Saturday, May 30, 2009


My young Irish Setter,still less than a year old, was across the tracks near the Pool grain elevator. I didn't know he was there. It was a favorite spot for a dog because there were lots of rats,a focus of interest rather than food,around the elevator annex. He was still young enough that he lacked savvy, and had separation anxiety in new situations. I first noticed him when the freight train was standing, waiting for orders at the platform. I heard the freight start to move with that characteristic squeak of axles mobilizing, and looked under the box car that began moving at a slow walk pace.I could see Rusty trying cross the tracks under the box car.He made several tentative passes and then pulled back. I yelled at him to go back to no avail and as he tried to slip under the moving boxcar to the platform where I was standing, he was caught by a rear wheel in his midsection. I watched in horror as each wheel of a long train passed over his body. Each boxcar and the caboose.I ran into the kitchen where my mother was. She comforted me. BMc, the Pool elevator operator and my dad stayed outside after the freight train pulled away. Then my dad came in the station and said, " You have to pick up your dog and bury him." My mother and BMc said, " he can't or shouldn't do that!" My dad said I had to do it, it was the only way. So, I picked up the two parts of my dog and put him in the wheelbarrow. I went about 500 yards down the right-of-way and buried him near the tracks. I'm not sure what my dad was thinking or why, but then I'm not sure that he was wrong. I guess no matter what, we have to face our grief head on. We cannot sanitize the events of our lives. Doing what I did probably allowed me to participate both in the life and the death of something I loved. At fifteen I suddenly took a further step towards becoming a big boy. I never had another dog till much later in life. Beside the tracks, on the main line, with 10 or 15 trains a day, is not the place to have a dog. I think , in retrospect, I'm grateful to my father.

Dog Show

Irish setters are a beautiful animal. I was 14 and visiting my grandparents in Winnipeg when my mother phoned me,crying, from our home in Saskatchewan to tell me that my Irish Setter had been poisoned and died of strychnine seizures. He was a gift from my Aunt and was one of a number of dogs poisoned in the area. My family made it up to me by purchasing an Irish Setter puppy from Harry Dean in Dalmeny, Saskatchewan, a well known hunter breeder. My new Irish Setter , Rusty, I was convinced was a winner. He had a beautiful, darker red coat. When he was 9 months old I entered him in the Ladies Kennel Club dog show in Saskatoon. We had practised standing and heeling for months. We were bonded. I had fancied I would be one day become a professional dog handler. I had a subscription to the Canadian Kennel Club Magazine and read what I could about dog handling. We lived about 200 miles from Saskatoon on the main CNR line. The "Flyer" came through the town about 4 am every morning. The day before the show I washed my dog thoroughly. The "Flyer" stopped for us, this time, at 4 am the day of the show and Rusty and I both travelled to Saskatoon in the baggage car. He slept on one side all the way in to Saskatoon. Unfortunately he was still slightly damp from my doggy bath and sleeping on one side for that many hours was a disaster in the making. We got off the train at 8 am and walked to the arena. He was curly on the damp side and fuzzy on the other side. His glistening coat was dull and free of natural oils. He was too young to have good feathers. My debut in the doggy world was a disaster. At 15 years of age, the humiliation was intense and I was alone. I believe that seminal moment led to a change of vocation. Despite that, I dreamt of revenge on the Ladies Kennel Club. Don't ask why revenge! They didn't do anything wrong except, in the doggy world competition ,there is no charity good enough to assuage that kind of felt disaster. I consoled myself, on the long road back, that I would become rich, buy the best dog in the world, and win Best in Show at the Ladies Kennel Club of Saskatoon. I never did. I hugged my dog and he licked my face!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Changing of the Guard

