Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I've read the first four chapters of The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson, about 1911 in England and it's a lot of fun. But I also went back and read the forward. Nicolson says she chose 1911 randomly. She was re-reading The Go Between, (one of my favorite novels) that takes place sometimes at the turn of the century during a hot summer, which inspired Atonement, and decided to write about a hot summer. So she researched and discovered that 1911 was very hot indeed. Seems a bit weird. But I think that's how creative people work.
1911 was also a hot year in Quebec. Margaret writes in July: We have had awful heat. We slept out on the verandah. Took the mattresses. The Skinners (neighbours) did as well." There were terrible forest fires in Ontario where Norman was posted on the railroad.
The next chapter is on the Ballets Russes. I've read a lot about them, in other contexts... biographies of Belle Epoque characters.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
I'm in love - with Groucho Marx.
Now, I've been watching the Marx Bros for years: my mom loved them, but I always liked Harpo the best.
Lately, I watched their movies on Turner Classics on the big screen tv and apart from the Art Deco scenery, I liked Groucho best. I suddenly appreciate him. (My brother used to go around saying "Take that you muckrakers, have a cigar babe" way back, but now I get it.
And he seems like a decent man, too. From what I've read.
Funny, sometimes it takes years to appreciate the obvious.
I guess that nose and glasses didn't do much for me as a young woman. Now, my husband has Groucho brows...well, actually, he's pretty much the spitting image of Chris Noth but with greying hair. The women at work told him and he told me and I watched Sex in the City and I realized they were right. But I don't call him Mr. Big, just Mr. Big Enough.
I'm glad he doesn't read my posts.. Or, at least, his eyes glaze over if I try to read them to him.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Anyway our fight was about renovating windows and how much to pay and how many windows to replace. Our fight was over turf. Who decides what. We both generally agree we both decide, but my husband wants all the windows done and I want only the patio doors done. He's been complaining for years that the big sliding doors let in the cold and raise the cost of heating and he covers them in plastic in the winter which makes me feel as if I am vacuum wrapped. (This is debatable, that new windows, however energy efficient, save much money, at least from what I read on the Net, and this is what precipitated the argument, which was basically over 'nothing' -arguing for the sake of argument. It all got pretty silly and circular and "I never said that" "yes, you did five minutes ago"all over the place. And that's when you know you need a break from each other. A Time Out.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
My my. Amazon.co.uk, where I often buy books suggested a couple of volumes and I jumped on it. I purchased two books, both by a woman called Juliet Nicolson, one about 1911 (yes!) and one about 1918-20.
The one about 1911, The Perfect Summer: Dancing into Shadow was published back in 2007, but I missed it somehow. It is about famous women in 1911 in England and appears to cover the same territory as Tighsolas. It was very hot in England, too!Gee. I posted my Tighsolas website in 2005!
I can't wait to get these books! Oddly, this book was serialized on BBC 4, must have been in 2006, just before BBC radio four came online and I became one of that station's most devoted listeners. (I'm listening right now to a BRILLIANT production of The Idiot on Radio 7)
Anyway, maybe, once I've read this book I will get back to writing (or editing the first draft of the first chapters) of Flo in the City, my novel in progress about a Canadian girl coming of age in the 1908-1913 era based on the letters of http://www.tighsolas.ca/ my social studies website.
I was hoping to do a little first hand research by visiting Boston next week and also Nantucket and Newton Center where cousin Henry Watters lived and worked as a doctor and whom Flo visited in 1908 and Marion and Edith visited in 1912. He seemed to be the very best kind of man, and I suspect (well, he even mentions it in a letter) that there was pressure on him to marry.
He never did marry, despite being a successful doctor. Maybe he was gay, who knows? He died young, before Marion even in 1937 and is buried in Melbourne...
That might be him in the picture above. Anyway, after making hasty reservations for two nights in Ogunquit and two nights in South Yarmouth, Cape Cod, I cancelled. I am departing on the July 4 weekend and I don't want to be caught in traffic at the border or anywhere else. Beside, I like the seaside in the fall, when it's rough.
My husband and I are going to Halifax - to see friends and pick up my son's college gear he left behind in the Maritimes. More sensible. I love Peggy's Cove, as much as I love Perkin's Cove.
I did read over my first draft - after a long pause- and it wasn't half bad. Nice rhythm to the writing. Could use some spicy (non cliche) metaphors... Those are hard to make up, you have to be in a creative mood. Must channel my inner Barbara Kingsolver. (I'm reading her book The Lacuna - and, at the same time - the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.)
