Monday, November 19, 2018

The Greatest Showman - my moment with Queen

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through a box in our basement and came across a manilla envelope just stuffed with papers.  It was every bit of paper I collected on a trip to Europe.  In it were bus tickets, bank receipts, maps, information sheets, etc.  But, wedged in between some of the papers was one 3 x 4.5" in size with black text and a pink watermark.  It was a ticket stub from the very last Queen concert ever. 

I was in York in August, 1986, staying with the Johnsons – a couple my family had met at a campground in Canada.  They are a lovely couple and we are still in touch, 30 years later.  I stayed with them for 2 weeks - a visit that now seems like it must have been interminable for them - two weeks with a 17-year-old.  But they seemed to enjoy it.

It was a lazy Saturday, August 2, the day after I arrived in York, when we went shopping and took a tour of their city. I can’t quite remember the details but while we were in town, David, a huge Queen fan, bought us tickets to see the band the following weekend at Knebworth Park, Stevenage, about 30 miles north of London.  

At the time (I cringe to think of this) I really didn’t know much about Queen and didn’t really like them much.  I knew and liked recent top 40 hits like “Radio Ga Ga” and “We Will Rock You”, but they were more from the 1970s  and were, to me, boring and behind the times.  Originally the tour was scheduled to end in Spain, but after the two shows at Wembley Stadium earlier in the summer had sold out so quickly, Knebworth was added to catch more of the British audience.  No one knew that this concert would be the very last Queen concert ever – the concert every Queen fan wishes they had seen. I didn’t even realize it was the last concert of their big European tour.  And (despite what the recent movie claims) certainly no one knew that Mercury had AIDS and would die only 5 years later.  I got the experience that SO many Queen fans wanted – and at the time I didn’t appreciate it at all.  

We drove down from York to Knebworth Park.  It’s about a 3 1/2-hour drive down to Stevenage, and since this was an outdoor concert with no assigned seating, David wanted to get there reasonably early - gates opened at 11.  We left before 7:30 am.  I slept most of the way there, being a teenager and being a bit sick with a cold.  We arrived by 11:30 and parked - the number of cars was incredible, and the gates were quite a long ways from the parking lot. The area set up for the concert was huge – probably 4 football fields in size.  

I remember sitting on a blanket about ½ way up the field on the left hand side of the field.  Food trucks and tents, as well as merchandise stands surrounded the site.  I think we brought food, but I also remember buying some there.  As I was sitting on that blanket, I didn’t know there were 118,000 people watching the show (that was the number at the time, some sites now say 125,000 or 200,000, but I think I’ll go with what was stated then).  I didn’t know this was one of the first concerts to use big screen technology, and I didn’t know someone would be stabbed and killed after the show.  I just sat there and listened to the opening acts, which were Belouis Some, Status Quo, and Big Country.  With more than 60 chart hits to date, Status Quo have more in the UK than any other band. I knew none of their songs.  Big Country was the one band I was a little excited about, although in truth I only knew one of their songs: “In a Big Country”. 

Stuart Adamson, the lead singer of Big Country, came on stage for an encore, took a look at the audience and told us to hold on a minute before running behind stage.  He ran back on stage almost instantly with a camera and said: “no one will ever believe this” before he snapped a picture of the audience.  It was the largest crowd they had played on this tour.  

After what seemed like an eternity after the opening acts, as the sun was sinking toward the horizon, the iconic Queen helicopter flew into the park with cheers from the crowd.  After another eternity, Queen emerged from the smoke and the light to sing “One Vision” - we watched mainly on the huge screen above the stage because it was so far away, but I believe we also had binoculars.  I got one good look at the stage, though, when a friend of David’s – a big, tall rugby-player type – lifted me up on his shoulders to see the lighters during "We Are the Champions".  The thought of that memory makes me laugh a bit.  I have had an interesting life!  Queen played everyone’s favourite songs right to the end with “We Are the Champions” and “God Save the Queen”.   I recognized a few of the more recent ones.  

The walk to the car took at least 45 minutes.  We decided there was no use trying to leave the parking lot, so we all crashed in the car for a few hours.  We eventually got the car moving around 4 am and arrived home 24 hours after we left – at 7:30 am on the 10th.



Wednesday, June 27, 2018

There is this man ...

This is a follow-up to my last blog:  https://sandiratch.blogspot.com

I've continued the conversation with the American boy I knew so long ago.  I feel it important to tell you all that my assumptions about him were wrong - borne by a lack of knowledge about him and his life, as well as not trusting my instincts (which always gets me in trouble).

