Mr. Holmes

I recently went with friends to see the movie Mr. Holmes, and I  would like to share some thoughts with you. Ian McCellen does a fine job portraying an aging Sherlock Holmes whose memory and health are failing quickly. He is retired and is spending his sunset years as  a bee keeper. The movie begins with Holmes returning home from  a trip  to Japan where he was in search of a rare plant he believed to have miraculous healing powers. His travelling companions were his widowed housekeeper played by Laura Linney and her young son, Roger . Milo Parker, a precocious and talented young British actor takes on the role of Roger.

The ten year old idolizes Holmes. To him he is a role model, father figure and  grandfather figure. Holmes becomes increasingly   protective of the lad and increasingly dependent on him for help tending to the bees and also for his support and aid in helping him write his memoirs and  recalling the unsolved case that led to his retirement. Their bond of friendship deepens and their mutual reliance on each other  increases as the movie progresses.

There is aways the possibility that someone stung by a bee or other  insect can suffer a severe allergic reaction. This happened to a character in the movie. This scene brought back terrible memories to me. Someone in my family was stung and quickly went into anaphylactic shock-a life threatening reaction to venom or other things such as peanuts. We assumed the three bites he received when he moved a chair on the porch and disturbed a nest belonged to bees. .. However at a later date the family member was tested by an allergist and the indication was he wasn’t allergic to bees but rather to  wasps and yellow Jackets,. Sometimes our friends the bees get unfairly blamed for the stings of others.

Those who attended the film with me , shared my enthusiasm for the movie- that is except one friend who sat beside me and dozed blissfully through the flashbacks  and the smooth shifting of scenes between the  old man Holmes  and the younger middle aged sleuth  prior to his retirement.

I decided to ask a good friend – Hartley R.  Nathan Q.C. his take on the movie. He found it to be a little slow and a little light. He is a Sherlockian. A Sherlockian is a fan of Sherlock Holmes who spends time pouring through author, Sir Conan Doyles  fifty six stories  and four novels about the adventures and exploits of the fictitious super sleuth. The great game is a convention played internationally. The players are enthusiastic and devote their time  trying to clarify ambiguities in the lives of the detective and his friend and assistant, Dr. Watson, as depicted in the written works by Doyle. The premise is that Holmes is a real person. It’s all part of the game.  The enthusiasts  often belong to local societies which are part of a world wide internet. Nathan is a founding member of “The Bootmakers of Toronto” and also belongs to the ‘Sherlock Holmes Society of London’ and the ‘Baker Street Irregulars of New York.’ He is also co founder of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection of the Metro Toronto Reference Library. He recently co authored a book with Clifford S. Goldfarb, published by Mosaic Press: INVESTIGATING SHERLOCK HOLMES SOLVED AND UNSOLVED MYSTERIES. This book of essays offers new incite into  the life of the great detective. It can be ordered at any Chapters or Indigo store.




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The polite scammer and Me

Yesterday In the early afternoon the phone rang, Call display showed it to be a long distance call originating from Ottawa, the capital of Canada. I answered the phone and this is what I  heard on the recorded call.”There is a warrant out for your arrest  by the Federal government for income tax invasion please call this number immediately. Thank you,  have a good day and God Bless.” How could anybody have a nice day after hearing that message? l knew this had to be a scam. As a matter of fact I.had received a similar phone message a few weeks ago and just ignored it..This time however,I decided to be a responsible  citizen and report this scam. I called the Federal government and I was given the number to the anti fraud department.I dialed and when the call was  answered I told my tale of woe.

The gentleman on the other end  verified my name and address and told me to have a nice day and God Bless. My stomach dropped, and my heart started beating rapidly and my knees were shaking. This was the voice of my ,who I believed to be  scammer. How could this be? The voice continued  and informed me that there was $1876  owing for 2009 income tax and if it was  not paid within 45 minutes I would be under arrest. I was told a policeman was  on his way and would be knocking on my door to take me to jail, if I  didn’t  follow these simple directions. I was instructed to pay electronically. I protested  and said I couldn’t do that. He said my other alternative was to pay at the bank of Nova Scotia quickly. This was surreal . Canada isn’t  a third world country. Was I having a night mare ? Was I losing my mind ? I felt like I was playing the leading role  in an Alfred Hitchcock  movie.

