy but prissy, tough but delicate, sad but optimistic - that would be too easy aye?

So that's where I am - at my keyboard, with occasional breaks on the treadmill and for laundry!

I am off to New York City on Monday for a week with my daughter! Huzzah! I shall still be at my keyboard, but in the Waldorf Astoria hotel and with long walks about the city! We are also going to the ballet, and thanks to the adorable husband, he's the 'go-to tickets guy', we have brilliant seats. I also intend to make use of my child's most excellent brain power if she has the time.

After that I have one more week at home before the Surrey conference and my deadline! whimper....


Friday, 24 September 2010

Every which way but a book review…apparently on hold for now.

As I’m’ about to weigh in on both the “Quran burning” and the mosque to be built near the 9/11 site. Like any question of politics and religion (inextricable linked throughout history by the by) it is not black and white, no easy answers, unlike many on CNN and FOX (I watch them both along with the BBC) would have us believe.

According to CNN we should be tolerant of a mosque which is a slap in the face to all who died on 9/11 and the country which bore the blow. I have lived in Africa and spent more time in the Middle East than I would like really and I can tell you both sides of the story from at least one view. America actually had a lot of cache before the younger Bush years. Schwarzenegger of all people, and Stallone, were big heroes. After the invasion (no matter what political spin you put on it) of Iraq that all changed.

While I was two years in Morocco (as moderate a Muslim country as you will find outside Turkey) we read constant praise of Osama bin Laden and criticism of the U.S. in the local Arabic press. Make no mistake that America is vilified in the press of all Islamic countries.

And when did we in the West allow ourselves to become victim to the religious winds of Islam? A cartoon is printed and someone’s life is in danger? Actually more than one individual was targeted? A fatwa is issued when a man writes a book that the religious leader of Iran finds offensive. And a kook, for that is all he is, a publicity seeking kook, says he will burn the Quran and we fear for the lives of American soldiers?! Excuse me?!

I think we should verbally attack this chap and his idea but blood? When did that become all right? If some Imam burned the Bible, mercy knows plenty of American flags have gone up in flame, there would outrage but I don’t think anyone would die – or if some did it would be isolated incidents, as after 9/11.

I’m all for religious tolerance, especially being a believer of a minority religion in this country I appreciate America’s tolerance of my beliefs. I can find Buddhists Temples and learning centres all over the U.S. I find it offensive to think, as an American and a Buddhist, that I should be tolerant of Islam but not expect that religion to respect my country or my religion? How does that work?

I find it repugnant that America should be held hostage to any percentage (“oh it’s just the small percentage of radicals” – really? You should travel more…) of the Muslim world, including those who live in the West. I do think more Americans should read the Quran and the history of Islam before spouting off that it is a religion “of peace”. Really?

Why don’t we have the same outrage, the same news coverage regarding the three American hikers (stupid, not dangerous) that Iran has held prisoner for the past year?

Understand that I was among those who have lived out in the world that is not America and was somewhat put off by the reaction of the country that acted like they were the first and only to ever be the victim of terrorists. That being said, I find now the country seems to be too far on the other side of the pendulum where they allow the U.S. to be the whipping boy for the Muslim world.

No, the U.S. (and those allies who went along for the ride – Tony Blair!) should not have invaded Iraq after 9/11. As the intelligence told them at the time – that bastard, and he was, Sadamn Hussein, had nothing to do with it. He and bin Laden had been enemies forever. Bin Laden saw Hussein as an traitor to Islam, as an nonbeliever, he would not have allied with him for a cup of tea much less a plan to attack the U.S. Afghanistan was the appropriate target but for personal reasons that had nothing to do with 9/11 Bush the younger wanted a piece of Hussein and unfortunately at that time, he had the American military to use to throw his punches.

Does the degradation of the American flag by Muslims, or the holding of the three hikers in Iran cause Muslim deaths at the hands of American civilians? No, not really. And that is as it should be when a religion feels put upon, grab a reporter, or a lawyer - not a gun.

