Friday, January 30, 2009

My Mother

Tomorrow is my mother's birthday. January 31st. She was born in 1914. WW1 had just started.

Through her growing up years in the village of Castlemartyr in Co. Cork, a stronghold of Irish republicanism, the Black and Tans were a highly visible presence in the town, intimidating the townspeople, shooting first and asking questions later. As a small child, she lived in terror of their miasmic presence, they marched freely into private homes, businesses, churches and schools, searching for weapons and wilfully destroying the poverty-stricken hovels of the locals.

The effects of the Great Famine of the 1840s were still being felt in the town. The population had shrunk substantially and her father, who still spoke the Irish language and carried the sean-nos style of singing and story telling in his soul (for all who had suffered and died, as he frequently said) would meet quietly and inobstrusively with others who fought for Irish freedom.

She was only 6 years old when the barracks, situated about 1/4 mile from her house, was blown up.

She was only 12 years old when she was put 'into service' in the merchant family of the town as a type of maid, taking care of the children and helping the mistress of the house.

She was only 18 years old when her mathematical ability was recognised by a priest friend of one of the leading merchants of the large town close by and she was trained as a bookkeeper and worked in the accounts office and lived, as was common then, in the dormitory over the shop with the rest of the staff.

She joined the Gaelic League and found encouragement in performing locally with her remarkable soprano vocal talent. Her passion for Ireland and her condemnation of what the English had inflicted for centuries put a lasting fire in her remarkable green eyes. She never did see, as a complete dichotomy to this, her lifelong passion for the works of Charles Dickens.

I'm putting together a memoir for my family of this quite extraordinary woman who saw a uniqueness in all six of her children and fostered a thirst for knowledge and appreciation for arts and culture in each of them.

She died far too young, far too unfulfilled. She will never be forgotten.

Happy birthday, dearest mother.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Crying In the Wilderness, yet again!

I wouldn't call myself particularly prescient (I'm not an economist, but then again economists haven't been doing so hot, now have they?) but in September 2005, when I'd just gotten this blog off the ground I wrote about the coming collapse of world markets, here.

And here in 2006 I wrote about a life and not a 'lifestyle' which is something that has been sold to us in the name of rampant consumerism and is one of the root causes of all our ills.

Yet all these politicans are 'taken by surprise' at the collapse of the economy. Why on earth do we continue to vote these double digit IQ holders into office?

I watch all the hoopla around the bailouts (both the US and Canada) of failing industries (automobiles, really?) and the criminal banks who fleeced us suckers with the usurious interest rates that funded their CEO's private planes and lavish multi-home lifestyles, and the masses, sedated by endless re-runs of something with an Idol in the title, snore on.

Our tax dollars. Entrusted to our masters. Now bleeding through their pockets and into the ones of those that robbed us. Construction. SUVs. Infrastructure. Insurance. Banking. Oil.

Nowhere do I see, by any politician, even the slightest awareness of the coming food crisis, water shortages, civil unrest throughout the planet, famine, birth control (the current population is unsustainable), economic development for feminine collectives. I could go on. You catch my drift.

No, let's toss the last few of our tax pennies at the robber barons, when community gardening and urban farming might be the beginning of the real solutions to the reality of our predicament. Community stability - what a radical concept!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Some Photos Just Take Your Breath Away!

Sent to me by a friend, this picture of downtown Vancouver, B.C. was taken at 6.30 a.m. from Cypress Mountain today. Double Click to get the full effect!

