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Tech Time Machine… You’re On A Rocket…

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Marty McFly… let’s hop into your DMC DeLorean time machine and juice up the flux capacitor.

OK, set the time back by 30 years to 1990 (if this takes you into prenatal times, please please tell me what that looks like, I want to know the answer to that as much as I’d like to see into my post-life times).

I’m thinking about time travel right now for a reason.

Looking back with today’s eyes, 1990 was a “foreign country” for us all.

Thirty years ago this week, I stood in chilly Okanagan Lake waters at 7 am on a Sunday morning with nearly 1,000 others clad in wetsuits.

Supportive family members and friends came from near and far to give me a cheering boost for an event I had trained so hard for in the year leading up to this day.

My heart was pounding in my throat, both in exhilaration and terror (the good news is that in the lake, you can pee your pants and no one knows better other than the swimmer directly behind you. Sorry… TMI?)

We participants were all ready to dive in at the sound of a booming cannon – the cannon that starts the Ironman Canada triathlon race, a 3.8k swim, followed by a 180k bike, finishing with a 42.2k run. Great way to spend a relaxing Sunday.

But today, I’m not only thinking about the gruelling race, but also about the huge changes to our world in these oh-so-short 30 years.

Here are a few other things that cross my mind.

It’s about our world and technology.

I’m thinking about how many folks pulled out their cellphones and snapped photos of their friends and loved ones jumping into the water that August 1990 morning. How many photos got posted online for the world to see within seconds…

Here, let me answer that for you… pull out my calculator… hmmmm, 960 participants multiplied by an average of 4 or 5 relatives and friends watching from behind the barriers…

… and the answer is???? ZERO. None.

Huh? Why not Larry?

Well, a myriad of stuff has changed for you and me in 30 years… call a taxi… right! Wait until next Tuesday to watch your favourite TV show… hardly! Meet your life partner-to-be at a bar… *cue laughter*….

A few more examples…

1990. No smartphones… a few cellphones (owned by 4% of North Americans in 1990) sure, but pretty much no such thing as a smartphone with a camera embedded. The first early versions were still 12 years in the future.

These days, when I enter even the tiniest running or other athletic race (in non-COVID times)… camera phones are everywhere, all the time.

In 1990, there were no smartphones, no text messages… no Tesla’s or other electric cars… no BlueTooth, no Facebook, no YouTube.

In 1990 you paid your utility bills at the bank or by snail mail with a personal cheque.

Watch a movie in 1990? Just run by your local VHS rental store or Blockbuster and make sure your neighbours aren’t there when you sneak into the “ADULT” section in the back.

In 1990, you answered your landline phone (usually corded) because it was someone you knew calling (although no call display told you who), no telemarketers or scams.

In 1990, when you wanted to find a street address or your way through a strange city, you hauled out something called a map and found the location with your fingertips, not your GOOGLE.

In 1990, people read books. I mean books made of paper and glue and hard and soft covers that had pages you turned and needed a flashlight to read under the covers. No eReaders, no Kindles (first released in 2007), no Kobo’s. Bookstores were popular “social media” gathering spots in 1990.

In 1990, did you drive through your local Starbucks for a Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino? Of course not. Starbucks had barely 100 stores in 1990, probably none in your area. Just Mary & Joe’s Cuppa Joe House (or Timmy’s for us Canucks) was on your corner in those prehistoric coffee days. Espresso drinks were something Europeans drank.

In 1990, a blog? Is that something stuck in your toilet?

In 1990, when you listened to recorded music, it was usually from a cassette tape, a big step up from 8-track tapes! Your choices were vinyl or cassette. CD or mp3? Huh??

In 1990, a restaurant meal or a plane trip usually involved breathing in someone else’s secondhand smoke. In my province of B.C., smoking was legally allowed in restaurants until 1996. Smoking on flights within Canada was first banned at the beginning of 1990.

Feel free to tell me some other things I’ve missed.

And finally, in 1990, when I crossed the Ironman finish line (below) as the evening sun set and my muscles cried, my kids were 5, 3 and 1 years old. It’s so long ago that I can barely picture them in my head. They were so cute.

Right McFly, bring me back to 2020.

Those little kids are older and smarter than me now. Yes, that’s right, they are older than me… I was 19 years old in 1990 and today I’m still… 19. (I turned off my time machine long ago. That’s new math for you.)

More importantly though, they were healthy then and they are healthy today.

I’m a lucky man to return to 2020 in my older DeLorean body.

OK Boomer…

IF I FORGET TO SAY GOODBYE – The Song

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Remember that great earworm CUPS song (“When I’m Gone”) performed by Anna Kendrick in the movie Pitch Perfect?

.

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Some co-workers and myself sang and performed a fun, modified version of the CUPS song as a retirement goodbye send-off to a pair of colleagues back in 2013.

“Cups” actually originated from a 1931 song “When I’m Gone” by the Carter Family (written by A.P. Carter)

The catchy hook of the song goes like this:

When I’m gone
When I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me by my hair
You’re gonna miss me everywhere, oh
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

Now how about… actor Keanu Reeves being interviewed by Stephen Colbert in 2019.

The pair bantered back and forth until Colbert earnestly asked Reeves… What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves?”

I know that the ones who love us will miss us.”

Simple words and yet it shows us the power of subtlety.

In the last month our household has been hit with the news of 3 deaths of relatives…. so…

Each of these things I’m talking about above bring me around to my thought today…

Here’s a little secret I’ll share with you:

For sure, I fear dying… but even more, I fear dying without being able to say goodbye to my loved ones.

My Mom collapsed and died with acute suddenness on the driveway outside our home… there was no goodbye. This sticks with me like the shadow to my body.

It stresses me that my kids/grandkids might get that sudden, startling, late night phone call relaying my “unexpected” demise.

I’m holding out, holding on, for at least a short, cognitive, slice of time at my ending; a day or week when I can utter my final love words, and of course great last words of “Silly Larry” earthbound wisdom, to those who’ve: lived with me, put up with me, laughed and hugged and cried with me, worked and played with me, been bored with me… you know, the whole panoply of “with” stuff.

Yup, I know these are the things you should say to the ones you love every day, you’re right. Yup, so right.

But like the “beginning at birth” idea that boys don’t cry, sharing deep inner emotions and thoughts with others is very difficult… the words get stuck between my brain and my tongue.

And so, I’ll at least talk about this in verse and song.

Today I’ll share the verses with you, and hopefully someday soon, I’ll have a musical bed to lay the words over and roll them past you again.

