Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 28, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet


Me and my great friend, Virginie (France)



“When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark,

At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky,

And the sweet silver song of a lark.

You’ll Never Walk Alone – Gerry and the Pacemakers

One year ago, today, I was wrapping up the most incredible experience of my life. I completed the Camino in Spain. With over 1,000,000 steps and 713 kilometers, I walked into the city of Santiago de Compostela with Virginie Gatel, a young French woman who had the dubious honor of spending the last two days of this epic walk with an aging bald man from Canada. As we entered the city triumphantly, with badly blistered feet, we were arm in arm singing “We Are The Champions’. I know it sounds corny, but it was very emotional. We weren’t champions but we sure felt like we were.

Walking the Camino is a test of endurance, but it is so much more than this. The Camino has its roots in an ancient pilgrimage and present-day walkers are referred to as pilgrims or perigrinos. While some people still walk the route from St.Jean Pied de Port France to Santiago de Compostela Spain as a spiritual exercise, a larger percentage are there for other reasons. Many come for adventure while others come carrying a burden or simply to get out of the rat race for a month.

People from all walks of life come from every corner of the planet and leave as changed people.

Is it the tranquility of the Spanish countryside that uplifts people? Do the physical demands increase endorphins? Does the plethora of churches provide spiritual nourishment? Is one inspired by pilgrims who walked these exact paths over 1000 years ago?  Do the fantastic wines of Spain also lift spirits? That’s an easy one! It’s all of these but so much more.

There is something magical about the Camino that’s difficult to describe. You start off as one person and end up as a community of fellow travelers. You walk with them. You share meals with them. You share cramped quarters in one of the many alburgues (hostels). You discuss your innermost feelings with total strangers who feel like your best friend after walking for two hours together, stopping occasionally to bandage each other’s feet.

If you were to poll anyone of the hundreds of thousands of people who have completed this journey, my guess is that most of them would cite camaraderie at the top of their list of what made their journey so memorable. Even when language is a barrier, a smile, a thumbs up, a pat on the back or a hug more than compensate for the inability to understand a foreign language. Friendship doesn’t require a language. Symbols of a shared journey and affection for fellow pilgrims is what defines the Camino.

I know that it’s not helpful to dwell on the past. We all need to keep moving forward. This is especially true these days as we ponder the world we inhabited a scant three months ago- a world that has changed so dramatically. The pandemic has left us with deep scars, blisters of a very different variety. But, like blisters, we will heal, although the recovery time will likely be much longer. We are walking through an incredible storm and we must believe in a golden sky sometime in the future , however long it takes.

As we inch our way forward into an uncertain future, it might be a good time to take a page out of the Camino. While hugs are still verboten, we can still give a thumbs up and a smile to a neighbor or a friend. Like the Camino, we’re all on this path together.

May we hear the sweet silver sound of a lark one of these days.

Have a great weekend.


A toast to the end of the Camino

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 21, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

The boy in the bubble

(Pete MacDonald photo)


“Livin’ alone, I think of all the friends I’ve known

But when I dial the telephone, nobody’s home

All by myself, don’t wanna be,

All by myself.

All By Myself – Eric Carman


So, it has come to this.

We have “flattened the curve”, just not the one around our waistline. That one will take much longer. We have self-isolated, disinfected, social distanced, and lived like hermits for eight weeks or more. We have “fought the good fight” and done our part to protect ourselves and others from harm. Spring is in the air and the economy is starting to reopen. For the first time in what seems an eternity, there is a ray of hope that life might return to some semblance of normalcy.

And then come bubbles.

“Tiny bubbles, in the wine; make me warm all over -Don Ho

The government of Nova Scotia announced last week, that some restrictions regarding personal contact would be eased ever so slightly. No, we’re not even close to seeing a day when hundreds of people will crowd into a bar to listen to some live music or attend a sporting event with tens of thousands of rabid, beer swilling fans. We have been told that we are allowed to have contact with one other family. They can visit us, and we can visit them. We will now affectionately be known as a bubble.

This has quickly become a litmus test for friendship. Who will be inside your bubble? How can families possibly choose among siblings, children, grandchildren, or grandparents? It must be agonizing for many people.

Why hasn’t anybody called you? You’ve been sitting quietly at home waiting for a phone call, a text, a Facebook message, a Messenger message, a WhatsApp message, an e-mail, an Instagram message, or a twitter message. In desperation, you have even checked your business contacts on LinkedIn. Occasionally, you look out the window for a smoke signal or a homing pigeon.

I hate to burst to burst your bubble, but you have no friends. You have suspected this for a long time but now it’s official. After being afforded the opportunity to co-mingle, no one has reached out to you. No one.

