Kids' Own World

an illustrated magazine for children

Kids' Own World

an illustrated magazine for children

With Your Permission
Essays by Constance Scrafield

Pralines 'n' Cream Ice Cream

By Constance Scrafield

I love ice cream. The ice cream at The Chocolate Shop is very good. Summer is ice cream season, so the queues might be long on that funny little sidewalk-cum-ramp outside the shop. There are benches not far along Broadway for sitting and consuming the delight.

Most places in the world have ice-plus-something, a cooling sweet suckable (sic), crushed or scooped on to a holder for your enjoyment. You have to hone your skills as to the drips which depend on how hot is the day, how quick is the drip and whether you are foolishly walking or wisely biding your time on a bench watching the world go by.

There is little appreciation for the Promenade here in Canada. In southern European, especially in the smaller towns it is quite the norm to lounge in the early evenings on the weekend with a drink or fine coffee al fresco. That patio overlooks the walk that is plenty wide enough for strollers who are not in a hurry, not on errands, rushing for appointments, rushing because their lives are about rushing. There is space enough for elegance to be admired, such lovely silks in the blouses and delicate patterns or bold and full of colour in the skirts. The dresses are perfectly styled for the feminine forms they adorn and the ambience of the moment.

Gentlemen are by no means outshone by the ladies. Their attire is the latest fashion in the cut of their jackets and the flare of their collars – or perhaps no collars – but the linen, please, let there be also linen shirts, rather long and a little loose – white with just the hint of the sculptured body within them.

Ah! The greetings they give each other or by seeing someone on a patio, hands clasping over the railing, tremendous enthusiasm all of them are there, at the same hour in such an idyllic time and place.

The Promenade is not necessarily a name – the capital is my nod to its specific place in a culture that loves fashion and understands the deep value of the leisurely moment, afternoon, evening. Gorgeous or funky, promenading is a long, adorable tradition. There is an attitude that leisure is an important part of life in Europe but leisure can never be defined as lazy; the two are completely diverse. Leisure is defined here by the expression “taking time to smell the roses.” Let us not divide our lives between dashing and doing nothing. Time is the only resource at all that we can never, ever replace. When that day, hour, minute is gone, it is gone forever and can only live in memory.

This is the platform upon which leisure shows its value – to spend some of our lives at a temperate pace, to savour the moments of the fine day, the excellent beverage, the good company. To create those memories and have them as dreams we can return to ...later.

After a year at university at the appropriate time of life, I opted to live in another city and eventually to take off with Ernest to dally in the world, to live there, work at jobs, learn the languages – the university of the world, I called it. Living the adventures was a sort of a retirement fund, if one wanted an excuse, calling it long term planning. How can a person know what it is to be old when one is far from old but listening to my grandparents, with whom I spent so much of my youth, it seemed their main regrets were about the things they did not do. Those regrets were so much the influence to spur us on to travel and see and learn.

It seems there can come a day for many elderly people when they lose mobility and loved ones and what do they have left but their memories? It is hard to see them grieve for the missed opportunities and my hope was to have as few of those as possible.

A full life is completely a subjective perception. As we live it, we can only mostly guess at what will be seen as a regret and what a success. Yet, surely to live with enthusiasm and ready hands to do our best by others is part of the secret of living well.

Much is learned by travelling. At a certain age, we are can understand the errors of own ways; we are still flexible enough to go with the flow of a new, possibly strange place. That is the time to be away from our own kind, drifting into conventions we hurry to follow. For a short time to try to learn what it is like to be part of another culture.

Sure gives us an enlightened perspective when we come back home.

In the course of this week, I celebrate my birthday and thinking about the value of treasuring the moment, this is the one in which to eschew the overwhelming plethora of bad news that hounds us and spend a leisurely 865 words or so with you.


The Queen's Wisdom

By Constance Scrafield

Seventy years at the same job would set a record with any firm and the British are at their most enthusiastic for their monarch, Queen Elizabeth II at the moment as the weekend of her Platinum Anniversary approaches. At 96, her Majesty has absented herself from several royal engagements and in particular, she passed on the Opening of Parliament to her son, Charles, Prince of Wales on March 10 this year. By George, I bet she was happy to dump that on her unworthy would-be-king son. All those dour old men, harping on about the same old lies and sleight of hand policies. And Boris Johnson, Britain's answer to Donald Trump – many of us still think they are brothers separated at birth but maintaining an unavoidable leaning to duplicity, ignorance and downright dopeyness (sic). Keen to ruin their own countries from the very seat of power.

What wise 96 year old lady would want to struggle down the passage to deliver a long winded document that totally lacks a single sincere wish for the betterment of the people?

Leave it to Charles, he will revel in it, warming up to what he hopes to live long enough to take up as the ultimate role of King. That was Tuesday. A couple of days later though, on Friday the Queen made a “surprise” visit to the Royal Windsor Horse Show and instantly many good things happened. She was among horses and people with good souls who love horses. It is unlikely that her visit was absolutely a surprise given her deep love of horses and dodging the desperate drag attending Parliament would have been. Very likely people nodded knowingly to each other, secret smiles at having guessed rightly that she would find a way to come. Comedian Omid Djalili took the stage to say, “Your Royal Highness, on behalf of everyone here we would like to thank you, very humbly, for picking us over the State Opening of Parliament." Joking further, “You did the right thing and I won £5 in a bet with my local kebab shop owner in Ipswich." And she laughed and waved at him for the jokes.

Perhaps equally, shrugging off parliament and being with horses had a profound healing affect on her for her smiles were broad and natural and her joy at being where she was, was evident. One display after another of “musical rides” as we call them when the Mounties are performing them, filled the vast parade ring with horses and riders in an impressive range of costumes and uniforms, reflecting history and the part horses played in it - some 500 hundred horses were in the mix with 1000 people involved. Dame Helen Mirren revived her role as Elizabeth I, pronouncing a declaration made by the Mediaeval Queen and a call of thanks to this Elizabeth from a grateful subject for her being the heartbeat of the nation. Tom Cruise was invited and was quick to accept to be part of the ceremonies, dressed in a tux that looked a little as though he had cut a quick Mission scene – or was it the challenge of getting through the throng of fans – windswept hair – crazy smile.

