Yeats’s “The Second Coming”

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…”

For some unknown reason these words have been going through my head the last couple of weeks. The line is from the poem The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats. I remember some of the poem from required reading of it in English Literature during my university days.

Written in 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War, the poem is also connected to the 1918–1919 Spanish flu pandemic. When read in the light of our current COVID-19 pandemic, it carries an eerie parallel.

In the weeks preceding Yeats’s writing of the poem, Yeats’s pregnant wife Georgie Hyde-Lees caught the Spanish flu virus and was very close to death. The highest death rates of the pandemic were among pregnant women—in some areas, they had up to a 70 percent death rate. While his wife was convalescing, he wrote this essential poem.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

– William Butler Yeats

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day. I’d like to pay my deep respects once more to the uncle I never knew who gave his life in WWII, along with so many others, so that we could all be free.

Thank you, Uncle George.

George Clifford Quartly

Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), R.C.I.C., Company C

Killed in action near Monte Cassino, Italy
May 23, 1944

Uncle George is buried in Cassino War Cemetery
Cassino, Italy
Plot 9, A20

First they came…

Lately I have been reviewing, captioning and posting my travel shots and journal from our 2012 trip to Berlin, Germany. Looking over the pictures we took of the Holocaust memorials and remembering their impact at the time has put me in mind of the powerful First they came… piece of prose.

First they came… is the poetic form of a post-war confessional prose by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). It is about the cowardice of German intellectuals and certain clergy – including, by his own admission, Niemöller himself – following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent incremental purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Many variations and adaptations in the spirit of the original have been published in the English language. It deals with themes of persecution, guilt, repentance, and personal responsibility.


First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak out—
Because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

– Martin Niemöller

You Could Have Heard A Pin Drop

This one has made the rounds before but as Remembrance Day approaches it is a great reminder to honour November 11th.

In France, at a fairly large conference, Former Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper was asked by a French cabinet minister if Canadian involvement in Afghanistan was just an example of “empire building.” Mr. Harper answered by saying:

Over the years, Canada has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.

You could have heard a pin drop.


A Canadian Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the Canadian, US, English, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, North Americans generally learn only English. He then asked:

Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?

Without hesitating, the Canadian Admiral replied:

Maybe it’s because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn’t have to speak German.

You could have heard a pin drop.


When Robert Whiting, an elderly Canadian gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane at the French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.

You have been to France before, monsieur?

… the customs officer asked sarcastically. Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously. The official replied:

Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.

The Canadian said:

The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.

The customs officer replied:

Impossible, Monsieur. Canadians always have to show passports on arrival in France!

The Canadian senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained:

Well, when I came ashore on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn’t find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to.

You could have heard a pin drop.


Canadians Are Cool…

Fog

The fog was rolling in a couple of days ago, and it put me in mind of the poem we learned in grade school – Fog. I seem to have retained this poem in my long term memory, I guess, due to its simplicity and imagery. I still love it all these years later:

Fog

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Carl Sandburg, 1878-1967

Halloween On Church Street: A Look Back

Yet again, COVID-19 has squatted over something near and dear to my little heart and taken a huge dump:

No Halloween street party on Church Street this year – BOO, HISS!!!

To add insult to injury, Halloween falls on a Saturday night this year <ggrrrrr…>

So, in lieu of the real thing this Halloween – as with our cancelled Pride Weekend earlier this year – I now present to you the best bits from Church Street Halloween parties of years past… Enjoy!

Halloween Prelude

Well, Halloween may not be happening on Church Street (or anywhere else) this year thanks to COVID-19 running rampant, but at least my physiotherapist’s office got into the spirit of things.

On yesterday’s visit I was greeted by this guy:

Fall Leaves

It’s that time again: Fall – my favourite season! The weather is cooler and the evenings are crisp. It’s also the most colourful season with the trees displaying those gorgeous shades of red, yellow and orange.

I made a few photo expeditions around the city this Fall to capture some of the changing leaves; here’s a small sampling of what I found:

High Park

Allan Gardens

Cabbagetown

Maitland Place

Ahhhhh, Fall… you gotta love it…

A Simcoe-Grey-Bruce Adventure

As many know, Vince and I usually take a couple of weeks in mid-September to visit some European country or other. This year our destination was to be Belgium but, as with almost all things in life these days thanks to COVID-19, our plans were forcibly jettisoned.