I have so longed to be a fundamentalist, of any religion or body politic. How much easier would that make one’s life?! No questions, just follow the leader. Your chaps are always, always, right and everyone else is wrong – every single time! How restful would that be? NO gray areas, no questions to ponder, no problems because both sides have a point….. ahhh… but nooooo I had to question, and then choose a spiritual path that is the most trouble on the planet as far as I can see it. NO resting on one’s spiritual laurels, no last minute reprieve for past bad deeds, you must make the choice for or against Enlightenment every single moment. Groan.

On a lighter note – I got a Blackberry this week. Too much fun! Even if I should run out of charge on my Kindle while out in the world, I have much entertainment to hand with my Blackberry and its endless “apps”. I’m still trying to get the sounds right at this point, but I did manage to send some emails, as well as photographs taken with the mobile and then sent along. Ta da!

I have been writing, and editing, and reading what I have written. I fear my blog has taken the hit in no input. I am going to put the 1001 Book reviews on hold rather than do a shoddy job of it. I will write when I can.

Would you like to read some titbits of said book? Just ask…

My favourite holiday, All Hallows Eve, Samhein, Halloween – is coming up and I am so ready this year! I have TWO MUMMIES! They are so cool, and a huge spider, and all my regular décor. I shall take loads of photographs for you once all is in place. 1 October is not too soon is it? No! ☺

I have much travel coming up. I’m off to New York City for a week of fun and work with Q. We are going to stay at the Waldorf, and go to the ballet! My daughter the professor (see mother beaming!!!!!!!!!) I am so looking forward to spending time with her. What a magnificent person she has become. I have so much admiration for her.

Then I am off to Vancouver/Surrey for a week, a week after coming back home. I’m very excited about the conference, and I’m going in a day early for three Master’s Classes!

Then – in November I’m off with the adorable husband to some posh resort spot in Carmel. A week of lying about, room service, scenic drives, hiking, and …ahem personal adoration and attention.

I’m planning on a trip to Paris then in December or early January – so frequent miles for me eh?

As always I will fill you in and take photographs aplenty. Back to work now.


Sunday, 12 September 2010

as you may have noticed...

Late again this week I fear. Nasty stomach virus of some sort. I"m going to try and sleep it off today and post anon. I have the review ready, only needs editing.


Sunday, 5 September 2010

Running a bit late and on fewer bananas than usual…

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupe’ry

Lifespan: b. 1900 (France), d. 1944 (In the air)
First Published: 1943
First Published by: Reynal & Hitchcock (New York)
Original Title: Le Petit Prince

I remember when I read this as a child, and then I remembered when I read it to my child. A dear friend of mine gave it to her for her birthday. It is a wondrous story and if you have not read it, oh you should!

“Set in the heart of the Sahara, the tale unfolds after Saint-Exupe’ry’s pilot-narrator finds himself stranded with a “broken” engine, facing the prospect of “life or death”. The very largest question of all lies at the heart of the tale: one’s life and how one spends it.”

It is a tale of the inner child told in the form of the little prince, who asks his adult mentor so many questions. “The dialogue between narrator and child is a form of self address.”

It is also a tale about rediscovering one’s imagination. In this way the child teaches the adult. “The child tutors the adult in the sacred art of wondering. Written during the final year of his life, Saint-Exupe’ry’s The Little Prince reads as a manifesto on how the adult life can and should be lived.”

It seems the appropriate book to review at the end of this long, long week. I spent this week dealing with our ex-wife, the final remains and ruins of the adorable husband’s hope for the ideal marriage (in the form of the final moving out of and selling the house) and family that never came to pass, a cranky step-child, and the Texas heat! It has been a long week!

On the other hand – I accomplished all the organizing to get back in gear on my book, put in play all the reservations for the writer’s conference in Surrey in October, took delivery of my posh new treadmill, and did some serious online shopping, and had a wonderful long conversation with my exceptionally wonderful daughter.


Friday, 27 August 2010

A book and other thoughts....

I’m going to review George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four today but first – a few things that have caught my attention this week.

Right along the theme of today’s book review is this article. One of the most potent insights of Orwell’s book is the observation of the power of the past, the power of our history, or our perception of it, on our present. We have all heard “It’s the victors who write the history”, or some variation of it. As a society we must also take note of those who would re-write history for their own purpose in the present. Mr. Beck is not the only person to be attempting this feat at present, and it has been done in the past (the place of the cultures of natives in America, Australia, Tibet, and other countries have been rewritten more than once to justify a political agenda), but he is the most effective at present.

