Back in the saddle

The property was bulldozer-free yesterday, and Willow and I had a successful ride. She was fine, and other than not being able to sit the trot, I was fine. We cantered some, and she was nice and relaxed.

One funny discovery -- as I was tacking up, when I pulled the saddle cover off my saddle, I saw that the stirrups were tied up for lungeing. I asked Sue, who had tacked Willow off for me following the accident, if she had tied them up for some reason. She said, no, that they were already tied up when she took the saddle off. So I guess at some point following my unplanned dismount, before I realized I was just too woozy to get back on, I had decided I was going to lunge Willow. I have no memory of making that decision, or of tying up the stirrups.

Everyone at the barn said they've started wearing their helmets again :)

My Beautiful Ballerina Ducky

This weekend the family has endured a ballet dress rehearsal plus three concert performances. Well actually, Ducky enjoyed herself immensely, while the rest of us mostly just 'endured' it.

I asked Ducky if she had really had a good time, considering that she had to hang around backstage for a loooooong time just for her 7 minutes in the limelight. She answered, without a second's hesitation, "Yes! I LOVED it ALL!!!!"

She really has been in her element. Having her hair done with gel, mousse and hairspray ....
.... getting her makeup applied, right from the foundation to the mascara .... .... giggling nervously and excitedly with her friends in the dressing room, and dressing in her beautifully-sequined costume ....

...... and just enjoying the backstage atmosphere of all the different outfits intermingling, the tap shoes clickedy-clacking, the swishing of the senior ballet girls' real tutus and the clopping of their wooden pointe shoes as they stretch and warm up. And, of course, the performing! I watched the last concert which was held this afternoon. Ducky was so confident. She smiled the whole time, and she never missed a beat. It's like she was born to be on the stage.

In my little poem I likened the lead-up (of sequin sewing) to the paradox of childbirth - where something so presently awful suddenly becomes a time of wonder and delight. Well, this concert weekend continues along the line of that simile. Because as time consuming, awkward, unpleasant and difficult it has been to make sure Ducky is where she needs to be, on time, with all the necessary equipment, as well as dragging along the other 5 children and trying to keep them happy and occupied, and don't forget all those sequins! ... as hard as it has all been I know that next year, when the ballet teacher hands out the concert notices, I won't hesitate to sign the contract and line myself up to do it all over again. It's a case of the gain outweighs the pain .... .... eventually!

And as a wonderfully unexpected bonus Ducky was awarded the "Most Outstanding" trophy for Primary Ballet. I don't know who was prouder - Ducky, me, or my friend who had come along with me to watch the show. (She and I cheered and clapped like maniacs when they called out Ducky's name, while Possum slowly slid down into the seat beside me as she nearly died from embarrassment.)

OK, guess I'll start wearing my helmet again

About twenty minutes into our schooling session today, Willow bolted, alternating high speed galloping with crowhopping. I stayed aboard for two circuits around the arena, but she finally managed to throw me into the wall. I don't really blame her; not too far away there were two bulldozers lifting dug-up tree stumps and dumping them into a dump truck. It was noisy, with an extra-loud CLANG! every four or five minutes. Willow had been spooking with every clang, but she had also been coming back to me, or so I thought. Sometimes she is very deceptive about just how much tension she is harboring.

I hit the wall first with my hip and right arm, and then with my head (which I was trying really hard to protect, but I just hit too fast). I think I was out for a few seconds, and then I sat up quickly to make sure Willow wasn't galloping straight at me. She wasn't -- just passaging and blowing at the far end of the arena. I was way woozy, so I laid on my back in the dirt for awhile. Then I got up slowly (ow) and made my way to Willow, who seemed relieved to see me, stopped passaging, and walked over to me. I had a strong urge to get back on, but I kept having white-out conditions behind my eyeballs, so I called it quits and we went back to the barn. Luckily some friends were there, so they tacked Willow off and took me to the emergency room. I'm sure that's just what they wanted to do on their day off.

Diagnosis: mild concussion and two spectacular hematomas. Lessons learned: don't overface your young horse with bulldozers and clanging. And, wear your helmet, which I will start doing again, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, as the doc cleared me to ride if I'm able to clamber up into the saddle.

Scary Sequins

I've always loved ballet. There is something so romantically feminine (sorry danseurs) about the whole production. Music, costumes, makeup, hair styles, movement, and even the language of ballet .... it has always fascinated me.

