Being From the Eastern Townships + archival disasters + grudging Olympics
May I recommend
Being from Quebec’s Eastern Townships.
Look, I know this is going to be tricky for a lot of you to pull off, but you should at least try. You can go to school there (like Andrew did) or marry into it (like Andrew also did - really, his keenness is commendable) or move there in later life (like Andrew might do one day, ha ha, little does he know the master plan) but the best way to succeed at being a Townshipper is to just, well, be from here.
Who cares about being from this place, you might be thinking. It’s a tiny wedge of rural landscape smacked up next to the Vermont border with a weird name that is not even on official maps any more. Yes Donald Sutherland has a house here and true, the world’s finest maple syrup is produced here (suck it, Vermont) but apart from that, what’s the big wup?
Well, there are a bunch of reasons to try to be from here, so I’ll run through a few of the most important ones.
Firstly, it’s very very beautiful. I have gotten into arguments with people about this - those who claim that an aqua blue Caribbean Sea is more spirit-lifting, or the view of the Coliseum at dusk more awe-inspiring. Look, those things are fine, in their way, but do they have gentle rolling hills, crooked old fences, mature stands of trees, stone houses and cows?
I didn’t think so
Next up, does the Thai coastline have my mother in it? No. Only the Townships has a little Australian expat lady zipping around the dirt roads in her Kia Soul with a plate of brownies to give to someone in the passenger seat and The Weavers blaring from the stereo.
Thirdly, when you’re hiking on Machu Pichu, are you going to bump into your beloved sixth grade teacher, the first boy you kissed or that person you really liked hanging out with in high school, but then lost touch with? Nope. They are not looking for Incan artifacts at high elevations. They are buying sandwich bags at the Cowansville Wal-Mart or walking along the path to the lake in Knowlton.
Fourthly, as you’re sipping a merlot in Californian wine country, are you also able to get the unique thrill of feeling ever so slightly oppressed for being an English-speaker on the North American continent? No? Then shut it, Napa.
What about that rockpile you played on as a kid? The tree your dad always honked at on the road to Knowlton? The hospital where you were born? The woods where you did your underage drinking? The field where you picked marsh marigolds for Mother’s Day? The library where you got all your Agatha Christies? The cantine where you ate the best poutine? The movie theatre where you saw Splash? The fairground where you broke your wrist? The lake that you skinny dipped in? That cafe where you got your first job?
Oh, those are all in the Eastern Townships?
Yeah… I thought so.
What about you, do you have a place to recommend being from? If so, leave a comment below!
The tricksyness of preserving items forever
A year and a half ago, I found myself in an archive room at the London School of Economics, staring at 150-year-old documents complete with swirly handwriting and a red-wax seal. My mind flicked back to a few weeks earlier, when I’d gotten one of my occasional nosebleeds, and I had a random yet horrifying thought: What if my nose starts bleeding on one of these irreplaceable pages?What would happen if I ruined them?
Twenty years into a career in archives I have some stories about stuff like this. The one that still fills me with horror was looking at a box of glass lantern slides from the First World War at Library and Archives Canada’s super cool, state of the art Preservation Centre and having one basically split apart in my hand. There had been a hairline fracture in the glass, and as I removed it from its specially made box, it just cracked. Sob. Panic Don’t worry! We have very good great photographic conservators.
Want to read a legit cool story about an archival preservation nightmare? What if it were about the Canadian Constitution and the fact that both copies in existence are a nightmare to preserve, one because it was raining the day that the Prime Minister and the Queen signed it so it got wet and the other because an activist snuck paint into the archives and deliberately damaged the only pristine remaining copy as a political protest?
My upcoming novel, THE HONEYBEE EMERALDS, is about a lost necklace and my team of intrepid characters have to track down where it’s from. Do they have to visit various cool Parisian archives and research libraries to do that work? YOU KNOW IT!
A return to Tehran
Another plug for THE HONEYBEE EMERALDS, one of my main characters is Iranian and I got to do some fascinating research on that country in the process of writing this book. This article was just lovely.
I am reminded of the tree in my grandfather’s garden. He loved gardening and asked my sister and me to help him with the garden work. He slanted the short ladder toward the fig tree and gave each of us a basket to stand under the tree with while he picked the ripened figs and threw them down to us. Sometimes the broad leaves landed on our heads like little doll umbrellas as he pulled the boughs to pluck the fruit. If a fig fell down by mistake, we raced to snatch it from the ground. We played a game to see whose basket filled up first.
I’m not super into the Olympics
Still, I liked looking at the pics from this article. That guy and his pecs made me laugh. A few of these are gross. You have been warned.
I had to include this, because it’s funny, true and linked to one of my earlier recommendations.
Super Human: Paralympians
Okay, fine this is my third Olympics-related post, but I promise, I DON’T CARE ABOUT THEM.
Dr. Ji Son @cogscimomI knew there was a double standard for uniforms worn by male and female athletes... but this picture of Norway's beach handball team says a lot. https://t.co/qdZBKU7pTK https://t.co/KoWdOvecmr
Fat cheesies for the win
It’s the length of time he stays stuck
I kinda love these
What I really really want
The state of his feet
We have all felt this panic
Love this guy
Frito Lay strike
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Amy Tector, The Honeybee Emeralds (March 2022)