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Monday, March 28, 2016

Back in book mode

With some embarrassment, I admit I haven't read a book in the past two months!!! But that's okay, I got fed up with myself and this week I bought a classic novel, perhaps one of the best books of the last 100 years. I have begun to re-read Steinbeck's beautiful novel,  The Grapes of Wrath. This is my second time. The first time was nearly 50 years ago. I have this amazing feeling of being at
one with the Joad family on their incredibly sad, yet inspirational journey across America. So I have lots of tea, some danishes and some whiskey to get me through the next few days. I know the story too well. Maybe I should get some Kleenex too! ha ha ha.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Monday, 1986

Here is a news story about what happened in Timmins  30 years ago, Easter Monday 1986.
I am sure Jennifer and Neil will remember that day...

* * * * * * * * * *

As emergencies go, it was the first time and the last time anyone can remember such a large portion of Timmins had been evacuated. More than 5,000 people were ordered out of their homes. Perhaps what is more amazing is that despite the damage, there were no serious injuries reported.
It was Easter Monday 1986; thirty years ago this week. The date on the calendar was March 31. It was overcast. There had been a bit of rain. At first, it seemed like a normal spring morning in Timmins.
But something went wrong at the Imperial Oil Esso bulk plant on Spruce Street, near Ogden Avenue. A worker had set up a hose to transfer gasoline from a 36,000-litre rail tanker car to a bulk fuel tank. Somehow the four-inch fuel line broke away. It was about 8:30 a.m. The worker had not stayed with the tanker car. No one noticed it right away. Roughly 21,000 litres of gasoline poured out of the tanker and onto the ground.
Much of the gasoline pooled into low-lying areas and seeped into the soil. But a lot of it, no one knows how much for sure, flowed into a nearby catch basin and from there into the city’s sewer system.
At 9:08 that morning, an urgent call was made to the Timmins fire hall advising of the gasoline spill. Fire Captain Sonny Farrell and a crew of firefighters responded. The gasoline spill was obvious, with shiny rainbow slicks floating on nearby puddles and pavement. The oily sheen could clearly be noticed between the ties of the railroad tracks.
Captain Farrell alerted Timmins fire chief Bert Schaffer who was on the scene in minutes. Schaffer was surprised at what he saw in terms of thousands and thousands of litres of spilled gasoline.
Schaffer said that the gasoline spill emergency was completely unexpected and unprecedented in terms of the size of the spill. But he said once it became apparent that gasoline had entered the sewer system he knew there was potential for disaster.
“I started making calls you know as soon as we knew the gasoline was hitting the sewers that it could go anywhere,” Schaffer recalled.
And so it did. As firefighters were helping that morning to contain the gasoline that had spilled, their emergency radios suddenly squawked to life.
Spruce Street, near Ogden, is a high point in the city. The gasoline in the nearest sewer quickly began flowing downhill. People living nearby could smell the fumes, but didn’t give it much thought at first.
Unknown to many residents, gasoline had also crossed over into sanitary sewers. Fumes began seeping into homes, coming up through the basement drains.
One woman on Mountjoy Street South, near Cody Avenue, was sitting in her kitchen enjoying a morning coffee. The freezer chest in her basement kicked on. A tiny spark erupted inside the freezer. Suddenly there was an explosion.
It was 9:48 a.m. just forty minutes after the initial call out to the tanker spill. It was less than a kilometre from Spruce Street and firefighters rushed to the scene. Luckily there were no injuries after the explosion in the basement, but there was a minor fire and damage to the house. Firefighters were quick to contain the incident.
As if he sensed the potential danger, Schaffer took a minute to speak to a handful of news reporters at the scene, asking them to get the word out to the public as quickly as possible. This was especially important for Timmins radio reporters that day since there was no Internet and no e-mail. Cell phones hadn’t been invented.
“If they smell gas, get out of the house,” Schaffer implored. “Just get out of the house and then call us!”
Just as the chief was wrapping up the impromptu street corner news conference, the conversation was interrupted by deep resonating Whoomp! Another explosion, this time in a house on nearby Columbus Avenue.
Fire crews raced up the street to find a two-storey home with flames licking out the windows. All the windows had been blown out. Curtains and a curtain rod were lying on the ground across the street. Again, good fortune prevailed. Two adults and five children got out of the house safely, without a scratch.
As firefighters fought that blaze, another thump was heard. Half a block away, the home of a well-known furniture dealer had exploded. Citizens in the streets helped firefighters drag hoses in that direction of that fire. And on it went.
Fast forward thirty years, and fire chief Mike Pintar, spoke with amazement in his voice as he reviewed all the official fire reports from that day. The archived file for March 31, 1986, revealed 47 emergency call-outs that day, seven of them were explosions or fires he said. The other calls, just as serious, were from frightened residents who reported the smell of gasoline in their homes, as fumes seeped in from nearby sewers.
Schaffer recalled the situation was bad and becoming worse as that morning wore on. He said he was alarmed to learn that reports of gasoline fumes were coming from the Melrose area. It seemed possible that gasoline fumes were heading for the river. Schaffer said that was when the decision was made to cut off hydro in Timmins.