IF I FORGET TO SAY GOODBYE

by Larry Green

Years and years from now

you’ll hear yourself say something strange

maybe wonder where the words came from

like when you find that long lost name

the glue peels away, the memory shines clear

the instant you feel me near

pre-CHORUS

skipping ropes, summer hikes

shooting hoops and riding bikes

CHORUS

If I forget to say goodbye

excuse my lapse and find a smile

I won’t melt away that fast

because I’ll always be inside you

No you can’t lose me oh so easily

even if I forget to say goodbye

……….

Last week when you were born

I was younger than you are now

it was certain life would go on forever

but life’s logic was a magic paint

whose door has felt the wind and sun

swinging closed and growing faint

pre-CHORUS

toboggan runs, Sunoka waves

ballet shoes and trebuchets 

CHORUS

If I forget to say goodbye

excuse my lapse and find a smile

I won’t melt away that fast

because I’ll always be inside you 

No you can’t lose me oh so easily

even if I forget to say goodbye

……….

I’ll set down my guitar

Draw in my last breath 

and blow away like yellowed newsprint

we’ll share a blueprint etched forever

in the starry sky together

even if I forget to say goodbye

A Pinch of Galloping Gourmet, A Cup of Anthony Bourdain…

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Welcome to another “change-of-scenery” guest post from my young-old friend Jim Ferguson.

This time out, James is casting his “Oregon eye” on some very interesting cuisinery experiences he’s had the rare opportunity – and gustatory courage – to try out.

Feel free to share back with Jim some of your more intriguing food experiences.

So now friends, without further delay… here’s Jim.

……………..

Once again, Sir Lawrence – has asked me for a guest blog contribution and as usual I am happy to bail out my old friend and give his brain a rest for a week or so.

It is timely too because I have been pondering my grandmother of late and that has opened the door to some ponderings on eating etiquette and food experiences.

How in the heck do you make that leap you might ask?

Well, you are just going to have to read on for the answer. I suspect you will read on because who doesn’t enjoy a good discussion about FOOD, n’est-ce pas!!!

Like many children, I was a bit of a messy eater. Okay! I was more like the Muppets character Cookie Monster devouring his cookies when it came to my childhood eating habits.

My poor mother was a saint for having to clean up after my older brother and me after meals.

My father was oft heard to say “Geez…were you born in a pig sty?” In fact, I heard that so often in my childhood that the whole stork theory ranked second behind the pig sty theory as to where babies came from. I was convinced that just maybe I DID emerge from a pig sty!

I guess it is reasonable to assume that most babies and toddlers are a bit messy when it comes to the finer points of eating. Back then, it wasn’t about taste but more about quantity and how fast you could shovel in the food – pure unadulterated gluttony!

As I grew older my dear Scottish grandmother contributed her sage advice towards refining my eating etiquette as only Scottish grandmothers can.

Wee youngster Jim and Grandmother Nina in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Nina, as we called her, was a stout Scot who made her way across the Atlantic to marry my granddad in the late 1920s. Nina arrived in Quebec City and shortly after was married and suddenly she found herself pioneering in the Lac St. Jean region of Quebec.

She always had a bit of an “edge” to her and maybe this was born of her harsh life in the Quebec wilderness. I could get a smile from her from time to time but they were few and far between.

She was prim and proper and an imposing figure to this wee lad. Nary a hair was ever out of place.

She and granddad would occasionally visit us when I was growing up in Nova Scotia.

I have vivid memories of Nina telling to get my elbows off the table otherwise there could be profound social repercussions. When Nina spoke-I tended to listen!

I could not imagine what social repercussions were so important that I had to get my elbows off the table, but my grandma set me straight. I can still hear her words of wisdom saying to me in her Scottish brogue “Awe Jimmy, how do you ever expect to have supper with the Queen if you keep putting your elbows on the table?

Queen Elizabeth had been making trips to Canada regularly back in the 1960s. In fact, she came through Halifax-Dartmouth area in Nova Scotia where I spent my younger years and had been taught the “wrist-wrist, elbow-elbow” wave that was appropriate for Her Majesty.

However, never once did I for a moment imagine that HRH was going to stop by 27 Penhorn Drive in Dartmouth to invite me for supper.

That wasn’t on my radar and, in fact, if she had stopped by, I suspect I would have run in the opposite direction screaming (think Kevin McAllister from the Christmas classic “Home Alone” running with flailing arms, screaming up the stairs, hiding under his parents bed…yup….that probably would have been me).

Now, if HRH had been a Montreal Canadiens hockey fan and brought my favourite player – Yvan Cournoyer – with her, well that would have been a different story all-together…

Well… I am now 64-years old and still no supper date with the royals on the horizon. My life is incomplete.

Still… I have learned other food pearls over the course of my lifetime as, no doubt, you have too.

I suspect Larry has more to share on this theme as he and Maureen are much more worldly-wise than I with their globetrotting over the past few decades. I did, however, learn a few choice pearls along the way besides keeping my elbows off the table.

During our Yellowknife days, Larry was quite the chef.

I recall him “relishing” (pun intended) in knowing his way around the kitchen (why else would Maureen ever have married the lad from Hamilton, right?) and in fact I was on the receiving end of his cooking talents and can attest to the fact that Chef Boyardee has nothing on Larry.

For my part, I learned how to make stew in the Arctic town, Yellowknife, in the mid-1970s.

I was living with a First Nations family at the time. Roy was Ojibwe First Nations, and Rosa, Dogrib First Nations, from a village just down Great Slave Lake from Yellowknife.

They had 4 kids but still opened their home and hearts for me to stay with them for several months.

Roy and Rosa taught me how to make a great stew and that very few ingredients were off limits.

I was never a fan of stew and so my first inclination was to politely decline the offer, but I’m glad that I allowed myself to experience Roy and Rosa’s stew. There were lots of vegetables and spices, and of course gently-browned beef tender to the bite. It really was delectable.

We were all part of the Yellowknife Baha’i community and the group used to host a unique event called the “caribou unity stew”.

The Baha’i community of Yellowknife, always looking for ways to bring people together, would host caribou unity stews 3-4 times annually where we would rent a public hall with a kitchen facility and invite as many people to come as possible with the idea that everyone had to bring something to add to the stew pot.

The Baha’is provided the caribou and everyone else brought the other ingredients: potatoes, celery, corn, rice, carrots, etc.

It was lots of fun and I have from time to time held similar events over the years but never quite replicating those fantastic Yellowknife events.

It was always a mystery what would end up in the stew because one never knew what special ingredient guests would bring. The stews were delicious and during the winter months the meat was freshly harvested and cooked to perfection. If you recall the Galloping Gourmet – Graham Kerr – savouring every morsel of his creation, well, you get the picture…

It was also in Yellowknife that I was exposed to my version of poutine.

