Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Do coots drink more than other birds?

Image from All About Birds

I love the Serpentine marsh at dusk, when the birds come in to land. Geese, ducks, herons, and coots.

"Drunk as a coot," Mom used to say, twitching the curtain to watch Dad get out of a cab on his return from an evening at the Legion. I didn't know what a coot was -- some kind of boozing man, obviously, was my natural conclusion at the time.

Many years passed before I discovered that a coot was a bird resembling a black duck. But why was this bird's name used as a term of censure against drunkenness, I wondered. Why not drunk as a duck, or a goose? Seeing coots in the Serpentine Fen, I recalled all this and decided to find out.

According to the democratic underground, the expression relates back to a drunk man and not a duck. Cooter Brown, nicknamed Coot, stayed drunk for the duration of the American Civil War. Since he had relatives in both camps, he remained permanently inebriated to avoid giving his fighting loyalty to one side or the other.

This makes a certain kind of sense. It also explains why all the coots I've seen, including  the one in the picture, have been stone cold sober.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Leaden line of sky and sea

Walking at Crescent Beach in yesterday's rain, I looked at the familiar leaden line between sea and sky that we see when the clouds lie low.

Almost nobody on the beach; those who were there had dogs.

I figured out why there are two higher unofficial footpaths between the promenade and the strand: in places, the main gravel walkway was a series of shallow lakes.

Spring tulips on West Beach

Nothing bespeaks mid-spring like tulips. This gorgeous bed is located along Marine Drive in White Rock.

The orange flowers are in full fig, but in this year of very early spring blooms, the yellow ones are already past their prime.

This striking arrangement is made lovelier by its position at the bottom corner of a sloping lawn.

The tulips are framed by a low edging of heather, and the shaped trees behind them provide a backdrop of elegant formality.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Birds in the Serpentine Fen

Left: For the duration of my evening walk in the bird sanctuary, this bald eagle kept watch from his perch high in a cottonwood tree.


Right: Ducks land in the pond for the evening.
Below: a small footbridge leads into the heart of the wetlands sanctuary.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Historic dolls Topsy and her brother Moses

I hate getting rid of dolls, because a part of me believes they are alive. Topsy and Moses are two childhood companions that I unearthed when going through boxes downstairs recently. I still can't part with them.

According to collector Kathy Winchester, this Topsy was made by Reliable Dolls around 1950. Her name comes from the intrepid girl character in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

This place is now a historic site commemorating the terminus of the Underground Railroad taken by slaves who escaped to Canada. Author Harriet Beecher Stowe was inspired by the memoirs of Reverend Josiah Henson.

As a child, I knew little of the history or politics of Topsy. To me, she was just another doll friend. Much later, in high school, I learned about the Underground Railway when we sang "Follow the Drinking Gourd," a folk song which describes how escaping slaves navigated by the Big Dipper as they travelled beneath the night sky toward freedom.

I made the clothes these dolls are wearing. Topsy's rubber pigtails once had ribbon bows. She's a child and he's a baby, though they're the same size. Moses, newer, has flexible arms and legs, eyes that close when he lies down and a hole in his mouth for his bottle.

In our imaginary world, Moses was Topsy's younger sibling. What memories are evoked by these two, the youngest of a large doll family. My sister once told me Topsy came from "Dopenady" (an adoption agency). That explained why her skin colour differed from that of her white siblings.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Grandmotherly artifact

My maternal grandmother was an invalid in later life. Yet she bore seven children who all survived, and had my youngest aunt and uncle against the advice of her doctor. After that, a congenital heart condition kept Nanny upstairs in bed at the house on Boncloddy Street.

When I was a baby, my mother took my sister and me from her home on our Alberta farm to visit Nanny and Pop Pitcher. I spend a lot of time with my grandparents. "Bop" fed me cheese and I grew so fond of him that on the way home to Alberta, I escaped my mother in Toronto to follow a man I thought was Bop.

I also enjoyed sharing the "bapes" that were brought to Nanny in recognition of her invalid status. This is what remains of her fruit basket, the only memento I have of my long-dead grandmother. The wicker sides crumbled away long ago.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The White Rock on a blustery walk

The mood of the white rock on a day of blustering rain stood in sharp contrast to how it looks when the sky and sea are serene and blue.

