January 2020

Jan 31  What would George say?  George Carlin was not just a comedian, he was an astute observer of modern life. I was thinking about him after I wrote the following (Jan 25) about our need for speed. Speedy delivery of both goods and gratification.

Carlin had this to say about one-hour photofinishing (remember that?) –

“Can anyone explain to me the need for one-hour photofinishing? You just saw the fuckin’ thing! How can you possibly be nostalgic about a concept like a little while ago?”

I offered one-hour photofinishing at my business and it was quite amusing to see some of the photos. Often they got the film processed before a long weekend. Their photos were frequently of family, relatives and friends at previous celebrations. We figured that they wanted to show the photos to the same people who were visiting again.

The sort of makes sense- for those who leave things to the last minute- but there were occasions when I had to shake my head in wonder.

One particular film was quite memorable. It was a short, 12 exposure roll that contained photos of Christmas. Inspecting the prints for quality control, I noticed that the Christmas tree was moved. What? Then I noticed that it was moved again and the children in the photos were ageing. Yup, three Christmases on a roll of 12 exposures.  One- hour processing was needed for that? A real film burner that person was.


StoreFront016.jpg                         Aylmer, Ontario   1994


Jan 25  A tale of two cultures.Amazon has contributed to an impatient, lazy society. Not content to sit in the comfort of home, order online and wait for standard delivery- which is generally quite fast- many consumers are willing to pay extra for Amazon Prime.

Imagine a world where you have to wait for an entire year to get your order, and then have the risk of missing the delivery, necessitating another year of waiting. That requires enormous patience, something most of us lack.

Such a world exists and, no, not in a remote jungle somewhere in the other Amazon, it’s here in Canada. There are many isolated communities in the high Arctic that is a reality. Flying in supplies is unaffordable for most families there, so the only solution is to bring by ship in the very short summer.

High Arctic Haulers, a documentary on CBC Gem, tells the story of the battle to supply those remote places by sealift. I was attracted to it due to my interest in boats, ships, and those who work on them.

Despite stories of the north-west passage being navigable in summer due to a rapidly warming Arctic ocean, there are areas where it is extremely difficult to sail due to ice from the melting glaciers. Ice that looks harmless on the surface but packs a punch below the surface. A punch that can rip into a ship apart. That’s hitting below the belt.

But I got far more out of it than the marine story. The human story was just as interesting, if not more so. The Inuit and the people from the south who choose to live in arctic communities must have levels of patience and perseverance beyond what we, the pampered, have.

And yet I saw the great joy in simple pleasures those people have, particularly the children. Riding bicycles in the tough terrain, shrieking great whoops of pure joy. Skating, dog sleds, kayaks (made by the youth), gymnastics and more. The common thread was outdoor exercise. Not very common for young people around here. Too concerned with Instagram “likes”, trends and fashion to spend time outdoors. Poor things- their cell phones won’t work in the cold.

The ships crews were very conscious of the great need to supply towns with food, fuel, vehicles, even a much-needed septic tank. They were disappointed by the failure to get many tons of concrete in time for one community to pour the floor in the arena so that it could be used year-round. The concrete was eventually landed but the weather had turned: it was too cold to mix concrete, meaning another year of waiting.

That’s patience. I have much respect for those people. Having to wait for a week to receive a motorcycle accessory is nothing.

Congratulations to Larry Walker, newly named to the US baseball hall of fame. Well deserved but way overdue. It only took them eleven years after he was inducted to our Canadian hall of fame. Perhaps Cooperstown figured having one Canadian (Fergie Jenkins) was enough. Don’t want to start a trend.


Jan 22  Not my cup of tea. Raised by a British mother, I have always been a tea drinker. I never tasted coffee until I started to ride a motorcycle. Al and I would stop at a coffee/doughnut shop where I drank my first coffee. I drink coffee first thing in the morning now, but after that, it’s tea (until beer time!). Either orange pekoe or Earl Grey.

