Old Stuff – Part 4

Nun

As the youngest of nine Catholic children, the wife’s two oldest siblings, through no fault of their own, both became nuns. The eldest rather vainly insisted one day, that she was not 20 years older.  Careful calculation revealed it was only 19 years, 11 months and 17 days.

Not being terribly Catholic, I knew that priests moved from parish to parish as needed, but thought that nuns more or less served where they enrolled, or were sent where needed – and left there. Watching these two women over the years, I was amazed at the frequent-flyer miles they racked up.  Join a convent, and see the world.  If I’d known that there was this much free world travel, I’d have become a nun.

They both became School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND). The younger of the two was a better administrator, so she got more trips.  She was sent for two years to Le Pas, Manitoba, to organize a school district for Aboriginals, although that was more cruel and unusual punishment than reward.  She went for six months of missionary work to Ecuador – in our winter.  She flew to Rome, to the Vatican, where she met the then-Pope, and spent six months with a world-wide think-tank group.  She was brevetted to Mississippi for two years to reorganize their Catholic school system.

After several years of break-in period at a local Catholic girls’ school, the elder sister went to work at the Mother House in the Hamilton Diocese, which administers most of Southern Ontario. Not exactly world travel, it’s only an hour’s drive away and, if nuns owned cars, she could have commuted home each evening.

She returned after a couple of years, and worked as an aide at the Catholic School Board offices. Finally she was awarded a real trip.  While her younger sister, the Sister, spent six months in Ecuador, she was parachuted into the jungles of El Salvador.  She returned to Canada, and spent another couple of years at the Hamilton Mother House.

She so impressed upper management with her rigid, assertive attitude, that they offered her a five year post as a house mother to about twenty teenaged Catholic girls at an upscale private school in London, England. These were the privileged daughters of ambassadors and minor foreign royalty.

The boarding house, along with its convent and school, were hundreds of years old. With solid stone outers, there wasn’t much need for interior repair and redecorating.  The dining hall had gorgeous oak wainscoting on the lower halves of the walls.  Oxidization and polish had turned it almost black, but the grain still glowed beneath the shine.

The same oxidation eventually deteriorated the plaster walls and ceiling and it was finally decided to redo them. The Sister watched in dismay, as the glorious wood was pried off the wall and thrown away.  As the tradesmen worked, suddenly something fell from between the wood and the wall, and rolled almost to her feet.

When she examined it, it was a very thin coin. At first, she thought it might be something one of the girls had inserted, a toy, like Monopoly money.  A closer look revealed that, as thin and worn as it was, it was a real coin.  It is still a prevalent practice around the world to add a coin to a new building or addition for good luck.

Knowing that I collected coins, she held it until she returned to Canada and gave it to me. Study reveals that it is an Edward II, short-cross, silver sixpence, minted between 1547 and 1552 – Eddie didn’t rule very long – back then coins often weren’t dated.

From the wear on it, it probably didn’t get hidden till near 1600, but it gives you an idea how long ago the building was erected. Because of the wear, it’s worth ‘only’ about $25 today, but would have had about that level of buying power when it was minted.  Someone was serious about this one.  It was more than mere pocket change.

At over 450 years old, it’s the oldest thing I own. I’ve also included a few photos of my older, 1850 – 1900 Canadian coins, including a couple that were minted before the government got around to producing coinage, and allowed individual banks to issue their own.

For those who can’t see the detail, Tails side first;

Pre-1858 Bank of     Bank of Upper    Two-headed 1965
Montreal token        Canada token      Churchill commemorative
one sou.                      one penny            crown

Edward VI                 Hanover                Victorian penny
short cross               love token              186?
sixpence                   penny equal

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Lost And Found – In Translation

“WARNING; the following publication contains opinions and statements, disparaging to the French language and culture, which visitors of Gallic ancestry may find disturbing.  Reader discretion is strongly advised.”

