Monday, December 20, 2010

The Garden Report #29

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

• Sleigh bells ring, are you listening: December 19th is not too early to be singing Christmas carols, even by Scrooge’s standards…bah, humbug and all that. It is early Sunday morning. Three a.m. early. Our company from last night’s block party have departed, hours ago, wishing us well. Murphy has had his customary cuddle before settling into his next episode of rest. As a senior cat, he insists on protracted bouts of beauty sleep. Maureen has drifted off to dream of dancing with The National Ballet or is it The Royal Winnipeg tonight? Perhaps she has the prima donna role in The Nutcracker, seeing as it is Christmas. And me? I sit here on the edge of the bed with my laptop balanced precariously, as the dialysis machine whirrs and gurgles and carries out its mission. Except for the hum of this artificial kidney, the house is quiet. There is no noise drifting in from the street. No one is shouting or yelling as happens in the summer time. My ‘Inbox’ lights up. It is Jodi Sadowsky from The Fringe. She often works late into the night when sleep does not come easily. The boiler that keeps our house ever so warm is fairly quiet tonight, with the hot water passing through the pipes in its endless cycle. Is there a Buddhist metaphor within the boiler system as the water moves up and down, back and forth? Do you see what happens when you leave me alone with my thoughts for too long? Now is the time to say goodnight from a writer’s point of view, but as a reader, you may perceive a ‘good day’ instead. After all, you are now up and about…just like the water flowing through the pipes. I knew there had to be a way to tie that one together. Merry Christmas.
Murphy at Christmas (he hates books!)

• Readers Write: Denise Cook writes “…love reading your entertaining stories…always, always get a laugh.” Daniel Redenbach who is a local, young film director and reader of The Garden Report wrote “I am loving The Garden Report and always forward it to my mother.” Kate Berringer reports that she is forwarding this blog to her parents who live in Medicine Hat. Chris Pasterfield writes “Couldn’t agree more with the slovenly dressed folks who fly-absolutely no pride.” Marg Hryniuk wrote “You are like a dog with a bone, but then so am I.” Rex Deverell, who always has a sly wit to his writing, wrote in regarding the inappropriately dressed young woman at the wedding. Rex suggested “Obviously, the grooms ex girlfriend.” Reader Phyllis Ng baked me a cookie tin filled with ‘poppycock’. For the uninitiated, it is popcorn, nuts, corn syrup and other stuff that I am certain is very, very good for you. Almost a health food. If the dietician from the dialysis clinic is reading this, I did not eat any. I gave it all away. If the dietician is not reading this, don’t any of you bother to ask if I will share with you. The answer is ‘NO!’ Cheryl Hutton out of Calgary writes that her Noble Fir Christmas Tree is very fragrant. Susan Rollins reports that in their home, they set up the tree on the 24th of December and remove it on the 6th of January. Susan also comments that having spent many years working in Africa and The Middle East, they value a traditional Christmas more than ever. Donna Banks from Saskatoon, wrote that she enjoyed the CBC story regarding our fireplace on television. Ann Marie Woods of Access Television advises that the our fireplace tape has become so popular, that during the holiday season, they will be running it around the clock on Digital Channel One. Hey, I didn’t even know there was a Channel One. Roberta Nichol’s amaryllis is in bloom and she loves it. She has an ‘Orange Sovereign’.

• Nicky’s Cafe: Hanging out with Nicky and Perry on Monday night. I asked Perry what was the strangest customer experience he has had. He said the one that sticks out was the woman who came up to him at the cash register and refused to pay for her coffee. Why? Because the waitress had refilled her cup and destroyed the perfect balance of cream and sugar she had been enjoying. He told her no problem, there would be no charge.

• Community: If you don’t understand the importance of community service, then you will never understand the nature of community.

• Just a thought: For the last few years, I have been taking money that I would have spent on Christmas gifts and donated it to The Humane Society. Gail over at The Humane Society sends out thank you cards and tax receipts to those I have designated. It’s easy to do. I don’t know if the recipients enjoy the ‘gift’, but I am so tired of materialism. If you participate, your gift will help out a few of our four legged friends this winter. Murphy suggests that you send the money directly to him to support his ‘tuna’ habit.

