Tag Archives: Family

Unclean

“Unclean! Unclean!” Chortled Mrs S.
“Thank you dear.” I responded tersely. She knows I don’t respond well to false sympathy.

I’ve picked up a rather painful but not completely debilitating type of virus infection which means I currently have a bad case of spots before the ankle. Which has led to me popping painkillers like they were sweeties in order to stay half way sane and functional. For which the occasional bit of light relief is required from the late great comedy team of Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe a.k.a The Goons.

Just in case I’m infectious have exiled myself to the spare bedroom. I’d laugh, only that hurts even more. Bugger. Hi-ho. I console myself with the old stoic country axiom; what cannot be cured must be endured. These things last around two weeks maximum if you take care, so I’ve another eight or nine days to go. Note to self; lay in extra Ibuprofen.

Anyway, if my Doctor calls about my set of tests from last week to tell me, “Bill, you’re sick.”
I can reply, “Tell me something I don’t already know. I caught it when I went to get those routine tests you ordered.” Although this dose of the dreaded Lurgi won’t show up in those test results. Infections in the incubation stage are hard to spot.

So if I’m a bit slower than usual answering or approving comments, don’t worry. They’re on my to do list. Or my to don’t list. Whatever. Catch you on the flip side.

All this and it’s started snowing.

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Have I missed anything?

We’ve had snow. Nothing much, just a hard sugar frosting which will be gone by tomorrow. So what’s the latest craze? Oh yes, it’s something called the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ which has been sliding under my radar, so I’m having to play catch up.

Like with the documentary above. Watch it all. Seriously. Food for thought and an antidote to the screaming incoherence from the extreme side of both political aisles. ‘Dark’? Not really methinks. Just depends how naive you are. Or could it be said that the path to enlightenment leads through the darkness of accepting our own ignorance? Hmm. Sounds suitably apocryphal.

This weekend I’ve been introducing Mrs S to the work of Dr Jordan Peterson and the theories of Karl Jung. Her response was, “Why haven’t I come across this before?” I replied that I didn’t know. Which sparked off one of our long in depth conversations where I told her how I’d learned and failed until I found out how to reconcile and control the diverse parts of my personality. From which I derived the thought that there are people out there who rely on others not having integrated their dark side properly (I’m looking at you Skywalker! And your Father.) and thus gained the emotional distance necessary to reason. Perhaps because the only way to access these essentials to becoming a more rounded individual have previously been hidden in academic level psychology courses or been overshadowed by popular religion and new age psychobabble.

Just an afterthought, but why is open discussion of ideas being called the intellectual dark web? I know ‘Dark Web’ is one of those labels invented for the hard of thinking as far as the wide open prairies of the jolly old Interweb is concerned, but ‘intellectual’? Doesn’t that imply that many out in medialand are unable to discuss ‘uncomfortable’ issues like grown ups? Now as far as I can see, the TV talking heads seem to be pushing an agenda whilst not recognising their own blatant biases and how repulsively divisive and dishonest they are being. Whether they are just victims of mindless groupthink or deliberately being obtuse I leave to my last remaining reader’s good(?) judgement.

Indeed, it is my observation that all many talking media heads do is slap a cheap label on something then never actually think or re-examine the issue again, except to react to the label like a dog whistle. Like GMO’s being ‘Frankenfood’s’ or referring to genetic interventions to help would-be parents with a hereditary defect that can be genetically corrected as ‘Designer Babies’. Both of which are highly misleading. As are referring to certain practices being ‘kind’. By way of illustration, the evils of Eugenics and involuntary Euthanasia used to be defined as ‘kind’ by such luminaries as the Fabian Society in the early parts of the 20th century. It was only after large scale experiments conducted in Europe and the Far East between 1933 and 1946 had filled a few million graves that the whole matter was ditched as a really epoch-breaking bad idea. Until recently.

As for Dr Peterson’s online lectures, I do believe Mrs S has become quite a fan. Well, she’s watched ten of his YouTube videos plus a few on related topics this Sunday and she’s already asked me about buying his book; “12 Rules for life, an antidote to Chaos“. I may even send copies to the Stepkids.

On a jet plane

Well we’re back in soggy old Vancouver BC with our body clocks threatening to send their mainsprings twanging off into infinity. It’s a fourteen and a half hour flight from Sydney to Van, but what really catches you out is crossing the international date line. Now all of this shouldn’t have been so bad, we could have got some sleep on the flight but for two modern parents who didn’t have the skill to stop one little girl grizzling and crying very loudly for over twelve solid freaking yours. Wail, wah, moan, bitch went mommy and daddy’s little fucking princess. She was unhappy and everyone was catching a slice.

Personally I’d like to see a complete ban on children under ten years old on long haul aircraft. Especially if they haven’t been properly sedated first. Or fitted with some form of sound suppression.

