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The Day I Met The Queen. Kind of.

Like many others, I was not surprised, but still a little shocked when Queen Elizabeth II recently passed away. We knew she had been suffering from various maladies for some time. And, of course, she was 96 years old.

But watching her welcoming the new UK Prime Minister, Liz Truss at Balmoral, I thought the Queen still looked pretty well. I did remember wondering if this would be the last Prime Minister of her reign.

Then, only two days later, Queen Elizabeth II was gone.

Oddly enough, I had been watching a documentary series on her life in the days leading up to that. I admired her dedication and commitment, and certainly her endurance. Actually, I find the history of the British monarchy rather fascinating.

My father, however, had no use for them.

I remember when Charles and Diana arrived in Victoria after the opening ceremonies of Expo ’86. My Dad was visiting us at the time.

I packed my baby daughter in the car and and convinced Dad to come with us down to an area where I knew the Royal entourage would pass by on their way from the airport. I parked the car and carried my daughter down to the street corner to watch, but my father refused to get out of the car.

He would have nothing to do with them.

His Royal resentment stemmed from his younger days, back in time when Remittance men were sent from Britain to somewhere else in the Empire, usually Canada, Australia or New Zealand.

A Remittance man was, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia, “a term once widely used, especially in the West before WWI, for an immigrant living in Canada on funds remitted by his family in England, usually to ensure that he would not return home and become a source of embarrassment.”

These guys were the black sheep, trouble makers, the male failures whose rich families wanted to get them out of sight and out of mind. Sometimes the poor little rich boys redeemed themselves in the countries they were sent to. Sometimes not.

My father had mentioned the history of the Remittance men to me several times as I was growing up. He hated the fact that Canada was a dumping ground for the British elite’s undesirables, and he blamed the British monarchy.

And let’s face it, the British Royals have a long and very complicated history.

But I was oblivious to all of this in 2002 when I decided to watch the parade of cars carrying the Queen and Prince Phillip as they visited Victoria during her Golden Jubilee.

I drove to Blanshard Street near Hillside and parked. I saw a group of people standing along the sidewalk, so I joined them and waited. There were maybe 20 or 30 of us.

Police motorcycles rolled up to stop traffic along the intersection, so we knew the motorcade was coming.

And then we saw it. The Queen’s car apparently spotted our little group, so they drove up and stopped right in front of us. The Queen was in the back seat, her window rolled down, but I couldn’t quite see her face.

There was only stillness.

The silence made me feel awkward. Everyone just stood there quietly, and the Queen simply sat. I wanted to be welcoming and share my enthusiasm for her visit.

So it was with the best of intentions that I, in my most Monty Python-esque voice, called out “Helllooooo!”

I had no idea about protocol. You’re not supposed to speak to the Queen until she speaks first.

Doh.

The car pulled away and that was that.

I’m sure Queen Elizabeth had to endure many similarly awkward moments over the years, and the one I created would be soon forgotten by her.

But not by me. I’ll never forget the day I met the Queen. Kind of.

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Don’t Read Twitter, Read A Book

My Dad, like many older children of the “Dirty 30’s”, never finished school and instead had to go and find work to help his family survive the Depression. But he was an intelligent person and driven to learn more about the world, so he did that through reading books and newspapers and anything else he could get his hands on at the time.

Reading was his education, especially when it came to world events and war history. He referred to historical events all the time as I was growing up.

I was not interested in history in the least, so I would simply roll my eyes at him.

When he passed away in 2013, he left quite a library of books behind. I gave family and friends a chance to take what they wanted, and then donated the rest to the Times Colonist Book Drive. I hung on to one or two of them for myself.

One book is titled “The Bitter Years” by Richard Petrow. My Dad referred to that book often, and for that reason I decided to keep it.

The book is about the German invasion and occupation of Denmark and Norway during the Second World War. My family is Danish on both sides, and my mother lived in Denmark during the German occupation.

About 2 or 3 weeks ago, I decided that maybe I should start reading it myself. Considering the war that is going on right now in the Ukraine, and potential war elsewhere in the world, I thought the topic was more relevant than ever.

