Signs of summer

Well, one dead giveaway at least.

Lavender from my parents’ garden, silk ribbon from the incomparable Treenway Silks.

Not so much a sign of summer, but a sign of my ongoing reintegration…

The results of a spinning class I took at Knotty by Nature today.  Not perfect by any means, but it is so nice to be spinning again after almost three years!

June 28, 2010 at 4:59 am 2 comments

Welcome to the tea party!

Yes, I am back.  Oh, am I ever back.  Back not only to this blog, but to Canada, to BC and to my hometown of Victoria.  And perhaps symbolic of my return on several levels, here is what I saw over the weekend:

The Oak Bay Tea Party Parade, which I haven’t seen in about a decade.  Here is the Oak Bay Town Crier (every community in Canada needs a town crier…well, at least if they claim a strong British heritage, as Victoria does).

The entire community was out in force!

Everyone from the Naden band to the reservists, the MG enthusiasts to the military vehicle preservation society:

…and from the Girl Guides to my very favourite entry of all:

I had my own stint in the Oak Bay High School marching band and have very fond memories of counting repetitions (23 repetitions of our piece in the Victoria Day Parade – unfortunately can’t remember what it was called), sunburns, and early morning practices in the parking lot (or, if raining, in the West Building gym).  But I do have one gripe.  I acknowledge the need to keep up with the times, but black trousers?  The old white pure polyester ones may have been stunningly awful to wear, but they looked so sharp (particularly with the matching, white plastic wipe-off shoes).  The new black trousers just don’t do it for me.  I can’t believe the white poly trousers died (by the time I wore them, they had lasted a good 30 years already…I am sure nothing could kill them), so the black must have been a conscious decision.  Hmmm, not so sure about that one.

Once all the community floats had passed and my pocketful of parade sweets stowed safely away (some of which were aimed at me like missiles – others I had to pick up from the gutter), it was on to the Tea Party proper.  And like the parade, the Tea Party never changes…in a good way.

Everyone was there.

And then, when they were finished with the baron of beef and the corn on the cob and the ice cream and the afternoon tea and the rides and the midway, everyone went to the beach.

Which begs the question…if I have left the Thames, what should I be now?  Fig-on-the-Beach?

Welcome to Victoria.

June 11, 2010 at 5:33 am 1 comment

The properties of wool

The event:  a walk home from work this evening, 1 hr 10 minutes in length (without retail stop as noted below).

The weather:  variable rain, ranging from slightly drippy to what can only be described as monsoon force.

The entertainment:  a soundtrack of tunes from musicals which I sang out loud, commencing with “There’s a Wright Way to Do It”, from my grade 7 production of “Sky Happy”.  Occasional bursts of fireworks from post-Guy Fawkes displays.  I like the sparkly, tinselly silver and gold ones best. A stop at a book store, at which I purchased 5 books (which ended up slightly damp – unfortunate as some of them are intended as Christmas gifts, but hopefully the watery effect will just add to their charm).

My feet:  squelchy.  Comfortable in my MBT shoes, but I think the soles acted as little sponges.

My legs:  I had to remove my yoga pants in the front hall when I got home.  I probably could have wrung them out from the knees down.

My head:  resembles Ratty after a swim.

My neck:  protected by black pashmina, slightly damp due to water running down from head, but not bad.

My torso and arms:  encased in two layers of wool, including the Tilted Duster I knit two years ago.  Completely dry, toasty warm and comfy.

Evaluation:  highly enjoyable and a complete success, about to be brought to the pinnacle of perfection by hot chocolate.

November 6, 2009 at 8:53 pm Leave a comment

Family Wedding

My Uncle David got married on Saturday!

Wedding ceremony

It was a lovely ceremony at Anderson Hill Park and the weather gods co-operated beautifully.  Afterwards we all went to a gloriously informal reception at Uncle David and Darshan’s house and ate Northern Indian food and very dense chocolate cake.  Wonderful.

Congratulations!