Then there were the insomniacs in the row behind who chose to have a less than considerate conversation, along with lots of wriggling and thumping on my seat back as they played with their tray and in seat entertainment as they got up and down to continually visit the lavatory or stretch their legs. Should the tray be up? No I’ll put it down. Oh hello Mrs Miggins we’ll have the lights on and what was that crossword clue again? Sorry, could you say that more loudly, I don’t think the other ten rows heard you. And this was in Premium Economy. You’d think people willing to stump up the extra for a ticket might have more consideration. I did try to get some sleep, but to no avail.

The resultant lack of repose means that since landing I have been less than my usually sunny self and even positively hostile to any Vancouverite ill advised enough to cross my path. Maybe I should be wearing a t-shirt which says “Warning. Jet lag.”

Notwithstanding, I will be returning to the Fabled land of Oz despite all these travel teething troubles. There is talk of happy tidings if a certain young gentleman can get his act together and ask Eldest the right question. They’re doing plenty of horizontal jogging if all the clues I observed are any guide, so I’ve already given eldest my tacit approval. Nothing verbal, just a candid bit of eye contact and a gentle nod over his shoulder at her. However, we will see what we will see. Their friends all seem to know whats in the offing, so it’s probably one of those open secret thingies.

Note to self. Add decent set of noise cancelling headphones to travel kit.

In the immortal words of Mr Schwarzenegger:

G’day

Well here we are in the middle of Sydney ‘stralia and overjoyed at connecting with Eldest once more. Youngest has just landed after winging her way cross dark and foreign lands having qualified as a genuine honest-to-goodness fully fledged lawyer. Give her any trouble and you’ll be ass-deep in lawsuits before you know it.

For me, the time travel lag travelling from BC to Sydney hasn’t been that bad, despite being cooped up in an alloy tube with about three hundred other souls for over fourteen hours. The cabin crew kept us fed and watered, although the menu was a bit starchy for my liking, so we just tucked into what protein there was and left the sweet and stodgy stuff alone.

So, Sydney. First impressions. I like it. We overnighted in Redfern before heading to our downtown base in one of the more upmarket hotels. Redfern is a cute little place full of narrow streets lined with iron ballustraded houses, and at this time of year the blooms are blooming colourful. The architecture reminds me a little of French Quarter New Orleans with narrower roads. Very relaxed. Very old colonial. Redfern used to have a bad rep for shall we say the less salubrious type of Bogan, but since the 2000 Olympics, when they were shunted out wholesale, the Pink Dollar has taken over as the main currency and coffee shops abound. The main shopping areas surpass Vancouver, even if it seems that half the city is being dug up to install tramlines. The atmosphere is overall busy, friendly and fun.

Oddly enough about these new trams, Mrs S and I were tucking into some salads on our first day and on a hoarding across the way there were pictures of the old tramlines from the 1940’s and 50’s. Wonder how long it will be until these tramlines are removed for the next big thing.

Currently suffering a little from retail induced migraine. Which is a condition induced by doing too much shopping with female companions. A man needs man stuff, or he becomes little better than a pet, a lapdog. Which is something women often don’t really understand. However, I growl every once in a while and do the equivalent of a good scratch at the door so Mrs S knows when to let my inner geek off the leash. She goes off with the girls, and I get to take a stroll through the gadget stores, Science museums and suchlike. Seems to work.

Oh yes. The spiders over here are kind of big. Saw my first Huntsman splayed across a fence in Eldest’s back yard. Not a big one, only three inches across. I’m told they come way bigger, but the little ones like Redbacks are more poisonous. Rather like the Black Widows we get in our woodpiles back in BC. So a little caution when sticking vulnerable tootsies in sandals or when negotiating midnight bathrooms is warranted. Then there are the three inch long cockroaches, which amble through the most active night time pedestrian areas as if they owned the place.

What else? The Gay marriage thing is big local news at the moment, and since Redfern has more of those folk than generally speaking the campaigning is a bit in yer face, but people can’t help what they are, so I tend to deflect with a friendly “I’m just a boring old heterosexual – not really my issue.” excuse. Which nobody seems to mind. Although when the divorce bills come in they’ll probably get the hint, but like I say, not my issue. Just remember that we warned you guys. Civil partnerships are far less legally problematic. And it’s not like the non-heterosexual demographic will be actively breeding, so the out of wedlock side of things won’t be an issue. Nor the fact that their genes won’t be swirling around the gene pool if fifty or so years. Which is probably an ‘ist’ or ‘ism’ thought crime by modern standards, and if so I’m guilty as charged but don’t really care any more. I’ll cop a plea in mitigation of total apathy about the SJW obsession if I’m ever brought to book. Whatever...

Aside from that, I find the directness of the Aussies rather refreshing after the cloying PC-ness of BC. Yesterday morning for example, I found myself explaining the whole business where some Feminist ‘comedians’ in Canada would only work to female only audiences with no heckling allowed. To which my partner in conversation could only stand aghast. They, like me, understood that Comedians, in order to be any good at all need to learn their craft in a hostile environment. Honing their wits and reacting to their audience so that they can communicate effectively and do their job, which is to help make people laugh. Simply standing up on stage telling lame simpering stories with bad punchlines to an audience which cannot criticise does not develop any would be comedians talent. Such milquetoast routines centuries before would have a local ruler sending their old style medieval fool to the scaffold for a quick downsize. Nowadays the only thing such restrictions will kill is the art of comedy.

