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Thursday, May 28, 2009

IT Dilemmas of the Closer Kind


I'm unclear on some modern protocols here and how to handle certain, shall we say, little challenges that come up.

Dilemma 1:

Three of my clients have requested to befriend me on Facebook. Now certain clients I'm friends with. But these three I am not. And I don't want to be an insta-friend because of FB a la Nestle just-add-water for a real live friend.


(a)I can reject them of course and if they are the thick as two planks variety of homo sapiens they can huff off and find another tax accountant.
(b)I can limit their access to my photo albums, personal activities, thus incurring the same kind of high dudgeon response.
or
(c)I can ignore them.


Dilemma 2:

I'm being stalked on my blog by someone who has managed to break my anonymity. This person can reveal personal details of my life to others of his and my social circles that I would choose not to disclose. He is not a friend but a very distant acquaintance. But we know the same people.
Do I just:

(a)ignore him and pray he blows off.
(b)remove really personal blog posts
(c)say how dare you without my permission.
(d)say when you breach someone's privacy accidentally (right!) could you like let her know and ask permission before ploughing through her entire blog?

Common vexations of the modern era we live in.

I'll be off to Dublin and Paris for the next couple of weeks so attendance here may be sporadic. I will try and post from the road and catch up on your doings if I can.

Stay well my good blog buddies, until we meet again!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Canadian Breaking News


I think I must be living in an alternative universe to the pundits and politicians out there. Am I alone?

Just about every few weeks our eminent ministers up here in the Great White North revise their expectations for an economic recovery. First it was going to be the summer of 2009, then the end of the year, then the end of next year and now it is shoved off down the road to maybe end of 2011.

Every month there is astonishment expressed at the level of unemployment. Way beyond predictions they say, shaking their heads, baffled. And British Columbia – what the hell has happened, they say, puzzled yet again, the unemployment rate is through the roof there, worst in Canada! They just can’t explain it.

And yes, the fisheries are in trouble, and the forests too and good grief, look at the farmers, they can’t afford fertilizers, but hey, over here Canadian Auto Makers, here’s another handout.

And we’ll make a lot of noise about credit cards, just like Mr. Obama did in the USA, but hey, noise is good because just like him we have no intention of legislating the capping of the usurious interest rates these avaricious loan sharks beat you with . Your local payday loan dealer could do better rates than Mastercard’s 30%, go there and stop whining, what's that? oh oops, it slipped our minds, silly us, you don't have a job! And yes we know, those payday loan outfits are all owned by the major banks anyway. Multiple pockets, tee-hee, and one of the pockets is for us, hefty campaign donations being our thang ‘n’ all.

And Mr. Obama admits last week that yeah, alright, OK, the USA is broke now. And today I hear on the radio, that Canada could be in some economic trouble too, yeah maybe serious, for even though our banks are the soundest in the world, brag, brag, it seems like with all this unemployment and ZOMG so many retirees - how dare they mooch off the public purse - and corporate and personal bankruptcies and outsourcing to India and Mexico, and oh yeah all our troops over there in Afghanistan that costs erm, not sure how much but A LOT, there are not enough taxes being collected to cover oh, lots of stuff, like McHighways and oh, tar sands projects in Alberta, and ahem, unemployment insurance.

And when all this is said and done, our lovely and brilliant Governor-General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean, goes and eats the raw heart of a freshly killed seal. (She gutted it first, so that was OK). Because you see, the EU has banned all Canadian seal products and that is affecting our economy even more adversely than anything else. So what's a governor to do?

And there was just too much to link in and I’m too tired to do it, but Google any of this and you’ll see it all verified.

And who said Canada is dull?

Our Governor-General eats raw hearts for us!

Top that, USA and UK!

{Picture courtesy Canadian Press}

Monday, May 25, 2009

From Scones to Scrotums


Sometimes I have to giggle as I cruise around my favourite bloggers in the morning.

Diverse they surely are. And I imagine all of us are truly unique in the selections we read. Here’s a little sample of some of mine.

Today I can read about Wicklow trekking and grumpy old men.

And colourful birds in back yards.

And a once a week post from one of my faves, James Howard Kunstler and this week he’s into:

General Motors is reduced to lunch meat on industrial-capital's All-You-Can-Eat buffet spread.
I just love that man’s turn of phrase.

Here’s another sample:

Now, their incomes have stopped coming in altogether and they are sinking into swamp of entropy already occupied by the tattoo-for-lunch-bunch. Of course, this has plenty of dire sociopolitical implications
.

And I should pay attention to my horoscope while I'm drooling around the favourite spots for it cautions:

Monday, May 25
Don't forget to focus some attention on your most important goals and priorities today. You could be so distracted by what's going on with everyone else around you that you forget to tend to your own needs right now. Just be sure that some people don't try to take advantage of your generous spirit today.

