Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tickled Pink

"And pink's for the lady with joie de vive!
Pink's for all the family.
Try pink shampoo.
Pink toothpaste too.
Play in pink, all day in pink,
Pretty gay in pink.
Drive in pink, come alive in pink,
Have a dive in pink.
Go out dancing but just remember one thing:
You can get a little wink
If you got a little pink
In your swing."

Lyrics from "Think Pink" by Roger Edens

Neon Pink, to be exact

Summer is my least favourite season when it comes to getting dressed.  I'm not the kinda girl who feels her best in a simple summer frock and a pair of sandals, and I haven't felt much enthusiasm for most of my work outfits from the last three months.   Give me patterned tights, short skirts, boots, a great jacket and a colourful scarf, and I'm happy.  I may soon have my wish, as our "summer" has been a mixed bag, weather-wise, and it's starting to feel like fall.  Today I noticed the quality of the light had changed (it's hard to explain if you don't know what I mean) and for me, that's always the sign that Summer is soon to be but a memory.   I was browsing in From Mars, owned and run by a couple of cool dames that I've known for at least 25 years, (and pretty much the only place in London where I purchase anything retail), when I saw the neon pink extra-high hi-tops in the photo above.  They were the last pair, and as luck would have it, they were in my size (meaning, large enough to be able to put my arch supports in them).

Does the colour remind you of anyone??

That would be the fabulously pink-a-licious Krista, shown here in a photo from her blog, cuddling her fur baby, Peetee.  My new shoes have been officially christened "Krista Cons"

The shoes had a magically inspiring effect, and I was able to put together an outfit that was playful, inspired some comments, and made me feel more like my old self.  I've been feeling pretty sad these last couple of weeks since I lost my little bun.  Thanks so much to all of you for the condolences and thoughtful comments on my last blog post.

I had purchased this skirt a few years ago, and it was too long when worn as a skirt - I was forever stepping on it and ripping out the stitching on the gathers.  With the wide stretchy waistband, it made a perfect strapless dress.

I couldn't stop staring at the powerful glowing pink-ness of the shoes

They even made me a little giddy!
Thanks to Heather for her patience, excellent photography skills, and for always being able to make me laugh

I'm wearing:  skirt - Winners, years ago
t-shirt - thrifted
cardigan - Joe Fresh
Krista Cons - From Mars
Necklace - handmade by Krista

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Short-Lived But Long-Loved

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know about my little fur baby, Fred (aka The Bun).  Back in early June she was diagnosed with pneumonia. After two weeks of antibiotics she seemed better....then it came back (or never went away), and we tried a different antibiotic.  When that didn't work, the vet prescribed an anti-inflammatory, which resulted in an immediate improvement, and renewed hope that she would pull through.  The hope was short-lived, and on July 31st I took her back to the vet to be put to sleep.  The vet talked me out of it, noting that she was still eating and grooming, and suggested we combine the two antibiotics with the anti-inflammatory, and that I wait until after the long weekend to see if there was any improvement.   The weekend came and it was obvious that she was uncomfortable.  She lost her appetite, sat crouched in a corner of her cage, and didn't want me to touch her.  It broke my heart, and I had to make a decision.  On Sunday, August 3, Heather and I took her to the emergency Vet Hospital where she ended her suffering.  The staff there were wonderful, and the vet technician that took care of Fred had rats of her own, and understood how attached you could get to a little rodent.   While I was at the hospital, an older couple came in with their 14 year old cat, who was obviously in distress,  and we looked at each other with tears in our eyes, acknowledging our shared grief.  It must be very difficult working in a place where every patient is hurting, and more often than not, the owners have to say goodbye to a beloved member of the family.   The staff even sends out hand-written sympathy cards to the owners of pets who have died at the hospital.

She was the best roommate I could wish for, except for the time she chewed through my telephone cord, and made a hole in a very expensive jacket, but that's what rodents do.  There is absolutely no way you can discipline a rat.  And how could one be angry with that little face?

She was scrupulously clean (and oddly enough, smelled very slightly of grape soda) and very quiet.   She loved all fruit (especially bananas, watermelon and blueberries), cheerios, and the peanut butter and bacon dog biscuits from the bakery at the Western Fair Farmers' Market.  Occasionally I would fill a paint tray with water and let her bob for peas, which was very entertaining for both of us.  She was an excellent climber, a good problem solver, and much smarter than I probably gave her credit for. 

I was endlessly fascinated by her delicate, human-like front paws, her halo of whiskers and fuzz-covered tail.  She had an obsession with licking the inside of my ears, which drove me crazy, but I let her do it because it made her happy. She was the first living creature I saw in the morning, and the last at night.  