I started to wonder about tea bags when I noticed that they weren’t breaking down in the compost, even after a year of turning it over and mixing the contents vigorously. The teabags were being made tougher, I thought, of a heavier paper. I stopped composting them.

Recently I got to thinking about those tough-guy bags. What are they made of? I took a used Red Rose bag and tried to tear it. Unbelievably tough. The Tetley Earl Grey bag tore easily except for the round edge.

A simple search by professor Google provided the answer: plastic. The Red Rose bag looks to be entirely made of plastic while the Tetley has a plastic seam.

Is nothing sacred? Plastic tea bags? Last I heard we don’t have a shortage of trees in Canada. With a shrinking market for newspapers and magazines, there must be some scraps of paper to spare for teabag manufacturing.

The really disgusting part of this escapade is that, according to this study by McGill University, “Plastic teabags release billions of microparticles and nanoparticles into tea.” As if we don’t have enough of that crap in our bodies already.

Time to switch to loose tea leaves. Not quite as convenient but it makes fortune-telling easier. Try doing that with a plastic teabag.



Jan 19 This blog has its limitations and there are several things I would prefer to change, but cannot. I’ve thought about changing the site, but it is a daunting task- can I bring these years of work to a new site? would I need to keep this one as well? Not to mention the learning curve of navigating a new site format.

A point was voiced by a reader,  “Why is there no way to “like” or link this site to Facebook, share etc?” “Why can’t we comment?”

Actually, all of the above is there, but it requires scrolling all the way down the page. The comments are sent to me for approval, I copy and paste them below the article, adding the commenter’s name if desired.

I’m not certain what ‘likes’ gain me, I won’t ever get paid for this. In fact, I pay extra to not have any advertising on my site. However, the more readers, the better. I like feedback and don’t want to write in a vacuum. When the Hurley Fish Tug project is posted on the Facebook site with links to here, the response is great.

So, please “share” and “like” this with others. Add a comment too- or an insult if you’re in a sour mood. Maybe I can lighten your emotional burden with a witty comeback. Or maybe just a quote.

“You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand.”  Leonardo da Vinci


The dog ate my homework. I take care of anything that I borrow, following a policy of ‘return in as good, or better, condition than when it was loaned to me.’ I also have great respect for books and photos.

Many of us have known the disappointment of having to chase down an item loaned to a friend. I can name 4 DVD’s that I’ve given up hope of ever retrieving. The biggest heartbreak was loaning my collection of the first half-dozen original Marvel issues of The Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange, The Avengers, and more. The loanee tracked down a year later, denied ever getting them from me. That cost a friendship, an expensive way to find out my friend was a loser.

In my quest for local fishing tug history, I approached a friend and scholar from Port Bruce. Ian Johnson has researched the local newspaper archives for any and all stories that pertain to Port Bruce. His family have deep roots there. He has an extensive index to printed material as well as historic photographs- exactly the material I need. It was his index that I quoted from on the Dec 19 piece Past Tense.

Old Port Bruce, a small book of letters written to the Aylmer Express newspaper in the 1930s was particularly interesting. It was an original copy, the pages yellowing and the print quite small- a common practice in those lean years. I read it and then left it on the coffee table, with a small photograph inside. I then went out on an errand.

Wilson ate it while I was gone.

Some dogs eat socks, shoes etc, Wilson has a long history of eating paper. I should have known better than to leave it where he could reach. I was in shock and disbelief, searching under the couch, my desk, “maybe I placed it there?”, everywhere. Finally evidence- a small piece of yellowed paper with a few letters on it.

I immediately called Ian- no answer, left a message to call me, please. Then I remembered that he was taking a vacation. It was a long week of worry waiting for his return. Was that the only copy of the book? I phoned around but nobody had a copy that I could borrow to have copied and printed. I didn’t sleep well, it was in my thoughts every day. I had scanned all the photos and could replace the missing one, but the book was fragile and I wouldn’t risk damaging it by flattening itt on the scanner.

