Corrie Street 25 Feb. 2018

Living Donor

Thursday, a transplant unit assessor talks to Aiden about being a living donor. “We do like to shower people with pamphlets,” he chuckles when Aiden says he’d read all the pamphlets.assessor explains living donor process

It was a PSA, to be sure. Getting the information out there about the importance of being an organ donor. But also the risks and the seriousness of such a decision. A well done scene, and a well done public service announcement.

It’s not something we think about much, unless we’re faced with the situation. What would you do if your sibling or friend needed a part of you? And you could give it. Getting tested is one thing – then hoping against hope you’re not a match. But Aiden is a match for Carla. He can give her one of his kidneys. If all goes well, he will live just fine with one kidney and she will live just fine with the transplanted one.

If all goes well. That’s what the assessor is talking about. It might, but it also might not. There’s the operation itself, filled with risks as all surgery is. Then there’s the after. His health and abilities could be compromised. Carla’s body might reject the kidney. Even if it goes well, she could still have problems. And there’s the psychological aspects, before and after.

Do the right thing?

assessor-asks-if-any-pressure-put-onIs anyone pressuring him? Does he feel pressured by himself to ‘do the right thing’? Legitimate questions, and ones that might be overlooked in the midst of the trauma of a loved one facing death or long-term hospital treatment such as dialysis. You just want to help however possible as soon as possible. So these are good questions the man is posing. Do you feel obligated? How will you feel afterwards? And you can back out at any time prior to surgery without having to justify your change of mind to anyone, including the recipient.

Important information to convey to the public – the viewing audience – and to the character in the story being told. Coronation Street did it very well, I think, as did Tom Carter, who played the counsellor.

aiden-says-he-wants-to-do-itHis points are reinforced at the end of the episode, when Aiden tells Carla he’s good to go. She thanks him and promises “I will look after that kidney, you know. No late nights, no boozing sessions, no binges on pizza.” Paying respect to the magnitude of his action. Then she reestablishes their separate lives, despite anticipating having a shared organ. “Actually, who am I kidding? I’m going to drive that kidney like a Formula One race car.” Funny, and realistic. They’re going to have to negotiate the big issue of whose kidney is it. Carla is making a start at that already.

Acts of kindness

Amazon link #BeccaToldMeTo
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From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Feb. 3, 2012. Reposted in honour of Rebecca Schofield of #BeccaToldMeTo acts of kindness renown.

Ms. Schofield, of Riverview NB, passed away Feb. 17, 2018. She wanted to make the world a better place, she said. Becca, you did. Visit BeccaToldMeTo and you too can see just how much she achieved.

This week, I stopped at Elgin Animal Hospital to check their Caring Pet Cupboard donation bin. There was a bag of cat kibble in it, high-quality food sold by the clinic. There’s usually a bag cat and kitten eating side by side - acts of kindnessor two of it in the bin and it’s never past its expiry date. It’s always that same kind. So it didn’t seem likely it was excess stock the clinic wanted to clear out. It is always unopened, so it didn’t come from someone whose cat didn’t like it or had passed away.  It being there with such regularity made me wonder who provided it. But I hadn’t asked.

This day, the receptionist looked at the bag in my hands and smiled, “Mrs. [–] was in.” She explained when she saw my puzzlement. “That food comes from her.” All the way home, I felt good knowing there’s a lady out there who makes a point of coming in and buying a bag, sometimes two, of this food for other people’s cats. She’s probably got cats of her own to feed. With rebagging one of her bags, she’s also feeding 8 other cats for a week.

A Day for Acts of Kindness

farm cats investigate dog and cat food deliveryLast Wednesday Feb. 1st was “Random Act of Kindness Day” here in St. Thomas/Elgin. It was designated in honour of the late Laurie Houston. Her family had suggested that everyone do what she had done throughout her life: something nice for someone – just because.