My dad took me to see a ballet when I was about 14. To date, it's the only live ballet I have ever seen. I still remember a lot about it - important things like what I wore, and the storyline right down to inconsequential stuff like my dad crumbling his beer nut skins onto the floor. But most of all, I remember the excitement of it all.

When Ducky was about 17 months old she started trying to dance on her tippy toes. When she was about 30 months old she started talking about ballet. When she was 4 years old she declared that she wanted to be a beautiful ballerina when she grew up, and dance on stage every night. Do you think I was pleased?

Ducky started ballet lessons just before she turned 5. She performed in her first ballet concert last December - which made the subject matter for my very first blog post on this blog. (Wow! I've been blogging here for nearly a year!) This year Ducky performed in her Presentation Class, and is now on the brink of her second Ballet Concert.

And this is where the sequins come in.....

Actually they started last year. After paying enormous amounts of money for the ballet tuition, the costume, the cosmetics and hair products, and the concert tickets, I was handed a few flimsy bits of fabric (which turned out to be a leotard and a tulle skirt) and a bag full of gold sequins and beads ....

.....oh, and a piece of paper instructing me to sew three rows of these sequins across the front of the leotard.

I seriously thought it was a joke. It wasn't. Apparently I failed to read the fine print when I signed the contract which declared, in 1mm high lettering, that even though I have paid for the costume I may have to make some alterations or additions to it. (Some? Reality check! There were millions of those beads and sequins.)

So, I started sewing sequins. And I kept sewing sequins. And then sewed some more sequins. I was so proud when I had finished the three rows. I triumphantly showed it to the ballet teacher during Ducky's class, which was about 4 days before the dress rehearsal and concerts. The teacher said, "Very nice. Very neat. But you were supposed to three rows right around the top of the leotard, not just on the front."

My brain started spinning around inside my head - the thought of "Three more rows..." chasing the just-as-horrifying thought of "Only 4 more days..." round and round until my knees felt weak.

The shock on my face must have been obvious, because the teacher patted me on the back and said encouragingly, "I know you can do it!"

And I DID it!!

Imagine my relief when Ducky's ballet teacher described this year's concert costumes as "Just a purple leotard, skirt and cape with a muff. Oh, you might have to sew a bit of white fur on to the hood of the cape." (Notice there was NO mention of sequins?)

Then imagine my horror when Ducky climbed into the car the following week with all the above-mentioned items PLUS a bag full of white sequins, white seed beads........ and the nasty little piece of paper declaring I must sew these sequins, 5cm apart, all over the skirt, cape and hood!!! And, because the concert is being held a few weeks earlier this year, we only had 10 days to complete this mammoth task!

Well, a little girl-sized skirt, hood and cape never looked so huge to me as when I started sewing those sequins. (Even in my own misery I was able to spare a thought for the mother of the twins in Ducky's class, who had to sew double-duty sequins!) I think I must have lived, breathed and slept sequins for those 10 days, because when it was all finished I felt strangely at a loss. I wondered what I had done with my 'spare' time before those little white sequins had come into my life. I had forgotten what life was like without purple fabric and white sequins.

Then suddenly I remembered what I used to do before sequins. And I went to bed and slept. But I still dreamt about sequins. Or should I say, I nightmared about sequins! Then I was too scared to go to sleep again, so I composed this poem. (It's on my other blog.)

Put the Wife and Kiddies in the Family Car

Tomorrow we're off to visit my brother and his wife in Washington state, for our first ever American Thanksgiving. It's weird that they have it so close to Christmas, but it does rather kick off the season.

And by the way, I've only just realised, like two weeks ago, why Americans say "the holidays" - I always thought they meant Christmas, but I think they mean Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's all very integrated.

It's exciting - I've never been to my brother's house. Like - not just this actual house, but to his home - ever. He lived in North Carolina for the last 14 years, and I just didn't get there. So I'm very much looking forward to making up for lost time.

