Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Meet You at the Plague Pit

English: An illustration of an undertaker duri...
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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...
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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

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"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
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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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