Caring Pet Cupboard

In the past year, with the Caring Pet Cupboard, we’ve been seeing a lot of those acts from kind people. The lady who buys the cat food for our bin at Elgin Animal Hospital is one. The lady who always buys a couple extra cans of cat food at Pet Valu “for the poor cats” is another. She buys in bulk, they told me, for her own cats and the neighbourhood strays and ferals. But she always puts a few cans in our bin as well. Two boys who buy a box of dog treats for our bin when they come with their mother to buy food for their own dog.

German Shepherd waiting to eat his dinnerThe people who think of our bins or the animal shelter when their pet passes away. Partial bags of special diet food along with cat toys never played with, geriatric care dog food. Sometimes you can piece the story together just from the kind of food. I want to give those people my condolences on their loss, but I don’t know who they are. Still I thank them. Another cat or dog with kidney problems or diabetes is going to have the special food they need because of the thoughtfulness of those bereaved people.

The stores who give us their unsold or extra food and supplies. “It’s better than throwing it out,” they say. The pet food companies that take their corporate citizen role seriously and make donations of food to us and to animal shelters. Also department stores that donate pet food directly to the food banks.

dogs watching cat eat - are you done yet?From the small bag of kibble you hoped would tempt finicky Fluffy but didn’t, the extra can you bought for the donation bin, all the way to skids of food straight from the manufacturer – it’s added up. In this past year over 5 tons of kibble, nearly 600 cans and lots of treats have gone to people who need help providing food for their pets and to rescue groups. Random or not, all these are acts of kindness. Thank you.

Corrie Street 18 Feb. 2018

Soup for Henry

gazpacho-over-henryFriday, Henry and his little game got unmasked. Not a big surprise, but done in a way that I found worth a replay. Soup dumped on his head. Not just one bowl but three. Gazpacho, then noodle soup and, lastly, cream of something.

In the lead-up to this at the Bistro, Gemma had her first encounter with cold soup. Gazpacho, a lovely concoction of cucumber and tomato, served cold. “Mingin”” was her opinion as she spat out a mouthful. Then she told Robert to microwave it.connor-table-watches

i don’t know why a restaurant would have gazpacho on its menu during the cold, damp English winter. But it had to be gazpacho, I guess, because it really cannot be heated up and remain edible. Vichyssoise, also served cold, could be heated maybe, becoming leek and potato soup instead.

Gemma and Henry are on a double-date with his friend Hugo and his streel of a date Carly. The cold soup moment gives Hugo something more to laugh at about Gemma. Turns out the two upper-crust boys have got a £5,000 bet that involves shocking their parents by bringing home unsuitable girls. Chesney overhears them talking about this while they’re at the bar.hugo watches noodle soup throw

Henry ought to know that Chesney is a friend of Gemma’s, and is within earshot. I don’t know if this was a writing oversight or a deliberate way of showing that, in Henry’s rarefied world, little people like Ches don’t matter.

Betting on class

Ches tells Gemma about the bet. She’s gutted. Carly hears too, and is more philosophical about it. Whatever this guys are playing out, she’s getting a fancy meal out of it. Meanwhile, back at the table, Henry has enough of Hugo’s class crassness and his amusement at Gemma’s expense. Henry is indeed falling for her.

Gemma hears Henry’s defence of her but she doesn’t care. She is furious. She grabs the bowl of gazpacho and there it goes, right over his head. Then she reaches around to the Connor’s table and grabs Aiden’s bowl of soup. Over Henry’s head. Excellent, I’m loving it.tracy hands gemma cream soup

Like everyone in the restaurant, Tracy is watching and enjoying the show. Then she steps nearer the action and picks up Johnny’s soup and hands it to Gemma. And Gemma throws that one over Henry’s head too.third-bowl-over-henry

Soup, beer or water, anything thrown over someone is generally always good. But that third move bumped the grade of execution of an old gag right to the top of the scale.

