A Thunder Bay Story

A Thunder Bay Story
Julia Ann Roy, a black woman, a former slave, illiterate, mothering seven children in 19th century Port Arthur by operating a busy bawdy house on Elgin Street was notorious and shunned. She and her collection of black children are the subject of James Stevens' forthcoming book.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Children's Book by A S Byatt - review by the queen of reviewers - Margie Taylor

It has been said of A S Byatt that she does not wear her learning lightly. I’d go further: she has a tendency to club you over the head with it. The Children’s Book 
 (2009) is a bulging, behemoth of a book which frequently reads like an encyclopedia. There were times as I worked my way through this stunningly detailed story that I had the sense of being dragged unwilling through a large, eclectic museum by a well-informed but over-enthusiastic tour guide.

There are compelling stories within these 615 pages. There are men and women redefining themselves at the end of the Victorian era, children struggling to release themselves from parental expectations, family secrets that, when and if divulged, will confuse and even destroy members of the household. But these are buried, or temporarily shoved aside, by lectures (sorry, that’s the only word for it) on any one of the following: German puppetry; ceramics; the rebuilding of the South Kensington Museum; the hazards of investing in South African gold; the Arts and Crafts movement; the early days of British socialism. An enormous amount of attention is given to pots and glazes, theatre design, styles of dress, and what people eat. The details are overwhelming; it makes me think there’s a smaller book inside that might have worked better.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy it. Byatt’s an intelligent, compelling writer – she’s incapable of writing a bad book. I just wish she’d been a little less determined to instruct.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Freelance Writing (Workshop)

Tue Mar 20th 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Waverley Resource Library285 Red River Rd, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 1A9 

Side Gig: How to Make Money from Your

Freelance Writing

Wondering if you can get
paid for your non-literary writing?
Join two career freelance writer talking about
the ins and outs of the writing business,
including skills, markets, money, trends,
resources and marketing yourself.


Graham Strong
Bonnie Schiedel of North Star Writing
Admission is free for all participants including members of the public..

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Thunder Bay's True Murder Investigations 1885 - 2016. Interview with author Kim Casey

I read this book from cover to cover. Bought it at The Painted Turtle on Balsam Street in Thunder Bay. True crime stories interest me, especially historical crime. I am not alone. True crime books have a wide readership. Author Kim Casey has produced two wonderful books, both compilations of local murder stories. Many of these stories are not well known. Perhaps my interest comes from a child hood reading True Detective magazines which were always lying around the house, bought by my dad, a local police officer.

As usual Shauna does a great interview. And Kim will be at Brodie Library April 4th to talk about local murder. I will be there.

Interview with Kim Casey

by Shauna
Kim Casey is the author of five books, including Thunder Bay District’s True Murder Investigations 1885 to 2016 and Thunder Bay City’s True Murder Investigations 1882 – 2014.  Her books are self-published through her publishing house, Ahneen Publishing.  Casey will be at Brodie on Wednesday, April 4th to talk about Thunder Bay District’s True Murder Investigations 1885-2016.
Shauna Kosoris: What was the inspiration for your newest book, Thunder Bay District’s True Murder Investigations 1885 – 2016?
Kim Casey: While I was working on the Thunder Bay City’s True Murder Investigationsbook, I came across a lot of information about murder cases that occurred in the District. And due to their being so many, I thought it might make an informative book.
What was the most interesting fact you came across while researching the book?
In several of the murder cases, the accused claimed that they took another person’s life because they were defending themselves. And I was really surprised by some of the decisions made by jurors when it came to this defense.
Your last few books have been nonfiction, but prior to that you wrote some fiction books.  Do you have a preference for writing fiction or nonfiction?
I prefer nonfiction because it appeals to my insatiable search for truth.
Do you have any plans to go back to writing fiction?
I have no plans to write any more fiction.
So what drove you to create your own publishing house, Ahneen Publishing?
In the early years of my writing, I would send my manuscripts out to publishers. Most of them flat out rejected them with a patronizing form letter. There were some rare occasions where a publisher would show an interest in my work. One even offered me a book deal, than abruptly changed her mind. It got to be quite a frustrating and depressing process. So I was left with two choices. Walk away from writing or do it myself. I was leaning strongly towards the former but my dear partner Jon, kept encouraging me to continue. His belief in my ability to write, propelled me to self-publish.  
Why did you call it “Ahneen?”
The reason I call it Ahneen is to pay tribute to my partner and his aboriginal heritage. It means hello in Cree. Jon was taught that life isn’t about the amassing of money and possessions. It’s about living your truth and doing it in a way that is respectful of others and the universe.

