Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gentrifying

I've been pretty busy the past few days getting this place together, I'm almost there. Mostly it's about trying to civilize this place, putting in various amenities. Kind of funny to go back to nature in the woods and then try to civilize it, but I guess that's what we humans do. Just can't leave well enough alone!

My throneless A-frame emergency crapper

The first job was a roof over my "outhouse". That was easy, a matter of removing nails from several old sheets of plywood lying around (part of the old greenhouse that used to be along the south side of the house) and then propping two of them up in an A-frame shape with a third sheet propped against them to form a back wall. Mike helped me get the A-frame up and made suggestions for modifications that would make the whole structure a little more stable. So far so good!

I also want to make a "throne" for this outhouse but that's not such a high priority. It's rained a few times since I put up the A-frame and it does the job, I stay dry. It's not pretty but it works.

A new door latch

I carved a wooden door latch to replace the spike that was being used in the side door, which is the door I use most of the time. I just got tired of that spike. It doesn't stay in the door but hangs beside the door, so each time you want to use it you have to pick it up and insert it before lifting the latch with it. My wooden replacement stays in the door, you just have to press down on it to lift the latch. It does not work well after a few days of rain though. I guess everything swells up and changes shape so for some reason the latch does not respond well. The spike still works though, so I guess I will continue to use it on very wet days. But I like the wooden latch better.




I whittled the edges of the new door latch to round them, unfortunately I managed to cut may fingers up pretty good while whittling. My eye-hand coordination is bit lacking. I noticed that with building the outhouse A-frame too, in hammering nails I'd pound three times and hit the nail once. But I think I am improving, yesterday I spent several hours chopping firewood and managed not to chop myself in the process.

A trip to the Valley

On Thursday I went down in the Valley and did a major shopping. Bought birdfeeders and transplants and composted manure and groceries. After several hours of shopping I stopped by Fritz and Carolyn's to do a laundery; their daughter Erica was there and we had an interesting conversation about her travel and school plans. She's been travelling and teaching English over the past few years, now she's going back to Korea to teach English again. But she wants to go back to school when she gets home again, maybe get a teaching degree or a Master's. She's trying to decide.

At one point Erica asked me which I thought was better, a teaching degree or a Master's. What a question! I said I guess it depended on what she wanted, something practical or something she was really interested in. I said being practical is a good thing, but if it's boring would she keep at it?

Erica said that since her job in Korea is pretty much a done deal she really doesn't have anything to worry and obsess about, so she's worrying and obsessing about what she'll do when the job is done. Can't go without something to worry and obsess about! We laughed.

Thursday is Carolyn's church choir practice night, I tagged along to listen to the choir sing. The church is old, stone on the outside and wood panelling inside, even the ceiling is wood panelled. Beautiful stained glass windows. It's a Baptist church but the tank they use for baptisms is out of sight. Carolyn's sister is the choir master, she plays electronic keyboard to accompany the choir. After practice they then formed a drumming circle and I joined them. Heather has a huge collection of African djembe drums, at least twenty of them. We drummed for a half hour. I'm not a great drummer but under cover of fifteen other drummers I guess I don't sound too bad.

After that we went to Paddy's Pub for beer. It's a brew pub, most of the beer they sell they brew onsite. The tanks where the beer is brewed are up on the second floor, you can see them above you when you are sitting in the main part of the pub. Beth was trying to decide whether to try to get tickets to the Paul McCartney concert in Halifax in July, they were coming on sale the next day. She really wanted to go but the tickets are so expensive! The concert will be outdoors on the Commons, so in theory she could hear him from outside the fence for free. She did that for the Rolling Stones concert in Halifax. But it would be so much better to be inside the fence! Decisions decisions, I'm afraid we weren't much help in her dilemma.

The big news on Thursday was about the G-G eating a raw seal's heart at an Inuit feast earlier this week. Apparently it created quite a stir internationally, some people saying that it was just too disgusting for words. There was a cartoon in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald about the incident, it showed Prime Minister Harper talking to the G-G about the incident. He said, "I eat bleeding hearts too." I described the cartoon to the ladies of the choir and they all laughed.

My black fly garden

I dug a small garden bed, where an old garden used to be beside the house. Unfortunately, that garden hasn't been used in over twenty years and in the meantime surrounding trees have grown up to shade it. There is a better location in front of the house, but the sod is so thick there that I would need a rototiller to break it up, and I don't have one. Also there are piles of garbage there from tearing out the old greenhouse and reroofing the front of the house a couple of years ago. I've thought of putting stuff in planters but that's getting expensive. As it is I've spent a fair bit on transplants. My eyes bigger than my stomach, or something.

Digging the garden bed was a real pain. I have come to the conclusion that black flies, when they are not flying, live in the soil. So when you dig it up they swarm all over you in biting clouds. I tried using a net over my head but they got in under the net and bit my neck and face. They like the eyes. The morning after my first day of digging I woke up with one eye swollen shut due to all the black fly bites. These flies aren't as bad as some I've known though, the bites itch but not as bad as they could.

I dug the garden bed up in narrow strips that I cut into small blocks and turned over. I took frequent breaks to get away from the flies and went down the driveway to carry in some firewood, a couple of pieces at a time. Not that I needed the firewood, but just to get a break from the flies. After fifteen minutes or so they'd disappear and I'd get a minute or two of fly-free digging in.

Once the bed was all dug up I added four bags of sheep manure to it. It's a very small garden, roughly 8 ft by 4 ft. The bed is ready to plant now I think. But it gets so little sun that I wonder what use it will be. We shall see.

