Saturday, 19 December 2009

Winter's Entrance

It snowed last night, finally. Not much, its only about a centimetre, but with a week till Christmas it looks nice. Hopefully it will stick around. I've been listening to my friends in Calgary go on about their 3 feet of snow and incredible cold - 40 below. A centimetre is really nothing - just dust. But here in Windsor where winter is normally an afterthought to the Canadian weather patterns, it's enough to make people drive like idiots and pull out the snowblowers. We're just not used to that kind of winter here. We'll get our pounding, but not until January or February.
In the meantime, Christmas is coming, We're all up this morning waiting on Kim's dad visiting - he normally comes down from London about a week before Christmas to take care of the kids and takes off again. He lives two hours away in London, so we don't see him as much as we'd like.

But he's coming, and that's the important thing. His visit starts our meandering for the season. Old friends we haven't seen in a long while, good friends we see all the time, it's even time to say a polite Merry Christmas to someone walking down the
street you don't know at all. We've been receiving Christmas cards too, and ours have been sent. The tree is up and decorated, the kids are off school for the holiday, and we've started our shopping - just started mind you. Still lots to do. I can't wait till the turkey is on the table. Lately Kim has been looking for all the old classic Christmas shows to play over and over for the kids - My personal favourite - Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, has already played a half dozen times now.

Christmas carols play in the background. Real ones, not songs based on getting wild African livestock, or people stuck in chimneys. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Vienna Boys Choir are awesome - Their music gives you goose bumps. I can't think of any other recordings that really bring home the message. Hippos just don't do it for me. Given that, I'm sitting here over my first coffee, in my housecoat, listening to Chuck Mangeone. Typical Saturday morning fare. My daughter just came down and asked if she could go play in the snow. I laughed when I glanced outside to see what it's actually doing out there - Maybe a centimetre and a half now, not much playing, but that's what we have, so she will make the best of it. To Kiki and Dave - when you post about shoveling your 3 feet of snow, remember to try to be a kid again, and make the best of it. Remember snow forts and snowball fights, remember building snow men and making snow angels.

My daughter won't have that here, and by Christmas it will probably be gone, so we'll just have to make the best of what we have, and say to all - Merry Christmas.


Thursday, 17 December 2009

I think Scotland knows we're here

Since dad passed away we've been looking for his family in Scotland, with no luck at all. I've sent a pile of emails to various places in and around Kilmarnock (his home town), trying to get a small bite on something that might be a lead to direct us to his living relatives. We know they're there, they have to be! Dad had a large family, and we have found that some of my aunts and uncles were alive until this past decade. Their descendants are all still in the same county. Given that every marriage and death record we have lists the same address for over 50 years, it's not a stretch to assume they don't move around much. Dad coming to Canada, and one going to Australia seem to be the exceptions.

Everything is a dead end. There are no online cemetery records, city directories, or any kind of property or tax lists, unless you pay for them. With limited funds, that's not an option. My sister Joanne did order some records of marriages, deaths and divorces, and that so far is our only lead. Albeit a good one. We've got something to go on with those, especially my father's first wife being granted a divorce from dad 3 years after he came to Canada on the grounds of abandantment. We know he came here in 1951 - we have the ship manifest. She divorced him in 1954. The manifest lists his next of kin as his wife in Scotland, at the same address listed on every other record we have. There's no doubt it's them.

I sent an email to the town newspaper - The Kilmarnock Standard, hoping to get a bite of anything. Last week I got it. It goes something like this...

From Frank Beattie
for Kilmarnock Standard

I'm afraid your email to our on-line editor seems to have been doing the

It seems to have fallen on me to respond.

It is not clear from your email which area of Scotland your father came
from. Before anyone can help it would be essntial to have as much basic
information as possible, starting with your father's name, occupation, date
of birth, places of residence etc.

I realise from your email that any information have may be suspect but you
have to make a start somewhere.

Given a name and occupation and approximate date, say 1948, it should be
possible through local street directories to find an address.
You do not say what age your father was in 1951. If he was old enough and
was not in a reserved ocupation, he would have served in the military
during World War II and his service records should be available.
Your own birth certificate will be of use in that parents names, ages,
occupations, and home address will be given.

You should be able to access all birth, death and marriage records for
Scotland from 1855 through the Burns Monument Centre, which just happens to
be in Kilmarnock. Contact them though

If you can provide me with enough basic information which would allow your
siblings, nephews, nieces or other relatives to recognise you or your
father, please get back in touch and I will put a request in the Kilmarnock
Standard (printed version). Our readers are very good and this sort of

Your brother - no name provided - may well be in the local phone book. What
could be simpler?

Best wishes, Frank Beattie

Now we have something. Now we have a direction. Now we have hope. This guy is willing to write a story about our plight in the paper. Now we have to figure it out.

We only have one shot at this, so we have to make it count. They will publish a story based on what we send them, how much detail is up to the paper. Working for a newspaper I'm aware of the restrictions of space, especially with human interest stories, they tend to get chopped for the regular news. So we have to be very precise and very brief. We have to write what we want to appear in the paper and hope they don't chop it up. We only get one shot to grab my relative's attention and prod them to respond to us.

