Category Archives: 2023 Archive


POSTED: September 1, 2023

There are few things more delicious than a surprise. Now when I say surprise, I mean a positive one, not the “…well your test results are back and its not looking good…” kind. A positive surprise is something we did not expect or even anticipate. So while coming down the stairs on Christmas morning to a few presents under the tree may have some surprise elements, that’s not really what I am meaning.

The best surprise is one that is truly out of the blue and has a positive element to it. Sometimes they are tangible gifts but as often I get as much satisfaction from the intangible ones. Someone complements you on a new shirt or glasses, or a person you do not know well invites you to a dinner party.

As I age, I also think I get more satisfaction from creating or giving a surprise as from getting one. And that is what is really on my mind today.  I recently created a fun little prank for a friend. This fellow I have immense respect for. He is intelligent, articulate, witty and generally a nice person to be around. While all these are admirable traits, what really strikes me is his ability to put the past tense and the future tense in perspective. It may come with his age as he has several more years on me so I see him somewhat akin to an older brother.  He seems to have mastered the art of understanding and learning from the joys and scars from his past, and keeps a healthy balance of his hopes and fears for the future, all the while really savouring the present. This is no small skill, especially as you get older. Believe me….. I know.

He had helped me with my manuscript and while I was certainly appreciative of his efforts and took him and his partner to dinner, when reviewing the writing project with him at his home I thought it would be fun to plant a little surprise in their house for when they returned from the cottage. They were planning to  head off there for a few weeks the day after I saw them.

Well the weeks passed, and then a few more and it is now over two months later and quite clear that they have made it home and I fear the cleverly placed, and very non-descript looking package may have been too cleverly placed and too boring in packaging and been thrown out. Now just to be clear this was not some expensive gift, but a fun little acknowledgement of my appreciation of his efforts.

I am now faced with the conundrum of deciding to ask if they found it, ruining a potentially wonderful surprise to come and in so doing also embarrassing him, or do I just wait and see what happens in the future?

And it has just occurred to me that dealing with a person of his intelligence he may have found it and is just playing possum so perhaps the surprise is on me!

Damb, I enjoy a good surprise.



POSTED: August 1, 2023

My physical world is quite small. Yes, I live on the planet and have traveled but on a day to day basis I don’t take up a lot of space. En Plein Air is a bit over 18 meters (59 feet) long and has a beam of 4.41 meters (about 14.5 feet) so while some people live on hectares of land my boat and her slip is pretty modest.

It means that much of my life is not wrapped up in owning stuff. Eventually everyone gives up the possessions they have collected over a life as they downsize or move to smaller accommodation to cope with their age but along the way most do amass serious collections of things.

I get it. Some objects are just nice to look at – art for example. It can take us away to a different place without ever leaving home. Some of it also has some great utility, like cool vintage furniture that you can appreciate for its design, materials and craftsmanship but also just use as a coffee table or lounging chair.

But there is a special category of things that people value as identifiers. Some are literal identifiers of course – the bracelet with a person’s name or the ring with their initials or birthstone. Some are more group identifiers like religious symbols or peace symbols, letting the general public know that they are part of a subgroup and proud enough of it to have it as their pre- eminent message. The first thing you must know about me is that I am …..


I get this for those things that are fundamental to a person’s sense of self but it is interesting to me how many will attach themselves to a more half-baked cause or idea – the Make America Great Again hats or bracelets for various causes. Some of these of course are a negative expression of identification – I am part of this and if you aren’t with me than you must be against me.

Usually when I talk to people about some object they value it is because it is a memento of some great memory or experience. Their dads watch or a piece of their moms jewelry, or something they bought on a trip long ago. The object is a manifestation of good memories. I like that aspect.

But some objects are not so overt but still are tools to help a person define who they are. The motorcycle jacket or the bike they ride, the watch they wear or the type of knives they use in the kitchen. It is as if by owning such an object we have acquired the same attributes it possesses – its uniqueness, attractiveness, or cache.

As a guy and a baby boomer I have always had a relationship with cars. As a kid and then a teenager the ranking of them, the details of their features, elements, engineering or physical design occupied a lot of my time. I was chatting recently with Larry, an old friend who had owned a couple of Isuzu Troopers over the years, much like my buddy Jim. They were utility vehicles that were overtly proud of that heritage, much like old Land Rovers and the owners saw themselves in much the same light – a bit rough and tumble, but capable.

