Sunday, March 31, 2013

Writer's Block, Mantel and MIddleton

I bought Hillary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety to read on my Kindle...

I'm enjoying it, a great history lesson. Her style is not elegant, rather choppy, but oddly effective and perhaps good for the subject matter (choppy times, literally and figuratively).

I seem to remember that Paris in the Terror  (Loomis)was one of my favorite reads as a teenager. I seem to remember the style of this book was amazing. But it has been years.

In college, I recall taking a scene from the book to use as an example in my Sociology course about Mobs. It's a scene where someone while alive gets his heart ripped out (literally, not figuratively)and then someone in the crowd eats it. Yummy!

Amazingly, I have found two typos in the Kindle text already, published by UK General Books, and I am but 15 percent through. I worry so much about typos in Threshold Girl, my Kindle book about three Canadian girls in 1910.

But if a Kindle novel by a renowned author ( a double Man Booker Prize winner!) can have typos, well, why not my book, which I wrote and edited by myself?

As I just said, it's been a long time since I read about the French Revolution so I am not up on my characters.

Mantel's book has a long, long long list of characters at the beginning, but with Kindle you  can't really flip back.

And there's no cover either. Pity.

I have a cover, at least, for Threshold Girl. Even if it is an amateurish cover, with a lovely picture of Marion Nicholson in her white dress taking tea outside her family home, Tighsolas, in Richmond Quebec in 1910.

I must admit, I chose Hillary Mantel because I read about her controversial speech a short while ago where she deconstructed Kate Middleton - like a good historian - and got some bad press for it.

I'm also reading Mantel's novel because I have been having writer's block lately (what with Quebec's dismal snowy March) and the only way I can shake off writer's block is by reading GOOD STUFF. A lot of it.

It's like feeding the plants.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hippy Delusions and Ancient Grains in French

My 20 dollar haul from Bulk Barn, wheat germ, Scottish oats, spelt spaghetti and millet.

Far be it for me to poop on the Easter Bunny, that dentine-detesting harbinger of Spring.

But hey. This morning, I drove  to the nearest  Bulk Barn , hoping that their spelt spaghetti was less expensive than at my local 'health food' store, and I couldn't find the spelt for all the bins of colourful confections and candy.

Seems to me, Bulk Barn is 90 percent candy. Should be called the Diabetes Den, instead.

And the place was crawling with parents and kids buying candy.

But it is Easter Saturday. So give them a break.

As a child I would have gone Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs in that same store.  My father would have found a way not to buy me much and it wasn't because he was against candy, he just hated spending money.

I loved candy as a child (surprise!) and I have the mouth to prove it. Not one of my teeth doesn't have a cavity in it.

But things are different today, right? With all those bestselling books by M.D.s warning us that sugar is as bad as cocaine (or maybe worse) for us and our kids. (Is it worse than the lead I breathed in every day of my child-hood in the city?)

What a schitzophrenic store that Bulk Barn, with its oats and grains and vitamins and then the candy. Aisle upon aisle of sugary treats and typically for this day and age the candy is cheap and  the grains outrageously expensive - I think.

Gee, I thought buying in bulk meant big savings..:) Hippyesque delusion, apparently.

Ah modern consumerism!

And although here in Quebec BULK BARN keeps it public street-front face in English, all the products in this store were labeled in French only.

I've read my Zola, I know the French words for rye and corn and wheat... but for spelt? (Epeutre or something.) I just learned the word spelt (in English) a few years ago. Cut me some slack!

And the labels are all in tiny fonts, so even with my glasses on I had to lean forward and squint.  Now I am guessing it is not kids with their 20-20 vision buying these trendy whole grain foodstuffs.

The good news: I felt terrific today. I had a spring in my step. The no-wheat almost Perricone diet must be working!

The other good news: the climate  is Spring-like outside, despite the foot or more of snow remaining in my yard. I can sit on the concrete patch directly in front of my house against the pink brick facade and actually burn up in the sun as el Sol radiates against the bricks... and watch the snow sslloooooooowly  melt, or, more precisely, evaporate into the crisp clean air.

I took my computer out around noon and listened  to the BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, (a good one titled How to Get Filthy Rich in a Rising Asia) and enjoyed life again, that is until the neighbours (on both sides) got out their buzz saws. Very annoying. Very loud.

For men the first nice Saturday in Spring means something altogether different, I guess.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Healthy Living Catch-22

A turkey hides in my fridge. I'm already sick of turkey, but at 1.50 a pound I had to buy 3 of them!

It's Easter and turkeys are on sale at the IGA, about 1.50 a pound.

So I bought three for my adapted Perricone "Get in Shape for my Son's July wedding" diet, the first diet I've been on in years and one that seems to be working.(I'm also getting inundated with adverts for Perricone products because of this blog.)

I'm never hungry, which is always the problem with calorie-reduced weight loss diets.

I'm not spending my spare time perusing recipes in magazines or on the Net or thinking of my next meal.

 I don't have hallucinations like comedian Dick Gregory (Soul on Ice?) on that hunger strike protest, where he saw hot dogs jumping over the end of his bed.

But I'm also not that keen on eating more turkey or fish, two meats I really like, but only in moderation (I guess).

Now I know that the frozen fish we get is not nearly as tasty as fresh caught, say, by the sea in Nova Scotia. Perhaps that's an issue.

I tend to be eating fish Teryaki or Fish Curry to make up for the loss of flavor.

Turkey never has flavour, except right out of the oven, the dark meat maybe.

Anyway, my Perricone-style diet has become more of a glycemic index diet.

Except I'm eating only spelt because, well, I just love whole grain breads. I love them too much.  I buy a nice fresh artisanal bread and I want to eat the whole thing, slathered in butter.

Apples are low glycemic. Too bad they all taste like sh&***$ nowadays!

And that goes for Pasta, which left al-dente, has a low glycemic rating. I LOVE PASTA DISHES.

So it's spelt, bread and spaghetti, and quinoa and today, barley and my usual chili's with all kinds of beans. Stuff with soluable fibre. Foods I like, and have liked for a long time. A Mediterranean style diet, sort of.