Dr MC was an early pioneer in the "Morgantaler" movement. She had studied under him at his post graduate course and encountered with him, the ferocious opposition. She was committed to change, and weathered untold adverse criticism from various quarters, medical and non-medical, in that era in Lotus City. Dr. MC had the drive and zeal of an evangelist and stuck to her guns through and through,year after year, till the winds of change blew! She worked in the public, short stay surgical suite with the the rest of us, who were doing the less controversial surgical bits and pieces at the time. Even if you disagreed with Dr.MC's actions there was no one that questioned her professionalism or her tenacity to follow through! She knew how to get things done and invariably provoked a certain envy at her capacity to take a stand and weather a storm. The surgical change rooms at the time were labelled "Doctor's Change Room" and "Nurse's Change Room". The male orderlies changed into greens in the doctor's change rooms and the female doctors and other female staff changed in the nurse's change room. One eight am morning, the anaesthetist Dr GS, came barrelling out of the doctor's change room as I was going in. "Dr. MC is in there changing", he said. Well, I wasn't going to be buffaloed like he was so I went in, and there she was in bra and panties. She said, "I'm damn well a doctor and this is my room." I went to a locker and dropped my pants and shirt. She quickly dressed in greens and fled. I think the sight of me was disgusting enough that she wasted no time. This is all beside the point because the following morning, the signs on the change rooms were altered to read "Men's Change Room" and " Women's Change Room." Just as it should have been of course! Real change sometimes just requires a nudge. Activism has a broad and often pertenatious reach. Dr MC was an expert at it!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Telling the truth

When I began training with the bluntest man I ever met, he said to me," I know you don't know any orthopedics and don't pretend you do.If you want to stay here, there are only two requirements, be on time and don't lie! If you screw up a surgical case , say so. That way you never have to remember what you said. You have an insurer to look after your interests. It's his problem, not yours." The orthopedic service in the 50's in Olympic City was one of the better organized services but the system was run like a military establishment and you obeyed orders or you didn't survive. There was little room for free spirits and no room for sluggards. If you had a family and children and your wife needed a little down time with you, it was a task to escape the taskmaster. We probably would have been better to have adopted a celibate monkish existence for the training period of five years. How the pianist ever survived that period of neglect is a wonder. The Chief, at the end of each training year, told you where you were to go the next year. No one ever said no. Unfortunately I did as my putative year was to be a traveling year. I had 2 children and a wife and no money. I said I couldn't do it. I went from golden haired, to close to persona non grata! Senior surgeons came up and upbraided me for daring to say no to the Chief. Even then, as a lowly 2nd year surgical resident I could not get over the willingness of talented senior surgeons also bending to the rule of one man. What's more, as I think of the first interview and the Chief's observation that we don't lie because we don't need to since we can offload the responsibility to the deep pockets of the insurer, I believed, even then, that there are other reasons to be transparent and tell the truth. I can't deny however that having an insurer is handy. I spent 12 years on the College of Physicians and Surgeons adjudicating patient complaints about doctors and the most prominent cause was lack of transparency. If we screw up a case we can be forgiven by most patients, most of the time, if they know we were there for them, on time, and we didn't lie.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

bonding and fishing

When my 51 year old son Rob was 9 yrs old we bonded over fishing.I needed a father and son activity, and he, at that time, was working away with little boy efforts and rudimentary equipment, to lake fish on the shore, without much luck! I had neither the interest or past experience with fishing and if it hadn't been for his enthusiasm I would have never started. I began in the interest of a father son relationship and in the process, got hooked! Our initial fishing trip was to the high Okanogan lakes for trout, then stream fishing on the way back to the coast and finally fishing the bay at Port Renfrew. Just the two of us for two weeks. We caught nothing, but the bug. We bought a 26 and a half foot, wooden, diesel cabin cruiser and my daughters and the pianist entered the pursuit. We all became keen and fished together, inshore fishing, good gear, for the elusive Pacific Salmon. It's not so easy for the novice to catch a salmon. It's also scary for the novice to take responsibility for the safety of a family in inshore waters! We spent days in fruitless pursuit and plenty of bucks on lures and gadgets to entice the 'crafty' creature. Even empty handed, there were lots of adventures on what was, to us, the bounding main, and the bonding was good. Nevertheless, the prize evaded us. Then, miracle of miracles we caught a 13 inch salmon grilse. When we put into the marina, Rob said, "Dad, can I gut the fish?" Part of the pleasure of gutting the fish was being observed by an abundance of tourists at the Lotus City Marina. Interest and questions were often asked of the 'fisher folk', as as our prize demonstrated. In a few minutes the little guy returned to the boat, crestfallen! As he began to gut the tiny fish, and answer the questions, and display his prowess, the slippery fish squirted out of his hand and slid down the drainhole of the fish basin. He forgot to hold it by the gills. It was quickly gobbled up by a seal. That fish sure was small. What to say? The drain hole must have been too big! There's always another day. Over the next ten years all of us tasted fishing success though out the southern coast! Yield is not all that counts. More important is the doing it together. Getting skunked is as interesting as limiting, but different! Fishing has stuck with my children over the years but when they left home, I did not fish again. Fishing with them, when they were growing up, is among my most prized memories and a source of endless stories, but I remember best, our first ever fish!