But there's a complication. We have always been more or less footloose and fancy-free, in terms of going away for weekends or whatever, but this past spring we bought ourselves a $1,000 ball and chain:


So I had to find someone to come stay here with Piper, and spent an hour meticulously writing notes that say things like "Don't use two heat-based appliances at the same time on the east wall of the kitchen - the breaker will blow" and "Bleach under the utility sink in the laundry room for potential dog-related poo disasters (knock on wood)" and "for TV audio select 'VCR' on Pioneer 'input' panel". It's exhausting. When you live in your house, everything works just fine, but when you take a step back and view it through another's eyes, all of a sudden everything is crap and you have to stand on your left leg and close one eye to get the bathroom door to open. But only in damp weather.

Now it's 11.30 PM, and we're leaving at 7.30 AM, and the only thing left to pack is the knitting. I should have done that first, before all the trivial stuff like underpants and contact solution. Now I need a whole 'nother suitcase just for the projects.

Which reminds me I should update you. I started (and have almost finished) the Cross-Country Chullo for a Christmas present (recipient doesn't read blog). It's in two shades of denim blue, which I think should be subdued enough for a guy. Can't wait to block it. Can you see the little Nordic skiers there?


And Jaali is coming along - here's the front:



And the Kauni Christmas stocking continues, though I'm at the heel turn (I opted for a short-row heel to preserve the seeding pattern) and it's taking FOR FREAKING EVER.



So I guess I'll be packing those, plus yarn to finish off the hat-mitt advent calendar. I also need to bring Charlotte's Xmas stocking, which is starting to make me feel a bit panicky because I am nowhere, but nowhere, near done.

You know what's odd? Ten years ago, if I was off somewhere I just put my clothes into a duffel bag and left. Now, before I go anywhere I spend an entire day running around madly charging all this bloody technology that is supposed to make my life more enjoyable. Cell phone, iPod, camera batteries, extra camera batteries, video camera batteries, memory cards and cases for everything. Then you have to remember to take the chargers too, in case your batteries need charging AGAIN while you're away.


By the way, see that message there? I think that's a subtle command from the Matrix. They've got us right where they want us - dependent on technology to live.

But I am also bringing a Rummoli set, and this, which is the most fantastic game ever invented:



Whaddya know! A completely SCREEN-FREE activity! I hardly know how to work it. Where's the mouse? Does it come with a trackpad? Is this the most current version? Are there automatic upgrades?

Cheerio, my beauties. I'll be in touch.

A couple videos

Pretty impressive.

Pretty funny.

From Thumb Foot to a Pink Tu-tu

Here's a compilation of recent stuff from the Aussie Half-dozen:-

1) Kitcat had a new pair of sandals to wear to church last Sunday. (By the way, in this house, and especially at no.6 down the line, "new" usually means new to that particular person - not "new" straight from the shelf at the shop or the parcel from Pumpkin Patch. These ones were actually new as they had been given to her as a gift.)

They had Disney Princesses on them.

They were pink.

They had little wedge heels.

They were beautiful.

Kitcat was so pleased with them. BUT, after a while she came to me in tears because her new shoes were hurting her foot. I asked her to show me where they were hurting, and she said, "It hurts right here ... see ... here on my thumb foot," whilst pointing to her big toe and crying even louder.

I am not sure if she was crying because of the pain of the blister, or from the pain of knowing she would not be able to wear the sandals.

2) Kitcat (along with everyone else in the family) has recently recovered from a particularly nasty gastro bug. For about 2 weeks each of the little girls took their 'bucket' to bed with them (which is just an old ice cream container.)

I was surprised when HB called out to me one morning, in an amused tone of voice, that I would have to clean out Kitcat's bucket.....

Luckily for me, imaginary vomit is no trouble to clean up. Apparently poor Miow-Miow was extremely ill. And how do you cure a blankie which is sick with gastro?

A good pretend-ironing will do the trick. Who knew?

3) Would you believe that Baby Jo has had another birthday? Here she is being fed a big piece of birthday cake by her ever-loving mummy.

(I think I'd go cross-eyed too if someone was trying to shove a proportionally large piece of cake down my throat with a soup ladle!!)

4) Possum and Dragon have been a bit cheeky lately. (My American Grandma would say they've been "sassy".) I was getting fed up with it, but my requests that they speak politely and respectfully were going unheeded. So I had one of those lightbulb-appearing-over-the-head type of brilliant idea.

I said, "If you two don't start behaving in the way you know you should behave, I will do something you really won't like."

This was met by the rolled eyes and half-smirks that only a teen can produce.

So I continued, "I will dress up in a pink tutu and come to your classroom. I will enter the classroom and announce that I am your mother. Then I will proceed to dance and sing for your whole class."