In this photo the garden is almost all dug. In the background is the plywood-covered hole for the permanent outhouse; when I have nothing better to do I will start working on that.

Where is here?

I'm getting a phone. My cell phone doesn't work here and it really is a nuisance not to be able to call people or receive calls. The phone guy is coming out tomorrow sometime. I have to call the phone company in the morning to give him directions. When I was talking to them on the neighbour's phone, I didn't know how to describe the route here. I can tell them the "street address" but it really means nothing because it's not on any map and there are no road signs. And the road itself doesn't look like a real road, more like a very long twisting dirt driveway.

There's no mailbox or namesign or anything to indicate that anyone lives here, you can't see any of the houses from the "real" road. But I asked Mike and Ruth how they tell people where they are and I will relay their directions to the phone guy tomorrow morning. So if he doesn't get lost and there are no breaks in the phone line into the house, I could be hooked up by tomorrow night. There hasn't been a phone in this house for more than twenty years.

Mike spent the weekend laying down gravel on the road to fill the winter's potholes. So the phone guy at least will have a somewhat smoother drive in, if he finds the place.

I am also going to enquire about dial-up internet access. If it is not too expensive I might get that as well. Not nearly as convenient as high speed internet, but still. When I lived out here thirty-five years ago, not having a phone didn't bother me, and internet didn't exist. How things change!

The Baxter's Harbour Blog

Sheila and I are starting a new blog, The Baxter's Harbour Blog. Our first post there is about an upcoming supper and Old Time music concert at the community hall and church.

Several years ago the United Church of Canada wanted to shut down the Baxter's Harbour church, they agreed to give the buildings, a small church and even smaller church hall, to the community. There was some money associated with the church, the United Church gave that to the community as well to do some needed upgrades to the buildings. However it wasn't enough, the upgrades ended up costing quite a bit. So every year the community does several potluck suppers and occasional concerts to raise money to pay off the debt. They're almost there, a couple of dinners this summer oughta do it. The church gets used for occasional weddings and funerals, it has a small cemetery next to it as well.

Anyway, Sheila wants to post some old photos and other stuff on the blog. Several years ago the community collected old photos from residents to illustrate a cookbook they were going to sell as a fundraiser, there were some really interesting photos in that collection. Sheila would like to post some of them on the blog. We'd like to invite other Baxter's Harbour residents to contribute to the blog too. We'll see how it goes, wish us luck!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Catching up

It's been awhile since I last posted, but finally I am in Nova Scotia. One delay after another, but it's finally done, I am moved in at The Harbour.

I can't post much in the way of photos because I can't transfer them from the camera to the computer yet, but soon. I wish I had taken a photo of the truck before I left because it was all nicely washed and waxed, with the kayak mounted on the roof. Oh well, you'll just have to imagine it. But don't look too closely, the truck is packed to the gunnels (oh darn, is that one 'l' or two? Spellcheck doesn't even recognize it as a word!), with only a little space for me to sit in front of the steering wheel...

Getting out of TO

My original intention was to leave Toronto and arrive here on May 8. But due to a bit of a health scare requiring various tests, I postponed my departure date to the following week. Then I got a cold. Then the cold turned into a sinus infection. Then there was the long Victoria Day weekend and not wanting to be on the road on the first long weekend of the season. I was then going to leave the Tuesday immediately following, the 19th, but The Dog Ladies wanted to get together one last time and one of them was out of town that long weekend so the earliest we could get together was, guess what, Tuesday the 19th. So I postponed leaving until the next day.

We met for potluck dinner at Catherine's, it was a nice evening so we sat in her backyard under the grape arbour and dined on barbecued chicken kebabs, potato salad, green salad, some lovely artisan bread, and a mix of Portuguese pastries including the classic custard tarts. Oh and wine and beer of course. I was a little more restrained this time than last time, since I planned to start a long drive the next day.

I spent most of Tuesday packing and cleaning up, but did not manage to finish before dinner time, so I ended up spending all Wednesday morning and early afternoon packing. Finally I was ready to go, at 2.00pm on the 20th, but there's something about leaving in the middle of the afternoon that is just really hard to do. I had to leave right then and there or face Toronto rush hour, and I just couldn't do it. So I postponed to Thursday the 21st.

I cleaned up a few loose ends on Wednesday afternoon so that I really would be ready to leave early Thursday. Isaac agreed to wake me up at 5.00am so I could get out of the house by 6.00am, ahead of the rush hour on the downtown portion of the Gardiner Expressway. That all worked fine, but what I didn't count on was that the Jameson St. access was closed for road work and I did not know where the next nearest access was. And on top of that, having driven down Jameson St along with several other cars expecting to get onto the Expressway there, everyone had to turn around and get out, and the silly fool in front of me backed into my truck and broke one of my headlights.

We pulled over and piled out to look at the damage, the other driver said it was no big deal, just a broken headlight, and I said, But I'm trying to get to Nova Scotia and now I can't until I get it fixed and I have missed my damn window of opportunity to get out of Toronto ahead of rush hour! The guy seemed to think that this was easily solved, he knew a garage open 24/7, they could replace the headlight and I could still make it out of town in half an hour. He offered to lead me to this garage. Having no other plan, I reluctantly agreed to his and so we turned around and drove to this garage he knew.

