Monday, July 30, 2007

The Week that Was

Despite the fact that I am too old to be the grandmother of a four year old, I survived the week that has just passed and enjoyed it immensely. Four is the perfect age in my opinion. Those tiny articulate creatures are full of curiosity and have an energy that we can only envy.

It was a joy to watch her race headlong into every adventure and to listen as she announced what she read on road signs, on notices in stores, everywhere she looked. "Spend 50 dollars and get two free movie tickets," she piped up in one store. What? Sure enough there was a sign that said exactly that. According to my daughter she has learned to read almost by herself, although she is read to constantly. This was proved to me when we were in the children's bookstore and she didn't want me to read a book to her so I asked her to read to me. I filled in the odd word she didn't know but when we came to them again there was no need to repeat them. I think I would hate to be a kindergarten and first grade teacher these days as it seems half the children are reading long before they get to school.

We took the bus because that's a huge adventure for her and so it became one for us because of her enthusiasm. Here she was harassing the pigeons at Granville Island. She was mesmerized by the jugglers, she put money in the buskers' instrument cases and she went on a ferry ride. "What shall we do now, Nana?" she says. Then she fills in with her idea of what we should do next. I know intimately every children's park for miles around. Sadly there is a civic workers' strike on in Vancouver so the water parks weren't in operation nor the miniature train ride. But we managed to find entertainment enough to satisfy her.

She delighted friends who came to dinner and others who had us to their house for dinner. It was also the last week of the Tour de France cycling race, which we watched every day for the last hour of coverage between 7.30 am and 8.30 am. She always wanted to know about the cycling guys and where was the yellow jersey guy, although she had no idea what it meant and she watched intently along with her grandfather to see who won the stage. Unfortunately you can't mute the ads because they are just as interesting to her as the program, because they don't have TV at her house. However they do have every children's DVD known to man, both in English and Italian.

Although her father speaks almost exclusively in Italian to her and she understands him, until now she has been reluctant to speak it herself. But in the last few months and since her visit to see her grandparents in Italy at the end of June, she is starting to say a few phrases. I have been very interested to watch this as I want to see the process of producing a completely bilingual child.

I'm really sorry that we didn't save more toys from when my children were young. But we do have one that might be of interest. Actually it's really rather embarrassing, since we made it ourselves. Below you see the dollhouse that we built for my 40 yr old daughter when she was 4 or 5.

Note the Mactac wallpaper and wall to wall carpet of leftover fabric. We used to have little battery operated hanging lights and lamps but the battery pack was broken so we chucked them when we resurrected this for my granddaughter.

Better Homes and Gardens would certainly have given this living room a gold star. Father is seen above in the elegantly appointed bedroom. Note the bathroom with the modern fixtures, showcasing the height of luxury, a gold toilet seat.

In the kitchen the baby waits patiently in the high chair for Mother to prepare dinner. However the only food available is a bunch of bananas, although there could be something delicious in the pot on the stove.

My daughter played with this house for hours as a child and her daughter enjoyed it too. The old scientist and I thought it was rather hokey and were a bit embarrassed by how amateurish it really is. But it was a big hit and no doubt will come out of mothballs when she comes again at Christmas.

I don't get to play Grandmother very often and I didn't get to be one until I was 67, so I hope you will forgive me if I indulge myself a little in this post. Here's one last photo of her on the Aquabus ferry as we tootled around False Creek. Regular programming will resume soon.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Creative


I totally changed my mind about what to post for this theme when I went to the Granville Island market yesterday. I saw this decorated Volkswagen Beetle that someone had created with great love and attention to detail. All the people who saw it were amazed and gathered around it to take photos and generally admire it. So I present to you someone else's creativity for your enjoyment.

The front of the car. There was a tiny fountain on the hood, which you can see when you click on the photo, all the better to appreciate the detail of this creation.

Now we see the back of the car. Again please be sure to click.

I am so impressed by the vision of its creator and the effort involved in bring it to fruition.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Busker at Granville Island

I took the photo below to submit to a Belgian photographic site called Nos regards. My blog friend Eurodog told me about it and we both submitted our smiling faces to illustrate a theme called Sourires, or smiles, last month. This month the theme is Musique en FĂȘte and this was one of the few musicians at Granville Island last Thursday, no doubt due to the rain. Check out the Nos regards site as the photos are amazing, most are very professional while I'm just having fun. You are not supposed to edit the photo although I probably should have trimmed this one.

