Sussex NB Dog Park

In Sussex, New Brunswick, when the first snow of the season hit. trail to Sussex dog parkBeautiful weather the past few days, then bam – rain, snow and high winds. Not as bad as New England got it, where we had just been, but still very cold. Not a day for the dog park.

But, having been told by my brother that there was one, I wanted to see it. So off Leo, Charlie and I went. We found it at the edge of the industrial section, at the end of a road with a hiking trail alongside it. Snow covered the sign so I couldn’t see what it said.

dog park Sussex New BrunswickIt was wet and windy on the top of that hill. Nobody else was there this Sunday afternoon. If I’d asked Charlie his opinion, he’d have said “and you’re surprised?” He and Leo ran around for about 10 minutes then Charlie stood at the entrance. Clearly, it was time to go.

It’s maybe an acre, about the size of a small ball diamond, enclosed two dogs going through entrance Sussex NB dog parkwith orange plastic snowfencing. The gate is a chute which turns at a right angle, then there’s a flap of fencing you can fasten to block it off. Quite ingenious and easy to do. A dog determined to get out could, by jumping the fence or pawing at the gate  But it’s not like you’re putting your dog out to pasture at the dog park so the fencing would be fine.

Part of Sussex hiking trails

The hiking trail that passes the dog park hooks into a main trail that goes along the river right through town. Apparently it too is lovely. Wet dogs back in carToday was not the day for us to find out. But I’m glad we went to the dog park. I’d like to see it on a nice day.  The view is superb.

And it was clean! Snow or no snow, my Leo can sniff out dog poop. And he only found one lot (sniffed it and ran on). That’s impressive in any field, I think.

The Sussex “Bark Park” is at the end of McLeod Dr., off Leonard Dr., in Sussex.


Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Oct. 30/11)


Watched only a bit of Corrie today, so I don’t know everything that dev explains business problems to sunitahappened. But Dev explaining the full extent of their financial problems to Sunita was very moving. And real for any small business person.

He explained that he had forgot to renew the insurance on the Weatherfield shop so that’s why their savings were depleted. He’d been using that money to pay for the repairs.

Then he told her the state of his other shops – his little empire. Road construction in front of one, a Freshco opened too near another, the flats above another found to contain asbestos. The tenants removed and the rental income therefore as well. And for all the shops, the effects of the recession. Real problems that affect real people.

Theft is last straw

dev explains what went wrongThe loss of the $5,000 to an unknown robber during the tram crash was just the final blow to business finances already in peril. Sunita is concerned and angry. She’s worried about the economic health of their businesses and their family. Especially when he tells her that, yes, they might lose the house.

Great acting by both of them. Then Dev goes to Steve to borrow money. Steve says he hasn’t got it to loan. Dev apologizes for imposing on him when Steve has his own financial problems. Then asks him to keep their conversation to himself. He may no longer have any money, he says, but he still has his pride.

Me & Louis L’Amour

I stayed with my brother for a couple weeks once.  I never Louis L'Amour leather bound booksthought of him as a reader, I was the “bookworm” in the family. But in his living room was a lovely big bookshelf that he had made, filled with books.

The largest single collection was Louis L’Amour paperback westerns. I was far too politically correct to ever have read a Louis L’Amour, but they were handy when I needed a book so I started my very first one.  When my brother got home from work several hours later, I was just finishing it. I hadn’t moved from my chair. I read all the Louis L’Amours he had, averaging one a day.

Amazon link for The Walking Drum
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My brother said what he liked about Louis L’Amour was the books were short, easy to read and told “a good story and you learn a lot.” If he wanted to know more about something he read in L’Amour, he’d go to the library or bookstore and look further. Louis L’Amour got rid of my academic and political snobbery. I continued reading his books – Westerns and adventures. They tell heroic tales of physical and emotional achievement. They include information on places and ways of doing things. Also they read quickly, keep you entertained, and pose questions about morality and human behaviour.

Other fiction does that too, but westerns slide it in without you even realizing until you find yourself pondering the dilemma of the hero after you’ve finished the book. Reading does not have to be work. It can and sometimes should be. Understanding the existential condition of humanity should not be reduced to simple dictums. Complexity needs to be examined. But sometimes you just want a nice untaxing read. What I learned is that Louis L’Amour gives you that and those existential questions too.