Turns out the garage he spoke of is the only garage in all of Toronto that I have had a Most Negative Experience of in the past, one Bento's on Dundas. Wouldn't you know it! I swore I would never go there again and now here I was. Well, I could only hope that replacing a broken headlight was simple enough that they couldn't screw it up. The mechanic on duty there said they did not have my headlight in stock, they wouldn't have it until 8.30am. So much for getting out of Toronto before rush hour. The other driver paid for the headlight and installation thereof and took off, hardly 20 minutes out of his day all told, while I was stuck waiting another two hours before the part would even be available. Argh!

So back home I went to wait for my headlight. Went for one last walk at the dogpark with Isaac and Dobby. Went back to Bento's at 8.30am, only to be told by Bento himself that I didn't have a hope in hell of getting the headlight before 9.30am! I freaked out. I told him I was trying to get to Nova Scotia by Friday afternoon, I had been into his garage two hours before and the mechanic had promised the headlight for 8.30, and I just couldn't wait until 9.30! Bento got on the phone and ordered the headlight from another supplier, 10 minutes later it arrived, and by 9.00am the truck was ready to go.

Three hours late, but oh well.

Montreal rush hour, and more

Unfortunately, the three hour delay in leaving Toronto meant arriving in Montreal for the start of the afternoon rush hour. Oh joy. It was very very bad. Hot hot hot, and there was some backup or delay on the approach to the Champlain Bridge, the one I had to cross. For well over an hour I crept along with everyone else at approximately one km an hour in 28C? 30C? heat (my truck is not air conditioned) on the approach to the bridge. I know there are other routes through Montreal, but I had no idea which one was most likely to be any better and thought, better the devil I know...

So around 5.30pm I finally emerged from Montreal, it took me two hours to get through! I had hoped to make it to the New Brunswick border that night but now the chances were looking dismal. At least a 5 hour drive from Montreal to NB, not counting dinner and bathroom breaks.

The air was bad. I think every damn field from Montreal to Riviere du Loup was being ploughed, and the earth was dry and dusty. The sky was yellow in every direction, with occasional plumes of brown dust rising from this field or that one.

By evening I was north of Quebec City, so I decided I would just keep going. At 10.30pm I turned south at Riviere du Loup for the final leg to New Brunswick. At that point I really should not have been on the road, I was quite tired and my reaction time was noticeably slowed. I figured that there wouldn't be too much traffic on the road and with the stereo cranked up I would stay awake until my destination. So that's what I did and I pulled off an hour later just north of the border.

I had packed the truck so full that it took me another half hour just to clear out some space in the back of the truck to sleep. It was still pretty hot so I couldn't sleep in my sleeping bag because it was too warm, so I spread a bedsheet on top of the sleeping bag and slept under that for half the night, then after a few hours woke up cold and crawled into the bag to sleep for another couple of hours.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, I arrived at Fritz and Carolyn's place on Friday afternoon around 5.00pm. The kayak on the roof weathered the trip just fine until the last few kilometers when a strong wind picked up and started blowing the kayak around. I could see it's bow sweeping back and forth above the windshield, the rope holding the stern moving in tandem in my rearview mirror. I slowed right down, figuring I was so close to my destination that I did not want to stop unless I absolutely had to. At the exit from the highway I did pull off and check the kayak tie-downs, they were a bit loose but I thought they would hold for the last 5 km or so to the house. And they did.

Arriving

Fritz and Carolyn of course were not home, but I know where their spare key is and let myself in. I called Carolyn at work to let her know I was there, then had a shower and made a cup of tea while I waited for her to come home. My reason for wanting to get to Wolfville by Friday afternoon was that Carolyn had said she was planning to go to the South Shore for the weekend, so I wanted to arrive before she left. As it turned out, she opted to stay in town for the weekend. We went out for dinner at The Ivy Deck and by the time we got back to her house Fritz was home too. We chatted for an hour or so and then all toddled off to bed.

On Saturday morning we again sat around for a couple of hours over breakfast chatting, then Carolyn and I headed off to the Saturday Market. Having packed up over several days, I had long since forgotten what I had in the way of food so I did not know what grocery shopping I needed to do. I decided I'd wait until I'd unpacked to make a grocery list. So the Market was more for the pleasure of it than any real shopping. In the afternoon I headed up to The Harbour. Ruth and Mike were home and after first taking a look at the house I would be staying in, I checked in with them. Ruth came back to my truck to help offload the kayak, we left it lying on a couple of logs by the side of the driveway. Borrowing their wheelbarrow I began unpacking the truck.

The driveway into Fritz and Carolyn's house in the woods is very muddy at this time of year, and last fall Mike got his tractor stuck in the driveway, so there are big gouges in the ground where he got stuck. Maneuvering the wheelbarrow around the mud and tractor gouges was tricky, I did not escape sinking up to my ankles in mud but did manage to avoid spilling any of my belongings into the mud. I was amazed at how much stuff I had, seeing it all spread out inside the house was impressive. Imagine, I somehow got all that stuff into my truck!

There's tools and books and food and pots and pans and clothes and yarn and a computer and a boombox and a breadmaker and a banjo. Not to mention all the kayak gear.

The state of things now

The house is in good shape. Fritz and Mike intended to do some roofing over the winter but were not able to manage it. So the front half is nicely done, the back half is a mess. But nothing leaks, yet. Scaffolding is up and one of the upstairs bedrooms is now converted to a work area, and a ladder leans up against the porch roof. Since both men have jobs that give them time off in the winter but keep them very busy the rest of the year, neither thinks he will be able to get back to the roof before the fall. Carolyn and I could work on it, but we really need Mike to be there to at least direct. And Mike does not foresee any time off over the summer.

