Friday, September 30, 2011

A First!

As some of my readers know, I do not lay me down and stay quiet. I write. I protest. I rant and roar sometimes. And I did that recently to my local MHA about the abysmal treatment of us outporters when it comes to Da Interwebz. I did not hear back from him.

Well guess what? This morning who arrives at my door with hugs and kisses but said MHA outlining the latest news in this game of "soon" and "soon" for reliable internet access. $8million has been allocated for full high speed service for us outporters and bids are being tendered by providers as we spoke. Well pol-promises I view with more than a jaundiced eye, let me tell you.

But the fact that he drove out here and talked to me, hell, I don't know a single soul on planet earth that this has happened to. Involved government? Well, I never.

And I don't gobsmack too easily.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shabby Shopping

Well, that's what I call it. Scrounging through second hand stores and charity shops for all sorts of goodies, including books and movies. I've no time for malls or big box or brandname fancy chains. But show me a Goodwill or a Sally Anne or a Value Village and I'm just about over the moon.

Almost an addiction for me. And my family too. And my friends.

I have a rule though:. If I haul in I have to haul out (donate). So far it works. I'd been looking for an apple picture to hang beside my apples (I'm a bit of an oddball that way, hanging like with like) and found one in the Sally Anne on half price day for $1.50. No tax either. I rather like it. Thing is if you get fed up with a shabby shopping item you just throw it in the charity bag and replace it for another $1 or $2.

And if you're wondering about the tigeen (an teachin - the little house), I had to use the internet up there yesterday and I felt I was flying above the trees. Seriously.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

Do you ever find you're running behind yourself and can't catch up? That's me. I know I am stressed to the max: far, far too much work in and far, far too little of me to go around.

I am taking a break to write before I go completely around the twist. I took a few hours off on Sunday (friends are kind enough to feed me) and I felt guilty. Then I knew I was in trouble. Guilty for taking off a few hours? I am in madness. I wish I could time the work that comes in the door, but it is always in one big flood of boxes and requests and emails. Speaking of.

The interwebz is gone hopeless again here which seriously impacts my days, so I took the time yesterday to write to my local MHA (Member of the House of Assembly in Newfoundland) yet again, with a copy to the local paper. Our local election is October 11th - which might fire up his arse a little, yeah? - and to date I haven't heard back.

Dear (Name redacted)~

I am sure you are getting just as tired of this as I am of writing to you and I even had columns in The Telegram published on this issue. I've been seven years now, count 'em, seven years, advocating for high speed service in my peninsula of (blocked for privacy).

Seven long years of empty promises of "next year", "soon", etc. The turbo stick was a temporary stop gap measure, which when it works it is OK. Adequate. About half the speed of broadband at more than twice the monthly cost. Oh monopolies like Bell Mobility can charge what they like and tell you to suck it up when you call frequently to complain as I do. They even have the nerve to tell me to walk up a hill and use it there, or go out on the road for better reception or get more users complaining (which I did) and they might check the cellular towers. They tell me to run my business from the top of my hill or the middle of the road in front of the house where there is better reception!

All very amusing I am sure to those who are complacently using their broadband and fibre optic in the comfort of their homes and offices only a few kms from here. I am told it is hardware failure, yet I take my turbo stick across Canada with me and it works perfectly everywhere else and has the capacity to work perfectly here. On those few occasions that are getting rarer and rarer. Why the inconsistency of service? No one has the answer except to blame me, the user for not working where they tell me to work, in the midst of traffic or at the top of a nearby hill with the birds.

I find it appalling that we continue to be treated like second class citizens out here, not 90 km from the metropolis of St. John's. Where I have to take up my knitting as I wait for page downloads and uploads and updates to software which can take hours while I do nothing else on my system. The inefficiency and unfairness of it all in trying to run my business makes me crazy to be perfectly honest.

