Saturday, April 30, 2011


I noticed it first in my retired father. This low level anxiety when we were travelling together. The constant flipping of the wrist to look at his watch.

"C'mon, c'mon," he'd say, "Look lively there!"

"What's your rush, Da?"

And then I'd get a variant of the following:

"We need to find a hotel for the night."

"We don't know where the restaurant is."

"The ferry could leave early"

and then the best clincher of all:

"We don't want to be late."

Late. When we had no definite plans. When our hotel rooms would yawn at us vacantly as we entered them. When we were two hours early for a tour somewhere or one hour early for a lunch reservation and had to hang around in the lobby like transients.

I noticed this manufactured rush in a retired friend of mine when I was back in Ireland. This low level anxiety, the pacing, the impatience, the circling of the car and flashing of the wrist watch. When there were absolutely no definite plans in place and we were technically free as birds with no time constraints. It is easy to say 'ignore it'. But I can't. I pick up on the vibration and I find it stressful. As if I, with my slow packing or toothbrushing, is holding him back from something really important that must be attended to.

And the grand finale of all of this is usually just hanging about, killing time.

I am ever watchful I haven't inherited the Da's gene. Then again, I threw away my last watch over twenty years ago. Best thing I ever did.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Telling Moment

Well, you'd never guess of course, but I do have a flair for the dramatic.

I pull up to the gas pump of my local GrocCon (that's what we call the wee local shops of our little outports that stock just about everything - from hammers to towels to milk to gas) and there is a sign outside:

"WTF?!", I ask him as I pick up my mail and drop off client packages.

"Well," he sez, "My gas delivery man tells me it is too expensive to fill up his truck to ship gas all the way out here so he stopped a couple of weeks ago."

"What's going to happen now?" I ask him.

"I tried a few more independents and they all say there's no profit in it for any of them. We've been selling gas here since 1925. Imagine! First time the pump has run dry."

I felt a frisson. One of those pesky geese running over my grave.

And felt lucky I drive one of those tiny cars - where I get 700km for 40 litres of gas which is now $1.40 per. While USians are paying $5/gall.

Pundits are saying the price will drop one more time and then head for the stratosphere.

The future is here. And we're not ready.

Tell me I'm a drama queen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Truth is Stranger than Fiction Department

I first wrote about an extraordinary internet scam way back in April of 2008 in which a woman was hoaxed into having an internet romance with a fictitious guy (actually a woman) who subsequently 'died'. The scam was perpetrated for the sheer excitement of it all and not driven by sex or money. Some of my commenters refused to believe it. I did -as Harlan Ellison, the well known author, validated what had happened.

Well now it appears that the scammer, a woman by the name of Janna St. James (who adopted up to 20 personalities to sustain her scams) is being sued by her victim, Paula Bonhomme.

