Afghani flight to freedom

Shahnaz Qayumi (left) writes about the aftermath of the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and details life under Taliban rule for young readers in her latest novel.FULL STORY


#21 Merry Christmas from Tahsis

November 25th, 2014

Monday night is “Twang Gang” in Tahsis. We meet in the small room at the Recreation Centre (some of us think of it as the Wreck Centre). Numbers vary, usually ten or so, mostly guitars, a couple of banjo’s, a ukelele, I have a violin, and I take my spoons.

Stephanie has a violin but she seldom plays it, which is a pity because she is good enough for any symphony orchestra in the country. She also has a recorder, not my favourite instrument, I find them squeaky and annoying but hey, what do I know about anything?

I USED to be able to read music but then there was a car accident, I got my neck well and truly broken, had a serious concussion and now I can’t (yet) read music and then find the note on the fingerboard. I have to count…find the closest open string and then one, two, three, ah, okay, here it is, fourth finger, uh huh, got it… until next time.

Everything anyone ever taught me about “learning” insists that if I do this long enough I will eventually once again be able to read music. I hope I live that long. In the meantime, I play “by ear” or as my first-born grandson insists “by heart”.  This means, obviously, I have to know the song before I have any hope of playing it.

So it’s coming on to that time of year and we’re practising “Xmas songs”. Not to be confused with Christmas Carols. I must admit I’m a tad conflicted, in a very disorganized and bumbling way. I’m a pagan, I’m not a Christian person so Christmas doesn’t feature largely in my life; but I cringe when I see “Xmas” anything.

If we’re going to have a wing-ding, purportedly to celebrate the birth of a guy some folks consider to be the saviour of all humankind, then don’t tell me his name is “X”.  Christmas, please. Merry Christmas. Not seasons greetings or happy holiday or …Merry Christmas.

My early childhood conditioning taught me the Christmas Carols so I have no trouble with Hark, The Herald Angels Sing or Silent Night, or Oh, Come All Ye Faithful… but I don’t know Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer and ya know what? I’m not wasting any of the hours of my life learning it. And when we go into “Christmas in Killarney,” I play the spoons, not the violin.

It’s fun, though. Most of the time. If you ever come to Tahsis, remember, Monday Night, Rec Centre, bring your instrument and sit in with us.

And don’t say you don’t play well enough. NOBODY plays so badly there’s no room for them in our group!

Did’ja know that by this time of year the male reindeer has dropped his antlers? Only the female keeps hers year-round. Probably because the males keep breaking bits and pieces off theirs when they get into those head bashing rut fights.

SO, if the pictures of Santa and his sleigh are anywhere near accurate, the sleigh is pulled by female reindeer. Yep! Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donder and Blitzen are females. Well, that makes sense. They’ll at least stop and ask for directions.

Did’ja also know that the geese at the front of the vee, picking the route for the migrations, are females?  Old females, who have made the trip a time or two and can recognize the landmarks. They’re backed up by the old males. The rest of the vee is arranged so the youngest are at the very end of the vee, just following and trying to memorize the route in case they one day wind up at the front.

My uncle Tom told me that.  He said that’s why good hunters only shoot the ones at the back of the vee, they’re young and tender, whereas the ones at the front are “tough old birds.”

Hey, I was six, what do you want!

Of course I believed him.

So now we hear the grand jury (what’s so grand about it?) brought in a decision not to charge the cop who fired half a dozen bullets into an unarmed kid. I started to get very angry about it and then… click… something in my head reminded me of the 21-year-old shot in the back of the head in the police station in the interior of B.C.  And the guy handcuffed to a tree because he’d been camping beside a logging road, he got shot dead, too.

And then I thought of Willy Picton and how someone, I’m not sure who, wants me to believe a mentally deficient pig farmer outsmarted all levels of police in several jurisdictions for a number of years.

It didn’t keep me from feeling frustrated anger but it did help me spread it out over a wider area. And that made me wonder WHY the police on both sides of the 49th are being issued increasingly militaristic equipment. Do we need armored vehicles to patrol our streets? Really? Our children are that dangerous?

And THAT, my friend, made me wonder why we… thee and me and Aunt Lucy and, yes, even Cousin Sally… are paying taxes to support the RCMP. If the RCMP are going to become the company goons for KinderMorgan, shouldn’t KM be the one to pay their wages?

Oh, I know, the court issued an injunction. That doesn’t mean the RCMP have to enforce it! There’s no law says they have to enforce every injunction! If someone takes a peace bond out against me they can just send it by registered mail, they don’t need an entire SWAT team coming up to my door.

I looked at the photographs of the people protesting and there was a huge thrill of recognition…hey, I KNOW some of those people, we’ve been protesting together at other times in other places! Several of us were at the Stein protests. And, gee, ya know what? We stopped road building and logging in what ought to be a world heritage site and the sky did not fall. The province was not plunged into economic chaos. It took NAFTA and the softwood b.s. to do that to us.

Yep, there is a not-at-all-subtle link between those tough old birds, those sleigh pulling reindeer, and the grandmothers protesting on Burnaby Mountain.

Ya might not have noticed, but I’m not subtle.

And a MERRY CHRISTMAS to us all!

Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.

One Response to “#21 Merry Christmas from Tahsis”

  1. kevin barker says:

    I love anne’s stuff …

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