RoostrTalz

The TV That Almost Killed Me

I finally did it. I bought myself a smart TV. Not that my old one was dumb, mind you. It may have been uncomplicated – simple even, but it served me well. My “old” TV goes way back to a much simpler time when the only knowledge required by the user was knowing the location of the remote control. After finding your reading glasses and your stray remote was lured from its secret hiding place in between the sofa cushions, you just needed to press the red “on” button. And to be mindful not to confuse the up and down arrows for volume with the arrows for channel selection.

I’m not certain how many decades ago I purchased that old TV. All I know is that, following a home invasion, I made a trip to The Brick to find a replacement. The friendly Brick employee promptly ushered me to the Entertainment Department of the furniture store, to show me their new line of something known as “flat screen” TVs. Oooh! The size of them! And the clarity of the picture! Unfortunately, the terms of my insurance policy required a replacement TV purchase – which in my case was a 24” “boob tube” (You know the kind: you call the television repair man. He replaces the picture tube and you’re good to go for another 10 years). Turned out they didn’t make that size anymore, so the closest replacement to the stolen item was an RCA 26” television, which I bought.

Another Brick employee, a strapping young man, carries the TV to my car and attempts to put it in the trunk. The box is too big, so he removes the outer packaging and places the TV face down in the back seat. “This will be much easier for you to take out of the car,” he says, “because you won’t have to reach down into the trunk.”

He’s right. Even though the TV was very heavy and somewhat awkward, I managed to slide it off the back seat, grab it and start carrying it towards the house. It was winter at the time. As I’m walking up to the house, I slip on the sidewalk and fall into a snowbank with the TV landing on top of me. I try to move, but I’m pinned beneath this behemoth. I’m fervently hoping that my neighbour will just happen to look out, see my plight and rescue me. No such luck. Well, that’s just great! I think to myself. I’m going to die right here with this TV on top of me. That’s not an option, I scold myself. I try wiggling one way, then another. Nothing. I’m stuck. I try again, when suddenly there appears to be some give. I continue wriggling and pushing until I free up one leg. This gives me a little more leverage and I’m finally able to roll over and remove that offending object off me. I’m enclosing a picture of the evil monster. Feel free to boo and hiss at him.

Well, back to the present. That old RCA behaved itself until recently when it finally gave up the ghost. This time, I shop for a new television at Best Buy where Black Friday Week deals abound. Besides price, my main concerns are that the new TV fits into the space I have allocated for it and that it has the proper connections so that I can continue to play my music. When I explain marrying old technology with new, the young associate gives me a blank stare and announces, “most people use an HDMI stick, now.” I guess I’m on my own.

The new smart TV is much bigger and much lighter, and I have no problems bringing it inside and beginning the setup. I’m feeling quite pleased with myself: I’ve got it connected to the internet, synched with my cellphone AND I can play my music on the surround sound home theatre system. But I have no television reception! My cable TV (yes, I’m still using that expensive, archaic system) provider tells me that I need a new cable box. Well, the new cable box won’t initialize and after hours spent chatting online as well as talking to a real person, the cable company sends a techie over to help me. Although I can’t play my music anymore, the cable box decided to work in the meantime. So when the techie arrives, I ask him about connecting the old and the new technology. He stares at me blankly and says, “we’re not trained to do that”. Well, at least I have ultra high definition television now.

Two Great Books for the Readers on your Christmas Shopping List

Looking for that perfect Christmas gift? How about a book to go with that holiday eggnog? My narrative non-fiction paperback, A Squatter in London, is temporarily available on Amazon for a reduced price. It’s also available as an e-book but the paperback has vintage photos for you to laugh at. Here’s an excerpt to bring a smile to your face:

“This will be my first ‘black’ Christmas. It’s a few days prior to the holiday and I’m nostalgic for the magical, snow-filled Canadian winter wonderland. I’m homesick, cold, lonely and depressed…

Lainey and Bryce’s parents, the Collinses, have invited me over for Christmas dinner today. Because of the holiday, though, trains and buses aren’t running. So, as instructed by the Collins children, I ring a car hire service…

‘Your place smells very Christmas-y,’ I quip as I enter the Collins home, instantly offending my hosts. There’s an almost overpowering pine-like scent in the air and I assume that it’s coming from the newly-decorated live tree. It’s not.

