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Thread: Blueberry Wine Redux

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    close to Lake Ontario in Burlington, ON Canada

    Default Blueberry Wine Redux

    Blueberry Wine Redux

    I was sitting at my Honda car dealership earlier this week waiting for my Honda Civic. The car is a 1999, passed on to me last fall when my mother found she was prohibited from driving after suffering a minor stroke. Heard somebody comment “I wonder where his car is?” Turned around, to see my friend Hans walking towards me, with a cane! Hans had fallen some six weeks prior, at home and had broken his hip. So I asked him why he was at the Honda dealership, he didn’t own a Honda. Seems his wife had been less than happy when she couldn’t drive his standard shift ancient BMW when he broke his hip. Her automatic VW Beetle was dead on the other side of the garage and the BMW; well it was older than the VW. and it too had been failing.

    He said, “ We bought a Honda Element; and we sold the other two cars, to collectors. We have it here to have mud flaps installed, Emma saw you sitting here and told me to invite you for lunch.”

    With that the service advisor walked over to me and gave me the bill for my car; now washed, serviced (new rotors and pads as well as service the rear brakes, oil and filter and rotated the tyres) for some $384.00! So paid the bill, not entirely unexpected, and followed them home in the new Element. It was a deep dark blue, as in blueberry wine.

    Once inside Hans suggested he pour some wine; blueberry of course,
    Emma said it would be some time before lunch would be ready, so we were to wait in the sun room, and drink wine. We toasted each other and then talked, at length. He spent four months in his home village, with his mother who is ninety seven, he skied most days. Emma came over for Christmas and the New Year’s celebration. He was happy with the Nikon D200 and its lenses and it had been well used. However he found it bulky, almost a burden and kept going back to his older Exa film camera. He had seriously considering selling the D200; however, the neck strap came apart on a ski hill a few days before he left! The camera was recovered but the lens was crooked on the camera! The camera was sent to Nikon Switzerland and Hans was called, three days later and was told the camera was beyond economical repair!

    The lens barrel was broken, and the mount on the camera had been pushed back into the camera body. Nikon suggested maybe the camera struck a rock when it fell. Hans told them to post him the paperwork and for Nikon to keep the camera. He is still waiting for some form of settlement from his insurance company here in Canada.

    Hans handed me a big binder. “Those are the photos from this winter. You tell me which were taken with the Exa and which were taken with the Nikon.” He refilled our glasses.

    As I looked at the photos I was struck by the beauty of the mountains and
    of Switzerland. The pictures all looked wonderful, some seemed sharper than others however they all looked good. He had shot some trains for me as well and gave me a packet of prints, and then said, “you know how much you like Fuji film, well tried some when I was there. Print film, and I think it is almost as good as Kodak film. Had all the film processed in a Fuji lab when I was there.”

    Emma yelled “ the cow is dead, lunch is served, leave your wine there!”
    Hans needed help getting up from his chair, am still having chemo booster shots so am not much better. “Two old men,” Hans chuckled. He suggested I use the bog and he’d use the one near the kitchen before we sat to eat.

    Emma asked the blessing in German, and then requested I give her a hand with the serving platters. She said next year they will have been married sixty years, and I am expected at their celebration, in Switzerland! Taken aback said “and what if I am unable to attend due to health or other reasons?” Hans said, “you’ll come, we are chartering a large airplane and we can always put you in steerage.”

    No more was said, other than idle talk. Lunch was expansive, very filling and then dessert, a peach strudel, with lots of fresh (none of this artificial stuff) whipped cream followed by dark black Melitta drip coffee. Near the end Hans suggested I ring my mother and tell her where I was and that I might be home for late tea. He handed me his new to him mobile phone, and showed me how to open it. “It also takes a nice 2 meg photo as well” he noted. Rang mother who then insisted on talking to Emma. Ten minutes later the two women rang off. Yak!,Yak!, Yak!

    Emma then said “you’ll take a strudel to your mother when you leave here later this afternoon. There is another strudel in the icebox, I’ll get it ready, so don’t forget.”

    Hans looked at me and said “you look tired, take the recliner in the sun room, I’ll take the other one as well, we should rest after lunch. Then
    we need to talk, you’ve been too quiet today.” Their Persian cat tends to sleep on somebody’s lap after lunch. I like cats, but purring three inches from your nose and digging in the claws? I soon dropped off; guess the cat did too as the next thing I knew there was this piece of sandpaper licking my nose. The cat figured it was time for me to wake up. Hans was in the other chair, asleep. I needed to go to the bog, the cat soon took over the warm recliner. Hans was stirring; Emma saw me exit the bog and told me to wake Hans. There was fresh coffee in the drip machine, she was going shopping and she wouldn’t be back for a while.

