Vaccines for All – Quebec’s approach…


I live in Canada – Quebec – and with the travel restrictions in place – can’t ‘travel’ to improve my odds of getting a vaccine. I’m stuck here – and I’m stuck with how Quebec has decided this will be getting done.

So – After a great deal of excitement and political uproar – our Prime Minister – Justin Trudeau – announced that Canada has purchased tons of Vaccines. That’s the good news. The bad news – none of these are made in Canada – so getting the vaccines here – that’s the rub.

The European Union has decided to require all the Vaccine Manufacturers to fulfill all orders for European Countries before they fill orders for other countries (ie: Canada). This sounds like really BAD news – but there’s a good news component. The good news is that the European Countries haven’t actually gotten around to ORDERING large quantities of the Vaccines yet – so after a bit of a slow start – Vaccines have been rolling into Canada at a steadily increasing rate.

And the policy here in Quebec at least has been – get those vaccines into arms as soon as we can – using our 10 step priority list.

First up – homeless, folks in the far north, and staff and guests in old-age homes. These are the groups that have the most limited access to health care and/or died in alarming numbers in the spring. At this point – March 12 – apx 80% of all folks in old-age home have gotten at least one shot.

As the numbers of folks in that priority group dwindled, the government announced that the next priority group – folks over 80 – could make reservations for getting shots. Just one shot only Vasili.. Yes I know, not the recommended strategy – but here in Quebec the goal is to get as many folks vaccinate with at least one shot as possible. At first folks were given return dates in 3 months – now that’s been extended to 4 months.

The program started – but got stalled because the vaccine supplied dried up in February as we all know. But as soon as more vaccine doses started arriving in Canada – they were distributed thru the provinces and the priority list because the really critical thing.

My parents in law – both over 85 – were among the first ‘normally active’ folks to get appointments – but no sooner did they start making appointments – then the age range dropped from 80 to 75.

The first day of general vaccines was filled with scary news – long lines of folks waiting, mobility challenged senior having to get around with no help and no wheelchairs, concerns about speed – you name it, the media covered it.

But by day 2 – with the government stressing that folks arrive no more than 10 minutes before their appointment (folks were arriving hours ahead – which created those long lines), and repeating over and over that everyone should get vaccinated – the issues disappeared.

Plus as more vaccines became available, more vaccination centres opened and the staff got trained. Result – a smoother flowing system and rapid progress thru the priority list.

A few days after 80 year olds got started, it was the turn of the 75+ crowd, and now, just 2 weeks after we started this process, the age range has dropped to 70 – and I was able to make a reservation.

During the first vaccine period from Feb 1 – March 1 – covering Priorities 1 – 5 (Seniors over 80 and health care workers) – Apx 780,000 folks were vaccinated. Now with the age range at 70 – the number eligible to get vaccinated jumped up – apparently there are almost as many folks between the ages of 70 and 75 as there are 75+.

As soon as it was possible for me to make a reservation – Both my husband and I were on the Clic-Sante website (French for Click-health) and were thrilled – thrilled I tell you – that it was well designed and easy to use – even in English!

You entered your postal code – and what you wanted (first choice – get a vaccine) – and a list of places in ascending distance from your home appeared. You could pick a site – and see what appointments were available.

The 2 places closest to our home had no available appointments till the end of March – but the third place – about a 20 minute drive – had tons of availability. So we signed up – and our date was March 11. 9:30 and 9:40 in the morning.

Between signing up and March 11th, the news was full of conflicting reports on the different vaccines – with the governments of Canada and Quebec clearly stating – no vaccine shopping! You get what we have in the place that you go! End of story.

And no cheating! If your health card shows a different year of birth from that of the ‘allowed’ age group – you will be turned away. So much for folks trying to cheat that way. And a worker told me that in another case- three ladies showed up with exactly the same name… and different birth dates. That slowed up the works of course.

But the rules are the rules – and there’s no cheating, no skipping the lines, no ‘fast track for the wealthy’ – just make a reservation – arrive and get your shot!

March 11th dawns – and we get ourselves organized. We wear Short sleeve shirts, grab our health cards, and are carrying a list of medicines and/or vitamins in case we get asked. We drive to our ‘designated’ vaccine center- a sports arena in LaSalle – park in one of the many free parking spots, and put on our masks.

We basically at the front door of the arena – and it’s very obvious where to walk in. At the door are 2 security guards who check that we are wearing masks, ask us to sanitize our hands and ask if we have appointments. When we say yes, we are welcomed into the vestibule of the arena entrance. There another set of security guards ask us to sanitize our hands – and remove our masks. We must wear the paper surgical masks provided by the Vaccine Center.

We walk thru that entrance and in front of us is another security person who again makes us us sanitizer and asks if we have mobility issues. If we do, we’d be sent to a Vaccine center on that level – no stairs. But since we don’t have mobility problems, we go to the left and head thru another set of doors into the area above the arena’s Hockey Rink.

But this is a transformed Hockey Rink! No ice of course. Instead they have taken the entire length of the rink and turned it into a series of stations.. We are instructed to walk the length of the rink at the upper level (above the seats) to yet another security person. Again we are asked to sanitize (oh are my hands CLEAN) and walk down a flight of stairs to the arena floor. We’ve reached Station 1. Another security person watches us carefully. If we had touched our faces, our masked, or the banister – we’d have to sanitize again. Thank goodness we didn’t do any of that.

Now – just 5 minutes after entering the arena – we are directed to Station 2 – Check-in.

