Thursday, April 29, 2010

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert & Fun at the Fair

I went to two shows today, one a simple story about a fair ground and the other, a story about a trip to central Australia.

All of the Fun at the Fair has a story built around the songs of DAvid Essex, who must have had a cult following in England, for people applauded when he came out onto the stage. And at the intermission, I overheard the woman behind me telling her companion about Essex's illustrious composing and singing career.

I didn't have the advantage of any of her knowledge, but got to hear the songs -- a the music was basic and the costuming looked like it could have been done by wyona or me, for I am sure we each have a copy of the pink scarf with gold threads that the heroine was wearing.

Because there was a scene that referred to motorcylces wdoing tricks in a long, deep well, like the event I watched once when I was very young, thinking about fairs from long ago and how what is politically correct has changed the shape of those carnivals.
As well, I saw Priscilla, Queen of the Desert today. I did see the movie, but the stage show is even more over the top, though the script is essentially the same plot and the same music.

For some unknown reason to me, I missed the ABBA group when I was growing up. I didn't know one piece of music. But it was people of my generation who clapped the loudest when the show was over.

To go to that show, one must not hold any prejudice towards female impersonators, nor rauncy language.

Charise is the one who gave me the word ranchy, when we were talking on the phone about our common experience there. Charise has seen the show twice -- she can give a better critique than I.

The costuming is so extravagent that it was hard for tonight's show to complete with the wild colours, the sequins and the glitter on lips of performers at the afternoon matinee.

The performers came down into the audience to pick up 20 people to do a hoe-down number with them. That was a time when I was glad to have a centre seat as it was the people in the isles who were picked off.

As well the props included a tour bus that lit up with neon lights and a large sequined high heel on top of the bus. A good thing for me that I stood outside the theatre and studied the costuming on the posters for a long time, so that I wouldn't have the intial shock of all of those vibrant colours on the stage.At one point confetti rained down from the front of the house on everyone who was in the first 15 rows. I picked up what had fallen on my shoulders and sweater and brought it home to put it on the wallboard on which I am tacking all of the tickets to remind me of what fun I am having.

I don't know what got into me going to two shows. Perhaps it is because Wyona has gone to Paris and I have a tradition to uphold. The buses were held up on the road, and I could see that I wasn't going to get to the matinee on time. So I must be modelling myself in Wyona's image, for I asked the driver to let e off the bus, ran for Oxford Circus Metro, read the signage to find out that I needed to take the Bakerloo Line going south for 2 stops, and indeed I made it there with 2 minutes to spare.

She would have been proud of me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

National Gallery

David, Connor and I did the survey tour of the National Gallery today. A bit of Gothic, Renaisannce, the Impressionists. I love the tour for it shows how painting has moved through the centuries, from the early 13th century technique of adding gold leaf and using the deep blue pigment, the most expensive of the paints in religious painting, to the quick brush strokes of the impressionists and their desire to catch the changing moment.

We took a quick look at the Jan van Eyck painting, The Arnolfini Marriage, before the tour began. So when the tour guide took us back there and stayed 20 minutes at the painting, it did not matter that we were at the back of the crowd for we had a clear view of it just a few minutes previously. The guide told us facts about history that the picture captured. I am not skilled at reading images. Black and white text always moves along, a paragraph at a time. I was learning how to linger at a painting for a long time, to study the depth of the colour, to notice how natural light is reflected on chandeliers and streaming through windows.
I have heard many lectures in the Impressionist rooms in past trips, every trip hanging out there long after a tour ends.

Hogarth is who I am going back to study next, for I am interested in the satire around the set of pictures called “Marriage à-la-mode”. On tours of the National Gallery, we often stop to see those works in the Hogarth Room. Each time I make that determination and never get to it – study up on Hogarth.

The 11:30 am and the 2:30 pm Taster Tours of the Collection are never the same pictures, though the general format is to show one create piece of work from each century. On Monday the tour guide focused on a book she reading called If Frames Could Talk. The author did the research on the style of frames used, the guide did the reading and I got to walk around the gallery having not the picture the focus point of the lecture, but the frame it was in. Perhaps my favourite line of hers was when she got close to show us how the work we were looking at was once a door cabinet, and then she pointed with her finger to show where the hole from that hinge had been filled and covered over.

Laynie and I did Lucinda Hawksley’s Highlights of the Collection tour of the National Portrait Gallery. I had been there the day before with David and Connor. When they saw the full length portrait of Judy Dench, white on white, Connor said, “Hey, that looks like Mum, David.” I thought he was talking about Janet and that she should die happy with that compliment. But no. I was wrong. He was talking about Judy Dench in a movie he had seen.

