Sunday, 15 February 2015

Reminiscences of a Military Brat (Part 3) - Down to the Maritimes

We lived in Bagotville until 1961(ish) and then my Dad was transferred (or posted as we call it) to a new job at a new base, that being RCAF Station Chatham, New Brunswick. It was a relatively big base, at least to me, located on the Miramichi River by the towns of Chatham and Newcastle. We were there from 1961 until 1967, when we were transferred to Germany, but more about that in future Blogs.

The happy family, with a new addition (more about that later)
A lot of my growing up occurred in Chatham. The move, itself, was the first that I remember and I found it very traumatic. I'd grown up in Bagotville and all my friends were there and here we were, moving from the interior of Quebec to the East Coast. It was quite frightening and depressing for me and I will admit that one of the aspects of being a military brat that I liked the least was losing friends and having to start over again. It went against my personality as I wasn't the most outgoing person. Now, having said that, I always had friends wherever we ended up but at times I envy those people who lived their lives in one community and had the same friends from childhood until their adult lives. Each type of life has its advantage and disadvantages, I realize that and I wouldn't have given up mine for anything. I did get to see a great many locations throughout the world and it's made me an independent person who has been able to adjust to new locations and new jobs relatively easily.

Anyway, enough blathering, let's talk about Chatham. In this extract, I'll probably focus on school and if I still have a lot to say, I'll continue talking about Chatham in a second Blog. Firstly, we lived at 623 Charlottetown Crescent (I'm pretty sure that was the address) for the whole six years that we were in Chatham. It was a bigger house than we had lived in at Bagotville; a brick fronted row house with three bedrooms upstairs, a nice living room, dining room and kitchen on the ground floor and a huge basement that we could always play in. We were the end unit of 4 units in our row. On either side were two bigger units with eight house in them and the three homes kind of formed a big V, with a nice little field and playground in the middle of them.

That's me back row, middle in the dark jacket and tie.
I started Grade 2 in Chatham and over our stay there, completed up to Grade 6 and then 3/4's of Grade 7.  I went to the D.L. MacLaren School, which was located centrally in the Housing area, about a 5 or 10 minute walk from our home. It had from Grade Kindergarten (I guess, I didn't hang with those kids.. ) and up to Grade 6. Grade 7's and, I believe, 8's went to a small school that was located on the military base proper, kind of an overflow classroom. Ricky and Christine both went to schools downtown as they were in high school. I believe, because they both had started in the Quebec school system, which had a higher standard of education than New Brunswick at that time, that they both skipped a grade with we moved to Chatham. They went to different high schools, Ricky to St Thomas?? (a Catholic boys school anyway) and Christine to Chatham High. I don't know much about their schools so I won't go into that in any detail. I think they had a good time, they were both very outgoing and very smart kids.

Me the nerd even then
My first teacher was Miss Flynn. I think she was pretty strict but not overly. I was a bit of a teacher's pet anyway or at least I did well enough that I never had to worry about the strap or that sort of thing. I don't know that I actually recall a teacher giving the strap, although it's possible. My grade 5 teacher used to like to throw chalk about the room when we were too rambunctious and I found myself placed amongst the chattier kids for some reason. I think he thought I might be a good influence or something. lol!

Yes, I was a smartie
All in all school was great. As you can see, I did pretty well, even if it was just the New Brunswick school system I can't think of a year that I didn't get an honour certificate or even most years a Perfect Attendance certificate. I remember being awarded a copy of Black Beauty one year and Tom Sawyer another. I did love reading. There were so many activities at school. Gym class was always fun. The school had a huge gymnasium and we could play almost any sport on the floor, dodge ball, floor hockey, broom ball. The school had an outdoor skating rink that could be used in the winter. I wasn't a great skater so I didn't play hockey, just road hockey with my buddies.

