Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack... (Delmar Lemming)

It was so great visiting Patricia's nursery school class in Valsequillo, up on that mountain ledge looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. Out in the mist, the coast of Africa loomed on the horizon ... or was it Fuerteventura?
Anyway, besides tinkling the twinkle twinkle out of the guitar, I was taken back to the patty cake clapping rhymes games that are so wonderful for children at this early age. We did a Mary Mack contest which was a scream.

Mary Mack (repeat!) Dressed in black (...)
Silver buttons (...) Up and down her back (...etc)
She combed her hair (...) She broke the comb
She's gonna get a pipping
When her mama gets home!

Gracias a Patricia y todo el profesorado de CEIP Los Llanetes por su maravillosa acogida. Volveré pronto!!!! David

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Book Review of "FLIGHT IN FEBRUARY" by Philip Kraske

(This is a book review of a new novel by author Philip Kraske. I have tried to keep to the limits that we generally set in class, particularly regarding word count. It is about 300 words long! -- I hope you like my recommendation. -- Delmar Lemming)

Flight in Febrary is not Philip Kraske's first book but it ranks among his best efforts. Having read some of his manuscripts over the past quarter century (he started young!), I would say Flight in February demonstrates the maturity of a diligent, first-class wordsmith. This struck me when I got five chapters in and heard how "the rusty caster giggled and heckled" at poor Reilly, whose only response to his gray officious surroundings is a sneer and a Playboy magazine! The book abounds with tremendous details, every word chosen with care but provided with seemingly effortless writing. Canadian author John Marlin once said "to be a good novelist you have to love people." Kraske shows genuine affection for his characters. I worked as a police reporter in the Midwest and found the author's depiction of law enforcement officials in these environs rang true. The dialogue drives the story along with precision and, at times, humor and wit. These are truly believable characters.

I won't compare Philip Kraske to Jonathan Franzen or Paul Auster, but I am sure others will, given the breadth and ambition of this work. Sue Grafton's punchy prose came to mind in some passages of Flight.

Just one question haunts me. Why February in Minnesota? I am far from that frozen wasteland now but I recall it as being pretty darn chilly! Although the author assures us in the final credits (his acknowledgements, p 433 in the first edition) this work is not going to inspire more prison breaks, he sure made me wonder at the things humans can get up to, even in the dead of winter.

But the best recommendation I could give Flight in February is that it is a great read. As another reviewer has stated, once you are caught up in this thriller, you won't be able to put it down.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Barnstorming in the Mountains of Valsequillo (Delmar Lemming)

We enjoyed the singing and chanting enthusiasm of both pupils and teachers at CEIP Valsequillo and Los Llanetes recently.

I fancy this mini-tour of the mountains above Telde as a "barnstorming" in remembrance of the theater companies that used to perform in the hill towns of upstate New York in the early to mid 19th century, travelling from barn to barn.

The pretext last week was to celebrate the Canary Islands' celebration which takes place on May 30th each year. Having said that, I would gladly return to sing with these wonderful pupils. I also want to acknowledge the fond welcome afforded by the respective staff and administrations. Thanks for all the music and fun. Now in Spanish...

Gracias a todos los profesores y alumnos del Colegio de Valsequillo y Los Llanetes por la cálida acogida, la comida y la amistad. Me encantaría volver a sus centros en un futuro no muy lejano y compartir más canciones y cuentos. Un saludo desde EOI Santa Brigida .... David Shea

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Uncle Frank's Adventures in France (Delmar Lemming)

One of my most colorful and endearing relatives was Frank Bergeron, my Uncle Frank, who was a renowned butcher for most of his adult life. He was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, which was about halfway between our town and Boston. He settled in Franklin County with my Aunt Gertrude, who was always his beloved "Trudy." Though they never had any children of their own, Frank was the local butcher up Federal Street and everyone loved him. Frank's success with us kids was partly related to a stash of penny candy that crowded the shelves opposite his butcher display window. Those treats kept many children busy while their folks were ordering meat.

In the 1940s, Europe was bombed and in tatters, an estimated 20 million Russians died,some with a name on a stone, others just left by the wayside in the frozen waste. My dad was called up to be a soldier and duly served on bases in Florida and Texas before being shipped out to France. Years later, my father would recall guarding German prisoners in Texas. Though they could not communicate with him, he commented on what nice people they were. Family guys. It was a terrible time for all concerned. A world war that reached even the Orient.

Frank enlisted too but because he was a butcher, he was ordered to take charge of feeding the multitudes on a troop trip headed for France. We have photos of Frank cutting big slabs of beef as hungry mess hands watch with glee. One of them, who fancied himself an artist, sketched Frank a dedicatory cartoon (attached). Although it was war, Frank seemed to have the time of his life. Could you blame him? He was doing what he did best. He knew prime rib like he knew his name and made the most of the adventure.

By the way, although Frank was born in Eastern Massachusetts, his family originated in Quebec and he spoke fluent French. So once he was stationed in France, he won the hearts of everyone he met. He found it easy to woo the locals with his command of their language, particularly in the sing song cadence of Quebec.

I will never forget my dear Uncle Frank who passed away in his mid 80s just a year after my Aunt Gert died. They were a colorful team who always had time for their beloved relatives, just like adopted grandparents to my four sibling Sheas and me.