Our appointment is verified, our health cards placed on a sliding white board so that the gal who is doing the data entry can see them but doesn’t touch them. She types in our Health Card numbers, verifies that we are who we say we are, and gives us our next appointment – in 4 months. Quebec is telling folks that the first shot, given broadly, will provide everyone with the best results. We shall see. A post-it note on the plexiglass that separates us tells us that we’ll be getting the Pfizer vaccine today.

As we leave, another worker comes over to sanitize the chairs we were just sitting in. Wow – they are taking this very seriously.

Now to Station 3 – Cautions and warnings. And another Sanitizing station. In English, the gal at this desks explains the side effects of the vaccine, ensures that we agree that we recognize that there are some dangers, makes us verbally agree to return to get the 2nd dose, and hands us – again in English – a double sided sheet of information about Covid and the vaccine we will be getting. This sheet also gives the % of folks getting the various side-effects – from over 50% having sore arms to under 1% having serious issues.

Station 4 – wait for a Vaccine station. And yes – another sanitizing station! That takes seconds – there are very few folks here that don’t work here! And 6 set-up stations for giving vaccines. I ask one of the folks about that – and they say it’s quiet but extremely steady – they will vaccinate over 700 people today.

Station 5 – Get the Vaccine. I sit down as instructed, the nurse giving the shot asks if I have allergies (I’ve been asked this already at Station 2 – but I guess it’s a double check), then asks which arm I’d prefer. Left works for me. I look away – she gives me the shot – then hands me a piece of paper with my name on it – and a sticker giving the bar code of the vial she used on me.

She puts a sticker on my hand giving me my 15 minutes of waiting time, hands me a card that says ‘dirty chair’ in French and English, and directs to a ‘waiting’ area with plexiglass barriers between the chairs. I’m told to leave the card on my seat when I get up – so it can be sanitized. There’s a first aid station set up near by (in case of severe reactions I suppose). We wait our 15 minutes, then get up to leave. Yet another security person checks that the time on our wrist sticker matches the current time – and then thanks us for coming – wishing us a great day.

We leave up a staircase – and out to the parking lot.

Vaccine done – in under 30 minutes.

Wow – I’m impressed with both the organization and the speed.

Congrats to Quebec for getting this organized – in both official languages. You clearly rock. Even if we must wait 4 months for our next shot.

The escape to Canada – Travel in the time of COVID


I’m not saying I thought getting home was going to be easy – I know London has a scary Varient and that travel was being heavily restricted – but I was still hopeful for an uneventful trip…

But first – what is this War Measures Act? I think it’s pretty important to understand that on a global scale – Canada is doing pretty well – and yet we’re seriously talking about the War Measures Act – now called Emergencies Act. This name change and ability to implement it was done in 1988. The big difference is that the Prime Minister can’t just say – I’m doing this. Parliament has to review it. Not sure they have to agree – but they must review it. So if it gets implemented – it will be after Parliament reconvenes on Monday, Jan 25.

But even so – getting out of Dodge and into Montreal seems the right thing to do on Saturday, Jan 23.

Adrienne and I, as planned, got up from a sleepless night at 6:30, got dressed and loaded up the car with my suitcases. Before leaving the condo I did one last sweep to be sure nothing was forgotten – looked good.

Our drive from her flat to Heathrow was absolutely uneventful. The only scary part was getting the car out of the seriously too small parking spot and onto the road. Once accomplished – the sailing was smooth. Traffic was light to non-existent and we arrived at Heathrow by 8:15.

Parked the car – took the elevator (only had to wait for one other group to board before we were able to ride up alone) to the 5th floor to find out that the COVID testing center – our first stop – was on floor zero. Ok – back on the elevator – back down.

There were lots and lots of signs of floor zero – so we pushed my loaded cart to the test center. It was clear that they were prepared for hundreds of people to be waiting in line – it looked like Disney land on a very bad day. But all the stanchions and all the ropes that marked line after line were completely empty.

There were perhaps 30 folks in line – and several ‘helper’ types directing traffic. I got in line by just asking folks – is this the end of the line – and Adrienne stood with my luggage waiting. It was much cooler in the open space near the stanchions – so she put on my good winter coat. I’m glad it got some use – I think that’s the only time it’s been warn since I left Montreal.

For a line, it moved quickly. Although the guy in front of me kept giving me the snake eye – I was standing too close to him. Even though I was masked and had on my face shield. Sorry about that – I should have grabbed an empty luggage cart to keep us apart.

The guy behind me was chatty – he told me that he’d decided to get the test done today but he was only flying tomorrow. He was heading for the US – and like me – needed a negative result to get on the plane. I’m guess that was true of most folks.

Rather quickly (maybe too quickly – I am nervous about this test) it was my turn. The helper at the front of the line told me that I’d go inside, get tested – they would email me the results. I could just show the PDF of the results to the ticket folks, or come back down and (for free – or basically included in the price) they would give me a printed copy.

Then I was ushered into a make-shift space. There was a row of tables with plastic separations, both front and sides. A young man guestured at me to sit down – took a look at my passport, and made sure I had an appointment (for an hour later – but apparently that was no problem). He took my money, and then sent me directly behind him to visit the nurse.

The nurse couldn’t have been nicer. He told me to relax, that this wouldn’t hurt, and when I had closed my eyes, took a wand and quickly swiped the inside of both nostrils. No swap down the throat, not pain, not even scary.

Whew.

I left the area – they had once side of the row of tables labeled in, one labeled out – but a bottle neck at the door. I had to wait till folks cleared the door way to get safely out and back to Adrienne.

