Twenty Six Years and Counting

September 15, 2022

Yet another year without cigarettes. Twenty-six years today, wow.

It might seem tedious to keep harping on this year after year, but frankly I think giving up smoking after 35 years of two-pack-a-day slavery to the habit was the smartest and bravest thing I ever did. And I know for a dead certainty that I would not be here writing this today if I had continued smoking the way I did.

It is also thirty-two years since I owned a car.

I’ll keep celebrating my freedom, year after year!


The Lunch Lady Is In Town!

September 14, 2022

.

We had lunch today with old friends at The Lunch Lady on Commercial.

It was a delight made even more special by meeting Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thanh, the original Lunch Lady, who is visiting from Saigon and staying here until the end of the week. She was warm and friendly and quite obviously enjoying her stay in Canada during which she had visited Montreal and Toronto.

A good time!


A-Maze-ing Laughter

September 8, 2022

.

We spent some time down at English Bay today. It was sunny but blustery, and a great change from our normal routine. We always enjoy the marvelous A-Maze-Laughter sculpture by Yue Minjun which I consider one of the great public works of art.


And Then The Blitz Began

September 7, 2022

The German Luftwaffe attacks against London known as the Blitz began on the afternoon of September 7, 1940 — eighty-two years ago today.  They went on essentially uninterrupted for 79 days, and expanded across Great Britain.  Here can be found the Guardian‘s report of the first night’s bombing.

The German airmen apparently have orders to loose their bombs whenever they feel they are over the area called Metropolitan London.  Certainly 90% of all the damage done was to non-military objectives.

About 43,000 civilians died during the Blitz. Almost 140,000 more were injured, and more than a million homes damaged or destroyed. Even when the Blitz itself was over, the Germans continued to bomb London  for several years.  My parents spent much of their teen-aged years running to air shelters, sleeping in the Underground stations.  My mother went to the school which suffered the first V2 rocket attack.  Thousands of younger children were evacuated from London to “safer” country towns.  A dozen or more years later, when I was a kid in the early 50s in west London, all my “playgrounds” were bomb sites that still hadn’t been rebuilt.

Those of us who are lucky to live in North America have no conception of what this could be like. Imagine, perhaps, the events of 9/11 happening all over the country every day for two months and more. And all of this just one lifetime away from us.


Good Service

September 2, 2022

.

What with all the news being filled with stories of long lines at airport security, weeks’ long waits for passports, and similar inconveniences, it was with some trepidation that I went to get my drivers license renewed this morning. I had an appointment but my fears were not allayed by the long line outside the office.

Still, I was surprised at how quickly the line moved and, after a wait of less than ten minutes, I was out of there, yellow paper in hand, five minutes before my appointment was due to start.

Given the large number of people that streamed through that office in just the short while I was there, I have to commend the Licensing Authority for the efficiency of their service. Bravo to them and their staff!


Forty-Three Years On

September 1, 2022

In the late fall of 1978, I came to BC to work on a job in Stewart BC. The twin otter I flew in on was the last plane to land for about a week due to bad weather, and it snowed several feet every day.

The local mine up on Tide Lake had recently closed and the tiny town was populated mainly by hunters and trappers. For a city boy from London, it was all very strange.  For Christmas that year, we were sent down to Vancouver for a few days and over the next few months I grew to love both BC and its people.

When my job finished in the following February, I went back to London and then on to Israel where I was under contract for another job.  During that spring and summer of 1979, I decided to move permanently to Vancouver and it was forty-three years ago this week that I arrived and formally immigrated.  It was just before my 30th birthday and now, passed seventy, I don’t regret the move for one moment.

Thank you Canada and Vancouver for taking me in, making me very welcome, and making my life so much better than it might otherwise have been.


To Be A Canadian

August 18, 2022

Thirty-six years ago today I became a Canadian citizen. perhaps the proudest and most satisfying day of my life.  In about two months from now, I will have lived in Canada, in Vancouver, for forty-three years — much more than half my life.

These lengths of time seem strangely enormous to me looking back because I had had a quite long and interesting life (with wives and children and a career) in England and Europe before I ever came here.  And that previous life — during the fascinating 1950s, 60s and 70s — now seems like a necessary and irreplaceable prologue to what my life became afterwards.

There were seriously important people and things that I left behind; but I don’t believe in regrets because they have no value. Even if I did, I cannot imagine that my life was anything but greatly enhanced by moving to Vancouver.  I am still a proud Brit, an unreconstructed Welsh Londoner, but I am prouder still of being — by choice — a Vancouverite, of being Canadian.


Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

August 12, 2022

.