On days like this,there's hardly a soul on the beach.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Late magnolia cheers wet return of wet walker

I like going to the beach to walk, and I also enjoy walking in Bear Creek Park, where I can stop on my way home and walk around the garden in 25 minutes or so.

Some days it rains hard and I venture no further than a nearby path along the other side of the creek that backs our property. That walk takes just twenty minutes.

Yesterday the path was so wet that my boots got squelchy and I decided to come along the sidewalk home.

On such an occasion, I felt it was important to enjoy my late magnolia tree, now well established and just coming into bloom. The rich purple cheered my eye after the dark and heavy rain soaked my parka right through.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Context: things I didn't know I knew

Image from All About Beethoven

"Context is everything," I used to tell my ESL Academic Prep students. Logic, sense and meaning come from the context.

Part of my context is living for a long time within a certain culture and society. Because I know my native language so well, when reading or listening I often foresee the next word or phrase. 

Singing in the Willan Choir also involves a lot of context. Now that we've finished our performance of Beethoven's Ode to Joy with the NWSO, we're moving on to new music. I was nervous, because the next lot of music was completely unknown to me.

At choir practice the other night, we did a read through of the music we'll be learning. To my surprise, though I didn't know the melodies, and read music poorly, I had an accurate sense, a feeling of where the music was going before it went there. Dido and Aeneas, here I come!

These two examples are probably just the tip of the iceberg.We all know so much we are not conscious of knowing.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The silvery shimmer of a spring sky

These clouds are typical of a spring day in the Lower Mainland.

Each place on earth has its own kind of light. Until I visited France, I didn't comprehend the nature of the light in French Impressionist paintings. 

The appearance of the sky hints at latitude, location and climate zone. I grew up in Northern BC, where November brought cold weather and evening skies with a unique purple colouring that expressed the season: early winter in the North, but before the first snow.

The sky tells of the approach of snow too, for those who are interested and observant enough. A good nose also helps detect the season's first snow, perceptible as a scent in the air before blankets the ground.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Naturalized hyacinths add spring colour to berm

A walk in Bear Creek Park is an adventure of floral discovery. These naturalized hyacinths provide colour and fragrance on a berm beside a service area where soil and compost are kept near the trail, handy for garden maintenance.




Saturday, March 21, 2015

Periwinkle blue

Periwinkles provide spring colour and interest beside this granite stone. This tough ground cover does well in Lower Mainland gardens.



Friday, March 20, 2015

Cherry bloom against a spring sky

The flowering cherries on the right are in Bear Creek Park, but the cherry blossom is a Vancouver area spring classic, as is this swirly gray spring sky.

Even after the twenty-odd years we've lived happily in Surrey, it's one thing I miss about Vancouver spring. The city even holds an annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

There is something magical about the blocks upon blocks of mature cherry trees blossoming on many of Vancouver's residential streets. In our old neighbourhood, the blocks of 2nd and 3rd Avenue immediately east of Renfrew have rows of delightful old cherry trees. 

In many areas, Vancouver cherries have been planted so that as one variety finishes its bloom time, another begins.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tulips have a fascinating history

The arrival of tulips in the flower boxes on the White Rock symbolize spring.

Though we tend to associate this flower with Holland, the tulip gets its name from the Turkish word for turban, or the gauze used to fashion it.  Tulips were brought to Europe from Anatolia and Iran in the 16th century. In Turkish legend, red tulips symbolize perfect love. They are also emblematic of Turkey.

Locally, tulips are the subject of a festival that will take place next month in Agassiz, a small farming community famed for tulip culture.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym

Cover image by amazon, from Moyer Bell 2002 edition

British novelist Barbara Pym died in 1980, but her comic spirit lives on. Indeed she is now the subject of the Barbara Pym Society, which meets annually at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. In 2002 Moyer Bell reissued this 1961 novel and some of her others.

The story centres around a woman working on the "seedier fringes of the academic world." Dulcie Mainwaring attends an editing conference to distract herself from a broken engagement.

When Aylwin Forbes, a handsome middle-aged academic, faints in the midst of his keynote address on "Some problems of editors," Dulcie stands ready to help.

Soon, she begins to fantasize about him. She also meets Viola, an editor who informs her that she happens "to know him rather well." Viola is doing an index for a book Aylwin has written on an extremely obscure poet. She informs Dulcie that he is married, but only "in a sense," revealing that Marjorie, his much younger wife, has gone home to her mother.

