Bob Kelly’s Parking Pass

Back during the mid-1990s, when the Fixed Link from the mainland was being constructed, we had the IslandCam webcam mounted on the bridge of the Holiday Island ferry, uploading a photo of whatever was in its view every 15 minutes.

Bob Kelly was the PR man for Marine Atlantic at the time, and helped set the whole thing up. At one point, for reasons lost to time, he loaned me his parking pass—likely so that I could more conveniently park and dash into the ferry to make repairs.

I forgot to give it back.

As such, when the bridge wears out and the ferry comes back, you’ll find me parking in spot number 27 in Borden.

The End of Television

In the fall of 2000 we found ourselves in need of a new television. Our old TV, which had been rescued from the apartment of my Great Aunt Lena years before, was giving up the ghost; Oliver had just been born, and we were in need of distraction for the long hours he spent perched on my belly or Catherine’s. We paid a visit to Hirtles, then still on what is now Capital Drive, opposite Owl’s Hollow, and emerged with a Sony Trinitron, a hefty investment for the time, and, relatively speaking, a huge TV.

As it happened, everything was about to get turned upside down in television-hardware-land, and our purchase came at the end of the hulking-big-CRT era; the TV was almost too heavy for me to lift, and every time it needed to be moved there was a danger that I’d break myself. But it was a lovely TV, full of bells and whistles the likes of which we’d never experienced. Like a remote control. And multiple inputs. And the ability to send sound out to our hifi.

We watched thousands and thousands of hours of TV on that Sony. From Bob the Builder to Toopy and Binoo to The West Wing to the Twin Towers falling to the various wars that followed. After a couple of years we jumped from 50 channels to 200 channels with a digital cable box; we added a VHS machine, and then a DVD player, and then a Nintendo Wii. 

In 2011 we signed up for Netflix’s nascent streaming service, using the Wii as our streaming device, and I wrote “the prospect of canceling the Eastlink cable and using Netflix as our television provider is within the realm of possibility.” And then, a few years later, that’s exactly what we did. A few years later I wrote about one of the positive spin-offs of that move:

The “sugar industrial complex” is everywhere and no more so than on television; by happy coincidence we cut off our cable television a few months before I cut off sugar, and with it I lost most exposure to Dairy Queen Peanut Buster Parfait commercials, Mr. Big chocolate bar commercials, Coca-Cola commercials, and the like. I’m certain that made early days easier.

The hulking heavy grey television, in the corner of our living room, is ever-present in family photos over the last 21 years.

Here’s me and Oliver in 2001:

Photo of me and Oliver in front of the television in 2001.

Here’s Oliver, looking at Oliver, in 2003:

Photo of Oliver looking at a photo of Oliver on the television.

Notice the ugly wallpaper: how did we live like that?

The next year the wallpaper was gone–thank goodness–but the TV was still there:

Oliver in front of the TV in winter boots in 2004

Almost a decade later, Christmas 2013, the Sony’s still there in the corner, with a cordless telephone on top of it (long since retired now):

Panorama of the living room at 100 Prince, showing the TV still in the corner.

It was there in 2015, along with Ethan and visiting Nellie:

Ethan and Nelson in front of the TV.

And in 2016 on Oliver’s birthday:

Oliver and his new shoes on his 16th birthday

I’m pretty sure I watched the entire run of The Office more than half a dozen times on that TV:

The Office on the TV

And it was there on Christmas Day in 2019–our last one as a family of three–for a FaceTime call with family all points west:

FaceTime call with family on the TV

Last month I undertook a bout of rearranging of our living room and dining room–the next stage of repatriation of the space, so to speak–and thinking about the TV I realized that it had become a sop for me, something I turned on as an action of first resort. I was spending hours streaming YouTube videos of little or no consequence, in part so that I didn’t have to think about anything else. At the same time, I’d invested in a cheap screen projector that was working well for things like Saturday Movie Night.

So, I reasoned, it was time for the TV to be retired from service after 21 years. Three weeks ago I moved it out of the living room, and then tried giving it away on Kijiji:

Ad for the TV on Kijiji

I got no takers, at all.

And so this morning I hefted it into the back of the car–as usual almost breaking myself–and hauled it off to the electronics recycling depot.

