Someone Is Watching

lacey-tvAbout fifty years ago, give or take a decade, my friend Margaret’s mother – a dotty old Irish gal if ever there was one – thought that she was being watched through the television.  She also thought that if you were watching the same programme as her she could talk with you. This led to some concerns on the part of the family and serious speculation as to the ma’s mental well being.

Fast forward to last Monday when  my friend Dee mentioned in passing on Facebook that she was looking for a new mattress.  Within five minutes ads for posture enhancing, non-allergenic, memory-foam mattress were popping up like mushrooms on her news feed.

Could it be that Margaret’s ma rather than being touched in the head at the time was just a touch ahead of the time?

What brought this to mind was a meme that showed up on my own FaceBook feed earlier today.  Though I had not committed anything to post I had been complaining – yes I talk to myself, I mean don’t we all?  I said DON’T WE ALL?  – about the amount of work I put into writing and creating posts to then have them go unread, even by my own family, or only glanced at quickly.  Then this showed up:


Has it gone one step beyond Ma’s suspicions and were the ubiquitous “they” not only watching but reading my thoughts?  Or have they been monitoring my struggles as I go through the process of writing these shambolic postings.  And how long has this been going on because this is process I’ve gone through most of my life whither it be writing procedures, lesson plans, proposals, essays, or posts about obscure topics.  Thank god I’ve never tackled the Great Canadian Novel!

On this day in 1916: The Centre Block of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada burns down with the loss of 7 lives

Christmas Past – Part I

Long past?
No. Your past.


Pax Mr Dickens it wasn’t a child-like figure with long white hair, a branch of holly in it’s hand and a blindingly light streaming from the crown of its head that brought up a memory of a Christmastide that is, to contradict the Ghost, long past.  It was a NYTimes advertisement for the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular from a December 1961 Arts and Leisure section post in a FB group to which I belong.

My father had died in the August of that year and Christmas promised to be a joyless event in our household.  I’m sure we went to my brother’s on Christmas Day but I can’t imagine that the day was much fun for any of us.  My father was a major and loving presence in our lives and the ache of loss was still raw.  It was going to be a difficult and melancholy holiday season.

A few days before the holiday my cousin Diane in New Jersey called with an invitation to visit them in the days between Christmas and the New Year.  With it came the promise of my first visit to New York  City.   The season had become a bit brighter at the thought of spending time with Diane, Jack and the girls plus a few treats they had lined up for us.

So Boxing Day my mother and I boarded an overnight bus at the Greyhound station at Bay and Dundas and made the 12 hour trip to New York City.   They lived in Nutley a pleasant town only an hour from Manhattan; and the treats involved making that trip to town twice.

This ad from the New York Time in December 1961 sent me down memory lane.

The first trip was an early morning one to catch the first show of the day at Radio City Music Hall.  As a sidebar someone noticed that back in 1961 admission for the show was 99¢ if you went before noon – I’m not sure if that was for children or just a general price.  (A quick check of 2017 prices range between $225.00 to $70.00). For that 99¢ we got The Nativity, or at least a damned good facsimile with camels, horses, sheep, a donkey, flying angels and the baby Jesus; a flower ballet – no doubt to Tchaikovsky music; a “musical dramatization of Dicken’s ‘Christmas Carol’ “; a “Poinsettia Fantasy”(???); several variety artists; and, of course the Rockettes.  All that plus Walt Disney’s Babes in Toyland – all for 99¢!!!  I had been looking forward to the film as the Victor Herbert musical was one of my favourites but it was that stage show and the theatre that fascinated me most.   The size and splendor of that deco auditorium, the grand staircases, the elevator stage with the spectacular effects, and those Rockettes high-stepping through their routines.  Though the movie had its toy soldiers marching off to battle it had nothing on the time honoured toy soldier routine that has been the highlight of every show since 1933.  The Russell Markert choreography and the costumes have changed little since then.

The precision work is incredible but the highlight is always that domino fall:

And here’s a little insight into how that fall is done:

After Radio City Music Hall we went to Schrafft’s at 51st in the Rockefeller Center.  Schrafft’s restaurants were ubiquitous back then – slightly upscale, good solid American food, beloved by matrons from Scarsdale and tourists, like us, from New Jersey.

Schrafft’s on 51st in the Rockefeller Center in 1948 – it had changed little when we went for a holiday lunch in December 1961.

