I had a serendipitous moment when I went to take photos in downtown Columbia, in the Washington Street area. This used to be the black commercial area that began sometime in the 1920’s with restaurants, a hotel, and a theater and more. At the moment there are only two structures left and one will be torn down for an apartment building. I wanted to take a picture of it before they tore it down.

As I inspected the second building, a former bank, I bumped into an elderly man. Wouldn’t you know, he used to eat here, when there was a restaurant. He said it was the best food ever. Then he pointed out where other buildings used to be like the two funeral homes that stood across the street from each other. A movie theater used to be nearby where there’s a parking lot now. And the building that’s to be torn down used to be a hardware store.

Wow. How lucky I was to be standing right there when he came by. How lucky I was that we started talking. That’s one thing I like about taking pictures. It invites people to come and talk to you and tell you what they remember.

I’m amazed at how many Scottish festivals there are in SC. Last week we went to Tartenfest. Angus had to go to be reinvigorated by all things Scottish. I had to go with him. Little kids want to hug him and then there are the sheep dogs. They just about come running when they sense Angus. It’s actually kind of funny. Angus trying to walk from A to B and a sheep dog is trying to get him to go right.

“Stop herding me!” Angus cries. A little hiss and a bop on the nose usually does the trick.

This year I went in my brand new Tarten gear. Angus did a double take when he saw it.

“Nay! Where did ye get that?” He rushed over to inspect the pattern. “This is nae Scottish.” It’s like I  committed a federal crime.

“You like it? Friends made it for me. Look, green for the forests, light brown and bits of red for the desert, gray for the mountains. This is for the prairie and this is…”

But he’s got his hooves to his cheeks in delight. Or horror. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

“I thought I’d be more festive,” I tell him.

“You’ll stay far away?”

“I heard there’s a whole pack of sheep dogs coming. That’ll be fun.”

“You’ll stay close then?” Angus got a bit stressed out when he got in the middle of one of those that last time. “You’ll run them off,” he adds.

I was lucky a few dogs came to do their tricks so I wasn’t fibbing afterall. They all stood there, tall, eyes feasting on Angus, licking their chop, straining at the leash to go after Angus and herd him to wherever. I strolled behind Angus, me and my beautiful Tarten suit, britches and shirt. It’s not as comfortable as my buckskins, but I can take it for a little while. I can even dance in it, which I do when Angus hops on the table he rented and does his routine. People give him money for his moves. Some people comment on my attire. I should have gotten a tam as well. But I don’t like headgear.

There were bagpipes. There was dancing. There was stuff sold. It was a three day event and Angus went every day. I got a bit tired of it all, but I did promise. Now to get him to go to a cat show.

Thirteen-year-old Bart spends his time trying not to be the boy on the bottom, the one bullied. He’s working on giving his first punch in boxing class. He’d like to find his father and doesn’t want anyone to know about his mother and home life. His biggest secret – he loves opera. This last one he manages to tell a school friend, the pretty Ada. She can’t keep a secret to save her life. Soon the whole school knows about Bart’s hefty mom and that he lives in public housing with drug addicts. She’s also got him signed up for the summer show. If that’s not bad enough, his mother is hospitalized.

Despite everything this is an optimistic book about an upbeat boy. His life is hard, yet he keeps going. It’s translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson who’s done a marvelous job. Not that I can compare it with the original version, but it’s beautifully written. My hat is off who can do this.

I love reading books by authors from other countries, especially children’s books. You really can a feeling for their country foreign eyes can give. This is the second book I’ve read from Norway. I’m surprised to see the same problems in the U.S. are in Norway. Somehow one gets the idea it’s better in certain other countries and it’s really not. Just different.

Another thing I liked was Bart’s love of opera. I don’t particularly care for it myself although I can listen to operettas without wanting to launch over and switch to another channel. It was refreshing to read of someone who likes a genre others, peers, would not.

Easter Thoughts

I spent a small Easter with my mother. My sister has work and my nephew has work and the rest of our family is in Europe. Mama doesn’t do well in company much nowadays and since I’m an introvert, small is good.

I bought some chocolate for Mama. I didn’t get much and told Mama I didn’t get any before hand. Candy is too expensive. I wait for the after specials, when candy is half price. Mama likes Cadbury. The price of the large chocolate egg packs  have gone up, like, about a dollar since last year.

Thinking about Easter, I remember back when I was a kid. We’d drive north from Heidelberg to my grandparents house. We’d be bundled up because it was usually cold. Once there was snow on the ground. If it was a late Easter, it’d be warm, spring dress weather. Mama always made us new Easter dresses for the occasion. When we were both much younger, they were matching outfits. Later not anymore.

