COVID19 and the demise of the Bro-Hug

As we head into the heart of autumn, COVID19 warnings become more and more confusing. On the one hand vaccination numbers are up, not enough yet, but up. Yet some jurisdictions are reporting rises in the number of daily cases. Of course, there is a strong correlation in that the vast majority of these cases are folks who are not adequately vaccinated.

The return to gathering, dining, dancing, drinking, are all now on the table (bar?) depending on where one lives. To travel or not is another issue. Trying to come to a decision can result in great anxiety. When we were in full-fledged pandemic mode, there was no wavering. No anxiety about should I or shouldn’t I. It was black and white, open and closed – well, closed for the most part.

Now that we have switched our focus to the possibility of a return to something that resembles our pre-pandemic world, less emphasis, at least in the mainstream media, is placed on how the coronavirus originated. When we were all confined to barracks, with way too much time on our hands, many people concocted their own target for ‘blame’. This was never going to end well and spurred no end of xenophobic comments.

But I do have a theory that if it was an intentional act, whoever it was, did so in an attempt to rid the world of the dreaded bro-hug!!

I am certainly no epidemiologist, I have no idea where COVID19 started. Moreover, I couldn’t begin to state who may have unleashed it on the world, nor whether it was done intentionally. But I do have a theory that if it was an intentional act, whoever it was, did so in an attempt to rid the world of the dreaded bro-hug!!

With physical distancing, elbow bumps, fist bumps, waves, and any other non-contact greetings were the order of the day. The engulfing bro-hug, which often starts with the hugger luring the huggee with an offer to shake hands, was no longer a threat. If you have not fallen prey to this stunt let me explain. Once the handshake grip has been offered and established, the hugger hauls the unsuspecting huggee into a full-body clasp. The free hands flail about as one person grasps and the other tries to maintain balance. This seems to be a generational thing. Two thirty-somethings, or younger, know it’s coming and will often skip the handshake and cut straight to the hug.

There is also a gender angle to bro-hugging, as the name implies, it is the sole bastion of males. Seemingly women long ago perfected the hug, I write of the male ham-handed attempt to replicate this greeting.

If you are not au courant with these things, if you are just a wee bit older, the bro-hug can come as an unpleasant surprise, leaving you feeling a bit like a deer caught in the headlights. I’m not referring to a pair of drunks back-slapping, hugging, and expressing their true love for each other, usually in the late hours. I mean a whole cohort of young men who seem to have lost the art of the handshake.

I’m not referring to a pair of drunks back-slapping, hugging, and expressing their true love for each other, usually in the late hours

I believe that post-pandemic, whenever that arrives, will see many changes. Many people will continue to wear masks. In public, respect for personal space may well return. Much business travel will be scrapped in favour of telemeetings. And, the demise of the bro-hug!!

Genealogy and Serendipity

I started taking an interest in genealogy about ten years ago. I’ve always been a firm believer in the notion that what makes us what we are today is determined not only our life experiences, but by traits and characteristics of our decedents. You often find families that have generations of musicians, or athletes, or police officers. Evidently what, and who, went before us has some influence on what we become. Not entirely, of course, but the blood that courses through our veins, handed down from parent to child, seems to have some influence, I believe, on our lives.

And a one-off membership is not on offer. Six months or a year’s fee is required to see if the results are, in fact, a match for your relative.

When looking into my family tree I quickly realized that there is no shortage of search scams out there. Numerous sites will ask you to enter as many details as possible in their search function. Then show you results that indicate possible matches. The key word there is possible. To gain access to the potential match you require – yep, you guessed it – a paid subscription. And a one-off membership is not on offer. Six months or a year’s fee is required just to see if the results are, in fact, a match for your relative.

Yet there are still some sites that offer free information. The good folks at Library and Archives Canada provide a database of World War One files. I have been able to download several of my family members’ documentation. My understanding is that the individual hard-copy files are scanned by volunteers and made available online. The COVID19 pandemic has slowed down, if not stopped that process, but there are still many veterans files available.

The first relatives I researched were my paternal grandparents. I knew that my paternal grandmother had been a Home Child. According to Library and Archives Canada, between 1869 and 1932, over 100,000 children were sent from Britain to Canada through assisted juvenile emigration. These migrants are called “home children” because most went from an emigration agency’s home for children in Britain to its Canadian receiving home.

One of the many enjoyable elements of genealogical research is the number of coincidences that one comes across

I knew that my grandmother and her two siblings had been a residents at the Quarriers Homes in Scotland. I contacted Quarriers via email, and for a donation of £25, I received the entire file for not just my grandmother, but her brother and sister as well. This research led to an article I wrote for Family Tree Magazine in England.

