Month: October 2012 (page 1 of 13)

Mother and Father of the Bride

Dear Karen,

Last week, you might remember I sent you some possible dress choices for the wedding day?  I knew what to wear for the church but was struggling to find a gown for the evening.

It was tough to make up my mind, but this is what I eventually went with.  There’s a lot of detail which is hidden from the camera, so perhaps I’ll find a better photo to replace this one.  On the other hand, I think our happy smiles make up for the lack of dress detail, so I think I’ll probably leave it the way it is.

Sorry you can’t see Lars’ shoes – they were stunners, too.



WordPress Photo Challenge: Foreign

A few years ago, we went to Tokyo to attend a wedding.  I had never been before and was looking forward to seeing a small portion of Japan in the 5 days we were there.

Tokyo is a city that charmed me with its customs and the way it blends past with the present.  No matter how skilled it is at presenting a modern, 21st century feel, I felt very foreign there.  Foreign-ness is very much in the eye of the beholder.  There was no way people would look at me in the street and assume I was a local!

I took a lot of photos of signs, which of course make a lot of sense in their original language.  Translated to English, they delighted me:

instructions for how to use a very fancy toilet.

A very polite request to please not smoke in the gardens

The hotel maids make a kind request of their clientele

We also went to Hanoi that summer.  A woman was working in a tailor shop and when she turned her back, I read her t-shirt.  I could only agree with her sentiments:

Too true, too true.

We went out for a walk in the busy streets, when Lars and Michael were offered the opportunity to “dress like a local”, for a small fee.  I felt pretty damn foreign taking their photo that afternoon.

In my opinion, to be foreign is to be deliciously uncomfortable in new surroundings, to feel unease with every step, but to know with each footfall, the road will get smoother and more familiar.  I’m the foreigner, the foreign one, but I have also lived in foreign lands…who’s the foreigner and who’s the local?  The line is decidedly blurred.


Father of the Bride goes shopping…

The Hallowe’en Dilemma

Dear Wendy,

Oh, how well I remember the Hallowe’ens you describe! The only thing missing (and this may be a factor of our relative ages) is the fireworks.

When we lived in Victoria, all the neighbourhood dads would gather in our driveway, carrying their offerings of fireworks and beer. (Why our driveway? I suspect it’s because our father, being a sea captain and all, was somehow perceived as trustworthy or capable or something…or maybe it was just his life-long fascination with explosives.)

Dad would set up a wooden sawhorse with a big iron vise, which held the rocket launcher, and once we kids had traipsed around the neighbourhood in our costumes (handmade by Mum—in those days, she was keen to sew up imaginative costumes out of crepe paper for us), we’d gather at a safe distance from the driveway, and Dad would begin the show.

English: Fireworks

We’d have the usual strings of firecrackers, with their rat-a-tat-tat explosions; Catherine wheels whizzing round and round, scattering sparkles as they went; skyrockets zipping up into the night sky with their fiery tails trailing behind them; Roman candles, spewing brilliant puffs of colour upward…and the unmistakeable sharp smell of spent gunpowder that lingered in the fall air long after the show was over. We kids were always both terrified and delighted; it was almost (but not quite) as exciting as the prospect of our giant pillowcases full of usually illicit sweet loot.

This Hallowe’en will be our first without any kids living at home. Not that Rachel and Adrian have dressed up for Hallowe’en for a number of years now (unless you count Rachel dressing up to see the Rocky Horror Picture Showwith her friends), but still, it’ll be strange.

alt="IMAGE-Austin Powers costume"

Back in the day, Rachel was quite the creative costume designer. Groovy, bay-bay! Yeah!

We’ve evolved our own Hallowe’en family traditions, mostly involving elaborate pumpkin carving and purchasing massive amounts of candy; on the big night, Rachel and I used to station ourselves near the door, so we could admire the wee cherubs who visited us, dressed up as Jedi knights, Spiderman, and princesses.

This year, though, it’ll be just Mitchell and me, and to be honest, I’m debating whether to bother with it at all. Not that I begrudge the neighbourhood munchkins their fair share of premature tooth decay, but stocking up on Hallowe’en candy inevitably means that I’m tempted to engage in some serious taste-testing, and frankly, I don’t need it. Plus, without Rachel here to harangue coax me into carving a special pumpkin, I find I’m not really all that motivated.

Still, I think of the older couple down the street from us, whose kids left many years ago. Their house has been festooned with orange and black decorations for the past month already, and this morning when I walked the dog, I saw they’d added a few pumpkins and some fake gravestones around their yard. These are the same people who’ll have the giant hand-built creche out front in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and the pastel bunnies on the lawn before Easter. They are total holiday die-hards, and I feel like I need to hike up my motivation and take a lesson from them.

Okay, candy and pumpkins it is, then. Maybe I’ll compromise, and just buy candies I don’t like. Oh, who am I kidding. I like them all.

Whatever. I’ll just have to hide them from myself. Wish me luck, I’m going in!



Pumpkins at Halloween

Trick or Treat!

Linus awaits the Great Pumpkin.

