Wednesday 31 May 2017

Everything Happens on the Same Day

    Why does everything always happen on the same day?  Weeks go by without anything happening, then suddenly you get a day when everything seems to happen.  Yesterday was one of those days for me.
    I ordered myself a PA system online for our music jam, and have been anxiously awaiting its arrival.  It has been weeks in coming and I have been tracking it as it got closer and closer.  It was scheduled to arrive in McBride for pick up yesterday.
    Our jam group is supposed to play this weekend for McBride’s “Pioneer Days.”  I bought the PA system for that.  Of course it is important that we practice some of our songs too.  We meet every Tuesday night and last Tuesday we couldn’t practice because of a power outage that left all of McBride in the dark.    Having missed that practice opportunity, it made this week’s Tuesday jam all that more important.
    As it happened, yesterday was also a long awaited appointment in Prince George with a periodontist.  Prince George is a two and a half hour drive away, and the appointment was a 3:30 so getting home to the jam practice was going to be tight.  It would be hectic, but doable, but I wouldn’t be around to pick up the long awaited PA system.
    Yesterday when we got up, ready to drive to Prince we got a surprise--no water.  The hot weather has been melting a lot of snow up on top of the mountains, and all the debris coming down the creek must have clogged our water system.  It meant that I had to scramble up there to the waterfalls to see if  I could fix it before heading off to Prince George.
    It is very unsafe up at the waterfalls, more so this time of year when the water is running so hard.  We don’t go up alone, two people have to go in case of an accident.  Glen, a neighbor who always goes up with me, is away, and none of the other neighbors was available to help, so I called our friend Alec to give me a hand.  He came and despite the torrents of water coming down the falls we were able to get the water going again.
    Once that was done, I was off to PG.  It didn’t take long to pick up all the supplies we needed and then I still had a couple of hours to kill before the doctor’s appointment.  I didn’t have anywhere else in Prince I needed to go, and it was a very hot day, so I just went to the doctor’s office hoping they could slip me in early thus allowing me to get back to McBride early.
    It didn’t work that way.  In fact I wasn’t able to see the doctor until 4:00 and didn’t get out of there until 6.  I grabbed a fast food meal to eat as I drove home and headed to McBride knowing that I would miss the first half of our jam, but at least we could rehearse for an hour.  
    Things changed however once I got home.  I couldn’t believe it, there was another power outage going on in McBride for the second Tuesday in a row.  I guess some of our jam group got to practice for an hour, but it looks like we will be performing our Pioneer Day gig “cold turkey”.
    It sure would be nice to have things spread out a bit rather than all happening on the same day.

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Monday 29 May 2017

Fields of Fluff

    Its too bad that dandelions are not a cash crop.  If it was, the Robson Valley would certainly be a wealthy agricultural powerhouse, because dandelions certainly thrive here.  The yellow blooms have now turned into fluffy seed spheres and will soon be airborne seeking to new ground to establish themselves on.
    My friend Dave hates dandelions and spent way too much time one summer trying, in vain, to eliminate them from his lawn.  One lesson nature teaches is that some things can not be overcome.

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Sunday 28 May 2017

Firewood Scenery

    In the past when I go out to get firewood, I head to some old logged out area in search of trees that have blown down.  This usually means that after I buck up a tree, I have to carry each piece of wood some distance back to the truck.  Sometimes 40 or so meters away.  All this carrying is the worst part about getting firewood.
    Last week I saw a notice in Pete’s Email (a local notice board) that an acquaintance in Dunster had firewood, free for the taking.  I called the guy and got the details.  It was aspen, the trees were laying in his pasture and just had to be bucked up.  I could drive right up beside the trees.
    Even though Dunster is  24 miles (38 km) away, it was all highway driving and not the usual rough bumpy logging roads, and the advantage of being able to drive right up to the wood rather than have to carry it a distance to the truck was a winning feature.  I gathered up all my chainsaw gear, drove out to Dunster, and got the wood.
    Another of the benefits of the excursion was the beautiful scenery that surrounded me as I cut the wood.  The pasture was full of sheep and lambs, and the greens of the grass, the blues of the mountains, and the snow-capped peaks were an inspiration every time I took a break and looked around.  I certainly love living in the Robson Valley.

