Saturday, May 29, 2010

a North Pelham Journal

Journal  1. a daily record such as a diary, a ship's log or written records of a meeting or society...


I've decided to call my blog 'a North Pelham Journal'. It was surprisingly difficult to decide because titles, especially smart alec ones, usually come to me quite easily. North Pelham Journal was suggested by Doug Jamieson, aka GeezerOnline. At first I thought it was too much like North Pelham News and I wanted something with a little more pizzazz,  but the more I thought about it, the more the word 'journal' seemed to fit.

I've read that the most successful blogs have a theme, but sticking even loosely to one idea is not something I am able to do. Lately out of necessity, I've become more of an observer of life than a participant as a lot of my time is taken up with caring for my ailing father. What the Nazis couldn't do to him on Juno Beach, Father Time is attempting now.
The blog grew out of my desperation to escape to a funnier world during a hard winter when we lurched from one health crisis to another. Fortunately it wasn't that difficult to find.  My personal ship, (see the self -portrait above), was caught in the doldrums, but the rest of the world was sailing merrily on its goofy way and I could comment on everything and everyone from right here in North Pelham!

So, 'a North Pelham Journal' will be my ship's blog log.

A great name. I'm happy.

Thanks, Doug.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Eden Christian High School - A Commentary

I read Christina Blizzard's column in the St. Catharines Standard, Funding For Schools Splits Community, Wed., May 26, 2010, with great interest.

It isn't the first time she has written about the fact that the District School Board of Niagara runs Eden Christian High School, a fully funded, faith-based school in a province that seemingly rejected the notion in the last election. But reading her comments this time made me realise I hadn't really ever stopped to think about why something that is, (on the surface), so blatantly unfair, i.e., the funding of one faith based school over another, is completely acceptable to me.

The answer? Eden Christian High School is Mennonite.

I'm not Mennonite. I did however grow up in Niagara and if you grew up in Niagara you probably had many Mennonite teachers. I always knew which teachers were Mennonite, I could tell by their modest, unadorned clothes and quiet voices. More importantly I could tell by their loving firmness in the class room - the way they respected us and demanded respect and obedience in return. Never once did a Mennonite teacher try to impose his or her religious beliefs on us. What they did impart was their values of decency and concern for others.

Mennonites have been quietly going about the business of educating children for a long, long time in Niagara and they've earned a lot of respect. They are the known, the trusted, the proven.

I don't think the voters of Ontario said no to faith based schools. I think we said no to someone's half-baked politically correct notion of what is fair.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Serviced Again, Ontario

Last week I received a phone call from the local medical clinic asking if I had found my Health Care card.

"I didn't lose it," I said.

"The last time you were here you used a card that was later identified in our computer as 'lost'," insisted the receptionist.

"Oh?" My eyebrows were furrowed in puzzlement. I had no idea what she was talking about.

"You'll need to phone this number and straighten your problem out."

I definitely wanted to 'straighten my problem out' so I hung up and obediently dialled the number she had given me.

"Service Ontario," was the crisp salutation when we were connected.

Oh no! The enhanced driver's licence swindlers! My heart sank.

"Um...Hi... The medical clinic says I've lost my health card," I said bravely. (I mean what were the chances that anybody who worked there had ever googled 'Service Ontario' during their coffee break and happened upon my sarcastic blog, Service This, Ontario 2/28/10).

"Where did you lose it?" asked the voice with the sigh of one who is forced to deal with the imbeciles of Ontario day in and day out.

"Well, actually I didn't lose it - the medical clinic thinks I lost it. I'm looking at it right now."

"Humph. What is your health care number?"

She took my number then said, "When you applied for your new health care card last year it was returned to us because your address was incorrect. Your card has been cancelled."

My health care cancelled? What good is a Canadian without health care?

