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Snow, and lots of it

Snow and lots of it. Tis the season that everybody loves to Complain about. Especially this year. Lots of snow.

I don’t know what people are complaining about; this is Canada after all. We are the Land of freezing temperatures, Snowdeep snow, red runny noses and frostbite. I for one, love it. However, I don’t have to drive to work anymore. There are those who manage to get to where they are going okay. Then mutter that conditions weren’t bad enough to keep them home. Then there are the people who really want to get to where they are going and can’t. If these two groups could get together maybe they could work something out to everyone’s satisfaction.

I always put my snow tires on in October as we never know if we have to make a trip to Prince George. Unfortunately this year we had to. I take them off again in March….or April….or May. Any later than that and I don’t bother as winter will soon be here again.

As we’re retired we award ourselves a snow day at the first flake, even if it melts before it hits the ground. This entitles us to stay in bed in the morning even longer than we usually do. We spend the day reading our books and drinking tea. Later in the day, we may partake of an afternoon aperitif. By now that first flake has just about landed. We have lots more to look forward to. Thinking about it, that’s our routine in the summer as well, without the snowflake.

I wanted to make a snowman. First I had to get permission from the strata council. We need permission for everything. After bugging the manager it turned out that I didn’t need it. Then permission from Rosalie as she was going to lend me the carrot. I was also going to use one of her bras. I wasn’t going to tell her, though. The city had to be involved as I’m sure there are by-laws about such things. Finally, all permissions in place and all the snow has gone.

Going out for a walk is out of the question (I like that bit) and all our exercise classes have been cancelled (I like that bit even more). Someone is doing some bad planning. When we are young we don’t really need the exercise but have lots of energy we have to burn off. When we get older we have no energy but have to exercise to keep alive.

Oh well! We’ll soon be complaining about the heat.

No TV Box

We turned on the TV last week but couldn’t get any sound. I knew the problem was with our TV box so I reset it for the third time in the last few months. It didn’t work this time, though. Still no sound!

tv boxWe couldn’t just turn on the cable as we’d cancelled that months ago. We took the TV box back to Best Buy and got a refund as this was the second box with the same problem. They only offered a store credit after 30 days so I had to speak to a manager and threatened her with Rosalie. They soon caved in and gave us a full rebate.

I ordered a new box from Amazon but would have to wait two weeks for delivery. This shouldn’t have been a problem because we could still access Kodi with our laptop, or so I thought. I plugged the HDMI cable in but it didn’t work. Our laptop is getting a bit geriatric and like me, bits are starting to fail. We already had to get a WiFi dongle because the built in one didn’t work.

Not wanting to hook up cable again for a short period, I looked into other methods to watch our favourite shows. I can get Kodi on my tablet and cast it to the TV but for some reason, Kodi refused to work. I scratched my head for a few days and things got serious when I missed a hockey game.

Bare with me for this next bit as it gets a little complicated. I have Kodi on my desktop PC but it’s in the office. The question was, how to get it to the TV. I had installed a VPN for added security and one of the features was that I could see my PC desktop from my tablet. With me so far? Great!

OK, first find a movie on the PC, next connect the tablet to the PC via Wifi so I could watch it on my tablet then cast the tablet to the smart TV… It worked! It worked!.. Problem was, the picture was very choppy for some reason and not worth watching. Back to the drawing board.

We would have to wait it out until our new TV box arrived as I was out of ideas. So, we watched some YouTube. Unfortunately, anything decent to watch had a price tag. We watched a few movies on Crackle. A great service, free, legal but limited in choices and has short commercials every five minutes.

I was messing around with my tablet a little later and decided to try Kodi again. It worked. All that stress and angst for nothing. The only problem with using my tablet is, that I can’t read or play games while watching a movie.

“Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television.”

Woody Allen.

One Thumb Up

Having no idea what my next blog would me about, I decided to slice the top of my thumb off and talk about that.

thunbs upIt’s was a minor accident so you don’t have to feel sorry for me. But if you want, you can. I was using my ‘mandolin’ which is basically a veggie slicer but I adapted it for my blog and thereby sliced my thumb.

It was the tip of my thumb, a bit awkward for a bandaid so I used a gauze dressing. Problem was, we didn’t have any surgical tape to hold it on with. Remembering my days in the Saint Johns Ambulance Brigade (yes I was, two years) I held it in place with electrical tape until we could get to the pharmacy. It now looks like a lollypop.

