Sunday, May 29, 2016



I found this post describing research showing that most items of clothing are only worn seven times before they are discarded to be appalling.   When did we become such a wasteful society?   If it was only the fashionistas' budget that suffered it would be one thing, but the environment as well as many women who are virtual wage slaves in developing countries are suffering as well.

It can't be more than a couple of generations from the times when clothes were kept for years, if not decades.   The trend was to have a dressmaker makeover a quality garment with new sleeves or collar  so that the item could be worn longer.  Thrift shops or charity shops were not common because people kept their clothing until it was truly worn out.

During World War II, the phrase  Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do,  or Do Without  became a mantra and even appeared on posters.   After the war  it was understandable that many people wanted to make up for years of deprivation but  seventy years later it seems the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

It can be compared to the amount of waste of food produced for human consumption, according to  the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, described  here.

It seems that at the retail level, large quantities of food are wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance.    Even produce feels the need to conform to beauty standards.  I can only hope that the situation moderates at some point in the not to distant future.   For all our sakes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

You can't hold back progress . . . ?


       I hear this from others but I don't utter it myself.   A pleasant, uncrowded neighbourhood or area, full of leafy trees, fresh air, scurrying squirrels and fuzzy brown rabbits evolves inevitably.   First come the green signs signifying the nature of the development that is to take place.   Somehow, the two acre lot that held a small family home with a surrounding green buffer is going to become the living area to ninety-five townhouses.   Looking at the space, it doesn't seem possible.

        I have ceased to wonder why residential development can speed along with considerable changes from week to week, whereas the building of a new and desperately need elementary school manages to consume three years.   The next stage involves clearing the land, the better to squeeze in the maximum number of housing units.    Although the City has a tree by-law, it can be circumvented depending on the type of tree (some are considered weed trees and are expendable).  A fine or fee can be paid to remove a tree that is deemed to be in the way of construction.    Usually a few trees in an obscure corner are preserved and carefully fenced in, again with orange tape and plastic fencing, all the better to shout, "See developers do care about the Environment." 

         Now come the road or lane closures.   Garish orange cones and flag people with matching vests begin to clutter the landscape surrounding what once was the charming abode.  (It is true that the home may have been run down or even abandoned, the owners now departed with two or more million in their pockets).   I try to seek alternate routes, at first to avoid the traffic delays and later the flat tires from the enormous construction nails that inevitably work their way onto the roadway.  Even the Michelin Man can't keep those from entering my tires.

            Before long the project is complete.   Ninety additional housing units with a couple of hundred extra cars on the surrounding roads and fifty to a hundred school children to be housed in hastily delivered portables at the already full neighbourhood school.   If this was a one-time occurrence adaptation could be made but this is one of dozens of  developments on just one long road.    

                It's called City Planning but it doesn't seem like there's a plan.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

AH, MOVING . . .


Surrounded by boxes I ponder my fate,
Did I really want to leave or should I wait?
The constant decisions; to keep or to toss,
Either way, it feels like a loss.

New adventures await me
My life will be free
So much to arrange

It all feels so strange.

After decades as resident, I’m leaving my home
No explanations needed, there’s nothing to condone
I’m more than mere possessions that flash,

The things gathered ‘round  me are more than just trash.

Onwards or upwards or some inspiring verse
Keeps my heart from despair and my lips from a curse.
New horizons prevent getting old,

At least that's what I’ve been told.

This complicated life makes me long for a tent
To pick up and go and never pay rent
No one to notify, no one to tell
Do I really want the bills to follow me as well?

This empty house is only a space
That now seems to barely show a trace
Of the time that was spent with those I hold dear
The memories will accompany me, of that I have no fear.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


There have only been a few times in my life when I haven't had a pet in my life.   I've come to realize how much I -- and many others -- consider their pets when planning a vacation, choosing a home or even a spouse.   It's a question of 'love me, love my dog!

