Sunday, December 28, 2008


Photo of the Tidal Bore, Moncton by © Dr. Roger Slatt, University of Oklahoma

The title was a word verification I had to use on a blog. What a great word!

As luck would have it, I didn't get a good night's sleep. Quite a party next door to me in the hotel which involved many comings and goings of female and male voices, door slammings, bottle breakages and a lot of moaning about turning thirty which continued on till 4 a.m.

I don't complain about noise when I'm the last room on the block and adjacent to the party animal house. Such non-compos mentis drunks can inflict an awful lot of damage on one's car in revenge (deflated tires, key dragging) and how to prove it? Suck it up. So that's what I did while ensuring today that no one was reserving this particular room tonight after informing the management.

Moncton/Dieppe is a twin city area which, amongst other attractions, involves a tidal bore:

A scenic phenomenon caused by the surging Bay of Fundy tides, the highest in the world, the Bore occurs twice daily. The higher waters in the Bay cause the water in the placid Petitcodiac River to roll back upstream in one wave, which can range in height from three cm (one in.) to 60 cm (24 in.). Just as spectacular is the rapid and dramatic change in the river itself. At low tide the muddy river bottom is often visible, but within an hour of the arrival of the Bore, the water level rises some 7.5 m (25 ft.) to fill the river to its banks. The Tidal Bore can be observed from Bore Park, Main street.

What I found most interesting about the phenomenon was that the birds in the tidal surge were going backwards out to sea. A sight I'd never seen before. I imagine their legs are used as brakes against the rush of water. The trail beside the basin was extremely far ranging, Ansa and I barely covered a few miles of it. In this interesting weather we're having I went from huddled in boots, hat and mitts last night to carefree sweatshirt and jeans today.

The waterfront trail at Bore Park is an interesting dichotomy of scenery - on one side you have the tidal basin with birds and wild life, on the other you have Burger King drive through takeout, video rentals, a Staples mega store and others of that ilk. In one ear - "do you want cheese with that?" and in the other the lonely honk of some Canada geese skeetering over the marshland. I found it disturbing and uplifting at the same time. Why not put beauty spots beside the most depressing of our consumerist culture? It might inspire someone in their heaving SUV to actually check out the waterfront. On foot. It is inaccessible to vehicular traffic. A very good thing.

And all going well my daughter is now at the Toronto airport one more time and the flight is delayed yet again. We are laughing over this. This consistently foiled meeting up has moved far beyond crying and head banging into a great big joke.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dateline: Moncton, NB, Canada

One of the advantages of living a life longer than many of my dear, departed friends is that I don’t attach myself to results too much. Expectations can let me down as I’ve learned over and over. The 2 X 4s of life I call them. Always have a Plan B.

Like Christmas Day, my daughter was scheduled to fly to St. John's and she got to the airport in Toronto, early, was issued a boarding pass and then without any warning or apology, her flight was cancelled without any reason offered.

Reasons, of course, are obvious on the media. Vancouver was snowed in and Westjet could not get their planes out of there. So my poor daughter had to schlep her way back home again. A driving trip we had planned to share across the province of Newfoundland from St. John’s to reach the ferry in Port Aux Basques – over 900 km of at times treacherous weather conditions - now had to be undertaken in one day alone by me. Through the spectacular mountains, sometimes by lonesome outports, beside dense forests and uncountable miles of uninhabited beauty. Stressed? Yes, I was. But I made it, in less than 12 hours and 3 breaks. One short stop for a quick restorative nap in the car (I’m lucky that way, I can have a 15 minute nap that rights me with the world.)

And I slept well on the ferry in spite of a shocking storm and slabs of ice that hit the sides of the vessel with great big shuddering wallops from time to time. I thought of the Titanic going down in such conditions as I was woken up by the ferocity of the rolling ship the first time and thought to myself, if the alarms go off, I’m not getting up – I’m just too damn tired. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

And this morning I ambled across Cape Breton and landed in Moncton, where I now wait as my daughter, once again, waits in Toronto airport for another delayed flight, this time to Moncton, and hopefully not cancelled.

We may spend an extra day here in Moncton, there is a centuries old woollen mill, Briggs & Little that I would love to check out. An ex-police chief – female - of a major American city who was touring Newfoundland this year with her ex-fire chief husband – saw the sign on my car (“Got Knitting?”) and we bonded over needles for an hour or so. She told me about Briggs & Little, not to be missed. I told her about Baadeck Yarns in Nova Scotia.

My gratitude list is long. It nearly always is in spite of myself and my whinging. And a few samples:

· Yay, I’ve got high speed in the hotel, now I can see all my blog-buds’ YouTubes and check out what I’ve missed.

· My dear darling dog, Ansa, who has travelled 1,500 km in the car in the past 30 hours and ne’er a whit of complaint. Though I do spoil her a bit with road food. A great big *Thank You Tim Horton’s* for your great, great breakfast biscuits, from both of us. And note: I will always put your misplaced apostrophe back into your name. So there.

· Walking in the snow: we went for a long trek in the lightly falling snow tonight, looking in at all the windows with the Christmas lights - a telescope into the lives of others.

· Lobster – I’m in the capital. Need I say more?

Posted Later @ half past midnight.
I drove out to the airport in freezing rain conditions at a crawl and once I get there I'm told that the flight was turned back due to the weather. So my poor daughter is once again foiled in her attempt to get out here to Atlantic Canada. How awful for her.

What was that again about expectations?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On Visiting

Things are folding in around the edges of my technical world. My printers aren’t seeing eye to eye with the laptop. My laptop refuses to recognize my palm pilot. I’ve gone into various help programmes but nothing seems to work. It will all have to wait until I hit Toronto and some high-tech help.

However, I’m still on line and will be for another short while, until the Newfoundland tent gets folded up and Strawbella gets packed and I head out on the annual safari across the eastern stretch of Canada to Ontario.

I’ve got stuff everywhere all over the house and a huge list of what needs to be taken with me. Ansa knows something’s up and always does before we move. She saunters by me a lot. Follows me constantly. Yes, I reassure her, I haven’t forgotten I have a dog, have I ever left you behind? She sniffs suitcases, rattles her water dishes. Something’s afoot, or should that be apaw? Ahem.

I’ve been visiting around and about, a custom that is dying in a lot of the world but is alive and well here. Unheralded dropins for a cuppa or a drinka depending on your imbibement of choice.

Tonight I was at Augusta’s. Apart from anything else I love the feeling of her name in my mouth. She suits her name. Her husband calls her Gus. I never could. Augusta is just too gorgeous a word to misplace like that.

Things you don’t know about people and that fall into your ears.

“Back then, 33 Christmases ago,” Augusta says, after we had settled down with the tea, “When I thought I was in labour with twins…”

“Go on!” I say, “Go on! They were wrong, it wasn’t twins at all?”

“Well, first it was,” she says, “There they were, a lovely short labour and my two perfect little girls!”

“And then,” she says, “Another tiny cramp, and there he was!”

“Triplets?” I say, in awe, “You had triplets?”

“Ah,” she says, “But that’s not the end of it either!”

“Go on!” I say, brilliant conversationalist that I am.

“My triplet grandchildren just turned 6!”

“Don’t tell me,” she adds, “That things like that don’t run in families!”

The stuff we don’t know about people.....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Solstice

I prefer a quiet celebration of Winter Solstice, rather than participating in the travesty that Christmas has become. Solstice has been written about so very movingly by my blogbud Twilight in her post. In some cities, candle-light ceremonies are held. A little parade takes place in an old market area of Toronto where witches and warlocks can be seen and a simple community joy is visible by all in attendance.

