Saturday, July 31, 2010

Heritage, Expo, Politics and Essay Papers

I have written my first essay for my course in Heritage Resource Management and I know it was merely supposed to be a summary of the information, but I can't do that. I havc always used the essay form to express my opinions.
But writing the essay sure made me think out the material, which is the point.

One of the articles traces the heritage field in Canada, which only really took off with Expo67, which showcased many innovative techniques in interpretation, so it says in the the article, by Christina Cameron.
No kidding. I'm a child of Expo. I went fifty times, I recall. I probably was a bit too young to appreciate it, at least on one level. I probably was just the right age to enjoy it. My online play, Looking for Mrs. Peel, begins during Expo. I'm sure Edith Nicholson went often (although she was living in Richmond). I know my mother in law, her niece, went: I have her Expo passport. She likely went with Edith and Flo.
Anyway, this article also explains that the first heritage sites in Canada were forts and such. The Citadels at Quebec and Halifax, etc. Then it evolved to more than just battlefields... Heritage buildings, waterways, railways, etc. Then in the 70's, with an increasing interest in 'social history' came heritage sites interpreting the early lives of aboriginals, the poor (industrial sites) and women.
Well, I know from all the efforts I made in vain to get backing for my Nicholson letters, that women's history is no longer a priority. (And never mind all the complexities of getting anglo Quebec history recognized as significant.) It's a minefield.
Indeed, from what I can see on the Heritage Canada website, the priorities now are Places of Faith (on an American model) getting young people up and working in the field and sustainable heritage, or heritage and the environment. All very predictable.
That means that the idea I had earlier, to trace the carbon footprint of Tighsolas, using their shopping diaries, probably is much more saleable.
It's such a politically complex thing, Heritage. It has the potential for promoting social cohesion or for tearing people apart.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Black Houses and Houses of Light

The porch at Tighsolas. (I don't know why this picture turned out soooo small.)

Anyway, I finally got the Kindle and I purchased a book right away, the Edwardians by Paul Thompson (I didn't buy the book with the same title by Vita Sackville West and Juliet Nicolson).

I started to read it without learning how to do anything beforehand. I found that you can get a computer voice to read it outloud. (I think THE WORLD should hire Patrick Stewart to do all voices in it; the men would like it, they'd feel like personnel on the Enterprise and the women would like it, well, because, you know.) Anyway, the voice on the Kindle sounds generic, although the pronunciation is not half-bad. The computer voice on my husband's Tom Tom GPS is much more natural, though.

But that's not the point!

I was disappointed right away when clouds came out and my living room, already a gloomy place, because darker. I expected the Kindle screen to be adjustable, but it isn't. In that respect it is no better than a paper book. Except, that's the point, I guess. It's hard to read off a screen because of the back lighting. This has no backlighting. (Not the 6 inch screen I have. ) Well, I must do with it. I hope when you turn on a light that there is no glare. (You'd think a contraption called Kindle would have some light.)

Anyway, this book, the Edwardians was of interest to me right from the start. It provided more background to the Tighsolas era. Yes, it was England, but the gap between rich and poor was, well, gaping. And, remember, the slums of Montreal were second to none for their horrible conditions.

Also, when describing the contrast of housing between the wealthy 1 percent and the teeming masses, the author mentioned the worse housing in the British Isles, in the Hebrides. The crofts! 'Black houses' they were called.

These were the houses that belonged to the grandparents of Marion and Flo and Edith, my husband's ancestors. The ones they were forced to give up.

And even though these places were poor excuses for homes, (water poured into them so they were soaked) the environment in the Hebrides, which was bleak and barren, was still not as bad as the slums of London or the other industrial areas in England.

Yes, the more I read, the more I understand the Nicholsons, the struggling middle class ancestors of my husband. (The more I understand my late mother in law, who was influenced by these people.) The Nicholson saga, described in Flo in the City, reveals a family that simply REFUSES to give up their lovely, solid, comfortable home in Richmond, Quebec.

Tighsolas means House of Light in Gaelic. So the Nicholsons went from Black Houses to a House of Light. That's a symbol I must use in Flo in the City, my book about a young girl coming of age in the Pivotal 1908-1913 era.

I wonder where I will put it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Not so Lightness of Being

Marion Nicholson, who according to her diary at 19 years, was 5 foot 2 and 130. Her weight went up and down in the 1908-1913, depending on the stress in her life. She was extremely thin in 1912, teaching her 50 'bad' children in the inner city of Montreal. The Nicholsons were very self-conscious about appearance and conscious of their weight despite the fact that 'plumper' was still the fashion (the war would change all that). Well, it was the fashion among older women. According to the website fashion era, the silhouette of the dress slimmed down between 1908-1913, reflecting that younger women were working and were buying dresses. The Nicholson women never really had enough disposable income to purchase their dresses. They still made them, or had someone make them, their mom, usually.

Yesterday, I went an hour earlier to the gym, so instead of 'reading' THE VIEW off the television, I had to watch a very frightening show called Supermarket Sweep where fat people bid on the price of consumer goods, a la Price is Right, and then the winning family gets to run around stuffing their basket with junk food within a certain time-frame. (It's a hybrid of a few popular shows, I guess and probably a re-run from years ago. It was on the games network) As I plowed away at my 'walk through the forest' program, I couldn't help but think WHAT AN IRONY. And what a hideous show, promoting the very worst of consumer values... I thought, so typically AMERICAN. Then I saw that the show had been produced in Toronto.

At the least The View has very witty conversation. So what if, while exercising, I have to look at some impossibly beautiful and buff actress, when there's no chance in Hell I'll ever look like them (I'd have to go back in time for one). The other day, that redhead from Madmen (Christina Hendricks) was on and Whoopie and crew were praising her full 50's figure. I thought, 'as if it's her fault. That woman could gain 100 pounds and it was all go on her boobs and hips in perfect proportion.

