When I was growing up there were no cartoons on the TV. There was no TV. But there were comics.
During the World War II, my favourite comics were not published every week, owing to shortage of newsprint; they were, in general, published every two weeks. Not all comics were on the same schedule, so of my favourite three, at least two of them came to the stores weekly. I do not remember how they got to me, but I’m thinking it was by the daily newspaper. In Alderholt, the village to which we had evacuated, they would have been left at Mrs. Bailey’s store at the bottom of our lane. Back home at 29 Little Lances Hill, Bitterne, after the war, it would have been by the deliverer of the Daily Herald, the left-wing newspaper to which Dad subscribed.
So, what were the three?
TheBeano Comic, a British anthology comic magazine created by Scottish publishing company DC Thomson. An anthology magazine includes single or stories too short for individual publication and amalgamates them into an issue. Its first issue was published on 30 July 1938, and it became the world’s longest-running comic issued weekly, except during World War II, publishing its 4000th issue in August 2019. Popular and well-known comic strips and characters include Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, General Jumbo, The Bash Street Kids, Jack Flash, Ivy the Terrible, Jonah, Lord Snooty and His Pals, and Roger the Dodger. Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher, has been running since the beginning of Beano, whose million sales in one week came in December 1945. And the Beano is still being published today, albeit after several different publishers, it has changed a bit in format. Nevertheless, the cover page looks much the same as I remember.
The Dandy was a British children’s comic magazine published by the Dundee based publisher DC Thomson, as was The Beano. The first issue was printed in December 1937, making it the world’s third-longest running comic, after Il Giornalino (cover dated 1 October 1924) and Detective Comics (cover dated March 1937). One of the best selling comics in the UK, along with The Beano, The Dandy reached sales of two million a week in the 1950s. The final printed edition was issued on 4 December 2012, the comic’s 75th anniversary, after sales slumped to 8,000 a week.
Over its 75-year run hundreds of different comic strips have appeared in The Dandy, many of them for a very long time. The longest-running strips were Desperate Dan and Korky the Cat, who both appeared in the first issue, and both of which I remember well.
The Wizard was my favourite comic. The Wizard was launched as a weekly British story paper on 22 September 1922, also published by D. C. Thomson & Co.
During WWII, it became a fortnightly paper. I couldn’t wait until the next issue came, as I loved reading each story of Wilson. William Wilson was born in the village of Stayling in Yorkshire and claimed to be born on 1 November 1795. However, a document dated 11 March 1774 listed him as “clerk to the manor”. He was sufficiently old that when writing, he used an “f” instead of an “s”. His farmer father died in middle age, leaving Wilson £5,000. He studied medicine and biology in a number of countries around the world and determined not to die early as so many he knew had, he worked out a health and fitness regime and learned how to slow his heart right down, using a formula created by people who could live to over 200. He developed his will power and hardened his body by whole winters spent in the open. The first adventure introduced Wilson as a supreme athlete, who joins a race from out of the crowd and manages to record a three-minute mile (a feat likely never to be achieved – although one should never say never). That particular first story is imprinted on my mind and I can see it as well today as when I first read the 2+ page story. During WWII, he joined the RAF and became Squadron leader W. Wilson D.S.O., D.F.C. and bar, who had 25 victories to his name.
The character is depicted within stories as performing a number of improbable events. Wilson was seen in one strip becoming the first man to climb Everest, and another saw him captaining an England cricket team to The Ashes in Australia. Originally hailing from Yorkshire, and living in a cave on a diet of nuts and berries, Wilson exemplified British grit and the stiff upper lip.
There were times when my pocket money was spent on one other comic paper, The Hotspur, but it never became a favourite, although during WWII it alternated with The Wizard.
Thanks to The Dandy, The Beano and other D C Thomson comics which followed, Dundee gained a reputation as a major centre of the comics industry, and has been called the ‘comic capital of Britain’. Partly as a result of this legacy, the city is now home to the Scottish Centre for Comic Studies. The connection is also marked by bronze statues of Desperate Dan and The Beano character Minnie the Minx installed in the city’s High Street in 2001. Designed by Tony Morrow, the Desperate Dan statue, which also features his dog Dawg, is the most photographed of 120 pieces of public art in the city. In July 2001 the cover of The Dandy featured Dan visiting Dundee and encountering his statue. In December 2012 the University of Dundee held an exhibition in partnership with D C Thomson to mark the comic’s 75th anniversary.
Oh, those weekly reading adventures in my favourite three were something to which I so very much looked forward.
[I acknowledge much of the history in this particular Scribblings is from Wikipedia.]
Indeed, what might I have been doing now? I wonder.
It seems I have been so fortunate in life to have had many a CHOICE.
Mind you, I had no CHOICE in who my parents were, but I’m glad they were my parents and not somebody else’s. Let’s skip the early life where they influenced so many of my CHOICES or made them for me. So, starting from where mid-teenage boys know everything better than their parents, while on holiday from school or, later, university, I was a bus conductor on Southampton, England, transit. By far the majority of that life consisted of hanging out the back platform waiting for the next stop and asking people for their fares, whereupon, I would strike a lever on my ticket machine, slung around my shoulders, and give them a ticket equivalent to taking them a certain number of stops, or fare stages, as they were termed.
As most of our buses were double deckers, I was kept busy running up and down the stairs, trying to get all the people’s fares up top before the cheaters down below could get off without paying.
It was certainly a job I enjoyed, even though it was all split shift work, sometimes starting really early to catch those going to work, then a rest for six or seven hours, during which I could enjoy a pick-up game of cricket with a few friends, then going back to ensure that all the workers get home safely by bus. In the three summers I did this, I had the same driver for two of them, a wonderful man who had been a driver for many years, but whose name I have unfortunately forgotten. Let’s call him Jim; and Jim and I bonded, even though he could have been my grandfather while I was sixteen. A gentle man who drove as if he was driving a limousine for the queen.
