Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Taylor Jenkins Reid

My family knows I’m the last person you’d think would be interested in a book about movie stars and their romances, dalliances, gossips and intrigues. (Eye roll) I rarely go to movies and even more rarely watch them at home. I’d rather open a book.

A week or so ago, I brought home The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. In a prior weak moment, I had added it to my “Read Later” shelf at the library, probably thanks to a recommendation in a book section of a newspaper.  I opened it up to take a quick look and to my surprise got lost in the antics of 50’s, 60’s, up to modern-day Hollywood.

The storyline is like a catapult directed toward the last few pages of the book. So compelling is the fictional tale of larger-than-life Evelyn Hugo that once started, it was difficult to put down.

Evelyn Hugo, actress, has come to the end of her career. Everyone she has loved has died. Now she wants someone to write her biography, someone who will give an honest account, who will not gloss over some of the not-very-savoury details of Evelyn’s life. She chooses Monique, a young journalist who works for a New York magazine. While the details of Evelyn’s life make up the bulk of the story, the real story is why she has chosen Monique.

This book was great fun to read. The writing style is excellent – the author is not writing what could easily have been chick lit. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo would be an excellent choice to read on the beach or in the hospital. Great escapism. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Christian Moullec

There's good news and bad news.

I'm sorry to do this. Bad news first:

Bill Lishman was a Canadian innovator and artist who first flew with migrating birds in an ultralight (inspiring an autobiography about these adventures, Father Goose and a movie Fly Away Home) There was a post about him two years ago on this blog (Bill Lishman, A Bird's Eye View). Sadly, he passed away way too early on Dec. 30, 2017. Obituary here.

Now the good news: 

Christian Moullec is a former French meteorologist who raises various species of birds from birth and trains them, as Lishman did, to accompany him when he flies his ultralight. He then accompanies them on their migration. 

He sits in the back of the craft and allows guests (you or I!) to accompany him on a 30-or-so-minute flight. The photos are stunning. See some here.

And here's a video. Note that part of it occurs over the fantastic Mont-St.-Michel in France. He allows the passenger to touch the birds in flight which I find a bit off-putting. What do you think? Are you brave enough to go up in an ultralight? Would you really feel the need to touch a bird working so hard?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sansevieria Flower Update

Here's a progress report on the Sansevieria flower from Jan. 11. The stalk has grown but the buds haven't opened yet.

It's hard to tell from the photo but there's a drop of dew on the underside of each axil.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

More About Trees

The other day Don ran across a trailer for what is sure to be a popular new BBC series on trees featuring actor Judi Dench, who seems passionate about trees. Here's a wee sample. 

We can keep a watch out for this show in the future on PBS. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Preview of Offa's Dyke

Obviously, this video is not mine, but I thought I'd post it here to give readers a taste of what my 2018 walk in the UK will be like. Offa's Dyke is an ancient embankment that runs south/north along the border between England and Wales. And yes, I'm planning to walk the entire way. Can't wait!!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

An Appreciation of Trees

At our book club meeting last week we discussed Peter Wohlleben's best-selling The Hidden Life of Trees.

The Hidden Life of Trees

After an interesting discussion on the things like the pluses and minuses of anthropomorphism, the possible pitfalls of translation, the wonders of trees and other creatures working together and nurturing one another as well as the importance and decline of old growth forests, we ended up showing each other photos of amazing trees on our phones. 

I deemed the idea of tree photos blog-worthy and here are the ones I remember plus maybe a few extra. Okay, I probably got carried away.

  • Crown Shyness
Wohlleben described how. as tree crowns grow, they tend to merge as they spread out and I discovered there's a phenomenon called crown shyness, usually but not always among trees of the same species.

  • Trees Growing on Arctic Tundra
These trees actually qualify as old growth forests since they are hundreds of years old in spite of being somewhat inhibited in growth.

  • Plane Trees
Plane trees in France are often pollarded - the crown is severely cut back, often in a cube shape like these trees along the Champs-Elysées. Such pruning is one way of reducing damage due to mistrals, that strong cold northwest wind blowing in from the Mediterranean Sea. Trees pollarded over many years often develop large cavities in the trunk.

