Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Bad Wife, But a Good Collector

I have been distracted, which is one of the reasons the old blog has languished lately.

The distractions have been the usual ones: getting and spending, mostly.

Recent purchases included a vintage tupperware pitcher and two vinyl albums of the Lichfield Cathedral Choir from the mid 1980s. I spent one dollar and twenty nine cents procuring these items at "ReSource" (f/k/a Recylce North). I bought them on Whusband's birthday and presented him the records as a birthday present. I think he would be impervious to the vintage grooviness of the Tupperware. At his age it would just look like something he put in the back of a cabinet and forgot about. The presentation of the records was partly to make up for the fact that I kind of forgot his birthday that morning. The penny dropped at around noon. Ooops.

This isn't quite as bad as it sounds. Whusband actually prefers gifts from me that cost very little. Other people are welcome to spend wildly on him, if they choose to do so. (Surprisingly, not many have made this choice). But when it is me doing the buying, since it all comes out of the common pot, he wants only the tiniest spoonfuls dipped out. Which brings us to a related topic.

Every time a box comes in the mail with my name on it, or I turn up with a bargain from an auction or an antique store, he carries on like I am Leona Helmsley or Zsa Zsa Gabor. You can tell how far off he is by one look at my closet, and my person, which has been allowed to slide into ruin in a way no big spending woman would ever allow. I make these points when we are enjoying one of these periodic discussions. He has to agree there is no arguing about my clothes or my state of semi-collapse.

On Whusband's birthday, I also bought him some of his favorite bagels, although I forgot to mention the gift aspect of their presence in the house. I told him this morning, when he got his first bite of the last one. "Happy Birthday!"

I bought those bagels in Burlington. I made a special trip because it was his birthday. The bagel shop happens to be across the street from the erstwhile Recycle North (see above), so I couldn't avoid a little junk shopping en route. The owner of the bagel place makes Montreal bagels that are even better than the Montreal bagels from Montreal. It is not easy for me to get these bagels because the shop closes its doors at 1 PM (its Montreal mother-ship is nearly 24 hours, but I digress). When we lived in Burlington, Whusband would always chat up the Bagel maker/shop owner. They talked about Montreal, which is really home for both of them. Whusband shared with me that the baker had a rough trade, so to speak. The hours of a bagel entrepreneur are killing - the store closes at 1 PM because the baker is working by around 4 AM. Also, people hired to work in bagel shops often prove, are you sitting down? unreliable.

Visiting the bagel shop on Friday to get the (alleged) birthday bagels, I saw the poor baker. I haven't seen him in a couple years and the strain is showing. I have been thinking all weekend that a bagel makes a good servant, but a bad master.

This brings us, in a fashion, to yesterday. Sunday and an auction Sunday to boot.

Reader, they were selling three vintage English roadsters, fresh from a barn in Stowe. I ask you, what was I supposed to do? I let the 1960 three speed get away. It was up over $150 when I backed off. But the other two? I wasn't leaving without them. (See above and all over for the pictures).

The total auction damages, with a partial set of Enoch Wood "Castles" dinnerware, was $200 and change (well, a lot of change, but under $300 - under I say...)

Let me add (before you sign up for Whusband's side of the spending discussion) that the GFP (great fiction project) where I spend a lot of mental time and energy involves 1912 English road bike, very like the ones I bought yesterday. VERY LIKE!

Plus, although while it's true that we have two classic English 3-speeds already, (1969 Raleigh Sport that is the Understudy's main ride, and a 1973 BSA, which is her back up) these new additions are single speed: plain, pure. And one is from the 1920s and the other is a men's bike. Men's bikes are more expensive and hard to find and Shackleton is going to get it when he's big enough to ride it. So, oh, and they are ART. Industrial Art. See the pictures.

