Tag Archives: Anna Smith

In a Vancouver hospital, odd events, movies and talk of aliens wearing bras

Here I sat after midnight, struggling with the transcription of two blogs – well, struggling with the first, which is delaying the second – when I got a series of emails from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional correspondent. She lives in Vancouver.

They started and continued thus:


Anna, Ruggero and Daniel at St Paul’s A&E in Vancouver

I am in the waiting room of A&E at St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver again.

I have been sitting beside two nice young men for two hours. They are both film students – one Italian, one Mexican. One of them had to get scans as he had an appendectomy two weeks ago and his innards were still settling so he is waiting for the scan results and getting blood tests.

It has been a very entertaining last several hours.

A and E is very busy. Though a window, I saw a catatonic Sikh man sitting on a chair, without a turban and his hair was a mess. Nearby, a hefty, good-looking drunk woman with bare legs sat howling angrily that she had been in every suburb of Vancouver in the last two days. 

“You DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT HAS HAPPENED to me!” she told people. “My boyfriend has LEFT me!”

The emergency waiting room is like a circus. The two students and I seem like we are the only ones not stoned or drunk.

One old man was amiably drinking beer after beer from cans. He announced he had some pot but not rolling papers. An old lady (who works as a safety officer on a building site) said she had papers, so they went out to smoke a joint and got stoned in the ambulance bay.

Meanwhile, a wiry little man with a grey Afro hairstyle went into the bathroom and, when he emerged, his pants were falling down. He ripped his shirt off and started roaring around the room stripping so they made him lie on a stretcher.

“Fuck Me!” he said in exasperation.

“Don’t talk to me like that!” a nurse told him.

“I wasn’t talking YOU,” he said angrily. “I was talking to MYSELF!”

I went for an MRI scan.The technician asked me to remove my bra and necklace. The necklace had a fiddly clasp and, because I was feeling shaky, I asked the young lady to undo it for me. 

She asked: “Do you want me to help take your bra off too?”

“God, no!” I said, “I’m a stripper. I can take my own bra off.”

Anna Smith – Nurse Annie – c1979

“When did you do the stripping?” she asked.

“I still do it,” I told her.

“Did you ever do anything else?” she asked.

I should have pretended to be surprised and asked: “What else is there?” but I didn’t.

Anyhow, when I got back to the waiting room, the students were still there, I told them about the bra question and they cracked up.

I told them my funniest stories. They told me their funniest stories too. One involved a friend in Mexico, who had mistaken a midget for a leprechaun.

We also spoke about film, art and the drug problem downtown. 

The Italian – Ruggero Romano – is directing a feature documentary film about homeless people on the downtown east side – it depicts the controversial dynamics of the financially poorest and emotionally richest postal code in North America – V6A – There is a teaser trailer online.

 
The Mexican – Daniel Federico del Castillo Hernández – was a painter before turning to film.

Daniel del Castillo’s lively painting of his family in acrylic

He showed me a lively painting he had made of his family, with each of his  relatives portrayed as a different animal – a dog, a cat, a horse, a deer, etc. We were having so much fun watching the goings on. Ruggero was busy taking notes. He has joined a writers group. He said: “We should come here more often….”

A cute, paranoid lady with a skateboard and a British accent sat nearby, chatting on her phone.

The beer drinking man started demanding that the television channel be changed. When no-one responded, he stood on a chair and groped around the TV unsuccessfully. A security guard then realised the TV-groper had been drinking and told him to put away his beer. He refused, so he was told: “You aren’t allowed to drink in the hospital!” and he was escorted out.

Eventually (after 6 hours) a doctor came to explain that Daniel’s scans were OK so he could leave. 

Alien Bra heads at the Isle of Wight (Photo by Gordon Breslin)

While waiting, I have found out that, in the UK, Ian Breslin and Mark Levermore of The Outbursts band were at the Isle of Wight Festival. Apparently they are still celebrating the release of Alien Bra, their latest album, which features a song about being abducted by aliens and forced to wear a bra.

