Tag: Photograph (page 1 of 12)

WordPress Photo Challenge: Spring

Dear Karen,

Blue, my intrepid and mostly insane kitten, has come to me with a poem today.  Doesn’t matter that she stole it from the great Ogden Nash, the inestimable e.e. cummings, or even the shy Ann Onymous; I’m just impressed I could read her normally illegible scrawl.

Spring has sprung,

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Tulips springing out all over Regents Park, London.

 

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The crocuses are busy in Kensington Gardens, too.

The grass is riz,

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Blue tells me this cottage is in Kensington Gardens, where there’s plenty of grass. Not of the catnip variety, sadly.

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The grass is attempting to riz in Knightsbridge as well.

I wonder where the birdies is?

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Where are you, birdies?  I can’t see you!

Um, Blue?  They’re over here:

Poor Blue.  She just wants to find those damn birdies, to let them know it’s Spring and time to come back to our rooftop.

Love,
Wendy

Hanging out in Whistler: It wasn’t all just sorting archives!

Dear Readers,

Now that our primary mission is all over but the shouting, we thought we’d take you on a bit of a tour of Whistler, where we’ve been sorting out our family archives all week.

While we spent a lot of time indoors with our noses to the grindstone, we did get out occasionally to enjoy Whistler’s stunning mountain scenery:

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Walking around Lost Lake, we skedaddled rather quickly when we heard a bear not too far off the path.

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In Whistler Village, we stopped to admire this imposing First Nation carved figure, silhouetted against the mountains.

Did we mention that while we were here, it snowed…several times? Of course, this is a ski resort, so snow is not an unexpected occurrence, but in April? We were less than impressed. Even though it did look very pretty.

But the snow disappeared by mid-day most days…and by early evening, we could sit out on this patio to eat our extremely healthy supper. Look: veggies! And, um, other stuff.

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Snow. Like Rachel and Karen hadn’t seen enough of that this year.

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Eating outdoors at Merlin’s, Whistler.

Of course, we know you’re wondering about our faithful beaver companion. In fact, Bucky was quite restrained on this trip, but he did venture out to meet the bear who guards the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. They sang that John Denver song together before anyone could stop them.

He also enjoyed a cup of coffee with Karen and Rachel. For some reason, Rachel seemed less than enthused by his attentions. She still refers to him as “that little creep.”

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Bucky met his match outside a chocolate shop in Whistler Village.

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Rachel, Karen, and Bucky stop for coffee in Whistler Village. Stop looking so long-suffering, Rachel. Bucky is just being friendly.

Today Wendy will be leaving to head back to London, and tomorrow Karen, Rachel, and Bucky board a plane for Ottawa. It’s been a great visit, and we’re so glad we’ve had the chance to share it with you!

Love,

Karen, Wendy, Rachel, and Bucky

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in family history: Getting started

Dear Readers,

Despite secretly suspecting we’d be spending most of our time here in Whistler seeing sights, shopping, and lolling about telling stories to amuse ourselves—in short, doing anything but the work we intended to do—we actually made some real progress in sorting, identifying, scanning, and labelling our family photos today.

We know, we like to live life on the edge.

Whatever. It’s what we came here to do, and we’re feeling pretty proud.

We started by collecting box upon box of loose photos, photo albums and a dubious-looking family tree from our downstairs locker.

A shopping trolley just lying about came in handy for carting the first load upstairs. And that, friends, is why we now have a trolley parked in the foyer of our apartment. We promise, we’re not turning into bag ladies. Yet.

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Deep in the bowels of the mountain, we found a treasure trove of family memorabilia in Wendy’s storage locker. Plus a grocery trolley. Score!

We spread our day’s work on the table.

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And this is only the very beginning…

Getting busy scanning photos and inspecting negatives.

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Wendy sorts through photo…after photo…after photo.

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Rachel, our intrepid and long-suffering photo scanning pro, hard at work.

Bucky felt lonely and unwanted, so we gave him an important job: Chief Apple Inspector. It made him feel needed, plus allowed him to have a healthy snack when no one was looking.

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Bucky takes off his hat indoors. Such a polite little fellow he is.

Our work is nowhere near done. Tomorrow we rise at dawn to enter the fray once more. Tally ho the fox!

(Not really, we just think it makes us sound hardcore.)

