Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Summer Report. Besides 'Too Dern Hot"

When I started this post it was a misty moist and muggy day. We had had ¾ inches of rain the previous evening and overnight. And I was loving it. It has been a hot, dry summer, unlike the one a few years ago when the grand kid pressed her nose to a window every morning, heaved a big sigh as she looked at similar weather and said ‘I guess we aren’t going to the beach today either, are we Grama?’. This summer we need all the moisture we can get. The corn is half the height it ought to be and disgruntled farmers have been turning parched soybean fields under. Streams and ponds are dried up. The dust we put up on the gravel roads when we drive by the neighbours’ houses has me on a real guilt trip. But that night it started to correct itself and we had four more wet days forecast, days that produced a bit of rain and a lot of debris.

I also have no little girl wanting to swim and catch snakes and frogs.  Instead I have a teenager whose back to school photo shows a lot of muscular leg and a huge backpack, along with a big smile from which the braces were removed yesterday. She is beautiful, she has, um, attitude and she is very happy at achieving more than five feet in height over the summer. The last time her family visited she spent a lot of time crouched in the back field taking videos of something very small with the fancy iPhone she got for her thirteenth birthday. How fast they grow up and leave you far behind.

That was then. Now it is almost the end of September and we have some gold leaves and a very few red ones and I am putting the garden to bed. Slowly.

The Perth refugee committee had  our second gov’t sponsored refugee family arrive. I spent some time last week putting together a welcome basket to greet them. If anyone wants to know the Arabic for ‘First Aid Kit’, I can inform them. That was a lot of fun, especially the chocolate maple leaves on a stick I found for the kids. 

This arrival ended up a sad mess. There was no one from the Canadian government that told these poor people where they were going and they thought that they were headed for Toronto and a sister and religious community. When they ended up here and were told it was permanent, the Tylenol in the First Aid Kit got some use. Also before they got on the plane they had to sign a contract to repay the plane fare and $1700.00+ fee for their physicals. Although the sponsorship was supposed to be one of the partner-with-government ones, the government has now stopped paying these things. Frustration. Oh well. We were going to do more fundraising anyway and the committee is now working on getting these poor folk moved to be with their family and friends.

Earlier, I spread out all of the financial info for the Hall, sorted and filed it and brought the books up to date. THAT took a while and a lot of skull sweat, made worse by my soggy brain and clumsy fingers. During my confirmation count of the cash to be deposited I found that I was $60.00 (!!!) short and spent quite a bit of time in panic mode rechecking the various envelopes from which I had taken the money. When I finally looked at the floor and found that three $20.00 bills had slipped out of the clip and landed under my chair, I was too relieved to be angry with myself for dropping them. There is something to be said for peace of mind in such circumstances. 

The paragraph above was also part of the original post. Last night was the Hall committee meeting and so I wrote out a whole page of financial stuff  (leaving out the bit about losing the money) for the meeting. I am both secretary and treasurer and am not split-brained enough to take minutes of my own report, so I write it out ahead of time. It even added up. 

Another original paragraph. One not unexpected happening was the death of JG’s mother at the astounding age of 99. Her last year or so was pretty miserable for her and, I am sure, for JG’s brother who was looking after her daily. We will have a service of sorts this weekend, done to the specifics she left in a page of instructions written in 1992.  (I have a file on almost everything you could imagine, including ‘Wills and Funeral Instructions”.) I do not entirely approve of this document as it stipulates a graveside service only and will be a pain to run if it rains. (And it did rain. A real downpour. The minister gave the fastest bidding prayer I have ever heard.) As I think about this, I am determined not to leave a similar document for the daughters to have to implement. They can do what seems suitable to them at the moment, without my interference. Well, they probably would anyway, and more power to them.

I do lead a dull life. It’s fun while I am doing it but pretty deadly when I write it down.

My big project for this summer is almost complete. For many years I have had stacks of books stored in the cabin we used before we moved out here permanently and built the house. Most of them are paperbacks and while I have lots of shelving here in my office, I have filled those shelves with hard cover novels and reference books purchased since we moved in many cases. The paperbacks are old friends that I have not seen for a long time.  This summer JG put a row of new bookcases up downstairs for me and I am sorting the books in batches hauled over from the cabin and lining them up in the new shelves. I now have lots of novels to read that I have almost forgotten. Even if they are a little musty and yellow around the edges from storage in an unheated building, I am hanging out with my battered old friends. One more load to go and they will all be available. After almost 20 years of being packed in boxes, unpacked and flung around as I searched for something, and, not finding it, bought another copy. To my chagrin in some cases I have found two copies of a favourite. One book was there in triplicate. The annual spring book sale is going to love me. And the musty scent is wearing off quite quickly.

