Friday, 4 March 2011

Book Clubs, Old Ladies and Infidelity

When we first moved into our University housing, there was a brochure for the Newcomers & Visiting Scholars Society on the dining room table. They have regular 'coffee mornings' on Tuesdays, where newcomers can come and meet other newbies, as well as meet the members of the Society. It is really easy to figure out who is a newcomer and who is a member of the Society. About 80% of the newcomers are Asian, and about 95% of the members of the Society are old ladies.

These coffee mornings are funny for two reasons: (1) They serve tea, and (2)There are always presentations, and when the newcomers are trying to meet each other and have introductory conversations, the old ladies are always shushing us. I'm sure these presentations are very interesting, and would probably add to my 'Cambridge experience', but let's face it: when you have a baby who is trying to walk all the time, and if not walk, then crawl all over everything, including other kids, you just aren't paying attention to any presentations. Especially not about the history of architecture in Cambridge, or how to fold a Chinese Lantern for Chinese New Year.

But I digress: on my first week there, I signed up for a whole bunch of things, because I had no friends and no life. I signed up for the tour of some church or another, and the kids' Mardi Gras party, and the Scottish dancing night. I also signed up for the book club. I am a member of an awesome book club in Edmonton, that my sisters & I started for my Mum. Half the members are my Mum's friends, and the other half are their daughters. It is an interesting group, and we always have a really good time - even if only half of us (sometimes less) finish the book.

Now the first rule of my Edmonton Book Club is: you don't talk about Book Club. The second rule of my Edmonton Book Club is: you don't talk about Book Club.  The first rule of my Cambridge Newcomers Book Club is: You don't quote Brad Pitt movies. And none of them would have understood that joke at all.
  There were 7 women there - 5 of them were 'locals', one of them was a lovely woman from Pakistan who hadn't finished the book, and me. I was the youngest one there by about . . . 25 years. Minimum. The book we read was 'Ghostwalk' by a Cambridge author, Rebecca Stott. It is set in present day, and is about a woman researching Isaac Newton & alchemy, who dies right at the end of writing her book on it - or was she murdered by some group trying to save Newton's reputation? Good premise, right? Until all of a sudden (spoiler alert) it becomes more about animal activists, and the woman's son (aka neuroscientist who experiments on rats) being the mastermind of a double-agent-style activist group, who arranged his Mother's death. Oh, and a lot of paranormal, seance-type stuff was thrown in too. I don't recommend it.

The discussion was mainly on the book, with a very few sidebar conversations. And only a couple 'shushes' from one woman when two conversations were happening at once. I only really contributed a couple comments, and both of them were discussed at length:
(1) One of the characters has repeated affairs with the same woman, and his wife knows about them. I said that the wife was a terribly weak character, and that she should not have stayed with her husband after the first affair. One of the women actually said, "Well, Georgina, you are terribly young, and you may not realize that this happens more than you think. There are lots of reasons women stay in marriages and know full well their husbands are having an affair."  I should have responded, "I may only be 29, but I know that infidelity is not a sign of a healthy marriage, and in this day & age, there are no reasons to stay in a dysfunctional marriage. Not to mention that the character has children, and she is setting a terrible example of what marriage is." And maybe something like, "PS Just because affairs happen all the time doesn't make them okay, crazy old lady." But instead I said something like, "I still find her a weak character for not leaving him." And then for the rest of book club I thought about this lady's life, and what kind of marriage she has... awwwwwkwarrrrd.
(2) The narrator of the story said something like, "Life is disappointing, when you looked close; full of mediocrity and domesticity." So I commented that I found that sentiment rather off putting, since my life has become incredibly domestic since moving to Cambridge, and I didn't find it mediocre at all. I explained that, had we stayed in Canada, I would be getting ready to go back to work, and moving away from the stay-at-home Mum gig, whereas here in Cambridge, I have no plans to work in the foreseeable future. And one of them said, "Well, my dear, you're the wife of an Academic now!" - whatever that means? Then they started defending the Stay At Home Mums, and talking about how important it is for the future of the country, etc etc - it helps if you re-read that sentence with an old-lady-British-accent. And it was kind of like they were arguing, but they were all on the same side... And a few of them did that quintessential Old-British-Lady thing where they close their eyes while talking & making their point. (Do you know what I'm talking about??)

So next month, instead of a book, we are all to bring in a piece of poetry from our own country - I'm really stoked for five examples of British poetry - and read them aloud for the group.


So the question is: do I go back for more Crazy Old Ladies? And if I do, can anyone name a Canadian poet??


Gina said...

Robert W. Service is listed as a Canadian poet, though I just found out he was actually born in England. Still, he is listed as Canadian, so you could choose him and read The Cremation of Sam McGee, which is an absolute riot to read aloud (if you have a little bit of the ham in you, and I know YOU do!). Best of all, it is so long, all you need to do is go first and you will talk the entire meeting!

Anonymous said...

I think Milton Acorn is a wonderful, unique and gritty Canadian poet! His pom 'I Shout Love' in particular is just beautiful!

Loving the blog, Georgina!!

Mommy Meen said...

Man, you have to stick with this book club, just to give monthly reports :) Could you use Leonard Cohen as your poet?

Chrissy said...

Okay this is totally random. But google the poem from the guy from the opening ceremonies from the Vancouver Olympics.
Who are we kidding I totally googled that for you. And the winner is We Are More by Shane Koyczan.

Great poem about Canadians.

Susan said...

Dear Dr. Mrs. Hawkeye,

By any chance was "When I am an old woman I will wear purple" written by a Canadian?

If necessary, you could just lie. The old crocks already think you are naive. Then they might also consider you deluded.

Sounds like too much fun messing with them,

Love from Dr. Mother-in-law

Beau said...

Really rock their world's with a little Kinnie Starr poetry!!

Please be sure to record their airy gasps...

Beau said...