Love,

Karen, Wendy, Rachel, and Bucky (Chief Apple Inspector)

Visiting the Queen of Murder

Dear Karen,

Do you remember being about 12 years old, sitting in the back seat of the family car in a driveway in Nova Scotia, waiting for our parents to finish visiting friends so we could go back home?  I was bored out of my mind.  You, far more resourceful, were engrossed in a book you’d thought to bring along.  It was an Agatha Christie murder mystery, I can’t remember which one now.  What I remember being impressed by, at the time, was how you weren’t scared to death, reading a book about murder, betrayal and bad guys.

When I was 12, I discovered Miss Christie as well, and voraciously consumed her books.  I watched the Poirot and Marple series, over and over again.  Last year, I saw Mousetrap in the West End.

Given my adoration for her, it was only a matter of time before I planned a journey down to her holiday home in Torquay. We spent the afternoon happily padding through her home and gardens.

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One day we saw that a house was up for sale that I had known when I was young…So we went over to Greenway, and very beautiful the house and grounds were.  A white Georgian house of about 1780 or 90, with woods sweeping down to the Dart below, and a lot of fine shrubs and trees – the ideal house, a dream house‘ – Agatha Christie

At every turn, I could imagine Hercule Poirot  walking down the hall, tut-tutting over the very Englishness of this house, or Miss Marple sitting in a chair knitting a pink, fluffy shawl while puzzling over St Mary Mead’s latest crime wave.

Entering the house, my eye was caught by the pharmaceutical set on display at the front door. alt="IMAGE-pharmaceutical-set-greenway"

During the Great War, Agatha worked in a dispensary and learned about medicines, herbs and poisons, a handy education for her writing career.

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A helpful book to draw upon when plotting a murder

We entered the Drawing Room, which, aside from the many collections of pocket watches and snuff boxes on display, was notable for two things:

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A portrait of a very bored or sleepy Agatha, aged 4, holding her dolly, Rosie.

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Below the painting sits Rosie, who looks a lot less chirpy than she does in her portrait.

The other thing that captured my interest was the Steinway in the corner.  I didn’t know that Agatha was an accomplished musician, and enjoyed playing piano and singing as well.  A woman after my own heart!  Unfortunately, her shyness precluded her from performing for anyone but her husband, Max Mallowan.  As soon as someone would enter the room where she was playing, she would bring the song to an immediate, abrupt end.

On top of the Steinway is a lovely assortment of family photos.

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Photos include Agatha’s mother, grandmother, glamourpuss daughter Rosalind and grandson Matthew. Oh, and a beloved family dog.

Next up, we went into a small room contained an impressive silver collection amassed by Agatha and Max over the years.  To an untrained eye, this room looks like a very expensive, exclusive junk room.  In amongst all the shelves of porcelain, sits Agatha’s D.B.E (Dame of British Empire) award.  She kept it hidden from view in a back drawer, until her grandson found it years after her death.  If I hadn’t known to look for it, I doubt I’d have noticed it in the clutter.

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Her medal, in amongst the china.

We walked upstairs and on the landing we found an Arts & Crafts style bookcase, made in 1984, to hold paperback editions of Agatha’s books.

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Can you work out how many books she wrote?

I was wondering where she sat to write her books but found out she wrote where and whenever she liked.

‘I never had a definite place which was my room or where I retired specially to write.  This has caused much trouble for me in the ensuing years, since whenever I had to receive an interviewer their first wish would always be to take a photograph of me at my work.
“Show me where you write your books.”
“Oh, anywhere.”
“But surely you have a place where you always work?” 
But I hadn’t.  All I needed was a steady table and a typewriter.’
Agatha Christie, An Autobiography, 1977

Inside her bedroom, we found two beds, one for her and one for Max, who preferred sleeping on a camp bed.  I had read this before and was imagining the army cot our grandfather slept on.  Max’s bed is a far cry from that.  It doesn’t fold up, it weighs about a ton, and is larger than most tents I’ve been in.  Max wasn’t slumming it, let’s put it that way.  Of course, Agatha’s bed was nicer and more beautiful, but Max’s wasn’t chopped liver either.

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We were invited to open drawers in the Sitting Room.  Inside each was a treasure trove of articles, clippings and reviews.  Here is a small sampling of what caught my eye:

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We wandered into the formal Dining Room, which was set for dinner.  At any moment, the dinner gong might go (as it does every half hour, as a signal to the guides to move from one room to the next) and Agatha and her family might sit down for a meal.  Agatha was teatotal, so instead of wine in her glass, she had a jug beside her, filled to the top with…I can barely stand to write it…double cream.  Ugh.

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I wish I were joking, but I’m not.

