DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Smell the Lilacs

One of the delights of this time of year is the coming into bloom of the lilacs.  What a lovely display. Better still, what a lovely smell.

Several years ago, I dug up some lilac runners from a friend's lilac bush and planted them on either side of the front of my house. I wanted to anchor my house better to the ground, as it stands up stark in an open space.
They took hold and every years from the beginning they never failed to give me a display.  The bushes have gotten quite large.  I have two smaller ones which are coming along slower than I would like. One is a transplanted runner from this bush and the other is a white one I purchased.   Someday, they too may become such a dramatic display.

When looking for an old homestead site, of which there are many in the North, one needs to be looking for a lilac bush and a rhubarb patch. Look a little closer and you might find hollyhocks and horseradish.  I love these popular farmstead plants that remind us that people once lived very close by.  In the midst of taming the land, they managed to plant a little beauty as well as essential well used ground crops.

The lilacs are even more lovely close up with their multiple florets in every head of a flower.  For a couple of weeks I can sit by the open window, reading or listen to the baseball game on the radio and smell the lovely lilacs.  Along with the company of my devoted dog, Heidi, and my three delightful cats, who could ask for more.  Life is good.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Happy Victoria Day

Queen Victoria was a remarkable monarch during  the development of the British Empire.  Her 63 years on the throne saw the development of the Industrial Age and the expansion of the British Empire around the World highlighted with her becoming Empress of India, among her other Royal titles.

It was a remarkable accomplishement of empire building.  The small island nation of the United Kingdom managed to control a very large part of the World. As a school child I always remember the World Map with so many countries on red. This was the extent of the Empire and later the Commonwealth of Nations
We may never see such an Empire again.

Those who do not know much about Queen Victoria can blame it on how badly history is taught. She was a World force in the 19th Century not only being the monarch of the greatest Nation and Empire of the time but also so influenced Society the age was named after her, Victoria Era.

Her life is worth learning about. You could start by just reading what Wikipedia has on her.  She had a difficult and sheltered and controlled childhood watched over by her German mother, also called Victoria. She was well educated, privately; able to speak several languages. All her life she kept a journal that ran to 122 volumes. You can read part of it in the Internet Archives. She became the Monarch when she was 18.  After her uncles had died leaving no male heirs. In reality, she had an arranged marriage to  a German  first cousin, Albert It turned out to be a great love affair. I love what she wrote of her wedding night,

I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert ... his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! ... to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!

It was a loved that lasted  When Albert died she went into seclusion and mourned  his death until she died..They had nine children who went on the marry into virtually all the great royal families of Europe giver her great power and influence across the continent. She has been called,"The Grandmother of Europe". She was the last of the Hanover line. Her children, in the lineage of their father,  were in the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha line. It always amuses be that the British Royal family are German immigrants. This was awkward in the run up to the First World War so they officially changed their family name to Windsor. You can do this kind of thing when you are a Royal. Like her grandmother Queen Elizabeth II also married her first cousin, Prince Philip who also is a descendant of Queen Victoria. When Prince Charles married Diana he married into a noble family, the Spencers, who had much deeper and nobler  English roots than the Royal family. And now we have William, the Duke of Cambridge, married to a commoner, waiting the birth of their first child. If it is a girl she will be first in the line of succession to be the Monarch.  Patriarchy has been abandoned. Both Victoria and Elizabeth  only became the Monarch because there were no longer any male heirs in front of them. They have both been wonderful Monarchs who have shaped the nature of Monarchy.

Needless to say Queen Victoria was the Queen of Canada once Canada became a  county in 1867.
Aboriginal Canadians have a special relationship with the Royal Family While it was George III who recognized the First Nations people's right of ownership to their lands and set up the nation to nation relationship with First Nations people, it is Queen Victoria who is embraced by aboriginal people as the "Great While Mother." It has been to her and her descendants that  they have looked to for their protection. It is the Crown in Canada and not the government in power that has a responsibility for aboriginal people. It is the crown which must honour the sacred treaties and to whom First Nations people can turn to when they are distressed. Government has the responsibility for upholding the Crowns obligations. This is the bases of the continual negotiations over land claims and fulfilment's of treaties.  First Nations people in Canada are strong supporters of the monarchy. North American Indians, in the United States territories lost their rights established by George III. As a result First Nation's people in Canada are in a stronger position, with more rights, than their American cousins.

I think Victoria Day is a very worth while holiday. It is a good time to reflect on the life and times of Queen Victoria and how they continue to resonate in the nature of our country.

