Thursday, January 3, 2019

Notable Books of 2018

Once again a rich year in reading with many enjoyable, entertaining, and informative books. The following names a few that had some significant impact for me.

1. An Irish Country Practice – Patrick Taylor. This book is just the latest in a series of books (I think there are 14) with the title “An Irish Country ____”. Think “All creatures great and small” but taking place in Ireland and doctoring humans, not animals. A calm soothing read but quite satisfying – lots of medical information re symptoms and treatments that most lay people would easily understand.
2. The Stranger In The Woods - Michael Finkel. (sub title “The Last True Hermit”). a remarkable tale of survival and solitude--the true story of a man who lived alone in a tent in the Maine woods, never talking to another person and surviving by stealing supplies from nearby cabins for twenty-seven years. It also delves into the history of  isolationists (hermits, anchorites, people who just like to be alone) throughout history and continuing today. A fascinating subject I had never given any thought to.
3. The Day The World Came To Town - Jim DeFede. The non fiction account of the thousands of arrivals in Newfoundland on 911. Fascinating, funny, and moving account of people at their finest at the worst of times.
4. The Midnight Line – Lee Child. The latest of the Jack Reacher novels, and as always a well told and intriguing story. But that is not why I put it on this list – it is for the sensitive portrayal of addiction, specifically opiods – and a glimpse into the life of an addict.
5. Painted Horses –Malcolm Brooks. This one qualifies as my “find of the year”. I picked it up to fill the gap between my last book and the arrival of my next reserved book. A simple western. Not! A beautifully written book that defies genre, and is most definitely worth the read.
6.  Sebastian St. Cyr Regency Mysteries – C.S.Harris. 13 books in this series of murder mysteries taking place in Regency England. A most interesting look at the politics, mores, class system, and general life of this period. Read one and likely get hooked.
7. The Death and Life of Strother Purcell – Ian Weir. I don’t know what to say about this book except that I liked it very much. You need to read the many reviews and book descriptions available on the internet to see if it attracts your interest. Definitely quirky!
8. Whiskey When We’re Dry – John Larison. I will let this review stand as the way I feel about this book - "A thunderclap of originality, here is a fresh voice and fresh take on one of the oldest stories we tell about ourselves as Americans and Westerners. It's riveting in all the right ways -- a damn good read that stayed with me long after closing the covers." - Timothy Egan, New York Times bestselling
9. The Reckoning – John Grisham. I found the book difficult to read in places because of the terrible circumstances – The Bataan Death March for example. Still, the story, the places, the times left an impact on me that will last for a long time.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Anniversary Party

This happened in the year 2000 - For me an interesting look back at what can never happen again!