Quite the opposite was Harry Martin: he was middle aged, but thought he was still a teenager driving in the Monte Carlo rally. When I was ‘up top’ and he was driving around bends in the road, I soon had to learn the best skills of balance without catching hold of anything other than my ticket machine and leather purse into which I dropped the pennies and threepences and sixpences and shillings and florins and half crowns or an occasional paper note and having to withdraw the correct amount of change and striking off the ticket for the customer. At the end of the route, with Jim we’d lounge around the engine or in the bus regaling each other with thoughts of the day: it was different with Harry, he would immediately light up his cheap Woodbines, which he rolled himself, and offer little conversation. Except that when he first met me, he was, “Oh, !***!, a kid!” Well, our relationship never got anywhere near that of Jim and me, but he did mellow when he realised that I was fast with taking the fares: apparently in previous experiences with ‘kids’, the kids were slow, so this meant that he would have to wait sometimes at stops while some of the passengers’ fares were collected as they got off the bus instead of being taken quickly inside the bus. That meant he was late or never early at the end of the route, so did not have time for a Woodbine. That never, but never, happened with speedy me, so he did mellow quite a bit and, as I recall, he didn’t swear or blaspheme at me ever again, though he did at people who cut in in front of the bus and made him brake hard.
The next CHOICE was EITHER to stay at university studying Music, English and German and where I was enjoying myself learning to fly in a
and get paid for it in the university Air Squadron – similar to the University Officers’ Training Plan (or UOTP or ROTP) in North America – OR join the regular Royal Air Force. You know which CHOICE won out!
As this is a piece about CHOICE, I will omit the years in the RAF, where you didn’t have CHOICE, but do as you were ordered.
After leaving the RAF, I had another CHOICE: I was offered a job as a test pilot, as back in Canada, I had been awarded the Top Pilot cup, but having just got married, that was considered by me as too risky, although it had tremendous appeal. Besides, we had jointly made the CHOICE to emigrate to Canada.
So, for about a year, while waiting for a ship to bring us to Canada, my CHOICE was to learn the business of being an optician’s technician. I measured eye centres using the frame the client had chosen so that the lens would be centred with a simple ruler and to measure the length of sides needed. When the new lenses came back from the factory, I had to check the lens was in accord with the prescription using a focimeter, a device to measure the power and axis or axes of an optical lens, then shape them by grinding them on a wheel until they fitted the frame the customer had chosen.
I would then ensure by heating and bending the sides that they were a comfortable fit, a trick I have used many times since to adjust friends’ frames. I also learned to make sure the tiny screws did not come out by filling the holes with acetone (nail varnish if you don’t have the real stuff). We made our own acetone by melting down old frames. No, not metal ones!
I enjoyed being a technician and enjoyed the staff of Husband’s, except for the pompous optician who was the manager, a retired army Captain. The other two opticians were very nice and one would sometimes take me at the end of the day in her little Morris Minor and drop me off at my home. The sales girls were delightful: I well remember one, Shirley, a pretty dyed-yellowish blonde, frequently singing the popular song of the moment, Love and Marriage (go together like a horse and carriage), for she was going to be married soon after My Beloved and I had left for Canada. I remember leaving her a wedding present before we left.
Another CHOICE, whether to get the first available ship, which was from Liverpool, or the ship which would leave from home port, Southampton. The latter was obviously the one, since our friends could stay on the quayside and wave goodbye to us.
So, we arrive in Canada and take a train from Québec to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, “Four days on a train?” mouths My Beloved, to astounded to voice the words.
We had no jobs, but we had many friends I had made in my over one year of pilot training there. several years before. The CHOICE then was one of three:
Join the RCAF – they would have snapped me up as I had been ‘top gun’ in my course.
Join Max Ward’s bush pilots up in Edmonton and the North. Later he formed Wardair, subsequently WestJet, and I could have been a pilot for it.
Look for work in Moose Jaw.
My CHOICE was 3.
My Beloved found a position immediately in the local hospital, where, knowing she had been trained in England, a doctor snapped her up as a lab tech.
A fellow trainee pilot had married a local librarian and not returned to England and his wife’s grandfather knew the owner of the local radio station, “CHAB, Moose Jaw, eight hundred on your dial”, Syd Boyling. Syd, a great fellow, hired me as a newscaster to put together and read the news every half hour from six in the evening until midnight.
After Earl Barnholden fired me after just six weeks of newscasting for running the 1956 Hungarian revolution as my lead – to me that was important but Earl considered what the Women’s Auxiliary down the street were doing as most important – Syd called me in to his office and said, “I know you and Earl have had your differences, but I want you still; I would like you to become a producer.” Another CHOICE.
Well, the only ‘producer’ I had come across during my six weeks was a fellow named Lawton or Lawson, who used to come in at the end of the day and say he had produced three more ads, or however many he had produced that day. He meant he had been out selling ads to the local businesses. I had no intention of becoming an ad salesman, so I turned Syd down. Had I known then what I discovered later that Syd had meant me to produce programs, I might well have taken the job. How a different CHOICE there might have changed our lives!
Instead, I accepted a CHOICE Trev Seaborn, who ran one of the largest insurance agencies in the province, offered. That certainly set me on the track towards being an agent in Moose Jaw, and after a couple of years, a CHOICE to become an underwriter in, and a move to, Winnipeg and…………
As a liability and surety underwriter, I was privileged to analyse the books of construction companies for insurance and surety companies. One, BACM Industries, a family-owned company was on the cusp of becoming a very large international multi-faceted manufacturing and construction company. In fact, a couple of years later, it did become public and went on the New York stock exchange. As it turned out, I was the only person in the family’s trust, so I was allowed to go to the family’s head office to review the books, while the broker had to sit outside and wait.
Another couple of years and I left my job as underwriter with the General Agency, Osler, Hammond and Nanton, and the CHOICE was to join Prudential of England as an inspector. One week after joining the Pru, the Treasurer of BACM entered my office, shut the door and said, “I don’t know what you came to Prudential for in the way of remuneration, but we will double the salary and throw in a good car of your choice. Will you accept?” Yet one more CHOICE.
My Beloved and I chose a smashingly beautiful 1961 Pontiac Parisienne Hardtop – cream outside, scarlet leather inside. A great CHOICE and still one of, if not the, best CHOICE of cars we have made.
Five kids later (our mutual CHOICE), BACM, having changed its name again, was bought by a company of the Belgian Royal family, became GenstarLimited, and we were moved to Montreal.
That time, we really had NO CHOICE.
