Sunday, March 11, 2018

What to do after late-season snowstorm

I do love my new bathroom. Every time I walk into it I feel great, I love a bath in the soaker tub and I even love brushing my teeth at the new sink.

Yesterday I was going to vacuum the basement floor, in preparation for replacing rugs on said floor. I started up the vac and then thought it was rather full of dust and I should clean out the vac first. I took it into the utility room to empty the canister into a garbage bag, only I missed; half the dust ended up on the floor.

OK, I thought, I'll just get the shop vac to clean up the spilt dust.

I hooked up the shop vac hose to the wrong outlet and instead of sucking it blew. Not only all over the utility room but also all over the entire basement, since all the doors were open. So much for vacuuming, now I have to wait for the dust fog to settle.

Big snowstorm on Friday into Saturday morning. After a month of pseudo-Spring we're now into Real Winter. But since it is March, Real Winter means heavy wet snow that one can hardly move with a shovel.

Hapi and I went to the Reservoir for a walk in the afternoon (after half a morning spent moving heavy wet Real Winter snow). Lots of trees down from the Real Winter snow in their branches, every one of those trees was rotten. The ponds looked like they were covered in ice again (they had been clear of ice for over a week), but it was actually snow floating on the water.

Waterdog tracks in the snow
In the evening I went to a friend's place for Carcassonne and pizza. I usually win but this time my friend trounced me in the first game and narrowly beat me in the second. She refused to play a third game. As a consolation she gave me a huge chunk of apple-ginger cake that she had made for the occasion, to take home with me.

I can live with that.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Hot and Cold

You're kidding, right?
On Wednesday afternoon the guys left, they had completed the job and left the place if not spotless at least tidy. I was so glad to see the last of them. Not that I found them unpleasant, just that I was glad to finally emerge from over six weeks of renovation and all that that entails. Bobby and I had a long conversation about single life, grandchildren, and retirement plans (he says he's going to get himself a motorcycle and tour Newfoundland). I had pizza and beer for supper. I laid Hapi's bed on the nice clean and reasonably empty basement floor and invited her to try it out.

She said, Are you kidding me? You want me to go down there?

She wouldn't go down, she slept outside that night. Thursday was delightful, I was so happy to finally have the place to myself. I decided not to tackle cleaning up the basement right away, instead I bought a few things for the bathroom, baked some bread, took Hapi for a long leisurely walk, and did some laundry. Just a nice boring day.

Late in the afternoon I ran a bath for myself in the brand new soaker tub. Earlier in the day I had turned up the hot water heater thermostat because the new tub is twice as big as the old one, so the water that comes out of the faucet is much hotter now. There was no cold water. Went down to the basement and opened the cold water shutoff valve that the guys had forgotten to turn back on. Now there was a little cold water, but only just a little. Not nearly enough to cool the now scalding hot water from the hot water tank. I ran as much cold water as I could but still the tub water was only just bearable. I learned that a very large tub of hot water takes a really long time to cool off and my body can adjust to a small tub of hot water but not to a very large tub of hot water. It was not a pleasant experience.

So after getting out of the tub (after a quick bath rather than a long leisurely soak) I called Bobby. He said the shutoff valve must be corroded and he'd come by on Friday to replace it. I had my writing group meeting on Friday morning so I hung around the house just long enough to let the guys in and then went off to the three-hour (usually) meeting. When I got home afterwards they were still there.

Uh-oh, I thought.

Bobby told me a long saga about trying to obtain a new shutoff valve, they had only just finished installing it.

He said, If you don't like swearing you better leave now.

After they installed the valve they tried the bathtub faucet. Still no cold water. Must be the cartridge he said.

So off they went in search of a new cartridge. I puttered around tidying things in the basement until they returned with the cartridge. Bobby installed it and turned on the faucet. Still no cold water. Now he was mad. He went down into the basement and peered into the closet where he could see the pipes under the bathtub, muttering to himself all the while. Not sure what he was saying, but apparently the next step was to tear out the ceiling below the tub and search for a kinked tube, something he really did not want to do. I was almost beside myself. Thursday had been so wonderful and Friday was turning into a nightmare.

Bobby decided it was time for a coffee and I seconded the motion. So the guys left for the local Timmy's and I made a quick lunch for myself and took Hapi for a walk. We were out for almost two hours. I was thoroughly stressed out about the guys being back in the basement and poor Hapi got a forced march as far out on the dykes as I could manage. Not too cold but very windy. She found some nice mud and waded into it up to her chest. Oh boy. Dyke mud is very stinky.

