Out of the Blue

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2015 had been a good summer.  We had made a very happy trip out west to the Okanagan and met up with good friends.  It had been our first road trip in many years and we were surprised how much we enjoyed it.

We had been busy at the cabin since getting back and you could feel the end of summer coming and autumn in the air (or Fall as I have learned to call it here).

In Manitoba, at the beginning of September, it’s as though God, during the night, decides to turn down the thermostat and set the barometers to fall weather.  It’s an over night change.  There still will be warm, even hot days. These are often, politically incorrectly, referred to as ‘Indian Summer’.  I wonder if they will be called Indigenous Summer now?  I have no idea why these lovely days were so named.  But the fall days can be beautiful here and we bask in any ‘bonus’ days we get.

But, as usual, I digress. It was end of a lovely summer, everything was going well and we were looking back on another happy and fortunate year for us and looking forward to all the birthday celebrations we are stuck graced with that were rapidly approaching.

Then one morning, I won’t go into details, I had a nasty surprise during my ablutions.  Next day all was well so I put it out of my mind.  A week later, another nasty surprise greeted my first activity of the morning.  Oh Oh.  Time to go see the good Doc Andy.  We had been seeing Andy for over thirty years.  He was still a puppy when we started with him. The last time I had seen him was after a neck X-Ray to see what was causing significant discomfort.  After he gave me a head-full of latin terms, I asked him “But what does that mean?”  He replied “It means, Rod, you are wearing out”.  “Tell me something I don’t know!” I grumbled.

So, Susan and I showed up at our appointed hour to tell Doc Andy about my couple of surprises. “Hmmmm.  Time to see a urologist” says Andy.  “I’ll get you booked.”  Well like a flash we had an appointment set for the end of March the following year!   In following up with the specialist’s appointment nurse we explained we would be in Mexico then (or so we thought).  She was able to ‘squeeze me in’ on January 29, two days before we were due to fly to Puerto Vallarta.  This seemed to me to be cutting things a bit fine.  I was to learn later this was probably a fairly accurate phrase.

Later in November, I had what seemed an unrelated discomfort in my abdomen.  Doc Andy sent me for a CT Scan.  Now, I am claustrophobic and hate feeling trapped or secured.  I’d never do well in a bondage relationship.  Just saying. The nurse/technologist was very nice and speeded things along to reduce my anxiety as much as possible.  I’m not sure if I heard “wimp” as I was leaving.  Probably my imagination.

Anyway, the scan showed an irregular thickening of the wall of one side of the bladder.  This apparently was not good news.  The most likely cause being some kind of growth or tumour.  We would have to wait till the end of January to find out what the Urologist would discover during a cystoscopy.  I’m not going to describe what a cystoscopy is, you can look it up if you are curious, lets just say it’s about as invasive and embarrassing as you can imagine for a male patient.  The annual prostate exam is a snap in comparison.  Even the snap of the vinyl gloves.

After further consultation with Doc Andy, we decided we had better cancel our Mexican plans for 2016.  Very sad couple of days undoing our plans and bookings.  And, a long Winnipeg winter to look forward to as well as the uncertainty of what good Doctor “just relax and trust me” would discover in late January.

We had a huge suitcase of infant clothing we had collected through our church to take with us to Mexico.  We try to support a regional maternity hospital in the little town of San Francisco, Nayarit, MX, locally know as San Pancho.  How would we get the clothing there?  Our good friends Ron and Marilyn were heading back down and agreed to take the extra case and to make a side trip out to San Pancho for us.  That was a great relief and we are very grateful to them.

January came round and slowly it reached my special day!  The good Doc JRATM said he had found two types of tumours.  All within about a 5cm patch.  Some were like flowers or coral the others were more like red marks.  He was mostly concerned about the little red fellows.  He said if they developed they could become high-grade.  “What does high-grade mean?” I asked.  It means they are nasty!  They grow quickly and are very aggressive.  If they find their way through the lining of the bladder they can attack other organs throughout the body.

The good Doc scheduled me for a day operation.  They go inside the bladder (through the only available orifice) and use some kind of knife/scraper attached to the scope – then scrape away the offending tumours.  Very nice!  Let’s talk about it over Sunday dinner.

I was scheduled for March 10.  When I spoke to the anaesthetist I asked for the full “put me under” approach – none of this stabbing you in the back and freezing the lower half nonsense for me.  I didn’t want to know anything about what was going on and or risk any further damage to a troublesome spinal column.

The surgery went fairly well, although the Good Doc needed to go deeper than he had expected.  Then we waited for the biopsy results. We were kept amused during this time by difficulties with the catheter removal – and having to have another inserted and left for a couple of weeks! Oh the fun.

April rolled around – the biopsy results were back and so was the Good Doc – who seems to have quite a few vacation days.

