Friday, November 9, 2012

War Child

Growing up in Canada,  I have been very fortunate to not have to had experience war on my home soil, though to think that I've never been affected by war would be an incorrect assumption.
Not for a moment am I trying to compare myself to those children who have had the horrific experience of growing up in a war zone, thankfully, my experience is far from that.
However, because of the experiences of my parents and grandparents I've always been acutely aware of what life was like during the war years for them.

My brothers and I are all first generation Canadians, with the rest of my family all hailing from Britain.
Both of my parents grew up during World War II, so for them to recall almost any childhood memory without making some reference to the war is nearly impossible.

The now famous phrase from the 1939 war poster that read, Keep Calm and Carry On, though not that well known at the time,  was very much the sentiment of how my family members lived.  Their phrase was more, 'we just got on with it', and I guess when you live through a 6 year war, that's what you need to do.  World War II was from 1939-1945 and as my father was born in 1932 and my mum in 1933, they were both old enough to remember and be affected by many of the concessions imposed by the war.

Probably one of the biggest adjustments for my father was being sent away from his parents.  He grew up in Greater London, one of ten children.  As London was obviously one of the main bombing targets, it was deemed safer for children to be sent to live with families in what was considered safer areas.   Not all of the children went, but apparently my father had an extra hard time adjusting to the chaos that became common in London, so he was sent to Wales.  In a different country, away from his parents and siblings, it had to be a difficult trade off.

My mum, her brother and parents all immigrated to Canada in 1953 so I grew up hearing more stories about the war from the Welsh perspective rather than the English experience.
Rationing was imposed in 1939 and wasn't completely lifted until 1954, well after the war had ended, so this aspect of the war was a constant in the family conversations.  Although, the odd time it was discussed as a 'lesson' for us, more often than not it was just brought up as part of regular reminiscing of times gone by.  I was always a pretty quiet kid, but I took in all of the information as I listened to their stories.  '2 ounces of butter for a week, not much you can do with that, you had to get creative'....things that we take for granted today, like the simple ability to make your child a birthday cake, just wasn't a possibility.  Aside from food rations, there were also rations on clothing, soap, petrol, paper and many household goods were simply not available.  This alone changed the way everyone had to live.  The stories that I heard made me aware that this war was not just fought on the front lines, each and every citizen had a part to play in the war effort.
Although Wales was a somewhat safer place to be, it certainly did not go untouched.  My mum tells the story of how her family and a group of friends were at the cinema in Cardiff watching Humpty Dumpty when the cinema was bombed.  My grandfather wanted to stay in the theatre feeling that it was safer than heading out of the building, but soldiers forced everyone out and into a street shelter, which my mum describes as a concrete room underground that was so cold that many of the people fainted.

Seemingly straight out of a movie, they also had a spy living next door!  My mum recalls him as a 'nosey old bugger, who seemed a bit odd', while they were in their bomb shelter worried, he, his wife and brother in-law were in the adjacent shelter calmly eating bread and cheese and enjoying a beer!  He ran a radio shop in town and always asked a lot of questions, eventually he was arrested and my mum and her friends watched him being taken away in handcuffs - exciting stuff for kids!! Equally fun for the kids, was the activity of collecting shrapnel after a bombing.  She admits, 'we didn't really think about the fact that people were possibly killed as a result of these bombings, for us kids, it was just a game'.

The air raid sirens, bombings, rations, blackouts, giving up spare pots and pans, iron gates and other spare metal to make ammunition, evacuations, all just part of everyday life during this time.  Which in comparison to those actually fighting the war, was just a small sacrifice, but it did make it a war that all people dealt with.  Every time my nan would ask me to pick up an elastic band she'd spot on the ground, I knew it was a throw back to the war, she'd say, 'you never know when that will come in handy'....when she would keep the styrofoam trays that meat came on, that she'd wash and use to put under house plants, I knew it also was a result of the war.  If it was usable, it was simply not wasted.  The war, although terrible, taught them some valuable life don't waste things, you don't take anything for granted, when bad times hit you deal with it, and when there's a breather from the chaos, you take that time to enjoy life.  You can't live in the sorrow, deal with the sadness and keep going.

All of these stories and lessons have greatly influenced my life and for that, I am grateful.  I never forget the men and women who sacrificed their lives, so that my family would have freedom.  I never feel a sense of entitlement, I know in many ways, I live the life I do, because others have given me the opportunity to do so.  My very humble way of saying thank you to those who made things so much easier for me, is to never forget.  World War II has never seemed like ancient history to me, it has always been a part of my life and part of my history, even though I was born 22 years after it ended.
This is my ode to all of those men and women who have served in the military and who have worked so hard to ensure our freedom.  It is also an ode to the wives and husbands of those service people who held down the fort on the home front and lastly to all of the civilians who've contributed whatever they could to ensure the war effort had a successful outcome.  I think in many ways the war was won by spirit and determination, the knowledge that losing, was simply not an option.