This is where modern ‘third wave’ feminism fails because it’s not funny at all. Yes, and I include Amy Schumer in this statement. ‘Feminist’ comedy is often two-dimensional, lamely unfunny and takes itself way too seriously, then compounds the error by shutting out almost half the population from the audience. From where I stand they’re all gimme, gimme, gimmie for nothing in return. This isn’t a bid for equality. It’s an attempt to get something for nothing.

My own stepdaughters understand this, which is why they are well liked and already modestly successful in their own fields. As capable young women they are both well able to make their way in the world without the irritating whining of media feminists. This is how we brought them up to be. Seems to be working.

On being an Expat

Apropos yesterdays post. Another in-car conversation on life, the Universe and everything found Mrs S and I discussing our lives. Why we keep so few real friends, which is more an act of personal preference than anything else. Neither of us have ever been manic socialisers. Although we are decent enough folk, well, we like to think so, we find that there’s little point getting involved as everyone else has stuff to do and so have we. So dinner parties are rare events as neither of us is that keen on small talk and always find ourselves at odds with some of the regurgitated media talking points certain people call their opinions.

There are sayings that “You can never go home again.” or “You can’t cross the same river twice.” and now ten years after Mrs S and I began our Canadian adventure I find there is much truth in them. Having gone back to blighty on five separate occasions, visiting places where I grew up only to find a chilly welcome and a “Oh, what’re you doing back here?” No one wants to know you. Old work mates make repeated excuses to not have a beer and a chin wag like you used to, even when you’ve spent thousands to go and see them. When you meet people you thought were good friends it’s a little spooky to watch their faces close down when you say “Hi.” Like while you’ve been living and working overseas you’ve been doing something they’re ashamed of, but it’s not simply that. There’s often a mix of jealousy and disconnection which gives you the sense of being a stranger in your old home town. A feeling of isolation within familiar spaces. Like you’re just a tourist. Which feels like truth. Because it’s not your home any more. You moved on, they stayed. You’re now an outsider, an exile, who shouldn’t ever have come back. This is not your tribe.

There’s a century old story about a man who went to Australia and made his fortune. I think it was told as an anecdote in one Thomas Hardy’s Wessex Novels, not sure which. (Correction: From Laurie Lee’s classic “Cider with Rosie” – A staple of my Senior School English Literature classes – Thank you to the commenters for this correction)  Now the story goes that this newly enriched Australian came back to visit the English village he’d grown up in but left twenty years before. While he’s there he shares his good fortune with old friends and neighbours. Even spending one evening in the village pub buying drinks for everyone. Yet on his way back to his lodgings he was beaten up and robbed by some of the very people he’d once called friend. The very people he’d tried to share his good fortune with.

Life is a river, and like water, time flows in only one direction, unless you’re a very advanced physicist. Sometimes it pools, other times it bounds along, effortlessly carving its own way through solid rock. But always onwards, down to an estuarine end, or abruptly off a cliff or down a hole. So it is with old friendships and family. Those who stay still get left behind. This can breed resentment within them because perhaps they did not really want to stay, but somehow lacked the impetus, like me, to begin new lives for themselves in a different land, or even wonder, and feel a little betrayed by, my need to do so. In their minds, I left them. Which may have bred ill-feeling.

Which leaves me in a dilemma. I have to visit the UK next year anyway, but knowing what I do now, do I go visit and try to reconnect, or just accept what I’ve been told at face value and forever suffer a small nagging doubt? Considering my family history, or rather lack thereof, it has been characterised by a certain; “You don’t need to know that.” feeling. Indeed, trying to track my own Mother’s side of the family has proven interesting* because I was always shut out of the conversation because my very existence (Well I am a bastard from a time when this was frowned upon) is a source of embarrassment. Very few will even acknowledge that I am a blood relative. That and my Mother’s tendency to ‘re-invent’ herself every twenty years or so has not helped.

Oh bugger it, I’ll go and knock on some doors while I’m back in the UK. What can my relatives really do apart from tell me to sod off?

Update: There is also the thought that if we were such great friends and family, all my emails and letters would have been answered. But instead responses dried up fairly quickly, so maybe my erstwhile family and friends don’t really want to know at all. Heart says go and see, head says that they haven’t been in touch because they don’t want to be. Rather like an old mate who broke surface only to disappear into the mists of the Interweb. I offered to come over next time I was in the UK and have a chat over old times and where our lives had taken us. Result; complete radio silence. I’ll take my Aunt and her son out for dinner next time I’m in Blighty, but as for the rest, yes, well. Their lack of interest has been duly noted. Moving on…

* “Interesting” in like pulling a Bull’s teeth without anaesthesia.

