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Klutz denial

There have been recent allegations that I am in many ways an incompetent klutz, unable to undertake successfully the simplest of household repairs. Despite being one of the authors of these allegations, I am pleased to offer a categorical refutation based on recent successes with my trousers.

During the winter I prefer to wear cordoroy pants as they keep my legs warmer, and they are also washable, and do not show much innate grubbiness. I also use a belt, instead of suspenders to prevent the collapse of the aforesaid trousers down to my ankles.

I was very bored with having to frequently replace these belts, when the holes became enlarged and resulted in breakage, I was also annoyed by periodically having to create new holes. I was therefore delighted to see in my favourite Canadian Tire Store a new design of belt, that did not have holes, but ridges that were caught by the buckle structure, making the infinitely adjustable. Unfortunately the teeth on the buckle stop catching on the belt after a while as the end of the belt gets fatigued. This results in the buckle, and sometimes the trousers, falling off. In a stroke of genius I cut off half an inch of belt to get the grip back, it worked brilliantly. The only snag is that I will have to reduce my waist by half an inch every time the problem returns.

You may say, that the button at the top of the trouser fly would prevent the collapse of leg protection and public indecency. Unfortunately the button holding the top together is made of metal, and has worn out both the button hole and the cloth beyond it. Another disaster, calling for another stroke of genius. I bought some upholstery thread, and stitched back and forth where the end of the button hole would be, so I now have a new hole for the button. After four days it is still holding.
I am not a klutz, but a sane practical genius.

I spoke too soon, I went out in the car to go skiing, and when I arrived at my destination I discovered that I had left the boots at home. I went home, put on the boots, and tried again. I found that I had my wife’s skis, and not mine. I came home to make dinner and realised the slow cooking was because the pan was on the wrong burner. Clearly my pride led to my fall.

The Family Portrait

It’s a very pretty picture of the women in my life
All three of my daughters and of course mycharming wife.
The picture’s not a recent one, its from 1973
All of them much older now, the same applies to me.
Back in those days I wondered what the future years would hold
But now I have some memories and stories to be told.
My wife just starting studying down the road at UNB
On route to completion of a fine PhD.
And then as a professor, a career in something new
For eighteen years distinguished in her role at STU.
Oldest daughter Judy is an athlete all the way
I hate to think how far she’s running every day
She’s working for a sports store, and training on and on
Preparing to be running yet another marathon.
Her children, both grown up now in a life they have enjoyed
And thankfully the pair of them are happily employed.
Middle daughter Robin, an entrepreneur at heart
Practises successfully the photographic art,
Many thousand pictures her cameras have exposed
In developing reputation of her company Unposed.
Susan is the youngest one, one son is still in school
He’ll soon be like his brother at uni, that’s the rule
Susan’s a computer geek, coding well and oft.
Now she’s independent, but she was with for Microsoft.
She also is a runner, going on and on
And joins her oldest sister in the Boston marathon
As for me its 26 long years since I left my employ
And now in recreation my hours I can enjoy.
I used to be a runner as my daughters like
But now my knees have let me down, I only ride a bike.

The bedside table

Is there a little table right beside your bed,
And to see what’s on it, do you simply turn your head?
A place to store necessities you might need in the night
Carefully located so you do not need a light.
I have one by my bedside with everything I need
I’ll tell you all about it, and bring you up to speed.
A radio to turn on early in the day
To tell me what the weather’s like and what the news will say
A big electric jug like thing I turn on as I wake
A vital component for my cup of tea to make.
Assorted little bottles with assorted little pills
I’m taking night and morning for treating all my ills
Some are by prescription not all of them but then
I keep a handy bottle of acetominophen
And then there’s melatonin I also tend to keep
Since someone once told me it would help me get to sleep.
I even keep some tissues handy I can seize
If I have a sudden urge to loose an awesome sneeze.
An ideal situation, how could I ask for more
Until I knock a bottle off and spread pills on the floor.

But onwe more experience can be never spurned

If The jug is turned on we now both have learned

When my wife turns her heater on disaster will ensue

We’ll be plunged in cold and darkness , circuit breaker blew

A parent`s lament

Oldest daughter and her husband
Are in Thailand as I speak
They went there before Christmas
And will stay another week.

