abendgules: (winter arabesque)
I'm in the colonies, visiting Mum in her new retirement home. She moved to this location in Barrie in October, and I wanted to see it in winter, when Barrie is at its least charming.

It's a lovely part of Ontario 3 seasons of the year - but mid-winter is heavy going. You have to love snow, and winter driving...or just put up with 2-3 months spent indoors.

Anyway: what I'm noticing this trip is friendliness.

It's a sign, I think, of how accustomed I've grown to the surly and inconsiderate London tone, that I'm noticing how pleasant the interactions are with ordinary people, in shops, restaurants, in the hotel, in the hew retirement home.

I honestly don't remember this tone, being this friendly before. Either I've really changed in expectation, or Canadians have done another surge in nice-ness.

Possibly, I'm doing more interactions: airport, car rental, hotel, lots of food places. It's a series of small transactions, maybe more than on previous trips - and noticing the tone and attitude.

What made me laugh out loud today is the weather report.

There's been a freezing-rain-snowstorm blow through Ontario and into Quebec and the Maritimes - only about 5cm of snow but temps right around 0 so it's turning to freezing rain and then freezing on the ground and all surfaces. It's like a very mild version of the ice storm of 1998, downing power lines and trees.

I actually opted not to drive back to Orillia (where I was staying w/ relatives) from Barrie, because the stretch of highway between them is particularly bad; it's only about 40min but very windy and unpredictable.

So CBC reporter goes to the weather guy who says:

'Hey, what can you say? It's February in Canada! Winter, it's what we do!'

There was no moaning, no apologies and now whining about the weather, just a clear description of the really varied and difficult conditions across the provinces. God I loved it.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
I came back from the colonies with a lot on my mind.


Ageing sucks. Avoid at all costs.

If you cannot avoid, start now to strengthen your body so you're not as vulnerable to falls, fragile bones, collapsing vertebra, and loss of muscle tone. Just keep at it.

Nurses (and other medic types) remain the worst patients. They know it all and are lousy at taking advice from their own GPs.

If you insist on getting old, start downsizing now. Do not leave emotional cluster-bomb crap for your relatives to deal with.

My mum's house is thick with photographs and it feels physically oppressive to me, this celebration of the past; no photos less than 10 years old, most of them much older. Cannot imagine inheriting a stately home, if just a bunch of pictures make me feel loaded down with expectation.

Do it now, whatever it is.

I attended the funeral of a man 2 years younger than me: son to my parents' longtime friends K&A. I grew up w/ Tom and his brothers, though as a teen you stop going to dinner at your parents' friends' homes, so I'd not seen him since late teens.

Tom lost control of his motorbike on a dry straight road on Father's Day. Of the 4 brothers he was the only one with a wife and 2 small kids of his own.

The funeral service was packed with people who, I suspect, were not used to mourning; adults who have not yet seen elderly parents and ageing friends die, who had little experience with death.

I'm not an expert, but it felt to me like there were a lot of people not certain how to mourn; men, in particular, used to being happy, angry, outgoing, but not grieving. It was really breaking them.

Once again I had a chance to observe a good 'court herald' in the funeral home staff - setting the tone and pace, directing people and providing cues without appearing to push - and an experienced minister who was excellent at keeping it brief, and focusing on the joyful life rather than the sudden death.

There's real skill in making people welcome when they're not at their best, when emotions run high, and to make them as comfortable as possible. I was impressed by the funeral home's professionalism.

One slightly eerie aspect: Tom had recently started playing guitar again, after giving up his teen dreams of stardom. Just this week he'd recorded himself playing and singing one song, about 3 minutes, on his phone. His wife found it after he'd died, and she played the clip at the funeral. It was peculiar, but very apt, for Tom to sing a song at his own funeral.

The takeaway message though was - live today like it's your last. Don't put off plans, dreams, goals. Do them now.

My extended family remain a pretty remarkable and cool bunch of people. I caught up with several cousins and 2nd cousins, and am grateful that they are still really awesome folks.