Churchill said it best -

We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Close Encounters in the Wild Kingdom

When I came home from work today I headed straight to the bedroom to throw off my clothes, well, not really 'throw', it wasn't like I'd had some violent stripper routine going, but there was a certain vigour to it - I was just happy to be home early and wanted to slip into something more comfortable, as the saying goes.

I was already planning out what I'd do with my 2 whole hours of free time, subtracting lunch time it still left me with a decent chunk of freedom, enough time to let my mind wander to whatever inspiration may come my way.

And then it happened....

Once again I found myself face to face with a creature from the wild kingdom, and right away my mood changed, my 'I'm home from work early' bliss is now temporarily on hold.
I must give myself credit, I am getting better at dealing with these creatures, but I wouldn't exactly call myself brave just yet.  Though my initial *gasp* is soon replaced with problem solving thoughts, not continued terror - see progress!
OK, I have to admit this is in large part due to the fact that the creature isn't a spider, but yet again, some beetle-y thing, so not quite as scary to me.

There he is, on the wall near the vent and he's just staring at me, I stare back at him.  Neither of us break our glance, so I finally decide to try and break the ice and I say to him, 'hi Paul'....he gives me an eye roll!!  Can you believe it, an eye roll?!!  I was trying to be friendly!  He says, 'my name's not Paul'.  I said, it was a joke, ya know, you're some kind of beetle type of thing, and Paul was a famous Beatle, get it?'  Apparently he's heard this one way too many times and as it turns out, he's not a fan of the band anyway, he's into early jazz.  How am I to know?!  He also informs me that he has a weakness for death metal, now that really surprised me!  I personally can't stomach the stuff, but to each his own I always say.
Speaking of death, my thoughts are turned to what to do with this creature, who has entered my home, uninvited I might add.  We continue to stare at one another, but then he gives me the ol' once over.   It's then that I realize that I'm just wearing me smalls - though I am thankful that I've chosen matching bra and panties today, that'll show him that I'm an 'in charge' kinda gal and that the ball is in my court.  Plus, it's not like he's wearing clothes, so on that score we're on a level playing field really.

So I consider my options, which really are few.  I could suck that baby up in my vacuum, it would be a case of 'out of sight, out of mind', and I wouldn't have to stress over where he is.  Then I consider that option further, I mean, it's really dusty in there and I have no way of knowing if he has any allergies.  If he did have asthma or some other like ailment, it's obvious that he doesn't have an inhaler on him - no clothes, no pockets.  I could ask him, but after my botched attempt at a joke with him earlier, I fear he wouldn't take kindly to me asking him if he had any 'health issues'. The world has gone so politically correct that you have to be so careful, one misstep and that bug could sue me and end up owning my place!..then he'd be looking at ways to evict me instead of the other way around!  I'm not taking any chances.
I could let him have a quick meeting with Mr. Shoe...but then that would leave me with Mr. Guts on the Wall - not nice, plus I can't bear that crunching sound, blaaah!!
I could try to get him on a piece of paper and set him outside, but then I take the risk of having a mild heart attack.  Sometimes these, sons ma bitches have hidden wings tucked in their shells and then can flick those babies out and take flight in a split second!  That would definitely scare the Bee Gee's outta me, not a gamble I'm willing to take!

Last option is to just back away and pretend I didn't see him.  Sure this has the great disadvantage of later having to wonder where's he lurking, but I was dealing with the present situation, not later.  I mean, he was right by the vent, so I'm assuming that's the way he came in and if I spare his life, surely he will be so incredibly grateful that he will turn his little hard backside right around and go back the same way he came in.  Plus, I'm pretty sure when I first saw him, he was holding a tiny sign that said, 'Chilliwack or bust', so he wasn't quite at his final destination anyway.  He probably had a big family reunion to go to, or perhaps a wedding. Yes, I bet that's it, he had a wedding to go to, because although he wasn't wearing any clothes, I did notice a blue velvet bow tie around his why else would he be wearing that?  A magician?  I don't think so, there was no sparkly vest anywhere in sight.  Nope, he was obviously headed to a wedding and just took a wrong turn.  I certainly couldn't end his life now, he was expected to be somewhere today...if he didn't show up, surely there would be questions.  Sure at first the questions would be along the lines of 'how dare he not make an effort to get to his third cousins wedding?'....'how could he be so selfish?'
But come Christmas time when no one received cards from him, it would become clear that he had met with foul play that fateful fall day.  20/20 or Dateline would eventually do a special about it and  somehow they'd trace his last known location to my home, and the whispers would begin.
I couldn't have that weighing on my conscience, so I decided to give him the wonderful gift of life, which of course is much more generous than the juicer that I'm sure he bought for the wedding. It seems even the bug community is on a health kick - the worms only protein diet was all the rage!

