Saturday, March 31, 2007

Granville Island, Usual Thursday Outing

As usual, the Thursday Walking Group did the required 5 miles to the Cambie Street Bridge and back. It was a glorious Spring day and here are a few of my less than brilliant photos. Got to move learning how to use this camera and editing software up the priority list. Enjoy!

This is the marina by Granville Island, looking towards the mountains. The water is like glass.


There are a couple of dozen of these colourful mini water ferries darting about False Creek. One passenger and one driver, early in the season yet.

The interesting thing about this photo is the different kind of boats on the very narrow inlet: the black sail boat, the tiny ferry boat, the dragon boat racers, practising in the middle of the left hand edge, and the opulent powerboat in the background.

One of the early cherry trees in bloom with the still snow-covered mountains in the background. Too bad about the bridge in the way! Still we have to get over the inlet to downtown.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Just Desserts

Every year, the Faculty Women's Club caters an event called Just Desserts. It's a coffee and dessert evening, which the University hosts to recognize contributions made by some students during the academic year. The University pays the FWC $1500 to cater for about 100 and we donate the money to the Scholarship office to support the ten scholarships which we maintain.

So each year, about 20 of us make some kind of dessert . I have been involved for the past five or six years and, since I'm not a brilliant dessert maker, I prepare my usual standby, a ricotta cheesecake. I find a cheesecake made totally from cream cheese to be too heavy and I much prefer the lighter texture of ricotta, however I do add one block of cream cheese to give it a little firmness.

The brilliant thing about this recipe, which I have developed over the years, is that one can use any flavourings, make all kinds of additions, use any topping and, generally, I have found it to be a very satisfactory recipe. I have even made it with Splenda, but I've used sugar for this event.

So here is the Raspberry Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake which I have made for this evening's event and I'm off to deliver it now.
I'm giving you a little rest from the Italian posts, although, as we all know, ricotta is originally Italian. When I first used to make this recipe it was difficult to find ricotta cheese, but now it's in every supermarket.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bologna Again, with Florence a Bonus


I'm sorry to say I don't remember the exact year of this trip, but once again we went to Bologna for the two scientists to collaborate. However, this time a third scientist was added to the mix. When my husband A was a post doctoral fellow at University College, London, he became very good friends with another post doc, Thiru, a Tamil from Sri Lanka, who later became a faculty member at U.C.L. So Thiru, a theoretical chemist, was invited to come from London to Bologna to consult on the research.

We three stayed at the usual hotel and every day they went to CNR, while I entertained myself. Grazia was the administrator in Carlo's lab but she took a holiday day this visit and we took the train to visit Faenza, a town famous for its particular type of hand painted ceramics. Although the town has given its name to faïence it's known as majolica in Italy, since the technique originated in Majorca. Complicated, no?

Grazia owned dinnerware from Faenza and she wanted to add some pieces to the set and knew that she could find them in the co-op guild store there. As with every town in Italy, the pottery patterns are very distinctive for the region and her pattern is called garofano which is Italian for carnation. It's not cheap, because it is all hand painted, but of course, I had to have some too. I bought two mugs, two large bread and butter plates and a small, oval cake plate, which you can see above.

When my daughter was married, in 1996, Grazia bought her a beautiful decorative wall plate which had two hands entwined, from Faenza. She said it was a plate designed especially as a wedding present.

While we were there, we also visited the International Ceramic Museum, which is a wonderful museum for all pottery, but especially Italian ceramics. This is a huge collection, with galleries devoted to the history of ceramics, works from the Italian Renaissance, from the Classical era and from other parts of the world. Many modern artists have designed pottery and there is a contemporary gallery with lovely pieces designed by Chagall, Picasso, Matisse and other well known artists.
After the scientific work was completed, the three of us set off for Florence for a week, for our first visit there. On the recommendation of a friend in Vancouver, we stayed outside of Florence, near the hill town of Fiesole, at the Pensione Bencista Hotel. This villa was built in the 16th century and is a lovely building, set in a vineyard, with large rooms and public areas, and furnished with beautiful antiques. A stay there included breakfast and dinner, so we took breakfast on a wonderful terrace, which had a breathtaking view of the whole of Florence, while dinner was eaten in a large dining room, at a set time for all guests.

Each day we took the public bus into Florence, down the winding road and into the centre of town, stopping at the Piazza del Duomo, the square in front of the Duomo, as the Cathedral is known. This is the Italian word for dome and so famous is this great engineering feat that it gave its name to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. This is the heart of the city, always filled with tourists, no matter what the season. The Cathedral, dominated by the magnificent dome of Brunelleschi, stands next to the Campanile, the bell tower, designed and begun by Giotto. At the time of our visit, they had begun the cleaning of the multicoloured facade of the cathedral, but I did not see it in all its glory until a later visit to Florence. Facing the Duomo is the famous Battistero or Baptistry, with its splendid doors. There are three of them, two by Lorenzo Ghiberti, the third by Andrea Pisani. The interior was badly damaged by the flood in 1966 and you can see the demarcation line of the water high up on the walls.

What can I say about Florence that hasn't already been said by so many. It is the centre of the Renaissance, which took place under the Medici who became the dominant family in that era. The buildings, the art work in the various museums in the city, the churches, all make this the perfect city for the visitor with an interest in the period. In fact, if you don't have an interest before you come, you will certainly have developed one by the time you leave. The city abounds with the works of Michelangelo, Donatello, Giotto and so many others. I have been to Florence three times for a total of four weeks and have never exhausted its treasures.

As we wandered about the city, visiting the various sites, we formed a little triangle, with me in the front, forging on, looking for the next interesting thing to see, with the back half being the two men, not taking a bit of notice, ambling on, talking non stop about things scientific. On one occasion I went into a store to look at reproductions of antique maps, with an eye to buying one for my son. They waited outside, talking, while I darted back and forth trying to solicit an opinion. I finally bought one and we framed it on our return and more than twenty years later it hangs in my son's house over his mantelpiece, so I did choose wisely.

Of course we did go to the Uffizi, the Accademia, the Ponte Vecchio and the Pitti Palace with the Boboli Gardens, but I won't bore you with the details.

We also went up to Fiesole to look around and found a beautiful first century AD roman theatre where they were doing the preparatory work for the staging of a play. We sat in the terraced stone seats and watched and enjoyed the view of the surrounding hills.

The next time we came to Italy was 1984, when we introduced our 17 year old daughter to its charms, not knowing that 12 years later, she would marry an Italian.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Photo Hunt Blogroll

Hi this is just a technical post to link me to the Photo Hunt Blogroll.


