Category Archives: humor

Second Saturday in June

Poplar Hill Picnic week is here. Picnic is always the second Saturday in June .It is the week of tidying up both yards and homes, arranging some decorations and getting some treats on hand for visitors that may drop in.The picnic occasion is really old and this year it celebrates it’s 130th anniversary. Originally a day of celebration for school children from all the small one room schools in the township it now continues it’s good natured heritage in a  community celebration. Our Lions and other volunteers make it a very special day for everyone. Personally, I think I’ve probably attended every picnic during my lifetime. I grew up knowing that you just always went to the picnic.

It is a thing.

Picnic day is many different things to different people. It represents to me a time honoured family, school and community tradition. It is predictable in many ways and yet has evolved slowly and kept up with the times.

Some memories surface and makes one nostalgic for those long gone people and experiences and yet the picnic restores the resilient spirit within oneself just by being there, each time.

As little kids we prepared for the picnic by practicing marching drills at school for weeks ahead of time. Each one room school would dress up a little bit special and march like our lives depended on it!

Left….. right, left right Left. Left….. right,left, right Left. Left….right, left right Left!

Two of the tallest big kids carried our banner (S.S. #7 Bear Creek ) and our teacher made paper majorette hats with tassels for us to wear . My school, in my era wore white shirts and skorts ( short pleated skirts with shorts) for the girls and the boys cleaned up their act as well.

We were led in the park by the thumping beat of the drums and whirl of bagpipes and circled the flagpole, proudly waiting to be judged on our parade.

Everyone took in the moment as it meant something. We did it every picnic day. It was a thing.

At a signal, the parade march was over and everyone was free to run off to play, run organized races for prizes,watch the baseball games, sit in the grandstand for the baby show, eat popsicles, hot dogs and pie, drink pop and later on enjoy the savage pillow fights and corny talent show.

A rather unique flirting custom was to walk by the covered grandstand in the afternoon with friends and see if any of the good looking boys hiding in the upper level would whip pinecones at you. If you felt the sting of a pinecone you knew love was in the air. Most likely this manner of courtship has been replaced with something less obvious. I wouldn’t know, it’s been awhile but this year I will make an effort to observe carefully and see if this right of passage has survived.

On every picnic day, my mom gave me a plastic change purse with a transparent side panel with some nickles and dimes to spend. Dimes won at the footraces were extra spending money but only given to the top winners so you had to make your cash last for the day. If you bought a double Popsicle with a dime you were wise to break it in half right away and share it with a friend because it would melt anyway and fall wasted to the ground. A good friend shared in return. Things worked out well that way.

Most folks had to return home for farm chores in the late afternoon and had their supper  before returning to the park for the final ball game and garden party of entertainment. Usually I was allowed to stay all picnic day with my grandpa, a retired farmer and we shared a community meal with his cronies from the village under the grandstand .

Picnic tables were set end to end and homemade food was shared. I felt very grown up sharing the potato salad, devilled eggs, bolonga sandwiches, pickles and pie with these folks well into their eighties and high nineties. The wooden tables covered with  farm house tablecloths, the earth floor underfoot, the white enamelled coffee and tea pots, my Grandpa Walter A.,  Great Uncle Clayton and Great Aunt Flora, Great Aunt Mae, Old George Barclay and all the rest of the older crowd sharing this good time with a little kid.

Such vivid memories of those people, that time, it’s sweetness. It is a thing.




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Creative Differences

Snow whipped into a frenzy piled up past the ledge of the kitchen window and I still thought we would go to the concert. Even after the telephone chain call originating from the school trustee I thought there would be a chance that we could still go. I had the lead in the school Christmas pageant….as least in my mind I was the lead! My eight year old self suffered terrible disappointment that night. I never got my chance to perform as Mary and have the one goose necked reading lamp “spotlight” rigged up by the teacher shine reverently on my white and silver headscarf illuminating my blonde ringlets. All I had was the one  rehearsal and the approval of the young teacher. Oh, so long ago and the pain goes deeply.

