Archive for the 'children' Category


Halloween trick or treat gets an update

Has political correctness and touchy-feely taken over Halloween?  I thought they were kidding at first:

Well, if it’s serious, then this works both ways, and I think the message should get out to kids, too.

They cannot just barge onto my property and come up my steps and and stand before my door to scream Trick or Treat!

I find Trick or Treat to be a rude, nasty, mean and hurtful expression of juvenile greed, and I’ve suffered for it each and every year.  But this Halloween, that’s it.  Unless the kids ring the doorbell and calmly – but in a firm voice – ask for their candy, they won’t be getting any.  Here’s the handout, kiddies.  You still have a few hours to learn it.

“We, the gathered children of your neighbourhood dressed as we are in costumes which may or may not be the genuine product of our own handiwork, the work of our parents, or older siblings, or more than likely made in China and purchased at inflated prices at Wal-Mart, would like to politely request that you provide us, free or charge and without prejudice or right of redress, with a surgary confection of your choosing, either store-bought or homemade.  Failing that, we would be prepared to perform, again, without right of redress and free of artists’ royalties, a simple dance, sing a song, or tell a joke.  Should we opt for a joke, said joke will not contain elements harmful to any person or identifiable group.  The song, should we elect to sing it, is guaranteed not to be by Chris Brown, hero to some very sick people.   Thank you.”

I think that’s got a snappy enough ring to it, don’t you?  And it certainly levels the playing field.


Edinburgh: finally seeing the home town of a grandfather I never knew

Sometime back before the turn of the century we had the vague idea of visiting Scotland to see where a chunk of my family’s history played out.  I’m a Canadian with Scottish roots on both sides of the family.  My great-grandfather on my father’s side was a fishmonger in Edinburgh before he emigrated to Canada with his children, my grandfather among them.  He died not long after the photo with me on his lap was taken.

Then when we were mulling over the idea of visiting back then a distant cousin, whose hobby was geneology, sent me a hand-written letter full  of details about my great-grandfather and his times back in the late 1800s in Edinburgh.  She had visited Scotland in the early 1970s and had tracked down many details of our Scottish roots going back a few generations.

One thing interrupted another as life happened to us in the meantime while we were making other plans, so we never did make it to Scotland.

I’d bought a guidebook we never used, but because we’re now definitely going to be there in one month, the other day took it off the shelf where it’s been sitting for the past dozen years.  I was thinking there must be some interesting stuff about Scottish history in it even if the practical information must be hopelessly out of date.

As I took it off the shelf it opened to the page where I’d stuffed a letter my cousin had written me so long ago, and quickly forgotten.  It’s better than any guidebook is going to be.  It’s got a little wander all laid out for us.   Here’s an excerpt:

Your great-great grandparents John and Isabella lived on Leith Street near Register House.  Your great-great grandfather John was a lithographer.  Your great-grandfather was a fishmonger and had three fish shops before coming to Canada.  Your grandfather James was a bank manager in Saskatchewan.  Your grandparents were married in the Tron Kirk, High Street and South Bridges.  (hmmm. they must have gone back to get married?  Must check this.)

Your Granddad and my mother lived as children in a house on Warrender Place (or Park) Edinburgh near Marchmont Road.  She and your grandfather were pals.  Most of her childhood memories were with him.  It is a lovely street, wish I had known the address.  Your great-granddad James (their father) had a fish shop on the corner of Warrender and Marchmont.  Mother and your grand-dad played on the Meadows nearby, and spoke of the huge jawbone they played under.  I found it, not so huge, must be a whale bone, would appear very big to a child.

Your grand-dad and my mother walked the Royal Mile every day because James had two other fish shops. They used to ride under Canongate Tollbooth, driver had to pay.  They lived in Duddingston for a while and attended school.  I have since been told that the school might have group pictures with them in it.  My mother always wondered what she looked like as a child.

Suggest you walk the Royal Mile.  Your great grand-dad sang in choir at St. Giles Cathedral.  It is beautiful.  Sundays the Pipers are there for church service.

