Friday, November 11, 2011

The wearing of the poppy

The many faces of Remembrance Day. Here, where there was no war, just commerce and volunteering for service overseas, it is a very sombre week, everyone wears poppies and it is full of ceremonies remembering all the soldiers who fought in WW1 and WW2 (and others of course). (it is also a big drunk for many). It was a defining issue for the young country of Canada.

Over in many of the countries of the mother continent, whose ass got saved, it's either a normal day or if you're on FB, it's Spinal Tap day.

In Ireland, at the trial of some IRA men who murdered british soldiers out collecting a pizza, it was mentioned multiple times that the families were wearing poppies. (Of course they were, it was November and they were at the trial of their murdered BA soldier sons).

This year, the Occupy Nova Scotia crew were camped at the cenotaph. After some negotiations, they packed up and left for a few days to allow the Remembrance Day ceremonies to take place, despite a lot of the veterans saying that they fought so people could protest and they didn't need to move.....

Now we will see whether the Occupy protesters will get back into the site....that will be the true measure of what the poppy stands for.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why I'm not a badass

So occasionally, Himself and myself have conversations about whether I should be a badass or not.

It usually goes along the lines of:

ME:  I did some enormous favour for someone today at work and they didn't even say thank you.

HIMSELF:  Well, why did you do that?

ME:  Hangs head... I dunno.  I guess I thought it would be nice.

HIMSELF:  Well why are you home moaning about it.

ME:  Hangs head... I dunno.  I guess I thought they would be nice.

This evening, we were having a major life-changing type conversation along the lines of 'if we're just going to be nice, then maybe we should not work for people and work for ourselves', which is kinda where we're heading right now due to being sick of working for deh man.  I was getting a lecture about not taking any more shit from people.  Himself was unloading the dishwasher when he was lecturing me, which meant it was serious, as usually he doesn't multi-task.

Then I noticed the dog was pawing at the spice cupboard and opened the door and found a mouse nest.

Then I realised that some of the spice bags were gnawed and empty:
- the pine nuts
- the almonds
- the filiberts
- the walnuts
- the brazil nuts
- etc.
- and the rosemary.

All gone.

Himself set a trap with some trail mix and dental floss. 
I was very upset.
After dinner, we were sitting watching tv when suddenly


I ran in. 

It was a pregnant female.

I got it out of the trap and laid it gently on top of some straw in the strawberry patch. 

I dunno.  Maybe she'll live.

We stood on the deck for a moment, savouring the lack of rain.

I can't win at work, I said.  I can't even kill a friggin' mouse.

We have to kill the mice, Himself said.  We'll be inundated.

On an intellectual level, I know all this.

Tonight I apologised to my husband for being the biggest woos in the world.  And he said it was okay.

So I guess it's okay.

I'll just go and check now, see if she made it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's Paddy, not Patty

I hate St. Patrick's Day.  I always have. 

Please don't think because you have turned up to work in a green sweater that I will be happy for me. 

I am happy for you.

I am homesick also.

I am also embarrassed that the most Irish of days is about drinking.

I am also annoyed that it's about him.

That guy who ruined a perfectly good matriarchy.

Still, I only ranted at one person today.

I guess after six of them (St Patrick's Day in Nova Scotia), I am mellowing slightly.

If you really care about me on Paddy's Day, just give me the friggin' day off.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

To Libya with love

We see the carnage on Twitter.  We want it to stop.  As Western Europeans/ North Americans, we reach for the tools to do that.  Call on Obama.  Email the EU Commission.  March on the embassy.  Campaign to motivate NATO.

I am reading Amin Maalouf's "The Crusades through Arab Eyes".  It is as gut-wrenching as the photos I am clicking through on Twitter.  Disembowellment.   Siege.  Starvation.

The theme that Maalouf, ever the watchful eye for Arab dissension, returns to again and again, is the inability of the tribes to band together to fight off the Franj.

A thousand years later, and the Franj are still raping half a continent of all its resources, secure in the knowledge that the strong man in Arab politics rules by divide and conquer.  And in between those two positions is where the money is made.