The curse of social media
Is exposed in every way
As they send us 50 photos
On Facebook every day

From the temples or the beaches
From the tables where they eat
As the monkeys steal there smoothies
Their enjoyment is complete

Mean while in New Brunswick
The snow and sleet come down
Its enough to make a parent
Inclined to show a frown.

Of course we`re glad our children
Can have three weeks of fun
But must they send us pictures
To show what they have done.

The Plumber

On returning from Christmas in Ottawa with the children, I happened to go into the boiler room, and noticed that we too had plumbing problems. Underneath the electric furnace there was a black mess, and on top of it you could see where the safety valve had blown off and made another mess. The only sensible thing to do was to call a plumber. It was a Saturday, and we still had some heat so I asked for a plumber to come on Monday. The guy who was meant to come on Monday never made it as his previous call took all day. He did however, arrive first thing on Tuesday morning. He was obviously not new to his job. I later established that he had been doing it since 1990.
I was an interested spectator as he set about establishing the problem. Systematic, unhurried and organised to the nth degree. He was not one of those plumbers who has to go back for more tools, he had a backpack full of rolls of tools that he undid and spread on the floor so that he could find the one he needed. He faced a series of problems as could be expected relating to a 30 + year appliance, with screws that were rusted in and joints that were reluctant to be undone, requiring wrenches with additional pipes for leverage. The initial problem solved, he discovered that the system would only work in mild cold mode, as the two elements used for the cold mode were not operating and needed replacement. He said he would be back in a few days with new elements and install them. In the meantime, the heating that we had was operating after a fashion and the weather was not too cold so we survived.
It was Friday when he returned, clutching two new elements in his hands as well all the other stuff. The problem he said would be the removal of the old elements. All went smoothly to start with and first of the elements came out readily when he unscrewed it, and it was replaced with no difficulty. The second element was a different kettle of fish. The elements are about two feet long, and reverse a couple of times inside the boiler . They are inserted through a one inch diameter hole, and they are a tight fit. In this case there was a break in the element and part of it had bent, so it did not want to come out through the 1 inch diameter hole. About 40 minutes of probing and indeed hacksawing the element finally go the element removed , and the new one was inserted. Throughout this process the plumber continued steadily along and I did not hear a single curse escape him in the overall total of five hours that I watched him at work. Occasionally I was asked to fetch something or to adjust one of the thermostats, but mostly I just sat there, admiring the patience and application of craftsman. I actually found the whole process remarkably relaxing and enjoyed it.
I am not sure I will enjoy the bill when it arrives, but at least the house can be warmed up again.

The history of dulse

It seems desirable to begin the new decade with tongue in cheek, I hope the reader enjoys this piece of foolishness

Many visitors to New Brunswick are exposed for the first time to the product of one of the world’s most remarkable and valuable creatures, the dulse. This brief account of the biology and history of this fascinating denizen of the Bay of Fundy will perhaps help them to understand it better.

In the late ice ages, the Fundy Tidal range was even greater than it is today, so that at Spring Tides with a southerly wind, it was not unusual for the tide to rise vertically more than 100 feet. The precursor of the modern porcupine would often be found on the Fundy beaches in pursuit of fiddleheads their natural prey, washed up on the shore. Not infrequently the speed of the rise in the tide would catch the porcupine unawares, and they would, in consequence, drown. Inevitably, a few survived the experience, and discovered that swimming was a possible art, and one that would improve their access to their preferred prey as they could catch them as they curled up from sea bed, rather than waiting for the tides and waves to break them loose from their footing.

As the population adapted through a normal evolutionary process, to the marine environment, two modes of behaviour developed. The lazy population tended to sit on the sea floor, and wait until a passing fiddlehead impaled itself on their spines, and then ingested the decaying weed. This line ultimately lost even vestigial traces of its limbs, and is of course the ancestor of the spiny sea urchin that is often found washed up on the shore. The more vigorous strain set out in active pursuit of the fiddlehead, and found that its spiny character was a hydrodynamic hindrance, as well as an unsatisfactory camouflage. In time the spines evolved naturally into a seaweed resembling substance, which, when dried, is the dulse we are all familiar with.