I started to watch a few episodes of Madmen, but couldn't get into it. I know it is very good and expect to watch it all at once or dvd one day, maybe by that time it will be 3-d, or holograph. I was a copywriter, so I should relate. To the Elizabeth Moss character anyway. And I did, very much. Maybe that's the problem, too.

And I love the 60's. What I didn't like about Madmen (the 10 or so episodes I saw) was the clicheness of it, or so I felt. It reminded me a bit of the show American Dreams, which starred a local girl, Vanessa Lengies. Beautifully wrought, but something we've all seen before

I just watched the Apartment. You see, all that wasn't a cliche in the sixties or earlier seventies. It was a fresh view But it has become a cliche.

Even the beautiful secretary is a cliche, although I must say, when I worked in radio in the 1980s, the men went ga ga over all the sexier girls, playing one against the other. (One of the top men was notorious for going around groping and forcing fat kisses on all the women, no discrimination there. Except the old women would tell him to Bug Off. (He is now a broadcasting 'legend'.) The usual. So cliches have their start in something.

In the 80's a friend of mine was looking for her first job in advertising and after one particular interview she told me "I'm going to get this job: all the women staff are beautiful and well-dressed."Well, she got the job to find out that all the women were 'a harem' to the boss. They'd all work late late late, but then, their social life was there. She got in trouble for wanting to leave at

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dress Freaks circa 1913

I had a 'brainstorm' this morning: I decided to add some links from the Montreal Gazette archives to my website to further enhance it. (It needs a total revamp, actually). I searched for 'aeroplane' 'suffrage' and 'suffragette' and even 'women's fashions' from the 1908-1913 era. A gem popped up first thing on the women's fashion search. "Freaky fashions prove women are unfit to vote."


The main theme of Flo in the City (and my website) focuses around this kind of thing: the trivialization of women's interests (fashion being a big interest) and how it is used against them.
Of course, women can be their own worst enemies in this respect. Here is the wife of the VP of the US.
"Some women's dress is not only extreme, it is objectionable. Women would do more good by correcting the dances in our cabarets than going into politics."
I will CERTAINLY use this article in Flo in the City. In July 1913 Flo is about to embark on her first job, teaching in Griffintown. In May, Edith attends a Suffrage Event and is disappointed when the speaker, a Mrs. Snowdon, advocates peaceful change. A radical suffragist, Edith Nicholson is.

The full article is here

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What is Heritage, Again?

King Arthur's Round Table, somewhere in Winchester UK, not the cathedral.

I took this picture four years ago. My cousin, Sally took me to Winchester which she said was the place in England most Britons cited as 'where they would ideally like to live.' It's not too far from where she lives, in Hants.

Nice town. I bought a Leonard Cohen cd to give as a gift to another relation, because, believe it or not, I couldn't find any of his cd's in the giant record store on Atwater, which happens to be a few blocks from his childhood home.

Later in the trip, I visited Roskilde, near Copenhagen, where my brother lives, and found a dozen of his cd's in one of their little stores.

I had just decided, that year, I really like Leonard Cohen: I heard him sing Suzanne on some CBC Special, where he got some huge prize, the Governor General's prize or something and fell in love. It took me that long. (My music likes and dislikes were totally influenced by my older brother, who bought all the family records in the 60's. He, naturally, hated Cohen.)

That year, 1996, I did nothing but play Cohen's Essential cd in the car until my husband threatened to drive off the road if I played one more 'depressing' song. I did not see the man perform in Montreal at the jazz festival last year. Too expensive. I did attend a free tribute to him, on an outdoor stage instead. I almost fainted from standing up too long. But Ibought the CD of his London concert.

His tour took him to the UK and Scandinavia, I think. No US stops though. He also got a great review for his Glastonbury appearance.

Oh well, I hadn't meant to write about Cohen. Just got diverted. I have the attention span of Homer Simpson lately. Instead of blogging, I should be working on my heritage essay. I'm starting to panic. It should be child's play, but I am out of form. All I have to do is summarize about a dozen disparate essays, what usually I can do in my sleep. Of course, as a professional writer, I can only get revved up with a deadline. I still have a week to complete this essay, and that's a century in copywriter terms. I also suspect I am 'overthinking' things.

Anyway, I've run out of pictures to put up here (sure, I could take some) so I have opened my Europe trip file from 1996.

I'm trying to get my mind around 'what Heritage is' (according to the readings for my course it is something that gives our lives meaning, shapes our identity as citizens and influences our actions, practically a religion). So the follow up question has to be "Who gets to decide what heritage is, what is valued and preserved and what is left to rot?" Government bureaucrats, PhDs or 'the people'.

King Arthur may or may not have existed. Certainly the Arthur 'of legend' didn't exist by definition.

The table in the picture, which is up on a wall, is one of many kicking around the UK, according to my cousin. But the Sword in the Stone myth (which I learned was an iron age myth, the man pulls a sword out of stone, symbolic for making metal out of raw ore) is one of the key myths, not archetypal, though, if I recall my Joseph Campbell. That's the grail myth.

Now, with respect to my book, Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in the 1910 era, the only person who has decided that the letters are important is ME. (Although the expert in Canadian family history told me they are significant.) Family letters are considered trivial. The middle class is deemed dull and boring and shallow. (Rich people are interesting as they are influential and poor people are interesting because they have suffered. Very few heritage sites illuminate what it was like to be middle class because who cares. )

Our government doesn't think my letters are important. When I first discovered the stash of letters, I tried to see if I could get government funding to put up this website (using my connections in the not for profit sector). I seem to remember I asked a key employee of Heritage Canada what to do, face to face. But there was nothing to be done. I didn't have a chance. I don't fit the profile or something. In fact, I'm pretty well the last kind of person they fund these days.
So, I transcribed the letters, set up the website myself and now I am writing this book.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Guaranteed Milk Bottle Montreal. From Heritage Montreal website.