The summer has been cold and wet and cheerless. The main topic of conversation in our rural area is the weather and the effect on crops. Experts, self styled, of every stripe proclaimed their own brand of truth. "I know you won't believe this, but we've had less rain this year so far than we had last year. It just seems like more because it rains every day. My well is the lowest it's been in years" one farmer told the group standing around at a community yard sale. Another said "Nope, I don't believe it. I got water running right into the cow barn. Now I've been workin' this farm for over fifty years, and my father worked it before that, and it's never happened before. This is the wettest year ever, and that means more rain fell!”
No matter what the truth is, apart from the conversational value of the weather, it has been the pits. Nobody disagrees with that.
The arrangements were made for the anniversary party with fingers crossed and a fallback plan to use the church hall if the weather was bad. My sister in law, Shirley, had recruited a small army of grandchildren to help, and they created invitations on the
computer, made phone calls, arranged for the pot luck meal which was to be served, and helped with all the other small details.
The couple being honoured, Stan and Martha, were celebrating the twenty fifth anniversary of their marriage, and their four children would all be present. So too would assorted uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, friends and acquaintances, and a variety of fringe relatives. In our family, as in most, an occasion like this (weddings, funerals, etc.,) was good reason for a reunion. Somehow, we never had reunions for their own sake.
Shirley worried about the weather. Ronald, her husband and my brother, was unconcerned. "It'll either rain or it won't" he said. The day dawned bright and sunny, cool though, and with great white fluffy clouds floating overhead.
We would be making the hundred mile trip with our daughter and her brood of three since her husband was somewhere in the southern states on a business trip. Since this was the case, I proposed a departure time somewhere in the area of an hour before we really needed to start. Experience had told me that it was a wise thing to do since we never, ever, not once, ever got away when we said we would. On the other hand, I was concerned about arriving too early. What would the children do with extra time on their hands.
The van was loaded with all the necessities. Lawn chairs, our contribution to the potluck meal, diaper bags, bottles of baby formula, boxes of toys, a folding stroller for the baby, paper, crayons, games, extra clothing, gifts, snacks for the trip, sunglasses, sunscreen, blankets, and other assorted paraphernalia made up the cargo. We could easily have survived for two weeks in the barrens.
We arrived an hour early, and not wanting to get in the way when we knew they
would be frantically rushing around with last minute details, we stopped at a donut shop to use the facilities, puttered around town for a while, and then went to the park where we all got out and wandered around.
Just when I announced we should go, Alison found that the stuff we had loaded earlier did not include a sweater or jacket for Morgan. There was nothing for it but to go back to the Giant Tiger, where my wife and daughter went shopping. Now of course, we were late.
Did I mention that I was the MC? Well, I was, and I sat in the van listening to the small voices chattering incessantly, looking at my watch every two minutes, and fuming about the whole affair. The disgusted look I gave to the two ladies when they finally returned clutching their purchase went either totally unnoticed, or if noticed, ignored. "OK" my wife said cheerily, "we can go now".
"Just great" I thought. "Now we're late, I'm the MC, and everyone will be waiting
for me to start the program." (As it turned out, the "program" didn't start for another hour, and by then it was so late I was unable to use any of the material I had prepared. So much for the importance of the MC. No one had even noticed we were late.)
Ten minutes later, and half an hour late, we pulled in to my brother’s house. Well,
we didn't actually pull in. I noticed the long line of cars parked on both sides of the road, the driveway being full. As we drove past, we saw the lawn full of people, some milling around, and others with their lawn chairs set up in the best spots. I found a driveway to turn around in well down the road, and then found a parking space along the road, not more than half a mile past their house.
While my passengers each carried something (my daughter carried the baby) and
then joined the throngs of people on the yard, 1 was able to lug the rest of the stuff back from the van in only four or five trips.
Again, the grouchiness of my response to the question "do you need any help?" which came just after the last load, was apparently not noticed.
Earlier in the day, before leaving home, my wife had suggested we take the new camera. It was a state of the art birthday gift for me, and had not yet been used. 1 thought we should take the old camera since it still had half a roll of unused film, and I knew how it worked. Over ruled, 1 had packed the new one.
Lots of unique photo ops were evident. There were groupings of people that might never be together again in exactly the same mix, and I wanted pictures for our albums, and also to send to another brother, Paul, who lives in Yellowknife in the NWT, and could not attend.
Just as I snapped the fifth picture, a funny buzzing feeling started in the camera, and as 1 looked at it, 1 noticed that the lens had retracted, the counter showed "E" for empty, the film was rewinding, and the film loading door was open!
"1 suppose you think it's my fault" my wife accused, when I grumpily told her
what had happened. "Yes I do" I responded unwisely. She set her mouth in a way which I had come to realize meant nothing good for me, took the van keys, and set off for town to get more film. 1 could tell that she thought I had done something wrong and "might" be able to figure out what by the time she got back.
When she returned, a parking place had opened in the driveway. Life is just not fair!
Morgan, our five year old grand daughter was playing with Emily, also five. I haven't stopped to figure out what their actual relationship is, but Emily's father is my nephew, and so I guess he and my daughter Alison are cousins, so I suppose that makes Emily and Morgan second cousins. Who cares? They were playing.
Alison, not sure whose child she was asked Emily "who are your parents?". With a great deal of wisdom, Emily responded "My mommy and daddy!" "Yes" Alison insisted, but what are their names? What are they called?".
"JoAnne and Dear" was the reply. "My daddy calls mommy JoAnne, and mommy calls daddy Dear". That settled that!
Old acquaintances were renewed, and we were introduced to giant young men and beautiful young ladies that had been transformed into these strangers since we last saw them. For some, high school starts this year. For others, university will be their life, some on bursaries and grants and scholarships. Still others are just entering the world of work. I think Michael Dean Frederick, our one year old grandson was the youngest there. I would not care to guess who was the oldest.
There were also absences. They were all missed, but specifically Uncle Harold. Aunt Arley spent an hour or so, leaving before the meal to go to the hospital where he is recovering from his serious run in with a tractor and cultivator.
George, another brother, was presented by someone with a shoe saver crutch. This device was designed (according to the instructions) to use the folding trough strategically placed so that the user can propel certain body fluids a reasonable distance in front, and thereby prevent ruining a shoe shine. This tool made the rounds, and there were many comments made about the size and shape of the trough. Dorothy, George's wife, did not deny or confirm the various speculations! George of course, was ready to offer proof, but the offer was declined.
A gospel quartet from Harrowsmith, all friends of the bride and groom, set up their
equipment on the row of tables and enchanted the audience with several songs.
Berniece, another sister in law had been to England and Wales since we last saw her. She accompanied her grand daughter and school music team, and we understand that she set the pace for the group. This was her first time in Europe, and as she told me, she is determined to return. She also tells me that Keith, her husband and another of my brothers, won't go, even though they have promises of lodging in both England and Scotland. Keith and I had words, and that exchange ended with his promise to think about it. I hope they go.
Stan and Martha, the bride and groom, looked young and healthy and very happy. Martha disappeared into the house for a few minutes and returned wearing her bridal gown. Since they had been married in Seattle, most people had not been able to attend the wedding. She looked beautiful, and the comment was made that she might be the only person that ever had to have a gown taken in after twenty five years.
The meal was finally laid out on the long tables. Salads of every imaginable kind, and cheeses and ham and roast beef made the table groan.
Just before the feeding frenzy started, grace was sung, led by Ronald's rich voice.
Be present at our table Lord
Be here and every where adored
These creatures bless and grant that we
May feast in paradise with thee
I think everyone, at least those over thirty, knew the words, if not from recent use,
then from childhood memories of when those familiar words ornamented almost every gathering where food was served. Most people joined the singing, and the sounds rose from that shady summer lawn to the heavens, and invoked memories for many of us of past events.
Everyone said they ate too much, and when the damage was done, there appeared
to still be enough food left to satisfy the hunger of the whole Canadian Navy.
As the day drew to a close and people started to leave, there were the usual
promises of keeping in touch, of visiting. No doubt they were all sincere, and the
intentions were good. But, time slips away from us in this busy world. Distances too are greater than they used to be for most folks. The majority of promises will end with the good intention.
There is little likelihood this group will ever meet as a group again. Certainly, there will be other gatherings for other reasons, and there will be many of the same faces, but not them all. Each of us is more conscious of mortality as the years go by, and each of these gatherings becomes more precious.
Strangely enough, I loaded the van mostly by myse1 while grandchildren were gathered and belongings were searched out, and finally, we too departed with a "toot tootle oot toot - toot toot" of the horn. Pretty much a perfect day I'd say, not counting the camera fiasco I

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Notable Books of 2017

Books Of 2017
Once again, my list of "notables" is quite short. If my list were "enjoyables" it would be considerably longer. As I have stated before, this is not intended as a revue of these books, but just a mention to indicate that they earned a special place in my mind.