My mother said it wouldn’t last a year. Her mother said it wouldn’t last a year ….

Twenty-two years ago today the everloving and I stood on the dock of the lake at Trout Lake and plighted our troth. We then decamped and took over most of Waazubee’s for our reception that night.

Happy anniversary, angel!


Shooting The Moon, 53 Years On

July 21, 2022

On this day in 1969 I was in Yugoslavia working as a Third Assistant Director on a movie called “Kelly’s Heroes“. I was nineteen years old and having a wonderful time working with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Telly Salvalas, and a whole wild bunch of American actors. like Harry Dean Stanton and Dick Davalos.

We were living at the Petrovaradin Hotel in Novi Sad and most nights I joined the Americans in games of high stakes poker. We took over one of the small banquet rooms and several of the hotel staff were deputed to look after us with drinks and food. These games were a useful but expensive education for me; over a few weeks, I managed to lose several months’ worth of per diem expenses.

Apollo_11_bootprintOur game on the 20th July 1969 coincided with the first manned landing on the moon and we arranged to have a black and white TV set up in the room  so we could follow the action.  I remember that, just as Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Eagle and on to the moon, we were in the middle of a game with a good-sized pot of American dollars piled in middle of the the table. We agreed to pause the game to watch the historic moment.

Several of us took the opportunity to stand and stretch for a moment. As I did so, I noticed that the American actors were glued to the TV screen intent on cheering their countrymen while the hotel staff ignored the TV and were all staring at the big pile of money, mouths agape.

It was an unforgettable night.


In Praise of Emergency Services

June 25, 2022

.

Not long after going to bed last night, I suffered from a major low blood sugar event. I have had these before and keep glucose gels handy for just such an eventuality. However, last night, my wife was unable to revive me and could not get me to swallow the gel. She called emergency services.

By the time I was conscious of my surroundings there were five medical staff from the local fire hall attending in my bedroom along with two paramedics, and with another two apparently on standby. The whole crew helped to bring me around, and the two paramedics stayed for about an hour to make sure I was safe.

We kind of expect them to know what they are doing medically, and they sure do. But over and above all that, their attitude, as I have witnessed before in earlier incidents, was one of humour and courtesy and kindness and a constant desire to help.

With all the news stories circulating these days about wait times and service delays with emergency services in BC, I believe it is important to recognize these folks for the guardian angels they usually are. And I know that I am able to write this today only because they were they were there to help when my wife and I needed it.


Two Geniuses Reach 80

June 20, 2022

.

Today is the 80th birthday of Brian Wilson, arguably one of the great musical craftspeople of my generation. Two days ago it was the 80th birthday of Paul McCartney.

Back in the day — in those glorious days when we didn’t trust anyone over 30 — my contemporaries were divided into adherents of the Beach Boys, those who preferred the Beatles, and others who tapped their feet to the rhythm and blues of the Stones (Mick will be 80 next year).

I’m sure there are still some who stick to those ideologies, but I suspect most of us grew into understanding that they were all musical geniuses who, between them, both created and reflected the zeitgeist that was our lives.

Time to put Pet Sounds, Rubber Soul, and Some Girls on repeat rotation!


The Longest of Memories and the Highest of Mountains

May 29, 2022

everestToday is the 69th anniversary of the first successful climbing of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary.  News of the success arrived in England the day of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and I remember my father, who was very excited by the news, telling me all about it.  For years thereafter Edmund Hillary was the greatest hero of my young imagination.

I have one or two memories about my brother and me that pre-date May 1953, but Hillary on Everest is the earliest I can recall anything outside the family.  I know from photographs that there were massive street parties I attended to celebrate the new Queen: I remember none of that.  But Hillary on Everest has stuck with me all these years.

The picture is of Tensing Norgay taken by Hillary.  There are no pictures of Hillary on the summit because Tensing didn’t know how to work the camera and, as Hillary said, the summit of Everest was no place to start teaching him!


Antigen Tests at LifeLabs

March 30, 2022

.

I may have mentioned before that I am certain I am suffering from long covid. I can barely walk half a block without resting and even the simplest of tasks leave me breathless. This situation began soon after the everloving and I both suffered from a week-long bout of terrible flu-like symptoms in January 2020 — just before covid was announced as a public thing.

Since then, I have had several lung tests and two detailed heart examinations, all of which were clear, leaving both me and my various medical specialists in the dark as to the underlying cause of my problems, though none of the professionals was willing to speculate on long covid.

I just noticed that LifeLabs offer an antigen test that will show whether or not one has ever had covid. Great idea, I thought, even though it costs $75 which is a stretch. I am willing to pay the price to know, but the other conditions add a significant burden to Provincial expenses.

