Tuesday, December 4, 2012
The approach of winter
This picture of Hapi was drawn on a smartphone by a young woman standing behind me in line for the local ATM. I can't believe she did this so quickly and on a cell phone! She texted me the picture. Amazing, eh?
Coming 'round to Christmas and it has been a while since I last posted.
Pottering around doing this 'n' that, nothing so time-consuming as to justify leaving off the blog, on the other hand nothing so exciting as to inspire a new post.
I've been going to an exercise class, Triple-A (Acadia Active Aging), which is OK but I can't say that I notice any kind of physical improvement. I had a student trainer who was supposed to be training me on the various machines and tracking my "improvement". Mostly we chatted about dogs and her life in northern Ontario, where she is from. And I got tendinitis in my arms. Not sure what caused that, could be coincidental or it could be the Triple-A stuff. In any case I am back on the waitlist for physiotherapy and after a month and a half I have my first appointment coming up. In the meantime the tendinitis is subsiding.
I also started skating with a friend in Triple-A. We try to go once a week but it is kind of boring as it is just a windowless indoor rink with no music and hardly any people. At times we have the entire rink of clean ice to ourselves. If I was a great skater I would be tickled pink at the opportunity to have all that ice to practice my skills on, but I am not. I am one step removed from hugging the boards for balance. I can sort of skate backwards and in circles but that is the limit of my amazing skills on ice.
I joined the Baptist Church choir. Mostly because a friend of mine is the choirmaster and every time she sees me she mentions that I can join any time and the last time she did that she caught me at a weak moment and I agreed. Her enticement was that the annual Christmas Cantata was going to be a medley of Celtic carols, complete with Celtic band. My choirmaster friend has her doctorate in music and teaches music therapy at the university, as well as numerous students in her home. So working with her is a bit of a privilege, but seeing as how organized church religion is never going to be my thing and this is the Baptist church no less, it does feel a bit strange to be hying myself off to church every Sunday. However to my surprise the singing part is actually sufficiently pleasurable that it makes up for the churchy part. There are some Acadia music students in the choir with amazing voices and it is good to be singing along with them. I can sing in tune if I am singing along with someone else who manages to be in tune, otherwise I am quite hopeless.
To round out my musical career and as somewhat of an antidote to the churchy Sundays, I also joined a ukulele group that meets on Sunday evenings in each other's homes. We bring along snacks and "something to drink", sit in a circle and strum our ukes and sing silly songs. The "something to drink" is usually a mason jar of some anonymous alcoholic beverage, so the songs get sillier as the evening progresses. There is some talk of going out carolling, with our ukuleles, in a couple of weeks. We are torn between announcing our plans in advance and not. On the one hand neighbours are likely to turn out their lights and lock their doors when they hear our ukes coming, on the other hand there might be "something to drink" on offer.
Last week I went to PEI. The grandboys were spending a couple of weeks there as their parents were overwhelmingly busy with work. I took a couple of early Christmas presents and the dog. The resident dog Fiona was not thrilled with Hapi's arrival so there was a bit of tension in the house over that. The climax was a grand dog fight over food that sent dogfood and water bowls flying all over the living room. The fight was over in a matter of seconds but the cleanup took a little longer. The dogs were sent outdoors to have it out, and they did. After that no more fighting. the occasional warning growl, but they appeared to have settled the main issues.
We have had our first snows here. Locally they forecasted snow flurries and we got a blizzard instead. Kerthump and there was a blanket of snow everywhere. While I was in PEI another snowfall to the delight of the boys. In addition there were a couple Canada World Youth fellows in the house, one of whom hailed from Indonesia. It was his first snow ever. He said that in his home town, they considered +20C (68F) cold, +40C was normal. His counterpart was from Calgary so he was pleased to see the snow and insisted on dragging the Indonesian youth outdoors for a snowball fight. The grandboys started to build a snowman but got distracted by the snow-covered trampoline.
I took the boys and the dogs to the beach where we found a patch of thin ice on the sand with no water underneath. They had great fun sliding on it and throwing sticks for the dogs. The dogs skittered and slid over the ice after the sticks. Only feet away great white-capped waves crashed on the shore.
