Harry Leslie Smith – in his own words


Survivor of the Great Depression, RAF veteran, Activist for the Welfare State, Author of Harry’s Last Stand Love Among the Ruins, 1923 & The Empress of Australia

I have lived a very long time. Tomorrow, it will be exactly 94 years ago that a midwife with a love of harsh gin and rolled cigarettes delivered me into my mother’s tired, working-class arms. Neither the midwife nor my mother would have expected me to live to almost 100 because my ancestors had lived in poverty for as long as there was recorded history in Yorkshire.

Nowadays, when wealth is considered wisdom, too often old age is derided, disrespected or feared, perhaps because it is the last stage in our human journey before death. But in this era of Trump and Brexit, ignoring the assets of knowledge that are acquired over a long life could be as lethal as disregarding a dead canary in a coal mine. Read more here

Harry’s Tweets:

  • The West’s indifference to loss of human life that does not live in privilege will be our downfall.
  • I stand for immigration, I stand for tolerance, I stand for progress, I stand for equality & prosperity, I stand with migrants.
  • I was 1st introduced to the #gigeconomyduring the Great Depression when I’d watch my dad beg at factory gates for a few hours work.
  • #DonaldTrumpis a danger to global stability, democracy, and just common decency.
  • I’ve heard these words before people, but then I was a teen in Yorkshire watching newsreels of Hitler.
  • It makes me quite angry that my generation fought to defeat fascism & Hitler in our youth but now in the winter of our years came #trump.
  • I don’t envy wealth but I despise those who destroy society for their own profit and greed. Society only works when we all pay fair taxes.
  • The only thing that stands in the way of #DonaldTrumpdestroying society is us. Silence is not the answer to tyranny.


Another thing authors do for us


Mom suggested I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to my children when they were young. She read Little House in the Big Woods to her grade one students each year and assured me the children loved the story.

I went out and bought the first book in the series, couldn’t hurt to try, being my philosophy. Besides, didn’t want Mom nagging me—not that she would have. Well, maybe only a little.

Each evening we sat on the sofa and read a chapter before bedtime. Like my mother’s students, my children were enraptured by the story. I was too, and reading together offered me the opportunity to tell my children more about my childhood on the farm as I was able to relate many of my own experiences to the book.

At the time, we lived on the edge of the city with farmland and a creek across the street. We huddled together on the sofa as I read about the Ingles family in their wagon surrounded by howling wolves. Just then we heard the howl of coyotes echoing across the snowy field. I think I was as scared as my kids and we all clung to my husband when he walked in the door.

Now, my daughter is reading the book to her daughter. The munchkin gives me a thumps up and says, “Grandma, best story ever.” Bravo! We have another generation enthralled with Laura’s story. We live in the heart of the city now, so she won’t hear any howling, as her mother reads, but as she asks what churning is and what traps are, she will learn about life in another time.

It’s not often that we can relive the past and there are many instances when we wouldn’t want to, but the marvel of a book is that it can and does take us on a journey. Laura Ingalls Wilder, gave my daughter and granddaughter, through her writing, a glimpse into another world and time.  She gave me an almost tangible link to my parents and our life on the farm.

Thank you to Ms. Wilder and all the authors who take us on such journeys.












8 reasons why you should buy a lottery ticket


I buy lottery tickets. Every week. I know that I have an abysmal one in 14 million chance of winning and still I buy them. I know I’m not alone for millions of fellow citizens are right there with me shelling out hard earned money for a chance, however slim, to win.

Why buy?  Here’s my logic.

  1. You can’t win without a ticket.
  2. You only need one ticket to win.
  3. You never know. You could be that one in 14 million this time.
  4. The money is used for good causes – you can check on line for your province or state.
  5. This is my “coffee” money. Since I don’t drink coffee, I don’t feel guilty spending the equivalent of a cup a day on lottery tickets.
  6. I don’t buy the little “scratch and win” tickets. If I’m destined to win, I want to win big.
  7. Its fun to dream about what I could do with the winnings.
  8. The anticipation of a possible win adds spice to my week.



For those who don’t know, Caleb, the camel pops in for a visit every Wednesday. But not today, thanks to an executive order.

Live & Learn


Where’s Caleb?

Held back at the border due to extreme vetting.


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Doing without


Quick! What was the thing you most recently complained about? Got your answer? Hold that thought.

Now read this.

“I am only replying now (it’s around 1:36 a.m.) because this is first time in days that we have had power. Add that to the recession and you have a really “beautiful” picture of life from my end.”

Electricity off for days? Recession? And I’m upset because my WiFi isn’t fast enough.

The quote is from an email my Nigerian friend sent me the other day. I’ve been getting reality checks from him for some time now. I look around my house. What would I be forced to do without if there were no electricity? Lights, stove, fridge, microwave, TV, computer, iPad, Paperwhite, phone, humidifier, heat; even the gas fireplace needs its electric starter.

I’ve a book I’d like to send you, I write. It’s not available in ebook format. What’s your address?

“The post office building is vacant and has been for some time. The last time I received a letter was six years ago.”

Okay, I think. I’ll courier the book. I check with various companies to find that no one delivers packages in his area of the country. Scratch that idea.

Each missive from him jolts me. He rarely complains, but I can sense how hard his life is and how difficult it must be to remain optimistic.

We take far too many things for granted in our cozy corner of the world. Does his plight make me want to give up what I have? Of course not. But it does prompt me to stop buying things I don’t need, to be less wasteful, to “use it up, wear it out, make do, do without.” And, knowing him has prompted me to increase my charitable donations to organizations like KIVA. It’s the least I can do.


Mastery of recycling

They’ve done it right in the tiny beach town of San Pancho, Nayarit, Mexico. It’s here that we find the home of Entreamigos.

Start with an abandoned creamery built in 1970.


Add imagination, creativity, materials originally intended for the trash can and you get walls,



an overhang for the office area (plastic pop bottles dipped in paint),


and a tree,


and a classroom door (to the original cold room),



and lanterns,


Put it all together and you have a community center–with a lending library of 10,000 books, areas for numerous arts and crafts, an indoor gym and an outdoor activity area, both offering space for a multitude of classes–all of which serves over 250 people a day.


Kudos to the Entreamigos team.




Montessori in Mexico


In San Pancho, Nayarit, Mexico, we find a Montessori school–a compound of buildings and gardens and play areas sequestered in a jungle setting, hidden from the highway by a row of car and tire repair shops, and backed by an abandoned abandoned bull ring.

We step out of the car and hear roosters crowing. I feel like I’m in Mali.

In this hide-a-way spot, we see the kindergarten class washing their lunch dishes and brushing their teeth. We hear the laughter of kids playing and gathering vegetables from their garden to prepare for their lunch.

One of the teachers shows the Munchkin his classroom.

“We have this,” says the Munchkin who is in grade 2 Montessori in Canada. “And we have this, and this, and this.” I think she’d like to go to school here.





And, as they say in Mexico


Próspero año nuevo!


The Twelve Grapes (SpLas doce uvas de la suerte, “The twelve grapes of luck”) is a Spanish tradition that dates back from at least 1895, but became established in 1909. In December of that year, when vine growers popularized this custom to better sell huge amounts of grapes from an excellent harvest.

The tradition consists of eating a grape with each strike of the bell at midnight of December 31.

According to the tradition, that leads to a year of prosperity. In some areas, it is believed that the tradition wards away witches and general evil, although this “magic” is treated like an old heritage, and in modern days it’s viewed as a cultural tradition to welcome the new year.

There are two main places where people gather to take the grapes. With family after dinner, or in the main squares around the country..



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