The point is, that life can be difficult when a digit is out of action, especially a thumb. Try picking up a coffee mug without using it.  I get Rosalie to button my shirt. Writing with a pen is a bit of an issue, but as my penmanship is so bad anyway I don’t think anyone would notice the difference. Texting is also a problem. If I try to text “how are you” All you would get would be “–w are —“. Not good. Wars have been started for less.

The good thing is, that when I type, I mostly only use two fingers so I don’t have too much of a problem there. I’d rather not talk about using the bathroom, though. Not wanting to get it wet in the shower, I cut the finger off a latex glove and put it over the bandage like a mini condom. It looks quite cute.

When I’m out and about people think I’m being friendly and positive walking along with my thumb up. I’m lucky that I didn’t hurt my middle finger as I think it would cause all sorts of unnecessary problems.

I thought for a while I would get some relief from being Rosalie’s ‘house elf’ but she’s too used to me crying wolf so I have to endure. I try standing up to her but she just gives me one of her smiles and I melt. When she asks for me to do something, she sees me with my thumb up and assumes that I have agreed to remain her slave. I can’t win. Not sure if I want to. I’d curl up, whimper and suck my favourite thumb, but I can’t.

A Sad Day

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”  Charles Dickens, “A tale of two cities”. Seems, to sum up, our week.

January 24th was a very sad day in our family as Rosalie’s Dad passed away. He was nearly 95,  had sad daylived an illness-free life but was ready to go.

We got the news that he was in the hospital at about 8:30 on Tuesday morning. We started to pack to head out to Prince George and as we were getting ready to leave for the ferry, we got the message that he had passed. In the rush to pack I forgot about the funeral and took nothing that I could wear, so I had to borrow from my brother-in-law.

We had a couple of days driving and arrived at 2 pm on Wednesday. I was the only guy around initially so was worried that I would be surrounded by weeping women. But I underestimated my sisters-in-law. They were already hard at organising the funeral. I sat at the table and listened to five sisters talk about what was going into the eulogy. No fights, no dissension, just discussion and friendly agreement.

Later that evening we went over to Pepere’s apartment and started to remove stuff. We didn’t get far as the stories started to come. We sat, listened and laughed. Younger brother Norris was there. He was the executor so had the task of going through all the papers and seeing that all bills were paid. A tough job. He also went over the will. We had a light snack and retired to Suzanne and Vic’s place. The girls sat around again continuing to do work on the eulogy

The priest was coming the next afternoon, so I made myself scarce. Eventually, Rosalie approached me to ask if I could produce the memorial pamphlet. I said no, as I didn’t have my own computer and didn’t want to have to take the time to learn Vic’s, Mac. After a few minutes of thought, I decided to volunteer so that changes could more easily be made plus, it would save the cost of a professional printer.  With those five women making decisions there were a lot of changes. I was eventually taken to task because I forgot to capitalise an ‘I’.

The funeral went really well and the church was packed. We had a nice reception afterwards and reconnected with family and friends.

The following day we again went to Pepere’s apartment to finish the job of clearing the place out. There were lots of strong young grandsons so the job went fast. It went so well in fact that we decided to leave early and head home. We spent the night at 100 Mile House and found out that Rosalie was coming down with a cold.

The following morning a light snow was falling so we got out of town as fast as we could without checking the ferry schedule. Arriving in Hope we refuelled and found that if I drove really fast and there were no delays we just might make the 3 pm ferry. As we neared Langley we ran into heavy traffic. But with some muttering and foot to the floor driving, we finally made it ok. Rosalie, of course, slept through the whole thing.

Traffic Calming

Last night we were having a discussion about driving, particularly about speeding through residential areas. I happened to mention some of the innovations used in England for ‘traffic calming’ and thought it might make a good blog. We watched some very entertaining video. A link will appear later.

traffic calming

A one lane chicane

While we were in England, we noticed that sometimes there are bus-only lanes and sometimes a lane just to slow traffic. They don’t just put sign’s up, though. They use a physical deterrent, rising bollards, which a lot of people try to beat with sometimes hilarious results. Though not for the car drivers involved. Check this link. And this is how it should be done.

In England, the streets are narrow as some of the areas are hundreds of years old. Consequently, there is not much room to park a car, and those that are parked, narrow the street even more. People drive down some of these streets as though they were at a race track. So, most side streets have speed humps or “sleeping policemen”.

There are other methods such as kerb extensions which force you to drive over a speed hump.  Chicanes, slow you down and make you weave around an obstacle. There are really narrow lanes that force you to slow down because if you miss judging the gap, your side mirrors could be ripped off by strategically placed posts. It reminded me of Italy and Greece where most cars in the larger towns had either damaged side mirrors or none at all. They also have some very narrow streets.