I hardly ever eat barley. Most of us hardly ever  eat barley. But it's a good choice too as a carb.  And I happen to have some in the cupboard.

The side-effect of my weight loss diet (not a bad choice for a diet for me as I had pregnancy diabetes) is that my poor husband is also losing weight.

And I make him an occasional roast of beef. ( I wish I could give him only grass-fed beef, but it's next to impossible to find, even in Argentina, it is said, as some of that country's ranchers have slowly and quietly been changing over to grain. So I read on the net. Money matters, not health.)
My 'carb' cupboard. What a mess! Quinoa is cheapest at Costco. Most foods are. I went to the Bulk Barn once but was SHOCKED at the high prices. I thought BULK meant cheaper. Ha!

He's not over-weight. He's had to watch his cholesterol for years and 'we' as in "I" managed to get it down into the good range... with daily oatmeal, walnuts and beans more fish than he wants to eat.

His doctor wanted to put him on that drug they give every male over 40. Lipitor. But I knew with the drug my husband would think he had leave to eat processed crap all day long (or at least when he was out of my sight.)

And drugs can't be good, all drugs, even the ones they give everyone to compensate for lazy lifestyle, have side-effects.

Most 'fad' diets say give up coffee, but I can't. I just added some expensive tea blends with promising names..

It's too bad in one way. My husband has an excellent benefit plan at work. Most of our drugs are paid for and we hardly use the plan. Touch wood.  Lucky for us, I guess.

And it's about the only good thing about his job, these days, where his salary has been frozen for about 15 years and where the over-time, once plentiful, is no longer.

And yet the cost of living, especially of food and for the gas he needs to get to work, has risen way beyond the so-called cost of living raise he gets each year.

Soon we may be eating only lentils and brown rice. Well, at least we'll be healthy old farts. Hopefully. We won't have this benefit plan after my husband retires.

Call it the Healthy Living Catch-22.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring has Sprung

Spring has sprung, but it confuses our Kitty cat, who goes out the back door and in the front, over and over, because there is something not quite right with the situation.

It's 11 degrees and the sun is out and the breeze is starting to carry in alluring aromas, smells that stir the Primal in the 10 year old Tabby... but.. and the same breezes beckon to my husband with suggestions that perhaps he should buy an Easter bouquet for his wife, and to please her even more he'll forgo the traditional yellow and purple blooms, ubiquitous this time of year, and choose flowers in colours that that match her decor.

After 30 or so Easters married, he's getting the hang of it!

Outliers and Anglophones

Marion Nicholson of Threshold Girl taught at Royal Arthur in Little Burgundy in 1908-1912. Later she taught at Herbert Symonds in N.D.G., a school named after the Anglican Minister of Christ Church Cathedral  who was so active in social causes in the 1910's, many of them not so progressive, but hey.

The CBC hosted a panel discussion on the future of the Anglophone Community in Quebec, and it looked lively but predictable and it was likely a big waste of time. (My opinion.)

But I'm not that much interested even thought I write about the History of Anglos in Quebec, real Anglos and Francophones. My relations and my husband's relations.

Some panelists at this event claimed Anglo Quebeckers carry too much baggage, passed down from their parents and grandparents, but hey, I think the issue is the FUTURE.  That's because I'm older.

We're afraid for our future, our pensions, or retirement, our healthcare. Whether our homes will be worth anything when it comes time to sell.

(I am expert in Edwardian times. I know all about The Poor House:) And even though we no longer throw unproductive elders into a ersatz jail we do other thing just as horrible.

I've seen for myself how elderly anglophones get treated in the medical system, sometimes. (My father in law, who had suffered a stroke at 90, was told my his nurse at a non-city hospital, 'You are 90. You should speak French by now." (So my father in law said, but other incidents we did witness first-hand suggested he wasn't hallucinating.)

 I've written about all this right here. But then no one gets treated well in the Health system, right?English or French.

Anyway, yesterday my son passed me a book he'd just read, a book he said young people he'd met all over the world were talking about. (He's been travelling a lot.)

Outliers: the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian.

He said I would be interested in the book as I am interested in Education issues.

My son is a Physics graduate and he was telling me about why Gladwell thinks the Chinese are better at Math. It has to do with their language. Young Chinese can count to 40 by 4 years old, and young Canadians only by age 5.

This apparently gives them a head-start - which carries on because HEAD STARTS are what matter with respect to SUCCESS in a field. (I'm going to read the book now.)

My son just returned from Australia where he tutored young Chinese children in math and English. These students were advanced in both subjects, he said.

That's another reason Chinese children are advanced, their parents insist on it, putting their children in tutoring after school, regardless of their relative success.

 (My son says the Chinese parents refuse to acknowledge when a child is learning-disabled, which is a problem.)

This language issue in Quebec is such a diversion. In Quebec our kids don't get any head starts, they are disadvantaged from the start (my opinion).

In my day, there were no textbooks for Anglo children in French immersion - and most all kids were in French Immersion from grade 3 back then.

For Earth Sciences I remember, my sons used a French text, but the vocabulary was too complex (marecage, etc) so it was left to their teacher to dumb it down for them. And dumbing down science to young students does not lead to earth-shattering success in the field.

My son's interest and success at math, he says, is due to the luck of the draw; he got 2 fantastic teachers in CEGEP. One man a Chinese and one woman an Iranian. But by that time, it is too late, according to Outliers.

This is Royal Vale, where I went to school in the sixties. Mostly Jewish kids in my class. High achievers.

Even in those days, my teachers in the early grades were young and inexperienced (and very pretty women) who got married, got pregnant and left the profession (for a while?) and the Old MAID teachers made for the only continuity. (That's why in 1910 in the Protestant School system male teachers made more money than female. They got 800. a year out of Macdonald Teachers College, women got 550.)

Miss Dobie was my first grade teacher. A classic spinster, tall thin and stern.  I can still see her words on the black board using coloured crayons to teach us phonics.  It stuck... We first learned French in third grade, and I recall the teacher was a Scot and certainly not bilingual. I knew because my mom was French Canadian.

