Sunday, December 24, 2017

Remembering the Farm: The School Christmas Concert

In the 1950's I attended a one room, Grades 1 to 8, rural school that my father had attended before me, located in the remnants of a village which today no longer exists. There were two events which brought the community and the school together, the "sports day" on the  last day of school before summer and the annual Christmas Concert, held the last day of school before Christmas holidays, usually on or about December 20th.

About the first of December a few of the fathers would come in and set up the stage along one side of the school.  Planks secured to sawhorses and grey with age. Aged curtains, once olive green, were suspended on a wire or cable that stretched the length of the school.  The windows back of the stage were covered in brown paper, decorated by the older students in tempera paints. One end of the stage exited into the boy's cloakroom (Yes, that is what they were called); the other into a small corner with a record player (we didn't have a piano in our school) where the teacher stood to direct traffic.

And so we began to practice. The program was fairly predictable. Musical numbers, one act plays, the odd individual or group recital, and sometimes something called a drill.

On concert night, wooden benches appeared from somewhere and by 7:00 the place was packed, standing room only. Most families came by car though if roads were bad, some came with a team and sleigh or caboose and put the horses up in either the school barn or the old abandoned livery stable about a block from the school. The place was hot and stuffy but no one noticed as excitement and anticipation kept the adrenaline flowing.

We once did a recital of "The Old Woman Who Swallowed the Fly".  I was in Grade 1 and was chosen to be the anchor man. "I don't know why she swallowed the fly. I'll think she'll die". School terrified me from the first day I went and the concert was the end of my life as far as I was concerned.  Frozen with fear, I woodenly recited my lines as the audience rolled on the floor and wept with laughter.  The more the audience laughed, the more frightened I became and the harder they laughed the next go-round. Fifty years later my father could not tell the story without laughing so hard the tears flowed. 

Drills were choreographed marches set to music, involving almost all the students.  And were usually disasters.  In Grade 2, our teacher decided we would do a drill to the Teddy Bear's Picnic, that being a popular kids song on the radio that year.  Somehow she acquired Teddy Bear masks for all of us. We wore the masks for the first time the night of the concert. They didn't fit.  They were too big and slid down our faces blocking our view.  There was a stage plugged full of kids with no idea where they were going, trying vainly to execute the maneuvers we had practiced.  We crashed into each other, knocked each other down, and in general created an awesomely funny melee. The audience thought it was funny.  We didn't and our poor teacher was so embarrassed for us.

When I was in Grade 6, we did a one-act play about two brothers, bachelor farmers, trying to hire a housekeeper.  I cannot recall the  name of it.  The time period of the play was in the 20s or 30s but the situation was close enough to ours that the humour came through, no problem.Another Grade 6 boy and I were the farmers. We interviewed several job applicants who were less than satisfactory, shall we say. I only recall two. One was a flapper girl whom we wanted to hire as she was cute but since we didn't have a nice car or a radio she declined the honour.  The other was a recent immigrant from eastern Europe with a thick accent (half our community was from eastern Europe) who specialized in cabbage soup only. "My sister, Olga, she wash dish". The play concluded with the farmers deciding they were better off to do their own housekeeping.

At the close of the program, we sang Christmas carols and the audience joined in.  Soon we could hear sleigh bells and Santa Claus appeared to hand out candy bags and if the kids had drawn names, the gifts.  The candy bags were something special, I can tell you. Halloween wasn't a big thing in our neighbourhood so we didn't end up with the loot that city kids get today.  So we looked forward to the candy bags.  Two Mandarin oranges, peanuts in the shell, hard Christmas candy and sometimes even chocolates. There were bags for all the preschoolers too. At our house they were carefully doled out over the holidays as some years it might have been the only Mandarin oranges we got.

If there was a raffle fund raiser, Santa also got to draw the winning ticket.  One year a quilt was raffled off and the winner was a young man who had recently married a very attractive blonde.  The general consensus in the audience seemed to be he didn't need the quilt, he had a wife to keep him warm.

The last concert was in 1959 as the school closed the following year and we were bused to a larger centre.  If the new school had Christmas Concerts, I recall nothing of them at all.  For anyone nostalgic for the days of one room rural schools, I suggest you read Lois Lenski's Prairie School. It takes place in the late 1940's in South Dakota but is so close to my own childhood, it felt more like a biography.