Reliable high speed access is a RIGHT in this day and age. Like health care. Like education and fire and police. Why on earth is it not being fought for? Am I the only one living in this ongoing frustration, losing business (and my mind) because of the failure of the government to provide the most basic of business infrastructures?

I was in Ireland during the spring and even the out islands have broadband service. They were shocked to hear that our island of Newfoundland doesn't have this basic technology in the places that need it the most (remote health care, education, web-based business start-ups, information sharing, remote and satellite branch offices, etc.)

What is the latest on this? Am I still stuck out here losing business due to the inadequacy of my government in providing what so many others have taken for granted in the last 25 years?

Best personal regards as always,

PS And I as I write this, my internet connection has been dropped four times. FOUR TIMES.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rebel Without a Cause

Thoughts come my way at the oddest times. Odd thoughts. To be dragged out and consumed at a later date.

My father would have been 99 today. He should have been alive to see it. He took up cigar smoking rather late in life and enjoyed them far too much. He inhaled them. Seriously. The lungs of an ox. He died 15 years ago from heart disease. I'd say caused by the smoking. But there's some that might dispute that. The man would walk a couple of miles a day and go for the long haul on the weekends. Healthy and hearty of appetite. A good grubber as we say in the parlance of my people.

He would find it hard to keep a straight face as two of his children (myself and my brother) would run marathons late in our lives. He thought it a bit ridiculous. Me already a grandmother running my arse off around the city of Toronto. Why wouldn't we walk? How foolish was this?

He became belligerent about his latter day smoking. He would insist that fumes off the tailpipes of buses caused more lung cancer than his puffing away on his Maria Bendettis or whatever they were called.

I wouldn’t let him smoke in my car (or my house) and I would descend to the role of persnickety parent with him:

“No one has smoked in my car, Da, so finish it before you get in.”

“What in God's name would one cigar do to a fumey old car? Are you mad?”

“No, but I will be very soon, get out of the car and finish that thing on the side of the road, or put it out.”

He would roll his eyes at me and there would be great heaving sighs and mutterings thrown my way as he angrily did what I asked. No one likes being stranded in the middle of Pennsylvania. And he was against hitching as you'd never know what kind of axe murderer (or worse, he'd say, and I'd think, what's worse?) you could pick up. I would feel as if I'd caught one of my own teenagers smoking weed as I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel waiting for my oul fellah to do what I told him.

I find I'm getting to that age myself. Where my foolishnesses are ripe for admonition (you're not driving all the way across the country BY YOURSELF? You're not eating SUGAR? Did you go out for your DAILY WALK?). I remember the dear old mother of a friend, post heart attack, ordering banquet burgers loaded with bacon and horrible greasy cheese and glaring at us in defiance as we sucked up our belaboured criticism and let her at it.

It's a teetery old line we walk, us seniors. Stranded halfway between rebellion and toeing the line.

I get it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Story of Burt - Part 4 of 4

See Part 1 Here

See Part 2 Here

See Part 3 Here

He would take the time and effort, ever after, to carry pockets full of loonies and quarters and give them to any street person who asked, always with compassion and an ear if one of the unfortunates wanted to talk. .

One thing I always noticed about Burt was how clean he always smelled and how he had an endless supply of pale blue t-shirts that matched his eyes. His favourite mode of dressing was in jeans, with a checked shirt over one of the t-shirts. He told me he showered twice a day. And he had 24 of those blue t-shirts. He managed a shipping company when I met him. He started off loading the docks and within a couple of years was promoted through the ranks.

I'll tell you how Burt saved my life. We became good friends in spite of the fact that he had never befriended a woman before and he told me this at the start. But over the years it just happened. We would look out for each other. I prepared his tax returns and arranged for his pension payments and gave him a freezer I didn't need and we would cook for each other. And then tramp the country together and fish. Two people more distinctly at odds both in background and education and interests you would be hard pressed to meet. He taught me how to live in the bush on the berries and fungi and even edible tree bark. He would shove envelopes with cards and a $5 bill into my mail box with always the same notation on the card: “Somebody loves ya!”