And yeah, you're dying, admit it: I know you are.

Here’s Scones

And here’s Scrotums

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Awards


My cup runneth over.

Irene at the Gossamer Woman just presented me with the loveliest award which I am thrilled to accept but I feel it is totally undeserved. Building bridges. Well it is something to aspire to, surely?

In true blog protocol I pass it on to these blog friends I admire and who reach out across boundaries with their sparkling honesty and truth:

Tessa at Nuts and Mutton
Twilight at Twilight Starsong
Verna at Out of the Cube
Nick at Nickhereandnow
Grannymar at Grannymar
and
Conor at Conorjte

Friday, May 22, 2009

To sleep, perchance to dream.....


It is when I comment on Irene’s blog that I often get an idea for a post of my own. Out of the blue so to speak, I go off on a meandering track in my head and before I know it I’m in another place unrelated to what she has said. Like now. I was thinking of bedrooms in a comment I made on hers.

They say (and I really mean ‘they’ – I haven’t a clue where I heard this, maybe an interview on CBC radio) that we never quite leave the bedroom we had when we grew up for it is always somewhere in the psyche. That’s true for me.

I was the only girl in a family of five children for a long time. My long-awaited sister was born when I was nearly fourteen. Our house was tiny by today’s standards but considered the norm for then. A brand new semi-detached three-bedroom in a suburb of Cork, Ireland. The three-bedroom layout never made sense to me, given that the average family size in Ireland when I was growing up was six or seven children. One large bedroom where the parents slept, one medium sized (referred to as the ‘back room’) and one which was called a ‘box room’ which was 6’ X 6’. I do not jest. You could squeeze in a single bed and very little else. A small chest of drawers, perhaps. My wardrobe sat in the hall outside the door.

Still, I had the lap of luxury compared with others of my friends who had to share with sisters or kip out in the front parlour on a couch.

When my sister was born, bunk beds were squashed into the little box room. It was still luxurious as my four brothers had two sets of bunk beds and a lot of ‘aggro’ in the back room.

Since then, I’ve had various bedrooms, some vast in scale, for example one that my ex-husband and I made into a library with a fireplace and a king-size bed that could accommodate kids, dogs and cats with room to spare. Palatial. But also a little scary to me. All that wide open space never felt homey or safe. For the bedroom I feel most comfortable in is in a small one, not quite a 6’ X 6’ but a 9’ X 9’.

That’s my bedroom of today. Rather excellent high thread count sheets and pillows, a glorious duvet, a window that opens to the sea air, a chest for clothes at the end of it, and books piled on the two night-tables. A good reading lamp. Nothing more. Nothing less. And a blessed dog to guard me while I sleep.

I wouldn’t trade it for the Taj Mahal. (On second thoughts, maybe for a couple or four or one of Grannymar’s Toyboys?)

What about your bedroom?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

In Ireland, Jesus Wept


The Irish Child Abuse Commission Report, previously anticipated in my blog post here, is finally public and it is horrific. Tens of thousands of innocent Irish children tortured in state-sanctioned and inspected religious institutions. Tens of thousands.

I only read bits and pieces of it so far, between tears, between walking away and just trying to absorb the full extent of the little reading I've done on the atrocities committed by the Irish religious orders entrusted with the children in their care. The neediest of children, orphans, abandoned, ofspring of incestuous relationships, rapes, or just impoverished parents (widowers, widows, separated) putting them into care.

Apart from the sexual atrocities committed on these innocent children, some as young as 6, there was the brutality of their day-to-day life, often without the benefit of the education that was promised them at the outset, used as slaves in laundries, farms and residential shops. Along with being half-starved, they had to wear rough, itchy tweed clothes most times without benefit of underwear and were beaten savagely, often by more than one religious brother, on a daily basis. Just for the sin of being left-handed or a bedwetter.
He ...(Br X)... flogged me one time, I was working in the piggery. I used to be starving,
the pigs used to get the Brothers’ leftovers and one day there was lovely potatoes and I
took some and I took a turnip. Br ...X... caught me and he brought me up to the
dormitory, he let down my trousers and he lashed me. He always wore a leather,
around 18 inches ...(long)... and it was all stitched with wax, his leather was very thin. It
was about an inch and a half, others had leathers about 2 inches. He lashed me, he
flogged me.


