Gertrude Trumps Eglantine
Saturday, June 06, 2009
What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.
Because I am leaving for Austin, Texas soon for my St. Ed’s High School reunion I am preparing Rebecca for our lecture/presentation at the Vancouver World Rose Festival
from June 19 to June 21. Our presentation is called A Rose Through a Child’s Eyes
. Today we looked at 30 more roses in the garden. In her neat handwriting Rebecca wrote their names and other salient facts like colour and scent. She had never heard of Hybrid Perpetual Roses which were introduced in mid 19th century. They were certainly not in bloom perpetually but were remontant.
There were two roses that attracted Rebecca today and both are English Roses. The top one is called Rosa ‘Eglantine’ and the bottom one is Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ She already knows a few things about Miss Jekyll (rhymes with treacle). Rebecca would tell you that this plain-looking 19th century English woman was an expert gardener who stated that the whitest white in a garden was the rugosa rose, ‘Blanc double de Coubert’
. Both Rebecca and I have that rose but Rebecca’s has yet to bloom as it is brand new since I bought it for her at the VanDusen plant sale this year.
Rebecca had protested when I had told her to turn on the TV. Once she was outside writing down the rose facts she began to jump from Eglantine to Gertrude Jekyll trying to figure out which of the two she liked best. While I think both smell the same even though Gertrude is stronger, Rebecca did discern some differences. She also liked Gertrude’s larger size.
After our home-made pizza dinner Rebecca took Lauren and her mother Hilary to the garden for a tour of the garden roses. I stayed inside and watched proudly from the living room window as Rebecca explained. I had asked Rebecca earlier if she was not going to freeze in front of the many people who would listen to her at the festival. “Not a chance!” she asserted.
Mala Yerba Nunca Muere
Friday, June 05, 2009
Mala yerba nunca muere, y si muere no hace falta.
A bad weed never dies, and if it dies it's not needed.
While going for a walk this afternoon I spotted a weed coming out of a neighbour's hedge. Rosemary and I make a habit of occasionally pulling some of the weeds we may spot as we don't want them to land in our garden. One, specifically is morning glory. I was about to pull the one in the picture (Centaurea montana
) when I noticed the flower. It is commonly called a Bachelor's Button and it is a perennial cornflower. I decided to scan it and I think I have been rewarded by the beauty of a plant that most people will either ignore or simply not notice.
While having tea with my friend Abraham Rogatnick on Thursday, he said to me,"So many people when they see the extraordinary beauty and diversity of nature must then need to believe that they were created by someone." Both of us believe in a final end. But I remained quiet. As I look at the beautiful detail of Cantaurea montana
it would be comforting to believe in the immortality of this weed and other life forms. But it's beauty is somehow enough.
Mary Rose & That Hamilton Woman
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Early in the spring after our terrible recurring winter we lost most of our New Zealand hebes, our Ceanothus and at least 10 roses. Some of my dead roses were classic favourites of mine like Rosa ‘Reine Victoria’, 'Bishop of Darlington', Chinensis x odorata
‘Mutabilis’, William Shakespeare, Ballerina, the Fairy, Sally Holmes and the rose that reminds me most of Rebecca Mrs Oakley Fisher. I purchased replacements (not all were available). I should have known better. Death isn’t quite as final in the rose kingdom. I cut the dead roses to the ground and hoped. All came back with the exception of the 'Bishop of Darlington' and 'Reine Victoria'. 'Mrs. Oakley Fisher' is about to bloom and every day that I venture into the garden in the morning an old friend is likely to pull a botanical Lazarus.
I have written before that Nick Lowe’s great pop song, Cruel to Be Kind
should be the anthem of rose care. Roses must never be allowed to have aging canes or very tall ones. I have left these canes grow year after year until the canes brown and there is a restriction of sap to the new shoots from where the new roses will bud. The solution is to be heavy handed and to be brutal (cruel) and cut them as far down as one can. This forces the rose to fight for its life. It protects itself by forming new shoots from the base. This was the case even with a rose that looked as dead as it could be like Mutabilis. It had grown to about 26 feet and the canes were bigger in thickness than a walking cane. The new shoots are already four feet. It will bloom soon.
