Tag: memories (page 1 of 23)

Mummy? It’s me, Gilly, let me in your window…

Mummy and Karen,

Despite being sisters, and you both knowing me very well and having your own shared experiences, I’m afraid there’s something that you two may not have known. Continue reading

Dad, and the kindness of strangers

Dear Karen,

I’ve been thinking a lot about Dad recently.  Not sure why, but it seems he’s always on my mind these days.

In March, 2001, I got a call from home to say that he had suddenly, inexplicably, inexcusably, died.  To say I was in shock would be a gross understatement. Continue reading

Early careers: The programmer and the artist

Dear Wendy,

This morning I was reading a post on Diane Tolley’s blog, about a little fellow whose aptitude for things mechanical started showing through at an early age.

It got me thinking about my own kids (because of course it did!), and I realized that both of them began their early careers before they were even out of diapers.

The little programmer

alt="IMAGE-fixed-computer-early-careers-after-the-kids-leave"When Adrian was about 2 years old, Mitchell acquired a “word processor.” (This is what they used to call home computers, in case you’d forgotten.) A brand new shiny Kaypro4, with not one, but two floppy disk drives! Wowzas.

Now, you must remember that back in the early 1980s, a “portable computer” was a gigantic metal box of a thing, and should have come with a “some assembly required” label. Oh, and it cost a bleeding fortune…because the idea of a personal computer was practically brand new.

We’d only had the Kaypro a few days, when we got up bright and early one morning to find that Adrian was already wide awake. He’d unpacked the Kaypro from its zipped carrying case, laid it out carefully on the floor, unhooked the keyboard from the monitor, and plugged the thing in.

When we found him, he looked up, eyes full of the wonder of the thing, and pointed a chubby little finger at the blinking green cursor.

“Look at the beep-beep!” he exclaimed, delighted at his new find.

Mitchell freaked out. I gathered up our little programmer and hustled him off for breakfast, while Mitch reassembled the precious equipment (which, I should mention, powered our home business for the next couple of years).

Four years later, the Kaypro4 was toast; we’d graduated to the next Big Thing in computing, the PC. Adrian had never lost his interest in computers, though, and Mitchell and I were constantly shooing him away from our work stations, where he’d hover as though drawn by the hum of the machines.

Then one morning, I turned on the computer, only to find it doing…odd things. On the formerly blank opening screen, a tiny digital clock was blinking back at me. There was now a calendar at the bottom of the screen, and somehow the type looked larger and clearer.

When Adrian got home from school, I asked him whether he knew anything about it.

“Oh, yes!” he beamed. “I went into DOS and added some things to make it easier for you to work. Do you like it?”

Um. “How did you figure out where the opening menu was?” I asked (since I had no idea, myself).

“I just poked at it until I figured it out,” he replied.

Well, sure you did.

The small artist

alt="IMAGE-artist-early-careers-after-the-kids-leave"Rachel wasn’t much interested in the inner workings of computers, but like her big brother, she showed herself early.

From the time she was about 2 (this seems to be the magic age?) she would draw or paint on any available surface: paper, walls, her own stomach….

To save our walls (and my sanity) we bought her what we later realized was the Best Gift Ever: a wooden easel from IKEA, with a giant roll of foolscap so Rachel could pull down as much paper as she wanted.

That easel was a godsend. Many mornings I’d wake up and discover that our little artist had been busy during the night—her tempera paints would be open, her brushes wet, and a new creation would be on display on the easel.

When she was about 4, Rachel, Mitchell, and I were walking through a local mall. The place was under renovation, so some walls had been replaced with sheets of plywood. As we walked past, we realized that the artist was covering the ugly plywood with murals: a painting of the Rideau River, some swans, some people riding past on bicycles. Rachel insisted that we stay to watch, so we waited patiently while she watched the artist at work.

She asked him something about his brushes, and he smiled, obviously pleased that this cute little girl was interested.

“You know,” he said, “one of these days when you grow up, you might decide to become an artist!”

Rachel’s smile froze. She drew herself up to her full height. Looked at him sternly, her blue eyes steely with indignation.

I already am an artist,” she declared.

Well, then. Of course you are.

Fast forward….

Of course, you know where both kids ended up.

Adrian’s official title is “Senior Developer/Operations” at Shopify, though I’m damned if I have even the slightest clue what his job entails. When I asked one of his co-workers a couple of years back, the best answer I received was, “He makes everything go.”

Right. Good enough for me.

Rachel is about to enter her third year in her Bachelor of Interior Design (and woe betide you if you call it “interior decorating”), and has started thinking about a master’s in architecture.