We’d thought we’d be able to sit and have a cup of coffee/chai – but everything was blocked/closed/not available. We could have sat in the car.. but I was too nervous to take that option seriously, so we hugged and said good-bye.

Adrienne headed back to the car, I headed back up to floor 5 to wait for my ‘you are positive/you are negative’ email.

To my surprise – the inside of the airport was mobbed. Seriously mobbed. Well, ok – mobbed by COVID standards. I threaded my way past folks toward the coffee shop that was my destination. I needed coffee and I needed it now.

Unlike 3 months ago – the coffee shop was open ONLY for take-out. All the tables and chairs were blocked off or piled up – you are definitely not sitting here to enjoy that coffee. I got my top favourite British treat – a Bakewell Tart – and a medium latte. I found a quiet corner near Air Emirates and sat on my luggage cart to enjoy my coffee and read my newest story- Calico Joe.

Shortly after 9:30 I got my email saying my test was negative.. Whew. I drag myself back down to floor zero where a lovely staffer takes a picture of my phone showing my appointment ID – and returns with a printed copy of my test results- clearly showing the time, the date, the company that did the test, and my status – Covid Negative.

Whew

Now – onto check-in. I take the elevator back up to floor 5 – again waiting to ride alone. I’m not spending even 1 minute in a closed space with folks I don’t know… and I wend my way thru the crowds towards the Air Canada check-in. They verify my test results, my passport, my ticket – and let me in to the actual check-in area. There they again verify my passport, my test results (Am I Leslie Eiser, Leslie Agrin Eiser, or Leslie Agrin? I explain about my maiden name and the rules in Quebec – and I’m cleared), and told to go thru security.

I’m well ahead of the time I needed to be doing this – but I don’t care. Let me in.

Once passed security – again painless – I’m in the main area of Heathrow – and can check for the Gate assignment. The sign clearly says that the gate won’t be listed until 12:45 – and it’s now just shy of 10:00. So I find a safe corner – and actually can sit down. Unlike outside of security – here there are restaurants open, and even some shops. Everyone is masked, although not every one is ‘securely’ masked – and I spot a few staffers taking the whole – wear a mask thing – a bit too casually, but they have put large Cardboard signs on every other seat. So there’s lots of space between people. I’m fine.

Sooner than I’d have thought (Calico Joe is a great story), my gate is posted and I make the long long walk to section B. Basically I’m walking under the runway. But it’s not crowded (I think all those crowds went somewhere else – I’m not sure where though), and I’m fine.

I get to my gate, I wait for my turn to board. Staff is circulating thru the waiting area – making sure that everyone is clutching their negative COVID test results, has a valid ticket and a passport. The gal came a bit closer to me that I liked, but she did have to take the papers.

Eventually we’re called for boarding – and they take my temperature. Nice. They once again check my test, check my passport (I have to pull down my mask so they can see my face), scan my ticket – and I’m on the walkway to the plane.

Even getting myself and my carry-on down the tiny aisle isn’t too horrid, and I’m thrilled to see that I’m alone in my row. The stewards and stewardesses are making anyone further back than me move forward – they want to be able to sit separated as well. There’s someone sitting at the window to my right, then an empty seat, the aisle and then my seat. So I slide over one leaving 2 two empty seats and the aisle between us. There’s no one behind me. That’s good. And no one on the row to my left although there are folks at the windows both in front and behind that row. At first the row in front of me is also empty – but after the plane takes off, one of the passengers moves in. He’s wearing a mask, looks ok, and immediately lies down to sleep. Ok then.

Lunch is served – and is a LOT better than the cold Eggplant dish they served me on the way to London. At least it’s hot. And there’s a yummy chocolate pudding.. which might actually have had some real chocolate used in the making.

I watch 4 movies – two of which I can recommend – Military Wives (tear jerker but very good) and Wild Wild West. Wild Wild West is a steam punk version of a western action comedy and is really quite amusing, if a tad strange. Time went by quickly. I sanitized carefully every time I went to the toilet – and the ‘goodie’ bag they handed me had personal hand sanitizer inside. I had wiped down my seat before I sat down – so I felt pretty good about the whole thing.

We land in Toronto without issue. Since I’m in the very back of the plane, I allow all the folks to exit before me, and slowly make my way up the aisle and off the plane. Next challenge – Canadian Customs and Immigration.

Again – painless. There’s an extremely short line – clearly marked with 6’ separations and the inspectors are fast and efficient. The only hiccup is my ArriveCAN form. Turns out that there are 2 pages to the form, and I only saved the first page with the ID. I have to turn on my ipad, go back to the app and scroll down to the second page to show the very pleasant border guard my name. I’m in. He didn’t even ask me about the food I’m carrying (most of which I ate actually).

Now it’s follow the signs to the flight to Montreal. It’s a long walk, but since I only have my carry on, the biggest challenge is getting one foot in front of the other without tripping over my coat. All the doors are braced open so you don’t have to ‘touch’ anything. Again – that’s good.

Unlike Heathrow, the airport in Toronto seems relatively quiet. Some restaurants appear ‘open’ with folks sitting at tables. But since it’s now around 10:00 PM in London – I’m neither interested in food or even a drink. I just want to get on my flight to Montreal.

In the past – there were flights from Toronto to Montreal twice an hour – but in the time of COVID – they are down to 3 flights a day. The next flight leaves at 9:00 PM – 5 hours from when I arrived here in Toronto, and 2:00 AM London time. I’m going to have to hang tough on this one. I’m tired, I’m sore, I’m not happy – and I’m scared of exposure. I’m wearing my mask, my face shield, I’m sanitizing everything – and I’m still scared.