Return to Italy

In the late 1970s, Carlo, a young Italian scientist, came to Vancouver to spend a sabbatical year with my husband, a physical chemist at the university. He came from Bologna where he worked for the Consiglio Nazionale di Ricerca, the National Research Council of Italy. His wife, Grazia, accompanied him and we all became great friends. In addition, he and my husband began to collaborate in their research and this continued after he returned home. So, in 1979, I returned to Italy again, with A, to Bologna.

Located in the north of Italy, in the valley of the Po, Bologna is often bypassed by tourists. The city closes down between noon and 4 pm daily and this leaves the visitor at a bit of a loose end for a large part of the day. We were staying in a hotel near the University and while my husband went every day to CNR, I was left to my own devices and when everything closed down, I returned to the hotel for siesta time. My memory of this trip is reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, every afternoon in the hot, darkened hotel room. Of course Italians dine late, usually at 8 pm, so the everything opens again from 4 to 8.

While there I visited all the sites, mostly churches, including the one above which is the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of San Luca, with its famous 13th century Byzantine painting, the Black Madonna. This church is on a hill and you can see it from almost any part of Bologna. The wonderful covered walkway, with 666 arches running for 3.6 km, starts in the town and goes all the way to the Sanctuary. Supposedly the devout pilgrims ascended on their knees, stopping to pray at each of the Stations of the Cross depicted on the walls of the walkway. However, I decided to walk it instead.

Bologna is well known for many things but probably the unique thing about the city is the porticoes (or portici), which run for 36 km and make it possible to walk about the city sheltered from rain or sun or snow. It is recognized as having the the oldest university in Europe and for that it is called la Dotta, the Learned. In academic processions, the faculty always walk in order of the foundation of the university from where they graduated, so Bologna graduates always walk ahead of Paris, Oxford or Cambridge graduates, although they are relegated to second place by any Cairo graduates. For its renowned cuisine it is called La Grassa, the Fat, which I cannot attest to, since we always ate dinner with our friends and are not allowed to go to restaurants, because they think they are too expensive. Because of its left wing, actually communist, government it is sometimes called La Rossa, the Red and our friend Carlo was a member of the Communist Party of Italy, which many Italians were, but he has moved more to the centre over the years.

Carlo may live in Bologna but he is from Siena and still considers himself Sienese, even after so many years in Bologna. So we went with them to Siena to meet his parents and to attend the Palio. Siena is divided into 17 contrade or districts and a famous horse race, competing for the Palio banner, has been run in the square, the Piazza del Campo, once on July 2nd and once on August 16th, since 1656. Each contrada is represented by a horse ridden bareback, although there is only enough room for 10 horses to race safely so there is a draw for a place. The horse can win even if he completes the race without a jockey and it is a very rough and ready race with a lot of injuries to horses and jockies. Each horse is taken to the church in the contrada to be blessed before the race and if the horse drops manure in the church, it is a very lucky sign.

Carlo and his father belong to the contrada represented by Istrice, the Porcupine, while his mother is a Montone or Ram. Carlo had arranged for us to watch the race from a balcony over the square. Although we went to the blessing in the church the day before, unfortunately it rained on race day and with the danger being too great in the rain, the race was postponed. We had arranged to go to Pisa to stay with friends on sabbatical there, so we had to leave and did not see the Palio race run a day later. However we have attended the race since then, but only with the huge crowds in the square.

There is a spectacular parade before the race with the participants in colourful medieval dress and special flag waving displays. Carlo's father played the chiarina, a special long trumpet with a flag hanging down, and dressed in costume he accompanied the Palio, which is the painted banner, on it's special wagon in the parade. He participated in every Palio for more than 50 years, well into his late seventies, and received a citation from the city for his efforts.

Mario and Caterina, Carlo's parents, always showed us great hospitality when we went to Siena, as we did on other occasions as well. He would always run to his cellar to get special wine which he bought in big flagons directly from the vintner and rebottled himself. On one occasion I took a photo of the table. There were eleven different bottles of wine which he had opened and not for me, because I am astemia, teetotal, but my husband enjoyed the special wines. Sadly, now in his nineties, he suffers from Alzheimer's disease and Caterina, his delightful wife, passed away in her late eighties, after a fall, just before last Christmas.

So once again, I had returned to Italy. Before I took this trip, I had taken a three-month intensive Italian course. So this time I could communicate a little, with what I called my "hotel-shopping" Italian. Italians appreciate it when you speak Italian, no matter how badly.

Next time, a little vignette of a scientific trip to Bologna and my first visit to Florence.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My Love Affair with Italy

The first time I went to Italy was on my honeymoon, in 1961. We were married in England and after hiring a car, we set off for a three week camping tour on the Continent of Europe. Yes, camping. On our honeymoon. We had purchased a tent and some sleeping bags, a little camp stove and other essentials and we were off across the Channel by ferry. We visited Paris, camping in the Bois de Boulogne, along the way. Then my memory gets a bit vague about our route to Italy, although I remember going through the Brenner Pass. To jog my memory, I've got boxes of slides that we haven't looked at in years, since the projector broke long ago. I suppose I should start scanning them into the computer. Sigh, another project.

The first place in Italy that I remember visiting is Venice. Of course we camped somewhere outside and took the bus across the causeway into the city itself. It was a perfect sunny day for my first visit to Venice. We rode the vaporetto (motorboat bus) along the Grand Canal and went across to the Lido and had lunch at an open-aired cafe. I do remember that most of the beach was cordoned off, as it belonged to the grand hotels, with a tiny public area. The other thing that stands out in my mind was that I was forbidden entry into the Basilica di San Marco because I was wearing slacks (remember it was 1961) so my husband, A, went in and told me how great it was and some years later, I found out for myself that it was true. We did spend some time walking around the big open space of the Piazza San Marco, filled as always with pigeons and tourists. A perfect introduction to Italy's jewel on the Adriatic, La Serenissima.

Ravenna is my next memory of this trip to Italy. I had never seen anything like the brilliant mosaics that were contained in the half dozen or so various buildings in the centre of Ravenna. The fact that they were so old, 5th and 6th century AD, was very moving to me, a girl from Australia, a country with hardly any history at all. They are as beautiful today as they were when they were first created and the artistry is incredible. We also visited the Church of San'Apollinare in Classe, from the sixth century AD, and I felt very humble as I stood in that place, so classically simple and perfect.

Finally, we reached Rome, which has always been for me one of the best cities in the world. When I was in university I had converted to Catholicism, so to go to the centre of my religion was an unbelievable experience. To see all the wonderful churches, St Peter's, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum, St Paul's outside the Walls, was a joy for me. All this was capped by seeing Pope John XXXIII, probably the most popular pope, give the noon papal blessing at the window above the square at St Peter's .

