Sausage Wars, Part One

April 29, 2016

I did not begin to write this story with any idea that it should reflect things in the real world. But, as the rather depressing Presidential election campaigns competed to see how dumb the average voter might be, I found the story doing just that. Here is Part One…

Sausage Wars, Part One

Once upon a time in land so far away it might not even exist there were two bordering sovereign States.  In the State which we shall call A there was supposedly complete freedom of thought and ideas freely exchanged in the media, public places and homes. The Prince of A through the usual channels continuously issued Statements to the effect that this was so. People were by and large content. Content, but for one very large and unusually glaring exception. Whereas ideas on almost any subject were allowed to be openly and often fervently discussed, there was a strict prohibition on the exchange, discussion or sharing of any recipe for sausages. Not only this, but no one was permitted to even make a sausage of any kind whatsoever. The only sausage allowed in the State was the State sausage, produced by a small number of licensed Charcutiers belonging to the Guild of State Sausage. Less than ten in number they guarded the recipe for the State sausage with almost murderous vigor. Any person found either talking about sausage or worse making an unlicensed sausage was immediately charged with a crime against the State. The punishment was severe. For a first offense six months imprisonment with only the State sausage to eat. Since the State sausage itself was a greasy, flavorless, offensive, slimy sack of mystery meats, moldy bread and sawdust, grey in color and of revolting odor, one could imagine the horror. Second offenders, and there were some, were sent to remote farms were they not only had to eat the State sausage exclusively but were employed by the Guild for no pay in the manufacture of the thing itself.

Many societies suffer taboos of an amazing variety, but few go so far as to make such a simple food item the focus or singular prohibition. One can perhaps imagine the atmosphere in the cities of State A. Schizophrenic might be a suitable word. It was so easy to let the word sausage slip from ones lips and then become a victim of the informers who made a living welching their friends and family to the Guild Police. The pressure to conform worked to stifle conversation on any subject. And so the much vaunted freedom of thought and ideas was not so much vaunted as valueless.

The Guild Police were not so many in number but had money to spend on informants and as with all repressive police forces became corrupt. The Guild itself reported only to the Prince of A whose heraldic arms depicted a sausage rampant on a field of gruel supported by a single scroll allegedly bearing the recipe of the State sausage in an ancient language. The Prince himself was not clever enough to question the State of affairs, and as is so often the case was under the control of his chief advisor, who himself was directly related to the Grand Stuffer or Chairman of the Guild.

A scant fifty kilometers from the capital of State A lay the heavily patrolled border with State B. Elite soldiery of State A bearing the Guild emblem, a black meat grinder, were stationed here to prevent the crime of ‘Recipika’, or the passage of prohibited contraband sausage recipes or even worse an actual sausage from State B or the world beyond.

Across a barren one hundred meter no man’s land another soldiery marched up and down in a strict swaggering goose step. They bore the emblem of their own feared thought police, a blue question mark struck through by a thick dark red line. Both forces glared at each other whatever the weather.

In State B ideas were rigorously controlled. The people were crushed under the weight of an oppressive regime. A regime scared of its own shadow. So scared that it had made half of its populace mentally ill and the other half instruments of the State paranoia. Life here was grey. Here there was nothing to talk about. Nothing to discuss, Nothing to enjoy. Nothing except that is the amazing variety of sausages available for very small amounts. They were delicious and celebrated. New recipes were published nearly every day by the Guild of Sausagemakers and eagerly tried by the otherwise manic and depressed populace. If anything was allowed in discussion it was the amazing explosion of culinary creativity. Nothing else. Nothing, or risk the inquisitive attentions of the thought police. Reporting directly to the Prince of B, they were in fact controlled, as is so often the case, by his chief adviser, who was related to the Chief Stuffer or Chairman of the Guild of Sausagemakers.