Another item that caught my attention this week is the trial of Roger Clemens. He lied to Congress. Excuse me? He lied to Congress? Check me on this if I am incorrect but are not those the very people who lie on an almost daily basis, both small and beyond belief, to the public who elected them? I have two questions: should we really be that put out when someone lies to them? And is this trial really worth the millions of dollars it is going to cost the taxpayers? Are there not more important matters that should have the attention of this elected body and more profitable arenas for this money? Mr. Clemens inflicted an unknown amount of damage on his own body while giving baseball fans a great show. I’m a baseball fan. I’m just not that upset. We are going to nail Mr. Clemens but allow those who were smarter or slipperier (Mark McGuire) to get away with the same offense? Nonsense I say.

Finally, I found this adorable and encouraging piece. I mean if this many men actually admit to it, I think that means many more are engaging in the practice aye? I think it’s grand myself.

Now to this week’s selection – Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four has not only held up through time but is as applicable today, if not more so, than when it was written.

Lifespan: b.1903 (India), d. 1950 (England)
First Published: 1949
First Published by: Secker & Warburg (London)
Given Name: Eric Arthur Blair

The book is written as “a beautifully crafted warning against the dangers of a totalitarian society. Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling party in London whose every move is monitored by telescreens. Everywhere Winston goes, the party’s omniscient leader, Big Brother, watches him. …thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal. Winston, who works at the Ministry of Truth (Harry Potter anyone?) altering historical records …is frustrated and oppressed by the prohibitions on free thought, sex, and individuality. He illegally purchases a diary to record his thoughts and spends his evenings wandering the poor areas where the “porles” live, relatively free from monitoring. Winston starts an illicit affair with Julia, …they are caught by a party spy, and in Room 101, Winston is forced to confront his worst fear. Giving up his love for Julia in terror, Winston is released, his spirit broken and his acceptance of the party complete."

When the book was written in 1949 the nuclear age was only beginning and television was too expensive to be yet mainstreamed. “This is an important novel not only for its stark warning against abusive authority….but also for its insights into the power of manipulating language, history, and the psychology of fear and control.”

I remember reading this book for school when I was in my young teen years, and it terrified me then – I find it more frightening now with what I have seen of the world. I believe all told I have read it through three times and bits of it here and there through the years. I highly recommend this book as a read, and if you have read it once, do so again in the light of present day.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Friday Book Review

Thank you, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Lifespan: b. 1881 (England), d. 1975 (U.S.)
First Published: 1934
First Published by: H. Jenkins (London)
Full Name: Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse

“I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.” Wodehouse, 1956

I am a fan. I think you either are or you are not, there is no middle ground here. You will not find a great plot, nor great comic lines, or interesting characterizations. You will find “the world that he created, an everlasting midsummer England untouched by either of the world wars, peopled with characters endowed with the psychology of a prepubescent”.

The writing of Wodehouse is the sheer wonder of his prose. He brings you into his world and you are laughing at you know not what exactly. “His ability to weave from nothing a supremely comic metaphor or simile is still unmatched in the novel form. He is most famous for the Jeeves and Wooster series.”

“The stories seem to turn upon Jeeves’ dislike of Wooster’s clothing or music. Wooster always seems to get mistakenly engaged to someone frighteningly serious and intelligent, whereupon he is then victim to the violent suitor whose place he has usurped. All such events will be set in train by the unpleasant combination of purple socks and red cummerbund, or ownership of a stolen cow creamer. Floating serenely on the surface of all this silliness, though, is Wodehouse’s utterly inimitable prose.”

I recommend you give him a try and see if it is for you.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Friday Book Review!

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Lifespan: b. 1920 (Russia), d. 1992 (U.S.)
First Published: 1950
First Published by: Gnome Press (New York)
Original Language: English

I agree with the reviewer here that this is “one of the most important works of science fiction in the history of the genre.”

Asimov blends together in his collection of short stories that make up the complete novel, the science of robots and the philosophy of man, as well as the conflict that arises when science and man meet in conflict.

