Remembrance Day, 2019

When my mother died, I inherited her pictures and other treasures. Yesterday as I was reorganizing some of her things, I took a closer look at the pamphlet The Battle of Britain. Its subtitle is An Air Ministry Account of the Great Days from 8th August -31st October 1940. Inside the front page is a quote from Prime Minister Winston Churchill which includes the famous line, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

The Battle of Britain included four phases, The Beginning, Attack on Inland Aerodromes, London vs. Goring, and finally Luftwaffe in Retreat. My mother’s experience was in the third stage. By this time, she had moved to live with her sister in the greater London area. They didn’t move into shelters during raids, but had been provided with a table-like bit of ‘furniture’ that could be unfolded to hide under. I very much doubt there was much protection.

Overhead, sometimes more than six miles up, the battle raged. It was so far up that ‘only a pattern of white vapour trails leisurely changing form and shape, traced by a number of tiny specks scintillating like diamonds in the splendid sunlight. From very far away there broke out from time to time a chatter against the duller sound of engines. Yet had not that chatter broken out, that remote sound would have changed first to a roar and then a fierce shriek, punctuated by the crash of heavy bombs, as bomber after bomber unloaded its cargo.”

The Battle of Britain was fought in the daytime skies, not by night. Escorted by Messerschmitt fighters, bombers by the hundred approached the English coastline. Defense depended on coastal watchers spotting the high flying groups of attackers. Once seen, squadrons of Spitfires scrambled to meet the hundreds of incoming bombers. Pilots were young and acted without fear. A single British pilot coming upon a German squadron would challenge and attack , no matter how outnumbered.

It was Hitler’s chance to win the war. Only Britain stood to stop the German war machine which had already overrun Poland, France, and countries in between. Goring could taste victory.

Yet, October 31st, the daytime bombing runs were abandoned. 2,375 German aircraft were known to have been destroyed in daylight. The Royal Air Force had prevailed against superior numbers and many attacks. The bombing continued but by night only.

I think the night raids were more frightening for Mum. They did hear the shrieks and the crash of bombs. At night there was no way for the feisty Spitfire squadrons to intercept the bombers.

Mum, after the Battle of Britain when Dad was in England on leave.

Dad enlisted in the Army the 15th of September, 1939. He served in North Africa and I believe that’s where he was during the Battle of Britain. Later he fought through Italy France and Belgium. I am not sure of the details or even broad outlines of his service. He didn’t talk about his war years although they had a profound influence on his life. I can’t help but remember how he sent a telegram to Prime Minister Pierre Eliot Trudeau during the FLQ crisis. Part of it, as I recall, was a offer to come and fight if necessary. “There are still some of us WW11 veterans around.”

Here he is in Italy. Mum’s handwriting identifies the ountry.

Dad was discharged from the Army on the 14th of September, 1945 in Calgary.

Mum and Dad were married July 11, 1945 and she became one of the estimated 48,000 Canadian war brides. They settled to farm back in Hope Valley, Alberta where Dad was from. I was born April 8, 1947.

Dad’s Statement of Service in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Thanksgiving 2019

It’s not October 14th, yet, but it’s not too early to consider all of the things that I have to be thankful for. The family that gets together for the turkey is small and can at times emulate the Conners, yet in the end, things work out. The food is always delicious and made from scratch down to the pie and dessert. I don’t make it so I’m not bragging; my son does it all.

Apart from the actual day, these are things I’m thankful for all year round. Good friends, supportive friends who had put up with my rants, my fears, and my sometimes strange humour. There’s nothing more therapeutic than a visit with a lunch or coffee and laughs.

I live in small town Alberta and it’s safe with wonderful walking trails. Only yesterday, I saw a downy woodpecker, robins, chickadees and more in the Nature Centre. Gophers took advantage of the warmer day and sunned themselves by their dens. Tamarack turned golden; there are still red-orange leaves clinging to shrubs among the bare poplars.

Driving home from a supper out last night, combines worked to bring in the harvest now that it’s drier. I am hopeful that the weather holds so the grain will be in the bins without further disruption. Farming is risky business.

My house, though old, is warm and familiar. My kids are grown and successful; my grandkids a delight. I can say this with complete objectivity. We live a 2 hour drive apart which makes visits special but not something that happens rarely.

My husband and I are getting old (truthfully we are old) but are lucky to have the health to pursue most activities. He still hunts, fishes, gardens and plays his guitar. I have my fur-children (Scruffy and Taz) who I walk every day. I write and have the support of a local group of like-minded people. I have begun some art with a group meeting twice a week. I help with the local arts festival and am going to teach an introduction to memoir through Adult Learning. We still enjoy camping. AND I quit substitute teaching so I have even more time.

