“Song for Zulu”

Song for Zulu

This song by Phosphorescent is featured on their Dead Oceans Album and is on the soundtrack of The Spectacular Now coming of age movie from 2013.  It got a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes website and is considered to be a thoughtful and poignant representation of teen angst.  I, however, have not seen it.  I am just enthralled with the song, it calms my being and allows me to delve deep into my own emotions and heartbreaks and come out on the other side.  I play it whenever I am feeling down because it gives me hope.  It is painful and beautiful all in one!

It is also on the soundtrack for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from 2014.  Again, another movie I have not seen!

I believe music can help change your life.  Both my husband and I have a list of songs we want played at our funerals that meant something to us as a couple and independently.  This may seem a little macabre to some but we feel it will help our friends remember the good times shared and not the sadness in our passing.

Image result for death quotes Image result for death quotes Image result for death quotes

The message here – enjoy life, it’s the only one you’ll have!

My older brother

Recently my older brother passed away.  He had been in a long term care home for seven years and had all his faculties until the end.  He had a sardonic sense of humour and I visited him regularly for all that time.  We got to know each other a bit better but he always considered me the scatter-brained sister who made lots of mistakes which he was quite willing to point out but I loved him because he was my brother and that is what family is all about.  You don’t have to agree with them or even like them all the time but you are there for them and vice versa.

I remember when we were all still at home and some of us believed in Santa Claus as children and we would all have stockings stuffed with various kinds of nuts and an orange or an apple, a few bits of candy and practical stuff like mittens or socks for the cold winter months.  We would draw names in our household and buy only one gift and everyone hoped that my brother would draw their name as he wrapped his small gift elaborately, taping and hiding coins and bills throughout and putting that small box into a bigger box like Russian nesting dolls (Matryoshka dolls) and when you were done, the rest of the kids could go through it all again and anything missed would become theirs so it was a very exciting game you didn’t want to lose and you felt special because he put so much time and effort into it.

Brothers can be a real pain in the ass at times but when they are gone, you really miss the sarcasm and the kindness shown, the teasing and laughter.  He was a book worm and having a conversation was sometimes awkward but when we played card games or board games he was very competitive and very good at trash talking.  May he rest in peace!

The best selling author of all time

Who is the greatest selling author in the world?  If you said William Shakespeare you wouldn’t be wrong as he is tied with Agatha Christie for that distinctive honour according to Google.  This forty years after her death in 1976.  Of course, William has been dead a few centuries longer than that (1616).

Why do I bring this up at all – because my sister-in-law has been gadding about Europe for the past two years mostly in France, Spain and Italy but with a few exotics thrown in for good measure like Morocco.  To say that I am livid with envy would be an understatement.  Naturally I comment positively on all the photos she posts on Facebook but the whole time I’m wishing it were me.  I am very proud of her for leaving the rat race, storing all her stuff and taking off to see all the places she’s read about for years… unlike her fine arts family member she is a history and literature buff so some of the places she has chosen to visit might not have occurred to me.  For instance, visiting the summer home of Agatha Christie as mentioned.  After seeing the pictures I decided to do a little research and thought I’d share with you.

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on September 15 1890 in Ashfield on the northern edge of Torquay, a seaside town in Devon, England. The Victorian villa was demolished in the Sixties – a blue plaque marks the spot – but the town is replete with sites associated with the author’s life. Educated at home by her mother, Christie began writing detective fiction while working as a nurse during World War I.  It was due to this avocation that she developed a knowledge of poisons which she used quite liberally in a lot of her novels.  She did not like violence – a side effect I’m sure of seeing it first hand during the war.  When she married Lieutenant Archibald Christie, they honeymooned at the Grand Hotel.   Her marriage to Archibald did not last, perhaps yet another casualty of that devastating war. In 1930, Christie married noted archaeologist Max Mallowen.

She travelled extensively with both her husbands, and owned many houses during the course of her long life – including several in London, important homes in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and even one in Baghdad.

QuoteHer first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), introduced Hercule Poirot, her eccentric and egotistic Belgian detective;  Poirot is one of Christie’s most famous and long-lived characters, appearing in 33 novels, one play, and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975 before returning to Styles, where, in Curtain (1975), he died.  Believe it or not, this fictional character had his obit published in the New York Times, that’s how popular he was.  The Nicaraguan government put Poirot’s face on a postage stamp.

