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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,


Nothing in my experience can compare to this simple savoury paste that provides subtlety and emphasis to many things, when placed upon a slice of bread and butter, or better still, toast and butter. It is now over 120 years since it first appeared on the market, after its discovery by a German chemist and its manufacture by an English Company.

My earliest memories of comfort food include, along with baked beans on toast, Marmite and tomato on bread or toast. A medium sized tomato cut into four quarters, each of them placed on a quarter of a slice of toast or bread and butter with a thin spread of Marmite.

It never really occurred to me that it was not universally obtainable until we moved to Australia 60 years ago, and could no longer find Marmite despite the abundance of tomatoes. There was a pathetic option called Vegemite, but it was and is not the same. Perhaps the best indication of how it is valued in Australia is that at the end of an evening guests would be offered crackers spread with the Vegemite and perhaps a small slice of tomato to make them go home.

We then returned to England for three years, where one of the compensations for less income was a ready availability of Marmite.

In 1967 we started our lives in Canada, in Newfoundland no less, where not a trace of Marmite could be found in the shops. By chance I had a second cousin once removed, whose job was to test radionics in Valiant bombers, while they were in flight. He was on several occasions capable of ensuring a landing in Torbay with a supply of Marmite for his desperate even if remote relative.

From there we moved on to Toronto, and once again faced a Marmite famine. Luckily my work frequently took me to the Maritimes, and by then I had discovered a store in Halifax where Marmite could be found. We then moved to New Brunswick in 1973 when hen’s teeth were more abundant than Marmite. Fortunately my dreams were finally realised, and by the year 2000 Marmite was a frequent appearance on supermarket shelves, although it sometimes vanished for a month or two. As a savvy consumer I tried to keep at least three jars on hand to bridge the gaps. Now however, disaster has struck, there has been no Marmite on the shelves for six months, and my supply has dwindled to a carefully hoarded trace..

A daughter has found a bottle for me and is putting it on the mail for me, will it arrive in time, my garden is full of tomatoes demanding Marmite.

My faith in Canada Post is fairly high and I hope they can bring it to me. Just in case, I held my nose today, and bought a bottle of Vegemite. Judging by the price it must have flown first class from Australia.

That was a mistake, I tried it and now realise I was wise to switch back to Marmite 56 years ago.

Chalet de necessité

One of my first experiences of finding a bathroom that was not like the one at home, was on a holiday in France in the early 1950s. We were on a family low budget vacation in Brittany, in a 1935 Morris 10, which had lost its sunshine roof in the blitz. We stopped overnight at a cafe that said it had chambres, and rented two rooms, one for the parents, one for my brother and me. At the corner of the stairs, as we went up to the third floor there was a door that opened onto a porcelain floor with two places on which you placed your feet while doing whatever you had to do. The title of this piece reproduces what it said on the door. There was no lock, and the deal was that if you heard someone coming you cried out “OCCUPÉ”

It was the first of many formal variations of toilets that I encountered over the years. When we first arrived in Australia we purchased a house in the extreme suburbs, with no indoor facilities but an outside shed with a traditional wooden seat over a bucket collected once a week. I managed to get approval for a septic tank during a very dry season, so by the time our first child arrived midnight trips to the garden were no longer necessary.

During one of my field projects in North Queensland I was accompanied by my wife and one year old daughter. The loo was once more out doors, but tastefully screened from view by a wooden trellis on which clematis grew. It also provided an ideal perching spot for tree frogs who appeared to get their kicks from watching people relieving themselves. Immediately adjacent was a pawpaw tree which was extremely popular with the fruit bats, so a night time visit would disturb these creatures with a four foot wingspan to fly off noisily. It is not really relevant, but the same house derived its water from a windmill with a dry well about 6 feet deep. One day one of the neighbours pigs fell in it, which created a challenge, but the water seemed to be all right afterwards.

The following year I spent several weeks in a grass hut in a village in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. In this case someone had gone to a grat deal of trouble to ensure privacy for the hole under the wooden seat by constructing a large grass hut around it. While ideal from the point of view of privacy, it also provided a comfortable home for the tree snake living in the thatch.

Later that year I visited Japan and stayed in a relatively fancy hotel in Tokyo. The glossy porcelain with various options was a sharp contrast to what I had experienced a few weeks before.

Game set and match however must go to my wife. Who on visiting Tibet a while ago was in the Potala in Lhasa, which has high walls way above the ground. On one of the upper edges there is a comfortable spot for people to sit with an open seat, a different approach to aerial bombardment.

No recent experiences have provided quite same challenges as those days, and we even understood what was expected of us when encountering cans of water instead of toilet paper in Turkey


A friend sent me this card for my 83rd birthday, which happens to be today, and caused me to think of other birthdays over the years, not all of them involving bicycles. The first birthday I can remember was in 1943, somehow or other the family had managed to get to Aberystwyth for a war time vacation, and it coincided with my birthday, the present I received that year was pretty epic for a six y ear old., It was a cardboard box with a series of nursery rhyme things you could cut out, the see saw of Marjorie Daw fame actually tilted! The other feature of that day was warm doughnut, a delicious rarity at the time. My first bicycle birthday was my tenth, when I received a cas h contribution to the three speed bike I was pining for, and actually got at Christmas.

My next memorable birthday was my fourteenth; I was about to start boarding school, and my only present was a travel rug, I was again unimpressed, but in retrospect I realised that with my school fees that was all my parents could afford to give me.

I turned 21 in Venice seven years later years later with my about to be official fiancee. Our engagement was in the Times that day and we took a gondola ride by moonlight. Unfortunately I had a splitting head ache.

My world circled around running as a form of exercise, and it wasn’t until 2000, when my knees stopped me running that I went back to biking. The link to birthdays waited a little longer. In 2011 I joined a group of cycling seniors, the “Folks on Spokes”, in 2012, to celebrate my 75th birthday, a group rode with me to Kings Landing and back, 75 kilometres. four years later my oldest daughter suggested that I come to Ottawa to ride 79 kilometres for my 79th birthday. I did not want to take my bike on the car that far, so I asked her to hire one. When I arrived in Ottawa I found a brand new bicycle had been bought for me, and I then rode it the requisite 79 kilometres with a daughter and son in law.

In 2017 I was “invited” to ride 80 kilometres on my 80th birthday with a daughter, a grandson and a son in law. I willingly(?) complied.

I have leaned my lesson, On my 83rd birthday I rode 30 kilometres.