By the time we got home we were both exhausted and Bobby's truck was not in the driveway. There were small signs that they had been there (a screwdriver that had been in the bathroom was now in the kitchen) so I went straight to the bathroom and turned on the faucet. Lots of cold water! But no hot water!!

You have got to be kidding!!! I thought to myself.

I phoned Bobby and told him. He said he'd be back on Saturday to fix it. An easy fix he said.

Which is what he said when I called him on Thursday about the lack of cold water.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

No Boundaries

This week they moved to the upstairs. They are still working in the basement, they just expanded the worksite. Since the business end of the bathtub backs onto my bedroom they had to move furniture to cut a hole in the wall to access the plumbing, so I now have no safe haven from the dust and noise and workmen and tools strewn about. Plus, they found mould in some of the basement gyproc immediately below the upstairs bathroom (see photo above). The bathroom sink was leaking and I knew that, I just didn't know how long it had been leaking. Obviously long enough for mould to take hold.

Upstairs bathroom
They cut holes into the gyproc in my bedroom and in the basement ceiling to access the plumbing. All of the sinks except the one in the kitchen are disconnected, so the painter washes his tools there each evening. I brush my teeth there too. I thought it would only take a couple of days to remove the old bathtub and install the new one, but after a week it is still not plumbed in. Consequently I took a shower in the basement shower stall. But since they were painting in that room the curtains had been removed from the window, which is in plain view of the male student's bedroom window next door. There were no cars parked in their driveway last night so I took a chance. It's study break.

Downstairs bathroom
Bobby likes to spend his weekends with his grandkids so he tries not to work on Saturdays, but he said yesterday that he might come by this Saturday to do a bit of work. Oh joy. Once again, he thinks another two days and they will be done. Which is what he said a week ago. Since they are working in both bathrooms, I now know where all the publicly accessible bathrooms are in town. Washing up is a problem, but as long as I plan ahead I can make it to a reasonably private toilet.

Meanwhile back at the ranch my email to my financial guy to transfer money to my bank account landed in his spam folder and he didn't see it until I sent a follow-up email a week later. So I was unable to meet Bobby's weekly ransom demand.

The news both north and south of the border is crazy, but since my personal life is kind of off the rails the craziness in the world out there is just part of the scenery. Last night a friend called me to see how I was doing. When I told her that I have burned through most of what I thought of as my lifetime discretionary money fund, she asked me if any of the workers smoked. I told her that one of them does so she suggested that he might burn the house down and I could collect the insurance money.

She also told me that another friend of hers just pulled a live tick off her dog after a walk in the woods. In February. It is that warm now. She thinks it is just winter delayed, that sometime in March all hell will break loose weather-wise. I think she's wrong, that this is the new normal.

She says, Fine then, after the next big blizzard you can lead the Naked Yoga class in the school parking lot.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Basement Saga continued

Backyard visitor
Mid-February, no snow on the ground, no snow in the forecast. Every time it snows there's rain right afterward and the snow is washed away. Weird winter.

The guys are putting my basement back together again. It has been a long haul, they've been here for so long I feel like I should be charging them rent. Everything that could go wrong did.

Now I have a cold, I'm hoping it won't last too long. The guys figure they have one more day of work down there and then I can start putting things back where I want them, but with this cold I have no energy for it.

Hapi is quite discombobulated by the change in sleeping quarters. Usually she sleeps in the basement but she can't now so every night she has to decide whether to stay indoors upstairs or go outside. Usually she chooses to go outside. I don't mind, but it seems that all our rain is happening in the night and I know she doesn't like being in her doghouse in the rain because of the noise of the rain on the roof. And if I'm asleep I can't let her inside, so she goes out into the rain and finds the muddiest spot available to lie down in. By morning she is soaked and covered in mud, then she wants to come inside. All her white fur is brown now.

The last few days they've been cutting laminate flooring to fit back together again; the dust from that goes everywhere. There's no point cleaning it up until they're done, which I'm hoping is tomorrow. Then they're going to come upstairs and do some work on my bathroom. They think it will only take a couple of days, but I remember a month ago Bob thinking the basement job would just take a few days. You just never know what kind of disaster you're going to uncover when you start taking things apart.

I went to an amazing house concert over the weekend, a woman who sings Edith Piaf. She's very talented, plays multiple instruments and has a gorgeous voice. Her partner plays guitar and he is amazing as well. It was enthralling. The concert was at her mother's place. The couple now live in Montreal and they came back home for three Valentine's Day performances. I really hope their talents are rewarded.