Another CHOICE came when, in 1976 in the midst of separatism in Québec, Genstar moved its Head office to Vancouver and its Executive Office to San Francisco. I would have been moved to SF, but another CHOICE was made for me: I did not get along with the unimaginative Secretary of the company, so we came to a mutual parting of the ways. Otherwise known as being fired. Again.
After a couple of years working for a company as a consultant Risk Manager, a family conference had me opening our own Melanber Inc. That was a CHOICE we have never regretted.
One more CHOICE was to accept an offer of a Nova Scotia family business to come to Nova Scotia and help them. Another CHOICE we have never, no, not ever, had second thoughts about.
Was our CHOICE to retire? Not totally, as we still have one active client which seems to want to keep us. Also church and volunteer work have also been our CHOICE. We are constantly busy.
But not too busy to eat and have a good meal at home or at a restaurant, which inevitably leads to a CHOICE…………but NO CHOICE during CoVID-19, at least during the various lockdowns we have had and are experiencing now. We have ordered a few CHOICE take-outs over the past year and a bit. But that is not the same as going to a restaurant or having friends in for a meal.
And so my CHOICE today is to avoid the CoVID-19 issue and leave it for another post, meanwhile wishing you in the USA a Happy Memorial Weekend. And for the rest of us who had a long weekend last weekend, make a special Happy Weekend for yourselves. And, in the way of our former Premier, “Stay the blazes home and get vaccinated!”
Growing up in England, I was a cyclist, so much so that my Mother always said that if I could have ridden my bike upstairs to bed, I would have.
However, at age sixteen I got my driving licence and, in those days, that allowed me to drive by myself or take passengers with me. My Dad had purchased a 1934 Austin 7.
It was a neat little car which would do 50mph going downhill. After a while, I was allowed to drive it to school – while my Dad walked to school. But his school was not even a mile distant from home, whereas mine was some 5 or so miles. Note that I have been showing the speed and distance in miles, whereas I normally talk about such things in kilometres: that is because, I think using the statute system is more in accord with the time about which I am writing.
One big advantage of having the car at school was that in the lunch hour, I had time to drive over to My Beloved’s (Beryl, as she was then) school and meet her; even take a quick drive over to a common. And then get her and myself back to our respective schools in time and on time. That meant that I had not had time for eating my lunch, butt what did that matter? I was seeing the one I loved, even for brief minutes.
A much different use of the car was being able to get tickets to Wimbledon and take three friends with me to watch the tennis.
Another time, I took Bill (Musker), Allan (Driz), George (Bell), all sadly deceased, and Ken (Dommett) to Bournemouth, about 30 miles from my house to see an opera. We all loved music and this was just one of the trips, others to such as Drury Lane in London. Each drive was an exhilarating experience. The Austin 7 was not built for speed indeed, it’s average to get anywhere was between 35 and 40mph. So its centre of gravity did not have to be low. It wasn’t. it was somewhere up in the sunshine sliding roof. However, although designed for four passengers, we often had three in the back seat. This meant that they, back there, were jammed in. The time we drove to Bournemouth, on arrival at the door of the theatre, I will never forget the face of a policeman as he watched Ken jump out the passenger door and the three in the back climbing up and out of the roof. His face was classic incredulity.
On the way there, Ken was always in the passenger front seat, on going down a hill through the New Forest (a little steeper than the pic) at max speed and on seeing an approaching left bend, I told Ken to open the door and hang out to balance the C of G. Over time, he got quite good at it. (Remember, it was right hand drive.)
Another best friend, Michael (Ridges, whom I chose as my Best Man at our wedding), lived just a few minutes from me and our ‘Gang’ used to hang out there quite often. I well remember Mrs. (Betty) Ridges standing at the end of her driveway as I drove up and then proceeded to drive along the sidewalk chasing her son. She declared one day she was going to tell my parents what I was doing in the car. Mothers don’t know everything about their prodigy’s behaviour. She never did tell and she gave us as a wedding present, a great big bowl of beef drippings. On toast with Marmite I used to adore it and she knew only too well that I did. Those days are long gone of course. Nowadays, it’s salmon and salad for dinner.
So, yes, I did have a car in High School, or Grammar School, as we knew it. And it served me, let alone our family of Dad, Mum and me, very well.
It was the same car in which I had an accident years later, after I had returned from pilot training in Canada, and Beryl and I were going somewhere local in Southampton, when a dog jumped out in front of the car. I pulled sharply to the left, hit the curb and, as the C of G was so high, it tipped over onto my side of the car. I, stupidly, tried to put my arm out to stop it from tumbling to the ground, but the car got the better of me and trapped my arm beneath it, breaking it in the process. Several people arrived on the spot and lifted the car back upright. No damage except to my arm. Beryl was fine, despite the lack of seat belts then. I ended up at an RAF rehabilitation hospital, Hadley Hall. But all of that is another story.
My Beloved and I are well-known for our proclivity to dining out. But for 14 months of CoVID-19 we have been unable to do so. Until we got our first shots.
While we appreciate that the first shot does not provide total protection, it does provide much better than no immunisation, so when Karen said Dee was leaving for Ontario at the end of the month of April and were we up to a lunch to bid her farewell, My Beloved and I said, since we had the shots two weeks earlier, we were: with apprehension.
After anticipation lasting a couple of weeks and after due discussion as to whether Karen and Peter were going to walk to the restaurant or we would pick them up, Karen said, since you don’t know exactly where the Restaurante A Mano is, pick us up and we will walk back afterwards.
Well, Italian is not my first choice – or even my second or third – but since our guest of honour had requested it, Restaurante A Mano it was.
So, we picked up our friends and, after zipping out of their street, which means accelerating asap left across two lanes when there is a gap in the traffic into a, hopefully, empty lane, and after turning across in front of a cyclist and having an oncoming car trying to make a left turn across our bow in a traffic light intersection and having him honk at me – the cheek of it – we turned into the courtyard wherein is Restaurante A Mano and a zillion other restaurants and there, as Karen had predicted and as she now shouted, ‘There – there – at the end of those cars on the right – oh and there are two on the left!” – I pulled into the blue wheelchair parking space on the right. All safe and sound.
Now, the entrance to Restaurante A Mano does not open onto the courtyard, which maybe explains why there are no blue parking spaces near it, only those ‘over there on the right’. So, we hiked across the courtyard and up to Lower Water Street. To be fair, we found out after the meal that there is an exit onto the courtyard, which cuts off half a kilometre.