The elderly spinster  Miss Jane Marple, her other principal detective figure, first appeared in Murder at the Vicarage (1930).  She featured in 12 of Agatha Christie’s crime novels and in 20 short stories.

Dame Agatha Christie is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Bestselling Author.  Her books have sold over 2 billion copies in 44 languages.  Royalties are about $4 million per year.  Agatha Christie is also one of the world’s most prolific writers, or authoress (as she called herself).  She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1971.

Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap has the longest theatrical run, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952. It moved next door to the St. Martin’s Theatre on March 25, 1974, not missing a single performance. It continues to this day.

3,000,000 copies of Murder on the Orient Express (published in 1934) were sold in 1974 alone when the Albert Finney film adaptation opened!  Recently, Sir Kenneth Branagh brought the fussy detective Poirot back to life in his movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express which also starred Johnny Depp and a certain other grand Dame — Judi Dench and an all star cast.

Later on I will post some of my sister-in-laws photos of Agatha’s summer home with information on where and how it came to be on the National Historic register.  Right now I will leave you with a few quotes from the great authoress herself.

An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her.

Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.

The art of Nick Park and Peter Lord

Chicken runAardman Animations was co-founded in 1972 by David Sproxton and Peter Lord in Bristol, England and are famous worldwide for their Wallace and Gromit features.  Nick Park who joined them won Aardman Animations first Oscar with “Creature Comforts”. Until Chicken Run, the focus of Aardman Animations had been animated shorts and TV commercials. Three of Aardman’s animated shorts have won Academy Awards for “Best Animated Short.” This includes “Creature Comforts (above),” “The Wrong Trousers,” and “A Close Shave.”

In Chicken Run a total of 534 puppets were made with 16 Gingers (heroine) and 12 Rockys (hero). Each puppet costs around £3,000 to make.

Chicken Run took 3 1/2 years to complete and the research into the film included a visit to a chicken farm in Yorkshire.  In case you don’t remember Chicken Run which came out in 2000 it is loosely based on “The Great Escape” – you know the movie where prisoners of war in Germany are digging all these tunnels and Steve McQueen is flying around on a motorcycle.

Chicken Run is an animation film wherein the characters are painstakingly created out of clay and filmed in a stop motion sequence where they take a shot, move the arm or change the expression and then take another shot of film.  It is something that I would never have the patience for but I certainly admire the talent and the process involved.

In Chicken Run, audiences will notice that nearly every chicken wears some sort of scarf or necklace. While this method served well to help identify each chicken, it served a more important purpose of hiding the seams from where the heads of the chickens detach. Each chicken had up to 60 different beaks to properly recreate vowel and consonant sounds for realistic talking. Like the chickens, the humans had a series of detachable mouths to properly recreate speech patterns. Forty animators worked on the film to bring the chickens to life and the process is highly time consuming.  Consider that one second of film requires 24 frames.  Aardman had to shoot one frame at a time with the chickens being animated in each frame for seamless transition of movement….so, for just ten seconds of film, Aardman had to worry about 240 individual frames.  One minute of film is 1,440 frames long.  They also had to be diligent about lighting, synchronization, speed, camera control, shadows, etc.  One scene could take weeks to accomplish.

And that my friends is where the art comes in because as a member of the audience you are not even aware of all this work – you are caught up in the action, the characters and the story being told just like any Bruce Willis Die Hard, Transformer, Iron Man movies – ONLY WITH CHICKENS.

Trivia note:  Mrs. Tweedy, the ‘villainous’ of the piece was based on Alan Rickman’s villain in Die Hard apparently.

If you have never seen it, I highly recommend you stream it, rent it, buy it, borrow it, whatever you like and watch it.  If you love animated movies like I do you will thoroughly enjoy it though you might have a little problem with the accents but then that’s why you have subtitles!

 

 

Live the Life you’re given

A few months ago, I had to empty, donate, distribute and clean my niece’s apartment.  She had been found dead by the police whom I had called because her brother and I were worried about her and hadn’t heard from her.  They came to my door just before midnight and you just know when you open the door what they are going to tell you.  The funeral arrangements, service and few weeks after are pretty much a blur though you manage because you have to.  She died from complications of diabetes and other medical issues.  She had spent a year trying to find out what was wrong with her and why she couldn’t eat, etc.  She spent most of that time in and out of the hospital becoming more depressed with each visit.

