Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on February 15, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with 4 comments



Chickens at The Curious Cat




1.Below the usual or required standard; synonym below par. Imperfect. Inferior

Lately, I have been doing quite a bit of substitute teaching. I must admit that the job has a lot of perks, not the least of which is the flexibility. There’s lots of work if you want it but if you crawl out of the sack in the morning and you’re feeling more like 90 than 71, you simply roll over and ignore the website that has the job postings for the day. You don’t have to do any lesson planning, prepare report cards or listen to Johnny’s parents tell you that their son is God’s gift to learning when you know that he is a big time hellraiser.

I love the variety of subbing. You never know from one day to the next whether you’ll be teaching Gaelic or auto mechanics. For someone who has trouble with the English language and doesn’t even own a toolbox, this is very scary indeed.

Recently, I was offered a half day of teaching. Normally this happens when a teacher has to go for a doctor or dentist appointment but every once in a while, when there’s a threat of a liquor store strike, they want to get in the lineup early.

I had a chance to meet the teacher I was replacing.

So, how’s this for an opener:

“Good morning. Do you go by Pamela or Pam?”

“I go by Jennifer.”

Sub. Substandard.

When I received notification of the assignment that day, I looked at it briefly and for some reason, when I arrived at the classroom, the name Pam was etched on my brain. This, despite the fact that Jennifer’s name was clearly emblazoned on the door of her classroom. Secretly, she must have been alarmed at the prospect of a doddering old man being left in charge of her young charges. We had a great laugh about it and had a nice chat before she left for the day.

Paying attention to detail was once very important to me but as I get older, I’m finding it more difficult and unnecessary. Imperfection and inferiority (see synonyms for substandard) are raising their heads with shocking regularity. And ya know what, I don’t care. The best thing about being a senior is that my “I don’t give a damn” index is quite high. You know exactly what I mean. I see you nodding your heads in agreement.

Recently, I have been busy selling my books. I have shipped many of them to far flung places but for locals, I have been hand delivering them. I pick up my $20 bucks and occasionally get a coffee or a glass of wine (or Jameson’s whisky!).

One day last week, I was asked to deliver a book to an old friend, a very distinguished, retired, professional lady. She lives in a lovely mobile home park near the center of our town. I know the park well. At least I thought I did. To protect her innocence and good reputation, we’ll say that she lives at 200 Palm Street. When she messaged me with her address, the number 200 stuck out and I quickly embedded it in my memory bank.

The park has an unique layout with one street merging into another.(Steet names changed to protect the dignity of the fine folks who live there). I pulled up at 200 Palm Street at the appointed hour. I must admit that I was a bit surprised that her front steps hadn’t been properly shovelled after the last dump of snow. It was icy and uneven, not the most egregious offense in a northern climate. I knocked on the door and was met with stony silence. When no reply was forthcoming, I rang the doorbell. I could hear scuffling of feet. The door opened and I was greeted first, by a cloud of smoke, followed quickly by a scantily clad young female university student. The stony silence that I had experienced minutes before had been replaced by a stoned student. The air quality index in her home would have challenged a coal fired electricity plant.

Me. “Does Pamela (Pam- not her real name!) live here?”

Polythene Pam. “I think you have the wrong place.”

Me (thinking to myself “No shit”.)

I turned the car around to discover the other tributary of this street called Pine. I found #200 and was quite relieved so see my friend. We had a great laugh over my mistake.

The final delivery that same day was to another dear friend who works at our university. I have lost track of her in recent years. She has been busy raising a young family and I have been busy chasing polar bears. Both occupations are hazardous. I knew where she worked the last time I saw her four years ago. Once again, when she sent me her office number, I took a cursory glance. To quote the Beatles once again, “I should have known better with a girl like you…”, the fact that her office number started with a 4, should have been a dead giveaway. Typically, the number 4 denotes an office on the 4th floor. I knew that her building only had two floors but nowadays, all bets are off. Because the memory of my most recent error was still very fresh in my mind, I pulled out my phone to double check the address. Right church (University campus) – wrong pew (not the right building). I turned my car around (again) and headed for the 4-story building where I found my friend exactly where she told me would be.

The senior’s moments are coming fast and furious these days.

Standard behavior as far as I can tell.

Have a great weekend.

Don’t get lost!



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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on February 8, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet


Yours truly and Donovan Purcell of The Curious Cat


I’m not feeling particularly wise today, so you’ll have to find your pearls of wisdom somewhere else. Maybe an old Get Smart rerun!

There are two events this week that I would like to bring to your attention. On Thursday, February 9th (that’s tomorrow) at 7:00 p.m., I will be the guest speaker at People’s Place Library as part of their popular Armchair Traveler series. I will be showing a PowerPoint with photos and images of my time in the North. I will also be discussing my latest book about the North and my next writing project. I will have copies of my new book for sale and will be accepting cash, credit card, or debit payments. The book costs $20. Hope some of you can make it. I’m normally in my pajamas by 7:00 but will make an exception for this presentation, although the thought of me showing up in PJ’s might draw a crowd!

