Monday, September 28, 2015



It's a topic that's been in the news a lot lately and it has made me think back.   I was an immigrant child, coming from a northern European country.   Maybe one of the ones that migrants seek to settle in today.   But at the time of my family's emigration, the economies of Europe were not thriving;   jobs were scarce and housing scarcer.   As a young child I was aware of none of this; but there was no war and no shortage of food.

I've been told that we were were sponsored by my father's sister who had arrived a couple of years earlier.   The airfare was lent to us by the Canadian government.   My father paid it back slowly over a few years.  We were poor, I realize now, but my father got a job almost right away, despite his limited English.  He was never out of work until his retirement, slowly improving himself until he obtain a good position.   There was housing to rent affordably and later to purchase.   Jobs are not as plentiful now and in the major urban centres, housing is very expensive.

I started Grade 1 a few months after our arrival.   There was no English language instruction at that time;  I received 'E's on my Report Card to indicate my inabilities.  This was the next  grade up from an 'F'.  I slowly improved;  by Grade 2 I had worked my way up to 'D's' and so on.   Since I now have several post-graduate degrees and diplomas, somehow it all worked out.  As an English language teacher, I see Kindergarten children, born in this country, who don't speak any English.   Their parents, who immigrated  to Canada prior to their birth, have done them a disservice,  I think.

As a homemaker, which most married women were at that time, my mother struggled to learn English.   I seem to recall that the neighbourhood children would throw crab apples at our front door for the pleasure of seeing my mother come out and shout at them in a foreign language.   Although not especially religious,  my parents became involved with the local immigrant church.  That continued as an important social connection.   But we never lived in an immigrant enclave and I eventually married someone who was not from my 'home' country.  

I am interested to see how everything unfolds in Europe.  It is history in the making. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Si, blings

From a Writers' Group prompt:   Siblings

"Si, blings, that is what it called.  Very nice."

 The wizened vendor at the small street stall was quick to assure me.  I was on vacation in Mexico staying in a small seaside town on the Pacific Coast.  There was a weekly market at the Zocalo, as the centre town square was called.  I always found myself pulled towards the small, down the side street, stalls, thinking they would contain more authentic wares.  On the small wooden table a tray of large silver and turquoise jewellery pieces had caught my eye.   Some were a trifle on the gaudy side, complete with an edging of shiny stones.

"A bit over the top," I muttered under my breath.  "Maybe if it was made into a ring."

The elderly man, with his English as sparse as my Spanish, smiled encouragingly.  "Si, they are for blings, you know for fancy, for blings."

I had to laugh and then I felt obliged to purchase one of his pieces.   They weren't very expensive.   Anyway, you can always use a little bling in your life.

(This piece came about when I was stumped as to the topic 'siblings' for a 15 minute impromptu write.  I felt a little sheepish as I read it out, but it made us laugh.)

Monday, September 14, 2015

I love dogs!

I just wish that we treated dogs (and cats) better, after we domesticated them.   I've read that Australia plans to 'cull' (newspeak for euthanize) 2 million feral cats.   The cats are eating an endangered native rodent.

I can't help but wonder why no one noticed the ever increasing wild cat population problem before it got to that level and instituted a spay and neuter program.   Many developing countries have done this for dogs and cats.

"He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."

        --Immanuel Kant

"I care not much for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it."
        --Abraham Lincoln

"The greatness of a nation, and its moral progress, can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

         --  Ghandi

     --greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

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Monday, September 7, 2015

A Good Book

                                Flying with Amelia by Anne DeGrace

 I'll have to retract my last post about the difficulties in finding books I enjoy reading, because this one caught and held my attention right from the start.   The title of this book isn't reflective of the topic nor is the front cover which would seem to go against popular advice to authors.   The 'Amelia' referred to is Amelia Earhart, the famous woman pilot who  amazed the world.   But Amelia is only mentioned in passing as a fantasy of a female character.

The book traces key events in Canadian history starting with emigrants from Ireland escaping the potato famine.  Descendants of two families are featured, for example, during World War I and then later the Great Depression in stand-alone short story style.  I especially liked the earlier stories.

The first story brought me back to my visit to Dublin last summer which included a tour of a famine ship docked on the banks of the Liffey River, which flows through Dublin.   There is an arresting series of cast iron statues depicting the malnourished people and a skinny dog departing for hopefully a better life.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Finding books to read


Once upon a time, finding books to read was limited to the offering of the local library or small neighbourhood bookstore.   Now, there are more books available than ever.   Amazon alone has about 8 million on offer, including e-books.   Bookstores are diminished in number but expanded in size, even if they do now include in their merchandise coffee, toys and towels.  I really have no excuse.

But somehow my efforts are thwarted and I feel doomed to disappointment.   (Okay, that's a little over the top).   But I would hesitate to spend $20 or $30 on a book for fear the money would be wasted on me.   I suspect it may be that I am too choosy.   Nothing too violent or too sexual and no being mean to animals!    My method of finding books may be suspect.   Perhaps I am 'spoiled for choice'.  (i.e., there are just too many so choice becomes almost impossible)   It just seems that lately I bring home books or purchase e-books that I don't complete.   Is this happening to you?

Partly, as a writer myself, it may be that I am too critical.   I read with a writer's eye, not a reader's.
Perhaps, we are all too busy now and expect a book to engage us within a few chapters.   On the other hand, I am impatient with the plot of device of a major accident or crisis on the first page.   Too obvious.

But, I keep trying.   The rewards of finding a book that is engrossing, memorable and engaging is a sufficient pleasure that I continue the hunt.

(I've decided to start up my blog again after a long hiatus.  Maybe just once a week, instead of two times a week.  But there are a lot of back posts!)