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Graveyards, worth a visit…

Muriel2017It’s been a busy time, so haven’t had time to write earlier. However going through my bookshelves, I found a small book ‘Comic Epitaphs: from the very best old graveyards’ published by Peter Pauper Press. Daughter Susan, who knows I enjoy old graveyards, bought it for me and some of the epitaphs in it are hilarious.

When Susan and I first visited Victoria together, we wandered through their old cemetery looking for Artist Emily Carr’s grave — in the rain. Much to my regret, we never found it.

I’ve wandered through many old graveyards on trips to Europe,

PereLachaise2

Pere Lachaise

but my very favorite is the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Once I spent a whole day there (except for a lunch break), following my carefully-marked map on which I’d circled all the composers, authors, and other special famous people who deserved special attention.

OscarWildePereLachaise

Oscar Wilde’s grave at Pere Lachaise

 

As I made my rounds along the ancient paths at Pere Lachaise, I noticed a moss-covered old crypt with my own family’s surname on it, but by that time was too tired to inquire at the office to try to learn more about them.

 

Here are a few epitaphs from the book Susan gave me. I hope you get as much of a kick out of them as I do.

Here lies Ann Mann

She lived an old maid

But died an old Mann
(Manchester)crossescolor

 

 

 

 

 

 

grim reaper

Here lies Pecos Bill

He always lied

And always will

He once lied loud

He now lies still
(Grand Forks)

 

 

 

Sacred to the memoryskelitons
Of Anthony Drake
Who died for peace
And dear quietness’ sake.
His wife was forever
Scoldin’ and scoffin’
So he sought repose
In a $12 coffin
(Marietta)

 

 

oldjewishcemetBudapest

Old Jewish Cemetery I visited in Budapest

 

Jonathan Grober
Died dead sober
Lord thy wonders
Never cease
(Clinkerton)

 

 

 

Owen Moore
Gone away
Owin’ more
Than he could pay
(Battersea)

Angel

 

Here lies a father of 29
There would have been more
But he didn’t have time
(Moultrie)

 

 

[On an infant]

Since I have been so
Quickly done for,
I wonder what I was
Begun for
Hammondport)

Here lies my wife
A slattern and shrew
If I said I missed her
I should lie here too!
(Selby)

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Reading thru a cold….

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

I don’t get sick often, but I did so now and this whatever-it-is is a humdinger. It’s so attached to me, it’s reluctant to leave. As a result,  here I am stuck indoors and fighting cabin fever.

Years ago, I recall thinking it would be great to be sick for a little while, comfortably tucked in my comfy bed with a good book and hot coffee and tissues within reach. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. When I have a cold, my eyes are so bleary, reading isn’t the pleasure it usually is, or as I imagined it would be when ill. I admit I spent most of my time this week just watching Netflix.

 

waroftheworldsbook

A book certainly worth a read

I was deeply involved in reading H.G. Wells’ ‘The War of the Worlds’, which I had picked up with my grandson, Remy, in mind. (Remy consumes books the way some children consume sweets.) Because Remy is eleven, I like to pre-read the books I buy him before I pass them on. I could hardly put this book down. I had heard of ‘The War of the Worlds’ but had never read it, yet i seemed to know what it was about. How come?

 

hgwells#5

The successful H. G. Wells wrote over 100 books

It took my clever son, Rafi, to solve that puzzle. When we discussed the book by phone, he immediately referred to Orson Welles’ famous 1938 radio broadcast, which I had, indeed, heard of even though I was too young to hear it.

orsonwelles#2

The young Orson Wells broadcasting in 1938

That realistic radio dramatization of ‘The War of the

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One of many headlines in 1938

Worlds’ created a nationwide panic throughout America. Many believed the world WAS being attacked by Martians. Orson Welles, all of 23 at the time, and his Mercury Theatre, had decided to update the story. The results were shocking.

The original book, which I’ve about finished, is

hgwells

H.G. Wells, 1866-1946

shocking as well, considering it was published in 1898, long before astronauts, space exploration, and so many other modern technologies were even thought of. Perhaps ‘The War of the Worlds’ IS the original alien invasion story.

dame rebecca west

Dame Rebecca West considered Wells the love of her life

In trying to learn more on the Internet, I am told Mr. Wells. a most successful science fiction writer, had a ‘scandalous sex life’, was comfortable with committing adultery, and believed in free sex! Mr. Google, willing to gossip, said Mr. Wells once claimed ‘Sex is as necessary as fresh air.’

