Friday, December 31, 2010

A little Billie for the holidays

I’ve posted this song before, but only its simply sophisticated Edgar Leslie lyrics. Here’s the definitive performance (music by Joe Burke). The easy swing behind Billie is from superb Count Basie players. Drummer Jo Jones, guitarist Freddie Green and bass player Walter Page were, with the Count himself on piano, the great rhythm section of the swing era. (Here, the very hip Claude Thornhill, who had a great band of his own, is on piano.) The sax is the nonpareil Lester Young. Trumpeter Buck Clayton (at first muted behind the singer, then on an open horn in his breaks and between her phrases) and clarinetist Buster Bailey were pre-eminent Basie standouts. Together, they all catch exactly the right mood.

The song isn’t really about a holiday—Billie, after all, sings, “When we want to work, we work”—but about a state of being, an attitude.

Maybe we do the right things
Maybe we do the wrong
Spending each day
Just wending our way along

For me, uptight New Englander, it’s aspirational.

Happy New Year! And hopes that, in a happy setting, you’re getting, some fun out of life.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Boxing Day

We’ve had some snow! A fairly good Nor’easter blew through the day after Christmas and laid a cold and viciously windy foot of white on us. Officially, it was a Severe Winter Storm, but areas not far away suffered the technical Blizzard experience. It was pretty nasty out during our annual Open House. Police warnings to stay home, and all that. Only two dozen or so deeply committed scofflaws showed up, as opposed to the usual cast of thousands. A totally different dynamic, of course, and quite pleasant, because we were all able to hold real conversations rather than circulating through the din. (On the other hand, I’ve always rather enjoyed the circulating, and the din, too.)

Special perks: Lots of left-over beer and wine, which Paul, A, and I began to make a dent in yesterday evening. And bags of uneaten potato chips, which I reserve unto myself.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas musick

Christmas day is beginning gently here this year. Listening lazily to the Bach Christmas Oratorio reminded me that sweet B got her first taste of it last weekend. She especially liked the rousing opening Chorus, and asked to hear it over and over. She called it “The Parade Drum Song.”

A nearly complete non sequitur: I was reading something last week in which an Oxford personage of the 18th century was quoted as complaining that “Handel and his lousy musicians” were coming to town. I think he was using “lousy” literally.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Boots redux

A decade or so ago, I bought a pair of non-GoreTex Brasher Hillmasters at Tiso’s in Edinburgh. (For my American reader, long A in Brasher.) I used them quite a bit for a while, and had them on my feet during my worst-ever fall, in the Lakes. I was then seduced by the lightness of trail runners, and tucked the stodgy old Brashers away.

I literally stumbled over them last week, as I was hauling out my ’70s-vintage Sorel boots in preparation for a snowstorm that never materialized. Tried ’em on. Swapped out destroyed old footbeds for Superfeet, ongoing experiments with sock combos. Not bad. Possibly New Zealand bound.*

I’ve always had a weak spot for Brashers, because of Chris Brasher, who was, well, Chris Brasher, an amazing and admirable man. I especially cherish this semi-famous story from the linked obit. Brasher won the 1956 Olympic Steeplechase Gold Medal in Melbourne, but:
was initially disqualified for interfering with another runner as he made his burst for home, and he had to wait three agonising hours for the judges’ decision to be overturned—so long that his medal ceremony was postponed to the following day. The much relieved Brasher, and a dozen British sportswriters, celebrated through the night, ensuring that he entered the annals as one of the few Olympic champions to have received their gold medal “blind drunk, totally blotto, with an asinine grin on my face.”

*Which will be in 44 days, 8 hours, 25 minutes, and 27 seconds. If anybody’s counting.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Search and rescue

I found my Dartmouth Green longjohns today. They had been lurking in the bottom of a laundry basket otherwise full of sheets and pillowcases that had been leering, unfolded, at me for way too long. This morning I wiped those smirks off their faces, snapped ’em and wrapped ’em...and there were my undies!

As a special bonus, I found something else, which I hadn’t yet realized I’d lost: the red Baggies shorts I intend to wear for morning hakas during February. (52 days, 10 hours, 22 minutes, 30 seconds.)

Still can’t find that darned Peruvian hat, though. Maddening, because I remember folding it with unusual care and thoughtfully tucking it away...somewhere. Maybe I should go fold some more laundry.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Have a dood day, yadies

When H was a little girl, the letter she had the hardest time coming to pronounce was “L”. Our favorite iteration of this was in the title of the Sandra Boynton book, Moo, Baa, La La La!, which in our family will forever be known as, “Moo, Baa, Ya Ya Ya!”

Sweet B’s most adorable issue is with the hard expression of the letter “G”. For many years to come, we will all delight every Thanksgiving in making that well-known turkey sound: “dobble-dobble.”

B might characteristically say to that, “Why you laffing?” Which would put her one yaff up on her mom.

Monday, December 13, 2010


A little test-blogging from my iPhone.

A photo:

Now let's see what happens.