September 21, 2009 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment

My first Fair Isle

Fair Isle Swatch

I’m pretty proud of this little sucker.  It’s the product of a workshop I took at the I Knit Weekender last weekend, taught by Alice herself.  It represents a great accomplishment for me, because I’ve been a little scared of Fair Isle – what with knitting with both hands and such – and don’t feel that way anymore.  In fact, I’m raring to go on my first project.  I also learned Combination Knitting from Annie Modesitt, and think my rowing out problems may be gone forever.

That was just a quickie because I am about to fly home for 10 days – among other things, for a family wedding!  I am SO excited.  Just pray for me that I am not surrounded by screaming infants.  I am recovering from a horrendously debilitating cold that knocked me out last week, and want some sleep on this flight…

The next time I post, it will probably be with a view of Mt. Baker out my bedroom window!

Now off to finish packing…

September 17, 2009 at 6:53 am 1 comment

Akwaaba

They say that you appreciate something more when you go without it for a while.  I’ve certainly found this is true…for example, in my current circumstances, Jif peanut butter, my car, dim sum, private outdoor space, spicy eggplant at Honolulu Cafe.  But for heaven’s sake, I think my recent experiences with Internet access go far beyond anything anyone should have to put up with (if they are paying good money for “reliable” service).   After several weeks of spotty service, I’ve had not one minute of Internet service for an entire week until tonight, and I still haven’t figured out whether the Internet service that I do get results from my frequent calls to my service provider or is simply part of the normal lifecycle of my resident Internet gremlins.  Who knows.   Anyway, when I got home tonight and saw the little green Internet light, I leapt for joy and decided I’d better try to tell you about at least one thing I’ve done in the last few months, before the little light turns itself off again and I am marooned for the next month.

So back we go to May, when I went to a little village in Ghana with a team from my office, to build houses with Habitat for Humanity.  The village was called Nkwantakese, near the commercial town of Kumasi in central Ghana.

Nkwantakese

Nkwantakese has been a Habitat site for a number of years as the local elders have been trying to upgrade the village.  Consequently there is an old village and a new village.  In the old village, many of the houses look like this:

Ose's house

The new houses are intended to improve the quality of life and reduce overcrowding, and those who were going to live in the houses we worked on were pretty excited!  The houses were all designed locally and each site was headed by a builder – we just provided manual labour.  At the beginning of the week, the house I worked on looked like this:

Ghana - day 1

(As an aside, do you see any shade on the worksite?  Nope, didn’t think so.  I didn’t either.)

We filled the foundations (I became dirt packer extraordinaire) -

Digging

and moved blocks (yes, they were heavy, and yes, thank goodness for firemen’s chains) -

Stacked blocks

and made mortar -

Digging 2

and built walls (bricklaying is an awful lot of fun!) -

Window

and got awfully tired, dirty and sweaty!

Ghana portrait

But by the end of the week, we had a recognizable (if not entirely complete) house, and we were awfully proud of ourselves.

Finished

We had been working in several teams, and at the end of the week the elders of the village blessed one of the other houses, surrounded by just about every resident of the village.

House blessing

The villagers were incredibly warm and welcoming and made us feel right at home, with drumming and dancing (on a rainy night in the village library, which was very exciting particularly after the power went out!), children’s games…

Drummers

and a pretty serious soccer match in the driving rain, for which all the village men from the age of about 8 up showed up wearing proper soccer jerseys and cleats, and completely shamed us relative amateurs…

Soccer 1Soccer watchers

(and yes, the haze is in fact rain – by the end of the match it was raining so hard, we spectators couldn’t see to the other end of the field)

One of the things I have noticed during my travels in Southeast Asia is the large number of Ghanaian missionaries.  It has always seemed a bit strange to me – why and how would a relatively small and unprosperous country like Ghana produce such a notable number of missionaries?  But then I went there and realized just how religious the Ghanaians are.  Quite apart from the number of churches (the Baptists and Presbyterians are doing quite well there!), religion was evident even in quite mundane aspects of everyday life.   Driving from Accra to Kumasi we passed businesses such as the God’s Child Gear Box Specialist, the God is Able Cold Store, and the Milk and Mercy Store (By His Grace).  This was my favourite (St. Paul’s Special Kebab, in case you can’t read it), which we passed every day on the way to Nkwantakese:

St Paul Special KebabThe Action Chapel in Accra was advertising something called “divine acceleration”, which intrigued me.