Wetting the bed merited a punishment just shy of a hanging:

I was beaten stark naked for wetting the bed, 2 or 3 different people would beat me.
You would be called up after breakfast by Br ...X.... He was evil. He liked beating kids
naked, he would put your head between his legs ...(while he beat you)... for wetting the
bed, and more bed-wetting boys would be there as well ...(watching)... The night
watchman would get you up at night with a stick, every night. He would beat you out of
the bed. You’d have to bring the sheets up to be washed to the laundry and a bigger
boy would beat you with a stick there, he was the senior in the laundry


And the catalogue of injuries and atrocities continues:
Witnesses reported a catalogue of injuries to themselves and co-residents as a result of
physical abuse by religious and lay staff members in the 26 Schools reported to the Committee.
Two hundred and twenty four (224) reports were heard of injuries including: breaks to ribs,
noses, wrists, arms and legs, injuries to head, genitalia, back, mouth, eye, ear, hand, jaw, face
and kidney. Sixty four (64) witnesses reported being left unable to walk, sit, stand or lie down as
a result of those injuries. Other injuries included burns, dog bites, lacerations, broken teeth,
dislocated shoulders, injuries to the soles of feet, and burst chilblains. Chilblains were a
common ailment in the pre-1970s period and male witnesses reported experiencing severe pain
after being struck on hands and legs with chilblains. Witnesses reported that at times they were
beaten until their chilblains burst and bled.


There is more. Far, far more. For instance, there was minimum medical care and dental care was extraction by a nurse, often without benefit of anaesthetic.
It is all shocking and hard to stomach. I've only read bits and pieces as I've said. But this abusive mentality pervaded many religious institutions in Ireland right up to the eighties, often conscripting the older children in their care to abuse the younger ones.

Hopefully, with this floodlighting of the systemic problem there will be healing for the unfortunate victims. Retribution? Most perpetrators are probably dead. I know I personally, witnessed abuse. Mild compared to this report, but still abuse - belittling by nuns, favouritism, corporal punishment with sticks and belts.

And I salute the courage of all concerned in coming forward.

Is the Irish government finally separating the matters of church and state? I hope so.

And below (courtesy of the Irish Times) a picture of a dormitory (imagine a childhood spent in that stark unending room) at Artane, where much abuse took place.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What Else Have I Missed?



You can live your whole life just about and miss out on something so important, so life changing, so incredibly profound, that it rattles you to the very core when it reveals itself.

I mean there I was innocently going along for years with the vagaries of plastic wrap, aluminum foil and wax paper in those boxes. You know the ones where you could successfully slice your wrist open on the toothy cutting edge if you so desired and gently fall down in a pool of your own blood only to be discovered days later.....

But enough of that. I often succeed in cutting a finger, all par for the course to get that perfect length of wrap out and severed smartly (as if this ever happened!) on the afore mentioned sawtooth edge.

Of course it's rarely perfect as the bloody roll always manages to wriggle out of the box and land on the floor or leaps off in a quick jog to the other end of the room. I invariable sigh, get the scissors, manually unwind the roll and cut off the piece I need.

I've been doing this since God was a paper boy.

And then, today, I'm doing my bit with the saran wrap, the usual struggle, box collapses, the plastic film roll pops out and on to the counter and lo and behold, I say LO AND BEHOLD, as I'm painfully inserting it back in again, on high alert for the suicide sawtooth edge, I note these little TABS on the sides of the box. TABS. That you like, push in. To secure the roll in place. So you can tug and cut. Without fear of a mental breakdown or chasing the roll all over the house.

How come I never knew this? How come no one every showed me?

OK. Now you all tell me you've ALWAYS known about this. Go on. I double dare you.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Very Local Highlights


I always have a few days of uncertainty when I get back here to Newfoundland, straddling momentarily the metropolitan world I've left behind, with its dear friends, its culture, its diversity with the tiny outport world I also love.

And then little things start to take over. We've dug 4 beds in the meadow this year, one for turnips, one for (of course) potatoes, one for carrots, one for cabbages and another small one for golden onions.

I've been sizing up 2 gorgeous apple trees at $39.99 each. Apple trees need partners so I have to have 2. I haven't bought them yet. These are in blossom and about 5' high and the smell, my dear - I keep thinking after reading a post at Irene's yesterday, about the blossoms' scent wafting on to the sheets on the clothesline, much like the blooming hawthorn hedge around my grandmother's drying sheets pervaded hers.

And then a few authors in the village consulted me about this guy who wanted to conduct a writing workshop, a big city fellah, they tell me, and why should they give the business to him when I was right there and I could facilitate one and it would be far better, said they, as I'd already advised some of them privately on some of their writing and had shared and read mine with them. So what better person? Ahem, said I, of course, but I'd need payment and a space. Oh that's alright love, said Joe, who's the self-appointed leader, it's all arranged, a nice big payment for you and a lovely space out on the next bay for the taking and the rent's covered. When do you want to get started and do you want to do the announcement? And, he adds, I think there'll be more interested than we have space for so you may need to run a series.

OMG, thought I, OMG!!!!!! Is this the manifestation of a dream or what??? OMG!!!!

I didn't share these thoughts with Joe. I nodded seriously like the adult I sometimes pretend to be and said I valued their trust and confidence and I would not let them down.