And to think that in the 1960's the Protestant School Board of Great Montreal was the highest performing board in North America, which is why so many graduates left Quebec and went on to make their mark BIG TIME in Toronto and elsewhere. (I like to think that Marion Nicholson of Threshold Girl, who rose to the The Union President during WWII and who fought for higher salaries for teachers, had a part in this.)

Marion Nicholson, in 1910 era, feisty, not demure.

 Maybe there are bigger fish to fry for the future of Quebec than Language Laws.

Of course, democracy (and equality)  is still of interest to most Canadians, even if only of passing interest, judging by what we let their politicians at ALL levels of government get away with.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tea for Thé

David'sTea. The Packages have English labels.

I went into David's Tea in Fairview yesterday and was dismayed to see the canisters of tea were all labeled entirely in French.

I don't think it was like that the last time I went there.

I liked  reading the 'cheeky' names of the different teas, which included cheekily, Cheeky Lychee.

The teas themselves already have exotic names, Oolong, etc. But the company has gone to great lengths to create signature blends.

Butterfly Jasmine becomes Papillon de Jasmine

Elf Help becomes Joyeux Lutin

Movie Night becomes Soiree Cine (Well, I like that one better)

Hot Lips becomes Baiser Brulant Biologique

and on and on.

Odd, because the sign itself is iffy with respect, to ahem, Quebec's Language Law. (I think.)

 Les Thes David'sTEA. The les thes is much smaller than TEA, but it is a chain and DAVID'STEA is all one word, which makes it a logo.

But hey.

Who's quibbling?

I bought three teas, detox (same in English and French) and joked about the English labels.

The counter girl didn't appear amused.

My joke "I see the labels are all in French, where's English Breakfast Tea?"

She pointed to a cannister triumphantly. There it is: ENGLISH BREAKFAST TEA. in English.

Sort of the Pasta of Teas.

David's Tea is a Canadian company, a five year old success story. I recently heard a BBC Radio program about the artisanal tea 'fad' and how these teas are harvested.

Some teas are specific to a certain side of a certain mountain in a certain country.

Well, so much for Salada Orange Pekoe in tea bags. (That was there in English too, a brand!)

It tastes Great Fresh!

I'm drinking green tea because I am on a Perricone style diet without buying the add-ons, which is what it is all about. I add sea-weed, or sea vegetables as they are now called.

I was surprised to see that the Nicholsons of Threshold Girl drank GREEN TEA back in 1900-1910. How strange.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Picked a Lemon in the Garden of Love

We all have 'our thing'. This is my thing, or more to the point, WAS my thing as a tweenager.

Glimmerick make-up by Yardley. In shades that resembled nothing found in nature, although Yardley's 1960's advertising was all about transforming us Tweenagers into Earth Goddesses.

The design of this lipstick still evokes a 'yearning' feeling within me.

It's all very complex.

Oddly, lipstick is kind of phallic, isn't it. I do believe, in the 1910's, when women put on "rouge de theatre" the product came in vials.

Who invented the lipstick applicator?

Anyway, part of the yearning was that I had no money of my own and couldn't afford any lipstick, or the other enticing Yardley products.

I certainly bought a few lipsticks here and there and even this eye  shadow. Like a little paint box.

This stuff really was aimed at girls, wasn't it? Why else was Twiggy the face of 1968.

Yesterday, for a 'pick-me-up from the past' I went on YouTube and looked at some 60's ads, for Yardley and for Love Cosmetics.

Remember them?

I can still invoke the aroma of this product.It was subtle, light. Fresh.  Quite nice.  The aroma was all about cleanliness - but with youthful cheekiness. Lucky "fresh" has two meanings. (The TV ads suggested as much. "I picked a lemon in the garden of Love"...that's the line, really! ) A tarty little twist on the  Purity Movement of 1910...

These Love products were really expensive, so they were fantasy products as far as I was concerned, as unattainable as the Captain of the High School Basketball team, a picture of whom I kept under my pillow.

Time Magazine published an article on this new product, suggesting the containers were suspiciously shaped.

But when I was in my 20's my mother worked for Smith, Kline French and Sons and she could get all the love I wanted. But I was no longer interested.

Funny, a product isn't the same when you can actually have ALL YOU WANT. Sort of like, you know...

Herbal Essences shampoo too. The aroma of that product has a Rite of Passage dimension for me.  All those ads..

The original Herbal Essences.  I mean, it smelled a bit like grass, really.

Herbal Essences Shampoo: That I could afford. Garden of Earthly Delights. WHAT WERE THEY GETTING AT? Can't imagine...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Leaning In, Having It All, and Biological Clocks

Marion Nicholson 1910 era

Years ago,  in 1997, when the Internet was new  to Canada my husband subscribed to AOL, not for our two kids who were in their early tweens, but for me.

"You are a writer. The Internet is bound to create MORE jobs for writers," he said.

He was right...sort of. He didn't say paying jobs, after all.

At the time I was at home, but working freelance, which was a big pain because any and all freelance work was last minute - and often on the weekend and always to a tight, tight deadline.

Almost immediately I found a website that was wanting for essays, which I had aplenty, as I was (am) an essay writing machine by nature.

I sent in three of my essays and the website accepted all three and paid me (YES!) 25 American dollars for each one of them.

I became a regular writer on the website, eventually writing an entertainment column, and I made up to 100 dollars an essay. Imagine, getting paid for writing!

And then said website, despite being popular, went broke.

Oh, well.

Yesterday, I saw a tweet on my Twitter account, a woman both laughing and crying because the Huffington Post, a very successful Internet news site which I subscribe to, had asked her to write them an essay - FOR FREE.

Here's a Forbes article interviewing Arianna Huffington about the Second Women's Work Revolution

Technology changes us but in ways we can't predict. The Internet has made writers a dime a dozen, perennial unpaid interns.

I also subscribe on Twitter to Salon (which I have written for and was well-paid for) and yesterday I saw a tweet about LEANING IN, a new book out by Sheryl Sandberg based on a Ted Talk "Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders"....and a mentoring and advice website with support for women in the workforce.