Saskatchewan, along with the rest of Canada, has changed and diversified from the days when 95%+ of our population was either Catholic or Protestant.  Beginning in the 1970s, immigration brought a mix of peoples who celebrate other religious holidays, many of them also in December. Catholic schools stayed Catholic but the Public Schools became multi ethnic and multi religious.  So Christmas Concert is out and Holiday Concert is in.  I think this is wonderful.  My kids were ready to be 'citizens of the world' at a much younger age than I was.

So I wish Merry Christmas to those of my readers who celebrate it and Happy Holidays to those who celebrate other occasions. And to all of you, health and happiness in 2018.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Forty-Seventh Canadian Western Agribition 2017

Canadian Western Agribition (CWA or Agribition) bills itself as the largest livestock show in Canada, primarily featuring beef cattle but including dairy cattle, bison, horses, goats, and sheep. In previous years it included all sorts of critters like pigs, lamas, alpacas,ostriches, and emus.

Purebred cattle enjoying their new facilities

The first Agribition was held in 1971, the brainchild of several far-sighted cattlemen, looking for a way to promote top quality beef genetics in Western Canada. The Regina Exhibition Association (now Evraz Place) would not take a chance on organizing something that new so the cattle industry did it themselves and have done so every year. . Along with a minimum of staff, the show depends on hundreds of volunteers who donate their time and costs because they believe in the show and because it is a great deal of fun.

The show has grown every year.  Agribition leases the facilities from Evraz Place but the show helped attract a great deal of infrastructure money from commercial sponsors as well as government. This year marked the completion of all planned new buildings and the end of the old wooden barns that served so well over the years. The facilities now total over 430,000 sq. ft. PLUS Brandt Centre (formerly the Agridome) and five NHL size hockey arenas converted to display space for the show.  All facilities are interconnected.  No more going outside from one facility to another in -30C weather (this year it was about -2C all week, lucky us)

Map of Agribition
Along with the traditional show and sale for each beef breed, there is also professional rodeo in the evenings, light, medium and heavy horse pulls in the afternoons, stock dog competitions, high school rodeo, a number of light horse events and a great many more livestock related events I likely missed. There is also a huge area of commericial displays including livestock equipment, feed equipment, animal health products, sadddles and western clothes, and the ubiquitous pickup trucks. One building is dedicated to consumer to buy, some related to livestock and some aimed at any consumers at the show.

Red Angus Females

Simmental Bull

Red Angus Bull

Dorset ( I hope) Sheep 

High school girl and mount ready for the next show

Kids loved the Trick Riding in the Brandt Centre

Where was this power staple gun 50 years ago when I needed it?

MacDon forty foot swather for grain or forage
The show is mostly about purebred cattle.  This year there were Red and Black Angus, Charolais, Gelbvieh, Horned and Polled Hereford, Limousin, Maine Anjou, Shorthorn, Simmental, and Canadian Speckled Park.  In years gone by there were other breeds and I was not sorry to see they were not there this year.  They were extremes or just didn't fit.

The Canadian Speckled Park (click on link for breed history) is a relatively new breed to which I am quite partial.  It was developed by Bill and Eillen Lamont of Maidstone Saskatchewan from Teeswater Shorthorn, Aberdeen Angus and British cattle with White Park colour pattern, which is to say black ears and muzzle. In 1972, three Speckled Park went to the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.  In 1985 the Canadian Speckled Park Association was formed by nine breeders. In 1993 the Association was incorporated under the Canadian Animal Pedigree Act as a developing breed and in 2006 the Speckled Park were declared a distinct breed under the Act. They have caught on in Australia and New Zealand as well as Western Canada. Heifers are trading at $16,000 for export.

Canadian Speckled Park calf at Agribition

Education is one of the pillars of Agribition.  Thousands of school kids go through the show every year with special information packages sent out to teachers in advance.  The Family Ag Pavilion (formerly Agri-Ed Showcase) gives kids an opportunity to learn how farm animals are raised.  Chickens, turkeys, sheep and cattle make up some of the exhibits along with all kinds of activities related to the production of each type of animal.  Electronic and manual Q and A boards, model farms and even a life size model cow which kids, under veterinarian supervision, can assist give birth to a model calf.

Canadian Western Agnes about to have her calf

In the above video Canadian Western Agnes is being assisted with a difficult birth by a future veterinarian.  When not at Agribition, Agnes serves as a teaching tool for students at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.  The calf can be positioned inside the cow many different ways and the students learn how to reposition the calf sight unseen inside the cow for an easier birth.