I went on the Heritage Montreal website and I see that they recently ran a successful campaign to save the Guaranteed Milk Bottle erection, hey, hey.

They say it is classic art deco, but I have always thought it was ugly. Then, in film class in university, we were forced to watch this explicit movie by Dusan Makaveyev, which had Carole Laure being carried naked by someone or other up this building, a la King Kong, I guess. So it's our Empire State Building. I guess that makes the Orange Julep our Chrysler Building. Just kidding. I know Heritage is serious business; indeed the first article I read called it a "crusade"

Anyway, I guess I can use this as fodder for my essay that I must write this week for my Heritage Studies Course.

It's about how Heritage Organizations serve the public good or is a public trust At least that is their mandate.

I wonder how saving this milk bottle served the Montreal public.

Of course, with respect to my website The Guaranteed Milk Company has a lot to say: in those days milk was contaminated. The name was to give assurance.

That's why this erection, so to speak, has significance. It's intangible significance. THE STORY behind it is more imporant that the erection, which is kitchy, but in my opinion, a bit of a blight on the skyline.

I'm going to the gym again today, but my back hurts. That's my problem, the minute I am feeling fine, I hurt something. I am thinking of hiring a personal trainer. Sounds snooty, but a few years ago, I hurt EVERYWHERE. And a personal trainer took one month and cured me of all my physical ills, including my crappy knees which had hurt since I had became a mother. (Carrying all that extra weight up and down stairs, one huge baby in my body, another huge toddler in my arms. I went to a physio who merely scolded me for doing aerorbics and step and used water pressure to break up the cartilege, she said. It didn't work. I went to the doctor who said Yea, you've got blah blah syndrome, you can't run downhill and threw a pamphlet at me. Then I go to this woman, a Scottish woman who specializes in middle aged or more women, who gives me some easy targeted exercises and I am cured almost immediately.

Using weights, she told me, is useless, unless you know what you are doing. Anyway, I saw this huge progress in one month and then I started to get this SERIOUS allergic reaction to something. My eyes swelled up, then the next time my eyes and my face, then the next time my eyes, face, neck and it HURT. I thought it might be a reaction to latex or nickel in the weight machines.

All summer, my skin was super sensitive to sun and sweat. I finally found a cream that my skin could stand, Psorzema by Derma C and I got it under control. I now suspect my immune system was collapsing from exposure to something in the air. Maybe a pesticide. (They are banned in my area, but who knows.)

The next year in the same month, July, I got the beginnings of it. I immediately took antihistimines and used the cream. I was OK.

The next year I had one short incident.

This year nothing. Although I use the cream almost exclusively.

But I digress: Just to say, I don't want it to happen again. I want to keep going to the gym.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Slate to iPad

My Kindle has been sent out, but it hasn't arrived. Must be held up at customs. My son asked me why I bought the Kindle when I had the iPod. I said I bought it because of the iPod.

I have not read nearly as much since my eyes started to go on me, about a decade ago. I simply get woozzy (is that the word?) when I read with bi-focals.

I started to read Room with A View on the iPod and found it rather easy on the eyes and I know the Kindle will be even easier.

Working on computers does stress the eyes. No doubt. That's another reason I don't read as many books as I used to, my eyes are tired at the end of the day after working on the computer.

Anyway, for fun I turned that story I wrote The Quilt into PDF, loaded it onto my Tigsolas website at and then transferred it to the iPod.

And I have to write an essay for my Heritage Course, easy enough, except I my best time is early in the morning. I'm clearheaded then. But I've been sleeping in.

It's funny, a few years ago I wrote an education essay, saying that 'slates' have evolved into laptops, but I spoke too early. Slates have evolved into iPads. Just think of HOW MUCH MORE an iPad can do than a slate and you have a great symbol of how the growth in knowledge and access to knowlege has increased exponentially.

I talked to my kid again today on Skype. He's in Instanbul, in a hostel in the 'tourist' area and he said it is full of French Canadians, so he feels right at home. He was on the rooftop of the hostel (so as not to bother the other visitors in the common area) and he showed me the view. A roof with a view. Anyway, the picture was breaking up a bit and I suddenly recollected that scene from a Space Odyssey, where they girl talks to her Dad in the space station. I recall thinking "how neat' when I watched that movie. I knew this was going to happen sometime in the future.. Indeed, the Telephone Pavillion at Expo67 had an exhibit with video phone. My gosh, how far we've come. And yet so much stays the same.

That's why I think the letters of are important. They teach us about now, they are relevant. My Heritage course explains why to be significant, any heritage artefacts, buildings, intangible stories or folkways (traditions, beliefs, etc) must have something to tell us now. Well, duh.

My son said he lost 15 pounds on these post grad travels, because, as a vegetarian, he couldn't find much to eat in the Ukraine. I told him the only phrase I recall from Russian lessons years ago.. Hachoo Myca. I want meat. He said he learned one phrase. Nyet Myassa. No Meat.

He had been warned that it would be difficult to eat vegetarian in Turkey, but he says the warnings were wrong. I said, I assume it would be easy. In Canada Lebanese food is a staple for vegetarians, humous, lentils, etc.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The More Things Change..

Flora Nicholson, second from right. The Twenties.

The next time I get an unsolicited marketing call at 6 pm from God Knows Where to buy Who Knows What, I won't be rude and say "No, Thanks" and hang up abruptly.

I'll be like my husband, who says "Thank you for the call, but I am not interested." He feels sorry for these workers.