1. The Lost City of the Monkey God – Douglas Preston – a true story of  discovery in Honduras, and a compelling look at reasons for abandoned civilizations and the lessons for today.
2. The Lost City of Z - David Grann -non-fiction account of early 20th century explorations of the Amazon to map, and to find El Dorado.  Incredible hardships.
3. Steal away home - Karolyn Smardz Frost – non fiction by Toronto author archeologist/historian – also wrote “I’ve Got A Home In Glory Land” - a fascinating and meticulously researched story of the era of slavery and abolition in both the US and Canada.
4. Earthly remains - Donna Leon – To class this author’s books as “detective stories” would be misleading. Her main characters are in Venice and the stories are rich in geographical detail and human interactions.
5. Mississippi Blood – Greg Iles – this is the third book in the Natchez Burning trilogy. I had read the first two – Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree – and finally this recently released book. The copy I read is large print and runs to 1204 pages. A deeply disturbing look at racial issues past and present, as well as looking at past wars (the Korean War specifically in this last book).
6. The Road To Little Dribbling – Bill Bryson. Non fiction. If Bill Bryson writes a book, you can safely bet it will be in my notable books list. This one is a followup to his earlier “Notes From A Small Island”. Enough said.
7. Hillbilly Elegy – J.D.Vance. Non fiction. The cover calls it “A memoir of a family and culture in crisis”. Read about it on the internet if you are interested. I will remember it for a very long time, and will perhaps find I have been changed by it.
8. Prussian Blue – Philip Kerr. German detective Bernie Gunther is a wonderful character created by an excellent writer. Having read the whole series I am always eager for the next one.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A 1944 Poem for Remembrance Day 2017

What did you do today? I died today!
Lt. Dean Shatlain was a tank commander, and in 1944 on the battlefield in Africa his tank was hit. He amputated his own foot with a jackknife. Thinking he was dying, he wrote the following poem. He did survive.

What did you do today, my friend,
From morning till the night?
How many times did you complain
That rationing is too tight?
When are you going to start to do
All of the things you say?
A soldier would like to know, my
What did you do today?

We met the enemy today
And took the town by storm
Happy reading it will make
For you tomorrow morn.
You’ll read with satisfaction
The brief communiqué
We fought but are you fighting?
What did you do today?

My gunner died in my arms today
I feel his warm blood yet:
Your neighbors dying boy gave out
A scream I’ll never forget.
On my right a tank was hit,
A flash and then a fire,
The stench of burning flesh
Still rises from the pyre.

What did you do today, my friend,
To help us with the task?
Did you work longer and harder for
less, Or is that too much to ask?
What right have I to ask you this,
You probably will say,
Maybe now you’ll understand,
You see…I died today.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Notable Books Of 2016

So many books, so little time!
I have listed fewer than usual this year although I read about the same number. That is not an indication they were not good, interesting books. It is just this list is intended for those special books that have a lasting impact on me for whatever reason. If I listed the books I enjoyed, it would be a very long list indeed!

1. The Adventure of English – Melvyn Bragg – non fiction. The story of the beginnings of the language we know today as English, and how it changed and grew over the centuries, and like the universe, is still expanding. A great read for anyone interested in language.
2. The Color of Law – Mark Giminez. The main character is a modern day Atticus Finch, although forced into that role. Lots of things to criticize in this book, but I include it because the depiction of “Big Law” firms, law vs. justice, and the plastic world of the rich has stayed with me.
3.  The Last Bookaneer – Matthew Pearl. To enjoy this book you must put logic on hold and just accept it for what it is – a story whose main characters are in love with books and language, and a partially true story of Robert Louis Stevenson’s last years in Samoa where he lived with his family.
4.  Asylum - Jeannette de Beauvoir.  A murder mystery in Montreal, it documents the factual physical and mental abuses of children by Government, Church, drug companies, and the CIA during the late 40s and on into the 60’s. A fascinating and disturbing read. It will stay with me a long time! Look up Dr. Ewen Cameron, and also the Duplessis Orphans.
5.  Brown Dog – Jim Harrison. Imagine Carl Hiaasen and W.P. Kinsella get together and write a book combining some of their favorite characters. Brown Dog is an innocent and charming character and never shows an ounce of ill will toward anyone except perhaps himself. It is a laugh out loud romp in the UP (Upper Peninsula) but underneath is a deep love of nature and all it offers. The book is a series of novellas, written and published separately over a period of several years, but reads seamlessly.
6.  Thirteen Moons – Charles Frazier (published 2006). Mixed reviews for this book with most praising the first part and condemning the ending. I cannot disagree with these findings if the story itself is the only value. However, I found myself rereading many sections purely for the writing itself, and for Frazier’s ability to put into words many emotions that I feel but could not have defined. Perhaps you have to be old like me to appreciate it. For me, it is my “read of the year” – at least up to this point.
7.  It’s a Long Story – Willie Nelson with David Ritz. What can I say about the life story of Willie Nelson as told by Willie?  I am not an unconditional fan – I love some of his music, and don’t quite know what to make of some of it. The book clarifies why this is so. All in all, I just enjoyed meeting a Willie Nelson quite different in some ways from what I expected.
8.  Razor Girl – Carl Hiaasen. I just have to include this latest Hiaasen romp. He has created some outrageous characters and plots over his career, but non to top this group of con artists and the crew of a reality show .