Here's an excerpt from  If Llamas Could Talk . . .  (A Jaswinder Mystery) that considers an atypical, but still loved pet, a llama named Henrietta.


For a moment nothing seemed to register for Jaswinder.    Henrietta ears lay back on her head and her head itself began darting up and down as though she was stretching her neck.   Jaswinder held tight to the halter and tried to figure out what was the best thing to do.  Much as she disliked Kyle, she couldn’t just walk away.  
What could have happened?  She studied him closely for a moment.   He wasn’t dead, was he?   Drunk, most likely.  She noticed blood on the front of his head where his hair met his forehead.  Could he have fallen from somewhere?   She looked up.   There was a half hayloft above under the roof beams at the top of the barn but how would anyone get up there?    Looking around, Jaswinder saw a steep wooden ladder over by the side wall.  Why would Kyle have climbed up there?
 It came to her all of a sudden.   He was the one who had put the earbuds in Henrietta’s ears.   He was always walking around listening to music and a rich kid like him probably had several ipods, replacing older technology with newer.   The mp3 player was last year’s product.   But why?  Why would he do something like that?   It was just plain mean.  Henrietta was no competition to Frederick III.   It wasn’t even the same type of camelid.  While Jaswinder stood frozen, Henrietta started making a strange noise, first groaning and then gurgling.  Wasn’t that what the llama expert this morning had said that they did just before they spit their stomach contents and bile at you?   Should she duck?
   Jaswinder started to back up and led Henrietta back into her stall.   Why didn’t someone else come in?   After a few meters of walking backwards, Henrietta suddenly let go of a huge spitball in the direction of Kyle or was that Kyle’s body, landing on one of his jean clad knees and splashing up onto his shirt.  Kyle showed no reaction.  Jaswinder could feel her heart pounding under her sweater.    If ever there was a time to scream, this was it.   If someone didn’t come into the barn within the next two minutes, she was going to start yelling.   Now that she thought of it, she decided not to wait.
  “Help!  Help!   I need help in here.   Somebody, please!”  Jaswinder waited for a few seconds, feeling the sweat rolling down her back.   Henrietta had gone back to her position at the back of the stall, as far as possible from where Kyle was lying.   Jaswinder noticed, without thinking about it really, that her ears had come back to a more normal position.   She reached out and patted her a few times.
  She decided to try it one more time, then, she would have to leave Henrietta and go for help.
  “Help, help!   In the barn!   I need help.  Right now!”  Finally, Jaswinder heard boots approaching.
  “Is that you, Jaswinder?”   What’s happened?”  Bev strode into the barn, followed by her friend from the knitting booth.    She took one look at Henrietta and moved quickly into the stall.   “Jaswinder, are you all right?   You look like you’re going to pass out.   Here, sit down on the bale of hay here.”   She led Jaswinder over by the arm.  Her friend, Beth, stood just outside, looking anxiously in.
  They had no idea, Jaswinder realized, and she took a couple of deep breaths.   “Bev, Beth, go out and check on the floor over there.”   She gestured towards the middle of the barn.   “Something’s happened.   You need to call an ambulance . . . or something.”
   Craning her neck to look in the direction Jaswinder had gestured, Beth took the few steps to where Kyle was lying.   “Oh, my God.   What’s happened?   Who is this?    Is he . . . is he dead?”
  Bev turned from trying to console Henrietta and looked up, a shocked expression on her face.  “Dead?   One of the llamas is dead?  What has been going on here?   Where’s Ernie?   He’s supposed to be here to keep an eye on things.”
  Her friend crouched over Kyle and placed her hand on the side of his neck for a few seconds.  “He’s dead, Bev, but not for long.   His body is still warm.”  She looked up with a puzzled expression.   “Do you know him, Bev?   He doesn’t look very old.  It looks like there’s been some sort of injury to his forehead, see where there’s some blood?”
  Bev looked over the stall railing and reached for the cell phone in her pocket two seconds later.  Jaswinder leaned back on the bale of hay and took another deep breath.   Someone else was here to help, that was the main thing.   The way her legs were shaking she didn’t think she could do anything right at the moment.   She certainly wasn’t going to be able to present Henrietta in the show ring even if Henrietta was in any kind of condition to be shown.