“We had to shut it down. Nobody knew exactly where the leakage was going or what house it was going to hit next,” Schaffer remembered. There was also a concern for the municipal sewage treatment plant on Airport Road. If gasoline fumes built up inside that plant, it could spell disaster. The multi-million dollar building could be ruined.
“Well there was a lot of people who were ticked off about that,” said Schaffer. “We bypassed that plant eh, so all the sewage and everything went into the river.”
He said it was a hard decision, but said it was a decision that had to be made.
“If we had lost the plant, if that blew up, we’d have nothing there for weeks, months probably,” said Schaffer.
As it turned out, Hydro was gradually able to restore power to most parts of the city after a few hours when officials were better able to pin down which areas had been contaminated by the gasoline fumes. For the most part it was that portion of Ward Five, south of Kirby and Kent Avenues. Hydro would remain shut off in the part of town.
Schaffer said the next hard decision came after a meeting with Mayor Vic Power and other community leaders. Former mayor Power this week said he remembered the meeting.
“I was notified at about 11 o'clock. We had a meeting over at the fire hall with police chief Floyd Schwantz, fire chief Albert Schaffer, training officer Albert Walsh and Emergency Measures people,” he said.
“It was decided that the whole south …, I guess it’s the southeast quadrant of the City of Timmins, was to be evacuated,” Power remembered.
“It wasn’t that difficult to decide because it was the right thing to do,” Power recalled.
“People were very cooperative. Citizens of Timmins were very cooperative,” said Power. He said people sensed that there was a serious problem, and it could get worse.
That afternoon, local news reporters were ushered into a conference room at the Timmins fire hall for an update. That’s when the mayor revealed that an evacuation order was being issued and would take effect at 5:00 p.m.
Police Chief Schwantz revealed that his officers would be going door-to-door to inform residents of the evacuation order. Ambulances would be made available for anyone needing help to get out of their homes.
As darkness began to fall over Timmins later that afternoon, police cars with loudspeakers patrolled the streets announcing that people were to leave their homes and to register at the Red Cross evac-centre at the McIntyre auditorium.
People were also asked to leave windows open in case there might be a build-up of gasoline fumes in their homes.
Within a few hours, the south side of Timmins was in darkness. No house lights, no street lights. It was eerily black and quiet. The only activity being city police cruisers, slowly patrolling each street to prevent looters from entering the area.
At the same time, city workers had gone through the area, removing heavy iron manhole covers in a bid to re-ventilate the sewers.
As it happened, most of the 5,000 or so residents went to the homes of friends or family members. Other took up every available hotel and motel room. Restaurants did a booming business. Everyone kept their receipts.
Less than 100 residents would take advantage of the care and hospitality offered by the Timmins branch of the Red Cross at McIntyre building.
Timmins was the big story, not just in Northern Ontario, but across North America. ABC News in New York reported about it. It was reported on the CBC National with Knowlton Nash at 10:00 p.m., and an hour later on the CTV National News with Lloyd Robertson.
“It was not the kind of attention we were looking for, but that’s the way it was,” Vic Power remembered.
Timmins awoke the next morning, Tuesday, April 1, knowing it was not some bizarre April Fools’ event. The good news was that no more fires or explosions had happened. The sewer pipes were being infused with fresh air. Chief Schaffer said John Braney of the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office had joined in the effort and managed to get a truckload of ventilation fans shipped to Timmins from several fire departments in the Toronto area. The fans would be placed atop the open manholes to create a huge vacuum to suck out the contaminated air from the sewers.
Northern and Central Gas company employees had arrived from Sudbury, equipped with special “sniffer” devices that could detect gasoline fumes inside a sewer pipe.
Most people were being allowed to return to their homes. Some areas were still declared off limits, but within two days, all the sewers had been cleared by the workers with the sniffer devices.
When all was said and done, former mayor Power said he was pleased that no one was hurt, and that the situation was handled so well by the city’s emergency team. Power said it was a completely unexpected sort of emergency but he said it was a credit to the community and ordinary people that the situation was faced head on and people worked together to get through it.
“But I can’t say enough about the work of Chief Schaffer, Chief Schwantz who has passed away since, firefighter Albert Walsh. I think those were the key players, and someone may read this and say, Gee, they forgot all about me, but that’s what I recall at this time,” said Power.
“There were a whole lot of groups that helped out and volunteers like the Red Cross, I remember Heather Bozzer, and if I mention just one, I know I will neglect others. But there were a lot of community groups that came forward spontaneously,” he said.
“So the crisis was over I would say within 24 hours or so. But you know when you run for mayor you sure don’t think of these things, or at least, I didn’t in those days,” Power said with a smile.  

