Monday, December 24, 2012

Here is where I leave you.

It's Christmas Eve, and I think we are ready, as far as such a thing is possible.

I had a nice post planned for today, but I decided to write about something else that's on my mind. After this, I think it's time for me to retire from the internet for the remainder of the year.

Yesterday I went to see some neighbours of mine, from when I was a little kid. They lived next door and were sort of in between my parents' ages and my grandparents' ages. We have very fond memories of Mrs. Mullen, in particular, who used to invite my little sister, a preschooler alone at home, to come in and have a tea party with her while she sewed in her basement. She also gave us a key to her house while she was away on vacation so that we could come in and "feed the cat" -- translation: "watch cartoons" -- while she was away. She knew we didn't have a television and longed to see what all the fuss was about.

I ran into Mr. and Mrs. Mullen in the grocery store in November, right after my Dad's 75th birthday party. I hadn't seen them in decades and it was such a meaningful coincidence...I promised that I would come and visit them before Christmas.

The weeks went by and I was very busy getting ready for Christmas. I had half an eye on the calendar, thinking "I really must phone the Mullens. I really should. I'll do that this coming week." On December 21, I thought to myself, "I must phone them. I'll do it today when I get back from the grocery store." And again, in the same grocery store, wandering the same produce department, there they were.

If that's not writing on the wall, what is? I asked myself.

"I was just going to call you today!" I said as I hugged them. "How's Sunday for you? I'll bring cookies."

It was a lovely visit. It was happy and sad and a little bewildering to reflect on the time that has gone by. I was six weeks old when our family bought the house next door to them, and I was 14 when they moved away from the road. In April 1981, the day I fell and broke my knee cap, it was Mrs. Mullen who, hanging her laundry on the line, ran over with a flannel sheet to wrap the terrible cut that went halfway through my leg at the knee. I lay in the back seat of the car with my head on her lap while my mother drove to the hospital. Mr. Mullen arrived in time to carry me into Emergency.

I am now 39, and Mrs. Mullen is turning 88 this year. They remember that day, laughing about it all, and I laughed too and told them "That knee is better than the other one, now!" but inside I was marvelling at the way people wander into your life and out of it and, whether you ever see them again or not, they share some of your most formative memories.

Go out and see those people. Track them down and send them a Christmas card. Or a New Year's letter. They remember you, and they want to know that you remember them, too. They want to know that you remember the name of their cat, who died when Trudeau was finishing up his first term in office.

His name was Henry. He really liked barbecued salmon.

Someday I will be 88 years old. And I will probably wonder where it all went. I will probably think about the little girl who, right now in 2012, lives next door to me and can be a bit of a pleasant nuisance with her noisy singing. I will wonder whatever happened to her, and whether she had a good life, and is she married now and how old would she be?

I hope someday she looks me up in the phone book, and comes to see me. Maybe she'll tell me that she used to listen to me talking to my sister on the phone, out in the yard. Maybe she'll say "I remember that you used to come outside and hand us pizza, out of the blue." Or "I remember how nice it was in your living room at Christmas that time you invited me in to ice gingerbread cookies."

And I'll be so surprised and touched and I'll say "Fancy you remembering that!"

One day, we'll all look up from our screens and we'll realise that, while we were checking Facebook, the really important things about life have wandered away.

It's Christmas. I'll be spending it with my family and my friends. I wish you the very best, the very sweetest, the very most loving Christmas you've ever had. May it be a rest for you in these darkest days of the year - a time of peace and restoration.

Good Yule to you!

Mr and Mrs Mullen, December 2012
-Names changed.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Theme: What I Did This Week

Another vost for you!

This one is just a few pictures and video snips of what we did this week - we got our tree, we set it up, I moved the carpet (and moved it, and moved it), we did some baking, some cleaning, and had the church pageant. (My kids were angels, naturally.) I knitted two hats, and my daughter modelled one for me before I gave it away.


Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Ella Fitzgerald)
Glow Worm (Mel Torme)

Friday, December 21, 2012

I live in infamy.

Apparently a few people have found my blog by searching for the phrase "messy laundry rooms".

