Thursday, September 29, 2016

Woman with a Parasol, Turned to the Left


This painting by Claude Monet was painted in 1886. The woman is Suzanne, one of the daughters of Alice Hochedé, who eventually married Monet in 1889. Suzanne, his step-daughter became one of his favourite models. The painting resides at the Museé d'Orsay in Paris.

© R. PLUMET / France 3

A group of people in Normandy undertook the ambitious project of replicating the painting in knitting as part of the 2016 Normandy Impressionist Festival. With the help of volunteers of all ages and abilities, the knitting (approx. 10,000 squares were needed) and assembly of the work took more than 4 months.

© R. PLUMET / France 3

The finished work was on display in August in front of Rouen Cathedral.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Country Road, A Tree

A Country Road, A Tree

A Country Road, A Tree, by Jo Baker, was an interesting book, quite different from Longbourn, her novel about the below-stairs characters from Pride and Prejudice, which I really loved and blogged about here.


In this case, the main character, and it helps to know this ahead of time, is the Irish writer, Samuel Beckett. The author blends well-known facts with fiction in telling us of Beckett's life during the Second World War, which he spent in France, which was, of course, invaded and occupied by the Nazis in 1940 and divided into the Zone Occupée and the Zone Libre. 

Beckett started out in Paris, but since he was not a citizen, he was persona non grata and not only had to avoid the officials (Gestapo) but was not eligible for any food vouchers, making life for himself and his partner, Suzanne, very difficult. 

To add to the drama, Beckett was completely sympathetic with the French and, much to Suzanne's consternation and worry was drawn into the Résistance. Once it was too dangerous to stay on in Paris, they found their way to the Free Zone and continued to live under the radar. 

Beckett was at the same time a friend and compatriot of James Joyce, who was also living in France, as were many other writers and artists of the time. He collaborated and translated for Joyce and was greatly influenced by him, only coming out from under his influence and finding his own minimalist style after the war. 

Life in France during WW2, with neighbours who could not be trusted and significant inadequacies of food and shelter, was so difficult, it is hard to imagine now. The author reflects this discomfort onto the reader with her writing style - choppy sentences and paragraphs to cause squirminess. I nearly put the book aside at the beginning but am so glad I carried on to the end. I enjoyed learning about Samuel Beckett and having recently travelled to France, really related to the hardships of life there during the war and immediately after the Liberation. 


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hedgehog Bath

Last week we had a video of a hummingbird bathing. Today it's a hedgehog.



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Chicago

Chicago

Just about a year ago I had a fantastic trip to visit Chicago. It still seems amazing to me that we were able to pick up the flavour of the city in just a few days. Of course, I was somewhat primed, having read The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Eric Larsen. This fantastic non-fiction book is an account of the building and lead-up to the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. 

Last April by good luck, I picked up Chicago, by Brian Doyle from the "New Books" shelf at the library. Having visited that great city, how could I not check this book out! It's a fictional account of a young man's stay in Chicago over the course of 5 seasons (note: seasons, not years) about 30 years ago.

What it really is, is a love letter to a city by an author who is extremely observant of said city's vibes: its streets, inhabitants, lake, weather, gyro stands, baseball mania, etc. You could read this book and say that nothing much happens. On the other hand, so much is happening all the time, that I couldn't get my nose out of it. I've not read any of Brian Doyle's previous books, but it's obvious that besides living in Portland, Oregon and being a basketball aficionado, Brian Doyle is an awesome story-teller who has lived at some point in his life in Chicago, hence his affection for this great city.

Doyle's basketball-dribbling hero, who works for a Catholic magazine, lives in an apartment building near the lake with fellow Chicagoans, including a dog who can not only talk but can bring back from the nearby pub, a pitcher of beer on his back. Ok, that's a bit strange, but I loved it all the same. We read about some of these folks and their transient lives, told with such compassion and with such skill that we ourselves feel totally immersed in the Chicago culture.

I highly recommend this book. But maybe you should visit Chicago first to get a feel for the place. (Take me with you)

Note: We must not confuse this American Brian Doyle with the esteemed Canadian writer Brian Doyle, a much older man, by the looks of it. It seems that I will have to read other works by each these persons to sort out Brian Doyles. Sounds ok to me.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bath Time

The hummingbirds at the cottage have departed on their way south. I hope at journey's end they will be able to find a birdbath like this and refresh themselves.




In the following video a hummingbird has a close call from an unexpected enemy.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Yes I Can!

Last week a couple people sent me the trailer for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio and it's so great I have to share. 






LATE EDIT:

Apparently, this little film was controversial. Celeste Orr, a PhD student in Ottawa took public issue with it in the Ottawa Citizen.  Alvin Law, the Canadian drummer in the film is eloquent in the discussion that took place on CBC's Ontario Today. Listen here. It's pretty interesting.


Alvin-headshot

Mr. Law, by the way, besides being a musician, is a motivational speaker. I thought he was well-spoken and well-worth-listening-to.