Archive for May 2004

there’s always time for a cup of tea

I’ve been rereading my journal from our Ireland trip and I’ve found one recurring theme throughout. It seemed like every day I wrote “we opted out of xxxx and just wandered around on our own”. I think that explains why my memories don’t include museums, and instead focus on tea shops and park benches. At every chance we got, Auntie Vera and I got away from the tour and enjoyed a cup of tea.

I’m really glad we did because tourist attractions are rather stale sometimes, and because it makes for better memories now. Like the time we had to dash for the bus (and Auntie Vera could run fast for a 78 year old) because we’d nipped out for a cup of tea from a takeaway and the bus was about to leave without us. Auntie Vera didn’t believe that we have to walk through life doing everything the proscribed way. She was a great adventurer and travelled alone through Ireland in 1991. Along with a strong sense of family, she was also an independent soul and her example kept me strong when I was recently single four years ago.

We all have the capabilities for happiness within ourselves, and life should be full of laughter as often as possible. It’s been over two weeks since she died and while the memories of her are still strong, it’s time for me to start living in the present and creating new memories to laugh about. This extended eulogy has helped me so much, but has also reminded me that she always lived in the present. I’m off to Edmonton tomorrow for a conference (and to visit with Treefen – I’m very excited about that AND to meet my dad’s cousins and my great-uncle who I’ve never met before) and I’m hoping I’ll have some new great stories to tell when I get home.
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chances to travel with those we love

All my life, my Gram and I had talked about a trip we’d take to England when I was 16. Grammie was born and raised there and she wanted to show me where she grew up. We daydreamed about taking tea in castles and visiting great manors in the country. Gram was blind, so we couldn’t go until I was old enough to lead her around, and we decided that I’d be ready when I was 16 – that summer we’d have our trip.

My Gram died the summer I was 16. Even before she died, we knew that she wasn’t well enough to travel overseas. Had I been a few years older, we’d have been able to go, and I’ve always had a sense of being cheated out of something precious, however unreasonable that is. I had a hard time with her death, the person I told all my secrets to, and I find I still think about her very often.

I think that’s why when Auntie Vera was looking for someone to travel with five years ago, I jumped at the offer. It wasn’t a replacement for the trip to England, but another chance to travel with someone I love to somewhere they loved. Losing Auntie Vera has left me sad, but not bitter, because this time I got my special trip with her and I took every opportunity to spend time with her when I could. In some ways this makes this so much harder, because I’m far closer to her than I would have otherwise been, but it’s also far easier, because I have no regrets.

(At the funerals, Eric (her grandson) and I traded travel-with-Vera stories, he’s got some funny ones from their vacation in March. I’m glad he has these special memories too – and I know he took every chance to be with her – she was that kind of person.)

Everywhere we went in Ireland people kept saying that she was so lucky to have a niece to travel with, but they all had it wrong, I was the lucky one. How many of us get a chance to see the world with a grandparent (or an almost grandparent)? Auntie Vera gave me the chance to travel through the Ireland she knew, she gave me the chance to have these memories now that mean so much, and she taught me that we should look forward to what we can, and enjoy where we are.
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NI 99: Bushmills, 2 girls, & a very high step

One of my favourite memories of Auntie Vera is from the Bushmills Distillery in Co. Antrim in August of 1999. We were on a bus tour populated with predominantly dull and dour folk, mainly from a church in Eastern Ontario. This did have it’s drawbacks, but at the distillery, it became a great advantage.

Now at the end of the tour, every visitor gets one free sample of whiskey, but a few lucky people get to sample about 6 different types of whiskey and get a neat little certificate proclaiming them to be a qualified irish whiskey taster (currently hanging on the bulletin board behind me). I’d heard that getting to be a taster was a very coveted position, that people would jockey to be at the front of the group after the tour. Not on our tour, only four of us in total put our hands up and I found myself sitting at a table with eight shot glasses in front of me. It was about eleven in the morning. I have notoriously low tolerance and I wasn’t a whiskey drinker at that time. I did what any good girl would do, and shared the whiskey with Auntie Vera so that we both could get tipsy.

Of course, after the tastings, we still enjoyed our free sample of whiskey, which we chose to imbibe as a lovely hot toddy. (This year for Christmas I gave Auntie Vera a bottle of Black Bush and all the fixings for a hot toddy, which she swore drove off a cold around February. When I saw her two weeks ago she mentioned that the bottle was gone, we both developed a taste for Black Bush on our trip.)

So after the whiskey tasting and the hot toddies, both of us were a little tiddly (to use her word) and had to get back on the bus to go to the Giant’s Causeway. Now big tour buses have big steps, and Auntie Vera wasn’t a tall person (5’3″?) so every time she had to get on and off it was a bit of work. This time though, with warm whiskey bellies, it seemed a bit tougher than normal and as the bus driver learned down to give her a hand up, she turned her head around to me and said: “push my bum”. Right. I dissolved into laughter, which made her giggle, and all of a sudden we were both laughing too hard to even attempt to get on the bus. We finally made it on and giggled quietly for the next 20 minutes as many of our dour tripmates looked down at us – which of course fueled the fires and made us laugh more.

