Mamma Mia, how can I get the music of this famous musical with all the ABBA songs out of my mind? Sitting in the Chemainus Theatre, I had ear plugs in my purse. We knew, all their musical performances were simply too loud, and, at our advanced age, we don’t want to lose more of those precious hearing cells. Every seat was taken. Extra excitement was added by an elegant group of the ‘Red Hat Society’ ladies coming over from the Mainland. Their heads, crowned with red hats or big red flowers were first dotting the dining room, then the theatre. What a happy group of women!
Back to the music – Oh, ABBA! Who didn’t like the infectious sounds of this pop group about fifty years ago? I had always been wondering how the name ABBA had come about. Now I know; the background story was in the program: Benny Anderson & Bjoern Ulvaeus with their fiance̍es, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad enjoyed success in Sweden with their first single “People Need Love” in the sixties. Listing all their names was awkward. They randomly put their initials together to ABBA and, a First Prize won in 1974 at an European Song Contest put this group an the map. Only a year after they started recording in English, the whole world listened to their infectious songs. They sold 350 million recordings.
Twenty-five years after they had won the European Song Contest a musical had been written and performed for the first time in London UK. The audience went wild and were dancing and singing in the isles…
That couldn’t happen in Chemainus. Seats are tight, isles are narrow and steep – but, people were singing along with the actors, swinging their arms in unison, tapping their feet, and made themselves part of the performance.
“I Have a Dream,” – “Money-Money-Money,” – “Thank You for the Music,” – “Mamma Mia,” – “Dancing Queen,” – “Super Trouper,” – “Gimme-Gimme-Gimme,” – “The Name of the Game,” – “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” – “Take a Chance on Me,” – “I do, I do, I do,” – and many other hit songs held the audience captive. “Mamma Mia” has been performed all over the world and is to date the longest playing musical in sold-out theatres anywhere.
Tell you a little secret: Many years ago, I was invited to a wedding. The bride asked me not to bring my friend Omar Sharif. Whaaat? Where did that come from?
“Can I bring the ABBA Singers instead?”
“Maybe, because my husband-to-be likes the group. But I’ll have to ask my dad…”
You know what I did? I bought and took along the newest ABBA Album as a gift.
Actually, it’s funny the way “You Young” people see the world today! All those things in the following write up were done by my grandmother, mother and me until I grew up.
We did not know anything about disposable diapers, Kleenex, Tampax or pantie- liners. The women had to buy washable pads with two button holes on either end or make protecting pads out of old panties, and soak and wash them during menstruation. Washing machines or dryers were dream years away. You’d see everything on a clothesline across the yard for drying. Families with more grown-up females had rows of those pads pecked on the line. Even as a ten-year-old kid, I thought it was embarrassing to see them. All the men and boys would know when the women and girls in the village had their period.
Clean white toilet paper? Indoor toilets? It might have been a pail in the kitchen for the younger children. They got their bum washed. For us, it was the ripped-up newspaper that was hanging on a rusty nail in the outhouse. If someone spent a lot of time in there, we knew they were reading the old “news.” During 1945/46 when there were no newspapers, we used grass… and our poor mother had to scrub panties and men’s underpants to get rid of what we called the “schiss.” Yes, we did get our hands dirty and washed them under the pump with the ice-cold water.
We did not have running water in the house. We had to bring it in from the pump outside and also bring the dirty water out. Wash day was a big all-day undertaking.
My mother’s hands were raw from scrubbing on the washboard. I still feel sorry for my mom. I love laundry day – because I don’t even get my hands wet… easy-peasy.
Heating and cooking? Hah! We had to scrape the ash out of the oven and the stove, bring it out and bring in wood and coal and kindling. Sometimes, when the wind came from the wrong direction and got into the chimney, we could not get the fire going. The smoke came back into our faces when we blew on the kindling. Life was simple. We did not know any better – so did not think about all of this being a hardship. We had a potty under the bed for the small job, for the big one we had to go to the outhouse next to the barn. God, I remember how cold that seat was in the winter! A smooth wooden plank with a hole in it, covered with a lid. A big box was underneath which my dad emptied when it was full. There was a small door where he could pull it out. He dumped it onto the manure pile and used a fork to cover it with the dirty straw that came out of the animal stalls, which we had to clean out every day. Mostly my mother did… And in spring or fall, the manure was carted to the fields and plowed under.
Going shopping, Mom took home-made little cotton bags with her. She had stitched “Sugar,” “Flour,” “Salt” and what have you on them. If you didn’t bring your own bags, you could not be served. She had a basket on her bike, and a big bag made out of an old carpet to carry her treasures home. No plastic for anything. I guess it wasn’t even invented yet. We made our own jam, had our own honey bees, but if you wanted to buy those items, even pickles, people had to bring glass containers. Butchers just put any meat on a double newspaper – unless you brought your own packing paper.