The grand kid is selling spring bulbs again this year to raise money for something. Last year I bought some giant allium and they did really well. I love the dry blooms as decoration; they don’t shed, even. So, this year I am buying more and more daffodils and some rock garden allium. This last will involve digging up some of the weeds that I have allowed to take over the rock garden but maybe, just maybe, the deer will leave them alone. (Remember this photo taken this spring of the deer reclining in the rock garden?) We have at least three adult does and one energetic fawn coming regularly this summer. Friends are supplying us with messy fallen apples and the deer love them. Let’s hope the ‘deer proof’ label on the allium is true.

And I just managed to pay JG's car insurance through a telephone robot. I forgot to write a cheque in time and the new company will not accept computer payment. I HATE telephone robots almost as much as I hate people who send you a bill with the pertinent numbers in six point type. I ended up typing numbers with one hand while holding a magnifying glass in the other. 

 The tree that contained these logs got blown over in a storm. JG cut it up and is now splitting it for firewood. Ah, life in the country. Never a dull moment. Um, I guess I will have to take back paragraph five.

Monday, 18 July 2016


I am trying to wrap my understanding around the idea that Americans want guns because they are afraid. This is surely the only explanation for the firearms advocates in the United States continuing their opposition to any kind of control on guns after what we have experienced over the past week in gun violence and unnecessary, tragic deaths.

I live in a rural area south of Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Ottawa is a small city as capital cities go and surrounded by parks and open, recreational area. A few years ago one of the local papers carried a story about an American tourist who was afraid to walk in one of these parks because he did not have his gun (Americans cannot bring them over the border into Canada) and did not feel safe. I recall shaking my head at the time, as this seemed to be such a bizarre attitude. The only time I or anyone I know worries about guns is during the November hunting season when there may be some drunken or idiotic lout who could mistake me for a deer.

When we lived in the city, the chance of being shot by some madman or getting mixed up in a gang war were so diminishingly small that you might as well worry about being hit by lightning. Both possible but unlikely. Why? Because the only guns around belonged legally to police and hunters and illegally to the criminal elements we have always with us. Before there were guns, the same type of lawless yobs carried coshes and knives and suchlike, I am quite sure. Canadians are not hung up about the right to bear arms. And because it is not a big deal, we don’t have a lot of gun crime.

Yes, we have gangs and they shoot each other and innocent bystanders once and a while. Yes, some of the urban police use weapons inappropriately and we have had a few panic shootings by law enforcement officers. Yes, we have had law enforcement officers shot by nuts. Twice, in recent memory. Both times the shooters had legally acquired weapons,I think . But not assault weapons. Our radical attacker on Parliament Hill had a weapon that he used to shoot and kill a soldier from behind, but it was not a high powered rifle. He couldn’t get one.

 Most Canadians except the police do not think about guns at all, outside of being a little careful on hikes in the first two weeks of November.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be constantly in fear of being shot. I cannot imagine how police can do their job rationally and reasonably when anyone, anytime, could be armed and dangerous. That too many policemen believe that black Americans are more dangerous than white ones is sad and sickening and terrible. Yes, it is hell for the poor cops to be constantly expecting some black criminal to pull a gun. But for the 99 out of 100 law-abiding and reasonable black Americans who have to live in fear of every police interaction, life must be hell too.

Because anyone can carry a gun or have one stashed to hand, everyone has to be afraid of guns. What a horrible, endless circle. What a mess.

Friday, 15 July 2016

A Morning of Mourning

It’s a lovely damp cool morning, a mix of sun and cloud and the promise of yet more rain to revive our parched land and wilted trees. It is high summer, a nest of red breasted grosbeaks has hatched and is decorating our feeders, the ED and family are off on an adventure vacation and all should be well.

Only it isn’t. I keep seeing in my mind the solemn, lovely face of little Taliyah Marsman and remembering that they have found her body and wondering how much horror and terror attended her pitiful death. Yes, there are piles of dead and suffering, wounded children in Nice today and what happened to them is terrible. But their deaths and those of their parents and relatives are less real to me than what I am quite sure happened to poor little Taliyah before she died. Any of us can imagine why she was taken to a deserted field, alone and at the mercy of a human animal.

I am glad my granddaughter is old enough and strong enough and smart enough to be able to defend herself. Although girls and women are often, however clever and strong they are, victims anyway. They are vulnerable to the twisted and sickening desires of the madmen and equally vulnerable to the attitudes of society toward them. As are black males in our society vulnerable to the kind of attitude that makes nervous and badly chosen or trained policemen shoot them for little or no reason. As are ordinary people going about their innocent lives, perhaps watching fireworks, perhaps dancing in a night club with their friends, vulnerable to the mass killers created by outmoded ideas.