Elsewhere, the World Health Organisation has declared that BDSM and Transvestism have been struck from the list of diseases. They did not mention anything about men who go out in the sun wearing alien heads (or alien bras), so I suppose that is still an illness.

I am still here, in acute care now, waiting for my CAT scan result.

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Is this an average Canadian family? Stripper, conservator, Reverend, shrink.

My occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith with two policemen in Toronto. I’ve no idea why

Anna Smith lives in Vancouver.

She is this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent.

Yesterday, I got an email from her. It read:


My Dad has started a blog and my sister the priest got arrested… again!


“Tell me more…” I asked.

Instead, I got this message from her father, Jaime Smith:


Hullo John Fleming –

I am the father of three daughters all born in Argentina where I was stateless, having renounced US nationality before we emigrated to Canada.

I was born in the US, but left because of conscription in the interval of ‘peace’  between the Korean & Vietnam wars. I renounced my US citizenship, changed my name, became a naturalized Argentine citizen, travelled back to university in the US as a ‘native-born foreign student’ then left a second time for Canada to teach astronomy & physics, became naturalized again as Canadian (but kept the Argentine passport just in case…). Then I went to medical school and specialty training in psychiatry. Some say I had a colourful life and encouraged me to write about it, hence the autobiography and bloggery.

I went to Argentina because I had a job offer there photographing faint blue stars at the Córdoba Astronomical Observatory. This was paid by a grant from the Office of Naval Research, so my emigration to Argentina was actually sponsored by the US military.

Anna, my eldest daughter, you know as she occasionally contributes to your blog. A retired stripper (London, Belgium, Finland, Malaysia) she lives on a boat on the Fraser River and does volunteer public health work with street ladies in Vancoocoo. That’s Vancouver.

I had a patient when I was working as a shrink in Vancouver who told me that he met Richard Bonynge (ex-impresario of Vancouver Opera) in Rome, who used the term Vancoocoo, being displeased with his being terminated there for mounting experimental and rare operas that didn’t bring in the punters and their money. After they fired him, the next season they went back to full house productions of La Traviata, La Bohème and Carmen – guaranteed old warhorses. I thought the term Vancoocoo appropriate.  That’s where I trained in psychiatry after medical school.

Kjerstin, my middle daughter, is a textile conservator at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria. She has a PhD in mending from London – Hampton Court Palace etc. She is going to a conference on mummies in Tenerife later this month, where she will give talk on gopher hide robes covering frozen corpses.

In Canada, the New West Record reported Rev. Emilie Smith’s arrest earlier this week. She had joined other religious leaders to block a company’s gates in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples who object to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion

Emilie, my youngest daughter, is the vicar of St. Barnabas Anglican Church in New Westminster, a Vancoocoo suburb. She is socially conscious to the extreme, gets arrested at demonstrations, went through three unsatisfactory husbands and is now getting married to her lesbian partner in July.

I also have 6.5 grandsons (the 0.5 is biologically female but currently growing a moustache and transitioning to male. Plays rugby football.)  I also have two great-grandchildren – one male and the other female.

Well, they are at this time anyway.

My daughters’ mum died in 2011 – we had been married 55 years. Now I have a gay younger Chinese boyfriend who inspired me to learn about his language.

I first trained in philosophy (BA), then astronomy (MS), then medicine (MD) and finally psychiatry (FRSM). I studied languages (Mandarin and Finnish) at the University of Victoria in British Columbia after I retired from practice.

I have become interested in non Indo-European languages and translated a Finnish detective story into English.

I studied Finnish because my maternal grandparents were from there in the late 19th century before it became an independent country in 1917. It had previously been known as the Grand Duchy of Finland and belonged to Russia. I already knew Latin and the Romance, Germanic, Scandinavian and a bit of Slavic languages and wanted to try something completely different. 