What a wonderful world!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Best Anti-War Song: "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda".

~~~~~~~~~~Feb 1977, National Stadium, Dublin~~~~~~~~~~

Inspired by Gaye’s post today and her writing of Gallipoli and the battle that took place there, I tracked down the best version of this anti-war song – performed by Liam Clancy.

As Pete Seeger sung: “When Will We Ever Learn?”

Sometimes I look back so I can look ahead

Woolly flannel of creeping waves
Sidling slyly in cotton candy fog,
Trailing silky clues to hidden houses
Surfacing suddenly across the bay.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cartoons of the Week




Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Blocked Friendship

Some of us are born with a few bits of us kinked and curled around behaviours that can harm us but opt for the soothing relief of brief sedation until reality seeps into the pores once again. I know. I've had a bit of work to do myself in the field of change when the pain of my knots and whorls outweighed their sedative effect.

The reason I bring this up is that I've got a friend of over forty years who has her own demons which are worsening (they always do unless stopped in their tracks). I worry about her. I feel helpless as I can't change her. I can't change anyone, just me.

Ever since I've known her she's surrounded herself with clutter. Not your 'normal' type of clutter like six china cabinets or 100s of Dresden figurines. No this clutter is newspapers, magazines, plastic bags and boxes, the kind your toaster comes in. Retail boxes that go back years and years. Clutter fills every corner of her home. None of us, inluding family, have been allowed beyond her front door in years and years.

The last time was many years ago to once again go in and attempt to clean her up. 2000 lbs of garbage came out of her kitchen alone (it was weighed at the dump). Her groceries lie in plastic bags on the kitchen floor with a tiny pathway wending through them. Her counters are unusable. There are mice. Her bed sits in the middle of unpacked boxes (some from thirty years ago), she has to crawl over them to get into it and watch the TV, which she does incessantly all day, all night. Everything overflows. Her pitiful collection of clothes hangs off a doorway.

She blamed her boring job for not being able to control her junk even when we all cleaned her up a few times. She's retired for two years now and blames taking her mother, who's 92, for medical appointments.

Her sister and I just know the house is worse than anything we've ever seen now. If we are picking her up, she races out front and locks the door before we can even peek in beyond a black garbage bag that she has hung on the door window pane. We live in fear she has crossed over into mental illness. But the fact that she can string herself together and behave normally at outside social events puts the denial on that.

I have personally confronted her a few times. Gently. In a non-accusatory way. I tell her we love her but hate how she treats herself. She cries. She promises to change. And she doesn't.

What is totally ironic is that she's worth close to a million dollars and lives the life of a slum-dweller. Her aged mother cries openly about it. She blames herself for spoiling her.

I love her dearly, she's a kind and honourable human being, compassionate and caring. But I'm at the point I won't enable her anymore. I won't step around the 1000 ton gorilla in the living room, so to speak. She has dropped even the flimsiest threads of human communication, email, telephone, cards. And I don't like myself when I find I respond by not providing that tenuous outreach to her as well. If I ask her why she won't call after I've called her numerous times she says she has nothing to talk about. Her life is boring, she says.

I wrote a little prose-byte about her when I got home last night which sums up the frustration I feel:

Back and forth I pass your house,
Imagining the cups of tea we've missed.
Hundreds now.
Maybe thousands of little dots of glue
That would have bound our friendship tighter.
Rather than me thinking
As I drive by
Of the blocked threshold of your existence.
Imprisoned by the crumbling files
Of sixty years of musty memories.

Anyone have any insight?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Funny how a day goes.

I’m still not 100% well, this virus has been nasty and debilitating, sapping energy, making me snorfle unpleasantly and hearing myself bark and cackle and hack into callers' ears. Food has lost any taste. I had to cancel a whole week of client and social appointments and commitments. We only miss hale and hearty when our health crouches in a corner.

Last night I went out, aimlessly, in a snow storm in the car. I don’t know why. I’m stupid that way. I ate at a Chinese food place, ate is too kind a word, I sampled a plate of fish, peking duck and cold unidentifiable things that were meant to be hot, I left most of it and came home within 45 minutes. I couldn’t stand the excitement.

Then my nose opened up. A massive nasty nosebleed that took hours to stop and then opened up again an hour later after I forgetfully blew my nose. I lay in bed thinking of the headline :

Grandmother dies in bed asphyxiating on her own blood.