As in State A, one can easily imagine the atmosphere in State B; a genuine paranoia about everything but one thing; sausage. The Guild of State B of course flourished. Supported by the regime as a sort of office of the State opiate, they enjoyed special privileges. The Guild of State A also flourished, funded by the regime as a handy brake to apply to freedom when it might threaten the status quo.

The border was not so impervious that ideas and sausage never made the perilous crossing. On the contrary a highly profitable and one might say professional black market, the Recipikastano, had evolved. No-one knew who ran the operation, but everyone knew it existed. While no-one knew the identity of the head smuggler, his agents were known to more than a few. The agents were most often spies from both Guilds or foreigners and exiles from beyond the horizon, living a dangerous life.

As is nearly always the case it was the rich and influential who benefited from the Recipikastano. A small but significant number of succulent sausages made their way from B to A, and a turbulent stream of subversive thoughts, poetry and literature made the reverse journey. While it was possible that there was an exchange rate; so many sausages for so many words; hard cash or gold was quite naturally preferred.

As you can imagine both Princes and both chief advisors and both heads of Guild and the mysterious head of the Recipikastano knew each other through a network of intermediaries and conspired to maintain things just so without actually trusting any of the others to do the same.

And so for hundreds of years the two States had sat side by side eyeing each other warily. From time to time each State had accused the other of seeking to destabilize it. Occasionally the exchange of accusations had risen to a fevered pitch and thinly veiled threats of military action ensured the approval of increased defense and security budgets in both States further cementing the power of the two opposing regimes and the profit margin of the Recipikastano. It was a carefully managed and cynical balancing act performed by two sets of cynical, greedy and fearful men, watched carefully by an even more cynical and greedier third.

While no-one in either State knew exactly why they hated each other so much many stories about how it came to pass were circulated. One story, which seems plausible, was that long ago the two States had been a single State. A single State governed by a King with twin sons. It was said that the people adored their King and he ruled wisely and carefully. Ideas and sausages of all kinds permeated the country freely. In many ways the sausage became the symbol of freedom of expression. As new ideas and recipes came and went with refreshing rapidity the mind and the palate were for ever and always entertained.

But if you know anything about dynastic strife you can almost predict what happened as the King grew older and his offspring began plotting against each other’s succession to the throne. Each son had become a Prince at the age of sixteen and by law had to have a small entourage or court. Naturally men and some women of ample means became part of the two courts. And even more naturally they began to plot how to eliminate each other. But such was the level of contentment among the people that neither side could find a suitable issue around which a more permanent and festering argument could be created. The people listened to each court and laughed at them. After all they had been exposed to nearly every kind of idea and knew the difference between a good one and a clumsy attempt to gain undue influence.

And yet fate was ultimately unkind and gave the two Princely courts the issue they had longed for. It was at a celebration banquet for the Kings fiftieth year of rule that the blow was struck. Unsurprisingly there had been much anticipation of a new celebration sausage to be served along with some new poetry and songs to mark the achievement. And indeed a new recipe had been developed in the royal kitchens and at the right moment a fragrant aroma of indescribably appetizing strength was released into the dining hall of the King preceding the introduction of the new sausage.

Almost at once a discussion broke out amongst the courtiers as to what could possibly be the tasty volatile components contributing to this overwhelming experience. Such was the astonishment of the diners, accompanied by their inability to identify any of the aromatic sources that a new atmosphere began to insert tendrils of an unfamiliar emotion. It was anger. Anger, fed by the feeling that one was being made a fool of.  The discussion grew louder and louder and moved from discussion to argument and from there to a fully-fledged row. The King seemed powerless to calm either his own courtiers or those of his two sons, and it was a this moment that in a brief lull of the tumult one of the courtiers of Prince A shouted to one of the courtiers of Prince B that he could no more tell the difference between a sausage and stick of celery than he could between a donkey and an elephant (no-one had actually ever seen an elephant). There was a short moment of silent horror. No-one had ever heard such ill manners before. But then a courtier of Prince B shouted that there was none in the court of Prince A who even knew what a good sausage was. Uproar. Weapons were not drawn because none were allowed, but fists were raised, and it was only because the King had fainted that a tense calm was restored. Conversation slowly resumed as the King was helped to his chambers, and the new sausage served to enthusiastic but somehow muted applause. The poems were read and the songs sung, but the damage had been done. The courtiers had their issue. It has been staring them in the face. Sausage. The people loved their sausage and their ideas and would go to lengths to make sure neither was endangered.