So today my friends, I stand 5' 1/2", I could have taken a life but I chose not to.  I am proud of my new level of bravery, maturity and my great contribution to the world at large.  Please feel free to nominate me for one some kind of humanitarian award or whatever the bug saving equivalent is, I do believe I've earned it.

And Paul, enjoy the wedding.

*Note to the wedding DJ - NO Beatles music!!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cormac O Caomih - A New Season for Love

Cormac O Caomih is an Irish singer/songwriter and it's serendipity that brought me to his music.  As many of you may know, I have a 'Secret Agent Mel', YouTube channel that I use to post Ron Sexsmith 'tribute' videos, well Cormac is one of my channel subscribers.
One day I was looking through my subscribers list to see if there were any musicians.  I'm always looking to discover 'new to me' music and the assumption was, if they've subscribed to my page because they are Ron fans, there's a good chance they will also make music that I would enjoy.
I clicked on Cormac's channel (formerly The Citadels channel) and started the journey of discovery.
I played the song, 'Counting the Raindrops' and absolutely fell in love with it, it was truly one of the prettiest songs that I had heard in a very long time.
Next thing, I searched on Facebook to see if he was there (almost everyone seems to be) and sure enough he was.  I sent him a message, explaining that it was 'Secret Agent Mel' from YouTube and then told him that I was happy to have found his music.
We sent a few emails back and forth and at some point, I sent him a link to the blog that I had written about Ron Sexsmith.  Cormac was generous enough to send me a copy of his new album, 'A New Season for Love', so I share with you a introduction to that album and in turn a small way to say, 'thank you' to Cormac for his gift.
When my CD arrived from Ireland, I took it with me to keep me company on my commute.  Usually the longest block of alone time that I have is during my work day, and a I spend most of my work day driving around it's the best time for me to enjoy music.  I've had the CD in my possession for a few months now and when I first started listening to it, we were having what seemed to be never ending grey, cold weather.  As I played this album, the main thought that kept coming to mind was, how warming it was.  It may sound strange, but I heard this album as a colour as I listened to it over and over again - I thought, this album is like a rich mahogany, warm and beautiful.  I continued to feel like I was being transported to a room filled with candles, tapestries, and warm woods....and me curled up on a velvet couch, sipping a cuppa - a comforting feeling.
I would call this a 'listening album', meaning if you're looking for those kind of songs that quickly grab your attention through simple lyrics or catchy hooks, this may not be the album for you.  However, if you give the album the attention that I think it deserves, I believe it has a lot to offer.  My favourite song is 'Counting the Raindrops', the song that I first fell in love with, it continues to be a stand out for me, but with each listen of this album new songs emerge as strong contenders.  The songs, 'And the Rain Falls' and 'Remember When We Didn't Kiss' are also some of my top picks.  The album is filled with songs beautiful in their instrumentation, layered and lush.
I'll leave you with a link to Cormac's Facebook page, if you like what you hear, please 'like' his page, I'm sure it would be much appreciated.  You'll also be able to get his YouTube and album info there.   Lastly I'll add a link to a video for 'Counting the Raindrops'....the song that grabbed my heart.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rant n' Roll

OK, ages ago I started doing a feature called Boeuf of the Week.  The title made me laugh as people who know me well, know I don't really have that many boeufs, so the idea of doing it weekly was a bit of a joke.  I mean, it's not like nothing bothers me, I am human after all, but I tend to get over such things pretty quickly.  I'm forever reminding my mother to 'just let it go', as she'll hold on to her annoyances well past their sell by date.  I try to live in a more zen like way, I figure there's enough big problems that will be thrown your way over the course of your life, save your energy for those!  For the smaller stuff, I think it's just best to rant n' roll - have your say to get it off your chest and then move on.  So that will be the new title of such blog postings and I kick it off with something that has been getting on my wick for some time now, I've been wanting to write about it for ages.  Strap yourselves in, it's rant n' roll time - let's go!

