Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Meet You at the Plague Pit

English: An illustration of an undertaker duri...
Image via Wikipedia

When I was living in Notre Dame de Grace In Montreal I joined the public library .

 It was a bit of a disappointment. 

The Separatist government didn't have a huge budget,  (i.e., give a rat's ass), for buying English literature and the pickings were mighty slim.

On the plus side the few new books that appeared were by contemporary Quebec authors, some writing in English, some translated. 

Authors I might not have read had I not been in Montreal.

One little tale crept into the darker areas of my mind and stayed there even though I no longer remember the title or author and the plot wasn't particularly original. 

It slithers out every once in a while when something in the news rings a mental bell.

The story was post apocalyptic. 

As is usual in stories of this nature, a terrible disease had killed most folks and North America was populated by a few thousand people.  

The protagonist had to negotiate her way through streets that were full of mute, shadowy spectres forever marching arm-in-arm in a futile protest against the mistake that had sent them to the other side.

The sickness that killed most everyone was released when a group of well meaning people freed a group of plague carrying captive primates from some mysterious monastery in the Far East where they had been kept since time began.

The chilling point was that the plague wouldn't have happened if humans hadn't interfered in the natural order of things.

The news this week, that a group of American scientists has discovered a way to turn the bird flu (aka avian flu), into a weapon of mass destruction, was of course what caused the story to pop into my head again. 

A small, short sighted group that has not known when to leave well enough alone.

What foolish, foolish people.

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Monday, December 26, 2011


Today I'm thinking of my friend Jane

and her daughters Sarah and Amy
who lost their husband and father,
early this morning.

The trouble with grieving is that it isn't something that you can help another person do or that anyone can do for you.

And I sometimes wonder if the act of dying isn't easier than the grieving of those left behind.

I was luckier than most in that having had the last six years to look after my father, I was able to get to know him and forge  a 'grown up' relationship. 

The double edged sword was that as he became more and more frail he became a good companion with whom I spent many hours. 

On occasion my grief still rolls over me like a giant wave.

In the darkest days of December, it is hard to remember that spring will come again,
that life is a cycle.
But it will and it is.

"The Rose" says it best.

 Rest In Peace, Peter.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

English: Good_ki...
Image via Wikipedia

The story of Wemcelas is told in one of my favourite Christmas songs. 

Read it as a poem but feel free to hum along as you scroll down.

Merry Christmas! 


Good King Wenceslas 

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night

Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight

Gath'ring winter fuel

Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went

Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page

Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian folk, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing

Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sex and the School Christmas Concert

Image via Wikipedia

"Guess what! Mommy was in labour yesterday for eight hours!"

The little girl came flying out of the Sub Arctic blackness just before the bell went at 9 a.m.

We stood in the pool of light that shone from one of the school windows.

"What did she have?" I asked with a smile.
"A BABY!"  she shrieked. 

The newest arrival in Dawson City, which had a population of about 500 hardy souls in those days, sent all of the little girls in the school into a frenzy of excitement. 

Sex, babies, labour, birth, babies, pregnancy, sex, nursing, delivery, sex, babies, babies, babies.

On and on it went ... whisper, whisper, day in and day out.  

This was long before sex education classes took away the thrill of learning about life from your best friend's older sister at recess.

And the town had several very conservative religious groups that carefully monitored the goings on at the school so it wasn`t possible to simply give them the facts.

Anyway, it was hard keeping their minds on the upcoming Christmas presentation.

And putting on a children's Christmas concert is more stressful than an opening night on Broadway.

Ask any teacher.

I was beside myself with anxiety.

Would somebody get sick? Get stage fright? Cry? Throw up? Have a fight with another cast member? Would we lose a prop? A costume? A mind?

I could barely sleep for worrying.

And the kids could barely sleep for thinking about where babies came from.

But the big night finally did arrive and as I was back stage riding herd on the cast members, most of it went by in a blur.

I kept listening though because I knew the play would be over when I heard the narrator say: 

So we went to the church and we all got presents.

As we drew close to the moment I almost imploded with relief. 

I still laugh when I remember how I leaned against the wall, closed my tired eyes and listened to the tiny narrator say:

So we went to the church and we all got pregnant ...  ...

presents ... I mean we got presents!

Wishing you a stress free pre-Christmas week!