A reporter putting together a profile of the robotic scientist Dr. Susan Calvin who works for the large corporation that manufactures the robots writes the stories. The stories are a collection of interviews.

“In I, Robot Asimov coined the term ‘robotics’ and set out the principles of robot behaviour we know as the Three Laws of Robotics, followed by science-fiction writers ever since. The three rules read: 1) A robot may not injure a human being or through inaction allow a human being to come to harm; 2) A robot must obey orders given by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”

In the interviews Dr. Calvin reflects on the evolution of robots, and as well the lack of understanding of the majority of humankind about what they have created. “Each story illuminates a problem encountered when a robot interprets the three fundamental laws, and something goes awry.”

Even though this was written when the computer age and software was in its infancy, the laws have never been changed, and Asimov shows an uncanny foresight into the future. His views of the possible conflict between man and machine are insightful and current as of today.

As a hardcore (E.E. Doc Smith) science fiction fan, I think this is a book not to be missed. The fact that the ‘three laws” have maintained their integrity through the decades shows that no one has come up with anything better. If you missed it, read it now by all means.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Playing catch up!

6 August 2010

Book Review Friday!

Another one of my personal favourites: The Once and Future King by T.H. White.

Lifespan: b. 1915 (India), d. 1964 (Greece)
First Published: 1958
First Published by: Collins (London)
Full Name: Terence Hanbury White

“White’s complex and often brilliant retelling of the Arthurian legends was written over a twenty-year period as a sequence of four novels and first published as a single volume in 1958.”

I shall not here digress into the various saccharine Disney versions of this work. You are on your own there.

The Once and Future King was based on Thomas Malory’s ambitious prose romance of the Arthurian court, Le Morte d’Arthur, written in the fifteenth century. White does not update the story, but he is always conscious of the parallels that can be made between the brutality of the dying Middle Ages and the rise of fascism in his lifetime. In the course of the four published novels, Arthur grows from a gangly, nervous youth (“the Wart”) into a vigorous military leader. He is eventually forced to emulate the actions of the Naxi-esque Celtic forces assembled by his nemesis, Mordred, in an attempt to try to preserve the innocence of England. The result id disastrous and, as he rides out to meet his death, Arthur concludes that only without nations can humankind be happy. There are some magnificent set pieces, notably when the Wart, transformed into a perch by Merlin, is nearly eaten by the pike, Mr. P., who warns him that the only reality is that of power.

The Once and Future King is a messy sequence of novels that is not always properly integrated, as the author acknowledged. Still, it is a powerful, disturbing work about the evil that men can do and the desperate struggle for values in a hostile world. “

All quotes in my reviews are from 1001 Books You must read Before you Die. For this particular text I took the quote almost intact as I thought the author said it much better than I could.

This is one of my all time favourite legends, books, dreams, warnings, particulates of my personal philosophy, etc. If you have not read this book, this is truly one that as thinking human I think you must read.

30 July 2010

Book Review Friday!

Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper.

Lifespan: b. 1789 (U.S.) d. 1851
First Published: 1826
First Published by: J. Miller (London)
Full Title: Last of the Mohicans, a Narrative of 1757

This was for me one of those pivotal books we all have in our youth. I remember well being taken away by Cooper to the old west, the thrill of battle (the massacre at Fort William Henry during the French and Indian War), and the possibility of beings so different from me described in the characters of the two Delaware Native Americans, Chingachgook and his son Uncas. The forbidden possibility of a romance between the genteel Cora (who has in the book a black mother; scandalous in my world at that time); and the deep friendship between the scout Hawkeye and the two Indians brought up possibilites I had never entertained.

I do remember being rather disappointed that the two women spent much of the novel being captured, rescued, or escorted to safety. I wanted them to pick up a gun or spear and help out!

I had met Hawkeye earlier in Cooper’s The Pioneers (1823) as frontiersman Natty Bompo. Cooper was “the first internationally renowned American novelist. He creates a template for much American popular fiction, particularly the Western.”

Cooper’s racial politics are conservative; thought the novel raises the possibility oif interracial romance and a child of mixed heritage. He does not follow thorugh as he kills off the two young lovers before they can consummate the relationship.