So my first victim in this new format is...drum roll please.......street sweepers!!!
Now this may seem like a strange thing for me to complain about, especially considering I really like clean things, and the fact the I also love my environment to be aesthetically pleasing and I'd even go as far to say that, I teeter over the line of being a germaphobe.
However, with my love of cleanliness now stated, I got to tell you, every time I see one of these 'outdoor Zambonis' I find myself annoyed.  Don't get me wrong, I think Zamboni are great, I'm a fairly straight up, common sense kinda girl....I find watching the Zamboni quite relaxing and the best part, I completely understand what it does.  I mean, even if you don't know the mechanics of  it's job, you can see that it has a purpose, ice shavings gone, grooves filled in, shiny smooth ice surface renewed - magic!!
I'm afraid, it's older cousin, the street sweeper, doesn't quite leave me with that same sense of wonderment.  I mean, hey, I'm sure he has his moments, like cleaning up debris from the roads in a construction area or maybe cleaning up the bulk of the mess left on the streets after a parade or the like, trouble is, I've only seen them performing this type of job once and that was years back when we moved into a townhouse complex that still had phases under construction, and as I recall, we got to enjoy the sound of that beast of a vehicle on our street over a period of several hours, which lets face it, probably meant it went up and down the block once, not exactly a speedy ride.
What does baffle me is what purpose is it achieving the rest of the times I see it, aside from annoying me.  I've been noticing them more frequently over the past year and each and every time I look at the road, that the vehicle has yet to sweep, it's completely clean!  I've even spotted them on several walks, so I've been able to confirm the cleanliness of the street up close and personal.  I watch these monstrous machines slowly making their way up and down roads, blocking traffic along the way, brushes spinning to pick up...umm, not much and sometimes they even give off the added bonus of hosing the street down first, so as to keep the dust (that I can't even see) down.  I've even watched as they've sprayed streets that are already wet from the rain!
I've read, (straight from Wiki) that 'street sweeping can be an effective measure in reducing pollutants in stormwater runoff.', which I'm sure is absolutely true in cases where you can at least see the pollutants!  My thought is, if this is for the good of the environment, wouldn't it be better to use these machines only when really needed - when the naked eye can actually detect this street debris, because I'm thinking, the cost to purchase, run, man and maintain these big boys must be pretty high, not to mention the toll that all of that has on the environment.  I think there must be better ways to use taxpayers money and surely better ways to protect the environment, than cleaning already clean streets.

In conclusion I say, 'street sweepers, meh'.  I'm sure when they first hit the scene back in the mid 1800's they were a welcomed addition to the streets of jolly ol' England, the industrial revolution surely got the streets a little grimy at times.  And I can only imagine that late at night, villages would be strewn with drunken men, stumbling from taverns and eventually vomiting in the streets and the morning would be no better as the likes of Oliver Twist and his pals, would beg for breakfast only to spew the nasty gruel into the streets once it hit their tastebuds (only Oliver would ask for more, but he always had a taste for the 'exotic').  So understandable back then, with all of that ugliness lurking on the streets, you'd want to wash it away - got it.
Fast forward to modern day and I think we'd do fine to have one kept in service for the rare occasion when they're actually needed to clean dirty streets and I'm thinking so all is not wasted, we convert the rest into Zamboni's....I mean we live in Canada, we'll always have ice to clean, so we can never have too many Zamboni's!!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hope She Gets the Message

Spotted this bench on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, and it touched my squishy heart.  I thought this scene was quite romantic - it's not what most might think of as a 'Hallmark' apology, but I think it's very sweet all the same.  I've always been more impressed by these sorts of gestures than your standard run-of-the-mill ones.  The main message says, 'I loved you Briana - I'm sorry.
One can only assume, or hope that Briana perhaps waits on this bench for a bus or takes a work break here or walks by it on a regular basis...any which way, I hope she sees it.

Sex Wax

Sex Wax - *the best for your stick*

Umm, yeah, this caught my attention while I was shopping in a sports store....and when I say 'sports', I mean of the soccer, hockey, etc. variety.
Apparently it helps hockey players with their 'stick-handling'....
There's also a formula made for drummers, to help them get a better 'grip of their sticks'.
There are different formulations of the wax, sold under other names, including one that goes by the name 'Quick Humps'.  The label also points out that it never spoils - so if you hit a dry spell in your 'sports' don't worry, you won't have to rush out a buy a new one!  Hey, I was just shopping for soccer shoes....don't judge me!!

Price check on.....