I was living on very little money and would go into the old Yellowknife Inn and amble along the cafeteria line and order a pop and a plate of fries with brown gravy and cheese to which I would add ketchup. I think that experience not only added a few pounds to my girth but tested my gut constitution to the max… All-in-all, my Yellowknife days were filled with food experimentation opportunities.

A number of years later, in the mid-1990s, I spent 2 months in the Republic of Guyana in South America helping with a rural health project.

Guyana has a large segment of the population from India living in the capital city of Georgetown.

I fell in love with many of the traditional foods and spices from India. Still, to this day, just the thought of a lamb vindaloo meal starts my mouth to watering. It was also the first time I saw people plunge their hands into food with gusto.

That was a huge “No No” in my family.

I was taught to NEVER launch hands first into food but in Guyana I overcame this family norm and “dove right in”. As the old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Well, in Guyana, I did as the Guyanese did.

When I left the big city of Georgetown to go to the remote Rupununi region to participate in the health project, I learned about eating food right out of the fire – mostly freshly harvested chicken, beef, pork, or fish. If you wanted to eat, you had to eat simply. Rice was the staple with every meal with some meat or other and lots of spices.

Later on, in Alaska, I learned to sample foods that were way off my food radar.

There are traditional foods consumed by the Eskimo peoples of NorthWest Alaska (they refer to themselves as Eskimo so I will use that term).

These foods included “black meat”, seal oil, whale blubber (muktuk), whale meat, seal, walrus meat and blubber, and exotic local bird (murre) eggs, to name but a few.

As Larry will attest, I am sure, when in a different culture, if someone offers you food you humbly accept with gratitude (at least for a taste). Well… in Alaska, I was offered all the above and sampled it all on more than one occasion.

Much of the harvested food was dipped in seal oil. Seal oil was such a staple of the Eskimo culture that it was not unusual to smell the oil emanating from the skin pores of the people who consumed this on a regular basis.

For someone who was not a regular consumer of the traditional Eskimo diet, I learned that many of these foods were an acquired taste, especially the “black meat” which was mainly seal, walrus, or reindeer meat left to dry on a rack for a week or longer until blackened and then eaten with seal oil. The meat was often tough to chew – like eating jerky – but the seal oil helped soften it up a bit.

Muktuk was made more palatable by dipping it in teriyaki sauce, a trick I learned from the locals. It was rubbery in texture. Sushi lovers would have a field day with much of the traditional cuisine.

My first experience cooking murre eggs was quite a shock.

The murre lay their eggs in the cliffs near the village and these are collected at great risk by the village folk. I was given the large eggs regularly.

I was told not to fry them like a regular egg, but… I had forgotten this important advice. I threw on some bacon and fried up an egg (they are huge) and soon discovered it was just like eating fish! Surprise! Surprise! The murre survive by eating fish so why would I think the eggs would taste otherwise? If you boil the eggs, they taste less fishy. Lesson learned.

Today, here I am at 64-years old, retired, and no longer with elbows on the table.

I still sit by the phone waiting for the Queen to call me for our long overdue supper date.

COVID-19 has curtailed any international travel plans thus limiting my exposure to new and exciting gustatory opportunities.

I am, however, left with wonderful memories of what has been.

I also know that as a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, I can, at least, plan a trip to Summerland, BC one of these years (Covid permitting) for a home-cooked meal from the kitchen of the “musical gourmet” – Sir Lawrence – in return for an evening of mandolin and guitar playing and lots of singing.

Now I wait for Larry’s call – let’s just hope he isn’t in league with the Queen.

Peace, Jim

The Wondrous Beauty of Being AND Doing

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I get confused when I hear the expression, “we’re human beings, not human doings.

I like to think of myself as BOTH a noun AND a verb… yes, this one thing I can multitask in a focused way!

You got it… I’m part sloth, part puma…. grrrrrr….

Here’s how I maintain myself as a human being and a human doing…

My desktop – the real physical one I can touch and spill my latte all over – is filled with sheets of foolscap and lined paper pads … papers that run top-to-bottom and side-to-side with my daily scribbled LISTS!

Without lists, without a calendar, without the morning sunrise… I’m solely a human being… you just might as well take me to my grandson’s daycare each morning and show me which toys to play with because I will have ABSOLUTELY NO Direction.

None, nada, zilch… you catch my drift? I get “LISTLESS”.

…………………

Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.

~Marcus Aurelius, Stoic philosopher

…………………

The three greatest hallmarks I possess (*one of which used to be my hair*) are

  • 1. my calendar
  • 2. my lists, and
  • 3. a slave-like devotion to “Own The Morning”… getting the most important things done early in the day.

I get it. I understand that we don’t want to become automatons enslaved to “do do do“, but I also understand that I don’t want to imprison myself in a philosophy of “idleness, indolence and inertia“.

     (Aside: Pet Peeve: It drives me nuts when I see men (it's almost always XY chromosome creatures) who think that earning a living ie. being the hunky breadwinner, is sufficient excuse to collapse on a couch after a workday. 
     Meanwhile, the (usually) woman partner: works, cleans house, grocery shops, prepares meals, looks after children.
     Any relationship where one partner believes that doing only 20% of the daily work involved is equitable, is stuck in Slave-holder Plantation-Master mode. Beware the Underground Railroad!  

OK, where was I?

Right. As part human doing, I’m not advocating for non-stop busy work or a compulsive need to be constantly accomplishing stuff… yes, rest and recovery are important. My human being part needs regular refreshing.

But a life well-lived, in my books, is one where we experience things directly, by doing… we learn, we try out all kinds of things both easy and difficult, we meditate and sweat, we love and hate, we laugh and cry, we eat and fast … doing and experiencing= invigoration.

…it’s part of the ancient stoic philosophy of overall self-improvement blended with healthy balance.

It’s no accident that my daily practice of making lists, checking my calendar, and owning the morning, allows me to revert to a partially relaxed and satisfied form of slothdom later in the day. However, if you happen to flip the day on its head and Own The Night, well, good on you too!

When life’s critical doohickeys are done, my head becomes clear and unbothered, my body trained and physically tested, my spirit able to enjoy and absorb.

I’m an ordinary Tale of Two Humans and that’s a wondrously wonderful thing.

Thou Shalt Be Fiscally Fit cuz Money Matters…

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In my family home growing up, it was forbidden to talk about age, sex… or MONEY…. the never-to-be-discussed Green family Holy Trinity. Keep your elbows off the table Larry and only bring up money if it involves the Tooth Fairy!

Case in point with only a little exaggeration: I probably didn’t know how old my parents were until I read their obituaries.