 The week before she died, I had asked my friend Mark (who also shot my Tilda Swinton tribute photo) if he would take some photos of her with his incredibly expensive camera (he also contributed the title of this post)  I am forever grateful to him for these wonderful reminders of the little rat that took up very little space in my apartment, but occupied a lot of room in my heart.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tales of Love and Loss - My Day With the War Brides

This story in this post proves two things:  a)  You never know what is going to happen when you get up in the morning, and b)  If you are open to spontaneous adventure and not afraid to talk to strangers you can meet the most amazing people (and hear great stories).

A friend who works at the Central Library told me about a talk by Beverly Tosh, an artist whose work celebrates the lives of War Brides, that was taking place on Saturday.  The term "War Bride" refers to the approximately 48,000 young women who married Canadian servicemen during WWII.  Most of these women came from Britain, but there were also those who came from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy and Germany.  The library had scheduled Tosh's presentation, and an exhibit of War Brides artifacts, in conjunction with the Canadian War Brides and Families 2014 Reunion, which was held here in London this weekend.  About 10 years ago, I had photographed, and interviewed, a number of WWII veterans who resided at the Veteran's hospital here, and have always had a keen interest in stories from that time period.

Tosh's passion for telling the stories of Canadian War Brides through her work shines through when she speaks about how she began the project and the women she has met along the way.

Tosh began her presentation with this slide, showing herself standing with the 8 ft portrait she had painted of her mother Dorothy, as a young war bride who emigrated from Canada to New Zealand to marry a pilot she met at a dance here in Canada in 1944.   Tosh was born in New Zealand, but when she was nine, her mother left her husband and moved back home to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  The painting's title, "One-Way Passage", refers to the fact that women who married servicemen received a one-way passage paid for by the military to their husband's homeland.  

Tosh showed slides of some of the photos that she has used in her work.  Her source materials are the photos from albums belonging to the War Brides she has met and corresponded with.  Hazel, the woman in the photo above, was a dancer, and is shown with the Canadian Serviceman she married.  Unfortunately many of the women left comfortable homes in Europe and traveled in cramped conditions by boat (which were called bride ships) to a country they had never seen, only to find they would be living in a remote area with no electricity, running water, or easy access to supplies. 

Winnie, who arrived in Canada in 1946 as a widow with her two daughters, stands next to her portrait painted by Tosh.   The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa held an exhibit of Tosh's War Bride portraits in 2008, and her work has since been exhibited in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Arizona, and most recently, Red Deer, Alberta.

Tosh works in other mediums as well - this 10 ft long steel wire sculpture, called "Tug of War" depicts 15 Canadian women on the deck of their bride ship.  The work is made from one continuous length of wire, reflecting the connection between these women who didn't know each other, but had linked arms for their photograph.  Tosh also creates "Tear Bottles" - small bottles filled with sea water, containing a photograph, and sealed with wax.  The sea water represents the bride's ocean voyage, and her tears, and whenever possible, comes from the ocean that the bride crossed to reach her new home.  You can find out more about Tosh's exhibit,  War Brides: One Way Passage on her website here.

This wedding dress and veil belonged to Susan Wallace's mother, a War Bride, and is part of the exhibition of War Bride artifacts at the Central Library.  Susan and her husband, local entertainment reporter/blogger James Reaney, Jr., attended the presentation and brought the dress with them.

The other wedding dress on display belongs to Edna Simpson, in the photo above, who purchased it secondhand in England for 10 GBP. 

I sat next to Isabel Summers during the presentation, and she told me that she met her husband at a dance (the best place to meet servicemen), and on their first date, they went to see the film "Gone With the Wind".  Isabel was coming down with a cold, and her husband-to-be went to a chemist's and got her some Vicks vapo-rub and cough drops, which made a good first impression.  Unfortunately, they couldn't stay for the end of the film as they had to catch the last train home.  She finally got to see the end of the film 25 years later.  She and her husband were married 60 years.  The majority of the War Brides I spoke with are now in their 80's or older, and their husbands are now deceased.

I met Dolores Hatch, who was assisting with the events that were part of The Canadian War Brides and Families Reunion, and voiced my desire to speak with some of the other War Brides, and she invited me to stop by the hotel where they were staying before the Saturday Reunion dinner. This was the fourth official reunion of Canadian War Brides and Families, and over 100 people had registered.

War Brides Betty Tharratt (left) and Doreen Grills (right) live here in London.  In 2011 they sailed back to England on the Queen Mary II to visit their homeland.   Many of the women were separated from their husbands for long periods of time when the husbands returned to Canada to find a home for themselves and their wife.   Tharratt had to stay with her family in England, with her new baby, until her husband found a place for them to live in British Columbia.