‘What a thing to say,’ replies Mrs. Collins in a hushed voice. ‘Our cat just wet the rug.’”

 

For the children on your list, there’s an awesome children’s reader/coloring book written and  illustrated with whimsical little characters by Robert Laurie Leslie called They Love Us: A World Without Fear.

A Squatter in London (image shows author revisiting the squat in 2001) is also available internationally in the US, UK, Mexico and other countries. See, I just made your Christmas buying experience a whole lot less stressful!

A Black Christmas in London

With recent snowfall painting the Saskatchewan prairie landscape in a blanket of white, I’m reminded of a “black” Christmas spent long ago as a young woman travelling solo for the first time to London England.

This snowfall also seems to have energized scores of Canadian shoppers who have begun their quest for that perfect Christmas gift. The endeavour albeit exciting, can also be quite stressful. Therefore, I’m sharing a humorous anecdote from my first black Christmas to brighten their day.

 

Following are excerpts from my recently-published book, A Squatter in London:

“This will be my first ‘black’ Christmas. It’s a few days prior to the holiday and I’m nostalgic for the magical, snow-filled Canadian winter wonderland. I’m homesick, cold, lonely and depressed…

Lainey and Bryce’s parents, the Collinses, have invited me over for Christmas dinner today. Because of the holiday, though, trains and buses aren’t running. So, as instructed by the Collins children, I ring a car hire service…

‘Your place smells very Christmas-y,’ I quip as I enter the Collins home, instantly offending my hosts. There’s an almost overpowering pine-like scent in the air and I assume that it’s coming from the newly-decorated live tree. It’s not.

‘What a thing to say,’ replies Mrs. Collins in a hushed voice. ‘Our cat just wet the rug.’”

 

To read how I managed to entangle myself from this situation, and more about my adventures in Britain, A Squatter in London is available in e-book and paperback from Amazon in Canada, and internationally in the US, UK and other countries. It also makes a great Christmas gift! See, I just made your Christmas buying less stressful!

My First Miniskirt

I guess you could say I was a bit of a fashionista back in the day. Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, we teenage girls didn’t have much of an opportunity to shop for the latest fashions. Well, there were the Sears and Eaton’s catalogues, but those fashions were for “old” people like our parents. If we truly wanted to be in style, we had to sew our own clothes. For this reason, I and several of my friends joined the local 4-H club to take sewing lessons.

My first sewing projects didn’t impress me that much: we were taught to sew a simple apron, an A-line skirt and a sleeveless, collarless blouse known as a “pop top”. But it was enough basic knowledge to get creative using my mom’s foot-pedal operated Singer sewing machine. And the catalogues came in handy for choosing fabric and pattern-shopping if the local general store didn’t have anything to my liking. Sewing patterns from Butterick, McCall’s and even Vogue garnered my undivided attention but most of the patterns I purchased were from Simplicity.

One of the most challenging things I made and one of my favourites was a pair of hot pants; they also got the most compliments, which helped! The hot pants were cotton knit material, which meant that I had to buy special thread and be very careful not to pull the material too vigorously or it would stretch at the seams. They were a bib-style, gold in colour, had pockets and sported gold metallic Pooh-bear buttons. Another favourite was a lime-green Fortrel pantsuit trimmed on the arms and legs with white fringes. I can hear a collective cyber-shudder at the mention of this masterpiece. I understand.

But the story of how I got my first miniskirt required almost no effort on my part. It was so innocent, really. One of our neighbours was having a house-warming party to which my family was invited. As my mother and I entered the neighbour’s yard, the neighbour’s dog decided that he didn’t particularly like me and ran towards me, teeth bared. Snarling, he dove straight for my knee before the hosts or my mother could stop him. Fortunately for me, his teeth bumped my knee – hard, but the bite did not draw blood. Instead, he had a mouthful of my wool skirt tightly clasped in his jaws.

