Bears on the Go in Sidney…

Hello.

Inspector C. Robin here: Teddy Bear Squad.

Teddy Bear Squad

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He Says, She Says… Sunday Cinema

Hi Folks:

Sunday has wound its way around again, and that usually means our ‘He Says, She Says…‘ post, but Marcia’s still happily ensconced in editing her book of poetry and mostly all I get is an occasional nod or a “What’s that, dear?”   For that reason, this week’s post will be strictly a ‘He Says’.

However, since yesterday marked our 92nd Monthaversary of being married, we did take some time off this afternoon to go to the movies.  We wanted to see ‘Letters to Juliet‘, and while I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, I will say that it’s a wonderful movie and Vanessa Redgrave was stunning as always.  It’s a little slow in places, but it’s also hopelessly romantic and features some wonderful scenes of the Tuscan countryside.  I’ll admit it; I cry in movies, and this one warrants a few happy tears. Continue Reading →

Eating Our Way Through Victoria – To Market, To Market!

Hi Folks:

In our last several ‘Food‘ posts we’ve discussed our adventures at several of Victoria’s restaurants, from the humble coffee shop to the Bengal Lounge at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.  There are still many more fine dining establishments to visit, but it’s summertime and in summer one’s thoughts turn to picnics and backyard barbecues.  There are quite a number of markets that pop up in the Greater Victoria area (from Sidney to Sooke), on up the island to Duncan, Nanaimo and points north and also out into the Gulf Islands, but since we live in this ‘City of Gardens’ we’ll refine our discussion to the ones down here in the south (at least for this post… 😉 ).  We haven’t been to all of the markets here yet, but virtually all of them share one common theme: one must make it, bake it or grow it in order to sell it.  Eating local food is definitely a ‘green’ choice, but there’s a different feel, a different energy to local markets.  One connects directly with those who are providing their wares, and each bunch of carrots, each loaf of bread and each link of sausages have a history.  There’s also a more direct sense of community, and we appreciate that.

So, starting from the north and working south and west, here are at least some of the markets you can discover for yourself.  If you know of others, please feel free to leave us a comment below! Continue Reading →

Bears On the Loose!

Hi Folks:

We heard through the grapevine that the Sidney Museum was being overrun with ‘bears’, so yesterday we had to go and see for ourselves.  The museum is located on Beacon Avenue in Sidney in the ‘Town Centre’ building, down in the lower level.  We walked in, flashed a badge and informed the gentleman sitting at the front desk that we were from the ‘Teddy Bear Squad’ and had received a report that they were being taken over by bears.  Having ascertained our qualifications, he ushered us right in.  Turned out it was just as we had suspected…

Teddy Bear Squad

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Patience Pants

Hi Folks:  When Marcia and I were in Sidney recently, we picked up a copy of the December 2009 issue of  a magazine called the ‘Seaside Times‘.  There were some excellent articles in there, and the magazine is well worth reading – on paper or online.  Included was an article by Cathy Hanan on remembering to take a step back when you’re feeling a little extra stress.  She titled her article ‘Put on Your Patience Pants This Holiday Season‘, and I liked it so much I wanted to share it with you:

“While the holiday season is supposed to be about family gatherings, friendship and good tidings,  more often than not it becomes a season filled with stress, obligatory parties, overcrowding and endless traffic.

This year I’m going to try a new technique to deal with the inevitable chaos that surrounds the holidays – patience.

Last summer I was driving from the Peninsula to Langford to take care of a friend’s dog for the weekend.  The gentleman in front of me at the McTavish four-way stop was kind enough to let all the other cars have right of way – twice.  Then I was cut off by a truck as I merged onto the highway and into ferry traffic.  With the traffic came impatient drivers zipping between lanes (but not really getting anywhere), and the “oh, look at the lovely lake” slowdown at Elk Lake.  It took 20 minutes longer than expected, but I eventually made it to my destination

As my friends left to head up island for the weekend I quickly remarked “put on your patience pants, it’s one of THOSE days on the road.”  We laughed at the thought and they headed on their way.  When they returned on Sunday they said they had laughed all the way over the Malahat – the traffic was chaos and they had needed their patience pants.

I shared the phrase with  my friend Sarah.  She promptly used it with her young nephews, who thought it was funny, but understood the concept while waiting in line for ice cream.

Not long after she was in the post office, waiting while the clerk carefully assisted a woman with the same task over and over.  She turned to the woman in line behind her and whispered, “wow, she must have put her patience pants on this morning.”  They both laughed, then chatted for another few minutes until the clerk was free.

It’s a silly phrase but it reminds me to take a deep breath and put the whole situation in perspective.  Is it really that important?  Will five extra minutes make or break my day?  Our daily lives have become instantaneous and with it we’ve lost patience.  We expect everyone to have a cell phone, we demand immediate response to emails and we’re constantly searching for ways to make life faster and easier.

As we enter the holiday season, remember it’s nobody’s fault the rain is pelting or the parking lot is beyond capacity.  The overworked waitress is doing her best to get your meal quickly and the clerk behind the counter is not responsible for the debit machine being out of service.