One of the many students attending Agribition.  I wish they'd had those huge backpacks when my kids were young and I was a parent helping on their tour.  It slows them down and makes them easier to herd.
Of the 47 shows, I attended likely 25 to 30. I was privileged to serve on the Board of Directors for a few years as the representative of Saskatchewan Agriculture and served as a volunteer on the Commercial Cattle Committee.  While I was on the Board, Agribition celebrated its 20th show in 1990.  (That year the Board voted to recognize each volunteer with a distinctive red Agribition jacket, while staff all got a matching jacket in blue.  The company which manufactured the initial order of red jackets commented that they had never used so much material to make 150 jackets).

Tanya and I were at Agribition in 2006 and 2007 and had not been since.  This year she went for two days and I went for four days, one day with a former colleague and another with my brother who drove in for the occasion. Ten years is a long time to be away.  There were still a few people I knew but not many.  The children and grandchildren of the people I knew in the 80s and 90s have taken over the reins and the show strings. Still it was nice to be back.  Made me (almost) wish I was young again so I could get involved. It is about people, it is always about people.  My time at Agribition over the years was always about meeting livestock producers.

Change, of course, is a fact of life but one change made me sad.  My beloved Commercial Cattle Show is just a shadow of its former self.  There used to be several hundred head of cross bred and straight,bred feeder steers and heifers in uniform pens of five, ten and twenty, contributed by cattlemen as a way of advertising their cattle to commercial buyers.  There were also pens of five and ten open and bred replacement heifers, straight bred and cross bred.  All that is left of the Commercial Cattle Show is the replacement heifers, mainly from pure breeders.  The feeder cattle are no more.  Likely because it got too expensive to make economic sense to participate.

All the pictures in this post were taken by Tanya. If you click on the CWA link at the top of the page and scroll down there are many pictures taken at this years show and at this site a great many more:

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Catch 22 of Stuff

Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving. I wish all my American readers as Happy a Thanksgiving as possible under the circumstances.  I hope each and everyone of you has something to be thankful for.  And I hope none of it is stuff.  (Or stuffing)

Stuff, Things, Cargo, Plastic Happiness. The purchase of which is supposed to make us happier in some way or another.  With Christmas coming up and the world awash in stuff to buy, we all tend to fall prey to the notion, "If I only had. . . my life would be complete" whether it is for our selves or others.

Concerned citizens try to stay our hands by assuring us we are ruining the planet by our extractions and our junk. There are too many people using too many resources to be sustainable etc. etc. (Which is correct but have you noticed the people who say there are too many people in this world never volunteer to get off.  That is a rant for another day.)

Here is the conundrum (as opposed to an elephant sitting on a dinner roll which is a bunundrum) if we stop buying stuff, things, cargo, plastic happiness then the economy of the world would collapse and we would be worse off than drowning in a sea of refuse which will happen if we don't stop with all the stuff.

If there is an economist in the crowd, please explain to me how we stop buying stuff but keep the world turning round. Even if we just stop buying useless stuff like combination ramjet fly swatters and peanut butter spreaders.

The world adds millions of people to the work force every year, millions more than we had last year.  All of them need jobs that can earn them a living wage, define it how you will. Those jobs come from making stuff.  No stuff then no mines, no factories, no need for roads, rails, airplanes, shops, or garbage dumps. And no service industries. We cannot provide ourselves the basics, define them how you will, by taking in each others laundry. The basis of taxes which is the basis of civilization comes from taxing stuff and all the spin-off activity associated with stuff. From that we pay for education, health care, infrastructure, social safety nets and security.  No stuff, no civilization.  Stuff, no civilization but takes longer.

If I just had a sliding compound mitre saw and a semi-professional planer for my wood working shop. . .

My head hurts. I am going to bed. Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Football and Christmas

Football season is almost over in Canada. Eastern and Western Finals are next Sunday and the Grey Cup is the following week.  Our beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders made the playoffs and won last Sunday to advance to the semi-final against Toronto. The Riders belong to all Saskatchewan and all Saskatchewan turns up to cheer for them. Including ex-Saskatchewanians.  The stands are a sea of Green and White when the Riders play, even away games.

My son-in-law and his family live and breath Rider football.  The first game my daughter went to, she took a book so she would have something to do.  Now she goes to the games with him and watches the away games at home or in the sports lounges. She is a good wife.  SIL immediately bought tickets and airfare to Toronto when the Riders won last Sunday.  Daughter will join him in Ottawa the next weekend as SIL already has tickets to the Grey Cup.  SIL and his sister will go to the Grey Cup game and daughter will visit former Regina neighbours who now live in the nation's capital.  She is a good wife. . . to a point.

