Blursday Posting – but at least there is light at end of the tunnel


It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to… Words to a song that formed part of my impressionable youth that resonates with me still today.

After countless days in self-isolation – some imposed because we traveled back from St. Croix on April 1, and some just done because my kids were fussing at me about going even to Costco… Like I suspect most of you, my oh so loyal readers, I’m getting a bit bored.

And it’s going to be my 72nd birthday on June 24. Oh man – I never ever thought I’d be this old – I’ve lived longer than my Grand-mother, and I’m 2 years shy of the age my mother was when she died.

My vision of 72 – at the tender age of 15 or so when I thought about my grand-parents – was house bound (check), living basically in a chair in the TV room (nope), limited conversation topics (what was the weather?), and moving only when absolutely necessary.

My husband and I just returned from our daily 2 mile walk along Lakeshore – dodging the bikers in Spandex that race along like it’s an Olympic track – and enjoying the breeze off the lake. My dad was doing something similar when he was this age, but my mom was totally house bound. I work out daily if possible, lifting weights, doing push-ups, squats, planks – well – you know the basic drill. So yes, I’m in much better physical shape than my parents. And glad of it.

But that doesn’t do much for the gut fear reaction to COVID-19. This is scary stuff because it is targeting my age group. 80% of the deaths in Quebec (most in Montreal where I live) are in the 70+ group.

The good news – here in Montreal – the numbers are definitely on a slide downward. Fewer and fewer cases every day, and while the deaths are still happening (about 50 a day) – but they are the cases that were detected weeks and weeks ago.

Testing here – which by the way gets reports in 2 days – was limited to folks showing symptoms or who had been in contact with folks who had tested positive. But the numbers of folks getting tested has plummeted so they are now saying – anyone can come in.

I haven’t been tested – and am unlikely to get tested at this point. I have been careful to sanitize and wear a face mask when out in any kind of public environment – so while this may be a false sense of security – I do feel secure.

Which brings me to the reason for this blog. It’s my birthday. And restaurants in Montreal will be opening up starting June 21. And our favourite restaurant in the city – Bonaparte’s – is having a grand opening dinner on June 23. It’s the day before my birthday – but I’ve never been a stickler for exact dates. And we are going. In 1810 style. Our dinner companion will be the local Vicar – so the conversation, while polite, should be interesting. He’s always in the gossip loop on local doings.

Yes – I’m excited!

The restaurant has taken all the precautions the management can think of. Limited # of diners, all staff wearing masks, menus sanitized before being presented, table etc sanitized before you sit, and they will usher everyone out at 8:00 to re-sanitize the entire space before seating the next group of guests. You can check all this out at their website.

Interestingly – the better description of what they are doing about being prepared to be open again is found on their opentable site… now that is interesting… Check that out here

I shall of course dutifully report back.

Signing off to go fuss in my garden (I think this year everyone is going to have the best garden’s ever…) – The Soup Lady

Day 39 – Sometimes Lucky is better than Smart


AKA – “Bridge was their Passion. Then People started to Die”.

That’s the title of a NY Times piece by Jack Healy published on April 29 – it’s the story of how Covid-19 did a number on a Bridge Club in Denver. Starting with one sick 83 year old (who died), contact tracing showed she’d come in close contact with 100 other people at the bridge club. Funerals, weddings, Choir Practice and family gatherings then provided for an uncontrolled spread of the virus . That Bridge Club became Ground zero for Covid-19 in that section of Denver.

And there – but for Luck – certainly not Smarts – go I.

I love playing bridge – and I have two favorite bridge clubs. For those wondering what a Bridge Club might be – it’s a place that holds regularly scheduled competitive (or not so competitive) games of bridge.

To play bridge at a club, you sit at tables of 4. Trays – called boards – holding the cards are circulated from table to table – and every 3 boards the pair sitting E/W get up and change tables. In effect – every person is exposed to every other person – well under any Social Distancing measure. And worse – the cards are held by every other person sitting in your direction at the match.

Plus – there are always snacks – with folks gathering to help themselves.

To make sure a Bridge Club is a perfect storm for Covid-19 – most bridge players are seniors, many in frail health, lots with compromised immune systems.

