Thursday, February 27, 2014

World War 2: Connecting w a Veteran (11)

In a recent email I mentioned a book entitled Combined Operations to Lloyd. It is a book about landing craft, their role in WW2, the engagements in which the landing craft or barges were involved, and tells these tales with the help of the men of the barges. Though Lloyd is himself a man of the barges (like my father), and has authentic, historic photos from the 1940s in which I see familiar faces (including my father's) I am not surprised he has not seen a copy off the book.

["Clayton's book (left) inspired two others re Combined Ops"]

["Clayton's book comes highly recommended"]

I've been told by the author's son Steven, Combined Operations was typed on Clayton Mark's kitchen table by his wife. It was sold at Navy reunions and by word of mouth. My father bought a copy when it first came out in 1993 or 1994 and I would say now, twenty years later, it is a rare, essential book about Canada's role in the Second World War. And I'm going to get a copy to Lloyd.

Hi Lloyd,

I will try to find a copy of the Combined Operations book by Clayton Marks for you, then deliver, if you are up for a short visit. (If I can't get a spare copy I'll give you mine to read. Your son might be willing to scan it, a bit at a time for you.)

I don't mind the drive and should be able to find you easily. Let me know what would be a good or convenient day for you and your wife. I'd like to meet your son too, if he is able to visit as well.


I hope he's up to a visit. And I hope I can find a spare copy for Lloyd to keep.

More to follow.

Link to WW2: Connecting w a Veteran (10)

Photos by GH

'Morse Code' strikes me funny

Some people see a light layer of snow. I see messages in Morse Code.

["Spring has sprung but moves slowly"]

["Keep mittens, toques, warm coats near front door"]

["And keep your winter boots and snow shovel handy"]

Keeping your shovel handy?

Photos by GH

It Strikes Me Funny: Is it a bird? Mighty Mole?" 3

I think a mole is making a living by cleaning up bird seed tossed to the ground by fussy birds at my feeder. (Sparrows in particular are often seen flicking unworthy seed away with a quick turn of their wee heads. Little weasels!)

Yesterday I took the above photo of the area at the base of my feeder before morning light. I spotted a tunnel entrance on both sides of my wooden walkway to the shop as well. When I mentioned same to my hockey team-mates before Wednesday's game I was told I might have a star-faced mole because they are becoming more common. (Interesting. I thought I saw a mole skitter past my workshop door last summer but wasn't sure at the time what it was).

Today I noticed no similar trails or tunnel entrances while working outside the shop before lunch. Just a moment ago, however, something caught my wife's eye out the study window while I sat at the computer.

"I think your critter is back," she said.

And sure enough, I think the photos below - taken after I stuck my head out the window into a cold wintry blast - prove my tunneller has been active getting his lunch, and maybe storing seeds away, while I was eating my western club.

["Trail to tunnel emerges from under the walkway"]

["Other side of walkway, w paw print in lower right. (Cat?)"]

I googled 'star-faced mole' and learned the following, among many other fascinating things:

   It is active day and night and remains active in winter,
   when it has been observed tunneling through the snow
   and swimming in ice-covered streams. Little is known
   about the social behavior of the species, but it is
   suspected to be colonial.

I do get an icy pond out back during cold, spring rains. But I'm not sure if I want a colony of moles living nearby.

   The star-nosed mole mates in late winter or early spring,
   and the female has one litter of typically four or five
   young in late spring or early summer... Predators include
   the red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, various skunks and
   mustelids, and large fish, as well as domestic cats.
   (Read more at Wikipedia)

I'll keep my eyes peeled because I don't want a skunk or cat (both regular visitors to my yard) to nab it before I do (i.e., with my camera, at least).

Photos by GH

Bird Watching: "so much to choose from"

A chickadee has been back and forth between the blue spruce and feeder a dozen times in the last five minutes. Not once has he tapped on my window.

I think he's focussed on his noon time meal.

"So much to choose from!" he says.

Link to Bird watching

Photos by GH

My Morning Walk: "I didn't fall in"

Yesterday I walked to The Centre for fun and fitness. Today I stay home and tidy up the workshop.

