Monday, October 30, 2006

Back From Blighty

Anyone miss me? Ernie, Lucy and I spent the past two weeks in England. There is no way I am going to give a complete account of the trip, but there will be some comments as soon as I get the photos organized. I am still rather fuzzy headed: the trip back on Saturday night was complicated by headwinds across the Atlantic and a delayed connection at Dulles. Once my brain and my body get back on the same time zone, I will be fine.

What a richness of places, people and experiences. There are always “characters” to remember in Britain. There was Michael who drove the coach in which we visited Canterbury. He sounded just like Stanley Holloway and flirted shamelessly with Lucy (he also looked like Stanley Holloway in his role as Alfred Doolittle, so that flirtation didn’t go anywhere!) There was the wonderfully polite man in the ticket office at the train station in Cambridge who dealt with our bumbling so graciously. He, like every other service employee we met, addressed me unfailingly as “madam”. Who can forget the sailor on the boat from Greenwich to Westminster who commandeered the public address system and gave us a spirited guide to the sights along the river—“and for those of you who have nevva seen the Tate Modern . . . don’t bovva.”

We spent time with family and old friends, we saw productions of “Summer and Smoke” and “Guys and Dolls” in the West End. We saw Bath Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral, Hadrian’s Wall and the fabulous British Library. At Ernie’s request, we even visited the mecca of marmalade lovers, the Wilkins and Sons factory in Tiptree. My biggest disappointment? Somehow the beer didn’t seem as great as I remembered it. What surprised me the most? The courtesy of the people we came across and the fact that I never once got on a crowded tube without someone offering me a seat.

I loved today’s Mother Goose and Grimm cartoon. It’s my visual aid for this post and an irreverent reminder that four days ago we were standing on Salisbury Plain, contemplating a phenomenon that scholars still can not explain.

Friday, October 13, 2006


I am going dark for a little while. Don't go away: I will be back.

I Don't Know Anything About Art . . .

. . . but I know what I like when I see it. Art aficionados tend to laugh at people who make such comments, but I know what they mean. I can’t begin to tell you why I love this picture. It hangs in the front hall and I pass it first thing every morning as I go to bring in the newspaper. It always brings a smile to my face. It is a painting of the city hall in Louvain, Belgium, and I love the juxtaposition of the old architecture with the kind of funky modern perspective. And the hay wain.

I first saw it in the room in which Ernie’s uncle, Monsignor Ernest, spent the last of his ninety plus years. Monsignor had spent some of his seminary years in Rome and later studied at Louvain. Imagine, he came from a farm in Iowa to the sophistication of Europe in the twenties and thirties. He wrote long journals, which Ernie edited, describing life in the seminary and the political turmoil in Europe.

He was a special favorite of Ernie’s. In fact, Ernie was born on the day of Monsignor’s First Mass, which is how he got his name. He was going to be Loras. Hm. Ernest, Loras: Loras, Ernest.

After Monsignor’s death we had the picture re-framed and hung it in its present spot. About ten years ago, we visited Louvain, or Leuven as it is now, and saw this edifice and many other impressive buildings. I am delighted to have this picture to remind me of a lovely city and young man who studied there.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Big Words

Look in the sidebar and you will see my “Guilty Pleasures” link to Blogging Project Runway. I confess I am addicted to the show that gave birth to this blog.

Last week there was a reunion episode. You know, the kind where they manipulate you into loving or hating the final four, so that when the results come in next week, you feel some kind of partisan loyalty. There were a number of compilations of film clips designed to throw light on the characteristics of various participants. They certainly helped fill up the hour—well, you can’t spend all of the sixty-minute show zooming in on Heidi Klum’s newly found cleavage. We saw Laura describing just about everything as “serious ugly” and Brad clucking away most endearingly. The vignette on Tim Gunn was illustrative of the fact that he uses “big words”.

There was something about this segment that made me feel uneasy. A Gary H. put it into words in a comment he made (sic):

I find it peculiar and very telling that tim’s rich vocabulary warrants a segment on TV—is it that unusual to see and hear an educated and articulate person these days? are we all dumbed down? the only phrase tim used that i haven’t in normal conversation was the arcane something or other about wood. wheeh. not heard that one before in all my 58 years on earth, can’t wait to use it now, however once i look it up.
. . .

Tim may use such words as caucus in an unusual way, but to see them have to relate the dictionary term for the masses just goes to show how sad it is that most people have such a limited vocabulary.

He has a point (along with a somewhat tenuous grasp of grammar.) Why should we smile benignly at an atrocious Beckhamism , yet poke fun at Tim Gunn.