Over the next few months the more venal courtiers of Prince A began saying in public that it was shame that Prince B had so many new recipes for sausage when he had not had a new idea since escaping diapers. Similarly inclined courtiers of Prince B responded by publishing fictional accounts of Prince A’s inability to invent a recipe for hot water let alone sausage since his mind was overstuffed with pointless ideas.

It did not take long for the general populace to take sides as the opposing courtiers fanned their increasingly raw emotions with further Statements and revelations from well paid-off court servants. Over an amazingly short period of time a deep divide was created in society. It went so deep as to divide families. Regional differences of opinion sprang up. Notable citizens who had heretofore avoided any public stance on any subject now made their feelings known.

The King himself was of course at a considerable impasse. He loved his two sons equally well and detested both their courts. He dared not make a Statement favoring one or the other and as his age began to tell on him more and more he could only encourage people to sit and think for a moment as they ate their sausage. The simple thing that so far had united them but now threatened to do the opposite.

It was after a series of riots in several cities where book waving supporters of Prince A fought hand to hand with sausage waving supporters of Prince B, and more than a few heads were cracked that the King roused himself from inaction and confronted his sons. He asked them what the fragrant stuffing they thought they were doing. They each replied that they were protecting cherished traditions of the country. The King countered that they were doing it at the expense of the stability of their country. He went on to say that freedom of ideas and sausage had existed side by side since he could remember. They replied that times had changed. Prince A claimed that free ideas were paramount and sausage could go to hell. Prince B said that complete freedom of ideas was a dangerous fallacy and the communities understanding of sausage held them together. The King was furious. He saw his reign, his peaceful and prosperous reign of fifty years, being washed away by the greed and lust for power of a few individuals manipulating his sons. He turned on his heel and left his sons shouting over his head that their Mother was turning in her grave. They both laughed. The King’s heart hardened.

It took another few weeks of increased rioting to begin to affect the trade on which the country depended. Both sides blamed the other. Truth, already on a vacation, extended her absence. Finally after two children were seriously hurt during a riot and foreign arms dealers began to make calls on the courts of both Princes, the King took his last stand. Calling his own court together, along with some heavily, but discretely armed friends from his days in exile, he invited his sons to attend him. They came thinking it was just another pathetic appeal by the old man for them to make peace with each other.

The King welcomed both sons and asked them for a vision of their country that they could work for once he had died. Prince A said that he wanted a land where ideas were free as the wind and not tied to old icons and recipes. Prince B said he saw a land where ideas though useful were the prerogative of the State excepting of course anything to do with the historic sausage. The King exclaimed that this was marvelous and that they would have their wish. The Princes were confused. It was then that the King produced two scrolls, one for each Prince. They were maps.

The King stood up and raised his eyes to the sky, handed each Prince their scroll, and said, “Here is your land, Princes, do with it as you please!”

The Princes unrolled their scrolls and found that the King had neatly divided the country into two States of equal area and wealth. One half for each Prince. The King had meant this as a final chance for his sons to reconsider their disagreement. But sadly his appeal failed and both Princes, though miffed at not having the whole country, thought the idea a good one.

The following day the King issued all the orders needed to divide his once happy land into two. He then left the country and returned into exile in another land. It resembled the bosky town of Sevenoaks in England, but we shall call it Xanadu. The two Princes set up capitals in their respective States and let the enmity fester for centuries. State A, supposedly free ideas and lousy sausage. State B, no ideas and superlative sausage. And centuries later this is where we catch up with the story

One day, just when tempers had been inflamed in both States by carefully worded editorials and Princely pronouncements a few weeks ahead of annual treasury audits of security spending, a curious thing happened.