As well there is the small problem of no outhouse. The old outhouse is more than full. My emergency hole in the ground from last summer is still there and I can still use it, but it's not exactly pleasant. Mike did dig a hole for a new outhouse last fall, and the materials are apparently around for building it, but Fritz and Carolyn have specific plans for how they want it done and I am not clear on that. Again, Mike is not available anytime soon. What I am hoping will happen is that I can get him to spend an hour one evening with me showing me how it is to be done. I have a feeling my first building project is going to be an outhouse.

Last summer I was here building the kayak, and that pretty much occupied my attention. When I needed a new outhouse I just dug a hole in the ground and put a couple of boards over it to create a trench. That works OK but it does leave one exposed to the mosquitoes and rain. This summer I am not building a kayak so I feel like I can spend more time on other tasks, such as the outhouse situation. I am thinking that rather than simply make do with the hole, I will put a temporary A-frame roof over it and install a bit of a pedestal for a toilet seat. Then I will tackle the more permanent outhouse.

I would also like to put in a garden. Many years ago Carolyn did have a garden here, but the trees surrounding the house have grown considerably taller and there is less sunshine now. However, I think it is still worth a try. Her garden beds are still visible but seriously overgrown. I will borrow a spade and a fork from Mike and Ruth to start digging them up. The open area around the house is full of bracken. Last year I enjoyed watching them sprout and unfurl, but this year I know what a nuisance they are when fully grown so I think I will be ruthless about cutting them down and pulling them out while they are still unfurled. I know Fritz and Carolyn won't miss the bracken at all.

These photos are from last year. I've got my camera and I've already taken some photos, but I don't have a card reader for transferring them to my computer. So for now, no new photos.

The squatter

A few weeks ago a "squatter" moved into the house. She really should have checked in with Fritz and Carolyn but she didn't. I think Mike and Ruth must have made it clear that I was coming imminently so she did move out a few days before I arrived. She decorated the place quite nicely and left a nice note for me. There was a vase of forsythia on the dining table when I arrived. She left her guitar here and I understand that she has no plans to pick it up in the near future. Apparently she is headed to New York City to record a CD and plans to buy a guitar there. There's also a bow and arrows hanging from one of the ceiling beams, I don't know if she plans to pick that up or not.

A day in The Harbour

Last night, after unpacking everything, doing some grocery shopping and making my first dinner in the house, I went over to Mike and Ruth's to get drinking water (I don't trust the well here) and Ruth asked me to bring my banjo over. So I did that, she looked it over and tuned it, and then showed me the rudiments of clawhammer style (frailing). So I have some homework now, learn to frail. That's one of my projects for the summer here, learn to play my banjo. I've been playing at it off and on for years, but it's been more off than on in the last few.

This morning I biked out to Sheila's house on the road and we had a happy reunion. The dogs barked, Sheila and I hugged, then Sheila called Nancy across the road and we all went for a long walk in the woods with the dogs, Sheila's two Max and Moose and Nancy's Chezzah. I sure wish I had Dobby here now. While Nancy Sheila and I were gabbing, Chezzah took Max and Moose off on a long romp in the woods. We don't know where they went, and they did not return when called, so finally we returned to Sheila's house only to find Max and Moose waiting there. Chezzah was already back at Nancy's house patiently waiting on the porch there.

This afternoon I cleaned up my emergency "outhouse" and made some changes to the door latch on the house. It's a homemade affair that doesn't work entirely as it should, I frequently find the door wide open after thinking I had closed it hours before. I'm not sure I've fixed the problem, I suspect this will be an ongoing project. But it is nice to know that I can "waste" my time on such things, I no longer have to think in terms of it being time away from building the kayak. Both Ruth and Nancy are promising frequent kayak trips this summer, now that I have a completed kayak to use.

Summer plans

So, over the next few weeks I will be practicing on the banjo, building an outhouse, and putting in a garden. Mike has suggested putting a simple pump on the well (at the moment is a matter of dipping pails into it and then lugging them up to the house), and there is already a black plastic pipe buried in the ground between the well and the house. So I think that could be an interesting project as well, completing the pipe and hooking up a pump on the house end. Even if I don't manage to run it right into the house, being able to pump water outside the door will be a huge improvement. If I get a decent cover on the well and drain it, shock it and refill it, I might even have real drinking water there as well. Carolyn ordered a cord of firewood last fall and it never got used, so I have plenty of firewood which is nice. Mike hauled half of it in a wagon right up to the house (that's how the tractor got stuck) and the other half is still out at the end of the driveway.

I brought my breadmaker this time so I will be able to bake my own bread even though there is no oven here. There's a baker who sells really nice bread at the Market so I will probably buy a loaf or two as well, but I really like baking my own. Sheila now has highspeed internet and a wireless router, so I will be able to mooch off her occasionally. And of course our morning dogwalks will continue. After this morning's dogwalk Sheila filled me in on some Harbour gossip. I told her a couple of things in confidence and she explained to me that she and Nancy had a rule about the dogwalks: what gets said in the woods stays in the woods. Good rule.