Let me add here that those Lichfield Cathedral Choir albums are in very good shape - one would think they had hardly been played. And only a few of the tracks are the dissonant modern works that choir directors feel obliged to administer to their captive congregation. I am sure Whusband will have years of enjoyment from them. They were worth every penny of the 70 cents that I spent on them and an excellent value like everything else I buy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Better Late for Memorial Day than Never...

I have just finished reading Siegfried Sassoon's book, Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man. Sassoon is famous mostly as a poet, maybe THE poet, of WWI. The Wikipedia article (you may follow the link above) tells me that this is a book that British kids get assigned to read in school. Well, we never had it assigned over on this side of pond and I never even heard of it til I started researching Fox Hunting (don't ask, but rest assured my research is not for protest purposes or because I am going to hunt anything). Anyway, I am happy that I discovered it as a 40-something. It would have been wasted on me at 16.

Mostly MoaFHM is about the life of a fictionalized Sassoon prior to WWI - and a way of life that was swept away irretrievably by the War. It is written so beautifully, at least in sections, I just have to gape. Here's a section I read the other night. It comes, just near the end of the book as Sherston, the narrator, is thinking back to the period of time on the Western front, shortly after the death of his best friend.

I can see myself sitting in the sun in a nook among the sandbags and chalky debris behind the support line. There is a strong smell of chloride of lime. I am scraping the caked mud off my wire-torn puttees with a rusty entrenching tool. Last night I was out patrolling with Private O'Brien, who used to be a dock labourer at Cardiff. We threw a few Mills' bombs at a German working-party who were putting up some wire and had no wish to do us any harm. Probably I am feeling pleased with myself about this. Now and and again a leisurely five-nine shell passes overhead in the blue air where the larks are singing. The sound of the shell is like water trickling into a can. The curve of its trajectory sounds peaceful until the culminating crash. A little weasel runs past my outstretched feet, looking at me with tiny bright eyes, apparently unafraid. One of our shrapnel shells, whizzing over to the enemy lines, bursts with a hollow crash. Against the clear morning sky a cloud of dark smoke expands and drifts away. Slowly its dingy wrestling vapours take the form of a hooded giant with clumsy expostulating arms. Then, with a gradual gesture of acquiescence, it lolls sideways, falling over into the attitude of a swimmer on his side. And so it dissolved into nothingness. Perhaps the shell has killed someone. Whether it has or whether it hasn't, I continue to scrape my puttees, and the weasel goes about his business.


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Hello, A Ghost Story, and Another Top Tip

It's a quiet Saturday night here in the Last House and everyone else is in bed. Whusband built a fire in the remains of the pressed aluminum "fire pit" which has now lost all three of its shaky legs and its lid. The children spent a gratifyingly low-tech evening watching the sparks fly upward, telling ghost stories, making s'mores, and running after fire flies.

The Understudy told a chilling tale about a the daughter of a wealthy family who went with her mother to an expensive antique shop where the mother "paid retail" for a beautiful doll. The doll's hand was posed with two fingers raised. The daughter of the house decided right away that she did not like the doll and put it in the basement. That very night, however, the girl heard someone moving slowly around downstairs, then coming up the stairs, and then in her own room. It was the doll! And it was mad! It jumped on the girl and killed her! The next day, the doll was holding up three fingers. The mother immediately took the doll back to the antique store and asked for a refund.

I confess that my campfire experience was shortened by my desire to get back to the movie about Temple Grandin that I had recorded on the DVR. Temple G. the autistic cattle expert who has become so famous. I heard her interviewed on Fresh Air when this movie came out (on HBO) and was really fascinated to hear her talk about her life and her work. If you can find that interview as a Podcast it would be worth your while to listen.

The movie was genuinely compelling and a very nice piece of work. (What drove me to the computer just now was my feeling of gratitude and admiration for the creative people who brought it off and got it into my living room.) Claire Danes, as Temple Grandin, was brilliant. So, that's my top tip. I see from the movie's web site that it's out on DVD now. Have I ever steered you wrong?

Bon weekend tout le monde.