Weekend in Westree ...

I am back home in Timmins and still in relaxation mode after a spending a couple of very nice days at the camp in Westree. Of course Don and Denise were excellent hosts and I was pleased to come home with a care-package consisting a full turkey dinner, a full seafood dinner and a nice slice of raspberry cheesecake. My grandson Tyler and I both celebrated birthday dinners. Jennifer surprised me with a very pleasant gift and a card. 
I am always happy to see the boys who continue to grow like weeds. I think we reached a milestone today when the boys slept-in and when they did come into the kitchen this morning they were more interested in having breakfast than checking out all the Easter goodies. I think the best part was just totally unwinding, playing cards and trying out new things. The girls were all excited about having a margarita machine. I used it to make a very fancy whiskey-rita, but I found the lime juice a bit too tart. All in all, another great weekend in the North.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

No Comment. A good thing.

I have to say I am pleased at the growing movement among media companies to curb the problem of commenting on media websites. I think they're doing it for the right reasons. CBC for example now requires all comments to be posted by persons who identify themselves. I don't know how that will work, but it is a step in the right direction. The Toronto Star stopped commenting altogether. Our own Postmedia publications stopped the commenting last year.
When I refer to the problem of commenting, I must explain that it is not a problem for people to have opinions. Thank goodness we all have different viewpoints on things. The problem is that far too many comments were clearly mean-spirited, so much so I think, that ordinary well-intentioned readers just sort of gave up. Some comments actually attacked other people for their opinions. The other problem is that so many comments were misinformed or deliberately put wrong information into the comments, hoping to sway opinion.
If you have an opinion, start a blog! LOL

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Good thing it was mild weather eh...

Sometimes you have to be grateful for the little things. I just wrapped up my grocery shopping this afternoon and was in the parking lot of the grocery store, not too far away from home. The fanbelt on my vehicle snapped. I have full roadside assistance, so towing is free. I called a cab to get home and had only two bags of groceries. And my shift tomorrow doesn't start until 1:00 P.M. So things aren't so bad after all. Good thing the weather was mild.