Now my mother was, god rest her soul, the sort of person who believed that meat should be well-cooked.  She was the sort that could take a five pound roast and reduce it till it was three and a nice even gray colour all the way through.  You then slathered lots of mustard or, if you were really adventuresome, horseradish on it to give it flavour.  Her horror when the waitress – in her black dress, white starched apron and peter pan collar – presented my hamburger platter and the patty was a slight pink in the centre can only be imagined.  This person was attempting to kill her pride and joy (me!) with “uncooked” meat.  The dudgeon was high and the order to return the offending burger and have it cooked properly was issued in that “Mrs Hobbs” voice that made grown men cringe.  I don’t recall but I’m sure Diane and I were the only ones cringing in embarrassment.  The waitress probably spit on it when she returned it to the kitchen.  Knowing Isa the way I did I’m sure the indignation was communicated to Jack at the dinner table that night.

There was to be another trip into the Big City on New Year’s Day – a trip that I had been anticipating since I first listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio.  I was to go to the old Met on Broadway at 39th.  I wasn’t going to just hear Milton Cross tell me about the great gold curtain parting – I was going to see it for real.

On this day in 1919: Lincoln’s Inn in London, England, UK admits its first female bar student.

Peace For A Time

Christmas 1914

The candle for the Second Sunday of Advent is the Peace candle.  In the past few years what became known as the Christmas Truce of 1914  has been the topic of  songs, movies, documentaries and an opera.  It is a moving and strange moment of peace in the midst of what was to be five years of hell.  There were Christmas truces in 1915 and a few in 1916 but as the war dragged on and death tools mounted the bitterness and hatred won the day.

Peter Capaldi reads this letter from December 24, 1914:

All the movies, music, documents and stories I have read did not prepared me for this.  Dare we even pray for “peace for our time”?

I realize this clip is not a short one but please take the time to play it all.

On this day in 1911:  Delhi replaces Calcutta as the capital of India.

I Thought Only Oysters Had Beards


This very quick post is sent out to fellow blogger Fearsome over at Fearsome Beard – a blog devoted to all things bearded.   I’m not sure this has even been one of the things he’d thought about …. but hey why not????

Good on ya b’ys!  It’s for a good cause and calendars can be pre-ordered by following this link.


1917 and All That

A year that changed the world.

(In 1917 the Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind our Gregorian calendar, was used in Russia. In writing this post I have used the Old Style dates first with the New Style in brackets.)

Earlier this year the National Museum of American Jewish History mounted an exhibition entitled 1917: How One Year That Changed The World.  It highlighted three major events of that year that have echoed through the last century and continue to affect us today.  Within that year the United States entered the war that had torn Europe apart since 1914; the Balfour Declaration planted the seeds of a Jewish state in Palestine; and what had started in Petrograd (St Petersberg) in February reached it’s climax in the October Revolution.

A stamp to commemorate the October Revolution using Vladimir Serov’s painting of Lenin addressing the workers and soldiers on October 25 (November 7), 1917.  Interesting that the figures behind him have been altered from the original: Josef Stalin and Leo Trotsky (neither of whom were in Petrograd) have been added.

One hundred years ago today on October 25 (November 7) the Bolsheviks led an armed insurrection by workers and soldiers in Petrograd overthrowing the Provisional Government that had taken power earlier in the year.   All its authority was transferred to the soviets (committees) with Vladimir Lenin as the acknowledged leader and thus began the five year Russian Civil War that led to the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922.

Though it was a major holiday in the good old days of the USSR it seems that in modern Russia it is being underplayed.  For most Russians today is a regular working day and any celebrations are decidedly low keyed. Mr Putin’s has issued statements that have been a muted condemnation of revolution as a political tool.  A far cry from the military parades and glorious rhetoric of the Soviet Days.

It would seem the day is receiving more attention here in the West than it is in the nation that created it and that it, in turn, created.  Last weekend Sunday Edition, my favourite CBC radio programme, began a two part radio-documentary on the Russian Revolution. As usual they presented informative and thoughtful takes on it and how it and our world have changed over the past century.  A left click on the logo below will take you to the broadcast which can be listened to in full (54 minutes) or scroll through the site to hear various segments.  I am looking forward to Part 2 next week.


The year 1917 had been one that started with revolution when on February 23 (March 8) protests and riots broke out against the food rationing imposed by the war.  They were to last eight days; on February 27 (March 12) the army joined the revolutionaries and three days later Tsar Nicholas II abdicated.  Over at I’ll Think of Something Later, my friend David has posted a first person account of the chaos from the diary of composer Sergey Prokofiev.  David, a well-regarded critic, broadcaster, and writer, is the author of the definitive study of the early life of the composer.  He has created a compilation of entries from the diary which are being read by actor Sam West on BBC Radio3’s programming to mark the day.  Again a left click on the picture below will take you to David’s fascinating post and some intriguing pictures of those events 100 years ago.


Indeed 1917 was a year in which things were put into motion that would change the world.

On this day in 1907: Jesús García saves the entire town of Nacozari de García by driving a burning train full of dynamite six kilometers (3.7 miles) away before it can explode. ssss