My Dad

My Dad, Doug Freel, to which this blog belongs, died on May 15, 2011. I have kept this blog up as a reminder to myself of his wit, way with words and generally positive outlook on life. I hope others that come across this blog will get the same enjoyment as I do.

Heath Freel

DUTY BOUND

JURY DUTY:

We all have to do it! All that is except for the lawyers, judges and police who ply the law……and here’s me thinking that justice was fair.

It’s not of course! Take the selection process for example. There I was, living in North York, minding my own business when along comes a summons to jury duty accompanied by “the rules” that dictated what I had to do, how to do it and how much recompense I would get for my trouble. Well, the recompense was a travesty….an insult to us all…..a measly sum that covered a small percentage of my true travel costs and with no reparation for lost wages. An insult indeed, and one that we must object to in the most rigorous way.

Here was I, an architect, earning at that time some $40.00 plus per hour, and having to give that up in order to listen to $250.00 per hour lawyers babbling away at ten to the dozen…..having to listen to lawyers who were NOT obliged to provide such duty expected of us normal citizens. Oh no, not they. They were charmed you see. They were the elite. Jury duty was beneath them…..and how could they possibly lose $250.00 per hour. They’d have to change the law on that one, wouldn’t they?

But I didn’t have to attend Court, at least not that time. They put me on standby. Maybe they’d seen that my wife had already done such duty and it would be unfair to ask me also to do it, being from the same household. I don’t think so of course, but it’s a possibility!

The selection process is in fact a farce and the legal boys ought to be ashamed of themselves. Talk about lack of fairness in the process? I had done my “stint” on standby, being ready for service on a daily basis, and then I had relocated to Markham. Shortly afterwards, in Markham I received another summons, and guess what? Yes indeed…it was a summons to jury duty. Caught again by an unscrupulous system. But this time they were out of luck. I was still on standby in North York. That duty had never been rescinded.

One year later we moved again, this time to Newmarket, and within one year of that move there it was again, a summons to jury duty….and I laughed, not with glee but with incredible disbelief at the plain stupidity of it all. What about those hundreds of thousands….no, millions of people out there who had lived in Canada all of their lives, and had NEVER received a call for service? And here was me, and Dorothy, having received four such summonses within a four-year period. My letter to the Court outlined these points very carefully in the hope that reason and fairness would prevail, and it did, with some judge finally understanding what the heck was going on. I was relieved of these duties….this time……but I still wonder what the future will bring.

Dorothy had two cases to judge whilst wasting a week of jury duty. The first was a simple burglary and the guy was guilty as Hell. The second one was odd, with a court officer coming in to tell the jury, presumably on behalf of the judge to find the guy NOT GUILTY……with an “or else” implied. Makes you wonder???? In my own logical way I was of the opinion that the judge should have declared a mistrial or dismissed the case for lack of evidence. Noone should be permitted to dictate to the jury, but then again I’m no lawyer……….. I have to give service to my country.

There IS a fair solution to all of this and it’s as simple as ABC. All those participating in a court case should receive an hourly wage equal to 50% of their normal hourly rate. Therefore, lawyers earning $250.00 per hour would get $125.00 per hour plus costs, with no mark-up. Normal people like you and me would be similarly dealt with, with those earning $40.00 per hour having it reduced to $20.00 plus costs, with no mark-up. It would certainly encourage the lawyers to speed up their process in Court and encourage the judge too. After all, he’s just a simple lawyer…………….. in disguise!

And the financial logic behind this suggestion is based upon one court case, with 12 jurors, four lawyers (two each for defence and prosecution) and one judge, with the lawyers earning $250/hour, the judge $300/hour and the jurors averaging $40/hour. Total juror costs/hour would be $240 (12x40x50%) and revenue from lawyers would be (4×250) + (1×300) x50%, being $650. Therefore, one case lasting 3 court hours of lawyers’ time would generate $1950 in order to pay jurors 8 hours of waiting/listening time costing $1920. OK, it doesn’t work out exactly and it fails to address costs, but it’s the principle that counts, isn’t it?

So, that’s the idea and now to think up a way to implement such change……..look to our MPs to draft a Bill……But wait a minute! Aren’t some of them lawyers by profession?