Last night I went to a talk and slide show about the railway children of India. The mother of the singer went to India over Christmas to visit Father Abhi who works with the railway children of Varanasi. They have a centre there where they house some of them and arrange for them to go to school, also they help find adoptive families or reunite children with their lost families. Most of them are girls, their futures are not good. Father Abhi heads up an organization (DARE) that does this work and also he travels India and the world to drum up support.

There is a small network of groups in Nova Scotia, Belgium and one other place that I forget. When he needs money for his projects in India he tells the network. Usually it is something very specific, say a small bus or some piece of necessary equipment. Then the network raises the money and sends it to him. Sometimes it can take a couple of years to raise the money. It is complicated, there are rules governing how money can be sent overseas and also how money can be received by organizations in India. By being very specific they handle the complications. So my little town is part of that international network, to help the railway children. Of course it is just a drop in the bucket, but I guess every little drop helps.

The slides we watched were very colourful, the presenter was quite fascinated by the brightly painted trucks in India and also by all the dancing. The children are taught amazing dances and they love it. Father Abhi has all these paintings and statues of an Indian Jesus, he looks like a Hindu guru or a buddha. The Christmas celebrations were extremely colourful and full of dancing and coloured lights and flowers. It was beautiful and strange at the same time, Christmas celebrated in a Hindu way.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Thinking out loud at six in the morning

When I moved back to Nova Scotia in 2010 I bought back my old house. It happened to be on the market when I was looking for a place and, well, it was hard to resist. I knew the house had problems but I thought, "Better the devil you know..."

The main problem I foresaw was that the man who bought the house from me finished the basement. It had been an unfinished basement with water leaks, he fixed the leaks (or so he thought) and completely finished the area, putting in a full bathroom, a bedroom and a rec room. He also took out the old floor furnace and put in a full furnace with forced air venting into all of the upstairs rooms. He did a lot of work on that house, most of which I thought was a big improvement. But finishing that basement seemed to me kind of risky. I bought the place anyway, thinking that if it came to it I would tear out the work he did there.

As of last week, it has come to it.

This past year has definitely been my year to battle the element of water. I live in a province of weird geology and waterlogged soils, with as much water below ground as above, and plenty of it falling from the sky in one form or another. A building contractor once said to me that all of the houses on my street are really just little boats bobbing on an unseen river. Every time someone digs a hole in the ground, the river changes course, and there's always someone digging a hole in the ground.

Anyway, there was a soft spot in the laminate flooring in the rec room which I thought meant that there was a bit of rot in the subfloor due to the now-fixed water leak in the nearest basement wall. This past fall I found an excellent contractor who has done some work for me and I asked him if he could fix the soft spot. He said he could. He removed the laminate carefully so he could replace it after fixing whatever he found underneath and sure enough the subfloor was rotten, very rotten. He had a bad feeling about it and we discussed it, I gave him the go ahead to remove more laminate to see how far the problem went. In my heart I knew it was going to be bad, the time had finally come. So I was not as shocked as he had expected me to be, more resigned to the inevitable.

In a couple of days they had removed all of the floor in the rec room. They swabbed it down with bleach and said they'd come back when it was dry to rebuild the floor. That was three days ago and it is still not dry, in spite of fans and heaters. Bob the contractor came back yesterday to take a look and we discussed what to do next. I am sceptical about rebuilding, the thought of covering over that floor and not being able to see whether it is leaking or not scares me. Bob thinks he can fix it so it won't leak, he thinks it will be safe to rebuild. To that end he has saved as much as possible of the unrotten materials to reuse. But he also thinks there is more rot under the bathroom that will have to be dealt with.

Right now there is nothing to be done about that because all of the furniture and salvaged building materials are being store in there and the other two small rooms of the basement. He thinks the other two rooms are safe, it's just the bathroom that looks bad, and that can't be torn apart until all of the stuff stored in there (plus the bathroom fixtures and washer and dryer) are removed. But since there's no place to remove all that to, the bathroom will remain in place until the rec room is dealt with one way or another.

And then of course there is the small matter of money to pay for all this. The way I am looking at it is that eventually I will have to sell this house, I don't see it as my last permanent home. Having a basement in reasonably good shape is a good thing, the cost is an investment that will eventually pay off. Bob is a good person who does good work at reasonable prices, he has a lot of experience and I trust his judgement. I've had him do enough work for me that I trust him beyond simply doing a good job. So the timing of this disaster is not so bad, I at least am not scrambling to find someone to fix this problem and I did know that sooner or later this was coming.