I am beyond excited about this. Beyond. I start when I get back from Europe. 8 is the magic number in my experience. So I said 8
would be the maximum class size. And it would be held once a week over two hours for 8 weeks with 8 participants and lots of work. Everyone is enthused. I said maybe we could have a performance at the end of the 8 weeks. A stage show. Lovely background music played by the locals and some readings of the fine-tuned works. Massive enthusiasm by all.

I think we're on to something here. I can hardly wait to get back from Paris. I never thought I'd say that.

Can you believe it?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yes We Can: 100 Days of Same Old, Same Old...


Lots of hoopla about; though the obstinate bleating of Hope! Change! are dying down a little, n’est pas?


I can't shrug off this feeling of unease I have, deep in the old gut. That the very worst hasn’t remotely happened yet. That none of the real issues are being dealt with. Everywhere in North America infrastructure is being touted as the saviour of the economy. More roads, more lanes, more construction. To what Happy McMansion with what Happy McCar?

Yeah, the daughters are cute, the wife brilliant, the dog adorable but the 100 Day record is now standing bleakly by itself, like a shrine to his predecessor.

However, the brilliant John Pilger says it so much better than I can:

In his first 100 days, Obama has excused torture, opposed habeas corpus and demanded more secret government. He has kept Bush’s gulag intact and at least 17,000 prisoners beyond the reach of justice. On 24 April, his lawyers won an appeal that ruled Guantanamo Bay prisoners were not “persons”, and therefore had no right not to be tortured. His national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair, says he believes torture works. One of his senior US intelligence officials in Latin America is accused of covering up the torture of an American nun in Guatemala in 1989; another is a Pinochet apologist. As Daniel Ellsberg has pointed out, the US experienced a military coup under Bush, whose secretary of “defence”, Robert Gates, along with the same warmaking officials, has been retained by Obama.


And here we have the President’s stance on Gaza and the atrocities there:

All over the world, America’s violent assault on innocent people, directly or by agents, has been stepped up. During the recent massacre in Gaza, reports Seymour Hersh, “the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of ‘smart bombs’ and other hi-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel” and being used to slaughter mostly women and children. In Pakistan, the number of civilians killed by US missiles called drones has more than doubled since Obama took office


And no one is leaving Iraq even though the soldiers there are now knocking each other off.

Perhaps the biggest lie – the equivalent of smoking is good for you – is Obama’s announcement that the US is leaving Iraq, the country it has reduced to a river of blood. According to unabashed US army planners, as many as 70,000 troops will remain “for the next 15 to 20 years”. On 25 April, his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, alluded to this. It is not surprising that the polls are showing that a growing number of Americans believe they have been suckered – especially as the nation’s economy has been entrusted to the same fraudsters who destroyed it. Lawrence Summers, Obama’s principal economic adviser, is throwing $3trn at the same banks that paid him more than $8m last year, including $135,000 for one speech. Change you can believe in.


And I find it particularly hard to stomach Obama’s new best friend: Henry Kissinger, the despicable war criminal.


Much of the American establishment loathed Bush and Cheney for exposing, and threatening, the onward march of America’s “grand design”, as Henry Kissinger, war criminal and now Obama adviser, calls it. In advertising terms, Bush was a “brand collapse” whereas Obama, with his toothpaste advertisement smile and righteous clichés, is a godsend. At a stroke, he has seen off serious domestic dissent to war, and he brings tears to the eyes, from Washington to Whitehall. He is the BBC’s man, and CNN’s man, and Murdoch’s man, and Wall Street’s man, and the CIA’s man. The Madmen did well.


Read complete article here.

And don’t get me started on the Goldman Sachs’ ex-staffers sprinkled all over the Obama cabinet, holding out their hands for more bailouts, more bonuses, more leeching at the till of good tax payer money being poured down the bottomless pits of CEOs’ pockets.

Policies that are extraordinarily favorable to the financial elite that were put in place over the past month by the Obama administration have fed a surge in share values on Wall Street. These include the scheme to use hundreds of billions of dollars in public funds to pay hedge funds to buy up the banks’ toxic assets at inflated prices, the Auto Task Force’s rejection of the recovery plans of Chrysler and General Motors and its demand for even more brutal layoffs, wage cuts and attacks on workers’ health benefits and pensions, and the decision by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to weaken “mark-to-market” accounting rules and permit banks to inflate the value of their toxic assets.


