Stylocycle’s Blog


For the Pashley Riding Grad Student
April 27, 2010, 6:49 pm
Filed under: around town, comments around town, commute by bike

My dear spouse just phoned me from his office to find out if we would be riding home together after work. Nope! I have the freedom of doing my own thing and I’ll be stopping off, meeting a friend for coffee on my way home. I love having my own wheels!

Anyway, in the course of our conversation, DS told me that he’d met a grad student outside the campus library, and that Grad Student was riding a Pashley — probably the only Pashley in town. Hey, Grad Student: I’d love a photo of you riding your Pashley around town!

Anyway, I heard that Grad Student had had some trouble finding someone to properly service the Pashley gears. My understanding is that the folks at Braun Cycle can help you out.

Good luck!

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Eulogy — delivered today. Shared here with distant relations.
April 24, 2010, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Gramma — Today I will speak of my Gramma, but others here with us today will call you Elsie, Aunt, Ma, friend, … regardless of the name by which we conjure you, all of us will really call you Beloved, though sometimes we had other terms of endearment:

Mum and I had a pet-name for Gramma that she didn’t always appreciate. I can’t remember how it began or when, but sometimes Gramma would get that very exacting way about her, a way that wanted things just so: things like ironed sheets on all the beds, a jacket pulled down at the back – no matter how arranged, there was always one more tug an outfit would benefit from – socks ordered in just such a way, hedges and flowers that were either disciplined into performance or made to disappear in the next season like ball-players whose promise had exceeded performance. And so the call would come, “The Sargeant major would like the lilac bush to be distressed. You are going to have to bring Trevor down to shock the roots with the big shovel; otherwise, it’s getting removed at the end of the season.” Now Gramma was not especially fond of this nikname, and felt it failed to capture the subtleties of her character, but there it was anyway – and the truth of it is that I miss the Sargeant Major very much because folded into that no-nonsense, pull yourself together and get on with things attitude was a gentleness that put the flesh on that backbone. When I get to wanting to wallow in how much I miss her, I hear Gramma saying, “Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare do that to me. I won’t have you sloughing of your responsibilities on my account…” and so I pick up my books, or my other work, and I get on with it… but I also feel the silky inside of her palm on my cheek, or smoothing down my hair and saying to me, “There, there honey; you know you will be fine.”

Beyond even these recent endearments, I carry with me the combination of precisely cut sandwiches, split into three triangles that were always so interesting to look at and so much more manageable than the chunky squares that everyone else had packed in their lunches for summer camp. As a very little girl with very little hands and a very little mouth I was always so grateful for the way Gramma turned out a lunch that was sized just. so. right. And it might seem an odd that I would see it as an embellishment, but the waxed paper that she wrapped the sandwiches in, precisely creased and folded over like origami seals made each lunch seem a little more special to me than the other children’s lunches, like each one was a gift.

On days when I’m having a bit of the blues, I’ll still make a sandwich and cut it just so, and wrap it in waxed paper just so that I can unwrap it as though it were a gift. Those of you who know me well will know that I have inherited the penchant for ironed sheets, and will happily iron every piece material not held in place with upholstery tacks. To others these may seem peculiar quirks but to me they speak of daily little kindnesses to the ways we nurture our bodies and our souls. It is a habit that keeps me ever mindful of the way she would tuck me into bed, or wrap me in a giant towel to warm my ever-shivery self. It’s not just a matter of ‘house-keeping’, but also of carrying on the heart of the first home that I ever knew, and of the great, safe closeness at its core. It is orderly, yes, but it is also very gentle, and that captures the complex character that was my Gramma, your great-gramma, your Aunt Elsie, your friend, your ma.

Not everyone gets to have a great-grandmother until they themselves are almost grown. Nicholas, you were adored by Gramma in a manner that paralleled a mother’s love. Well into your early childhood, to your delight, Gramma would walk up in full step, swoop down and scoop you up in one motion, just as though you were a baseball. I rarely saw her so excited as when you picked up golf clubs and demonstrated a natural swing… and she was always so proud to take you out to the driving range to instruct you in the finer points of a controlled and artful swing. Gramma admired your natural grace, and your love of sport… she would remind you, if she were here, that you have to remember to play for the love of the game, not for the limelight. Play every day, she would say, as though you had the opportunity to play the perfect game, but do it for the love of the game, not for the attention. Gramma was very, very good at all the things she did, but the one thing she wasn’t seeking was the glory. And yet there is a suitcase full of news clippings of her successes to show that the glory came to her anyway. These are lessons in life that I try to keep as much as I can. I confess that I prefer to be noticed than not, but it is also a great thing that even if my colleagues and peers paid no attention, that Gramma did notice my accomplishments. I believe that our best way to honour her memory is to keep playing, aiming every day for our best game, even if no one else notices, and we may all be aware that her soul would be proud of our efforts.

