Sunday, 27 January 2019

Things ain't what they used to be.

   I think I am one of the few remaining Canadians who emigrated to Canada by Ocean Liner, because it was the only way I could afford  to come here and that was the way the poor folk traveled, unless you were rich enough to travel first class and I wasn't.  The rich folk crossed the Atlantic, in those days, traveling First Class, something barely imaginable to me.  Third class seemed like heaven, so how could First Class be any better?   It was like a pleasure cruise and we ate and drank and relaxed and rested  after the exhausting experience of winding up my job and our home in the old country..  Anyway, when we arrived in St..John,  New Brunswick, with our two large trunks and many large wooden tea-boxes full of our lives valuables, the most notable scenario was as follows.
  Customs and excise officer:  (to me, my wife and two year old daughter) "And what have we got here in all these boxes?"
   I probably felt more guilty than a present day immigrant would feel if he had ten kilos of heroin stashed away.   
   "Just personal and family possession, sir," I answered, apprehensively.
   "I'm afraid I'm going to have to open the nailed on lids of these boxes to examine the contents." he said.
   "Okay," what else could I say?
   He started prying off the lid of the first container.
   "What's all this stuff?" he asked in amazement, holding a dozen or more wooden and wire coat hangers in his hand.  "What are these for?
   "They are just hangers, I thought we would need them."
   He was hammering the crowbar under the next lid and prying it open.
   "What's all this?" he said groping around the box of family photographs, cheap prints and other such memorabilia.
    "Just family photos and some pictures." I said.
     He grinned, " I think that's enough.  Never saw so much worth so little.  Welcome to Canada.  Train for Montreal is over there," he pointed, as he nailed the lids back  on the wooden boxes that contained our treasures.

    We boarded the train for Montreal.  My wife had an older sister who had been living in New York/New Jersey for several years.  She had taken the two of the three younger sisters to live with her, when their father died.  The one next to her was already engaged to me, so she stayed behind.   Jo had some friends from her youth in Dublin who invited us all to stay with them for the couple of days layover, before Irene and I traveled on to Regina, Saskatchewan.  I remember it well, because we had forty dollars and a little girl and not much else, apart from a job at the Medical Arts Clinic in Regina and an assurance from them that they would advance me enough money to live on until I earned enough to be self-supporting.
    I've written about our January 23rd arrival in Regina at 4 a.m. and -40 F elsewhere and some of our earliest impressions, including our breakfast welcome at a Chinese convenience store on South Raiway, which then was 'Hooker Row'.  (Nowadays, it boasts a classy Casino, that would do the Strip in Vegas proud!)
   In those days, a pack of twenty -five cigarettes cost 44c and a gallon (Canadian) of gas also cost 44c.   My massive green Chevvy Biscayne with 28,000miles cost $1800 and was without power brakes or power steering and didn't even have a radio.  I wasn't even aware of  such luxuries as power steering or brakes and thought driving a big eight cylinder car was supposed to feel like driving a garbage truck.  I heard President Kennedy's assassination from the tiny portable radio that was perpetually sliding across my dash, depending on which direction I was turning.  I had to  pull over, grab it and hold it to my ear,(while lighting a cigarette), to make sure I had heard it right!
   I used  to go for lunch to the Greek owned  'La Salle' Restaurant on Hamilton St. where many of the noted Docs went for lunch.  I remember urologist "Staffy' Barootes and his partners frequently lunched and discussed politics there.  We used to call his group the 'Greek Mafia'.  Nobody took offense.   'Staffy', whose real name was Estafios (I believe) was the supreme promoter of the Conservative Party in those NDP dictated days in Saskatchewan.  He was an eloquent man, small and neat, with black slick well-oiled hair who looked like the actor George Raft, of movie gangster fame. He worked incessantly for the party and was eventually rewarded for his effort with a seat in the Canadian Senate. 
   We used to have a fine lunch at the La Salle, where even a neophyte like myself could well afford the bill.  I remember a well-filled single deck Club House sandwich was 75c, the double decker was $1.25!  They came with fries, of course!  The bottomless cup of coffee was 10c as it still was when  I left Regina almost fifteen years later!    
   Medicare had just come  to Saskatchewan and many well-established physicians had left the Province because they weren't going to practice 'Government Medicine'.  The 'Doctor's Strike' had been settled less than a year with the 'Saskatoon Agreement'.  (I was quickly informed that it wasn't a 'Strike' and I shouldn't call it that! - What did I know!).  The Government set about establishing 'Community Clinics' with very modest success at the time.  The Medical  Arts Clinic, which I had joined had lost several doctors and recruited successfully in Britain and  Ireland.  We became busy very quickly and made friends very quickly with other ex-patriots.  Early on there was great animosity between the general  physician community and the 'Community Clinic' physicians, but most people can't carry on  a grudge forever and with the passage of time an uneasy peace developed.  By the time the next generation of physicians fell into place the whole evolution of health care was so 'governmentalized' that independent thinkers were discouraged  from  clinical practice and the admission requirements for medical school are engineered to produce physicians who see eye to eye with and tug their forelock to government.
   The Saskatoon Agreement ending the Strike was signed on July 23rd 1962.  
   Anyone interested will find the details well documented.