Leaning In is the talk of the town, they say. Or the gab of the global village.

This article, reprinted from some other site,  was about how LEANING IN was of little use to unemployed women over 50 because in our society women over fifty are invisible, if not reviled or condescended too as cookie-making grannies.

The author, once a successful lawyer, has taken time off to raise kids and is now finding it impossible to get a job.

She isn't alone, according to the posters on the message boards. Many women in the US are experiencing the same problem.

The message here: don't take time off to raise kids and expect a career, or security in old age.  Don't get into the position where you are ONE MAN AWAY FROM WELFARE, as Gloria Steinem famously stated.

This Salon article touched a nerve as the author is 58 and so am I. (I don't feel old. I feel like a kid except in my knees!)

 I am an English writer in French Quebec, over fifty,  and I know there is no chance of me ever finding a good paying job.  I'm just happy my husband can keep his union job until retirement. And I hope he doesn't die soon after retirement because that would be a disaster for me.

It's embarrassing. I never meant for it to be this way.

At least I can blame my situation on where I live (a French province where English is considered a threat) and what I do. Working in media has always been precarious as well as a young person's domain.

This Salon author says she has many professional friends in the same situation (women who need to work because they are divorced or their husbands have lost their own jobs, etc) women who have taken time off to raise their kids and who are now shaking their heads and wondering HOW DID IT CAME TO THIS?

It's funny, one of my 'jobs' on Moms Online was to manage a message board.

In those days, the Mommy Wars were raging, where SAHM's (stay-at-home moms)  battled it out with Working Moms.

 Many of the SAHM's were sanctimonious about their choice to stay home and take care of their kids, assuming there was plenty of time to re-enter the workforce later on.

I was in essence a SAHM, although I was ALWAYS on the look-out for paying jobs. I was an In-betweener Mom, a reluctant SAHM, so I  didn't have the luxury of being smug about my lifestyle choice.

I stuck up for the Working Mothers.  I thought that taking time off to raise children was a big risk for women.

It appears I was right.

And who was to know about the dire economic downturn - and banksters and casino banking - and galloping technological advances that make yesterday's skills obsolete by noon today?

Can women have it all? Can men?

My 1910 stories about the Nicholson women of Richmond, Quebec and Montreal  are a case in point.

1910 was the era of the NEW WOMAN, when it was said women were beginning to WANT IT ALL. It was the era of the first Women's Work Revolution.

Sheryl Sandberg begins her Ted Talk (which I am listening to right now. See! I can multi-task!) by saying we are lucky to live in these times and not the times of our grandmothers. Hmm.

And, as I have discussed many times on this blog, almost everyone in the 1910 era believed that women HAD MADE IT, that any woman could have it all, any career she wanted. After all, weren't there women in almost every profession, even some women doctors and lawyers?

That was a myth, of course, total nonsense.

Statistics show that most women were either teachers, or shop or factory girls, or domestics, depending on their social status.

Edith 1910 ish.

Marion Nicholson of my story Biology and Ambition,  the follow-up to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Spinster and the prequel to Sister Salvation, did have both a brilliant career,  as a teacher and Union President, as well as a family, but she had a miserable time of it too, widowed in 1927 and left penniless, so she had to work.

(This was NOT the socially acceptable thing to do. Her job was to remarry.)

Edith Nicholson, her older sister,  had a nice career at McGill, working in the Registrar's office and as Vice Warden at Royal Victoria College, Women's college, but she was a spinster and never married and never had children. (She couldn't become a 'well-paid' teacher on the Montreal Board, because she didn't have a teaching diploma, so she prevailed upon her connections to get her the jobs at McGill, part tutor-in-residence, part secretary.)

She lived with her married sister Marion, off and on, and helped raise her children. She considered Marion's kids her family.

These two hard-working and ambitious women (born to leadership, one might say) never had any money at any point in their lives, despite working HARD, but they did have fun, and lots and lots of friends and connections, a buzzing social life if the letters they left behind speak the truth (and they do).

People needed people in those days, and not just to help them get ahead and to help them acquire power or make more money.

The Nicholsons had their circle. They were born into in. The Presbyterians of Quebec wielded  a lot of power back then, especially in the education arena.

In a 1927 letter Edith writes to her mom. "We may be poor in money, but we are rich in friends."

At the time Marion's husband, Hugh, was dying and  about to leave his wife with four young children and no money as he had been shut out of the family business.

Marion, a real go-getter if there ever was one, pulled up her cashmere stockings and got to work. She applied to the Masons for an education stipend for her each of her children and she got back her job teaching on the Montreal School Board.

By then her oldest daughter, 13, was able to take care of the younger children when she was not at home.

Marion had worked from 1906-1912 as a teacher. She had been super-ambitious back then, too, but her ambitions were stifled by realities of the profession (where inexperience male teachers got all the promotions)and by her biological clock.

Marion Nicholson, my husband's grandmother, went on to became a Master Teacher and during WWII, President of the PAPT, the Provincial Association of Protestant Teachers.

When she died, the Gazette gave her an editorial page Obit. The editor of the newspaper was one of her many admirers, apparently.

A Leader Among Teachers

From the Montreal Gazette, February 16, 1948 Editorial Page

In the death of Marion A N Blair the teaching profession not only of this province, but of the whole Dominion, has suffered a serious loss. For Mrs. Blair gave wise leadership not only in her own classroom here in Montreal but as the chosen head of the Federation of Protestant Women Teachers of the Island of Montreal, the Quebec Provincial Association of Protestant Teachers and for three years as the Quebec representative to the Canadian Teachers' Federation.  So ably did she fill this last post that she was asked last summer to represent Canadian Teachers as one of the delegates to the meetings of UNESCO in Paris.

For many years Mrs. Blair headed the salary committee of the local Women Teachers' Federation and for her wise and just leadership Montreal women teachers have much for which to be thankful, not only in material gains, but in enhanced prestige for the position of the woman teacher.