What are you working on now?
I am revising the Thunder City’s True Murder Investigations book. I had no intention of doing this but when I was completing the book on the District, I came across more information on city murders. Particularly on cases from the past, that I don’t think are very well known. So I decided to update it, it should be done by early spring. Once the book is done, I will not update it again.
I’d like to finish up with a couple of quick questions on what you read.  What book or author inspired you to write?
There are so many authors and books that have inspired and influenced me. But the key ones are Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners, John Steinback’s Cannery Row, and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.
Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?
All of the above.
And what are you currently reading?
Right now, I am reading a book written by a writer from Manitouwadge. It’s called The Dead of Winter and it’s about the double-murder that occurred at the Antelope Mine, outside of Schreiber. Judy Sencza is the author and her father knew one of the victims. It’s a good read.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Chapter three, Jacqueline D'arce's stunning memoir.

A child steps out  

Jackie continues with her memoir, a mix of present and past, light and dark told with a courageous honesty. For those who want to read the previous chapter, type Reserve Champion in the search box upper left hand corner. The last sentence of chapter three ends "And so passed my years seven, eight and nine," a sentence that struck me in the heart .  I hope you enjoy this chapter as much as I did.

New Working Title:  A Fetching and Courageous Memoir by an Eloquent Woman

(Title created by Charles Wilkins, author Little Ship of Fools, et al)

A Memoir


Jacqueline D’arce

Chapter Three

I lost Chapter Three. I was doing some editing on it, hit a key and the whole chapter disappeared. Panicking, I tried everything. Could not get it back. After much kafluffle I found the Geek Squad at Best Buy. Got my delivery service to take the computer to them and waited, while entreating the Universe to please, please, bring Chapter Three back. I was trying to remember it and could think only of one scene. I was terrified I would not be able to remember the rest. Texted Charley Wilkins and he texted me back to start writing down everything I could remember about the chapter. Then I called filmmaker Kelly Saxberg who is quite knowledgeable about Mac’s and she got back to me with this advice. I could remember it. She once lost the entire first chapter of her Master’s Theses and it was never recovered, so she re-wrote from scratch and she said the re-write was better than the original.

Late in the afternoon my phone rang. It was Best Buy. I crossed my fingers, prayed, and answered. The Geek Squad had Chapter Three!  What geniuses!  Now I have to figure out a reliable backup system.

One night I lay on the chesterfield unable to sleep. I had a terrible toothache and I was bawling with the pain, calling for my mother. I was seven—It was quite different from six, more adult, less childish. Mother confided in me even more and I listened, troubled. It was often about money and how we didn’t have enough and also about my father. It was always—“Your father this…your father that...” followed by a complaint. I had no response. I had a complaint of my own.

“Without Bill, you kids wouldn’t have a decent Christmas and it’s a good thing Maw and Pop have the store so we always have enough to eat. And Maw sews so you always have nice clothes”—I yearned for store-bought clothes like the rest of the kids—“but without her, we’d be lost!”