Wall Street has infiltrated every aspect of the ‘new government’. While:

At the same time, Obama has campaigned against restrictions on bonuses paid to executives at insurance giant American International Group (AIG) and other bailed-out firms, and repeatedly assured Wall Street that he will slash social spending, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The case of Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council and Obama’s top economic adviser, highlights the politically incestuous character of relations between the Obama administration and the American financial elite.
Last year, Summers pocketed $5 million as a managing director of D.E. Shaw, one of the biggest hedge funds in the world, and another $2.7 million for speeches delivered to Wall Street firms that have received government bailout money. This includes $45,000 from Citigroup and $67,500 each from JPMorgan Chase and the now-liquidated Lehman Brothers.
For a speech to Goldman Sachs executives, Summers walked away with $135,000. This is substantially more than double the earnings for an entire year of high-seniority auto workers, who have been pilloried by the Obama administration and the media for their supposedly exorbitant and “unsustainable” wages.
Alluding diplomatically to the flagrant conflict of interest revealed by these disclosures, the New York Times noted on Saturday: “Mr. Summers, the director of the National Economic Council, wields important influence over Mr. Obama’s policy decisions for the troubled financial industry, including firms from which he recently received payments.”
Summers was a leading advocate of banking deregulation. As treasury secretary in the second Clinton administration, he oversaw the lifting of basic financial regulations dating from the 1930s. The Times article notes that among his current responsibilities is deciding “whether—and how—to tighten regulation of hedge funds.”
Summers is not an exception. He is rather typical of the Wall Street insiders who comprise a cabinet and White House team that is filled with multi-millionaires, presided over by a president who parlayed his own political career into a multi-million-dollar fortune.
Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, worked for Citigroup and received more than $7.4 million from the bank from January of 2008 until he entered the Obama administration this year. This included a $2.25 million year-end bonus handed him this past January, within weeks of his joining the Obama administration.
Citigroup has thus far been the beneficiary of $45 billion in cash and over $300 billion in government guarantees of its bad debts.
David Axelrod, the Obama campaign’s top strategist and now senior adviser to the president, was paid $1.55 million last year from two consulting firms he controls. He has agreed to buyouts that will garner him another $3 million over the next five years. His disclosure claims personal assets of between $7 and $10 million.
Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, was paid $3.9 million by a Washington law firm whose major clients include Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and the private equity firm Apollo Management.
Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office, made $227,155 last year from IndyMac Bancorp, the California bank that heavily promoted subprime mortgages. It collapsed last summer and was placed under federal receivership.
The presence of multi-millionaire Wall Street insiders extends to second- and third-tier positions in the Obama administration as well. David Stevens, who has been tapped by Obama to head the Federal Housing Administration, is the president and chief operating officer of Long and Foster Cos., a real estate brokerage firm. From 1999 to 2005, Stevens served as a top executive for Freddie Mac, the federally-backed mortgage lending giant that was bailed out and seized by federal regulators in September.


Read more at Global Research

But there are rumblings of distress amongst the populace who are beginning to shrug off the election torpor of Happy Days are Here Again. Even with the red alert of The Big Swine Flu Distraction.

Guns and ammunition are disappearing off the shelves. Dry goods are being accumulated by those who have a few pennies of their own left.

The harsh and painful reality of millions of homeless, foodless and jobless, corruption at the highest level and no one taking care of the store at home is finally beginning to sink in.

We are on our own. Pass the Koolaid.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Meagle and Beagle Have Landed!




Over 700K!

Would you just look at the distance travelled today and stand back in awe and just applaud!

Snow left behind in Cornerbrook where it had no business being to begin with. Look at a calendar, Cornerbrook!!

Luggage scattered everywhere, beagle and meagle fed.

Fire lit (well I did that first, actually!)

Family assured.

Blog updated.

Tomorrow is another day to gird those loins and get cracking on some global issues.

Meanwhile, goodnight and sweet dreams from my toasty little home by the bay.

Suspended Animation and Noblesse Oblige

So here I am in remote Newfoundland (remote by 700k from my home, at least, I'm sure the inhabitants of here don't feel remote in the slightest). I feel trapped in a kind of weird, other-worldly feeling. Like I'm here when I should be there. I'm reminded of one of my favourite movies, Casablanca, (oh, how trite, OSS - yeah, I know). Where all of us stricken travellers wait for the signed pass out of here.

I take the dog out and scurry back in again, the snow is bad and I'm in spring clothes with a spring jackety thing with a silly skimpy hood and NO GLOVES OR CAR SCRAPER. It is mid-May and somebody should tell Cornerbrook. However, blessings come in food for this weary traveller and I was handed a platter of cod and scrunchions tonight that just about made me weep. Now I know why I live in Newfoundland.

And next I whupped the ass off a friend on Facebook's Scrabulous (I forget its new name) by scoring 444. *preen*.

And then I toddled over to Tessa and she had given me one of those you-have-to-work-for-it-awards. It might come as a surprise to you out there but I'm a bit of an award whore. I even created a hallway on the side of my blog.