Aylwin Forbes is hopelessly immature. Yet although Dulcie sees his flaws, she cannot stop her sympathetic heart from warming to him. Viola, too has ideas about him. However, he makes a point of avoiding her, even when she offers to do his index for free.

Dulcie's young niece Laurel comes to stay with her aunt, and later, Viola too moves in with Dulcie. The two older ladies begin to spy on Aylwin Forbes, and eventually Dulcie finds a reason to ask him to dinner. Instead of showing appropriate interest in either of the academic women, Forbes takes a fancy to the nineteen-year-old niece. Laurel finds it amusing but ridiculous when he pursues her and eventually proposes, particularly as he is still married to Marjorie.

Much of the hilarity of this novel concerns the stultifying behavioural rules. However, Dulcie breaks some of these. When she meets Aylwin while strolling on the beach, she surprises herself by accusing him of always wanting "such unsuitable wives." Aylwin defends himself lightly, but Dulcie presses the point: it's time he made a sensible marriage. She is horrified by the thought that she might be "putting herself forward as a possible candidate," which of course she is.

Aylwin is stopped in his tracks by this sincerity, thinking that "nice Miss Mainwaring" may have "hidden depths." In fact he realizes he is "almost afraid of her."

Dulcie, on the other hand, wonders "how we could ever carry on everyday life" if people said what they really thought. She sits "humbly" in the beach shelter, unsure of "what could have made her talk to Aywin Forbes like that."

Pym spoofs the rigidity and insincerity of social intercourse in many brilliant lines. She refers to the housekeeper's "off-hand tone" as "a sure indication of umbrage having been taken." On one occasion, the sympathetic Dulcie wonders why Aylwin is "talking in this odd pseudo-Henry-Jamesian way." Is it "an affectation, the outcome of his sojourn in Italy," or does it "indicate real uncertainty of mind?"

Aylwin himself, upon learning that Laurel is now his neighbour, "decides against a chance encounter at the bus stop" but wonders "whether a chance evening encounter might not be arranged." When he contrives to meet her alone, he murmurs "romantic phrases" and moves his hands "with practised skill." Instead of claiming that his wife doesn't understand him, he tells Laurel that he doesn't understand his wife, which she perceives as "a new line and rather effective."

In Pym's world, even thoughts are conventional. For those who live behind the "thickets of net curtains," there's a "perfunctory tone" to invitations. Women dress with "uncompromising dowdiness" or exhibit "frowsty bohemianism."  At a seaside hotel, Dulcie sadly observes the "hopeless resignation that people on holiday so often seem to have."

This is a society where "change is a bad thing." The "absence of Sunday papers is deeply felt," and the fact of Viola wears red canvas shoes makes her appear "eccentric or even unhinged." In his hotel room, Aylwin puts the gin bottle in the cupboard because it does not look right on the dressing table.

Sadly, "weeds grow, even in a religious community." Dulcie encounters the handsome Neville Forbes, Aylwin's vicar brother, wandering around his mother's country hotel in his cassock, where he had fled a woman parishioner who made a scene. Dulcie observes that this "white-toothed blue-rinsed clergyman," is "unable even to wait tables." She also reflects that non-churchgoers often accuse those who attend church of "uncharitableness."

Fortunately things look brighter near the end the book. When Viola gets engaged to a Viennese businessman, we learn that "The sight of a foaming champagne bottle can produce laughter and gaiety even in a suburban drawing room."

The novel closes on a note of hope. Dulcie Mainwaring is blessed, after all, with money, a house and an education (even though her housekeeper disapprovingly wonders what it will lead to). The final lines suggest that Miss Mainwaring may be about to get over her notion that it is "safer to live in the lives of other people," and begin to occupy her own life.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The thrill of watching the orchestra conductor's face

Image: New Westminster Symphony Orchestra

One of the most rewarding activities I've taken up recently is singing for the Willan Choir at VCC.
Directed by our delightful Patricia Plumley, we joined our voices with the Douglas College Singers in the Centennial Concert of the NWSO.

What a thrill to sing on stage surrounded by all that wonderful music. Until our final rehearsals, I'd only ever seen how a symphony conductor works from the back.

Yesterday afternoon I enjoyed watching the expressive face and hands of magician Jack (Jin) Zhang as he  coaxed music from our very souls.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

Image of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr from Wikipedia

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This epigram by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr was first published in 1849. It continues to prove itself today.

