Dag Hammarskjöld relieves my unease
Saturday, May 02, 2020
These days and particularly on these uncharacteristically sunny
Vancouver days I feel this empty thing in my stomach. I feel uneasy.
Both my Rosemary and I are more or less in good health.
There is money in the bank and we live in a nice neighbourhood. Our deck garden
is about to explode in the blooms of our roses. Food is good and simple to
make. Breakfast in bed, every day with our Vancouver Sun and the New York Times
in our hands is satisfying. And more so with the presence of our brother and
sister cats, Niño and Niña.
This unease runs concurrently with thoughts into my past
with all those people that are now gone.
There is one person who can, I believe, put some sense into
my uneasiness. This is Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary General of the
It was around 1966 when I was a conscript in the Argentine
Navy that I disobeyed the order of an Argentine Lieutenant Commander. He said
he was going to arrest me and put me in the brig for a few days. He told me
that he was going to be kind in giving me until the next day to get ready and
order whatever I had to order in my life.
I decided I needed reading material. I went to the nearby
Pigmalion (Pigmalión in Argentine Spanish) bookstore on Calle Corrientes 515. I
was much too ignorant to notice a blind old man who was there frequently buying
books in English. In this occasion I bought two books. One was the Phenomenon
of Man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the other a slim volume that attracted
my eye called Markings by Dag Hammarskjöld that was translated into English by
Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden.
In that dirty brig I very quickly found interesting stuff by
the Swede that I immediately underlined. Some years ago I had the book re-bound
in leather in Mexico City. I often take it out from my living room bookcase.
This is something I did today and I knew where I would find the relevant quote:
Uneasy, uneasy, uneasy –
Because – when opportunity gives you the obligation to
Create, you are content to meet the demands of the
from one day to the next.
Because – anxious for the good opinion of others, and
jealous of the possibility that they may become ‘famous’,
you have lowered yourself to wondering what will happen
in the the end to what you have done and been.
How dead can a man be behind the façade of great ability,
loyalty – and ambition! Bless your uneasiness as a sign
that there is still life in you.
Rosa sericea ssp.omiensis f. ptercantha First out of the gate
Friday, May 01, 2020
We really did not walk around yesterday to our lane garden
so we did not notice that Rosa sericea
ssp. omeiensis f. pteracantha
was in bloom. But today we did. So this rose
is the first one to bloom in our garden and it seems to have done it with a consistent
schedule as she (for me she is a she) was the first as I wrote here.
Not a happy Good Friday
A winged dinosaur
May is one of the finest months in a garden. Our plants and particularly
my many hostas are unfurling without a bug or slug bite. They are pristine very
much like a post pimple period teenager.
This rose has vicious thorns later in the season (but
vicious enough now). The many thorns remind me of this lovely quote:
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice
because thorn bushes have roses.”
Our columnar Magnolia grandiflora has lovely shiny green
leaves but she will not bloom until late summer. The scent of her flowers is at
par with that of the best roses. The scent is similarly complex and can be
compared to the myrrh scented David Austin English Roses. Why am I diverging
from writing more about this strange species rose, the only one to have only
Remembering the Lincoln quote reminds me of the huge
Magnolia grandiflora that is on one side of the Capitol in Washington DC. It is
very old and I like to think that Lincoln on his way in might have stopped not
to smell the roses but those huge white magnolia flowers.
Our original magnolia from our Kerrisdale garden did not survive the transfer. Here it is.
The new one is thriving and will bloom,
Plants & their Faces
Thursday, April 30, 2020
|Janet Wood (holding Rosa 'Dainty Bess') and Dennis Yeomans|
My Rosemary and I have kept ourselves sane these days of
quarantine by working (piddling?) in our deck garden and in the back lane where
we have managed to plant 9 roses in front of our garage door. The garage is not
a garage anymore but my office and tiny photo studio.