And the way back

Oh one last thing, when I told Mike and Ruth about my harrowing trip through Montreal, Ruth, who is originally from Montreal, told me of an alternate route that neatly bypasses the city! So I am going to take my map over to her place some time this summer and get her to mark it on the map for me. In all the years I have been travelling between Ontario and Nova Scotia (at least thirty-five now), the only alternative I knew about was going through the States, and these days crossing the border is hardly more easy than Montreal during rush hour. So I eagerly await Ruth's revelation of an alternative Canadian route!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sign and post

The sign bolted to the painted brick wall...

















...The signpost painted on the brick wall

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Not on the road but in recovery

The pictures today are completely unrelated to the text, they're from a recent shopping trip on Roncie (Roncesvalles).

Best laid plans, etc

All the test results are in and the coast is clear. With a couple of minor exceptions, nothing there to impede the way. The twinge of pain down there is most likely arthritis, so I'm going to ignore it.

Doc asked if I wanted an X-ray, I said No, his diagnosis made sense to me. He said take a couple of Tylenol every day for a few days and if the pain goes away then that pretty much confirms that it's arthritis.

Of course in the meantime I came down with a sore throat and fever, so leaving today---which had been the plan if all went well at the doc's office yesterday---is now out of the question.

I'm over the worst of whatever this is, fever is gone, throat is better, but I'm sufficiently lethargic to not want to be driving all day. With the long Victoria Day weekend coming up, I don't want to be on the road with all the other holiday travellers, so that means my departure date is now postponed until sometime next week.

I have mixed feelings about it all. Toronto is leafed out and green now, the weather is neither hot nor cold, so it really is a nice time of year to be here. But I had set my heart on being in the Harbour by mid-May and that is now not going to happen.

So, my plans are now to:

(a) get better,
(b) try to get my kayak into Lake Ontario this weekend,
(c) see the latest Star Trek movie,
(d) see the last Lost episode for the season, and
(e) try to get together with The Dog Ladies one last time.

Dog days

While I was going through my week of medical tests, we very nearly lost our dogpark. Apparently a complaint was lodged (this now turns out not to be true) and one of the Catholic School Board maintenance folks told us that we would have to get a permit to take our dogs onto school property, and the permit was going to cost BIG BUCKS. It was a rather stunning turn of events. With all the stress of the medical tests I was in no mood for it and it instantly depressed me.

I thought:

(a) there's no way we can fight this, or at least not in the near term, and
(b) this dogpark has meant more than simply a place to walk the dog, it was the basis for my flimsy but growing social life in Toronto and now it's gone.

Without it I just felt like, what's the point, well, of anything, really.

However, with the Clean Train Coalition thing going on, this neighbourhood is very politicized right now, it was just a hop skip and a jump to take on the School Board over this issue. The Brockton Dogs Yahoo group had already been formed so it was kicked into high gear to take on the issue. Within a day alliances were formed with other dog owners' groups, several people were calling the Board over the issue, and news was being debated and discussed online as to what our best strategy was. The whole thing was a tempest in a teapot, within a couple of days the issue got resolved and the dogpark remains, it turns out that the "complaint" was actually a somewhat misrepresented report from a Board employee.

So kind of not surprising that I fell victim to a sore throat, as this past week has been an emotional roller coaster.

Preparations continue in spite of setbacks...

Seeing as how I have no energy for packing or cleaning or whatever, I instead mapped my truck. Crawled around inside the cab and the truckbed with a measuring tape and wrote down all the packing space measurements. Then I measured all the things I wanted to pack and tried to map them to the truck space measurements. I think I'm going to squeak by. And there's still the kayak hatches as a last resort.

Come fly with him

On another note, I recommend Black Flies and Bush Planes to you (see the blog list on the right). This is the new blog of my son Josh, who is spending this summer in northern Ontario becoming a bush pilot. He's an excellent writer (comes by it honestly I think ;-) and it's an interesting topic.

Something I've found fascinating about blog-reading over the past year or so is all the sub-communities of bloggers. There are elders, birdwatchers, taxi drivers, political commentators, mommies, knitters, quilters, you name it, they have a blogging community. When you chance upon one blog you get to sample a bunch of the same ilk by following bloglist links. So Josh is the tip of the airpilot iceberg, check out his bloglist for an international sampling of airpilots who blog.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Saling into the storm

The Brockton Triangle Yard Sale was today, unfortunately we had several thunderstorms pass through, complete with heavy downpour and lightning. Some of us were undeterred though, we put our stuff out for sale, and then either ran it all back onto the porch when the downpour started or simply covered everything in tarps. The storms came in waves, so we had to do this several times over, but we were determined!

I managed to sell a few things, and then spent my earnings on two bead necklaces from Mary Anne across the street, a cookie from Tristan, and a chana, potato and cheese roti from Queen Street.

A lady wanted to buy binoculars from me and tried to bargain with me, but I was of two minds about whether I wanted to sell them at all, so I told her that I wasn't going to lower the price because I would be happy to keep them. She finally bought them at my price. I was half wishing that she would walk away without them, kind of disappointed to see them go.

Dobby had to stay in the house for the whole time that the yard sale was going on. He kept sneaking out every time the front door opened. Gretel was trying to sell an old dog crate, and one time I caught Dobby sneaking out the door and I stuffed him into the crate. He didn't like that.

I had an electric drill that a fellow wanted to buy, I didn't care what I got for it I just wanted to get rid of it so I told him to make me an offer. He said he hated dickering, he just wanted to pay my price, but he didn't have change and neither did I so he went off to get change and didn't come back. After the yard sale was over we had arranged for a charity to come pick up our leftovers and I gave them the drill. But five minutes later the fellow did show up and I had to tell him it was gone. He shrugged his shoulders and we both laughed. He said he probably didn't want it after all.

