Monday, 26 October 2015

Reminiscences of a Military Brat - Part 17 (University continued and some summer activities)

University winding down (3rd or 4th year)
In my last entry, I tried to focus mostly on my last three years of university. Each summer in between I was sent off for either educational training or on-job training. For the life of me, I can't remember which summer I did which, but to the best of my foggy recollections, after my second year at university (when I learnt that Political Science was not going to be my main study program), my brother sent me to Canadian Forces Base Halifax, our main Navy base on the East Coast of Canada.
CFB Halifax Dockyard (It's changed a lot)
 I spent that summer learning how to be a Supply officer, working in the Base Supply Section as the Customer Services officer. Another officer cadet, a fellow logistician, Wayne Haggart was sent down there as well and worked in the Ration Depot. There were 4 officer cadets living in the same building behind the Wardroom (the Officer's Mess); Wayne and I plus a pharmacist, Gary, and a MARS (Navy type) officer, Roger. The four of us had a great time, travelling to Cape Breton Island to visit Sydney, N.S. and Fort Louisburg during the Canada Day weekend and spending most weekends wandering around the pubs downtown Halifax (I must apologise here for not having any photos of this portion of my life, but I can't seem to find that particular photo album. You'll just have to imagine it). Work was very interesting for me, my first real exposure to my future military career. My boss, Dave Blaney, gave me all sorts of responsibility and also provided me the opportunity to experience the social aspects of military life too. I learned of the Navy tradition of Weepers, basically their equivalent of TGIF. He and the other officers in Base Supply would gather Wayne and I on a Friday afternoon at lunch and we'd head off to one of the ships to spend time in the wardroom or we'd head over the Army officer's barracks for a similar Army style Friday afternoon. We usually managed to get them to let us spend the rest of the afternoon there as there was no point going back to work after a lunch spent enjoying a couple of ales, eh?

Halifax was a wonderful city. At the same time we were spending our summer there, there were also some young lady Navy reserve officers doing their summer training, so we used to go pubbing together, saw the premiere of the first Star Wars movie downtown. It made the summer go that much faster. The base was located in an interesting part of Halifax. From the base to downtown, you travelled down Gottingen, through one of the seedier areas in Halifax (at the time anyway). There were many evenings where we wandered by police cars with one person or another spread out over the hood being frisked. But, then again, we were fearless youngsters and tended to wander about with blinders on.

The downtown core was being gentrified and there were so many excellent pubs to go to on a Friday night. One of our favourites was The Privateers' Warehouse, which featured three levels and three kinds of music; rowdy down home music downstairs, more rocky on the second floor and jazzy on the third with a nice dining room. All in all, that was my favourite training summer. I learned a bit and got experience an area of Canada I'd never visited before.

Yes, I did date.. :)
I enjoyed my last two years of university the most. I dated a bit which was a nice surprise for me. I was taking courses that I enjoyed; mainly literature courses, which allowed me to spend lots of time with one of my favourite past-times, 'Reading'. I still have a few books that I purchased at that time decorating my bookshelves. As well, my time in Toronto was so much fun. I saw my first concerts there; the Electric Light Orchestra, JJ Cale, Harry Chapin, plus plays and the Toronto Symphony.

How do you like those slacks? (bottom left) Yup, I had style
Besides that, I had an excellent core of friends and when we weren't hanging around in the hallway (we did seem to spend an inordinate amount of time there.. lol), we were out on the town, or visiting friends who lived off campus. In my fourth year, as I mentioned earlier, I moved off campus, myself, sharing a place with Al Harris. It was an interesting experience, although I think we both ended up getting on each others' nerves by the end of the year. Having said that, we did make up and didn't depart on a bad note.

Home visits
Of course, it goes without saying that I did manage to get up to North Bay quite often to visit with my parents and younger brother, John. I tried to combine these visits, with times Rick and Heather went up; travelling by bus wasn't my favourite past time, but I did my fair share of that too over the course of my four years at university..

Basic Logistics Officer's Course on the road again.
After 3rd year, I headed back to Camp Borden for my Basic Logistics Officer's Course. This was not my favourite course; basically a rehash of portions of my Basic Officer's Training Course (meaning more military writing, public speaking 'instructor's comment - we kept waiting for you to rock that podium so far that it would crash to the floor', general service knowledge, etc. Combined with that was a basic overview of the Logistics classifications; Supply, transportation, finance, food services. There was a lot of information thrown at you but because you really had no frame of reference for it, very little sunk in. (Of course, I am speaking personally here, I may just have been a thickie).
BLOC course buddies
But, overall, it was an ok course. We lived at the Rafah barracks, basically in a co-ed situation, which was interesting and for the first time, had single rooms. (Small pleasures) The people on the course were all very nice and we got along very well.

