Monday, January 30, 2006

Pickton Trial Begins

I saw on the evening news that the Pickton murder trial began today.

One of the women that Robert Pickton is charged with killing once sat in my husband's living-room in the house that he grew up in. She was dating his younger brother. I only met her once briefly, although I know she attended my high school the year I graduated. But when I watch the news and see the coverage, it's her I think about. Here is an article about Sherry.

A few years ago, when the land the infamous pig farm was on was being investigated to find the all the women's remains, my brother's partner took part in the investigation for a short time. She is a forensic anthropologist and her job was to watch the conveyor belts of earth moving by and pick out and label material: "bone" or "not bone".

If convicted of the 27 murder charges (and he is suspected of more killings), Pickton will be Canada's worst serial killer ever.

It's a strange feeling to watch a national news story and somehow feel connected.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sangha Music

There are some quiet evenings when I convince myself that all I want to do is stay in and, I dunno, play on the computer, or watch a movie, or stare at the wall or something.

I'm awfully glad I have friends who call me up and talk me into doing something fun.

The other night Sherry phoned me when I was in one of these marshmallow-like, almost-asleep states and said, "Hey, I'm going to The Abbey to listen to some group called Sangha. Want to come?" It was seven o'clock then and they started at eight.

She wasn't really sure what sort of music they played, other than it was world music, but she bought a ticket anyway.

Halfway through the conversation, after initially telling her "no thanks", I decided I'd regret being Boring-Stay-at-Home-Spider-Girl in the morning, so I threw some earrings and a funky cardigan on and went to see what was playing under the watchful gaze of the Abbey's Holy Chicken.

Sangha, an Indo-Persian quartet, hails from Vancouver and I loved them. I'm a girl who can appreciate oud music, what can I say?

They played sitting on the floor on a big Persian rug to a full house.

Sometimes the music was serene and meditative as the oud and the kampenche (like a violin with a Persian attitude) played, and had the audience swaying like snakes in a basket.

At other times, it was quite stirring. At one point the oud player closed his eyes and leaned back with his instrument, and you'd swear from the expression on his face that he was riffing with an electric guitar.

There was one amazing number where the two drum players duelled, one on the Indian tabla and the other on the Middle Eastern dhoumbek . Their fingers were going so fast they blurred.

Having taken some middle Eastern drumming lessons last year, I have an inkling how TIRED my fingers would get doing that. I was seriously impressed. As it happened, I found myself sitting by my drumming teacher tonight, and she said she'd never seen some of their techniques before.

I met some of the musicians at the intermission and they seemed like really nice guys. I'm glad I came and listened to them instead of staying at home. Also, I was very glad they got two standing ovations and came back for an encore here at The Abbey.

Seems they played on Saltspring Island the night before and were a bit disappointed when some of their audience disappeared before the second set....I guess not everybody loves Iraqi folk songs. Ah well, I do.

Good people of Saltspring, I feel sad that you missed a fabulous second set!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

My Lucky Belt

I rather surprise myself sometimes. I thought I was easing my way back into performing dance slowly, but obviously I have trouble not jumping in with both feet.

I do believe I just joined another bellydance troupe.Heh, here I go again.

I'll tell you more about it after I figure out exactly what I'm getting into. But there's bound to be jingly costumes involved. That much I can say for sure. :)

Tonight I had so much fun in class.

We practiced a Turkish folk dance, clapping our hands as we danced to that tricky and completely infectious karsilama beat. You can listen to a clip from the Turkish song we danced to ('Romp Rompi') at this link if you like.

We grape-vined and shimmied and swirled our skirts. I learned a version of this dance years ago, so the steps were familiar enough so that I could just enjoy the dance and not worry about the footwork.

That's my lucky belt in the photo above. It's one of my most treasured things and I've had it years and years. I acquired it before I became a belly-dancer in fact. Sparkly things have a pull on me.

The very first belly-dancer I ever saw danced in a little Greek restaurant in my town. I was maybe thirteen or fourteen years old and I was out for dinner with my friend Kim's family. I remember Kim's little brother didn't know where to look.

Myself, I thought the dancer was beautiful and marvellous and wished I could be exotic and mysterious like that.

Years later, in my twenties, I befriended a woman, Linda, who happened to be a bellydance teacher. One day we went to her dancer friend Jackie's house. Her friend was selling some old bellydance gear and that's where I saw and coveted that lucky belt of mine. I had no plans to become a dancer just then, but it was something that called out to me.

