A brand new “Blast From the Past”: Colour My World

I had this one!
(click for Flickr source)

When I was a little girl, my favourite thing to do—apart from reading books—was to colour. I loved cracking open a new box of Crayola Crayons and getting down to business with a brand new colouring book! I had all sorts of them, as I recall: Disney colouring books from, “The Jungle Book”, “Bambi”, “The Aristocats”, and when I was a little older, I had two very special colouring books about birds and wild animals.

I liked nothing better than to sit at the kitchen table with my crayon box and my books laid out. I could spend hours and hours with my head down, working away on my colouring projects. I remember at one point using pastels and even Q-tips dipped in small bottles of paint to fill in those spaces. I did my share of paint-by-numbers too, and I enjoyed using irregular colour combinations.

When I was a teenager, my parents bought me a few of those rolled black and white posters with hundreds of empty spaces just waiting to be filled in with a variety of coloured markers. They were called, “Doodle Art” and they were great fun – a real vehicle for an artistic sensibility.

My colouring books were my prized possessions when I was a small child. I was reluctant to share them because I worried that most kids wouldn’t stay inside the lines and would mess up the perfection of my books. I used to meticulously trace all the lines with various colours before I filled in the spaces.

On one occasion, my mother invited a friend of hers named Leah Finklestein over to our apartment for tea. Even though I was only about five years old, I do remember rolling that name around on my tongue for a very long time! Leah, brought her young son (whose name I have blotted out) with her on the visit, and he very quickly appropriated one of my colouring books and made a frenzied attempt with a purple crayon to create a masterpiece.

Perhaps now I might be able to see the “genius” behind this kid’s work, but at the time, I was furious! I don’t recall what I did, but I’m pretty sure I had a face on like a slapped backside! I’m also certain that I made sure my colouring books were nowhere to be seen ever again when we had company.

One quirk that I developed, was to always trace winter snow-scenes with the turquoise crayon. I thought somehow that it best represented the edge of the snow. I must have been trying to distinguish where the sky met the landscape now that I think about it. To this day, I still see snow in that respect. Which is why, I have created a short film using shots I took from my front doorstep this morning, and I have tinged them with blue.

(I wish I had a colouring book right now!)

 Here’s the film:

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My 80s Memories

We are still under a tornado watch here and may be for the entire night and into the morning. In the event of a power failure (or not being able to get online) I’m posting this now in order to ensure it’s up and ready to go for tomorrow.

From an earlier post done for the Blasts From the Past blog.

There was a time when I was oh, so much different than I am today. It was a time when I would thrive on late nights and long sleeps in, on getting dressed to leave the house at 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. and not returning until 1:00 a.m., or 2:00, or sometimes even later. It was the 80s.

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I love music of all sorts. My taste runs the gamut from a serenade by Schubert to a Sex Pistols anthem. Granted, these days, I don’t listen to The Pistols as a rule, but if I hear it on the car radio, I won’t shut it off, and will usually sing along, belting out the “God Save The Queen” refrain, “No future, no future…now!” It’s just fun. On the other hand, I love to sing choir music at church – I sound really good with an organ – much better than without, actually. The point is, the vestiges of who I once was, still remain, but that doesn’t mean you’ll see me decked out Goth-style anytime soon, or doing anything on a Friday night other than getting into my cozies and watching the box.

I have to credit my university days with developing in me the tremendous urge to dance. I remember as a tweenie, doing some disco in my friend’s basement, so it didn’t take much to revive the impulse, but hanging out at The Blind Duck pub at Erindale Campus was where I really honed my skills.

I am part of that era that still bought vinyl records and listened to radio stations with Top Twenty Countdowns every week. I was a radio deejay at my college – I hosted my own program (listened to by about 20 people, most of whom worked at the station) on Friday afternoons. I became very good friends with the head of the radio station, CFRE Radio Erindale. This was a smart move on my part because he was also the night-time deejay at the Blind Duck, so come Thursday nights, I could virtually pick and choose what music I wanted to hear. In fact, I used to go record-shopping with Pete on Wednesdays to buy new stuff for Pub Night. I had it “made in the shade”.

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It was at the “Blind Duck” where I realized for the first time that dancing without a partner was way more fun than dancing with one. I had freedom to move around, no one was stepping on my feet or invading my space and people found it fascinating to watch me out there by myself. I guess I must admit, I’ve always had a side that enjoys the limelight–“dancing with myself” as Billy Idol said, was a blast!