It kept me awake for hours. I tossed and turned. Cuddled with the dog. Went down and made cocoa at 3 o’clock in the morning. Snow fell. Ploughs thundered by. My nose is all clogged and I am now mouth breathing, terrified the dam will burst again. I must have fallen asleep at dawn, light was seeping in under the blind. I like being tired enough that I don’t care if I drown in blood in my sleep.

My last thought was: Why are you so afraid of working on your novel?

I got up at eight and called my client. I apologized. I said anything I told him about why I couldn’t work for him today would be TMI (too much information). He was fine. We changed the date to tomorrow. No one wants to hear about blood. No matter what the source.

I went back to bed, still mouth breathing. Slept until 10. Made breakfast of mueslix and pineapple.

I wrote in my journal: Why are you so afraid of working on your novel?

Answer: The muse is gone, writer’s block is major, it is a stupid crappy novel anyway and you can’t really write.

OK. We’re glad that’s out of the way. Now can you make one promise? Just one?


Can you not go into email, go into the web, go into blogs until you’ve sat for four hours at the keyboard reading some of the novel and maybe, huh, writing?

OK. Alright. But it won’t work.

4.00 p.m. I tear myself away from the keyboard. I am crying my eyes out. I’ve written the back story of one of the main character’s parents. Completely. How they met in Auschwitz. How they suffered. How they shaped him, their only child. How they live and breathe on my pages.

I can write.

And blow my nose again.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

An Old Farmer's Advice

* Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.

* Keep skunks and bankers and lawyers at a distance.

* Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.

* A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.

* Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled.

* Meanness don't jes' happen overnight.

* Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.

* Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.

* It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge.

* You cannot unsay a cruel word.

* Every path has a few puddles.

* When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.

* The best sermons are lived, not preached.

* Most of the stuff people worry about ain't never gonna happen anyway.
* Don't judge folks by their relatives.

* Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

* Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time.

* Don't interfere with somethin' that ain't botherin' you none.

* Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

* If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.

* Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.

* The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever
have to deal with, watches
you from the mirror every mornin'.

* Always drink upstream from the herd.

* Good judgment comes from experience, and a
lotta that comes from bad judgment.

* Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot
easier than puttin' it back in.

* If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some
Influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.

* Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply.

Speak kindly. Leave the rest to providence.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Best Commercial!

This UK commercial just makes me wanna get up and dance!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Epicurus Part 2

As an addendum to my post on Epicurus.

It's hard to believe folks, but we now have a bus driver refusing to drive a bus with the atheist advertisement on it. The man cannot drive a Godless bus. In 2009. Seriously. I do not jest.

It says so much about intolerance of other religions and opinions, brainwashing and prejudice.

And it also begs the question, is there some other force behind him driving his stance? Like, I dunno, Fundamentalist Christians?


Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Dead

I'm a bit of a movie buff. Every since I was very young and my best friend of the time had a father who was a manager of the Savoy Cinema in Cork. Free passes. Need I say more. To add to this bounty, I used to stay with an uncle and aunt during the summer. They lived in a small town in East Cork and my uncle was the owner of the local cinema. Unlimited access to the double bills, the serials, the documentaries and the cartoons. Bliss. In those days, it seemed like a visit to the cinema was a huge event that took place for the entire afternoon or evening.

I have many favourite films. But top of my list would have to be "The Dead". This is a movie based on James Joyce's short story - a short story many have voted the best ever. John Huston directed it. A very ill and dying John Huston. It would his last film. And what a swan song! His son, Tony, adapted the story for the film, and his daughter Anjelica starred in it. The performance of her career.

The premise of the film revolves around a dinner party in Dublin at the turn of the last century with a great mix of characters drawn together to share food, music, poetry and dancing, and the remembrance of one great lost love.

My review of the movie is here.

I get a lot of correspondence from people who love the film as much as I do. We are almost a cult, I would think :-).

Many ask me for the words of the poem that is recited half way through the film and I send it to them.