cigarettes and whiskey

My paternal family has, for many generations, including the present, had a romance with John Barleycorn. It was spirits for us, because we were Scots and Irish origin, and wine was for 'foreigners' in the olden days, or 'rubbies'. Grain alcohol was more available where the product was grown, and it also could be homemade.It didn't stop us from working or being productive but it made it more difficult.We also, over the generations, provided large subsidies to the tobacco industry. To be dominated by one's addictions leads to guilt, remorse, salvation and relapse, and shortness of breath, all of which serve to diminish one's self image. Looking back, with today's ethic in mind, I see a smattering of the abstemious, and an abundance of the surreptitious fallen. I believe genetic makeup predisposes to the addictive personality. This is not an excuse as those of higher rectitude might insist. It has been a struggle for many of my family, and a cautionary principle for me, finally learned, but as we have aged, the scourge has mostly been overcome. However, it may be a case of " too soon old, too late smart". We cannot walk in anyone else's shoes and make judgements because love of family conquers all in the end. Why we have such a change in habit these days with cigarettes and whiskey, I have no idea but certainly there is an immense change. Maybe some of the young have just changed what they are habituated to. Maybe the old have got more interested in living longer! I have often said if I live to 90 I'm going to smoke again because I loved it, and the stream of smoke and conversation that floated on it. It wasn't called a 'peace pipe' for nothing. Augment that with a glass of spirit and everyone becomes a conversational genius. It just sneaked up on you, that it became too much of a good thing! When one of your family stumbles, the bell tolls for all. Tough love is not as tough on the loved,as it is tough on the lover!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


It's raining today, so it is a good day for dispatching slugs. I no longer use toxic materials added to solid bait. It is toxic also to furry and feathered friends. These chemicals were always highly effective and the liquid slug bait is still safe if used sparingly when necessary. The best organic method is to cut them in half, a rapid and humane way to eradicate them, and let them recycle 'in situ'. We have blacks, browns, grays and the ubiquitous banana slug. If you tally your kills you will be able to assess the efficiency of your control mechanism. You can even plot, number killed against cutting days, and come up with a nice Bell Curve if you are so inclined. Slug killing methods are contentious here in Lotus country! An incredible fact is, even killing is mildly contentious. That is because a zealous few see the active and ongoing digestion of organic material as nature's catalyst. Thank heavens they are not my neighbors! In respect to methods of execution, some advocate animal friendly methods such as ferrous compounds. They are not toxic, at least in modest amounts. The crows here however,eat the Safers ferrous pellets as soon as they are spread. They look like seeds. The company doesn't tell you that on the package. Those with small gardens advocate copper wire or copper impregnated fibre strung about the periphery of the garden. I'm not sure it works any better than a copper bracelet on the wrist keeps away demons but if it does, it would require constant adjusting. Various trap and drown systems are also available.Beer bait or other food materials are the bait. One year I collected a full garbage bag of hair from the barber shop sweepings, since someone told me slugs would not cross over a hairy strip. The pianist forbade it's use on the vegetable patch! Since slugs will cannibalize the corpse of their fellow creatures of any stripe, a dead slug half is the best bait of all for another slug. You can return with your trusty secateurs and slice the cannibal in half while he is enjoying himself. Two for one day! This keeps them occupied and away from your plant. Certainly, of the organic control options this is the most effective,surgically satisfying, accountability accurate, and consistent with good non-toxic recycling principles. It just means you have to get up early before they go under a rock. My tally today was 110 slugs including one banana slug.