To my delight it turned out that Jackie was the very same dancer who captivated me in that Greek restaurant on that long ago evening. What serendipity! It may have even been the same belt as it was one of her favourites.

She made it from South American and Arabian coins, soldering the links together by hand herself. It must have taken a tremendous amount of time and energy. I had no idea at the time what a treasure I had just acquired for a mere fifty dollars.

Not only can items like this cost hundreds of dollars to buy, but it is my belief that this coin- belt inspired me to become a dancer.

I'd always felt a bit awkward. Baby fat, bad at gym, picked last for the sports team, miserable in the one ballet class I attended as a child...

But something this beautiful and unique was mine. It felt marvellous and heavy when I put it on.

It was like a magic item a genie had given me: a talisman that imbued me with coordination and grace. I joined dance class after dance class and learned more and more. The coin-belt shimmied musically, and was joined by other hip-scarfs and coin-belts of all descriptions. I forgot how awkward I was supposed to be.

Now that's fifty dollars well-spent.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Polls, Spiders, and Elections

Today I read an article in the latest Atlantic Monthly magazine which discussed the cultural beliefs and values of today's American youth. The article cited a Gallup poll which had interviewed teenagers asking them: "What are the greatest fears of today's American youth?"

Now, the number one fear stated was terrorism, perhaps not surprising in this day where teenagers have grown up with the media and events surrounding 9/11. But it was hard for me not to giggle when I read about the #2 Biggest Fear.

Guess what the second most prominent fear listed was, only a single percentage point behind terrorism....

Spiders. ......

Yep, spiders.

Hey, I know not everyone likes the little darlings as much as I do, but come on, Youth of America, spiders are much less of a bother than terrorists. Because if you really, really need can whack a spider with a bedroom slipper and it will not bother you anymore.

Ahem. The aforementioned action is not recommended by me in any way. Killing spiders bad. That is all. :)

I'm never sure whether to believe the statistics in polls like that anyway. Or any poll. Though sometimes they appear to be correct, drat-blast them.

I voted in our federal Canadian election yesterday, after many annoying weeks of political polls.

The polls all said that the fellow I really, REALLY didn't like was likely to become Canada's next Prime Minister, and sure enough he is going to be, but at least he didn't win by as great a margin as they were predicting. It will still be a minority government, thank goodness.

There was a lot of talk beforehand among people (neighbours, friends,co-workers, and relatives included) who were really disheartened by the prospect of this Conservative government being elected, and so they planned to vote strategically.

In a nutshell, to vote for the person or party most likely to have a chance in order to thwart Harper's chances of victory. Even if that meant they voted for somebody they didn't trully want to vote for.

It was an idea I struggled with. I didn't want to vote for my second choice. But I didn't want my own vote to "split" the vote.

In this case I saw their logic was well-intentioned, but in the end I still voted with my heart, for the Green Party, as I always do. The Greens are the underdogs, but so what? I still don't think my vote was wasted.

And at least in my own particular riding, my second choice won, even without my own personal strategic vote. Whew.

Right. I know many of you out there may be bored with Canadian politics, but I stayed up past my bedtime last night watching the results come in, and I just had to share. :)

And thank you, Wade, for the perfectly lovely spider pictures you sent me. They are not scary at all.

Monday, January 23, 2006

My Brother's Back!

My brother has returned from his trip to Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand and so my mom had us all over for dinner so we could have a little slide show and see his travel pictures, and, inevitably, have one last belated "Christmas" gift-exchange.

He brought me a notebook filled with luscious mulberry-bark paper from a "paper-making" village near Luaug Prabang, Lao Por, a wine-coloured silk scarf from Cambodia, and a Thai wall-hanging with an elephant motif.

I gave him the Masai painting I picked out for him in Tanzania, an abstract of three local women carrying baskets and bundles on their head, swathed in traditional red.

This was my brother's first trip with a digital camera and I think he may be a convert. He took some beautiful photos and has given me two discs of them so I'll probably be posting some soon.

He and Kira never spent more than ten dollars for a night's accomodation. I think I may seriously have to consider travelling to more third-world countries.

They also travelled around by rented bicycles and hired tuk-tuk for a lot of the time which sounds very appealing.