“I cried and cried all day; alone again, naturally.” Gilbert O’Sullivan

Yup. Come to think of it, this is not the first time you’ve been shunned. Remember in your childhood, those neighborhood pick up ball games? The word would go out that a ball game was going to be held in the field out back. Kids of all ages, sizes and abilities would come pouring out of their homes. Two children with obvious leadership qualities would be chosen captains and they would be left with the unenviable task of choosing players. You always had this sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. Previous experiences like this, even when you were playing Red Rover, yielded similar results. You were always chosen last.

You got over these sleights as the years passed. No, you didn’t. You realized at a young age that you were a first-class loser.

You brushed it off as childhood childishness, until you went to university, only to discover that a pattern was emerging. Back in the early 70s, a winter carnival was a staple of campus life. There were lots of outdoor activities, skating parties, snow sculpture contests, variety shows, pubs, and yes, a Winter Carnival Ball. Getting dressed up and escorting someone to the ball was just about as good as it got. Unless you were so socially inept, so much so that no self-respecting young woman would ever get caught dead with you anywhere within a 50- mile radius. And that was before metric. It sounds even worse when you say 80 kilometers.

But there’s always a silver lining. An alternate event was held for people like me. It was called The Loser’s Ball. I attended for three years in a row. Actually, from the reports I got, I may have had more fun at these rollicking events than if I had attended the real thing.

And now, you are a fully formed adult, getting on in years and are now facing the ultimate shunning. No one wants you inside their bubble. Nobody wants you on their team. At first you thought (naively) that you had a poor internet connection, but that notion was easily quashed. You look in the mirror and you are no better or worse looking than you were last week. You go to the grocery store and people say hello, so you are not a complete misfit.

“Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.” Macbeth

All of a sudden, miraculously, you get a call from two different branches of the family wondering if you are in a bubbling mood. So desperate are you for having someone with a pulse to visit you that you commit the heinous crime of accepting two families into your bubble. You quickly realize that you are in double bubble trouble and will likely be hauled away by the Covid police.

Not to worry. When they take you to the lock up, they put you in solitary confinement which is just the way you like it.




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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 14, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment





Health care heroes at our nursing home


“For the times, they are a changin.”

The Times They are a Changin – Bob Dylan

At least one hopes so.

The world is being transformed right before our eyes. Change is never easy but as has been said repeatedly, the only thing constant is change. But this is the big one, a once in a lifetime event,and the changes will wash over us like a tsunami. This is not just change. This is transformative change.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed many weaknesses in the health care system none more so (in my humble opinion) than long- term care facilities. I don’t know what the statistics are for the entire country but certainly the majority of deaths in Nova Scotia can be linked to long -term care homes.

Yes, I know. I have written about this before. This is not breaking news, but it is sad and distressing news. If we think the problems are bad now, just wait until the full force of the baby boom is felt. Obviously, the current model will not be sustainable as more and more people will require care. One can reasonably assume that people responsible for administering care for the aged see the looming crisis – a different crisis than Covid-19. There simply won’t be enough beds to fill the demands in the years ahead.

Home care and other non-institutional models must be pursued with vigor, but this will take time.

There will always be a need for long- term care facilities.

Publicly run nursing homes are not adequately funded. Many of the employees of these facilities are not properly compensated for the work they do. Some, like CCA’s are forced to work in more than one home to make ends meet. This has had disastrous consequences in other provinces. The work of people who keep these buildings clean goes unnoticed and underappreciated … until a pandemic arrives on the doorstep.

Governments are going to be under enormous pressure to do something about this situation. They are in crisis mode right now, but a day will come when the sun shines again and life will return to normal, whatever “normal” will look like.

With all due respect, I don’t think the final decision for matters relating to long term care matters should be left exclusively to the politicians and bureaucrats. We all have a say in how are loved ones are cared for. What can one person do to affect change? Not much but many voices could make a big difference.

I’m not an expert by any means on anything, let alone the funding of care facilities. I do know that health is generally considered a provincial matter but significant funding for health comes from the Federal government.

It might be time (while many of us have the time while in isolation) for the public to have a say.

I reached out to our Member of Parliament, Sean Fraser, last week to discuss this matter. He suggested a course of action which involves a petition to the Federal government to look at the chronic underfunding of long- term care facilities which includes wages. The more people who sign the petition, the stronger the voice. I will keep you posted but will be encouraging everyone to help with this initiative. This is a bit of a selfish endeavor for many of us baby boomers. While the current consumers of nursing home services are our parent’s generation, we’re breathing down their backs. We are going to need care in the not too distant future.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday of this week marked International Nurses Day.

Nurses are the glue that keeps the health care system functioning. I am 100% biased but I think Antigonish has been blessed for decades with some of the finest, most talented, and compassionate nurses on the planet. Like nursing homes, hospitals are operating under severe economic duress. The pressure is on nurses every day but during a pandemic it is even more apparent.

It is honorable to have an official day to recognize the work of the nursing profession. I would like to think that the citizens of our small town appreciate their work every single day of the year.

If only we could hug all of these health care workers to show them our appreciation.

Have a great and safe weekend.

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