Saturday, February 1, 2014

Volume 3 Issue No. 3

South Parkdale Train Station circa 1910


This Month's Line Up

Photography by Barbara Lynn Read
The Travels of The Velissa
TVFP remembers a lost friend
Outsider Art / Henry Darger and the Vivian Girls
Gully Jimson makes a brief appearance in larger bold print
HRH The Empress of India

TVFP would like to draw your attention to: Through Her Eyes (T.H.E.) Photography Collective including, among other terrific photographers and photographs, these evocative narratives created by Barbara Lynn Read:

The Wayne Arthur Gallery, Winnipeg

Image title: 
Ælfen Arch
Enchanted Niagara Escarpment
 Limited Edition, signed by the artist
 Artist:  Barbara Lynn Read 
Look closely through the Ælfen Arch 
and if you’re lucky, you’ll see fairies and elves.
  Shhhhh, don’t make a sound and 
don’t let them see you . . . 
or right before your eyes 
they’ll disappear.

 Image title: 
Shall We Dance?

Limited Edition, signed by the
Barbara Lynn Read 

You’ve snuck into a movie set 
and from the your hiding place 
you watch in awe, Fred Astaire 
and Ginger Rogers rehearsing 
their dance scene 
ascending stairs, spinning with top 
hat, tuxedo and lovely swirling 

chiffon dress, until they perfect it.   


TVFP Travelogue

One of the things we look forward to at TVFP is reading about other people's adventures. It's not that we're living vicariously, at least not entirely. We swear we only read LOTR once in every decade. We find the things that ordinary people get up to when they're not gainfully employed of immense interest. In a confusing world, simple micro acts of humility, of compassion, of courage, levity, principle, intelligence, skill, gentle craziness, (we believe) help to knit up the raveled sleeve of care (Shakespeare) that is our life. Deb Thomas (with co-captain Bob Shaw) has written to us regarding the travels of the Velissa. 

Travels of the Velissa

Part I

News from Havre-Aubert, Iles de la Madeleine

Bonjour, finally we have found, or rather been forced to, stop moving and take the time to write. We hope this newsletter finds everyone well and enjoying summer such as it is.
As I look back on our log it seems that almost everyday we have been in transit since leaving Whitby July 24. In a hurry to get east before it got colder we made long days, mostly under motor, anchoring wherever we could find a spot before dark.

Other than strong current and a few days of rather breezy headwinds we transited the rest of the bridges and locks smoothly. We have learned that in Quebec you are wise NOT to follow the ‘rules’ and under no circumstances follow any directions given in any English translated guide/sign printed by the Canadian government.We quickly realized that cash gets you in and out of every lock expediently! Vive le Quebec.

Passing Montreal was a real shock for both of us. Somehow we envisioned something akin to sailing through Toronto Harbour with all the downtown buildings and boat traffic but instead there is an entirely man-made canal skirting the perimeter of the harbour; we couldn’t even see Montreal.

Seven days after casting off our lines in Whitby we were fast approaching Quebec City. When I say fast, I really mean really fast…for a sailboat 11.5 knots is fast! We skidded into a sharp left turn, scrambled for lines and fenders and landed in the tiny lock that walls off the rushing St. Lawrence and a 13ft. tide from the tranquil inner harbour.

It is this city’s 400-year anniversary. The harbour is centered in the old city. We had docked in the mist of the grand happenings. Overlooked by the tourists paying $700. per night at the Chateau Frontenac we felt privileged (and frugal, as our dockage was only $72.).  Every night there is a display of gigantic proportions. It is hard to describe, but imagine a city block long building lit up with a movie show. It was an amazingly artistic production. Over ten cameras, each the size of an outhouse with a massive speaker system that covered a half-mile area brought their history (as told by the French) to life. We sat on the bow of the boat bundled up in ski coats and our army surplus hats every night to watch it. We drank vino rouge, ate French cheese, drank more vin rouge, walked for miles (it seemed always uphill) and enjoyed our first real taste of holiday.