You can only get the test by having your GP sign the requisition, and only the GP gets the results. That means two visits to the doctor’s office (one to get the form signed, and another to get the results), and therefore two payments by BC Med to the doctor. I don’t begrudge the doctor their payments in any way, but surely there must be a more cost-efficient way of dealing with this.

Surely, if I am willing to stump up the fee for this test I should be able to put the order in myself (at least once) and receive the results directly (as I do with all my other blood work).


The Joy of Retirement

February 14, 2022

.

After eleven years of blessed retirement, the Everloving and I have this conversation a lot!

May be a cartoon of ‎1 person and ‎text that says '‎Plckles BEFOREI I RETIRED USED To DREAD MONDAYS. By Brian Crane NOT ANYMORE. THIS MORNING I UP AND SAID TO MYSELF זודוי MONDAY AND DON'T CARE, 道 4/17/20 TODAY IS YEAH, BEFORE FRIDAY. RETIRED I USED To KEEP TRACKOF OF WHAT DAY IT WAS TOO.‎'‎‎

Memoir: King

January 19, 2022

 

The dusty road had held us all day long. Huge trucks belching choking fumes had raced past us, barely missing our outstretched thumbs by inches it seemed. Sometimes they blared their industrial strength horns at us, scaring us, pushing us away from the road edge. There had been very few cars, and those mostly tiny SEATs already filled with farmers and dogs and kids, and certainly not looking to pick up two hippies dirt-encrusted from too much unsuccessful hitchhiking.

I guess we managed to walk three or four miles that day, in the blazing sun, just south of Valencia. We had expected better luck (“Gibraltar by evening!” had been our war cry as we emerged from a night in a roadside culvert) and had not prepared for such a long long day trudging through heat and dust and flies. We were exhausted, and more, we were dehydrated, the half dozen blood oranges we had each consumed notwithstanding.

Ahead of us we could see the outskirts of a village, and a village meant a cafe and Coca-Cola and even iced water, perhaps. It was one of those days when we knew we were willing to spend a few of our remaining pesetas. We stumbled forward, the dust scuffing beneath our feet, coughing. We must have looked liked ancient mummies straight from the desert as we finally collapsed into the two canvas chairs set out under the tin-roofed patio of a tiny cafe. I can only imagine the thoughts that were flowing through the old man’s head as he took our order for two Cokes.

We had been sitting for some minutes before we realized that an old radio was scratching its way through the late afternoon heaviness. And it may have been a minute or so more before we understood that it was speaking to us in English. American Forces Radio, probably from Germany. “…And as the crowds begin to gather from all across Memphis, we remind our listeners that President Johnson will speak to the nation this evening, on this day when Dr Martin Luther King has been shot and killed on his hotel balcony…”

The Cokes, glistening as the ice melted down the sides of the bottles, stood unremembered as our tears washed black gullies across our cheeks.


Muhammed Ali — The Greatest

January 17, 2022

Ali

Muhammed Ali would have been 80 years old today.

The men in my family always loved boxing. As a kid I regularly saw fights on BBC TV and I listened at night to American Forces Radio to follow the American boxers. In May 1966 my Dad spent good money to take my grandfather and me to Highbury Stadium in London to watch the rematch between Muhammed Ali, by then world champion, and Britain’s hero Henry Cooper. I was already a (secret in that crowd) Ali supporter and wasn’t surprised when he stopped Cooper. It was a great night (even from a very long way from the ring) and a memory I shall cherish always.

Soon after, Ali was challenging the draft and the Vietnam War (“No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger”) and the establishment itself, and he was even more of a hero to me. His pride and his sacrifice for his beliefs were inspirations for us all.  As was his calm demeanour while facing a future with Parkinson’s.  He deserved every moment of glory he ever received. Hard to believe there will be another anything like him in my lifetime.

I am saddened to lose him, but glad that his trials are over.

Ali 2


70,408 Minutes of 2021

January 1, 2022

.

In the first year of the pandemic, 2020, I wrote and published a book. For the second year, I was determined to be a viewing jock. I believe the hundreds of blog posts here in 2021 show that watching sports was not all that I got up to this year, but they sure were important to me.

I had determined in particular to watch as much cricket, cycling, and rugby as I could cram in; and that I would clock all my sports watching as some sort of exercise, and to see what the numbers could teach me about what I enjoy and what I don’t.

First the overall total: I watched an incredible 70,408 minutes of sports in 2021; the equivalent of 1,173 hours, or 48 full days. For every day of the year I averaged 3 hours 15 minutes of sports watching. Throughout the year there were peaks and troughs of viewing activity:

Much of that was accomplished by getting up very early in the morning in Vancouver while European and East Asian sports (most of my favourites) were available live and online. Most North American major league sports (none of which I follow with much interest) were on while I was busy during the day or evening with other matters.

Here is the complete list of what I watched:

Cricket29,962 minutes42.6%
Cycling8,73112.4%
Rugby Union7,43910.6%
Snooker5,2377.4%
Sumo2,7113.9%
Climbing2,2013.1%
Biathlon1,7722.5%
Rugby League1,6452.3%
Athletics1,5052.1%
Horse Racing1,2001.7%
Lawn Bowls1,1731.7%
Sailing & Rowing1,0111.4%
Triathlon9191.3%
Soccer8571.2%
Golf7571.1%
Boxing7151.0%
Football5860.8%
Curling5120.7%
Tennis4520.6%
Motor Racing3080.4%
Ice Hockey2070.3%
Swimming1350.2%
Archery1030.1%
Speed Skating950.1%
Skiing300.0%
Ski Jumping100.0%

Not surprising — to me at least — cricket was easily the most watched sport here. And there were so many types of cricket to enjoy. My total includes more than 11,000 hours of Test cricket, 12,700 hours of T20 or T20I (including a great World Cup season), 2,000 hours of ODI, and the balance from County games.

Cycling was made up of 7,660 minutes of road racing, and about a thousand minutes split between track and cyclocross.

Regular readers will not be surprised to see that Sumo makes it into the top five. However, biathlon became a favourite of mine only in 2020, and sports climbing was new to me until 2021.

All of these sports were watched live or within a day or two of the event. However, that is not the case with Horse Racing and Lawn Bowling. About half the lawn bowling was live; the rest were tapes of famous games in the past. However, I didn’t see a single live horse race in 2021, but I discovered on YouTube a cache of all the Grand National races from about 1950 and I watched them all, sometimes blitzing six or seven a day in the summer.

As for Major League sports, I didn’t watch a single minute of baseball or basketball, and my hockey and football viewing was minimal at less than 800 minutes combined.

Well that was that exercise. I know I’ll keep watching sports but I won’t be doing the insane tracking and timing any longer. Sorry to have bored you all with this. Happy New Year!


Now Where Will My Squirrels Sit?

December 30, 2021

The New Finds The Old

November 24, 2021

.

After twenty-five years of fine service our washing machine died last week. The new one arrived this morning.

As the old machine has been an unmovable fixture for a quarter century, we were sure we’d find a lot of grime and maybe a pile of missing socks down there. There was grime aplenty but no socks. There were, however, THIRTY-SIX white plastic hangers strewn behind, beside, and under the machine! Who knew they were even missing?


False Memory Syndrome

November 22, 2021

Fifty-eight years ago today, my mother and father visited their closest friends, Ron and Betty, who lived a few miles from us in West London. I was in the backseat of the small black car.  It smelled of leather and my parents’ cigarettes. I was sullen because I was just turned 14 years old and I had far better things to do than visit my parents’ old fogie friends to play cards.

I remember this all so clearly because, just as we pulled up outside Ron and Betty’s row house, the car radio broke off its normal programming and a solemn voice replaced the happy chatter.  The voice announced that President John F. Kennedy of the United States had been shot and probably killed.  I can still feel the goose-flesh that crawled over my skin. I remember the loud gasp as my father realized what had been said.  John Kennedy was one of my father’s heroes, and he was mine too. He was our hope for the future, and now he was dead. Nothing else about that evening do I remember. I’m sure my folks and their friends discussed the assassination, but that has passed from recall.

Within two years of that day, though, JFK had — in my eyes at least — fallen from the pedestal upon which his charisma, his beautiful family, and his martyrdom had placed him.  He was quickly revealed as just another centre-right US politician who was happy to send the boys to war, who was happy to squander the nation’s wealth on weapons and imperialism, who had no answer to segregation but brother Bobby’s federal agents.  We also learned (perhaps we always knew) he wasn’t quite such a great family man, either; that Camelot was an expensive sham.

Kennedy and his people lived in the tuxedoed world of High Society that was soon to be swept away by the real world of Soul on Ice and Revolver.  We might have hated that big Texas bully who followed Kennedy, but it was Kennedy not Johnson who pushed the US into South Vietnam, and it was Johnson not Kennedy who brought forward the Civil Rights Acts. Looking back, we can now see that both Kennedy and Johnson were equal participants in the cabaret that is America the Superpower. Unfortunately for the truth, Kennedy will always have the smile, the beautiful wife, the cute John-John and Caroline, while Johnson will always be pulling the ears off those damn beagles.