Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year!, З Новим роком!, С Новым Годом


And so 2020 comes to an end, not with a bang but a whimper, as the poet wrote. There has not been a year like this since the Spanish flu (more rightly called the Kansas flu, as that is where it originated) over 100 years ago. And this pandemic is not done yet. 

Modern medicine and safety precautions such as have been observed have prevented a large death loss from becoming overwhelming. Experience and new technology permitted the development of several vaccines in a miraculously short time but it will take at least this year and a gigantic logistical effort before billions of people receive it and the virus disappears. If it does. I am curious how the people who don't believe in evolution can explain the mutation of viruses (or bacteria, for that matter).

Governments that can, are or ought to be, economically supporting individuals and small businesses affected by the pandemic, while they do everything in their power to bring the disease under control. There is no choice between controlling the pandemic and saving the economy. People ARE the economy.

So Tanya and I are alone this New Year's Eve. Lina was here briefly yesterday afternoon, picking up food and dropping off my Christmas gift from Tanya, a lovely painting done by a local professional artist whose husband does the engraving on granite tombstones for Xaron company where Lina works. I grabbed a very quick hug. Tania stopped in last evening to pick up food and drop off empties. First we had seen either of them for weeks.

I hung it over my office desk

There are people all over the Earth for whom this will not be a happy new year and those of us whose lives even approach some sort of stability need to remember them and help those you can.

So I wish all of my readers a safe and healthy New Year. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas, One and All

Today is the 24th. The sky is grey, and the world is grey. It snowed a skiff last night. Not enough to cover but it is at least snow. Though it is only -1C, the wind is bitter cold. The dogs are warm in their jackets. The cats stick their noses outside, then turn around and sit on the window and just look. If they do go out they lie on the registers when they come in until they are thawed. 

It will be a different Christmas for many people this year. Most can look forward to a normal next year but a few having lost loved ones will be pretty sad. If you know someone, call them to let them know they are loved. And so many people have lost jobs and income that it will be simply survival for them.

Our home has been decorated since late November. Tanya and I will have Christmas alone but she is preparing dinner for our family in town and will deliver it by taxi. We will Zoom with my kids sometime during the day. She has been cooking and baking all week. Sugar cookies, Haystacks aka Muskrat Houses aka Feedlot Specials, Banana bread, Chocolate cookies. Today she made Kholodetz which is like head cheese and is a tradition this time of year. I like it.

The three turkey thighs will go in the oven tomorrow. They are cheap and whole turkeys are hard come by for some reason. We like the dark meat anyhow. I will miss cranberries and stuffing. I have not mastered stovetop stuffing from scratch but I may try tomorrow out of desperation.

Masha will be home from University tomorrow and we may risk a quick visit around New Years with Andrey's family and Lina, which is when we will exchange gifts. Masked and distanced, though perhaps a quick hug is safe enough?

I do wish all my readers Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. And a safe and healthy New Year.

Friday, December 18, 2020

T'was the week before Christmas

 I wrote this about 30 years ago when my kids were young and we lived on Sunset Street. It was typical of Christmas at our house, slow start and a good finish.


T'was the week before Christmas and down at our Hovel

Nothing was ready; the confusion was awful.

No Holiday spirit; it just wasn't right.

Not one civil word, just fight after fight.


The dust and the dishes and all unmade beds,

No lights on the eaves, no home-made bread.

"Marley was dead?" Somewhere under the sink,

For over three weeks, from the garbage pail stink.


The food in the freezer was cold to the touch

No mince pie or turkey, just broccoli and such.

The gifts that were bought lay unwrapped in the closet

"No payments till June, just make a deposit".


A Charlie Brown Tree, in the corner it stood

Wishin’ it were back buried deep in the wood.

Then came the Spirit of Christmas at last:

A Rita MacNeil song on Bron's ghetto blast!


Scrooge took time off from RPC Inc,

To deal with the dishes piled high in the sink.

Cratchet came home from his office at work.

With roses for Scrooge cause he'd been a jerk.


And the weather got cold as a mom-in-law's kiss.

It snowed like the Dickens, so Ky got her wish.

Lyn got out the box with the tree decorations.