My truck is now ready for winter. It has been painted and waterproofed and snowtires put on. My neighbour found two rims for the snowtires, he says he will keep an eye out for two more. That way I don't have to keep having the tires removed from the rims and replaced with whatever tire is suitable for the season. The waterproofing was largely successful but one leak remains that we don't know the exact location of. Nothing a small towel can't catch though.
I still have carrots, kale and mustard greens in the garden. I worried about the carrots the entire time I was in PEI because the temperature dropped below -10C at night. But I had left them covered in snow and plastic and apparently snow is almost as good an insulator as the pink fibreglass stuff. In any case even the mustard greens held up under the snow and plastic. I also have some green onions that are going on two years old and are huge. I had left them out because I didn't know what to do with them, the green parts are way too tough to use in salad. But it turns out the that the white part is very usable and since that part is now as big as leeks, I have a tonne of "green onions". And since they grew through last winter I hardly worry about them this winter. A fellow "Newcomer" gave me a recipe for kale mashed potatoes that calls for a large quantity of onion, so I have a good use for all the kale and onion still in the garden and the potatoes now stored in the basement.
Speaking of potatoes. I read a while ago about the nutritious value of potatoes. When potatoes were first brought into Europe, the Irish went for them in a big way. In fact they became the diet staple which ultimately led to the infamous Potato Famine. But before the famine, poor Irish peasants subsisted on a diet largely consisting of potatoes and a bit of milk, while poor peasants elsewhere in Europe had diets based on grains. And apparently the Irish peasants were far healthier than their counterparts anywhere else, because the potato is almost a complete food. In combination with milk it covers all the nutritional bases.
In my hippy days we eschewed anything white as being bad for you: white flour, white rice, homogenized milk, potatoes and such. To this day I associate the colour white with poor nutrition, and I even have trouble with cauliflour. But this is just wrong. White doesn't mean anything. And potatoes are actually a very healthy food. Which is good because I have always loved potatoes and felt terribly guilty eating them. No more.
Another thing about the Irish, this is about Irish Soda Bread. Back in the day firewood was at a premium in most of Europe because the nobility controlled all the forests and common people couldn't access them for fuel. Except in Ireland where the laws were different and everyone could go into the forest to gather firewood. As a result, most European villages had community bake ovens to conserve fuel and most people ate yeast-leavened bread because that was most suitable for a community bake oven. But in Ireland, common people could bake at home, they had the fuel for it, so community bake ovens were not so common. And soda bread is a quick bread that wouldn't do so well if you had to wait your turn at the community oven but is just fine if you have your very own oven for baking on your own schedule. So the Irish made soda bread while the rest of Europe made yeast or sourdough bread.
Reading. Well I just read another really great book, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Very long book, over 600 pages. I found it a bit overwhelming at first, the pace was, to my way of thinking, extremely slow. I'd say the first 150 pages are about the birth of the story's narrator. But once I settled into the pace I found the book extremely interesting and thoughtful. And along the way learned a bit of Ethiopian history.
Ethiopia is the one African country that did not succumb to European imperialism until the 1930s when Mussolini came along. But for the centuries and millenia before that it was an independent land never warped by colonialism. It also is home to some of the oldest Jewish and Christian communities. The Queen of Sheba was thought to have come from there, although that is disputed now.
Anyway, the book is set in modern times and the story is set against the Ethiopia of Haile Selassie but it is not about that. The story's narrator is a conjoined twin separated shortly after birth and raised by adoptive Indian parents. He becomes a surgeon and ultimately practices in New York. That is the bare bones of the story, there is of course much more to it which you will discover if you decide to take on this giant of a book. Along the way you will learn a bit of history of a very interesting country. And since the author is a surgeon himself, you will learn a bit about surgery as well. But Mr Verghese is a very thoughtful surgeon with a lot to say about life in general and the practice of medicine in particular. Very satisfying read.
OK, sorry about the long wait, if in fact you have been waiting for my next post. And I imagine some people who might have waited have given it up so my audience is no doubt considerably smaller. Although I have always assumed that it was small to begin with, now it is probably just that much smaller. Eventually it will dwindle to nothing, I will stop writing altogether and nobody will notice.