Anyway here it is:



And here are the conditions:

The recipient of this award is recognised for the following:

1) The Blogger manifests exemplary attitude, respecting the nuances that pervade amongst different cultures and beliefs.
2) The Blog contents inspire; strive to encourage and offer solutions.
3) There is a clear purpose to the Blog; one that fosters a better understanding of Social, Political, Economic, Arts, Culture and Sciences and Beliefs.
4) The Blog is refreshing and creative.
5) The Blogger promotes friendship and positive thinking.

The Blogger who receives this award will need to perform the following steps:

1) Create a Post with a mention and link to the person who presented the Noblesse Oblige Award.
2) The Award Conditions must be displayed at the Post.
3) Write a short article about what the Blog has thus far achieved – preferably citing one or more older post to support.
4) The Blogger must present the Noblesse Oblige Award in concurrence with the Award conditions.
5) Blogger must display the Award at any location at the Blog.

Well I've done 1 and 2.
As to 3: I just toss out the contents of my brain on a regular basis. When I started this blog it was to yell about the economic turbulence the world was about to undergo and how patriarchy, religion, bigotry, prejudice and misogyny based on ANY criteria were just plain WRONG. I vented about the illegal invasions of sovereign countries, of the appalling practices of big business, of atrocities here and abroad, of just about anything that blew out my spleen. I wrote many posts about pornography and how it pollutes all it touches. And many more topics too numerous to mention.

I still do, rant and rave that is. Except when I get sidetracked by May snowstorms. And this dog of mine who wonders when we'll escape from snowbound hell (snapped without flash in the dark hotel room today at high noon, looking as if she'd love to bang her head off the wall). Me too.



And now to 4 & 5~

I'd like to pass this award on to:

Jenny at South Belfast Diary who writes fearlessly of the politics of Northern Ireland.

and to:

Pants who writes of all things political and otherwise in her homeland of Oz where she recently returned after a 30 year absence.

and to:

Sparrowchat even though sometimes we don't agree, he writes so very well on the ills of the world today.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dateline: Cornerbrook, Newfoundland


The best laid plans as dear Robbie Burns had it. And he wrote it for me. No reaching home today, I fear.

I drove from Moncton to Sydney, close to 500K yesterday. Vision, the huge new ferry greeted me at the dockside.



The Lobster Boat, a tiny restaurant patronized by locals only, for it is off the beaten track and tucked away down behind a garage was where I ate my supper - some local seafood. A few years ago, a kind young man pumping my gas told me about it and pledged me to secrecy. Well, no one reads this blog right? I did spot some locals pursing their lips at my out-of-town car licence plate.



I had no access to interwebz last night for a post. But the beautiful new ship ferried us over the broad Atlantic from Sydney, NS to Port-Aux-Basques. I had a cabin on the 8th deck with a panoramic window overlooking the harbour. Compared to the old ships, "Vision" is luxurious, with duvets on the beds, 2 desks, flat screen TV and remote lights. I was too tired to check out the on board spa. You can get an idea of the view here, looking out from my window, the cabin (and me!)reflected on the pane:






The captain announced before we hit port at 7.00 a.m. that there might be a problem with wind for us drivers when we disembarked as it had reached 100k/hr on the mountains.

Oh my. In a little Echo that was a real challenge and very frightening. Ever been caught in a place where you don't know whether to go back or press forward to the next big town? That was me in a nutshell. Crawling along at 60, buffeted by winds and large trucks and those careless SUVs that throw a flood in your face every time they screech past is a life appreciating experience. Oh, did I mention the pelting, horizontal rain to add to my fear and misery?

I get to Cornerbrook and the wind dies down a bit and I think, hey, I can press on. But then the heavens give another burp and down pours a blizzard. I'm serious. Snow. Lots. Melting into floods on the warmish ground but managing to freeze in long icicles to the windows of my car. I'm slow sometimes but I eventually get the message.

I spot a Comfort Inn at the edge of Cornerbrook. I wheel in. Get out. Kiss the soggy ground. I repress an overwhelming urge to waltz with the receptionist.

"What brings you here darlin'?" she asks as she registers me in at 11.00 a.m.

"Oh," I say casually, waiting for my heart rate to go down to 100, "Some sightseeing."

Friday, May 08, 2009

Dateline: Moncton, New Brunswick


--------------------click to enbiggen any images--------------------

489K today, an ambly kind of day. It needs to be, as driving through hundreds of miles of forest can be brain numbing. However the smell of the impending ocean compensates greatly and the clam chowder I put away at lunch made up for the catatonic state I was in.

I pulled over for a short nap by a little church and peeped around the corner and there was a hive of activity in the farm at the back, overfed geese wandering about, several farmhands and cows busy-making. I don't get too near such places with Ansa as some ancient instinct takes over her brain and she goes into immediate herding mode. One time I was totally impressed with what a tidy package she had made of about twenty five cows in a tiny corner of a field but the farmer didn't share my awe. I only now take her where her skills will be appreciated.