 Christmas was a magical time at 544 Wiley. UncaBill made Christmas. In November, he took which ever kids were independently mobile and headed into the bush. We all tromped along in the snow behind him. As we walked we examined various trees for their candidacy as our Christmas tree. It was spruce versus balsam. Canada Jays flew up and away at our passage. Black and white Chickadees cried: “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee” as they hopped through the cedar. Bluejays complained from the treetops. Crows, black on the white snow, squawked and balanced on bare flimsy branches.

We’d note one or two trees but would carry on to be sure we picked the absolute right one. Finally we’d fix on just one. But before a single blow of the axe struck, we all circled around it to make sure it had at least three good sides. (A “bad” side would be shoved up against the wall.)  When everyone agreed this was “it,” UncaBill attacked with the axe with a mighty “whack!”  When the tree fell we cheered. Then the bigger kids helped UncaBill drag it back to the car where he tied it on the roof. Back at 544 it was placed in the front porch to thaw out and dry off before coming into the house. Meanwhile there was lots to do.

Gram made fruitcakes, dark and light. We kids gathered around Gram and our big blue kitchen bowl anxious to get in on the lickings. Besides the bowl, the table was crowded with candied cherries, orange and lemon rind, currants, gold and brown raisins, dates, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts. When baked, the cakes were wrapped in cheese cloth and tin foil and stored to age.

UncaBill strung a garland across the archway between the living and dining rooms and painstakingly hung tinsel, which he carefully smoothed out, one strand at a time. This tinsel was saved from years before. Nothing was wasted. Gram, Grampa, UncaBill and Mother had come through the Great Depression and frugality was paramount:  They still thought it was the Depression.

About a month before Christmas UncaBill brought the tree inside and set it upright in a bucket of coal. He filled it with water so the tree could drink and needles wouldn’t fall. Most years it was positioned in front of the living room picture window so the lights showed outside. The next big chore was untangling the strands of lights and replacing burnt-out bulbs—one bad bulb and the whole string wouldn’t work. I found this process to be tedious and the least fun thing about Christmas. But gamely I did my bit without complaint.

So the lights went up, followed by red, green, blue, gold and silver bulbs, silver and gold garland and more tinsel, again, placed lovingly one strand at a time. The balls were all different with different designs. They were stored wrapped in tissue paper, so rediscovering them each year brought back fond memories of previous years. Finally everything was up and everyone stood back to evaluate the beauty of this particular tree. It was almost always decided that this tree was the prettiest of all.

Presents began to appear beneath the tree and we all anxiously read out which one went to which child.

There was also always a platter of Mandarin oranges and a big bowl of nuts that we cracked and ate. UncaBill was not politically correct:  He called Brazil nuts “nigger toes.”  No one corrected him or even seemed to think this was appalling. I felt uneasy whenever he said it, yet not quite understanding why.

It was hard to get to sleep Christmas Eve. We put out milk, cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer. In the morning there was proof of Santa:  the cookies had bites taken out of them, the milk was half gone and the carrots were chewed.

After a lot of shouting: “Go to sleep!” we all finally succumbed, only to wake at five a.m. We were sent back to bed. We were allowed up at six, so then, we gathered around the tree. Presents from Santa were never wrapped but they always came with a note from him addressed to each child. The notes exhorted us to be good and mind our parents. Gram got us new clothes and Auntie Dell, a card with quarters scotch-taped inside. Big presents always came from UncaBill. Presents from Santa were small and simple, usually a colouring book or a toy truck. UncaBill got us rocking horses, big trucks and a favourite of mine and Jeffrey’s: farm sets.

Sometimes we went to church, sometimes not. Grampa always went to the Catholic church.

In the kitchen “the bird” was prepared. Father made stuffing and so did Gram. They competed over who was making the best. The kitchen was bright and fragrant with thyme, sage and onion. Rusty sat in the middle of the kitchen, alert to scraps.

“Gotcha beat, this year, Ida!”  crowed Father, mixing his concoction with his bare hands.

“Certainly not, Jack!  You’re using too much onion!” rejoined Gram.