I rarely spent a weekend in Borden (this was an ongoing theme when it came to my training courses at Camp Borden), either spending my weekends in Toronto with Rick or with university friends, or going up to North Bay to spend a weekend with the folks. This was definitely a more relaxed course than my BOTC course. There were at least two occasions when I  had to call the base up at midnight and let the Base Duty Officer know that I had missed my bus from Toronto and please advise my course officer that I would arrive a bit late for my Monday classes. The first time it happened, I anticipated the worst and basically received a shrug from my instructor. So it wasn't quite so scary the second time. Yup, I was still a bit of a slacker. After my summer, I was now considered a Logistics Officer (Basic) with no speciality yet. I went back to university to complete my 4th year. After 3 years, I managed to organise almost the perfect schedule; by Wednesday I was pretty well finished my classes and I could focus on spending time reading and enjoying 4th year.

Base Transportation CFB Cold Lake Alberta, circa 1978
Upon graduation, I found out where I was going to spend the next 3 years of my life, someplace out in Western Canada, at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, Alberta. My message said Wing Supply, but that was a mistake, as I actually was going to Base Transportation. More on that next entry.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Reminiscences of a Military Brat - Part 16

In my last two entries, I talked about my first year of university and my acceptance into the Regular Officer Training Program (ROTP) and also my first summer of military training (Basic Officer Training Course/ BOTC) at Camp Borden. Well, for the next three years I alternated between university and more summer formal training courses or on-job-training. For Part 16, I'm going to focus on the three years of university and in the next one, my next two summers of training.

Some things of note happened in my 2nd year. Firstly, my brother Rick became my University Liaison Officer (our watcher) and that was fun. The first year he worked out of the Avenue Road offices and then, if I recall, he moved back to the Base at Downsview. I've mentioned Avenue Road before, it was also the home of the Canadian Forces Staff College course and an old military site. I used to go up once in awhile for meetings with Rick and he also introduced me to Hand Ball and Squash as they had a court on the facility; great work outs. He tried very hard to make us realise that we weren't just university students, but also in the military. He scheduled a few Mess Dinners for us so we could be exposed to the more formal (but fun) sides of the military. One thing I learned from mess dinners at that time was that throwing buns during the guest of honours speech was not acceptable conduct anymore. (not that they didn't throw buns anyway). Also, there were many fun after dinner games, some involving two teams trying to go from either end of an overturned sofa to the other and finishing first, the other involving players balancing on empty wine bottles and trying with a broom stick to knock the other player off. Very mature we were. Rick also tried to ensure that my summer training was also fruitful. If I wasn't going on a course, he made sure I went someplace where I could learn more about my future Classification (that being the Logistics Classification)

There were no secret societies in our residence... lol
The second item of note that I discovered in 2nd year was that I wasn't suited for Political Science. I had planned to major in Pol Sci and in 2nd year I took five Pol Sci course and one History so I could complete my minor at least. Of course, this also coincided with my first full year in Residence, once more sharing a room with Chris Bradford, even though as 2nd years we could both have moved into singles. He was an easy roommate, albeit somewhat sloppy and spent lots of time away with his girl-friend so quite often it was just like having a single room. All that I had to remember was to push his dirty laundry under his bed when it started to spread to my half of the room. Anyway, back to Pol Sci. I started off 2nd year with six full courses, but by Xmas exams, I realised that I would have no chance of passing one of my Pol Sci courses and also my Spanish history course.