Well, most probably we don’t have a hope in Hell. Lawyers won’t go for it, reducing themselves to mere mortals. Theirs is a privileged profession after all……and shouldn’t the government be paying for such jury services anyway?  YES, THEY SHOULD……….. so why don’t they?

One wonders?????

DRIVERS LICENSES and EDUCATION

It’s always nice to get a new car. Yesterday we collected ours from the dealer and I thoroughly enjoyed the 45 minute drive home. What I did miss though was that new car smell. I seem to remember a leathery aroma, but with my loss of that sense it was no longer to be enjoyed. Dorothy told me it was still there though. Still to be enjoyed by others. Just not me!

There was a message waiting when we got home. It was from our insurance company. They were most anxious to inform me that my driver’s license had elapsed….some two months earlier, on my birthday……and that I couldn’t drive until it was renewed. I was naturally shocked and stunned by this news and damned the Government for not informing me that the renewal was due. So, down to the License Office it was, depleting the bank account by $60.00, and I was legal again, for at least another 4 years.

One wonders though had I been stopped by the police, what would have occurred. A ticket no doubt, irrespective of the error being that of the Government’s. Not mine. No. Definitely not mine! But that wouldn’t have been their view now. Would it? They’d have hung me out to dry….fining me for “the error of my ways”…..telling me it was MY fault. That it was ME who had received a letter of required renewal and I had either ignored it or had forgotten. Yes. That’s exactly what would have happened. I know it.

I recall a similar incident, many years ago when Dorothy was stopped by a keen-eyed policeman who noticed that her car registration was not valid. She received a ticket for the “offence”, and being the kind of guy I am, persuaded her to let me fight it on her behalf. Our case was water-tight, of course, since we had not received a renewal notice…….and to heck, who can remember their birthday anyway. So off to court it was. One single judge, Dorothy and me, pleading our case. The judge was polite, naturally. He sympathised with our position, telling us that there was absolutely nothing he could do. Dorothy was guilt as h__ under the law, so be it! We had to pay the fine in total. No discount! Just the fine, plus the car parking, plus the gas to get there, plus our time wasted…….all caused by government failure. And to think, when we tell this story everyone sees it as being funny.

After the guilty verdict the judge, having noticed our accents asked which part of Scotland we’d come from and then began a conversation between us that lasted for some 15 minutes thereafter, exchanging stories from the past….talking of his parents, and where they’d been raised……and so on. He had turned from an Officer of the Court into a human being. A person that we could relate to, could laugh and joke with. A friend almost…..well, maybe not a friend……but you know what I mean. Afterwards the fine didn’t hurt so much. That I can remember.

THE NEW CAR MANUAL:

Yes, I’ve just been through it…..not the whole thing, just certain parts….those parts that keep reminding me of my bad driving habits…….telling me of things that I used to do, but don’t do now. For example, driving in Dundee, Scotland required skill. The City is built on an extinct volcano, therefor it is hilly, mighty hilly, being the main reason for manual gear box clutches going defunct. Kaput even! The hand break is used, not as a permanent stopping device alone, but so also as a means of holding the car on a hill, when stopped temporarily, ensuring that it doesn’t fall back an inch or two at take off from a standing position.

What the bad drivers often do though is ignore the hand brake, holding the car on the hill using the clutch, in a temporary stop position, and easing the clutch out when they wish to proceed from that stop…..and that is exactly why those clutches don’t last all that long.  So, most drivers in Dundee became bad drivers on this point alone, to the detriment of their bank account!

And that’s where I come in. I emigrate to Canada, and finding it to be reasonable flat I conveniently forget about the hand brake, and have never used it in 41 years. Not once! So, when I read my new manual I find the following: “Always use the handbrake when parked“! And I say, well, nothing’s changed. I’m still a bad driver!

But that aside I still believe that I’m really a good driver, deep down. No joking…a really good driver. I respect lane discipline, except on the 400 series roads where I always hug the centre lane, and I turn left into a left lane and right into a right lane, always making certain that I signal on ALL turns…….AND generally speaking come to a full stop at stop signs, taking great care not to exceed the speed limit by more than 10% if need be.