I walk and walk till I find the Montreal Gate. It’s isolated at the far end of one of the long halls – and at 5:00 PM is relatively empty. I sit down, but after about 30 minutes get very uncomfortable. Since this is the only flight to Montreal – anyone who is flying in from Florida, from Mexico, from Cuba, from any of a zillion holiday sun destinations – is coming here to sit and wait. And a lot of them are clearly NOT taking COVID seriously. Too close together, too many, too casual about masking.

I’m moving.

I find another area of the terminal that is much less busy, and settle down again. This time, it’s clear I’m not going to have to move on. No one is coming near me at all. I set a timer to remind me when to move back to my gate – I don’t want to miss the flight – and eventually it rings.

Walking back to my gate I realize that things have gone from bad to worse. Flight after flight must have arrived – and the number of folks waiting to get to Montreal has sky-rocketed. This flight could well be full – or at least a lot more crowded that I’m comfortable with.

Eventually they start boarding the flight. No temperature check. No looking at COVID Negative results – just scan your boarding pass (lower your mask so we can see your face) – and then on board. Oh dear.

There are lots of folks who have clearly returned from ‘sun’ destinations. They have beads in their hair, kids in tow, suntans, masks hanging from the glasses instead of snuggly around their faces, sandals and palm frond hats.

The Prime Minister of Quebec has been going on and on about folks taking these all inclusive holidays – at bargain rates I might add – and then returning – infected – back to Quebec and Montreal. He has been publicly blaming them for Quebec high infection rate – not that this has prevented them from going apparently. Part of the logic behind implementing the War Measures Act (Emergency Act) is to stop folks from doing exactly this – And I’m going to be on a plane full of them.

Oh dear.

My seat is on a row to myself, but there are folks behind me and in front of me who are clearly returning from these ‘sun’ destinations. I try to figure out where I can move that would at least feel safer. I try moving further back – but that feels worse. Finally I spot a row near the exit door that is empty. At the last minute I grab my things and take one of those seats. There is still one guy in front of me – and a lady to my left, but they both look like they are treating COVID more seriously.

At this point, the lovely stewardess comes over to hand me my forgotten back cushion. I guess she had spotted me trying to find another place – and knew exactly where I’d dashed off to! After handing me my cushion, she takes her place in the jump seat just in front of me – but safely distant.

The flight lasts for a very scary hour and a quarter. I drink the water they hand me – I don’t want to get dehydrated, but otherwise my mask and face shield stay firmly in place. If I don’t get COVID from this flight – it will be a miracle.

When we are landing, the nice stewardess sits back down on the jump seat – and I ask her if she’s concerned. She admits that the flight is quite a bit more crowded than normal – and it’s a tad alarming, but says that being careful seems the safest option. I hope she’s right.

I wait for EVERYONE to get off the plane before going back for my luggage, and then drag myself down the aisle,

Naturally – the terminal is basically empty. Everyone from our flight has bee-lined to the luggage pick-up location, and since I was last off, I’m basically alone.

I make the walk to the luggage carousel hoping that the suitcases have already been delivered and picked up. No such luck. The herds from our flight are all clustered around the carousel – waiting.

I back off, and move to a quiet area and wait. When I spot my suitcase, I circle around the hoard and grab it off the Carousel.

Now I just need to get a taxi and I’m home. The taxi proves to be more challenging than normal. There’s no one running the dispatch line – it’s a free for all as folks push past me to grab a cab. Finally one taxi takes pity on me and actually stops right in front of me. I get in, we leave, I get home. I’ve never been so glad to see my home – EVER!

Hubby, Bed, Bathroom, my fridge, my house, my yard, my bird feeders… I’m so happy.

Signing off in fond hopes that things are going to get a lot better – soon would be nice… The Soup Lady

The trip Home – Travel in the time of Covid


War Measures Act? – OMG – Friday – Jan 22. The news from Canada is taking a frightening turn. Not that cases and deaths are going up – actually they are going down a bit, but the government is mulling mandatory 2 week quarentine in hotel rooms for all incoming travelers. And this morning they are talking about invoking the War Measures Act. This allows the Federal Government to over-rule the Provincial Governments in time of crisis. Think Biden’s Executive orders on Steroids.

To say that my husband – who has manfully been living at our house in Montreal all alone – for 3 months – put his foot down is understating the obvious. I need to get home. And I need to go NOW!

So Friday – while playing my scheduled Bridge games – I need a Mountain of Silver to earn Life Master status – I’m madly trying to piece together all the things that have to align for me to fly from London to Montreal on Saturday.

No two ways about it – that’s short notice.

Ok – the pieces. Move the plane tickets, figure out how to get a COVID test that reports fast enough for me to get on the plane, Cancel my hotel reservation, Figure out how to use the ArriveCanada App. Deal with the emotional upheaval leaving my daughters will create. Pack – figure out how to get to Heathrow. – the list is endless.

And the best way to deal with endless lists is to just start.

First step – figure out how to get the COVID test. Lots of folks I know have gotten one – including my daughter and her husband. They have been getting their tests by mail order – for free. But the rules in Britian are clear – you can only get free tests if you have symptoms or have been exposed or work for an essential service. You can NOT get a free test if your purpose is travel.

Sigh. My purpose is travel.

So – it’s google time. There are lots of folks offering quick turn around COVID tests – with prices from 100 GBP to 200 GBP (that’s about $150 to $250.. like that). But the standout option is a testing center at Heathrow that offers RT-LAMP tests with results in 60-90 minutes. And there test is a bargain 79 GBP – about $135. That would work. But first I have to figure out when I can get to Heathrow.