But first, a few items from yesterday's morning walk:

["Sewer covers are dangerous but I didn't fall in"]

["After my workout I showered, then walked home with frozen
beard; I was therefore unable to smile for this historic selfie"] 

[I passed a small house I'd wanted to buy years ago. Why?"]

["Heated workshop. Nice back porch. Heated workshop"]

My morning walk is currently a 3 - 4 times per week habit. I will try to do better for the sake of 'fun, fitness and fotos'.

: )

More Morning Walks

Photos by GH

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It Strikes Me Funny: "Is it a bird? Mighty Mole?" 2

Some little critter, light on its feet, cleans up after the birds in my yard. E.g., sparrows flick seeds they don't like out of the feeder and the critter sneaks out and makes his living. But who? What?

Photos from 8 AM today:

["It's tiny, hugs the ground. Smells its way around?"]

["It is familiar with maps of Asia"]

["It hides in snow tunnels, and skitters under my walkway"]

["It comes out the other side of the walkway,
and heads toward my workshop door"]

Hey, where's my hammer!?

Bird? Mouse? Chipmunk? Mighty Mole?

Link to "Is it a bird? Mighty Mole?" 1

Photos by GH

It Strikes me Funny: "Is it a bird? Mighty Mole?" 1

Back in January mysterious events occurred in my backyard, right under my nose. Yesterday and this morning I was reminded that I never solved January's puzzle... and whatever it is, it's back.

["Yup, it's a stymied squirrel. But, WTHeck?!]

Yesterday a gray squirrel puttered around at the base of my bird feeder and before I could tease him ("Go ahead, try climbing up the pole. I dare you, I dare you. Suckaaaa!") I saw a set of tracks that got my mind a-racing.

Strange little tracks made by a critter light on its feet. Definitely not by a squirrel or rabbit or bird. But what? I was stymied, as stymied as any squirrel who has tried to climb into my feeder this year, as stymied as I was in January when I found tunnels in the snow and a stash of sunflowers seeds hidden under my wooden walkway outside the workshop. (Link to a definitely related story)

After a careful look around I saw entrances to two or three tunnels in the snow. One tunnel went under the walkway again. And again I wondered, who is it that's making a living this winter by picking up the seeds birds have flicked out of the feeder?

Who? What? When? Where?

More to follow.

Link to another definitely related story

Photos by GH

Danger. Sugar.

I think it's because I've been going to The Centre regularly lately. I think it's because I'm thinking about what I shove into my mouth after a workout.

I'm thinking, the workout was good for me, but is this plate of food? And can I drink this coffee without the sugar, just with a bit of milk?

Sugar is everywhere (it is even in our salt) so if I cut out a bit here and there - exert some control - I bet I'll soon make a habit of positive change.

I think I would be wise to read a bit about refined sugar. SUGAR BLUES by William Dufty is on my list to read. Even the back cover has got me interested.

Photos by GH.

Link to Danger. Sausages.

The Workshop: "slow and steady progress" 11

The inlay has been inlayed. (And I chose the inside of the old pine for inlay, not the outer - painted and marred - side. I thought it would accept the stain differently than the cedar, provide a bit of contrast).

Sunken screws, to strengthen the lid, are in place and their holes are covered with woodfiller for a smooth look. If you can't see where I placed 24 screws, that's a good thing.

Cabernet stain has been applied, with a titch of thinner.

I've got five easy, final jobs this week: Apply two coats of varnish. Apply hinges. Deliver. Accept payment gracefully.

Slow and steady wins.

Photos by GH

Link to slow and steady progress 10

Favourite Photos: "mojo was the man"

When I first started blogging I'd snoop around quite a bit to see what was out there, and I met mojo, a US photographer. While transferring files recently from an old computer I came across a photo he allowed me to use on my blog.

I was once that long distance runner, and mojo was the man who reminded me of many, many years' worth of hard work and great pleasure in one shot.

This could very well be my all-time favourite 'borrowed' photo.

Isn't it grand?