The Kaypro II and that old wooden easel are both long gone, but I think of them fondly now as precursors to greater things—the beginning points of a couple of early careers.





A weekend visit to Denmark

Dear Karen,

This weekend, while you were breaking your back, I was in Denmark, attending a 90th birthday party.

Since living in Europe, one of our greatest joys is the ability to travel 90 minutes and be in a totally different country and culture.  Having family only an hour and a half away is such a blessing.

We drove from Copenhagen to Grindsted, in Jylland (Jutland), where Lars was born.  We paid a visit to the graveyard outside Grindsted Kirke, where grandparents and parents reside.  It’s a beautiful site, very peaceful, and well maintained.


We got married here in 1984 and our eldest was christened here as well, in 1986.

I get a great kick out of the signs here.  In their original Danish, they’re quite normal and sensible.  However, if spoken in English, they’re stupidly funny.


Danish: periodic speed control.  English: periodic fart control.

We were staying with family at the summerhouse on the west coast.  The summerhouse has been in the family since the early 1900s, and was occupied by the Germans in World War 2.  Concerned that the allies would attacking Europe through Denmark, they closed down Vejers and turned it, along with the summerhouse, into a German military zone.  Officers commandeered our house and they didn’t take very good care of it.  There was a pot-bellied stove inside, which they used to burn every bit of available wood possible, to keep them warm in the winters.


Building on a sandy hill: not always the easiest thing to do. Also note the outhouse on the right.


The patio is now the living room.  The outhouse is now indoors, finally.  I love how formally dressed the men are.  It’s a beach, fellas, not an office!


The house expands to fit a growing family.


How it looked when I first visited.


Our morning view – can you guess which room we’re in?


Nordliden today: comfortable, cosy, hyggelig (that word that no Dane can ever adequately translate into English). We love it.

Once the war was over, the summerhouse went back into family hands and, with each generation, repairs and renovations occurred within and without.

One thing no one counted on, though, was the strong winds and sand, creating 10 metre high dunes to the west of the house.  At one time, one could stand in the house and view the North Sea.  Even in my 30 years of visiting, I can sense those damn dunes getting higher and higher with each visit.  It’s great exercise tromping up and down for a morning and evening swim.


Lars’ mother and aunts on the beach, with Nordliden in the background.



So where’s the house gone? Each year, this dune gets higher.

Each morning, someone rises with the sun and bikes or walks to the local baker, where bread is bought for the breakfast table.  This weekend, Lars and I took on the job.  We ordered rolls called rundstykker (rolls, literally translated as “round pieces”), wienerbrød (in Denmark, they call it Viennese pastry), franskbrød (white bread) and rugbrød (rye bread). When it came time to pay, we discovered we didn’t have enough money.  The woman serving us shrugged her shoulders, handed us the receipt, and told us to come back later to pay, no rush.

We were back within 30 minutes, but still, we liked her attitude.


Breakfast:  first course.


A Danish breakfast table is not for the faint-hearted: boiled eggs, breads, cheese, Nutella, honey, coffee and hot milk. It’s hard to control your eating when faced with this in the morning.

The birthday party was a huge success, celebrated in a nice hotel in the countryside.  I’m embarrassed to say, I was more tired at the end than the birthday girl, who was in no mood to see her party come to a close.

We drove back to Nordliden with more family members, and we enjoyed the setting sun while eating Danish pizza and drinking Italian wine.


I wasn’t the least bit hungry…until the pizza arrived.


The sun sets on a very happy day.

The following morning, it was time for us to return to London.  We said good-bye to our family and Nordliden with love in our hearts and a strong determination to never eat again stay longer next time.



Early morning swim before breakfast.


British Invasion bands of the 60s

Dear Readers,

alt="IMAGE-bands-british-invasion-after-the-kids-leave"Yep, time for another Saturday List! And today we have a treat for you: if you were alive in the early to mid-1960s, you’ll remember cranking up the radio when these songs came on.

Following its raucous, unruly birth in the 1950s, rock and roll had begun to emulsify into a smooth, syrupy kind of pablum by the early 1960s. Despite injections of energy from the surfing craze, it seemed to be in danger of collapsing into a sad, pop parody of itself.

In short, it was becoming a snooze-fest.

But help was on the way, and from a most unlikely quarter: while American kids were nodding off to songs like “Soldier Boy,” bands in Britain had begun to experiment with American blues, and were giving it their own interpretation. Skiffle, a blues and folk-based music with a DIY sensibility, made way for Merseybeat, music that started in the gritty industrial cities in the north of England. The best-known of these bands was a little foursome known as the Beatles.

By 1964, kids in North America had begun to catch on. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” hit the top of the US singles charts in January, and launched what became known as the British Invasion.

