Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Literary Evening with Toronto Authors

AuthorPosterIt is not often that you have a book promotion in which four well-known authors would attend together, but this is what has happened in The Coach Room of Dundurn Castle in Hamilton,  Ontario.

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The Different Drummer, an independent bookstore in Burlington, Ontario presented together with Bryan Prince Bookseller and Random House Canada Toronto authors Don Gillmor, Tanis Rideout, Shyam Selvadurai and Ania Szado to read from their latest work.

Mount PleasantDon Gillmor is  a Toronto-based journalist who has won numerous National Magazine Awards.  His children’s books have been nominated for the Governor’s General Award and he has written a two-volume history of Canada as well as involved in the production of the television series Canada:  A People’s History. This evening he introduced his second novel Mount Pleasant by talking about the 1989  collapse of real estate prices and a life of debt confronted by the main character, Harry Salter, in his book. He read the except in which Harry was being persuaded by his real estate agent to purchase a  property well over its value only to discover afterwards the woes of  termites, lead pipes and leaking foundations.  On top of that he also lost money  by investing in an asbestos company.  Gillmor wrote and read with a sense of dry humour which delighted his audience.

The host introduced Tanis Rideout to be the Poet Laureate of Lake Ontario for her effort in Above All Things By: Tanis Rideoutprotecting the Niagara Escarpment and the lakes. She has won literary award for her poetry, and Above All Things is her first novel.

Rideout then read a poem of hers about the lake before reading from her book. Her prose sounded like poetry and the excerpt she had chosen describing the scene after George Mallory told his wife Ruth that he had been invited to join the Mount Everest expedition team for the first time flew with a lyrical beauty that was both sensual and emotional.  Her second passage was a heart-wrenching piece about Mallory’s last moment on his ill-fated final climb. It was equally poetic, but different in style. It almost brought tears to my eyes at the part when Mallory tore a picture of him and Ruth into halves and put away the part of Ruth in his pocket.

Sri-Lankan born Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy won the Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Lamda Literary Award  for gay male fiction in the U.S.  The Hungry Ghosts, his third novel, is the first time he brings into the scene Toronto besides Sri Lanka. Selvadurai  talked about the Buddhist theme in his novel before he read with delightful animation Shivan’s meeting his grandmother for the first time when his mother took him and his sister home after the death of his father. The passage was colourful and the world seen through the eyes of young Shivan came to life.  Everything felt so real, and this likely was due to the semi-autobiographical nature of the book. Selvadurai is Tamil, and in the passage he read, Shivan joked that if his sister married a Sinhalese, she could change her name forever, with an appealing sarcastic touch.

Ania Szado showed the audience the costudiopy of The Little Prince she had kept since she read it as a child and described the inspiration behind the creation of Studio Saint-Ex to have come from reading the autobiography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and falling in love with him. She wanted to write about him and did extensive research and interviews into his life. She found that many women also fell in to with the author and were willing to do anything for him. This gave her the incentive to create a woman who also wanted something for herself, hence this ambitious designer from Montreal who wanted to climb in the world of haute couture that was burgeoning in New York–Mignonne LaChapelle was the protagonist. This was also the time when Saint Exupéry wrote The Little Prince.

The passage she read was the conversation between Mignonne and Antoine, when he appeared after a period of absence. I was mesmerized by the tension, the intimacy and the unfathomable intent behind the words.

There was a questioning period. The authors were asked how long it had taken them to write the novel. For Rideout, it was seven and Szado said that it took her two to three years and longer time in New York and Montreal interviewing people who knew Saint Exupéry.  It was also two to three years for Gillmor to write Mount Pleasant. It took longer for Selvadurai– 13 years– who added that he found it easier to write about his home country Sri Lanka than the landscape of Toronto. I certainly can relate to what he was saying, because even though I have lived in Toronto for over twenty years, I also find the words and images come about more easily when I think about the places I have lived earlier in my life, such as Hong Kong and England.

Other auhors also talked about the context in which they had created in their novels. Gillmor said that the neighbourhood of Rosedale had not changed and he had a good grasp of the landscape where his character lived. He spoke to long-time residents there about the time he set his novel. He walked a lot in the cemetery at Mount Pleasant. Szado described her experience living in a studio as a fine arts student and that was where she found the context for Mignonne’s studio. Rideout was charmingly honest that she never visited Nepal or came near the Everest–her inspiration of the mountains was drawn from the internet. However, she did not like the cold, and writing about the cold was not a problem for her.

It was a rare and totally enchanting evening in the company of these authors who read from their novels some of the most vivid and dramatic moments. When asked about film rights, all the them said that they had been approached—treated with fine dining and great conversation according to Gillmor– and yet nothing had materialized. This certainly gave some insight into the complexity of making a good book into a movie that will sell, let alone do justice to the original work.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: CULTURE

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Tucked away in the town of Yuan Long in the New Territories in Hong Kong is this eatery famous for its Chiu Chow fish balls and vermicelli. It is constantly full, and the people sitting together may not even know one another, because it is the common practice to share a table. You sit down as directed, order and eat. Then you pay at the front and leave, but you’ll be content. It was the diametric contrast to a high end Chiu Chow restaurant I have tried, but just as satisfying.

I was there in winter and I had the most delicious bowl of piping hot mixed fish balls and beef balls vermicelli on that trip.