It is impossible to look at most of our plants without me
seeing a face in them. Many of my hostas have been hybridized by gardeners I
met in past American Hosta Society Conventions that Rosemary and I used to
It is the same with roses particularly the ones that I
discovered in other local rosarians’ gardens.
|Rosa 'Emily Louise' 4 May 2020|
It was years ago that I saw this miniature rose that
almost does not look like a rose in Janet Wood’s
(Former president of the
Vancouver Rose Society who died some years ago) garden. I had to have it so she
ordered it for us. Alas it died a year ago and my friend, Portland baroque
bassist Curtis Daily brought us one hidden in his Prius.
One rose that gave up the ghost is the single tea rose,
'Mrs. Oakley Fisher'. Fortunately at the very least I have the record of this
lovely photograph of our granddaughter Rebecca wearing one.
|Rebecca Stewart & Rosa 'Mrs. Oakley Fisher'|
When I first saw it the entrance of Wood’s garden I was
dazzled. She told me what it was. I immediately countered with , “I am going to
go home and make myself a large mug of Earl Grey tea and I will toast some
bread and serve it with unsalted butter and apricot jam.” And I did. Of course,
in this day and age, the possibility of securing another Mrs. Oakley Fisher is
almost a tough impossibility.
When we moved from our large Kerrisdale garden four years
ago I rented a big van and took most of my Gallicas and a large Rosa glauca to
my eldest daughter’s property in Lillooet. The Gallicas have prospered but the
glaucas have multiplied like there is no tomorrow. Why did I ever purchase that
original glauca? It is because I saw it as a tree on Dennis Yeomans’s garden.
We now have a glauca in our garden with a little story
behind it. Quite a few years ago my friend Alleyne Cook
(the man who planted
all those rhododendrons in Stanley Park) and I visited his friend Bill Forsythe
(his former boss at the Park’s Board) who had a terrific and very large garden
in Surrey with all sorts of old roses. I spotted a glauca with unusually large
flowers and asked. Forsythe answered, “It is a cross between Rosa
'Dainty Maid' (the
rose that David Austin used to mate with Belle Isis to make his first English
'Constance Spry') and glauca. He then gave a small plant to Cook, to my
chagrin. I was not able to ever get an answer from Cook, before he died last year, as to what had happened
to his plant.
Last year at a visit to Free Spirit Nursery in Langley
Rosemary spotted a plant called Rosa ‘Bill’s
Rose’. How the folks at Free Spirit got it we don’t know. Perhaps it was
through Christine Allen who used to provide Free Spirit with roses. When I told
the Free Spirit folks the story of Bill’s Rose I received a call from Allen who
has now been able to register the rose.
And all the above cements why sometimes when I look at
some of Rosemary’s perennials I see no faces of anybody and unlike many roses there
is no story behind them.
Luckily our garden has many faces and of that I am
And one very large plant (almost a tree) is Rosa complicata. Many years ago Alleyne Cook came to my garden with a small rose in a pot. He told me, almost rudely, "If you are going to have roses in the garden you are going to have to have this one." It traveled well to our new Kits garden and it loves to be where it is.
Mark Haney & His Isolation Commissions
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
|Mark Haney & Marina Hasselberg|
If there is a an expression that defines this century and
especially this 2020 lockdown is over choice. There are hundreds of cable
programs and with Netflix there are hundreds of films. In YouTube if you think
about some obscure song or composition it will be found.
My daily delivered NY Times
is about the Covid-19 from the
first page to almost the last. Our dear MSNBC
newscaster (she calls it a show)
Rachel Maddow is 100% about the Covid-19 with a few side diatribes to the
current occupant of the White House. My forays (I was born in Buenos Aires) into the Argentine newspapers
including the Buenos Aires Times
in English which does not have a pay-wall are
all about the impending default of the country’s enormous debt in the billions
Where does one find solace? I have found a few methods. In
one of them I realized that novels or books I had read in my distant past can
be re-read because I am not the man today who was the man who read them then.
My failing memory makes some of them like Susan Sontag’s On Photography and Roland
Barth’s Camera Lucida refreshingly
Another solace is listening to music. What possible music
will entertain me or inspire me now? Few will understand why I don’t ever want
to listen to Bach’s Double Violin Concerto or that (I will offend many) I have
had enough of his cantatas, so many I have witnessed live. I am not interested
in further exploring Beethoven’s symphonies or most composers of the 19th
I find interest in the refreshing idea of listening to
baroque music of the 17th
century but alas! Early Music Vancouver’s
concerts have been cancelled for the season as have the new music and the little-performed works courtesy of our Turning Point Ensemble.
