I know not everything is funny, but Paul Simon has a new album and I heard him in an interview this morning talking about how he moves quickly from serious to funny in his writing. It's just the way his mind works. He naturally sees the absurd in things. I love a writer that can turn a phrase that takes me from sad to at least a snicker.
This seems more important these days, being able to shed a little light on things as we sizzle in this frying pan state of the world. One could despair. One does despair. If one is a parent, one doubly despairs. As Patsy Cline once said, "this old world is in a terrible fix."
Paul Simon sings the soundtrack to one of my earliest memories. I was outside my house on a summer night, it was dusk, I was barefoot. Only my feet were chilled by the cold evening dew on the grass. The rest of me was warm and humming with life. I was playing a game with neighbourhood kids, Red Rover maybe. My parent's radio, always tuned to an AM Top 40 station, was blasting Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs. Robinson out of our kitchen and outside into the yard.
I did that a lot. We all did. Played outside until it was too dark to see or your parents called you in. Whichever came first. My daughter doesn't get to do this. If we lived in a neighbourhood with more kids I would surely endorse it, but alas the children near us are either wee ones or almost grown. I wish she could run wild with a pack of kids like I did, but she can't.
I feel sad about this. This is a deficit in her world. So I try to make up for it. We hike, we camp, we garden, we swing on the hammock in the summer and read books together. Today we went 'forest bathing', the new whacky term for walking through a forest.
I know she'll be fine. I especially know this now, because the kid surprised me two times this weekend with words that turned my despair around.
First, she used a line from Anne of Green Gables to describe how she felt about bringing clothes in off the clothesline. After I thanked her for bringing the clothes in she said, "I like doing it, 'there's so much scope for the imagination.'"
This was doubly pleasing, that she had so aptly quoted Lucy Maud Montgomery and that I had inadvertently passed on my love for this same task. I knew exactly what she meant! We have several wooden steps we have to climb to reach the clothesline. Then when you're up there, you're really quite high up, the wind blows through your hair, you can see out into the tree tops around the neighbourhood. I get a different perspective. when I'm up there. I imagine things too.
Secondly, I was despairing a wee bit when we finally returned the violin we were renting for her. After a lot of years of lessons, recitals, practicing, not practicing, cajoling and power struggles, I finally let it go.
I was having one last lament as we were leaving the store.
"You can always pick it up again later," I said.
"Mom, I've got musicality, but I'm not a musician. It's like, 'I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier.'"
It's true, the kid is musical and again she hits me with a double entendre. A great original line, backed up by the Killers.
Little victories like that can heal the little everyday wounds. Maybe great songwriters like Paul Simon, can take on the big ones.
A few years ago I was caught on camera being a Skam artist. Not a scam artist, but a Skam artist. In 2012 and 2013, I wrote and performed two short plays in Theatre Skam's Bike Ride, now called Skampede. Skampede is an outdoor theatre festival that runs every summer in Victoria, BC.
The first year I created and inhabited Ranger Betty, a self-important, militant, all knowing park ranger in Nature of the Goose. That production was fun and challenging and taught me a lot. It also gave me a great story.
At the end of Bike Ride 2012, I attended the after party with my partner. A pleasant young man approached us and said he had seen and enjoyed my show that afternoon. He said it was 'entertaining and educational'. At that point, had the beer not been free, I would have offered to buy him one.
As we talked, I found out his partner was in one of the other productions and that he was a Vancouver based musician. We started talking about music and I circled the conversation back to him. He gave me a few more details. Then I asked him what his day job was, assuming any musician I was talking to still had one. He said that he and his band mates were lucky enough to not have day jobs anymore. That's when my partner asked him his name and said, "Oh, I've heard you on CBC! You're doing very well."
Is there any statement in the universe that screams middle-class, middle-aged Canadian more loudly than that one? But how gracious he was. I've since seen Dan Mangan in concert. And like the thousands of others who already know who he is, I am wowed by his talent.
If you are in the neighbourhood this summer, get out and see SKampede 2016. And, in case you are curious, here is a snippet of Ranger Betty from Bike Ride 2012.
I've been camping with my family in a particular tent, with a particular dog for many years now. I know how it works.