If ever there was an item that I wanted someone have to announce a price check on - this would be it!!!
I know, I sometimes have the maturity level of a 15 year old boy!!  Still....I do think it's funny.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Story Behind the Picture

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place... I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
~ Elliott Erwitt

The above quote probably best describes my style of photography. I often get asked, 'what kind of photography do you do?....portrait, wedding, landscape?? And though I have done a little of each of those categories, I explain to people that my favourite thing to do, is to just pick a place, any place really and just wander around and discover what there is to offer. I don't go with any preconceived thoughts of what I want to capture, I let the scene unfold as a wander. I sometimes have described my style as Mike McCardell-like - and those who've enjoyed his stories over the years, seem to know exactly what I mean by that. I'm not on the hunt for the big story (or in this case, photograph), the one that everyone will be reporting on, the kind that instantly grabs your attention, instead, I hope to bring you a photograph that slows you down for a second and maybe makes you look at the world a little differently, if only for just a moment.

After being interested in photography since I was a kid, I finally bought myself a decent camera just over three years ago. As fate would have it, the last three years have been some of the most challenging years on a personal front for me, which has made it difficult to find the time needed to really learn how to properly use my first 'big girl' camera. Add to that the fact that I have 2 young boys, so my free time, well isn't always that free.
So at times, in my quest to figure out what the H-E-double hockey sticks I'm doing, there have been moments where I've become frustrated or discouraged with my lack of knowledge. But I figured I could either put away my camera until the time was just 'right'....ya know, until all of the stars aligned, or I could just do the best with the skills that I do have and learn the rest along the way.
I obviously chose the latter. In a way, I didn't really have a choice, I 'needed' photography. I needed it in the same way that I 'need' to write. I've always been an observer and an introvert, but there is only so much I can keep in my brain before it explodes - and that would be messy!! So photography and writing are the two mediums in which I can release some of what's in my head and my heart.

So that is what I have to offer as a photographer. I can't dazzle you with my crazy editing skills, nor can I amaze you with with my technical skills, but what I can do is offer you a glimpse into my heart and head and show the the world as my eyes see it. My photography outings have become a good way to learn more about my camera, and they also make for great field-trips for my kids. They not only get to visit different areas all over Greater Vancouver and beyond, they get to learn along the way. I explain to them why I take certain photos, so they're learning to appreciate all the beauty around them, the obvious and the sometimes not so obvious. We also talk about social issues like homelessness and drug addiction. I teach them to be aware of their surroundings, but not to be scared of their surroundings. But hopefully the biggest lesson they'll learn is respect and that beauty is everywhere, as long as your eyes are opened to it. My friend Jerry once made a comment about my photography that really made my heart sing, he said something along the lines of, 'he liked how I don't discriminate when I photograph'. I took that to mean, that I see equal beauty in a rusty object, just as I see it in a beautiful sunset.

Below is a selection of photos that I've taken at various locations in the lower mainland, as well as a couple taken in Bellingham. The first shot was taken in Mission, me and the kids were wandering the old part of town, when I came across this lovely old window. There was a guy about 20-something standing in the doorway and talking to a guy parked in front of the building. He noticed me photographing the building and asked me in an almost suspicious way, what was I taking a photo of. I smiled at him and said, 'well, whatever makes my eyes happy, and right now, I love the way that window looks. He looked up at the window with a puzzled expression...I said, I love the that gorgeous shade of green against the colour of the brick, the peeling paint is great too and I love how the missing pane of glass breaks up the repetitive lines. He didn't say anything for a few seconds, he was taking it all in and then he just smiled at me and said, 'you're right, that is a pretty cool window'.
The next little scene I spotted at the back of some businesses on Denman Street, this was a collection of clean uniforms just waiting for someone to fill them. Next we head to Commercial Drive where I spotted this scarf left on a parking meter, just blowin' in the wind.
The next 2 were spotted on Granville Island - while trying to spot an empty table to sit and have lunch at, I was struck by how pretty those bottles looked with the sun shining through them. Then outside, this stack milk cartons reminded of Lego pieces - I loved the bold colours!
The next shot comes from the PNE, this is a close-up of the lights that are on the ferris wheel - I thought the shape of the bulbs was interesting.
Onto a gorgeous fall day in Fort Langley - the photo was taken next to the cemetery and I loved how this one bold leaf was standing tall, while all of the rest were flatten either by the rain or by way of people walking on them - to me, this was sort of a reminder - how life may be taken, but spirit lives on.
Moving on to New West for the next two photos, the first was taken from the Quay. The boys and I were wandering along the front and I spotted this chair on a boat - I just loved imagining someone relaxing on it while out on the Fraser River, makes a pretty little spot to do some writing! The reflection shot was taken on Columbia Street courtesy of the window at the Army & Navy - reminded me of some kid trapped inside, not allowed to go outside and play and instead having to watch the world go by....kinda creepy looking in a way.
The next two were taken in Bellingham. First we have these gorgeous grasses poking through the fence, it's funny, but it put me in the mind of prisoners arms hanging out of their cells - I know, I've watched way too many prison shows!! Then wandering around, I stopped to look at this white building, I was so taken by the shadows that were being cast on this wall, looked so pretty to me.
And lastly, we finish things up with a shot of my kids during one of our outings. They get quite excited about going on these adventures, my oldest son always asks, 'where are we going this time?' I often answer, 'I have no idea, we'll just get in the car and see where it takes us'. He then used to reply, 'no really, where are we going?!' I'd say, I really don't know, we'll head towards say, New West, but if something catches my eye en route, that's where the adventure will begin! Now he's just happy to know what direction we're headed!
That is the best part of it all, it doesn't matter where we end up - we always have a great time and come home with a camera, and mind full of memories!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Do You Have Milk - No! Do You Have Bread - No!