Consider the complications – My daughters Flat – let’s call it point A – is at least an hour to 2 hours away from Heathrow – let’s call it point B. So I have to figure on a 2 hour drive. (She’s got a 4 hour drive… but there aren’t really safe options. She is going to suffer. I’m so sorry). My flight leaves at 2:00 in the afternoon. I want to check-in at least 2 hours ahead, the test results take up to 90 minutes… I need to plan to get the test as soon as the testing center opens basically.

So I make an appointment – Saturday, Jan 23 – 8:45-9:00 AM. We’ll get up at 6:30, leave by 7:00 – should be ok. It’s Saturday during lock-down. How much traffic could there be?

Then I discover that the Testing Center’s system – while showing me booking for the 23rd – emails me that I’ve booked on the 24th. That’s odd. I’ll do it again. Nope – same result. I fill in the form a third time – take photos of it showing me booking on the 23rd, and the email confirmation clearly says the 24th.

Ok – I’ll contact them. No phone number. An email address only. Ok – I’ll email. Surely they can straighten this out. Step 1 -maybe done.

Now – step two – move the plane tickets. That turns out to be the easiest thing. I call Air Canada – I explain the decision – They (FOR FREE) move my flight and change my seats. Whew. Step 2 – Done.

Now – cancel my hotel reservation. Originally I was flying out on a Friday, but my daughter didn’t think we could make the drive from Point A to B in any reasonable time on a Friday morning. Most of the drive is thru the crowded, narrow, stop light filled streets of London – and on a Friday morning – even in Lockdown – these would be mobbed. So we decide that I will spend the night in a hotel near the airport. But now, moving the flight to a week early and on Saturday means she can drive me in the morning. Won’t be fun – she doesn’t generally get up and out that early – but it’s possible. So I call Hotwire – and low and behold – they offer me a choice of a full refund or a different date. Refund please. Step 3 – Done.

Now – on to ArriveCAN – it’s an app by the Canadian Federal Government that you must use prior to traveling to Canada. You tell them how you plan to Quarantine – and they keep track of you. Cool. I had already filled it in for my original leaving date, so I went back in. No way to change anything. Hmm. Ok – maybe a new application. I try that – and the app works. I take a photo (as directed) of the final screen with my ArriveCAN Receipt ID – and figure – Step 4 – Done.

What else – well – Packing isn’t that difficult – I only take a week’s worth of clothing on these kinds of trips – and I don’t need stuff to be clean to pack it. I toss my suitcase together, leaving out what I’ll need in the AM and search the house. I definitely don’t want to forget anything. The $$ for sending stuff by post from London to Montreal is crazy. Step 5 – Done

What else, what else…

Food – I had a horrid food experience on the flight here – they served me an ice cold Eggplant Parmesan which was inedible. So I raid my daughter’s fridge. Carrot sticks, 3 quick peel oranges, nuts, prunes, some candy. We can’t go shopping – too dangerous to go to the stores – so I’m just grabbing things that will be easy to eat and stuffing them in my backpack. At the last second my daughter hands me an Apple. Step 6 – Done

Meanwhile – back to Step 1. Remember the COVID test date issue? Well they finally (hours and hours later) email me back to explain that the problem isn’t on their end – it is the date setting on my ipad. Really? It’s on British time, and has been for 3 months. But I try their site again – using my daughter’s computer – and what do you know – this time the dates match up. Problem – the time slots earlier are gone. I book for 9:15 – the earliest – and figure we’ll just beg. Begging often works, right.. Ok Step 1 – Now really done.

I try to remember to notify everyone that my flights have DRASTICALLY changed – I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone and I’m sure they will let me know. (Turns out I forgot a lot of people – but that’s the way the Rushed up cookie crumbles).

My husband emails asking me for my food list for the lock-down. He can’t go shopping after I arrive and needs to stock up the fridge. Our plan is 14 days of ‘together’ time – otherwise known as mandatory Quarentine – and he won’t be able to leave the house. So he’s doing a massive shopping and needs to know what I think is essential. I tell him fruit – lots and lots of fruit. And Fish and Steak for dinner. I have kids who live in Montreal – and they have said that they will shop for us as needed – so we’ll be fine. But it’s hard to pre-plan 2 weeks of meals. I feel really sorry for folks forced to do this without some of the advantages we have – like kids nearby and friendly neighbors. It’s not easy for us – it must be insane for other folks.

My daughter had planned on a nice dinner and a game night with her husband and me as a farewell kind of thing – and we slide those plans forward to Friday night. We actually end up playing Monopoly – a British version with the names of the properties all strange.. Or exactly right if you ask my daughter’s husband! It’s a 80 year celebration set – so the playing pieces are actually metal, and the money looks right. We love it – and my daughter wins. Then we watch a final episode of Ru Paul’s drag race and it’s definitely bed time.

I always have trouble sleeping before I travel – tonight is no different. I toss and turn and read my book (Great Story called Camino Winds by John Grisham – real page turner). Too soon it’s 6:30 and time to get up.

Tune in tomorrow for the actually adventure – and remember – it’s not an adventure unless something goes wrong…

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Day 243 – Last Commandment for Seniors (#12)


You sill haven’t learned to act your age – and hope you never will!

Hear-Hear! I never ever ever wanted to act my age. I never acted my age all my life, and now is most certainly not the time to rethink that strategy.

When I was in my early teens – and by this I’m referring to that torture chamber we call High School – I was way to studious and concerned with math and science in particular to take notice of the things ‘girls my age’ considered important – like clothes and boys. To be very honest – I’m still not overly concerned about clothes – See Commandment #2 for Senior – “In Style” are the clothes that still fit.