As the Good Doc had expected – both types of tumour were cancerous. The larger ones, I think, had been dealt with, and he hoped he had removed the little red devils – Carcinoma In Situ.  However, the bladder lining can decide to produce more of these little pests.  So the Good Doc scheduled me to have a series of immunotherapy treatments – 9 in all.  Six weekly visits – then a gap of six weeks and then three more. So we would be done by mid August.

You won’t believe what they do for these immunotherapy treatments! Using a catheter they instil (their word not mine) the bladder with a liquid which includes a live TB culture (BCG).  In many patients the invasion of TB into the bladder causes the immune system to go to war – and as collateral damage they wipe out any newly arriving carcinoma. This is laypersons understanding.  There was more trouble with the catheter – sometimes requiring two nurses to get it inserted – ‘more difficult than a having a camel pass through the eye of a needle’ – for the biblically literate among you. A ‘threesome’ has never been something I fantasized about – but if I had, this would not have been it!

I’ll leave this account at this point.  But, last Monday I received the last of the 9 treatments last Monday (which do have side-effects – don’t believe everything the Mayo Clinic says, they should stick to making the special sauce for McDonald’s) .  Now Susan and I have a break until we see the Good Doc in mid-October to see if the treatments have been effective.  If successful then there will be regular cystoscopes (or is that cystocopies?) and further maintenance treatments.  If not successful – the Good Doc will talk about that in October when he get’s back from his fall vacation.

Please don’t get me wrong, we are very happy with the Good Doc and feel in really good hands – hmm, that’s uncomfortable… er, we have every confidence in him! That’s better.

So, we had to cancel a special trip to Hawaii with our daughter and Son-in-law from England in June/July, but we had a great time with them visiting us here.  Also one of our granddaughters from England and her boyfriend visited us in May – so there were happy times this summer.

You can perhaps see why my posts have been a little scarce over the last while.  I hope to get back to it on a more regular basis now that we aren’t dealing with weekly treatments and the side-effects.

I’ll keep you posted come October.

By the way – this is a good opportunity to thank all our friends and relatives who have been offering prayer and other support over the last many months.

I see that in this northern clime we are approaching the end of summer and another fall. Can we pray that the thermostat doesn’t get turned down for a while?  Please.

 

The Mysterious Case of the UFO

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The couple were sitting enjoying a meal and talking in the Grove Bar and Restaurant. They were sitting at a corner table, enjoying the fact that the table was well spaced from other customers. The restaurant was fairly busy for a Wednesday evening in early July.

All was well with the couple when suddenly the woman, who had her back to the rest of the room felt something hit the back of her head with some force. Startled she looked around to see what was happening. The man had seen something flying across the room and strike his companion. He was ready to stand and get into an angry discussion.

What happened? And how did this all end?

Let’s go back and join a family group of four.  My wife and I, our daughter H and Son-in-Law T. T or Trevor was the hero of my story about the pond and the bear – you can read about it at The mysterious case of the emptying pond click here

H and T live in England and visited us this summer. After a fun and busy time at the lake we had returned to Winnipeg so they could get ready to return to not so Jolly Old England (Euro cup – EU decision – the rain in July). They wanted to take us out for a farewell dinner. Who was I to reject such a generous offer. We decided on a casual establishment. It was hot and shorts attire most comfortable.

At first we were shown to a table in the bar area. We requested to be moved to the restaurant and were obliged. We sat with Susan and me facing a couple at a corner table, enjoying a meal and talking. H and T had their backs to the couple. There was a doorway onto the outdoor patio between our table and theirs. Another of our daughters, M, arrived to join us and sat at the end of the table.

After a round of drinks and appetizers our conversation became quite animated. Our daughter, H, uses her hands and arms to emphasize and highlight her points. She was making a vigorous point to T and flung her arm wide to establish her position, when her wooden bracelet came flying off her wrist, flew through the air at mach 1 heading directly towards the back of the woman’s head.

Despite the velocity of the flying object it seemed as though time stood still as we watched, mouths agape, as like a heat seeking missile the bracelet locked onto its target.

It didn’t make a lot of noise on contact, but the startled woman leapt and turned to see who was attacking her. Her male companion looked ready to declare this as an act of war.

Shocked, our table was infected by an attack of its own – the giggles. To her credit H immediately got up and went over to apologize, explain what had happened and retrieve the now identified FO (Flying Object, no longer UFO). The male companion seemed to have an FO of an entirely different sort in mind, but as the woman started to laugh, he too relaxed and joined in the spirit of “Oh what a funny thing to have happened…”

Red faced but laughing, H returned to our table where we smiled and laughed with the couple.

I wish I could say this was the end of the embarrassment, but when T asked for the bill, we started to argue, in a nice way, about who should pay. T adamant it was their treat, M, Susan and I arguing it should be ours or at least shared.

