Well You’ve Gotta Laugh…


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Laughing Gull

This Laughing Gull isn’t…

I haven’t done much writing recently – so time to catch up a little.

For those who follow this blog I am pleased to tell you I had a clean report from the urologist in January this year.  So we were cleared for takeoff to go back to Puerto Vallarta for February and March.  There is an old joke – Man “I’ve been happily married for 5 years”.  Friend – “But you were married ten years ago?”  Man – “Yes, I know!”  I said old, not funny.

Well we had a lovely month in PV this year.  “But weren’t you there for two months?”  “Yes!”  I’d better explain.

We arrived in late January – the weather was its usual wonderful self, and we were met at the airport by a very good friend, Curt.  We were staying with him for the first couple of days.  It was a good time.  We moved into our rental condo on February 1.  The first week was great.  Except I was watching the ocean for signs of whales or dolphins when I slipped over the edge of a shallow step and managed to break my little finger on my right hand (didn’t do much for my dignity either).  Everyone knows there is no point in seeking medical help for a broken little finger, am I right?  They will only tape the pinky to the next finger.  I could do that myself.  Mind you it did look very swollen and hurt like a XXXXXX.  But I carried on like the trooper I am.  Actually I have no idea how troopers carry on – but if it includes whining and complaining – I am right there.

Well this was the start of a series of health related events.

There was a lot of flu and coughs around.  Being the friendly type I invited a virus to come home with me.  I developed a low-grade fever and a few other unwelcome symptoms.  After consultation with my higher authority I called the travel insurance company (who were excellent by the way), and they sent a doctor over to our condo in 45 minutes and I was prescribed some antibiotics to prevent an infection.  Unfortunately the flu virus, although very mild (probably because I had had the flu vaccine), triggered an irregular heart beat (Atrial Fibrillation) – a recurrence after 16 years, so after another call to the med insurance folk (who opened a second case in one week) and I was visiting the ER of the San Javier Hospital in PV.  If you need a hospital in PV I can highly recommend SJ.

After an initial examination I was sent to see the Cardiologist who confirmed the AF.  He said I had two options.  They could admit me and reset my heart with ‘The Paddles’. You know the scene in the medical dramas “Clear – zap!” and the body twitches violently or I could go home and take a high dosage of a different arrhythmia medicine and come back in twenty four hours.  If it was going to be effective it would work within twenty four hours, if not, it wouldn’t ever work and they would go ahead with the paddles.  So let me think about this.  The electric shock treatment or try the meds first.  Which to do?  Being a coward and in my right mind I chose to try the meds first.  Happily, over night it worked.  When I saw the cardiologist the next day he prescribed a change in meds and wanted to see me again in a few weeks.

By this time Susan had developed symptoms of the virus which, apparently, I had passed on to her.  Her symptoms included a nasty hacking cough.  My cardiologist heard it and said “I don’t like the sound of that.  If it’s no better by Monday (this was Saturday) you come back and see me”.

Well, by the next day the cough was a lot worse and Susan was clearly quite sick.  So I called my friends at the Med Insurance and they opened our third case and sent us back to the San Javier ER.

After an initial examination, Susan saw the Lung Specialist.  He said “Your lungs sound horrible. I am admitting you and putting you on intravenous antibiotics”. She tested positive for influenza A, was contagious and had a developing pneumonia.  She spent the next four days in isolation and received all kinds of treatment.  However, she enjoyed the visits of the lung specialist who had been recruited from General Hospital or some other daytime soap.  He was young and handsome and very charming! Amazing how you can smile while ‘suffering’ from pneumonia.

Eventually she was released into my care, and we were able to gradually increase our activities and enjoy our surroundings.  Now wouldn’t you think this would be enough?  So did I. However, read on…

Two of the stacking arm chairs for the balcony had become stuck together.  The higher authority ‘suggested’ I unstick them so we could use at least one of them for our guests. In prizing the chairs apart I managed to get my thumb squashed between the arms of the chairs.  It was about the most painful thing I have ever experienced. I hopped around the condo, holding onto my thumb and quietly saying “O gosh, this smarts, oh gosh this smarts”.  At least that’s what I recall.

The thumb nail almost immediately turned black and the the thumb swelled to about three hundred times its normal girth.  And did I mentioned it throbbed a little? Also, the heart doc had put me on anticoagulant medication – commonly referred to as ‘blood thiner’, which meant the blood didn’t clot quickly under the nail – exacerbating an already nasty injury.

“Do you want to go to the hospital?” asked the higher authority.  “No!”

Next morning I called my second and newest best friend at the insurance company.  Stop smirking H.A.  When we arrived at San Javier emergency I felt like Norm on Cheers.   Señor Rod!  they all cried in greeting.

It turned out they thought the thumb injury wouldn’t likely reduce my life expectancy. I was prescribed medication to try to relieve some of the pressure and hopefully a lot of the pain.  Thankfully they don’t use the hot needle through the nail these days. Did I mention it was excruciating.  The doc mentioned I would likely lose the nail, but he didn’t know when.

Gradually we both healed.  Susan finally was over her cough and had her strength back.  My heart was keeping a good rhythm and my thumb was only throbbing mildly.  My pinky had adopted a cute bent position and would swell and turn red on a whim. But we were getting about again and starting to take advantage of the good life in PV.  Susan was allowed to have visitors and be in groups again so all was looking well.

