Monday, August 30, 2010

Why is Combatting Climate Change Such Hard Work?

T is for "Teachín" - pronounced te-ockeen (the tongue just about skips the e) - "Little House" in Irish. More on that below.

Today we have good news - or should that be dreadful news?

The leading sceptic of global warming - Bjorn Lomborg - has now done a complete about face and is actually coming out with a book advocating we immediately start pouring billions of dollars at the problem. You're awfully late to the party, Bjorn, but you're welcome. Read all about it in The Guardian

And to make this matter personal, I am embarking on a project of my own which has been close to my heart since I bought this place over six years ago.

From the beginning, I had dreamed of a cabin up on the hill behind my house. A cabin with a difference. A cabin completely off the grid - by that I mean on a wind turbine with rainwater collected in an enclosed barrel to be used for washing, etc., a compostible toilet and a tiny one log woodstove for cooking and heating. A cabin using recycled material where possible with its own deck and loft bed with a skylight for star-gazing. And a big desk and easy chair.

This is all beginning to unfold. The plans were drawn up and tonight Gordon-the-Gift was here, with glee, he had managed to salvage the flooring from an old church which is now going to be used for the cabin.

However, and it is a huge one: I am getting absolutely no co-operation or information on any of this from municipal, provincial or federal environmental agencies. Along with 99% of the population our governments are positively snoring when it comes to making any changes to our existing utilities infrastructure and the desperate need for change. (Did someone mention powerful oil, coal and hydro lobbies?)

My own research has been in collusion with other private citizens who are anxious to reduce their own environmental footprints and contribute less in some small way to climate change. We are the change we wish to see in our tiny part of this precious planet. For instance, I am in touch with a tiny manufacturing facility in BC who makes these little teensy woodstoves for boats that no one wants to hear about for houses. I could go on.

The cabin will be for rent to artists and writers and anyone who just wants to get away from it all and live on a hill for a while with a magnificent view of the bay.

Below is a picture of the site~~

I am seriously excited about all of this. Scared too. But I knew if I didn't start this year it would never happen.

There will be ongoing progressive cabin photos and blogging along the way. And the name of this project? - An Teachín.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Dory Buff

Buttering the silent water
Bobbing slowly into winter
Buffed curves of poignancy
Burnishing our sweet autumn.

Dory Buff is a colour all to itself out here in Newfoundland. The unusual colour is sometimes seen on houses but it's used mainly on these wonderful dories.

I was taken by the surreal nature of this landscape shot right across the water from where I live.

Lucky me. Yes, I know.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thank You, Delia.

This post is inspired by Marcia's post.

Back then, it was one of those new-fangled estates in the suburbs of the Irish city where I was born. 13 houses in a cul-de-sac. We moved there when I was six from a small east Cork town where all my relatives lived. My father had a city job by then and was fed up with the daily train commute.

There was an exotic family living directly across the road from us. Louis (pronounced lou-ee) and Delia had only a single child, named Geoffrey. Rich, red thick carpets ran all through their house and it had an art studio custom built on the back, full of light overlooking a terrace with cement planters and rose gardens back and front. They even had outdoor furniture made of cast iron. And a record player with a huge collection of music and floor to ceiling bookshelves everywhere. A sparkling Morris Minor was parked on their driveway. Louis was a bank manager and Delia was an artist.

When we moved in, they were already installed for a few months. My brother and I, aged 3 and 6, were not allowed on to the road so were locked up behind our gate where we peered out through the iron railings dressed in matching blue coats. I know this because years later I saw a painting of the two of us thus imprisoned, in her studio.

Geoffrey was a sickly child, I never knew what he “had” but his neck was covered in ugly scar tissue where glands had been removed and eczema plagued his hands. He wasn't allowed to play sports or do anything 'strenuous' like play hurling on the road with the rest of us.

Delia and Louis befriended my brother and I as we grew older and we were invited along on Sunday afternoon drives and treated to afternoon tea in hotels. Louis taught us to sing “Oh Give me a Home” in harmony on these rides. I can never hear the song without thinking of his deep bass voice, Delia's soprano, my budding contralto and Geoffrey's and my brother's interchangeable soprano-tenors. There were other songs of course but I can't remember them.