I was deeply, profoundly grateful for old friends in Canada who were untroubled by my phoning them out of the blue, to ask for help. My friend Julia and her household made me welcome and I stayed more than a week, mostly just overnights, as a place to unwind, close to Mum's house.

I didn't manage to reach everyone I wanted to, which was disappointing. Will have to follow up online.

Am finishing this post and going to bed. Hoping to get to sleep sometime before 3.30am this time...
abendgules: (well dang)
Canadians take their summer weather for granted. They have no idea how blessed they are to not have to feel like the weather is out to get you on a daily basis.

I haven't worn sunglasses this often possibly since my last visit - there's almost no point in the UK.

My demographic matches Q107 radio exactly.

Or rather...Q107 has changed to match my demographic, and stay abreast of it. When I listened to it in the 1980s it was relentlessly and exclusively hard-rock. I have no idea what that would mean now to a teenager, if it even exists now.

Today I listened to a Journey song from 1982, which makes it 30+ yrs old. If they'd played 30+ yr old music in 1983 it would have dated to early 1950s, and except for Elvis I don't think there's anyone who would have qualified for their playlist. So the target audience has definitely aged.

It's somewhat dismaying, how nostalgic and happy listening to it makes me.

White, and magnolia ('cream' or 'ecru' to the Canadians) are the new black in cars.

My mum's old car and my loaner car are both white. Everyone and their dog has a white car now, with a handful of distinctly creamy-white cars standing out in the parking lots. Wonder how they're described in the marketing bumf?

Canadians are more wired and online than when I was here last; I don't think Timmy's had wifi, for instance (though maybe it did and I just didn't need it). Even my mother has wifi, much to my surprise.

However, the options available for pay as you go phones are crap. I am pouring money upon the Canadian telecomm economy like water.

For a country with such excellent telecomms skills and services, it's mad that 50c/minute is the best I can get outside the GTA. With a phone 'based' in Oshawa, everyone I want to reach is long distance.

Tim Horton's looks more and more like McDonald's and less and less like a coffeeshop; 'breakfast sandwiches', 'lunch menus' hardly a mention of bagels on the board. Sugar syrups, coffee drinks, and smoothies, whipped *things* everywhere.

Humph, mutter mutter mutter... at least the coffee is intact, so long as you ask for a small.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
I don't like seeing Ottawa in the news, except on 1 July.

It's very disconcerting seeing the footage showing places I know so well. Never mind being one of the people who work there!

OTOH: very heartening to see folks behaving sensibly.

Footage shows people exiting the Post Office building opposite Parliament in a quick, orderly fashion, no panicking, no crush.

Just moving as quick as they could, following police directions.

Nice to see the police acting calmly, helpfully, smoothly, no fuss, no drama.

I really, really hope this doesn't result in a great rush of anti-everyone, illiberal, badly-conceived laws and kneejerk reactions.

Find out the cause of the incidents, respond appropriately. Don't break Canada's general good reputation for tolerance and openness.

Sadly, UK has gone over the edge into a full surveillance society; it just has a veneer of openness and tolerance on top. But it need not be that way in Canada.
abendgules: (winter arabesque)
I'm carefully scanning CBC news to keep track of the progress of the cold weather in my first homeland.

So I go to the homepage, cbc.ca....and find that the cold weather is actually world news, not national news. Bad weather is happening in the US, eh? so we'd better cover it, sort of.

But the hockey, well, the Canadian hockey team gets double billing, in News and Sports both!

Bruce Springsteen has more coverage than the weather.

I'm both charmed, and slightly horrified that the CBC is so hockey focused.

cbc home page
abendgules: (self-portrait)
Canadian government's war on science.

If you don't have the evidence, you can't make evidence-based decisions. But apparently if it's evidence based, it's on the block.

Let Canada's scientists speak.