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
On this blog, which is about the 1910 era, primarily, I have written about my father in law, Tom Wells, 90, who suffered a stroke on April 2, his ninetieth birthday and who spent two months in hospital, in care and in rehab.
For a while it looked like he couldn't return home, as he couldn't walk or care for himself in any way, but he has made great strides. Indeed, he was well enough to take a short trip to St. Lazare on Saturday to see an air show, where a Harvard was on display. My father in law flew a Harvard during the war, at pilot training school, where he was an instructor.
My father in law receives a disability payment for his hearing, as Harvard's were extremely noisy planes.
My husband asked him how many hours of training a kid got before he flew. Five hours my father in law said, and another five hours and the trainee was off into the wild blue yonder. No time to fool around back then.
I've also been writing about Heritage, as I am taking a Heritage Studies course at Athabasca College online. War stories are heritage, no doubt. Big time. I have visited the Imperial War Museum in England in 2006 and the Aviation Museum in Ottawa (many years ago with my kids).
Of course, my story, Flo in the City, based on the letters of http://www.tighsolas.ca/ takes place in 1910, when airplanes, or aeroplanes were just getting off the ground. The Aviation Museum has a lovely painting of a woman in big 1910 era hat and corsetted dress, at an air show at St. Hubert. My father in law taught out of St. Hubert and Dunville and Kingston.
I've also been reading up on the Ferry Command, where my British father served, in the Montreal Gazette archives on Google. The Ferry Command was headquartered in Montreal. My father flew mostly mosquitos, so I remember him telling me.
Anyway, the Harvard took off for home in St. Donat,leaving us quite literally in its dust, and we returned home, where my father in law scaled the steep steps into the main part of the house. Imagine, a few weeks ago he couldn't stand without help.
Monday, June 14, 2010
As if I didn't have enough to distract me from my novel in progress, Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 era, based on the letters of http://www.tighsolas.ca/, I have discovered that the Montreal Gazette archives are online at Google, entire newspapers from most of the 20th century.
I went straight to 1967, "the best year ever" Expo year, Centennial Year, to rediscover what I knew on some level, that it wasn't such a good year. It was an awful year globally. But when you are 12 years old and the Expo islands beckon...
My husband saved the Star and the Gazette from Expo's opening day, so I've looked at these recently.
It was also a terrific year for film, from what I can see. Not that most of the films playing were of any interest to a 12 year old. At least we had Hermann's Hermits and the Monkees.
I flitted around, entering this and that keyword, and about the only news about my high school, Rosemere, was about their wrestling and basketball teams (male). Good memories for me though. I enjoyed watching said wrestlers and said basketball players (can't imagine why). And in 1969, when they won the championship I recall having a good time cheering them on and at the victory party.
Hudson High, where my husband went to school, also had good wrestling and football teams.
With respect to 1967, Expo year, well, I enjoyed reading aloud to my son, who is 21, a story on the Mini Skirt and how Montreal had become a girl watchers paradise.
The article is in a tone that wouldn't be used now, too sexist sounding. My son was interested in seeing what passed for mini in those days. Nothing that would raise an eyebrow now on the street, although, as my son put it, a naked person would hardly raise an eyebrow.
I reminded my son that the trendsetting girls wearing these skirts were very young.
I found a bit about Leonard Cohen visiting the Youth Pavilion to read his poetry and talk about his travels. I read about the Queen's visit to Expo (my mother visited the Royal Yacht Britannia when she wasn't there and I put a bit about it in my play Looking For Mrs. Peel which is about 1967.) www.tighsolas.ca/page745.html. She told me the crew adored the Queen Mother but did not like Prince Philip. Hard to believe.
In a Gazette but a few years later, 69 there's a piece predicting that by 1980 the Monarchy will be out in Canada. So much for predications. Oh, and there's a piece about finding a stash of dynamite hoarded by the FLQ who they refer to as terrorists. I am surprised to see that.
Oh, and I took a trip to wartime to see if there were any mentions of the Ferry Command, where my father served. Plenty of them! I bet the Montreal Gazette had more articles on the Ferry Command than any other paper, as it was based in Montreal. I noticed that the Ferry Command was considered an important part of the war effort, 'as important as bombers' and that many planes went down, on just a bit away from Dorval.
Funny, as I wrote in my short essay on the Ferry Command at www.tighsolas.ca/page777.html, little recognition was given to this service after the war. In fact, only recently were books written about it and a documentary made. I guess this is because no feature films, with, say John Wayne or whatever were made about it. Not much 'romance' in flying planes back and forth over the ocean. Oh.. one other article was of special interest. A group of US ferry commanders incorporated themselves in order to start an airline after the war. Trans Intercontinental or something. Good idea. I don't think it happened though.
