Some Lucky Bidders

Saturday evening is our health services auxilliary “Spaghetti Supper.”  It’s been sold out for a few months now – it’s such a popular event.

Just as she did last year, Jane is donating a group of Stained Glass Butterflies mounted on delightful pieces of driftwood and birch for their silent auction.  By the time Jane is done I think there will be 21 or 22 pieces. Large, medium and smaller butterflies should create a lot of buzz and bidding action.  It all goes to the Auxilliary in support of Haliburton Highlands Health Service.  This year they celebrated their 40th anniversary of service and in June hit the 1 million dollar mark in donations to the health services.

Yours truly will do some MC work, but the focus will be on fun, fellowship, fund-raising and a great spaghetti supper.  If your lucky enough to be there – be sure and bid on one of Jane’s amazing pieces.


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De-Grout Attack

I share this brief story as a semi-invalid.  It is as a result of a de-grout attack.  For those unfamiliar with this physical condition, it comes as a result of working in the first stages of a grouting. 

The Oxford dictionary refers to grouting (v) as “to provide or fill with grout” and grout (n) as “thin fluid mortar”.  Sounds quite straightforward doesn’t it.  What it doesn’t tell you is that before the thin fluid mortar can be applied the old grout has to be removed.

Old Grout.  One could liken the removal of old grout to the clearing of the Canadian Shield in order to make a highway.  Old grout has a very complex structure, similar to the layers of the earth’s crust which have been laid down over millions of years.  In a home that is 30 plus years grout has been applied and reapplied a number of times in order to ensure the slate floor is stable.  I can report that the chemical composition of grout has changed over the years.  Newer grout has a nasty polymer consistency whereas old grout has the properties of tempered steel plate.

New Technology.  There is a tool ‘specially designed for the removal of old grout.  It’s a sonic blaster thinkyjig.  I’ve always thought of a sonic blaster, thanks to Superman comics, as a tool of ultimate destruction.  Not so.  Faced with the kryptonite like material known as grout the unit labours to score and cut this unforgiving material.  Old grout puts up one hell of a battle.  Lesson:  allow lots of time for the sonic blaster to screech and scream its way through the job and be prepared to work hard.

The Position.  In order to de-grout effectively one must assume the correct position and posture.  Kneel, slouch and hold that position for six hours.  I can best describe it as the position that condemmed prisoners take just before they are beheaded.  I saw it in a movie … I think it was Lawrence of Arabia.  The correct position reminds me of a wonderful piece of art in the Haliburton Sculpture Forest

This is a picture I took for the Haliburton Sculpture Forest of "Curled Figures" by Susan Low Beer. The position on the right is similar to the de-grouting, whereas the figure on the left accurately depicts the post-spasm position.

Your Reward.  At the end of the work day you are now ready for the steps leading to the infusion of new grout.  It is at this point of the day that  your knees remind you that this was not a natural position.  With slow and deliberate effort you stand.  I did this with all the agility of a septuagenarian.  But the best was yet to come.  Spasm.  Marvellous word.  It coils off your tongue with the sound of  viper’s breath.  It attacks the same way.  Without warning, in a cold viscious manner.  Done properly a really good 8 (on the richter scale) spasm can return you to the orignal de-grouting position.

Fast Forward.  Today my body, through the mulititude of aches and stiffness, is trying to suggest we had some sort of victory yesterday.   It is trying to encourage me to sally forth on the field of battle, to infuse new grout and claim victory over this gnarly opponent.  Yeh, right.  Take it from me, this was not my finest hour – make that hours.

And to think it all started when my wife said, “I have this idea””.

They're Only Cookies

My friend and former workmate at JAN Kelley Marketing, Tim, reported that the agency’s largest client had sent the agency 8 dozen gourmet cookies…to say thanks for a job well done.

On the surface that appears to be a very nice gesture.  Well, it’s not.  It’s an amazing statement on the relationship between two groups.

Consider: the client’s office is in the U.S., someone had to stop and think about how well the job was done, the decision was made to recognize the successful completion, the gourmet cookies had to be purchased (not sure if the were smuggled across the border or bought in Canada) and last, but definitely not least, shipping had to be considered in light of the fact that smushed cookies are not as nice.  The team that works on this client’s business, headed by Tim, are smart, hardworking and wonderfully Canadian.  The fact that all members of the agency were able to sample the client’s appreciation made the cookies even sweeter.

In a day and age where openness, loyalty and genuinely friendly relationships between suppliers and clients is not the norm, this is a marvellous story.  It’s certainly not the cost and it’s not even about the cookies.  It’s about taking the time to express appreciation.

This little story that Tim shared made me think.  (Ouch)  How many opportunities do we miss over the course of a year to express appreciation.  I’m not talking about the obvious “thank you’s” but rather those creative touches that suprise the person on the other side, the touches that emphasize the depth of your appreciation.  A few I’m sure.

Without spending too much time considering the business implications behind this story, I think the story itself is a reward.  It’s simply about good people on both sides doing their very best work and letting each other know that they value one another and the product of their business relationship.

Thanks Tim for sharing the moment.

Tim, a leader in the Business Solutions team, loves family, photography, snowmobiling and good people.

The "Canadian" Way

Skiing has been excellent at Sir Sam’s Ski Resort and by all reports they’ve had the best year in a long time.  Great.  For them and for the County.

Neither Jane nor I downhill (it’s just my waistline that goes in that direction) and we usually dread the season.  Our humble shack is a stone’s throw from one of the ski lifts.  We find that it’s far busier in winter than it is in summer.  Now, that’s not so bad, but what has left us with a grimace over the past few years is the fact that a neighbour broadcasts music to the adjacent ski run.  People tell me that good rockin’ music adds to the pleasure of a great run.

