Tuesday, April 18, 2017

If You Get Called A Citiot


This is the big weekend for my sweetie. The Biggest weekend. The weekend he thinks about most weekends. The one he plans for all year, tells stories about all year. It's his birthday and Christmas and New Year's Eve and Easter all wrapped up in a big outdoor party package.

It's Fishing Season Weekend, the opening of trout season in creeks and streams, which for at least 30 years in a row, has meant a camp out for Sweetie and numerous friends at a bend in the Pretty River, on a farm off the Westchurch Sideroad, at George's place, formerly known as Old George's place.

The boys camp out for two or three nights on a little finger of land surrounded on three sides by the river, and a cornfield or pasture on the other side, depending on the year. Sometimes, the boys wake up to snow. Sometimes, they wake up with a hangover, and they always wake up early to try to catch the first fish on the first day they're allowed to dip a line. When they're gone on Sunday afternoon, you would never know they'd been there, except for the porta-potty they built on the site a few years ago.

This year's festivities will be different; the boys will have to move their party 100 feet to the south, into the pasture and away from the riverbend, since the farm across the way changed hands last year, bought up by someone who I suspect cashed in on a big suburban home and wanted a piece of rural paradise

The new owner of this little jut of land the boys have been using for 3 decades doesn't want to share it, which is, of course, their right. It's a funny little spot, since the way the property lines are laid out, if the new owner ever wanted to use the site themselves, they would have to scamper down a 25-foot sheer dirt cliff then through the river to get there. I somehow doubt their Hunter boots would be tall enough for the navigation.

Not only can they not access the campsite, the new owner also doesn't want any fishing in the river through their property, which is also their right and just as churlish.

I hear newcomers to our area wax on about friendly neighbours as a reason for coming up to the country, and it always confuses me when those very same people immediately put up walls of trees to protect their privacy, changing the landscape forever and ruining the view of the bucolic countryside that drew them to our pastoral roads in the first place. Most don't interact with their supposedly friendly farmer-neighbours, are rarely seen at community events unless fellow newcomers are the ones to plan it, and I have seldom heard of someone new to the area taking the time to introduce themselves or ask about the history of the land.

I have noticed most are pretty quick to put up their no trespassing signs, though, and I have heard a lot of sighing about 'the locals' while standing in line at Loblaws.

Yes, it's your property, and you can do as you like with it, Jeanette, but I sure hope you don't need pulled out of a snowy ditch come winter, or you may find those friendly country neighbours whose innocent fun you just wrecked have long memories as well as long driveways.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Lucy's War

I found myself crying at the wheel Sunday as I listened to the ceremony at Vimy, but not because of the soaring rhetoric or the reading of letters from the front, not the music nor even the old soldiers in the front row.

I cried because of the power of well-crafted fiction to bring life to history.

I was a lonely 11, 12 and 13 year old who grew up a quarter mile from the road, and for me, during those years, Anne of Green Gables wasn't just a character in a book; she was my best friend. I would refer to the people of Avonlea as though they walked among us.
"Just like Mrs. Lynde!" I fumed one day when my mother was complaining about a gossipy neighbour.
"Who?!" she puzzled,
"You know, Mrs. Lynde," and when she continued to look confused, "From Anne!"
She promptly signed me up for some activity involving real human beings.

The sixth book of the Anne series, Rilla of Ingleside, is about Anne's youngest daughter and is set during the Great War. James, the oldest brother, signs up immediately, and his faithful dog, Dog Monday accompanies him to the train, where it waits for his return. Waits for four years. Waits at the spot where he last saw his friend, who does return, unannounced, one afternoon months after all the other soldiers have arrived. The long-awaited reunion between dog and young man is a scene I have never been able to shake and one of the many reasons I love dogs so much, because I know there are dogs who would wait four years for their beloved to return.

Another of Rilla's brothers, Walter, is less anxious to go to war, but eventually signs up and serves and while at the front, writes a poem about his experiences. The poem becomes famous, reproduced and recited all across Canada. Yes, shades of Flanders Fields, although I think Walter died at Courcelette, not Vimy.

I was driving, listening to the speeches and songs, and I could see the Vimy monument in my mind's eye, and then I thought of the Anne story and the poem and the waiting dog and the futility of war and there I was, blubbering at 80 kilometres an hour on County Road 124. Not over actual soldiers or actual people, but over these characters, created as an amalgam of the people Lucy Maud Montgomery must have known, who were alive during the Great War, and the next war too. No doubt part of what she wrote was based on what she experienced.