And I wouldn’t DARE start on the subject of carnal sex if I wanted to have supper at the dinner table ever again. There was no hot sauce or hot talk at our WASP table.

How much money you earned? how much money you had? how much something cost?… yup, all verboten territory.

To be fair, as I get further along the chronological age spectrum, I understand why many of these items were off the socially acceptable chat-list.

Good manners and sensitivity to others tell us that hurt and anger are the oft-unintended result.

However… over the last almost 10 years and with some discretion, this Man On The Fringe has often discussed money matters in posts here, typically at the end of each year.

I have a keen interest in stock market investing and growing assets in (y)our personal Net Worth column.

You do have a Net Worth sheet, yes?

Failure to measure your wealth and resources is tantamount to driving on an icy BC mountain pass in the dark with no snow tires. How do you know where you are and where you’re going? Fail to measure at your own peril.

Money management, saving and investing are critically important to your present daily life and future. It shouldn’t be about greed or conspicuous consumption (hmmmm, that sounds like me at mealtime!)… no… it’s all about financial freedom and flexibility.

Each year-end I tally up my own investment returns and assess where I made my best decisions, and also where my dreaded blunders occurred.

I fling open the curtains and give my victories and gaffes equal opportunity of expression.

So, first up… my investment mea culpa BLUNDERS x 3 (or, using the term I utilized 3 years back – my FUCKedUPEDNESSes):

1. PINTEREST- I purchased shares of Pinterest foolishly believing that this technology sharing company was on the cusp of greatness with the “in” crowds of kids and influencers. It also has strong underlying financial strength. As the year went on I learned that PINTEREST is more and more associated with old time tech a là AOL, BLOCKBUSTER, ALTAVISTA, or BLACKBERRY. Today, Instagram and TikTok rule the roost in this area with Pinterest catching crumbs at the rear.

2. H&R Real Estate Investment Trust – there was just one bad management decision after another for this Canadian mall and office tower owner. Owning malls is looking more and more like investing in buggy whip makers… Luddites beware!

3. ARK Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’s) – this ETF that buys into “Disruptive Innovation” was itself disrupted by downwards valuation of high tech companies within their portfolios such as TESLA, and TELEDOC. This company should do well in years to come but for 2021 it stank the joint out.

And now, some winners:

The good decisions I made in 2021 came through names such as APPLE, CVS Pharmacies, Canadian Banks, Whirlpool, and A&W. Great companies with great results. A good mantra for 2000’s investing? Never bet against APPLE.

My overarching investment goal has always been an average return of 15% annually, when combining my RRSP (Canadian Retirement funds), TFSA (tax free savings), and my company pension plan.

Over the past 5 years I’ve managed only mediocre results against my target returns… 2017… +8.0%, 2018… -1.8%, 2019… +24.6%, 2020… +5.0%. And finally, this past year 2021… +16.8%.

That’s only a 10.5% average annual return (I have slightly better results over 10 and 20 years, but not by much)… not exactly my target.

I believe my biggest investing mistakes have come from a compulsion to sell too early. If I see a 20% jump in share price I go all starry-eyed and sell off to “capture” profit NOW. When I review these moves later I so often see continued upward movement in a quality stock…

My big hairy resolution for investing in 2022 will need to mean sitting on my hands when I want to hit the SELL button prematurely… no more Selling Interruptus.

OK, I’ve done lots of research heading into 2022.

Just where does my crystal ball take me for quality investments at reasonable prices that can make me and maybe YOU some decent returns?

Here’s my short-list, recognizing that quality companies don’t always have a speedy payoff. Good investing is a big test of our patience.

  • Canadian companies: A&W, Algonquin Power, Manulife Financial, Leons Furniture, Shopify (this is higher risk, but great prospects longer term)
  • US-based companies: AT&T, Bristol Myers Squibb, Lennar Homes, Abbvie, Amazon, Walgreens

So friends… Happy New Year to you as we tread well past the 20% mark of another century (wasn’t Y2K only a year or two back?)

I wish you a year of great wealth… in your health portfolio, your spiritual portfolio, and… in your money portfolio.

And so long as you keep your elbows off the table, I give you permission to talk about sex all you want at your dinner table. Betty White will smile down at you!

Remembering My Bananas Brother

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It’s sad and it’s sweet… and I knew it complete… when I wore a younger man’s clothes…

How can any person live 79 years and feel they’ve been shortchanged?

How can you have lived in 7 countries, have a wife and 3 kids, 5 grandkids, 2 great grandchildren, and somehow be cheated by death? You can’t really… except…

… it feels to me like he was cheated, like a million others, probably someone you love(d)… not by death, death is certain… but by a beautiful mind that became shrouded in dense cloud and mist. Alzheimer’s storm.

Today I write this blog post as an homage and tribute to my brother Robert who passed this week… my family of 5 siblings has winnowed down to 3 …

I really didn’t come to know my brother until my adult years… Robert and I were separated by 15 years in age, and when he moved from Hamilton to Edmonton to work on his PhD when I was about 5 or 6 years old, our age separation was multiplied by a few thousand kilometres of physical distance.

As I grew up, I heard stories of my “foreign” brother… mostly about how incredibly smart he was. Bright enough to skip 2 grades in school. I teased myself later on that I was a failure, a black sheep, because I only moved ahead one grade.

Robert married a lovely prairie girl Lois (another PhD student) and they shared an adventurous life of making babies (3 in total) while moving every few years to live and teach in a host of countries (Malaysia, England, Egypt, Nigeria, India, Wales).

In between their globe-hopping they would settle for a year or two in Regina or Saskatoon before taking on another international escapade.

Robert was also a bibliophile, a book lover.

Broadway District, Saskatoon

One day he opened a popular bookstore in Saskatoon, Broadway Book Merchants.

Broadway Street is a destination artistic haven to this day and his bookstore was a well-known stop for many many wandering the streets. Robert revelled in the authors who regularly sat in his store to autograph new releases.

He was never so happy as when celebrated author and storyteller W.O. Mitchell (Who Has Seen The Wind, Jake and the Kid) came to the house for dinner after a book signing. After dinner, Mitchell said in his lovely sonorous voice that he’d be happy to share stories with the family all night long, so long as the alcohol flowed liberally! Robert (an inveterate wine and beer maker himself) was delighted to oblige.

Bookselling retirement was eventually forced on him as the inevitability of the mega-online booksellers ate away at bricks-and-mortar retailers. He accepted the inevitable and moved on.

Somehow, over the years, my wife Maureen and I were able to meet up and spend bits of time here and there with Robert; never for long, but let’s say it was “quality time”.