Yaaah, we were not “green,” but without knowing anything about any of the present day concerns, we lived a healthy life and ate homegrown food, we had no idea about it being “organic.” We saved our environment. If you would have asked someone about “environment,” they would look at you saying: “Environment? What’s that…?”
Actually, we were “GREENER than GREEN” back then.
When I read this old legend, it made me think. I shook my wise old head and thought, “How true! Who wants to know the naked truth nowadays? People are falling for lies. It is so much easier to believe the lies. And the louder and more often they are told, they more people believe them.”
And that’s why I want to share this little story with you:
Once upon a time, way back in the nineteenth century, Truth and Lie meet on a beautiful sunny day. After a smiling ‘hello’ Lie says to Truth,
“What a gorgeous day it is today! Come on, let’s enjoy a good long walk and get to know each other. We can talk.”
Since Truth never trusted Lie she looks up to the heavens, and yes, it was true, it was a gorgeous day. Ignoring her gut-feeling, she agrees, and off they went. Both felt warm, and sweaty when they arrived at a small pond next to a well. The clear, sparkling water was inviting. Again, the more outspoken Lie took the initiative:
“Aaah, a bath would feel so good. Don’t you think? Come on, let’s have fun, join me for a bath! There is nobody around so we can bathe in the nude. ”
Truth tested the water with her hand, and yes, Lie was right, the water felt good. She didn’t want to hurt Lie’s feelings or ruin a companionable day, so she agreed. They undressed, went into the water, and splashed each other, laughing. All of a sudden Lie left the water, grabbed their clothing, ran away, discarding her own and dressing in Truth’s clothing.
For a few moments Truth was shocked, then she got angry at herself. How could she have ever trusted Lie? She went after the bitch, tried to catch her and get her clothing back.
When the world saw the naked Truth, they did not want to embarrass her, so they turned away. Some people were spiteful and called her names. Poor Truth was so ashamed and upset that she tried to hide and go back to the pond and the well protected by nature.
Lie, dressed in Truth’s clothing, paraded around and pretended to be Truth, and incredibly, more people than not believe her.
By now, Lie is travelling the world, dubbing the societies, and the world has no need and even lost the desire to see the “Naked Truth.”
Another year has come and gone. For some of us, it was a good one. Others say “it was a dark year, I am glad it’s over.” As for me, I wish it would be starting and not be finished! I am at an age now when the days, weeks and months just go too fast!
You know I have written several books, one of them, “We Don’t Talk About That” – the memoir of my first thirty years – has made it around the world through ninety countries. YOU, my readers, have been asking and are waiting for the continuation. “What happened next?” was asked by many of you. You will get the answer in 2019. I have just started chapter eighteen of the sequel. Let me know if you want to be on the list for the first people who get the notice when it is ready!
My short story book “Forget Me Not” is a favourite of mine. When I held the first copy in my hand, I said: “If this were a teddy bear, I would take it with me into bed.” A number of those stories are parts of my next book. Most of them will keep you wondering until you come to the end. Some will make you laugh and shake your head. Yes, I had an interesting life, and I met many interesting people. Those short stories are about real people, believe it or not!
Then there is my little German Poetry book “Ein Mensch von Gestern – Heute.” A tongue-in-cheek book in verses about the things people born during the last century had and have to contend with. This happy book makes a wonderful present for your German friends. Actually, it gives my German friends, who can not read English, a glimpse into my life.
If you have not read any of these books yet I joined an e-book Christmas-New Years Promotion of Smashwords. All my books are on half price, prices are $1.50, 2.00 to 2.50. For more information or to order, click on:
I wish you the best of health and happy reading in 2019! If you have read my books, tell your friends about the Smashwords Promotion for the coming week! It ends on
What is it – superstition, ESP or simply coincidence? Couldn’t be. Do you believe in Guardian Angels? During my whole life (just read my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”) it seems that I knew before something happened what was coming. Or, if I were desperate for or needed something, I would go to a place I usually wasn’t going to and found it. Or, I think of someone for no good reason, and the person turns up, writes or phones me. Last week I couldn’t get my first boyfriend out of my mind and wondered if he and his wife were still alive. I called my kayak friend Christa in Germany, and during our conversation, I asked her.
“I never see him, I have no contact with them. But it’s weird you should ask. There is an announcement in today’s newspaper that his wife has died. I meant to send it to you.”
