Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Garden Report #112

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

'Black Baccara' tea rose
• Writers write: Christmas is oh so very close, unless you are six years old and then it is taking forever to get here. I understand. It is one of those memories etched forever with in my existence. Being six was a time of deep responsibility. Having to be a good boy for the entire month of December placed undue pressure on my psyche. You, dear reader, are fortunate that I grew up to be as well balanced as I pretend to be.

It is also a time of reflection as another year passes while we await the emergence of a new one. The winter solstice has passed and the days will be getting longer, though not in any noticeable fashion for a month, give or take. I have one topic that many readers are familiar with, as I mention it often. That topic is community. Community only exists where and when we want it to. No one person, no government agency imposes it upon us. It begins with one neighbour offering a ride to another. Or shovelling a walk, greeting the mail person, and hosting a party. Our neighbourhood is very social. We have a Christmas party for the block, the last Saturday before the 25th, every year at the Janz’. It is pot luck which is the best type of party. Karen Pasterfield’ Kris Kringle cookies are absolutely divine and she thinks that all the funny stories told at our annual gathering should be printed in The Garden Repor,t but that would take up a lot of space.

One of the topics amongst our neighbours, is the ‘feet first’ attitude of our neighbourhood. All of us acknowledge, with no sense of foreboding, that our plan is to live here until one day the hearse picks us up and takes us out, feet first. I am such a cheery fellow at this time of year. Prior to that lovely event, our intention is to enjoy ourselves, each other and what we have to offer. As a reader recently wrote to this blog, “life is too short to go through it alone.”

The readers of The Garden Report have been a part of my journey and my sense of community. They have ensured that I have not been alone and that I had enough baking to float the proverbial battleship. Without such friendship, life would not be the joy I hold it to be. My glass is half full.

• Readers write: The Grammar Police are out in full force. The readers of this blog are really bearing down. First up: The plural of thesaurus is either thesauruses, which sounds made up, or thesauri, which sounds ostentatious. Regardless, that’s the fact, Jack. Second, I have an American spell check thus their spelling which includes labor, savor and check. If anyone knows how to change my computer over to Canadian English, please drop by and do so. I will not be offended, rather, quite pleased. Rod’s note: I think I found it, the Canadian version of spell check. Who said I am a Luddite? Hopefully, I am on track now with Canadian spelling. I can now safely include the phrase ‘how’s it going, eh?’

• Marsha Kennedy enjoyed #111. She writes: “I had a jolly good laugh over the power of counting to your thirty-six year old son. Sounds like your son was overcome by a few past memories and it is always irritating to find that, even as adults, our parents have a great deal of power over us. Our parents hold a very strong 'behavior bar' within us, even years after they have passed on.”

• Our matriarch of the arts community, Jean Freeman, weighed in this week with her set of compliments. “You are unique, (and possibly dangerous as well!) with all your interests, concerns, knowledge, foibles, passions and cautions! And I'm so grateful that you are my friend, and that I am on your mailing list (an extra thanks to your son the techie!) I don't quite believe that you bought the pinball machine for the kids all those years ago! I suspect it was actually for the inner children that you and your brother were sheltering.”

• My beloved kid sister, Bonnie, read last week’s internet edition.. “Awesome photo! Brought a tear to my eye!”

• Roberta Nichol has remained a steadfast fan of the blog. “What a wonderful closing to your Report this week. I am so glad you enjoyed last Saturday, selling your poinsettias, filling people up with delicious cider and Gouda cheese..... it was lovely, indeed, and I so enjoyed visiting with you. You're not hard to be with! People coming in and out of your house, bringing baking, goodwill and smiles...... that's a recipe for a good day, alright. And in the meantime, The Marian Centre is benefiting from your gesture. It feels so good to give, doesn't it? Talk about a win/win situation!”

• Chris Dodd is also in the running for the number one fan of The Garden Report. “I love watching the evolution of The Garden Report. In a season where there is no evidence of our beloved sleeping gardens, it remains relevant and entertaining. It seems to have become a metaphor for a good garden. We go where it takes us with perennial reminiscences of lives well lived. The staunch defense of grammar and language is not a function of friends with nothing better to do, it is the manifestation of wisdom and knowledge archived among this special group. If you want express your ideas you need the correct language, used correctly. There are no short cuts on the way to sharing a good story.”

• Georgia Hearn says “move over Chris and Roberta.” She writes “What a wonderful issue. I loved the stories and the English lessons are enlightening. You make us all feel good about Christmas and keeping the true spirit alive. My poinsettias are gorgeous and thank you for your hospitality.”