Don't you love him, sitting there among the garbage cans and recycling bin, playing his violin, with his CDs on offer? I threw a couple of dollars into his case and told him I was submitting this to a photographic site in Belgium and he gave me his card. Buskers with business cards? May I present Paul Gitlitz, producer, engineer, composer, musician with his own website at

By the way, if you missed it, world renowned violinist Joshua Bell tried busking at a Metro station in Washington DC earlier this year with very interesting results. You can read about it here, in the Washington Post.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Masked Bandit Alert

Sitting at my kitchen table and typing away on my laptop, I looked up to see this sight in my back garden. A mother raccoon with 5 very large kits. I rushed to the window with my camera and snapped and snapped through the glass but this was the only half decent photo. My granddaughter was delighted and stood on the chair to watch them.

I then tried to sneak quietly out onto the sundeck to take more shots, but their little heads popped up and they were off in all directions, up trees, into the garden beds and generally not willing to be photographed for your enjoyment. No, my lawn is not painted yellow, it's a late afternoon shot with sun shining through in patches.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

FYI --- Whatever happened to JMB?

I am going to be lying low for the next week as my daughter and her family are arriving in Vancouver today. Her husband is giving a scientific paper at a conference in Vancouver this next week so of course my daughter insisted on coming too, along with their four year old daughter. This is my only grandchild and I call her my globetrotting granddaughter. At her young age she has travelled to Italy four times to see her other grandparents, to France twice as my daughter has taken her and thirty students on exchange to France, with this being her fourth visit to Canada. She asks her mother constantly, "When are we going on a plane, Mummy?"

So if you don't see my Westie avatar in your comment section and although I have a couple of inconsequential posts prepared and will put them up along the way, I assure you I will be back in full swing after this week.

I'll leave this post at the top but check underneath because I will be posting for Saturday Photo Hunt and also as I said some other little things too. Have a good week, my blog friends.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Tiny


I don't know what it is about Photo Hunt but my mind often seems to go blank when I look at the theme. So this photo is really stretching it. As an interesting photo it just doesn't cut the mustard but it does illustrate the theme. Sort of........ maybe...... My first tiny mp3 player next to my later acquired Ipod mini. I didn't really like the Creative Muovo, although it was highly rated, but it had these tiny buttons which were difficult to see and manipulate and the world's smallest display. Not at all suitable for an old lady. However I did not have a computer capable of running iTunes so couldn't buy an iPod. As soon as I got a new computer I ran out and bought this iPod mini and have never used the Creative since.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone else has come up with for Tiny. I'll be a bit late returning visits, due to my visiting daughter and her family. But I will get around to it eventually.

If you would like to join Saturday Photo Hunt or see the blogroll, click on my sidebar.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday Walking Group --- Steveston

It's rainy and cloudy today, Thursday, so here is a post about last Thursday, when my walking group went to a little village called Steveston, which is situated at the head of the delta of the south arm of the "mighty" Fraser River. It's about 30 minutes from where I live at the head of the delta of the north arm of said river. This river is subject to flooding at times. It's extremely flat and Steveston and the surrounding area of Richmond are on a large island within the flood plain, so they have built up a pathway around the land, called "the dyke" road, which is enjoyed by cyclists and pedestrians alike. So on a nice Thursday, a couple of times a year we will go there to walk on the dyke. There are spectacular views of the mountains, both on the mainland and on Vancouver Island but it was very hazy that day so my shots are of some different things I saw on this walk.

Some ducks and turtles resting on a wooden float in amongst the water lilies. This is a canal on one side of the dyke path.

These very unusual cows are called Belted Galloways which are mostly black with the white belt although you can see a red one here too. This small farm has been operated by the Steves family after whom Steveston is named, since 1877. It co-exists with the suburban houses around it.

Belted galloways are very good milk cows but you can buy a heifer as beef if you are so inclined. The Steves also produce seed for the Heritage Seed Program which preserves heirloom and endangered seeds of fruits, grains and herbs.

At this point the canal has been widened into a pond with these townhouses backing onto it

Looking towards Vancouver Island, out there in the haze

Steveston is very much a working port with fishing boats coming and going

This wharf at Steveston is home to some interesting shops and many little restaurants with great views of the activity on the water. On this sunny day lots of people were eating outside. This shot is not great and I had a better one lined up when my batteries went dead. Next time, sigh.