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"We" vs. Trump

Who do “we” think “we” are?

In the wake of the recent U.S.A. elections many people are rethinking previously held beliefs and assumptions. The political pundits are busy providing their take on events, and journalists are writing feverishly. I cannot speak for others, but my personal assumption is that many or most are like me, in that they read the various articles, and nod wisely and agree that not only has something terrible taken place, but that “they” did it. They being the opposite of we – they being the ignorant low class uneducated manual laboring rural hayseed rustic bigoted intolerant rednecks that supported Trump and voted him into the office of President of the U.S.A.
This viewpoint is supported by countless articles and interviews – how did we let this happen ? – how did we not see this coming?, and by various rather humerous putdowns of the Trump supporters such as the email relating the Stephen Hawking statement when his original comments containing big words was translated into “Trump bad man – very bad”.
Even Garrison Keillor wrote depicting the Trump supporters (They wanted only to whoop and yell, boo at the H-word, wear profane T-shirts, maybe grab a crotch or two, jump in the RV with a couple six-packs and go out and shoot some spotted owls).
I am ashamed of my self for accepting these views without thinking, perhaps partly because they came from people I respect. I am ashamed for passing them on, and chuckling at the putdowns. I am ashamed for automatically accepting those stereotypes. I am ashamed of what has to be called by its real name BIGOTRY – the “we” I associated myself with are bigots! Upon any kind of deeper examination it becomes apparent that what that means is that WE are the holders of all right and light and truth and intelligence and good judgement, and those on the other side (They) are just wrong and bad! Is that not bigotry? Just who do we think we are to make these judgements?
Again I say, I am ashamed of myself!
I am no Trump supporter. I think he is a dangerous and deranged buffoon. I dislike him as a person, as a politician, and as the next President. I would probably dislike many of his followers if I knew them, and despise their political views. But I cannot accept that those who voted republican can be described as above, that they are automatically of limited intelligence, and that they are somehow less than full citizens with full rights, and that everyone else who did not vote republican are part of the great righteous WE and empowered to make this judgement. “They” have made their voice heard clearly, and it is a legitimate voice.

Recently, a Toronto Star columnist wrote about Kellie Leitch (a Conservative leadership candidate) who has called for screening immigrants for “anti Canadian values”.
He referred to “Ms Leitch and her ilk”, and cited various emails he had received from supporters of Ms Leitch after he had criticised her in an earlier column. Of course, the emails were of the absolute worst kind possible. You know – the kind that rant about killing someone with whom they disagree -and their spelling was bad too. Ergo, supporters of Ms. Leitch are the dangerous lunatic fringe.
 He also stated that Ms. Leitch was pandering to the fears of Canadians in order to get votes.
The real reason behind the article was that a poll had just showed that 67% of Canadians supported that proposal.
If we put aside our feelings about Leitch’s specific proposal, and consider any topic that gets a large percentage expression of interest, would we agree with this columnist’s portrayal?
Some might say that 67% is a pretty good indicator that Canadians are concerned about the subject, any subject, and that politicians and journalists should look at those concerns, not dismiss them out of hand, or accuse the politician of pandering.
Some might say that to say “Ms Leitch and her ilk” is close to slander and unacceptable.
The journalist managed with a few words not only to brand Ms. Leitch in a very negative way, but also to inform readers at the same time that if they had any sympathy for her proposal, they are of a similar ilk, bigoted and fear mongering - and all of us are certainly sensitive to not doing or saying anything that makes us politically incorrect, and puts us in the “they” category.
 I guess that more care has to be taken before including myself in any group. Perhaps I can not be part of any “We” – perhaps I can only be “I” and do my own thinking.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Monarch Butterflies and Milkweed 2016

Plant it and they will come
Two years ago we gathered some milkweed seeds in the fall from local plants. In the early spring I planted the seeds indoors and then transplanted them outside when the weather was right. They did not do much that first year, but this year the plants are huge and healthy.
I have seen only one monarch this year, and was very lucky to get the picture of her laying the egg on July 27. I did not even realize it until I downloaded the picture into the computer, and then I could see that her abdomen was curled under the leaf. I then went back to the plant and looked, and sure enough, there was an egg. 2 more eggs were spotted on a different leaf. I looked at the eggs with a magnifier, and they are beautiful and unmistakable.
We watched the 3 eggs hatch on the 5th day. The caterpillars are very tiny, not much bigger than a hair, and we saw them starting to chow down on the milkweed leaves.
The next morning they could not be found. Hoping they had migrated to different leaves we watched and waited. Nothing appeared and no evidence of leaves being chewed.
Finally we concluded that all three were the victims of predators, of which I read on the internet there are plenty - wasps, spiders, lady bugs, ants, and so on.
That lone Monarch is the only one I have seen this year, so we are grateful that we at least had the opportunity to watch the eggs mature and hatch. I doubt there will be another chance this year. The small miracle is that she found our milkweed!
The next time the leaves with the eggs will be brought inside and put in a container until maturity.
BUT WAIT – August 27, one month after the first Monarch visited and laid her eggs, we saw another Monarch, and watched as she laid one perfect little egg.
Double click or triple click pictures for full size 
She Lays (see abdomen curled under leaf)
The Egg
This one I took in the house on the leaf and put it in a clear plastic container. 5 days later (September 1) the
egg hatched, and the tiny creature immediately started munching. 
Sept 1 – hatched & eating
Sept 1 size comparison
Sept 10 size comparison
On September 10 the caterpillar headed to the top where it attached itself and hung there.
Sept 11 at 6.43am
20 Minutes later (almost complete)
10 minutes later – done!
Sept 19 (8 days later) the empty chrysalis
First picture early morning - still hanging from chrysalis
5 hours later – just before she left (for Mexico?)
Who would have thought a monarch would find that one lone milkweed in our yard? 
I guess the lesson is “Plant it and they will come!”.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Notable Books of 2015

Notable Books of 2015
This is not intended as a review or critique. By their inclusion in this list they are books that have made strong impressions on me, above and beyond the other 120 books read during the period.

