Ma Bell

Our landline was not working. So my husband calls BellAliant. Customer service representatives are all busy, would you like a call back? Thank you very much, he thought, and pressed the number for yes. Bell called back, a technician will come next day.

dog with phone photo d stewartThe technician came and fixed the line outside. He explained the problem clearly and said if it happens again, call. Ok, and thanks. Great service.

Then a call from BellAliant, a recorded customer satisfaction survey. Are you the person who placed the call, the recorded voice asked. I pressed the number for no. We will call back, the voice responded. Recorded voice did call back and my husband answered its questions. That’s the end of it, we thought.

The phone bill arrived. A charge for a “Call Trace” – $5. No date, no number, nothing explaining what this was. So a call to BellAliant to ask. It means a call back, the customer service representative said. You used the menu option to receive a call back from someone you called.

Undisclosed service fee

The only call back we had asked for was our call to BellAliant. To fix the phone service that they provide us. An option in their phone menu, but with no warning that a charge will apply for using it.

Then it is listed on the bill with no details of when or to whom the “Call Trace” was made. They must know – they’re the phone company! And, in this case, it was made to them, to report a problem with their service.

The day after making that call to BellAliant, the phone rings. It’s the recorded voice from BellAliant, a customer satisfaction survey. Are you the person who made the call, it asked me. I hadn’t been, but I said I was. I now know it’s the only way to make them stop calling.

It was a short survey. The service representative did her job well, the wait to get through wasn’t long. So BellAliant can tick the box for a happy customer experience. However, there was no opportunity to give the reason for the call in the first place.

They tape the calls they receive. So they can tell on the spot if a customer is satisfied or not. I’d like to call them again, and talk to a real human, to tell them why we called in the first place. A problem with the service we pay them to provide. But it would only generate another automated customer satisfaction survey call from them!

Ernestine the telephone operator would be proud. Ma Bell is still Ma Bell.

Dog Park Groupies

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 24, 2010

three dogs by tree in dog parkThe St. Thomas Dog Owners Association is having its first annual general meeting in November.  All members are welcome – indeed urged to attend and become involved.  The Lions Club Dog Park needs ongoing involvement and commitment not just from the dogs who use it, but from their people too.

When I began going to the Hamilton Road dog park in London several years ago, I never thought about how it came to be.  It was just there, placed for my convenience and my dog’s entertainment.  I saw, and read, the rules.  But even the sign didn’t really make me think about who devised the rules, who put up the fencing, who kept the park clean.  Like the natural world, the dog park was just there.

Eventually I realized there was a London Dog Owners Association involved with the dog parks.  Even then, I didn’t put that fact together with the existence of the parks and their maintenance.  Not being a group person myself, I just thought some people just have to have something to join don’t they?

A St. Thomas Dog Park?

Now, at the same time as I started going to London’s dog park, I’d been thinking about how nice it would be if we had one in St. Thomas.  Indeed, a friend and I talked to City officials about it.  We were told it was possible if we raised money to contribute to the cost.  We also were told many other people had approached the City before for a dog park. So we got names of some of them. Then we thought about fund- and interest-raising efforts.  We printed flyers and collected names of interested people.   The names and dollars we raised became our small investment in a future dog park.

Then priorities changed for both my friend and me.  Our dogs got sick in the same year.  They were about the same age.  Wendy’s Doberman succumbed to a congenital heart problem.  My German Shepherd died a couple months later.  So during that year, a dog park was the last thing in our minds.

Lions Club St. Thomas Dog Park With her new Dobie pup, my friend met a group of people in town whose dogs liked to play together.  We also all had seen a petition around shops and on-line asking for a dog park.  When I again had dogs, I met all these people – those of the petition and those who met up.  Then I learned why there was a London Dog Owners Association.  Someone has to lobby and get approval for dog parks and get them constructed.

St. Thomas Dog Owners Association

In St. Thomas, our loose group of people who liked to hang out together with our dogs became the St. Thomas Dog Owners Association.  Lobbying, fund-raising, site selection, dog park needs – we learned a lot fast.  And we succeeded.  A year ago, City Council and dog owners approved a ravine site at the west end of St. Thomas as a fenced dog park.  But the construction of the dog park wasn’t the end of the need for a dog owners association.

There has to be monitoring of the park and its amenities, landscaping improvements, negotiation and resolution of disputes and improvement of facilities.  Money is always needed, for small things like poop bags and large things like lights.

Dog Park Community

What I learned from watching our dog park from its inception to operation is that a dog park is not just a fenced field where dogs run loose.  It’s a community.  And, like all communities, it works best with involvement and commitment to its well-being by all its members.  Some dogs become best friends, some don’t like each other, some are territorial about what they consider “their” park, others are happy to see newcomers so they can make new friends.  Pretty much the same can be said about the people.

I no longer am really a member of our dog park community.  My one dog eats poop, so taking him there is like letting a druggie loose in the pharmacy.  My other dog really just wants to run by himself in “his” field: he doesn’t play well with others.  So, other than through the STDOA, we have little involvement with the park.  It’s unfortunate, at least for me.  I enjoy the people, the dogs, the atmosphere.  It’s nice to see friends, both four- and two-legged.

field at bottom of hillIf you and your dog enjoy the dog park, please join the STDOA, stand for office, vote, volunteer to help out where and when you can.  As I found out, dog parks don’t run themselves.

