Mid-winter musings

I inherited a lot of heirlooms from a great-aunt many years ago. Amongst her trinkets and treasures are scraps of paper, cigarette package ends, small paper pads, and an address book. All of these are covered with sayings, adages, advice, and other such nuances that came to her mind -- spread out from the 1920s to 1980 when she passed away. 

At first glance they were generally humourous, occasionally serious, and mostly discounted -- at least on first reading. Having now re-read them several times over the past 35 years, they are starting to make a lot more sense. Maybe age comes into that equation. The address book tells of our family history over time -- at least in terms of places lived, times of passage, and tiny pearls that explain things long unknown (not forgotten because I never did know the answer). The Christmas card lists are a case in point. From as many as 85 cards a year the list had shrunk down to under 20 when the last entry was made. Today virtually every one of the former recipients is gone. I think of her sitting alone in a small one-bedroom apartment receiving at least 85 cards in return, but also many more from current and former students whom she had taught over almost 50 years. Ah the simple joys of days gone by. 

She never lived in the day of the modern computer where e-greetings have replaced cards. She got to receive her cards daily before Christmas from a door to door mailman. The thrill of opening and the reading of the salutations must have made her day. I think we are all poorer because that just doesn’t happen much anymore.

Part of the reason for even musing about Great-Aunt Florence just now is as a result of recent publicity about Canada’s 150th anniversary, and the role of our army in the Battle for Vimy Ridge during WWI sparking a memory. She would have been 18 when Vimy was fought. Two of her elder brothers fought overseas in WWI. Communications being what they were back then, the family would not have known their fate until long after the battle was over. Yet at 18 she was already teaching children younger than herself- even though barely a year out of school herself.

Our young people today have no understanding of how life was back then. They have never been taught about how tough life was then, and how it can still be today for many out there. 

Children learn at first by watching, and later by listening, if they can be ‘hooked’ by the speaker. Simple sayings soon become woven into their vocabulary. It is no accident that advertising aimed at children is jingoistic. It sells and continues to sell goods long after the advertising campaign has wound down.

The same tactics are being used today in slick ways to raise money, create ‘awareness’ of issues, and to warp public sentiment, if ever so briefly, to favour a course of action. Social media could be rebranded as social manipulation when put into the wrong hands. How my aunt would have hated it! She believed strongly in fair comment. It can be seen in letters back to her after she had written to radio personalities and columnists. Never one to be manipulated, she listened every day to opinions expressed, but reserved her right to differ. 

Our school system used to teach students about many things. History, geography, and world events gave one the basis to think broadly about global affairs. They also taught a lot of memorization. Aunt Florence’s next elder brother was Uncle Joe. He could still recite the entire Robert W. Service poem ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee’ at the age of 80. He learned it in school at under 12 years of age. While he never had benefit of even high school, he was well read and devoured books available at the local library. Maybe our school system is lacking something when libraries now warehouse books rather than lend them out.

I too have collected some sayings that help keep me on the path I try to follow. These include:

Nulli illegitimi carborundum – meaning ‘Never let the Bastards wear you down’

Organization is the death of 

Service is the debt you pay for your time on earth

Always reserve the right to 
be wrong

Good luck beats good management every time

It is always better to be lucky than good because good people can always have a bad day

If you obey ALL the rules you miss out on a lot of fun


Now to be serious. We all have a lot of work ahead of us in 2017 as we face up to 34 new pesticide re-evaluations for comment. It helps to go into it with a good attitude and lots of hope. It will take a lot of ‘homework’ to document how important these pesticides are to our production systems. We will also expect a lot of help from the registrants to rebut the parts of the proposals that are germane to their data bases. Only if we can all work together can we expect success. All the good sayings will not change this, but will keep us on a good path.

Here’s hoping!

Publish date: 
Thursday, January 26, 2017

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