The waitress (can I still use that word?) brought the paper bill (being a casual sort of place it wasn’t in a nice, discrete leather folder, just a piece of paper). T took it from the lady, M made a rapid, boarding house reach and snatched the prize from T’s grasp, much like the ball was snatched from many of England’s footy players in the recent unmentionable tournament.
T’s reflexes are fast and he tried valiantly to retrieve the bill, unfortunately in his exuberance he  sent his beer glass flying. It bounced across the table making an attention-attracting crash.  The eyes of all the patrons were focused on our unruly group.  Obviously disturbing the upper-middle class River Heights gentility.   Luckily, the glass was made a sturdy commercial quality and did not break.  And T had made sure it contained no remnants of a fond beverage.

Reluctantly, M was persuaded to return the bill to T. He is a West Ham fan and we know what they can be like!
After paying the bill, and slinking out, but still giggling, we vowed not to return to that establishment unless in disguise.

Another fine adventure for our family and a story that will no doubt grow with time and fond retelling at future gatherings.

So beware, you never know when, during some enchanted evening, a UFO may come hurtling across a crowded room and you will meet a stranger, quite possibly my daughter H. Be kind, these things happen to her.

Old Friends:..Isn’t It Strange to be Seventy

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Another confession!  Last week I turned seventy – I became a septuagenarian! It feels strange to say I’m seventy.  Most of the time I don’t feel seventy – but there again what is seventy supposed to feel like?  As I look out at the world through these old eyes – the sense of self hasn’t changed in 40 years.  Oh, the understanding of self may have gone through some iterations, but not how I imagine myself. Until I look in the mirror that is.  Let’s not go there.

This is Leanordo, or Lenny for short. My new bicycle.

This is Leonardo, or Lenny for short. My new bicycle. I know the other Da Vinci is spelt like this – please don’t write in.

My daughter, who lives in England, sent me a two disc set of Simon and Garfunkel.  I always enjoyed their music.  I put on the first CD and it was a live recording version of “Old Friends”.  A lovely piece with wonderful imagery and the thoughts of two young men watching some older men sitting on a park bench – probably in New York.

Do you know the words.  I almost spilt my tea when they sang “…how terribly strange to be seventy”.   Susan and I burst out laughing.  How appropriate that first song was.  And how appropriate the words.  It does seem terribly strange to be seventy. Then I listened to the thoughts of these young men and I realised how much times have changed since this song was written.  Seventy just isn’t what it used to  be.

We have a number of friends who are well into their seventies and I can’t imagine any of them sitting out their days on a park bench, lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun. Most of our friends are very active with sometimes too much vitality.

For my seventieth birthday Susan gave me a handsome new bicycle – a Devinci- I’ve named him Lenny.  Some people prefer female names for vehicles and vessels – but Leonardo wouldn’t stand for it, so Lenny it is.

Now I have to confess (yes again, it’s in my genes) the new bike was needed as the arthritis in my neck couldn’t tolerate the angle I had to hold my head on my old mountain bike.  You really don’t need a mountain bike on the prairies anyway.

My new bike allows me to sit upright and enjoy the view.  Maybe not quite the speedster I might have been on my mountain bike – but I’m retired now, so what’s the rush.

So, Simon and Garfunkel – eat my dust, nothing settling on my shoulders as I wait passively for the sunset.

But, It’s still a favourite tune of mine, hope you enjoy this version

 

On Being A Good Neighbour

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I was framed!

I was framed!

I am married to a kind and generous person.  She likes to do things for others.  We live in an apartment condo with long corridors and three floors.  At Christmas time a number of single people find a little bag of Christmas goodies hanging on their door – they know from whence they came.

This week the building entrance keys were changed.  We all needed new keys.  It seems that the person who delivers the Winnipeg Free Press (we don’t subscribe) didn’t obtain a new key.  Before the locks were changed, each person’s newspaper was delivered to their door between 3 and 5 am.  I know this because I am often up examining the plumbing at these times, and hear the paper delivery person thumping the papers onto the floor and running down the stairs to the next level.

Since the change of locks the delivery person has left the pile of papers in the lobby, outside the secure area.

Someone, possibly our really great building manager, or someone who takes the Free Press had moved the bundle of papers and placed them on a table in the secure area.

Little Miss Helpful (LMH, aka Susan) decided that she could deliver them and get exercise walking the hallways and climbing the stairs.

She did this the first day.  Mission accomplished.

Yesterday she was on the prowl, I mean taking hall walking exercise, and checked the papers. Sure enough there they were on the table.  Our building manager was vacuuming the area.  He explained that the paper delivery person (wasn’t it so much easier when we could say ‘paperboy’…yes, yes I know…) hadn’t applied for a new key as instructed so couldn’t get in without calling up to one of the paper recipients (at 3 am this would be a very popular thing, probably getting the PDP invited in for breakfast or a severe beating with a folded newspaper).