1. Edge of Eternity – Ken Follett. Nearly 1100 pages in this third book of the century trilogy. All the major events, the Berlin Wall, Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crisis, race riots, Kennedy’s shootings, etc. are here. Great book!
2. Auto Biography – Earl Swift. Non fiction, but stranger than fiction. A great tale of an classic automobile, the people who owned it, and the rough cut people that restored it.
3. Gray Mountain – John Grisham. A thriller yes, but more importantly, a scathing look at the mining industry and its impact on one area of Virginia. I am reminded of John Prine’s song – Paradise, and the chorus - and daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County - Down by the Green River where Paradise lay- Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking - Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away! While the song is about Kentucky, the impact of coal mining is the same.
4. The Fifth Heart. - Dan Simmons. A great story involving Sherlock Holmes serves as the platform to inform the reader about a great many things especially including the World Columbian Exposition of 1893.
5. All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr. A book about people during WW11 that will remain in my mind for a long time.
6. Kill Me – Stephen White. A very different kind of thriller, one that poses lots of questions you will continue to ask yourself long after reading. Some of the parts do not stand up to logic very well, but all in all a good intriguing read.
7. Anna From Away – D.R. MacDonald. A totally captivating story taking place in the Cape Breton of today, but with the Cape Breton of the past always present.
8. The Truth According To Us – Annie Barrows (co author of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society). A story of 1938 high society and blue collar. I found it delightful as a society deb uncovers small town West Virginia secrets while working for a New Deal organization called The Federal Writers Project.
9. The Shepherd’s Life – James Rebank. A captivating non fiction look at the current and past lives of real shepherds in the Lake District in England. Real people producing real products and keeping a small bit of England real.
10. Copper Mine -  Keith Ross Leckie. Canadian historical fiction based on the real life events surrounding the trials in 1917 of two Copper Inuit for the murders of two Catholic priests. Intriguing subject matter well worth the read. (note- book published in 2010
11. A Siege of Bitterns – A Pitying of Doves – Steve Burrows. 2 books by the Oshawa author called “birder murder mysteries”. I find myself comparing these books and their hero, Dominic Jejeune, to Commissario Guido Brunetti, the character from the Donna Leon novels, and also to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec by Louise Penny. In the birder murder novels, we learn a great deal about serious birders, ornithology, salt marshes and their ecology, and also some grammar lessons courtesy of Jejeune’s girlfriend, a journalist. Incidentally, the books take place in England. Somewhat frustrating are the various mentions of previous cases without any particulars. I suspect a hook for future novels – I hope!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Notable Books Of 2014

Notable Books Of 2014
1. The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches- Alan Bradley  - a Flavia de Luce novel. Having read all the series I wait eagerly for the next -  which I suspect may take place in Toronto!
2. Up And Down – Terry Fallis. Once again a Fallis book makes my list. Lets hope he keeps writing for a long time.
3. The Lord God Bird – Tom Gallant. The bird thought to be extinct, the Ivory billed Woodpecker, is rediscovered in Arkansas and forms the basis for this beautiful and haunting story. A small book with a big impact.
4. Through A Glass, Darkly - Donna Leon. Her books are “intelligent” detective stories taking place in Venice and surrounding area. This particular book deals with glass making on Murano. All her books are delightful and informative reads.
5. The Devil Colony – James Rollins. This is really about ALL Rollins’ books. If you like books like The DaVinci Code you will love Rollins. I think of his writing as “Science made interesting” as he uses real science and weaves adventures into it. In this book, the science is nanotechnology – a hot topic today.
6. Picasso’s War – Russell Martin. A non fiction look at the destruction of the town of Guernica in Spain, and the famous painting by Picasso of that same name.
7. Lakeland – Allan Casey. A non fiction story of one man’s travel to various lakes across Canada. Should be a must read for anyone who loves “life at the lake”, and I promise, it is a joy to read.
8. Man In The Shadows – Gordon Henderson. Canadian historical fiction in 1867. An interesting and informative story with lots of factual information about Sir John A Macdonald, Ottawa as it was then, D’arcy McGee, his role in confederation and his murder, and the Fenian attempts to destroy the new confederation.
9. The Invention Of Wings – Sue Monk Kid. A fictionalized account of two real life sisters from Charleston fighting for abolition. This is about being true to yourself and your convictions.
10. Winter of the World – Ken Follett. The second book in the Century Trilogy (The first was Fall of Giants). Starting in 1933, covering WW11 and ending with the period of the Berlin airlift. The third in the trilogy has just been released.
11. The Wreckage – and Sweetland – Michael Crummey. Two books – two stories of Newfoundland and the people. The first about forbidden love and war, and the second about a remote settlement on an island outport about to be relocated.
12. The Confessions Of Francis Godwin – Robert Hellenga. An earlier book by Hellenga – The Snakewoman of Little Egypt – made my list a few years ago, and this one definitely belongs on this year’s list. A total immersion for the reader in music, philosophy, ancient Rome, Italian food, and something beyond describing.
I must mention Edge Of Eternity by Ken Follett. I am in the process of reading and have arrived at about the ¾ point of the almost 1100 pages. I will only say that the book will definitely be on my list for 2015!

