They finally caught up with him

The Highland Summer Festival begins its summer run with Goodbye Girl.  It’s a witty and funny show, with a great cast.  Some of you may have seen the movie version of the play.  Inside the play is  the Shakespearean  theatrical production of  Richard III.   After insisting that I didn’t have time this year to do summer theatre, I was convinced (coerced) to take on a small walk-on part with three lines of dialogue.  It’s toward the end of the first act, and then I’m done.

To the delight of my family, I lose my head.  The challenge is create a chopped-off head without really going all the way.   You can tell my level of commitment by not allowing a beheading.  The director, far pragmatic, said it wouldn’t do to have only one performance.

A young man from Stratford (a former student of our director) came up to do the deed.  Here I am being dunked with liquid rubber .. during which you have to hold your face still and then sit (with no sight, no hearing) until it cures.  Then the plaster goes on and you sit until it cures.  After about an hour and half of being encased you start to get just a little claustrophobic.

Getting my hair out of the rubber was a very nasty experience, and I know for a fact I left too much in the rubber.  This, despite the fact that I had been well greased before we started.

I don’t know what the finished product looks like, but as soon as I get a peek, I’ll give you a look.  Pretty scary I would think.  All this to get beheaded and have your head presented in a 3 second scene.  Aaaah the theatre!

Butterflies are Free!

Friends and acquaintances have asked if  I get nervous in front of an audience, or an angry mob, depending how things are going.  Sure.  You have to have some nervous energy working for you or else your presentation will fall flat.  I’ve always told folks, and I don’t know where I heard it, but I now claim it for me own … it’s OK to have butterflies, the trick is getting them to fly in formation.

As a youngster, I was pretty shy outside of my family circle.  In my early teen years I was a reasonably solitary person.   It was my English teacher who got me “on stage”.   With excited abandon I dove into high school assemblies and stage productions and had a thoroughly good time.  A good start.

Over my years in marketing communications I spoke to literally thousands of young people, teacher groups and professional organizations, and along the way I learned some  important skills.  People taking workshops and/or going to Toastmasters will know what I’m talking about.  But the single most important thing is to “do your homework”.

It’s embarassing to see someone get up in front of an audience and attempt to ad-lib their way through something … even a reasonably simple introduction of a speaker.   When I prepare for a 3 hour show on Canoe FM (my volunteer stint 3 mornings a week) I spend anywhere up to 2 hours in preparation.  I may not use everything I’ve got .. but I’m prepared.  

It’s true that even with great preparation odd things can happen and you may have to ad lib to save your moment.  One of my best and most frightening moments was in the production of Man of La Mancha when I was playing Sancho, the faithful friend to Don Quixote.  One of the great songs that I had was “I like him” .. it’s a funny endearing song.  One evening I got into the song and (momentarily distracted for some reason) found I was going to sing the first verse all over again and I couldn’t remember the 2nd verse.  Sooooo. I made it up, on the spot.  Melissa Stephens, Musical Director, looked over at me with her eyes and mouth wide open .. whatever I did, worked … actually sounded like it was part of the song.  Trust me, you don’t want to have to do that too often.  But, if you’ve done your homework, you stand a far better chance of digging yourself out of those moments.

A famous BBC announcer talking about a soccer game had to think quick after pronouncing that, “”It’s now 1-1, an exact reversal of the score on Saturday.”  Well, maybe you can’t save face on that one.

During President Obama’s health care summit  Republican Eric Cantor suffered a bit of a misspeak, saying: “We have a very difficult bridge to gap here.” Yoiks! It’s the gap that needs bridging, of course, not vice versa.  He ended up clarifying it later.   Darn those butterflies.

One of my very favourite ooopsies was from another UK broadcaster who, in the excitement of hearing his own voice  pronounced, “”For most people, death comes at the end of their lives.”   Hmmm. I never quite thought of it that way before.

Homework, Homework, Homework. And then, every man for himself.