The rose here is an English Rose. It is Rosa ‘Mary Rose’. When I saw her this morning it was like seeing an old friend come back from a vacation. I had missed her without knowing and there she was beckoning to my sniffing sense. She smells of myrrh. She is named after Henry VIII’s flagship that sank before it even sailed. Not too long ago she was found and brought back up and boxes and boxes of long bows were found. They were dried. They then were re-strung and tested. One needed a 100 pound pull to get the string to the cheek.
Rebecca will takeover the narrative and explain here that the several yews in my garden (Taxus) were much the same as the English yews from where they made the long bows that English and Welsh bowmen used to penetrate the French armour and defeated them at Agincourt and Crecy during the 100 Year's War.
My point being that historical association is what has made Rebecca ultimately so interested in growing roses. One of my new roses is Horatio Nelson. Perhaps in a few weeks Rebecca and I will watch Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier in Alexander Korda’s 1941 film That Hamilton Woman.
When Horatio Nelson blooms he will seem like an old friend to us both. And of course we will not forget to be cruel so as to be kind.
Love Is A Shocking Pink/Purple Swan
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
My mother and I, when I was in my late teens, often discussed the topic of love. love. She would say to me, “Love is not demonstrations of it. Love is doing.” She sacrificed in many respects her happiness by working very hard to put me in good schools that strained her financial situation to the limit for most of her life. And I was most unappreciative. Instead of thanking her in some way I would keep on, "I want..." My mother seemed to think that outward forms of affection were secondary to doing. It was my father who I remember kissing me and when he did there was that whiff of whiskey and Player's Navy Cut with a hint of lavender. I loved his smell.
When my mother was in her late 50s she confessed to me that she missed that affectin that she had disdained for so long. Suddenly doing and giving weren't good enough. To this day I regret in not having showered her with the affection she craved. She had taught me too well.
This morning when I went to see which roses had opened I noticed a hybrid rugosa in bloom. She is Rosa
'Hansa'. Of her my rose bible, Peter Beales' Classic Roses
says:Schaum and Van Tol Holland 1905
Very free flowering. Doublem, highly scented, reddish-purple flowers. Vigorous, medium sized plant with dark green foliage. Excellent red fruit. This is one of the best all-round roses.
Hansa means duck or swan in German and Sanskrit. The Hanseatic or Hansa League was an alliance of cities and their guilds in the late middle ages. Whichever way you look at it that name, Hansa, does not have the ring of Rosa 'Emma Hamilton', 'Mrs. Oakley Fisher', the Fairy or Ballerina. It is a sturdy name for a sturdy rose that happens to have an overpowering scent (it goes up the nose like Keen's Mustard) and once it is lodged in your memory it is sublime. The scent has to compete with a colour that would probably glow in the dark. Subtlety of colour is not Hansa's strong suit.
Yet when I spotted her this morning I immediately remembered with a rush of pride and love for the person who gave her to me. It was my oldest daughter Ale. For a couple of years this "free flowering" plant refused to reward me with any flowers. Last year her behaviour was sporadic. This year she is coming in strong. I wanted to find Ale and give her a big kiss and a hug. Giving a rose to someone is most personal. It's not like a bouquet of mums. A gift rose is serius business. It is serious giving. It is a serious giving my mother would understand. But unlike my mother I am willing to admit that the giving is not enough if I cannot correspond in some way with some loving, the sweet and corny sentimental kind. Yes Ale, I your father love you a lot and I love and appreciate this wonderful shocking pink/red/purple swan.
Six Brothers Chip In To My Photographic Career
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
The first camera I ever saw was my Uncle Tony’s Kodak box camera. Thanks to my Uncle Tony there is a pretty good record of my childhood in Buenos Aires. Many of his pictures he took in our Melián garden. I suspect it was Uncle Tony who took all my birthday group photographs which are some of he few I have where I can see my father.
