On January 19th I blogged about how McBride had made provincial news with its deep snow drifts after a storm. The evidence is still around. Yesterday while driving on Jeck Road we came upon this one section where road crews had had to use heavy equipment to clear a passage way though a deep snow drift that blocked the road. While many of the fields that were swept clean of the snow now have bare sections, these areas where the snow had piled up will take quite a long time to melt.
January’s McBride Library’s Book Club theme was “Based on the Book”, meaning we were to read a novel and watch the film that was made from the novel. I noticed that the Turner Classic Movie Channel was featuring films based on the novels of John Steinbeck, so I looked over the choices and chose Tortilla Flats to watch and read. I recorded the film and downloaded the book from the library's Overdrive site.
This novel written in 1935 was Steinbeck's first commercial success. It is about a group of poor, mixed race homeless alcoholic men, who inhabit the underbelly of Monterey, California's social structure, stealing for food and alcohol, and sleeping in the woods. They are dead beats, living only for themselves and using self deception to rationalize their stealing by making up stories to themselves about how they are actually "helping" their victims by stealing from them.
The novel is built around the life of Danny, who becomes the most dominant member of the group after inheriting two run down houses in the area called "Tortilla Flats", but the main driver of the story is a man named Pilon, who is constantly scheming for his own interests. Having the two houses gives Danny new status, but also a bit of responsibility that is a burden, but Pilon manipulates the situations for his own advantage. To lighten Danny's "burden," Pilon offers to "rent" the second house, although no money ever changes hands.
The second house is soon full of a group of other "renters", as Pilon schemes to get out of paying the rent himself. Carelessness causes this second house to burn down and all it's occupants end up living rent free in Danny's house. They are soon joined by others. This ragtag group gains some cohesion over time and sort of becomes a dysfunctional family of sorts, sometimes actually working in the interests of others.
One of the episodes in the novel is about "Pirate", a bushy bearded man who lived in an abandoned chicken house with his five dogs. He seems a bit slow, but everyday he cuts firewood which he sells for a quarter. When one of the guys in Danny's house realizes Pirate never spends any of this money, he is eager to find and steal it, and Pirate and the dogs are invited to come and live in Danny's house, with the aim of stealing his money.
Over time it becomes known that Pirate's money is being saved to buy a giant religious candle to burn for St. Francis, a promise Pirate made to the Saint after his dog was saved by praying to the Saint. Pirate's explanation touches the group and they become protective of Pirate's hoard until he finally saved enough for the Mass and candle. All of Danny's group are then very proud of Pirate, and themselves for not stealing his money.
I found the constant drinking and stealing disgusting. Morality was at such a low level with the group that when someone did do something decent, it felt like an amazing achievement, but it was usually a "one off" that was soon followed by the return of the selfish behaviors that were typical of the group.
Tortilla Flats the 1942 B & W film, stars Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamar, and John Garfield. The film basically encompasses most of the stories from the book, although Pilon, played by Spenser Tracy becomes the central character and Danny does a supporting role.
The big difference between the film and book is the ending. The film is given a "feel good," typical "Hollywood" ending. The book ends with Danny, blind drunk, and in a drunken rampage, dead, after he falls off a cliff.
In the film, Danny ends up in the hospital after an accident. Pilon feels guilty about having tricked Danny and finds religion, and vows to St. Francis, he will get a job to earn money and buy Danny a fishing boat, so Danny, who of course survives, can marry the woman he loves and live happily ever after.
I didn't get much enjoyment from either the Tortilla Flats novel, or the movie. Most of the Tortilla Flats community were poor, but honest and hard working people, I was repulsed by main characters constantly stealing from the community just so they could get drunk. I didn't find much to respect in the characters except for the Pirate and the love he had for his five dogs.
When we immigrated to Canada in 1973, I took a job teaching in a one-room school at a lumber camp in the BC Interior near Takla Lake. We were young and looked at the whole thing as an adventure. It was.