Excitement rose to My Beloved and me, along with greater apprehension than we would have thought necessary. Our minds, however, directed our feelings. So we sat at a very nice window table Karen had reserved. It was a gorgeous day and I could see all through the meal people enjoying themselves in a patio off another restaurant. Karen had originally said on hearing my initial apprehension, maybe we could sit in the patio at Restaurante A Mano. Apparently, they had not yet opened their patio. Maybe just as well, for it might have been too cool outside, the temperature being about 14C. Whatever, we had a lovely table with our lovely best friends. Awaiting the arrival of our guest, Dee.
Now, while being a bit of a linguist, my knowledge of Italian is limited to trying to figure out the Latin root of words. And knowing that left hand in Latin is that very sinister couple of words, sinister manus, I thought Restaurante probably meant Restaurant and A Mano very probably meant ‘by hand’. It does, but I also did my M-W (Merriam-Webster) search along with my friend Google Translate and found out that a mano, as an adjective, which it could be referring to the noun Restaurante, also means carry-on. Well, we were not going flying, so that rules that translation out and leaves the first translation. It’s a restaurant by hand, whatever you think that means.
Thank God Dee arrived. Not that we were not enjoying Karen and Peter’s company, but My Beloved and I were still feeling maybe a trifle uncomfortable and had not taken our masks off since sitting down.
We haven’t seen Dee since she arrived at our front door one day just before Christmas, when she backed away from us on our opening the door, but she had put a lovely bottle of Port and some daughter-made jam on the deck for us to pick up. She kept her distance, knowing we were being very CoVID-19 correct. What a friend!
So, it was good to see her again and her arrival quickly put a stop to any hesitations about taking masks off a tavola (at the table). My Italian is improving.
As the wine and the food arrived – and got consumed – any inhibitions about dining in a restaurant seemed to diminish and, eventually, disappear.
I recall that Karen and Peter shared a pizza. They had no inhibitions, having been to this restaurant a number of times before, even being known by the staff. Dee had some form of an insalata (my Italian broadening again). My Beloved and I shared a garlicky soft bread with a dip, while, simultaneously, she had calamaretti fritti – flash fried calamaretti served with lemon garlic aioli and my additional choice was the Crostini Trio – Goat cheese, honey, fig & pistachios – Gorgonzola, roasted pears, and mascarpone – Ricotta, basil pesto, pomodorini confit.
Pomodorini, you ask? So did I, my Latin being totally useless, since tomatoes of any sort, especially cherry tomatoes, which this word turns out to mean, had not been introduced to Europe until the early 16th century.
Well, it was, Italian or not, all exquisitely delicious.
However, My Beloved and I had not finished: we wanted, nay, needed, a desert. We shared a decadent Torta al Cioccolato e Arachidi – Chocolate cake with not one, but two layers of peanut butter icing, chocolate ganache, candied peanuts and we added a scoop of chocolate Gelato.
It was a wonderful re-introduction to living the way we like it. Thank you Dee, Karen and Peter for not only getting us back into the flow of things delectable, but for introducing us to another great restaurant.
The only issue from the lunch was that we came home and slept for over an hour. And later, I must admit to a little bit of nausea, which disappeared quickly, in the middle of the night. Food I am not used to and so rich.
So that was, as I said, our re-introduction to dining-out.
Our wedding anniversary was two days afterwards, on the 9th April, so I mooted to My Beloved that it might be an idea to dine out again. It did not take too much urging. Seems like our apprehension of a few weeks back was nowhere to be found. I had had a hankering for fish and chips for some weeks and this was the time to go for it.
Lefty’s. A family style restaurant (no Italian necessary) just ten minutes away. We checked if we needed a reservation, but, no, they do walk in or take outs.
On arrival, we were welcomed and shown to a booth immediately. Pinot Grigio for My Beloved and Malbec for me. Small glasses only. It did seem strange, however, to be back at one of our customary spots again after so many months.
Two pieces of beer-battered haddock and chips for me;
honey-garlic chicken wings for My Beloved.
In times past, we would have ordered garlic toast as an appetiser. Not nowadays.
So, we enjoyed this dinner and gave thanks for the fact that in Nova Scotia, people have been very good over the pandemic, resulting in relaxed regulations. Friends, Gloria and Ken, from the church came in while we were eating and were shown to an adjacent booth and on answering the question, we replied it was our anniversary dinner except for the lunch two days previously, it had been fourteen months since we last did this.
And then came the time for paying. I gave the server my card, only to have him return it, saying, it has all been taken care of by your friends in the next booth. Oh, how wonderful to have such friends. Bless them for their generosity and love.
So, getting back to dining out has been an adventure we have enjoyed with five great friends. We consider ourselves so lucky to have such friends.
One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood. Lucius Annaeus Seneca
It had been snowing and we had been out shopping – oh, yes, this was before, what does Trump call it, the Chinese Disease? How ignorant! No, he’s changed to the Invisible Disease. Before COVID-19, anyway.
Not only had it been snowing, it had rained on the snow and then frozen some of it into ice. That slippery substance.
We got out of the car, not together: My Beloved out of her side and I out of mine. I said across the top of the car, be careful and follow in my footsteps. So, we edged towards the trunk which was open and had bags of foodstuffs – reusable bags, not plastic ones. Sobey’s nowadays has no plastic bags in the store, so you have to use your own. Reminds me of going shopping with my Mum before WWII where Mr. Fruen would cut some rashers of bacon off a slab, place it in a piece of newspaper and hand it to us to put into our bag.
I led the way very carefully across the icy patch where I could put one foot after another onto a patch of sand I had previously thrown down. The rain had melted some, however. Which again had refrozen, so it was a patchwork of sand patches. Hm! One step after another, I edged my way towards the steps where I could see safety, reminding My Beloved to step into the steps I had gone. I had almost reached the steps when a foot slipped and I couldn’t move forward or backward without fear of not only falling here, but sliding all the 50 metres down the driveway on my butt. I had done that on my front some years prior, much to the delighted chuckle of My Beloved. So, as I seemed to be temporarily stuck, My Beloved decided I was there in perpetuum. She tried to move around me, safe on her boots with spikes in the heels.