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As time moved on in university, my musical tastes began to incorporate more Gothic influences, post-punk, new-wave and ska. I loved nothing more than to swirl around on the dance floor to Echo and the Bunnymen, Siouxsie and the Banshees, New Order, Depeche Mode and the like, but the kinds of music to which I really gravitated had ominous-sounding vocals, synthesized strains and a wicked beat. I spent many Thursday nights at the pub, dancing my head off and Fridays were great too because we had some terrific bands: The English Beat, The Diodes, Michael Jordana and The Poles were just some of the innovative acts that graced the small stage of “The Duck”.

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I spent the entire decade of the 80s exploring all the best dance clubs in the Greater Toronto Area. In my final year of university, I moved downtown to a truly grotty bedsit apartment, but I didn’t care that all I had was a bed, a zip-up closet and a bookshelf with fold-out desk. From this H.Q. I could not only finish my degree, but also take a subway to my favourite hotspots. I went to my job with a head-hunter firm in the morning, took some classes in the afternoon and headed out dancing almost every night of the week. There was The Silver Crown,The Domino Klub, Nuts and Bolts, The Spectrum, The Diamond, The Copa (on Sunday nights there was a fabulous, free buffet with admission) and on Friday nights you could find me at the campus pub, Reznikoff’s (so named after a university ghost) which was just your average cafeteria with the tables pushed back and a deejay spinning his records. Beer was dirt cheap ($.75 a glass), the music was awesome and the people were pretty cool too!

On Saturday nights, I would head westward to Mississauga so I could do laundry, but also so I could get to my favourite home-town haunt: Raven’s.

Raven’s was originally a mid-sized bar with a small, elevated, panelled dance floor (a la Saturday Night Fever). The deejay booth was away at the back in an alcove that could only be reached by a ladder. I always made it my business to get to know the deejays since familiarity led to favouritism in those days and I had certain songs that I always needed to hear. It was a bad night on the dance floor if my top songs didn’t spin on the turntable.

When Raven’s decided to renovate, they took over the empty Towers’ store next-door and made the entire thing into a huge, hardwood dance-floor. It was incredible! My sister and I and our friends spent many the weekend night dancing to the alternative hits of the mid-eighties at Raven’s. Unfortunately, someone decided to rechristen the bar and turned it into “Keester’s” of all things, but we kept going, until the bar was sold and became an R&B club called “Ocean’s 11” and I never went back.

We had to find a new place to dance. We had heard about a bar on the Lakeshore in “New Toronto” called “Crown 33”. It had originally been “Reflections” but it too was under new management. We were not to know it, but this was to become our new home.

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Crown 33 was a seedy bar/restaurant owned by a Macedonian family. I never saw it in the light of day. Even now, as I write this, I feel the swell of excitement rise up in me – the thrill of getting dressed up, heading out in the car and going dancing at “The Crown”. Visualize Julie Andrews on that hill in Austria, swinging her arms and singing, ‘The hills are alive”… and you get close to the exhilaration I can still recall.

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It’s Friday night. I’ve just awakened from my little nap and I’ve had a quick shower. What should I wear? I think the little black, lace-topped vintage cocktail-dress with taupe, silk lining (I just picked that up at my favourite second hand store, “Courage My Love” in Kensington Market), my black fishnets, my little studded belt, silver dangly ear-rings, dog choke-chain and black, pointy-toed, leather ankle boots. Perfect!

xia xiang

I put everything on and examine myself in the dresser-mirror – everything looks good. I paint my face—wine-coloured eye-shadow with a golden frost, lots of black eyeliner out to my temples, mascara, and lipstick to match the shadow. The final touch? A spray of Xia Xiang, the Orient-inspired cologne in the smooth round bottle. All done. I grab my black purse stuffed with Kleenex, wallet, makeup bag and my glasses (I wear contact lenses).

Who’s driving? Usually it’s me, in our huge midnight blue Impala (lovingly nicknamed Christine or The Getaway Car). Tonight, we’re all piling into Frank’s Lada like a bunch of circus clowns. It’s always fun in that car, except when it’s cold and you can’t get the doors open (especially when someone gets sick).

lada

“The Crown” is about 1/2 hour away from home. We cross over a set of railway tracks on the Lakeshore and we’re not in the suburbs anymore. We’re in the big city: Toronto. Frank pulls into one of the slanted slots in front of the bar. It’s early – good timing to get those coveted seats at tables in the back by the dance-floor.

