WINTER SOLSTICE – Marilyn Armstrong


Why did it have to be raining? Why was today the day that every bone in my body hurts and some things which are arguably not bones, hurt too? The birds are outside rain and all.

They don’t expect a warm, dry house … and there’s a feeder to raid. I suppose, when you are a bird, a decent meal is about as good as it gets.

I know this means the season is turning again and days will get longer and ultimately, it will warm up. But not for a while. We have three long winter months to navigate and we’ve barely begun yet.

And meanwhile, at Stonehenge …

The bears have not gone into hibernation. Not cold enough yet? Too many trash cans to raid?

The sky is a leaden pale gray as the heavy rain falls. The dogs want nothing to do with outside. Snow is fun and everything else is okay too, but rain? No, thank you. Pass the biscuits. The sofa is home for now.

Winter Solstice – Sunrise – 2016

I have a doctor appointment. My right arm has taken to hurting a lot and won’t let me sleep. Nothing makes it any better. I think it may actually be a sign that my chest is beginning to heal, but why does it have to hurt so much?

It could be snowing. That would probably be worse, or at least, more complicated. We still have no one to plow the driveway and it’s a long, long road to the “real” road.

Winter has finally come, I suppose. I should be happier about it. I’m trying hard to find that happy place.


Christmas down by the Mumford River 
Another square for BeckyB

In downtown Uxbridge, they have decorated the park. I think this is the first time I’ve seen more than the snowflakes. They’ve been around for a few years. But this year, we have reindeer, an elf, a couple of snow guys and a big red sleigh. That’s huge for little old Uxbridge.

A snow guy along the Mumford dam in downtown Uxbridge

Since we have a park and a river and two dams in the middle of town, it’s quite decorative. Since we were getting dentistry done next door, I got lucky and took some pictures.

Time is a ‘wasting! It will be Christmas next Tuesday!


Word Prompt Xmas Zombies

You’d think one day with Bank of America would have sufficed me for the week, but you’d be wrong. Having also finally signed on with Sirius for the absolutely lowest price we could get for a year’s subscription, I discovered the ONLY way I could turn the radio on was to call them — on a smartphone — from the car.

The Renegade

Lucky me, I charged the phone the other day because even though I have it turned off, the battery gradually weakens, so even if it looks good, when you turn it on, it will drain really quickly.

As we pulled into the driveway, having completed — or Garry having completed — a trip to the dentist (I forgot to take my antibiotics, so I have to go back in January), I said: “Gee. I hope I have Sirius’ telephone number in my contact list.”

I might have if I ever turned the phone on so it could synchronize with our computer. But it’s pretty much always off, so when I finally turn it on, it beeps, jangles, dings, twitters and occasionally makes some other noise I don’t recognize.

Maybe that’s the sound it makes when it rings? I’ll have to check on that.


Anyway, I finally made my way to Sirius website where they had no record of my ever having signed on with them and they wanted my password.

Did I have a password? Our little Google phone does not offer the full Gmail experience, so I have no folders and cannot look anything up. I opted for “I forgot my password” because I not only forgot it, I’m not sure I ever set it in the first place. It isn’t unusual for me to sign up with something, but never log into their website. I figure they’ll email or call me if they want to get in touch, but then come these moments when it’s obvious — I need to “be in touch.”

I got their telephone robot. Of course, I got their telephone robot. They are waiting for me wherever I go. They line up secretly in hallways, waiting for a brief glimpse of me so they can ask me the same questions repeatedly and when I answer them, they can tell me they didn’t understand me.

Do the people who program these things do it on purpose? Can all of this be accidental? I’m like Garry with slow drivers. He is sure they have drones watching for him and blocking the roads on purpose.

After a while, I just sat there saying AGENT AGENT AGENT and at some point later, I got one. An agent. This one seemed to speak some version of English and I could mostly understand him when he slowed down enough. Otherwise, it was just jumbled noise at high speed.

He asked me — again — for radio’s number which I gave him, no problem as it was printed across the radio’s face. In very big letters. Then I had to spell it out, one letter at a time. With extra backup words if I thought there might be confusion.

He then said he was going to send a signal to the radio to tell it to turn itself on and wanted to know if we had a clear sky above us (“Garry, look up. Can you see the sky?” “Yes.”)

The sky was seen and declared free of flying debris and trees.

