Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Good Morning Humphrey

I'm making a concerted effort to take my camera out and about with me. Today, I actually took it out on my run. I run in Hyde Park most mornings and on my way from the flat to the park, I pass by a house with the loveliest dog who likes to hang out on the balcony. I've been calling him Humphrey for the past few months, as I think it suits him.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The New Forest

I used to live with a girl who nicknamed me "City". As in (and this is verbatim), "Oh you're so painfully city. Do you have anything in your wardrobe that isn't black or from Saks and oh please can I have a double espresso?" I enjoyed the teasing because this girl was a sweetheart and also because it's fairly accurate. Just the other day I was commenting to someone how foreign it would feel to not be able to walk out my front door, stick out my hand, and have a cab stop. Basically, drop me in the middle of Manhattan and I'm in my element. Drop me in the middle of a suburb and I start to get nervous. Drop me in the middle of the countryside surrounded by cows and sheep and I don't have a clue.

That's why the past couple of days have been interesting. I've been meandering around the New Forest, where my father grew up. As a kid, this part of the world both fascinated and terrified me. I loved the idea of wild ponies wandering around but not having a clue, stood directly behind one when I was about ten years old. The bruising from the kick lasted for weeks. I still love the wild ponies, especially now as I know to stay the hell away from them, and this little fellow was actually the pet sheep at the manor house where I stayed.

One other note: I came across this small, handmade memorial in the middle of the New Forest, honouring the servicemen of the 3rd Canadian R.C.A.S.C. On this spot, this battalion held services from April 14, 1944 until D-Day when they went off to land on the beaches. The New Forest was an ideal location to prepare for the invasion - lots of ground cover and easy access to the English Channel. The little memorial was very moving and while I always think that the Canadian government should do more to honour our war dead and veterans, the handmade touch to this little spot seemed just perfect.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Balkans Beckon

What does a girl do when she is back at work on her thesis after such a relaxing vacation? Plan another vacation, of course. The Balkans beckon.

In a few weeks, a friend and I will head off to Budapest for a few days of opera, coffeehouses, steam baths, and the aptly timed Budapest Wine Festival. From there we head into Bosnia-Herzegovina where we'll spend a few days in Sarajevo before training to Mostar. It will be fascinating to see the Stari Most (Old Bridge) that was symbolically destroyed in the 90s during the war and has just recently been rebuilt. Then it will be onto Croatia: Dubrovnik, some island hopping, and finally Split where we'll be catching the last of the Mediterranean summer. Not since travelling in Thailand five years ago have I had a trip where I just threw stuff in a backpack and covered a wide area over a couple of weeks. It's a wonderful kind of freedom and adventure all rolled up in a perfect little package - cannot wait.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Whelming

I am occasionally overwhelmed. In the best of ways. It happens, usually, during travel. Like when I found myself standing alone in the Gauguin room at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg: the quiet, the canvases all in front of me, the solitude, the hugeness of such a moment.

And yet, it happens also when (usually once a year) I take the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver. I used to take this trip every weekend as a teenager - commuting between school in Vancouver and my parents' home in Victoria and was completely jaded about it. I buried myself in textbooks and sometimes didn't even get out of my car. Now a dozen years later I find myself overwhelmed by the journey every time I take it. It's partly nostalgia, I realize, but also the solitude of the space (again), the salt smell, the kaleidoscope of muted colours, the clarity of everything in front of me. I never have my camera with me, but this week I did (for the purpose of taking a photograph of my very pregnant friend) so here you go.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Summer Reading Stack

My summer reading list is a little bit of PhD thesis and a lot of good fiction. And most of it is being done outside overlooking the Pacific Ocean, such a bonus. (Stop reading if you haven't finished HP 7.)

Alligator by Lisa Moore. It's been on my list for awhile and I'm really enjoying it - even more so than Open.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. So much hype surrounding this book. So didn't like Blood Meridian. But then the disparity between the literary taste of friends recommending it to me and Oprah picking it for her book club seemed so intriguing, that I finally picked it up during a delay at Heathrow. Hugely engaging, full of gut pulling moments and sweeping humanitarian implications, and I bawled when it was done.

Sharp Teeth by Tony Barlow. The next book to crack open of my reading stack. It hasn't been released yet, but some early reviews are calling it "part Coleridge, part Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Fascinating. And it's written in verse, which I kind of love.

Image Music Text by Roland Barthes. I am currently implementing "The Death of the Author" as my PhD mantra.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Was the big geek who bought it at 1am. Was then too hungover to read it on my flight, but when I finally dove into it when I arrived at my parents' house, oh my was it good. Read it standing for the last 150 pages. The Battle of Hogwarts blew my mind. Professor McGonagall rocks my socks. When Fred died, I bawled. When Dumbledore reappeared to Harry, I bawled. When my two year old prediction that Snape was the good guy was confirmed, I bawled. (Much bawling during this year's summer reading.)

Visual Culture: The Reader. Very much a PhD text, but I'm currently reading Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" and can't believe that it's taken me three years of PhD work to finally come across it. Small moment of embarrassment.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Birthday Flashback

Celebrating my birthday today and here's a flashback to my 1st one. I've been feeling slightly nostalgic while at my parents' house and scanning old photographs into digital format. But today is a wonderful birthday - good coffee and running on the beach this morning, lunch with family, dinner with a dear, dear friend. And most likely, a martini or seven.