• Frank Flegel has this response to Xmas versus Christmas. “Despite the historically correct Xmas, I'm with you, Rod. Merry Christmas. And as for that guy in Saskatoon, we have many freedoms in this country one of which is to journey to whichever country he wishes where Christmas is not celebrated. I'm sure he would be more comfortable there. Well done with the poinsettias and Marian Centre, but it's cheque, not check.”

• John Huston really takes a swipe at the politically correct who attempt to subvert Christmas. “I can't believe people are still getting excited over 'Merry Christmas' on public spaces. The thing made me really wonder, "How big a wanker (I'm sure the word occurs in Dickens, somewhere) is this guy?" Was his notion that church and state are supposed to be separate? To these modern day Scrooges I say, "Bah. Humbug!" (And a few other choice epithets not fit for print in a family, traditional or otherwise, publication.)”

• Joanne Crofford is quite aware of the power of the parent/child interaction and how it resides within our souls for a very, long time. “It has long been my conviction that all women have the power to use their ‘mother voice’ and it can still have the ability to unnerve even the most assertive thirty-six year old man. It brings back memories of obeying mommy. I think you just have to be careful not to use it at the office.”

• Cheryl Ann Smith lives in England. She is a part of The Madonna Apostolate and The Director of a Prayer House. She is also one of my spiritual advisors, a job with no salary and few benefits. “I've developed a new Sunday morning routine. I wait until I've had my morning prayer time, and then I fire up the computer and revel in the world of The Garden Report: What you're pondering, pontificating on, reminiscing about. I'm not surprised 3,000 people do the same. This is the darkest time of the year, and you do more than your bit to cast rays of light, beauty and humor into that darkness. I thank you.”

• Sally Orr not only gets the humor here, but she enjoys it. She has always had such good taste. “You will keep me laughing, always.”

• Neil Slater has joined The Grammar Police and has come forward, showing acknowledging his Scottish roots. “Oh, you're in trouble alright, buddy. You used 'obligated' rather than 'obliged.' Now straighten up with the language, or I'll have Roberta set you to writing lines after school. You also wrote: "There are no rugged Scotchmen, only handsome Scotsmen." You and I are in agreement there. By the way, I was born in Edinburgh.” Rods note: Courtesy of Neil, obliged and obligated mean the same thing but obliged is used when one has a choice and obligated when one must oblige due to a legal obligation. I.e., I am obliged to thank Neil for his email and I am obligated to pay my taxes.

• Mike Liske over at The Classic Landscape Company looks after fifty-five residences in the winter, removing their snow. He is getting a bit weary with so much of the white stuff this season. “I'd like to comment on the amount of snow. I'm very glad that we now have enough for proper insulation, so Mother Nature can knock it off. We are also getting a bit tired of shoveling and if you have any influence with Mother Nature, the fog and ice crystals can also piss off ( sorry for my language).”

• Joan Kortje sends out good vibes and holiday wishes. “I have not responded to your wonderful Garden Reports for quite a while but that does not mean that I don’t look forward to them every Sunday. I appreciate all of the work that you put into them. Congratulations on becoming a Grandpa. That is our reward for all of those hard moments parenting. Merry Christmas to you, Maureen and your family. I hope 2013 brings much happiness and a new kidney for you.”

• I have included a photo of reader Gwen Scott and here is her response to my permission request. “I feel honored to be included in your auspicious newsletter. I read your column faithfully, but rarely comment on how much I enjoy reading your reflections on human (and plant) nature. I wish you and your readers a blessed Xmas and all the best in 2013.”

A beautiful poinsettia grown at Vanderveen's
 • Sandra Rayson, our favourite oncologist, believes in community. She shares this: “I read The Garden Report late as my computer was down for two days. It really warmed my heart to see you express your feeling on the joy you had over fund raising for the Marian Centre. I could have written that part for you as I witnessed exactly what you expressed when I came to pick up my poinsettias. They are really beautiful, thank you again.”

• Missing Miss Covey: For many years, I utilized the language skills of Shirley Covey, the Latin teacher from Scott Collegiate. Whenever I was in doubt and needed clarification or a ruling regarding which was either correct or in some cases, more correct, I would telephone her. She not only knew the rules, she knew the exceptions for those rules of grammar and spelling. She was a grand dame and if she were alive today, I suspect that she would be the word smith of this blog. I had a wonderful secretary at Lakeview Gardens, Nora Atchison. Nora loved the English language dearly and on occasion, we would butt heads. Thesauruses and dictionaries would be consulted to prove a point and if still in doubt, a call to Miss Covey would be placed, the grand arbitrator of all things written. Whichever side won the decision, hands would be raised in a victory march around the office while the loser was left to sulk for the remainder of the afternoon. Shirley Covey was one of the remaining few who (or is it whom Miss Covey) any of us could turn to when needed.

