Author Archives: Thelma

Oh brother

One of our chickens, Rosie, just swallowed a dead mouse whole. Apparently this is normal, but as its my first time seeing this, it also feels like the end times are nigh. Rosie had a terrible encounter with a rooster before she arrived here in January, so she looks like a Frankenchicken, with a patch around her head that is just bare skin. She’s an oddball, runs everywhere and annoys the other hens, but is very affectionate, except when doing pest control, and then she’s a killer. Whatever Rosie wants, Rosie gets, or else!

Helen

Reading the sad news of Helen McCrory’s death immediately reminded me of seeing her in the title role of Medea at a National Theatre Live broadcast at the Charlottetown cinema in 2014. Her performance was completely riveting and I felt exhausted after watching the play; I can only imagine how powerful it would have been to see it in person.

Other than her turn as Cherie Blair in two films, I wasn’t really familiar with her other roles, but her Medea remains a highlight in almost-live theatre. We have subscribed to the National Theatre at Home service and Medea is one of the offerings, so it is time to watch it again. I hope you find your ghost light, Helen, and shine on forever.

Funize

Had an email from Google feedburner (or FeedBurner, as it once was) that outlined their plans to do something or other that won’t make any difference to me as I had forgotten I had used it for anything or that it still existed. They encouraged me to check out my feeds, and I found feeds for two blogs I had set up for others a decade ago, still ready and able to burn if they hadn’t been abandoned.

I was tickled to find that, in this mostly forgotten corner of the online world, someone is having mucho fun with tabs.

Troubleshootize
What web developers do when they know there are no ize watching them!

Still Funny?

When I read past issues of the Charlottetown Guardian online, I almost always start on the back page, where the western PEI news is given. I love the old gossip of who went to Summerside on the train, or who has a horse for sale. We were and remain a snoopy bunch.

Next to the western news on this date in 1921 was a big ad from Prowse Brothers Ltd. advertising a white wear sale, the perfect time to get new undergarments. I read and then reread the bottom of the ad, and while I think it was a joke to fool everyone on the first day of April, you can never be sure with some parts of history.

Retention Rate

My father, Harold, served on the regional school board for western Prince Edward Island from 1975 to 1987, and was chair for seven of those years. He and my mother sold their general store in 1971, so both had ample time for volunteer pursuits. For a few years, my father was in meetings nearly every day as the school board worked on the creation of a new amalgamated high school.

That school, Westisle, was created to achieve many goals, both educational and fiscal, but one my father often cited was to improve student retention rates. I had never known exactly what those rates had been, but he gave an idea in a speech he made at the fourth Westisle graduation in 1983:

I would like to very briefly outline some of our achievements since the completion of the MacDonald “Drop Out Study” in 1974. 10 years ago, this study showed our retention rate to be only 31% (for every 3 children who entered grade 2, only 1 completed grade 12), whereas most recent figures show it now to be the reverse, which is very close to the national average.

Westisle Composite High was built to accommodate 810 pupils. However, due to the great flexibility of this facility in being able to offer a fairly comprehensive program to our young people, our high school enrolment reached 872 this past year, compared to 610 [at the three separate high schools] one year before Westisle opened.

Of all the things my father accomplished as a school board trustee, keeping young people in school for as long as possible was the most personal and made him most proud. He had to leave school at grade eight and always regretted not having been able to further his education, so he was happy to have helped others achieve that dream.

Hon. George Henderson, Unit One School Board Chair Harold Phillips, and Hon. Robert Campbell (aka The Great West Wind) turning the sod for what became Westisle Composite High School circa 1978.

Oliver!

Oliver! has been stalking me for a few days. The 1968 movie was on Turner Classic Movies last week, and earlier today, the enjoyable Lost Vinyl from the Internet Archive Twitter feed offered up the original cast recording as its hourly gem.

I played the Artful Dodger in a high school production because there weren’t enough males to play all the parts. Our show was pretty good because our school, Westisle, has a large, professional theatre, and as the principal’s wife was the drama teacher, we had a very generous budget!

My first year of university was a disaster, so I took a year off and went to London to work, becoming an usher at Theatre Royal Drury Lane in the fall of 1985. The musical 42nd Street was playing and it was a big hit. When I started, the older female role of Dorothy Brock was played by Georgia Brown, who had originated the role of Nancy in the original production of Oliver!, and when Georgia left the show, Shani Wallis took over, and she had played Nancy in the 1968 movie.

I had a nodding acquaintance with both of these women, and they were lovely. I worked for a while at the main souvenir stand in the Drury Lane rotunda, and Shani would come through just to get out of the rather dismal backstage area during a long break, and she always said hello. I would sometimes see Georgia walking through Covent Garden in the afternoon before a show, no big deal.