For those of you who would prefer a daytime event, I will be at The Curious Cat this Saturday, February 11th at 1:00 to do a reading from my new book. If you have already purchased a book and want it signed, bring it along. If you haven’t purchased this rare gem (!), The Curious Cat would be more than happy to oblige.

I know there are lots of hockey fans out there. For you keeners, you are quite aware that the Vancouver Canucks are having a bad year and are in need of reinforcements. I am happy to report that a good friend (Thanks LME) loaned me a pair of his skates. I am threatening a comeback! I was at the arena for the free senior’s skate yesterday and there were several scouts checking me out. Truth be told, other than arena manager, Brendan Doyle (yes, Mr. Brendan’s Fairway himself), there wasn’t another breathing human being in the rink. It was only the second time in 40 years that I have donned the blades. I must admit that at first, I was a bit tentative, but like riding a bike, it came back quickly.

Thanks to all of you who have purchased a copy of my book. Sales have been very strong and I’m getting lots of positive feedback. Get in touch with me if you would like a copy. Actually, two people have purchased a complete set of my books (7 in total). This rare (!) collection is being offered as a Valentine’s Day special for $75. (Normally $110).

Have a great weekend.


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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on February 1, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with 5 comments

Longing for Inverness Beach


“But yah got to have friends,

The feeling’s oh so strong,

Yah got to have friends,

To make the day last long.”

Friends – Bette Midler

I am a pretty lucky guy.

At this stage of my life, as a 71 year old senior, attrition normally takes its toll. We’re shedding friends. Time is catching up to us and the runway is becoming shorter. It seems like almost every day, I hear about someone else passing away or in failing health. It can be quite depressing.

Many of you are aware that I went back up north AGAIN (!) last fall after swearing that I wouldn’t return after December of 2021. A colleague passed away suddenly, and I decided to go up and take over her class. I had planned to stay until the end of the school year, but fate intervened as it often does, and I returned home on Christmas Day. For good!

I experienced a heavy dose of trauma in the weeks leading up to Christmas with the deaths of three young students from suicide. When this transpired, I put on a brave face as I felt that I needed to be strong for my students and fellow colleagues.

After the Christmas holidays had died down and the reality of January set in, I noticed something. I didn’t feel quite right but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It wasn’t anything physical, but I was just a bit off. I’m sure you’ve all felt like this from time to time. I guess the best way I can describe it was that I was feeling flat. I had planned to start substitute teaching again but for many days in a row, I just couldn’t find my mojo. Finally, the light went on and I reckoned that I was having a latent reaction to the trauma I experienced before Christmas. I decided to seek help and went and had a chat with a therapist.

I found it both helpful and enlightening. After some gentle probing, I was able to articulate that I was quite angry and frustrated about the suicides. Most of my anger was, and is, directed towards the people who altered the course of the lives of indigenous people in the north. I won’t go into detail here, but the list of grievances is lengthy: colonialism; the shabby treatment of indigenous people by the Hudson Bay Company; forced relocations; residential schools; identification tags; the killing of the sled dogs… and more.

The book that I recently published is a lighthearted look at the north. It talks about my journey to the Nunavik region of Quebec and all the things I learned and experienced. I purposely decided to not go into the “heavy stuff”. But now, I feel compelled to address the heavy stuff head on. I plan to write a sequel to the book and try and explain what happened in the north and why problems persist to this day because of the tragic legacy of the past. I hope that some people will read it. I reckon that it will be therapeutic for me.

“Len. You’ve wandered off topic. You do this with shocking regularity.”

While I was in the north, I made a couple of hundred new friends. Back here at home, substitute teaching has put me in front of hundreds of students. So, I’m still in the accumulation phase of friendships and I’m starting to think that this may be a key determinant of good health. Yes, we need to eat properly, exercise and get plenty of rest to keep the chassis lubricated and firing on all cylinders but could there be anything more important than friendship?

Because I didn’t get home on time at Christmas, thanks to the weather and my friends (?) at Air Canada, I didn’t get to properly launch and promote my new book in the lead up to Christmas. When I checked book sales at the two local outlets right after Christmas, let’s just say that sales were tepid. That’s an understatement. Underwhelming is a more apt description. As I stared at boxes of unsold books in my apartment, I decided to use one of the oldest tactics in the books: direct sales.

Now, because I have accumulated a lot of friends over the decades, I have a long list and I started contacting them one at a time. I have been feeling like one of those door-to-door Electrolux salesmen from a bygone era. I am certainly gratified by the response that I have received and am happy to report that I have had to place two more orders for books. I haven’t sold quite as many as Prince Harry did on his first day (1.2 million) but when all is said and done, I should make enough profit to buy a Wheel pizza!

The happy by product of this initiative has been reconnecting with old friends. It has been a blast sharing old war stories and fond memories. I started offering a free delivery service in my hometown which has spawned many wonderful conversations on the doorstep and in living rooms.

I am feeling very fortunate making all of these contacts (and millions of dollars!) which has helped immensely to get me out of my funk.

I am happy to share a slice of pizza with you once all the books are sold!

Have a great weekend.


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