Take the attitude toward science. In the Age of Reason, science developed as a calmly rational method of inquiry. Over time, it evolved into hardened set of beliefs. This idea, expounded by Rupert Sheldrake, has caused some emotional attacks on him.

Let's face it. Humans are irrational. They believe what they like, and prop up their ideas by being careful to hang out with those who understand the "truths" that others consider "delusions."

In an article called "The Misinformation Age," reprinted by the Vancouver Sun on March 7, Tom Spears, Science Reporter for the Ottawa Citizen, shows how many people disagree with scientific "facts." For example, he cites an Angus Reid poll stating that although scientists consider the measles vaccine safe, 28% of Canadians distrust it.

In the same article, Spears discusses a US study commissioned by The American Association for the Advancement of Science. The CEO of that organization says the poll shows that science is being "trumped" by individual ignorance, along with personal economic and religious belief systems. Perhaps the significant idea here is belief systems. It is so much easier to adopt ready- made systems of belief than to laboriously evolve one's own knowledge and thought.

Moreover, in the age of the internet, most people have little idea of how to assess the landslides of information that come at them daily. Many handle the resulting overwhelm, and the challenges of the new technology, by gathering like-minded internet communities around them, venturing outside these insular belief clubs only to direct emotional attacks against those who disagree.

As philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory, 3rd Ed.) explains, people holding vastly different belief systems cannot have rational discussions as they are arguing from "incommensurable premises."

A fascinating aspect of all this is the psychological truism that, as Spears says, our beliefs are "very personal, and resistant even to overwhelming evidence." Contradicting those who are wrong or misguided simply doesn't work. In fact it tends to make their views more entrenched.

Charles Weijer, a philosopher, physician and bioethicist from Western University, says that science is based on trust. Although opposition to it is not new, it is becoming more widespread as stories abound of the misuse, faking and suppression of scientific evidence.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Steel Magnolias bloom in White Rock

Tonight will be the final performance in White Rock.

Directed by Wendy Bollard, Steel Magnolias is a creation of Peninsula Productions. Six wisecracking women befriend one another through thick and thin. The action takes place during four scenes in a hairdressing salon in small town Louisiana a quarter century ago. The steel magnolias are tough but tender women who stick together through hard times.

The first act is filled with hilarious one-liners. Some are familiar, but still funny. Offstage, someone's husband shoots blanks to scare birds from his trees. These ladies shoot from the hip. One warns, "Don't try to get on my good side; I no longer have one." Another informs her husband on the telephone "If you're trying to drive me crazy, you're too late."

Salon owner Truvy hires a hairdresser who has just arrived in town. When pressed, Annelle tells the boss her troubles, then solemnly promises that "my personal tragedy will not affect my ability to do good hair."

Enduring the weather in Las Vegas is "like living in a blow dryer," and "an ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure." The wealthiest and grouchiest of the ladies believes that the only reason people talk to her is because she has "more money than God."

In a familiar theatrical trope, the second act moves into heavy drama. Young Shelby, a diabetic who gave birth in spite of her doctor's warnings, suffers from kidney failure and her mother decides to donate a kidney for transplantation.

I'd never seen the 1989 movie, with its star-studded cast including the young Southern belle Julia Roberts. I really enjoyed this play. Tonight is the final performance: 8:00 at Coast Capital Playhouse in White Rock.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pink magnolias grace entrance to Bear Creek Park

At the entrance to Bear Creek Gardens, pink and white magnolias display their delicate blooms.

The foreground tree is a magnolia stellata, or star magnolia. 

These trees will grow in sun to part shade and neutral soil. Like other magnolias, this type bursts into flower in early spring. The leaves come later.

When I was studying first year at UBC, oh so many years ago, we read Antigone. 

A line that has stuck with me conveyed the sensation of being seated in a garden, with magnolia petals falling on one's shoulders. That key opened the door to a fictional room of wonder, and as a result I discovered real magnolias.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

White magnolia drops a carpet of petals


Seen across the tracks from the beach promenade, this white magnolia is already casting off petals from its early wealth of spring blossom.

For the passengers on landward side of the Amtrak, it must be a momentary glimpse into magic as the train crosses that half-wild green hill between East and West Beach.