Friday, January 20, 2006

UnChristmas Sunday (with a Tiny Wee Earthuake)

Maybe it was the tiny little earthquake we had that made me open my eyes at exactly 4:30 am in the early morning after our UnChristmas feast. Or maybe it was just Pol rolling around on the air mattress. I can't honestly say but I remember looking at Tai's clock just then.

Other than that, we all slept like logs, having stayed up latelatelate the night before talking and bouncing around in our pyjamas like yogic flyers on the aforementioned air-mattress. The secret to staying young forever is to bounce on the bed once in a while. Poor mattress.

After coffee and brunch (over which we discussed which Sesame Street character we shared the most character traits with) Kim headed off and Tai and Pol and I headed downtown to Banshee , my new favourite Vancouver shop. Tai said they had some great wigs there.

Right. Besides hats, I also love wigs, and there is nothing quite like a line-up of styrofoam heads with cute little hair-dos on them to spark my imagination.

Hmmmm...I think I'll go longish with bangs today. After I bought it and wore it out of the store, this lady came up to me in the ferry terminal and asked what colours I was using to get my "highlights" so perfect. :)

There was a customer in Banshee who seemed quite vicariously thrilled as Tai and I tried on various styles. She stared at us in fascination, and kept saying 'that looks amazing.. amazing'. She offered to take our picture. I wanted to say to her "Buy one! It's so fun!"

Wait...I did say that to her.

Besides my choice and Tai's newly-purchased curly locks, Pol got a very cute denim jacket with faux-fur trim.

I'm making it sound like I love to go shopping, I've just realized. Well, in stores like this I suppose it's true. Everything was glittery or impractical or chi-chi, and so enormously appealing. Not a sensible item in sight, although I bet Pol gets a lot of compliments on her jacket.

Ah, it really was a perfect visit with my friends.

And after heading home to the Island with Pol, I planned to head out again for Mel's going-away party. So the weekend wasn't quite over yet. I like to squeeze every last drop out of a weekend if I can.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

UnChristmas Saturday

UnChristmas is our own little holiday celebrated sometime that is NOT Christmas, after the socializing and shopping stress of the more usual holiday has died away, and whenever we can organize our lives enough to be in the same place together for a weekend.

I love the UnChristmas parties we have!

They're very small and very fun. We four long-time friends (Tai, Pol, Kim, and Spider Girl)get together and celebrate the marvellousness of having really good friends. Instead of shopping for trinkets for one another, we've made it a tradition to have a lavish feast and blow all our cash on that instead.

Oh, we've had some good meals together, my friends and I!

This year though, partly because of our friend Kim's imminently-with-child state, and possibly due to our own mellowing selves, we elected to stay in and have our talented friend Tai create a feast for us (with her friends acting as sous-chefs) rather than going out to an expensive restaurant/night on the town.

So early last Saturday morning, with the sun shining warmly upon us, Pol and I rode an eerily-deserted ferry over to the Mainland. It was such a glorious day we were pinching ourselves--it had rained the previous twenty-seven days and today would have been the soggy record-breaker. Gee, um, too bad about missing the new record. :)

The traffic gods smiled so kindly upon us that soon after serenading under Tai's balcony we were bizzing out to Kim's new place in the suburban boondocks.

We saw what will soon be Baby's New Lair, bedecked most charmingly (or alarmingly) with fanged Ugly toys. They are fantastic. Wish I'd had stuffies like that as a child. Why, imagine how I would have turned out!

On to Granville Island, one of the most fabulous food markets on the West Coast!

Here you see Tai picking out tonight's wine and Pol giddy with delight over her finds in the Italian deli section...

And me, trying on hats. I can't pass hats without trying them on. It's a happy addiction. All you people out there who think you can't wear hats, or feel you shouldn't wear hats, come out to the little hat shops at Granville Island! I'm sure there's a hat here for you.

And here are my best friends in the world with some of the best coffee in the world (bought from a small stand)currently clutched in their hands. I know it was that good because I had one too. :)

So, as unpretentiously as I can describe our gourmet UnChristmas feast:

* pan-roasted asparagus drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled in hand-harvested sea-salt and shaved pecorino-romano cheese,
* roasted garlic on toasted rounds
* penne rigate with tomatoes and spinach and basil and cannellini beans
*baby spinach salad with goat cheese, poached pears and candied pecans in a light ginger soy-sauce dressing
*Tuscan salad with grilled eggplant and peppers
*feta cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and calamata olives
* boconcini cheese in olive oil
*wine, saki, mineral water...we were well-hydrated

"It sounds so snobby and it was so delicious", said Tai. I agree whole-heartedly. We are still dreaming about that meal.

