MY ANGEL READS CHARLES DICKENS AND LISTENS TO LEONARD COHEN

There is a private place where I can slip away into another world.  It restores my soul and brings me joy.   It allows me to collect my thoughts, write, dream  and face each day with strength and resilience.    Virginia Woolf called it  A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN.

I’ve been thinking about angels.  A flicker of movement in the corner of my eye.  I turn quickly.  Nothing.  But I know it is an angel.  My angel.

I think about the music my angel would listen to.    Beethoven’s Moon Light Sonata,   a love song without words.   Cohen’s Hallelujah,  over and over again.   The final chorus of angels from Gounod’s Faust.

My angel likes her wine decanted .  Wine from a bottle dusted with age and filled with grace.  She was there when the grapes were planted.  The vineyard at  least a hundred years old.    But my darlings this angel like most angels  is much, much older .

There are over 129,000,000 books in the world.   My angel has read all of them.  She is re- reading  Dickens’s   A TALE OF TWO CITIES.  She likes Dickens.   I know a Christmas Carol would be more appropriate in keeping with the season but this angel considers   Dickens important for our present time.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredibility, it was the season of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Oh dear! Of all the books in this wide world why is my angel reading this book.   I certainly didn’t intend to take my angel back to 1859.   A TALE OF TWO CITIES  ends badly for many BUT  there is a sense of optimism in Dickens’s last words.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done;  it is a far, far, better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

There is a strong sense of optimism in Dickens’s final words in TALE OF TWO CITIES.  We must take heart and take care – of ourselves and our fellow man.

The idea of my  wine sipping, music loving  angel makes me smile with delight.    At night when the skies are black and the stars are sharp as ice I catch a flash of white and the strains of  music . . Hallelujah  Hallelujah  Hallelujah.  Thank you, Angel.

 

 

 

I READ TO LIVE

Can you remember when you were four years old?    Some of the children at Froggy Pad Day Care are four years old.  Some are younger.  Some are older.  Some need to be read to.  Others can read.    The postcards from Mr. Nobody are important to every single child.

I remember my fourth birthday  gift.   A school bag, red plaid edged in brown leather.  With a big strap to go round my neck.  With flapped pockets closed tight by shiny buckles.  With pockets where I  store treasures.   My Pinocchio book.  Pine cones I hold close to smell the forest.  A tiny pink stone.

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My Mother reads to me.   From thick pages close printed with tiny letters.  From books  with dark covers smelling of  leather that captures and holds the flavours of the book.  These books have no pictures.

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”  Her voice became David Copperfield.  The words tumbled into my mind where I would turn them over not always understanding, not caring, simply lost in the joy of  hearing the words.

More than anything else I wanted to read those books.  Thick, fat books without pictures.   Books with  close square  print holding secret stories.

“When can I read?”

“When you are six.  When you go to school”

“But I will be old when I’m six.  With white hair”.

I am six.  I go to  Cottage School.  Two rooms, one up one down.    The school smells of  wooden desks deep carved with initials.  The desks have circular openings that hold bottled ink.  Mine is empty.  I am not old enough to use a pen.  I write with a thick, broad, flat pencil.    The black boards are gray with old chalk.  There’s a map of the world so enormous it covers an entire wall.   I am going to learn to read.   I am given a book  words worn thin by countless eyes.  DICK AND JANE.

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I am six.  I am furious.

I tell my mother “I am NEVER going back to school.   Nobody says “Look  Jane look, look.  See Dick.  see see, see Dick” .  That’s not a real book! Where are the words from The Old Curiosity Shop,   Oliver Twist? The words from Gulliver’s Travels and A Christmas Carol?  Where are the words from your books?”

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I am more than six.  I am a compulsive reader.  I read the backs of cereal boxes at the breakfast table.  The fine print in advertisements standing in line at the grocery store.  I cannot pass a bookstore even  when the books are in another language.  My silver memory box holds library cards from Edinburgh,  Amsterdam, Calgary, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver.  My oldest card, dated 1941, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan,  the place where it all began.

This holding a book in my hands.  The feel of the pages.  The smell of the ink.

This cadence of the prose.

This losing of one’s self to another place and time.

This reading of the beautifully written words.

This utter delight of being able to live a thousand lives.

I read in order to live.