Yes, he became a wealthy business man, but he is also a philanthropist.  He really IS the boy that I knew long ago.  Making money not only allows him and his family the opportunity to travel, it also offers him the ability to give back.  And he does.

So I am humbled to know that my view of him has always been correct.  I am also humbled by his generosity and view on the world.

Thank you, my friend, for delving into a conversation that I didn't know I needed.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

There was this boy ...

There was this boy - a beautiful, smart, athletic boy.  I met him when I was 15 (nearly 16).  He was almost my first kiss except for the politics of the girls I was with (ah ... teenagers).  I do believe it was the first time I ever held a boy's hand.  I met him on an exchange between my Pathfinder group (Girl Guides) and a Girl Scout troupe in the States.

We girls slept in a Tipi in a friend's backyard.  It was a nice place to sleep.  I liked most of the girls we were with, but particularly the friend who was hosting us.  (She and I were pen pals for years and had stayed in touch forever - until this election - now I'm not sure anymore).  We all went to camp for a couple of hot days.  All I remember from the camp is stepping on a wasps nest and getting stung a few times.  The first aider at the camp just told me to stop whining and get over it.  I didn't like her after that.

But outside of official Scouting functions, we hung out as a bunch of teenagers, and a few boys joined us.  I seem to remember hanging out on some school swings when they found us.  And there was nothing but flirting going on.  They stuck close for the few days we were there.  The boys stole a stand-up cardboard cut-out from the movie theatre.  Sheena Queen of the Jungle.  I don't think we'd seen that particular movie - I do not remember which movie we had seen (might actually have been Ghostbusters).  But I sure remember the thrill of the boys stealing Sheena.

This boy rode his unicycle over one evening and rode around for us.  He was magical.  I had a serious crush.

I pined for him all the way home.  John Waite had just put out "Missing You" and I imagined that we had been torn apart by circumstance.  I so wanted someone to love me and I thought I had found it.  I came home with his football jersey.  I believe I sent it back to him eventually because he had asked me to - it was a loaner.



I honestly don't remember if we wrote letters to each other.  There may have been a phone call or two, but I didn't see him again until I was 17 or 18, maybe, when I drove down to visit the friend who had the tipi in her yard the last time.  I took off on a date with him one night while I was visiting.  Finally got the kiss I had wanted so badly.

I continued to have a crush on him for a while.  He was a nice guy.  He was going to be rich, which didn't impress me until he told me it was so he could support his mother in her old age!  I'm wondering now if that was a line ... But he definitely did achieve the rich thing!

I saw him one other time when his marching band came to Canada.  And then, a few years ago, I found him on Facebook.  We've chatted once or twice in that time, and I have enjoyed seeing the posts about his family and the travels they take - very adventurous family that can obviously afford that type of lifestyle.  I think it's great that he found an adventurous wife and that they get to do everything they want to.

This week I had had it with Trump and his holding babies hostage at the Mexican border so he could get his wall (I know, that's very simplified and it's not the whole story, but that's what the worst of it actually is.  He was doing this).  And I got so tired and frustrated that I stated on my Facebook page that anyone who could support this man and his policies should unfriend me.  Because I just can't understand how people can't see him for the Evil force he is.

And the boy unfriended me - with a kick in the pants calling me "combative".  If you know me, you know that the only way I would be combative is when I see danger - for me, my child, or the world.  I will, however, disagree with you and try to tell you why.  I do like to talk about things.

Anyhow, his un-friending me was not unexpected.  The boy was one of the people I was talking to specifically when I wrote the post, because I knew he had voted for Trump.  I had hoped that the people I knew who voted for Trump would have seen the light and stopped supporting him by now.  But no, this lovely, intelligent, charismatic boy has grown into a man whose political beliefs and ethics are different from mine.  He is a businessman and money is important to him to sustain his lifestyle.  But that anyone can ignore the lack of morality and ethics just so they can make more money - I don't understand it.

It makes me sad.  It bothers me to lose this boy from my teenage years.  But why?  Why was I holding on to him?  Still hoping he'd like me?  Still wanting his approval?  Thinking that he was the boy from 30 years ago and not the man that he's grown into since then?  Maybe I never knew him at all, but just dreamed up a boyfriend and put the boy's face on him.  Probably - and that is certainly not healthy.

