Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Creative Curse



Perhaps it was because we were brought up during wartime years when everything was in short supply, and everyone learned to “Make Do and Mend”, or, as I’m inclined to believe: we all got a heavy dose of the “Creative Curse”.

You can be blessed with the urge to become a writer, or a musician, or an artist, or many other creative endeavours, it only becomes a creative curse when you are showered with so many different urges and capabilities that you have no specialty.  At one time, this ability was referred to as “Jack of All Trades” with the last portion of this phrase being “Master of None”.  As I am one of the Jacks that I will be referencing in the following stories, I object to that last portion.

There was a time when I was in a very deep well of grief that prompted my Covey to decide that I needed activity and creativity, so working individually and collectively many creative big and small endeavours were attempted.  There was a big job: purchasing, renovating and selling a house, and then, there were smaller efforts which I’ll start with first.

As a person always on the look-out for a bargain I think I hit the motherload when I heard that the department store Simpsons was selling off all their old Christmas display decorations in preparation for a new decorating theme.  There they were: masses of green, red and silver, sparkly, shimmering pieces of plastic all shoved into large tea-chest sized boxes.  

You know the kind of box: about 4-foot-tall and 2-foot side walls.  Each box was priced at $5.00.  I wanted them all, but my Ex insisted that he could only get two in the car.

For a while, two bulging boxes full of Christmas cheer, sat innocently in the garage as I tried to figure out what could be done with this enormous amount of glitz.

Then the creative urge hit!  I can’t recall who had this brilliant idea.  Possibly LS.  However, the “who” is not as important as the “what”.  It seems we had the means and the opportunity to make our fortune selling Christmas Centrepiece decorations at the local flea market!  So, we let the creative curse take over as we began taking apart and reattaching these glitzy elements into some extremely unique and glorious household decorations.

Hard at Work - Creating!

Naturally, we had no intention of making this a life time endeavour.  Our plans were to make a quick killing with the available ten dollars worth of materials from the tea boxes plus a purchased box of Plaster of Paris.  This meant that the containers for the centrepieces were garnered from whatever we could find that looked suitable.  There was no rhyme or reason to the selection, it might be a cup, or a saucer, in some instances it might even be Christmas coloured.  Mainly though, it just had to be at hand.

Creations completed, flea market space booked for a two-day weekend, hair curled and fluffed up to a dazzling degree, LS and I set out to strike it rich.

Saturday was a tiring but successful day, lots of interest and lots of sales.  We had hoped to sell everything on this first day but we still had a fair amount of inventory for the next day.  Sunday rolled around and although by days-end we had depleted our stock there were still some items that would need to be taken home.  Taking stuff back was not in our plans!  We couldn’t just abandon it, so we sold it all at a reduced price to our neighbouring booth, and then went home to count our money.

Counting our Money

It could have been when we were flush from our success at the Christmas decorating, or it may have been earlier when we made some amazing Styrofoam creations which we sold at a larger venue.

I wish we still had some pictures of these creations.  Children’s names were popular, but so were the colourfully painted character cut-outs.  How we became interested in this endeavour is no longer available to my memory bank, but certain little titbits stand out.  For some reason, my youngest daughter’s teacher and her husband play a part as information providers.  LLB features heavily as the electrical expert.  Styrofoam can be cut with a serrated knife but if you want fine-smooth-edges it needs a heated wire.  LLB’s constructed a two-person cutting platform where LS and I could work together. 

Somehow, amongst this array of activity, LS and I managed to purchased a rundown rooming house to renovate and once again make our fortune.  The only stipulation that LS insisted on was that she did not wish to work evenings or weekends – she had a life to live.  We soon realised that this stipulation was not going to happen because evenings and weekends became our busiest times.  This was one creative endeavour that sucked the entire Covey into its vortex. 

Contractor's Van

LB became our contractor, LLB became our electrician and every other family member who could stand upright, hold a paintbrush or a hammer was called into service. 

Partial Crew

  It soon became apparent that we should not have been so cavalier accepting offers of hammer holding.  LS’s help in this regard necessitated major correction after a glancing strike resulted in lots of unwanted running water.

Nevertheless, we did renovate this house.  We did pass government inspection (albeit with a lot of smiles and eyelash batting from LS). We did sell it.  What we didn’t do was make our fortune, but that was never the real goal.  The real goal was achieved: I’d had no chance to think, my Covey had kept me busy for a few more months.