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Life In Books

Books in my life
I have recently been thinking about books from childhood – books I read many years ago. In recent years I have done blog entries on “notable books of  the year” and I can look back at them anytime. For the earlier ones I have only memory.
I wondered what an exercise in trying to pull books out of my memory from previous years would produce. No prodding, no hard work, just simply going back over the years to see what stuck with me.
I suppose it is not really surprising that they tumbled forth and are still tumbling. I find it interesting to note that while I have read quite a few of the great “classics”, they did not rise to the surface in this process – although I think some on the list should be considered classics, and perhaps some are.
As the list grew, it became apparent to me that many would stand the test of time – that they could be read again and still enjoyed, and in some cases, perhaps would be more meaningful to me now than they were then.
My mind continues to dredge up books overlooked in this initial effort, and perhaps I will add to the list sometime.
For now, the first pass has 70 listed.
One final note – perhaps the book that has had a greater impact on me than any other was the grade 3 reader – Golden Windows! Why? It was because of this beautiful book that I became completely infatuated with reading – stories, poems, learning, wonder.
Any comments appreciated

Books in my life
1. The Bible (old and new testaments)
2. Robinson Crusoe
3. Kidnapped
4. Freckles
5. Girl of the Limberlost
6. Bambi
7. Lassie Come Home
8. Riders of the Purple Sage
9. Tom Sawyer
10. Huckleberry Finn
11. Anne of Green Gables 
12. Little Women
13. The Yearling
14. Last of the Mohicans
15. Leather Stocking
16. The Robe
17. The Silver Chalice
18. The Saracen Blade
19. Cry of the Wild
20. The Shoes of the Fisherman
21. The Clowns of God
22. Stranger in a Strange Land
23. Dune
24. The Avatar
25. The Narnia Series
26. Nanook of the North
27. Border Music
28. High Plains Tango
29. The Magicican of Lublin
30. The Winds of War
31. Chesapeake
32. The Bridge at Andau
33. Who Has Seen The Wind
34. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
35. King Rat
36. Shogun
37. Sarum
38. Whirlwind
39. The Haj
40. Trinity
41. Meditations (Marcus Aurelius)
42. Pillars of the Earth
43. The Professor and the Madman
44. The Meaning of Everything
45. The Last Days of Pompei
46. Mere Christianity
47. The Silent Spring
48. The Carpetbaggers
49. A Stone for Danny Fisher
50. The World According to Garp
51. Shoeless Joe
52. A River Runs Through It
53. The Hiding Place
54. The Old Man and the Boy
55. The Old Man’s Boy Grows Up
56. The Honey Badger
57. Five Smooth Stones
58. Life after Death
59. Berlin Solstice
60. Lonesome Dove
61. Commanche Moon
62. A Prayer for Owen Meany
63. The Glass Castle
64. Never Cry Wolf
65. Grey Seas Under
66. The Serpent’s Coil
67. Sibir
68. Three Day Road
69. The Owl’s Nest
70. The Boys of Summer

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Memory Lane Prince Edward County 1946 East Lake School

Memory Lane Prince Edward County 1946
East Lake Public School Picture 
The picture tells it all! How could the world have changed so much in such a short time? No designer clothes, no senior prom, no limousines and fancy dress at graduation. Eight grades in one small classroom heated with a wood stove.
I believe the school building is gone now, with no trace left except our memories. Yes, I am the little gink in the middle row with the wrinkly lisle stockings (oh the horror). My brother Keith is in the front row, and brother George was missing for some unknown reason.
This was postwar Canada. King George V1 was on the throne, and Roy Rogers was king of the cowboys.
So many memories – I dare not start that – but one cries to be told. On our farm dwelt an old tom turkey whose mission in life was to chase me when my mother sent me to the barn for fresh milk. (Imagine – getting a little pail of milk fresh from the cow without benefit of any processing before we drank it. How ever did we survive?). That turkey gobbler was the boogy man of my dreams! One Sunday after church, friends of my parents , Roy and Gladys Spafford came to our home for dinner (for you city folk, dinner was what we had at noon – supper at night). Mr. Turkey decided to take a run at Roy. It was his last run. Roy turned when he realized he was being attacked, and a quick kick at the turkey resulted in a broken neck for Tom, and a turkey supper for us.
You can enlarge the picture by clicking, and clicking again for an ever larger image.
The names of the students and teacher are ---
Back row – Kathleen Mann, Mary Vader, Margaret Wellbanks, Barbara Lancaster, Grace Goodwin (Teacher), Jack Laundry, Bill Noble, Bud Chapman, David Camp
Middle row – Lloyd Hanna, Margaret Elsbury, Lucille Parks, Mary Leavitt, Ruth Perry, Kay Camp, Shirley Laundry, Joan Marisett
Front row – Joseph Laundry, Lawrence Foster, Keith Hanna, Ken Marisett
Absent – Margaret Dyer, Nancy Laundry, Peter Welch, Paul Welch, George Hanna
email me at

Monday, February 24, 2014

Poem on 2014 Olympics

Game of life
The games are on!
flame burning bright
Young athletes march
A moving sight
To get this far
Hard work for years
but will the prize
Be joy or tears
Will all their work
Earn them a spot
On winners stand
Or be forgot
So they compete
An all out strife
A fitting metaphor
For life