Tanya is going home for Christmas.  Flies out Christmas Day and back Jan 16, all for under $1500 CAD. She deserves it, having nursed me 24/7 since July 1.  She is excited but not nearly as excited as the granddaughters. I will cope.

Christmas Day is a good day to fly. Youngest is coming home from London, and Second-Youngest from Vancouver on Christmas Day. Son is driving in.  Christmas Dinner is on Boxing Day at Oldest daughter's house. We have booked our favourite photographers (Free Lense Photographic) for some time that week to prove we are all in one place.  The photo will have a disclaimer printed on it saying Photoshop was NOT used to put everyone in the picture.

Winter arrived Nov 1st and stayed.  Snow means I cannot use my wheeled walker so I am using a cane. Ice picks on the bottom sure help with the slippery roads. I can walk (and even run a bit) without it but am unsteady on my feet.  Besides if I am shuffling across the street it buys sympathy from the cars waiting for me to get out of the way.

Other than that, not much happens on a day to day basis. Just putting in time.  The sun comes up and the sun goes down. The hands on the clock go round and round. I just get up and it's time to lay down. Life gets teejus, don't it?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sleepless in Regina

Some nights I have trouble going to sleep and end up staring at the clock for hours since it is the only source of light in the room. As can be seen in the pictures below, it is an older digital model with little bars that light up to make the numbers. The system is quite simple.  Two bars make the number 1 and 7 bars the number 8.

Number   Bars

1               2
2               5
3               5
4               4
5               5
6               6
7               3
8               7
9               6
0               6

The least number of bars lit is at 1:11 for a total of 6.  The most number of bars lit is at 10:08 for a total of 21, unless you use the 24 hour clock when 20:08 would have a total of 24 bars lit.

I have not yet calculated the average number of bars lit over a 12 hour cycle.  That is for another sleepless night.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Learning to make pumpkin pie

Halloween night, my daughter picked me up at 4:00 to help hand out candy to all the little monsters.  I was supposed to take pictures of the costumes but my phone was dead on arrival.  I had one job. . .

Tanya cleaned the flat, made stew and then walked over to the Lawson Pool.  We picked her up at 8:30.  She says she can get a lot done if I am not there to help her.

Tanya has discovered pumpkin pie. She is addicted.  As of yesterday we have a freezer full of pumpkin. My cousin's daughter learned to make pie crust from her maternal grandmother so I volunteered her to teach us.  Once you can make pie crust, you can make anything from it, I figure. We had not had a visit with her since we got here and wanted to see their new (to them) house.  Tanya had knit a scarf and toque for their 4 year old daughter too.  My cousin and his wife picked us up.

We had fun.  The little girl loved her hat and scarf and played outside in the fresh wet snow with Grandma while Tanya and I were schooled in the art of pie crust.  Tanya was hands on while I observed the process. One can read pie crust recipes called never fail but unless you know what to do and when, they will in fact fail.  Process is more important than ingredients.

The pie crust recipe called for half a pound of butter and we had brought a pound so Maryanne doubled the recipe, figuring it would make five pies, two large glass and three small aluminum pie pans. The finished dough was divided into five balls and stuck in the fridge for an hour while the pumpkin custard was prepared.

We were supposed to bring heavy cream but our grocery store was out of it so Maryanne's mom drove to a nearby store to get it.  It had snowed Halloween night and the streets were icy, very icy.  She slid into a curb and flattened a tire. CAA to the rescue. . . eventually. Being in an expansive mood, Maryanne tripled the filling recipe, I think just to use up pumpkin.

The dough was formed into pie crust in the pans and baked for 10 minutes which was new to me. Parchment paper went into the pans on top of the crust and was filled with dry beans to keep the crust in shape.  This jar of dry beans was especially for pie crust and was over 7 years old.  The crusts were then filled with custard and put back in the oven.

We had brought a big glass pie pan and took our pie home when all was finished.  It is now gone where all good pies go.  I got 1/3 Tanya 2/3.  As she said she did the work and it isn't good for me to eat too much sugar. She also said Maryanne was a great teacher but the big pie from Costco for $6 was a lot less work.

Photo by Maryanne. Jack o'lantern by her 4 year old daughter

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Update on Ukraine

I expect Ukraine doesn't make the North american news much these days.  Too much going on in both Canada and USA.  Besides, on a daily basis, not much changes.  Yesterday's news is as good as today's.

On the Donetsk front Russian backed troops attack Ukrainian positions many times per day resulting in 1 to 5 deaths of Ukrainian soldiers and 1 to 10 wounded.  These are the official counts.  The attacks are always driven off; no accounting of Russian deaths or wounded.  Rinse, repeat. Occasionally, the Ukrainian side will retake a few meters of ground in driving back an attack but they must be careful or they will be accused of "breaking the Minsk Accord".