It is a horrible world out there. Innocent men shot because of the terror and rage of the police.  Police shot because of the terror and rage of the persecuted. Holiday makers crushed in the midst of their peaceful enjoyment. The madness of indiscriminate political murder weighs on us all. And I do mean political, even if it is disguised as religious fervor. We are all, in some way, at the mercy of the fanatic and deranged, even if we are personally safe for the moment, because of how the horrors they enact affect how we feel and act toward others.

It is peaceful here. My most pressing irritations are deer flies. And I suppose that Taliyah’s poor little face will fade from the forefront of my mind in time, stored away with other horrible facts we have all had to assimilate and live with. Only children cry out ‘It’s not fair’. Those of us who are supposed to be adult know that fairness is nowhere in this mess of hatred festering in our world. What is so horrible is that it goes on and on and all the good intentions in the world will not solve it. Nor all our tears wash out a word of it.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Closer to God in a Garden

All this week people have been posting photos of their beautiful newly established annuals, their gardens in general, their new blooms. Loving all the photos, I felt I should contribute.

Once I too worked hard on my gardening. Over several years and with much hauling of just the right piece of rock or another barrow full of good soil, with many hopeful purchases of perennials, with an infinite number of weed pulls, I established a fine rock garden on an outcropping of bedrock in the middle of the small field behind our rural home. I have photos of this labour of love in its prime, and if Windows 10 will let me, Here is a photo of the rock garden at its best. I never added garden gnomes. It took my evil neighbour to do that.

But, I am not the only being who loves my rock garden. Over the years, as we fed the deer, they became at home in our back field and decided that rock garden plants are delicious treats in spring.

To eat these delicacies, they found it necessary to walk all over the rocks on their sharp little hooves. Neither of these things was very good for the garden, and I dropped back and let it return to a wilder state, one where only the most rugged plants remain.

This year the dear things have taken occupation to new heights. Yesterday I looked out and found that the rock garden has now become a deer lounging area. It is fly season, but out in the middle of the field there is a breeze that blows some of the biters away, and two of our resident does have decided that this is a perfect place to relax and chew their cuds.

 I may just dig some of the good soil out of there and deploy it elsewhere. They are pretty nice guests, though.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

A Chocolate Tale

I am not a willing cook. Now, I can cook. I can, if I must, make bread, bake a row of pies for the Community Hall dinner, can fruit, stew, fry and roast. But I would rather enjoy someone else’s efforts than spend the time myself chopping, kneading, stirring and watching the oven. My YD is a Cook. She goes shopping with a new recipe book and produces marvels of soup, racks of lamb, marinated fish and divine pastas. She does it for fun. When she wants to. And eats KD when she doesn’t.

A while back the grandkid’s parents sent her to a cooking camp to fill in August days while they were at work. She was, maybe, ten. Or even younger. She learned to make muffins and breakfast breads and cookies. Lots of stuff. She got enthusiasm from the family and lots of praise and kept on baking, upping the ante as time went on. I got a strawberry cake with a glazed top two birthdays ago. Grandpa got an amazing Black Forest concoction. Miss G and her father produce beautiful Bouche Noel cakes, even though her mother refuses to be in the kitchen while this is happening. Miss G scorns mixes.

I have made her birthday cakes for years because she has a nut allergy. “Is this from a mix, Grama?’, she snarkily comments. Okay. She and her entourage are due here this afternoon for her birthday celebration dinner and I, fool that I am, volunteered to make the cake. On request, chocolate with chocolate icing. And I got an eye roll with the request.

Cooling down in the cellar is now a from-scratch chocolate cake with chocolate fudge icing. Recipes from my favourite Laura Secord cookbook. Stuff turns out from these recipes, but they are not simple. The cake required a custard and chocolate mix to be added to a three stage mix of wet and dry ingredients and then that folded into two soft peak whipped egg whites. I will say it rose well. That took me most of last evening, plus scrubbing the stove top. Added this morning was a two icing glaze, fudge in the centre and on the sides (I stupidly took the sugar mix past soft boil and had to thin the mixture and reheat. Sigh) and whipped milk chocolate on top. This last addition is from a can. I have hidden the remnants and the can at the back of the frig.

And now I must go and de-chocolate the kitchen again, plus mop off the floor to keep the ants at bay. This will have occupied my whole morning and I have not even read the paper yet. I have pies to make for the Hall for June 12th. I may buy the damn things. But I hope to have impressed the daughter and grandkid in the interim.

