Monthly Archives: June 2015

I am sorry, but it’s not acceptable for my dog to be sick, and if only he’d told me

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It will likely come as no surprise that I am a heavy-duty animal lover. So is Wendy. To be frank, I wouldn’t have gotten together with her if she weren’t.

In my love of animals – all kinds of animals; domestic pets, livestock, critters or the wild, fish or fowl and all the mammals – I’m not neurotic about it. While I converse with Max I don’t really anticipate a return comment.

But, throughout me life, from the time I was a young child, I always had animals. Sometimes I think I have liked my pets more than most humans. They don’t give you no shit – except the kind you are expected to pick up, and I always do. They are honorable. They don’t deceive or tell lies. And they never, ever judge no matter how crappy a body’s behavior might be. “Hey, that’s not Mom, so why are you hugging and kissing her? But, I’m cool about it. Won’t go any further than me.”

So, I had cats, and I had dogs, and I had chickens, and I had ducks and I had geese. And it was all a worthwhile experience.

And in my love of animals there is one thing about them I don’t like. When they are ailing they cannot tell you what’s wrong. They can’t describe their symptoms or offer opinions on said symptoms. That’s frustrating.DSCN2225

All last week Max was unwell. Now we love Max almost neurotically, so we were disconcerted to say the least as he was lethargic, looked deeply depressed and gave meaning to the term ‘hangdog’. He didn’t want to eat. He didn’t want to go for walks. He had the blahs big-time. And of course I, in my own neurotic response to such things ended up thinking the worst. He’s nine now. He’s a big dog. Big dogs have shorter life expectancies, etc, etc. Worst-possible-scenarios running through my mind at fever pitch.

To the vet a week ago today and the assessment was that he was suffering from muscle inflammation from something having been pulled. He was put on anti-inflammatory stuff. That worked at the time and after giving him some time to relax he picked up a bit. At the same time, he wasn’t eating. He got to the point that he didn’t even want ‘treats’. Entirely unlike him. He was spending his days lying sequestered under the dogwood in the back yard. Like a depressed person, he didn’t want to mix-and-mingle.

Back to the vets again this past weekend. A further attempt to get to the bottom of it. We parted with a goodly sum to get blood tests, x-rays, an ultrasound and other stuff. A possibility exists that for what was deemed a gastrointestinal thing antibiotics might yet have to be prescribed, but at the moment he has been given the equivalent of human antacids and he seems to quite like food again. Not in huge quantities, but, you know, puppy-steps.

Now if only he could have told us what was wrong he might have saved everybody a lot of grief – not to mention money.

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What am I to do when I just don’t ‘do’ headgear?

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The weather, in case you haven’t noticed, has turned a bit torrid in these parts. The sun beats down relentlessly as we continue with a summer that kind of began in March and has just kept going. It’s the sort of weather that calls for folks to wear head covering.

All good, you know, skin cancer and all. In that context, and considering how torrid it is, I should be covering my pate and no longer be letting my wonderful silky hair (which I still have, blessedly) waft in the breeze.

And I would, except for one thing – I don’t ‘do’ hats. Nothing against hats – except for ballcaps and that was a disgusting vogue that seems to be waning – they fulfil a function and sometimes they are part of a costume that designates importance – like the pope or someone like that. Or a crown on some tyrant.

I like old pictures of men in fedoras back when all men wore chapeaux. You’ve seen the old movies and you couldn’t imagine a Bogey or Edward G gangster minus headgear. They say JFK’s bareheadedness killed hat vogue, but it has never been proved that there was a hat manufacturer conspiracy behind the assassination. humphrey-bogart-with-fedora

And I am here to say I love hats on women; either nice, wide-brimmed tea in the sunshine hats or cutesy little fascinators at Ascot or other posh gatherings in which babes can say without fear of contradiction: “Hey, we’re rich and you’re not.”

But, as I say, I don’t do hats. I never have done hats. That was the reason I didn’t go into the army – they make you wear a hat.

Sometimes I think I should wear a hat. Aside from keeping the rain off my pate, a hat would be a certain insurance against skin-cancer when the days are torrid outside, as they are now.

