Monday, March 29, 2010


I was doing a bit of tidying up tonight, and while deleting old draft blog posts I came across this one. I wrote it two years ago, on April 22, 2008, but never posted it. I don't recall why - it seemed finished enough. Whatever my reason, come April 23, I didn't want to share it anymore.

The story is of something that happened to me when I was 34, and 6. It still amazes me, the clarity and sharpness of the vision I got that day: reading this post brought it all back.

I hope you like it.

Charlotte started Girl Guides in September. The meetings are held at a local elementary school - the oldest in the city. It's the school I went to for Grade One and the first half of Grade Two, before we transferred a few catchments over.

The first week I took Charlotte to her meeting, I spent the hour roaming around the halls, trying to remember exactly which classroom was Mrs. Flynn's (Grade One) and which was Ms. Decourbe's (Grade Two). It was fun to see the gym again, with the national anthem posted in French and English, above the ancient stage where we put on plays in which we starred as rainclouds, and animals, and maybe shrubbery. My memories of this school were vague, mostly pleasant, and involved things like the smell of the hallways and the height of the water fountains (pretty short).

In the following months I mostly spent the Guide hours sitting on a chair in the hallway, knitting. A month or so ago, I decided to use that time to run, taking advantage of the once-weekly guaranteed free hour to get some exercise in. One night I finished my run at the school, and walked around the outside for the remaining ten minutes, doing some stretching.

I wandered around the outside wall of the gymnasium. I turned a random corner, stepped up into "the covered area" and found myself face to face with one of my most powerful memories.

I was six years old. It was the first day of Grade One at a new school. I didn't know anyone there, except my brother who was a year ahead of me. In Kindergarten, they had had only one recess, during which you you ate your snack and played outside. So when the bell rang at my first recess in Grade One, I took my red nylon packsack outside to the covered area and looked for somewhere to sit. I spotted a door across from me, with an unoccupied concrete step underneath it. Clutching my bag, I made my way over to it through knots of playing students, almost all of them older than me. I opened my packsack, took out my lunch and ate it, trying not to catch anyone's eye, or stand out in any way.

I was finishing the last thing and putting all the waxed paper back in, when my brother ran over, breathless, holding a ball of some description. Several big boys trailed behind him. He said, "Shannon, it's only recess - you don't eat your lunch until next break."

He ran off again and I sat there frozen, hot embarrassment flushing my cheeks, almost immobilised with anxiety. What would I do at lunch? I had nothing left to eat. I looked around furtively and realised I was, in fact, the only kid who had brought her packsack outside. I tried to wad it up so no one would see it and realise my mistake, and carried it back inside when the bell rang.

I don't have any other memories from that day. I don't in fact know what happened at lunch, when I had no more food left.

When I came around the corner of that school a few weeks ago and my eyes fell on that step, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I felt the anxiety again just the way I did twenty-eight years ago, even as my 34 year old self marvelled that it could be so - that a little doorway with a little concrete step could make me feel this way - bring it all back.

I stood there on the faded hopscotch, getting the memories back one by one.

Then, just around the corner must be the place where....yes, that's where I stepped on a nail and hopped all the way back to the office with it protruding out of both top and bottom of my foot.

And around that other way must be those big doors and the ramp where we played 'prison'. Yes, there they are...and the window - that's Ms Decourbe's classroom, it must be. I remember standing there looking down at them outside when I was kept in at noon to finish work.

I walked slowly around to all these places, surrounded by little children in bell-bottoms and bowl cuts, some whose names I could remember and some whose names I couldn't. I went back to the covered area and leaned against a railing, looked at the concrete step. There I was, little blonde child with a firm grip on her packsack, nervous, feeling more lonely than I ever had before.

All that fear made me cry. I don't remember whether I cried at six, but I cried at thirty four. It made me remember everything that has gone in between then and now. It made me think of all the things I never dreamed would happen...things I never thought to fear while I was worrying about having already eaten all my lunch. And I wanted to say to her how sorry I was for the way I made her life turn out.

I went back there last night. While Charlotte was in the gym with 17 other little Guides singing "Day is Done", I was in the covered area, photographing this place which is almost unchanged from the way it was in 1979. I know it looks empty to you, but to me it's a busy scene, full of kids I was having to constantly step around while shooting - kids who bumped me, ruined my focus, and ran off calling a careless, carefree Sorry, breathlessly.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I vaguely recall reading a blogger who was talking about "Vestuary"...I think it's a sort of knitalong where you are meant to knit a vest in the month of February.

And I realised, I actually did Vestuary without meaning to.

I cast on Dad's vest on the 23 of January, actually, but I did finish it in the month of February - on Groundhog Day, to be precise.