Louis John

Newfoundland archivist and historian Don Morris wrote about Louis John in his Vignettes of the West column in The Western Star. The photocopy I have of the article is difficult to read, so I’ve typed it out. Unfortunately the date of publication is not on it. It would be between 1974 and 1989, the years that Mr. Morris wrote for The Western Star.

don morris louis john western star
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The great caribou-skin canoe journey

By Don Morris

One of the greatest outdoorsmen and hunting and fishing guides who ever trod and explored the pristine Newfoundland wilderness was a Micmac named Louis John. Born in Conne River in 1868, he entered the guiding business at the age of 18 under the expert tutorage of his father, Peter John.

During his long career as woodsman par excellence, Louis gained the respect of all who loved the great outdoors. He acted as guide to sportsmen in all walks of life, including affluent St. John’s merchants, well-heeled visitors to our island and to ordinary local folk who wanted to know the best fishing and hunting grounds. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the vast and – to some – forbidding Newfoundland interior and its wildlife long before any train began snorting its way across the island. When he died in 1957 at the age of 89 he was already a Newfoundland legend.

Paddled hundred of miles

His stories of his experiences in the wilds captivated young and old alike. One such adventure was about a remarkable journey he and a partner, Micmac guide and trapper Noel Mattis (Matthews), made from St. George’s to Bay d’Espoir where they lived. They made the trip in a canoe of caribou skins and paddled many hundreds of miles of interior waterways without a single portage.

st-georges-to-bay-despoir-map.
Red line is a very rough indicator of their journey. My apologies to geographers. Click to enlarge.

Mr. John related that they left St. George’s and trekked along the Lapland River and over the mountains until they came to the base of the Anniopsquotch Mountains. Heading northeast, they came out at the head of Red Indian Lake by a place now called Lloyd’s River. They made camp there for a few days. They set their camp between what Mr. John described as “two old Red Indian houses.” He was obviously referring to the remains of Beothuk Indian abodes.

He said he couldn’t sleep well that night and was always waking up, explaining that “in those days, I guess, I was pretty scared of spirits and superstitions, because I thought those Red Indians were always after me.”

Killed caribou with rock

The men built a raft and poled their way down Red Indian Lake until they came where it emptied out into the Exploits River. One Sunday when they were out of meat Louis suggested to Noel, who apparently was older than Mr. John, that they shoot a caribou. The older man objected strongly that they hunt on the Sabbath Day and hid the rifle under the bed in camp.

Louis told his companion that they would have meat anyway. He picked up a heavy rock. One caribou looked over his shoulder at some others. Louis took aim and threw the rock with all his might. Recounted Louis in later years: “I hit him (the caribou) hard and he fell down. Quickly I leaped on him and cut his throat, dressed him and put him on my back and walked up to the camp.”

“The old man”, as Louis described his companion, was surprised that Louis had the animal as he had not heard a gunshot. Louis explained that the “gun” he used made no noise. He said that he threw the rock with such force that he had to dig it out of the caribou with his knife. The “old man” chuckled and remarked that they would not go hungry if there were rocks around.

The two men decided to build a canoe out of the hide in which to continue their overland journey. In later life, in describing this experience, Louis explained that the method of making the canoe was simple and used by many guides and trappers in the old days.

mikmaq-canoe-the-rooms-heritage.nf_.ca
ca 1983 Michael Joe and Martin Jeddore, caribou skin canoe, Newfoundland Museum, Traces

Louis and his companion cut a keel, tied a stem to the keel with roots. The caribou skin was laid out flat and the keel placed under it. Side timber and ribs were cut from crooked spruce and tied together. The ribs were placed under the hide, which was punctured on one side to hold the frames. They used spruce roots to tie the whole canoe together, and it worked very well, tight and buoyant.

Louis and his companion then paddled down river to Paul’s Brook and made camp. While there, they made a pine tree “dug-out” to carry them in country to the south and eventually home. With the dug-out Louis and his friend made their way up Noel Paul’s Brook and by hitting smaller tributaries eventually reaching Bay d’Espoir, covering a total of about 400 miles of water routes. Mr. John boasted as he recounted the adventure to his eager listeners in later years: “We never made one portage during the entire trip with the raft and boats.”

