Wartime Rations – Day Twelve

Life just suddenly seems to have got busy, so I’ve been relying on leftovers and familiar recipes today. Next week I really must get more focused and do a bit more experimenting with my rations.

appleBreakfast and lunch were the usual. Dinner was leftover sausages from last night, and for dessert I made a baked apple. So simple, yet really delicious and just the thing my sweet tooth was craving. (Under non-rationing circumstances it tastes even better with cream or ice cream on the side.)

It’s dead easy and very quick. Clean your apple and core it. Place it on a dish with just enough water to cover the bottom of the dish. Mix some raisins with a teaspoon of syrup/honey or sugar and stuff the apple.  Bake at 180C for 20-30 minutes, and Bob’s your uncle!

On to The Calgary Herald (14 pages) for October 17th, 1944.

There was lots of war news: The Russians had begun their drive into East Prussia with Berlin admitting the Russians were now on ‘sacred soil’;The Japanese had lowered the age of conscription from 19 to 17 years-of-age, and Rommel’s death had been confirmed.

But I have to admit, it’s the news from the Home Front that I find the most fascinating. The war news you can find in the history books, but the news in the papers is pure gold. (At least to the history geek in me!)

The Women’s Minimum Wage in Canada was set at $15 per week for a 30+ hour work week. Currently it was $12.50 – $14 for 48+hours.

Apple juice would be available to civilians this coming winter. During the past few years it had been reserved for the military.

Canadian Wren Mildred Honey found herself having problems. Custom dictated she be called by her last name, which caused puns and a lot of laughter on the base.

Alberta seemed to have a lot of problems with escaping POWs. I mentioned one yesterday, but in today’s paper was the report that: German POW Joseph Haub, 30, who’d escaped from his work at the Madalia Potteries on September 13th, was captured by RCMP and Medicine Hat City Police at 1am this morning in a house occupied by two women. Although it was unclear how long he’d been in the house, the two women were not charged with harbouring him.

And then there was this angry letter to the editor from ‘A Veteran’.
Returning to this country after spending three-and-a-half years overseas with the army, I received my discharge. After reading and hearing so much about the shortage of manpower, I thought it would be a simple matter to get a job, but I certainly found out my mistake when I tried.
At most of the places I was sent to by the Selective Service I was told I was too old. Since when was a man of 40 too old to work? And where is the rehabilitation program we hear so much about, or is the government keeping it for its much-beloved Zombie Army? How is it the business people of Calgary expect men to go to war and fight for them but will not give them work when they return? It was the same thing after the last war. They seem to have no use for an ex-serviceman here.
I suppose they will expect us to invest in the Victory Loan that opens soon. Any country that can afford to keep a Zombie Army of 72,000 men hanging around doing nothing does not need any help at all. (Zombie Army?)

There was a prediction that ‘Within 90 days after the collapse of Germany, the market will be flooded with nylon stockings. They’ll be in colours and designs never before conceived. They will sell at a price range between 79c and $1.25c.’

And finally this great story! Five hundred miles from the nearest land, an exhausted homing pigeon recently alighted on the bridge of HMCS St Lambert in the Atlantic and stayed with the corvette for four weeks, thus becoming one of the most unusual mascots in the history of the Royal Canadian Navy.

 

Advertisements

Creating an Outline – Linda Shaikh

linda image 2

Artwork: Linda Shaikh

I recently had the great pleasure of attending Calgary artist Linda Shaikh’s exhibition, ‘Finding Voice’.

It was a stunning display. With a mixture of paintings consisting of bold, brash strokes, followed by others which whisper ethereal colours fading into beyond, she draws the eye into the heart of her work.

But as you step closer to examine the images more thoroughly, you discover all is not as it seems.

What you are actually viewing in her paintings are her research, brainstorming, outlines and even chapter synopses for her PhD thesis. Linda is currently exploring ways to give the disadvantaged in our society a voice. As a visual artist, she has found a unique way of transferring words and ideas into art, which she then transforms back into words and fully realized concepts.

Artwork: Linda Shaikh

Take these three images. The first illustrates her initial thoughts and ideas for her thesis. The second, her first outline. In the bottom left hand corner of the third, she’s written down some of the basic concepts of the various philosophers she studied, with questions regarding those ideas radiating outwards.

