Irony on Sunday

imageI watched with interest the speech given by Donald Trump this morning as he began his tour of Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome.  I am no political scholar but I have followed with alarm the rise of (must I?) President….Trump and his extraordinary behavior during the early months of his administration.  Before we get into deeper irony I must comment on what is being lightly called “headscarf-gate”.  In the past some Western women of note have worn a headscarf in deference to the rules of the Saudis who require that women cover their heads.  Notably First Lady Obama did not (and was criticized for this by Donald Trump).  I applaud Melania Trump’s decision to follow the good example of Michelle Obama.  However, it struck me as ironic that anyone with access to the internet can see a good deal more of the anatomy of Melania Trump than her head.

But to deeper ironies – A peace mission during which a 100Billion arms deal with the Saudis is hailed as a job-creating boon for the United States.  A BBC commentator noted today that Saudi Arabia uses a greater percentage of its GNP on arms than any other country.  Peace will be forged here?  Ah, well,  similar arms deal with Israel will balance things out.

A head-spinning switch in the characterization of the Islamic world was revealed today.  Instead of the hateful murderers Trump evoked in his campaign,  we heard this morning a laundry list of  the triumphs of culture and technology and growth, culture and hospitality of the Saudis.  How ironic that no mention was made of the millions of quasi-slaves who build the high rise towers, monuments to wealth that now rise in the Gulf States.

In a novel approach, Mr. Trump told us the west was not going to “lecture” other states on how to behave.  In view of the military intervention and covert overthrow of legitimately elected governments over the 20th century, this is indeed a more subtle approach.  What about human rights, a free press (blunt humor not irony here) emancipation of woman, religious freedom and a separation of church and state.  Oh, sorry.  I must have confused standing up for one’s principles with “lecturing”

Fifteen of the nineteen terrorists of the 9/11 tragedy were Saudis.  Ironic that the first foreign visit by this president today is to Saudi Arabia. The phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” was notably absent from his speech.  Well, these nice guys did make a huge contribution to Ivanka Trump’s foundation today.  Ironic, isn’t it?

In spite of a lengthy US  investigation no member of the Saudi royal family(the ruling class) was found directly funding terrorism but ….it is a commonly held view that over the years the Saudis have turned a blind eye to money laundering that permitted  Al Quaida and ISSIS to operate.  Ironic that the Saudis will now establish and run an institution to financially cut off terrorists.

Where irony gave way to despair and fear this morning was when Donald Trump demonized Iran.  In a speech that until then advocated unity among Muslim states,  this crude and clumsy attack was a cynical ploy to please both the Gulf States and Israel.

Some comparisons have been made between the speech given this morning and that of President Obama made in Cairo in 2014.  Go on You Tube and take a look at it.  Ironic how conviction can skew viewpoint.  Obama talks about the role the US played in the overthrow of a legitimately elected government in Iran.  Hmm….no mention of any of that from le grand orange this morning!

Like everything else in politics there was good and bad in today’s speech.  World statesmanship is an infinitely complex multi-dimentional puzzle.  Donald Trump is the leader of a great nation.  He has good speech writers and he managed to read a speech – this already is good!  The speech was made up of both good and catastrophic points.  I know that this  president of the United States does not have the capacity to do his job and it has been my observation that few in his administration have the capacity.  This shoves gentle irony into the realm of terror.  Is there anything gentle left in this world?  I tremble for the world of my grandchildren.

Oh, the picture – a joker, a knave and a trump – just my two cent’s worth.