This is a picture of Ben's Delicatessen, on de Maisonneuve, now demolished, from Flickr, posted by Julep67, who is clearly a Montreal heritage enthusiast.
I've downloaded it and put it on my desktop, where I often post pictures of interiors of far away restos to feel I am somewhere else, usually London.
This isn't much different: somewhere else just happens to be 'in the past'.
For my first entry in my experiential diary for my Heritage Studies course, I write about Ben's.
I visited Ben's only a few times in my entire life, most memorably, in the wee hours of the morning at my high school graduation.
I was not impressed by the 'art deco' environment. The place looked bleak and tawdry to me. Today, though, I can see what a wonderful example of a 20's deli Ben's was.
Delis are part of Montreal's heritage. Montreal smoked meat is famous (and unique) and Ben's, it is said, had the first in the city.
I have to write a research paper for this online course at Athabasca (Intro to Heritage Studies) and writing about Ben's and the bru ha ha over its demolition in 2007 and 2008, might make for an interesting case study.
Ben's Heritage is worth preserving, no question, but for what reasons? Not just the deco decor (a standard deli decor). No, for the stories, at least according to the McCord Museum that inherited the counter and stools belonging to Ben's.
What is heritage made of? Is it pepper and dill and garlic and salt and ground coriander, the stuff of the ubiquitous Montreal steak spice? A recipe brought to Montreal by a few Lithuanian? immigrants like Ben Kravitz in the early part of the century, in fact in 1909! the year I am writing about right now for my novel in progress, Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 era in Montreal based on the letters of http://www.tighsolas.ca/
Here's an idea. I will have Marion visit Ben's on St. Laurent and eat a smoked meat sandwich. She was very adventurous... Maybe she did eat at this place. St. Laurent near Duluth was where it was prior to 1929. I know because I did some research on that wonderful Google Archive that has the Montreal Gazette. What a treasure!
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Anyway, the one of the questions posed is what is heritage and what makes an artifact 'significant' enough to make it a heritage resource. A real good question. Are family photos heritage? Are family letters heritage? I think so. That's why I posted my website http://www.tighsolas.ca/.
The photo above, of Edith and Flo, likely in 1913, is probably my favorite of all the Tighsolas photos. It almost got thrown out by my husband's aunt, who clearly didn't think that hazy pictures of her ancestors (however much she loved them) were of value.
From arm's length, as the wife of the great nephew of these women, I felt differently.
But what I 'feel' isn't of consequence either. Why should other people, other Canadians of all generations, feel this way?
Let me explain: Firstly, I like the picture because it is well composed and reminds me of certain portrait paintings of an earlier era, (Can't recall exactly which ones, but you know...) Specifically Edith's pose. Flo is positioned almost the same (for symmetry), except for the crossed leg, but she is a modern girl. She is smiling and tossing her foot (or so it seems.) She is ANIMATED. (I also like the dark and light dresses and then the dalmation (black and white) below. Something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear....
With respect to 1913, Edith is wearing a fashionable 'big hat' and Flo is wearing the small hat that is about to come into style. Edith appears to be corseted. Poor Edith.
The women are posing in the garden of Tighsolas, a decidedly middle class home, but with hints of hauteur.
Indeed, the Nicholsons, let me put this bluntly, were poseurs. Like many in the middle class, they had pretentions to the upper classes.
This is ironic since they were cash poor. And Margaret, their Mom, sometimes referred to the family as working class.
This photo (once we understand the background) demands that we ask the question: What does it mean to be middle class? And, especially, what did it mean to be middle class in 1910 (or in this case, Pre War) Canada, when the world was on the cusp of a huge paradigm shift?
Indeed, the entire http://www.tighsolas.ca/ website asks and responds to this question.
Now, the short essays I read claimed that Heritage must be relevant. Why is this question relevant to today. Well, because the middle class is in flux, isn't it. The gap between rich and poor, everywhere is growing (maybe not in India and China) and that means the people of the middle class are edgy (as they always are) and wondering whether they will fall to the bottom (a good bet) or work their way to the top (not very likely). But that doesn't stop us from buying or dreaming of buying designer clothes. Maybe this is the reason for the success of Sex and the City, the Movie.
I bet Edith would have loved that tv show and movie (if she had been born later and not in the Victorian Age.)