The Book Clubbers fondly remembered a rare (we think) Canadian plane tree on the main drag in Niagara-on-the-Lake near the Royal George Theatre and I think I have seen others on my walks around the town. Easy to recognize with distinctive camo bark. Not pollarded.

  • Umbrella Catalpa Trees
I remember these being quite common in 1970's private gardens but you don't see them as often now, maybe because they need regular maintenance and tend to leave a bit of a mess on the lawn - umbrella catalpa trees which get pollarded every fall and still manage to grow an impressive crown before winter arrives.

  • Mistletoe
Great balls of parasitic plant growth that suck the life out of trees. Eventually, when the tree can no longer supply what they need, the mistletoe also dies. The photo below was taken in Normandy from the car window but we also saw them in trees surrounding the Canadian War Cemetery at Bény-Sur-Mer.

  • The Maple Leaf Forever Tree (possibly an urban myth)

The tree that might have inspired Alexander Muir's composition of Canada's unofficial anthem in 1867 grew and thrived in the Leslieville area of Toronto. Unfortunately, the iconic tree's estimated 160-180-year life ended during a severe 2013 windstorm. 

All parts of the tree were sectioned and recovered, sold off to interested people, woodcarvers and carpenters, who used the boards, branches and sawdust (used by the Toronto Zoo) from the tree to make benches, ceremonial gear, memorial furniture and even a guitar. See my 2015 post about it here, although I apologize that most of the photos in that post are no longer available. 

  • The Vimy Oaks

That Maple Leaf Forever tree reminded me of the Vimy Oaks - you might already know the story. 

The WWI battle of Vimy Ridge, April 9-12, 1917 in northeast France was a killer, with thousands of men, both Canadians and Germans lost or wounded in brutal conditions. The oak trees in the area were also pretty much wiped out. 

Canadian, Lieutenant Leslie H. Miller survived the battle and returned to Canada with some Vimy acorns in his baggage. Since he was no longer able to pursue a career as a teacher, Miller's father gave him 24 acres of land in northeast Toronto where he farmed. And planted those acorns. Vimy Oaks. He named the farm after them. 

The oaks grew and thrived in the Canadian soil, producing crop after crop of acorns. As a centenary offering, the Government of Canada offered to ship some Vimy seedlings from Miller's trees to France. Worried about the possibility of passing botanical disease across the ocean, the offer was declined in favour of a shipment of Vimy acorns to be planted in the forest which abuts the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Vimy Oaks repatriated. 

  • Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island, BC

  • The Giant Redwoods of Northern California

  • The Sycamore Gap Tree, Hadrian's Wall, UK
I was lucky enough to walk past this tree last May. In spite of Wohlleben's theory that trees really need each other in reasonably close company in order to thrive, this tree is thriving. Obviously, this iconic sycamore that has been around for years, on its own, in a protected spot between two rising ridges on either side is doing well. Hadrian's Wall Path goes from left to right in the photo which is directed northward.

  • Cedars of Lebanon

  • Moreton Fig Tree

The Moreton Bay Fig also known as an Australian Banyan, has a huge aggressive root system and an immense crown, making it a poor candidate for a private yard but it is often found in public areas of places like Australia, northern New Zealand, Portugal and Sicily. We were blown away seeing them when we were in Auckland.

One of the interesting facts about fig trees is that the fruit can only be pollinated by fig wasps and fig wasps can only reproduce inside fig flowers: a mutual relationship.

  • Monkey Puzzle Tree

This very unique-looking monkey puzzle tree is native to southern and central Chile (it's the national tree of Chile) and western Argentina. It was imported into the UK in the mid-19th century and can be found there in the warmer climes - Cornwall and Valentia Island off of southern Ireland - and even in colder places of the UK - Scotland and in Norway, the west coast of North America as far north as the Haida Gwaii, the east coast of the US, Australia and New Zealand. 

Finally, from Phil Barnett, @squinancywort1, a chart of tree bark.