“Cooper laments the destruction of the wilderness, and of the Native Americans who inhabit it, but all are shown to succumb inevitably to progress, typical of the ideology of the nineteenth-century America.”

If you somehow missed Cooper’s vision of the Old West I highly recommend both Last of the Mohicans and The Pioneers.

Friday, 6 August 2010


When something is working very well why change it and screw it up? Argh! Picasa added some FUBAR update and now I can't get my photographs to upload. The Internet connection here is very slow but I will figure it all out and post photographs soon; meanwhile most of them are making it to Facebook sans captions.

We are off to the 51/2 hour rafting trip today through white water. Huzzah! We shall then drive to Calgary, drop off the car, and hopefully a good night's rest. Then back to Texas on Saturday. I imagine I won't be posting until Sunday, but I shall catch you up then, hopefully with illustrations, shall I?

Thursday, 5 August 2010

He’s a cheeky horse named Dandy…

2 August 2010

These were the first words I heard at the stable after we arrived from the Fairmount hotel in Whistler. And then our notably cheery guide Sarah pointed me out and called me over. He was indeed a cheeky horse, like riding a 1600-pound toddler, but we came to an understanding and he was a fine ride. The rest of my family and the other tourists saddled up and our two guides led us out across the field of blooming seed potatoes toward the mountains. It was a grand ride with just enough steep hills, hairy turns, and great views at the top to make it fun. As it turns out S. mounts a horse and becomes the young Elizabeth Taylor in “National Velvet”! She has an enviable seat and rides like she was born on a horse.

There was a lovely lady named Loraine in our group and we discovered that the guide Sarah is her daughter, and there is a story there – Sarah came out to Whistler to train for the Olympics – snowboarding was her sport, and she broke her back. She has been in Vancouver the past year and a half, only recently returning to Whistler, at which point coming over the mountain and looking down she said to herself, “Why did I leave?” She is very happy once again and now leading the trail rides and training in dressage. She is one of those people who you can only look upon with admiration and wonder how you would have done faced with such challenges.

Dandy, even when he was being good was ready to be back at the barn and spent half the ride down the mountain nipping at Lucky’s butt (Magnus was riding Lucky) who was very placid about the intrusion – made you think it wasn’t the first time. Later down the trail, given any chance he would break ahead in the line, and one of the four Russians had not secured his cash – it went flying out of his pocket and down the line, fortunately we were out of the mountains by this time and riding across a field so it didn’t spook any of the horses. As he dismounted and ran back to secure his cash, Dandy, very smoothly I thought, slid himself right into his slot scaring the Russian who was now riding in front of us as Dandy nicked the butt of his horse who did not take it well and kicked back to nail Dandy in the right shoulder. I was sure this was not the first time as Dandy simply and very smoothly maneuvered himself to avoid the blow. I fear I was more amused than annoyed and that did not sit well with the frightened young man on the now skittish horse. We also had along one of those Americans that no doubt inspired the phrase and book, “The Ugly American”.

Our driver from and back to the hotel was a lovely young man named Roberts from Australia who informed me that none of the British ski resorts could run without Aussie staff. Apparently they set aside a certain number of slots for Aussies from the beginning of planning. So there U.K.!

I had a lovely and delicious Afternoon Tea for one in our lovely room as himself entertained the teenagers – there are many advantages to being the wicked stepmother.

Leers and cheers: on my shopping trip to tourists-r-us in Whistler Village to pick up a couple of shirts for my missing child who was somewhere underwater in the Caribbean I noticed myself keeping count of the leers – I think that must be an age thing as I cannot remember doing that when I was younger. I was simply happy they were there to be counted!

In a shop where I found a talking shirt (which normally I abhor) for the adorable husband that I could not resist (“Old guys rule” in a discreet circle on the left side of the front, and “aged well” (on the back). The young woman checking my ID said, “You are sixty?”


“You look fantastic.” What does that mean when you are 60? You look good to have lasted this long? With me it’s not the years, it’s the mileage – which I realize every time after a hard climb or a day with a cheeky horse named Dandy!

As I exited the shopping I came upon the village Firehouse, Police Station, municipal building, and a nice shiny fire engine sitting outside. I love fire trucks and engines and am very fond of firemen. As I was getting my shot a young man who should never wear a shirt, I mean really – even to a formal affair he should just wear the jacket. His chest was an advertisement for trips to the gym and his abdominal muscles reminded me of that waterfall we saw on the train ride…”May I help you?”

