No, this is not Syria

Downtown Victoria, BC, next door to the Inner Harbor, the demolition crew provides grand entertainment for locals and tourists on a sunny Saturday. But why are they tearing down this old building?


No, this is not Syria

Customs House, which takes up an entire city block framed by Government, Wharf and Courtney streets, was built on the harbour between 1894 and 1898. It has been variously known as the Federal Building, Post Office and Customs House, the latter for its role in processing goods leaving and entering the country. Its important historical features include the façade’s sandstone walls, quarried from nearby islands in Georgia Strait.

It also has what might be considered an eminently forgettable element — the addition of a post office, built in 1952 in a drab post-war style. It’s this not so pretty bit that is being torn down before construction begins on a project that will incorporate the original building to become a commercial/condo complex.

A week later it looks like this:

No, this is not Syria


Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?



Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

See a baobab tree and you’re instantly intrigued. How can something grow and survive with its roots in the air? Not only do they survive, they are instrumental in the survival of humans providing food, medicine, shelter, and material to make cloth, ropes, baskets….

The baobabs in Mali fascinated me and it was logical to have a boabab play a role in the parts of the story set in West Africa.

Searching for a picture to use on the cover led me to: the fony baobab tree in Madagascar estimated to be over 1000 years old. (photo by David Thyberg)

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

and this: A hollow 3000 year-old baobab in Zimbabwe (photo Christophe Poudras) which can house up to 40 people.

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

and this: Avenue of the Baobabs – western Madagascar (photo Dani-Jeske)

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

and my favorite: In Mali.

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

To learn more about these amazing survivors in the harshest of conditions click here. 

And to see what happens under that baobab on the cover of my book go to my website.



Graffiti outdone

For the last several years these walls have been covered with graffiti–the spray painted foul language kind. Every so often the building owners had the walls painted over, but within a few weeks the graffiti reappeared.

Then, last year, they hired a young girl to do her thing. Today, I noted happily that her street are was fresh and graffiti free.

Graffiti outdone

Graffiti outdone


The Josephine B. Trilogy by [Gulland, Sandra]

What is it about some books that demand our time, that demand we read and read until we can’t keep our eyes open any longer?

I read a broad variety of genres, enjoy many writing styles, the works of authors from many countries and, because the books I read are so varied, I’ve never found a definitive answer.

Whatever the magic, whatever the lure of this book or that, I feel compelled to make suggestions and recommendations to fellow readers.

The Josephine B Trilogy, written exclusively in diary entry format, is high on my list of must reads. The entries, sometimes curt, reveal an intriguing woman as well as a fascinating look at Napoleon–one of history’s greatest.

Of her trilogy, which took her 10 years to write, Gulland says, “In fact, Josephine did not keep a journal. I think if she had, I would have had a hard time writing a fictional journal for her. Most every biographer and historian portrays Josephine in a negative light. My own research — and consultations with historians — led me to different conclusions.”

For more information: Click here


Modern medicine’s greatest failure

Modern medicine’s greatest failure


“What?” I ask anxiously.

“The school just sent an email. Head lice. In four classes.”


“Yes. Will you help?”

This will make three times in as many months. We could solve the problem by shaving their heads, but I refrain from making that suggestion.

“Of course I’ll help.” Treatment is not something one can do alone and as she and her daughter are always cuddling, we’ll have to do both of them.

Step one: Buy wine.

Step two: Apply the treatment—kills the lice and nits in 58 seconds, they claim.

Step three: After 30 minutes comb the hair with the special lice comb provided. Small problem here. The comb does not catch all the nits. Stop combing and try to trap the nit between your thumb nail and finger and pull it down the strand of hair. Sometimes you succeed, but usually you don’t.

Modern medicine’s greatest failure

The process gives a whole new meaning to the expression “nitpicking.”

Step four: Open another bottle of wine.

Step five: Curse and question the whole scientific community. Why the “H E double L” hasn’t someone managed to eradicate these little devils?

The damn things have been around for hundreds of years.

“Since no verified fossils of lice have ever been found we can only speculate when they originated. We do know the ancient Egyptians and Greeks wrote of them and they were found on prehistoric American Indian mummies.” Penn State Department of Entomology

Step six: Strip the beds, throw all recently worn clothing and anything that might have been in contact with the infected heads in the wash, put brushes, combs, and hair accessories to soak in boiling water.

Step seven: Repeat the treatment process a second time 8 to 10 days later.

Any teacher can tell you that head lice find their way through every single elementary school. I was once principal of a K-9 school that hosted a head lice study (I do not remember agreeing to this) and it was a nightmare. Weeks and weeks of checking every single person’s head for lice and I don’t remember what all else—obviously the whole experience was one of those things one does not want to remember. And—big surprise—the study did not come up with any magic answers.

If you’ve never had to deal with head lice and nits (which stick around for days after the treatment), count yourself lucky.