Is this getting any coverage in Canada? Does anyone care?
abendgules: (Default)
It's strange feeling both at home, and a foreigner, in two countries, which is how I feel upon returning to my Thamesreach home.

Stuff what I miss from my first homeland:

1. Fresh local (mostly) fruit and vegetables: I ate absolutely as much local veg and fruit as I could cram into myself without doing myself an injury.  The SE of England just doesn't have an equivalent of the Niagara region and the farms of Ontario, that seemingly effortlessly generate huge quantities of yummy fresh food.

Strawberries and raspberries are in season near my mum's house, and her region is very well served by local markets.

2. Real seasons: for all that I was on a trip for greatly stress-making reasons, I felt like a cat basking in the sun and heat of an Ontario summer. Running most days for 1/2 an hour generated a minor tan, the first I've had in years.

Britons spend a lot of money and time on holidays 'away', and don't feel like they've had a 'proper' holiday unless it involves flying to a beach location. It took me awhile to understand this fixation. I'd never flown somewhere *warmer* for a summer holiday; isn't 30 deg C and 95% humidity hot enough? Cdns retreat to the cottage instead.

3. Humidex estimates, that tell you how hot it *feels*. I think this would be a useful addition to the winter forecasts in the UK, because I'm convinced the dampness of this region makes 0 dec C way more miserable than I ever remember 0 deg C feeling in Ontario.

4. Stoop and scoop that people actually pay attention to: Canadians simply buy into this more than residents in our corner of Thamesreach. Makes recreational running into an urban obstacle course. 'Nuff said.

5. Cream routinely offered for coffee. It's milk or nuthin' here (except perhaps in hotels used to N. American guests) and it just doesn't taste the same. 

6. Can-con: I hardly recognised any musicians featured on the CBC, and I think it's the continuing support of Canadian content rules that enable Canadian talent to compete and survive. I know it's protectionist, and I know it's not perfect, but I love it.

7. CBC Radio One, and As it Happens: I continue to enjoy the mild-mannered interview style featured on AIH, so different from the very aggressive confrontational style on British radio & TV. I always admired the way AIH interviewers gave liars and creeps enough rope to hang themselves - it assumes the listeners are smart enough to make their own judgements, and do not need leading statements to form their opinions. Long may it last.
abendgules: (Default)
...and I'm flying shortly, myself.

Mum is doing waaaaaay better. Still using the walker, but her gait is far more confident, and I haven't seen her stop for a rest while walking since the surgery. Only the occasional pain med. Amazing.

I wouldn't have believed the difference if I hadn't seen it myself.

She still has several other health concerns (what senior doesn't) but this surgery seems to have given her a useful life back.

Splendid visit at Trillium war yesterday - all too brief, and all too many people missed for one reason or another.

Gave Mssrs Rufus and Martin the surprise of their lives, which was charming, and met their little guys. Ealdormere is certainly doing the recruiting-by-reproduction route of many other kingdoms - it's amazing to see, such a different view from 10 years ago, where babies & toddlers were exceptional.

Extracted as much peer-like wisdom from those assembled as I could, and came away with some thoughtful gems. 

Sat in on an illumination class, did a small illumination.

Watched the start of court, but couldn't stay for the whole of it, which was a shame - the Great Court of Ealdormere is a fine display, and was very well attended.

Judging by the many many fine silk banners, the gospel of heraldic display is alive and well in Ealdormere. Next up: the gospel of the pavalino... or perhaps a distinct canvas campground. If people can accept the idea, the visual difference is astonishing.

Rounded out the day with a long call to Sarra Graeham, one of my favourite people - manage to catch her at a good time to talk. I miss talking with her almost above anyone else in Ealdormere (well, I still think of her as such, even though she has roots in both Ealdormere and EK).

Am now packed (just! don't know if my wheelie case will manage another trip after this), washed dressed and ready.
abendgules: (prickly)
Mum seems recuperating at an astonishing rate; minimum of pain meds, doing her recommended exercises, moving around the house largely without the new walker. She'd been unwilling to even walk from kitchen to bathroom without it last week.

