History Repeats Itself

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Every now and then I get to missing Europe—history everywhere you look and the museums of Paris a mere train ride away. I’ll give the French this: they know how to show off a bit of art. Canada is relatively new by any cultural standard, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t riches to be found practically on my doorstep. Saturday past was a grey and damp day, so I hauled on my rubber boots and made the short trek to the Royal BC Museum for the first time. And again, by any cultural standard, it’s a humdinger.

There was a riveting National Geographic wildlife photography exhibit, lots of sea turtles and crocodiles and all that. There was a section where the streets of Ye Olde Victoria were recreated down to the the last meticulous detail. Then there was the third floor where one is greeted by a giant welcoming figure that graces the entrance to the First Peoples Gallery.

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My new home is in the heart of the Songhees and Esquimalt territories, just two of the many indigenous peoples who were at home on the BC coast long before I or any of my kind set foot on the shore. The political complexities and tragedies (highlighted in the collection of heartbreaking details of the almost decimation of the Nations by smallpox and other blights from white ‘settlers’) are far beyond the scope of a goofy blog. All I want to say here is the museum is a sobering, fascinating, stunningly beautiful display of these great cultures. Continue reading “History Repeats Itself” »

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Here We Come A-Waffle-ing

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There may not be a single sign of Christmas in my house, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the season. Au contraire mes amis, I love a town done up in lights and all that crap. While Canada does Christmas well enough every year, I have to say this is one area in which Europe has the upper hand. And why not, they’ve been doing yuletide mayhem long before Canada was even born. I remember the streets of Strasbourg two years ago …

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Magical and sweet, sure, but what I miss most about the holidays in Europe are the markets that go for miles. Here in North America, the focus is always on gadgets and clothing or whatever else is being shoved at you for 40% off. European Christmas markets shove food at you, as much as food as you could ever imagine. I remember this guy very well making a ‘little’ pot of Rösti in Montreux last year … Continue reading “Here We Come A-Waffle-ing” »

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Homeless for the Holidays

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Even though I don’t officially celebrate Christmas, I can’t escape it. The lobby of my building looks like a garland factory explosion and the stores are packed to the rafters with harried shoppers marching like zombies to the beat of the The Little Drummer Boy. That’s how I know it’s time to do my annual schtick about those in need.

There’s a man who lives in my neighbourhood, I guess him to be in his early thirties. For the sake of privacy let’s call him Leo. He sits under a large beautiful tree in the now cold and unrelenting rain watching people come in and out of the shops and cafés; watching people sipping their mochalattewhatsits on the Starbucks patio; watching people wander about with their bags of organic produce and fresh cut flowers. People who have soft, cozy beds and many coats; people who have stainless steel refrigerators bursting with food—people like me. Continue reading “Homeless for the Holidays” »

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The Coast is Clear

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Breaking news: I survived a two day trip to the Arctic (aka Calgary). Oh of course I survived because the majority of my time was spent indoors discovering some top notch mental health services for children in Alberta. Plus, tagging along after amiable work colleagues and a superb working dinner at The River Café, how bad could it have been? Although it must be said—I didn’t see one single cowboy there, very disappointing indeed.

Still, there’s something off about voluntarily flying to winter …

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While gazing upon snow-covered pines and enduring frozen nose hair is joyful enough, I was more than pleased to return to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. I landed in an unusually chilly Victoria, -1 Celsius. Sure, nippy, but 26 degrees warmer than where I had just been.

This trip turned out to be a pivotal moment for me. Coming back to this town felt some good (as we Newfoundlanders tend to say). Six months in and this new place is starting to take on a home-like quality. And let me tell you why. Saturday was November 24th and what was my husband doing? Playing golf. GOLF! Not shovelling or scraping ice from a windshield, no, whacking a little ball over emerald green grass. Granted, he should’ve been baking or roasting or doing whatever else goes on in that kitchen, but that’s beside the point. Continue reading “The Coast is Clear” »

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The Cold War

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When I decided to leave Europe and return to Canada, my decision was based on specific criteria. Glorious Victoria, British Columbia, home of sea and mountain vistas; a charming town of enough people to make it interesting yet few enough to avoid big city fatigue. More importantly, a town that very rarely sees a Big Canadian Winter. In fact, my wish to avoid such a calamity factored prominently in the final choice.