Mother Nature is a child abuser

 

Anyone who reads this blog knows I can go off into raptures about nature in all its forms.  However, living in the country brings home the dark side of Mother Nature.  As I told a dear friend of mine today, I had considered myself on top of the food chain.  Black flies do not appear to have been informed of their position on the hierarchy and have bitten me unmercifully over the past week.  In spite of bug spray, bug jackets, ugly nerdy looking hats with nets attached and a nineteen-thirties look around the feet due to pants tucked into socks, they were not deterred.  A couple of the little blighters even managed to get into the house and I awoke on Wednesday morning with my eye swollen shut due to a vicious bite just below the eyebrow.  The local pharmacist was quite impressed with my chest – not the first to have exhibited a vivid interest if I do say so myself.  Unfortunately, her awe struck gaze was due to a livid string of welts.  “Like Christ before he was put on the cross.” was a rather dramatic description by my boyfriend.  I doubt Our Saviour was afflicted by the intense itching behind the ears and down my legs incurred by the damned black flies. I had great hopes that the pharmacist would produce some miracle salve – this is 2017 for heaven’s sake.  She led me confidently down an aisle and triumphantly produces a bottle of ……calamine lotion.  Sixty years ago this chalky liquid was slathered over my legs after I fell into a patch of stinging nettles.  Crushed I was led whimpering out of the pharmacy.

Yesterday was a hot and humid day.  I helped a bit with the garden and took refuge in the cool house hoping to catch an episode of Coronation Street.  It was not to be.  At exactly 4 pm – air time for my favorite dose of British working class soap opera, a tornado hit our house.  With amazing speed a storm packing gale force winds, torrential rain, thunder and hail engulfed our house and land. I was convinced the living room window was going to blow in and took shelter in the bathroom.   The picture shows a substantial tree that was uprooted during the ten minute storm. Many trees in the neighborhood were felled and we had no power for six hours.

So, you can perhaps understand that my feelings towards Mother Nature are a little cooler than usual.  I know all moms can have bad days but really, I shall expect some pretty spectacular lilac to make up for this.

Planting Potatoes

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There is enough Irish blood coursing in my veins to think of planting potatoes as a sacred task.  I doubt any ancestor of mine ever planted Blue Russians or Congo Pot varieties but scrabbling around in the dirt seemed to come naturally.  I have never planted potatoes before and in spite of the very annoying “no see’em” flies which plagued us, we got them all into narrow beds.  Ready for the first showers of the weekend.

A bit of sad news…the little birds that nested over the door of the shed lost their eggs.  We think it was the blue jays that attacked them.  As a consolation ( to us) we saw a lone turkey running over the farmer’s field and a partridge and what was either a mink or an otter.  The joint is jumping

And What Does It Mean?

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Here are a few more beauties that just appeared as I was going around this morning.  I have no idea what they are called but I will try to find out. Lovely, aren’t they?  It is very interesting to see all the nesting pairs of birds and see how they are enjoying the bird feeder.  We saw a pair of Jays this morning.  Lots of people think they are noisy and bossy and I suppose they are.  I love them, though.  Part of the crow family, like Magpies they make their presence known.  The little nesting pair in the shed are still holding us hostage.  I don’t know what we will do when it is time to go to Montreal as we can’t close the door.  I hope the little ones will have hatched by then. The days are long but as soon as it gets dark we can hear frogs making that high spring chirping sound that means….what exactly….we’re getting ready to do our springy thing?

Now, about the title  – I had this feeling when I found the little pink flowers this morning.  What will come next?  What is all this? Where does it go in winter? Why and how does it all come to life in Spring?  Who am I in all this?  Was I like this, springy and innocent when I was young?  Am I now like an old tree with a rough bark and what will happen when I die?  Will I be like some old fallen trunk rotting away on the floor of the forest?  Am I a tadpole? So all these questions come down to one question.  What is the meaning of this?  So many philosophers and religious leaders, writers and thinkers have wrestled with this.  Do we always come to a tie, a draw, a no contest?  I think so.  These little pink flowers brought forward this question.  They are more profound than any newspaper or TV show or book.  I bow to the little pink flowers and recognize that I am helpless before them.

