December 2017

December 2017 letter

This month we have: French hamburgers, Getting back my Canadian passport, Rejoining Toastmasters, Dictators, Joint medicine. Enjoy.

Hospital Hamburger

I said to someone recently that I had only good things to say about France. Later I reconsidered – there were the hamburger patties. When Harry bought hamburger, the butcher took a piece of lean-ish beef out of the display and trimmed any fat off of it. It was ground in a grinding machine and weighed. At first Harry asked to have the fat left on or even some more added – answer no. He asked for the grinding not to be so fine – answer no. But they would give him, free of charge, some suet but not ground. Do not want any fat in the machine. And the machine stays on its setting. Now the good thing was that all the meat came from the same cow and was good cuts and not scraps. Harry would take it home and chop up the fat, add his this and thats and make excellent beef patties.

We encountered the finely ground and fat-less beef in the stuffing of tomatoes and peppers etc. that were prepared really for roasting. So I assumed that was the point of that way of selling beef. Then we encountered French minced beef patties in hospital – Harry first and then me. They were terrible – so unlike the great French cooking.

When I was working in Canada, the cafeteria occasionally had hamburger patties. They announced it ahead and the lineups were long. People who rarely ate there came to the cafeteria just for the patties. I thought they tasted like my mothers and I heard others say that they were like their mothers, like their granny’s, like we had on the farm and not like you get in restaurants. If you step down a couple of levels from traditional homemade to restaurant hamburgers than you have to step down a fair few levels to French hospital patties. (Although French hospital food was otherwise extremely good). So the result of grinding too fine, leaving no fat in, not adding bread crumbs or minced onion or egg, making them too thin and seriously over-cooking the result is – terribly tough and dry, very overcooked and almost tasteless meat but with a hint of the taste of beef that is boiled. How could beef be prepared so badly – and by the French of all people.

Flat on my back on a hospital bed, an idea came to me. It was a conspiracy to discredit the humble hamburger.

No longer a lost Canadian

I did not know that we were called that. Lost Canadians are those that did not renounce their citizenship but had it stripped away when they took out another citizenship. A large number were created when the UK joined the Common Market. Commonwealth citizens that were resident in the UK had rights that were almost the same as UK citizens. But when the country joined Europe all that would end. And so Harry and I took advantage of a short lived window when resident Commonwealth citizens could register for UK citizenship by mail. It was said to be easy.

Well it was sort of. You were to phone a number and ask for the form, then fill in the form and send it back with some documents. I phone the number and asked for the forms, but I was given another number, take number gave me another. I do not remember how long the loop was but eventually I was given the number that I had started with. I took a deep breath and summoned up a privileged but angry state of mind. The secret I found to pull rank on many English was to be very polite, noticably angry but with a touch of scorn and off-the-wall frankness. I point out the loop and said I suppose this was some sort of filter and so he should know that both my husband and I were white, we were both born in Canada, I had an English grandfather and we had both lived a long time in the UK, my husband since the early ’50s – so send us the forms. The answer was “what is your mailing address”. (in times like these I always thought it would be better to have an Australia accent, but what can you do) The forms came and we applied. We were given registration papers as UK citizens. And the next day the Canadian High Commission asked us to send in our passports, which they returned with the corners cut and a snarky letter saying that we were no longer Canadian citizens and if we ever wished to live in Canada again we would be required to apply for landed immigrant status.

When we wished to come back we were in Austria and so I took the train from Graz to Vienna and visited the Canadian Embassy to start the process of immigration. The place was in a state of chaos. The hallways were piled high with stacks of files. People were going here and there with arm loads of files. When finally I got to talk to someone they pointed out that there were a lot of people head of me applying for immigration and they could not give me a date when they would get to me. Apply in another country was the advice. This was the start of the mass movements through the Iron Curtain. Austria was the place to go through the process; so Germans and others from across Easrern Europe were visiting Hungary and while there were escaping to Austria because it was a soft border and would allow them in. A trickle had become a flood in just a few days. (my train ride back to Graz was another story)

So back to the UK we wenr and applyed for immigration to Canada at the High Commission. It took a while and we lived with one friend and Harry got a job with another. We went down to London to get the papers and buy plain tickets. All of a sudden there was panic because there was going to be a big strike. We rushed like mad for almost 24 hrs. and got the papers, got the ticket but it was weird London-Seattle-Victoria-Calgary-Regina, and rushed to get an American visa for Seattle. Just managed to make the plane.

So we were landed immigrants with Permanent Residency card for a number of year and then we went to France.

When Harry died I had to leave France and thought it would be better to return to Canada then to the UK. It turned out that I had been gone long enough that my Permanent Residency card was out of date. So people thought it would be better to come to Canada as a British tourist and sort things out when I was in the country. But UK visitors need an Electronic Travel Authorization from Canada. You cannot apply for the ETA until you have a fight booked. It is only supposed to take 2 days to get. But when I applied, I found out that before they would issue the ETA I have to apply to voluntarily renounce my permanent residency. I thought that this was getting to be a catch22. But the VRPR came in time and then the ETA with a couple of days to spare.

