Thursday 18 April 2024

What Are The Chances

 So, when I was a mid teen I watched “The Great Escape” and became interested in books about the second world war, prison camps and books about the men who fought in the wars.My dad was shot down over Germany while on a bombing raid and spent the next three years in German POW camps. Thankfully he was a pilot and the Germans considered pilots to be gentlemen so they got to be interred in Stalag Luft camps which means they were run by the German air force and received better treatment than captured soldiers.

That isn’t to say he had it easy, but it was easier. The bread was only made with one half sawdust to flour mix and they were pretty much left to their own devices…more or less. Dad didn’t like to talk about his experiences very much so I didn’t get a lot of first hand info. I asked him once if he ever dug an escape tunnel and he told me that the older guys (over 25) did that kind of stuff and the rest of them helped in any way they could. I kind of wish I had bugged him more or that he would have been more willing to talk about his experiences. I would give anything now if he could just talk about anything at all now.

One of the books that I read involved a Japanese submarine. The sub had been patrolling the pacific trying it’s best to sink any allied ship at all when the commander of the sub got a fishbone stuck in his throat. If not surgically removed the man would have died a horrible death so it was decided that the sub would surface and surrender to the first allied ship they saw so the commander could be saved. I have since learned that a Japanese commander would prefer death over surrender but the author obviously believed that teenage boys would like his version of the story.

Now, I have never been on a submarine unless you count the one at West Edmonton Mall, and certainly not been in any kind of war unless you count a thumb war. However, that book and the plight of the Japanese commander convinced me of the foolishness of eating fish unless it has been breaded and fast frozen by Captain Highliner. Even then I feel that I am living on the edge. Inevitably in a long life you get offered fish by a host who doesn’t know the dangers of eating fish or you figure that billions of people eat fish and don’t die a horrible, painful death. Every single time I have had fish they has always been a bone that is very needle like and I know that without constant vigilance I would surely be dead.

I find myself in Lisbon Portugal. I safely made it through Amsterdam and Madrid without having any fish, but today I couldn’t resist ordering fish and chips. I found seven or eight needle like fishbones. I am hoping that I got them all, but it is very possible that this note will be the last thing I write. I might be lucky enough to run into an American battleship with a top notch thoracic surgeon, but what are the chances? 

Tuesday 16 April 2024


My son and his family moved to the Netherlands in January of this year for work and to have an adventure as family. They aren’t sure when or if the adventure will end and neither are we of course. I would prefer them to stay close so I could watch my granddaughter grow into a young woman, but in this life you have to follow where life leads. I am happy for them, even if my happiness is sometimes in the form of tears.

So, here it is the beginning of April and we find ourselves in Amsterdam for about ten days which is probably seven or eight days too many for my son. We flew in yesterday and it was a long flight, about nine hours. We were lucky because when Louise was confirming our flight  she was asked if we wanted to buy the other seat in our row for $145. That is a big yes! No one else crowding us and room to spread out. I hope we are always that lucky.

My buddy Ken drove us to the airport and on the way Louise realized that she had left her cane at home. Oh well, we can buy one in Amsterdam. She finds a cane is helpful if she has to stand for any length of time. Shortly after passing thru security Louise discovered that her cell phone was keeping her cane company at home. SHIT! I called my buddy Ken and asked if he would be kind enough to go to our place and pick up the cane and phone and make yet another trip to the airport. The man deserves to be sainted.

By the way, when travelling you should always bring a cane. We have found that if you have a cane the attendants bring you to the front of the line and board you with others that may need assistance. It is kind of like having the poor man’s NEXUS card. 

I am suffering from what I think is jet lag, but really it is just me being tired. We stayed up for about thirty hours yesterday in the hopes of minimizing the effects of travel and who knows how successful we were. I went to sleep around 8:00 last night and woke up to pee around 5:00. I didn’t think I would be able to get back to sleep, but within a minute or so I was dead to the world. I am not sure if I am back to normal, but will find out in the next day or two.