We sent out some letters to friends and relations.


Son felt quite Grinchly, coming home lame

From spraining his ankle at a basketball game,

But "Tiny Tim" was nice to his sisters for free;

He let them watch "NC Double A" on TV.


We spruced up the place, hung wreaths in the halls,

Holly and mistletoe, bright coloured balls.

We took out the garbage and dusted and baked,

And had friends come in for hot chocolate and cake.


We watched Christmas Specials and read Christmas books

And sang Christmas songs and praised Christmas cooks...

What a wonderful Christmas, sheer joy and delight.

May you too hear Rita when she sings "Silent Night".


  Rita MacNeil (1944-2013) is a Canadian song writer and folk singer from Cape Breton Island, with a life story as amazing as her voice.  Her Working Man, sung with the Men of the Deeps, is the anthem of what is left of the coal mining industry in Nova Scotia.  Her first Christmas Album Let the Bells Ring 1988, which we owned as a cassette, has been re-released as JoyfulSounds.  Her rendition of Silent Night is one of the most moving versions I know of.  

Since I could not find a video of Rita singing Silent Night on YouTube, I got my friend Walt Dunn to make one for me from my MP3

Tuesday, December 15, 2020


This is recycled from 8 years ago. Seems fitting for 2020.

With many thanks to Baxter Black for my favourite Christmas story ever.  This fairy tale answers that age old question, “How did the angel get on top of the Christmas tree?"

Santy wuz lyin’ there in front of the fireplace, laid out in his Lazy Boy with his feet up. Suddenly he looked up and glanced at his watch.  It was ‘leven thirty.  It wuz Christmas Eve and he had to be outta there by twelve or he wouldn't get all the toys delivered on time.

He jumped up and run to the back room. He tore through the closet lookin’ for his red suit. He shook the moth balls outta the sleeve and slipped into the britches. He heard a great big RIP. He backed up to the mirror and he had tore the seat right out of them britches.  He glanced at his watch and it was 25 to twelve. So he skinned off the britches and run 'em down to the little tailor elves and said, "Boys, sew this back up!" And they did.

Santy come in and throwed on his coat and hunted around in the closet fer his boots. He couldn't find ‘em 'n holler’d, "Maw! Where's my boots at?" She said. "They're out on the back porch where you left ‘em when ya came in last Christmas.  An' shurnuff, he run out on the back porch they’d built on the trailer house ‘n’ there they were. He’d pulled ‘em off wet last year and they’d dried and curled up. He stuffed his feet down in ‘em an’ dadgum, if the heel didn't fall of the left boot.  Santy glanced at his watch and it were 20 to twelve.  He ripped them boots off and took 'em down to the little cobbler elves and said. "Boys, hammer this back on!" And they did.

Santy slipped on his boots and run into the house, grabbed his coat and took out across the yard to hook up the sleigh. The yard light had burnt out and somebody'd left the fresno parked in the driveway.  He hit that sucker at a high lope an' went head over heels an’ lit with a great big war whoop, spooked the reindeer an’ they went over the top rail into the beet tops! Santy glanced at his watch an' it wuz a quarter 'til twelve!

The little cowboy elves saddled up and brought the reindeer into the barn, put 'em in the hitch and hooked 'em up to the sleigh. Santy jumped up in the buckboard seat, cracked the whip ‘n’ the reindeer took off and Santy just sat there! The tugs had broke on the harness! Santy glanced at his watch. It was 10 till twelve.

Santy said "Boys, gather up them reindeer and I'll fix the harness." Then he hooked the team back up leaped in the sleigh and slid on down in front of the house.  Just as they pulled up to the house, one of the runners fell off the sleigh.  Santy looked at his watch. It was 5 till twelve

They welded the runner back on and Santy run in the house. He grabbed that big bag o' toys, slung ‘em over shoulder…Yup, you guessed it. The bottom fell out of that bag and toys went everywhere!

Santy wuz down on his hands and knees, scramblin’ around stuffin’ them toys in a Safeway bag when a little angel come flyin' in the door with a Christmas tree over his shoulder.