Monday, January 6, 2014

Notable Books of 2013

Most Memorable Books
The library record shows that 143 books were borrowed in calendar year 2013. While most of these were a good read, only 9 made my “memorable” list.
1. Sara Gruen – Ape House – A fictional account of a community of great apes (bonobos) living in a university language research facility. What kept me fascinated by this book was the insights into the habits and language abilities (based on facts) of these interesting creatures.
2. Sandra Dallas – Tall Grass – A 13 year old girl tells of life on a Colorado farm during world war 11 after an interment camp is located nearby for Japanese Americans. An “awful good” read!
3. Guy Vanderhaeghe – A Good Man - So many subjects in the decade after Custers defeat – Montana & Alberta, NWMP, Fenians, Queens Own Rifles, Sitting Bull, spies, Ottawa and Washington, etc. Not sure I “enjoyed” it, but it stays in my mind.
4. Diane Setterfield – The Thirteenth Tale – this book has received both rants and raves from various reviewers, and while I recognize the cons, I enjoyed the story and the main characters love of books
5. Carl Hiaasen – Bad Monkey – call me shallow, but I have read all his books and eagerly await the next. His weird and yet totally believable characters, his obvious passion for the natural Florida landscape and his caustic criticism of those who despoil it, combined with a wicked wit, put his books high among my favorites.
6. Alan Bradley – Speaking From Among The Bones – if you have not met Flavia DeLuce, you have been missing out. This Canadian author’s books are a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. A delightful read on so many levels.
7. Brad Smith – Busted Flush – a Canadian author from Dunnville Ontario, Smith’s character Dock Bass is a man after my own heart – living life on his own terms. Throw in a hidden treasure trove of Civil war artifacts and a bunch of nefarious characters and you have a delightful read. Memorable just for the enjoyment of reading it!
8. Bill Bryson – One Summer – Simply another Bryson triumph. Characters and events that shaped our world but stranger than any fiction. Absolute must read!
9. Joseph Boyden – The Orenda – another book that I cannot say I “enjoyed”, but it is powerful and memorable and informs us of our central Canada heritage, both native and early settlers.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Refreshing Christmas Album

Now It Is Christmas Again
with Garrison Keillor

Christmas music wears thin very fast. After the overexposure of the sacred, the sentimental, and the banal coming at you everywhere you go, it is difficult to find something that is always fresh, and sufficiently different that you look forward to hearing it every year.
Such music is possible with Garrison Keillor's Christmas album - Now It Is Christmas Again. No, it will not replace all your favorites, but it will add a distinct flavor to your play list with Keillor's patented brand of gentle humor, his genuinely nice music, and his ability to draw upon the nostalgia that hides within each of us.

It is not a new album, but is still available from various sources such as Amazon and Ebay. You would have not trouble finding it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Is There Music After Puretracks? YES!

Music Downloads After PuretracksAs a long time user of Puretracks for my music downloading, it was dismaying to try to log in recently only to find it seemed to have disappeared. I kept trying for several days hoping that it was only a website problem, perhaps updating the site. This apparently was not the case, and it is truly gone.
I was comfortable with their programme, the music was clean and downloading was not a problem. No worries about viruses, or other evils that may lurk in music sharing sites.
The problem to be solved was – where do I get music now?
After checking a site that evaluates various download sites, I settled on MP3 Million.
I had been paying anywhere from .89cents to $1.39 per track, and as much as $12.00 for an album from Puretracks. MP3Million is straight $0.10 per track. And, if you buy the complete album it is still $0.10 a track, but generally also has a 20% discount. For example, and album with 10 tracks would be $1.00 less 20% - complete album for $0.80! And, with the album comes the cover art.
MP3million is extremely user friendly in every way – from a very simple sign up, to track or album selection, to buying and downloading.
You need to deposit a minimum of $15.00 to open your account. For this deposit you get 2 free tracks. In essence that means you have $15.20 in your account – that is 152 tracks for you.
Once the deposit is made you simply pick the music you want, hit “buy” and then download. No checkout process.
Despite my initial sadness at the closing of Puretracks, I now find I am very happy it did. Otherwise, being a creature of habit, I would have continued paying more than ten times too much.
Go to

Thursday, September 5, 2013

PRISONER OF WAR CAMP #30 Bowmanville

Dad was a guard at Camp # 30
My father was a veteran of both world wars, having served in the Royal navy in WW1, and also as a member of the Home Guard in Canada in WW11. His duty in WW11 was as a guard in the Prisoners of War Camps, both in Nipigon and Bowmanville. He also escorted prisoners of war from Halifax to the various camps, and was the bass drummer for the regiment’s band.
During his time in Bowmanville, Camp 30, he was given 4 gifts from prisoners. Whether they were from the same prisoner or from 4 different prisoners I am not sure.
The gifts were
1. A carved wooden pencil box that was a replica of the ship he sailed and was torpedoed on during WW1 – the HMS Louvain (see a separate blog on this )
2. A hand carved marionette/puppet Santa Claus
3. A painting of a scene from the home area of one of the prisoners
4. a painting of Camp 30.
As a child at that time, I remember playing with the marionette and the pencil box. Sadly, only the one painting is to be found today – the home scene. What happened to the other painting and the ship and Santa Claus I cannot say.
The painting is a water colour and signed by the artist.
The signature is relatively clear, and it appears to be C Koeppe, POW 44.
An article in the Toronto Star, dated September 5, 2013 is titled “Fight Is On To Save Historic POW Camp”, stating that Camp 30 is declared by Heritage Canada as one of the top 10 most endangered historic sites in the country.
The two pictures are
A. The painting described above
B.Dad in Nipigon in 1943. The prisoners in this camp were cutting wood.
Note that the pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them, then clicking again for very large.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Notable Books Of 2012