But added to this, was the opportunity to see the Forum, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Temples and all the remnants of Ancient Rome that I had learned so much about, when I studied the Latin. The visit to rome became for me one of the most enchanting experiences of my life.

This really is me, 46 years ago, inside the Colosseum.

We camped near the Olympic Stadium, site of the Summer Olympics the year before, in 1960. I remember visiting the Spanish Steps and the Fontana di Trevi and buying a pair of Italian sandals nearby. Of course, I tossed a coin into the fountain and it worked because I did return to Rome.

But how can I not mention the people of Italy who seemed to me the most friendly people that I had ever met, despite the language barrier? A noisy people, a fun-loving people, a sociable people.

And so began my love affair with Italy. It was not to be renewed for quite a few years but I never forgot that first visit to Italy. I always wanted to return and finally I did. In fact, I've probably made at least 8 or 9 visits to Italy, including three when I've attended language school at various centres. But all that is for another day. Please come back again for a further episode.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Alzheimer's Disease

When this book was published in 2001, I read it as part of the Book Circulation Group. It is a fascinating book about a study, the Nun Study, undertaken by epidemiologist David Snowden. For fifteen years he researched a group of 678 elderly nuns, 75 to 104 years old, who graciously allowed him to study them for the occurrence of Alzheimer's disease and other diseases of aging. These remarkable women also gave him permission for their brains to be autopsied on their deaths and he made some very interesting discoveries. Some, who exhibited signs of Alzheimer's disease, showed few plaques or tangles on autopsy, while others, who had many plaques and tangles, exhibited no signs of the disease. Now the important thing about this group of women was the uniformity of the life they led and of their level of education, since they all had been teachers. Dr Snowden developed a wonderful relationship with these nuns and their stories are inspirational. I can't recommend this book too highly. It is a delight to read.

But, you say, what is your interest in Alzheimer's disease? Well for the past twenty years I have acted as "next of kin" for a widower friend who has no relatives at all. His wife was one of my best friends and when she died of a brain tumour he said, sadly, to me, "I have no one's name to put in my wallet." I told him that he was to put my name there. So, besides making him part of our family, over the years I've been called several times to the emergency room or to the hospital when he has been there for one reason or another and I have been his "next of kin".

About seven years ago, although he had been concealing it very well, it was obvious that he was having severe memory problems and finally he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Legal documents were drawn up and I became his "next of kin" or representative, with power over his bank accounts and health and welfare decisions, and with a trust company handling his major finances. I also promised that I would keep him at home as long as possible. As he declined, I hired caregivers part time, then full time and basically, for four years, I was running two households. Finally, after a stint in hospital for a medical condition, it was obvious that he would receive more stimulation and company and be better cared for in a facility. So I found a very exclusive private nursing home, with a wonderful program for the cognitively impaired and he transitioned there easily and lived there quite happily for almost two years. Unfortunately he broke his hip and was taken to the hospital, where, after surgery, he was compelled to use a wheelchair. The private home, an intermediate care facility, could not take him back since he could not weight bear and I transferred him to the extended care facility at the hospital where I worked for so many years.

This has been the saddest journey for me. To see this man, who was a professor of Pharmacy at the university, decline so completely over these past seven years has been tragic. His world is so narrow now: he can't read or watch TV. He no longer has any interest in music, which was his greatest pleasure. He spends his days propelling himself around in his wheelchair, using his feet. He is 83 years of age but, although he has arthritis, all his vital organs function extremely well for his age. Although there is no physical reason why he cannot walk, he has forgotten how and now he has become too weak to do so. How soon is he going to forget how to eat, how to swallow? He has to be fed, for he is no longer able to do this for himself.

I am very fortunate in that I still know people at the hospital from my working days there, so they go the extra mile for him. Although he normally has the sweetest disposition, he is very combative with the aides when they do his personal care and he also swears at them a lot during this process. Fortunately they are very understanding. The other day, when I went to see him, he wheeled right past me, even when I spoke to him. He doesn't know who I am. This was the first time that this had happened. He has long forgotten my name, although we have been friends for 46 years. But he always knew that he knew me and gave me a big smile. Funnily enough, he is still relatively articulate, although what he says makes no sense.

Every time I can't remember something, I worry that maybe I am developing Alzheimer's disease and it makes me afraid. People toss the phrase around jokingly, "I must be getting Alzheimer's." But if you have a close personal relationship with anyone who has it, you do not joke about it. You have seen first hand the devastation that this disease causes and it is no joking matter.

I said to my husband the other day, if I get Alzheimer's I'm not going to be like my friend, with a pleasant disposition on the whole. I'm going to be a cranky, cantankerous, difficult patient. You know, I fear that might be true and that nobody will want to care for me.

Cathy at Cathy's Rants and Ramblin's lost her mother to Alzheimer's five years ago and has posted a round on everything about Alzheimer's disease.

I hope that someday this disease will be conquered for, in truth, it is one that you would not wish on your worst enemy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wet Thursday at Granville Island, Vancouver

Today the only ones happy on the Granville Island walk were these ducks. Five of us met to walk and get suitably drenched, which of course we did. So today I'm going to show you some pictures which I hastily took inside the Granville Island Public Market after the walk and tell you a little bit about the market. The photos are unedited and I'm not totally sure about the focus, as my eyesight is poor. The little old lady has cataracts, you know.

Granville Island is an urban planning success story, that has been copied worldwide. It was conceived 28 years ago and the idea fulfilled by the transformation of a derelict industrial park into a thriving market and entertainment destination. The heart of Granville Island is the Public Market which is housed in a huge warehouse filled with stalls of all different types: fruit and vegetable; bakeries; fish stalls; flower sellers; butchers; candy makers; wine sellers; all intermixed with artisan stalls, which come and go on an irregular basis. It operates seven days a week from 9am to 7pm.
This we call the Hat Lady's stall, all hand made

Every day, there is some kind of entertainment at the Market, with buskers inside and outside, but at certain times of the year, special events are held in the bandstand on the island. In May the spring gardening season is in full swing and growers come to the Gardeners’ Truck Market to sell bedding plants, hanging baskets and bulbs. I bought two beautiful Japanese maples there for my garden, a year or so ago, from one of the itinerant growers. The Farmers’ Truck Market follows, on Thursdays, in July until late Autumn, with local fruits and vegetables, straight from the farm to the buyer. In the food fair part of the Market you can buy a quick lunch or snack from a variety of cultures including Indian, Chinese, Greek, Japanese, Mexican, Polish, and Italian.