At the one room school, S.S. # 7 Bear Creek we had a stage platform with two side entrances. Those entrances and exits fascinated me when we did community concerts for our parents. The visiting health nurse also used the stage area for eye examinations and giving vaccinations. She would take off her high heeled shoe and pound the eye chart into the wall. With the curtain closed it was made medically official. We carried on with our lessons and waited our turn.

One exit led to the boys cloak room where they kept their coats and lunch pails. It always seemed grubby and smelly in there. The other exit led to a small teacher’s room with another door exiting to the outside.This little room was for the teacher’s stuff and there was a  wall mounted crank telephone. The teacher let the Grade One kids play in there when she was busy with the older kids and I fondly remember wearing her coat, scarf,gloves,boots and going through the contents of her purse.


My sister was with me there for two years and then she left me to fend for myself while she went off to high school. Fortunately she was there for the horrible day in Grade Two when I sat on an ant hill under the maple tree to eat my lunch. She was the one to deal with my terror of having big black carpenter ants bite my tender little body in every conceivable spot. To this day I can recall the ants creased into my armpits and in my underpants. Another recess event I recall with some significant dramatics was when my sister diagnosed my raging out break of measles as I erupted  one warm spring day into blotches and  blistering bumps and informed the teacher to call home immediately.

When I was in Grade three with no sister around, Elveretta, a neighbour girl claimed me as her charge.She didn’t suffer fools gladly so I was basically protected from harm. She let me help her keep score for our baseball games and let me sit in her lap. The boys at bat would make it a point of honour to hit the ball over the top of the huge evergreen trees and send the ball into the orchard across the road. There were good girl players too like Elveretta and impressed me big time as they could hit the ball just as well, run like the wind and slide into base while wearing billowing knee length skirts .

I played as little baseball as I could and maybe hit the ball a total of two or three times. I preferred being off in the corner of the school yard telling stories and organizing plays about elves,fairies and trolls and delegating roles to my friends Julie and Irene, who just happened to be sisters and artistic types like me. They were real artists and could draw anything, even horses.Their creative input was invaluable.

I would visit Julie and Irene at their farm and they would visit mine. We had lots of fun together. Their parents were good to me and fed me Ukranian food. I remember turkey suppers, cabbage rolls, borscht, the best ever  dill and garlic pickles and apple pies. There were some special pictures, painted trinkets and darkly coloured floral scarves draped around them in a tiny parlour which we were supposed to stay out of so we wouldn’t damage anything in there. Outside the  barnyard geese would chase us, honk and spit, knock us down and trample us.  That was terrifying and extremely noisy especially when we provoked the geese repeatedly despite being told to stop by both parents in English, Ukrainian and maybe Estonian or Latvian.

Back at school it was the simple little readers and sparse few textbooks that held my parched interest. No extra literature or media was available except for an occasional box of films from the National film Board.When the box of films arrived that is all we did for a couple of days. The classic poems from the readers soothed my poetic  little soul but left me wanting much more. Basic knowledge in print form, limited text material ,barely fed me a starvation diet of information. The only books for extra reading available where a set of old black and yellow atlases , Gideon New Testaments,  battered dictionaries and High Road to Song books.

It was a bit grim creatively. Exceptions were the times when the teacher would plan an art lesson such as painting the school windows with seasonal art or read aloud for a few minutes on a warm afternoon from her own book or request everyone to write an composition based on a a selected picture from her file of clippings. Possibly, I was the only kid who really loved this writing exercise. I recall others groaning when we did this task every Friday afternoon. A calendar clipping of a fall tree or a cute kitten in a basket or a dark and stormy sky set my imagination free. When selected ( without fail) to share my composition with the class I would deliver it with all the impact I could muster.