    Hans suggested rather than sit on the recliners, maybe we go to the front
    room. He motioned me to a chair and then as we sat down poured me a coffee and one for himself.

    Now young man (he has easily fifteen years on me) “why are you so quiet?”

    I suggested that he was doing all the talking before lunch to which he replied, “yah, but you could've said something.”

    So I talked. Told him of my escapades with digital single lens reflex
    cameras while he was away. And why I came to the conclusion that no matter what pictures I took the effort was still too much.

    Suggested the old fashioned method of dropping the film off at the local drug store and getting snaps back a few days later was still the best way. Hans smiled and suggested “you’re reverting to your childhood, maybe not a good idea.”

    So told him my conclusion was to buy a simple digital camera; simple guts
    inside, it only shoots JPEGs. Hans interrupted, “simple in your mind is complicated for anybody else. You’re like me; a tinkerer, you can’t leave anything alone.” I nodded my head in agreement and sipped my coffee.

    Hans was quiet. “So what did you do? I know you figure Nikon point and shoots are junk and Canon can’t make a decent SLR or DSLR for love nor money.”

    Told him I bought a Canon G7, which I figure was about as complicated as I wanted. It has a speed shutter dial on top, a minimum of program modes and for me takes a pretty good picture. Hans blinked “you bought another
    point and shoot? Why, after all we went through to get ourselves decent single lens reflex digitals?”

    Explained what I had been shooting; flowers, my friend’s model railway,
    things around the house, nothing that would require the fancy dancy
    toys on an SLR. And the results, for me have been good. Also told him
    my world has changed, so dramatically after the surgery, followed by the
    chemo and now the wait, to see if the disease will come back to kill me.
    And also, I want to take a picture now, quietly, and not be too obtrusive.

    “So where is your lovely Nikon F100 and the lenses “ he asked?

    “Sitting in the case, on the shelf, beside the Speed Graphic. The batteries are out, and there is no film in the camera. I have the Pentax Espio and it’s for snaps. I don’t need the Nikon, right now.”

    “And the other thing, I get a roll of slide film back and the slides just sit on the sorting table; have no interest in even looking at them. My world has changed, don’t really want to care, about many things. Figure it’s now time to cut back, reduce, maybe sell my slides, as everybody who is anybody posts their stuff on a computer and none of my current picture taking friends even own a computer! I can scan the slides, but what’s the point? Everybody it seems takes better pictures than me!"

    Hans got up and motioned me to stay where I was. Took a small key from his pocket, and opened up his liquor cabinet and withdrew a large bottle of
    Kaluha, opened it and poured it in my coffee. He did the same for himself and then added more coffee. The bottle went back into the cabinet and then he excused himself and went out to the bog.

    I sat there wondering what was next. Heard the toilet flushing, Hans emerged and said “that feels better. When you’re an old man best to empty things before getting into the hard stuff.
    So please continue, there’s more, yes?”

    I nodded my head quietly and leaned back in my chair.

    “Hans, I have no desire to do anything. The motorcycle sits in the garage,
    am afraid to ride it as I have no physical strength. I walk and swim every other day but then the booster shot of chemo is given and I feel like I’ve fallen back.
    The need for photography or anything else of my past just isn’t there. Have finally given up all my positions at the ham radio club, and don’t miss it. Can’t bring myself to even look at slides taken recently as they have no meaning, which is why the NIkon is empty. Figure why waste film on things that mean nothing! I had thought by volunteering to judge photos on the Railroad Photo Essays Photo Gallery website I follow would help me, but not only is the website damn hard to understand, am unable to criticize people’s work because I don’t want them to feel bad. As you know I have never taken put downs well. My description is often more words of praise for the photographer. Am thinking of telling the owner-moderator I want out."

    "And that’s the other thing; I tried viewing my own slides that I took twenty or thirty or even forty years ago. And those pictures are much much better and far better composed than anything I take now. Hans, I have slides dated of 1965, that’s almost fifty years ago! "

    Am I that old? And then think of what I have missed, or the people I took pictures of and there are many of my friends that aren’t there any more. When you were away Rod Jones died, of cancer, you may recall he shot all his trains with an ancient Rolleiflex, his prints and equipment went to his son in Thunder Bay and the other one was Dave Campbell, he had Parkinson’s and fell down his back stairs the day after New Year’s. His wife wants me to try and sell all of his photo gear and there are boxes and boxes of his stuff in their basement. No photos though, he burned his stuff because he didn't want anybody else to see his mistakes!"