One night I was feeling sick. A bad flu bug. Burt had called me and was concerned. He said if I wasn't well the following day he would take me to the doctor. I told him he was making a big deal out of a flu bug. The following morning after a sleepless night I was feeling worse. He showed up at my door leaving me no choice but to go to the doctor. Who could find nothing wrong. See? I said to him I told you so, now let me go home and go to bed.

Burt kept insisting there was something seriously wrong with me so the doctor sent me off for X rays. Still nothing wrong. Burt insisted again so she sent us to the emergency department of the local hospital where they ran blood tests and my white blood cell count was through the roof. I don't remember much about all of this except lying on a gurney and Burt telling me they were going to operate immediately, my doctor was on her way over to assist the surgeon as my appendix had ruptured and I had advanced peritonitis. I don't know how long the surgery lasted. My family were at the hospital when I awoke, along with Burt who told me I had technically died a few times throughout the long night. His old Indian tracker instincts had been bang on the money.

Over the lengthy recovery process Burt was there first thing in the morning when he would leave after an hour or so and reappear again last thing at night. I've never forgotten it. I had a really terrifying experience in a hospital as a small child and Burt wiped that particular slate clean. I've never felt that purity of love and caring before or since – either given or received. A safety and a certainty of feeling that were unshakeable. Not that we didn't have our differences, we did. And they were many. But they were never insurmountable and the thread of our love for each other was woven into the very fabric of our friendship.

Burt's end was quick. He had a 24 hour form of leukaemia closely related to pneumonia. If he'd chosen his death, that would have been it. Fast and painless. I had never heard of such a disease until his doctor enlightened me. Apparently one of the more famous people who died of it was Jim Henson of Muppet fame.

I was able to be there for Burt's end as he was there for my second life. I was shocked at the number of people who overflowed the church for his funeral, he had touched many lives. I finally met his siblings. His mother had died the year before, a few weeks after his last fishing expedition with her. Fishing set Burt's life to rights. Fishing with his brothers, his mother, with me. It was something he and his father had done, you see, and he said he always felt his father beside him when he fished, coaching him on casting, on tying the flies, on gutting the catch.

I put his fishing rod in the casket beside him. So he'd be ready.

Edgar Benoit, still alive in a care home back in New Brunswick, sent a cheque to cover the costs of the funeral.

Some people leave footprints on your spirit that never leave. I think of him often, think of how he would have loved where I live now with the fishing all around and the simplicity of existence.

He would approve.

Somebody loves ya!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Story of Burt - Part 3

See Part 1 Here

See Part 2 Here

The series of foster homes Burt was in remained a blur to him. All he remembered was getting angrier and angrier until it was like a huge ball of pain within him and then he discovered that booze and drugs would give him a short respite, that is when he managed to get his hands on them. He recalled his mother visiting a few times but he couldn't meet her eyes when she told him to be a good boy, that Mr. Benoit had his reasons for the breakup of her family and they lay between himself and God. She had no choice. He had no clue where his siblings were.

I always found it extraordinary that Burt never ever blamed his mother for her decision to put her four children into child care services and then on to foster care. I brought it up with him several times. Of course Edgar Benoit was a monster but his mother was complicit, no? Burt would become enraged, the only time I had ever seen him angry telling me never, ever spit on his sainted mother's name like that. Never. She did what she had to do, she had no choice. Door closed.

Mr. Benoit and their mother had moved into a small bungalow by a stream, far away from the town, where in later years her adult children would come and stay for a few days and fish in the nearby stream with her, circling Edgar warily, barely polite, not that he encouraged any kind of conversation, even at table.

One of his brothers joined the US army and rose to the rank of colonel during Vietnam. The other brother ran a garage in Ontario. The sister met an American friend of her brother's and moved to New York with him.