(…) My mother’s memories of her fourteen years in Scotland made my visit to the homeland memorable.  I felt as though I belonged.

Another family detail gleaned from a photocopied Scottish newspaper clipping was their war record.  My grandfather had six brothers.   All seven of them fought in France during World War I.  They each fought in a different unit and never met the other during the whole conflict.  Astoundingly, all seven survived that most murderous of wars, which the clipping mentions must be a record for the whole country.

A clipping of my great-grandfather’s obituary was also among the papers stuffed in that guidebook.  Apparently I have another place to pore through: Carisbrooke cemetery.  Would the gravestone still be there?  It will take a visit to the Isle of Wight to find out for sure.


House listing withdrawn as forest animals wreak havoc

A central Hamburg real estate listing has been withdrawn after forest animals were discovered gnawing away at the newly built house.  A black bear and two raccoons were found ploughing their snouts into the exterior trim as owners Wolfgang and Hildegudrun Schmeddlapp returned today from a woodcutting expedition.

“We couldn’t believe it,” wailed Herr Schmeddlapp.  “By the time we got home, they’d already eaten the door, window shutters, half of one side of the roof, and nearly an entire wall!”

The Smeddlapps, a Swabian back-to-the-land farming couple from Stuttgart, say they’d put their life savings into the house.  “Work-work-build-a-house.  That’s what they always told us to do in life.  It’s all gone now,” moaned Frau Schmedlapp. “Just look at the place.  We might as well have invested in Greek bonds for all it’s come to.”

Wildlife experts say it’s highly unusual for black bears to come out of hibernation to feed.

“They usually store up a lot for the winter,” said Bea Lotto of the Hamburg Tierschutzvereinunddingsbums.  “What we want to find out is why a house made with ginger and molasses, glued together with a mixture of egg white and icing sugar and decorated with Smarties, Gummy bears and those awful round things you get from Aldi around Christmas would attract bear and raccoon.  It’s a mystery.”

A banding found on one of the raccoons may give a clue to its origins and behaviour.

“If you look closely at the leg of that fellow up there on the left, he’s wearing an ID bracelet,” said Lotto.  “It’s highly unusual for a Waschbaer – err, sorry, raccoon – to be tagged.  It might be a clue he’s from Munich.  We’ll have to do a scat sample to check for Weisswurscht just to be sure, though.”


Busking at the Christmas markets

The red-haired girl and a friend went out busking today, he with his saxophone and she with her clarinet.

Although they’re schoolmates and so see each other every day, they’d not had much time to practise their Christmas songs.  He lives far away south across the Elbe river, and they’re both busy kids.

But they did have time for a couple of sessions before hitting the Christmas markets.

She went out last year with another friend who also plays the clarinet, and that time I watched them both very closely the whole time.  But this year we left the two of them to practise at our place, catching up with them after we’d come back from having lunch down in the harbour.

They’d been playing for about a half-hour by the time we’d stopped by to watch and say hello.  First thing she told us was how a woman had just come up to them and told them to stop because they sounded awful!

I thought that was pretty mean, but the red-haird girl was smiling broadly.  She didn’t care.  They were out there in the crowds playing away, and coins were dropping into her clarinet case.  I added a couple.

“We’re heading downtown if the weather stays nice,” she chirped.

I hadn’t counted on them venturing so far away, and felt a free-range kids moment coming on.

“Uh… really?” I said.  “All the way downtown?”


“OK, but watch out for yourselves,” I said.  “Not everyone down there is going to be friendly.”

“It’s OK,” her friend said. “I’m pretty athletic.  If anyone tries anything, I’ll run after them.”

As wife K and I left them to play some more, I told her of my anxiety, just letting them go all the way downtown midst the crowded madness of Saturday pre-Christmas shopping.

“Just remind me a couple of times that everything’s going to be OK,” I said.