You probably can’t control the situation, but you can control how you react to it.  Take the extra five minutes in line to chat with the person behind you.  They are probably just as frustrated and your patience might rub off.

It’s all about how you look at it.  So this year – before you head out to shop, celebrate or travel – stop and take a minute to put on your patience pants and have a happier, healthier holiday season.”

My sentiments exactly!

Love,
Mike.


The __ Year Old Virgin

I’ll let you decide what numbers should go in the blank here…

Well, after years of consideration, hesitation, weighing the odds, checking out the possibilities and considering all the options, I finally got over my fears and just did it.  And do I feel much better now that it’s finally over!  Yes folks, today, for the first time, I used my brand new, first ever, monthly bus pass.  No more bus tickets for me!  No more fumbling for exact change, and no more weighing whether to cut a trip short because the transfer will expire in exactly __ minutes.  Complete freedom to cruise the public transit system!  Wow…  nothing like it, I gotta tell you.  Leaves me a little breathless just thinking about it…

So, to celebrate (and to break in the pass) we decided to go all out and do something really big.  Since we do live on an island, big is a relative term.  In the end we decided to go to Sidney.  Note: that’s Sidney, not Sydney, because for us to go to Sydney with a bus pass would require something akin to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, only on steroids.

Sidney by the Sea is just north of here, and pretty close to the end of our municipal transit system.  It’s also a wonderful little town of around 11,000 people, on the eastern shore of the island.  The lumber mill, the cannery and the traditional industries are gone, but Sidney has revitalized itself.  There’s a wonderful walkway along the ocean with a couple of small beaches (a little windy for swimming though, this being December and all) as well as the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre.  In our short, first trip to Sidney we  made some photographs, discovered some funky little shops and a couple of great art galleries, but our first impressions are that Sidney should be noted for two things:

1)      Coffee Shops.  I wouldn’t say there’s a coffee shop/ café/ espresso bar on every corner, but it certainly seems like it.  We lost count after the first four or five, and that didn’t include the bakery/ chocolate shop that also has coffee, tea, etc.  We sampled two.  The first one literally drew us in because of the scent of roasting coffee drifting down the street.  Our senses were assailed, and our bodies (willingly) followed.  Welcome to the Fresh Cup Roastery.  They have very good cinnamon buns there, but ask for two forks because you’re partner will want to share.  Later in the day we stopped at the Red Brick Café for lunch.  The Red Brick Café is all about comfort food – homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, good tea, and a comfortable atmosphere.  Both places are very good, but the next time we go to Sidney we’ll have to try some new places!

2)      Bookstores.  Sidney sells itself as a booktown andwith good reason.  There are at least a dozen different bookstores in Sidney, selling both new and used books, magazines, ephemera, maps, etc.  We didn’t make it to all of them, but not for lack of trying.  Bookstores are addictive for us.  The last time we moved we had 35 boxes of books, and that was only because we’d pared down quite a few.  It was with GREAT self control that we brought home only one book, a first Canadian edition of ‘The Voyage of the Stella’ by R.D. Lawrence.  I couldn’t list a favourite bookstore, however, and since we’ll have forgotten which ones we did get to by the time we get to Sidney again, we’ll just have to visit them all again! (heavy sigh).

Speaking of books, and before my brain starts to leak out all over the floor, I’m going to close this post with a passage from the book ‘Waking in Dreamland’ by Jody Lynn Nye (Baen Publishing Enterprises, pp.255-257):

“”Uh-oh,” the senior historian said, depair in his voice.  “We’re in trouble now.”

“Do you see Brom?” Roan asked, squinting into the crowd.

“No, it’s worse,” Bergold said.  “Look.  It’s a bookstore.  A big one.”

“Oh, no!”

Roan stared up at the brightly colored sign hanging over the sidewalk only twenty yards ahead.  A bookstore!  It was the biggest hazard of any town.  What could they do?  The route they needed to take to the market led directly past it.  He made as if to turn back and lead them on a more circuitous route, when the expandable aura of pleasure and joyful anticipation the bookstore exuded engulfed him.  The smell of cofee wafted past his nose  He rotated on his heel, facing the bright sign again, his mind clouding.

How nice it would be, he thought, just to browse for a while, perhaps sit and drink a cup of coffee and read . . . No!  What was he thinking?  He was on an important mission!  He had to save the Dreamland!  Perhaps there were how-to books on heroism in the Sociology section . . .

The others were falling under the spell too.  The pupils of Leonora’s green eyes spread across the irises as she stared at the sign.  Bergold was shifting his shoulder bag  as if to judge whether there’d be some room in it for a volume or two.  They all moved a step closer, and had the opposite foot raised to take the next step.  Roan tugged them back, and the spell broke momentarily.

“This must be a very good store,” Leonora said, clasping her hands around Roan’s upper arm.  “I can feel the urge from here.  Hold on to me or I’ll fall in.”

“So will I,” Bergold said.  “We’ve got to help one another.”