Grade 6, in the front row as per normal, right next to Mr. Carmichael
In grade 4 or 5, I discovered the joy of the Scholastic book club. I used to order books regularly; my parents were great encouragers of reading for enjoyment. Grade 6 was my last year at the D.L. MacLaren proper. I do wish I could remember everyone's name from each year, but it's been so long. I do remember having a powerful crush on Paula Shaw, second row, middle and even asking her to go to the movies with me. (more about after school activities in my next entry).  I think I also went to my first school dance in Grade 6 and was allowed to come home at 11 p.m.
In my last year of schooling in Chatham, I started Grade 7 at the school on the base. It was a hefty walk, especially in the winter and we still had to go home for lunch each day. For the Catholics amongst us, at least once a week, we had to stay for Religious instruction, which meant a rush home for lunch, then a rush back for classes. My favourite teacher of my years in Chatham was my Grade 7 teacher, Miss Linda Lee, a young, lovely teacher, full of enthusiasm and ideas. I think we all had a crush on her. She let us bring radios to class in the fall so we could listen to the World Series games, between the St Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox (as most games were in the afternoon). We did projects on the Montreal Exposition.
My last report card, see my last day is Mar 26/ 68
I got all sorts of neat information about the various countries. She also got us started with curling; I think my dad may have helped her. I wish I had a class photo from Grade 7 but we moved in Mar of the year and I missed the last 3 months of school and finished it in Germany. My marks for the last three months showed how I adapted at first to a new, harder schooling system at the school in Germany.
Ready for a school photo
All in all, my schooling in Chatham was fun, I had many friends, John Wilson, Billy McSepheny (I know I'm spelling that wrong), Patrick Wilson and so many others. We learned a lot, I think and we took part in so many activities. I will say we didn't go on school trips like my children have when they were in school, but it didn't seem to matter. Our after school and summer activities made up for that so very much. I'll talk more about that in my next entry. I hope you enjoyed this.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

February 2015 Update

It's been a little while since my last entry. Sorry about that, this working full-time for awhile has meant a bit less time at the computer when I'm at home. (Or I'm just lazy)

So let's see, what to update. February has been a reasonable month so far, when it comes to reading. I've completed 4 books so far. My favourite book of the month has been Zoo Station by David Downing, the first in a series of spy/ war adventures set during WWII and featuring reporter John Russell, who finds himself getting involved in ways he never anticipated. Definitely a five-star read for me. This was my review.
"I was very pleasantly surprised by this mystery/ thriller. I rarely give 5 - star ratings to mystery/ thrillers, but this was an such an engrossing story. It's my first book by David Downing, the first in his John Russell series. Russell is a British reporter living in Berlin just before WWII as the Nazis are consolidating power in the country and beginning to make waves in the world. He's a bit of a cynic, reporting on small items, making ends meet, living with his girl friend, German actress, Effi and spending time with his German son, Paul on weekends. While in Danzig gathering information for a news article, he meets a Russian spy who offers to pay him well to write a series of stories on Germany, a comparison between Communism and Socialism (and maybe also provide the Soviets with information useful to them). Russell is also given a job teaching a Jewish family English, a family who are trying to gain exit visas from Germany (as are countless other Jews at that time). Russell finds himself becoming more and more involved in issues, trying to help the Jewish family, trying to avoid the Gestapo, and so on. It's a very well-written story and the development of Russell's character is carefully and well-crafted. I liked many of the characters; I think I've got a bit of a crush on Effi. The story builds tension excellently, the story keeps you deeply engrossed. All in all, I'm glad I discovered this and look forward to continuing to see how Russell manages to survive in Nazi Germany as war becomes more and more of a given and also to see what other situations he will find himself in. Excellent!!"

I've also completed Crash by JG Ballard, a strange SciFi book about people who become obsessed with car crashes as a sexual stimulant (sort of). Very weird, but engrossing. I just completed The Merchant's House, the first Wesley Peterson mystery by Kate Ellis and I enjoyed it very much. An interesting concept, throwing in an archaeological element as well as a child disappearance and a murder. Are they related? You'll have to read. Finally, I finally read The Moonstone, described as the first detective novel. It's my first classic read of the year and I found it both accessible and also interesting. I enjoyed how the story progressed; with different characters taking up the story and describing their part in the mystery. Excellent read and I'm glad I finally read a Wilkie Collins story.

Currently Reading

I've got three books on the go at the moment and they are a nice mix. I just started The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and I'm liking already. It's difficult to describe as I've just started, but it's set in an alternate future or fantastical future, maybe. Thursday Next is a Special Operative who works in the Literature division, but has now been seconded to a different organization and is tracking a terrorist who has kidnapped Jane Eyre? Well, that's what it seems like so far. Nothing is really what it seems so far, but I'm enjoying trying to get into it. I'm also reading The Absent One, the second Department Q mystery, one of the Scandinavian crime series, this one by Jussi Adler-Olsen and set in Denmark. I enjoyed the first book very much and this one flows just as nicely. Interesting story so far. My third book is a re-read for me. I read The Borribles by Michael de Larrabeiti back in the mid-80s and recall enjoying very much. I've had the books on my shelf since then and I figure it's time to revisit the first book and see if I enjoy it as much. So far, so good. The Borribles are edgy Borrowers who live in London and scrounge and hide amongst us. In this story a special team of 8 Borrowers are sent to kill the leadership of the Rumbles, basically rats, who are encroaching on Borrower territory. Excellent stuff..