None of them ever referred to that night again or blamed their mother for condoning the disintegration of her family. Edgar became the focus of their rage and despair and hatred even though in later years he became completely blind and totally dependent on their mother and softened somewhat. They refused to speak to him. They spoke of killing him as if it were like taking him out for a beer. They invented plots where they all got their hands dirty and covered for each other. The elaborate plans for his death became pretty much their only topic of conversation when they got together over the years. Which was rarely. None of them had children, Burt by choice, and he was sure the others had made the same decision. He couldn't really tell you why if you asked him.

Burt had many years of pain and turmoil once he escaped to the vast anonymous city of Toronto. He couldn't hold down a job even though his charm and innate intelligence landed him a few good positions. The alcohol would win out every time, sending him teetering by turn from apartments to rooming houses to shelters all the way to park benches and bottles of rubbing alcohol. At times his pain consumed him, it should have killed him, he admits but for his rage at Edgar giving him a life force, a purpose. Revenge.

He recalled, one time, that in a fog, he managed to hitch all the way to New Brunswick and showed up at his mother's home, in rags, reeking of alcohol, many of his teeth rotted out of his head. His mother took him in and gave him some money and a rosary beads and bought him clothes and nursed him back to health after she insisted he go to the local parish priest and take the pledge and swear off the drink. His thanks was to rob all the valuables out of the house and find a hidden stash of cash in Edgar's tool shed and skip out of town without a goodbye.

As such men do, he found a simple loving wife to take care of him for a while, she worked hard and he spent most of her money on booze until they were forced, financially, to live with her mother. A miserable experience for Burt as his wife paid more attention to her mother's instructions as to how to run their married life and consequently withheld money from him for the first time. Which forced him to find a job yet again until the cycle started once more.

This time he was turfed out of his mother-in-law's house and there was no in-between residence in apartments and rooming houses and shelters. He hit skid row directly. Bridges and bottles, he said to me. His life was delineated by bridges and bottles. With maybe the odd blanket to keep him warm as he lay on a sleeping bag on some cardboard boxes. It was one of those charity workers that he despised who woke him up one night. These workers would come around and drop off muffins and sandwiches and hot cups of cocoa and coffee and blankets. Do-gooders. He hated them. The worker squatted beside him and said to him: “I was under a bridge a year ago, just like you, and I've not had a drink in a year and I got my life back.”

Burt told him in no uncertain terms to eff off and rolled over. The worker leaned over and put a business card in front of his face. “Now if you're sick and tired of being sick and tired give me a call and I'll be there.” And with that he got up and walked off. In spite of himself, Burt put the card into a pocket and a week later, after he fell down and bashed his nose in and lay all night in his own blood, he found a call box and put in the dime that would save his life and get him sober.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Story of Burt - Part 2

See Part One here

By the end of the year, their brother Denis was born. A beautiful sunny child, beloved by all but never more so than by Mr. Benoit who became a man besotted. The child was given his own bedroom beside his parents and his wardrobe put the rest of theirs to shame. Burt remembered no jealousy about this. If Mr. Benoit was happy, and happy he surely was, the lavish gifts bestowed on their half-brother was a small price to pay. Burt's load was suddenly lightened. Mr. Benoit threw him the odd book to read, the extra break in the day and instructed his mother to cut down and resew some of his own pants to fit the lad as he approached his twelfth year.

Denis had just turned three when Burt awoke to smoke and flames screeching across the dark night sky ourside his bedroom window. It was moonless that night, Burt recalled. He awoke his two brothers who shared his room and they grabbed a few of their meagre possessions and then got his sister who was cowering, frightened, in a corner of her own bedroom, and he led them all to safety down the back stairs and across the courtyard to the stables so they could release the few animals and chickens Mr. Benoit kept there.

Burt told them to stay with him, he didn't want to lose sight of them as the hotel was being devoured so fast by the flames and the heat was so intense. They went around to the front of the hotel and across the street where a small crowd was gathering and the geriatric old fire truck had arrived with a great clanging of its bell and the firemen were ineffectually leaking water onto the inferno through the hose.

