Columns & Series 47 results

Sometimes you have to dig a hole to stay alive

Remembering Orme Payne, Part Two of Two From the Great Depression and prairie drought, to mano-a-mano combat with the Germans in the waning days of war, Orme Payne's life wove a tapestry of the Twentieth Century. By Rod Mickleburgh My friend Orme went through a lot in his final years. But when you’ve been through a Depression and a World War, you learn to take things as they come. During our many conversations, he never complained, never felt he was hard done by, even when he experienced the long months of isolation imposed by COVID-19. “I’m confined to barracks” was his matter-of-fact assessment. Over the phone, he was always cheerful. His yarns and colourful expressions never dried up, aided by a memory that remained intact until the end. And damn, he was funny…. Orme died this past September, his body finally giving up the ghost, after 98 years and five months of a very good life. I miss him terribly. On Remembrance Day, the first Orme has missed in 75 years, ...

How Orme weathered the storm of war in the Signals Corps

Canadian History: Remembering Orme Payne, Part One This year on Remembrance Day, Rod Mickleburgh felt the loss of a friend, a veteran and a Second World War combat survivor who found strength in his fellow men, and one in particular. By Rod Mickleburgh I lost a good friend of mine this fall. Orme Payne, who fought in Italy and Holland during World War Two, passed away at the George Derby Care Home in Burnaby. He was 98 years and five months young, and I use the word “young” advisedly. Through the years, no matter how rough a time the rest of him was having, the strength of his voice never wavered, his mind and memory remained razor sharp, and he never failed to make me laugh. So, Remembrance Day in this most terrible of years will be even more sombre for me than usual. I will be thinking of Orme. I first met him in 2015, when I wrote a Remembrance Day story for the Globe and Mail on the long, remarkable friendship between Orme and his boyhood prairie buddy, Gordie Bannerm...

Touring small town journalism and finding the Koots

Journalism: The Decline of Local Newspapers Big city papers are nowhere to be found in B.C.'s Kootenays, but you can still find a local weekly with birthday announcements, the lost and found, and reader mail damning CBC Radio for just about anything. By Rod Mickleburgh The first of two parts. (Be be still your beating heart.) I spent two rewarding weeks last month travelling the highways and communities of BC’s historic West Kootenays. As I always do when on the road, I looked for local newspapers to give me a sense of what was happening in the places where my squeaky sneakers touched down. At the same time, I still wanted to keep up with events in the rest of the province. Unfortunately, and I’m not sure I should have been surprised, I could not find a single, big-city daily east of the Okanagan.  No Sun, no Province, no National Post (yay! oops….), no Globe and Mail. I could not find a single, big-city daily east of the Okanagan.  No Sun, no Province, no National ...

The joy of wearing a mask when you’re facially disfigured

Health: COVID-19 Facial Coverings The Coronavirus Pandemic has disturbed the delicate balance of daily life, but one writer found a strange symmetry in suddenly being asymmetrical. “Is the mask magic?" he demanded with sudden, passionate interest. "Yes." I bowed my head, so that our eyes no longer met. "I made it magic to keep you safe. The mask is your friend, Erik. As long as you wear it, no mirror can ever show you the face again." - Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux By Katherine Monk VANCOUVER, BC — I woke up around midnight after passing out on the couch. I’d made a fire to get cozy after an hour-long swim in the ocean late in the afternoon, and I still felt cold. I plodded off to the bathroom to get ready for bed, and when I looked in the mirror — something looked a little off. I wrote it off to the awkward sleep position and the hard pillow. My face looked, well, saggy. It wouldn’t have been the first time I was a little shocked by a late night encoun...

Launching a Rocket in the Living Room

DIY Column: The Apollo XIII Project A New Year’s resolution to reuse, recycle or purge was already in progress, then the pandemic happened, and what started as a creative bid to turn garbage into art suddenly morphed into a personal Apollo XIII mission: Without access to Home Depot, can you find a way to repurpose what you already have?    

Tell the Ones You Love, now more than ever

Column: The Balm of Poetry Part 6 - Dennis Lee’s Tell the Ones You Love Tell the Ones You Love - A short, sweet poem about love. As we struggle to cope with the terrible sweep of this unforgiving virus, Rod Mickleburgh says he finds it particularly apt.    

We can read what we want to read, Coronavirus doesn’t care

Column: The Balm of Poetry Part 2 - Ken Dryden on Covid-19 A celebrated Canadian sports figure and latter-day politician takes on a new foe without a stick or gloves, just team spirit and pragmatism.    

Finding comfort in Bedroom’s soft breath of companionship

Column: The Balm of Poetry, Part One - “Bedroom" Rod Mickleburgh finds affirmation in the written word and shares some favourite selections to help us “soothe our worried souls in these perilous times.”    

Giller winner conjures ghost of Fitz St. John

History: The Saga of Fitz St. John Behind Esi Edugyan's Giller Prize-winning novel about the astounding exploits of Barbados-born Washington Black lies the very true story of William Fitzclarence “Fitz” St. John: A Vancouver longshoreman, unionist, and pioneer who -- alongside his Indigenous co-workers -- blazed a trail for equality and fair wages on the docks.      

Frozen memories of Finland warm a chilled soul

Travel: Finding A Sense of Faith in Finland So far, so bad... The New Year's promise of a fresh start turns sour, forcing an old scribe to seek spiritual sustenance from the past via memories of a visit to Scandinavia. By Rod Mickleburgh Well, here we are in yet another decade, And, like much of the previous 10 years, with a few exceptions, so far so bad. As the outside world turns increasingly partisan and dark, I found myself seeking some spiritual sustenance from the past. I fastened on a similar passing of time 30 years ago: the last days of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, a decade which proved pivotal in my life and career in a way I never thought possible. My reflections were likely heightened by the fact that it all took place in the country where my mother was born, Finland. I was lucky enough to be living in Paris that year, so it had seemed only natural to spend Christmas and New Year’s revisiting my ancestral roots. It was wonderful. Sparkling snow ...