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Go Brian Lilley Go

CBC News network logo
Image via Wikipedia

Well I never!

Meaning, 'Well I never thought I'd agree with anything Brian Lilley of Sun News Media says'.

Did you catch his latest rant against the state broadcast... I mean the CBC?

According to Mr. Lilley only the CBC has the legal right to broadcast Canada Day celebrations. 

That's right. 

Only the CBC is allowed to air the show you think you should watch, (even though they never show  the fireworks at the end), because it is your patriotic duty.

Only the CBC is allowed to air our birthday show.

And that paricular sacred cow of a show  is

Every single, solitary, flippin' word the announcers say is translated into flippin' French or flippin' English and you can't understand their flippin' words in either flippin' language because they stand right in the middle of what looks and sounds like a flippin' screaming rent -a-mob.


I usually get so tired of all the bilingual windiness that I turn to something else. 

A football game, curling, golf. Anything.

Brian Lilley, intrepid right leaning news reporter, questions the legality of the CBC's monopoly on Canada Day celebrations.

He thinks that Sun News Media should get a kick at the national can, too.

And Brian, for once I'm on your side.

I 100% support you in your quest.


The CBC really needs a shakeup.

Some razzle dazzle.

And a lot less complacency.

And you guys down at Sun Media might be just the folks to jump start the process.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Halleluiah Corporations

Oh those crazy Yanks!  Always have a way with words and music, eh?

I stole this from TBTAM website.

 Many thanks, Doc!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Christmas cards - so innocuous on the surface, eh?

But underneath all that glitter and good cheer lurks a dark history.

In my family, anyway.

Every year in early December my mother would pull out the box of the last year's Christmas cards. 

She would cross check diligently with


of people we got cards from the year before.

Great offense would be taken if it was discovered we hadn't gotten a card from someone to whom we had sent a card.

In anger she would scratch the hateful name from


My mother, normally a loving, friendly person, would turn vengeful and mean spirited during this yearly ritual.

Christmas became a time of unfriending people.

It upset me and I came to dread the time of


Consequently, I've never been one for Christmas cards.

 Bu I feel guilty ...

because ...

even though I never send them, I still appear to be on


belonging to some of my friends.

So here is my Christmas card to everyone:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The New 'Hood

It's easy to forget that St. Catharines has a port, a cool lighthouse  and even cooler beaches.

Or I should say, it used to be easy to forget.

Now that I'm in the north end, it's hard not to notice the massive body of water a few streets north of my kennel.

When I was a kid in the 1950s, Lake Ontario was the Lake whose name we dared not speak. It was considered a repository for all kinds of disgusting diseases

and only the lucky kids whose parents wanted them to die of polio got to go swimming there.

Yesterday, while Flynn the dog and I were exploring our new 'hood, we found the mummified remains of this girl whose mom let her swim in the Lake.

"Jeesh," I said to Flynn, "I think she sat behind me in grade three!"

Flynn was suitably shocked.

But she was only pretending.

Dogs don't respect dead smelly things.

They LOVE them.

Flynn is crazy about our new 'hood!
And I like it, too.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


My first teaching assignment was grade 5 in Dawson City, Yukon.

I had a student named Terry.

He seemed like a nice kid, but he didn't come to school.  If I remember correctly, he showed up for a few days at the beginning of the first term and that was it.

Eventually the band/school liaison  person, a quiet native woman named Margaret, and I went to Terry's house to talk to his mother.

The house was much like the Attawapiskat homes we see on TV except that Terry's mom and about a half dozen other native women were sitting in a grim line against the wall waiting for us.

I was so overwhelmed by the anger, resentment and hatred in that bare, dirty room that I simply informed her in a shaky voice  that her son was not attending school.

There was no reply.

Wordlessly Margaret turned and went back outside and I stumbled after her.


Terry never came back to school.


Recently Christina Blizzard wrote an article about Attawapiskat that appeared in Sun media newspapers.  Public outrage has been rolling across the country ever since. 

Young children dropping out of school, drinking putrid water, living in unheated shacks  but with giant TVs.

Unfortunately it isn't a new problem and don't kid yourself, it isn't just happening in Attawapiskat.

We can call for decent housing, fresh water, new schools. Like the NDP we can insist that the army go in and make things right. We can hold inquiries. We can blame the government, the band members, the chief, the financial advisers or the man in the moon.