Nope! She was who ended up on her butt, sitting on wet ice, soaking up the water in her slacks. I must point out that My Beloved has knee and back issues which prevent her from getting up from the ground without support. I was the support.
Nope! I, or rather we, could not raise her from her decidedly cold, wet perch. Well, I said, there’s only one thing around here which will help. Silva, the car with the open trunk and rear-view camera. Oh, I had to shut the trunk on order to have the camera showing where I was going rather than up into the cloudy heavens.
So, I went back and put it into reverse and hoped the accelerator wouldn’t stick as I edged towards My Poor Beloved. And that the brake would work. Slowly, Silva backed up, even more slowly, as we approached the target. Well, perhaps that’s the wrong word: the supplicant, might be better. With her feet just about under the rear fender (bumper for you Brits), the brakes worked. Together, we were able to get her hands into the trunk and she could pull herself up. Then, by stepping very carefully on her spiky heels, she reached the steps and we got Silva unloaded and parked.
So you may be wondering what the featured pic is at the top of this post. One day, at the end of February a knock at the door meant the UPS man had brought a totally unexpected box. On opening it, we discovered all of the items shown: a bag of Liqorice Allsorts for Gramma, a Toblerone for Grampa, some caramels for both, two bags of seasonings, a jar of marmalade for both, I think, but it could have been for Grampa, and some photographs of her, ourselves with her, and a framed one with her between us. And additionally, a beautiful card telling us she had been passing by a store, went in and suddenly saw a number of items she knew would appeal to her grandparents. So she bought them, packed them and UPSed them. Out of the blue from a granddaughter – yes Cierra. And we were so astonished we cried.
But, back to the present, two weeks ago, after shutting the door of the Commercial Enterprise Centre, where I volunteer, we went into self-isolation.
Actually, we have had lots of practice at this. For some forty years, our risk management consulting business has been run out of our home, so the two of us have worked very easily and satisfactorily side by side for all that time. We’ve never had an issue ending in a nasty argument. Reasonable discussion has always ended well. And we’ve never gone to bed without saying I love you – and meaning it. So, the only difference is that we cannot go out together and, say, shop. Or go to the theatre. Or go to church.
I say, only difference: however, it is not until the first two weeks have passed that we realise how large a difference it is. Previously, we have been able to go out together to shop, to the theatre, and to church. And to other places, like a friend’s place for dinner. One day, a week ago, it was Sunday, Saturday had been gorgeous, at least we Nova Scotians though it had been. It was; it was a pleasant eight degrees Celsius. So was Sunday. But the wind was strong and the anticipated pleasant walk along the beach would have been rather cold, so we sat in the car, opened the windows for fresh air – and fresh, or rather windy, it was – so My Beloved’s window got closed fairly quickly, and we took in the view from inside Silva.
Look at the beautiful blue sky in the photo; it looks so lovely. But the beach was empty except for a lady and her little child and they look huddled up. That didn’t surprise us. Nor you? Oh, you may see two others and a dog way down the beach. Certainly, those on the beach are maintaining their required 2-metre distance of separation.
I believe that only one person now is allowed to go out to get essentials, such as food or medicines, but we don’t: (a) for people of our age (87), it is much too lethal if you get it and (b) we order from the store, pay online, then, at an appointed time, go to the store and they put it in your trunk. So far, we’ve had to do this only once. Before we did that, a couple of friends had bought and delivered a few items, but we don’t ask them any more, as we consider it too dangerous for them to go to the store for us and we don’t want to put them in danger.
Yesterday, I phoned a large order of food at the Superstore and they have given me an appointment of Saturday, April 4th between 10 and 11am to drive to the curb and they will put the order in the trunk. Times are interesting.
I have been taking the non-regular walk with my Nordic poles when weather allowed, say ‘Hi’ to the odd walker or dog-walker across the other side of the street, saying how sad it is we can’t stop and chat these days, and, two days ago, after returning, I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves and sat on the main deck in the sun for another good hour. This afternoon, I simply walked around the main deck 50 times, registering 1,600 paces in 15 minutes.
Also, I have been preparing a PowerPoint presentation for every Sunday service for four years now and, as we have now gone to on-line ZOOM, I am still preparing it for every Sunday, only it’s changed to Morning Prayer instead of Eucharist. If you’d like to join us, go to our web site http://www.stnicholasanglican.ca/virtual-church/ and click on the church at 9.30am Atlantic Daylight Savings. In the UK that would be 1.30pm and in San Francisco, 5.30am so, note the time difference.
Other volunteer work includes being Chair (Beryl is the Treasurer) of a large Adult Literacy/Numeracy network and up until a few weeks ago, too, we were still busy with it. Not now: it is basically totally shut down, but at least one of our teachers is maintaining contact with students virtually.
Although I didn’t like our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he was elected and though he has started employing shut-down and financial assistance somewhat, in my opinion, a bit late, I have been impressed recently both by the new emergency programs enacted and his daily conversations with the nation followed by answering of press questions outside his residence. An American friend recently told us that Canadian citizenship is a certainty now simply because of the way he has been handling the COVID-19 issue and his daily reports – particularly as compared to Mr. Trump. And as for the economy: it will recover. That’s my prediction having seen “Black Monday in October 1987, in 1994 and 1998; the Latin American, then the Asian currency crises, then during 2001-2003; the Tech Crash, and of course, 2007-2009; the global financial system meltdown” to quote from a financial advisor friend. All of those My Beloved and I rode and came through safely, so I still believe the economy will recover.
A really big event occurred two weeks ago, before we were self-isolating: My Beloved applied for and got her Blue card to hang in the windshield, so we can now park in the best spots. Large benefit for an unfortunate life-changing mobility issue, which she has dealt with without complaint for well over a year now.
Our dining-in has been very varied, for our freezer has been overly-stocked for ages and it is about time we started using some of our comestibles. A daughter and son-in-law, Tanis and Robb, buy us a whole lamb from an old school and military friend, Sharon, every year. So far, every year, anyway. No guaranties, I guess. So we still have a lot of Brutus left. But, for lunch, I will vary it from yogurt and unsalted roasted almonds or cashews to peanut butter and tomato sandwiches to the plate below.
And with that, I bid you keep safe and free from the COVID-19. By the way, you did know how it was named by the WHO, didn’t you? Of course, you knew it was from coronavirus disease of 2019.