In common with all persons in public office, Mrs. Blair found herself the object of criticism by those for whom she was working. It was in such situations that the soundness of her advice and the staunchness of her character were most evident. And among all willing to give fair credit where credit was due, she won lasting respect.

Mrs. Blair frequently reminded her fellow teachers that theirs was a dignified calling and that their chosen lot was a life of service.  Her own life exemplified her belief. In spite of ill health and family responsibilities, she shouldered administrative tasks, working faithfully for teacher's organizations, at the same time fulfilling her classroom duties.
Mrs.  Blair  typified the teacher needed in our school today. Her influence was felt for good both in her profession and among those she taught."

According to people in the know, the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal was the TOP performing school board in North America at one point in the 60's. This is largely due to the efforts of Quebec educators like Marion Nicholson, whose work for the Teachers' Union permitted the Board to attract top teachers from other provinces and countries, like Britain. Many of the Board's high performing students went on to brilliant careers across Canada and the US and beyond.

Edith Nicholson became head of the Quebec Red Cross during the War. And she mentored many a Donalda, McGill co-ed at RVC over the years. 

Oddly, even in 1930, there were few job options for educated women outside of the teaching profession.

Most Donaldas, who had followed the same curriculum as male McGill Arts Students, worked as teachers.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Feminism 1913 -Women Demanding Everything?

Isadora Duncan in Greece

According to a 1913 book Women as World-Builders, sold to local women by the Montreal Suffrage Association, "the women's movement is a product of the evolutionary science of the 19th century" and Isadora is the living embodiment of the perfection of evolution with respect to the body. (or Something Like That.)
Today we have the Tunisian feminist Amina risking a lot to make her point. And a ballerina at the Bolshoi describing that place as a brothel.

Must ask Melvyn Bragg about all this as he wrote the script for the movie Isadora with Vanessa Redgrave and he knows about everything :) The Minoans, Imaginary Numbers, William James. (I love the show.)

A Floyd Dell authored the book. Apparently, he was a  man 'expert' in the feminist movement (or was it a pseudonym?)

 Here's the full list of feminists he writes about:

I found a  copy  of Women as World-Builders on and wrote about it earlier. What I have just found out is that this book was for sale at the Literature Bureau of the Montreal Suffrage Association in 1913.

They were right up to date!

I know because the Montreal Daily Herald published a section on the new Montreal Suffrage Association in its November 26, 1913 issue, which I took a peek at last week at the National Archives.

I wrote about it earlier on this blog.

This section included  a short article about the Literature Bureau which focused on this biographical volume.

(The Minutes of the Literature Bureau revealed that Montreal Suffragists made good money selling pamphlets and books. Indeed, it was their main means of income. They often lost money bringing in speakers even British Suffragettes like Barbara Wylie.

Cristabel Pankhurst's book about the Scourge of VD also was a big seller. "Votes for Women: Chastity for Men")

Jane Addams is the social reformer from the US who didn't like the motion pictures but who, (I think) might have have been the first to describe Hollywood as a Dream Factory, well, House of Dreams.

(A scene from Everywoman, a very popular play of the 1910 era, which featured beautiful young actresses in clingy clothing warning about the dangers of vanity, pride, the acting profession, and THE BIG BAD CITY. Flora Nicholson, 19, attended at His Majesty's on Guy and wrote home to Mom saying Everywoman was the best play she'd ever seen!)

I think this book explains a lot about the Montreal Suffrage Association, launched almost exactly 100 years ago today.

The Executive (made up of  members of the Montreal Council of Women and McGill Profs and Protestant Religious leaders) described the organization as an 'education' organization.. also a 'reasonable' organization as opposed to a 'militant' one.

Here's a paragraph from an opening chapter:

 Do you think this is the kind of material that inspires young women like Edith Nicholson of my story Sister Salvation to pick up a sign and start marching down Sherbrooke Street shouting "Votes for Women?"  NO!

Hmm. The author is saying here that he is going to 'show' not 'tell' - but his writing style is a bit (might we say?) overblown, so this book certainly is not aimed at average women. Montreal Suffragists pretended to be inclusive, but they kept their membership confined to an educated well-connected social elite.

The Minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association. They brought in a speaker to talk about "Women and Social Purity" Lower class women were all in danger of becoming prostitutes, they seemed to feel.

Holiness of its parts.. beauty but no sexuality? (The suffrage movement in Canada was mostly about promoting Social Purity and Pure Women.)   But Isadora had already had her two children out of wedlock by 1913.  No mention in this book of that fact.

Yet, here's another snippet from the chapter on Isadora.  It sounds kind of 60's ish.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Easter Bunnies, Cocaine and Condos

The Easter Bunny was conducting a photo op on my porch in preparation for the Big Event next week.

Despite the snowy landscape, that ain't going away any time soon, she promised to bring me that giant Laura Secord egg I always get, the sickeningly-sweet one with 40 grams of sugar.

I recently wrote about a mother I met at Costco who was afraid to purchase a certain 'healthy' cereal because it contained too much sugar - and her children would get mad at her.

You see, they were picking up health tips at school.

I wonder what these kids have on for Easter. A toothbrush and floss hunt no doubt.

I loved Easter Egg hunts. It was, after all, a ritual, a symbolic ritual, a watered-down rite of Spring for a consumer-age, but hey.

In those days, the 60's, we didn't devour sugar 24/7 like today. And all those dazzling colours. Although I did eat my share of candy, lick-a-maid, toffee, caramels  purchased from the little man behind the counter at the Decarie Handy Store.

And candy bars weren't those tiny little things that they are today.

Anyway, as I tweeted on my brand new Twitter Account (No Benedict Cumberbatch has not replied to my FOLLOW) sugar has been much in the news lately.

A Salon article yesterday. The day before that a Guardian article. And a week or so before that a CBC article.

It's called Big Sugar now. Like Big Oil and Big Bang.

I can see what the Right Wingers are saying. First they take our guns and now our Twinkies. (Or did the Economic Downturn, the Banksters, take them first?)

Anyway, last night I went to the movie theatre to watch PEOPLE by Alan Bennett, a National Theatre Live Presentation.