One of my favourites is the roundabout. These can be seen anywhere. You see the larger ones mostly on main roads but can also find smaller ones in residential areas. They are small enough that you can drive right over them, but if another car approaches at the same time the regular rules apply.

Roundabouts are a great way of keeping traffic moving and it’s nice to see more of them in Canada. The only problem is, though, most Canadians don’t signal enough. For example, if you approach a roundabout with someone is on it approaching from your left, if he signals to turn right you don’t have to slow down but can just drive through. If he doesn’t signal, though, you have to stop and wait to see what he is going to do. I like the idea of round about’s a lot more than 4 way stops as it keeps the traffic moving.

Having said all this about road safety and traffic calming, when we go to England, there is no way that I will drive while there, even if they do drive on the correct side of the road.

“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”

George Carlin.

Making Pasta

After going to Europe, I am now going through my Italian phase and want to eat more of a Mediterranean style diet. I once tried to make pasta by hand, and although it was good, it took a long time to make. Fearing starvation at my next attempt, we decided to buy a pasta maker; something that I’ve always wanted.

I like making pasta so this is one of my favourite personal recipes. it sounds a bit difficult, and if you’re like me, it is.

Making pasta1 1/2 cups Flour

1 Egg

 1 TBS Olive oil

Pinch Salt.

A lot of luck

A touch of patience

Start with a large bag of flour, because, if you make it the way I do, most of it will end up on the floor.

Either mix your ingredients by hand, foot or if you have a bread machine use that. (Saves on the wrists.) But remember to put the little paddle thingy in as it works much better that way. If you’re kneading by hand: knead the dough until you break into a light sweat. Grab a glass of wine and relax for a while. This is why I prefer a bread machine, you can get to the wine part a lot sooner. Knead until you think you don’t need to Knead anymore. 

Next, grab your pasta maker and clamp it to the counter. This may involve some cursing, because, like us, your counters may be slightly rounded. If so, you may want to take it into the workshop and nail it to the bench.

My machine’s instructions say to pass the dough through the machine’s rollers 4-6 times or until it’s dry and silky. I prefer to pass it through about 80 times as it seems to break the lumps down better. Time for more wine. (We Italians wouldn’t be caught making pasta without wine.)

During this process, you may begin to realise why you like doing this so much. It’s like playing with Playdough. You can squish it into a ball, run it through the machine and then do it all over again. Fun! So, if you are ever at our house and get some pasta shaped like a willy, it was Rosalie, not me.

As a safety measure, don’t wear a tie while rolling, I now have one that resembles a corn broom. Next, comes the fun part: cutting the pasta into usable strips. Because of the odd shapes that my rolled pasta comes out in (I’m hoping for one that looks like Jesus so I can sell it to the Vatican and make a buck.), my strips come in all sizes. Also, they stick together so I spend several happy hours carefully separating them and laying them on a rack to dry. Rosalie had a couple of space saving racks in a drawer that I ‘borrowed’ to dry the pasta. Sometimes we eat them right away and other times we dry them for later use.

Pasta Maker

Interesting shapes, don’t think?

While doing the rolling and cutting you may end up with odd pieces. Mine seems to disappear. I suspect that these are the pieces that Rosalie steals to make her little willies.

 Next, you have to cook them. This brings on a lot of discussion about whether they’re done or not. We heard that if it sticks when you throw it at the wall, it will be perfect. The first time we tried this we had to make a second batch as I didn’t realise you only needed one piece, not the whole pot.

All in all, it’s a rewarding pastime. It’s best to give yourself about a four-hour head start, because with all the errors, cleanups (flour is a b..ch to sweep up) and wine drinking, you’re going to need it. It also gives you time to decide on a take-out if things don’t go as planned. The first time we tried making pasta was expensive as we had to buy a pasta machine as well as a new bread maker because the old one was broken.

I think I’m finished with the Italian bit, for now, making bacon butties is a lot easier, though not as healthy. I will miss the wine, though. Ciao, for now.

“As long as there’s pasta and Chinese food in the world, I’m okay.”

Michael Chang.

I don’t like shopping

We went shopping at Walmart last week looking for a pasta maker. We searched high and low but couldn’t find one. Rosalie asked an assistant who hadn’t even heard of such a thing. Then she started to look in all the places that we had already looked. Why do they do that? Eventually, I found one

shopping

Vernazza

tucked away where nobody could find it and took it to the cash register. When we got it home I was a bit miffed as there seemed to be parts missing. When I Checked the box a second time I realised that we had bought an accessory to a pasta maker. We returned it and eventually found one that I liked at Super Store. It works well but isn’t electric so doesn’t come with a remote. I have to turn the handle, more exercise. Too bad Rosalie doesn’t like pasta all that much.