Here is the wonderful, heart-breaking poem, by Lady Gregory.

Donal Óg
by Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory

Translated from an anonymous eighth-century Irish poem

It is late last night the dog was speaking of you;
the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
and that you may be without a mate until you find me.

You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you,
and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.

You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
a ship of gold under a silver mast;
twelve towns with a market in all of them,
and a fine white court by the side of the sea.

You promised me a thing that is not possible,
that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.

When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness,
I sit down and I go through my trouble;
when I see the world and do not see my boy,
he that has an amber shade in his hair.

It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you;
the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday.
And myself on my knees reading the Passion;
and my two eyes giving love to you for ever.

My mother said to me not to be talking with you today,
or tomorrow, or on the Sunday;
it was a bad time she took for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.

My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe,
or as the black coal that is on the smith's forge;
or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls;
it was you that put that darkness over my life.

You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The ad reads: "There probably is no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life"

I was heartened to read recently that the buses in London are displaying advertisements to contravene the many religious advertisements that are flaunted everywhere.

As I'm down with a nasty virus this week and have had to cancel all commitments and appointments, it leaves me with time, the most precious commodity on this little planet. I know that I, for one, hate being around a honking, snorfling, coughing, streaming wet-tissued bag of pseudo-humanity and as a result never inflict myself on others.

It gives one time to think, this unplanned downtime. And having read about the buses, I thought Epicurus. Anyone remember learning about him?

He's the one who said:

If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to

Then he is not omnipotent.

If he is able, but not willing

Then he is malevolent.

If he is both able and willing

Then whence cometh evil?

If he is neither able nor willing

Then why call him God?

And sure enough I found a wiki entry on him.

A teacher who lived in Greece from 341 BC to 270 BC he was so far ahead of his time that he makes modern governments look like the dark ages.

He treated women and slaves as equals and they were admitted to all his classes. Not much of his teachings survive, unfortunately, but what does survive is incredibly modern. An extraordinary philosopher.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Money, Money, Money

Press title for the money money song!
"For money you can have everything it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money."
-Arne Garborg, writer (1851-1924)

I've never believed in accumulating, for it always tells you what you don't have. Accumulation is like a fix to a gambler in that it is always about the getting and never the having.

Because I'm in the business I'm in I'm often asked for financial advice. I can only pass on what I do myself and that is:

Become your own financial advisor. Read the business news, spend the time.

And hey no one wants to do that. They'd rather turn the whole responsibility over to a stranger who is making commission on every transaction.

A wise Jewish shaman of my acquaintance told me 30 years ago that if I were ever invested in the stock market, whether through mutual funds, financial advisors, brokers, etc. I was to dedicate 2 hours a day to monitoring my investments carefully and also paying attention to what my money was invested in. Clean investments yielded clean returns and investments in Big Tobacco or the military industrial complex or Big Pharm is not clean money in my opinion.

I’ve been burned a few times when I threw my money into schemes at which I didn’t look closely enough or have felt dirty when I looked at my complete portfolio of holdings many years ago.

But I bailed out of all of that and settled for small annual interest returns on the bit of money I do have. And even then, I know I’m not completely clean as I know my banks are invested in sometimes unsavoury enterprises: check out who invests in those slimey payday short loan houses with their usurious interest rates.

Two years ago I said to closest friends and family – a big step for me as I do not like to expound advice on the private affairs of others or meddle in any way - I truly believe in personal responsibility – to please get any holdings out of the stock market or mutual funds. Not many listened. Very few in fact. I am appalled at what has happened to their retirement funds now. They are very, very scared with the added burden of their real estate holdings turmbling in value.

They ask me what should they do now (one of my closest friends with a former portfolio of $250,000 is looking at the still shrinking $50,000 value of what’s left of it).