It seems that everyone else had the same idea, as there were already several pallets of 20 year old televisions wrapped in shrink wrap that had been dropped off by others.

While it’s not like I have no sources for streaming video at 100 Prince Street remaining: there’s my old MacBook Air, my iPhone, my iPad, and the aforementioned screen projector. But it’s been remarkable how little I spend sitting in front of them now that the TV is gone.

Last night, after Oliver went to bed, I simply lay, listening to music, on the living room floor, staring at the ceiling and thinking about life for a while; it was awesome.

Here’s what that corner looks like today:

New corner, with no TV.

Almost Stratford

I leveraged the last warmth of the week to take another dash over the new Hillsborough Bridge path on my bicycle.

Lots of progress since the last time: it’s now possible to cycle as far as the Stratford edge of the navigation span, but no farther.

And still not for the faint of heart, both because the path is covered with spiky gravel, and because the riverside guardrails aren’t installed yet.

But we’re close: word on the street is that everything will be completed by July.

Grape Scissors, she can’t cut the ribbon with those!”

With news of the death of Prince Philip this morning, I thought back to Catherine Hennessey relating the story of the grape scissors on her blog in 2000:

There is a story connected with the Ribbon Cutting at Beaconsfield that I must share with you.

When we knew she was going to cutting a ribbon we wanted to make it quite beautiful and indeed the ribbon was … the scissors were the problem. It is very difficult to find beautiful scissors.

I happened to be in Montreal a couple of months before the event and I searched all the antique shops along Sherbrooke Street etc. no luck, so I reviewed the issue. In one of the shops there were these beautiful looking scissor-like things with sterling handles that seemed worthy. When I asked to examine them I was told they were grape scissors. “Would they cut a ribbon?” I asked and she produced a piece a ribbon for us to try. If you held them at a certain angle they’d work and I came proudly home with grape scissors.

In the picture you will notice Prince Philip bending over the Queen’s shoulder looking perplexed. He is actually mouthing the words “Grape Scissors, she can’t cut the ribbon with those!”

We mumbled something and she did cut the ribbon and on the show went.

Beaconsfield looked lovely that day. There was not alot in it. It looked pristine and it had the most glorious flower arrangments all over. Mary Dolphin had done them and the flowers came from all the best gardens in town! It was a very special event.

Spin. Time. DJ.

Back in mid-March I received an email from Matt Rainnie, personable host of CBC Mainstreet: would I be interested, he asked, in being the “Spin Time DJ” for the show on an upcoming Friday.

Would I be interested? Of course I’d be interested. Had I not been dreaming of this very moment for years!

Spin Time DJ,” for those from away, is a regular Friday feature on the afternoon radio show where a guest is invited, in 22 short minutes, to relate their life story, punctuated by three meaningful songs. Here’s Ashley Belanger-Birt doing itAnd Bill SchurmanAnd John Connolly.

As a non-Islander of no particular note, I’d long ago given up hope that I’d one day be called up to the bigs. But dreams do come true.

So plans were made to record this morning.

And then the hard part.

Summarize my life in three songs. Not easy, as it turns out.

For a while there I had a strong plan to go completely Kobayashi Maru, and set aside popular music in favour of sounds of Japanese coffee shops and walks in the woods behind my childhood home. Is there not music in nature?

But I pulled myself back from the edge, dug in deep, and came up with three songs I’m very happy with.

Matt and I had a nice chat this morning, backed by the audio engineering prowess of David Rashed, and the segment will air Friday, April 9, 2021 after the 5:30 p.m. news. You can listen live on the radio if you’re near, on the web stream if you’re not, and the episode will be posted to the Mainstreet website on Monday.


Postscript: Here are the three songs I choose:

  1. Jane Siberry and David Ramsden, The Love I Have for You (3:51), from the 1990 cassette “Quiet Please, There’s A Lady On Stage,” recorded live at the Cameron House in Toronto.

  2. Shawn Colvin, This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (4:01), from the album 1994 album “Cover Girl,” recorded live at the Bottom Line in NYC, August 1993.

  3. Karine Polwart, Labouring and Resting (3:14), from the 2017 album “A Pocket of Wind Resistance.”