So if one person had contracted the disease – every person in the room would have almost certainly been exposed.

So why the Lucky? When I’m in Montreal – I play bridge almost daily at our club – and our club is located in one of the epi-centres for the disease in Montreal.

So why didn’t I get exposed? Because as you know from reading my blog – I was in St. Croix celebrating my husband’s 70th birthday. There’s only one tiny bridge club on the island, and with my kids there – playing bridge wasn’t happening for me. So I just never went.

My last day playing bridge at my club was March 7. Just before the Covid-19 fan hit the fire. Lucky – not smart!

Back to the story by Jack Healy. He reports that the 83 year old woman went to a sectional held at the Colorado Springs Bridge Center from Feb 27 to March 3. Over 150 people were there – and no one was taking any precautions.

And bridge is the ultimate of social games. You snack, you chat, you handle cards handled by other people, you handle the boards, you all touch the machines that record the scores. It’s almost impossible to imagine how a bridge club wouldn’t be a hot bed of Covid-19 infection.

And in the Colorado Springs Bridge Center – our game and our lack of concern cost 4 members their lives, and at least 25 others have spent over a month fighting symptoms of the virus.

So what of the future of bridge clubs? Right now, everyone is playing bridge on line – and our local clubs are setting up ‘Virtual’ clubs so that some income will come in – they still must pay the rent if they rent space.

But in the long run – hand sanitizer isn’t going to work. We’ll all have to wear masks, not come in sick or even with mild symptoms, we’ll have to have on gloves, and I’m not sure how to spread us further apart easily – bridge tables are generally 4’ squares at the most.

My guess – Bridge Clubs may well become a think of the past. And that’s a shame. For many going to the Bridge Club for a daily game gave their lives meaning and structure. Something to do when the weather wasn’t great – or even if the weather was good.

And for those seriously frail – it was safe. You could avoid moving too much by sitting North/South, you could even arrive and depart in a wheel chair. And your friends were there. You could gossip a bit while waiting for the game to start, you could share Grand-kid stories.

Bridge Clubs – RIP – a victim of Covid-19

Signing off to play bridge on-line – The Soup Lady

Day 35 – My Squirrels are wearing cleats


My view includes a long thin section of garden with a 6’ high wooden fence, a stone path way, a bird feeding station, and several ever green shrubs. There are also several large trees.

I mention this so you can appreciate how Squirrel friendly my home is! I have never managed to get an accurate count on the number of Squirrels that call my home – home, but I’m sure it’s well over a dozen

There are certainly several identifiably unique ones. There’s one with the rat like tail – I have no idea what happened to him, but trust me – he’s identifiable!

There’s also the Sex Pot. This Squirrel loves to sit on a fence post and whirl his big fat bushy tail around like a stripper whirling a set of beads. Quite the show, and I’m guessing it’s won him many mates.

I have a pair that love playing tag up and down the trees – they even play hide-and-seek. One will go 4 square against a tree – on the far side from the other one. After a few seconds – the seeker – who I think was peeking – always finds the first one. It’s not much of a game, but they do seem to enjoy it.

But the real fascination in my yard for the Squirrels is my bird feeding station. It consists of a long pole, a RACCOON Baffle, and then right now I have two feeders and a Geranium Pot hanging from the hooks above the Baffle.

For those who don’t know – a Raccoon Baffle is designed to prevent Raccoons from attacking the feeders directly. Fortunately, I don’t have Raccoons in my yard, but I have very very tenacious Squirrels. They can and will do anything that they can think of to get to my feeders.

I admit to wondering why all the effort. The birds gleefully toss the seeds that they don’t want onto the ground – so the Squirrels are hardly starving. But I guess the Squirrels figure that they too should be able to feast from the source.

One time I saw a Squirrel make a flying leap from a branch of a tree about 20 feet above the feeder. He missed. He never tried that again.

Yesterday I saw a Squirrel trying to make his way below the windows on my board, balance on the thin edge that runs along the outside, hoping to get opposite the feeders and from there navigate the 4 foot leap. I really thought he might make it. He got around 3 of the window edges, balancing super carefully and grabbing hold madly. But when he tried to get past the 4th edge, he slipped and plummeted the 4’ to the garden. Haven’t seen him trying again…

But I have my eyes peeled. I don’t think those guys will ever give up.