Hi there! Nice to have you join us! I'm glad you came by for validation/comfort. Happy to be of service.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nutcracker Day

Google's header for today, December 18, to mark the 120th anniversary of the Nutcracker Ballet. Pretty!

Exercise a high degree of caution

I wasn't going to even comment on the Sandy Hooks thing. It's all a bit much for a nice peaceful, artsy, family-oriented Canadian blog.

But I've gotten a bit upset about it.

And something has just occurred to me.

I think the Canadian government should post a travel advisory about visiting the US, similar to the ones they use for countries like Mexico, Bahrain, and Lebanon. It should read something like this:

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for the United States. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to the threat of unpredictable terrorist attacks in public spaces. Be aware that there is anti-Canadian sentiment in places, especially northern regions close to the Canada/US border. Be aware that there are 90 guns for every 100 people in the US.

Or maybe this -- just to keep it simple:

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to the United States due to heightened tensions and crime.

Then again, it's probably not necessary - aside from the occasional shooting of a Canadian customs officer, gun-toting Americans seem to stick to murdering their own people rather than ours. If you're a Canadian, just don't go to any movie theatres. Or malls. Or elementary schools. You know - the usual spots where bullets fly.


1) We (the US) should remove all gun regulations so everybody can have them, not just criminals. [Adam Lanza wasn't a criminal. He was an Everybody. So was James Eagan Holmes. Bet you any money, the next psycho who opens fire at a group of moviegoers or innocent little kids will be, too.]
2) One well-placed firearm at Sandy Hook could have prevented the entire slaughter. [Unless, y'know, the well-placed-firearm carrier was down the hall at the time. But hey - more guns in schools is a great idea! Then the kids can be caught in cross-fire as well as just regular fire. That's what they need - MORE bullets to dodge. A bunch of kindergartners at the O.K. fucking Corral.]
3) Guns don't kill people, people kill people. [Yup, they do. With guns.] You can kill somebody with a ball-point pen, too - why not make THOSE illegal? [You're right. You might find it hard to kill 26 women and children in 10 minutes with a ball-point pen, though. Maybe you could get them to stand really still?]

American culture is violent and it glorifies violence*. The weird thing is how shocked we still are when violence happens.
*CAUTION: link to disturbing, mainstream images

So in six months' time, when some Everybody, regular Joe, I-don't-understand-it-he-always-seemed-so-normal American gets tired of the Canadians taking over the CostCo parking lot in Bellingham and brings his Bushmaster assault rifle, or his Gluck handgun, or whatever, and opens fire on Punjabi Canadians who are trying to buy milk (THOSE BASTARDS HOW DARE THEY), I for one won't be surprised.

Maybe we should all rethink our Nexus card renewals, and use our purchasing dollars to boost the economy in our own, gentle, country.

O Canada. Thank you for everything.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Displayable Knitting

I have knit quite a few things this fall, but can show hardly any of them. THESE, though, are a present for ME, so you get to see!

I even put them under the tree.

Last spring my friend came to visit for the weekend, and brought me three balls of yarn from her recent trip to Iceland. "Direct from the factory!" she said.

With three balls of sock yarn, the possibilities are nearly endless, but I opted for a simple toe-up knee sock, with a little teeny yarn-over rib. They're knee socks, but I like wearing them scrunched up.

80% Icelandic wool, 20% nylon
About 10 sts per inch on 2.25mm needles. (I used 120 cm long Addi Turbos)
Using a long circular and magic-looping, cast on 12 stitches using figure-8 cast-on. Do half your increases each end of both needles EVERY ROUND, then the other half of your increases every OTHER round until you get to 72. Knit until it's just at the start of your heel, then do a short-row heel. As soon as that's done, start your pattern stitch for the leg. Which is:
Row 1: k4, p1, yo, k2tog, p1, repeat to end.
Row 2, 3 and 4: knit all knits and purl all purls.
Row 5: k4, p1, ssk, yo, p1, repeat to end.
Row 6, 7, and 8: knit all knits and purl all purls.
Repeat rows 1 to 8 until it's long enough to reach nearly to the widest part of your calf.
Switch to 2:1 rib. (k2, p1)
Knit til ball runs out (save a couple of meters for a cast-off), and bind off loosely in pattern.

I ended up with 25 yarn-overs in total, in each column.