With the economy on a downturn, Wal-Mart decides to narrow their focus on their product lines - I think they may have gone too far?!

Moo-ving Right Along

OK, as much as I appreciate fresh ingredients, I don't really want to be reminded that yesterday my meal was frolicking in a pasture somewhere - only to have his blissful moment interrupted by me ordering him!

Johnny Depp in a Bag!!!

Something tells me this is going to be a very good seller!!!

Sad News From the Shape Community

A reality check for everyone. Beware circles, triangles and all of your other shapely friends, it seems drugs are becoming an issue in your community.
Remember - 'Just Say No'

Lock Your Doors!!

Just think about all the time we've wasted worrying about aliens, when all the while vegetables have slowly been sneaking up on us!
Live (hopefully) and learn.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ron Sexsmith - My Snuggie

Yup, you read that correctly folks, I've just compared my favourite musician to a big ol' warm fleece throw. I should state for the record that although I do own all of Ron's albums, I don't own a Snuggie. However, I do have a fleece Bay blanket, and although it lacks the convenience of sleeves, (so indeed my arms are trapped - tis the cross that I must bear), it still provides me with the same kind of warmth that Ron's music gives me.
That is an extremely simple comparison, but a fairly accurate one when you get right down to it, the most basic reason that he's won the spot of my favourite is - Ron's music makes me feel warm and good. If I'm Linus, he's definitely my security blanket.
Even though I'm a fan of his music, I must admit, I find it hard to describe, I often think that if you put Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and The Beatles in a mixer you might end up with an idea of what Ron's sound is like.
There's something almost mystical about his music, now don't go getting all these images of unicorns and fairies in your head because that's not what I mean. I mean there is a certain quality to his music, that I don't think anyone really understands until they get his music. And I do me 'get', it seems as if you almost have to be at a certain point in your own life to have this music affect you, if you listen to his music and think, 'yeah, I like that, it's pretty good'....then you're not fully ready. Like Daniel LaRusso, when he discovers what 'wax on, wax off' really means, you'll know when you've had your moment of discovery because you'll go from, 'yeah, that's pretty good' to 'I must own ALL of his music!'
It's a strange phenomenon that makes even the most conservative person, giddy with joy to collect and then share his music, like you've been sent on some mission. Suddenly you're transformed into Marvin the Martian and it's your job to bring more people to your leader aka Ron Sexsmith. Beyond feeling this sensation myself, it's hard to fully understand it, until you become one - deep huh.

In my opinion he truly is one of the finest songwriters walking this big ol' planet we call Earth, albums jammed full of lyrics that are quietly brilliant.
His words are definitely a pretty clear window into his soul, he puts his emotions out there for all to see, sad, happy, heartbreaking, lonely, hopeful, hurt, regret, guilt, sorrow, gratitude - they're all there and many more too. He is about as honest of a songwriter as you'll find, not many people will sing about their own personal shortcomings, without having some kind of gloss over factor, this kind of honesty is a rare and wonderful gift. A gift to the listener who is reminded, that indeed, someone else feels what you're feeling. That we're all just stumbling through life doing the best we can, you fall, you get up and you try again.
Combine beautiful lyrics, gorgeous music and a voice that grabs your heart and the result is the most intoxicating cocktail!

If that wasn't reason enough to dig the man, let me give you another...he is about as humble as they come. I've got a pretty low tolerance for BS in general, so 'sun glasses' rock stars with 'their people' all around them, kinda gets up my nose at the best of times, what makes matters worse is, often the ones who play the 'part' have very little real talent to speak of - I'm assuming it's their way to compensate. Ron has definitely got the goods to back it up if he was even a smidgen pretentious about his talent, but that's just not how he rolls - which is greatly appreciated by his fans. Ron is also incredibly generous with his fans, signing autographs, doing song requests at times (was nice enough to do that twice for my kids) or even having a chat after the show. All of this things are pretty unheard of in 'mainstream' music.