When we were cruising in Central America a year and a half ago they advised us that we should get hats for the remainder of the trip; so in Huatulco, Mexico we took the plunge, but as we were heading to ports southerly I wanted a genuine Panama Hat as would befit the geography of where we were headed, and as we were to be going through the Panama Canal then such headgear would be apt. carlin hat asshole

We went into a small shop in Huatulco and got into a bartering session with the proprietor who was unwavering until I unleashed Wendy on him. She’s better at that kind of stuff than I am. And ultimately we bought genuine Panamas. And they looked kind of cool and even I wore mine a couple of times. And then we brought them home and there they have sat ever since.

But, as I want to go to the beach today I just might don it. That’s despite the fact I don’t do hats and the primary reason for that is that once I doff it I will feel like I’m still wearing it hours later.

A great herbal evil has been let loose on the land

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Shades of Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids, but a nearly bestial plant may be residing in your herbaceous border. Unlike the aforementioned Triffids this bit of vegetation doesn’t send you blind – only ‘self-abuse’, as every parochial school alumnus knows, can do that – it nevertheless can devastate your domestic well-being, not to mention wreaking havoc all over the place.

It is known as Japanese Knotweed and could almost be seen as a bit of Nippon revenge by those there still cranky about how World War Two turned out. Maybe you know the plant, hopefully you don’t in terms of actually having planted the evil thing. It turns out that Vancouver Island is a hotbed of profligate growth by a botanical species that does not say ‘no’ to any sort of insult you throw in its direction. Root the thing out and it just comes back in greater mass.Fallopia-japonica-Staude

On the Lower Mainland of BC and on the Island you find Canada’s Knotweed Central, and thus far the only provinces that seem to have escaped its Triffid-wrath seem to be Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Here on the Island you can see stretches of it along the Inland Island Highway, and elsewhere it has encroached on the shoreline, and wherever else it can take root, and that is something it does easily. Uproot the stuff and it comes back with a kamikaze vengeance. On the Mainland it has encroached on highway bridges, into the connections onto the Lion’s Gate and within Stanley Park. They have even found instances along Highway One where it has traveled underground and under blacktop to both sides of the highway. Yikes!

None of the effects here are as devastating as they have been in the UK where profligate knotweed growth has destroyed real estate values in some areas, and has literally ripped apart homes. Knotweed in your area? Good luck selling your home.destruction

Ironically my grandmother had a clump of knotweed, which she saw as mock-bamboo (it is very bamboo-like in appearance) and she liked the plant. Baht was in the days before the stuff went mad and it was still sold in gardening centres as an ornamental accent plant because it grow so quickly and easily. And therein, of course, lies the problem with the stuff.

How to get rid of it if you have it? Excavating doesn’t work worth a damn; it only encourages more growth. What works? Well, you’ll have to swallow your ‘green’ instincts and haul out the heavy-duty herbicides like Roundup. Judiciously applied, it works. And if you object to such an unenvironmental approach and let the stuff propagate and sneak into your neighbors’ yard I guess you’ll have to live with the outcome. Likely not a ‘pretty’ outcome.

If Satan were a plant, knotweed would pretty much qualify.

What’s in a name? Much more than a lot of parents might think

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6Goofing around on Facebook a while back (something I rarely do, goofing around, that is) I suggested a few possible alternate names for the new royal lass. My thoughts were revolving around the idea that this hyperprivileged newborn should be Christened with a nomenclature that departs from the conventional Royal monikers and maybe go a bit working-class in a spirit of inclusiveness and go for Brenda or Martha.

Or, how about soothing the Scots — who have been particularly obnoxious of late — and opt for ‘Heather’. My Facebook friend Kate suggested they should go with ‘Princess’ Leia. I mean, a bit of pop culture inclusivity. Why not? Personally I would opt for a particular folk heroine of mine who is as truly British as you can get, and that is Boudicca, after the dazzling queen of the Iceni in days of yore.

But she’ll probably stuck with some boring royal name. (NB she already has with a Catherine, Elizabeth and a predictable Diana thrown together, with Camilla having been rejected, obviously).