Coming from Ireland, I know what that does to a country's soul.

The crusades may have been about the 'holy place' for a simple man, a second son, tramping through the desert in the hot sun, but further up the food chain there was money to be made.  As always.

So here's the thing.

Maybe we should do nothing except try to stop the modern day Crusaders - Blair and his cronies - from heading in to mop up the spoils.  Maybe that's our job.  Maybe our job is to encircle this nascent democracy and protect it from our own with all our might.

Maybe this is a fight that is a long time in coming.  Maybe it has to be, like that time when you spent all night trying to prevent two friends from brawling in a bar and then realised, they really really really wanted to kick the shit out of each other.  Because that is the only way they are ever going to sort out whatever it is that keeps them apart. 

Bone crunching on bone.  If it were us, it would be a Coen Brothers movie. 

But it's not us.

It's real.

I don't know.  I just know that I was on the winning side in 1096 and a thousand years later, as a woman, I am still not allowed be a minister in a catholic church.  Or get divorced.  I am still the ludicrous object of a million ridiculous poems and songs of a type of courtly love that could only be invented by ten thousand monks on the march across the middle east in a drought.

If Justin Bieber was alive in 1096, he would have been a Crusader.

We are at a strange point in our history when we are calling on a black man in a white house to sort out a fight that has been a thousand years in the making.  If I was Obama, I would be making the point that both Libyans (and Egyptians, and Tunisians) and Europeans spent most of the last millennium making money off the trade in slaves of people just like him.

Why on earth should he step in?

Me, I would wonder where the Arab brothers are right now.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

If February were a blog post...

Almost half-way through February.  It's starting to sag though, the positive attitude.

Frozen branch near Terminal Beach, 2011
February is very difficult in Canada.  January, you have had Christmas vacation and a bit of a rest and you are just getting started with the real snow and the cold.  There's a sense of settling in for a spell of it, the winter projects kick in, the NHL gets interesting, and when it's fit to go out, there's sledding, and skating, and ski-joring or ski-ing or whatever it is you do to stay one step away from catatonic.

Also, there's still February - April to get through, so you don't want to over-think anything.

The end of January is a bit of a milestone though!  Cheers you right up for a minute.

And February is a short month.  The positive attitude gets a surge.  In the second week of February, the days stretch perceptibly at each end, so I am now driving to and from work in the dawn/ dusk, as opposed to the pitch black of January.  I can see the ice and snow on the road.  I feel less scared.  The cold makes for some pretty spectacular dawns.

Easy, peasy...

So here's the thing.

Round about the tenth of the month, you remember that February is not a short month.

In fact it is not a month at all.

February is in fact the moment in time when the long-suffering son-in-law of the meanest, coldest-assed, tightest-fisted, mascara-dripping bitch who ever produced a spoilt blonde turns away from the nagging to stoke the fire, but instead picks up the poker and hefts it.

If February was a scene in a movie it would be the Tommy Lee Jones soliliquy at the end of no Country for Lost Men.

If February was a book, it would be written by Franz Kafka.

If February was a song, Joy Division would have recorded it.

February is when the light is so harsh that every line on your face, every grey hair on your head is screaming 'LOOK AT ME EVRYONE, LOOKAT MEEEE'.

February is when the Caribbean music on your iTunes makes you cry instead of dance.

February is when your body has had enough of minus 28 and just wants to sleep all day and eat all night.  But you have to haul it to and from an office with forced air heating that makes your skin crawl.

I was on the phone with a federal colleague the other day, and I couldn't find my words in a week of not being able to find my words (not good in a week with an interview) and I said 'I'm sorry, i can't find my words, I have February Brain' and she said "THAT'S EXACTLY WhAT IT IS!!!!!!!!!!! I haVe it Too"

And that's the real problem.  We all have it at the same time, so life is a little grumpy right now.

Thankfully the Canada Games are on now, so the kids are off school for two weeks.  The disgustingly positive people have all gotten extra days off to volunteer.  The disgustingly selfish people are taking advantage of cheap trips to the Caribbean.

