Monday Morning Musings

Posted on September 21, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments


“One ringy dingy. Two ringy dingy.

Is this the party to whom I am speaking?”

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine on Laugh- In

This is a second installment of getting my bell rung. If you thought the previous episode was bizarre to the point of unbelievable, keep reading. Once again, I couldn’t make this up. Well, with my vivid imagination, I could probably take a stab at a fictional piece.

I will call this post “not saved by the bell.”

First of all, the quote at the top of the page. If you were born after 1973, you missed one of the truly great comedy shows on television. Laugh-In ran from 1969-1973 and Lily Tomlin, playing Ernestine, the telephone operator, was one of its biggest stars. I have spent a lot of time on the phone recently and many times I wished I could have been humored by Ernestine.

Who remembers the Gordian Knot? As I suspected, just about all of you, at some point in your illustrious careers have stumbled upon this term in a history class. The term “Gordian Knot”is commonly used to describe a complex or unsolvable problem. It can be traced back to a legendary chapter in the life of Alexander the Great… not to be mistaken with Alexander Keith. He was great too… and still is!

Sometimes there are problems that just can’t be solved. Paying a phone bill shouldn’t be one of them. If you didn’t read last Thursday’s Tidbits (shame on you) go there now to get the back story. The Reader’s Digest version is that I had a landline phone installed in my apartment on August 13th. The invoice came a few weeks ago. I tried to pay it. I was unsuccessful.

Last Friday, I called the service provider (rhymes with smell) to try and put this issue to rest. If I get into all of the technicalities, you will stop reading this post if you haven’t already. Louisa, my CSR, put me through my paces. A subsidiary of the Mother Ship services the north, but they get their marching orders and accounts information from Head Office. It has become apparent that Covid has played a role in making these transactions more complicated.

Louisa told me that It was imperative that I get my bill paid that day as the bill now included the prepayment for September meaning that I was now officially in arrears and faced having my account closed by the end of that business day. I cheerfully told my new friend that, indeed, I had been trying for weeks to do just that with no luck. Even after five weeks of service, she could not find an actual account number for us to use to pay the bill. Fear not. She hastily created a sort of “dummy account” (somehow appropriate for me) and we got on to the business of making a payment.

I had my Mastercard at the ready. “I am sorry. I cannot accept a credit card payment because I am working from home and we are not permitted to authorize these types of transactions.” Ditto for e-transfers. “You will have to get a money order today and call me back with the serial number on the money order to prove that the payment is in the mail.” No sweat. I told the secretary at the school that I had a short errand to run (it was a planning day for me so my absence wouldn’t result in the collapse of the educational system in Kangiqsujuaq).

Did I mention that my internet connection was abysmal that morning and that there was no internet connection at the school… on the first day back for some of our students? More on that later.

The post office is located in one of the two grocery stores in the village. It is conveniently located a mere 10- minute walk from the school. I sauntered down, into a very chilly breeze. In my hand, was an envelope, addressed and ready to go to my service provider. “I need a money order for $196.20 and a stamp.” “We don’t have any money orders left and we are out of stamps.” “Ah. Some Friday humor”, I was thinking to myself, but the stern clerk wasn’t joking, or smiling. The post office indeed was moneyorderless and stampless. I don’t give a shit if these aren’t real words. They are now. “You can try the other grocery store,” was his suggestion.

I was now walking into a cold wind, uphill, to the far end of town still shaking my head at the idea of a post office with no stamps. The other food chain in town didn’t handle money orders. I headed for home to place a call to Louisa. Before I got home, I stopped into the school briefly and was approached by one of the technicians who asked to borrow my modem to assist the school in getting the internet back up and running. The Good Samaritan that I am didn’t think twice. Of course, this meant that now I didn’t have an internet connection at home. Remember that I had tried unsuccessfully last week to pay the bill online because they couldn’t find my account number.

I momentarily thought about scanning and e-mailing an old- fashioned cheque just as a sign of intent and goodwill, but with no internet, that wasn’t an option.