At a slow moment in the yard sale, Brighid and her Dad got out their fiddles and played a couple of tunes. Brighid's fiddle is tiny! I've never seen such a tiny fiddle.

The sign over their heads is Gretel's new business and website address. You can go there and see what she's doing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dirty old man

One day this past week I went out and bought some petunias, marigolds and lobelia to plant in the tires in front of our house. I am tired of looking at the dirt. These flowers are not very big, but they're a start.

Here's Dobby admiring my work.


I've been slowly packing and putting things into the truck. On Friday, Ross was out on his porch with his "lady friend" the homecare worker who keeps him company on weekdays. I waved to him and he waved back and asked me if I wanted a beer. In the summertime, he sits on his porch every afternoon having a beer, and he frequently asks me if I want one too. I usually say No because I am busy doing something or other. But this time I said Yes. No doubt I surprised the hell out of him.

Coincidentally Gretel was just returning from a visit to the doctor's, she had hand tremors that the doctor said were caused by stress and the best thing for it was alcohol. So when Ross invited her for a beer as well, she took him up on it. Gretel and I went over to Ross's porch for a beer. Ross introduced his homecare lady, Joyce, and asked her if she'd have a beer too. But she said, Not while she was on the job.

Ross has told me about his lovelife during the War. He was stationed in Halifax and a family there took him in and treated him like their own son, who was overseas in the War. Ross had a thing going with their daughter. But he was also engaged to be married to a lady in Toronto, so he was torn. In the end he chose the lady in Toronto and they did get married and have a good life together, but he always remembers the lady in Halifax with a touch of regret. So this day I was kidding him about his luck with the ladies. Turns out he has two homecare ladies, Joyce and another woman who comes twice a week to give him a bath. He ain't complainin'!

I asked Ross if he made it overseas during the War. He said that he was posted on a frigate heading to Britain, but it was struck by a torpedo and went down. Fortunately he survived and was rescued, but it so affected his nerves that he was posted to a tugboat for the rest of the War and never left Halifax until the War was over.

At one point I asked Ross how old he was. He asked me how old I thought he was. I said I thought he was 80, based on something he told me last year, and he said that he wished I had never asked him that question. He said he was hoping to get a date with me, but if I knew how old he was I'd never agree to it. He's 85. I laughed and said, Well if he was just a couple of years younger, I'd seriously consider it. He said I might be disappointed, the equipment wasn't what it used to be.

Our very own resident Dirty Old Man!

Ross's house is on a bit of rise above the street, sitting there on his porch in the sun with beer in hand, it's a nice view of what's going on up and down the street. His house is one of the older ones on the street, more than a hundred years old. His grandfather used to live there, his mother grew up in that house. When she married she moved to a house on the next street up and Ross grew up there. Ross eventually bought his grandfather's house and raised his own family there. The two rosebushes in front of Ross's porch were planted by his grandfather, so I guess they'd be older than Ross's kids and maybe even older than Ross.

And Gretel reports that the alcohol works just fine.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Back to Bobcageon

I kind of got caught up in and preoccupied by other things so I did not write about my second visit of the year to Barrie and Bobcageon on the last weekend of April. I wanted to see Bill and Ruthe again before I left for the summer in Nova Scotia. I'm afraid I did not take any photos this time of Bill and Ruthe, in fact the only thing I photographed were these easter eggs.

My sister-in-law's sister-in-law is Ukrainian, and she gives Tim and Laurene handpainted easter eggs. They had four of them on their dining table and I thought they were exquisite, so I had to photograph them.

Beautiful, eh? What a talented woman!

Usually Tim calls Corrine, Bill's wife, when we are going to visit Bobcageon and she usually meets us for lunch and goes with us to Bill's nursing home. But she was out of town this time so Tim and I surprised Ruthe and Bill.

When we arrived at Ruthe's, she was busy getting ready to go out for lunch with a friend. She seemed much more energetic this time than the last time we saw her. We had a nice visit with her but after 25 minutes or so it was clear that she was tiring and we didn't want to exhaust her before she went out for lunch with her friend so we said our goodbyes and left.

We dropped by Bill's place briefly to let him know we were there and would come back in the afternoon for a longer visit. Then we went for lunch at a local restaurant called the For The Halibut, and had fish and chips. I think we had cod. We went for a bit of a walk around town afterward, I saw a bufflehead on the river there.

Bill was waiting for us by the front door when we got back to his nursing home. I think we spent almost two hours with him until we had tired him out too. We chatted about a lot of things, about Josh's new job flying in northern Ontario this summer, the state of Tim's car that used to be Bill's and so he still has a proprietary interest in its survival. We talked about Bill's oldest brother Jesse and how smart he was. Jesse was hired by IBM to repair and maintain their computers back in the very early days of big mainframe computers. One of the car companies, I think it might have been General Motors, was especially impressed with Jesse's abilities in keeping computers up and running, so they created an office especially for him at their plant in Oshawa. I asked Bill if he knew anything about Grandad's family but Bill said that he didn't know much about that part of the family, Grandad had pretty much cut off ties with his family after having loaned someone some money and they didn't repay it.

One of the things we had talked to Ruthe about was Grandma's sisters. Apparently Grandma and her sisters all came to Canada together. Her sisters names were Agnes, Ruby and I forget the third one. One of them married an American and moved to the States, but the other two remained in Canada With Grandma ("Betts"). There was also a brother, but he didn't come to Canada, he went to California. Apparently he wasn't too friendly with the sisters, Grandma tried to visit him in California but it was not a pleasant trip.