Both sides of Westerns

Amazon for Tomson Highway Kiss of the Fur Queen
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Then I moved on to other tales of the west. I read Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove and rediscovered Tomson Highway’s plays. I read Thomas King’s satirical look at movie Indians. I’d read academic literature on First Nation history, so now I read the cultural histories in fictional form. I watched old Western movies with a new eye, seeing how the cowboys were presented and the Indians. I watched new Westerns, seeing the shifts in perspective. The lore of our existence in popular culture for  is situated in a time and place, both in the story and its telling. Both change with time and different narrators. Taken together, you get the fabric of our North American world – history and folklore, ideals and critiques.

Amazon for Son of the Morning Star
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My exploration of popular culture cowboys and Indians, armies and warriors led me to the most amazing book on the topic that I’ve ever read. Evan S. Connell’s Son of the Morning Star weaves all those threads of perspective, ‘reality’ and ‘belief,’ between its covers. It’s the story of the Battle of Little Big Horn from everybody’s point of view. It’s not an easy read, being kind of magic realism in style, but it’s riveting. It has to be, to keep straight who’s who and who’s telling the story when.

Several years after reading the book, I found the movie Son of a Morning Star in the library. I could not imagine a movie of that book. I watched, expecting the worst, and was pleasantly surprised. They managed to tell the story, in all its magical complexity, very well.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Oct. 23/11)

The Best Man

The week ended as it started – with Peter and Nick. And Leanne and Carla. At the end of Peter showing Leanne lawyer's letter at altarFriday’s episode, Peter told Leanne he knew about her affair with Nick and he wanted a divorce. He did it at the altar, in front of the minister and those assembled in the church for the reaffirmation of their marriage vows. Wow. Cruel. And very dramatic.

Poor Leanne. She looked so beautiful, and so very happy. Then boom. At least then she would understand why, at the last minute, Peter had insisted on Nick being his Best Man and on Carla attending the blessing. He indeed wanted witnesses.

Leanne cryingSo that was the final scene of a week about the Valentine’s Day Blessing (or Massacre). Leanne sobbing, Peter steely-eyed and standing on his own two legs. Everybody else looking gobsmacked.

The tension had built all week. On Monday, Peter was feeling shamefaced about his lapse into drinking and still believed Nick had Peter drinking and phoning Nick for helpbeen trying to help him keep sober. My husband made an interesting comment about the two of them while Peter was thanking Nick for being a true friend. He said “Peter has a real problem, but big as it is, it’s more honest than Nick’s.  Nick’s problem is his whole personality – his scheming and nastiness. And that won’t change.”

It made me think of the story attributed to Winston Churchill. A best man Nick on phone saying sorry can't help to Peterwoman says to him, with horror, “sir, you are drunk!” And Churchill replies, “yes, madam, but in the morning I’ll be sober and you’ll still be ugly.” Don’t know if that’s true or not, but it summarizes a very good point. Drunkenness, and sobriety, can change; an unpleasant personality cannot.

At heart, Peter is a good man. Really, even his bigamy was just because he didn’t want to disappoint either woman. Nick, however, is nasty. He’s a user of people and willing to lie and cheat while all along deluding himself that he’s acting with honour and decency. Leanne and Janice waiting for bridal processionThat’s an important difference between the two men.

I think it’s one that Leanne finally realized as she was starting her walk down the aisle. But alas, it’s too late for her.

I may not be able to post for the next couple of weeks. I’ll be away and will try to catch Corrie but RL might prevent regular watching. But I’ll be back!

Prime Time

Last month, the new prime time tv programmes were rolled out. Many are good. They threw my life into chaos because I actually wanted to watch them.

Person of Interest prime time tv cbsPerson of Interest, Prime Suspect and Pan Am are my new “can’t miss” tv. I’d seen ads for Person of Interest – wasn’t sure. Too many kinda spooky ‘person with special powers’ series in the past years. But Person of Interest has an interesting angle on it: a post-9/11 Big Brother analysis of “national security.”