You can see my paintings at:

Saturday 27 May 2017

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

    The McBride Library Book Club was supposed to read “fictional Biographies”  for May.  Here is one of the books I read:

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
             It was in the year 1250 that the first written record emerged telling of a female, disguised as a man, who in the 800's became Pope. There is no Pope Joan on the Vatican's official list of popes, but powers often try to erase evidence of individuals they disagree with. A modern example of this is Donald Trump and the Republican Party trying to erase everything with Obama's name on it.  Anyway, there are a lot of documents about Pope Joan, all of which were written hundreds of years after she supposedly lived.  Whether she existed or not has not yet been proven but this novel has been written to show the life and what sort of person Joan might have been. 
        The novel begins with Joan's midwinter birth in a hut outside a village in what is now Germany.   Immediately after her birth we begin to see the prejudice against females in the profound disappointment of her father, a canon in the Church, upon discovering her sex. 
        As a child, she watched her father dote over her two slightly older brothers, educating them and teaching them to read, while Joan, with a superior intellect, is shunted off to help her mother with household chores. Fortunately after some begging, she gets her older brother to secretly teach her to read and write. He is being educated for the church, but then dies young. 
       Joan's other brother is very slow and uninterested in learning, but despite his inabilities, her strict religious father tries unsuccessfully to educate him for the church.  Meanwhile Joan's secret learning and intellect grows.  
       During a visit by a learned Greek church scholar, her father tries to impress the man with his son's learning.   The scholar is not impressed and Joan cannot help but show him her knowledge, much to the displeasure of her father and the amazement of the scholar. 
      So impressed is he, that he offers to tutor Joan for free, but her father refuses the offer, unless her doltish brother is included.  This is agreed to and the Greek visits weekly and Joan's body of knowledge soars.  Her brother remains as sluggish as ever.   
       When the Greek eventually has to move on, he gives Joan a book in Greek of Homer's poetry.  Books were extremely rare during the Dark Ages, and Joan had to hide it from her fundamentalist father and read it secretly at night.  Eventually she is discovered and the father beats her and forces her to destroyed her beloved book saying it was blasphemous.  
       The bishop of the area learned of Joan's abilities through the Greek scholar and sent a soldier to bring her to the Bishop's school. The father was outraged and told the messenger it was Joan's brother John who was wanted.  The messenger leaves with John , and that night, full of contempt and rage, Joan leaves home.  She runs into John, now alone after the messenger was killed by a thief. 
      Both Joan and John travel to the city and they are both sent to the  bishop's school, where again Joan excelled. A Viking attack on the city kills everyone, except Joan, who manages to hide.  Her life experiences has shown her that the world will never allow her to achieve her educational goals as a woman, so she takes the clothes of her brother John, who was killed by the Vikings, and dresses as a man. She also takes his name, and heads off to face the world, this time as a male. 
      There are of course many more adventures before Joan becomes a pope, but you will have to read the book yourself. 
      This book contained a lot of interesting facts about what life was like during the Dark Ages and there was a lot more excitement than I expected in a book about a Pope. There is a section in the back that sets out some of the evidence that exists that suggests that there really was a Pope Joan. 

My paintings can be viewed at:

Friday 26 May 2017

The Beans Are Up

    I don’t know why I am always so worried, things usually work out.  Lately I have been worried about the dry beans I planted.
    Last year was the first year that I ever grew dry beans.  Our corner of the interior of BC is not really prime dry bean country, but I like eating beans and wanted to try growing them.  I bought some seeds and they grew well, but they need time for the bean pods to turn a golden color and dry on the plant.  Unfortunately our growing season is usually cut short by frost, so I pulled the still green bean plants with their still green bean pods out of the ground and hung them upside down in the barn before they were killed by frost.
    When they had dried out I stripped the beans out of the pods and let the beans do some more drying .  They were hard and seemed to be like normal dried beans, so I put most of them in a jar for eating and saved some for planting this year.  The ones I ate tasted fine, but I worried that maybe my seed beans weren’t viable.  A week ago I planted them and crossed my fingers.
    It was with great relief that I saw them finally poke themselves out of the ground.  That worry over, now I can start worrying about getting a frost that will kill the young plants.

