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.