You Might Like To Try These Books
133 Books borrowed from the library in 2012, and while most were enjoyable reads, there were only 11 that really hit me as exceptional. I suppose my criteria for selection is vague – the book just has to strike me as one that stays with me long after reading, and that I would recommend to others.
I should also point out that these are books I read in 2012, but they were not necessarily published in that year.
1. Bill Bryson At Home – a typical Bryson book – non fiction, well written, well researched, easy and enjoyable reading, and one where every page reveals a nugget of information that is both fascinating and new, and you want to tell someone about.
2. S.C. Gwynne Empire Of The Summer Moon – a fascinating non fiction read detailing the final years of the powerful Commanche nation, as well as the true story of pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.
3. Mary Doria Russell Doc– a fictionalized account of the life and death of Doc Holliday. Not one of those glamorized shootemups, this book gives real depth to the characters and the times.
4. Sylvia Tyson Joyners Dream – The story uses a secret journal between 1788 and 2006 following the lives lived and the music played by the fiddlers of the family. A fascinating tale of multi generations, using the language of each age, and a cast of believable and roguish characters. Who knew Sylvia was more than a pretty singer?
5. Dave Barry/Alan Zweibel Lunatics – Just plain hilarious escapism – a quick amusing and satisfying read.
6. Elmer Kelton Lone Star Rising - A Trilogy about the beginnings of the Texas Rangers –same era as #2 above (Empire of the Summer Moon)
7. Eowyn Ivey Snow Child - A whimsical magical tale with wonderful detail of homesteading life in 1920’s Alaska
8. Barbara Wood The Blessing Stone – using a story about a unique stone, the reader gets glimpses into the lives and customs of various ages and cultures.
9. Sybil C. Lynde Stirling – To A House In Whitby – a beautifully written true account of the Lynde family (and associated families) as they make their way from the US to upper Canada. Very informative about York (Toronto) and what is now Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, etc. I should tell you that to my knowledge this book is not available in the library - it was loaned to me by the author.
10. Peter May – The Black House – a murder mystery in the Outer Hebrides, but it would still be a wonderful read even without the murder angle, just for the insight into the island culture, and the story of one person as both child and man.
11. Louise Erdrich – The Round House – His mother’s violent rape changes life for a 13 year old indian boy on a reservation. Despite the circumstances this is still in many ways a delightful story and worth the read.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Giant Cecropia Emerges

We Are Excited
In August of 2011, I entered a post showing the caterpillar of the cecropia moth. I placed it in a bottle to show our grandchildren the next day. They never did see it because when they arrived it had already spun itself into a cocoon. It was left outside over the winter and earlier this spring I carefully cut the cocoon out of the bottle (it was too small for the moth to emerge) and glued it to a stick that I then stuck in a potted plant. Then we waited and waited. I had almost given up hope when today – May 27, 2012 – the beautiful moth emerged.
A couple of pictures are included here, but if you want to see more, visit my album at!/oa/6545675/mode/gallery/
I will leave the album on line for a month or so, and there is no password required to visit or download if you want.
Nature is truly wonderful!
You can enlarge these pictures by clicking once, and then again to get full size.
This is the cocoon awaiting the emergence of the moth
Voila - in all its splendor

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Granddaughters sing

Singing for Grandpa!
The files for these videos are too large to post in the blog, so you can see them on youtube. The videos are very casual, just performing for me in our living room, and of course their snoopy little dog has to show up in each.
In one video, Ashleigh and Morgan sing a song made popular by Alison Krauss - "I'm Just A Ghost In This House". In the other video, Ashleigh sings a shortened version of "I dont feel like loving you today", by Gretchen Wilson.
Here are the links. I hope you enjoy.
"I dont feel like lovin you today"
"Ghost in this house".
They have several other videos on youtube you may want to watch also.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sleepng Children Around The World ( SCAW )

Sleepng Children Around The World ( SCAW )

While chatting with an aquaintance at a concert recently, I asked about his brother Mike, and a very interesting story came out. About 2 years ago, Mike Slocombe of Bowmanville Ontario was a donor to a “Time & Talent” auction for their church. He offered to drive anyone going to the airport, in their own car, return the car to his home where he would thoroughly clean it inside and out, and pick them up on their return. I do not know how many trips he had on offer, but it was a great success and was quickly sold out.
Subsequently, another lady contacted him and said she was sorry she had missed out.
Would Mike consider taking her to the airport and she would pay him. Mike told her he would be glad to do this, but would not accept pay for it. She insisted that she pay something, and they reached an agreement whereby she would purchase a couple of bedkits for donation to an organization called SCAW (Sleeping Children Around The World).
This was the start of an ongoing program and a passion for Mike, who has since donated or caused to be donated many many kits. I know that his wife Janice is also wholly involved in assisting Mike in this venture, and I am sure they both feel a great sense of fullfillment.
Currently Mike requests that a minimum contribution be made to the charity to provide for three bed kits, however some willingly provide more.
Mike provides this service at any hour of the day or night, and in fact likes the very early and very late deliveries because traffic is at a minimum in those hours. The clients love the service because it provides them with a cost saving alternative to parking at the airport, they know their vehicle is safe, and they know they will be delivered on time, and picked up when they arrive. This is a real win/win situation for everyone.
If you do not know about SCAW, it was founded by Margaret and Murray Dryden in 1970 (their two sons played hockey – you might remember Ken & Dave!). This registered charity guarantees that 100% of all donations are applied – there are no paid administrators – even the volunteers who travel to other countries to give out the kits pay all their own expenses.If you are interested in finding out more, go to - they have a wonderful story to tell! Who knows, you may get an inspiration! You might even decide to copy what Mike does, but be aware –
Mike OWNS Bowmanville!
(For your information it is important that anyone considering doing this, should do it in the client's car. This will protect them from insurance issues. the unfortunate real world.)