Behind this tree, we can glimpse a palm peeping over its shoulder.  Certain kinds of palms now thrive well north of its natural habitat on this, among the most southerly of Canadian coastlines.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wild currants flowering in Bear Creek Park

In the natural areas of Bear Creek Park, these currants add to the plant cover, along with edible saskatoons, salmon berries, and more.

In the past, people picked wild berries for food. Now, few bother with most wild fruits, although some do wrestle with the thorny brambles to get in on the bumper crops of different kinds of wild blackberries that the Lower Mainland produces between August and October each year.

Currants have a high pectin content. Cooked into jam with raspberries or strawberries, they add thickness as well as a pleasing tartness. Note: please don't eat unidentified wild berries.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym

Image from Amazon

This comic novel of manners evokes postwar London in shoddy details, dreary events, petty gossip and brilliant prose.

The story is told from the point of view of Wilmet Forsyth, young wife of Rodney. Wilmet does not work, but seeks diversion in the doings of her High Anglican Church, St. Luke's, which seems to contribute more to fashion rivalry and social climbing than spiritual comfort.

As the handsome young Father Ransome enjoys a glass of sherry with Wilmet, Barbara Pym gives him one of the novel's finest comic lines, "...it's the trivial things that matter, isn't it?"

This comment follows a story of jealousy over cassocks. The minister who owns the garment in question fiercely resents his colleague putting it on, even by mistake, as "it was specially made for him at an ecclesiastical tailor's."

Wilmet and her husband Rodney live contentedly in the house of his mother Sybil, close to his work at the Ministry. Taking a Portuguese class with her mother-in-law, Wilmet nurses a crush on the instructor, Piers Longridge, the brother of her old friend Rowena.

The two women were WRENS together in the war. Now Rowena and her husband Harry have children. Rowena worries about her brother Piers, who is handsome, but moody and inclined to drink too much, and asks her friend to keep and eye on him. Wilmet lunches with Piers a couple of times and begins to imagine that he's in love with her.

With Rowena's knowledge and approval, she also lunches with Harry, who flirts with her. Idly, she goes for tea at the clergy house with the main object of seeing the interior of this all-male household. There the snobbish male housekeeper shows her the old priest's study, littered with valuable art treasures. One of these is a Faberge egg, which he blatantly steals.

In a further adventure, Wilmet finds herself donating blood at a clinic located in a crypt. She also makes friends with the excellent but dowdy Mary, a dutiful church worker who needs her help to shop for more attractive clothing.

Through the course of her mainly idle days, Wilmet manages to fulfill her ambition of seeing inside Piers's flat. She invites his unusual roommate to tea, and learns that Mary has a surprising future in store. Experiencing these and other small daily dramas, our protagonist discovers something unexpected about her mother-in-law, her husband, and even herself.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Grape Hyacinths

Muscari blooms in the beds at White Rock Pier. Hardy and blue, these mid-spring flowers grow and spread easily from bulbs. They can thrive under shrubs, as they are doing here, tucked in beneath a huge clump of euphorbia.

These little flowers resemble hyacinths, but are about the size of small grapes. Hence the name.

The word hyacinth comes from the Greek hyakinthos, but it pre-dates Hellenic times. Jacinth, a variant, is an old name for a precious stone, likely zircon, possibly sapphire. This gem was believed to protect against the evil eye.

According to the Greek myth, the hyacinth sprang from the blood of the youthful Spartan Prince Hyakinthos, after he was struck in the head and killed by a thrown discus.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The white rock of White Rock

On the beach below the treed hillside that divides East Beach from West Beach lies the eponymous white rock. I managed to catch it at a rare moment when nobody was climbing on it or getting pictures taken beside it.

The southern city of White Rock has a gorgeous seaside promenade and a long wooden pier -- perfect for walking at every season of the year.

Strolling beside the tracks, one often sees freight trains, or the Amtrak passenger that rolls by every evening around six, en route to Seattle, Portland, Eugene, and points south.

The White Rock, like the Bear at the far end of East Beach, makes a great landmark for walkers. It is also enormous enough, and white enough to be seen from afar.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The bear statue at White Rock

At the East Beach end of the White Rock promenade, this enormous granite bear looks out over his watery dominions, seen here at low tide.

As  his well-rubbed coat and nose show, those who come here like to stroke him for luck.

Kids climb on him, people get their pictures taken beside him, and walkers take a turn round him before heading back along the beach.

