A Pair of Red Repairs

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The letters we receive

are far between and few.

From cousins old and cranky

or high school friends we knew.

The mail boxes grew shabby.

One even lost its lid

to gale-force winds, a wild raccoon,

perhaps a smart-ass kid.

The hardware store had boxes,

the cheap and nasty kind.

Or fancy and luxurious,

Oh, nothing could I find

to fit my homey little house

so cozy and so sweet,

to make the mailman happy

who comes in cold or heat.

My darling made an offer.

I had my doubts, I vow

that he could transform old to new.

Well, look what I have now!

A plate of tin, a hinge

a coat of red spray paint,

so beautiful, it works well too

this sight could make you faint!

So don’t throw out, recycle friends

and you too, can save money.

It helps to know a handy guy

to fix things, like my honey.

He haunts the Eco Centre

once called the local dump.

Free tiles, a sink, a window,

these things can make him jump

for joy – yes, you should try it.

Recycling saves you cash.

It helps save the environment too

you’ll notice in a flash

how old can be as good as new,

one look at me can show it.

So do the right thing – don’t discard

it’s the “new” way – you know it!

 

 

Ending is Better than Mending

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or is it? In George Orwell’s dystopian novel the slogan that heads today’s blog is a fundamental tenant of society.  It is an absolute ” value” of consumer society to create in the masses (and make no mistake, you and I are part of that class) an unquenchable desire for new objects. This desire is the motor that drives the manufacturing, delivery and sales divisions of industry.  Notice that I did not include the service sector as this is fast becomming obsolete and archaic.

You may argue that we are more than mindless plebeians, forced to toe the party line of Big Brother.  Certainly, but how many of us take the time to examine and challenge the relentlessly promoted idea that new is intrinsically better than old? When did discarding everything at a faster and faster rate become a virtue?

I present a couple of examples of recycling.  Two mailboxes have been fixed to the wall of my modest duplex since before I bought it 18 years ago. The tenent’s box somehow lost the lid that protects mail from rain and both boxes were seriously chipped and shabby.  New boxes cost between $ 18 for a,cheap and nasty plastic one designed to become landfill in 2 or 3 years and $60 for a sturdy metal one of particularly ugly design.  A dear one offered to make a new hinged lid.  I was a little doubtful but persistence, a bit of spare tin sheeting and a can of spray paint can do a lot.  I promise you pictures of my two good-as-new beauties next time

The stoves? I shed a nostalgic tear as the little blue one was dragged out and replaced by a second-hand one ($235 delivered with a year’s guarantee on parts and labour). The little blue stove had been more of a decor choice when, inspired by a couple of trips to Mexico, I decided to go with colour in my kitchen.  Our Lady of Guadalupe smiles gently down from the wall but during an attempt to produce duck a l’orange the switches on the elements failed and even her intercession proved ineffective. Before parting with the blue beauty I invited that rare breed, a repair man, to tell me if it was a hopeless case.  It was.

Even counting the cost of the repair man and a little bottle of enamel to touch up a couple of chips on my ” new” stove, I still came out about four hundred dollars ahead. As to reliability, nothing is more infuriating than to be offered an ” extended waranty” when buying a new product.  It requires me to bet that what I am buying will break down in short order.  That the manufacturer offers this insurance confirms that he too agrees that his product will soon fail me.

In Sweden consumers are given a tax break on the cost of repairing products or buying refurbished second-hand ones. The choices we make have consequences.  The mindless acceptance of our image-worshiping culture results in great destruction of the environment.  Consumers willingly incur massive debt that causes worry, anxiety and family conflict.

Let’s a grip.  Make do and mend.  Shop at the Salvation Army or second-hand stores and let’s pressure our MP’s to follow the good example of innovative policies like those of the Swedes.

 

 

 

Lemonade stands and Fireflies

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I guess it must really be summer. I drank my first glass of homemade lemonade bought from young entrepreneurs.  They sold classic and pink varieties for one dollar a glass.  The price seemed a little steep to me but we were buying charm as well.  The group of youngsters had quite a good marketing strategy.  Some of them made and sold the lemonade and a couple of others yelled ads at a busy street corner encouraging us to walk half a block down the quiet street to where they were set up.  The dad who made the stand really deserves kudos for his classic style.  Worthy of Peanuts comic strip, I’d say.  I quenched my thirst on this first really hot day of the summer and loved the excitement of the youngsters pocketing our money with a satisfied smile.