Have you ever seen two children instantly turn pale? I'm sure this is the image that popped into their minds. (Image source: here)

The cheekiness has been much less evident in our interactions since then, although I have had to remind them about my threat a few times. It doesn't take much ... just a simple "Hmmm, I wonder where I put my pink tutu..." and suddenly I have polite children again.

Fame and Fortune

The Canadian Blog Awards have begun again, and Half Soled Boots is nominated in two categories - Best Personal and Best Activities. You can vote here, once per category. By the looks of things I am up against some pretty stiff competition...including the Yarn Harlot for crap's sake. It's a bit of fun anyway - go vote if you're so inclined.

Last year I tried to go to all the nominated blogs so I could vote fairly. This year the list of nominees looked a bit long, so I just voted for myself in the one category, and someone else, whose blog I consider better than mine, in the other. It was only after I voted for them that I realised I was being a putz, and should have just given myself my own vote like everyone else does.

As for other nominees, my friend Belinda has been nominated under the category of Best Religious/Philosophy blog, and my Uncle Dave under Disability Blog. Best of luck to you both...

Yann Martel is Never Wrong

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 7 Number 1

by Steven Galloway



I'm noticing something about these books reviews, though it's not universally true - the amount of time that elapses between my reading them and my reviewing of them is inversely proportionate to their quality. This particular one I've just finished ten minutes ago.

The Cellist is one of Yann Martel's gifts to Stephen Harper, and a worthy one. The story takes place in the Siege of Sarajevo, and concerns the aftermath of the shelling massacre of a group of civilians standing in a bread line. A cellist resolves to play a lament on the bombed-out street for 22 days - one for each person killed.

The actual event is true - in fact the cellist who performed the tributes escaped Sarajevo and lives in Ireland...and is not nearly as pleased about the book as I am. But the book is not about the cellist, nor about the shelling that inspired the 22 laments: it is about human reaction to violence and fear. It concerns the inward struggle between honour - a person's moral code - and necessity.

While there is action in this book, the actual story is set in the minds of the characters as much as in the perilous streets. Their memories give the reader a glimpse of the past, and of the beautiful thing Sarajevo once was - and, with that glimpse, a reason to grieve for what it has become.

There are only a few characters, and for the most part their paths don't intersect with each other. Each person has a small job to do during the day we see them: one just has to get water. One has to cross a street - at an intersection covered by a Serb sniper. One is bringing a bottle of expired medicine to someone who needs whatever it can do for her. Another - a young woman with a rifle in her hand - has a darker task.

Their small rituals, their private thoughts, the things they fear and hope for, are the heart of the book. Human stories are always the most gripping, and for Sheer Grippingness, The Cellist of Sarajevo does not disappoint.

Do read this book. Something wonderful happens at the end - wonderful, not necessarily good. It's tiny and sad and symbolic - four words that signify reclamation, redemption, defiance, helplessness, vulnerability, and strength. Watch for it....and let me know what you think.

HSB Highly Specialised Book Rating System
The Cellist of Sarajevo gets

Reread? Yes
Given to Others? Without reservation.
Bookplate? Yes

3/3

Zoot suit riot

I can die happy now. I got to see the Cherry Poppin' Daddies live. I absolutely adored this band during the late 1990s, when the neo-swing movement was at its peak. I was taking ballroom dance lessons at the time, including swing, so we danced to CPD music all the time. I didn't know until after I moved to Eugene that the band is from here!

They played the WOW Hall, another great intimate Eugene venue. The crowd was wild for them. You could really feel the love running both ways. The front man, Steve Perry (no, not that Steve Perry), was born to lead this band. To call him manic doesn't begin to describe his stage presence. They finally had to tape his earpiece to his head to keep it from flying off.

I was lamenting the fact that I didn't have a swing dance partner to bring, but it wouldn't have worked anyway, because there was such a crush of humanity that partner dancing wasn't possible unless you moved into the hall. I enjoyed checking out some of the guys in the audience who were dressed to the nines, fedoras, zoot suits, chains, wingtips, and all. The swing scene is one of the few places where the guys can actually outdress the girls.


Blogging - Honestly!

