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.