“Just wait and see. They’ll gobble all of mine up!  You never use enough sage,” said Father. And on and on.

Later, while eating, we kids were asked to judge which stuffing was best. We never had a clear answer. They tasted the same.

The stuffing was pushed inside the bird, always a big 22-pounder—or more. One year, Gram found a 28-pounder. She was thrilled over this discovery. The stuffed bird was placed in the oven. Mother, as usual, took some time and did her face and hair—pictures would be taken and she always wanted to look her best. She spruced us kids up so we looked good for the photos. Then she set about making pumpkin and mincemeat pies. When I was seven I was started on peeling potatoes and carrots. “Leave some potato, Jackie,” Gram said. “Thinly slice off the peel. That’s it…and take your time. Get it right.”  Then Mother made a big cabbage salad and I finished up the potatoes and carrots.

One year there was a huge wooden box addressed to “Ma.”  Gram was greatly excited as UncaBill pried open the box with big grin on his face. The lid came off and Gram stepped up and lifted a tissue-wrapped object. She began to smile as she unwrapped…a plate! Then another and another and another. It was twelve-piece set of china from UncaBill. Immediately, Gram cleaned them and put them on the table.

Everyone pitched in and gathered up all the torn Christmas wrappings, restoring the house to its Christmas shininess.

The bird was basted every half hour. Father and Gram kept up a good natured, competitive banter about the superiority of their stuffing. Gram made a suet pudding with dried fruits and two different sauces, one a creamy white sauce, the other a hard sauce, mainly made of butter and confectioner’s sugar. Meanwhile Father fixed Gram a drink of rye and ginger ale. She sipped at it and her cheeks turned red.

Potatoes were mashed with milk and butter. Black olives—my favourite—gherkins, bread and butter pickles and dill pickles were set out, along with pickled beets that Gram had canned the summer before.

Gram started giggling a lot. Everyone teased that she was tipsy.

Grampa returned from church. He saw Gram with her drink and he began to rail against the evils of strong drink. The adults continued to sip their rye and ginger. No one paid any attention to him. Finally he yelled, “Well, I’m going to go up and stand in the closet while all this drinking is going on.”  Then he stomped from the kitchen, up the stairs and disappeared, we supposed, into a closet. In reality, drinking was never a big issue at our house. Father bought one bottle of rye and one of rum and there would always be some left once Christmas and New Year’s was over. One year UncaBill bought a bottle of Crème de Menthe and drank half of it. He passed out on the chesterfield and was the butt of jokes for months. He wasn’t a very sophisticated drinker.

Friends and relatives stopped by and were served rye whiskey and ginger ale, rum and pepsi, while others had tea, Christmas cake and Christmas cookies that I helped make. After a bit Mother made sure we all looked our best and Father took us out to visit relatives. We went to see Auntie Dell and her handsome husband, Uncle Ted. Her daughter, cousin Maisie and her son, Gord, were there. I was delighted to see my cousin Ritchie, who was about my age. Ritchie grew up to be tall, dark and movie star handsome. He changed his name to “Ric,” which I never could get used to. He started an auto parts business and became, family legend says, a millionaire. Jeffrey played with his younger sister, Vin, a petite blonde girl. And she got famous for having tuberculosis while she was an infant. The whole family, including us—the Montgomery-Cryderman clan—had to have TB skin tests. I remember getting the injection in the forearm and watching the patch left there to see if it turned red, indicating TB. We were all found to be negative.