I have been blessed with relatively good health most of my life and even though I have abused my body with alcohol, etc. it ticks on like the ever-ready bunny and I take it all for granted.  The hard part about life is knowing that sooner or later it will end – guaranteed!  You can talk all you want about cryogenics and other means of extending life but in reality you only get the one chance to live.  Depending upon what you believe in, you might come back – either as a human, an animal or plant.  You might go to heaven or hell.  You might just return to dust, again; it doesn’t matter – you’ll be dead!

Don’t be that person who says I wish I’d done more, been there for people, helped that homeless person on the street, loved more!  Make that happen!

While carrying out stuff from the apartment to the garbage bin outside, I dropped something on my foot and still have a blue bruise on my big toenail.  Every morning when I have a shower I look at it and remember my niece and the good person she tried to be despite all the tragedy in her own life.  She looked after people who were dying.  Talked to them, helped them with bathing and taking medication and bonding with them even though she knew their time was short.  She ensured that there would be someone with them in their final moments and let’s face it – that’s what most people are afraid of – dying alone.  It takes a special kind of someone to do that week in and week out and I’m grateful that they had her there.  I only wish there had been someone there for her when she took her last breath.

It is comforting to know that she is with her grandmothers and grandfathers and all those close to her who went on before her.  While I grieve her loss because she was still young and I miss her even though we weren’t particularly close and I wish we had been better friends, I feel guilty that I didn’t reach out to her more when she needed someone.  Why is it so hard to let people you love know that you do love them!

swimming

The Importance of Family

You are not meant to get along with every individual on the planet but when you choose your friends you are likely to choose those that see eye to eye with your ideology than not.  You do not have that luxury when it comes to family.  More often than not they are completely different from you and actually not someone who you would choose to be friends with but sometimes you do end up having an appreciation for the differences between you and a respect for that different viewpoint.  That is one of the reasons I feel sorry for only children.

For one thing, they are the oldest and the youngest child at the same time.  They don’t have anyone to look up to or have mentor them throughout the complexities of growing up.  Mind you, they don’t have anyone to beat them up either or tease them mercilessly and humiliate them in front of friends so there are certain benefits to going solo.

There were several occasions when I wished I was an only child or that I at least had a sister to confide in and ruminate about how beastly my brothers could be but they also came to my rescue on more than one instance and talked me out of doing some stupid things in life and I always could depend on them if something serious was happening and I needed guidance or strength at the time.

I still do not understand the lifestyle choices of some of them but there is something to that “being blood” bond that if they needed me I would go out of my way to help any of them because I love them – I may not always like them but we all had the same great parents and have some wonderful memories to share of growing up and becoming the people we are today because of that love.

Family helps define you and shape you and keeps you sane … or maybe I’m mistaken and it’s pets that help keep you on an even keel.  At least they don’t argue with you!

Why hire movers when you can do it yourself?

Once upon a time as a teenager leaving the familial nest; moving myself was easy, as I didn’t own very much to begin with.  The longer you live the more you accumulate and if one doesn’t purge on a regular basis you end up with a lot of stuff.  Recently, I helped my brother sell his home, pack up his belongings and get rid of a bunch of junk.  I learned a valuable lesson, albeit a little late in life, I think.

Hire movers!

Why? – less stress, less physical pain after heavy lifting, less bickering and less time wasted sorting and throwing things out.  The movers will ensure the boxes are uniform, strong and packed properly in the truck or pod or container and that nothing will shift during transport to your new home or storage facility.

Let’s deal with the first thing hiring movers relieves – stress!  You merely pick up the phone and book a date for an estimate which you get in writing and on that day, you greet them with a cup of coffee and supervise the packing of your valuables.  Piece of cake!  In the above case, we shopped around for a mover and decided to get a container which we would pack at our leisure and when done simply call them and have them pick it up and take it to a storage place to await shipment.  Problem is – you don’t know when they are going to deliver that container so you have to be there till they bring it and when they do you then have to learn the complex system of opening the back doors so you can start putting your things into it.  Therein lies a second dilemma, how to pack those different size boxes you got from the liquor store or grocery store, taping and labelling them and stacking them tightly so they don’t shift.  It was about this point that I thought to myself – why the hell didn’t you just hire somebody to do all this.

Which brings me to my second point of relief – less physical pain after heavy lifting.  After you have moved things from the attic to the main floor and brought up heavy boxes from the basement a few times, your back and legs are screaming at you – “hell, no” and this is repeated over several hours and several days and all the while you are up and down stairs and beginning to take several extended breathers in between loads to catch your breath and give your knees a rest.  With movers, you simply ask them if they’d like a water or pop while sitting in a rocker on your porch overseeing the proceedings.