Mostly it was about the horses. The Queen watched with considerable pride as her granddaughter, Lady Louise Windsor drove her own ponies in a carriage display marking the centenary of the Fell Pony Society.

Horses heal. They are completely in tune with the person on their backs or the person standing before them, reins in hands. Considerable witness has been given as to the level of telepathy between horse and rider, even as strangers, especially as a long term relationship. Caregivers for neurodivergent people bring them to meet and when possible, ride horses who are all kindness and care. Troubled youngsters learn to be happy around horses. The therapy of interaction with horses is well recorded but requires no proof for those of us who love them. Therefore, when Queen Elizabeth who has been plagued with “mobility issues” was deemed unable to attend the State Opening of Parliament gathered herself together and whether her doctors agreed to it or not, she went to the Royal Windsor Horse Show and had a wonderful time. She arrived sitting in the front seat of a Range Rover right on to the fairgrounds with her window down to speak to officials, smiling in a way we have not seen in – well, those smiles were so sincere, smiles of genuine pleasure to be a in place that made sense where the lies were thinner, fewer and the hypocrisy was absent.

Historically, Queen Elizabeth II is not the world's longest reigning monarch. At 70 years and 92 days, she still has a couple of years to claim the record set by Louis XIV of France of 72 years, 110 days.

Later in the day at the Horse Show, Her Majesty was seated in a chair, an elegant shawl around her shoulders, enjoying the jokes and the very brief speeches; enjoying the many ways in which horses parade.

May 19th 2022

Thinking about Easter

By Constance Scrafield

How do you remember your childhood Easters for those of you who celebrate Easter? As a child, there was always a new outfit for me. It was the first few days of spring and we were buoyed up with the notion of resurrection and the first heads of growth in the garden. There were celebratory meals and small gifts.

Church of course, everyone went. Even if not normally, they went to church for Easter, for Christmas; Thanksgiving brought people out too. Though not a religious holiday as such the church is regarded as a place for gratitude.

Some Christians say that really Easter is the most important of the holidays, more than even Christmas because Easter is the miracle of Christ's resurrection, the proof of all he had said through his ministry about his own partial divinity and his victory over death. He commanded his followers to go out and preach the story of God's love and His role in our lives – that believing in Him is the single passage to Heaven.

However one feels about this, there is certainly the evidence that truly believing in a higher power is good for us. Empirically and very often, people who have faith benefit from it in their approach to life and their own happiness.

Yes of course there are the phoneys and the fanatics. There the war mongers using “religion” as an excuse for brutality. Let's put them aside for the moment and talk about the support of belief, the strength it gives and the reassurance of something more than a life that might be hard.

There is a great deal to wonder at in the stories about Jesus, the man who – more than anyone else - changed the world. As I understand him, he was about ending cruelty and war, about loving even your enemies – you can love your friends and those who admire you but what about loving those who revile and even wish to harm you – that is the test.

He was practical about sharing – if a man has two good coats and another man has none then that man with two should give one of them to the other.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

For me the real test of Jesus' importance is that our calendar was reset at the point of his life – BC and AD. They have been changed from Before Christ and Anno Domini to before and into Common Era. Okay – different words, same timing. Just to cover sensitivities.

It is all about semantics. The reason our spiritual lives are hard to understand is because we need words to explain things and there are some aspects of our lives that can't be explained with science and can't be really understood with words. Maybe that is why there is prayer and meditation: muttered, private, quiet, reflective, searching within and without one's own self. Both lead to a stillness that we do not otherwise indulge.

In that tiny moment of stillness comes the chance to feel. To go without words and simply be.

This is sought by everyone, really. To find that pool of calm within ourselves, maybe not to even have known it was there. Some souls spend their whole lives seeking it; others take snatches at it in their yoga, their running, their time in church.

As a species, we have ever been and believed many things. At the head are our inclination to violence, love and a determined notion that there is divinity – whether it is a celestial object, an imagined population of gods; a dependency, passionate love and fear of one god.

From very early on, we have buried our dead with a view to their continued existence on another plane. We have planted or entombed them with tokens of their earthly lives to provide them for an afterlife.

Otherwise, we reduce their physical selves to ashes but we still maintain or hope there is more to each of us than blood and bones.

At one time and another I have read the four Gospels a couple of times, not enough to quote chapter and verse, to be sure. I like them for their feeling of time travel, so real do they sometimes seem to me. We have to acknowledge their fallibilities though. It seems they were written decades after Jesus' crucifixion death and little enough is known but very much is debated. There comes a time when all the opinions cease to matter.

There are plenty of Roman scholars at the time of Jesus' life who wrote about him and there is no need to doubt that he came and taught and died a cruel death. We can go ahead and believe that he rose again because miracles have happened and they still do, even in these cruel times.

What really matters is his message of taking care of each other and loving where love seems hard. To connect with our “inner selves” (my words) and find peace there and a place with no need for words.

April 13th, 2022

Acknowledge that war is outdated

By Constance Scrafield

Donald Trump is so excited about Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Putin, to whom he pandered and deeply admires, has simply invaded a country – just like that, for only made-up reasons, lies and fictions. Trump is also clear there has been no serious push back to this aggression – only weak sanctions, barely likely to make a dent in the wealth of Putin himself. Dreadful to image what Trump would have done were he still the President.

Would he have sent in the troops with orders to start shooting? Would he have put his generals on high alert to have those nuclear weapons at the ready?

Yes, probably. While he was in office how many times did he talk about that red button – whose red button was the biggest?

Heavens, Putin has already led the way in this matter. There are photos of his generals seated twenty or so feet away from him at a very long table as he commanded them to put the high alert on their nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Their faces showed – what - their fear of this madman? Their resolve to declare him incompetent if ever he dares to call: “Fire!” Their terror lest another fanatic in the fold brushes them aside and actually does fire?