I pleaded for an extra couple of hours to give me time to consult with my accountant and family. I told him I was sure an error had been made and to the best of my knowledge nothing was owed. I was told I had  ignored previous warnings and that I  must pay within forty Five minutes or be thrown in jail. He told me if I didn’t comply I should hire a lawyer because I would need one.

I wasn’t afraid of going to jail.  it would be a new experience and  it would make great material for a blog. However I couldn’t bear the the thought of my neighbours in my condo complex  looking on as I was dragged through the halls kicking and screaming. The thought also crossed my mind that the building has excellent security and the staff are very protective of the people living here and wouldn’t let me be dragged away.

I was told time was running out. I answered that this was ridiculous and even though my hands were shaking I managed to hang up the phone. I didn’t pay anything. The police never showed up and I didn’t go to jail. With the help of others I did some investigating and was assured I didn’t owe income tax for 2009. The long distance number was an unassigned number. How the scammer managed to acquire this number is a mystery. When we later dialled it the phone rang continuously  but there was no answer.

Other questions haunted me . How was the Federal government involved?  Was the government or someone in the government  involved in the scam? I thought it was more likely that the scammer had bugged my phone and was able to intercept my calls. This upset and frightened  me. Then another thought trickled into my head, Was it possible that I had mistakenly called Mr. chillingly polite instead of the government anti fraud department. Both numbers were written on the same piece of paper and  If any of you have read my blog or book you will see that I tend to be a little absent minded.

I had the need to know. Occasionally I have a good idea. I called my phone server. The representative was most helpful and was able to confirm that I had indeed made a long distance call to the scammer– and I was charged for it. She reversed the charge. I also took advantage to consult with her regarding my long distance plan and she modified it to reduce the monthly cost. All was not lost.

Hopefully I will not be bothered with any more scams. I learned a couple of lessons to pass on.  Hang up immediately if you suspect a scan. Better yet if you have call display, don’t answer the phone unless you know the caller.  Most important pay attention to the number you are dialling and insure that  it is directed to where it is intended to go. Had I followed this advice I would have saved myself a lot of anguish. I feel a little foolish.




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Who are the Pickled Lilies?  you ask. well if you had read “Why me? a memoir” chapter 6 you would know. We are group of  fourteen diverse women who belong or once belonged to the same fitness club.After our workout or walk it has been a tradition  for over 30 years to have a coffee and share gossip and laughter at the Pickle Barrel Restaurant.

It has also been a tradition for a number of years for us to have a three day getaway at our family cottage. No men, kids or dogs allowed. It was at the cottage that we officially became the Pickled Lilies.  Most of us had read or were reading “the Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya  Sisterhood” written by Rebecca Wells and published in 1996. We decided we too should have a name. Sitting by the lake , and being a little tipsy from drinking sangria, while watching the water lilies swaying gently in the breeze it hit us –we would be known as the Pickled Lilies, or by the abbreviated version, the PL’s.

But alas , good things come to an end and because of various circumstances we were unable to have our traditional cottage gathering  for a few years. But this year was different- we reinstituted  our three day retreat.

Some things never change. The Lilies insisted on doing the shopping, meal planning and cooking. Who am I to complain? It is nice to be pampered.  However some things do change. Our meals were not as elaborate as they once were. We used to take pride in homemade gastronomical delights, such as oven roasted root vegetables drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with all kinds of fresh herbs. This year we just threw sweet potatoes in the micro wave and instead of steaks on the barbecue  we opted for barbecue chicken from Costco one night and barbecued  hamburger patties purchased  from Costco the second night. However we didn’t starve and everything tasted wonderful. Like previous years the first thing on the agenda was to make the sangria. However this is the first year that we added bottled Sangria to make it go further and extend its life.