One of the fruit and vegetable sellers' stalls

Granville Island is more than a market, for it's an entertainment district with two theatres and many fine restaurants. It is a genuine artists’ neighbourhood with the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design situated there, along with the studios of weavers, potters, print makers, weavers, and the whole island is surrounded by water and a marina. Beloved by the locals, it is also a tourist attraction with more than 12 million visitors each year.


This is Duso's , maker of fresh pasta and purveyor of Italian fine cheeses and foods


How about these yummy cakes and pastries, a little fuzzy from the reflection of the glass

I have a few more photos that I took but I'll save them for another rainy Thursday. I hope you can see why we like to walk in this area and stop off in the market for lunch. It's Spring Break this week for the schools and, despite the rain, the market was full of mothers with their children.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Twins

I have a twin. Not a twin of my mother's body nor with my father's DNA, but a twin by adoption. Although we don't quite match like this pair of beautiful dolls.

You see my twin was born in Macao and she's Chinese and she's very tiny and I'm quite a bit taller. Oh, and Caucasian too, and born in Australia.

I met her in the Thursday Walking Group, about nine years ago and we became friends apart from the group. So we go out to lunch now and then and sometimes go to Chinatown to check out things Chinese and have Dim Sum and generally we like being in each other's company.

A few years ago we discovered that our birthdays were on the same day, November 8th. We always said we should go for lunch to celebrate our birthday, but somehow we never did. I always assumed she was younger than I, because her husband was not retired and mine had been retired for some years. Chinese people don't really show their age, so no clue there.

In 2005, I told everyone I was officially a "little old lady" since I was turning 70.

She said: "Me, too."

I said: " What, you can't be 70, your husband is still working."

She said: "He's 7 years younger than me."

My friend, an immigrant like me, came to Canada to do a doctorate in Chemistry at a university in Montreal. She had a very hard time with English which she had learned in university in Hong Kong, but not from native speakers. She was the only female in her lab of French Canadians who taught her swear words in French, although she didn't know it until her professor told her and then proceeded to berate the culprits.

She had a lovely singing voice and was operatically trained and her accompanist was a young French Canadian pharmacologist whom she later married. Unfortunately, she never finished her doctorate, but built a family with him, finally settling here in Vancouver, many years ago. They both still have a great love of opera and before the opening night of every opera of the season here, they have a group of 30 people to dinner and her husband gives a talk about the opera. He has become famous for his talks and now gives them to other groups.

So we definitely had to go to lunch together to celebrate our seventieth birthday and we did. She tells everyone we are twins and thinks it's a wonderful joke. Whenever we see each other she says: "Here's my twin." Her English is still terrible, despite the fact that she has lived with an English speaker all these years, although he has learned some Chinese. She says that as she is getting older she is forgetting words and it's true. Conversations with her are like playing Twenty Questions, with me filling in the blanks as she stumbles, trying to find a word. I ask her how she is going to communicate with her husband if it gets worse. She says,"I tell him, learn more Chinese."

The really funny part is that she's not entirely sure that November 8th is her birthday. She knows what the date is in the Chinese calendar, but when she started school in Macao she had to give a Western birth date, so her older sister told her to say November 8th, but she says it could be a day either side of that.

Still she's the twin of my heart. I love her dearly and I hope we can celebrate many more birthdays together.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Technical difficulties with Scribefire

Well I have to report that the Scribefire post did not work last night. When I published it to my blog the spacing was incorrect and at the end of each sentence, where there should have been spaces, printed was the html code for no blank space. Also the image sat on top and centred, not left as requested. I don't know if Scribefire and Blogger are incompatible although supposedly this is not true. I will try again sometime with a text only trial, since the image caused great problems.

So, if you've even made it this far, feel free to skip the remainder of this post since it's a bit of a rant, as rantish as I get here, on my experience with Scribefire.

I'd like to make a few comments on this editor:

First of all the preview option is very poor and I didn't really know what it was going to look like. The preview bore no resemblance to the published post. I also copied the post to Blogger so could compare it.

Putting in the image was extremely difficult. There was no option to change the size and some images were too large when I inserted them so I had to take them out and try another. There was no option to place the image. It just appeared on the top on the left with the text below. So I had to go into the html and make the text wrap around it. I also had to insert white space because the text was jammed up against the image. Luckily I read the html chapter on images today in a 'how to make your own web page' book. So I could handle this in the html. Now Blogger takes care of all this with image insertion and I have been quite satisfied with it. When I published the post all this was for naught since it was ignored.

I can't see any option to change the date of posting which I use all the time in Blogger.

I could see no way to edit the post after it is published, which I also sometimes do to make a correction.

There is no spell check that I can see.

Now I can see the big pro for this editor is that you get a split window with other web pages (which are of course reduced to half) so you can copy and link to your heart's content. I don't think I link all that much but I could write the text in this editor then copy it to the Blogger editor and insert the images there and post from there. Maybe that would work.

I can see that these criticisms of Scribefire could well be my ignorance of the system and my inability to see how it worked. I saw some high recommendations for it around the internet. However, the webpage from which I downloaded this add-on is under construction due to some major reorganization of Scribefire so I really was hard put to find any help.

So Scan Man, if you drop by, do you have any answers?

Regular programming will resume sooner or later, in the Blogger format for now.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Scribefire, the New to me Cool Tool

Viyay, from Scan Man's Notes, introduced me to Scribefire. Of course I cannot resist trying it out. It seems that before I can master one set of blogging tools I am off trying some other idea. Ah, the Butterfly Effect, well I have the mind that hops about like a butterfly from flower to flower, not actually having much effect at all.

I must say that it looks quite similar to the other two editors that I use: namely New Blogger and WordPress. But we shall see and please forgive me if I accidentally post a bad test and cannot figure out how to delete it or change it for some time. This happened the first time I posted something on Wet Coast Women, using WordPress. No instructions for the technically challenged so I just blundered about for half a day until I found the delete option, then reformated the post (delving into the html and let me tell you, it was scarey) and reposted it. Sometimes I still get funny spacing when I post in WordPress but if it's close enough I let it be. You can get away with quite a lot when you are "a little old lady" and I intend to take full advantage of it.