However the Ukrainian government has passed two laws regarding the war in Donbas that essentially lay out the Ukrainian understanding of the Minsk Agreements in black and white regardless of how Putin would like it understood.  The first law "establishes that a special procedure for local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions comes into force only after all the conditions set forth in Article 10 of the law have been fulfilled, in particular, with regard to the withdrawal of all illegal armed formations and their military equipment, as well as militants and mercenaries, from the territory of Ukraine." 

The second law "defines the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions as: the land territory and its internal waters within the limits of separate districts, cities, towns and villages, where the military forces of the Russian Federation and Russian occupational administration have established and carry out the occupying government and general control; internal sea waters and the territorial sea of Ukraine adjacent to the same land territory; airspace over these territories.

In other words it is no longer an anti-terrorist operation.  Russia has been named as the invading and occupying force in Donbas.

There have been a number of kidnappings of Ukrainian citizens who are taken to Russia and imprisoned on made-up charges.  Recently a young man was lured to Belarus by a girl who had been coerced by the FSB.  The young man is now in Russia, charged with plotting to blow up a school.  His actual crime was blogging something the Russians didn't like.  Two young men in the Russian controlled area of Donetsk have been arrested and sentenced to several years in jail for spying for the Ukrainians.  Their actual crime was waving a Ukrainian flag. In Russian occupied Crimea, Tatars are specifically targeted by the Russians for extremism or terrorism.

A number of people have been assassinated in broad daylight in Kyiv.  Bullets or bombs.  By whom is never certain even when the trigger men are caught.  Could be both sides or even third parties. Two ammunition dumps were blown up this year.  Sabotage.  The most recent in Vinnitsa Oblast was a main  arsenal of the Ukrainian army and fortunately 70% of the ammunition survived the blast.

The real war is in the Ukrainian parliament with the old guard fighting tooth and nail (sometimes literally) to preserve the corruption that has made them or their allies rich.  Progress is made slowly, mainly forced on them by outside pressure. (You need eg IMF money?  Clean up your act). Reforms have been quickest in areas that do not affect the lawmakers.  The price of gas and electricity have gone up dramatically, as an example.

The attempt to reform the health care system is a good example of the difficulties faced by reformers.  The Minister in charge has submitted a bill to parliament to reduce the corruption levels and provide more money for actual health care.  The bill was not initially passed in July as it did not get support.

“The state has spent about 300 million UAH [$11.5 million] to build the new facilities for that hospital; 60 million UAH [$2.3 million] was spent on equipment—which disappeared,” Suprun explained. . .
In many countries the hugely expensive equipment in hospitals is leased. But in Ukraine, that’s forbidden by law. Why? Because kickbacks are built in to the sales, generating enormous income every year for everybody in the corrupt chain. “The pharmo-mafia and some hospitals make billions of dollars, while we want the purchasing to be done by international organizations including the UNDP, UNICEF, through tenders,” Suprun explained. . .
“There is a tiny piece left to fix the poor infrastructure of hospitals and pay extremely low salaries for the workers,” Suprun said. The average salary of a Ukrainian doctor is about $200 a month. “That’s what makes medical workers charge payments for their services, then kick back up to their head doctors and higher,” she said.

The bill was finally passed in October.  The following article provides an overview of the reforms.  It will give you an idea of the situation I faced in the best hospital in Dnipro. And of course how or even if it is implemented is another question.

The hardest fought battles are in the area of reforming the courts, judges and prosecutors.  This is the root of corruption in Ukraine.  Attempts to establish an independent anti-corruption court has not gone anywhere and may never if President Poroshenko has his way.  The powers that be dare not allow such a court because they know they will all go down. Again, such a court is being forced on Ukraine by outside pressure but there are many ways to sabotage it.

Optimists such as Alexander Motyl that Ukraine is reforming slowly but surely. As my father once said about me, "You have to put a stake in the ground and use a tape measure to discern any movement at all." OK, maybe it isn't as bad as I think but I am not optimistic until they fix the roads.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Back Home Again

Where is home?  Many answers to that, all correct.  Where I hang my hat.  Where I can get internet.  Where i was born and raised.  Where I spent most of my life.  Where I now live. My permanent residence.

So the farm is home, Ukraine is now home but Regina will always be home. Our family spent 24 years in this city.  My oldest still lives here. As of September 1, it is home for Tanya and I for one year until I am healthy again.  We have a small 1 bedroom flat found and furnished by my eldest. Five minutes from hospital, doctors office and bus stops.  And affordable, sort of.