A lot of our circumstances have changed. Some of us have lost our spouses. One of the PL”s is in a nursing home and another has a husband in a healthcare facility suffering from the horrible affliction of Alzheimers disease. There were eight of us this year plus two who came for the day. We missed Tara G. who  is recuperating  at home from recent bypass surgery. We also missed her cranberry martinis  and broschetta

I predicted that the first to arrive would be Jenna and Ellen S. and lynn. I was right.They are always early.I was upstairs when I heard the door open.I came down and was greeted with “Look she is still in her pajamas. Well I wasn’t in my pajamas .I was dressed to impress in  what i thought was a pretty colourful dress. I told them this and Jenna said ” oh I have a shmatta {rag} like that at home.” You have to understand that over the years we have learned to push each others buttons, usually, but not always in jest!

Next to arrive was the bulk of the food accompanied by Merle, Eve, Ella and Candy. Candy was carrying the box from Costco and promptly spilled the red juices from the burgers all over  the floor. Our two day guests , Tara L. and Sherry arrived. We cleaned the floor while Eve assembled the sangria. After lunching on party sandwiches and the sangria we headed down to the beach. Someone walked into the small beach bunky to use the washroom. She didn’t use it because there was white foam and mysterious black crud floating in the toilet. What was it? We had no idea. I called my neighbour who happens to be the mayor to ask him if he would mind taking a look. He did us a favour and came over. He solved the mystery by saying someone cleaned the washroom and threw  the soapy water from the bucket into the toilet and  didn’t flush it.We opted not to use that bathroom, for fear it might overflow and instead trudged many many times back up the hill to the main cottage to use the facilities.

last time prior to the lilies visit there was a sighting of an otter. A few of the ladies went for a swim the first day.Those of us on the beach never told the swimmers about the otter. our favourite saying was You”otter” go into the water. We would break into peals of laughter. The swimmers thought we were nuts. This year my kids encountered a beaver hanging out by the dock.I  told the swimmers but not until we were already in the water. Actually the water was beautiful, wet and warm. This was the hottest week of the season and maybe  a record was set for temperature and humidity. Candy claims she was bitten by a fish. Three bathing beauties came running out of the water. At least we didn’t encounter the beaver or the otter.

There were  other minor casualties as  well. Ella had a headache. Eve got her rear end stuck in a swimming  tube. When she climbed onto the dock, we pulled on  the tube . It came loose and dropped into the lake.  A ski boat had just gone by and caused turbulent waters. The tube started floating rapidly across the lake with Jenna and myself in hot pursuit, huffing and puffing..We finally caught it and brought it back to shore just as Eve came with a rake to try to retrieve it. A little too little a little too late.  The next day Eve got her same rear end stuck in the same tube. This time we refused to help her.

Ellen S. had a  couple mishaps. Her lounge collapsed with her on it, not once but twice,  and she had an allergic reaction to something that affected her eyes.When she wasn’t busy dealing with her mishaps, the rest  of us would amuse ourselves watching her cat nap and listen to her gentle snoring. She was completely oblivious to the rest of the world.We were jealous . There were other complaints- tingles and cramps and other oddities that come with age.

Our chronological age has increased substantially, but our maturity hasn’t. In fact our emotional and mental maturity seems to have regressed. Soon we will be in our second childhood. Our language used this week at the cottage would shock our grandchildren and we giggle at the stupidest things. We love to laugh and rehash our past escapades and adventures.We never fail to amuse ourselves and we are our own best audience. This amusement is probably enhanced from the effect of the  sangria or red wine or whatever we happen to be drinking at the moment.

