At The Moulin Rouge





Back in 2001, in the innocent days before 9-11, 20th Century Fox released the film Moulin Rouge!  My daughter and I, always captivated by musicals, went to sit in the dark theatre, waiting for the movie to start.  We weren’t prepared for the pastiche-jukebox musical come MTV video come sensory overload that was the Moulin Rouge!  When the final credits rolled to a close, my daughter and I sat in the theatre with our mouths open, not wanting to believe that the movie was over.  The next day found us back at the theatre to see it again.  And again.  And again.  On our fifth and final theatre viewing, the theatre manager came into speak to the audience and introduce one audience member who was there to see it for the 18th time.  We weren’t the only ones to be enamoured with Moulin Rouge!.  I bought the film on DVD and we continued to watch it.  I can’t say how many times I’ve seen Moulin Rouge! but every time I see it, it still captures me.  That was four years before I met my husband, and Ewan McGregor’s smile and twinkling eyes had me drooling (actually, it still does but let’s just not say anything about that 😉  ).

Nine years later, Nick and my daughter and I were in Paris.  Nick wanted to have an evening to himself, so Miyuki (my daughter) and I made our way to the Moulin Rouge.  Now, granted it was over 100 years after the movie’s story took place, we were still hoping to capture some of the amazing feeling with which the movie left us.





When we came up from the Metro, we saw the line to buy tickets under the windmill was more than two blocks long.  Instead, we wandered up and down the streets in the madness that still surrounds the Moulin Rouge.  The energy was crazy.  People were dancing, and running up and down the streets.  Pockets of singing and shouting were breaking out all around us.  French, English, Italian, German and other languages that I couldn’t place.  We made our way down past the end of the line, around a corner and to our surprise, found an Irish pub.  With part of our family coming from Donegal, it seemed appropriate, if a bit strange, to enter that Irish pub in the middle of Paris.

Miyuki and I sat and chatted and I treated her to her first Guinness while I sipped at my Coke Light.  It was a wonderful evening – one of those common experiences that a mother and daughter sometimes share when all history and power barriers have dropped and only a mutual enjoyment of our time together was important.




Perhaps Moulin Rouge! was only fast moving images on celluloid, songs by other songwriters and a story that was simply fabrication.  But this film created a mutual experience that my daughter and I took with us to the streets of Paris, to create a memory that we both will always hold dear.


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Beauty, Sorrow and Strangeness at English Bay

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English Bay is a beautiful part of Vancouver.  Anyone who has walked along its shore in the spring or summer sun can attest to that.  For me, English Bay holds lovely memories, but some strange and disturbing ones as well.  I will start with the saddest one.  My aunt and uncle owned a home in Kitsilano which is directly across from the English Bay beach.  When I was little, we would go to their house often and that always meant a walk with one of my cousins to the beach.  I would stick my toes in the water and kick and splash in the direction of English Bay.  I would wonder if it was possible to swim from one side to the other.  Those are good memories.  Sadly, my cousin John, named for my dad, got caught up in the drug scene.  It was the 60s and drugs were ubiquitous. One evening we got a phone call that John had been found dead of an overdose on the beach looking over to English Bay.  It was a long time before we went down to that beach again – years in fact.  And for some reason that I still don’t understand and my dad never explained, we stopped going to my aunt and uncle’s house.

But not all my memories of English Bay are bad ones.  The one and only time I was in a parade was along English Bay.  I was a member of a synchronized swimming team and we were asked to join the parade.  We all sat in our team swim suits in the back of a truck and waved to the people lining the street.  One time, I was invited to join a group of people in a million dollar condo that faced out towards the water.  We spent a very pleasant evening watching the Symphony of Fire – a fireworks competition that the city of Vancouver held every year.

Sometimes strange things would occur too.  Back in 1984, I was getting ready to head off to work in Japan for at least one year (I didn’t know then that it would extend to three).  I was scared to be dropping everything and moving to a country I had never seen before.  I was sad leaving family and friends behind.  And I was overwhelmed trying to pack up my life in the space of 2 weeks before I had to climb on a plane.  My very best friend in the world, Leslie, took me down to English Bay one afternoon, to go for a walk.  As we walked along the shore, I told her how I was feeling – it all came pouring out.  At the end of it, I had a wave of sadness wash over me because Leslie and I had not gone a week without doing something together – hanging out, going for a drive, visiting her family or mine, since we were 19 – four years before.  We were both sad that we wouldn’t see each other for at least a year.  As we walked in silence, I saw something lying on the beach in front of us.  We walked over to it and peered down.  It was a full set of dentures.  For some reason that just struck us as hilariously funny and we both laughed until we couldn’t breath and tears were running down our cheeks.  That broke the mood for both of us, and I was able to shake off the blues and to see the adventure that lay in front of me.

Something I also find strange is the Inukshuk that the city placed there just before the 2010 Olympics.  An Inukshuk is an Inuit sign post.  As far as I know, the Inuit people were never indigenous to Vancouver.  Perhaps the city was tired of totem poles.  I hope not – they are beautiful and indigenous.