Delia gave me much, much more than those Sunday excursions. She invited me over to hear “Peter and the Wolf” on their turntable - my first introduction to classical music - which led to her sharing all of the Beethoven Symphonies with me. She allowed me to borrow books (“one at a time, dear”) and each occasion (Holy Communion, Confirmation, thirteenth birthday) in my life was marked with a special gift – one time it was a leather bound edition of Jane Austen's Emma, another time it was a hand-painted box.

She showed me a bigger world outside of our little estate and small town sensibilities. She showed me women could gain a certain prestige by devoting themselves to passion and creativity in an era where this was judged as “fierce odd” by her contemporaries and Louis pitied because of her independence for she had the unmitigated gall to exhibit her works regularly at the Municipal Art Gallery and also taught art. She even drove herself to her night classes, practically unheard of in her time.

It was extraordinarily difficult to be a Delia in the long ago and she never knew how much she inspired me and how much I cherish her memory.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Saddest Stories in the World

Today I heard another one.

Maybe it is only in the small wee places we hear of such stories that would make your heart burst with grief and wonder how so many people just pick themselves up and simply carry on to brave a future full of more storms and other tragedies.

And it sets me to thinking maybe these are just everyday stories. In big cities we simply don't hear them for community life is sadly absent.

Elsie was thirteen and saying her prayers in church after school. She was the only one there, she was a good girl and prayed every single day for her father to stop hitting her mother when he came home late with his body full of drink. Being the eldest she worried about the bare larder and all eight children going to bed with their stomachs painfully empty.

Old Father Shaughnessy had been inspecting the altar cloths. He was very fussy as to how they were laundered and ironed by the parish women. And he oftentimes would humilate them into taking them all down once more and redoing the job. Even if it was only one that didn't meet his approval, the rest were then suspect.

She heard his leather soles on the floor before she saw his feet with her downcast eyes. She was very much afraid of his big roary voice and the way he'd pinch her chest when he asked her about her catechism. Now when he ordered her to the big house beside the church she instantly obeyed. Maybe he would give her some food, maybe he could pray too for her father to stop drinking.

But it wasn't that at all. He told her she would be called to the side of the Virgin Mary if she was willing to do what God had told him she must do and then all her prayers would be answered.

She didn't like it at all, it was very painful but she offered it up for all the sins of her family and Father Shaughnessy gave her some apples and bread and told her not to tell anyone as God would reverse all the prayers she had ever said in her life.

Elsie didn't know what the big belly meant. But her mother did. And her father beat it out of her who had done it. She was yanked out of school and hidden away and her mother told everyone that David was her new baby brother. And her father would go up every Saturday night to the confession box and come out of it carefully folding a few dollar bills into his worn old wallet. But there was a bit extra for them all, in spite of her father trying to drink it all away.

And David was sent off to Toronto when he was fourteen where he was to die when he was twenty-six of a work accident.

And Elsie went on to marry a man just like her father and had seven children in seven years and then the man just like her father was killed while driving home drunk out of his mind from the club. Her mother died from exhaustion the same year.

And Elsie's father lived on and on and on until he was ninety-seven and getting awards and medals for being such a great old man.

And Father Shaughnessy was made a monsignor and died with many Vatican honours and a holy book written about him. There's even talk of beatification still.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Brigus Boats of August

