Friday, November 14, 2008

No I don't want to join a book club

- Virginia Ironside 2006, Penguin Books

This diary is what happens when grumpy old women meet Bridget Jones. Too young to get whisked away by a Stannah Stairlift or to enjoy the luxury of a walk-in bath (but not so much that she doesn’t enjoy comfortable shoes), Marie is, all the same, getting on in years – and she’s thrilled about it! She’s a bit preoccupied about whether to give up sex – “ouch! Ouch! Ouch!’ – but there are compensations, like falling in love all over again – but this time with her baby grandson, Gene.

When friends suggest she join a book club as she turns sixty, she says, “Book club people always seem to have to wade through Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or, groan, The God of Small Things. They feel they’ve forever got to poke their brain with a pointed stick to keep it working. But either you’ve got a lively brain or you haven’t. And anyway, I don’t want to be young and stimulated any more. I want to start doing old things, not young things.”

Pouncer is her close companion. He’s a cat. After her bunion operation, she’s wearing two great blue flip-flops and her feet are covered in bandages. "Pouncer took one look and arched his back and spat at them. I think he thought I’d brought home two new strange pets. To Sainsbury’s to buy some fish, and some special food they do that Pouncer likes. At least he liked it last week. It’s funny with cats."

At her birthday party, Lucy asks, “do you feel any different?” Marie says, “yes, I do. I feel absolutely marvelous. It’s clear now that I was born to be sixty. And to be honest, I can’t wait to be seventy.”

Maciej, her Polish cleaning man, is falling in love with her French boarder, Michelle, who doesn’t or won’t speak much English. Her friend Penny, the hypochondriac, thinks she has VD now, and soon to have AIDS. Long discussions about condoms continue. Archie, an old boyfriend, is still attractive …. Hmmmm.

Her best and longest friends are a gay couple. Hughie is dying with AIDS. He’s quite philosophical and in good humour about death. “Getting rather past my sell-by date, I’m afraid.” James is quite falling apart and can’t comprehend what life would be like without him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Too Young to Fight

Memories of our Youth during World War II

Stoddart Publishing 1999
compiled by Priscilla Galloway

A collection from some of Canada's best-loved writers of children's literature. The contributors were children and teenagers during World War II.

Joy Kogawa, author of Obasan writes of experiences with her family at the detention camp in Slocan, British Columbia. Taken from their home in Vancouver to "relocation" camps in the interior of the province. Rounded up as "enemies", Japanese Canadians from up and down B.C. were housed temporarily inside the horticultural barns at Hastings Park in Vancouver before being sent to the camps.

"When we first arrived, we didn't have enough food. All that first morning, Mama, Tim, and I waddled through the forest on our haunches, like three ducks, picking dandelion leaves. Then back home at our newspaper-lined hut, Mama burnt sticks, making ashes, then ash water, in which she soaked the leaves overnight to get the bitterness out of them."

Roch Carrier describes rationing. "To control the consumption of gasoline, sugar, butter, meat, and flour, the government issued coupons to present to the merchants. Without coupons it was impossible to buy those goods."

I remember a bit of this ... collecting stuff to take to school ... drippings from cooking fatty meats were collected in tin cans. We joked about bringing our "fat cans" to school. My mum canned summer fruits without sugar. I think she tried saccharine. It was horrid, and we didn't eat it.

There are stories from eleven writers here. At this time each year in mid November, we read them again and remember.