Rick, the deejay is a full-time punk. He has a 2 foot high Mohawk haircut and is skinny as a rail. He’s decked out in black jeans, studded belt and black muscle shirt. I find him irresistible, but he has a girlfriend and I can’t really see bringing him home to my strait-laced Catholic father anyway. I’m only punky on the weekends. It’s fun to flirt though, plus, I have a lot of pull when it comes to the music. Actually, Rick and I have quite similar tastes so it works out well all around.

Not many people are in the bar yet, but the music is already going and it’s a great opportunity to dance without being impeded by other locals who shuffle to the mainstream stuff. So, when the The Beat’s “Mirror in the Bathroom” hits the air, we leap out of our seats, leaving our beer bottles behind (because glasses are SO uncool) and take that first step up onto the hardwood floor. For me, it’s like coming home—I was born to it.

Mirrors line one wall of the dance floor where we surreptitiously catch ourselves in the glass, checking our new, innovative steps and arm movements (we don’t want to be labelled as “posers”). We are as one on the emotional scale; the excitement is high, the energy is full. We are whirling and swirling on the floor, bending and diving, sinuous and slithery, we are imbued with the song and the night.

It was an addiction. I’m sure it was the ego-boost over being watched and admired from all angles of the dark room. It was also the physical energy – the sweat, the adrenaline rush. Whatever it was, I was up for it EVERY single weekend and begged anyone who was around to go with me. When it didn’t work out some weekends, I’d be in tears–relegated to a night at home with mom watching Saturday Night at the Movies on TVO.

I often feel the old pull when I hear the music and can still recall what it was like to be up there in the spotlight, “tree-dancing” as one person once said.

The night’s ends were strange. We were exhausted. I always punctuated my drinking with glasses of water, so I was kept hydrated, but the physical exertions were like 10 consecutive “20-Minute Workout” sessions

We just about fell into the arms of the guys who bucked up enough courage to ask us for the final dance. Often, I would head over to someone I’d had my eye on – someone who was mysterious and just propping up the bar,or someone nursing a beer at a table in the corner. We would melt into each other to the sounds of Sinead O’Connor singing, “Nothing Compares 2 U” or The Cult’s “Revolution”. Then the lights would come on. We would groan and blink at the blinding bulbs, look down to find the detritus of the night on the hacked up tables: empty bottles, chock-full ashtrays and beer-mats, overturned with phone numbers scrawled on them – if you were lucky.

Those were the days.

For more memoirs like this, check out the best of my “Blasts From the Past” blog.

Kathleen Mortensen©2009 Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Me and Olivia Newton-John

When I was 13 , Olivia Newton-John hit the airwaves with her song, “Let Me Be There”.  I first heard it on my little red transistor radio with the plastic ear-piece that was perpetually plugged in my right ear.
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Olivia was everything I wasn’t, but wanted to be: pretty, blonde,  blue eyed and clear-skinned with excellent teeth and a cool accent.  I was mousey and hazel-eyed with Clearasil-covered acne, braces and a resulting lisp.
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The one thing we DID have in common was that we could both sing.  Granted, I did MY singing in church, the shower and into a portable tape-recorder, but I had a passable voice. 
“Let Me Be There” was one of my favourites, but when Olivia followed up with “I Honestly Love You”, my teenage angst caught fire and I belted it out with so much  sensitivity, passion and devotion that I felt one day for sure, I could be the next ON-J.
We spun Olivia’s 45s on my friend Jane’s record-player. ( She bore a much closer resemblance to her than I ever could with her perfect teeth, baby-blues and long blonde locks.)  We would dance around her family room and sing our hearts out.
I followed Olivia’s career for some time.  When she appeared in “Grease” alongside John Travolta, I didn’t see the movie over and over for JT. No way!  I was there to see my Olivia swooning in her poodle skirt and saddle-shoes.  I still know all the words to “Hopelessly Devoted”. In fact, I was a bit miffed at the sleazy transformation they imposed on my pure Olivia at the end of the movie.
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I stuck with her when she starred in “Xanadu” as a roller-blader.  I still love her in that one and in my opinion, “Magic” is a great song that is highly under-rated.  She was so beautiful in that movie.
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When the video for “Physical” came out in 1981, I started sporting headbands, leg-warmers and torn t-shirts.  I still didn’t look like Olivia, but at least the braces were gone and I had graduated to contact lenses instead of bulky horn-rims.
I knew that ON-J had her own store, Koala Blue in Australia. I knew when she got married. I kept pretty good tabs on her for a number of years, but when she did the movie “Two of a Kind” with Travolta again,  I knew my love for her had died.
Besides, I couldn’t really explain an Olivia obsession when I was decked out in black and going through my vampire-phase, could I? She just didn’t have enough bite.
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Kat Mortensen©2010  Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I Had Rabbit In Belgium, Or My Life With Food

