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Beware, take care, strange things are happening….

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy

We live in a rain forest. We’re used to rain. We have umbrellas and rain jackets and are okay with getting wet. What seems different is the amount of fog we’ve been experiencing. When I see it through my window, I recall with nostalgia the horror films I enjoyed as a kid. Those films usually had fog in them so creatures could emerge from the dark woods or the ‘deep lagoon’.

belalugosi

I remember Bela Lugosi as a vampire

The films I liked best were in black and white and most often featured that fog — I think they played them on TV. Some of the actors I saw were Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and who could forget ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ on TV (1955-1965) or his oh-so-famous ‘Psycho’? (1960)

Peter Lorre #2

Peter Lorre

Creepy Peter Lorre’s whining, groveling voice alone could make my blood curdle. He often played assistant to a mad scientist — there were so many mad scientists in those plots. I believe I saw him eating spiders in a film once. (Is that true or did my head make it up?)

Old Horror films could be a little scary, but not as terrifying as the ones they make today. You could always back off if you felt too uneasy, (and I did) and say to yourself: ‘This isn’t real. It can’t be

Mummy#2

Mummy in tattered bandages

real.’ After all, no self-respecting mummy would appear in those hanging tattered bandages. What kind of mummy fashion statement would that make?

Now horror films are not as much fun for the likes of chickens like me. They’re way too realistic and gory, and too scary to be fun.

Bela Lugosi appeared in ‘Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man’, ‘Ghosts on the Loose’ and ‘Return of the Vampire’ all made in 1943; ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ and ‘One Body Too Many’ followed in 1944. They surely cranked them out quickly. Lugosi starred in many other films until he became addicted to Morphine and became unreliable. (Morphine made me sick when I had surgery in 2017 — perhaps a lucky thing.)

boriskarloff as Frankenstein

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein

‘The Haunted Strangler’ (1958) starred Boris Karloff. In it a dead strangler possesses a researcher. Karloff scared me again in ‘Corridors of Blood’ that year, in which a doctor becomes addicted to anesthetic. The title I so like ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (1954) is once again about scientists, who try to capture the beast for study.

Elegant-vincent-price

Always elegant Vincent Price

The oh-so-distinguished Vincent Price, a favorite, could make me cringe just by introducing a show. Price starred in ‘The Fly’ (1958). Again, another unfortunate scientist has an accident with a teleportation device — whatever that is. (Scientists sure got into a lot of trouble.) Price then appeared in ‘The Return of the Fly’ (1959) probably because kids like me loved ‘The Fly’ to begin with. He was a real talent and appeared in ‘The House of Wax’, ‘Tales of Terror’ along with Peter Lorre, and ‘The House on Haunted Hill’, ‘The House of Usher’ and many more.

We were innocent and easily taken in. They created zombies, ghosts, vampires, mummies, and creatures of all kinds who most often appeared through fog, the same kind of fog we’re having right now. What fun. I love it.

CINEMA-FILES-BIO-HITCHCOCK-BIRDS

Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) during the shooting of his movie ‘The Birds’.

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Hudson’s Bay Company and — Tsar Nicholas????

Muriel Susan

Daughter Susan and me, you can blame her for this blog

I’m not a shopper. I have no patience and particularly hate trying on clothes. I also don’t like large department stores — haven’t a clue where things are and too often can’t find someone to ask. Our Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) is one such store. I avoid it if I can. They once had a huge sign on the outside of their downtown location declaring ‘Shopping is good’. I didn’t approve. The statement is debatable, but that’s a whole other story.

Our bodies have to be clothed, so it becomes necessary now and then to shop.

summer pants at HBC

found a new pair of these at HBC

That means going to larger stores for me. I’m short. I need a petite. Most smaller stores don’t carry petites, so I went to HBC for my recent summer clothing requirements. Who’d have imagined what I read about them later?