You see, today, I read a chapter from The Great Silence, Juliet Nicolson's follow up to her book the Perfect Summer (about 1911). The great silence is about after the war. I am reading the chapter on how the boys who managed to return were rather poorly treated, despite promises to the contrary. Especially the wounded ones, in body and soul and mind.

One such young man, apparently from a good family, was left to peddle magazines home to home to women.

According to the book, he said that this form of work took more courage than being in the trenches.

My book, Flo in the City, which I am writing on this blog, is about a young woman, Flora Nicholson of Richmond, Quebec coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 pre war era.

It is based on the letters of my social studies website

On the website I have also posted some letters from WWI, from a man, Herb Tucker to Flora. These letters, 3 in total, are kept separately from the other Nicholson letters. They are tucked into a used shell brought home by my husband's great uncle on his father's side from the front.

Herb isn't killed in the war, but his brother is. I have other letters where Edith writes that she visits the family at that time in Montreal and first they hear he is dead;then they hear he is alive; then that he is dead. Percy is his name. Herb writes in his letter from Belgium that he wonders why he is spared. His only battlefield wound is a hurt pinky finger. His brother didn't have to die, He was de-mobbed but re-enlisted. As it was, he was killed but a few days before the armistice.

Nicolson writes of the many men who were seriously disfigured and how masks were made for them. These men, for the most part, stayed in hospitals. They were often told to stay out of sight, so as not to upset people.

I suspect a similar thing is going on now. A soldier's death makes, headlines. One Canadian was killed recently in Afghanistan and McKay commented on it. But that's all window dressing. I imagine we aren't taking care of soldiers and their families once they return. Indeed, another news item this week says that it's hush hush, but the Department of Veteran's Affairs is being scaled down as WWII veterans are dying off.

My father in law is still waiting to get in Ste Anne de Bellevue Veteran's hospital. (He's ninety and has just had a debilitating stroke.) The paperwork is done, and we're waiting for a space. Apparently, there's a long waiting list.

He's with us now, but the stroke left him unable to process information from the TV and Radio. He loved watching sports, especially football. So he could use a place that would provide him with alternate modes of stimulation. But who knows...

So many young men were killed or wounded in WWI that I read somewhere else there were 10 women for every eligible man. That's why the flapper dresses came into style. Women were competing for men's attention and needed to shake their booty. (I think I heard this on BBCRadio 4 from a book by Virginia Nicolson.)

My husband's grandfather, Hugh Blair, and my grandfather, Robert Nixon, didn't fight in WWI. I imagine most of us are here because our grandfathers, or great grandfathers, etc, DIDN'T fight in WWI.

In Canada, being married gave you an excuse not to go. Hugh Blair married Marion Nicholson, Flo's sister, in May 1913. My story will end there, with that wedding.

My grandfather was off in Malaya in 1914. I imagine that's why my grandmother went off to marry him. Lack of men in England. That, at least, would be a good guess.

Oh, and the book The Great Silence has another relevant anecdote. The Nicholsons are from Isle of Lewis stock (who came to Canada in 1850's). Well, apparently Isle of Lewis sent a huge percentage of their men to WWI and at the end, there was to be a great celebration when the survivors returned, except that the boat sunk just off the Isle, killing 200 of the men.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Entering the Modern Age - While Living in the Past

a 1909 bi-plane in the Nova Scotia Aviation museum, with the cockpit of a 60's jet nicknamed the widowmaker.

We dropped into the tiny Nova Scotia aviation museum for a bathroom break, on the way home from Halifax to Montreal and I took this picture of a 1909 aeroplane. You really get an idea for how flimsy these heavier than air machines were, like a large scale model of something a child might put together, or like a bicycle with add ons.

When you read the accounts in 1910 (I have posted a number from Technical World Magazine on my website, you will see how quick progress was with respect to how far planes could fly, once they got it right.

I've entered the modern age myself. I bought an iPod and a Kindle. Why? Well, I joined an exercise club for a cheap summer price and saw that everyone on the treadmills and elipticals was listening to her own music, so I took the plunge. And then I started downloading my favorite songs from iTunes. I had to remember what they were. I bought Miracles and Winchester Cathedral and Annie's Song and Baez's the Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Armatrading's Down to Zero, Melanie's Lay Down Candles in the Rain, some Rosemary Clooney Hey There (what a voice) and Peter Paul and Mary's Where have all the Flowers Gone. Piaf's La Vie en Rose and Lang's Hallejulah, Circle Game by Joni Mitchell, and my favourite in 1968 or around Silhouettes (how do you spell that? it's French) by Herman's Hermits. Also Poetry Man by Phoebe Snow. Georgia on my Mind by Ray Charles. My own Desert Island Discs. Also River Deep Mountain High by Ike and Tina Turner. By the Sea by Bobby Darin. And I couldn't find Murray Head's Say it Ain't So. I guess he didn't give them the rights. I drove my friends crazy with my obsession with that song in the 70's.

And then I downloaded the ibook app (because I have created a pdf of my Looking For Mrs. Peel Play

which made me want a Kindle. So I just bought it off (or com actually as the Canadian amazon doesn't have it) I think there's a charge at customs, which I HATE.

Anyway, the exercise session went great, (Miracles is a GREAT treadmill song) except today the place had that obnoxious electronic dance style music on the sound system, so I had to really stick my earplugs deep into my ears. (Talk about multitasking: I was trying to adjust the treadmill to some kind of cardio program and the iPod ear piece at the same time, while watching the TV in front that had closed captions. Christine Baranski was on the View talking about her brilliant career. ) I also need something to hold the iPod as I put it in the place for the water bottle and I am likely to step off the treadmille forgetting it's in that slot- with hilarious results no doubt. I'm pretty spaced out after exercise. Today, leaving the women's changing room, I walked past a local doctor and then realized I had walked into the (empty) men's dressing room instead of taking the route to the exit. Had I walked in a few minutes earlier, it would have been the old switcheroo, I would have got to see him naked for a change.