Louis John, when an elderly man, said that in one season he killed 50 caribou. He estimated that he had killed more than 1,000 in his lifetime and he packed every pound of meat out of the woods, leaving nothing to waste.

It would take a series of “Vignettes” to recount all the experiences of this remarkable man of the forest. For the material for this particular column I am indebted to William Peter Dugan of Gordon Terrace, Corner Brook, who is the great grandson of Louis John. Mr. Dugan is intensely interested in his genealogy and the history of the Micmac people in Newfoundland. It was said at the time of the death of Louis John: “The John Micmac ancestry is worn as a proud banner.”

Louis John 1868-1957

The Atlantic Guardian  published a long and interesting obituary of Louis John (pp 27-32). Above is the first page.  Also, his daughter Kathleen (Cassie) Humber talks about him in Calvin Coish’s Stories of the Mi’kmaq (pdf pp 9-26).

The caribou skin canoe pictured above was made by the late Michael Joe and Martin Jeddore, of Miawpukek. It was part of the Newfoundland Museum Mi’kmaq material culture project Traces. The construction method, as I remember, was just as Mr. John described. All photography for the project was done by Dave Quinton.

Corrie Street 11 Feb. 2018

Secrets and Lies

Thursday’s episode starts with two stories packed full of secrets and lies. One is working for me, one is not. The one that works is Nicola conspiring with Gary and Seb to bring Phelan down. The one that doesn’t is Toyah and Eva deciding to pass Eva’s unwanted baby off as Toyah’s much wanted one.

gary-sees-seb-with-nicolaNicola returned to the Street this week, surprising Phelan and Eileen and me too. She says she got it all wrong about him and begs his forgiveness. Very disappointing because a) I thought she had figured him out and b) if he gets another supporter there’s going to be that many more people shouting at each other and his comeuppance is going to take that much longer.

Secret Agent Nicola

nicola-explains-planBut no! Next we see her she’s spiriting Gary off. She’s got a surprise for him. Seb went to ground at her place, and she believes what he tells her about Phelan. So she wants Gary’s help in bringing Phelan down. To that end, she will cozy up to dear old dad and get the dirt on him from the inside.

nicola-asks-are-you-certainGary wants to tell Sarah and Faye so that they won’t worry. They can keep a secret, he says. Ha! Sure they can! Nicola puts it a bit more diplomatically, and Gary gets the point. He’ll keep his mouth shut.

gary-wonders-about-danger versus secrets and liesI feel nervous for Nicola, and fear that it won’t go smoothly for her personally and for the plan. That’s how it should be. Although Nicola hasn’t been on the show long, she and this story are being written so that we do care and do fear for her. We also know there will be a lot of twists and turns and Phelan cold stares. It will be exciting, I think.

Baby Secrets

toyah-suggests-she-take-babyThe secrets and lies in the back room of the Rovers, however, I’m not looking forward to. Like a figure skater telegraphing a jump, you could see this baby swap coming a long way off. Except, evidently, for the principals.

It had to get right down to her being at the abortion clinic before Toyah suggested it. The suspense in this case was not killing me, only the dread that they were going to do yet another soap opera cliché. At least the writers had the decency to have Toyah say that she’d started thinking about it as soon she knew about Eva’s pregnancy.nurse-calls-eva-in

Toyah finds out their surrogate mother has lost the baby. So Toyah is grieving for that baby and any future baby. Then she finds out that Eva is pregnant by Aiden. Eva can’t see any good way of having, and raising, the baby of the man she defrauded and made a fool of. “I can’t have the baby you want,” she said to Toyah. Oh yes you can, I thought to myself, it happens all the time – in soap operas!eva-cancels-abortion

Already the secrets and lies have started. Toyah to Peter, and Eva to Shona, and plans are afoot for how they’re going to pull this off. Watch television or read a novel, I want to tell them, this never works!

Druggie Pets

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, 3 Nov. 2010.