Friday, May 17, 2013

In Memoriam: Elijah Harper

He was a man who made a difference.  He withheld his vote in the Manitoba legislature causing it to not support the Meech Lake Accord.  As a result, the Accord which was an agreement between the Federal Government and the Provincial Governments to amend the Constitution  to make it possible for Quebec to sign on to the Constitution failed.  Elijah Harper stood  alone holding his solitary eagle feather ( symbol of power and right to speak among his people) casting his No vote because his people, the First Nation's People within Canada, were not adequately represented. His action and image will forever remind us that Canada cannot move on without properly treating the First Nation's  People according the "sacred treaties" with the Crown.  To Canada's shame these treaties. once made were not honoured, are still not fully honoured..   Shame on us.

Elijah Harper was from a remote community in Northern Manitoba , Rd Sucker Lake First Nation, where he was born into a traditional family. He survived the residential school system, which for three generations was Canada's official effort at cultural genocide among aboriginals in Canada.. Unusual for a aboriginal person of his time, he graduated from University  and served at three levels of government: Chief of his community, member of the Manitoba legislature and a member of the Federal parliament. His life, in an out of government, has been dedicated to making life better for his people.

Like so many of his people he died too soon of complications from diabetes which so many of First Nation's people contract.

Last year Elijah Harper was awarded and honourary doctorate degree by Carlton University. Below is the ceremony and a brief address by Harper in his humble and soft spoke manner.

Below is a statement by Elijah Harper reminding us all that more needs to be done to honour the treaties that are seen as  sacred  among us people.   Canada needs to fulfill it's responsibilities now without excuses. We will all benefit from this for it will allow the growing population for First Nation's people to contribute fully in shaping Canada's future.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

I trust all my family and friends who are mothers will have a lovely day which assures them they are loved and cherished.

I had a wonderful mother, who, thinking back, was the most important person in my life,  whose memory and the lessons she taught me continue to inform my life today.  My mother died when she was 61 so she had been physically gone for a long time.  I am not one to say I miss her for to miss someone is to feel there is unfinished business between you. Since the day she died, I never felt this was the case. She is very real to me still. I think of  her often and in many way the only difference is that I cannot pick up the phone a speak with her.  I do have regrets when we have family occasions like births, weddings, honours won, etc, knowing how much she would have enjoyed those occasions.

I have so much respect for mothers and the role mothers play in peoples lives that I have often over the years asked to be honoured on mother's day. No one takes me seriously.  I have been the one who mothered our son for most of his life. His mother for reasons of her own decided she did not want to be a wife and mother and left  to find fulfillment in another kind of life.  So I took over the daily obligations of raising and mothering our son.  Over the years, his mother worked out a different kind of relationship which eventually grew into a close relationship when our son became an adult, which I am glad about. 

The lessons I learned from my mother I passed on to our son, I am sure.  He turned out to be good and responsible person and a great parent in his own right. One could not have asked for more satisfaction in being a parent. I was a successful "mother" in my mind.  Father's Day has little of the meaning to me as Mother's Day does.

This is a favourite picture of my mother. Here she is with her three children, Penny, me (standing) and Richard.  I always try to remember that my mother  had four children. Her first died as a SIDS baby. She spoke little about this and it is one of the things, as a adult, I would have liked to have known more about.

This photo is at the end of our drive way at the house I grew up in in Toronto Township (now part of the city of Mississauga).  It is a wooded area. It still is although the large trees are even larger today.  This humble working class neighbourhood is a prosperous professional class enclave, one of the most sought after places to live in the city. My friend, Lynne, still lives in this old neighbourhood. It was a great place to grow up and be a family. It was a great place to grow up.

This is my grandmother, Lavina Beeston, (how British is that name). This is about how I remember her for she died when I was 13.  I can still remember the day she died. We woke up that day with our parents gone. It was bewildering until the we got a phone call from my mother the Grandma had died overnight. This is the only time, as a child, that my mother was not where I knew she would be.

I like to refer to my Grandmother as the little old Methodist lady.  She had been raised a Methodist and was very kind, gentle and thoughtful. She also had taken the pledge at 18 and never drank all her life. This may be part of the reason I do not drink . . . .much.  My best memories of her is that she always had some little gift of candy in her purse when she visited. I also remember how her hankies smelled of perfume.  I need to remind myself that she was not always a little old lady. She was made the teacher in her school when she was 16. In those days, if you were the best student you became  the teacher. She and my grandfather were adventurous enough to come to Canada from England, leaving three of their children behind, until they got established in Canada. My mother was born in Canada and here youngest sister was also. My Grandmother had five children, four girls and one boy. She was a full time mother raising her children in a semidetached house with a family of Scottish immigrants with five boys and one girl living in the other half. My mother told me a little about her growing up. She had a wonderful relationship with her father. She protected his memory. It took a cousin to tell me about the family scandal. (Enough said)

This is another photo I have transferred from a slide.  I am still trying to improve the colours , which have faded.  