From Grade Five  until the end of Grade 13 I was always selected to say my “speeches” . Not once did I win a speech competition. However, for thirty two years I taught kindergarten and other primary grades and loved the creative opportunity to play, read,write, tell stories, act things out, laugh, listen, draw,paint,dance around, sing and share what I love about communication. Retired now, I read every darn obscure book that interests me that I can order from the local tiny library and write a little and sometimes I write more. It all depends on me.






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No,Not Now…

Cat adoption, no, have one with issues, already.

Like cats though. Nice , cute cosy ones.

Will take an old winter bedraggled looking like death cat crying at the kitchen door out of a storm and keep the poor thing, sores and all in the basement in a warm place with food and water until granted time to recuperate further at the farm, surrounded by barn cats and made their queen.

Best cat ever, Duster also named Mistral because he was brought home the night of the first autumn storm that brings the dark clouds, wind and snow. Duster kept his fluffy tail poised to collect dust from underneath the chairs and table so the name stuck. Beautiful cat and my friend. My son’s cat too. Duster cared. Duster lived and lived and lived. His ashes are still here. Must find a quiet spot.

Little Buttons tossed on our porch by a crazy person. Alone wee thing,did ok for awhile and seemed ready for vet and the procedure but didn’t make it through the operation. My heart was broken because the wee thing had trusted me and had curled up around my wrist the first night like it knew I would love it like a mother, The neighbour and I cried about the poor little thing and gave it a Celtic burial in the garden.

Then Archie and Frances came along, siblings, from a long line of barn cats .Archie became famous and visited everyone for toast and affection. He was invited to parties. A car hit Archie and there was a big loss for everyone because he was just so nice. Children brought me cards and drawings of Archie and told me he was with God at the top of the big tree.

Frances is still here. Small, delicate, beautiful tortoise coloured, very loving but partly crazy. Frances has a time, almost every night when she has to beat up the bathmat. For an aging cat this is very strenuous. She loves me and wants to be petted however without warning she will swing a paw to scratch or bite an ankle or a hand she perceives as a threat. This early morning writing, she lays softly beside the keypad, just wanting to be beside me, stretching out her little brindle foot to touch my hand, rolling her head onto the edge of the computer and trying not to interfere too much.

Another cat, big and orange and from out of town has requested adoption but no, I have Frances and that is all I need. Out of town cat might be considered a foster cat if needed but I think he wants to just stay at his own house and learn his manners or have his space.

Frances and I, just us, enough.


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Significant Bother

When the dog is here for holidays with me I do very little except take care of her. She seems to be less demanding these days which is a good thing. In March she will be two years old. In dog years , a teenager.

I still have to plan my day around her but it seems less hectic. She eats twice a day ,sleeps in her crate for part of the day , enjoys our little walks to the side of the house, usually leaves my plants alone now, responds fairly well to direction, chews fewer shoes and has almost learned to give the old cat alone time. She would love a longer walk outside but I find she is too rambunctious for my liking and I find it difficult to hang on to her, so we cut the walks short.

Given a big bone to chew on fresh from the pet store she will be a good dog for hours and exhaust herself enjoying it with gnawing and snuffling it all over the house. Almost everything about her has improved with her developing maturity except for the night time sleeping arrangement.

At night, she whines and carries on like a frantic newborn if she is in her crate. She is not going to get bed cosy with me if I can help it so the alternative is to stay up with her and we each take a recliner. Well into the night we watch television and read. She finds it quite soothing to be read to and seems to prefer the classics.

 Side by side we get through the night. She gets her ears petted and back scratched and likes to look bleary eyed into my face several times during the night. Sometimes  I even cover her up with my extra sweater or a handy blanket. My night gets painfully cramped and cold on the recliner and my sense of day and night is blurred. However, it is quieter. There is no whining. Only loud snoring coming from the other recliner. It’s almost like….

She goes home tomorrow. Holidays are over.


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Just A Phase

Drastic measures have been taken but only after some careful consideration of the dilemnas of the parties concerned. Those parties comprise of my old delicate, somewhat prim cat Frances, my adult son working at an exciting new job in the big city about two hours away, Miss Moneypenny ,his year old bulldog staying with me for a couple of months and myself, retired teacher. This assessment has come to be as a result of the full moon and Miss Moneypenny getting in touch with her inner werewolf.