As I made my way around the exhibition, I thought about the different ways that we, as writers, brainstorm and outline our work: traditional index cards; the use of Powerpoint slides to keep notes and images; visual story boards containing pictures of our main characters and the places they live; long rolls of wall paper which can be rolled out on the floor or stuck on the wall so you can see every scene in one place.

And how many of us create special playlists of music for each project to get us into the mood and settle us in our stories? How many of us go for walks to let our minds wander free and the ideas to flow. I have one writer friend who has discovered she crochets an afghan with each book she writes, the colours subconsciously reflecting scenes, images or emotions in her book.

linda image 3

Artwork: Linda Shaikh

Looking at all these beautiful paintings and their words, it got me wondering if this could be a method some of us might adopt to brainstorm and outline our stories. “Hmmm,” I can hear you say, “but I’m no painter. I couldn’t do that.” And I totally buy that. Something Linda and I discussed at the exhibition was that when asked to draw a bird, most adults will draw a simple double ‘v’ shape, whereas when we were young we painted multicoloured feathers and beaks. We weren’t afraid to take risks.

So here’s an idea. If you’re having trouble with your story or are at the brain storming stage, how about buying a cheap roll of paper and some paints (finger/poster or acrylic – it doesn’t matter), then roll the paper out on the floor or hang it on the wall and start to have some fun.

Look at these two examples of Linda’s chapter outlines. The first shows the details of that particular section. The second shows how the mass of ideas (and colours) develop, the colours taking on a simpler, lighter, calmer feel as the outline develops and reaches its conclusion.

linda image 4

Artwork: Linda Shaikh

linda1

Artwork: Linda Shaikh

To get you started, what about looking at your roll of paper in three-act-structure form? As writers we know that ¾ of the way through the story there needs to be a black moment, so paint in a wide black streak either with a brush, or with your hands. (Very often something tactile releases an idea in your brain.) Half way through is the Point of No Return where you character is not quite who they will be at the end, but something happens here to make them more of who they will be rather than who they were. Maybe you introduce the hint of a new colour here that will grow stronger as you continue towards the end of the story, while colours you used in the beginning start to fade.

In a romance novel, the midpoint is usually a kiss or sex scene, so what about a bold scarlet or gold stripe here?

lindaimage 5

Artwork: Linda Shaikh. Extract from Image #1

What if you have a child in your story? How about including their hand print throughout to remind you of their role?

Once you have the bold strokes of colour of your basic outline and turning points, maybe then is the time to go back and add the detail, whether it is more delicate shadings, writing on the paper, or a collage of notes or images you’ve collected through the brainstorming phase. Once that’s done, you will then start to see the chapters appear.

And when you’re finished, don’t end with a neat line. Let the paper continue to flow and curl as Linda does because, while your story might end, your characters’ lives will continue.

Research

My main area of historical interest is World War Two. I’m fascinated by it – perhaps because there were still air raid shelters around to play in when I was growing up in Glasgow. And I can still clearly remember my Dad pulling on his old army overalls and beret before climbing underneath Mum’s car when it needed fixed.

So when I heard about a two-day symposium on The Great War being offered at the Military Museum here in Calgary, I hummed and hawed before deciding to sign up. It’s not ‘my’ time period.

But I’m glad I did.

Here’s what I learned.

1) Two days and 25 papers later, I probably know more about Alberta in WWI than most of my native-born Albertan/Canadian friends.

2) As a writer, ANYTHING you learn is invaluable. Everything can be adapted to add depth, texture and veracity to your writing.

3) More importantly, if you write anything inaccurate in your novel, someone somewhere will pick up on it. And when they do, it will pull them out of the story. From then on they will question everything else you say. Pull a reader out of your story and you’ve lost them.

No matter what you’re writing about, please – please – make sure your facts are sound.

 

Alberta In The Great War

Although I learned about The First World War in secondary school, I don’t remember much about it beyond the Schlieffen Plan and trench warfare. Somehow it never captured my imagination in the same way as The Second World War.

However, I’ve recently been soaking up all the recent TV programmes and documentaries which have been made to mark the 100th anniversary since the The Great War’s outbreak. And the more I learn, the more I want to learn. So when I discovered the Military Museum here in Calgary was offering a lecture to introduce their temporary exhibition, Albertans in The Great War, I was in there like a dirty shirt.

Here are a few tidbits I learned.

alberta map for blogIn 1914, Alberta, as a province in Canadian Confederation, was only 9 years old with a population of 470,000. (Canada’s total population was 7.9million.) During the war, Alberta sent 49,000 men, between the ages of 18-34, to serve overseas. Only Ontario and Manitoba sent more in sheer numbers, but the proportion of men Alberta sent was the highest in Canada.