And, there is nothing wrong with cleaning fudgy spoons with your tongue, right? As long as they get washed properly later.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


I have just been reading a Consumers’ Report on pain management, particularly back and joint pain. The article seems to like NSAIDS a little bit, but is more into exercise, massage and physiotherapy, and what read to me like positive thinking.  Today there was an article in the paper on the proposal to drop the strength of acetaminophen tablets to prevent people wrecking their livers with the ’extra strength’ dose sometimes killing themselves.

Makes me very nervous, all this solicitude for my liver. I have osteoarthritis in my knees, hands and neck. I have a sad squished disc in my lower back. These things hurt! Massage and physiotherapy help, but the first is painful to endure and the second requires daily follow-up with stretches and exercises. Which hurt. My hands hurt when I garden, wash things, carry things. So does my back. After I walk, my back and my knees complain like crazy. My response – acetaminophen. I can’t take NSAIDS because they all excoriate my intestinal track. (I even took part in a drug trial for a coated NSAID that was supposed to help this problem. Nope.) If I am going to move, I need my extra-strength Tylenol and too bad if my liver doesn’t like it. I could die of inaction too.

I wish the medical profession was not so worried about pain medication. I really do. I have seen and heard of far too many cases of opioids and other relief medications being doled out in too small quantities to people who were suffering a lot but not quite ready to die. It is a fine theory that palliative care is a better answer than assisted suicide for end of life care, but there come the damn medicos worrying about addiction and someone else getting hold of the drugs and liver damage and whatever it is that prevents them from really providing robust pain relief. Nor is palliative care consistent or available everywhere. Nor are some doctors qualified to provide it.

At least we do have some things that work. I am appending here a recipe for back pain medication that someone gave to my grandmother and that she saved, making me think someone had a problem that did not respond to willow tea. I wish, though, that I thought we are as far along in this area of medicine as we are in others. My grandmother also had her five babies on the kitchen table and one of them died of jaundice from Rh incompatibility. Here is what she mixed up.

Internal or external use?

We have come a long way, eh?

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Pretty in Pink - with Flowers

Above is a photograph of little Princess Charlotte on her first birthday, all dressed up in a full flowered frock and pale pink sweater, looking sweet and girlish and, so the pundits say, inspiring many mothers to dress their little girls the same way. Another blow struck for stereotyping, alas. It is easy to understand why she would be dressed this way because it is adorable and cute and easily saleable. One can only hope that after the photo shoot was over she was bundled out of the dress and into a pair of her brother’s outgrown overalls and a nice tough jacket and allowed to enjoy herself. Provided, of course, that her brother had play clothes and was ever allowed out of the sailor suit and shorts and ruffles that he was stuffed into for photographs at the same age.

Daughters in Grandma dresses
Please do not misunderstand. I am not against shell pink and ruffles and lacy white tights on little girls.
Granddaughter at play
I (or more likely my mother) have dressed both my daughters and granddaughter in girly garments now and again. And they loved it. For dress up. But most of the time they wore (and still wear) practical garments in which they can move well and that wash and wear well. And for three generations of us, that translates to pants. (Or jeans or dungarees or whatever you want to call them.) Have you ever tried to crawl in a full skirted dress? Let alone wash the windows or walk down a ramp in a high wind? Right. Not easy. Not fun. Not practical.  Tough, practical clothing to put on right after the festive event is over is always my choice. (Um, just looked at myself dressed in my shell pink sweater. But I will change it for a bug shirt shortly.)

There used to be much more of a dress code when I was a young woman. Gloves, hats, stockings even in a Windsor summer, jeans allowed in the library only on Saturdays at my university. I am sure everyone has seen a ‘50’s advertisement for household goods featuring a housewife in a dress and frilly apron wearing a necklace and high heels while she cleans or cooks. Thank goodness no one is stereotyped into dressing like that any more. Men are still caught in the suit for business trap, but women and girls have a lot more freedom. I am daily grateful that my uniform of jeans and shirt or tee with a jacket or sweater when needed, and my old lady short, short hair, is accepted everywhere.

Or is it. Here is a woman who is uncomfortable walking into a woman’s washroom describing how she looks:
“I am female-bodied, but dress in a way that fits my own understanding of my gender identity which, while not male, definitely trends masculine. Dressed down, I wear jeans and oxford shirts with baseball caps. Dressed up, I prefer khakis and dress shirts. Bow ties are my favorite accessories. And my hair is cut short enough that my hairdresser charges me for a “men’s cut” because she doesn’t think I should have to pay more than a man for the same haircut.
Like I said, though, I’m not male. Unlike my trans brothers who have transitioned female-to-male, I have been clear that that was not the right path for me. I’m happy to be “Emily” and to live in my body. How I dress and carry that body, though, is often at stark contrast with what the world expects. It’s been that way since I was a 3-year-old telling my mom that overalls were better than dresses.”