Read all about it here

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Gorgeous Girl

~~~~Ansa today, posing for a series of happy portraits.~~~~

I was away for just over two weeks. She hardly ate. She slept on the couch which is forbidden when I'm around. She didn't use either of her beds (one in my office, one in my bedroom). She stacked up her daily treats in her office bed, waiting for some happy times so she could enjoy them.

She was walked three times a day but her head always hung low.

She lost weight (not a bad thing).

People tell me she always looked depressed - she is normally a very happy dog so the difference was striking.

She couldn't get over herself when I showed up early, early Saturday morning (or late, late Friday night if you prefer). She threw herself on her back legs so she could kiss my face. Over and over. So much I had to just about wear her for a good half hour.

You have returned, my goddess, she whispers, as she finally wolfs down her food and starts to work on the mountain of marrowbones.

I sure wish I was the kind of person my dog thinks I am.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Texas: Your worries are over!

Our sympathy goes to Texas in its hitherto unprecedented droughts and forest fires consuming the state.

However, our heartfelt envy goes to its citizens for the following solution put together by its governor, Rick Perry, ever mindful of the U.S. First Amendment and that bothersome business of the separation of church and state.

WHEREAS, the state of Texas is in the midst of an exceptional drought, with some parts of the state receiving no significant rainfall for almost three months, matching rainfall deficit records dating back to the 1930s ... NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, Governor of Texas, under the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas. I urge Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on that day for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal way of life.

Yup. Prayers to the ICH* to correct climate change. Such a simple solution. Who needs science and logic? Begone I say!

*Invisible Cosmic Housekeeper.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Greatest Show On Earth

Somewhere over the vastness of granite and snow, glaciers and white rivers that is Northern Labrador, I thought to take out my Ipod and listen to Franz Joseph's Haydn's Missa Maria Teresa. We were at 35,000 feet and the day was crystal clear, a blameless iridescence of a sky stretching to infinity.

The music seemed like a perfect accompaniment to the magnificence of the landscape beneath me. Unknown and unknowable. The origin of our species. For surely fire formed this black granite, those inhospitable mountains, the deepest gorges. Fire and ice.

I was moved to tears, the combination of the inpenetrable forbidden landscape that slipped beneath me accompanied by the glorious music of Haydn which has never failed to affect me deeply.

I refused to be frustrated by the idea of flying over my province of Newfoundland and Labrador on my way to New York and then retracing this journey again. A flight that should only take four hours ballooned to 11, plus layovers, plus commutes that tallied to nearly 24 hours of travelling.

The clear azure of the day flooded this incredible panorama: highest mountains and blackest chasms strung with the milky pearls of glaciers and frozen rivers weaving and threading through the tapestry.

The panorama finally slipped away and I took a moment to survey my fellow passengers, hoping to catch the glance of a kindred spirit. All the window blinds on the plane were down apart from mine. Everyone was watching their mini-screens or asleep.

And no one had seen the greatest show on earth beneath their feet: three hours of shattering beauty.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Dublin Tale

It was a lovely evening in Dublin last night. Gorgeous weather. A fabulous Thai restaurant, with an old friend who had moved back to Dublin 6 years ago with 30 years in Canada under her belt. A move that had its ups and downs but she is fairly settled now. Loads to talk about, loads to catch up on. We had a bit of shopping with us and my knapsack was under my chair and the packages on a nearby chair. We commented briefly when a man on a crutch stumbled against the railing beside us and then moved on.

On coming back from the washroom aboout 15 minutes later I noticed my knapsack was missing, a quick search by staff and nearby patrons confirmed, yes, OMG, the knapsack with my credit cards, medical cards, driver's licence, temporary mobile, about 30 Euro, daytimer, current book, etc. was gone.

We recalled the cripple and his lurch, the restaurant staff played the CCTV and then the manager and a waiter took off down the street in hot pursuit. They intercepted him at another restaurant doing the same bump and grind but no sign of my knapsack. The police had been called in the meantime.

My friend, the dear darling woman, went off to a bank machine and threw all these Euro bank notes on the table to make me feel less destitute (how was I going to get cash with no debit card, h'm?).

Next thing, two ban gardai (women police) show up holding my knapsack. Gobsmacked doesn't begin to describe my feelings when a check of the knapsack showed everything intact. Yer man had stashed it behind a rubbish bin to survey his loot at his own leisure after he had robbed other unsuspecting customers.

The restaurant refused an extra tip for their prompt action and insisted on supplying us with all the free cappucinos we could handle. The police superintendent arrived to tell me how absolutely incredibly lucky I was as robberies in Dublin are through the roof and these crimes happen so quickly that nothing is ever recovered.

I was photographed with the bag for the records, yer man was hauled off in the paddy wagon and detained overnight as a guest of the state.

My thanks to the wonderful Garda Siochana – 3 outstanding women police and to the incredibly kind and quickthinking staff at Koh who went above and beyond the call of duty.

Luck of the Irish? What do you think?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Up in the City

Lovely changes in my native city of Cork, shown above. Sidewalks widened, outdoor cafes everywhere, most roads are now pedestrian only which adds to the truly alive buzz of a busy city with no danger from vehicles.

I loved how the new buildings enhance the old and that height regulations still exist for the most part.

Whenever I envision Cork in my memories it is always shrouded in rain, wet slick sidewalks, black umbrellas, reflected headlights.

The weather has been perfect, sunny spring days, Cork looking like it belonged in a painting of Renoir's.

I will replace the outdated internal photo album.

Up Cork. Yeah.

And PS I am reading blogs but for some reason I can't comment.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Down on the Farm

I will catch up on all the blogs I'm missing out on very soon. Right now I am in West Cork, one of the most magical places on earth. One of my brothers has started an organic farm here with sheep and hens and he has re-introduced an old Irish breed of cattle called the Dexter. We look out over the oyster beds on Roaring Water Bay and as always I never want to leave this stunning spot.

It is just the sibs down here on a short break and we are having a whale of a time and the craic is 90.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Golden Threads Among The Silver

It was surreal, so many elements of life colliding, shattering, then coming together again and forming new entities. The gathering of individuals who, in most cases, had not seen each other in fifty years, having intensely shared each others' days for many years a half a century ago. What surprised me most was the glamour, the 4 inch heels, the blondenesses, the decollet├ęs, the designer dresses, the perfect make-up, the Mediterranean tans. I must make it clear I do not fit into such a category. Not even close. I brought the LBD – my only dress, I hasten to add, and abandoned my high heels in Canada at the last minute and brought sandals instead and a sparkling trailing scarf.

Did we have fun? Amazingly so. What did we talk about? Our teachers, what we remembered about classes, how strict it was, how terrified we were of failure, the Irish economy (nobody of this group hurting as of yet) summer homes, travel. Some had already lost adult children, one was bald from chemotherapy, one was a nun with a startling turquoise dress, some memories of high school faces were erased by surgical interventions.