I have found that one of the many enjoyable elements of genealogical research is the number of coincidences that one comes across. On a pre-pandemic trip to Ireland, being good tourists, my wife took a photo of me at the Viking Longboat Statue located near Essex Quay in Dublin. I have subsequently discovered that the building directly behind the monument, which is now Smock Alley Theatre, (as seen in this post’s featured photograph by Smirkybec.) was once the Church of Saints Michael and John. My maternal great grandfather was baptised in that church some 160 years ago.

The day before, March 1, 2020 we visited St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral on Marlborough Street in Dublin. At that time I was unaware, but have since learned that my maternal great grandparents were married in the cathedral on November 21, 1880.

I’ll keep up my research, at least until I happen upon any serious criminal elements that may lurk in my past. But then I think I’d just select another branch to look into!

What happened to sardines?

The ongoing, but hopefully soon ending, COVID19 pandemic has played havoc with all sorts of day-to-day lives. From the wearing of masks to the getting of vaccines – and the foolish but not unexpected debates arising from these public health issues – virtually everyone’s life has been touched in some way. Sadly some more direly than others.

But for me, the most puzzling change has been the almost impossibility of finding … wait for it ,.. sardines

Some of the effects of the pandemic are understandable: shortages of the vaccines, difficulties finding employees as businesses gradually reopen, an increase in the cost of almost everything. But for me, the most puzzling change has been the almost impossibility of finding, wait for it, sardines. Yep, those tins of little tightly packed fish have all but disappeared from supermarket shelves in my area.

I developed a taste for these little guys when I was told they are good for cholesterol. I like to have a tin a few times a week, much to my wife’s chagrin, as she is very much allergic to anything that swims (fortunately I am unable to swim), and has a hard time with the, not surprisingly, fishy smell.

So I huddle over the kitchen sink and scarf down my little herrings, sterilize the fork and tin, then spray the whole area with bleachy kitchen cleanser. All in the name of lowering my cholesterol (and saving my marriage).

I can almost feel my cholesterol dropping, or perhaps that’s the Lipitor

But recently these tins of Mediterranean diet tidbits have become as rare as hen’s teeth. I like the everyday, sardines, not the upmarket, gourmet brands. Sardines packed into soya oil is just hanky-dory with me. Yet each week when I check the shelves at my local store, like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, they are bare.

I recently aired my predicament to some friends. Last week for my birthday they managed to scare up several tins of sardines – gourmet at that – and present them to me. I can almost feel my cholesterol dropping, or perhaps that’s the Lipitor,

Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 30, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.

The creation of this federal statutory holiday was through legislative amendments made by Parliament. On June 3, 2021, Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation) received Royal Assent.

Vaccination Passports: Show Some Common Sense Please

Today is the day that the real crackdown on vaccine passports begins in Quebec. Initially the process began on the first of September, but with a two-week easing-in period. Now it’s down to brass tacks. No more Mr. Nice Guy. No official proof of full vaccination means no admittance to bars, restaurants and other public places. Period.

When I was a student I worked for several summers for the parks and recreation department of my town. To use the various recreational facilities – swimming pool, tennis courts, etc. – residents were required to obtain what was called a Recreation Permit (known to all as a pass). These passes were limited to city residents (tax payers) and those who volunteered as coaches and officials.

However, my fear is that this will become one of those situations where power goes to a person’s head

This pass had to be presented to the person who oversaw entry to the facility. In the case of tennis courts many users were regulars. As the student charged with tending the courts, you got to know many people who played numerous times a week. After asking for, and seeing a person’s pass several times it seemed silly to continue to ask. Unless, of course, your boss happened to be present!

The same is true of the vaccine passport. I frequent several Montreal pubs and restaurants. I know many members of staff in these establishments, many of them know me. I have shown my passport to all of them at one point, but many have stopped asking me, knowing that I have one.

Unfortunately this can be a touchy exercise that can lead to some confusion as non-regulars see regulars not being asked and feel slighted, or that they need not present their passport either. The solution: ask every patron, every day.

In addition to carrying out their usual work load, which in many cases has already been increased due to difficulty finding staff, they now have to scan guests’ passports

This checking process, at least during the day, is left up to bartenders and wait staff. In addition to carrying out their usual work load, which in many cases has already been increased due to difficulty finding staff, they now have to scan guests’ passports. Assuming they have one. If not they have to ask them to leave.

I hope that those who will have the responsibility of keeping an eye on this procedure, i.e. government inspectors, will be understanding of this concept of regular, recognized customers, and show some patience. However, my fear is that this will become one of those situations where power goes to a person’s head. You only have to cross the Canada USA border to understand that concept!

The Only Logical Choice For Canadian Prime Minister

Canada is currently in the midst of a federal election. Elections are always hotly contested events, but this one has been criticized simply for having been called. The last government was a minority led by the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC).