He said "Santy. Where do you want me to put this tree?" 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Cartoons in Tribute

 Political cartoons, no matter how witty, are a dime a dozen. Cartoons in tribute to someone who has passed away are pretty special. I started collecting a few some years back. I think it was when Bob Hope passed away at the age of 100 years.  As I was sorting through them today, many brought back memories of times past. I wish I had saved more. If anyone has some tribute cartoons I would sure appreciate it if you could send them to me. After a number of years they are hard to find on the internet.

BB King 1925-2015

Bob Hope 1903-2003

Carrie Fisher 1956-2016

Chuck Yeager 1923-2020

Doris Day 1922-2019

Gord Downie 1964-2017

The mathematician who took us to the moon

Pete Seeger 1919-2014

Peter Gzowski 1934-2002

Rita MacNeil 1944-2013

Stephen Hawking 1942-2018

Stompin' Tom Connors 1936-2013

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Bonya, Tigritsa, and Vovo

 Snowbrush did a lovely tribute to his cat Harvey found HERE. Since, as my three-year-old daughter once remarked after dialing 911, "Nothing exciting ever happens around here", because of Covid 19 in my case keeping me from straying too far from home, I decided I too would blog about cats.

All critters, whether they have fur, fins, or feathers, have their own personalities once you get to know them. Pets, because they live in close proximity, certainly display very individual characteristics. We have three cats, all siblings, which will be 8 years old in late March, and like kids, are each their own persons. 

Bonya, named after a cartoon character, Is a long haired black and white male. Tigritsa which means little female tiger, is a long hair calico. Vovo (pronounced Wova) is a short haired black male. Vovo is the diminutive of Vladimir and is named after Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (don't ask). Their father, a short hair orange Tom, was named Kuchma after the then president of Ukraine and their mother a long haired black, was named Krasotka which means Babe.



Vovo. Black cats do not photograph well

Bonya is pretty much Tanya's cat. His choice. If she is watching TV, he will cuddle up beside her or lie on top of her. Pet him and he purrs loudly. He is the only one we can pick up and cuddle. When we let him in from outside, he jumps on a table and insists on being petted. If he is not satisfied with the length of time he is petted he will grab you with one front clawed foot and make you come back. 

Bonya loves to be brushed. Tigritsa on the other hand, hates it. Tanya had forcibly brushed her and when she got away, she was sitting on the carpet, fuming mad at the whole world. Just then Bonya walked by, innocent as a lamb. She crossed checked him into the boards.

Tigritsa is more or less my cat. Again, her choice. She will jump up on my keyboard tray to be petted and then sleep on my arm. All I can do is play solitaire until she decides to move off. If I am sitting at the table she will jump on the chair next to me and insist on being petted. She has a quiet purr but it very talkative, lets me know when she wants up on the keyboard or outside or into the attic store room or whatever. 

These two hang together a great deal

Vovo got a treat. We are not pleased

Vovo is his own cat. He will curl up by Tanya on the couch, then if she gets up, will stretch out and take the entire middle, leaving Tanya to sit on the loveseat. He will come to me to be petted too. He won't jump onto my keyboard but if I lift him up he is happy and will even go to sleep if I pet him long enough. 

Tigritsa on my keyboard tray

Vovo sleeping on my keyboard tray

They have dry Whiskas cat food free choice and get a couple cooked sardines each in the morning and again at night that Tanya buys by the kg or maybe pieces of chicken. Boneless skinless chicken breast. They have a dish of tap water but prefer the bottled stuff we buy for tea and coffee, so we keep a small glass dish (at least it is not crystal) on the counter. We keep a couple of water jugs on the counter and have to cover them with a tea towel or they will drink out of the jugs rather than bend down to drink from their dish. Tanya caught Vovo one day carefully lifting the towel with his head so he could drink from the jug. 

They are indoor outdoor cats. In summer they come in only to eat. The river and marsh is quite close and they like to go there to hunt. There is also a great deal of vacant garden space grown to grass and weeds that is great for mice. Tigritsa is the hunter and will on occasion bring her catch home, not always dead.  In winter they go out mainly for the call of nature. 

