Oh Canada – Finally!

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As of 2:30 this afternoon, I’m a Canadian citizen. Finally! Almost twenty-seven years after immigrating, thirty years after first setting foot in the country, finally I got to sing “Oh Canada” without feeling like a tiny bit of a fraud. Because now Canada, at long last, is my country.

I don’t know if you understand how big a deal this is. You see, I fell in love with this country, back in that Expo Summer of ’86 when I first came over for a visit. I loved it so much, I came back – and that time met a man to fall in love with, who just coincidentally became my ticket into the country. We made a home here, we had children, I dropped my German accent – I was, for all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from my Canadian neighbours. Except for that one small detail: I was not a real Canadian. Every election time that came around, it bothered me more and more that I had no say in what was happening here, in this country where I felt so much at home, but still was just an immigrant.

Because, you see, I love Canada – but I also still love my first home, the place I came from. The new love did not replace the old, it was added to it. And Germany, for many years, would not permit its citizens to take on a second citizenship. If you chose to take another citizenship, you had to give up the German. And that I was not ready to do.

But then, they eased up on the rules. And then eased up on them even more, so that last spring, after filling out much paperwork and paying large processing fees, I got permission to keep my German citizenship if I took Canadian. I don’t think it took me more than a few days after I came back with that document from the German Consulate before I had my Canadian citizenship application in the mail.

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In January, I took my citizenship test, and then just a few weeks ago I got the invitation to take my Oath of Citizenship. So today, I got to swear at the Queen. I mean, swear allegiance to the Queen, that’s what I meant! That’s right, in Canada, we swear our allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada – not the flag, or the constitution, or the country; the Queen. The invitation said we could bring a holy book to swear on if we wanted, so I briefly considered bringing a copy of Anne of Green Gables, or better yet, The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, but then I thought they might kick me out for not taking this seriously – which I did, I really did.

So a Mountie resplendent in red serge opened the ceremony, and after some solemn words from the official, we all stood with our right hand raised, reciting the oath (in the back of my mind, I’m thinking “What if you’ve got your right hand in a sling, or you’re quadriplegic? And isn’t this dextrocentric – what about lefties, wouldn’t raising their left hand be more significant?”). We swore to be loyal to the Queen and her heirs and successors (that would be Charles, William and George, even though we didn’t say so), and to faithfully uphold the laws of Canada and fulfil our duties as Canadian Citizens. We said it in English first, and then in French, which almost gave me a fit of the giggles, because I don’t know French, and neither did the gentleman officiating, so he stumbled his way through giving us the sounds to repeat which were almost entirely meaningless to me and probably a lot of others there as well. But, Canada being bilingual, we had to at least make a show of trying, right?

Then we filed to the front, where there was a table set up on which we actually signed the oath – not unlike signing the marriage register at a wedding – and we got to step three feet over and were handed our Citizenship Certificate. A row of handshakes, file back to the seat, listen to a few short speeches. One of them was from the representative of the MP for my riding – and that’s when it hit me: for the first time, this was the representative of my MP, my riding. I no longer have to have this little blocking feature in the back of my mind that says, “Yeah, but I don’t get to vote for you,” because now, I do.

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And then we stood and faced the flag (the Mountie was saluting), and sang “Oh Canada”. And I’m proud to report that I made it all the way through without choking up; my voice only got wobbly once, and I didn’t actually cry.

So now finally this country that I’ve loved for thirty years, have called home for nearly twenty-seven, truly is my home. My home and – well, not native, but chosen land. It’s a red-letter day – a red-and-white letter day, with a little maple leaf in the middle.

Life, the Universe, and at long last, Canadian Citizenship. I love this country.

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Master Peaseblossom, or What’s In A Salad

IMG_20160530_101217This spring, a patch of peas sprang up in one of my garden beds. I didn’t ask for them to be there, they just showed up. I have a suspicion that they came from one of my attempts to grow pea shoots in the winter in a tray on the counter; the leftovers got dumped in the compost, and that’s probably where they ended up, in that garden bed.

So now they’re blooming, and yesterday I made a salad with a head of lettuce from the garden, and just for fun decided to toss in a few pea blossoms (or peaseblossoms, if you want to go Shakespearean). No, Nick Bottom, I didn’t add Mustardseed, Cobweb or Moth, sorry.

The Offspring were of mixed opinions on the matter – actually, most of them didn’t eat the blossoms, just the lettuce. The one that did, though, really enjoyed them. Pea blossoms taste like fresh green peas (as do pea shoots). Edible flowers are lots of fun, although I do understand why people would be weirded out at seeing a bouquet on top of their lettuce.