The dog sleeps in one of the vestibules, to keep some semblance of hygiene while we're out there. We may be as dirty and moldy as rats, but that thin zippered layer of man-made fabric is a big psychological barrier for me. It says we have standards. We have some kind of grip still on the civilized world.
The dog loves his sleeping quarters. He's dry. He's warm and next door to his people. He even puts himself to bed now. When he's had it with evening campfires, he stands hopefully near the entrance to his sleeping quarters waiting for us to open it up and then zipper him in.
He's also tethered back there. We have to tie him to something because even though he is zippered into his little apartment, if say, a nocturnal rodent scampers by, that dog can zip underneath the fly faster than you can say, SQUIRREL!
We adopted our dog from the SPCA. They rescued him off a beach, where he'd been running wild and malnourished. When he's off leash and chasing something, it's very difficult to get him back. Let me just state that last sentence is an understatement. When outside, we've learned to tie him to something, especially at night.
Over the years, it has been me who sleeps with one ear open. I'm the one who hears when the dog has launched himself under the fly and out into the big dark world of the nighttime campground. It was no different this past weekend, when we were on our first camping trip of the year. This time, like the other times, when I heard the familiar sounds of a frenzied canine with lightening quick reflexes, dart underneath the fly, I dutifully crawled through the back vestibule and peered out into the darkness.
The moon was nearly full. I could make out the low split rail fence behind the tent where we had tied the dog. But that was all. There was no dog. No growling. No barking. All was silent and still.
I called for the dog in my loudest whisper, not wanting to wake the neighbours in the next tent. (An extremely generous move on my part as they had been snoring loudly for hours.) I didn't expect him to come to me by voice, but I thought maybe I'd hear him sniffing or breathing heavily. I was sure he must have broken free of the rope and be long gone. I had a quick vision of myself walking through the vast, dark campsite with a flashlight searching for him until dawn.
But then the husband who was now awake, but (I will add) still, in his sleeping bag, sagely suggested I "follow the rope."
I did not expect to find to find the dog at the end of the rope because it was so damn quiet. But that is exactly what I did find. Barely a metre away from me, but on the other side of the fence. He was just standing there, silent, his head bowed, the rope somehow caught and loosely bound around his chest and front legs. He was facing the tent. He'd been thwarted mid chase. Everything about him seethed, disappointment. There was no use chastising him.
I unbound the rope and with no prompting from me, the dog gracefully leapt over the fence, headed to his vestibule, turned in a circle three times and settled himself on his blanket with a harumph.
I imagine it's a tough trade-off for a dog: An untethered, underfed, wild life chasing squirrels versus a domesticated life with a family to love and take care of him. Still, I hope he's able to catch the squirrels that visit him in his dreams. Then again, maybe not. I've seen what he does with his dog toys.
I started to write a Mother's Day blog last weekend, about my mom's sense of humour, (which is highly developed), but it went all over the place. I couldn't reign in the funny. Also, it made me think about my dad's good sense of humour which often functions on a different frequency than my mom's.
Dad is quick with the quips, especially the inappropriate ones geared directly at me, (his Archie Bunker impression never grows old, but it can be a little too good at times). His doesn't have the silliness that my mom's sense of humour does.
This is why I never finished the Mother's Day blog because my mind went off in all directions about senses of humour in my family. Like, anything with a range of diversity, my disclaimer is no sense of humour is superior to the other, they are just different. I'm not heralding one family trait to be better than the other. Celebrate the differences!
I think we're all agreed that having a sense of humour can save us in the tough times. Any kind of light at all can lead us out of darkness. When I think about my parents' sense of humour I can't help but think of their family histories and the ancestors on both sides. No shortage of hard times, but the stories that remain and are told, are punctuated with humour. That survives. It gets passed on, which is nice because I don't come from a family that is passing on any grand multi-hectare estates back in the homeland. Besides some furniture, objects and photographs, the stories are all we've got. Nothing wrong with that.
My mom had three brothers, the two of them who have died, were very funny. (Uncle Norman, I'm sorry if you are reading this, which I'm sure you're not, but I'm certain you would admit to being outplayed in the silliness and funny department by Victor and Brian. This doesn't mean I don't think you are funny too. You are also very good with a snowplough, an excellent skill to have, [see above disclaimer, celebrate the differences etc. etc..])