The photo above shows our place of residence for our first winter. It was a old small camping trailer with a rectangular wooden “mud room” attached. Here is what I wrote about our first introduction to our new home:
We dragged our luggage up the two wooden steps, opened the door to what was to be our abode for the winter. The “mudroom”, which was the Canadian term given to the rectangular wooden addition, was just a big empty space that ran down the entire length of the 18 foot travel trailer. This room had only one item in it--a orange 16 inch metal cube, with a screened fan in the front and a one inch thick, heavy duty, insulated electrical cable snaking out of the back and attached to the wall--it was an industrial-strength space heater.
From the mudroom, we entered through the aluminum and louvered- glass door of the trailer into the tiny kitchen/dining room, complete with a small two by three foot formica topped table sided by padded upholstered plastic booth-like seats on each side.
The tiny table jutted out from a window, which allowed us to admire the bleakly painted plywood back of the mill office as we dined. Behind the left booth seat was the kitchen area, which included a tiny stovetop, oven, and refrigerator that Frank had told us didn’t work. Along the “kitchen” wall were cabinets and the kitchen sink. From the kitchen, a narrow passage/hallway ran back to the bedroom, which was basically just a bed with a cramped space that allowed one to walk along one side of its sides to the end of the bed. There must have been a closet or chest of drawers there somewhere also, but I can’t remember them.
A tiny bathroom was squeezed between the kitchen area and bedroom. It featured a very small tub/shower, a sink, and an airplane-type toilet, featuring rubber flaps at the bottom of the toilet bowl.
I don’t think we were too critical about our accommodations, it was small, but adequate, and besides it was all part of our northern adventure. In fact, later when the camp bosses wanted to move us into a larger, but no more glamorous trailer, we opted to stay where we were.
I do remember that the bedroom was almost entirely filled with a double bed mattress, which had one of its sides squeezed tightly against the wall. That was my side. One very cold morning I woke up with my face close to the wall and discovered that my breathing throughout the night had formed into frost on the wall and the blankets that were tucked in between the mattress and the wall were frozen to the wall.
It was good that we were were young, foolish, and open to adventure during that winter.
Below is a winter photo of the back of our trailer.
There is only one little spot on my pond that is not covered with snow; where the water from my waterline drains into the pond. The ice there is very clear and as a result you can a lot of air bubbles frozen into the ice, all on different levels in the ice, one over the other, because they froze at different times as the ice formed.
This morning as Skye and I were walking around the pond, the Sun was highlighting the clouds with a peachy pink color. Very quickly as the Sun rose, the Cariboo Mountains became illuminated with the color.
I have always been fascinated by Amerind culture. I vividly remember as a child, looking through my uncle’s National Geographic magazines at photos of the Mayan and Aztec pyramids in Mexico. In 1981 Joan and I traveled to Mexico and I got to see some of those pyramids for myself. Although Uxmal was not one of the groups of pyramids I remembered from my youth, it was along the bus route we traveled, through the Yucatan and so we stopped to look around. Uxmal was an important Mayan city.
It was exciting to climb up the pyramids, and think about those ancient cultures. The photo above shows what at the time of our visit was called the “Pyramid of the Dwarf”, but I now see is named “Pyramid of the Magician.” You might be able to make out a few people climbing up the steps.
When we first arrived, they were filming part of a movie on the steps of the pyramid, and we had to wait until the actors were done with the scene, before we got to climb up to the top ourselves.
It was quite a steep climb and there was a chain hooked to the top, so one could grab onto it if the need arose. The photo below shows Joan on her way up the pyramid.
I heard an interesting talk on the radio yesterday. It was all about how dogs have figured out how to endear themselves to human beings. It all has to do with looking people in the eyes and the hormones that are created by doing this. It seems that when babies and their parents look at each other in the eyes, it stimulates the human brain to create a neurotransmitter called serotonin which bonds the two and creates a feeling of well-being, happiness, and love.
Dogs are the only animals that make a point of looking a person in the eyes. For wolves, the ancestors of dogs, looking someone in the eyes is a very threatening gesture which they will not do. Somewhere over the thousands of years that dogs lived with humans, they figured out that looking someone in the eyes makes people feel good, and actually helps to generate love, and dogs overcame their natural aversion to do this, and it has made both dogs and people feel warmly toward each other. Dog brains also generate serotonin by looking people in the eyes.