I'm realizing that people are not necessarily who you think they are or who you want them to be (about time to "get" that).  It's a confusing time.  How can I be friends with people who can look past the horrible shit coming out of the States?  Some - people I've been friends with for a long time and kept in pretty regular contact with, who I don't want to lose from my life?  Well, I either don't discuss politics with them, or we have a healthy debate at the end of which we agree to disagree.  But people who are not invested in my life?  I guess I'm ready to let those ones go.  Maybe.  Working on it at least.

Post Script:  OR ... maybe not.  So I thought about this a lot (obviously - or I wouldn't have been writing a blog unless it was bothering me), and I continued thinking about it after I wrote this.  The whole thing didn't sit right with me, because I am NOT the kind of person to shunt someone out of her life just because of politics.  So I messaged him.  I said "You know what?  I should not have told people to unfriend me.  I've been thinking about it a lot.  I'd rather discuss it and try to understand why you feel that way." And I said I was sorry.

Phew!  That felt better.  And you know what?  He replied saying it didn't sit well with him either.  Now I hope he and I can have a discussion about it and I can start to understand where he's coming from.

Adulating - it's hard.

Please read the follow-up post.  It shows how I've found out more about this boy and who he has become:  https://sandiratch.blogspot.com/2018/06/there-is-this-man.html



Saturday, January 27, 2018

Passion and laundry racks

Life's been a bit tough lately.  And sometimes, at night, I sit there and really wonder what this thing called life is all about.  On the good days I know.  It's about learning and loving - finding out who you really are, loving the ones in your life, adding to the universal understanding of everything, and following one's passion to do that.  But on the really bad nights ... nope, can't find a reason for being here.  (Don't worry, I've never been suicidal - just despondent).

While I was lying in bed this morning, though, as almost always happens after a good night's sleep, I feel better.  The cat is on my chest and throat, licking the side of my face and chewing on my ear.  Snuffing into my ear in such a lovely, intimate way.  He trusts me.  He loves me.  He wants breakfast.  And life is okay.  In the morning it is okay.

So why am I here?  What is that passion that I need to follow?  I have a drive to find and maintain connections to the past.  Always have felt that way - ask one of my closest childhood friends - she got sick and tired of hearing about history.  She just wasn't interested.  But I was, so that is what I do, I connect to the past - mostly to try and understand the present.  And when I forget about that passion, something almost always smacks me across the head to remind me ... sometimes it's in the laundry room ...



This is just a clothes-drying rack.  It might look a little old fashioned.  If you looked really closely, you'd see some tape on a bottom rung.  Some form of fabric tape hat my mother or father possibly put on there because they used to use this.  And before that, I'm sure my grandmother used it.  But it was first used by my Great-Grandmother, Emily Chamberlaine.  She bought it in Armstrong at Shepherd's Hardware (as my father remembers - he remembers a lot of little details) - sometime after 1925, but I'm not sure when.  I know she bought it, because on the side, very faded now, written in pencil, is: "Sold Paid Mrs. Chamberlaine".



It's a little thing.  Just a very quick note written maybe 60-75 years ago to hold this item at a hardware store.  But it means the world to me.  And every time I pay attention, I am reminded of where I come from and what I'm doing here.  

Monday, December 25, 2017

2017 Ratch Christmas letter


December 2017

Merry Christmas everyone

So another year flew by.  This past year included a LOT of travel, lots of work on our house and lots of developments on the work front for both Sandi and Noel.

Getting away from the snow early in 2017 was a great idea, so we all headed down to the desert north of Palm Springs to visit our good friends Steve and Sarah.  And guess what…it snowed.  WTF?  The snow didn’t last on the ground very long there (15 minutes once it stops), but the weather fronts we experienced also included some flash floods and scary moments.  We tried In N’Out Burger one day before visiting The Living Desert Zoo and Garden during a very cold downpour.  It was great to see Sarah and Steve and take in the sites along with a hike at Joshua Tree National Park.  After visiting them we drove down to San Juan Capistrano and then headed to Disneyland. 

San Juan Capistrano Mission.

The rest of the year included a lot of travel, including both Sandi and Noel going on trips with our Dads.  Sandi and Roy headed up to the Yukon to finally get Roy there after many aborted tries in the past.  While they got to Whitehorse and Dawson, the fires that they were experiencing at that time made things very hard due to Roy’s breathing problems.  Still they made the trip and had the experience - and memories to share.