I know that you are not supposed to blog about blogging. According to #1 Dinosaur of Musings of a Dinosaur, there are three rules for blogging. He has them right on his sidebar, so they must be true. Now in some post he pontificated on these rules in a little more detail. OK, I found it here and I think the don't blog about blogging was in there somewhere. So:
  1. Write well.
  2. Say something.
  3. Mix it up.
But anyway, before I talk about the rules I want to talk about well, blogging, that is me and blogging. After being at it for about a month I can stand back and look critically at what I have done in this blog. It started out with me wanting to write something about myself, or my thoughts about things, in short pieces for my adult children. Some of the things I've written satisfy that criterion. But other do not. They seem to have been written for a wider audience. I sometimes seem to get caught up in what's going on in some blogs. Then I post something that is a blog thing rather than a me thing. Some of my posts have been experiments in the technology, like putting up a YouTube video, to learn how to do that. As this post is a trial in Scribefire. Even at my age, I still seem to be pushing the limits.

This is not likely to be a blog that has an audience and that's all right. I have to keep my eye on the reason I started it, although obviously I'm in two minds. I'd love to have a blog that is well written and interesting, that would entertain people, that people would want to visit. But that's not who I am. I have to recognize that this blog is for myself and it will continue as long as I can think of something to say, although that might not interest anyone very much, maybe not even my children. So pass on by. You have a great choice out there in the blogosphere. I have a T-shirt that says, So many Books, So little Time. I think that would work for blogs too, don't you think. So Many Blogs, So Little Time.

Now how do I stack up against the Dino rules:
  1. Write well---Dino's rule 1 is clarified to be about grammar, spelling and proofreading and I think I conform pretty well there. Maybe dull, but grammatically correct on the whole.
  2. Say something--Well I might think I have something to say, but you might not agree. I'd like to think some of the posts have been interesting to someone.
  3. Mix it up--I definitely have done that, my posts are all over the ship, but mostly things connected to me. But Dino would like one to vary the tone, he says: serious; funny; strident; indignant; whiney. That I haven't done. I think my tone is mostly detached with sometimes a light touch of humour. I think that's who I want to be on the blog. Yes, in person, I'm strident, indignant, whiney. But not here. Yet.
I am finding that this is taking much more time than I had anticipated so I probably will cut down on posting. I seem to have been posting every day and I do have a few posts in the draft stage but I do need to do a few practical things, like chores and get back to my hobbies. So if you are a regular reader perhaps you can put me on Bloglines. I don't want to post little nothings just to post. I know that I should try to write every day for the practice, and maybe some of it will just never appear here. But hopefully I will continue to have fun with this blog. Surely that's the main reason for doing it.

Update: When I posted this in Scribefire it was a disaster. So luckily I did copy this to Blogger which I have now used to post this. I will post a separate criticism of Scribefire which everyone uninterested can skip. Note the change in font size and spacing. How frustrating!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

My Ipod--iPod, Therefore I Am


When I first joined the gym, two years ago, I had a tiny radio which I used to entertain myself while working out. However, reception wasn't brilliant there, so I thought I'd check out this mp3 player business. I soon learned that Windows ME didn't work with iTunes so the iPod was out. I started off with a tiny Creative Muvo 512 MB, which I loaded up with an eclectic mix of my favourite music and was off to the races or rather the gym.

Finally, when I convinced A to buy a new desktop computer, I moved into Windows XP and an iPod became possible. The hard drive minis were being phased out due to the arrival of the flash memory iPods, so I quickly snapped up a 6GB silver mini, just like the one shown here. I could not believe how superb iTunes was and so easy to use. After a 512mb it seemed I would never fill the 6 Gig, but after a conversation with a young student in my Italian class I discovered podcasts. What a revelation. In no time flat, I had half filled my mini with podcasts, the other half with music and I had run out of space.

Those podcasts are insidious. Once you subscribe to a few they keep downloading new stuff every day into your computer and your iPod is full before you can turn around! So I had to get much more selective and unsubscribe from three quarters of the places which were streaming files daily into my computer. Finally I am down to a couple now.

Of course being the book person that I am, I had to get one or two from the library, eventually buying iPod and iTunes for Dummies. In the library catalogue I noticed one called iPod, therefore I am by Dylan Jones. Assuming it was a how-to book I placed it on hold. When it arrived I found it to be an entirely different kettle of fish

Dylan Jones, now the editor of British GQ magazine and a former music journalist, has a huge collection of albums, audio tapes, CDs. He became totally addicted to his iPod and in this book he alternates chapters of his own iPod experiences with chapters on the Apple story and the development of the iPod.

He made me realize what an important and revolutionary advance the invention of the iPod has been, changing completely the way we deal with music; the way we play it, own it, store it, buy it, download it. And all this has happened in a short time, since 2001, when the first iPods "rolled off the assembly line".

Look around you. People of all ages are hooked up to a music player. Everyone, wherever they are, can enjoy music or the spoken word, for let's not forget audio books or podcasts. Walking, jogging, on the bus or train, in their car, at the gym. But not only do they have iPods, they have all the accessories that you can imagine. The accessory industry built around the iPod is huge: holders, skins and cases, remotes, earphones, docks, chargers, speakers, clock radios, accessories for the car. You name it, someone has thought of it for the iPod.

I came late to the iPod party, but like Dylan Jones, I love mine. When you are my age, things do not excite you so much. But I am excited about my iPod. After my laptop, it's the toy I love best of all. If you have the computer capability and love music, do yourself a favour and buy one. I guarantee you won't regret it.



Change of Plans

Over the past week I have been been writing a post on my experience in overseeing the care of someone with Alzheimer's disease. I planned to put it up today, to coincide with the round on "Everything Alzheimer's" which Cathy at Cathy's Rants and Ramblin's had organized for Sunday March 18th.

Cathy's life has taken a different direction for the moment and she has postponed the round until Sunday March 25th so I shall keep my post until then.

In the meantime please enjoy this beautiful image of Forget me nots, the symbol of the Alzheimer Society of Canada, borrowed from the cheapseeds.com site. Regular programming will resume tomorrow.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Precious Gift from a Friend

mhr knows how much I love Westies and she posted, on her photo website, this gift to me, along with her friend's poem, which is so apt. My Westie, Cleo, was the best dog we ever had. She delighted us every day for the fourteen and a half years we had her. We still miss her. I wanted to show mhr's lovely photo here, instead of only providing this link. She has another lovely Westie photo here. I hope mhr doesn't mind.




Rod Stewart

You torture me with distance.
Beyond my touch,
Except for your voice
And my petulant whine.
Do you want me
As much as I desire you?
Or do you play my heart
With mock intention
And amusement?
Tell me the truth, Precious
With your beautiful eyes,
Or tell me a lie
That will not break my soul
For the sake of my crazy love
Over you :*

Friday, March 16, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award, Gold Version

Today Vijay, of Scan Man's Notes, has done me the honour of choosing my blog to receive this award. Now I'm not sure that he hasn't just chosen me because of my venerable age but I am not about to turn it down because he has linked me with two of my favourite blogs, Dr Rob and Dr Hébert.

