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On the trail

On Saturday morning I was biking on the trail between Angel View and the camp ground, and I was struck (not literally), by the large number of fellow cyclists and walkers with babies and or dogs that were using the trail. Exercise patterns in Fredericton have definitely changed.

In the old days, and that means before my knees gave out at the turn of the century, I was out running nearly every day. Getting into shape for marathons or shorter races. This required a variety of routes, generally organised to end at a bar for a beer.It was easily done in the summer, but in the winter it was more challenging, so I would go cross country skiing instead.

Most of my running was on the roads, the trail system had no comparison to what we have today, particularly on the south side of town where I live. In those days we often ran the two bridges as a route choice, the Princess Margaret Bridge and the Carleton Street Bridge. One of them is no more and the other does not permit biking, let alone running. Now of course you can run the train bridge as it is a walking bridge, and there is a pedestrian path on the Westmoreland Bridge. It was theoretically possible to run out to Lincoln from the Experimental farm on the railway line, but the sleepers (I am referring to the things that supported the rails, not dozing citizens) were still there which made it quite challenging. In the days of the abandoned line still being there, there was generally a wilderness between the gardens and the river with just a few notable horticultural exceptions. Since the official establishment of the trail, the majority of the homeowners have taken their property between the trail and the river more seriously, and in many cases attractively.

Not everything is perfect though despite the best efforts of the city. One would think that the concept of a speed limit was totally foreign to cyclists with drop handlebars. They speed along thje trails, and the walking bridge at speeds exceeding twice the limit which is 15 kmph on most of the city trails, and 10kmph on the bridge, terrifying senior citizens, parents with young children, and dogs. Sadly many of them do not even have a bell or any method to alert others of their imminent whizzing past.

One thing cannot go without mention, the combination of a brewery and the city have made a great improvement to the North end of the Walking Bridge, particularly for those who need access to beer!

Life in the slow lane

The slow lane is very much a relative concept, and widely open to interpretation. I think about it as I am pottering along on my bicycle on a trail and I am overtaken by some speeding enthusiast with his or her head down at at least twice my speed. On another day while cycling through the woods I may pass dog walkers idling along as their canine companions snoop and poop, who may see me as the fast lane.

The ribbon cutting

Well illustrated perhaps by the above picture which shows my wife and myself formally cutting the ribbon to our new driveway, so much and excitement for us. but so much slow lane to the jogger that he just drifts on by.

Another good illustration of the slow lane phenomenon is the early morning seniors shop at the supermarket. With the younger hurried hordes kept firmly away you have an hour to work your way round the shelves and select your groceries, and time to chat with the check out lady who can inquire as to the state of your family. We used to do our pre Covid supermarket shop on Saturdays, but felt that it was too crowded so moved it to Fridays, now it seems as if the weekend starts on Friday, it is a longer week end in the slow lane

One good thing that the pandemic has given us.

Leisure can be a blessing or a curse. Whether you want to be in the slow lane or the fast lane will determine which of those it is going to be. There has to come a time when you decide where you belong, and none of us can keep up with a fast pace for ever. You may have to choose your moment for the decision, but do not neglect the tranquillity of the slow lane.

Here is the News

(The fact that I had not written a blog for several weeks caused some confusion among my fan, this is my third day of reassurance that I am alive and well, even if sometimes boring)

In common with many New Brunswickers I receive a copy of one of the local English newspapers every week day. While there are two of them, the Telegraph Journal and the Daily Gleaner, they are so close to being identical that it does not matter which one you get your news from. In these day of digital media I also subscribe to the Globe and Mail and also the Times of London. Of course we really get our news from the CBC at 7am, the BBC world news at 6:30pm and various Canadian TV stations between 7 and 7:30 pm. As if that was not enough there are all those clips that you get shown on Facebook, and the news that Microsoft thinks you ought to see whenever you start your computer up.

No wonder I am confused, and also of course, an expert on everything depending on where I am coming from. I use that phrase advisedly

Lets look at the COVID story: The New Brunswick Government in consultation with Public Health has done an excellent job in controlling the pandemic, and we tend to look down our noses at the bigger Provinces to the West who have been much less successful. Canadians as whole tend to point out the failure of the United States to control the pandemic, and largely blame President Trump. The BBC world News attempts to be just that and reports on COVID disasters world wide, but all the data and reporting from any source is not totally objective and feeds to the prejudices of the source.