It is also across the street from Regina Exhibition Grounds, home of Canadian Western Agribition, the world's largest indoor cattle show.  Haven't been for 10 years.

I had a specialist lined up a month before we left Ukraine. My ostomy bag was giving no end of trouble - it would not adhere to my skin any length of time. My oldest was friends with a nurse who worked at the Enterostomy Clinic and would message her for information and assistance in trying to solve the problem.  The nurse mentioned this to a surgeon she works with who up until 4 years ago had been a surgeon in the hospital in Dnipro where I was a patient.  He got all excited and phoned Tanya a couple of times to discuss the issue.  I had an appointment with him before I had a letter of referral from a General Practitioner.

So the morning after we arrived I had an appointment with a GP or in this case a Nurse Practitioner to get a letter of referral to the specialist with whom I had an appointment the following morning.  The nurse practitioner turned out to have lived in the house behind us when we first moved to Regina in 1983. She and her brothers went to school with my kids.

I can't travel as we have no car and our government killed the provincial bus service, so friends are coming to see us.  People I haven't seen in years.  Averaging 3 to 4 per week.  It is wonderful to catch up, I can tell you.

Last night, Tanya and I went with friends to the Bushwakker Brew Pub to listen to live jazz from 'round midnight, a local band  where a long time friend plays bass. Food there is great.  I have never tried their beer as they have a wide variety of good Scotch.  Which I can't drink anymore.  Especially at $8 to $22 for a 30 gram ounce.  At least in Europe a shot is 50 grams.

Tomorrow I am going to an anti-provincial government rally just for fun.  Saskatchewan has a conservative government which like all conservative governments has cut taxes for the rich and made up the difference by cutting services to the rest of us.  They have already been forced to back pedal on several of their cuts.  Tomorrow is about forcing more back pedaling.

A CT scan and colonoscopy will tell me doctor how much more of my poor colon needs to be removed.  I will then be a semicolon. This will happen in January if all goes well. Then in February they will reconnect my stoma or as I told my children, reconnect my mouth and my a$$. My youngest suggested that when they were doing that, could they remove my feet from the one and my head from the other.  I get no respect.

By the way, did you know that when people kiss they just make a long tube connecting one butthole to another.  But I digress.

I am glad to be home.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Top 10 signs you are too old to be trick or treating

10. You get winded from knocking on the door
9. You have to have another kid chew the candy for you.
8. You ask for high fibre candy only.
7. When someone drops a candy bar in your bag you lose your balance.
6. People say, "Great Keith Richards mask!" and you aren't wearing a mask.
5. When the door opens, you yell, "Trick or . . ." and can't remember the rest.
4. By the end of the night you have a bag full of restraining orders.
3. You have to carefully choose a costume that won't dislodge your hairpiece.
2. You are the only Power Ranger in your neighbourhood with a walker.
1. You avoid going to houses where your ex-wives live.

Friday, October 20, 2017

How I spent my summer vacation

June 30, the next day being July 1st, Canada Day, I took Tanya, Lina and Sveta to The Egoist Restaurant for supper. Trying to imitate the eating habits of Henry VIII, I over did it and was very uncomfortable, not for the first time in my life, sad to say.

At 1:30 am July 1st, severe abdominal pain hit and by 3:30 I was dry heaving and my belly was swollen like a poisoned pup. By 6:00 am I was in an ambulance headed for the hospital.  The ride was so rough, I had to get out and go in Andrei's car.  At the hospital in Zhovti Vody, a doctor examined me and concluded I had peritonitis and possibly pancreatitis and needed immediate surgery and should go to Dnipro as they could no longer do surgery in Zhovti Vody.  Andrei had to go to the Mayor's office to get him to instruct the hospital to send me as they were NOT going to send their good ambulance out of town. Pain killers made the ride bearable

By 6:00 pm I was in the best hospital in Dnipro, which was also crowded with wounded soldiers from the Donbas front. they wired me up with IV antibiotics and morphine and I don't know what else.  Several doctors poked and prodded causing me great pain and July 4 they finally operated on me. I am guessing they plugged the hole in my colon and the words "diverticulosis" and sepsis were mentioned.  I had a temporary iliostomy c/w bag and several drainage tubes in my abdomen. I was so weak, I could do nothing for myself, not even turn or feed myself, nothing. The doctors were worried I was not going to make it.  So was everyone else.  No one told me so I didn't know until late August why everyone was so scared for me.

