Archive | November 2009

Pirate Radio – A blast from the past

When I saw that ‘Pirate Radio’ was due to come to theatres, I was quite excited about it, as it invoked fond memories of the time I spent in England in the early ’70s.  The story is loosely based on the saga of Radio Caroline – an actual pirate radio station situated on a boat in the English Channel in the 1960s and 70s, and I had I met a few of the people involved in Radio Caroline when I lived in London working as a nanny.

I was living with Dick Fontaine and his wife, Pat Hartley and looking after their three year old son, Smokey when I met the founder of Radio Caroline, Ronan O’Rahilly.  Dick was an independant documentary filmmaker and had a studio on the top floor of the large flat we lived in, in the Kensington district of London.  His work was being financed (in whole or in part, I’m not sure) by Ronan, an Irish entrepreneur who was in the music and film business. Dick and Pat were surprised that I had never heard of him, because he was well known in the British entertainment world.  Once I did meet him though, he was certainly hard to forget.  He was most definitely a person with presence and had a wild mane of grey hair. Dick’s assistant, who was named Caroline, told me that she had been involved in Radio Caroline and that the station was named after her. According to what I have read recently, though, the origin of the name for the radio station is in dispute.  Nonetheless, as far as I knew, I had met the ‘real’ Caroline.

I always wondered what became of Pat, Dick and Smokey, and the Internet has been helpful in this respect.  Dick is now head of an independant film school in England and has produced several jazz biography films.  He showed me various clips he was working with at the time I was there, including some of Billie Holiday.  I was already a jazz aficionado, and appreciated the education.  I see that Smokey has become an editor and writer and goes by Smokey Fontaine.  I guess they moved back to New York after I was there, because Wikipedia says that Smokey grew up in New York and was educated there.

Pat was from New York, and was both an actress and dancer, and had starred in a film called ‘Rainbow Bridge’ with Jimi Hendrix, who had been a close friend of hers. It was never released in Canada, but I found a copy of it years later at a flea market, and it was great fun to see Pat in her role in the film, as the character she portrayed was so like her – fast talking and opinionated.  She could also be very funny, and was not pretty, but captivating and exotic looking.   I can’t find much information about her current activities or a recent photo, but apparently, a young filmmaker named Jennifer Poe is making a biography of Pat and model Donyale Luna as they were the only two black women who were part of the Andy Warhol group of females. (Ironically though, Donyale Luna downplayed her black heritage all her life, and Pat has a mixed background – with a black mother and white Jewish father).  Pat also starred in an Andy Warhol art film ‘Ciao Manhattan’ with Andy’s girlfriend Edie and I found it on Youtube.

Pat and Dick were fascinating people to live with, the type of people who were observant and looked beneath the surface of things, and who took chances. Smokey was a very sweet and bright child, and I enjoyed looking after him.  We explored a lot of London together.  Pat and Dick appreciated my questionable talents as a cook, as neither of them could cook, and loved my tuna casserole – the only ‘dish’ in my repertoire. Pat was a wonderful story teller and I probably should have been taking notes, but it didn’t occur to me at the time of course.  They both encouraged creative pursuits and Dick told me that if I wanted to be a writer, then I should just begin writing.  He was so right!

 While the ‘Pirate Radio’ film isn’t about them, I will go to see it as it looks like fun and I’m sure will evoke some memories of the ‘good old days’.  The 60s and 70s were a special era when people were trying to break the mold and be original, and that’s what Radio Caroline was trying to do.  I think we could use some more of that spirit today.

Is Anybody Out There? Trying to connect with a ‘live’ operator

You may have heard about the pending cuts to area crisis lines and the concerns of those who answer these lines.  I believe their concerns are legitimate, and despite the argument from VIHA that a central phone number will serve adequately, I think it will only serve to increase the sense of alienation many experience today.  A person in Campbell River or Port Hardy who is experiencing personal trauma, might feel an increased sense of despondency when they learn they are speaking to a person in downtown Victoria, who has no sense of the local milieu. We have to wonder too, if this central line can handle all the calls.

A disturbing trend today is the increase in the number of businesses and organizations that use automated operators to ‘vet’ their calls.  I am certain you have experienced this – whether calling a bank or telephone company or government line – you cannot get through the electronic sentry without giving vital information first.  You usually need some numbers handy, like an account or social insurance number, and you had better be clear what the call is about, or you will not get directed to the right place.  Often, there is no option to speak with a ‘live’ operator.  You must get your facts straight first.

Recently, I had to call Acer computers regarding my laptop, and was told before doing so, that I should have the serial number on hand when I called, and that it would start with an LX. As usual, an automated, pleasant, though disembodied voice answered and inquired whether this was a service or sales matter.  We ascertained that it was Service and I was asked to describe the problem.  There is a crack in the lid, which translated into ‘broken component’, for lack of a better choice. Next ‘she’ asked me for the serial number, and this is where the trouble began.

