Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A scent of laundry Part 1

Sometimes it’s the barest trace of scent in the air that can flood the heart with so many memories.

Today it was while I was doing the laundry for daughter and me. I opened a jar of new environmentally friendly laundry detergent and there she was. My beloved Aunt Daisy.

She had a back kitchen and a front kitchen. The back kitchen, all glass and overlooking the walled back garden was where the washing happened. And she had all the equipment for it long before anyone else. My aunt had married well, you see. And her husband literally adored her. So she only had to bat her eyes and anything her heart desired materialized. She had a car before women really drove in Ireland in the 1950s. And was always piling it up to the roof with kids and heading off to the strand.

Her voice was distinct - throaty and always full of laughter and the cigarettes that laid an angora fog on it. Her door was always open and neighbours and relatives poured in and out of it all day like it was Grand Central Station. Everyone called her Dais. Her hair was jet black and in my time it hung to her shoulders in a mass of curls. She made everything from making fancy Russian salads to smocking hand sewn viyella dresses look easy. There was always fresh baking and fancy confectionary sitting on her counters.

Her big Aga stove in the front kitchen with the skylight above it was always going, heating the water and pumping out teacakes and biscuits, fresh bread and roast meat and poultry.

My uncle got concerned she might be over working herself with five children to take care of and got her a maid but Dais didn’t know what to do with her so spent a few years chatting with her over endless cups of tea and listless hooverings and then got her married off to a nice boy who worked in the shop next door.

I never knew her to have a bad mood or lose her temper or complain when both her mother and his mother moved in with them. I often found myself having tea there along with twenty others, some related to me, more often not. Fairy cakes and triangle sandwiches would appear as if by magic. No one ever left her house hungry and her door, opening on a busy main road, was never locked.

As children, we played endless hide and seek all over the house as it had a front stairs and a back stairs. She never said anything about the noise that countless running and screaming children made pounding through her house. The only time she yelled was to tell us there was icecream in the back kitchen or a tray of chocolate biscuits out of the Aga. And we’d all stop what we were doing as if by magic and find her, a cigarette stuck on her lower lip, one eye shut for the smoke, and always serving us, snotty dirty little kids, on her best plates, urging us in that wonderful voice of hers to eat up as there was more.

There was always more at her house.

See Part 2 Here
And now I'm off to catch up on some blogs...

In the words of my people:
Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise Dhaoibh, a chardai go leir!
Have a wonderful new year, all my dear friends out there!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Simple is Best

(Irish Peace Knot)

Boxing Day. St. Stephen’s Day. Mummers’ Day. Wren Day.

What a lovely time my daughter and I are having. Lazy days in front of the fire. Reading, chatting, reading chatting. Occasional knitting (me. Then on to the shore in this mild weather for a long walk. She collecting small shells, me collecting small flat stones for a patio I’m planning. A patio surrounded with a driftwood fence and the recycled cans I’m going to paint and screw to the driftwood and fill with herbs and flowers.

I made a moose stew on the wood stove yesterday. Beyond fabulous.

Today it was rice pasta and shrimp and French beans in a garlic asiago sauce. Bliss on a plate.

No TV, no radio on. Just the crackle of the flames, the odd sigh from the dog and our voices murmuring back and forth. We plan to take in “A Feast of Cohen” tomorrow – an annual show in St. John’s featuring many local stars and the words and music of Our Man Leonard. My niece is coming down (I make it sound easy but the poor wee thing has to drive 300 km) and joining us for this girls’ night out. That is if I can get tickets when the box office opens tomorrow at noon. No web booking. And that’s OK. This is just about our pace at the moment.

With hopes that all of you out there are full of peace as well.

It starts within. It spreads without.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's a small world after all

I think I get it. I feel it happening. You know how the lives of older people appear to shrink down to a more manageable level? Not quite as bad as having a whole day revolve around a visit to a doctor or the next day to an oil change for a car – I’ve seen far, far too many old people do this. Almost to a comical level in some cases. Like not being able to go out to dinner on Wednesday because they have to pack for a trip leaving on Friday. Much too frequently. Spare me this as I age.

I mean in the broader sense. A global sense. I rail against the political shenanigans, the lies, the abuse of human rights, the outright thefts and predations of the theocorporatocracy, the smug satisfaction of the patriarchy. No more of this in the new year unless I feel my head exploding and I have a choice of venting here or dying pitifully in a state of apoplexy.

I resolve to write of the small, the meaningful.