Bye Bye Keurig

The Keurig experiment is over for me. I got a machine a couple of years ago, because like a lot of people I know, it was the thing to do. It was just so convenient and easy to make a cup of coffee. To be honest, I never found it to make a really good robust cup of coffee. Yesterday I took my Keurig, cleaned it up and I will be putting it away. Maybe I will give it to a church group or something. For several months now I have been drinking tea in the mornings. I put the kettle on before my shower and soon the water is boiling. I like my King Cole and occasionally Tetley BOLD tea. Not long ago there was a sale on Maxwell House instant coffee, so I bought a jar. What is nice about it is that I can make a really strong cup of coffee, usually around lunch time. Then a few weeks back I saw a Maxwell House flavoured café mix in a little square can. So now I mix a bit of that in with the instant coffee and it is very nice. Here’s the other thing. I know I will be saving money. A box of 10 or 12 Keurig pods is $8 or $9. Good instant coffee with the specialty café flavours is much less for roughly 100 cups of coffee, and it tastes good.

Texting and Etiquette. Really?

I was a bit surprised to read there is etiquette regarding texting. Hmmm. Well I believe in courtesy and being polite. I usually apply that to conversation. But when it comes to texting, I think things are different. Well, that is my take on it. If I get a text I don’t always respond immediately. That’s because my BlackBerry is often in a jacket pocket or on a desk under a pile of papers. I even forgot the phone at work one night and I didn’t miss it. I rarely have the ringer on. I go to so many places where I think it would be rude to have a ringer sounding from my coat or camera bag. Court, council meetings, restaurants.  I figure if somebody needs a response right away to something urgent, they can telephone me. I don’t always answer quickly, so that can be a problem too. So, I find the articles on texting etiquette to be moot. In fact, I find it can be argued that the whole idea of texting is intrusive. But I put up with it. I was in a bar chatting with a friend last week when I mentioned I intended to find something online, once I got home. He asked why not check it on the phone. I told him I have the internet on my phone turned off. He was wide-eyed at the thought that I wasn’t “connected”. As afar as etiquette goes, I am often put off by people who will stop a conversation with a live person to answer their phone. You’d think they were getting a call from the Prime Minister the way they fumble and fight to get their phone out. It’s funny how the etiquette articles don’t seem to mention that. If you’re talking with a real person and the phone rings, it can keep ringing. You can check it a few minutes later and the person you were speaking with will feel much better for knowing you. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Should be walking more ...

Do you walk enough? I don’t think so. I know I don’t. But I try. Daughter Jenn recently commented on the fact I parked so far away from the door when I was shopping recently. I said it is one of the few ways I make myself walk, knowing that during a normal workday I don’t afford myself enough time to go walking. I really noticed it last week when I went through the tunnel at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport for the first time. Like many others I was carrying a shoulder bag and pulling a suitcase. I got out of the cab, went down an elevator, walked a few metres and then descended on an escalator to the tunnel level. I was amazed at the length of the tunnel and then I noticed I was on a “moving sidewalk”. I suppose I could have walked in the centre area of the tunnel, but I didn’t think about it at first. Interestingly, all of us on the moving sidewalk were walking as the sidewalk progressed forward. So I did get some walking in.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

They're still talking about the murder at PDAC...