LMH picked up the bundle and was about to go on her new rounds when an older woman (no disrespect intended – she is older than us) with a walker came along.  Susan suspected she was after her newspaper.  She said “Are you looking for your paper”.  The woman replied in a loud voice “I’ve come for my paper”.  “Why is it late”

LMH with her lovely smile said, “I have your paper here”.  It soon became clear that the woman couldn’t hear her.  So she raised her voice.  “The Paper person doesn’t have a key yet, so the papers were put outside and I have been delivering them”.

In an angry voice the woman asked “Are you shouting at me?  I can’t hear, I read lips”.

LMH, still smiling but not quite as widely, tried to speak making lip movements that might be more easily read. She has sometimes said to me “Read my lips!” and I know exactly what that means – nod, smile and back away slowly.

Susan repeated about the key.  The woman said quite angrily “Why don’t you get yourself a key?  Then I wouldn’t have to come looking for my paper”.

The vacuum cleaner was going strong, so I’m not sure of all that was said. LMH tried to explain that she was only trying to be helpful by delivering the papers and that it wasn’t actually her job. But the woman was not appeased and taking her paper went back towards her apartment.

LMH waited a little while and then went along delivering the rest.  Many of our neighbours probably have no idea why their papers are later than usual, or that they are being delivered by a kindly third floor resident.  I wonder what will happen next week – we will be away for a few days.

So, this is a Valentine edition of my blog, to my lovely, kind, all-suffering wife.  She will read this and probably slowly mutter something like “37 years!”

Now wasn’t that better than flowers?

 

 

A Companionable Threesome

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A biography, A Travel Narrative and a Spiritual Journey

A biography, A Travel Narrative and a Spiritual Journey

I have three books on the go – a very companionable  threesome.  I have long enjoyed the books of David Cornwell, AKA John Le Carré.  His gliding prose weaving such believable tales of deceit and broken trust. With each novel the reader feels the author is exposing real truth within the fiction. So I was excited to be given a gift certificate which allowed me to buy John Le Carré: the Biography by Adam Sisman

At Christmas I was given the latest Bill Bryson book – The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island.  I had laughed so hard at his first book, about an American in England, that I permanently damaged my ribs.  If anything, his second volume about his experiences in the quirky little island of Britain is going to do even greater damage!

The third in my companionable threesome is: The Word in the Wilderness: a Poem a Day for Lent and Easter compiled by Malcolm Guite (including many of Malcolm’s own wonderful sonnets).  Each daily poem is followed by a thoughtful reflection by Malcolm.   By the way you are probably pronouncing Guite incorrectly in your ear – it rhymes with right, or site.

The biography is both revealing and yet enigma creating.  It must have been a fascinating experience to interview David Cornwell and to be given complete access to so much personal material.  Yet, either David’s memory is at times faulty or he is deliberately giving different and competing versions of events. The author writes well and keeps the reader engaged in the life presented.  Reading about Le Carré is like reading a novel.  No wonder so many of his books reflect events and characters from his life. I can enthusiastically recommend this biography, especially to Le Carré fans.

Bill Bryson, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading him, writes non-fiction (well mainly, he does manage to add many imagined responses to the stupidities of people and institutions).  Bill engages the reader with hilarity while imparting an amazing amount of information and lesser known facts.  It’s the kind of book you shouldn’t read on an overnight flight.  You will be annoying others with your laughter.  Even at home I have to keep stopping reading to explain why I laughed out loud.  The only criticism I have of his book, is his imagined story of a man having a stroke and collapsing into his bowl of Weetabix – dead!  Now I happen to love Weetabix.  Weetabix and I have been breakfast companions every day for the last 69 years (except on the few occasions when travelling and unable to obtain any – and hadn’t had the foresight to pack a few of the biscuits in my carry-on).  We have a serious relationship, Weetabix and I – as a child I would have races, seeing which of the two biscuits in the bowl would be eaten up first.  I almost always guessed the right one.  O.K. so I was a strange child, but you may not have met my brother.  So when Bill has the man collapse in his Weetabix, well it was a horror story for me.

This is a wonderfully insightful and hilarious trip through Britain twenty years after his first volume.

The third companion fills a spiritual need.  Malcolm Guite (no as in Gite – remember?) is, as far as I am concerned, an amazing poet and theologian. He is also, to my mind, a funny looking geezer, but I think all poets should look a little strange.  I have had the privilege of hearing Malcolm read some of his sonnets in concerts with Steve Bell, a Winnipeg song-writer/singer in the Christian tradition.   When Malcolm starts to read, time stops – all else fades into the background and we find ourselves drawn into new truths exposed through words that engage our psyche as well as our senses.  Malcolm is a deeply spiritual man, but a man firmly of this earth – a real Adam.