Winter Solstice appeals to me. A celebration of the harmony and order of the seasons on this planet and a welcoming of the coming longer daylight hours with a farewell to the darkness. And so very Irish too. Solstice in pre-Christian times was celebrated in Newgrange in Ireland, in a tomb built before the pyramids 5000 years ago. The location is 26 miles North of Dublin. Here the Solstice can be seen in all its glory.

The sun, rising on December 21, shines directly along the long passage into the chamber for about 17 minutes and illuminates the chamber floor. This alignment is a marvel of complex calculations. The sun enters the passage through a specially contrived opening through the roof, which is situated above the main entrance and lights up the floor of the inner chamber.

Today the first light enters about four minutes after sunrise, but calculations of the Earth’s historical rotation show that 5000 years ago first light would have entered exactly at sunrise. An incredible mathematical feat for those times. Unless there is something we don't know.

Happy Winter Solstice everyone.

“May the sun shine brightly on this, your new beginning, may it be filled with balance, harmony, grace and joy.”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What's love got to do with it?

There is so much wrong with this article.

And I’m not talking about what actually happened, horrific enough as that is.
· Women as possessions
· Violence and power wielded over someone far smaller.
· Her terror and fear
· The knife at her throat having been hung upside down.

No, I’m talking about the reportage of this event.

Catch the first wrong:

The caption under the first photo:

“Lovers’ Spat?”

Yeah, this usually happens when you have a quarrel with your partner/husband/loved one.

He hangs you upside from a balcony on the third floor. All the time. What a joker he is.

Then the next wrong and I quote:

“more tantalisingly, what they could have been arguing about that drove him to such extremes.”

Well damnit, it was all her fault. She drove him to it. She should be careful what she says. She pushes him just too far.

Note: not one word about battering or abuse.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Trouble Comes in Threes

Car trouble does for sure. Oh, and did I mention I name my cars? Silly, right? This one is Strawbella. I don’t know how I came up with the name. OK, I do. Italian Strawberry. She’s a lovely colour.

It’s been a busy 10 days with Strawbella. I feel there’s a spell on me or her. I need a reverse incantation.

So far in this life, I’ve racked up well over a million km in driving I would think, if not more. I’ve encountered minor trouble. I never had a serious accident or any accident. Near misses but I can’t even think of a fender bender actually.

People tell me I’m a good driver, they often fall asleep in the passenger seat as I tool along which is the ultimate test, right. I avoid brake usage unless it’s an emergency. I go with the flow, I’m relaxed even though I’m a defensive driver, I classify everyone else on the road as an eejit or a Fwad, which is a private family term for driver-dolts and is quite obscene when not abbreviated. Being defensive is a good way to drive. Always watching out for some careening catastrophe or a wavering wobbler who is either drunk or high.

All the moose that plague the highways here are long gone to beddy-bye for the season, I’ve been told. So I’m more relaxed than usual as I drive at dusk last Sunday. I don’t have to watch for them anymore. I’m heading for a small dinner party at a friend’s. I’ve got a mixed album on. Celtic Women. Lovely voices, I join them as I tool along.

Out of nowhere it gallops out on the road. An effing moose. No car coming, no car behind, veer sharp to the left. Very sharp. Moose veers to the right. Moose falls. Hard. Not fast enough to escape me and my car. And it is sickening this awful sound as I drive over her four legs. Heart pounding, I pull over to the side of the road. What if she’s in pain, bleeding? Broken legs? Briefly I lay my head on the wheel, I can’t look. There’s no sound behind me. No other cars. I raise my head, look in the rear view mirror and there she is, clambering mightily to her feet, shaking her head (at me?) and retreating from whence she came. Standing quietly. Waiting for the next car? This is a game?

I get out of Strawbella, walk around her. Not a mark on her. No dent, no blood, no fur. I get back in. Swear to heaven, the dog lifts one eyebrow at me. “And for your next trick, human?”

Well, she only had to wait three days. We leave St. John’s at 9.00 p.m. last night for the normal 55 minute drive and get caught in a blizzard. A bad one, snow, freezing rain and no snowplows out. And loads of Fwads on the road. All in tractor-trailers. Markings on highways are buried and there are steep inclines on both sides. Fwads drive by, flashing highbeams, honking and throwing immovable ice on to the windshield which necessitates pulling over onto air and manually removing it. The drive home took 2 ½ hours of white-knuckling, frequent stops and appalling language, even for me. I would have waved fists at the Fwads, but my fingers were stuck to the wheel in a kind of rigor mortis.

The dog staggered out of Strawbella at the end of it all with a look at me that would fry bacon.

Yeah, OK, I admit it, I tell her. I plan and plot these manoeuvres to really, really get up your nose.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cartoon of the Day

This posting is especially for Sparrowchat from the Newfoundland Telegram today.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers.

Life can throw some curves, can’t it?

I mean I had my first ever blowout there in the car with the winter tires (good woman that I am) on it. Not that they’re needed here in Newfoundland at the mo. We’ve just been having damp drizzle, occasional rain, a bit of wind, sometimes a bit of a gale, not enough to keep you in winter gear or anything, for the last month or so. After a three month fall which was lovely. Not a lick of snow yet. My herbs still fresh as daisies in the garden. Walks in a sweater or slicker every day. Long walks. Ne’er a boot has touched my feet yet.

But to get back to what I was saying. I’ve had slow leaks, mysterious flattenings of tires. But never a blowout.

You think you’ve been shot. That’s the first reaction. Bang, like a gunshot and the car slews sideways and makes a grinding noise all over. And you grip the wheel tightly, thinking steer into the skid, no: that’s for snow, stupid, hang on for dear life, any other vehicle around me? Oh, put on the hazards, Sweet Jaybuzz, I’m in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere. Turn off the Rolling Stones playing at full blast, idiot. Look at the dog looking accusingly at me. What has this dumb human done now? OK pull over. Slow like, real slow. Breathe. Now check for the bullet hole.

Oh dear Maude, would you look at the back left tire. What’s left of it. The rest is lining the highway for ¼ of a mile back there as far as the eye can see. And it’s smoking, looks like there was a bit of a fire on the rubber. Cripes, you’re some lucky woman. You coulda pitched off the mountain back there. Can you see that headline, ha? Would you be considered headline worthy? Nah. They’d do that awful thing they do, right? Women classified only by their biological function as in: “Grandmother dies a fiery death as her car careens off the TransCanada Highway after blowout.”

Lordy but it’s teeming rain, pelting off the car. And it’s darkening too, it’s 4 o’clock.

Ah, thank heavens for these wonderful Newfoundlandlers, always helpful, one will stop soon. I shoulda learned how to change a tire back in the day. Never needed to. How girly can one get? Now I'm payin' for it, I’m this idiot helpless woman at the side of highway. Call CAA. Oh boy. They can’t effing locate me. I’m miles from bloody everywhere. I can’t effing locate myself. I’m heading towards Goobies. Goobies. A one stop gas station, diner. No service bays. They can send someone from Clarenville. Two hours it’ll take. Two effing hours!!!

It’s 4.30 by now. No one has stopped. Is everybody going past me from out of province today? I have the hazards on, I have a pitiful expression on my face. Tears lurk. I’m frightened too of all the traffic rushing by. They could hit me. “Grandmother crushed by tractor trailer near Goobies on the TCH.”