I have caught them sitting on my porch, glazing at me thru the door – clearly wondering why I haven’t been filling the feeder recently. They are almost as hard to resist as the two Cardinal families that call my yard home, or the very noisy, very large Blue Jays that love to announce to the world that I’ve filled the feeders and all is good in the world.

I shall continue to keep my eyes peeled for Squirrel oddities – but for right now – they are signalling that yet again the feeders are empty.

Hey – not my fault guys – you ate it!

Signing off to fill the feeders – The Soup Lady

Day 25 – I’m a Grannie Nerd…


Seriously – how nerdy is it to just love looking at stats? And I’ve found the best site ever for looking at stats related to COVID-19

Color me happy

So first – some of my favourite stats from this site (Statista.com)- displayed in graphs so they are super easy to understand.

Stat #1 – Ever wonder which sex is more likely to self-isolate? Wonder no more:

Stat #2: This is one of my favourites – they asked young adults – 13-25 – what activities they found helpful – and not helpful while self-isolating. Watching the news was the LEAST helpful – and no where in the list are things like – playing bridge, cleaning their house, making their bed, doing crafts, sleeping … But no surprise – these are kids!

Since I’m not sure that these images are going to show up on my blog – I’m quitting now..

Signing off to look for more interesting Stats – and again that website is Statista.com

The Soup Lady

Day 23 – Is this cabin fever I’m feeling?


I love it when experts come out with something that completely agrees with how I’m feeling – so I read this note in the Gazette (on line of course) and went – Right – I have Cabin Fever too!

As per the Gazette – “cabin fever” is not an actual psychological term. But all that irritability, sleepiness, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus we’re feeling is certainly valid, according to some experts.

“There’s a cluster of symptoms that we see when people are forced to being cooped up for extraordinarily long periods of time,” said registered psychologist Janine Hubbard.

We are creatures of habit, so it’s no surprise that some people are feeling restless, which can manifest in dangerous ways, including risky public behaviour, she added. People who are experiencing a lack of control and stimulation “need to activate some of those endorphins,” she explained, as a way to shake off the lack of energy or motivation.

The feelings of cabin fever are compounded by one key question about around self-isolation: when will it end?

In Canada in general, and Quebec in particularly – things aren’t looking rosy. The newest estimates are at least another month – perhaps 2. I have a friend who has decided that she isn’t going to listen to the negative news stuff – but I’m more of the – if it’s going to be that long – let’s get organized – mentality.

So – here are tips to help cope: (as cut and pasted from an article by Alexander Mae Jones, a writer for CTV News):

WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE CABIN FEVER?

The good news is that there are a number of things that a person can do to fight the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Establish a routine

You don’t have to get up at 6:00 a.m. every day, but keeping yourself on a loose routine of some type — getting out of bed at a similar time, having regular mealtimes, attempting to keep to a shower schedule — will help to keep your spirits up as the weeks go on.

“Having regular ‘work time,’ whether that’s you working, whether that’s your kids doing some schoolwork, whether that’s you tackling a project, (or) building some exercise time (is important),” Hubbard said.

Change your clothes

When you get out of bed, put on something that you didn’t sleep in.

“Get dressed,” Hubbard suggested. “Even if it’s just into (more) comfy clothing.”

Putting on a full suit for a work from home shift might be energizing for some, but don’t worry, it’s not completely necessary — the important thing is just the act of getting dressed at all. Wearing pants in a pandemic is an achievement.

Try to see the sun

If at all possible, getting some time outside can have a huge impact on your mental health.

“It’s amazing how much that exposure to sunlight is going to help with some of your endorphins and your serotonin levels, which are all going to make you feel a whole lot better,” Hubbard said.

If going for a walk makes you feel more anxious because of worries about maintaining physical distancing, just standing on a balcony, in your backyard, or on your front steps for a few minutes could improve your mood.

Be social…

Checking in with others through technology or phone calls is important. We all need social support, and just hearing a human voice can remind us that the world outside of our home still exists.