I like to think of myself as a Foodie -sometimes a gourmet and sometimes a gourmand, but always a Foodie.
But recently I came across an article in the Oxford English Dictionaries Word of the Day mentioning crossushi, raw water and mouth cooking and I wondered what they were.
Crossushi, it turns out, is manufactured by a bakery in New York and is a cross between a croissant and sushi as we know and love it: a sesame-seed-topped croissant with smoked salmon, wasabi, and nori seaweed. Well, I could certainly handle that as a Foodie.
Raw Water is something quite different: it is unsterilised water taken by those who do not believe there should be chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals in drinking water. Well, I drink that all the time, since we obtain our water from a 200-ft/65-metre well in our property. The only chemical of distinction in our water is arsenic. True. But I have been drinking it for well over thirty years now and I still have quite a head of hair. But others, apparently, simply get their water from streams and open water. Nah, that’s not for me.
Now we get to Mouth Cooking. Oh, my, after I discovered what that was, again, courtesy of OED, “A viral YouTube video called ‘Cooking With Your Mouth’ features a chef preparing a Christmas turkey stuffing entirely with her mouth – from dicing onions by chewing a big bite to zesting lemon by scraping the rind against her teeth to mixing a raw egg by swishing it around her gums” I decided that was distinctly, definitely outside the realm of this Foodie.
Yes, I have often shared a fork, say an escargot from My Beloved’s dish, or a spoon, say a small piece of my grandson’s chocolate torte, but chewed food out of another’s mouth? Not for me.
The article went on to posit whether Shakespeare was a gourmet or gourmand. Perhaps we will never know for sure, but judging from the many times food is mentioned in his thirty-nine plays one might consider he was, like me, a Foodie. Consider some of his lines:
Eight wild boars roasted whole for breakfast, and but twelve persons there. (Antony and Cleopatra)
Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers (Romeo and Juliet)
Do you think because you are virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? (Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night)
Then again, Drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things………nose painting, sleep and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but takes away the performance. (Macbeth) [Nose painting, by the way, is the reddening of one’s nose through drinking.]
I cannot end, of course, without recognising that we have had two of our daughters here over the past two months, both providing a huge help in the weeding and planting of flowers. One grandson has also been here helping with some of the heavier chores, such as chopping and stacking wood. They all will be gone towards the end of next week, but shortly after in August, another daughter and her two daughters will be arriving from California. It is possible, hopefully, that a fourth daughter will be arriving by herself (children all grown up and husband cannot get away from work) for a week or two just before the other daughter and granddaughters leave. Too bad our son will not be able to make a trip here from Victoria, BC, but, in September a dear friend from England arrives for three weeks. And, obviously, we will have more adventures for Foodies over the next two or three months.
Last night, one daughter, one grandson, My Beloved and I each had a more than 2-pound
lobster and My Beloved’s fresh-out-of-the-oven bread. Oh, that makes me, with good wine to slosh it all down, like the printers, an all-in-one gourmet, gourmand and Foodie. And if you know our family, you always leave a last slice of new bread to the very end, when it is smothered in butter and Marmite. Oh, yummmmmmy!
And I leave you with some words from this Foodie:
I go to the market to buy me some bacon
but when I get there, my tummy starts achein’,
for I see all the goodies lined up on the shelves
and to them my eyes are drawn all by themselves:
Hershey dark choc’late and Breyer’s ice cream
and things that I love and not just in a dream
like peaches and crumpets and jams with great flavour
and spices which I in my curries can savour.
As I pass by the shelves I select this and that
much more than I came for – and that’s a true fact.
I’ve seen so much choice that my will’s got forsaken
and I choose so much more than the one slab of bacon;
my cart is so laden with peanuts and Ruffles
to get to the car I can barely do shuffles.
It’s not till next morning as I stand on the scales
the neighbours for far sure can all hear my wails.
So, gourmand or gourmet or plain simple Foodie
fill up my tummy and I’ll never be moody.
Yesterday, My Beloved and I went to our excellent downtown Neptune Theatre to see
– and hear, of course –
Jonas and Barry In The Home
It was hilarious!
The playwright, Norm Foster, a Canadian – a Maritimer, actually, coming from New Brunswick – has written 59 plays, I believe most, if not all, are comedies, and in any year has at least 150 productions in Canada. I have seen only two or three, but thoroughly enjoyed laughing through them.
Barry is a curmudgeon, as Jonas initially calls him, having come into the seniors’ retirement home on the basis that his daughter, who works there, wanted him closer so that she didn’t want to go to see him at his house, only to find that the place smelled of rotting flesh, he having died two weeks previously. Jonas gradually gets Barry to open up and meet “girls”. Jonas is quite the flirt and has a libido as wide as the horizon. (At one point, he admits to Barry that one evening, he looks at himself and sees “an old man’s penis”, small and flaccid.)
Jonas continues to build Barry’s confidence up throughout the play and Barry eventually turns into a man-about-town. And interesting to us was that Norm Foster himself played Jonas. The essence the Director wanted to leave with us at the end of the production was make yourself happy first and then others will be made happy by your attitude.
If you should ever have the opportunity of seeing this, or any other Norm Foster play, do go and see it.
And after the matinee performance? Dinner, of course. At a restaurant to which we had never been, but just 100 paces from Neptune’s door, East of Grafton, a tavern of sorts.
We, apparently, should have had a reservation, for they were full, the hostess told us, except for two seats at the bar or at one of the high tables, where the stools have no backrest. So, we were in a quandary, trying to decide if we wanted to stay in one of the two uncomfortable places or leave, when a young server came up to the hostess and told her he could find us two seats at a table for four, which, we presumed, the people had reserved and not turned up. Ah, God works in mysterious ways, even on the floor of a pub.
We ordered a bottle of Malbec, one of our favourite wines from Argentina, and perused the menu. On our way to the Neptune performance, we had glanced at the menu on the window, so it did not take long for me to decide on the Salmon Tartare and Fish and Chips. My Beloved pondered over it longer, because we could not find the Open Face Lamb Sandwich on the menu, but which we had seen on the menu on the window. “Oh,” our server told us, “that is only on the lunch menu, however,” she continued, “I will see if the chef will be able to put one together for you.”