The cats used to climb our big grape vine to the balcony and go in and out through the balcony door. The vine got trimmed back so I built a drawbridge for them. Two summers ago swallows built a nest in our balcony so we pull the drawbridge for a few months until the babies have flown away. The cats have learned to bang on the balcony door to get let in. 

Stairway to heaven

Bonya has a soft heart. When our German Shepherd showed up last October as a wee starving sick puppy, Bonya worried about him and would check on him every hour or two. Once Lucky got well and went into the dog yard with Volk, Bonya would still worry. He goes with Tanya (only outside the fence) when she takes the dogs their food to make sure Lucky is OK. Lucky looks for him too. They touch noses through the fence and Lucky even brought his toys to show Bonya. 

He is also the supervisor of all things in the kitchen. If we bring home groceries, Bonya will sit on the counter to see what everything is. When Tanya is cooking, he will sit on the counter or windowsill to make sure she is doing it right. He has to know things.

Cats spend most of the time sleeping, so we have too many pictures of that.  But they sleep everywhere. They will each have a special place and after a while they will find a new special place. They all sleep on the register if they are cold but other than that it varies from month to month or even day to day. 

Vovo is normal.  Either beds or the couch, though for a while it was Tanya's office chair. Bonya is also mostly normal. Beds or couch but also the clothes basket in the downstairs bathroom and these days the ironing board in the downstairs bedroom. It is close to the register so it is warm but sometimes he forgets where he is, rolls over and falls off. Tigritsa sleeps in the strangest places and rarely for any set number of days. 

Vovo warming up after being outside

She learned to open it herself

A tiny basket for a medium size cat

Tigritsa loves boxes, much more so than the others

The bowl was a wedding gift. It usually has fruit in it but several summers ago, it held cats.

One last thought. A door is something a cat is always on the wrong side of.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Quotations to Make You Smile

 From my friend Wayne, from his friend Nick in Australia.

~ John Glenn...

As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind - every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.

 ~ Desmond Tutu...

When the white missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, "Let us pray." We closed our eyes. When we opened them , we had the Bible and they had the land. 

 ~ David Letterman...

America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.

 ~ Howard Hughes...

I'm not a paranoid, deranged millionaire. God dammit, I'm a billionaire. 

 ~ Old Italian proverb...

After the game, the King and the pawn go into the same box. 

 ~ Betsy Salkind...

Men are like linoleum floors. Lay 'em right and you can walk all over them for thirty years. 

 ~ Jean Kerr...

The only reason they say "Women and children first," is to test the strength of the lifeboats. 

 ~ Zsa Zsa Gabor...

I've been married to a communist and a fascist, and neither would take out the garbage. 

~ Jeff Foxworthy...
You know you're a redneck if your home has wheels and your car doesn't. 

~ Prince Philip...
When a man opens a car door for his wife, it's either a new car or a new wife. 

 ~ Emo Philips...

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kickboxing. 

 ~ Harrison Ford...

Wood burns faster when you have to cut and chop it yourself. 

 ~ Spike Milligan...

The best cure for Sea Sickness is to sit under a tree. 

 ~ Robin Hall...

Lawyers believe a person is innocent until proven broke.

 ~ Jean Rostand...

Kill one man and you're a murderer, kill a million and you're a conqueror.

 ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger...

Having more money doesn't make you happier. I have 50 million dollars but I'm just as happy as when I had 48 million. 

 ~ WH Auden...

We are here on earth to do good unto others. What the others are here for, I have no idea. 

 ~ Jonathan Katz...

In hotel rooms I worry. I can't be the only guy who sits on the furniture naked.

 ~ Johnny Carson...

If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead. 

 ~ Warren Tantum...

I don't believe in astrology. I am a Sagittarius and we're very skeptical. 

 ~ Steve Martin...

Hollywood must be the only place on earth where you can be fired by a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a baseball cap. 

 ~ Jimmy Durante...

Home cooking. Where many a man thinks his wife is. 

 ~ Doug Hanwell...

America is so advanced that even the chairs are electric. 

~ George Roberts...
The first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone. 

 ~ Jonathan Winters...

If God had intended us to fly , he would have made it easier to get to the airport. 

 ~ Robert Benchley... 

I have kleptomania, but when it gets bad, I take something for it.