There is a particular problem with names, and that is that they are given to newborns by parents with the person impacted having no voice in the matter. And if the parents are trying to show how cool and hip they are, they will join innumerable other parents who are trying to be cool and hip and hence witness all the poor sonsabitches born in the 1960s who got stuck with ‘Dylan’, i mean thousands, maybe millions were so christened. Prior to Bob grabbing onto the name because he thought it sounded more poetic than Zimmerman, the only ‘Dylan’ a priori had been the Thomas one, you know, the Welsh drunkard and poet.

In that context I, for example, never liked my name when I was a child. I didn’t know any other ‘Ians’ so I thought it was a silly name and wide-open to mockery. “Ian-Ian; the big fat pee-on” and other bits of verbal revelry at my expense. Why couldn’t my parents have called me ‘Al’ or ‘Spike’? When I was in junior high I went to a school that boasted a lot of Italiano kids with names like ‘Carmine’ or ‘Mario’ or ‘Sal’. You know, street gang names. How cool would that be? But ‘Ian’?

I got a little more comfortable with my name to a degree when a kid moved down the street when I was in fourth grade and he was also name Ian. Nice kid and became a good friend. But, he was a member of a family that had recently immigrated from England. And, as was the vogue of the day with ‘limey’ kids (sorry, that was what we called them) he wore bloody short pants!english kids

I have gotten to know a few other Ians over the years and am more or less comfortable with the nomenclature, but it was also when I was in fourth grade insult was added to that name injury in that I had to wear glasses. That meant I was stuck with ‘four-eyes’ and ‘goggles’ at least until Buddy Holly came along and rendered specs kind of cool. Michael Caine as Harry Palmer (inspiring name, what?) cinched the deal. He was a cool and hip London bloke in the ’60s. Nothing much cooler than that, then.

Anyway, by the time I became an adult I got comfortable with, and even rather proud of my name. And as things go in life getting older is more challenging than fretting about what your parents called you.

You’ll forgive me but I don’t plan to even attempt to be funny here

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Charleston, South Carolina was named after roistering King Charles II of England. It later lent its name to an equally roistering dance of the 1920s in which bob-haired, short-skirted and uninhibited flappers, having escaped the prim restraints of the Victorian/Edwardian era uninhibitedly flashed their panties before appreciative lads of the era.

And the wonderful Gershwin folk opera, Porgy and Bess was situated very near Charleston. P&G focuses exclusively on black people, by the way, and that was over 70 years ago. So how far have we come?

I am old enough that I well remember the Freedom Riders. I listened to Martin Luther King before a redneck piece of shit blasted him to oblivion and immortality. So how far have we come?rebel-klan

The other day a similar piece of brain-dead shit walked into a black church and wasted nine innocent people whilst spouting racist, neo-Nazi horseshit. How far have we come? Again I must ask that.

So Charleston is a beautiful city and one of those trademark, candy-box, antebellum southern cities. Problem is it’s a place that also contains – I am sure in relatively small numbers (at least I hope so) – an element of antebellum mentality that doesn’t believe they drove old Dixie down back in 1865 and is still content to fly the hideous ‘stars-and-bars’ flag of the Confederacy on state buildings. How far then, have we come?

And I include ‘we’ in this mix in light of the fact that I have met Canadians of an equally vile and vicious mentality. I live in a society in which the native population has consistently been treated as 2nd-rate trash who should have their children taken from them, not to mention having their artifacts and artistry stolen in the name of some fucking white guy God.

Am I angry about this? I am extremely angry and horribly disappointed and already we are hearing apologists for this murderous piece of human excreta who took those unsuspecting lives of folk going about their worship.

How far have we come?

Leave the kids alone and they might evolve into something great

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When we walk Max across the park each morning we pass by Aspen Park Elementary school. Up above the school there is a little wooded area in which kids seem to play in at recess or lunch break.

Something that has come to fascinate us is the little objets d’art the kids create in that tiny copse. Stones arranged in little fortifications, nests created in a tree stump, and the one that fascinated me was the chalk sidewalk art, the work of budding screevers, and in one particular instant a bird and an insect cartoon rendering, both of which were almost professional looking in their sense of whimsy. Alas, some moron decided to clean off the walkway. I had meant to take a photo of the bird and bug and post them on FB, because whoever created them has, I think, a future in graphic art.art class

What appeals to me most about these ‘works’ is that these are children left on their own and without interference by overseeing adults. I am a great believer in that such is how it should be in order to tap into genuine creativity and imagination. Kids have that stuff naturally and schools only interfere with the process. And I say that as a former teacher so I know a bit about how these things work. And I also say that as a former student.