We spaced out the meal's courses with hours of marvellous conversation so that we were still eating at eleven o'clock at night.

Yeah, there's something enormously appealing about cooking with friends. PLUS...our feet didn't hurt because we didn't have to wear our high-heeled shoes out! Bliss!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"Thwart" is in the Lead!

A little while ago I wrote about my friend Kim entering a Random Highbrow flash-fiction contest online at Grimm Magazine. The story had to be very short (250 words or less) and it had to include a list of ten awkward-to-fit words like "patrimony"and "rapacious"..

Not only did Kim cleverly fit all these obscure words in somehow, but she did them *drumroll please* the order that they appeared in the contest instruction word list. (That was entirely optional apparently, but I think it merits a few extra votes just for the headache it must have caused.)

Now the deadline for entering more stories has passed, and there remains only a few more days to vote. And Kim's story is in the lead! :)

She is very excited about this and very hopeful (and very pregnant too, by the way)

I saw her this weekend at the UnChristmas sleepover which was enormously entertaining and involved staying up very late and eating Tai's best Italian home-cooked dinner ever.

Heh heh, in the role of unofficial PR cheerleader I am going to say, if you haven't already, please:

Vote for Thwart

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I went to bed before eight o'clock last night.

And I still need more sleep. I'm afraid my writing may reflect this state.

It's been one of those weekends where I started doing something fun after work Thursday night and I haven't really stopped or been home since then. Well, there was breakfast and another work shift in there somewhere too, but that's what it feels like.

At the same time I've been fighting off a nasty cold by masking the symptoms utterly with Advil and Benadryl and pretending I don't have one. There was just too much planned to let a mere virus dictate. I think this is why I'm feeling a little stepped upon this morning.

There was dance class, a ferry trip to Denman, a full-moon circle with a new group, a ferry ride to Vancouver, visiting with friends, gourmet-grocery shopping at Granville Island, scrumptious dinners, a girls sleep-over party, wig-shopping, more ferry-riding and conversation, and then I am breathlessly knocking on the door of another friend's house back home because there is a going-away party for Mel going on.

Oh, and it was Linda's birthday somewhere in there too. Happy Birthday Linda!


I finally wound down last night and had a long hot bath with a book called How to be Famous in Two Weeks or Less . In a nutshell, the book recommends you should get out and party a lot...right, I've done my part. But thank goodness I was drinking mineral water. Time for bed.

At nine o'clock my phone rang and I surfaced out of a deep sleep to have a rambling conversation with a friend who was probably expecting me to be less comatose at that time of the evening. (My usual bed-time being midnight or so.) I don't expect I was my usual sparkling self as I have precious little recall of what we talked about.

I've always had a bad habit of answering telephones in an unconscious state.

Apparently I used to levitate out of bed and travel at the speed of light to answer them. It must have been so because I'd reach them on the first or second ring and our phone used to be in a room far from the bedroom.

Then I would proceed to talk someone's ear off while still in a trance-like REM-state. Poor people.

I once woke up and recalled that I'd had a long talk with a friend from the Prairies I hadn't seen in years...turned out it was actually someone more local, er, my mother-in-law, who just did her best to follow my thought-processes until I hung up. :)

I'll write more about my fabulous weekend as soon as I wake up.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Am I Annoying You? Yeah? I'd Better Get a Lawyer..

I have just come across an article concerning a brand-new law on which George W. Bush has just bestowed his blessing.

Be Annoying, Go to Jail

I'm hoping this article has somehow simplified the situation, but it sounds like the latest royal decree is telling Americans it will now be illegal to post something on or through the internet using a pseudonym if someone finds your message to be annoying in some way.

Not malicious. Not libelous. Not creepy-homicidal-stalker-ish.


This sounds double plus ungood to me.

I guess if you are American and are planning on making a post to your blog under your blogger name, you better check in with Big Brother first to make sure your thoughts are pure and pleasing to the casual reader.

Or else, before you annoy us all and get hauled off to court, make sure you cordially introduce your true identity. Then...hey... go ahead. Irritate us all you like.

