The Hounds from Hell

Who knew there was a word for it?

Lately for some reason our Nicky has been seeing if he can get away with begging at the table – he can’t!  Every so often he tries to push the boundaries just in case: where food is concerned a dachshund is always willing try and push the boundaries.  When it comes to begging Nora lets Nicky make the effort and she just sits by with that look on her face.  It’s a look that both of them have perfected and that anyone who includes a dog in their family is familiar with.  It’s that silent staring at you as you eat, their eyes filled with the hope that you will share.

“Are you planning to eat that all by yourself?”

Now until the daily post on Facebook from Grandiloquent Word of the Day showed up last Wednesday I had no idea that the act of giving someone that look has its very own verb in the English language.


So do you think they’ve got groaking down to a fine art?

On this day in 1912: The frozen bodies of Robert Scott and his men are found on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

A Poppy Is To Remember

Originally this post was written in response to a question from my Italian dentist about the poppy I was wearing on my jacket.  As November 11 approaches and I see almost everyone I meet displaying that simple red and black symbol I felt that a reminder of why we wear it would not be amiss.

November 11, 2008 – Rome

253b0-poppy copy

Like many Canadians and members of other Commonwealth Countries I have been wearing a stylized poppy on my lapel the past few days. Dr Palermi, my Italian dentist, asked me on Friday what it meant. Was it for some sort of “festa” or celebration, he asked. I’m sure my explanation in bad Italian left him as perplexed as when he asked the question. But then I began to think – why have I worn a poppy this time of year for almost as long as I can remember? What does it mean? Or perhaps more accurately does it still mean anything?

I would probably have been 4 or 5 when I wore my first poppy and stood for two minutes of silence with the rest of my classmates to remember the war dead. Back then World War II was still a recent event – I had friends who had lost relatives in the combat, my uncle had served overseas, we had people in our neighbourhood who had come to Canada after their homeland and families had been devastated by the war. Unfortunately we also picked on the few German kids in the area because they had “killed” Harry Simmons’ uncle. It was history but it was recent history. So when we stood, uncommonly quiet, in school assembly it had a resonance that we may not have understood completely but felt none the less.

I recall that in those early years there were a few veterans of the Boer War at the Cenotaph in Toronto. As time passed they had joined their fallen comrades as did veterans from World War I – today there is only one known Canadian veteran of the Great War, John Babcock who is now 108. And today at commemorations throughout Canada and the world, the men and women who honour friends and colleagues who died in World War II and even the Korean War are becoming fewer and fewer.

So perhaps for many Canadians the reason for remembering is fading from memory. But sadly battles continue, though not on the scale of those “Great Wars,” and we still have reasons to remember. I wondered earlier if there was still a meaning in me wearing a poppy and taking two minutes out of my very busy schedules to remember the fallen of distant wars? I hear of the death of a former young colleague’s husband in Afghanistan, I see footage of the cortege of another Canadian peacekeeper making its way from Trenton along the 401, I witness the mental suffering of friends who have served in our military abroad – and I see that these events have as much resonance for me today as those of 50-odd years ago. How can I not do something as simple as wearing a poppy to remember?

But why a poppy and what does it signify? The poppy’s significance comes from Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields. McCrae, an army physician who died in January 1918 at a field hospital, wrote the poem during a lull in the fighting in May of 1915. The poppies grew wild in the battlefields and cemeteries around Flanders. They soon came to represent both the blood shed in war and the sacrifice made by the men and women who served. And tradition says that it is worn on the left close to the heart.

When I got a little older and joined the school choir I remember we sang McCrae’s poem at school assembly every November 11. I don’t believe this is the version we sang – I know there are several – but I found this rendition particularly moving.

The picture above right is the cover of a marvellous book written by Heather Patterson and illustrated by Ron Lightburn. Ms Patterson wrote it because in her own words: For several years I had been aware that in Canada there was a need to answer young children’s questions like: “Why is that man selling those red things?” Why is everyone wearing a red flower?”, etc. There were no books for younger children about the poppy and Remembrance day and the origins of both in Canada. She dedicates the book to her granddaughter with the hope that “she blossom like a bright poppy in a peaceful world.”

In my 2015 post for Remembrance Day I wrote of the three women in France, the United States and Canada who campaigned to make the poppy the symbol of remembrance that it has become.  Should you care to revisit it just left click on the poppy below.


One of  Anna Guérin’s poppies that were distributed in Canada to commemorate Armistice Day in 1921.

On this day in 1976: A 106-car Canadian Pacific freight train carrying explosive and poisonous chemicals from Windsor derails in Mississauga, west of Toronto, causing a massive explosion and the largest peacetime evacuation in Canadian history and one of the largest in North American history.

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