I have a theory about why Putin holds his military and political staff at such distances: because he is afraid one of them sitting close to him would be able to make that lunge and kill him...

Russians, however, are paying for the sanctions with doubling and crippling interest rates and the skyrocketing cost of the most common foods. Of course. The common person will always be the brunt of the sins of the powerful.

Money. Popularity – power, lust, incredible indifference to the pain of others: there is always collateral damage in war: the death of multiple civilians is unavoidable and of no serious concern.

Ukraine is a wealthy, democratic country that has had no true ties to any international, political or military alliance, like the EU or NATO until this very week, March 1. At the same time as Russian tanks and soldiers were entering the country, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a passionate speech remotely to the European parliament, urging them to finally accept his country's entrance into the European Union. He was given a standing ovation and it was recommended that “Ukraine be be made an official candidate for EU membership,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

History is mainly taught in schools from the litany of wars, unjustified invasions one country on the other – for no true reason other than to claim the wealth and power of the space being invaded. Torture, deceit, assassinations – death of millions; there have always been wars with pretence of God's commands or the alleged villainy of one demographic of the society over the rest; the greater good - the glory...some people actually miss wars when they are over, as if the powerful feelings that come during wholesale terror and grief stirred their souls more deeply than pallid peace.

This relatively new century has, so much like the centuries before, witnessed a steady stream of genocide, terrorism, and completely illegal invasions of countries. None of it justifies this next one. No excuses of previous assaults make a reason for an entirely separate savagery such as we are seeing now. This is not about Putin pre-empting an attack on Russia's borders from NATO or American troops, only an irrational move to annex an independent country with excellent resources.

This is much too dangerous a time for another war. Those schoolroom classes have done the math and there are too few decades between major battles for us to follow the old patterns. There might be 30 years between the times when world was torn by militaries battling each other and taking the “collaterals” with them but there have been wars that lasted a hundred years and there are wars now that have been going on for years. Twenty years of war in Afghanistan and it is now certainly no better off.

As an exception to its usual policy, the EU is supporting Ukraine with finance and delivery of weapons and Germany under its newly elected Chancellor Olaf Scholz, is increasing its military budget to an astonishing (so say I) 100 billion Euros or approximately USD$113 billion. Exactly as Putin specifically forbade, this alliance with the “West” will be a stunning setback for the Putin initiative; he will have to decide how this changes his approach to Ukraine.

There are protests against the war across Russia, in part because there is a natural familial flow between the countries, from the interlacing of history in the region. This does not negate Ukraine's independence, however Mr. Putin views history. What he is doing, is killing many young soldiers and – is he demanding that they kill their Ukrainian cousins to support him?

Everyone needs to cool down: times are different now.

The Cornerstone of Culture

By Constance Scrafield

I've written this book, see, about a long journey that my husband and I once made through a bunch of countries and it came up kind of long and here's partly why: because I kept writing about food, specifically about meals. Meals we two shared and meals we had in interesting restaurants or with people that we met.

I couldn't help writing about them – everywhere a meal comes up in the moment, it insisted on its right to be included.

Well, I have cooked, one might say been a chef for a living and I flatter myself that I am a “foodie” with a reasonable range of tastes and an eclectic kitchen. To be honest, Patricia and I tend toward an Italian menu for the most part, for a couple reasons: that the Italians have the most healthy menu and that we have loved being in Italy and never miss a day longing on some level to return.

The frequent meal incidents in my story telling are not really about my need for sustenance but because wherever one travels, one eats and what one eats is the culture of the place.
To share a meal whether just the couple of people having the adventure or with others is, in itself – about the people for sure but also about their home culture, the culture of the country. Where else do we learn so much about the culture of a place than by what is served at the table?

Everyone – rich or ruined – eats. Even the scrapped together meals of a ruined situation would tell an onlooker all there is to tell about the tragedy currently holding that place and those people in its grip. In a prisoner of war camp – where parents are warned not to give all the poor food to their children but to eat enough to survive so they can continue caring for those children are tales that war histories tell.

The saga of poverty, a person begging on the street, a thief that has grabbed an apple from a stall in the market place all weave together to paint a portion of the portrait of the society in which they live.
How much more, then, do the meals of common people, of the rich lay out the lives and legends of the diners?

We love our theatres – fine parades of brave souls on stage doing all that they do: they sing and perform every sort of music; they act out the plays that reflect life somewhere in drama and comedy but imagined geography to one side, they are written in our own language penned with skill to teach, amuse or even torture us. We love concerts – crazy wild men with instruments that howl; fabulous music of history; ballades – spiritual – we go; we applaud; we stand to show our approbation.

What joy we have in the visual arts – Orangeville is an outdoor gallery of sculptures and murals. Visitors barely need to go indoors but when they do, they are gratified by the prodigious achievements of the artists in this art-based region.

Our libraries are filled with gems of literature and instruction all of which tell us about us and about others in far-off or near-by lands. We love to hold a book in our hands, listen to it on a “tape;” read it electronically ...
Yet and yet, we love to eat. Indeed, we must eat. Food is the cornerstone of culture.

In Italy, a bowl of savoury spaghetti is not a meal; it is an appetizer, the first plate of a meal and a second dish of meat or fish is served sometimes with vegetables and sometimes vegetables are another course. Then there is salad and the wonderful time for conversation around the cheese and fruit. A tender “dolce” - a sweet comes last. Could be a pie that is concentrated, not fat with fruit or bulky of pastry.

Finally, the bitter pleasures of espresso with maybe an amaro – that bitter Italian herbal liqueur to assist digestion.

Such a repast is the daily norm in every Italian household, enjoyed together as a family, all hurrying to be on time to the table. Lunch takes up to two hours, with a glass or two of wine to complete the flavours of the food and aid digestion. All this is followed by an hour's siesta: the shops in town actually close in the midday to accommodate this ritual. It bespeaks a culture that fundamentally appreciates life, not rushed and unreasonable but measured, with a respect for the essentials of eating and of eating together.