Saturday, 19 January 2019

Consequences, consequences, consequences!

   Everything we do eventually has consequences and it is a sad fact that the pathetic generation of Canadian snowflakes who make up the majority of the young adult population just don't understand that.  Every now and then they get a rude awakening.  Sometimes it costs a life.
   Schellenberg is just such a case.  The Chinese take drug abuse seriously and take drug trafficking very seriously.  The penalties imposed are severe, very severe by our standards.   Perhaps the attention they give to enforcing the law is one of the reasons they are in the ascendancy, while we in the west are in decline. To the snowflake generation, most of whom never experienced a disciplinary tap on the ass or any other discipline in their formative years when they deserved it, it is incomprehensible and unbelievable.  Schellenberg, an incorrigible drug dealing criminal received a stiff sentence for his considerable crimes and a stiff sentence he deserved, although he obviously thought otherwise.   So he appealed.  He appealed at the wrong time  The risk of any appeal is that while the process may result in the amelioration of the sentence, it may result in a harsher sentence than the original.  Schellenberg's appeal came at the worst possible time.  The political climate between China and Canada has never been so disastrous.  When our inept Prime Minister and his equally inept Foreign Minister tried to shame China into behaving in the manner that they thought appropriate they made things immeasurably worse.  Instead of resorting to quiet diplomacy, which might have worked, the Man-child could not resist the urge to strut onto the international stage and round up all our allies to teach China a lesson.   What a pathetic fool!
   I don't want to see Schellenberg executed.  Neither do I want to see him get away with a tap on the wrist, which is the way we do things in Canada nowadays.   That is also part of the reason that this once remarkable country is in an accelerating decline!

Share your view if you think this matters.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Le Monde de La Piscine!

    She was there in the pool at the 'Y' every morning, An 'older' woman, well into her seventies, swimming a nice overhand crawl energetically completing lengths. She had already been there a couple of hours when I schlepped in.
   "Hi Stan", she called, "come and share my lane!"
    Although it was a public pool, the serious swimmers guarded their territory jealously. If it was at all possible, they liked to have their very own lane. It usually was not, so they had to settle for a lane that had as few others as possible.  The splashers and thrashers were particularly to be avoided.
    Despite having been there for quite a while, Jane showed no sign of quitting. As we swam in clockwise formation so swimmers would not collide with each other I was often behind Jane and she would chat. Long ago I had learned that she was from Amsterdam, born during WW2, grew up with all the rationing and restrictions that were the aftermath of the war, had married a Dutch Canadian who had joined the armed forces as a very young man. He was back in Amsterdam, visiting his family, when she met him, married him and came to Canada as a new wife. She was very young, spoke no English and it was not long before she learned that her new husband was an irresponsible womanizer and spendthrift.
    "Just buy anything you want," he would say to her. "You never have to pay for anything here in Canada. You just send them a few dollars every month and they don't bother you!"
    It was not very long before the bailiffs arrived on the scene, repossessing everything she thought she owned.
    "I still didn't speak English, though I started buying children's books and reading them every day. I did make a friend and she helped me with my English and with everything else. My husband was out every night, chasing every woman he met." she said, "I knew I would have to leave him, but I had no money, not much English and nowhere to live."
    Her friend cleaned houses to make some money and suggested that she and Jane might work together and make enough money for Jane to rent a room and get away from her husband. They did this and it worked so well that they incorporated and formed a company. She made no fortune, but she made enough to live on and in the course of her work, some twenty years ago, she met her husband, a builder and they lived happily ever after, until he was stricken with a cognitive disorder that is almost certainly Alzheimer's disease.
    Jane had a wealth of stories from the Amsterdam of the late forties and the early fifties. Her mother had taken off with her boyfriend when Jane and her sister were in their early teens. Jane wasn't surprised because when the boyfriend came she and her sister were dispatched off to 'play'.
    "If you ever tell your father about this, I'll kill you!" she and her sister were told. They remained silent.
When the mother finally left, her father, not the kindliest of characters, did not take it well. She recalls him sharpening his knife and saying that he was going to kill the son of a bitch! The teen aged Jane stayed on as cook and house cleaner for her father until she was old enough to move out. Life was not all disastrous and she would occasionally relate adventures that she and her friends had in post war Amsterdam. Some of her stories merited documentation and publication.
Said I. "You should write a book about it !"
Said she, " I wish my English was good enough. I learned nearly all I know from children's books!"
"Maybe that's all you need!" said I.