So I'm off to the Granville Island walk in a few moments but I'm not expecting photographic gems from there today although I will take my camera.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Random Things About Me -- Part II

I've been tagged again for the 8 random things about me meme. By two people no less: Leslie at The Pedalogue and Donnetta Lee at My Write Hand. Now don't despair, I won't tell you 16 things about me that you never wanted to know. Frankly I find it rather hard to even think about what I'm really like, let alone talk about it.

So folks, for your entertainment, from one to eight, random facts about JMB

1. I'm rather a perfectionist and I'm getting worse as I get older, not better as is generally expected. It's not that I think everything should be just so or in its proper place. I don't live in an overly tidy house or have a perfectly ordered life. But I think that everything I do should be done perfectly. In what I do, I see only the flaws, the things I should have done better. I did suffer a mother who was overly critical, especially of me, but since I did not live with her, nor even in the same country as her, after the age of 24, I can hardly blame her for that, now can I?

2. I go barefooted as much as I can -- always in the house --which means I have to keep the floors clean. Yes, the lady with 75 pairs of shoes would rather be shoeless. I suppose it's from being a child in Australia, although my barefooted-as-a-child husband always wears shoes or slippers. However my daughter, another barefooted aficionado, points to me when her Italian husband complains. Maybe it's in the genes. My Parisian friend always looks down her nose at me if I mention it, I think she considers it quite low class. It probably is, but I don't care.

3. My favourite book is Niccolo Rising by the Scottish novelist, Lady Dorothy Dunnett. I've read it at least eight times, but in fact probably more. I've even read it in Italian. It is the first book in a series of eight historical novels that Lady Dunnett wrote over a period of 14 years, about the life and travels of Nicholas vander Poele, of Bruges and it's set in the fifteenth century. Naturally, as each new volume came out I had to reread every one of the preceding books. Over the years I have tried to convince people to read this author, with limited success. One day soon I'll write a post about it and try to persuade you to give it a whirl. Sadly she died in 2001, but check out her official website. There, you have no excuse.

4. I don't like going to parties very much or being in big social crowds. I often find that conversations become more like contests and it seems to bring out the worst in people as they become more competitive with each other, including me sometimes. I am much better in one on one situations or at small dinner parties with people I know very well. I am relatively social, well certainly in comparison with the old scientist, but just with a small s.

5. I loathe bridge, the card game that is. Yes I did learn to play and played regularly for a few years and I wasn't too bad a player. I was excellent at bidding, average at playing the cards. But coming along nicely. Quite a few years ago, at a dinner party for eight, suddenly the bridge cards came out and we were playing. My partner, a classics professor, was probably an excellent player, but I think he was a little inebriated else why would he have been so rude. He proceeded to criticize my play after every game. Even the ones we won. "Why did you play that card, didn't you know that he had this card?" Blah, blah, blah. Well naturally my mind went a total blank and I couldn't wait for the evening to end. I swore I would never play bridge again and I never have. I always say that Bridge and Badminton bring out the worst in people. Yes, I could tell you some badminton stories too, but I loved it with a passion so I didn't give that up until my body said enough.

6. Whatever happened to my favourite pop singer/songwriter Cat Stevens? Why he converted to Islam and sang no more. He became Yusuf Islam. But when he did sing, he entranced us all with his wonderful songs like Morning has Broken, Moonshadow, Peace Train. Luckily his recordings were converted to CDs and I am still able to enjoy these old favourites. I hear he's been singing again in the last few years at selected venues and I see that he put out a new album in 2006. I'll have to check that out.

7. Well I suppose I should tell you about my favourite film, since that must say something about me. It was made 35 years ago, starred two great actors, had four Oscar nominations and, in my opinion, it is as brilliant today as it was then. I recommend to you, Sleuth, starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, the former exquisitely over the top and the latter very understated in his finest roll.

8. I hate car shopping, so I drive my car till it's dead and I'm forced to buy a new one. My current car is 14 years old and its predecessor died at 18. A Datsun 310, which towards the end didn't have a functional seatbelt for the front passenger so that person had to sit in the back seat. It looked as if the passenger was being chauffeured around in a rusting 18 year old car. Very cool, I don't think. But I only got rid of it because it developed a hole in the gas tank and I was terrified of blowing myself up. Sold to the scrapyard for $60.

I believe I have totally exhausted this meme. I did get rather carried away, I think. I hesitate to pass this on, but feel free to use the idea if you feel so inclined.