How is it that everything in a dollar store costs $4? They do have some neat stuff, though. We bought a 60 watt LED bulb for $4, usually about $6 anyplace else. We also got water bottles for when we go to our dreaded exercise classes. They also cost $4. We saw the almost identical bottles in another store for $8.95, so we were happy about that. I’m still looking for something for a buck. I don’t care what it is, I will buy it.

We went looking for a scarf for little old me as I’ve been feeling the cold a bit lately. Old Navy was the only place we could find one, so I got it there. They told me that I could save 20 percent on my next purchase if I gave them my email address. Foolishly I agreed and am now getting emails everyday advertising stuff for your average teenager and mothers to be.

We try to walk most days, but sometimes its just too darn cold. So we went to the local mall so that we could walk indoors. This is a great idea, except we keep seeing stuff we want. Last week our exercise cost $160 as we bought a print of Vernazza that we’ve always wanted.

I don’t much care for grocery shopping, especially when we’re just popping out for something unrelated, like a pasta machine for instance. Then, on the way home, I hear those dreaded words, “we have to stop for milk.” I know that this is going to take at least another hour, and my fears are confirmed when Rosalie grabs a shopping cart. “For a carton of milk?” I used to sneak a few thing in that I liked but potato chips are a no-no now so I just go along and suffer.

Shopping online is my favoured way of buying most things. Especially stuff that you can’t buy locally. I hate the wait, though, the postal lady seems to be getting used to me hanging around the mailboxes expectantly, two days after the order goes in. She said I was harassing her at first, and if I didn’t back off, she would beat me with a parcel so I went for anti-expectancy therapy and we get on well now.

Chair yoga

Because Rosalie has been a participant in a ‘coronary event.’ we felt that we needed to get more exercise and we had heard of chair yoga. The local senior’s organisations here have several exercise programs so we signed up for a couple. I was only in this in a support position, not Chair Yogabecause I needed the exercise myself, I had to make sure Rosalie went.

The first course is the chair yoga class. This seemed like an easy start to our new road to health and exercise. We were in a class of about 16 people, most older than us. “Why am I here” was one of the thoughts that went through my tiny mind. “A room full of old people, I’ll show them how it’s done. (My contribution. I’m so thoughtful.)

Forty-five minutes later I was feeling a little bit ‘stretched out’ but wasn’t intimidated by the old folks who had done this before and who were handling it a lot better than me. (How did she get her leg up there anyway?) We went home and I felt good. Within two hours I was whining and looking for the Tylenol. I stretched something that didn’t need stretching and pulled a few things that didn’t need pulling. Fortunately, this ends in MARCH? 

The following Thursday we had to add to the torture by going to “circuit training.” “This should be fun,” I naively thought. “Just walk around in a circle in a large room doing a few light exercises on the way. Couldn’t be easier,” wrong again. We did wall pushups, thigh crunches as well as a lot of exercises standing on one leg. We had to use resistance bands and exercise balls andchair yoga all sorts of other torturous devices.

Every so often we paused for some water, Rosalie and I hadn’t brought any so we went into the hall to a water fountain. While we were there, I asked Rosalie if I could sneak off,  but she wouldn’t let me.

Some of the people there had been in the chair yoga class so I wasn’t the only fool in attendance. I kept asking myself what I was doing here with all these old people, then the truth hit me. I am ‘old people’! Some of them were probably younger than me.

For the last part of the session, the instructor had us all sit down to do some stretching exercises. “This is giving love to your body,” she said. She was wrong about that, my body wants a divorce.

When we found out that we wouldn’t be able to go away this winter, we wondered what we would get up to. Apparently, it`s exercise. We will be gone next year. Or at least I will.

We have to go through this all again next week. I’m looking forward to it so much.

When I were a lad, part two.

During the Summer we roamed far and wide. Mostly we played by the river which was forbidden by our parents but we did it anyway. Friday was the local market day and held a lot of entertainment for us. Battles with left over rotten fruit was one of our

When I were a lad

 La Providence” When I lived there it was known as “Theobald Square” the whole thing was dirt with a few scraggly holy trees in the middle. I lived in the house under the clock.

most enjoyable pastimes and we would often go home smelling real bad. We also collected fish heads and string to catch crabs from the river. We always threw them back though as they were too small to eat, and also, the river was really polluted. One of my first entrepreneurial endeavours was collecting discarded flowers when the market closed, then selling them door to door. Surprisingly people actually bought them from me.