5 o’clock. It's dark now. Someone in a black van is doing a dangerous u-turn right there, oh, gawd he could hit me. He’s going to hold me up. Take my wallet. Wake up dog! Look threatening for eff’s sake, bear your teeth or something. No, don’t grin, don’t wag your tail at the lovely man.

“That’s some awful blow-out!” He’s barely thirty, maybe younger, “Me and the wife just said we have to help that poor woman, so we turned the van around”.

He has no umbrella, he has no rain gear. He changes my tire in the pouring rain. He is drenched to the skin. He uses his own jack as it appears I don’t have one. I’m ready to go on my way in 5 minutes.

I insist, against his embarrassed refusals, on giving him money to buy himself and his lovely wife a warm dinner. My gratitude has me crying. To give of oneself so freely and in absolute and utter discomfort for another’s ease and comfort has me overwhelmed with emotion.

Would I? That’s the question that dangles there in front of my eyes as I head off on the spare tire. As I contemplate what a thin sliver hangs between ourselves and death on most days.

And a few days later – well, sin sceal eile as we say in Ireland – that’s another story.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Picture of Bernard Madoff, courtesy of AP

All the old clich├ęs come to life, don’t they?

Like this one should be plastered on billboards everywhere: it’s impossible to get something for nothing.

It seems like Bernard Madoff, has perpetrated the biggest fraud of them all. To the tune of 50 billion dollars. All those dollars, $500,000,000: vanished into thin air. He used the old, old trick of using new investment funds to pay so called high ‘returns’ to the older investors. A swindle called a “Ponzi”.

How can someone, anyone, justify such enormous returns on their investments without asking questions like how and why and wherefore?

And no, I’m not gloating over the newly impoverished socialites and wealthy who trustingly invested in such a Ponzi scheme. If I had the money, it could’ve been me.

Maude knows, I’ve been approached a countless number of times by MLMs – of which Amway is one of the leaders - and pyramid schemes (invest $100 and $1,000 will be yours in 30 days!) but my logical brain always tells me someone is paying down the long line of suckers investing in such a scheme and not getting anything in return. Like those chain letters of old, which promised 100 tea towels or 100 pairs of underwear or whatever. Someone always pays and pays dearly for such short-sighted investment strategies. Someone who can least afford it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cartoon of the WeekWeak

I'm sure there will be a very special place for "My Pet Goat".

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Clobber*

* "clobber" is a word we use in Ireland for clothing. As in: "I'm wearing my best clobber to the wedding."

Irene had a great post about her personal style today which got me to thinking of mine.

And I do have one, and have had one for a long, long time. I had a few sidetracking experimentations over the years but always came back to what works best for me.

Long hair.

Long skirts, though I was a great one for the minis in my time.

Long cotton/linen/cashmere sweaters.

Long colourful scarves.


Long colourful coats.


Bright T-shirts.


Men’s cotton shirts.

Interesting cardigans in wild colours.

Long black stockings.

Black patents shoes



A yellow slicker for the rain
Bright yellow rain pants

No nail polish, ever.
No fur, ever.
No leather, ever.

I have a passion for purses, knapsacks, rucksacks, bags and all kinds of “sacs du jour” as the family have it. I’ve never found the perfect one but have come close on occasion. My current bright red one which I’ve had for nearly a year: a personal record, holds the current book, the digital camera, my knitting, my journal, my palm pilot, my cell phone, several pairs of glasses, my very large wallet, pens, lip gloss, nail clippers, chewing gum.

I’d like to find a teensy tiny laptop for it, to interface with my large one and which would bring itself to life in a wifi area. No: a Blackberry or I-phone is too small. I’m not I-Podded yet but expect to be, maybe interfacing with the teeny tiny laptop.

What’s your clobber?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Missing: One Child

December 9th is her birthday. I’ve written of her before and here. She is somewhere in Bristol now, we think, but her plants are still in the window of a flat she had in Ireland. An aunt checks on them, does a drive by and gives us an update on the plants. Silly, you would think. But it’s all we have of her, her father, her sister and me.

Her father and I email each other today. My last email to her bounced. He has snail-mailed a card and gift to her address in Ireland. Our baby’s birthday, we say. And there is nothing more to say, she has dropped out of our lives.

She came quickly on that long ago day. She’d been so quiet inside me I’d worried about her. Distrusted the obstetrician and his soothing assurances. This was pre-ultrasound days. Her father and I’d been Santa shopping for our toddler when I felt the first signs of her wanting to leave me. Early by ten days.

I watched her being born, quite painlessly, in a mirror above me. She was placed beside me almost immediately in a little incubator. A perfect little girl with a nasty eczema spreading over her little body. She couldn’t tolerate clothing for a week so she lay, like some Hollywood star on a sunbed, in her opened incubator in the nursery window soaking in the rays of the healing sun. Stark naked. She always hated that story. The vulnerability of it perhaps, she never explained why.

She has abandoned us all, some of us more hurtfully than others. Her father got his FOAD on Father’s Day one year. I got mine in Manchester in January 2003 when I flew over on an emergency trip while she was threatening to kill herself. Her sister got hers a couple of summers ago.

We are talking of flying to Bristol next year, making it a trip to visit Cornwall and Devon and the Lake District and as a sidebar searching for her. We don’t want to make the trip about her as we know we would be setting ourselves up to be disappointed.

But if I were floating freely, untethered from kith and kin, I think I’d like to be found.

Happy birthday, baby girl.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

See, Hear, Speak No Evil, etc.

I suppose it is appallingly predictable: the manner in which our elected officials are blind to the real issues of the world: the impending climate change catastrophe, peak oil coming and going without a whisper, and the crash and burn of the ephemeral paper trails which constituted the bulk of the stock exchange ‘wealth’. Not to mention looming water shortages, disease, starvation and the resulting global unrest.

Our Canadian federal government has taken a holiday from it all - Why worry? – with the Governor General’s blessing and won’t resume governing us all until late January. That’s next year, folks. They’re also, co-incidentally, avoiding a no-confidence vote in parliament. Why are citizens surprised? They’re avoiding every other issue, the jobless rate, the collapse of the auto industry and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Of which we don’t have much left due to that arctic melt thing.

Well, the collapse of the way we’ve run the world until now really. But no one is looking at that. Let’s keep the sheeple sedated with reruns of Big Brother or Canadian Idol or some such drek.

Meanwhile in other parts of the real world:

· The collapse of major retail chains is imminent after Christmas (warning: do not give or receive gift certificates, most will be worthless).

· Green crabs have taken over much of the water surrounding this area of Newfoundland. Killing everything in sight and devastating the fishery.

· No one wants to give up their plastic grocery bags (I did my own independent survey at several places where I shop, I am one of 100 that shop with cloth bags, that is 1% of all shoppers in a tiny island where disposal is a problem and the cliffs and forests are festooned with these plastic aberrations that should be banned everywhere on the planet). And yeah, they’re oil based which brings me to:

New, SEVERE CUTS is the word being bandied about when OPEC meets on December 15th. As in SHORTAGES. As in further changes to our WAY OF LIFE. Which is going to prove highly negotiable in spite of what Bush The Decider promised way back in the dim history of the foundation of the new and improved Homeland, reminiscent now of the German Fatherland. (And why is Motherland considered a sissified term? Oh, I get it. Mothers, at least the nurturing kind, don’t usually carry AK47s or patrol with Blackwaters).

Enjoy the gas holiday everyone, it is going to be brief and the stuff of nostalgia in less than 6 months.

