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Another Covid Christmas

The holiday was a challenge for all of us, in our case improved by the willingness of one of our children and her husband to come down to New Brunswick for a few days. We tried to be hospitable, but it is not always simple.

Its’ different with COVID at Christmas,
When your children have all moved away
And only one couple who’re daring,
Are able to come for a stay.

Facing the challenge of airports,
And testing before they could fly
With masks to cover their faces,
As they headed off into the sky.

We were pleased when they got here on schedule,
Without any further delays
They were here for a most welcome visit,
But only to stay for five days

Eager and young by comparison;
They willingly took us in hand.
With gifts, washing up, even cooking .
The help that they offered was grand

We gave them the traditional bedroom,
The one we don’t use anymore
With the double bed given to squeaking
And the wireless thing out on the floor

It did cause some Christmas disruption,
Our routines are just not the same
But its worth it to have two more people,
That’s even enough for a game

There were things that they wanted to sample,
Like blueberry ale and some wine
And the Highland Park 12 that they bought me,
All of it tasting quite fine.

They tidied up after cooking and cleaning,
And then put the utensils away
It did mean some diligent searching,
To find them took more than a day

When we took them back to the airport,
In good time as the airline had asked
We were sad to see they were leaving,
And glad they were properly masked.

So thanks middle daughter and husband
For spending those five days back here
We were delighted to have you
And we wish you a Happy New Year,

Olympic Games in my past

In the Spring of 1948 on one of our occasional Saturday morning forays into the nearest market town with my father, we went into the department store and visited the ticket sales counter, where my father purchased three tickets for one of the track and field days of the forthcoming Olympic games. He paid the incredible sum of 4 shillings, roughly one dollar in those days for each ticket. That would have been enough for three visits to the cinema and ice cream at intermission. I was only 10 years old at the time and had just started my athletic career by winning the boys under 11 cross country run at school. (One of very few wins in my running career). We had not yet got television and all I knew about athletics came from radio and the newspapers.
It was a few months later before we actually made our way to Wembley for the events. It was a sunny day, far more people than I had ever seen in one place before, and when came into the stadium we noticed that athletes were coming in with us, many of whom willingly signed my autograph book, which I have since lost, not a bit like these days.

The day started with heats of the women’s 200 metres, one of the heats was won by Fanny Blankers-Koen, who I had never heard of before, and who went on to 5 gold medals. I was more concerned about an athlete from the Philippines in the same event, who was disqualified after her third false start and never got to compete. The main event of the morning was the final of the 400 metres for men, won by a Jamaican called Arthur Wint, I had never imagined people could run that fast, he looked to be about 6 and a half foot tall and very skinny, but as he approached the finish line he passed everyone as if they were standing still, including his fellow countryman who came second. This was Jamaicas first ever gold medal, but as we all know, by no means their last.

The high light of the day was the mens 10000 metres, I now realise that is the reason my father picked that day, he use to run distance races at university. Of course we believed that Jim Peters, a great British athlete would triumph, but it was not to be. As soon as the race started a section of the crowd began to chant ZATOPEK ZATOPEK, and he certainly responded. This was his first Olympics and this was the only medal he won this time, setting an Olympic record and winning by nearly a minute. Later he would win the 5000, 10000, and marathon. It is interesting to note that the was not a single African in the 10000 or 5000 metre finals. Today they nearly all come from there.

It was 73 years ago, and I still remember that day and those races. To give my children a similar experience in 1976 I lined up for tickets at the Eaton’s outlet in the Fredericton mall, and paid about $200 for four tickets a day for a week. We went to Montreal where my wife and I took turns at the best event with one child, while the others went to an easily accessible venue. As chance, or was it sexism would have it, my wife got to see the mens gymnastic finals. While I got to see the women, and there were lots of perfect tens to look at, as well as the one scored by Nadia Comenici,

The tradition continues, my father bought tickets so I could see the games, I bought tickets so my children could see the games. And one of my daughters went to London so her children can experience the games. I wonder where the games will be that my grandchildren take their kids to

Charity begins where?

The fund raiser

Have you been to a fund raiser recently
I was out to attend one one night
I try to not attend them too frequently
As somehow they don’t seem quite right

The guests are all there in their splendour
Donating their cash and their time
Generous too to surrender
Themselves to a cause so sublime

There’ll be speakers who tell the objectives
Of the people who’re running the show
They’ll be grateful to us all selective
Who could choose and be willing to go

There also may be an auction,
Silent or run by a star
Who’ll sell, off some weird concoction
Like a licence to hold a bazaar

I wonder, and my payment pauses
How the beneficiaries feel
When the amount that goes good causes
Is no more than what goes on the meal