Man with 3 heads – survives

Well, that’s what it feels like.  The deer flies nailed the back of my head yesterday (without me knowing it) and today I feel like I have additional mini-me’s sprouting out of my medula oblongata.  And did I mention itch?  Oooh yes, they do.

Some guy at the weather network said the bug count was medium yesterday.  How the hell he calculates that I’ll never know.  Thing is, it only takes a few deer flies to make you sorry that you don’t have a full covering of knarly leather for skin.

Coming up to the first of June and it feels like mid-summer.  On the plus side, the flowers are looking wonderful.  Vines are revelling in this unusual warmth and wildlife (of the kindlier type) are full of energy.  Dragonflies, hummingbirds, finches and feathered friends of all sorts and of course the marvellous butterflies abound.

Jane spotted a Great Crested Flycatcher the other day.  The ‘all about birds’ website says that  many, but not all, Great Crested Flycatcher nests contain shed snakeskin. Other crinkly materials, such as plastic wrappers, cellophane, and onion skin, may be used.

The Great Crested Flycatcher is a bird of the treetops. It spends very little time on the ground, and does not hop or walk. It prefers to fly from place to place on the ground rather than walk.  The Great Crested Flycatcher makes the same “wee-eep” calls on the wintering grounds that it makes in summer.  Huh! How about that.

I’ll focus on the beauty and try and forget the little beasties.  But man, those are big bumps!

Oh, and a public service message … the Haliburton Highlands is the perfect place to watch the G20 nutsiness.  City folk, pack up now, come north.  We’ll look forward to seeing you.

We’re ready for visitors at the Sculpture Forest

This morning it was rake, sweep, wash and tidy at the Sculpture Forest.  Jim Blake, the Forest Curator lead our little band of 3 around the forest to ensure that visitors would be treated to our residents looking set for the season.

The highlight of the morning was a visit with Mary Anne Barkhouse, world renowned Canadian Sculptor, to discuss the installation of a new sculpture in the fall of this year.  It will be amazing.  We’ll tell you more in the coming weeks.  Here’s Jim Blake demonstrating size relationships on the BIG rock where the sculpture will rest.

Here? or Here? or Here?

As we worked out way through the forest we came upon two groups of happy tourists.  And we hadn’t even got our housework finished.  I always enjoy a stop at the Redwing Frond by Darlene Bolahood.  As the sun passes through this magnificent scuplture there is something totally mesmerizing.  It’s wonderful.

Three hours later, with a little sweat and toil, we were all done and ready for another great tourism season.  The Haliburton Sculpture Forest is free (donations greatfully received) and you can find out more at   One of the wonderful things about being a volunteer member of the committee is that you get to use skills of all sorts.  And nary a blackfly … what a bonus!

Do come and visit.  There’s Magic in the Forest.

New proof that life's better in the Highlands

We’re pretty proud of our great natural environment in the Haliburton Highlands and here’s news from Women’s Daily that there’s an added health benefit for people like me.  A new study suggests that being exposed to nature may improve your memory. Volunteers took a short-term memory test, then walked in a park for an hour. When they returned, they took a similar test and recalled 20 percent more. Researchers noticed comparable results when people viewed photographs of a natural setting, but not after they walked on city streets. Nature captures our attention without requiring much thought, so the brain can rest, says study coauthor Marc G. Berman, M.S.E.

Jane may tell you that my brain has been at rest for years.  Don’t believe her.  The gorgeous sights in the Highlands are to blame … yet, on the plus side, I’m remembering my name much better these days.

Does it ever stop??

Step away from your computer for a few minutes and sure as shootin’ 25 people will have sent you earth shattering news via email, Facebook, Twitter or (I blush) on WordPress.  Yesterday we spent a good part of the day jammin’ the outside.  Flowers went in, plants got moved, and soil got shovelled.  I knew something was happening with the home computer when I heard it burp.  I went inside and sure enough e-mails were spilling out on to the floor.  I immediately spent time with the little fella .. poor thing had a hernia a week ago (that’s another story).  Don’t know what we’re going to do .. the inbox keeps filling up.  I swear peter ‘puter has gained 50 pounds.  So in the interest of your inbox and the health and wellness of your computer – we’ll sign off for now.  I think I just heard a sigh from your “guy”.