Cranky? Yeah, I am. How didja guess?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Satire Blares the Truth (again!)

Boy, I just love "The Onion".

This week's edition has a page devoted to George the Decider outlining his farewell thoughts on his successful presidency. I excerpt this:

It's just gonna be so hard packing up my things and heading off into the sunset come January. I wish I could go on forever giving massive and disastrous tax cuts to the wealthy, taking the country from a surplus to a deficit—nearly $500 billion this year, likely to pass $1 trillion next year, fingers crossed—and just generally doing irreparable damage to the very underpinnings of our economy, but, well, I'm afraid the Constitution says I can't. And not even I can overrule the Constitution. Though Lord knows I tried! Initiating blanket wiretaps without warrants, suspending habeas corpus for prisoners in Guantanamo, infiltrating an unknown number of nonviolent civilian antiwar groups without permission… such wonderful memories. I'm going to cherish them forever.

For more see here.

Only in Canada You Say?

(Picture of Prime Minister Harper and Governor General Michaelle Jean taken today courtesy of Canadian Press)

Yep, we’re not leaving all the political shenigans to our neighbour in the south of us anymore.

We’ve had our own parliamentary crisis up here in the Great White North.

Briefly, our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper (Bush-lite with an IQ), head of a minority Conservative government in spite of the recent election in which he had hoped to gain a majority, lost the confidence of the House when it came to dealing with the current economic crisis and was challenged by the three opposition parties who added up their seats and in a breathtaking attempt at a Canadian coup announced they wanted to form a new government.

The total number of seats in the House of Commons is 308 of which the Conservatives have 143. 2 are held by independents.

Now these three opposition parties would make extremely uneasy bedfellows as follows:

Liberals, the party of Pierre Trudeau, are slightly to the left of the Conservatives and have 76 seats. This is headed by the well-meaning but hopeless should-be-permanently-a-back-bencher Stephane Dion. He is, well, milque-toastish in the extreme and speaks an unfortunate form of English. One wag had it he was the kid that was constantly bullied in school.

The New Democratic Party, with 37 seats, headed by Jack Leyton, is very much left of the Liberals and off the horizon compared to the Conservatives. Jack is highly personable, matinee idol good-looking and pro every right you can think of. His wife, Olivia Chow, has also a seat in parliament. Power couple. Clintonesque.

Then we come to the Bloc Quebecois, with 50 seats, the wild card in the bunch, pushing for autonomy for Quebec, feeling very hard done by surrounded by the cesspool of us Anglos who keep shoving English culture down their throats.

A total of 163 seats between them, enough to form a solid opposition to the Conservatives.

Since the Governor General, Michaelle Jean, has to appoint the new government under advisement from the Prime Minister, there is a certain perceived lack of her detachment from the process.

You see where all this is going.

Mr. Harper went to see her cap in hand today and gave her unbiased (ahem!) advice alright. She has prorogued (suspended) Parliament until January 26th. An unprecedented step and one obviously in Mr. Harper’s best interests. If Parliament were to remain open, he and his party would have been at the receiving end of a no-confidence vote and he would be out on his arse as PM.

He is spinning it by telling us all this suspension is only because he needs to put a budget in place. No one in the country believes him.

However a reliable poll is showing 68% of us Canadians are very concerned as to the future of our country.

Everyone one meets or talks to on the street is engaged politically like I’ve never seen them since the October crisis so long, long ago.

Not so dull here in the hinterlands anymore, our radio and TV stations are full of the excitement of it all.

Naomi Klein has a marvellous article on the whole situation here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I’m a Blog Blob

I’m a Blog Blob

It’s addictive, isn’t it?

Both the reading of yours and the writing of mine.

Something like pimping and procuring. Of the best kind. The discovery of like-minded souls, who may be geographically distant but are nevertheless kindred spirits.

No editor to scream at me to tighten things up, to chop things down, to backstory this and highlight that.

It gets to the point that other writing, the more serious and intense kind, has no appeal for me, it takes a back seat to this.

And I really should prioritize it: the articles, the short story collection, the novels.

Right after I take a quick trip over to your blog.

I think I need serious intervention. Blobby Rehab? Bloggers Anonymous?

Oh - and feel free to take one of these stickers for your blog.

Monday, December 01, 2008


There’s something so infinitely sad and sickening about all of this.

The frantic rush to acquire useless Chinese tchotkes at a reduced price.

The doors of the store opening at 5.00 a.m. 5.00 a.m!!

200 people fighting to get at the meagre goodies manufactured by exploited and unregulated Chinese workers half a world away.

One poor store employee standing in the way, trying to control the onslaught of the crazed shopping mob.

He was then trampled to death by these very same shoppers while doing his best to do his job of crowd control.

A pregnant woman and another worker were also trampled and were subsequently hospitalized and released.

And this quote sums it up rather succintly:

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, 'I've been in line since Friday morning!'" Cribbs said. "They kept shopping."

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Invisible Cosmic Housekeeper

People ask me about God.

What do you believe?

Do you have a deity?

Are you a lapsed Catholic?


1. expired; voided; terminated: a lapsed insurance policy.
2. no longer committed to or following the tenets of a particular belief, obligation, position, etc.: a lapsed Catholic.

Well, yeah, I guess you could call me that.

Personally, I’d prefer the word “recovered” though, if you don’t mind.

re·cov·er v. tr.

1. To get back; regain.
2. To restore (oneself) to a normal state: He recovered himself after a slip on the ice.
3. To compensate for: She recovered her losses.
4. To procure (usable substances, such as metal) from unusable substances, such as ore or waste.
5. To bring under observation again: "watching the comet since it was first recovered—first spotted since its 1910 visit" (Christian Science Monitor).
v. intr.

1. To regain a normal or usual condition, as of health.
2. To receive a favorable judgment in a lawsuit.

As in: I’m now restored to a normal state.

I’m in fit mental condition.

I believe in logic.

I believe in science.

What’s that you say?
No, I don’t believe in religion.
Yes. Of any kind.
Yeah, it does seem that that’s hard for you to believe.
What’s that about the bible?
It was written for people like me?
By whom?
No, I don’t think God wrote it.
Oh, he dictated it?
How do you know that?
Oh, the bible says so?
Well, that doesn’t compute for me, that logic thing I have. Sorry.

Thanks for asking. But if I did believe in God the whole scene would go like this:

My god has no religion.
My god has no gender.
My god has no agenda.

Basically I don’t believe in an Invisible Cosmic Housekeeper or ICH for short. Especially one who is always whining for more money and the biggest fanciest house in the poorest neighbourhood.

Blasphemy you say?

Well, I’m quite cool with that.

No, really I am.

And another thing I really believe in, you want to hear it?

My rights end exactly where yours begin.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Wedding Vignette

It is today. November 26th, 1966.

Everything is ready. The bridesmaids, and my mother have all gone ahead to the church with my four brothers. My four brothers who are altar boys at the service.

That leaves me, my father and my little sister who’s nine, in the house by ourselves.

“Aren’t you ready yet?” I call up the stairs to my sister.

Silence. I can hear the clock ticking on the mantelpiece of the front room. The hall is cold, my hands are cold. My father lights up a cigar and paces, trailing blue smoke behind him, fogging up the glass on the front door.

“Deirdre!” He bellows up the stairs between puffs, “Get down here at once! Don’t keep your sister waiting!”

There’s a sob from the top of the stairs. My sister’s blond curls tumble over the banisters framing her tear streaked face.

“I grew!” She cries, panicked, snot running from her nose.