These socks aren't warm - they are HOT. Icelandic sheep are not kidding around.

Thanks so much, Beth Anne! Love you. (And I still have a whole ball left to make mittens!)

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Christmas Tree Forest

Once you've got your pajamas on, and you've had your milk and brushed your teeth, I'll read you a story.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stairway to Heaven

Once when I was a child, quite young -- maybe five or six -- we went to Victoria to visit my Uncle Bill, who is my Dad's youngest brother. He lived at the very top -- the servants' quarters, I suppose -- of one of Victoria's prized buildings. It was a single family house at one time, but had long since been converted to apartments, and Uncle Bill had what you'd call the attic flat. There was a discreet, narrow door off a hallway in the upper storey, and when you opened it you were standing on the bottom tread of a narrow staircase, more like a ladder, which took a sharp switchback at a tiny landing about ten steps up. Then you went up another five or six steps to another, narrower door. When you opened it, you stepped directly into Uncle Bill's living room. And you had to watch your head on the lintel.

Victoria was loaded with such places at the, of course, rich people have bought up all these desirable properties in picturesque Fairfield (or Oak Bay, or James Bay, or Esquimalt), converted them back into single family homes, spent millions restoring them, and work all the hours God sends to pay for it. And, the world being what it is, they probably don't like it too much when passersby stop to take a photo of the beautiful architecture they now own.

Whereas my uncle, and many like him, paid pittance for his three low-ceilinged rooms, and loved to sit in the middle of them on worn futons, drinking strong coffee, and enjoying the atmosphere of the place. Soaking up the history.

On this occasion, it was near Christmas, and we had spent the afternoon at Uncle Bill's. He and my parents were talking, and we kids were amusing ourselves looking out the windows, playing a game I don't remember, and generally thrilling in the difference of the place.

I asked if I could go back down the staircase to the floors below. Could I explore the building a little? I wanted to go all the way to the bottom, back to the brass fronted mailboxes, the funny iron buttons for calling up, back to the plush carpets and potted ferns of the lobby. Then, the gleeful finding of my way, all the way back up to the top. There's a joy about this project...I see it in my own children. The fascination of one house that holds many houses - the mystery of the closed doors, each with a different number, and a different life going on behind it.

Having assured my family that I could perfectly remember how to get back, and would not, no never would I get lost, I was allowed to go back down the staircase. As I closed the white-painted, bevelled wooden door behind me, I remember my Uncle Bill's voice, remarking to my parents that I wasn't likely to come to any harm, since I was staying inside the building.

What fun it was to sneak and sidle along the hallways, looking at the way the thick, dark red carpets ran down the middle of the hallway, bound along their edges by dark, shining floorboards of the kind you never see in houses now. Unchaperoned by any parent, who would surely have stopped me, hurried me, I could touch the funny little brass grates leading I didn't know where, and the little handles on things that, nowadays, we don't think need handles. Small paned windows, little doors, deep baseboards thickly painted with the highest of glosses, layer on layer. The walls weren't flat - they were funny nubbly cream-coloured things. In our house there wasn't any textured plaster. And here, if you let your eyes go all the way up to the top of the wall, you'd see there wasn't a hard line where the ceiling came down; there was a lovely rounded cove, with a pretty line lower down on the wall, and another one inwards on the ceiling. There were ceiling lights, but they were nice ones, quite dim, with cut glass.

It was so quiet in the hallways, and the central staircase was so grand, and I was so deliciously alone, that it began to feel like quite a long time had passed. After I had swept up and down a few times, being queen of course, I started to think I had better get back.

Upwards is simple, but remember that little door leading off the upper storey?

It was not the only little door.

Arrived in that hallway, I stopped and looked, a little doubtfully. Is it left? Is it right? It's not straight ahead, is it? Back and forth I stepped, examining all the doors in turn.

I don't know what made me choose that door, but I finally stopped in front of one and, fearful, I knocked. Maybe it was that I could hear people talking behind it: behind all the other white-glossed doors I had passed, on all the other floors in the house, was only a cushioned and clock-ticking velvet silence.