Mr. Benoit came staggering out of the front door, half carrying their mother who looked to have fainted. Alarmed, the children gathered around her, Mr. Benoit pushed them aside.

“You have Denis? He asked Burt, looking to the rest of the children, “Where is Denis?' his voice rose into a scream that Burt would remember all of his days.

“Denis?” and he dropped their mother to the ground, and began to race back into the building until he was stopped by the four volunteer firemen who had to pin him to the ground.

At that moment, on the upper floor, Burt saw his little brother in silhouette against a hall window, his thumb in his mouth, but only for a few seconds, for the flames were greedily snatching at him from behind until he vanished in the horrible sound of the building disintegrating in a roar of collapsing floors and ceilings. A sight spared Denis' father who was still face down in the driveway, screaming his son's name.

After that, it was all over. Mr. Benoit could not look at the surviving children and ordered his wife to put them into care for he would not have them around him to remind him of how they survived while his son died.

To be continued

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Story of Burt, Part 1

Burt with my daughters

I must get his story down before I toss off my mortal coil. I started and finished it on the ferry, that blighted ferry, so out of lemons comes lemonade, yeah? I mentioned Burt before, here. He was truly one of a kind.

Burt's father died in a mill accident in the town of Dalhousie, New Brunswick, when he was 8. He and his two brothers and sister who were younger, along with their mother, were left penniless. He still remembered the raw hunger in his stomach when he went to bed at night. His mother was a proud woman who kept their worn old clothes in immaculate condition. He would see her sitting by the stub of a candle, late at night, mending and darning and knitting if someone had been kind enough to give her some wool.

When Mr. Benoit, the owner of the local hotel, started to come around a few nights of the week the children wondered about it. Mr. Benoit had lost his wife in childbirth a few years before and the baby had only lived a week before it followed its mother to the grave. He was a tall man who never smiled and who was given to glaring at the children in such a frightening manner that they would scamper up to their attic room and stay there until dawn by which time Mr. Benoit would have left.

Burt was old enough to speculate on what went on between his mother and Mr. Benoit. Except she didn't call him Mr. Benoit anymore but Edgar.

A month later a whole series of events took place. Mr. Benoit married their mother in the side chapel of Notre Dame and they all moved into the private residence end of the Benoit Hotel. The boys shared a large bedroom with 3 single beds and their sister got her own small room. It all seemed like something out of a fairy tale.

One afternoon, their mother sat them down in her bedroom which had two windows overlooking the falls. A spectacular room, with real lace curtains in the windows and an armchair in which she sat while they lined themselves up along the edge of the bed.

“It’s a miracle,” she told them, “My prayers have been answered!” And here she bowed her head. Burt's mother was devout, saying the rosary, offering up intentions, pleading with the almighty for relief and never blaming him when things went spectacularly wrong.

“Now, Mr. Benoit is still to be called Mr. Benoit by all of you. He would prefer it that way. You are all to behave yourselves around him, he does not like noise or questions or out of control or disobedient children. We are all truly blessed that he has opened up his heart and home and taken us in. He is a good man.

“And now also, Burton, you are to quit school immediately and help him around the place, repairing and fixing and cleaning.”

This was a blow to Burt as he loved his books and had hoped to get enough education to enlist in the army. But he had no choice.

The work was back breaking and seemed never to stop from dawn to dusk with short breaks. He learned how to replace roof tiles and broken pipes, paint and repair windows, fix squeaky doors and leaky toilets and threaten unruly drunks and sweep everything that needed sweeping all day long.

to be continued

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thoughts from the Water

Sailing route from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Argentia, Newfoundland, pretty much across the open Atlantic ocean.