Over the last while I have come to notice that as the world has become more complex and so many elements are interrelated, younger people have a much less shallow relationship with objects than some of us. They might love the lines of an old Jaguar XKE but be appropriately outraged environmentally by the notion of two seats combined with twelve gas guzzling cylinders. That objectivity is something that has taken me a lot of time to find.

I don’t have a lot of objects partially because of the space. But beyond that I would like to think that any really important ideas can’t be expressed neatly on a bumper sticker or a tattoo, as most good thoughts are more nuanced and contextual. But that notion of objects as manifestation of memories is an important one. I do value a little card with a recipe from my grandmother and a few other similar objects that can transport me to where I was when I received them.



POSTED: July 1, 2023

Some time ago I started into this challenge of getting my blood pressure numbers in line. In my January 1 post My Doctor Does Not Know Jack, I introduced the issue of getting those numbers down. Part of the equation is getting some exercise, part is consistent sleep, a good dollop of cutting back on the alcohol and getting into a good head space. But a substantial portion is simply changing a diet from one that has an abundance of fat, sugar, carbohydrates and salt to one that eliminates or significantly reduces these components.

What complicates things is that each individual responds differently to the various elements. One person might have sugar as their real culprit, while another may be more affected by the carbs. So its important to experiment and find out which one is your real problem and then build a diet to respond to that. But with that said, if you are managing hypertension, cutting back on all of them is good plan.

Now this is easy to do on the short term, but if you like food, it is a bit of a challenge on a longer term basis. You just can’t replace a nice crème sauce with sawdust and expect to get the same effect.

What are the tricks? Well one that is not really a trick at all but something every gardener knows: fresh = flavour.  It is pretty hard to beat anything that is just off the vine or out of the ground. I have heard my buddy Jim go on at some length about being a young boy and going to his great uncle Charlies big garden behind Aunt Josie and Uncle Charlies house in a little village close to Jims parents cottage. Uncle Charlie would go take him down one of the many rows and pull up some fresh carrots and then wash them in the rain barrel and eat one, still wet from the rain barrel with Jim right there in the garden. Fresh. Really Fresh.

So either growing your own vegetables, or buying at a fresh market is a good start. A sliced tomato that is super fresh doesn’t need a lot of dressing up.

But what of sauces?  I really like using sauces as a way to take some rather pedestrian proteins like chicken in a more tasty direction. A good starting point is to move away from the ones of my heritage – the really heavy crème based French ones, and move to more of the vegetable based (often Italian) ones.

Tomatoes, green beans, broccoli all are full of nutrients, and onions and garlic and mushrooms can add texture and flavour without adding anything else.

The “sauce” I have been working with most recently is diced tomatoes. I know that in the winter I may have to move to canned diced tomatoes and even that will be fine if needed but getting a variety of nice fresh tomatoes, especially the ones that have peaked and may not be as attractive visually just sliced up can be a very powerful sauce. I have also taken to using mushrooms as a substitute for potatoes. Because I cook for several people, most of which are not having to watch their blood pressure numbers I will prepare some nice Yukon gold potatoes for them and have some cremini mushrooms for myself.

What follows is a simple one pot dish that I enjoy, has great specs for anyone watching those blood pressure numbers or wants to lose some weight, and is nice enough to be served to guests.


Skinless, boneless chicken breasts – one small piece per person cut in half to make two roughly square portions. I am moving away from the whole carnivore consumption so while not becoming a vegetarian the size of the meat portion I have really cut back on, and a dish like this one allows that to happen rather organically. Not a bad way to go with the price of meat these days anyway.

One medium tomato per person, diced – More is better but a minimum of one medium or a couple of smaller ones. If small roma’s are at a good price go with  two or three for each person or two thirds of a big beefsteak tomato but the key thing here is that you want to end up with about a cup of diced tomato or more per person. At the end of the day these are going to be cooked so if there are some on sale that are really ripe, but don’t look quite like the super models of the basket those will be great.

Small Potatoes and Cremini mushrooms – why are these together ? Well four or five small potatos each for those who are not looking at the specs and a similar number of mushrooms for the ones who are is a nice route to go.

Green Beans – A handful of fresh green beans, or French beans  per person makes a good bed for the dish, both in terms of a component of the meal as well as the visual.

Other Vegetables – this is a matter of taste. You can put in broccoli or some carrots cut up finely and onions, garlic or zucchini or bell peppers etc. This is all a matter of personal taste but you don’t need to add any if you don’t want to as those flavourful tomatoes will carry the day.