A recipe for longevity.

All around this interesting and beleaguered world, the meals that are served and the way they are consumed are the definition of what is the culture in any given place. Before everything, we eat and how we do that is the cornerstone of who we are.

February 2022

A Christmas Piece, written for Country Routes in 2008

The Christmas Muse

By Constance Scrafield

Colin shovels a straight and narrow path through the snow from the door to the place where the cars are parked. It is only on this path that the cats will walk. They are suffering from the outrage that cats, who love to go outdoors from time to time, feel when the world is cold and the ice and snow bite at their delicate paw pads.

They take turns scratching at the door, determined to take in a breath of fresh air only to be rebuked by the hostility of the weather. As a consequence of the early onslaught of winter, they are already showing symptoms of cabin fever in their testiness with each other. Every so often, the high whine of conflict or the low growl of aggression will echo through the house as two or more of them confront each other. I roar at them by name to “cut it out” but their temperance and obedience can be short lived.

The dog, Mickey, bears it all with canine resignation, going out into the misery of the cold, as needs must, and lowering his chin to his paws with a mild moan, while the cats’ squabbles rage.

Being a short haired, shivery sort of a mutt, we bought him a good coat, a miniature horse blanket, actually, from Greenhawk. He wears it happily, standing quietly at the door while I dress her in it.

When he comes back into the house, he stops just inside to allow me to remove it. This weekend, we went back to Greenhawk to purchase a similar coat for my daughter’s puppy. She bought her the same style, but burgundy where Mickey’s is green and about four times the size. Watching the two of them march about outside in their coats is simply hilarious. The puppy, Chandler, has not quite got the gist of how to stand patiently for her dressing and undressing. No doubt, she will catch on soon enough.

My dear old horse, Patrick, tolerates the snow and sometimes finds it invigorating. His younger companions dash about, kicking white clumps up with their high stepping. They all roll in the snow, springing up afterward to shake their whole bodies and snort vigorously with the tingling of the cold.

For me, December also brings to mind the first days of my knowing Patrick, now twenty-eight years ago. I bought him a warmer blanket this year, while we were purchasing outdoor wear for the puppy and I feel better for his being in it at night.

Everywhere we go now, the sounds of Christmas descend from the speakers in all the public places. Theatres, halls and churches reverberate with celebration, one way or another, of the coming Yuletide. So many bands playing, so many singers urging audiences to sing with them, so many cherub-like children melting our hearts with their splendid performances of Christmas-related dramas.

And, it seems, we will have a white Christmas. It is Christmas card pretty. When our family came from the U.K. to join us for Christmas a couple of years ago, we likewise had plenty of snow. It was the first time the youngsters ages five, seven and nine had ever seen anything like it. Naturally they were enthralled, especially after we when out and bought them Canadian winter gear to wear.

Down the road, our dear friends, the Skeates have decorated their home top to bottom. Anne takes great delight and a lot of time to dress her home which she opens to a great many people over the holiday. People she hardly sees all year will come to her for Christmas dinner if they are alone. In addition, most of the Skeates’ grown-up children will join them, some coming from considerable distances so as not to miss the holiday with their parents.

Christmas does us all the favour of cancelling our busy lives for a few days, shutting down the offices and closing the stores to make us pause and have dinner with people we don’t see very often. It creates the occasion for families to make the effort and spend the money to be together. It hollows out a moment for us to truly stop and consider the other people in our lives, whether we spend a fortune on presents or not.

Even the matter of gift-giving, although somewhat exaggerated in some shops and households, is beautiful because of the time and thought for someone else’s happiness that it gives.

We go blithely through our lives, struggling to remember birthdays and anniversaries when we may honour others but the truth is that Christmas cannot be forgotten and so, we can collect our generous impulses into one happy time.

Finally, there is the reason for Christmas, to honour the birth of a child and more importantly, the birth of a philosophy of forgiving, of loving, of caring about our spiritual lives.

Don’t worry about the commercialism– that is just people trying to earn a living. Consider the joy and profundity of this season and how it suspends your life for a tiny while and gives you “time out” to remind those you have little time for during the year to say you care about them.

And from this writer, all my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Let's talk about freedom

By Constance Scrafield.

When Patricia and I came back to Canada, she was six years old, ready to go into grade one. The school board and the law stated definitively she could not attend school until I showed documents that she had had her MMR inoculations. In case you don't know, that's measles, mumps and rubella. Absolutely, no questions, let's see those docs or the kid stays home. At that time, there was a lot of nonsense talked about those vaccinations causing autism and other ails. Such harmful rubbish people spread for no good reason and no one really knows why. MMR vaccinations do not cause autism and doctors mourned to see small children develop meningitis as a result of not receiving essential vaccinations.

After so many decades of keeping kids safe from those dangerous diseases, plus polio, the law was justified to protect other children from the potential harm from admitting a child whose parents had not taken the precaution of vaccinations. I had them as a kid and so did most of you. Got the little round scar on my upper left arm near my shoulder.

During an interview earlier this week on CBC radio one, a nurse grieved deeply at the onslaught of yet another wave of Covid, brought about by the refusal of people to take the current vaccinations for Covid-19. Said she, “When Covid first hit, we worked so hard and for such long hours, putting our own health at risk and we learned how to treat people and what to do. And we did it all because it was our jobs and we knew and accepted the risks. “But, this time with the numbers of cases up again and we're being asked to do that work all over again – for no reason! Because people refused to get their vaccinations.”
It was completely incomprehensible to her.

There is a lot of harmful nonsense being talked about vaccinations this time too, not about the danger of taking them but to the nature of our “freedom” not to take them. Who are the brutes that insist on shovelling this irrelevant thinking at us? These vaccinations are not experimental. When Astra Zeneca was deemed to have rare but undeniable side effects of blood clotting, it was taken off the list of vaccines in most countries. The rest are safe, safer than the risk of catching Covid -19 and the Delta variant. What is freedom and where does it pale compared to the harm so-called freedom can do?

