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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Going ice skating

When someone hasn’t done something for a long time, it is often said that the ability for this or that will come back to them naturally. “It’s like riding a bike” they say.
Let me assure you, that is baloney.
Take for instance ice skating.

When I heard that colleagues planned to go ice skating, I was one of the first to sign up to join the group. After all, I had once enjoyed ice skating and even though the last time I had been on the ice was some thirteen years ago, I assumed that my body would remember the balance and the ability to skate. It would be just like riding a bike.

We happily chattered on the way to Nathan Phillip Square, where there is an open air ice rink. We somewhat fell silent as we lined up to hire skates. As we saw the ice and saw the skaters (struggling to stay vertical) our courage began to fail. Would this be like riding a bike?

By the time I strapped on my skates I was half frozen and shivering like a leaf on an Alaska tree. Whether this was due to the cold December wind or nerves I’ll never know.
I struggled to get up from the bench and to stay on my feet. Oh dear, and I was still on rubber carpeting. What would it be like once I was on the ice?
I soon found out ... it was hell on blades.

Even with the support from my son, I stood there, too scared to move. Where were the barricades to hold on to? Where was the balance I once had? Where was the ability to do this on my own? I had once done it, why couldn’t I do this anymore?
Like a wooden doll I shuffled on my skates, in danger of going down at any moment, holding on to my son’s hand for dear life.

As he guided me around the rink I didn’t feel the cold anymore, I felt nothing except fear of going down and breaking something I might need later.
When a colleague came along I clutched at his hand too and now supported by two strong arms I started to feel a bit more secure. Given time I probably would have gotten the hang of it again, but all too soon it was time to leave the ice and head back to the office.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to take up skating again, in a proper ice rink that is. A rink with barricades to hold on to until I find that lost balance again.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!
Was yours a merry Christmas or was Christmas Eve just another evening and Christmas Day just another day? If it was, don’t worry, I’ll bet it was just another evening and just another day for a lot of folks.

The Christmas season has been somewhat romanticized by movies, TV series, books and even Christmas cards. A serene white landscape with white glistening snow; a warm yellow glow radiating from a fairly lights decorated house; a festively decked table on which sits a golden brown turkey; a family gathered around a floor to ceiling Christmas tree.
On TV and on paper it all looks so beautiful, but what about real life?

Where it comes to snow, people seldom get misty eyed when gazing upon a snowy landscape. They shiver at the thought of having to go outside or frown and sigh at the thought of having to shovel snow again.
Those who decorated their house with fairly lights are gonna get a nasty surprise when they see their electrical bill. I have to pay how much?
As for that golden brown turkey ... I’ll bet you anything that quite a few turkeys didn’t quite reach that kind of golden brown perfection. Some were probably a little pale, while others were covered up with gravy to hide a distinct blackness. And if a turkey looked good, how did it taste? Was it tender and juicy or was it a bit on the dry side?
As for the beautifully decorated Christmas tree, how many families can afford a floor to ceiling model? Most probably have to make do with a smaller version, decorated with what fit the budget or the circumstances.

For instance, I love glass balls with lots of glitter for the Christmas tree, but in my house that would be a dumb thing to use. I have five very inquisitive cats and glass balls would have a very short lifespan. So I can only decorate my tree with unbreakable balls. I also love tinsel, but that’s a no no too. My cats are not only inquisitive, they are also chewers and I rather don’t have to take them on an emergency visit to the vet due to tinsel chewing.

For large families it’s probably nice getting together on Christmas, but having them all around the dinner table does present some problems. Can you imagine how much potatoes have to be peeled to feed between ten to thirty people? Have you any idea how many vegetables have to be chopped? And what about the dishes ... who is gonna volunteer to wash all those plates, glasses and cups? Not to mention all the cooking pots and pans.

If your Christmas wasn’t all that merry, think about that. You may be single and living in a highrise, but at least you don’t have snow to shovel and your hydro bill won’t let your eyes grow the size of teacups. I’ll bet that the take-out you ordered was just as good, if not better, than that burned dried out turkey. And as for your Christmas tree ... size really doesn’t matter.
In case you didn’t get to buy any gifts, and didn’t get any gifts, what’s stopping you from buying a gift for yourself? A little something from me to me.

Don’t you go feeling sorry for yourself at Christmas, there are others who are a lot worse off than you. The hospitals are full of the sick who may or may not get better; in convalescent homes folks are trying to cope with the hand life has dealt them and all us and all of them are better off than those living on the streets, gazing upon homes, thinking of the home they once had.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

TTC - The Better Way

Officially the Toronto Transit Commission is known as the TTC. Users of this type of transportation have another name for the TTC though ... Toronto Trash Cans.
The TTC’s slogan is ‘The Better Way’ but this week the subway was most certainly not the better way.

When I boarded a subway train last Wednesday, I heard the announcement that there was no service between Broadview station and St. George station.
I didn’t worry about this no-service too much, confident that by the time I got to Broadview the problem, whatever it was, would be fixed. I was wrong.
When I got to Broadview all passengers were instructed to leave the train as the train would turn back to Kennedy.

Some 300 people exited the train and joined the hundreds who already stood shivering on the Broadview platform.
After a while came the announcement that shuttle buses and streetcars would take passengers to their destination.
As another train arrived more people joined the throng of commuters already on the platform, shuffling toward the stairs. Seeing them go by, dressed in dark gear and keeping their heads down, they reminded me of the march of the penguins.

I had no intention of joining them. Cold as it was in the station, it would be even colder outside. The weather forecast had predicted -20 deg C (that’s -4 deg F) for that day and that was just a bit too cold for me.
Usually, if the TTC has a problem, it doesn’t take too long for whatever it is to be sorted out, so I preferred to wait inside. That wasn’t possible this time though. A TTC official walked the length of the platform informing everyone who, like me, had decided to wait it out, that it could take hours for the problem to be fixed.
Okay so I joined the ‘penguins’ and proceeded up the stairs too.

Ooh but it was cold. Even with a thick coat, a scarf wrapped around my head and gloves I could feel the cold wind going right through me, biting at my nose, fingers and toes. Where were the shuttle buses? Where were the streetcars? Oh they were there alright, but they were packed with people, like sardines in a can.
I got the idea of taking a cab to work. A good idea, except there was a problem ... there weren’t that many cabs available to begin with and with over a thousand people standing around Broadview station, I wasn’t alone who had thought of that.

Just then an announcement was made that the subway was up and running again and we could all go downstairs. Even though the words were greeted with relief, they presented a problem ... it would take some time for the mass of commuters to go back inside the station, down the stairs and onto a train. I suspected that it would take several trains to take care of this lot.
I was right, after we shuffled our way back onto the platform, trains - already full with peak hour passengers – had limited space to take in the waiting crowd.
Or let me put it this way ... my journey to work, which usually takes 45 minutes, that day took two and a half hours.

The TTC, the better way? I think not.