220px-Indians_at_a_Hudson_Bay_Company_trading_post

HBC didn’t only buy and sell furs

I’m a history buff. Of course I knew HBC, as one of the oldest businesses in existence, would have a long history. However in reading ‘The Secret Plot To Save The Tsar’ by Shay McNeale, I learned the company had been involved in far more than just buying and selling furs.

The book says HBC was contracted to construct a residence in Murmansk, in northern Russia, to be used as a safe house for Tsar Nicholas II and his family pending a hopeful rescue by the Allies in 1917. It was believed/hoped this might even lead to the Tsar’s eventual return to power. And it was HBC’s Henry Armitstead (1877-1956) who headed the project.

During World War One, (1914-1918) HBC operated as purchasing agents for France, Russia, Romania as well as others. The firm had headquarters in London. They were able to claim the house was being built for use by employees, but it was paid for by the British Admiralty and constructed under the auspices of the British Secret Service. (Armitstead’s boss, C.V. Sale, was head of HBC at the time.)

As during most revolutions, in the Russia of 1917, factions jostled for power. Bolsheviks, Czechs, the White Army, Reds, Cossacks, Caucasians, and others manoeuvred, used extortion, blackmail, ransoms, bribes and double-dealing to gain control of the country during the civil war. Agents and double agents infiltrated the various factions, often changing identities and names, other countries utilized a multi-tracked policy of espionage. It was a real, live ‘cloak and dagger’ whodunnit with murders and disappearances a common occurrence. Lenin was a master at the game. He accepted huge bribes from all sides — and was the guy who trained Stalin — only too well.

Family II

Tsar Nicholas II and family

King George V and first cousin Tsar Nicholas, often called twins

First cousins: Tsar Nicholas and King George V ‘The Twins’

What is the truth? Did the Tsar and his family actually survive? To this day some think so. Some don’t. The Tsar was closely related to many other European Royals. His first cousin, King George V of England, and he looked so much alike they were often called ‘The Twins’ and easily mistaken for each other.

Do I think they survived? No.

And what do the Hudson’s Bay’s records say of all this? Their

220px-HBCWinnipeg

HBC Winnipeg — archives

archives are online and fascinating — I spent hours totally intrigued. They say Armitstead was indeed employed by them and was posted in Archangel, on a ‘special trade mission’ during 1917.  Archangel (Arkhangeiska) is located in the north of Russia. Interesting, no?

Symphonies: 1 minute. Story of Man: 2 minutes.

Muriel, 2008 Headshot little smile hand

like so many others, by Susan Kauffmann

My friend Hans was a talented musician and writer. He was a student at the Vienna Conservatory of Music until he was unceremoniously tossed out by the Nazis. After escaping from Austria to the U.S., (an amazing story in itself) Hans was drafted and served in the U.S. military overseas. When he returned to America and married, the first piece of furniture he purchased was a grand piano.

Hans more than mastered the English language, he wrote musicals, songs,

Hans

Hans Muller in Los Angeles

plays and funny skits — one of which was about how to be knowledgeable about every symphony by just learning one minute of each. He was a really funny guy.

If you read my blog, you know I’m a history buff. To me, the story of man is more amazing than any novel can be. I can read through volumes of history to delight in one sentence about something I didn’t know before. Yes, I’m weird….

My family just visited. It has been a wonderful time for me — and a lot of fun, but there hasn’t been much free time, so you can imagine my delight when a cousin, who lives in Australia, sent me ‘Our Story in 2 Minutes’ about the history of man. It reminded me of Hans and his humorous skit about learning symphonies.

prehistoric man

Prehistoric man

I’m passing ‘Our Story’ on to you. I’ve already watched it four times. Here’s the information. Enjoy!

“Joe Bush got a high school assignment to make a 
video reproduction. He chose history as a theme and tucked it all 
into two minutes. Joe took pictures from the internet; added the sound 
track “Mind Heist” by Zack Hemsey (from the movie Interception) and 
came up with this, an incredible work for a 17-year old. Just finding the 
pictures was a formidable task. Hold on to your seat. This moves fast. 
Don’t blink — not even for a second & keep your sound on.”
http://marcbrecy.perso.neuf.fr/history.html

Doctor-assisted suicide for Canada

Muriel black and white Kudos to Canada’s Supreme Court, which this week voted unanimously for doctor-assisted suicide. It seems they’ve given a reluctant Conservative government a year to put it in place. This is something I have wanted for myself for years and I heartily approve. Hurrah for Canada, the country that made Gay marriage legal, and now has passed another important act of compassion.