• Sadly: Doug Killoh passed away from Alzheimer’s Disease this past week. Dough coached many of us on The Rams as well as playing hockey for The Pats and football for The Riders. As the Alzheimer’s Disease took over his body and mind, I felt it was best for Doug if I introduced myself each time we met. That seemed to trigger his memory and then we would talk. The fifth time I introduced myself, Doug stopped me, complaining “I know who you are and why do you keep introducing yourself to me ?” Doug will be missed.

• Garden Tip: Even the pros make mistakes. I got up Monday morning and the poinsettia in our dining room had collapsed (severely drooped). The problem was, we had placed it in a window box directly over a hot water heating tube, which dried it out quite quickly. I didn’t panic. I took the plant to the sink and filled the sink with two inches of water. I let the plant sit in the water for twenty minutes and then I removed it. About four hours later, it was half recovered. The next morning, you could not tell the stress it had undergone. It was just fine.

• Heaven on Earth: Each of us has our own definition of pure bliss. On Wednesday, my good woman baked up some ‘Chinese Chews’. You rarely see those treats anymore though they were popular as far back as The Great Depression. A few ‘fresh from the oven’ samples along with a full bodied coffee and I could not imagine life any finer than this experience.

• Writer’s Block: Sometimes, it is best for us to develop some form of a writer’s block rather than commit our angriest thoughts to paper, and then sign that letter. Several years back, a local school teacher was selling a line of energy efficient light bulbs. He left me his literature and I had my electrician check into the product. The electrician said that due to the special wiring required, I would never recover my initial outlay with the electrical savings. So, I said to the salesman, “no thanks”. He had somehow got it into his head that I should be purchasing his product and he was upset with me. Very upset. He wrote a poison pen letter, attacking me and calling me a number of unkind names. Then he signed it. Big mistake. I was a little miffed, especially with the name calling. I made two hundred copies of his letter and I included it in all of my outgoing mail. I didn’t defend myself or pass comment on his letter. I didn’t feel I needed to as his letter was more a reflection of his character than it was of mine. The responses were hilarious. ‘Act in haste, repent at leisure.’

• History Buffs: Since I was a small child, I have been a history buff. Don’t know why. Just me. While in both elementary and high school, I heard from other students that history is nothing more than a bunch of dates. Let me set the record straight in 2010, for those of you keeping track, dates are only important to us history buffs to keep the narrative straight. Dates are the ‘book marks’ of history. You can’t have Napoleon trying to sell a condo to Oliver Cromwell. The math ‘just don’t work’.

• Living History: There is so much living history around us. Our neighbor until he died, J. Lorne MacDougall, was a lawyer. J. Lorne told me that as a young, articling student, his mentor had been part of Louis Riel’s defense team at the 1885 trial. My favorite university professor, Anatol Murad, told me that as a young boy at the turn of the 1900’s, he remembered being bounced on his great uncle’s knee. His uncle had served in the cavalry during The Crimean War of 1856. Around 1912, The Grand Trunk Railway decided to build a grand hotel where The Royal Saskatchewan Museum now stands. The piles were drilled and the structural iron was installed. Then World War One started and construction ground to a halt, never to resume. The structural iron stayed that way until it was dismantled around 1927 and used in the construction of the brand new Hotel Saskatchewan. Not all of the iron beams made it over to the hotel. Two were spirited away and installed in the building of a new home at 2635 Regina Avenue. The new home belonged to the provincial architect at the time. That home is now our home and the beams are still here. Links to history.

• Two sides: There are two sides to every conversation. What is spoken and what is heard. When organic products were in their infancy, I wanted to be on the leading edge. So I was selling all sorts of stuff that had a ‘green’ lineage. One of those items was fish fertilizer. One day I received a telephone call from some activist wanting to ensure I was being socially responsible. They do that sort of thing. He asked me if my fish fertilizer was “from whales”. Being a history and geography nut, I heard the question as being is your fish fertilizer “from Wales” to which I responded “no, it is from Alaska.” He was quite irritated with my response, but eventually we got it sorted out. It wasn’t from whales or Wales.