This is an unusual blog meme that was born here and there are some simple rules.

  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme
  3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).
With the powers bestowed upon me, I hereby confer the award on....

1. Dr Dork (who is passing his medical and non medical wisdom to his readers, along with his wonderful poetry)

2. Dr Sid Schwab ( who is passing his surgical wisdom to doctors and patients with wonder and with some exceptional writing skills)

3. Dr Michelle Tempest (who makes us think about the human condition with her thought- provoking daily posts)

4. Karen Ventii ( a young scientist who elucidates for her readers current and interesting scientific news which affects people's lives)

5. ipanema ( a young woman who gathers articles from all over and writes thought-provokingly about the content, mixed with her own whimsical thinking posts)


Congratulations Winners. Please pass this on to other ‘deserving bloggers’ . Should you choose to accept this mission or not, no matter. But in my opinion each of you deserve the Thinking Blogger Award much more than I.

“Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking,
unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a blog.”

(The original quote by
Edward Gibbon uses ‘book’ instead of ‘blog’)

Thank you Scan Man and I apologize for cannibalizing your post with my copy and paste sword in order to make mine and for pinching the quote as well. I had to take the gold version of the button whether it matches my blog or not because I always wanted a gold medal for something.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday Walking - Granville Island Again

Granville Island was again our destination for the Thursday Walking Group. It is definitely our favourite place and we never seem to get bored with it. The day was overcast but no rain, 9 Celsius, so not too cold and we enjoyed our walk.

mhr, who is a wonderful French photographer (please click on her link to see some excellent photos), asked me to take some photos when next we were there. So here are a few, untouched ( I can't learn blogging and Photoshop at the same time), so not very brilliant, and would you believe my batteries went dead before I came to the daffodils in bloom. But this very early rhododendron and the pussy willows were bursting out today and the photo of the boats is a typical sight on this walk.

I am blessed with a wonderful camera, a Canon PowerShot, A620, thanks to my son-in-law, but unfortunately I am not blessed with the "eye" for composition. But frankly, this spot is so beautiful that I hope you can enjoy my photos regardless. I wonder if they are in focus!

As we start our walk, we pass by a wonderful marina, with some gorgeous boats: some sail, others powerboats. Even a few fishing schooners. Beyond Granville Island we walk past some attractive condominium buildings which have wonderful gardens, bordering the walk. So there is always something to see for the person who is interested in plants.

Later on there is a green park where there are usually people with dogs, chasing after balls and each other. The dogs, that is, not the people. Farther on there's a pond with lots of ducks who make their home nearby. Sometimes it's half frozen and the ducks skid about on the ice. All the way along this walk we pass the boats moored in the inlet and today the water was like glass. To my mind, Spring in Vancouver is unmatched by any place in the world and today Spring was in the air.

Click on the photos to enlarge, although I'm sure everyone knows this except me, until recently that is. Note the snow on the mountains in the background of the boat photo.

I apologize for the spacing which looks fine in the preview. I will think on it and hopefully solve the problem. I'll probably have to mess around with the html again!

Cricket

Currently, in the West Indies, 16 nations are competing for the title in the World Cup of Cricket 2007, with Australia being the reigning champion from 2003.

Now it might be 50 years since my husband left Australia, but he is just as obsessed with cricket now as he was then. Of course he played there and even when we came to Canada he played in a league here, although cricket is a very minor sport in Canada, played almost exclusively by immigrants. Every Saturday afternoon for years I watched the games with the other wives and later we all gathered at someone's house for beer and food. Beyond the boundary of the field, all the children played with each other and the wives sat on blankets and drank tea and visited. Of course all the wives, just like me, grew up with cricket as part of their lives and, like the players, we were a mixture of new Canadians from Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and the West Indies.

I too was a great cricket fan when I lived in Australia. My brother played and I went to his games every Saturday. There was no TV in those days, so we listened to the cricket on the radio. Now cricket is a rather slow game and listening to it on the radio involved a lot of the commentary discussing the flags over the members' stand waving in the breeze and the seagulls flying into the air, when the ball came near them. I didn't know my husband then but it was the same for him, he played and he listened.

So how does he get his cricket fix these days? Why via the computer, from Cricinfo, home of Cricket on the Internet, with live scores and ball by ball coverage. Not video you understand, just words on the screen, refreshing every 60 seconds! To get full video coverage you have to pay $200 for the series and he's too cheap to do that. I told him he was crazy, he should just pay the money. But I think he worries that he'd just sit in front of the computer all day long so that he'd get his money's worth.

When we were at the gym this morning, an Indian lady, who works out there, was telling him that her father was watching the games on Satellite TV, with all his old pals. So I had to listen to him complaining all the way home, because we have cable TV instead of Satellite. Luckily BBC World TV has a fifteen minute coverage every day, so he watches that and he constantly emails his brother in Australia and all they discuss is the cricket, which he is lucky enough to see on TV.

Oh well, it only goes on for another six weeks and we are rooting for the Aussies to pull off an unprecedented third victory in a row. Go Aussies, go!


The two photos above are the Australian team in action and with the World Cup, from the cricket.com.au website.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Shoes in my Life

The other day I was reconciling my Mastercard statement with my receipt slips, checking that my identity hadn't been stolen and I was truly responsible for all the stuff that appeared there. Well, a lot of it was for groceries and books and the other necessities of life. But I came across a slip from Ronson's Shoe Store.

Now my friends always laugh at me and say that I cannot enter Ronson's and come out purchaseless. They are probably right. But let me tell you about Ronson's. Do they sell lovely shoes like the red Manolo Blahniks on the right? No, they do not. They sell Rockports, Mephistos, Clarks, Eccos and other European-brand sensible shoes. I spent a large part my working life on my feet and have tender feet, so I tend to cosset them somewhat. So what did I buy, you ask? Well those Dansko clogs you see above left, but in black.

But I want to tell that I'm not to blame for this purchase. Recently I read this post by Sam Blackman, MD in which he was raving about his Dansko clogs, well not these, but professional ones, which all the medical people apparently wear these days. So comfy, blah, blah, blah, well you get the picture. So when I saw these Dansko slightly-more-dressy clogs in the store, I tried them on and yes comfy, yes on sale, wrap them up please. So in this one instance you have to blame Sam and not me. Well I do anyway.