I say: I can only tell you what I did before this predicted collapse. I liquidated everything I had, bought a small holding with some good farm land and good fishing and hunting nearby, paid cash, and threw what was left into GICs at 2% annual interest.

I don't believe I'm particularly smart or prophetic, but all the signs were there then of the financial tsunami of what was coming - if one was reading alternative news sources and not sedated by the presstitutes.

And this is only the beginning of the meltdown, I tell anyone who asks. We ain't seen nuttin' yet. Take care of yourself. No one else is going to do it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Legalizing Rape and Sexual Exploitation

{CBC photo of Winston Blackmore}

Rape and sexual exploitation.

Well that's what I'd call it.

This creepy pervert is attempting to get the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to enshrine sexual predation.

Because he's been charged with polygamy.

He's had over 20 wives. Some as young as 14.

He's fathered over 80 children. Some say 100.

Don't tell me this isn't about his unlimited access to teenage girls.

Slave master comes to mind.

It's all about old men raping underage girls. And forced breeding.

And calling paedophilia religion.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Another day, another genocide

So depleted uranium is now being used on the civilians of Gaza. DEPLETED. URANIUM. This can cause cancers and birth defects for generations to come.

Of course this was a learned atrocity. The effects of depleted uranium are still being manifested in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf Invasion. No, I will not call it a war. These are all illegal invasions of sovereign countries with horrific weapons of mass destruction. The same kind of WMDs that Bush The Dim Decider lied about the terrorists having and thus forcing an illegal invasion of his own into beleagured Iraq. So this invasion of Gaza is very small potatoes indeed when compared to the uncountable victims (some estimate over a million) of the Bush slaughters.

And then we have the attacks on the UN schools in Gaza, children shredded in front of their parents, seven children in one family blown apart. The children were sent to the school for safety but were located by GPS systems used by the Israelis. The UN stands by helplessly. The US silent. Outrage is too tame a word for these horrific events.

And next up to the plate is U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates bleating for more dollars for more WMDs (let's call it like it is, people) for even more genocides in Afghanistan and Iraq. To the tune of a total of 140 billion dollars for 2009. US$140,000,000,000. How much does that work out per dead body?

All this in an imploding US economy where the populace at the end of 2009 will all be rattling their tin cups under bridges.

Here in Toronto, we did have a mass protest against the Israeli invasion this past Saturday, and another in Montreal - two of the few in North America and the biggest.

But really, who cares about such protests? There could be a million of us marching up to the Israeli embassies all over the world, it would not stop the needless death of a single innocent child.

We will only wake up when such horror happens on our own shores.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Nollaig na mBan (Women's Christmas)

The following is a copy of a column I wrote several years ago. I realize that not many of you may have heard of this beautiful old Irish tradition and thought it deserved another audience.

"Little Christmas" - or "Women's Christmas" as my mother used to call it - always fell on January 6 and was a tradition unto itself. Maybe it was just a peculiarity of the time and place in which I grew up - Cork, Ireland in the fifties and sixties in the last century. (And I don't think I ever thought I would write "last century" with such cheerful abandon!)

I was remembering Women's Christmas and wondering whatever happened to it and if anyone in Ireland is carrying on its charm and wonder anymore, or are we all swept up permanently in the Big Day, December 25 itself. I've talked to some Ukrainian friends here and they celebrate their traditional Christmas on that day - Twelfth Night as it is known in England - but I believe that Women's Christmas was unique to a time and place in Ireland now gone forever. But I hope not.

The day of the Women's Christmas women were supposed to take it completely easy after all the hustle, bustle and hard work of the prior months, with the men now taking care of them and cooking and cleaning all day. I can assure you that this never happened in my house as, like many men of his era, my father didn't know one end of a broom from the other and boiling a kettle was the peak of his culinary skill.

However, my mother was the eldest female of her family so consequently her sisters, sisters-in-law, aunts and mother came around on that day and a smaller, daintier version of the Christmas meal was served. On the menu were: a bird (usually a fine roast chicken), a smaller lighter plum pudding and a lovely cake, usually dressed up in the fanciest of pink wrappers with silver sprinkles everywhere on the pink and white icing. The most delicate of my mother's tea sets was brought out, my own favourite, the lavender and pale green set. I would love to hold one of these little saucers up to the light and put my hand behind it, as it was so fragile you would see all your fingers through it.