Kitchen Renovation (4): Plumbing, ducts and lights

After the tearing down of my kitchen, the plumber, the duct and vent installer, and the electrician with his assistant appeared as planned in the ensuing days. They were friendly and efficient.

New pipes were installed, because by opening a wider door, the pipes had to be moved. I did not feel too much inconvenience. I could not flush the toilet for over half a day, and the main was shut down for about half an hour.  The plumber’s assistant came the following day and gave me a new vent.

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I was very impressed by the electrician and his assistant. For me, it was an eye-opening experience to see how much was involved in electrical work that was behind the scene. Since my renovation involved installing new outlets, re-positioning existing ones and installing pot lights in the ceiling, it took them twelve hours to get the work done. I tipped my hat to their work ethics. They told me that they had a schedule to keep, and as long as I did not mind, they wanted to complete the job. Why would I mind?

The team had been working for ten days and the ground work was done. The supervisor  dropped by at the end of the day and was pleased. He told me that an inspector would come to look at the electric work, and the dry wall team would be next. So far so good, I said to myself.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Walks Indoors or Outdoors

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The paved walk in the city centre of Sydney Australia opens my post today for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Walks Indoors or Outdoors. I love to travel on foot, because I can see more at my own pace.

Here is a side walk by Sydney Harbour.

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The the sidewalk on York Boulevard in  Hamilton, Ontario Canada.

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Country trails are my favourite, be it in Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

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And back to Austrlia, to the almost unwalkable trail in King’s Canyon

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Surprises On A Spring Hike: Silver Creek Conservation Area

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Our hike today was in the Silver Creek Conservation Area. None of us going on the hike had expected that there was a snow bank by Fallbrook Trail, where we parked our cars.

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Our experienced hike leader immediately checked to see if anyone of us had our icers/tracks with us. Well, none of us did, except him. He put his on and he had a spare pair that he offered to our “sweep”, the person who stayed at the back to make sure nobody got lost.

We began our hike by walking less than 200 metres of the Irwin Quarry Side Trail, which joined the Main Trail of the Bruce Trail and we started our climb of the Niagara Escarpment. No sooner had we entered the wood than we realized that surprises were waiting for us. The trail was in parts still covered with snow and shiny icy patches were visible. We landed our feet as carefully as possible, but the slipperiness could not be easily ignored.

As we continued, we tried to develop strategies to avoid slipping. One hiker suggested walking on the crystalline snow, which crumbled under our feet; at least the footing was better than ice. However, there were sections where we had no choice. All we could do was to slow down, use our hiking pole to anchor before landing. At times, we latched onto tress and swung our bodies forward. There was one narrow strip which was covered by ice and in the absence of an alternative path,  the only way to get pass was to hang on to the rocks, aimed for a tree ahead and grabbed it to come to a stop. It was treacherous!

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However, I was excited that I was hiking in an area that I had never hiked before. The rushing of the Silver Creek could be heard for a good distance even though it was not in sight. Then it appeared, with snow banks in parts, and we crossed this creek, which was a feeder stream into the Credit River a couple of times.

The hike took longer than anticipated, because we had to slow down frequently. It was incredible that within a short span of time, we were treading on ice, snow, water, mud and dry grounds.

The hike took us on part of the Bruce Trail Main Trail, the Great Esker (side) Trail and the Bennett Heritage (side) Trail. We passed en route Scotdale Farm and crossed also the Snow Creek. This section of the Bruce Trail was under the stewardship of the Toronto Club.

Two hikers fell, but fortunately nobody was injured. The experience was unique, and we were all relieved to be eventually out of the woods.

Map Reference: Bruce Trial Reference Map and Trail Guide Edition 27, p. 13.

Weekly Photo Challenge: UP

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The Ngong Ping 360  is a cable car ride of about 25 minutes from Tung Chung  to Ngong Ping in Lantau Island to visit the Ngong Ping Cultural Village and the famous Big Buddha. I took the cable car with the glass bottom, which offered a panoramic  view of the Tung Chung Bay and the Airport from high up.

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Another cable car ride in Hong Kong is a shorter but equally colourful and adventurous ride in Ocean Park.

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I was looking forward to taking another ride UP there in the hot air balloon, but sadly the ride did not operate due to high wind. Well, another time.

Weekly Photo Challenge: CHANGE (Kitchen Renovation 3: Go, Going, Gone!)

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This is a stage of my kitchen renovation which fits into the Weekly Photo Challenge Theme: CHANGE.

A dump bin was placed outside my house on the drive way. The two workmen came. We had a mini-conference as to what I would like to keep. In fact, my friend had wanted my old cabinets and the workmen were extremely helpful in keeping them intact and moving them to the garage for my friend to pick up. Then the banging began.

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I could not bear to stay around because the images of knocking down cabinets and walls on  the television show Restaurant Makeover and similar programmes were too vivid and harrowing to me. Furthermore, with the noise going on, I could not even work at home. My home was dusty, despite the sealing of the doors and the staircase. The tearing down took them three days.

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By the end, the floor was only a pile of rumbles, the ceiling was gone, the sink was gone, the pipes were exposed and part of a wall was knocked down. I was excited to see a bigger kitchen–of course, because the cabinets were all gone (silly me)–and the wider door was what I had wanted.

So far so good. The supervisor dropped by at the end of the day. I was pleased with the way the workmen tidied up the place every day before they left. So far, I had no complaint.