Best Christmas message ever

Got a letter today. An old fashioned honest to goodness handwritten letter on ten pages of paper written in real pen from one of my two surviving Aunts. It absolutely has made my entire Christmas because it’s helped me reconnect with people who I didn’t think cared I still existed. My extended family. The pages repeatedly scanned today could not have been more precious if they were written in diamond on 24 carat solid platinum sheets. All right, my Aunt hand wrote the letter because her printer ran out of ink and my cousins won’t be visiting until next weekend to buy and fit a new cartridge for her, but as I read my crusty old eyes were almost moved to sentimental tears. Even if she hadn’t sent a Christmas card, this was far better.

I say better because all the sentiment within was genuine, not forced or the grisly secondhand saccharine sloppiness or ghastly lame humour of the usual run of Christmas cards. The letter was chock full of the dark humour typical of my clan, stuffed with information on a branch of the family who I thought had forgotten all about yours truly decades ago. Some of the news was sad, about a distant aunt and uncle who have left this world, but more was happy because people I used to love and trust, and think I still do, are still around and sinning despite all life’s vicissitudes. No, none of us do ‘Social media’, we have real lives. We connect in four dimensions not the two of Farcebook or Twatter.

Which gladdens my scabby blackened old heart. As my good lady wife observed having noticed my smile; “Well, something undid a twist in your soul Bill.” With which I agree, because I feel part of my own special river of humanity again. Connected. No longer as distant or excluded. And you know what? It feels good and it’s the best Christmas present I’ve had for decades. Possibly the best seasonal missive I’ve ever had.

Honestly, I’ve come over all North Brummagem.

I’ve been told that some of our lot are visiting Oz at the same time Mrs S and I are. It would be interesting to run into them and see what they’re really like, or if we’ll even recognise each other after so much time estranged. Family, eh? Who knew?

Past ‘The Hat’

Wham-wham! Grumble, Wham-wham! And another bridge is crossed as our tyres slam over poorly patched potholes and worn expansion joints. Mrs S stirs sleepily in the passenger seat, moaning softly in complaint. She’s had a reaction to the painkillers the dentist prescribed and been throwing up all the livelong day, poor lamb. Now with some Gravol to quell the queasiness, she’s out for the count, leaving all the driving to me.

The resulting delays from having to pull over on high speed roads to let her chunder have turned what should have been a happy seven hour shared drive into a ten hour chore for me. Fortunately I had a good breakfast, and with my camel-like constitution didn’t need very much to eat or drink on the long hack into Calgary, where we’ll be resting up and going to see the Stampede for the next few days. In my younger days I’d be on the road for up to twelve or thirteen hours some trips, driving a delivery van up and down the UK, but now ten is hard work. Maybe I’m getting soft in my frail dotage.

After the last two days I could do with a break from driving, even under the wonderfully broad blue skies of the prairies. It’s been hot too, 36 Celsius recorded by our little SUV’s external thermometer, which means it might have been anything between 30 and 39 Celsius. But it’s a dry heat like in a sauna, and therefore quite bearable, even pleasant.

Now we’re in the air conditioned comfort of a modern hotel, Mrs S has crawled into bed exhausted, leaving me to the perverseness of keyboard and mouse. No bother, she’s past the worst and finally keeping fluids down. We’re past ‘The Hat’ (a strange place called Medicine Hat) which many old expat Canadians considered the break even point of any trans-continental trek. As in if you make can it this far, the folklore goes, you’re likely to make it to the other coast. I don’t care for the place myself, and after a rather unpleasant experience trying to book into one of the local ‘pet friendly’ hotels ten years ago, don’t much care to stay there again.

As far as the rest of the trip is concerned we only have four more days actual serious driving to do before we are back home. However, that’s a couple of weeks away because we’re stopping first in Calgary for a few days, thence in a spa break and wine tour before we stop over in Vancouver to pick up some furniture for the new residence. I’ll also do a bit of calculation on how much in the way of resource we’ve used in terms of petrol (Gasoline) and such. We’ve been keeping a log to see how many miles to the gallon our little SUV can deliver on really long run, thence it’s off to the dealership for a new windscreen and a thorough service and what they call ‘detailing’ over here. Which is rather like a thorough in and external valeting of the vehicle, including the engine compartment. The way I reckon it, the car has done us proud and deserves a proper treat. Maybe I do, too. And I’ve got an idea about that.

From the land of living skies

I blinked and all of a sudden we’ve crossed another time zone, this time overnighting in Regina. Today was fraught with the drama of Mrs S cracking a tooth requiring urgent dental treatment. So I found myself in a strange town in a land that even pancakes would vouchsafe; “That’s a bit flat, that is.” searching for an emergency dentist.

The Gods of fools must have been smiling because within thirty minutes of Mrs S declaring in tears; “Bill, I can’t do this.” We had located a suitable dental practice and she was waiting for a chair to become available. Another hour and a half (and four hundred dollars) later, we set off back on todays trek into deepest Saskatchewan.