Prime Suspect I was doubtful of. British series are usually done best by the British, and I didn’t like the idea of the wonderful Helen Mirren series being replicated, or mutilated, by Hollywood. But it isn’t.  It stands on its own merits as does the star Maria Belo.

Retro TV

stewardesses in front of Pan Am logo ad posterThe ads for Pan Am were wonderful. Could the show live up to them? Yes. I’d feared a pale imitation of Mad Men, cashing in on the 1960s milieu evoked so wonderfully by it. (We’ve watched the first seasons of MM on Boxee.) Or superficial “coffee, tea or me” T&A. But it’s a beautiful looking history and geography lesson with good stories and good acting.

I watched the premiere of The Playboy Club. Same ‘60s women-centred setting. Overtly T&A, fitting the subject matter. Hmm, wait and see was my opinion. No time – it was cancelled after three episodes! I was sorry because I have a soft spot for Eddie Cibrian who was the male star. Eddie Cibrian in The Playboy Club NBC banner adI interviewed him when he was bad boy Matt Clark on Y&R and liked him. I was delighted to see him in a big prime time series.

“57 channels and nothin’ on”

Our favourites are still on and still good. House has had big changes and it’s still great. The CSI, Criminal Minds and Law & Order franchises (including L&A UK), Harry’s Law and the excellent Flashpoint opening title shotCanadian Flashpoint. And now, new shows! It’s been quite a change in our household.  We’d become accustomed to having the tv on the least annoying programme while we worked on computers. That was ok, except when you really wanted to watch something good and all that was on your 500 channel galaxy was America’s Got Talent and its clones.

I was ready to cancel cable – it was very expensive white noise. I took these pictures Riverdance in Beijing PBS on our tvone evening last year when I’d really wanted to watch tv. The best thing I could find was Riverdance in Beijing on PBS. While good, it wasn’t what I wanted, so I just went to bed with a book. $100 a month for Rogers Cable basic HD package, and my entertainment was a novel borrowed, for free, from the library.

I can’t blame Rogers for network programming.  reading book M Grimes Lamorna WinkBut I can ask why they organize their channel packaging the way they do. You know there are shows you want to watch, but you have to pay extra for their channels. You get, ‘free’, a lot of channels that just slow down your guide scrolling. The Fireplace Channel. Rogers-owned sports teams channels. Shouldn’t they be specialty channels paid for by thems that want them?

Recently, my stepson hooked up a wire to our tv, without cable. We got in six channels clearly. Only CBC, our national broadcaster, was snowy. If I knew the networks would keep the quality and type of programming they introduced this fall, I’d cancel cable and rely on what we can get over the air. But I can’t be sure, so Rogers dodged a bullet.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Oct. 16/11)

The Good Soldier

Writing this after Monday’s episode, pretty sure nothing is going to top Gary’s Gary stops Izzy and apologizesdescription of what happened in Afghanistan.* Gary has been unraveling since he came home. He’s pushing his parents and Izzy away, missing physio appointments. Unable to cope, yet unable to tell anybody why or what happened when his patrol was attacked.

After Izzy has enough of rude Gary and leaves him in the street, he apologizes. They talk a bit. He says he hasn’t seen Quinny’s parents. She says “maybe that’s what you need to do.”

Anna serving tea to Gary and QuinnsHe phones them, but doesn’t tell his parents he has. Quinny’s parents come to the Windass house. Anna comes home unexpectedly, makes tea all around, offers to leave if that would make it easier for them all. No, Quinny’s dad says. No, Gary says, I want you to hear it too.

An IED exploded

Gary describing the explosionThen he tells about the IED that exploded under their vehicle. He ended up under Quinny, who was still alive. Some of the guys got out and ran to safety. Gary told Quinny to run but he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t leave Gary.

In the vehicle, they came under enemy fire. Sounded like rain on a caravan roof, Gary said, like he remembered from childhood. Quinny got him out, carried him, running for shelter. Almost Anna watches as Gary relives horror of shootingmade it, then Quinny fell. Someone pulled Gary to safety. Quinny was dead.

Gary has been carrying around the guilt of this, survivor guilt and the guilt that Quinny would still be alive if he had run when he first had the chance.