(Please click pictures for their sources.)
Of course you are saying to yourself, “Rabbit, in Belgium? What’s she on about now?” Let me explain.
I’ve lived nearly 50 years on this earth and I can honestly say that almost every one of my memories of that 50 years is somehow tied to food.  I’m not just talking about birthday cakes and Christmas dinners; I remember every fine dining experience, every fast-food take-away, spreads for family get-togethers, pub-lunches and even that strawberry shortcake on a stick that the Dickie Dee guy used to pull out of his bicycle- freezer.
AnneS
I think I can attribute my culinary remembrances to having had parents who were great lovers of food.  Admittedly, growing up in the 60s and 70s made me the child-guinea pig for any manner of processed and packaged food experimentation, but thanks largely to my dad’s membership in “The Book of the Month Club” and my mom’s willingness to try new things with Craig Claiborne, Julia Child and Ann Seranne, I was exposed to many great meals as well as the “Squeeze-a-snack” cheese and the Pillsbury Crescent Roll wiener-wraps.
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Plus, my dad had been to many exotic places while stationed with the British Army in the 1940s and 50s, so on Saturday afternoons, he was always mixing up things like leftover soups in the fridge with curry and spices and encouraging me to have a taste.
When I was very young, my father came home from his Chartered Accountancy job with Revenue Canada and said that our family (my dad, my mom and I) had been invited to an Indian dinner at his co-worker, Cal Mohatra’s house. I was puzzled by this whole “Indian” reference, but being a generous (and let’s face it, a bit precocious) four year old, surreptitiously packed a present in my dad’s briefcase for Mr. Mohatra— an Indian head-dress made out of shirt cardboard.  When we went to dinner a few days later, I realized he was not the “Cowboys and Indians” sort of Indian at all, but a very nice man with brown skin who wore a suit just like my daddy.  This was perhaps my first view of people from other cultures. It was also my first exposure to foreign spices and it was the beginning of a life-long love.
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My parents enjoyed going out to dinner too and whenever possible, we would head over for Chinese at the Nanking restaurant— a little place tucked away on a narrow street behind the Toronto City Hall. It was on the second floor of a building and I remember having to walk up what seemed like a hundred stairs, (it  which was probably only a dozen or so) to a rather dark room with lots of tables and clinking glasses and silverware and the hum of people speaking in quiet tones.  It was also my first time hearing people speak in another language—a very speedy, sing-song sort of way of speaking, I thought. I also remember loving sinking my teeth into the crispy-spongy batter of chicken balls with plum sauce and of course, fortune cookies.  I admit, this was a very Canadian-style Chinese food and it wasn’t until I was much older that I was exposed to the really hot stuff like Kung Pao Chicken and Singapore noodles.
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One particular food memory that sticks in my head is when we were driving home from a vacation down east (we always say “down” even though it’s actually out east and I don’t really know why), and stopped in the town of Peterborough, Ontario and went to a steakhouse called “Roland’s” where they also served lobster.  It was a roadside spot that had fancy white tablecloths and napkins, but I think what I remember most is the large blackish-green lobsters with the elastic-bands around their claws that were swimming in the big tank up at the front near the kitchen.  I was captivated by them and didn’t have the sense at the age of seven or eight to question their sad plight.  Now I certainly do.
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(Still open for business!)
If you want to talk lobster, mind you, I must tell you of the fantastic feasts we would have at my aunt’s house in Cape Breton.  They lived on the Bras D’or Lakes—the East Bay side and my uncle Mack trapped his own lobsters.  Now when you buy a lobster in a grocery store, I’ll bet they’re not much bigger than a crawfish!  Mack’s lobsters were easily a foot and half long or more!  He would boil them up in a huge oil drum over a roaring fire down at the boathouse across the road and then we would all sit out at a long line of picnic tables covered in newspaper. (Family would come from all over for these feasts and there would easily be 40 people.)  There’d be dishes of melted butter and vinegar and mayonnaise and we’d each have our own machete (well, it looked like one to me) to hack away at our meal.  I don’t like to think about the poor lobster, but I can honestly say that was bar none the best seafood  I ever had and will probably never be topped.