The aboriginal peoples of New Brunswick recognised early the beneficial nutritious qualities of the dulse fur, and at first hunted them with hooks baited with imitation fiddleheads. As they were conservation minded, they soon realised that the animal was capable of regrowing its fur, so they would simply cut the hair off and return them to the sea. One thing lead to another, and they discovered that by feeding the dulse regularly they could attract them to a particular spot, lure them ashore, shear them and set them free. Over time the beast adapted equally well to the benefit of interacting with man to supplement its food supplies, and as early as the third century B.C. is believed to have been trained as a herring herder, a custom that has continued to comparatively recently, when they were used to drive sardines down ever narrower channels into the cans at the Connors Brothers plant at Black’s Harbour. Unfortunately this practise had to be discontinued because of concerns raised by animal rights activists, as to trauma suffered by the juvenile herring. They have however become an extremely useful ally to the aquaculturists, who routinely use guard dulse to protect their salmon cages from seals and other predators.

Like many other sea creatures they have always been attracted by music, and they are popular additional listeners to any concert held close to the Fundy shore, as their little blackish green heads pop up and down in time to the rhythms. Early German settlers on Grand Manan were so impressed with their reaction to Vivaldi played on the clavichord, that they renamed the instrument in their honour as the Dulse always, or dulcimer in their native tongue, and who is not familiar with the carol “In Dulse Jubilo” (in dulse we rejoice) written to commemorate this event. It is small wonder that Grand Manan is still the centre of the New Brunswick Dulse Industry.

They have also had a considerable impact on Canadian History. When Samuel de Champlain overwintered on St Croix Island in 1604 the supply of food available to him and his party was tenuous, and undernourishing, as well as lacking several vital nutrients and minerals. Some of the aboriginal peoples, observing the killing of a dulse by one member of the party, unaware of the toxic nature of its flesh, as opposed to the nourishing nature of it fur, succeeded in communicating the real value of the harmless creature to Champlain, who subsequently took full advantage of the bountiful population of dulse in the vicinity, and thus survived that cruel winter to go on to higher things.

Very little is known about the breeding habits of the dulse, but it has been noted that they are rarely seen before they are at their full size, with a length of between 35 and 55 centimetres, and a weight of around 3 kilograms. Attempts to breed, or even keep dulse in captivity have all been completely unsuccessful, as they shed their fur and do not regenerate it, and appear to die of hypothermia. Post mortem examination has revealed no conventional form of sex organ, or any differentiation between male and female, if in fact they do have two sexes. Scientists have speculated that they may have developed a method of propagation more related to that of the oyster, which changes sex on an annual basis, or the earthworm, which is sexually self centred. The discovery in the great intestine of a harbour seal, of something that resembled a small dulse has given rise to the theory that the juvenile may live out the first part of its existence in an intermediate host, but most dismiss this as idle speculation.

Looking to indigenous legends as a possible source of guidance, one finds tales among the Malicete of a black sea creature that dances in the moonlight with the lobster, and there have been several reported sightings of the embrace of a dulse and a lobster, but these seem to be readily ascribed to the omnivorous eating habits of the lobster, coming across a piece of carrion, and descriptions of the dulse dancing away and singing should be ascribed to the observers proximity to a rum bottle.

Dulse shearing festivals are common throughout the Fundy Region, and are normally typified by a meal of dulse, followed by dancing and the recounting of the ancient folk tales about this unique creature. The participation of the whole population in the feasting at these festivals has actually introduced another word into the English Language, as the term a “Shearing” was used for these events, and became the generic term for a group dividing up a food supply, the word in turn became misspelled as sharing as it came into broader usage away from the dulse grounds. Many people talk of Bulls and Bears in the Stockmarket, but few are aware that the name of the very shares being traded can be traced back to this remarkable New Brunswick Creature, the Dulse.

The first day of Christmas

Its Christmas time for our family, as of course it is also for yours’

And all of us getting together is important just like Santa Claus,

Our children all now live near Ottawa, we stay with each one in turn

With their husbands and all of their children a sequence that we had to learn.

One picks us up at the airport often from quite far away.

It’s become quite a tradition, that that is the first place we stay.

This year the oldest, and husband are leaving on day twenty two 

So we had to advance Christmas dinner to the weekend, before it was due.

