Sunday, January 14, 2007

Out WithThe Old, In With The New

Mayne Island, or thereabouts, 30 Dec 2006

It's a bit odd, really. I've been finding it rather difficult to get this year going. No particular reason springs to mind, but it does seem to be taking several attempts to get it's motor started. Of late it's rather like the Squealing Pigmobile, which has been requiring several turns of the ignition to wake up on our sub-zero mornings. Well, we'll keep at it and hope to find our stride soon.

I hope you all had the holiday season you wished for. Ours was like the proverbial curate's egg: good in parts (Note to all philologists: yes, yes, I know the original joke was meant to satirize brown-nosing, but I'm using the phrase in the vulgate). Mother joined us for a week around Christmas, and was even more baggage-laden than the last time she came. Sigh. I was pleased, however, that she chose not to spend her first Yuletide of widowhood on her own. And everyone --especially me-- appreciated the delicious Christmas Eve, or Wigilia, meal she prepared consisting of traditional Polish fayre of the season: barszsz with mushroom dumplings, herring in oil, and pierogi, all washed down with a couple of shots of viscous, ice-cold vodka. Most impressively, she put the meal together while our kitchen sink was being unblocked a spotty, young plumber who was obviously as displeased at having been called out to spend two hours scrabbling in our crawlspace on the night before Christmas as we were at having to call him out and pay his fee. But that baggage of hers, sheesh. I have no idea how to begin helping her to unpack it. Unfortunately she developed a cold that turned into a minor chest infection upon her return home to New York, and which she stridently blamed on me for keeping the house too cold. Boo, hiss, bad son...

Christmas morn was a blast and a hoot. Everyone was thrilled to see that Father Christmas had indeed stopped by and had enjoyed the homemade gingerbread cookies left out for him. Darling Daughter was vindicated in her decision to set out a glass of milk rather than the shot of whisky that I had suggested, as the cup had been drunk dry. The crumbs of carrot scattered on the plate testified that the reindeer had appreciated their snack as well. The children were thrilled with their swag, and FiL was pleasantly surprised to receive an unsolicited Decemberists CD under the tree. But the gift that tickled me the most was the fully-functional toy chainsaw that Little Man received (see right). I had much fun wielding it myself.

Christmas over and Mother back in NYC, it was off to see out 2006 on Mayne Island with Dearest T, who survived the best (and very successful) efforts of British Airways to lose his bags. T is one of our closest friends, and it was wonderful to see him for the first time since we left England some eighteen months ago. Though going to the island is always a joy for me, for some reason the children were not on finest form, and they spent much of their time squabbling and being ornery. What was that about never working with kids or animals? Double sigh. Still, we had a couple of magical walks along the surreally eroded shores of the island, and during one such amble we were accompanied by a couple of sea lions out for a leisurely swim of their own. Dearest T and I also bumped into more pinnipeds during one invigorating morning spent kayaking on the steely blue winter waters around Mayne. We were shadowed by snorting harbour seals, who were either impressed by our intrepidness or amused by our relative human clumsiness. Unfortunately I don't speak seal well enough to tell which it was.

Oh and as for New Year's Eve? Well, it was less than raucous. Suffice it to say that around 10:30 PM I put down my newspaper and looked around from my comfy chair. Dearest T was sitting to my left playing solitaire (with real cards!!), Dearest Wife was to my right on the sofa reading a National Geographic, and the dog was curled up near the wood stove, snoring gently. I think we all retired shortly thereafter.

One of the key attractions of Vancouver is the relative ease of access to skiing, so after returning to Vancouver, T and I nipped up last Saturday to Cypress Mountain for a spot of skiing. Actually, we went to Grouse Mountain first, but redeployed because the previous night's windstorm had knocked out power to the facilities. Cypress was most enjoyable, though it was rather surreal to be whizzing down the slopes while looking out over the water towards Vancouver Island. During our time in the car that day, two CDs that found themselves on repeated spin were Auld Mr Smith's 'Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me' and the faaabulous 'I, Lucifer' by The Real Tuesday Weld (accept no impostors).

The Cure - Catch (buy here)
The Real Tuesday Weld - Terminally Ambivalent Over You (buy here)

Speaking of CDs, I have been meaning to tell you for some time that I've been thoroughly enjoying the sophomore album by Memphis, 'A Little Place In he Wilderness.' And guess what? On the day that I finaly decide to pull my finger out, I find that Dearest Marcy has also chosen to sing ther praises. Marvellous synchronicity, eh? Anyway, it is a lovely piece of work, and a fine example of how delicious the fruit of Canadian-American collaboration can be. By turns lush, bucolic, melancholic, haunting, and reflective, the album does not have a dud track. Definitely not a curate's egg, but rather a golden one. And it doesn't matter that the singer Torquil Campbell sounds like Paddy "Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque" McAloon from Prefab Sprout. Honestly, trust me. Head on over to Lost In Your Inbox to get Marcy's take, but before you do have a listen to this:

Memphis - In The Cinema Alone (buy here)

And so that is how 2006 ended and how 2007 has started, Dear Friends.