Fun stuff. And this play mentioned the connection between sugar and slaves. It has never been a sweet and gentle product, after all.

But now to learn that it is as bad as Cocaine, says a doctor in the Guardian article. And cocaine has a definite upside, (I'm told).

Redpath Sugar is the company once run by the husband of Julia Parker Drummond, the Social Activist who figures in my story Threshold Girl. She was President of the Montreal Council of Women.

They took the 'fun' ingredients out of Coca-Cola in the very early 1900's, so the marketers had to come up with something else.

The Redpath Sugar Factory is now a condo. An apartment inside is selling for 2 and a half million.

From Factory to Fabulous. (That was a tagline of some other place, in Perth I think. But it goes for here too.) It can't be From Sweatshop to Sensational (I made that up) because apparently Mr. Redpath tested the working conditions on his own grandchildren before it opened.

The Redpath people have a photostream on Flicker.

Anyway, that Laura Secord egg will surely arrive next week. My husband puts it on the mantelpiece. (His family didn`t have Easter Egg Hunts. They got their chocolate in a shoe at the bedroom door, for some ridiculous reason. Maybe they were Anti-Pagan.)
I won`t eat it. I am on a no-carb weight-loss diet (except for oatmeal) and it is working. I am not hungry at all. After a week.
I guess for me sugar is like a drug and I have to go Cold Turkey.
What  a BORING diet, though.  I have almost lost my love of food. I intend to revive it when the snow is all gone.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Better Late than Never?

My husband and Veronica in Salinas County or close by last year.

Better late than never? I don't think that adage is true anymore. By the time I've cottoned on to a new technology it's passe. (My 4 year old laptop might as well be a museum relic, my cell-phone is so dumb.. How dumb is it?? well, I think it once belonged to my son, when he was in University or was it Jr. College?)

I joined Twitter last night, but I don't understand what to do. If I can't say it in a 1000 words, I don't want to say it. (Would that sentence make the 140 character limit on Twitter?) I bet it would.

 I already had an account under the handle Margaret the Mom (in homage to my husband's great-grandmother Margaret, using her picture) but I used the account only to contact my brother, who uses Twitter a lot, mostly to tweet about women's tennis but sometimes to tweet about left wing issues and/or his breakfast.

(He got mad when I called Tweeting "Twitting" the other day. I said, "Don't worry. It's Upper-Class Twitting.")

So why did I get on Twitter last night?  Well, two reasons: first my cousin. She's in PR at N.A.S.A. at J.P.L the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and years ago she was the one who got the Mars Mission at J.P.L to incorporate Twitter into their communications plan.

She told me about it back then. She said "You should sign up. It's easy."  But I looked at the site, got confused and clicked off. I am an essayist, after all. The shortest things (ah, literary pieces, ah, word-groupings) I'd written were 30 second radio ads. About 3 paragraphs. 4 paragraphs if the announcer read quickly.

Anyway, at the time, my cousin got lots of national press for her first highly-successful application, which was giving the Mars Rover a voice on Twitter as it made its descent on a holiday weekend when few people were watching T.V.

My cousin is now the head of Social Media for J.P.L (and remember how successful the last landing was, publicity-wise?)well, this past week her team won an award at the South by Southwest Digital Media Festival (or whatever it is called)... Best use of Social Media. I first saw it on her Facebook page. (My California cousin has come a long way from Montclair Avenue in N.D.G.)

And I thought "Gee, I don't even use Twitter."

The second reason: A good friend of mine recently got divorced and found a new boyfriend. She told me how they spend time together goofing off by tweeting. So I thought, if these two highly-successful people like to Tweet together on their dates why can't I?

They told me how Yoko Ono is following them, because they followed her.  I got jealous :)

So last night I clicked to follow Yoko Ono.. She hasn't yet clicked to follow me. My friends are both visual artists(among other things) so maybe that's what tweaked Yoko's interests.)

But they inadvertently showed me what do to. Look up people you admire and Follow them. (And not just stand up comedians...I mean,  let's face it, Twitter is designed for people who can 'pen' pithy one liners. People like John Cleese, so I clicked on his Follow button. Upper class twitting, you see.) I see on Wikipedia that the word Twitter was chosen by the founders because it means ' a short burst of inconsequential information'.  Hmmm.

I already followed Richard Dreyfuss the actor. I saw one of his tweets a while back so I subscribed to his Twitter feed. He's long been one of my favorite actors. Since Duddy Kravitz not American Graffiti.  I don't think there's one movie of his I have not enjoyed.

I also had "the Queen" a comic Twitter account, where her Majesty goes around on a bicycle gin-soaked. My friend Geoff, in Halifax, has long followed 'her'. He has a Twitter account, but I always figured that was because he too is in the 'biz' and has to keep up on all things media.

Anyway I added a few actors (which seems like stalking, including Ryan Gosling, which seems pervy for a woman my age).. and also Jay Baruchel, a favorite of my son's but also of mine since Tropic Thunder, who complained just yesterday about the snow in N.D.G. where he lives. (No secret, his handle is Jay Baruchel N.D.G.) Hey Jay, you should be out here near Rigaud. We got twice as much snow as you guys.

And I clicked on my favorite tennis players, too.  Juan del Potro's account is in Spanish. (For some reason my brother likes women's tennis and I prefer men's :) That's because he lives in Denmark and Caroline Wazniacki is the big star there and I live in Canada and Milos Raonic is the big star here. Really. That's the reason.

And I clicked on some Montreal journalists and such, and realized that this is a good way to stay connected with what's happening locally. I am a Montrealer, after all, even if I am stuck in the 'orrible suburburbssss.

  My husband already has a lot of these people on his Facebook page, because he works in the media.

He doesn't use Facebook, let alone Twitter. He has too much to do around the house on his days off, like shoveling tonnes of sticky snow. (And he doesn't like it too much when the major news networks always refer to "what's trending on Twitter" as if they are followers of the news and not leaders of the news because it is cheap and easy to do. I tend to agree.)

And then I noticed that the former Mayor of Montreal, Camillien Houde had a Twitter Account, so I clicked on it, too.