The book is very detailed and sometimes overwhelming, but I am dedicated to finishing it and maybe learning a few things along the way. Actually, I’ve learned a lot already.

Reading a book takes time, and even patience. And in this world of tweets and tik toks, we’ve become conditioned to getting it all said and done in 280 characters or less.

Not only that, but we often believe what we read in a tweet without making the effort of finding out for sure if it is true.

Maybe we’ll even re-tweet it. I’m ashamed to say that I have done that myself.

As we know, social media has lead to all sorts of misinformation and misunderstandings. How different the world would be if we actually had to educate ourselves about something before re-tweeting it!

I know. That’s not going to happen.

When the internet and Google and Twitter came to be, I was worried about public libraries. What would happen to them?

I worked in a public library for several years and learned so much from that experience.

During that time a lot of people relied on libraries for information, from students, to researchers, to writers. Even teachers. Librarians would be answering questions on the phone or in person day and night.

There were all kinds of calls. Some of them interesting. Some, not so much.

On a Friday or Saturday night, you might get a call from a couple of guys at the bar who’d been arguing over who the first Major League Baseball team was.

Whatever the question and wherever it came from, librarians were trained to find the correct answer.

For a period of time I worked on the switchboard at the library, so my job was to direct questions to the appropriate department. One day I got a call from someone who wanted to know how to waterproof a zipper.

How to waterproof a zipper. I really had to think about where to direct that question. So, I thought, probably not the Sociology Department. Not Language and Literature. Ah! The Science and Technology department. That was it! I put the call through.

These days we Google everything, but Google isn’t university trained like a librarian is.

The good news is that libraries have changed and adapted to modern technology, and have remained very relevant and popular.

There is no excuse to not read a book about something and educate yourself. With a library card, you can also borrow e-books so you don’t even have to go there.

And they have plenty of audio books too. So you don’t even have to read.

And me, when I’m not focusing on my history book, I am into cozy mysteries. But that’s for a whole ‘nother chapter.

Oh, and by the way, the first MLB team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

I Googled it.

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We Are Stardust – Following The James Webb Telescope

I sat on the swing set with my best friend Shirley, staring out at the blue, blue sky on a summer day many years ago. We wondered about the stars and the sun and how certain words in our vocabulary came to be. That was the nature of our young friendship – pondering the mysteries of the universe.

Not long after, on July 20th, 1969, I was in Shirley’s living room watching the blurred black and white TV images of Neil Armstrong taking his first step on the moon. “One small step for man…” he began. It was wonderous.

We went outside and tried to find the moon in the day time sky, but couldn’t. Still, we somehow understood that we’d never look at it exactly the same way again, because now we knew human beings had been there. It was forever changed.

I thought about that the other day when I saw the first pictures coming in from the James Webb Telescope on the NASA website. Look how far we’ve come, I thought.

I don’t like saying the word “awesome” too much because it’s overused these days. But those pictures were definitely awesome.

That the James Webb Telescope was even able to blast off was, in itself, a huge feat. Over the years it was being built, there were many cost and scheduling issues. Lots of little things went wrong along the way, and it almost got cancelled completely.

And just imagine the pressure there was to make sure the telescope was as perfect as they could get it before it launched. Because once it was way out there in space, there was no going back.

When it finally left the earth on December 25th, 2021, more than $10 Billion had been spent. And a lot of people were pretty nervous.

Would it get to where it was supposed to go? Would it unfold properly? Would it work at all?

As we saw the other day, it exceeded expectations.

Stephan’s QuintetMany Million Light Years Away

All of the pictures were spectacular and mesmerizing, but the one that struck me most was Stephan’s Quintet, seen above. First of all, I didn’t realize it, but Stephan’s Quintet is something I’ve seen many times before.

A couple of minutes into the 1946 film “It’s A Wonderful Life”, there is a scene where the angels are praying for George Bailey. The angels are represented by an animation of Stephan’s Quintet, having a conversation.

I never knew that that.

The Carina Nebula photo is also stunning, with sparkling, golden cloud dusts beneath millions of twinkling stars.