This is a story I wrote several years ago, based on the original murder story which I covered in the 1980s.
They were still talking about at it the prospector's convention this year. 
Some people thought it was an urban legend!
"You bastard," the dying man shouted.
Those were the last words that Timmins "Timmy" Bissonnette was ever to hear from his lifelong friend Guy Maurice Lamarche just moments after Bissonnette shot Lamarche with a .38 calibre pistol.
It was 25 years ago this week that the people of Timmins and the Canadian mining exploration community were stunned when the news of the shooting flashed out from The Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto where the annual Prospectors and Developers Convention was underway.
It was the tragic end of a friendship that had begun years earlier when two Timmins boys became close friends, drinking buddies and lifelong pals.
It was the supper hour on Monday March 9th, 1987. It was the first full day of the convention. Lamarche was standing near the top of the up-escalator leading to the main exhibit hall at the Royal York. Lamarche was well known to the mining crowd and was smiling and greeting many friends and associates.
That was standard procedure for Lamarche, who was described by many of his friends as not merely handsome, but dashing. While many men might be comfortable in jeans and a tee-shirt, Lamarche was right at home wearing expensive tailor-made tuxedos.
Bissonnette, wearing a fedora hat and a beige trench coat had worked his way through the crowd and, according to witnesses, seeing Lamarche, he moved toward the escalator.
Suddenly, there was a commotion and some shouting.
"He's going to shoot me. The son of a bitch!" one witness recalled hearing.
A 6:20 p.m. a shot rang out. Many of the witnesses at the scene never saw the first shot fired, but they heard it. And then turning their attention toward the noise, they saw Bissonnette fire a second shot into Lamarche.
Months later, during the murder trial, it would be revealed that Bissonnette had fired the first shot as Lamarche was turning away. The bullet hit Lamarche in the back and spun him around. Bissonnette fired a second bullet that hit Lamarche in the heart, court was told.
With that Bissonnette turned and ran down the upward-moving escalator. Shocked spectators moved to help Lamarche, now laying on the carpet and bleeding heavily.
Bissonnette left the hotel, ran out onto Front Street, and jumped into a taxi that drove away. Witness Lloyd Bardswich told court he followed Bissonnette, saw the taxi and he himself got into another taxi and gave chase. Within two blocks, Bardswich was able to get the attention of a police officer and point to Bissonnette.
Toronto Police Sergeant Emory Gilbert would testify that Timmins Andre Bissonnette, age 54, was arrested and searched. Police recovered a silver-plated pearl-handled revolver with two spent cartridge casings.
As Bissonnette was being taken into custody, Lamarche was rushed to Toronto General Hospital, roughly one mile north of the hotel.
Guy Maurice Lamarche, age 53, was pronounced dead at 6:49 p.m.
Police would eventually learn that both men were known to each other, that they were both from Timmins and had business dealings with each other.
But the question that was being asked in Timmins and at the convention was, what had happened that these two former close friends had become such deadly enemies.
"I can't tell you what happened," said the 79-year-old Bissonnette in an interview with The Timmins Times last week. "My thing with him was personal, him and I. Something happened and I don't want to get into that."
Court transcripts however, reveal there were some hard feelings that arose over money.
In the early 1980s Lamarche, who was a well-known mining stock promoter, was found guilty of defrauding a bank when loans were secured to allow clients to buy mining stock. Lamarche did not put the all money into the stocks, but into a personal account. Lamarche pleaded guilty. He was fined $200,000 and ordered to make restitution.
Bissonnette told the court that Lamarche became angry when Bissonnette could only scrape together about $13,000 to help Lamarche pay off the fine.
Bissonnette also told the court that over the years he had given Lamarche between $125,000 and $150,000 to help him out when he needed it.
In return, Bissonnette told the court, Lamarche had promised to give him $100,000, several hundred mining shares and would allow him to stay in his luxury condo on the Toronto waterfront for several weeks.
In the mid-1980's Bissonnette had financial hard times. He had to sell his night club. Court was told he hired a private detective to find Lamarche since he heard Lamarche had been successful in stock promotions in Holland and England.
In March 1987 Bissonnette was in Toronto where he confronted Lamarche and asked him to share the wealth.
Bissonnette told the court that Lamarche told him that day "I changed my mind, you're not going to get no money." He further testified that Lamarche had threatened to "have him blown away" by some thugs that Lamarche knew from Amsterdam.
"You won't need no money," Lamarche allegedly told Bissonnette "You're going to be dead in a couple of days," Bissonnette said he was told.
Bissonnette returned to his hotel room and got the gun. He then headed over to the Royal York.