SROOGE’S NEPHEW TELLS US HOW TO KEEP CHRISTMAS . . . 174 years later.

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say, “Christmas among the rest.  But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round-apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a good time:  a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time:  the only time I known of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it HAS done me good, and WILL do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

(Charles Dickens.   Published in 1843.  Copied from the pages of  “THE ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF THE WORKS  OF CHARLES DICKENS  FEBRUARY, 7 1812” .   In the quiet evenings leading to Christmas Day I have been reading from my copy of this book (1911 edition).  More than one hundred years ago other hands turned these pages.  Read “A CHRISTMAS CAROL. IN PROSE.  BEING A GHOST STORY OF CHRISTMAS”.  Other eyes studied intently the illustrations then turned to the next story.  “THE CHIMES.  A GOBLIN STORY OF SOME BELLS THAT RANG AN OLD YEAR OUT AND A NEW YEAR IN”.  This was followed by “THE CRICKET ON THE HEARTH.  A FAIRY TALE OF HOME”.    Then “THE BATTLE OF LIFE.  A LOVE STORY”.     Dickens took me to dark places with “THE HAUNTED MAN AND THE GHOST’S BARGAIN”.    A waiting me in the New Year “PICTURES FROM ITALY”.  This classic book, with introductions to each tale, has insightful critical comments, and notes by  critics and writers including Wm. Makepeace Thackery.  Dickens’ peers judging him.  Some not kindly.

I found my faded, red book with sepia illustrations, years ago in a second-hand book store in our tiny village of Ladner.  It was like rediscovering an old friend from the past.    Through the long, bitter cold winter nights of Northern Saskatchewan, we would huddle around the kitchen stove and our Mother would read to us.  A Christmas Carol and The Cricket On The Hearth were our favorites.

. . . . . ” it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us, and all of us! 

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”

CHARLES DICKENS AND MY INTRODUCTION TO SILVER

How Charles Dickens introduced me to silver.

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Every evening through the bitter cold Saskatchewan winters our mother read Charles Dickens to us.  The Old Curiosity Shop, Little Nell and her Grandfather was as real to us as the neighbors next door.  That was the year I turned  nine years old, and discovered what I thought was an Old Curiosity Shop.

Nine years old meant I was old enough to go downtown by myself.  I could spend all the time I wanted walking up and down Prince Albert’s Central Avenue.   Looking at books in Adam’s Book Store.  Buying a cherry custard ice cream at McConnell’s.

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It was off a side street I found a shop with a  dirty window crowded with other people’s memories  – walking sticks, stone crocks, faded photographs and mysterious objects I couldn’t identify.  I had discovered my Old Curiosity Shop. When I opened the door a bell tinkled.  The shop was dusty with forgotten pasts.  It smelt of mildew.   Of neglect.   It was wonderful.

The floor creaked.  Bare light bulbs hung from the high ceiling. There was no order.  Clothes tumbled out of trunks.  China plates and bowls teetered precariously.  Ancestral photographs frowned at me.  And then I found the silver.  Tarnished black.   Again it was wonderful.

A bundle of elaborate silver spoons had been thrust carelessly into a green glass canning jar.  The aging price sticker said five cents each.  I had a dime.  I could buy two.  I knew what I could do with them.   Armed with an old tooth brush, silver polish and soft flannel I had been lovingly polishing my mother’s silver candlesticks and tea service for several years.

And that was the start of my obsession with silver  – preferably old, along with my acceptance that all silver will tarnish and life is too short to be polishing your silver with commercial polish every Saturday.  This recipe for cleaning silver is safer (no chemicals), cheaper (house-hold ingredients) and better for your silver.  It returns your silver to incredible brilliance with damaging it.

 

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MAGIC SILVER CLEANING SOLUTION

Aluminum foil, glass dish or plastic bowl, tongs,   1 cup boiling water, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon sea salt. 1/2 cup white vinegar.

Line your bowl with the foil.  Add the baking soda and sea salt.  Pour in the white vinegar(it fizzes).  Pour in the water.

Lay your silver items – not touching – in the bowl for 10 to 30 seconds depending on the amount of tarnishing.  Longer if they are badly tarnished.  Remove with tongs and rinse under running water.  Then polish with a soft cloth.  (try to avoid touching the silver with your fingers as they will tarnish your silver)

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This amount is perfect for silver jewellery and small items. I made up the amount times eight (8) so I could clean large items.  If you find it not working after cleaning several items simply remove the discolored  foil and replace it with new foil.