Tuesday, 1 September 2020

A Clamping we will Go!



As usual I kick my brain into gear with a search on Google.  This time I was searching for info on leaders. It seems the world has known all kinds of leaders; good and bad, inspiring and despotic, militaristic and religious.  

Some of these people trained for the role they filled, others such as royalty were born into it. But the person I’m referring to, especially in the first story, just kind of fell into it, at a very young age I might add.  In case you’re wondering I’m referring to LB.

    To train as a leader you must have a follower.  LB was in a perfect position: he was two years older than his brother LLB.  Anyone who knows anything at all about siblings knows that they fight for dominance in the family hierarchy, but outside in the real world they stick together like postage stamps and envelopes. (Admit it, you thought I was going to say like something else!)

        This particular story can be calculated beautifully because it occurs at the time of the dungarees.

    As they sit garbed in their new-matchy-matchy dungarees, it’s obvious from LB’s very protective arm around LLB that he would never purposely lead his younger brother astray. However, if it happened accidentally, then, well, that’s the way it is!

    The dungarees are the focal point here.  Normally, clothes in our family had to last a long time. But not this time. Beyond the nice outing they had in the above picture, these items of clothing had a very short life.

    Let me tell you how that happened:  Judging from their age guesstimate I’m thinking that the war was over, but only just.  That means that all kinds of bombed out buildings and intriguing areas were available for investigation.  If you’re thinking that two little boys of such tender ages would not be allowed far from home, you’re thinking wrong.

    Where this playing spot was, is not important.  What it was, is very important.

    It was tar!  As I’ve mentioned before, tar was used extensively throughout the streets of London to bind roadway blocks, so perhaps it was being used to repair a road, but that knowledge is not essential.  What is important, is that to these two boys it was available and they thought it was suitable material to play with.  Of course, it wasn’t!

    Perhaps one or the other noticed on the way home that they were both covered in tar? Perhaps. And perhaps LB (our leader in training) said to LLB “Don’t ‘afta ta worry, it’ll wash off!  Stick together on this.”

    After every item of clothing they were wearing was reluctantly thrown away, they learned that the black stuff on their skin wouldn’t wash off!  With both of them standing in our metal bath tub, it remained for Dad to apply liberal amount of some chemical solvent remover which must have been a very uncomfortable experience.

    Nevertheless, their sticking together lasted a heck of a lot longer than the dungarees.

    This story now jumps forward to a time when the Canadian contingent of our Covey were happily established in our North American lives.  But, as I may have mentioned before, we were always hyper aware that Mom was getting old and suffered various health issues.  Sometimes the phone rang with news that we did not want to hear.  Nevertheless, we each knew when it was “Our Turn” and would drop everything to be on the next plane to England. Naturally, we all had jobs and responsibilities in Canada and if it looked like it would need an extended stay, then, the next in line would book a flight that provided an overlap period to pass along important information.

    There were only a couple of occasions when these overlap periods involved more than two of us, and frankly my memory of the following incidents needed lots of jogging from LB and LS.

    Mum had health problems and was admitted into St. Thomas’s Hospital for evaluation and treatment.  LB and LLB arrived in London as the first line of defense. Eager and anxious to get to see Mum they thought it best to first deposit their luggage at her apartment.  However, that presented a bit of difficulty.  They had no key to enter and unlike Canada there was no superintendent to offer assistance.  So, what could they do?  Our intrepid leader reasons that breaking in is the only option, but before they attempt that, a trip to advise the local Police was in order.  At the Station, they explained to the duty sergeant that they had just arrived from Canada and what they planned to do. Bearing in mind they did not want to be arrested for breaking and entering, they wanted assurance that they would not be arrested if they did what they planned.

    His reply: “Go right ahead!, you don’t ‘afta worry, it ‘appens all the time there. No one’ll notice.” 

    Fortunately, Mum lived on the ground floor, so entry was achieved via the kitchen window.  After that, a key was obtained so that a more dignified entrance and exit could be achieved.

    They hired a car for their daily trips to St. Thomas’s hospital which is in central London on the south-side of the Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Houses of Parliament - View from St. Thomas's

    Naturally, they needed to eat and could not be bothered to prepare food in Mum’s apartment so they ate out in restaurants.