All this makes me wonder, is new technology just a bottomless money pit (I mean I've bought all these albums before, the vinyl, then the CD's which I lost or scratched) or is it an OPPORTUNITY? If my pdf radio play gets more readers (it's fairly popular in Malaysia and Australia) that would be proof it's an opportunity.

This is just like in 1911,when new technologies were taking a quantum leap forward. In my book, Flo in the City based on the letters of I have brother Herb try to get the family to invest in oil (because that's the future, he says.) They do not agree. I base this on the fact I found a pamphlet in the Nicholson stash about Investing in Oil. 1910. Flo also drives in a Stanley Steamer, (true story). Steam cars did not take off, so to speak.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

HD Time Machine

My Dad and Me, Wabush Lake, 1959

I finally got down to watch A Single Man again, this time on DVD at home. Why I didn't buy the Blue Ray I don't know.

Anyway, I watched with my husband fully aware this wasn't his type of movie. (When I tried to get him to watch Brideshead Revisited once, he ran out of the room saying This is too gay for me.) He made me watch Hot Tub Time Machine last week, a movie that is on the opposite end of the scale to A Single Man.

Anyway, I wanted to see if my ideas about he movie would change at all. But they didn't. I still found it pretty and meticulously crafted, but a bit over produced, too precious. (The friend I just visited in Halifax loved the movie by the way and she's not that much of a Colin Firth fan.)I still found Julianne Moore's performance a bit weird; indeed she reminded me at one point of Edwina on Abfab. The accent, I think and all the cigarettes and 'darlings' flying about.

And I still think Colin Firth has had performances equal to this, although I have to concede this role gave him more room to manoever. And he cries very well, for a 'repressed guy. :)

And I still think all the women in the film were too stylized, unrealistic, props or anima. Decoration. Not fleshed out, by design, if you will. Literally and figuratively.

And I still found the old man, young man thing icky, although I can see it was handled with dignity - and kid gloves. You see George is a very dignified man, as most of Colin Firth's characters are or should I say, as are Colin Firth's most famous characters.

I gained an admiration for the pacing, which is pitch perfect, though.

Anyway, George reminded me more than ever of my father, so the director, Tom Ford, certainly captured the sixties. Indeed, the style of the movie was reminiscent of some 60's movies, not the gritty realistic ones with Albert Finney, but those ones like The Romantic Englishwoman with Glenda Jackson and all those mirrors. (They never play that one on Turner Classics.) Or The Go-Between, a movie I love.)

Firth's character, George, mentions he came to the US in 1938. (There's something cockeyed about the time line in the movie.) My father, likes so many Britishers, came after the war. And unlike George, he lost his British accent immediately.

My final word: the movie would have been nothing without Firth and yet, if they had cast an unknown, they might have been able to make it a groundbreaking movie, gritty and get down dirty, at points, instead of dancing around everything. (The short beach scene reminded me of a sketch from Extras, which means it was a tad cliche.)

Anyway, I asked my husband if all the homoeroticism in the movie freaked him out. (I mean, he couldn't stand the sight of Charles Ryder and Lord Sebastian Flyte eating a picnic under a tree.)
He replied, "What are you talking about?"
I answered, "All the male nudity and cameras panning over the bodies like they usually do over women's bodies in the movies."
"I didn't notice, " he replied. "I felt sorry for the guy. I guess it's a love story.
And so it is, except the dvd of A Single Man has no picture of the love interest Matthew Goode. Just the shots of Moore and Colin.
The marketers know who Colin Firth's fans are. Women like me.

One other thing that bothered me about A Single Man was the fact the two men lived in the burbs in the 60's. How did that happen?

I lived in the burbs. I recall one evening my Dad coming home late (I was in bed, at least I remember I was) and he told my mother how the next door neighbour, who had given him a drive into the city that day, had 'made a pass' at him. I sort of knew what that meant.

The next door neighbour was married, of course. I also recall his wife used to wash her bedsheets every day. My mother remarked upon it.

My husband, amazingly, did not fall asleep during the film. I kept a close eye on him.

How can I relate this to Flo in the City, my novel about a girl coming of age in the 1910 era? I can't. No mention of homosexuality in the letters, needless to say. Although it was there, no doubt. There is mention of a boy committing suicide in the town of Richmond. And Edith says, "He was always a strange boy."

Hmm. And there are the Boston men, Chester, who is not inclined to marry, which bothers his mom, who needs help around the house and Dr. Henry Watters, a cousin who appears to be the best kind of man, thoughtful and responsible, and who has a successful practice, but who never marries and dies in 1937.

I can relate this blog to Looking For Mrs. Peel, my play about my British Grandmother,

because it partly takes place in 1967. In it, I invoke all those Expo 67 hostesses and Yardley The London Look. And the sizzling political situation. And this play is all about women, so the men literally have no voice. Including, well, especially, my father.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Splash at the Boat House in Burlington.

I just returned from a two day 'shopping spree' at Burlington, Vermont. I hadn't been there for a while, what with our dollar being so low and the border hassle. Well, now you need a passport to cross, but that pretty city is still very close to Montreal, a short two hour drive, if you go in off-times.

I forgot how pretty Burlington is. New England towns are all pretty, but Burlington has those wide open streets in the center of town, an especially eye pleasing mixture of old and new building. (The vintage homes are used for sororities and fraternities, I noticed.)

And it has a street mall, Church Street, with great shops. And it has diners. Old fashioned diners. Henry's (where we didn't eat) and Sadie Something's, Katz, I think, where we did eat. I loved the 20's style, yellow vinyl and chrome stools and formica.