Summertime brought around a road trip through the states for Noel, Daniel and Mel.  They whipped through Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho and Washington and saw all points in-between.  Some stops included: Little Bighorn, Devil’s Tower, Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, Mammoth Hot Springs, the Buffalo Bill Cody Centre, Butte, etc.  It then ended off by seeing Willy Nelson and Kacey Musgraves in concert in Spokane.  Willy is old and it was more a pilgrimage than a music experience (especially for Daniel).

The year also included Daniel’s school trip for French Immersion to Quebec City and Montreal – Noel went along as the male chaperone and had a great time.  Amazing that they don’t really talk French in most of the places the group went – more Franglish than anything.  


Sandi had to stay home for that one, but then got to do Palm Springs and Disneyland again with her sister Heather in the fall.

When we got to stay at home we were able to take in some great entertainment.  Lots of local festivals,football games and concerts including Matchbox Twenty, Imagine Dragons and Jann Arden’s Christmas Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.


This year also brought Daniel’s start in high school.  That brought some anxiety and things to work through, but Daniel is doing well in his grades and has made a bunch of new friends (while still having his French Immersion friends that he has been with since Kindergarten).

We did a lot of work on the house, some by choice, other not so much so.  While we did a great deal of painting (inside and out) and rebuilt the top of the front porch.  A massive hail storm meant replacing  18 window panes, getting a new roof for the house and garage and even repairs to the car.  Thank God for insurance.

On the work front Sandi has continued to work away on the build of the Royal Alberta Museum – a three-month job that has now stretched to three years of sometimes full time work.  That plus trying to work on her book and doing archaeological contracts made for some very busy times.  For Noel, 2017 brought the announcement of the payoff of ten years of work and lobbying – a $40 Million dollar expansion to the museum’s onsite collections storage in the guise of a huge publicly accessible collections facility.  Now they have to design, build and load the thing over the next five years – big project and then some.

In addition, after twelve years of working, Noel finally saw his efforts come to fruition with the Western Museums Association coming to Edmonton for their fall conference.  It saw over 500 delegates from the western states and provinces come to town to be entertained and educated. This year also brought the Reynolds-Alberta Museum’s 25th Anniversary, meaning a day of celebrations in September and visits from many former staff members, some of whom have not been back for over twenty years.  Although adjustments to the hierarchy have meant that Noel has taken on a larger role in the Ministry (than just his museum), 2018 will mean some great experiences, learning and projects to be involved with.

2018 will start off with a trip to Washington and Oregon for Sandi and Noel (Noel has to attend a meeting, but the rest should be fun).  Also hopefully the year can be a bit more of focus on home and garden for Sandi after many years grinding away on the Royal Alberta Museum build work (it ends in March). 

Oh yes, and Daniel will be getting his learner’s license sometime this year … (gulp!)

Love and Merry Christmas to you all,
Noel, Sandi, Daniel, Jack, and Rusty

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sexual Harassment and Assault

(disclaimer - I know a lot of men have suffered sexual abuse, but the vast majority are women, so I generalize here)


Every day brings new announcements - of which men are accused of sexual abuse and harassment.  They range from a kiss in a rehearsal and a picture of almost groping to the very worst - a man accused of undressing and seducing a 14-year-old.  What horrible behaviour.  How can men act this way.  OUTRAGE!!!  And we should be outraged.  This IS horrible behaviour.

None of this is new.  This is old news.  These are things that happened 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.  And they happen every day.  I doubt there is a single woman who hasn't actually dealt with some form of sexual harassment or prejudice - whether she was aware of it or not.  Some cases far worse and far more traumatizing than others.  But this is normalized behaviour in our society.  Normalized by men and women alike.

I've been fired for "histrionics" - or was it the fact that I broke up with my boss?  I was told by a professor that the knee showing through the tear in my jeans was appealing (I don't remember the exact terminology - "sexy" maybe).  A fellow graduate student when he first met me thought I was too bubbly and vacuous to ever finish my degree.  I actually wondered why another professor in our department hadn't hit on me - he had hit on a lot of other female students.  Was I not appealing enough? (that crazy way of thinking comes along with all of this).

I remember having sex in tears with one boyfriend of mine because he was drunk and just wouldn't let up - is that rape?  I said no, he just didn't listen.  One night with a different boyfriend I woke up in the middle of sex that I never agreed to.  Is that rape?

Wake up, people.  The problem is not the individuals that are (finally) being called out.  The problem is our society.  Men were moulded to be in positions of power - women were moulded to raise children and be at home - or at least take 2nd place behind men.  World War II saw a lot of women enter the workforce, and when the men came home, a lot of women didn't want to give that up.  So the American ideal was created (you know, the car, the house, the white picket fence, the housewife) in the 1950s to try to get women back into the home.