My mom and I can talk about food for hours. In fact, it is one of the things that we truly have in common and that usually doesn’t end up in debate (unless you count Coronation Street and even then we can “get into it”).  We both love cookbooks and cooking.  She passed the love of food on to me and I ran with it.  I can sit with a cookbook and read it like it’s a bestselling novel.  What’s really amazing, is that I can actually taste things in my mind, so when it comes to working with recipes and making them my own, I have a bit of an advantage over folks who don’t know what something will be like. I can read a recipe and know if I will enjoy it or not and I can tell if someone has put a recipe together that will just never work.
I have had few disasters with my own cooking and the same goes for my mom.  The one of hers that stands out for me was a fish dish that used a can of Campbell’s Cream of Celery Soup and a smattering of curry powder.  All the curry powder in the world was never going to save that undercooked, over-sauced blunder. I shy away from cans of soup in recipes; they’re loaded with sodium and other nasty stuff.
As for me, it was a potato-pancake creation that had way too much flour and tasted something like play-dough that is my claim to infamy. My husband likes to bring that one up when I get too cocky.
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(Should have looked like the top shot, but tasted like the stuff on the bottom.)
You must be wondering about the whole “rabbit in Belgium” thing.  It’s not just a catchy title; it really is true! In 1977 (just after my 16th birthday) my dad took our family to Europe for a tour of World War II battlegrounds and Catholic Churches. We got to experience some very interesting meals and dishes and I distinctly recall a gorgeous confection of vanilla ice cream and chocolate-dipped wafers that I had at a konditorei in Zurich (after just having purchased a gorgeous floral print, tiered dirndl skirt and clogs). There was also the seriously hot pepper masquerading as a green bean on my dad’s plate in the little restaurant in Cloppenburg, Germany. My dad’s head nearly blew off. That turned into a family legend, as things like that are wont to do.
One time the tour culminated in a unique culinary revelation. A dish of rabbit stew at a small, ordinary restaurant in Bastogne, Belgium, was memorable not only for the dish itself, but also because we ate it at the site of the Battle of the Bulge.  It tasted very much like chicken—tender to the teeth and sauced to perfection. It is conceivable that General Patton ate the same dish, since he had brought his Third Army north to Bastogne to relieve the U.S. troops who were holding it off from the Germans, 32 years earlier.
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My dad always loved the story of General McAuliffe, who after being asked to surrender by the Germans at Bastogne, sent a message back that read, “Nuts!” It really broke him up every time he told us that tale.
Well, that’s all for this round. We’ve gone from soup to nuts, but there are many more courses to explore, so if you love food and you want to come along for the ride, please join me and please leave a comment about your own memories (and disasters are always welcome).
Kat Mortensen©2010  Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around.

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My first love was a Scot and I have had a thing for men from the British Isles ever since. I like them lean and with a cropped-cut and symmetrical ears. Bright eyes with hints of gold always get me and a dapper dandy with a conservative look is a real head-turner as far as I’m concerned.

He was kind of like a mail-order bride, having been shipped over on the recommendation of my dad’s sister, Josie who was in Scotland and just knew he was right for me.
I was devoted to my first love and he went everywhere with me.

We went for strolls around the room, like those couples in Jane Austen novels, perambulating the perimeters of the parlour. It was a hot summery day, so I was sporting my checked seersucker set, soft shoes and short socks. We were so happy together, just look at the smile on my face!

Often, Ted and I (that was his name) used to love to lie in the grass and catch the sun’s rays (this was before it was unsafe to do so, although Ted never worried about spfs since he was always covered head to toe). Here we are in the long grass, enjoying the day. That’s not our house in the background; we lived in a swanky apartment!

I was a big fan of Amelia Earhart’s and wanted to fly a plane just like her, so one day we went to the Lakeshore Park and had a look at a plane just like one she might have flown. Like my plaid pants? They were Ted’s idea, since they looked so Scottish. I must have got some dirt in my eye. Good thing Ted was there to help me get it out.

