Tuesday, December 29, 2009


My four brats all descended on the Manor for the Christmas Holidays, something that took my mind off a very great worry (See Virago of a Virus). All went well, various presents were, well, presented, and an added plus was the presence of the Compte de Rienville, who arrived along with his cook, Stephane. This was indeed a Good Thing; my own cook, Ludwig, had left in a huff over a disagreement about asparagus. I wanted it steamed. He wanted to boil it. Obviously he had to go.

Isolde, my concert violinist daughter, had brought along her agent, Lolulu, who went by the name of Luke. An austere woman, she was clothed in a dark, nondescript pant suit, in marked contrast to the colourful party frocks worn by my daughters. She said little, but obviously adored Isolde. Well, who wouldn't?

Stephane did wonderful things to a turkey, with a wine-based gravy that was superb. And he readily agreed that asparagus should always be steamed. Good man, Stephane.

After dinner, the kids all assembled in the drawing room for the Christmas Monopoly Game, a Strunsky tradition. I retired to the library with the Compte and cognacs, and was soon involved in a heated discussion about Yemen. My point was that if Yemen was going to screw with us, we were bloody well going to screw with them. The Compte took the view that if airport security had been better, that addled Nigerian would never have been allowed on any plane whatsoever. Yes, the authorities in Lagos were inept, but the Dutch are not, and how they had missed him was a bit of a mystery. "Although," he added, "I gather the man was in transit."

"Seems to me," I said with a bit of jaundice, "we are not far away from having to strip before boarding an airplane, and being forced to wear one of those ghastly hospital gowns. And don't get me started on body scanners. I can think of at least three explosive materials that would not be picked up. What was that?"

A dull thump had echoed throughout the Manor.

"I think it came from your firing range," said the Compte.

The two of us scurried downstairs, where we came upon my ex-Mossad butler Irving engaged in reeling a target sheet back from the range. Standing on the shooter's mark was Luke, cradling my Ruger M77 in her hands.

The target sheet had arrived. I looked at it. "Nice grouping."

"I'm a bit off," replied Luke calmly, as if she walked into peoples' houses everyday and fired weaponry. "My own preference is a Steyr-Mannlicher SS6-69. I would have liked to try the Erma SR 100, but Sir Harry said that was your baby, and I respect that."

And now things became clear, and I felt a huge surge of relief.

"So Isolde has nothing to do with any of this?" I asked.

"Well, there was that courier thing in Vienna, but Sir Harry said you gave him what for, and put a stop to it. She's just to good a violinist to waste The Trade. When I met Isolde, however, and got to know her --"

" --No doubt in the Biblical sense --"

" -- And way led on to way," Luke continued, firmly ignoring my interjection, "we seemed a perfect fit. I get her bookings, Sir Harry helps, and this gives us access --"

"I get the picture." Bloody opportunistic Sir Harry. But at least I now knew what Matilda Hatt had been hinting at about another sniper. Thank God it didn't turn out to be Isolde.

"I would though," said Luke, "like to request a favour."

"Go on."

"Isolde's next concert is three weeks away. In Prague. I won't be able to be with her until then, and it would be neat if she could stay with you during that time."

"Consider it done. What takes you away?"


"Only one place, I should think." This from the Compte. "Where things have gone a bit pear-shaped."

"And little training schools have started to grow like evil mushrooms," put in Irving.

"Mushrooms that badly need rooting out," I said. "So, Luke, enjoy....Yemen."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Virago Of A Virus

Yes, very late this time. Put simply, I must have picked up a nasty virus while in Copenhagen, pointing out likely sniper positions that could, if employed, disrupt proceedings. Actually, that boondoggle could have used a good dash of reality, but attentive readers, and which of you are not, already know my position on global warming.

Anyway, here I was, back in Toronto at the Manor, and flat on my back. This was a body position more in keeping with the Compte de Rienville than coping with a vicious bug, but what can you do? Yet I continue to believe that we create our own reality, that an illness is in fact dis-ease, and therefore there was a reason for my coughing, lack of sleep, fever, loss of appetite, and innumerable aches and pains. I was obviously uneasy about something, but what?

So, a chance to reflect. Where had the virus come from? The only time I was exposed in Copenhagen was when I had to make my way through the protesters to retrieve a certain microdot for Sir Harry, and get it out of the country. Easy-peasy -- I am a woman, and microdots can be hidden in a variety of places, places only the most stalwart of custom officials would dare to look. They didn't, and Sir Harry was pleased.

Must have been the protesters, a scruffy bunch of Muslims screaming for the downfall of Switzerland. Something about minarets that escaped me, and what this had to do with global warming remains a mystery. And why the Swiss, of all people? I mean, a thousand years of democracy, and what have they produced? The cuckoo clock.