Like today, sadly sans camera, I walk by the shore with the Wonder Dog and a recent storm has again shifted the landscape. I just love the power of the water, I have a marvellous up close and personal relationship with it here. A little bridge was wiped out a couple of years ago in a storm, so we couldn’t advance along this part of the shore at high tide. This latest storm has shoved the widened stream banks about 6 feet to the east against a very old wharf, narrowing the river bed to a jumpable level (even for this old geezer!).

Well, we were just delighted today. The other side of the stream is far more interesting as it has rabbits and hawks and the odd sea lion or otter. As a matter of fact, Ansa spotted a rabbit in a hawk’s mouth and went on chase, the rabbit was dropped, hawk flew away, Ansa was on the point of leaping on the rabbit herself (she is an amazing hunter, ask any shrew) when I called her. I was more than pleased when she returned immediately to me, foregoing the hunt. She has responded remarkably to all the training over the last few years and confirms yet again how super intelligent she is.

I anxiously await the arrival of my daughter tomorrow, Christmas Day. She comes here for 10 days while the grandgirl stays with her dad. We are going to get caught up, reading a lot in front of the fire and planning the annual Nollaig Na Mban do here on January 3rd.

The best of this lovely season to all of you out there and peace, seriously, on earth.

Top 25 Censored Stories of 2009

Here's 10, just for an appetizer:

1. US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street
2. US Schools are More Segregated Today than in the 1950s
3. Toxic Waste Behind Somali Pirates
4. Nuclear Waste Pools in North Carolina
5. Europe Blocks US Toxic Products
6. Lobbyists Buy Congress
7. Obama’s Military Appointments Have Corrupt Past
8. Bailed out Banks and America’s Wealthiest Cheat IRS Out of Billions
9. US Arms Used for War Crimes in Gaza
10. Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate

This is the link to the mains with details.

Are you surprised? Well, duh!

And I'm positive there are 100s more.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Solstice Promise

I took this photograph {click on it to enbiggen} a couple of days ago, standing on the front deck of my house. The sunset bathed everything, including the road, the traces of snow, the water, in this breathtaking pastel pink. All was drenched in a misty rose. So difficult to capture on film. But I tried.

The snow has now vanished. And the last two evenings had no visible sunset.

This was like a tease, a preview, a trailer. A solstice promise of the long beautiful days of summer to come.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Letting Go: Anybody else out there like me?

I had one of those finds in Salvation Army a couple of years ago, a brand new pair of slippers obviously donated by an unhappy Christmas giftee in January. The most gorgeous pair of slippers I’d ever seen at the remarkably high price (for Sally Anne I mean, get a grip!) of $5.00. I wore them night and day, they’ve travelled six times across Canada with me and once to Europe. The soles are so thick and good and strong I could walk outside, hell I could do work outside, climb up to my clothes-line stage, run across to the beach, pick up some fire/driftwood. The most serious pair (goodbye silly pink fluffies) I’d ever owned. In my life. Dark grey so they’d never show a scuff, some classy those slippers.

Last week, the heartbreak began. I was out in the bit of snow we had (subsequently gone) picking up the daily newspaper and my toes felt wet.

I sat down in front of the fire to examine the slippers. And there it was, a split between sole and upper. 730 days they’ve been worn. They owe me nothing. So much joy for .006849 cents (sorry, that’s the accountant in me) per day.

So in the past I would have put out word that hey, Mama needs a new pair of slippers for Xmas. But we don’t do Xmas anymore. And this was a bit of an emergency.

So today, I get these gorgeous sheepskins above, dark brown, warm as toast. Good, thick, no nonsense soles on ‘em. We won’t talk price it being a gift ‘n all, albeit to myself.

And this is it. I bring them home. I put them on. I admire them, my feet are toasty. And then I go to Grayzies, who’ve served me daily for all that time. I want to cry. I want to keep them, repair them, maybe bronze them, I know I can’t, maybe they’ve got another couple of weeks in them? How can I do this to them. Yes, I can. No, I can’t. Yes, I can. There, they’re in the garbage.

And so help me, two hours later and I so want to haul them out. And I do, to take this picture for posterity:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Solstice Everyone!

Winter Solstice

We’re tired of you, get out of here.
You’ve been hanging around too long.
Here’s a proper send off for ya.

You want a party? Here it is!
See, now I’m lighting the candles!
Why don’t you go and hide somewhere?

You ask me why? So’s to make room!
For she can’t live beside you, b’y.
You’re much too dark for her, ya know.

Ah g’wan b’y, sure we’ve had enough.
Of cold wet tears with you moanin’
Your sad and melancholy days.

Oh, here she comes, running, laughing,
Sequins on her dress, rainbow eyes,
Peeping over the solstice dawn.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How About all Those Sexual Assault Warnings?