I have been stuck in place by the front door by my vanished bridesmaids. My train has been carefully placed over my arms, my hair upswept into my veil and flowers, my bouquet arranged in my slowly freezing fingers. My sister has insisted on getting herself ready, borrowing pale pink lipstick from me, mascara from my cousin.

“Come down!” I say, forcing a calmness into my voice that belies the beating of my heart.

She sniffles her way down the stairs. Forget about it being my big day. This is the day my sister has dreamed about for the last six months. She has clutched a piece of her flower girl fabric to her chest before falling asleep every night. She wouldn’t let anyone cut her hair even though it was a mass of curls and took a half an hour every day just to brush it out. She wanted ribbons running through it and on down her back.

I throw my train at my father even as the limousine driver is knocking at the door. And suddenly it hits me.

The final fitting of my sister’s dress had been two months ago. She is a growing child.

Oh Sweet J----

Cheerfully, I take the dress from her trailing fingers. The dress that had hung so perfectly starched and covered in plastic outside her closet door for months now.

“Do not touch it until the day!” We had reinforced this to her over and over as she brought all her envious friends in to gape at the dress, “No one is to touch your dress!”

And this one time when she should have broken the rules, she didn’t.

And because she didn’t, here we are. On a cold November morning. On my wedding day. With her too-small dress in my hands.

I smile at her. I give her that confident, I can take care of everything Big Sister smile that she has known since her birth and her mother was so sick for a long time.

The gorgeous puffy sleeves will not go over her newly developed upper arms.
I stifle my inner scream.

Dad opens the door to the now franticly fist-thumping driver and tells him to wait in the car. There is a slight emergency.

“Get me a scissors and needle and thread, Dad,” I say still smiling, explaining to this completely undomesticated creature where these mysterious items are all kept, “You can dump my train on the floor, Deirdre will take care of it when we fix her up.”

“Nobody will notice the inch you grew with the hem,” I say to her tear streaked face, “And right now I’m going to take care of the sleeves!”

Taking a deep breath and a muttered Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I cut open the underseams on the arms and manoever her slowly into the dress and tack a few lines of cotton threads underneath to hold the sides together.

I fetch her posy of flowers from the kitchen sink and place it in her hands.

“The only trick to today,” I say to her, “Is to remember not to raise your arms, ever. Can you remember that?”

She nods as I wipe off her face with Dad's hanky, beginning to smile.

“Like in my Irish dancing class?” she says, delighted with herself, “I can dance my feet but not my arms?”

“We have two very smart women in this family!” I reply, “Very, very smart. And beautiful too!”

And we both giggle, and can't stop, as she catches up my train, so very carefully.

And my father, a most punctual man, resplendent in his morning suit, and now almost apopletic at this explosion of his timetable, impatiently hustles us out the door, down the front steps, and through a bystanding parade of neighbours who spontaneously applaud and stomp a little as we fold our giggling selves in our gorgeous dresses into the waiting car.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Weekend Away

St. John's at dusk. December 2004.

I was away on a retreat this weekend, off line, no computers, no books, no radio, no TV, newspapers or news.

Just me and a medley of about thirty others sharing a very large cabin by a lake, surrounded by trees and paths and silence.

But this wasn’t a silent retreat. And certainly not a religious retreat. But it was filled with spirit, laughter, music, skits and story-telling.

The dinner on Saturday night was catered. And it was turkey with all the trimmings. Many tables were shoved together to make one huge table and the thirty of us were able to sit down around it and be in the candlelight and warmth of friendship and easy conversation for several hours.

Then the guitars and piano and bodhran were brought out and the fun began.
The talent was awesome and one woman with an amazing voice and a guitar that seemed to have a life of its own channelled Janis Joplin like I’ve never heard her in “Me and Bobby McGee”.

Another fellow sang some of his own compositions and then riveted us all with an incredible version of Salt Water Joys that had me crying.


Just to wake up in the morning, to the quiet of the cove
And to hear Aunt Bessie talking to herself.
And to hear poor Uncle John, mumbling wishes to old Nell
It made me feel that everything was fine.

I was born down by the water, it's here I'm gonna stay
I've searched for all the reasons why I should go away
But I haven't got the thirst for all those modern day toys
So I'll just take my chances with those saltwater joys.

Following the little brook as it trickles to the shore
In the autumn when the trees are flaming red
Kicking leaves that fall around me
Watching sunsets paint the hills
That's all I'll ever need to feel at home.

This island that we cling to has been handed down with pride
By folks that fought to live here, taking hardships all in stride
So I'll compliment her beauty, hold on to my goodbyes
And I'll stay and take my chances with those saltwater joys.

How can I leave those mornings with the sunrise on the cove
And the gulls like flies surrounding Clayton's wharf
Platter's Island wrapped in rainbow in the evening after fog
The ocean smells are perfume to my soul.

Some go to where the buildings reach to meet the clouds
Where warm and gentle people turn to swarmin', faceless crowds
So I'll do without their riches, glamour and the noise
And I'll stay and take my chances with those saltwater joys.

Some go to where the buildings reach to meet the clouds
Where warm and gentle people turn to swarmin', faceless crowds
So I'll do without their riches, glamour and the noise
And I'll stay and take my chances with those saltwater joys.

I entertained the bunch with my story of the descending skirt, my recounting embroidered and embellished to squeeze more laughter from the event.

There were other amazing little vignettes and stories, songs and instrumentals to keep the mood flowing and the laughter lingering.

We talked of everything and nothing, the simple and the complex. But mainly of the small, the gratitude of being alive, the gift of awareness, the sheer pleasure of being in the now on our short and uncertain journeys on this tiny little planet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Smarter than yer average turnip?

Do you bang your head off desks, steering wheels, walls, like I do when you hear all the carryon about these corporate bailouts, should we, shouldn’t we. As if there is any other answer apart from no, no and no?

Are we all now smarter than the turnips that govern us?

Like we know, unlike the government, that the North American auto industry in U.S. & Canada is dead on its feet, has been for years: Hello Japanese Toyota Hybrid, Welcome German Smart Car!

They were all fast asleep at the switch churning out Hummers, SUVs, Wagons, Caravans, et al for the so–called soccer moms (I don’t personally know any, no one I know knows any) and their grunting big-country ranger-spouses. So what’s with all the wittering on about throwing something like 25 billion dollars at The Big Auto Three?

They are lining up as I write, cap in hand, waiting for a bailout. For what? For being so stupidly thicker than the afore-mentioned turnips for the last twenty years? For not even investing a dime in alternative energy or a cleaner planet? For killing the electric car? For heart-stopping dividends and bonuses to executives?

Now this is on top of all the other bailouts, summarized for us nicely below:

That’s totalling $4.28 trillion dollars, for starters. OK, here it is written out so we can catch all those zeros:


that's more than what was spent on WW II, if adjusted for inflation.

Like I said before, this will go down as the greatest robbery of wealth from the public sector by a very privileged few in the history of the planet.


Mission Accomplished for the Shrub and his cronies.

On second thought, maybe we are not smarter than the turnips after all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Random List of Thirty Things About Me.

Inspired by Conor, I'm not going to make a list of 200 things, but 30. Maybe readers might be inspired to make their own lists?