Typical clothes
Except that I would have a scarf rather than a bow tie, she could have been describing me. And a horde of other women.

I have never noticed anyone giving me the glare in a public washroom. I am tall and heavy boned and I have been taken for male over and over through the years (much to my amusement, mostly) but never challenged in a washroom. Am I just oblivious, or is ‘Emily’ seeing shadows where they do not really exist. It is sad that she is uncomfortable.

It is even sadder that people with minds like sewers are trying to make us all overly conscious of who is 

Friday, 22 April 2016

It’s a strange time to be a Canadian when our Prime Minister is spending his time boxing for the cameras in New York. Not that we should be surprised, I guess. Trudeau Senior spent a lot of time showing off his athletic prowess to an admiring world. But in his case it was, as I recall, diving,

canoe paddling and the occasional pirouette that he displayed for his eager fans. Nothing that would addle his bulging brain. Boxing seems to be in a different category and Trudeau Junior was not, in the photos, wearing a headpiece. Maybe it would have interfered with the pretty pictures.

I find myself wishing that Himself would stay home now and again and do some work instead of flitting around the globe getting himself photographed. Who is minding the store, one asks oneself, while the PM is getting himself onto the cover of yet another magazine. 

Who is smacking the Senate into some kind of order. Who is preventing novice Cabinet members from making fools of themselves at fundraisers and other festivities. Who is making Dion make up his multi-layered mind. What are they even calling that department now? Global Affairs or something. I cannot keep up with even the cosmetic changes while hoping that the legislation the Liberals promised in so many areas will turn out to be better that the sad mess they are making of the assisted suicide bill. Better not get started on that topic.

Meanwhile I do not even want to hear about what the Provincial Liberal (just typed Liberass by mistake as I am breaking in a new keyboard) government is doing today. Much as I admire Wynne as one tough woman. For my American friends, she is the Premier of Ontario (all the provinces have their own legislatures, and a premier is the equivalent of a state governor), an open lesbian and the winner of a majority in the last provincial election, winning in spite of the mess her party and the former leader of it had made in the previous mandate. Talk about deficits. No, another topic you do not want me to pursue.

Back to Monsieur Photo-Op. I guess at least if he is boxing he will have a mouthpiece in his mouth and not his foot.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Hair Today

I am  almost three quarters of a century old and I am, as we all are, a product of my generation and family’s taste and expectations. I have lived through hoop skirts, Mrs. Kennedy, minis and maxis, big shoulder pads and Ugg boots. I am a conservative dresser and I keep my hair shorter than many men wear theirs so that it will be out of my way. I love dangly earrings, but abandoned them for both my daughters’ infancy and my granddaughter’s, after one experience with a dimpled starfish hand ripping the hook out of my ear. I wear a lot of jeans and today am decked out in an old cotton sweater with bleach stains on the front. Almost all my ‘smart’ clothes are hand-me-downs. I am the farthest thing from a fashion maven that you could find if you searched the seven corners of the world.

And I am about to rant. The subject? The style and tastes that Sophie Tr Grégoire Trudeau and Michelle Obama chose to exhibit at the State Dinner at the White House on Thursday evening.

First, Grégoire Trudeau. The dress looked to me like a particularly cheap neoprene sleeveless wetsuit top in the garish colours to be found at Dollar Stores in the Florida Keys. And I wish she had combed her hair; we will return to this.

Obama. I loved the dress, but why she chose to wear a particularly demented octopus on her head is beyond me.

I think the Duchess of Cornwall has good dress sense, but the way she lets her hair fly and dangle and flop all over the place is equally a puzzle to me.

I grew up in a world where women combed and tidied their hair when they dressed for the day and so the loose, flopping hair always looks like bed head to me. And how does one keep such hair out of the soup, other people’s faces and the sticky hands of small children? I have no idea. Sensible women braid or pull back long hair or have it cut to a reasonable length. So I was taught. Loose hair attracts the attention of men in a personal way and that is not what a sensible woman wants. Also I like the look of sleek ‘up-do’ hair as it allows the woman’s face, posture and bone structure to dominate. The bust of Nefretiti was an icon of my adolescence.

Michelle Obama has classic mobile features and a beautifully shaped head and when she has her hair tight or short she looks absolutely perfect, in my opinion.

I have to keep telling myself that Gregoire-Trudeau is Québécoise and that the style and taste and expectations of French Canadians are different and sometimes beautiful. And I have to keep hoping that the next time she hits the front pages she will be in a pose or a costume that an elderly English Canadian can at least look at without wincing.

