Posted by: Valerie | May 2, 2010

Of Toronto, e-readers, blackflies and more…

I shall start by stating that Joe is fine. The stent was successfully installed on Tuesday. Unfortunately they couldn’t use his wrist to insert the tube as they had to get to the back of the heart so it had to be an incision into the femoral artery. The recovery from the wrist insertion is very quick; from the groin it is more lengthy and at one point, painful. Poor Joe had to lie immobile for a total of eight hours! He had a shared room and as it happened his roomie was from Bancroft and also had a daughter in Oshawa. Not only that, his name was Pritchard which was Joe’s wife’s maiden name. Small world and all that. I think they both appreciated having a buddy to chat with – just as much as I would have appreciated the complete lack of a buddy and the presence of a good book.

Doesn't look too bad!

In travelling to and fro I was very lucky in having some excellent help with the driving from both Liz and Howard, Joe’s daughter and her husband. And hey, I didn’t get a bit lost on the subway, thanks to Liz who guided me through. I was quite amazed at how cheap it is. For $2.00 you can go anywhere at all in Toronto. All in all, Liz and I had a pleasant day and got a chance to talk on a different level than we usually can. Joe’s son, Stephen, and his Nancy appeared after work and we all had a hilarious visit. It tends to get hilarious when Stephen is around and I was quite surprised we weren’t told to shut up!

Somehow I never got the opportunity to “do” the museums and galleries. Another time… they’ll still be there. So now all is settling back to normal. Joe has a few restrictions for a couple of weeks but nothing too serious. I get to do all the driving and Joe tells me how to do it. I’ve only been driving for about 45 years so I guess I need all the help I can get!

I have a birthday this month and I am contemplating asking Joe to get me a Kobo e-reader. Now before you shriek heresy and tell me that nothing can replace a real book, I must insist that I completely agree. I enjoy the experience of a book, the feeling, the smell, the visual appeal of the fonts etc, etc. However I absolutely hate being stuck in a waiting room or whatever with only dog-eared magazines to flick through and I thought it might be a good solution for such occasions, saves stuffing a heavy book in my already over-stuffed purse. It comes pre-loaded with 100 classic books so maybe I can catch up with Dostoevsky and other worthy dead authors that I haven’t got round to. I wonder if it has Proust – although I am pretty sure I will never get around to Proust in this lifetime.

Trillium - Ontario's provincial flower

Right now I am greatly enjoying a book recommended by my good friend Pauline who is presently braving snowstorms in the mountains of Arizona. It has the intriguing title of “The Palace of Strange Girls” and is set in 1959 in Blackpool. Of course for us Brits it is very evocative of the time we were growing up and the writer, Sallie Day, has the social background dead on. I look forward to my nightly read. It’s one of those books that I am desperate to finish although I know I will feel quite bereft when I do! My only slight irritation is that the book has been Americanised in terms of spelling and some grammar.

Spring is a full month ahead of itself this year and the trilliums are brightening the woods around us. The apple tree is in blossom – and the blackflies are here! I thought I was being clever arranging our trip out west for the middle of May in order to avoid the tiny but voracious bastards but they have outsmarted me. Going to need to drape myself in nets from here on, I’m afraid. I am told that is the sign of a townie and none of the locals would dream of wearing them but do I care? Not much!

Tiny miniature daffs

Our biggest thrill since we got home was the arrival of the man who has bought the neighbours’ ancient tractor that has languished at the back of our yard all winter. He drove all the way from Montreal – five hour ride at very least. It took him, with Joe helping with a winch (they never thought to tell him not to do that at the hospital!), more than five hours to get it loaded and then he had to drive back to Quebec. It really is a piece of junk but I gather that he is going to mate it with another of the same vintage and end up with a splendid offspring. Whatever…

Joe and Tractor Man

Gentlemen may stop reading here as I am about to describe my first effort at felting. I am really quite pleased with the result. I knitted a huge bag using two strands of wool and then shrunk it in the washing machine. It is really thick and heavy and should do good duty as a bag, not that I really need one.  Now I will have to think about getting arty with the felting.

My felted masterpiece


  1. Cool that Joe is back loading tractors onto trailers etc, can’t keep a good man down and all that!!

    I love hearing about your spring but it does mean it is getting colder for us. It suddenly was cold on Saturday, just like that! Not cold enough for a fire though.

    I can’t believe you are doing felting, I’m keen to have a go, send instructions – please. The bag looks great.

    Take care, watch out for those pesky black fly – you can keep those!

    Love from Sarah

  2. So glad to hear that Joe is doing OK although that procedure sounds horrendous.

    I am so pleased to read that you are enjoying Sallie Days book. The amusing thing is that I have never been to Blackpool yet I felt such a connection to the social background. My mother who always instilled in us that we were “middle class” would only have allowed us holidays in Scarborough–much more genteel. I think we would have enjoyed Blackpool more. These days to think that there was any gentility in Middlesbrough would bring hoots of laughter. Whenever “liberty bodices” are mentioned I hark back to my childhood.
    I have not heard of the Kobe e.reader–must look that up, but it sounds like a good idea. I am reading the two volume (heavy) “Far Pavilions” by M.M. Kaye,on the one hand, a very romanticised novel of life in India under the Raj in the 1870’s. On the other hand, it should have been necessary reading for the current governments of the UK and US–there is no way we would be in Afghanistan today if they had read of the tribal loyalties of the Afghanies. The writer was born in India and married a “high muckety muck” in the Indian army.