When I awaken early and desire to go back to sleep, I usually do mental arithmetic in a language other than English – like Spanish, German, Finnish or Mandarin Chinese. Should that not work I may get up and have a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie or just reflect on some activity or idea of particular interest to me.

The 2013 Gay Pride march in Helsinki (Image by Yle Uutiset)

They have great trams in Helsinki – I carried a Canadian flag in the gay pride parade there in 2013. I was leaving Helsinki the same day in July once as Mr Methane, the UK farteur you occasionally write about, but I smelled nothing in the airport.

I wrote a 68 page autobiography earlier this year – only the bare bones of 1933-2017, no more than one page per year and a few even more compressed. After that, I decided to continue writing and settled on the blogosphere after reading your postings. 

So this is your fault, but I am having fun with it. During my 30 year career as a clinical psychiatrist I wrote and published professional articles and book reviews in medical and other journals.

When in stateless exile in Argentina, in the mid 1950s, I worked as a journalist for United Press. I wrote articles on diverse issues such as international commerce and the quality of the race track as seen by Formula One driver Stirling Moss.

I have been churning out 500 words daily since I started my blog 10 days ago. The focus is loosely on books and other literary topics.

You can read my daily drivel, if you are interested, at https://karhunluola.com.

Karhu means bear in Finnish; ‘luola’ means cave, ‘karhunluola’ means ‘bear’s cave’.  Name of my flat.

Strictly speaking, the grammatically correct expression would  be ‘karhunluolasta’,  literally meaning ‘from the cave of the bear’.

Watch out for woozles.

 

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Other people’s lives – Boat-based Anna Smith’s bus stops in Vancouver, Canada

Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, lives on a boat in Vancouver. I have just received this missive from her…


Aquatic dweller Anna Smith travels on buses

I have finally arrived home just now and my boat is bouncing and rocking in a stormlet.

Yesterday, I was on a downtown bus. An insane young man was in conversation with a dog barking in the street.

I stepped off the bus at Main and Hastings, to go to music practice at The Carnegie Center.

Outside The Carnegie Center, individuals sell ‘hard’ drugs like heroin, fentanyl, cocaine etc.

Across the street, against a building, the pavement was lined with lawnchairs (some with umbrellas) and native people, mostly selling ‘Indian Cigarettes’ which are in similar packets to regular cigarettes, but they are a third of the price.

They sell other stuff too, like cannabis, but not so much as there is a ‘compassion club’ (free cannabis distribution center) in the same block.

Whenever I get off at that stop, I have to walk past the crowd and say “No” to the various vendors shouting “Smokes! Smokes!” or saying a bit more quietly “Weed” or almost inaudibly – by nondescript men walking quickly – “Cheese… Cheese”. 

Then I walk to the corner and, while waiting for the lights to change, I scan the lamp post which is always blanketed in posters of missing young people and memorial notices for locals who have died suddenly.

Yesterday, as I stepped off the bus, a large native guy seated amongst the tobacco sellers called out to me: “Are you from Bountiful?”

Only people in British Columbia would get the meaning.

It has to do with a perverted Mormon cult who lived in a secret mountain enclave near the small town of Creston, B.C.

The name of their community is Bountiful.

B.C’s slogan is ‘Beautiful British Columbia‘ but maybe it ought to be Bountiful British Columbia.

For years, Bountiful has been in the headlines here, because the residents practised polygamy. The ‘wives’ of the religious leaders were usually young teenage girls – underage girls. It went on for decades and somehow the police investigators were not able to make arrests, due to the isolated location and claims that marrying underage girls was part of the cult’s religious practice.

Polygamous Mormons in British Columbia shock

Finally the head of the cult was arrested, on charges of transporting the girls across the US/Canada border, in co-operation with similar cults in the United States.

So a stranger asking me, as I stepped off a city bus, whether I was from Bountiful was completely preposterous.

Do I look like a Mormon?

