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Happy Birthday To Me / Hippo Bird Day Two Ewes

 

happy-birthday-1-728

There will be scampi on a plate with breakfast for my birthday.

     Quarts of wild strawberries will float in flagons of cold Rhinish wine. Blueberries will be hidden by thick cream, and golden honey shall trickle from plates of buttered toast. Braces of quail and brown roasted turkey will be surrounded by steaming heaps of new potatoes and tender ears of corn. Joints of beef and lightly curried lamb will stand between bottles of red Anjou wine and jugs of red Italian fire.

     A smoking, suckling pig will have bowls of dry, yellow squash at its feet and stacks of cheeses at its head. Pastry and pies and a foot high chocolate cake will stand among jars of brandied fruit. A cask of aged port will remain, to do justice at the end.

     Then I shall settle back to patiently await my dinner.

[Image] https://image.slidesharecdn.com/brthdy-1225815250925041-9/95/happy-birthday-1-728.jpg?cb=1225786507

Canada Day Is Really Dominion Day – But A Beaver Remains The Same

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We know that Canada Day is really Dominion Day.

But – that said – there is still no better symbol for Canada than the industrious beaver. But even hard-working beavers hard-working beavers need their time at play. This is what I saw.

I was walking along the river and heard the strangest noise.

It was one of those noises which, when I found out what it was, sounded exactly as it should. A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river.

First there were small rolling noises, as the branch went through its hands.

Then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’.

And then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.

This went on fifteen minutes or so, until the beaver and I both heard noises in the river.We both saw another beaver approaching.

The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which). They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and sniffed each other. They then swam in different directions.

This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver that had first approached rubbed noses once again, then made the bawling sounds one more time.

I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg). The sun was setting and they became difficult to see.

However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour and one headed to the other shore.

Perhaps they had just had a date. Perhaps they had just arranged for a date. Whatever the case, I had the distinct impression they were more than friends.

A Flash Mob of One

flashmob

It is difficult to be,

Or, to do,

(Hard to say which is more accurate)

A Flash Mob of One.

Particularly the alto parts.

But that is all

Which is allowed

In these times of

Pandemic.

Six feet (two meters)

Apart.

Multiplied (x)

By who knows

How many people.

So,

Ya gotta be community safe

(So much better than sorry),

And do it all yourself.

This does, however, make those

High-kick routines

Much easier to

Choreograph.

(image) https://reputationtoday.in/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/flashmob.jpg

 

 

Waiting For The Dead On Halloween

115116d1339798513-vintage-halloween-photos-5277724533494196_ewnwqjb0_c

It is Samhain, and we lay in wait for the dead.

Not to flee from them

Not to hide from them.

But to be prepared.

The moon is full and the trees are bare and the old year ends and they come to dust us with their cold hands. To seep away a little of our warmth. To have just a taste of the life they once had. Blood in their veins. Breath in their mouth. Tears in their eyes. From the cold.

Of course, we are fearful of their touch. We are told they might have the stench of the grave upon them. We are told their skin might slough off on our own. We are told their rotted clothes might fall from their bones, and we will see things to make us scream.

We are told the fresh decay of our parents and uncles and aunts and grand folk will be the worse. They have had their year in the ground and are beyond any excuse to linger. They are the most reluctant. They have the clearest memories of what it is like to live. They, more than all the others, want it back. They might wish, if they can, to suck life right out of us and feel warm once again.

It is best we disguise ourselves from them.

It is best if we hide our faces with masks and wear clothes not our own.

As a last resort we can fill frightening faces with flame and scare them away.

We are all prepared for that.

And when the day passes over into the night; and the full of dark, and the promise the cocks will again bestir themselves to start us into the cold of winter: we will light pyres of wood, and open the cask of ale, and have a feast with dance and song.

If we manage to get through the night.

[Image] 1.bp.blogspot.com/-f9TFFXhu8f8/UJFA-Bj2R4I/AAAAAAAACCQ/pMvabFcW3d4/w1200-h630-p-k-no-nu/115116d1339798513-vintage-halloween-photos-5277724533494196_ewnwqjb0_c.jpg

Are These Three Cruise Ships Birthday Bound?

september-19-md

I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning.
 
I didn’t see all three cruise ships coming in, only the last one. But, even so, why not assume that they have arrived for me on my birthday? And if it puts me in the company of Jesus and Mary, I’m more than happy to have them along. And if “All the bells on earth shall ring” and “All the Angels in Heaven shall sing”, well, I’m happy to ring & sing along with them.
 
An additional jog to this nautical (though not celestial) theme is that today is also International Talk Like A Pirate Day (which attempts to usurp the wonder of my birth). And, I bet if we search long enough, we’ll find that no pirate no where ever said “Arrr, Matey!” Still, one takes what one can get, so “Arrr, Happy Anniversary of my birth to me.”
Oh – and, yes – 19 September is indeed classed under the perfect Virgo sign.
 