I was told that the number would have 11 digits.  I quoted the only number on the bottom of my laptop that started with LX, but which in fact has 22 digits.  This was not acceptable.  I was to asked to speak more clearly and slowly.  I complied and repeated the sequence again.  Once again, the voice was not happy with the number and suggested I try to get service online.

I tried the phone number again, hoping that it was some sort of glitch.  The same ‘lady’ answered, identifying immediately that I had already called.  I found this a little disconcerting, so when asked if it was about the same problem, I said ‘no’,  believing I could trick ‘her’ into putting me through to a real person, and I asked for Sales this time. Again, I was confronted with having to repeat the serial number.  I had searched in the meantime for an eleven digit number on the bottom of my laptop thinking this might be part of the problem, so tried a different number.  No, it didn’t like this one either.

I gave up on the phone and went to the Acer website. There was a hyperlink there to an email for service which I tried, but was told it was broken.  I found a different link which took me to a page where once again, I was asked for my serial number.  I inserted the LX sequence again, but it didn’t like that.

This time, I was diligent and inserted all seven sequences of numbers found on the bottom of my computer, but none of them worked.  I finally found a description of the serial number which said it could be from 11 – 23 digits long, so I tried the LX number once again, and voila! It worked!  On the next page, however, I was told I had to register before I could get help.  So I filled out the registration form.  I hit the NEXT button at the bottom, and it brought me back to the registration page again.  I reviewed it to see where I had gone wrong, couldn’t find anything and there was no message, so hit NEXT again.  Back I went to the same page. After trying this one more time I gave up and decided to try one of the other ‘800’ numbers found on the site.

I called it and was told that the number was out of service, and to call a different number.  It wasn’t the same number I had tried earlier, so I still harboured a flicker of hope that I would get through to someone.  cartoo1-optimizedAnd guess what?  Yes, it was my same old friend who answered, and ‘she’ immediately recognized me and was certain I had called earlier.  By this time I was running out of patience and found myself yelling to a robot, that ‘YES, IT IS ME AND YES I HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM, YES IT IS A BROKEN COMPONENT!!!”

I proceeded once more to give the serial number and miracle of miracles, the voice said “I will repeat this back to you”.  Yahoo! I thought , I have finally broken through the barrier.  ‘She’ repeated the number back correctly, then I heard a sort of whirr and buzz and was told quite abruptly – “We are sorry, we are currently experiencing technical difficulties, please call back later”.

At this point I laughed. This was good enough to be made into a farce. I was frustrated, but not desperate and could deal with it another day.  A crisis is quite a different thing though – it needs to be dealt with immediately, and let’s hope VIHA does the right thing and recognizes that many of us need a live and caring person at the other end of the line, and this is no laughing matter.

Kasha’s Quote of the Week

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

                                                                                               Yogi Berra

Treat Yourself To Local Trout

While salmon often get all the press in the Campbell River area, one of the nicest local fish to eat and one of the most fun to catch is trout.  Around here you can catch Cutthroat, Rainbows and Dolly Varden.

Early morning Echo Lake

Early morning Echo Lake

You don’t have to go far to find them – Echo Lake, for example, just 15 km west of town on Hwy 28, has been stocked with trout for your fishing pleasure.  It is a lovely little lake and when driving by you often see people fishing off the small dock or out in the lake in their inflatable waders.  With no motor craft being allowed on the lake, it is a peaceful place in which to plunk your pole.

Further down the highway, going towards Gold River, Lower Campbell Lake, Upper Campbell Lake and Buttle Lake all offer good fishing.

Reid Robinson with the big one in '06

Reid Robinson with the big one in '06

Pictured here is our grandson who caught a nice sized Cutthroat (about three pounds) out of Upper Campbell.  My favourite way to fish Upper Campbell is to troll along close to shore in a small tin boat powered by a quiet electric motor.  Doing this, I also caught a similar sized Rainbow that same summer.

At Buttle Lake, in Strathcona Provincial Park, you can cast off from the shore.  (You can do this at Lower Campbell too).   If you have a boat, fishing is good near the mouth of the Wolf River.  This weekend, a local business held a trout derby which one of our neighbours attended, and someone caught a six pound Rainbow!

Also this weekend, my son and his friend went north of town to Morton Lake, and they caught a couple of small Cutthroat.  In the past my son has caught some nice sized Cutthroat at the Oyster River.  I heard that Victoria Lake near Port Alice has prime trout fishing as well.

Trout are delicious and light in texture and flavour, and are easily prepared, with pan frying being the

Lovely little cutthroats

Lovely little cutthroats

preferred method.  Once the fish are cooked, remove them from the pan, throw about half a cup of chopped almonds into the pan with butter and sautee them, garnish your trout with the almonds and you have Trout Amandine!

Trout like worms and will also go for powerbait. One fairly offbeat method we heard of for attracting the particularly large trout is to bait your hook with a live white mouse, and fish at night when the moon is full.  Apparently, the monster trout can’t resist the sight of a bright wriggling rodent in the moonlight.  Not for me, but it might appeal to the more intrepid fisherman.