    Anyone familiar with the parking restrictions in London knows how to adhere to the colour coded and zig-zagged painted line restrictions that are on every roadway – visitors, not so much.  LB and LLB were visitors, so they just ignored them.  

        It’s therefore no surprise that after one morning’s hearty breakfast they exited the greasy spoon to find a parking warden busily applying a ticket to their rented car’s windscreen. Normally of course one would be very upset to see this happening but our intrepid leader decides to have a little fun.   Turning to his brother, he says: “We don’t ‘afta worry, it’s a hired car, let me handle this.”  He then speaks to the unsuspecting parking warden: “Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.  That’s marvellous. Can we have more?  I’d like to take them back to Canada tomorrow.”

    Having done their dastardly deeds for the day they proceeded to Heath Row Airport to pick up LS and I who were arriving to complete a further two weeks.

    Naturally, we all went to visit Mum in the hospital.  Afterwards, it was evening, we were all hungry and since we were so close to the West End decided to head towards Leicester Square which is the entertainment centre where we knew all kinds of restaurants would be open.

    We set off; our tireless leader was driving the hired car.  It was a little bit frightening.  None of us was used to driving on the left-hand side of the road, certainly not LB.  But after all, what’s a few bumps on the curb.  Eventually we reached our destination.  But where to park?  Nowhere it seemed. Then LB spots a little side street with lots of spaces. “But wait” someone in the back says, “that’s a one-way street, you can’t enter there, we’ll get a ticket, it’ll cost us the earth!”

    “You don’t ‘afta worry, LLB and I know what to do about tickets, this is not gonna cost a cent” was the laughingly reply.

    So, we didn’t worry.  The car was parked and we all had a wonderful dinner at a nearby restaurant.

    We should have worried!

    When we returned to the car, we did not have a ticket, we had a CLAMP, so did all the other theatre goers who had foolishly followed LB’s lead and parked their cars in this tiny little street. They had squeezed into every little nook and cranny, in all directions, it was like a dealer’s car lot.

    The clamper thoughtfully left an instruction sheet under the wipers so that we knew the procedure to have the clamp removed. Basically, it was: we go to the listed fine office, we pay money, they take off the clamp.  Now that the hired car couldn’t move, we had no transportation so we called a cab.  London cabbies know every address.  Just as well!  It was on the other side of London, and London is a BIG city.  So was the cab fare!

    We arrive at this enormous cavernous underground full of towed or impounded cars stretching for what looked like miles.  Very humbly and contrite we advanced to the little paying booth where we discovered that being clamped was not only inconvenient, it was very expensive!  Now our only problem was getting the clamp removed.  “We were told to go back to the car and wait, someone would come to remove it”.

    So, having paid the piper, we once again caught a cab to return to our little clamped-up enclave.

    By then, some of the other foolish parkers had returned to their vehicles and understandably, they were not happy.   We spoke to one: We asked: “When did he think our clamp would be removed?”  We got a very straightforward answer: “Once all of ‘em ‘ere pays their fine they’ll send someone to take orf the clamps.”

    All of them?  Everyone?  Some of these theatres had long shows! This was going to be a long evening.

    Fortunately, it was London and London has a pub on every corner so there being no point in standing outside feeling miserable we spent the long evening having a marvellous time laughing and singing inside a welcoming London pub.

    Eventually, all good things must come to an end and we knew that time had come when we heard the hullabaloo that accompanied the arrival of the clamp remover.  You might think these sounds would be shouts of joy.  You’d be wrong.  The frustrated clampees were screaming, shouting and swearing, as only a Londoner knows how, at the poor guy who was just trying to do his job.  They were shoving and pushing and threatening and it might have come to fisty-cuffs were it not for the Black Maria full of Bobbies that escorted the brave man.

    So, as Shakespeare said: “All’s Well That Ends Well”.  We didn’t ‘afta worry, but we did ‘afta pay.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Basic Food Needs in a New Country



If you do a search on Google to discover what are the food problems experienced by immigrants to Canada, you’ll find a lot of space is devoted to immigrants who arrive from places that are different weather-wise, culturally and places where religion influences food choices.

All that makes perfect sense, but, while our little Covey didn’t fit into these parameters, when we first made our tender steps on this wonderful land, we also experienced food problems.  There were foods we missed such as shop prepared fish and chips carefully wrapped in copious sheets of newspaper.  