Given her apparent love for creamy concoctions, it will come as no surprise to you that, for her 80th birthday celebration at Greenway, the following was on the menu:

Avocado Vinaigrette

Homard a la Creme

Ice cream and Blackberries a la Greenway

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Dessert was served in this lobster dish.  I want one.

Moving to the Library, I’m happy to report there were no corpses in front of the fireplace.  There is a fantastical frieze on the wall, though, painted by a member of the US Coastguard.  They occupied the house in 1943 while preparing for the D-Day landings.  It tells the story of the significant events of the Americans, starting at their base in Florida and wrapping round the room where it ends with a view of Greenway perched high over the river, with a landing craft in the river below.

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On the right wall, over the word Dartmouth, you can see Greenway painted in this frieze.

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After the war, ‘The Commander wrote and asked me if I would like the fresco painted out and the wall put back as it was.  I hurriedly replied it would be a historical memorial, and that I was delighted to have it.’ – Agatha Christie

In the gardens outside, the atmosphere tends towards the eerie, especially this time of year when the trees are still bare.

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The entrance to the camellia garden.

 

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One of the thousands of camellias on display.

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The path leading to the camellia garden. What’s inside the old iron chest? I didn’t want to ask.

 

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On our way down to the boathouse, we stopped to admire the view from here.

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This boathouse inspired the scene where a body is discovered, in Dead Man’s Folly.

Finally, in homage to Agatha Christie and her wonderful story-telling, this summer Lars and I will take  the Orient Express, London to Venice.  Hmmm, I wonder which book I shall bring with me, to while away the hours?

Love,
Wendy

A box of memories: Things we save to remember who we were

Dear Karen,

I have a treasure chest, full of invaluable objects and beloved trinkets.  To anyone else, they’re old, faded, plastic and worth maybe a buck on the open market.

But to me, they’re priceless.

When I was a young thing, as in under 20, my best friend gave me a cigar box for my birthday.  It was blue with a brilliant rainbow on the lid and she advised me to put my precious trinkets inside.  I did exactly that and 35 years later, I still have that box.  I don’t look inside all that often, but when I do, it’s like opening a time capsule.

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Not bad looking, considering it’s been through 11 moves over the years.

Inside are a bundle of “important missives” between Lars and myself.  You don’t get to see those, I’m afraid.

Pawing around inside, I see I’ve saved a hairbrush from the 80s, a time when I believed there was no such thing as a bad perm.

A parrot brooch.

A Valentine’s note from the weird guy who used to sit opposite me at work.  A bizarre note, from the same guy, saying cryptically, “it was nice working with you…”

Shudder.  Maybe I should burn those last two.

Buttons!  I went through a phase of wearing buttons on my jacket, to show my fervour for a particular rock group or to show my political affiliation.  We were a serious bunch, back in the day.

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My love for this group has not waned over the years. Far from it.

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Although I am a peacenik at heart, I think I wore this to annoy our parents, to be honest.

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A rainbow, dove and threatening phallic symbol: this button has it all.

My best friend gave me this next item as well.

I haven’t smoked since last century (that sounds a little weird, right?), but I’ve kept the lighter she gave me when I turned 20.

How can I be so sure when she gave it to me? Easy, she had it engraved with the date.

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This lighter screams “made in the 80s”:  it’s sleek, gold and bold.  The only thing missing is super-large shoulder pads.

In 2003, SARS brought Hong Kong to a standstill.

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There’s a 4th ticket from this event that’s gone missing: His Purple Majesty, Prince.

It was a very scary time, which I’ve written about before so I won’t bring you down by discussing it here. Struggling to get back on its feet again, the city hosted Harbour Fest, to show the world that we may have been hurting, but we were getting stronger every day.

Finally, a doll that Aunt Paula giving me when I was a small girl.

“This little doll isn’t to be played with”, she told me, “it’s a Lullabye Doll and it will help you fall asleep at night”.

This doll is actually a music box with arms, legs and an adorable head.  When the music box is wound, Brahms’ Lullabye is played and the baby doll turns its head slowly and its body moves.

That sounds incredibly creepy, but honestly, it’s not.  I tried to wind it up just now, but it seems the music has died.  That makes me sad.  I loved my little doll and didn’t listen too carefully to Aunt Paula’s admonitions:  this dolly got played with and often.

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My baby doll. She lives in my scarf drawer, cocooned in a world of softness.

Aside from my family, these are the things I’d try to rescue if my house were on fire.  The memories and feelings each of them evoke are immeasurable.  They tell me who I was and who I wanted to be.

Do you have a treasure box as well?  What’s in yours?  Don’t say wool!

Love,

Wendy

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