It is interesting to note a couple of issues that relate to the different attitudes and results in the UK and the USA. The number of cases per million population in the USA on August 13 was 16, 429, on the same day the number for the UK 4,620, Obviously the UK is doing better? Or is it the number of deaths per million in the USA is 516 and in the UK 609. President Trump has blamed the higher number of cases to higher numbers of tests. On August 13, both the UK and the USA reported 208, 000 test per million population.

It is hard to believe that the survival rate of COVID victims is four times better in the confused and expensive medical sector of the USA than in the universally available UK system. one wonders if we are comparing apples and oranges? However you view the statistics in a global sense the problem is by no means over, we need to stop arguing about it and to continue to use our best efforts to keep it under control.

Geoff and the war with Japan

This photograph, taken in the spring of 1941, is the last colour photograph my father would take before the end of world war II. it was taken in Dufay colour a now extinct colour process. The people shown are: from the left. my mother. my elder brother, my Godfather Geoff Gee, me, and my grandmother on my mother’s side. The picture was taken in Kew gardens.

My grandmother lived in a fairly large house in London, by herself, and as her eyesight has deteriorated so that she could no longer make a living as a seamstress, she took in lodgers. Geoff who was a draftsman with the railways in Scotland was sent down to London to take a course or something, and stayed in the house. My parents, recently married were also living in the same house. Before I was born they moved out to new house in the suburbs, and they asked Geoff if he would be my godfather. The day that picture was taken was just after Geoff had joined the army, and was probably when he was on embarkation leave, on his way to Singapore. Along with many other members of the British army, he ended up soon after as a prisoner of the Japanese.

He was involved as were many of his colleagues in the construction of the rail road that is so frighteningly shown in the movie, Bridge on the River Kwai. Unlike many others he survived the railroad and the war, and was repatriated to Britain in 1945 for rest and recovery. He ascribed his survival partly to his skill as a draftsman, he had the ability to convert a small black and white snapshot of a wife or girlfriend into a glamorous portrait, a talent that was initially welcomed by his fellow prisoners, and then by his prison guards who were also a long way from their girl friends.

He returned to his job as a draftsman with the railways in Glasgow. He used to visit us occasionally when he had free passes on the trains, and would take me with him to whatever was the current hit musical in the West end. He seemed to have many connections with the theater world, and would take me back stage after the show to meet someone he knew.

He never fully recovered his health and died in his forties. The anniversary of the defeat of the Japanese always reminds me of him, and my reason for lack of enthusiasm for that nation.

How Fit is the Bit?

For the past several months I have taken to wearing a Fit Bit. Not because I expect to get fitter, but because I am curious about the impact of exercise on my heart. When I was scheduled to have an operation to remove cancer from one of my lungs three years ago, I flunked the pre-op screening because of a fibrillation in my heart. The operation had to be postponed while I undertook further tests, but then went ahead.

At the time I blamed the fibrillation on having been at a political fundraising event the night before, at which the hostess, a long time friend, had urged her son, the bartender to ensure that I was kept well supplied with malt whisky. He complied vigorously and I had felt a little strange in the middle of the night.

I was send to a heart guy who explained the ins and outs of fibrillating hearts and prescribed a pill that I take daily and is not covered by my medical plan, at $4.00 per pill. I felt a little weird again while biking last fall, and it was tentatively blamed on too vigorous exercising. So I bought a Fit Bit to try and find how my heart was reacting to exercise, in my case, generally biking outdoors.

It has taken me a while to understand what it is telling me, mostly because it is intended more for the walker or runner than for the cyclist. it posts a number of steps that I am presumed to have taken, that bares no particular relationship to my biking . It also reports some other things, like liquid and food consumption, but you have to enter those yourself, not surprisingly.

What I am following however, is my heart rate, it will display me a graph with a squiggly line that represents my heart rate and goes up and down all the time, but not with a frequency to reflect fibrillation. When I cycle there are more systematic rises and falls in my heart rate, which relate to how hard I am working. There is still some confusion though, the heart rate maximum when I check out the exercise rate peaks at a higher level than it shows in the regular heart rate graph at the same time.

The really confusing thing it reports to me though is my sleep pattern, which only seems to record the amount of sleep I have had since I last got up to go to the bathroom, It appears that I am truly sleep deprived. I am also baffled by how many flights of stairs I have climbed each day. I am still confused about whether I am fit or not, but I am still going to wear my Fit Bit anyway.