[Later: I originally inserted a video, too, and it worked fine after it loaded properly to YouTube, which took a few minutes. I took it down to preserve the privacy of some of the people who were in it. The line spacing isn’t good, but that might have been my fault.. I can’t find a way (I think there is one) to control the sizing of the photo. The iPod app BlogPress looks pretty good, and I’ll keep fiddling with it to get used to it. I’m hoping to be able to blog from NZ ... but it has to be with no hassle!]

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I’m losing things again

Sun glasses. OR Peruvian hat. Capilene 1 longjohns. What is this? Well, I know what it is, but I wish it could have waited til I was 80.

On the other hand, the little Photon flashlight I ordered in September and which never arrived and finally had to be replaced by the sender, showed up about 10 days ago in the mail. Battered packaging, slightly damaged snap-link, but usable. So I’ll have an extra when I lose the one that arrived first. Which replaced the one I lost so that I had to order the one that arrived second.

Good system, huh?

Friday, December 10, 2010


It was 9°F (-13°C) this morning. No run scheduled, and for the walk I was solo (Paul cosmopolizing again). Bulked up in multiple layers and big old double Chouinard mitts. Desperately trying to separate my eyelashes, welded together by ice formed from watering eyes. Delighted to finish up and get home to some hot tea. This first really cold day always hits me the same way. Later in the winter? Water off a duck’s back. Actually, later in this winter? New Zealand summer! (57 Days, 11 hours, 13 minutes, 8 seconds, but who’s counting.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Das Boot

Torpedoed and returned.

But I did just pull this old but essentially unused pair of Merrills out of the oblivion of The Back Room Under Lots Of Other Stuff. I had decided against them for the 2008 TGO, but never taken them back. (Hmm...think almost three years is too late?) I’m giving them another whirl. They feel...soft. Bad for training flats but maybe okay for mountain booties? (Is there a Mountain Booties Association I could check with?)

The much-missed H and sweet B checked in this morning by iChat. Aside from the automatic clothes washing machine, the world’s greatest invention.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quinzhee memories

PTC* had a sweet photo on his post the other day that reminded me of something I haven’t thought of in ages. Twenty years ago when they were eight or nine, H and her best friend L used to cross the road from our house on winter weekends and mine into and through the piles of snow tossed up by the plows clearing the elementary school parking lot. They had a great time. One Saturday, though, a pretty good snow got H and me talking about igloos. We had neither enough nor the right type of snow for that, but I thought we did have enough for a go at a quinzhee, a show shelter excavated out of a mound of snow that you pile up and let settle into reasonable compactness.

Out we went with a couple of shovels. Rough circle inscribed in snow, then the hard work of ferrying more white stuff from farther and farther away to build up the mound. A lunch break to let it set up, then back out to create an entry and burrow our way in to expand the space. I think we inserted some sticks or something through the snow so we’d know we were getting close to the surface. We managed to hollow out a cozy little dome for ourselves before fatigue and the chill took us back inside.

Sometime later, L appeared, and the two girls headed back out to enlarge and improve upon the shelter. I was working in the kitchen, which had a window overlooking the back yard and the quinzhee. I’d look out occasionally to see how things were going, usually to see just the structure itself with the occasional puff of snow emitting from the entrance/exit. Then, coming back from the stove to the sink, I peeked again. Utter disaster. Snow rubble. Avalanche run-out zone. Thinking the worst (asphyxiating children panicking under hardpack), I sprinted out the find both girls emerging casually from the destruction and laughing. We spent the next few minutes dancing wildly about, happily reducing the remains to snowdust.

The girls are still best friends and were maid of honor and best woman at each others weddings (the term “matron” is absolutely not countenanced). H, of course, now has sweet B, and L is due with her first in a few months. So I’ll soon have two more little people to build faulty structures with so we can celebrate their destruction before some wiser person calls us all in for hot chocolate.

Monday, December 6, 2010

First snow

Nothing much, but atmospheric on this morning’s walk through New North and along our loops of roads.

Lake H was white, not wet.

I’m paying no attention whatsoever, but it’s 61 days, 9 hours, 40 minutes, 40 seconds until the plane leaves Los Angeles for New Zealand.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Glug glug

It wasn’t all mud on the floor and unflushed toilets at our elegant weekend plumbing party. I’m told dinner was excellent, and I can personally vouch for the fact that we had some very nice wines, especially a Toquade, a Napa Sauvignon Blanc that couldn’t have been more different from the famous New Zealanders I’m looking forward to sampling in situ soon. It was utterly, breathtakingly dry, and so elegantly refined I think it probably plays croquet in whites. At the suggestion of my wine merchant, I actually chose it over a long-time favorite, Grgch Hills Fumé Blanc (a Sauvignon Blanc in all but name), which is, simply, a great wine. And I’m glad I did, though I may go back to Grgch next time. It will be a while, either way. At $30 a bottle, this sort of stuff is once-a-year drinking around here. (Yesterday, my father, returning us all to the family’s normal level, brought around a $5 California Merlot. Not bad.)