I'm kind of glad I'm Canadian at the moment as Spider Girl is not my real name. Yes, my mummy loves me more than that.

So who decides what's annoying anyway?

Will this be someone's cushy government job to scan the internet?

* employee clicking on random blogs* "Wow, this guy sure is annoying! And him too! Whoa, this person's idea is really rubbing me the wrong way too... Gawd, I LOVE my job!"

Bah! Silly, probably unenforceable, waste-of taxpayers-money-type laws. Now they are annoying.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Letter from Ritika

Today I received a letter enclosed in a home-made Christmas card from my little friend Ritika.

Ritika is the girl I correspond with who lives in the Child Haven orphanage in Nepal. She is about eleven or twelve years old and sharp as a tack apparently, but with that air of breezy innocence that makes her seem a little younger than a child of the same age in North America.

Jeff's mom got to know her while she was volunteering two years ago, also befriending her mother who works there as a cook and helper.

She sends the most charming and earnest letters...

"How are you sweety?", she begins, adding a little heart in the margin.

She chats a little about her family and exams at school and then brings the subject around again to when I might be planning to visit Nepal: "I am very eager to meet you dear" as she puts it.

Unfortunately it will be several more years before I meet Ritika in person but I would like that. Nepal and India have made my "Seriously Considered Destinations" list after the much-anticipated 2007 Italy trip I have planned with Tai and Pol. I'm sorry, Ritika, I promise you're the very next after that in my travel plans.

Originally my family (Jeff, his mom, Jen & I)were planning a trip to Nepal, not Africa. But political upheaval, Maoist rebels and airport strikes made Nepal seem an unlikely choice at the time we made our decision.

I certainly don't regret choosing to go to Africa, but I wonder now what I would have written in my travel journal if I'd taken that hypothetical journey to Nepal. We were considering hiking the mountains of the Annapurna Circuit, spending time in Kathmandu, and of course visiting the Child Haven home.

By the time I meet her she will be a teen-ager. I hope we can become true friends in person.

Meanwhile, this is what she writes in her latest letter: "I am very proud to get such a friend like you. You are my best are the one who touches my heart. My other pals also told that I am so lucky to get friend like you. I want this friendship untill our breath ends. Please keep it up!"

She's pretty sweet, eh?

She always ends her letters with: " OK! Now I would like to stop my pen. :)

I don't have a digital picture to share of Ritika but I found the photos above of her children's home in Nepal on the Childhaven website .

Monday, January 09, 2006

Philosophy at the Breakfast Table

Over tea and toast at the breakfast table this morning, Jeff read to me a few paragraphs from Broca's Brain , a book by Carl Sagan. From the point of view of a scientist and an atheist, Sagan was discussing the different cultural and religious theories considering the origins of the universe.

Sagan's perspective is that it's all a little presumptuous for humankind to believe they can comprehend the beginnings and mysteries of the vast and awesome cosmos, and he says so.

But he did offer a passage from a Hindu holy book, the Rig Veda (X:129) explaining what humans can know about creation which Sagan figured offered a "more realistic view of the matter":

Who knows for certain? Who shall here declare it?
Whence was it born, whence came creation?
The gods are later than this world's formation;
Who then can know the origins of the world?
None knows whence creation arose;
And whether he has or has not made it;
He who surveys it from the lofty skies,
Only he knows--or perhaps he knows not.

It's food for thought for the rest of the day...I have to say that the thought of even the gods being a little mystified about it all is oddly compelling.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Dance Class

The above picture is the final bow from a dance show I was in last March that was held further up-island from me in a small restaurant. I'm the dancer in the middle with the long red and black gypsy skirt and the incredibly pale belly. It was a wonderful place to dance--a good performance-area and a small appreciative audience. Also, the restaurant served good spring rolls too.

As I've said before, I took half a year off from dancing, but now I'm missing it dreadfully. It's the social aspect I miss, really. When you're a belly-dancer, you seem to get invited to a lot of parties. :)

I officially registered for my new bellydance performance class today. Performance classes differ from the regular ones in that they usually revolve around putting a choreography together for one or two pieces of music. This is what I'll be doing on Thursday nights now through March.

Although I'm familiar with the teacher, I've never danced at this studio before. When I walked in today it struck me as open and airy with tall windows and gorgeously-polished wooden floors. Pan-flute music ws playing and the air smelled faintly of incense.

