52 weeks – August 5, 2012


Oleander, Jacaranda, by Penelope Lively. A memoir of her life growing up in pre-war Egypt. The book describes her childhood impressions of times and places and fills those out with what she came to know as an adult:

I have tried to recover something of the anarchic vision of childhood – in so far as any of us can do such a thing – and use this as the vehicle for a reflection on the way in which children perceive. I believe that the experience of childhood is irretrievable. All that remains for any of us, is a headful of brilliant frozen moments, already dangerously distorted by the wisdoms of maturity.

The impressions of Cairo and Alexandria are glorious and romantic, albeit seen from the perspective of the privileged child of an expatriate family:

The Alexandria of the 1930s and 1940s survives now only in my mind, and in the minds of others. Most of whom knew it a great deal better than I did. For I did not know it at all, I realize, more than I knew Cairo in any real sense. Much of it I never even saw — the densely populated slum quarters to the west of the city, the labyrinthine streets of downtown Alexandria, tucked behind the boulevards and shops. It was not one city, but half a dozen, in which people moved on different planes, segregated by class and culture. And for me there was the further segregation of childhood. My Alexandria was a sybaritic dream. Peanuts in a paper cone, eaten on the Corniche. The suck and whoosh of the sea at the Spouting Rock. The milky-green curve of a surfing wave. The cool grip of a chameleon. Pistachio ice-cream. Macaroons. A medley of allusions, which add up now to a place which no longer exists in any sense at all.


Pesto goat cheese panino at The Outpost Café on Fraser Street. With the homemade unsweetened iced tea.


Three Row Barley, a lively Celtic folk group, playing the Friday night concert in Deep Cove. Hear them here.

The Concerts in the Cove are a series of free outdoor concerts through July and August. There are similar summer concerts at other locations in North Vancouver, but you can’t beat the Cove backdrop.


52 weeks – July 15, 2012


The Road to Lichfield, by Penelope Lively. A portrait of the life of a forty-year-old woman during the year that her father is dying. She has a mid-life crisis and she discovers that her father had a secret. The story is simple but beautifully done and the intermittent chapters from the point of view of the father are haunting. Memories of his life are mixed with a slow descent into a dreamlike world as he gradually slips away.

Anne drives from Cuxing to Lichfield every week to visit her father:

She drove north again, the next day, through kaleidoscopic weather. The landscape blazed in sunlight, or sulked beneath leaden clouds. When it was not raining, the wet road shone as a mirror image of the sky. She was distracted by the beauty of it, removed from the purpose of the journey so that sometimes she seemed to be travelling simply for the sake of moving like this along gleaming roads, between towns and villages that existed only as names on signs.


The halibut and chips on a seafront patio at White Rock, after walking by the sea.


King John at Bard on the Beach. Not the best BOTB I have been to. There were not enough nuances in the acting: characters weren’t sufficiently differentiated and shouted at each other too much. Rage can often be conveyed more effectively in a quiet voice.

There was one wonderful piece of staging when the young Arthur (Lucas Gustafson) jumps to his death from the castle walls. Standing on scaffolding, he leaps and is caught by the hands of many hooded people standing below. They then toss him in the air and he tumbles a couple of times, conveying a twisting fall. At the same time, you hear his disembodied recorded voice saying

Oh me! my uncle’s spirit is in these stones: —

Heaven take my soul, and England keep my bones!

It’s a chilling moment that rounds off an excellent performance by the young actor.