According to the back of his book, Malcolm is a poet, priest and singer-songwriter.  He is Chaplain of Girton College and Associate Chaplain of St Edward King and Martyr in Cambridge.  You can read more of Malcolm in his blog and hear him read his poetry at malcolmguite.wordpress,com/blog 

 

A poet I can love and understand.

Happy Reading – Blessed Lent

 

 

The Ice Age – or Winter in Winnipeg

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These ice globes top the ice wall leading into the Great Ice Exhibition

These ice globes top the ice wall leading into the Great Ice Exhibition

People wonder how we survive in a winter city like Winnipeg, where the winters are long and the temperatures can be extremely cold.  The answer is, if you live here you don’t survive the winter, you embrace it. There are things we can do in a winter city that can only be dreamt about in cities with warmer winter climates.

An example is the Great Ice Exhibition which just opened at The Forks (a favourite spot for tourists and residents alike).

The exhibition has ice sculptures (by artists from as far away as China), structures that you can climb on and enter, toboggan runs and more.  You can reach the exhibition by walking from the parking areas or by taking the skating trail.  Imagine ice-skating from destination to destination. Try that in Phoenix!

Click on any photo to see a larger version (all photos by Rod Sprange)

The entrance to the Ice Exhibition

The entrance to the Ice Exhibition

The weather has actually been a little mild for this time of year, and we had a very pleasant walk around the exhibition last Friday.

Ice is a wonderful medium for sculpting.  From elephants

Ice elephant to frogs,frog to peopleface detail  to penguinspenguins the ice captures light and

reflections like nothing else penguins close up DSC03936Look at this detail from an eagle. I love the combination of reflections and the background seen through the ice.

It amazes me that the sculptors often begin their creations by carving the rough shapes using chain-saws!

As well as the animals and other sculpted forms are some large structures that invite interaction.

This crystal bridge was quite amazing

ice bridge 1 You can go upice bridge 2 ice bridge 3 ice bridge 4 or over

or in and through, this igloo inspired complex

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Or down the ice-shoot toboggan run (if you are braver than I)

DSC03960There are no brakes on a toboggan, but the odd break or two!

Susan was busy with her camera too - and added scale to this sculpture

Susan was busy with her camera too – and added scale to this sculpture

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You can see the wonderful National Human Rights Museum - which has an ice theme too - and is important to visit.

Behind the walrus you see the wonderful Human Rights Museum (The first national museum in Canada to be located outside the capital of Ottawa). The museum architect employed an ice theme too.

What a lovely backdrop for an ice exhibition

What a perfect backdrop for an ice exhibition.

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The giant head is the entrance to the top of another toboggan slide. kids love coming through the open jaws

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Sometimes you need to be left a little off-balance - and that's what the Human Rights Museum can do.

Sometimes you need to be left a little off-balance – and that’s what the Human Rights Museum can do.

I hope you enjoyed this short tour and maybe contemplate visiting this winter city sometime soon.

Another What the…

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This is another in the periodic series ‘What the…”  where you are invited to try to answer the question “what is this?”

So what do you think this recent photo is showing?

false dawn

The False Dawn

I am a displaced hill person.   I grew up 12 miles from the centre of London.  It was a hilly location.  I have one leg longer than the other as I was born on the side of a hill.  I always loved hills.

When I was 21 I immigrated to Winnipeg, Canada; one of the flattest places on earth.  Winnipeg is situated on the edge of the great prairies, where fields of wheat and Canola stretch to the horizon and the wind creates waves of movement like some colourful sea.  It has its own beauty, the sky seems to go on forever, but not many hills.  There are some lovely hilly spots like Riding Mountain and Turtle Mountain, but these are a good three hour drive from Winnipeg – so most of the time I am starved for glimpses of hills and mountains.

I notice this particularly after a visit to the Rockies.  On the drive home as I look in the rearview mirror I feel a sadness as the mountains recede in the distance, eventually slipping down behind the horizon.  But some days the clouds can give the impression of distant hills or mountain ranges, causing a pang of nostalgia.

So the other day, imagine my surprise when an image of a sunrise or sunset over distant hills appeared on the wall behind our settee.  I took a photo of the image.

What was causing this image you ask?  Great question.  The image was caused by a combination of the shadow of the soft-cushioned back of one of the settees and a prism created by the low level of sunlight being refracted through the edge of the patio door double-glazing.

I have enhanced the image very slightly. But for me it looks very much like the dawn bursting over the foothills with the misty clouds rising behind.

Isn’t life wonderful when unexpected beauty appears in the most mundane places.