Bill Leach,botanist

The Botany examination final, the first year I was in University was a week after the rest of the final exams. So, to save money and relax, I gave up my boarding house room and took the train home for the week, intending to come back in time to write the exam. My dad was the railroad station agent so I had a pass and my transportation was free. The night before the examination day, I stayed with my nanny and grandfather. I was ready, and I wanted a comforting place with supportive people. When I got to the university in the morning I found that the examination had been held the previous day. I was in a panic. I had misread the examination timetable. I had done badly enough that year anyway despite my best efforts. Culture shock bewilders! Botany was my best course! I thought my putative career was dashed. Nanny said, "Why don't you phone Dr. Leach and tell him what happened? He's a nice man and he goes to our church ". I called Dr. Leach at home and told him my circumstances. I don't think I told him he knew my grand parents, or that I was an Anglican but that's not to say I wouldn't have, as a last resort. Botany was a small class and he knew I was an interested student. Our family were lifelong gardeners and I was also interested in the flora of The Whiteshell. Dr. Leach spent his summers tramping the lower reaches of the Canadian, Precambrian Shield, of which the Manitoba Whiteshell was a part. Despite being in his 60's,Dr. Leach, didn't differentiate his vocation and his pleasures. They were one. The hallmark of a happy man. "Well", he said, "I'll write you a new test and you can come to my office for invigilation today". " Mind", he said, " You won't get a really good mark". The relief I felt, I can still feel today. The blessing that kind man gave me was a precious gift! When you are close to the edge, as I was that year ,the little things are important.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Road apples and ketchup

Probably about 1943 or so I was nine years old. My father worked in the railway depot in Kindersley, as a telegrapher, on a shift known as 3rd trick. This was from midnight to 8 am. He was always home at supper time. The war was on and so food was sometimes scarce or choices limited. My mother was a quick cook with no frills. She would have equaled the fast food industry in speed. As you grow up however, you develop a taste for your mother's cooking that knows few bounds. That was, and still is, the case for me though she is long dead and the western world has become eclectic and international in scope with respect to food. The exception to my mother's cooking was, and still would be, that she made a tomato soup with canned tomatoes and milk and never bothered to remove the tomato cores. I hated that soup. I hated the soft, sloppy, slimy, tomato gobs attached to the tomato cores that floated in the soup. I would sit and gag for hours over it, but got no relief. My parents would not bail me out, no matter how long I sat. I said to my dad after a particularly long session, just to give him an idea of the seriousness of my situation, " I'd sooner eat shit !" I remember this as vividly as if it was yesterday. It was the dead of winter. He went out to the street and picked up three frozen road apples. He brought them in the house, put them on a plate, put ketchup on them and said take your choice. I ate the soup. There is now, almost no food I will not eat and relish. The pianist makes all our soup from leftovers but there are no tomato gobs. The only role to then, that I knew for frozen road apples was to make a little pile on the street to mark goalposts for road shinny and to occasionally use if a puck is not available. In the meantime as they used to say on the farm, when a contrived and undeft argument was being made," Don't eat that Elmer, that's horse shit !"

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The plywood snowplane

A plywood vehicle, with an automobile engine and propeller in the rear and on skis was the transport of choice for our country doctor in the dead of winter in Saskatchewan. The snowplane must have been an early forerunner of the Bombardier.They were manufactured in Saskatchewan. Dr CM had a driver, and could treat emergencies over the twenty mile radius required, running on otherwise impassable roads. and on snowdrifts over fences. The "cachet" for the teenage boy I was? Immense! The thought of a medical practice that depended entirely on your own resources, even today, fills me with admiration . As I think of it now, I believe he also tried a Bombadier with treads, which was larger and could transport patients to the little hospital. It wasn't as efficient however, in deep snow as the snowplane. He also had a new bustle back Oldsmobile, probably 1953. The only other new car in town I can ever remember was a new Dodge that the parish priest owned, and that belonged to the church. That Dr CM could afford a new car was a source of awe. Dr C.M. left his general practice while we lived there, to undertake a surgical training programme at the Mayo Clinic.He had a family, as I recall,a wife and two children. Banks and bank transfers were less utilized at that time and he showed me his savings he was taking to look after his family for the four years he needed. I had never, in my wildest imagination, seen fifteen thousand dollars in bills in a roll. I think he was proud of himself ! Those three things were the original stimulus, I believed, for me to study medicine. Years later, in interviewing prospective candidates for the medical school and listening to the " reasons for entering", it strikes me now, that I would have had to sacrifice honesty for expediency at the time! As it happened, there was no interview when I entered medicine, so I didn't have to restrain myself from blurting out my three reasons. As I reflect on the matter now, it wasn't those three things that were important, though I thought so as a young man. We identify the tangible more easily than the intangible. What Dr. CM really represented is the skill and dedication and incredible creative resourcefulness that a good medical training can provide to the right kind of person with the right stuff. That's what I would have wanted to emulate, though I couldn't articulate it at the time!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Work Habits