I've been promising pictures, but as Dad was at home recovering from surgery, an opportunity didn't really present itself until the other day when he walked over to my house for a piece of cake, and Lo and Behold - he was wearing his vest.

Piccy time!

Yes - I am Shan, son of Ham. (Well, okay, 'daughter'.) There was no one on the other end of that phone.

The picture is a bit out of focus - it's because Dad wouldn't stand still but insisted on goofing off...see photo #1, above. (Love you Dad.)

British School Slipover
: Cheryl Oberle, from Interweave Press' Folk Vests
Yarn: 3.5 skeins Berroco Ultra Alpaca, Peat Mix
Yarn Source: Needle & Arts Centre
Needle: 4.0mm Clover bamboo circular
Tension: 20 sts/4"
Cast on: January 23, 2010
Bound off: February 2, 2010
Size: 45" chest
Modifications: None.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Too late, Gwen.

Gwen left another comment to notify me of her change of heart regarding the quilt binding. The green is peaceful, she now thinks: "I'm not liking the pink so much."

Sadly, she was too late.

For once in my precious life, I got ON something, and got it done.

I'm so darn happy about this thing, you wouldn't believe it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bindage and Quiltscipline

I'm not really sure where that title came from. (Paging Dr. Freud.)

So here I am, trying to finish up all the half-done projects hanging around. Remember this quilt? I pieced the top seven years ago, when my daughter was a baby. My friend was taking an introductory quilting course, which I couldn't afford to take with her. Every week after her class she'd come to my place with the instruction sheet for the block of the week, and I'd make my block using hers as an example.

I had a duvet cover that I had made during university and was hardly used, so I was able to reclaim the fabric from it and, with careful management (i.e., pinching pennies until they screamed), bought a few pieces of good quality quilting cotton to make up the difference.

It was supposed to be a full-sized bed quilt, but Elizabeth's personal life fell apart halfway through the course, she stopped taking the class, and we only ever finished the nine blocks.

I put the top together last year, and quilted it. Most of the quilting was done with my sewing machine, but I did hand-quilt one block - the pinwheel design in the two pictures below.

So here's my dilemna. It's time to bind this sucker - add the half-inch strip of fabric around the edge. I have two options for the binding: the dark green, or the dark pink.

Help me out here, mates - should I go with the green or the pink?

I find the green nice, but a bit boring. The pink definitely makes the quilt pop more, but is it a little on the loud side?

Green: boring?

Pink: crazy?

But I'll take crazy over boring, any day.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I'm just watching Lost Season 6:8, "Recon", and regarding Sawyer in the hotel room after the door breaks down, I have this to say:

Rowwrrrr......the only thing missing for the past five seasons was a badge.

Oooh......Mama like.....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Save Yourselves

Remember when I reviewed "Casino Royale" and I thought it was pretty much the worst movie ever? Well guess what! I found a worse one!


Even the name is making me feel queasy. Two years from now, when I spend 365 days feeling unaccountably nauseated and having nightmares, it'll be because of my unconscious, associative memory of this movie.

It's like someone in an editing booth cut the climactic 25 minutes from each of the following disaster movies and taped them together to form a three-hour gauntlet of painful, funny-in-a-bad-way action footage:

- Crimson Tide/Red October/every-submarine-movie-ever-produced ("Someone has got to swim down to where something is jamming the hydraulics! There's not enough oxygen for him to get back! It's a suicide mission!")
- Independence Day ("The White House looks like a little toy with that gigantic ship overtop of it! Oh God, no! There goes the last bastion of freedom and intelligence in the known world!")
- Titanic ("The night is so black, and the sea is so deep! One brave man has the courage to stand facing the o'ermastering ocean, seconds before he perishes as the enormous liner sinks with frightening suddeness beneath the darkness of the waves!")
- Armageddon ("We are on a tiny little planet floating in the vastness of space, at the mercy of ominous planetary alignments and unexpectedly large asteroids! Er, I mean, solar flares! Now don't you feel vulnerable? Good!")
- The Day After Tomorrow ("See how it looks when Mother Nature decides to drown all the humans in snow? or rain? And doesn't the USA look scary with all its prominent buildings and monuments gunnel-deep in precipitation!" Also in this category, "Two-second glimpses of major world landmarks and cultural icons toppling/being engulfed in flames/sinking beneath waves/rolling over screaming populace, or silly Catholics who are sitting there praying as the dome of St Peter's Basilica does a slow pastry-pin manoeuvre through the Piazza San Pietro."
- Volcano ("All that plate-tectonic stuff the geologists have been saying about the San Andreas fault finally turns out to be true! And look at the size of that gee-dee crack down Santa Monica Boulevard!")