Normal people don’t move mountains, and Dr. Jack Kevorkian, crazy as he may have been, was a hero in my eyes. He assisted 120 people to die. To my friend who is writing about serial killers, that is what he considers Kevorkian was — a killer. Interesting….

Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his suicide machine

Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his suicide machine

People have strong feelings on this issue, and I will not argue. I just know how I feel, and lately, it has been front and center in my own life because a friend asked me to help him end his suffering. (And, this was not the first time I have been approached in this way — I don’t know why.)

“C” was a member of the organization I started 15 years ago for people with balance and dizziness disorders. When I first met him, I was sure the guy would kill himself at work, which sometimes required climbing ladders. He had Ataxia, which compromised his nervous system and his balance was severely affected even then. Fate sometimes plays cruel jokes on us, he had been a Tango dancing devotee.

His co-workers thought he drank. He let them think so. They would chuckle, and he would smile with them. But it was a charade — he didn’t drink — though if you saw him walking, you would certainly think so. He was determined to keep working until he was 65 so he could collect his pension. I was sure he wouldn’t make it….

No one fought harder than “C” to continue functioning, he attended Tai Chi classes, and regularly worked out at a gym. His arm muscles looked strong and powerful, but his illness was even more powerful. However, every step I thought he should take, he delayed. He drove longer than I thought he should. He walked without a cane longer than I thought he should — and he fell, again and again. When I felt he needed a walker, he finally gave in and bought a cane — and kept falling. When I thought he needed a wheelchair, he purchased a walker.

They must have known him well at the emergency department of his local hospital. Once, it was nine stitches to his scalp, another time it was twelve. Too often he sported ugly scrapes and bruises. I worried. He drove me nuts. It became too dangerous for him to live on his own. Long after I thought he should give up his apartment, he finally gave in. The falls, however, never stopped.

When things became more than he could bear, he asked me to help him end his life. I contacted “The Farewell Foundation”, an organization which helps people in his position as much as they are legally permitted to. They cannot provide anything for you, but they will stay with you when YOU, yourself, obtain or do whatever you decide on, until you are dead. I understood their position.

Sociologist Russel Ogden, founder of The Farewell Foundation

Sociologist Russel Ogden, founder of The Farewell Foundation

Things became more and more unbearable. He could no longer write. He could no longer speak clearly. He could no longer hear much. I met with him and the kind people from the organization. They warned me to be careful and told me of possible dire consequences. A woman who had helped someone spent over $100,000 in court, lost her passport and could no longer leave the country. My children live out of the country. I love them. I want to be able to visit them. I was scared.

We visited his doctor together. He was sympathetic, but not willing to help — too frightened to I assume. Again, we understood. I bought the most recent copy of “Final Exit”. I read it cover to cover. I marked and underlined everything I felt could be helpful, brought it to “C” and read those parts for him. We talked about the various options. However, as usual, everything he decided to do, he decided on too late.

The last fall I was aware of cost him an eye. They had to remove it. After that, he was permanently hospitalized. Things were now truly out of his hands. He again begged me to help. I was told if he chose not to eat in hospital, they wouldn’t be allowed to force him, and they are required to keep him comfortable. Did he understand? Was the information I was given correct? I’ll never know.

He then asked me to take him to Switzerland. He could no longer walk at all. I would not be physically capable of helping him make it. It was too late. In desperation, he asked me to get him a gun. He was no longer able to hold one or to shoot it. It broke my heart to watch his suffering. Can a caring person be relieved and glad when a friend dies? I was….

For “C” and the other person I knew who would have opted to end his life on his own terms had he been able to, I hope this new law will be enacted and be there for all who wish it. You need not agree…..