I was struck also by differences between Ghana and Lesotho, which I have visited before.  On the flight from London to Accra I was seated next to an official from the Ghanaian Ministry of Health, who told me about struggles that Ghana has had with health, agriculture and education.  He was quite proud of the fact that HIV infection rates have dropped because people are talking about AIDS openly – and indeed, I saw signs like this, which I never saw in Lesotho -

AIDS BillboardA little scary perhaps, but if the government is posting billboards like that, surely it is a far sight better than the funeral parlour billboards in Maseru.

There is a passage in Paul Theroux’s book Jungle Lovers (which is set in Malawi) in which a character is unable to tell whether something is in a state of construction or destruction.  I had a similar, somewhat disconcerting, impression in Ghana.  There was also a sort of friendly, satisfied jumble in the street – car parts and bakers and hair salons all coexisting, never clearly one thing or another but each thing belonging where it was, as it was.

BreadGhana walkingSignsPeeling manioc

It was only a short trip, but an interesting one, and one that taught me a lot about an area of the world that I don’t know much about.  If you have a chance, I encourage you to look into Habitat for Humanity – a great way to learn about a foreign way of life and contribute to a community at the same time.

September 15, 2009 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

London, twenty-one months in

Before I get started on other things, I’d like to get something off my chest.  For all its historical charms, London can be an exercise in frustration, and for me this frustration seems only to mount over time.  My most recent aggravating experiences include:

1.  Having my internet go down for an entire week and calling V*rg*n Media to fix it, only to have it come up for 24 hours and go down again.

2.  Having the number 76 bus suddenly stop running on a regular basis in the mornings precisely during the half hour that I need it to get to work on time, and when it does come, being completely full.  Honestly, I would have thought that if a bus were standing room only for weeks at a time, the bus company would put on more busses, not fewer.

3.  Tourists, in numbers that are completely unreasonable.  (I must admit that I frequently play tourist myself, but during times when I am not a tourist, as a resident I must object.)

4.  The Tube, especially on hot weekend evenings in the summer.

5.  How grey the city is, all the time, even on a sunny day.  Vast expanses of concrete are never pretty.

6.  The relentlessly chavvy mall at which I am forced to buy my lunch every day.

7.  Oxford Street.  It sends shivers up my spine and is enough to turn anyone other than the most determined T*p Sh*p-seeking teenager into an internet shopper.

However, this is a reasonable blog.  In order to be fair and balanced, even I have to admit that there are some things that London consistently does fairly well, including:

1.  The transit system in general.  It is a pretty big challenge to connect all corners of such an enormous city, and on the whole it is always possible to get wherever you need to go, at all hours.  (This includes the justifiably famous taxis.  Taxi drivers in just about every other city in the world could learn something.)

2.  Borough Market.  (Well, you already know my fixation with Borough Market.)

3.  The Eurostar.  It can’t get much better than hopping on the train after work on a Friday and being in Paris in time for dinner.

4.  All the by-donation museums.  So far, for me it’s a toss-up between the Wallace Collection and the V&A.

5.  The Royal Opera.  ‘Nuff said.

6.  Hampstead Heath and Richmond Great Park.  Big green spaces may be few and far between, but the big green spaces that exist are done right.  And even better from my perspective, Richmond Great Park is a dead ringer for Uplands Park in Victoria.

7.  Fortnum & Mason.  Always fun, and such a gorgeous shade of blue.

There.  Now, on to other things.

August 25, 2009 at 8:36 am 5 comments

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