Two days ago, the moon was full and Miss Moneypenny’s behaviour went from somewhat stubborn to somewhat obnoxious. She would not let me read my book and demanded my attention by jumping forcibly on my lap. While playing with toys it became quite evident that she wanted to tussle and wrestle rather than just have fun. Her expression changed from wide eyed innocent to ‘I’m gonna’ get you!”. Her funny little gurumphs and snuffles turned into big old yappy barks. When I felt the nip on my hand I knew she was at her limit of goodnatured play and succumbing to the dark side.

Responding to my big NO with a she wolf battle stance and a saucy head snap which is best described as a “oh no you didn’t!…” kind of attitude she tried to take dominant status in the house.  I put her in the crate and walked away and she slept all afternoon.

So considering all the needs of everyone concerned I had to re-establish some control over the situation and reclaim some authority in the house. I picked up every toy and chew bone and stored them away out of sight. Nothing was left to out to play with or left on the floor for me to trip over. Food bowls were kept empty except for water. When Miss Moneypenny was released from her crate rest session she was taken outside for her walk and breaks and returned to a quiet, no toy, no food situation that seemed to intrigue her interest for about an hour. She walked around and around the coffee table looking at me with little humble head snaps as if to say “Oh no, you didn’t take my stuff all away and I’ll be good if you give it back, I promise…please give me back my Lion, Rhino, chew things, Mr. Rope and my food.”

We started with food but only after she responded well to a command. Delighted with her food, and another outside break she came back in the house waiting for the next treat but she was commanded to get on her bed and stay. Well, she got on the dog bed but she will never learn stay. Too stubborn about learning stay, so whatever.  Anyway, she seemed rather pleased that I had adopted this more military approach to dog boarding and adapted nicely. I’m almost enjoying my dog sitting duties again.

She still needs constant supervision to avoid chewing disasters but seems more at ease and willing to do most of what I command her to do. Bored quickly with my quiet ways of reading, working on the computer and watching costume dramas on television she starts rooting around my stuff in another room looking for something to chew, eat and destroy. Like now.

Old, delicate, cat Frances remains outside during the day and well into the night as a survival tactic with her issues of dog integration into the household unresolved. My adult son continues to work in the big city at his new job responding cryptically to my frequent emails outlining the pros and cons of HIS dog.  My frustration level has been reached but my good nature has been restored by taking account of the situation and doing what I had to do.  This post ends here while I go and get her out of my bedroom and put her into her crate again for another little rest. Sometimes you just have to be a bitch.

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Tough Enough

During a whirling dervish wind in late October, I had some help from a great- nephew to tidy up some yard work, put up my Christmas lights and haul in about twenty potted flowers and  herbs. It seemed like the right thing to do, especially with the help of a young nephew. Otherwise, I would have turned my back on the garden, dumped out the pots, strung a few lights and called it a day. But,no. (I’ve never written a” sentence” like that before….must be losing it.)

Lined up in my huge bay window, resting on sturdy boot trays, my flowers and herbs enjoyed the last warm days of fall and only needed watering and a little turn now and again for optimal sunlight.  Needless to say, I didn’t water them enough and some soon fizzled and got tossed out. The rest hung on through Christmas and looked stunning from both inside and outside the house. At night, the outdoor fairy lights draped in the tree added to the magic.

With the coming of January, my watering and maintenance program ended up being quite inconsistent. Usually, I just tipped the remains of a cold cup of tea or murky coffee into the pot and just hoped for the best. Writing about my procrastination habits in my daily journal seemed to help and I would load up a pail of water and take a dipper and gently water the plants so they could carry on bravely through the winter.