The Miles Family Adventures gave me this award because "...the directions said to give this award to blogs that I find "brilliant in content or design"... I find all things Australian brilliant so, Mum-me, this award's for you!" Well, thank you. I find all things Australian brilliant too, even those mentioned in this song on Samster.com.

There are some rules attached to this award: "When you receive the prize, you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link them back. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in their content or design. Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing that they were prized with 'Honest Weblog'. List [if you can and/or dare] at least ten honest things about yourself. Then, pass it on!"

1o Honest things about myself .... hmmmmm .... I could honestly say my hair and my eyes are brown and my butt and my feet are wide, but I have a feeling that's not exactly what the award is aiming at. I think it means to list 10 Confessions about myself. So, after having a think about it, here is my honesty:-

1) I am too fat because my favourite foods are the three C's - Chocolate, Cookies and Cake. And they are all even better with a cup of really good Coffee. ("C" is a great letter.) Okay, okay ... I just realised that clogged arteries and cardiac arrest also start with C.

2) Some days I wish I didn't have to look after anyone except myself.

3) How did Debi know I needed this bloggers patch? She's right. I honestly spend too much time reading blogs and composing blog posts. My HB called me out on this recently and I was very defensive about it. But then I realised he was actually right. So I have limited my posting to 3 times a week, and I try to limit my blog reading to 1/2 hour per day.

4) If you ask my children what my favourite thing is, they will answer "sleep". I crave sleep. (This is Mousie sleeping on HB's chest when she was about 3 weeks old.) 5) My ironing basket has not been completely empty since this time last year. I can never seem to get to the bottom of it. In fact, I was getting frustrated with only having 2 tops to wear this season and was considering buying some more until I realised that my other 2 nice tops have been sitting in the ironing basket all winter!! (oops)

6) If lasagne and spaghetti bolognaise had never been invented I could probably quite easily switch to a vegetarian diet.
7) I love Star Wars - the original series. I used to think Mark Hamil was such a spunk. (Does anyone else remember using that word to describe an attractive boy? Or am I showing my age here?)
Image origin: here.

8) I hate it when I yell at my children, yet I keep doing it - even when I have determined I will not do it anymore. This is one area of my life which makes perfect sense in light of the Romans chapter 7 passage - you know the bit where it goes "v15 I do not understand what I do; for I don't do what I would like to do but instead I do what I hate ..... v19 I don't do the good I want to do; instead I do what I don't want to do."


Well I'm done. I could probably write more, but I honestly think it would make for much too scary reading. I think a lot of my brilliant blogging friends have already been asked to accept this award, so I would like to pass it along to these blogs which are brilliant in their design and content:
1) "CC" from If Only I Had Super Powers.
2) "Michele" from It's a Dog's Life.
3) "Givinya de Elba" from Killing a Fly With A Ukulele.
4) "Brandi" from Life As I Know It.
5) "MARY" from Mary had a little glob.

The hook brings you back

I saw Blues Traveler live last night. What a great show! They were at the McDonald Theatre, which is a fairly intimate venue. If you don't mind being in the crush, which I didn't, you can get pretty much as close as you want to the stage. John Popper was liberally throwing out harmonicas, and if I'd been willing to get aggressive, I probably could have had me one.

Popper looks like he has slimmed down some, which is so good, because he had heart surgery awhile back. Alas, he still smokes like a chimney. What he's able to do on a harmonica is unreal. Apparently he doesn't need to breathe. The band was tight, tight, tight. I do wish the guitarist would chop off that mullety thing he's got going on.

The crowd was on fire--dancing wildly to anything and everything, even the new stuff no one had heard before. They closed out the main set with "Hook" and just about blew the roof off. (Such an achingly beautiful song musically, with such biting, cynical lyrics.) Popper seemed genuinely gratified by the band's Eugene reception. He must not realize that once the rain starts, we have nothing else to get excited about.

Tonight, I'm off to see the Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Who needs food for Thanksgiving? I have a cornucopia of music instead. My only regret re: tonight is that I know how to swing dance, but I have no dance partner for the show :(

En Un Dos Por Tres

I got another mailbox surprise!

The cameraphone doesn't do it justice. And it's a step up from my tiny little spy camera but not as cumbersome as the Mother Lode. Neil got it so I could take pictures for YOU and post them here!

So I had fun with it this weekend.

"Bad To The Bone" at the Capitol. I'm lovin' the kitten-heel biker boots.