Sure, I was wearing a fake tweed hat, my black military surplus coat, a short skirt and grey leggings…

Most women in that area near the bus stop are a bit more garish, their hair streaked in vivid primary colours, wearing tight bodices, flashing earings, rings on every finger and tattoos abundant; in lace pantyhose and sexy-looking flat black boots. And many have Narcan kits attached to their belts. (Narcan blocks the brain receptors that heroin activates, instantly reversing an overdose.)

Sometimes they just wander around in pyjamas and sandals, with their wigs falling off, even in this blustery storm…

So maybe, at a stretch, I do look like a Mormon in comparison to the locals.

Still I was a bit thrown, being asked that.

I ignored the comment and ploughed ahead and began crossing at the intersection. But, as I crossed the street, I began to laugh, because it was so ridiculous. I looked over at the man who had said it. Who would say such a thing? He was laughing his head off and, when he saw that I was laughing too, he gave me the thumbs up.

The man who had been going around uttering “Cheese… Cheese” was nothing exceptional.

Other people there call out “Steak!… Steak!”

One time, I saw a lady sitting on the sidewalk with an enormous amount of pickled olives for sale, spread out on a piece a plastic.

Surprisingly, the men around there are often well dressed in the latest brand name sportswear because, being freshly stolen, it is sold for next to nothing on the street.

Because I have a new phone and forgot to switch off my location, Google has now asked me to write a review of my bus stop, which is called ‘Highway 91 Offramp’. 

It really is nothing exceptional and it strains the imagination to think why it needs to be reviewed.

The Highway 91 Offramp bus stop has nothing exceptional and it strains Anna Smith’s imagination

Bus drivers often ask me: ”Are you sure you want to get off HERE?”

How would I describe Highway 91 Offramp? 

It is a forlorn stretch of highway where much of the traffic is composed of lorries roaring past.

The bus stop didn’t even have a bench until very recently. One time, some builders working nearby built a bench out of stones and boards.

The people who use it are mainly Chinese workers, (ladies from a nearby orange juice factory) and me and the occasional worker at the shipyard whose vehicle is under repair. There is rubbish strewn about – beer cans, candy wrappers and things that fall from garbage trucks.

One day, a chain link fence was put up. The orange juice workers cut a hole in it so we could still use the path to the Highway 91 Offramp bus stop.

A few years ago somebody, most likely a lorry driver, threw a large milk jug with an unknown yellow liquid in it from the offramp and it landed and balanced on top of the chainlink fence near, but not quite on top of, the hole we walk through.

Everybody felt a bit uneasy, walking under the perilously-positioned jug.

For several months it languished there and the yellow liquid changed colour gradually to green and brown. After six months, somebody wrote on it with black marker: JUG O’ PISS.

I told my neighbours about and some of them walked down to see it and take photos. 

One lady, whose husband drives a lorry, marvelled: “Holy shit! That piss could have come all the way from Alabama!”

Nearby, along the path, are a few boulders and some pine trees.

A few weeks ago, a couple of guys set up a tent and were camping there. Within days, piles of junk started appearing around the tent. It was annoying because then I was afraid to use that path at night and I thought it must also be worrisome for the orange juice people.

Accommodation near Highway 91 Offramp: “I thought it must be worrisome for orange juice people”

Public art by Patrick Wong at Anna’s Aberdeen bus stop

I thought I could add that to my review of Highway 91 Offramp… Camping available, sandy soil easily hollowed into sleeping area, near two bus routes, shade, river view, no toilets.

One morning when I was on my way to the Highway 91 Offramp I saw a man standing near the tent. He called out: “Are you looking for Mike?”

What the fuck, I thought, and I answered crossly: “NO. I am NOT looking for Mike. I am going to the bus stop.” 

My other bus stop is called Aberdeen. It is in central Richmond and has two benches, a bus shelter, a pizza parlour and community art. The current art is by Patrick Wong and I like it. It is about migration and the migrants seem to be depicted as aliens.

Rain drops transform the view from the Aberdeen bus stop in Richmond into something glamorous.