Gramma’s complexities and strengths were broader even than this rough portrait can capture. Mum has recently reminded me of how fearless Gramma was in her life. When we get to the social gathering today to celebrate Gramma’s life, I hope you will take some time to read about her .500 batting average with the Brantford Burtols, about the spectacular fearlessness with which she played the game. Shortly after I received her suitcase of clippings in the fall, I asked her about some of those injuries incurred from that fierce athleticism, and she remarked that in the big picture she didn’t recall the injuries at all, only the saves, the slides, the bases stolen, and the acrobatics that thrilled the crowds that went to see the ladies – and Elsie in particular – play. That fearlessness did not dissipate in her later years. It was Gramma who insisted on venturing into Hell’s Gate at Devil’s Canyon. Indeed, it was Gramma who cajoled my grandfather to go with her over the Capilano suspension bridge, the one that sways so precariously over the deep Capilano canyon in North Vancouver. It was Gramma who excitedly clambered up the sloped lawn of my new house when we were still in escrow, and peered in all the windows and inspected the back deck, heedless of the local neighbourhood watch. My own fearless boy has cajoled me onto that Capilano bridge and let me tell you – it was definitely my son and not me who inherited the fearless gene. Gramma took that joy and fearlessness about life with her on more pragmatic journeys through a major shoulder surgery and two hip replacements over the last decade of her life. It wasn’t long after the shoulder surgery in her late 70’s to repair a rotator cuff severely and repeatedly injured over decades of sport that mum called me one evening to say that Gramma had gone out early that morning to play golf and hadn’t yet returned home. It wasn’t yet dreadfully late in the day, but when Gramma still wasn’t home a few hours later mum called to ask me if we ought to be sending out some kind of search. The rescue mission was called off shortly after when Gramma arrived home – past sundown – exhilarated and impatient with our worries: she had so enjoyed her 18 holes on the course that she had gone on to play the front 9 one more time for a 27 hole day. That was the last day that Gramma really played, but boy did she ever finish swinging.

I recall her great satisfaction with each of her hip replacements. Before each surgery she assured her surgeons that she was well aware of her advanced years, and she told them just as she had told us that she might not have the best cardiac health for those surgeries, but that she was prepared to take the risk of dying on the table so that she could have a more active life, and after her surgeries she approached her rehab as though she just might run cross country in the ladies’ senior division. “Look at what I can do now!” she would announce to Trevor, Nicholas and me when we’d come through the door each visit during her recuperation. In her last months in the hospital she was pushing herself in an endurance test by taking off her oxygen supply for longer and longer periods each day. Gramma was determined to really give it her best shot to recover from a devastating heart-attack, was proud that her doctors had pronounced her survival a mystery, and when it became clear to her that full recovery with all her independence in place was not in the cards, she was the one who told the hospital to move her to the palliative ward. Gramma lived her life on her terms and died on her terms too.

Lessons from Gramma – in the last year of her life, I had occasion twice to spend several days with Gramma. In each case, Gramma said that she needed help around the house, and longed for a little company, and so I went… it was good for me to get away from a heavy workload for a few days on each occasion, and to get away from a house filled with sadness after the sudden death of our wee kitten who left us all too soon. Gramma said that she needed my help, but what she really knew was that I needed her help. She said that she needed me to do some care-taking for her, but what she really did was open her lap to receive my great sobs of exhaustion, exasperation and sadness… and she did it in a manner that allowed me to save face.

Gramma, Elsie, ma, Great-Gramma, friend, sister, cousin, regardless of who she was to you, every one of you will share my emptiness, that sense of loss, that person who taught us to be brave and allowed us to be weak… We will miss her every day, each in our own way, in surprising moments (no one, for example, told me Gramma had spoiled Sam beyond hope; his recidivism rate for interruption of human peace and quiet is really appalling you know). Today, however, let us not miss her. Let us move through our memories to celebration of an extraordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life.



Just photos from San Franciso
April 18, 2010, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Get outta town!

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Getting Caught Up
April 18, 2010, 6:53 pm
Filed under: around town, Uncategorized

Sorry, sorry, sorry… I’ve been running like mad!