I did go thru a ‘boys are amazing’ period – but for my time – it was very late, and ended rather abruptly with me marrying my still to this day husband – Victor! I arrived at University as a ‘Southern Belle’ – complete with breathy accent – and was immediately considered a very desirable date. This was beyond amazing to me – no boy had ever considered me interesting outside of class before – and I would have 4 dates a weekend. One on Friday night, One on Saturday afternoon, One on Saturday night, and one on Sunday afternoon. With 4 different boys. And for the record – no kissing until the third date!

Sunday night thru Friday afternoon – I was the model student – taking high level math and science classes, and for the first time discovering that there was history after the end of the civil war (for the record – that ended in 1865). I was raised in Atlanta Georgia – and that’s when our history classes deemed that history stopped. Surprise Surprise – it didn’t stop!

So between fending off boys (I took to hiding in libraries to be sure to get my studing done) and then going to parties all weekend – I was very busy.

I suppose this period is the closest I came to acting my age.

After I met Victor – things got really interesting in the ‘boy’ department. Victor was in the habit of waiting until the last minute before making a date – and I would be ‘taken’ long before. After several ‘I’m sorry, I can’t go out with you, I’m busy” conversations, he learned to book me ahead – and eventually we agreed to go steady. I think the crisis was ‘Homecoming Weekend 1967’ when I was the Princess from one fraternity – not Victor’s – and thus too busy to be with him. I think he asked me to go steady so that he could stop having to ask me out so far in advance.

But I still had to keep up my studies – but now I had to hide out in new places – and just from one boy! Fortunately, Victor pretty much hated libraries – and there were lots of smaller ones on campus that I don’t think he ever found. I was able to keep up my work weeks, play weekends lifestyle.

Then I spent my Junior Year Abroad. I choose to go to London to study Drama – which for a Math/Physics Major was a bit of a stretch. But the folks in the Drama department were ok with it, and while the Math Department got their knickers in a knot (I had to drop my double major), the Physics Department agreed to it. So – London, without my boyfriend, for a full year abroad.

This was, I admit, one of my favourite years (Fall of 68 to the Fall of 69)… and again – I wasn’t acting my age. I was interested in studying, getting good grades, visiting Museums and Art Galleries – and my Drama Department co-students thought me dull, boring, and not really a decent drama student. Push came to shove when I won a lottery to go behind the scenes at the Royal Vic and meet Sir Lawrence Olivier – then starring in Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”. Despite pressure to give up that opportunity to a ‘real’ drama student – I persisted in taking advantage of that win, a meeting I remember to this day.

My year aboard ended the way a year aboard for a square peg in a round hole must always end. I drove with my friends to Istanbul – then waved goodbye as they crossed into Asia on their way to India. I traveled alone by train and hitchhiking (ok – I was 20 – it seemed acceptable) back into ‘Europe’ and met up with a friend who I didn’t really know – but who wanted to do a bicycle trip thru the German speaking section of Romania. We met up in her university town – took our bicycles by train into Romania and spent 2 weeks or so biking from village to village. In those days (Summer 1969) the way you showed off your wealth was by the height of the manure pile in front of your house. I grew to love Lard Sandwiches – and we feasted off the garden crops of peas and green beans. One of the villagers bought my bra for her daughter for the equivalent of a weeks living money – and in a Youth Hostel in Czechoslovakia we swapped a $1 American bill for a day’s worth of food and lodging. Interesting times to visit behind the Iron Curtain.

I eventually made my way back to Paris, met up with my sister who flew in from the US, and we continued to wander thru France and eventually to England. We flew home from London – and while she returned back home to Atlanta and University – I went back to Tufts for my final year. Victor had meanwhile changed schools and was now at Cornell. Our plan was to see if we were still ‘an item’, and if so – I’d graduate and continue my schooling at Cornell – provided I could get accepted of course.

We did, I was – and we got married Sept 11, 1970. It’s 50 years and counting today…

Enough of this – bottom line – I’ve always persisted in being a tad different. I had my kids a bit later than other folks, I got married a lot earlier (I was 21 – Victor was 20), I was studious to the point of embarrassment to most of my peers, and when I got close to retirement – my friend ‘The Intrepid Traveler’ and I started our yearly trips to far off places. Not to be left out Victor and I did a fair amount of traveling too!

I’ve been to China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Japan, South Korea, Bali, France, Fez, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, England, Ireland, Scotland, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malta, Liechtenstein, Vatican City, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Israel, Amsterdam, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Rwanda, Zambia, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Czechoslovakia, Greenland, Northern Quebec, Most of the US, Eastern and Western Canada, Venezuela, US Virgin Islands, Mexico, British Virgin Islands, Grand Cayman, Belize, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. I realize of course that traveling now is not the same – but I was young, I was keen – and I was willing to travel cheap. Mostly – I was lucky to have a friend willing to travel with me! And grateful to have a husband who also found travel interesting.

There are so many places that I loved at the time I was there that I couldn’t imagine going back to – my ‘roughing it’ ability is seriously suffering from concerns about where there’s going to be a clean toilet – but I would recommend doing it NOW – don’t wait till you are your age to travel. It’s never too late – and it’s always rewarding – Masks on for safety of course.

Enough of this trip down memory lane. It’s getting embarrassing. Bottom line – I’m not planning on acting my age any time soon… Get over it.

Signing off to think of something else crazy to do… Mask on of course – The Soup Lady

Day 240 – Commandment #11 for Seniors


“One for the Road” means peeing before you leave the house.