Saturday was rainy and created this beautiful, shimmering evening. The G-20 folks were still in town, and I can't help but think there was something in the air to make D.C. glimmer just for them. It definitely didn't feel or look like a normal night. The air was super-clear, and although there were clouds, they amplified and illuminated the clarity.

The Washington Monument and Capitol were literally glowing.

Ron's band rocked.

This series of houses where we parked looked like a movie set. They were all so small, neat and not very tall, and the street was completely quiet. It looked like they could be made of plywood and might fall over on us at any moment.
The addresses on the houses on the bottom right say "HALF" beside the door. So small!

Tuesday night we went to the Annual InterFaith Concert, held this year at the Washington National Cathedral. An awesome, awesome venue for an amazing concert.

Neil took me to the concert two years ago for our first date. Good work!

His uncle conducts the Mormon Choir of Washington, D.C., and they gave an amazing performance.
Wait a minute, who are those two young men in the middle-right panel, front row?? (Click to enlarge -- Hint: We're all related.)

The acoustics in the cathedral were incredible. I love that place. This picture doesn't have the right perspective to suggest its enormous size -- it's the sixth-largest cathedral in the world!

Rose Petal Shower

At my recent Sunday Afternoon Concert my students brought me beautiful flower arrangements, with lots of gorgeous roses. When the roses were spent I pulled off all the petals and decided to have a petal shower.
I often do this with old roses, and the girls throw the petals around the backyard and dance through them as they fall. This time I thought it would be nice to try and photograph the effect. I asked Teddy to be my model while Possum was enlisted to be the petal shower-er.
Teddy obviously didn't realise what a difficult and demanding modeling job this would be and very soon decided that she was going to sabotage the shoot. She was given the sack, and Mousie was brought in to replace her. Mousie was a much more acquiescent model and I was able to take lots of photos.
However, none of them turned out quite how I was hoping. I wanted this effect .... or this effect ... ..... but with this smiling expression.Oooops!Oh well, it was fun anyway.
Mousie enjoyed being showered with rose petals.
Possum had fun throwing petals around.
And I had a few minutes off dinner preparation.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

UPDATE!!!
My mother has had her tests and, despite three different medical professionals saying that her x-rays and scans showed indicators of asbestosis, the biopsy results show no signs at all of this dreadful disease.
Praise God!
Thank you very much to those who have prayed for my mum.

Sitting, Searching, Warning.

SITTING: It's another photo of a little sister sitting on a big brother. I told you it happens all the time.

SEARCHING: Where is Ducky?
Where is Ducky?
Here I am?
{Why is Ducky covered with cushions? It seemed to defy explanation.}

WARNING: Do not stand in front of a fan, on HIGH setting, if you hair is damp......... unless this is the look you're after.

Although I do like a good didgeridoo.

It was my friend's birthday the other day, so off we went with a couple of other girlfriends to have dinner. I asked whether they sold the Ravenswood Zin by the glass, and the waitress said sadly no, they didn't, so I recklessly bought a bottle. At a table with one skinny, underweight one-glass girl, and two teetotallers.

Maybe that accounts for what happened next, which was that we went to a local religious bookstore, for its yearly "Ladies' Night". The name is misleading - there are no strippers and hardly any Jello shots, but I go there almost every year to pick up some discount Christmas cards. This year, unfortunately, nothing leaped out at me but I wandered over to a stack of Christmas CDs marked "$2.97".

Now, you hardly ever get anything good for $2.97. CDs, even less so. But (and this is where the Ravenswood comes in) I picked up the one entitled "Christmas at Home - 20 Panpipe Favorites".

?

Let me explain. No - there is too much. Let me sum up. In days of yore, around the jolly Yuletide at my childhood's home, we had Zamfir. The glorious master of controlled breathing made peaceful and joyous our Christmas celebrations, and my memory of him is so very, very fond. I was deceived by the woman at the store, who leaned over my shoulder (causing me to almost asphyxiate as a result of immediately ceasing breathing so she wouldn't detect any Zinfandel) and enthused, "Have you heard of Zamfir?" I nodded, wordlessly, afraid to open my mouth. "This is just like that. Except Christmassy."

Because of the trying not to breathe or speak, I didn't mention that there were, in fact, two very Christmassy Zamfir recordings already, but just bought the CD and hightailed it out of there before in my befuddled, bewin├ęd state I ended up buying, say, a Thomas Kinkade commemorative plate from the Bradford Exchange.