Of course, landing a cool job only sweetened the Victorian deal. My job, much like my adopted home, is tailor made for me—crusading for children in the name of social justice at a life preserving pace; wonderful boss and colleagues; an office situated near bakeries, Shopper’s Drug Mart and Munro’s Books. I even get to travel around this great land from time to time. My last jaunt took me to the mean streets of Vancouver via a tiny commuter seaplane. Tomorrow should be equally exciting. Once again, an exotic destination awaits me: Calgary, Alberta. Continue reading “The Cold War” »

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Through Thick and Thin

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Not long ago, my husband made an offhand, jokey statement so startling that I can no longer recall the context. All I remember is the phrase “because we’re fat.” It was the pronoun we that struck me. My first thought was speak for yourself doughboy, followed swiftly by you better sleep with one eye open for a while monsieur. When I mentioned this to a thrice married man (who now knows very well what and what not to say to women), he hit the nail right on the head with, “You’re Neil’s first wife aren’t you?” I nodded and he said, “It shows.”

While the chances of Rusty ever being right are slim indeed, this time he may be on to something. Not since my first winter spent in France has my midsection received any kind of spousal scrutiny (see chapter in Finding Me in France called Middle Age Spread for the gory details). I haven’t stepped on a scale in years, but there’s no denying a certain sausage like quality found in my physique these days. Of course it’s entirely possible that all my pants have shrunk solely at the waist. A curse upon that new gigantic Canadian washer/dryer set of mine. Continue reading “Through Thick and Thin” »

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Please Place Your Seat, Tray and Fist in the Upright Position

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Of course I’m well used to travel by now. What I am not used to is travel in the absence of someone to manage me. This is because Big Red a) loves all things to do with traveling and b) thinks I’m…what’s the word?…a doofus when it comes to this stuff. So over the last few years, I’ve gotten used to packing a bag and showing up, meandering my way around the world simply by keeping my eyes locked on the back of his head while he does all the hard work (easy to tell who’s the real doofus in this scenario).

Last week I completed an epic journey to a distant wedding sans my trusty road manager. Rusty got off easy I’d say. All he had to do was book all my flights, print out my itineraries, complete all my online check-ins—the basics of diva travel management. It started with being hustled on to an earlier flight in an attempt to outrun the thick fog bank that gripped Vancouver Island as if it were Newfoundland. Then there were my fascinating flight mates: A furniture designer from New York on his way to his factories in China; a ritzy but pained woman who, after four hours of impromptu psychotherapy, disembarked considerably less pained. Continue reading “Please Place Your Seat, Tray and Fist in the Upright Position” »

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The Prince and the Showgirl

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Sometimes I forget about that French adventure I had. It seems so long ago and so far away and then Bam! it comes rocketing back to me, sometimes in very fine form. If you’ve been hanging out here for a while or if you’ve read the goofy book, you’ll know about my fabulous neighbour who made living in rural France quite special, the fantastique Jean-Claude. JC divides his time between being the prince of panache in a small French town and the master of mayhem in Morocco. And, god love him, he carts my doodle collection wherever he goes.

Not long ago, while sipping cocktails in a Moroccan nightclub, he ran into a famous French musician and producer by the name of Patrick Derue. I imagine they chatted about the spectacles Patrick has put on in Vegas and France, everything from a Chinese version of Cirque du Soleil to gospel concerts, and then somehow, this unfolded…

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Golden Girl

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Doctors, an odd bunch. And I know of what I speak, I used to be one. Oh sure, we’re great at detecting the salient and subtle signs and symptoms in other people, but when it comes to ourselves, well, blinder eyes have never been turned. I finally sat face to face with my new physician, a jovial man who seemed to respond well to my profound sense of entitlement and demanding diva nature. Of course we haven’t gotten down to any real nitty gritty yet, so we’ll have to see how much he likes me when we meet face to exposed body part du jour.