To all those who have siblings you will certainly relate to the bickering part from how to lift and carry an item down a tricky set of stairs to how that truck or container should be packed and don’t put that there or throw that out I’m keeping it running dialogue you will have.

Lastly, the time factor.  Most movers will have your house packed up and gone within four to six hours because they bring lots of big strong men to do it.  We, on the other hand took 7 days to sort through, pack and stack everything.  That was after having the Junk Guys come in with their truck and taking away all the junk – from useless paper to old computers, receivers, broken furniture, mattresses, etc.  Three big truckloads later you would think you wouldn’t have that much to actually take with you but you’d be sadly mistaken, my friend.  Box after box of VHS tapes and DVDs were packed away and taken to storage.  Again, I thought – why bother, you can see most of these movies, musicals, concerts, etc on Netflix or other streaming computer sites but what do I know.

I do know I am glad that is over and I will never, ever move myself or anyone again!

That’s what you call your famous last words………………….

Two adirondacks in garden 2

 

 

 

 

Snowball tree on side of garage

Gardens and their importance

For many years my mother kept a beautiful garden filled with tulips and peonies and roses and poppies and plants and the most beautiful snowball tree I have ever seen. When the scent of the lilacs filled the air you knew it was Spring.  When the jack in the pulpit broke ground you knew that scores of trilliums wouldn’t be far behind and that a walk through the woods out back would be filled with a carpet of white making you marvel at the artistry and beauty provided by Mother Nature.

This was the biology/botany lesson where you could witness rebirth in the perennials or see the results of the bulbs/seeds that you planted the previous fall and know that you helped the flower to blossom and show off its splendour and radiance of colour.

Of course that would be looking back on the scene through rose-coloured glasses as six kids ran roughshod through the gardens while playing games in the front yard be it badminton, baseball, croquet or Red rover, Red rover.  We never really appreciated all the hard work and effort that went into working these gardens and when our mom had a spare moment (and I don’t know how she found one) that is where you could find her.

It was only when I began gardening myself as an adult that I appreciated the pride and satisfaction she must have derived from all that effort.

I’m pretty sure she was totally exasperated with us when we rummaged through a bush looking for a lost bird or ball while she admonished us to stay out of the garden with an ever increasing sharp tone.  I can remember the one Spring when my older brother and I planted firecrackers in our neighbour’s tulips and blew them up, just for fun and then having to go over after our mom found out to apologize and pay for the damage out of our allowance.  These are the lessons you learned while growing up.  I have provided a few examples from the many, many life lessons learned.

1. Don’t chew gum with your mouth open as you look like a cow chewing their cud.

2.  Don’t threaten to poke a neighbour child’s eye out with a stick  though you wouldn’t have actually done it because it isn’t nice to pick on someone younger than you even though my older brothers beat me up on a regular basis – not that I’m sure I didn’t provoke them on occasion – I was definitely no little angel.

3.  Don’t try to burn down your school by lighting the field behind it on fire as it wastes the fire department’s time to come and put it out and your parents will be less than thrilled.

4.  Don’t play in the swamp without your rubber boots or you’ll get a soaker.  Be careful where you go swimming that you don’t bring home leeches.

5.  And don’t taunt the boys calling them sissies unless you can outrun them.

There are plenty more but I digress from the Garden and the refuge it must have provided my mother from the goings on while dealing with her stubborn, willful children with more personalities than Sybil.

She also had pea bushes, rhubarb and grew lettuce and other veggies in the side and back gardens to supplement our grocery bill and reused and recycled long before it became di rigeur.  Sometimes I think people forget the simple things in life that can bring joy and happiness.  I miss my mom.

 

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You’re Fired

Thankfully not everyone gets to hear those words in the workforce and for some once is plenty but I have the unique privilege(?) of hearing those words quite a few times in my life.  It doesn’t seem to have affected me adversely but as my husband has pointed out on several occasions, it’s not the kind of thing you brag about either.  Attached is an article I wrote about being fired.

You’re Fired

Laid-Off-Packing-Up-Office

Incidentally, my office never looked this neat – ever!

FAMILY GAMES NIGHT

family-games-night-clipart

To hold a family games night as a means to spending quality time with your children is an adorable premise – a Hallmark moment of polite entertainment interspersed with laughter and learning in a secure and nurturing period of time.  In reality, it can be utter and complete chaos.

Please read  for our version of family-games-night from long ago.