It doesn't matter.

 The truth is, there is no solution.

Not one that will be found by the likes of us.

The way out will come from the Native people themselves.

But won't be easy and it won't be quick.

We need to stand back and listen.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Farewell North Pelham

English: St. Catharines Communities
Image via Wikipedia

Well this is it folks.

The last blog from North Pelham.

To say leaving here makes me a bit sad would be like saying the Pope is a bit Catholic.

BUT life goes on.

Lemons and lemonade, stiff upper lips and brave smiley faces!

Anyway, I'm moving to the north end of St. Catharines.


Can a 7th decade girl find happiness in the urban jungle?


And she'll probably have lots to say about it, too!

Back in a few days.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Football Blog

Hamilton Canadian Football Hall of Fame Touchd...
Image via Wikipedia

So here it is, Grey Cup week-end.

Jeesh, I'm not even sure if it's the Gray Cup or the Grey Cup.

I could look it up, but quite frankly I don't give a flying fig what it is called.

I'm guessing that if Lord Stanley donated the Stanley Cup then Lord Grey (Gray?) donated the other one.

I actually get the basics of the game.

The pointy ball has to go through the goalposts. The more times you get the ball through the opposing team's goal posts the more points you get.

But quite frankly, I've watched grade four classes play games of Capture the Flag that are more exciting than football.

And pulleeeeze don't tell me it is only Canadian football that is boring. 

Comparing American football to Canadian football is like comparing golf to curling as far as spectator excitement levels go.

The only excitement I ever remember in a Grey/Gray cup game was the year it was so foggy nobody could see the players and they, (whoever makes these football decisions), had to stop the game and finish it the next day.

But, I have to admit I do like it when those crazy Westerners ride their horses around Toronto buildings.

But speaking of westerners, what's with Winnipeg representing the East?

If I was to develop an interest in football, that's supposing sometime in the future I hit my head and suffer a personality altering brain injury, I sure wouldn't be cheering for Team Winnipeg!

Party on, Canada. 

Just wake me in time for the hockey game, will ya?

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Your Sex Life Is Not My Business

A schematic showing the monogamy relationship....
Image via Wikipedia

I try to avoid thinking about the sex lives of other people.

And one would hope that Canadian society has moved past the point of judging someone by their choice of sex partner, (or partners).

But apparently not.

The B.C. Supreme Court has upheld the ban against polygamy on the grounds that it is harmful to women and children.

Pedophilia; religious brainwashing; and isolating and under educating women are things harmful to society.

The people in Bountiful, B.C., need to be held accountable.

But choosing to be a part of polygamous or polyandrous, (a woman having more than one husband), marriage shouldn't be illegal and the partners should be entitled to all of the rights and protections of people in monogamous relationships.

After all, we live in a free-ish society.

I think.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bite Me

Typical ferret coloration, known as a sable or...
Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday  I took Flynn the dog for a jog around the North Pelham ball park.   Just after we arrived a car screeched to a stop and the young man inside rolled the window down.

"Do you mind If I let my dog run free? 

He's a Golden. Friendly."

My eyes narrowed.

Golden.Friendly had just about taken my hand off the last time we crossed paths at the park.

The driver must have recognized me at that point because he said nervously, "On second thought I think we'll drive around for a bit."

Which was a good thing.

For him.

I don't have a lot of patience anymore for people who own animals that like to nibble on human flesh.

Years ago I was in a pet shop one Saturday afternoon because, even though I couldn't afford to own one,  I liked to scratch the heads of the parrots.

Heading towards my favourite bird, I set my purse down on the floor to free up my parrot-head-scratching hand and promptly  felt a pain in my ankle.

I lifted my leg.

There was a ferret hanging off my ankle by its teeth.

Now this presented a problem because I didn't know what to say. 

I don't mean that I didn't know what to say to the ferret.

I mean I didn't know how to let the other people in the store know that I had a problem.

For some reason screaming "HELP" seemed more like the kind of action you would take if you were being attacked by a pit bull.    

I was under attack by six inches of fur and it was embarrassing.

On the other hand it hurt.

I surreptitiously shook my leg and glanced around hoping no one had noticed.

People passed by me, chatting and laughing, not realizing the bloodletting and horror unfolding at ground level.