Cross-country skiing over mountain passes in Jasper, organizing and coordinating family reunions, vacationing together in China, visits in Cusco, Peru, teaching me to add cumin to my chili recipe, and his many visits to our Okanagan home gave me the chance to “bond” with Robert.

A wee sip of Chinese snake wine… adventurous!

He and I shared a silly sense of humour that was always best expressed while taking in anything by the Monty Python crew…

Robert wasn’t a perfect man (he and I must be related!), but he had an inner softness and vulnerability that I loved.

We became “brothers” as adults when childhood hadn’t afforded us that opportunity.

On our shared journey across China almost 10 years ago, I could sense small changes in Robert’s mental functioning that said something was awry.

Sure enough, only a couple of months after we returned, the Alzheimer’s diagnosis was confirmed and his lengthy downward journey became his final unwanted odyssey.

This past year, I wrote a song (with an irreverent title but one that Robert would have laughed over anyways) about Robert’s decline that I’ll share with you here once again today.

Thanks for being my brother Robert…

The Great British Tale of Two Oliver’s…

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Please Sir… I want some more…

Welcome friends to Idea Sex week…a dreamy trifecta, a misty ménage à trois, a threesome of cuisine’some…

The British Christmas Armada has invaded my television screen this week as we grow ever closer to the reason-for-the-season.

And while I’d actually prefer to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol (who can resist Gonzo as Charles Dickens the narrator, and his hilarious companion Rizzo the Rat?)…

… in Fozzie Bear’s place, instead, I’ve been watching urchin Oliver Twist doing battle with fat Mr. Bumble, scheming Fagin and evil Bill Sikes …

… I’ve drooled as celebrity chef Jamie Oliver seductively enticed me, like warm-hearted prostitute Nancy, with Yorkshire puddings and bacon-swaddled turkey, and finally…

… I’ve giggled as The Great British Baking Show judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith presided over a festive Christmas baking spectacle with 4 previous contestant bakers.

So…. (and with the greatest of apologies to the principals of this post)

Today, let’s go into our collective imaginations and, like the ephemeral Ghosts of ChristmasesPast, Present, and Yet to Come, listen and watch from above as Jamie Oliver meets Charles Dickens meets The Great British Baking Show….

It’s a culinary Tale of Two Oliver’s as I bring you a cooking challenge of Oliver Twist vs Jamie Oliver… two great British characters separated by almost 200 years and a huge socio-economic divide.

The big question? Will Oliver Twist’s simple but rib-sticking cuisine outmatch the more sophisticated Yuletide fare of the Naked Chef?

The contest is set, so settle in and enjoy the “Christmas Breakfast Showstopper“.

In this match we’ll have young Oliver Twist preparing his famously simple, yet delightful, Yule Gruel, from his Workhouse childhood, running head-to-head against Jamie Oliver as he pulls together a memorable breakfast of Grinchy Green Eggs and Ham.

The nervous contestants fidget at their baking counters as the judges call out in unison…

“You have 15 minutes… BAKE!

Oliver Twist’s YULE GRUEL

This blueprint is based on the ingredients used in the 18th century workhouse where Master Twist was raised upon his mother Agnes’ death during childbirth.

Gruel was one of the main foods provided to the workhouse children.

Oliver gained great notoriety (and disdain) when he humbly begged the master: “Please Sir, I want some more…”

Here’s the recipe that Oliver will be using to prepare his signature dish today:

Ingredients

  • 3 dessert spoonfuls of oatmeal
  • 1 pint of water
  • a little salt
  • …………..

Judge Paul Hollywood saunters to the station where wee Oliver adds and stirs, stirs and adds. “How are making your dish for us today Oliver?”.

Hollywood, hands tightly jammed into pant pockets, grins with his trademark smirk that says: “You have no idea what you’re doing, right?”

Oliver’s tender cheeks blush a bit as he squeaks out a timid explanation:

“First, Sir, mix the oatmeal with a little cold water to make a paste…

Put the rest of the water in a pan

Add the mixture and boil for 10 minutes.

If it looks like dirty washing-up water, you’re doing it right.

Finally, add the salt.”

…………………

And now, the camera slides over to Jamie Oliver, who jumps enthusiastically into his preparations of:

Jamie Oliver’s GRINCHY GREEN EGGS AND HAM

Ingredients

  • 1 small knob of unsalted butter
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 160 g cooked sliced higher-welfare ham
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • Green chili and herb salsa
  • 2 small green chillies
  • a few sprigs of fresh mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, basil, mint, dill, marjoram, chives
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • ½ a lime

…………….

This time, judge Prue Leith stops by the cooktop where Jamie, bent over a mixing bowl filled with a fragrant salsa mixture of herbs, vinegar and oil, takes a tiny sip from a teaspoon to test his blend.

Brilliant!” he calls out to Prue, who smiles brightly and gazes at him through bright pink eyeglasses that perfectly match her lipstick.

“Now to fry up the ham slices and break a couple of fabulous country eggs, cooked to perfection for 3 or 4 minutes… sooooo good for your Christmas morning.”

“We’ll just drizzle a few spoonfuls of this amazing salsa over the eggs and ham… presto… Green Eggs and Ham!”

…………….

“3…2…1… TIME’S UP, step away from your cooktops!

…………….

The chefs-du-jour back away from their dishes, satisfied that they have done their very best. Now it lies in the hands of the judges.

Hollywood and Leith stand next to the judges’ table, brows furrowed as they scan and inspect the steaming dishes placed before them. With these skilled and experienced cooks, there will be no artful dodging when it comes to flavour detection and estimation.

The judges go to their work.

A nibble here, a munch there… Hollywood’s eyes close to allow the senses to absorb and discern the flavours and sensations on the tongue.

He shakes his head, but no one can tell if it’s in enjoyment or disgust.

Prue smacks her lips and quickly declares everything delicious. “The creaminess of the Yule Gruel is spot on, salted perfectly”. “And, the herb salsa has just the right amount of of spicy heat and tartness from the vinegar”.

Prue is mostly kind; everyone knows that Paul Hollywood will make the final cutting decision as to a winner.

Again, the iconic sly grin as he looks back and forth at the faces of the contestants… a hesitant nod up and down of his head before he turns to Jamie Oliver… and extends his right hand in congratulations… the greatest honour he bestows… a winner is declared.

There is joy and sadness in everyone’s eyes, for in victory there also lies defeat. Usually…

… as Jamie Oliver retracts his hand from the celebratory Hollywood handshake… tot Oliver’s eyes grow 3 sizes larger as he sees Hollywood’s meaty hand slowly also extend outwards towards him in congratulations.