Our dog Skye is certainly clued in to this serotonin thing and uses it constantly and successfully to get more food out of us.
Our sudden arrival into above freezing temperatures have created some hazards for our pets. The warm weather has caused the buildup of snow on our roof to give way to the pressures of gravity. Like glaciers, the masses of ice and snow on our roof have been slowly begun to inch downslope and are hovering precariously over the edge of the roof.
Periodically we hear loud “thuds” as the snow breaks off and falls to the ground. During these times I am always so paranoid that our pets, who are liking to be outside in the mild temperatures, will be crushed by one of these icefalls. So far we have been lucky and the snow buildup is rapidly disappearing, so the danger will soon be over.
On Tuesday when I blogged about digging out from the blizzard we had overnight, I was not aware of what a big storm other places in the Robson Valley experienced. Later that day there were reports on BC’s regional shows on CBC radio about the storm and McBride’s 5 foot (1.5 metre) snowdrifts, I even heard from friends who are presently halfway around the world in Kenya doing lion research. They had seen pictures of “McBride’s Snowdrifts” in the Vancouver newspaper.
Obviously we didn’t get the full force of the storm on our road. Yesterday when we drove in to McBride they had all the big machines out trying to clear snow from the streets, and I must confess they were pushing a lot of snow around. The photo above shows the intersection of Hwy. 16 and Main Street.
Even though I walk passed it many times every day, as I walk up and down the steps to my office, I haven’t given any thought to my old school bell for years. Today as I walked past it, a flood of memories made me stop and pick it up.
The bell became my possession back in September of 1973. Joan and I had been living with relatives of my cousin in Victoria, BC. We were trying to immigrate to Canada and to do that I needed to take a job that no Canadian wanted. I had put in applications to BC’s Education Ministry and after weeks of waiting, suddenly I was offered a job as a teacher in a one room school in the Interior of British Columbia. I immediately accepted the position.
The Hennekes, the people we were staying with were amazingly generous in putting us up and keeping us happy. “Big Jan” Hennekes had a hobby of going to the many weekly auctions in Victoria, buying boxes of mixed items, then separating them, cleaning them up, and reselling them at the weekly flea markets.
He invited me to go along to one of the auctions and we spotted the school bell, something I thought might come in handy if I was going to be teaching in a one room school. He did the bidding for me and it became mine.
For the next three years I used the bell to ring my students in from recess, during the time I was teaching up in the camp near Takla Lake, BC. It’s nice to still have a physical reminder of that adventurous time in my life.
Below is a photo of some of my students back then.
The cold air we had for so very long has been slowly breaking down with rain now forecast for tomorrow, but before She was willing to give us any above freezing temperatures Mother Nature gave us a blizzard overnight. We got a snow dump of between 4 and 8 inches (10 and 20 cm) depending on where you measure (the wind caused a lot of drifts).
Anyway I spent the morning with my snowblower, clearing the driveway. Once done I was so exhausted I had to spend some recovery time in bed, and I am just now getting around to doing my regular morning activities, although I am not going to get around to painting my square.
I am not looking forward to rain. That will turn my driveway to ice.
The theme for January’s McBride Library Book Club was to read a book and watch the movie that was based on the book. After looking at the choices, I chose: Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. I knew absolutely nothing about either the book or the movie. Here is what I found out:
This book was written about the chaos that befell inhabitants of Paris in June of 1940 as the Nazis were on the doorstep of the city, and life during the first years of Nazi occupation. The book was supposed to be written in five sections. The first section deals with the fleeing of Parisians immediately before the Nazis moved into a Paris. Not knowing what was to come, families, couples, and individuals from all classes and social status, grabbed what possessions they could carry and fled the city.
The book's first section follows the lives of various Parisians, from various economic and social levels as they scatter into the countryside, suffering the havoc of war, the break down of society, the drastic changes of their lives, and in some circumstances the death of loved ones.
After weeks of chaos, lack of food and shelter, and danger on the roads of rural France, many of the refugees filtered back to Paris and were surprised to find their apartments had been untouched by the German invasion.
