Archive for July, 2009

Early preparations

July 31, 2009

Although today is the Friday before a long holiday weekend, it’s still three days ahead of the holiday, that curiously named Natal Day, on which Nova Scotians–and those in other provinces as I understand it–celebrate the foundations of their cities.  This is the rock concerts, carnivals and fireworks kind of summer celebration.

And as to fireworks:  as I walked along the Dartmouth waterfront at midday, I could see a barge being rigged with the fireworks for one to three nights from now.  The guys were carefully buttressing rows of upstanding poly tubing, a huge stack of fireworks on the shore and at the ready for loading the tubes and setting up the patterns.  Barges, of course, spend their nights–and days–afloat and this one isn’t covered.  And it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.  And even if it were dry out, do you really one an explosive-laden barge sitting along the shoreline for a day or three?

Curious day this Natal Day.  Seems to be an occasion for playing with fire.  Literally.


Modifying history

July 29, 2009

During my lunch hour, I took the ferry over to Halifax, joined aboard ship by, among many others, a young man dressed in tricorn, short pants and jerkin: an 18th century historical interpreter on his way to work.  I’ve seen the same fellow trucking along Ochterloney, his kit bag tucked neatly behind.  In line at the ferry terminal, I discovered he has a bright and beatific smile–and wears Reeboks.

After work, Bob wanted to meet at the new “gastropub” just south of Salty’s, on the Halifax waterfront.  The Hart and Thistle replaces a former low profile indoor/outdoor drinkery with something a bit more upscale and sporting a food menu that seems to be indecisive about the demarcation between “gastro” and “pub.”  We ate outside, in full shade but right on the water.

And the water was awash in pretend pirate ships, some apparently under sail and some not even bothering to raise cloth on their masts because all were chugging under engine power.  One boldly “shot” its cannons at the restaurant, although the three or four puffs of smoke preceded the booms by enough seconds that onlookers had no doubt the shot was playacting.

The other, under the command of a covey of “pirates” who sported wrap around sunglasses with their kerchiefs and blouses, seems to have made a schtick of having tourist/passengers swing out on a rope over the harbour either before or after the “sail.”  I couldn’t look when the large, miniskirted woman first hoisted herself up on the gunwale, but she had to be hauled down, in the end, without taking her spin out over the water.

So that’s history as it’s writ for the cruise crowd today.  And they seemed happy with it.  The book was better.


July 28, 2009

We finally got a genuine summer day, a real July moment:  morning haze burned off by noon to show a pale blue sky, and by mid-afternoon, it became something akin to hot.  At noon, I took a walk along the Dartmouth shoreline, happening into an unfolding scene of summertime quikiness:

First, there was the man who was carefully constructing a corral, right on the lawn just north of the waterfront playground.  He built it of boards and iron poles, squaring the corners and including an entry gate.  Perhaps a sheep shearing exhibition is coming soon to the waterside?

On the playground, a full battalion of five- or six-year-olds tumbled up and down the equipment, all sporting pink t-shirts.  This is the veddy British side of Canada: in the US, not even preschool-aged boys would be sent out in pink uniforms.

Just a scootch further along, before the new pedestrian bridge by the Dartmouth Boat Slips, a man who was either addled by off-market intoxicants or tending toward the criminally mad, swung along holding his jeans tightly at the waist to keep them from descending his legs, which probably would ahve left them as bare as was his torso.  He was furious, regaling all with vitriole.

Leaving him behind, I headed on down the path to the point where it crosses the sidetrack.  At that juncture, a three-some with two bull terriers on leashes ambled my way.  One of the dogs wanted to sniff my shoes but the other had a more seasonal need and headed right to a mud puddle in the Schmidt Boat Works parking lot, belly flopping hard into the murk.

Not a bad series of summertime events. The only characters missing today were the little boys, fishing poles on their backs, whom I’ve seen biking on the path in cooler, wetter weather.

Return of the aesthetic

July 27, 2009

Bob began to celebrate the fact that Saturday’s work by the road crew seems to have brought the project to a point beyond our front door by beginning to rehang the various prints, paintings and photos that he had carefully taken down when the warnings of explosions was published. It’s rather like going downstairs to find that, overnight, friends have arrived and are happily sitting around: the kitchen has its periodic table of the desserts restored to its one huge blank wall, the hallway has its Boston, New York and New Mexico neighbourhoods.

I’ve been struck, in recent weeks, by how very much I disliked living with blank walls, especially in the hallway which is painted that house-for-sale-white. One of the odd little kindnesses I noticed when I arrived at my new job here was that, in addition to fully stocking my desk with such tidbits as paperclips in a variety of sizes, already taken from their plastic bubbles and within easy reach in a cup on the desk, someone had taken the time to hang a painting on the wall.

Like then, I am noticing now that the luxury of seeing how someone else saw something–or imagined a visual joke–is a necessary window for me.  Heck, my office doesn’t even have a window.  But I can se the MacDonald Bridge from it. And now I have Pismo Beach back by the kitchen and the Brooklyn Bridge at my front door.