Maybe holiday is too strong a word. We have had a few trials: It’s been cool, but our Wabasto diesel heater has been great. The engine may or may not be overheating as one of us does not want to test it at high rev’s. Two captains and no crew have left poor Velissa to fend for herself more than once. We had to chase one fender down the St. Lawrence that both of us thought the other one had tied securely. Some windy nights both of us get up to check the anchor and on other nights neither of us gets up because we think the other one already has. Lines get coiled and stowed one way and then are mysteriously re-arranged when the ‘other’ person gets them out. Small things, but eventually Bob will get the hang of it….(now you know who is writing this!)

Never again will we complain about the lack of weather forecasting in Ontario. Nothing compares with this section of the St. Lawrence. Every day it was the same: NE 15-20 going to 20-30 in the evening but light the following day. But every day the forecast NEVER changed – it was always ‘light’ one day hence.

The St. Lawrence is not as deep nor as wide as we expected it but it is definitely as cold and the current is very strong, often 3-5 knots, sometimes more. The conventional wisdom is to leave Quebec City three hours before high tide, fight the current and then get a push from the current as the tide changes and starts ebbing. Ride it out the St. L. and get neatly deposited in the snug little harbour of Cap a l Aigle some 70 miles NE in time for cocktails.

The guide further explains that there are NO places to stop for those 70 miles; you MUST make the jump in one day. This means that to make it there before dark we had to average 5 knots for 14 hours. With the wind and growing waves against us it soon became obvious that it was not going to happen.  We did find a place to anchor behind a craggy solid rock cliff. Unfortunately, like the sun, the rock cliff completely disappeared under water at dusk.

But our anchor held in 30 knots and we lived. (Bob has instructed me to add – “Bob found us a perfect anchorage despite the Official Guide”). The following day we continued the remaining 40 mile battle upwind with a building head-sea. The ‘traverse du roc’ is a seven mile stretch where the channel narrows and is replete with seven knots of current and ‘dangerous’ tidal rips. The current with us and the wind and seas against us made for a very lively, wet ride! We were both looking forward to docking and drying out.

Docking in the many small Quebec harbours dotted along this fairly desolate and anchorage challenged coastline is often the only option. Communication (0 French vs. 0 English) and a guide that described marinas glowingly emphasising their facilities and ample manoeuvring room (reality: one boat length – for the dinghy) caused some scrambling.

The few words of French that Bob & I can remember did not seem to result in enlightenment on anyone’s’ part. Knowing how to say: ‘may I please go to the bathroom?’ or ‘my name is Bob‘ did not seem to aid us in say…finding out the water depth into the harbour, what slip we are to take etc.

One fiasco had us hauled at breakneck speed into a tiny slip by arm waving, smiling men seemingly thrilled (or pissed off) to see us. It was lovely to have so much enthusiastic help except it was the wrong slip, we had no fenders or lines on that side and they managed to get us in sideways.  However, communicating the need for showers went well. Cupping a hand above your head while scratching your armpits seems to be universally understood.  Everyone we met was friendly, helpful and very nice.

Approaching the mouth of the St. L the coast is magnificent, dotted by tiny villages, high cliffs and rugged mountains often shrouded in mist. Often we were shrouded in ‘mist’. I had always thought of ‘mist’ as something I spritzed myself with. Like cologne. The French seem to refer to fog optimistically as ‘mist’. They can call it what they like but it’s fog, pea soup fog, there is no getting around it. Bob couldn’t see me waving from the bow of the boat. You couldn’t boat here without radar.

We anchored when we could. In Gaspe we tied to a dock (.90/ft) even though there were great anchorages tucked behind a long sand bar. We got laundry and boat chores done. See, it’s not all idyllic. It was a lovely place to wander about. Fresh fish and French cheese…life is good.  For a day!

Our next sail ended in alarm when we discovered that the entire bilge and our new deluxe bilge sock were full of oil. Bad news. Sailed into a little bay, anchored and started the investigation….seals, hoses, clamps…no revelation as to the cause or source. Thinking the worst, actually we don’t know enough about engines to know the worst but we figured it was bad.

