Monday, 22 July 2019

Saturday Photo: Glen Villa Garden: Wonderful Place

Well, sorry, folks you'll have to wait until next year.  You missed Open Garden Day at Glen Villa, a 750 acre estate near North Hatley in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

Patterson Webster has created a wonderful mixture of wildscape--native plant, existing forest and carefully selected plantings--and sculpture. We spent a fascinating afternoon wandering around, admiring views, checking out wildflowers in our wildflower guide, and, yes, seeking shade as it was one of the hottest days so far this summer.

The garden is open only once a year, if that, and we felt lucky to be able to take advantage of the occasion which was a benefit for the Lake Massawippi Conservation Association this year.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Saturday Photo: Time to Plunge Back into Concrete

Once upon a time, I had planned to have a book on concrete appear in 2019.  But things got away from me--the zeitgeist, my editor said--and so the book for this year is Frenemy Nations: Love and Hate between Neighbo(u)ring States.

That's pretty much ready for the printer, so it's time to plunge back into concrete, specifically Rock of Ages: How Concrete Built the World as We Know It.  The plan is to have a revised manuscript ready by mid-September  for publication a year from now.

This is a beautiful example of concrete at its best: the floating staircase in the Musée national des beaux arts du Québec.  I've got a lot more....but more about that later.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Saturday Photo: It's Too Hot to Stay Inside..

Summer has arrived, and it is sticky hot in Montreal.  The canicule, as they say around here, is late, and so far much less intense than what has gripped much of the Northern Hemisphere this season. Alaska is warmer than New York City right now, and glaciers are melting in Greenland, leaving behind tons of sand. 

We walked home from dinner with friends in downtown last night, a 50 minute promenade which left us sweaty and tired.  What was remarkable was the number of people lounging around outside, on the terraces of restaurants and bars, but also just trying to get a little cooler.  We've made the walk many times, but it's been a while since we did it at that hour.  Reminded me of evenings in Singapore where the streets came alive with people of all ages once the sun set. During the day, everything went on in the air conditioned indoors.

Air-conditioning isn't as ubiquitous here yet.  That's why you get scenes like the one above where a couple has taken their breakfast to a park, in an attempt to get a little fresh, cooler air. But we all are going to have to get used to temperatures like this, it appears.  A reminder that climate change will hit us all, and we'd do well to work on strategies to fight it if we can't live with it. 

Monday, 1 July 2019

Saturday Photo: An Octopus's Garden in the Shade

Or rather in the sun.  And maybe it's a pentopus...

This is the temporary water arrangement in front of our house.  Five houses are hooked up to the hose which will be in place until all lead-pipe connections to the street main are changed. 

How long will that take?  Who knows?  Can't extend until winter, of course, because it would all freeze.

It's clear too that there's a lot of infrastructure work going on, some of it less successful than this connection.  Friday morning heavy equipment cut five big Bell cables not far from here, cutting of phone and internet access for literally thousands.  Bell was less than helpful with it's information, but I'm glad to say that things are back to normal chez nous, although our neighbors across the street still don't have telephone.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Saturday Photo: Fountains, Green and Summer

First full day of summer dawned sunny and not too warm.  A welcome change from the cool, wet spring we've had.

Walking home from a raucous borough council meeting (about parking so don't ask,  it's all so badly thought through!) I remembered how wonderful it is to walk through the dark when the air is full of the smell of lilacs, mock orange and Russian olives.  The up-side of the rain has been a long spring and much green.  We should enjoy that, I guess, and stop complaining for a while.

Complaining, though, can be useful.  How else do you get positive change?  Not by saying nothing.

And so concludes the lesson for today.

The photo, by the way, is of a fountain in a nearby park.  Refreshing to sit by when the days become too hot.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Saturday Photo: Reading Books on a Rainy Day

There's more rain forecast for today, so I think I'll spend part of it reading.

This is the time of year when I set up reading lists for the book discussion groups I lead in Montreal-area libraries.  You'll find below the more-or-less definitive selection for 2019-2020.  Should be some good reading.  But seeing them listed, I realize I'd do well to get started on them !

In no particular order they are:

Milkman  by Anna Burns

The story hour  by Thrity Umrigar

The underground railroad by  Colson Whitehead

The only story by Julian Barnes

Nine perfect strangers  by Liane Moriarty

Watching you by Lisa Jewel

Where the crawdad sings by Delia Owens

The golden house  by  Salmon Rushdie

Before we were yours by Lisa Wingate

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine  by Gail Honeyman

Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Exit West
by Mohsin Hamid

The Human Stain by Philip Roth

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

Vinegar girl : The Taming of the Shrew retold  by Anne Tyler

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud

Brother by David Chariandy

Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Small Country by Gaêl Faye

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Songs for the Cold of Heart by Éric Dupont (Peter McCambridge, translator)

The Break by Katerena Vermette

American War by Omar El Akkad

Français :

Hemingway,    Ernest  Pour qui sonne les glas

Lavoie, Marie-Renée  Autopsie d'une femme plate

Joffo,    Joseph  Un sac de billes

Bismuth Nadine  Un lien familial

Dupont, Éric La route du lilas

Cognetti, Paolo Huit montagnes

Mabancktou      Alain   Les cigognes sont immortelles

Fontaine, Naomi  Manikanetish

Colette, Sidonie-Gabrielle  La retraite sentimentale  

The photo, by the way, was taken a few years ago when I had just published After Surfing Ocean Beach and was doing a mini-tour.  The book store, which I think has since closed, was formerly the theatre where my friends and I saw a lot of good films.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Saturday Photo: Hidden Corners in the City

We had friends from San Francisco in town last week, and spent some great times talking and walking and talking and drinking wine.  One of our walks took us to la rue Demers in Montreal's Plateau district. 

It is a short lane between two larger streets where extremely modest housing was built more than a century ago.  The owners have made it a greenway, with plants and cobbled paving and no cars at all.

These photos were taken a few years ago when we were briefly staying in the neighborhood, and today it's clear that the owners have decided it's time to do a little upgrading.  Several of the houses had been stripped down to vapour seal and were being re-bricked, but the charm remains. 

Things like this make a city live and breathe.  Great to see...