Every country, province and town have laws: we are not allowed to murder each other, steal, abuse, cheat, drive without our seat belts, exceed the speed limit, smoke in our vehicles with minors under 12; we're not allowed to assault each other, expose ourselves in public. People are not allowed to smoke in buildings or on airplanes. Nowadays, our “freedom of speech” is tightly curbed and we're not legally allowed to make racist remarks to others, nor even infer sexual aggression nor impropriety. So, why are people not in the streets protesting all these impositions on our freedoms? Why? Because these are all harmful to others. If we murder a person and get away with it, well, we're okay. If we insult and verbally abuse a person who is different from ourselves, that person is offended, even damaged emotionally but we'll be okay – so what is the problem? These curbs on our “freedoms” are all about the freedom of others. We are not allowed by law to attack others, drive dangerously or endanger others with our noxious habit of smoking because we are not allowed to willfully harm each other. Likewise, we are being mandated to get vaccinated against Covid so we stand a better chance of not being sick with it and not infecting others in the work place, on airplanes, in public places, where social distancing is not possible.

Get it? This is no more an infringement on our “freedoms” than not being allowed to smoke in buildings. They have not made it illegal to smoke in your own home but most people don't allow themselves without the need for a law to prohibit it. That is the nut of it. Laws are made because we are too stupid or too violent and whatever are our many failings, to see for ourselves what we should and should not be allowed to do. Can you believe there had to be a law against smoking in a car with children, that any person would not be able to see that for themselves? There are hundreds of laws prohibiting the obvious but it seems we still need them.

It is quite unbelievable that rules about keeping us safe from Covid, saving our health workers from having to go through the agony of nursing us all over again are being protested, being called a blow to our freedoms.

Go and get your vaccines. Wear a mask; wash your hands and if you need to protest, stand up for the environment. That is a much bigger issue.


Happy International ....Day

By Constance Scrafield

According to the Fergus Highland Games website, declaring the Festival a digital event again this year, anyway: Tuesday this week was Happy International Scotch Whiskey Day. Sorry if I'm late with this news but I hope you imbibed, if only by coincidence.

So, I thought about the proliferation of Happy International Something Days and wanted to offer a few of my own.

How about Happy Stop Building Pipelines Day. They are still being built everywhere. The waffling and unpredictable American governments – both federally and in each state – are variously cancelling and allowing pipelines to go through, like a bunch of scatter-brained kids, playing street games. Millions of dollars down the drain of partly or largely built pipelines; millions of dollars poured into finishing (or maybe not when authorities changed their minds) pipelines elsewhere.

Still, the Canadian government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 Billion, so, it for sure will press on to have the thing finished all the way to the Pacific Ocean. I have wondered how much the material going into constructing this (eventually) dirty and dangerous pipeline could be sold for scrap.

There is a tender little note in the “Trans Mountain” website where they wax on about their diligence in protecting the wildlife where the pipeline is being laid. Inspectors, environmentalists inspect and note the activity of the birds and point to the nesting places of certain hummingbirds and song birds, through the research done by those experts, on what they are pleased to call the “Pipeline Environmental Protection Plan (EPP).”

Positively an oxymoron.

Says the site: “If a nest is observed, appropriate buffers around the nests are marked and roped off until the bird has left the nest.”

Lots of words mark the passages about how they work with the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to protect wildlife, with particular attention to the safety of birds. Makes you all warm and tingly, doesn't it? However, in spite of the pretense of safe passage for Western Canada's wildlife, pipelines inevitably leak or burst and no amount of safety checks ever guarantees they will not. What about the wildlife and environment then – to the land and, even worse, to the water in lakes and oceans?

How about Happy Finally-Shut the g-d Tar-Sands- down- forever Day? Just stop shoving the sludge into those pipelines and really give the little birds a break. The birds, the land, our grandchildren, their air and water.

A bit too late, I'm afraid, but how about Happy Stop Burning the Amazon Forests Day? Why, really and truly, is Bolsonaro burning down the world's “lungs”? Why would he intentionally be the last source to truly bring the world to ruination? And, why, oh why has the International community not actually stopped him from following this disastrous course?

All the calamities we have watched happen in “sovereign nations,” feeling -somehow – our hands were restrained from stopping a genocide, usually, or other serious misdemeanours governments were and are inflicted on their people but this killing off the Amazon forest – for what? Cattle? Bananas? Avocados, now a fad food?

It is not as though Bolsonaro does not understand the consequences. He does for sure. So, his motives are a deep mystery because it can't only be about money and corruption.

Like Doug Ford selling off the green spaces and exposing our sensitive environment to danger, there must be a darker motive for such behaviour.

Our grandchildren – How about Happy Stop Surrounding the Earth with Space Junk, not to mention Space Junkies. Circling the planet at approximately 35,888 kilometres per hour is some 30,000 bits and pieces, each with serious destructive potential. Accidents do happen in that field of space garbage, causing debris to crash to earth or to disintegrate into fragments in space.

One day soon, according to many sources, it will be too dangerous to travel to space AT ALL, for fear of being hit by a morsel of a long dead satellite. The likes of Richard B and his competitor-for -attention, Jeff B, may well find themselves engaged in Battle with Galactic Junk during their next hop above the earth.

So much for plans for Mars or inter-planetary exploration: “We would have gone but there was too much space junk in the way and we blocked ourselves in.”

Hey! There is another excellent reason to stop the fossil fuels right now and clean up our sources of energy, poisonous agriculture, suicidal meat production, stop destroying our forests because we did our usual sloppy thing and cluttered our own outer space perimeters so badly, we stuck ourselves to stay on Earth!

How's that for a joke? How's that for behaviour coming back to bite us?

Greta, let's push change with this in mind. They are not buying into “Care about us, your children.” I guess oil companies and the rest don't care about their children but, within less time than it takes to finish building ships that could take us elsewhere, space will be blocked by our own dirty, lazy habits.

A neat bit of irony that is.


Who else is watching?

By Constance Scrafield

(Writing on the eve/morning of my Birthday...)