Why does his fame not measure up with his talent? Well in some ways, I think it depends of your definition of fame is. If fame was purely based on talent, then he'd be on the top and a massive line of others would be handing in their fame tiaras right now.
He does have a whole host of mega famous fans - though I'm not going to list them, as it seems everything written about Mr. Sexsmith has to be followed by a list famous folks that dig him and it's a good list of some fine people, don't get me wrong, but I have a different kind of list to share with you, because as much as the list of famous folks may help to reinforce in someones mind why they need to check out Ron's music, there's an equally strong force of non-famous people who wave their pom-poms and sing his praises, every chance they get.
People like Ian, Jerry, Mark, Martha (I'm with the band), Evey (I'm with the fam), Roisin, Catriona, Beth, Laurie, Patricia, Colleen (I'm with the dude), Lisa, Marjolijn, Kerry, Anne, David, Iris, Mary, Chris, Marie-Claire, Violeta, Marty, Pauline, Laurent, Paul, Andrew, Steve, Cathy and the list goes on and on....but like Santa's list, if you don't see your name, don't despair, we know you're out there! All of these fans create what I like to think of as a kinder, gentler KISS Army type of following - maybe more like Ron's Brigade, just as steadfast in our devotion and ready to recruit new members at every opportunity.

Having a lot of money in your bank account obviously has it's perks, like being able to eat and other important stuff like that but at the end of the day, if a musician had to choose his legacy, I'd much rather say, I touched the hearts and soothed the soul of thousands and will continue to do so for generations to come, than my claim to fame being, I moved the hips of millions for a few moments in time, only to then fade in the sunset never to be heard of again.
So if you measure fame in devotion and not dollars, then indeed I'd call Ron a very rich and famous man.

During one of his last gigs in Vancouver I noticed something rather strange and in a way, very fitting. As Ron and his amazing band played, I felt myself taken by the shadows that were being cast on the wall, so much so that I spent a great deal of time watching them. Ron's shadow was about twice the size of those of his bandmates, some may say, it's just a coincidence of how the lighting was set up, but I wonder if lighting really played into it at all, it just seemed to represent how this humble man, hasn't yet realized how big he really is.

There you have it, my ode to Ron. It has to be said, I'm a music fan of varied taste. But just as I love to travel and experience other places and cultures, I always get a great sense of peace when arriving back to Vancouver, seeing those mountains, I know I'm home. That is the same feeling I get when I put on Ron's music, I may listen to many styles of music, many other artists, but when I put on Ron, I feel like I've come home.
Home sweet home.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Another Curtain Call

Yet another moment of my life brought to you in theatre format.

The scene - Pacific Centre Shopping Mall - Vancouver
The plot - Find me some killa boots

The background story - Tony and I, both armed with some mad money courtesy of Christmas gifts head downtown while the kids are in school for a few hours of shopping. To make the most of our time - we go our separate be in communication via our walkie talkies aka cell phones. I am on the hunt for some new boots to replace a pair that I've put a few hundred miles on - including walking the entire sea wall in them, but it's time to let them go. Other possible candidates for my cash are, a new coat and I also could use a new purse for work.
As I shop alone, I attempt to focus on the objects that are on my list - hard for a gal who is easily distracted by shiny objects. I'm doing pretty good though, I've just skimmed past about 150 purses and deemed each and every one as not fitting the bill of what I'm looking for...I'm also what's known as a fuss arse. Just then my phone rings, it's Tony. He wants me to come down to the men's floor to give him my opinion on some of his choices, I tell him, I'll be down in 5 mins, just finishing up in purses.
I get to the end of the purse section and then get distracted by a shiny object - actually a striped scarf by Coach, though it did have metallic threads in some of the stripes so it was sorta shiny.

We continue the play from here.....

Woman - to be played by me - (though I'm sure Meryl Streep would kill to play this part)

Skiing cowboy - to be played by random stranger, short dude, about 60ish, English accent, missing a few teeth, wearing a ski jacket and cowboy hat.

The curtain rises.....
Act one -

Woman - lost in her own world, lifts scarf out of it's box to feel it - woman always needs to feel fabrics so is in mid-fondle of the scarf when cowboy voice snaps her back to reality.

Cowboy - 'go on, treat yourself - I bet Santa would want you to have it'....'you do believe in Santa don't you?'.....'unless, my parents lied to me before they died.'