Nevertheless it is not pleasant and I am losing sleep over it. I wish I could talk my brain into relaxing. I almost made it through this past night, but I woke at 4.00am with a severe leg cramp that forced me out of bed and that was the end of sleep for me.

What really worries me is exposure to mould, there is simply no way to close off the basement from the rest of the house until the job is completed. I owned and lived in a leaky condo out west and the exposure to mould caused a severe illness that lasted half a year, during which time I could not work or do much else; at its worst just getting from the bed to the toilet was a major effort. That scares me. The smell coming up from the basement scares me. The thought that this has been going on for years, probably since before I bought the house, and that I've been living over it all that time scares me. The fact that Bob's breathing changed within hours of setting foot in my basement scares me. Scares him too, he can't afford to get sick.

So sleeping is difficult.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Full on winter

The long pond before the snow
According to the internet most of Canada is experiencing record cold weather, with the exception of Atlantic Canada which is experiencing only "seasonably" cold weather. Well I am here to tell you that is simply not true, this is definitely not "seasonable". Maybe warmer than central Canada, but still not seasonable. If it were just the thermometer temperature it would be very cold (for here), but the constant wind just makes it that much colder. We had one day last week when it was not windy and a degree or two warmer than usual, making it positively balmy in comparison to the days before and since. Taking Hapi for her morning walk is a flirt with frostbite. I thought I had enough firewood for two winters (I try to keep a year ahead), but I've been burning through it at a wicked pace and we're only at the beginning of the winter heating season.

Ice, ice everywhere! A couple of people who walk their dogs regularly at the Reservoir have really nifty ice grippers, I see their distinctive footprints on all the trails. I managed to collar one of them and ask where they got their footwear, but by the time I got to the website where they could be ordered, they were sold out. My inferior ice grippers will have to do for now.

The long pond is frozen sufficiently for skating (15 cm/6 inches) and some brave souls have cleared the skim of snow from part of the pond and already been out on their blades. I don't know how they stand the cold wind! But they are mostly kids and we all know how fearless kids can be about cold (Where are your mittens? Why on earth did you take them off?!?). The uncleared snow on most of the pond is meagre enough for the kids to skate right over it.

This past year has been my year of water issues (I have a bit of a history in that regard). First there was the sewage backup. Then I had a basement flood in part of the basement that I'd never seen water leakage before. Sewer pipe replaced, drainage tile installed and a finally a sump pump installed. Then a few days ago I discovered that water pipes behind a finished wall in the basement had frozen. I got them thawed out but I don't know if they burst or not so I turned off the water to those pipes to postpone having to deal with it until the spring. I suspect that the hot water pipes are fine but one of the (three) cold water pipes is not. A problem for another day.

Hapi usually sleeps in the basement but lately has moved upstairs. I am not sure why. It could be she is lonely because I have stopped sleeping in the basement, but that never stopped her before. Although she is noticeably more "clingy" (affectionate) as she ages. It also could be that she is finding the basement stairs more difficult, but she still goes down to the basement, she just doesn't stay there. It is definitely not the cold, she still likes to spend the coldest part of the day--the hours around sunrise--outside sleeping in her doghouse. And she occasionally still spends an entire night out there. Her doghouse is not insulated but it is positioned out of the wind. If she lived forever I still would not figure her out, her doggy brain is unfathomable.

Is it safe?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bygone colour

October 2016
A while ago I went plein air painting with an artist friend. I described the trip here. I am not totally pleased with the results, but I do have to keep reminding myself that I'm just a beginner so I should cut myself some slack.  So here are the results. Note that each picture appears darker on the left side, that is due to the lighting when I took the photo of the picture.

This was one I did a while ago from a photo in my artist friend's basement, as a kind of introduction to painting. My friend showed me a few things I could do so I cannot take responsibility/credit for every single brush stroke.

Practice, from photo
This one is from our first trip to Rock Notch Falls. Again, I had help.

Rock Notch Falls #1
This is from our second trip to the same location, but a different vantage point. Same waterfall, different view.

Rock Notch Falls #2
And the last one, also from the second trip, turning my easel around and painting the view behind me. I was concentrating so hard on the job that after one painting I was exhausted; my friend painted two or three in the same time span. However on the second trip to the falls I did manage to scrape together enough energy for the second painting.