If I felt better today, knowing me, you can be sure I’d be checking further into all this. You know what a ‘histerical’ (I just made up that word) gossip I am, but since I’m only now getting better, I’ll leave checking into his many love affairs up to you.

Happy hunting…..

newspaperwarof worlds

Terror after Orson Wells’ radio presentation in 1938

 

Dear Chris….

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

I’m trying to eliminate clutter. It’s my true effort to become a thoughtful parent. Unfortunately, I find it almost impossible when it comes to my files.

Tackling one of the thick folders of correspondence from my late friend

Hans

Hans. He was a lot of fun…

Hans, I re-read one of his letters and just couldn’t bring myself to dispose of it. It is  too funny. Right behind it was the following poem he wrote to Christopher Columbus. If you were me, could you toss it out?

 

 

 

‘What I always wanted to say to Chris but was afraid to’

by Hans Muller

‘Mister Christopher Columbus

Columbus by Granger

Christopher Columbus, by Granger. I doubt he was much fun.

you’re in history’s vein a thrombus

which, on wide spread urgery

should be removed by surgery.

By Soviet-style complete excision

lest history’s held up to derision

occasioned by your sine-qua-

non mis-historical faux-pas.

What befogged your addled brain?

There was no smog or acid rain,

no radio or T.V. commercial,

nothing crass or controversial

to have made you cause such terror

by your gross baptismal error,

christening our natives ‘Indian’.

Did you hear them speaking Hindi-an?

Did you see them wearing saris?

Your fraudulence tops Mata Hari’s.

Had odes been sung in Amerindian,

not Shakespearean or Pindian,

but sung in praise of Red Man’s Gods,

you’d probably call those odes odds.

You would call a square a rhombus,

wouldn’t you, Signor Columbus?

 

You’d misquote the works of Homer,

3ships

The Nina (Santa Clara), Pinta (Spanish for ‘the painted one’ (prostitute), and Santa Maria

you champion of the crass misnomer.

No more of your mumbo-jumbo

Don Chistoforo Columbo.

I shall ask the nearest cop

to jail you, Mister Malaprop

for the lies with which you bomb us,

Mister Christopher Columbus.

 

*Hans, who could speak/read about five languages, had no problem making up words in any of them. He believed in having fun.

Busy catching up on reading

Muriel2017

photo by my lovely Chandra Joy Kauffmann

I’ve always been an avid reader. When did it start? Perhaps when I was very young and my sisters slept in what was called a ‘double parlor’. As the youngest in the hen-pecking order, I knew enough to be quiet while they slept — or else. I remember sitting on the sofa just feet away from their bed, turning the pages slowly and carefully to not make any noise. If that’s when it began, I thank my sisters for my lifelong passion for books and reading.

In addition, I’ve worn glasses since I was three. I knew my daughter needed them when she was five because she sat too close to the TV. How did my mom know? There was no TV then. I asked. She said I would fall over my toys on the floor! Imagine how clever she was!

I’ve never had a big desire for much ‘stuff’ — except for books. If I saw one I thought I’d want to read, I’d buy it. Thus, my shelves are full of books I haven’t yet had time to read. It’s time to do so, and not buy any more. At least, I promise to try….Old lady reading

Who imagined I’d still be able to read at this venerable age? Yet I can — if the printing isn’t too small. (I can’t but thank Dr. Brian Singer, L.A. optometrist, for his expertise when others said it was impossible.) Looking through the books I haven’t read, there are those I’ll not be able to read — the print is too small. I waited too long for those. They’ll go to friends or the library. But I now have some serious reading to do.

Volwyn E. Vulliamy (1886-1971)

King Geour

About 30 years ago I picked up a copy of ‘Royal George’ (King George

King George III (1738-1820)

King George III, (1738-1820)

III) by Colwyn E. Vulliamy, published in 1937. Just finished it! This hapless king reminds me that being of royal blood doesn’t make you intelligent or wise, nor protect you from mental illness. (He’s the guy, who besides other disasters, needlessly lost the U.S. colonies.) As a history buff, it was just my kind of read.

Now, I’m onto a really old book daughter Susan bought for me years

Charles Kingsley 1819-1875

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)

ago, ‘The Greek Heroes: Fairy Tales for my Children’ by Charles Kingsley, written in 1855. (Mr. Google says the busy man wrote hundreds of books.) The preface, which starts out ‘My Dear Children’ is a gem. It points out boys will need to learn this stuff and girls probably not, but will every day ‘see things we should not have had if it had not been for these old Greeks.’ Kingsley, a clergyman, made sure he instructed his young readers on proper Christian values while he was at it.