My mother, always playful was modelling her baby doll pajamas.  I am not sure what my father was thinking. He did not express himself very well emotionally.  He had had a difficult up bringing, which left him wounded emotionally. I largely communicated with him on important issues through my mother. While my mother told me daily she loved me and insisted I tell her I loved her at every opportunity I have no recollection of my father ever telling me he loved me. Whenever I made an achievement my mother was to one to tell me my father was very proud of me. Earlier he would have belittled my achievement to me directly by asking why I did not do better. The only family story I remember that suggest my father was emotional about me is that when I got polio he said, "My little son many not be able to play sports!" My mother told me this.

My mother had a creative streak in her personality.  She sewed and knit a lot of our cloths. She enriched her life by being a great reader. There was always  more than one book on the go. When she died I think there were about 8 substantial books on her bed table.  She was a great user of the library, as we did not own a lot of books. 

At one point my parents became founding member of the Credit Valley Dramatic Society. They began as a small group meeting in the basement of the Presbyterian Church. At first, the put on small plays for the amusement of the group and then put on one act plays for public performances.  I remember my sister and I taking part in a  Thornton Wilder play with my mother and father, The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden, .. Eventually, they put on full productions of three act plays for the public, twice a year. These were rich times for my mother. She starred in some plays, like Arsenic and Old Lace, and if not in the play she worked behind the scenes often as the promoter. My father, an electrician by trade, always did the lighting.

 At one time the society became so sophisticated a member, Howard Lacey, a classics teacher at Upper Canada College, wrote a musical play called, "Mister Move Your Mattress" based on the Greek drama, Lysistrata. I think my sister still has the record of songs. You could hear my mother in the chorus with her deep voice.  She was game for anything. Sadly, my mother gave this up when she came to feel she was not as sophisticated as others in the group. The last straw was when a member came in and wrote a joke on the blackboard in ancient Greek, and most of the group, except my mother understood it and laughed.

My sister and I got married the same summer and my brother went off to college in the US so my mother found herself  suddenly with an empty nest. To fill her life she tried to go to University  but was overwhelmed by it when she felt she should read every book on every reading list she was given. Still not being made a grandmother she found fulfilment taking a nursing course, where she graduated the top of her class. 
She came to work in the mental health ward of the hospital. She loved it. We good with people and accepted all kinds of people. More than once she said she loved it there because everyone was like her.
For a long time, I never understood how many people knew my mother and would say hello at the Mall or on the street. When I asked who they were she would just say, "someone from work. I finally came to understand they were former patients and she took her vow to protect their privacy seriously.

My mother when she died was still employed at the hospital. It must have taken all her energy to get to work and put is a full day. She never spoke of quitting.  In retrospect, she was very frail. She died two days after getting her required flu shot.  I will always remember my father calling out to me. "Your mother is dead." His voice had a quality I had never heard before. I went and checked and then called the police and my brother and sister.  In  a way, this was a life altering day for us all. I felt bad for my father. I thought he would have trouble living without my mother. That day I was offered a job as minister of a church in Halifax, I decided to turn it down so I could be with my father as his life changed. As it turned out this changed the direction of my life for I never had a full time clergy position after this as I moved in other directions.

This is my mother and I  when we lived in Long Branch on the west side of Toronto before we moved to the Port Credit area.. I wish I could remember why she was dressed up. We were about to go somewhere after she put my shoes on. Perhaps, we were going to meet my father on leave from the military. This was about the time she got pregnant with my brother, the child that was to get him out of the military. The story goes they changed their mind about this but it was too late, so I was to get a younger brother.

So much for my ramblings about my mother and others. There are lots of family recollections that would shed life on how my mother influenced me. She certainly was always there when I needed her through small and large crises.

Now in my senior years, I wish I had someone to help me put on my shoes. My hip and leg is so sore I have trouble putting on my shoes and clipping my toe nails. Lynne, bless her heart, will do this for me when I am there. She is in spirit an eternal mother, close to her three children and three grandchildren. I have never been able to be as involved in my son's family life for reasons I do not fully understand.   I guess he has yet to realize that the father that mothered him for so many years is in some need of mothering himself.  Even a appreciative word on Mother's Day would be nice.