I hope you enjoyed this small example of nature’s surprising artwork.  Did you guess correctly?

 

It’s Your Morning and Welcome to It!

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Morning is breaking over our east-facing balcony.  The sun comes up rather late these days.  We have spectacular sunrises that start with such quiet drama

Morning is breaking over our east-facing balcony. The sun comes up rather late these days. We have spectacular sunrises that start with such quiet drama

Sunrise over a balcony in Winnipeg

Because it only lasts a few minutes each sunrise is precious.

Well that’s the good stuff.  But here we are, January 22 and so far this year I haven’t had a good rant!  Today I feel like a rant despite the beautiful sunrise.

My complaint, this time, is with radio and television so-called news personalities.  The news is no longer a program or just simply ‘the news’ – it’s a ‘show’.  Professional announcers saying – “…later in our show”!  ARGHHH!  I’m not looking for a show, or an entertainment, I’m looking for information – about the world, current affairs, newsworthy items from the ‘hood (or if you live in Winnipeg the ‘Peg, but don’t start me going).

The alarm clock switches on to the least obnoxious of the local ‘information’ programs.  Bang!  they aggravate me with their first words “Welcome to your Friday morning”.  Hang on a bit, I don’t own the morning, it’s not my personal sun rising in the East, my personal Friday.  But even if I was self-absorbed enough to believe it was, then don’t welcome me to it.  It would be like someone coming over to my house and telling me welcome to your house!  No, I welcome my visitors they don’t welcome me.

The idiots want to tell me about MY weather, not the local weather, or the Winnipeg weather, but MY weather.  I feel a bit like a cartoon character with my own little cloud following me overhead.

On the television weather they have lots of splashy (confusing and annoying) images, including satellite radar images.  The silly woman says,  “and here’s a look at your radar image”.  MY radar?  When did I get a radar system?  And if I did, who said she could use it?

What is this all about?  It’s about manipulation.  The media gurus have decided that we are such a narcissistic society that everything has to be about us.  So it is no longer ‘the news’, not even ‘the news for penguins’, but ‘your news’, ‘your weather’, ‘your radar’.  They even accuse me of having come up with the weather forecast because they announce “here is your forecast”.  I didn’t forecast any weather!  Don’t go blaming me.  Or is this a very personal forecast, I guess it has to be, because it is after all MY weather they are forecasting.

Can’t we go back to the good old days when we were the audience, they were the presenters and it was simply ‘the news’ and ‘the weather’.  I don’t know any of these people personally, they may be very nice, but I’m happy for them to stay in the radio or somewhere behind the television screen.  Greet me with ‘Good Morning’ and I’m happy, but don’t try to make me feel special, when you say “your…” I know it’s aimed at all the listeners or viewers you are broadcasting to, not just me.

While we are at it, where did this new infection come from where every question asked of an expert or ‘talking-head’ is answered with “So,…”  It goes like this.  Presenter “Why has the price of oil dropped so precipitously?” Expert “So, it has to do with supply and demand…”  or like this “Minister, what will your government do about the dramatically rising cost of health services and the ongoing problem of ‘wait-lists’.  Minister “So, people want the latest in technology and access to the latest pharmaceuticals, which….”

So?  So what?  It’s akin to the way politicians ask their own questions and answer them.  “Are our roads in the condition we want?  No, however…”  or “Am I happy with the current (whatever it is) no, but we have made remarkable progress”.

Stop the pandering folks, and treat us like intelligent adults.  Am I happy with you?  No!  Do I feel better now?  Not really.  But at least I have finally written something this  year.

By the way, welcome to Your 2016

 

Changing Seasons

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Before we got to the season of pear-trees and turtle-doves, I gave my True Love a new camera for her birthday.  For the pro-photographers and serious amateurs among you, it isn’t something you are going to drool over – unless you have a general problem with drooling.  But it brought some excitement to our little nest.  And a slight bite out of the nest-egg. It is a Canon SX60 HS with 65 times optical zoom.

I thought I’d share a few of Susan’s early images – that also show how quickly the seasons change in these parts. All photos except the first (C) SK Sprange (I may have had a hand in the first)

Full moon at beginning of lunar eclipse with stray Canada Goose

Full moon at beginning of lunar eclipse with stray Canada Goose

A crisp autumn day on the deck

A crisp autumn day on the deck

We took a trip out to the lake to clean up fallen leaves and check the property.  However, most of the leaves were still on the trees.  Oh well, we just had to go back once more this year.

Autumnal branches

Autumnal branches

We chose a day when the sun, sky and leaves were working together to create an autumnal symphony of colour.

The path to the beach

The path to the beach

The lake glimpse through the trees before freeze-up

The lake glimpsed through the trees before freeze-up

The summer visitors have left - avian and human

The summer visitors have left – avian and human

We could sense the changing season from fall to winter was not far away.