Then I added that I didn’t want to be lurking around the corner all the time, they’re close to 15 and mature for their ages and could take care of themselves, I didn’t want to be like some sort of helicopter parent because that’s not the way I am.  But it felt very strange to just start walking away and let them go.

“They’ll be OK,” K said.  “And don’t forget. We’ve got to give them roots, but also let them have wings.”


New listing: a Christmas real estate deal you don’t want to miss

Now showing in Hamburg Estates, this one-bedroom, one-bath bungalow is the perfect starter home for a growing family.

Character is going to be your first impression when you view this completely new home located close to downtown Hamburg.  Built from the ground up using the best German-Canadian craftsmen with the finest materials and techniques.

Features include new electrical and plumbing, high-fructose roof and siding, new bathroom with clawfoot tub, new paint inside and out and an easy rental suite conversion in full above-ground basement, whatever the hell that is.  Spacious back-yard! Call to view.  Offer expires at Christmas.  Or whenever one of us gets hungry.


Forgotten moment of joy

This week I’m a straw-widow.**  Or widower, more like it.

Wife K and the red-haired girl have taken off to Turkey for a week’s short holiday.  Missing them both, I’ve been looking at old home movies shot on our sturdy old Hi-8 camcorder.

It’s been fun testing out an analog-to-digital converter a friend lent me, and at the same time re-discovering clips I hadn’t seen in a dozen years.

Here’s one tiny moment of joy I’d completely forgotten:

That girl and I are still playing together.

If we have time when they get back, we’ll make one showing what we’ve been practicing lately.

**A direct translation of the German term Strohwitwe(r), which you become when your spouse is away for a while.


Hiking the Stawamus Chief

Living as we do out here in the flatlands of northern Germany, every trip back to Canada we look forward to a little bit of hiking.  For the past four trips – 2005, 2006, 2009 and just this past month – the red-haired girl and I have climbed up the Stawamus Chief, a massive granite monolith whose sheer face dominates the eastern side of Squamish, British Columbia.

In 2006, we went up as a family with a friend of hers to Peak 1:

In 2009 we made it the furthest yet -  to Peak 3:

This past month we first went to Peak 3, then skirted down through the forest and up again to Peak 1.

I fully expect the photo of our next hike up to show some little guy next to a tall red-head.

It takes about two hours to climb as the trail winds up through evergreen forest along a rushing creek before branching off into paths leading to three separate peaks.

As the sign at the trailhead says: this is no walk in the park.

The first part is quite steep and dominated by wooden stairways, recently upgraded to allow for the massive increase in the number of hikers over the past few years.  On our way down this year we started counting the number of people we met along the way.  In only 30 minutes we counted no fewer than 215 people including 16 children plus eight dogs headed up the path as we were headed down.

I’d slip into a nostalgic riff about how when I was a kid we used to walk up there on a weekend and meet maybe a half-dozen people on a crowded day, before launching into a tirade about how the explosion of tourism is ruining the planet, but because I get up to that far too often, I’ll spare you.

Besides, the atmosphere in this post-industrial version of Canada is a lot better than it used to be.  You used to see – and smell – great wafting drifts of white smoke shifting up or down Howe Sound from the former pulp mill at Woodfibre.   The former mill site you can see as a white patch on the far shore behind us in the background.  The mill was taken down a few years ago and shipped for reassembly in China.  Far up the Chief you also used to hear the background sound of woodcutting machines at an equally massive sawmill plunked at the entrance to Squamish, but it’s been gone for ages.

These days the town promotes itself as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, so if the tourists have picked up and that and descend on the place in their thousands every summer day, that’s the trade-off.  The surrounding countryside is so much cleaner than it used to be, making the view from the top even more worth the climb.


Will you still need me, will you still feed me

I still remember hearing this song for the first time and thinking what an incredibly long way away it seemed.

Soon it will be only 13 years – about as long as I’ve lived in Hamburg.

Or does a really cold winter just make you feel old?


The hockey game I will always remember

OK, I’ve had a few beers, eh?  So go easy.  But stick an expat Canadian in a hockey game – a Canadian who’s been marooned on the frigid shores of northern Germany for going on two decades -  and 45 years of puck-whacking start to flood back.