The class bully (I still bear the scars of one of her assaults on me) flew over from South Africa for the night, wealthy, handsomely bejewelled and sweepingly clothed in royal purple. There is no divine retribution. She was still being assiduously avoided by most of us. She finally gave up on swooping down on individual groups whose animation faded as she arrived and suspended their chatter until she moved on like some purple turkey buzzard plucking the innards out of a flock of starlings. Yet another validation of the old saw that we never change, try as we might.

One of the more attractive of our number was an Olympic runner who as a very young mother of three had competed in the Olympics. An extraordinary achievement for that day and age. A few had become medical doctors but gave up practices upon marriage. More than a few had gone back to school in their fifties and achieved post graduate degrees.

Shockingly, our science teacher was there. Eighty-eight years old. She had made a point of travelling from a science conference in Thurles to be with us for the night. She is still an active scientist along with being a nun.

The (lay) principal of our school addressed us and to say we were underwhelmed is to be kind. Mainly I was struck by the “Woo Factor” of my classmates. All still practising Catholics as evidenced by the devout prayer heads before and after the main meal. All, apart from the one unmarried, bearing their husbands' names. All with four or more children. The two who bore children outside wedlock all those years ago were still being gossipped about and speculations made as to subsequent relationships and progeny.

Do I feel odd amongst such creatures? I can honestly say no. I am old enough to be finally comfortable and unapologetic in my own skin and I would think loved enough by the classmates I have stayed in contact with. I am probably considered 'fierce odd' but I wear that designation as a badge of honour. I managed to escape the awful confines of rigidly Catholic Ireland and I feel I am all the better for it.

Ireland is lovely to visit. I love the seamless way I blend into “my people” - Irish social life and my Irish family.

But I am always so very happy to leave it all behind me when I go. For in my opinion, Ireland has changed so very, very little from when I lived there. And that is not a good thing at all.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Huddled Mass

Yeah, that was me. In the Homeland Security Office at Newark International Airport. With frightening shave-headed men in blackshirt uniforms with intimidating Homeland crests on their barrel chests, using their fingers to tap on passports and saying “YOU” and never a name. NO CAMERAS! NO CELLPHONE! NO PHOTOS! Are on every pillar, every wall. I didn't see one welcome sign.

For the first time in my life I had my fingerprints taken, twice, along with a photo, twice. No explanation at all. As I sat and waited and waited in this dark and dismal place with a few other huddled masses. I finally and totally got what my clients and friends of colour go through when they cross the US border. In solidarity with them I had been avoiding going through the US for years but had no choice if I was to make Ireland from St. John's in 17 hours rather than 27. I was simply using Newark as a minor layover transition between St. John's and Dublin. No intention at all of escaping the restraints of the airport and terrorizing New York State singlehandedly. I don't even carry illegal hooch or wacky bacci.

Was I scared? Yes, I was terrified. My blood sugar plummeted and I felt close to fainting. And I was told I was “lucky” I wasn't shipped out of there and back to wherever I came from (If I were saucy I could have asked, Cork? St. John's? Toronto?In Utero?).

My crime?

I had the unmitigated gall to be a dual citizen of both Ireland and Canada.

I have many USian friends and as I write this to post later I shiver internally for what their country has become. I thought of Nazi Germany, I thought of people of colour, I speculated on what came up on the terminals in front of the three men who individually and together reviewed my papers in turn and which caused them to frown and glare sideways at me and shake their heads. Intimidation. It worked.

I remember a kinder and gentler America, we would cross and recross the border incessantly. New York, Washington, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, etc. We would be welcomed with smiles.

The only smiles I get here as I wait at the airport are from the security guards and barristas. All official personnel wear suspicion along with their uniforms.

It is a foreign land, this new America. Paranoid and fearful, for it's surely being destroyed from within. By the corporatocracy.

For doesn't a Halliburton or similar own the new Blackshirt Brigade?

The terrorists have won.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A Rape Joke Isn't.

I was appalled to read in the Irish Times today that the gardai (police) arresting a couple of women for protesting made a series of jokes (along with their superintendent) of raping them. Ha-ha. The rape culture is alive and well in my native country.

This certainly gives any raped girl/woman the confidence to report her assault to the police. Not.

A video camera owned by one of the women was inadvertently left switched on and this captured the entire conversation of the police.

Which seriously makes me wonder of how often and how many police make these kinds of 'jokes' and get away with it.

Rape is never, ever, ever, ever funny.

And I was threatened with it in 1971 by a policeman in Toronto who had stopped my car late at night.

And no one at the police station believed me.

Nothing changes.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Blog Jam

I was encouraged by my blog friend Viewpoint 2010 to investigate (once again)netbooks. When I had last done so, they underwhelmed me. Now I am completely impressed. I am actually test-driving it now, updating my blog.

I went a little higher in price than I intended mainly because my genius tech guy swears by Asus and the grandgirl had a major problem with Acer, which is $100 cheaper. The graphics quality on this is truly awesome for such a tiny unit. I also liked its keyboard, the keys are larger and sturdier than the Acer and the sound and video far superior. I was able to download Open Office no problem (thanks again, Veep!) and install a free 25MG Skydrive storage supplied by Microsoft. I am always amazed that not more users are aware of the best free cloud storage on the web. And Microsoft isn't going anywhere in the foreseeable future so the data is safe. See? Microsoft isn't totally awful. And this saves me a lot of flashdriving when I can access my files from anywhere, seamlessly. And for free.

This wee thing is light as a feather and I fought for and received quite a shocking discount on her and they also threw in a hot pink skin, a camera chip, a flash drive and set her up for free. It's only lately I've developed the skill of haggling. It would embarrass me even to start before. Now I'm older and tougher and shamefree. And also ready to walk away if the deal is not to my suiting. So hello little bargain Asus. We are going to be very good for each other.

Elsewhere, I had the shock of my life when I had an email from a very dear 82 year old friend today. Now, that was worth a phonecall to her. She has had a fairly tough past 15 years taking care of her husband who had Alzheimers and only began reading again this past winter after he died and proudly told me she had read 7 books so far. She also has embraced technology and is now on line. I am so inspired by elders like her who rise up again and learn and relearn new and old skills and live to tell the tale. They never shut the door on possibility as I have seen so many do.

And yes I'm packing, easy when one has empty bedrooms to lay out the potentials and evaluate carefully. I'm a good packer, rarely take more than I actually plan to wear and believe co-ordinates are the key along with lovely scarves. I am trying to decide on 'dress shoes' at the moment. I always wear the trainers and usually take sandals (Birkenstocks)for alternative footwear. I don't know why my only pair of high heels is calling me. Silence! you twisty, silly things, I say, but they don't listen.

And awful, awful, Ansa sees the suitcases and my clothes scattered about and is throwing up. It breaks my heart. How on earth does one explain one's short absence to a dog?

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Secret Six

