Gordon Baxter died yesterday. He was 81.

I don’t think Gordon Baxter will mean much to most of you, but he was a radio personality (and I do mean “personality” – not a personality-free meat puppet or a screaming idealogue which as what they mean now when they use that term) and writer. And to me, he was the epitome of what it meant to be a pilot.

When I started to fly, I subscribed to a load of flying magazines, including the iconic “Flying”. They’d all arrive about the same time, but before I started on any of them I’d turn to the back of “Flying” and read “The Bax Seat”, Gordon Baxter’s column. One of the first one I read was about how he’d had to surrender his medical and couldn’t fly solo any more. Many of his later ones were about flights taken with kind friends who would be Pilot In Command but let him take the yoke or the stick for old times sake. Many of his articles made me cry.

He didn’t write much about the gory and mundane details of flying, weather, regulations, airspace, or the machines (although he loved his Mooney). Flying for him was about being in the company of people who you love like your best friend on first meeting because they share your love for flying. It was about the places he went and the people he met. And he wrote about it in an easy effortless manner that many have tried and failed to emulate – because it was obvious that they were trying, while “Bax” didn’t have to try, he just wrote.

A few years ago one of the Flying editors said that Bax was too sick to write any more, and they started running some of his best old columns in the magazine. Then they wrote how overwhelmed Bax was by the outpouring of love from people who’d never met him.

I never met Bax, and yet I feel his loss.

Blue skies, Bax.


I forgot something I meant to put in yesterday’s post about VE Day.

My mother tells a story of how during the war she was a young girl living in St. Ives, Cornwall. For part of the war they had a Canadian commando billeted with them. She says he’d come home after a hard day storming ashore in rubber boats and climbing cliffs and he was quiet, polite, and he always offered to help out around the house. And he would tell them stories about his home back in Canada. She was quite impressed with this young man.

I’m sure my father had his own reasons, but my mother says that the commando’s stories were one reason why she wanted to move to Canada after they got married.

I have no idea about where the commando was from, what unit he was with, or if he survived the war. But I know that when I’m honouring the service of the soldiers who fought in the wars, I always say a silent prayer of thanks for that quiet young man, whoever he is, because without him I might have grown up British instead of Canadian. And growing up Canadian is something I’m profoundly grateful for.

The Glorious Few

For the glorious few
no longer stand so straight
As they did long years before
when they faced a hard and cruel fate
on a far and distant shore.
Their tunics faded, green and blue
poor shelter from this cold;
the memories made yet raw and new
at the calling of the roll.

Garnet Rogers – 11:11

Alyssa and I went today to watch the VE Day 60th Anniversary Parade, as the veterans who did so much for us paraded from the National War Memorial on Elgin Street to the opening of the new National War Museum on Le Breton Flats.

On the drive into Ottawa on Friday night, I heard a few stories about VE Day celebrations. One was about this organization of women who’d served overseas as drivers, clerks, nurses, etc, and who were disbanding their organization after this VE Day because there were too few remaining to and those remaining weren’t able to travel to reunions. And a similar story later about how this 60th anniversary celebration in Holland will probably be the last, and certainly the last “significant” anniversay, where vets will be able to come in any number, and how the damn politicians are ruining it for them by crashing what was supposed to private dinner and dance for the vets and their wives only because partisan bickering kept the politicians from going to the public ceremony today.

The vets were supposed to come along Wellington Street at 11:30, but since there were politicians giving speeches at the National War Memorial, of course they were late. They started streaming by at about 12:45. I tried to keep Alyssa entertained by telling her some of the stories my parents and grand parents told me about their experience in the war. I’m hoping that these sorts of stories will help keep the memories alive and maybe spark some later interest in the history. Of course this long delay meant that I was standing far longer than I should have been, and my knees and hips are screaming in pain in spite of the Celebrex I’ve taken.

First was an honour guard, most of whom were wearing “spam medals” (Canadian Volunteer Service Medal) or other campaign medals or ribbons. Then some marching soldiers, some obviously WW-II vets as well, others more recent. A few wearing peace-keeping blue berets. Then some more of the WW-II vets came riding an assortment of era vehicles including Bren Gun Carriers, Deuce and a Halfs, Jeeps, DUCWs, and Sherman (“Ronson”) tanks.

As everybody passed by, the crowd applauded constantly, and called out “Thank you”. It was touching how many of the veterans called back “Thank you for showing up.” The people next to us were holding an Air Force ensign, and all the Air Force vets commented on it as they went by.

I was amazed to see in amongst the vets was a man in a motorized wheel chair wearing a Glengary with the cap badge of the Lorne Scots (Peel Dufferin and Halton Regiment), the same unit that I spent my time in. I ran along side him a bit and told him that I’d been in the Lorne Scots, but he couldn’t hear that well so I didn’t get a chance to ask him where he served. The Lorne Scots were all over the place in the war, including Boulogne, Dieppe and Sicily. But even if he was one of the people involved in the training brigades that never left England, there is nothing in my valiant defence of Canadian Forces Base Boredom from the perdiferous Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (the “ASH-CANs”) that even remotely matches his service. But I hope my brief time trying to carry on the regimental traditions carries some weight.

A little while later there was another man wearing the cap badge and the Glengarry, and also the primrose hackle of the Lorne Scots, but he wasin a truck with a bunch of other people and he was talking to them and couldn’t hear me calling out to him.

Of course with both men, I had to resist the urge to call out some of the Lorne Scots regimental songs, all of which I only know the extremely rude words for, not the “real” ones.

Lorne Scots once
Lorne Scots twice
Holy Jumping Jesus Christ!

We are the Lorne Scots,
We wear our kilts, we wear no jocks
We wrap our putties around our cocks
To keep our balls from freezing.

and so on.

Every few years I have a dream where I’m back in the Lorne Scots. It was a period of my life I have very mixed emotions about, but I’m glad that I served.

Spam Karma 7, Spammers 0

It’s two months to the day since I switched from MovableType to WordPress, and the spammers finally found me. And SpamKarma deleted all 7 spams without a whimper. It even decided that one IP was a repeat spammer and banned them from my blog entirely. I checked and that IP has a http redirector on port 80, probably installed without the computer owner’s knowledge.

I hate spammers with the firey passion of a thousand suns. I’ve been waiting with bated breath for them to start spamming my blog again, and I’m quite relieved to see that SpamKarma handled the first onslaught with nary a whimper.

In other geek news, I’ve got good news: I’ve got Tiger on my laptop. It’s been running the CPU and disk for hours now indexing it for Spotlight. But Dashboard is pretty cool. I kind of wish it would have an option to display the widgets all the time like Konfabulator, but it’s a good replacement for it. I hope somebody fixes GnuControl soon.

And in other geek news, I’ve got bad news: My Linksys router did that thing where the wireless side loses its mind again. The new firmware didn’t fix it. I’ve heard there are hardware problems with the V2.2 hardware. I guess that’s why it was so cheap. I’m also guessing there is no way in hell I’ll get Linksys to take it back.