It would be quite an occasion with food for a bunch to prepare

But when Harry the husband went downstairs, he got a terrible scare.

Water was flooding the basement already three inches deep

The boiler had started its leaking while we all were asleep.

So we worked with sponges and buckets, to absorb and dispose of the flood

Though the water was slightly disgusting, with traces  of mouse turds and mud.

We decided to phone for a plumber, and one arrived fairly fast

And said the use of the boiler was definitely now in the past.

He told us we needed a new one, but could not be here right away

We would have to live with cold water, at least to the following day.

There were eighteen of us for dinner, with turkey and ham there to sup

And a slight sense of trepidation at the thought of the cold washing up.

Your author as paterfamilias, retired to read from his book

And assumed that the rest of the family would come to the aid of the cook.

The task was duly completed, but alas there was still no hot water

So we just packed up and departed to stay with our other daughter

That time of year

There’s something in the air right now
To make us all remember
The Christmas season’s imminent,
We have reached December.

.I remember in the old days,
(Right now I’m 82)
We’d get a lot of Christmas cards
From persons that we knew.

We really get much fewer now
But there’s no need to fuss
Either we lost track of them
Or they lost track of us.

You might say the survivors
Are really rather better
As long as they enclose in them
A detailed Christmas letter

Recounting all their triumphs
Was what they used to say
But now we get their state of health
And how they are today

Other factors too remind us
To remember, without fail.
A flood of begging letters
From good causes in the mail

We seem to have had dozens
And it seems we will get more
The mail man just delivered one
Meant to go next door.

To make it seem less painful
Enclosed within each one
Is promotional material
As thanks for what we’ve done

Bags to put your books in
Mats to put on tables
And a never ending surplus
Of self addressing labels

There’s just one thing that troubles me
And that makes me pause
What they spent on their promotions
Leaves less to serve their cause

Some weeks are better than others.

There are some occasions when you may be brought up short
When you realise you are not quite the person that you thought.
If it happens to you only once it isn’t very nice
But really most disturbing in a week it happens twice.
It started as a consequence of middle daughters choice
Of a class in stand up comedy as training for her voice.
After many weeks of classes, they all put on a show
And to ensure enthusiasm all her relatives did go
Robin made great efforts in preparing her display
Choosing careful topics such as stand up comics say.
Not just normal conversations , as I can allege
But other sorts of topics, nearer to the edge
Her niece at the performance said I’m shocked, and really can’t
Believe I’d hear that sort of thing said by my elderly aunt.
If middle daughter’s elderly then clearly we’ve been told
My wife and I must now accept that we are getting old.
But that was just the start of things, as background I’ll explain
The homeless have set up a tent city once again.
Its down beside the river by a trail that gives
Access to the mansion where the lieutenant governor lives
Last Thursday in the evening my wife was driven there
To listen to a speaker with wisdom he would share
About an early church near by where poorer people went
United in their fond belief in what the bible meant.
At eight o’clock I drove the car to fetch her from the fray.
And found the building door was locked, so outside I must stay
The commissionaire then soon arrived and peered out of the door.
With the greatest of suspicion saying “What are you here for?”
Well I know my winter garments may not be very pretty
But he thought I had come directly from my place back in tent city.
Some come here in the evening is what I was told.
And I can’t say that I blame them for escaping from the cold.
I finally convinced him I was here to find my wife,
So then he let me pick her up, and get back to normal life.

The Victoria Circle

I believe that the completion of this epic piece of traffic management is imminent, so of course is a bad poem.

Very soon I shall go out,
To try our brand new roundabout.
Just assuming that the work’ll
Soon complete Victoria Circle.
Of course I have not tried it yet
But seen instructions on the net.
Where safety travel preordains
Travelling in the proper lanes
You can’t go wrong, it is quite clear
There are arrow markings there
Once you take the proper station
You’re bound to reach your destination..
Travelling with spirit blithe
From King Street all the way to Smythe
Or from the Woodstock Road you can
Reach the Boulevard Ste Anne
Those on foot you must avoid
Or they’ve the right be annoyed
As going in or out they say
Pedestrians have the right of way
There’s one thing that I do not know,
What happens with a fall of snow.
As it falls, then dear oh dear
The arrows all will disappear
And those who’ve yet their lanes to master
May end up in complete disaster