Ok. So, we all know that Santa is watching us to ascertain whether we're bad or good, I guess all year long, because that is what that really creepy song seems to indicate. We get it.

Also, I guess the divinities are watching because they have particularly advantageous seats from which to see our whole drama/comedy. From ancient times, they have been portrayed as mystic, mischievous beings, doling out favours, punishment and even love.

There is a varied single deity, a varied father image, from punitive to loving, like any father, I suppose, but bigger. Still, watching our every move, conferring with St. Peter about individual chances of entry into Heaven...

For many decades, we have been watched. Computers listen to our telephone calls to red-flag certain keys words and Edward Snowdon's book, Permanent Record, paints a terrifying picture of our present day. We are spied on every minute and have embraced this completely in a way that is quite contrary to what science fiction writers imaged all through the 19th and 20th Centuries.

They pretty well, uniformly and with reasonable accuracy wrote in dire tones, this future of government and corporate spying on the common people to manipulate and control the masses. As it is today.

However, with more faith in humanity than humanity deserves, they consistently penned stories of rebellion against the watchfulness and control; rebellions of resistance and, sometimes with wild optimism, the overthrow of and freedom from the shackles.

Image how wrong those authors all were – not only is there no struggle on humanity's part to resist the oversight of our every moment but, conversely, we buy into it with our own participation – we even purchase smart machinery to eavesdrop on our private conversations, in our own homes, and pass them along to parties interested in us.

Primarily, this intense interest in the minutiae of our lives is less a political thing and much more a commercial thing, maybe voting too – well, many aspects of our lives – but it is mainly about how we spend our money, with the “one percent” wanting that money to go their way, Jeff Bezos and all that.

When Facebook first started getting a serious grip on society, I was really puzzled by the tiny personal details people showed about their lives and their children's lives. I have been concerned about the rights of children, in the issue of having their lives exposed, sometimes in great detail, by their parents and guardians and without their permission.

Surely, in the futures of many adults will come the embarrassment and, even, outrage of what was shared with the whole wide world about them, in their early years. This is like the jokes about parents pulling out old baby pictures of their daughters or sons to show the boy/girl friend, newly brought home to meet the family. Only way worse.

So. In the news recently and on the CBC program As It Happens, is the story that Astronomers have discovered 70 planets within complicated visual range, whose possible populations could readily spy on us, on our every move, here on earth.

I was so glad to hear this, I can tell you and, as luck would have it, if we pay good attention to the timing of these moments of revelation about other societies on other planets, we can check them out too, in a very real way. Fantastic.

First and foremost, the notion dismisses, in a single sentence, the folly of even wondering if there is life on other planets. Not only does this proposition presume without hesitation that there is but can point to some 70 planets where those other civilizations probably reside!

At last, what must be the case is finally presented, casually but earnestly, as potential peeping-toms on the privacy of us earthlings! Wonderful and I am completely a believer. The idea that earth is the sole planet in an unending universe that bears sentient beings is so crazy, it goes along well with theories that the earth is flat and only 6,000 years old.

Sadly, the spy-time is short, quite specific and because of how damn big space is, those moments are spaced out over years. Well, the speed of light dawdles at a mere (approximately) 300,000 metres per second, so, when objects are so far away, it takes ages to see them again and to truly understand their nature. So, we have to catch them as they are in an orbit that creates an eclipse of their own sun.

See? There are plenty of stars, as we see them, that are good to go as suns and have appropriate orbs circling them, suitable for and very likely supporting life on them and if life here can be intelligent – example: dolphins, elephants, octopus and more, then it is reasonable to assume there is intelligent life there too. Not reasonable to doubt it.

And they can be checking us out. Maybe we should clean our acts.

With Your Permission

Blueberry Pie for Breakfast

March 2021

By Constance Scrafield

The evenings been dodgy this week: little but brilliant sun, ruling down across the grass path to the snow bound fields beyond.
The garden waits beneath the burden of mean ice and snow for the better days of tomatoes and flowers in the earth, which is enriched annually with antique horse manure.
Along one wall, in a raised garden, I usually mix and broadcast seeds for salads, everything all jumbled up. Means it's a bit of a mystery what will be in the bowls with the lemon and oil dressing I always make. It doesn't matter, really. Salad grown at home is entirely different from what one can purchase in a shop, even a famers' market.
The feeling of luxury is sincere. When it's so lovely outside, that's where the finery is looked for – in the ground. The accoutrements hardly matter if the growing is good. When a person doesn't need a winter coat, the lack of one is irrelevant. The brocade couch can sit empty while the sun warms the deck chairs and the television, taking up most of one wall, can stay black when the goldfinches flit there and back to the feeder and the hummingbirds are like a comedy with their zip-zipping.
Yes, well, I do like the summer. It brings relief to the labours and brooding of the cold days and dark winter evenings.
So, I wonder whether this is a summer of new dawns. There seem to be more airplanes flying over my head these days and I thought that long cloud in the sky was a vapour trail. I was sorry to see it. Has the industry taken time to re-think about safe and clean ways to conduct air transport in the near future? Or will we just spin the “propellers” on the same old junk ......
There has not been a sudden flourish of new electric or hydrogen powered vehicles coming on the market and for a price any of us can be expected to pay.
Do you think it can be, after quite some time, really, and we are not exactly all back to full power – unafraid of the next person in the queue – confident of leaving our mask behind – that, after all the gushing and the certainty that things will be different – hope for: better. Or will it all be just the same?
No, we are not there yet. We have to continue to wear our masks, keeping that safe distance but there is a worry living in my mind, in spite of the glory all around, as “stay at home” means “water the garden.”
What if, in the places where it means something, we haven't learned a darn thing? We have increased, expanded and honed our ways of communicating, teaching, entertaining each other online. We've learned that it's really fun to go to concerts and the theatre by streaming for free, rather than getting dressed, in the car and paying for those events. Will we recall how much fun truly live theatre and concerts are? In our minds, will the value of live theatre and performance be remembered for what it requires of us?
In any time of trouble, some people are making good, making lots of money on the backs of the very source of the trouble – like people selling guns to both sides of a conflict. I guess the Facebook shares have leaped in value and Amazon has all but grasped the retail market in its talons.
Here's hoping the small time retailers have not been squashed, never to rise again. What a loss that would be – not to be able to walk into a store, staffed by people who are in business for the love of it, not just the grinding greed of control. A lovely independent shop, with interesting items you didn't spend an hour online looking for – a conversation about the product and, maybe, many other subjects, with a real person, meaningful, thoughtful – fulfilling.
It is, as it always is, up to us. If we acquiesce; if we opt out and keep to this enforced laziness that has brought everything to our doors and screens; if we throw our hands up and shrugging our indifference, say, “It's inevitable1” then, the changes will not be for the better. We won't be stronger; we'll just gain weight.
As the weight of a virtual home arrest, across the world, mind you, has been the weapon needed to defeat the plague that has beset us, as this lightens, here at least, we should be out there, shopping for our needs in person. Ordering a meal for take out and going there to fetch it, so the restaurant doesn't have to pay for delivery.
Buy a book, greet a sales person – I'm sure local retailers have been very frightened about their chances of survival in the face of Amazon's determined spread.
There's been so much time for reflection, as individuals and at large. What have you learned and what do you want different now?