During rehearsals for that year’s Royal Variety Performance, which was held at Drury Lane, I snuck into the theatre during a break to watch from the back of the stalls. A small woman with dark hair walked past and stood in front of me, dressed in sort of a safari-style pant suit and hat (remember, mid-80s), and I thought, oh, there’s Georgia, she must be in the show, too, lovely.

The woman left and there was a bit of a pause in the rehearsal. I was talking to another usher when someone announced “Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Joan Collins!” and there she was, the lady in the safari pant suit minus the hat, appearing for a publicity photo call. She was one of the biggest stars in the world at that time because of her role on the prime time soap Dynasty, and was one of the many stars appearing on that year’s show. Every time Joan would move and strike another pose, the 35 mm cameras would all go off, volleys of shutter bursts chukachuakachuakachauka shshshshshhshsh, like someone squishing cellophane in their hands. It was transfixing, and a little scary.

I should have been far more impressed with having a nodding acquaintance with Georgia Brown than I did when I was 19, but I wasn’t, and that’s the silliness of youth. Her theatre and film credentials were solid, but perhaps most famously she performed with her Oliver! co-star Davy Jones (later of The Monkees) on the same 1964 Ed Sullivan show that featured the US live television debut of The Beatles. Ho hum.

As for Joan Collins, she never blocked my sight line with her big safari hat again, but her sister, Jackie, cursed at me and another usher at the end of the Royal Variety Performance when we wouldn’t let her leave the auditorium to join Joan backstage right after the curtain fell. That story involves the Queen, Andrew Lloyd Weber, the IRA, and a dust pan, but that will have to wait for another time because I just pulled something trying to pick up all those names I just dropped.

Everybody after the 1985 Royal Variety Performance. If you look about 200 feet to the left and through a couple of walls, you’ll see me. I also have a Lauren Bacall story…and a Patrick Duffy story (his is short – he came to 42nd Street and was very sweet for a famous dude).

Newsy Nerdy Notes

I had a calendar subscription for moon phases that disappeared, so I went looking for a new one and found this lovely astronomy calendar from Canton Becker. He’s a website developer and electronic musician, and also includes his personal projects on his website. I love his Peace Channel dedicated to his father and inspired by his father’s Electric Sheep screensaver usage.

Not sure where I stumbled upon Justine Haupt, but probably from reading about her rotary cellphone while I was searching for a new flip phone. She is an astronomy instrumentation engineer and seems just plain brilliant. I especially love that she has a YouTube channel but doesn’t want anyone to subscribe to it! The rotary cellphone is so tempting, but I don’t need it…if you do, though, buy it and tell me about it!

Out and about

Spring is here, and everyone is feeling fine. Agnetha survived the night and seems mightily improved, keeping up with the five other hens and soaking up the sun. She ate well, seemed alert, and although her crop looks rather enlarged in the photo below, it is much reduced and not full of the disgusting smelly liquid that gives sour crop its name.

Agnetha (Fältskog) leading the afternoon chicken parade, with Prue (Leith) right behind, and Clemmie (Churchill) bringing up the rear.

A plaintive meow as I was taking that photo alerted me to the fact that Sally, our tabby, was on the roof of our outbuilding. She walked back and forth, cleaned her paws, looking over the side pretending she didn’t know how she would ever make it back to earth. When she had had enough dramatics, she hopped onto the pine tree branch that hangs over the roof (and needs to be removed), and was soon scrambling down the tree trunk. Not bad for a 14-year-old moggy.

Help me!

Sour

I’m nursing my oldest hen, Agnetha, who seems to have sour crop, a yeast infection in the pouch where food is stored at the start of a hen’s digestive system. There seems to be ten million different methods on the internet for dealing with this condition, so colour me confused. I love being able to find information online, but, boy oh boy, there can be a lot to wade through.

Agnetha is a bit better today, but she is far from 100%, and this can be fatal. I live in St. Brigid’s parish, and Bridie has many patronages, including poultry keepers, so I have sent her my wish that she hold Aggie’s wing as her human tries to figure out what best to do. Bridie kept me safe when I was a milkmaid* and used to drive by her church on my way to and from the farm, so I expect she’ll do her best for Aggie.

I can’t help but think of the generations of women and men before me who would know exactly what to do, even people I knew well who kept hens but who are long gone. My mother doesn’t remember what they did for sour crop as she last kept hens about 78 years ago. For certain a sick hen back then didn’t spend the night in a dog crate in the laundry room being tempted with treats; it would likely more likely have had a date with the stew pot.

Prue, Agnetha and Rosie.

* I know, I know, I was officially a dairy farm worker, but who can resist having a job title that is mentioned in The Twelve Days of Christmas!?

Wifi QR code

With the new Bell Fibe system comes a new wifi network and password. I could set up a guest network for visitors, but opted again to follow Matt Haughey’s instructions to make a wifi QR code.

Thanks to Peter for first sharing this tip. His advice to get your own domain for your email prompted me to do just that, and start this website. Then I started blogging after his 2019 unconference. My advice is to follow Peter!