Monday, May 06, 2013


Like so many  of my generation my photographic memory is locked away on slides in slide trays. For a couple of years now  I have been wanting to scan them into my computer to have better access to them. I have tried a couple of slide scanner. It turned out I did not have enough capacity in my computer to operate the software.  My son finally showed up with a discarded laptop from his school. It worked. I now an trying to master the scanning program.It is taking me a while. So is typing on this keyboard.  Life can never be easy.

Below is my first attempt..I suspect a lot of the slides will have colour problems. I will try to have a program improve the colours.

Me and Shaun

I was  about 17 back then and Shaun was 16.  It was a great love, I was caught learning in this  photo.
I think we were off to a dance on this occasion. I must admit we were a good looking couple.

I hope I can master this scanning program. I have a couple of wonderful picture of my second greatest love, my canoe, which I would love to have in my computer. I suspect I will be unlocking many memories in the process.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Me, A Carnival and Gambling

As I remember it was late Spring of the year that the Carnival came to our small town.  It was sponsored by the Lions' Club., a fund raising event for them.  It was contracted out to a small carnival and fair company. They would come and set up an assortment of rides and a midway of  food and game of chance stands while the Lions were allowed to set up their own row of games of chance booth for children and adults, such as crown and anchor and fish pond where every child got a gift.

The Carnival was a big event where everyone would come for some of the time over the three days. I always went. Besides finding the events interesting I found the Carny men and women fascinating and wondered about the lives they lived.  They always seemed nice but appeared rather scruffy. U guess I was middle class clean back then. You know, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." 

This is a typical booth of some game of chance.  There were always a few people just watching while other played. The gifts look grand like all the  large stuffed animal but few of these were awarded, instead you were more likely to get some cheap trinket for your efforts.

This is a picture of a carnival in Dayton, OH in the mid fifties. It reminded me of the modest home made stands for our Lions' Club games of chance.

I had  a life lesson learned by me at the Port Credit Lions' Club Carnival one year.  It would have been in the mid '50s.  I was 9 or 10 , I think. I was old enough to walk the mile or so  by myself, to the St. Lawrence Starch Works Park, where the Carnival was set up. (Kid's were allowed to wander further from home in those days.)

I had a five dollar bill I had earned on my paper route.  My mother saw me with it as I was stuffing it in my pocket.   "You aren't going to take all that money with you to the Carnival! It is too much to spend there."
(Five dollars was a lot of money in those days)  I assured her I did not intend to spend it all and I would be careful with it..  She let me leave with it but I could tell she was nervous about me having all that money.

I liked to wander around and watch the games of chance. I was not particularly keen on playing them.  Finally, I found myself watching for the longest time a game of skill where you had to drop metal discs to cover up a circular spot.  I watched the Carny guy do it time after time and it looked easy.  I spotted a watch they awarded as a prize. The more I watched the more I wanted that watch and the easier that game of skill looked. 

I stepped up to play with a vision of wearing that watch.  Right off the bat I almost got all the circle covered. Just a small sliver showed on one time.  I tried again. I was so close again. I tried again and if only the last one had landed a little different I would have had that watch. I tried again, and again and again Wanting to win that watch became desperate to win that watch for without winning it how could I explain to my mother that I spend more than I indicated I would.  In fact, I spend the whole of the five dollars and still had no watch.  I can still remember the feeling  of defeat, and regret and how foolish I had been.

Now I had to go home and tell my mother what I had done and how I had lost all the money. She would be disappointed in  me. Oh, how I hated to disappoint my mother.Just to hear her say, "Oh, Philip!. . . . ." I know I had disappointed her as well as myself.  She didn't need to say anymore. I spend years remembering the feelings I had that day which was punishment of the worst kind.

Here is a copy of the dreadful game that defeated me and caused me to waste my small fortune.

If I had only know there were instruction on how the win at this game. The Carny man knew them and I didn't . I was the sucker and victim.

As a result of this lesson learned so many years ago I have never gambled or played any games of chance. I don't even play bingo.  I never have bought a lottery ticket. I had an older friend who used to buy me one for Christmas each year. I could never bring myself to tell her what a unwelcomed gift it was. It was like getting a  hankerchief at Christmas from my grandmother. ( I guess no one buys hankerchiefs these days)

 I am dead set against all gambling and regret that the government took it over from the criminals. Gambling is a bad way to finance government.  If there are programs we want and need from the government we should be willing to pay for them though taxation in proportion to everyone's ability to pay.

I guess I will never understand the thrill  of gambling. To not win, which is virtually all the time, it would fill me with great reget for trying. I would remember that occasion at the Carnival. How painful it was to win nothing for my money and remember how hard it was to earn that sum working delivering papers.  And, of course, the disappointment in my mothers voice.