Star Spangled Boner

Image result for Canadian Barbie

A lot of people ask me the difference between Canadians and Americans. Well, first the facts: our country’s larger, our population’s smaller, Canadian men liked wearing clogs in the ’70s and we’ve never considered testing the viscosity of spray cheese in space a worthwhile scientific endeavour.

I noticed while working abroad that colleagues soon began substituting American with North American in conversation. Such gestures are certainly appreciated but only serve to remind Canadians that while Americans have fifty states, we have only one: self-consciousness. Every Canadian feels guilty knowing their new co-workers are constantly bricking it lest they should inadvertently refer to us as American, a situation which can only ever lead to our greatest export: the apology. We’re famous for apologizing – we even apologize for it. I recognize that, even close up, we look and sound like our U.S. counterparts to most people. The differences are subtle, even to us sometimes. It is, however, my belief that the best way to differentiate between our two cultures is to study America’s greatest cultural icon: Barbie.

America has Malibu Barbie who likes strolling along the beach with the ocean breeze in her hair… Canada has Seal Hunt Barbie who is a crack shot.

Malibu Barbie drives a Dream Camper Van with built-in kitchen and fold-out tent… Ice Road Trucker Barbie cooks roadkill under the hood and homeschools three kids in her sleeper cab.

Prom Queen Barbie comes with her very own makeup and accessories table… Lumberjack Barbie’s sporting a Leafs toque in her wedding photos.

American Barbie hails from Wisconsin, studied in New York and now lives with her parents and younger sisters in California… Canadian Barbie was taken into care after her parents became addicted to online bingo and were caught trying to sell their own kidneys on ebay.

American Barbie dates long-term boyfriend, Ken… Canadian Barbie’s best friend is an orphaned bear cub whose mother was shot dead by two tourists up from Oregon for the weekend.

American Barbie is cosmopolitan and culturally sensitive… Yukon Barbie saw her first Sikh last week and asked him for three wishes.

American Barbie is a role model for her millions of followers on the internet… Canadian Barbie is completely unaware that a video of her bathing in what she thought was a secluded watering hole has placed her in Pornhub’s Top Ten.

Vegetarian Barbie only buys food from locally sourced producers… Marijuana Farm Barbie patrols the perimeter of her property in a JLTV.

American Barbie spent a fun-filled New Year’s Eve with Ken in Times Square… Canadian Barbie pointed out Ursa Major in the night sky to her orphaned bear cub – and apologized.

Hue and Cry

On the news they warn: the city’s now a combat zone

Turned off the TV and went outside to be alone

Some I know are marching, mostly peaceful, others not

Strangers now are asking me if I’m a patriot

Sitting in my garden, how I love the peace and quiet

I’ll fight for a cause but I’m not brave enough to riot

Everyone has history, the grievance lists are long

Who gets to decide whose version’s right and whose is wrong?

Our multi-coloured tapestry is starting to unweave

Can we not live together? Were we just being naive?

I come into my garden for the colours and the light

A joy I’d miss if flowers only came in black and white.

Branch Locator

Scientists Attempt to Make Monkeys Smarter by Adding a Human Gene | Science  Times

Without any apology

I traced my genealogy

In hope I’d find an entry

Replete with well-heeled gentry.

Perhaps a Duke without an heir

Yet to bequeath his titled lair

Or better yet a Duchess

Who’d keep me in her clutches.

I dreamed of billionaire tycoons

Who sipped and supped from silver spoons

Whose present state of wealth

Fared better than their health.

But no! I learned my great-great-gran

Was jailed because she shot a man

Who wooed her in a heath

Then ran off with her teeth.

Another ancestor trained bears

To ride on bikes and dance on chairs

Until they grew to hate him

I guess that’s why they ate him.

Much further back, one of our crowd

Could summon rain down from a cloud

But locals weren’t that smitten

Because they lived in Britain.

If you’ve swung through my family tree

Please have the cheque made out to me

Because this brachiator

Wants paying now, not later.

Constellation Prize

The figure on the mountain knew
Far higher than the eagle flew
Beyond the sun and past the light
Were men who crossed the sky by night.
Soon after dusk their fires appeared
Then slowly, once a course was steered
Their caravan set out en masse
To make its empyreal pass.