Well, here we are. Our sailing time was 4.00pm and it is now 6.30pm. They let us on the boat, The Atlantic Vision, about 30 minutes ago with no sailing time in sight because of Maria. As of noon today, the sailing was still on but I imagine they are cautious now as Maria roars through Newfoundland and incidentally right by where I live. I took the precaution before I left of moving all the lawn and deck furniture in and battening down the winter door at the front of my house. I am glad now. I just hope all the trees will hold.

There are many boats and ferries at anchor in the harbour as I look out my gorgeously huge window. This is not a porthole by any stretch of the imagination. The weather outside is innocent: blue skies, a few white caps on the waves, but not a hint of Maria on this side of the crossing.

No news on when we will be sailing but we have been assured there is a ton of food on board and much to entertain us in the interim. I feel sure there is many a story to be told in this waiting for the crossing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thoughts from the Road

I am staying the night in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. It is a pretty wee town, picturesque and prosperous, judging by the fine old buildings and the number of boats at anchor in the river. I was in the original Glasgow back in the day, I must say I am more impressed with the New World version. Cleaner and more hopeful.

Does anyone else do this? I see that Strawbella's (the car's) odometer is about to click over on to a major number with lots of zeros and I get all excited. I really, really want to see all those 0000000s tumble over at the same time. I get ready about 100K beforehand. The tension's unbearable. Will she do it? Will it all go smoothly? What if she gets stuck? And yeah, somewhere near Springhill, NS, the monumental event takes place to cheers from me. 170,000K is now on the smooth face of Strawbella.

And in New Brunswick, just past me, is where I always think of my friend Burt. Burt saved my life back in the day. He was one of those New Brunswick country men at odds with the city around him but making the best of an uneasy co-existence. He liked nothing better than being out in the woods and me along with him. He often caught our supper in a nearby stream. A great trouter. I learned a whole pile about simple living off Burt at a time when my life could not have been more complicated.

He would show up at my door on a Sunday morning, just when I'd put down a self-important busy week and haul me and the dog off for tramps through the undergrowth followed by, very late in the day, a peculiarly Canadian supper called a hot chicken sandwich - layers of cooked chicken slathered between two slices of the whitest bread ever, untoasted, with a mound each of green peas and french fries: all of this business covered in thick brown gravy. I was too starved to ever refuse.

(to be continued)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blog Jam and 9/11

Well from Friday on I got worse and worse, to the point when having dinner with a friend I couldn't finish it (you'd have to know me to know I never go off my feed). Every bone in my body ached, my glands were swollen, my head was stuffed. Daughter said I must be the canary in the coalmine. By Sunday, after a couple of sleepless nights I decided to pack up and leave. Quickly.

Thanks for all the support on this. I have researched smog in Toronto and even though hundreds (maybe thousands?) die of it each year, there is very little research as to symptoms and long term effects. It is scary. I am reminded of my naturopathic doctor who, about a decade ago, performed research on behalf of the government into the pollution in Toronto and presented her papers in Ottawa and promptly moved far away telling me before she left that it was one of the most toxic cities on the planet.

I am taking it easy driving myself and Ansa across the country (it's an amble, maybe a final one) and feel so much better already, my bones no longer ache, my head is clearing, my mind is not in panic attack mode. I think Daughter is correct. The air is so clean in Newfoundland that the shock of Toronto smog is unbearable to my system. I am now about 450K into a 2100K trip to the ferry.

I was over at Nick's - please go read his post on 9/11 - and composed quite a lengthy comment and to my utter frustration it vapourized, so I'm assembling my thoughts on this again.

I was out with a friend for dinner and she was discussing all the endless hooplah around the 10 year anniversary when I suddenly threw at her:

"But the terrorists have won, haven't they?"

And she leaped up in joy and said:

"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! No one has said this are they all blind, deaf and dumb?"

We discussed this at length, the trillions in treasure spent on illegal invasions and "homeland security", money which could have been spent on universal health care and child poverty, infant and elder mortality (one of the highest in the "first" world) - how many more million children need to be on foodstamps and without basic healthcare - the soaring unemployment rate, the homelessness of the once middle class citizens (millions again at last count). If it was Osama Bin Laden who instigated the tragedy of 9/11 (and believe me I am totally sympathetic to the victims and their families) he must have been rubbing his hands in glee at the bankruptcy he has created in his hated USA. Mission accomplished indeed.