I have two daughters of middle age. When they were something like eight and ten they did, among other things, the dinner dishes. We did not have a dishwasher then. The two of them would horse around for hours doing a job that could be completed in twenty minutes. They sang and danced after each dish, argued about who would put the dishes away, argued about who would wash and who would dry, (washing was deemed best since you could quit earlier), flicked wet towels at one another and raised a genial hell. If I heard "Henry the Eighth, I am, I am" once, I heard it twenty times a night. Finally, because this drove me crazy and they knew it, I would go out and say "Finish this job in the next ten minutes and do it QUICKLY, QUIETLY and WELL !" Of course they not only expected this reaction, they waited for it, and savoured it when it came. At least we were all consistent, and there is something comforting in the expected. You recognize that this is us, and this is what we are! It's important for young women to make a stand early in their life career, and they safely experimented with their father. When you think about it, if they wanted to make the job tolerable or even enjoyable, who cares? Quickly,quietly and well may be a good credo for a surgical operation but it's a bit stiff necked for parenting. They knew it instinctively. The pianist tolerated horsing around better than me. Today as I reflect on the work habits of my daughters, I can see that they carved careers with work habits that arose out of goals, not pedantic cliches of mine that prized work for it's own sake. I should have remembered this when I was impatient. My work habits only took off once I had the prize to aim for. They both work quickly and well today and are impatient with those who don't. They are however, not quiet, and thats because our family always had a lot to say,some of it sensible. It's the way we are.

I have just left the hospital with pneumonia, now under control. I received a get well card from my second oldest grandchild ,Jonathon, to be twenty one in a couple of weeks. The quote is " Dear Grandaddy, We would like you to heal QUICKLY , QUIETLY and WELL. What goes around , comes around !


Someone once told me, or I read, that the Queen loved red currant jam and the company that supplied her provided a few jars with the seeds handpicked out of the jam. The alternative seedless preparation is red currant jelly but it doesn't have the wherewithal of jam,especially sans seeds. Whether this is apocryphal or not, I am sure it might have been a " dainty dish to set before a Queen". Frankly that would be too fussy for me. Get a toothpick. Our currants this year have an abundance of tresses on both the red and white. The cousins,gooseberries and black currants, are not berried in such abundance. I know of no other way to avoid currant maggot other than carefully staged spraying with malathion. Even my organic grower daughter concedes this. The pianist prefers red currant jelly but I like the jam, seeds or not. The jelly is less demanding and somewhat sleeved because the few maggots that may have been overlooked have been liquified in the processing. I hope this does not turn you off. If it does, stick to black currants because the maggots don't find them as tasty. Because we have, on Lotus Island, wild currants and wild gooseberries, the maggot is endemic. No amount of good husbandry will eradicate it, though you can minimize the damage. Encourage measures in your patch to cause the currant fly to emerge prematurely, Deepen your soil bed with well rotted leaf mold of a type not amended by currant debris to make it more difficult for the pupae. Someone said put your chickens in the patch to scratch and eat in the spring before the fly emerges from the pupae. I don't have any chickens. Since the maggot causes the berry to ripen prematurely, pick them off and destroy them before the main pick. Don't be dissuaded from staging three spray sessions of Methoxyclor or its less toxic cousin, Malathion at flower time. These four little fruits harken me back to my Manitoba roots with my grandparents. It may be that the Manitoba winters were often too cold for the pupae in the soil to survive. Those were the days, without poisons!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hair today, Gone tomorrow

In the early 70's my hair was thinning. The pianist was off on a trip with the children and I was having dinner with my parents. My mother said to me that I might look better if I had a permanent wave. By then I had a few colleagues who had adopted curly long hair.It had become by then some sort of statement. Like growing a mustache or wearing a leather thong around your neck with a shark tooth. My mother had no inkling of that kinky persona change. She just noted my bald spot. Mum said she had a friend Kay Warwick who did Toni Home Permanents. "Sure"' I said feeling cavalier, "why not ?" Kay came over to mum's house the next day and I had my perm. When I was sitting down, being worked on, looking into the mirror with big curlers in my hair, I realized for the first time how much I looked like my mother. My perm worked out pretty well,curls,but not to tight and a bit more big hair, and feeling slightly risque. When the pianist got home she was thunderstruck, not dismayed, but amused and reflective. She wasn't sure she should go away too often. She said it was like being married to someone else. At a party that night a colleague ,much older, and 3 sheets to the wind, asked if I was as sexy as I looked. I took a good look in the mirror after that and realized that I was on a new train. I felt younger and some new power. I realized then that Samson's power did come from his hair. People may have resented hair at that time for it's regenerative power and singularity. Certainly Delilah destroyed the power of Samson by ordering his hair be removed. Gotta mean something! Now in this enlightened period, virility is displayed by shaving the head. Bald is in. In the 70's we only had Kojak and Yul Brynner. Now all the tough guys are on to it. Bald is power now! There is no telling what man will do or undo next. I went back after a year to my mouse colored thin conventional hair style after my 14 year old grew his hair,( and beautiful black hair it was), down to his armpits. I couldn't compete with him and he wasn't running any risk of losing his power since we valued it and there was no Delilah! It was all too heady for me!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cherry pie

