Friday, 30 July 2010


I once thought that forcing children to do household or farm chores was despicable. Childhood, so I was lead by grown-ups to believe, was supposed to be a time of carefree play and freedom. My exile to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, British Columbia reinforced this belief as everything was done for us by the staff except that we had to make our beds.

In july of 1965, my family visited my mom's sister's husband's farm. Since the adults were all busy with chores and my older sister was helping care for my baby sister, I became restless. Consequently, I found myself getting into trouble. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here's what happened.


As I never spent any length of time on a farm, the experience was new and exciting. Doubtless, it was that factor which kept me in continual trouble. One day I wandered into the barn and saw the cream separator. I yielded to temptation and sipped both the milk and cream streams.

Uncle Herman came in at the moment I held my head over the spouts. "Have you been drinking from that?" he accused. When I admitted that I had, he stormed out of the barn without a word.

"You ruined his days milk production you know that?" Mom lectured. "Because you had to pull a stupid stunt like that, he can't sell his milk. You got germs in it. Now he'll have to throw it all out."

I felt mortified that I cost our host so much in lost money.

The next morning I found a wooden pallet near the house. Thinking it was junk, because it was lying in the grass doing nothing, I stomped it to pieces.

"Why did you have to break that pallet, huh?" Mom demanded. When I told her, she exploded. "That wasn't yours to break. Why can't you think about other people and leave things alone? Can't you do a damn thing right?"

Since I seemed to get in everybody's way, I spent most of my time alone. That was the safest course of action as I appeared to upset adults no matter what I did. One morning, I found a pond near the farmhouse with cattails growing along the edges. Their bushy brown tops reminded me of microphones which I had seen television news reporters use. I pulled up a cattail and strutted around, making up imaginary interviews. That helped to pass the time on that sodden vacation.


Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book or to order it.

Friday, 23 July 2010


Electricity is such a constant and useful part of our lives that we're helpless without it. I had this fact amply demonstrated on July 12 when a severe weather system knocked out the power to my home for twenty-six long hours.

It started while I was shaving at about 8:30 A.M. As soon as I finished, I called the power company to report the outage. As I had no electricity to run my computers and the UPS back ups wouldn't last for more than a few minutes, I listened to two audio magazines on cassette.

At 11:00, somebody from the alarm monitoring company called to ask about why my system sent a low battery alert. I explained that we had a power outage and that I had to get off the line as there was a thunder storm overhead.

I called the power company after lunch and felt discouraged by the recorded list of blacked-out areas in the province. After being on hold for a half hour, I spoke to a man who told me the repair crews were working "flat out" and would restore service as soon as possible.

As Canada Pension Plan expects me to seek some sort of gainful employment each working day, I considered what writing-related tasks I could do while the power was out. A woman from Edmonton ordered a copy of When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) on the previous Thursday but I was too ill to fill it promptly. Fortunately, the blackout didn't effect my accounting as I still use old-fashioned books. I wrote a receipt, packaged the paperback, and placed it in my bag, awaiting posting the next day.

The power continued to be out all evening. I had wisely bought a gas stove the previous year so I was able to make hot drinks and cook supper. When I moved to this house ten years ago, I foolishly had an electric stove installed without realizing how many times the power would be interrupted.

After supper, I listened to a battery-powered radio with a built in dynamo power generator. As I have previously posted, I used my computers' battery back-ups to power compact fluorescent bulbs in order to have ample light in the house. I could have watched a small black and white TV too but I don't care for the local programming.

My security system had been making squealing and bleeping noises since the early afternoon. I became so annoyed with the din that I put duct tape over the intercom speaker grills to stifle the racket. This was only marginally successful.

The power was still out by the time I went to bed. Having no electricity to run the pump in the well, I boiled some water, that I keep in large plastic bottles for such emergencies, and washed my face in it. I had also collected three large pails of water from the down spouts so that I could flush my toilet.

Though it's dangerous to do so, I slept that night with ear plugs so I wouldn't be awaken by the alarm's intercom. It was still whining faintly when I woke up the next morning.

After breakfast and boiling more water so I could shave in comfort, I phoned the power company again. The recording said that service in some areas would be restored the next day while other areas would be out indefinitely. I called several local folks in Radway, who weren't effected by the outage, for permission to temporarily store my perishable food in their fridges. One man loaned me the key to the seniors centre, since its fridge was almost empty, and drove me there with my bag of thawing food.