You can take a look at my paintings at:

Thursday 25 May 2017

Mysterious Aspen Leaves

    Yesterday we braced ourselves against the cold north wind and did our dog walk down Jervis Road.  I immediately noticed something strange happening to the leaves of the young Aspen trees that line the road.  They had all curled into a cone-like shape.  I had never encountered this before.
    I know that caterpillars can curl leaves to make a protective shell for themselves, but I couldn’t see any sign of insects, and the fact that every single leaf seemed to be effected made me think that insects weren’t the cause of the phenomenon.  I wondered if maybe our drastic change to near freezing  weather and strong winds had made this happen as sort of a protective mechanism.
    It’s an interesting mystery.

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Wednesday 24 May 2017

But It's May

    What a turn-around in weather we experienced overnight.  Yesterday was hot (24C, 75F) and then last night we were buffeted by a wind and rain storm that caused a power outage in McBride (which unfortunately prevented our music jam).  This morning we woke up to 1C (33F) and snow.  It is damp and cold outside and I just finished building a fire in our wood stove.  
    We had a long cool spring and things were just beginning to warm up and feel summer-like, and now its cold again.  Joan heard a weather expert say that he expects a lot of these weather turn-arounds this summer.

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Tuesday 23 May 2017

Lily of the Valley

    Spring is such a carnival for the senses, not only do you get a rainbow of colors from the flowers, but also a stream of delicate smells in the air, as the flowers try to attract pollinators.  Whenever we walk out on our porch we are surrounded by the scent of Lily of the Valley, from the mass of the flowers that line our sidewalk.
    Our Lily of the Valley are growing so close together that it is a wonder that any other plant can compete, but I see from this photo that there is a leaf of something else trying to squeeze its way into the sunlight.

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Monday 22 May 2017

A Patch of Ferns

   Yesterday was hot and sunny, so we decided to walk the dog somewhere that would be cooler.  We drove out to the Holmes River and walked down the Little Falls Trail.  The last time we had come here we were prevented from walking because of an ice jam that had flooded over the banks.  Now that the ice was gone we could see some of the damage the flooding had done.  It didn’t harm the ferns though.
    Ferns are among my favorite plants.   They always look so primeval.  I can’t pass a patch of ferns without taking some photos.  Here are a couple I took yesterday.

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Sunday 21 May 2017

Testing the Waters

    The sunny day with its warm temperatures prompted several families to go down to the banks of the Fraser River yesterday.  As Joan, Skye, and I walked the trail, I spotted this boy timidly wading out into the cold water while his father fished, and his mother sunbathed.  

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Saturday 20 May 2017

Tulip Time

    As Spring progresses, each plant has its own prime time to show off.  Robson Valley flower gardens are now sporting their tulips.  Here are a couple of shots of tulip vibrance.  The photo below show the current display in one of Milne’s flower gardens.