And I cannot forget to mention those new music festivals
courtesy of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
A particularly astounding tradition in Vancouver is that
musicians of the baroque, classical or new music variety, when of the male
gender, put on their pants one leg at a time. By this I mean that these
musicians, including those of the female gender, are human, warm and approachable.
Through magazine assignments I have photographed many of them and become
friends with some of them.
So it is the personal side of music that makes listening to
the music I now like an attractive one.
A case in point is the Isolation Commission series
together by Little Chamber Music and the Composer in Residence at the Mountain View Cemetery
bassist Mark Haney who in my estimation is the most handsome bassist around.
There are 28 of these Isolation Commissions as I write this. For 200 bucks you can commission an artist of your choice
to play something from their living room.
|Mark Haney - Photograph - Angela Fama|
There is an intimacy here that cannot be found in the best
YouTube performance videos (even though this series can be also found on
YouTube). And the choice of music, at the very least is refreshingly eclectic.
One of my faves is this one by my friend and violinist Cameron Wilson.
Cameron Wilson & the Wahs play Cream
There is another music that also pleases me. It is the music of my upbringing in Buenos Aires and my years in Mexico City. One of the Buenos Aires memories has to be Piazzolla and particularly this one
which I first heard in 1966 when I bought the record.
Another is associated with a great Mexican film noir Salón México
and its connection to Aaron Copland's El Salón Mexico.
The links to the film and the composition (directed by Copland in the presence of a young and handsome Leonard Bernstein) are in this blog.
As for any jealousy about Bernstein's looks we have the Vancouver Opera's Leslie Dala who besides competing with Haney for a musical beauty pageant happens to be a fine pianist.
Of movies we don’t bother with Netflix. We are addicted to
TCM’s Noir Alley with Eddie Muller at 9pm on Saturdays. On other days an hour
or two of news is about all the TV we can stomach.
It is most pleasant to listen to music coming from the
living rooms of our Vancouver musicians. To me this reflects a uniqueness that
contradicts all those who call our city boring.
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
|Photograph of Madeleine Morris - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
About Remittance Girl
Remittance Girl is the pen name of a Canadian writer who
inherited and then squandered the talents of both her mother, the composer, and
her father, the writer. She produced her first piece of erotic fiction at the
venerable age of 36.
Born in Toronto, Remittance Girl spent her childhood at
bullfights and in Catholic churches in Madrid, Spain. Her adolescence passed
locked away in a selection of chilly boarding schools in the south of England.
In her early twenties, she was a vocalist in a number of alternative bands.
These experiences proved to be an excellent recipe for the formation of a
rather perverse imagination.
The persona of Remittance Girl was born on the web in 1998
when she moved to Southeast Asia and began writing in earnest. As a perpetual
expatriate, her stories often take the point of view of an outsider looking in.
They examine eroticism in the face of personal and moral dilemma, and cultural
disorientation. The express purpose of the work is to both arouse and disturb,
often at the same time.
Remittance Girl's influences are broad in scope: from the
poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca, the novels of Jane Austen and Kobo Abe, the
music of Erik Satie and Metallica, to the films of Ridley Scott and the murky
deviance of Japanese hardcore animation.
Her short stories have been published in M. Christian &
S. Vivant's 'Garden of the Perverse', Lisabet Sarai's 'Cream', Violet Blue's
'Girls on Top', D.L. King's 'The Sweetest Kiss' and M. Jakubowski's upcoming
'Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Vol. 9', among others. Three of her books,
'Gaijin', 'The Waiting Room' and 'The Splinter', are available through Burning
Book Press. An anthology of her short stories is available: 'Remittance Girl'
from Coming Together Press.
Remittance Girl now lives in a house with a giant mango tree
in the garden and a cat named 'seven'. She writes, teaches, and grows orchids.
Sample some of her short stories by visiting her site at