And why was that you might ask. A fair question. I was very much enjoying the social aspects of living in residence. Cody House was a very fun place to live; not Animal House fun, but just friendly and we did a lot. I've described this before, but the first floor was for the guys and the next two for the ladies. We spent many evenings just sprawled in our hallway, chatting, drinking wine and joking around. There were regular evenings of cribbage or backgammon, with snacks and wine/ whiskey. (Yes, I did enjoy the odd guzzle). Once every couple of months we hosted Friday night dances that were very popular on the campus. We started a Bridge Club and spent many Fridays, thru early Saturday, playing Bridge and just shooting the shit. And I did find that I wasn't totally oblivious to the fairer sex and did manage a couple of very serious (to me) relationships. There always seemed to be something going on and what ended up suffering was classwork. When it got to Xmas exams I realised that I had maybe attended 3 or 4 classes only in my courses and that Spanish History and Canadian Public Policy had to go. That meant picking up a couple of half courses (both history) for 2nd term so I could at least make my five credits. (Needless to say, my University Liaison Officer was not best pleased. Especially when my poor marks were compounded with me missing a couple of Friday night events he arranged for his students)

Ah the annual Xmas brunch in residence
So as I say, thus ended my plan to finish off university with a Major in Pol Sci and maybe a minor in History. What I ultimately ended up with was a Minor in Pol Sci and maybe a minor in English as I switched paths in 3rd year and started taking English. This suited my needs much more readily. I basically spent all my time reading; Canadian Literature, Classic Lit, Science Fiction Literature, and watching movies; my Film Studies Course. It was much more enjoyable although most likely useless for a career in Politics.  It was so much easier to get into a routine; read the book by mid- week, write up a book review or whatever by Friday, then spend Sunday at the main library in the typing room, hashing out an essay (yes, no laptop computers then, just your old-fashioned electric type writer.) I will say that my marks improved greatly with this program shift and it still enabled me to comfortably take part in the social aspects of university life.

Funny how many people got locked in this closet. lol
In 3rd year I moved across the hall into a single room and in 4th year I moved into an apartment with one of my pals from residence. 4th year was a bit stranger; living off campus meant that life revolved more around the apartments of those of us who had moved out. I still had friends living in residence and still spent time there, but more often that not our functions were off the campus, at friends' apartments or at pubs and restaurants. It was a fun time for me, an experience that I would not change for anything. Having said that, with the moves I've made over the course of my military career, I have lost touch with pretty well all of those people I spent so much time with at university; something I regret but have learned to live with. It's become a common theme in my life at least. I don't know how other kids who grew up in military families found their lives, but for the most part I did find that while I made many friends over the course of my life as a military brat, long-standing friendships have been few and far between. I don't mean that as a complaint, just a fact of life.

My 4th year roommate
At the end of 4th year, I obtained my Bachelor of Arts from University of Toronto and found myself moving on to Cold Lake Alberta for my first post-university job. Before I get to that, however, I'll get into some of the activities I got into with the military during my summers between 2nd and 3rd year and between 3rd and 4th year.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Third Quarter Update and other thoughts

While we start to watch the new TV season and cheer on the Blue Jays as they make their way to their first play-off season in 22 years or so, I thought I'd take a look at my recent Blogs. I discovered to my consternation that it's been quite awhile since I last 'put pen to paper' (remember when we used to do that?). I don't know why it's been so long, although I guess I've been sort of out of sorts the past couple of weeks. Nothing major I'm sure, except maybe getting accustomed to the idea that shortly I'll be hitting my 60th birthday and also being forced to retire from the military (we call it Compulsory Retirement Age or CRA) after 40+ years in the Canadian Forces. When I hit 40 and then 50, it just seemed like another birthday, but maybe the double whammy has hit me a bit more than I realised. I'm looking forward to spending more time with Jo and the puppies and I'm sure I'll keep busy, reading, writing my Blog, puddling around trying to do some of the chores I've been putting off and other things.

Work is ok these days. I still go in at the same time and follow the same sort of routine but I am finding it harder to motivate myself. I start to write handover notes for my replacement, but then get bored with them. Anyway, enough feeling sorry for myself. I've got a pretty darn good life here, a loving wife and two yappy dogs, a lovely home. My life is better than I've ever thought it could be. Hey and the Blue Jays are in the playoffs!!! :)

It's a lovely evening tonight, sunny, bright and freshly cool. Sitting her in the den with the window open while Jo is cooling cheesy bacon pasta seems pretty idyllic.

Anyway, back to my Blog. I've been alternating between a series of posts about my Reminiscences as a Military Brat and my normal Blogs about my current/ past/ future reading materiel and other such bookish entries. To get back on track a bit, I think I'll do my 3rd Quarter 2015 reading summary. So let's get on with it.