I got back on the phone waiting to break the unpleasant news to Louisa that I did not have the serial number from the money order. Louisa works in a call centre. I refused to talk to anyone else but her as I had spent an inordinate amount of time explaining the whole fiasco to her earlier in the morning. I did, however, have the distinct pleasure of speaking with Monica, Zeke and James (not their real names) who assured me that they could help me untie the Gordian Knot. No disrespect but I don’t think any of them could have untied my shoelaces. James, the last of my helpers sounded like he might be the same age as one of my grade 5 students.

I never did get to speak with Louisa as they are not permitted to transfer calls inside the call center. Mentally exhausted, I gave up.

My next call will be to someone in the Public Relations Department of the service provider. And then it might be on to the lovely folks at CBC’s Market Place.

Of course, if my internet connection is bad and my landline is cancelled for failure to pay my bill, I may have to resort to stepping out on the tundra and start howling at the top of my lungs… just like the sled dogs at feeding time!

Stay tuned for the next gripping (griping) episode of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

Have a great week.


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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on September 14, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet


Caribou meat in the community freezer


Do you know where your food comes from?

Some of you were raised on farms and know exactly how things get from the land to the shelves of the grocery store. Many of you are avid gardeners and grow beautiful crops right in your own back yards. My guess is that most of us in this part of the world scarcely give this a thought about where our food comes from as we wander aimlessly up and down the aisles (in the right Covid established direction!) of one of the large grocery chain stores.

The notion of food security seems to be a hot topic these days but let’s face it, in many parts of the world, having access to nutritious and affordable food is not a given. Truth be told, this is a serious issue in our own country and even in our own back yards if we care to look closely enough.

So, what is food security? I checked that unimpeachable source, Wikipedia and found this definition: “Food security is a measure of the availability of food and individual’s ability to access it. Affordability is only one factor.”

I don’t mean to be cheeky (yes I do) but for me food security is a piece of coconut cream pie, or a half dozen, fresh out of the oven, chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of chilled milk. And speaking of pie, today’s existential question is this: Are there the same number of calories in a piece of day-old pie compared to a fresh piece? I don’t wish to make light of such a serious subject, but I’m always prepared to share my weaknesses, which is painfully obvious to my regular readers.

There’s also a lot of talk about sustainability these days. According to one source (US EPA), “Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability, is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”

A few days ago, I was walking through the village. A truck pulled up. I knew the driver and he knew me well enough not to offer me a drive. A few of the local people have started calling me “the walker”. This is the same man who graciously gave me caribou meat on a few occasions. I thanked him profusely for his most recent offering. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was standing inside the community freezer.

Since the day I arrived here almost a year ago, I have been intrigued with the community freezer. It is situated close to the tundra and to Wakem Bay, just a handful of paces from my front door. I knew that it was a storage facility for food from the land and sea. Some of you might shudder at the picture at the bottom of this page. This is the place that arctic char, caribou, beluga, snow geese and other species are taken and processed. You can see the hides of caribou which will be used to make things and for warm bedding. Nothing is wasted. The hunters are paid for their efforts and then all of this food becomes public domain, stored in freezers in this same building. Yes. Anyone in the village referred to as a “beneficiary” can come to the freezer at any time and take what they need. The door is never locked. I repeat, they take what they need and not what they want.

Teachers from the south are not beneficiaries yet last spring when the pandemic began, the mayor of the village offered access to food from the freezer to us.

The Inuit have been practicing sustainability and food security for centuries, long before these words became hashtags.

Those of us from the south have much to learn from our indigenous people.

“Maybe I’ll be there to shake your hand,

Maybe I’ll be there to share the land.”

Share the Land. The Guess Who

Have a great week.


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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on September 7, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment


One of many interesting rock formations


“If you come to a fork in the road, take it. “Yogi Berra.

I’m rather disappointed in myself but that’s hardly news. I was about to dish up another educational piece on Inuit history today, but last Friday night when I wrote this, I didn’t feel very serious. So, you’re going to receive a big dose of incoherent, unconnected pieces of nothingness.