It was in Buenos Aires, at the Lincoln Library (a United States Information Service sponsored propaganda establishment) which was at the even then fashionable Florida Street when in 1951, when I was 9, I saw a photograph that changed my life. At the very least it pointed me in the direction of my becoming the photographer I am today. It was a journal of the American Heritage Society and the picture was one taken by Timothy O’Sullivan of the dead on a battlefield of the American Civil War.
In 1951 the only magazines I was familiar with were Billiken, an Argentine children’s magazine and the historietas (comic book magazines) that my mother bought for me at our Coghlan train station. They were Ratón Mickey
and Pato Donald.
That first photograph I saw in the American publication was (unlike the images in the Argentine comic books) incredibly sharp and the dead soldiers look for real. There were portraits of Lincoln with General Grant by Matthew Brady. The men looked like they could walk out of the page. I made the math that the people in the photograph had been dead for about 97 years. In comparison to what I had learned in my history classes at school that did not seem to be such a long time.
|Brother Vincent de Paul|
In 1958 when I was in grade 10 at St. Ed’s High School in Austin Texas, Brother Vincent de Paul and Brother Dunstan Bowles organized a bus trip to Washington DC. It was in Washington DC that I spotted an Agfa Silette in a pawn shop. I have no idea how much I paid for it. The pawn shop attendant even had film. I asked him what film he recommended. He said, “Kodak Tri-X is the best film you can buy.” This I did.
|Brother Dunstan Bowles|
It took me a year to feel the frustration of this beautiful camera’s limitations. It had no rangefinder so the focusing was by guessing the distances. I felt frustrated that no matter how hard I tried I cold not unscrew the lens. It dawned at me that the one lens it had was the only lens it would ever have.
It was in grade 11 that I made up my mind that I needed to buy a new camera. The one I wanted was similar to the one that my friend Brother Anton Mattingly (below, left) had. We both spoke Spanish. I took his Spanish class instead of Latin thinking it was the lazy thing to do. I soon learned I was not going to be as easy as I thought it would be. Brother Anton taught me Spanish grammar. He liked to take snapshots with the most beautiful camera I had ever seen. It was a Pentacon with a Zeiss Biotar F-2 58mm lens.
|Brother Anton Mattingly|
At the time I worked for Brother Hubert Koeppen. He paid me wages to clean the basketball gym and to work with him in his shop where he sold model cars and airplanes. It was there that we re-used all the paper streamers that he and I would use to decorate the school dances. We would carefully bring them down. I would roll them carefully into rolls and staple one end to another. We had boxes of red, orange, white, green, etc coloured streamers.
One day Brother Hubert took me to a place where he warned me in advance that it was a secret I had to keep. We got into an old truck that had a putrid smell. The back was full of old rags. He took me to some nearby warehouse where we dumped the old rags into a room that was full, from floor to ceiling with more rags. He explained that he sold the rags to a paper company and that with the money he bought the supplies to varnish and keep the gym floor in tip top shape. I imagined then that Brother Hubert would have done well as a concentration camp inmate as he would have stored everything and found use for all of it.
|Brother Hubert Koeppen|
Working with Brother Hubert was a tough job but there was the extra pleasure of being exposed to his corny humour and erudite stories of ancient history. I was teased by the Latino contingent of the boarding school. Brother Hubert wore a very large black hat and a black cape. He was given the sobriquet “El Vampiro”. And since I was his helper I was dubbed “El Vampirito”. But I had a goal. I was going to buy the newer model Pentacon-F with a Zeiss Biotar F-2 58 mm lens.
When I thought I had enough money I realized I could not afford the Biotar but had to settle for the lesser Zeiss 50mm F-2.8 Tessar. I ordered it from Olden Camera in NY City and Brother Emmett Strohmeyer who ran the school bookstore and just about anything else shop got me the money order.