My powers of persuasion must have been on form because we went from a ‘No can do’ at front desk to a ‘No problem’ inside five minutes. Must have been the kicked spaniel look that I gave the receptionist, and the pitch and roll I put on my voice that carried into the back treatment room to bring a Dentist scurrying out to declare that one of her other patients had just canceled and she could fit Mrs S in right away. Which left me filing out the paperwork, and Mrs S being helped into a welcome treatment chair.

Now I’ve cracked teeth before and am fully aware how bad it feels. So I was fretting a bit, but even so managed to keep running interference on a parking meter, reading a book, and translating Mrs S’s slightly muffled voice into something everyone could understand. Filling in the gaps of her medical history and just being generally helpful. Thus we went from pain to no pain and the balance of my world was restored.

One of the things I will say about North American dentistry is it’s quality. From pain relief to diagnostics, these guys kick your average NHS Dental surgeon into touch. I’ve even got to the point of looking forward to my twice yearly checkup because fillings are fraughtness free and the one time terror of a dental examination is now a relaxed sit down with a pleasant windowed view of trees. Yes, they’re all (OMG!) private. But they are very, very good.

I did all this fuelled by a single Werthers Original because what with one thing and another I completely missed my morning coffee and any semblance of a breakfast. My sole sustenance was a single hard Caramel candy. The sort Scott of the Antarctic should have taken along because he and his team would not have frozen to death in Moose skin sleeping bags if they had. They would have had the energy to man-haul their sleds all the way to the pole in jig time, beating Amundsen to the punch by a week. Sadly they did not have any such candy (Probably because they’re made by the beastly Hun) and paid the ultimate price for this omission. But everything is obvious with 20/20 hindsight, isn’t it?

Which may be one of the possible downsides of a hard BREXIT. No more Werthers Originals. Or BMW and VW spares. Although those companies will be looking to keep their markets by funneling cash into a British import business to bypass any extra tariffs imposed by vengeful EU Bureaucrats.

The EU needs a good hard kick in the bureaucratics anyway. These petty little tyrants have been busy empire building and siphoning money out of the European economy for far too long. All it needs will be a number of the other member states to tell them the magic money tree will not be giving the pompous plutocrats any more fruit and tell them their new offices are in the basement. Not the French, because they’re used to being subjugated by turbocharged globalist Sir Humphreys. The type I’m referring to are the pompous little pricks who take over the best Parisian Restaurants and double park their Mercedes, blocking the street while their bodyguards practice their bladder control outside trying to look tough. I’ve seen this on numerous occasions in Paris, and twice been unable to book a table because some over promoted suit has decided they have to have the best because they are the masters, not the servants they really should be seen as. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the copybook of other empires (Ottomans and Chinese) and have the bastards castrated when they get above a specific pay grade. Want a government job? – here’s the downside of your pension scheme.

Anyway. Mrs S is now well and recovering from this mornings ordeal. She has said she may be fit to drive a little tomorrow. We shall see. I’m a cautious man, and would prefer to shoulder the burden of driving until the pain has ebbed enough for her to be painkiller free. So we’re off too see Alberta tomorrow, because we’ve heard they’re stampeding for something in Calgary, and we want to see what all the fuss is about. Especially since Justin Trudeau has said he won’t be going. And that’s good enough reason for me.

How to?

Mrs S and I converse about a lot of things in the car, and to amuse my one remaining reader, I would like to enlarge. Yesterday we were heading south, me at the wheel dodging the plague of potholes on the 430 from L’Anse Aux Meadows when she asked me; “Bill, what sex is an iceberg?”
Caught off guard for a moment I mentally scratched my head before replying. “I have no idea.” I confessed honestly.
“Ships are usually referred to as ‘she’.” My good lady enlarged. “But what about icebergs?”

My wife likes to challenge me with these apparent non-sequiturs from time to time. I think she likes to keep me on my mental toes. As in ‘tenterhooks’. In the German Medieval sense. Nastily inventive people those medieval Germans. The English version comes from around the same period in the 15th & 16th Centuries when torture was considered de rigeur for all those pointed little questions like “When did you last talk to that heretic Luther?”

“Erm. I didn’t think icebergs had a gender. Ships, yes. Even cars. Bugger.” Was the answer forced out from between my teeth as I failed to miss a brace of suspension rattlers.
“Yes, that’s true. As inanimate objects they wouldn’t.” Was she testing me to see if I was getting bored with driving? Okay. I thought I’d throw out a few ideas.
“Upon reflection.” I said as we cleared the trees and the sea, with it’s complement of blue-green masses of ice hove into view like ghosts on the horizon in the mist. “Perhaps icebergs could be described as female. Sedate. Queenly. Even regal.” I averred carefully.
“And cold?” She joked.
“Definitely.” I replied. “At least until they melt.” Maybe there was an oblique message in the original question. Which is giving me pause for thought. We have had cross words in the last week or so and apologies have been made, but I have the feeling all is still not well in our relationship.

Now I know she’s not happy with our current accommodation (And neither am I), and this neck of the woods is a bit remote for her, (and me) but I’m getting the distinct feeling I’m in deep trouble. However, in keeping with my policy for these remoter sections of our epic road trip, I’ve booked us in for a nice spa break near St Johns for the day after tomorrow. Maybe that will get me out of the hole I appear to be in. Or the potholes that have had me swerving like a drunk to avoid our cars suspension being shattered, at the very least.