A few footsteps, and the door opened to reveal not a staircase, but a room. I had a confused impression of voices raised in laughter, a strain of sophisticated music, and a woman calling "Who is it?" Standing in front of me, no doubt just as surprised as I, was a man in a blue shirt and black trousers, holding a glass of red wine in his left hand.

It was the wine that really threw me. My family at that time did not partake of alcohol, and I had somehow got the impression that people who did, were loose cannons. It may have had to do with a different uncle, this one a figure of fear, who was widely known in the family as a drunkard, and widely suspected of being violent.

"I think you have the wrong door."
Or maybe it was I who said "I think I have the wrong door."

"Are you looking for someone?"

"I thought this was Uncle Bill's house."

I was rooted to the spot, terrified that he would invite me in. The child I was couldn't have said no, if he had.

I think he gestured down the hall to my left, and he may have said "Bill lives in number 7," or "That's Bill's door there." But in fact I don't remember how I found the right door. I remember the upper flight of narrow stairs, and I remember coming through the second door back into the little, cramped living room, and being weak with relief at finding my family again. And I was amazed and a bit afraid at how, while I was gone, my family, and everything about them, just went on without me behind those little doors, and how everything in all the rest of the houses, just carried on happening behind their little doors.

But I didn't say any of that to my family. I just leaned against my mother and listened to their talk.

Today, a surprise came to me in the mail from my Uncle Bill. He had found some photos from visits of long ago, and decided to send them to me just in case, someday, him being a bachelor, they go astray and are thrown out.

I sat down on the couch with my daughter and, smiling and eager, opened the envelope. I only flipped through a few of them before I was overcome with tears. I couldn't understand, much less explain to her, why it was that I sat and sobbed, my glasses off, my face in my hands, over a few pictures from thirty or so years ago.

It wasn't the losing of the little door, and the finding of it again. It wasn't the glass of wine in a stranger's hand, or the vulnerable fear of a little child.

It's just that all these things have passed. The beautiful houses kept so lovely and quiet for the quiet tenants, their iron door keys and their crystal doorknobs and the layers of glossy white paint. The red carpets and the brass grates, and the way milk used to be delivered through the little doors near the front doors, and the way people used to care enough to put nice-looking, twisty iron knobs on light switches and blind cords.

The way my stocking feet sank into the deep red of the carpets and slipped lightly over the heavy floors, sometimes for a few seconds leaving sweaty small footprints. The way, when alone, I was utterly and terrifyingly alone. Thrillingly, enticingly alone.

The marvellous way that, when I found my family again, they didn't know how lost they had really been.

It has all passed.

It's not my turn anymore. Now, I'm the woman's voice calling "Who is it?" I'm the man who answers the door, his own door, holding a glass of wine. I'm the mother who talks to her brother-in-law while the children explore and, when they get back, I smile vaguely at them, and raise my elbow so they can crawl under my arm, but I don't stop my conversation.

I'm the mother. I can neither lose myself nor find myself. The ability to do it, the freedom to do it and the joy I once found in it, is another thing fallen away with the years.

And when my children come back through my front door damp with rain and shining with the adventure of having walked home in the half light of dusk, I'm the one who, thinking only of what's for dinner and whether I remembered to pay the phone bill, doesn't know how lost I've been.

Uncle Bill's apartment, Victoria - around 1979

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I'm a muse!

Cleaning out a closet last week, I came across this note, which my 11 year old daughter gave me when she was 7 or so. I'm going to keep it forever.

Can you read it?

Monday, December 10, 2012

14 Days

Woke up with a headache this morning. I'm currently administering a careful treatment of coffee and internet.

 The headache better go away, because I have lots of plans for this week. This coming Saturday is tree-day, so I've just GOT to get some cleaning and some baking done.

 The highlight of my week is going to be Tuesday evening: a few laughs at the pub with some friends from my daughter's barn. I'm going to have a big-ass cheesy burger, salty fries, and at least two pints...even if payday is not until Friday. Buuurp!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Holiday Lineup

Well, you know it's Christmas around here when I start peering at the calendar and saying things like "I'd better get started if I want to get all my watching done" or "I need a schedule: last year I didn't get to the Carol until Boxing Day - that CANNOT happen again."