Please note: There's NO nice white paper between the food and the newspaper!
Please note: There's NO nice white paper between the food
and the newsprint! 
It all adds to the flavour.

Or maybe we had fond memories of the penny crackling?  For those that don’t know what crackling is (please don't confuse it with the North American "pork crackling" which might be said to have a modicum of nutrition) - it’s the crispy bits of batter that drop off the edges of the fried fish, and really should be scooped up and thrown out.  All that lovely fried greasy batter! Waste not want not!

Crackling in all its glory

At the post-war time that we immigrated, the typical Londoner still had a very limited diet.  Although in our household the effort was made to have three colours on a plate: brown, white and green, which on a good day was represented by bangers and mash with green leaves of some kind. There were times when a change was called for.  If you remember the story of Sweeney Todd, you’ll realise that meat-pies are a favourite meal.  Anytime that you could wrap meat in a piece of pastry you had a winner.  From the fancy Beef Wellington to the cold dish stand-by: Veal and Ham pie. Of course, a serving of Pie and Mash was the piece de resistance for our cockney taste buds.

Potatoes - always scraped onto side of plate.
Green gravy called "liquor" coloured with parsley.
Pie, usually served upside down.

These were all foods that no household actually cooked.  Maybe the fish and chips, but the Pie and Mash never! 

In Canada there were few if any fish and chip shops; Pie and Mash establishments were totally non-existent, and still are. When we fancied any of these gourmet delights, we either made them ourselves or did without.

These were very small deprivations.  Canada is the land of plenty!  Our biggest problems were identifying the wondrous foods that were available in the supermarkets.

What exactly was a cantaloupe?  Did you need to cook a pumpkin?  How about the seeds in a watermelon?  Should you eat them?  The bacon looked a bit paltry, instead of a large rasher you had ribbons of mostly fat with a few streaks of meat. That was until you discovered “Canadian bacon”!  Mostly though, there was no cause for complaint about the food:  there was so much variety and so much quantity it was wonderful.

And then there was the Italian gift to Canada: the ubiquitous Pizza Pie, which brings me to the following story that involves a visit from Mum.

Mum was visiting Canada and taking her turn staying with LS and family.

Imagine if you will, a fine summer evening, LS, husband and daughter are pondering what entertainment they can provide for their visitor.  It’s decided that the Drive-In movies will be a unique experience for Mum, after all, nothing of that nature was available in Blighty.

Generally, Drive-In movies were a favourite outing of the times.  The whole family would pile in the car, even parents of young children could forego the babysitting charges and by the time the movie really got going, the offspring had all fallen asleep in the back seat so Mum and Dad could relax and watch the show.

A typical concession stand

But a really big draw was the “Concession Stand” where snacks of all varieties could be found.  Good movie or bad, when the interval break occurred it was “Tally-Ho” to the food.  Popular items, and a favourite of LS’s daughter were the individual pizzas which were probably not prepared fresh on the premises, but they were nicely warmed-up, so these were the obvious choice for all to enjoy.

Let it be said that Mum was not known for her honest appraisal of anything, and she wasn’t about to change now.  This being the first time she had ever tasted pizza it was no surprise when she declared that it had been: “The best jam tart she had ever tasted!”


Monday, 22 June 2020

Fathers' Day


Today (when I'm writing this) is Fathers' Day.  It’s a day for fathers to put their feet up and be fed peeled grapes.  Of course, it maybe a day for that, but that rarely happens. Mostly they just get crayoned cards with “Best Wishes” and a couple of extra hugs. Maybe the lucky ones get their favourite meal.  It depends!

Growing up in Cockney-Covey-land I don’t ever remember a Fathers' Day, but then I don’t remember a Mothers' Day either.  But I do remember our father.  I remember a man that scared the living daylights out of me, and from talking to my siblings he did the same to them.

Well you might ask: what was it that scared us so?  Looking back, I think it started with Mum’s psychological set-up.  Whenever we misbehaved, she would threaten us with the dire consequences that would occur “when your farver comes ‘ome”.  I for one never wanted those events to happen and neither did LS, LB or LLB.  I’ve mentioned before that this man who had us all quaking in our (father soled) shoes, never once laid a hand on us, but he had a big voice and he used it. 