Looking back on it all, Bissonnette said he regrets his actions that day.
"Oh yeah, very much so. I spent 18 years in prison. I should never have went there that day.
"It should have never happened, but I was angry, or whatever it was," Bissonnette said quietly.
He said that he and Lamarche were once as close as brothers.
"Well we grew up together, you know. He was a good guy, a good talker and he was a good hustler. I was a hustler. I was making money. I lived in Puerto Rico. He used to come and live in my apartment. I had a beautiful penthouse," said Bissonnette.
He also recalled that Lamarche was popular with women.
"Yeah, we used to hang around Vegas together. And wow, all the broads loved him," he laughed.
Bissonnette's case eventually went to trial in February 1988. Although he was initially charged with first-degree murder, Bissonnette argued that the killing was not premeditated. After several days of testimony, the case was put in the hands of the jury on February 5, 1988.
Seven hours later, the jury determined that Bissonnette was guilty of second degree murder.
A week later, on February 11th, associate chief justice Frank Callaghan sentenced Bissonnette to life in prison with a minimum of 13 years before any parole would be considered. Callaghan said the killing was motivated more by stupidity than by evil. Callaghan basically said Bissonnette was not an evil man.
Prison time can be hard time for anyone, but Bissonnette endured. In the words of the prison underworld, Bissonnette was respected, connected and protected.
Bissonnette said connections with "the Quebec mob" meant he, as a middle-aged man, could do prison time in safety.
"There was lots of respect. No problem. I got close to two, three tough guys," he recalled.
"I looked after them. I had some money on the street. I took care of a couple of families."
But the salad days for Timmy Bissonnette were definitely over. He would eventually spend 18 years behind bars. It was a far cry from those easy days when he owned a swank nightclub in Puerto Rico. Still, his jail cell was adorned with photos of himself with famous entertainers and athletes of the 1960s and 1970s.
"I owned a bar you know. It was a big nightclub in San Juan. It was called Danny's Living Room. It was open for 40 years! You don't see restaurants and bars open 40 years," he said.
"I became rich. I was a rich guy you know. I had a home on the beach in Puerto Rico, an apartment in Las Vegas at the same time. And I was married five times," he said.
"Did ya know I used to hang around Las Vegas?" he asked.
"I was close with the Rat Pack. Dean Martin, yeah, Dean Martin was close to me. I have picture of us in my apartment," he laughed.
The nightclub not only attracted famous people, but also old friends and acquaintances from Timmins.
One Timmins man, who knew Bissonnette well, said part of his success in San Juan was because the bar was open 24 hours a day. San Juan had several large hotels and casinos where famous entertainers would perform. Once their show was done, they liked to get away from the crowds and the hip place to go was Danny's. That's how Bissonnette came to rub elbows with the rich and famous.
"There was Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra," Bissonnette recalled with a laugh. "We should sit down and talk some day. I can tell ya all about 'em."
That sense of celebrity paid off eventually when Bissonnette realized he could do something good while in prison.
One day, he was given a brand new sweatshirt from a Superbowl game. Bissonnette, knowing that his fellow inmates made a few dollars a week doing menial jobs, decided to raffle the sweatshirt. He was able to raise roughly $500 which he donated to a children's wish foundation.
"It's to help those little kids with cancer," said Bissonnette.
Known inside the prison as Mr. B, he continued the fundraising effort for children.
He said he still works to help raise money for various foundations especially since he too is a cancer survivor, having overcome a struggle with leukemia a few years ago.
Bissonnette now lives in the Greater Toronto Area, where he is still on parole.
"I did 18 years in the joint, but I will be on parole for the rest of my life," he said matter of factly.
He added that he remembers his early days fondly, growing up in the town he was named after. He worked as a shoe-shine boy, a newspaper boy, helping milk delivery and washing store windows on Third Avenue.
When he was 19, he joined a travelling carnival and travelled across Canada, the U.S. and Latin America. Eventually he partnered with other "carnies" and began making serious money running big shows and games of chance.
All in all, Bissonnette said he has few regrets in life, save for that fateful day in March, 25 years ago at the prospector's convention. "I should never have went there," he said again.
Bissonnette is sensitive to the fact that he took the life of a fellow man, another human being.
"Yeah, I think of that often. I'm Catholic. I go to church. And you know, between you and me, I light a candle once in a while," Bissonnette said softly.
"I feel bad for the family you know. They've got to live without their father. And the grandkids won't see their grandfather ... all because of what I did, you know. That's a little rough for them."