And speaking of Bin Laden, whatever goodwill was left for the US after these catastrophic "wars on terror", the tortures and renditions of many innocent "foreigners" along with millions massacred as "collateral damage" - half estimated to be young children - the final nail in the coffin of moral high ground was the manner in which he and his wife were murdered in cold blood, in a country they had no permission to be in, without trial, and the bodies thrown out at sea. Justice. Frontier style. Government as lynch mob.

I am enraged for my many American friends and those who read my blog who have my total respect and admiration and who are witnesses to their country being so thoroughly trashed in the decade since 9/11 with their treasure stolen for the oligarchs in fruitless foreign invasions and massacres.

The opportunity for continued world peace was wasted and the continuing global economic havoc and instability will not be over in my lifetime, if ever.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Out of Sorts

Did you ever feel like you are standing some distance from yourself, wondering why you don't feel like yourself? No? Well, that's me at the moment.

I don't feel well, I don't feel deathly ill, but somewhere in between. Coughing, difficulty breathing, leg pains, thigh pains. "Off": that's me. The older I get the more the city air (a loose term for oxygen, I know)affects me. I tend to shallow breathe. It might only be me but I feel it is toxic. It reminds me when I was down in Mexico City and my brother told me an environmental engineer with a fresh contract in his hand for a project, had moved his wife and family down there and three days later they all took the first plane out. He'd done some testing. And fled.

Does anyone test the air in Toronto? I know anyone who lands in St. John's to visit me remark about the air immediately they arrive as they suck in huge lungfuls of it.

I was feeling really sick last night and trying to sleep and a party next door breached many decibel levels. I'd forgotten that. Even over and above the traffic and sirens and airplanes overhead, how very noisy next door parties can be. Could be I'm a fully fledged geezer now.

I was going to stay on for another week or so, there were some events I wanted to attend but my mind is made up today. I am heading back out to Newfoundland at the beginning of this week.

I just can't take it anymore.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Cartoon of the Week

click to enbiggen

This was sent to me today and it seemed oddly apt to yesterday's post.

Changing Times

A dear friend whom I was meeting for dinner tonight (I know endless rounds of delightful dinners out with friends seems like a permanent lifestyle for me at the mo)texted me to say she had severe pains in her abdomen and was taking herself off to the hospital.

Whoa, nelly, what? I text her back. Where are you? What hospital? Silence. I leave messages at her home, on her blackberry, on her office line. Silence. One of my messages I say: Yeah, I've been there with severe abdominal cramps, mine was a ruptured appendix followed by peritonitis.

She finally texts from a Women's College Hospital ambulance, they are taking her directly to Toronto Hospital for emergency surgery. We continue texting. She is outside the operating room, saying it is pointless for me to be there, they have diagnosed her with a perforated appendix (I know, I know, I should be a diagnostician)and are taking her in for the surgery immediately.

All digits are crossed for her. I am so glad she had the sense to take herself off to the hospital once the pain hit and that she is now in good hands. I won't relax though until I know she is OK and I hope to see her tomorrow.

I find it extraordinary that in a few short years so much has changed in how we communicate and how instantaneous and immediate it all is.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


I'm a great one for the chat. I love conversation. Always have. Got hooked at a young age hiding somewhere inconspicuously: behind a chair, in a corner, on the stairs, listening to my mother and her friends unthread lives and stitch them back up again.

We learn so much from the talk of others. "An caint" as we have it in Ireland. And what was that again about Irish conversation? A series of monologues?

Conversations with women are different than with men, I believe. Women like to thrash things out, go around a topic, land for a while, veer off again. Men tend to treat dilemmas as problems to be solved. Women are not looking for solutions when they talk. They are looking for the shared stories, the sympatico, the empathy.