Next question: “Is your telephone (incoherent mumbling).”

“WHAT? Can you slow down? NO idea what you just said.”

It turned out he wanted to know if my phone was connected to the radio. I gagged at the thought and said “NO.” He then said he was sending a signal, but it might take up to five minutes to work, but no problem he’d stay on the phone while we waited.  After which he immediately hung up.

I don’t think he was on the phone for a full minute before hanging up. I redialed the number. I got another representative. Gave them my name. Again. Spelled Marilyn. Again. Then I had to spell “ARMSTRONG” which usually, I don’t have to spell because it’s Armstrong and everyone knows how to spell it. Except for this lady who I guess needed to make sure I used the usual number of consonants and vowels. Nothing weird like ending it in a double “G.”

In fact, I had to repeat every single thing I had said on the previous call. She said she was sending a signal too and would, of course, stay on the phone, not to worry.

Then she immediately hung up. But by then the first signal had come through, so I hung up.


We now have Sirius radio which we got for $3.99/month for a year. Plus taxes and other weird charges, so it’s more like six dollars and when the year runs out, I’ll go through the same siege again. I’ll reject the price. They’ll beg me to stay and lower the price by a buck. I’ll still refuse because their basic price is obscenely high. I’ll tell them to just turn it off. Who needs it anyway? 

Just before next Christmas, they will email a better price, but not good enough. I will reject it out of hand. They will call me. Beg me to sign up, but only when they offer me another year at $3.99, will I take it. 

It took about an hour to set up the radio, what with two phone calls and repeating the same information one letter at a time, then using it in a word so they couldn’t misunderstand me. It takes a long time to spell out a 10 letter code. And of course, spelling “Armstrong” was a bit of a high point.

I made Garry sit and listen to this because he can hear now, so sooner or later, he is going to have to deal with this. He needs to learn the ropes.

I do speak clearly. I got a degree is in speech and drama and I used to be on the radio. Even relatively recently, I was on TV and radio. At no point in any TV or radio appearance did I have to spell out the words. I have a standard Bachelor of Arts. It’s not a valuable degree, but at least it means I speak clearly. I had to learn to speak clearly. It’s part of the degree program.

So, why is it that none of these people or their robots ever understand anything I say? Are they keyed to mumblers so that people who speak clearly are at a disadvantage?

Or are they just screwing with me?


Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge:
Things with Engines and Motors

I have a few interesting ones and I am delighted to find something interesting for which to use them. Engines and technology. Power and tiny AI motors …

Hoisted Plymouth Prowler – a very rare car!

More Plymouth Prowler

Engine block cum end table

Garry surrounded by equipment


And it all needs power!


We went to the dentist today.

What does that have to do with Christmas? Well, it happens that the dentist’s office is adjacent to the Mumford dam, river, and canal, so while Garry was waiting in the office — also very nicely decorated for the season — I went out and took pictures.

Welcome to the Mumford dam!

And welcome from the little snow guy!

I didn’t take any birdie pictures today. Two reasons. One was not much time since we were due at the dentist pretty early and because I picked up the camera and there was a big red sign in the middle of the screen which, according to MY eyes said ” White Product!”


More greetings standing next to the little canal and its locks.

One snowflake and the lock rivulet

It took me a few minutes to realize what it really said was “Write Protected.” It was an old chip and the little thingie that you use to set/unset write protection. Unfortunately, by the time I figured out that the SD card was dead, the squirrel I was trying to shoot had rambled off into the woods.

Reindeer, sleigh, snow guy, and a path.

Reindeer and dam

My eyes really need some help … like new glasses. And Garry has a broken tooth and no, we absolutely can’t afford a crown. Not on credit or for cash. We do not have the money and I also have to fix the chimney before it falls down on its own. That would be very bad.

More reindeer

Nonetheless, I got really nice pictures of the park all decorated for the holidays, not to mention the dentists waiting room which looks a lot better than my house.

Little bridge and locks over a tiny canal

I never got to see the dentist because I forgot to take my antibiotics. I have to take four HUGE antibiotics before getting my teeth worked on. Actually, I have to take a lot of antibiotics for a lot of things that could happen, but if I’m good, won’t happen. Supposedly.

Bridge over the Mumford River and one reindeer

So no new bird pictures, but I still have plenty of birdie shots awaiting first publication. Just saying.