July 7th, my three daughters arrived in Dnipro to help Tanya look after me.  Two stayed for three weeks until I was moved back to Zhovti Vody. The youngest stayed for a week as she could not get more time off work. My son was frantic to come also but the girls talked him out of it.  Given his health problems (Crohn's Disease) they did not want two Hingstons in hospital in Ukraine. My oldest daughter's description of their time and why it was critical they were there in Ukraine can be found below.

I spent a year in Ukraine one month: Part 1 
I spent a year in Ukraine one month: Part 2 
Lessons I learned in Ukraine 
Adventures in Ukraine: Part 3 -- Wherein we learned to ask for help
July 26th, Tanya rented a private ambulance to move me back to Zhovti Vody Hospital where I spent a further two weeks. Having developed a hernia along my incision, I needed to be bandaged up tight before I could get out of bed.  Walking the length of the room using a hump and clump walker I named Texas Ranger was hard work.  Gradually I got it up to 5 round trips, then 10, then out in the hallway where I could boogie.  

After a couple weeks, I was reluctantly moved to our house. It worked out far better than I imagined  It was easier on Tanya and with help from Lina and Sveta she managed quite well.  She would have to get up every 2-4 hours in the night to attend to me but she did it. And I had more places to walk.  Outside even.  Though the day I tried to climb the front three steps without notifying anyone and fell on my face did not endear me to anyone.

Basically, I would not be alive without Tanya.  She nursed me 24/7 from when I was first sick.  Argued with the doctors and nurses to make sure I was well looked after by them and that she knew what to do if they weren't around.  Cooked and fed me until I could feed myself, tended to my natural functions until I could myself, changed the ostomy bag several times a day, bathed me, did laundry, administered meds, encouraged me, bullied me when I needed it, was patient with my outbursts, and worried constantly.  She is an amazing wonderful woman and I love her so much.

My youngest came back for a week after I had moved home.  We managed only one game of crib so you can see how weak and tired I still was. She helped us get started packing to come back to Canada. I needed further operations once I was strong enough and was determined to have them in Canada. Getting to Regina was going to be one horrible ordeal.  First I had to get to Kyiv.  No way could I take the train so we hired the private ambulance again and drove. Andrei had all our bags and medical parafinalia (wheelchair, walker, monkey bar) in his car. 

My oldest flew to Kyiv to meet us at the airport and help Tanya deal with me on the trip home.  We were well looked after in the airports at Kyiv and Frankfurt.  Toronto is another story.  NEVER fly via Toronto Airport.  We were left on our own and missed our connection to Regina.  A later flight put us in at 12:30 am instead of 10:00 pm. For our adventures on the way home see my daughter's blog post: 

The day my father pooped my pants

My daughter had found a flat for us five minutes from the hospital, my doctor's office and two bus stops and furnished it in early Canadian attic with help from her friends, Dollarama, Varage Sale, and I don't know what else.  It lacked for nothing.  This was how she spent her August.  It is safe to say I would not be alive without her either.  While Tanya organized everything in Ukraine, she organized everything in Canada, taking a semester off her Masters in Social Work degree to do it. She also organized the Go Fund Me or whatever it is called that payed our bills.  I also owe my life to generous donors whose names I do not know as she looked after that detail too. As my daughter sais "It takes a village to raise an Allen". Thanks, Village.

We have been in Regina 6 weeks now.  More on that in the next blog post.

For those of you who are still following me, in spite of my long absence, greatly appreciate your loyalty.  And I will get back to my favourite blogs too. Never fear

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Photos from Around Kyiv 1999

My album of pictures from Ukraine is finally scanned.  8 cm of photos when they are stacked.  I have been busy this past week crunching agricultural statistics for a report.  The Country's statistics site is superb but it is in European format.  Instead of commas separating thousands, it is periods.  When I download the data onto Excel, my computer which is North American format, treats the period as a decimal and truncates the zeros.  This means close to 100,000 pieces of data have to be reviewed to make sure I put the necessary zeros back.  I have that down to a fine art.

Tanya and I are headed to Malaga, Spain tonight for two weeks.  Malaga, Seville, Cordoba and Granada are cities I have always wanted to visit as they were under the (Muslim) Moors until the last ones were driven out in 1492.  (The movie El Cid, starring Charlton Heston, was based on another successful campaign against the Moors.)

Malaga is Picasso's home town and out flat is only a few blocks from the museum.  Tanya will love it.  The Alhambra in Granda is on my bucket list.  We'll be busy but will take time to see how warm the water is at the beach.