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Friday 19 May 2017

I Fixed My Water-Soaked Sony Camcorder

    Readers of this blog will remember the episode I had in the canoe when I tipped and fell into the Fraser River.  When that happened, my Sony HDR-CX550 camcorder that was on my hip was also submerged.  I figured it was toast because afterwards it was dead.  I didn’t give up on it though.
    I immediately detached the battery and when I got home I opened the viewer and lay it out in the wind and the sun to dry out as much as it could.  I remembered reading that submerged iPhones could be resuscitated by placing them in a closed bag of rice which helps to slowly dry them out.  I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it on my camcorder, so I put the camcorder and battery in a plastic bag along with about 3 cups of rice and sealed the bag.  I left it that way for 2 weeks.
    I opened it the other day and when I installed the battery I was surprised to hear the little jingle that indicated the camera was coming to life.  It was not all a good story, because when I looked through the camera I could only just barely make out a blurry light rectangle which in fact was a window.  Everything was extremely blurred with no identifiable details.  I checked the camera lens and saw that there was condensation on the inside of the lens that was causing the blurring.
    I felt I needed to take the camcorder apart to somehow clean the inside of the lens, but could see no way to open up the camera enough to get to the lens.  In the end, I unscrewed the tiny screws and removed a panel on the side of the camcorder adjacent to the swing out viewer and using a hairdryer, blew hot air into the camera.  
    After a while I checked the lens again, but it still had the condensation.  Frustrated, I put the panel back on the camera and gave up, didn’t know what else to do.
    Yesterday, Alec, a friend was over, and I told him about my failed efforts with the camcorder and he asked to see it.  When I opened the viewer to demonstrate the blurring, I was amazed to discover a clear image--my camera was back to normal.
    Of course, I had already bought a brand-new replacement camera which is far superior to this old one, so now I have two camcorders.  I am though very happy I got the old one to work again.  I would hate to have just thrown such a precious piece of equipment away.

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Thursday 18 May 2017

Spring Showers

    We get a lot of rain showers during the spring, as moist weather from the Pacific bumps into the mountains that surround the Robson Valley.  I am always impressed that just about every day that starts out grey, wet, and gloomy does in the end, switch over for a while to provide us with some sunshine.  You can generally see the rain showers over on the mountains and can watch as they slowly move toward you (photo below).  

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Wednesday 17 May 2017

Expensive Cat Scratching Post

    I admit it, we indulge our pets.  Lucifer, our cat, has good house manners and she respects our furniture, but she began to sharpen her claws on the cedar support post by our living room.  After a while, it started to show the damage that her claws were doing to the wood.  
    Joan suggested that we buy some rope and just wrap it around the post and let Lucifer do her scratching on that.  I wasn’t sure how tightly I could get a rope to go around the square corners of the post, but in the end we bought the rope and wrapped the post.  It worked really well.
    It was a bit pricey though.  We ended up having to buy a whole coil of rope which cost us $100.  I was surprised that it took 200 feet (60 m) of rope to wrap the post.
    In the end it was worth all of the trouble, because the post looks good and Lucifer enjoys her new scratching post.

You can view my photo-realistic paintings at:

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Eight By Eight

    One of the events that took place on Sunday at the Dunster Yard Sale was a fund raising auction of eight inch by eight inch works of art.   This was the second year for the auction.  People are asked to create some kind of art on the 8” X 8” format.  The creators are supposed to sign them on the back so the bidders don’t know who made them.
    Now that the auction is over I can show you my contribution.   I painted this image of an orange mushroom I had seen growing in a lawn.  I did it with acrylics on a small canvas. There were 73 works on auction and they showed the amazing range of creativity of people living in the Robson Valley.  

You can view all of my other paintings at:

Monday 15 May 2017

Dunster Yard Sale 2017: Books

    Yesterday was the big annual Mother’s Day Yard Sale at the hamlet of Dunster.  This year, instead of just going and perusing the bargains, I participated in the selling.  We have been wanting to eliminate one of our many bookcases at home, so we weeded through the volumes and ended up with six boxes of books we could part with.
    These days, selling books is a tricky thing.  With all the information available online, having books seems redundant.  That plus the fact, at least around here, that there are lots of places you can get books for free, makes selling books dicy.
    Our goal was not to make money, but just see that the books went to good homes, so we priced them cheap, and fortunately I managed to sell about half of them.  People often paid me more than what the price was.  
    Selling half of them of course, meant that when the sale was over I had to cart all the books that hadn’t sold back home, much to Joan’s chagrin.  Hopefully another selling opportunity will soon arise.