The Women's Liberation Movement could be seen as a reaction to that post-war push to put women back into the house.  The Movement started in the 1960s and 1970s.  Do the math - that's 50-60 years ago.  Women started fighting for equality in the workplace FIFTY to SIXTY years ago.  That fight for equality led to a passive-agressive push from men trying to maintain their power and control.  And what is a really effective way to control other people?  Through sex.

Women have been trying to advance in the workplace for a long time.  But to do this, they had to put up with men, who were in control of their jobs, and they had to put up with their advances.  OR THEY WOULD GET FIRED.  It so pisses me off when people ask why women are only now coming forward - because there is a mass movement, because there is support.  An individual going against the system is likely to lose - likely enough that it isn't worth risking a job.  But when dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of women come together to share their stories, it is harder to shout them down.

We have all known this to be a problem for decades. "Radical Feminists" were discounted and shamed because of their "radical-ness" - or because they were an easy target for the controlling population.

Need proof that this has been going on forever?  Popular culture is a great place to look.  Just off the top of my head, remember "9 to 5"?  A great movie and song from 1980?  37 years ago.  We knew it was a problem then.  The movie grossed $103.9 million dollars and is noted as the 20th highest grossing comedy (according to Wikipedia).


The outrage that I see on TV from pundits and talk show hosts makes me even more outraged - you've all known about this crap forever!  But you are acting like you haven't done it yourself, or experienced it in some fashion.  This is not new.  You should have been outraged years ago.  But everyone accepted it and put up with it enough that it kept going.

I say this fully knowing that it is true because I wasn't aware of it when I was younger.  I once sat arguing with a young man (when I was in my 20s) that I hadn't experienced any sexism in my schooling or in my life to that point.  I was wrong.  Really, really wrong.

Hopefully the tide is turning and people are now realizing that there is true inequality and misogyny endemic in our society.  That would be nice.  It would be nice to be starting a career right now and knowing that you didn't have to put up with such crap.

So women, tell your stories.  Share.  Let the world know exactly how unfair our culture has been to us.  Let's get this worked out so that perhaps, one day, we will all just be equal.

Just a note - not all men are misogynistic - I married a great guy who believes in equality and I couldn't have asked for a better partner in life.  So for the good guys out there - I'm not ragging on you - I'm raging on our society as a whole.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Racism from the point of view of White Privilege

Tina Fey did a brilliant piece on Summer Weekend Update this week.  You can find it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMnHcEGRWoA

It was funny.  It was pointed.  It was brilliant satire.  And, of course, people are mad about it.

At the very end, she suggests ignoring racists.  Don't show up to protests.  And she is wrong, of course.  But it doesn't take away from the brilliance of what she was saying and the way she connected with my demographic:  the privileged, liberal White woman.

I feel helpless.  I feel hopeless.  Being Canadian, I have absolutely NO control over what happens in the United States.  I have no vote, I have no input.  But I am affected, because our white supremacists get a boost from yours, and our right-wing extremists, feed off of yours.  What happens in the United States ends up happening here.  We have our Obama right now.  I hope to hell we don't get a Trump.

I've seen a couple of things this week that bothered me.  The complaints about Tina Fey, and THIS article in Harper's Bazaar where a black woman tells all of us privileged whites how we have no clue and should just basically shut the fuck up (or perhaps she can educate us all):  http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a12014607/white-liberals-response-white-supremacy/

This woman is taking the well-meaning tweets of famous people using their powerful voices to say that this is not the kind of America they want to live in, to say that they don't have the right to want to help because of the situations they were either born into or that they fought their way to gain.

Let's face it, she criticizes Ellen DeGeneres - a woman who is VERY aware of prejudice.  Who understands how a career can be threatened by being born a certain way (gay) and having no control over that - and having to hide from society because of it.

All of this hate and anger (including the anger that has arisen in me) is not going to help anyone.  If people of colour (or LGBTQ, or First Nations or any other minority - including women in general) don't accept the well-meaning support of people not in their social group, they are perpetuating intolerance, too.  If someone is trying to help you, accept it.  If they don't understand things the way you do, explain it to them.  Don't shove racism back in their face.  That won't help.  Don't be mad because of the life someone else has.  Make yours better - fight hard to get it.  That's life.  And please understand that some of us who now really do appreciate the privilege they live in, did not necessarily grow up that way - and might understand more than you think they do.