    The snow storm has passed and we are to be in the 60’s today. We are here because we are having natural gas installed in our house. The price of propane has gone through the roof. What do you have in Bancroft? I now need to find a way to decorate an obsolete propane tank unless we can persuade someone to take it away for scrap.

    It seems that Sarah and I both enjoy your blog–maybe that trip around English pubs would work??

    I don’t envy you the black flies–they would drive me nuts and I am not exaggerating–I have been known to refuse to leave the car and will eat my picnic sandwiches inside rather than expose myself to the annoying little buggers!!

    The felting looks good–is it scratchy–you could make a good hat out of that–it kept the Kazakhs warm!!

    • I’ve never been to Blackpool either. It always seemed pretty tacky though I can see that kids might love it. Yes, we were both tagged with that middle-class label, weren’t we? The biggest horror for me would have been a Butlin’s Holiday Camp. I have always hated joining in planned jollity!
      Have you read The Jewel in the Crown trilogy by Paul Scott. It’s India too but probably a bit less romanticized than M. M. Kaye. The Beeb did a wonderful job serializing it years ago.
      I have recently been force-fed Ayn Rand and I must say I quite enjoyed the one I read.

  3. Glad your trip went well and that Joe is back up and at ’em. I kinda thought Spring was early here too as the lilacs are beginning to bloom. They don’t usually bloom until late May.

    The tulips are early too and many will be done by the time the Tulip festival starts. No pesky bugs yet but plenty of insect life cavorting about. The birds are ecstatic and singing their hearts out every morning. What a delight.

    There is a new restaurant, near to the Taj, called Salang Kebob. It is Afghani and the food is delicious. The meat is marinated and is exquisite. I was the only Breton there when I went.

    Interestingly, the burkhas and niqabs come off when the women eat out with their men. Do try it the next time you come to Ottawa. It is a bit of a self serve, a third world cafeteria. You place your order at the counter and pick up your plate when called. A different experience, as they say.

    • I’d love to try the Afghani restaurant. I’ll be coming up to Ottawa in June.
      Not before that because we are off to Calgary next week. Wondering whether to take the skis… Maybe we can do a boxtalk lunch. I haven’t been able to get to one for a long time.

  4. Ha, so I’m the only one whose been to Blackpool!!! :o) My mum’s cousin took my cousin and I there, then took as to Speke Hall as a TOTAL contrast. Was a great day.

    • Yes, that surely would be a contrast! I’ve never been to Speke Hall either but I’ve seen photos. When were you last in the UK, Sarah? Or Canada?

  5. Too long ago for my liking. UK was 1990, Canada – 1987!!!

  6. I’ve been to Southport, just south of Blackpool. The only interesting thing was the tide went out three miles –it was very refined!! Only old people. But now I’m old maybe it wouldn’t be as refined as I thought. A couple of years ago some ten or so Asians were all drowned near Southport. They were paid a pittance to collect scallops? and all drowned as the tide came in so quickly and they were cut off.
    Don’t you wish I had started this, Val??

    • Meant to say–Don’t you wish I hadn’t started this–not too grammatical but you get my point I am sure.

      • Just a case of the mind speeding along faster than the fingers. It’s the reverse I dread! We have just heard on the telly that our vacation destination (next Thursday) is in the midst of a mighty blizzard. Joe is totally neurotic about weather and is monitoring the Calgary news station. I have all sorts of plans for forays into the Rockies and even a trip out onto a glacier planned – one of those buses with enormous wheels – so I too hope the damn white stuff will have disappeared.

  7. Bill is totally neurotic about weather–for a man born in South Dakota snow holds untold terrors for him–ending up in a ditch far from civilization and no cel phone connection perhaps. We have 75 degrees forecast for tomorrow after 4″ of snow on Sunday. Maybe the same will hold true for you.

  8. I thought you said it was spring? :o)

    • Spring seems to be a relative term. Alberta is digging out from a huge storm and that’s where we’re going next week! Enjoy your autumn.

  9. thanks, we have had our first real frost for winter, we had one earlier but it was just a pretend one, this one is for real with the backup temperatures to go with it. But then that really is about all that happens, might get some rain, if we are lucky. I think we are to expect a mild winter this year. No blizzards! Cats were both tucked up in bed when I left this morning.

  10. I’m curious about the reader, Val. Do you have to pay for each book you choose, or are they already downloaded free?

    How does the author get paid? I am naturally interested in that!

  11. I have just seen a spectacular carpet made from felted wool–that would keep your tootsies warm. Do you have wood floors?

    • No, we don’t unfortunately. Not sure I’m up to knitting a whole carpet anyway!

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