Ted came with me to Cape Breton Island one summer and we had a grand time with cousins Kenny and Burton, rolling around in the grass with their fab dogs, Flip and Pal. I wonder where they are now? Ted was a bit leery of them at first, so I kept his feet off the ground and away from their playful snappers! (Flip’s and Pal’s, NOT Kenny’s and Burton’s.) I’m pretty sure Ted was whispering in my ear, wondering what on earth I was doing with my right hand? I always was a bit of an oddball kid.

Back at York Street, in Glace Bay, Papa treated us to a reading of some great books. Ted got a bit bored, if I’m honest. He didn’t like the Big Bad Wolf. I wasn’t worried because Papa always took great care with both of us. Besides, do you see the picture of Jesus above our heads? (Not the guy on the right, that’s Uncle Jimmy!) He had us well covered.

Do you believe in miracles? I do! One time when I was home sick from school, I was lying in Mommy and Daddy’s big double bed while they were getting dressed for work. Ted was on one side of the bed and I was on the other. I had my back to Ted because I didn’t want to give him my germs, but I guess he thought it was more important to comfort me because when I rolled over, he was right up beside me, tucked next to my back!!! It had to be a miracle because the whole time, Mommy and Daddy were in front of me at the dresser and closet, putting on their clothes. Neat, eh?

One Christmas, I got a gorgeous toboggan and Ted was so excited; he couldn’t wait to get outside and go speeding down the hills! He loved to build snowmen too. Here we are practicing on the carpet in the apartment. If you’ll recall, I love to sled!

Ted is just like me, he loves all creatures (except insects—you remember the wasp stories?). We used to go with Mom, all decked out in our finery; she, in her lamb-collared scarlet coat and I, with my brown-velvet collared one. We both had shiny shoes and I even had a matching hat! (Mom was so style-conscious and I have to say, a bit of that rubbed off on me too.) We went to Grenadier Pond in High Park to feed the ducks. Ted liked to throw bread crusts out to the drakes and mallards. We must not have taken the bag out yet when this picture was snapped.

Ted and I have been together for nearly 50 years! Can you believe it? He’s been my shoulder to cry on through thick and thin. When I fell off my bike in 1972 and smashed my front teeth, Ted was there for me. When I had strep throat and scarlet fever, or even stomach flu (although he was a bit squeamish about the yellow bucket by the bed and who can blame him?) he was there!

He’s helped me fall asleep—allowing me to rub his glass eye until the sheen nearly wore away and letting me darn near squeeze the stuffing out of him when boyfriends went astray. He’s endured many tears and drool, and cat hair and being crammed into moving boxes and sharing bedspace with tons of other animals, but he’s always the one who comes out on top!

Here’s a photo of one of my birthdays. I raked in a bunch of toys, games, books and stuffed animals, but Teddy (that’s my pet-name for him and the one I use most often) was still number ONE. He’s the guy that I’m holding in my arms in the photo, not the others. (Like my pixie cut?)

Ted moved out with me to my first apartment and moved in when my husband and I got together. He was on our bed for years and only recently decided to move into the spare room with his good friend Pablo the big blue bear, Richard Parker, the giant Bengal tiger and a host of other friends.

About 20 years ago, Teddy’s suit was wearing very thin. I mean he’d been wearing it for nearly 30 years! So I designed and crocheted him a whole new outfit and totally reFURbished him in wool and made him a snazzy bow tie too. He has very bad feet these days and his right leg is a tad shorter then his left, but his suit keeps him nice and toasty.

He’s held up really well for pushing 50, wouldn’t you agree? (He’s going on 52 now!)

Kat Mortensen©2010 Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Please bear with me.

Click for photo source.

I’m sure some of you think I’ve gone all schizo or something with the constant changes I keep making to my background on this blog. The truth is, I have yet to find THE one that satisfies me. I’m not really a “hearts and flowers” type, nor am I all scrap-booky, or buttons and bows.
The problem is, I do want something unique, but not showy and when I find colours I like, I seem to get some flower or button thing thrown into the mix. This is the reason for my losing the most recent background that was present until this morning.

The reason I’m telling you this is because you may have to put up with a few experiments over the next few days, so please just bear with me as I come to a resolution. The good new is, I am delighted with the background for my haiku blog, “Kigo of the Kat“. (If you’ve not dropped in over there yet, I urge you to do so). Give it a try! My haiku/senryu are a little bit out of the ordinary.