Some weeks later as I was passing by the store Brother Emmett stopped me to tell me had a big box for me. It was my Pentacon-F
. It was the most beautiful camera I had ever seen. The knobs to wind and re-wind the film were much bigger than in Brother Anton’s!
|Brother Emmett Strohmeyer|
It was with the Pentacon-F that I learned photography. Within a few months I had saved up enough money from Brother Hubert’s job to buy an extremely fast (for the day) F-1.8 Komura 80mm lens. I could switch lenses to my heart’s content. This camera had interchangeable lenses. And my camera was cutting edge. In 1959 there was a heated argument that the new-fangled single lens reflex cameras were no match to rangefinder cameras. But my happiness with my Pentacon-F was short-lived.
|Brother Edwin Reggio|
Brother Edwin Reggio, right, (one of his tasks was to shoot the photos for the school annual, the Edwardian) bought a brand new Konika F which had a built in light meter system. It also had a metal, vertically running Copal focal plane shutter. Brother Anton and I were left with dated pieces that if not junk they were close to it. To make my jealousy worse Brother Edwin added insult to injury by waylaying me on the way to lunch to inform me that I was going to be his new alto saxophone player for the school band. Since I did not even know how to read notes I could not understand why he had chosen me. But cleaning the band hall for Brother Edwin gave me extra wages to pay for my camera and film expenses. Would it be possible that I could then buy a Konica? I never did but I bought another camera, a used one in Mexico City in 1962.
In Mexico City before I left for my stint in the Argentine Navy in 1964 I had purchased a used Pentax S-3
. It had the same lens mount as the Pentacon. I could shoot colour slide with one and b+w with the other. At the time I used brands such as Afga, Ferrania, Adox besides the usual Kodak Tri-x. In 1964 before I left for Argentina I won first prize at the annual university competition at Mexico City College. I never really did notice the judge who signed my diploma. He was an obscure (to me) Mexican artist called Rufino Tamayo. But the prize did put in my mind that perhaps photography could be an interesting hobby.
The two cameras recorded my stay in Buenos Aires and my meeting up with my soon-to-be wife Rosemary Healey in Mexico City in 1967/68. The two cameras recorded the birth and growth of our two daughters Alexandra and Hilary. I took the role of Uncle Tony and photographed all of my daughter’s birthday parties in Arboledas, Mexico. The groups had at least 50 children in them.
In 1975 we decided to abandon the financial and political uncertainty of Mexico for Vancouver. I made the decision to give up my high school teaching and English teaching in American companies. I had the ambition to start from scratch in Vancouver as a photographer. On the way to Canada in our VW Beetle I dropped off my daughters and Rosemary at Disneyland and I drove to a camera store and bought new Pentaxes, new exposure meters and lights. I was going to be a professional photographer.
Educación - Manners & Upbringing
Monday, June 01, 2009
A la primera, perdón; a la segunda con el bastón (The first time a pardon. The second time a caning.)
A week ago on Saturday, Rosemary and I took my first cousin Willoughby Blew and his wife Chris to Lillooet to visit my eldest daughter Ale. For me it was glorious as I was “en familia” which is a Spanish term which sort of means “happily with family”. The Blews seemed to enjoy the scenery and had no problem with the intense curves between Pemberton and Lillooet. I cooked in Lillooet and on Sunday before driving back to Vancouver we were treated to a full breakfast at the venerable (for Lillooet) Reynolds Hotel. As soon as the Blews settled back home in Florida they sent nice thank you letters to us and to Ale. The e-mails were full of praise for our daughters, granddaughters and much was mentioned of our beautiful city and our own Kerrisdale garden.
In short, I was proud that my side of the family showed “educación”. This does not only mean education but upringing and manners, too.
All that helped to make my first day of school at a local photography school (I teach at two) all that much of a shock. Within ten minutes of facing a new class of 19 students I found that one was giggling. I enquired as to why she/he was giggling as I was not saying anything that was remotely funny ( I was probably describing how difficult it is to be a magazine photographer right now). My student answered that having the preference to play a computer game at home that would have been the option but, since parents were paying for tuition some obligation was felt on his/her part to be in class, albeit playing that computer game anyway. Satisfied (but still shocked) at the reply I spotted another student (it was 10:30) about to bite on a large hamburger. I averted my gaze to another area of the room to find a student yawning repeatedly (hands very far from mouth) with lots of vigour. My student was Latin American so I pointed out, in Spanish, that here was a marvelous opportunity for her/him to show the good manners she/he had been taught by his/her grandmother in the presence of so called “uncouth” gringos.