Greek gods

Greek heroes, who can resist?

Susan bought it for me because she knows I love Greek mythology AND old books. I’ve just finished reading the story about the hero Perseus, and am now enjoying the tale of Jason and the magic fleece (The Argonauts). {My husband once played Jason onstage — in French. I remember that with pleasure.} Sure, I already know these stories, but I love them and am having fun.

Greek mythology

powerful Greek Gods

Vision in our later years may not be what it once was, Mine certainly isn’t. Perhaps you also may want to read some of the neglected books sitting on your own shelves. Let me know what they are. And, happy reading!

 

 

Our schools teaching LGBTQ issues….

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy Kauffmann

Our schools have introduced a program to teach children about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gender issues. Good. I applaud the program. If it’s truly successful I’m sure less people will suffer.

One school trustee has criticized the new policy, calling it ‘child abuse’. What? I hope he’ll be promptly replaced by a more forward-thinking, knowledgeable trustee. The man is ignorant and very much behind the times.

For the most part, when I was in high school during the early 1950s, we didn’t even know homosexuality existed. I certainly didn’t. There was an unhappy girl in our class who, by the way, excelled in sports — something most of us didn’t participate in unless we were required to.

“I wish I were a boy,” she’d tell me, her eyes sad as she said so. It WAS sad. I felt sorry for her. She was what we would now call ‘Butch’. (I remember her name but will not use it. If I still exist, she may too.) I do, however, think of her often and hope she found her place in life and became comfortable with who and what she was meant to be.

In those days many gay people married, not wanting to admit to their families, or at times even to themselves, who and what they really were. It was not acceptable. This led to unhappiness for everyone. Wouldn’t it be better if we were all free to be who we are?

Of course there are parents who still object to their children being taught about these natural differences in people, due to religious beliefs and/or backward traditions. That saddens me. We don’t choose to be born ‘different’. Who would? Life is difficult enough as it is. Why ask for the kind of problems those who are LGBTQ have been subjected to, and let’s face it, it is far from over yet.

I just attended a ‘Music in the Morning’ concert where we were treated to my favorite Tchaikovsky String Quartet. I recall reading Tchaikovsky was ‘outed’ and to avoid the horrible scandal which loomed over him, took his own life. Surely he had more music in him to compose. Our loss…..

tchaikovsky-kuznetsov-crop

Tchaikovsky

Oscar Wilde, that witty writer of plays and stories, was jailed because he had an affair with a man.

Oscar-Wilde-640x360

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

The inhumane conditions of jail at the time destroyed his health. His children were never allowed to see him and had no idea what horrible crime their father had committed. His son, writing about it years later in his book says when he finally found out, his reaction was: “That’s all?” He grew up thinking his father had committed murder or something truly awful. Broken physically, Wilde died shortly after his release.

Alan-Turing

Alan Turing, brilliant mathematician who broke the Nazi code

Then there was Alan Turing, the mathematician to whom we owe so much. He was the brilliant man who cracked the Nazi code, which not only served his country, but may have saved us all. How was he thanked? Arrested and disgraced for having a homosexual relationship, forced to undergo surgery to ‘correct’ what was ‘wrong’ with him, and finally, miserably, took his own life.

How many other great thinkers and creative people have we lost because of our stupidity? How many more need to suffer needlessly?

Good luck to our school board with this new program. More power to them.

FullSizeRender

Sign I saw at Chandra and Rafi’s home while I visited them in San Francisco this month.  I love it. I love them.

 

 

Tearing down statues…..

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy Kauffmann

They’re talking about taking down statues and/or changing names of schools in the U.S. as well as here in Canada. What are they thinking? We can’t obliterate history by removing these things,  unpleasant as our history may be — and it is. Nor can we use present-ism to judge decisions made long ago. What we do need is to use these reminders to better educate ourselves. It is the teaching of history that has to change.

Let’s face it, the only part of our population we haven’t managed to hurt since our European forefathers hit these shores are possibly white males, and I’m not even sure of that. If we must erase the existence of former leaders, politicians and generals, we’d probably have to eliminate them all.

Who was in charge in 1885 when Canada instituted the Chinese Head Tax? Who made it legal not to allow the Chinese to attend our universities? What about erasing our

Pierre Berton

Author Pierre Berton

well-known and respected Canadian author/historian Pierre Berton, who in his 1970 book “The National Dream”, neglected to even mention the 15,000 Chinese workers who labored (some died) under harsh conditions for very little pay on the project completed in 1881? That railroad was vital to the establishment of our country at the time John A. Macdonald was our Prime Minister.