With Your Permission

Down the Rabbit Hole

February 2021

By Constance Scrafield

Do you feel as though things are a little odd these days? How are your dreams? Has the world's reality shifted a little - or a lot – on some level of your mind? I mean, we know the difference between a cup of tea in our actual cup and a virtual cup of tea, right?
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, that parody of Victorian life, seems in for a re-run. In many ways, he barely exaggerated the real-life people in his world. A book he wrote to entertain the children of a friend of his, his satirical portrayal of British society and politicians was pretty close to the bone in many cases. Alice in Wonderland rose to high popularity and gave his pen name self – Lewis Carroll - fame throughout Britain and North America.
At about the same time, Punch magazine, the satirical magazine that invented the cartoon, naming such illustrations first, was read at every level of society in the UK, loved for its intellectual and clean dig at society and its foibles.
It seems to me, we are more than ever parodies of ourselves. Satire, of course, has its own way of debunking villainy and chaos, hypocrisy and the self-serving. We have lost the knack of it, I think, and to our loss. Nowadays, we are all so serious in our criticism and, in dealing with our realities in black or white, make them almost too hard to face.
In this household, we do check in with the likes of Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers, American comics, each with their own shows, who do a so-so job of humorous analysis of current events and the people running them. In Canada, This Hour Has 22 Minutes works at taking on the job of making fun of the difficult issues of the day.
Perhaps, the trouble is that we are overwhelmed with mediocrity when we are badly in need of excellence: of leadership, science, peace of mind. Especially since the '60's, we have been searching for excellence in our leaders –in politics, industry and business, - and they have dragged the world down a path that is nearly at its end. Warmongers that we are, wasteful of bounty, cruel to the extreme and so short sighted that we can hardly think beyond lunch, we have little or no regard for the proofs all around us of the consequences of our ways. This all true in every land, inn spite of the specifics with regard to kindness and wisdom, our basic flaws control our better natures to the detriment of all.
If only for logic's sake, it must evident that mere short-term and, really, fictional financial gain or the falsehood of employment blanches in the face of harm to come: imagine that we are once again planning to open new coal mines – right here in Canada, we who have, in decades past, lead such a campaign against coal – done so much to shut it down. It is so bad that it is hard to be funny.
Lots of what we laugh at is far from funny and I notice there little humour addressing the political calamities in the US, where a deeply criminal ex-president is still at large. He is forgiven and supported by lawyers, senators who should long-since have turned their backs on him and apologized to their nation and the world for ever allowing him into their midst.
Well, there are heroes. They are not running countries or a big enough portion of the world's industry, farming or medicine but they are working hard to build ways to live, to eat and turn the lights on that are safe, wise, clean. Their influence is marginal until they are rich enough and there is a large enough number of them to bring the political will in line.
Sorry – enough gloom! Let's look at what is really funny.
Space travel!! Don't you love it? People lined up to make the one-way trip to Mars and beyond! You think Earth is tough? Earth is paradise. People are hell and guess what earth species is going to Mars - which will already be hell, by the way - People! Is that like Hell x Infinity?
Everybody wants a piece of the next frontier! Elon Musk wants run Teslas on the streets-to-be on Mars – he's got space travel all figured out. Jeff Bezos will offer package delivery to the vast and weird covered cities that are planned for the Red Planet.
Richard Branson will fly Virgin space shuttles for tourists – if not all the way to Mars, at least to the moon and more. Just picture the costly tours of the Space Station, everybody floating weightlessly but still in a line, the guide showing points of interest. Gosh. They'll have to double the size of it and the medics better be ready for those sudden deaths!
Internationally, the decades-old race to space is well and truly on, while people starve and our planet stumbles and fails.

With Your Permission

Days of Wine and Bamboozle

April 2020

By Constance Scrafield

Once there was a Troll. Trolls do have names like the rest of us and all our domestic animals that we like to give names to, usually, without asking for their opinion.

So, Trolls have un-spell-able, ergo, unpronounceable names that mostly sound like someone sneezing or gargling or shouting a whole bunch of bad words very quickly. Because we can't say his name, we'll have to make one up – how about Ugless. You could stretch it out to make other words describing a troll.

Some traditions describe Trolls that have horns and faces like really ugly dogs or too ugly to be dogs' faces; they have hairy bodies; legs like an animal, like a huge goat but they walk on their legs because they have big, hairy arms with three finger hands and terrible claws.

Many stories told they used to live under bridges and were most dangerous if you wanted to cross the bridge.

Now that we have a name for our Troll, Ugless, I should tell you that, at some time not quite known, as it is with most history, Trolls grew tired of living under bridges and they decided to move up in the world and live in big houses, or castles or wherever they wanted to. They way they did this was by bullying, bribing, blackmail and, of course, stealing.