"Well! I'd like you to know that Canada Post delivered my Health Care Card right to my house and I'm holding it in my hands as we speak!" I let a lot of annoyance creep into my voice. Some things like health care are worth fighting for, (unless you are from the U.S. apparently).

"Yeah? Well what colour is your card?"

"What colour is my card?" I gave a nervous laugh.

I was stalling because I was 98 % sure my card was the same colour as everybody else's card but I was beginning to feel guilty about something. I just didn't know what I had done.

" Well I used to have a red and white one but now I have a green one and ..."

"Dark green or light green?"

Yikes! Was this a trick question? Dark or light green compared to what?

Hoping we could meet half way I opined that it was sort of a medium green. My hands were starting to sweat.

"Well, Frances...

"Here it comes," I thought. I gripped the phone and braced myself for whatever bureaucratic nonsense was about to befall me.

"I'm going to send you a new one! Have a good day."

I'm sure I imagined it, but I could have sworn I heard the laughter of a room full of civil servants before she clicked of.


Monday, May 17, 2010

What's in a Name?

I've been thinking about changing the heading of my blog. North Pelham News seems a little presumptuous now that I think about it.

I took the spy car out for a little spin around town today and although it is not exactly clear where the boundaries of North Pelham are, I estimate there are about 100 homes here plus the feed store, the Avondale, Ivan's Garage and the crooked church. (I don't mean that it's crooked because it's run by a bunch of Presbyterian ne'er-do-wells, I mean crooked in the sense that just like everything taller than 3 meters on this windswept part of the escarpment, it lists heavily to the east.) Could even be 150 homes here, but like I said who really knows where North Pelham stops and Effingham, Rockway, Boyle and Ridgeville start. I suppose someone must know down at Regional headquarters, but that doesn't matter, my point is that my news is not necessarily the news of the other North Pelhaggonians, therefore I have erred in the naming of my blog.

But what to call it?

Songs From North Pelham - hahahahaha, I'm tone deaf & can't carry a tune
News from a 7th Decade Girl - yawn, too boring
Ramblings of a 7th Decade Girl - Hello Alzheimer's? This is Francie...I think 
Musings of a 7th Decade Girl - too intellectual sounding for moi
Life in the Retirement Lane - give me a break
Life in the Asparagus Patch - season is almost over
Ticked Off - let's not go there
I'm a Cranky Old Broad And This is What I Think About Things - hmmmmmm

Kinda like that last one...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Catastrophes in North Pelham

Day 1

It was a windy, cold, wet Saturday and I could see that the purple martins were in great distress, swooping and buzzing as I pulled into the driveway. It didn't take long to spot the problem. Their house was lying on the ground. It had stood on a pole on the corner of this property for 25 years.

From about 2 p.m. until about 6 p.m. the birds sat in the driveway. They sat facing the bird house, perfectly still. It was very unusual behaviour and I wondered if they were in shock.

At one point I went out and set the bird house right side up again - the wind was still blowing hard and had upended it again.

The martins flew a short distance away but as soon as I left they took their positions again.

But there was nothing else to be done.

I came in and turned on my computer. Within minutes I had lost my internet connection.

Jeesh, what a crumby day.

Day 2

Still can't get online.

There was a dead martin in one of the compartments of the bird house. It must have been inside when the wind tore the house from the pole.

I thought of David Suzuki's "A Murder of Crows". He spoke about the mourning that crows appear to go through when one of their flock dies. He described how they all gather in one tree near the body and spend a quiet, still time together.

I wondered if that was what the martins were doing yesterday. Do they understand death? How sad.

Day 3

"Uh oh," said the guy at when I described my computer problem over the phone. "That doesn't sound good."

A few martins were still flying around the bird house when I left that morning with my computer strapped in the passenger seat of my spy car.

"Uh oh," said the guy at the Future Shop as I put my computer on the counter and described my problem. "That doesn't sound good."

Cold, wet and miserable. I mean the weather is still cold, wet and miserable.

I'm just miserable.