Woman - though trying to be polite, (also remembers she was about to head downstairs) as to not prolong this conversation, she half-heartedly says, 'oh yeah, I believe in Santa.' She continues to fondle the scarf and check out the price, hoping she'll turn back and skiing cowboy will be gone, though she knows this never happens - strange people really like her.

Cowboy - 'what about Olive, the other reindeer'....'you know about her don't you?'

Woman - looks around to confirm what she already knows, indeed there were many others that skiing cowboy could have chosen to talk to, but she also knows that this kind of encounter is a regular thing in her life - ponders yet again, why she is the 'chosen one'.

Cowboy - not getting a reply the first time asks again...'you do know Olive don't you?'

Woman - a bit tired today to play his game, knowing Tony is probably wondering where the heck she is....mumbles an unenthused, 'oh yeah, Olive, yup I know her'...'yeah, she's great.'....woman gives skiing cowboy a slight smile and starts to wander away from him. Woman leaves him with a 'have a good 'un.'

Cowboy - serenades her departure with a rousing rendition - 'Olive, the other reindeer....used to laugh and call her names....' cowboy is not deterred by the fact that the woman is now about 100 feet from him and heading towards the escalator.

Woman - starts down escalator, is now near the bottom and can still hear the faint sounds of the skiing cowboy singing to her.

Act Two -

Woman heads down the second escalator where she can no longer hear the sounds of her new friend. When she finally gets to Tony - slightly drained from the experience, she just says to Tony, 'sorry I took so long, I had some British dude in a cowboy hat singing to me.' Woman doesn't really need to explain much more, Tony is not surprised at all by this, just slightly chuckles at the latest stranger encounter.

Curtain slowly comes down -

Woman bows at yet another fine performance, and knows the encores will never end - as long as there are strange people, woman will star in many plays.
The curtain will surely rise and fall again and again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lovely Strangers

More strangers and why I love them.

Only at a folk festival is this attire completely acceptable - OK granted, I'm sure (I hope) that she was one of the attractions. Maybe after her clown shift was over she didn't have time to de-clown before catching the Ron Sexsmith gig? I've been to a lot of gigs over the years, but this is the first time I've had a clown in my peripheral vision for the whole show. I was waiting for her to shout out a request for Ron's song 'Clown in Broad Daylight'....never happened though. Pity.Elvis shades, CBC shirt - what's not to love?!!

Captured this trio on the ferry this summer, and what struck me about them was, how much this couple seemed to be enjoying having their photo taken. I mean, I love being behind then lens, but to get me to pose for even a picture or two is painful, let's just say, I'd rather be stabbed repeatedly on the hand with a fork. These two were practically twirling with glee, this is only one of probably 30 poses they did - it was seriously cracking me up. Good for them though - love that they were enjoying the process so much.

Spotted this dude while stopped at a traffic light and I loved the way he looked - What can I say, I'm a sucker for a striped sweater!

This chap was actually spotted by Tony first, I was busy being distracted by some cute dresses in a shop window, when I got a 'pssst' from Tony. I turned my head and this is what I saw!! Of course I went into Secret Agent Mel mode right away and did my casual 'I'm shooting this planter'...but not really, I'm shooting you Mister Awesome!!! I'd say he was in his 70's and in pretty great shape and obviously dang proud of it - and why not I say!! He was all kinds of happy, the white socks with a wallet jammed in them, the short shorts, his lovely snowy white hair - I can tell you, this man was turning heads of both men and women!! Kudos to your chutzpah sir!!

Another drive by shot, taken in Chilliwack. We've all seen these type of folks before, and I know, or guess they want us to question or at least wonder about the signs that they are holding, and for a quick moment I do, but then my thoughts always then lead to what are they like at home. I wonder, do they make dinner, watch Wheel of Fortune and then think, nothing else on the tube I fancy watching, perhaps I'll make a few signs stating my opinions on religion and take it to the streets. I'm not sure that's how their day really plays out, but I do wonder. I don't have a religion to call my own and I'm more than OK with that, but I do have opinions on many other issues. I think if the moment was to take me and I felt like I needed to hit the streets to 'educate' people about some issues, well then, you might spot me holding a sign that says, 'Just say NO to mum jeans'...also an important message.

I was having a wander around Mission with my kids when I noticed this man and something about the scene was quite romantic to me. The shopkeeper sweeping his shop, it's not something you see that often any more and it put me in mind of all the shop tales I heard growing up. My grandparents had a shop in Wales and my mum worked in the shop since she was a small child, so I've heard shop talk all of my life.

This last scene was taken in Vancouver, I was on the other side of the street when I noticed that beam of sunlight shining down. It almost looked like a spotlight highlighting this trio who were deep in conversation. I just fell in love with this little vista.

That's all folks - for now.