We get them on email, we get them on newspapers, on texts, we even get victim blaming ("she shouldn't have been out alone at night") ad nauseum. Over at I Blame the Patriarchy this is the best warning list I've ever seen:

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work

1. Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks.

2. When you see a woman walking by herself, leave her alone.

3. If you pull over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to assault her.

4. If you are in a lift and a woman gets in, don’t assault her. You know what? Don’t even ogle her.

5. When you encounter a woman who is asleep, the safest course of action is to not assault her.

6. Never creep into a woman’s home through an unlocked door or window, or spring out at her from between parked cars, or assault her.

7. When you lurk in bushes and doorways with criminal intentions, always wear bright clothing, wave a flashlight, or play “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” by the Raveonettes on a boombox really loud, so women in the vicinity will know where to aim their flamethrowers.

8. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from assaulting women, ask a trusted friend to accompany you when in public.

9. Carry a rape whistle. If you find that you are about to assault a woman, you can hand the whistle to your buddy, so s/he can blow it to call for help.

10. Give your buddy a revolver, so that when indifferent passers-by either ignore the rape whistle, or gather round to enjoy the spectacle, s/he can pistol-whip you.

Don’t forget: Honesty is the best policy. When asking a woman out on a date, don’t pretend that you are interested in her as a person; tell her straight up that you expect to be assaulting her later. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the woman may take it as a sign that you do not plan to rape her.

About bloody time, I say. I've been Taking Back the Night for far too long.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Moral and Political Degradation

There is an extraordinary essay over at Crooks & Liars by Ian Welsh on the current political and moral status of our neighbour down south.

He writes this:

It is also noteworthy that spending billions on turning brown people into a fine red mist (a.k.a. the Afghan war) is acceptable, but health care (a.k.a. saving actual American lives) is something which can't cost money. What an interesting--and clearly evil--set of priorities that reveals. I guarantee that real healthcare reform would save more American lives than the entire war on terror—assuming said "war" hasn't cost more American lives than it's saved, which is almost certainly the case.

and also of Gitmo North where prisoners who can't be convicted for lack of evidence are held without trial:

people whom the government judges there is not enough evidence to convict, will be held indefinitely without trial. This is the very definition of tyranny. Any nation which does this is a nation of men, not laws. America has forsaken its fundamental premise and proved its degradation. Yes, this started under Bush, but as Obama embraces this, it because a bipartisan project and the new elite consensus. This is now something which has been confirmed as US policy which is extremely unlikely to change no matter who is in power.

The whole article is well worth reading in full, along with the comments.

It is heartbreaking for so many, many Americans, who had the glimmering of hope and now see it utterly destroyed.

Posted subsequently:

My friend Annie writes of a child soldier (the first in the world being prosecuted for war crimes) being included in this obscene US travesty of justice. He has been held without trial since 2002. The Canadian government is complicit in this by its silence.

Monday, December 14, 2009


*Not to be confused with “GEEZER GLEE” - posts that celebrate awesome service and great stuff.

I remember the day when I could go to a movie and not be assaulted by non–stop commercials (I’ve timed this invasion of my senses over a few years and one such event topped out at 30 minutes including previews) for crap products. I.E. I’m paying the theatre to infest my brain.

I remember the day when I could buy a VCR tape (now DVD) and not have it littered with commercials for other crap movies they want to flog me. See above, I’m paying them to steal my time.

Hello? Small print on teeny tiny dooshy little bottles and boxes and labels - some even that are specifically elder products?

Telemarketing companies circumventing the “No Call List” by pretending they are “expanding” upon an existing product I may have.

Auto maintenance shops that insist I arrive at their premises at 7.30 a.m. after a 100km drive and even then can’t guarantee my car will be serviced that day and will not make an appointment, even though I’m a senior. Yeah, this senior is expected to drive 200km daily until serviced. I’ve counted four of them here in St. John’s who have that policy. Seriously.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Still Missing, One Child.

It rolls around again, this date, this oh so important date, December 9th.

More important this year. For this year she is forty. My missing daughter is forty. A milestone age for some. Maybe not for her. Who knows?

None of us knows, you see. We her family. Her extended family and the friends she left behind. Last we heard she was in Bristol. She has chosen to cut herself free from all ties to her past and live without a visible familial history.

I speculate as to how that feels. To float freely in the universe without acknowledging either parent. Or your sister. Or your niece or your uncles or your aunts. Would one wonder about them at all? Would childhood memories surface? Would the twenty eight years one lived with one’s mother intrude on the present? Does any of that matter?