Like beasts migrating on the plains
Like swarms that form to greet the rains
He found no word for the amount
Of travelers he sought to count.
A gallery would pass him by
Whose outlines seemed to signify
Proud emblems of a noble clan
Led by an even a greater man.


The bearing, always east to west
Suggested they were on a quest
Or maybe searching for a door
They’d passed through in a time before.
Each night the figure danced and prayed
Around the fire he had made
In hope his kin might see its glow
And teach him all he wished to know.


Then with the last beat from his breast
Great Spirit granted this request
And drew his outline in the sky
That men as he should never die

Seasoned Greetings

When greeting guests in Tokyo

The custom is to bow down low

While in Tibet both old and young

Say hi by sticking out their tongue.

In France it’s chic to peck the cheek

And friends will clap in Mozambique

Though Greenlanders will sniff your face

Before they help you with your case.

Most Eskimos rub nose to nose

In India they touch your toes

And Zambians will squeeze the thumbs

Of visitors considered chums.

Through handshakes, winks and nods we say:

I’m pleased that you dropped by today!

And bless those friends who always know

The sign for when it’s time to go…

Boxing Clever

Last week, I received a surprise phone call from my doctor.
“Mr Ormsby?”
“Yes.”
“Oh, good… so you’re not dead then. It’s Dr Shapiro here. We need to make you an appointment.”
“Club fees due?”
“Not ’til October.”
“Daughter getting married?”
“Chance would be a fine thing.”
“Class action going ahead?”
“It worked on macaques, didn’t it?”
“Okay, you got me,” I conceded defeat.
“I need to buy a roof box for the Porsche,” Dr Shapiro announced. “Mother was due to take the train back to Cornwall on Sunday but they’re going out on strike, so we’ll be going in the car now.”
“Will you get her in a roof box?”
“And herein lies the problem: it’s quite a long journey and I’m worried if she starts fidgeting with her artificial leg she may scratch the interior.”
“You’re unbelievable.”
“The cup holders are African Rosewood.”
“Drill her a few air holes to cover yourself legally.”
“When can you come in then?”
“First, can you tell me why it’s impossible to make an appointment any other time?” I was slightly annoyed.
“Mrs Hashimoto owes money to the Coffee Fund; now she’s too scared to answer the phone.”
“I get the whole ‘honour’ thing but isn’t that being a bit overdramatic?”
“She owes it £6000.”
“Since when?”
“Since a Diversity consultant recommended outsourcing it to the Yakuza.”
“What if something happens to her?”
“Then we’re all going to miss Teriyaki Tuesdays. Can you come in tomorrow at four?”
The next afternoon I found myself seated on what looked like a giant roll of toilet paper which ran the length of an examination table.
“I feel like a garden gnome.”
“That explains the pot belly.”
“I do not have a pot belly.”
“Lay off the beer,” Dr Shapiro admonished while peering into my right ear. “Did you know that earwax is genetic? Depending upon your parents, you’ll have either wet earwax or dry earwax.”
“Did you learn that in medical school?”
“No, on TikTok.”
“If I’ve put on weight then blame lockdown. We were cooped up for months.”
“Exactly which outdoor activities did it prevent you from doing?”
“I walk a lot.”
“It’s not exercise if everybody does it. What else?”
“I garden quite a bit.”
“So does Mrs Hashimoto and she’s a hundred and something,” Dr Shapiro moved on to my lymph nodes. “Any other physical pursuits?”
“How about going shopping?”
“If it’s online then it doesn’t count.”
He had me.
“Does this look like a wart to you?” he held up his index finger.
“Shouldn’t you know that?”
“It looks like one. When you get home have a shower. The last thing you want is a colony of these setting up camp on your todger.”
“You touched me down there knowing you had a wart on your finger?”
“I wasn’t sure before. Hold on, let me get some rubbing alcohol but I do need to warn you: this will really sting.”
“I’ll pay you whatever you want NOT to do that,” I pleaded.
“I’ll let Mother know we’re good to go,” he took out his phone. “Now then, will that be cash or card?”