Guy Fawkes night was another important night for us kids when I were a lad and was planned weeks in advance. The centre of the whole thing was a huge bonfire made from anything we could get our hands on. We lived in a three-sided square of about twenty houses and the fire was built right in the middle. It was a community affair but the fire was always built by the kids. We would scrounge the local stores for any discarded materials and limbs would mysteriously disappear from local trees.

One year we managed to get about ten railway ties from somewhere and looked forward to seeing them burn. It was one of the biggest bonfires we ever built.  The market was one of our best sources for fuel and we raided it every week before the clean up crews arrived. This particular year one of the council clean up guys told us that the city was going to remove our fire pile as it was getting too big. When they arrived the next day, instead of a fifteen-foot high pile of combustibles they found a five-foot pile. The rest had been mysteriously spirited away, including the railway ties. That fifth of November (remember, remember) we had a great bonfire.

An interesting side to this incident was, that as the truck backed into the square to remove all our hard work, its rear wheels sunk. It was found that it had broken through to an ancient tunnel that led down to the river. My hometown of Rochester is the main crossing of the river Medway between Dover and London. It is quite an ancient city dating before the Romans. There is a castle built by William the Conquer’s sons. So an old tunnel was not surprising. Charles Dickens lived there for a while and a lot of the local buildings are featured in his books. Particularly ‘The Bull Inn’ where I wanted to stay on our trip to Europe last year. 

I was born near Canterbury but grew up in Rochester so I consider it my hometown. I grew up there, had my first serious girlfriend there, played in the band there and had my first job there. To my mind, this was one of the best times of my life but I wouldn’t swap it for my life in Canada. The inclination to go back permanently has never really occurred to me, except to visit and reminisce of course.

When I were a lad..

I never thought that the day would come when I would say “when I were a lad” (in a creaky old geezer voice, with an English accent). But here I am doing it.

When I were a lad

I was so cuuuute!

As Christmas got closer I had a few nostalgic thoughts about being a kid in England. Not necessarily about Christmas itself, but about that time of year. 

We had no TV in those days and the evening entertainment, as many people our age know, was centered around the radio. There were no hockey games as they weren’t broadcast in England, and even if they were, we wouldn’t have a clue as to what they were about. 

I was about ten, and my Dad had left home long ago, and my older brothers had left to join the Royal Navy, so it was left to my Mum and me to entertain ourselves of a winters evening. We didn’t have a lot of radio stations to listen to, only three as I recall, but they were enough to keep us entertained. We got the BBC Home Service, BBC Light program and the now famous Radio Luxembourg. There wasn’t a tuner for the radio as such,  just a rotary switch on the wall near the window where the cable came in. (Yes, cable.) It had three positions, one for each channel. The radio wasn’t owned by us, we rented it from a local company. As was our first TV when I was fourteen.

The theatre of the mind is very powerful and I still like to listen to audiobooks for that reason. I remember hearing the reading  ‘ Of Mice and Men’, ‘The Day of the Triffids’, ‘War of the Worlds’ and many others. On BBC at five o’clock was Children’s Hour, which we looked forward to with great anticipation.

Our favourite station, though, was Radio Luxembourg. Later when I was a teenager it became even more important as it was the only way to get good rock music until the pirate radio stations started up. That type of thing wasn’t good enough for Aunty BBC. As well as the music, they broadcast radio plays like “The Black Museum” which was about famous Scotland Yard cases. And sci-fi such as “Journey to the Moon” (my favourite). We also got a lot of American radio shows.

We would listen to the shows curled up near the fire, usually with the light out. If we were lucky we would have a bag of chocolate covered toffees as a treat.

During the daytime, I was pretty well free to go where and do what I wanted. I almost always hooked up with my buddies John and Malc. As I was only ten years old, I still wore short pants. Apparently, I wasn’t grown up enough for longies until I was eleven. This wasn’t a problem in the summer, but in the winter it could be an issue. I remember tobogganing in short pants and no gloves. I’d be frozen by the time I got home but didn’t give it a second thought. Our sledges (toboggans) were made from whatever scrap wood we could find. I once found a curved chair back and tried that: unsuccessfully as I recall.

The best sledge hill was very steep, very icy and ended on the road, so we didn’t use it too often. We left that for the big kids. Our local hill was the side of the old dried up moat at the castle: not long or steep but a lot less scary.

As a lot of people find this boring and fall asleep before the end I have to split it into two halves, more to come.

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