Friday, December 17, 2010

Festival of “Fostering” Trees a Success

The 5th Annual Festival of “Fostering” Trees was a tree-mendous success once again this year, raising over $5,000 for youth in foster care, over $500 for the York Food Pantry, and an overflowing box of toys for Toys for Tots. The American Legion Hall was transformed into a magical enchanted forest of 140 Christmas trees, including every shape, color, size and theme that could be imagined, and bringing smiles and joy to all who attended. Organizer Janalee Moquin states, “I would like to personally thank everyone who participated this year, all the families, children, businesses, school groups, church groups, scout troops, and more; we couldn’t have done it without you!”
Photo caption: This year’s Festival of “Fostering” Trees was a big success, raising more then $5,000 for local charities. (Courtesy photo)

Christmas by the Sea Parade Celebrates the Season

On Saturday, December 11, a variety of local businesses and organizations came together to celebrate Christmas by the Sea by participating in the Christmas parade associated with the annual festivities. Awards were given to the best-decorated floats. First place went to Five-O Shore Road, Second Place to The Ogunquit Playhouse, Third Place to Coastal Contractors and 5 Honorable Mentions to: Bread and Roses Bakery, Eldredge Lumber, The Gazebo Inn, Maine Street and the Snow Queen, and the Meadowmere Resort. Special thanks to The Beachmere Inn, The Gazebo Inn, Genesis Day Spa, John Mixon and Spoiled Rotten, who all sponsored the annual parade.
Photo caption: Five-O Shore Road’s float won first place in the Christmas by the Sea parade that took place on Saturday, Dec. 11 in Ogunquit. (Photo by Molly McCoy)

All the Lonely People

By Chip Schrader
Book Review Editor
In “The Tower, The Zoo, and the Tortoise,” Julia Stuart puts forth a fun and fantastical novel set in modern day England, but decorated with its checkered and humorous history.
Balthazar Jones is Beefeater. In England, this is a distinguished post held by retirees of the Queen’s guard. Part of Balthazar’s duty is to guard and live in the old tower that held many prisoners, and consequently many beheadings and other grizzly executions handed down by the monarchy. While he stands guard awaiting any question from the tourists, he developed the curious hobby of studying the rainfall of England. He has classified numerous types of rainfall, and collects them in perfume vials, much to his wife’s displeasure.
In the first one hundred pages, we get acquainted with Balthazar and his wife, Hebe, and even more interestingly, the history of this tower. Hebe works for the London Underground, and holds the many items lost on the tube train by the travelers. Everything including ashes of the deceased and a glass eye, which Hebe’s coworker indulges a game of marbles with, have been lost and reclaimed. But, Hebe and Balthazar lost one piece of their lives that cannot be retraced: their young child Milo, who took them twenty hard years to conceive.
While the quirky characters with quirky names all seem like a part of the Beatles’ song Eleanor Rigby, the book does not fall too deeply into pity or drama. Even though there is plenty of suffering, the prose has a typically stiff upper lip and offbeat humor the English are noted for. In the beginning, some of the jokes are easily missed, they are so subtle, but as the reader gets a rhythm for the prose, the chuckles roll forth. This reads like a classic Jane Austin novel, and is in the same league as Peter Mayle’s works that include “A Year in Provence” and “The Vintage Caper.”
As the marriage hits some rocky spots, other characters fall in love and perform exorcisms on the haunted portions of the tower, the story lines kick into high gear after a hundred pages. Every character is delightfully strange, the tower seems to collect sad and strange histories, and at the same time, the reader wonders if it is the tower that makes these lives so strange. As a menagerie of the Queen’s pets are moved in, and under Balthazar’s care, this quirky and humane “dramedy” deepens.
“The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise” is a clever means to scale back at life’s challenges. It allows the distractions and absurd details we all encounter to distract us from the difficulties that life often imposes, and permits the reader to laugh in the face of despair. The prose is playful, light and frothy, and with a bite just like a fine chocolate mousse. It takes a little time to get used to the English humor and style, but any history or Jane Austin fan will devour this with delight. This is Stuart’s follow up novel to “Matchmaker of Perigord.” (August 2010, Double Day Books)
Photo caption: Book cover for “The Tower, The Zoo, and the Tortoise” by Julia Stuart. (Courtesy photo)