Gifts were exchanged, usually the most feminine of presents, perfume or talc, bottles of Harvey's Bristol Cream were lined up on the sideboard and the fun would begin. I was encouraged by the grandmothers and great-aunts to always give my mother a little gift on that day for the woman that she was and I did, from a very early age. I would buy something small in Woolworth's on Patrick Street, a little comb or my personal favourite, those fiercely aromatic bath cubes, which were a whole three pence each. I would wrap it up in layers and layers of newspaper and it was always exclaimed over with the phrase, "Well now, I can hardly wait to use this"!

The coal fire would be stacked up high and already lit in the front room before anyone arrived, with Bord na Mona briquettes piled on the fender around it, and any male showing his face would be banished to some other spot in the house.

I remember the women gabbing all day and in the heel of the evening getting into the stories and songs of which I never, ever tired. My female cousins and I would sense the privilege of being included in all of this, there was a respect in us and never did we exemplify more the ideal of children being seen and not heard than on that day. Unasked, we poured the drinks and ran outside to boil another kettle to make a fresh pot or brought in the sandwiches and the fairy cakes and the chocolates and exotic biscuits in the later part of the day.

I remember the hoots of laughter as my aunts dipped their ladyfinger biscuits into their sherries, letting us have a small sample of the incredible taste. This was the one day in the year that I could get a sense of how the older women in my family were when they were young girls themselves. Full of fun and music and stories. I learned about their old boyfriends and who courted them, how one of my uncles had dated all four sisters before settling on my aunt. How wild he was and how she tamed him.

I'd learn of the sad miscarriages and the stillbirths, the neighbours who went peculiar from the change or the drink, the priests who got spoiled in Africa and became pagan; or who had the failing, the old great grandaunt who took on fierce odd after her son married. I didn't know what a lot of it meant then but I stored it all away to ponder on in later years.

They would dredge up old musical numbers from their single days and sing a few bars while one or two got up and showed off their dancing legs. Sweet Afton cigarettes were lit and my grandmother would puff on her dudeen and we all could hardly see each other for the clouds of smoke.

Stories were told and they would get caught up on all the doings they might have missed in their conversations all year, obscure marriages and births, sometimes in Australia or other far flung and exotic outposts of the Irish Diaspora. But most of all I remember the peals of laughter which resounded throughout the house all day and evening.

A moment would come in the midst of all the hilarity when the time for a spot of prayer came. Out of the big black handbags that never left their sides would come the rosaries. These would be threaded through their fingers and all the heads would bow in unison. I never knew the prayer and haven't heard it since but it was to St Brigid, the women's saint of Ireland, and it involved her taking all the troubles of the year before and parking them somewhere in heaven and thus they were never to be seen again. This was followed by a minute of silence (while St Brigid did what she was asked, I have no doubt), then a fervent "Thanks be to God and all His saints" and a reverent kiss on the cross of the various rosaries which were all tucked away carefully into the handbags again. Then the glasses of sherry or the cups of tea were refilled and the whooping and carrying on would begin afresh, the bothers and griefs of the past year now permanently banished and forever.

And I wish this for all of you out there - both at home and abroad.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Boat on the bay, November 2008, taken from deck of my house

I find a creeping paralysis of emotions taking me. I've tried distracting myself, I saw "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" last night. A great distraction. I assigned it an 8 out of 10. But such distractions only inhabit the mind for the time it takes to view the film.

I've a reluctance to connect with friends and family. I prefer this self-imposed isolation. I'm afraid they will see my pyschic distancing from them all. As if they are strangers in a strange land. I bide my time until the feeling passes and I am once again the person they know. Eager to see them, anticipating the solid reconnections.

For now, I resist completely unpacking my suitcases and boxes and hanging clothes in closets and decanting business documents into files. I am a gypsy with Strawbella the caravan waiting outside, tiny in her huge garage, ready for my pots and pans to be hung on the sides.

I read the two books I have on the go at the moment. I journal but only thoughts of what I'm lacking pervade the pages. I miss Newfoundland. Intensely. Deeply. I find the flurry of the city meaningless. The surrounding of the suburbs I inhabit sterile: I went to a small enclave with the dog last night to walk her in reasonable safety and could not find a sidewalk. No pedestrians allowed. No inhabitants walk anywhere. It really frightened me.