 

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The Comedy Store, Saturday Night Live and being a stripper in 1980s Finland

The current Comedy Store entrance in London

Kim Kinnie died last weekend. The Chortle comedy website described him as a “Svengali of alternative comedy… the long-serving gatekeeper of the Comedy Store (in London) and a ‘spiritual godfather’ to many stand-ups in the early days of alternative comedy… Kinnie started out as a choreographer and stage manager of the Gargoyle Club, the Soho strip club where The Comedy Store began in 1979”.

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith used to work at the Gargoyle Club – she now lives on a boat in Vancouver – so I asked her if she remembered him. This was her reply:


Anna retouched her nose in this.

Yes. He (and Don Ward) hired me on the spot when I auditioned there as a stripper.

I have had a bad cold for a couple of weeks and lost my internet at home, so I have been reading for a bit, about the Irish in Montreal, and maybe a Margaret Cho bio next.

Recently, I have felt like trying standup again after this almost 40 year interval. I was telling some stories I call my “God Guy” stories to a crazy lady at work – a client – She thinks she has a snake living in her ankle and wears a TRUMP supporter badge,

Anyhow, she loved my stories and was having me repeat them to everybody.

I say I did stand-up comedy almost 40 years ago. Maybe I should have call it Pop Out Comedy, as I would pop out of my costume when the audience was too rambunctious.

A poster for the Gargoyle/Nell Gwynne clubs

I wasn’t doing stand up among the dancers. The Gargoyle/Nell Gwynne club had a theatre, where the strip shows were done and The Comedy Store was in a separate room (and floor actually) which was set up more like a supper club, with round tables and a stage barely a foot above floor level. There is a picture in the book by William Cook showing a punter sitting at a table in front of the stage, resting his feet ON the stage!

For some reason I remembered the theatre as upstairs and the comedy club downstairs but, from the memoirs of other comics, it was the reverse. The club was upstairs and the theatre downstairs. The comics sometimes used to come in and watch us do our shows before they went on.

When I went there I auditioned first as a dancer, but then I also used to do stand up at the open mike (which was in a gong show format) at The Comedy Store. It was in the very early days of the Store. It had only been open about a year and the compères were Tony Allen and Jim Barclay.

Tony Green, aka Sir Gideon Vein. Photo circa 1983/1884

Jim Barclay used to wear the arrow-through-his-head thing at the time. I saw Sir Gideon Vein doing his horror show, in his hundred year frock coat. He always started his act by saying: “This looks like the place to be-eeeeeee…” and then he told a ridiculous ‘Tale of Terror’ about The Gamboli Trilplets, Tina, Lina and Gina… John Hegley was a hit right off the bat there. Others took longer to find their feet.

Most of the comics were ultra politically correct and some were really boring. The audience has been rightly described as a bear pit – very drunk, mostly young people who had too much money. They thought nothing of throwing objects at us. One time the chef, newly arrived from Bangaldesh, rushed out to offer first aid to Sir Gideon Vein, who had a stream of fake blood pouring over his face – because comics were known to suffer injuries from the audience throwing their designer boots at them.

The Greatest Show on Legs – (L-R) Malcolm Hardee, Chris Lynam and Martin Soan (Photo: Steven Taylor)

The Greatest Show on Legs were there one night and the first time I saw them I couldn’t believe it – they were so hilarious – so I ran down to our (strippers) dressing room and made the other dancers run up the stairs so they wouldn’t miss it. We watched them through a glass window in a door at the back of the club. Malcolm Hardee was, of course, glad to have a bunch of strippers admiring his act and greeted us after the show with a genial “Hello LADIES”.

I had started doing stand up in Toronto as I loved comedy already, before I went to London. In Toronto my strip shows had become sillier as I went along. Once I learned the rudiments of striptease, I found it impossible to take seriously. How could I take seriously taking off my clothes in public for a bunch of old men? When I did my nurse show I dressed in a real nurse outfit with flat shoes.