The mail box

If you once sent some money supporting

A charity that you admired

You’ll find that they keep on reporting

That further donations required

They’ll send you letters suggesting

You could send them money each week

Or else use your money investing

In gifts they include as they speak

Like calendars notebooks and labels

Socks and bags for your gear

I’m surprised how they are able

To pay for the postage each year

A Story of klutzmanship

It was early in this century a grandson came to stay
And brushed against a lampstand that was standing in his way.
He slowly knocked it over in just a single stroke
And so we all discovered that the lampshade now was broke.
My wife and I are older now, and settled in our ways
With lazyboys for each of us early in the days
A crossword puzzle for my wife, the internet for me
Until she takes a little break and then the puzzles free.
But yesterday just as I mov ed to enter my wife’s chair
I noticed the connection to the light was no longer there.
A competent performer I did not stop to bitch
But carefully dismantled the electric lighting switch.
My efforts were a failure to compensate my ire
I went and bought a new one at the blessed Canadian Tire
Untangling the cables and connecting wire to screws
I found another problem, really not good news.
The thingy used to turn the switch was meant to fit a hole
But the new one was too big for it, I could not reach my goal.
Frustrated now and angry having wasted half a day
I realised we could afford a new lamp any way.
So once more at the tire place I found a lovely light
And all I had to do with it was assemble it just right
But sadly now the lampstand from four pieces must be built
And when I had assembled it, it had an awful tilt
I realised that evening before I went to bed,
That in assembling the lampstand I had crossed the blasted threat.
My sleep last night was broken, each time that I thought
Of the fact that had sabotaged the lamp that I had bought.
On waking up this morning with energy and verve
I repeated the whole process to eliminate the curve.
Which left me with the lamp shade from the one I had replaced
So I put it on the lamp stand that my grandson had defaced.


If you can’t stand the heat………

The beginning of summer brings a whole lot of exciting things from the garden or the farmers market that we have been waiting for all winter. For me, it is the arrival of strawberries to be lovingly consumed with cream, followed by the availability of real peas. By real peas I mean peas still in the pod, not frozen or canned, though they are an acceptable substitute. Peas in the pod that that take me back to the days in World War II, when we had two allotments and memories of my blind grandmother sitting in an armchair while she shelled the peas for dinner, one of the few tasks she could still achieve successfully. My first pea shelling efforts this year were at the kitchen table, but I ran into a snag, when the occasional pea that escaped in the course of the shelling would roll in any direction across the floor, making their recovery a challenge. I then came up with an improved system, borrowed from memories of my granny. I moved into the living room and sat on the couch with the receptacle for shelled peas between my legs, and the unshelled peas in a bag on my right, and a container for the empty pods on my left. Any pea escaping was trapped between my legs, so they did not reach the floor. It would have been even better if I had worn a skirt, but I do not have one. The first time I tried this, all went smoothly, but perhaps I became overconfident.

I was three quarters of the way through the process of shelling a pound of pea, when some how I knocked the pan off my lap and onto the living room floor, providing individual peas with enough momentum. Fifteen minutes later I had the peas safely gathered back in the saucepan. I shelled the remaining peas and then took them all in to the kitchen, where I put the pan under the cold tap while I disposed of the pods, Unfortunately the tap was running full and it filled the saucepan and many of the peas floated out into the sink. The plug was not in and they would all have escaped down the drain were it not for a pot scourer that was stuck in the plug hole. Many peas were thus recovered, rewashed, and consumed with enthusiasm.

For my wife, it is the arrival of the blue berry season that is eagerly awaited. had purchased blueberries at the same time as I had purchased the peas, a pint of them in a cardboard container, which we stored in the refrigerator for use at breakfast. The cardboard container got a bit soggy, so we transferred them to an empty strawberry punnet. Unfortunately the spaces on the corners were large enough for individual blue berries to escape, so we enclosed the punnet in an empty bread bag, which was a sufficiently tight fit to prevent the blueberries from escaping from the corners. We then returned them to the frig. While making dinner I was trying to retrieve something else form in there, and in the process knocked over the blueberry container. We had prevented them from escaping from the corners, but not from the top, so now the kitchen floor was covered with blueberries rather then peas. Recovery took place, and it was time for dinner, I did drop ice cream on the floor, but you can mop that up.

The Winter Challenge

Our middle daughter, who runs a photographic business,like many other entrepreneurs and small business persons, found herself unable to operate during the pandemic. Recognising that she was by no means alone in not working she decided to create something that would keep fellow sufferers amused during their various stages of lockdown. She therefore created a Winter Challenge that required the completion of 30 tasks between February 1st and March 21, the official end of winter. The tasks were extremely varied, ranging from sleeping in an unconventional location, to finding the third item from the right on the top shelf of your fridge, and use it in a meal, (unless it is mouldy ). Also from doing a jigsaw upside down to having dinner for breakfast or vice versa.

Sleeping in the bathtub

It is all very fascinating and caused us consider some of the challenges that were not included in the list we were given

Doing a jig saw upside down

Obviously the most significant event for all of us over the past year, has been Covid 19 and its ramifications. One of the concerns that have been expressed is that not everyone would be prepared to be vaccinated when the vaccines became available. We were wondering why this should be the case, until we started watching the television news for hints. It then became obvious. We normally watch the BBC world news from 6:60 to 7pm. and then the Maritime news from 7 to 7:30. People being vaccinated is obviously a very newsworthy event, but it does get carried to extremes, nearly every night the number of people being needled during that hour reaches double figures. Even stranger I am fairly certain that on the regional news I have seen some people being vaccinated several times. One does tend to wince a little, each time you see that needle going in, and I am sure that this scares people away from having it done to them.