Speaking of the sangria, I went into the kitchen and there was the delicious drunken fruit from the sangria sitting in a bowl.Everybody else was at the beach. I couldn’t resist.I started eating the saturated orang slices and didn’t see Candy come in.She started to yell at me. “Put that back we need that fruit to add to tomorrows sangria. “  I knew that but I didn’t think anybody would notice a few missing orange slices and I didn’t know Candy would come to spy on me. She then went to the beach and told the rest of them about my transgression. I was so mortified about my sin that I couldn’t look anybody in the eye for about a minute. I got even with Candy ..she told me that she intended to stay down at the beach the longest so that the others would have the table set and dinner prepared. I told the rest of the group and her plot was foiled.

In the evenings we played Mahj Jong, Canasta and bridge. Some of us played better than others and some of us let that fact be known. Other years we often went on outings to neighbouring towns, but this year we were content to just stay at the cottage.

All in all it was a great few days. I apologize to my cottage neighbours. We were probably loud and obnoxious as usual, worse than the teenagers.

I appreciate my friendship with the lilies . We truly are a sisterhood. we have gone through life phases at approximately the same time-the trials and tribulation of child rearing, menopause, family weddings and divorces and deaths of loved ones. We mourn as a group.We take each loss personally and share in the joy of personal and family accomplishment of our sistersNo matter what age we are, females  need female friends. I hope my granddaughters take time out from their phones, computers  etc. to cultivate real  friendships. Friends are  an asset especially as one ages. Here’s to the pickled Lilies -Keep on laughing. I’ll drink a cup of Sangria to that and then eat all the orange slices.

I will attempt to add photos if I can figure out how to post them

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Yes some days are better than others and yesterday was definitely not one of those days.

The day started out just fine . a morning walk with friends and then breakfast with a younger cousin. After that it was downhill.

I went for a badly needed manicure. I got yelled at. There was one patron having polish put on her nails. I was told to take the chair next to hers . The problem was her large purse was on that chair. I didn’t think it was politically or ethically correct to sit on her purse and besides it might have hurt my delicate derriere so I asked her if it would be okay if I moved her purse. Her very loud  response, “ABSOLUTELY  NOT,  DONT YOU DARE TOUCH MY PURSE. “ I was in shock and didn’t know if I should laugh or cry . I did neither but just glared at her .She then sweetly asked the manager of the salon to please move her purse.

I came home and inquired about two friends who recently had surgery. Hopefully they will both make complete and speedy recoveries. However I was devestated to learn of the passing of a dear friend and neighbour, after a courageous but relatively short battle with ALS.

I also learned that due to miscommunication with a friend, she had purchased a ticket for me to see the production of “Kinky Boots” for the only evening  in August that I had an important prior commitment. Apparently the tickets are non refundable or exchangeable. It is something I will have to work out.

To add insult to misery my air conditioning unit  wasn’t working and the hottest muggiest most polluted days of the season are forcast for the week.  The superintendent from the building came to take a look. He removed the front panel and told me my air conditioner was frozen. Sure enough there was tremendous ice buildup on the inside. I have defrosted fridges and freezers before but never an air conditioner. The super told me to phone the service contractor. He also told me that it was going to cost me mega bucks and that the warranty had  run out  last year. The repair men arrived early today and they have been working for four hours with an estimated few more hours to go. Apparently there is a leak in the coil. They are confident it can  be repaired by injecting the coil with a fairly new water proof substance. I guess that is better than having to replace the whole machine.

I can’t say that tomorrow{ Sunday} will be a better day. Tomorrow is the funeral for my friend may she rest in peace– but hopefully Monday will be a big improvement.We must carry on and count our blessings.

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I recently travelled to our family cottage in Georgian Bay with my daughter, son in law, two young grandsons and Kaga the large  dog. I shared the back seat with the two boys secured in  their respective carseat and booster seat. Kaga the large dog travelled in the very back of the car. He was secured in . Rather than lying down he preferred to spend most of the trip standing behind me, breathing hot air down my neck , licking my ear and occasionally cooling me off with a little doggie drool .The boys were great and amused themselves playing games and watching movies on their I pods. It is so much easier motoring with children today than when my kids were little.