Over time, and Ugless had plenty of time, because Trolls can live for a very long time. They might have been related, ever so long ago, to elves who are immortal but, because of being such nasty, unkind beings, they lost their immortality. They can still live for ages.

Now, as I was saying, over time, they learned that it was less fun to live alone in big houses and castles and that people – humans – from whom they had bullied, bribed, blackmailed or stolen the big house or castle – were really fun to tease and intimidate. They began to want people to live with them and do everything they demanded and cry when they were mean, and tremble when they were angry. It was so much fun!!

Unfortunately, it was difficult to persuade people, even with promises of money and treats and everything they could possibly want because these Trolls are really faery-tail-ugly, with their horns and their terrible hairy faces, that, by and large, people just couldn't stand them.

Of all of the trolls, Ugless had managed to keep some of his magic and he found a way to make himself look like a human!

Mind you, there is always something pretty strange when you look at him or listen to him talk – that something so odd about how he keeps himself in the centre, how he still bullies, bribes, blackmails and steals to get his way. How he always sounds a little bit - or a lot – crazy.

Two things came of Ugless' discovery. First, he taught other trolls how to do it, how to look human but never quite right. Second, he became ambitious and wanted, not just big houses, but also power and he taught the other trolls how to want power too; he taught them how to pretend to be nice, even human charming.

The trolls had always enjoyed a good laugh at the expense and pain of others and that fit right in with humans – who were suddenly finding Ugless “a great guy” a “real winner,” a “guy who could really run things, get things done, do things our way.”

Ugless discovered, and he was rather surprised, that many humans were much more like trolls than he had ever thought. Most of the way he lived, even under the bridge, they did too. He began to wonder if trolls and humans were more related than trolls and elves had ever been- except for the magic; humans had something they called science but it took way longer to change things than magic and it took too many people, too much time and work to figure things out. So, Ugless decided that science was bunkum and not nearly as smart as his magic.

Then, one wonderful day for Ugless, he found out that many, many humans were getting together to choose their next leader and he realized he wanted to be that leader and have all that power. So, he went out and he did more bullying, bribing, blackmailing and, of course, stealing on such a huge scale that he won! He won all the power and gathered all his victims close to him and they did everything he told them to, even when they were sure it was the wrong thing to do.

Then, he got rid of the humans who didn't like him.

When the storms came, Ugless stayed in his biggest house, and lots of people died but Ugless didn't come out again until the storm was past, sure that he would still be able to bully, bribe, blackmail and steal.

With Your Permission

What Stirs the Heart
October 2019

By Constance Scrafield

Just wrote the feature with Theatre Orangeville about this new season of plays and there is a theme of family and, as we spoke about them, it seemed to me that there is a theme to stir the hearts and minds of the patrons as well.

The matter of different folk living together in harmony, but not avoiding comment, comes up more than once. There are plenty of ways for relationships and families to be built of different people, people noticeably different from each other.

This covers a lot of territory: different can be appearance, age – levels of ability or education; cultural differences – there's pot boiler: especially overseas where there are so many countries, with such diverse cultures, located immediately beside each other.

Who can tell, control, guess where the heart will lead?

Do you believe in love at first sight? Still something science hasn't quite nailed down, I am happy to report. It is the suddenness of instant attraction, the power of it, the indifference to the differences between the two – fabulous, dangerous, exciting. The deep end.

One way or another, we are never alone for long, unless we make an unusual determination to remain alone but this is extremely unhealthy on many levels, a real detriment to our health, cognitively, physically and passionately.

To be honest, supplementing or, indeed, attempting to replace real connection with online intercourse may very well lead to even worse health problems than a solitary existence. We don't know about that yet, although people commit suicide over their online communications.

It would be interesting to learn the statistics there: how often do people kill themselves over what is said to them – however abusively -in the physical world as opposed to those who end their lives as a result of virtual conversations with them or said about them?

We are herd animals, for the most part, and we are warm tactile beings who long for and need, if not the actual touch of others, at least their nearness. Watch how often people hug each other; strangers can even be very quick to hug and people one might not expect will give a hug. It's wonderful.

How we touch each other varies as much as anything else in the world. Probably our ßcultures dictate how we approach each other, meaning in a positive light, not with death or harm hiding behind our backs. Probably, our at- home culture influences us for life about our physicality later on. If parents hug and cuddle their children, not just when they are tiny, little, young, but also when they are teenagers, young adults, parents themselves, this probably matters on how those adult children are affection with others, including their own children.

The eyes tell a lot of intention or not about touching. Body language invites and warns off; it can hesitate, undecided, until the other decides for both. If I recall correctly, there was a brief caveat against hugging and shaking hands in particular – wasn't there a fashion of bumping elbows instead for a while? I see lots of people shaking hands but that short term fashion crossed my mind recently in a situation and I looked to see if anyone else had thought of it but they were all glad-handing, as the expression is, so, I guess it faded as it should have into the dank heap of paranoia that needs to be hosed down regularly.

The passion that binds us to each other disregards completely the circumstances: nor war, nor rebels, nor dictators, nor repressors, nor the dark, not even the lies can stop us loving, lusting too, admit it.

We are alive and the disasters are what they are, sometimes. Yet, whatever we do about the sins of our fathers and our own neglect of the world around us, we must still be what we are – a species filled with thinking and talent at so much. We are not better at all than those fellow species with whom we should be sharing this planet with equity, with the same fierce love that we have for each other. We should caring about their well being as much as for our own children, for our friends and lovers – if those are well, so are we but – for ourselves – for if we are well, we can care for them.

It's a circle, do you see, a circle that must include everything. Scientists have clearly shown that all living things are connected – at their DNA level. No getting out of that. It's politics, the fools, yabbering on, brainlessly, missing the whole point of existence.

You have a best friend. You tell that friend you will always have their back. You have summed it up.

We have to have each other's backs not just people - we are only part of the whole. But the whole is being shattered and we have lost our way.

Love – how well we love – how our hearts are stirred – the answers lie there.