Boats fold down
One upon the other
Over and over
Embraced by the earth
From whence they sprung.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Generation Gap

~~~~~~~~Grandgirl and Ansa playing on the beach.~~~~~~~~

The grandgirl has landed for her two weeks with me. I cherish these times more as the years go by, for the end of her high school years is fast approaching and I think summer jobs and everything that goes with that scenario will end these annual precious days together.

But she surprises me. She always has. She asked me about summer jobs here for next year when she will be sixteen. Maybe at the local golf club. If I were younger I would turn handstands at the idea of her spending the WHOLE SUMMER here. As it is, I look at her soberly, trying to suppress my delight, and tell her, yes I'll check out the contacts I have at the golf course and see what the possibilities are between the proshop, the restaurant and the caddying.

We talk of many things. The books we both enjoy, her new interest in cooking, her recent writing stint - she has written some very interesting stories that she shares with me. And poetry.

We share fresh I-pod additions and she listens with delight to a song my mother sang as a teenager: Little Sir Echo and by the time the last verse rolls around she has it off by heart.

In turn I listen to her rap collection and the new R&B - more like hip-hop to my uneducated ears - and we plan our next day of adventure. This time to Brigus, a marvellous old village, then to a merino farm where I can buy exquisite hand wrought wool and she can play with the animals, and a drop in on Cupids and their 400 year anniversary.

And the generation 'gap' is in our heights, she has now surpassed me by a good two inches. And I was considered tall in my time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reason # 4,879 I live in Newfoundland

When I catch that moment in the early morning when the hot morning sun pulls the curtain of fog off the water and for a split second, all is hushed and waiting for the next awesome thing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


From the Dictionary of Newfoundland English

Comb fore-cuddy: cabin at the bow of a small vessel; esp on an undecked fishing-boat, a small enclosed space forward; CUDDY.
1842 JUKES ii, 53 I went and lay down in the fore cuddy, a place about the size of a dog-kennel, and stinking of salt butter and fish, and was dreadfully seasick. 1887 Colonist Christmas No 5 I had just settled this in my mind, when who should I see coming up out of the fore-cuddy but Tom Pugsley, in his go-ashore clothes, like myself. [1929] 1933 GREENLEAF (ed) 254 "Lukey's Boat": O, Lukey's boat got a fine fore cutty, / And every seam is chinked with putty.

My forecuddy is finished apart from some minor bits and pieces.

The reason I'm so chuffed about it all is that this pantry was a disaster when I purchased the house. The plumbing pipes hung low from the ceiling crisscrossing it haphazardly. It was a tightly enclosed space with a small door at the left side opening into it (now gone) the tin sink was in the corner with a hot tap set one foot above the cold tap and there wasn't even ONE electrical outlet. The mirrors around the entrance come from all over the world and were formerly in my Toronto bathroom. I particularly treasure a granite one from Skibbereen.

Here is the view from the kitchen looking over my workshop/training centre/dining
room. All 3 windows have a view of the ocean. The cabinet in the corner is over 200 years old and houses the Ipod docking station.

I'm going to shut up about the house now.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Date Rape is a Hoot.

Nephew: wats the best chat up line???
22 hours ago · Comment ·LikeUnlike R******D**** likes this.
E**** N***** ‎"Excuse me, do you think this rag smells like chloroform?"
21 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 2 people
Nephew and M**** C***** like this.
Me: I can't even list the amount of WRONGS in that appalling statement...
16 hours ago · LikeUnlike ·
K**** H*****: That is quite possibly the best 1 i've ever heard e****!!!
10 hours ago · LikeUnlike
D***** F**** Are u retarded cos u look special to me
2 hours ago · LikeUnlike
T***O'D****: guy puts a cold bottle against girl...girl reacts...sori bt ur so hot had 2cul u dwn sum how!

Above is an exchange on FaceBook over the last day. I italicized my own comment. The reason I posted a comment?

The originator of the original query is my nephew and the responses are from his friends. They are all around 21 years of age.

I am completely disgusted, discouraged and dismayed that this is how he and his friends feel about women. And that none addressed the comment of his aunt.

(1) Women need to be rendered unconscious to allow men to do whatever they choose with them?
(2) Women are not human and therefore not in need of any respect?
(3) Separate rules would apply for their sisters and mothers?
(4) Have any of them heard of date rape?
(5) Have they even attempted to think about themselves being victims of an incapitating drug administered by a stranger?

And on. I'm sooooo tired of all this.