A few miles later while slowed to avoid yet more of these bloody potholes, we were treated to the spectacle of the RCMP making an arrest on the other side of the road as we drove by. Handcuffs, the whole thing. Which sparked off another discussion. Further questions about iceberg sexing were forgotten.

Singing my own praises

Why sing my own praises? Because I’m the only one that will… hold up a moment, did Sister in law just give me a compliment? Can I cook for them again? Hells bells, I think I’m going to faint!

Well not to my face, but the Sticker household has developed a reputation for being pretty damn sharp when it comes to comestibles. Take for example Easter weekend, our dinner guests got treated to my roast pork with crackling recipe. Which for some reason didn’t seem to be on my ‘Cooking for Conspiracy theorists’ list. Even though I’d already posted it elsewhere. Have now remedied this omission. In-laws even asked for my assistance with getting a proper Lamb joint. I said that I would search around and try to source some proper Lamb, not the Mutton which too often gets passed off as Lamb in Canada. Fortunately we’ve found a good local butcher who should be able to help. I’ll get the Mint sauce out for a 2lb shoulder of Lamb this weekend and see what happens.

I know one thing, too few places over here know how to cook Lamb properly. For example, a Lamb Rogan Josh at one of the local curry houses was effectively chunks of lamb cut way too big and not cooked long and slow enough. The meat hadn’t had enough marinading either, which made what should be a very spicy dish that melts in the mouth into something akin to chewing recycled car tyres dipped in curry sauce. Seriously, that was one serious sheep. I bet it had been beating up bears and cougars before dying of old age it was so tough. Guess where I won’t be going again.

A word to the wise; Lamb, beef or chicken for curry should be roughly cut into half inch cubes before marinating at for least two hours. Then given ten minutes in a pressure cooker to tenderise it before adding sauce ingredients. That way the meat cooks properly and the sauce flavours penetrate the meat. As a proof I’ll post my method (Including quick cheat) on the sidebar at a later date. A clue, my good friends Messrs Patak and Sharwoods are often a great help. Providing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency lawyers don’t get involved and screw around with what ingredients my culinary friends are allowed to use. In which case, pass the salt cellar.

Dark thoughts

I have a stepdaughter whose legal work takes her all around the London law courts, and sometimes into the UK Houses of Parliament itself. After todays terror attack there was a concerned flurry of transatlantic telephonic activity to jolly old Londinium from the Sticker household and I am pleased to report that Youngest was not in the area at the time.

As a concerned parent, my first reaction is “Youngest safe. Good.” Although I’m deeply sorry to hear that the attacker took down a Police officer in the process along with another three un-named as well as injuring forty others, some of whom will have to live with the physical consequences for the rest of their lives. However, the attacker is dead, good riddance. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Good riddance also to Martin McGuinness, who died yesterday. We’ll never know how many deaths he ordered or was involved in personally, but it’s well known that his hands were bloody as hell. Which is why the flames will burn a little brighter from now on.

These people who murder for a ’cause’ are key factors in prolonging the suffering of their fellow citizens. Had the civil rights protests in Northern Ireland not been tainted by the terrorists, there would have eventually been peace, work and plenty for all, Catholics and Protestants. Unfortunately many Mk 1 Homo Sapiens masquerading as evolved life forms in Ulster still don’t see it that way. So the killing still goes on, only the initials change. So will it be with Islamic inspired attacks. The killing will go on and on unless those who push the ideology are eliminated from within by the very communities they hide behind. Or have their minds changed. Not that I’m holding my breath you understand. Most people aren’t self aware enough to see the obvious.

Trust issues

Excuse the lack of posting of late, but I’ve been up to my neck in UK financial issues. Banks, lawyers, all the usual shizzle. Everything has to be verified, documented, double checked and rechecked before the compliance people are happy. They trust nobody, but then again, neither do I any more. This isn’t paranoia, it’s experience. And all because my family trusted someone to do their job over three decades ago. However, there’s light at the end of this particular tunnel, and it’s not some bleeder with a torch bringing me yet more paperwork.

I see someone has breached their trust and forwarded on Donald Trumps 2005 1040 form (Client copy) to the mainstream media, who have found; shock! Horror! He paid the taxes he was supposed to for that year! Right, so he’s done nothing wrong. Nothing to see here, move along. Apart from the theft of legally protected paperwork, which should not have been released until the IRS completed their tax audit. Not that the lamestream media can be trusted with anything.

Some reporters still just don’t get it, as with this interview with French Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

Trust has been dropping like a rock with mainstream media sources all over the world for over twenty years. And with good reason. The mainstream has become less trustworthy, deciding what to report and how to represent those stories. It has fallen prey to the triple poison of bias, groupthink and manipulation. Not that it was ever immune. So much so that stories presented in a particular way get automatically cascaded through all the ‘professional’ outlets. Others are ignored or shuffled to a couple of lacklustre paragraphs on page 7. Mountains become molehills, and vice versa, it’s all in the presentation.