I’d love to have one of these rear view cameras that tell you what’s back there when you’re reversing. With me in these older years  my inflexible body makes it quite difficult to twist and turn to ensure that nobody’s in the way, so I go through a ritual that includes saying, out loud, whether alone in the car or otherwise, the following. ” All clear left, all clear right, all clear behind” plus a repeat, whilst slowly backing out of the driveway onto the road. It’s a bore really, but I’ve read of too many deaths of young kids through inadequate reversing, and it’s not going to happen to me! What’s interesting though is that those in the car, as I go through this ritual, become part of the process, whether they’re adults or children, and quite often join in the verbal check list. So it’s educational….and that’s a bonus!

It’s the same with seat belts, and when I pick up the grandkids the ritual includes a check on everyone’s seatbelt and whether it’s fastened or not. On one occasion we were all set to go and, noticing a ball in the driveway, had to release my seatbelt, open the door, get out and remove the ball to a safe place. When I re-entered the car, that was still running, I put it in gear, and before I could get into the reversing ritual heard in grand harmony from my two IDIOT grandkids, “Granda, your seat belt!” Yes, I’d forgotten. I’m not perfect you know!

But, needless to say, my grandkids, all of them, are nowhere near to being idiotic. I just say that when I’m mad….when I’ve done something wrong……..when I see them being faster than me on the draw, which is in most cases these days. They’re MY grandkids you see. They’re clever. Very clever!

HERITAGE and all that.

The Toronto Star’s article of June 22, 2010 by Christopher Hume in regard to “Heritage” and the proposed demolition of buildings in downtown Brantford, Ontario and the Toronto Beaches is indeed interesting and whilst I can agree with him on some matters relating to heritage there are others that are just a bit iffy.

Many years ago the City of Dundee with its population of 180,000 had a similar situation to that of Brantford, Ontario except on a much larger scale. Some VERY LARGE chunks of its downtown came under the axe in order to make way for a shopping mall, a shopping plaza, a hotel and an office building, some designed by one of the architectural firms where I worked. There was little opposition at the time, with Dundonians being just as ignorant as their City Councillors with regard to heritage.

So, after a spending spree on such construction our once charming downtown became an eclectic disaster…..a mix of bad planning and “slick modern” against a backdrop of Georgian delight. The mix didn’t work of course. It failed miserably in the architectural context as well as from a planning perspective.

The Councillors took credit, not blame for this outcome. They didn’t see the failure, or if they did they ignored it, hoping that Dundonians would forget in time……..but they didn’t, and now, some 40 years later I can reflect on that outcome and the ensuing results. A downtown city today of one-way streets, where you can see where you have to go to but cannot get there. A downtown city where the automobile rules. A downtown city with no residential! A downtown city failure!

The hotel, known as The Angus lasted less than 40 years and was demolished along with the shopping plaza….and to think that the buildings that they had replaced had lasted for over 200 years. Something wrong there!  

The mall, known as the Wellgate Mall, still exists…..a 2-storey shopping centre that enters from the north at its upper level and exits at the south on the lower level. No housing! No offices! Opportunity lost! To think that it replaced a major pedestrian throughfare from the suburbs into the downtown, a thoroughfare that now relies upon elevators and stairs to make it work. Darned stupidity!

So, who’s to blame? Was it the City Councillors? How about the developers, or the architects even? Or perhaps everyone? Yes….everyone indeed.

The architects have to take some of the blame…but not all of it. Yes, they could have come up with better ideas in planning and marketing. The Wellgate Mall could have been single storey with 2 or 3 storey shops and housing on either side……and the architecture more sympathetic to Georgian and Edwardian…..modern, yes, but stressing sympathy! And maybe these ideas were offered and rejected. Who knows? So maybe we have to cite the developers…those who are seduced by the bottom line. But no! It wasn’t the developers. They’re not stupid. Had such ideas been offered they would surely have seen the potential for financial gain.

So that leaves the City Planners and the City Councillors, a mix of professional ignorance and personal greed, where the planners didn’t know any better and Local Government was tainted to a degree. Where I am told that certain Councillors and their friends took liberties. Where conflict of interest fattened bank accounts…….so I’m told.  Yes, the rumours were rife at the time. Tales of the taxman investigation upon finding wads of greenbacks under automobile carpets. Tales of shady land deals. Tales of imprisonment. Actual imprisonment. 