Anna holding Gary as he weeps and says I'm sorryIt was absolutely beautifully acted – real and heartfelt. You could see it as Gary talked. You could also see the agony he felt, at the time and now, safe in his living room. A soldier still, but a broken one, telling of the death of his friend.

I cried throughout it: for Gary and Quinny’s parents, for Anna who had to be thinking this could be the story of her son’s last minutes of life. And for all the Quinns crying as they listenreal-life soldiers who have lost their lives or been scarred by living through attacks just like this in Afghanistan and Iraq. The casualties, both living and dead, of these protracted wars.

Mikey North researched this storyline by talking with veterans of Afghanistan. They taught him well.

Gary telling CO I am a good soldier sirUnfortunately, this final picture is Gary pleading as much as a soldier can in front of his Commanding Officer. He was discharged from the Army. PTSD wasn’t sufficient reason to overlook a charge of assaulting a police officer. Too bad. And too bad having David Platt as a friend isn’t enough of an excuse.

Betty Driver in front of Rovers Return* Also unfortunately real life matched it.  Betty Driver, who has played Betty Turpin Williams, Rovers’ barmaid and hotpot cook since 1969, died Saturday Oct. 15th at the age of 91. What will we do without her?

Walking in the Woods

When I moved back to southwestern Ontario, I thought woods walking would be over for woods at Archie Coulter Conservation Area, near Orwell Ontariome and my dog.  Groomed parks maybe, but no acres of forest or meadows.  I was absolutely wrong.

There are lots of places where you can get lost in the wilderness – sometimes literally.  They are called conservation areas, managed yet still wild.  It’s easy to walk through woods and along rivers and never see another person, even if you know from the parking lot that people are in there.

Some have only a parking lot and trails.  Others have open areas perhaps with playground equipment and pavilions for sheltered picnics.  Some are campgrounds in summer and some host special events throughout the year.  Others simply are there year round for you to walk through with only a sign giving the name and the management group.

City Parks

bridge over lily pond, Waterworks Park, St. Thomas, OntarioThen there are city parks.  In St. Thomas the two largest ones combine groomed gardens with wilderness off to their sides.  At Waterworks, you can see wedding parties being photographed beside the lily ponds, then walk five minutes and be in woods with deer running through.  At Pinafore Park, there’s a bandshell for music performances and behind it are woods in which you hear nothing of the city beside you.

Heron on dam at Waterworks Park, St. Thomas, OntarioYou can walk along Kettle Creek, from north of St. Thomas to Port Stanley.  The Elgin Hiking Trail Club organizes group walks regularly, or you can just walk the trail for as short or long a distance as you want by yourself.

What you don’t see in the ravines and creeks of these areas are large dumped items.  Whether people here just don’t take unwanted couches and stoves out to a nice Dalewood bridge over stream, autumn leavespicturesque area and push them over the edge, or whether staff clean them up regularly, I don’t know.  You see coffee cups, water bottles and the like.  You find remains of campfires, often with shards of glass bottles that were thrown into the fire for the fun of watching them explode.  So a plastic bag is a good thing to have.  It makes it easier to clean up that broken glass, saving someone a cut foot.

Elgin County Woods

I know most of the conservation areas around here after 13 years, but still not all.  There’s Dan Patterson, north of St. Thomas on Highbury Ave, Dalewood Conservation Fingal Wildlife area, path to pondarea and campground on Dalewood Road just north of St. Thomas.  Kettle Creek runs past Dalewood to Waterworks Park, then through town to the west edge of St. Thomas and along Sunset Drive to Port Stanley.  West of St. Thomas is the Fingal Wildlife Management Area, an old airforce base.

Southeast of St. Thomas is Archie Coulter Conservation Area on Brouwers Road.  Slightly southeast of it is Springwater Conservation Area, a camp ground in summer. Steen Park with disc golf basket, Aylmer, OntarioAylmer has a beautiful park system along Catfish Creek.  Northeast of Aylmer is the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area where in spring thousands of tundra swans land during their migration.  And north of there is my favourite of all – Lake Whittaker Conservation Area.  It’s also a summer campground.  It was the first I discovered, and it still takes my breath away.