Smash all the Windows

Smash all the Windows by Jane Davis

For the first time in my reading life, I finished a book, turned back to page one and started reading it again. The story and characters so compelling, the story telling so complex, complete, and often subtle—I simply couldn’t just move on to another book.

But the more urgent need for the immediate reread came from the emotions evoked.

Tragedies happen all the time. People are killed—floods, fires, airplane crashes, auto accidents, tsunamis….

They happen far away to people we don’t know. We, on the other hand, are tucked away in our safe little corner of the world, cocooned by family and friends, smug in our security, subconsciously believing “that will never happen to us.”

Focusing on a few of the individuals connected to a Tube accident in London blamed on the dead, Davis shows the harshness of the impact on the families of the dead and the burden of sorrow they carry that lasts forever. Davis shakes us out of our complacency and rightly so.

What inspired the novel?

Davis says: The novel began with outrage. I was infuriated by the press’s reaction to the outcome of the second Hillsborough inquest. For those who don’t know about Hillsborough, a crush occurred during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, killing 96 fans. A single lie was told about the cause of the disaster: In that moment, Liverpool fans became scapegoats.” Read more HERE 

Smash all the Windows

It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.

It will take courage to learn how to live again.

‘An all-round triumph.’ John Hudspith

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

Tapping into the issues of the day, Davis delivers a highly charged work of fiction, a compelling testament to the human condition and the healing power of art. Written with immediacy, style and an overwhelming sense of empathy, Smash all the Windows will be enjoyed by readers of How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall and How to be Both by Ali Smith.

If you do read Smash all the Windows, I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Commercial support for recycling–good to see!

We window shop and shop shop often at the Bay Centre in Victoria BC. It’s close to the marina and Ogden Point where the cruise ships dock so the whole area is swarming with tourists and street entertainers and food carts and horse drawn carriages and pedicabs and…. Lively and entertaining everywhere you look.

Saturday this is what caught our eye as we meandered through the mall.

Commercial support for recycling--good to see!


Commercial support for recycling--good to see!



Everyone doing their part and maybe we really can clean up the mess we have made of our planet.

Books, books, and more books.

News of the World: A Novel by [Jiles, Paulette]

What is the easiest thing for an author to talk about? 

Books of course.

Like most authors, I’m an avid reader and can’t imagine a day with out reading. Evening is the best time for me–when the day’s to-do list has been completed (or as much of it as possible), when the household  chores are done, dinner eaten, dishes washed and restored to their rightful place in the cupboard.

Now, horizontal on the sofa, I read while my husband watches TV. How so, you ask? I was a teacher for many years. I know how to shut out extraneous noise.

What is the easiest thing for an author to do after reading a book?

Tell everyone they know to read it too.

In the spirit of that sharing (no, not being bossy at all), I offer you a couple of books to consider.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles – I loved it so much, I’m rereading it.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.


Mudbound by Hillary Jordan – the characters are still with me and I will reread this book too, but I will not go to see the movie.

In Jordan’s prize-winning debut, prejudice takes many forms, both subtle and brutal. It is 1946, and city-bred Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband’s Mississippi Delta farm—a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family’s struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura’s brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not—charming, handsome, and haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, has come home with the shine of a war hero. But no matter his bravery in defense of his country, he is still considered less than a man in the Jim Crow South. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this powerful novel to its inexorable conclusion.

If you do read or have read either of these, I’d love to hear from you.

Evolution of language drives me crazy.

Evolution of language drives me crazy.


Me as a kid: “Me and David are going to play hide and seek.”

My mom: “David and I….”

My students: “Me and Tanya are going to the mall on the weekend.”

Me: “Tanya and I….”

My neighbor: “Me and Tom are going on a cruise.”

Me, suppressing a sigh: “Oh, that sounds lovely.”

My students: “I’m gonna get a puppy for my birthday.”

Me: “I’m going to get….”

Sports announcer: “He’s gettin’ to be a really good quarterback.”

Me: “Getting! Getting!”

Elderly lady at the gym: Do you wanna hear sumin interesting?”

Me: Cringing and biting my tongue. “Hm?”

Language evolving or just sloppy grammar? Maybe I’m old fashioned, but this cavalier usage of language feels like a dumbing down of our universal intelligence. Voilà becomes walla. Is walla even a word? How does the song go? “Ooh, ee, ooh ah ah. Ting, tang, walla walla bing bang

Our written language is just as bad. Punctuation and capitalization have fallen by the way side. We’ve gone back to a sort of hieroglyphic with letters and emojis instead of words–real words.

And writers, please, please, please stop using the word “would” for habitual action in the past.

“Every weekend when I was a kid, my dad would take me to the corner store for a treat.” NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Just say: “Every weekend when I was a kid, my dad took me to the corner store for a treat.”

Okay, I’ve had my rant. Your turn. What are your pet peeves with this evolution of language we are experiencing?




By Darlene Jones Posted in Writing