Uncle Victor was a master of spontaneous crooner lyrics. He had a melodic voice whether he was talking or singing. He was stylish and graceful with a robust sense of humour. He could make a song up about anything and deliver it with a twinkle in his eye. I hear his voice in my head still when I make up ridiculous names for my own dog, like he used to do with his beloved Tilly.
Uncle Brian was in a category all his own. He was a legend of my childhood. A great human package of fun. Being around him was always exciting. You never knew when he was going to say or do something outrageously funny. The story that best personifies this for me, is the time we were driving down a country road outside Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and he pulled the car over to ask some cows the time. He got out of the car and within earshot, carried on a one way conversation with the cows (a la Bob Newhart for those of you old enough to remember Bob) that was riveting and madly funny. Made even more so by my mom silently laughing uncontrollably beside me, smacking me as she does in that state, having her hands do the talking when her voice can't.
My mom is quick to laugh, because she loves to laugh. My father, as I've alluded to, has a different sense of humour, but no less developed. As I was writing this, I remembered in my youth stumbling upon an adult-sized, anatomically correct, male, white fuzzy bunny costume in our front hall closet. Amidst all the winter jackets. When I asked about it, I was told my father would be wearing the costume to an upcoming Halloween party. Nothing more was said about it. After the party, the costume disappeared. I'm glad to say, I never saw him in the bunny costume. (Good parenting decision Mom and Dad!)
That is a different kind of humour. It's louder than my mother's. It's one that takes ... ahem ... gonads. And therein lies the family jewels. (Sorry).
The first time my mother-in-law served me dinner, I'd known her less than a day, she hovered over a pot of rice with an ice cream scoop and asked me if I preferred 'one boob or two'. As I watched the breast shaped mounds of rice land on my plate, I noted that not only did Anne resemble my maternal grandmother, but she shared a similar wicked sense of humour. I felt at home.
Admittedly, I chose my mate, in part, because of this shared sense of humour. As a personality trait, I find humour pretty crucial. Like everything, it can be nurtured, but it helps to have a little in your blood.
Thirty years ago today Expo 86 opened in Vancouver, BC. For those of you who don't know, Expo 86 was the world's fair that came to Vancouver that fateful year of 1986. The scary thing I keep saying in my head is, "I can't believe that was 20 years ago."
Reality check, Crocker, 30 years ago.
A tangible reminder that it was 30 years ago is this photograph of me rocking it in my spandex-lycra, blue, sequinned custom made unitard, performing at the Plaza of Nations (note the flags). I wouldn't have been caught dead in that twenty years ago. Give me some credit.
It was a daytime performance. (I think they charitably opened up the plaza to community groups during the day). I vaguely remember my dance school may have won a lottery to get the chance to perform. Though I do think we had an edge because the song we danced to was, wait for it ... the Expo theme song, "Something's Happening Here".
In case you weren't there, or don't remember, I've imbedded the song below for you. You're going to want to jump to the 1:17 mark on the video to get to where our dance started. It starts softly, the excitement builds and wham! (no 80s pun intended) it's a full on World's Fair sound extravaganza.
Other Scintillating Expo 86 Liz Memories:
Oh yes Expo 86, something did happen and I was there.
You have to admit, Spirit of the West is a pretty damn good band name. This past weekend Spirit of the West played their last concerts at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. For me that is a potent mix of nostalgia on two fronts. My high school graduation dance was at the Commodore Ballroom and I saw Spirit of the West perform there years later when they were still at the height of their popularity. The bouncy dance floor came in handy on both nights.
But, things have changed. Spirit of the West is retiring, high school graduation is a distant memory and I no longer live in Vancouver.
All this reflection, also leads me to think about my first blog post, last March and how I came to finally start this blog. I've always written. It's how I make sense of the world. Poems, short stories, short plays, monologues, articles children's books, journalling. I've worked and played in all these genres.