Took the CD home and put it on, and listened in horror as the famous "Zamfir-like Christmas music" filled the room. It was awful. It is exactly what people fear (and, yes, mock) when they hear "panpipes". There was this terrible chipper background music, harpsichord I think, and the flautist himself was no Zamfir, but rather Zamfir's pesky preteen brother who sneaks into Zamfir's room when he's out and messes with his pipes for an hour.

I don't know panpipes - I wouldn't know the business end of a panpipe if you showed it to me, but I can tell when someone is playing it badly. And this was just wrong, wrong. The breath control - shouldn't there be a continuous note longer than eight-tenths of a second? Surely if you're producing a CD, you can come up with something better than this fitful hooting? Man I have heard some bad music in my time, and I am here to tell you nothing could sound more annoying than this CD.

Well, okay, I have thought of a few things that could be worse.

1-Feliz Navidad from the Merry Maracas!
2-Christmas with the Celtic Jaw Harps
3-Yuletide Didgeridoo

Anyway, unfortunately I have opened this slap in the face of art, and can't take it back to the shop and pound it on the counter, demanding my $3 back. I was thinking of raffling it off to some hapless blog reader, but I'm too much of a humanitarian to inflict this kind of agony on my fellow man. I guess it'll just go into the bin with the scratchy cassette AM-radio recording from 1986 of "The Glory of Love" that I dug out of a junk drawer the other week. Either that or I'll give it to someone as a gag gift, causing them to greet me awkwardly for the next six months as they wonder whether or not I even knew what kind of demented cacaphony was on that stupid CD.

I suppose I can be thankful that I never fell for the other $3 albums on that stack - "Christmas at Home - Classical" or "Christmas at Home - Party". My friend, though completely sober, DID buy those two. Next time I see her she'll probably be tear-stained and drawn, with cotton balls in her bleeding ears.

It is too late for her, and for me, but you can still save yourself. Knowing I kept even one person from buying this crazy music would be reward enough. So go, and buy not the $3 CD. Invest in a nice Zamfir album instead.

Amends, Part II

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 6, Number 4




Paul Quarrington

Remember King Leary? The Ravine is by the same author, in whose personality I am becoming intensely interested.

King Leary was side-splitting. The Ravine is also very funny, but more complex. It's a novel about the writing of a novel - the narrator is shuffling the account of his life into some sort of order, for a specific purpose: searching for the truth about an incident, a moment of horror, in his childhood. His memories of this incident, memories of the details, are partial and imperfect. In his quest to at once subdue and reconstruct them, he wanders through (literal) rainy streets and (figurative) murky quagmires.

The plot, the premise, the incident itself - all of these things are secondary to the construction, the narrative technique, the character development...and these are excellent. Quarrington's methods are brilliant, subtle, effective. He varies between the mundane and the wildly improbable, keeping the reader in a state of amused bewilderment much of the time. You're not sure, really, how far to suspend your disbelief - how much trust to extend to the narrator. I'm not saying his voice is unconvincing: in fact, the opposite is true - you're so drawn in to his mental reality, and unreality, that you feel like you know him. And, knowing him, you know he's not reliable in the slightest.

The dialogue is clever and much of the significant scenes take place over the phone. There's a weird displacement here - it's so frustrating to feel as if you can't get your fist around the characters. No context, no expression, no description, just lines - and unattributed lines at that. It feels like you're reading an IM without benefit of author tags. These exchanges are brief, and sometimes it's obvious who's talking - but only sometimes.

Significantly, the book closes with a phone conversation in which one of the speakers is clearly the narrator, but the other speaker is not identified. It's very much a "Lady or the Tiger" situation for the reader, where you find yourself re-reading the last scene for clues as to her identity. It's (depending on your personality) interesting, or totally infuriating, that there are no clues. Who the author intends the speaker to be isn't as important as who you decide she is. I both love, and hate, this kind of technique.

At the beginning of this "review" (I'm using finger air-quotes when I say that) I mentioned that I'm becoming intensely interested in Paul Quarrington as a person. Here's why: there are several themes in The Ravine that reminded me of King Leary - especially as I was processing the novel once I'd finished it. Firstly, there is alcoholism. The whole novel is soaking wet. Secondly, there is the character's regret, or possibly remorse, for past actions, and his (largely unwitting) quest for absolution. Thirdly, there are comic visitations from beyond the grave, which advance the character's journey significantly. Lastly, there is the moment where the narrative comes full circle, and the character gets a chance to change something.