I still visit English Bay when I go to Vancouver.  It is still lovely and sometimes still strange…when Nick and I were there a few weeks ago we spotted a sailboat washed up onto the shore.  It had been lovely weather for days – no storms or wind.  Yet there it was.  I took the time to snap a photo, but never knew the story.

Baring It All

Baring It All

Normally, I don’t do nude or even semi-nude photography. In fact, I didn’t even take this one.

Back in the summer of 2005, my daughter and I flew to London to visit my very dear friend Andrea. Andrea shared a flat directly on the Thames across from the Millennium Dome. While we were there it was someone’s birthday…forgotten now exactly whose it was. The party took place on what they called the front garden and what I called the “slightly larger than a shower-sized bit of lawn”. There was a barbeque with big hunks of meat and a cooler stuffed full of beer, wine and other such drinks. We were having a wonderful time, the weather was warm, the neighbours were forgiving, the view was lovely. After a good deal of merry-making, I handed my camera to my daughter while I ran up the stairs and into the bathroom. When I came down, there were a lot of sniggers and giggles that I attributed to the growing pile of empties next to the cooler.

Now, at that point in my life I didn’t own a laptop. This meant that I didn’t think to check what was on my camera until we got home and I downloaded the lot onto my desktop.

Yes, there were numerous pale, English, bare bum shots on my camera.

Moral to the story. Don’t ever, ever give your camera to your 12-year-old to hold while you are in the bathroom…


P.S.  Yes, everyone in the picture or not in the picture who bared their bums was over 18.  And yes, the next day, while they were all hung over we did have a friendly chat about what was appropriate to show a 12-year-old.  And of course, my daughter, the 12-year-old, woke them up with great glee for this chat by playing Eminem at top volume on the stereo.  Heehee.




Five years ago, my husband, who works with students with special needs, was assigned to work with a 10-year-old boy by the name of Adam. It was a year later that Adam first really came onto my radar.  Nick came home one day with a grin on his face.  Apparently Adam had started giving Nick relationship advice.  “You should bring her flowers, cook her dinner!  I bet she likes chocolates.  You should take her chocolates!”  “Hmmm, I like this kid!” I told Nick.  A couple of months later he started to encourage Nick to propose to me.  Propose and then to invite him to the wedding.  When Nick did propose and we began to discuss the wedding plans, we both agreed that the only person who could be Nick’s best man would be Adam and his twin brother, Blake would be a groomsman.  Adam and Blake looked wonderful in their new suits and both fulfilled their roles beautifully.


Adam is one of the sweetest kids that Nick has ever worked with – kind, funny, generous.  As an elementary student and then later as a middle school student he raised money for the homeless shelter in our small town, for the elders of the Cowichan Nation, and for the SPCA.  He always has a smile and joke for everyone around and this makes what might have been the most obvious thing about Adam the least noticeable – his wheelchair.


Like most special needs kids, very little has been easy for Adam – his legs won’t straighten and won’t easily hold his weight but over the years that my husband has worked with him, he has watched Adam struggle to stand and walk and now he can actually walk a short way with his walker.  School hasn’t always been easy for him but he has found his niche there – he wrote and acted in a short film and has a role in his school’s theatre production this year.  He has lots of friends and the girls love his lopsided grin.  In spite of his struggles, he never seems to lose his amazing positive attitude.  I think that a lot of this comes from a large and very supportive family.  His grandma, Darlene, has stood behind him and fought for him and his brother their whole lives.  In fact, everyone in their family has stood behind these two terrific young men and it shows.

Last week, Nick and I went to watch Adam in his first wheelchair rugby practice.  Adam was younger than the other players by a good ten years.  When they began to arrive, I could see that Adam was nervous – probably a bit by the idea of playing such a rough sport but I think more by the age of the other players.  I have to give them credit however.  The coach and the players gave Adam encouragement and instruction and lots of opportunities to play.  I watch the game progress and was at first quite intimidated by the aggressiveness of the sport but then I was so impressed by the enthusiasm that Adam showed as he played that I stopped cringing at every wheelchair crack-up.  The lessons he has learned in life to push himself and to move forward became very evident on the gym floor.  He quickly learned to manipulate an unfamiliar sports wheelchair.  He raced up and down the floor until he was covered in sweat.  He reached for every ball that was thrown in his direction.  And when the practice was over, he was greeted with a chorus of “Good game, dude!” from the other members of the team.


Adam may only be 15 years old, but he has learned lessons already that some people never learn.  He impresses the hell out of me.

Dancing WithThe Corfiots

Dancing WithThe Corfiots

Still in 1974, we stopped on the Greek island of Corfu. We were bussed to a small village with a beautiful beach with the plan of spending the afternoon swimming. By lucky happenstance, there was a festival and we were treated instead to an hour of traditional Greek dancing. And we still managed to get our swim in!

Castle Owner

Castle Owner

My last post was of a castle in Capizzi. In this photo, the grinning young man who is working on restoring this beautiful work of art is the youngest of the family who owns the castle. Unlike many – not all but many – of the young people you find in the big Italian cities who are enamoured of American pop culture, fashion, films, etc. the group of young people that we met who were restoring the mother church’s artwork were not just content, but happy to live in their village and to be active participants in their own history.