One day in the midst of a dark time, I had a flash of insight while walking the dog. (I find dog walking good for fresh air and epiphanies in general) It occurred to me that if I could find my way back to the funnier self of my youth, and bring some of that energy into my current life, that could only be a good thing. As the saying goes, pain is inevitable suffering is optional. Life is what it is, but if you find something to make life sweeter, you should grab onto that. That's what I told myself anyway while picking up after the dog.
I knew that I could definitely use a little levity. It was, in a way, a reversal of that adage we often hear, "what advice would you tell your younger self?" I wanted to know what my younger self would say to this older, lost version of myself.
Striving to write humour seemed like a concrete way for me to find my way. The idea was cemented when I had a chance conversation with the older sister of my best friend from high school. Talking to Sue was like a jolt. She reminded me how silly her sister Sharon and I had been and how funny we were. It was refreshing to talk with someone who knew me before I was this grumpy partner/step-mom/mom/robotic person. I used to make people laugh. When I told Sue that day I didn't really do anything funny anymore she said, "you've got to bring back the funny."
I am well aware that life cannot be and is not all sweetness and light, but why not fill the in between with light? Yes, I thought I will bring back the funny. Maybe if I gave myself the space and time to write and think funny things again, it would bring some levity and lightness back into my life. And Dear Reader, I'm happy to report that it has. I have been having much fun writing funny things for you. Although I admit today's offering is not very funny. My humour writing practice has not solved the problems of the world, but it has improved my tiny, little world and for now that is enough.
Back in high school, (before my first bouncy night at the Commodore Ballroom), I had a creative writing teacher, named Mr. Holuboff. Mr. Holuboff encouraged me to write comedy. He encouraged us all to just write, but he actually seemed to think what I wrote was funny. Not always, but sometimes I could make him laugh. This was a revelation to me.
In Mr. Holuboff's creative writing class, we had to produce a short story every two weeks. There it was; the space and time to create. And a deadline. (Ah, let us have a moment of silence to honour the breadth of creativity induced by the holy deadline). If we didn't hand in our ten pages of writing (longhand) we didn't get a mark. And we had to read our work out loud. This was great writing practice.
My favourite part of that class was making Sharon laugh. She was my litmus test. If I could push Sharon into hysterics, I'd done my job. I'd run story ideas by her, see what reaction I'd get and proceed from there. That's probably why hearing her sister say 'bring back the funny' was so powerful. Sharon and Mr. Holuboff were my first audience.
Life is bittersweet. Spirit of the West retires, in part because the brilliant John Mann has early onset Alzheimer's. I wasn't at any of the last concerts, but by all accounts they were as raucous and vibrant as ever, with an additional layer of poignancy. I'd like to think I was there in spirit. I haven't bounced on that dance floor for a long time, but it's part of who I am.
I don't even do my own taxes. I hand them over to someone I assume knows what he (in this case) is doing. Still, no matter what good intentions I have, no matter what organizational methods I employ throughout the year, it is always a scramble for me to pull all the receipts together in a format suitable to hand over.
It doesn't matter if I bribe myself with lovely snacks and beverages and scintillating radio programs or music, or promise myself a grand reward when it's all done. It is always a chore to get myself remotely positioned to pull the receipts and notes together to hand over to the professionals.
I should note, until recently, I was self-employed for a very long time, which adds a ridiculous layer of complexity to the tax paying process. I mention this for those of you safely ensconced in employment, where you merely have to tick off some boxes and attach a few government documents. That is a completely different tax season experience! The self-employed, small business owners out there will understand what I'm talking about.
It doesn't help that spring beckons at tax season. At least it does where I live. Outside the blossoms are rioting for my attention. The birds are busy in their courtship rituals. Seeds are asking to be planted. Trails want to be hiked. I should have done this in the dead of winter when there were less distractions. Except in the winter I was busy with winter things.
Do you see the problem with the way I'm approaching the taxes? Don't worry, I will give you the answer.
I'm compartmentalizing. I'm treating my finances like they are a despised and separate part of my life. But, money, like relationships, requires tending. I need to nurture my relationship with money. I need to humanize it. I need Stephen Leacock.
In case you aren't familiar with him, Stephen Leacock was a Canadian writer and humourist. According to Wikipedia, between 1910 and 1925 he was the most widely read person in the English speaking world. He's not with us anymore, which is surprising as he once wrote:
"I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so.