The audience really loved my silly character and act. I used to start it with a song called I Think I’m Losing My Marbles. I would come out with my first aid kit and whip out a notebook and, looking really bitchy, I would pretend to take notes on the audience and would put on a surgical mask.

It was pretty complicated but I realised that if you are a young woman dressed as a nurse you can get away with just about anything.

The original 1975 cast of Saturday Night Live (Left-Right) Laraine Newman, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase.

Another time, when I was about 22 years old and still living in Toronto, I went to New York and, dressed as a nurse, showed up at the offices of Saturday Night Live and I just walked in looking for Lorne Michaels, the producer.

At the time, I wasn’t looking for comedy work. I went there (without an appointment) because I wanted to ask if they could give my musician boyfriend a spot on  the show.  It sounds like a long shot, but my boyfriend had been at the University of Toronto with Lorne Michaels and the show’s musical director Paul Shaffer, who are both Canadian.

It took me a couple of days but eventually I got a meeting with Paul Shaffer. He was very nice and I sat there in his office as he explained to me that, sadly, even though he was the musical director, he didn’t actually have much say in which acts were chosen for the show because John Belushi held the balance of power there, so all the musical acts chosen to be premiered on Saturday Night Live were friends of John.

Life was never boring.

When I was dancing on the Belgian porno cinema circuit, there was a particularly dedicated licence inspector in Liege whom I managed to avoid by hiding on the roof of the cinema (probably half dressed in costume, after my shows). Eventually, he caught me and so I had to visit the Harley Street physician dictated by the Belgian Embassy and got a certificate to prove that I was physically and mentally fit to strip for Belgians.

I may be coming back to Amsterdam this year or next. If I do, I will try to find some other shows or work like playing a double bass half naked or some such nonsense. Is there much work for that type of thing do you think? Or maybe I will go to a burlesque festival in Finland.

The ever interesting Anna Smith

I danced in Finland in February around 1985 and it was exceptionally cold that year. But not indoors.

I was billed as Lumoojatar, which means an enchantress. I took trains all over the country for one month and then did a week at a cinema on the waterfront of Helsinki called La Scala.

In my CV, I say that I stripped at La Scala.

When I did my show at La Scala, all the men were wearing wolf skin hats. All I saw was a sea of wolf skin hats. One time, when I was passing through the lobby, a tiny man wearing a wolf skin hat – who appeared to be about 85 or so – told me in halting English: “You very good show. Very good. Very good, I know. I am connoisseur!”

The worst thing that happened to me was in the industrial town of Tampere where the policemen wore earmuffs. I was dancing on the floor of a cavernous bar (it seemed more like an arena than a bar). I could barely hear my music – theme songs from James Bond movies. The audience of paper mill workers on their afternoon break seemed thrilled anyway. A rough-looking lone old woman in the audience stuck her tongue out at me.

After my show, I was getting dressed in a toilet and an enormous drunk man suddenly threw the door open, advanced towards me and then dropped to his knees bellowing in Finnish.

Before I could figure out what to do next, four more men crashed in and grabbed the first man.

“He wants to marry you,” they explained, laughing and apologetic as they dragged him out.

My phone’s battery is about to die now. I am going for a swim.

Anna Smith took this selfie in Antwerp

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Christmas eccentricities in Canada

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith, lives in Vancouver. I have never been there, but it seems commendably eccentric. In the past, she has mentioned a rather disconcertingly high incidence of disembodied human feet being found locally.

Yesterday, I received a Christmas Day message from Anna. It read:


Another human foot was found a couple of weeks ago. I don’t want to bore your readers by reporting every single foot that is found locally but, in this case, the police issued advice that – if people find human remains – they should not take them home and then call the police but, rather, call the police first and leave the feet where they found them.


Anna continued:


Anna is fine; the weather is not

On Christmas Eve, I was at a bus stop in downtown Victoria (across from Vancouver).

I had just missed the No 7 bus and found a spot on the bench beside a nicely dressed older lady who had two canes. I chatted with her about the bus timetable but the conversation suddenly veered to the subject of the voices she hears in her room and she held forth for the next 20 minutes about radios, answering machines and overhearing her neighbours.