That’s what travelling with Auntie Vera was like, we giggled our way around the north coast of Ireland and experienced everything we could.

Bushmills Hot Toddy

generous ounce of bushmills,
6 cloves
heaping tsp of brown sugar
a cinnamon stick
tsp lemon juice
and about 2/3 cup of boiling water.

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a time for memories and a time for smiles

I brought the quilt that I made Auntie Vera back to Vancouver with me yesterday. I slept with it last night, and woke up refreshed for the first time – just looking at it reminds me of how much she was loved, by me and by everyone.

At her funeral, she had asked that a poem be read, a poem about remembering her with a smile. I’m trying my best to do that right now. On the plane home I sat and wrote out stories about her; things she said and things we’ve done together. It was very comforting.

It’s a time for happy memories; memories of her and I jumping off the bus in Northern Ireland to get some take-out tea from a little roadside stand, of her sticking her finger in her ear and swearing she would sleep like that (long story), of phone conversations where we laughed and giggled, of hearing her say so often “I’m so happy that …”. I’m so happy that she was a part of my life and that I did get to know her so well.

My mother put it best when she said:
There’s not many people in the world who you can look at and say “I’d be a much better person if I emulated their attitudes and actions”. Auntie Vera was one of those people.
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Vera Arnold, nee Callaghan

Last night my great auntie Vera (at the left of the picture, here with my grandparents last sunday) and her son, Tom, were killed in a car accident on the way to Tom’s cottage. He leaves behind a wife and two school age kids.

I fly to Toronto tomorrow for the funerals.

The last time I saw her was just five days ago, when she peeked her face around the corner of the door and waved goodbye with the biggest smile on her face. She had a knack at finding everything wonderful in the world and enjoying it, and had the biggest, most loving heart. We travelled in Ireland together in 1999 and she taught me so much about life and being family.

My heart goes out to her two grandchildren who’ve lost a wonderful father and a loving nana –
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60 years and still in love – an inspiration for all of us

Congrats to my grandparents on 60 years of marriage. It’s an achievement that few of us are lucky enough, and work hard enough, to reach. We had a lovely time celebrating with them and appreciate the solid family they’ve created for all of us to grow up in. We love you both!
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Nana and Bompa’s 60th

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exactly what is that hole in the first x-ray?

The snowball of mucus in Cory’s right lung has disappeared. (He also seems to have regrown a hole in his lower left hand side body, talented man!). It looks like he’s made a full recovery, and except for the chorus of relapse stories we’ve heard in the past month, we’re feeling confident that things can get back to normal. I started this a wee bit early, forgetting about his appointment yesterday so that when he picked me up from work I spent the drive home talking about ocean currents rather than asking about the x-ray. Fortunately he’s not holding it against me.

i’m completely absorbed in research at the moment, and enjoying it more than I ever have in the past. I figure this is some sort of trick, to suck me in to a research job after I finish, because right now I can’t imagine doing any other type of work. However, for my public transit reading, and for the most important morning cup of tea, I’m rereading Durrell’s Spirit of Place.
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I’ve misplaced a factor of ten

This weekend was one of those quiet lazy times where lying down and contemplating the cracks in the ceiling is more appealing than anything else. The blue sky of last week faded, and a white muggy cloud has enveloped the city, it’s not hot, but sticky. After my run on Saturday, I felt like I could lay motionless forever, as long as Cory kept bringing me lattes (he did, the sweetie, make three for me this weekend).

Yesterday we tried rousing ourselves from the couch to do something. Chinatown seemed like a good adventure, and while we came back with some great pictures, it was crowded, busy, and frankly, intimidating. Even though I needed mung beans for the dal I made for dinner last night, and the barrels of them in the spice stores flashed prices like 59 cents, we were too shy to attempt to purchase any. 59 cents for what? 100 grams, 1 pound? We bought the beans at the grocery store for 50 cents for 100 grams. I have no idea whether we paid too much or got a good deal.

When I was younger it seemed like weekends were for adventure, climbing mountains or backcountry camping. Now, with work stresses piling up, I’m quite happy to relax. I got to go for a run, a bike ride, and drink as much coffee as I wanted. We walked to Granville Island and used a 2-for-1 coupon for lunch and had beers at the bar in the hotel. My only regret is that I didn’t spend enough time doing nothing last weekend.
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what could be better than coffee on a patio?

Friday was a fabulous day, I skipped out of the office in the afternoon and did some pen and paper work at a cafe in Kerrisdale drinking lovely coffee in the sun. Some things are just better in the spring, by September we’ll take this weather for granted, but right now, it feels like heaven.

I don’t think I’d be happy living in place without seasons, each season brings new hobbies, new favourites, and a chance to change your wardrobe. Even though we’ve had a mild winter, I’m delighted to walk outside with bare arms and let the sun start freckling my shoulders.

I’m looking forward to a busy summer, next weekend we’re in toronto for my grandparents 60th anniversary, then in june a conference (and visiting treefen) in edmonton. July’s a quiet month, which is good since I’m hoping to finish my thesis then, but in August we’ve got my grandparent’s visiting at the start of the month, then Adrian and Michelle in the middle, before ending the summer with Jen’s wedding in Ottawa. I’m very much looking forward to the next few months.
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