I read Stephen Leacock's A, B and C on a plane recently and caused the poor passengers around me some distress. They already had enough to deal with. There was the constant cacophony of bawling babies and then a delay in cabin service. They did not need the woman in the last row by the bathrooms, (conveniently located adjacent to the queue), writhing in her seat, shoulders heaving, emitting muffled snorting sounds. That's disturbing at the best of times. Held captive in a metal flying tube at 30,000 feet, that's just not right.
In A,B and C, Leacock takes a literal journey with the imagined characters of text book math problems. It's inspired. Reading it confirms for me why we have a literary award for humour writing in Leacock's name.
Who's to say this won't help me with my taxes? Sometimes a little levity is just the trick we need to complete the onerous tasks. Wait, what I meant to say is, the cherished, significant work of our lives.
I was looking in the mirror the other day and I realized I was smirking like a pirate. I don't know how to explain it other than it was a bit Popeye. I know Popeye was a sailor man, not a pirate, but what is a pirate, if not a sailor man gone bad? It was a look I've seen on my father's face before. I should disclose here that some of my ancestors actually were pirates. To be more specific, my Crocker ancestors.
I rarely meet other Crockers on the west coast of Canada. It's not a common name here. I recently discovered that artist and writer, Emily Carr, had a pet crow that she named Crocker. But I don't think that counts. There's *Betty Crocker of course, and in the States there is Crocker Bank. It is only when I am on or near my native East Coast that I get nods of recognition to my name. In fact, I've been asked by the occasional flight attendant, on that last leg heading to Halifax, "Are you heading to Newfoundland?".
Newfoundland is where my branch of the Crocker family tree hail from. I've never met a Crocker I could be related to, except in Newfoundland, specifically Trout River. In Trout River, every second person you meet there is a Crocker and I'm related to all of them. We're all descended from George Crocker who landed there from Dorsetshire England about 1815. My grandfather was born there.
If you visit Trout River (and I highly recommend, it's stunningly beautiful), on the edge of Gros Morne National Park, (also a UNESCO world heritage site), you will find the Jake Crocker House. That is the house my grandfather was born in. The house is now an historic place because it represents the type of house people typically built in the area, back in the day.
In Newfoundland, the Crocker name is known outside of Trout River. Crockers did settle in other outports (settlements that were only reachable by boat). One of the things they're known for is being pirates or privateers (pirates for the Crown). Basically, some of my ancestors took money from the Queen or King of England to plunder vessels on the North Atlantic. It's a proud heritage.
Memories are long in Newfoundland. This was illustrated nicely when my husband visited Newfoundland several years ago on a business trip. When he told a woman in Cornerbrook that he was married to a Crocker, she spat out, "Crockers! Them pirates."
I was born on the east coast. In my early thirties, I decided I'd had enough of being rootless in the west. I packed up and transplanted myself to Nova Scotia on a personal heritage quest. I have deep roots in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on both sides of my family. My two grandmothers were still living and I wanted to spend some time with them. I wanted to write down their stories. Which I did. But I also needed a job while I was there and was fortunate enough to get one at Woozles bookstore in Halifax.
Woozles is a Halifax institution and one of the best bookstores in Canada. Woozles is also owned by Liz Crocker. The other Liz Crocker. We are not related. This Liz was not born a Crocker but married one (not the Newfoundland variety). When I applied to work there, I had to ensure the manager did not think it was a joke from the owner pretending to apply for a job.
But, in many ways Halifax is as far from Trout River as Vancouver is. Canada's maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI) do not include Newfoundland. Newfoundland is an island with its own distinct history and culture. During the year I spent on my heritage quest in Nova Scotia with my grandmothers, I visited Newfoundland for the first time.
My grandfather left Newfoundland when he was 15 years old. This was when the island was still a colony of England. When he sailed to Nova Scotia from Newfoundland that first time, he was 'going to Canada'. He stayed in Nova Scotia, met and married my grandmother, helped to raise three children and built an esteemed career as a master mariner. When Gramps died at 68 after living most of his life away, he asked to be buried in Trout River. As the joke goes, 'how can you tell a Newfoundlander in heaven?' They're the only ones who wants to go home.