Lake Whittaker photo Jim StewartPhotos of (from top to bottom) Archie Coulter, Waterworks, Dalewood, Fingal, Aylmer and Lake Whittaker were taken by Jim Stewart. 


Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Oct. 9/11)

Joy of Joy

It seems wrong to say you enjoyed watching an old lady die of heart failure after finding John holding hand over Joy's mouthout that her son was dead and his body buried beneath a knicker factory. Even more shocking for her was learning that the helpful young friend of her son was the man responsible for doing this, now sitting with his hand over her face. But the dénouement of the Colin Fishwick story was so wonderful that all I could do was hold my breath as Joy came slowly to believe this mad story being told her. And, yes, laugh.

John's cell ringing as Joy calls Colin You knew it had to happen, but having the whole incredible story come out between only John and Mrs. Fishwick was superb. The look in her eyes as she heard the ringing of the cell phone she was calling – on the coffee table in front of her. Why had John told her that phone number was her son Colin’s? In Canada, no wait, he came back to England, yes, sometime, somewhere.

John pleading and Mrs Fishwick wanting nitroTheir Fresco’s Winter Warmer Meal for Two finished and forgotten, bowls and bread still on the table, Joy Fishwick listened to John explain why her son had not returned her phone calls. Then listening, incredulous, as his account of what happened grew more and more bizarre. Totally disbelieving at first, then realizing that he, at least, believed what he was saying. “You’re sick in the head, I’m in fantastic nick compared to you,” she opined, as she slowly accepted that maybe this was indeed what happened. No one could make up such a story.

The neighbour

Clifford looking through letter slot to see if Joy is homeThen a knock at the door – her neighbour returning a talking tape of a Joanna Trollope novel. John, fearing she will call out for help, puts his hand over her mouth. Sitting on the arm of the chair beside her, he continues his story of how he then, accidently, killed Charlotte who had assisted him in the disposal of Colin’s body. Mrs. Fishwick’s eyes getting bigger and bigger with horror and perhaps lack of oxygen.

John debating whether to call 999 about death of JoyWhen the neighbour has left and the danger past, John removes his hand but no joy from Joy Fishwick. She’s dead.  Again, John almost calls emergency services but doesn’t. He sneaks out, leaving Mrs. Fishwick dead in her chair.

Eventually he remembers the evidence left on the coffee table. Tries to sneak back in, but the neighbour sees him. John thinks pretty well on his feet, but even he has trouble coming up with stories quickly enough. He passes himself off as a delivery man, a “most particular” delivery man it seems.

He tidies the room before the police get there – “If she’s anything like my old gran, she’d be very fussy about visitors in an untidy house.” Clarence looking at bread John has pulled from his pocketOut of sight of the neighbour, he stuffs the leftover bread and bowl in his pocket. Then leaves – more deliveries to make – accidentally pulling a piece of bread out when he’s reaching for his keys. He stuffs it in his mouth saying “they’ve got us eating on the go as well.”

I can’t imagine Mr. Neighbour not telling the police about the very odd delivery man. So we’ll have to wait and see how John manages to talk his way out of this one, if he can. But this week John, Joy Fishwick and her neighbour were absolute stars.

Recorded Campaigning

This election I don’t know who I’m going to vote for.  When the electioneering machine hand cutting phone connection on election callsstarted cranking up, so did the recorded messages.  You know, the taped messages that lazy and/or cheap telemarketers seem to like.  Saves them paying real people in India or Moncton to annoy householders at dinnertime.  This election, it seems to me, there’s been more of these recorded calls coming from candidates and pollsters.

“Hi, I’m blahblah for the blahblah party and I want your vote October 6th.”  Not bloody likely, I say to the recording and hang up.  I’ve waited through the spiel for the option to press a key to get taken off the calling list.  It isn’t there.  So I made a vow:  I will not vote for any party that phones me with a recorded message.

The Liberals were first out of the gate, no problem.  I wouldn’t vote for Dalton McGuinty if he came to my house and made my dinner.  Second was the Conservatives, a recording for Tim Hudak at 5:45 pm.  No danger I was going to vote Conservative anyway, but what are they thinking?  What are most people doing at that time?  Either making dinner or eating it.