    I want some enjoyment of my slides or at least make sure they are my best shots. Nobody shoots slides these days, they are all digital and also,
    these young photographers have money, time and cameras” I am unable to get enthused about photography, or anything else! And yes my psychiatrist is very aware of all of this, he just figures it will all come back in time."

    I paused, took a sip of the coffee and said “oh, that tastes good!”

    Hans looked sad. He went to say something then closed his mouth and
    shook his head. He also sipped his coffee for a moment and then said
    “you can’t go back in time and for now you’re probably doing the best thing for you. You’re like me, older than you want to be and perhaps more than a little sad at what you see others doing. I assume most of the people
    you’re comparing yourself to are Americans. There are just not that many good picture taking railfans in Canada, and not like the hordes south of the border. Then too maybe you should stop trying to be close or equal to the youngsters of today. They have the enthusiasm, the where with all and the breadth of a country more accessible that anything we have in Canada. And they have the ability to do things we in Canada can never do."

    “Your hobbies of trains, and with that your photography, motorcycles and
    amateur radio are all falling apart. You enjoy gardening but also are very aware you’re physicallyin poor shape and mentally, you’ve got some real problems. You’re getting old mentally even faster than physically. I’d suggest though you continue on the current path. Tell yourself to view a few colour slides each day, and mark them as as good or evil or ordinary. If the slides enter the evil or ordinary stage, put them to one side labeled for sale or trade, if they are good and ordinary, keep them to review later. Keep only those pictures which you like and may also have some value to somebody else. Otherwise you’re doing fine. Maybe use your Nikon gear to shoot print film, instead of slides? Want some more coffee?”

    “I shook my head.”

    “No more for me Hans, my mind is fuzzy as it is, and most days I almost cry because what once was is no more. Mum is not well, and many days both of us see different doctors. As you know I have limited income and what I do have, goes quickly.
    For me to buy the G7, traded a lense and sold my Mamiya C330.
    For now the G7 works for me. I want to go riding but the body doesn’t want to cooperate. Have much trouble understanding many things.

    With my comment the cuckoo clock sounded four o’clock.

    “Look, I must be on my way. Mum will be worried.”

    Hans got up and said “you’re not going until I at least get the strudel from the icebox, and I want to give you something. Come out to the kitchen.”

    Thump, the cat jumped out of the chair in the sun room and followed Hans to the kitchen, making noises all the way. Hans opened the bottom door of the ancient icebox; Emma keeps her fresh baking in it, Hans had modified it years ago with a small compressor to keep the contents cool, the actual box was made in the late 1930’s. The cat stuck his head in, Hans gave it a dash of whipped cream on its nose, as it hopped down.

    “Here is the strudel, and there’s a note attached as well.”

    In Emma’s neat printing “ Tell Bryce not to stay away so long, he seemed too quiet, and tell him to take the extra whipping cream container beside the strudel. I make (sic) more tomorrow. Signed Emma.”
    PS: “Next time he comes, he is to bring his mother, we can talk while you two play in the dark room.”

    Hans closed the icebox door, just as the cat tried to stick his nose in again. He then opened the side door, shooed the cat outside and motioned me to go ahead and he’d bring the strudel and the cream.

    Went to my car and opened the rear door, the cat hopped up on the seat.
    I grabbed the cat, Hans put the strudel and the cream on the floor behind
    the front seat. Told me to “close the door, and put down the cat.”

    Now as he looked me in the eye as best he could, “you are not to compare your self to anybody else. If you’re not happy doing something don’t force it upon yourself, you have too many other health problems these days. And I know you like chocolate so keep these cool, my Swiss baker makes these for his friends. Eat no more than one a week, they are very sweet and fattening, Give some to your Mum. Now go home and remember what I said. I’ll ring you in a few weeks. We need to go buy more blueberry wine and you can drive me to the winery, in my new car.

    He gave me a large white cardboard box wrapped in string, and cold. The box went beside me on the front seat. I backed out of the drive and
    waved good bye. My eyes were wet with tears.

    Bryce Lee

  2. #2


    Good wine, good strudel and good advice, You're the only one who knows for sure when it'st ime to hang it up.

    I vote to post as is.