I’m also pleased as punch with the background I’ve finally found for “Blasts From the Past“. It’s got the retrospective colour-scheme I’ve been searching for and accommodates my posts and sidebar very nicely. I realize I’ve been a bit slow with the Blast posts recently, but I hope to get back on track with more regular offerings soon.

That’s the lowdown. I haven’t lost my marbles—yet!

Kat

Reigning cats and dogs (and birds, and fish and rodents) – Part One.

It all started with Smoky. I’m not really sure where Smoky came from in the first place, and I’m even fuzzier about where he ended up.
I was five years old when Smoky came into my life. He was my first kitten. He was small, all-black and had those little bright kitten-eyes that win you over along with those irresistible squeaky mews from a little pink-tongued maw.
From a very early age, I exhibited a love of animals. At the Sacred Heart Day Nursery where I spent my happy pre-school days, I was known for my commanding performances of “Clarence, the Cross-eyed Lion” from the television show, “Daktari”, which of course involved crawling around on all fours and roaring.
clarence
I also loved to visit the animals at the small zoo at High Park in Toronto and feeding the ducks of adjacent Grenadier Pond was the highlight of my days.

That’s me!

The very first movie I was ever taken to see in a theatre was the 1966 flick, “Born Free” about George and Joy Adamson and their pride of lions. I was five years old and it made a huge impression on me. So much so, that I wanted nothing so much as to have my own cat. That was when Smoky came on the scene.
All I can recall about the little black fella was that he loved to scale the drapes and secret himself away in the T.V. set to sleep beside the nice, warm tube. I have no idea how or when Smoky disappeared from my world, but he did! What I rather suspect is that there was some sort of overheating issue inside the old G.E. that nobody told me about.
In any case, we moved from Toronto to the suburbs and it wasn’t long before my whinging got to my dad’s soft heart and another creature came to live with us. This was the start of many a phyla to grace our home at 2394 Pyramid Crescent.
After Smoky, the first cat to come calling was a stray. She was a short-haired gingery tabby and she was hanging around our back porch. This had nothing to do with the fact that I was putting out saucers of milk every night. Honest.
I begged to be allowed to keep the stray, but despite my pleas, my mother held firm against the idea. My dad was a bit more pliable.
It was Good Friday and I was at the bottom of the street visiting with my friend, Frances Murray when the telephone rang. Her older sister, Rachel said it was for me. When I took the receiver, I was surprised to hear my mother’s voice say, “Come home, we’ve got a surprise for you.”
Well, no points for guessing what the surprise was. The stray-cat was in our kitchen lapping up a bowl of milk when I walked in the front door. I called her “Tammy”. I don’t remember why.
Tammy had a short and infamous time at our house. Looking back now, I can see it was because my mom had issues with a non-existent condition she believed Tammy had. The cat merely cleaned itself fastidiously, as felines are wont to do, but the excessive licking of her fur drove my mother to distraction and one day, Tammy was swept up and taken to the nearest shelter to be adopted by a more tolerant and deserving family.
turtle (Not Sam)
A number of critters were introduced to erase the loss of poor Tammy from my memory. There was a fish called, “Goldie” or something equally inspired, and a turtle named “Sam”. Why a turtle would be deemed to have such a name is now beyond me, but that’s what I christened him. Perhaps it was taken from one of my favourite books, “Green Eggs and Ham”.
I can still recall the almost tender feel of Sam’s teency claws pinching my flesh. He had a very inauspicious life of floating about in his plastic dish, clambering up his plastic ramp and sunning himself under his plastic palm. It was sad when he made his big break for freedom and dried out under the sofa. Of course you know what happened to “Goldie”—belly-up and the old flusheroo.
When my best friend Jane K., next-door, got a kitten and named it Elsa (after the lion in my beloved “Born Free”), it wasn’t long before I had my dad driving me to the house where they got her so I could pick out one for myself. So began the “Misty” era.
mack Click pic for Wik source
Misty, was what they call a mackerel-tabby in England. She was blackish grey with prominent striping—a real beauty! She was a lovely puss with a friendly disposition and when she was old enough we got her fixed. Problem is, the “fix” didn’t really take. When the “heat” was on in the Springtime, the local males were still getting a whiff of Misty and coming around to leave their calling cards—a bit of their singular scent along the sides of the house, in the bushes—everywhere!
It wasn’t long before my mother got wind of the situation and started working on my father to do something about it. Before long, Misty was taking that all-too familiar trip down our driveway, and out of my life! I still swear she was sitting in the back window meowing for my help. I cried all night long.
You do get over these things and it really helps when your dad lets you get not one, but two budgerigars in their own fancy cage with perch and seed feeder and some sort of bone-thing to sharpen their beaks. Of course, being from a Catholic family, they had to have saints’ names (that’s the rule, didn’t you know?) and so they were called Peter and Paul(ine).
pandp
Budgies are fun. They are noisy and chipper, they sing sweet songs and you can carry them around on your index finger or your shoulder or even on your head. My birds were a beautiful cerulean colour with black and white striped heads and long tails. They had a good life. We treated them well, kept their cage free of their grey poop and fed them all that birds love to eat. Everything was just dandy until … my dad thought they might like to go outside in the backyard for a bit to get some fresh air. He carted their rectangular cage out the door, through the garage and into the backyard and rested it on a chaise longue.
The fresh air went to P & P’s heads because they went mental! Somehow, one of them sprung the latch on the door and the other one beat it open. Off they flew, never to be seen again. Well, at least one of them was never seen again. The other one ended up on a neighbouring street in the house of a girl who lived across from my one of my school-friends.
I was visiting Jane T. and we were playing outside when this girl started talking about how they had found this blue budgie outside and now it was in her room and she was keeping it. It was hopeless to explain; she was never going to give it up and how could I prove it was my Peter, or Pauline?
So, we went back to cats. We’d just come back from a vacation visiting my mom’s family in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and I got the notion to have another cat. There were lots of kittens at a farm near my cousin’s cottage in East Bay and I came back from the trip with a bee in my bonnet. My father, helpless against my pleas/tears gave in and we got a gorgeous silver tabby and called him Fourchu (sounds like For Sha) after a small town in C.B.
Fourchu was a real charmer of a cat. He was cuddly, loving, fun to play with and would let you do anything to him. Sadly, he didn’t live too long because he developed a urinary problem that plagues many male cats and at the time, we (and apparently vets) knew little about how to treat it. It was recommended that we add tomato juice to Fourchu’s food, but I know now, that’s probably what did him in. After a hellish time, he had to be put to sleep.
One of my memories of Fourchu was how he used to sit atop the aquarium that housed our gerbils. My dad outfitted the glass case with a wood-frame, wire-mesh cover and Fourchu would lie on the mesh and make whimpering noises while the inhabitants bounced up and down and bumped his belly with their nubby noses.