March was rather consumed with three separate speaking gigs which included two major deliveries and one less stressful one.
All the events were delightful and productive in their own ways, but kept me hopping with travel, long lay-overs, a bunch of networking, and all kinds of social interaction that I tend to find very draining.

And so it is that I find I have some catching up to do around here.

First, when last we decided to do a little marketing here in town, we were delighted to be stopped for a chat with two other cyclists, a retired couple who ride their bikes around town to get from here to there and wherever their fancies might take them. On the occasion of our meeting, they were very impressed to find that our two bikes were authentic Dutch bikes, not expensive copies with questionable parts. The woman, it turned out, was of Dutch heritage and was quite familiar with Batavus bikes having ridden them when she was a young girl.

This couple was kind enough to send me some pictures they took of each other with their bikes back at their house. I had tried to get some shots when we were at the market, but the batteries I’d just bought for my camera were dead. Alas!

Anyway, it seems that choosing to cycle can correspond positively with other choices about how to live, and this couple happens to be committed to organic gardening in their own garden, so the pictures show their compost piles as they appear in early spring.

Here, for your enjoyment are the pics they sent me.

It’s one of my great pleasures that in choosing to ride around town I get to have really lovely conversations with people I’d never have otherwise met.

Next update:
The GPS units for the ‘winter riding’ study have finally arrived in our sweaty little hands. Sweaty because — as you may have noticed — it’s no longer winter! Ah… well, at least this way the city planners will come to learn our preferred routes, rather than the limited routes we are compelled to take in winter months.

I’ll keep you posted on how the study progresses when I have news to share. For now my bike is in the shop getting a nice spring tune-up, new brake shoes, and a new lamp installation. The new lamps (front and rear) will be charged by spinning electro-magnets instead of a dynamo converter. What this translates into is: no friction/drag. Very nice new development and I’ll keep you posted.

I was going to switch out my front wheel assembly for a new disk-hub braking system, and was really happy to find out that the folks at My Dutch Bike (whose lovely little shop I went into while I was in San Francisco two weeks ago) would happily ship me what I would need to have the unit installed here. However, I’m going to have to live with the caliper brakes I have because the kid, oh the kid, just hit a curb in the car last week and did $5000.00 of damage to the front suspension of the car. We had the entire front suspension rebuilt. So: no new brake system for me.

What’s up for my next few weeks? I have to get back on track with the revision on my textbook for the new edition slated for publication in Feb. 2011. I have to get all my end-of-year assessments in for students. I have to request a special extension on my federally funded research grant so that I can spend some more of the money on training a graduate student in publishing processes; otherwise, I’ll have to send a big pile of money back to Ottawa. I have to chair a PhD defence on the 20th, and get ready to act as the external examiner on another PhD defence — a trip that will take me back to the Netherlands. (Yes, I’m a little worried that air travel may still be terribly disrupted and make it impossible for me to do the exam in situ).

We are also doing work around the house. The bathroom walls have finally been repaired. Now we have only to complete the cosmetic aspect by choosing and installing appropriate tile for the area from the ceiling to the subway tile in the bath-surround. We like the subway tile that goes up to about 6′ high, but can’t install those any further because the wall curves, following the roof lines. We are hoping to find a pretty sea-glass mosaic style tile to put up there, but it’s likely to take us a few weeks to find what we want.

Next week-end will find us at my Gramma’s scattering and memorial service. I have a feeling that I’m not going to be so stoic there as I have been since her death. I realised this while recently purchasing some lovely, pale yellow and pale pink Gerbera Daisies for an arrangement to put in the newly painted bathroom. Gramma adored Gerberas and so I decided to get some to give to my mother on the day of the memorial. Just thinking about it puts a terrible, strangling lump in my throat. I really don’t want to say ‘good-bye’ and I’ve been refusing to do it since the moment I arrived in the hospital to find that she had so recently passed that her cheek was still warm.

I promise to spend more time, rather than less, reading Patti Smith’s memoir of her youthful arrival in NYC and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. It’s a gorgeous book, and I was very touched that Dear Spouse thought of me and brought it home as a surprise yesterday.

I promise to spend more time maintaining my garden, and learning how to get rid of grass, and how to nurture my growing things without harming the soil…

I aim to have more time on the bike, more time exploring the city, more time spent having really nice dinners with Dear Spouse (in which we cook together, listen to music, and enjoy our space, our neighbourhood and each other).

These may seem like trivial and self-indulgent promises, but after the year we’ve just had, I feel that it’s the least we can do to try to find our way back to peace, calm, and so on.