 

Stay tuned for Part Two, and possibly Three. 

 

 

I had not noticed them before but driving north on I-5 coming into Seattle from the the south the other day they became a rhythmic  mantra. It was the information sign boards advising not just the temporary speed limit you must obey but the additional warning, ‘heavy traffic merging’. Almost superfluous warnings as anyone with eyes could see the sluggish flow of vehicles doing just that as we crawled along. And almost without warning this song came into my head. Combining not just the craziness of Seattle traffic but a similar ailment in American politics.

Heavy Traffic Merging from the Right

Heavy traffic merging from the right
Heavy traffic merging from the right
They could have gone another way
The jokers causing my delay
As heavy traffic merging from the right

Heavy traffic merging from the right
Heavy traffic merging from the right
Flying along at seventy nine
Suddenly you see that sign
Heavy traffic merging from the right

Heavy traffic merging from the right
Heavy traffic merging from the right
When I need to be there soon
Must I run into these loons?
Heavy traffic merging from the right

Neo fascist voices from the right
Neo fascist voices from the right
It will pass you may say
But I’m afraid they’re here to stay
And we’ll wake up in a darker night

Heavy traffic merging from the right
Heavy traffic merging from the right
They could vote another way
But they’re hell bent to make you pay
Like heavy traffic merging from the right.

A friend recently posted a blog episode that spoke of the wisdom of mothers and the wonders of small village primary schools in 1950’s England. His Mother seems to have been determined to get him educated and the small school he attended cooperated. Since he and I are of the same age, bar a few months, and from the same county in England, the educational system we came face to face with for thirteen years was also the same. However, that system was still in its infancy following the revolutionary Butler Education Act of 1944, and the philosophy of the county education authority found itself expressed in as many ways as there were locations.

His post caused me to reflect on my own experiences going into that system and to wonder how much has changed. It would be foolish to pretend that little has changed and even more foolish to suppose that many things did not need changing. They did. But changes good and bad, need or not, are not why I am writing. It is to remind myself of what I went through. Not that it was particularly arduous or fraught with disaster but worth reliving in writing for a while.

I was barely five when I first walked to the far end of my street, turned left up a short hill bordering a cemetery, turned right at the crest to cross a high bridge over a railway line, a line that went to London and everyday carried the fabled Golden Arrow to and from Paris, and trudged through smelly cabbage, Brussels sprouts and sugar beet fields, all of which separated the small prefabricated house in which I and my parents lived from the Kevington Primary School.

Prefab

Typical Post War Prefab

Standing alone surrounded by those fields there was a huge difference in the scale of the building to the prefabs of Barnfield Road.

Kevington Manor

Kevington Manor

While the school building was a fine Palladian style villa dating from the 18th century now adapted to an educational function the contents were not so well ordered, and reading more recent accounts of the school it seems to have deteriorated badly until 2008 when it was sold to a private party. The school had only been in operation a few years under Headmistress G.M. Roope when I entered in 1951. Although the school stood surrounded by agriculture and bordered the beginnings of North West Kentish countryside, the intake was mostly suburban from the light industrial villages of St. Mary Cray and St. Paul’s Cray. They were what my mother would call “those rough children from Hearns Rise!”  In 1951 many of the children were barely toilet trained and stenchy accidents were common.  Teaching seemed to occur between outbreaks of crying and clean up.

In a less malodorous but excretory incident I was caught spitting profusely one day in a contest with George Jeffries (?) and being sent to Ms. Roope siting in her very lovely office overlooking a sweeping lawn we were invited to each fill a jam jar with spittle or vow not to ever again spit. Obviously we took the vow and spat privately from then on.