Herbs – if you are adding a bunch of veggies to this sauce then I would not add herbs but I have found just going with the diced tomatoes and some nice cilantro or parsley makes a very nice sauce without creating too many conflicting tastes.

Spices- Some people are spice crazy and at times I will add them, particularly in the winter or in a context where I don’t have the fresh components to really carry the meal but if you have made this with the fresh tomatoes and it is going over some fresh green beans, I would leave the spices in their drawer or rack for this one.


As usual you clean, cut and otherwise prep all components first. While I call this a one pot dish and if camping you could do it that way I prefer to have a second pot of water with a steamer as well as using a larger pot, jumbo cooker or large covered sauce pan.

The starting point is the little potatoes go into the pan with the water and bring to a rolling boil. We are starting the boiling process with them as they take a bit longer.

The washed and cut chicken gets a light dusting of canola or vegetable oil and then jumps into  jumbo cooker, or sauce pan brown each side. If you have a grill it is a great way to go. The key thing here is whether in a pan or on the grill, this is all about the visual. No one wants to eat something that looks like a big white erasure, so we are giving it a bit of character before we actually cook it.

If you are working with onions I would then put the meat aside for a moment and just put in your cut onions to soften up a bit before proceeding, otherwise just leave the chicken in the pot or pan and add your tomatoes.

If you are adding any other vegetable this is where they would go in.

The pot is covered and then goes into the oven at 375 f and set a timer for 30 minutes.

Whenever those boiling potatoes have lost their really hard texture (but have not become soft to a fork) we are going to get them out of the water and add them to the pot in the oven.

When the timer is getting down to about seven or eight minutes put the green beans in the steamer insert and a few minutes later add the mushrooms on top.

When the timer goes put a thermometer in the thickest portion of the chicken pieces and if it is at 160 or higher you can turn off the oven and check the green beans that should now be soft to a fork.

Plate up the green beans with two pieces of chicken on top of each and a dollop of the tomato sauce. Place the potatoes around the outside of the plate for those able to have them and the mushrooms around the plate for others. The chicken will be moist, the beans will not need to be seasoned as the diced tomatoes will also have helped with that.

This meal I also find lends itself very well to doubling up and reheating a day to two later but you will want to do the mushrooms and green beans on the day you are eating.



P.S. In my little vegetable pot garden I have stopped committing the space to tomatoes and just buy those fresh but have had great success with lettuce this year. I cant bear to cut up some of those amazing leaves for a salad though so just clean them and put them down whole for a salad. I have also found that n contrast to the specs for using any kind of vinaigrette or oil based salad dressing the numbers are pretty good to just use a drizzle of balsamic glaze. If you are eating with others who can have it, a piece of focaccia or other nice bread can really round out the dish.


Posted: June 1, 2023

I like the BBC. They do objective journalism the way it was intended. While they get public funding they are not beholden to that funding source as Elon Musk has asserted, but they are held to account to represent the public they serve. In so doing I found the range of coverage of the Coronation a few weeks ago quite dramatic.

I had expected there would be a heavy slant on the ceremony itself, and certainly it was covered that way in detail. But along with it, and included in the commentary to a certain extent, was the questioning of the role of the British Monarchy as well as some interesting details on its chequered past. One piece was on the unconscionable behaviour from history of not owning slaves but trading in slaves as a loophole to benefit from the whole industry without actually being owners. Splitting hairs I think. A bit like those Americans who financed Hitler all the while denouncing the aggression their lending practices facilitated.

Another piece was on the number of countries who have, since the passing of Queen Elizabeth,  either removed the British Monarch as head of state, or are contemplating that removal, as either no longer relevant or more often because it is an affront to the dignity of their people, particularly in the Caribbean.

But mixed in with these very damning explorations were the light fluffy ones for the supporters of the monarchy and the drama of the coronation.  The affixing of the bunting and the painting up of the shops the new coins being minted. And with this was one piece that really stuck with me – the gilding of the finials. Now for those who are not into such things, the act of gilding is to apply gold leaf (gilt) which is  a paper thin gold sheet (think very thin foil – thinner than most aluminum foil) to a surface so it now becomes gold in colour. The finials on the fence posts around Buckingham Palace, in St. James Park for example, over time, with the weather and the pigeons and time become worn down and need a new layer to look new.

