Monday, 18 July 2016


I am trying to wrap my understanding around the idea that Americans want guns because they are afraid. This is surely the only explanation for the firearms advocates in the United States continuing their opposition to any kind of control on guns after what we have experienced over the past week in gun violence and unnecessary, tragic deaths.

I live in a rural area south of Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Ottawa is a small city as capital cities go and surrounded by parks and open, recreational area. A few years ago one of the local papers carried a story about an American tourist who was afraid to walk in one of these parks because he did not have his gun (Americans cannot bring them over the border into Canada) and did not feel safe. I recall shaking my head at the time, as this seemed to be such a bizarre attitude. The only time I or anyone I know worries about guns is during the November hunting season when there may be some drunken or idiotic lout who could mistake me for a deer.

When we lived in the city, the chance of being shot by some madman or getting mixed up in a gang war were so diminishingly small that you might as well worry about being hit by lightning. Both possible but unlikely. Why? Because the only guns around belonged legally to police and hunters and illegally to the criminal elements we have always with us. Before there were guns, the same type of lawless yobs carried coshes and knives and suchlike, I am quite sure. Canadians are not hung up about the right to bear arms. And because it is not a big deal, we don’t have a lot of gun crime.

Yes, we have gangs and they shoot each other and innocent bystanders once and a while. Yes, some of the urban police use weapons inappropriately and we have had a few panic shootings by law enforcement officers. Yes, we have had law enforcement officers shot by nuts. Twice, in recent memory. Both times the shooters had legally acquired weapons,I think . But not assault weapons. Our radical attacker on Parliament Hill had a weapon that he used to shoot and kill a soldier from behind, but it was not a high powered rifle. He couldn’t get one.

 Most Canadians except the police do not think about guns at all, outside of being a little careful on hikes in the first two weeks of November.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be constantly in fear of being shot. I cannot imagine how police can do their job rationally and reasonably when anyone, anytime, could be armed and dangerous. That too many policemen believe that black Americans are more dangerous than white ones is sad and sickening and terrible. Yes, it is hell for the poor cops to be constantly expecting some black criminal to pull a gun. But for the 99 out of 100 law-abiding and reasonable black Americans who have to live in fear of every police interaction, life must be hell too.

Because anyone can carry a gun or have one stashed to hand, everyone has to be afraid of guns. What a horrible, endless circle. What a mess.

Friday, 15 July 2016

A Morning of Mourning

It’s a lovely damp cool morning, a mix of sun and cloud and the promise of yet more rain to revive our parched land and wilted trees. It is high summer, a nest of red breasted grosbeaks has hatched and is decorating our feeders, the ED and family are off on an adventure vacation and all should be well.

Only it isn’t. I keep seeing in my mind the solemn, lovely face of little Taliyah Marsman and remembering that they have found her body and wondering how much horror and terror attended her pitiful death. Yes, there are piles of dead and suffering, wounded children in Nice today and what happened to them is terrible. But their deaths and those of their parents and relatives are less real to me than what I am quite sure happened to poor little Taliyah before she died. Any of us can imagine why she was taken to a deserted field, alone and at the mercy of a human animal.

I am glad my granddaughter is old enough and strong enough and smart enough to be able to defend herself. Although girls and women are often, however clever and strong they are, victims anyway. They are vulnerable to the twisted and sickening desires of the madmen and equally vulnerable to the attitudes of society toward them. As are black males in our society vulnerable to the kind of attitude that makes nervous and badly chosen or trained policemen shoot them for little or no reason. As are ordinary people going about their innocent lives, perhaps watching fireworks, perhaps dancing in a night club with their friends, vulnerable to the mass killers created by outmoded ideas.

It is a horrible world out there. Innocent men shot because of the terror and rage of the police.  Police shot because of the terror and rage of the persecuted. Holiday makers crushed in the midst of their peaceful enjoyment. The madness of indiscriminate political murder weighs on us all. And I do mean political, even if it is disguised as religious fervor. We are all, in some way, at the mercy of the fanatic and deranged, even if we are personally safe for the moment, because of how the horrors they enact affect how we feel and act toward others.

It is peaceful here. My most pressing irritations are deer flies. And I suppose that Taliyah’s poor little face will fade from the forefront of my mind in time, stored away with other horrible facts we have all had to assimilate and live with. Only children cry out ‘It’s not fair’. Those of us who are supposed to be adult know that fairness is nowhere in this mess of hatred festering in our world. What is so horrible is that it goes on and on and all the good intentions in the world will not solve it. Nor all our tears wash out a word of it.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Closer to God in a Garden

All this week people have been posting photos of their beautiful newly established annuals, their gardens in general, their new blooms. Loving all the photos, I felt I should contribute.

Once I too worked hard on my gardening. Over several years and with much hauling of just the right piece of rock or another barrow full of good soil, with many hopeful purchases of perennials, with an infinite number of weed pulls, I established a fine rock garden on an outcropping of bedrock in the middle of the small field behind our rural home. I have photos of this labour of love in its prime, and if Windows 10 will let me, Here is a photo of the rock garden at its best. I never added garden gnomes. It took my evil neighbour to do that.

