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Montgolfiere Weekly

An exploration of culture in its many forms

A conversation about The Museum of Possibilities with Barbara Sibbald

Patricia Lightfoot

Barbara Sibbald’s collection of short stories, The Museum of Possibilities, was recently published by The Porcupine’s Quill Press

First, I should declare that Barbara Sibbald is a friend, a colleague and a contributor to this blog. Second, like one of her characters who is reading a short story in “Things We Hold Dear,” “I usually don’t read short stories. I like a longer relationship with my fictional company.” In spite of my usual preference for a more lengthy narrative, I found the stories in The Museum of Possibilities highly entertaining, being tightly constructed and inventive, and featuring unsparing observation of the human condition in its mundane failures, though these are recounted with a dark and witty relish. Continue reading “A conversation about The Museum of Possibilities with Barbara Sibbald”

Moomin magic

By Patricia Lightfoot

As a small group of long-time fans of the Moomin books, we were inexorably drawn to “Adventures in Moominland,” which was advertised as an “immersive, interactive exhibition” hosted by the Southbank Centre as part of “Nordic Matters” – a year-long celebration of Nordic art and culture. After an agonizing last-minute search for the venue, having approached the Southbank Centre for our timed tour by the Millennium Bridge, that is, essentially from the wrong side, we positioned ourselves with only a few minutes to spare in front of the “book cover” that would be the entrance to the exhibition. At the appropriate moment, our guide opened the book, then turned a cloth “page” and led our group of about a dozen adults out of central London and into a darkened forest. Continue reading “Moomin magic”

Looking for Tilling

 

By Patricia Lightfoot

A walking tour of the little town of Rye in south-east England, not far from Hastings, led us through time to the happy, insulated world of Tilling, which is the setting of a number of entertaining social comedies written in the 1920s and the 1930s by author and thrice mayor of Rye, E.F. Benson. If you were to read just one of the books, choose Mapp and Lucia, in which these two redoubtable foes, Miss Elizabeth Mapp and Emmeline Lucas (Lucia), first appear together, Continue reading “Looking for Tilling”

Scottish cuisine

By Patricia Lightfoot

When asked to share a dish typical of my cultural background, I have sometimes felt challenged in a way that someone of Italian or Lebanese origin, for instance, probably would not be. My first thought tends to be not “which delicious dish shall I choose from my birth country’s remarkable and justifiably famous cuisine?” but, rather, is there anything I can think of that someone else might want to eat? Continue reading “Scottish cuisine”

Ookpik – cliché Canadiana or entrée to Inuit culture?

By Carolyn Brown

In a harmonic convergence of craft beer and nostalgia, I ordered an Ookpik on Kijiji, and it arrived Feb. 1, still in its original box. I had had one when I was young, as did many children in Canada and the US, but I fear that long-lost Ookpik ended its days in landfill.

The Ookpik came along just as Canada was becoming cool — culturally, I mean. Continue reading “Ookpik – cliché Canadiana or entrée to Inuit culture?”

Ecco Romani

by Patricia Lightfoot

In Nancy Mitford’s Don’t Tell Alfred, when asked if he would like to live on another planet, Charles-Edouard de Valhubert replies that he is not interested in going to a place where there were “oceans on which Ulysses never sailed, mountains uncrossed by Hannibal and Napoleon.” I understand his sentiment, a product of a classical education and a life spent in Europe, because I now live in a country where the Romans did not set foot, and sometimes I miss their mark on the landscape. Continue reading “Ecco Romani”

Ten famous Canadians

By Patricia Lightfoot

In the 1990s, a few weeks before moving to Montreal, my husband and I were having dinner in France with friends who also happened to be originally from the UK, and the discussion turned to what sort of country we were going to live in for the next three years. We agreed that apart from having a reputation for amiability, Canada did not seem to have a very high profile in Western Europe. Someone then asked whether any of us could name any famous Canadians. “Of course!”, we said. As far as I recall, the list was a bit like this: Continue reading “Ten famous Canadians”

Alex Janvier

By Patricia Lightfoot

I was impressed and moved by the exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada of the works of Alex Janvier, who is of Dene Suline and Saulteaux descent. Whether abstract or figurative, many of his paintings are a protest against the ill-treatment of indigenous people and the lack of respect in which they have been held, and the related degradation of the Canadian landscape. Blood Tears is a painting of imagery related to the residential school Janvier was forced to attend for 10 years, whereas on the reverse side of the painting, he lists the resulting losses that he and so many other children were forced to endure. Oil Patch Heart Beat is a circular abstract painting, in which blue is the predominant colour, against which drops of red, leading to a little heart, stand out. The piece glows, reminiscent of the rose windows of medieval cathedrals. Janvier creates beauty in the expression of loss.

Photo credit: Thompson River University

The list

My take on travel planning has always been impulsive, so I was intrigued to learn about a friend’s more methodical approach. This friend prefers not to leave a digital footprint, so her name is not included here. PL

 Please tell us about your list

As far back as I can remember, I have had what some people call a “bucket list.” It comes from my childhood, when my parents impressed upon us that we shouldn’t take life for granted and then regret missed opportunities. Embracing the next travel opportunity, both near and far, was a common topic of conversation and, arguably, the glue that connects us as a family. Some travel adventure stories make for great dinner conversation, like my father recounting his unorthodox journey to find the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or my sibling’s first trek to Machu Picchu. While other stories, often the most meaningful experiences in my view, are best shared only with those we love. I remember what the sun felt like while exploring the Cinque Terre or how the air smelled like citrus in Capri, which doesn’t exactly make for tantalizing dinner conversation, but these are some of my favourite memories nonetheless. Continue reading “The list”

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