Non-Spanish-speaking Americans, especially in southern areas, are being forced to acquire a working knowledge of that language because of a continuing influx of immigrants – some of them even legal – from Mexico and points south.

Mexico recently observed Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of the defeat of politically interfering French forces.  Of course, if we celebrated for every time French forces were defeated, we’d probably all die of liver failure by the first of August.

Up here in the Great White North, the little cultural terrorists are constantly pushing the rest of Canada to revere the version of French (?) they speak which confuses both Anglophones and Parisian-French speakers alike.  They insist that they are “pur laine” (pure wool) French Catholics, ignoring the fact that even the king of 250 years ago, thought so little of them, that he shipped them boatloads of Protestants and prostitutes.

I know of no other language whose spelling and pronunciation have been so totally changed because of the stupidity, laziness and incompetence of engravers, who could not create the letter S, when movable type became common.  These were replaced by accents, and French words like scole (school), became école (eh coal), and beste (beast/animal) became bête (bet).

Things in Canada, like signs, notices, Government documents, and especially packaging, must be bilingual English/French, everywhere except Quebec, where French-only is the firmly enforced rule.  Many packages – boxes, jars and cans – have a French side, and an English side.  Hormonal, pubescent grocery clerks just pile them on the shelves, willy-nilly.

Armed with the Maximum Daily Allowance of linguistic intolerance and OCD, I can often be seen wandering store aisles, turning the English sides out.  I want peanut butter and oatmeal.  If some Frog wants beurre d’arachides or farine d’avoine, let him look through the clear packaging, or turn the French side out.

When I first began studying French in high school, the instructor proudly declared that “French is the language of diplomats.”  It wasn’t till later that I realized that diplomats are highly skilled at speaking incessantly, for days, weeks, months, even years, without actually saying anything.  It’s a great language for doing that.

French is a language created by morons, to be spoken by morons.  Every word is modified, and then the modifiers are modified, yay, verily, unto the third and fourth level.  French labels take twice or three times the space to say what English says.  French coconut milk is lait de noix de coco – (the) milk, of (the) nuts, of (the) coco (tree).

When a Francophone drinks water, he drinks “de l’eau” (of the water), because he’s dumb enough to believe that, when he starts, he might drink all the water in the world.  French insists that things which aren’t even alive, have gender, usually with no justification.  A pencil (le crayon) is masculine, but a pen (la plume) is feminine.

If BrainRants is leading a squad of recruits, and they meet a French general and his wife, “les hommes levent le chapeau”, 17 guys raise one hat in respect.  French insists that each man has only one hat.  I think they’re building a float for Mardi Gras.

If you’re smart enough to speak English, you’re expected to be smart enough to understand things from context.  French gives you a walker and a white cane.  If you buy Baby Powder, you know that it’s a type or quality suitable for use on babies.  Ignoring Johnson and Johnson’s survey, which reveals that 74% of talcum powder is used by/on adults, French insists that it’s “poudre pour bébés”, powder for babies.  Apparently that distinguishes it from “poudre de bébés,” perhaps made of freeze-dried and ground, aborted French fetuses.

My manly bath gel is Ocean Fresh, an already questionable English marketing claim.  French describes “le fraicheur de la mer” (the freshness of the sea.)  I try not to think of the French product containing whale snot, seal semen, seagull shit, dead fish and rotted kelp.

People who don’t speak English too well (too damned many), have trouble translating into French.  The makers of ketchup directed the guy in their graphics department to put a warning on the plastic bottle, that it needed to be refrigerated after it was opened.

He spoke that it should happen “once” the bottle was opened, not bothering to think that that referred to the (once) first time it occurred.  He looked up “once” in the English/French translation dictionary, and printed “refrigerer une fois ouvert,” (refrigerate one time opened.)

An American goes into a French bistro in Paris and asks the smarmy waiter, “Do you have frogs’ legs?”  “Oui, oui, m’sieur!”  “Well then, hop in the back and get me a real steak!”

No Francophones were injured or killed during the construction of this post.    DAMN!