Cakewalk Chronicles: Better times ahead for Ashcroft

Small town ponderings about life in a small, southern BC-Interior town.

Container Port, good news

Yes, according to the Kamloops news and Mayor Andy Anderson, infrastructure on the container port facility two km north of Ashcroft on the Thompson River, will be forging ahead before the onset of winter. Andy’s spent seven years on this project. Tenacity and hope have combined to pay off. Details will be forthcoming and we’ll be looking forward to reading them. What it means for the town and how the system will work and so on. Congratulations seem to be in order!

100 Mile Desert Corridor

A congratulations to Bill Drinkwater of Ashcroft for this absolutely beautiful book, Canada’s 100 Mile Desert Corridor. It was expensive to self publish and will sell for $75. The interesting features of the book are the juxtaposition of Bill’s paintings of the subjects he photographed. The colors are personal, the interpretation imaginative, the mood is piquant (pleasantly exciting). Bill has left the community a beautiful legacy.

Big business, CEO salaries

The over-the-top salaries that ICBC, BC Ferries and Hydro are paying their top people are just the tip of the iceberg.

For example, while ICBC gave a 70 per cent increase to the top of the heap, the rest got salaries that have stagnated for years. This trend is iniquitous at best, and ethically unconscionable at worst.

When will it be stopped? Finance Minister Kevin Falcon declares he will stop the escalation to the brass. U.S. President Obama noted two years ago the outrageous bonuses given to banks on the verge of bankruptcy. Banks bailed out by the taxpayers.

The excuse given is that CEOs and the subalterns must be paid well in order to be kept. But, if they are so damned good at what they do, why, in the case of BC Ferries, for just one example, are the ferries losing money? Something to think about?

Small towns suffering

All you have to do is look around at the number of buildings that are empty. The vacant lots. The derelict weeds growing around them.

It’s not just in the B.C. Interior that you see the signs of economic depression. According to the person who has motored across the country, there are many small towns in the same mold.

Meanwhile, Canada has one of the strongest economies in the western world. Our wealth or signs of it anyway, are seen in the larger cities of Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver. But even in the smaller municipalities on the Coast, the signs of solid middle class lifestyles are noticeably visible –  communities that seem to have everything – while towns like Ashcroft, Chase, Princeton, and God knows where else in the B.C. Interior and across the prairies, relative affluence is noticeably confined to a few.

Here again is a trend that is unhealthy. But how it gets turned around remains a mystery.

Great talents passing on

Yes, into what an Irish bard called, “The Great Immensity”. Was our outstandingly gifted story teller of people from every day life, Maeve Binchy.  Dublin-born and educated. A journalist, screen writer and novelist, Maeve was one of my favourite authors. I had every one of her books. Real page turners they were. Maeve’s gifts for detailing the apparel, the environment of her subjects, her dialogue, fresh as a daisy, was her greatest gift.

The other great talent was composer Marvin Hamlisch. Break It To Me Gently, The Way We Were, Ordinary People, and his adaptation of Scott Joplin’s music for Sting were just a few memorables.

Math, my Achilles heel

You know, it was Math that brought my average down so severely in middle school, that I transferred to Commercial from Academic. I just figured there was no way that I could navigate three more years of Algebra and Geometry. History, English Comp and Literature were my stand-outs, with anything less than a 90+ had me in tears.

A National Post article about a book about Math by Professor Emeritus, Andrew Hacker had me clipping and re-reading.  And somehow, all those years of pulling what Hacker calls, “The Boulder” of Math, made that whole sorry history a little less so. Hacker questions why so much of Math like calculus, trig, algebra, is stuff that some professions will never use, but which, students are required to have on their course profile.  Medical students, for example, must have calculus. A veterinarian needs algebra, though few graduates will ever use it.

Hacker writes, “requiring students to grasp vectorial angles and discontinuous functions without alternatives and exceptions is a terrible waste.”

Sure, he acknowledges, we need basic Math. Adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, fractions. I had no trouble with these functions in school.

Well, I’ve since learned that there were some pretty notable persons in this world that found algebra and geometry just as burdensome as I did. Winston Churchill was one. As a “mature student” I was admitted to the University of Victoria for a credit course in Museum Design Management. I got a B+ for that one.

Hey, it’s not that your brain is inferior if you can’t solve algebraic equations. It’s just that your brain is wired to think differently in another direction.

A butterfly in the house

A butterfly (Monarch) caught between screen and windowpane fluttering helplessly caught my attention the other day. They are such beautiful, delicate creations.

I knew I would have to be very careful not to disturb those wings. I grabbed a dry, clean cotton rag, and was able after one failed attempt, to catch the creature, and hurried to the side rear door, and opened my rag, and the butterfly flew out.

Up, up, up, it went. So far up! It caught the light and was gone. Like a falling star. One of those domestic little dramas you don’t forget.

An old friend is a blessing

Una Godau, whom I met in Ashcroft 39 years ago, visited for the occasion of her grandson’s wedding celebration.

I was doing a stint at the Tourist Booth on Railway last Saturday, when a Volkswagon drew up. The driver rolled down the window, hailed as I stood on the small veranda, and asked, “Where is the nudist colony in Ashcroft?”

For a moment, this wordsmith was without words.  Then Tim Godau (who went to school here), his 14 year old son, and a woman I did not immediately recognize got out of the car. “She does not know me,” remarked Una, who has a tendency to say what she is thinking.

And then I knew.  Hugs all around. Tim went to have some of Christine’s wonderful bannock at the farmer’s market, and Una and I sat down for a marathon talk about family, hers and mine, books, movies, life, aging, – so much! Then we went to lunch. More talk.

It was the happiest four hours I had spent in many a month. There is absolutely nothing to compare with reuniting with an old friend with whom you have shared so many experiences.

Una will be 86 next month.

Fields inventory shrinking

It’s no secret, people can’t help noticing that the inventory at our Fields store in Ashcroft has shrunk. Small domestic items like bath mats, shower curtains, pet items, just a few of the staples we have depended on. Those of us who don’t want to drive all the way to Kamloops to pick these things up.

On the other hand, have you noticed that the pharmacy is carrying some domestic items like bath towels, face cloths, and an increasing inventory of bathroom accessories? Much appreciated.

What is happening at Fields? Rumor has it that the store is closing. But so far, it’s just a rumor. There was an old blues number that began, “There’s a rumor about the roomer, baby, and I don’t like what I hear.” Tain’t funny.

Salaries opinion shared

The Kamloops news reprinted an editorial from the Victoria Times Colonist that reads, ICBC executives drive us crazy. Aug 23 issue. It goes on to say that the people of B.C.’s blood pressure has risen to the “surging” capacity about the crazy salaries and perks being paid to ICBC executives. Noting that the number of those earning more than $200,000 a year has “spiked” to 315. But regular employees haven’t had a raise for over three years.

I noted the news items on the editorial page after I wrote the item about CEO’s salaries.

IHA’s million $$ skyscraper

To house a thousand employees going up in Kelowna.

The announcement comes like the tail of Haley’s comet, after numerous horror stories about hospital hallway medicine. Shortages of beds, nurses, etc. The bureaucracy grows exponentially in ratio to the diminishing health resources in our rural communities.