“If you’re used to having a coffee with a coworker each morning … set up some virtual Zoom meetings or FaceTime where you’re going to have your little cup of coffee together and just be connected,” Hubbard said.

…but take breaks from social media and the news

Staying informed on developments within your country and across the world is important, but refreshing Twitter all day and overloading on horrifying headlines can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Hubbard recommended limiting your news intake to “once or twice a day (from) a reputable news source where you know you’re getting accurate, up-to-date information.”

And when you talk to family and friends over FaceTime or the phone, “try to keep your conversations about things other than COVID. Talk to them about the silly things you’ve been reading or watching on TV.”

This doesn’t mean you should not talk to loved ones about your stresses and how you’re holding up during this crisis.

But if conversations turn into two people repeating every upsetting news article they’ve read in the past two weeks, it could just leave participants feeling worse afterwards, instead of feeling connected.

Try to engage in “active distraction,” not just Netflix

Having downtime where you don’t have to think is important, and watching TV or movies can be great for that.

“But try to include some active distraction,” Hubbard said. “So something that distracts you and relaxes you, but also engages your brain.” 

This could be pulling out a board game if you are quarantining with multiple people, or “doing a puzzle or pulling out an old craft project.

“Something where you’re feeling both relaxed and productive,” Hubbard explained. This can help to take away some of the helplessness people can experience in this time.

Don’t compare your quarantine to others

“It’s really important to remember that this experience looks different for everyone,” Hubbard said. “So yes, while you may have some people who are able to use this as a time for … around the house projects or doing some cleaning … or developing a new skill, there are some people who are just trying to get out of bed every morning and get their kids fed and clothed and trying not to crumble.”

For some, their largest immediate worry right now is boredom and how to fill the days in order to stave off anxiety. But others may have family members or loved ones battling COVID-19, or may be still working on the frontlines, or may have lost their jobs and be preoccupied with financial concerns.

These people “don’t have time for self-development projects,” Hubbard said.

Others may be battling mental health issues strong enough that seeing people post on Instagram about how many new languages they’re learning may not be inspiring, but instead feel like social pressure to be doing better than a person is currently capable of.

If all you can do one day is get out of bed, put on sweatpants and reheat Kraft dinner, that’s still an accomplishment, Hubbard said.

“If that’s what you manage to accomplish, that’s fantastic. Tomorrow might look a little bit different. We’re all going to have our strong days and we’re all going to have our days where we’re not feeling so on top of it.”

Shower!

This one is from me personally. My friends and family are reporting that there is a lack of – well – showers happening. So make being clean part of your ‘cooped’ up routine.

Having already changed my clothes, bathed, and created a daily routine – I’m signing off to go for a walk!

The Soup Lady

Day 10 & 11 – the trip home


We pack up our island hideaway – and eat a last farewell lunch on our balcony overlooking Sand, Ocean and Warm Salty Breezes.

When will I ever get back here?

They are closing the island around us – the restaurants have gone to Take-away only – the news reports are getting worse and worse, and while it’s easy to find Toilet Paper – there are no masks on the island to be found.

So we put bleach into little bottles to use for cleaning our seats on the airplanes and in the waiting area of the airport – and head out.

The airport in St. Croix is pretty much as expected – they haven’t really bought into the social distancing thing here, and no one has apparently taught them exactly how to wear a mask.

The TSA folks are clearly traditional islanders – and the mask they have been given are either on their chins or on their foreheads. I get it – these things are comfortable, but they aren’t really trying hard either.

To boot – the whole – social distance thing is a bit foreign. So some folks – like us – try to stay away from other folks, and other folks don’t mind standing in tight groups. Even on the airplane, crew members lean over to chat with other crew members. I’m sure the message will eventually get thru – even here – but for now, I’m leaving a place that still thinks this might be some kind of mainland joke – and going to a place that is already reporting over 1000 cases.

There are very few other passengers. Which explains why the earlier flight out of St. Croix to Miami was canceled. It makes no sense for airplanes to fly empty both ways – and American is obviously cutting back on all the excess flights it can afford to lose without leaving folks stranded or losing their gate privileges .