And, yes, I am waiting for scathing comments.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Bequia Trip

This is my nature photography day three and also, finally, the Bequia trip. It has only taken two months. Warning! This is a very long, probably boring, and somewhat repetitive post. You may just want to look at the photos and exit, unless of course you are sleepless and need a soporific.

From ice box to hot and humid in two planes. The YD and I left Ottawa on December 28th, and flew first to Barbados and then, in a small plane, to the island of Bequia, a former British colony now part of St Vincent and the Grenadines. We had rented a small house on the east side of the island and were conveyed there by a Bequia taxi (a Toyota truck with bench seats in the back and a canopy, reason for the canopy described later) first to a grocery store and then to Park Beach House, where the concierge(!) had prepared a chicken supper for us. We were given a quick tour of the solar electricity system and the Wi-Fi, of which we took in almost nothing, our bags were unloaded and we were left to the sound of the surf and a pretty darn good meal, complete with sunset.

Park Bay House from the beach, with Sargasso weed
The weather was clear but breezy, very humid and about 25c.  There were many stars and the roll of the surf across the reef made a fine bedtime music.

Tuesday, December 29th
This was our day to get organised. Our car was delivered around 10:00 am, a somewhat battered Honda CRV (one of the bigger cars we see on the road) and Wendy drove the guy who had delivered it back into the  town so that she could check out both the road and the car. Park Bay House is on the east side of the island, facing south and the town is on the west side, about 3 kilometres away. Wendy said “ it is about a 15 minute drive to town since the maximum speed I went was no more than 20 – 30 km per hour, if indeed that.
The Main Road
The road is concrete, and about one and a half car widths wide.” It is also festooned with deep gutters, the odd goat or cow, dogs and derelict cars. And it goes up and down and around spurs of the lava of which Bequia is composed.

We crunched off to the town just before noon to get some food and reconnoitre. We drove along the main street and found a bakery across from a restaurant with a shaded balcony overlooking the harbour. Peaceful and beautiful with wonderful soup. Then we found the grocery stores, after some circling, and did our grocery shopping.  There are two stores - one obviously for tourists, with imported delicacies, and the other for locals.  Both quite small, and the local one reminded us of the grocery stores in  Zimbabwe - not a lot of choice, and lots of big bags of staples.  The veg are best at the roadside stands, but not a huge variety.  Frozen meat (and canned, of course!).  From the restaurant balcony we saw frigate birds swinging over a sheltered harbour full of sailing boats large and small.

Wednesday, December 28th
Five Master
We did a lot of walking today. After a quiet morning we headed back into town to do banking and such. Managed to get Wendy cash with her access card and saw some interesting crafts in the beach parks along with
a beautiful five-masted sailing ship in the harbour.

 Then we toured along the seawall walkway beside the main harbour. The harbour walkway is lined with bars and other tourist attractions, including two dive companies.  The walkway was a bit rough to travel along, but worth it.
The Walkway

We had intended to drive to a beach, but were not sure of the way. When we asked, we were told to turn at the big mango tree but since we were not sure what that looked like, we took the first likely road and it turned out to be a precipitous twist down clinging to the cliff. Wendy managed to find a decent place to turn around and got us back up, dodging all the speeding Toyota taxi trucks. She said it was a bit of a sweat. Understatement.

We had lunch beside the harbour and supper at Sugar Reef hotel and dining room, close to our house. It is charming. The dining room is one huge, high-ceilinged room painted white with folding doors all along one side that open out right onto the beach. They have a ‘fish of the day’ which on that day was an excellent grilled barracuda.

Thursday, Dec 31
We spent a quiet day at our house. Caught up on some sleep and just enjoyed the sun and wind. The balcony faces south, more or less, giving us sunrise to the left and sunset to the right, and it catches all the breezes.

Beach from the end of the driveway.
 In the morning I went clambering along the rocks below the house driveway and along the beach at the foot of the peninsula that our house is on.
It was fun to sit on the rocks and feel the tide lapping around my feet. I found a broken conch shell too. When the tide showed signs of lapping around all of me, I moved to the beach. The water is full of Sargasso weed because of the high winds bringing it in over the reef, but it was fun wading anyway as the surf is very warm.

Ignoring New Year’s Eve, we went early to bed but I woke up at midnight and went out onto the porch. All the lights that we can usually see from the porches had gone dark and white floating lights and shooting stars were lofting up over the crest of the hill across the bay. I watched a beautiful tiny display of coloured fireworks on the shore of Mustique Island. At the same time there were many red rockets and showers of sparkling lights in the direction of the harbour where we had been told there would be a big party and fireworks display at midnight. The red lights floated for quite a while before they died. There was also a sky full of stars. A perfect celebration.

