Getting Older – Not Fussy About It

Not really sure about this getting older thing. I’m not going to say I’m old, because there is always folks who are older than I, and at least one of them will be sure to point that out. At least that’s how it seems to go.

Anyway, last month I entered my eighth decade, which surely means I’m getting older, at least by some scale of measurement.

I know that I have gotten to the point that I actually do suffer from what I call (very tongue in cheek) part-timers, when I forget things part of the time. There are many folks who tell me that they suffer from the same thing. For instance, when speaking of someone, I can see them oh so clearly in my mind, however their name seems to be on holiday on the far side of the moon or some other unreachable place. Makes for a great conversation as we try to identify them utilizing a number of various descriptive techniques, to essentially no success. And then, of course, the person’s name comes to vivid recollection long after the conversation has been completed, in the process accomplishing nothing, other than creating the occasional utterances of frustration generated verbage.

As well, there are times when my body gives the occasional indication that there are other aspects to growing older as well. Occasionally with a sharp reminder that “you can’t do that anymore”, but generally with usually subtle hints that I am not as quick, flexible, strong, sharp-eyed, handy (you get the idea), as perhaps I once was. When these hints occur, they may be met with a degree of frustration, however mostly with the realization that they “come with the territory”. I also have an arthritic hip and at some point I will be able to relate to Steve Austin when at least part of me becomes a bionic man.

Becoming older brings other aspects though, one of which is entitled “retirement”.

Now “retirement” is an interesting phase of one’s life. I am at a bit of a loss as to how to define it in real terms. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines retirement as “withdrawal from one’s position or occuaption or from active working life”. However, should you ask, say 100 people, to describe retirement, you would likely get quite a number of different responses. I know retired people who are seldom home because they travel so much, others who say they have never been so busy in their lives, still others who sit at home and do absolutely nothing. For myself, I am actually somewhere in the middle. For instance, I had never traveled outside of Canada and USA until I was 60 and went to Switzerland for a Kiwanis Convention. Now I travel to Malaysia for two to three months almost annually and scoot around Asia a bit while there. After retirement I worked as a casual guard in a RCMP cellblock for over six years, I remain active with Kiwanis in Canada and Malaysia, am active with a veterans group in Canada, and just over two years ago I took up motorcycle riding again (after 40 years). Does that mean I’m busy, busy? Not really, as I also spend quite a bit of time at home, much of that online for both volunteer and personal activities.

Getting older also means, losing people that I know, at what seems an ever increasing rate. Now, throughout my life I have lost people I have known as a result of natural causes, and usually they were quite a  bit older than me. This is no longer the case, as essentially some are around my age or younger. Each occurance does tend to give me pause for thought.

Are there benefits of getting older? Of course there are. Experiences I have had, people I have met, the good I have been able to do for others, and of course, grandchildren. I would not be the person I am without getting older, making mistakes, learning from them, helping others avoid them.

Getting older is not a bad thing, it is not something I dislike, I am just not fussy about it.

And one more thing. You will note that this whole blog has been about getting older. It has not been about growing up, because I never plan to do that.

D-Day Plus 75 Years

As I type this, it is just about 0600 hours, June 6, 2019, off the coast of Normandy, exactly seventy-five years after the D-Day Invasion.

My father was an officer with the 43rd Battery, 12th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, part of the Canadian contingent assigned to Juno Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

The 12th Field objective was to land at Courseulles-sur Mer, “Mike Green” as they knew it.

The air bombardment began at 0300 hours. At about 0630 hours the LCTs deployed for their firing run-in and at 0715 the blue flag broke out and corvettes, destroyers, cruisers, four regiments of artillery, landing craft rockets and landing craft guns began firing.

The first 12th Field Regiment vehicle landed on “Mike Green” at 0845 hours and as the remainder landed and deployed they were immediately called upon for supporting fire, starting at about 1400 yards. In doing so, they were the first artillery regiment to fire in France.

About 1530 hours the main exit had been cleared of mines and they moved to their first position inland, near Bannville. Casualties and equipment losses were not that serious and they had twenty-four guns in action off the beach.

In a few short paragraphs I have provided a quick overview of a day that in many ways likely defies description.