It was raining on the drive up and it was still raining when we reached our destination. Upon our arrival we were greeted with a multitude of mosquitoes and other insects that followed us into the cottage.

Let me tell you a little bit about the boys. One is six and one is three. Both are active and have an overabundance of energy, and fear nothing. Unless they are kept busy they like to challenge each other to  duals such as seeing who succeeds in pushing the other off the trampoline. Inevitably these duals end up with one of them in tears. Fortunately their clever parents are very innovative in finding activities  and outings to keep them busy. The family like exploring small towns and eating at various out of the way restaurants. This is a treat for me because my recently departed husband preferred to spend his cottage time  water skiing and driving the boat– passions I didn’t particularly share with him.

After a good nights sleep the kids were awake early. When I came downstairs, I was accosted by an exuberant three year old. He didn’t say good morning but rather he excitedly shouted ” We’re going bowling–Yup! Yup!”. This was accompanied by his unique happy dance .

And bowling we did go.But first we went to  YANNIS  FAMILY RESTAURANT in Fesserton for a huge breakfast. The food featuring Greek and American dishes was good and the prices reasonable. After breakfast we went grocery shopping and then dropped off a bag of decluttered stuff from the cottage to Value village. While there we bought some books for the minors. At last it was time to go bowling. The  small bowling alley is located in the pretty town of Coldwater. To get to the bowling alley we had to walk through the town laundromat .Fun was had by all. Even when there was a storm related power outage and it was pouring outside our spirits weren’t dampened. The six year old proved to be a great bowler. The three year old bowled like a typical three year old. Do I bowl better than a three year old? I refuse to answer that. Some things are not meant to be shared on social media and that is one of those things..

We spent the next morning at the cottage and then headed  to HENRY’S FISH AND CHIP  restaurant for Lunch. Henry’s is a Georgian Bay tradition, popular for its battered fish and chips and fresh pickerel dinners. There is a large outdoor patio that overlooks the water. We found the restaurant to be kid friendly. The boys enjoyed watching the boats in the marina and the people on the boats. Henry’s is located on Ogden Beach Road in Midland.

After our stomachs were full we stayed in the Midland area and visited Saint Marie Among the Hurons, the firstEuropean community in Ontario. This attraction brought back memories to the time I came with my children. This was a French Jesuit community  established in 1639 and acted as the  headquarters for the Jesuit mission to the Huron Wendat nations. The goal was  to spread Catholicism. This was a fenced community that encompassed barracks, a church, workshops, residences, and a sheltered area for native visitors. The mission was short lived. The settlement was attacked in 1649 by the Iroquois. The Missionaries chose to destroy the mission  rather than risk having it desecrated. They travelled back to France, after burning the settlement to the ground. Reconstruction started on the original location in 1964 and is now a historical site and museum. St.- Marie  among the Hurons brings to life early Canadian pioneer living and interaction between the Jesuits and the Hurons.

The young ones loved going into the different buildings  and climbing stairs to the bedroom levels, and running around outside, Customed guides were present giving talks and answering questions. The boys interacted with the farm animals did arts and crafts and played games that children had played centuries before and of course  visited the modern day snack bar. Back at the cottage it was running through the sprinkler time. They slept well that night .

Most of the following day was spent at the cottage. the weather vacillated between sort of good and not so good. The squirrels and chipmunks were happy we were there because they were fed lots of peanuts. late afternoon the family headed to Penetanguishene for a satisfying dinner at PHILS. I chose to stay back and do some chores,

Kaga needed a hair cut and this day was planned around his needs. An appointment at Hill-Cress dog Haven in Victoria Harbour was arranged for him. We dropped him off and we were very impressed with the clean and well maintained facilities and the happy dogs that we observed. This facility also boasts a dog rescue program, provides training programs and offers boarding and doggie day care.