I looked it up – One for the Road – besides being a hit song for the Arctic Monkeys (ever heard of them? Song was published in 2013 – never made it to my hit list) – is actually a two part phrase.

The ‘for the road’ is the earlier portion – dating back to at least the 1700’s when finding food and drink during travel was problematic. The smart thing to do of course was to take something ‘for the road’ – generally considered to be provisions of a general nature.

However – by the 1930’s – the ‘One’ because associated with alcohol. With the generally understood idea that you were taking an extra drink (generally grog in those days) to carry you thru your journey home.

None of that has anything at all to do with the fact that today – when I say ‘One for the Road’ – it means that I’m visiting the toilet prior to leaving the house. And we all know why of course…

With COVID restrictions the way they are – finding a public toilet is not easy. I mean it was never ever simple – unless you were in Tokyo where public toilets are as common as fleas (which one doesn’t see in Tokyo), super clean, and absolutely wonderful. In Montreal the law was that you had to have a public toilet if you were a restaurant – so finding a place to ‘go’ when out wasn’t difficult when all the restaurants were open.

But now – with the COVID lock-down happening – all the Restaurants in Montreal are closed. So where does one go to ‘pee’? Problem. Big problem.

But I’m in London right now – so does that change anything? Quick answer – NO! Unfortunately – all the Restaurants here are open only for Take-out, and unless you have a really solid relationship with the owner/staff – going to the door and looking desperate won’t get you access to the toilet.

The good news – there is a place near where my daughter lives that both has a toilet – and friendly enough staff to let us take advantage of it. That’s a shout-out to #The Pear Tree – if ever I saw one.

But even knowing of one place to go doesn’t solve the basic problem – you just don’t want to be caught short….

Hence – ‘One for the Road’!

The Soup Lady

Day 239 – Commandment #10 for Seniors


Aging has slowed you down, but it hasn’t shut you up!

And nor should it. Just because I’ve gotten older certainly doesn’t mean that I’ve gotten smarter – or in more control of my emotions (ok – for sure I’m less in control of those) – or more able to keep things to my self!

In fact – if anything – I’ve gotten MORE and LESS – not necessarily more smarter, but maybe more experienced, definitely less in control of my emotions, and for sure less able to keep things to myself. I’ve also become more social. I find myself chatting with anyone who stands still long enough – and in fact, that’s a bit embarrassing. At least to my kids.

Ignoring how all this impacts my family (specifically my kids and grand kids who I’m sure often find me a bit of a show off), lets chat about how it impacts one of absolutely favorite activities – playing Bridge!

There is a function in the on-line bridge games called Chat. And for months now – that’s the only way one can play bridge. So while I should be concentrating on the game (I love bridge because it requires so much focus) – I find myself chatting.

And with bridge On-line – I’m playing games all over the world from the comfort of my easy chair. I’ve played all over the US – from Florida, to Arizona to SoCal (Southern California), to Saskatchewan and on to Australia, Israel, Turkey, France, and of course in Canada. It’s fun! And folks are often quite chatty! We’ve discussed the Forest Fires in California (they are out), we’ve touched on COVID (it’s bad everywhere), and we’ve discussed why I’m in England, not Canada as it says on my profile.

Ok – maybe I’m being way way too chatty – but it livens up the game, and if I win (and I love to win I admit), I don’t feel so bad about trashing folks – because I was nice about it!

Question – does being nice about trashing folks make it ok? Do I even want to ask that question?

Here’s the worst part of my being so chatty – I’ve apparently given the gift of gab to my daughter too! Yesterday we were taking a walk with my grand-daughter and passed some folks with plastic bin bags and those hook things you use to pick up garbage without touching it. They were clearly a family group – doing their bit to clean up the area around their home. So of course we start chatting. Turns out they are actually part of a ‘home-owners’ group for one of the condo associations – and it’s a project.

Wow – what a wonderful idea.

In Japan – every housewife is responsible for keeping her doorstep and the area of the public way in front of her doorstep clean. The result is amazingly clean streets. No one has to do a huge job – but everyone does a tiny bit and it adds up fast.

And here I am in England seeing folks taking that kind of community spirit seriously to heart. How cool is that.

And if we hadn’t stopped to chat – we’d never have known about it. Which brings me full circle – I don’t think chatting to folks – even folks you don’t know at all – is a bad idea. It’s the best way to broaden your outlook, to get at least a quick glimpse at how they feel/are doing. And it’s fun.

So hey – Age may be slowing me down (My daily bike ride here in London is not nearly as fast as it was even a year ago), but I hope it never shuts me up!

Signing off to go find someone else to chat up – The Soup Lady

Day 235 – Commandment #7 for Seniors


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could put ourselves in the dryer for ten minutes, then come out wrinkle-free and three sizes smaller?

That definitely sounds like a great idea – and with the toll that COVID lock-downs have been taking on folks waist lines – we could use that technology sooner rather than later!

I read somewhere that we have 3 choices during Lock-downs – to be come a drunk, a hunk, or a chunk. In my opinion, break maker should be on that list – but I guess it doesn’t have the same poetic resonance..

Re Drunk – One of my friends actually commented that she was taking out her recycling and was stunned to discover how many empty bottles of wine had gotten into it! Yikes.

Re Hunk – Yes my hubby and I are exercising more – a LOT more to be honest. Where a walk was a once a week treat, it’s now become a daily event. And we are also working out more often – thank you Zoom. So we have managed to keep the weight off – and my arms look awesome… But I’m not sure I can keep it up if I try to go back to working. Which hasn’t actually happened yet – but I have high hopes.