My father basically never talked about his wartime experiences. I have gotten the majority of my knowledge from online research and a book entitled “Into Action With The 12th Field”, essentially a history of the regiment.

I was prompted to write this today after encountering so many emotional individual tales depicting D-Day.

This is but a small portion of one of the most massive events in history, however it is an important portion to me. My father survived D-Day, and survived the remainder of the war, although he was injured in March 1945. He survived long enough to meet and marry our mother, raise three children, and do many amazing things until his death in 1992.

Interestingly, my father’s brother was serving on one of the Royal Canadian Navy corvettes that were part of the D-Day armada. He also survived and outlived his brother.

In some ways, this was not very easy to write, however to me it was important to do so. I do thank you for reading and appreciate any comments you may have.

Spring Has Sprung

The spring is sprung, the grass is riz.

I wonder where the boidie is.

They say the boidie’s on the wing.

But that’s absoid. The wing is on the bird.

I remember this “Spring is Sprung Rhyme” by Anonymous, from my youth. It was always a signal that, hopefully, winter was pretty much done and we could get on with the primary season of the year – construction. Well not really, however that’s the way it seems. At least spring, summer and fall can be described as three sections of construction season.

This year, Edmonton had a pretty tough and nasty time from January to late March. Fortunately I didn’t get to experience it as I spent that time in our second home, Malaysia. A good friend commented on Facebook that I had missed the snow. I replied to her, “no, I didn’t miss it, I just wasn’t here for it”.

I really considered doing some blogging from Malaysia, but I was working almost exclusively on my phone, and my thumbs are not very accurate for more than fairly short messages, allowing autocorrect to drive me slightly bonkers. So here we are, attempting to make up for it.

Now to go back and provide a little background.

As the end of 2018 approached I was not really planning to go to Malaysia in 2019. I had not gone in 2018, due to some extent because of my high activity levels with my Kiwanis Club (I am the President), feeling that I needed to work hard in that area. Kim had gone to see her family in the spring for about a month however.

Then, as life would have it, there came a death and a serious illness in my circle of acquaintances. Adding to that were, in retrospect, wise words from Kim and a couple of good friends, telling me that I needed to go, see family and friends, and enjoy the weather because, as they pointed out, we never know what the future holds.

As a result, following an interesting thought process, at the end of December, a decision was made, and flights were booked. I would be going to Malaysia for two months.

Departure day came, January 22, WestJet to Vancouver, Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and Cathay Dragon to Kuala Lumpur. There had been some concern as my arthritic hip can be an issue, however my travel arranger Stephanie had done a fine job and I was treated very well the entire trip. Every trip I’ve made, my experience with Cathay Pacific/Dragon has been outstanding. Upon arriving in Kuala Lumpur, it turned out that one of my checked bags had grown an attachment to Hong Kong and decided to stay a while longer. The KLIA folks did an awesome job tracking it down and it was delivered to me in Melaka the next day.

Having arrived in Malaysia, methinks I will wrap up this post and over the next while perhaps generate a couple more about some of my experiences. There is also an event I am currently involved in, which is very exciting, however I cannot share with you as yet, keeping you in suspenders for a while.

Until next time, thank you for reading and I appreciate any comments you may have.

Welcome To 2019

My goodness, it seems that I started this blog in 2009. Actually, I started several blogs over the subsequent years, however have since combined all my blog posts to this location.

No, I am not making a “New Year’s Resolution” to do regular blog posts, however I will attempt to post a wee tad more frequently than my archive history shows.

It is also my hope to produce the odd stand-alone story to add to this website. As is often the case with those of a more advanced age (i.e. an old person), I have stories I have told over the years (some have even been well received), and think it’s about time I actually put fingers to keyboard and shared the odd one or two.

It remains to be seen how all this will work out. As is often said, “time will tell”.

In the meantime, for all my readers, devoted or occasional, have a happy, healthy and productive 2019.

A Home From Home

There is a British expression I very much like. It is “a home from home”. To me it feels much more inclusive than the American equivalent “a home away from home”.

My “home from home” is 12,980 kilometres from my usual residence, in the city of Malacca, Malaysia, on the southwest coast of the Malay Peninsula.