In time, Vin recovered with no after effects. Ritchie and Vin were the children of Dora, a rail-thin brunette and Gord, who, like UncaBill, walked with a limp. Something had happened with his hip when he was a child. He was a good country-western singer and had actually cut a record. Maisie, I adored. She always called me “chicken,” as in “Whatcha doin’ chicken?”  She had a good job at an insurance agency and was always very well dressed, her hair perfectly coiffed, her nails painted a bright red. She smoked and often had a drink in hand, rye in clinking ice. I stared at her, memorizing her perfection of turnout. She was famous for being able to type over a hundred words per minute. She was also infamous for being married three times, but her last marriage, to Percy Tully “took.”  They were together for decades until his death. Mother told me that Maisie bought all my shoes from infancy until I was three years old. She never had children of her own. When I wanted to get away from it all I went to Auntie’s, but after she had her stroke, I went to Maisie’s to drink tea and talk and talk, then spent the night, awakening renewed. I miss Maisie.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Personal, The Political, and the Public

Jim Foulds

Remembering Elizabeth Kouhi       

When my friend, Betty Kouhi, died in January I couldn’t attend her funeral because I was (and am) in Portugal. Similarly, last November I was in Cuba when her family and a small gathering of her “young friends” (mostly teachers and writers now in their seventies and eighties) met to celebrate her 100th birthday. In ways I can’t define, I profoundly missed being there. I felt I had let myself, our mutual friends, her family and Betty down. It left a hole somehow. Elizabeth Kouhi was that most complex of human beings -- a poet and a genuine Christian. While being fully aware of their flaws, foibles, weaknesses, and their dangers, she really did love the world, human nature, her friends, her family, and Nature. She not only meant well; she lived well. To paraphrase Arthur Miller, ‘Tribute must be paid to this woman.’

She was the first recipient of the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop Kouhi Award, named by her fellow writers in her honour and established to recognize “outstanding contributions to the literature of Northwestern Ontario.”  She had an unbelievably huge and positive impact on my life. And on the lives of many others.

I first met Elizabeth Kouhi in mid-winter of 1957/58 at Tom and Dusty Miller’s small house on North High Street. I was a beginning teacher at Lakeview. She was teaching in Raith. I wanted to become a writer. She already was one.   

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

An oldie but a goodie. Margie Taylor, our extraordinary reviewer, tackles The Thirty Nine Steps.

As  a teen ager, I loved this book. I think I read it a couple of times. At the time I was hooked on adventure stories so of course I read other Buchan books but this is the only one I remember. As usual Margie Taylor gives an insightful review of a classic. 