Our fairly boring flight lands us in a deserted Miami Airport and we head over to pick up our luggage and get on the shuttle to the EB hotel. I stayed there once before – they are a wonderful 4 star property near the airport – and they have the best bathrooms (aka great showers!) ever. We check in – again a rather casual attitude toward social distancing – and move in.

Our shuttle driver had listed the restaurants nearby – the one in the hotel is doing ‘carry-out’ only – and to be honest, looks closed. The one our driver described as a Latino cafe sounds the best and we walk thru deserted street to get there.

There’s a customer at the take out window – so I wait for him to move away so I can grab the menu. He signals me to move in – and I tell him – we’re social distancing – can you please back up? He laughs – but moves away. Miami just isn’t totally on the right page yet I’m seeing.

Dinner was typically Cuban – heavy handed by delicious. We eat in the room, watch a snatch of TV, then go to bed.

In the morning I enjoy the shower – for a good 20 minutes – it’s that nice – then we board the shuttle back to the airport.

Our driver tells us he’s fine – he’s been showering more often.

Our flights back to Montreal are more of the same. Empty planes, Empty airports, Empty waiting areas. I wipe down everything, stay as far from other folks as I can – and buy 16 masks when I spot them at one of the little shops that sells candy at the airport. Apparently they just got a big shipment in the day before – but with no customers – there are no sales.

Once back in Montreal – we realize that clearly folks here are taking the whole thing more seriously. Masks are now on over mouths and noses – and there’s protection set up for all the folks manning the custom booths. I wipe down the screen of the terminal we use to do our ID check – we pass thru customs, grab out suitcases – wipe them down too – and head out.

Our taxi cab is equipped with a plastic shower curtain – hastily stapled along the roof line separating the driver from us – and we have to use the tap feature on the credit card reader. This does feel like Montreal is taking the whole thing more seriously.

Once home – we realize that our darling Daughter-in-Law has done a massive amount of shopping for us – there’s food for a week, either on the counter or stacked carefully in the fridge.

She’s even bought me flowers! A glorious Hydrandia that is in riotous bloom. Lovely. We are well and truly welcomed home to start our mandatory 14 day ‘stay at home’ period. The rules are simple. No leaving your yard – for anything. No visitors. Wipe down everything that enters your home.

Sigh

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Day 9 – Laugh a little – it’s good for the immune system


Seriously – I’m sure there is some study out there that proves that laughing improves the ability of white blood cells to fight off COVID-19. Must be right?

In any case – my daughter-in-law has been gleefully sharing jokes related to the epidemic with me – so on the eve of my getting on an airplane (that’s scary) to leave my safe haven (also scary) – I share with you some humour.

What if they close the Grocery Stores? We’ll have to hunt for our own food. I don’t even know where Doritos live!

Like a Good Neighbor – Stay Over There —->

First time in History we can save the world by laying down in front of the TV and doing nothing. Let’s not Screw This UP!

A link to a song that sums it up – Stay the F*ck at Home – so worth a listen!

Thoughts and prayers going out to all those Married Men who’ve spent months telling the wife – I’ll do that when I have the time.

Every few days it would be smart to put your jeans on to be sure they still fit. Pajamas and Sweats will have you believe that all is well.

Now that we have everyone washing their hands correctly – Next week Turn Signals!

Wanna find out who your real friends are? Ask them to borrow a roll of toilet paper!

Yet another great video worth watching – again shared by my daughter-in-law – and trust me this one is really funny – in a serious way: Flatten the curve\

Single man with Purcell seeking Woman with Toilet Paper for good clean fun

Ladies – time to start dating the older dudes – They can get you in the Grocery Store Early

I know that there are a lot more in this vein out there – I saw a bunch that basically made light of all the sports cancelations – implying that men suddenly realized there was a wife in the house.. Like all jokes – funny because they have a grain of truth in them.

True – but still very funny – the Leader of Quebec has decided that during this crisis all stores need to close on Sunday – even Grocery stores. Why? All workers need a day off. (Why am I leaving my island hide-away to go home I am forced to wonder…)

So share any jokes you have here – and remember – Orange Juice and Laughter are great for the immune system.