Goodreads 2015 Challenge - I've read a total of 72 books of my attempt to read 95 this year. According to Goodreads, that puts me 1 book ahead of schedule. (Yay me!) I've also read approximately 23,000 pages. I don't know if that's impressive or not, but it averages out to 320 pages a book. Once again, so what.. lol

Author Gender - Male - 49
Female - 23

Ratings - 5 star - 9
4 star - 35
3 star - 28

Genre - Mystery (spy/ thriller/ etc) - 47
Fiction (post 1900) - 6
SciFi (fantasy/ etc) 8
Classics (pre 1900) - 3
Non - Fiction (travel/ hist/ bio) - 4
War (incl adventure) - 3
Poetry - 1

My 5-star selections
(from most recent to first)
1. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (SciFi) (1955)
2. Excession by Iain M. Banks (SciFi) (1996)
3. The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham ((Fic) (1942)
4. Gallows View by Peter Robinson (Mys) (1987)
5. The Soft Talkers by Margaret Millar (Mys) (1957)
6. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (Classic) (1860)
7. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Mys) (2001)
8. Zoo Station by David Downing (Mys) (2007)
9. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious (Fic) (1956)

A nice mix of stories and genres.

As to my other challenges, a quick summary:

1. 12 + 4. I completed this challenge 3 Jun. I decided this year to read the first book in a new series, a good strategy as I've had many sitting on my shelf. My favourite was David Downing's Zoo Station, a spy thriller set during the early days of WWII. I also particularly enjoyed The Eyre Affair (also a 5 - star), A Beautiful Place to Die, a South African mystery by Malla Nunn and a Canadian mystery, Louise Penny's first Inspector Gamache, Still Life (oh wait, there was one other five star selection, Gallows View, the first Inspector Banks mystery).

(I enjoyed this challenge so at the risk of affecting some of my other challenges and, partly due to the fact that I still had a number of other first series books, I made up one more 12 + 4 challenge. So far I've read the 12 books and am currently working on the first alternate, the first Charlie Mortdecai mystery by English writer, Kyril Bonfiglioli.)

My other challenges

Classics (I've read 3 of 4 possible books). My last selection will probably be Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. I have already enjoyed The Moonstone, The Mill on the Floss and Vanity Fair, all excellent.

Non - Fiction (I've also completed 3 of 4 possible books in this challenge, all solid 4-star selections) I'm not sure what my final selection will be, maybe The War that Ended the Peace by Margaret MacMillan. I have read a couple others of her history selections and enjoyed very much.

Science Fiction (Fantasy/ Alternate history/ Steam Punk, etc) I've completed 4 or 5 books in this category. It's rekindled my interest in SciFi, which was my favourite genre as a youngster. I am leaning toward Goliath by Scott Westerfield, but might squeeze in another before end December.

Fiction (post - 1900). I've completed 6 of 10 in this genre so far, with some great writers; Metalious, Forester, Maugham, Shute, etc. At the moment I'm working on my 7th, a classic from Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca, featuring Mrs. Danvers. This is my second du Maurier and I'm enjoying and wondering why it took me so long to ever take a chance on it. I should be able to finish this challenge by year end or come close.

Mysteries (series I've already started). This is the genre that will be most impacted by my decision to pick another 12 + 4, but they also were series. So far I've managed to complete 11 of 25 books and am currently reading the 7th Lincoln Rhymes thriller by Jeffery Deaver, that being The Cold Moon. It's a long story but I'm enjoying very much so far.

Mysteries (standalone) I've completed 7 of 10 books in this challenge. My favourite was from Canadian writer, Margaret Millar, that being The Soft Talkers, an excellent story. I've got lots of options left for my final three. I would guess that one of the books will be The Breaker by Minette Walters as I love her writing.

Rereads (Old favourites) - I've read 2 of 5 so far and enjoyed experiencing these stories again; The Chrysalids by John Wyndham and The Borribles by Michael de Larrabeiti, both nice SciFi stories. I would like to read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Leguin and / or Friday by Robert Heinlein before end December. I may still complete this challenge.

Freebies (books purchased in 2015) I do tend to focus on older books, but I did want to make a concerted effort to read books that I bought this year, not that they were necessarily written this year. I've so far managed to read 7 of 15 and for the most part enjoyed them. They featured a mixture of genres, from poetry to Erotica. I often used this category to satisfy some challenges in another book group I'm in.

Anyway, there you have it. My reading for the first 9 months of 2015. I'll have a fair bit of time to focus on my reading after I retire, a couple of good months of reading. I'm quite looking forward to it and am already toying with possibly challenges for 2016.. heee heeee...

Have a great evening!
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