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!


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


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%
Rugby Union7,43910.6%
Rugby League1,6452.3%
Horse Racing1,2001.7%
Lawn Bowls1,1731.7%
Sailing & Rowing1,0111.4%
Motor Racing3080.4%
Ice Hockey2070.3%
Speed Skating950.1%
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.

As The Crow Flies

November 18, 2021

I was standing on my patio looking north into the relentless rain and the opaque grayness of it all when thousands of crows passed overhead on their way home, unbothered by the weather.

Memoir: A Day of Infinite Possibilities

November 9, 2021

It was 9th November 1989 and I was watching TV, watching the news from Berlin.  And soon a dozen people are hacking at the Wall from both sides and the party has begun and CNN’s cameras bring this extraordinary and historic wish-fulfillment into the living rooms of the world, and my living room in particular that November night.

And within moments, it seemed, there were thousands singing and candles blazing. And even though I was in Vancouver at the time, my heart was with them because at heart I was and remain a Londoner. And Berlin is VERY close to home to Londoners, especially to those who had spent decades watching people die as they tried to go over and under and around the Wall. And I wept openly and for days when the Wall came down.

It was a day of ultimate possibilities because here was an impossibility happening in front of our tear-misty TV-mediated eyes.

On Being Seventy-Two

October 29, 2021


Today is my birthday, which I share with Bob Ross, Joseph Goebbels, and the ballpoint pen.

I am seventy-two years old.   Just saying that feels unreal.  When I was born in 1949, average life expectancy for a man in the UK was about 65 years; I have somehow managed to beat that.

I am part of the generation that didn’t trust anyone over thirty, and who made terribly dangerous choices on a regular basis throughout their thirties and forties. By the 1990s, what with all the drugs and the booze and the carousing, I was certain I couldn’t possibly reach fifty, and I wasn’t all that sure I wanted to.

Now, I have kids in their late forties, grand-children in their mid-twenties, and I am sure that great-grand-children can’t be far away.

The fact that I am still here, walking and talking and pretending (to myself at least) to be young, is astonishing, a wonder, a miracle of modern medicine, and a tribute to the Everloving who takes such good care of me.

My future keeps catching up to my present and I hope it keeps doing so for a long time.  After all, I have promised myself my first ever Big Mac on my one hundredth birthday!

Twelve Years Of Freedom

October 22, 2021


Twelve years ago today, I was called into my boss’s office and told that I was being laid off.

The locally-owned company where I had worked for a good many years had been taken over by a larger American group earlier that year, and they wanted to put their own people into senior management positions.  I wasn’t the first or even fourth senior manager to be sent packing, and I had expected this meeting all through the summer. I was almost sixty years old and bored with working for someone else. When the hammer fell, I was greatly relieved and happily accepted the generous severance pay they offered.

Luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the first part of my enforced retirement. I was keen to write a history of Commercial Drive and over the next fifteen months, that’s what I did.  Along with this I helped establish the Grandview Heritage Group which kept me busy and interested.  At the same time, I wanted to become a lot more involved in local politics, knowing that a Community Plan was about to be thrust upon us.  Any regular reader of this blog will know that I was and remain deeply involved in those matters to this day.

The Community Plan experience led to my third book Battleground: Grandview which was published last November,

So, I have been busy these last twelve years.  But the genuine sense of freedom has been the really exhilarating feeling. I wake up when I want, dress in whatever I want, spend time with the Everloving, cook, take long luxurious naps, read, write, and relax.  We certainly don’t have the money we had when I was working, but we get by OK, and I’ll swap the money for such freedom any day.

It has been a grand twelve years, and I quietly thank my old firm for laying me off when they did.

Night Music and R.I.P. Paddy Moloney

October 12, 2021

When I first came to Canada and lived for a while up in a motel room in Stewart, I had with me just two or three audio tapes. The “Chieftains 7” was one of them, and it was the one I played the most.

Paddy Moloney, founder and inspiration for the Chieftains, died yesterday at the age of 83. He was an incredible musician and producer, and in every interview and documentary I saw he came across as a wonderfully humble human being. He will be missed.

HandyDart Again

October 12, 2021

Having recently whined about the new HandyDart/Compass website, I want to bring some balance by noting that I went to the Compass Card Customer Support office at Stadium Station today and the woman there was marvelous.

It was obvious from her remarks that I was not the first old fart to have failed the website test but in just a few cheerful minutes she brought everything into line and I left with new activated cards for both myself and the Everloving. I could not have been more satisfied with the service I received.