That first time, driving into Trout River, then climbing the hills behind the town and looking over the protected natural harbour, I knew without a doubt why my grandfather had to be buried there. If you grew up there, then spent your adult life at sea and in Nova Scotia, every other harbour would pale in comparison. It's home.
The pirate blood still runs in 'us Crockers'. Just ask my mirror. These days though, it's content to reflectively remind me of where I come from. Though I can't speak for all the Crockers who live in Newfoundland. For all I know, they could be a bunch of pirates. For the record, I'm not related to those ones.
*Please note that my full name is Elizabeth Crocker. Betty is a nick name for Elizabeth, ergo propter hoc, my parents named me Betty Crocker. Yes, I do like to bake.
Misunderstandings are a common devise of comedy writers. A characters says something that is misinterpreted by another and a comedy of errors ensues. (Pun most definitely intended). When misunderstandings happen in real life, however, they are usually funny only after some time has passed. Beyond misunderstandings, it has often been stated that, "comedy is tragedy plus time".
What I have to recount here Dear Reader is in the vein of misunderstanding not tragedy. It only took about a day before I was able to tell this story with a smile, instead of a grimace. And so I begin.
It was a dark and stormy night. Kidding! Actually, it was early one morning, on an English train platform awaiting the train to Cardiff, when the conditions were ripe for this particular personal blunder. I was travelling alone with my daughter who was five at the time, to meet the rest of the family who were already in Wales. We'd flown all night from Vancouver. After listening to the carefully scripted, new age, useless, children's sleep-inducing meditation once, my daughter handed me her ipod and turned instead to the personal screen in front of her. She proceeded to watch the movie Bolt four times through before we landed at Gatwick airport. She fell asleep 20 minutes before we landed. Let's just say we were both very tired when we arrived.
We hopped our train at the airport and finally made it to our last stop before Wales, where we had about a 45 minute wait. Fortunately, we were travelling relatively light. But after the five year old fell asleep on my lap in one of those heavy deep sleeps that adds some mysterious physical weight to a child, that meant I was on my own to manoeuvre a suitcase on wheels, two small daypacks and the child herself slumped heavily on my hip and shoulder. There would be no waking her up.
As I sat on a bench waiting for our train, my first mistake in my weariness was not noticing we were waiting on a first class bench. Dear Reader I can assure you we were not travelling first class. Trying to stay awake so we didn't miss our damn train, I engaged in the people-watching that is ever rewarding at places of public transit. At this particular platform, I soon noticed a small group of people gathered who seemed to think themselves rather important. They just had an air about them.
I should back up. First I noticed the English bobbies. A couple of police officers appeared and circled around two women who, strangely, did not have any luggage. Why were the police here I wondered. Why did these women not have any luggage? One of them merely clutched a plastic bottle of water.
Feeling cranky I began to weave uncharitable stories about these women in my mind. They did pace about that platform as though they owned it. Who did they think they were? Royalty? They seemed to think they were going to be first on the train. First! Can you imagine? When I'd been waiting there before them with my sleeping child.
I noticed that one of the belt loops on the dress of the woman with the water bottle, had come undone and was hanging off at her side uselessly. (I want to state for the record that the belt loop looked as though it had popped off due personal negligence, not because of any weight gain.) That's when I realized this red headed woman looked familiar. I actually couldn't remember her name in my weariness, but I did place her. She was famous all right but that did not mean she was getting on that train before me. I needed to get on that train first. The sooner I got on that train, the sooner I got to Auntie Megan's house, a cup of tea and good long nap.
The train thundered into the station grandly as they do. I staggered to standing with my hundred plus pounds of child and baggage, and positioned myself on the platform near the famous woman and her entourage. I did not at this time bud in front of her mind you, I just stood closely. I silently let her know I knew what her game was and she was not going to win.
Passengers got off. That's when I made my move. I gave the famous woman a scowl that said, no nannies or handlers here sweetheart. I'm doing this on my own. Now move aside! I'm not exaggerating when I say the famous woman and her people did move aside. I must have looked half-crazed, determined to get on the train first with my heavy load. I would have moved aside too. (You know what train stations are like for crazy people.) I heaved myself, my daughter and our luggage up, onto the train step. One more step and we were on board. We were on the train! I half-heartedly glanced back to see my platform mates were getting ready to board, now that the coast was clear.