And the rest of us....

Hopefully there will be enough people gone out of the office that we can all hide in our offices, watch people having revolutions in countries where you can actually stand on the street for more than five minutes at a time.... and ignore each other in peace for the rest of the month.

Nearly only five weeks to the Equinox.
Eight weeks to the fishing season!!

Stay warm everyone.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Rerun of Dear Dublin

I found this on a blog I contributed to in July, 2009.  Almost eighteen months ago!!

It is strange to me that it is still relevant.  

Maybe the hiatus, the fear, can be lifted soon and we can all move on.

Dear Dublin,

My grey, brooding, dirty, old forever town. The country bus spewed me out one Sunday night and never found me again. Trinity’s grey walls encircled me. Enough books in Berkeley’s library, even for me.

Unlike him and old Ed Burke, we founded our enlightenment in the soft afternoon glow of a stained glass pub window. Talkin’ to an auld fella. About poetry. Or painting. Or maybe politics.

There was a lot of politics in Ireland back then.

Artists critiquing their rival’s work on the walls in Grogans. Writers bitching in the Fleet. Folk songs and revolution in the Cobblestone. Everyone piled in on top of each other in O’Donohues after a good funeral, roaring and shouting over creamy heads.

Come on now ladies and gentlemen! Drink up! Have ye no homes to go to!

One night, a crowd of new fellas appeared at the doorway of the snug where I was warming up in Doheny and Nesbitt’s, waving a wad around.

Enough talking lads, there’s money to be made…. let’s get to work.

We all peeled off, got ourselves one of them brand new, shiny, knowledge economy jobs.

The boys stopped shooting each other up north.

We ran riot on the Nasdaq.

Bono got bored with us and went global. Never mind, every band in the world came to play and we were all on the guest list.

Standing around in our Jimmy Choos all sexy and citified, texting each other the next instalment of our very own show – Celtic Tigers.

Starring a horde of red-freckled-beer-bellied, Armani-drenched Paddies, hoovering up Mediterranean resorts and coke in equal quantities; lining up in the drizzle to drink Russian vodka in a Manhattan martini bar served by a French sommelier with a Polish accent.

Or was it Ukrainian vodka in an Italian martini bar from a Latvian economist?

One time for sure, it was Mongolian vodka in a tapas bar served by Yale students over trying to make a buck.

That was a good episode.

After a while, I came to be a little tired of all the new talk. Of yak leather sofas and Southern Cape cellars and ‘will we helicopter to the races’ and ‘how many apartments in Portugal now, Mick?

So I went looking for an auld fella.

I tried the Palace. I tried the Fleet. I even held my nose and stuck my head into stinky old Grogans.

Not an auld fella to be had anywhere.

Down on the quays trying to hail a cab, I found one asleep under a construction crane and shook him awake. It was cold and he didn’t want to talk about poetry. But for old time’s sake he asked me to buy him a drink.

Get an effin’ job, I ses to him, walking away with my nose buried in my Nokia.

Which is how I came to bump into the ghost of Paddy Kavanagh.

King of the Auld Fellas.

Queenie, he sighed, don’t you remember what I taught you?

To my shame I could not find the words, so the canal-bank trees whispered them to me.

Every old man I see
Reminds me of my father
When he had fallen in love with death
One time when the sheaves were gathered.

That man I saw in Gardner Street
Stumbled on the kerb was one,
He stared at me half-eyed,
I might have been his son.

My eyes started brimming. Paddy took pity on me. Which everyone would tell you was unusual for him, miserable aul’ fella that he was. Queenie, he said,

Your soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven

Next day I packed my bags and left you forever, Dublin. I flew out over the cranes and the trucks and the Disney Guinness and the apartment blocks, my heart bleeding down on them in a cold empty drizzle.

If you do not love me I shall not be loved. If I do not love you I shall not love.

We forgot ourselves, didn’t we …

Time passes.

I hear the lads with the wads are missing. And the wads have disappeared. And everyone’s blaming somebody else.