• What I heard: Along the same lines of similar sounds, my friend booked a package trip to Hawaii in the 1970’s. She was telling me the little things that were included, including a free ‘lei’ upon arrival. At the time, I had no idea that a lei was a flower garland. Needless to write but I will anyways, I heard another interpretation of the word ‘lei’. So I cracked wise. “Do the men get one or just the women?” She assured me that everyone got a ‘free lei’. I carried on. “So, do they give it to you on the tarmac or do they at least wait until you arrive at your hotel ?” “The moment you step off the plane, you get it. They line you up on the tarmac for the ceremony.” I thought, Hawaii must be the friendliest place on earth.

• Still with the crossed signals: My school mate Debbie Cameron (nee Kerwin) was driving to the garden center with her girlfriend. Debbie loved Lakeview Gardens and told her girlfriend who had never been, that everyone at Lakeview was very friendly. Debbie and her friend arrived and I greeted them at the front gate. As Debbie and I have been friends since we were fifteen, I gave her a hug. After hugging Debbie, I turned to her girlfriend and jokingly said “Your turn”. Her girlfriend embraced me, but in quite a wooden fashion. As the two of them walked down the path towards the greenhouse, the girlfriend turned to Debbie and said “Boy, you weren’t kidding when you said they were friendly here.” Debbie had neglected to inform her friend of our long standing friendship and the girlfriend assumed that someone stood at the front gate, giving customers a hug, all day long. Much more intimate than the Wal-Mart greeter, don’t you think?

• Statistics don’t lie: One Sunday morning around 6:30 a.m. in July, I was unloading a truck that was in transit to Winnipeg. The driver just couldn’t wait until we opened to get our delivery off. Out for an early morning walk was everyone’s friend, Nicky Makris. Nicky is chatting away to me as the sweat rolled off of my brow. He told me that if I lost some weight, my sex life would improve by thirty per cent! So I asked our Greek friend, “by thirty per cent, are you referring to quantity or to quality?” Nicky appeared confused by my question. So I carried on. “And if I were the lose even more weight, do you think my sex life would improve by forty per cent or does the law of diminishing returns kick in?” Nicky was now perplexed. So I asked “And if I only lost a little bit of weight, such as five pounds, would my sex life improve to the point where my wife would notice or would the improvement be something that only I would appreciate?” Pondering these three questions, Nicky left the scene, muttering away to himself. I continued to unload the truck, having met my quota for irritating others. I just knew it was going to be a very, good day.

• A decent man: Reader Marg Hryniuk wrote in to say that she enjoys reading stories about good people. And my response was that I enjoy writing them. Many years ago, I had a visit from the sales manager of Redi Mix. He knew that I purchased my bricks and concrete from Jerry Tell over at Cindercrete. He said “my price is as good as Jerry’s, my service matches his and my quality is equal, so why do you never order from me?” A good question deserved a good explanation. In 1977, when I was a young man starting out in the trade, I stopped at Cindercrete, to check out their products. The first thing that Jerry did was to shake my hand. Then he got me a cup of coffee. Then he pulled out a credit application and told me that he would approve me for a thousand dollars to start. He did not know who I was, at the time. He treated me as an important person when I was new and not all that important, and that is why I remained a loyal customer for thirty years. Jerry treated everyone as if they were important. People wanted to do business with him. Nice guys do finish first.

• Regina Avenue rocks: Every year, the last Saturday before Christmas, there is a block party for the Regina Avenue neighbors. This year, it was our turn to host. It was a pot luck supper with ham and cabbage rolls. The dessert table was full enough to promote Hyperactive Attention Deficit Syndrome for another year. Great neighbors and great food. It doesn’t get much better. One of the many reasons we love living in this community. The neighbors, all readers of this blog, asked if they would be mentioned. I assured them “absolutely not.”

• Merry Christmas from Rod McDonald in Regina

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