~~~~~The Secret Six on Sports Day, 6th Class~~~~~

The days are tightening up. I get phonecalls. I get emails. Cork beckons me. Stress piles a little high as it's Canadian tax season and we all know what hilarious fun taxes are.

Meetings and more meetings. Mindlessly I applied to the Canadian Census Department for a position. Never season+trip+play+census...might make my head explode. And now they want me and it has.

But I don't really miss my brain as for 2 weeks I won't need it. Starting Wednesday. EVERY SURVIVOR of my High School Graduation Class is going to be there including the one who couldn't because of illness and family commitment. She left a message on my phone today to say she'd be there and I was thrilled.

We had a devious little group of 6 of us in 6th class (Grade 6) who were truly appalled at all the girly stuff going on around us and on a series of lunchtimes built a fort (with our fathers' 'borrowed' tools) up high on a tree behind the wall of the sports field. Seriously. And then go there and store and read books, safe from boy/lipstick talk. We were rather an odd group, but extraodinarily lucky to have found one another all those years ago and stick to each other all through high school. And find nothing wrong with getting good marks and avoiding stupid classes like domestic science (home ec. now)and demanding calculus in our all girls' school which didn't offer it. They had to ship over a male math teacher from the boys' school across the river to teach it to the 6 of us after regular school hours. We would be called geeks today and would have been weirdly proud of that designation. I am in touch with 2 of those fairly regularly and understand two more are coming from England and another from a convent where she's been a nun forever.

The past is very much with me these days. And sometimes that's not a bad thing.