What struck me is the whole nature of this illusion and how much of a metaphor it is for monarchy. These posts are not gold, but the visual suggests they are. And over time the illusion is lost and needs to be replaced.  Most of us knew of the illusion of course, but had that knowledge tucked away in box somewhere under the bed as we had so much respect for the dedication Queen Elizabeth to various good causes and her role as a constant in a crumbling world. With the passing of time, and the passing of Elizabeth it is impossible to see how this illusion can be effective in todays world. With the coronation of Charles, the box has come out from under the bed and we are appalled  at what we see. Its time to put the rose coloured glasses in the box and put them away.

And this notion of gilt, got me to thinking about guilt. When do we stop being guilty for the actions of our parents, grandparents or predecessors? As a young Turk learning about the Armenian massacre, or a young German learning about the Holocaust, is there some point in time that we stop carrying this guilt? I cant imagine living in Berlin, and having to walk by the busses of tourists eager to take pictures of Checkpoint Charlie and the Holocaust Memorial. But equally something like the Holocaust memorial keeps it alive in the consciousness of those German youngsters and the rest of the world, so has value.

There is some level of erosion of guilty feelings of course. I feel more strongly about the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Residential Schools in Canada as it happened in my home country including in my lifetime. While I am upset by historical wrongs I don’t feel as guilty about the bad behaviour of my ancestors from several hundred years ago as I do about the recent ones.

And there is no arbiter of history. History is something we make up from our interpretation of what happened.  The Russians did the heaviest lifting in both world wars to save the freedom of Europe but that’s not how most history books or popular films tell the story.  And often even the version of history we are exposed to goes part way to  try to downplay our culpability.

While in the past I would proudly sing, God Save The Queen, the illusion has been exposed, the rose coloured glasses put away, and I will never sing God Save The King. 


P.S. While I am posting this today, I will update it from time to time as it is a topic that is haunting me.


POSTED: May 1, 2023

Once you reach a certain age, retirement creeps into your mind. You watch friends do it, your partner talks about it, there are pieces on the news about it. Much of the world’s population is quite young, but the western parts of the world are aging fast and its only immigration that is not making it worse. This whole generation of baby boomers has retired or is just about to retire.

Just the word retirement brings out crazy feelings in people ranging from elation to dread. For some of us who have not accumulated “stuff” to sell or mortgage, or the credits to a pension or other income retirement in the conventional sense, is not really an option. Similarly, for those who have worked in the gig economy or otherwise been self employed or on contract work the whole retirement thing is not as binary. Just dial back the amount of work to make life a little easier as needed is the way to go. No gold watch, no cleaning out the desk, no drunken goodby party with coworkers.

So what I mean by retirement is that traditional version – you work at something for forty or forty five years and then you stop working at that and have the income to do whatever you want without worrying about the financial side of the equation.

This has been raised in my consciousness recently by my friend Peter’s sharing with me that he is going to retire. Now unlike some friends who, like him, have worked regular jobs, largely for others and have been counting the days to stop going to a repetitive job, where their work has been eclipsed by younger, higher energy, better educated or trained people or not very personable microchips, he always enjoyed his work and has usually been senior enough to drive the culture, the work ethic, and the focus of the company’s activities. He has enjoyed his work life and had by all accounts a successful career and has I think accumulated those pension credits and paid off the debts and can do retirement fairly well financially. No regrets on the work life, but its now time to retire and do something else.

Like a lot of people he has a partner who has been chomping at the bit for him to do so. They have watched friends do round the world trips, or pursue specific hobbies at a higher level, moved to a cottage or downsized the house and bought a second home.

I don’t have any first-hand experience with retirement. I expect I will never retire as some would argue I never really got started. But as Peter is going into this with some trepidation and because I know so many people who have worked the conventional jobs and then retired, I decided to do a little survey of them to get any insights on what to expect and what to do and what to avoid. Part of my motivation for this endeavour came from the painful exercise of watching my friend Jose who loved her job as a physical education instructor at a private school, who had decided to retire and was encouraged by many to do so. She put in her notice for a school term ahead and then was loving her work even more with the knowledge it would soon end and reversed her retirement plan. She still sits on the fence on this.

What follows is my understanding of the various things told to me by these friends who have all retired from conventional jobs and gone on to have fulfilling lives after their careers. Some of the advice is expressed in the negative and some in the positive. Some have some real scars to show for their bad decisions, while others rave about how fabulous retirement has been.



What came up more than once was the overindulgence in the first year from a pend up demand for a change. Many commented that they travelled too much in the first year but hardly appreciated the expensive trips they were on. Their suggestion was that if travel is a real interest to plan one big trip per year and to really research it before hand. Learn some of the history, a bit of the language, understand the culture and the politics and geography. Then go and try to travel with a greater depth of understanding. The word savour comes up a lot when talking to retirees.