I realised she was probably schizophrenic, so I listened to her patiently.

A heavy snow had been falling. Now there was a snowstorm. Some of the buses were having difficulty steering and were sliding into the kerb.

As the lady continued talking I noticed an outlandishly dressed older man in conversation with a couple of his friends. The man had his white hair pulled into a ponytail and he was wearing a white cowboy hat adorned with a shiny red glass Christmas ornament in front and a plume of white ostrich feather sticking out the back like a rooster tail. Combined with his own ponytail, it looked as if he had two tails sticking out of his head.

A tall man with a white moustache and wearing an anorak joined us on the bench.

The lady with the voices dropped one of her canes in the snow and the man with the white moustache picked it up and asked me to hold it while he helped her organise her shopping bags.

He said: “I am headed home to Campbell House. If you are considering moving to Victoria, you should move into Campbell House – the rent is subsidised for disabled people and it is only a ten minute walk from the library.”

A stout lady wearing sweat pants and her coat unbuttoned despite the snowstorm looked admiringly at the guy.

He asked her loudly: “I wonder what Ambrose Bierce would have to say about all THIS… Ambrose Bierce,” he repeated. “He wrote The Devil’s Dictionary. What a great book! If only I had not loaned it to somebody. It is an incredible book and I can’t even remember who I loaned it to… probably it was the devil himself.”

Hen milk is a Canadian delicacy

It seemed like everybody waiting for the No 7 bus was a bit crazy. But that made sense.

Most people were home with their families on Christmas Eve, but odd people – possibly alienated from their families – were more likely to be out and about.

I am wrapping presents at the moment, doing my laundry (it’s a Christmas tradition) and, later on, I will dress as an elf and go for dinner at my sister’s place. We may drink hen milk.

Hen milk is a favourite Canadian delicacy at this time of year.

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In Canada, they are giving away marijuana – free to the needy

Anna Smith shopping in Vancouver

I am still coughing. I am still on antibiotics.

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith has suggested she could send some marijuana honey to me – for the cough.

But I have never taken any illegal drugs, so I am not interested.

I have never smoked nicotine cigarettes, yet I have a smoker’s cough.

I don’t drink, yet I have a beer gut.

I never smoked weed, yet my memory is shit.

Proof, if proof were needed. that there is a God and he has a dark sense of humour.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Anna tells me:


The Society’s free stall in Vancouver

People are upset with the federal government as Prime Minister Trudeau was elected on a legalise marijuana platform but hundreds of people have since been arrested for selling it. 

Still, it seems as if half the people in the country are growing it and, in British Columbia, it seems everyone knows at least ten people who are getting into the business. 

One anti-Trudeau group – the Canadian Cannabis Compassion Society – gives it away free to the needy; others are encouraged to make a cash ‘donation’ in exchange for the dried herb or THC-infused jelly candies.


Elsewhere, companies like Reakiro are touting the benefits not just of medical marijuana but hemp as a commercially-viable building material… surely an incitement to arson.

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The Australian pop artists, a Canadian A&E and tripping over steaks for dogs

This week, my blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith, has been in the Accident & Emergency Department of St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

She sent me an email headed:

An unusually quiet night at St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver

THE POLICEMAN AND HELEN OF TASMANIA

The e-mail read:

Happy Aortic Dissection Awareness Day.

Today is a good day.

and then there was a description of what had happened.

Sort of.

Well, not really.

Well, not at all.

She preceded her description with the comment: “It’s pretty disconnected. I am too sleepy to make sense. It is about a man in uniform with Helen of Tasmania – the doctor and the cop.”

This is what Anna wrote:


It was an unusually quiet night at St. Paul’s A&E. A weird Sunday night. I was the only patient in the ward where I was and most of the doctors were dealing with a patient in the trauma ward. The nurse said it had been more interesting the night before… “Lots of drunk people with facial injuries,” she said.

