2017 A To Z Challenge – B

Challenge2017

When I sieved out the following list of B-word prompts, I was struck by how many of them could apply to me.  Rather than choosing only one, here are some random thoughts about a few of them.

Bibliophile
blood
baggage
belief
bold
books
beach
barn
blog

Letter B

My home town is halfway up the East coast of Lake Huron, in Ontario. It has 3 miles of lovely warm, soft, white sand beach.  It has become a vacation haven, and tourism is a large part of its financial wellbeing.

The town to the south gets only 1 mile of shoreline. The tiny tourist village to the north sits in the center of 10 miles of sandy shore.  Access to the water is good, and the swimming is wonderful but, in both cases, the sand barely reaches above the water level, and their beaches are flat, hard and damp.

My mother constantly read to me as a child, and I learned to read quite young. I became a bibliophile, a lover of books.  I am also a logophile, a lover of words, but all the wonderful words are in the wonderful books, so we’ll discuss that later.

Ray Bradbury said, “Libraries raised me.” My tiny little town had a tiny little library, about the size of a medium house.  It was only open two days a week.  The volunteer librarian was a former teacher.  It was here that I learned early, the value of linguistic precision.

The fine for late books was 2 cents, biweekly.  The intent was for 2 cents, per book, for each of the 2 weekly open days.  I stood beside a man who went and got a dictionary to show the librarian that ‘biweekly’ also meant ‘every two weeks.’  He would pay 2 cents, but not the 8 cents that she demanded.

A local man became a mining engineer. He located an ore field in Northern Ontario, staked a claim, and sold the rights to a mining firm which would extract the minerals.  With the initial payout and ongoing royalties, he retired early, as the town’s richest resident.

He and his wife were great readers, but they never had children. When his wife died, and he was facing his own mortality, he donated a large portion of his fortune to the municipality, to be used to build a library in memorial to his wife.  We got a fairly large (for a small town) new library, right beside the Town Hall.  His bequest bought lots more books, and an annuity paid for hired staff.

When I moved 100 miles to Kitchener for employment, it was easy to pack my luggage. I had very little.  I also had to pack my baggage – my propensity for procrastination, my learning disorders, my neurological syndrome which causes poor physical control and lousy short-term memory, as well as my autistic-type inability to read social cues, and make and hold friends.

I am more methodical, determined, and tenacious; I would never be described as bold. Having survived an interesting, if not terribly thrilling life, now in the twilight of my years, I can put these thoughts and remembrances down, and publish them in my blog.   😀

 

Just Desserts, No Entrees

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The universe is not fair, but it works out in my favor, so I’m happy about it.  I’ve been a bad, bad, bad, bad boy, and I got a reward.  I’ve been lurking in bloggers’ back yards.  I’ve been peeking in website windows.  The RockStar made Sparklebumps take down the 82 inch closed-circuit flat-screen she had mounted outside.  The Hobbler, who’s NotHobblingNow, threw an all-girls party last week.  They kept the drapes tightly closed, but the window was open a bit.  You should have heard what those women had to say.

I went over to TheDatingBitch’s place to watch her circus act.  Her Mom and Stepdad got knocked off their motorcycle by a semi, and were in hospital.  Within the next week, her followers had lobbed four blog awards at her, and she was juggling all of this like a trouper.  As I was skulking my way back to my den, I found, at the entrance, one of her awards.  I tried to return it to her, but she insisted that I keep it, so I took the One Lovely Blog award in, and hung it from a root sticking out of the cave wall.

She was so nice and understanding, I’ve vowed to give up my evil ways, and only use the Power of the Award for good.  I humbly thank her for this honor, and the fact that she can afford to have someone make me disappear so smoothly that even my mother wouldn’t question it, plays no part in my sudden good manners.

I think (occasionally) that I’m supposed to tell you seven things about myself.  That’s difficult.  I’m so boring that even I haven’t paid any attention.  This will be a surprise to even me.