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Sunday 14 May 2017

Forget-Me-Nots for Mother's Day

    Mrs. Nail, our old neighbor planted some Forget-me-nots in her yard back before 1977.  Now they have gently spread across the neighborhood.  They are not an invasive species though, just a very small beautiful blue and pink flower that I enjoy seeing in the yard.  I always mow around clumps of them so they will show up next year.
    They are very tiny little flowers and this is the best close-up that I have ever gotten of them.

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Saturday 13 May 2017

But It's Raining Outside.

    Our dog Skye is not the most energetic and outdoor-oriented dog I have known.  Her preferred habitat is on top of the bed in a dark bedroom.  Every morning, however, Joan makes her go out to have a pee in the yard.  As a reward for this feat, Skye gets a little dog treat.
    The other day, it was raining, and Skye didn’t want to go outside.  Joan opened the door and coerced her, but Skye, instead of going out on the lawn to pee, Skye just walked immediately around to the carport and let herself in the back door, then quietly slipped into the bedroom and curled up on the bed.
    Her behavior called for “heavier guns” so I was called to get her to go out and pee.  I tried to encourage her verbally, but without response, so finally I just had to lift her from the bed and carry her outside.  I followed her out into the yard and waited until she had done her duty.
    What a dog.

My paintings are on display at:

Friday 12 May 2017

FDR-AX53, My New Camera

    I have been impatiently tracking the shipping progress of the new camcorder I had ordered online, as it made its way across Canada.  Yesterday, it finally arrived in the McBride Post Office, and once I got it home, I had to wait a bit longer for the camera’s battery to charge, but eventually I was able to head outside, camera in hand, to see what it could do.
    I use the camcorder mostly to take still photos, and I was very impressed with how sharp the pictures turned out, be they close-ups or zoom shots.
    There was a pair of Ring-necked Ducks on the pond.  I was always confused by their name, because, although they had other distinct features, I could never see that they had a ring around the neck.  When I got the photos I had taken of them into the computer, I was surprised to discover that, just like their name implied, the male did actually have a colored ring around it’s neck.  
    Here are a few examples of the photos I took with my new camera.

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Thursday 11 May 2017

Spring Aspen Green

    The Robson Valley is now in the midst of one of my favorite periods for landscape photo taking.  It is when the trees first leaf out in the spring.  The yellow-green of the new leaves is the perfect contrast for the blue, and still snow-capped mountains.  It has been frustrating seeing this happen without my trusty old camcorder (I took this photo with my older model iPhone).  
    I find it really difficult to use the iPhone for photos.  First of all, when you are out on a bright day, you can’t really see much in the dark screen, then when I hold the thing up to take a photo, if it is a zoomed-in shot, the scene in the screen is shaking so much, I am never very confident how well the photo is going to turn out.
    I did order a new camcorder online, and if the tracking information is accurate, it should arrive in McBride today, and I can’t wait to try it out.

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Wednesday 10 May 2017

Colorful Conks

    I went out to cut firewood yesterday.  I have been going to an old logged out area where they left a lot of birch trees standing.  Every winter some of those birch trees blow over in windstorms and they are the trees I look for to provide my firewood.  Of course, I am not the only person that goes out there for firewood.  Now after so many years, all of the easy wood has been taken, so if I do find a blown down tree it is far from the road and I end up having to carry the pieces quite a distance back to my truck.  
    The ground in cutblocks is criss-crossed with left over debris from the logging.  Yesterday as I was carefully weaving my way through the debris carrying chunks of the firewood I had cut, I noticed this downed birch with orangish conks (fungus growing out of wood) on it.  When you see conks on a tree, it means the wood inside is rotten or rotting, so it is no good for firewood, but at least this birch provided a splash of color as I trudged back and forth carrying pieces of wood to my truck.

My paintings are on display at:

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Spring Growth

    While I enjoy seeing all the brilliant display of flowers that appear later in the season, I also enjoy watching plants sprout from the ground, unfolding and unrolling their foliage this time of year.  I am a big fan of green and love the various shades that are on display as plants jostle to find their place in the sun, this time of year.