It’s a simple life but a very good one. I try to keep abreast of current events. When I see or read about the Kurds in Turkey, the Syrians, and the Iraquis, it hammers home my good fortune. The upheaval in the United States and the UK doesn’t have an easy fix. I hope we are smart enough to avoid their mistakes. I am lucky, thankful and very grateful to live where I do with the advantages I have.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now that I’m Bolder…It isn’t what you think…

Looking in the mirror is always a bit of a shock but then my brain smoothes out the image and I look more as I did at 25. From inside, I am 25, just a bit past my prime. Pictures are worse. Caught at the wrong angle, every wrinkle, line, and age blotch is emphasized. Who is that old woman?

I’m not here yet, but it looks like fun.

I do have wrinkles, a lot of them. These days I like to think they match the wrinkles in my cerebral cortex, where they are an advantage. There the more wrinkles, the more intelligence. I can still fire on all cylinders.

Ageism is an issue and I don’t like to tell people how old I am. My hope is that they’re bad at math and my sparkling wit make me a young person with pre-mature lines. I have no idea if this “ruse” works but reading “Bolder-making the most of our longer lives” has given me hope.

Across Europe and in major corporations (tech among them), the expertise and experience of older people is appreciated. Oldsters are participating in sports, intellectual pursuits, and entrepreneurship. It turns out the aging brain and body is capable of a lot more that they are given credit for. The image of the grannie knitting in the corner and the doddering grampa with bad jokes, is being replaced by an entirely different concept. There are DJs in their 80’s hosting rap dances to audiences where people, 60, 70, and 80 cavort with the younger crowd. People continue to work past the usual retirement age because they want to. Some of them start entirely new endeavors.

All of this is encouraging to someone like me who has passed certain chronological mileposts. I feel more positive about taking part in my voluntary positions and can be more vocal. My ideas are still good. I continue to walk and exercise. Doing my own housework, yard work, and other chores are things to keep me in shape. I have to be thankful for good health.

This is me-warts and all.

Attitudes to the “aged” are changing so that the only options for older people are NOT leaders of the “free world” or dictators of third world regimes. Slowly we are gaining respect and stereotypes are proven wrong.

The bonuses of getting old remain. One of my great joys is my two grandkids who are becoming more interesting as time passes. So far, they are good individuals with their own interests and skills. I have the time to pursue interests without concern about what other people think. The blog? Is it a waste of time? Maybe but I like it. I do some watercolour painting. The pursuit of ladies? Could be but it’s fun and there’s a group of like-minded people who meet in my small town. I’ve always been a reader; with more time I can read more challenging books, if I want. I can write letters to editors, MLAs, MPs. I have to time to make Telus more honest in its dealings with me.

It turns out the golden years are so far, so good. Statistics show older people are happy with their lot unless they have serious health or financial issues. Settling of your place in family and community have a lot to do with it. I can sit and smell the flowers if that’s what I want.

The Last Wiener Roast-2019

Summer is gone; autumn almost done. The signs are everywhere. Leaves have turned and many fallen. The air is crisp with an undertone of vegetation preparing for winter and the sounds of leaves crackling underfoot. The weather is supposed to change Tuesday to become much colder.

That meant it was time for the last wiener roast. It is past the first frost and it even snowed, then melted. Bodies of water have taken on the deep cobalt of fall; even prairie puddles become this dark blue.

Cobalt blue…

We packed the wieners, some lunch, the dogs and got into the truck. Before long we were the only people enjoying the breezy fall day. Nothing makes a wiener taste as good as cooking it over an open fire. Nothing is as much fun for dogs as running around in the bushes and coming back to beg for morsels. There’s nothing like the wood smoke to remind of me of campfires and it could be a while before I smell it again.

The Jack Russell leaps in pure joy.

On the way home, heavy swaths of canola and wheat wait to be harvested. This hasn’t been a good year for farmers to reap their crops. Now they are out and making the most of the shorter, cooler days. May the change in weather not bring snow.

These daisies survived frost and snow…

The end of outdoor meals has arrived. We don’t barbeque in winter so the big treat will be next spring. The last flowers gasp a final bloom and we turn to other activities. The man will hunt in November. After that, he’ll play more guitar. My winter hobbies have begun with the fall art workshop and the first writers group meeting. Our Arts Festival planning for February has started so there are winter things to keep us busy.

Daylight Savings Time will end. Although many don’t like it, I’ve taken some walks in the evening after supper that were very pleasant. The long shadows, the ebbing wind, and the resulting quiet make it a good way to relax.

One more time, I resolve not to whine about winter. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Still blooming.

No stoves needed…

A stock picture of a new condo in Toronto…there’s no stove. A matter of convenience? a matter of saving space? a matter of limited time? According to the Globe and Mail and other news sources, home cooking is on its way out.

Services like Skip the Dishes, Just Grub, and Uber Eats bring the food to your door. No need to spend time with all that annoying peeling, prepping, and don’t get started on the time spent in cooking. When the meal arrives, sit down and eat.