      She was a very upbeat woman with a great sense of humour with a great talent for telling a story. She was there in the pool every morning when I arrived there. She got down to more serious swimming when I left.
"How long have you been here ? How many hours do you put in here every day, Jane?" I asked her, one morning.
" Oh, three or four," she said.
" Wow !", said I. "That's quite a commitment!"
"I need it for my mental health, just as much as for my physical well-being."
"Oh, how's that?" I asked.
"I think my husband has mental problems," she said.
She knew I was a physician - everyone knew I was a physician, no matter how hard I tried to conceal the fact. My late great friend John Dell  took enormous pleasure in revealing my cover.
"Why do you think that?" I asked.
"He was a builder and a very organized man. Everything was in its place and he used to criticize me for not always knowing where something was.  He used to calculate stuff quickly and easily, all in his head when he was building and had a memory like an elephant.  Then a couple of years ago, he seemed to be getting a little forgetful and not able to remember what he did with things.  Worse, he would tell me a story, then five minutes later he would repeat it and again and again.  Now he doesn't remember things I told him that morning.  This has been getting worse in the last few months."
"What did the doctor say?" I asked.
"He hasn't been assessed yet." She said. "I went with him on his last appointment and told him I was going in to the office with him, which he wasn't very happy about, but I did anyway."
"And what happened?" I asked.
"The doctor said he should have a memory test and told him to make an appointment for it."
  He never did it. "They just want to take my driving license away!"
  "You ought to do it as soon as possible," I said.
We were at the end of the swimming lane. She stopped.
   "We can't have him lose his driving license right now," She said. "We live out in the country and I am having knee replacement surgery right before Christmas and have to have physio after - I can't have him lose his license right now."
" There must be some way to assure your transportation"  I said. "I'll see you Monday, we'll explore it further ."
    It is well into January and I haven't seen Jane at the pool since her operation. I hope she is doing well. I can't even phone her because I don't know her surname, but I will be watching out for her!

Friday, 4 January 2019

Doctors Flogging Drugs.

     When I crawl out of bed and grab the morning National Post, in the stuporose condition in which I exist until approximately noon, I don't expect one of the leader articles to be about doctors who own shares in companies producing 'medical marijuana', prescribing their product to their patients!.  I am not talking about the very small number of patients who actually benefit from that treatment.
     Where, I ask myself, is that austere, caring organization, known as the College of Physicians and Surgeons?  An organization that was formed to protect patients and physicians, from abuses on both sides?   How can they support clinics that have a financial interest in prescribing cannabis (and what else?) to their patients.  A direct relationship between clinics and the manufacturer of the drugs that they prescribe, would have been deemed a totally unacceptable relationship between physicians and the patients that they supposedly serve.  In my day, this would clearly be a breech that would result in  the physician being penalized n a major way.  And deservedly so.  
    I am greatly ashamed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, who bow their head and tug their forelock to the present vote grabbing government of Canada, and are prepared to alter their ethical standards as dictated by politics and by the 'mob'.  The folks know when  they need their pot and who the  hell are physicians to deprive them of it when they know exactly what they need.  After all, when dealing in  marijuana, 'Big Pharma - MARIJUANA' really knows what's best and is looking out for the people.  Close to a dozen companies across the country have combined pot producing operations and marijuana treatment clinics.   
   Some physicians, are making a fortune (perhaps 'killing' might be a better word).  The College, instead of trying to  perform their duty, trembles, weak-kneed, and is terrified of the consequences of insisting on the ethical standards it was founded to support.   Funny, because when I retired from practice only a few years ago, The College, was becoming manic about how 20c pens distributed by drug companies was seducing doctors into prescribing un-needed drugs!  
   Instead of currying political favour, its time for the College to commit to maintaining ethical standards, as they once did.
    Until my profession forces that option upon them, they may as well resolve themselves to remain the  second level civil servants that they already have sadly become. 
    I'm glad I am no longer a doctor although some of the finest people I have ever known proudly served the profession.
    The decline continues.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Let's make Canada sane again!