On these lengthy journeys across eastern Canada I welcome the ghosts that pop in and out of my head. My parents, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, my great grandmother and dear departed friends. The luxury of time alone affords such visitations. Some memories make me laugh, others make me cry just a little.

CBC had a lovely programme on in the afternoon, co-hosted by Rita MacNeil who invited listeners to share their memories of the songs their mothers and grandmothers had sung to them as children. I was surprised by how many I knew. One was my 'baby' song which was sung to me by my father every night at bed time "I'll take you home again, Kathleen". And my father told me my first ever sentence was: "Sing-ee Kath-ee Daddy." I've never ever tired of it. To this day. And it's not even an Irish song!

After dinner tonight (a soothing salad after the richness of the crepes!) we walked along the shore of the Tidal Bore which I've written about before, here. The tide was low tonight, the moon, large and golden, suspended like a balloon over the water lost in admiration of its own reflection, millions of seabirds sounding irritable in the darkness, muttering and squawking their peevishness to the only human inhabitant of this lovely spot, me.

And here I rest, preparing for the final leg of the journey tomorrow, through Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Dateline: Edmundston, New Brunswick



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A distance of 455k covered today, most of it south of the mighty St. Lawrence river - a total of just over 1,100k in the 2 days I've been on the road so far. This part of New Brunswick is very French, I'm staying in a motel I've stayed in many times before which has a fabulous restaurant attached. Right in the middle of nowhere.

It was raining all day, ao I tucked in behind a Honda delivery truck for most of the distance. It helped through some of the mountains which had pea soup fog. Caused in no small part by this factory, Norampac





Road music were albums by John Denver and Cherish the Ladies followed by a CBC programme on how classical music influenced contemporary, like did you know that John Lennon came in one night and found Yoko Ono playing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and told her that was easy peasy so to speak, and to really impress him she should play it backwards. She did. And that piece of music is The Beatles' "Because".

I'm a good driver. My dog rides beside me and she says so. Here's proof:




Posted Later

And here is where the French charm the pants off me: Dinner tonight was crepes. But oh what crepes. The older chef who moved like a ballet dancer. One crepe at a time he prepared: seafood, chicken, vegetarian, you name it, fresh grated local cheese top and bottom, fresh steamed asparagus laid just so on top, beauchamel sauce over, pasta pecan salad on the side. Dessert was the same but with chopped fresh fruit, custard, whipped cream AND double Devon cream laid on board like an artist's canvas. All there allowed me to speak my French and encouraged me greatly. Merci beaucoup, mes amis.

After this, the dog and I waddled a few miles up a wonderful converted railway track by the river in the rain and got into stride on the way back.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Dateline:Drummondville, Quebec



Distance travelled today, double click to enbiggen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~Braindrops from the Road~~~~~~~~~~~

Poignancy:
I think this is my last road trip. From here on in it will be air, if planes will be operating a year from now. I travelled 655 KM today and felt it. The highway is mesmerizing, lulling me into a 'ready for a nap' state consistently. So I did. Twice. It could be something to do with the acute bronchitis I've had, still present in the lungs from time to time. But lucky me I can nap on a clothesline just about.

Juxtaposition:





The gas station with ancillary fast-frankenfood pods, the truck speeding by, the floodlight for night sight, the lovely old operating farm across the road.

Radio:

Best of both worlds, NPR just across the U.S. border and CBC. NPR jawing about Bill Haley and his Comets, offering prize to anyone who can call in and tell how many Comets there were. I'm a little disturbed by the sponsors, i.e. those who fund NPR, mainly medical and dental. One a specialist in face reconstruction.

CBC reviewing "The Cove" a documentary about the secret dolphin slaughters in Japan. Dolphins have a bigger brain than humans (I didn't know that) and their vocabularies exceed ours, we just can't understand the incredible variations in their speech patterns.

A stranger in a French land:

And then silence. Me and the dog. The only Ontario car passing through and around Montreal. And those Quebecois drivers. Sacre Bleu! They squeeze me close to right off the road at times. It's a game. I'm a no-good anglaise on some monarchy sponsored anglicising mission and they will annihilate me.

And in Quebec restaurants I speak my fractured French as I order and it never fails. The servers respond in impeccable English. Every time. End of day scorecard: English 0. French 2.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Another "People" Commercial



It's kind of a shame that these 'spontaneous' dance/sing crowds are promoting mobile phones, but there's something so wonderfully insane and hokey about it all.

See previous one here.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Tales from the Tax Trenches Part Three


She's whispering so low I can barely hear her.

"Sheila," I say firmly,"You'll have to speak up."

"Oh God," she says,"The students outside my door will hear me!"

"What's going on?" I ask her, puzzled, I haven't heard from her in nearly five years and I don't chase my clients, too much energy wasted.

"Four years!" she's nearly crying now, "Four years I haven't filed!".