So I thought it was clear sailing.  Whether because they don’t have sufficient resources or that they have the sense to know how alienating such calls are, I hadn’t had a recorded message from the NDP.  Hadn’t had any live NDP calls either.  Then, last Friday evening, 6:30, making dinner – phone rings.  “Hi, I’m Kathy Cornish … NDP candidate…”  No, it wasn’t really her.  I’d have talked to the real Kathy Cornish.  Wouldn’t have been thrilled with her timing, but was even less thrilled with it being a recording.

One election call from a human

Telephone booth art installation by Mark Jenkins, photo wikicommons storker 2005The only actual human who has called campaigning was a lady on behalf of our Conservative candidate Jeff Yurek.  I told her I wouldn’t be voting for his party under any circumstances, but I appreciated having a real person doing the calling.  She said many people prefer the recorded calls.  I asked why and she said she didn’t know.  I cannot imagine.  Maybe easier to hang up on?

And pollsters – I don’t mind them usually.  They have a job to do and I’m usually willing to help them.  But not an automated one.  For pollsters and candidates alike, if you can’t be bothered actually having a human call me, I can’t believe my opinion or vote would have much sway with you.

So this election, I’m voting with my phone.  Right now, the choices left to me in my riding are the Freedom Party or the Greens.  They are the only ones who have not bothered me with phone calls, either recorded or live.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Oct. 2/11)

Agatha Christie?

Despite the sight of Tracy Barlow lying bloodied on the ground by the Barlows’ back door, the Emily and Tracy on streetscene this week for me was Emily Bishop telling Tracy just what she thought of her.

Mrs. Bishop said, I think, what we’d all like to say to Tracy only she was more polite about it. “I’ve known you since the day you were born and I’ve never been more ashamed of you in my life.” The implication was not lost on me that Emily has had plenty of reason before to be ashamed of our Tracy. As everyone has. Especially Ken and Deirdre. What can Deirdre being thinking to continue supporting and justifying that girl? A mother’s love, yes, but a mother’s blinders?

Carolling on streetTracy arrived back Christmas Eve, and what an entrance! A lovely carol sing on the street, snow lightly falling. Ken reading a poem (especially commissioned for the episode, I read, from the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy).

Tracy Barlow is back in town!

Then into this Currier & Ives scene, a black Tracy putting one foot out of taxitaxi pulls up. High heeled shoes and fishnet stockings get out of it. Who is it? The wicked witch.  Tracy Barlow. “Oh no, not her!” I groaned aloud. A miscarriage of justice, she said about her murder conviction, tainted testimony. The only person glad to see her back was Deirdre, and I suppose Ken.

Tracy Barlow back on streetThen a week of Tracy offending, alienating and implicating her way through neighbours, friends and family. You quickly realized an Agatha Christie worthy murder mystery was being set up. Everyone was going to be in the suspect line. Words that could be taken as death threats were uttered by many. Death wishing looks were cast Tracy’s way by even more people.

The suspects

Tracy slept with both Platt boys, back to back. That alone would guarantee three murder suspects – David, Nick and their momma.

But the line doesn’t stop there. And, after swanning around the Rovers on New Years’ Eve, she added Sean and Mary to the list of people seriously annoyed at her. And I wouldn’t trust Mary too far. Tracy doesn’t know it, but Mary may be more deranged than Tracy herself.

Ken Rosie Claire Sunita Dev watching Tracy's arrivalEven before Friday’s double episode, we were wondering if Tracy’s murder would be a group effort by everyone on the street, as in Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. And, lo and behold, on Friday, Deirdre and Ken mentioned that book, one of many literary allusions on the Street this week.

Tracy on ground and bloody hands over herSo who dun it? Steve was caught red-handed (literally) over Tracy’s unconscious body. But she was still alive. “Oh no,” I groaned yet again when she was shown in hospital.

The only saving grace to Tracy is sometimes she says things to people that, while cruel, are so apt that you only wish that you could say something like that yourself to people who really do deserve it. But you can’t because you’re not as horrible a person as she is.