He was strict, he had rules; lots of them. Mostly things we were not allowed to do. As teenagers neither LS or I were allowed to wear make-up at a time when every other girl was so plastered up, they seemed to be auditioning for the movies.  Recently, LB has told me that as a young boy he was not allowed to cross the road, even though his friends were. (Might have had something to do with my previous confrontation with a car?).

Looking back on my father from an adult viewpoint, it’s obvious that he loved and cared for us, and he cared for our survival.  As children, both ten-year-old LB and his young-hanger-on LLB were not quite so aware of that when the following occurred:
The war had been over for a few years, and our Covey was nicely installed in our brand-new council flat surrounded by lots of green fields and space for young lads to explore. So, they did.

Our new council flat.

There was a favourite hangout that someone had labelled “Blue bell woods” just north of where we lived.  It contained an old house that most kids, including LB and LLB, considered a playground gift from Hitler’s Luftwaffe.   They may have considered it so, but they were wrong.  It was in fact a little piece of history that had gone into decline.  It was known locally as Clarence House.

I do not know for sure that they were forbidden to play in that particular spot, but they had been warned not play on bombed out buildings.  And, since they considered this to be in that category, they were totally aware that it was a death-defying act just to wander near this crumbling building.  Of course, they were not wandering near, they were knights defending a castle, atop the roof, tossing slate tiles onto the enemy below.

As in all good stories there has to be a hero and there has to be a villain.  The part of the villain in this story is the one who snitched on them by telling our father where to find them.  Who it was can only be surmised.   I do not know.  I was married by that time and no longer lived at home.  LB and LLB could not know - they too were not at home when father innocently inquired: “Where are the boys?”.  Was it Mum?  Did she know where they went?  Had she she merely given the boys the “When your farver comes ‘ome” warning? Or was it the only other member of the family?  Was it LS?

Whoever it was, was no longer important once LB looked down from his roof top aerie and saw Dad approaching.  He knew they were in bad, bad trouble and they could expect the worst.  Any minute now, the booming voice would strike like the voice of God and they would be turned to stone as they bouncingly balanced on the open and exposed roof-rafters. 

Surprisingly, it didn’t happen.  As Dad approached them, he called to them in the calmest voice he had ever been known to use: “Come on boys. Supper time!”.  They couldn’t believe their luck, dad wasn't angry.  Dad continued to climb the rickety stairs towards them as he steadily guided their progress down.  Whew! At last, terra firma!

That’s when it happened.  The gentle, calm and totally unknown father did a Marvel Comics routine and turned into a raging bull.  With his bare hands he tore a switch from a tree which he brandished over two cowering boys as he ordered them to run home.  They did.  They ran.  They ran to the kitchen and together made themselves as small as possible huddled in a far corner on the floor.  Dad didn’t hurry. He strolled home to give the boys more time to consider the consequences of their actions.

Of course, there has to have been a punishment.  It’s hard to say what was the actual punishment.  Was it that big voice hollering and the wagging finger thrust toward each boy’s face in turn?  Or was it the two to three-day grounding? Personally, I think it was watching the other kids playing outside when the weather was unusually fine for England and then as soon as the normal rain began pelting down being told: “Now you can go out to play”.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Love and Marriage


“The same high standards that lead to our 'search' for love, also set us up for disappointment, failure and the impossibility of a satisfactory conclusion."    Francesc Núñez

Let me take you back to 1945. It was summer time, the war was over!  Finally, all was well with the world again.   That is to say: it was for everyone else, but not for me.

I was twelve years old, and not the prettiest young girl on the street, LS had that classification. LS not only had a pretty face but she had beautiful curly hair in a gorgeous chestnut colour that everyone (especially me) envied.  Me, I had an O.K. face but the most dreadful straight-mousy-hair that no one envied, so I was the smart one, whatever that meant.  What I wanted was to be the pretty one because I was in love, desperately and unrequitedly so. 

Before you laugh at my dilemma let me apprise you of the information I have garnered from Mr. Google:
“Falling in love is an emotional upheaval at any age, but for adolescents the feelings are likely to be even more difficult to manage. Teenage bodies and brains are maturing at a rate not experienced since infancy”.   (Braams et al., 2015; Suleiman & Harden, 2016).

Who, you might ask, was the object of this undying affection?  A boy from school?  A neighbour?  No.  There would have been hope if either of these were the one.  My love was, as I said, unrequited and would always be so.  He was a blood relative! And to add insult to injury he was at least nine years older than me.