When the bulldog pup came to stay for extended visits from town where she was feeling somewhat neglected because her owner, my son, was burning his candle at both ends working and  also producing and directing a show in the evenings, the plants went through their worst trial. Pup ate some, dragged some and knocked some over. All that remain of the herbs are pots of chewed sage, chomped chives and respectable looking rosemary. Multicolored geraniums continue to glow gloriously in four big pots at the most sunny spots in the window. There is an old fashioned red one that cheers, a salmon pink that softly shines, a white one that calms and a rosy orange one that blooms like gangbusters. The faded peacelily hangs on, hopefully a little longer and the large leaf shamrock bursts with tiny white flowers. At night, once in awhile just to bug the neighbours, I turn on the outside muticoloured fairy lights. It looks awesome out there, especially when nobody else is quirky enough to let their lights stay on well into February and beyond.

What is the lesson in all this? Perhaps it is beauty is in the eye of the beholder as long as you remember to water the plants and never get a bulldog pup….or maybe it is just buy more geraniums, fairy lights and let the quirks of nature take its course.


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Two Markets, Two Markets To Buy Great Stuff….

At the very edge of an ancient woodlot, beside the old mill pond and behind a heritage general store, the Coldstream Market in Middlesex Centre, Ontario quietly conducts friendly business. There are a few signs pointing the way in the immediate area and a general newsletter outlining details of the local initiative was sent out earlier in the rural mail. About five or six people set up their displays on the back of pickup trucks or card tables under the shade of the towering trees. It just happens, like a pleasant and simple event during the growing and harvest season and I just love it.
The selection today was canned chili sauce, relish, handcrafted linens, all kinds of vegetables, homemade catering samples,maple syrup,eggs, flowers, homebaking and jewellery.
I came home with chili sauce made by my next door neighbour, eggs from the lady who goes to my church, vegetables from another neighbour just a little further down the road, bread from our Komoka bakery that specializes in gingerbread and a beautiful bracelet made by a young designer, Mylie. I decorated my front porch with an assortment of squash and made myself the best tomato sandwich from fresh flax and soya blend bread. I bought the gorgeous homegrown tomatoes from the catering fellow who lives in my Grandpa Walter’s house where I used to play fifty years or so ago.
Usually I am rather late getting to the market (as I am a retired writing night owl) but this morning I was one of their early birds. I had time to visit with everyone…and I know (almost) everyone and their brother and sister there…. and savour the laid back experience.
With time on my hands I also made a short trip to the slightly bigger Ilderton’s Farmer’s Market just down the road. This market has only started up this year and seems to be in a very good location for attracting customers. A festive fall mood of decorated haywagons, displays of pumpkins, tables of a variety of goodies such as homemade candles, vegetables, a couple of jewellery displays, baby wear, gourmet garlic, flour products from a local mill and frozen meats all tempted the visitors. A scavenger hunt was even organized for the little ones as they examined the plentiful displays with their parents. My purchases were gourmet garlic, a knitted baby hat and some frozen meat. I get a charge out of this market too as although I know many people there I am also making new aquaintances as a result of the friendly market atmosphere.
Stocked to the gills for yet another week I do not need to do anymore grocery shopping and I’ve even made a few purchases to put away for Christmas gifts. I have a feeling that I am a favourite shopper at both of these markets as I tend to go a bit crazy and buy an abundance of lovely things.
The people involved in these small local farmer’s markets are the real treasures as we share the morning together. Making contact with all these hardworking, friendly and talented people is delightful…and to think that I’ve bought several funky creative bracelets from the up and coming jewellery designer, Mylie…. while she is in the sixth grade…. is just way cool.