Model Behaviour

The Gods Must Be Crazy: Movie Classics

“I’m being sued by the Catholic Church again,” Laverne announced in the midst of reorganising her purse.
“I have no words for that.”
“How unlike you,” she mused.
“Hold on, I thought you were working on a piece about the East African Lion,” I suddenly remembered.
“Turns out all they do is sleep. My son can do that.”
“Have you ever been to Africa? I haven’t.”
“Yeah, with my sister for her fortieth. We went on safari in Malawi.”
“So is that where …“
“… my people come from?” Laverne zipped her purse and placed it on the chair next to her. “Couldn’t tell you; the furthest back I’ve been able to trace our roots is to The Shirelles.”
“Ha, ha. Very funny. I was actually going to ask if that’s where your sister went with the Peace Corps.”
“Oops, sorry,” she giggled. “No, that was Mozambique.”
“I’d like to ask you another question though: when you were there, did you feel any connection to it?”

“Funny you should ask that,” she became more pensive. “I expected to feel ‘African’ from the moment I arrived but the whole time we were there I felt like just another tourist. People are people wherever you go so we had that in common. Culturally, however, I struggled to make a connection and that bothered me. I think maybe we’ve been gone too long.”
“I felt the same when I met my Scottish relatives for the first time,” I concurred. “We shared the same name, same sense of humour and some even looked like me but culturally we were raised in two very different worlds.”
“Not even close!” Laverne screamed with laughter. “Honestly, are you kidding me with that? Your parents emigrated using their Air Miles!”

“But their journey to The New World was horrific. First, they ran out of headphones and then they gave my mum’s gluten-free meal to someone else,” I explained. “Anyway, cut me some slack – you’re my only ethnic friend.”
“Hey, I’m your only friend. I’ve got more in common with those lions than I do with you.”
“How so?”
“They don’t like to cook either.”
“And we have our connection!”
“Okay, but back to this business with the Church,” Laverne lowered her voice. “It’s over a certain someone I told you about at Christmas.”
“Is this the same someone with the thing?”
“Yup.”
“And are you telling me they’ve now found the thing?”
“Oh yeah, they found it alright,” she confirmed.
“Was it on him?”
“No, up him.”
“Whoa!” I leaned back in my chair. “And the monkey?”
“Still missing,” she arched an eyebrow.

I love secrets and Laverne knows plenty. A freelance journalist, she moved to the UK from Seattle over thirty years ago after meeting and marrying Elliot, a sound engineer at the BBC. The three of us first met at The Pu Pu Pot, our local Chinese restaurant, after she’d overheard my accent.
“I need some human conversation during our stay on this island! I need someone who doesn’t talk about Bobby Charlton in his sleep!” she blubbered into her chop suey.
“Who’s Robby Carlson?” I asked.
“Exactly!” she cried. “And do you know where I can score some Fruit Loops because the last people to eat porridge were the Vikings.”
That was twenty years ago.

Image result for beautiful spring china

Tonight we were out for our weekly meal at The Pu Pu Pot but without Elliot, who begged off to attend a Bolton Wanderers match.
“What’s the viral load of the Szechuan Chicken today?” Laverne asked.
“Slightly elevated I’m afraid, so I’d be happy to pee on it for you. We Chinese believe that urine possesses magical properties,” our waitress took her on.
“Is that like chlorinated chicken?” I asked.
“Well, if you’d prefer you can bring in a pet and we’ll cook that for you,” she smiled, sweetly.
“We’re gonna need a few more minutes,” Laverne smiled right back at her.
Just then, the kitchen doors swung open to reveal a tiny, sinewy man lifting the lid off a huge cauldron. As he did so, he stepped back to avoid the rush of steam.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
“We’ll be cooking shrimp in it once we take the shirts out,” our waitress stated matter-of-factly. “Would you excuse me for just one moment? I need to inform on my neighbours.”
“She’s good,” Laverne nodded her approval, as she watched the diminutive figure disappear behind the bar. “Is she still in med school?”
“Fourth year.”
“She’ll have them in stitches.”