Day 4

The new martin house is up but there are no martins. The sparrows are really over the moon about their new digs though. The starlings tried to muscle their way into the neighbourhood and if I wasn't so anxious about the martins I would laugh about how the starlings steal stuff from the sparrows' nests.

The Future Shop called. When I took my computer in they told me I wouldn't have it back for at least a week and here it is, ready in 2 days and my warranty covers the cost!

Even though the weather is still crappy maybe things are looking up??

Day 5

Woke up to find four male martins at the bird house roughing up the interloping sparrows and starlings. The weather is supposed to finally start to clear up tomorrow and they'll bring the girls back then I guess.

Hurray! Bird crisis over! Computer problem solved!

Now if I could just catch those no goodnik asparagus thieves...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Genesis Revisited

The apple was

a great mistake.

This time instead,

let's eat the


Friday, May 7, 2010

Is that an Asparagus in Your Pocket, or...

I just read that 4% of human genes are Neanderthal. Seems they didn't disappear after all, they are us!

And I have to tell you after seeing the state of my asparagus patch this year I believe it. What kind of a scoundrel would tromp through someone else's patch and take only the tips? I picture these thieves outfitted like dew worm pickers - tin cans tied to their knees and lights strapped to their heads.

But all is not lost. Like all wild asparagus lovers, I do have my secret patch. You can see that it is not on the side of the road. The location is a secret. My dog, Flynn, guards it vigilantly and is trained to kill trespassers. Or bark at them very loudly. Her choice.

Asparagus contains folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and beta-carotene. It is a natural diuretic. It is good for the heart and contains no fat, cholesterol or sodium. What's not to love?

My very favourite recipe, which I found in the Summer , Taste of Home Magazine, combines black beans, (great fibre source) and asparagus and is the hands down, best summer salad I have ever tasted.

You don't have to have wild asparagus to enjoy this one, folks.

Black Bean and Asparagus Salad
1 lb fresh asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces
1 can black beans rinsed and drained
1 medium sweet red pepper cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh minced cilantro
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
dash pepper

Directions: Steam the asparagus for 4 to 5 minutes. Don't overcook them. You want them crisp! Combine the asparagus, beans, red pepper and onion in a bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk the oil, vinegar, cilantro, garlic, salt, cumin and pepper. Pour over the vegetables to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.



Wednesday, May 5, 2010

This One Goes to New York

The bomb scare in New York City this week made me realize that is almost a year since my last trip to the Big Apple. New York is my favourite city. It is the only place I've ever been that lived up to what I thought it would be.

The number of New Yorkers who stopped to help whenever we looked the slightest bit baffled was unbelievable. Some people went out of their way to take us where we wanted to go. It is a wonderful place, friendly, clean and safe and I hate to think of all of those people living in fear again. If you can dedicate a simple blog to a city and its people, this one goes to New York.

I went with a bus load of teachers. The idea was that we would leave after the teachers finished work on the Friday before the 24th of May long weekend, drive all night, do the city all day, spend one night in a hotel and drive back on Sunday morning. It sounded like a good idea when I heard about it. I loved New York when I was there three decades ago. And this trip was cheap, cheap, cheap!

What didn't occur to me until I had committed myself and bought a ticket to see South Pacific on Broadway was that I was thirty years old the last time I was in New York City and I flew there in a nice comfortable airplane. This time I was...well, older than thirty and I was planning on sitting up all night on a crowded bus.

But an adventure is an adventure. We took off in a cloud of dust and merriment which ended abruptly at our first stop which was about three meters from our point of departure - the duty free shop in Niagara Falls. That was actually okay with me though. I had won the bus draw and was entitled to pick up a free bottle of wine.