Camillien Houde was the guy who 'fired' my grandfather, Jules Crepeau in 1930. I write about it in Milk and Water.

Well, Veronica's great-grandfather.

It is Veronica who has the album with these pictures of her grandmother in Montreal in 1923 ish.

Anyway, I'm sure there are many more interesting people with important things to say on Twitter who I could follow.

If I can stay on task... and keep from stalking celebrities (lowest common denominator). Ah, the age of Twitter!

PS. Last night something important did come up RANDOMLY on my Twitter feed. A story about the the Environmental Lakes Project... and its imminent demise.

I re-tweeted it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Candy for Breakfast

Here's my garden last year at this time. Well March 23.

And here it is this morning...

From the look of things there is going to be snow in my life for the next month, at least.

Please excuse me if I have nothing more to say on the subject.

I decided five days ago, when they were predicting this Spring snow storm, that I'd go on a weight loss diet for a month.

Misery likes company, and if I am going to be miserable for another month, I might as well not enjoy my eating either.

I decided on a low-carb diet, similar to Perricone's, lots of fish and lots of oatmeal. Easy, because  I like fish and I like oatmeal. Right?

Except after just five days I HATE Fish and and I HATE oatmeal.

I almost gagged on a piece of fine Pacific coast salmon yesterday. And last night, around 7 pm, I looked lustingly at the two giant boxes of brand name cereal I keep on the Ikea mobile table by the kitchen door.

This cereal.

And that cereal. One by Post and one by Kellogg, the cereal giants of the past century.

They are both 'healthy' cereals: I rationalized. One has got bran the other cranberries...You see,  I'm in my 50's so I don't eat crap. Right?

But I checked the ingredients table on the side of this cereal and it said Sugar, Sugar, Sugar.

Gee. The Guardian has this story online today. What a coincidence!

In fact, just two weeks ago, while I was shopping the cereal aisle at Costco, I saw a woman holding a bag of the some other SUPER HEALTHY nut and fruit and raw grain cereal and carefully scrutinizing the ingredients label.

"It's a very good cereal," I said. I often bought that brand.

"Yes, but the sugar," she said. "My kids will get mad at me."

Wow! How times have changed. Today's kids get mad if Mom brings home a 'healthy' cereal. What next? Will they be doing the food shopping themselves after clipping coupons and scoping the Net to check out which  store has which specials?

I laughed. "Gee, my kids never did that. They love sugar."

"It's the schools, " she replied.

So they are teaching kids in the schools about nutrition and these kids are coming back home and lecturing Mom (or Dad) on their purchases. (Tell Jamie Oliver it has worked!)

In my day, it was cigarettes. But if I had gone home and told my Mom to stop smoking, I would have got a slap on the top of the head.

I know, because I sometimes tried, not to get her to stop smoking, but to get her to open the car window on her side as I drove with both my parents in our little Austen Cambridge, precariously perched between them on the front seat 'hump' with no seat belt.

Both my parents smoked in the 60's, which was pretty typical.

 "I'm choking," I'd say, waving away clouds of cigarette smoke from the Matinee brand with filter tips and Players Export A without. (My father's nails were all jaundiced-looking.) "Can you open the window?"

(I know, I got most of my exercise going to the store to buy the cartons of said ciggies for my parents.)

"No," my mother would say. My father would crack open his window, a bit.

My mother could have cracked open her window too, but she thought she was practicing good parenting for standing her ground and showing me who's boss. (My mother was a great cook who made us delicious cakes from scratch, Mint-Chocolate was my favorite. These cakes were made almost entirely from flour, shortening, eggs and cups and cups of white sugar, and still we kids were all thin.)

(Me in March 1971 after that record snowfall. The next day was nice and warm so I walked around in my shirt. My father did all the digging, much like my husband does all the digging today. I was 5 foot 11 (like today) but about 135 pounds and I thought I was fat! Ha! True story, that day my mother ran out of cigarettes and she was smoking butts form the ashtrays around the house. So she sent me out up our suburban street to the corner store to get her some. I seem to remember plowing through snow up to my waist.)

Ah, the 60's.

She wasn't alone. Mothers had funny ideas in those days. They actually felt good sending their kids off to school with nothing but  a bowl of sugar in their stomachs, sugar that came disguised as a healthy cereal product like Alphabets, my favourite, or Coco Puffs, my other favorite. Candy for Breakfast. (What next, booze?)

Only old people ate bran flakes.

They pumped these cereals on advertisements in prime time on television. In fact, the Beverly Hillbillies, about a family that ate hog belly and corn pone, had a continual product placement for Corn Flakes.

Who can forget that GIANT bowl of cornflakes that Jethro ate every morning. And Jethro was the healthiest and strongest human being on TV.  Well, Superman actually was, and if I recall the Man of Steel also shilled for Wheaties or Shredded Wheat or something.

And then, the companies famously, added a disclaimer to their ads:

"A bowl of  Sugary-Whatevers PLUS a glass of milk is PARTof a healthy breakfast." Part of a healthy breakfast. What were they trying to pull?  I was twelve years old and I figured out it was all a clever ruse to separate us from our money, a convenient, tasty and oh-so-sugary ruse.

Cereal was the FIRST perfect consumer age product. Well, after Coca-Cola. If Coke sold happiness, cereal sold FUN to us kids.

Convenient, cheap to produce and people were willing to pay through the nose for it, as long as the cereal companies kept producing and airing the advertisements to keep us kids entertained. Cuckoo for Coco-Puffs, Silly Rabbit, Trix are for Kids,etc, etc.

I saw a documentary a while back that revealed the origins of  the century's cereal craze.

It actually had a health-food origin.

At the beginning of the 1900's, with industrialization, many North Americans didn't need the traditional hearty breakfast of the farmer.

Someone, forgot who, a Mormon I think, in the place where Shredded Wheat comes from, concocted the ideal breakfast of grains.

It caught on. The Giant Mega Corps took over.

They processed the grains until they weren't so good for you anymore and added tonnes of sugar (and later replenished some of the vitamins they's processed out)  and then created colourful brands destined to become legend with the Boomer Generation.