(I actually have a round chrome 50's or earlier table in my garage. It belonged to my husband's family. I kept it because I love kitch. He wanted to ditch it. But I have no place for a kitchen table.)

I didn't bring my camera. What a bummer.

And everything in the stores is cheap. Real cheap. Pretty summer clothes at 70 percent off an already low price. You have to wonder who is paying for these clothes? What overworked, underpaid citizen of where. A child?

And still, I bought some of them.

Should I feel guilty? These inexpensive items can't be good the the environment either.

I figured, being a university town, there are a lot of young women wanting nice clothes, cheap. And I suspect young women want lots of different clothing items that they wear once or twice.

Imagine, Flo, of Flo in the City, my novel in progress about a young girl coming of age in the 1910 era, Flo had only a few items of clothing, and only one 'good dress' which took her two days to wash and dry and iron. (The Nicholsons were 'middle class' but didn't have servants, or the money to send clothes out, I guess.)They made their own shirtwaists, the blouses that were in style. Or they got someone more skilled, like their mother Margaret, to make them.

Makes me think of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. In 1912, many young women, some very young, died in a New Jersey? fire, because the back doors of the factory where they worked was locked. Many of these girls were underage. This fire sparked the union movement in the U.S.

YouTube has quite a few videos about it.

Oh, the wine is really inexpensive too in Burlington. Which makes me want to cry. Quebec must have the most expensive wine around, but we still buy it :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bathing Beauties and Bathhouses for the Poor.

My Aunt Alice, circa 20's, Old Orchard Beach most likely. Aunt Alice must have seen a number of motion picture shows. Why? Because in her photos, she is posing like Lilian Gish, etc. My Aunt Flo, her younger sister, always posed like a 40's movie star. (She looked like Barbara Stanwyck.)

I have once again ressurrected a photo from the dead. This time, I imported the negative scan directly to Corel, with my husband's help.

I figured out how to develop negatives on the scanner, leaving the top open. Natural light works best, but Iused my SAD lamp here, as there is no direct sunlight in my living room.

Anyway, this picture is interesting in that I am taking this Heritage Studies course online to help me with research on Tighsolas, ( my social studies website, which I am turning into a book called Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 era.

This project is based on letters belonging to my husband's ancestors in Montreal, but somehow I managed to stick my own ancestors in as "characters" in the book, the Crepeaus. I have my husband's great Aunt Edith working as a tutor in 1909 for my Aunt Alice. (Edith was in the city, but I have no idea what she was doing there.)

Anyway, my grandfather worked for the City of Montreal. In 1910 he was in the Greffier's Office, but in the 20's when this picture was taken, he was the city's highest ranking civil servant, Director of Services.

Yesterday, I looked up a Heritage Venue, a museum on Ontario Street, near the Sherbrooke Metro, that is dedicated to the industrial class. It is located in an Art Deco building that was a public bath. In the early part of the 20th century, poor people had no place to wash up, so baths were made available to them. The blurb on this site says this started in the 20's. Nonsense. This started in the 1880's.

I have found adverts in the Gazette archives for public baths, (women's day, Wednesday)..including one on Craig which also was in my husband's family and eventually became a company called Laurentian Spring water.

The museum, called the Eco Musee de Fier Monde, is housed in a beautiful space, no question, so I will visit, both for my own research for Flo in the City, and for my Heritage Course. And I'll be sure to ask them why they say public baths were started up in the 20's. (I have seen at least one old building that once housed a public bath with giant 1910's written on the door. Park Avenue, or Avenue du Parc as it is now called.)

Now, the blurb also says the bath was opened in 1927, in the presence of Mayor Mederick Martin. Well, I have no doubt my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of Public Works was there and had a huge part in the building of this facility. Probably a much bigger role than Martin.

The museum's website is located here.

Now, as I have written, I have just finished reading The Perfect Summer, about England in 1910, and Juliet Nicolson, the author, talks about how the middle class streamed to the sea shore in summer. Well, the Crepeaus were no different. Old Orchard Beach was where they went, with other French Canadians. For an entire month. They left the day after St. Jean the Baptiste, June 24, after they had a huge Open House for friends. My page has pictures of 1929 parade from their home on Sherbrooke. And a picture of Mederic Martin.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Circle Game: Lunch Time Takeaway (Take out)

My husband's great uncle Herb Nicholson, one of the characters in Flo in the City, my middle school novel about a girl coming of age in the 1910 era.

I just read one of Herb's 1905 letters, from September, where he has just arrived in Montreal to work at the bank. Marion, his sister, is also just arrived, as she is at McGill Normal School. (I wonder if their parents, the Nicholsons contrived that he be there, fearing for her. As it was, he hardly ever did anything with her that year, and probably picked up bad habits. In 1908, I have him whoring on de Bullion.

Anyway, in his letter, he says he is just arrived and that he has found a room on Mansfield for 7 dollars a month and if he pays another 10 dollars he can get his meals there, breakfast and supper and on Sunday all three meals.

And he has to 'order in' for dinner (or lunch) at work because the boys don't get time for dinner. Imagine. 15 cents a meal.

What goes around comes around. Now people eat their lunches at their work stations, too.

I discovered the letter looking for something else, the diary belonging to Elizabeth Fair (my husband's great aunt on another branch of his family tree, and first cousin to General Douglas MacArthur. ) I have just finished the book The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson, which is about 1911, a momentous year in the UK, due to the Coronation, strikes, impending war, and the heat, where it reached 90 degrees in the shade. Elizabeth visited London (and Paris) in 1911.