Friday, Jan 1st
Wendy had signed up with a local guide ( a very talkative 55ish year old transplanted Irishman) and went for a hike - apparently a combined total of 1600 ft elevation gain, which involved climbing up and down more than a few large hills. They were in the bush much of the time - interesting vegetation, but few flowers or colour. Warnings were issued about a noxious vine to be avoided, due to poison ivy like complications. There were great views from the top of the multiple hills. The hike went from 0830 to 12, and was followed by a shower and nap.”

Meanwhile, Mary persuaded a tiny lizard to pose for her on the porch by bribing it with toast crumbs.
Mr Crumb

The beach at Sugar Reef
 In mid afternoon after Wendy recovered a bit from her very hot hike, we  went to the Sugar Reef hotel for a swim and drinks. Very civilized.
We went back to Sugar Reef for a celebratory dinner with excellent food. The evening was enlivened by several sudden downpours. The restaurant is a big room with shutters all across the front that open right onto the ocean bay. When the downpour started the wait staff had to run like rabbits to close all these shutters to keep the dinners and diners dry. Opened them again. Closed them again. Same thing when we got back here. We certainly do not have to worry about the water cistern. But no rain dump seems to last for more than a few minutes and then it clears again.There is a lot of wind that accompanies these downpours. In fact, there has been a lot of wind ever since we got here, from a stiff breeze to half a gale.

Saturday, January 2nd

There was a beautiful sun rise with another rain squall far to the east of us tearing across the water. And the trade wind sang through the house as it was even more breezy and humid enough that there is a fine film of 'sea sweat' on surfaces.   The car windows are foggy with salt!

Lunch at the Harbour
We made another expedition to town to buy more groceries (strange how the food vanishes even when we are eating one meal out), to arrange to pick up Mary V at the airstrip tomorrow and to have a leisurely lunch by the harbour followed by a shopping walk and 'good' coffee at a hole in the wall we have discovered. It was hot in town and wonderful to be home again and rejoicing in the cool wind. It is humid on the lee side of the island. It amazes me how friendly the residents are - they smile as they go by and wish you a Happy New Year. Wendy ventured into the vegetable market and says she was swarmed by vendors.

Our concierge says that it is windier and the water is rougher than usual, due to something. The accent here is a strange clipped one. Sort of a mixture of Jamaica and South Africa. I suspect that they find our slow speech just as hard to follow.

This is the kitchen and dining area of our house, with Wendy preparing fahitas as I watch (and will clean up later). No sour cream on the island, but there are fresh avocados!

Sunday, January 3rd

We still have lots of wind and lots of sun with the occasional drum of rain just to keep us alert on the window closing sprint. 

A quiet morning, then we went down to the harbour for a soup and fresh bread lunch and I went out to the airport to pick up Mary, conveyed by, I think, the oldest man on the island, the father of the house’s maintenance man and  taxi driver (who had an appointment to make music so sent his father). It was great as I got the history of the island as we crawled from one end of the road, where the house is, to the other where the air strip is. 'Doc' has been a sailor, taxi driver and is now retired and his accent is dense, but I really got to see the place. The roads are very narrow and at one point we had to get past a truck that had broken down at a very tight point and whose driver and a lot of his friends had crawled under it. One guy's feet and another man's arm were on the bit of road that was left. Doc chased them out of that and I wish I knew what he said to them as we inched by.

Wendy dropped me off at the taxi and then wandered about and went back to open up the house.     Mary V and I arrived with the driver around 3:00 pm, and we have been living the relaxed life on the porch for the rest of the afternoon.
On the deck at sunset
Very hot and humid today - I would guess almost 30 degrees, and while the trade winds are up, they feel warmer today. But I guess we shouldn't complain, as I understand it is finally going down to seasonal temperatures on the Ottawa end tonight! 

Mary brought Wendy the Saturday papers and Wendy is happy.

There are also cows by the gate today.

 Mary V and Wendy traded DFAIT stories. It was fascinating.
There were some strange cloud formations at sunrise too. Really neat.

Monday, Jan 4th
We had a young woman come in this morning to give us a manicure and pedicure and then we all headed to town for lunch and a look about. We found a lovely breezy and shaded veranda at the Beachcomber Bar  and followed this by some looking in shops. It was a high enough surf today that Mary and I elected not to swim.
Across the reef to Mustique

We went to Sugar Reef for supper and Wendy had lobstertail soup that she pronounced excellent.