Filmmaker Patrick Reed was on CBC Radio’s Q, talking about his new film, Pet Pharm. (It is no longer online, but Hye’s Musings has a good post about the film.) It is about the booming business in pharmaceuticals – for pets.

The pharmaceuticals for people industry is already huge, and increasingly so for pets. Michael Schaffer, in his book One Nation Under Dog, has a chapter on it (see Fur Babies post.)

Drugs are possibly a big part of the $47 billion that Americans will spend on their pets in the next year (that figure comes from a trivia question on freekibble.com). Maybe it is money that would be better spent on starving children in the world, as Patrick Reid obliquely suggests.

And maybe that’s a comparison that is really beside the point. Maybe the money spent each year on psychoactive drugs, big screen tvs, Xboxes, running shoes and high-end jeans for North American adults and children would also be better used feeding and healing malnourished children.

Cat Drugs

cat stress-licking photo d stewartI have had a bit of experience with psychoactive drugs for cats lately. One cat has been picked on by another ever since she was a tiny kitten. As a result, she developed obsessive-compulsive licking to the point of open, bleeding wounds. Her veterinarian thought at first it was mites or allergies so she had some tests and strict diet control. We tried a drug for allergies that worked a bit. Then more open sores. I became convinced it was stress, maybe compounded by skin sensitivity. We then tried a dog and cat “tricyclic antidepressant” called Clomicalm. It worked for a while. Made her very sleepy, but when she was sleeping she couldn’t lick herself. Then the calming effect of it started to wear off. She needed more and more of it. There’s only so much you can safely give.

Cat's belly photo d stewartI saw no cure short of a change of home for one or other of them. But that didn’t seem a likely option. Finding a home for any adult cat is difficult. But a ten year old not awfully pleasant one? Or a formerly feral cat scared of anyone except us? Euthanasia for one or other of them? I considered it. Life for the young one was not good, but another home likely wouldn’t be an improvement for her. The old one had less life ahead of her, but did she deserve to die because she doesn’t like other cats? No. But the stress of one cat licking herself raw and the other hissing, spitting and attacking was making me want to stress-lick or tranquilize myself.

Bottled Happy Cat

In desperation, I called my vet. “Give me drugs – the strongest you’ve got. Some for me while you’re at it. I don’t care if we’re all comatose as long as this stops.”  “Well, there is something new we’ve got,” she said. “It’s called Feliway and it’s like a room air-freshener.” “I’m on my way.” She said it’s essentially the pheromone that cats exude when they’re happy, put in a bottle. There’s also a dog version, D.A.P., advertised in Pets Magazine, a good Canadian magazine you can get free at vet clinics.

Cat reaching up for a treat, not drugsFor a year now, I’ve kept a Feliway diffuser in the hallway. It works. The fights haven’t stopped, the stress-licking still happens. But, overall, there’s peace in the valley. There are tricks to using the Feliway effectively, and when things go wrong, they go very wrong very quickly.  (For example, don’t put it close to their water or food.)

Happier Cat

When the little cat went for her shots this year, the vet was distressed to see the raw welts on her belly. She’d forgotten how bad she looked before. I told her I wasn’t worried because her belly and her attitude were so much better than before. Both the cat and I could live with some sores. She probably will have them for as long as the old cat is alive. And knowing that cat, I imagine it will be a good few years more.

So do I think giving psychoactive drugs to pets is bad, wasteful or the lazy way out of behavioural problems? No, not if that is the only solution aside from euthanasia and if a better home for the animal isn’t a viable option. It shouldn’t be the first method tried and it shouldn’t be seen as “normal”, any more than having every kid hopped up on Ritalin should be seen as a normal response to over-exuberance.

Corrie Street 4 Feb. 2018

Metaphor in a T-shirt

Monday’s second episode, a bar fight. Must be on the production to-do roster, I thought. So now they can check that item off. Then it became a bit unusual, relatively highbrow. “Oh look, the bimbo used a metaphor,” Toyah sneers at Carla’s assertion that she is not interested in Peter.been-there-got-the-t-shirt

“Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. In fact, he was sick on the t-shirt,” Carla had said to her. “It wasn’t a metaphor, he actually did that,” she says as she throws a drink at Toyah.carla-throws-beer-on-toyah

So Toyah throws one back at Carla. Ken Barlow would be proud. The tutoring he gave Toyah all those years ago paid off. She can chuck drinks at someone while debating whether or not something is a metaphor.