A year ago a friend moved, after having lived in the same house for 30 years. Her daughter came to help her sort things out. She was horrified to find that her mother had 90 pairs of shoes. Very reasonable her friends thought, after all we buy shoes regularly but never throw them out. Naturally, hearing that, I had to check out my closet. I am fanatic about organized shoes so keep them all in the original boxes. I have lots of closet space therefore room for lots of shoes. How many exactly? Less than 90 surely. Well I have just done the current count. Only 60 pairs. There not so bad. This includes two pairs of high heels, one black and one navy, for the rare event when I wear a dress or a skirt. But wait, what about my walking shoes, snowboots, hiking boots? Check: two pairs of snow boots, used often this year, not at all last year. Two pairs of hiking boots: one uncomfortable so bought another pair, but did not throw out first pair. Walking shoes: seven pairs, mostly black like these on the left, but one pair of ecru, one white pair with velcro straps, one pair of brown waterproof ones. Two pairs of clogs: the new ones and some I use for gardening. Oh almost I forgot, the two pairs of crosstrainers I wear to the gym. So the grand total, seventy-five pairs. Oh well, still short of ninety, so that's all right. I'm not the worst. Yet.

But let me tell you something amusing. My husband has the same size foot as I do. It's not that I have a large foot, but that he has a small foot. Size 6 1/2, except you can't buy those here, so he wears size 7, with thick socks. I sport ladies size 9 = mens size 7. Normally the differences between ladies' and men's shoes are enough to distinguish mine from his but with walking shoes, no way José. The walking shoes are stored in the laundry, which is also our mudroom and usually they are lying about drying, well not all seven pairs, just the current ones. He only has one pair of walking shoes, so he never confuses his with mine but I have been known to wear his on occasion and he's left searching the house and wondering what the heck he did with his shoes. Those black New Balance all look alike, well to me apparently.

I guess I really should throw some shoes out, or not buy any more, or something. Maybe I should move. I mean really how can one have a fetish for sensible shoes? It's just not natural!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Book Circulation Day Again

Today was Book Circulation Day again, so, from my nearby member of the group, I picked up the book, The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar. It's a book set in modern day India and narrates a story of two women, one the servant in the other's house for more than 20 years. The dust jacket notes that:
The novel shows how the lives of the rich and the poor are intrinsically connected yet vastly removed from each other, and vividly captures how the bonds of womanhood are pitted against the divisions of class and culture.

The reviewers at both Amazon.ca and Chapters.indigo.ca both give the book five stars, but we shall see.

My friend, who picks up from me, came to afternoon tea and to pick up The Communist's Daughter, by Dennis Bock. We sat by the fire in the living room and had tea and my healthy home baked muffins with jam. She asked did I like the book and I said I did. It's a ficitonalized account of the life of the Canadian doctor, Norman Bethune who was famous as a battlefield surgeon in both the Spanish Civil War and in China, where, ironically, he died of septicemia in 1939.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Funerals - Celebrations of Life

It seems that I have come to that time in my life when I am often a funeral participant. I hadn't been to a funeral in years it seemed, but, in the last year or so, I have had quite a few opportunities to be a mourner. With the exception of two very close long time friends, most of the departed were not close friends but my connection with them demanded a show of respect and an appearance at the funeral. Some of them were quite elderly and not well and the sorrow was tempered by the fact that they had led long satisfactory lives. On the other hand, some of them were the same age as I and this was sad for me, while some were considerably younger and this was indeed tragic.


It seems that certain things have changed at funerals since I last attended one. For example, there is usually a large photo of the departed displayed prominently. Sometimes it is a portrait of the person and sometimes a happy family group and often there are informal collages of photographs at the reception. The flower arrangements are simpler nowadays with many families requesting no flowers, but donations in lieu to the charity of one's choice.

But the innovation that I like best of all, is the PowerPoint musical slide-show presentation that is almost the norm now at funerals. True celebrations of a life, displayed for all of us to see what a fine life this person has led. Since I am an immigrant, I met most of these people as young adults or even middle-aged individuals. So I discover all these interesting things about their early lives that perhaps I didn't know before, that they had never told me. I love this part of the funeral and am disappointed if there is none. The eulogies by friends seem to have become less formal, with funny stories being told so that there is joy in the atmosphere as well as regret. Now many people want to speak at funerals and sometimes they are very long. The funeral for my dear Hungarian friend, who died this past year, was two and a half hours long, since so many people spoke and there I found out he had been shot during the 1956 revolution, which I didn't know.

Just over a year ago I gave the eulogy for a very close Scottish friend. It was a memorial service and since she had died at Christmas, it was held in early January. I wrote my eulogy and was terrified that I would break down and cry in the middle. However two days before I developed viral bronchitis and my voice almost disappeared. No one would agree to read the eulogy for me so I was forced to croak away into the microphone and was concentrating so hard on speaking that I did not lose control until the last.

If you knew me, you would know that I am a micro-manager and always have to do everything myself with lots of double checking involved. So I keep thinking that I should prepare my own funeral celebration. I know which photograph I would like enlarged, a simple candid shot taken at a dinner when I was about 50. It's my favourite photo of myself. I'm not photogenic at all, I fear. I have already asked a friend's son if he will play Amazing Grace on the bagpipes for me, but hopefully it will not be for a long time. I don't know much about PowerPoint but if I can learn blogging I can learn PowerPoint. So I'll have to start looking through my photos and borrow PowerPoint for Dummies from the library. After all, I want my mourners to enjoy my funeral presentation as much as I have appreciated the celebrations of life that I have attended lately.


The bagpiper is Jimmy Mitchell, from Texas, who plays Amazing Grace at funerals.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Widget Thingamejig

I found this over at ipanema's site and decided to try it. She must have lots of readers because the site was too slow so I gave up. Next I saw it at Cathy's on the sidebar so decided to give it another go. This time I was successful. I rather liked my profile elucidated from the choice of photos that I picked. However, I have to say that often there was no choice that suited me, eg. no tea in the drink category so I went with milk. Well I do drink milk, but it was just my choice because the rest of them were even less appropriate. Oh no, I think the cup and saucer is tea but I can't see how to edit the profile over at the site. I don't think shopping is my vice but nothing else suited, I didn't want to use chocolate again! Besides I don't dare have it in the house. Chocolate, that is.

Well you can go over and give it a whirl. See what you think.




Friday, March 9, 2007

School Days



School days, school days,


Dear old golden rule days.


Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic,

Taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick.


High school days! What memories the words conjure up for so many people. Often bad, bad, bad! I, however, enjoyed my high school days immensely.

St George Girls' High School, Sydney. The venue of my "dear old golden rule" days from 1948 to graduation in 1952 at 17.