Nice to be home...

I was pleased to get back home Wednesday from the annual prospector’s convention held in Toronto this week. As soon as I unpacked, I headed for the couch for a quick nap. I woke up almost four hours later. That’s from all the early mornings and late nights.  The final dance was Tuesday night, with a really good band, and hundreds of people. I bumped into Shawn Ryan there, one of the most famous prospectors in the world. He’s a Timmins fellow, but is now better known as the King of the Klondike after he discovered the White Gold deposit in the Yukon. Funny thing is that most people have no idea how famous prospectors can be within this unique community. I also met KarlBjorkman and his family (four of his daughters and his son) who do prospecting from a base camp near Atikokan, Ontario. I talked with Karl for nearly half an hour.
I also got reacquainted with people I had not seen in nearly 20 years. One fellow even remembered the night we pounded back a few beers at a pub in Timmins, it was the last time we had seen each other. It was also nice to meet many of the mining execs that I talk to on the phone every now and then.
The fun part was seeing prospectors pitching their discoveries, hoping that the big bosses with the money would be interested. There were people, industries and government reps there from around the world. One fellow who has a small gold property in Northern Quebec up in the Abitibi region, actually brought a few small bars of gold. Other people brought rocks. And everyone there, myself included, had a loupe for examining rock samples up close.  I also bumped into a Timmins prospector who has a few acres of a rocky outcrop with gold sparkles all around. Sure enough, one of the big mining corporations has been talking with him and they’re going to send in geologists to check out his find.

But my oh my, I am not used to being up at 6:30 a.m. and going to bed at 12:30 or 1:00 a.m. There was lots of partying with rich food and the drinks never stopped. I felt like I was at Downton Abbey! I was kind of glad to be home last night where I had tea and toast with peanut butter.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


God, this is going to sound so smarmy, but here goes. I talked to people at work and they weren’t entirely helpful. I had to read up on it, but I think I am ready to spend a few days tipping other people. I am going to visit the city next week and I wasn’t sure what passes for an appropriate tip these days when one stays in a fancy hotel and takes advantage of other services. When I was working in tourism – yes, that was ten years ago! – I had a better idea as I travelled often. So thank goodness for Trip Advisor and the Internet because I now have a much better understanding of how to treat those helpful folks who make things nicer and more comfortable when you’re a tourist. People like the doorman, the concierge, room service, laundry service and the chambermaids. So I have been saving up $5 bills for the past week or so. It seems loonies and twoonies are not quite enough, but a $5 tip is deemed quite appropriate for most occasions. And yes, I am aware this doesn’t include restaurant meals.  I know it sounds pretentious as hell, but I believe in tipping. So I will be prepared.

Reruns. Well it happened by accident this week that I stumbled across the opening episodes of Downton Abbey. I watched for a few minutes and remembered how much I enjoyed watching that series when it first began. As that was happening I realized that even though I had watched the entire series so far, there was stuff that I don’t remember from the first season… it was like reading a book you hadn’t seen for 20 years. So now I am hooked, again. Oh well, I am off to enjoy another episode with a nice 'ot cuppa tay!