Local drinking rules

July 25, 2009

Nova Scotians seem to treat alcohol with all the dedication and gusto it gets from 15-year-old boys throwing a party when the rents are away from the weekend.  An English woman I know once remarked: “It’s as if they can’t close an open bottle.  They have a huge bottle of rum but throw away the cork and then insist it all has to be finished in a go.”

They talk about hangovers, plan for hangovers, as though that state is the expected outcome of socializing. “So what are you doing tomorrow?” “Well, I’ll have a massive hangover so I’ll go lie on the beach.” This is at nine in the morning when the speaker has just told me her mother’s in town for the weekend and they’re going to dinner this evening. The speaker is at least 30, not 12 or even 19.  And she thinks the drinking age here (19) is way too high. “You can get a driver’s license at 16 but you can’t drink!  What a mixed up thing!”

The evening of drinking here seems to start earlier, too, than in other places I’ve lived: by six, there are lines at the bars and some people are already stumbling on their way from one to the next. As someone who walks on downtown sidewalks by seven most mornings, I’m familiar with the stomach contents that wind up voided there virtually every evening. It doesn’t seem that these folks are particularly fastidious drinkers or have hollow legs.

The Provincially operated liquor stores sell gift cards in 10, 25 and 50 dollar denominations and even host wine and liqueur tastings.  “Beer tents” appear at every public function.

This may be the one place I can live where I appear abstemious in contrast, mostly because I tend to pace myself, not carry on in public and keep stoppers when opening fresh bottles.

The bad, the good, and the predicted

July 24, 2009

The final building-wide communique I received at work today carried the ominous subject heading “Drilling”.  The content matched:  on Monday, we were being warned, the basement level of the complex will be undergoing “heavy drilling” beginning at 7 am. Well, as long as they aren’t planting dynamite charges indoors….

I walked home through the 18th day of rain we’ve had this month.

And was pleasantly surprised to find that the rain–or is it that it’s a summer Friday?–seems to have allowed the street crew to take the day off.

No sounds in the house but the drizzle of rain.

Home front improvements

July 23, 2009

Each day I approach the house with slightly bated breath.  Of course, I’m not rounding a corner that puts it directly into view, because there is no intersection within 500 yards of the place at the moment.  Instead, I make my way along the bit of sidewalk left, where the chain link fence is on the work side and the chain link fence overgrown with giant lilac bushes and dwarfed by huge elms encroaches from the VG parking lot side. All along this gree and grey shoot I hold my breath:  will the house still stand?  windows intact?

Today’s a good one:  although the horrible huge drill that foretells a later explosion is grinding away, the work with dynamite seems to have moved just beyond our house to the fence next door.  Only a small branch from the stately elm in front of our house seems to be gashed away.  And a volunteer lily has managed to jump the chain link to bloom pitside.

And there’s more good news:  the workers have reported that they were able, after all, to locate our sewer line for hook-up.  And the internet hasn’t been knocked out today!

What a fistful of pleasant suprises!

Among the missing

July 22, 2009

All of the local work with explosives and large machines is in an effort to divert a 100-year-old sewer, which followed a natural brook, from its course–which apparently went through blocks now built up with houses and other structures–to follow the same line as the street. It seems, however, that the project is being undertaken with a minimum of background information about where the sewer lines actually are now.

Yesterday Bob was visited by a work crew wanting to see if a basement view would help them find where our outlet pipe actually connects as they couldn’t find it from the exterior.  This was his second surprise visiting crew in two days, as Monday he opened the door to a camera crew who promptly turned him into an evening news feature-ette.

The tv crew seems to have been more effective than the sewer-seekers, who left, having poured dye into the toilet in an effort to locate the outlet but still haven’t.  Perhaps, they opined, it actually goes under the parking lot and house next door to a place somewhere along South Street.  Or not. They’ll probably find it, was their last word.

So, whether the new sewer line and our outlet actually relate to each other in the end…well, there’s a new question.

Pit creep and the trees

July 21, 2009

The road work outside has been extended more than halfway down the next block, which means the journey to a a crossing place IMG_1722 is now quite far whether one turns north or south upon leaving the house.  This doesn’t mean that the pit directly in front of the house is being covered; if anything, it seems to deepen by the day, shored up on either side with iron walls made of slabs the size of railroad car sides.

Fortunately, the back of the house offers an alternative view on the neighbourhood–or a wall of green to the view, now that the trees are in full summer leaf: it’s just quiet and green and as close as the gravel pile and concrete culverts are to the front door.

If only one could actually access the world beyond the back yard without having to circle round to the front…or take ownership of the new hot water heater that was to be installed this month but is now on hold until October for lack of access by the delivery company.

Ropes, fog and figureheads

July 20, 2009

My pair of trips to see the Tall Ships in harbour yesterday happened during two different weather systems:  the morning fog and the afternoon sunshine.  The crowds were impenetrable on both occasions so I never went further north than Bishop. Instead I hung at the Halifax Port end of things, which also happened to be where most of the really large ships were docked. Sails were folded, in the main, making the neck-crane pay off in the most extraordinary assortment of ropes: nets and rigging, knotted and taut.

There were also figureheads to be seen, both on bows and on display.  So here are a few images that I, at least, ahven’t seen bandied about in the promo material.

IMG_1714    IMG_1706IMG_1720IMG_1700