Rector Robin Slays Sparrow

I’m having a real ball going through my old correspondence file which son Rafi brought me from L.A. A lovely former neighbor who reads this blog once suggested I had a wicked sense of humour. She must be right. And, obviously its been lurking in me for years. I can’t believe some of the letters I’m finding. I certainly must have chuckled as I wrote the one in response to this article published in the L.A. Times on Aug. 11, 1979.

The English sparrow was imported to America in 1850/51.

The English sparrow was imported to America in 1850/51.

Like many mistaken such acts, the English sparrow was a huge error, and is now considered the “flying rat”.

“HUBBUB IN ENGLAND”

“Rector Keeps Eye on Sparrow — Has it Shot”

“LONDON — The victim was only a sparrow, felled by a gun in a simple country church. But four days later, the shot was being heard ‘round England.
On Tuesday, a chirpy sparrow got itself trapped in a church’s rafters and broke into song at the wrong time — a recital that classical guitarist Konrad Ragossnig was recording for a radio broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corp.
An offended Rev. Robin Clark, the rector, asked the congregation to leave, summoned someone with an air gun, and had the bird shot.
News of the happening at St. Helen’s Parish Church

St. Helen's Parish Church

St. Helen’s Parish Church

spread quickly through the central English village, Brant Broughton, population 500.
One young woman broke into tears. Some villagers lodged a protest with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The minister responded, “It was absolutely impossible. The artist just couldn’t continue. Everyone was sorry it happened, but in my experience birds trapped in the church die anyway.”
Nevertheless, by Wednesday, one national newspaper was headlining: “Elegy in a Country Church Roof.” parodying poet Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” and the front page of London’s Daily Telegraph declared: “Rev. Robin orders death of a sparrow.”
On Friday, the shock was still being felt. The Guardian published a letter signed Colin Cooper, which said: “Sir, one can only imagine the dilemma the promotors of the guitar recital would have been in if the bird they shot had been a nightingale instead of a humble sparrow. I can’t help feeling there would have been a temptation to reverse the procedure and direct the microphone toward the bird after first shooting the guitarist.”

St. Helen's Parish Church, built 13th century.

St. Helen’s Parish Church, built 13th century.

How could I resist????? Here’s the letter I sent to the good Reverend.

Dear Reverend Clark:

My sincere condolences on the death of your little sparrow.
What’s if — there is such a thing as reincarnation and, what’s if — that little sparrow was a former rector of St. Helen’s who came back to see how things were going at his Church, and what’s if — he’s good and angry at you now???
Surely, the noble rector would be in good standing upstairs. He may have pull and perhaps plan a vendetta against the man who did him in when he came back as a sparrow.
Should this be so, and should YOU come back as a sparrow, I suggest you stay away from St. Helen’s Parish Church. Especially since, as the L.A. Times quoted you as saying, “Birds trapped in the church die anyway.”
Best wishes to you — I would not suggest ever that you shoot the guitarist instead, but please refrain from shooting the birds.

Sincerely,

Note: Today, we are able to learn so much more through the Internet. I see that St. Helen’s is not at all a “simple country church” but a beautiful, extremely large and very old structure. Just couldn’t resist showing you some actual photos of it. Enjoy!

Interior, St. Helen's Parish Church

Interior, St. Helen’s Parish Church

Murder in the Bedroom

Dressed only in my nightie, I was brushing my teeth. Why did I turn? I don’t know. But when I did, I saw……a huge, brown spider, at least 1 1/2 inches big with long legs. It was crawling in under the closed bathroom door. For a moment, I was fascinated by the size of the creature, until….I realized I was barefoot. Suddenly, I felt extremely vulnerable.

What kind of spider grows so large? Should I be scared? Yes! I was scared. It stopped in its tracks. It studied me. I grabbed a magazine and waved it menacingly at the critter, shouting: “Shoo! Go away! Out!”

What do I know about spiders?

What do I know about spiders?