So, to date I’m all for Christopher Hume’s article, EXCEPT for his reference to that house in The Beaches….and that’s where I have to disagree. I have said it before, and repeat, “heritage” cannot be abused. It cannot take away an individual’s rights in law, and in the Beaches case the home owners had carried out their due diligence, had found the home to be free of “unusual” restrictions and accordingly had purchased it to demolish and replace with a new abode suited to handicapped living. 

But a compromise is perhaps justified in this case. The new home does not have to be “slick modern” in style. It can be well designed for the handicapped and yet be in harmony with the architecture of the street. As long as someone pays for that re-design……and it shouldn’t be the owners!

And one last comment on the word. If the definition of “Heritage” is mistaken for “old”  then I’m not for it. “Old” alone does not cut it. A Heritage designation should be applied only to buildings of architectural note. Buildings that we are proud to retain.

So be it.

THE MEDIA

WORLD CUP 2010

GREEN…….that’s the English goalie…..a goalie who made a mistake, as if such a “sin” was  uncommon in sport. So, the media make a meal of it, suggesting that it’s his last chance at international soccer. Suggesting that his separation from his model girlfriend is the cause. Suggesting that he is in mourning, and cannot focus.

Oh, the media……those journalists……the paparazzi….whatever they’re called. They should be ashamed!

CELEBS:

It was the same with Tiger. Of course it was. They used the facts, and when they couldn’t, made them up, suggesting divorce in the works when it was only a possibility, digging up other misdemeanors when it was unnecessary….and cruel….rubbing his nose in it. Shame! 

And why Sandra Bullock? She’d just gone through a humiliating experience, and what did they do? They strung it out. Strung her up! Used photography in wicked ways. Just how low can they get? Shame!

But that’s not the media as a whole. There IS a good side to it. There are those that we would call journalists. Those dedicated writers who seek out the facts and create interest using their writing abilities to entertain….to tell a story in an interesting way. These are the few certainly, but that’s all it takes. Simple truths gleaned from dogged research, confirmation and delivery. Giving us the news based upon fact, not fiction! 

60 Minutes is one TV programme that does its reporting in a most entertaining way. They generally show us their methods of research….hounding the bad guy…… cross-examining…… harrassing………all of the things that I personally abhor….EXCEPT when they seek to rid us of the problem, whatever it is, and in most cases that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. They do it well of course, and with flare……and follow-up if necessary! I like 60 Minutes!

I like Andy Rooney too, with his overgrown eyebrows and his “couldn’t care less” attitude. He sets us straight on the little things in life…those nuisances that we all hate yet seldom complain about………and he tells us to stop sending him “things”! In his place I wouldn’t. I’d sell them and take a trip! Andy, please see my Post on Shampoo under “BOTTLE DESIGN”. Let me know if you agree. I’m sure you’re just as blind as me.

The Toronto Star is of course my favourite newspaper. It has a decent layout, few editing mistakes and I enjoy their comic section on weekends. That’s where they have the crosswords!  Saturday’s and Sunday’s have the more difficult crosswords. During the week I can finish them in 10 minutes. Saturday’s they have two, and each takes around an hour. Yes…I’m slow, but so would you be at my age!

I can’t get into the comics though. Maybe it’s the North American humour that I just don’t get. But the cartooning, if that’s what it’s called has always intrigued me, and in my younger years I tried very hard to emulate one Spanish artist who drew magnificently beautiful women. I have no memory of the theme of the cartoon, just the beauty of the women. That’s where my focus lay and I never WAS successful at it. Pity!

I do recall Scotland’s Sunday Post and in particular its comic section, sporting “Oor Wullie” and “The Broons” among others. I think that I was around sixteen before I stopped reading them, but still remember the brief entertainment value of such Celebs, including “Nero and Zero”, “Desperate Dan” and “Keyhole Kate”. I also noticed over the years how the character drawings changed over time, perhaps owing to a new cartoonist taking on the job, or perhaps the original one maturing just a tad. Who knows. I wonder if its all gone computer today? Just about all else has.

I knew personally one Dundee reporter who went to Primary School with me some decades ago. He was always top-o’-the-class….every year……just a very clever individual. In the end though, at age eleven, he didn’t go on to the best secondary schools and I’ve often wondered why. Perhaps lack of money in the family because he lost his dad in the war.  Yes, education was free then but you couldn’t go to school and work too, so I guess he had no choice. Pity! He would have done very well.