Dear Karen,

Happy Hallowe’en!  I love this time of year, as I’ve explained before.  The crisp air, the falling leaves, the hint of winter in the air, saying good-bye to the heat and humidity of summer…I love it all.

When I was a little girl, every year I’d sit in front of the TV and watch the Charlie Brown Hallowe’en Special, in which Linus gets a little muddled about his holiday traditions.  He sits out all night in the local pumpkin patch (where were his parents??) and awaits the Great Pumpkin’s arrival.  His friends think he’s insane but he is steadfast and true to his beliefs.

I felt sorry for Linus because I knew what Hallowe’en was really about:  candy.  Lots and lots o’ candy.  Pumpkins were something Dad carved for us, and we were best out of the room when he did, due to the amount of swearing and trash-talking involved.  Pumpkins were only interesting to me once the candle was put inside and the lid (the pumpkin’s adorable little hat) was placed on top.

We were traditionalists, in that we only had evilly smiling pumpkins on offer.  These days, pumpkin faces can be jolly, sexy, abstract art, or humorous.  My former-future-son-in-law (he’s now an official in-law; don’t make me explain further) invited us over one year for a pumpkin-carving party and my heart was stolen when I saw his (in the middle):

Montreal Canadiens for the win!

When I was 7, I was allowed to go out trick-or-treating with my friends.  Amazing to think parents would let us out on our own, but they did.  We put on our costumes, usually store-bought with a plastic moulded mask held on with a small elastic round the head, armed ourselves with pillow cases to carry our loot, hung a UNICEF box round our necks for donations from the houses whose doorbells we’d ring, and off we’d go into the dark night.  Some years, due to the cold, we’d have to struggle along wearing a winter jacket underneath our costumes as well.  Our parents had two caveats for us:

  1. Do not eat any food until you return home.  Anything you’re given has the potential to poison or slice your throat into ribbons and you have to let us look at it before you consume it.
  2. Do not enter any person’s house for any reason.

Need I say we disobeyed both rules?  The food I assumed would most likely kill me was the apple rolling round at the bottom of my bag and I can tell you right now, there was no way I was going to eat that when I had mini-Smarties, Coffee Crisps, Rockets and potato chips to get through first.

I felt quite safe from poison and razor blades with pre-packaged goods, so kept the wrappers in my pocket to be disposed of the next day at school.

I broke the second rule a fair amount as well, especially when the homeowners said “come in, come in!  We’re just finishing wrapping up the caramel popcorn balls, it won’t take a minute!”  They were and it did, so all was fine.  I’d eat those on my way round the neighbourhood as well, because I know my mother frowned upon homemade treats and would want to inspect it first. Inspecting, in her eyes, meant mashing it to death and I just couldn’t allow that to happen, so down the hatch it went.

Hallowe’en wasn’t just about the candy (ha, who am I kidding, of course it was).  It was also about the fun we’d have at school, drawing the same scene over and over again on black card, using orange and white crayons to their full effect.  I could replicate that scene again today.  It involved a black night, a full moon, fence, bare tree, owl sitting on tree, arched-back cat on fence post , pumpkin on the ground, and a witch flying on her broomstick.

In Hong Kong, when I had children of my own, I would send them out in total safety, because we lived in a 20-storey building and we had watchmen to keep an eye on the kids.  In a custom totally different from my own, my girls would take the lift to the top floor, ring the doorbells, get the loot, then walk down the stairwell, repeating at every floor until they arrived at the ground level.  They must have been about 10 and 8 years old when, one year, they rang the doorbell of an elderly man’s home.  He peeked through the security chain on his door, and what he saw must have astonished him:  2 young children, one in a white sheet with holes for eyes and the other in a pirate outfit.  Both had those plastic pumpkin baskets (amateurs, ours were so much bigger in my day!), and were undoubtedly holding them out in his direction.  The gentleman closed the door on the girls, who shrugged at their bad luck and went to the next door to try their luck there.

His door opened quietly and he gestured for them to come over to him.  They did so, the lure of possible treats being stronger than safety concerns.  The door was still only open a crack, but he pulled back, opened it wider and with a huge smile on his face, he presented each girl with a can of Campbell’s Soup.

The girls accepted their gift, but were pretty bewildered by it.  I had to explain that in HK, a lot of people don’t know what Hallowe’en is, and the poor old man probably thought the two sisters were beggars.

That same night, I had a visitor ringing at the door.  I opened it and before me stood a person who was approximately 6 feet tall and totally encased in an alien outfit.  He said nothing, not even “trick or treat”.  He held his hand out to receive his treats, but I have to say he freaked me right out.  I was willing to give him anything, including the family cat, just to get him out of there.  He took his chocolate bars, turned on his heel and walked away slowly and deliberately.  Weird.

This is what we do to aliens who refuse to say “please” and “thank you”

Now I live in London, I wonder what tonight will be like.  Will my windows be soaped?  My outhouse tipped?  Trees toilet-papered?  Who knows.  What I do know is, it’ll be fun, it’ll remind me of the good old days when I could roam the neighbourhood with no parental supervision, when I could dress up in any disguise and eat candy and chips until I got a stomach ache and had to spend the rest of the night close to the bathroom.  You can’t buy that kind of happiness!

Spookily yours,


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