1. My favourite film of all time is “The Dead”

2. A book I couldn’t put down was “And Ladies of the Club”.

3. I’ll throw up at the sight/smell/taste of beetroot.

4. I was a vegetarian on and off for years at a time, starting when I was fourteen.

5. I’ve ‘enough hair for two heads’.

6. I’m vain about my hair

7. I’ve experienced tantric sex.

8. I had a gay boyfriend who in later life was a gay activist.

9. I used to star in Gilbert & Sullivan productions.

10. I can sing the lyrics from these operettas at the drop of a hat.

11. I was a folk singer in the late sixties.

12. I love Jane Austen

13. I’m mad for strong, dark-roasted coffee.

14. And espressos and cappuccinos.

15. I don’t have a television

16. I love reading

17. I love knitting

18. I love having friends in for meals

19. I love ‘The Chat’.

20. I love walking and hiking

21. I used to run marathons

22. I’ve struggled with body image/weight/food issues most of my life.

23. I’m not a team player

24. I hate team work

25. I’ve been sober since 6/29/86

26. I cry easily but nearly always alone.

27. I’ve never quite grown up.

28. I miss my mother every day and she’s been dead for 37 years.

29. I’m very easily hurt.

30. I’ve never been bored in my whole life.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

OSS Sings Again!

Some time ago I was asked to sing in a variety show, please, pretty please. The concert was this afternoon. Now I haven't sung publicly in more time than I'd care to admit. And also being on the other side of that sixty line of demarcation my voice has changed. Taken on a tenor-ish hue as it were. Not conducive at all to the songs I used to sing at the drop of a hat or a penny back in the day.

I was a little thrown, going over the old repertoire. I knew the crowd would want Irish, old Irish, with maybe a little sean-nos thrown in to add a real traditional flavour.

And it occurred to me as I ruefully reviewed the songs that no longer suited the timbre of my voice, that perhaps I should embrace this new tenorish thing and sing a song of my father's, having learned it from his father. According to folk lore, the great tenor, John McCormack, had sung this on his farewell tour as his last song of the evening.

Now I never heard it sung by a woman, so trailblazer that I am, I fearlessly tackled it as I felt that Newfoundlanders, like the Irish, lost so many of their people to emigration.
The Old House
Lonely I wander, through scenes of my childhood,
They bring back to memory those happy days of yore,
Gone are the old folk, the house stands deserted,
No light in the window, no welcome at the door.
Here’s where the children played games on the heather,
Here’s where they sailed wee boats on the burn,
Where are they now? Some are dead, some have wandered,
No more to their home shall those children return.
Lone stands the house now, and lonely the mooreland,
The children have scattered, the old folk are gone.
Why stand I here, like a ghost and a shadow.
‘Tis time I was moving, ‘tis time I passed on.

The reaction of the older segments of the audience was gratifying. They absolutely loved it, it touched a chord with them and I think it will become part of the OSS's new repertoire.

The second song was an old Cork ditty I would sing, way back in the mist of folkie-guitarie time. I put a little sean-nos spin on that and was pleased that neither my nerves nor my memory let me down.
I Know my Love

I know my love by his way of walking
And I know my love by his way of talking
And I know my love dressed in a suit of blue
And if my love leaves me, what will I do?

And still she cried, I love him the best,
And a troubled mind, sure can know no rest
And still she cried, bonny boys are few,
And if my love leaves me, what will I do?

There is a dance house down the Mardyke
And there my true love goes every night
He takes a strange girl upon his knee
Well now don't you think that that vexes me?


If my love knew I can wash and wring
If my love knew I can sew and spin
I'd make a coat of the finest kind
But the want of money sure leaves me behind


I know my love is an arrant rover
I know hell wander the wild world over
In dear old ireland hell no longer tarry
And a foreign girl he's sure to marry


What will I do?

And of course, I would YouTube and audio link all of this if I wasn't in Dialup Dementia.

Friday, November 14, 2008


This is a follow-up to my previous post.

It is the anniversary of just about three weeks of Rosie painting two rooms. She is going to ‘finish it off’ today: correct all the wavering lines, fill in the missed spots, overpaint the occasional splashes of unwanted colour.

“This is just too complicated”, she barges into my office after a couple of hours, paintbrush dripping, her lips quivering.

“Yes, I think it is,” I agree, “Why don’t you stop?”

I survey the scene of streaky hell, red splashes on the white ceiling, inadequate butterscotch colour on the upper walls, hit or miss signal red on the lower walls, outreaching randomly, longingly, at the yellow in occasional areas. Haphazard spots of all colours on the polished wooden floor, door jambs a wild palette of all the colours. One door completely missed, displaying layers of past paint jobs, a whole history of the house encapsulated on its shabby panels.

I want to cry. I want to throw things. I want my mother. I want some grown-up to come and take care of both of us for I can tell she’s close to tears too.

It’s a small village. Her older sister chooses this very moment to barge right in on top of us, her toothless smile beaming ahead of her.

“I’m here to see the decorating!” she announces brightly.

“I’m not ready!” I say, “Now is not a good time!”

“Oh, don’t be silly!” she says, “Anytime is a good time!”

And you can guess what happens next. My full wrath gets turned on the visitor.

“It’s my house,” I say with a really nasty edge to my voice, “ And I’m saying to you, right now, that this is not a good time. Please leave!”

“Oh, be like that,” she says, “Someone definitely got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning!”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gazing in the Crystal Ball

Is it too much to hope for? Really? I read this New York Times newspaper (note the date of July 2009) today. And even though it is a terrific spoof I had a dream. I was wistful, I was wishful.

War (well, not war but unwarranted and illegal invasion to me and many others) Ends.Tick

Bush indicted. Tick.

Maximum wage law enacted Tick

National Health Insurance Act passed. Tick

A wonderful read. Enjoy it.

This brilliant parody is the work of The Yes Men a group who practise "identity correction" and have represented themselves as being spokespeople for the government, Dow Corporation, WTO, Exxon and many others. They bring attention to the criminal activities these perpetuate by attending their events legitimately and then satirically attacking them (a la Colbert attacking Bush at the Press Corps Dinner).

Many thousands of copies of this newspaper were delivered to New Yorkers yesterday.

Satire. Ain't it grand? Ain't it oh, so truthful?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stephen Lewis

Stephen Lewis has long been a hero of mine. An unapologetic and outspoken Canadian feminist, humanitarian, former political leader, lecturer, activist, UN ambassador, AIDS worker, author.

He weeps as he speaks of the violence against women perpetuated everywhere, not just in Africa where he spends most of his time attempting to bring attention and aid to the female victims of sexual violence, rape, genital mutilation and genital destruction. Yes, you read correctly, genital destruction.

Here is an excerpt from a recent talk he gave and he has given full permission for publication so that these almost unbearable crimes against women can be brought to the widest possible audience so that corrective action/protest measures can be taken.

I live in a feminist family, I love it. I believe to the end of my days that the feminist analysis of the exercise of male power is probably the most insightful analysis to explain much of what is wrong with much of this difficult world. And I must say that the more I’ve had the privilege of working in the international community, the more I have come to the conclusion that the struggle for gender equality is the single most important struggle on the planet. You cannot continue to marginalize 52% of the world’s population and ever expect to achieve a degree of social justice and equity: it’s just not possible.

And when you look at the damage that is done to the women, particularly of the developing world, through so many perverse realities whether it’s international sexual trafficking or female genital mutilation or child brides or honor killings or an absence of inheritance rights or an absence of property rights or an absence or laws against rape and sexual violence or an absence of microcredit to give women some sense of economic autonomy or a lack of political representation – whatever the panoply of injustice, discrimination and stigma visited on women it seems to have no end, and it so profoundly compromises their existence.

