Of Rollers and Royals

December 31, 2010

E.g., Mary Ann, and Ginger are the respective daughters of three sisters — Rose, Theodora, and Helen — and are thus first cousins to one another. Mary Ann was born and raised here in rural New Brunswick, grew up on a farm, and married a farmer. Ginger was raised on a different sort of farm: a plantation in Kenya. She speaks “kitchen Swahili”, as she calls it, has retained her parents’ British accent, and married a successful public relations expert. E.g. was raised in a Saint John suburb, has travelled the world, and married nobody. Like their mothers, all three women are bright, talented, modest, considerate, and friendly. I like them all.

So for this Christmas, besides painting four greeting cards for Rose, I painted two each for Mary Ann and Ginger. Mary Ann received the cards showing the Grosbeak and the Tanager that you’ve already seen. Rose’s cards included a Cardinal and an Atlantic Puffin, neither of which you’ll ever see because I forgot to photograph them (wah!).

The route to Ginger’s present was more zigzagged. I’ve been reading Sir Thomas Malory’s stories of King Arthur, and one morning I decided to paint the dragon of which Arthur dreams, that presages his reinstatement as Holy Roman Emperor. Here’s the beast now, straight out of Turtle’s feverish brain, displaying both birdliness and an eerie resemblance to Marlon Brando in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof:

Now, if there’s one surefire topic on this side of the family, it’s the Royals. With Prince William’s wedding date set, I thought Ginger might appreciate this card hearkening back to England’s “first” king.

The second card was a challenge. In the library, I found a book on Kenyan wildlife. It’s forty years old, and the colour photographs have deteriorated. Still, how hard could it be to draw and paint a Lilac-breasted Roller or a Superb Starling?


After two attempts at the Roller, I gave up in despair. The shading didn’t make sense, the colours didn’t work together. I just couldn’t “get” this one. And I was running out of time.

As in, Dinner at Ginger and Blake’s was that evening.

Back to Malory. My edition is chockfull of illustrations, everything from medieval manuscripts to Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I chose one of Arthur and Guenever, and…and…I cheated. Instead of drawing the figures and architectural details freehand, I traced them and then used transfer paper to copy them onto the greeting card. I didn’t even have time to do a preliminary painting in my notebook.

My picture does vary in several ways from the one in the book. The illustration in the book is black-and-white, so I chose the colours. The wallpaper flowers had five petals; I drew four petals. The original expression on Guenever’s dog is one of a monkey with indigestion, and the rear and tail are visible; I tucked a happier pup into her cloak. Arthur’s dog was originally a fold in his robe that I misinterpreted in tracing. I liked the idea so much, though, that I kept it. From thence came the inspiration for the silly caption. Oh, and yes, the original artist had Arthur holding two gloves.

It sez, “Arthur and Guenever dispute which hound hath devoured the king’s other gauntlet.”

Alas, my gift backfired. Handing me the envelopes, Ginger vowed she would never mail the cards. She would, instead, frame them. I wonder if they’ll go in the room where that big frame is hung, the one with squares of linen painted with Kenyan birds, including the Lilac-breasted Roller and the Superb Starling?


Happy New Year, everyone! See you next year!

(Wordless Wednesday) Together

August 18, 2010

Audi, vide, tace

August 11, 2010

Local, Seasonal, and Special

August 10, 2010

Why is everyone smiling?

As you probably know, E.g. and I went to the weekly Kingston Peninsula market on Saturday. It’s much like our provincial capital’s market, without the disadvantage of being in Fredericton.

The market has two locales about a quarter-mile from each other. We found everything we needed at the first locale, and nothing at the second. But we did find this:

Any guesses?

Nope. Not a Corvette.

Not a Ferrari.

This shot will help:

Yep, it’s New Brunswick’s own native child, the Bricklin.

For its brief existence, this car was the darling of the province. Parts were made in Minto and assembled in Saint John.