Google informs me (*personally*, of course) of the high points and low points of the day (103 days left in the year)(English forces under Edward the Black Prince defeat French at Battle of Poitiers and capture the French King during the Hundred Years War)(first commercial laundry established, in Oakland, California)( Gustav Mahler’s 7th Symphony premieres in Prague).
 
I am also informed of those famous folk lucky (and, I assume, more than happy – if not ecstatic) enough to be born on the same day as I am. So far (for some reason) I am not gathered into their ranks, but Time is a fickle master and I’m not holding my breath.
 
So, later today, I will go to the harbour and cruise along beside the Cruise ships. I doubt I’ll be invited aboard, or even offered to quaff some champagne.
 
Some things, even on your birthday, you just have to do yourself.

A Beaver Tale For Canada On Dominion Day

canada2b52bcents2b1948

We know that Canada Day is really Dominion Day.

But – that said – there is still no better symbol for Canada than the industrious beaver. But even hard-working beavers hard-working beavers need their time at play. This is what I saw.

I was walking along the river and heard the strangest noise.

It was one of those noises which, when I found out what It was, sounded exactly as it should. A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river.

First there were small rolling noises, as the branch went through its hands.

Then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’.

And then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.

This went on fifteen minutes or so, until the beaver and I both heard noises in the river.We both saw another beaver approaching.

The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which). They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and sniffed each other. They then swam in different directions.

This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver that had first approached rubbed noses once again, then made the bawling sounds one more time.

I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg). The sun was setting and they became difficult to see.

However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour and one headed to the other shore.

Perhaps they had just had a date. Perhaps they had just arranged for a date. Whatever the case, I had the distinct impression they were more than friends.

[Image] https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-AuCz15l2mk0/VtYoT60BuQI/AAAAAAAAPKg/Zcu976hYp7Q/s1600/Canada%2B5%2BCents%2B1948.jpg

Christmas Married To A Pagan Feast

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[ABL photo]

“The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”

~ Clement Clarke Moore

 

The first serious snow is falling. Outdoor Christmas lights across the street melt through a cover of snow – a sight I particularly enjoy.  So, I’ll reprint this – albeit edited – from a few years ago. Maybe it will become a tradition.

Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly, and it survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.

The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts, and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their cups o’mead, noting that this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.

I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background enhances my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I do have some personal traditions I follow religiously.

I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve, when I was four. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.

I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times. Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two-year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him, and he started to scream and cry. I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho. Another time – but this happened in early fall – a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks, then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!”  He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.

Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.

To be fair to myself, I’m not a total Scrooge, as I have written some Christmas tales.  Here is a wee segment from The Elephant Talks To God:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I want to see you,” said the elephant, and the words raced from his mouth. “I don’t have to see you, you know that. I’ve believed even before you talked to me. But I want to see you, it would mean so much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I can’t explain but it would … ”

“Go home,” said the cloud.

“You’re not angry with me?” said the elephant.

“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s an honest request.” The rain stopped falling. “Thank you for coming.”

“You’re welcome,” said the elephant.

“Sing some carols,” the voice was distant. “I like them.”

The elephant turned and started through the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves within easy reach and the tall grass near the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible so he could join the singing he knew was happening later in the evening.

He turned along the trail, snapping a branch here and there in his haste, when he noticed the stillness, the hush which had overtaken the forest. He slowed down and the stopped in his tracks. He turned his head, his small eyes squinting into the brush. There was movement coming toward him, and when the trees parted, he went to his knees with a gasp. Tears rolled from his eyes, and a golden trunk gently wiped them away.*

*Last line edited from an error in the book.

 

Happy Birthday, Franz Kafka!

kafka5jahre

Yes, 03 July is Kafka’s birthday.
Imagine all the celebrations running rampant in the world.
No doubt a hearty rendition of “Hip hip hooray” and the occasional exuberant “Huzzah!”, echo through each major city and every quiet hamlet.
In my novel about him, Kafka In The Castle, I gave him this diary entry.
03 July 1918
 
The anniversary of my birth.

In celebration of the day, I did not make it my last.

In Honour Of The Queen’s 92nd Birthday

<> on June 24, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.

 

In my novels where HM The Queen occasionally appears, one of those instances is after her own mother’s death at 101 years. Here is a meeting between my protagonist, ST, facilitated by the Royal Steward, Howard.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Howard?”

“Sir.”

As it is the most of formal protocol days ST must accept that Howard is first and foremost a Steward of the Queen. He will be guided, he will be ushered, he will be tended to with the utmost of discretion.

“A sad occasion, Howard.”