“I returned from the City about three o’clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life.”
This, I think, is a perfect first line. Why is he – if it is a he – disgusted with life? What’s happened up to now? And what is about to happen on that May afternoon that will change things? We’re immediately drawn in, and, in the case of The 39 Steps, we’re not disappointed.
Published in 1915, John Buchan’s thriller takes place during the spring and early summer of the previous year. A European war is pending, and Richard Hannay, a 37-year-old former mining engineer, has returned to England from Rhodesia, having made a comfortable pile of money. He’s been back in the “old country” for three months and is fed up with it:
“The weather made me liverish, the talk of the ordinary Englishman made me sick, I couldn’t get enough exercise, and the amusements of London seemed as flat as soda-water that has been standing in the sun. ‘Richard Hannay,’ I kept telling myself, ‘you have got into the wrong ditch, my friend, and you had better climb out.'”
He’ll give it one more day, he decides; then, if nothing changes, he’ll head back to Cape Town. That night, as he’s unlocking the door to his apartment, he’s accosted by a stranger, a nervous little man who asks to speak to him for a minute. Hannay invites him in – trusting soul, isn’t he? But it was different times. Anyway, if he’d brushed him off, we’d have no story.
After ensuring that the apartment is locked, the stranger, an American named Franklin P. Scudder, lays out the details of a nefarious plot – I use the word advisedly – involving German anarchists, British military secrets, and the assassination of the Greek prime minister during his upcoming visit to London. Scudder, a kind of freelance spy, must lie low until the day of the visit, at which point he’ll alert the authorities and thwart the anarchists. It’s no use alerting them sooner – the prime minister’s visit would be canceled and the Germans would merely find another time and place to do him in. Everything must go ahead as planned until the very last minute.
Unfortunately, Scudder’s whereabouts have been discovered and his life is in danger. To throw the killers off the scent, he has faked his own death and is hoping Hannay will agree to let him hide out with him for the next few weeks. Deciding he likes Scudder and, more important, trusts him, Hannay agrees. Scudder provides a few more details over the next few days, expressing the hope that if something happens to him, his new friend will do his best to take his place. He mentions several things, in particular a Black Stone and man who speaks with a lisp. And someone else, who Scudder can’t speak of without shuddering: an old man with a young voice who can hood his eyes like a hawk.
During this time, Scudder continues to fear for his life, and rightly so. One night Hannay returns home to find Scudder lying dead, a long knife skewering him to the floor. He’s been killed because of what he knows, and Hannay figures he’s next. He can’t call the police, as he’s now a prime suspect in Scudder’s murder. His only option, he feels, is to go into hiding until he can stop the spy ring and clear his name. He boards an express train to Scotland, taking with him Scudder’s notebook, which contains the details of the plot written in code.
The 39 Steps is one of the earliest examples of the “innocent-man-on-the-run”, a format that’s been used many times over the years – The FugitiveNorth by Northwest and The Bourne Identity come to mind. Like much of the genre, the story contains a number of fortuitous, but unlikely, coincidences. Right at the moment when our hero is about to be nabbed by either the police or the Germans, an offensive little fop named Marmaduke Jopley, whom Hannay met in London, just happens to come by in a touring-car, offering Hannay a chance to disguise himself and escape through the police cordon. Keep in mind that we’re now in the Scottish highlands, more than 500 km from London and at least a two-day drive back then. And yet, here he is. How, as I said, fortuitous.
Buchan, like many English writers before him, was fond of aping the dialect of “country folk”, often with unfortunate results. Here, for instance, we have a speech by a Scottish roadman – who is, of course, drunk. (My apologies to my friends of Scottish heritage):
“The trouble is that I’m no sober. Last nicht my dochter, Merran, was waddit, and they danced till fower in the byre. Me and some ither chiels sat down to the drinkin’ – and here I am. Peety that I ever lookit on the wine when it was red!”
Still, Richard Hannay is an appealing character – a civilian everyman given the chance to be brave and selfless. You find yourself cheering for him all the way through. When Alfred Hitchcock filmed the book in 1935, he spiced it up by providing Hannay with an attractive blonde companion and replaced Scudder with a female spy named Annabella Smith. Neither of these women appear in the book; the story works quite well without them. Also, in the film, the “39 steps” refers to the German spies – in the book, it doesn’t.
John Buchan was Canada’s Governor-General from 1935 until his death from a stroke-related head injury in 1940. He was a prolific author, having produced almost 30 novels, seven collections of short stories, and a handful of biographies. But it’s his tale of espionage, followed by four more Richard Hannay thrillers, for which he’s best remembered, and deservedly so.
As writers and readers we should also be grateful for the author’s legacy of his time in office: the Governor-General’s Literary awards. Thank you, Mr. Buchan.

John Buchan, former governor-general of Canada and founder of the Governor-General's Literary awards.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Play is the Thing!

March Readings

Thu Mar 15th 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Mary J.L. Black Library901 Edward St S, Thunder Bay, ON P7E 6R2, Canada map 
Theme: 10x10 Plays
Readers: TBD

Freelance Writing (Workshop)

Tue Mar 20th 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Waverley Resource Library285 Red River Rd, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 1A9 map 

Side Gig: How to Make Money from Your

Freelance Writing 

Wondering if you can get
paid for your non-literary writing?
Join two career freelance writer talking about
the ins and outs of the writing business,
including skills, markets, money, trends,
resources and marketing yourself.


Graham Strong
Bonnie Schiedel of North Star Writing
Admission is free for all participants including members of the public.

Saturday, February 3, 2018


Elizabeth Pszczolko, new President of the Northwestern Ontario Writers' Workshop

Where do you get your ideas? How do I find an editor? What is the difference between indie and traditional publishing?