Anyway, what led me to his office was a constellation of complaints suggesting some exotic malady. Like any reputable MD, I had been ignoring the signs for far too long: silvering of the hair coupled with sagging of the derrière; skin resembling vast swaths of parched desert; hands and feet reminiscent of wizened vulture claws; intolerance of blaring music in clothing stores; a nagging and persistent distaste for all trousers of the “skinny” variety; intense cravings for a NASA endorsed mattress that promises relief from insomnia and lower back pain; phrases like “back in my day” falling from my mouth without warning. Continue reading “Golden Girl” »

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Finding You in France

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Most of you will remember that time when I lost my mind and ran off to France. Some of you have even read a whole book about it (and to those who haven’t read the book, I’m not talking to you until you go snag a copy). Many times now I’ve heard from people pining for the same or at least a similar adventure. Well, here’s your chance.

Again, speaking only to book owners (okay, alright, to everyone who has ever been gracious enough to wander in here), you will also remember the delightful Anne and Michel, two people who made our time in Europe so very special. Better friends and more fascinating folks cannot be found. In our last chat with them, they told us that their neighbour will be offering up his place for rent. It’s attached to chez Anne and Michel, located just outside our old haunt, Semur-en-Auxois, and if I weren’t already eye deep into my own new escapade, I’d snap it up in a second.

They are looking to let it long term, so only the truly unhinged (much like moi) should apply. Just imagine spending a year or two here…

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Pipe Dreams

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I’m married to a man with fiery red hair who goes by the name of McCulloch, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say I’m a sucker for a Scotsman. I’m still waiting for him to hoist a sword and smash through the front door, shouting “Scotland is free!” à la Braveheart. Aye, a lass can dream. And my dream is taking shape.

The other night, I attended a work function at the Lieutenant Governor’s mansion here in Victoria. There was a formal reception line and I was officially “received.” For once in my life, I was appropriately dressed and appropriately behaved (mostly). I bowed and scraped and made my way into the dining room, more aptly described as a hangar sized hall overlooking lush gardens, the Pacific Ocean, and majestic mountains.

I mingled, sipped a cocktail, consulted an extensive seating chart and found my place for the evening. There was wine chilling in a silver ice bucket, a bewildering array of cutlery and stemware, and a place card with my name spelled correctly, but of course. Really, I’m not in need of anything as fancy as all that. I’m just as happy with a plate of Rusty’s special mac-n-cheese as I am with finer fare. But what happened next has started me down an entitled path of no return. Continue reading “Pipe Dreams” »

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Silly String

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By now, it’s safe to say that anyone who hangs out here is well aware that I’m tall. And, because I’ve been so since the day I was born, I’ve heard ‘em all: stretch, slink, how’s the weather up there, all the old standards have been rolled out over and over. I’m still amused when people comment on it the minute they meet me. Maybe folks think I haven’t noticed that the majority of men’s heads reach my armpits. The good news is that I can always blame my constant state of ditziness on the thin air found at my altitude.

But, every now and then, someone hurls out a zinger that just about knocks me out. The other night I went to a dinner party. Naturally, I was thrilled to be invited to the home of a new friend, especially since Rusty had been out East all week and I was on the brink of starvation. I walked into a stunningly beautiful kitchen. The fine fromage and gourmet meats were laid out; the prawns were prawning, the duck was ducking, the martinis were shaking, all the makings for a perfect evening.