There was a school lunch program. I suppose the ladies responsible did their best with post war rationing still in force, but I could not bring myself to eat much of it and would often arrive home famished. I can even now summon the almost rancid flavor of what was announced as mincemeat. Gristly, grey and lukewarm, it defied me. I ate the carrots and a white substance which may or may not have been mashed potatoes. I suppose I was not hungry enough to overcome my distaste.

Like many schools after the war there were ‘temporary’ schoolroom huts attached to the main building. The ‘baby boom’ had apparently caught the authorities unawares and huts of various designs were hastily erected. The word temporary being a euphemistic term for hopefully not permanent. Indeed the prefab in which I and my parents lived was one of about twenty or thirty in one road of ‘temporary’ accommodations scheduled to last only a ten or so years before more being torn down for ‘proper’ houses. 156,000 were built as a solution to the appalling housing shortage in London and surrounding areas after the Second World War. They often lasted thirty, forty or more years. There are less than dozen in South London still inhabited after seventy years. The school huts lasted as long if not longer and were a feature of so many schools well into the twenty first century.

In tests applied to all the children I was found to be somehow above average and despite my very young age got ‘bumped’ a whole year, and found myself in a class with kids some of whom were nearly two years older than me and a lot bigger. I can still remember some of the test questions. Simple problem solving, spelling, basic arithmetic. It all seemed so straightforward. I did not understand what the fuss was about and was not too sure I wanted to be with ‘big’ kids.

Nevertheless I stayed at Kevington until the summer of 1955 when my Father found a new job and we had to move. I was devastated. I had my ‘gang’ of friends who ran wild in the neighborhood and the woods and the rubbish tip. The woods, scrublands really, with a disused sandpit where stag-beetles roamed. The municipal rubbish tip was where many interesting items could be found if one dared climb the smoldering mountains of trash.

We moved ten miles south to Riverhead. A village attached to Sevenoaks. The  town of Sevenoaks was very old and had grown up around Knole House, a palace built by an Archbishop of Canterbury in the 15th century, and around Sevenoaks School. A school started by a poor orphan who had made money for other orphans but by the time moved there had become a rather upmarket ‘Public School’. The town itself had become a dormitory town feeding workers to London every day by rail.Amherst School Riverhead 1

The Riverhead Primary School was a much more modest building than Kevington. It had been built as a school in red brick, and of course it had a ‘temporary’ hut on the east side of the tarmac playground. It also had two air raid shelters and a vegetable garden that bordered the church cemetery. Renewable life nudging the unrenewable as it were. In the photo the building to the left of the school was a blacksmith or farrier. The owner did re-shoe horses but probably made more money from the decorative wrought ironwork he made.

On the exterior chimney breast of the building could be seen the coat of arms of Lord Jeffrey Amherst. The same Lord Amherst who helped General Wolf defeat the French in Canada, and was said to have encouraged the genocide of Native Americans using smallpox tainted blankets offered as gifts. I did not learn this last piece until much later in life.

The School Headmaster was a certain Mr. Godly. I loathed him on sight. Stern and unbending he seemed the sort of person who should not be allowed near small children and impressionable minds. He seemed to take no pleasure in his work. Thankfully he never taught me. I was taught by young recently graduated from a Teachers’ College Ron Acott. He was the complete antithesis to his boss. He truly loved his work and cared deeply about children.

For I don’t actually know how long, maybe six months I was in a class that Ron taught that comprised two years. There were only about fifteen or twenty of us in one half of a large room that could be divided by a folding partition. It doubled as the assembly room. When the older children left and moved on to secondary schools there were even less of us, despite the baby boom, and we moved to a small upstairs classroom. Then began some of the best times of my childhood.  I don’t think I was precocious but I was certainly head and shoulders above everyone in that room except my friend Christopher Armitage and my first childhood sweetheart, who cared less than naught for me, June Henwood. Ron was a creative teacher and his students responded.

