Tuesday, February 24, 2015



One of the best and most memorable vacations Ivaan and I ever took was to Italy in October 1999.  Ivaan had made wedding rings for our friends Leonardo and Jiřina.  They were being married in the ancestral town of Leonardo's family, and invited us to attend.  Ivaan was really excited.  I still have the photograph he took of us with our airline tickets when he brought them home from the travel agent.
Leonardo's family hailed from Picinisco, in the city state of Frosinone, but they had emigrated to Edinburgh in the late 1800, and that's where Leonardo was born.  He had a heavy Scots accent, which made him seem all the more like family to me, and yet he had an Italian flair. Always attired in dapper fashion, he was the most charming man, witty, a gifted storyteller, and that talent served him well, because he had a fairly celebrated career in the film industry.

Jiřina, whom we originally met through our good friend Vladyana, was the love of his life.  She's one of the "Czech Chicks", a talented artist and a beautiful, gracious woman who also happens to love Ivaan's jewellery.  She and Len made a wonderful couple, and it was after a trip she made to Japan that Leonardo proposed to her.  I remember her telling me she was so tired after her trip that she couldn't absorb what he was saying, but once the jet lag wore off, she said yes, and they started to plan their wonderful wedding in Italy.

We arrived at Fiumicino airport outside Rome with only carry-on luggage, which included not just our wedding clothes but also our camera equipment, because Ivaan was going to be photographing the wedding. Travelling with Ivaan, I've learned to pack light. We picked up our rental car, a tiny Renault with manual five-speed transmission and headed south towards Atina, the town in which we were staying, just beside Picinisco.    It was hair-raising to be driving at 180 km per hour, just to keep up with the speed of traffic, and to be honked at and given hand gestures which suggested that I should be driving even faster.

When we arrived in Atina, we pulled up at the house where Leonardo and Jiřina were staying, and they came out to greet us.  First question from Jiřina: "Eya, you speak Italian, right?"  I conceded that I used to speak it reasonably well because I had studied it at university a quarter of a century ago.  They both sighed with relief:  "That's great, because we are being married by the Mayor; he doesn't speak English and we don't speak Italian.  So we need you to be the simultaneous interpreter from Italian to English."  Wow.

Luckily, I managed to get a printed copy of the wedding ceremony in advance, read it over and practised it a couple of times.   Now, that's the way to make someone feel welcome at your wedding:  have them make the rings, photograph it, and act as the interpreter as well.  I have always hoped that my interpretation was sufficiently skilled to make their marriage legal!

Anyway, it was a dream wedding, and a fantastic holiday.  We celebrated Ivaan's 55th birthday on a sleeper train from Napoli to Venezia, and we loved every moment of our trip.

Yesterday, I opened the newspaper and learned that Leonardo has died.  It seemed scarcely possible.  Almost immediately after,  I heard about it via email.  On Friday, our wedding party will reunite in Cobourg for his funeral.   I'm glad I have Ivaan's wonderful photos of our memorable trip to Italy - a time when we were all well, young, beautiful, happy and carefree enough to enjoy driving at 200 kilometres an hour.

Baruch Dayan Emet.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


When I first started helping Ivaan with jewellery, I had a steep learning curve ahead of me. He'd send me to Toronto's jewellery district on various errands, and whereas he knew everyone and everyone knew him, he didn't necessarily want everyone to know he was ill.  As with any industry, bad news about an insider tends to spread like wildfire, and with each retelling the story often gets embellished.

Almost immediately, when I was doing errands for Ivaan,  I met Diane.

Diane was the "front man" for a wholesale supply company in one of the buildings I frequented.  I learned early on that Diane was discreet.
She knew Ivaan, she knew his work, she knew I was his wife and she never asked why he wasn't there himself, buying the supplies he needed.  It was Diane who introduced me to Esmaeil, who used to sublet a tiny workshop inside the wholesaler's where Diane worked.  Esmaeil and his wife Nazi were new immigrants and their English was limited.  Both their families were in the jewellery industry back in Iran.  Esi helped me so often with jewellery repairs and I came to rely on him and trust him.  Through Diane, Esi and Nazi became good friends.

Whenever I needed help with other things, Diane knew a good person for me to see.  "Diane sent me" was all the introduction I ever needed.  It was just accepted that I was trustworthy, that I would pick up and pay for my things promptly and that I would be professional in all my dealings.   If I needed a special order, Diane would get it for me.  And, like Ivaan, she had a tender heart for wildlife.  Whenever the window was open, even in winter, I knew Diane had been feeding the pigeons again.

A splitting headache last year sent Diane reluctantly to her physician.  A tiny, newly formed brain tumour was diagnosed, and since then Diane has been in and out of hospital undergoing treatment.  It seemed she'd caught it in time and Diane was soon back at work. Sadly, it returned with a vengeance almost immediately.  Today, I went in to the wholesaler's where Diane worked, to ask after her. I received the saddest news. Diane died this morning.

Baruch Dayan Emet.  Blessed be the True Judge.

I hope Ivaan was waiting for her in The World To Come, thanking her for her kindness to the two of us.  Thanking her on behalf of both of us, because I did not have a chance to.   Thanks to Diane, I feel like an old industry insider now. I will not forget her good heart.  Next time I go to the cemetery, I'll bring an extra loaf of bread for the birds and squirrels, and tell them it's from Diane.