The most amazing, mind boggling thing to me is the fact that in those photos, we are looking far into the past. In some cases, we are looking back many millions of light years.

Light years. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that concept.

The telescope’s main mission will last 5 to 10 years, but its expected lifespan will be up to 20 years, similar to the Hubble telescope. Just imagine what scientists, and the rest of us, will learn from it by then.

Maybe we’ll discover all kinds of new things, including ways to help ourselves, and, especially, our tiny blue planet.

As Joni Mitchell sang:

We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to find our way back to the garden.

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COVID Is Still Out There

Like many others, I’ve spent the last two and a half years diligently washing my hands, wearing masks, and trying to avoid larger crowds and risky situations. And I’ll continue to do so as long as this virus keeps circling the planet.

Now the experts tell us another wave is coming and may already have started. No matter how fed up we are with this, it isn’t going to go away any time soon.

To be honest, I was pretty smug about my success at keeping COVID at bay. Until…

About a week after he retired, my husband went on a trip to Palm Springs with a couple of other family members. It was a way to rest up, soak in the pool, and re-imagine what his life was going to look like.

He came home the Friday before Father’s Day, and so on the Sunday our adult daughters dropped by for a family barbeque.

That evening before bed, he started to feel a bit of a scratchy throat.

Oh, oh.

He took a COVID test just in case, and it came out negative. By the next morning, however, it was showing a faint positive.

Since we have a relatively big house, I immediately moved my things to the upper floor in a desperate attempt to reduce my exposure and stave off the virus. I still had two weeks of work left before I retired from teaching guitar, and I was not going to let my students down.

I did send them all emails to let them know our situation, and a number of them opted not to come for their lesson that first week. But a couple of days after my husband got it, three of us, my daughter, her boyfriend and I, started feeling the first symptoms.

Interestingly, my other daughter and the two family members who went with my husband to Palm Springs, didn’t get it.

I spent most of the last two weeks of my teaching career in bed, sick as a dog.

Ours was not the mild form of the virus by any means. We had fevers and body aches, headaches, brain fog, loss of appetite, loss of taste and smell, sore throats, stuffed heads….you name it. It was nasty.

It came in waves. One set of symptoms would start to peter off and then other symptoms began. It seemed never ending.

And then, over the next couple of weeks, the symptoms started to ease and we all finally tested negative.

Now here I am on my first “official” week of retirement, rid of this rotten virus for good. I hope.

The thing is, the experts tell us we could still become re-infected with either another variant or the same one again. Not only that, but it’s possible that the next infection could deliver even worse symptoms. I don’t want to hear it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just get rid of the darn thing and never have to suffer through it again? Nope. It doesn’t work that way.

It keeps mutating and variating and having its way with us. The most we can do is get vaccinated and boosted in order to keep it from being even more serious.

I’ll be first in line for the next booster.

Having now experienced COVID, I’ve become more acutely aware of protecting myself and others from it. If I was starting to be just a little complacent about this virus before, this bout has now commanded my complete attention.

I also feel a deep sense of gratitude now. First and foremost, I’m grateful that my family are all well again.

I’m also very grateful for the many experts who have put their heads together to find ways to lesson the impact of this virus. I will continue to follow their guidance because I know my experience could have been so much worse.

And last but not least, I’m deeply grateful to be able to sit out on my back deck with a full heart and finally start enjoying my retirement!

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Michael Woloshen – That’s A Wrap!

You might not know his name, but if you’ve watched CHEK Television at any time over the last 42 years, you’ve seen his work many times over.

January 2nd, 1980 was Michael Woloshen’s first day on the job at CHEK as a commercial writer/producer. He came to Vancouver Island from Richmond where he had lived with his family since 1969. Before that they lived in Boucherville Quebec, a suburb of Montreal where Michael was born.

His Dad, Andy Walsh, was a well known radio broadcaster both in Montreal and Vancouver.

Michael’s passion for television began back in the early 1960’s around the age of 7, when he got the chance to be in the audience for a local Montreal children’s television show called “The Johnny Jellybean Show”. It ran in the afternoon and was a big hit for CFCF-TV at a time when local television was mostly live.