Photo: mojo's runner 1.jpg

Thanks again, James

Link to Zoom w a View

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

WW2: Ten Poignant Stories (7b)

Farley Mowat's descriptive account of battle scenes in Sicily and Italy during World War 2 are worth another look. (First time I've given someone double billing, isn't it?) His book, AND NO BIRDS SANG, ends abruptly or at least at an unusual point as he heads toward Rome with members of a Canadian infantry unit. Why? I don't know, but I'd like to know.

What I do know is that the book is worth a second read, let alone a second look.

He Beckoned Me to Follow

   Kennedy, as was his habit
   (one that I dreaded and abhorred),
   decided to go forward and see
   for himself what was happening.
   He beckoned me to follow.

The storm clouds rolling overhead seemed close
enough to touch, and the land lay under a leaden
obscurity drained of all colour and devoid of shape.
Ankle-deep in sucking mud we plodded across
a patchwork of little fields and vineyards.
The explosions of our own and German shells
pounded hideously inside my skull, yet Kennedy
seemed unaware. Not once did he dive for cover
or even so much as hunch his shoulders when the 
grating scream of an incoming projectile warned
of imminent destruction. Senseless anger boiled up
in the quaking bog within me: You goddamn
pigheaded idiot! I mouthed in silence.
What in hell are you trying to prove?
Rage mounted - and sustained me.

   A salvo of medium shells plunging through the
   overcast into the mud a few yards to our flank
   sent me grovelling. When I raised my head 
   Kennedy was a dim shape in a dimmed world,
   plodding steadily onward. I scrambled to my feet,
   shouting aloud now, against the Doomsday roar:
   "You crazy bastard!"

But still I followed him.
I could not break the leash.

Photos by GH

Link to Ten Poignant Stories 7

Dad's Navy Days: 1944 - Comox, Vancouver Island (33)

“Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!” I hollered,
just bursting from laughter

Less than half of my father's days in the navy were spent at a Combined Operations training base at Comox on Vancouver Island, from January 1944 until the summer of 1945, but he probably ate and slept better on a regular basis during that time than when he was overseas.

1944 alone would have counted as a very big year, in my father's mind, at least for a little while. He travelled west for the first time, got married for the first time, ate his fill of 'monstrous oysters', trained Zombies (new ratings or entries) how to handle a navy cutter and organized a few boat races. But getting make to civvie street in the fall of '45 would have brought him back to earth.

In his hometown paper, about fifty years later, he wrote the following:

At Comox, right close to our barracks was a government breeding ground for oysters. I never knew of such a thing and didn’t care particularly as all I had eyes for were those monstrous oysters which showed up when the tide went out. I wasn’t alone, believe me.

["Giant oysters, BC-style"]

As the tide ebbed at night we once again borrowed the Captain’s dinghy and a few burlap bags and rowed out to the oyster bed. We climbed out of the dinghy into the horrible muck, filled our burlap bags and paddled away before the tide left us aground. These choice oysters were dumped into the sea out of sight behind the barracks, thereby assuring us of our own private oyster supply. We ate most of them raw; salt water and a bit of sand didn’t matter too much and a good slap on the back was required most times to help swallow them. Wonderful!

["Photo of 14-man cutter at matthewwestfall blog"]

I acted as Coxswain on large navy cutters as soldiers worked the oars. The cutters were 27 feet long and wide enough (except at the bows) to seat four men, two men to an oar. This was fun, getting the proper stroke amongst 18 green oarsmen. If the rhythm was wrong and an oar caught a crab (got stuck in the water), the effect was that nearly every thwart was cleared of oarsmen and bedlam prevailed.

“Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!” I hollered, just bursting from laughter. The oars are about 12 feet long and are they ever heavy. To give the soldiers a well-earned rest I would give the order “Rest oars.” Then the oars would be pulled in, rested on each side of the cutter, and the soldiers could rest their weary arms on the looms for awhile.

["Small crew tosses oars in this old photo"]

I enjoyed giving the order to ‘toss oars’. With this the huge oars were brought from the water and as quickly as possible tossed up in the air, and of course the water came pouring down from the blades in a regular storm for a minute and everyone got soaked to the hide, including me, but on a hot day it was refreshing. I was longing for a swim anyway.