In the 70's, President Nixon gave subsidies (or something) to the farmers, so grain was even cheaper to produce.

There was no reason for us to have to pay so much for cereal back then.

A food critic in the Gazette, in the 80's, complained about the high price of these processed cereals. Grains are cheap, she wrote. These ridiculous cereal prices, 3 dollars a box, would have to come down. But they didn't.

We weren't paying for the grain in the box, but for the advertising. Just like with perfume and jeans, except that breakfast cereal wasn't a luxury, or was it?

If we wanted to save money, we could always go to the "health-food" stores and buy oats in bulk, spooning the grain from giant generic bins into plastic bags. Like a Hippie.

.And slow cook them over the stove overnight, like my British dad sometimes did. Boy, did that oatmeal taste good, all caramelized with cream and molasses on top. And still I was nicknamed Stringbean.

I tried that the other day. To buy oats in bulk at some Canadian chain Bulk Outlet. What a giant rip-off, in my humble opinion. No brands, no packaging, but all the grains (which you spoon out yourself and put in plain plastic bags)  are humungously shockingly over-priced! I refused to pay for the walnuts. What were they thinking? I could get them for half the price at Costco.

Proving that it's expensive to eat healthy these days, as if we didn't already know.

It's not like the Consumer-Age is going away any time soon.

My cat was mewing at the kitchen door to go out. Silly kitty. He won't walk on snow, even a tiny powdering, but the other day we let him out and he found a path around the house and up to the end of the driveway. Not today.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

One Man's Crime....

Salon gave a rave review to a new Sundance Channel mini-series, Top of the Lake,  a story by Jane Campion with Holly Hunter and Elizabeth Moss (SOOOOO up my alley even though I am not HUGE into crime shows) so I asked my husband to subscribe to the Sundance Channel only to see that it wasn't on.

There are two Sundance Channels, one for the Americans and one for us.


This morning I checked and yes, it might be playing here on SPACE. So that channel doesn't only play ALL Star Trek All The Time.

We have that one, you see. Star Trek!

Apparently, and I might be wrong, the Space channel has been promoting this mini-series but with no indication when it will be played.

My husband thinks this is because in Canada cable stations buy up properties and shelve them, just so the other channels can't get them and only decide to play them if they are popular.

What bullshit, eh?

Kind of Evil.  Kind of a crime. But just a legal loophole and a good way to do business, apparently. (That's what Milk and Water is all about, the RELATIVE nature of crime.)

But, as I said, I have no idea if this is the case for this Top of the Lake.

Anyway, last night in bed I decided to make this promo for my Amazon Kindle Book Milk and Water and got up and made it. I read the first scene.

David the Prince of Wales in 1927, with Mederic Martin decked out in his purple sable trimmed robe.

That screeching opening is a laptop audio of a laptop audio of a screechy song I found on YouTube...

Hello Montreal. A song from 1927 about American Prohibition and the lack of it in Montreal. All about crime really, except one group's 'crime' is another group's way of operating.

I just did one read-through and although I start off sounding half asleep, it gets better.

I think the opening of my Milk and Water eplay (dialogue) is a good one.

I'm a writer, not an announcer.

Way back when, when I wrote radio copy for CFCF Radio, many of the other copywriters were also voice talent, but I got to use my voice in an radio advertisement only once, and I played a little girl's part. I haven't seen all the Mad Men's despite really liking the ones I did watch.

The Elizabeth Moss character reminded me of ME, trying to break into advertising as a writer (I think she manages it.) I got depressed!

I used this shot of the front doors of City Hall, I took a few weeks ago, a day or so before the place got raided!! La plus ca change.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Shall We Dance?

A list of members of the Montreal Local Council of Women 1913, Herbert Ames was a patron. No surprise there!

Well, whistle a happy tune!

I was going through a 1913 list of members of the Montreal Local Council of Women (looking for friends of the Nicholsons)and noticed that there were few French Canadian names, NONE I think, except one Mrs. Isadore Crepeau!

Mrs. Isadore Crepeau would be my grandfather's sister in law!

 Isadore Crepeau was the brother who was V.P. of the motion picture company United Amusement Corporation, the guy who fell out of his office window on St. James Street in 1933, two years after my grandfather, his brother Jules, had been forced out of his post of Director of City Services by Camillien Houde after an awful lot of scandal, part of it associated with fatal Laurier Palace Theatre Fire.

Read my story Milk and Water.

Was she English?

Let's check.

Yes, her name was Mamie Lawes.

How bizarre, because the next year the Montreal Council of Women will make a resolution condemning the Montreal Tramway deal, and Mamie's husband, Isadore, was related to the Forgets, the Tramway People.

I wonder what my grandmother,  her sister-in-law, Maria Roy, daughter of a French Canadian master butcher, thought of Mamie and her "hoity toity" activities with the English Reformer types? Not much I assume.

My grandmother, Maria Roy, who helped the poor in a hands-on way, by feeding tramps and tending sick people with folk medicine potions.

Anyway, another more famous name is on the list of members, or affiliate members. Mrs. Leonowens is President of the Foundling Hospital of Montreal.

I always wondered why Anna Leonowens of Anna and the King of Siam fame was buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, the Protestant Cemetery in Montreal.

Her Wikipedia page says she lived as a youth in Montreal...

Too bad she wasn't on the Executive of the Local Council. Her broad experience living in India and Thailand might have lent them some perspective about their narrow Protestant views especially about sexuality and their fear of immigrants... (I wonder what her views were? I guess the movie is based on an autobiography.) Yes, I checked. Leonowens was half Indian actually, although she hid it and she wrote about  it in An English Governess at the Siamese Court.

Oh yes, Mme. Gerin Lajoie of La Federation Nationale  is listed - but as NOT ASSOCIATED with the Council. I guess she attended the Canadian Council of Women's AGM conference in St. James Methodist, held almost exactly 100 years ago. Hmm. the City Improvement League is not affiliated. I wonder why? (Likely so as not to be associated with a purely English association.)