Some of you had great fun last week with my post about “the road not taken”. The Yogi Berra line above is a classic. For those of you too young to remember, Yogi Berra was a Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees. He was an 18 time All Star and appeared in 14 World Series, 10 of which the Yankees won. A few other Berra-isms for your Labour Day enjoyment: “You can observe a lot just by watching. “No one goes there nowadays. It’s too crowded.” “Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.”

Have any of you noticed the plethora of ads for mattresses lately or am I the only one receiving these? It’s an all-out mattress war and it seems that Endy and Casper are duking it out for market share. I have become aware of such specificities as “plush dual cloud foam”. Yup. That’s obviously the first question I would ask a sales rep at Sleep Country. I mean, we can all wrap our heads around the titanic battles between Coke and Pepsi back in the 70s, unless you weren’t born back then in which case you have no idea what I’m talking about. But mattresses? Seriously? Could this be the precursor to the “endy” of the world?! Or a new 11th Commandment? Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s bed. Endy envy? STOP!!!

In related news, I have noticed a serious uptake in dating sites. They’re as ubiquitous as Tim Horton’s stores. I’m starting to wonder if the same outfits that own the mattress companies also own the dating sites or vice versa. It seems that there is every imaginable site for just about any age group. I expect any day now that there will be a sight for babies or possibly for your pet cat. Can Luna find the purrfect match? Pardon me while I hit the paws button. Would that be considered a subordinate claws?

Enough of that. You’re probably thinking that because it was Friday when I wrote this that I found the keys to the liquor cabinet. Wrong. Unless a large plate of steamed mussels can cause temporary insanity, I wasn’t consuming anything that could explain this stream of unconsciousness.

Speaking of mussels. Last week, there was a civic holiday on Thursday. It was a day for the NV (Northern Village) of Kangisqsujuaq to pause and thank its workers. It was a fun day filled with all kinds of games and activities. I watched with great interest a bannock making contest down by the community wharf. Contestants constructed their own “stove” with rocks and used seaweed for fuel. They mixed their bannock ingredients in bowls and then put them on flat rocks above the fire that served as the grill. One of the participants was the Mayor and she looked like a pro. She and I had a great chat. There was blueberry picking, mussel picking and a foot race. A couple of work colleagues did not participate in the official mussel picking contest but did come home with a huge bucketful of these delicious shellfish. They offered me a huge bagful and I cooked them for supper on Friday, dipped in garlic butter. Superb.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my fellow teachers for all their help last week at school assisting me move classrooms. It was a mammoth job. I especially want to thank my friends Eliane and Adamie who went out of their way to assist me in so many ways.

Your suffering is almost over. One other thing I mentioned last week was the notion of lifelong learning. A dear friend from my education year at St.F.X. reminded me of a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein. “Education is what remains when you have forgotten all you have learned in school.” So true… especially in my case! Thanks, MMP.

Have a great week.

P.S. Heroes are highly overrated unless that hero happens to be your sister. My sister, Eleanor closed the doors of her convenience store at the end of August. She and her late husband, Lou Brosha, operated this family run business for 26 years after returning home after many years in Fort Vermillion, Alberta. They worked long hours and were two of the most community minded people you could meet. My sister didn’t have it easy. Lou had MS for a long time and there were many other challenges that she faced along the way, including the death of her daughter, Audrey, that may have broken most people. She was and remains one of the most generous people I know. She mentored many young staff members who are her biggest fans. I never heard her complain once about her lot in life. When others were in need, she was always one of the first to step up and offer her time and resources even when her plate overflowed. Real heroes are real people, not those with puffed up egos and multimillion-dollar salaries who claim to be role models. What a joke. The world would be a much better place if there were more role models like my sister. And luckily there are.

El’s favorite expression? When any of her sibs started to whine and complain about THEIR lot in life, she would turn with a slight look of disdain and say, “Get over it.”

If anyone deserves a healthy and happy retirement it is El. Best wishes. With love and admiration.


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