Montmorency cherries are sour pie cherries that are hard to find because the industrial processors buy them up. Stony Creek Winery in Ontario used to make a nice Montmorency wine. McDonald's has cherry pie turnovers but they are mostly glairy filling with red colorent. Montmorency is not a true, red, sour cherry, but is much more reliable on Lotus Island than the Morello which is red and prettier. It's still a fact that flavour trumps appearance, though the consumer sometimes becomes seduced otherwise. We have a productive 30 year old Montmorency tree and the birds leave the cherries alone long enough for us to pick them ripe, unlike the sweet cherries. With the sweet cherries the birds are voracious and eat them well ahead of ripening. Today, I made several deep dish cherry crisps and was going to make further ones but the pianist wanted some Ziploc freezer bags of cherry topping for sour cream dessert so I froze cherry filling for toppings as well. The biggest problem with cherry pie making, is stone removal. It is tedious but can be lessened by a process I invented, which is, during the picking of the ripe fruit, a little eccentric pressure on the fruit when you pull, will leave the stone on the tree. A certain finesse and dexterity is necessary ! Speed of processing is necessary as the cherry juice darkens (oxidizes) quickly. Therefore, hurry getting the stones out that you didn't leave on the tree.. I always warn strangers to chomp the cherry pie softly since I always miss a couple of stones. Since it is only May here, the tree is just in bloom, so my pie making was from frozen stock of a year ago. You have to microwave fresh Montmorency cherries before you put them up in your pie since the fresh cherries don't cook down well coincident with your perfectly baked crust, unless pre-softened. On the other hand the frozen berries need less pre-softening. Cherry pie is a lot of work! There is no way that charming Billy Boy's intended could make or bake a cherry pie, quick as a wink, talented or not!

Sunday, May 10, 2009


My grandparents were married in Vancouver BC in June 1906. The San Francisco earthquake and fire was April 18 1906. My grandfather was a Londoner who came to Winnipeg about 1900 and worked eventually as an accountant for the hardware wholesaler, Acklands. My grandmother was an Ontarian who worked in Winnipeg as a secretary to Mr Ogilvie, of Ogilvie Flour Mills. They, I assume, romanced and ended up getting married in Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver. They then honeymooned by train to San Francisco,Salt Lake City,and Minneapolis-St. Paul before returning to Winnipeg. The dining car menus are something else! I said to my mother one day, " Why did they leave all their friends and come to Vancouver to have a wedding, where they knew no one ?" I thought it very mysterious. She said, "I have no idea. I never thought about it." My mother was born on March 29 1907: she was not born yesterday, but still, she seemed remarkably incurious! I have clearly a more curious mind than her. She and her twin sister were born 9 months and 10 minutes after the wedding. Still a mystery! I am the curator of my grandparent's album with some great pictures of Frisco after the quake. I think of my grandparents often, as I was born in 1934, the height of the depression on the prairies. My mother and I lived with them for 3 years after my birth, while my dad cobbled part time work together until he got a permanent job and could provide for us. If you live with your grandparents for the first three years, as I did, there is a lot of bonding. I think of them often! They were special! They had Mojo! From time to time my cousins and I still visit the big house they lived in by the Red River near Lockport.