We thought the oil seemed unusually clean. Feel and smell of the slimy stuff confirmed that we indeed don’t know anything about engines. It was cooking oil. An entire bottle. We still haven’t figured out how it made the circuitous route from the cupboard to under the engine but a crisis was averted and we can add it to the list of things we will laugh about later.

Whales! Two massive ones. One off starboard and one less than three boat lengths away off port. About the length of two buses. Just incredible. Bob wanted to start the engine because one seemed to be heading towards us. But I wouldn’t let him. I think all our arguing scared the massive beasts and they’ve hightailed it back to peace in Greenland. This event made the whole trip for me.

LOG: 0100     Fix   Lat 47 40.395   Long 62 50.254    RPM  0   under main, jib and staysail   Wind SW15   Speed 6  Course152 degrees     

Perfectly clear sky with a brilliant full moon.  As the sun disappeared below the horizon on one side of the boat the moon appeared on the other. It was a 26 hour glorious sail. Day and night, those perfect sailing conditions that we dream or read about. The kind of passage that makes a normally sane person go out and buy their first boat; then spend the rest of their lives motoring around the world searching vainly to repeat the experience.

Destination: Iles de la Madelaine – first settled by Acadians, it was a very active fishing harbour before the collapse of the cod fishing. There is still a fishing fleet – although greatly reduced. Now the locals are trying to remake their Island as a tourist destination.

The weather is unusually balmy and breezy. We are anchored in the perfectly protected lagoon of Havre-Aubert surrounded by lovely sand dunes to the east and cod drying huts, now turned into tiny stores selling mostly local crafts, to the west. A lonely seal dips and dives around us.  We are not in a rush to hitchhike into the ‘main town’ to the north as we have lots of time to kill. In a sense, we are marooned here. This time the junk in the bilge is antifreeze – for real.  We are waiting for a new water pump to arrive. It seems that it will take just about every mode of transportation known to the modern world to get it here.  At least it’s a good place to be stuck!

After we find some way of pressing the pulley onto the new water pump with 3,000 lb. of pressure and re-installing it, we will watch for a weather window (good weather) to leave. We are tentatively planning to explore the east coast of PEI and then head through Canso Passage to the Bras d’Or Lake.

But who knows...maybe the wind will be perfect and the sun will be warm and the moon will be bright and we will go someplace else. Best wishes to all.

Sailing on….

Deb and Bob


   From the TVFP  Buffet Adventure series: Revisiting a lost friend. Also Henry Darger and Outsider Art  
With a final comment by Gully Jimson          
I wrote by hand and then transcribed on a typewriter. In this case a sturdy Olympia portable. It was a high school graduation present from my parents. The typewriter went to university with me. We dropped out together. We planned to write poetry and live forever in a geodesic dome in a forest. But first we wanted to see a bit of seeing the world.
We travelled together for a decade. The Olympia was always the ballast under my wandering sail. She  was last seen on the pavement in a parking lot near Jackson Square in Hamilton, Ontario, after the last teardown of Circus Tivoli. I'd hitched a ride with James Secondo Zoppe and his wife, the Indian Princess La Mafalda in the bed of their pick-up truck. I tossed in my old ruck sack but, sadly and inexplicably the Olympia was left next to the curb.

Recently I was scrolling through TPL digital service and came upon an author by the name of David Shrigley, entitled Human Achievement. Wikipedia has this to say about Mr. Shrigley:

(he) . . . .  finds humour in flat depictions of the inconsequential, the unravelling and the bizarre  .  .  .  . (and) has two of the characteristics often encountered in Outsider Art.

Well, I always fancy a bit of humour. I downloaded Mr. Shrigley's book from the TPL. I was intrigued. I had never heard of Outsider Art. As it turns out I have, but under a different name(s). Again our friends at Wikipedia help us with:
.  .  .  .   Outsider Art.  .  .  .  is an English synonym for Art Brut  .  .  .   (which describes) .  .  .  . art created outside the boundaries of official culture  .  .  .  .
Typically, those labeled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. In many cases, their work is discovered only after their deaths. Often, outsider art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.