Michael remembers being dazzled by the lights and the cameras in the huge studio. He also got to play a part in another children’s show later on, and, like a lot of kids from the 60’s, he recalls sitting at home with his many siblings surrounding their new black and white television.

From that time on, he was a TV guy. He was also a bit of a ham.

Michael (left) as Tweedle Dum in “Through The Looking Glass”

In school, he participated in music and in drama, getting parts in high school plays like Through The Looking Glass and Tom Jones. Even after graduating from high school, he joined a local community theatre for the production of Bye Bye Birdie.

When he had completed high school, he went to BCIT and signed up for their television broadcast communications program. On weekends, he spun a little dough at Shakey’s Pizza.

After graduating from BCIT, he landed a job at Delta Cable. And then Michael’s whole world changed when he saw an ad for a job at CHEK 6 in Victoria. It meant moving to another city all by himself, and starting a new life.

When he first started working in CHEK’s Commercial Production department, the station was located on Epson Drive, right beside the Cedar Hill Golf Course.

Michael began by writing and producing commercials for a number of local businesses. Then he got involved in writing for the children’s television series, “Foufouli” with Dale Read.

He also co-wrote and produced “Highband”, a comedy/variety show featuring music videos and sketches, and “Everyday Things” with children’s entertainer Pat Carfra.

Then there was “A La Carte”, a cooking show which he also co-hosted, the home fixup show “Home Check With Shell Busey”, and “Reel Guy”, where Michael went on camera in his hockey shirt and housecoat, introducing the movie of the week. You had to be there.

There were also the parades. Michael wrote the scripts for and produced the CHEK broadcasts of the Victoria Day Parade and, after a time, Santa’s Light Parade.

Of the countless commercials he has written and produced, the Dodd’s Furniture spots would probably be what many would remember most. Gordy Dodd was always gracious and good humoured, allowing Michael to dress him up as so many memorable and crazy movie and television characters over the years.

Michael with the “cast” of Dodd’s

For all of his work, Michael collected his fair share of awards from B.C.A.B, the British Columbia Association of Broadcasters, and CanPro, the Canadian Television Program Festival. Life was good.

During this time, the station had gone through a move to its present location on Kings Road, and a couple of changes in ownership on top of that.

And then one day, it all came to a grinding halt.

Michael, along with the entire commercial production department, was laid off. It was a cost cutting measure as CHEK and a number of other stations across Canada were put on the market yet again. This was in early 2009, when the world experienced the domino effect of the 2008 stock market crash in the U.S.

For Michael and everyone in his department, it was devastating.

And yet, somehow over the next 9 months, he found a way to employ himself independently, working wherever he could to make ends meet. Even worse news came when CHEK itself was put on the chopping block and was going to shut down completely.

Then, just like in the movies, there came the happy ending. A group of investors stepped up, and along with CHEK’s employees, they put their money together and bought the station. Michael was the first person that was hired back.

On his first day of work, he had to scrounge around just to find a chair and a desk to use. But it was the beginning of completely rebuilding the commercial production department, literally from scratch.

As we sat around the kitchen table the other morning (it’s okay, we’re married), I asked Michael what he enjoyed most about his work.

“Putting all the pieces together,” he said. From coming up with the concept, to writing and shooting and editing all the bits, and finally seeing the end result, that’s what pleases him most. “I mean, there’s lots of aspects of it that are interesting.”

But when I asked him what he wanted to be remembered for, he said that it’s all about the people he has worked with over the years. As an example, he enjoys helping someone who had never been in front of a camera before, getting them to relax and bring out their best performance.

And it’s also about making clients happy. “You have a connection with clients and the goal is to help them with their business and create that message for them.”

But overall, building the production department back from nothing, employing people as a result, and creating so many local television series’, has given him the greatest satisfaction over the last few years.

I might be slightly biased, but I think he’s done a fabulous job.

On Friday, May 27th, Michael moves on to another chapter of his life; retiring after over 40 years of doing what he loves most. You can’t beat that.

So, as Michael has said so many times, “That’s a wrap!”