• Miss Covey #2: Miss Covey, while deeply kind, had a tongue that could be utilized to offer any offender a smack up the head. One afternoon, I had some business at The Hotel Saskatchewan. I noticed that she was holding court, having tea with her school teacher friends. Most were in their eighties. I stopped by her table, introduced myself to the ladies and announced “Miss Covey taught me everything I know.” Without missing a beat, her response was: “Now don’t you go blaming me for that.” I also dared to ask her one time if I had been her favorite student, out of the thousands she had tutored. Again, without hesitation, the old girl said “you were not even in the running for that award.” Who else could toss out an indignity such as that and make you laugh until your underwear felt damp. To wrap it up, my kids asked her what I was like at fifteen? A one word response: “Lippy.” Until this day, I think the word should have been inquisitive or enthusiastic. Lippy was the same word that my mother used to describe me. A coincidence?

• Best Scrooge: If you gather together a bunch actors, they will agree that the best Scrooge of all time was Alistair Sims, who starred in a gem of a ‘Christmas Carol’ in 1951. Watch it and you will see why he set the standard for the role. CBC has it on at eight p.m., Christmas Eve.

• Wonderful Christmas show: I am not a Will Farrell fan but his role in ‘Elf’ is priceless. I have watched this Christmas classic three or four times and loved every repeated minute. It is right up there with ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

• O:f course I did: According to my father, when I was two, he purchased a fire truck as my Christmas present. He just knew that I would love the gift and he looked forward to my enthusiastic applause. Sadly, for him, I was much more interested in the box it came in than the toy itself.

• The development of the id: As in many families, we take turns playing Santa’s helper on Christmas morning. The ‘Christmas boy’ gets to hand out the presents from underneath the tree. When Patrick was too young to read, but insisting he be ‘Christmas boy’, he handed me the first present. I told him it read “To Patrick-Love Auntie Helen”. He then picked up the next present and announced “To Patrick-Love Auntie Helen”. And the next one and the next one. We let him go until he had assembled a rather large pile of gifts. Then his mother stepped in and read out who the real recipients were, much to Patrick’s annoyance.

• The ego continues: I had friends who had booked a holiday, minus their children, to Switzerland. When their six year old daughter found out that she was not included in the trip, she threw a fit. She screamed at the top of her voice “but I have waited my entire life to go to Switzerland!” I share in her misery. I, too, have waited my whole life to go to Switzerland and the closest I got besides the knife was the cheese. Now, anyone who seizes on this opening to ask “who cut the cheese?” will be stricken from my Christmas card list.

• Huston- we don’t have a problem: You read it here first, in breaking news. John Huston will be performing at next year’s Regina Fringe Festival. For those needing clarification as to why this is news, John is an outstanding performer, from The Canadian Fringe tour. John also provides the readers of this blog with historical information that is so obscure yet entertaining, that it makes a history class fun.

• Mentorship news: For those who are regular readers, it is no secret that I believe in mentorship at many different levels. One of the conditions I spell out when selecting a mentor is to always choose one who was well mentored themselves, as that person understands the process. I was well mentored in the greenhouse trade by Dieter Martin. I called Dieter last Friday, just to chat as we have not been in contact for a few years. We talked about how I pass along the advice he gave to me, to those I now mentor. He is almost eighty-one now and still going strong. He has turned his commercial greenhouse operation over to his daughter Nancy and his son Peter. They do a good job of carrying on his legacy. Dieter has kept a small greenhouse open for the winter. He said “I grow a few plants in it because that is what I have done my entire life.” Growing is not what Dieter does, it is who he is (perhaps not the finest example of English language structure, but you understand my point). For those enthusiastic plant people, the ‘Martin’ Saskatoon and the ‘Martin’ Scot’s Pine are his introductions. Dieter also pioneered the ‘own root’ propagation method for ornamental plants, including hardy roses. When a plant is propagated on its own roots instead of being grafted, then every stem emerging from the ground will be a true to name stem. There are no rogue suckers with ‘own root’ propagation. I also share my beloved mentor with reader Ingrid Thiessen.

• Attention men: Listen up guys. When shopping for a gift for your Mrs. this season, rest assured she does not want anything with marabou fur, especially if it is lingerie. Also, on the list of what she does not want is her own wrench set, especially the one that you have been eyeing at Canadian Tire for three months or a box set of war movies. Another piece of advice for the younger men, purchasing kitchen equipment can be a risky choice unless it is something she really wants. Maureen asked for a kitchen appliance and I thought it was a trap to see if I had been paying attention all these years. Turned out she really wanted it. Who knew?

• Writing tip: Chickens lay eggs, people lie down. That’s the ditty I use, courtesy of reader Marg H.

• Another writing tip: When you have something simple to say, write it simply. I.e., Stealing is wrong. Raising children is important. Bob is honest. Got it?