Postscript: Recently I have been granted the Schmoozer Award by two different bloggers, the first being Moof over at All Blogged Up: a Moof's Tale. Now she's a medblog reader like me and she has been given this very nice compliment by a fellow blogger: Moof is kind of a Den Mother for the entire Blogosphere. Not only is she very techie but she's very kind and helpful to everyone. The other person, Josie from All in Good Time, is a Vancouver blog friend, although we have never met. I think you could say that Josie is den mother for her very loyal group of visitors, with whom she interacts in a very charming playful way.

Thank you ladies for this award.

I stole this definition of schmooze from Josie because it included the etymology which I found interesting.

Schmooze: etymology: Yiddish shmuesn, intransitive verb : to converse informally : CHAT; also : to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner... transitive verb : to engage in schmoozing.

I have to say that this word has always had a rather poor connotation for me, making me think of a salesman, sucking up to a prospect in order to make a sale. So I really like the above definition, it makes me feel much better about the word and consequently the award. Please forgive me it I don't pass it on ladies, I know you'll understand.

That's all for now with the blog things. Regular programming will resume soon with Kyoto.

Japan --- Part V

I felt sorry for K's wife, Y, because I am sure she was drafted unwillingly to accompany the foreign wife around for the day. I don't think either of us knew what to expect when we met up at the train station. Well she knew for sure that I didn't speak Japanese and she also knew that her English left a lot to be desired, despite having lived in the States for a year. I suppose I assumed she would be self-effacing and shy and wondered how awkward the whole situation would be.

In fact we spent a very delightful day together and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There was much laughter and despite the language difficulties, with both of us thumbing through our respective dictionaries and pointing at various words, we managed to communicate very satisfactorily. I know I learned something about her world and I hope she learned something about mine.

Y was the mother of two daughters, one of whom was in University with the other still in high school. Consequently she was at a bit of a loose end since they no longer needed so much attention. When I asked her why she didn't think of taking a job, even part-time, she indicated that married women in Japan did not work outside the home on the whole. Don't forget this was 16 years ago, so this may have changed. She seemed very surprised that I worked full time. Her eldest daughter was studying physics so I wondered if she would continue to work after she married, since it seemed that she was on the path to graduate school. I didn't like to press this point too much.

She also rather wistfully asked me if I travelled much with my husband when he went to conferences. I told her that I did if the destination was interesting and that I certainly never considered not coming on this trip to Japan. She said she never went with K and in fact she did not accompany him, when he came to Vancouver for the exchange. I don't know if it was a money issue, since, although my husband had travel money for conferences, I always had to pay my own way on these jaunts.

We saw several elderly people, both men and women, wearing the ordinary everday kimono of blue cotton over the course of the day. So I asked her about wearing a kimono. She said everyone now wore Western dress or yofuku. She told me that she only owned one kimono, which she wore on special occasions, however her two daughters did not have one and she told me that it was unlikely they ever would since the cost was so prohibitive. I talked about the cost of a kimomo in the previous post about the Yokohma Silk Museum so it was interesting to have it confirmed.

So where did we travel on this day? First of all we visited the area Asakusa, to the north east of Tokyo. Formerly this was the district which contained the notorious Yoshiwara or licensed pleasure centre as well as the kabuki theatres. But today visitors flock there to see the famous Buddhist temple, the Sensoji. The oldest temple in Japan, it was completed in 645 AD, however with the bombing of Tokyo during the Second World War, all the temple buildings were reconstructed in the late 1950s and 1960s.

There are several gates to the temple and between the first and second gate is a street called Nakamise, which is lined with shops selling typical Japanese souvenirs and snacks. This merchant area has existed for over two hundred years and above you can see Y standing in front of a display outside one of the stores.

Above you see the Hozomon Gate, with its giant lanterns -- this is the main gate to the temple itself

The Sensoji Temple itself

A five-storeyed Pagoda which is next to the main temple. The original purpose of a Pagoda was to house relics and sacred writings in the Buddhist religion

A statue grouping in the grounds of the temple

This collection of outdoor shrines appealed to me but I know nothing about them

After we explored this area we stopped at a Japanese noodle house to have lunch. Fortunately you are not expected to eat noodles in broth with chopsticks and we continued our conversation over ramen noodle soup. As an aside, ramen noodles are of Chinese origin, however now they are a Japanese staple. Y's next plan for the day was a cruise on the Sumida River which departed from the pier at Asakusa and made a leisurely journey to the downtown Hinode Pier. She pointed out Tokyo's famous wholesale fish market, Tsukiji, which was now empty since it was the afternoon but was a bustling place much earlier in the day. We also passed the Kokugikan Sumo Wrestling arena which holds 10,000 spectators for its thrice yearly tournaments.