I went home to see were you alright, my dirty old forever town. Together we breathed in the hops from the brewery and walked in the mizzle along the spine of the city: the Garden of Remembrance to the GPO, across the bridge past Trinity’s grey gate. Up Dame St. to Christchurch and beyond into the Liberties, where no one ever had a wad that was big enough to go missing.

I met an auld fella I knew.

Jaysus, Queenie, is it really you?

I heard you got eaten by a bear.

Not me, Brother Rabbit.

Not me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mothered by a warm breeze

Tired and flat and hiccupy after an enervating week and too much emotion, I managed to force myself to put the cleaning rag down and sit out on the deck in the darkness for ten minutes.

I was rewarded by a warm breeze cooling me off, playing a soft melody on the pewter wind chimes.  And crickets.

Thank you August.

I will not have a meltdown and spoil what's left of you.

Because you won't let me, will you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On adding to the moisture of the greenhouse

Would you believe I had crafted a 1700 word essay on this subject before the keyboard gods decided my fingers were too long yet again and I hit some random key and arbitrarily deleted the entire thing, including photos?

No, I figured you wouldn't.

But it's nearly true.  The lie is I didn't craft, I just spilled, which is what I always do on the blog.

But it was 1700 words and it was pretty good I thought.  I had even started reading it back and removing the rambling repitition.

But I guess it was probably maudlin, so the universe kicked it out for probably good reasons.

I fucking hate the universe right now.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Yes, it's all really funny till someone gets hurt

Smart ass anti-baby comedy sketches inc.
So we were talking about it this evening, in that part of the evening when we stand in the kitchen after work drinking tea and telling each other what really just friggin' sucked about the day.

What really sucked about my day (and it was a sucky day) was that my friends got turned down for adoption after YEARS of filling out stupid forms and undergoing stupid tests.

None of us could believe it.

Himself couldn't believe it.  And he doesn't even know them.

When you think of all the babies in the world that are hurtin' and starvin' and lonely and scared and your friends want to raise one, and there's some asshole somewhere says they can't.... that sucks, man.


Me, I had spent an hour or so last night looking at footage of George Carlin and Bill Hicks on YouTube, including their 'why would you bring a child into the world' sketches (see the link under the picture), which always make me laugh because it's exactly how I feel about the whole children business.  But last night, while I was watching the video I happened to think of those same friends and how determined they were to have a child despite all the hurdles.  And I felt a little surge of happiness because finally it seemed they were on the back straight to their dream.

And then they get SHAFTED by some bureaucrat today.

This is a trip down the rabbit hole on so many levels.

On the first level, there is the macro argument.  There are millions of children in the world who need love and parenting.  There are people who want to parent.  It should be possible to match them up.

Except it seems to be nigh on impossible, such are the levels of perfection that prospective adopters must reach.  Not just in Ireland.  I have friends here in Canada jumping through  similar hoops. But at least you can be a bit eccentric and still have a chance.

In Ireland, you have to be perfect.  Heterosexual.  Married.  Conformist.  Boring.  


But that is necessary, they say, in order for children to be safe.  We must make sure that the people in charge of them are not psychopathic or perverted or dangerous to the child in any way.

R.E.S.I.D.E.N.T.I.A.L. S.C.H.O.O.L.S.

....yes, old schtick... it's because of that that the rules are so strict now.

Hmm.  Tell that to the Nigerian children who are accused of witchcraft and abandoned by their communities, usually on the authority of the caring US and Canadian Pentacostal missionaries working in those villages.  I don't see the combined adoption personnel of the world working themselves up into a frenzy of tongues about that issue.

Yes I know hard cases make bad law.  I don't friggin care.

But let's pull the lens in a bit.
Ireland's Health Service Executive.  Responsible for adoption procedures and for looking after children in care.