Our extra challenge would be to still get vaccinated, despite seeing all those injections.

A Shirt Tale

It was way back in1950 that my father was scheduled to visit the United States and Canada, to discuss topics of mutual interest in the gas industry, coal gas in the UK in those days and mostly natural gas in the US and Canada. It was the cause of much family excitement that he was going to make such a trip, and a predeparture party was held with fake weather forecasts ominously predicting hurricanes for his sea voyage, which actually happened. The whole family went down to Southampton to wish him Bon Voyage, which resulted in my mother, who hated driving, having to drive the 80 miles back home in our unreliable slightly bomb damaged 1935 Morris ten four.

He had a very busy schedule for a three week visit, being in a different city nearly every night. One of his concerns was how he could look respectable, with no opportunity to do laundry. Drip dry was essentially an unknown word back then in the UK, but he was advised that if he purchased nylon shirts, they could be washed at bedtime, hung out to dry overnight and be nice and clean in the morning. As a result he purchased two nylon shirts, which easily lived up to his needs. He continued to wear them for a number of years, and then, getting tired of them passed them on to me. I was never that keen on wearing them, but they came in extremely useful as aprons for the young, when they were doing something messy. No matter how much paint the kids got on them, it all came off in the wash. One of them was actually worn by our middle daughter, Robin, when she was a star in a children`s painting show on Television in Newfoundland in 1968.

One of those shirts about to make another starring experience, as I wear it inside out and backwards as one of the tasks in the WinterPlayChallenge, organised by the same daughter who wore the shirt in Newfoundland. This task requires one to wear clothes inside our for a day, and I have decided to go the whole hog and wear it backwards too. The shirt is as intact today as it was back in 1950, a real tribute to the nylon shirt makers of the period. Perhaps the fact that it has worn so well provides a hint as to why you do not see entirely nylon shirts in shops any more, they do not wear out fast enough.

A creature of habit

It is Christmas Day and I can’t help thinking of Christmases past, all the things associated with a traditional Christmas that are not happening this year. The gathering of families and friends replaced with a Zoom call that spanned the ocean, so while missing close contact with some people we did see more than usual of more distant friends and family. The other startling feature of this Christmas is the weather, the thermometer is standing at 17 degrees Celsius as I write this, a new record for Fredericton. I have just returned from a bicycle ride on the trails, which were very quiet, I suppose everyone was recovering from a vast lunch.

As we are having our Turkey for the evening meal (actually one skinless boneless turkey breast). We had a casual lunch, which for me was boiled tomatoes on toast. This may seem trivial, but exactly 80 years ago, my parents had with great difficulty secured a turkey to feed the family together with some strays who stayed with us to avoid the London blitz. I am appalled to say that I steadfastly refused to eat turkey and demanded tomatoes on toast. As it was Christmas Day my long suffering mother went out and opened one of the jars of preserved tomatoes ,and gave in to my demand. Now 80 years later I had the same Christmas Day lunch. It was clearly a slow forming habit.

It is a little sad to think that of the nine people round that table, I am the only one left to remember the incident.

Christmas Squirrels

Twas the night before Christmas, and I had a strange feeling
Something was happening, up in the ceiling.
It was only a limited sort of a noise
Not one like Santa dropping off toys.
A gentler sound, rather discreet
The soft pitter patter of animal feet.
They’re back was the only thing I could utter
As I went to the kitchen to find peanut butter.
I spread it on balanced bits in special cages
I use to trap squirrels, we’ve had them for ages.
They lock them up kindly with something as snack
As we load up the car and take them all back
To the forest, release them, and then we say please
Go play with your friends here, up in the trees.
It works well in theory, but alas I may say
They’ll be back in the ceiling, the very next day


Today the temperature is about 15 degrees. That is if you believe in Celsius. I was brought up in Fahrenheit, so if I add 32 and then multiply 15 by 9 and divide it by 5, and add the two numbers up, I get 59 degrees Fahrenheit. 59 seems warmer than 15. It made me wonder what other things could be improved by a change of the units of measurement, a simple example is my age, if I am 83 Fahrenheit years old I would be only 60 Celsius, that seems a lot younger. Of course it would not work so well if you were really young. A Fahrenheit 15 year old would be -9 Celsius which is rather an improbable age.

Using the well known principle of reductio ad absurdum, one could apply this technique to many other conversions. The obvious one is the difference between distance signs here in Canada and in the United States, when what is presented as a metric 100 here would only be 62 in the US. This of course means that Canadian cars will go from zero to 60 much faster. Applying this conversion to my age I would be fifty one and a half in the states, even younger than Celsius.

I will only go so far in these comparisons, I have just realised that my metric weight is 82,555 grams which is a terrifying thought,