No doubt you’ve heard of J.C. haven’t you.  Well he wasn’t that one.  His name was Johnnie.  Johnnie Carter to be precise, he was a half-cousin. He was the son of my father’s half-sister.  There was a definite closeness between the two families, evidenced from the time of my parents’ wedding.  Their formal wedding picture shows the young Johnnie and his sister as the bride’s attendants. 

From one year later when I came into being, until that miserable day of Johnnie’s wedding I had been aware of this glorious creature.  Naturally, my awareness had been pretty low key until my mysterious hormones started raging.  Then, I can recall spending hours imagining and thinking and dreaming of what life would be like if he would only notice me.  Whilst I can honestly say I never-ever got any indication that he even knew that I existed, it didn’t stop me from wishing.

Imagine then how I felt; the war had ended and the very first celebration that we were all invited to was the wedding of Johnnie and his bride.

Money and clothing were still in short supply, nevertheless, Mum had probably scrounged a few bob together and bought LS and me matchy-matchy dresses for the big day.

Everyone was dressed and ready to leave for the big event.  Except me!  As always, my straggly hair was causing me problems. Remembering who I would be seeing, I wanted it to look glamorous, something along the lines of Rita Hayworth’s luscious tresses.  Conversely, it wanted to do what it always did: just hang there!  It was then that I had the brilliant idea to wear a “Snood”.  Snoods were the fashion item of the day. Usually crocheted but occasionally made of fabric. 

We didn’t actually have a snood, no one in our house could crochet, but always inventive I found some fabric (more correctly described as torn up rag) and proceeded to style myself a snood.  As I tossed this back and forth, I could imagine the voluminous masses of hair that hid beneath.

Mum, on the other hand, had no imagination.  She didn’t see it that way. She insisted I take it off, I insisted I wouldn’t!

Well, as we all know, time waits for no one so we all (including the snood) left to attend the wedding.

Looking back, it’s easy to see what happened next.  Mum was desperate to have me remove the offending hair embellishment, so she appealed to the person Mums always appeal to: the friendly non-threatening child’s aunt. In this case Dad’s sister Dorothy, known as Aunt Doll. 

Dear sweet Aunt Doll buttered me up like a piece of toast.  Told me how she could make my hair look so amazing and wonderful.  Of course, she lied.  No one could do that!  But I let her remove the offending snood and apply her non-existent hairdressing skills via a curling iron.  The results of which can be clearly seen in the group wedding photo.

I ask you: look at the picture, is it any wonder he still didn’t notice me!

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Preceding Planetary Pandemics


Today, my dear Covey, no doubt because of what is transpiring around us, my mind is drawn towards the number of pandemics, plagues and pestilences that preceded our existence on this planet.

There’s a tremendous amount of hope and optimism, when you consider that in order for me to be alive and writing this joyous but rather mundane blog, my genes (and yours) have survived ALL of the most gruesome and devastating plaques that the world has suffered.
No doubt, prior to A.D. there have been many diseases that have wiped out populations but the first one I learned about in school was the Black Death or Bubonic Plaque. This nasty little pandemic was said to have been a little gift that arrived on Britain’s shores in 1348 via a travelling seaman.
Now, whether our Covey were residents of Blighty at that time, only LB the genealogical master would know, but I’m presuming we were. That pandemic like any other yin and yang caused a lot of changes in its wake. It ended a hundred-year war, the shortage of labour raised wages and ended serfdom in England. Hence, our forebears who had survived, no longer had to do all that wartime fighting, their standard of living rose and their offspring went on to a bigger and better life.
However, due no doubt, to a lack of hand washing and no observance of physical distancing after it wiped out half the population, it came back for a few more, less-severe population cutbacks throughout the centuries until the Great Plaque of London 1665-1666.

Carting off the dead from London streets

Not that I’m implying any direct connection here, but it’s interesting to note another bit of yin and yang to show that it is possible to achieve great things when in isolation: During this plague, Isaac Newton was a student at Cambridge University when the University closed down as a precautionary measure. So, Newton did a bit of social and physical distancing at home while he figured out the Law of Gravity and developed a few theories on calculus and optics. Can’t say he wasted his time! 