The same applies to starting a new small business or moving to a different community or changing houses. You have the time. It doesn’t all have to happen right away. Take a deep breath, do your homework and enjoy the journey – don’t just devour it and then look up and burp!


While the first point above was raised by many, almost the same number commented that there needs to be a healthy recognition that the time ahead is not endless. You may live a very long life. I have two friends in their nineties that I could certainly win against if in a boxing ring or foot race they would still win a debate with me on any topic. But too often there is a physical element or two to slow us down or otherwise impair our abilities. And the most insidious thing about aging is not the deterioration of our health, but that if we have a partner we don’t deteriorate at the same rate. One persons bad hip may hold up both for certain activities.

The point here is that at sixty or sixty-five if you have three or four things you would really like to pursue, recognize that if competing in a triathlon is a goal, its not for your eighties but for your sixties.


Ah, money. It came up a lot in my chats. It is clear to me that the world is made up two kinds of retired persons – those with a pension and those without. Good pensions that have some benefits and a steady and inflation adjusting income are what let you take that out of your stress basket.

The relationship of money and health came up a lot too. What does it take to go into a retirement home or have home health care at some later point? Those numbers are a bit scary and need to be considered, particularly if you live in a place that does not provide these things as part of a government programme.

While the comments came from retired people in all walks of life, a common bit of advice was to be honest with yourself when looking at the future and your finances. Property taxes, groceries, utilities etc. will all keep going up in cost – will your income move with those costs or be eroded over time? Can you realistically work part time if your costs and income don’t match? Perhaps for the short term, but not over the longer haul.

Sit down with a big pot of coffee and a calculator and set out conservatively what your income will look like over the next twenty years and what your expenses will probably look like over that period. It will tell you just how much you can spend each year on those trips or dinners out. It is also the exercise that has kept many from taking the retirement leap.


This title sounds grand doesn’t it. What it needs is the tag line or caveat below within your resources and capabilities. When chatting with very elderly people I have learned that very few regret trying something – even something that turned out to not be the best thing for them financially or that did not live up to their expectations. If you have worked as an accountant your whole working life and always loved  flowers and longed to have a flower shop, it may be better to have that flower shop for a least a few years, even if it does not work out perfectly financially.

There was a time when retirement really meant retiring from and not retiring to. This is a fundamental distinction. A head chef I once worked for had a little tattered and stained cartoon up by his meal planning area. It showed two old fellows sitting in a boat fishing. The dialogue box said “I don’t really like fishing, but I like golf even less”.  The implication was that these  were the only two things you could do in retirement.

The really interesting thing is how much this time is like that period right after high school or university when you have your whole life ahead of you and you get to do whatever you want. Don’t waste it. So think big and make those changes or undertake those projects (within your resources and capabilities).


Like the comments earlier about being realistic about setting the different goals for different stages of your retirement,  the notion of the right thing for right now is an important one. I have talked about this before and it is simply the idea that an activity or pursuit doesn’t have to be forever, but might be the perfect thing to do for a time, and then have as a memory. The beach house or country cottage may not be sustainable in terms of costs but might be a possibility for a few years.


I don’t tend to think of things as either strategic or tactical. Strategic are those decisions that are fundamental building blocks to achieve long term outcomes, while tactical are just those opportunities that come up from time to time that are beneficial to pursue. A formation for a soccer team and plan is strategic, but an error by the other team creating an opportunity to score is a tactical opportunity.

A few of my better educated friends went on at some length about how this applies in retirement.

Have a series of plans – short, mid, long term that will help you fulfill yourself. Anything that supports these should be a real priority as they are strategic.

But sometimes opportunities come up that are tantalizing. They need to be evaluated as whether they support, are neutral or a negative relative to your longer- term strategic goals. At earlier stages in life you can go off and pursue these tactical opportunities, sometimes for years,  and still have a chance to get back on track later. But in your retirement years I have learned you can only pursue those tactical opportunities that are positive or neutral to your longer term strategic goals as you wont have the time to recover.

I had not really thought about it in these terms but now that I am and looking back, I wish I had thought this way earlier in my life.


If you are a couple you need to think about these things individually and then see how you can mesh it all as a couple. A tough challenge I think, but a necessary process.

If single, several friends told me they found it, in most cases, rewarding to share their longer term plans with their children, siblings and close friends and often had some valuable feedback. Feedback is good, particularly from those you are close to and respect.