The problem that soon became apparent was that we were on the wrong car. Once you get up in the train, there are signs posted everywhere. THIS IS FIRST CLASS. IF YOU DON'T HAVE A FIRST CLASS TICKET YOU CAN'T SIT HERE. MOVE ALONG TO THE BACK OF THE TRAIN PLEASE. The signs may not say exactly that, but that is what I recall.
Gritting my teeth, my head and shoulders slumped under the physical and emotional weight of my baggage and my blunder, I slowly made the walk of shame to the economy cars. When we arrived in Cardiff, our happy family was glad to see us but they were more excited that Sarah, the Duchess of York, had gotten off the train before us. Had we seen her? Did we know she was on the same train? As we made our way past the TV and newspaper crews, all I could grumble was, "Yeah, I saw her."
Hello Dear Reader,
I have been away. Away in a tropical paradise. It sounds cliché to call it that, but it was tropical and felt like paradise (and that's not just the mai tais talking), so I'm sticking with that. I had planned to produce extra blogs before I left so you wouldn't miss me. But, if I had a GoPro attached to my head in the days leading up to this trip, you would be laughing now as hysterically as I am at that idea. There was just no way that was going to happen.
But I'm back and feeling restored to full health. Not that I was sick, just every nerve was frayed and I needed a break. This is, I guess, why people vacation. Something I haven't done all that much. I don't consider family vacations, in which we visit more family, a vacation. (Sorry extended family in far away places, I love you, visiting is fun and heart warming, but not restful. You know what you're like).
This trip was restful. I read books, I swam, snorkelled, hiked, played in the sand. It was even sometimes hard to read because of the scenery. I was reminded of an Irishman I met on a trip to Greece once, who said that Santorini was so beautiful, 'you can't read books". Then he illustrated what he meant. He'd start reading a line or two and then have to look up, stare at the ocean and sigh. The view kept interrupting his reading. It was just like that where I was.
I even got to a previously unimaginable place about two days before we left: I felt a bit bored of swimming and lying around.
I did! Can you believe that? When the idea struck me, I thought 'Well, Crocker, you've made it now. Have another mai tai'.
I think this trip also played out my childhood fantasy of being restored like Clara in my favourite kid book Heidi by Johanna Spyri. I've always been a sucker for stories of redemption and restoration. As a kid, I re-read Heidi so many times I lost count. For some reason I was mesmerized how the sickly Clara was nursed back to health by the clean air of the Alps, Heidi's robust spirit and Grandfather's goat cheese. What grandfather's goat cheese was to Clara, the beaches of Maui were to me.
Also, I saw my husband in a new and refreshing light. One day on this trip, I mistook him for a marine mammal. I think that's good for a marriage. This isn't a beached whale reference. No, I was swimming and glimpsed the end of a flipper further out at sea just submerging, about 50 metres away from me. Of course I scoured the horizon waiting for something to surface. Was it a seal? Do they have sea lions in Hawaii? It wasn't big enough to be a whale. What was that? And then up popped a snorkeler's head. There he was, the guy I'm married to. I didn't even know he was out there.
It's also refreshing to lose track of someone who is usually underfoot or who you are trying to track down to complete various household tasks. Always good to see the people close to you from a new perspective. It's too bad he can't snorkel here. He's a happy snorkeler. As I am a happy warm ocean swimmer. (I love where I live, but Lord the water is cold here. You can only stay out so long in a wet suit after your ankles go numb.)
One more thing before I leave you. I was browsing my blog on my phone while away and I noticed not only a slew of typos and punctuation errors, but on the mobile version, my full name, Elizabeth, is credited. I'm not sure why that is, but I will get to the bottom of both issues. I don't know why the errors were more visible in the mobile version. Perhaps I need to proof in that format. I apologize for the typos and punctuation. That is not OK.
I will make myself a mai tai and spend an afternoon fixing things up. Probably, I should have the mai tai after. Don't fear. I'll do it in that order.