    Martin Burwash

  3. #3
    Two23 Guest


    I read this several days ago, and it took a little time to digest. It was difficult for me to sort out. It's very much "from the heart" writing, not often seen. I reread it yesterday and then quickly understood it. I had to think about it some more though. The tone of the writing is sort of played down and at times even spare, but powerful. At first I kept wondering, why no photos? Then last night, I got it. I then addressed the central question, "What does this have to do with railfanning?" I figured out that out too, after some thought. Keep in mind I once worked in nursing homes as a rehab therapist. Suddenly it all became familiar again.

    Correct me if I'm wrong Bryce, but what you have presented us with is a very different perspective on railfanning. This is very much a reflective look back. It's written from the vantage point of someone feeling they are near the end of line? The questioning of purpose, rememberance of those who have recently passed through, and focus on very simple pleasures such as a cat purring on your lap all combine to describe a person who is tired and looking back. I am just old enough that I think I "get" your message. The reason there are no photos is that just wouldn't fit the theme at all. Now it all comes together for me and makes sense. Am I close?

    Vote: Post.

    Kent in SD

  4. #4
    Two23 Guest


    I should add that after I read this the second time, a passage from the Bible immediately sprang into my mind. Take a look and see what you think:

    Kent in SD

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    close to Lake Ontario in Burlington, ON Canada


    Quote Originally Posted by Two23 View Post
    I should add that after I read this the second time, a passage from the Bible immediately sprang into my mind. Take a look and see what you think:

    Kent in SD
    Hmm references from Biblical times eh?
    All that is old is new again and so goes the circle.
    Conversely the end result is expected, for some.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    close to Lake Ontario in Burlington, ON Canada


    Quote Originally Posted by Two23 View Post
    I read this several days ago, and it took a little time to digest. It was difficult for me to sort out. It's very much "from the heart" writing, not often seen. It's written from the vantage point of someone feeling they are near the end of line? The questioning of purpose, remembrance of those who have recently passed through, and focus on very simple pleasures such as a cat purring on your lap all combine to describe a person who is tired and looking back. I am just old enough that I think I "get" your message. The reason there are no photos is that just wouldn't fit the theme at all. Now it all comes together for me and makes sense. Am I close?

    Kent in SD
    Very close, in fact too close.
    Last edited by Bryce; 05-21-2008 at 01:10 PM.

  7. #7


    This one apparently fell through the cracks, as old threads tend to do.

    Bryce asked me what happened to it, so I went back and looked. While it had several replies, it never got three actual votes.

    I'll add the 3rd yes vote, and I've moved it to the essays section.
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    close to Lake Ontario in Burlington, ON Canada

    Default No More blueberry wine?

    As I mentioned to Bob in an e-mail some time ago, my friend Hans
    and his wife have moved to a retirement cottage.
    After his fall and then having his hip repaired, there were
    complications afterwards. Neither could maintain their property, and his
    wife was driving the car. He had difficulty going down the basement stair
    as well as doing routine things.

    They moved the middle of September to a two bedroom bungalow,
    part of a large retirement complex a great distance from me.
    The bungalow is one level, the garage
    is attached and they can go from their car inside without having to go outside.

    One bedroom has been modified as a darkroom (with running water no less)
    & sewing room.
    They took most of their own furniture. The cat settled in just fine.

    Hans moved from his old house to the regional hospital for some remedial
    surgery and then to the retirement home's medical area. He now goes there every morning for rehab.

    Most of their friends helped with the move; out of the old house and into the new same day.
    We were all fed quite well after the move; Hans had arranged for everything, even though
    he was in the medical area of the retirement home. He watched the move from the third floor balcony;
    and took pictures.

    He did like me, a Nikon D40 and a zoom lens. Our group of friends decided they should move into
    the computer age as well, so we purchased a new iMac and colour printer for them, high speed
    internet is included in the monthly billing for the bungalow. If either Hans or his wife dies,
    the other can stay in the bungalow. Not bad for $871/month and that includes everything.
    They can go for meals in the main building or stay at home and do it themselves.
    They've been having evening meal in the main building, both are not fat as they
    are also exercising. I did buy them a case of blueberry wine!

    Emma did send me home with some peach strudel. We moved the entire fruit cellar
    and a new fruit cellar with preserves and the like was added to the inside
    garage wall, within easy reach. Two days after the move Emma was making
    fruit chili sauce for preserving; she had already done 16 large
    Mason jars of peaches the day after the move.

    Sadly won't be seeing them as often; as noted they are now a
    considerable distance from my home.
    And I have had my own problems with my 92 year old mother and myself.

    Last edited by Bryce; 09-29-2008 at 02:46 AM.

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