Here are a few more photos from my album.  Taken of Kyiv architecture and monuments.

Yaroslav the Wise
 This was taken on my 50th birthday in 1997.  Yaroslav the Wise founded the Pechersk Monastery among his many acheivments.  Kyivian Rus reached the peak of its cultural and military power under his rule.

The Old Arsenal Factory Building
 The Old Arsenal Factory Building bears the scars of machine gun bullets received in 1918 when the workers joined the pro-Bolshevik Rebellion.

Bohdan Kmelnitsky
 Bohdan Kmelnitsky led the Cossacks against the Poles in a decisive victory in 1648 near Zhovti Vody, resulting in the creation of a Cossak state. In 1654, with the Poles regrouping and his allies slipping away, he signed the Treaty of Pereyaslav, putting his Hetmanate under the protection of the Russian Tsar.  Russia considers him a hero; Ukrainians are not so sure.

Kyiv Opera House
 The Kyiv Opera House is a gorgeous building outside and in. I attended an opera there.  La Rigatoni (or something).  Class!
St Andrews Church
 St Andrew's Church at the top of Andrew's Decent (Andreivski uzviz) is one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture, commissioned by Empress Elizabeth in the 18th century, designed by the Italian Architect Rastrelli and built by Moscow Architect Michurin.

St Michael's Church
 St Michael's Church was demolished in 1935 or 1936 by the Bolsheviks.  Reconstruction began in 1997.

St Sofia's Cathedral (photo from Wiki)
 Saint Sofia's Cathedral and Monastery was named for the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul (Constantinople) and founded in 1011, celebrating 1000 years not long ago. It has lived several lives and reconstructions. Parts of the original construction can be seen as they were left unfinished for that purpose.

The Bell Tower of St Sofia's.  It is straight, my eyes are crooked

Unfinished portions of original construction

Closer detail
See you in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Victory Day and the Day of Memory and Reconciliation

Russia and most of the other countries of the FSU today (May 9th) celebrate the end of the Great Patriotic War. According to Soviet and now Russian history the war began June 22, 1941 when Germany invaded the Soviet Union.  The war prior to that, when Hitler and Stalin were allies, is ignored. The Moscow times has an article on how Russian children are taught about the Second World War.  It is a crime in Russia to not follow the official line and someone was fined and sent to jail for saying that the USSR invaded Poland Sept 17, 1939.  The official line, as it was in Soviet times, is that the USSR "liberated" western Ukraine, Poland and the other eastern European countries and territory they invaded and occupied. In much the same way Willie Sutton liberated money held prisoner by banks.

As part of decolonization and decommunization, Ukraine now recognizes the dates of WWII as Sept 1, 1939 to May 7th, 1945.  May 9th which has been a holiday in Ukraine for 72 years is now celebrated as as Day of Memory and Reconciliation. Russia, of course, is furious and in response has written Ukraine's part on the war out of their history. Ukraine is fighting back to be recognized for the significant roll played by Ukrainians in the war.

The Ukrainians carried at least 40% of 27,000,000 losses of the USSR in WWII. The Soviet historiographical concept of the “Great Patriotic War,” however, employed major misperceptions of the Ukrainians’ role and is now being used as a propaganda instrument fueling the war in Donbas. In our series “Understanding the Ukrainians in WWII” we seek to uncover the underreported role of Ukrainians living both in Ukraine and abroad in the most deadly war of the 20th century.
 Understanding the Ukrainians in WWII. Part 1

In 1999, I was in Kyiv for the  May 9th celebration of the end of the Great Patriotic War.  The following pictures are of the war memorial which is "Soviet Realism". The sculptures are part of the War Museum which has an outdoor component of planes, tanks, guns etc and an indoor component under the Victory statue. A couple of years later, we acquired a guide/translator to take us thorough the museum.  The lady cried much of the time as she read the descriptions on the displays.

Motherland aka Brezhnev's Daughter aka The Iron Baba

Monday, May 8, 2017

More Photos from the Open Air Museum

Several of the buildings on the grounds are those you would find in a late 19th century Ukrainian village.  When we were there in 1997 there were three women in costume and a Kobzar (minstrel) playing a bandura.  

The houses owned by more wealthy would have tiled roofs

Simple cottages would have thatched roofs

The local bar. If you couldn't get over the style you were already too drunk to be served

Home of one of the wealthier families, likely holding a position of authority in the village

Stove, oven and storage space.  Painted white and decorated. In cold climates like Siberia it would have flat surfaces for family members to sleep on (children) 
Home of the village potter

Handmade teakettle