Diana, Princess of Wales

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, arguably the most famous person in the world.

During most of the teenage years, I was an anglophile, deply fascinated by the British royal family. I don’t know if it was caused by the Arthurian stories I read as a child or Kenneth Brannagh masterful portrayal of Henry V, which came out when I was 14. All I know is that at that age I would spend hours at the British Council in Rio, pouring over encyclopedias reading everything I could about all the different Henries, Edwards, Georges… I had a predilection for the Plantagenets, the Tudors (who doesn’t love the Tudors?), and the Windsors. I collected every scrap of news about the Queen, Charles, and Diana.

I simply adored Diana. She stirred my imagination. She was like a heroine from the Barbara Cartland novels I used to read at 13, whom I later found out to be Diana’s step-grandmother, only that in her case the storybook wedding didn’t end the way she imagined.

I remember well the day she died. I was in Brazil, recently back from 5 weeks in Canada, and we were visiting my grandmother. I had slept in and all I remember is my mother waking me up and saying “Lady Di was in a car crash”. I shrugged “shurely she must be ok”, I thought. Then my mother said it looked really serious, the boyfriend died. I became a little more alert, jumped out of bed and turned on the TV. I had no doubt she would make it. She couldn’t simply die like that, could she? I think it was then that they announced her death. I think I spent the next few days glued to the TV, accompanying every minute of the few days after the death, the Royal family in Balmoral, the coming back to London, the funeral. I cried as if I lost a good friend.

As most fans of Diana, I hated Charles and thought it was all his fault. Now I feel deeply for the man. I understand him better. I can see more clearly the manipulative side of Diana. I can also see how courageous she was in taking up the causes she championed. She kissed AIDS victims in a time when ignorance led most people shun them like they had the bubonic plague, she hugged leprosy patients in Asia, she literally touched all the people she met. She might not have been the brightest people around, but her compassion and concern for the most downtrodden more than made up for it. In an article for this week’s Time magazine, Catherine Mayer  says:

Though friends say he was just a distraction, her choice of two Muslim boyfriends looked set to test how deep the tolerance of New Labour’s Britain would go. This much is plain: she had long since escaped or shed the attitudes of many white Britons. After her death, Trevor Phillips, a black Labour politician who now chairs Britain’s Commission for Equality and Human Rights, told Newsweek Diana “embraced the modern, multicultural, multiethnic Britain without reservatio.” Unlike most Europeans, she had “no flinch, no anxiety about race… for nonwhite Britons, she was like a beacon in the darkness.”

In the end of the article, Mayer concludes by saying:

But the fact that she was – undeniably – on occasion manipulative, deceitful and self-centered should not blind us to the fact that, during her 17 years in the limelight, she had grown as Britain had grown, changed as Britain had changed, and that by the time she died she had something increasingly vital to offer. Arbiter [press secretary responsible for Diana’s funeral arrangements] recalls a strange, muted, mournful night after the Princess died when he encountered a group of wheelchair users on their way to lay flowers at Kensington Palace. “They were saying, ‘Who’s going to speak for ys, now?’ They had a point. The disabled: who’s going to speak for them? The AIDS patients: who’s going to speak for them? The drug addicts, the down-and-outs, the homeless, the elderly? She was their voice and drew attention to their plight.” Arbiter pauses. “She’d have made a good Queen, you know. But that’s it. She’s gone.” Gone? As anyone who knows  anything about the strains that make up modern Britain will tell you, that is very far from true.

The magazine includes also good articles about Charles, and the princes William and Harry.

Watching the news today, I couldn’t help but feel moved all over again. Harry’s words during service made me cry and feel for the two young men. I leave you with his words:


Air Show

When I came home from lunch today, I knocked on the door and Alan unlocked it hastily before running off. “Was he in the shower?”, I wondered. But no, he was on our balcony, with half his body hanging out, almost falling off, following the flight of a World War II fighter plane, escorted by an F18 and an F16. Once they flew over, he looked at me with a grin from ear to ear and babbled as fast as an excited 6 year-old “did you see that?? did you see that?? they’ve been going around all morning!!”. He proceeded to list me all the airplanes he saw, what they did, and show me his goosebumps from the excitement.

Yes, I confess. My husband is an airplane freak.

Even after 37 years working for an airline, he still gets as excited as a three year-old child when he sees an airplane. And it doesn’t really matter what kind of place it is. In Montreal, we lived about 15 minutes away (by car) from the airport so it was quite normal to see airplanes flying low on their way either to or from the airport. Sometimes we would be driving along the highway and he would suddenly look up and point “look! a airplane!!”. Sure enough, there would be the usual 737 or A320 getting ready to land. All I could do was amaze myself at how he still found that exciting after seeing that every day and yell “watch where you are going!”.