At the portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft, Lucinda pointed us to a book by Clare Tomalin’s The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft should we want to know about the woman behind that portrait. Next we saw Mary Shelley and heard about the night of lightning and thunder that triggered, Frankenstein. That was followed by a bust of Virginia Woolf, the group leader rattling off a long list of Woolf’s work and then apologizing that the main portrait they have of her is on loan. We stopped at other busts – perhaps 30 on three rows of shelves for Hawklsey had just given a lecture on what we can learn from the beards that we say exhibited there. That is the beauty of the tours for me, someone pointing out the facial hair, shaved half way back under the chin and then a full beard flowing from there.

We saw the new portrait of the two princes, William and Harry, a portrait that will catapult that artist to instant fame.

Sweet Charity

Monday all others went to Sister Act.

I, alone, slipped off to see Sweet Charity which has moved to the West London venue of Theatre Royal Haymarket. You will know some of the tunes: “Hey Big Spender”, “If My Friends Could See Me Now”, and “The Rhythm of Life”. I love what I think are the scenes that “trap” Charity Hope Valentine. With a name like that, it’s a slam dunk that the show is going to be about love, about a guileless and gullible woman who is not only trapped in a nightclub as a hostess, but she gets trapped because she can’t swim and is in danger of drowning in a lake, trapped in a closet of an Italian movie actor Lothario, trapped in an elevator with a nerdy accountant and trapped on the bucket of a broken ferris wheel. I came home making my feet resist dancing up Regent street. I was unable to restrain humming phrases like "The minute you walked in the joint / I could see you were a man of distinction / A real big spender / Good looking, so refined / Say, wouldn't you like to know What's going on in my mind?"

The others party of theatre goers from our house were already home were humming “Hey, lady in a long black dress ....”

National Gallery

I took my camera with me this morning to catch the early morning sun, having strolled through Queen Mary’s Gardens in Regent’s Park yesterday. I was seeing pink blossoms or the red bill of a duck, or a six-foot high waterfall and wishing that I had my camera with me. So it was in hand this morning as I was leaving, and Glen said to me, “If my knees felt better I would be going with you photographing old buildings and bridges. We can catch flowers and water anytime out at the Shuswap.” So I changed the direction I had decided to walk, moving down New Cavendish Street, pausing to steady my hands on fence or a sign post to take advantage of the new morning light.

I paused at Hynde Street at a Methodist Church for I thought the light was just right. I was focusing on the sky and the steeple, using my zoom lens the columns, and taking advantage of the pauses in the traffic to snap pictures of the church in its best form.

It was here a by passer who confirmed to me that what I was doing was fun, stopping his brisk walk to say to me, “Aren’t the buildings magnificent. Every time I come to London I bring my camera, though I don’t have it with me today. I don’t have any sense of what the architecture means. I just take the pictures because I love the look of the buildings.”

I slipped down another block, turned a corner and was startled to see the back of a street person who was only a head higher than the handles of his cart.

His shoulders slopped, his ankles were thick and his legs roughly textured.

I saw the glistening of brilliant fuchsia green on a Harrods bag that was tied to the handle of his trolley. Notable, too, was as a plastic bag underneath the Harrods bag with the word Gorgeous written across it.

I was at my subject’s back and listened to him was calling out words I didn’t understand to people across the street. I didn’t have the good sense to approach him and ask to take picture from the front. Next time.

Eighteenth century London and the royal family have been on the minds of many. During the year, Glen has been working his way through Dickens, by now reading about half of his works. Laynie reads madly on the royal family, so she was hanging out in the Tudor Wing of the National Gallery and has high on her list, a return visit to the Tower of the London, this time to really see the places she has been reading about. I slipped off on Monday to hear D. Shawe-Taylor lecture on Winter Halter’s Royal Family in 1864 and the Conversation Piece.

One lecture leads to another, for he highly recommended the new exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum called “Victoria and Albert: Art and Love”. I thumbed through the catalogue that goes with the exhibit: £45 and maybe four pounds in weight. With the recent cut back as to how many suitcases a person can bring on the plane, it is not the cost of the book, but the weight of material goods that precludes buying much in London. I only have room for 1 ½ more pounds of luggage, which makes buying anything except jewellery out of the question. And I can’t think of another piece of jewellery I want to buy.

More later ...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hitting the Streets of London

Wyona here:

I made it to London even though I was caught up in the volcano.

I went with 7 others this morning to get tickets for Sister Act. I was heading the group and walking fast, about a block ahead of them but some crack in the sidewalk popped up and tripped me.

I fell SLAT!! on the sidewalk on Oxford Street.

Three handsome men stopped to pick me up and enquire about me.

Then the early stragglers in my group saw some comotion ahead -- me on the ground and these lovely men giving me a helping hand.

Glen and Connor were a few seconds behind my 3 men friends.

My feet just do not move as fast as I want them to.

I just have one wrist, two knees and one cheekbone and eye that are coloring at the present time.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Helping Hands Service Day a Huge Success

I had the pleasure of organizing our stakes second annual Helping Hands Service Day on April 17th, 2010. The day's events were a huge success and included 3 stake-organized projects and one project organized bya local Ward.