The next regular meeting of the STDOA is Oct. 30, 2018. Go to stdoa.ca for details. Also see Luanne Demers, Founding President for my tribute to our group’s driving force.

Journey to Anne Marie

Marie Rundquist writes about her journey into her family history. Not the history she heard from her mother and grandmother, although it’s part of the story. The story Ms. Rundquist tells starts with a DNA test she took.

View_of_New_Orleans_Under_My_Wings-j-l-bouqueto-de-woiseri-1803
“Under My Wings Every Thing Prospers” New Orleans, J. L. Bouqueto de Woiseri 1803

The test didn’t lead to what, and where, she expected. Instead, it took her on a long journey through US archival history and then to Nova Scotia.

Marie Rundquist lives in Maryland and was born there. She decided to do a DNA test to learn more about herself, and the results surprised her. Some genetic markers didn’t add up with what she’d been told. So she started looking for the pieces missing in the family stories but present in her genes. Her tale is fascinating. I read part of it on the Cape Breton University website.

I am bemused by the popularity of DNA testing. It’s interesting, sure. Useful for medical information, of course. But its value for identity, for who you are? As the memes say, if you need a test to tell you that you are X or Y, you’re not.

journey - The_Acadians_mural_panel_4_Sylvia_Lefkovitz michelle-macneill-wikicommons
“The Acadians” panel 4, Sylvia Lefkovitz 1956, Université Sainte-Anne NS

So I surprised myself when I became engrossed in Ms. Rundquist’s story. Even the scientific bits. She explains DNA testing so that even I can understand it.

The journey starts

Then she starts the story, or stories. One her mother and grandmother told her. The second begins with the mtDNA test. It shows genetics through the maternal line. For Ms. Rundquist, the two didn’t match. Some genetic markers showing place didn’t make sense with the geographic history she had been told.

Acadians_2_Samuel_Scott_Annapolis_Royal_1751 NS art gallery wikicommons
“Acadians” (Inset) by Samuel Scott, Annapolis Royal 1751, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Like a forensic sculptor, she fleshed out the genetic skeleton. Her clay was archival materials and a community of relatives. The relatives weren’t those she knew. They were the list of genetic matches provided by the DNA testing company.

With their help, archives and her mother’s stories, she traced a journey back in time. She found a new history. Some parts intersected, others were way off. But put together, it’s a fuller story. Still not complete, but with new layers that mesh even if gaps remain.

M_S_Kendall-1899-micmac-indian-camp-ns-cropped-private-collection-pd-wikicommons
“Micmac Indian Camp in Nova Scotia” by M. S. Kendall 1899 (private collection)

The gaps are as interesting as the filled spaces in the way Ms. Rundquist writes about what this means for her self-identity. If you’ve ever said “I know I’m X but I don’t know how,” or “I thought I was X but found out I’m Y,” read this.

It shows the beauty of a journey. There are some answers, but best are the loose ends. They invite pondering, by readers as well as the writer, about lost history and the nature of identity.

You can get Marie Rundquist’s books, Revisiting Anne Marie and Cajun By Any Other Name at DNA-Genealogy-History. You can read my DNA Tests for a far less inquisitive look at family origins. Gallery Gevik has more of Sylvia Lefkovitz’s incredible art.

York and Mountbatten Weddings

A big year for royal weddings. Tomorrow, October 12th, Princess Eugenie will marry. In May, her cousin Prince Harry married Meghan Markle. Both large, lavish and televised. But, in between the weddings of the Queen’s grandchildren, a distant Mountbatten cousin got married. That wedding was private but it caused a big ‘wow’.

Princess Eugenie

The Royal Family Facebook eugenie and jack oct-2018Princess Eugenie of York is marrying Jack Brooksbank. “Who?” seems to be a common question in online comments – about both of them. She is the younger daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Jack worked in a bar in London. Yes, he’s a commoner. But it’s an upscale bar, and his pedigree has baronets and the like in it. He and Eugenie are third cousins and he has kin connections with other royals. As the Daily Mail put it, his family may have started as Yorkshire farmers, but “they grew rich… and married well.”

Eugenie and Jack will marry in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, same place as Harry and Meghan. A two-day reception will be at Eugenie’s family home, the Royal Lodge in Windsor. Their guest list, at over 850 for the ceremony, is even larger than Harry and Meghan’s.

But there is not as much public hoopla for Eugenie’s wedding as there was for Harry’s. That is despite Eugenie’s being the first wedding of a British Princess since her Aunt Anne’s. Maybe that’s because she’s the daughter of the Queen’s second son whereas Harry is the second son of the first-born. Maybe too because Jack, in himself and his family background, does not cause celebration of Royal Family diversity and inclusivity as Harry and Meghan’s marriage did. Also as the wedding of their distant cousin did.