I never met anyone from the war, but I knew Jem and Walter and Rilla and I suffered along with them, thanks to the brilliance of their author. That's the power of literature, even children's literature: to illuminate history, to make stories real enough to tell a truth and to move a middle aged lady to tears 35 years later.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Thanks for the neologism, Nick!

“I know words, I have the best words." DJT

I can't say I have had a lot of fun explaining some uncommon words in our lexicon over the last few months.

First, to my somewhat sheltered 74 year old mother, during the Jian Ghomeshi trial, I had the pleasure of explaining the concept of 'safe word'. Recently, I explained the concept of 'golden showers' to my sweetheart, he, bless his pure little heart, never having watched Sex and the City, or all the pornography that's available now.

And now, there's cuck.
You haven't heard of it yet, you lucky thing? Let me explain.

It's an insult wielded by the racist and sexist bags of scum who inhabit the nether regions of the Internet, the ones who pretend they're not white supremacists and use words like 'alt-right' instead. It's short for cuckold, but also goes much wider than Shakespeare's interpretation, casting aspersions on a man who not only allows, but watches his woman have sex with some other man, and generally a man of another race. Apparently, there is an entire genre of porn that features this stuff, and the point, besides enjoying illicit miscegenation is the jollies to be had at the cuck's humiliation, I am told.

So this lovely word covers all the bases of emasculation with a hearty dollop of racism thrown in for good measure. In the minds of the supremacists, there could not be anything worse than such a wussie, such a non-man, a man who can't control his woman's body, especially to prevent its being used by someone so vile as to be dark skinned.

It's a word that manages to insult women and men and people of colour at the same time, a trifecta of offense! However, it's also a sign, since anyone using it reveals themselves to be a white supremacist, at least until it goes more mainstream.

Which it is, thanks to Simcoe-Grey's MP. (Confession: her house in the riding is near my family's farm, the property purchased from a second cousin once removed. Also, Leitch has never asked me or any of my relatives for a cup of sugar, not that I suspect her to be much of a baker.)

Kellie Leitch's campaign manager has resigned, not only for using this very loaded and coded word online but also because of other indiscretions. Nick Kouvalis is widely seen as a political genius, and is thought to have suggested Leitch go for broke with dog whistles to racists during her controversial Conservative leadership campaign. She's second in fundraising currently, so he was clearly onto something. Leitch herself plays coy about whether her call for more vetting of visitors and immigrants is supposed to deter the brown and the turbaned, but the people I've talked to who support her, have no doubts about her meaning. "You tell her, she's right on!" said a woman I was talking to recently, "We don't need any more of them people here!"

Well, I agree we don't need more of some people: the ones who, when annoyed, would reach into their bag of words and immediately come up with cuck, then use it online, so I get to explain it to my mommy. Thanks, Nick. Thanks, Kellie. I don't think you'll get that cup of sugar from me or mine any time soon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Food Challenge update - so much salt


I was expecting to go hungry this week while taking part in the Karma Project's Eat The Math challenge. I'm not.

There are plenty of calories in the box provided by the group for me and the other participants to dine from. Plenty.

The problem is the quality of those calories. It's a lot of carbs, not much fibre and vast, vast quantities of salt.

I won't go into the issues I'm having with the lack of fibre, but I was unable to sleep Monday night with blood pulsing in my ears and a weird headache, which I'm attributing to the half of a box of mac n cheese and the 600 mg of salt I consumed in one sitting. I saved the second half for lunch yesterday, with an additional 600 mg of salt. Last night's selection was the ramen noodles, but I skipped the 'flavour pack' when I realized it was 1350 mg of sodium in the form of salt and MSG. I'm all for an awareness raiser, but I'm not going to poison myself with that much salt two days in a row.

My takeaway from the experiment so far: people who need donated food aren't getting particularly good stuff. While I get that beggars can't be choosers, it's bizarre that people who most need a clear head and health to get themselves out of a tight spot are the very ones who will not get the nutrition needed to do so.

Another takeaway: I've had offers from a lot of kind people to augment my food box with lunches and coffee and dinners, and I so appreciate it. (especially the coffee part!) But I wonder about the social connections of people who are in enough trouble to need help from the food bank. If you don't have friends and family to feed you in times of serious want, that's a deeper level of trouble than not having cash to put food on the table. I've spent quite a bit of time imagining the chain of events that would put me in such a spot.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why You're Not Getting a Christmas Card this year

The perfect is the enemy of the good, that's why.