I was thinking Henri Rousseau and Grandma Moses. I wasn't prepared for Henry Darger and the Vivian Girls.

Darger lived in obscurity. Besides being a prolific artist he wrote a multi volume fantasy entitled: The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. His work was unknown during his life time. He died in 1972. It was by accident that his writings and art work were discovered.

Photograph by Maiabees

There was also Kiyoshi YamashitaMr. Yamashita roamed the Japanese islands with pretty much just the clothes on his back. He was nick-named, 'The Naked General." 

I came across another surprising artist: Madge Gill. Mrs. Gill was another Outsider who happened to have a Canadian connection. She grew up in an orphanage in England. Eventually she was sent to Canada where she worked on a farm until she was nineteen. I haven't been able to track her down in Canada. She died in England in 1961. It was only after her death that her art began to be appreciated.

For the most part Outsider Artists are self taught. For the most part they live and create in obscurity. Often they are mentally challenged, but not necessarily. They are usually eccentric. Often their work comes to the worlds' attention only after they have died. They seem to exemplify the artist as that individual for whom the act of creation is in and of itself the only necessary reward. Gully Jimson, the protagonist of Joyce Carey's very funny and brilliant novel, The Horse's Mouth, said it best:



Now HRH the Empress of India has written to TVFP with another anecdote from her many years as head of the civilized world, not including China, Japan, First Nations territory, Narnia and Middle Earth. The occasion was a dinner in honour of the Archbishop of Canterbury. HRH writes:

I remember we were on the royal barge. We were floating along. They were shooting off some canons and there were puffs of smoke. People were waving at us from the embankment and some of them were showing us their bare arses. I said to Albert, Albert why are those people showing us their bare arses? Albert replied, because, my dear, they love you. I said to Albert, you do not often show me your bare arse. I'm afraid he did not hear me. The Archbishop was in a robust mood. He was going on about the Trinity. I saw that Albert was thoroughly bored and to honest I was eager for the evening to be done. I wanted to see my dear husband's bare arse. Shame on me. It's true though. I see his Lord Johnson almost every day but rarely his bare arse. The Archbishop would not shut up about the Trinity.

- My dear man, I said to him, no one understands the Trinity, the Pope, the dirty little wop himself and his atrophied testicles do not understand the Trinity.

- Ma'am, I must protest, he said, I've just explained it.
- You have spent an hour talking gibberish.
Well, he began to pout. I felt sorry for the git, having such a burden as the Trinity.
- My dear Archbishop, shall I cheer you up?
- I am hardy sad, in your presence your majesty, not at all.
- Yes you are sad. Shut up and listen.
- Yes, of course Ma'am.
- Good man.

One night the Lord God Almighty visited the vicar of a small shire, a pious and good man. The vicar, understandably, was overwhelmed. The Lord God Almighty put him at ease. 

- Is there anything you'd like to know? the Lord God Almighty said.
- What is Heaven like?
The Lord God Almighty was pleased with the question.
- Your faith is strong, vicar. Do you have a son by the name of Isaac?
- I do. Right now he's off with the army exterminating the wogs, my Lord.
- Good man, good man, the Lord God Almighty said, as for Heaven, it is like a city. It has the best of everything. For example, the French are the chefs, the Italians are the lovers, the English are the policemen, the Germans are the mechanics and the Dutch are the politicians. The Irish pick up the night soil.
- My Lord, the vicar said, what is Hell like?
- Ah yes, Hell. In Hell the French are the mechanics, the Italians are the politicians, the English are the chefs, the Germans are the policemen and the Dutch are the lovers. The Irish pick up the night soil.

Ha, ha. Ha, Ha.

All pictures to our knowledge have been released to us by the creator or are either public domain or have been appropriately credited. If we are in error please notify us and we will re-credit or delete.