This whole exercise I set off on was triggered by my buddy Peter telling me about his plans to retire, and I hope these comments help. The truth of it though is that he is a fellow who is one of those methodical, honest people and good thinkers who  everyone would like to have in their lifeboat. I expect he is all over these concepts already.


If any readers have comments, I don’t have a comment section but send me comments on your retirement experience and I when I have enough will do an update to this post at some point.




I am no stranger to rejection. I experienced it quite a bit in my youth in particular. I am referring here to the classic garden variety of rejection of course – Don’t come near my end of the bar, you creep!

It hurts, but its superficial, and a learning experience.

Some people embrace it and it makes them learn, makes them stronger and better. I have a friend who is in business and who loves to rant on about the joys of failure as a learning tool. Well some of us like the equation to not all be equal in the successes and failures but more like: WIN,WIN, WIN, loss, WIN, WIN, WIN. I have known some people who just trick themselves into thinking the loss or rejection is not a loss at all but merely a deferred acceptance or win. I don’t have that skill.

The reason this topic has come up is because I am about to enter another season or waves of rejection. This stems from my finishing my manuscript some time ago and then submitting it to agents. The protocol is to submit it and then wait politely for six to twelve weeks and if you have not heard from them over that time to understand that they don’t have an interest. No letter thanking you for your nice submission but declining the opportunity. No, just an absence of a response is the big indicator that you should try with someone else. The other big kicker here is that the convention is to only submit to one at a time. It doesn’t take a math wiz to realize that with a timeline of months between submissions you can spend years being passively rejected without one clear formal rejection.

Now psychologically I guess not being formally rejected may allow you to believe that the manuscript was delivered to the wrong person, or fell behind a cabinet or was lost by the postal service, but for some of us it is quite a disconcerting process. It is as if we have proposed marriage to someone only to have the response – I’ll get back to  you on that, and if you haven’t heard from me in the next few months, propose to someone else, but don’t you dare think about proposing to someone else until the few months has passed.   WTF?

Am I longing for active rejection vs. this passive rejection? Well, not exactly, but some clarity would be nice. With that said I am sufficiently fragile that I don’t know if I can handle a ruthlessly honest response. There are only two of us on this isolated, desert island, with all variety of perils, and frankly I wish you would leave.

So when I did all that submitting to potential agents for my manuscript over a sizeable period of time, I also did not go back to the manuscript to polish it further. But there was a little burr irritating me on a key aspect of it and as time passed, I came to realize that perhaps the manuscripts rejection or lack of acceptance was a good thing in that I could make it better before submitting to a new set of rejection suitors.

In January I dove back into my manuscript with a renewed vigor as I had figured out the problem. I pulled out the burr that had been irritating the beast and rewrote key elements and can now say that I am truly proud of the outcome. The earlier version was not worthy of acceptance. This version is.

But time is a nasty mistress. As you age some rejections or failures are just not bumps in the road, or learning experiences, but indications that you may never accomplish what you are trying to achieve. So I am taking my new manuscript and sending it out to agents one at a time but with a three or four week gap between submissions. In a world that is so screwed up, I think this bit of acceleration of the waiting process between submissions is not the biggest crime of the century.

So here I am ready run the submission gauntlet again, wiser and better equipped. Stay tuned.



POSTED: March 1, 2023

In last months post I referenced the notion of some places being seemingly on the edge of the world, or at least at the extreme edge of a continent and the sense that the idea of isolation creates in people. At various times I have also chattered on about Key West. That stems largely from my buddy Jim and his partner Janice hiding out there each winter. Well today I am going to share some images of that place.

But first, a little background. I have been receiving an image or two a day from my buddy Jim. He has been walking around that little island (its about two miles by four miles in size) for about an hour every day since the beginning of January. While the island is beautiful and visually stimulating his walking is not just because he likes the scenery. Back in September of last year he had a similar diagnosis to the one I received recently for hypertension. So over the months last fall he really worked on his diet, and dialing back the wine. His blood pressure numbers improved but when he came back to Key West at the end of December, he decided to walk for about an hour a day. That really made the blood pressure numbers come into line.

Now just to go off on a bit of tangent here, the little piece I did on January 1st MY DOCTOR DOES NOT KNOW JACK  generated the most number of emails of any post I have written. Apparently both hypertension and the other issue referenced in that post are pretty common and the piece really struck a chord with people. By the way, while I don’t have a comments section on the website I am always pleased to get emails from readers.