You can see my paintings at:

Monday 8 May 2017

Bog Arum, Looking For A Home

    Bog Arum is an aquatic plant that grows in my pond.  I am not positive about what causes it, but in the spring when the ice melts, numerous chunks of the plant can be seen floating around on the surface of the pond.  I suspect these sections of the plant are scraps left over after a muskrat meal during the  winter, but whatever the cause, the bog arum is well adapted to the abuse because the chunks  immediately send out roots in hopes that it can float over to some place where it can grow.

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Sunday 7 May 2017

Plank Bridge

    The drowning of my camcorder on Thursday has left me scrambling around trying to find another way to capture images for my blog.  This morning on my walk around the pond, I took my iPad along and used it to take some photos.  It worked find, but it is a fairly awkward item to carry around for taking pictures.
    The photo above it the plank bridge over the pond’s outflow, that I cross daily on my walk.

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Saturday 6 May 2017

Sandhill Crane

    Wednesday on our way home from town we spotted this lone Sandhill Crane out in the marshy field just east of McBride.  Flocks of the cranes fly through the Robson Valley making their turkey like calls as they migrate during the spring and fall, and I think there might be a few that spend the summer.  These are big birds with wingspans of 6-7 feet (1.8-2 meters).  You can see from the photo that they are really well camouflaged in this kind of environment.

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Friday 5 May 2017

Never Lean Over in a Canoe

    The title tells the lesson I learned yesterday.  Let me set it up.
    A couple of weeks ago the FHA (Fraser Headwaters Alliance), our local environmental group, got a request saying that some film makers were going to make a movie about major Canadian Rivers to celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary.  They were looking for some people to be in canoes on the upper part of the Fraser River singing “Oh, Canada.”
    FHA looked around, but it seemed that singing canoeist were not in great supply in the Robson Valley.  Yesterday was the date set for filming, and luckily we finally found 14 or so willing participants (and a dog) to paddle and sing.  Knowing the need, I volunteered even though I don’t have a great deal of canoeing experience.  
    I assumed I would be in the front of a canoe with an experienced canoeist in the rear who would be doing the main work of steering.  Unfortunately things didn’t really work out that way.  As it turned out I was put in the responsible rear position with Bruce, the film sound guy in front.
    The flotilla set off near the old Tete Jaune bridge, and canoed a short distance downstream, where Ian, the cameraman decided to stop and do the filming.  I maneuvered Bruce onto the shore so he could do his sound collecting from there.  I sat alone in the partially banked canoe and watched.
   A fancy big camera tripod was sitting upright in the middle of our canoe.   Earlier on, there had been some talk about laying it down and tying it so it wouldn’t get wet, it had been transferred back and forth between several canoes and somehow ended up in the standing position as I sat in the canoe.
    After sitting there in the canoe for a while, I decided I should maybe back the canoe out into the river and paddle a bit closer to where Bruce stood.  I pushed off the bank then started to turn the canoe with the paddle.   As I did so, the canoe leaned to one side, and the upright tripod started to tilt and fall toward the water.  I panicked, not wanting to see it get wet, and lurched sideways over the canoe in an attempt to catch it.
    My quick thinking action was a mistake.  When I leaned over the side of the canoe to try to get the tripod, the canoe leaned over also, and over we went.  I was dunked and found myself sideways in the cold waters of the Fraser.  I was still near the shore, he water was shallow and very clear, so I was able to see and grab the submerged tripod and put it back into the now uprighted and partially water-filled canoe.
    I was wet and embarrassed, but fine, and the tripod didn’t really come to any harm by the dunking, but there was a major  victim in this whole affair--my camcorder, the camera I use every day for this blog.  It had been in its holster on my hip and it had been submerged along with me.  It is now deader than a door nail.
    When I got back home, I put it in a bag of rice.  I heard that is one way to dry out iPhones that get wet.  Time will tell.  
    The film people seemed quite amazed at our local scenery   They filmed several takes of the canoeist paddling toward the camera singing the first two lines of “Oh, Canada.”  It will be the opening scene of their film and they were happy with the shots they got of the singing canoeist on the Fraser.  Now they will be traveling eastward to other major Canadian Rivers to film other people singing the rest of Oh, Canada.  
    I did have my old iPhone along with me and fortunately it was in a water-proof holder.  I took the photo above with that.