On the embarrassment scale the situation had the potential of being a 10.

Maybe a 10+.

But how, in the middle of a crowded store, does a middle aged school teacher lady get rid of a rodent that is attached to her ankle and retain her dignity?

The answer is that she can't.

In total humiliation I had to hobble to the cash register, dragging the enraged ferret behind me. 

When I was close enough I lifted my leg and shook the ferret at the guy at the cash register.

"CINDY!" he cried in an ecstasy of love. "Oh Cindy! I wondered where you went!"

And then, rather than being all apologetic and letting me take one of the parrots home for free with a giant cage and a lifetime supply of food, he accused ME of putting my purse on poor Cindy's head, thus being the cause of my own misfortune!

I tell you, my friends, there's no justice in this world.


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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Remembering Why

This photo is from one of my father's photo albums. 

It is dated 1942 but was likely given to him after the Canadian Army reached the River Maas in 1944 or 1945 by Nelly Verhoeven, the young woman on the left.

"I was billeted in the house of the girl on the left in Holland.
The girl in the centre is dead now. 
She helped 45 allied airmen escape and the Germans caught her."


In 1942 it was the Nazis.

Today there are other people with similar intentions.

We mustn't forget.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Occupying Niagara

The band shell at Montebello ParkImage via Wikipedia

The Occupy Wall Street movement has come to Niagara.

I wasn't at the meeting but evidently about 70 people showed up at the CAw Hall in St. Catharines and according to the St. Catharines Standard the group hopes to occupy Montebello Park in the city's downtown later this month, (see photo).

If 70 people cared enough to go to the meeting, I'm betting there are at least ten times that many supporters in the area.

I'm not of an age or in a position to occupy anything, but I will be there when I can.

The critics of this world wide, peaceful comment on poverty and corporate greed seem to think that because the  number of occupiers has dwindled and because they do sometimes go home to shower and eat that it is coming to an end.

I don't think so.

I suspect things will simmer for a few months and we'll see a greater push for change in the spring.


economically speaking,

it promises

to be a long, dark and very grim winter.

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Friday, November 4, 2011


"I'd like to set up my account," I said to the woman who was on the other end of the line and who was employed by a cable company that I shall not name.

(As a clever disguise that no one will ever see through,  I will call it Bogeco.)

I went onto explain that I had just purchased a small townhouse and the cost of the cable TV was included in the condo fees.

"No problem," she replied pleasantly and after several minutes we were finished.

"Great," I said.

"Great," she echoed.

"And that will be $4 a month."

"$4 a month?" I was flabbergasted. "But the cost is included in my condo fees!"

"But you need a digital receiver," she said.

"Why do I need a digital receiver?" I asked.

"You need a digital receiver because mijk thell  jse2wm!"

"Well, that sounds reasonable," I said, not wanting to admit that I had no idea what she was talking about, "but are you actually going to send me a bill for $4 a month?"

"Well, you could give us a cheque in advance and we could deduct the cost every month."

"Could I buy my own digital receiver?" I asked.

"Yes. They cost $160".

I decided to think about it.

The next day, figuring that I'd be better off renting a digital receiver because technology changes so quickly,  I called Bogeco back.

Different woman, but we got  it all set up.

"Great," I said.

"Great," she echoed. "That will be $8 a month."

 "Yesterday it was $4," my voice rose, "why is it $8 today?"

"I don't know about yesterday but today the digital receiver is $4 a month and the fjas;jc box is $4. That adds up to $8 a month," she said.

"I know why I need a digital receiver," I lied, "why do I need a fjas;jc box?"

"You need a fjas;jc box because asdk sdf fjslkf  FKS ksifpo30 and because [rou,!"

"Could you explain that to me again?" I asked pitifully.

She hung up on me.

Bogeco must be pretty sure of their customers.

I counted to ten and tried again.

Customer Service Rep 3 was male. 

We went through the process again and he assured me that my TV would work on the day I moved in.

I waited.

"Is there anything else?" he asked.

"What about the cost?" I gritted my teeth.

"Oh it's free," he said.


I actually thought Bogeco felt bad because one of their Customer Reps had hung up on me and wanted to make amends.

"Yes," he said enthusiastically, pleased to have been the bearer of good news.

"Free for the first year. 

After that it is $9.50 a month."


I've been cabled.