Thinking about it now in these golden years I wonder how the others did in our class. One became a career officer in the army, I know, one an M.P. and then there was me. We were the lucky ones. We had dads to back us up….to feed and nurture….to pay the bills. Lucky indeed.

WORLD CUP SOUTH AFRICA

Vuvuzela time……..that idiocracy of football………an irritation that denies spontaneous roar of the crowd, removing recognition of outstanding play, be it in Timbuktu or Dundee. That’s the World Cup in 2010…..ruined by cacophony at its most monotonous……destroyed by a piece of plastic that they dare call a horn, that 0ne-note “thing” that is used for one purpose only….to create NOISE.

So just imagine what must go through the mind of one of its users……….. and here he is, a young Scottish copycat, just bought it, thinking to himself, “OK, noo am seated. Phew! I’ve got ma new thingemibob. Wish a could spell what’s-its-name. Better blow into it now it’s here. M’gosh, you gotta blow hard just to ge’ a wee note. Oh! They’re playing God Save the Queen. Maybe a could join in!  Them bods are no standin’. They gotta stand when playin’ oor Anthem! Hey youze ains, stan up! Show yer respect! Ye dinna play The Queen when sittin”!

And later, that same Scot, having watched England lose its first match, thinks of what might have been. “Them English wir just lucky t’ ge’ here fer the Cup. Oor team widda beat the pants affa them. A wish a had had the thingemejig back hame. Coulda spoil’  their chances. Oor team are used tae the NOISE. We play the pipes! We’re gooood at the noise! Be’er at the noise than at fitba’  anyway!”

We do hear of course that the NOISE does interrupt concentration with both players and fans being affected to a degree. For my own part I can understand the importance of verbal communication on the field itself and can only see the vuvu’ as being a deliberate intent to upset intelligent play between the teams. There is no other purpose. To blow into the “thing” requires a conscious decision by the perpretator to create noise, unlike the traditional roar of the crowd, that is an immediate audible gut reaction to a play, whether outstanding or otherwise.

Some other idiot compared the vuvu to the bagpipes and naturally great offence was taken by most of the Scots in the world. To suggest for one minute that bagpipes, capable of multi-note function should be in the same sentence as a one-note vuvu’ is beyond stupidity. A much more appropriate comparison would be that of vuvu’ versus leaf-blower, snow-blower or power lawn-mower.

Maybe those vuvu’ enthusiasts should form a band. Can you imagine?………………. I can!

ARMY BANDS:

We had concluded one whole year of basic and officer training and were now readying ourselves for the commissioning parade in Chatham, England. Our route took us from the Regimental Barracks along a short road to the parade square, being a large court surrounded on three sides by 4-storey buildings in the Georgian style, with the fourth side of high wrought iron railings and one stone-built gateway of Admiralty Arch proportions…..and that’s where the problem lay!

We had the pipe band in front, the new officers and officer cadets in the middle, and the brass band to the rear, and we were all going left, right, left, right, all together as one cohesive unit, marching towards the square in all our splendor. It was when the pipe band began entering through the Arch that things went awry. We had been marching to the beat of the pipeband drums, a beat that was constant and easy to follow, but the entry through the Arch quickly changed that, with an echo that was disconcerting at first, and chaotic in its final effects, as the beat became irregular to the deterioration of good military discipline! Our magnificence as a smart fighting unit had ceased to exist. We had become a rabble………..an unsophisticated mob that couldn’t tell left from right.

We got Hell of course. The Sergeant Major roared his disapproval using language of the most foul nature….and naturally, we listened. Of course we did. We had to!

Eventually some smart cookie came up with one answer.  It wasn’t perfect of course. WE knew that! Rearranging the bands, with the pipes at the rear only reversed the problem, turning us into a rabble just a few minutes later than with the status quo. But we were the elite! We were British! We could think logically….that’s what we were trained to do……and we did.

It was either get rid of the Arch or get rid of the drums……..and guess who won?

And if we’d had the vuvu’s would the answer have been any different?……………I wonder.