The majority of Albertan men served in the infantry on The Western Front, but a few joined the navy or the RFC serving at sea (obviously!) or in Palestine, Siberia and at Gallipoli. Supporting units included Artillery Batteries, Cyclist(!), Tunnelling and Railways companies. Medical, engineering, veterinary, supply, forestry and machine gun personnel. (The aim of the bicycle units had been to get the infantry up to the front fast, but were essentially useless in the chewed up battlefields of The Western Front. They did come into their own at the end of 1918 when the front line moved to areas where the roads remained intact.)

During the war, Alberta became the largest exporter of wheat and timber, the 3rd largest exporter of beef, and sent over ½ million horses overseas. The province also raised $42million ($1 billion in 2014 dollars) to war relief efforts such as The Red Cross, The Canadian Patriotic Fund, The Belgium Relief Fund and the YMCA amongst others.

Sam Steele, a hero of The March West, The Riel Rebellion and The Boer War, volunteered to serve, but was officially too old for the armed forces.  However he received special dispensation to help train the men here in Alberta and accompany them to Britain. Once there, the men received further training under Steele, but Steele then had to relinquish command when the troops were sent to the Western Front. His forage cap is part of the current exhibition.

The lecturer told a great story of pilots in the RFC who, after they had destroyed a target (eg ammunition dump/ train) would then land their planes beside the target, collect a souvenir (eg empty shell casing/letter from the engine) then take off again. Apparently one pilot returned with a sack full of mementoes.

And what do you do if you’re caught in a chlorine gas attack and have no gas mask to hand? Urinate into your handkerchief and hold it against your face.

These are just a fraction of the stories told during the current exhibition. It’s on until December 15th.  If you live in Alberta and have an interest in our province’s role during the conflict, I highly recommend you check it out.

 

Union Cemetery – Calgary: Part Four

I know, I know.  I can just imagine you looking at the blog post title, throwing up your arms in despair and saying, “She’s talking about graves. Again!’  But this is the last time, I promise. At least from Union Cemetery. (I still have to take the tours of Burnsland and St Mary’s cemeteries.)

VIEWAlthough not all of the people buried in Union Cemetery have grave markers, they all have a story. As a writer, here are a few of the stories I learned on the cemetery tour which – while not about the great and the good – really piqued my interest.

The first I found really touching – because I pass by this place every day when I walk my dog – was the story of a young engaged couple who were killed on the corner of Prospect Ave and 10th Street SW. Apparently he went to pick up his fiancée, who lived in a rooming house on Prospect Ave, to go for a walk one day. Mount Royal is – not surprisingly given its name – on a hill. When they were caught in a thunderstorm, a bolt of lightning ended their lives. Their grave is unmarked and their story leaves me with so many unanswered questions. What were their names? Where did they come from? What ages were they? What were their dreams? How soon did they plan to marry? What were their occupations? Such a tragic loss.

SMITHI love the story of Jimmy Smith who emigrated to Calgary from China. Determined to become ‘Canadian’, he dressed in western clothes and was known only by his ‘English’ name. A cook at the Grand Hotel in Calgary, he died of TB but left $1,500 to go towards the building of Calgary’s first hospital, the Calgary General Hospital. His marker was provided by both the Nurses Union of Alberta and the Chinese Community of Calgary. What was his ‘real Chinese name?’ someone on the tour asked. A couple who spoke Chinese looked at the  Chinese characters and smiled.  ‘Jimmy Smith,’ they  replied.

I’ve talked about Peter Prince – a lumber merchant from Quebec – before in my blog. His house can be found at Heritage Park and his office still serves as a restaurant – 1886 Cafe – in Eau Claire. After Prince’s first wife Marguerite died of diabetes (he is buried alongside her in St Mary’s Cemetery) he married three more times. Hmmm, I can hear you thinking. Sounds a bit dodgy. But remember, those were different times. You could not have a single woman in your home unless you were married to her. He married Emma – who had been a invalid for some time – who died in 1902. His third wife, Rosa, died of cancer in 1907. Emily, his fourth wife, outlived him by 19 years. Her grave is unmarked, but she is buried with Rosa and Emily in Union Cemetery.