When I returned home, I was astonished to find that the power had been restored. I walked all the way back to the seniors centre, retrieved my groceries, and returned them to my fridge.

I learned from this blackout that my emergency preparations weren't as adequate as I supposed. I need some way to keep my food cold during prolonged summer outages and a hand pump connected to my well so I can have potable drinking water. I also must have a larger storage battery connected to my alarm system. Power outages of more than a few hours have occurred in the past and the built-in battery failed quickly.

I realized too late that I should have had my old lap top set up so I could continue editing my How I Was Razed manuscript. My hope is to have this book in print by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, my Inscribe page features my two previous books and a short blurb about my writing.

Friday, 16 July 2010


Here's a tip that can really benefit you. About five years ago, I realized that I could use my computer's uninteruptable power supply (UPS) for another purpose. Since it's essentially a storage battery and inverter, I reasoned that I could power almost anything with it. I connected a lamp to the UPS and when the power failed, I had plenty of light. The success of this experiment inspired me to try different types of light bulbs to find out which would both provide sufficient illumination and last the longest.

First I tried a 15 watt compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulb and it stayed lit for 2 hours and 10 minutes. This type of bulb gives off much more light than incandescent lamps of equivalent or similar wattage. The next day I tried a 34 watt CFL bulb. That one stayed illuminated for an hour and 1 minute before going out.

To see what would happen with various kinds and wattages of bulbs, I conducted the following experiment. I first tried using a 100 watt incandescent bulb in the lamp. It lasted for only 12 minutes. Each evening of my experiment, because I had to let the battery fully recharge, I tried lower and lower bulb wattages. Though this wasn't strictly a scientific study, here are my results.

The 60 watt incandescent bulb's light lasted for 28 minutes. The 40 watt bulb stayed lit for 56 minutes. The 25, 15, and 7 watt bulbs stayed lit for 1 hour and 24 minutes, 2 hours and 21 minutes, and 3 hours and 42 minutes respectively. I also tested a 5 watt light-emitting diode (LED) spot light bulb replacement which stayed lit for 5 hours and 3 minutes. The two lowest wattage bulbs were only a little brighter than candles but much safer.

I now have a bigger UPS on my main computer, located in a bedroom next to my kitchen. Connected to that is a 15 watt CFL bulb in a lamp and when the power fails, I place it on my fridge. The power was out for twenty-six hours on Monday, July twelfth, and that UPS, plus several others I had recently bought, came in very handy at night.

I'm giving serious thought to purchasing a UPS meant for internet servers so that I can write during power failures. Had I owned one during the most recent blackout, I could have continued editing my How I Was Razed memoir. I have two other books in print called When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), available from the InScribe Writers Group site.

Friday, 9 July 2010


Every once in a while, municipalities consider reinstating a curfew on children out on the streets after a certain time in the evening. It usually happens after citizens become fed up with vandalism and other crimes committed by a small-but-persistent minority of teens.

Fort Saskatchewan, my home town when I was a child, imposed a curfew back in the early sixties on all children under sixteen years old after 9:00 P.M. The air raid siren sounded each evening for about ten seconds as a warning to any youth who wasn't at home yet.

After Mom had her cataract operation, some of her friends treated her and Dad to a "welcome home" party one evening at the Fort Hotel bar. My sister Diane, my brother Roy, and I were left to wait behind the hotel in the car since children weren't allowed inside. "Don't let Roy play with the emergency brake again," Mom admonished Diane and I before she closed the car door and walked with Dad into the hotel. When we were left in the car alone behind the beer parlour one afternoon, Roy released the break and the robin's egg blue Volkswagen rolled backwards into a low fence.

The air raid siren went off as usual at nine. My frustration grew as I could hear the music drifting out from the bar and the sound of people celebrating. I felt tempted to go inside and ask that we be taken home but I was afraid of getting yelled at or spanked again. I knew better than to get Dad angry when he was drinking so I tried to pass the time as best as I could.

As that warm summer evening wore on, Diane and Roy drifted off to sleep. Dad eventually staggered through the back door of the bar and flopped down behind the steering wheel, waiting for Mom to finish socializing. Soon he too dozed and wouldn't wake up when I repeatedly shook his shoulder.

I ran out of patience with all this seemingly endless waiting and left the car in a huff. "What are you doing out so late?" , a middle-aged bar patron in the hotel front doorway demanded, "Don't you know that kids aren't allowed out after curfew?"