It was very cold and a young newly graduated nurse was pacing back and forth wearing a flannel sheet like a shawl to keep warm, which obscured her identification, so I wasn’t quite sure whether she was staff or perhaps a mentally distressed patient.

Policeman & Helen of Tasmania, seen from Anna’s bed

And there was a lady in a yellow gown.

When I asked her name, she said “Helen”… though it appeared to me that she was my doctor. I asked if she was English because I didn’t catch her accent. She said she was from Tasmania. 

So I said: ”Oh, the Franklin River…”

She said: “You have got a good memory.”

I didn’t correct her but, actually, it wasn’t a matter of memory. My friend Harold The Kangaroo painted hundreds of banners for the environmentalists (including himself) who prevented a dam from being built on the Franklin River, which was being maligned at the time as a “leech ridden ditch”. So it was not something I am likely to forget. I am not against all development, but calling the Franklin River a leech ridden ditch was too much.

Harold The Kangaroo also made a very interesting painting – a portrait of Dr Bob Brown combined with a documentation of the protest. 

The painting is fantastic. It is called Dr Brown and Green Old Time Waltz and it now hangs in The National Portrait Gallery of Australia.

Dr Brown and Green Old Time Waltz – the 1983 paining by Harold (The Kangaroo) Thornton

I met Harold (The Kangaroo) Thornton and his fiancée Ms. Bean the first time I visited the artist Martin Sharp’s grand home, Wirian, in Sydney. When he was a kid, Martin’s route to school was to walk across his own garden, which would have taken about ten minutes.

Martin Sharp, who was described as “Australia’s greatest pop artist” by the Sydney Morning Herald

Martin let Harold The Kangaroo and Ms. Bean stay at Wirian whenever they wanted. 

When I was staying at Wirian, I could always tell when Harold and Ms. Bean were there because they bought huge steaks for Martin’s dogs and I would trip over the steaks in the dark when I came home from working in Kings Cross (in Sydney) at five in the morning. They used to just throw the steaks out on the doormat outside the kitchen entrance. It was a little weird, tripping over steaks, but I didn’t mind because it was a signal that my friends Ms. Bean and Harold had arrived.

Harold (The Kangaroo) Thornton in front of The Bulldog coffee shop in Amsterdam. He painted the facade of the building,

I loved Martin Sharp (we all did, because he was so kind and generous) but I thought it was kind of funny, the way his former school and neighbour, the elite Cranbook School, was inching towards his Wirian mansion. He was determined that they would not get their hands on the rambling house and grounds in one of Australia’s most affluent postcodes. I am not certain but, as I recall, when Martin had to pay property tax, he would sell a couple of inches of land to the school. 

When I dislocated my shoulder and broke my humerus, I was in St Vincent’s Hospital (in Sydney) for a month. About three weeks into my recovery, Ms. Bean and Harold liberated me from the hospital for an afternoon and brought me to some apartment to watch the Mae West/W.C.Fields film My Little Chickadee.

After I got out of St Vincent’s I went back to stripping in Kings Cross, with my arm in a sling. I dressed as a friendly sexy clown and wore hats by Mr Individual when I stripped.

I had three hats which were by far the finest hats I have ever owned. 

Anna Smith on her release from hospital in Vancouver this week

Ms. Bean was a visual and performance artist. She also designed clothing sometimes: one-off pieces for herself and her friends.

She told me that, if I was going to be seen in Sydney, I needed to be seen in something sexy. So she made me a cute little punky miniskirt out of artist’s canvas with a matching top and I wore it everywhere, on stage and off. 

I would ride home from Kings Cross on my bicycle in it.

The top had no sides, just a front and a back and it tied at the waist with stringy shreds of pink Lycra. The top and the skirt had splattered paint patterns – orange, pink, black and droplets of neon green on the unfinished canvas. 

It looked like maybe someone had thrown a birthday cake against a wall. 

It was very beautiful.

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