"Do you want to meet with me?" I offer politely,"I'll be in your neighbourhood tomorrow."

"Oh no, not here," she says, an edge of desperation in her voice, "But there's a coffee shop around the corner from the school, can we meet there?"

And we do. She keeps hiding her face from the many students that are coming and going with coffees and teas. Discreetly, she passes her files to me under the table and I slide them surreptitiously into a big black bag I carry for such a purpose.

Sheila is a responsible, caring, middle-aged high school principal.

With four years of unfiled taxes.

For other such tales see:

Tales from the Tax Trenches Part One

Tales from the Tax Trenches Part Two

Friday, May 01, 2009

Regrets? I've had a few, and then again....


His name was Aidan and he was the youngest of five motherless boys. Their mother had died of cancer when he was only five, the eldest was twelve, the fourth boy was eight and the twins were ten. His father, who was an engineer by profession and of some means, hired one of those miraculous factotums that don’t exist anymore. The plain no-nonsense middle-aged single sister of a colleague who was looking for a ‘position’.

In those days in Ireland a ‘position’ was a status symbol for unattractive spinster women of an uncertain age. They’d move into a motherless household and raise the children, do all the housework and laundry, oversee the gardens and make sure Himself was well taken care of. In hindsight, I’ve often speculated that this might have included some bedroom duties. It probably did.

If the women were extraordinarily ‘lucky’, they would capture the heart of Himself and get to marry him, thus increasing their social status and in some cases the size of the brood. But also foregoing their monthly paycheque, of course. A poor bargain in my mind.

I would play with Aidan the odd time when we were around ten and eleven and our fathers would get together on business. Usually at Aidan’s house as it was large and afforded a study for manly meetings and from which children and females were completely banned. Our entire house would have fit into their kitchen, where the factotum ruled, with bags of room left over.

Aidan was blonde, tall and sensitive and read the “Katy” books which I had a passion for. We’d talk Katy to each other and Enid Blyton and “The Water Babies”. I remember that distinctly as none of the boys of my acquaintance would read such ‘bilge’ but were into the Dandy and Beano comics and fart jokes.

It came as no surprise when Aidan went off to be a priest at the tender age of seventeen.

But it came as a very big surprise when I was at a party one night a couple of years later and there he was in the flesh, still tall and blonde but very uncomfortable in the social setting. He was delighted to see me, hugged me fraternally and asked me for a date. All in the space of about four minutes.

We went to the Lee cinema on Washington Street which featured foreign films. A lot. We loved the (very much censored) European films. We would have coffee afterwards at The Old Bridge and he would hold my hand across the table and we would discuss what we’d seen. Intently. And then share our library books. Our physical transactions were very chaste. Even for that time. He would kiss me, embrace me and hold my hand walking along but there was something missing. Something big. No passion in the kiss, no ‘copping a feel’ as we called it then. He bought me interesting little gifts. A gold cross on a chain. A volume of poetry. Small black and white prints of Parisian scenes where we would go on our honeymoon. He assumed we would be married. And so did our fathers who were delighted at this turn of events - Aidan having been almost a ‘failed’ priest as it were, now mercifully salvaged by the love of a good young woman.

Aidan went off to England for work and wrote me extraordinarily passionate letters, full of poetry blazing brightly of his love for me. All the passion absent from our physical relationship was there in the letters and cards. They poured through the letterbox almost daily. I was at a complete loss. I did not feel such intensity for him. I began to date others and did not tell him. A part of me wished he would meet someone else. A part of me knew I would miss this intellectual and gentle meeting of the minds that we shared. But it wasn’t enough. I didn’t answer his letters after a while and I didn’t take his telephone calls. I refused to meet him again when he came back to Ireland expressly to see me. Out of guilt? Out of avoidance ? I don’t know. I was young.

Years later, married and in Canada, I saw his name – his last name was quite unique and so was his first in Canada then – as one of the leaders of the burgeoning gay rights movement in the early 70’s. All the pieces of our relationship fell into place. I was relieved. His number wasn’t in the Toronto telephone directory - I did look - and then, as he was no longer headlining any columns in the local newspapers, I forgot about him.

Until about five years ago when my daughter handed me the gift of a book of Emily Dickinson poems. I had one of those crystal moments where I could hear Aidan’s voice reading them aloud to me as we trudged over green pastures and sat on old stone walls on endless spring Saturdays.

I set about tracking him down. I felt an enormous need to speak to Aidan, to apologise for my treatment of him, and tell him I understood. And express the hope that maybe now we could be true kindred spirits.

I had a friend contact one of his brother twins who happens to be a big wig in Dublin. She forwarded me a copy of his email.

“E,” he wrote my friend, “ I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Aidan passed away from AIDS complications in Singapore last month.”

I’m still finding it hard to stop searching for him.