Originally founded in 1396, Malacca became a prominent location for traders from across Asia, notably India, Arabia and China. In 1511, Malacca was conquered by the Portuguese who ruled until the city was captured by the Dutch in 1641. They were not that interested in developing the area and ceded it to the British in 1824. Under the British the city became a Crown Colony, which was dissolved in 1946 as Malacca and Penang became part of the Malayan Union, then the Federation of Malaya in 1948, and transitioning to an independent Malaya in 1957. Finally, in 1963, Malaysia was formed with the merger of Malaya with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.

A colourful history indeed. So much so that Malacca was declared a historical city in 1989, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Located in Malacca are three significant religious facilities. The Kampung Kling Mosque is close to the oldest functioning mosque in Malaysia, the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is the oldest functioning Buddhist temple in Malaysia, and St Peter’s Church is the oldest functioning Catholic Church in Malaysia. One last item of interest. The Bukit China Cemetery in Malacca is reputedly the oldest, and largest, remaining traditional Chinese burial ground outside China with over 12,500 graves.

Today, Malacca (often referred to as Melaka, the name of the state) is a city of just under 875,000, located midway between Kuala Lumpur (160 km to the north) and Johor Bahru (210 km to the south). The city is 2.2 degrees (244 km) north of the equator, with typical temperatures in the area of 24C at night and 33C during the day, and typically has 6-9 days of rain per month. The sun rises at 7:24am and sets at 7:24pm (within a couple of minutes) each day.

So why Malacca, for that matter, why Malaysia. A number of reasons actually. Malacca is where Kim grew up, where she lived most of her life. Currently we have two daughters and seven grandchildren living there, to say nothing about other extended family members and a great many friends. Some other main considerations are the economy, which is very advantageous to those of us from Canada; the people, who are so very friendly pretty much right across the board; the ease of travel, not only throughout Malaysia but across Asia as well; the history, so many interesting places to visit; and oh yes, the climate.

Okay, now back to the “home from home”. So what prompted me to begin this blog post anyway. Last year I spent three months at our place in Malacca, and for various reasons, am not able to do the same thing this year so I have been feeling a bit down in the dumps and depressed about that. A temporary situation for sure and I know I’ll be back there within the next year.

Our place in Malacca is not fancy, not on the beach, not on the 47th floor, not in a rich area of town. It is a comfortable three bedroom apartment/condo on the fourth floor of a fairly large, very diverse, complex with regular working class neighbours. It is in the middle of the city, however it has a country view which I absolutely love. We have a 2017-04-04 07.40.13small clam-shell balcony, facing east, upon which one or two can stand, but none can sit (it is good for drying clothes though).

 

My routine, pretty much every morning when in Malacca, is that I get up sometime between 5am and 6am, get my cup of coffee, and sit in the living room watching, listening, and enjoying as the world wakes up outside and the sun rises. Here are two videos, both taken the same day from our balcony, the first about 5:00am and the second at 7:30am. In the first you can hear the crickets and frogs, so loud they even overpowered the praying from the local mosque. In the second, the birds have taken over along with the occasional human and traffic noise.

To me, the photo and videos above illustrate a big part of my attachment to our “home from home”. There are many other things which contribute as well of course, and I will share many of these with you in the future.

For now, thanks for reading. I would appreciate any comments you may have, feedback is always welcome.

 

Do We Ever Really Grow Up?

I have always considered that one of the most unfair questions to ask a young person is “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.

There are a couple of reasons I believe that question to be unfair.

First, generally when young we may have an idea what we’d like to be, however it is really a moving target as we gain knowledge and life experience.

Second, at almost sixty-eight, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

For instance, recently I, in a manner of speaking, regressed in age. How did I do that, you might ask. Well, after more than forty years since the last one, I went out and bought a motorcycle. Not just a small bike, but 1500cc of powerful, heavy, cruiser.

2017-05-09 17.03.39I can assure you, there was definitely a period of adjustment, because of the time away from hitting the road on two wheels, and also due to the fact that this bike is twice the size of any previous machine.

And then there was the matter of a proper licence. In Alberta, to legally ride a motorcycle, one has to have a Class Six licence. Although I had an Alberta motorcycle licence previously, due to the passage of time, and the changes in provincial systems, it was decreed that I must take the written and practical tests anew as my old records could not be located. Ah, but a minor blip in the process, fairly quickly dealt with.