Since freshwater licences became available for purchase online, not as many outlets sell them, so check around if you want to pick one up in person.

My all time favourite fishing  joke:

A fellow was driving down the road and was pulled over by a conservation officer.  He had a large number of fish in the back of his truck, clearly over the allowable limit.  The officer questioned him about this and the driver responded: “This isn’t what it looks like, Officer, these are my pet fish.”

“Your pet fish?”

“Yes, you see, Officer, I take them down to the lake for a swim everyday and after about 10 or 15 minutes they come back.”

“This I have to see,” replied the officer.

They went back to the lake, and the fellow released the fish into the water.  They waited for what seemed to be a long while, and the officer finally said, “So where are these pet fish of yours, I thought they were coming back?”

The fellow turned to him and asked, “What fish?”

Behind the Front – Quiet Canadians clandestine work during WWII

Remembrance Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on war and honour those who gave their time, energy and in many cases, their lives toward ensuring the safety of those at home.  While those who perished on the front lines are commemorated, there were individuals participating in the war effort whose identities had to be kept secret.  These were the people who worked under cover, carrying on clandestine operations behind the scenes.  One of the most noted of these was a Canadian named Sir William Stephenson.

Stephenson’s accomplishments and history are well documented, and I was introduced to him through a book called “A Man called Intrepid”.  It is due to Stephenson that organizations like the CIA came into being.  He also created a training ground for World War II spies at Camp X in Whitby Ontario, which incidentally, Camp David in the US is modelled on.  Would be spies came from all over the world to train at Camp X in all areas of espionage.  One of the most well known was Ian Fleming, who was the writer of the classic James Bond stories.  In fact, Ian Fleming said “James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is…William Stephenson.” —Ian Fleming, The Times, October 21, 1962.

It seems apt that a Canadian, and many Canadians, were involved in behind the scenes work during the war, as we are so often perceived as being ‘quiet’ and unobtrusive (except when attending a hockey game).  In fact, Stephenson was known as ‘The Quiet Canadian’.

If you are interested in finding out more, the Camp X Historical Society has an excellent website and the write up on Stephenson in Wikipedia is very good.  When we have our moment of silence November 11, we should remember these silent heroes.

Backyard Beasts – the trend towards self-sufficiency

I recently read Morgan Ostler’s entertaining article of Friday, November 6, 2009 in the Campbell River Mirror “Will council chicken out on backyard hen bylaw?” regarding allowing chickens in city backyards.  This is great news for townsfolk.  I have been living in the Strathcona District for the past few years and several of my neighbours have chickens.  It is quite pleasurable to walk down the road to ‘shop’ for eggs and it encourages me to get out for a walk.  Sometimes there is also garden produce, and one of my neighbours used to raise meat chickens, so I could also get some excellent poultry now and again.twochi1-optimized

The idea of keeping livestock in one’s backyard in town is by no means new.  While in university, I was introduced to an article written by one of my professors, Bettina Bradbury, called “Pigs, Cows and Boarders, Non-wage forms of survival among Montreal families, 1861-1891”.  The article explains how as people migrated from the farm to the city to try to make a living, they brought some of their habits with them, including the habit of raising their own livestock as a food source.  Just as Morgan points out in her article that raising chickens is a step toward self sufficiency and keeping down food costs, in Bradbury’s article she states that “for some of Montreal’s working class, a pig represented a source of cash or of food that would be available in times of unemployment and need – a valuable supplement to a low, unsteady and irregular wage income”.

How often in life things come in full circle.  While we might have laughed at the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ and Granny hanging on to Ozark survival techniques while living in an upperclass neighbourhood, this just might be the wave of the future.  In fact I heard – and I think this was via Morgan too, that in Ireland they have come up with designer chicken coops to accommodate those who want to raise the little birds, but don’t want to annoy the neighbours or ruin the esthetics of the backyard with a ramshackle shed.

Speaking of annoying the neighbours, one misconception I have come across is that if you are going to have chickens, this would include a rooster.  Roosters can be bothersome as they chose to crow loudly at ungodly hours.  The good news is though, that unless you are planning to raise little chicks, you don’t need a rooster.  A hen will lay eggs without her male counterpart being present, she only needs him to fertilize the eggs.  So rest assured that when you see your neighbour bring home the pre-fab coop and the laying hens, the only sound you will hear is a gentle cluck, cluck, cluck.

Image this in your yard!

Image this in your yard!

I recall that as a child in school, we were asked to hear how our parents survived the Depression years of the 1930’s.  My mother told me that she didn’t really notice that there was a Depression or lack of food, because her family was on a farm and raised their own livestock and produce.  She figured that it was the people in cities and towns who suffered the lack of food.  The media tells us that we are suffering through a depressed economy, and there are many today who are trying to follow the hundred mile diet and consume more local produce.  I say ‘hurray to the chicken eaters’.  Get rid of the non nourishing grass in your yard, and replace it with vegetable gardens and beneficial birds.