Not only did the two auto plants provide jobs to New Brunswickers, but the car itself was exciting: shark gill vents, low-slung chassis, buttonless bucket seats, fibreglass/acrylic body, five vibrant colours, and these:

Gull-wing doors. More space-age than those of the later-built DeLorean used in Back to the Future, the Bricklin’s hydraulic doors opened at a touch of a button.

That is, they did if you’d driven the car on the highway for half an hour and warmed the engine. If  you were simply going three blocks for a carton of milk, they might not let you out.

The sweet-tempered owner, who has had the hydraulics problem repaired, opened the door and encouraged one of us to sit for a picture. He’d acquired the car only recently, and is still loving all the attention it garners. (See first photo for evidence. Woman holding bread is a longstanding friend of his.)

The Bricklin company had manufactured fewer than 3,000 vehicles between 1974 and 1976, when financial difficulties forced its closure. Most of the cars were sold in the States; for the new musical, “The Bricklin: An Automotive Fantasy”, the props crew had to purchase one in Florida and drive it all the way to Fredericton.

E.g. and I are taking her parents to see the musical this coming Saturday. It has gotten rave reviews, and promises to be a lot of fun.

The only disadvantage is that it’s playing in Fredericton, where probably no one would dream of opening their driver’s door to let me pose.

Plot Twists at Annapolis Royal

July 31, 2010

The evening after our candlelight graveyard tour, E.g. and I decided to visit Fort Anne again. It was a calm, cloudless evening. With the fort and its adjacent Garrison Cemetery practically across the street from our B&B, we stepped back to our room after supper for jackets and cameras. I pocketed the key and adjusted the camera bag on my belt.

“Wait for me, E.g.!”

“Of course.”

There it is.

Much of the graveyard above ground is simply lawn, because before the 1700s, Nova Scotian graves were marked with biodegradable wooden crosses.  There are no early French-Canadian tombstones here; the earliest one is that of an Anglo woman from 1720, ten years after the English took the Fort from the French and refused to return it.

In those early times, headstones were carved by Bostonians. Maybe the Puritan influence still hung heavy, because the adornment was usually a death’s head with wings. Here are two examples:

"Here lyes ye body of Me. ..."

"Here lyeth the body of Margaret..."

Worthy of gracing any Harley, n’est-ce pas?

As time went on, some mourners preferred kinder, gentler imagery, especially if the lyething body was that of a child.

"In this grave..."

"In memory of..."

I think the second head looks less like a flower and more like a lion.

I wish now I’d written down the history of headstone trends when our tour guide, Alan Melanson, enumerated them. He spoke of the weeping willows, the fingers pointing skyward, the seraphim and cherubim, and other symbols and their eras of favour.

You’re going to have to be satisfied with the knowledge that these are old tombstones from Canada’s earliest English graveyard. Please come and wander the grounds with me. I could use a little company…


 Pointing forefinger. Sometimes they pointed to a word in a book, as perhaps this one is. “See? I told you it’s spelled with a u!”


 Handclasp. Someone cared.

"10th November 1852..."

Victorian “weeper” or mourning band. Someone was rich.


Copperplate italics praising a mother.  Someone was rich and didn’t write home enough.

"To the memory of..."

A mason — whether by trade or pinky ring, I don’t know.


Weeping willow. ‘Nuff said.

(Note the protective lead edging.)

Seraph. “Aw, pipe down already. That bugling is enough to wake the dead!”

Finally, it was too dark to stay any longer. E.g. passed through the turnstile, patting her pocket, reassuring herself that the key was in it. She gave one final, wistful glance at the graveyard, and headed for the B&B.

“Wait for me, E.g.! E.g.? Hello, E.g. …”

A Bridgewater Kind of Morning

July 13, 2010

For the first two nights of our week in Nova Scotia, we stayed in Bridgewater. It’s a real town, neither overtouristed nor collegestudented, of about 8,000 people. The waterside has industrial-strength ships, and the homes have well tended fronts. I couldn’t resist the colour combination of this house, with matching muskoka chairs, found in the neighbourhood of our hotel:

After a complimentary buffet-style breakfast, I wandered down the street towards Woodland Garden Park, which boasts a large pond, some thickly wooded hillsides, and a chance at spotting Belted Kingfishers. If you squint, you’ll see one in the middle of the second photo below.