Let's make Canada sane again!

Jordan Peterson and Canadian sanity.
   Canada is a very different country today than the country  I emigrated to fifty five years ago.  I didn't make the decision to emigrate to  Canada lightly.  I was already a physician and although penniless, I knew I would be able to make a living anywhere, even in my native Ireland.  Although I was born there, as was my father and although I had some very close Irish friends, there was really no doubt that they really didn't consider me one of "them".  My brother, who always was predisposed to Ireland and Irish ways in a  manner I could not understand, once told me how shocked he was when his closest friend, a nice Catholic lad commented to him, when they were both about ten years old,
   "Well, you're not really Irish"
   My brother was astounded.  "Yes I  am, I was born here and so were my parents.  How could you say that?"
   "It's not in your blood,  You're Jewish, not Irish."
   It was a message that stuck with him all of his life.
   I myself felt that Irish antisemitism was a by product of Catholicism.  I was wrong.  Now, many years after the Irish have largely cast Catholicism aside, antisemitism is stronger than ever in Ireland.  Alas, it seems it was a vital component in their mother's milk.  Now, it  seems, they take the leadership in  propagating antisemitism and the only reason I would visit that bigoted little country would be to visit the  family graves of those I  loved.
   My alma mater, Trinity College Dublin, seems to have taken  the lead in the anti-semitic thrust, describing a professor, a distant relative of mine as a 'fucking Jew'.
   I emigrated to Canada for many reasons, it seemed as near to an  ideal choice as possible, for reasons I will discuss elsewhere.

   When  I first heard of Jordan  Peterson and the pronoun fiasco, I thought here's an academic that I can sympathize with.   As a Professor in the department of Family Medicine in the University of Saskatchewan and an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Western Ontario, I recognized that this man had  the considerable courage to stand up for  something he believed in, despite the fact that he had little to gain and much to lose.  The vultures of academe can devour their victims more effectively than most predators.  Peterson stood strong against their attacks.   Then I started listening Peterson's podcasts and 'Lo and Behold' this man was saying things I had been thinking for years!  He talks about de-masculinized men (pathetic weasels)who are afraid to be men and hyper masculinized women. He talks about parental incompetence and inability to control their children and to teach them independence and responsibility.  He talks about parents afraid and unable to discipline their children, afraid to apply the most minimal measures of restraint and punishment, who wonder why their off -spring behave as they do, certain that the acts that they commit as adults will be as free of consequences as those of their childhood.  He explains how the attempt to ameliorate the responsibilities that they should bear must ultimately result in disaster.  The well intentioned parents who attempt to remove all stress from the life of their children deprive them of one of life's most important skills - the ability to provide for themselves and their family.  He talks about and emphasizes the differences between men and women, something that terrifies most men today.
   I started listening to his book, "Twelve Rules to Live By." as one of the books/podcasts that lull me to sleep nightly.  ( I may not have told you that I am  a chronic insomniac).   Well, instead of lulling me to sleep, it woke me up!!  This man whom I regarded, as some sort of over-rated guru, really turns out to talk common-sense!   Instead of sending me off to sleep, his audio-book keeps me awake but it is worth it! 
     I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, 20 December 2018

A Wonderful Friend.

   The friend of my geriatric years, John Dell, shuffled off his mortal coil last night. It was not a surprise, though it's always a surprise when someone you care about no longer exists. We were very close friends and I was honored when his son included me with the immediate family in what in Ireland we would have called a Wake. It was an informal, heartfelt gathering, that was more the celebration of a creative well-spent life, than a mourning. As was appropriate to this man who loved music, 'Johnny' as I always called him (I never found out whether he liked that appellation or not, that's what I always called him and he never complained) went to meet his maker surrounded by music and by those who loved him. I was one of those people.
   Johnny and I had discussed our long-term outlook. He was a God -fearing man and I an agnostic. Johnny used to kid me.
   "If I'm wrong, I'll never know it. If you are, you're going to have a lot to answer for!! But I'll do what I can for you." he laughed.
   We first became friends in 2004, soon after my coronary by-pass surgery, when I started frequenting the Aquatic Centre to develop an exercise program as advised by my physicians. Johnny and I, both of us talkers, struck up a friendship almost immediately and when he suggested coffee at the next door Tim Hortons, it was the beginning of a long culinary relationship as well as a unique friendship. There weren't many eateries within a reasonable distance that Johnny and I hadn't tried and given some (pardon the pun!) feedback. For a while we actually kept a notebook commenting on the quality of the eats. When a waitress once asked us about it, Johnny had no difficulty in assuring her we were developing a food column to be published as soon as we could find a paper interested. We even convinced ourselves that it might come about! Soon it became a regular date and two or three times a week we went swimming and scoured the local eating establishments that were a little different.