There were several cutters with soldiers and with experience we began to have races. The competition was a good thing and a real esprit de corp developed within the teams. The races were close, the blisters were soon forgotten and the training became enjoyable as some fun was injected into it.

Years later, even months later, he realized how thankful he was to be alive and well when V-E Day was finally celebrated at Comox.

More to follow.

Top photo by GH

Bird Watching: "a chickadee taps on my window"

The first time it happened I was so surprised I made efforts to film the experience. I was successful. I have Mr. Chickadee on tape, flying at and tapping on my window.

Two months later, after receiving many visits each week from chickadees, I think it's just their way of saying hello.

Or saying they want to come inside for a change.

Or asking for help to escape from another, more aggressive, chickadee.

What do you think?

Photos by GH

More bird watching

World War 2: Connecting w a Veteran (10)

I enjoy connecting by phone and email with Lloyd, WW2 veteran. Though there is a 27-year difference in our age, we have similar interests. Recently I thought I would share a few photos of birds at my feeder along with any Navy photos I felt pertained to our ongoing correspondence.

I wrote:

Hi Lloyd, I hope all is well and that you've been getting out a bit. My birds are eating me out of house and home and I'll have to buy more seed if they keep it up. Long winters - and Mr. and Mrs. C, they come three times a day - are keeping me poor.

In a follow-up email he wrote:

I feed the birds a lot so realize the hundreds of dollars it cost. I also feed around 15 Chipmunks that land on my knee for a peanut. I had a book made by Apple computer called my backyard zoo with some of these pictures.

["Photos the property of Lloyd Evans"]

I'll be sure not to let Lloyd know I'm not as fond of squirrels as he seems to be. However, I'll bear in mind that my attitude may change as I grow older. Maybe I'll look at squirrels differently when I'm in my 80s or 90s.

We have also been able to share similar Navy photos with one another. Along with photos of Mr. and Mrs. C I sent the following message and accompanying photographs:

You mentioned your trip around Africa, on your way to Siciliy in 1943, took three months. It was maybe longer for SS Silver Walnut, "a real dud" my dad said. Later in life he said he loved that ship. I sent you a picture of men of the 80th flotilla aboard the SS Silver Walnut and found their names in a Combined Operations book put together in the 1990s.

["My father, centre backgr., left of man w cap, aboard
Walnut; Stoker Katanna, standing, second from left"]

Stoker Katana's hammock from the Walnut is in a BC museum now and when I went to BC the curator let me unroll it, wearing silk gloves, and took my picture. I include it. I had no table manners, I got right up on her nice chairs and snapped pictures. I hope I took off my shoes.

You gave me such good photos of Don Westbrook (one of father's buddies) I thought I would try to track him down. I found 'Westbrook' in Hamilton's phone book and left a message about my photos and yours. A day later Don's wife called me. She is 89 and lives with her son in York, near Cayuga. Don passed away several years ago but Marg and her two boys want to meet me and hear more about Combined Operations.

["Don Westbrook, left, in Scotland"]

I hope you don't mind, but I sent them three of your photos w Don and directions to your story on Combined Ops website. I thought they would learn a lot from your story. I just want to say you're a good man sharing those photos and I think they are the best I've seen, right on the barges.

Lloyd later sent the following photo, of a fine boat load of sailors (who, when, where?) and one very significant line:

["Men of RCNVR and Combined Ops, likely on a
transport ship; Photo - property of Lloyd Evans"]

Would like to read that book* you mentioned.


I'm surprised and not surprised at the same time. I'm sure many men of the barges, members of Combined Operations, have never seen a book written about their brave efforts.

Okay. I've got my work cut out for me now!

More to follow.

*Combined Operations book by Clayton Marks, London

Photos by GH unless otherwise stated.

More Connecting w a Veteran

they've given up : )

My morning smile: Squirrels don't even bother looking at my feeder anymore.

["Go ahead," I said. "Climb the pole. Climb the pole."]

["He didn't even look at it. They've given up."]

I therefore officially conclude that - for winter 2013/14 - I win the battle of the bird feeder.

Gold medal for Gord!

Did you have a winning season?

Photos by GH

Link to "the red team won"