Be safe

Be healthy

Signing off to spend 25 hours getting from my island to my home in Montreal – all the while keeping social Distance and wiping down surfaces… The world has never been so clean…

The Soup Lady

Party Central at the Toronto Pride Parade


I’m a tad conservative – I’m not talking political, I’m talking life style. Husband, kids, house, grandkids – conservative lifestyle, conservative dress – you wouldn’t think from looking at me today that there was a flower child in my past. And the honest truth is that there wasn’t. I was in University during that period in history – but I spent that time studing physics and computer science, not marching from rights at every opportunity.

Color me conservative.

So you can also color me surprised to discover that I’d managed to decide to visit Toronto during Pride Week. This is a massively important week for Toronto, if the sheer number of rainbow flags, wall hangings, designs, and posters is any measure. I don’t think it would be possible to ignore the fact that it was Pride week anywhere in Toronto, but my sisters and I had managed to reserve ourselves a VRBO rental right in the heart of the Gay Village. No way we were going to be ignoring the festivities. Much to our surprise, we were part of them!

Hot Spot Central for Pride events is Church Street near Bloor – and we were just 2 very short blocks away on Mutual Street. We couldn’t have asked for a better location if we’d realized what we were signing up for. Church Street is party central, and we were just far enough away to avoid the noise – and close enough to have to walk thru it every time we ventured out.

We arrived in Toronto on Thursday, navigated our way to our lodgings, and quickly realized that something was happening. The unmistakable signs of a huge street fair being set up were everywhere. Tents being dropped off, boxes and boxes of supplies being unloaded, and giant marquess being set-up at all the major street corners were just some of the more obvious hints. And to say that folks were dressed – well – distinctively – would be an understatement. Clearly, something big was happening, and it didn’t take us long to put it all together. Of course – Pride Week – with the huge Pride Parade (over 3 million people (apx?) attended in 2017) was happening on Sunday.

By Saturday, things were in high swing. The street closures started at Bloor and Church and extended for blocks and blocks – well past where we were and only petering out at around Gerrad Street. Even the local Loblaws – a super Loblaws with both an upstairs and a downstairs was in on the act. An entire section of the grocery store was getting a quick redesign as a dance floor – with a DJ of course. Folks were handing out free drink samples at both entrances – Some kind of Lemon/Lime Coke at one door, and a fru-fru water at the other. Nothing like shopping to head-banging noise…

The hundreds of stalls set up along Church were definitely an eclectic group. From Light your Dick (selling penis shaped candles), to a wooden watch display whose 6’2” salesman wore high heels and a sequinned top, to a pose yourself in a bathtub photo opp – there were stalls the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

The lower portion of the parade route was devoted to more community oriented stalls of the likes of Save Water (handing out free metal water bottles), Pet Rescue (with their doggy mascot in his wheel chair), and a huge 2 floor bar/DJ set-up sponsored (yes I asked) by the largest Pot growing company in Canada. Nope – no free samples there!

My sisters and I wandered up and down the street – many times with our jaws dropped open in surprise at the clothing choices of some of our fellow revellers.

There were drag queens galore – some young, some definitely not so young. One of my favourites was wearing a dashing ballon headdress – and not much else. There were men – at least a dozen in my best count – sporting the full Monty. They had on rings that were strategically placed – I never did figure out why, but if you need to know – ask a guy. Leather strips formed a lot of the clothing options, as did push up bras, corsets, and tatoos. For some reason – lots of guys were wearing dog masks – mostly of the German Shepard variety – and being lead around on chains by either other men, or young woman. I will leave to the reader’s mind to figure out what they were doing. There was a Goth Statue of Liberty, a guy wearing ‘grapes’ (I think he was from a wine store), and lots of belly buttons (and other parts) on display.

And the noise – oh my – the noise. Every major street corner had a DJ booth and dance floor set-up. Some were massive 3 story affairs with light shows. Other’s were a bit more subtle – but not by much. One booth was playing a wild rendition of YMCA as we struggled past, but most were the more popular younger music that I can barely recognize as music. It’s mostly base noise, with a hint of melody.