We very well could be opening a can of worms here, but that's the chance we have to take. All we want is to know if we have cousins, aunts, uncles, or even a brother in Scotland. With our family being so small, we all crave knowing if there are more of us. Even if they are thousands of miles away.

So we'll write, and then we'll wait. Maybe Christmas will bring a gift that none of us could foreshadow. We'll get Scotland's attention.

Monday, 14 December 2009

@#!%*!? Christmas Lights

So we're starting the tree tonight, I of course have the enviable task of putting the lights up. I get this task because more than anything else, I can reach. However, before and of that happens I have to undo the damage done last year in my haste to get the light put away, I managed to tie 5 strands together. Imagine that 50 foot backyard extension cord that always gets tangled, 5 times over, with little lights every six inches that thoroughly prevent any sort of untagling effort.

So there I sit, in front of the tree, with one strand plugged in so I can see which one I'm working on at the time, with some of it wrapped around my head in an effort to keep the untangled bit straight.

Not a pretty sight. This of course, is when Kim decides to take pictures. I'm sure she'll post them soon. Just to add to the frustration, one of my favourite sets, the one that has a switch on it that allows you to vary the light pattern, has a short in it and I have to throw it out. That's usually the basis of the light show. It's toast. It's also 20 years old - my parents always had it on their tree. It doesn't owe me anything, but why couldn't I have found this out long before I start the tree? Now I have less lights, and they're all white. Oh well, onward.

Two more strands in I find that one of the strands has a burnt out light, so everything past that light won't work. Oh well, shove them into the tree, hook another strand to it and carry on. Half hour later, all (?) the lights work and it conveys what I wanted - a spike in my power bill. Christmas has arrived at Wilsonworld.

We're sorting out the rest of the mess. We have soooooo many decorations that we have to really pick and choose what to put out. We acquired all of mom and dad's stuff, and dad was known for going overboard. He was nuts with decorations, most of it tacky, but he put stuff everywhere. It's hard to decide what to get rid of when you grew up with it all. But we have to start somewhere. I'm listening to Kim in the next room with the kids give direction on what is to go where, of course the kids aren't really playing the game. Short attention span begats short temper.

Slowly we're reclaiming the floor while the house transforms into a holiday wonderland. It's amazing to see how much a few odds and ends of holiday lore, and appropriate music can change your mood. Now I'm prepped for the season, now I can go shopping! Now I can sit in quiet admiration for what this all means.

Now I can look forward to ripping the damn lights off the tree in early January and not have to deal with them until next December.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Blogger block

I should write something.
Something meaningful, inspirational, contemplational.
But I'm stuck.

Lately things have been going better around here, but frankly there's nothing to post about that has any real substance for anyone outside my family. Kim's working now, I'm still working (blah blah blah), Kid One is in high school and managing a social schedule, kid two is growing up everyday, and surprises me on a regular basis with her wit and intelligence. Blah blah blah.

Christmas is coming, and we're not ready. Same with thousands of others.
It's getting colder, maybe I should talk about the weather? Nah, that would just reinforce the Canadian stereotype. I may as well walk around the house with a toque and a beer.

I could write about local politics, or religion, or world events, but I grew up in the officer's mess where those subjects were personal and taboo in a social setting. Besides, there really isn't much to talk about, unless you want me to go on about the fact that the city has yet to compensate me or anyone else for having to take my own garbage to the dump this summer.

I could talk about my mid-life crisis; my efforts to bring back some dreams and make them something other than regrets. But then I'd sound like I'm whining, and that's a fairly quick way to alienate readers. Frankly, nobody cares!

I could write about our efforts to contact my dad's family in Scotland. But we've had no luck, so that's a short post. In case you're wondering, we sent off a slew of emails and have had no response. There, that was easy.

I could write about how we should all be better citizens and help our fellow man, the poor, the downtrodden, the infirm. But we've lived that the past year. I'm done with that for a while. Maybe later.

I could tell you who my favourite comedian is - but why?

I could write about fluff.

In the end, having nothing to go on about at any length isn't such a bad thing, It means that for the first time in a long time, life is cruising along. Maybe it's getting boring, but certainly still worth living. I've had enough excitement for a while, it's time to sit back and watch the clouds go by. It's time to enjoy what I've got. Time to play video games, clean house, talk to my family, reconnect with friends and contemplate my future. I'm sitting here in my housecoat with a coffee listening to Gordon Lightfoot on iTunes and enjoying the silence of a Sunday morning. I'm not thinking about the HST, or the aircraft loaded with weapons intercepted in Thailand, or Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or if the wind will finally take out the neighbour's tree.

I don't care today.

Today I will pour Kim a coffee when she wakes up, prod the kids to get breakfast and pick up after themselves, go to church, run to the optician to pick up the kid's new glasses, and go get a Christmas tree. (we won't decorate it until tomorrow, it has to settle first).

Ah, blissful complacency.
My blissful boring life.

Maybe tomorrow I'll do something noteworthy, but not today.

Have a great Sunday.