It was announced that Mr. Godly was going to retire, and in our childish minds we rejoiced. I certainly did. He was the only man who has ever made me piss in my pants. One morning I was intent on solving some problem in arithmetic that Ron had set us. Mr. Godly made a surprise visit and as custom demanded the class rose from its seats. I was so intent on my work I was slow to do so and was hit sharply on the head for my impertinence. I was utterly dumbfounded and pissed myself. Mr. Godly, a man most ungodly and unsuited to his work. As I remarked, a man who should never have been allowed near children. He got a television as a gift from the village for his service.

He was replaced by a man who with Ron Acott put Riverhead Primary firmly on the map as a progressive school, Mr. Crowest. Under Crowest I think Ron Acott blossomed and along with the school helped many children get a better education than was thought possible before. I certainly did.

But I must have peaked early. In the late spring of 1957 I sat and took the infamous eleven-plus examination. In a class ridden society this test added an extra academic discriminator to those already in place based on birth and accent. Thanks to the Butler Act a child at the age of eleven who ‘passed’ this test would attend a ‘grammar school’ where ‘smarter’ children went. Failing the test a child would attend a ‘secondary modern school’. Pass and Fail were not the words used by the education authority. The exam was supposed merely to separate the academically inclined from the rest.

In many towns the ‘secondary modern schools’ were to be avoided. Parents would try to pull all kinds of strings to help their children ‘pass’. Nobody wanted their child to end up with ‘the rest’. The grammar schools were a mixture of new schools built just for the purpose of educating those who ‘passed’, and older establishments that may have been fee paying until the 1944. The tension felt by parents naturally trickled down to their children and we spoke of pass and fail.

I took the test and to everyone’s amazement did not pass. I did not utterly fail and there seemed to be wiggle room. It was in this ‘room’ that Ron Acott and I suspect the village vicar persuaded the vaunted Sevenoaks School to interview me independently for a place. And so one afternoon I took the bus to the town, and walked the half mile to the school where I was faced with a panel of about five adults. I was terrified. They asked questions, and the one I remember, and likely the one which got me turned down was, “what does this painting mean to you?” It was an abstract. Perhaps a print of Jean Miro or Picasso. It meant nothing to me. I was after all not quite eleven years old.

I am not sure how I felt except confused. For so long I had been told how clever I was and how I would certainly sail through these tests and interviews. My friends Christopher and June had ‘passed’. Even my Cousin Maureen had done so. I know now that I do not do well in written examinations, and have proven it to myself time and again.

But the ‘wiggle room’ had not closed its doors and once again the vicar and Ron Acott persuaded a grammar school in far Tunbridge Wells to take me. It was the Skinners’ Company School for Boys. skinners-photoMore about this interesting school another time. But it was there that I went every day from September 1957 to December 1964 taking two buses on the way. And I found that even though I had not ‘passed’ the stupid exam I was at least as smart, likely even smarter than half the boys I met here. It was I am sure thanks to Ron Acott; who was an old boy of the school; and the need for the school to get as many ‘bums on benches’ as possible and take the cash the county authority would pay for them to be there.

So string pulling placed me in a school of which much has been written, and which I alternately loathed and liked, and it was the end of my elementary education and the beginning of something entirely different.

**********

More about Prefabs at these links;

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/jun/05/war-prefabs-and-an-unlikely-friendship-between-opposing-soldiers

http://www.prefabmuseum.uk/

More about the Skinners School at this link:

http://www.skinners-school.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

Vernal Equinox

March 20, 2016

Spring arrived early here in the Pacific NW. Climate change undeniably, unless you care to pick and choose which parts of science you accept. Here is a short poem, Vernal Equinox, reflecting the scene from the valley floor.

 

The Cascade Urban CowboysIn a previous life, but within living memory, Anne-Louise and I started a short lived cowboy band. We named it Anne-Louise & The Cascade Urban Cowboys. We coerced some friends into joining. We sang old numbers from Sons of the Pioneers, Tex Ritter and the like. We made paltry sums of cash, but it was loads of fun. As with any band players came and went. This pic. shows the earliest formation. Even though I am holding a guitar I had no idea how to play. I was the lead male singer. Imagine; an Englishman in a cowboy band.