Dear friends I did research on this method and I was confident I wasn’t harming my silver.  It is important not to leave the silver in mixture for any length of time. If your have valuable family heirlooms you might want to research this yourself, but it does work a treat on silver plate.  My understanding is continuous use of commercial silver polish actually removes the silver.  This method does not.  The hot water quickly cools but the mixture continues to work.

I absolutely promise your silver will gleam.  I had not polished any silver for almost a year.  It was so tarnished that as I dipped first one side of a silver jug and then went to turn it to the other side the difference was like black and white.    Gather up your collection of silver and polish it all in one go.  It  is like having your own butler from Downton Abby is shining away in the pantry

 

 

 

GRATITUDE

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I am grateful.

I am grateful for Mozart.  I am grateful for blueberry pie.  I am grateful for dawns early light.  I am grateful for Alfred Lord Tennyson.  I am grateful for beach picnics.  I am grateful for Lenard Cohen.  I am grateful for home made bread.  I am grateful for Casablanca.  I am grateful for vanilla beans.  I am grateful for Alice Munro.  I am grateful for David Austin roses.   I am grateful for Charles Dickens.  I am grateful for oatmeal cookies.  I am grateful for prairie sunsets.  I am grateful for blue hydrangeas.   I am grateful for K.D. Lang.  I am grateful for Paris.  I am grateful for Edith Piaf.  I am grateful for wicker baskets.  I am grateful for maple syrup.  I am grateful for Charlie Chaplin.  I am grateful for Cracker Jacks.  I am grateful for pick-up sticks.  I am grateful for skipping ropes.  I am grateful for the Dalia Lama.  I am grateful for honey crisp apples.   I am grateful for Louise Penny.  I am grateful for Buddha.  I am grateful for elephants.  I am grateful for sea shells.  I am grateful for the milky way.  I am grateful for copper cooking pots.  I am grateful for lily of the valley.  I am grateful for Thomas Edison.  I am grateful for Ian Rankin.  I am grateful for The Wizard of Oz.  I am grateful for rain in the night.  I am grateful for sunshine in the morning.  I am grateful for kittens.  I am grateful for country fairs.  I am grateful for Strauss waltzes.  I am grateful for encyclopedias.  I am grateful for apple pie.  I am grateful for Frank Lloyd Wright.   I am grateful for cotton candy.  I am grateful country fairs.  I am grateful for canoes.  I am grateful for buttered popcorn.  I am grateful for merry-go-rounds.  I am grateful for cherry custard ice cream cones.  I am grateful for calla lilies.  I am grateful for Faure’s Requiem.  I am grateful for Willie Nelson.    I am grateful for the Eiffel Tower.   I am grateful for ice skates.  I am grateful for wiener roasts.  I am grateful for Oswald Rabbit.  I am grateful for Mocha the Dog.   I am grateful for The Tin Man.  I am grateful for train whistles.  I am grateful for meadow larks.  I am grateful for fog horns in the night.  I am grateful for tap water.  I am grateful for pearl buttons.  I am grateful for patchwork quilts.  I am grateful for Tin Tin.    I am grateful for paint boxes.  I am grateful for thoughtful friends.  I am grateful for caring siblings.  I am grateful for my precious children.  I am grateful for my loving husband.  I am grateful for my life.

CHARLES DICKENS

How fortunate I was to grow up with Oliver Twist,  Little Dorrit,  Nicholas Nickleby and David Copperfield.  I spent hours in The Old Curiosity Shop and Bleak House.  Our Mother loved Charles Dickens novels.  She read  out loud to us through the long, cold winter nights.  Not for us tame fairy tales.  The dark underbelly of  Dickens’ London, his villains and heroes, were our bedtime stories.

I was thrilled to bits when I discovered these five volumes of Charles Dickens at our local Ladner Thrift Shop.  These familiar small, red books  held the magic, the enchantment, the mystery, of another world.   Published  in 1911 these one hundred year old books are in almost pristine condition.  Their scarlet covers and gold lettering still rich and bright.  The illustrations are delightful.

When I hold these books I hold precious  memories.   I grasp firmly the days of my childhood. Who says you can’t go home again.    All it takes is one  book and I am there.