HandyDart Changes: Good and Bad

October 6, 2021
Editorial: HandyDART handy, most of the time | The Local Weekly

I am a semi-frequent user of HandyDart. The service has its problems but overall does a good job of getting me to and from hospital appointments that would be difficult for me to get to otherwise. I have found the staff, drivers and telephone operators, invariably helpful and courteous. It is also a welcome relief to have the fares reduced under the program that began this month.

I also have a senior’s concessionary Compass Pass which allows me to travel anywhere on the Translink system for an incredibly reasonable $45 a year and I was glad to learn that one can now use Compass to access HandyDart. However, for reasons that I cannot figure, HandyDart users will be obliged to use a different orange Compass card for HandyDart service.

While not understanding the reasons for the additional complexity, I was willing to go to the website to apply for the extra card. That was when things became difficult.

Being a trained accountant and highly computer literate, I am used to filling in forms online but I am damned if I could figure this one out. I registered my original Compass card as requested and paid in $20 to my account. But then the system failed me as I could not work out — no matter how I tried — how to get them to send me the new orange card. I probably spent thirty minutes struggling with it.

Finally I gave up and wrote them an email explaining the difficult I was having. A few days later, today, I received a reply that laid out a complicated three-step process involving multiple websites that I am still trying to unravel.

I will get through this eventually but it occurs to me that for many seniors this will be a daunting experience and I suspect many will simply give up and will be reduced to scrabbling for the correct cash when their rides arrive.

If being able to swipe a Compass card on HandyDart is supposed to make things easier for us, so far it has failed before it even begins.

Beep Beep Beep

October 4, 2021

I was just a few weeks away from my 8th birthday when my father sat me on his knee specifically to listen to our old radio spit out some strange sounds — “Beep.  Beep.  Beep.”  Even through the static we knew we had never heard the like of it before.

On October 4th, 1957 — just sixty-four years ago — the space age began with the launch by the Soviet Union of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite.  I’m sure the surprise in the US was far greater than we felt in Europe.  We Europeans were already terrified of the power of the grey beasts just a few hundred miles to the east of our cozy nest in West London.  It seemed to many that Russian tanks could overrun Europe at any moment, and the technological genius of Sputnik simply confirmed our anxiety.

But again, there was always that secret spot inside that reveled in the fact that a European power had beaten the Americans into space.  And for my socialist grandfather and his cadre of friends, it was yet another sign that the Workers’ Paradise was superior in every respect to the Mickey Mouse- and Doris Day-loving capitalists.

In the end, I’m sure this had little to do with the ultimate end of the Cold War.  The costs of the space race were minuscule compared to the economy-shuddering trillions spent on the arms race by both sides.  But without Sputnik and all that followed, we would be a very different and more distanced world today.

Hanging Out at First & Commercial

October 1, 2021


Twenty Years of Blogging

September 23, 2021

On this day in 2001, I wrote my first blog post.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, I had been running a few BBS systems, both for myself and for a couple of organizations I was involved with. Looking back on it, they sure were primitive compared to what we have today.

Later in the 1990s, I was heavily involved in some early online communities — Utne Café and Howard Rheingold’s Brainstorms in particular. They were great fun and of immense value in opening up channels of intelligent communication. I also met people there (including the Everloving) with whom I am still in touch.

Finally, in 2001, I discovered Blogger and jaksview v.1 was born. A couple of years later I switched to Typepad for v.2 in which my entries were heavily weighted toward international politics. Unfortunately, I ran into some heavy-duty far right SOBs who started threatening me and my family and in February 2008 I felt it was the better part of discretion to scrap version 2. I started again with WordPress for version 3 — and here we are today.

I have been a writer in one way or another for most of my life and having a blog has allowed me to inflict my views, my poems, my art on a much wider audience than I might have had in any other way. Thank you for reading and for continuing to visit jaksview.

Twenty Five Years and Counting

September 15, 2021

Yet another year without cigarettes. Twenty-five 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.

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

Buying A Cheap Vote

September 10, 2021

I was waiting at the bus stop this morning with a few other people, most of whom were clearly pensioners. Along came two guys from the local seniors’ home who loudly proclaimed that they had just voted.

“We voted for the guy that’s giving us a $500 bonus pension,” said one of the new comers. “You’ll all be daft if you don’t vote for him, too,” said the other.

Most of the audience nodded.