Olga Rains, who also lives in London, is a Dutch War Bride.  She had to wait in Holland for 9 months before she could join her husband, Lloyd, in Canada.  After raising a family in Canada, the couple returned to Holland where they established Project Roots, which helped Dutch, British, and European war children connect with their Canadian fathers.

To my surprise, and delight, I was invited to join the War Brides and their families for dinner.   I chose an empty space at one of the tables and set about meeting some of my dinner companions.

Gloria Waddy and her mother-in-law, Audrey, sat across the table from me.  Gloria's mother was also a War Bride, and both her father, and father-in-law, survived Dieppe.   Her husband was in the Navy, and they share the same birth date - that's just too many coincidences in one family.  I thought Audrey looked lovely in her turquoise outfit which had been made for her, and Gloria shared that her mother-in-law loves turquoise so much that she even carpeted her house in that colour.  As someone whose living room was at one time pink, followed by pumpkin orange, I saw no problem with that.

James Reaney Jr., decked out in a tuxedo and bow tie, was the emcee for the evening.

My table mate immediately to my left was Rose Stanley, and it didn't take long for me to discover that she was a very funny, feisty woman.  Now 87, she was born in London, England, and met her Canadian husband at a roller rink when she was only 16.  She said that they both knew right away that they would get married, and by the time she was 17, they were husband and wife.  They were married for 63 years, until his death, and according to Stanley, those years were "absolutely wonderful".  It was incredibly moving to hear the enthusiasm in her voice when she talked about her husband, and how much they adored each other.   Not all war brides were as lucky, and she knew of a few who were not treated well by the men they had travelled across an ocean to be with.  Rose and her husband were not well-off, and she did her cooking on a wood stove.  She told me that the best gift she had ever been given was a hot plate.  We discussed the challenges of cooking for one person, and of not driving a car (she had given up her license recently).

By the time we finished dessert we were comfortable enough to pose for a silly photo.  When the band started playing at 8 pm, it was time for me to head home.  I told Rose that if she could find someone to send me an email, I would send her a copy of this photo.    As I was leaving, I  looked around the room and imagined all the stories these women had acquired during their lifetime, and wished that I could have spent a couple of hours with each of them.  As it was, I was very grateful to have had the opportunity to meet some of them, and be given a tiny window into their lives.  Their situation was one that will not be seen again (hopefully...) and their stories are a valuable part of Canada's history that should be recorded, and shared.   Many thanks to Dolores Hatch for arranging my dinner invitation even though she had never met me before, and to James Reaney Jr. for confirming that I was not in fact, dangerous, or crazy.  

If you would like to know more about the Canadian War Brides, check out their website

Monday, August 4, 2014

Rebel Yell

Christine Gionet is determined to change the clothing shopping experience for plus-size women in London.  Up to now it has been pretty dismal.  Even I have had to resort to the largest size in some of the women's stores here, and I'm sorry, but that's just f**ked up.  The clothing stores like Addition Elle and Pennington's that cater to larger sizes here in London sell perfectly decent work-appropriate and casual clothing, but what about women that want clothes that have a bit of an edge, and make them stand out?  Renegade, Gionet's new store that opened this weekend in the downtown core, is the perfect place for them. 

Gionet was frustrated by having to travel to Toronto and the States to find clothing that suited her shape and her personality.   She sought out suppliers of fun and funky plus-size clothes, and held a few trunk shows to establish a customer base.   The level of support she received showed that a store was possible, and on August 1, Renegade opened its doors. 

The flags in the mini red velvet cupcakes that Gionet received from a friend spell out the store's motto:   Be bold.  Be Unique.  Be a Renegade.
The store will carry clothing in sizes 12 - 30, and fun accessories, from over 15 different suppliers.  From what I could see, prices for dresses ranged from about $60 - $150.  There is even a little vintage section in the back.

The black and white outfit on the mannequin above caught my eye (you know how us bloggers love a tulle skirt).

This adorable comic print shoulder bag from Hemet was a favourite of both of us.  The store carries skirts and dresses featuring the California company's rockabilly, Day of the Dead, and tattoo-themed prints.

While we were in the store, a woman tried on this sugar-skull print dress and it looked great on her, and the best thing was that you could tell how happy she was to be wearing a really cool dress that fit her well.

The highest compliment I could pay Gionet was that I wished her stuff came in a smaller size so I could shop there.   I loved the prints on these dresses.

The store does carry some fun t-shirts that would fit me, and I was kind of smitten with the red one that Heather is holding.

Heather took home this fab "heart" pendant that had some serious weight to it.  This particular line of jewellery is cast in bronze and then silver plated, and featured designs such as a pair of headphones, sugar skulls, and a pair of six shooters.