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Thursday 4 May 2017

A Town Like Alice

A Town Like Alice by Nevil  Shute
      This was a great book and my favorite among the three Australian authors I read this month.  It is written in the first person in the voice of an English lawyer, as he tells the tale of Jean Paget one of his clients, who lived an extraordinary life on three different continents.  The story begins with Noel Strachan the lawyer, helping an aged client change his will so that his substantial fortune will go to his sister and if she is no longer alive, to her son, and finally, in case of both the sister's and her son's death, to her daughter Jean.  The will was drawn up and legalized. 
        Years later, upon the death of the old gentleman, Strachan has to chase down the heirs named in the will to put it into effect.  He discovers that both the man's sister and her son were dead, leaving the niece as the sole inheritor.  She had been in Malaya during and after World War II, but now, seven years after the war, he finds her living in London, employed as a secretary in a firm making high-end lady's shoes and bags. 
      When they meet, he finds her to be an attractive, modest, and unassuming young lady, with an horrendous story to tell about her time during the war. She had been working for an English owned plantation company in Malaya, when the Japanese invaded. She was rounded up along with the other foreigners and then made a captive and put in a group with other English women and their children.  They were force-marched and shunted from one jungle village to the next under guard, as one Japanese officer after another, in an attempt to rid himself of the responsibility of their care, sends them off to some other destination. 
       Their numbers dwindle as they begin to die from disease, exhaustion, and starvation. Jean, although young, slowly became the leader of the famished group because of her ability to speak Malaysian and her willingness to shuck off English customs and dress and live more like the Malaysian villagers they meet. 
      At one point during this "death march" she meets an Australian POW, who was forced by the Japanese to drive a truck carrying supplies between Japanese camps.  She is thrilled to be able to meet another English speaker and a man.  From him she learns he is a "ringer", an Australian cowboy, from one of those gigantic empty ranches in the Outback.  
       He is generous, kind, and takes risks to give the women medical supplies and soap.  Although Jean begs him not to endanger himself, he steals some chickens for the women to eat, is caught, nailed to a tree in front of the women, and crucified.  Jean, of course, is filled with guilt, but she can do nothing as they are  forced to march on. 
     Eventually their lone Japanese guard dies of a disease, and the women, far away from civilization, make a deal with a nearby native village.  There are no young men in the village, having been forced away to work for the Japanese, the English women volunteer to work in the village rice paddies if the villagers will allow them to stay there.  They spend the remaining three years of the war working for the village.
      After the war, when Jean gets the first installment of her inheritance and thinks about what she wants to do now that she no longer has to work, she tells Strachan she wants to go back to that Malayan village and use some of her wealth to get a well dug for the village women  so they will no longer have to carry water from a faraway spring. 
     While the well is being dug, she learns from one of the diggers that the crucified Australian truck driver didn't die that day, but was taken to a hospital to recover.  This news changes the direction of Jean's life, and I won't tell you anymore except her next stop is the Australian Outback and the story is only half told. 
       I found A Town Like Alice to be just the kind of book I love to read. The storyline is compelling, the characters believable, and the novel, well written.  From the novel's wide scope, I learned about life both under a Japanese occupation in the Malaysian jungles and also in small towns in the vast Australian Outback.  
      I enjoyed this book immensely.  The novel was written in 1950 and used the language of the day and place.  Today some of the language in the novel in reference to the Aborigines would be deemed racial slurs, but it honestly reflects the time and location of the story. 

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