And what has happened through the developing world latterly in many parts and which is so unsettling, unnerving, so profoundly compromising are the patterns of physical and sexual violence. The World Health Organization just did a quite astonishing study. It interviewed twenty-five thousand women in fourteen countries about physical and sexual violence. It found that the lowest levels of violence were in Japan at 14%, and the highest levels were in rural Ethiopia at 71%. And when they looked at the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada they found interim levels of 30-35%. So they saw that this was a pattern so deeply entrenched, whether it’s marital rape or sexual violence from intimate partners or domestic abuse, these patterns are overwhelmingly entrenched.

And then when you get destabilization in countries they are further accelerated. A country like South Africa is a good example, where you have 5,700,000 people living with HIV and AIDS in a population of somewhat over 40 million. Incredibly enough, South Africa is a country where eight hundred to a thousand people die every day of AIDS-related illnesses. And in the most recent year for which statistics are available, which is 2006, there were 52,000 reported rapes. And everyone knows that reflects only 5-10% of the actual number because women are so reluctant, for a whole range of reasons, to actually, formally, to report the rape and begin to engage in a police and judicial process.

And it gets worse still when there is conflict. When there is conflict it goes right out of control. I don’t understand what these berserk lunatic predatory male sexual behavior – how it happens under conflict – but it happens and it never seems to end. And it’s not merely on the continent of Africa which I admit is a continent I love, but throw your minds back to the rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The President of Indonesia just apologized to East Timor for the sexual violence that was unleashed by his forces when they tried to prevent the independence of East Timor. In the Balkans, I remind you a white, Western country, or countries, in the Balkans you have several military commanders who have come before the International Criminal Court charged with crimes against humanity rooted in sexual violence. The same is true for Colombia. There seems to be no part of the world which is exempt.

But in parts of Africa it really is astounding what is taking place. In the post-election violence in Kenya, suddenly more and more women were turning up at the hospitals, raped and subject to the most grotesque sexual violence. In Zimbabwe, an organization which I am involved with and to which I will refer at the end, AIDS-Free World, that Lisa mentioned in the introduction, I can’t go into details, which you will understand, but we have been over the last few weeks in an unnamed country in Africa, interviewing and taking affidavits under formal legal terms from the women who have been raped by Mugabe’s Youth Corps as Zimbabwe has ground down over the last several months. And Terror Camps were created --that’s what they’re called – to subject women associated in any way with the political opposition to insensate sexual violence.

And I was recently in Liberia, meeting with the President of Liberia and the Minister of Gender and the Unicef representative and they were telling me that the majority of rapes now in Liberia – after the civil war is over but the raping continues – the majority of rapes are committed against young girls between the ages of ten and fourteen. And everybody knows what’s happening in Darfur, that need not be explicated at length. For five years now the entire world has agreed that there is a genocide taking place and for whatever unconscionable reason we’ve never been able to bring it to an end. I mean, forgive me but this is not the Taliban in Darfur. These are Janjaweed militia commanders on horseback! And it is entirely possible to have subdued that and brought it to an end if the world cared a tinker’s dam for what was happening in that country.

And in the case of the Congo, you have a war on women. You know, if I may make a somewhat more intellectual observation, rape is no longer a weapon of war. Rape has become a strategy of war. You rape women in such numbers, so savagely that you humiliate entire communities through the women. The women hold the communities together. On the continent of Africa, nothing happens without the engagement of the women, particularly at the grassroots, particularly on the ground. And what happens is that the entire community is subdued, oppressed, overcome by these roving bands of marauding militias, who rape the women, move the community off the extractive resources, which is what they want, or turn the women into sex slaves and the men into the laborers who do extract the resources. And it’s hideous, the consequences, and it’s been going on since 1996. More than a quarter of a million women have been raped. And what is so unfathomable about it is everyone in a position of power knows, and it continues. I’ll never never comprehend.

In August of last year, Eve Ensler, the magnificent dramatist and writer of the Vagina Monologues went off to the Congo to see for herself what was happening and she spent a month or more and she came back and wrote an immensely powerful essay, the first words of which were, “I have just returned from Hell.” And I do not have the emotional equanimity to read to you the case histories that Eve set out. But after she came back suddenly the Undersecretary General of the United Nations, John Holmes, goes off to the Congo, comes back, writes an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times and calls it the worst place in the world for women. The Undersecretary General of the United Nations, who appears before the Security Counsel on a regular basis, and then suddenly there’s a front-page piece in the New York Times, and a front-page piece in the Washington Post, and a front-page piece in the Los Angeles Times, and Anderson Cooper of CNN does a twenty-minute segment on 60 Minutes, and everybody is caught up in the anxiety and urgency of what is being done to the women – it’s impossible to say in a way that can be absorbed what is happening to the women.

In the city of Bukavu in the Eastern region of the Congo there’s a little hospital called the Panzi Hospital where a lovely group of surgeons attempt desperately to repair the reproductive tracts of the women. This is rape that isn’t merely the gang-raping of eighty-year-olds and eight year olds, although that takes place. It’s rape with mutilation and amputation and guns and knives. Guns shot into the vaginas of women. I’m speaking to a sophisticated audience that cares about human issues – there is a medical term in the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu which I never in my adult life expected to encounter: it’s called “vaginal destruction.” And Eve Ensler has appeared before the Security Counsel, and we had an ostensible peace agreement, part of which peace agreement provided an amnesty for the militias that were doing the raping. And the war never ended. And the raping continues. And the war is now resuscitated. And so bad have things become that Condoleeza Rice, on June 19th, at the Security Council, introduced a resolution branding sexual violence as a matter of international peace and security. That had never happened before. And we have seventeen thousand United Nations peacekeepers in the Congo, the biggest peacekeeping mission in the world, and we cannot protect the women. And everyone knows its happening. And everybody knows that if we increase the numbers of peacekeepers, or the United Nations agencies did their job on the ground, or we confronted the government of the Congo in a way that no-one has had the courage to confront, we could perhaps abate the violence. But I have to tell you it’s so monstrous, and it’s so rooted in gender inequality, that it makes one feel not just tormented but dismal about the prospects for human behavior.

Read more here:

Write your government. I’m writing mine, and while I’m at it, a letter to the President Elect of the US. This needs top priority on his agenda.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— Lt.-Col. (and Doctor) John McCrae

Canadian Physician and war hero.
Written by him in a trench on the battlefield during a lull in the bombing, on a scrap of paper on another soldier's back, on May 3rd, 1915. He was dead a few months later.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Living in an outport at the edge of the earth has some downsides. I often write of the upsides, the people, the sense of community, the peace, the beauty, the sea, the trees, the beaches.

But there are downsides. Since I am living way out over there adrift in mid-Atlantic, it is extremely difficult to get good handiwork, impossible to get deliveries of merchandise and in spite of loud activism on my part, we still have the dial-up doldrums to contend with in an age of high tech entrepreneurial businesses desperately needing broadband.

The latest on my downside of life here is a painting project I’ve started in the interior of the house. My cleaner told me she was a great painter and thrilled, I chose the colours. It took me a while, would I be brave on the palette, wouldn’t I, waffle, waffle and finally the plunge, let’s go all Frida Kahlo here. I’ve been in her house in Mexico City and loved the colours. The old Newfoundland colours have been reborn here by a paint company. They are incredibly clear and crisp. Kahlo-ish. So that’s what I did. I chose some strong, sunny colours. The hardest part of the job over, I thought.