A few days ago I wondered where I could go for a pedicure. With my severe back problems, I cannot do it myself anymore. I meant to ask my lady friends. I had something at Tim Hortons, sat down at one of the small tables, ate right there and, instead of turning left after I was finished I wandered around the corner to the right. Why? I don’t know. There is nothing but the rear exit door of the Woodgrove Shopping Center. And what do I see? A modern, colorful, busy manicure and pedicure setup.
I picked up a business card. A few days later, I made an appointment. Nobody spoke much understandable English. The manicure section was full. I was the first-afternoon customer for a pedicure. They placed me in one of what, six? large leather chairs, lined the attached footbath in front of me and added warm water and some salts. A young man treated me, he did not understand me, and I did not understand him. Maybe he was Korean, perhaps from China or Thailand, it didn’t matter. He knew what he was doing, I did not have to tell him what I wanted to be done. He did a superb job. While he was working on my feet, the big chair massaged my back, up and down, pulling, kneading, knocking, stroking, all the way from the head to my bottom. No, I did not want my toenails coloured, it was the only thing I had to convey to him using sign language.
I was thinking back of my own skin care shops in the eighties. My pedicure chairs cost about $1.500.00 each even then, but these modern ones? I guess much more than double. I watched the manicures and picked up a price list. I had no idea you could offer two pages of services, just for nails. All in all, I am impressed, and I will surely go back there and also recommend the place called “Cali Nails” in Nanaimo, Woodgrove Shopping Center.
I must have a guardian angel who knows what I need when I need it, and he guides me there.
This is a letter I like to share with you written by a Russian writer, a lady who writes books from “the other side” – telling stories of what ‘her people’ endured with the Nazis. She read my memoir, and this is what she had to say:
Dear Giselle, I read your book, “We Don’t Talk About That.” Was there anything I didn’t know before? Factually, nothing (I touch this subject in my books as well). Emotionally, a lot, overwhelming, goosebumps all over the body most of the time: at some points from horror, at others – from joy there were lovely, loving, and supporting moments with the people you met, with the members of your family, and even some enemies (the kind doctor). It took me some time to gather the courage to write to you because there was an overwhelming feeling – shame and guilt for what my people – Soviets, Russians – made to your people, especially to the women, children, the civil population at large. Reading all these details was devastating to me. Some stories shattered my heart. Many brought me to tears, one of them when your parents reunite after your father returned from Siberia. I’m so glad he had. I’m thankful for your understanding (as I feel it) that the Soviets mirrored what Wehrmacht and SS troops committed in the Soviet Union. Most likely, there were no mass rapes, not with such brutal outbursts at least, but rapes they were. The lives of ordinary people – on all sides – were trampled and destroyed. I’m proud of you, Giselle. Of your battle to survive, of remaining human, supporting, and kind at the time when many broke, of the achievements of your life. I expressed my impression in my review on Amazon. Thank you for your book, which is a rare glimpse at the subject that was taboo for so long.
I checked her name, Marina Osipova, on Amazon.com and found a listing for her book. I read as much as was possible by using the ‘Look Inside’ feature. It is a book I will read.
The Cruel Romance tells the story of four young people on their different paths through WWII. The fates of a Russian country girl, a Soviet intelligence officer, a German violinist, and a Russian intellectual are irrevocably intertwined in the war not of their choice, forcing them to navigate the unconscionable moral compromises of life. Who will survive? And, at what price? The story’s conclusion is set in our time.
I must say I was surprised when I saw this announcement placed by “Book Club Mom.” I couldn’t believe that even a book, written by Margaret Atwood, “The Handmaid’s Tale” had been challenged and banned before it was made into a TV series and a movie. Ms. Atwood had started this book in 1984 when she lived in West Berlin before the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall. Another book I would never have questioned was “Mockingbird” by Kathryn Erskine, a book about a young girl with Asperger’s disease. No, NOT the one written by Lee Harper “To Kill a Mocking Bird.” Maybe I can understand that books about sexual orientation had been banned when they came out. It was probably too early for the topic. Now, it wouldn’t be a problem.
Until last week I never thought that there were books today I couldn’t order or buy. But it happened. I tried to order an Art Book from Amazon.com – a coffee table book with a collection of paintings by an ‘Unknown artist’ – Adolf Hitler. A USA art collector had published only a thousand of it. I had seen a documentary on television about Winston Churchill and was intrigued by his hobby – painting – a hobby he shared with this other artist with an infamous name. It seems that both men, under tremendous stress, could forget the world they lived in when painting. I could read up on both artists through Google/Wikipedia and even see paintings of both artists which sold by auction for 6-figure prizes.