Lord Ivar Mountbatten

town and country-facebook-ivar and james-7-oct-2018‘I’ll see your divorced American bi-racial bride, and raise you a white English groom.’ So might Lord Ivar Mountbatten have said. His engagement caused a flap when it was announced in June. The second marriage of a British aristocrat – what was the big deal? First gay marriage in the Royal extended family, that’s what. Lord Ivar married James Coyle in front of a couple hundred family and friends. None of the Royals were there, but they sent their best wishes.

Who’s Lord Ivar Mountbatten? You might ask. I did. His late father was David, 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven. David was the Queen’s third cousin and Prince Philip’s first cousin. He was Philip’s best man at his wedding and a close friend. Read any biography of Prince Philip, you’ll find David Mountbatten stories. He was quite the lad.

Mountbatten Family
ivar-mountbatten-fam-tree d stewart
Click/tap to enlarge Mountbatten family tree

David and Philip’s uncle was Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma. The last Viceroy of India, he was assassinated by the IRA in 1979. Louis’ wife was Edwina Ashley. Read any book about interesting – ‘scandalous’ – women of the early 20th century and you’ll find Edwina Mountbatten.

Nada-de-Torby-marchioness-Milford-Haven-c1916-wikicommons
Nada, 2nd Marchioness of Milford Haven, ca. 1916

In those same stories is Edwina’s friend and sister-in-law, David’s mother Nadejda de Torby. An English marchioness by marriage, Nada was a Russian countess by birth. She was also Russian literary ‘royalty’, being a great granddaughter of Alexander Pushkin.

So an interesting family. Lord Ivar Mountbatten’s own life was pretty standard for the aristocracy. A geologist and gentleman farmer with a wife and daughters. Then, in 2011, an amicable divorce. Four years later, he came out. He and James Coyle made public their relationship. Mr. Coyle, an airline cabin services director, has no royal antecedents as best my googling can detect.

Lord Mountbatten and Mr. Coyle married Sept 22, 2018 at Lord Mountbatten’s Devon estate. Those are the names and titles each will continue to use. So the protocol people didn’t have to scramble to figure out title usage for same-sex spouses, but this marriage gives them a heads-up on it.

Princess Eugenie’s wedding will be televised on TLC in the US (starting live at 4:25 ET). It’s on ITV in the UK. But apparently not in Canada at all. Pity! You can read more here about the Mountbatten family. For my thoughts on Harry and Meghan’s wedding, see Princess Harry.

Apple Chutney

Apples left over from a good crop this year from our trees. As much apple chutneyjelly and juice as I could handle making, apple crumble too. Maybe apple chutney? Lots of recipes on line. But most called for raisins, which I did not have and don’t actually like in chutney. One, however, fit the bill: myheartbeets Instant Pot Indian Apple Chutney.

So Google told me an Instant Pot is a fancy pressure cooker that does everything except eat the food it cooks. Not having one, I improvised – with one ordinary cooking pot. I don’t know how mine compares to that made in an Instant Pot, but I like it. Delicious, easy to make and versatile.

Instant Pot Indian Apple Chutney (adapted)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (didn’t have them, so omitted)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves (I used 1 dried bay leaf)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (my addition)
  • 4 red apples (approx. 1½ lbs) cored and quartered
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder (I used 1 tsp minced fresh ginger root)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne, adjust to taste
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

add later:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 tsp Kashmiri chili or paprika (for colour), optional
How I made it

apples-ready-to-cook1. Core and cut up apples. Sprinkle them with lemon juice to keep them from browning. (Also, in looking for substitutions for curry leaves, I read that they are kind of citrusy. So lemon juice would not hurt.) My apples were small so I just quartered them. If I were using large apples, using my method, I’d chop the quarters again. The way, the peel in the chutney would not be overly large.

2. Put oil in a medium size saucepan and allow it a minute to heat up. Then add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves to the pot. Once the cumin seeds begin to brown, add the apples and remaining spices (turmeric, ginger, salt, cayenne). Give everything a good mix, then add the apple cider vinegar.

3. Cook for 15 minutes at medium high heat.

apples-cooked-15-mins4. Mix well and mash up apple pieces. My apples pretty much did this themselves, so I just stirred it a bit. If need be, purée with an immersion blender, or pour in a blender and purée, then pour back in the pot.

5. Add sugar, cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened. I only cooked it maybe another 5 minutes.

apple-chutney-paprika added6. Stir in Kashmiri chili or paprika, if you wish, and cook another minute or two. I used 1½ tsp paprika.

7. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month. I got a 16 ounce container full (about 475 ml).

Ready to use, or can it

I think this would can nicely – although it really is so quick to make that you could just make a container full as you need to. However, jars of it would make a lovely gift – and make you look like a really good cook.

So far, we have tried it on cheese and ham sandwiches – wonderful! chutney-with-beefMy husband also used it as the sauce in a stir fry. Sliced beef, cauliflower, red pepper and sliced cooked potato. 3 tablespoons of chutney and ¼ cup water added. Heated through, and served on rice. A bit of spicy heat in it, but delicate and light. Perfect.