Once I could get my voice to work, my mouth went dry for a moment there …. “Oh no thank you. I’m just getting a photograph of your fire engine.”

“You like fire trucks?”

“Yes, I always have.”

“Well you know firemen have a real fondness for redheads.” Cocky young thing he was.

“That’s nice. I have to go. My husband is waiting for me.” I was, as Magnus pointed out upon hearing the story – flustered! Um hmmm..

There was a Farmer’s Market with much fresh produce and many local products lining the walk next to the Fairmount, and a wonderful children’s play area. I managed to get a couple of great shots of future risk takers in the making.

A wonderful day.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

1 August 2010

It is not at all that yesterday went badly, but that it was quite different than expected.

We boarded the train in Vancouver expecting an observation car and private seating as described in the brochure. The train was quite lovely enough with big picture windows and comfortable chairs, but not private and not second story. The scenery was brilliant and unending. The service was good but, oh my, we did wish the attendants would stay off the mike, do a bit less talking, and simply let us enjoy the ride.

Whistler is brilliant. The hotel is very comfy and lovely, with a magnificent view of the mountains and the shoppes below.

Zip line called due to lightning, storms, and fire!

We settled into our rooms and I decided that I would let the rest of the family go zip lining without me as I have done it before and I was lagging a bit. I wanted to be up for the half-day horse ride and picnic today. I have been so lucky so far as the Red Bull has held the migraines at bay. The adorable husband has been a hound in pursuit when it comes to keeping me supplied.

About an hour later I got a call from the adorable husband – the three of them were stuck in Whistler underneath a shelter, in the rain, which was pouring down to such an extent they could not move. (I later learned that Whistler had not had rain for 29 days! Quite a dangerous hot spell this time of year, and explanation enough as to why the lightning was able to ignite such a large fire).

Apparently my family had barely started into the valley when the thunder and lightening (which I saw strike the mountain top) began and then the guide pointed to a reddish glow in the sky on another ridgeline and said, “Lightening fire.” At that point smoke began rolling down into the valley. The um…zip lining was canceled.

After the children were fed and put abed we had wicked deserts in our room and watched Travolta in “From Paris with Love”.

This morning we are off for a half-day horseback ride and picnic. I forecast much brilliant scenery.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Stanley Park/ West End

Stanley Park/West End

Yesterday we toured Robson Street, the big Vancouver shopping district where everything was 50 – 70% off! Verrrryy difficult time for a Scot who sees nothing she wants or needs… argh.

We were then led by our fearless leader into the West End, another area of downtown, and near-downtown, areas to be tarted up. The streets are lovely and the small neighbourhood shops welcoming, but the seriously ugly apartment buildings dwarfing the Edwardians that are left are horrid. We made a pleasant café and snack stop, and then headed for Stanley Park.

We passed a couple of the huge residential skyscrapers on the way into the park, and it appeared as though there were a bicycle on almost every balcony!

The Aquarium was quite a disappointment and very overpriced – don’t go there.

Stanley Park is brilliant. We had to make a choice as we had limited time, so we chose the sea walk that circles the park at five to six miles distance. It was wonderful. We had cool sea breeze to our right almost the entire way, along with surly bikers to our left. There were many squishy sightings, along with geese, and one seagull having himself a feast – first on a crab he captured, and then a small fish.

After completing the round we fell upon The Fish House in Stanley Park like starving pilgrims. My knees almost kissed the hand of our very helpful and efficient waitress when she brought round the Macallan’s! We found out from her why liquor is so expensive here – the very high tax; and there is a Canadian pour (one ounce), and the American pour is two. According to her, many Canadians make a liquor/wine run to Seattle fairly often. And I had to explain to the American teenagers that it is normal to receive water without ice, anywhere outside America.

We are off this morning to catch the train to Whistler, and an afternoon of zip lining!


Friday, 30 July 2010

And then...