Tuesday, January 5th
Wendy is off on another hike to a viewpoint on, I think, the north end of the island. These are two of the photos she took.
Just before she left we had one of the sudden, sneak over the hill behind us cloudbursts. We raced to close up, but I forgot the door to the utility shed was open. The power to Mary's part of the house had shut down overnight and I had just gone out and reset the converter which was buzzing and flashing. Repowered Mary's floor and then tried to phone the maintenance guy to see if there was anything else I was supposed to do. (his quick lecture on how to run the system, delivered when we first arrived and my brain was fried more than usual, did not stick too well). As I started to explain to him, the phone system went down, probably because of the cloudburst and it had hardly cleared when his truck came tearing up the drive. He approved what I had done, but was somewhat cross that I had allowed the utility shed to get wet. I have done some sweeping and drying and hope to return to his good graces.

Wendy has finally been informed that her Visa replacement card has arrived. The courier guy informed her that she could find him in, I think, the Cocoa Bar if she wanted to get it this evening. Wendy decided that we will track him down tomorrow. We may take the water taxi later as well to a lee side beach. If this set of clouds moves on. No weather lasts very long here.

Wednesday January 6th
A cloudy morning and lots of rain hitting the ocean and islands to the south of us. I suspect there is a lot more to the north east but I can't check unless I want to climb the headland behind the house. Mary V was proposing to do that this morning early while it is cool, before she has her coffee. I don't picture me doing anything strenuous before morning coffee so I will await her report.

We had a beach day today - started off with a tour of the main harbour by water taxi (a dilapidated 12' boat with wooden seats and an elderly woman driving), and then we installed ourselves at a restaurant/bar overlooking Princess Margaret beach.  We had lunch and Wendy had many fruit cocktails while Mary and I played about in the water at Princess Margaret beach. It amazed me that I saw so many different kinds of fish in water that shallow and over sand. I think I counted seven or eight different types, one very small one hiding in a conch shell. For a rainy day, there was a lot of sun in that bay. We toured around for quite a while, looking at all of the sail boats and getting a quick summary of where the fishing boats hang out and who the deep water sailors are.”

 Saw two lizards today, one that looked like a very small crocodile, if crocodiles were vivid green. The other was the length of my thumb joint and almost transparent. It was a bold little guy though and stared right at me before slipping over the porch rail and peeking back with one sceptical eye.”

Thursday January 8th
We are booked to go snorkelling today and I must put one more and thicker sunblock than I did yesterday, as the boat trip around the harbour was very high intensity sun and my arms got a bit over cooked.

We are eating one meal out each day and I am eating a lot of fish; there is a local fish cuisine that is interesting. Wendy had a conch dish last night that she really liked, but it may be difficult to come up with fresh coconut and conch meat in eastern Ontario.

Talking Shop
Mary and Wendy are still talking shop at meals and it is great fun to listen to them. I think they are getting along well. I am enjoying her company too, although it is a bit daunting that she is up and out by 5:30 am climbing the headland to get good sunrise photos.”

The snorkelling was wonderful. We went just outside the harbour with a dive boat that had three novices aboard for their first real dive and the cove beside the harbour is perfect for first dives, starting at about 30’ at the south end and getting to about 45’ at the north end. The floor of the cove is very rough lava with lots of crevices and open spots filled with sand. Beautiful live coral and lots and lots of small fish, with different types in the various mini-climates. The high point for me was the parrot fish that swam within 3’ of my mask and examined me just as carefully as I was examining him.

Friday, January 9th
Today we flew out as far as Barbados and stayed overnight at a hotel/resort on the beach. It was very opulent and we had fun jumping through the surf to swim beyond it, but not so much fun getting ourselves back in, just to see them putting up the red dangerous-swimming flags. Moral, find out what the tide is doing before launching off on an unfamiliar beach.

We introduced Mary V to our brand of cut-throat Scrabble and she did just fine.

And we arrived in Ottawa on schedule, even though the flight from Barbados to Montreal was a bit delayed and we had to do a broken field run through the Montreal airport, led by a young and agile Air Canada employee in three inch heels. Phew.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Not Disposable

I dragged out a sweater this morning that I bought about twenty years ago. It has bleach stains on it and the colour is almost faded entirely, but it is still serviceable and since this morning's job was to sanitize the toilets at our community hall, it seemed to be the appropriate garment.
I save things. I learned this from my mother, who bought the best quality of everything and used it until it was worn to nothing.
What brought this to mind was looking at a towel that I washed and folded yesterday, ready for the YD to come and pick up her animals. She uses this towel to pad the seat the cat is attached to for the trip from here to the city.
I looked at this frayed and worn (but still useful) towel and laughed, because the YD inherited this thing from my mother.

Fifty years ago my mother used it to pad a card table to make a changing table for her grandkids when we visited the grandparents. In June of 2016, this photo will be fifty years old.
And, no, not the YD. Her sister, whom I hope will never see this. Yes, she was hard to persuade to keep still while the diaper went on. Outside the frame of this shot, I am holding on firmly to both her feet.