I read the diary a while back and found nothing at all interesting in it... as I think I wrote earlier. She was just a shallow woman doing the rounds, visiting the usual places, Hyde Park, the Tower, and meeting with 'contacts' and shopping until she drops. (I don't think she goes to the ballet, which might have been very interesting as the Ballet Russes with Nijinski were there.. )She doesn't even mention the heat, although she is from Norfolk Virginia, so she isn't hot I guess. (She does change her outfits often, but that's what the rich did.) The one interesting event she remarks upon is a suffrage parade. But Nicolson's book says the suffragettes took a break in 1911 in respect for the Coronation. I wonder if Aunt Elizabeth actually saw a union parade. There were many strikes in London that year, the heat being the straw that broke the camel's back when it came to unbearable lower class working conditions. In probably the most interesting part of the book, Nicolson describes the upper classes eating bon bons in the heat and then how those bon bons were made, by lower class women in Hades-like conditions..

Nicolson describes the life of servants and she doesn't make it seem all that bad. A life in service seems a better life than in the factories. In fact, that year they implemented a kind of health insurance and many people in service thought they didn't need it. Their employers took care of them in times of ill health.

Funny, I recently learned that my grandfather was a footman, in England, who, family lore goes, worked for an Earl whose daughter fell for him, so he was sent off to Malaya. (It was a privilege to go to the Colonies. It cost money and a position had to be procured. )Hence my family's story, Looking for Mrs. Peel at

A footman was a respectable job. You had to be tall and presentable. My grandfather was 6 foot 5.
I think he was the son of a Yorkshire sawmill worker.

Anyway, after reading about the lives of the factory class, and Montreal had poverty equal to London's.. I can't feel sorry for Herb and his take out lunches.

Indeed, yesterday, I went to the resto where my son works as a chef for a summer job and it is very hot. He came out to the terrace where I was sitting with my wine and reading the Perfect Summer in the big purple sun hat that I bought in Quebec, and eating the Greek salad he had prepared for me, and my son complained of the heat, he said it was 45 in the kitchen, and, to make him feel better, I told him about women in Nicolson's book, who went on strike in 1911, who sweated in the chain making factory, sparks flying, their young babies in bags hanging over their heads, their toddlers around their feet.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Leaving Nova Scotia

My husband sits at the entrance to beautiful Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.
I'm watching The Last Station in the hotel room and boy, what GREAT acting, such a nuanced view of marriage and love and the scenes with Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren are so, well, deeply layered, I guess that's the word.
James McAvoy is, also, one of my favorite young actors.
Modern travelling, computers, cells, and tv to feel 'at home'... it's bizarre. And this time we Googled the directions to the hotel in Fredericton, and cut and paste it into email. So no need to ask computers how to get there and be misdirected.
I feel good, I guess that's what a vacation is for. My head is clear.
There's no way to seque this into Tighsolas, well, except that these people LOVED to travel and took advantage of vast family connections to do so.
In return they harboured visitors, usually at great expense of energy. The Nicholsons had no maid.
They took car trips (but not that far) and mostly train trips.
In 1913, two men endeavored a cross Canada trip. The first ever in a car. There were a lot of firsts in the era.
The Nicholsons seldom stayed in hotels.. Although there was a exception in 1908, when Margaret and Norman visited Quebec City to see the 1908 Celebrations there, with the Prince of Wales.
I write about it in Flo in the City, my novel in progress about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 era.
The Queen of England was just in Canada, in Halifax (before we arrived) and in Ottawa the day before we left (Canada Day) and in Toronto.
My friends told me how in England they saw the Queen close up when her limo happened to stop right in front of them. I didn't want to spoil the story, but I have a similar one. In 198something, I was visiting Toronto and just happened to stop in the middle of the street in front of Union Station to rest my arms (I was carrying two suitcases) when her limo stopped right in front of me too. Two feet or so. (I guess the driver's instructions were to stop right there, so he did, despite the fact a young woman was standing in the middle of the intersection. It was right at the end of her what's it called, cortege. I saw Her Majesty waving with a far away look in her eyes (I joke to people that I am sure she was day dreaming about a young Albert Finney. I think that's funny as Albert Finney played working class guys) and then her limo sped away.
These same friends, last night, showed we a Twitter Tweet that pretends to be Queen E. It's funny. Queen_UK
Many many people, I guess, have a "I saw the Queen of England" story. I'm not the only one. Still, it's one of my better stories.

Monday, July 5, 2010

PVC Assault on the Senses

Home Fredericton.

As we left Fredericton to go to Halifax, I took a short walk near our hotel and was struck by the beauty of this house. It is a plain colonial style, the kind you see all over the eastern seaboard, but the blue shutters just set it off. As I contemplated the house, it occured to be that it would be a 'dump' without the shutters. I use that term loosely. That's because the clapboard is weathered and it looks like uneven cedar. Then I noted that it is the beauty of the contast between the glistening shutters and 'weathered ' clapboard that makes the house so gorgeous.

In my heritage course, the one I am taking at Athabasca U online, because I want to be able to enhance my website, a paper I read mentioned the two schools of belief, that Heritage homes should be restored to their original state, or that they should be left alone in whatever state of they are in... Like antique furniture where the patina is important.

But homes now are being built with PVC clapboard, and they will never weather. Even at the seaside. Of course, it's inexpensive to maintain, but it looks soulless.

You know that development we got lost in last episode, the small bungalows looked no different from the ones near where I live. My neighbour has prettified her pvc wrapped house with shutters and other creative landscaping, lovely, but it will never have a weathered charm.

A friend visiting somewhere in China sent me a picture of a new development there. It looked just like my area in suburban Montreal.!

And this PVC comes only in a few colours. So all that Maritime charm, those odd colours the houses are painted will soon be no more.