So when he walks he takes his phone and then sends me a couple shots each day. The images below are not intended to be an intro to Key West or a comprehensive travelogue but just some random images that caught his eye.

I will put in a bit of commentary to try to add some context for those who have not been.

The foliage is full on. This place is exactly halfway between Toronto and the equator and has much more in common with the tropics than most of Florida. The issue is not as much what to plant but what to hack back as everything grows,  and grows quickly. I saw an image of a small palm tree pup that was in Jim and Janice’s yard when they bought their place, and within a few years it was over three meters (forty feet) high!


Key West is also closer to Cuba than to Miami and before the embargo was created by the U.S. to try to destroy the Cuban economy the flow of goods and people between Havana and Key West was extensive. The image below is the White Street Pier that Flagler built after completing his railroad from Miami to Key West. That railway linked various keys or islands with causeways and bridges. The longest of those bridges is seven miles!  The pier shown below was his start to the railway bridge he intended to build to Cuba so is a comment on both the ingenuity of Flagler but the hubris as well. Mother nature took out his railway from Miami to Key West with one significant hurricane.

That intertwined heritage of Americans and Cubans is quite common in many old Key West families. The success of wrecking (taking the cargo of ships wrecked on the shallow unmarked waters at the time) sponging, shrimping and cigar making has been replaced by tourism but in each phase many of the successful entrepreneurs have been from both cultures. All kinds of sponges thrive in these waters but are now protected. The water is clear enough that the shot below was just taken from above the water line in about two meters of water.

Today, because of American foreign policy Cuba of course is being starved and boats arrive each week carrying a few who have put together a very rough vessel (chug) to make the 90 mile crossing. They arrive on the various beaches in the night if not intercepted by the coast guard before making it to shore. Each week Jim sends me pictures of new chugs that have made it to the beach.

Antique cars abound. No salt on the roads, and limited mileage (where are you going to go on an island that’s two miles by four miles in size) makes for a great environment  for cars to just keep going whether pampered like collector cars or just used as regular vehicles for driving every day.

And as so small a place and with the highest point on the island being less than three meters bicycles and scooters are much more common than cars.

This island has always been a location for writers, poets, musicians and dreamers and the houses reflect that, with various expressions of creativity. The first image below is a house made of stone and coral, while the second one is more typical. Most of the houses were built in the late 1800’s when Key West was one of the largest communities in Florida. Many of the smaller houses were actually barged over from the Bahamas.


Feral chickens and roosters are everywhere. It is illegal to kill them so they just run around the streets and yards and reproduce and poop and the roosters wake people up in the morning and often throughout the day. While locals hardly notice them if you stop and spend any time observing they really are quite beautiful creatures.

Various times of the year bring out the decorations – some traditional, like Christmas, but much more significant is Halloween, the Day of the Dead, Carnival. And once a nice decoration is up, well you might as well just leave it up as that celebration is sure to come up the following year!

Now by my calculations, while I am guilty of not putting pictures in many of my posts I am hoping this post redeems me.


P.S. As always, no problem using images you have seen here but please acknowledge the source.


POSTED FEB 1, 2023

Malta enjoys a special place in the world. I say this speaking both geographically and culturally. Sitting between Africa and Europe it physically enjoys proximity to both, and culturally is a mix of many cultures, owing partially to having been “annexed” or occupied by a long line of nations.

But the special status it also enjoys is being one of those outposts that people talk about running off too. At various points I have chattered on about the uniqueness of Key West, where many arrive to disappear and others to find themselves. Something of an irony, I think. Other such outposts are in the south Pacific, various remote Scottish islands and Haida Gwaii off Canadas west coast. Every region has its outposts or little oddball communities that have not adopted all that is current. All are places that are seen to be remote or detached in some way. Eccentricities, political views, race, gender preference etc. are often not only more tolerated in these places but celebrated.  Most are islands figuratively and literally.

So while some who come to Malta are attracted simply for its great moderate climate, many fully embrace its diverse heritage, independence from larger societies and seemingly remote geography.

A pair of fellows two slips over from me are something of a recent arrival to Malta and to our  marina. Their power yacht is new, and huge and more than a bit out of place in our little water community. I have never met the older of the two but by all accounts he is a nice sort and I have met his much younger partner a few times. I have known a lot of gay couples and find that whether it’s a gay or straight couple one is usually the chatty one and the other is more reserved. It’s the older one I have not met who is the reserved one in this pair.