This visitor to our balcony hunkers down from the effects of the first snow and wintery blast

This visitor to our balcony hunkered down from the effects of the first snow and wintry blast

We were right!  Back home in the warmth of the condo we observed our friend taking a break from the wind and the snow. Susan took this shot hand-held, through the patio door glass, from the other side of the living room.  I think she intends to keep the SX60.

Another “What the…?”

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During our recent stroll through the desert I came across this.  Have you any idea what it is?   Try some guesses before scrolling down

What the...? Any ideas about what this is?

What the…? Any ideas about what this is? Mohair perhaps?

The next image coming up should give the game away.

I love the way the camera helps us to look more closely at things and discover such beautiful details that are missed by the casual stroller-by.

Seeing these details leads to wondering about the incredible variety in the natural world and the ingenuity in the myriad of ways of protecting different species.

Some people just see nature, others signs of intelligent design, for me it’s a journey into recognising meaning – all this struggle for life and survival can’t be for nothing. It shows me how precious life is and how all living things should be treated as sacred.

Soft and subtle

Soft and subtle.  I suspect this distance gives it away.

below is the wider view.

Here is the plant growing in the desert. All those hairs must protect the plant from something.

Here is the plant growing in the desert. All those hairs must protect the plant from something.

I am intrigued by the sculpted edges of the leaves.

Just a short little post which seems fitting after the longer recollections of November 11.

Pop – An Unlikely Hero

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William Phillip Reid. My Hero

William Phillip Reid. My Hero

William Phillip Reid, also known as POP by family, friends and neighbours, is one of my heroes. He is also the one grandfather I had the privilege to know.  Ernest Alfred Howard Kighley Sprange, my paternal grandfather, was killed in battle in 1917

This is the notification my Grandmother received about the death of her husband

This is the notification my Grandmother received about the death of her husband

If you had met Pop you would have thought the honorific ‘Hero’ unlikely.  Pop was a mild-mannered, gentle man.  He was born in London’s East End in 1887, had limited schooling and was early out in the world helping to make a living.  I’m not sure of all the things he did, but assistant barrow-boy and then milkman were part of it.

Here is Pop with his milk barrow and some assistants

Pop married Georgina Salisbury, but they were worried that her name sounded ‘common’ when they introduced her to Pop’s family, so he said her name was Maud.  Throughout their life together he would either call her Maud or George. They were a devoted couple.

Pop ready for his wedding

Pop ready for his wedding

Like many young men in 1914, Pop enlisted in the army and was shipped overseas as part of the King’s Royal Rifles.  He was trained as a bomber.  The bombs were hand-held explosive devices – this was before the modern hand-grenade.  The front row bombers would stand up from the trench and throw their bombs towards the enemy lines and trenches. Pop rarely mentioned this terrible time and the horrible things he saw and had to do.  In fact, he only told me about being a bomber and what that meant once, after I had specifically asked about what he did as a soldier.

Pop was gassed with mustard gas and wounded in action.  He was hospitalised in France.  Apparently the army arranged for trains to take the wives of men injured in action to visit their husbands.  Nan Reid (George/Maud) wouldn’t go.  She had never been on a train and was terrified.

Pop was shipped back to England and had a limp and severe respiratory problems for the rest of his life.

Pop became a candy maker – specialising in the making of marzipan.  He worked for a sweet manufacturer known as Clarnico.  He worked there for decades.  After he retired as a candy maker he worked as a night-watchman for the company.  I don’t know the story details but during the London Blitz there was a fire in the factory and Pop was the one who raised the alarm and helped to save the factory. I think he was acting as an Air Raid Warden at the time.

During Second World War, war Nan and Pop were ‘bombed out’ of their house during the blitz.  Their home totally destroyed.  They moved to Chingford and lived most of their married life in an upstairs apartment of a two-story house.  Their apartment had cold running water, but hot water was only possible by lighting a huge water heater which had to be filled from the tap and carried to where hot water was needed – bathroom for baths and washing, kitchen for dishes.  I can’t remember how they managed to do the washing.  Nan was a ‘presser’ in a local laundry – no wrinkled clothing was permitted – I still enjoy ironing my shirts and pants.

After the war, Pop was working as a night-watchmen at Clarnicos and was attacked by burglars – he was hit on the head with a cosh, knocked unconscious and tied up.

When he finally fully retired the company presented him with an extremely small token of appreciation for his dedicated service, saving the factory, and being assaulted on the company’s behalf.  It was quite shameful. But I never once heard Pop complain, I can only imagine how he felt.