Man vs Machine

1910 invention. Live Map for use with the new popular "automobile"

I'm in Halifax in the elegant Prince George Hotel on Market Street, sitting in the room with a real good cup of fresh coffee I found in the hall as my husband sleeps. I'm a morning person; he's a night person and holidays are not going to change that. We drove to Halifax Nova Scotia from Montreal, stopping at Fredericton. It's a long 9 hour drive to Fredericton, but the highway is good (rare in Quebec). It's the kind of drive where you are bored to death 99 percent of the time, and you have long stretches of road to yourself, even in vacation season, but you still have close calls on the road, for some reason. We had two. A huge truck changed lanes just as were were passing for one. Can't recall the other.

Anyway, since we have the Onstar service on the car, we decided, just for fun, to ask it for directions as we entered Fredericton from the Trans Canada. Might as well get our money's worth, we felt. Just a toy. Well, we asked the live 'navigation guide' or whatever the address of the hotel we were staying at, which she got and then she punched our destination into the Onstar Computer.

It told us what to do first, but before we got to where it wanted us to turn, we saw a 'fork in the road' that said left to Moncton, right to Fredericton, so naturally we turned to the right. Naturally, the Onstar computer told us 'we had left our route..would you like us to recalibrate?' ...we said YES. And then it said to turn onto said highway, but when we got to the next turn the indicator said there was 100 meters to we continued and again it said "you have gone off the route" and so we instructed it to recalibrate and then it took us to a long dirt road and I told my husband, "This doesn't seem right. I mean we are going from the Trans Canada to a major Canadian city, usually that means a direct route through civilisation. Anyway, the computer, somehow, got us somewhere near the airport, 20 kilmeters away, into a new housing development, and landed us at an empty lot and said "you have reached your destination." We contacted the human advisor who said 'But you are at your destination" but we said NO WE ARE NOT. This is a ruralish development. Then the navigation person said he'd recalibrate for us, and the computer took us to a crossroad, which had a sign, right to Fredericton, left to Oromocto, or whatever and it told us to turn LEFT, but we turned RIGHT, being of a higher order of primate and able to think for ourselves. When it asked us if we wanted to recalibrate, we shouted NO loudly. We wondered if we were in a military experiment to see if human beings would follow ANY instructions, even if obviously WRONG. Anyway, this road took us the long and scenic route into Fredericton, you know, the route paste the elegant old homes that every Canadian town has if it has a waterfront. The shortest route is usually the ugliest, I've found. Fredericton had a beautiful stretch, where the heritage homes were interesting in that there was a great deal of variation in style to them.

We don't know what went wrong. Were we soooo stupid, we made the computer go berzerk? As in "Danger, danger. It does not compute Will Robinson" or are computers stupid?

Last year in PEI onstar was 1 for 2.

We got Onstar with the Malibu, but I didn't want it at the time. I just had no choice. It all seems so 1984 or Brave New Worldish. "Hello, Mr. McGill. What can we do for you today? I see you've gained a few pounds Mr. Wells, Should I drive you to the gym, or how about a walk along the river path. The temperature is 64 Celsius and showers are predicted for 4 hours.

And considering the slow slide in totalitarianism that we are experiencing, I get antsy at the thought of my every move being tracked.

So, it's kind of comforting that computers act dumb. All last week the predication for Halifax was 4 days of sun this week, but it's going to rain a bit. That's fine with me. Peggy's Cove is beautiful in the rain.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Middle Class Morality 2

D.W. Griffith The Stenographer

I'm watching The Apartment on Turner Classics, taping it at the same time, and, gee, it's terrific. Beautifully edited. (I looked it up and it won best editing, as well as best picture and screenplay and director and b and w cinematography. So this time my HD TV doesn't enhance the movie watching experience, and, frankly, in this case, it doesn't matter). Just no acting awards, although Jack Lemmon and Shirley McLaine are extremely sympathic in their roles. Despite the great directing and screenplay and editing, the movie would have failed if they hadn't nailed their performances.

What I recall of the movie: my older brother loved it and had a major crush on McLaine. I didn't quite understand at the time, although I certainly do now, in my 'wise old age'. (I didn't see this movie in the cinema, too young. In Quebec in the 60's, kids under 10 couldn't go to movies because of a fatal fire in 1927.) Of course, the story line of The Apartment is designed to make teenage boys identify with the Lemmon character.

The movie, although sooooooo 60's, is not dated either, from what I can see. I bet the plot of the Stenographer, above, D.W. Griffith, was similar. Age old story. Did Wilder do the Seven Year Itch?

Anyway, In the Perfect Summer, 1911, the book I am reading, Juliet Nicolson, the author discusses Nickelodeons and their popularity, and her description is detailed. Nickels often smelled of pee, she writes, with young kids getting too excited and wetting themselves.

This non fiction book, from 2007, reads like a novel, with larger-than-life historical characters. And the delight is in the details. It always is. I must remember that as I write Flo in the City, my middle school novel about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 era.

Nicolson's non fiction novel also describes all the fooling around the Edwardian upper crust engaged in...husbands and wives anyway. And she names names. One of the 'characters" Miss Diana Manners, an ingenue, was not fathered by her official father.

The ingenues, though, still had to be careful, although they could be rebellious in other ways and have 'big' ideas. No birth control pill.

The Nicholsons of Tighsolas, on which I am basing my novel, Flo in the City, were middle class. And their morality was rigid, as the middle class's tends to be. Even today. Just check out the message boards on the online newspapers. (Except today, for the most part among the middle class, it is acceptable for unmarried middle class girls to be sexually active. Adultery is another thing, just look at the way the media pilloried Tiger Woods.) With respect to Tighsolas and 1910, when Mother Margaret hears of a local man having an affair 'seeing another woman' she writes to her husband that "he might as well throw himself in the river."

Yet, she was a 'new woman' in so many ways, even admiring the militant suffragettes, who were looked upon by some as 'terrorists'.