Anyway, in case you’re interested, I thought I’d share my salad dressing recipe. It’s a basic yogurt vinaigrette (well, actually, not vinaigrette, as it’s not got vinegar in it – so is it a limonette?).

IMG_20160529_185108SALAD DRESSING

-1/4 c plain yogurt
-1 good squirt of lemon juice (let’s say 1 Tbsp)
-a glug of salad oil (or 2 Tbsp)
-salt & pepper to taste (or 1/4 tsp each)

-you can add 1/2 tsp prepared mustard, like dijon (if you want your Mounsieur Mustardseed), and any or all chopped fresh or dry herbs that strike your fancy. This one has chopped parsley, dill, lemon thyme, chives and green onions, because that’s what I happened to have in the garden.

-whisk together or shake in a small jar or gravy shaker. Put in the bottom of the salad bowl, toss lettuce in it (or pour over thinly sliced cucumbers or any other salad veg, toss). Top with whatever edible flowers you happen to have on hand. Serve immediately.

So there you have it, salad with peaseblossoms. As Nick Bottom would say:

BOTTOM: Your name, honest gentleman?
PEASEBLOSSOM: Peaseblossom.
BOTTOM: I pray you, commend me to Mistress Squash, your
mother, and to Master Peascod, your father. Good
Master Peaseblossom, I shall desire you of more
acquaintance too.
(Midsummer Night’s Dream, III, 1)

Life, the Universe, and Peaseblossoms. What’s in a salad? A salad, of any other veg, would taste as nice…

 

 

 

New Release – Hills And Valleys (Ambeth Chronicles #3)

Drumroll…. The great Helen Jones has published her third book! I’m off to Amazon to get my copy.

Helen Glynn Jones

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Yay! I’ve been a bit busy these past few weeks working on the final edit and formatting for Hills and Valleys, the third book in my Ambeth series. And now I can happily say…. drum roll… it’s published!

Available on Amazon and part of KDP Select (so you can read for free as a Kindle Unlimited member), Hills And Valleys continues Alma’s story:

‘Sometimes things call to us until we can no longer ignore them. And Ambeth is calling you, Alma.’

After the events of the Harvest Fair, Alma is finished with Ambeth – they can find the missing Cup and Crown without her. But Ambeth is not finished with her. First the mystery of her dead father comes back to haunt her, then the Dark reach out, hoping to trap her once more.

And then there’s the strange power she seems to have…

If you’ve been reading along…

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What I Came Home With

IMG_20160522_163421So Steve and I are back from the Writer’s Festival. We had a great time – well, I did; I think he did too (his favourite was a workshop on Bears In Poetry; he got to read one of his latest pieces). I came back with a bunch of new books, a small jar of iron gall ink (more on that below), and a ton of inspiration and encouragement.

I think the one main impression, the key idea, I took away from this conference is this: There is no one way to doing things as a writer. It came out over and over in presentations, in workshops, in discussions, in Q&A sessions. There are pantsers, there are plotters. There are people who crank out novels every few months, there are ones who take years. Some write in third person past tense, some use first person present. There’s traditionally published authors, there’s self-published ones. There’s outliners, there’s free-writers. And you’ll find any stripe of them in any category – not all plotters are trad-published, not all self-publishers are pantsers (or vice versa). In other words, do whatever works for you and for what you’re working on. As one of the presenters (the most excellent Jodi McIsaac) put it: It’s not a rule, it’s a tool.

And speaking of tool, the last workshop I took, and probably the most fun one (even though it wasn’t directly related to the kind of writing I do, with keyboard and screen and stuff), was on ink. That’s right, the black stuff (or blue) that flows from the end of your pen and makes words on paper. The presenter, Ted Bishop, has written a whole book on it: The Social Life of Ink: Culture, Wonder, and Our Relationship with the Written Word. I haven’t read it yet, but yes, of course I got a copy. And he signed it for me – in my own ink. You see, being one of those suck-up-to-the-teacher types, I brought him a jar of my walnut ink (and a walnut with the husk still on it, to show what they look like).

But what we actually did in the class was make real, honest-to-goodness, classic iron gall ink. The kind of ink that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written in, and the earliest existing copy of the Quran, and Magna Carta, and of course all of Shakespeare’s stuff and Jane Austen’s and pretty much anyone who is anyone’s and every nobody’s as well, up until the early 20th century.