"I'm going home," I declared, "My dad won't wake up and drive us."
"You better come with me," the man said, "You know the curfew is at nine o'clock and it's almost midnight now."

"It's okay, I can walk home by myself," I shot back.

He impatiently grabbed my arm and hauled me into the hotel. After phoning the police, he walked me back to Dad's car and told me to wait inside.

An officer shone his flashlight in the car at the faces of my deeply slumbering brother and sister, then he and another officer pulled Dad out from the front seat. The sound of his shoes dragging through the gravel seemed loud in the silence of the night. Dad came to life, swearing and struggling as the cops restrained him. Another officer gave us and Mom a ride home in his cruiser while Dad was taken to the station.

I felt thrilled at the prospect of riding in a real police car, having never done that before. As we drove toward my home, I peppered the policeman with questions, such as how many bad guys he caught and why he wouldn't turn on the siren. I also marvelled at how big the cruiser's interior seemed compared to Dad's car. The officer left the ceiling light on for us as he drove. Roy and Diane were too exhausted to care but I was elated as I watched the passing lights of the town through the left back seat window.

Mom complained bitterly once we arrived home but I was still excited that we actually rode in a real RCMP cruiser and met the officers. I danced with glee at having such a wonderful ride. Mom carried my siblings to bed but I had a hard time drifting off to sleep.

Some days later, Mom and Dad had to go to court and my parents were fined. They didn't tell me how much they paid but Mom felt mortified by the whole situation.

My days of being a free-roaming child came to an abrupt end in September of 1964 when I was sent 500 miles away to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, British Columbia. I wrote about my adventures, misadventures, and trials in a memoir called Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) It's available from the InScribe Writers Group page.

Friday, 2 July 2010


Many of us have been told by our teachers to write essays on what we did on our summer vacations when we returned to school. For some students, it was an easy essay to write. Others, myself included, didn't have much to tell. In my case, Dad spent much of his pay cheque on booze and Mom was too poor to travel anywhere.

Is it so wrong to stay home and enjoy two whole months of indolence? In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I related stories of doing unremarkable-but enjoyable things such as listening to all the ground-breaking hits of 1966 on my new transistor radio. In fact, my father bought it for me because I wore down his Volkswagon's battery from listening to his car radio for hours at a time. I can recall the excitement I felt when distant TV stations from America came in on our set without the aid of satellite or cable. Even the thunder storms were exciting spectacles for my sisters, my brother, and me to watch. Being children, we could have fun even without technology.

Though I didn't mention much about what I did during the summers of my adulthood in my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, I did go on what some call a "staycation" on many of my holidays from work. During my 1983 vacation, for example, I decided to visit as many local attractions in Edmonton as I could afford. One of those was the Muttart conservatory, four glass pyramid-shaped greenhouses containing plants from around the world. There was one pyramid for tropical species, one for desert plants, a third for temperate flora, and a fourth which contained various flowers. I brought my new 35mm camera and took plenty of photos while there.

Staycations are even more fun when a friend comes from another country. Mike, who lives in Oregon, visited me in July of 1994. One of the places we went to was the Space and Science Centre, as it was known then, Edmonton's planetarium. Through my connections with the venue's music composer, Donovan Reimer, Mike and I were privileged to see equipment and facilities that were off limits to the public.

West Edmonton Mall was also an excellent place that Mike and I visited. My friend especially wanted to see the dolphins and ride the submarines. Though we enjoyed the other attractions, our jaws dropped when we learned from the ticket sales lady how much it would cost to use the water park. The water slides and artificial waves enticed us but we didn't want to spend all day there.

Mike noticed a local indoor swimming pool as we passed a shopping mall near my home and we visited it the next day. I think we had just as much fun there as we would have had in the expensive water park.

Good times can even be had for no cost for both children and adults. Whether it was exploring the local creek as a child or the river valley as an adult, I have spent many hours exploring as well as appreciating nature without spending a penny.

It is a wonderful experience to visit distant lands such as Mexico, Russia, and Trinidad, which I wrote about in my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, but there are many fascinating local attractions just waiting to be seen and enjoyed. In these times of economic hardship, it only makes sense to get the most value for the least amount of money. Since municipalities work so hard to attract out-of-town visitors, you and your family will also benefit from visiting local attractions.

Some people use books as a way to fill the long lazy days of summer. My When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoirs are filled with interesting and poignant vignettes, many of which have been posted on this blog. I have also posted them on Wordpress. Blurbs describing my books are on the InScribe Writers Group page.