Seaplane Ride

Yesterday we were up at an easy time to be down at the dock at 0930 for our Whale Watching boat ride. We signed our forms, saying if we died it was our own damn fault, and were fitted with what are NOT wet suits, not the suits you wear for white water, but a red, cushy jumpsuit, with zippers and Velcro – a kind of bumper suit with a hood and tie down. Once everyone was zippered in – now you know of course mine was tied about my waist until we got out of harbour and hit some real water and a breeze – the very informative and chatty young woman (who when queried, said yes the tourists count had been down in June (it was cold and rainy, and they DIDN’T call me!?) but now in July it was picked up to normal and August was booked well – so the economy does not seem to be hitting them hard which is good to hear.

I would have assumed that mostly they get Americans up here, but the day before when I went walkabout I heard German, Dutch, Israeli, French, Tagalog, Japanese, Chinese, and English (the original :-). She confirmed that observation and said they really get a lot of Germans and Dutch. I told her it has been my observation in my travels that EVERYONE gets a lot of Germans, but I was surprised about the Dutch – they don’t get enough water at home? I think the common denominator is that Canada is so stunningly beautiful, and the people are so lovely. I will say overall as a tourist’s destination, the residents here are more kindly disposed toward the tourists than many places I have visited.

The whale-watching ride was brilliant in as far as the “boat ride” part of it! Wheel! The boat is an overgrown dinghy that seats 14 – 16, and hits the water hard once they crank up those two HUGE motors on the back. I have many times explained to the husband that the reason I don’t listen to those safety lectures when flying over water is that if you hit the water after falling from 35, 000 feet, the water is like concrete, and you are not walking away from that so you may as well listen to your IPod. Yesterday he acknowledge the truth of it after the front of the boat (and you KNOW that’s where I jumped in, and he followed, the sweet man) slammed down on the water, bounced us up out of the seat, and slammed us hard back into the seat, our teeth became one with the jaw, and our backs said, “What ARE you doing?”

We first spotted some Harbour Seals who apparently to survive the verrrrryyy chilly water here, spend a lot of time on the rocks. One of the babies showed off his swimming skills for us and we remarked on the very effective camouflage of their fur.

Next we came upon a young Grey Whale, most likely a teenager, (groan) like I don’t have enough teenagers on this trip. He was feeding in quite close to the shore in about twenty or thirty feet of water, diving deep to feed, then surfacing with a spray, and rolling through the water like a huge spotted serpent as he made for the bottom again.

British Columbia has over 300 species of breeding birds – more than any province in Canada. Seabirds constitute only three percent of the world’s bird species, although two thirds of the planet is covered by water. They are more numerous in polar than in tropical waters, and much more diverse in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. Typically they feed either on small fishes or on small organisms called zooplankton, and lay eggs that have been an important source of food for coastal people around the world for thousands of years.

Heading further out we came upon seagulls, cormorants, puffin (unusual according to our driver), and some chap who had feathers on his upper bill to aid in hunting and is called a rhino- (didn’t catch the last part) in a great flock in what I can only assume is a great place for lunch. Noisy, they were very noisy.

Some more fast travel punctuated by jaw breaking bounces, brought us in sight of a Minke whale, who the driver says is a favourite prey of the Japanese hunters. He showed us one breach and left.

We passed behind a huge shipping tanker, the China Seas, and found out just how high we could bounce crossing his wake! It was too much fun, like a water roller coaster.

Now to backtrack just a bit to morning where the adorable husband, recovered but for a sore throat and a voice that sounded like Darth Vader, drank two full liters of water rather than eat as he was afraid he might have another “incident” in the boat if he had any food in his stomach. Just about the time we exited the harbour the water made its way through his system and he “needed to go to the toilet”, by the time we had gone full out, he was “in pain”, as we pulled into the inlet where we saw the Blue Heron, he was moaning every time we hit a swell. The ride back was excruciating for him and he gingerly made his way out of the boat only saying, “Don’t touch me, don’t touch me, it doesn’t help.” He walked from the boat, up the hill (!) to the office where the toilet was located, like a man on his last legs making his way to his final resting place. He swears ten people got off the next boat that was prepared to go out when they saw him heading to the toilet, deciding that if that was the result of the ride, it was simply too frightening.