The second section of the novel deals with the German occupation, as a German officer is housed in a large house in Bussy, a town outside of Paris. The house is owned by an elderly aristocratic matriarch, whose son is a prisoner of war in a German prison. Also living in the house is Lucile, her daughter-in-law, wife in a loveless marriage to the P.O.W.
There is tension not only between the Nazi and the two French women but also between the two women. The very strict and proper mother, misses her son and dislikes Lucile. Stresses intensify as the German officer and Lucile become closer. The two women hide a French partisan, who had murdered a German soldier in the house, unbeknownst to the Nazi officer.
The relationship that has been building between Lucile and the Nazi officer is suddenly interrupted when he and the other Germans in the town are sent to the Eastern Front. As this section of the novel closes, Lucile is about to secretly drive the French partisan to Paris, but the novel then unexpectedly ends.
What I thought was going to be the next section of the story, turned out instead to be an appendix which contains the notes of the author, Irene Nemirovsky on how she plans to proceed with the novel and throws out ideas about characters and their interaction in the story. Then there are letters from The author's husband frantically seeking ways to free Irene, after she had been taken away by the Nazis. Although not a practicing Jew, Nemirovsky had some Jewish ancestors, and as a result she was sent to a French concentration camp. Her husband continues caring for their two girls, and writing letters to anyone who might free Irene, not knowing that she has already been sent to Auschwitz and was gassed.
Her husband then suffers the same fate. The appendix then shows copies of letters, written by friends and caring people, trying to hide and protect the two daughters from the Nazis. The daughters are hidden in convent schools and survive the war.
As the daughters made an escape, their mother's handwritten manuscript was grabbed by one of the girls, who put it into her suitcase. This manuscript, which was thought to be her mother's diary, like the daughters, survived the war, but the girls could never bring themselves to read it because it would bring too much pain. Then sixty-five years after the war, one daughter did finally read it and discovered it wasn't a diary, but a novel--Suite Francaise.
Knowing now what Irene's fate was to be, it is interesting to see how she wrote about the Nazi characters in this novel. They were not stereotyped as evil monsters, but sympathetic individuals, caught up in their country's military adventurism.
After reading the novel I was anxious to watch the film based on the book. I inserted the DVD into the player and it spit it back out. This happen several times. I tried the DVD in my computer with the same results. In frustration I looked online to see if I could download it and luckily found the whole movie (probably illegally because it had a question mark in the middle of one of the title words) on YouTube. Although it only played on a small section of my screen, I did get to watch the whole thing.
The film skips the whole first section of the book and deals entirely with Cecile, her cold mother-in-law, and the sympathetic, wannabe musician Nazi officer who is stationed in their house. Most of the same incidents occur as in the book, although there is some elevation in the romantic passion between Cecile and the officer, and the military actions are made more dramatic in the film and the Nazis more brutal.
All the characters in the film seemed very restrained, proper, and stiff. The movie was good at showing the difficulty of trying to control hormones and desires in an atmosphere where all local young men have been killed, captured, or away in the French military, and the town being filled with young men who were designated "untouchable" because they were the enemy.
The book didn't really have an ending since it was never completed, but the film script writers constructed a dramatic and touching ending for the film. I did like the film better than the book, but then, the book was just an incomplete first draft of the story.
Every time I pull into the Horseshoe Lake parking lot, I look over to the colorful information sign that is standing there (Top photo). It is dazzling in its color. Then I look around at the reality during the winter ( middle picture which looks like a black and white photo) and it is dazzling in it’s lack of color. For me that is one of the hardest parts about our winter up here in the Robson Valley--everything is white or shades of gray.
I seem to have some inward need for color, which is easy to achieve throughout most of the year, but then winter comes along and leaves me starving, because we get so many gray overcast days. When the Sun does show itself things are better, but still the palette is pretty limited.
I am always surprised at the unexpected things that pop up every day. I was reminded of this yesterday when I was at Horseshoe Lake.