The spider didn’t react or budge. It was determined. Did it move closer? Oh, oh..maybe it did. What do I know about spiders? Nothing. Would it bite my bare foot? Would the bite be dangerous? I didn’t like the situation. I handled it wisely if not with dignity. I ran out of there as fast as I could without rinsing my mouth, slamming the door behind me. (Not that the door had kept it out in the first place, mind you, but in panic mode, don’t expect me to think rationally.)

After rinsing my mouth in the other bathroom, I crawled into bed and lay there thinking. Spiders can climb, can’t they? I got up and checked all the blankets to be sure none were touching the floor. Okay, I admit that was silly. Beds don’t float in space. And, the useless exercise didn’t make me feel any better. I wrapped myself tightly within the blankets. It was too warm. Which would you rather, a big brown spider as a bedmate or a little discomfort?

It was Sunday. Every Sunday night 101FM replays old radio shows, like “The Shadow”, or “The Inner Sanctum”. These radio shows fascinated and terrified me when I was little, and I enjoy hearing them again. On this particular night “The Shadow” was on. What do you think the story was about?

A lonely, desperate, murderous madman lived in a small, dark room full of spider webs with his only friend and companion — a huge spider. What a coincidence. How could they do this to me??? The story was actually silly, but that didn’t make me feel any better. The spider was so large the Shadow had to use his gun to kill it. At any other time, I’d have been amused, but on this night with my own huge spider lurking about, it was somewhat disconcerting.

After a restless night, I arose and carefully donned slippers (which I don’t usually bother with) to get to my bath. I carefully studied the white tiled floor in the bathroom and checked the bathtub before I climbed in. Back in my bedroom, I dressed, shaking each garment out first — just in case, and then checked each shoe and shook it upside down before I put it on. I was thinking spider, spider, spider…. I went out for breakfast.

The daily local newspaper “24 Hours” had an article by Chris Campbell, on Sept. 2nd. The headline read:  “Expert Says BC Spiders Invading Homes for Sex.”

Male spiders enter homes looking for sex, honest....

Male spiders enter homes looking for sex, honest….

Honest. Would I make this up? You can check it on the Internet. Apparently this is the time of year spiders are the largest, and it is their mating season, so the males enter homes looking for lovers. And, our province has more than 900 different kinds! Yikes!

A few days after first meeting my uninvited roommate, I was going through my new, careful, obsessive early morning routine when I spotted, on the carpet right in my bedroom, that same huge spider. He had crept silently into my oh-so private space and had the audacity to sit there on the carpet as if he owned the place. Absolutely unafraid, he watched me dress. How dare he! A veritable arachnid Peeping Tom!!

Enough was enough. With  vengeance in my heart and murder in my mind I attacked the intruder.

Enough was enough. With vengeance on my mind and murder in my heart I attacked the intruder.

Enough was enough. I had had it! With vengeance on my mind and murder in my heart, I picked up a shoe I was sure could do him in as big as he was. I attacked the intruder who had managed to alter my life for days and ground him mercilessly into pulp. He is no more…..

This was not the first time I had an adventure with a spider, though the previous event was not as frightening and that spider wasn’t as large. I had just moved to town and celebrated the finding of my first job by buying myself some expensive, luxurious bubble-bath. I like bubble-baths and am convinced that if there is a heaven, they have them there. I poured the rich, blue liquid into my bath, and was just about to step in, when I noticed a black spider floating on the bubbles. I hesitated but a moment, then decided to take my bath with that spider. Later I  wrote this silly poem to remember the occasion.

My Bath with a Spider

My bath with a spider

My bath with a spider

Early this morning

I took a bath

with a spider.

It was not my intention.

What I had planned

were some bubbles,

a cup of coffee,

leisure and relaxation.

I turned on the faucet,

poured the rich, blue

foam from the pretty jar

and felt like — Cleopatra.

Too late I saw

the little creature

frantically trying

to escape the swirling water.

I could think of no way to save him,

so I just continued with

my morning ritual,

and took my bath with a spider.