It sounds wonderful? No more shopping for ingredients. The practice of skipping buying ingredients for cooking (another time saver) is also touted as a way to cut waste…that asparagus you didn’t get around to using, that plate of leftover chili you forgot about, that wilted celery at the back of the fridge- all those kinds of things that would hit the landfill, won’t. Besides saving the environment, you’re saving money. Except that all the food brought in needs some sort of packaging. There’s the cost of the delivery, be it cab, included in the service, or by drone.

I’m old and funny and this just doesn’t sound like a good idea. I’m going to take it a step farther and draw a completely un-researched conclusion. Services like Skip the Dishes will contribute to our growing problem of obesity. Restaurant food is higher in fats, hidden sugar (because it’s cheap), and salt. Unless the portions are smaller than normal, more calories then needed are delivered. You won’t select your portion size, it’s done for you.

Home cooking does take some time but it’s healthier and with a bit of practice tastier. You have to re-train your taste buds to the subtlety of less sugar, less salt, and fat. Simple recipes and meals can be as satisfying as the latest trend in sauce-laden and fusion foods. Give it a try.

Googling kitchens without stoves results in a lot of pictures of the ranges you can buy. Some of them look like the deck of the Starship Enterprise. Perhaps no stove, no cooking, and ordering in is not a new way of life. I hope not but I am apprehensive. I understand the pressures of work, and limited time. Still there must be a better way.

And new this fall….

the smart diaper.

Yes, Pampers and Proctor and Gamble are going to introduce Lumi, a package that includes a camera, a sensor, and an app. The sensor will attach to a velcro -like pad on a special Pampers diaper and will then send information to an app on your smart phone (iOS or Android). Baby’s sleep patterns will be uploaded, the camera info will let you see your sleeping baby and the piece de resistance, the sensor lets you know if the diaper is wet or very wet. Sorry, for poop, you’ll have to rely on the old sniff test. O, and the batteries for the sensor last about three months. I’m not sure if that means the purchase of a battery or a new sensor.

The claims made for this device seem a lttle ridiculous. For eons, parents knew when baby was wet. He/she cried. And tracking the time between diaper changes? Though the sensor does this, parents don’t need an app. What will this convenience cost? No word on that yet but I’m guessing, discerning new parents won’t care about cost. The sensors will join diapers, Kuerig pods, and other disposables in the landfill.

I hate to sound like an old, crabby bag, but really? Really? How stupid are people and how gullible? How greedy are corporations? Wait. I know that answer to that one. Their greed is unlimited. Developing this product is short-sighted and caters to the rampant consumerism and elitism that characterizes society.

People in many countries struggle to feed their children and supply them with the basics of life, clean water, shelter, safety. I would like to say it leaves me speechless but obviously, it doesn’t.

Pampers is not alone. Huggies has already launched a similar product in Korea. Maybe I am speechless. It’s the end times.

Bears, Bears, Bears

My summer of bears started in June on our first camping trip. With my companions, Taz, the Jack Russell,and Scruff, the Schweenie, I had headed out for a walk, first among the cabins and then out into the sand hills. There was no need to take my phone, except if I had, I’d have gotten the calls and texts warning me of the big black bear that was wandering the edge of the lake, too. Oblivious, the dogs and I continued on until the park caretaker picked us up and drove us back to the camper in his side-by-side. I never saw the bear.
.Miette Hot Springs is in Fiddle Valley in Jasper National Park so it’s no surprise that bears wander into the resort. My son and his kids were in a cabin near us and he saw the bear while lying on his bed when he glanced into a mirror in the bedroom. I didn’t answer his text so he came right over, in case I took the dogs out for their morning constitutional and I ran into Mr. Bear.

In July, we were at Pierce Lake in Saskatchewan. A sow and four cubs had been in the vicinity so I was careful on the dog walks. So was the Jack Russell, a 12 pound bunch of spastic muscle. She smelled something and raced off, jerking me off balance. I tangled in the other dog’s leash. Yup, I fell hard and a week later still have a skinned knee. To Taz’s credit, I could hear crashing in the bushes. Was it a bear? It could have been, but it could have been a moose or deer.

On our next walk, a car stopped and the young man driving said, “You won’t remember me but…”

I said, “Kevin.”

Not a twelve year old kid, any more but I did know we’d camped and played ball with him years ago.

He had stopped to warn me about the bear. We chatted and he drove on. Not twenty feet up the road, I saw her. She was a big black bear and thin. Looking after four cubs will do that to you. I’d like to say the dogs and I turned and walked calmly away. I didn’t. I turned and ran and the dogs who didn’t see the bear thought what fun it was.

Later, Gary drove me “up the hill” to try and get cell phone service. From the truck, we spotted one of the cubs. It looked sleek, healthy and well fed.

Yesterday, we packed up and headed home. On the highway, a young bear started out of the ditch into our path but luckily changed his mind.

It’s still July. The bears this year seem active and in territories where they are more rare. Be alert. If you hear cracking branches in the bush, it could be a bear. Be safe.