November Blahs

Close the door dad, it's cold out there!
Close the door dad, it’s cold out there!

I began this blog on November 11th, Remembrance Day yet again. I have some very skewed views about that day. There was a time, now very long ago, when I wore a military cadet’s uniform and was always on parade November 11th. I have stood at attention in the cold pouring rain and sleet with tears blurring my eyes as the bugler played the “Last Post”. The heavy blue wool uniform sponged up the rain and I don’t recall any joy, ever, about remembering our military fallen. Once on parade, just when ordered eyes left while passing the dignitary’s review stand, a pigeon shat on my blue RCAF wedge cap. The mess ran slowly down my face. Of course I dare not falter in my precise marching so I held my rifle and left-righted on down the street with the rest of my flight, a good little cadet. There is nothing colder than congealing pigeon crap on your face in full public view when you can do nothing about it except pretend that it is not there.

My love and respect for things military have congealed as coldly. Close to signing up for a military career, my mind was changed after enduring a summer training camp for NCOs (Non-commissioned officers) The weary mantras about do or die without question, and the screaming irrationalities of feckless little men intent on reducing everyone to mindless, quivering gitts forever ended my military fascination. I have become convinced that any dog which is easy to train and conforms readily without question is not a clever creature. The ones which resist being programed are the individuals with a questioning mind and true leadership potential. (Editing note: After a great offense was taken about the preceding two sentences I am adding the remark that it is a fact, not opinion, that standard military procedure, time and world wide, is to reduce new recruits through physical and mental torture and sleep deprivation until their personal will is gone and they can then be reprogramed as dedicated killer robots. Those whose spirits cannot be broken are discharged. The process is often referred to as ” Basic Training”, and alsoBrainwashing.”)

There was a brief period at that time when I was almost persuaded to join two other buddies in going to fight in Vietnam. (There were approximately 30,000 invincible young Canadian volunteers who actually went) We thought it was a cool idea that the US Army would teach us how to fly helicopters, for free! When the one who went on ahead promptly came home again in a glad bag, a new reality set in. We weren’t that invincible after all.

He was one of the lucky ones I think. I went on to work in the commercial helicopter industry and have since known several Vietnam veterans. Very few of these characters have been able to live a healthy life. Most are haunted and troubled painfully for being the pawns in a sick game that had nothing to do with defending democracy or home borders. Canada continues to tag along after the US and has provided troops to several other forceful interventions entirely irrelevant to our interests and proclaimed values. Meanwhile our own messes continue to stack up in both our front and back yards.

Canadian patriotism is running high at the moment in the wake of the recent killings of CAF members in Ottawa and Montreal. I hold some unpopular views about what our military, or anyone’s for that matter, ultimately achieves other than to necessitate someone else’s military. I choose to observe the day as a review of human stupidity and greed and how our natural nastiness has to be dealt with inwardly instead of externally. How many oppossed millions have died believing God was on their side? If only we all indulged in tending our own patch first and employed righteous example instead of indignation, what a pleasantly boring world we’d have. Yeah, I know, I can hear John Lennon too.

Nothing is forever! Sandstone and granite rocks, work on each other within the force of water
Nothing is forever!
Sandstone and granite rocks work on each other within the force of water.

November 11th was a clear, cool and windy day. Usually remembrance days are dark and wet, suiting the sombre business at hand. The first Arctic high of the winter advanced upon us with icy outflow winds. We had this weather for several days so there was a big scurry on to finish up outdoor chores. At my friend’s house, just as I was finishing the downstairs bathroom, water began pouring out of the ceiling light fixture. It turned out that rats had been snacking on the discharge hose of the dishwasher. Murphy’s law prevailed and the hose burst at a cosmically timed moment. I spent a while pondering what in the hell I could have possibly done to bring on the deluge. The rats came back for autumn and so has the hammering, incessant rain. Now the first official day of winter has passed and there were some very thick rain drops on the windshield. Today we have had clear, sunny, warm periods. T-shirt weather between more icy deluges. Ah well, it beats choking on a bagel in a snow drift in Buffalo. My helicopter pilot buddy who is in Northern Saskatchewan at the moment reports, “Broke down, temp -34”. It’s all relevant, we’ll continue to try to “Bloom where we’re planted.”

Somebody's dream. If I don't understand it, I have no right to laugh.
Somebody’s dream. Because I don’t understand it gives me no right to laugh.         I’ll bet it has no mortgage.


Old ‘Seafire’ languishes at her new mooring in the old shipyard. She feels bewildered I’m sure about all this ‘Do South’ sentiment and where it has gone. Soon honey, soon. We will do this thing. It’s a dull month with bright dreams to keep out the dark and cold. Soon honey, soon.

Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”. …Winston Churchill

Gabriola Roadrunners In front of the building supply store, across from the feed store, Christmas dinner on the hoof.
Gabriola Roadrunners
In front of the building supply store, across from the feed store,
Christmas dinner on the hoof.