Yesterday Ian called and I confessed. He was very gracious and assured me that he had more copies, both original and reproduced copies. To say I was relieved is an understatement. Ian laughed it off and told me to let Wilson back in and forgive him.


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Jan 12  A new rant was posted to the motorcycling section today, and I do mean a rant. I feel much better now.


Jan 6 There are hard, physical jobs and there are hard, physical, dangerous jobs. Fishing is such a job. There are days when the lakes are calm and the water is warm, but the danger of drowning or injury is still present. And there are days when the water is violently rough, cold and unforgiving. Yet the fish tugs still need to pull their nets, earn a living.

Often, the most dangerous place to be is near the shore. As rough as the water can be offshore it is much worse near shore, where deep water meets the shallows. The water is pushed ashore where it rears up in confusion. The outgoing water from the previous waves crashes into the incoming current. Rocks and sand bars are extremely dangerous.


StormWaters.jpgEntrance to Mamainse Harbour   Photo courtesy of Ted Smith


The following tale was shared by Ted Smith, a crew member of the Last Time, fishing out of Mamainse Harbour, Lake Superior on November 4, 1984.

“Driving around in a big storm on autopilot.
Got off Coppermine rock.
Bottom comes up from 400 feet to 30 ft
Big combers and we dove into a wave and never came up in time. 

A big wave hit us on the port side and took out a side window and caved in the puller door. Started a turn to get it on our stern, so we could do something with that window.
Took 500 gallons of water in the wheelhouse… water running across the wheelhouse floor down on the deck
Smashed the coffee pot back in the bunk. 
(Captain) Homer (Jim) Greenslade brought it into Mamainse. Kind of a scary time.”
Kind of scary? That must be an understatement, it would have put most people back on dry land permanently.
The other crew members were MikeHopkins and Bob (Houndog) Ottley. My thanks to Ted Smith for the words and photos.

Storm3.jpgNovember Storm  Photo courtesy of Ted Smith

Mamainse Surf copy.jpgMamainse Harbour  Photo courtesy of Ted Smith


They’re brave souls who fish in that weather, on those waters. My respect.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”  Mark Twain


Jan 2  New year, old music. The Kinks are one of the best rock bands ever. Ray Davies lyrics are cutting edge and it’s easy to hear exactly what they sing, unlike many rock bands who seem to cover up weak lyrics by drowning them in noise.

The Kinks songs are a reflection of the social eras at the time they were recorded, and State of Confusion (1983) is a perfect example. It captures the uncertainty and anxiety of everyday life, the pressures of city living, relationships, broken appliances- nothing is too private or sacred to sing about.

All the dirty dishes
are still in the kitchen sink.
The tumble dryer’s broken,
now the telly’s on the blink.
My girlfriend’s packed her bags
and moved out to another town.
She couldn’t stand the boredom
when the video broke down.”

They play hard, a driving sound that pounds with urgency, complimenting the lyrics perfectly.  They also do some slower tunes like Don’t Forget To Dance, a nod to both sentiment and sadness, yet with a positive outlook.

“You walk down the street
and all the young punks whistle at you
A nice bit of old
Just goes to show what you can achieve
with the right attitude
As you pass them by
they whisper their remarks one to another
And you give them the eye
even tho you know that you could be their mother”

Dancing as a cure- perfect. Another tune, Come Dancing, captures an older era when there were dance halls and big bands, and how the end of that era and the subsequent urban affected people. They manage to convey the orchestral feel with a nice mix of horns and keyboards complementing the guitars and drums.

“Another Saturday, another date
she would be ready but she always made him wait
in the hallway, in anticipation
He didn’t know the night would end up in frustration
He’d end up blowing all his wages for the week
all for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek.”

If you need a laugh, check out Low Budget, a hard-driven tune about being broke.

“Even my trousers are giving me pain
they were reduced in a sale so I shouldn’t complain
They squeeze me so tight so I can’t take no more
they’re size 28 but I take 34.”

∗ All lyrics by Ray Davies and the Kinks.


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