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Every picture…

July 2, 2019

They (whoever “they” are) say every picture tells a story. This one tells several.


See that rose? It is a memorial gift from my big galoot.


This elegant chap was my big galoot Tri. He didn’t start out as my cat, but he very definitely adopted me. Tri and his sister Angie (very definitely Mike’s cat), who were pushing twenty years old, both played a hugely important role in keeping me going after Mike’s sudden death in March 2011.  By that time Tri was blind and deaf, but he could always find my lap and still had the loudest purr ever.

One Thursday evening in early 2012, Tri started puking (as cats will do) on the carpet in the livingroom. What came out of his mouth smelt absolutely awful and had the consistency of tar. This couldn’t be good. The next morning I took him to the vet, who examined Tri and said it was time. Time? Oh, no, I said, I had not brought my cat there that day to end his life. That was not going to happen. I needed time. I arranged to bring him back on the Monday. I spent most of the next days with him, patting him, giving him as much love as I could. Most, but not all that time. I did take a break to go to the garden shop to buy a rose bush and to dig a hole in the garden.

Monday came. A friend drove me down to the vet’s office, Tri, curled up and still purring, in my lap. The vet came out to the car and gave him the shot that would end his time in my lap. Many other bodily functions may have shut down, but Tri’s big heart just kept beating. The vet had to visit the car two more times to give more shots before his heart gave up.

We came back to the house and I laid Tri to rest under his rose bush. That summer the bush bloomed well. For the past few summers it hasn’t produced a single rose. So, imagine how happy I was when the rose in the picture appeared.

Elsewhere in the top photo…

The book on the coffee table is Metropolis by Philip Kerr.

I discovered Philip Kerr a couple of decades ago thanks to (Saint) Margaret (of the mystery) Cannon. The Globe and Mail’s mystery book reviewer has introduced me to many authors over the years who have become favourites, including Kerr, Ian Rankin and Michael Connelly. The review I read was of a standalone novel called A Philosophical Investigation. Because I enjoyed it so much (as did Mike when I passed it on to him), I went in search of other works and thus stumbled across Bernie Gunther, who made his debut in March Violets, the first of three books in what became known as the Berlin Noir trilogy. Bernie is a Berlin cop who hates everything about the Nazis. In the first novel, the war has yet to start. In the third it is over.

Although there have been a large number of non-Bernie books over the years, Bernie has put in many appearances, with Kerr catapulting him forward in decades and locations, then dragging him back to the war and its immediate aftermath. Many real people have populated the pages of Bernie’s stories, including Heydrich and Goebbels (and somewhat surprisingly Somerset Maugham). I’ve introduced Bernie to many friends, all of whom came to love him the way I do.

It was one of those friends who told me last year that Kerr had died at the far-too-young age of 62. Shortly before his death he’d turned in a new manuscript to his publisher – another Bernie Gunther novel, this one a prequel set during Bernie’s earliest days as a Berlin homicide detective.

That book is Metropolis, released a couple of weeks ago and sitting on my coffee table. Of course I wanted to start reading it as soon as it arrived in the post, but how can I? It is the last Bernie Gunther novel there will ever be. I have to wait. How long should I wait? I don’t know. I just know I have to wait.

What other stories are there in the top photo?

Well, there’s the picture hanging on the wall. I’m not sure how much of a “story” that is.

roses and rue

I found this print of Roses and Rue by Edward Bawden in the gift shop of the Tate during a visit to London in the 1990s. (Yes, that’s right: the Tate. Not Tate Britain, the Tate. There are two Tate art galleries in London: Tate Modern and The Tate. And don’t try to tell me anything different.) I fell in love with it for a number of reasons. I love roses. I’m old enough to remember when this was what the front page of The Guardian looked like. And then, of course, there’s the little black cat. Clancy was never part of my life in London, but that is exactly the sort of place he would have found to curl up. This print has lived on walls in Vancouver, London, Burnaby and now here. It will never be replaced by any other artwork.

And then there’s the panther lamp under Roses and Rue. That lamp came into my possession in Toronto in the late 1980s. It moved with me to Vancouver, where it stayed for a while after my return to London in April 2001. However, during my first visit back to BC at Christmas 2001 I realised I simply could not live without it.

My plan was to take it on the plane in a bag as my carry-on luggage during the flight back to London. No one really looked at my carry-on when I checked in, so it wasn’t until I was on the plane that it became clear there was going to be a problem fitting it into the overhead locker. As I was standing on my seat trying to figure out how I might manage, a stewardess came up (are we still allowed to say stewardess?) and told me anything that didn’t fit would have to be removed and placed in the hold. “Oh, no,” I said, horrified at what might happen to the lamp. I opened the bag so she could see the contents. “Oh, no,” she said as soon as she’d seen the lamp. “Leave this with me.” The lamp arrived in London safely.

br - lounge 3

Here it is in a rather out of focus photo of the house in Walthamstow. It is sitting on top of an old chest of drawers which has a bit of a story of its own. Ben and I found the chest of drawers abandoned by the bins beside our then flat in Stoke Newington. We rescued it and it came with us to Walthamstow. When I returned to Gabriola, it (along with the rubber plant) moved on to live with my friend Irmani and is, I believe, now in its fifth domicile with her.

As for the top picture, the only story left is more of a question: Why is the propane lamp still hanging there in the middle of the summer?

And that’s all she wrote for today.

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