Pop always dressed smartly.  His clothes were not new – but they were always immaculate.  Trousers had knife-edge creases, shoes gleamed, blazer was brushed spotless.  On summer expeditions to the coast, the shirt and blazer usually worn tie-less and the black or brown shiny shoes replaced with blindingly white deck shoes appropriate for a day’s excursion to the seaside.

Nan and Pop and just rod at the seaside circa 1950

Nan and Pop and just rod at the seaside circa 1950

Promenading at Margate

Promenading at Margate – must have been a special occasion he still had on a tie.

Pop smoked a pipe (despite his lung problems) and would like to have a little smoke in his chair before taking a short afternoon nap.  I found his pipe fascinating.  When I was about four and had been staying with Nan and pop for the day, Nan came into the living room where Pop was napping, and found me happily perched in another chair with my legs crossed, sucking on Pop’s pipe (apparently I had carefully taken it out of his mouth while he was sleeping).  Nan had some words of advice for me about never touching that filthy thing again.  I never did.

With Remembrance Day upon us I recall the times when our local area of London had Remembrance Day parades and services.  As an Air Cadet and solo trumpeter I played Last Post and Reveille for the services for a number of years.  I always found it very moving.  I remember one year, I had finished playing, and was walking in another part of the town where there was another parade of veterans coming along.  I spotted Pop, he had his medals pinned to his blazer (complete with the King’s Royal Rifles badge), he was just standing quietly watching the veterans march by.

I stood with him, wondering about his thoughts at that moment.  Was he remembering the horrors of war, reliving the terror, or just remembering comrades and friends who had died.  Was he thinking about the German men he had likely killed when he threw his bombs.  I shall never know.  I only know that marching in the parade wasn’t something he ever did.  But he always watched, silent and thoughtful.

His marriage to Georgina thrived through many hardships, they were devoted to one another.  They had one daughter Catherine Georgina Rose (known always as Rose) who was the apple of Pop’s eye and his pride and joy.

Nan, Pop and my mother Rose

Nan, Pop and my mother Rose

Pop was a very generous man.  Although he and Nan had very little, they never failed to share what they had.  I remember them lining up each week to pay money into the “Christmas Club”, a locally organised group who would collect contributions from members, record the contributions, keep the money safe in a bank or Building Society and distribute the savings back to the members just in time to buy Christmas presents and purchase special Christmas food.  I don’t think Nan and Pop ever had a bank account of their own.  But this was a community that realised people needed extra money at Christmas and offered a way to make saving possible.

I don’t have many stories to tell as Pop was a man of few words – but his gestures, his kindness and steadfastness told you everything you needed to know.  He was a man of principle, full of love, and at the heart of his gentleness was a brave hero.

My favourite flower - the simple and elegant poppy

Lest we forget

Life in the Desert

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The usual desert image

The usual desert image

During our stay in the Okanagan our friends took us to the Desert Centre, Osoyoos in the South Okanagan valley.  Much of the area in the valley was desert.  But due to agricultural development, growth of wine production and a large influx of people choosing the valley as home, most of the unique desert has been lost. “The Osoyoos Desert Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the endangered antelope-brush ecosystem” (from the Desert Centre brochure. The result is a beautiful oasis of desert (sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it).

The desert is an abundance of life – flora and fauna, reptile and insect, it’s a wonderland.

The natural valley landscape

The natural valley landscape

The centre has a small but interesting natural history museum that is worth visiting before setting out on the trail. The centre offers daily interpreter led tours.  We arrived after the last tour of the day but enjoyed strolling at our own pace.  We were guided by the interpretive map and the numbered exhibit markers.

The society has built a wonderful boardwalk to protect the fragile biotic crust

The society has built a boardwalk to protect the fragile biotic crust

The biotic crust is made up of around 27 different species – it resembles moss, and turns bright green or brown when water is sprinkled on its surface. “It retains moisture for plants, transfers nutrients into the soil below, and allows bunchgrass seeds to hold on to the ground for germination.” (Desert Centre brochure).

Susan and our friends Anne and Allan head out on the boardwalk

Susan and our friends Anne and Allan head out on the boardwalk

It was very warm for early June – in the mid thirties Celsius.  Bring your hat and water.

So delicate, in such a harsh environment

So delicate, in such a harsh environment

These beautiful plants were widely distributed in the area, but too far from the boardwalk to get a great hand-held shot

These beautiful plants were widely distributed in the area, but too far from the boardwalk to get a great hand-held shot

Flora is even more striking when discovered in the otherwise monochrome desert

Flora is even more striking when discovered in the otherwise monochrome desert

Shrubs in bloom

Shrubs in bloom

More striking blossoms

More striking blossoms

More floral surprises

and floral surprises

More floral display

and floral displays

Just one more

Just one more of my purple friends

One more for the road

One more for the road

Anytime you are in the South Okanagan, take the time to visit the Desert Centre Osoyoos.

 

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