When I was in high school I took art. I took it for two reasons; it would be an easy grade since I was already a pretty decent artist. I had been drawing cartoons since I was small, and some of them were pretty good and I even still possess a few of them. I also understood the rudiments of sketching from life, and again I was pretty decent. And, as you know this has carried through to the fact I still paint. Artsiness is who I am.dans mon studio

My other reason was the fact that my inamorata (unrequited) had signed up for the class. That meant I just might be able to convince her that she was in love with me as well. Unsuccessful, I might add. And also that I could spend sessions contemplating the wonders of her ass in those tight skirts that were the order of the day. I did get the view (which added to my agonies about her) but nothing more. Oh well.

However, when it came to creativity being tapped; frankly I sucked. My approach was feckless and I suspect that was because the exercises were prescribed. I truly found it difficult to rise to the occasion and I turned out a lot of shit from beginning of the term to the end. Proof of that reality lies in the fact I have saved none of my work from that time, whereas I have saved most other things I’ve produced on my own.

I don’t fault the teacher in this. He was a fine artist in his own right, as well as being a witty and highly intelligent man. A man I could have learned much from, no doubt. Yet, I didn’t feel ‘free’ in that classroom situation; I felt intimidated, and nothing kills creativity (for me at least) than too much direction.

So, I can only hope that the kids of Aspen school are permitted to carry on with their wee projects without any interference, and we will then be able to continue to appreciate them.

Sometimes I get the feeling I have tended my garden much too long

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One thing you must understand about gardens is that they are relentless in their demands. Plants don’t care about what you want or need because they are incapable of such emotions, or any emotions. They are pretty much at the gardener’s bequest in terms of survival.

So, water them after you have provided them with a benevolent and fertile medium into which to extend their roots and they are as happy as – well, as happy as plants can be. They grow and produce flowers – the blooms are actually their naughty bits, designed to produce fruit of some sort so that they can reproduce their kind.

Sadly, if we ignore them they do one of two things. They either die – or they spread in profligate manner. Of the latter reality we have cornflowers that know no limits to their spreading, likewise grape hyacinths, and those silly silver-dollar plants.

To keep your plants prolific, you must weed, you must cultivate, you must prune, you must do a lot of backbreaking toil or you will never make it into the pages of Better Homes and Gardens.mememe

Our garden is looking good this year. Thanks to benevolent weather and with testament being borne by the scars from thorn lacerations on my arms it damn well better look good. That’s because I am still in ‘give a shit’ mode. In normal years the delights of the home botanical patch begin to pale by about August and most home gardeners are quite prepared to let the stuff go to seed, get dried out and, hopefully, harvest a few veggies. Otherwise, and again in normal years, at that time I am prepared to say “Your on your own, botanical stuff.”

This year, the year of the great no-winter and the year in which spring was largely passed by and we went into summer in early June, things are different.

I said to Wendy the other day that the tomato plants don’t seem to be moving along particularly brilliantly in terms of fruiting up. She pointed out when I made the statement that it was only mid-June. In ‘normal’ years the plants would have only been in the ground for a couple of weeks if we’d followed the normal May 24th dictates for tender plants. Those year, of course, they went into the ground weeks earlier.

Gardening equals exercise which equals tired small person.

Gardening equals exercise which equals tired small person.

What this is likely to mean is that I’ll get into gardening ennui by the beginning of July rather than the beginning of August. Come July I am going to start thinking a number of things like:

– we should move into an apartment and not have to worry about the garden at all. Just have potted plants in the house.

– we should go off on vacation and forget about tasks that need to be seen to out in the yard.

– we should just pave the whole damn thing over.

– we should be more accepting of the fact that we are at the advent of a major climate shift and start planting palms, Joshua trees and cacti.

– we should no longer worry about watering and just let everything dry up and blow away like tumbling tumbleweeds.

Yet, then I look outside and think, it all looks pretty damn nice and I do have some watering and fertilizing to do.