Friday, May 8, 2009


When the pianist and I moved to Lotus City in the 60's the adjacent farmland was dotted with loganberry farms supplying the fruit wine industry locally and the jam factory on Sinclair Hill. Now the jam factory is an unused heritage relic and the Logana Winery is converted to a heritage structure housing an upscale steak eatery. All jam is now imported from industrial manufacturers except for minor cottage industries.. The grape growers and vintners, primarily large franchise holders, have displaced the local loganberry farms. This part of the world was prime country for loganberries and never was prime country for wine grapes. They produce pretty fair wines from specialized stock but they will never compete with quality world wide on a significant scale. We grow a world class quality with some soft fruit varieties and some heritage tree varieties. Why don't we stick to what we can produce of excellence ? We won't though ! Tastes have changed. Still,we can better compete in the long term with what we do best, not second best! I suppose we have to live with industrial farms and industrial food manufacturing! But, what the heck! Yesterday I made loganberry/tayberry jelly,13 jars from our berries. I missed the jel-point and bottled too soon so I had to dismantle the seals and reboil. It's a bit harder to gel than some fruits as the loganberries have little pectin. My grandmother never added pectin, and the pianist's mother didn't either, but she could assess the critical jel-point to the second. "Lightly jelled" was the mantra for optimum achievement. I also made 20 , 2cup bags of logan/tay juice. The pianist makes a logan berry juice merange pie after the manner of a lemon merange pie. Delicious and pungent for a party treat. Logan and tayberries are easy to grow if you have room on your fence. They are more piquant than the Himalayan black berry that is here in abundance. It thrives in the ditches and is heartily extolled for it's mellowness by the devotees who make blackberry pies or blackberry apple pies. The Himalayan has it's role and is free for the taking! It's sort of satisfying to be small scale and know you have a year's worth of eating from your hand and the knowledge of what the contents consist of!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Robin, Canadian of course

The pianist and I watched daddy Robin every day for 2 weeks attack the window of the studio. He'd stand on the car's side view mirror and stare at the window.I guess "glare" would be a more accurate word. Then he would fly at his image up and down the window repeatedly, screeching as he did. We thought he was crazy till we saw the nest in the Kiwi tree adjacent to the window. We moved the car and now he can't perch to see this "adversary". Having moved the car, he continued to perch on the mirror but peered at himself upside down, and pecked at, and fouled up, the mirror and the side of the car.He intermittently tires and gets busy with worms rather than fighting the phantom. Dear me! As Pogo said, "We have seen the enemy and he is us". My neighbor Roland is a car buff! He has robins as well. His own robins of course, but the behavior is the same! Roland has no time for bird shit on his cars. His ploy is to simply cover the side mirrors with little plastic grocery bags. He secures them with elastic. It works, but his beautiful cars always look like they have a perpetual bad hair day. I have to look in the mirror from time to time now to recognize my shade and deal with the conundrum that abrupt retirement is making me agitated. I'm not going to cover up the mirror! I have to see and take direct action at my adversary! The robin adapted and busied himself with worms. I think I'll try something else since I'm not partial to worms. Our fledglings have flown so our groceries are light. I suppose I should wash our car. Maybe I will write stuff !

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dr LB's Daughter

I'm delegated to cook today because the pianist is glazing her pots, and the measuring of chemicals for the glaze is apparently tricky. Requires deep concentration. I'm not adept at cooking but she has laid out, in sequence, all the materia foodica required to amalgamate into some sort of pottage, along with handwritten instructions in plain English. Lunch and dinner! Feigning ignorance is a ploy that can gain one certain advantages only for a limited length of time, but eventually it becomes ineffective. This reminds me of Dr LB who must have played his cards right, or else his wife gave up from exhaustion. He was an old time surgeon from 2nd world war days and was in his heyday when I started work in Lotus City in the 60's. His daughter was an OR nurse. One day, when we were chatting, she told me her mother had taken a holiday and left her dad 10 meals for dinner, frozen and labeled of course. Not bad so far, but she also set the table for ten places so he could rotate around his dirty dishes. Egad! I'm not that bad! Dr LB's daughter rejected that leaf from her mother. The apple had dropped much further away from the tree. She brooked no missteps from the surgeons and freely pointed out our sorry sides! I had been in Maui for a holiday with the pianist and bought a blue and white, checked, seersucker jacket and lemon yellow trousers with a yellow tie and white shoes. I can't remember the socks.My ensemble had a certain sartorial splendor in Maui. The first day back I walked to the OR change room in my resplendent attire with white shoes.! Dr. LB's daughter bumped into me in the hall and slowly looked me up and down with a glint. She said, "You look like a well dressed Bulgarian. What national flag is that jacket? " What cheek! Certainly not just for me! For the Bulgarians the world over! It was tough for the newly arrived to fit in behind the Tweed Curtain. I should have stuck , in those days, to tweeds with leather elbow patches,the uniform in Lotus City! Local savoir-faire! Dr LB's daughter kept you on your toes!