She puttered in the yard while I did laundry and ironing. I trimmed my new jeans and pinned for hemming.

I'm almost concerned she'll try to throw herself back into activity too soon; I don't want her to rush, and somehow impede her own recovery in her keenness to get back to normal activity.

She's off driving for at least 2 weeks; someone other than me has to pitch in as driver at least for the short term, for groceries and errands. Driving after that remains tba.

A family friend JK was around for lunch, but I found I ran out of steam in early afternoon, growing increasingly short-tempered, and even a meal and coffee wasn't enough to keep me going, and I retired to snooze. The tension of surgery day was catching up with me, I think.

We've had a stream of calls of friends and family checking in, and Mum has answered most of them. How much she's feeling better is audible in her voice.

It's been a strange visit; between doing a lot of worrying about Mum's health and her capacity to live independently, it's been delightful to slouch about in shorts and t-shirt, or go running in full sunshiny warmth - needing sunscreen, hat and sunglasses. I wish Robert were here to bask in the fine weather with me.
abendgules: (Default)
Tomorrow Robert and I leave for a week in Canada, mostly on the outskirts of TO.

The visit is to attend my dad's memorial: a pint in the local pub, raised during his favourite time of year, the fall.

Dad loved the glorious colour of fall, the distinctive crisp light, the photographic potential.

He also loved hunt week with the guys: where old friends spent a week stalking game during the day, and in the evening making each other meals, telling stories, playing music and cards.

SO: we're spending most of the time with family, with a couple of outings to catch up with friends. We're hoping to reach at least one fight practice, and I have hopes of possibly ranging as far as Toronto for shopping. We'll see.

Here's to hoping for the kind of beautiful fall weather that is possible around Thanksgiving in October, and for enough sleep to cope with the social whirl.

I'll check e-mail as often as I can; if you have my mum's number from my last visit, please do call.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.
abendgules: (hot choc comfort)
Still at the new home ranch on the outskirts of GTA. Packing clothing, trying not to take Too Much Stuff (tm) back to the UK. Sigh.
abendgules: (Mountjoy)

We were a bit shocky yesterday, but both Mum and I seem more stable and clearheaded today.

Minister from Mum's church is excellent and has agreed on a 'low-God' ceremony, that will suit us and defer to Dad's anti-church sentiments. Memorial service is set for Sat, with cremation to follow next week (not a ceremony). I think we'll bury his ashes with a new tree at the archery club where he put in so many years.

Man, death is an expensive business. After years of organising and budgeting SCA events, I resent catering that gives only finger food, where in my mind, that same price should result in a three course feast with 20 dishes. And while this firm has a rep for being very modestly priced, it still seems a huge amount of money - some of the settlement sums from the gov't will vanish almost immediately.

Frankly, we're getting away lightly with cremation, but you could still spend a fortune on a casket that's just going to be incinerated! and on cut flowers that won't survive. Aiee.

abendgules: (tea in winter)

If only all my friends were on LJ, then I could skip the obit... my version has para breaks and is easier to read. 
This is mostly in case anyone within GTA wants to attend.

Brown, Henry Kenneth 'Ken' - On 13 April 2011, age 80.
Survived by beloved wife of 50 yrs, Sheila, daughter Elizabeth, sisters Eunice, Gretta, Linda and families & by the Stephen clan. Warmly remembered at Archers of Caledon & by archers he taught & equipped over many years; much missed by his hunting friends.

Ken's service will be held Sat 16 April, 1pm (visit from 12pm) at York Cemetery & Visitation Centre: 160 Beecroft Rd North York, north of Sheppard Ave, west of Yonge St, 416-221-3404. Special thanks to the CCU staff at Lakeridge Health, Bowmanville, for extraordinary care, compassion & communication.

In lieu of flowers please donate to the Lung Assoc, or Ducks Unlimited.