There are certain things that need to be read, watched, heard or sung during Advent. Some during Christmas, as well (by this I mean after the 25th), but mostly I like to start early. During the Twelve Days I can take in multiple viewings of A Child's Christmas in Wales, A Christmas Carol, and Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey. And The Nutcracker.

But Advent needs to be stocked with The Grinch, It's a Wonderful Life, Jack Frost, The Snow Queen, Charlie Brown Christmas, Love Actually, A Christmas Story, and the Muppet Christmas Carol.

I've managed three so far -- The Snow Queen, Love Actually, and The Birth of Christ. The last one is new to me - Dave and Joe shared it with me and I've waited since the spring to watch it at the right time. It's a marvellous cantata of original choral and orchestral pieces, narrated by Liam Neeson. Loved it.

One special which I never see anymore and I wish so much was available on DVD, is "Quartet Plus Four at Christmas". It's a little Canadian production featuring the very talented, Halifax-based Blue Engine String Quartet, and it used to air on Vision TV every year. I haven't seen it for a few years now, though, and I'm afraid my grainy, poor-quality recording (complete with commercials) from nearly a decade ago will not last forever.

So, what's on your Christmas viewing list?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Hanukkah begins today.

I'm not Jewish, but I can totally get into it.

Gonna eat some doughnuts tonight and light a candle to mark the beginning of Hanukkah -- just for fun. Check out these awesome music videos, with thanks to CBC Radio for turning me on to them.

Happy Hanukkah!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Then I can REALLY knock it.

You know the expression "Don't knock it 'til you've tried it"? Well, I'm trying an e-reader.

My local library loans them out, and though I rant and rave against those things, people who own them keep saying "Oh you should try it." So, I borrowed one.

The one I have is the Kobo, and I'm assuming it's bottom-of-the-line. It sure doesn't perform too well. Slow page turns, even slower book loads, difficult to read (maybe the contrast is too low? No option to change it.).

I have so far found two unexpected pros. First, the Kobo comes preloaded with 100 classics. This feature wouldn't appeal to a lot of people, I know, but when I scrolled through them I saw that the titles included a great deal of the books I have on my shelves. I collect literature because those books are timeless - why buy James Patterson? No reason. No reason at all.

Second, a super heavy, thick book can be annoying to pack around with you. Just for example, the Kobo already includes Anna Karenina, War and Peace, and Vanity Fair. AND, you have the option of viewing them in large print. Imagine reading a large print version of War and Peace on the bus? You'd need a collapsible lectern.

An unexpected con, though, came my way last night. I was 3/4 of the way done my annual pilgrimage through "A Christmas Carol", and was using the e-reader. I got to the famous "the colour hurts my eyes'" scene, wherein Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come are standing in the Cratchits' cottage watching Mrs Cratchit stitch on Tiny Tim's funeral linens. Bob Cratchit is about to come through the door having been to the place where Tim's grave will be. He is about to say this line:
"But however and whenever we part from one another, I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim -- shall we -- or this first parting that there was among us?"

No matter how many times I've read it, every time I get to that line I bawl like a little tiny baby.

Not this time, though.

On the e-reader, I was COMPLETELY unable to connect emotionally to the story.

How weird is that?!

More on the e-reader later. I'm about to go get my mouth fixed (praise God).

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Shame how these things work out.

Today was going to be my most dazzling post ever. I had a whole Thing plotted, and it was going to stun and stupefy you, leave you breathless with amazement.

But, Fate had other plans -- namely a dental abscess that has finally reached "overwhelming pain" level and right now I am only talking to you because of codeine.

Tomorrow a glorious root canal is scheduled and after that I should be more myself again.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Nearly forgot.

I almost forgot about posting today -- imagine!

I'm starving, so I'm going to keep this short so I can go fry up some ham and eggs, pop some bread in the toaster and drink some coffee.

Christmas baking is about to begin! I think today is List day, with maybe some shopping thrown in. Tomorrow is St Nicholas Day, the official start of Christmas for me, and my daughters always have a "Welcome Christmas" party on the 6th too. We'll make pulla dough tomorrow morning, then when their friends come over in the afternoon they can braid their own take-home pulla and then watch Charlie Brown's Christmas.

I've done the orange-and-almond Christmas cakes already (and took a picture of the fruit mixture for you - see below) - they have been drenched in Grand Marnier and are mellowing on the sideboard, wrapped in parchment, tinfoil, and plastic. Yummers!