• A writer’s gift: If you have an aspiring writer in the family or just want to improve the quality of your emails, there is one book that is, dare I write, mandatory. It has been around for years but has never lost its importance. It is ‘The Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White. It attempts to cut through the maze of rules and regulations of language. When to use who and whom, when to use a colon versus a semi colon and how to compose so that random thoughts are not linked together in one sentence. I guarantee that you will be a better writer but not a perfect one. That title, ‘The Perfect One’, we reserve for others.

• Speaking simply: I was in Atlantis Coffee Shop on Victoria Avenue with my friend who is a lawyer and a word smith. The clerk asked for his order. His response: “I have not been in your establishment prior to this evening. Please allow me a moment to peruse your offerings prior to proffering my decision.” The clerk stared at him. I offered up “he always talks like that.” The clerk nodded her understanding.

This Martagon lily does well in the shade
• Missing John Wolkowski: John passed away a year ago this past Friday. He was eighty-three. Besides being a regular reader of The Garden Report, he was also a second father to me for twenty-six years. We were very close. Yesterday, we celebrated a Mass of Remembrance for John, along with his family and friends. John’s favourite saying, which is so appropriate at this time of year, was: “A burden shared is always cut in half while a joy shared, is always doubled.”

• Things change: Your parents bought a toaster when they were first married. They used it for twenty years. Then they gave it to you to take to your dorm room at university. That added another four years to its life. It even survived the night your roommate tried to warm up a can of beans with it. You took it home, but your parents had a new one, so they sent it out to the cottage, where it still works today after twenty years at the beach. Nice story. What’s the point? I bought our first toaster in 1973 from Kaufman’s on Dewdney Avenue. It cost seven dollars. It lasted thirty years before it quit working. In the last nine years, I have bought four new toasters, including another one a few weeks ago. They appear to be made to last until they get over their one year warranty.

• I am impressed: For many years, I had a wood turning lathe in the basement. I loved making bowls and other smaller items as a hobby. I also learned to appreciate the nuances of the craft. Reader and friend since Grade One, Jack Lyster, turned a square dish for me as a Christmas gift. He explained to me how to turn a square and all I can say is ‘wow’! It was made from white ash, one of the hardest (as in dense) woods you can work with and oiled with linseed oil and bees wax. It’s gratifying to be friends with someone since 1957. Maureen watched the two of us sitting on the garden swing last summer, from the kitchen window. She said she could imagine us being six years old, sitting on a swing at The Dewdney Playground asking, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Those were the days when our greatest ambition was to be a fireman or in our case, a ‘fire boy’.

• Bach and Beyond: If you are out and about, a visit with Frank who owns Bach and Beyond at The Golden Mile Mall, is always a good time. Frank seems to know what is happening, arts wise, in the city. He also has an incredible knowledge of music that goes along with the CD’s for sale in his store.

• Pin Ling: This is the Chinese food stand at The Golden Mile, inside their food court. Now, a fancy, high browed, respectable publication such as The Garden Report, does not usually review food stands at malls. I will make an exception this time, just for you. Pin Ling is not a standard mall joint. Yes, you can get chicken balls and fried rice, but they also carry a number of other dishes that are a tad different. We checked out two of their noodle soups. Maureen had the Szechuan Minced Pork soup and it had a lovely taste of spice with a tickle of a bite. I had the Hunan Beef soup with a bit more bite provided from a chilli pepper, floating around the bowl. Both soups lacked vegetables as in only the tiniest amount. The broths were good and the noodles were plentiful. Maureen’s pork was ground and quite edible. I suspected that my beef would be from amongst the cheapest of cuts, after all, it was being served in a soup that had been boiled, right? The beef was even cheaper and tougher than I could have imagined. As I progressed through the bowl, I created a little pile of beef stacked neatly on my tray. I could chew it but I could not swallow, it was that tough. Yes, I have my own choppers. Thanks for asking. The two bowls of soup with tax were twenty bucks. We are going to give this place another try as there are some pretty interesting items on the menu. Right now, I would have to say it was okay, but not great.

The first time I have held Rayanna-my first g.d.
 • The Grampa Report: Rayanna arrived in Regina, Friday afternoon, just before five p.m. I thought I might go to mush when I first held her but to my surprise, I maintained my composure, sort of. She is lovely. She has soft skin, fat cheeks and she farts quite regularly, so I know she is mine. I nuzzled her with my moustache, she stared up at me with her big eyes and I said “So, are you going to have Grampa wrapped around your baby finger?” We get to babysit a few times in the next two weeks as she does not return to Edmonton until January 10th. Also, this year, we have everyone home. Bryan and Ashley, Maxwell, Patrick and Lisa plus baby.

• Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in a Regina filled with lots and I mean lots, of snow!

No comments:

Post a Comment