13 April

Apr. 13th, 2011 01:36 pm
abendgules: (Default)
After a week in CCU, my dad died this morning, shortly after Mum and I arrived at the hospital.

Mum and I had met yesterday with the intensive care specialist who'd reviewed Dad's history. With the long history of asthma, emphysema and COPD, Dad's chances of recovering to go home were poor; he'd likely be hospitalized with breathing support indefinitely, and would be very restricted.

MD asked if we thought he'd want that, and we said no. So we agreed on comfort measures; removing the ventilator but providing O2 support, pain relief, and hydration, but DNR. The MD's experience was that Dad would pass within a day or two. He would not be awake to struggle for breath (the most terrifying experience for him) and he wouldn't be in pain.

The vent was removed last night, and his breathing slowed and grew more irregular. We visited at midnight, when the nurse called to say his breathing had changed, but went home at 2.30, and then showed up shortly after 9am, after another call to say his breathing was changing again.

I'm very glad we had a painless option for the end of Dad's life. But you don't ever want to see someone die this way. I'm going to be a right bastard towards any smokers from now on.
abendgules: (tea in winter)

[livejournal.com profile] ethnowoman  posted this, and I found it the most insightful comment about Canadian attitudes I've heard in years.


So effectively, Canadians are afraid of crime in the face of all evidence to the contrary about the real levels of risk, and someone rallying to the 'victims' side' appeals to them. And the more you prove gov't policy wrong, the more successful the Harperians are.

It's reminiscent of how Bush supporters reacted; screw the elbow-patched academics, what do they know? I'm tellin' it to ya straight, those guys in Guantanamo are bad men...

I'm feeling a rather socially conservative chill particularly right now, visiting in a small town. I'm taken back by how many 'support our troops' signs and stickers I see - I think of that as an American pastime, being militarily patriotic. But I've been out of Canada for most of the time that Cdn troops have been in Afghanistan, and have been watching that conflict's coverage, and Iraq's, from the Brit side of the pond. So I probably don't have a good clear sense of what Canadians think anymore.

10 April

Apr. 10th, 2011 03:34 pm
abendgules: (Default)

Dad is bad - I'm trying not to fall into the polite indirect phrases my mum uses so easily ('not good', 'not doing well'). He's been moved to a ventilator, which requires him to be sedated. It's intended to give his lungs a rest and to help them cough up the junk in them, but he can't stay on indefinitely with no prospect of change.
He's now running a fever, and there's no change otherwise.
This may be the end of a normal course of his illness (emphesyma and COPD), said one nurse - as opposed to something he can recover from.

I'm really impressed by the quality of the nurses here - they're all remarkably good at communicating tough messages, and actually ask you if you have questions, and encourage you to call.

It's about as unlike the wards at Sunnybrook and TO General as I could imagine and still be in the same province, under the same standards of care.

Either they have extraordinary managers, or it's the benefits of a small community vs a city teaching hospital. A wise friend commented about the self-selecting nature of CCU work, which is probably true.

Mum has bronchitis - she reluctantly saw the ER MD at the hosp today - she doesn't like using up emergency resources for GP type calls, but of course hasn't yet found a local GP after moving from TO. Antibiotics, bed rest, and not really supposed to visit CCU.

abendgules: (maciejowski)
Dad's in hospital with pneumonia, ICU, on antibiotics and a positive-pressure breathing mask (bit like CPAP for sleep apnea, only it both pushes and pulls air).

No call from Mum yesterday so I phoned this morning - no news, as she hasn't heard from him, and she has a heavy cold so she doesn't want to drop in. She sounds knackered. Will check in again this evening.

Off to do paperwork hoops today for flying.

Thinking it might be smart to fly no matter what Mum says, and take the pressure of the decision off her. Flights aren't cheap right now though; guess spring break is in full swing or something.
abendgules: (home sweet canvas home)

I don't have a Canadian icon - you'll have to settle for the red and white pavilion.