Renegade is located at 232 Dundas Street, and is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday - 10 am - 6 pm, and Thursday 10 am - 8 pm.  Closed Sunday and Monday. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

If It Makes You Happy, It Can't Be That Bad

Heather wanted it to be known that she took these photos under duress, as she thought the parking lot at the Western Fair Farmer's and Artisan's market was a terrible backdrop.  I liked it because I thought my 1980's dress looked even brighter against all the grey. I found it at Value Village, and the halter neck, v-shaped bodice and full skirt brought back memories of my early 20's.  It's not a style I would usually wear, but on this particular day, it made me happy.

The full skirt inspired some dramatic posing.  I added a fabric orchid in my hair and some orange bling to up the sass factor.  After the market we headed to our usual Starbucks to enjoy an overpriced beverage on the patio while comparing notes on our week.

I had been meaning to photograph the greeting card vending machine that has been at the Cheapside and Highbury Starbucks location for the last few months.  The Vending Arts Project, curated by Londoner Janine Wass, was made possible by a grant through Awesome London.  The money was used to purchase and refurbish a used vending machine which was then stocked with greeting cards designed by local artists.  The card machine changes location every 4 months, and will have a new home starting in August.

The machine holds about 300 blank cards, which retail for $4 each.  Wass splits the sales proceeds with the artists.   I think this is a great way to get exposure for local artists, and for the price of a large caramel mocha frappe/latte/cappuccino you can get yourself an original piece of art.  London needs more venues like this for artists to show their work to the public outside of an art gallery.

Look at that, it's almost another weekend, and for us in Canada, because of the civic holiday on Monday, it's a long one.  Enjoy it, because Labour day is just around the corner....

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Today was the 20th annual PRIDE Parade here in London.  The skies went from clear, to cloudy and back to clear again throughout the day, but the rain held off until evening.   I have walked in the parade a few years, and this year was the first that my employer, Western University, would be represented in the parade, so I put on some purple and joined the party.

I had to get my photo taken with Western's mascot, JW.  Even though the sun wasn't out, it was still warm, and I'm sure it was extra sticky inside that mustang suit.  I, on the other hand was quite comfortable in the thrifted jumpsuit I found yesterday at Talize.  Participants were offered Western t-shirts to wear in the parade, but if I was going to wear purple, it was going to be my own version, thank you very much.

There are a lot of photos in this post folks, so I decide to organize them into three categories:  The Colours, the Faces and the Parade.

The Colours.... 


While we were waiting in the parking lot at the Western Fairgrounds for the parade to get underway, I took advantage of the time to get shots of the glorious colors.

Of course, there are always balloons

This group was rocking their rainbow colours in every form, from tie-dye to fun fur

The parade is usually led by the Dykes on Bikes, and their rainbow flag-decorated motorcycles were ready to roll.

The London Middlesex Roller Derby Girls, the Backlash Betties, were there

The Forest City Derby Girls were a veritable rainbow on wheels

You could see this woman from all the way across the parking lot

Some people took the colour thing to the extreme

This group of Amazons (and a budding warrior) were no less visible in their earth tones

The Faces....


When I got to the parking lot where everyone was assembling prior to the start of the parade, I saw this young woman standing by herself, and she prompted a lot of questions in my head - was she part of a group?  Was it her first parade?  What was she thinking about as she was standing there?

The Pride Parade, which caps off over a week of Pride Festivities, has really become a family affair

There was a time when most of the people who walked in, and watched the parade were gay men, but not so anymore.   Gay, straight, old, young, ethnically diverse, two-legged and four-legged - we all come together to celebrate diversity and to proudly show our true selves to the world.

There is still fabulousness and flamboyance, but the number of drag queens in the parade has declined over the years.

They have been replaced by organizations like the London Police Services, various political parties, London firefighters, law firms, financial institutions and non-profits.  And then there are the regular folks like those in the photo above.

This year saw more canine participants and supporters than ever - I call them the Pups of Pride!

The Parade!

I was part of the purple pack walking behind this banner, which looks more blue than purple most likely because of my dying camera.

I didn't know we had such a large Druid contingent in London

This woman's outfit made my jumpsuit look downright conservative by comparison

The Warrior Queen in full regalia - this woman makes her own costumes and every year I look forward to seeing what she's come up with.  She deserves a special award just for walking the entire parade route in heels.

Pride for all

This couple had the best sign in the parade

The Forest City Derby Girls were rollin'

After the parade, two friends took the obligatory selfie

We paid a visit to the Come As You Are booth to check out the latest toys, wolfed down a Burrito and parted ways.    I was invited to drink Prosecco with some neighbours on their porch, which was the perfect ending to an all-around good day.  I think it may have to become an annual tradition.

Happy Pride Everyone!