There are so many other graves and so many stories: Sam Livingstone who brought fruit trees to Alberta and fed the NWMP through their first hard winter in Calgary; Maude Riley, who made a pact with God after she almost died in childbirth, brought in laws to protect children and is commemorated by Riley Park; Fred Collings, a runner for the telegraph office, who died when he and another boy were cleaning their revolvers. Thinking the chambers empty, they fought a ‘duel’.

What a rich and colourful tapestry.

TREEI learned other things about the symbols to be found in graveyards. We know that children are often represented by lambs or little shoes, but a grave marked by a tree stump also represents a life cut short.

What about an anchor? – The symbol of faith.

Or what about this grave? Given the name and lack of dates… what story does it conceal?

SHERLOCK

Union Cemetery – Calgary: Part Three

I first moved to Calgary when the city was little more than one hundred years old. Coming from a country where a ‘new’ bridge built to replace an ‘old’ one could still be 500 years old, it didn’t seem to me that a place like Calgary could have much history.

What an arrogant attitude!

In the first place, the peoples of the First Nations had lived here for thousands of years with a history and traditions as old – if not older – than that of my home country.

Secondly.. we might think of history as being the realm of kings and queens, dukes and earls, generals and admirals, after all, they’re the ones who get their names in the history books. But REAL history is made by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And when you see a city transformed from a simple wooden fort to a shining metropolis in less than four generations… well that’s purely down to the ambition, hard work and vision of those ‘ordinary’ people.

Here are two of those people whose graves can be found in Union Cemetery.

MACLOEDCOLONEL JAMES FARQUHARSON MACLEOD: Born in Scotland in 1836, he trained in Ontario as a lawyer, before joining the NWMP. Macleod was part of the famous March West in 1874, its remit being to establish law and order, stop the illegal whiskey trade, protect Canada’s border from encroachment by the Americans, and open up preliminary negotiations with the First Nations. He founded the fort, named in his honour – Fort Macleod – in what is now Alberta on the US/Canada border.

In 1875, he ordered Inspector Brisbois and 50 men from ‘F’ tropp to establish a post on the Bow River. Initially called Fort Brisbois, the name was changed to Calgary (after a village in Scotland) on the suggestion of Colonel Macleod.

Trusted by the First Nations as an honourable man, he was one of the signatories to Treaty Number 7 with the mainly Blackfoot First Nations.

Despite being Commissioner of the NWMP and working as a magistrate and judge, he died in 1894 a poor man, leaving a wife, five children and just $8.

WAREJOHN WARE: Born into slavery in South Carolina in 1845, he moved west at the end of the American Civil War, finding work on a ranch in Texas where he became a skilled horseman. In 1882 he came to Canada on one of the great cattle drives north. He worked on various ranches (including the famous Bar U) before buying his own homestead in 1890 and then creating a ranch east of Brooks. Over time, he owned 1,000 head of cattle and 100 horses under his 9999 (The Four Nine) brand.

Tragically, for a man of whom it was said, “The horse is not running on the prairie that John Ware can’t ride,” he died on September 12th, 1905 when his horse stumbled on a gopher hole and fell on him. He was killed instantly.

John Ware‘s name is remembered in Calgary by John Ware Junior High School and the John Ware Building at the Southern Alberta Insititute of Technology. He is also commemorated in Mount Ware and Ware Creek.

 

 

 

 

 

Reader’s Rock Garden Cafe – Calgary

A few weeks ago, my daughter took me to the Reader’s Rock Garden Cafe for my birthday lunch. It’s one of Calgary’s little secrets – most native Calgarians have no idea it’s there – tucked off Macleod Trail on 25th Ave. The setting is glorious and the food first class.  (Check out their menu here.)

exterior3  interior

On the day we visited, I had the lamb – Albertan, of course – which was cooked to perfection. I followed that with an Eton Mess – one of my favourite desserts – which tasted every bit as wonderful as it looked. Prices are very reasonable considering the excellent quality, and the setting couldn’t be more perfect.

food1    food2

The cafe is surrounded by the most beautiful garden which is a testament to one man’s passion for horticulture. William Roland Reader was Superintendent for the City of Calgary Parks from 1913-42. During that time he transformed what was a bare hillside into an internationally acclaimed garden.

exterior1

Over a period of 30 years, he trialled over 4,000 different plant species. The result is a tranquil, exquisite and secret paradise barely metres from one of Calgary’s busiest thoroughfares.

exterior2

Check it out.  You won’t be disappointed.