As I was hosing off the deck one afternoon I couldn’t help but watch him as he was unaware that he was putting on quite a show. He was wearing some big, expensive looking wireless over–ear headphones and was bouncing about / vacuuming / dancing to some music. As I listened more intently it was Joe Cockers Mad Dogs and Englishman album so as he worked through the two disc album (he is a vinyl nut) I would hear the gaps when he would put on another side. He was really working up a sweat with all the dancing and vacuuming.

The hoses we use to wash the boats in the marina are all shared and I was finished my clean up and was rolling it back to the main dock and to turn off the valve there when I encountered his partner. I don’t know him well but we have more than a nodding acquaintance and I remarked how much his partner was enjoying the vacuuming and remarked that I know the music well enough to often figure out what cut was playing. We both turned and watched for about half a minute and said almost simultaneously “The Letter”, and began to laugh.  Yes, he said, his partner was very into his music, particularly from the late sixties and into the seventies, but some new artists as well. As he said this, we could see the Dyson handle being used as a fictional microphone stand while dancing like a combination of Joe Cocker and James Brown.

And then he shared something that said so much. “Glen loves his music and he finds that doing chores like vacuuming not only less tedious but actually enjoyable when he is listening to his favourite music, particularly with his new headphones. He has had a lot of stress in his life and has found that this is his yoga. Some go to Pilates, some see a psychologist, some drink and some vacuum while listening to music. What he often doesn’t realize however that the fairly quiet cordless vacuum we have sometimes he has inadvertently turned off when he is dancing around while vacuuming.”

My grin must have given away that I understood as he touched me on the shoulder and walked away with his final words “his cancer may overtake him but its not for us to take away his joy of being oblivious to the spectacle him dancing and vacuuming with the power off.”

I couldn’t agree more.



Posted: January 1, 2023

I had a rather awkward session at my medical appointment this week. My regular doctor is off on maternity leave and as part of a multi- professional practice I was seen by one of her partners. While it is not the traditional structure of just seeing your same doctor all the time and initially I was skeptical of the arrangement, I have actually come to like the structure as they are all quite skilled in their particular interests and sometimes you will get one who knows more about immunology or geriatrics, cardiology and so on. As much of their client base is over fifty some of these other specialties are a real bonus. It is also a large enough practice that they have a full-time Dietician and Psychologist as well as an onsite lab and a nursing staff to administer regular shots such for influenza, pneumonia, shingles, and of course Covid. As it is also a teaching clinic there is a steady stream of young, bright doctors around who bring a freshness to the operation as well. With a great digital filing system and everyone keeping good notes what is lost in not having “your own doctor” all the time is more than offset by the other perks of their structure.

But one aspect I had not experienced before occurred this week. Now this doctor I was seeing is not a regular family practitioner or a specialist focused on other adult medical issues but a Pediatrician. For my needs I did not expect it would be a problem but something just didn’t feel right walking into a room adorned with stuffed dinosaurs and pictures of unicorns and a big fish tank on one wall. It also did not help that I am a conventional full size male mammal and the only chair in the room for patients was a little stool in the shape of mushroom.

But the bigger issue was the context. She is in her late thirties and it seemed normal to her to talk to me like as if I was a child. I am old enough to be her father and I am sitting there on my toadstool with my knees up beside my ears trying to have an adult conversation. And the nature of that conversation was the real issue, having succumbed to the need to ask for some pills to enhance my performance. Now this is not something I have come to all that easily to start with and the whole experience in the kiddy playroom was getting more surreal with every passing minute.

Part of the problem was that she seemed to be somewhat amused that: a. I would still have any interest at my age, and b. that there would be a woman interested in being with me.

Clearly, she uses a lot of humour in her practice with children as the whole topic seemed amusing to her. She has one of those faces that is always in a perma-grin which must be comforting for kids but was quite off- putting in this context.

And that is when she started to call me Jack. Now some people stumble over the pronunciation of my name, trying to vocalize that unused D at the beginning, but this was something else as she pronounced it properly when I first arrived in the dinosaur den. My puzzled look was all she needed to start into her questions about how many magic beans Jack was looking for and whether the beanstalk might grow on its own somewhat or really need lots of nutrients. At that point I turned the colour of a cooked lobster and the conversation turned to hypertension.

After taking my blood pressure it was concluded, and I am quoting her here: “no magic beans for Jack until he sees a cardiologist”.  So, I now hook myself up every morning to a blood pressure monitor that sends the data to an app on my phone and in the next month I am off to see the cardiologist for a stress test but am still shaking my head about that visit.

I did like the little red sucker she gave me when I left though.