It is a weird world

Sometimes something that seems incredibly difficult, turns out to be a lot simpler than you thought. For a long time now, and I mean years not just months, we have been irritated by the fact that our telephones gave us a beeping rather than a dial tone. But they still worked. Our local capable of anything guru was round at the week end to cut up a tree that had fallen on my wife’s sunning chair. After he had solved that problem for us we sat down for a beer, and I mentioned the telephone problem. He went and tried the phone and said that the sound we heard was message waiting on our voicemail, I did not think we had voicemail as we use an answering machine, but he said try # 99 which I did and was informed that I had no messages, the beeping continued.

I googled beeping messenger noise and after a while found an option that explained how to remove it on certain varieties of phone, but not on the ones I had. It also had a contact number which unfortunately I did not note down. This morning in desperation I went to the Bell Aliant website and sorted out the right place to call with a problem with your phone, after the usual delay listening to loud music, I got a human being on the line. He wanted lots of detail to establish who I was and what my phone number was, and when I said the problem was that I could not stop getting a “you have a voice mail message”. He said it was impossible as we were not paying for voicemail. We spent ten minutes in continuous and growing more heated argument, but he would not accept that it was anything to do with Bell.

Before sending an irate email to the President of Bell Canada, I had one more try with Google. It had a method to stop the message report, #94!

It worked. It is a pity that the staff at the telephone company do not know their own rules.

While I was making dinner last night, the phone rang. It was Bell Aliant asking how my service request had been handled. On a scale of 1 to 5 there was no minus ten, but they did ask for my comments to be recorded. They probably melted the tape.

They are at it again

Squirrel Mom Protects Babies From Cobra in Intense Standoff |

From time to time I have commented on the impact of the furry tree rats on our household. It has been related to their demand for nourishment since we stopped offering them the occasional peanut, to their insistence that our ceiling space is their preferred winter habitat. It is their gardening habits that have been most prominent in irritating me recently.

We learned many years age that when you planted tulip bulbs it was good idea to coat them in pepper or plant a daffodil bulb on top, if we did not want them dug up and eaten. The arrival of crocus blossom in the early spring was apparently a dinner invitation to squirrels who tried to eat the flowers before anyone else could admire them. We managed over the years to have a large enough number of crocus for the squirrels to get bored and leave some for us to admire. Either that or they were distracted by the fact that there were by then tulip blossoms for them to destroy.

I have nurtured a hibiscus and fuchsia for many years, bringing them in in the fall and returning them to the garden in June. They are both happily ignored by the squirrels to date. Ten days ago however, while shopping at Sobeys I saw some beautiful small hibiscus plants with spectacular blooms. I purchased one and planted it alongside my older plant. Within 24 hours the squirrels had eaten not just the flowers, but all the buds.

There is a clematis that grows on the side of the house, just outside the picture window in the living room. It is not yet in bloom, but the buds are forming. Yesterday evening a squirrel was half way up the clematis and chattering at me through the window, apparently complaining that I had not got it in bloom for him!

Just another Friday

Friday morning is our shopping day at Sobey’s, during the senior’s dawn patrol. Unfortunately my wife has a new fracture in her arm, and can not push a supermarket trolley, so I had to do it alone, rising at 6:15 am, a lot earlier than normal. Fortunately we have a very sophisticated shopping list on a spread sheet that can easily be modified as we realise a new need during the week. It was updated on Thursday night, and as I entered the supermarket I remembered it was still on the kitchen table. I did the shopping anyway and more or less got things right.
Once the groceries had been put safely away, I proceeded to the planned activities of the day.
About 20 years ago the concrete steps to our front door had tilted, due to frost heave, to the point that they had to be removed, and they were replaced by wooden steps and a covered porch. On each side of the steps was a wooden grid, presumably to prevent skunks from moving in. Over the years a couple of trees had started to grow under and through the steps and the grid, a fact I could no longer ignore. I discovered that I could remove the grids to get access to the trees, but they suffered in the process and needed repair. Being a complete incompetent as far as carpentry, I went to a local hardware store and asked about buying some replacement strips (which I now are called lathes) for the grids. I was told that they came in bundles of 50, and why did I want to use them anyway. It appeared that I could buy a four by eight foot grid for only $9. That seemed
much more sensible, so I bought two of them. I then realised that 8×4 grids would not fit in our Honda Civic, so I had to call a friend with a pickup who kindly “volunteered “ to come down and pick them up.