Smiles beam in every corner of the land.

And then Hollywood, whom many might describe as a modern-age Scrooge, quietly recites a few final words as today’s dream-scene descends to black:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

Bring Him Guilt, Frankenstein, and Mrrth

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Mommy, my turtle is dead,” little Brandon sorrowfully told his mother, holding out the turtle that Santa had brought him.

His Mom kissed him on the head, then said, “That’s all right.”

We’ll wrap him in tissue paper, put him in a little box, and then have a nice burial ceremony in the back yard. 

After that, we’ll go out for an ice cream sundae, and then go and get you a new pet.  I don’t want you….”

Brandon began to perk up. Her voice trailed off as she noticed the turtle move.

“Brandon, look, your turtle is not dead after all.”

“Oh,” the disappointed boy said.

“Can I kill it?”

……………………….

Is telling an oral joke a lost art for the average bloke (female “blake”?).

You know, a joke that takes 2 or 5 minutes to tell?

The jokester professionals are out there in force… the Seinfelds, Gaffigans, Rudners, Silvermans, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen… oops, that’s another blog post.

Going back decades, my Dad, a couple of uncles, even a cousin or two were great joke tellers… but… today… no one I encounter verbalizes a joke.

A pun yes, a quick one-liner, sure… but a fully laid out joke with a beginning, middle and end… NEVER!

I know I don’t, although I admit I am guilty of spouting a Dad joke here and there. And I’m a funny guy according to the mirror that I consult regularly. Of course the mirror lies to me all the time about my age, so why would I trust it?

I’m a visual learner (ie. reader) and punster.

So one of the things I enjoy most (this might be an oxymoron) about visiting a doctor or dentist office is the waiting room period and the plethora of magazines… and… Reader’s Digests.

I love those little humour stories inside and it’s the only time I see them. “Can someone else here go into the office first? I haven’t finished this Laughter Is The Best Medicine page yet.

No, these aren’t oral, but today I’ll share a few little Reader’s Digest-style Christmas funnies to try and raise your level of mirth… and best of all, won’t add to your girth!

A man kills a (rein)deer and takes it home to cook for dinner.

Both he and his wife decide that they won’t tell the kids what kind of meat it is, but will give them a clue and let them guess.

Daddy says, “Well, it’s what Mommy calls me sometimes.”

The little girl screamed to her brother, “Don’t eat it. It’s an asshole!”

Dianne was going to the Christmas office party but needed a new party dress.

In the clothing store she asked:

“May I try on that dress in the window, please?”

“Certainly not, madam,” responded the salesgirl,

“You’ll have to use the fitting room like everyone else.”

Grandpa decided that shopping for Christmas presents had become too difficult. 

All his grandchildren had everything they needed, so he decided to send them each a cheque.

On each card he wrote: ‘Merry Christmas, Grandpa’

P.S. ‘Buy your own present!’ 

Now, while Grandpa enjoyed the family festivities, he thought that his grandchildren were just slightly distant.  It preyed on his mind into the New Year. 

Then one day he was sorting out his home office and under a pile of papers, he found a little pile of cheques for his grandchildren.  He had completely forgotten to put them in with the Christmas cards.

A woman goes into a sporting goods shop to buy a rod and reel for her grandson’s Christmas present. She doesn’t know which one to get so she just grabs one and goes over to the counter.

A salesperson is standing there wearing dark shades. She says, “Excuse me, sir. Can you tell me anything about this rod and reel?”

He says, “Ma’am, I’m completely blind; but if you’ll drop it on the counter, I can tell you everything from the sound it makes.”

She doesn’t believe him but drops it on the counter anyway.

He says, “That’s a six-foot Shakespeare graphite rod with a Zebco 404 reel and 10-lb test line. It’s a good all around combination; and it’s on sale this week for only $20.00.”

She says, “It’s amazing that you can tell all that just by the sound of it dropping on the counter. I’ll take it!” As she opens her purse, her credit card drops to the floor.

“Oh, that sounds like a Master Card,” he says.

She bends down to pick it up and accidentally passes gas. At first she is really embarrassed, but then realizes there is no way the blind clerk could tell it was she who tooted. Being blind, he wouldn’t know that she was the only person around.

The man rings up the sale and says, “That ‘ll be $34.50 please.”

The woman is totally confused by this and asks, “Didn’t you tell me the rod and reel were on sale for $20.00? How did you get $34.50?”

He replies, “Yes, ma’am. The rod and reel are $20.00, but the duck call is $11.00 and the catfish bait is $3.50.”

……………………….

And finally… may the spirit of this holiday season find you in the way you celebrate it best:

Knowing that the pastor enjoyed his drink, a hotel owner offered him a case of cherry brandy for Christmas in exchange for a free ad in the church newsletter.

The pastor agreed and ran this in the next issue:

“The pastor would like to thank Patrick Smith for his kind gift of a crate of fruit and for the spirit in which it was given.” 

Looking To Your Heart…

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Are all months created equal?

In the world of many major religions, December is different… unique and special.

But unique and special can be overwhelmingly positive – OR – overwhelmingly overwhelming. It can even be both.

December has a concentrating effect on our emotions. This concentration can lead to stress and worry and anxiety for many (I’ll include myself in this group).

In a year (or even years) where you may be impacted by the effects of COVID, or a loss, any loss – a special person in your world, a treasured pet, maybe financial, physical or mental health – finding some inner peace and solace can be very difficult.

Today, as these possible December woes descend, I’m privileged to share with you another guest post from my good friend Jim Ferguson. Jim is a newly “retired” Physician Associate – Canadian (Nova Scotia)-born, but living and raising a family for many years in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon, USA.

Jim is a hybrid in many areas… he combines a deep scientific curiosity and knowledge with great compassion through his religious and philosophical beliefs, thrown in with a blend of humour and silliness that sets him apart.

I’ll let Jim take the reins for today’s helpful post with “heart-healthy” practical advice to support us all through the coming month (and years):

FREE!!

Who amongst you loves FREE STUFF?

I think we all do.

Larry has welcomed another guest blog from yours truly and I decided for this blog it was time to give out some “free stuff”, some “intellectual swag”, information that could have a profound impact on your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Most importantly… IT IS FREE!

It doesn’t come in a capsule or tablet. You don’t need an IV infusion. You simply need to read today’s blog and ponder the content and practice the skills. That’s it! Interested? Read on.

Do you remember the television commercial where the woman is stressed to the max and she utters the words “Calgon…take me away!” The next scene shows her in “bubble bath bliss” as the Calgon soaks away all the stress.

If only it were that easy, right!