Half an hour later we were off again. We were told that we would be stopping at a restaurant at 7 a.m. to eat and freshen up. The freshen up part became very clear when we found out that the bus wasn't going to take us to our hotel first, actually it wasn't even going to come to a complete stop when we arrived in downtown Manhattan. It was going to slowly roll by Macy's, as close to the curb as it could get and we were going to have to leap out, hopefully not into traffic. Sixty year old women don't leap all that well, but for the price we were paying I guess I was lucky the bus slowed down.

The Flying Wallendas didn't rush over and sign me up for their seniors acrobatic team but I survived.

We went right over to the World Trade Centre site. The site itself is a construction zone but we decided on the spur of the moment to take a tour offered by a group of volunteers. The World Trade Centre Volunteers are people who were either in one of the buildings or lost someone on Sept. 11th.

The guides that day were a woman who lost a cousin and a man who was high up in the second tower and got out. Their stories were very difficult to listen to, the family's last phone call from the cousin when he knew he wasn't going to get out, the man's trip down the stairs in the dark. Both of them told stories that were remarkable for the lack of hatred and because of their resolve that those lost will not be forgotten and that an amazing city will go on.

We managed to see South Pacific on Broadway and get back to Times Square in time for our prepaid tour of the city which ended after dark. We finally arrived back at the hotel at 11 p.m. The next morning our bus picked us up at the same spot outside Macys . It is much harder to leap onto a moving bus than it is to leap off one in case you are wondering.

When we arrived back in Canada later in the day the Canadian Customs Agent climbed on the bus and yelled, "Anybody bringing back anything they shouldn't be bringing back?"

"No!" we all shouted dishonestly in unison. He laughed and climbed back off the bus.

Ah, Canada! It was good to be back home, but you know if I couldn't be home and had to live somewhere else, I'd be proud to be a New Yorker.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The House of Sober Women

In 1867 the people in power chose to model the Canadian Senate after the British House of Lords. It was always intended to be a place for the upper crust to rest their unelected bottoms. But I think we just don't have enough of the historical upstairs/downstairs mentality to carry it off. It may work in Britain because most people there, after a few thousand years of conditioning, really believe that a few aristocrats are entitled to a life of money and leisure. And most aristocrats really feel, not only the weight of the family name, but also beholden enough to the nation to do their minimal part in the governing of the U.K.  But it doesn't seem to be working here according to the shrieks we all heard coming from reporters in Ottawa last week.

There are 105 Senators. Each Senator is making about $300,000 with travel expenses allowed on top of that. Those are your tax dollars and my tax dollars. Is that money being used the way it was intended to be used? The media is making it sound as if we have a group of unaccountable and seemingly unconscionable people draining our coffers. It is hard to prove or disprove something like that when even the Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser is not being allowed to inspect the books.

Do I detect the aroma of Senate reform in the air? Hope so.

This week I came across a quote from George Elliot. She said, "It's never too late to be what you might have been." Maybe we need to go back to the beginnings of the Senate and turn it into what it should have been in the first place. Not modelled on the Brits, modelled on the Iroquois.

My proposal is that we base the new Senate on the Iroquois Clan Matron system. It would be made up of women. There are thirty-six there already and some of the names I recognize as women who have contributed greatly to Canadian society. We would start with them. The senators would continue to be unelected, continue to be chosen from all parts of the country, but have some real power.

The passing of the bills would not be a part of the Senate's mandate anymore. The Iroquois clan matrons controlled the warriors by withholding food if they disapproved of their actions. I'm not saying the Senators would starve an out of control House of Commons into submission. I'm suggesting that each new law or tax would have to be presented to the public showing the Senate's thumbs up or thumbs down. The withholding of approval could be very powerful.

The older I get the more I see the sexes as equal but different - way different. The House of Commons is never going to be a comfortable setting for most women. Why not just give it to the men? They can holler and shout and curse at each other all they want and the women can meet in the Red Chamber, bring the grandkids, drink tea and do the work of monitoring the actions of the Members of Parliament.

Then, truly, at long last, we would have the "house of sober second thought" that Sir John A. always wanted.