Archive for the ‘Victoria’ Category

Sharing a Victorian Christmas

December 21, 2008

victorian_xmas_treeAs Christmas draws closer, I always love sitting by the Christmas tree and reading Christmas stories. As a way of sharing this tradition, I thought I’d post an excerpt from my novel Discovering Emily. Canadian artist Emily Carr, the heroine of the novel, was born in Victoria, BC in 1871. The Christmas scene in Discovering Emily is based on Emily Carr’s own reminiscences about her childhood Christmases:

The day before Christmas, the Carr house filled with the spicy smell of boiling plum pudding and the fresh fir scent of the Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve Father took Emily and her younger sisters into town to see the shops lit up. Every lamppost had a fir tree tied to it, and the shop windows were decorated with mock snow made of cotton wool and sparkly dust. In the grocer’s window was a Santa Claus grinding coffee. Bonbons, clusters of raisins, nuts, candied fruits and long peppermint candy sticks surrounded him. At the end of the food shops was Chinatown. Its dark streets held no Christmas decorations. Emily’s father turned them around to head back to James Bay.

Before bed the children hung their stockings from the high mantel piece in the breakfast room, and Dede read “Twas the Night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse . . .”

At the bottom of the stairs Emily peaked into the dark dining room and smelled the Christmas tree waiting there. She couldn’t see it, but she knew that it stood there, touching the ceiling and hanging heavy with presents ready for the morning. Up in her bedroom the air was chilly, and Emily dove under the covers next to Alice. She wiggled with excitement.

“Be still,” whispered Alice. “I want to sleep.”

Emily tried to keep still, but she tossed one way and then the other. How could she fall asleep when there were presents waiting? She tried not to think of the new set of paints she wanted or of the cuddly puppy she had longed for. She knew it wouldn’t do any good to wish for them, but she couldn’t help hoping that something special hung on the tree for her.

In Emily Carr’s footsteps

March 26, 2007

Carr novelsI would like to say a special hello to everyone who has been reading my novels about the childhood of artist Emily Carr (Discovering Emily and Emily’s Dream) — especially Mrs. Fung’s class at Lord Nelson Elementary School!

During Spring Break last week I spent a day in Victoria, the city where Emily Carr was born and spent most of her life (1871-1945). Walking around her old neighbourhood, I tried to imagine what it looked like when she was a girl playing in the cow yard beside her house, cutting through her family’s back field to Beacon Hill Park, walking along the road to the James Bay Bridge…. and later, being a landlady at the House of All Sorts (a house built on a piece of her family’s property), raising her bob tail sheep dogs, walking along the streets with her monkey, Woo…..

Carr house

Above: Carr house in the 1860s and me in front of the house last week.

House of All Sorts

Above: The House of All Sorts (at left), which is around the corner from Carr House (Carr House is now a museum you can visit, but the House of All Sorts is a privately owned house with apartments, and there is still a mural that Emily Carr painted on the attic ceiling). The house on the right is where I lived during my last year at University in Victoria (a room-mate and I rented the top floor, just a block away from Carr House, and no, Emily Carr was not still alive when I lived in her neighbourhood).

Empress HotelThis street in front of the Empress Hotel (photo at left) used to be the James Bay Bridge, which Emily would walk across with her father. The hotel is sitting on what used to be the water of James Bay (the bay was filled in with earth, but sea water still sneaks into the hotel basement at high tide).

Parliament Buildings

Above: The parliament buildings (behind the whale), which are across from the Empress Hotel and overlooking Victoria’s inner harbour (Emily Carr’s old neighbourhood is right behind them).

Below: Me dressed in 19th century costume, reading in the Emily Carr section of the Vancouver Art Gallery a couple years ago (my daughter, sitting on the floor at left, is dressed like Emily Carr would have dressed when she was a girl).

reading at VAG