And what an invasion it was!

I still remember the furor when the Beatles landed in New York for their first tour—the frenzied hysteria made Justin Bieber’s fans look like rank amateurs. The Beatles were followed by Dusty Springfield, whose “I Only Want to Be with You” caused quite the sensation…and next thing you know, you couldn’t turn on a radio without hearing one of the British Invasion bands.

Beatles, Stones, The Who, the Kinks…it was glorious, and I’ve barely scratched the surface with this list. So tell me: who were your favourites? You can vote right on the list, add your opinions, or even add a band I’ve missed…have fun, go nuts!

And most of all, enjoy the music. That’s what it’s really all about.



British Invasion Bands of the 60s

KarenWendy Irving British Invasion Bands of the 60s

Listly by KarenWendy Irving

Bet you can't read this list without starting to hum a tune or two!

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  1. 1  The Yardbirds - For Your Love (1965) (Full version)

    The Yardbirds - For Your Love (1965) (Full version)

    Live H.264 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HU5zqidlxMQ&fmt=18
    Ever wonder where legendary guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page all got their start? Yep, it was right here. With their adorable bowl haircuts and fuzzed-out sound, the Yardbirds were a blues-based group that expanded into rock in a big way.

  2. 2  A Hard Day's Night Screenings Info

    A Hard Day's Night Screenings Info

    Yep, they've digitally restored the movie and they're re-releasing it. Let's face it, the Beatles are legend. And A Hard Day's Night, their first movie, is a rollicking, ridiculous, and utterly engaging look at the band in their early days. If you've never seen it, what are you waiting for?

  3. 3  The Rolling Stones

    The Rolling Stones

    These days they're not so much a rough-edged blues-based rock group with a bad-boy reputation, as an ongoing franchise juggernaut that shows no signs of slowing down. But let's take a moment and remember the Stones as they were: rock and roll at its absolute best.

  4. 4  The Who - My Generation

    The Who - My Generation

    Wendy's all-time favourite band. Ever. Period. And if you try to contradict her, she will fight you.
    Also part of the Big Three, along with the Beatles and Stones. Their Mod sensibility included smashing guitars onstage and wearing British flag-patterned clothing (why? because it was the 60s!), and their iconic song, "My Generation" defined the growing dissatisfaction we all felt back then.

  5. 5  Herman's Hermits - I'm Henry Vlll I Am

    Herman's Hermits - I'm Henry Vlll I Am

    Emerging from the Manchester beat scene shortly after the Beatles, Hermans Hermits specialized in lighter fare, with an emphasis on a British music hall sound. They were meant to be a non-threatening alternative to the Beatles, Stones, and the Who...but that also meant their repertoire, and ultimately their appeal, was limited. Fun fact: "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter" was written by Trevor Peacock, who played Jim Trott in "The Vicar of Dibley."

  6. 6  Dusty Springfield - Son of a preacher man

    Dusty Springfield - Son of a preacher man

    Dusty Springfield's sultry, evocative voice and her blonde bouffant hair made her instantly recognizable--and this song is one of my all-time favourites by anyone, ever. She manages to capture the laconic table chatter of a Southern family, and their blindness to a mysterious tragedy, in a few simple lines. Simply beautiful.

  7. 7  The Troggs - Wild Thing

    The Troggs - Wild Thing

    The Troggs--if you remember them for nothing else, it'll be for this song. Garage music at its finest, and if you listen carefully, you can sing "Louis, Louis" over that fuzzed-out bass line.

  8. 8  The Zombies - Time Of The Season

    The Zombies - Time Of The Season

    My favourite memory of this song: driving with Mrs. Auchterloney and my friend Mary, I noticed Mrs. A. singing along--to a rock song! Our parents wouldn't have done this in a zillion years, and I instantly decided I wanted Mrs. A. for a mother, since she was obviously much cooler than the one we had. Probably not a bad choice on my part, all things considered.

  9. 9  Animals - House Of The Rising Sun (1964)

    Animals - House Of The Rising Sun (1964)

    Okay, it's a little incongruous, hearing an old American folk-tune like "House of the Rising Sun" in a British accent...performed by fresh-faced kids in suits, no less. But what they lacked in blues cred, they made up in enthusiasm and a yes, musicianship. In fact, over the years, this has become the definitive version of the song.

  10. 10  "Lola"- The Kinks

    "Lola"- The Kinks

    Okay, I admit I can't listen to this song without wanting to sing the Weird Al Yankovitch version, "Yoda." But still. It's good stuff, and worthy of a place on the list. The Kinks were latecomers to the British Invasion, mostly because the US censors kept banning their songs. Yeah, that would kind of put a damper on things.

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