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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 – A Year in Review


Jimmy and Linda come to Vancouver. We visit the aquarium and have a grand time all around.
(No photos available but fun was had by all.)

Retreat to Mount Baker with the Le Petit gang.

Mount Baker


Monique is off to SFO to attend RSA.
(Excellent food was eaten. None available in photo form.)


We discover the UBC Choral Singers. Lovely.

Visit Winnipeg for Jan’s retirement, Linda’s birthday, and a visit with Pa.

Enjoy the Dan Mangan concert with Siobhan, Chris, Boris and Rachael. Discover Aidan Knight.


Monique trundles off to St. John’s, Nfld, to chat about ebooks to the Literary Press Group of Canada. The visit includes celebrating Tom Power’s birthday with John K Sampson, fiddles and a fog machine.

Signal Hill

Crab traps in Petty Harbour

Jan visits. We go to the opera.

Monique and Jan at the Opera

James and Monique get engaged. Wait, what? I know.


Got engaged


Monique and James zoom off to NYC and visit with Marshall and Kerry.

James & Marshall Real Club

Walking the Highline

Siobhan celebrates the non-shower shower.


Judy’s shower.

Judy's shower

Off to Osoyoos to visit Jimmy and Linda.

Jim & Linda


D & J’s wedding


Getting married

Siobhan & Chris’ wedding

Picnic Wedding


James and Monique spend August at Ainslie Point Cottage on Pender Island.

Breakfast nook

Boris & Rachael come for a visit.

S, M, L

Gawlland Point

Darren and Julie visit us on Pender.

Darren & Julie visit on Pender

James gets hired by Mobify.

Leah’s stagette is memorable.

Leah's stagette


Jay & Leah’s wedding

Jay & Leah's Awesome Wedding

For James’ birthday we visit the Cascades and hunt for mushrooms.

Mushrooms of the Cascades - James' birthday


Monique’s shower for ladies.

Tea Party

Monique’s night out with the girls.

Monique's shower

Thanksgiving at Boris and Rachael’s.
(Ate so much even the photos disappeared.)

Get Hitched on Oct 16.

Jim, Linda, Amanda, Scott, Monique, James, Caroline, Keith, Jan

group photo

Celebrate Tamya’s birthday

Tamya's Birthday Treats

Decorate the Halloween tree with Damian

Damian's Halloween Tree


Winnipeg Wedding Tour

Winnipeg Visit

Make sausage in Winnipeg with Scott and Ryan. Lots of it.

Winnipeg Visit

Celebrate Monique’s birthday at CRU and then attend Ballet BC’s 3 Fold.

Kitchen staff for Le Festival de la Poutine.

Le Festival de la Poutine



Boxing Day on Bowen

James chooses salad.

Artisan Eats

Scott & Carrie’s wedding on NYE
(Loveliness still to behold.)

Happy 2011 and Best Wishes for 2012!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Review: Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

Although the paperback was published in 2005, Sweetness in the Belly never made it to my reading list until last week. Camilla Gibb has written a brilliant book. I know you know. It was on all sorts of lists and everyone raved about it, which is probably why it took me so long to get around to it. But really, one word review: awesome.


Sweetness in the Belly is set in Harar, Ethiopia and London, England. The story is told through flashbacks to Ethiopia in the 70s and England in the 80s and 90s. Lilly is our protagonist and she is a white Muslim growing up in the class hierarchy system of an Ethiopian town where devout women pray, raise children and fight for survival against contaminated water, the jinn and other evil spirits, and husbands or lovers who leave them with children to raise and limited means to do so.

Lilly’s British, hippy parents raise her (sort of) as they travelled around African. But their unhappy end left Lilly in the care of a great Muslim teacher. On her journey to a shrine in Harar, many things happen that part her from her male travel companion and leave her in the care of Nouria, who’s less than thrilled to have another mouth to feed.

Lilly, the orphaned foreigner who knows the Qu’ran, learns the culture of Hararis and so does the reader along with her. Eventually caught up in the war, poverty and famine, Lilly escapes to live in London. It’s an exile, not a homecoming as she has left loved ones and must watch horrible events unfold from afar. But it’s actually through her exile that readers learn more of Ethiopia and of what it may be like for refugees.

On Islam:

This is what happens in the West. Muslims from Pakistan pray alongside Muslims from Nigeria and Ethiopia and Malaysia and Iran, and because the only thing they share in common is the holy book, that becomes the sole basis of the new community: not culture, not tradition, not place. The book is the only thing that offers consensus,  so traditions are discarded as if they are filthy third-world clothes. ‘We were ignorant before,’ people say, as if it is only in the West that they have learned the true way of Islam.