So, after 11 years together, I can proudly say that I can now tell whether that airplane flying way above us is a Boeing or an Airbus (or an Embraer/Bombardier), and I can always tell, even from all the distance, an A340 from an A330, or even an A340 from a 747…

Needless to say, we’ll be attending the Air Show this weekend near the CNE grounds. The show starts at 1 pm on saturday, sunday and monday. We’ll probably go tomorrow after our morning at the market…

The first black & white we never forget…

Ever since I got my Nikon D80, I was at odds about what to do with my beloved Minolta Maxxum 5, a very nice film SLR with a good lens. I didn’t want to simply sell it to highest bidder. It’s a relatively new camera and I didn’t want to just store it somewhere and never use it again. So I decided to use it for black and white photography. I’ve never really tried shooting b&w but Alan is a pro and gave me some pointers. A couple of weeks ago we went out for a photo stroll with Melissa, a proficient b&w photographer, and all I took with me was my Minolta and a roll of b&w film. Today I picked up the negatives and the scanned images and started processing them. I was amazed! some of them are actually not that bad!! Here’s one that I particularly liked…

morning light

Makeover Monday

It’s time, once more, to report on my progress this week… I didn’t do well at all this past week:

1. Finish entering data from the royal register into my database – Still not done. Like I said before, I had an off week… 

2. Drink 8 glasses of water/day – hasn’t been happening. I need to find myself a proper bottle (non-bad plastic) that I can carry around. I think things will improve once I start doing that. 

3. Eat at home at least 5 days/week; eat out only 1-2 times a week – too many social events last week. The beginning of the week was ok but then it got quite bad. It’s the last few weeks of summer and it seems that everybody wants to go out to eat… Thursday we met some friends from Montreal for a very late lunch (around 4 pm), Friday we met some friends for the Buskers’ Festival and ate somewhere downtown, Saturday we met some friends at Kensington Market and ended up having lunch there, Sunday we went out for Feijoada, today I went out for lunch with a friend who’s moving away and tonight we attended her farewell bbq… Hmm, coming to think of it, Monday night we went out for sushi. So I really only ate at home on tuesday and wednesday. How shameful!! That’s why we are always broke… 

4. Go to the gym at least 3 times – I think I went a couple of times… I also did some stretching at home…


Goals for next week: the same. Must succeed on these before I can add new one!!

Social weekend

What a social weekend!

On Saturday we met Jeanne & Pedro at Kensington Market. The couple are newcomers to Canada, having immigrated from Brazil about a month ago. We met at a forum on the internet dedicated to immigrants and through their blog; this was the first time we met in person.  The idea was to introduce them to Louie’s and the market in general. We hit it off quite well and ended up chatting at Louie’s from 9:30 until past 12:30, when we moved on to the Mexican place up the street for some authentic Mexican food. We ended up partying ways well past 2 in the afternoon, after a very enjoyable morning. At 6 pm my friend Ester came over and we made some Brazilian pão de queijo to enjoy with our coffee before heading down to the Carlton Cinema to catch a screening of Paris, Je t’aime. The movie a series of short stories, each set in a different part of Paris, created by 18 masters of the craft, including Joel & Ethan Coen,  Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Gérard Depardieu,  Walter Salles, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Daniela Thomas, and Gus Van Sant.  Some of the stories are brilliant, other are plain odd.  But the overall experience is very good. We enjoyed it a lot. Here’s a trailer for your enjoyment:

You might think the movie is in English on this trailer because they only play the bits that are in English, so here’s one of my favourite short stories in the movie:

Then I came back home and watched Kevin Smith’s Clerks.

Today we went for a traditional Brazilian lunch of feijoada with our newfound friends Pedro and Jeanne, as well as Daniela, a Brazilian married to a Canadian, whom I also met online. We lingered afterwards at a local Portuguese cafe, chatting away over custard tarts and nice coffee…

A nice weekend indeed. I feel ready to go back to work tomorrow!

Slow day…

I didn’t go to the library yesterday. The day was grey and uninviting, my hand hurt, the house was a mess and needed cleaning, it’s august; my head came up with many plausible explanations for justifying not working yesterday.

I ended up going to the Nathan Philips’ Square Farmers’ Market in the morning, doing a bit of cleaning, a bit of cooking (made some green curry), lots of browsing and posting in forums on the internet, and tried, in vain, to push away the feeling of guilt for not working.

Today is not much better. I had to be home before 2 pm since we are meeting some friends from Montreal for a late lunch so I decided not to go to the library again. I had brought home some of the photocopies of the registers I need to enter in my database so I figured I could work at home. I’m now at the Second Cup down the street, where there is no internet, entering data in my database. I’m saving this text to post later…

I wish I could take vacations without feeling guilty…

Wordless Wednesday


© Alexandra Guerson

We never made coffee at home in Spain. The stuff available in any bar was so cheap and so good that there was no point. This is the coffee Alan and I had every morning, at the bar on the corner of our street. A long espresso with hot milk, it’s called a cortado (Spanish) or a tallat (Catalan). So good.

Other Wordless Wednesdays here and here.