So far I am impressed with the city. They are able to move people quickly and efficiently on their various methods of public transit, walking and of course the bicycle. I have never seen so many bikes in my life! The city has embraced cycling and bikes have dedicated lanes and cars are basically invited guests on the roads. Everyone from toddlers to old farts get from A to B on bikes. The different methods of public transit are also very well thought out and efficient. The people in power have built a city that works for people.

I know that I have no input into my sons life, but I think he has made a good decision for himself and his family, at least for the time being. Living here and learning to be a Netherlandeer will certainly have it’s challenges but Brendan and family are surely up to it. 

Perhaps the most difficult challenge will be having to deal with loving family that wish to visit. Life keeps throwing curveballs.

Thursday 28 March 2024


Early last week on a Tuesday afternoon, Louise and I went downtown to see a play. It was “As You Like It” set to the Beatles music and promised to be very enjoyable. Parking downtown is always a challenge at the best of times and Tuesday afternoons is nowhere near the best of times. Also, parking midweek is very expensive. Luckily, Louise has a membership at the Kerby centre where she takes art classes and there is free parking included in her membership. From there we took the LRT (also free downtown) to the other side of downtown where the theatre is. Free is my favourite way to pay.


When we got to the theatre the nice young man told us that our tickets were for the following Sunday but we should take the time to enjoy the art. Well, at least the price had been right for our trip downtown. We went to the platform to catch the return train and someone took the opportunity to sneeze in Louise’s face and shortly after put on his mask. Nice!


The next day found Louise quite sick and getting sicker by the minute. I looked after her the best I could being quite sympathetic to her illness while I kept my smugness about superior genes bottled up. The smugness lasted four days until she was on the road to recovery and I had Satan living in my body. But…but…but…I haven’t been sick since before COVID.


The past few days while I have been living in misery I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic about the good old days of COVID. No one went anywhere, spent time with any other humans, we picked up groceries that were ordered online and delivered to the trunk of our car. I kept in touch with friends and family with ZOOM or the phone and in many ways had a more robust social life, without the need to be social. It was heavenly.


The odd time when forced to be social, I could wear a mask, keep two metres away from people, use sanitizer without anyone thinking I was strange or paranoid even though I was being strange and paranoid. I got my vaccines when they came out and a booster when I was able. My world had shrunken down to the area around my house and it was a pretty good world. Over the months and years, society has developed a nonchalance towards COVID and the masks have disappeared, social distancing has been for the most part forgotten and I have to go into the stores to shop. I still wear a mask, but I am one of the few. Louise should have been wearing a mask on the C-Train platform and so should I have. I certainly should have worn a mask, used disinfectant when Louise got sick and turned on the air purifier.


Should have…would have…could have…


I miss COVID, not the part where people die and get horribly ill, but the part where people respect your space and have the decency not to sneeze in your face.

Saturday 23 March 2024


When I retired oh so long ago, the first six months or so just seemed to be an extended vacation and that I would eventually have to return to work.  I finally realized that I could return to some kind of work if I so chose, but so far I haven’t felt the need. 


I am blessed with the ability to do nothing of any import and be quite content doing so. Often in those early days of retirement my wife would return from work and ask how my day was, which I interpreted as an accusation that I did nothing all day and was a drain on our whole society. She really just wanted to know how my day went and any other interpretation was my problem. My answer was always “ Not too much, how was your day?”  However, deep down I knew that if I couldn’t think of anything that I did, then more than likely I did nothing. 


I started to keep a list. Anything and everything that I did during the day I made a note of. Had breakfast 15 min., drank coffee 1/2 hour, watched shitty movie 1:45, walked dog 45min., etc…etc…etc.


Pretty soon when Louise came home and asked what I did today I could give her a list. Not surprisingly, she wasn’t a big fan of my lists and even though I could see how I spent my time even I wasn’t impressed. I decided that I needed a creative outlet of some sort. Before retiring, I did a fair bit of wood carving, pysanky and other crafty things. I still liked crafty stuff so that would be the way to go for a fulfilling life. What to do? What to do? What to do?


I know, I will make a braided, rag rug.