Even though I am still very sick, our dog demands a drive in the car and a walk every afternoon. I was too weak to fight her insistence, and so I drove her down to Horseshoe Lake and pulled into the small parking area. I was getting out of the car when I noticed something sitting in the snow on top of the parking border. I had to give my head a shake when I realized it was a bathroom scales.
One might expect to see a lost glove or some piece of litter someone discarded, but a bathroom scales? I have no explanation as to why it was there. Horseshoe Lake is not a place where people would dump their trash, and there weren’t any other household items to be seen, only the scales. It seems strange that someone would bring just a scales to Horseshoe Lake then leave it.
Soft snow is not really a suitable surface for weighing something, so that doesn’t seem to be a reason. It is winter outside with a biting wind and drifting snow, not the conditions one would choose in weighing something. I tried to think up other scenarios that would explain it, but at that point my fevered brain shut down. It still remains a mystery to me.
I left the scales where it was in case someone took it out of their vehicle and forgot it. If it is still there the next time I return, I will put it in the trash can.
Joan and I continue to be whacked out by our terrible colds and are spending most of our days in bed sleeping. This of course makes for some pretty long days and nights. I find it amazing just how quickly something like a cold can take hold and totally weaken you. One day you are normal and the next day, just walking across the room exhausts you.
I used to sometimes naively think that living in such an isolated area like we do, would gave us some degree of protection from contagious diseases, like those small out of the way villages that escaped the ravages of the Black Death, but now I realized that we really don’t have any more protection than anywhere else, because people are continually coming and going, to and from the far away larger centers and bringing microbes as well as their supplies home, and once its here, it quickly spreads around in our tight knit community. Some one told me that a week ago our bank was closed one day because all of its employees were sick with this cold.
All one can do in this kind of situation is to wait it out, so that’s what we will do.
I have caught Joan’s cold and its a bad one. I stayed in bed all day yesterday, and while I am a tad better today, I am exhausted and my brain is functioning at 10%of normal capacity, so I am just dragging out one of my older blogs for you to read:
I have to make an apology to our cat, Lucifer, for jumping to conclusions. The other day Joan was watching the news, and they showed the clip of the “Devil Baby.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUKMUZ4tlJg) If you haven’t seen it, here is what it shows: Some movie technicians created this little robot, the size and appearance of an infant. They gave it a horrible scary evil looking face.
They put it in a baby stroller out on a busy sidewalk, tucked it in and partially covered its face with a blanket, then walked a way and filmed. They made the robot cry like a baby, when concerned passersby came over to help the baby, it quickly shot up into a sitting position with its evil little head in view and made a blood curdling scream, which of course terrified the unsuspecting victim. It was very funny, of course, to watch the reaction of the people as the horrible looking Devil Baby shot up and screamed.
While Joan was enjoying this video on TV, I was outside shoveling snow. When I came in, Joan asked me, “Have you seen the “Devil Baby?” I naturally assumed that she was asking about Lucifer our cat, and replied, “No, I thought she was in the house.”
I felt sorry that I made this assumption about Lucifer, and I hope she will accept this apology
Generally our dog Skye spends the mornings sleeping in the bed. She has the whole bed to herself and normally picks out the best spot in the bed for her slumbers. Yesterday Joan was laid low by a bad cold and finally had to go to bed herself, but Skye already had the prime location, so she just snuggled up beside Skye. I think Skye was a little taken aback by the intrusion.
In a crass attempt to generate some revenue from my paintings, I got some cards and 18” X 24” prints made from 5 of my paintings. I was quite pleased at how well they turned out, they look extremely close to the originals. Unfortunately, their production missed the local Christmas Fair season, so I will sell them at McBride’s Whistlestop Gallery until the next “Fair” season rolls around.
The prints are done on heavy art paper and can be mailed in a protective tube. Cost of a print is $80 plus whatever the mailing is. I am charging $6 for each card & envelope plus mailing cost.
There, my capitalist appeal is over, and I will wait for all the money to pour in.
To get a better look at these paintings and all of my others go to:
This is what our day looked like yesterday afternoon as we walked down Horseshoe Lake Road with a really biting wind stinging our faces. It’s not the temperature that makes it cold, but the wind. I think the temperature was only -8C (17F), but it felt colder than days when it was calm and -20C (-4F)
The day was clear except for these clouds which were hanging over the Castle Creek Valley.