Fourchu keeps tabs on the wee ones.


In fact, that may be how Sneezer got his nose infection. He used to rub his nose furiously with his front paws until it bled, scabbed over and then he would start again. He was one of a trio of gerbils. My dad named them, “Caesar, Beezer and Sneezer”, partially after one of his favourite off-colour ditties from his British Army days. I googled it and can’t find any reference, so maybe he made it up. It went something like this: “Julius Caesar lit a beezer, off the coast of France”. I don’t know anything beyond that because whenever he started to tell it, he would end up gasping with laughter and not being able to go on. It was his little private joke.
toga
In any case, Caesar, Beezer and Sneezer were so-monikered and they became playmates for me and my sister, Nancy. We didn’t buy plastic runnels and pods for our pets—no! We made them from scratch with empty tissue boxes and toilet rolls and our sleeves and pant-legs. If you’ve never had a gerbil run up your pant-leg (minds out of the gutter; we’re not talking Pet Shop Boys here!) then you’re missing out! It’s tickly and it makes you giggle and as a kid you actually believe the gerbils are having a whale of a time, but that’s probably just sheer panic that’s making them run like the devil, isn’t it?
Our poor trio came to bad ends. We had switched their abode from the aquarium to a nice wire cage with spinning wheel and Caesar got his foot caught and had to bite it off to free himself. He bled to death on the floor of the cage. We found him on Sunday morning upon returning from mass and running downstairs to check on our pack. I don’t know how many times he went around on his last ride; it doesn’t bear thinking about.
Beezer didn’t fare much better. My sister took him and Sneezer to school so they could be observed by her classmates and some bright spark of a thug-child dropped the brick that was holding down the lid right onto poor old Beez. I’m so glad I didn’t witness that.
Not really sure what happened to Sneezer. He probably just expired from sheer loneliness, or maybe his nasal infection finally killed him.

*Stay tuned for Part Two where the Davison Family gets a lucky dog.
Kat Mortensen©2009 Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape