Monday, November 30, 2015

Queen Victoria in St-Henri

Yesterday I saw Queen Victoria between a pedestrian and a bike path in St-Henri.
Queen V, her consort, and some architectural knick-knacks rimmed with the winter's first ice, on a bed of dead leaves.   

There are so many old and stately buildings in Montreal that stand neglected and empty, until they're eventually knocked down to build yet more condos. I love that someone reclaimed these pieces and put them on display, though you almost have to be a local to know where to find them. I only happened on them by chance. 
St-Henri is the poor, working-class neighbourhood Gabrielle Roy described in her novel Bonheur d'Occasion (1945). In English, The Tin Flute. The book won the Prix Femina and the Governor General's Award, among others. In it, the inhabitants of the miserable tenement houses of St-Henri look up at the rich English houses on the mountain. 

All these years later, you can stand in the mean, garbage-strewn parkette the city has named after Gabrielle Roy, and look up at the same fine stone houses on the mountain. I suppose there's social progress of sorts. Francophones live in Westmount too now.       

Friday, November 20, 2015

Quebec Writers' Federation

The Quebec Writers' Federation is a wonderful, busy, thriving organization. I count myself lucky to belong. I have been both a mentee and a mentor in their Mentorship Program. I have twice been asked to speak or read at events they've hosted. I've met many of my current writer friends through QWF. My book of short stories, Ruins & Relics, was a finalist for their 2009 First Book Prize.

Recently I was asked by QWF Writes to expand a piece on editing that I'd written for my blog. Here it is--tweaked and polished under the sharp editorial eye of Crystal Chan.

Monday, November 9, 2015

other fun things I did in Austria

In German this is called Klangschalentherapie. It's a Tibetan method of sending reverberations through the body. My cousin wanted to try it on my heart which doesn't always beat with a regular rhythm. R was concerned that putting the brass bowl directly on my chest might have too strong an effect, so she did it on my back. It felt interesting. Body as an echo chamber On my bum... well... there was too much adipose tissue for the reverberations to get very far.

We also visited a castle. I was asked not to say the name since it's not open to the public. It was built in the 15th century on the site of a 12th-century castle that was destroyed by invading Turks. No one lives there now, though I'm guessing it was inhabited up till the 1920s. There were still balls in the pockets of the dusty billiard table.

We visited my aunt who doesn't live in a castle, though it's still quite the house with marble floors and impressive details. Here is what you see when you walk in.

Here's the door to the kitchen. Fresco painting and gold leaf.

With a house of this pedigree, of course there's a ghost. R expected her to visit him since she did last time we were here. But she stayed on her side of the grille where she lived before she became a ghost.

Another aunt decorates cakes when someone special has a birthday. This one's for her granddaughter. The butterflies, flowers, and horn of plenty are marzipan. The Smarties are Smarties.
It wasn't my birthday while we were there, so I don't know if I'm special enough to warrant a cake. However, when we were last there, she gold-leafed a rock for R on his birthday.

I took endless pictures of this milky green river that runs past the villages and town where different members of my family live. My camera never did get the exact shade of milky green just right.

And clouds. They look so different when they billow around mountains. Though they, too, elude my cheap camera.

You bet, we sampled Austrian food. Here I'm sprinkling lemon on my Wiener Schnitzel which was excellent. R ordered a selection of stuffed dumplings which were also very tasty.

And I can never resist a yellow door. Especially on an old house.

Friday, November 6, 2015

November in Montreal

People complain about grey skies and wet, but I love how the colours stand out.
Here's the view from my study onto the wet street below.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

explaining bed head

I was having lunch with my second cousin (my mother's cousin) in Austria. She'd made cottage cheese dumplings called Kasnudel. After that we had tea and a rolled cake. 

She was telling me her version of family stories. We had fun. She said she liked to write letters and I asked if she had a computer. 

My first word processor in the 80s looked like this. You could only see three lines at a time on the screen--but it was better than having to roll paper into the machine and having to manually obliterate the mistakes you made while typing. I'm a lousy typist. One typo for every six times I hit a key. 

I love these ceramic kitchen drawers for cooking ingredients, though they too are dated. One of the drawers is for Feigenkaffee or fig coffee, which was a coffee substitute used during WWII.  

She has a traditional Austrian painted ceiling in her hallway. 

And a tranquil view onto fields and cows. On a day without fog there are mountains. 

She has a wood stove or Kachelofen decorated with tiles recuperated from her grandfather's house in the mountains. There's a curve of bench to sit by the stove and keep warm. On the cushion are a pair of leg warmers knit for her husband by his grandmother. If he died ten years ago at seventy-one, how old would that make the leg warmers, assuming his grandmother--not his mother--knit them some years ago?

At one point she asked what I put in my hair, because she'd had an excellent tip about a product from her hairdresser. She brought me into her bedroom to show me. 
Great, I said, if it works, why not? It really does, she exclaimed. But I can't figure out what it means--Bed Head. So I translated bed head and said it was a look some people aimed for. Bettkopf.