IMG_20160523_115438_1While Ted was talking about the history of the ballpoint pen (fascinating!), we passed around a mortar and pestle with an oak gall in it, taking turns grinding it down to a fine powder. Then we ground in a chunk of gum arabic (the stuff that’s the binder in watercolour paints), mixed it in water (it was still a boring buff colour at this point), then added a teaspoon of ferrous sulfate, which is a pale green powder (I got to stir). And – voilà! – the mix  instantly turned a deep black! And then we got to try it out – and the funky thing about this particular kind of ink is that it doesn’t go on as black as it becomes later, but looks quite watery to start with. I thought the pen hadn’t been loaded correctly on my first stroke, and re-dipped it and re-drew the lines – but what happens is that it’s actually the chemical reaction with the air, aka plain old oxidation, that makes it go really black on the page. Kind of like Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map, where the letters appear pale at first and get stronger and stronger (Ted’s description, not mine). It’s a beautiful ink, a deep blue-black (once it’s done oxidising), and completely waterproof – I soaked the sheet of paper in the picture here after I’d written it, and it didn’t smudge or run at all. And it could last for millennia…

So, that’s what I did on my weekend. And now I’m itching to get back to writing (I’ve even played with the idea of handwriting a story sometime – not with iron gall ink, of course; dip pens are far too tedious – but then I always end up back at the keyboard).

So I’ll sign off, with Life, the Universe, a Writer’s Conference and Iron Gall Ink. Talk to you later!

PS: Check out Jodie Renner (the Blue Pencil presenter who was so great), Susan Fox, and Robert J. Sawyer, as well – all their workshops were excellent, and I learned a lot.

Jaw Drop

IMG_20160520_104941I’m going to a Writer’s Conference this weekend, and as part of the conference registration you get to have a Blue Pencil (critique) session with a professional writer/editor. I sent in a short story I wrote a couple of years ago, an off-the-cuff piece about a girl who gets a marriage proposal she can’t refuse. I was feeling quite insecure about it – the blue-pencil presenter I’m having my session with judges short story competitions and is a professional editor, and, well, you know my rambling, drivelly style…

I fully expected her to tear the piece to shreds. I’d gone over it plenty of times, but couldn’t think of what else to do with it to improve it; it really was the best I could do with this story. So I just hit “send” on it, casting it on the waves – what will be, will be…

Then this morning, I get back an email from her. With fear and trembling, I open the message, and here is what it said:

“Hi Angelika, I really enjoyed your short story! In fact, it’s so good that I really don’t have a lot of advice to offer. Would you like to email me and bring the first 5-6 pages from another writing project to our consultation this weekend?”

And there I sat, with tears running down my face. Literally, that classic hand-clapped-to-open-mouth, laughing-and-sobbing-in-disbelief pose.

I carried my laptop downstairs to show the message to my Man, dried my cheeks, re-read the mail about another half a dozen times, then booted up my book files and found another piece to send to the editor. The first chapter of Star Bright – we’ll see what she has to say. At this point I’m willing to take almost anything from her.

Life, the Universe, and a Jaw Drop. Maybe I am a real writer, after all?

Wordless(ish) Wednesday: Villa Malta, Rome, in Paintings

Some pictures of pictures I took last summer at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich: paintings of the Villa Malta in Rome. The first is a set of four by Johann Christian Reinhart (1761 – 1847), showing the view from the villa to the East, South, West and North. They’re hung in a small room in the museum around the four walls, so you can pretend it’s 1831 and you’re standing on the parapet of the Villa, looking out over the city.

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And this is what the villa looked like from the city, painted by Domenico Quaglio in 1830. You see those little guys in the middleground, slightly to the left? At the bottom you can see just how tiny they are in the painting, with my thumb next to them to show the scale. Quaglio must have painted them with a single paintbrush hair.

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That’s more words than normal for Wednesdays, but this little time travel excursion to 19th-century Rome needed a bit of explanation.

So that was Life, the Universe, and the Villa Malta in Rome in 1830. Apologies for all the words.

Random

Gadzooks, I haven’t posted anything here since last Sunday! Well, I been busy. Fact is, I’m still busy. It’s not that I haven’t had thoughts on stuff to write about, just didn’t get to writing it.

So, meanwhile, here’s a few pictures to tide you over:

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My seedlings on the back steps, ready to be planted out. (Yes, the spuds went out too. They were sprouting in the cupboard, so I figured they may as well put those roots to good use).
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The veg bed the seedlings went into. We call it the TIE fighter.
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The roses on the bush by the front door are just opening up…
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…and there’s a pocket panther lurking underneath it.