In this case, it’s about Peter Barlow so it is both literal and metaphorical. Women and booze, the central parts of his life, consumed and flushed.peter-watches-fight

His relationships and his history, laid out right in front of him by his current and former squeezes. He’s got to be loving it. Four women fighting over him, the local king of two-timing, in his bar.carla-yells-michelle-glares

The fight was also a nice return to their roots for the Battersby and Connor women. They’ve dressed themselves up, literally and figuratively, but they all – Toyah and Leanne, Carla and Michelle – are hard cases. bimbo used a metaphor

Gemma Winter, the current Street guttersnipe, could take lessons from them. Gemma might be able to fight but she wouldn’t know a metaphor if it slapped her in the face. The Connor and Battersby women not only know, but can discuss what is and isn’t a metaphor while brawling in a bar. Toyah even owns the bar so she doesn’t have to throw herself or her sister out of it. Movin’ on up!toyah-throws-beer-on-carla.

P. L. Robertson

robertson-screwdriversRed Robbie, green Robbie. If you know what that means, you’re a Canadian. Or a connoisseur of screws and screwdrivers. The Robertson screw and screwdriver, with square socket heads, the best design there is. The screwdriver does not slip or strip the screw head.

The red and green refers to the size of the square in the screw head, larger and smaller. There’s also a black (largest) and yellow (smallest).

The Robertson screw was invented in 1908 by P. L. Robertson. He called his invention the Socket Head Screw, but we all call it a Robertson or just Robbie.

I now have even greater affection for the Robbie. P. L. Robertson is my cousin. What a thrill! I had no idea until I happened across his full name: Peter Lymburner Robertson. Lymburner? Start the googling. He’s the nephew by marriage of my 2nd cousin 4 times removed.

Robertson and Lymburner Families

p l robertson and lymburner families
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His parents were John Robertson, born in Scotland, and Annie Brown, whose father was born in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Annie’s sister Janet married Peter Swick Lymburner. He was my grandmother’s grandfather’s 2nd cousin, and P. L. Robertson’s uncle.

So was Peter Lymburner Robertson named after his mother’s sister’s husband? Possible, I suppose. Lymburner is not a middle name one would give a child without there being some reason.

I wonder if there’s another Lymburner connection in there too. The families lived relatively near each other in Scotland and in Ontario. I p-l-robertson-collectionscanada.gc_.cacan’t find the parents of John Robertson or the grandparents of Annie Brown. Could there also be a Lymburner among them?

P. L. Robertson was born in Haldimand County, Ontario in 1879. He worked as a salesman for a tool company and, while demonstrating a new screwdriver, it slipped out of the slot head screw and cut his hand. It’s happened to us all, but he went home and designed a better screw and better screwdriver.

Robertson Screw Company

He began producing them in Milton, Ontario. He went to the United Robertson_screw_ad-1909-LAC-Ken-Lamb-wikicommonsStates to market them. Henry Ford was interested, but wanted an exclusive licence for them in the US. Robertson would not agree, so no deal. Unlike Robertson, Henry Phillips did not quibble about rights, so Ford bought his star-shaped socket screw. That’s why the Phillips screw is ubiquitous even though it isn’t that much better than a slot screw.

Robertson returned to Milton and continued production for the Canadian and international markets. He died there in 1951. Robertson Inc. still has its headquarters in Milton although it is now owned by the US Marmon Group.

robertson screwWhen I told my husband about my newly discovered cousin, he said “I’m jealous.” He said his dad, who was American, discovered Robertson screws on a visit to Ontario. Despite always buying American, he went straight to the hardware store and stocked up on Robertson screws and screwdrivers and took them home with him.