One of the surprising things we have noticed over the winter has been the boost in energy and enthusiasm in our dog Skye. During the rest of the year she dragged along behind us when we went on a walk, but now when we go on walks she is eager and wanting to play. When I throw her ball she sprints, pounces, grabs it in her mouth, jumps around, and then swings it quickly side to side.
It really is a refreshing change and I am never sure if its just being in the cold weather or if she is finally coming out of her shell after all these years. Whatever it is I hope it continues.
Okay, I guess the bumps in the snow you see in the photo are not technically “moguls” since the definition says that moguls are bumps on a ski slope formed by repeated turns of skiers. Certainly these bumps weren’t made by skiers, they were made by drifting snow hung up on plants, but I didn’t know what else to call them.
This photo was taken on one of those cold clear days in McBride, looking toward Beaver Mountain from Horseshoe Lake Road. It has warmed and clouded up since I took the picture, but more cold weather is on its way starting next week.
I had to shake my head at the monotony of our six day forecast. It looks like not a lot of change in sight. The temperatures are a bit colder than normal though. The forecasts that we get don’t always pan out the way they are presented, and I hope that in this case it warms up a bit and gives us a bit more sunshine. Oh well, we do live in Canada.
I’ve blogged before about how important finding comfort is to our cat Lucifer. She always seems to find the softest and warmest possible place to luxuriate. On these cold winter days, she is mostly found sleeping on the folded fleece right beside our heat-radiating wood stove, but she is always open to exploiting other spots of comfort as they arise.
The other day Joan decided to start quilting again, and unfurled the quilt she was working on. She put part of it in the quilting hoop which was sitting beside the easy chair and then piled and draped the overflow part of the quilt in a pile on the chair. It didn’t take long for Lucifer to find the soft folds of quilt and nestle into it for the rest of the afternoon.
Although I am a very politically oriented person, I have tried to steer away from politics on this blog, but you will have to indulge me today, because I am worked up and have to get something off of my chest. As you might guess from this cartoon which I drew back before Christmas, I am very pessimistic about what the future holds, mostly because of the results of the US election.
It looks like I have every right to be afraid. Last night the Republicans, who are laying the groundwork for bellying up to the trough, voted to do away with the independent ethics committee, that works to keep the people in Congress honest, and replace it with a committee controlled by Republicans, and secret, without any obligation to release its findings to the public. I think that pretty much shows the direction that country it headed in.
I feel my long ago decision to immigrate to Canada is reaffirmed. As a New Year Resolution, I will attempt to ignore the slow train wreck that is happening in the US and focus on the world I see immediately around me.
Tomorrow for a first step, I will be back on this blog, talking about our cat.
We noticed this coyote out hunting mice in the field when we were on our walk yesterday. When he spotted us he took off prancing across the pasture. Even though coyotes are common around the Robson Valley, it is always gives me a thrill to see wild critters out doing their thing.
As the world goes to Hell, its nice that at least traditions with friends continue.
For years on New Year’s Eve, a group of friends have been gathering at Milnes to enjoy each others company, eat, and then bravely face the new year. The tradition continued last night, although without Trevor and Norma who were sadly laid up and homebound with illness. Those that could make it ate a wonderful meal that Lyuba prepared, (desserts by Joan), had lots of laughs, and having eaten way too much, fought to stay awake until midnight.
The evening began chaotically for Joan and I, we were driving through a snowstorm, halfway to Milnes, when we realized we had forgotten a couple of items. We turned around, and on our way home we were stopped by the RCMP roadblock checking for drunk drivers. Once through that, we retrieved what we had forgotten (and in the process disturbed the pets at home, who thought we had returned for the night).
Anyway, forgotten items in hand, we got back into the car and drove again through the snowstorm, were stopped again by the RCMP roadblock, but this time we actually made it to Milnes although 20 minutes late.
Below Dave Milne, who is originally from England, lights his traditional Christmas pudding.