Recognised for the academic excellence achieved by its students, the school prepares the gifted girl to become the successful woman of the future.


That quote is taken from their current website but it was just as true in 1948 as it is today. Well we, the students of the day, thought so anyway. You see you had to compete to be accepted there and we St Georgians were rather snooty towards the students at the ordinary high schools nearby. All high schools in my day were either boys' or girls' schools so we certainly had no problems between the sexes in school. We might have been show-offs sometimes but not because of boys.

The scholastic offerings were very good for the day: English, French, German, Latin, History, Geography, Science, Biology, Mathematics. The subjects were very academic, with Art and Music classes for the cultural side. All the teachers were women and the whole program seemed to be designed to herd the students toward Teachers' Training College. Guidance counselling consisted of an annual meeting between counsellor (the teachers' other roll) and student, with the counsellor's idea of the successful woman of the future being a teacher. Now I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew for sure that I didn't want to be a teacher.

In my day, there were about 450 students and I think most of us enjoyed the years we spent there and we were very proud to be St Georgians.

But I'm sure, with no exceptions, that we all hated the school uniform. The school didn't have a summer uniform then and you must remember that this was Sydney, Australia. A very hot place indeed for long periods of the school year. So the uniform: a navy, pleated wool serge, sleeveless, belted tunic over a long-sleeved white blouse; red and white striped tie; for winter, a navy blazer with emblem on pocket (reproduced right); long black lisle stockings; black laced-up shoes; navy velour hat in winter replaced by panama hat in summer; black gloves. The uniform had to be complete at all times off the school grounds, which we could not leave from the time we arrived until the time we left after school. In first year, the twelve year olds could wear white sox, but after that, the black stockings were de riguer. Quite regularly we had uniform parades when we lined up and the teachers and the prefects checked that we were correctly attired and that we wore no colourless nail polish or rings.

But the gym uniform really took the prize. Made of thick navy cotton, it was similar to the serge tunic, that is pleated and belted but with short sleeves, for modesty no doubt. And separate navy bloomers, same thick navy cotton. It was ghastly. Every student belonged to one of four houses for competitive sports, each with a distinct colour which we wore as a stripe on the gym uniform. I belonged to Allunga house, with a yellow stripe. These gym uniforms were usually stuffed in our lockers and probably only taken home to wash at the end of the school year. Oh, pew! Luckily, for the last two years, I was on the tennis team so I got to skip gym and to practise tennis instead.

Just like any other school, then or now, the periods were marked by bells. But before school, at the bell, we lined up, by class, in the courtyard and marched into school in single file, overseen by the prefects. Just like kindergarten children or boot camp!

Well, somehow, we all survived and yes, 90 per cent of my fellow graduates became teachers. No, I wasn't one of them. After a couple of years working, I went to Sydney University to do Pharmacy and so escaped the teacher corral.

I still keep in touch with several friends from my school years and in 1998 I went to Australia for the fiftieth reunion of our class. In our school, reunions are counted from the year you came together as a class, not the graduation year. Next year is the 60th reunion of my class. Hopefully I'll be able to attend that. I wonder how many are left of the ninety who finished their high school education in 1952 at St George Girls' High School, which celebrated its ninetieth anniversary last year.

NB
The young lady above left is the Head Girl of the Narrogin Senior High School in Western Australia. Substitute a red and white striped tie, a red and white emblem on her blazer and add a hat, then she is wearing a uniform similar to the one I once wore for my School Days.

Sojourn in London Town

In March of 1960, like many an Australian before me, I set sail from Sydney for Britain, for only the very rich flew in those days. The voyage, on an Italian ship called the Fairsky, lasted 5 weeks and went via the Suez Canal, finally arriving in Plymouth in early Spring. I was travelling alone but met, on the voyage, two other Australian girls and we decided to find a flat together in London.

We rented the top floor of a house in Stamford Brook, on the green line of the Underground. Two New Zealand girls had the middle floor and we shared a bath and toilet with these girls, with the main floor being the domain of the old English couple who owned the house. Behind the house was a small pleasant garden which we overlooked and a private lawn tennis club over the fence and later in the summer we listened with pleasure to the sound of ball on racquet and the players gentilely calling the score.

We then set about finding work. One was a secretary and had no trouble. I, after establishing my credentials with the Pharmacy Board, easily found locum work and the third, with an MSc in Chemistry, found work as a Science teacher in a high school. Soon we settled into a routine of working and being tourists in one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

Australia has a very short history and we had learned the history of Britain in high school. So for the first time we visited historic places which were only pictures in books to us. Every weekend we went to see some new exotic historical site. I can't tell you what I felt the first time I saw an ordinary house with a discreet brass plaque that said Charles Dickens lived here from year such and such to year such and such. I stood there mesmerized. I loved British history and to set foot in places where these famous historical figures had trodden was incredible to me.

Perhaps the greatest delight for me was the theatre and the opera and the ballet. In London, unlike in North America, there were cheap seats available for all theatres. Of course the seats were not prime, usually "in the gods", an expression meaning in the upper balcony. But affordable. So we went to the theatre, usually once during the week and at the weekend. I actually had the pleasure of seeing Sir Alec Guinness on the stage. He played TE Lawrence in Terence Rattigan's play Ross. Musical comedies were still in vogue and among others, I saw Irma La Douce for the first time. Another highlight of my theatrical experience in London was a rare performance of Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera, at Covent Garden.

London also boasts some of the most splendid art galleries in the world including the Tate and the National Gallery which houses one of the greatest collections of European art. And who can forget the British Museum? I was fortunate to work close by for a three week period and went there every day to spend my lunch hour wandering through the galleries. Then there is the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world's greatest museum of art and design. Yes London was a virtual treasure trove for me.

But everday living in London was not so pleasant. We had no refrigerator so had to shop almost daily, as Brits are well known to do. We took our clothes to the laundromat and couldn't hang anything outside to dry because pollution made it dirtier than before washing. We had to put money in gas meters for cooking and for hot water to take a bath so we always had to make sure we had lots of shilling coins. The water was so hard that we had to add detergent to the bath water to avoid the soap scum floating on top. Our furnished flat was so shabby and threadbare and we had no telephone although the English couple did allow us to receive calls on their phone, which was luckily in the hallway, but not make them.

So the next year, after I married an Australian who was finishing up a post-doctoral fellowship in Chemistry at University College, we happily left London to go to Canada where he had obtained a position at the university in Vancouver.

Strangely enough, although I've been to Europe many times since then, I've never been back to London. I don't know why. I guess, after living there for almost two years, I must feel I've "done" London.