If I am to send out Christmas cards, they really need to be made by my hands, the address in calligraphy and each card including a unique, heartfelt greeting with best wishes for your health and happiness. My list has about 75 people on it, and that's just too, too much.

No, I don't make the paper; that would be silly.

The thing is, my embossing table is up high in a closet I haven't opened in a few months and I'm not sure where my calligraphy pen is or whether I have any ink appropriate for such a venture.

I refuse to spend a buck on a stamp to send a card printed in China, the envelope's label printed from my computer, the card containing nothing but my signature, so you're getting nothing.

Just like last year.

Which is weird, because I love, love, love receiving Christmas cards; any card, even if it was printed by children or political dissidents and signed with nothing but your illegible initials. Just as long as there's no image of Santa; I don't know why, but I hate that guy.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The 'Shoulds' as I Eat the Math

Let me start by saying I am offended by food banks. (Goodbye, liberal leftie friends who also graduated with an Arts degree, you need read no further.)

I simply don't think we should have food banks. There, I said it.

What we should have are: wages the poorest can live on and work with dignity. In cases of big trouble, we should have enough counseling and help so that people who were assaulted as children or screwed up in some other way, can hold down jobs and make their own way. If we as a society provide what people really need, food banks could close and the people who volunteer at them and donate to them could get on with whatever they really wanted to do instead.

For that matter, I don't think we should have shelters for women fleeing domestic assault and abuse, either. We should not need them, since people should not be using violence in their homes. But, some people do, so we have shelters, and the world is not the way it SHOULD be, so we have food banks, too.

In some cases, the people who use food banks have made very poor life choices; this is undoubtedly true. In some other cases, the people have made many right choices and things still didn't work out, so here we are.

This morning, a lovely woman who works at the offices at Simcoe County dropped off at my workplace a frighteningly small box of food, which I have agreed to live on, Monday to Friday, next week. It contains what you might think it contains: spaghetti, tuna, mac and cheese, that sort of thing.

Most of the 'food' is stuff which I would not ordinarily entertain in my kitchen. I was raised on a farm and learned to cook in my 4H clubs, so I was the guy in the dorm at university, baking bread in my toaster oven. I'm not entirely sure what Viennese sausages are, much less how one would eat them, and I make my soups starting with the bones of critters I've roasted, so the stuff in the tin will be weird. Looking at the label, it's also crazy salty. There's also peanut butter with icing sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredient list. Yikes.

But, this is the food that goes to the people who have no more choices left.

I have heard people in my family sneer about, 'those lazy scammers' at the food bank, getting free food and not working while they smoke or drink away their disability cheques. But, looking at this box of junky food, I somehow don't think anyone is trying to trick anyone else into giving them free canned green beans (gross!)

I will keep you updated on my progress, as soon as I talk to the organiser, to see just how many herbs I can slip in to these meals while maintaining my status as a member of the experiment.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Homey House

They say a house is just not a home without a dog, and I found out over the last year, that 'they' are right.

Our beloved Weimaraner, Emma left us in April of last year, after ten years of laughter and love and runs on the trails of Collingwood. Since that horrible day, our house is very quiet, very empty and frankly, very clean. As Emma slipped away, I swore I would not open myself up ever again to the kind of heartbreak that comes with losing a marvelous pet.

For the last 16 months, my sweetie and I have been doing a lot of traveling and had a lot of weekends away; we've been having a blast without worrying about finding a caregiver, or being home at any certain time.

Even so, one day in March, I started making inquiries, and two weeks ago, our puppy was born. She's one of ten, and we don't know which one will be ours. Last time, we let the puppy 'pick us', if that makes any sense and we're eager to loll on the floor in a puppy swarm, meeting the charmer we will spoil horribly for the next decade or so.

Don't get me wrong, I think the Humane Society does wonderful work and I have heard the people who recommend rescue, but we want the breed we want, with its quirks and quandaries, and this new puppy is from the same line as the dog that brought us ten years of joy and laughs. Plus, we want to bring up baby from the beginning.

Thanks to technology, I've seen her and her nine siblings as they opened their eyes, took their first steps and ate their first solid food. I have made anyone who comes near me peer at the online videos and make googling noises as we exclaim about the puppies' little bellies and gorgeous coats.

So, indulge me a little after the first of October, when little Petunia or Matilda or Gretchen or Gigi or whatever her name is going to be, comes to live with us.

I'm already in love and I haven't even met her yet.