Another welcome and beloved sign of summer for me is the appearance of fireflies or lightning bugs in my garden.  In the early evening I wonder if my eyes are playing tricks on me but no, they are blinking and winking at each other and I get to enjoy the heartening little flashes that tell me it really is a hot night. It is such a treat to see these little darlings in a city garden and down my rather overgrown lane.  It reassures me and raises my spirits to see these tiny creatures lightening up the dark shadows of my rose bushes.

All during the long dark months of winter I never think of lemonade stands and fireflies.  Summer always brings them as heart melting surprises.

Please note …unusually for me, this piece features a shot of people I don’t know.  I requested and recieved permission from the mother of two of the children, ( she was supervising the event) to take and include the picture in my blog.

Moving Day Madness in Montreal

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A recent study informs us that over 60% of the residents of Montreal are tenents.  They are a restless lot too.  It seems that Montrealers are quite ready to pack up their stuff and try to find that perfect apartment.  If only the place could be a little cheaper, a little bigger, a little closer to transportation, a little hotter in winter and cooler in summer!  If only one could be closer ( or further away from) the in-laws, up on the mountain, down by the river, in a modern, charming, quieter, more hip place……life would be perfect.  And so, the tribe packs up and plays musical apartments.

Almost all leases end on June 30 in my city.  This has its advantages.  It means that kids don’t get bounced to a new school during term time.  It means that there is a huge pool of apartments for tenants to search through.  It means that landlords get to pick what they hope is a decent  tenant from the hordes hopefully looking for new digs.

The disadvantages are pretty glaring though.  Following the laws of supply and demand, moving companies jack up their prices to an exorbitant amount and so do companies renting trucks for a do-it-yourself move.  Timing is everything is a phrase that can have no greater meaning than on moving day.  If the old tenants haven’t moved out when you arrive with all your possessions, it’s a problem.  Pray for good weather when everything you own ( and how tawdry it looks) sits on the sidewalk waiting for the movers to show up.  They are always late since every move has its particular snag.  Have you marvelled at the charm of the winding staircases of Montreal?  Try getting a king sized headboard or a piano up one of those mothers.

Having moved more than ten times myself before I found my little paradise 17 years ago, I have had good moves and bad ones.  I can spot a good moving team from the first moment they  show up at the door.  Yesterday I “helped” a young couple move.  As soon as I saw the young mover descend with his first item….a foot long shelf…..I knew we were in trouble.  He and his partner dragged their feet inexcusably and when we arrived at the destination they sat back and demanded double the estimate before they would touch anything in the truck. This holding the goods for ransome is not an unknown tactic but it was the first time I had experienced it. The whole experience was very unpleasant and my only significant assistance in this whole affair turned out to be a garbled discussion  on the phone with what the movers called ” the boss”.  And yes, he sounded like the movie kind of boss. Was it a coincidence that after I mentioned the Consumers’ Protection Office, a second truck arrived with a negotiator? All is,well that ends well but the whole day was pretty stressful.

The picture? Well, after all when you take all your stuff out of their comfortable  little niches, some of it looks pretty awful and the streets of Montreal are stacked with discarded furniture, mattresses and ” art” for the first week of July.  It is a pickers’ paradise.  I wish all hose who moved that they happily set down roots and never have to move  again

Who am I kidding?  Canada Day? In Montreal, it’s moving day!

 

 

It changes. It stays the same

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It has been a long time since I went for a walk in the Town of Mount Royal.  TMR as we call it here in Montreal is an independent municipality completely surrounded by the rest of the city.  It was founded in 1912 as a sort of ideal garden suburb.  It is home to about twenty-five thousand affluent people.  It has a great layout with city services such as the library, city hall and community facilities in the centre and streets and crescents extending out like spokes in a wheel.  The houses are large and surrounded by pleasant gardens.  There are some nice apartment buildings on the main boulevards that make an X through the town.