Ready to answer your questions about writing at this free event are: Marion Agnew, Ma-Nee Chacaby, H. Leighton Dickson, Michelle Krys, Jordan Lehto and Jean E. Pendziwol.
 Their writing ranges from children’s books to young adult fiction, autobiography to fantasy, adult fiction to playwriting.

Six authors. Three hours. Twenty- minute conversations. You can sign up ahead of time for a private 20-minute session with one or more of the writers by calling the library at 684-6816. Some time slots will be kept open for walk-ins.

Waverley Resource Library, February 24, 1 pm to 4 pm.

For more information and bios of these six local authors visit the NOWW website at http://nowwwriters.ca.


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Reviewed by Margie Taylor

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs . . .”

So begins The Bell Jar, with an opening sentence that foreshadows events to come. Such a sentence promises the reader we are in for a remarkable story. If only the book lived up to that promise. If only its author had lived to write other, better books. If only.

The Bell Jar was first published in London in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. Ostensibly, Sylvia Plath didn’t want her mother and other family and friends to be hurt by the way they were pictured. Friends have said she would never have wanted the book to come out under her own name while her mother was alive.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Arthur Black Blogs about his Pancreatic Cancer

Arthur Black, who was a long time Thunder Bay resident, is remembered fondly by many local people.  His humorous columns and books were popular and widely read. As this excerpt from his blog reveals, Arthur was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  His humour and great writing style have not been affected.

I, ARTHUR BLACK, being of sound (sort of) mind, stable-ish judgement and having achieved the venerable age of three score and fourteen...

....have decided to become a druggie.

Forced into it, really. Last month my doctor told me I have pancreatic cancer. PanCan is not one of your cuddly, curly-haired cancers. It's aggressive and remorseless. It does not respond to incantations, infusions or an apple a day.

Drugs? Well, yeah, pancreatic cancer sort of acknowledges drugs. That's why I am currently taking magnesium, Omega 3, B12, milk thistle, curcumin, vitamin D and something my bookie swears by called Coenzyme Q10.

But that's just the over-the-counter stuff. I am also, by perscription, throwing back recommended daily doses of multisyllabic intruders with names like Ramapril, Rabeprazole and Metformin.

Oh, and there's one other chemical kick that I'm treating myself to these days. Cannabis extract. If you bought it in the park you'd ask for hash oil. (Though chances are you'd end up with a rusty cap full of WD40.) I prefer to get my dope from an establishment a little more bricks-and-mortar than a park bench, so I went to the legit storefront in my hometown.

Where I purchased a slim plastic syringe-type pump full of something that looked like a gob of road tar on an August afternoon.

That's yer hash oil, my friend. Just take a tiny, tiny dab – on the end of a toothpick, say – and tuck it under your tongue...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A neat short short story sent to me by William Appleby who lives in Moretonhamstead in Devon England.

By William Appleby

Ever since he went on the office coach trip to Scotland he longed to make a whisky still. Not that he was a whisky drinker but more the desire to make something that worked, something that, in his imagination, had a life of its own.

He read numerous books about whisky and searched antique shops for a still. In his local watering hole, he became a bore with his talk about whisky and its manufacture.

Difficult to know if his latest trip to the council dump was guided by some hidden force or just an accident, but whatever it was, he found an old metal still. It was too large for his car or trailer so he hired a pick-up and bullied two friends to help him.

A month of so later, he had a working still heated by gas cylinders set up in his timber-framed garage.  His ingredients were ripe barley, yeast, and spring water plus heat. He went to bed a happy man, his wife relieved that he achieved something though what it was she was not sure.

It was one in the morning when it happened. A tremendous noise, a fountain of boiling liquid and a garage on fire. The bedroom window which faced the blast scattered broken glass onto the bed and floor.

His dream of crates of whisky shattered as well.