How many of us have jokingly (or not) uttered those words for a laugh or in a moment of exasperation? While the t.v. commercial is good for a laugh, the underlying existence of stress in our lives is real and for many of us, it is no joke.

We all have experienced the deep valleys of negative emotion and the summits of positive emotion along life’s journey.

What if there were some basic mind-body tools that could help us manage stress effectively. Well…there happens to be such tools and they are simple to learn.

What would you say if I were to tell you that your emotional-wellbeing is closely related to the rhythm of your heart? That there is a direct connection between your heart and brain and that your heart rhythm plays an integral role in regulating emotions and cognition?

There is scientific research from the HeartMath Institute (HMI) that shows these statements to be valid.

We all know emotions are a normal part of life. We all experience the “highs” (joy, love, happiness, peace, exaltation, etc) and the “lows” (sadness, stress, anxiety, depression, etc.).

Nobody is exempt from the rollercoaster of emotions. Neurobiological research shows that with every shift from positive to negative emotion or vice versa, over 1,400 biochemical changes occur in the body and these changes impact not only our physiology but our psychology too.

HMI identifies negative emotions as depleting emotions while positive emotions are renewing emotions.

I doubt this is a surprise to you. I have experienced the energy drain of sadness, depression, stress, etc. and the energy renewal that comes from joy, happiness, love, etc. I suspect you have too.

You are, no doubt, aware that depleting emotions result in the release of “the stress hormone” cortisol from your adrenal cortex.

Medical scientists have been telling us for years that one of the greatest predictors of life longevity is our serum (or salivary) cortisol level. The higher the cortisol, the shorter our life span. The opposite is also true. The lower our serum cortisol the greater our longevity.

When we experience renewing (positive) emotions, our body produces regenerative hormones such as DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) and the love hormone known as oxytocin. These hormones increase our resilience and, like cortisol, can be easily measured with a blood sample.

The cutting-edge research of HMI shows us that by activating the powers of the heart we can reduce stress by shifting from depleting to renewing emotions.

I can hear it now: “I thought the heart was just a pump for the blood!”

We have come a long way in our understanding of the heart and have learned that the heart is much more than a pump. The great mystics, sages, and prophets have known this for thousands of years.

The heart’s rhythm affects the brain’s information processing abilities and emotions. Neurocardiologists have discovered the heart has its own complex nervous system – coined by Dr J. Andrew Armour in 1991 as the “heart-brain”.

The heart has over 40,000 associated sensory neurons that transmit information to the brain including the amygdala – the emotional processing centre of the brain and the thalamus – the critical thinking centre.

The science shows the heart is sending much more neurological information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. The heart has an electromagnetic field, and this field can be sensed several feet outside the body.

Research shows that while negative emotions can create chaos of the nervous system and our emotions, positive emotions can bring order to the nervous system and to our emotions.

HMI refers to this heart rhythm “order” as coherence. Heart coherence is attained through controlling breathing patterns which subsequently act to coordinate the heart’s rhythm. Positive emotions can be added to the controlled breathing to increase our brain’s ability to make good decisions. This combination can even boost our immune system.

Coherence is a measurable state involving the coordinated alignment between heart, mind, and emotions. It is measured by looking at the heart’s beat-to-beat changes in rhythm known as heart rate variability (HRV).

With sustained positive emotions, we experience high coherence positively affecting our physiological, emotional, and mental wellbeing. With sustained negative emotions, we experience low coherence and disruption in our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. It is that simple.

So… enough of the science review.

I want to leave you with three (3) simple tools that you can practice, thus creating positive coherence in your life promoting a state of physiological, emotional, and mental balance.

Remember: these are practices.

Doing these once or twice isn’t going to cut it. To get the best mind-body “bang for your buck” you must develop the practice over months to years. If you do this, you will have simple tools at your disposal to help you through any stress life may throw at you.

Caveat: if you have health concerns that would prohibit you from performing these practices – don’t do them.

First, I want to teach you the core breathing pattern called “Heart-Focused Breathing”.

Sit in a comfortable position with hands resting on your lap. Now focus your attention around your heart and imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart/chest area. As you imagine this flow, slow your breathing and make the breaths deeper than usual. The ideal breathing pattern is approximately 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out for a total of approximately 6 breaths/minute. Practice this for a minute or two. As you become comfortable with this practice you can lengthen the duration to several minutes. Take notice of how this practice makes you feel. Take note of your heart rate. The research has shown that this breathing pattern is ideal for creating coherence – for shifting one from the stressful “fight/flight/freeze” mode of the sympathetic nervous system to the relaxing mode of the parasympathetic system.

Second, I want to now teach you the “Quick Coherence Technique”.

Begin by initiating the “Heart-Focused Breathing” pattern above. Once you have settled into this coherence-generating rhythm now activate a positive or renewing feeling or attribute such as gratitude, appreciation, love, calm, etc. Take notice of how you feel as you practice this technique. With practice, you can use this technique “in the moment” in any situation that might typically lead to stress. By initiating this “Quick Coherence Technique” you can shift from a potentially depleting situation to one of renewal quickly.

Finally, I want to introduce you to the “Heart Lock-In Technique”.

As you have learned already, begin by initiating the “Heart-Focused Breathing” pattern and then shifting into the “Quick Coherence Technique” by adding the positive emotion or attribute. Now I would like you to practice actively radiating this positive emotion outward to all you encounter. As you practice this technique, take notice of your breathing and heart rate and rhythm. Take notice of your own emotions and of those with whom you engage while practicing this technique. This is a powerful renewing practice that can have amazing benefits for you and those with whom you come in contact. Remember, your heart has a magnetic field that extends several feet outside your body, and this can be sensed by others with whom you come in contact. Just like we are sensitive to people’s negative emotions, we can also sense positive emotions. Just imagine how different our world would be if we all practiced these simple actions.

So… there you have it.

I have provided you some basic review on negative and positive emotions and the connection between the heart, brain and emotions, and the concept of coherence. I have provided you with three simple techniques that can create a higher sense of coherence in your life and in the lives of those you encounter.

Now it is up to you to practice these techniques and utilize them for greater physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing for you and those around you.

I hope you find this helpful.

Peace,

Jim Ferguson

What’s Up My Greensleeves…

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Like Dickens himself, young William Chatterton Dix coughed and stoked the coal-stove to drive out the damp chill of an English winter day.

He sat at the rugged wood table rubbing his hands together to create a bit more heat, then lifted his fountain pen to scribble another line… much as Mr. Dickens had done while writing A Christmas Carol only 22 years earlier…

…………………

With less than a month now until that famous Christian HOHOHOliday, I think I can squeak in an early post related to the holy and hallowed.

