Procrastination and Regret

Procrastination and Regret

Procrastination and Regret


Do you remember Aunt Izzie?

Her death in “What Katy Did” taught Katy the meaning of regret. It was – for a sickly sweet book – a very poignant moment. And yes, “regrets I’ve had a few” — but one particular one is nagging at me as we come to the end of the Christmas holidays.

When we first moved to the neighborhood I was delighted by the Christmas decorations at one of the houses round the corner. It was very simple. Propped up against the third floor window from a second floor balcony was a rustic ladder. And every Christmas the homeowners placed a jolly Saint Nick with a sack full of presents on that rickety old ladder, with a spotlight on him as he climbed up to deliver his bulging bag of gifts.

And every year I promised myself I’d take a picture to remind myself just how whimsical and enchanting some of the most simple decorations could be. So this year I thought to myself – go over there and take that picture before you forget again.

But when I arrived – the house was the same, the rustic ladder was still there – but no Saint Nick. Not on any of the nights before Christmas. Now there’s just an empty ladder.

And I felt I’d lost something really special. Something meaningful is now missing from my life – something I can’t get back.

Have you ever had this happen to you?

In the habit…

In the habit

In the habit


Just a quick memory from the past.

I was about 9 years old and I’d just come home from the Sound of Music. Always the actress I’d pleaded for and received the cast recording and I couldn’t wait to put it on the gramophone! (Yes, Virginia I DO remember gramophones!)

Soon the house was alive with sound of me laboriously learning all the words to every song, slowly driving my long-suffering, but extremely patient mother to complete distraction. I think it got particularly painful when I got to “The Lonely Goatherd” which I warbled louder and louder until I arrived at the “yodel-ay-ee” chorus which I shouted from the family room, thoroughly out of tune and sounding more like a fat bull frog than a singing Austrian postulant.

For those of you who only know the movie of the Sound of Music, the opening sequence – Maria spinning round in a large meadow breaking into song – The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music….” the stage version is quite different. The two versions I saw both opened with a piece of scenery spinning round and Maria lying on her back kicking her heels in the air as the music swelled.

Three days later I solemnly asked my mom to come to a show. In the family room. While she knew it was going to be my very own version of the Sound of Music, with me singing almost every part in the show, and my younger siblings performing theirs, she clearly had no idea what we’d be wearing.

She also hadn’t remembered that she’d recently changed the floral curtains in one of our bedrooms – a fairly hideous blast of pink peonies on a cream background. She’d taken them down and left them in a bag near the door to go to Goodwill. Which is where I found them and put them to excellent use.

When the lights went on, there I was, lying on my back, kicking my pudgy legs in the air, singing my heart out to the gramophone. Then I stood up to reveal a nun’s habit, complete with white wimple, made from peony encrusted curtains. “What on earth..?’ my mother asked, her voice trailing off into laughter.

“I’m a nun”, I said very seriously as my flowers swirled crazily as I spun round.. “I’m the founding member of the first order of Jewish Nuns.”

We decided that I definitely had artistic license – and the peony covered nun’s habit has been a standing joke in our family ever since.

For want of a nail, the horse was lost…

How many of you remember this poem?

For want of a nail, the horse was lost,

For want of the horse, the rider was lost.

For want of the rider, the battle was lost,

For want of the battle, the Kingdom was lost.

And all for want of a horseshoe nail.


Everytime searchers are looking for a downed/missing/crashed plane I think of that ditty. Because today’s black box technologies are so archaic and so pathetically inept, they remind me of that nail. And that because it was missing, the Kingdom was lost.

Black boxes, which aren’t even black but rather bright orange, are battery powered and record some 20 hours of data in a loop, thus erasing earlier data as the loop continues.  But in today’s world that system is way out of date. With internet equipped planes, and web enabled flights, the obvious solution would be some kind of streaming data with it being collected and stored on the ground. That would make for almost instantaneous retrieval of “black box” data: the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), which in turn would greatly facilitate the work of the NTSB and those looking for the cause of the disaster. It would also greatly reduce the agony of those still waiting to learn what happened to their loved ones, on such ill-fated flights such as MH 370 which has now been missing for a month.

Considering the cost of data storage, the cost of streaming data, and the ability to access it instantly, the failure of the world’s collective aviation organizations to modernize the collection, storage, and retrieval of this data is nothing short of scandalous.

Scandal – Scandals – Scandalous

What a delicious way to start the month, I thought. Scandal. Steamy affairs, illicit liasons in five-star hotels where there’s more than just a chocolate on your pillow, naughty goings on between “nice” people.

Then I thought – no. Not that sort of scandal. How about this sort of scandal? When the government lies to its citizens about their privacy, when phone calls, tweets, blog posts – yes even blog posts – almost any and every utterance is recorded, monitored, filed and catalogued. Isn’t that a scandal?

Or is it the potential early release of a man who betrayed this country, selling our secrets to an ally, who in turn first used the illgotten intelligence to carry out its own missions and strikes, and then passed that intelligence onto the then Soviet Union. That to me is a scandal.

But then so is the hushing up of medical problems for many of our soldiers who served in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield and whose exposure to chemical agents has rendered many of their children deformed, and/or with disfiguring birth defects. That’s also a scandal.

Dictionaries define scandal as:

1. a disgraceful action or event: his negligence was a scandal

2. censure or outrage arising from an action or event

3. a person whose conduct causes reproach or disgrace

4. malicious talk, esp gossip about the private lives of other people

5. scandal law – a libellous action or statement

I wish the word was used more selectively. Birth defects and deformities due to the wilful and wanton exposure of our troops to harmful chemicals – is a scandal (see definition 1) – Britney Spears’ underwear malfunction is not.

The indiscrimminate monitoring of our enail, phone calls, conversations and communications by government agencies both at home and overseas – without our agreement and without our knowledge – THAT is a scandal. When Lindsey Lohan’s credit cards are declined in New York, it’s not.

So having ascertained what is/is not a scandal – or even scandalous – let’s take a look at some real honest to goodness scandals – revisit some oldies but goodies, and maybe take a peek at some you may not have heard of yet.

April is the cruelest month, wrote T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land, and looking at scandal may be one reason why that’s still true.

The Pressure to Feel

Israel’s Ariel Sharon is dying – and I feel an extraordinary pressure to try and find something positive to say. But I can’t. The man who countenanced and permitted the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut in 1982 which resulted in the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of Palestinians – is preparing to meet his maker, and I’m wondering what that encounter might look like.

The eulogies of course, are bound to be full of plaudits and revisionist history. His courage, his ability to seize victory from the jaws of defeat, his tenacity and his obstinacy.

Ever a man of strong convictions and contradictions, Ariel Sharon was loved by the Israeli right wing and loathed by Palestinians and most Arabs. His flamboyant displays of bravado, including the notorious visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in September 2000 which arguably provoked the Second Intifada, resulting in the deaths of yet more Palestinians (over 2,000) and Israelis (over 1,000), were his signature.

After years of covering the Middle East and especially Israel and the Palestinians, I wish I could feel something as this divisive figure prepares to shuffle off his mortal coil. But I don’t. Not a thing. Just a realization that my ambivalence is probably my loudest shout. Or as Morales sings in “Chorus Line” —
I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
And cried ’cause I felt nothing.”