At one point during the evening Laverne made a visit to the Ladies’. While she was gone, a young woman breezed into the restaurant and joined a waiting friend at a table nearby. Tall, elegant and stylishly attired, she quickly attracted the attention of other diners.
“I’m back,” Laverne announced, resuming her seat. “They have the nicest hand lotion here.”
“Uh huh,” I replied, looking past her at the young woman.
“What’s up with you?” she shot me a quizzical look.
“It’s what’s behind you.”
“What’s behind me?”
“A girl walked in while you were gone and she’s got to be a model. She’s absolutely stunning. Definitely a model.”
“On a scale of 1 to 10?” Laverne asked.
“Ten.”
“Hair?”
“Lustrous.”
“Make-up?”
“None.”
“Height?”
“NBA.”
“She’s got to have a flaw, everyone has a flaw.”
“If she does, I can’t see it.”
“Maybe it’s hidden,” she chewed on her bottom lip. “Slug feet?”
“Killer farts.”
“Fifty bucks says she uses disconnect as a noun.”
“Another fifty says she has plans to name her first daughter Chandelier.”
“Hmm… not even a split end?” Laverne wasn’t having it.
“Turn around and see for yourself if you don’t believe me.”
“Have I taught you nothing?” she reached for her purse. “Watch and learn, my friend… okay, which shoulder?”
“Left.”
She took out her compact and opened it, angling the mirror until she caught sight of her quarry over her left shoulder. At that same moment, the young woman put on her reading glasses and picked up a menu. Closing the compact with a snap, Laverne chuckled to herself, then leaned across the table and whispered, “Four-Eyes.”

Captain’s Log

Sir Francis Drake had what it takes

To sail around the world

And followed in Magellan’s wake

With England’s flag unfurled.

Along his route he plundered loot

Until the hold was packed

With millions from Brazilians

And the Spaniards he attacked.

On his return, the English yearned

To learn of far off places

Of queens and perils unforeseen

And men with painted faces.

Bess knighted Francis on his ship

While desperately hoping

He’d share his tips for crispy chips

And how to blow a smoke ring.

Soon after he was off again

And set sail heading west

But Fortune soon abandoned him

In this, his final quest.

Sir Francis survived cannon balls

And arrows tipped with poison

But in the end, when Nature called

It ravaged then destroyed him

For dysentery killed our man

Then almost caused a shipwreck

That’s why they sealed him in a can

And christened it the poop deck

Local Weirdough

“I’ve gone into hiding.”

“We’re in a Pizza Hut.”

“That’s what they want you to think,” Laverne lowered her voice. “Look around… what do you see?”

“Happy fat people.”

All of them?”

“All the ones eating pizza,” I was able to confirm.

“What about him on his own over at the salad bar? What’s his story?”

“That’s a woman.”

“Okay, whatever, but ask yourself this: what type of person comes to Pizza Hut to load up on celery?”

“Maybe she’s the nurse.”

“Restaurants don’t have nurses.”

“This one should.”

“John, what am I always telling you?”

“It’s only a phase?”

“That was your mother.”

“Never make eye contact while eating a banana?”

“That was your cellmate.”

“If someone’s crying don’t ask them if it’s because of their haircut?”

 “There are two types of people in this world: those who like pizza and -”

“- nurses?”

“Communists.”

“You’re why aliens don’t talk to us.”

“The Macarena is why aliens don’t talk to us,” Laverne sniffed. “Anyway, I need to talk to you about something else.”

“Shoot.”

“How can I get myself into The Bible?”

“Oh my God…”

“Is that what I should do? Should I pray?”

“That wasn’t praying.”

“Then you, my friend, have just blasphemed,” Laverne waved a menacing finger in my direction.

“Since when have you been religious?”

“Pam’s published an eBook.”

“And…”

“It’s a collection of poems which are just dreadful.”

“So…”

“I think one’s about me.”

“Because…”

“It tells the story of a beautiful Mesopotamian goddess.”

“You’re from Wisconsin.”

“Maybe it wasn’t always called that.”

“So, you’re thinking that if you’re a goddess you should be in the same book as God.”

“I should at least be on the cover with Him,” Laverne reasoned.