The stake projects supported Earth Day and involved 3 different community clean-up projects. The first project was in conjunction with the EcoQuartier Peter McGill. With their support, 96 Helping Hands volunteers cleaned 4 blocks in downtown Montreal's Shaughnessy Village. This is an underserviced area of Montreal, that is currently undergoing rejuvenation. It is the most highly populated neighbourhood in Montreal.

Our second project was done in conjunction with the McKay Centre School, a school for handicapped and deaf children. With the aid of the EcoQuartier NDG, stake members cleaned up the centre's play ground. Thirty five people including many children participated at this site. They removed over 20 bags of garbage from the grounds.

Our third project was organized by one of our Ontario wards and involved cleaning a city park in the Cornwall area. Twenty people participated at this site.

On this same day, a Montreal are ward organized their annual Blood Drive in conjunction with HemaQuebec. The youth and members of the ward served as volunteers for the collection team. Over 70 units of blood were donated by members of the stake and others in the community.

Overall, we had over 150 volunteers participate throughout the stake. I am always amazed by the generosity of people, their willingness to give their time, and by their desires to make meaningful contributions in the community.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Vimy Ridge Day

I have to thank Mary for sending me her post via email. I have been to Vimy Ridge twice, once with Rebecca and my mother and once on my own. Both times I toured the tunnels and walked around the huge monument that stands so tall atop the ridge. There are still the roped off areas around Vimy where only sheep are allowed to graze due to all the unexploded ordinance that is still buried deep in the mud and clay. I have a special attachment to Vimy as my Great Uncle was killed there during that Easter battle. My father was named after him (Leonard) as is Duncan’s middle name. I often remember my Dad say to me that I had some very big boots to fill growing up as a Carter, given our family history not only of Vimy but also the Somme (my Grandfather took a grenade injury there and was recovering when Canada attacked Vimy) plus Dieppe (a little French village that my father went to as part of the Canadian raid there early in the second world war).
I have included some links to my Great Uncle for those who enjoy the history of it.

And his grave location:


Vimy Ridge Day

Today I attended a national commemorative ceremony honouring all of Canada's First World War service men and women to pay tribute to their achievements and contributions. The ceremony was held at the National War Memorial -- a symbol of the sacrifices of all Canadians who have served Canada in times of war in the cause of peace and freedom.

It was held today, April 9, 2010, "Vimy Ridge Day."

This special ceremony was held to mark an important historical moment. On February 18, 2010, John "Jack" Babcock, Canada's last known Veteran of the First World War passed away. This event marks the end of an era in Canada’s military history.

Veteran's Affairs has created a special section on their website called End of an Era to remember the war-time sacrifice and achievements of our First World War service men and women—and the considerable cost of human life. More than 170,000 were injured and more than 68,000 lost their lives.

There was a 21 gun salut, a flypast by a First World War vintage aircraft, as well as a Missing Man Formation flypast of CF-18 jets. All of these were very moving.

Governor General Michaelle Jean gave a moving speech as well. Here is the text.


The freedom we enjoy in this country came at a very high cost.

Unfortunately, it is not shared by most people on the planet and is still fragile today.
At the turn of the last century, men and women were called to defend this freedom and paid dearly for their sacrifice.

John Babcock was the last Canadian soldier who could tell us about that war, the First.
It was a war known for its killing fields.

It was a brutal and perilous war fought in the trenches, one in which an entire generation of young people courageously braved gunfire and cannons, often at great peril to their lives.
After surviving one of the bloodiest centuries in history and setting a remarkable record for longevity, John Babcock died at the venerable age of 109.

Neither he nor anyone else is left to talk about it, but their spirit lives on in the memories of those of us honouring them today.

I believe a ceremony like this has no meaning unless we who survive—and unless future generations—recognize that the memory of these men and women whose heroic acts determined the fate of all of humanity, including our own, is extremely precious.

Precious because memory lasts much longer than we do, longer than stone monuments.
Precious also because of the wisdom we draw from it, wisdom that lights the path before us, towards a world that is increasingly peaceful.

While it is important that we acknowledge the magnitude of the contribution made by our veterans, it is just as important to recognize that of the men and women who, still today, go to trouble spots around the world to free entire populations from the yoke of tyranny.

The heritage left by the men and women who fought for greater justice, for greater freedom, for greater humanity, must stand the test of time.

It is our greatest responsibility.

To those who came before us, and to those who follow.

We must never forget.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Two New Blogs

In case you missed it, we have added two new blogs to the "blog-roll"

In addition to Jamie and Trent's "Bates Busy Beehive", Tonia's "Wistful Voyages", and your's truly's "A Paladin In Citadel" we have also added Anita's "My Fitdeck Challenge" and Kelvin Senior's "Kelvin's Blog".

Check them out!