Matters have gotten to the point that Mary-Rose Papandrea, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law has stated: “The American public is hostile to the media. Every news outfit should be very afraid of what a jury will do,” from this article. Specifically over a slanted ABC ‘News’ comment that a meat company sold ‘pink slime’. And this is one example of only a few. Remember Christopher Jeffries? Unfairly defamed by eleven news outlets. Piers Morgan’s editorship of the Daily Mirror and the infamous fake cover of ‘British soldiers’ beating up an Iraqi to name but three?

It’s all too easy for those with the mouthpiece to defame dissenting voices, labelling them ‘Rednecks’ and other such denigrations, yet come over all precious, clutching at their pearls in horror when the proles won’t swallow their misrepresentation wholesale. I mean, how dare the public not believe? How could they?

For myself, I was brought up to be cynical by my parents, who knew all too well what happened if you talked to a reporter with an agenda. So when contacted by the BBC in 2006 for an interview over my then work blogging, I rapidly backtracked after yet more high profile bloggers were ‘Doxxed’, that is, their real names and details were published. At the time I was on my uppers and seriously needed the money my erstwhile job brought in, so couldn’t afford to get fired. So unlike others I declined my fifteen minutes and slunk cautiously back into the alleys and side streets of my genesis.

Then there have been many misrepresentations over BREXIT, the US elections and a whole lot more. The reporting so biased that even the politicians are taking notice. Anyone even vaguely right of centre is being painted as a villainous thug, even when all they want is to restore a little balance. While others seem to be given a free pass because of the colour of their skin or religion. This view is spreading. Seems like I’m not the only one.

Yet who is to blame? Well, there’s only one answer, the Western mainstream media. They have been like kittens with several balls of wool as far as the truth goes, trying to shape it to tell a particular tale and just leaving a tangled mass of misrepresentation and omission. By their antics they’ve made the most wild eyed conspiracy theorist look like Bertrand Russell. Which makes me surprised that they can lie down straight in their own beds.

Speaking of beds, I’m finally beginning to sleep more than five hours a night as my particular tangled web becomes more organised. Other people have created a legal and financial mess which Ma Sticker’s youngest (Me) has been helping tidy up, but it’s not been without personal cost. As Mrs S commented yesterday, I’ve physically aged ten years in the last eighteen months, to which I’ve responded; “Add another century to that in terms of cynicism.”

Now I trust no-one. Especially not in the news media. Because they have proven themselves untrustworthy.

The great white doughnut

“Hi. Bill?” The scrub clothed technician greeted us. Mrs S and I arrived late evening at the Medical Imaging unit. I’d been waiting for this scan appointment since late November. Which was originally supposed to be a ‘ten day’ appointment, where they’re supposed to contact you with a scheduled appointment date within ten working days. I’d had to chase after six weeks of nada and get an first appointment for the end of March, then chase for an earlier cancellation. Oh the joys of Universal Health care.

Inside I was fairly sloshing with the extra litre of water I’d been instructed to consume within the previous hour. No, I wasn’t to substitute any other fluid. Had to be plain water, not beer or pop, okay? So I’d chugged down two and a half pints before leaving the house for our trek across town to the hospital. Good job we weren’t using public transport. I’d have left a puddle somewhere en route.

Confirmed my identity by checking in with my BC Care card. Was I a citizen? Of course. Robes over there, keep your underwear on. Then once reclad in one of those pale surgical blue ‘gowns’ with the big draught in the back, sat down and chatted aimlessly with Mrs S until called into a side room and asked to lie on a low treatment bench. All very folksy and informal. The next mildly unpleasant surprise was having some ‘contrast media’ pumped into my system. So, into my arm went a cannula (Good technique, hardly felt the needle.) and a syringe full of contrast was pumped into my veins.

More questions. Was I worried about the radiation? No, I’d probably had worse on a transatlantic flight. Then after asking me when I’d had a previous scan (in the mid 1990’s) the technician seemed to have doubt about whether I needed this scan at all and disappeared to consult with somebody else. Which left me feeling a little annoyed. If they didn’t do the bloody scan, how in the name of Satan’s trousers were they going to find the source of my chronic pain?

But when he returned a few minutes later, all appeared to have been resolved and I was led into the Temple of the Great White Doughnut, laid on its sacrificial motorised altar and hooked up to a contrast drip. Arms over my head, the motorised bed smoothly delivered me into the centre of this holy medical relic. Red lights flashed, the hieroglyphics of blue lit controls stayed steady. I closed my eyes and breathed in and out or held my breath as instructed via an intercom built into this great holy relic. The motorised bed whined in and out of the Great White Doughnut inscribed with the occult rune ‘Siemens’. Something buzzed a few times as images were taken. All I could do was lie there, my bladder bulging with all the extra fluids.