But, I am not the only being who loves my rock garden. Over the years, as we fed the deer, they became at home in our back field and decided that rock garden plants are delicious treats in spring.

To eat these delicacies, they found it necessary to walk all over the rocks on their sharp little hooves. Neither of these things was very good for the garden, and I dropped back and let it return to a wilder state, one where only the most rugged plants remain.

This year the dear things have taken occupation to new heights. Yesterday I looked out and found that the rock garden has now become a deer lounging area. It is fly season, but out in the middle of the field there is a breeze that blows some of the biters away, and two of our resident does have decided that this is a perfect place to relax and chew their cuds.

 I may just dig some of the good soil out of there and deploy it elsewhere. They are pretty nice guests, though.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

A Chocolate Tale

I am not a willing cook. Now, I can cook. I can, if I must, make bread, bake a row of pies for the Community Hall dinner, can fruit, stew, fry and roast. But I would rather enjoy someone else’s efforts than spend the time myself chopping, kneading, stirring and watching the oven. My YD is a Cook. She goes shopping with a new recipe book and produces marvels of soup, racks of lamb, marinated fish and divine pastas. She does it for fun. When she wants to. And eats KD when she doesn’t.

A while back the grandkid’s parents sent her to a cooking camp to fill in August days while they were at work. She was, maybe, ten. Or even younger. She learned to make muffins and breakfast breads and cookies. Lots of stuff. She got enthusiasm from the family and lots of praise and kept on baking, upping the ante as time went on. I got a strawberry cake with a glazed top two birthdays ago. Grandpa got an amazing Black Forest concoction. Miss G and her father produce beautiful Bouche Noel cakes, even though her mother refuses to be in the kitchen while this is happening. Miss G scorns mixes.

I have made her birthday cakes for years because she has a nut allergy. “Is this from a mix, Grama?’, she snarkily comments. Okay. She and her entourage are due here this afternoon for her birthday celebration dinner and I, fool that I am, volunteered to make the cake. On request, chocolate with chocolate icing. And I got an eye roll with the request.

Cooling down in the cellar is now a from-scratch chocolate cake with chocolate fudge icing. Recipes from my favourite Laura Secord cookbook. Stuff turns out from these recipes, but they are not simple. The cake required a custard and chocolate mix to be added to a three stage mix of wet and dry ingredients and then that folded into two soft peak whipped egg whites. I will say it rose well. That took me most of last evening, plus scrubbing the stove top. Added this morning was a two icing glaze, fudge in the centre and on the sides (I stupidly took the sugar mix past soft boil and had to thin the mixture and reheat. Sigh) and whipped milk chocolate on top. This last addition is from a can. I have hidden the remnants and the can at the back of the frig.

And now I must go and de-chocolate the kitchen again, plus mop off the floor to keep the ants at bay. This will have occupied my whole morning and I have not even read the paper yet. I have pies to make for the Hall for June 12th. I may buy the damn things. But I hope to have impressed the daughter and grandkid in the interim.

And, there is nothing wrong with cleaning fudgy spoons with your tongue, right? As long as they get washed properly later.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


I have just been reading a Consumers’ Report on pain management, particularly back and joint pain. The article seems to like NSAIDS a little bit, but is more into exercise, massage and physiotherapy, and what read to me like positive thinking.  Today there was an article in the paper on the proposal to drop the strength of acetaminophen tablets to prevent people wrecking their livers with the ’extra strength’ dose sometimes killing themselves.

Makes me very nervous, all this solicitude for my liver. I have osteoarthritis in my knees, hands and neck. I have a sad squished disc in my lower back. These things hurt! Massage and physiotherapy help, but the first is painful to endure and the second requires daily follow-up with stretches and exercises. Which hurt. My hands hurt when I garden, wash things, carry things. So does my back. After I walk, my back and my knees complain like crazy. My response – acetaminophen. I can’t take NSAIDS because they all excoriate my intestinal track. (I even took part in a drug trial for a coated NSAID that was supposed to help this problem. Nope.) If I am going to move, I need my extra-strength Tylenol and too bad if my liver doesn’t like it. I could die of inaction too.

I wish the medical profession was not so worried about pain medication. I really do. I have seen and heard of far too many cases of opioids and other relief medications being doled out in too small quantities to people who were suffering a lot but not quite ready to die. It is a fine theory that palliative care is a better answer than assisted suicide for end of life care, but there come the damn medicos worrying about addiction and someone else getting hold of the drugs and liver damage and whatever it is that prevents them from really providing robust pain relief. Nor is palliative care consistent or available everywhere. Nor are some doctors qualified to provide it.

At least we do have some things that work. I am appending here a recipe for back pain medication that someone gave to my grandmother and that she saved, making me think someone had a problem that did not respond to willow tea. I wish, though, that I thought we are as far along in this area of medicine as we are in others. My grandmother also had her five babies on the kitchen table and one of them died of jaundice from Rh incompatibility. Here is what she mixed up.

Internal or external use?

We have come a long way, eh?