And this party lasts, lasts, and lasts. It started warming up around noon on Saturday, and only slowed down a bit when it rained late Saturday night. On Sunday morning they began gearing up for the main event – the Pride Parade, but we opted to avoid both the rain and the crowds by heading towards the Royal Ontario Museum. This kept us dry and relatively sane. We let the crowds of Pride Parade Goers do their thing with out us. There is only so much Full Monty I need to see in my life.

Would I go back to Toronto for Pride Parade? Nope. Been there, saw that – I’m done. Would I suggest you check it out? Sure! It was eye-opening for sure.

Signing off to go back to her conservative life-style…

Kingston – a pit stop on the road to Toronto


I’m on the road today. Leaving Kingston by train for Toronto. My sisters are flying in to Toronto this morning too. It’s my 70th Birthday – and we are meeting up at the UP station near the train station to spend a ‘sister”s’ weekend celebrating that milestone.

I’m hoping there’s a waiting room or somewhere to sit at the UP Station. I can’t remember for the life of me. But I’m sure I’ll work it out.

I came to Kingston from Montreal by train on Tuesday – to play bridge. They are having a Regional Competition this week, and I’m squeezing in two days of bridge before my birthday celebrations in Toronto. My trip here was uneventful. I arrived early at the train station in Kingston, which is located in the middle of basically nothing but forest/farm land. A local bus driver, with help from two of the other passengers, determined my best bet to get to the St. Lawerence College was to take the slow and winding 16 route. At least I don’t have to change buses, and I get a free tour of downtown Kingston. I also get to chat up some of the locals – who for reasons I do not understand decide to share their medical histories with me. To you both – I hope you feel better soon!

Soon enough I”m at the college, and a young student (he’s a grad student, so not that young, but it’s in comparison) walks me to the door to the residences so I can drop off my small suitcase. He also points out the food court, and the gym where we’ll be playing bridge.

The College is one very long, very narrow building on two floors that is probably the result of joining several smaller buildings into one at some point in it’s history. It’s relatively modern looking, and has most of the expected facilities – non-gender toilets, white boards in all classrooms, and signs. Lots and lots of signs. There’s a cooking school (the student restaurant isn’t open for the summer, but I did see signs of a class being held), a vet school (complete with a furry quick stop, and even a weight room. Recycling here is big – and there are 4 different sorting bins – including one just for coffee cups.

And it’s clean. And relatively empty being that it’s summer and while there are classes – the population is clearly reduced from what it must be during ‘term’. But I”m not here for school – I’m here for bridge!

And Kingston for bridge was interesting. I met some very nice people and saw a lot of the same faces from Toronto Regionals. My PUP (pick up partner) was ‘The Independent Lady’ – 73 years young and very very interesting. She’s been married 4 times – has 2 sons from two different husbands – and is very independent today. I admire this of course, but do not envy her at all! I kinda like my cozy married life of almost 48 years.. But she was a very decent partner – we had our ups and downs on Tuesday, but on Wednesday we put our acts together – and did very well. We came in first in our section in the Gold Rush (yeah!!) and even finished in the top 4 in a side game against some pretty impressive competition. I was very pleased.

Last night we decided to share a 3/4 bottle of red wine after the night game, and went up to the lounge on her floor of the college residence. There were others bridge players there – and we chatted and drank and practiced yoga (yes – someone has the pictures to prove that) until after midnight.

We agreed to try to get together again – like me she travels a lot and lacks a consistent partner. We shall see how that works out. She’s not as good as Fern (the gal I went on the cruise with), although she has more master points. While she’s been playing for a long time, she’s still open to new ideas about defence – what I think is the most crucial part of the game. Everyone can learn conventions – but 50% of the time you are on defence – and that makes or breaks your scoring.

I think there’s a definite problem with folks that have been playing for too many years and are willing to teach, but not so willing to learn – they are sure that they know what they know – whereas I’m sure of what I don’t know.

On the subject of college residences… Well, they haven’t changed much since my Tufts University days in 1966-1970. I honestly felt transported back to that single room I had my senior year. The only difference – they have put bathrooms inside the rooms – so no sharing the toilet. But otherwise – it was identical. My bed was the upper part of a bunk bed that had been split, so a metal frame that was a good 25” above the floor. I had to hoist myself up to get in! I had a single window on one wall – which at least could open. The sheets and bed covering were thread bare and had been washed a zillion times. Same for the towels. The closet had no hangers, so I had to just dump my jackets on the floor, or hang them on the back of the only chair in the room.