I was assured by my painter at the start that drop cloths, tools, moving of objects would all be taken care of. I wasn’t to worry about a thing. When people say that to me I always worry. Why do they say it? I think they’re assuring themselves. Based on past history, perhaps.

Last Tuesday was the start of the job. Just two rooms for now. The kitchen/dining room and the living room. There were nails to be pulled and holes to be patched and sanded. This created an incredible layer of white dust over everything including all the open shelves in the kitchen, all through my knitting baskets and sewing boxes. An auspicious beginning, sans dropcloths. But I remained positive as I retreated to my room.

My office, my den, my inner sanctum has remained untouched at my insistence and I stay there, listening to a loud wailing from way out back in her work area.

Her groans and moans could come from the very heart of Hades itself. Her chorus involves the walls - oh, so crooked, oh, not made of the right kind of wood, oh, not taking the colour well. Next verse tells me her neck is all out of whack from looking up at the ceiling. I try not to get nervous.

“Are you okay?” I shout above the din.

“Best kind, honey,” comes the response and silence reigns for five minutes until she starts up again with the caterwauling.

So finally, after about an hour, I go out and inspect the painting and notice there is only one working tool, one tiny paintbrush and not a whiff of masking tape anywhere in sight.

WTF, I think.

“Hey,” I say, friendly-like, “Don’t you have rollers and tape and bigger brushes?”

“Well no,” she says, suspicious-like, “I only always work with this here one brush.”

“Doesn’t it like, take forever?”

“I has to do a good job, right? This here brush does a good job.”

I survey the streaks all over the walls, the crooked line at the top of the wainscoting.

I adjust my face to reflect a modicum of disappointment rather than homicidal intent. I do not trust myself to speak.

“Oh,” she says brightly, “This is only the first coat.”

Friday, November 07, 2008

Women Rule!

With all the euphoria sweeping the world on the election of the first bi-racial president, here is something that might have slipped under your radar screen:

New Hampshire’s State Senate is now unlike any in the country and unlike any before it. After Tuesday’s election, women now make up the majority of the New Hampshire State Senate. In an election year that saw Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Nancy Pelosi grab headlines and airtime across the country, New Hampshire didn’t just vote blue, it voted for women.

In addition to voting in a new state senate with a female majority, New Hampshire voted for the only female candidate in the primary, Hillary Clinton, and voted for the first New Hampshire woman, Jeanne Shaheen, to go to the US Senate.

Previously ten women held senate seats out of twenty-four in Concord, but now they hold thirteen. New Hampshire also made news in Washington where there are now seventeen women for the first time in the United States Senate because of Jeanne Shaheen’s win. To show the contrast, both United States Senate and House of Representatives are 17% female.

It looks like those millions of cracks in the glass ceiling are spreading.

Yes, women are holding thirteen seats out of twenty-four in New Hampshire. Women have the majority. First time. Evah.

Hallelujah New Hampshire!

I feel more ecstatic about this news than I do the other!

Women. Rule.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

And the mountains going to shout amen!

An American, living in Newfoundland, calling in to CBC yesterday, weeping:

Yunno? Mr. Bush was so damn mean.
Mr. Obama is so damn kind!

Yeah, Mr. America, I and the world applaud you and your voting brothers and sisters!

Thanks to you, our tiny little planet now has hope.

And our Leonard Cohen sums it up, oh so well.....

Its coming through a hole in the air
]from those nights in tiananmen square
Its coming from the feel
That it aint exactly real
Or its real, but it aint exactly there
]from the wars against disorder
]from the sirens night and day
]from the fires of the homeless
]from the ashes of the gay
Democracy is coming to the u.s.a.

Its coming through a crack in the wall
On a visionary flood of alcohol
]from the staggering account
Of the sermon on the mount
Which I dont pretend to understand at all
Its coming from the silence
On the dock of the bay
]from the brave, the bold, the battered
Heart of chevrolet
Democracy is coming to the u.s.a.

Its coming from the sorrow on the street
The holy places where the races meet
]from the homicidal bitchin
That goes down in every kitchen
To determine who will serve and who will eat
]from the wells of disappointment
Where the women kneel to pray
For the grace of God in the desert here
And the desert far away
Democracy is coming to the u.s.a.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty ship of state!
To the shores of need
Past the reefs of greed
Through the squalls of hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on...

Its coming to america first
The cradle of the best and of the worst
Its here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And its here they got the spiritual thirst
Its here the familys broken
And its here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the u.s.a.

Its coming from the women and the men
O baby, well be making love again
Well be going down so deep
That the rivers going to weep
And the mountains going to shout amen!
Its coming like the tidal flood
Beneath the lunar sway
Imperial, mysterious
In amorous array
Democracy is coming to the u.s.a.


Im sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I cant stand the scene
And Im neither left or right
Im just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
But Im stubborn as those garbage bags
That time cannot decay
Im junk but Im still holding up
This little wild bouquet
Democracy is coming to the u.s.a

PS (posted later) And my good friend Nick, in his comments, points to this well written and funny column in The Times by Martin Samuel. All about black guys having to clean up the white guys' messes. LOL.

Monday, November 03, 2008

To all my Good American Friends!

May the force of all that is good, peaceful and harmonious in this world be with you tomorrow!

And here's a gift: be sure to fill up at the pumps tomorrow right after you vote, as gas prices are going to shoot waaaaaay up right after the election!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Legalized Prostitution?

Photo of John Cleese

I’m going out on a bit of a limb here, I think, with this opinion of mine. I’ve brought up my thinking in private venues but have not aired it publicly, so to speak but here goes.

At the outset, I’m very much pro child-support. Parents who have divorced/parted ways, are legally, ethically and morally bound to support the children of their union and in the manner in which these children would have been raised if their parents had stayed together. This rarely happens. One parent will default or appeal to the courts for alleviation of financial support and the child or children suffer. Studies have proven that after a divorce, children’s quality of life deteriorates, particularly if in the custody of the mother, while the non-custodial parent has a corresponding lifestyle improvement. This is completely unfair to the innocent victims, the children.

That aside, I have enormous trouble with the outrageous alimony paid to the ex-spouses of former marriages/common-law arrangements. Even for a short duration of said union.

I have no dispute with the fair and equitable sharing of joint accumulated wealth accrued within the duration of the marriage. And the equal sharing of communal property attained through both efforts, is fair when the partnership is over.

But when it comes to the break-up of a short, childless, second or third marriage, there are often demands for a huge share of the partner’s wealth, completely out of proportion to any amount that the suing partner brought into the union.

One case in point is that of John Cleese, writer, actor and director of Monty Python fame. And there are many more I can think of, Guy Ritchie and Madonna, Anna Nicole Smith, etc.

He is selling off properties to pay for his recent divorce and subsequent obscene payouts to his ex-wife. His third wife. Properties bought prior to this marriage and with his money.

Don’t these huge settlements make marriage some form of indentured prostitution? As in: I’ll share your bed, but dammit if you leave me or I leave you, you’re gonna pay and pay through the nose for each historical leg-over? This is equality?

Is it the men who are so foolish and besotted as to believe a younger penniless woman is enthralled enough with their looks/physiques/personalities and not their wallets so as not to request a super-tight pre-nuptial agreement?

Is it the women who see their tickets out of poverty in the pockets of the wealthy old boy rather than in their own abilities?

Is it in the overall inequality of our society where women are still deemed to be dependent on men?

Either/or, there is very little room for love, compassion, respect or kindness in such volatile arrangements. And to me, it is a giant step backwards for women.