Now I’m riding on a regular basis, meeting lots of new people, those who share the joy, love, passion (call it what you will), of being on a motorcycle. And I am finding that this group of people is way bigger than it was when I was riding those many years ago. As a matter of fact, there are approximately 130,000 registered motorcycles (including mopeds) in Alberta, an average of 30 bikes per 1000 people. This is a higher ratio than anywhere else in Canada.

Now I’m retired (kinda sorta), I work in a jail, I’m out on my motorcycle, I hang out with a bunch of bikers, I’m more heavily involved in Kiwanis than ever, I’m on our condo board, and I spend several months in Malaysia each year.

Sooo… what do I want to be when I grow up? Beats me, I figure I’ll never get there!

Losing Everything

Have you ever thought “what if I lose everything”?

In the past I thought of it briefly perhaps and then moved on to something else. Lately though I have considered it much more.

In the past couple of years, two people I work with lost much of their possessions in house fires, and more recently a good friend lost absolutely everything to “The Beast”, the fire in, around, and through, Fort McMurray.

We hear often stated something like “we are all fine, everything else can be replaced”, and that is true… well mostly. The blessing that “we are all fine”, or some version of, is the most wonderful thing of course, and is what we always hope for. It is the “everything else can be replaced” which becomes, at times and in many ways, the sticky wicket.

The “everything else” is of quite a diverse variety. I approach it as three basic categories.

There is the “physical” stuff: clothing, furniture, kitchenware, tools, electronics, recreational equipment, personal effects and so on. Of course the recommendation is that we have all of these things documented so as to assist with replacement negotiations with the insurance folks. Here I must say that the need for having insurance goes without saying in my opinion.

Next comes the “emotional” stuff. This consists of items which may, or may not, have a tangible value, however they do have high emotional value, usually classified as “memories”. In this area I feel that each of us must deal with these “memories” in our own fashion, as there is no easy, or defined, approach to take in this situation.

ft-mcmurray-friendFinally comes the “digital”the-fire stuff. This is what we have on our computers, tablets, smartphones and so on. The occasion which brings this sharply to mind for me was the experiences my Fort McMurray friend. After the fire, all that was left of their house was an essentially an empty basement. Even most of the metal pipes and such were melted and gone. I thank my friend for allowing me to use these photos of their house after the fire to demonstrate my thinking.
It was the third aspect, the “digital” stuff that really got me going. You see, I have everything on my computer, and I mean everything. Finances, work related information, contact lists, organization minutes, and on and on. My life activities are pretty much all there. Then I have “physical” stuff, details of things around the house, when purchased, value, even some photos. Valuable for dealing with insurance folks. And, I also have “emotional” stuff, scans of family documents, several hundred thousand photos going back many years, videos and much more.

So… what happens to all of this “digital” stuff? Pretty much since computers appeared on the scene the term “backup” appeared. It is basically a mantra repeated for years. Backup on floppy disks, backup on hard drives, backup on memory sticks, and now, backup in the cloud. Well, in a situation such as a devastating fire the recommendation has always been, have your backup offsite, put those floppy disks, hard drives or memory sticks in a safety deposit box, a friend’s house, somewhere offsite. I once knew a computer professional who kept backups in his car trunk, so they were always with him.

Now, we have the “cloud”. It is a backup, it is offsite. Should your computer equipment be destroyed, you can still access whatever you have placed in the cloud. Some refuse to consider this choice, feeling that it is insecure and that their identity will be stolen, while others totally embrace the concept. Most of us are somewhere in between.

In my case, I make extensive use of the “cloud”, however I don’t put all my eggs in one basket, but rather utilize five of the main cloud storage packages. I also maintain onsite backups for everything, just in case. My reasoning for utilizing the “cloud” was reinforced upon learning what my Fort McMurray friend had to go through to recover their paperwork lives, financial and other. Personally, I scan all our documents, which will make their replacement less stressful. There is also the side effect that all is laid out in an organized fashion when, at some point, it will be needed by our estate executor.

So, what should you do? That, my friends, is entirely up to you. My advice is to think about losing everything, consider how you would be affected, what do you have in place now, or what could you put in place to help mitigate the situation should it occur.

I am doing what I believe will work best for us. All I suggest is that you do the same.