(Maybe I should rethink my breakfast plans...)

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Messy Tuesday with a vengeance.

Remember when I used to do Messy Tuesday posts? Well, what you're about to witness is the Messy Tuesday to end all Messy Tuesdays.

A few background notes for this vost:
1) the room in question doesn't usually look quite this bad - I had pulled out all the toy bins for organising;
2) the kids promised me "Mum, if you clean our room, we will DEFINITELY keep it that way until Christmas." [insert hollow laugh]; and
3) this is something I hear all the time: "Mum, we need more socks. All our socks are lost. We can't find any socks. Buy us more socks."


Monday, December 03, 2012

Hang spring cleaning!

The love I have for The Wind in the Willows cannot be overstated. I can't begin to guess how many times I've read it, and it still makes me laugh right out loud, and then makes me tear up and sniffle like a little boy.

My children love this book too, especially the younger, who can't get enough of little animals in velvet waistcoats acting like humans in all seriousness: she is completely dedicated to the entire Beatrix Potter oeuvre, as well.

Several times people have tried to adapt Wind In The Willows to film, with varying degrees of success. And normally I don't really hold with adaptations, only because people feel that, once they've seen It, they know all about It and don't need to read It. But this one is really, really good - so funny - and you should try it sometime this winter (it's a perfect winter movie - also it's a perfect summer movie). But you do have to give it a chance - the makeup can be a little startling at first, but once you enter into the spirit of the thing it's universally charming. The intervention scene, when Toad repents of his motorcar behaviour, is hilarious.

A little preview!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

By hook or by crook.

I live far away from my sister, but the magical internet has brought us closer. We've been Skypeing lately - I put her on my kitchen counter, and she puts me on her kitchen counter, and we clean our kitchens or make an egg and toast fry-up or unload our dishwashers together. It's lovely. I even got to meet her new kitten the other day.

The only problem is that you mustn't venture far from your laptop or the other person can't hear what you're saying.

But, so fun. And, though nowhere near as good as being together, it does feel companionable.

I didn't stage this photo...if I had thought of it ahead of time, I'd have moved the port. And cleaned the fingerprints off my laptop screen. Ew!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

I'm a Card-carrying Bibliophile

All year I've meant to tell you about a great present I got from Dave and Joe: the 2012 Forgotten English Calendar. They sent me a lovely box of things last December and this calendar was tucked into a corner, next to a bunch of gigantic Lindt bars and some books. Every day I peel off a new sheet, and find a funny, interesting bit of trivia regarding an old word or phrase, many of which I have read in old books.

Today's is "bibliomaniac", which is actually quite a current term in some circles. James Donald's Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, 1877 says "One affected by bibliomania, book-madness, or the rage for possession." I realise guiltily that I have been infected with bibliomania in the past. I sometimes - only sometimes, mind you; I am a dedicated reader from way back - feel a restless need to acquire books utterly without regard to their actual reading value.

Here is today's entry from my Forgotten English calendar:

On December 1, 1834, a public auction was begun at Sotheby's in London to sell off about a half-million books from the estate of English bibliomaniac and Member of Parliament Richard Heber (1774-1833). It required more than 200 working days over two years. After stockpiling enormous numbers of English books, his family fortune enabled him to buy up many books in French, Italian, and even Portuguese -- languages he was quite unable to understand -- as well as in Greek and Latin, languages he had learned in childhood.

Surprisingly, Heber's last will never mentioned his collection, although most of his waking hours were devoted not to reading but to the passionate acquisition of private libraries, which were first housed in London and Oxford, then in Paris, Antwerp, Brussels, and Ghent. Henry Peacham's Complete Gentleman (1622) included the counsel, "To desire to have many books, and never to use them, is like a child that will have a candle burning by him all the while he is sleeping."
Still - I can understand Crazy Rick's obsession with book ownership. Imagine being able to afford to not only buy up private libraries, but house them in four European cities? What a marvellous thing.

And hey - there are worse things he could have been collecting!

(I have just spent twenty minutes Googling "weird collections" for examples, but now I'm too depressed to link you to any of them.)

A demain!