Furthermore, how can we know what John A. Macdonald was thinking if he did, indeed, approve the use of residential schools? Could he know or foresee the imperfections of our religious institutions? In Australia, the ‘Stolen Generation’ (1910-1970) happened because it was feared the Aboriginals were dying out! The results there were devastating as well.

Sir Robert Borden p:m, 1914

Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden

When the SS Komagata Maru and it’s passengers were refused entry in 1914, some on-board were suspected of being connected to radicals,

Komagata Maru.jpg

SS Komagata Maru

however it seems clear racism was at the heart of the matter. Sir Robert Borden, knighted in 1915, was Canada’s prime minister. (He introduced women’s suffrage into federal elections — I applaud that effort.) Our country honored Borden by using his photo on our $100 bills right until 2016!

How about Immigration Minister Frederick Blair, who during the administration of Prime Minister Mackenzie King, famously declared:

Immigration Minister Frederick Blair

Immigration Minister Frederick Blair

Wm_Lyon_Mackenzie_King, 1942

Prime Minister Mackenzie King

“None is too many.” as a reason in 1939, for our country to turn away the M.S. St. Louis with 902 desperate German Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. They were sent back to certain death. Should we now denounce Mackenzie King too? (In the Quebec of my youth, there was a quota on the number of Jewish students the universities would accept.)

 

MS St Louis Jewish refugess desperate to flee Nazi

MS St. Louis

The U.S. also refused the MS St. Louis entry during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency (1933-1945). Should we put aside all of Roosevelt’s accomplishments because of this unfortunate incident? (Hitler, at the time, was delighted.) I’m convinced Roosevelt played a key role in saving us from Fascism after the war.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Enter a caption

I could go on and on and talk about the unfair suffering we caused our Japanese citizens during WW2 and the difficulties the Ukrainians endured in our country, and, and, but if I list every group we oppressed, this would be a book.

Indeed, what have we NOT done to wrong our aboriginals, who certainly have the right to complain about their mistreatment by our governments (note plural). Our native population is definitely entitled to REDRESS in capitals. However, destroying statues and renaming schools will accomplish little. We need to see to it that history is properly taught to our citizens so we know about the unvarnished past of our governments. Let’s focus instead on what is required to repair the results of all the mistakes of the past.

What do you think?

Love through the ages

lovebirds

Lovebirds

It was Valentine’s Day this week. A time to think of romance and love and, for those of us ribbon-heartswho are older, to remember past loves. We all have a past.

If you think we’re boring and have nothing interesting to tell, you’re missing an opportunity to hear some fabulous love stories. Want to hear about long treasured memories of romantic love affairs? Forbidden loves? Lovers possibly lost, but recalled in old age with pleasure? Try asking.

A few days ago, my dear daughter-in-law Chandra did just that. I was caught off-guard, however, by asking me to tell her about a past love, she let me know she was interested in me. I liked that. I love her. Also, she had me think about someone I hadn’t thought of for many years.

Chandra and Remy, 2007

A weary but beautiful Chandra with little Remy in 2007

We were all young once, and most young humans search for love. Certainly the cave man grunted his admiration for the gal who lived in the next cave and tried to impress her with his prowess before he carried her off.

abelard-and-heloise

Abelard & Eloise together at last at Pere Lachaise cemetery

The tragic love story of Peter Abelard (1079-1142) and Eloise captured my interest and for  years I read all I could find about the famous scholastic philosopher and his beloved. Not able to be together in life, their bones are now joined forever at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

They say there is nothing new under the sun. People have always loved. I love this poem written by a woman who lived during Medieval times. A UBC history professor gave it to me years ago. I like it so much, I still have and treasure it. Here it is:

 

‘Marriage is a sweet thing
I can prove it by my own example.
God indeed gave to me
A good and sensible husband.
Thank God for being willing
To save him for me, for I have truly
Experienced his great goodness.
Indeed the sweet heart loves me well.two-hearts

And he said, with such tender words:
‘God made me live for you
Sweet friend, and I think that he had me raised
For your personal use.’
He did not stop raving like that
The whole night.
Without being any more immoderate
Indeed the sweet heart loves me well.

Prince, he makes me mad for love,
When he says that he is all mine.
He will make me die of sweetness,
Indeed the sweetheart loves me well.