Now, the wool skirt was not cheap, and my parents weren’t exactly loaded. “It would be a shame to throw this skirt away,” I say to my mother. “I could just hem it up a little, and it will be just fine.” Suffice it to say, my mother’s skirt-too-short-version and mine differed slightly. Back home, my mother asks me to slip on the torn garment while she extracts the measuring tape from the sewing basket. She carefully measures the distance from mid-knee to top of dog-ripped-hole. As I await the verdict with bated breath, she announces that I can go ahead and hem the skirt provided I use hemming tape as close as possible to the damaged area. Voila – my first miniskirt!

“Nice blouse”, quips my dad as I head out the door to join my friends, wearing my new miniskirt. “You going to wear anything with it?”miniskirt

The Bee Whisperer

My father was a beekeeper. Well, more of a “bee whisperer”. Unlike most beekeepers, he did not wear gloves or a net. This lack of protective gear never seemed to result in the bees stinging him. There just appeared to be a curious bond of trust between man and insect. I, on the other hand, was less fortunate.

Bees are not aggressive; they do not attack humans. They will only sting when they feel there is imminent danger. But it seems that every year their danger radar sounded off when they got entangled in my long, curly, unruly golden locks. I would swat madly at the bee with my bare hands as it buzzed around my head and run screaming into the house. Of course, by this time, the bee’s danger radar mechanism had already been activated with the bee offering the final sacrifice. All that was left to do for my mom was to calm me down enough to extract the bee without leaving the stinger still stuck in my head.

Every spring the shipment of bees arrived – from California, I think – on our small, 160-acre mixed farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. My dad would busy himself relocating the bees to their new home. Most years, he would get more bees than he paid for. No, there were no mistakes in the shipment itself. But oftentimes a swarm of bees would arrive at our place from a beekeeper who was not as diligent as was my father. You see, there can only be one queen bee in a hive. When there are two, one queen bee leaves, taking a group of followers (worker bees – all female) with her to search for a new home. At times, these swarms would temporarily rest on tree branches near the apiary and my dad would coax them into a hive. I have also observed my parents, buckets of water in hand, madly sprinkling a swarm of bees that looked like they were just doing a fly past. If they were successful in getting water on the queen, she would drop to a branch and the rest of the bees would follow.

My brother and I were most excited when honey harvest season rolled around. Dad would select and bring the honeycombs into the honey-processing shed. Mom would cut the tops off with a sharp knife, insert four wooden-framed honeycombs at a time into a large, cylindrical extraction drum, and crank the handle. Through centrifugal force, the honey would spatter on the walls and drip down to the bottom of the container. Meanwhile, my brother and I picked up gobs of wax mixed with the honey that my mom removed and chew the sticky sweet goodness like gum.

When enough honey was collected in the extraction container, my parents would open the tap and fill smaller cans to take them to market. Uncle John would arrive with his one-ton truck, the honey cans would get loaded unto the back and off we’d go to the honey co-op in Tisdale, known as the “Land of Rape and Honey”. No, this is not as ominous as it sounds. In those days, canola was known as “rapeseed” or “rape” for short.

There was only room for three people in the truck cab – uncle John, my dad and either my brother or myself. My mom never went; she was happy to have a day all to herself, no doubt. But how exciting it was for me when it was my turn to go! First, the drop off at the Tisdale honey co-op where my dad would always get a premium price for number one white, clover honey. Then, cash in hand, we would go shopping in nearby Melfort for new, first day-of-school clothes.

At day’s end, dad would buy a loaf of bread, a ring of kovbasa (garlic sausage) and a case of Orange Crush soft drink. With the sun painting the western sky in the warm colours of a prairie sunset, we would pull over on some country gravel road overlooking the prairie landscape to commence with our supper. My dad would break off a piece of kovbasa, wrap it in a slice of white bread and pass it along to the hungry occupants who would ravenously devour our sandwich and sip the soda.

I’ve eaten many a glorious meal in many fine dining establishments both in Canada and abroad. But this meal in the open Saskatchewan prairie has them all beat by a country mile.