This year, I took July 1st as a holiday and made an extended holiday weekend of the date. It just feels wrong to be at work that day.

So just for fun, I met [livejournal.com profile] nusbacher  at Trafalgar Square to mark the day, to see what is flogged as Canadian culture abroad.

Turns out it's a handful of familiar favourites: Tim Horton's coffee and donuts, Sleeman beer, bison burgers and curly fries (go Canadian cuisine!) and vaguely country-western music on the stage. Perhaps the evening shows were more folk/celtic/silly - apparently the Arrogant Worms played there last year. I would have come back for them!

AND: street hockey (rather depressingly sponsored by oil companies).

And lots and lots and lots of cheerful folk in red and white. I had no idea there were so many Canadians in London - we seem to keep a low profile. I couldn't decide if they all work in the City, or were on holiday and actually planned to visit Trafalgar Square that day, or they'd booked the day off like me.

It was heartening to hear familiar accents, and to slip so easily into conversation with someone in line (not a queue, all of a sudden, just a line) for coffee.

[livejournal.com profile] nusbacher looked well, and we talked about plans for heralding at Raglan. We got our Canadian marks - a painted maple leaf for me, a 'Canadian girls ROCK!' tatoo for her - and decided to leave the sample Mountie to the non-Canadians.

I rolled home with a big silly smile on my face, inordinately pleased at this little dose of Canada.
abendgules: (womaninmotion)
Work allows me a fair bit of leeway to surf (I can't make a webpage load any faster by staring at it) so in an effort to keep my reading at least work-related, I've been following a number of health-science-related blogs of late.

My newest favourite is Obesity Panacea, written by two PhDs who've studied at Queen's University - one is based in Kingston, the other in Ottawa. How cool is that? Great content, and it's even sourced from authors from my corner of Canada.

I recommend it to those folks who are interested in health, healthy weight and exercise. Fascinating stuff, hot off the research Intawebs.
abendgules: (fierce)

Robert was disappointed with his own performance on the field at Coronet, and I have to agree it wasn't his best. However, we've talked the circumstances over a bit, and I think we can see where we both need to work on preparing for tournaments, and freeing both of us up from multiple commitments through an event may be a start.

At Katherine of Great Chesterfield's suggestion I'm actually going to practice to talk to all the fighters about setting performance goals, and planning for tournaments. It's rather nostalgic, actually - tapping into an area of knowledge that used to be at the forefront of my mind, and was only piqued recently somewhat by watching the Olympics over the past few weeks.

Watching the Olympics themselves, and listening to Canadian commentators and athletes, was a bit of a nostalgia trip all on its own. To my own shock, I found myself watching curling and hockey - two games I would rather driven hot needles into my eyes have avoided in the past. But because Canada was playing, I found I wanted to watch.

I was pretty horrified by the level of aggression in the hockey though. I know lots of fans love the punch ups as much as the plays, but to me, it takes away a lot of the value of the game. Plenty of aggressive sports have no trouble separating the game from just plain violence; martial arts, Olympic or sumo wrestling, rugby. Hockey could clean up its act if there was a genuine desire (or a strong mandate) to do so. I wonder what it will take to bring it in.

(For comparison value, take a look at the footage of Gordie Howe games from the 50s and 60s on CBC archives.)

Watching the games from the 60s is fascinating: no helmets, no faceguards, no heavy shoulder padding.

The players' posture is far more upright on the ice, leading with their sticks on the ice, rather than bent over and leading with their heads and shoulders. The speed is about 3/4 the speed of the Olympic game from the weekend. I saw one elbowing incident, and no crashes, either into each other, or into the boards.

So evidently even the 'scrappy' players like Howe had a lighter touch pre-padding.

The 1979 clip shows Gordie Howe playing with Wayne Gretsky, who is barely old enough to see over the top of his skates. The players are still only half-helmeted, and still only lightly padded; the pace has picked up , but still isn't nearly as nasty as the gold medal game last month.


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