As for the virus, this might be the 'where' of the question, but not the 'why'. The answer still eluded me.

After two days of absolute misery, things were beginning to look up, both literally and figuratively (I was still flat on my back). A visit by Matilda Hatt helped as well.

She entered, bearing a pot of tea that she said worked wonders. I was at that point more interested in a serious Laphroaig, but drank the stuff anyway.

"This is good,Tilly," I said. What is it?"

"A special mixture. Lavender, with just a titch of belladonna."

"Belladonna! That's poison --"

"Only in certain doses. A very small amount gets your insides on full alert, and they attack anything out of the norm. In this case, your virus."

"And just where, Dr. Hatt, did you learn this?"

"Yemen. And you know about that. As for Copenhagen, I can report that there were no incidents."

"Wasn't there someone from Zimbabwe caught in the vault of the UBS Bank?

"Yeah, the silly bugger was attempting a robbery. And the fact that he got that far is a tribute to the rotten security of UBS. Bloody initials should read 'Used To Be Smart'. And why the climate conference organizers let Mugabe in, well, there's no accounting for stupidity.

"Now, Tilly," I replied, "he has a low carbon footprint."

"Sure he does. Destroying an entire country will do that."

This produced small silence. One cannot argue with the inarguable. Then Tilly said, "Oh, I had a small talk with your Sir Harry. He's found a new sniper that might be able to match your abilities."

"Yes, Code Barry is very good indeed."

"No," Tilly replied, 'this person is not with CSIS. Someone being groomed by Sir Harry himself. He said she reminded him of you in your younger days."


"She. But that's all I could get from Mr. Secrecy. You know how he is."

"Too well."

Tilly left shortly after, and following a moment's reflection, I had a very disturbing thought. A very disturbing thought, and quite likely the cause of my viral distress. This needs dealing with, I thought, and very soon. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Clowns In Copenhagen

A trip to Copenhagen and the World Conference on Global Warming was not on my "to do" list, not by a long shot. However, Sir Harry had said that certain of his colleagues had requested my presence, and hence, "no" would not do. Apparently my expertise was sought, involving key sniper positions that could come into play should something untoward occur. Having bargained for first class airfare, and successful in this, off I went.

Once there, I immediately saw a definite plus. In an act of insane Danish political correctness, all Christmas shrubbery had been removed from the site -- couldn't offend the burka-and sari-wearing set you know. But such shrubbery might have been used to hide IED's or whatever, to the detriment of delegates' health, so what you loses on the roundabouts, you gain on the swings. So I set about discussing with the appropriate security personnel the likely spots where trouble could erupt, and without much ado, agreement was reached. It is always a relief to work with competent professionals. Such people have very direct reporting lines that bypass the usual middle and upper management types who's whole existence lies in the necessity of putting their oars in, usually screwing up whatever is being proposed.

Back at my temporary quarters at the British Consulate, I reflected on the Conference, the reflection aided by a bottle of Grey Goose Sir Harry had thoughtfully provided. (He does have his good points.) First off, I have no doubt that global warming is occurring, although this would be a hard sell right now in Alberta -- average temperature minus 30 degrees Celsius. And yes, I am aware of certain e-mails that indicate certain disagreements among the scientists studying the matter. Who knew that scientists occasionally differ? No, my argument is that such warming is part of forces that we can do little to influence.

In short, the delegates seem blissfully unaware of the cosmic forces they intend to rein in. The last ice age we experienced is still in retreat, and of course the world is warming up. In time, the situation may come about that currently-frozen Alberta might once again experience the 40 degree Celsius temperatures that allowed dinosaurs to happily roam about. Hence, in my opinion, time could much more usefully focussed on adaptive strategies. If given some planning time, we as a race have proved rather adept at formulating and enacting these. Mind you, if the cosmos suddenly began to play really dirty pool, we would be in the position of looking skyward, noting something huge hurtling our way, and left with nothing but "What the fu--"

So going on and on about greenhouse gases, carbon capture, L.E.D. bulbs, cap and trade, or whatever, seems a total waste of time. The earth, (and the cosmic forces that enable its existence) is oblivious to the pleas of the Copenhagen delegates, however earnest they be. It is as if a person screamed at the universe "I exist!" to which the universe replied, "Well, I'm sorry, but I don't feel any sense of obligation."

Unless....there is another game being played entirely. Carbon capture is going to raise a gazillion taxpayer dollars, particularly where cap and trade is concerned. Might the whole thing be a gigantic money grab? And then I had a zero at the bone sensation a la Emily Dickinson. Who was it some time ago that argued forcefully for the capping and trading of carbon? My memory is not what it was....then I had it.


Enough said.