It is crafty, has a link to my ancestors and could very well help keep my feet toasty during those long, cold winter days. We had an old quilted blanket that had long ago outlived it’s usefulness, so I cut it into two inch strips and started to braid three strips together. My first thought was to make an oval area rug, but very shortly it started curving like a potato chip. Okay, a round rug is even better. I undid the oval and began the round rug until it was about a foot in diameter. This is the point when someone was coming to visit so I cleaned it up by putting it under my desk. Very far under my desk. Out of sight under my desk. Out of mind under my desk.


I came to terms with not having a full and creative retired life and decided that telling people I just puttered around all day was good enough for them. Who are they to judge me? Bastards!


That was the winter of 2007 and I saw it under the desk from time to time but since it didn’t seem to mind being under the desk, I saw no reason to upset the status quo. Well, Until late last summer. I brought it out from under the desk and began working at it while I watched TV down in the basement. I needed to find another blanket and picked a blue flannel one from the second hand store which I cut into strips and braided. It didn’t take too much time, but I can see why braided rag rugs have fallen out of favour. Back in my ancestors time they didn’t have TV or really a life of any kind or central heating so a nice thick rug would be much more appreciated.


I finished the rug in December of 2023. Yes, it took me 16 years to make a three foot diameter rug, but it is very nice to stand on and quite pretty if I do have to say so myself. Unfortunately, we have no place for a three foot rag rug to live. I put it beside the bed in the spare room and stand on it when I look out the window at the neighbours or watch the snow fall. Sometimes I just stare out the window contemplating how I have wasted my life.

I even signed it... at the top between 12:00 and 1:00 o'clock.


Tuesday 19 March 2024

There Will Indeed Be Weather Tomorrow

I can’t remember a time that there wasn’t a barometer in my house. It was just one of those things that was on my mom and dad’s wall that I paid no attention to at all. I don’t remember mom and dad paying any attention to it either, but to tell the truth as long as there was food on the table and the TV was working I didn’t pay attention to mom or dad either.


There was probably a science class at sometime when I was in school that I learned about barometric pressure, but I didn’t pay much attention to the teachers either. By the time I was born weather forecasting was something else I didn’t pay attention to. Now I find it amazing that when I was a kid the weatherman on TV managed to be so accurate without the use of weather satellites. I imaging that the newsroom would have a phone tree of sorts spanning hundreds of miles reporting the weather in Podunk Ontario and every small nothing town between there and Toronto forming a map that would enable the weatherman to tell me that I had a snow day or rain day. They probably had an impressive barometer that would help them as well.


For those that don’t know, a barometer measures the air pressure and any change in pressure signifies a corresponding change in the weather. It was invented around 1640 by either a Frenchman or an Italian and they are probably still arguing about it. No one really cares at all now and most people didn’t care back then. The first barometer was water filled and about 34 feet tall, and the neighbours thought it was a weapon of war so a barometer using mercury was invented to keep the neighbours happy. Now of course there are digital barometers and there are mechanical ones that make use of metal springs. I think mine must be that kind, because if it were mercury based I would have taken it apart and been playing with the mercury for a long time now. Mercury is bad by the way and should not be played with. Which makes me wonder why my teachers let us play with it. Probably because they couldn’t get their hands on enriched plutonium.


So, I grew up with a barometer in the house which isn’t a surprise because both sides of my family were at one time sea faring people and knowing what the weather was going to do would be very important. I guess it was one of those things everyone had in their houses back in the good old days. When my mom passed in 2000, I took the barometer along with the trivet that said “NO MATTER WHERE I SERVE MY GUESTS IT SEEMS THEY LIKE MY KITCHEN BEST” The Trivet is in the basement and the barometer is on a wall in the kitchen and was pretty much ignored until the COVID epidemic. I guess one day while not doing anything I noticed it on the wall and thought that I should keep a daily record of the changes in barometric pressure in my kitchen. I kept a record for three or four months and then realized I just didn’t really care that much since I had the weather girl to tell me what to expect weather wise and she is much better to look at than the barometer.


Strangely enough, now every morning when I am making my coffee I look at the barometer and reset it so that I can see if there will indeed be weather tomorrow. It is kind of fun to see it move from day to day and although I don’t care that much about the weather since I am retired, it is however, something to do while I wait for my coffee.