I was then introduced to the other guests and within two minutes it came, like always, unbidden and a propos of nothing: “Sure you’re nothing but a piece of string with eyes.” Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. The former heavyweight champion of comments, “my tongue would be dry half way up your leg,” long held by a five-foot-nothing guy named Darrel, has been dealt a crushing blow. Continue reading “Silly String” »

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To Have and to Fold

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I’m up to my giraffe-woman neck in moving chaos, so not much to say at the moment, unless you want to hear about how it took me a full day to scour the cupboards of a tiny condo kitchen—a festival of filth and a parting gift from the previous owners. Honestly, what IS the matter with people? I’ll tell you right now, you can safely lick inside every single cupboard (and the toilet bowl, if you’re so inclined) in the apartment I just left. I’ve moved around a lot by now and I’ve never once left a mess for someone else to clean, however, a fine one is more often than not left for me. But I digress.

Today, a quick word about a recent domestic request from Rusty. See, I do the laundry around these parts, damned good of me I’d say. The normally laid back, not especially anal retentive person I live with said to me, “I don’t think you should put away my underwear any more.” Ah, manna from heaven was my first thought, one less thing to do. Then my shrinky curiosity got the better of me and I asked him why. He told me and, for once, I was entirely at a loss for words. I said nothing and let it be for a while.

After some reflection, instead of telling him where he could stick his underwear, I decided a classified ad placed in every newspaper in North America is the way to go on this one.

Woman desperately seeking new wife for her husband: Smiley, handy, fit but not terribly tall, red-headed man; speaks English, French, Spanish and a little Italian, so women from around the world are encouraged to apply. No particular set of physical characteristics required as he says he “likes all sorts of babes.” Must be prepared to gain a few pounds from the constant supply of double chocolate chip cookies. Must also be willing to fold and put away boxers in a complex ‘rotation of wear’ manner. 

God love him, more to be pitied than blamed. I’ve got my fingers crossed for him. When she moves in, I promise to go easy on her, she can fold my underwear however she pleases. Any takers?

 

 

 

 

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A Touch of Pink

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So. Sex. I’m in favour of it, generally. I have to be—I’m a Newfoundlander, and my heritage dictates a level of sexpertise that far exceeds that of the average Canadian. We proudly take the top spot in the Maclean’s magazine Canadian sex survey just about every time they do it. What can I say? It’s an island in the North Atlantic; it’s cold, rainy, foggy, or sleety three quarters of the year, and we spend a lot of time indoors, often behind closed ones.

Now out here on the west coast, people tend to take full advantage of the kinder, gentler climate. They bike and hike until their nut brown thighs of granite glisten in the sun. They smoke that famous B.C. ganja wherever they please. Cripes, in the time it takes me to walk to my office, I’m half high from the fumes wafting up from the waterfront parks. I knew about the obsessive exercise and excessive dope smoking within five minutes of moving here. What I didn’t realize is that some folks think it’s perfectly acceptable to do all kinds of things en plein air. Continue reading “A Touch of Pink” »

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Birds of a Feather

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With apologies to my dear mother, I do not like my name. I had initially planned to change it in the context of the anonymity of a new life in France. Oh I had visions of wearing a lot of black and introducing myself as Veronique or Juliette, but I got so sidetracked with conjugating verbs and croissant gorging that I forgot. Alas I returned to Canada with the burden of Bobbi, a name fit for a pubescent pom-pom girl or a defenceman for the Boston Bruins. Now with the grey hair, well, it’s just plain ridiculous.

Anyway, we got to chatting about names at work one day and my brilliant, beautiful, always sweet but never sour, Chinese co-worker mentioned how her name came about. She has an enviable Canadian name (withheld to protect the innocent) and an interesting Chinese name: Big Bell. This was chosen because she howled like banshee as a newborn in the hospital nursery. Her older sister somehow wound up with the title Big Universe. Now that’s a handle I could handle. If I had a name like that I’d strut around with a sign on my back that said, “I’m Big Universe. Just deal with it.” Continue reading “Birds of a Feather” »

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