"Take this," she said last evening, as she handed me the framed picture she had made, "The star lights up at night."

Yes, on those dark nights it will glow quietly on my bedside table and remind me of her. My dear friend who has suffered and triumphed and who will dance again.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Dis & Dat

Back by popular demand, a picture of the happiest dog on the planet taken by Grandgirl before we left Newfoundland.

At my age I don't take too much for granted. Like this evening, going downtown in this blessed cool weather (The Avalon in Newfoundland where I live is now warmer than Toronto, go figure!)with Daughter and Grandgirl and walking around together and bookshopping and then hitting a new cappucino spot. How lucky are we to have each other? And we are all aware of this. Understanding each other. Very clear on these First World privileges that allows us to do such things for how many can't?

Daughter has MS and I've had a few health issues in the past year so the fact we are both mobile and free to celebrate these three generational events is something we never take for granted. There is almost a bitter-sweetness to it.

Connecting with friends here is also wonderful. I've missed them. I always do. Though I never second guess my decision to move to Newfoundland which has opened up my life in a way that would never have happened here in Toronto. My perfect life would allow me to spend two months of the year here, plugged in to enough family, friends, culture, art and music to fill me for the other ten months. Toronto is a wonderful, vibrant city and I love it.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


I tried so hard to get a closeup of this pretty and unusual flower but Ansa kept butting in. OK then.

Dateline: Toronto

I must be wrecked. I am not used to this heat and noise anymore and to land into a heatwave and overhead plane practices for a Labour Day airshow along with all the usual city noises of screaming ambulances, firetrucks and police car sirens batters my psyche intensely until I assimilate once again. And after 2 days, this has not happened yet.

Planning the social (and work) calendar is something else again - fitting the old friends in for catchup time. Daughter says I can use her house as a base and entertain here if I want.

I am hoping the weather will cool down. I can't imagine what the 50C+ weather conditions were here in the height of summer. Now it is over 30C (humidity factor is always calculated into these figures) and it sucks the air out of my lungs. Wuss=me.

Meanwhile I am basking in the air conditioning and barely stick my head outdoors.

Friday, September 02, 2011


Dateline: Near Montreal.

There's something about a long road trip. As if one lives in a bubble, a balloon, floating above one's normal life, detached.

It's even more enhanced when accompanied by a beloved companion who shares her quirks and eccentricities and her rich imagination and who is also extraordinarily well read and informed.

We toss around all sorts of ideas, comment on the ridiculousness of human existence and this insatiable want that seems to overcome so many people, this desire for "more" that drives unjust wars and extreme poverty all over this tiny planet. The sad materialism of so many evidenced by ridiculously large vehicles speeding past us, Hummers, SUVs and their ilk, often with just one driver. Usually miserable too, if the face is the mirror of the soul. Nobody sings, we observe, except us. What is a road trip without singing?

I talk to the waitress at the wonderful bistro where we had lunch today, a wee bit off the road just before Quebec City. Turns out she owned the restaurant that served a heavenly beef bourginonne. And the menu was handwritten at the beginning of every week featuring 3 daily choices each day (soup, entree, dessert and coffee all for $9.99). She asked where we were from and where we were going.

She said: "When my last baby left home, for a whole year I accompanied my husband, a long haul driver, across the entire country, from coast to coast and my favourite place was Newfoundland!"

I said to her, "It's a shock how beautiful Newfoundland is, it is Canada's best kept secret!"

"My dear," she said,"We live in the most beautiful country in the world, don't we?"

And I nodded, feeling quite emotional at sharing this brief and wonderful moment with a Quebecois.

Afterwards, Grandgirl said to me that she finds this type of understated patriotism so much more meaningful than flag waving and anthem singing and hands on hearts and swearing allegiance and pledges.

"It's so heartfelt, so real, it makes me so proud to be a Canadian!"

Amen baby!