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Pretty in Pink - with Flowers

Above is a photograph of little Princess Charlotte on her first birthday, all dressed up in a full flowered frock and pale pink sweater, looking sweet and girlish and, so the pundits say, inspiring many mothers to dress their little girls the same way. Another blow struck for stereotyping, alas. It is easy to understand why she would be dressed this way because it is adorable and cute and easily saleable. One can only hope that after the photo shoot was over she was bundled out of the dress and into a pair of her brother’s outgrown overalls and a nice tough jacket and allowed to enjoy herself. Provided, of course, that her brother had play clothes and was ever allowed out of the sailor suit and shorts and ruffles that he was stuffed into for photographs at the same age.

Daughters in Grandma dresses
Please do not misunderstand. I am not against shell pink and ruffles and lacy white tights on little girls.
Granddaughter at play
I (or more likely my mother) have dressed both my daughters and granddaughter in girly garments now and again. And they loved it. For dress up. But most of the time they wore (and still wear) practical garments in which they can move well and that wash and wear well. And for three generations of us, that translates to pants. (Or jeans or dungarees or whatever you want to call them.) Have you ever tried to crawl in a full skirted dress? Let alone wash the windows or walk down a ramp in a high wind? Right. Not easy. Not fun. Not practical.  Tough, practical clothing to put on right after the festive event is over is always my choice. (Um, just looked at myself dressed in my shell pink sweater. But I will change it for a bug shirt shortly.)

There used to be much more of a dress code when I was a young woman. Gloves, hats, stockings even in a Windsor summer, jeans allowed in the library only on Saturdays at my university. I am sure everyone has seen a ‘50’s advertisement for household goods featuring a housewife in a dress and frilly apron wearing a necklace and high heels while she cleans or cooks. Thank goodness no one is stereotyped into dressing like that any more. Men are still caught in the suit for business trap, but women and girls have a lot more freedom. I am daily grateful that my uniform of jeans and shirt or tee with a jacket or sweater when needed, and my old lady short, short hair, is accepted everywhere.

Or is it. Here is a woman who is uncomfortable walking into a woman’s washroom describing how she looks:
“I am female-bodied, but dress in a way that fits my own understanding of my gender identity which, while not male, definitely trends masculine. Dressed down, I wear jeans and oxford shirts with baseball caps. Dressed up, I prefer khakis and dress shirts. Bow ties are my favorite accessories. And my hair is cut short enough that my hairdresser charges me for a “men’s cut” because she doesn’t think I should have to pay more than a man for the same haircut.
Like I said, though, I’m not male. Unlike my trans brothers who have transitioned female-to-male, I have been clear that that was not the right path for me. I’m happy to be “Emily” and to live in my body. How I dress and carry that body, though, is often at stark contrast with what the world expects. It’s been that way since I was a 3-year-old telling my mom that overalls were better than dresses.”

Typical clothes
Except that I would have a scarf rather than a bow tie, she could have been describing me. And a horde of other women.

I have never noticed anyone giving me the glare in a public washroom. I am tall and heavy boned and I have been taken for male over and over through the years (much to my amusement, mostly) but never challenged in a washroom. Am I just oblivious, or is ‘Emily’ seeing shadows where they do not really exist. It is sad that she is uncomfortable.

It is even sadder that people with minds like sewers are trying to make us all overly conscious of who is 

Friday, 22 April 2016

It’s a strange time to be a Canadian when our Prime Minister is spending his time boxing for the cameras in New York. Not that we should be surprised, I guess. Trudeau Senior spent a lot of time showing off his athletic prowess to an admiring world. But in his case it was, as I recall, diving,

canoe paddling and the occasional pirouette that he displayed for his eager fans. Nothing that would addle his bulging brain. Boxing seems to be in a different category and Trudeau Junior was not, in the photos, wearing a headpiece. Maybe it would have interfered with the pretty pictures.

I find myself wishing that Himself would stay home now and again and do some work instead of flitting around the globe getting himself photographed. Who is minding the store, one asks oneself, while the PM is getting himself onto the cover of yet another magazine. 

Who is smacking the Senate into some kind of order. Who is preventing novice Cabinet members from making fools of themselves at fundraisers and other festivities. Who is making Dion make up his multi-layered mind. What are they even calling that department now? Global Affairs or something. I cannot keep up with even the cosmetic changes while hoping that the legislation the Liberals promised in so many areas will turn out to be better that the sad mess they are making of the assisted suicide bill. Better not get started on that topic.

Meanwhile I do not even want to hear about what the Provincial Liberal (just typed Liberass by mistake as I am breaking in a new keyboard) government is doing today. Much as I admire Wynne as one tough woman. For my American friends, she is the Premier of Ontario (all the provinces have their own legislatures, and a premier is the equivalent of a state governor), an open lesbian and the winner of a majority in the last provincial election, winning in spite of the mess her party and the former leader of it had made in the previous mandate. Talk about deficits. No, another topic you do not want me to pursue.

Back to Monsieur Photo-Op. I guess at least if he is boxing he will have a mouthpiece in his mouth and not his foot.