My uncle liked to put out eggs, candy and real, in the backyard. If it was too cold or if it rained, he hid them inside. One Easter he told me to look behind the couch. There I found a toy, plastic train. He’d bought it for me long ago and misplaced it for years. Even though I was a little old for it, I found use for the train.

Come Easter Sunday, we’d walk downtown to the church, St. Clement, the bells ringing throughout the village. I can’t remember what we had to eat. Whatever it was it had to be good and throughout the day we’d be eating candy.

My sister is going camping at Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle. She’s always wanted to go and met some people who were also interested. One of them organized a time and rented one of the rustic (no ensuite) cabins. The closer they get to the departure time the more anxious my sister is getting. No one’s talking about the trip. No one’s saying what she needs to bring. When are they meeting? Should she bring food? Should she bring up the topic? She’s not the one planning it so that person might not like questions.

She’s decided to bring some food, stash it away in the truck (they’ll be using her vehicle) and if its needed she can pull it out. Like she always carries a can of Dinty Stew and a package of biscuit mix with her. Another friend has loaned her a single burner and a lantern and other things for the trip. Turns out I have most of the camping stuff.

But she’s still anxious even if she’d decided that all she wants is just get there and come back in one piece. When we get together for trips again we can plan them like we want. Both of us are list makers and I plan routes to maximize viewing of places of interest. I probably over do but half the fun for me is the planning. I suppose it’s the same for my sister.

I had a friend who wanted to go on trips with me. She saw me as the world traveler. I hate to admit it, but my first thought was: no way. She likes cities. I like countryside. She likes churches and museums and to spend days, hours, studying them. We both like gardens, but her more than I. And I like walking, hiking, nature. I don’t think we’d make good traveling companions.

Those of you who have read past posts may recall I’ve been searching for a book to help me hone my drawing skills. This is another good one that I’ve managed to find. It’s a great companion to You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler.

How to Draw Cool Stuff is the resource I wish I had when my principal came to me and told me I had to find lessons for the art class because we didn’t have an art teacher and wouldn’t be getting one. Some of the lessons in the last chapter would have enticed most of the kids to get drawing and this is a class where they put students because they don’t have anywhere else to put them.  Flaming basketballs and skulls would have been right down their alley.

Catherine Holmes starts with the basics – cubes, circles, pyramids, and cylinders. I’m having a hard time with the latter and am drawing cylinders and ovals on scraps of paper trying to get them right. I even went to Michael’s thinking to get a template for eclipses. The $12.99 price tag quickly changed my mind.

Flipping through the book one might think the lessons are too hard, but I was amazed at how some of mine turned out after following the directions. My foreshortened person looks amazing! Seriously I thought the lesson was beyond me.

Ms. Holmes has a second book, How to Draw Cool Stuff: Shading, Textures, and Optical Illusions and there are youtube videos too. If you want to learn to draw of you want to your child(ren) and students to draw, these are the books to get. (As well as the Kistler book.)

Dear Hamish,

Thank you for telling me about the new Woolies album. I shall order it as soon as it comes out. I can’t wait. I was sorry to hear about your run-in with the chicken. If I remember correctly Peatmoss needed some feathers and I’m thinking she left the coop open. I hope your mum can fix the hole the chicken pecked in your kilt. Thank goodness the beak missed your body.

I’ve had another ‘illuminating’ discussion with Pawnee Kitty. One really has to wonder where she comes up with some things. Maybe ’tis because her head is so empty. We were having one of our ‘ay’, ‘ay’ discussions. You know. Like we do. I say ‘ay’. Then you say ‘ay’. And we know exactly what we are talking about. When I do this with Pawnee, who knows what she’s saying. Yesterday she stopped and said.

“This non discussion is making me feel like a cavesheep.”

“There are no cavesheep.” (That was me.)

“Cavesheep. Your ancestors. I picture unshorn sheep wearing ragged kilts, holding spears.” Pawnee.

“Ye, silly ewe. We don’t use spears. We don’t hunt.” Me.

“Grass. Back then you had to hunt grass. Back then wool only grew so long. No fluffy, fluffy sheep. The kilt is half woven reeds and wool strands gathered from the brambles.” Pawnee.

“And what makes you such an expert?” I ask.

“Don’t you ever wonder. And the only word mini sheep said was: ay. Picture this. One sheep waving his spear. Ay. Ay. That means I spotted grass. Ay. Ay. Ay. That means it’s real close. And then there’s a stampede of sheep running down the hill waving spears and yelling ay, ay. ay, which in this case means someone get the cooking pot ready.”

One really has to wonder about Pawnee. I had to distance myself from her and I snuck off while she went on and on about cavesheep and shouting ay, ay, and hunting make believe grass.

It’s time to go out and grab some grass before the geese take it. I will write more later.

Yours, in the colonies.

Angus. McSheep.