What is a favorite childhood memory?  All of them!  The unfearing freedom to roam the reaches of my small town, from dawn until dusk.  Climbing trees, building forts, tanning and swimming at the beach.  I was not impressed when adulthood arrived, accompanied by jobs, taxes, bills and social responsibility.

What is a real fear I have?  Nothing I would describe as a fear.  I’ve handled snakes.  They’re dry.  I don’t want to handle earthworms because they’re damp and slimy.  I used to swim in rivers and out into Lake Huron.  It’s just as well that what little swimming I do now is in clear, shallow pools.  Unlike SteadilySkippingStones, I have no worry about sharks….but there is a bit of that unreasonable concern about what is underneath me.

How would I describe myself?  If you’ve read my previous post about management training, the answer is Honest.  If not then, maybe methodical…. or steadfast.

What is my style?  Guys have style?  Comfortably casual!  I smiled and waved to Queen Elizabeth, wearing blue jeans and a tee shirt.  Motorcycle boots, black Levis and a polo shirt are a step up from that.  Are we talking about lifestyle?  More comfortably casual, with some tactfully straightforward thrown in for good measure, although I’ve been known to shove a shopping cart up the butt of the inconsiderate asshole who *forgets* it.  Then it’s more straightforward, and less tactful.

What countries have I lived in?  With my financial situation, it’s all I can do to Live, in Canada.  I visited Quebec for about an hour one afternoon and was not impressed with it, and drove back.  Once the kids were grown, I had chances to visit the eastern section of the USA.  I drove to Florida three times with my brother, and the wife and I have been as far as Charleston, SC, three times.  Not exactly a world traveller, but the trips have been enjoyable and educational.

What is my favorite breakfast food?  Unlike my parents and brother, I’ve never been a morning person.  The earlier I have to get up, the longer I have to wait before feeding.  The first couple of days after we were married, the wife dutifully got up and made me bacon and eggs, as she had for her brother.  I dutifully ate them and then threw them up before leaving for work.  If the first meal of the day is *breakfast*, occasionally, after I fall out of bed around noon, I’ve been known to have spoon-size shredded wheat.  Milk and a bit of sugar, but not those frosted ones.

What are some of my hobbies?  Definitely reading!  I’m starting to do more of that on-line but still manage to complete about a book a week.  I don’t *collect* books, but I’ve never let go of a sci-fi book once I’ve owned it.  I have fifty-five years worth, about a thousand.  I have a motley assortment of various types of knives, most of which have been given to me.  I have one handmade knife, like an overgrown scalpel, on the hippo-tooth ivory handle of which, I had two different gryphons scrimshawed.

I’m supposed to inflict….afflict….pass this award on to a bunch of other deserving bloggers but, like the tesseract in the Thor movie, that might be something I could get into, but not out of.  I mentioned SkippingStones and NotHobbling, above, and will contact them.  Also, Savor’s back, yet again, this time as SavortheDivorce.  If When you visit, watch out for her left hook, she holds the wine in her right.  She could use some support and sympathetic company.

New bloggers pop up, and old reliable ones sometimes just quietly disappear.  I don’t know what might cause me to stop blogging but, while I’m here, I’ve met a Bunch of the nicest people I’ll never meet.

Home Sweet Home

SavortheFolly wondered what it was like, growing up in a small town.  She seems, sadly, to have left the blogosphere.  We can only hope that things turn out well for her and she returns at some future time.  For her, and for the rest of my readers who don’t doze off, I present this little trip back in time, to see what shaped little Archon into what he is today.

The road to “different” and “loner” probably started on the property, and, in the house where I was born.  When I was born, there was no hospital in my town.  I was astounded to discover that, because, diagonally across the corner from my house, was a hospital.  I was born at home, because at that time, the “hospital” was a summer tourist lodge.  It failed, financially, when I was a couple of years old, and the town seized it for back-taxes and converted it.