 Beth got up and walked over to Henrietta's stall.  Bev had headed outside; something about getting better reception.   Jaswinder felt a hand on her should and opened her eyes and looked up into Beth’s sympathetic eyes.
“It’s a shock, I know.  At the hospital you get used to death but it still gives you a start when it’s unexpected and in someone so young.”
Jaswinder felt grateful that someone understood.    Her head felt like it was stuffed with tissue and she couldn’t think straight.     What had Henrietta seen?   Or what had she done?  Was it possible that she . . . Jaswinder choked off that thought.
“Did you see the mp3 player on his chest, Beth?”
“Yeah, it must have fallen out of his ears when he fell backwards.”
Jaswinder started to explain and stopped.   She felt like she couldn’t say anything to anyone and hoped no one would press her.   Just outside the barn, Bev still explaining on her cell phone.
“It’s called a holding barn.”  Bev appeared to be listening for a few seconds.  “That’s right.   You can’t miss it.  No, no, it’s the large building at the south end of the field.”   Silence again.    “There’s a lot of livestock here, maybe turn off the sirens before you pull in or they might start to stampede.   Okay, okay, I’ll wait out here at the entrance to the barn.”  She clicked off her cellphone and turned into where Jaswinder and Beth were watching her.
Jaswinder stood up as she approached, her legs steadier now.   She avoided looking over at Kyle’s body.   “I was thinking . . . do you think . . . should we take Henrietta back to Camelot.   There are going to be a lot of strangers and a lot of noise in here soon and she’s not very happy.”   She looked over at Beth.   “I don’t know if you noticed, Beth, but Henrietta spit or threw up onto Kyle.    It happened so quickly before I realized what was going on.”
“Yeah, I noticed something slimy and smelly on his stomach.   I wondered what that was,” Beth said.  “Why would she have done that?   I mean, are llamas sensitive to the smell of death?   Bev, what do you think?”
“I don’t know, I just don’t know.    She’s never done that before.”   The sound of sirens approaching became increasingly loud.   A couple started to enter the barn but Bev walked back to the entrance and told them that the barn was closed for the time being.  Jaswinder felt a sudden urgency to explain about the mp3 player.  She walked over to barn entrance and saw the ambulance turning into the driveway.   “Bev . . . Bev, someone had put mp3 earphones into Henrietta’s ears just . . . just . . . sometime this afternoon.   The music was blasting really loud into her ears.   I . . . I just yanked it out . . . I was so shocked.   I threw it over the railing before . . . before I knew Kyle was lying there.”
Bev turned from watching the approaching ambulance.  “What?   What are you saying, Jaswinder?”
Jaswinder took a deep breath to launch into the explanation again but the ambulance had turned in and the paramedics got out of the ambulance as Bev waved them towards her.   The repetition of the explanation could wait.

                           * * *

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Movie Deja vu



    A movie watched, or a book read in a particular location, can forever  remain associated with that location.    I haven't found this to apply when the location is  home, work or business but only with a vacation destination.  It also works only for the first viewing;  repeats don't seem to count.

     I can clearly recall watching the movie, Chocolat, with   Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp  in San Juan, Costa Rica.     For me, the city wasn't particularly attractive;  perhaps it has changed in the past ten years.   We were staying in a two star hotel that was frankly a bit of a disappointment, on the first day of a GAP tour.  The walls were painted a disappointing green and the television was an antique vintage.

     But the film, set in a French village, was charming and evocative and along with three members of my family we were starting a vacation together.   Now whenever I come across the film on a cable network, I have a momentary reverie.   It's a little like an almost forgotten scent or fragrance that  recalls someone or something you thought you had forgotten.  I suppose the title doesn't hurt, either.