Rock Notch Falls, behind me
I would like to keep up the activity through the winter and I have a standing invitation to my friend's basement. But I don't think I'll be doing anything this month, too much else to do.

+ + + + +

In other news, I had the maple tree in front of my house cut down yesterday morning. The picture at the top of this post is what it looked like when it was still healthy.

Tree down
It was diseased and had a split in the trunk, so it was likely that sooner or later that tree was going to come down in a storm. There were four lines---three phone or cable lines and one power line---running through it, so having it come down unaided would have been a disaster. I will miss greatly the shade it provided to my living room in the summer, but the liability of the tree was outweighing its benefits. Its roots were the cause of my earlier sewage disaster, and this fall it no longer displayed any colour. The leaves just turned black and brown and then fell off.

The other thing I will miss is that I used to have a bird feeder in that tree that I could watch from my living room window through the long winter months. Some of the local chickadees were not happy about the loss of the tree, they came by to watch and even at one point perched on the chain saw while the feller took a smoke break. There is no realistic alternative to hanging the feeder in that tree so this winter the birds and I will have to do without. That I will definitely miss, perhaps even more than the summer shade.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Halan'olo fa tian-janahary

This is a piece of printed cotton fabric I've had for years, someone gave it to me when I lived in Ottawa. It is about six feet by four. A friend went to Madagascar for several years and gave this to me as a souvenir.  When I first got this the internet did not really exist in its present form, you couldn't look up stuff on it as easily as you can now. But every once in a while I'd try to find out what the words on it meant by entering them in the browser search field, my latest effort rendered a translation of "Humility is a natural idea".

In my most recent issue of Aramco World there is an article on kangas, and it turns out that that is what this is, a kanga. It is an East African piece of clothing, women often wear them in pairs: one piece covers the body from the armpits down, the other is draped over the head and shoulders. They are usually very colourful. Men wear them too, often just draped over their shoulders.

A kanga has three main features: a central pattern, a border pattern, and a saying along the lower border edge, usually in Swahili. This one is in Malagash, the language of Madagascar. Malagasy people like the central pattern to be a picture of some kind, often a pastoral scene. This one is obviously not pastoral, but very striking.

I used to think that the words on this piece of fabric were somehow related to the picture, but it turns out that they are not. In fact if the translation is true it seems to me almost antithetical, there is nothing humble about this seascape.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A glimpse into family history

So, last week a long-awaited (16 years!) package arrived at the post office for me. It is a painting that was given to my grandparents back in the '50s that my mother inherited and I in turn inherited from her. But it came with a condition: it must first go to my mother's sister for the rest of her lifetime. Who knew she would be so long-lived (95 years)! She died a year ago so the painting finally became mine, but since she lived and died on the west coast her children gave the painting to my brother (also on the west coast) to take care of sending to me. We dithered for a year about how to do that and finally he put it in the mail a few weeks ago. Surface mail being the cheaper option and an extra week or so of waiting after 16 years not being outlandish, that was how it arrived. Unscathed (we worried about it).

I posted a photo of the painting on Facebook and then in the Comments section my brother and I argued about its origins and meaning. It was an interesting argument that among other things involved internet searches of family history and the posting of various photos supporting our differing opinions. Yesterday my brother sent an email message to various family members seeking further information, it will be interesting to see what evolves from that.

Portion of a wartime letter from family friend to my grandmother, 1916 give or take
The painting supposedly represents a visit to my grandparents' summer place by persons unknown (or rather, disputed). I believe it was painted by our great-aunt Evelyn and that she is one of the figures in the painting. My brother thinks it might have been painted by a family friend representing his visit to our grandparents. The family friend was a wartime buddy (World War I) of our grandfather's with a great sense of humour and cartooning ability. My brother's supporting evidence is the photocopy of a letter written by the friend taped to the back of the painting when he received it. My evidence for supposing that Evelyn painted it is a written inscription on the back of the painting gifting the painting from Evelyn to our grandparents, and another painting I possess that she painted (indicating that she was indeed capable of producing this piece of art).