The young woman in charge of registrations sat on a yoga mat with a tiny baby. Otherwise the studio was empty. It felt very peaceful.

I bought a punch card that's good for yoga classes as well. Who knows? It's a brand-new year: I may do some of that as well. I used to take a few yoga classes here and there, but the girl I used to do yoga with has since moved away. Some classes are just more fun with a friend along.

I have to admit that part of the reason I was inspired to sign up for this Thursday night class is my dear friend Claudia will be taking it too. Between work-schedules and child-rearing, there are some friends you might just never see otherwise.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Travel Spider's Travel Blog

I've been meaning to make sense of the rambling notebook I kept on my safari trip to Africa this summer.

I wrote in it lying on tent floors, sitting on warm rocks in the African sunshine; mastered the art of printing in crazy block capitals riding in an overland truck on fantastically bumpy roads.

It's a little bit smeared and tattered but all my thoughts are there so it's one of my most treasured possessions. Too bad nobody else can make head or tale of my hen-scratch.

My dear friend Tai, she who has travelled with me before and knows how important my travel journals are to me, tried to decipher it but gave up upon hearing I was going to write it all down in a new blog instead.

Here it is:

Spider Girl's Africa Journal

I haven't gotten very far into the trip--its taken me eight or so posts to get through the first day and night. Also, as blogs are wont to be, its chronologically backwards so to read it in order you have to start a number of posts back.

Well anyway, I'm putting it out there and I hope those interested in my travels will enjoy it. If nothing else, it's an opportunity for me to add to my original impressions, and also to post some more of my photos.

I'll be adding to it regularly I hope so check back if you like. I have a random travel entry from another trip right at the beginning just for fun (it's a review of the Jorvik viking Centre in york, England that I posted on Epinions a while back).

I actually want to post all my journals eventually six or seven of them. Then I can print them out in legible form, and not have to squint to read my own writing in later years, right? :)

I still haven't figured out how to add this blog to my profile page so if anyone out there knows that trick, I'd love some pointers.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Windstorms and the Adventures of Melanie

Three nights this week there's been a windstorm. The wind around here had been gusting around eighty to a hundred kilometers per hour. It's really been storming!

One night the power went out and I was *sob* forced to have a luxurious bath by candlelight. Oh, the hardship. :p

When I lie in bed at night, I can hear the tall conifers in the yard next door bowing and swaying in the wind. The sound reminds me of the ocean.

I love the wind, but my co-worker's friend does not. A big tree branch punched its way through their roof the other night, pointy end down. Luckily no-one was hurt.

But speaking of the wind, here is my friend Melanie, with the wind in her glorious hair.

She is leaving on her "mystery" trip in only two weeks. Well, some of us know where she's going but she hasn't told many people yet. Not even her family. She simply grins and says "I've got a plane ticket".

I'm so proud of Mel. She's embarking on an adventure into the unknown. She's sold her house, closed her business, and is not even sure how long she'll be gone for. "If I like it there, I'll stay a while. I might find a job. Who knows?"

Or she might go on to somewhere in Asia and teach English as a second language. Or not. It's all up in the air; she can go where her dreams take her.

I am a little jealous. :)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Flying Monk

I was lying in bed last night reading an old travel journal from a trip to Scotland when I came across this story, the kind of historical anecdote that makes me giggle:

Way back in 1507, a French monk named John Damian decided to find favour with and impress the King of Scotland, James IV. The monk told the king that,through a holy miracle he, Brother Damian, would be able to fly. In fact, he would fly all the way to France from Stirling, Scotland.

It was the 16th century and there was a distinct lack of airplanes, so the good brother instead ascended the dizzying heights of the Stirling Castle walls and jumped from the craggy ramparts with make-shift feathered wings.

There WAS a miracle of sorts.

He somehow survived the "flight" by landing in a dung heap and sustained only a broken leg.

Well, the king inquired as to what had gone wrong with the miracle. Fortunately, the monk came up with a good explanation.

"You see, sire, I made a very simple oversight. I should never have used CHICKEN feathers to soar to the heavens. I mean, after all, your majesty, chickens can't fly. Perhaps if I'd used eagle feathers..."

Luckily for the monk, the king was amused.

True story. Poor Brother Damian. As well as lacking any flying ability, he was also a rotten alchemist, failing totally to turn any of the king's lead into gold.