Here's a snippet I found on the Internet:

The Health Service Executive now believes that approximately 200 children have died in state care in the last ten years.  The figures are emerging as part of a nationwide probe and are ten times greater than the previously admitted number of deaths - the HSE had said that 23 children had died in care.... A senior figure in the HSE told The Sunday Business Post that it still did not know the precise number of children that had died while in care, but it was feared that the true tally could be in the order of 200. - Sunday Business Post, May 2010
Actually, the final audited figure was less than 200.  But that's not the point.  
There are two points of immediate relevance:
1. Children died in the care of the HSE, which proves they are not perfect.
2. The HSE did not know (until a month ago) how many children had died in its care in the last decade, which proves they are incompetent.
But that imperfection and incompetence doesn't stop them acting as judge and jury on honest, hard-working people who just want to have a kid and be a family.  That doesn't stop them defining what it is to be a good parent.

Let's pull the lens in a bit more.

If you are lucky enough to have all the right bits in place and find a man who has all the right bits and bobs in place and functioning efficiently, you can lie back or sit up or whatever, and have a bit of fun and slap and tickle as they say and then, bob's your father's brother, if the day's right, baby magic happens.

If you are lucky enough to have that gift of life, you can be a sociopathic liar, a thieving whore, a child-beating egomaniac. It doesn't matter.  You can just pop one out whenever you want.  Or pair up with someone who can pop one out for you.

If you are not lucky and try to adopt, you will fail.

If you are lucky enough to have that gift of life, and you are a good person but you have struggles in life, say... a brief period of mental health instability ... you can stay home with baby and try to get better and get some limited support from the state. Then, if you fight real hard, you can get some help to go to school or get yourself back into the workforce.

If you are not lucky, forget about adopting.  You are not normal enough to be a parent.
If you are lucky enough to have that gift of life, and the father/ mother of said child runs away and leaves you and your child in the lurch financially, you can get the government to track him/ her down and make him/ her pay you for up to 22 years, at no cost to yourself.

If you are not lucky, and you did any of those things ever, you would not be allowed to adopt.
If you are lucky enough to have that gift of life, you can injure your child severely and more than once before anyone will even investigate.  And even then, it would be a long time before your child was taken away from you.
If you are not lucky, you are prejudged on your disposition and ability 'to keep a child safe'.

Speaking of prejudged, let's pull the lens in a bit more.

If you are childless, you are prejudged automatically.  Unconsciously.  That little grimace when they ask you about your children.

Poor woman.


Selfish bitch.


One or the other.

You can tell by the grimace.
Either way, you are not really whole.  
Not normal.

A cause for amusement or horror on the part of the ignorant of those who can just pop one out whenever.
Some of us can't and spend our lives mourning and trying.

Some of us won't and spend our lives just mourning.

Some of us won't and don't give a shit until the grimace happens.

None of it is fair.  You're prejudged if you try and you're prejudged if you don't try.

This week I was amused and a little angry that the now pregnant ongoing carbuncle on my otherwise deliriously happy existence felt yet again that my childlessness was a stick which which I could be beaten relentlessly.  
See, according to her, my childlessness is proof that I am a bad parent.  That I must be kept away from her children at all costs.  Lest I infect them with my selfishness.
The social worker's report on her 'incident' is sealed, so I can't prove that she is a bad parent. Nor am I interested in pursuing such malevolent thoughts.  Life being too precious and her children too fond of her and all that.

But after today, I am not amused and very angry because the thought has struck me that her outburst is really just the sociopath's verbalisation of what all those child-bearing people think of us barren wans.

Really think of us, deep down inside, near their brimming with life wombs.

I can think of no other explanation that makes sense.

In the meantime, she can pop one out whenever she wants, without a licence or a psych. report.

And my friends can't.
So how do we fix this?

Do we prejudge everyone?

Or do we take a benchmark of real parents and apply those standards to prospective ones?

I don't know.  Any argument on this will be battered with the child protection argument.

I just don't understand how an organization that doesn't even know how many kids died in its care can even begin to use that one.

Maybe we should start with the word compassion.  In all its imperfections.

Compassion for bad parents.

Compassion for non-parents.

Compassion for would-be parents.

Compassion for parents that are a little different to us in whatever way.

Compassion for non-parents that are wildly different in every way.

Compassion for fantastic parents having a bad day.

Compassion for children who need parents.