I'm completely disheartened that this is a younger male relative (university student). My friends, this is how he and his peers are devolving.

Hello Gaia? Shrug us off. Right now.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


From the Dictionary of Newfoundland English:
mould v To shape the frame or skeleton of a boat or vessel by the use of thin strips of wood formed in the intended shape and proportions of the craft, or by a model; freq in phr mould out.
T 43/8-64 You had your mould to go by—you couldn't make any mistake. You mould out your frame by your mould and a rising-board, or a model if you prefer. T 178/9-65We'd have a mould, and he was marked; and then another board, a risin' board. We only mould all the midship timbers, but then we'd batten her out.

And did I get a framer and shaper - well maybe not of a boat but certainly of kitchen cabinets and handmade doors.

Above are the old handmade cabinets from eighty years ago that I was reluctant to demolish to accommodate the dishwasher.

Gordon-The-Gift presented me with this magnificent carpentry yesterday:

What I really want to do is haul my bed into the kitchen and sleep with these beauties as my dishwasher purrs sexily beside me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


From the Dictionary of Newfoundland English
mundle n also mundel OED ~ dial; EDD sb 1. Wooden utensil used for stirring various mixtures; SHIM, SLICE.
1896 J A Folklore ix, 23 Mundel: a stick with a flat end for stirring meal when boiling for porridge. P 118-67 There's an old mundel out in the pantry now. C 75-144 ~ a wooden utensil used for stirring large amounts of dough, soup or batter. [It] is the shape of a miniature shovel. C 75-146 ~ a flat, wooden stick about 12 in. long, pared at the top with the bottom flat. It was used to stir up mixtures of paint, paste, batters, limestone, etc

It's that kind of day. I realized I couldn't live without a dishwasher after 6-1/2 years of living here, mostly part-time until this year. Housekeeping and dishwashing are never at the top of my list. And I never feel I do a good job at it anyway. Never have. I come from a proud long line of non-housekeepers on my mother's side and am delighted that the gene is being carried aloft like a banner by my daughter and granddaughter. There's a huge benefit in that it forces one to get a good education to afford the outsourcing of those tasks.

However since my slender means don't extend to a live in, I'm left to my own devices for most of every two weeks when my wonderful Emma shows up and shovels me out. I've never had the nerve to pile up the dishes for two weeks, though my china and cutlery could be stretched out to that time length. And being the environmentalist that I am paper plates would be a no-go. So I'm stuck with washing dishes and stuck with doing a rather rotten job of it too. Hence the dishwasher. Which is very tall as I don't want to do casserole dishes and enormous bowls either.

Hence Gordon-the-Gift here looking askance at my tiny kitchen and not-tall-enough counters and having me crunch depth and length and height numbers and scratching his head and shaking it at me and me saying: please, please, Gordon, wave that magic measuring tape, fit it in somehow!

It's a mundle of a day alright.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


skiver n (1) OED ~ sb1 chief dial (1664-1746)
(1) A skewer, esp a forked stick on which fish are impaled or strung through the gills in carrying;
(2)Knitting needle (1940 Dal Rev xv, 65
P 171-65 A skiver is a knitting needle with a knob on one end so that only the other end is free for knitting. Some women also stated that wooden needles were often made by local men.
(3) A thin person; a small child (1971 NOSEWORTHY 243).
(4) A pointed peg on which bait is impaled on a lobster trap.
(5) A prostitute

This time it was the grandchild that drew her back to Newfoundland. There was always something. Two years ago it was her daughter's miscarriage and subsequent depression. Five years ago it was her father's drunken plunge on his ATV over the cliff at the end of the property where the ragged old fence had fallen down; followed by the funeral of the old bastard five days later.

The village held her memory as if it were the host at Mass on Sundays. She saw the disgust head-lighting in their eyes behind the too hearty welcomes. That is if they chose to speak.

“Ah now Susanna,” they might say, “Great that you're back. You're lookin' best kind!”

She knew she wasn't. She avoided mirrors. But she'd peeped this morning as she dabbed on a bit of lipstick on her pale wrinkled lips. All those cigarettes. Kept her thin as a rake. But the price on her skin wasn't worth it. She'd pulled back from the mirror, putting on her glasses, allowing her critical eyes to pan her features. Creases everywhere now. Forehead, turkey-wattled neck, cheeks falling down on the job, teeth nicotine yellowed. Unbidden anorexic tears flowed from her sunken eyes magnified briefly by the lenses. Jesus.

Her daughter rapped impatiently on the door. Susanna had promised she would take Keefe for a walk in the fancy stroller. Down through the village of eyes. And give Lara a break for a few hours. Keefe was a colicky baby, and the only thing that settled him was the car or the stroller.