So…. where could we travel this year? Europe is out, South America is out, Asia is out as well, and the U.S. is definitely out! So, what’s left? I know! We’ll travel in our own country and province this year… geez, what a concept!

We’d heard so many people sing the praises of Simcoe-Grey County, the Bruce Peninsula and the Georgian Bay area, so we figured that that part of the province would make an excellent destination for this trip.

Our trip ran from September 12 to 22. Here’s a few highlights:

Orillia

Huntsville

Collingwood

Owen Sound

Meaford

Wiarton

Tobermory

If you’re desperate for entertainment and would like to read the trip’s daily blog (with lots of pictures, of course) you can read all about the great Ontario Getaway of 2020 here.

Favourite Singers

These are singers whose voices move, soothe and inspire me. Some of the artists I’ve listed with their band’s name; this is in addition to their solo efforts. The “choice cuts” for each vocalist represent either my favourite songs by these artists, or a track highlighting their incredible style, range or crafting of the song.

And now, on to the list…

Karen Carpenter

Starting with the best… Karen Carpenter, a voice direct from the angels in heaven. When Karen died tragically in 1983, a light went out in the music world. She will never be replaced.

Choice cuts:
Superstar, Goodbye To Love, Rainy Days & Mondays


Tracey Thorn

With her husband Ben Watt, Tracey Thorn was the other half of the group Everything But The Girl. EBTG had great success in the 80s and into the 90s. There’s few people who haven’t heard their haunting, wistful Missing from 1994. Tracey has released a few albums in the 2000s, and continues to make beautiful music. For my post dedicated to Tracey Thorne, check this out.

Choice cuts:
Half-Light (Day Version), Protection, Cross My Heart, Missing


Hannah Reid (London Grammar)

Ah, Miss Hannah… my current absolute favourite vocalist. This woman’s incredible voice makes my hair stand on end and my toes curl. Fronting the group London Grammar, Hannah Reid has one of the most engaging and beautiful voices of any artist performing today. What a haunting contralto… her voice moves me in ways no other singer can.

Choice cuts:
Strong, Interlude, Metal & Dust, Big Picture, Different Breeds


Sarah Cracknell (Saint Etienne)

Singing with Saint Etienne or solo, Sarah Cracknell has a voice like golden honey dripping down a pot. There’s something magical about this woman’s voice and, coupled with Saint Etienne’s musical styling, it exudes pure London.

Choice cuts:
Hobart Paving, Goldie (solo), Like A Motorway, Teenage Winter


Justine Suissa

Justine Suissa is a British singer, currently the vocalist of trance group OceanLab (which includes the members of Above & Beyond). She’s collaborated with many of Trance’s prominent producers, such as Armin van Buuren, Markus Schulz, Robbie Rivera and Chicane. Justine has a dreamy, ethereal voice.

Choice cuts:
On A Good Day, Lonely Girl, Miracle, Burned With Desire


Iva Davies

What a beautiful voice this man has. Iva was the voice of Icehouse in the 80s, and has gone on to great solo success in the 90s and beyond. To read my post dedicated to Iva Davies, check this out.

Choice cuts:
Heroes, Heaven, No Promises (with Icehouse), Crazy (Midnight Mix)


David Byron (Uriah Heep)

What a set of pipes!

David Byron (real name David Garrick) was a British singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist in Uriah Heep. His was the voice on the 10 Uriah Heep albums released between 1969 and 1976. At the time, few lead singers in Rock could scream and wail like David Byron.

He lived a life of classic rock and roll excess, indulging in lots of drugs and booze. This, inevitably, led to dismissal from Uriah Heep in 1976 for his increasingly erratic behaviour and excessive alcohol consumption. David made several unsuccessful attempts to revive his career following the split, first with a band named Rough Diamond, then with a solo album and a brief career with The Byron Band.

He died from liver damage complicated by epilepsy on February 28, 1985 at the age of 38.

Choice cuts:
The Wizard, Sweet Lorraine, Rainbow Demon, Rain


Simon & Garfunkel

Pure. Vocal. Perfection.