The birding was great. I would have stayed longer, but my 90 minutes were up. It was time to meet E.g. and head for the Wile Carding Mill Museum.

Dean Wile’s carding mill, built in 1860, prospered because of his high standards of business ethics. Knowing they would get a better return on their goods, farmers from many miles around passed other carding mills on their way to bringing their fleeces here to be carded. The mill ran until the death of Dean’s grandson in 1968. It’s silent now, except for the voices of visitors and their enthusiastic guides… but with a few adjustments of cogs, Wile’s Carding Mill could run again on its 7-horsepower wooden water wheel.

Carding machine straightened wool fibres for spinning

Florence shows us two qualities of batting

Turning this crank raises the wooden gate which lets in the brook water...

...which turns the water wheel

All right, that was my romantic voice. Our guide, Florence, didn’t stint on her explanation of how hard the employees, all teenaged women, worked here. Twelve-hour days with no breaks (although there was an indoor privy for their convenience). The new hiree’s job of mixing the wool with rancid oil (lanolin, which gums up the machinery, had first to be removed). The chances of fire. The five-minute wait for the water wheel to stop if, heaven forbid, someone got caught in the carding machine. Those drums may look carpeted, but the carpeting is of steel wires.

And yet, the mill never burned. The record of accident-free days was excellent. Young women were able to set aside some money prior to marriage. All in all, Florence’s account of the Wile Carding Mill was a positive one. If you’re interested in 19th-Century history, wool processing, labour conditions, alternative energy, or antique machinery, I highly recommend this half-hour visit. E.g. and I both feel it was one of the gems of our week in Nova Scotia.

(Flat Tony, on the other hand, afraid of becoming Perforated Tony, stayed in the car.)

The Good Ship Nettle

March 18, 2009

Nettleship’s Hardware. Photo scoffed from their website.

As you can see by the sign, Nettleship’s Paint and Hardware has occupied this piece of Parliament Street since 1920. The store was begun by Marg Taggart’s father (if you go here, you can mouse over her name and see her picture) . Although today the business is run by her son Don, Marg still continues to put in her hours. One or two daughters are still there as well, or at least they were when E.g. and I were in studying paint chips two years ago. Even Don’s Britanny Spaniel acts as greeter.

Marg shares gladly in the life of her neighbourhood, from little everyday things to bigger events. She participated as a judge in my blog’s “Name the WWF Sea Turtle Stuffy” contest. Jane and Robert tell me that one evening during one of the Cabbagetown community festivals, they saw her dance longer than anyone else in the room. She’s one heckuva septagenarian.

Yesterday evening, I realized with dismay that I would need another roll of packing tape. I headed the two blocks over to Nettleships, only to find that it was twelve minutes past closing.

Not that that mattered. A woman and a little girl pushed open the door just ahead of me. In the back section of the long, narrow store, Marg was chatting with someone. Don was serving a customer at the cash. So in I went.

In I went, and couldn’t find the tape. I’d gotten a roll here the week before, I knew where it was supposed to be; but a combination of the two-hour morning’s walkies to get mattress covers on Mount Pleasant Rd, the 90 minutes it took to disassemble our platform bed, the other hour taking apart the futon sofabed, the lack of supper, and the guilt at being in the store after hours, blinded me. Marg saw my helplessness, and came right over.

No no, we’re still open, she soothed. You’re moving? We’ll miss you, she sighed. New Brunswick? My friend has a daughter in Fredericton, she smiled. By the end of that dollar-sixty-eight transaction, I felt like one of the store’s best shareholders and closest neighbours, and wanted to shake her hand in farewell.

Toronto the Big used to have a nicer nickname: Toronto the Good.  It’s terrific to see a family-run store like Nettleship’s Paint and Hardware still contributing to this city’s kinder, gentler reputation.