After Tim and I got back to Barrie, Corrine phoned to say that she had been in Toronto visiting her new grandson, Kimberley's baby. Tim commented on how well Ruthe was looking and Corrine said that Ruthe now wanted to leave the nursing home and get her own apartment again. Or failing that, to buy a scooter so she could scoot into town whenever she felt like it. This from an 82 year old woman who last year was at death's door with congestive heart failure and kidney failure! We think the only reason she is in such good shape now is thanks to the care she is getting at the nursing home, so no one is particularly wanting to encourage her to leave it. And while she seems in good spirits and able to get around, she is still very frail and it is rather hard to picture her on a scooter whizzing into town! But Ruthe always was a fiercely independent woman, I'm sure nursing home life is irksome to her.

Tim took videos at both Ruthe's and Bill's places, but I am not sure how well the sound turned out. Eventually Tim hopes to put together a CD or DVD of the time we have spent with them to share with their families and with ours.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Testing the limits

So.

Two down, one to go.

First one was a blood test, not sure what for except maybe possible anemia, but I am pretty sure that is not a problem for me. I arrived at the lab minutes before closing time and the last tech was just closing up shop, she was not thrilled to see me. I wasn't thrilled to see her either, last time she took my blood she dug around in both arms looking for a suitable vein and ended up leaving big bruises that took a long time to heal. However, beggars can't be choosers, I was grateful that she did the bloodletting at all, and this time quickly without bruising.

Second one was a colonoscopy, that was yesterday. Whew.

For those of you who have had the pleasure, I'm sure I need say no more.

And for those of you who have not, you don't want to know.

Suffice to say, the doctor performing the procedure had zero bedside manner, but if performing colonoscopies was my day job I'm sure I'd have no bedside manner either.

Once again my lousy veins were a problem. Sedation was an option, I chose to take it, but the good doctor tried four times to find a vein to insert the sedation needle into. Each time hurt, each time he cursed, and by the fourth time I was ready to pass out and he was ready to quit. Things went downhill from there. I think that if slapping around recalcitrant patients were allowed, he would have. As it was he just slapped the recalcitrant veins and made unpleasant comments.

He asked if I would forego the sedation, how low was my pain threshold anyway.

I said, At this point, pretty damn low.

So he ploughed on. Literally.

The good news is it's done, they gave me cookies and water in the recovery room and escorted me to the bathroom to expel accumulated gas, and after 30 minutes or so I could walk without staggering and went home.

The last test is scheduled for Thursday, an ultrasound. Going without food for most of the day and waiting in the lab with an overfull bladder sounds like a piece of cake compared to the last few days!

I was supposed to see the referring doctor mentioned in a previous post yesterday, but he apparently has come down with the 'flu so my appointment is deferred until next week. Hopefully I have not caught the 'flu from my visit with him last week, but I don't remember him sneezing or coughing so I am probably OK. There seems to be a lot of 'flu going around right now, swine or otherwise.

After the colonoscopy the nurse in the recovery room told me everything looked OK except that I have diverticulosis (not diverticulitis), apparently a common condition in people over 60. Having looked it up on the internet, I know there isn't much to be done about it except eat lots of fibre and drink lots of water, and it is simply a chronic condition that may or may not cause some discomfort. I already eat a pretty high-fibre diet, but I probably fall down in the "drink lots of water" routine. It can develop into diverticulitis, and then more needs to be done, but since that is usually signalled by significant pain it is probably not something one would miss or fail to get treated.

In any case, I think the ultrasound will just be verification that nothing else is the matter, so if I was in a hurry I could probably just leave for Nova Scotia right after that test. However there is so much to do to get ready to leave and I am not up for the supreme effort to stick to the schedule, so I think I'll just take it easy. I have no external deadline to meet, just an internal deadline of wanting to be there by mid-May.

Packing for the trip is looking more and more hopeless. I like travelling by truck because it means I can carry lots of stuff with me. However my desire to take lots of stuff with me has gotten out of hand, the pile of stuff I simply must have this summer is clearly several times larger than the truck. All the stuff I took last year, plus all the stuff I wished I had taken last year.

Sigh....

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Burma VJ

I saw one of the documentaries that is in this year's Hot Docs Festival in Toronto, it was called Burma VJ (VJ=video journalist). This was narrated by a Burmese man, a journalist in hiding. During the uprising in September 2007 he was responsible for a network of Burmese video journalists who took live footage of events and smuggled it out to the international media. The narrator survived because he had had to flee to Thailand before the uprising, but many of his colleagues were hunted down and killed for their work. He lost all his friends and colleagues; the few that survived are now in hiding and he can't reach them.

It's a harrowing film, at once frightening and moving. The Burmese who participated in that uprising were extremely brave. For a few days the people were excited and hopeful that things might change, but it ended badly. The scenes of the uprising were amazing, tens of thousands of Burmese marching in the streets, sitting down and praying in front of armed soldiers at the command of the monks.

The monks were amazing too. This is a very devout country, where monks are highly respected. They generally avoid getting involved politically, but this time they did, for the people who were suffering. They marched in the hundreds with their begging bowls turned upside down above their heads. This meant that they were refusing alms, particularly from the government. For the monks to show this kind of disapproval is a Very Big Deal.