 

Small Wonders

Spring is slow to come to Eastern Canada this year.  It has been cold and extremely wet all through April and May was not looking much better until today when a weak sun actually cast some shadows.  We even ate lunch outside with a few strategic returns for socks and sweaters during the meal.  Last time I promised you pictures of the little trout lilies if they ever opened under sun and here is proof that clouds did actually part today.  I also found another treasure; a red trillium.  I only knew white ones but this beauty bloomed under a big tree and there are quite a few other buds nearby.

What strikes me is how these beautiful creatures persist and even thrive even while nights are registering below zero temperatures.  Every morning I notice that the pan of water we have out for birds (the lake fifty feet away might be too much of a struggle for them) is topped with a fairly thick skim of ice.  How then, do these wonderful flowers manage to bloom?  The dark cold night lasts many hours.  I don’t think I would like to stay out unprotected and yet these delicate flowers set out their beauty without worrying about the weather forecast.  Miraculous!

The many birds are wonderful too.  A pair of barn swallows have decided to nest in the shed where the lawn mower is stored and now we have to leave it open so that the parents can go in and out.  Yellow and red finches and nuthatches as well as a pair of mourning doves are constantly feeding at the feeder hung high in an old tree.  I saw a beautiful robin this morning.  His breast was a lovely red and he had that typical fearlessness around people.  Joe noticed that a pair had chosen a hole in one of the trees and he thought they should have a bit of shelter from rain so he installed a sort of wooden overhang .  He even strategically placed some hay for nesting materials on top.  Our birds are spoiled.

The truth is that we are spoiled.  This constant unfolding of a late Spring brings with it a wonder at the silence, the slow growth of favorite saplings and the company of birds going about their important business. Another blessing is that black fly season seems to be delayed.  However, this wonder is to come I am sure.

Earth Day in a working class neighborhood

imageVille Emard is a struggling enclave of working class, welfare and small businesses in the South West corner of Montreal.  Seems M. Emard was a great city counsellor back in the day and so his borough was named after him.  I wonder what he would think now of the boarded up storefronts on Monk Blvd.  The only really thriving merchants are the tattoo parlour and a few dodgy bars.  The Siri Lankan grocery store does pretty well on suspect produce and discount cheese and the dollar store seems to be staying alive.  There have been a few attempts at gentrification based on hopes that a hideous superhospital recently opened not too far away would bring new residents and  prosperity to this little backwater.  The subsidized housing block has a long waiting list, however, and the new block of condos is yet to be filled.  The problem is that the superhospital sits just out of reach behind a tangle of overpasses and highways, now being demolished.  This is going to be an agonizing process dragged out over several years.  We can hardly blame the employees of the hospital for not venturing through the miles of orange cones and bumpy dirt tracks to discover what lies below their leggo-block design facility.

The old-time residents of Ville Emard are Italian, Poles and French Canadian.  Now Koreans, South Asians and immigrants from the Maghreb are more likely to be my neighbours.  I love my “hood”.  It has an air of evolving nostalgia with its huge church now converted into a theatre, its library named for a young Quebecois poet (Marie Uguay).  I love my little duplex with the lush city garden.  I am lucky to live on a “green lane” , one of the “rouelles vertes” fostered by the city of Montreal.  We even made a mention in the New York Times once.  That is about as Earth Day as we get around here.

And yet, on my way home yesterday I noticed this new installation, a charging station for electric cars.  I have been considering selling my own little car.  My frequent stays in Northern Ontario make it more of a nuisance than a convenience these days.  My typical city row house  has no garage and so quite often I have to find a place to park for extended periods.  Most of the time I use the Metro to go downtown as parking is an expensive nightmare.  I was looking into the communal auto scheme that operates in Montreal.  I still have to do the math but it looks like it might work.  Just seeing the slender pole with its long cord made me hopeful for Ville Emard.  if we can do it, surely there is hope for freeing ourselves from our slavery to the auto.  Next project – having a chat with someone who is actually charging their car there!