On the first night – I was so so cold. I didn’t realize that the thing that looked like an AC on the wall was also a heater. I got up in the middle of the night, walked the long long walk to ‘reception’, and asked for a blanket. (I was already sleeping in my sweat shirt, and wearing socks). She kindly gave me a nice cuddly blanket, and explained how to make the heater work. Finally – I was warm enough to sleep!

Last night I asked for better towels – and that too was provided. So I had a nice warm shower before bed – very nice. Maybe I should have had more water to drink though… Wine tends to give me a bit of a headache, and this morning I feel a bit hungover. But two cups of latte at Via Rail’s expense and a warm breakfast makes for a good pick-me up!

We are playing bridge in the University Gym, and the nearest bathroom is clearly the Woman’s locker room. Two tiny toilets – and the biggest shower space I’ve seen in years. No barriers, no curtains, no separations. I know, guys are not surprised, but for women, we tend to shower in our own space – not in huge open spaces with multiple shower heads. And it smelled horrid. Ah well – I guess Gyms are Gyms.. What was I expecting? Marriott? Not hardly.

Food at the residences was also interesting. I was staying at St. Lawerence College, not Queens. I mention this because it was a bit of a distance from ‘downtown’ Kingston, and the closest food was the ‘food court/cafeteria’ of the college. To get to any restaurant required a healthy walk, or a car. Good news – The Independent Lady had a car. Bad news – the restaurants were Tim Hortons, Subway, and a local Sushi Joint.

The food at the cafeteria was actually excellent – I ate lunch there both days – and it was quite acceptable. But they close at 4:00 PM – And the afternoon bridge game finished at 5:30. So you couldn’t go there for dinner!

The first night – we drove over to Tim Horton’s. The Lady had poutine (seriously?), and I ordered from the Sushi place. It was ok, but too much food, so I carefully took part back to my dorm room and put in the fridge.

The second night we opted to eat at the Residences. The Lady munched on some of my grapes and some cookies I”d taken from Via Rail on my trip into Kingston, I ate most of the remains of my sushi. Not a gourmet meal by any stretch of the imagination.

The company however was stellar. We were sitting outside, and were joined by a young man who is studing to be a Correctional Officier. He was adorable – cute, young, very very strong, and very articulate. He was born in Corsovo (sp?), and had immigrated to Canada while very young. He felt that the Canadian Federal Government had saved his life, and wanted to return the favour by working for them.

We chatted and chatted. He explained that the program is 3 months long, and a new ‘course’ starts every week during the summer, with 30 new trainees. If you finish the program, you are guaranteed a job. But getting into the program is the challenge. Thousands apply, few are accepted! They weight train for an hour every day, the rest of the time is filled with courses and lectures and more physical training. It was an eye-opening look at what kinds of decisions young people make today – and it was very interesting discussing how he felt our prision system is managed.

This morning on my way out to get my taxi to the train station, I saw a large group all dressed in their uniforms heading out to start their day. Man, they looked fit and ready for action.

Yes – both women and men if that was the next question.

One of his reasons for making what I can only think is a odd career choice is that the comarderie among the folks who work/manage the prision system is so intense – something he really wanted. He had done a few weeks in a prison prior to committing to the training program, and had experienced an inmate uprising. This made him want to be part of the system even more.

He also told us that folks can retire from the system after 15 years – young enough to easily get another job where their excellent training make it easy to get hired. His original, and I think final, goal is to be a policeman. This is an inbetween stop. But a long one if it’s a 15 year committement.

One of the interesting things about meeting new folks who are so different from what you normally meet is the increasing odds that you’ll find something that relates them to your own life. And so it was not surprising that this morning I was reading the paper waiting for the train, and ran across a review of the play that my sisters and I bought tickets too in Toronto. Tiled “Out the Window”, it’s subject is police brutality!

Well, how’s that for a blending of fate.

In any case – that’s the news from KIngston. Next stop – Toronto.

Signing off – The Soup Lady