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?

Country Mice attend an opening

 

 

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts recently hosted a party for the opening of an exclusive exhibition of wedding dresses (make that wedding attire) designed by John Pail Gaultier.  I had a ball guiding his big show a few years ago so I was dying to see what had been whipped up for the “Love is Love” theme.  The finale of every fashion show is the wedding dress but given Jean Paul’s very inclusive attitude to love, I was sure more than dresses would be on show.

I have been spending a lot of time in the wilds of Muskoka with a dear person whose tastes run more to home-crafted birdhouses and planting various strains of potatoes than the Parisian fashion scene.  I anticipated something of a culture clash as we left the house.  I was dressed in my only fashion item – an ancient Escada jacket of startling checked fabric embroidered lavishly with butterflies.  I bought this in a consignment shop (second hand to you) more decades ago than I care to remember over the objections of my conservative friend who dresses only in black, grey or beige. It grew on her after a while. Thank God shoulder pads are making a comeback.

Speaking of beige, I had to bite my tongue when I noted that my escort was wearing his best black pants teamed with ……another color shoes. However, bitter experience has taught me that if you want the guy to show up, don’t comment on his outfit.

We arrived to a mob in the lobby that brought a hunted look to the eye of my shy woodland lad but with a flash of my volunteer guide ID we were whisked upstairs with the VIP’s. There wasn’t much elbow room up there either but the museum had devised a charming way of crowd control.  We were given colored rings (in keeping with the wedding theme) and admitted to the exhibition in groups according to color.

As a woman “of a certain age” I can say that many of the openings are attended by my contemporaries.  This was different.  City mice and men ,dapper  damsels and dogs were out in force and wearing the most fabulous shoes!  My footwear has been confined for many months to snow boots or rain boots.  I have never worn heels like the ones I drooled over that night.  “Wear chic flats”, you say. I have a habit of paying my bills and some of those mules and ballerinas would make  a serious dent in my budget.

One thing being a guide at the museum cured me of is the desire to acquire art.  I get to study it, look at it and discuss it with visitors.  Soirees like that one help me dampen my ardor for clothes and shoes.  I can never aspire to that level so – just look and admire.

To my surprise, my country mouse was a great hit.  He is very sociable and no one even noticed his shoes.  Well, maybe they did and copy-cat designers will make him a trend setter.

Oh, the exhibit?  Fabulous, darling.  Just check out the Irish knit inspired his and her outfits. Oh, I kept the orange rings – you never know when they might come in handy.

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.