My friend and lawyer in Canada was looking at immigration law and found that there was a recent law that said that Canadian citizens that had lost their citizenship without ever having voluntarily renounced it could ask for it back and it would be reinstated as if it had never been lost. And so it was. The young lady who took the form and the documents at the government office was so very interested in my old passports. It was not often that she saw a really old, well traveled Canadian passport and she was so excited to leaf through it. She kept saying that she should not be taking the time to look but it was so great to see one. And so the lost Canada was back in the fold.

Toastmastering again

Well I did miss it but I blogged instead. Now I will be trying to do both. What I have noticed is that with some things I am out of shape, as good as ever. But other skills are weak. I suspect that it is going to be difficult because of aging. I noticed 15 or so years ago that I would lose words. The first one was ‘trailer’ and every once in a while there would be another. But I found the way to deal with it. I would just stop everything and get the word back. I would go and look at an example, close my eyes and imagine one, go though the sounds of the alphabet is see it the starting letter worked, try different sentences to see if one caught the word, anything else I could think of until the word came. If I found the word, it would be easier next time and finally it would stop happening with that word. But it worried me enough to make a note every once in a while about whether it was getting worse, better or staying the same. Harry would kindly supply the word I was looked for without thinking and I would get mad and explain for the upteenth time that I had no way to find that particular word until I created one and so I had to find the word without prompting. He got used to it and stopped saying the word. It is a lot better than it was when we first moved to France. But my spelling was worse. I noticed that it wasn’t all my spelling but my typos and I put that down to having the French keyboard. I also notice that I find it harder to maintain concentration. I have not really noticeably lost my language skills. Someone else might not notice such small things and just put in down to senior moments. But I am nervous about my language – hoping that I do not have a return of dyslexia problems as I age.

It is a good time to do something about it. I joined the nearest Toastmasters club and I will have to work to get to my old standard. I now do cryptic crosswords again. And I am picking up the pace of blogging. Also I am trying to do newsletters for Toastmasters. I am reading more. I will soon get a new computer without the French keyboard. All are things I will enjoy.

Bad leaders can stay

People have to be careful who they elect because they can stay for a very long time. Some get rid of voting altogether, for instance Hitler. Some have a powerful party without opposition behind them, like Jacob Zuma and Robert Mugabe had. Some corrupt the voting process like Putin. Others have a dedicated base that is just big enough to carry a multi-party election and simply always vote for their man like Bertusconi had long, after he was a laughingstock. Some kill or imprison their opposition as in Turkey and the Philippines. Democracy is very easily damaged.

There is a tendency to look at bad leaders in other countries and say, “countries deserve their leaders and it is their duty to do something about the ones they do not like”. Or at some mysterious turning point (usually to do with oil or other resources) we turn on them and invade to give them regime change. So what to do about America. It is impossible to ignore what Trump does because effects are not confined to the US and even if the whole world got together they would not be able to invade the US and impose a regime change.

What can Americans do. Already he is well on the way to dismantling the Federal government institutions and converting the courts from fairly neutral to very pro-Trump and right-wing. He has the backing of much of the police. For about a third of the people, he can do no wrong. They have various motives but the one driving a great many is that he is bring the final war, final judgment and the end of the world. As long as he pleases the very wealthy donors to the Republican Party then the donors will keep and party in line, and so the Republicans are not likely to impeach him. As time goes on he becomes less and less popular but more and more untouchable. There is just a chance he could be here to stay.

Nothing is certain and never has been. People are usually quite surprised when their culture explodes or implodes. One day their life is secure and calm, and the next it is turned upside down and never will be the same again. It happens in wars and natural disasters but it also happens when a dictator comes to power and is not stopped.

Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)

What I see of medical opinion about treating osteoarthritis is:

1. lack of activity makes the condition worse so sufferers should be encouraged to ‘walk in off’

2. losing weight if overweight will help the joints

3. in order to be active and to effectively lose weight, a sufferer may need painkillers

4. inflammation is part of the cause of pain, so anti-inflammatories may be need

5. NSAIDs, acetaminophen and cortisone are often prescribed to deal with pain and inflammation but long term regular use of these is detrimental

7. there are a number of non-prescription supplements have are not as strong in their actions but can be used over long periods without harm and have been in use by many sufferers for many years – glucosamine, chondroitin, DMSO, MSM, SAMe, Bosellia serrata and combinations of these to balance their various effects

8. Research in Belgium resulted in a new medication, ASU, avocado-soy unsaponifiables, which has been in use in Belgium and France for some time and have been found to be safe and somewhat more effective than the other supplements. ASU is also a mild painkiller and anti-inflammatory so that use of NSAIDs can be reduced or eliminated. It helps to heal the joints. In France ASU is the standard medication prescribed by doctors for osteoarthritis.

When I had trouble with my gut and went to a specialist, he was shocked that I was taking a daily dose of a NSAID and said I must stop immediately. My own doctor backed him up and said in effect that NSAIDs were not the correct medication for my joints and I must use another medicine that she would prescribe. She wanted to know what pharmacy was allowing me to purchase the amount of ibuprofen I was taken for the length of time I had taken it. I admitted that I had it brought to me from Canada. I was in tears of frustration but she was adamant and said I should take the medicine that worked and went to the heart of the problem – it is the standard treatment. And so I did and it worked better than the NSAID. Now I am in Canada and I find that ASU is not available at the local drug store and so I have to order in via computer. How odd is life!!

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About Janet Kwasniak

Retired pensioner, raised in Canada but UK citizen living in France, interested in Science and many other things.

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