After a couple of runs through the torus, I was unhooked from the drip and the cannula was removed from my arm with an imprecation to press on the dressing in case I soiled their nice clean floor with my inconvenient blood. Then it was out, quick trip to water the horses and back out to change into my skivvies for the drive home. I was a bit peeved at not being able to see what the scans were telling anyone, because when it comes to bad news I’d rather know than not. The report will be with my GP by Wednesday I’m told, and the next part of the saga will begin. More hurry up and wait.

I feel sorry for Mrs S, she’s the one who will fret and worry while I’m being prodded and submitted to whatever ministrations the doctors decree. I told her I can handle whatever happens, and at least money won’t be a problem, even if my condition does turn out to be something nasty. Note to self; double check the will. Because if I am coming to a premature halt, I want her to be able to forget me in style.

New books

A literary interlude is on the cards with probable forthcoming hospital stays. Last time I was so immobilised, I took to reading and trying to memorise the complete works of Rudyard Kipling with a side order of Defoe and Melville. This time I went and raided the bookstore for almost the complete works of Earnest Hemingway.

Mrs S will be travelling to London on her own to see Youngest this year because I have to keep my diary clear for possible surgical interventions. Which is annoying, but as one brought up in the stoic tradition of “What cannot be cured must be endured”, what else am I to do? Keep taking the tablets and chill with the pills.

I haven’t read Hemingway since my English Literature class trudged (mostly – I still like reading) unwilling teenagers halfway through ‘A Farewell to Arms’. As for literature in general, just don’t talk to me about Brontes or Jane Austen. Did Wuthering Heights and Sense and Sensibility for English Literature A level, and I’m still having unpleasant flashbacks. Fortunately we had a teacher who explained how to understand the middle English of Geoffrey Chaucer and some of the better Shakespearean jokes. Which was a compensation for the Wessex novels of Thomas Hardy (Don’t ask). Frankly I found Calculus, Logarithms, and Binomial expansion more fun.

a-few-hemingwaysFirst pick was of course ‘The old man and the sea’, but as it’s a bit on the short side I also bought ‘The Sun also rises’, ‘Death in the Afternoon’ and seven others. See the picture of my latest acquisitions currently hogging the seat of my office reading chair. There is also a used collection of Milton, Conrads classic ‘The Heart of Darkness’ and sundry others to grace the old bookshelves and keep Lady Chatterly’s Lover warm on those draughty upper shelves above my collection of Terry Pratchetts. If time allows I’m going to delve further into D H Lawrence, I’m sure he won’t mind.

As far as ‘macho’ writers like Hemingway are concerned, there are people out there who are keen to tell everyone what they can and cannot read, say or think because it contradicts one of their sacred ‘ists’ or ‘isms’, but right at this moment they can all sod off because my plate’s a little full right now and I truly can’t be arsed.

Happy reading.

Another little bit of woodwork

Well, I’ve reached the half way point in the Drinks Cabinet project and proved to Mrs S yet again, that she may be married to one of the world’s few real multi-tasking men. Even if I had to cheat a bit. Having said that I think I’ve perfected my recipe for fish stew, but the Lemon and Garlic Couscous to go with it needs a little work. Less lemon, a spot of butter, and a trifle more seasoning with a scattering of finely chopped bell peppers should do it. I’ll post the method and ingredients under cooking for conspiracy theorists when I’ve nailed it all down.

drinks-cabinet-during-01A small job popped in via email and was quickly dealt with, then I busied myself with the usual chores and a bit of furniture redistribution before removing the shonky looking backing of the cabinet to expose the rebate (See before and after pictures). Why someone fitted that rubbishy looking 3/8th inch square Cedar beading in there is beyond me. I took it out anyway.

drinks-cabinet-during-02Next was staining one side of the inner back section and giving it a double coat of varnish. While that was drying, I fitted a small LED strip light under the shelf, running the cable to the left and left rear of the cabinet out of the back. Then once the inner panel was dry, I dropped it into place and fixed with a few panel pins and some carpenters glue. In the words of Cinderella overheard by palace servants just after her wedding to Prince Charming “It fits! OMG! IT FITS!” Have you any idea what they were up to? Me neither.

drinks-cabinet-during-03So how far have we got? Well, not much further to go. I’ve sanded the outer panel and got rid of the labels and manufacturing stain. The light fitting works nicely, and I should be finished by supper time tomorrow. No more groping around in the semi darkness of the single malt lottery and having to squint at wine labels for us. Although the wine rack is empty as we’ve been buying 3 litre boxes of reasonable Australian and Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignons for the last few months. Which saves all the fuss and palaver with Wine Savers and other such widgets if you just aren’t in the mood to quaff a full bottle.

I’ll restock properly in a month or two when the weather improves enough for an afternoon glass or three out on the deck watching shipping drift past along the Juan De Fuca and trying to ignore all the panicky hand waving over something someone has said on the Interweb, or Donald Trumps latest policy implementation, or BREXIT, and possibly even a FREXIT if the French electorate decides to bet on Ms Le Pen. That could be fun.

In the meantime that’s it really. Same stuff, different day. Life plods on.