Even as an atheist, I’ve taken a Scrooge-like possession of sacred carols and music that festoons our halls and jingle our bells.

One of my favourites of the Christmas season is the carol we all know today as What Child Is This?, but I came to know first-off as Greensleeves (?a tribute to my many childhood runny noses?)

As a young piano prodigy *hah* (like driving a car as a youngster, I could barely reach the instrument’s pedals) one of the earliest pieces I learned from my austere music teacher was… you got it… Greensleeves.

But I’ve always pondered – yet never known or understood – why two names for the same carol? What’s the subterfuge that brought this about I wondered.

Let’s look a bit deeper:

Before What Child Is This? was born in Bristol, England in 1865, it took its first breaths as a celebrated English instrumental folk song, Greensleeves.

Some erroneously claim that Greensleeves, composed anonymously in 1580, was written by Henry VIII in order to woo Anne Boleyn; or, that Lady Greensleeves was a loose woman or a prostitute; or that the song has Irish origins. All good guesses, but… wrong, wrong, and wrong.

For all of these claims there is no actual evidence, yet still the stories circulate widely. Even the soap opera TV series The Tudors makes a show of Henry VIII composing Greensleeves.

In truth, the music to Greensleeves was first published and registered at the London Stationer’s Company in 1580.

On September 3, 1580, Richard Jones was licensed to print A New Northern Dittye of ye Lady Greene Sleeves. He then printed a book in 1584, A Handful of Pleasant Delights, in which the song was reprinted as A new Courtly Sonet of the Lady Green sleeues, to the new tune of Greensleeves.

The song was immediately immensely popular and off to a flying start. Even William Shakespeare cited it in his The Merry Wives of Windsor, c. 1602, 17 years after the song’s first publication and widespread success. His character Falstaff calls out: “Let the sky rain potatoes! Let it thunder to the tune of ‘Greensleeves’!

Now let’s jump ahead a couple of hundred years and drop in on businessman William Chatterton Dix, the son of a surgeon from Bristol, England.

William actually spent most of his life in Glasgow, Scotland, working as a manager of the Maritime Insurance Company.

In 1865, 29 year-old William, a man extremely fond of traditional English folk songs, suffered a near-death bout of sickness. Afflicted also with severe depression, this traumatic experience changed him completely.

While recovering, he became an avid reader of the Bible and experienced a spiritual awakening that inspired him to take up crafting hymns in celebration.

While healing, he wrote the lyrics of The Manger Throne, which later came to be known as What Child Is This?, incorporating the tune of the celebrated English folk song, Greensleeves.

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.

Today, it’s been sung and recorded by countless artists of all genres. Andrea Bocelli, Johnny Mathis, Carrie Underwood, Josh Groban, Bing Crosby, the list goes on and on…

And, as the late radio host Paul Harvey used to say… “now you know… the rest of the story…

And maybe to entice you into the glow and spirit of the festive season to come, here is my recent recording of the tune on my faithful guitar:

Out of The Frying Pan…

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Over my years I’ve scuba-dived and sky-dived.

I’ve ziplined and schussed, tobogganed down a volcano and parasailed. I’ve munched on guinea pig and bull’s testicles, and sipped snake wine.

But… now? Who needs bungee jumping, speed-skiing, or parachuting for that adrenaline shot?

Not me… anymore… because…

I live in British Columbia.

Living on Canada’s west coast in British Columbia today is living life on the edge.

Over the decades I’ve not-so-humbly gloated over the incredible natural wonders of this place I’ve chosen to spend almost all of my adult life.

Clean air and water are mere add-ons to the glories of spectacular mountains, pristine lakes and forests, and the fruit-laden valley that I wake up to each day. Yes, I live in an earthly Garden of Eden.

Magnifying this wonder I’ve seen and experienced, has been the abundant peacefulness of this province’s climate and geology.

Hot, non-humid summers, and mild’ish low-snow winters (in the valleys) make my home a bona fide Jewel in the Crown.

Now comes the BUT…

Today, while I love this place with fervour, I recognize the jewel is becoming badly scratched and the crown’s gold adornments tarnished.

A one-off, freak occurrence I brush off like early November snowflakes on my nose.

Two times and I get suspicious…

News reports that hold the power to fill us with impending doom… well, used to be, I’d lazily gloss over, utter a tsk tsk, and have another sip of my sweet-scented Gewurtztraminer (what does this say about my empathy gene?).

We’re all cracked, damaged, dinged yet simultaneously comforted because “it” hasn’t happened to us. We happily read books filled with sordid stories that provide us a safe place to “feel and heal”. 

Earthquakes and floods, tornados, hurricanes and fires are things that usually happen to someone else, the same kind of stuff that we think about when fatal motor vehicle crashes and home invasions happen… until… they happen to us.

Danger and tragedy are far more meaningful when they are in our own world space.

We all expect the very occasional “once-in-a-hundred-years” event to drop down on us. But once-in-a-hundred loses all meaning when it comes around yearly or every couple of years.

The freak climactic occurrences of BC are now the new normal.

Summer forest fires threaten huge tracts of land and thousands of homes, not to mention the innocent wildlife that succumbs to the infernos.

The odd year where summer fire doesn’t cause evacuations of thousands of homes is the “freak” year.

Huge atmospheric rain storms have just unleashed massive flooding, extensive highway and rail damage, caused the deaths of tens of thousands of livestock, and dislodged thousands of people from their homes due to this water torrent.

(https://globalnews.ca/video/8381738/b-c-floods-heroic-horse-rescue-amid-heavy-flooding-in-merritt)

Me and my family here in the Okanagan Valley have been hugely lucky to have barely felt a scratch due to this latest weather phenomenon. My biggest concern? Stores have no milk or yogourt. Kale is missing on the shelves. Big deal.

I’d love to once again gloss over with my wine glass and see this as one more oddity, that once-in-a-lifetime thing that we still talk about 50 years later (like the big flood of 1948 in BC that my in-laws often spoke of) because it was so unusual… but… I know it’s not.

This water deluge, like the perennial summer fires, is now part of the new everyday.

You may have a new normal in your part of the world too… in fact, I suspect you do. Get used to it.

This all makes me sad because it’s been largely preventable, and even now, when we see the writing on the wall, we continue to say the right things but live our lives in contradiction to what we see and know to be true.

I’m as guilty as anyone out there. I’m complicit.

I can point out areas where I may be more “saintly” than others, but my halo is still tattered and I know it.

Our lifestyle choices… the world’s lifestyle choices… is akin to drinking demons from a fire hose.

My home is in a place I call a Garden of Eden, but the reality says my backyard has been sown with the seeds of a Garden from Hell.

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