So then, to jump many hundreds of years we should consider our grandparents, or great-grandparents for some, and the Spanish Flu of 1918. This terrible influenza lasted for two years and killed MILLIONS of people worldwide. Many people, our mother and father and grandparents all lived through and survived that terrible period, yet I don’t recall anyone ever speaking about it.  So perhaps I shouldn't be!

Nevertheless . . .

They survived and so shall we. It’s in our genes. 

Sunday, 16 February 2020

GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms.

For today’s episode I’ve decided to leave the “Old Time Stories” and concentrate on the latest addition to my family, who must surely be included in this Covey by way of his genes.  After all, we are all GMO so he has to have a few Cockney genes.

Especially when you consider the work of Gregor Mendel; not to bore you with his principles of inheritance but to bring it down to its lowest common denominator it seems that a gene can skip a generation then appear later with all its bells and whistles intact. And those cockney genes all have lots of bells and whistles attached.

Yes, I now have a great-grandson – what a hoot!

I’m sure he has arrived with all his own characteristics and he will be loved for every one of them, but if we pay a little homage to Mendel, it’s possible he will also have a few personality traits for which he can thank his forebears.  So, heeding the Boy Scouts motto to “Be Prepared” I thought it might be useful to mention a few of those traits that may or may not appear, and since none of us can recall with accuracy what we were like as a child, it is left to me to mention a few of the traits of his lineages: my offspring.

Well, progeny number one has to be my first born.  He was the delight of my life; strong, healthy and full of vigor. He bellowed for his food and insisted on being the centre of everyone’s attention. He was as smart as could be and soon learned to do all manner of physical activities. I’m sure he was only two or three years old when his father had him out on ice skates!  He was inquisitive and willing to attempt anything.  So, it was a sad day when he came home from kindergarten crying.  

It seems that the class was learning to skip (you know the kind without a rope, just kind of hopping along) and it was the one thing that beat him – no matter how hard he tried: he couldn’t skip. 
I don’t know if he can skip today (I’ve never asked him) but it might be a gene worth looking out for!

Progeny number two was daughter number one.  She was a very special, special child for many reasons. Not the least of which were her linguistic skills.  I can remember, when she was a toddler, walking around the grocery store with her sitting in the buggy-cart-seat as she was merrily chatting away with me.  Nothing unusual about that you may say!  True. Except that she was using long three syllable words and complicated sentences.  Personally, I didn’t notice it – but other shoppers did, they would stop and remark on it. 
It was a bit like the nurses who a couple of years later would think it cute that this little child who still sucked a soother, had brought an analog watch with her to the hospital 

– that was until they realised she used it to tell the time. 

Oh yes, she also had a pack of playing cards so that she could play solitaire!  My guess is that no one would turn down a few of those “smart genes”.

The third entrant into this gene pool is daughter number two.  The calmest most happy baby anyone could wish for. 

Any mother who gets a baby with these genes has won the lottery.  These genes come with a bit of a warning though.  At the age of two years, those calm-laid-back-nothing-bothers-me genes suddenly burst out of the starting gate like a whirling dervish on steroids.  
Nothing, I mean nothing, is going to hold this child back.  Run away from home at the age of three, hitch a ride on a bus – no problem!  Listen to me, do as she was told – not a chance.  However, things weren’t all strife and trouble, there were some absolutely delightful moments, especially when her logical genes came to the fore.  I remember the time when I was bathing her and I asked her big brother to “bring up the towels” from downstairs. 

She adamantly refused to be dried on towels that she reasoned had been regurgitated!  Obviously, who could blame her! 
There was another time when she had a very nasty cold that this logical thinking came roaring out.  When told to avoid giving these germs to anyone else she immediately went against all instructions.  Her attempts at cuddling up to and kissing anyone who would allow her near were clearly obvious.  Those logical genes had rightly of wrongly figured out that if she had a toy then gave it away, she would no longer have it. Certainly, it was worth a try with this cold she did not want.

To be honest it was a tremendous relief when she was old enough for kindergarten, so perhaps I can be forgiven for my answer to her teacher’s inquiry: “Give me one word to describe your daughter”.  My reply was “stubborn”, it should have been “determined” a trait that has stood her well throughout her life. So, for a logical, determined go-getter, these genes are prime.

Therefore, the future for my latest descendant looks pretty marvelous as far as the gene pool is concerned.  Welcome to the tribe.