The urge to go inside was overwhelmingly powerful.  The siren call of the books was such a loud howling in his ears that Roan put his hands up to stop them.  Leonora put her head down against his shoulder, her eyes screwed shut.  If they fell into the bookstore, they’d be trapped for hours, pulled along by sheer curiosity to scan every title, or draw an especially tempting book off the shelf and read, lulled by a hypnotic, lazy atmosphere to forget about the cares of the outside world.  Their cause would be lost.

Roan felt himself moving forward again, his feet moving of their own volition on the pavement.  Stop! he thought at them.  Stop!  They could not afford to lose the day.  Brom was near, Roan could sense it.  The Dreamland, he had to think of the Dreamland, and the threat of the Alarm Clock!  But no, his feet refused to pass, started to turn in towards the doorway.

“We’ll all join arms,” Roan said, taking Colenna’s elbow.  She attached herself to Spar.  Bergold took Leonora’s other arm, and Misha held on to him.  “We’ll run across quickly.  That way, we won’t get sucked inside.”

“Hold tight,” Lum said, as the other guards linked arms.  “Ready?”

“Ready!” Bergold said.  They were within inches of the glass-and-green-paneled doors.  The pull was so strong.  “One, two, three, go!

Roan launched himself forward.  As the group hurled themselves past the doorway, they caught the full brunt of the attraction.

Succumb, the wordless song said.  You know you want to.  Everything else can wait.  The smell of coffee tantalized, cushions beckoned, the bright colours danced, book blurbs whispered in their ears.  Roan nearly hesitated in mid-dash.  He could feel the others faltering.

“Help,” Colenna moand.

“Right, then,” Spar said, stoutly.  As usual, the guard captain seemed unaffected by the unseen forces that paralyzed everyone else.  Spar marched firmly to the other side of the bookstore entrance, pulling his end of the line of people with him.  He set his heels against a paving stone, and heaved.  The others came flying toward him like corks out of a bottle.  Roan stumbled to a halt, trying to cushion Leonora from running into the wall.  He panted with exertion, a bead of sweat running down into his eyes.  Felan stood, gasping.

“There, now, you’re safe,” Spar said, putting an arm around Colenna.  “Are you all right?  My lady?”

Colenna leaned on his arm with a wordless smile, and Leonora nodded.

“My gratitude, Captain,” Roan said.  His throat felt dry from the cappuccino fumes.

“All part of the job,” Spar said.  He tucked Colenna’s hand into his elbow, and marched forward, his spine proudly erect.

It was only a little easier to walk away from the entrance than it had been to resist walking toward it.  All around them on the street were dozens of others without the captain’s iron self-control.  Roan feared for them.  Some were clinging to lampposts, fire hydrants, and each other, in an attempt to resist.  A woman, innocently walking a poodle on the other side of the street, was swept up by the seductive force and carried helplessly inside, the dog yelping behind her.

“It could have been us,” Felan said, sadly, watching her sail past.

“Come on,” Roan said, striding forward.  “We shouldn’t tarry.  It could pull us back.”

The outside wall of the bookstore was full of small glass display windows.  In the case just ahead of him, Roan noticed a title out of the corner of his eye, and turned his head to see.  “The Book of Love,” the gaudy cover read.  A good omen, Roan thought, squeezing the princess’ hand in the crook of his arm.  He continued to step purposefully forward, then had a sudden and irresistible urge to see the author’s name.  He stopped in front of the window.  The title was perfectly clear, but the bottom of the book was fuzzy, as if someone had smeared soap across it.  He started to put his hand through the glass of the window to open the cover and read the title page, when a cry startled him, and the glass turned invincibly solid.  He snatched back his hand.

“Come on,” Bergold called.  “The bookshop’s just eaten another pedestrian!”

“Don’t go back,” Leonora pleaded, holding on to him.

Now I’ll never know, he thought.”

*

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Mike.

P.S.  As both a photographer and a writer, books are important to me.  One of the best ways to be a better photographer is to look at the works of others.  I’m not talking about ‘how-to’ books; those have their place, but by looking at books of photographs you have the opportunity to ask yourself important questions, like “Do I like this photograph?  Why or why not?  What does it say to me?  What does it say about me? What’s the lighting, the composition, the colour, the form, the shape of it?”  When I was a clerk in the camera section of a department store, there was another clerk who worked part-time there but full-time as a photo technician for the Armed Forces.  He taught me a lot about photography, but one of the most important things I remember is that the first visceral reaction to an image is the most important.  We can go back and look at an image for minutes or hours, analyze the structure and the focus points and the technical aspects but what we see in the first 1/2 second or so is vital.  Listen to that.  Learn the feel of it. Use it in your own work.

As a writer, the same ideas apply, even though the medium is different.  Looked at differently, words are simply graphic arrangements of symbols on a page.  It’s the particular arrangement of these symbols that give their meaning.  To be a better writer, read lots of books from many different people.  Look at the structure of their sentences, and the pictures painted by their words, but also go with the same visceral response you get when reading.  Skim the page and ask yourself, ‘How does this make me feel?  Why?’  Your answers, your reactions are what’s important here.