Meanwhile, I’m making a scrapbook. Of photos, of little bits and pieces, report cards, cards she gave me over the years like the one above.

And I light a candle for her. And hope that she is well. And my heart aches. And I reach out to her father and her sister in our shared hurt and loss.

Happy Birthday, baby.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Canada’s Hang Dog Shame

Alberta Tar Sands - the total area such as this is the size of England.
There are many, many flights going back and forth daily between Newfoundland and Alberta. Some have it that Alberta keeps Newfoundland’s economy afloat right now with all the Newfoundlanders who work there. Part of their substantial earnings package is a flight between the 2 provinces: 22 days in barrack-like camps on the oil fields and then 8 days back here where the money is spent on luxurious new homes and boys’ toys (think Hummers, huge quads, jumbo screen TVs, etc.). Many such Newfoundlanders contribute greatly to the support of outport economies. Some have it that the Newfoundland economy would collapse without the Alberta money pouring in.

The impact on their home-based families here is huge – it is usually the father who’s away so he loses physical contact with his children for 1/3 of their growing up years. Some of the away fathers establish secretive relationships with Albertan women. And their wives are the last to find out. I know of a few such cases.

The money is enormous and there is nowhere to spend it in Alberta unless one succumbs to vices: alcoholism, gambling, drugs et al. Most don’t. These talk of getting enough money out of Alberta to start a business here, or take early ‘retirement’.

Meanwhile, the toll on families is immense. The effect on the children left behind is immeasurable, apart from the loss of the mainly absentee parent there is also the impression that money is the only goal in life of which huge toys and rampant consumerism are the rewards. A very alien concept to most Newfoundlanders who place enormous value on community and the self-sustaining life style (fishing, hunting, growing food, gathering of fruits) of their ancestors.

All of this is laid at the feet of the oil sands. Was there ever such a pit of devastation and degradation on the landscape of Canada? And I mean that both physically and metaphorically. Was there ever such a brutal and environmentally destructive way to squeeze out oil from the earth?

George Monbiot is a writer whom I’ve admired for years. He writes brilliantly of the impact the oil companies and their stooge – our conservative government – are having on this land and its people. He maintains that Canada is the greatest threat to world peace. He is right. He calls us a corrupt petro-state. And he is right.

A tiny, glimmering ray of hope is Maude Barlow who happens to be one of my heroes. She heads up the Council of Canadians who fight tooth and nail for our rights to a clean environment, water and the commons – not just for Canada, but for the world. She has been advocating vociferously against the tar sands project and has been behind documentaries floodlighting this environmental disaster.

On days such as these, I am ashamed to be a Canadian.

Sorry, world.

Friday, December 04, 2009

On Rambling Around the Grocery Store - AKA Mental Asylum - Tonight:

They were short and round and frazzled, this old couple. They stood in the middle of the cereal aisle which is 50 yards long and 4 yards high full of every kind of cereal imaginable. She was wringing her hands in between pushing her glasses up tight against her eyes as she spun around in total bewilderment.

“Oh Harold,” she said, “Harold, what are we going to do? What on earth do children eat these days?”

“If you don’t shut up at once,” said Mama to the whining three year old girl in the grocery cart, “Daddy won’t share his jumbo bottle of Pepsi and his nachos and cheese with you tonight, isn’t that right Daddy? Now show her what she’ll be missing if she doesn’t shut right up.”


“I CAN SO tell the difference, listen to me,” yelled the man on the cell phone as he leaned over the meats in the delicatessen, “Will. You. Listen. To. Me. They come in round only. They don’t come square. I’m going to hang up on you if you don’t shut up and listen. They don’t come square. Do you want round? I said, do you want round? I’m hanging up NOW!” Click and an almighty “F***!”

“ Good Lord, “ I said to the woman ahead of me at the checkout. “Twelve pounds of cream cheese? It looks like you’re going to be doing some baking!”

“Well, I’m not bakin’, ” she said, “Not me. But I asked them all what they wanted for Christmas and they said cream cheese.”

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Psst - Wanna Hear a Story?

One of my stories is up at As Time Goes By.

Some of you may recall that I lost a very dear aunt last year. She was just shy of her 99th birthday.

This story is based on one of hers.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I don’t mind

I don’t mind when brows march north to meet my hair
And nose slides south to thinner lips
I don’t mind when thickest hair turns thin and spare
And feet spread wider than my hips.

I don’t mind when coughs are leaking more than tears
And stature’s shrunk from tall to small
I don’t mind when small print fades and blurs and smears
And chin sprouts beard: No, not at all.