We loaded the grids and went back to the store to pick some other stuff up, and then as I was about to drive away, the car shuddered and there was a grinding noise. Another car moving in to the adjacent parking space had not noticed the bike rack protruding from the back of my car. He hd ripped open the panelling on his doors. He was very upset and apologetic, he was 91 and had not had an accident in 65 years, we exchanged insurance information, and I realised that bike rack was dead, After phoning my insurance company, I went to the bike shop to try to buy a new rack, they had one at a reasonable price, but they could not get the old one off. I had not taken it off during the winter as I still bike then, and the attachment to the car had firmly welded itself together, brute force did not work to pull it apart, I finally found a friendly service station who removed the whole thing from the car and by use of heating managed to open up the connection, and replace the important bit on the car. So I could now buy and install the new carrier.

Now I returned home and settled down to trying to paint the new grids, cut them down to size and install them all in more than a days work. Fortunately the man with a pickup also had a very fancy saw which he plugged in and removed the trees under the steps.

It was my turn to make dinner so I felt that my problems were over for the day, until I got the refrigerator crisper drawer jammed on a box of spinach, and an entire box of blue berries spilled and rolled all over the kitchen floor.

I felt fully entitled to my post dinner scotch.

An arm in harms way

A year ago in March, it was not very nice,
When on a frosty morning my wife fell on the ice.
I rushed her to emergency for assistance for my bride
While her left arm was useless hanging by her side.
After she was x-rayed sadly it was spoken
That in several places her left arm was broken.
They took her into surgery to minimise the harm
And used metal for replacement in her elbow and her arm
It took a while for her to heal and use the arm herself ,
To button up a blouse or to take things from a shelf.
By Christmas it was nearly healed and she could dance and sing
Looking forward to the chance of biking in the spring
Winter went on for ever but in April there was hope
That with May’s arrival with biking she would cope.
We took her bike down to the store, who fixed it up like new
So we could ride together as we liked to do.
The first rides went quite easily around the country side
The two of us together, riding side by side.
But then came a disaster as we rode out of town
I heard a crash behind me as my wife came tumbling down.
She lay there on the roadway, underneath her ride
Tangled in her bicycle her arm clutched to her side.
A lot of helpful people came rushing to our aid
To help her from entanglement. The Covid rules were stayed.
I got her to the doctor and then on up the hill,
For X ray at emergency, while trying to keep it still.
I left her at the doorway, with Covid rules in force
I couldn’t go in with her to stay with her of course.
They called for me to fetch her back in about an hour
I sped up there to get her as fast as I had power.
Yes she had a fracture higher up her arm
Than where she broke it last year. She accepted it with calm.
So now we hope recovery will help her without fail
But don’t be too surprised if you see a bike for sale

Memories of Victory


It is May 8, 2020. Seventy five years since the war in Europe ended. We have seen the old news reels, heard the old speeches and heard Vera Lynn sing “We’ll Meet Again” again, for those of my generation, we also have our own memories of those momentous days when the war came to an end. My home was in the London suburbs, not a particularly popular target for the Luftwaffe, but still subject to bombing by planes that were lost or avoiding the greater flak risk of central London. Like most of the hoses in our neighbourhood we had received significant damage
for the bombing and the V1s and V2s, and by May 1945 there were already builders and decorators at work repairing the damage, paid I presume by the Government. In our house all the interior ceilings were cracked and need to be replaced. This meant that plasterboard replaced the plaster and lath construction that had previously been there. This in turn meant that there was a large amount of discarded wood around, not only from our house, but others on the street. It was decided to have a neighbourhood bonfire to celebrate the end of the war in Europe. Using a hand cart a mass of combustibles was collected and take to a vacant site just down the road. A scarecrow type reproduction of Hitler was hung from a telegraph pole outside our house, with a message on a sheet of paper pinned to his chest, it read “mit me 7:30, watch me burn 7:45″. At 7:30 we duly processed down the road with the neighbours and a magnificent blaze ensued. I have no doubt that the adults carried on a more alcoholic celebration later that night but it would have been after my bedtime.
VJ day came 3 months later, I remember that I was playing with a Meccano set in the living room with the radio on when the announcement came through. I remember going into the kitchen and asking my mother if now that the war was ended would my father still have to go to work! I was a little naive back then.