This photo was taken from the cruise on the river and shows this little oasis of peace among the other tall buildings and shoreside activities.

When we arrived at the Pier we were not too far from the Ginza shopping area, so we set off to explore a little. Everything in Japan was very expensive, but the Ginza was the epitome of expensive, with many exclusive Japanese department stores as well as stores for the well-known brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Gucci, and others which the Japanese are so fond of. We did go into one of these large stores but after looking around for a time we decided to go for coffee and cake in their tearoom. As I recall, we paid the equivalent of $6 for a cup of coffee with no refill and I was totally shocked, since that was incredibly expensive by North American standards at the time. After that we caught the train back to Yokohama and the lovely day was over.

I hope Y enjoyed that day as much as I did. I still have wonderful memories of our trip to Asakusa and looking through my photos brought back the pleasure of the day.

This post is rather long I'm afraid, but I couldn't quite see where to break it without disrupting the story of this day for you.

I'm sure that you are getting temple and shrine overload, but when our time in Yokohama was over we took the shinkansen or high speed train to Kyoto, so the next part of my Japan story will feature some of the best-known temples in Japan.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- Shadow


Well I was totally stumped this week. Nothing in the archives, so I ran around shooting totally stupid photos of tree shadows, even my own shadow. All not up to snuff. Finally I thought of my treasured Swan sculpture which I posted for Art in Saturday Photo Hunt a few weeks ago. What would its shadow look like? I took about thirty different shots and these two are the best of the bunch. I couldn't decide between the two so here they are. Take your pick, or not. Still stupid? Probably, but maybe now you can see why it's called Swans.

This one was taken with the sun streaming through my kitchen window onto my maplewood floor. I liked the wonderful colour of the soapstone with the sun on it and the contrast against the warmth of the maplewood.

Remember folks, I don't have the "eye" for photography, but I'm looking forward to seeing what you have chosen for Shadow.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Night --- Elie Wiesel

A book that has been on my to-be-read list for the past year, since it was re-released in a new English translation in 2006, is Night, by Elie Wiesel, winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize.

Finally, this week, I read it. I don't really know what to say about it, but that everyone should read it.

First released in French in 1958, Elie Wiesel starkly documents his experiences as a very young teenager in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He was torn from his mother and younger sister, never to see them again, and watched his father die, before finally the American tanks came to Buchenwald and he was saved.

Almost matter-of-factly he tells his story. Only at times does he rail against his fate and against the God who he feels has deserted them all. I couldn't help but think of a book I read many years ago, Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, in which he tells of his experiences in German concentration camps. However Frankl was a man in his late thirties, a psychiatrist. In his book he documents his method of of survival and he analyzes the different behaviours he witnessed in the camps.

I can only say that these two books are essential reading for anyone who hopes to understand what the Holocaust really was. I'm not a Jew, but the Holocaust affected us all, as one bitter example of man's inhumanity to man. Let me reproduce the words of Elie Wiesel for you below. Nothing more need be said I think but this: Lest we forget.

Never Shall I Forget

Never shall I forget that night,
the first night in the camp
which has turned my life into one long night,
seven times cursed and seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the little faces of the children
whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke
beneath a silent blue sky.

Never shall I forget those flames
which consumed my faith for ever.
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence
which deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments
which murdered my God and my soul
and turned my dreams into dust.

Never shall I forget these things,
even if I am condemned to live
as long as God Himself.


Elie Wiesel

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Japan -- Part IV

One of the weekend days we were in Yokohama, K, the Japanese professor with whom my husband was making the exchange, offered to take us to Kamakura, a coastal town less than one hour south of Tokyo by train.
At the end of the twelfth century the shogun of the time, Minimoto Yoritomo made Kamakura the centre of his government, since it was his home town and it remained the capital of Japan until the fourteenth century when the centre of power moved to Kyoto.

Today Kamakura attracts many visitors since it is filled with a wonderful collection of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and historical monuments and in fact, that day, there were many Japanese tourists.