When in a minority position, a government must rely on the support of another party to gain enough votes to pass legislation. It involves a great deal of negotiating and giving and taking. Some people believe it is actually a good system, but those folks certainly do not include the party with the most elected members, who want an outright majority.

Although the campaign is only halfway done, the lead has disappeared and a real race is underway.

In an attempt to shore up a majority, LPC leader Justin Trudeau, looking to take advantage of a hefty lead in public opinion polls, called this election just two years into his mandate. This has backfired on him, and has given the opposition parties ample ammunition to paint Trudeau as an opportunist for calling an election as the country grapples with the fourth wave of the pandemic. Although the campaign is only halfway done, the lead has disappeared and a real race is underway.

Many long-time LPC voters have indicated they will either ‘hold their nose’ and vote for the local Liberal candidate, or are so irked with the election call that they will spoil their ballot or vote for another party.

I suggest that rather than spoil your ballot, be creative. Write in the best candidate to lead the country for the next four years.

I understand fully the anger, but I suggest that rather than spoil your ballot, be creative. Write in the best candidate to lead the country for the next four years. Of course, I refer to Gurdeep Pandher, or as he calls himself GurdheepPandher of the Yukon.

Every day Mr Pandher posts on social media a video of himself dancing Bhangra, the traditional dance of Punjab. He does this in an effort to “make cross-cultural bridges, inclusivity & optimism across Canada”. Can you imagine a better platform that that? If this guy doesn’t embody great leadership and the best attitude, I don’t know who does.

Sidewalk Terraces and Good Samaritans

Like many a young man, I used to like to hit the town on a Friday night; with age that has become a whole lot less fun as the town has started hitting back. Let me explain.

Truth be told, I have never had great balance. That, combined with less than strong ankles, contributed to my experiencing that most mortifying of Canadian childhood afflictions – being a kid who was a very poor skater. Perish the thought.

However, that being said, I am perfectly capable of navigating the urban landscape, assuming there are no hidden traps.

As my wife points out – often – I can be clumsy, or as I prefer to put it, awkward. I tend to think of our Montreal winters in terms of the number of times I go arse over teakettle on slippery sidewalks. Last year was not too bad, just a couple of mishaps, and no bruises to show. However, that being said, I am perfectly capable of navigating the urban landscape, assuming there are no hidden traps.

At about eight o’clock one very hot recent evening I was several blocks into my trek home along one of Montreal’s main downtown thoroughfares. The segment of the sidewalk upon which I strode had been narrowed significantly by the installation of seasonal terraces in front of restaurants and at least one chocolate specialty store. There were many people out enjoying the summer evening, the sidewalk was crowded. Pedestrian traffic was stop and go.

In an effort to scoot ahead of a gaggle of slow-moving tourists, I manoeuvred my way around them on the right side. This brought me up against a terrace that, for some reason, instead of having supports fastened directly to the sidewalk, some genius had thought it would make sense to attach the stanchions to patio stones instead. Not seeing, nor expecting, a raised surface, I tripped on the patio stone, and in the process of trying to regain my balance ended up landing on my face and briefly losing conscientiousness. To paraphrase the blues classic, albeit slightly, that was made into a commercial hit in 1976 by Pat Travers – Boom Boom out went the lights.

To paraphrase, albeit slightly, the blues classic that was made into a commercial hit in 1976 by Pat Travers – Boom Boom out went the lights.

There I lay, looking like a priest during ordination, prostrate on the sidewalk in a pool of blood, without my glasses which had, not surprisingly, gone missing. People gathered and insisted I stay put while they called 911. Not like I was getting up any time soon anyway. In what seemed like no time at all Montreal’s First Responders arrived. They found and handed me my badly damaged glasses, applied ice to my forehead and the back of my neck and waited for the ambulance to arrive moments later, while I lay there doing my best Led Zeppelin impression, feeling both Dazed and Confused.

As I lay there wondering just what had happened (I had no idea at this point) my Irish-Catholic guilt kicked in. Of course, this had to somehow be my fault. The extreme heat? No. My weak ankles? No. When the nice EMT lady asked me if I had been drinking, my first reaction was to say yes. She followed up with “How much?” and my reflex attempt at humour was to say “Evidently too much”, although I was not convinced at all that it was the gargle that contributed to my fall.

The EMT said this, coupled with the fact there were “no indications of intoxication” meant that I needed a taxi and not an ambulance.

They cleaned me up, checked for broken bones and the like, put me in the ambulance and drove around the corner to free up traffic. While there a more thorough examination took place including a check of my blood pressure and ECG (I made sure to tell her I have a heart murmur). Evidently, my wounds were only of a superficial nature. The EMT said this, coupled with the fact there were “no indications of intoxication” meant that I needed a taxi and not an ambulance. When they opened the back door to let me out, I fully expected to see a phalanx of the legendary legally-trained ambulance pursuers one often hears about. Alas, it would seem that only happens in the movies. Out I got, thanked the EMTs profusely, hailed a cab and, made my way home.