Called Grizlee, the statue has stood here for 15 years as a memorial placed by a father, Frank Slavin, for his son Lee.


Friday, March 6, 2015

White magnolia blooms against White Rock Library

What can I say? The beauty of this white magnolia against the peerless blue of the sky speaks for itself.

The magnolias are early this year. On the central median of 138th Street south of 72nd, some of the pinkish purple tulip trees have nearly completed their cycle of bloom. Now they can begin to leaf.

Elsewhere, the furry buds of all kinds of magnolias are preparing to pop any day.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hyacinths, Versailles style

These lovely hyacinths have been planted within shaped beds surrounded by box hedges.

This style of planting evokes the formal gardens of the French Royal Palace of Versailles.

When I recall my long-ago visit to Versailles, I see the image of the palace's numerous mirrors, which were somewhat spotty, like my memories of that visit nearly forty years ago.

I found the palace, with its elaborate decor and furnishings, impossibly ornate. The gardens were breathtaking.

This flower bed, located in White Rock, BC, Canada, is one of many that imitates the Versailles style.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bear Creek in early spring

A creek is a lovely thing to see on a spring walk. Bear Creek reflects the sky, hinting at approaching warm weather.

We drive across this one whenever we travel north from home, but rarely stop to take a closer look.

Creeks change every day. A couple of months ago, this one was in full spate, the water so high it almost touched the underside of the bridge I stood on to take this picture.

Now the water flows low, slow and clear. Soon the banks will be choked with brambles and wild orchids, and later, there will be blackberries.

In the fall, there will be salmon swimming upstream to spawn and die in their home streams, a yearly miracle visible to anyone who pauses long enough to look.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hellebores flower in formal gardens

In Bear Creek Park's formal gardens, white and purple clumps of hellebores are bravely in bloom. These flowers are sometimes called by misleading and contradictory names: Christmas roses or Lenten roses.

Early and rugged, these hellebores are fully in flower. Unfortunately they're a bit shy, and keep their faces pointed downward.

Hellebores are now fashionable houseplants. Plants can purify the air in your home, advises David Suzuki, but Robert Pavlis disagrees.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Salmonberry blossoms

This year we're enjoying an early spring. Already the salmonberries are blossoming along the woodland trails of Bear Creek Park.

What lovely memories these early pink blooms evoke. As children, we waited through the long dark season of the Skeena Valley for the first signs of colour.

One late winter we came across mossy logs like those in this picture. Excited by the magic of this unseasonal green, we kept the new place secret, and gave it a magical epithet, "where the grass grows green in the winter time."

Oh the joy of seeing those long-awaited early spring salmon berry blossoms. Then there was the slow passage through spring until we could finally eat wild berries.

Back then, it seemed to take forever for one season to pass into the next. Now each season whirls by so quickly I feel I have barely time to take it in.

This month, I plan to walk each day, look closely at what spring has to show those who pause and observe. And record my findings in this blog.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ale's Stanes and Kurt Wallander


Image from raa.se

Funny how we find out about things that interest us. I learned of the existence of this ancient monument from a Swedish TV series. As I watched the shows, I also listened with interest to the Swedish, which was spoken as a native tongue by my grandfather. I even learned a few phrases. To my surprise, "Ring me" in English sounded almost the same in Swedish.

Ales stenar,  as they are called in Swedish, form a large ship-shaped monument consisting of 59 megalithic stones, the end ones being larger than the rest. This "Swedish Stonehenge" is located near Ystad, on the southern coast of the Swedish province of Skane, where my granddad grew up.

The town of Ystad is the setting for Henning Mankell's highly successful Wallander series. Featuring Krister Henriksson as the gloomy Kurt Wallander, this series has been wildly popular. The Ystad police team includes Kurt's daughter Linda, along with the unkempt Martinsson, the unsmiling forensic expert, Nyberg, and the intrepid front desk woman Ebba, whose job description expands to caring for Kurt's dog Jussi, named, incidentally, after an opera singer.

I love the series above all for its brilliant characterizations and story arcs. There is a lot of violence and hair-raising suspense, counterbalanced by the beautiful landscapes of Skane. 

This series has been so successful that BBC made a British series, filmed in Skane, and featuring Kenneth Branagh as the depressive but brilliant Detective Chief Inspector Wallander.

None of this has anything to do with Ale's Stones, except that the stone monument is featured in one of the shows.