Times we’d set out rocks for goalposts 15 yards apart on a road, play street hockey and pretend we were Jean Belliveau, Guy Lafleur, Guy Lapointe…  Can you tell I was a Montreal fan before the Vancouver Canucks finally made it to the NHL?

This is the game I will always remember -  only a part of it, but it’s enough.

A nothing game, the playoffs already decided, the Canucks eliminated weeks before in a badly losing season, their second in the NHL 1971-72 when they finished dead last in the league.

Dad’s office at the copper mine had season’s tickets.  Section 10, Row 15, Seats 9 and 10 in what they used to call the Pacific Mausoleum, a crowd so quiet you could hear The Queen fart.  The seats were divvied up among the office employees and Dad got four games a year.  Our seats were right behind the goalie, and in those days you had to keep awake or get a puck in the chops.  Screw the lawsuits, life was too simple back then.

So it’s late in the third period, game tied 2-2 in a tight contest against the Buffalo Sabres.  For those old enough to remember, the Buffalo Sabres were the Canucks’ main rival because Buffalo and Vancouver ascended to the NHL together the season before.  This is why it was so important, even though both teams had already been eliminated from playoff contention.

The game was tied 1-1 until six minutes left in the third period when Buffalo scores, sending many to the exits as it was obviously going to be just another loss.  Then the Canucks tied it up with about 2 minutes left and those on the way out are rushing back to their seats.   It’s fierce action and it goes down to the final 14 seconds with a stoppage in play.  There’s a face-off near the Sabres’ goal way down across the ice at the far end.

Much like the face-off we saw tonight:

That was taken two hours ago when Canada’s national team defeated Germany’s 4-1 in Hamburg!  It was a lot of fun…. More on that game later.

Back to the game 38 years ago.

This is the scene that is burned in my mind forever:

André Boudrias wins the face-off and the puck goes back to the right point to Jocelyn Guevremont.

They say that every time your mind replays a memory the subsequent memory is changed a tiny fraction, so that what you saw in real life is altered each time you recall it.  Sooner or later, what you retain as a memory has been changed beyond all resemblance to reality.

That may be true for some things, but this is exactly what happened.  It will never change.  It’s in the books.  It really happened.

Guevremont, a defenceman known for his incredibly hard shot from the point, takes aim as the puck approaches. The crowd of 15,000 holds its breath as he  pulls his stick back and, without even stopping the puck, sends it flying up through a half-dozen bodies, sticks and legs to the far corner, over the shoulder of the Sabres’ goalie Roger Crozier and into the back of the net.  I’ll never forget the sight of the net rippling from so far away across the arena.

There were 11 seconds left on the clock and the Pacific Mausoleum erupted in pandemonium as the red light went on.

I’m 11 years old, and all around me people are jumping on top of their seats, they’re screaming, they’re going crazy, they’re throwing drinks and junk onto the ice, they keep screaming, you think it’s going to stop and they keep on, it seems to last forever, like an encore call that won’t quit until the band finally gets back on stage, until one guy takes a thermos – it was probably filled with whiskey until half-way through the second period – and he hand-grenades it from the second tier.  I can see it now, sailing through the air right in front of me, end over end, a slow loop-de-loop arc, and when it hits the ice, the interior shatters in a spray of glass all over our end of the ice.

The crowd goes whoa!


It takes them 10 minutes to sweep the ice clean so they can finally play out the last 11 seconds.

All this before the eyes of an 11-year-old from the sticks. It was the first time I was in a crowd that went absolutely crazy.  I loved it.

It was tribal, I guess.  I miss that.

That’s why tonight’s game was so much fun. The chance to get together with some Canadians to see some of Canada’s best players playing the game we love best.

Thanks for jogging my memory, guys.


This boy is bushed

My way of saying it’s time for this blog to have a snooze.  Commenters, please tap lightly. :-)

The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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