And of course – Re Chunk – The subject of this blog post. Weight loss is such a touchy subject – we don’t want to stress it, but we all (ok – maybe only women) would love to be a slimmer version of ourselves – even if our current version is just fine – Thank you very much!

And gaining weight when you are effectively confined indoors is way too easy to do. I have no solid advice on this topic of course – but I am hoping for that washing machine fix.

I do have one crazy suggestion to share – I never eat after I finish dinner. It takes hard work I have to say – but it’s been like that for years. At best I might treat myself to a few pieces of liquorice- but if I’m really having issues resisting the food – I brush my teeth. That tends to stop my food cravings completely.

In any case – I’m signing off now. But keep me in the loop if you ever find a machine that will create that magic fix… The Soup Lady

Day 234 – Commandment #6 for Seniors


“On Time” is when you get there.

Look – it’s not my fault I’m moving slower these days – it’s not for lack of trying or of organization – it’s often just a challenge to get my shoes on.

I lie – it’s not about getting the shoes on – it’s about finding all the things I’m supposed to be bringing with me.

Did we always travel with so much ‘junk’? Ok – having to have a Mask is rather new of course – but shoes, keys, phone, wrist watch (which fortunately helps me find my phone..), reading glasses, sun glasses, coat, scarf, hat, gloves, whatever I told whoever I’m going to see – if anyone. I mean the list is endless.

So of course I’m never on time – just gathering all the stuff I need is tough – really tough.

And then there’s the travel time. In Montreal they have torn up our roads so many times it’s virtually impossible to guess if, by some miracle, there’s no construction between me and where I want to go.

The cure – start a LOT earlier. Which given how little sleep I need – it’s not that hard to accomplish at least that part of the job. I can definitely get an early start to most jaunts.

Not that there are that many jaunts these days. And I’m so keen to get in an outing – I’m starting to count just talking a walk on my own as a jaunt. No destination, No path – but getting outside totally counts.

Ok – enough on this topic – Just get over my being late – and don’t fuss at me over it. And don’t worry about me showing up early. I always bring a book on my ipad… (Don’t you just love Libby – the free library lending book app?).

Signing off to set a timer for her next ‘jaunt’- which is going to pick up my adorable grand-daughter from Day Care. Now that’s a jaunt to look forward too. My plan is to pick her up, check out a playground – and then come home to make dinner. And I’m doing my darnedest to make it happen “On Time”.

The Soup Lady

Day 232 – Commandment #4 for Seniors


Your people skills are just fine. It’s your tolerance for idiots that needs work.

I think this is almost the same as Commandment #3. It’s not me that’s the issue here – it’s other folks that don’t listen, don’t appreciate my brilliance, don’t give me respect.

Moral here – don’t deal with idiots clearly. Pick and choose the roles you volunteer to fill to only fill the ones that will require you to work with folks as brilliant as you are. Got it!

I could do that… Of course it would mean cutting down seriously on some of the groups I belong to – but that would mean less time on ZOOM… not a big thing perhaps.

On the other hand – I love being part of lots of groups doing interesting things – particularly now during yet another enforced lock-down. (I’m in the UK – nothing is open except essential businesses – so Grocery stores and the like)

Being part of a group is essential for my sanity. So if I have to deal with idiots – that’s the choice I’m going to make. And Maybe – Just Maybe – they aren’t really idiots at all.

Ever think of it that way?

Signing off to do the only thing she can do during the UK lock-down – take a nice long walk… While it’s grey in London – at least it’s neither cold nor snowing!

The Soup Lady

Day 229 – Being a Senior – Commandment #1


It’s okay to talk to yourself. There are times you need expert advice.

If only my kids appreciated how expert my advice is.. I’ve had years and years and years (ok – only 72 years altogether, and some of them might have been repeats) to hone my advice.

Why won’t my kids listen?

I’ll take it one step deeper – why do they persist in thinking that ‘googling’ information is more reliable, more dependable, more correct, more appropriate, more ‘right’ – then my advice?

I have their absolute best interests at heart – and have for years. Why does that make my advice 2nd rate? And I’m not sure it counts as even 2nd rate sometimes.

There is no question – giving advice to my kids is like pouring water on a fake plant. There won’t be any growth – no matter how great the water, nor how plentiful.

But that’s not the only point of this commandment – there’s the talking to yourself issue.

Am I the only senior out there who starts every day with a cheery – good morning – get out of bed – get moving message (often aloud… if there’s no one else in the room)?

Come on – I’ll bet more of you do than don’t. And if you don’t – you should!

We all need to wake up these days to something cheery – the trust me the election news isn’t doing it for me – nor the endless videos from both camps – nor the repeated messages from government. I just wish everyone would grow up and move on!

Covid is real, it’s killing people – and while there’s news of a vaccine (yea!) – the math is pretty bad. There are 328 million Americans. At 20 million shots of vaccine a month – we’re talking 16 months to get everyone in the US vaccinated. Which end of that line do you think you and your family are going to be standing at?

Bet ya didn’t hear that number during Operation Warp Speed.

Now try to get everyone in the world a vaccine at 20 million a month (which is a challenging figure to believe to be honest) – and we’re talking 7,800 MILLION people in the word – that’s 390 months to get every one a vaccine – or 32 YEARS!

Ok – we don’t have to vaccinate everyone. But I’m not in a position to suggest who should and who shouldn’t get a vaccine.

Bottom line – I don’t think talking to myself is such a big problem.

Signing off – The Soup Lady