Another student repeatedly came and left the room with no explanation.
It is my purpose to inspire a few to develop a passion for photography. Not all will be passionate. Just a few perhaps. But sometimes I have trouble trying to figure out what the new standards of behaviour are or if there are any.
All of which made me long for the Blews with a new found nostalgia for that “educación” which seems to be so rare in this day and age.
Estella - Falling In Love Again
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Coincidentally on Saturday I read two essays on books. On the editorial page of the NY Times there was Verlyn Klinkenborg’s Some Thoughts on the Pleasures of Being a Re-Reader
and in the Vancouver Sun convergence editor Rick Ouston (never one for smiling on cue) wrote how a condo leak precipitated him into getting rid of most of his books in Bookshelf clearout, a heresy brought by condo repairs
With the exception of “reference books survived the cut, along with a few favourite novels, books by friends, my own scribblings and some borrowed screeds that I must really return to their owners…” Ouston stated, “…at the end, I felt a sense of relief, like a glass of cold water on a hot day.”
If anything Ouston’s essay makes my eventual (soon, I would say ) decision on what to do with all the books I have acquired since I began buying them, even more poingnant, terryfing, stressful, and finally so depressing. How does one get rid of books? In Ouston’s case the leaks on his walls pushed the decision forward. In my case as Rosemary and I look at the eventual selling of the house I understand that there will be simply no room for all the books and the multiple antique bookcases of our present home.
Fortunately the sadness precipitated by Ouston’s screed and further magnified by gazing on his taciturn and almost melancholy face in the photograph that accompanied the article, was ameliorated a touch by the far happier tone of Klinkengborg’s musings on re-reading books. He asserts:The real secret of re-reading is simply this: It is impossible. The characters remain the same, and the words never change, but the reader always does. Pip is always there to be revisited, but you the reader, are a little like the convict who surprises him in the graveyard – always a stranger.
I had to smile when I read this as both Klinkenborg and I often re-read Great Expectations.
I re-read often and I have a few favourites. Two are Daphne Du Maurier’s. The House on the Strand
after repeated re-readings has yet to reveal to me the mysteries of its ending. The other, The Scapegoat
I will perhaps not re-read further. I was finally able to see the film version with Alec Guinness and Bette Davis.
There are two science fiction books that surprise me every time I reprise them. One is Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama
and the other is Walter M. Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibovitz
In “literature” I often re-read Mario Vargas Llosa’s The War of the End of The World
and at least once a year I revisit Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory
. I am a sucker for any of Jerome Charyn's
Isaac Sidels but Blue Eyes
is my fave.
I have finished P.C Wren’s Beau Geste
at least three times sometime in the middle of the night and nautical novels are a particular passion. I have read both C.S. Forrester’s Hornblower novels and Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin series twice. In particular O’Brian’s first of the series Master and Commander
. That first meeting between the men at a concert that almost ends in a duel is sheer fun every time.
As I re-read I have come to understand that some of my novels may need to rest for a longer time period between readings. Perhaps in the next few months I will tackle Umberto Eco’s Focault’s Pendulum
and Charles Palliser’s Quincunx
Poetry has not been on my favourites list ever but there is one summer ritual I do not fail at. I read William Carlos Williams' Selected Poems
. I am delighted that Rebecca agrees on me on this one. She has memorized the poem about the plums in the icebox.
No matter how I look at it, I know that the moment I may get rid of a book I would need it for reference purposes soon after and I would miss it by not having it.
Getting rid of my books would be like obliterating my memory and the living I have lived through them. There is always that thrill of falling in love, through Pip, with the icy Estella. Re-reading Great Expectations
is like falling in love for the first time, every time.