It was a hot day but she was chilled, even with her cardigan on. Before she left with the stroller Lara had lectured her about smoking and stopping for the vodka at Pete's GrocConGas. In times gone by, Susanna would have looked at her askance and told her to shut up. She couldn't even summon the energy anymore. She took it with eyes downcast, standing still, rolling the stroller, as if in impatience, back and forth on the deck.

She thought soldiers don't know about bravery. Not one bit. I'd rather face a platoon of enemies on a battlefield than what's ahead of me here.

There were far too many out mowing, gardening and hanging clothes on the line and walking their dogs. What a change from the old days when the ground was used for food and the dogs for herding cattle. Now Lara lived in a new house on the hill overlooking the old family ruins with her fellow out West making big money and spending most of it at home here in St. Kevin's on his turnarounds.

And she, Susanna, in Halifax with the oul fella, her foul mouthed mate of thirty years. Who never ceased to remind her or anyone within earshot of where he'd met her, while in defence she would yell: tell them how, you pervert, tell them how!

The new pastor was coming towards her. She'd heard of him. From Korea. Who else would he be?

He stopped and admired the sleeping Keefe and asked who she was.
“Susanna Farrell” she told him, “Mother of Lara Farrell.”
His eyes were kind but puzzled. She was sure Lara hadn't darkened a church doorway since her confirmation.
“It would be very nice,” he said, in remarkably unaccented English, ”If the little one was baptized.”
She couldn't stop herself.
“And why would that be, Father?”
“Oh now,” he said patiently, “God loves the little ones.”
“Oh, something like suffer the little ones to come unto me?”
“Yes, yes!” he beamed at her.
“Well Father, my suffering was of no concern to God or priest when I was a child.”
And shrugging her thin shoulders, she left him behind her on the road, his hurt smile reiterating ancient Father Lynch's in that old confession box.

“Your father's a good man, Susanna Brigid, a very good man. Slandering him is a mortal sin! Twenty Hail Marys! Now get out of here!”

She kept her eyes down. Father Korea – he never did tell her his name – would be hearing more about her history in the next short while. Of that she was sure.

She'd taken up knitting for Chrissake. Knitting! She'd even taken on some sheep to give her the wool. A lot of work that. Busy work. She was making it pay for itself now with the addition of the dyeing equipment. And buyers coming all the way out to ooh and aah. She'd kept himself away from it all as she knew he'd ruin it with that mouth. Had to seriously threaten him with exposure to the authorities.

And it was all paying off now. Giving her extra but more than anything giving her respectability. Like the cardigan she wore today, made in her own wool by her own hands. Some were calling her an artisan. An artisan! Susanna the artisan!
But not here. Here that didn't count. Here was purgatory. She watched the Daleys getting out of their car at Pete's GrocConGas. Throwing a glance her way, nodding slightly, dismissively, not even feigning the slightest curiosity in the baby. Tainted baby. Her only grandchild.

She'd only booked to stay for the usual week. The week that seemed a year with her unvoiced question pounding away in her brain all the time she was here. Until she drowned it in her nightly vodka.

“Where the fuck were you when I was thirteen and pregnant with the dirty fifty dollars from my father in my pocket to get me to the docks of Halifax?”

Saturday, August 07, 2010

What I did on my Summer Vacation

Fort Amherst across from Signal Hill, St. John's, Newfoundland.

Thanks for all the good wishes on my previous post.

I had a lovely week off in spite of the weather that kept hissing and splatting and fogging. I took my friend around all the familiar (by now) tourist spots on the Avalon Peninsula once the sun struck which was far too rarely.

I note I've slid into 'creature of habit' status. I am still slightly discombulated from being forced out of my usual routine and with a friend I've never shared board with before so synching routines (downtime, uptime, shower/bath time, laundry facilities, food peculiarities, etc.)for a whole week knocks me right out of my comfort zone.

I realize it takes far more courage for a guest to travel a distance and land in the home of a person that up to now and over the many years has been a work, event and dinner companion, than to be the host of such a friend. Basically one is trapped. No car, no transit, totally reliant on the (hopefully) good nature of the chatelaine.

It all went rather well, I thought. Fresh routines were formed - for instance we watched a movie out of my vast collection every night before bedtime and we learned about each others' families of origin in all their uniqueness.

We are both great talkers and intensely curious about this planet we inhabit. And I learned much about her upbringing in Australia.

And I was absolutely thrilled that my whale buddies performed their show-off routines for her at Cape Spear. Thanks mates!