Choice cuts:
For Emily Wherever I May Find Her, Scarborough Fair/Canticle, The Only Living Boy In New York, April Come She Will, All I Know (Art Garfunkel)


Alison Moyet

A Goddess in my world, Alison Moyet has a bluesy, beautiful contralto. From Yazoo in the 70s till now, she’s had many decades of success singing so many styles of music, excelling in them all.

Choice cuts:
Dorothy, Take Of Me, Winter Kills (with Yazoo), Cry Me A River


Corinne Drewery (Swing Out Sister)

I don’t know much about Corinne Drewery, other than I love her voice. Through the 80s and early 90s she was the silky smooth voice of the group Swing Out Sister.

Choice cuts:
Twilight World, Breakout, After Hours


Dusty Springfield

What more could one possibly say about Dusty Springfield that hasn’t already been said?

Choice cuts:
Am I The Same Girl?, Goin’ Back, Nothing Has Been Proved, Wishin’ And Hopin’, What Have I Done To Deserve This? (with Pet Shop Boys)


Dionne Warwick

Where would the 60s (and beyond) have been without Dionne Warwick and the David/Bacharach writing team? Warwick is the master of vocal phrasing (just take a listen to Promises, Promises).

Choice cuts:
Promises, Promises, Heartbreaker, I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, Do You Know the Way to San Jose?, Walk On By


Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet)

Tony is still workin’ it all these post-Spandau years later and the pipes remain in amazing condition. What a powerhouse voice and amazing vocal range.

Choice cuts:
Through the Barricades, Gold, True, Round And Round


Mimi Page

Mimi Page is an underrated singer-songwriter, producer and composer from the U.S. In the studio she blends her ethereal vocals with piano-driven, atmospheric soundscapes, resulting in a haunting and luxuriant sound. In addition to her albums, she has self-produced and released several film and gaming soundtracks.

Choice cuts:
Porcelain, Secunda (Skyrim)


Joni Mitchell

Ah yes, the one and only Joni… enough said.

Choice cuts:
Help Me, Chinese Cafe, Circle Game, A Case Of You


And lastly, Honorable Mentions for Powerhouse Vocals go to:
Ian Gillan (with and without Deep Purple)
Patti LaBelle
and, of course, Freddie.

Cat vs. Dog — War Of The Diaries

This is an old one, but it’s so very true. Whoever wrote this understands the true essence of cats and dogs.

The Dog’s Diary

8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!

9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!

9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!

10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!

12:00 pm – Milk bones! My favorite thing!

1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!

3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!

5:00 pm – Dinner! My favorite thing!

7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing!

8:00 pm – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!

11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

The Cat’s Diary

Day 983 of My Captivity

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am. Bastards!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies.” I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released, and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now…

Goodbye, Sweet Girl

SOPHIE

March 13, 2008 – July 10, 2020

The Bustle in a House (1108)

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth –

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –

Emily Dickinson

Our beloved Sophie has left us. Words cannot express how much we miss her; our home is so quiet and still now without her. I struggle to write this post – there’s so much I’d like to say about Sophie, but words are failing me. My grief is enormous.

So many people in our condo loved Sophie and everyone knew her. She was a Celebrity Place girl from day one. Born in our condo building on the Easter weekend of 2008, this is the only home she ever knew. Sophie and her sister Dixie lived their whole lives at Celebrity Place and were a fixture of our complex.

Pack walk through Riverdale Park, September 2013

I will never forget that first year, especially, of Sophie’s life. I wanted her to be a big city girl and not fear city noise and mayhem. To that end, Sophie and I became quite a team as we transversed Toronto from side to side and top to bottom. Together we travelled the buses, rode the subway, up and down store escalators, took in the lunacy of Yonge-Dundas Square, made trips to the Toronto Islands via the ferry boat, visited shopping malls and the Eaton Centre (where she visited her Uncle David, working at Birks). Where I went, Sophie went. In all our city travels together we were only tossed out of two places – Mount Pleasant Cemetery and Shopper’s Drug Mart at Yonge and College Streets! So many places, so many memories… wonderful memories.

In Philosopher’s Walk, U of T, May 2012

Vince and I have lost our best friend. It is heartbreaking for us to say goodbye but Sophie left behind 12½ years of precious memories to cherish.

Thank you, Soph, for coming into our lives; we loved you beyond measure and will never, ever forget you.