In traveling through Indonesia, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, I’ve experienced firsthand the moderation and cultural interpretations in a way that mean these sections of the text to really resonate with me. In Indonesia, I had a friend who when explaining praying said, “it is good to pray, it is better to pray with others, it is best to pray in the mosque.”

Everything was shades of grey that made perfect sense to me.

Later in the text, Lilly says “My religion is full of colour and possibility and choice; it’s a moderate interpretation ... one that allows you to use whatever means allow you to feel closer to God, be it saints, prayer beads, or qat, one that allows you to have the occasional drink, work alongside men, go without a veil when you choose, sit alone with an unrelated man in a room, even hold his hand ...”

It’s an interpretation where jihad is one’s personal struggle to be a good Muslim, not a fight against those who are not Muslim.

Sweetness in the Belly is one of those books that although set in a particular time and place, is really quite timeless.

Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb
Published by Random House of Canada
Canadian author
Available in paperback and ebook

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review: A Man of Parts by David Lodge


One of my favourite books ever is The British Museum is Falling Down by David Lodge. It is one of the few books that I have read and re-read without eventually abandoning. I find the novel immensely satisfying and there are parts I laugh at each time. I have tried repeatedly to recreate that reading experience with Lodge’s other titles unsuccessfully—though I certainly haven’t explored his full repertoire.

Lodge’s latest work, A Man of Parts is a hefty tome of 565 pages. I was undeterred and selected this novel as one of my birthday gifts, even though I had to haul it all the way back from McNally Robinson in Winnipeg.

A Man of Parts is an homage to the late HG Wells, the English author (most well known for The War of the Worlds), futurist, essayist, historian, socialist and womanizer.

The book opens with a definition from Collins English Dictionary.

Parts PLURAL NOUN 1. Personal abilities or talents: a man of many parts. 2. short for private parts.

In many ways this novel is all about Wells’ private parts, both in his endowment and private life.

HG Wells (1866-1946) was born to a maid and shopkeeper. His childhood was one of poverty, but at an early age he was an avid reader and through a series of fortunate events was able to pretty much avoid practical employment (in the drapery business) and instead enter a scholastic track, leading to teaching and writing.

He married his cousin Isabel Mary only to divorce her four years later to marry one of his students, Amy Catherine, who he renamed Jane. With Jane, he developed into the writer and man more familiar to us, and fathered George Philip (Gip) and Frank, along with a daughter Anna Jane (with writer and student Amber Reeves) and a son Anthony (with feminist and journalist Rebecca West). Jane was quite patient.

A Man of Parts is basically the X-Rated version of The Sound of Music.

Wells is a well-respected man and active socialist. He joins the Fabians in hopes of propelling a socialist agenda, only to be disappointed by their internal politics. These are Edwardian men. Father knows best men. Mother runs the house without any hardship to Father. His shirts are pressed and cleaned by invisible fairies. His breakfast is delivered at the perfect temperature with eggs done exactly as he likes them. Mother’s bed is available to him but they sleep in separate beds, less for chaste reasons than so as to not disturb each other. And the children all play nicely while Mother calmly and with great accommodation ignores (and even offers advice on) Father’s indiscretions.

Nearly everything that happens in A Man of Parts is based on factual sources. “Based on” being the novelistic need to infer and form a narrative arch. Or as Lodge says in the introduction, “I have imagined many circumstantial details which history omitted to record.” With this literary licence Lodge delivers HG Wells, a man of many abilities, and certainly one invested in the talents of satisfying his admirers.

Before reading the novel, I really only knew Wells as one of the fathers of science fiction, War of the Worlds being considered a masterpiece that inspired the genre. But I didn’t realize how much his novels at the time of publication foreshadowed the reality to come of robotics, World Wars, aviation and aerial bombings, chemical weapons, and nuclear power. Nor did I know anything about his socialist inclinations and his aspirations for the League of Nations.

What was really intriguing is Lodge’s underlying story of Wells as an ailing man looking back on his life and wondering if his early success as a famous writer, “the man who invented tomorrow”, has just left him as yesterday’s man, a failed man; an author deserted by readers, a man whose utopian dreams of a society without jealousy and open to free love are unrealized and unlikely.

Looking at Lodge’s list of fiction, literary criticism and essays, I wonder if, like Wells, there is a ting of autobiographical exploration of emotions here.

A Man of Parts by David Lodge
Published by Harvill Secker

See what the Guardian has to say…