“Leavened a touch this time around, Sir.”

This is Howard’s way of informing him that all – more or less – is as it should be.

“Please convey to Her Majesty my deepest condolences.”

“You may do so yourself, Sir.” Howard indicates for another member of the staff to continue greeting the flow of arriving vehicles. “If you’ll follow me.”

This is unexpected. ST had been surprized enough to be invited back to what he assumed would be a somber buffet in one of the State reception rooms. There would be small talk and a hurried atmosphere as most of the Royal family would soon be on their way to the internment at Windsor Castle.

“Whose idea is this?” ST asks the question to Howard’s retreating back as he follows the other man along the front of the palace.

“Whilst on duty, Sir, I have no ideas of my own.”

They enter a section of the palace unknown by ST. They come to a door that Howard has to unlock. He uses no swipe card nor keypad but a substantial metal key upon an equally impressive key ring. When they are through the door Howard locks it behind them.

The corridor is far shorter than the length they have just walked. ST guesses they are near the back lawns and gardens. He wonders if he is going to be taken to the pond he stood beside so many years ago, and if he will have the chance to skip stones again. However, in less than a minute, Howard turns sharply along an unexpected hallway and shortly stops in front of a set of double doors.

“Our destination, Sir.”

ST makes a quick appraisal of his person, tugging a coat tail and smoothing his hair. He questions the steward with a glance and Howard nods his head before he knocks on the door. ST can’t tell if Howard actually hears a response or if there is a designated seven seconds before he swings the doors open.

“Your Majesty.”

“Come in, Howard.”

ST notes that Howard unusually precedes him into the room instead of standing aside and then following. He is also surprized that when he himself enters the room Howard does not close the door behind him.

“Your Majesty.”

“Thank you for attending.”

“Your mother made a profound passage through Time. You’re welcome.”

The Queen is mid-room, standing beside an ornate floor lamp. The room is not a large audience chamber but a smaller sitting room or den. There are comfortable chairs and books on shelves and a writing table. In one corner is a television and a discreet bar.

“Yes, she did.” The Queen finally approaches ST with hand outstretched. “She put every year to use.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” ST takes the Queen’s hand, ungloved and barely adorned, and shakes it gently. He looks her in the eye as she does to him and finds a calmness he did not expect.

“Come to the window.”

“Ma’am.”

He follows her across the room and notes that Howard, although unbidden, does the same. They stand in a line before the broad panes of glass.

“My mother did not often reside in this palace as she believed it rightfully belonged to the current monarch.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Appearances.”

“Ma’am.”

“Howard tells me you are finding out about appearances.”

“Yes.” ST does not hide his glance toward the steward. “I am discovering that it is others who do not permit me to be on an equal footing.”

“Exactly so.” The Queen smiles. “And does Howard instruct?”

“I suspect so, Ma’am.” ST also smiles. “But with Howard, who can ever know?”

“Oh, we live and learn from that one.”

The Queen looks away from the men and stares out the window. Since ST is here by request and no polite dismissal has occurred, he realizes the audience is not over. He also realizes, standing and looking onto a burgeoning garden, that this may be one of the quietest rooms he has ever been in. There is not a sound reaching them from the great city of London, nor from the bustle of the palace.

“When my mother did come here, this was her favourite room with her favourite view.” The Queen points out the window. “She would often spend an afternoon here after some public or family function – the two often intertwined.”

“As she would often point out, Ma’am.”

ST almost snorts in surprize for Howard has just given the Queen a verbal nudge. He assumes this is part of a steward’s job, but ST has never seen it done.

“Yes, Howard.” The Queen glances at him. “My mother was a ‘public’ person over sixty years. She both resented and appreciated the fact that she had forty years without.”

“Both, Ma’am?” ST is struck by the notion for not only does it sound contradictory but he is startled to realize he has similar feelings.

“Yes.” The Queen turns and looks directly at ST. “She appreciated the fact she did experience the younger portion of her life where she lived almost normally. She resented the fact that by having that experience she lived the rest of her life knowing what she was missing.”

“And you, Ma’am?”

“I was not born to be a Queen but as long as Uncle David had no issue I was always reminded I was Heir Presumptive. My youth had some normality but I was never allowed to go my own way. “She pauses to look out the window. “I have never known what I am missing but I am aware I am always missing something.”

“Do you think that is worse?”

“How can I compare?”

ST has no answer for this and hopes it is rhetorical. That you can’t really know one thing without experiencing its opposite is a nugget found in the core of Space/Time – and Space/Time rules the world.

“Howard’s body language is urging me on.”

“Is it, Majesty?” It is Howard himself who asks the question. “Uncharted waters, Ma’am. I apologize.”

“You’re being protective, Howard.” The Queen nods. “It’s appreciated.”

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