“Right, here comes the waitress so would you please come out from under the table?”

“Are you ready to order?” the young woman asked.

“Have all of these animals on the menu been freshly killed?” Laverne enquired, emerging to take her seat.

“Please excuse my friend, she’s Mesopotamian,” I interjected.

“Uh huh…” the waitress was going to need a lot more.

“She was just looking for somewhere to bury the leftovers.”

“You’re not really allowed to do that,” she advised us.

“Then I’ll just have the buffet special,” Laverne set down her menu.

“Anything to drink?”

“I’ve just topped up my gourd so that won’t be necessary, thank you.”

“I’ll have the Buffet Special and a Coke,” I jumped in again.

The waitress stared at her pad, unsure of what to write.

“Two Buffets Specials and one Coke.”

“Right,” she sighed with relief. “You confused me there for a minute.”

“I apologise,” Laverne continued, “it’s just that all of this takes me back.”

“All of what?” the waitress asked.

“These ancient murals. That one, for example, is it Babylonian?”

“That’s Cher at The Oscars.”

“So it’s not a mummy then?”

“I can check, if you’d like.”

“Would you?”

“I’ll be right back with your drink so please help yourself to the buffet,” the girl managed to get out, before backing into the table behind her on her way to the kitchen.

“Mesopotamia?” Laverne laughed.

“From a mud hut to Pizza Hut within the blink of an evil eye.”

“We’ve got her on the run, poor thing.”

“Excuse me, but did you find your earring?” a dashing maître d’ approached our table.

“How did you know that’s what I was looking for?” Laverne asked, delighted.

“It’s my job to notice everything. For example, I also noticed that you didn’t order a drink. May I get you one now?”

“A gin and tonic would be lovely,” came the order.

“When I return, I’ll help you look for your earring,” he promised, before waltzing off.

“Dark and swarthy with an accent. Good thing he wasn’t selling sand because you’d have ordered it as a starter.”

“You know us Valley Girls,” Laverne sighed, “we just can’t resist a man in cuneiform.”

Emotional Baggage

Several years ago while travelling around Ukraine I entered the only shop in a remote village to buy a couple of cold drinks. Placing my purchases on the counter, the elderly shopkeeper tallied my bill on an abacus then pushed it toward me. Not entirely up to speed on ancient counting tools which predate our own numeral system, I played it safe and handed him the equivalent of $5 in Ukrainian money. This, apparently, posed a problem and he asked if I had anything smaller. I replied, regrettably, that I did not. Thinking on it, he disappeared into the back before returning with a duckling which he duly handed over as my change.

The problem with holiday brochures is that they rarely cover an abacus/duck scenario. The pictures in them are enticing but the language is, at best, euphemistic and at worst, a flat out lie. And while it’s true that every situation can’t be covered, a bit of a heads-up regarding waterfowl as legal tender would go a long way for novices like moi.

Image result for cute funny duck

Here then, is a list of terms from holiday brochures with their true meanings:

in-flight meal: UN ration with complimentary poppadom

in-flight entertainment: the sequel to the remake of the original, only this one’s set in the future where everyone can fly and stuff

short transfer to hotel: bring earplugs

car rental: how are you at changing a tire?

bus service: you may be seated next to a goat in labour

local delicacies: if we can catch it, we’ll cook it

chef’s special: cake with a fly on top

all-inclusive resort: venture off the property and odds are you’ll be kidnapped

in-house entertainment: an old man who takes out his artificial eye for the kids

cultural sensitivities: lose the Trump hat

conservative: lose the rainbow flag beach towel

stunning wildlife: pack an anti-venom kit

365 days of sunshine: no redheads

steeped in history: if they ask, tell them you’re Canadian

friendly locals: the waiter has just asked if he can marry your daughter

vibrant nightlife: gunfire

local amenities: you’re sharing a well with two other villages

stunning scenery: ignore the oil refinery

exotic spices: stick to ketchup

unspoiled wilderness: don’t go in unarmed

tranquil setting: abandoned due to an ebola outbreak

health clinic: the vet will see you now

museum exhibits: those artefacts our country forgot to cart off when we left sharpish 150 years ago