The pic. below shows ‘Hoppy’ our Willie Nelson lookalike, a.k.a. Bob Brown, retired Episcopal Priest. He played banjo and sang all the heartbreak numbers. You cant see his clip-on pony tail in this shot, but he never sang without it.

Cowboy 'Hoppy' aka Bob Brown

The last pic. shows our last lineup. Standing; ‘Slick’ a.k.a. me, ‘Blazin’ Babs’ a.k.a. Barbara Bridge, ‘Hoppy’. In front the leader herself. The amazing Anne-Louise. Cascade Urban Cowboys Final

Solstice Sun

I Will Return!

Winter in the Pacific North West can be a tiresome affair. Rain, no snow unless you are in the Cascades and East. Personally I can easily live without the white mess and the darkness and wetness are no worse than my home country. But for everyone else here is poem (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN) I wrote about the Winter Solstice and the Helium Warrior that is our Sun.

It was like going back to work in the hi-tech marketing business. Talking confidently using words more than yard long. I recorded this new voice over DEMO TRACK at Marc Rose’s Fuse Audio Design Studio in Portland.  

History, as we know is the written fog through which we are asked to view the past. Written by many with various agendas we as readers are often asking ourselves, did that really happen? With this in mind I have taken it upon myself to present  a few chapters of American history with no bias whatsoever except to amuse and confuse.

I give you Episode One of the Clutterbuck Saga. Please let me know if you can spot the deliberate mistake. Go to this LINK

More Cheapness in Design

November 17, 2015

leafIt is eight in the morning; a light rain is falling driven by gusty winds. From my second floor office window I am watching a man wearing ear protectors blast a dozen or so soggy leaves across a driveway with a shoulder mounted leaf blower. They don’t cooperate and so he is constantly circling to the left and right. The noise is appalling.

As I have done every fall I ponder the idiocy of this ridiculous apparatus. For the umpteenth time I reflect that with a large broom and a rake the work he is charged to complete would be over in less than half the time and with only the reassuring swish and scrape of the bristles to bruise our ears. No air pollution either from a poorly designed gas motor. And again it defies logic to understand that a motor that is less than a few percent of the size powering my car can be allowed to make orders of magnitude more noise. Have the makers not heard of mufflers? And don’t give me that baloney about it making the machine less efficient. You don’t seem to worry much about fuel efficiency in the vehicle you drove up in, and perhaps worry even less about the hearing and lungs of the users. Nope folks, it’s just plain old design laziness and its lifelong friend cheapness at play. Spun with clever marketing and a desire to be seen as modern and efficient the leaf blower looks like being around for a while.

Unless…I propose a contest between two teams. Two fields covered in maple leaves. One dry the other wet. Each field is divided down the middle. One side for each team. Their task is to gather all of the leaves at one end of the two fields, and bag them for compost. One team has rakes and the others has blowers. You know, even if the the blower team is good and finishes close the to the rakers or even beats them I still believe the rakes are better for us all.

You disagree? Let me hear why…

It must have been in 2014 that I wrote a poem about the frustration of commuting in bad weather to a job you hate leaving a house where a relationship is going through some stress. I have read it at a few open mikes. I called it a A Day or Freeway Blues.

One evening my friend Barbara Bridge was talking about not having an idea for a song needed to satisfy her songwriting class homework. I gave her three poems including Freeway Blues. A week later she came back with a song you can listen to at this LINK

It knocked me over. I had never heard my words expressed in a different medium than the original.

And it happened again. Another singer songwriter friend, Suzan Lundy, heard my poem, ‘Take Me Down To The ocean’ at a reading and asked permission to write a song around it. Once again I was blown over by the result. I like to think of it as a song for veterans. Listen at this LINK.

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