On the east side, it is bounded by a small teeming community called Park Extension. I once lived in that part of town.  About forty yeas ago when my children were little TMR had a problem.  Their families were small and it was hard to keep up enrollment in the schools of the town.  Right across a huge boulevard ironically called L’Acadie Blvd. (there was nothing Arcadian about it) our crowded part of town was bursting at the seams. Someone had the bright idea to bus some of the poor kids in Park Extension into the affluent town and fill up a few school rooms.

As a young mother I heard about this scheme and made sure my kids were on the list to get bussed into the good schools.  By some weird system dreamed up  by bureaucrats only certain addresses in Park Extension were eligible .  My poor husband (my ex now) had a hard time understanding why I steadfastly turned up my nose at apartments on the west side of a street while I seemed willing to accept a dump on the east side.  It is very frustrating to try to explain something that makes no sense but thanks to pure stubbornness on my part we finally ended up in a bus zone.  My kids really benefited from going to Dunrae Gardens school.  I often wondered what the bus drivers thought of driving the children back and forth in the mornings, at lunch time and in the afternoons.  He or she had to take a meandering route because of the long chain link fence between Park Extension and TMR.

I was reminded of all this today as I took a long walk through TMR. All these years later the fence still stands between these two communities.  It is disguised by a high hedge but it is still a solid fence that separates rich and poor.  There are gates here and there and people from Park Extension can get in to go for walks among the green lawns and mansions.  I’m pretty sure no one from the other side comes for their evening stroll to Park Ex. among the small duplexes, the ethnic groceries, the pizza shops, the laundromats. The ethnic mix has changed over the years but still no rich people live here.

TMR has changed too.  It used to be a stronghold of rich Anglos.  Now French speakers are in the majority but the population is still mainly white and mainly Christian according to the latest census.

What is the use of the fence?  What does it mean and why does it still exist?  You can see from the picture that someone made an editorial comment on a safety sign on one of the gates.  “This wall represents the class struggle.”  Well, does it?

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.

They’re back!!!

The hummingbirds, I mean.  This evening just before sunset we heard the unique burring noise of a hummingbird coming to the feeder.  We eventually saw three scrappy little miracles at the feeder, fighting and whirring around.  It is a wonderful sight and a sign that Spring really is here.  It had better be as everything is now planted – potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, bush beans, green peas, peppers and hot peppers (risky as they like it hot) cucumbers and a hopeful melon vine. We are forecast freakish hot weather for the next two days so it is a good thing that the creek is nice and full.  The furrows are slightly sloped down hill so the irrigation should be quite efficient.  We can only hope for a bit of help from nature and not a parched summer like last year. There was not a drop of rain in the month of July if I remember rightly.  However, we must just hope for the best.

The birds are wonderful.  We have quite a contingent of blue jays.  I always admired them but since I learned that they are pretty savage, breaking the eggs of other birds and eating fledglings, they have lost their luster for me.  The good news is that the little nest in the shed once more has an occupant and that one of Joe’s finely crafted bird houses has an occupant.  As a precaution against the damned jays Joe partially blocked the entry hole in the shed to make it too small for them to get in.  The bird in the new birdhouse is brave and curious.  She sits at the little hole and looks out, her  black head quite visible – like the newcomer to the neighborhood that she is.  I had my doubts about that birdhouse being occupied as it is in a very exposed spot on top of a fence post but she seems to have taken to it.  The blackbird in the tree hole is very happy. Oh, we saw the crane again this evening too.  She (or he) was stalking quietly around the bush in the farmer’s field.  I suppose they pay a visit to the swamp over the trail for frogs who produce quite a din as soon as it is evening. Frog chorus almost like bells tinkling.

It is impossible to get shots of birds except for the flashy jays and I refuse to give them the publicity so here are some lovely shots of white and blue violets that have come out and are quite lovely next to the brilliant dandelions. I never can quite understand why people have a distain for dandelions.  I think they are beautiful – certainly better than the poison people liberally spray around to try to get rid of them…..OK, OK, another time.