Monday, May 4, 2009


I have been watching the Osprey fishing today, on our side of the harbour, opposite the Three Sisters. It appears to dive headfirst into the shallow water but comes up with the fish in the talons. They must make an abrupt turn at waters edge after the dive, in order to seize the fish with the claws and surge up through the surface tension of the water on the wing. They nest across the harbour. The water is deeper there, so the bird fishes on this side where the water is shallow and the fish are nearer the surface. The Osprey are a beautiful bird and much more adept at hovering and fishing than the Eagle which is too heavy to hover long and swipes the water when it fishes. The Eagle's technique is more in keeping with picking up ducks, it's more usual fare.The Osprey are far less commonly seen than the Eagle in our area. Later in the season the Kingfisher appears and fishes in the same spot as the Osprey, hovering in the same way, diving in the same way, but comes up with the fish in it's beak. Hover and dive and break surface into the air in one fluid motion requires strong wings, strong necks, patience, and accuracy, buoyancy and good knowledge of the best fishing holes! Both the Kingfisher and the Osprey are an object lesson on elegant ergonomics! The Osprey picked up a fish today right under the nose of a Blue Heron. As it were, success in "one fell swoop". Heron piqued!


The newspaper is slowly becoming obsolete. Not soon, but sometime! For a medium that is said to provide crisp analytical insight, they missed the boat in predicting their own survival. They didn't read the writing on the wall soon enough. What we are doing on the internet is as immense as the industrial revolution. Instant information has and will revolutionize civilization; will put the giving and receiving in the hands of everyone. Nothing has ever before provided the interactive nature of information we are now blessed with. Television never did it. It's not transactional! Power to the people requires mature structure. This is the challenge! Whether content will make that information useful, productive,and solve the world's problems is another matter. It may be a step in the development of the "oneness" of humanity. What we have been getting for years is opinion pieces from a select few. guidance and oversight by a even more select few owners, and facts,almost always interpreted by the presenter of the facts. Entertainment can overcome accuracy." News paper" at times may be a bit of a misnomer! Ask yourself how often the subject of an article that you have knowledge of, in depth, is superficial and slanted .That may apply widely, don't you think? At least, with the burgeoning internet sites, the dispersal of information, bewilderingly large, allows for much more resource to be available to the reader! I drive regularly past the pulp mill in Crofton, BC. I think to myself, if there is one thing I will never invest in now, it is pulp. The newsprint business is going to fade! The large logs that traverse the Island roads every few minutes of the day for processing, the barge loads of chips and sawdust entering regularly, and the major ship loading docks are in jeopardy over time. The demise of the newspaper as a major force is inevitable! Maybe books also! I think the whole thing is somewhat sad because there is a loss of the tangibility that newspapers and books provide; but it is what it is. Let's hope human beings can do their own filtering, rather than have it done for them!

Sunday, May 3, 2009


DUKE: " If thou art rich, thou'rt poor; For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows, Thou bear'st thy heavy riches but a journey, and death unloads thee". Also, ".. and when thou art old and rich, thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty, to make thy riches pleasant". ( Measure for Measure).

Why is it we all learn everything the hard way? "To soon old, too late smart". We all have something of Gordon Gekko in us, I think, or I hope, because I have. He is aptly named ,almost spelt right and appropriately geographically located ( on the Wall). I'm not self-righteous,I've been a lizard too! I've looked in the mirror and it's not all good. Mea Culpa! Wealth has taken a beating these days and maybe it's a good thing. Maybe we should adopt the Year of Release every 7 years when all debts are forgiven and we start again. Fat chance! I really don't believe that anyway! It might have worked in the tight colony of the ancient Hebrews! Maybe we should have a Year of Jubilee every 50 years when land is returned to the dispossessed. The Dukes of Sutherland would thereby have left a more noble legacy, but then a lot of us, on the other hand, wouldn't be here! If you really believe Shakespeare had it right, all this would still be hard to embrace. Lip service is easy. They can't be talking about me because enough is never quite enough. Some still cling to what they have 'til the agonal state arrives. I belatedly realized my real wealth is around the dinner table at Christmas time or the summer holiday! Why don't I continue to remind myself of that every day? Human Nature!