We said goodbye to our pet and went to pick strawberries near Midland at Thunder Beach Strawberry Farm. The strawberries were sweet and plentiful. The Farm appeared to be a family business run by Ma and Pa who were seniors and enjoyed talking to children. Children  were given a worm. No, not a real one but one made of fabric that wiggled.

We took time to do some grocery shopping and then headed to Little Lake Road Park in Midland, where a festival was being held. It was a long walk down to the lovely park. We saw most people walking  with a hiking pole. We were told that they were giving them out free of charge. at the other end of the park. There was lots of activities for the kids.,After about half an hour I convinced my daughter that we should  get one of the wooden poles, because one never knows when one will go hiking or take up pole vaulting. We told the males in our family we would be back in about five minutes. I knew we had to pick up the dog .Well we walked and we walked and we walked some more. At last like a mirage the booth that was giving out the poles miraculously appeared. But Oh No, there was a long line up. I finally reached the front of the line and was prepared to be handed the pole but I was told they wanted to talk to me first about the beads on the stick. It was then that I noticed that the booth was run by  “Fellowship of  Christian Farmers Canada”. the talk was interesting and informative but I knew we had to get back and I was suffering anxiety. I think I offended them when I declined to take part in the prayer circle because of my time curtailment.

We didn’t have time to take in another attraction In Midland that I had visited with another set of Grandkids. CastleVillage and Enchanted kingdom park is another family run business. It is up for sale because it is getting hard for the owners to maintain. Kids enjoy fantasy by peaking into the windows of  various fairy tale houses, have fun on the unique slides in the playground, walking the  draw bridge and exploring the surrounding woods. The facility is a little run down but probably it is one of the biggest bargains around.

Finally we went to pick up Kaga. Poor kaga. He  probably thought his family had abandoned  him. He  looked very handsome indeed. I think he knew it because for the next couple of days he walked around with his nose in the air.

Next day was warm. Even though the lake was cold the males in the family went swimming.

I enjoyed the activities and enjoyed my family. I am grateful that they included me. Now I am tired and inundated with things I didn’t do last week. I was invited to join my son and daughter in law and their two little sweeties. and join them this weekend at the cottage but I had other commitments and will take a rain check.

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I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS and the Pickled lilies

I recently went to the movies with some of the pickled lilies { a group of fourteen ladies of which I am one}I will refer to them as the PL’S We have been friends for over 40 years. They are special to me – the PL’s rated a whole chapter in ‘’Why me?”

Unfortunately a few in the group are now widowed. Typically on a Saturday evening  those of us who are on our own and not commandeered to babysit for the grandchildren will get together for a movie , dinner or a cultural event. This weekend we went to see I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS; a romantic comedy drama featuring Carol, aptly portrayed by Blythe Danner. Carole is in the twilight of her life and has been on her own for twenty years after her lawyer husband died in a plane crash. She has her own house and pool  who she shares with her faithful dog Hazel. Most of her time is spent with her three friends who reside in a nearby retirement village and who are constantly  trying to convince her to sell her property and join them.

Sure the film is overflowing  with stereo types of aging, seniors and the Golden Years–But hey!  I am not complaining . We the PL’s related to Carol and her group . They would easily fit in with our crowd. They gossip, play bridge, have senior moments which we refer to as sometimers, laugh and drink wine and cappuccinos. We gossip , play bridge have senior moments which we refer to as sometimers, laugh and drink wine and cappuccinos. We found the movie to be funny and we giggled until tears came to our eyes when watching   the senior speed dating scene. The movie isn’t all about laughter. There are romantic scenes involving Carol and her two new relationships. There are also poignant moments portraying death , family relations and friendship.This film shows how to embrace the challenges of the twilight years and shows that we are never too old for new experiences.

Others in the cast included Sam Elliot  and Rhea Perlman. This warm and fuzzy movie is most likely to be appreciated by my generation, the generation that made “the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” a hit. I am not sure if  my offsprings generation would appreciate this film. Maybe they would, because they could point fingers and laugh and say “My mom would do something as ridiculous as that”

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