   We always celebrated the beginning of summer by taking a drive in his old seventies convertible, a Chrysler New Yorker I think, to  Port Stanley, where we sat on the patio of an old lakefront hotel, now gone and ordered a large plate of fresh perch and a jug of beer.  We would overlook the drawbridge going up and down every half hour or so.  John loved that car and when two 'girls' (at least in  their seventies) came over to our table and commented, "nice car you boys are driving!" John glowed with pleasure.  On our way home we always stopped at Shaw's Ice Cream for a spectacular ice cream cone.  It was the first place that I ever tasted a 'Cinnamon Bun' Ice Cream cone!  I loved it- and like so  many of the things I loved, it isn't available anymore. 
   He had some amazing stories to tell of an era when men were men and women were women. He was WW2 come alive. He joined the Canadian Navy when he was sixteen, below the age when it was permissible to serve in the armed services. When he was found out, he was transferred to the Norwegian Merchant Navy, where his adventures extended from being locked in the Freezer of a food conveying ship, to falling overboard.
"That must have been terrifying, John," I had said to him.
"Yes, I thought I was finished and I could imagine what my mother would say! I was lucky, because the ship was anchored. Otherwise I would have been a dead man!"
   He had been a cop in Niagara Falls for a number of years and had a rich cornucopia of stories. A big man, both literally and metaphorically, I wouldn't have like to be on the wrong side, when Johnny gave the bad guys the "eye".
   I managed to match his stories much of the time, regaling him with tales of my years in Regina, as physician to and a Special Constable in the RCMP.
   He and I particularly enjoyed the summers, when we took over my son's swimming pool and lolled around the pool before checking out the restaurants in Lambeth.
   In the past year, he wasn't able to swim and so we played a different sort of pool - eightball!   He complained about being almost blind in one eye, particularly when he missed a shot. When he played a difficult shot brilliantly, as he sometimes did,he would say,
   "Not bad for a blind man, Eh??"

   A wonderful friend to have made in this stage of both of our lives. I will miss him sorely.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

A Kid shit/puked in my Pool today!

    I schlepped out of my bed this morning against all my better instincts.  I was warm, cosy and had been having pleasant dreams.  For some reason, quite incomprehensible to me most of my dreams are pleasant, to the extent that waking up is a disappointment!  Still,  knew that I had to go swimming, lest the muse of eternal youth desert me.  So, reluctantly I dragged myself out of my warm, comfortable slumber, to go about my self-imposed task of swimming quite actively, for an hour.  My OCD requires that it be an hour, no less and my innate laziness requires that it be no more!  I usually start at eleven and I swim quite actively until all three hands of the clock are at twelve!   
   This morning, I hit the pool a little early, ten fifty to be precise and felt quite self-satisfied at my accomplishment.  This was going to be quite a morning  for life prolongation, especially after that little extra shot of a very fine single-malt that I took before going to bed.   
   I started off well.  Guy, a relatively new friend and I, managed to share a swimming lane to ourselves, no easy task on a busy Monday morning!  We were well into our exercise program, well at least ten minutes into it, when our favorite lifeguard, an animated young woman, with four young daughters who sometimes accompanied her to the pool, came racing over.
  "Okay guys," she said to us,"You've got to get put of the pool right now"
   We laughed at her.  "That sounds pretty urgent.  Got a bomb threat or something?"
   "Yep," she said.  "Some kid shit in the pool!  We've got to shock it.  You'll be able to swim this afternoon.  And by the way, they think she threw up as well!"
   We got out without further ado.  

   So, Guy and I got a chance to know each other a little better.  He had been an police officer in Ontario for a number of years and had a number of stories to recount and I had a few to tell him about when I was a Special Constable in the RCMP.  
   Funny how my late friendships seem to be Cops and Docs!
   Go figger!