Yet I was still very puzzled as to what happened. Was I overcome by the very high heat and did I pass out while walking? Not very likely. Was I punched? Not me. Even as I pieced together the other elements of my evening that pointed to my sobriety, that old guilt kept creeping in. And then it happened.

The next evening around 10:30 I received a Facebook messenger text from the Good Samaritan who had called 911. She took the time and effort to track me down. I will respect her privacy and not name her here. She asked in French if I was the “gentleman who had tripped on the stone the night before”. I was very relieved to see the word trébucher, meaning to trip.

She and my wife, who communicates better than I do in French, texted back and forth. Not only had my Good Samaritan, and her partner witnessed my accident, but they had also photographed and videoed the dangerous stanchion afterward.

In the absence of a posse of lawyers awaiting my go-ahead to take legal action, I have started the process of hopefully saving someone else’s well-being by filling out and submitting the City of Montreal’s claim form

In a world where it sometimes appears people are bent on negativity, looking the other way, not getting involved, this woman took the time and effort to perform an act of kindness. Not just in calling 911, but in locating me through Facebook, enquiring as to how I was doing, and shining some light on what had happened the night before.

Will anything come of it? New glasses? A crooked nose? Will they ever wash away my blood stain? Will the city upbraid the owner of the terrace?

In the absence of a posse of lawyers awaiting my go-ahead to take legal action, I have started the process of hopefully saving someone else’s well-being by having this deplorable sidewalk terrace’s construction corrected. To wit, by filling out and submitting the City of Montreal’s claim form.

Will anything come of it? New glasses? A crooked nose? Will they ever wash away my blood stain? Will the city upbraid the owner of the terrace? Stay tuned…

UPDATE

On September 24, 2021 I received a telephone call from a Claims Adjuster with the City of Montreal. He asked me several questions about the incident and stated there would be an investigation into my claim. Later that week I received a letter in the mail confirming the process. Yesterday I checked my mail and found another letter, this one dated October 4, 2021, stating that after the investigation ‘no negligence on behalf of the City of Montreal was shown” and therefore the city “denies responsibility in this matter”

Little guy versus corporate entity – I don’t like my chances New glasses?

Well, wouldn’t it be nice if we could all conduct investigations into our alleged transgressions and then conclude that we were not responsible and then wash our hands of the matter. I realize the City did not install the terrace, but I have to believe there are specifications set out by the City regarding spacing and safety to pedestrians. And, it follows that if there are regulations, there should be some responsibility on the part of the City to monitor the adherence to them. Evidently not.

So I’m left to consider the concept of engaging legal representation to act against the chocolate store, which is one outlet in a corporate chain. Little guy versus corporate entity – I don’t like my chances. Even an apology would be nice.

Voting In The Time Of COVID19

Last Sunday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement that we will have a federal election on September 20, 2021. In revealing what was perhaps the worst kept secret, parliament was dissolved and campaign mode kicked in.

Local candidates will spend the next five weeks kissing babies, knocking on doors, debating, doing interviews, and making promises. The party leaders will use those weeks to criss-cross the country urging voters to support local party candidates, as per the British Parliamentary system.

However, most Canadians don’t want, no do they see the need for, an election at this time as we continue to feel the effects of the pandemic

Trudeau, whose Liberal Party has spent the last two years in a minority government situation, relying on the support of other parties to get things done, has been criticised for calling the election. His party currently has a lead in the polls that Trudeau hopes to build on and use to secure a majority government. However, most Canadians don’t want, no do they see the need for, an election at this time as we continue to feel the effects of the pandemic. This call could come back to haunt Mr. Trudeau.

Regardless of whether this is a good election call or bad, the only thing that is certain is that Canadians will flock to polling stations on Monday, September 20th. This is something that gives me pause for thought. Is it really a good idea to encourage people to gather at schools, church basements, and community centres, to wait in line to cast their ballot?

Will we need two sets of polling stations: one for vaccinated people and another for non-vaccinated?

Here in Quebec, the provincial government is running radio ads pointing out that come September, many public places will require proof of full vaccination to gain entry. While I disagree with anti-vaxxers’ take on the vaccine, I recognize their democratic right to vote. Will we need two sets of polling stations: one for vaccinated people and another for non-vaccinated?

Will this pandemic election increase the number of mail-in ballots? If so, will we one day, not too fat down the road, see elections with only mail-in or online voting? Time will tell. But here’s hoping we don’t see a nation-wide spike in COVID cases at the beginning of October.