Probably the most famous of the monuments there is the Great Buddha or Daibutsu, a bronze statue standing almost 15 metres high and the second largest statue of Buddha in Japan. Cast in 1252 AD, it remains in its original form, however it was formerly housed inside the large temple hall of the Kotokuin Temple. This hall was washed away by a tsunami at the end of the fifteenth century and since then the Daibutsu has remained in the open air.

Shinto and Buddhism are Japan's two major religions and they coexist harmoniously, actually complimenting each other. Many Japanese weddings are held in the Shinto style while most funerals are celebrated Buddhist style.

Above you see the Hachimangu Shinto Shrine at the top of the steps, with the two scientists posing reluctantly at the bottom

A standing in an interesting courtyard at Kamakura

In the gardens, I found this small covered statue, surrounded by four bronze soldiers

One of the soldiers close up

A scene wandering around the temple grounds, with wonderful fall colour on the Japanese maples

The above photo has a very interesting story to go with it. Jizo is the Buddhist god who is the guardian of the stillborn, miscarried and aborted foetuses in Japan. These little statues of Jizo, called Mizuko Jizo, are placed either in the homes or at the temple to represent that lost child and as you can see they are often fully dressed, or with a little hat, or wear a red bib and some even have little umbrellas to shield them from the rain. Usually the stones have a kaimyo, or name given to a person after death, inscribed on them. The ceremony, Mizuko Kuyo, is a modern one and came about after the Second World War. Japan has one of the highest abortion rates in the world but this ceremony shows that it is not taken lightly and many women visit the Mizuko Jizos and pray before them. You see these little statues all over Japan in temples and even on street corners and I found them very moving.

When next I write about Japan, I'll tell you about the day I spent around and about Tokyo with K's wife.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Japan --- Part III

I didn't seem to have a photo of the Silk Museum so this one of the statue at the entrance is borrowed from the official website of the Museum.

Silk was a major export from Yokohama for many years after the opening of the port, in fact right up until the Second World War and the Yokohama Silk Museum was opened in 1959 to celebrate the centenary of the port. It became one of the few museums in the world devoted to silk and I spent quite a long time exploring this wonderful subject.

The museum was well laid out, with interesting displays showcasing various aspects of silk, including its origin from the cocoon of the humble silkworm. Of course the silkworm isn't really a worm but part of the life cycle of the Bombyx mori. The first stage is the egg stage which develops into the larval stage which is what we call the silkworm. The larva feeds voraciously on the leaves of the mulberry tree and then forms a cocoon for protection while it develops into the pupa. This cocoon is the source of the silk which is reeled off the cocoon and spun into thread which is dyed and woven into cloth. Finally the pupa metamorphoses into the moth which is the breeding stage, for the adults mate and the female lays the eggs which start the 8 -10 week cycle. The moths are flightless and have no mouths, therefore are unable to take nutrition. Their sole purpose is reproduction. The eggs remain in periods of hibernation during cold weather and so displays of live silkworms at the museum occur only in the summer months.

I want to make an aside here to tell you about a small charming book I read some years ago in Italian. It's called Seta or Silk in English, by Alessandro Baricco. It tells the story of a young French merchant who travels four times to Japan in the 1860s to buy the eggs for the silk industry in his area of France. There he encounters the young female companion of a Japanese warlord with whom he has dealings. Although they never speak or make physical contact he becomes enchanted with her. This very compelling novella narrates this charming tale for which I have given you only a teaser and is also available for your enjoyment in both English and French that I know of and no doubt other languages.

The process involved in the removal of the silk from the cocoon as well as the weaving and dyeing of the yarn is shown in this museum. The history of silk, both throughout the world and specifically in Japan is displayed, along with how we use silk in our everyday lives. Many different techniques are used to weave silk and different types of silk clothing are displayed. Fortunately everything is well documented in English as well as Japanese.

Of course one of the highlights for me was the wonderful collection of kimonos and obi, or the very wide sash used to close the kimono, which were displayed in this museum. I don't have any photos so maybe you weren't allowed to photograph inside the museum. I don't recall this. Below is a photo of one of the exquisite kimonos taken from the website of the museum. I shall tell you later what a Japanese lady told me about the wearing of the kimono in her life.