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My Hungry Games

Some nights the internet server doesn’t cooperate with my writing blog habits and flickers into a blank screen. Often, my high strung senior cat drapes herself over the keyboard or lurks behind the laptop lid watching me type and considers her chances to bite down on my fingers as I try to type. Consistently, I sit for awhile considering what to write about and usually snap it all off and try again later when something interesting pops into mind. Tonight, the deterrent to my writing is that I’m thinking about food. I ate my breakfast about noon and my lunch about seven p.m. so my supper hour is just kicking in apparently.
I am perfectly capable of making something interesting for myself and most likely I will. It is just very inconvenient to mess up the kitchen . It would be quite silly for a mature woman my age to jump in the car and drive all the way into town to get something as all the restaurants are closed except for the fast food places. My desire at the moment ( 12:03 a.m.) is for fluffy, hot, buttery mashed potatoes, creamy coleslaw, tangy meatloaf with chili sauce and chocolate pie with just a little whipped cream. There is a big possibility I will make this for dinner tomorrow and ensure that there will be leftovers for late night weekend munchies.
This leaves me with my go to late,late night meal with the ingredients at hand. Toasted bacon, cheese and tomato sandwich, with mustard and ketchup on the side, a dill pickle or two and some chocolate cookies I have stashed in the pantry for emergencies like this one and a big pot of tea. The dear cat, endearingly curled up asleep now beside my computer screen having given up on immediate attention and settling instead for mere proximity to my tapping fingers, is welcome to share a wee bit of my toast. Afterall, that’s what friends do.


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Shopping Mood

Four simple hardware knobs were all I really needed from the home improvement store but I also found a bench seat on sale. I bought the four hardware knobs instead of replacing all twenty four knobs with something more attractive and so I was proud of myself for saving money on that purchase. The bench seat was also half price and will be nice on my yet to be constructed… but any day now entrance way bench ( that will be part of a organization area with hooks, shelves and a little message board, inspired by Martha, no less. ( I often wonder what Martha would do if given a crack at decorating my old house.) I know she would rise to the challenge! At this point of retail therapy I decided to go just a little farther down Fanshawe Park Road, London , Ontario to Pier 1 and “just look around”.
The big beautiful store is like a complete and total opposite to anything in my humble home…except of course my new modern design teal and brown huge polka dot drapes! Luckily, I just happened to have a fabric swatch with me and once I was in the store I timidly looked around at some things that had caught my eye on a previous visit .
A friendly clerk at the front door encouraged me to look around as she said…”we have lots of good stuff”. Another welcoming clerk found me in a back corner holding my stringy fabric piece up to an art piece and made several suggestions when I hesitated. After a few minutes of looking around further another dynamo of a clerk got interested in our treasure hunt and between the two of them, Marylou and Nancy…. they had me drooling over the coolest assortment of stuff that would match my design taste.
Needless to say, I came home with something very special in the form of a dark brown, flecks of teal, patches of rusty brown collage of large autumn leaves that really bumps up the modern vibe in my very old house filled with hand me down farmhouse antiques and leftover college furniture. I also got a couple of inspirational wall art plaques to keep until I repaint my den to kind of go with the new colour scheme of my drapes also.
Now I’ll just have to be content for awhile with my decorating projects and let things gradually take their course over time and with store gift certificates (hint, hint) from my son.
The best thing to do now is fix those four kitchen cupboard doors and maybe make some banana muffins, just like Martha would want me to do…and sit back and enjoy my jazzed up reading/writing/livingroom sanctuary.

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Setting The Bait

Several stories are starting to rustle just a little and I can feel them tingling for attention. In a couple of days, the routine of writing and sharing what I write with my encouraging mentor will begin again after our long summer break. While she has been doing her summer workshops and performing I’ve been going to creative seed. With our session quickly approaching within days I’m resting comfortably on my little silly play (it’s horrible) that I wrote in June hoping that will fit the hour session just enough so she won’t be wasting her time on me. I’ll tell her that the other stories are forming but still timidly wait for the right time to find their way onto the page. She will help me coax the ideas out into the light of day.
You would probably like my stories too but at the moment they are scurrying back into the dark shadows with the dust, bits of paper and crumbs of dropped toast under my writing desk. All I can tell you is that one is about a beautiful animal, another is about an old photograph and the other is about a smell. At this point, you know as much about the stories as I do. When they finally peek out at me and make a dash for it, I’ll let you know.

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