For soldiers to shoot at monks, and then later round them up, take them away and torture and kill them, was also a Very Big Deal. Those soldiers have very bad karma to deal with now. The narrator hoped that the soldiers would come over to the people, but he felt sorry for them when they didn't. He said they knew better than anyone else how cruel the Generals are and he understood their fear to refuse orders.

There was one scene where one of the VJs was running with some students to escape the soldiers. They ran into a dead-end with no way out and the soldiers right on their heels, and ran up a stairwell in a house, in the dark. The soldiers came in and started shooting, up the stairwell. You could hear the students whispering and the soldiers shooting at them from only a few feet away, but the screen was dark because the journalist had his camera hidden. It was awful.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in a place like that. The pall of daily fear was palpable.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day may day

Keep meaning to write something here but somehow don't get around to it. Been a busy a week.

I am planning to drive to Nova Scotia on May 8. Well, leave here on May 8, spend a couple of days visiting a friend in Ottawa and then another couple of days on the road through Quebec and New Brunswick to arrive in Wolfville on the 12th.

That was the plan. Now up in the air.

I had a warning symptom that things might not be as well as they might and I debated whether to do anything about it now or wait until I got down east to pursue the matter. Called my doctor's office and the earliest I could get an appointment was at the end of May, over a month away (at the time of the call). This is highly frustrating, it's the second time I've tried to get an appointment and the receptionist has told me that there was no way at all to see her in less than a month. I could however drag myself down to the clinic for the two-hour walk-in period and hope that I was one of the lucky five people who got to see a doctor there. I asked if they could tell me of any alternative, such as another walk-in clinic, the answer was No. Unless I wanted to spend a minimum of six hours at Emerge, and since my problem is not an emergency I could count on being triaged to the bottom of the waitlist there.

At the dogpark and my weaving and wood carving classes I started asking folks what doctor they saw and whether that doctor was taking new patients. Got lots of suggestions and everyone seemed confident that their doctor was taking new patients, but when I followed up, none were. I went on the internet and did countless searches for walk-in clinics and doctors taking new patients within a reasonable distance. Nothing. I am sure there are walk-in clinics, but a Google search just doesn't reveal them. There doesn't seem to be one place you can go to for a list of walk-in clinics.

I can't tell you how frustrating this is. The only good news is that my Ontario health insurance card (OHIP card) does entitle me to seek medical care in another province for up to 12 months of being out-of-province. Assuming that there's any other province in the country that has a better supply of GPs than Ontario.

Yesterday I again called about the walk-in clinic, they again warned me about how only the first 5 or 6 people arriving might actually see a doctor, but I went anyway. At the reception desk I started in on how frustrating this was, how everyone else I knew could see their doctor within a few days, so why did I have to wait a month, and why couldn't I just see another doctor at the clinic instead of having to take my chances on the walk-in clinic. They innocently expressed surprise and told me, Sure I could see another doctor if I wanted. That would only be a two week wait.

Then I was really upset. Why the heck couldn't they have told me that on the phone? Why, when I asked if there was any alternative to the walk-in clinic did they tell me No? Then I asked to speak to an administrator. They told me No. I said, So who can I talk to about this very frustrating situation? The receptionist then began to write down what I was saying and said she would pass it on to my doctor, who also happened to be the Director of the clinic. And, if I wanted to, I could tell the walk-in clinic doctor my complaint as well.

Assuming I got to see him at all. I arrived ten minutes before the walk-in clinic started and was number six on the list, so maybe I would, maybe I wouldn't. I waited two hours. The waiting room was full when I arrived, and empty when the doctor finally called my name.

He was very nice and listened to my complaint about the difficulty of getting to see a doctor, he assured me that he would be happy to have me make appointments with him if I couldn't see my own doctor at the clinic. I complained about the lack of information provided by the receptionists, how I didn't even know that I could see another doctor there, my own doctor had led me to believe that things were not done that way and certainly the receptionists had never suggested it even when I asked what the alternatives were.

This doctor ordered up a bunch of tests and did his best to get them all scheduled before my May 8 deadline. I now have an appointment to see him again in a few days. He seems to have a much lighter schedule than my own doctor, I would happily switch to him. Not that I don't like my own doctor, I just can never get near her.

Apparently she is so hard to get to because she has taken on a second job, that of being the Director of the clinic. But they don't make any allowances for her patients, we are expected to wait a month or more to see her. I suppose if you had some kind of chronic condition that required regular visits with the doctor you could manage this by scheduling appointments well in advance, but I usually only go to a doctor when I feel I have no other choice, that I've got a health problem I can't deal with by myself. And that usually means I need to see the doctor sooner rather than later.

I now have a list of appointments to keep over the next few days, but I am not sure if I will be able to get away by May 8. I'll just have to see how it goes. My last appointment is on May 7, but I do not know if I will have to see the doctor again sometime after that.

The state of healthcare here does leave me a little scared though. Trying to find a doctor in Toronto is really really hard. Gretel commented that she had heard there was a shortage, but she thought that any tech-savvy person who could ask around and do internet searches shouldn't have that much difficulty finding a doctor; my experience has surprised her. It's not just Toronto, it's across the country, but some places are worse than others and I think Ontario is particularly difficult. BC is apparently one of the easier places to find a doctor, and coming from there I was sure surprised by how hard it is here. And people I meet here who found a doctor five, ten, twenty years ago have no idea how hard it is now. They have no idea that their own doctor stopped taking new patients years ago.

I have a feeling Nova Scotia is not going to be much better.