I for one do not intend to use the phrase “faux bois” anytime soon.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

In Which Keith Gets Warmer

You remember Keith. He’s the Marketing executive, aka huckster, who keeps sending me catalogs in the hope I will purchase something. He tried to tempt me with sausage casings, then it was yuppie athletic wear, which, I must be honest, sorta looks like sausage casings on me.

Now, as Christmas approaches, he is trying again. He just sent me the Tiffany catalog. This time, the problem is not the nature of the merchandise, it’s the cost. In fact, I like a lot of the stuff (hope you are reading this, Ernie.) I am, however, not too sure about the dishes for children with the soulful Dalmatian and the fire hydrant (I’m a Peter Rabbit kind of gal.) $125 seems like a lot of money for a couple of plates which any self-respecting toddler is going to throw on the floor when first introduced to pureed squash. I have a new grandchild coming in December, Keith, so I will think about it. I wonder what Holly Golightly would say.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Theodore Thomas is Three

How’s that for alliteration? I have already written here about Theodore’s uncanny resemblance to a drawing by my favorite illustrator of children’s books. Here’s a photo taken last week in a pumpkin patch. I had such a good time with him a couple of weeks ago and we played some great games of “pretend.” So, Happy Birthday, Boots.

Friday, October 06, 2006

They Liked Me. They Really Liked Me.

I am now a member of "the ageless project."

I am also an idiot, because I didn't follow the links properly. Go to the date links at the top. There are 53 people older than me.

Choose Your Examples Carefully

My friend Caroll wrote to The Detroit Free Press once, complaining that the paper was lumping the Pointes and Macomb (the next county north) in together, while the five Grosse Pointes are, in fact, in Wayne County. They paid no attention. Today, however, I was delighted to receive the Pointes/Macomb supplement and to read the article about the need for a four year college in Macomb County.

Currently Macomb Community College has a consortium arrangement with some four year institutions in the Detroit Metropolitan area, allowing students to complete a four-year degree by taking their last two years of coursework at the center in Macomb County, taught by faculty from the partner schools. In my previous life I worked with students who were transferring their credits to Wayne State, and I know there are some success stories in the arrangement.

Now I invite you to look at the photo which accompanies this article. It shows a class in “performance”. The young lady on the right is demonstrating how to “break up with a guy”. Sitting next to the grinning dumpee is an egg. An egg? Is this perhaps “Performance 101: training for embryonic NFL mascots?” And what are we to make of the blond in the Paris Hilton wig (or at least, I hope it’s a wig) sitting next to the egg?

Many of the taxpayers in Macomb County will cheerfully support measures to increase higher education opportunities in the area. Some need persuading. But surely a photo of a class in Multivariable Calculus or World Literature would be more likely to convince them of the value of a four-year degree than this glimpse into the world of dress-up and dating.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

October 4th, 1969

I won't forget that day. We had moved into the house in August and had finally got around to removing the disgusting carpets (the former owner was a vet and prodigious animal owner) and having the wood floors in every single room sanded and varnished. What little furniture we had was crammed into bathrooms and the kitchen and we had been living, with two very small children, in the basement. Although the floor people had promised that the finish would be dry a couple of days earlier, a bout of Indian Summer and the accompanying humidity slowed down the process.

It seemed that things couldn't get much worse. But they did. When I realized that #3 would be here before the end of the day, we lugged the dressers from the bathroom so I could take a shower and we made it to St. John's in time for Elizabeth's birth. As was the custom in those days, fathers were banished to a waiting room. Ernie was enjoying an Audrey Hepburn movie when he was summoned. He complained about missing the end.

But today, when we had lunch in Canton with Elizabeth and the four lovely children she and Jeff have produced, he didn't mention Audrey Hepburn once.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Will They Like Me?

I have never tried to join a webring. But not too long ago I came across The Ageless Project, where blogs are listed according to the age of the blogger. I thought there would be lots of old codgers there, but I see that there are only twelve bloggers older than me. Perhaps it is like one of those Internet chain letters, where people drop off the top and you gradually rise through the ranks. Except the only way you could drop off is if you become too gaga . . . or worse.

I may never know, because you have to apply to become part of the webring. Unless it is like joining an insurance company or a hairdressing establishment where you have to bring along a bunch of established clients, I may be OK. Surely they can only check for subversive posts or excessive split infinitives.

And even if I don’t make it, I will have discovered a couple of new blogs worth reading. The oldest blogger in the ring is Donald Crowdis, born in 1913! And I have already become enamored of a retired Anglican Clergyman from Durham .

My application is in. It is like applying to college all over again. I’ll let you know.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Number Five is Five

Daniel's birthday today. He is celebrating three times: with us all last week at the apple orchard, last Friday at the Bowling Alley with some friends, and in school. I must get busy with the camera so there will be some photos later.