Our lovely young woman quickly returned and informed us that the chef said he has one lamb sandwich left and My Beloved can have it. Oh, seems like God continued to work in mysterious ways in the pub!
My Salmon Tartare came with a couple of toasted slices of French bread and was more than delicious: wonderfully sushi-ish, ground up salmon mixed with some form of creamy sauce, possibly with dill involvement. My Beloved had a couple of bites and declared it to be as good as I had.
My Beloved’s Lamb Sandwich arrived.
According to My Beloved, the lamb was sitting in a bowl of bread and it did not really live up to its promise – not that I heard it promise anything – but the lamb was a bit dry, she said. Perhaps it had been sitting on a shelf since lunch.
As far as my fish and chips was concerned, I had been informed that the remoulade on the fish was unavailable last night. That didn’t make any difference to me, as I had no idea what a remoulade was, so I didn’t miss it. The haddock fillet was quite large, larger than those we have been able to get fresh recently, and cooked just nicely: that is, still a little moist inside, so it is not at all dry. And the fries, oh, they were excellent. Small, thin and well deep fried. Mmmm! I shouldn’t have had them. I should have ordered a side salad. I’m sure glad I didn’t, though.
And to you, My Friends, I bid you bon appetit with whatever you are about to eat and leave you with the following thought……
or, Shakespeare said….
A man cannot make him laugh – but that’s no marvel; he drinks no wine.
I know when I see -3C (yes, below freezing) on the dashboard of Lava for the first time in around twenty years that I am no longer away from Nova Scotia and in Palm Springs, California for the winter.
Yes, although forty or fifty years ago I might have enjoyed the prairie minus thirties or forties, that was when we were raising five kids and it was fun taking them tobogganing or watching them play hockey outdoors while our feet froze. Today is different. There are no kids around to raise. But one is coming with a grandkid and a dog from Atlanta to spend Christmas and New Year with us. It will be fun – but mostly indoors or simple walks.
I am too old to enjoy shovelling snow and scraping car windows – not that I have had to as yet – but my friends here say that I will have to ere winter is out. And, from past Nova Scotia experience, I remember that snow does eventually arrive here, even though one memory is of mowing the grass on the day of Christmas Eve. However, maybe I will not have to do much, as the fellow who ploughs our driveway has agreed to come after he has finished ploughing all of his clients and shovel the front deck and around the cars.
Having said I do not look forward to shovelling snow, I went for a walk yesterday at Peggy’s Cove. Some of you have been there in summer, a few may have been there in winter, but few have been there as I was yesterday with a a howling wind, -3C with a wind chill of -10C, crashing waves on the rocks, BUT blue sky. It was magnificent!
The following is a slide show and 6 pics will rotate:
Now, many of you who have received my Scribblings over nearly 20 years, will expect to see something about food, so let’s see what we can do. Which would you prefer of the following two meals:
Stand-up-spoon pea soup with fresh out-of-the-oven bread (mmmmm!) and butter!
Hospital dinner the night before having a pacemaker inserted –
(cold beef sandwich with egg salad sandwich, apple sauce, a cookie, a banana and tea – OK, they did provide this as a special as the real dinner time was long past).
All right, you don’t have to answer that question and it’s time for another home-made dinner of hake and spinach salad, which sounds and smells good to me.
I hope you enjoyed reading and looking at this. See you in another post soon.
By the way, if you want to see me on Facebook, I am going by the nom-de-plume of Nuntius Muse.
Do you remember when we used to telephone a friend or a business colleague?
That’s if you had a phone. We were fortunate to have one – they were hard to obtain just after the World War II. But, as my Dad was involved with a number of activities such as being secretary of the chess league, secretary of the Lay Readers’ Association, substitute organist at our church, besides being a school teacher, he was able to get one. None of my friends’ parents had phones. Even my dear Beryl’s parents, whose father was a principal in a school, had no phone. This was 1946 and just after World War II in England. Beryl tells me that her parents did not get a phone until after she had gone to university. Wow! Doesn’t that seem unreal? My grandkids just cannot understand a world in which there were no telephones.
What it meant in reality for me was that if I wanted to go out and play with one of my friends, I had two options: get on my bike and go to see if he was home; or, stay at home and wait to see if he was going to come and visit me. So, we used to pre-plan and arrange when we were going to play, where we were going to play, at his house or mine, or whether we would get a group of us together to play soccer or cricket, depending on the season. Later, when we were teens, during summer, at almost any time, we could go to the church tennis courts and find someone to play.
And we used to write letters longhand, or cursive, as it is called today. Something which schools are now abandoning. I had a toy typewriter which had a rotating centrepiece, made of lead on which the letters of the alphabet were set; lower case on the upper row and upper case on the lower row. You rotated the wheel to the desired letter, then struck a key (note the two keys, one on each side of the wheel) which launched the wheel forward to strike the carbon ribbon. The letter was then imprinted on a sheet of paper you had inserted on a roller. The keys shown in the picture were fake and merely made it look like a typewriter. I got pretty speedy at whipping the wheel around to the correct place and wrote letters to aunts, grandparents – and my parents.
I first was introduced to the beginnings of modern communication technology in 1956 when Beryl and I immigrated to Moose Jaw, Canada. My first job immediately on arriving, found for me by a friend, was as newscaster from 6pm until midnight on “CHAB Moose Jaw, 800 on your dial.” In those days, as newscaster, you were also the news editor and I would have to review the teletype (TTY) or Telex machines
to see what news Associate Press, Reuters or Canadian Press had sent out and, if any of significance, cut it out of the paper roll and clip it together with other snippets, (the origins of cut and paste), which I would then go to the microphone every half hour and read. It was also my job to insert local news on the AP or CP machines, each having its own network requiring a different TTY.
It was not until several years later, after Beryl and I had moved to Winnipeg, that I found myself writing editorial satirical verse for the Winnipeg Free Press, that I bought a typewriter for myself. I believe it cost twelve dollars.
After moving to Montreal in 1974, we bought one of the original Atari gaming computers. It had PacMan and other games, including one simulating star wars-type planes battling each other. Our children loved it. I loved it.