But luckily (pick any of the above movies for an example), the YEW-nited States of aMERica has HEEroes! Remember that terrible line from Independence Day (I think), where a Royal Air Force fighter pilot turns to his copilot and says in a posh, relieved accent, "Thank God the Americans are doing SOMETHING, wot?" Record numbers of people died from acute embarrassment in cinemas all over the world.

Spare yourself the agony of wasting three hours of your life which you'll never, ever get back. I hardly ever wish I had never seen a movie - usually there is some redeeming quality, no matter how tiny, to make it worth the watch. I'm sorry to say that even the presence of Chiwetel Ejiofor (y'know - the black guy from Serenity and Kinky Boots?) couldn't save it for me. Also, I usually like John Cusack, but if he's going to keep selling out for huge blockbuster Bay-and-Bruckheimer-style action flicks instead of using his powers for.............

And while looking for links to flesh out that last sentence, I stumbled upon his (apparent) twitter feed, which makes me think I should dedicate the rest of this post to a plea for public funding to set up classrooms in Hollywood production lots so that actors can have access to basic literacy training.

Now I need to go wash my eyes by watching "Everybody's Fine". I'm depressed already, why not have a good wallow-and-cry?

Over and out.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Weekend Warrior

Edit: Tonight at 6 PM PST is the Paralympic Opening Ceremony...the beginning of another chance to get our cheer on! And check out our goalie, the defending gold medallist from Turin - he seems pretty driven, if highly unlikeable...apparently he doesn't care if he's remembered as the 'biggest prick in the world'. To which I say, "get us another hockey gold, you can call yourself whatever you like.

Here I am back at Friday, March 12th of all things, and the last time I posted was March 1...the time does fly.

I had a great time last weekend - it was International Women's Day and we danced at a benefit for a local Women's Centre, to a wonderfully responsive crowd. Dancing for women has such a positive energy: so friendly, and very different from a mixed crowd. The presence of men adds a bit of tension and judgment that I've never felt from an all-female audience. - it's interesting. And it reminded me that historically, Middle-Eastern gender segregation being what it was, belly dance was by women, for women - not for men. Belly dancers did entertain men, but the dancers were male. Male belly dancers are hard to come by in North America - and their figures make the dance look quite different - but their abilities can be just as dazzling, as you'll see if you check out that link.

So that was Saturday. Sunday was awesome too...I got up early and went to a neighbouring island to take a workshop with Cat Bordhi who, I can tell you, is a very intelligent and free-thinking woman. I liked her a lot. It was a fun day full of yarn and needles, plus anytime I get to take an island-hopper ferry, I'm a happy girl.

View towards Vesuvius, from the car deck.

We were all knitting swatches and making up our own stitch patterns. I cast about in my head for a clever and original idea (Cat Bordhi's in the room - no pressure or anything) and decided on a "*yo, SSK, rpt * to end" on every row. I knocked off a couple of inches of that, then changed which stitch began the SSK and did an inch or so more. I was quite happy with the result, and was considering whether I could use it for the bottom of a summer tank top for my daughter, when Cat came around. She took the swatch from me and looked at it, then said "Oh,'s like a market bag stitch."

(Hear that noise? That's the wind leaving my sails.)

My other swatch was a little more original, thankfully.

You'd write it like this, I guess:
Row 1: *k3, (knit 3 as follows: k third st tbl, then k second st tbl, then k first st tbl, then slip all 3 off together). Rpt from * to last 3, k 3.
Row 2: p
Row 3: *(knit 3 as follows: k third st tbl, then k second st tbl, then k first st tbl, then slip all 3 off together), k3. Rpt from * to last 6, k 6.

In the middle section I stacked the patterns instead of staggering them, and added a pattern row on every other WS row (p3, p3rd tfl, then 2nd tfl, then 1st tfl, slip off together). On the top section, I dropped the RS row pattern stitch, so it slants the other way.

Anyhow, much fun was had, and if you get a chance to take a workshop with Cat, you definitely should. She has quite a few good tools for encouraging your originality.

Now I'm off to add the fourth experimental incarnation of a closure for my Uncle's slippers. I've knit him three pairs now, but the first two apparently don't stay on very well...I am working the problem, but the solutions keep winding up somewhere between an outsized bootee, and a crazy Brobdingnagian Mary-Jane.

But I figure, 'if at first you don't succeed'. Don't worry Dave, this time I'm sure to get it right.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Yes, well done, thank you.

The boys won, all is well. 14 gold medals in one Olympics, aren't we grand!