So? I checked Amazon.com. They listed several used books ‘Adolf Hitler, the Unknown Artist.’ Naturally, the thousand that were printed decades ago were long gone, and now people tried to make a buck by offering theirs for sale. The cheapest listed and marked ‘in good condition’ was $168.98 US including shipping. They did have several more for more money. I put it in my shopping basket and proceeded to ‘check-out’ – curious what would happen. I thought, ‘In the end, I don’t have to buy it.’ I found out that Amazon did not own any of those books, private sellers had listed them on their site.
When I proceeded to type in my address I was told: ‘We cannot ship to Canada. Give us a different address.’
What? Not ship to Canada, a multi-cultural country, respecting every religion, color, creed or whatever. Not allowing an ART BOOK to cross the border?
I followed up by contacting ‘chat help’ at Amazon.com. I learned some amazing facts about banned books. But the help person was helpful and connected me with Amazon.ca after he had found out that they had just one copy of the book that I was looking for.
I had a chance to follow a link to look at it and when I saw the price of $1.598.99 Canadian I quickly went back to my chat person and told him:
“Thank you for helping me, but the price for that book is out of my league.”
He apologized, and his final comment was, “It’s not Amazon, they are private sellers, we also cannot buy these books. They are out of print, and a private owner can charge whatever they want.”
Out of print, banned or book burnings I remember from the Nazi time. Are we getting there again?
A few years ago a handful of people ruined my joy and self-confidence, but the worst was that they destroyed my sense of belonging. I have tried hard not to let it affect me, but it did. Many years before that, something happened that had my world crash unexpectedly and made me believe I had wasted twenty of the best years of my life. It hurt, and it still does. I told nobody of my search for a way to end my life that would look like an accident but not hurt other people. I could go on and tell you about specific untrue accusations. My pain and inability to fight back caused anxiety, resentment, grieving, sadness, loss of energy and finally depression. On the surface, I kept on showing the world a smiling face and buried myself in work; I was successful, built a new life, but, nobody needed to know what I felt inside. My inner world was dark gray, sometimes black. With the dogs of a friend, I experienced the only truly happy hours. They made me forget… They made me laugh, they accepted and loved me the way I was. I could be me, I could be myself. A blissful feeling just “to be.”
An overwhelming need to be alone overcame me a few weeks ago. I didn’t really know where I was going to go. I did not want to burden my friends with my feelings of anxiety and my dark mood. After approximately thirty minutes of aimlessly driving around and without much thinking, I found myself on the highway. My car took me to a small, pleasant town about twenty or maybe thirty kilometers away. I knew a small bakery where, once upon a time, I had shared the best cheesecake of my life with dear friends. Pleased to see the only table outside available, I had a coffee, and, you guessed it, a piece of their delicious cheesecake. I sat there, watched the world go by and thought of the present reason for my inner turmoil. I felt despondent and lonely but already a bit better than when I first arrived. Since here in Canada nobody would ever ask to sit at the same table, I cleared my dishes and went on my way, making room for the next people. I was wandering up and down the charming streets until I finally felt the need to find a restroom. I knew just the place, a large grocery store with a café and gift shop upstairs. The ladies room was taken, so I waited. My eyes fell onto a large poster next to it. It was here that I read the following:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Wow! I did reread it. It was a revelation, a message especially for me. This kind of thing has happened three times before in my life; I was taken to a place, or the people I needed to see. Was my Guardian Angel at work when I most needed him? This story stayed with me ever since I read it, I thought about it every single day. Has it been only three or is it already four weeks? I have thought about it, analyzed it, compared it to my inner demons and realized that I had favored and fed the wrong wolf, for many of the past years.
No more. Not that I had forgotten to feed the other one, but one adverse action or word from people I loved or respected, would push me back into the dark place, and the big bad wolf has been waiting.
I promised myself he won’t be the winner!
Summer where I live – winter Downunder! Starting at Midnight July first through the whole month Smashwords has invited their authors to celebrate their 10. Birthday by offering the readers deep discounts on all e-books. Thousands of books are listed. It’s hard to find a book you are looking for – but I make it easy for you:
E-books of my historical memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” – Surviving WWII, (a UK history writer said it should be placed next to ‘Anne Frank’s Diary’)
“Forget Me Not” – A Bouquet of Stories, Thoughts, and Memories
“Ein Mensch von Gestern – Heute” – my little German Poetry book
are on sale for 50% off the already low prices at Smashwords.
Click on https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Giselle and scroll to my books. Click on the book title you are interested in, put it in your ‘cart’, a coupon will automatically appear to reduce the price by 50%.