The recovered Higher Authority on a day trip

Unfortunately a good friend of ours had developed a slightly sore throat – but put it down to dryness.  However it developed into a lovely hacking cough – and Susan’s immune system still weakened from the the previous bout of flu, picked up the infection and developed a new cough and bronchial symptoms.  I just couldn’t bear the thought of asking the insurance company for a fifth case to be opened,  so we made an appointment to see Dr Lu (short for Lupe (pronounced loopy) which is actually short for Guadalupe).  Dr. Lu is great.  We had visited her before.  She soon had Susan taken care of – and of course on new meds.

So, two months and five medical interventions later we returned home to Winnipeg.

Everyone we met wanted to know “Did you have a great time in Mexico?”  “Lovely thanks – do you mind not breathing on me and please be gentle when we shake hands”.

Post script: We are so thankful for our good friends we see in PV  and our church community there – they were very kind and helpful – lifts to the hospital, bringing communion to us, visiting Susan in Hospital – getting shopping in, prayer support.   And our neighbour in Winnipeg had essentials in the fridge and a dinner invitation the day we arrived home.  We are truly blessed.  And we have only good things to say about the wonderful care we received in the Mexican hospital.  Even the food was excellent!


An Early Christmas Story: Don’t Needle Me

It was suggested to me that I should reblog this post from2014. I hope it gives you a few laughs this Christmas.

Reflections in Puddles

It was December 1977, Susan and I had been ‘going out’ for about nine months. It’s interesting, before we are married we call it ‘going out’ then after are married we don’t anymore. At least, not very often – go out that is.

It was nearing Christmas and Susan decided she wanted to decorate her apartment with a Christmas tree – a real one – a fairly tall and bushy one. I lived a couple of blocks away and was enlisted to help get the tree, get it back to her place and help set it up.

My car was larger than hers, I was driving an orange Volvo station wagon known locally as the Great Pumpkin. We decided it would be easier to carry the tree on my car roof than on her Ford Pinto. Safer too; if we were in an accident and her car burst into flames…

View original post 1,450 more words

Political Melt Down

Last year at this time I posted a joke about Texas and Manitoba. 

As I was reminded by FB I recalled a witty heckle the Minister of Industry and Trade received when making a ‘stump speech’  in farming country. 

I was the Assistant Deputy Minister for Trade at the time. 

The Minister was addressing a group of farmers in a field on a hot summer day, and yes we do get hot summer days in Manitoba.  Our temperature range is impressive. Ftom -40F in winter to +100F in summer. 

The Minister hadn’t tealised he was standing on a cow patty.  Many of the farmers saw it and sniggered. One yelled out “Look the politician is melting”. 

Have a wonder-filled Christmas those of you who celebrate the nativity of Christ. Happy holidays to those who don’t and may 2017 bring hope and peace in your lives. 

The Canadianization of Rodney


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I grew up, well was raised, in England in the North of London.  Even then I had a fashion sense and liked to look my best.  My brother Mugwump saw clothes more as something to soak up the blood and dirt from scrapes and contact sports.

Visiting day at big brother's boarding-school

Visiting day at big brother’s boarding-school – there was no way I wanted to go to one of those – they didn’t let you take your mum with you!

This was my first day in Canada.  Landed in Montreal waiting for the train to Winnipeg

This was my first day in Canada, July 1967. Landed in Montreal waiting for the train to Winnipeg.  Ah, the sartorial elegance!

Six years of Canadian life and winters and look what it did to me

Six years of Canadian life and winters and look what it did to me

I should really have cropped out the socks.   Remember we were camping and hiking in the Rockies.

Today - I still have nearly all my own teeth

Today – 49 years after arriving in Canada and the old croc still has nearly all his own teeth


I Think Not – the lost civilization


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I think therefore I am – so is the converse true?  I was driving through the neighbourhood the other day and noticed what many others have – people in the main were engaged in looking down at their phones.  Even individuals who were part of a group were in isolation, reading or staring their phones.

It got me thinking. Is there any time to think anymore?  If we are constantly bombarded by discrete bits of data, and less discreet entertainment is there any time when we are actually thinking.  I don’t mean regurgitating mindless trivia – but having original thoughts.

If we are constantly engaged by external stimuli and merely giving an emotional response, when do we do the creative and important work of thinking.

We should be interacting with our environment and others directly – observing, collecting and collating, analyzing, forming and sharing conjectures.

One of the great pleasures and responsibilities I have is the researching, writing and delivering of homilies or sermons. To do this I need time to engage with some biblical texts.  I need time thinking about the original meaning of those texts and the people who wrote them and the audiences that first heard them.

I have to think about our world and society.  I have to think about what it means to be human.  As a Christian I have to think about what it means to be created and loved by our creator.  I have to think about our responsibilities as humans.

And, I have to think about the congregation I am sharing this with.

This forces me to put away the entertainment devices and time-wasters, so I can think and feel.

But what are we to think about a world in which so many people seem not to have an inclination to observe or think?  No wonder we get such mindless drivel dumped on us by politicians seeking our vote.  Ten second sound clips replace thoughtful discussion.  Debates become about ‘knock-out punches’ not the thrust and parry of opinion based on logical thought and facts.  Where telling the big lie is more profitable than reasoned deliberation around truth. In a world where we communicate with emoticons rather than language, no wonder emotion rules over intellect, wisdom and thoughtful discourse.

This post will probably receive very few ‘views’ and even fewer ‘comments’.  But if I posted some cutesy images of kittens and some emotion filled captions – I could garner an impressive set of statistics.

Don’t get me wrong – I have an i-Phone and I like to send texts and interact through social media like the next person – but I hope I take time to read, learn, observe, interact directly  and think.

I shall not despair – but watching the trivialization of civilization makes me feel like DP Gumby  – “It makes my brain hurt!”




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


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.


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?