Three years after I was born, my mother went to a birthing home in the next town, a week before her due date, to give birth to my brother.  She said it was actually a horrible experience.  There were no TVs and no radios.  The drapes were always drawn, and the expectant mothers were expected to remain quiet and in bed.  You could cut the boredom with a butter-knife.  Immediately after giving birth, women who hadn’t moved a muscle for a week or more, were expected to get up and go home.  If Dad hadn’t held her up, she said she’d have collapsed on the floor.

Ours was an older neighborhood.  I was the only non-teen child for two blocks in any direction.  My ten-year-older half-sister managed to fit in, but I learned how to play by myself.

Our property consisted of three building lots, two on the main road and one across the back, on the side street.  When I got old enough to help, there was a vegetable garden, a flower garden in front of it, and a huge lawn to mow with a manual push mower.  Our property was unique in the town, and possibly in all of Ontario, in that, of home properties with trees, ours was the only one without a single maple tree.

We had two poplar trees.  We had three mountain ash, two elm trees, two lilacs, planted before I was born and grown to almost tree size, and a horse-chestnut.  I don’t know how we got the horse-chestnut.  It’s native to southern Asia.  All those great big nuts, and they were bitter and poisonous.  At least we could throw them at each other and mount them on strings, to play conkers.

Dad sold the lot on the side street.  Years before, it had been a farm orchard with apple and pear trees.  All of those were dug out except two pear trees at the back edge of our lot.  Eventually these too, died.  Dad cut off all the branches, leaving two trunks about six feet tall.  He strung a steel cable between them for an auxiliary clothesline.  No dryers, back then, or Laundromats, you washed clothes at home and hung them outside, to dry.

We had tax records of “barn and sheds” from 1848, and “house and sheds” from 1852.  The house was built somewhere in those four years.  We were only four blocks off the retail district, but this had been a farm.  The foundation of the house was three feet thick, built with the stones taken from the tilled fields.  The basement beams that held the house up, were roughly squared elm trees that had been cut down to clear fields.  The bark was still on some sections of them.

When piping was installed for the kitchen sink, it was put right up against the stone foundation, to reach the sink, mounted on the outside wall.  If we had a particularly cold winter, sometimes the pipe, (cold water only at that point) would freeze, and Dad would have to go down to the basement with a blowtorch or real torch, made of an old shirt on a stick soaked in lighter fluid, and thaw it out.

There was a full? basement under only half the house, and it was only about five feet tall, to the bottom of the beams.  The floor was bricks.  We were up on a hill, thirty feet above a large pond a block away, and fifty feet above Lake Huron, but, apparently the water-table was high.  We lifted a few bricks, and the holes started filling with water.

The ceilings in all the rooms were twelve feet high, almost impossible to heat.  One room at a time my father and a friend put in false ceilings to the top of the windows, only eight foot-six.  We punched a hole in the upper wall of the attic stairway, and my brother and I crawled out on the new ceiling and broke holes between the studs on the outside wall, and poured in loose fibreglass insulation.  The first room we did was during a hot summer, so we wore only shorts and sleeveless shirts….and ITCHED for days.  As we did each successive room, we learned to wear long clothing.

When I was about eight, Dad had installed a propane water heater.  Till then, water for laundry or baths was boiled in a couple of huge copper pails, on a wood-burning stove, even in the summer.  A couple of years later Dad had a propane furnace installed.  We’d had the wood-stove in the kitchen and a coal-fired “furnace” in the living room.  One year we had a thaw and then a refreeze.  When it thawed the second time, water poured in through the stone foundation and burned out the new furnace.  We still had the wood stove, but it was a cold couple of days till we got the water pumped out and the new furnace repaired.

In the winter, it was cold enough in the mornings to see my breath, in my bedroom.  I would often grab my clothes and run into the living-room and stand beside the now red-hot furnace and hold my clothes up to warm them, before I put them on.  One day, I shucked off my pyjama bottom and went to put on my undershorts, and caught my toe and fell sideways.  I left the skin from one ass-cheek on the furnace.

There are portions of my childhood that I wish were still available to me, but there are as many, or more, that I’m just as glad are long gone.  Vive technology.