OTHER NOISES:

There are other troubling NOISES in our world that make for a less than a perfect existence. The raucous CAWING of the crow is one of Nature’s worst, whereas the constant YAPPING of a small dog is worse, if for no other reason than it being a preventable one provided its idiotic owner would take some lessons. No! Not lessons for the dog. It’s the owner who needs them. But a constant yapper is indeed a menace to society. I found the comic’s gig on yapping to be hilarious, when he substituted a man for a dog, and the said man, standing on his porch, yapped at all who passed, using the word “Hey!” as the substitute for “arf”. I wonder if they ever go hoarse….get laryngitis……….mumps…….anything in fact to just shut up?!!!! And I’m talking this time about the dog!

Reversing beep vehicles also provide angst. It’s beep beep beep beep until you ever so slowly go either totally bonkers or die…………wondering why the driver doesn’t get a stiff neck for all the reversing……and why for heaven’s sake  didn’t they invent a nice wee tune instead? But what I’ve never understood is that they put these alarms on vehicles that constantly go back and forward……..vehicles like earth diggers and snow removers……vehicles that supposeddly move forward as much as they move backward……and on a regular basis! And by the way…..I was only kidding about the TUNE!

My last NOISE at this time is the train whistle and we have a beauty in Newmarket, Ontario…..and yet, oddly enough it’s not one that bothers me unduly. OK, it wakes me up at 6:30 am when I could sleep longer, but it’s a great alarm, although perhaps not a priority need for a retired guy like me???? What bothers me more is the fact that it’s required at all…….at all the lever crossings (railway tracks) in the entire North American continent, those crossings that are responsible for so many deaths each and every year.

Maybe, just maybe…..in the next century sometime, they’ll spend the money to vertically separate the crossings………save the people….that sorta thing!

And whilst I’m on vertical separation, let’s get rid of the surface car parks! Let’s not let the automobile dictate! Put them out of sight……….underground……….on top, but NOT at pedestrian level where they intrude in so many ways. But that is another subject, to be dealt with later.

SCHOOLDAYS

HOMEWORK:

The other day my grandson James came home from school with a smile on his face……..and he told me of his good fortune, having attained the high mark of 92% for his last night’s math homework. He pulled it out of his school bag and sure enough, there it was, in red. 92%!

Now I must admit to being somewhat wary of teachers, from past experience, so I read James’ paper in some depth, finding that he had in fact answered all questions correctly but had been “awarded” a deduction of 8% for “general untidiness”! And it is here where I have to disagree with all the teachers who take this approach. Those teachers who take away the rightful glory of someone who, maybe for the first time in their lives has reached the lofty heights of 100%. But he didn’t get there. No! He was robbed of that small glory. A glory that could have boosted his ego and, because it was an envigorating experience could probably have lured him into a repeat performance. Luckily, in James’ case, he was elated with his 92%, so perhaps no damage was done. But he was still robbed!

HOW DO YOU SAY “SORRY?”

It reminded me of that time in Morgan Academy when one math teacher gave me “the strap” for not doing my homework. I had just been promoted to his higher math class, had NOT been taught the specific subject matter, had spent 3 to 4 hours attempting to solve the problem, and had received 3 of the best for my efforts…….3 painful whacks from a 2-feet long piece of forked leather! I didn’t deserve it of course and under normal circumstances I may have run away from the subject, backed off so to speak……but I didn’t. I was mad….mad as Hell….and I was going to show HIM!

And show him I did! Over the next few months I was able to catch up with the advanced studies and ended up, as we all did, completing the Scottish Higher Leaving Certificate exams. Our class had a complement of 32 students and guess what?  Only one passed…………………….. ME!

The day following the announcement of exam results the math teacher met me in the corridor and shook my hand, congratulating me for my success with much enthusiasm. I was not enamoured….and showed it. I was only human after all……….and it was only a few days later that I heard of his illness……….and then, some months after of his demise.

He had misjudged me, of course. That was obvious, and for that lack on his part I had felt an anger towards him that was understandable certainly, yet perhaps a bit childish. But I too had misjudged. I too had seen only the trees. He should have believed my story….my alibi……..and damn it, he didn’t!  He had believed what all teachers believed…..and that was not right.

And later, too late, the wood became evident. He had been a new teacher………….had just been assigned to the Academy……He couldn’t tell me from Adam, or the rest of the class for that matter………………………….So, how do you say “Sorry” ? 

Not with words.