In 1978, I parted ways from my employer: Beryl and I incorporated Melanber Inc. as an independent Risk Management consulting firm and we very soon realised we
needed a good typewriter. So we bought a Royal. It really wasn’t so different from my toy typewriter: instead of a rotating wheel, it had a rotating and pivoting typeball. However, there were a number of different balls, quickly and easily exchangeable, allowing you to use different fonts within the same document. Another innovation, pioneered by the IBM Selectric, I believe, was that the paper stayed still and the ball moved across the paper. And, of course, the machine was powered by electricity, so it was really pretty fast at typing.
Two years later saw us spending an enormous sum, close to ten thousand dollars for a newly introduced Xerox 820-II computer and daisy wheel printer. From the picture alongside, note that beneath the monitor is a box with two slots: one for the Operating System, which was a brilliant one, far better than Windows, called CPM (Control Program/Monitors and later “Control Program for Microcomputers”), and the other slot for Wordstar, a word processing program, or Supercalc. a forerunner of programs like Excel. Many a night, Beryl stayed up printing a 50-page report. When I may have typed a word in, say, italics, a code would stop the printer, the daisy wheel would have to be changed and then changed back again after printing the one word to the original font.
In those days, we knew a lot about computers and programs. Things began to change.
The world started to change: computers became faster and able to manage data much more efficiently. And then came the mobile phone. While the TV series, Get Smart, popularised the shoe phone, the Germans produced mobile phones for the use of its rail and mail service and offered first class passengers mobile phone service in the mid-1920s. During WWII, the military used mobile phones and some American cars were installed with mobile phones in the 1940s, but these were bulky and the network could hold only three or so conversations simultaneously.
Motorola produced the first popular and more user-friendly mobile phone in 1973, but it weighed 1.1kg and was 23cms long. Hardly a truly mobile phone. But look where phones have come since then.
Today, the smartphone is a mini-computer and, while I have been able to master some of the apps which are on my phone, I have to call one of our grandchildren to find out how to work Twitter and how to use hashtags. I had no clue. Just watch how a 5-year old manages a small handheld video game. There is no way I can use one. I have absolutely no idea of how video games work. Mind you, I really have no interest in them since my Atari became dinosauric in technology criteria. It’s still in our basement, so maybe I should go and bring it up and see if I have progressed or regressed. I think I know which it would be!
“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child
“Life can be enjoyed at many times in many ways, but, to me, the best time in which to enjoy life is dining with friends.” – Me
My Beloved and I just held a lovely dinner party. We love to entertain, but there is also joy in the preparation: the planning of a dinner party; whom to invite; which days can all come; who doesn’t like or cannot eat what; choosing what nibblies for their arrival; what courses to offer; what wines to offer; what party favours to give them as they leave; and yes, even joy in cleaning up afterwards with My Beloved.
The mixture of guests has to be planned with knowledge of each one’s personality. Consider the style of humour of each. One given to racy jokes cannot be mixed with another who is more conservative. If one is garrulous, will others be able to opine? Maybe one who becomes more and more verbose as more and more wine is consumed should not be invited. We didn’t have to disinvite anyone!
So, after changing the date and bringing it forward, all our chosen guests managed to be free on the same, but different Saturday from the one first chosen. How fortunate was that! We chose three couples, so we were eight in all, but My Beloved and I were the only ones who knew them all. No couple knew any of the other guests, yet it worked out as we had planned and hoped so very well. Everyone contributed to the evening’s conversations, which, while some of it may not have been sparkling, none was jejune, yet nor was it esoteric and, to add to the entertainment value, there was much mirth.
My Beloved and I worked together on the menu, but she, and she alone rules herkitchen at such times, prepared the entire meal from nibblies to dessert; my sole contributions being mashing the potatoes and coming up with and preparing the party favours. Oh, and making of the wine. I suppose that counts a little toward the success. Although, with today’s safety consciousness, people do not drink as they used to when we were wild sixty years ago. I could make a really entertaining From time to time... on that subject.
One other small contribution I claim was to ensure that a roaring fire was going in the fireplace by the time the first couple arrived. If I say that one good lady hogged it warming her back to it for some minutes on arrival, despite the fact that the temperature was well above freezing, I say it only because I recognise a fellow hogger. I love to stand in front of a fire with my back to it – in fact, frequently, after getting up of a morning, I stand with my back to our en suite French windows letting the sun play warmth on me before getting into the shower. No, you don’t want even to imagine such a scene.
Nibblies comprised an assortment of nuts, barbecued and others, a cheese ball and crackers, and peppery pâté on cucumber slices. Some drank white, some red wine, one chose a beer, and one chose not to drink any alcohol, just iced water from our well.. There was some ‘getting-to-know-you’ conversation and some surprise chuckles before we were called to the dinner table.
No nonsense about where to sit around our dinner table: you sit where you find your nameplate, having been carefully chosen by your host and hostess. And, hey! they all got along with no food fights. No throwing of the soup or the bowls. But what was the soup? Butternut squash and apple soup. Mmmm! Rather tasty.
The main course followed, consisting of pork tenderloin with pear and cranberry sauce, carrots, peas and mashed potatoes. I must admit that in enjoying the food and conversation so much, I almost let the fire go out. Ah, but the Boy Scout in me returned in time to save the fire.
Nobody seemed to complain about the dessert, a luscious dark chocolate mousse. Oh, I have a sister-in-law who cannot stand chocolate, but she is the only person in the whole world I know who does not like chocolate. Her loss!
Coffees and teas and more water all round before one couple had to leave. Usually, that is the sign for others to leave, but not that evening. We sat around discussing the planet’s problems, from ecological to political to social. I cannot be sure we solved any of them, but we had a good time and laughs trying to do so.
Eventually, all good things must come to an end and, after giving the departing guests their individual favours of spicy hermit bars in neat little party bags, My Beloved and I cleared the table, save for some cups which would not fit into the dishwasher, and packed the mashed potatoes and tenderloin left overs away, set the dishwasher going and sat down with a glass of wine each. And, I let the fire dwindle to a nice glow.
Our friends are all so nice; we love them all. They are such gracious and loving people. As I said at the beginning of this essay, the best way to enjoy life is dining with friends. We thank God for them.
Then, feeling very satisfied, we went to bed the next day – yes, after midnight.
I can tell you, I did not get up a few hours later and stand with my back to the sun, as it was a foggy morning, so you don’t have to imagine anything unappealing.