And that for today is Life, the Universe, and Random Stuff. Talk to you soon!

Introducing: Molly

me & Molly

May I introduce Molly? Molly, Reader – Reader, Molly. Molly just arrived in our house by way of a Mother’s Day present from the Oldest Offspring, he who also gifted and named Steve some years ago. Molly came complete with name, as well.

She’s very soft and has extra-floppy ears, which, she tells me, are what makes her a music lover. Her favourite songs are in minor keys, and she was pleased when I told her that “Moll” is German for “minor”.

Steve & Molly

Steve is quite smitten with his new friend; at the moment they’re stuffing-deep in a discussion of the relative merits of the Beatles’ lyrics vs. the poetry of William Blake. Just wait until Horatio gets in on the argument – it won’t be more than a minute before he’ll be quoting “Tyger, Tyger burning bright” (being a stuffed tiger, he’s biased).

Life, the Universe, and Molly. Happy Mother’s Day!

The Editor Pontificates: Lies, All Lies

Here we go with some more editorial pontification, about another issue that I’ve noticed while editing: the pesky and much-confused issue of “lie” vs. “lay”. I’m not talking about “lie” as in “telling a falsehood” – you know, “He’s lying like a rug.” Though, wait – actually, that latter example, yes, we will be talking about that. But not in the “falsehood” sense.

What this is about is the verb “lie” as in “to be in a horizontal, recumbent, or prostrate position, as on a bed or the ground; recline”. And then, “lay”, as in “to put or place in a horizontal position or position of rest; set down” (definitions courtesy of dictionary.com).

And there you have the difference in a nutshell: lie and lay are both about flat-on-your-back-ness, but the difference is who is implementing it. “Lie” means “to BE on your back”, “lay” “to PUT on the back”.

To demonstrate: Here’s me, laying Steve down:

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And here is Steve, lying down:

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So, picture 1, I lay Steve down, picture 2, Steve lies down. “Lay” always has to take an object; there always has to be a “whom?” or “what?” with it. Whom or what do I lay down? My stuffed bear, Steve. And once I lay him down, there he lies (no object) (also not a lot of initiative; he’s a bear, he’s too lazy to move).

You know the little children’s prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep…”? That one can really throw  you off, because you’re talking about yourself here, your own flat-on-your-backness. But note it doesn’t say “Now I lay down…”, but “Now I lay me down…” Whom or what do I lay down? Me, my tired body. And once I lay me down, there I lie. Technically, the poem should say “Now I lie down…”, but that would screw up the metre, so, “lay me” instead of “lie”.

That’s also where “lying like a rug” comes in. If you say someone lies like a rug, that means he’s a really bad liar (I mean, a good liar. He’s really bad because he lies, but good at it. Umm – whatever.). A rug, by definition, lies flat on the ground, it’s the ultimate in passivity. You can’t get more lyingly lying than a rug. The rug lies – not lays.
Laying is something a hen does, with an egg – laying hens lay eggs. Whom or what do they lay? Eggs.
So, a rug lies, a hen lays (eggs). Easy, no?

But here’s the wrench in the works: “lay” is also the past tense of “lie”. So, yesterday, the rug lay on the floor (curse its woolly hide). But the hen, at exactly the same time, laid an egg.
“Lay”, “to put down flat”, is a regular verb; its past tense (and past participle, which you use in the past perfect) is formed by adding -ed, or in this case, -id: lay, laid, had laid. Today I lay Steve down, yesterday I laid him down, the day before I had laid him down.
But lie, the “be on your back” version, is an irregular verb: lie, lay, had lain. So Steve, having never got up when I laid him down, still lies there; just as yesterday, he lay there, and the day before he had lain there.
(The “tell a falsehood” version of “lie” is a regular verb – lie, lied, lied: today I lie, yesterday I lied, the day  before I had lied – that’s where the rug simile breaks down, because you can’t say that last week Joe “lied like a rug”.)

So, one more time: “lie” stands on its own, it’s something I do, myself; “lay” needs an object, it’s something I do to another person or thing. The hen lays an egg on the rug that lies on the ground.

Now, before you’re comatose with boredom (as your lying on the floor with your eyes glazed over indicates), I’ll stop laying down grammar laws. But don’t say I never told you nothin’ – that’d be a lie.

Life, the Universe, and Lies, all Lies. Uh, I mean, Lie vs. Lay. Now you know.