Once the adorable husband made his way from the toilet and out of the jumpsuit, we walked back to the hotel for our bags. We headed back toward the harbour, stopping at the Shoppe for ice crème for S., an assortment of foods for Magnus and the adorable husband, and a luscious latte’ with Red Bull on the side for me. We were entertained by a creative chap on the corner playing the fiddle dressed in full Darth Vader attire and posing for photographs by passing tourists.

Thus fortified we made our way to the Seaplane Terminal, only to find the flight was on hold due to fog. Fog? In Victoria one would assume they would have fog quite often and would therefore be set up with instrumentation to fly through it, but apparently not. Not to fear as all went well. We were taken on a very comfortable forty-minute shuttle ride to Pat’s Bay to take a seaplane out of there. The ride over was grand with the water spread out underneath us, and watching the boats – lots of boats.

The ride included a complementary shuttle ride to the hotel where we re-registered and I collapsed on the VERY COMFORTABLE bed after unpacking and settling us in for another stay.

The adorable husband took the children out for a requested Japanese meal while I stayed in with room service, which was up to the best standards of the Fairmont.

Today we are off to Stanley Park to walk the five-mile sea walk around the park, and see what we can see.


Thursday, 29 July 2010





Hard to beat this scene campers – I’m sitting in front of the Empress Hotel in Victoria, Canada with a breeze blowing that’s cool enough I needed to put on my jacket. The sun is shining through a cloudless, stunning blue sky with mountains in the distance and the tiny harbour spread out in front of me. Yes, time for lunch. You’re absolutely correct. In we go then…

Sitting on the “Veranda” of the Empress after taking a call from the adorable husband who apparently did not drown at sea but bloody well near died, throwing up everything in his system poor love - three times! He has a problem with motion, but wears some electric shock device (yikes) that normally serves him well (he did fine on the ferry ride) but apparently the fishing boat went out, hit some swells, came to a dead stop to ride and await the fish coming in and he could not take it. After arriving back on dry land he recovered quickly and is abed. All of which works out very well as I had decided to take the day “off” for writing and a visit to the museum - alone. I love those people but I can’t tell you what a relief it is to walk for a bit at my normal stride (which passes them by at a goodly clip).

I am awaiting my MacAllan 18 and will visit with you for a bit shall I?

All right then, day three: we had a very pleasant trip to the Ferry and a grand ride over (see photographs). What a brilliant view! We sat in the SeaWest lounge, in the soft chairs, with a can’t-beat-it-view, and the adorable husband and I speculated on what it must have been like to be an explorer in the days before the coming of the engine.

Arriving at Butchart Gardens (again, see photographs) we talked about how built up the place is from the Ferry all the way in, and as it turns out right on into Victoria. The Gardens were spectacular but with apologies to the gardeners I fear that the children and I found the Rose carousel to be our most favorite spot! We had a grand ride, which the adorable husband with his motion problem, had to sit out.

Then it was off to Victoria and our hotel, which is quite serviceable, with wireless (huzzah), but I fear with horrid beds! This morning we felt like we had slept on rocks.

Our High Tea at the Empress was brilliant for me, and the adorable husband enjoyed it, but I fear that the two younger members of our party were “not amused”. Apparently American teenagers are immune to the charms of High Tea no matter the inducement. S. came round and I think enjoyed herself, but Magnus refused to be pleased and had to be taken to the sandwich Shoppe afterwards for “real food”. It did make me once again grateful to Q for not only being the Universe’s best-behaved teenager but the most well mannered one as well. I thought to myself to write her a note straight away saying so.

The adorable husband and the children were off for the aborted fishing trip early this morning and I went walkabout (yes, you knew it was coming – see photographs). I am going to enjoy my whiskey, have a bracing lunch, then take myself over to the Royal BC Museum for a bit before returning to the hotel, as I know the adorable husband is getting some much needed and deserved sleep.

I find Victoria awash in tourists, but he adorable husband who is a better judge of these things (being I tend toward thinking that if I can see anyone else on the sidewalk it is crowded) says he thinks it is lighter than normal.

The Empress remains a grand old lady but is showing her age a bit in that the fare is mediocre but then I came for the lovely view, tea, and the spectacular whiskey yes? Indeed.

On Thursday it's whale watching and the seaplane ride back to Vancouver!