We are about 1500 metres from the hill through the woods and, as luck would have it, we are  in perfect alignment to receive the the amplified bounce-back of all this great entertainment.  Most weekends you could not sit out and talk to each other without straining to cut through those sensational sixties hits.

Like most Canadians we are a reasonably patient pair.  We’ve frowned and grimaced for about five years now.  Finally it got the better of us and, because I didn’t know the neighbour, I thought I would craft a carefully phrased missive to express our complaint.  I was pleased with the tone and manner of the note but all the while I was rehearsing what might happen in response.  What if this was a biker family that loved to ski?  Or worse still, a party central location for the region’s vampire ski club?  You just can’t tell what’s going to happen or worse still, what might happen to you!

Last Sunday I trundled over to the “sound shack” and left my note.  On the return home I swore I could feel beady eyes watching my retreat.  I would wait for the response all the while hoping it would not end up with some form of vengeful retaliation.

Monday the phone rang.  It was a Toronto number.  I didn’t recognize it.  I answered it with the full expectation that it would be a gentleman or lady from India offering some new and wonderful bank product.  It wasn’t.  It was him.  Oh my gosh, HE was on the line talking to me about my note.  I steeled myself for some form of tongue lashing or a simple suggestion to mind my own business.  I was left gobsmacked.  This very polite and reasonable younger man (well, he sounded younger … and taller and muscular) said that he was so sorry that we were being impacted by the music and he wanted to try and ensure that we weren’t offended in the future.  He gave me his phone number and asked me to let him know should the music still be too loud.  He didn’t at all consider the entertainment needs of the skiiers should come before his neighbour’s comfort.

He was a diplomat in angels clothing as far as I was concerned.  I was left with my eye’s wide and my mouth open (my wife says that’s a normal condition).  After due consideration I realized that we had just settled a ticklish situation “the Canadian Way”.  Good manners on both sides and an appreciation of each other’s needs.  Jolly good show.

Yes.  He called on the weekend just to make sure everything was OK.  Charming chap.  We must share a bubbly pop some weekend – after ski season.

Sir Sam's on a beautiful sunny day, with the volume turned down!

Oh Wow!

This is the kind of winter weather we all love.  The highlands are bathed in brilliant sun with the most beautiful light blue sky imaginable. As Jane would say, “it’s a summer sky”.  I wish.

Sir Sam’s is bustling with activity today and I’m sure this weekend will be just fantastic for them.  Also this weekend we have Highland Cup snowmobile races on Saturday and Sunday.  It’s billed as oval racing at its best.  Should be a perfect weekend for those spectators.  The Winter Folk Camp is also on this weekend … workshops to inspire those who enjoy making music.  Saturday and Sunday nights they have concerts featuring a host of great artists.  Jane and I are going to take in the Sunday concert.

Speaking with Martha Perkins in Vancouver (Editor of the Bowen Island Undercurrent) she said, in our radio chat, that a help program has been established for workers and volunteers with the Olympics who are suffering  from Post Olympic Depression.  A number of these people who have worked diligently for the past seven years on the Olympics are having considerable difficulty now the “hurrah” has died down.  Huh. How about that!  And we thought it was just us having Olympic withdrawl symptoms.

Disaster

It was such a disaster that it was funny beyond words after the event.

I had spent precious personal time preparing another copy of my Phusus hand built clay sculpture (you can see her in a finished form  on the clay page) as a special commission for a trophy.  Carefully molded, hand finished, air brush staining and a final  glazing all went so beautifully.  It was a gorgeous piece.  As I prepared the felt base, literally 3 minutes from completing the job, I dropped her.  Crack!  Split in two.

I stood transfixed.  I continued to stand, dumfounded by my momentary lapse which had trashed 9 hours of delicate creative work .

Within minutes I was laughing at my own stupidity.  Once that feeling passed I went outside and had a beer.

Today another Phusus is in progress.  As I get to the last three minutes (likely on Sunday) careful attention will be given to the final task.

This is Phusus in the bisque state, just prior to under glazing and then final glazing. Alas she is dead...but will rise again.

"Scotty" Morrison

Most NHL fans will know that name.  “Scotty” was with the NHL for many decades.  At the outset he was the youngest NHL referee ever, at the age of 24.  Unltimately “Scotty” became referee-in-chief and then vice-president of officiating.  He is also a past president and chair of the Hockey Hall of Fame.  In 2002 “Scotty” became a Stanley Cup Trustee.  Quite a guy.

“Scotty” is one of our natural (human) resources in Haliburton County.  He is active in a number of charitable activties.  He and I both sit on the General Organizing Committee for the 2011 Ontario Senior Games.  “Scotty” is the honorary Chairman.

The 2nd Annual “Scotty” Morrison Hockey Tournament will be held in Haliburton County on the 12th and 13th of March.  On the 12th I’ll be helping out as the live auction caller at the banquet at the Haliburton Curling Club.  “Scotty” will have a number of names from the NHL taking part … players and refs.  It should be a fun evening.  The tournament games are taking place in both Minden and Haliburton Villages.  On the Saturday night there’s a special hockey game between our local OPP and the 4 time World Champion Canadian Amputee Team.  Great fun all the way and all money’s go to charity.

When “Scotty” asked me if I would be the auctioneer there was no hesitation.  He is one of those people that you’d pretty well do anything for.  A gentleman with a huge heart for those around him and those in need.

Wayne Gretzky, "Scotty" and Andy Van Hellemond being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (AP)