I can't make a decision, schedule appointments with clients or commit to a writing workshop with valued colleagues.

I find it hard to sleep which is very unlike me. I was up till 4.00 a.m. I awoke at 10 with a headache. I sneeze all the time.

Perhaps this is the pains of transition from a small, fresh-aired intimate outport to the miasmic pall of the city.

I sense the old black dog pacing the horizon.

Over and over I say to myself : What the f*** is wrong with you?


This, too, shall pass.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Toronto, Transition, Traffic & Transit.

This post was inspired by Grannymar's post on traffic in Ireland.

It isn’t easy getting into city mode again. The traffic. Mein Gott, the traffic.

I got locked into some kind of maelstrom outside Yorkdale Mall today.

A place where ramps run off other ramps until you’re left with nothing but a gigantic snarl.

In every sense of the word. Snarling drivers, snarling SUVs, humping Hummers, me in the middle in my little Echo. Stopped. Slight claustrophobia. Darted off down a side street and took my breath and mourned my little village in Newfoundland. I was returning from dropping the grandgirl off at her house in Toronto from Markham where I’m living for the next few montha.

Public transit sucks the bag, big time, when it comes to the outlying suburban areas of Toronto. While it is superb in the city core itself.

Here is what a web request for transit information looks like for a 30km drive that takes me 30 minutes to my daughter’s house in Toronto:

We could not find any connections between the origin of your trip and the destination (ending point) of your trip at the requested time.
This may be due to one of the following:
· Your request is for times during the day when service is not available.. .
· Your start and/or end points are not within 0.8 km of the closest transit stop.
· Your ride will require an unreasonable number of transfers or a duration of longer than three hours.

Longer than three hours. Transit involving bus, train, subway and bus. A good runner could manage it in less. Hell, a good horse could probably halve the time.

I’ve been bleating about the lack of efficient public transit, 24 hour public transit, for more years than I’d care to count.

Why can’t it be managed? Yes, the public will have to subsidize it, like it does education, healthcare, police and fire services et al. But the benefits would far outweigh the costs, both on the environment and less traffic on the roads which often involve 16-24 lanes across in Toronto. Also serious vehicular carnage might be reduced or eliminated.

Here is info from CBC (2004, I could find no recent stats.):

With nearly 20 million cars and trucks on our roads, automobiles have become a fact of life for Canadians. But our reliance on them comes at a cost. Over the past 50 years nearly 200,000 Canadians have died in traffic accidents — more than were killed in both world wars combined. In addition, despite vastly improved safety measures automobile accidents continue to be a major cause of death of younger Canadians.

My inner cynic, always active, follows the money to the foundering Big 5 of the auto industry, the massive construction and maintenance of highways, the complete over-usage of trucks and our old friend Big Oil and its powerful lobby.

But with the days of cheap, accessible oil just about history, perhaps Gaia will once again assert herself and the days of Happy Motoring to and from Mammoth Malls and MacMansions will be replaced by solar powered trams. Now that’s a project worth throwing a couple of billion at, surely? Let's call it a Bail-in.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh go léir
(which is saying the same good wish in Irish!)

My daughter finally arrived on December 28th and in one of those Monty Python moments, I wasn't at the airport to greet her so she had to call me as she stood forlornly outside Moncton airport. The airline website, which I had been consistently checking for ETA had posted an arrival time of an hour later (still on Toronto time, I guess!). However, all was well and it was so good to see her after all the delays, flight cancellations and returns to Toronto.

We got caught in a bad snowstorm in Quebec, so bad that the winter tires of the car kept sliding backwards down the many steep hills and we found a delightful 1814 B&B in a small village. The husband and wife owners didn't have a word of English so our rusty high school French was dragged out and aired and we had an amazing conversation around the fire. His French was impeccable (le francais vieux, he called it) and he was one of 15 children raised in the old place all of whom are still alive. He hauled out his incredible wood carvings to show us.

Morning dejeuner was crepes along with bacon and eggs. Bonus were the four pots of different homemade jam, one of which still held the taste and scent of their summer roses.

Today we are in a Cornwall, Ontario, hotel that offers delightful food, swims, etc and a most delicious festive dinner last night.

Today we will finally reach our destination of Toronto - a total of 3000 km for me from start to finish.

I offer you all my New Year's wish:

May the road ahead lead your tread
To vistas both small and grand.
May your wonder never cease
And your health always please
While contentment stays close at hand.