QCS Sunset

Author: Fred Bailey

Fred is a slightly-past middle age sailor / writer / photographer with plenty of eclectic hands-on skills and experiences. Some would describe him as the old hippy who doesn't know the war is over. He is certainly reluctant to grow up and readily admits to being the eternal dreamer. He has written several books including two novels, 'The Keeper' and 'Storm Ecstasy,' as well as 'The Water Rushing By', 'Sins Of The Fathers', 'The Magic Stick', as well as an extensive inventory of poetry, essays, short stories, anecdotes and photographs. His first passion is the ocean, sailboats, voyaging and all those people who are similarly drawn to the sea. He lives aboard 'Seafire' the boat he is refitting to go voyaging, exploring new horizons both inner and outer. This blog is about that voyage and the preparations for it. In spite of the odds against it, the plan is to sail away this fall and lay a course southward. If you follow this blog your interest may provide some of the energy that helps fuel the journey. Namaste Contact him at

4 thoughts on “November Blahs”

  1. American Thanksgiving – no Black Monday here just Black Monday every day of the year. However, we are cooking a turkey tomorrow along with duck, papaya salad, pumpkin pie, cake, sweet potatoes etc all Thai style – lots of chili – enjoy

  2. Fred,

    We have been friends for over 30 years, and I have listened to, and read a lot of rants from you. I have been following your blog since you started. I have read a lot of your opinions that I did not agree with, but felt no need to express my opinion. This time is different. You cross a line with your rant on our military that I cannot let pass without speaking out.

    My Grandfather served in the First World War. His sons served both in WWII and the Korean War. I have a cousin retired now from a life long carrier in our Canadian Armed Forces, and another cousin who has done 3 tours of duty in the Middle East, leaving his wife and children for months at a time to serve our country. My Uncle served in WWII and the Merchant Marines. They all have scars, internal and external, but they all became productive members of our society, raising families and paying taxes.

    November 11th is called Remembrance Day for a reason. It is not meant to be a joyful day, it is a day to show respect. Respect for those who fought and continue to fight to keep our country a safe place to live and raise our children, now and in the future. Respect is not a right, it has to be earned, and these men and women have earned our respect. November 11th, Remembrance Day is the one day a year where we should all pay our bill of respect.

    Your statement and I quote “I have become convinced that any dog which is easy to train and conforms readily without question is not a clever creature”. This unquestionably is the most disrespectful, ungrateful and ignorant words you have ever put to paper.

    You have insulted me, my family and friends and all those who choose to work within a system or a team for the betterment of all. You might not consider any ass worth looking after other than your own, but you benefit every single day from the very people you have trashed. Even from you, Fred, that is extremely narrow minded thinking.

    I quote you again “The ones which resist being programmed are the individuals with a questioning mind and true leadership potential”. Hitler comes to mind, now there was a leader! Mussolini, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, ISIS, would you like to live in a country lead by that kind of mentality?

    I quote one more time. “If only we all indulged in tending our own patch first and employed righteous example instead of indignation” From what I see and read Fred, you have a lot of gardening to do in your “own patch” , start by planting some seeds of respect.

    Jimmy Poirier

    1. Jimmy:
      I have posted your remarks for all to see, and I respect your perspective and am glad that I live in a place where we are free to express ourselves without fear of being tortured and or shot….yet! However I have to ask what is YOUR PERSONAL experience with the military? What your relatives did does not give you any perspective on what I was talking about. My family lived in Coventry and had the shit bombed out of them by the Nazis. When you’ve seen your pregnant girlfriend draped over a power line with her guts hanging out after a bombing, you have some deep grief to pass on to descendants like me. My grandfather flew in Egypt with the Royal Flying Corps in WWI and went on to work shoulder to shoulder with Frank Whittle during WWII desperately trying to counter the Germans by developing a British Jet fighter. The RAF built a mock aerodrome next to the family’s farm so that not only did the bombs fall on my family’s work places, they fell on their home too. I was brought up on all of those stories. I have also heard the horrible tales of the German civilian war survivors.
      In an effort to do something noble I was about to enlist in the ROTC program and spend my life in the Canadian Military flying and doing heroic things. Once I’d spent yet another summer on the parade ground of CFB Trenton, in full winter uniform in 100 degree plus heat and had comrades fainting at attention so their fixed bayonets passed through their armpit and another who went to their aid was severely disciplined for not staying at attention, all the while our then Minister of Defense, Paul Hellier, told us what a pathetic bunch of little men we were (This was right at the time of unification). Been there Jimmy, how about you.

      I went on to a career in civil aviation and so have worked with a lot with military vets who are more often than not, severely messed-up individuals. Not only were they shattered by their experiences in Asian battlefields, they were treated like shit when they finally got home. I’ve worked at sea with other Nam vets and the story is the same.

      You’ve just completed a whirlwind tour of the South Pacific. Did you not see any of the ruins of war nearly everywhere you went? Were any of those relics on American or Japanese soil? No. That war, like all other wars, was about greed and power and economics.

      We’ve been recently sending our next batch of naively invincible youth half-way around the planet with a weapon in their hand. What that hell does that have to do with protecting our homeland or defending the innocent? When a young soldier came home in a body bag there was national mourning for that volunteer in another man’s invasion (NOT war) and there was never any mention of how many innocent Afghans that soldier may well have killed. They didn’t take weapons there to go duck hunting! Nor is there much respect paid to those who came home mutilated in soul and body and endure fates far worse than death and will essentially be shoved aside by society for the rest of their existence. We don’t need to mention Iran, Iraq, Syria, Croatia, Serbia, the Ukraine. It goes on and on.
      I suggest old buddy, you actually READ what I wrote. So far as rants go, you’ve now just had one. What is your PERSONAL experience. Fred

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