Now the kimono is actually an overgarment, worn by both men and women, but now mostly by women only. The fabric for a kimono comes in a bolt called a tan and the whole bolt is used to make the kimono which itself consists of four panels of fabric joined usually by hand sewing, two for the body and one each for the sleeves. The designs woven into the fabric are very intricate and make a beautiful pattern across the garment, often with different designs for different seasons of the year. For women there is only one size and it is made to fit by tucking and folding and closing with the obi. Later in the stores I saw beautiful kimonos and obi for sale, but you would not have believed the prices. I saw kimonos for $10,000 dollars and up, with the obi often running to $2000 or more and you must remember this was more than 15 years ago. But these items were works of art and as you can imagine the ones in the museum were of the finest quality and design.

This museum was one of the most interesting I have ever visited and since I was there outside of the main tourist season I happily wandered about undisturbed by few other patrons.

After the port was established many Chinese merchants came to Yokohama and they settled into an area that became known as Nanking Town. It really began to expand after the Second World War and was renamed Chinatown. A very interesting gate, the Zenrin-mon Gate was built at the entrance to the area and other gates were built within so that there are now ten located throughout Chinatown. This very thriving busy area houses more than 500 shops and restaurants, however I did not spend a lot of time here since we have a very large Chinatown in Vancouver and I had come to see Japan after all. You can also see that it was raining in the only rather poor photo I took on that occasion.

Next time join me on a trip to Kamakura, accompanied by K, the Japanese professor, to see the Daibutsu or Great Buddha.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Fake


I have to tell you that I really hate fake flowers but I do have several dried flower arrangements around my house. My dining room looks out onto a large covered front porch so it is not an hospitable location for plants, flowering or otherwise. So normally I have a dried flower arrangement, which was a gift from a friend, in the centre of my table. In my bedroom I have another arrangement displayed, which was also a gift. But in my living room, in front of my fireplace, I have a rather large arrangement of fake flowers. Yes, genuine fake flowers as opposed to dried flowers. An oxymoron indeed. What's more I bought them myself, can you believe it? Well one day I was in Pier One Imports, a rather strange US based chain of stores, with furnishings and home ware stuff. They had some nice fake yellow and white gerbera on sale so I bought some for a very large vase that I have. I don't usually have flowers in this vase, since it takes at least $50 worth of flowers to do it justice and I haven't won the lottery yet. The gerbera were too skimpy. Back for some more different fake flowers. Still too skimpy. More and then more. Finally the vase is full of fake flowers, but I do like the colours. They remind me of Spring during the long winter days we have here. Sorry, this is pretty mundane for the theme.

If you would like to join the Saturday Photo Hunt click on the icon on my sidebar. The blogroll is also there for you to click on and peruse.

HAPPY WEEKEND to you all

Friday, July 6, 2007

What Colour is your Brain?

I couldn't resist this when I saw it at Cathy's Place. Yep, so true. The butterfly thinker and the tapes never turn off unless I'm asleep, which I don't seem to do so much lately. My brain seems to be far ahead of my tongue, so usually I come across as an inarticulate idiot.

Your Brain is Orange

Of all the brain types, yours is the quickest.
You are usually thinking a mile a minute, and you could be thinking about anything at all.
Your thoughts are often scattered and random - but they're also a lot of fun!

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about esoteric subjects, the meaning of life, and pop culture.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Beautiful Day in Vancouver

Today we had a beautiful sunny day in Vancouver and I thought you might enjoy some photos I took while walking on the West Vancouver seawall with the Thursday Walking Group.

Below you can see the German Friendship Globe Fountain in a park alongside the seawall. You can push on this 2 1/2 tonne globe and it will spin as it says below. A gift from the local German community to West Vancouver. Kids love it.

The globe fountain consists of a square granite water basin with a precisely machined impression that fits a three foot diameter granite ball engraved with the continents of the world. The 2 1/2 tonne granite globe floats on a thin pressurized cushion of water which allows it to be turned at the touch of a hand.

Some perfect lilies at their best in the park garden

Looking across the water to the south side of the harbour

I'm not sure whether to consider this graffiti or art. These rocks line the sea wall and some one has made these mosaic fish with broken ceramic

I hope you can see the heron in the centre. He was watching me very carefully as I went by and turned his head to follow my path

Looking towards the Lions Gate Bridge with downtown past the bridge and Stanley Park on the right. You can see logging is a big industry and the floaters end up on the beach along with the rocks

We all hate this floral clock, it's so old fashioned and there was a little park which had a beautiful view before they built this monstrosity. You would think that they could plant some decent colourful flowers if they are going to have it, wouldn't you?

Well after a long walk it's time for lunch and a caffé latte don't you think?