Foggy Friday and All's Well in the Highlands

As we do each Friday, Shawn Chamberlain and I shared the airwaves on Canoe FM.  It’s always a bright start to the day and it’s amazing how quickly the time goes when you’re having an energized, fun time.   Our list of events and activities is back up to speed and that’s a sure sign that we’re expecting an influx of visitors.

It’s obvious that weekenders and visitors are alreadypopulating the county.  Our neighbour has 6 ATV friends up for the weekend, and over on Sir Sam’s Road there’s a group of guys making their presence known (enough said about them).  Even the custodian at the dump was remarking on the early return of our non-permanent residents.  At the West Guilford site you now put household garbage in a dumpster, and on the other side are the recycle dumpsters.  He’s had to reroute “dumpers” coming into the site so they don’t back up onto 118, as they did last weekend.  The new configuration slows down traffic flow many times over.  Best solution for residents – stay away from the weekends.

Blackflies are back too.  Shawn and I were wondering if the bug patches at Home Hardware work on blackflies as well as skitters.  Worth a try.  Sophie the Dawg finds them a little pesky … but then they are quite a bit bigger from her perspective.


Most of us have friends and we have associates, but likely as not you have a few true friends.  You know, the ones who have come through life with you and, despite any shortcomings you may have, they stand by you over the decades.  My oldest, dearest friends are two guys – Bob and Ray.  No, not the old comedy duo of radio days gone by – but just as hilarious at times.

Bob and Ray and I attended our high school reunion this past weekend.  Hill Park Secondary in Hamilton.  It is the 55th year of the school.  We were there – in the beginning.  Oh my gawd!   We started the evening with supper out and a bellyfull of laughs.

Bob, Mike and Ray

Bob was a geography teacher, consultant, author of two atlas’s and now, in his retirement, leads a science program for public school children on behalf of the Canadian Space Agency. He travels the world as a lecturer for some of the best cruise lines and is a dedicated Rotarian (not to mention a great story teller).  Bob can tell you the same story again and again (0ver the years) and they are still hillarious.  Lynne, his dear wife, would dispute that.

Ray was head of microbiology at St. Joseph’s hospital in Hamilton and in his retirement has enjoyed some cruises, loves being in his garden, enjoys great music, the theatre and books.  He, like Bob, has a great heart and despite his theatrical grumpiness, is loved by family and friends alike.

We had a grand time at the reunion, made even better because we were together again.  It was good to see old friends (emphasis on the old) and share some rememberances.  We finished off the evening with a picture.  I asked one of the “younger” alumni to take the picture because, as I explained to her, the van to take us back to our enclosure was about to arrive.  She found that pretty funny.

The Geezers of 60'/61'

The single most profound thing about the evening was that, despite the gray hair, the wrinkles and the waistlines, the smiles were still the same.  In some cases I didn’t recognize the person … but as soon as they smiled it all came back.  Isn’t that lovely!  Smiles bring back good memories.  It made the somewhat “dreaded” reunion all worthwhile.

Hang 'em High!

Well, after close to 9 hours of intense artistic effort it is complete. My banner for the Minden Street Banners Festival is done.  In an intimate setting in the backroom of Organic Times, on the Main Street of Minden, artistic contributors work away.  It’s a wonderful, supportive environment and to be quite honest, I felt like I was on vacation for a few hours.  Nothing to contemplate but the next brush stroke and the next colour.

36, or more, hand painted banners will adorn Bobcaygeon Road this summer … accompanied by many more by local school children.  A wonderful way to celebrate summer in the Highlands. 

From an artist’s standpoint it makes me wish I was born a little taller.  Damn hard reaching those high spots.

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