New Books

I bought a few books today at Nearly New Books and last week, scored one at Second Page Books in Courtenay. These are the new additions to my book shelves.

1. The Troop by Nick Cutter (Horror) - This was recommended by one of my goodreads friends. It definitely sounded interesting and I don't read much horror. "Once a year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip - a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder stumbles upon their campsite - shockingly thin, disturbingly pale and voraciously hungry - Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bio engineered nightmare. A horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival with no escape from the elements, the infected... or one another."

2. Murder on Sisters' Row by Victoria Thompson (Historical Mystery) - I've read three books in this series, which features midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy, two companions in 19th century New York, who have been thrown together and find themselves working to solve crimes. It's an interesting and well-written series so far. This is the 13th book in the Gaslight mysteries. "Summoned to an elegant house to deliver a baby, Sarah finds her patient is actually in a brothel. The young woman is being held against her will and forced to prostitute herself - and that the madam intends to get rid of the baby. To rescue the new mother and her infant, Sarah secures the assistance of Mrs. Vivian Van Orner, a woman of means known for her charitable work. But their success comes at a high price when Mrs. Van Orner is found murdered. With Malloy's help, Sarah's investigation uncovers some unpleasant truths about the victim and her charity - as well as the woman and child Sarah risked her own life to save.. "

3. The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch (Historical Mystery) - I read the first book in this series, The Hangman's Daughter, last year and it was definitely one of my favourite books of 2014. While I was exploring Nearly New Books this morning, I noticed they had 4 of the series on their bookshelves. I was tempted to buy them all, but showed great restraint and limited myself to Book 2. I'm looking forward to starting this one. "1660: winter has settled thick over a sleepy village in the Bavarian Alps, ensuring that every farmer and servant is indoors the night a parish priest discovers he's been poisoned. As numbness creeps up his body, he summons the last of his strength to scratch a cryptic sign in the frost. Following a trail of riddles, hangman Jakob Kuisl, his headstrong daughter Magdalena and the town physician's son team up with the priest's aristocratic sister t investigate. What they uncover will lead them back to the Crusades, unlocking a troubled history of internal church politics and sending them on a chase for a treasure of the Knights Templar. but they're not the only ones after the legendary fortune. A team of dangerous and mysterious monks is always close behind, tracking their every move, speaking Latin in the shadows, giving off a strange intoxicating scent. And to throw the hangman off their trail, they have made sure he is tasked with capturing a band of thieves roving the countryside, attacking solitary travellers and spreading panic." (that's the problem with visiting book stores, I want to read them as soon as I buy new books.. lol)

4. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (Paranormal fantasy) - Jo and I have been enjoying the TV series based on this book series and have just started Season 2 on Space. I enjoy it so much, I thought it would be worthwhile to start reading the books. This is the first in the series. "Elena Michaels is the worlds' only female werewolf - and she's tired of it. Tired of a life spent hiding and protecting, tired of a world that not only accepts the worst in her - her temper, her violence - bur requires it. Worst of all, Elena realizes she's growing content with that life, with being that person. Overwhelmed by the new passions coursing through her body, Elena leaves the Pack and moves to the city to try living as a human. When the Pack leader calls to ask for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him. Once this is over, she'll be squared with the Pack and free to live life as a human. Which is what she wants. Really."

5. The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill (British mystery) - This is the third instalment in the Simon Serrailler series. I was introduced to Susan Hill by her horror novel, The Woman in Black, but I wanted also to try this mystery series. I enjoyed the second book in the series. "Children have been vanishing. There are no leads, no closure for the families - just a kidnapper at large. The police have failed, the families are distraught and morale at Lafferton station has collapsed. Then Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler receives a call: a child has been snatched in Yorkshire. Has the abductor struck again? And will they find this child alive?"

6. The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters (Mystery) - Minette Walters is one of my favourite mystery writers. I've read about six of her books and enjoyed every one. They are all standalone and I enjoy the psychological aspects of her stories and her character and story development. She is an intelligent writer. "With private security firms supplying bodyguards in every theater of war, who will notice the emergence of a sexual psychopath from the ranks of the mercenaries? Reuters correspondent Connie Burns is no stranger to the world's trouble spots, including the vicious civil unrest in Sierra Leone and the war in Iraq. but as she begins to suspect that a foreigner is using the chaos of war to act out sadistic fantasies against women, her efforts to bring him to justice leave her devastated. Degraded and terrified, she goes into hiding in England and strikes up a friendship with Jess Derbyshire, a loner whose reclusive nature may well be masking secrets of her own. Connie draws from the other woman's strength and makes the hazardous decision to attempt a third unmasking of a serial killer."

So there you go, another update. I can't wait to start some of these new books!

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