The family mansion, 1896. My great grandfather and possibly Evelyn sitting on the verandah
In the course of our internet research, we found several photos of Evelyn and our grandmother at the home of their grandparents in Toronto (actually, I think it would have been the outskirts of Toronto at that time). Turns out our great-great-grandfather was very wealthy (the founder of a bank that still exists today) and his home was a mansion that might be considered a Canadian version of Downton Abbey. I have a notebook written by Evelyn in which she describes the life at her grandparents in very Downton Abbey-like terms: servants, stables, governesses, and her mother having no idea how to cook or even hold a broom. And as it turns out, I briefly attended the church (as a child) that stood on land that he donated from his large country estate. That church is a prominent church in central Toronto today.
Evelyn is the young woman in a white blouse standing on the steps, my grandmother is the young girl all in white sitting on the grass. 1900
The thing I found most interesting about all this is that the photo of my grandmother at age 7 or 8 looks remarkably like me at that age. I was not fond of this grandmother when she was alive, but she played a big role in my young life. Among other things my father disliked her intensely and my parents very nearly divorced over that. I remember that period of time too well, it was quite frightening for a young child. However the storm passed, my father did come to terms with his mother-in-law, and the marriage survived. I regret that I did not get to know her better, from what I have learned of her life she was an interesting person in interesting times.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What we remember

Remembrance Day fast approaches, and with it my conflicted feelings about it. Different years I have chosen to honour or not honour it, this year I choose not to. I was asked to go to the local Remembrance Day service and also to usher for the Soldiers of Song performance (in honour of Remembrance Day). I will not go to the service but I will usher for the performance, mostly out of wanting to remain in good standing as an usher.

I get that Remembrance Day is supposed to honour the fallen soldiers of all our wars, from World War I on. I get that the country wants to remember them as heroes and to portray modern day soldiers as heroes too. I won't argue the point, always good to honour people who represent ideal virtues (courage, loyalty, sense of duty, etc.) However, honouring soldiers is so intertwined with honouring the fighting of wars that I just can't do it.

The men who enlisted for the armies of World War I were sold a bill of goods. That war was all about international politics, nothing more. Not freedom or democracy or protecting the defenceless, just politics. Many soldiers ended up living under atrocious circumstances and dying ignominiously. Those that could not stomach it were condemned as deserters and cowards, the penalty for which was summary execution. The women back home (in European countries at any rate) protested and marched in the streets and the news of that was suppressed so soldiers on the front lines wouldn't know about it. Desertion and cowardice were serious problems. And then of course there was the spanish 'flu.

By the time of World War II, aviation had progressed to the point that bombing entire cities from the air was possible and considered a legitimate form of warfare. Non-combatants were now fair game, in the hopes of convincing their governments to surrender. Atrocity piled on atrocity. Again soldiers were sold a bill of goods, although perhaps not quite as blatantly as for the first world war. There was Hitler after all (one can argue that he was the direct product of World War I but no matter). No one cared about genocide or holocaust until after the fact. The Canadian government had blood on its hands for its policy of refusing safe haven for Jewish refugees, and for its treatment of Japanese Canadian citizens.

It got worse. The Korean War resulted in the partitioning of Korea. The war in Vietnam was just a horror show, millions killed and the landscape destroyed. Each time soldiers enlisted for patriotic reasons fabricated by their governments. Canada did not join the war in Iraq, but in a pact with the devil the Canadian government agreed to pick up the slack in Afghanistan so American soldiers there could be reposted to Iraq. Rape and pillage have always been considered a legitimate compensation for victorious soldiers, only very recently have we thought twice about that. And good luck unravelling the complexities (and atrocities) of Syria, or Palestine, or the various wars in Africa.

Ostensibly wars are fought to protect freedom and democracy and make the world safe for peace. It hasn't happened. It is ludicrous to say that waging this war will end war for all time, or at the very least prevent the next war, and yet that is the justification. Buffy Sainte-Marie (who was in Wolfville the past few days) got it right in 'The Universal Soldier'.

It is sickening. If there were a day to remember the awfulness of war and to promote peace I think I could buy into it. Or what about honouring the non-combatant war dead (as they do in the Netherlands)? They die and are made homeless in far greater numbers than soldiers. Or how about the families of soldiers who must cope with the behavioural fallout of emotionally damaged veterans? Never mind the victims of rape and pillage.

I recently read the poem 'In Flanders Fields' on Facebook, the anthem for Remembrance Day. Ostensibly the poem honours the war dead, but here is the last stanza:

"Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."

In other words, don't let the war stop, or you will be rendering all those soldiers' deaths meaningless. I say, those deaths are already meaningless, that is the real tragedy, and exhorting us to continue the war is just the most awful advice I have ever heard.

Postscript: I wrote this to avoid doing my writing class homework and also because it is a bleak November day threatening snow. In a bleak mood.