I should note that these similarities do not denote any kind of clumsiness on the part of the author - although a few are obvious, others are subtle. It's not like you're sitting there reading, and feeling a queer sense of deja vu. But even if (or maybe especially if?) this pattern is unintentional on the author's part, I feel like I'm learning something about him - it makes me want to buy him a drink and pry into his subconscious. Hopefully I meet him someday, and I can hand him a pint and say "Tell me about your father".

If you liked King Leary, The Ravine will be a very different experience for you. I can't say whether you'll like it or not - it's a more sober story, with fewer big laughs and a more pungent scent of regret. But it is deeper, cleverer, and more important somehow - it occupies a different space in my mind. I'm not really done thinking about it, so if this (again, use your fingers) "review" seems inchoate, forgive me....I suppose that, like the narrator, I haven't fully emerged from The Ravine yet.

HSB Highly Specialised Book Rating System
The Ravine gets:

Reread: Yes
Given to Others: Judiciously Recommended, let us say...
Bookplate: Yes

3/3

Ruth and Boaz

This is a photo of Ruth and Boaz. (You can read their story in the book of Ruth, chapters 3 and 4. Or just read the whole book. It's not very long and it is very interesting.) Okay, okay! I knew I couldn't trick you. They just don't look quite Jewish enough. It's really my mum and dad dressed up for a church function. You both look great! Although Mousie commented that she would rather dress up as a fairy-princess. I had to explain to her why that wouldn't be a very good look for Grandpap ....

Anyway, why am I showing pictures of my parents? Apart from the fact that I think they are the best parents and grandparents around, I was amazed when my mum told me that dad was growing his hair. MY dad, who has always had a 'short back and sides' haircut or shorter! And look at this ...... ..... he has curls!! Hard to see in this photo, but there in amongst those waves are some fair dinkum ringlets. Just like Kitcat's. So now when people ask me where Kitcat's curly hair comes from I can say "From her Grandpap!"

Dad also emailed me a beautiful sunset photo he took on the evening of the costume party. I have posted it here at my other blog.

On a more serious note, I am going to ask you all to pray for my mum. She has been diagnosed with asbestosis and will be undergoing tests to determine what type it is over the next few days. I strongly, unwaveringly believe in the power of prayer, so those of you who believe along with me - please pray along with me too. Thank you.

"And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up."

James 5:15

Now, for something completely different .... if you like to laugh you just have to click the link below. The fact that my SIL is behind the camera, my brother is operating the props, or that my nephews are the star performers has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that this is indeed the most hilarious thing currently available for viewing on the whole world wide web. Click here. (Okay, maybe I am a bit biased. But just a tiny bit.)

Glimmers of a grown-up dressage horse

Here's a video of Willow and me from today. I'm ever so pleased. Yes, there's still oodles to work on, but I think we've made a lot of progress in the past couple of months. Willow doesn't look like a training-level horse anymore.


Personal Mosaic


Concept:
1. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
http://www.flickr.com/search/
2. Using only the first page, pick an image.
3. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.
http://bighugelabs.com/flickr/mosaic.php
(choose four columns and three rows, also choose individual URL's)

Questions:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One word to describe you.
12. Your nickname.


I saw this on a blog I landed on, and I thought it was fun. Try it!

Living here under this rock

OK, so apparently I've been living under a rock, because yesterday was the first time I ever heard of lolcats, aka Icanhazcheezburger? It's a blog containing pictures of cats with captions. The captions are garbled English/chatspeak. I usually think of cats as highly intelligent and sly, so there's something very funny about the unguardedness of the captions.




Of course, if you've got lolcats, ya gotta have loldogs, too, aka IHasAHotdog! I like cats perfectly fine, but at heart I'm a dog person, so I really enjoy loldogs.





Less obviously, if you have lolcats and loldogs, you also have to have lolwalrus lolrus. This picture is the beginning of the saga:



Now, why does that make me laugh every single time I look at it? And the saga continues:




I think I'm going to have a sad dream about that walrus

Nobody has built a good lolhorses site yet. I did find these two examples that I liked: