Posted by: Valerie | January 25, 2014

Not about the weather

At last January is crawling toward its close. Next week will be February which sort of gives us hope for March. Of course March will still be snowy but then we will concentrate on April and the possibility of a daffodil. January is the longest month of the year by far. It seems inconceivable that Christmas was only about four weeks ago. Talking of which, we still have not been able to get to Ottawa to spend a belated Christmas with the kids and grandkids. Their pressies are still all sitting wrapped in their Christmas finery in a corner of my bedroom. We are going to try for Christmas in February next weekend.

I will not write about the weather, I will not write about the weather, I will not write about the weather. There! I’ve got that off my chest

So what on earth is there to write about? The cat and I have cabin fever but Joe doesn’t seem too bothered.  Because of the   weather  – sorry, lack of humidity, I have been having frequent nosebleeds, culminating in a great big gusher and a night in hospital. Since then I have been stuffing my hooter with Vaseline and the problem is no longer. Who knew? Feels sort of weird though.

It’s been a busy month for me work-wise as January is the month I put out my client’s six-page (personally addressed to over 12,000 recipients) newsletter. Working from home suits me very well.  I have never responded well to a regimen of any sort and work best to deadlines – no doubt a trend acquired in my editorial days.  Working on a magazine in the olden days, we were required to produce two issues a fortnight. So, we partied for a solid week and then worked our arses off the second week. The system worked just fine!

In our icy fastness  – sorry, nice little bungalow – here on top of a hill in Bancroft, I have an office in the rec room downstairs, looking out at the snow  pretty white stuff and the starving black squirrels. At least they claim to be starving so I feed them bits of dry bread etc. I think some of them are nesting in the barbecue which stands by the back door and is well draped by a heavy cover. We’ll find out sometime in May I  expect.

When not busy working on my computer, I have been playing on my laptop. The laptop as its name suggests, can be played upon while sitting on the sofa in the living-room. Which is a nice break from sitting in my chilly – sorry, climatically challenged – office.  I have no idea how it occurred, but somehow I have found myself at a Facebook site called Old Broughty Ferry. BF is the seaside part of Dundee where I was brought up so a lot is familiar. Old school photos from primary days pop up, I found mention of many places I used to hang out and best of all, I have received an invitation, from the owner himself, to revisit the Italian ice cream parlour where I had my very first summer  job when I was sixteen.  I remember being comforted by the old man, the original owner of the establishment , when I was sobbing my broken heart out, having been ditched by some now unremembered boy. I recovered quite quickly though as he assured me I would! Visocchi’s is now an award-winning establishment with its own master gelatier.  It has been there since 1954!

As I write this, thoughts of haggis, neeps and a good malt whisky are filling my head. I could even imagine smelling such a feast if my nose weren’t full of Vaseline. For years I have been threatening to celebrate Burns’ Nicht with a complete enactment of Tam O’Shanter (actually wrote O’Shatner – good grief, not that!) for Joe’s enjoyment. Joe, however, maintains that he would not much enjoy it. He doesn’t drink whisky so cannot be relied to get into the mood of the occasion. (Mind you, I’d be very distressed if he decided to read Hungarian poetry to me, with or without the numbing effects of alcohol.)

Being confined to the cabin by the weather – sorry, elements – always brings us to consider the prospect of holidays ahead. So what to do, where to go? For a while Joe was pining for yet another last trip to Hungary (very like Frank Sinatra’s final concerts) – he still is, I suspect, but it gets less practical every year. Joe is now 80 and I am 70 so the cost of medical travel insurance has soared through the roof, more than double the cost of flights! I have been there twice and we have travelled quite a bit within the country, but the language problem still looms large for me when Joe visits his relatives – and that is really why he wants to go. So for now, that is not on the cards. We have booked a few days at a most lovely winery inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake around my birthday at the end of May and will see a play or two at Shaw and Stratford festivals. Must see what’s on. I know that Lear is the major (but by no means only) production at Stratford. Colm Feore is playing the old geezer. I saw Christopher Plummer doing Lear there about 10 years ago and he was absolutely stunning. I will never forget it.

On consideration, right now I would be happy to spend the summer pottering in my garden which is now quietly sleeping under its fluffy white blanket of snow – sorry, you know what I mean. Snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils are storing up energy for spring and moles and beetles are scurrying around underground eating the roots of our dreadful lawn (also known as the dandelion patch). Am thinking about installing a thyme lawn instead. Would take a while to mature though… I am now having summer dreams of dancing around barefoot in a cloud of fragrant herbs, being eaten alive by Bancroft’s amazing variety of ever-ravenous bugs.

Before I go and cook and liver and onions for dinner, I leave you with a wee bit of Rabbie Burns

“Some hae meat that cannae eat

Some hae nane that want it

But we hae meat and we can eat

And sae the lord be thankit”

And that is about as religious as I get, folks.


Quite the lad for the lassies he was.

 Cheers – got my Glenlivet! Hic!

Posted by: Valerie | October 1, 2013

The forest is ablaze!

But not in bad way – that’s just a fancy way of saying that our back garden is pretty colourful right now. Having predominantly maple trees at the back means a riot of colour and it is truly glorious.



Our little home in fall


October, autumn, fall. Although we have already had our first frost and some tender plants have succumbed, most are still positively riotous. Gaudy dahlias in unnatural stripy colours fill the beds along with cosmos that were sown from last year’s gathered seeds (this really appeals to my Scottish soul) and the sunflowers I planted in a dead patch on the lawn are bending under the weight of their golden heads. Hopefully the deer will spare the remaining flowers for a little longer. Deer are so pretty but they do enjoy munching the plants. They have already had a go at the new cherry tree and the dogwood bush I planted this spring. A year or so ago they had all my tomatoes and all my sunflowers in one night.

It was a strange summer with so much rain everywhere but now it’s really pleasant. Joe and I hadn’t taken a serious holiday together this year so we opted for a short trip to Kingston which passes for a Big City to us these days.  We had some lovely pottering about and then a side trip to beautiful Westport on Big Rideau Lake. It must be one of the prettiest villages in Ontario and we bought some wonderful baked stuff and ate our picnic on a bench by the lake, watching a floatplane take off to the dismay of some resting seagulls. They were seriously offended to judge from the screeching and wheeling about before they settled back in the exactly the same place. It was almost as if they had tickets for their spots on the dock.

 We were in Ottawa in July for Deklin’s fourth birthday and as Angela is still madly renovating, we stayed at a nearby hotel and took a couple of extra days being tourists. It is a little strange to act as a tourist in one’s own town (I lived in Ottawa for nearly 30 years) but Joe loves to go to the market etc. etc. A huge treat for us was to hear Angela Hewitt playing Mozart at the National Arts Centre.  Oh, it was so lovely. She is a magnificent pianist.  I do remember see/hearing her at a concert that was part of the Chamber Music Festival some years ago. It was suffocatingly hot in the church venue and we, the audience, just sat there and dripped. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Angela to be performing under these circumstances but when the concert was over, she stood and applauded the audience. My concert-going pal, Janice, and I developed a strategy for not passing out during these super-hot concerts. Necessary equipment: a chair and umbrella for queuing to get in, several bottles of water, hats, fans from the Chinese shop and ice packs to put at our backs. We didn’t pass out once! It was so much fun and did we ever listen to some wonderful music from the best in the business. I miss it, I do! Living in the country has many rewards but good music rarely comes our way.  But then there was a celebration in Bancroft for the opening of the restored old train station a few weeks ago. And to celebrate, there was a 70-person steel orchestra! Wonderful cheerful rhythms had everyone bopping around with big grins on their faces. I think we could all enjoy a lot more of that.

The wonderful piano lady

The wonderful piano lady

Before I was packing for my Calgary vacation, I had a lovely, if brief, visit from “ma deuxième fille”, Aurore. Aurore boarded with me for about three years after my husband, Warren, died. We were good for each other and although we are not in touch regularly we have kept up over the years. From a nanny from Provence, away from home for the first time, she has progressed so far. Married but now divorced, she is a single Mum with a six-year-old son, and a career in nursing. I have always admired her determination and her straight-forward approach to life. Aurore brought along her 15-year-old cousin from France (very little English – just like my French) and her son Alexis. It was great fun!

Then it was time for me to leave for a couple of weeks in Alberta. My daughter Anna and I had planned to take a trip to Montana and Glacier National Park but as l learned within minutes of arrival, that was not to be. Dog troubles.

Grand-dog Dougal after snuffling in something

Grand-dog Dougal after snuffling in something

Anna has two setters. Basil, the English setter is a very laid-back kind of chap, except if dinner’s late. Dougal, the Gordon setter, is highly nervous and temperamental, and the day before I arrived he developed bloat (like colic in horses) and had to have emergency surgery. Poor animal had an incision from neck to groin. Leaving him was not on the cards. Many dogs do not survive this condition and it seems that Gordons are quite susceptible to it. Thankfully, Dougal made it. Thankfully, Anna has pet insurance.

Basil is kind of laid-back

Basil is kind of laid-back

I was extremely fortunate to have the loan of Anna’s husband’s car for the duration of my time there. Tim left the day after I arrived for a cycling holiday with his brother in Spain. This enabled me to commute from North-West Calgary to Bragg Creek where my sister lives without troubling anyone. Bragg Creek is one of the places that was devastated in the June floods and there was certainly plenty of evidence.  However there was a party to be arranged. And what a party it was. It took place in the barn which Sue and I, with a bit of help, decorated by pinning multiple shower curtains over the steel walls to give a more festive appearance. It didn’t really work too well.  Gaily coloured tablecloths and flowers helped – but – a barn is still a barn. There were 100 guests expected, mostly relatives of Doug, Sue’s partner. Sue and I were really happy that Doug’s brother said he would provide the food. It was on the day before the event that we learned that what he really meant was that he would provide meat. Eeek.  Miles and miles of driving to Costco to get all the stuff that one needs that isn’t meat. To say that we were crawling with exhaustion the night before the party would be to understate the matter.

Enough to say that the party a success. Ross and Ray, (I still think Rock and Roll would have been better names, but they were not mine to choose) the monster shire horses, gave rides to the kids who dared and there was an excellent blues band. I do love blues. Unfortunately for me, the Alberta/Saskatchewan majority insisted it degenerate to country music.  Party over, I spend the remaining time hanging out with Anna and Sue. I even got to drive the Gator. Whee!

Home again and time to prepare for Joe’s 80th birthday. There were a couple of surprises for Himself, including all his auction pals making a presentation in the middle of a sale. Then his daughter and son-in-law arrived, followed next day by Joe’s granddaughter and her boyfriend. He definitely did not suffer from neglect.Joe is 80!

I’m ready for another trip now – been back at least two days. Time to go to Ottawa to see the kidlets. Deklin has started JK and is very keen. And baby Dahlia is on the move – sort of a crawl-bum-shuffle. I am refusing to write “Oh my, how fast they grow” and “it hardly seems a minute since”… I’d never write that.

I am proud to say that Senior Son, Richard, was featured in a program on The History Channel about the Vinland Map which I regret to say that I missed. No-one’s fault as even Richard didn’t know in advance that it was to be aired last week. Apparently Richard thinks the map is probably a fake, as do many others but then there is a body of opinion that thinks it might be real. Of course I must agree with Richard – at least until I have heard the evidence!

Something very odd happened last night and I don’t remember a thing about it. I woke about four a.m. and couldn’t find my pillow – I was lying flat on my back, something I never do normally. I eventually found the thing right at the bottom of the bed over my feet. On further inspection another pillow had been chucked around too.  Ruling out the unlikely explanation that the pillows moved around on their own, then I have to face up to the fact that I must have been chucking pillows in my sleep. This makes me quite uneasy.  Am I going mad? Every family must have one loony and I don’t think ours has at the moment. My great-grandfather was a butcher/poet who used to tramp the Eildon Hills and meet Roman Legions so it must be in the blood.

 October 2nd, and anytime thereafter, is time for Smile for Julian. Julian Clift was the son of some old friends and he died tragically in a motor-cycle accident. His mother, Di, has decided to mark the anniversary of his death by encouraging everyone to perform some random act of kindness in his memory. The Smile for Julian event has attracted the attention of people across five continents and I invite you, dear reader, to take part also. The world needs all the smiles and kindness it can possibly handle.

Go on, smile!

Go on, smile!





Posted by: Valerie | June 16, 2013

Spring things and hopes for summer

June 16th. It’s Father’s Day – another Hallmark Holiday. Never heard of Father’s Day before I arrived in N. America.  I’d never heard of Secretary’s Day or Grandparents’ Day either. Mother’s Day does have some legitimacy as I believe it’s mentioned in the Bible as Mothering Sunday. Nothing to do with Mums though and everything to do with the church. See . I’ll stop grouching now.

Cheers, Dad, you old bugger. I would have called you if you’d been alive but I think the long distance charges to where you are, be it up or down, would definitely break the bank. So I guess I will extend the good wishes to my brothers who are all Dads and my younger son who also qualifies. Hell, I’ll send the good wishes out willy-nilly to all the good Dads I know – mean ones are disqualified.

We had an excellent visit from Joe’s son Stephen and his Nancy who arrived late-ish on Friday in their whopping great motor home. Beautifully appointed with pretty much everything you might wish, it is very comfortable to travel in but something of a problem to park. We took a short ride to Haliburton which is a really pleasant small town on a large lake. Haliburton has taken its tourism seriously and really does have a variety of interesting possibilities for the visitor. One can take a canopy tour in the forest, visit the  Sculpture Forest, which we did yesterday. A lovely stroll the woods, discovering surprises at every turn. On  another occasion we visited  the Wolf Centre where humans can go into a glassed enclosure and watch the wolves sloping  about  or basking in the sun while their cubs clamber and play and dash about like all young things do.  The good thing is that the humans don’t disturb the animals.

The Wolf Centre opened in 1996 and is currently home to a pack of Timber Wolves. Within the 61,000-square-metre enclosure (one of the largest in the world), they roam freely, living as ‘natural’ a life as possible. Fed on a random schedule (approximately once a week), they can often be found hanging out near the viewing area. As this is close to both the highest point in the enclosure and the water source, they are often nearby.”

Haliburton is also the home of an open air theatre and the Opera boot camp that Richard Margison runs. I have already waxed lyrical about the concert given by Richard Margison and some of his young singers  that Joe and I went to in Bancroft a couple of weeks ago. La Traviata coming later in July. I mustn’t forget to order tickets!

Back to our little trip – we arrived in Haliburton to find that there was a large antiques and craft show on the lakeside so of course we had to spend some time checking that out. I made an interesting purchase of an old silver (plated) cocktail shaker. I’d never seen anything like it and $15 said it was mine. I am really unsure about whether to polish it up or leave it in its tarnished state.


Should I shine it?

Stephen and Nancy bought Joe an old scythe for FD. I don’t really think he intends to scythe down the bush at the back although it certainly could do with it. Maybe he will agree to dress up as Old Father Time at New Year. Now, he’ll need a white wig and an hourglass to complete the picture, won’t he?

But let’s not talk about New Year. Let’s talk about summer-what-summer? One nice day and then three days of downpour. I suspect most of the seeds I have planted have probably rotted in the wet soil before they had a chance to germinate.  Disappointing so far, although all the perennials I put in last year have returned with renewed vigour – demonstrating that I have planted them too close to each other and will probably have to move them all around in the fall.  It’s a good job that I like mucking around in the earth and getting dirty. Bugs have not been too bad this spring. Blackflies are gone although of course the mozzies are in fine fettle. I was very happy to see the Bancroft Air Force of dragonflies arrive and I cheer them on lustily.  Deerflies I really hate and they’ll be arriving soon. They take chunks of flesh and once they find you they will absolutely not leave you alone. Me, that is mainly. They don’t bother with Joe. Maybe sweet fair Scottish skin of an erstwhile redhead is particularly delicious. Hey, I wouldn’t eat them so why must they eat me? Not fair. We also have great big stupid, stupid fat June bugs right now. Bats have radar, yes? June bugs don’t – they fly right into you, unapologetically, and you are lucky if they don’t tangle up in your hair or fly into your mouth if it should be open. Me no likee.  On the good side there are lots of hummingbirds right now.

Yippee! I’m off to Calgary at the end of July for a couple of weeks. I haven’t seen daughter Anna for two years and my sister Sue and brother Robin for at least five years.  We all wanted Joe to come but he won’t be persuaded.  So he and Charlie the cat will just have to hang out together.

Closer to home, my little grandson Deklin is going to be four in July. We will certainly be there for the party. I can hardly believe that he will be in kindergarten in September. Angela and James always put on an excellent event and I’m sure this year will be no different. I know they are bringing in a reptile handler with his charges for the kids to admire and play with.

My daughter-in-law Angela is an amazing person. Since she has been on maternity leave after the birth of Dahlia, she has got into renovation and has laid hardwood floors throughout the entire house herself (with help from James when he can). Now she is creating a dinosaur den in Deklin’s bedroom. His bed will be in a cave (tent) and there will be styrofoam rocks lying about and a wall of dinosaurs. He knows the names of each and every one and has no time for cute and cuddly ones. All that accomplished she is transforming their existing small ensuite into a large bathroom with room for a tub. She has already knocked down a wall in advance.  Not sure when the work really begins though.

“My two wonderful grandkids managed to choose themselves a pair of pretty ideal parents,” she said, modestly buffing her nails on her shirt.

Hey! What about this then? Joe and I will have been together for ten years, come July 12th. It was quite a gamble but it’s paid off in spades. For those who don’t know, we got together via the Internet. We had a few messages to and fro, then we met and I asked him if he was an axe murderer. He assured me to the contrary so we decided to have a go. We took a road trip together to Calgary and when we got there, I went to the hospital, right on death’s doorstep. Joe sat by bedside for hours on end so when I recovered, I decided he was a keeper. Moved in a couple of weeks later and we’ve been together ever since. Thanks to Joe, I have a second family and I’ve been to Hungary twice and have even gained a (very) few words and phrases of Hungarian. We are talking about another trip next year.

I think it’s time that I warmed up the remains of last night’s very delicious barbecued stuffed pork tenderloin. I wish you could enjoy it too. I just hope there is enough wine left to do it justice!

Posted by: Valerie | April 7, 2013

My clothes pegs are getting restive

They were clattering around in their basket when I was doing the laundry this morning.  Sorry pegs, spring is seriously teasing us this year. Already into April and still no chance of hanging the clothes out to dry due to a foot or so of dirty snow on the patio at back of the house. I have to confess to being a bit of an enviro-babe (“babe” is a loose term in my case) when it comes to a drying-line of sheets flapping merrily in the wind. It is so satisfying – same as baking bread. I don’t mean with a machine – I mean punching it out on a board and watching it rise under a damp cloth then plaiting it into an elegant and delicious loaf. It’s a smell thing too. Bread smells wonderful and so does laundry dried in the fresh air.  I have to admit that I haven’t made bread that way for years and years. I don’t eat it often either. To my disgust I have almost completely lost my sense of taste and smell which takes a lot of the fun out of gustatory matters.  I now have a tendency to use a lot of chili flakes and Indian spices in my cooking. Joe is getting used to it. The plus side is that cleaning out the kitty litter isn’t quite as dramatically unpleasant as it was before.

It’s been a busy first three months of the year up here in the Kawarthas. Joe and I had a brief escape to visit some friends who were spending the winter in Myrtle Beach. Not very warm but definitely an improvement on the weather at home.  I’ll take walking along a nearly empty white sand beach in February any time! Our friends were generous hosts, plying us with copious amounts of good and ridiculously inexpensive wine by Canadian standards. Unfortunately but unavoidably they also shared a nasty cold with me just before we left. Poor Susan – she was quite sick while we were there and her bronchitis lived on as a nasty cold in me and then Joe.


Live Oak at Brookgreen

We did get to enjoy ourselves though .  A visit to Brookgreen sculpture gardens was a high spot for me.  With avenues of live oaks draped with Spanish moss, we were away from the hustle of a commercial seaside resort and back in the romantic deep south that I used to read about in novels by Frances Parkinson Keyes when I was about 14. I suspect they may not have been very good books but my 14-year-old self didn`t notice.

I have been musing on the progress of my reading over the years. From Enid Blyton`s Famous Five and Adventure series to the School Friend, Little Women and Anne of G.G. Then Agatha Christie at around 12, followed by the afore-mentioned FPK. I do remember having graduated to Gone With The Wind at 17 but don`t really remember what caused the transition to Tolstoy and the like by the time I was 20. I was “serious” for years after that. I remember reading all of Thomas Hardy one winter. I do wish I had kept a log of everything I read over the years. Just recently I decided to reread Anna Karenina which I remember really loving in my 20s.

Garbo as Anna

Garbo as Anna

After getting halfway through I needed to have a break for something lighter. The translation I find annoying although it’s supposed to be the classic version. Of course it was translated in the 1900s so there is a stiffness about it that I suspect – but how would I know – is probably not present in the original. I confess to being a literary omnivore. As long as it is well written, I will read it.

Our second break this year was a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a short stay at the 1860ish Riverbend Inn that is also a winery. This was a Christmas gift from James and Angela and it was lovely, lovely. We ate excellent food, sloshed lots of wine and wandered about. N-o-t-L is a quaint little theatre town, home of the Shaw Festival, about 15 km from the heavily commercialised Falls area. Much more to our taste. We allow ourselves a little snobbery.

Two old geezers

Two old geezers

Also poor Joe has been to the Falls so often as visitors from the UK and Hungary have always expected to see the Falls. Of course that has always been in the summer when it is stinking hot and full of tourists.

I have always found that visiting world famous tourist destinations has been a bit of a let-down.  Thing is, you are so familiar with the postcard views, National Geographic or TV travel shows that when you do see it for real there are no big surprises.  Niagara Falls looks just like it is supposed to – so does the Grand Canyon etc. etc.  I am sure that if you spent a couple of days exploring the Grand Canyon the experience would be quite different but most tourists turn up, look at the view, buy a souvenir  and a cup of coffee and get back on the bus, as it were.  Years ago we went as a family to the GC and were most amused to see a whole busload of Japanese tourists spill out, line up in front of their bus for a group shot, and get back on again.  They may have stayed all of 20 minutes. Then there was another bus load of elderly Mancunians who exclaimed to each other noisily “Eeee – it’s even more bee-ootifool than it was the last time we were here.” Say that to yourself in a Manchester accent for best effect.

The Butterfly Conservatory at Niagara was a wonderful treat. Lovely and warm which it wasn`t outside but that was to be expected as the place is a replica of the Costa Rican rain forest. There must have been thousands of spectacular butterflies all flutterbying about. I had planned to take lots of photographs but the darn things wouldn’t keep still long enough. I felt particularly honoured when a couple of them actually sat on me. Funny how things change. All my life, until the last few years, I have had a great horror of flying things in confined spaces. Moths, birds and worst of all, bats. Fine outside but not near me indoors, oh, no! Somehow, I have got over it – with the exception of the bats, that is.  I do remember having  to spray rigid with hair spray a huge moth that had invaded my bedroom when I was a house slave in Germany. It was late and the household had retired and would not have been impressed if I had wakened them!  It must have been a nasty end for the moth. I apologise in retrospect.

butterfly strip

I have rambled on as usual and now it`s time to put away my metaphorical pen and go make cauliflower and garlic soup.

A bientôt, mes amis. Bis später, meine Freunde – I could go on in Italian, Hungarian, Spanish etc. but that would be showing off…




Posted by: Valerie | January 6, 2013

Snow and ice and everything nice.

So, it’s the first day of 2013 (or it was when I began writing, now it`s the fifth). Seemed like a good day to write my first blog of the year.

I don’t think I’ll review last year. It was fairly dull and uninteresting except of course for the birth of my wee granddaughter, Dahlia. /’/’: (Oops! Cat just strolled across my keyboard.) I haven’t seen her since she was two days old so I am looking forward to seeing how she has grown and changed. She must be six weeks by now. Can`t wait to spend some time with Deklin either.  We will likely celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas with a trip to see the Ottawa family as there are still a lot of presents in the corner of my living room. None of us is Russian or, for that matter, orthodox in any sense of the word but the timing is suitable.

Our own Christmas passed quietly with just a pleasant visit from Duncan, our neighbour. We amused ourselves with M. Hulot’s Holiday which is a real gem of a movie. We laughed and laughed.  Then off to Toronto at the weekend (horrible trip) for some noisy fun with Joe’s son, Stephen and his family.  We were eleven in a small space but it all worked out and we were well fed and entertained. Stephen’s 17-year-old twin daughters are beautiful and talented. Hope is into photography and graphic arts and Patience is going to study music at Uni and entertained us with her brand new saxophone. Lovely. Still waiting to see your photographs, Hope!

With the passing of Christmas and New Year, I find myself in need of some way of cleansing all the musical junk from my brain. I have got Anne Murray and Bette Midler firmly lodged there. I have no idea how they got there as that is definitely not my kind of music! Begone, ladies. Get the hell out of my head. I think I’d better work on squeezing them out with more acceptable stuff. Now, what would be the best Murray/Midler antidote? Some good blues alternating with some exquisite Beethoven would do nicely. A Pink Floyd concert on the telly last night was a help. I still love that stuff!

Shall I make some NY resolutions? Shall I resolve to lose weight? Tried that before – didn’t work- probably because I can’t stick to anything longer than a couple of weeks. Shall I resolve to walk 10,000 steps a day? Fat chance when I spend much of the day hunched over my keyboard. I know, maybe I will dig out my art supplies and have a go at drawing again. Whatever, I’m tired of knitting socks, gloves and baby blankies. I do however have a book that requires some attention – called Knit Your Own Cat. Got to try it, don’t you think?

My friend Janice Gray is about to depart to Cairo for her annual volunteering jaunt. Clever planning to go from January to March or April. The weather will be pretty well perfect. Weather is on my mind right now as it is minus 20C at the moment and somehow the house just isn’t warm enough although the furnace is doing its best.  Anyway, I really look forward to hearing how things are in Cairo and Janice writes wonderful reports. There is a photograph of her in Tahrir Square waving a flag after Mubarak stood down.  I can hardly believe it’s ten years since I was in Egypt. Christmas Day at Abu Simbel – you can’t beat that, believe me! I will always be grateful to my kids for making it possible for me to go to Egypt. I am really happy that I kept a detailed journal of the trip. I found it recently and spent a pleasant hour reliving many details that I had forgotten.

Joe and I haven’t really been anywhere since Hungary in 2011 and I am definitely getting twitchy.  We will have to put our heads together and examine the possibilities. The trouble with having such a far flung family is that visits to the kids necessarily are “trips” and sometimes that takes the place of more exotic ventures. Of course PEI is a delightful place to visit (Richard) and the Rockies are not too shabby either (Anna, sister Sue and brother Robin)!   I love to go abroad but that is becoming more problematical. Joe will be 80 this year and although perfectly healthy, he is diabetic and both factors really slam up the price of travel medical insurance to more than the price of an airline ticket!

Our little town is looking up! In early December, the Art Gallery put on an excellent fund-raiser that they called “Wine, Women and Song” and that was indeed what it was. Two excellent women performers, one a chubby blues singer and the other a really talented saxophone/clarinetist made it a great evening, washed down with plenty of wine.  We were both able to indulge in the wine as we now live close enough to walk to town. It was a fine night and we strolled down our hill, crossed the river via the footbridge and there we were – bingo! (Actually bingo is what generally happens in that particular venue!) Of course we were later faced with the reverse journey. Full of wine, we trudged back up our hill which is so much steeper than on the way down.

Before my time, Joe and his wife, Pam, had some Scottish friends who had a lovely house right up in the trees overlooking a beautiful lake.  They had bought the house in the summer, not realising that they would be in very serious trouble come winter. Their vehicle could only climb the hill so far. Beyond that point, they had to slog up through knee-deep white stuff, clinging to ropes. Apparently they did have a snowmobile but they didn’t like it! Groceries were transported in backpacks. These were elderly folk too. Eventually they sold up and went back to Scotland where the weather is a different kind of horrible. 

It was expected. Our local winter version of Darwinism has started. On New Year’s Eve some drunken kids drove a Jeep onto a lake. The ice was not thick enough and it fell through, drowning all four kids.  Sadly, we are no longer surprised by this, or the skidoo-ers that also drown or wrap themselves around trees. I do feel for the poor sods who have to try to rescue them or pull out the bodies.  We have equivalent boating accidents in summer – nearly always booze related, of course – and in the autumn they get to shoot each other in the woods.  So stupid! It does clean out the gene pool somewhat but around these parts, a simple stroll around town demonstrates the inbreeding.

Bancroft really is a small town. The population for the whole region is still under 4,000  and like so many small towns, it is aging.  The town was first settled in the 1850s by Irish settlers taking up an offer of free land. Logging has always been important and still is. Some loggers still use horses in the bush in the winter. In the 50s there was a boom in uranium mining which lasted until the 80s, I think. There is a lot of unemployment since a large wood processing plant closed down and now the town relies on retirees, tourism and service industries.  There are maybe a dozen family names that appear everywhere – including the food bank, as Joe and I discovered when we were volunteering there. But on the flip side we have a very strong arts community which gives rise to interesting arts and crafts and we have an actual live theatre which was originally the local jail. We don’t have a cinema although we do occasionally get some “art” films at the theatre.  All in all, it is a pretty good and a very pretty place to live. Come and join us – or at least come and visit us.

I have a little problem in the meantime: I proudly put big fat Christmas ornaments on a tree in our front yard and they looked great during the season. Unfortunately our neighbours will have to enjoy the season until about April because the snow is now so deep that I can`t get there to take them down! Ho-hum – so it goes…






Posted by: Valerie | September 30, 2012

No smoke but lots of fire

The forest is ablaze but thankfully there is no smoke, just leaves of red and gold. We are almost at the height of the autumn colours up in here on the Shield. It really is the most spectacular time of the year, and no bugs to contend with. It is still quite warm although the nights are chilly. My camera is groaning with the weight of its memory stick and threatening to turn golden. Yesterday, I coerced poor Joe into hiking to the top of the Eagle’s Nest which is a hawk observatory on the top of the 200 ft. cliff that dominates the town of Bancroft. I was puffing like poor old Thomas the Tank Engine with a heavy load on the way up (I don’t do hills well at all) and Joe was complaining that his legs were about to give out on the way down.  I must add that we didn’t hike all the way up – just from the car park! It was worth it for the spectacular view of the changing colours from the look-out at the top. Strangely there is a whopping great cross right at the top of the cliff – who knows why, but Church is very big in these parts.

I don’t believe I can remember a summer quite like this one past. It has been positively Arizonan and the grass is dead. The green stuff that has shown up is almost all weeds. How come weeds don’t die, just the grass?

We stayed home this year. No glamorous foreign excursions or even Canadian excursions.  We almost we to PEI and Nova Scotia – and didn’t; we almost went to Niagara-on-the-Lake – and didn’t. All we have to look forward to for now is a trip to Orillia which is rather dull in itself, its main claim to fame being the Stephen Leacock museum (been there, done that) and the big gaudy CasinoRama. Don’t know what Rama stands for. Joe’s daughter, Liz, gave him tickets for his birthday to a stage show at the casino at the beginning of October so hopefully there will still be some decent weather as we will hang around for a couple of days afterwards.

Have I ever written about Joe’s first visit to a casino? If yes, sorry, but I’m going to repeat it. Joe is by no means a gambler, no, no way at all. However, finding himself there, he cautiously converted a few bucks into chips and sat down at a machine, popped a chip in and then all the bells of hell started shrieking. Joe panicked. “Oh, my God, I broke it,” he gasped. He had won the jackpot – $2,700! Are you expecting me to tell you that he gambled it all away? Not likely! He stuffed it in my handbag, told me to guard it with my life, and we scarpered out of there (after I had lost my stake in the slots in about five minutes – which is typical of what happens to me if I play games of chance).

I do remember one occasion back in England when husband and several of his pals went off to the pub while I stayed home with the kids. They all tumbled back for coffee after closing time and then decided to play poker. I won! I won! Of course I was sober and I don’t think academics are much good at poker. Well, these one weren’t, for sure.

Talking about memories, I am sitting here after dinner, waiting for Dragon’s Den to begin and find myself watching Coronation Street. I don’t recognise the characters at all but they all talk Lancashire and seem to have much the same problems they had in the days when I used to feed Richard in front of the telly. Richard is 46. We lived then in the delightful hamlet of Acklam, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire. It was and very likely still is, in reality, a dirty, smelly, heavily industrial city, surrounded by dirty, smelly, heavily industrial cities. But the people were great – friendly and funny and we made very good friends there. Also on the plus side was M’boro’s proximity to the North York Moors and the east coast towns. Beautiful country with quaint stone villages, and cosy pubs serving ploughman’s lunches and real ale.

My daughter Anna and her Tim have just returned from a trip around England and I’d love to have gone along, even if it meant carrying the luggage. They wouldn’t have let me do that, I’m sure, but I would have been a marvellous guide. They went to the Roman Wall and then took a tour through Wensleydale and Swaledale, visited Hurworth, the village we used to live in before we came to Canada, then down to York and Ilkley to visit Anna’s uncle Rob and then to London where they had a brief lunch with my brother Tom who is just about to take his new appointment as Chief Inspector of Constabulary and is apparently extremely excited. October 1st is the big day. I never asked Tom if he will be wearing a uniform as CIC – maybe not, as he’s never been a serving officer – as some keep pointing out! He did send me a scan of his Royal Warrant – it’s not particularly impressive actually. I mean, I’m impressed that he has it… oh, you know what I mean…

There must be something swirling around in the ether these days. A few weeks ago I was contacted by some good friends whom I hadn’t heard of since 1971. I still don’t know how they found me but I’m delighted they did. Friends from England who are still living in the same area of Surrey they were in when I last heard of them! You know, when you have batted around as much as I have in my life, it’s hard to imagine living in the same place for all that time – and, if I’m honest, in the same marriage. Gopal and Geetha have done it most successfully, it seems. They are proud grandparents of course. Who isn’t!

And since then I have also re-established contact with another couple of friends from the same era. And this brings me to something I would like everyone to take notice of and join in if you are so inclined. Di and Roland Clift’s son died tragically young in a motor cycle accident. Since 2009, Di has organised Smile for Julian  every year on Julian’s birthday, October the 2nd.  People from all five continents, and that includes Antarctica in case you’d forgotten, will join in. A bit late to be telling you about, I suppose, but the premise holds good whatever the date is.  All we ask you to do is some small random act of kindness to a stranger or someone in need of some cheering up. Do it in memory of someone you’ve lost. It’s not a question of money at all. Not too much to ask? Doesn’t even have to be on October 2nd. Choose your own day – or, even better, choose every day! Take a look at the website Smile for Julian, join in and then post your “acts” later, if you wish.

So September is over in an hour or two. Not a lot happened to us in September except for a riotous visit from Family Raiswell from Ottawa. Angela is getting close to baby date and understandably fed up. She says she wants her body back. I always thought that there should be some way of storing sleep before a baby’s arrival.  Deklin was in excellent form and was great fun. He’s a true little boy now. Not even a toddler any more. He’s excited about having a little sister but I suspect he imagines she will arrive ready to play trucks with him! James is a tower of strength and we are all lucky to have him!

 Footnote: I may have to find another host for my blog as WordPress 
seems to have added links and advertising without permission.
Not on!

Deklin having fun at dinner

Posted by: Valerie | June 19, 2012

Blogia says it’s time!

Blogia, the muse of uncontrolled ramblings, has been whispering in my ear for some time but I have been ignoring her as I’ve been having too much fun getting my garden in shape for summer. There was no opportunity for gardening last year as we were preparing for our move. Almost a year already since we moved in.

Anyway, Blogia just won’t shut up so here goes. I am unsure what she wants me to blog about but no doubt she’ll come up with something if I just keep typing.

There you go – typing. Typewriters, or tripewriters as they may otherwise be known, have been part of my life for a very, very long time. I remember my father telling me to take a typing course at school as it “would always be useful”. I refused as I didn’t see my future including working in a typing pool (anyone younger than 50 even know what one is?) or even aspiring to the dizzy heights of becoming a secretary. I wasn’t going to take orders from anyone! I still don’t. Always had a problem with authority figures unless they are me.

So I got myself a job as a sub-editor and script writer in a company that had typing pools and everything I wrote, I wrote by hand. Four years of journalistic drudgery and I took a break, working as a house slave (au pair) in Bonn, West Germany. To supplement the incredibly stingy stipend of nine Deutschmarks a month – yes, a month! – I started to freelance scripts back to my old company in Scotland. This meant typing and the only machine at my disposal was a very old typewriter with a German lay-out keyboard. Of course I learned to type by the hunt and peck method.

Indeed it was useful. Six months of slavery left me with a working knowledge of German which would serve absolutely no useful purpose in my life or career (except for watching old war movies with Joe and pointing out where the subtitles don’t match the words spoken), a taste for continental food and a decent sense of independence which led me back to Scotland to gather some cash together by serving tables for a few weeks and set off to London with £67.00 in my pocket. I was 21.

I had £3 left when I actually got a job on a magazine with a Fleet Street address. The interview process involved me being shut in a room with a stack of paper – and guess, what – a typewriter – to create a story from scratch. No memory of what the story might have been but I got the job.

From that day on, I was never without one and for years I functioned with a little Olivetti portable that served me well and produced many scripts. It wrote me out of debt numerous times. Then along came computers with their keyboards. I love them too but I am still looking for a real old machine – one with silver rings around the keys. I don’t know what I would do with it and it would take up space I really don’t have, but dammit, I want one! If I ever do find one, I will very likely remove a couple of keys to make some earrings to match the wonderful bracelet that Joe bought for my birthday in the Distillery District in Toronto.

What a delightful place that is. The whole area remains as it was in the days of the working distilleries long since gone but the interiors are restored with galleries, eclectic little boutiques, coffee shops, bakeries and the like. Just the kind of place we both love to potter around. In some ways it reminded me of the old warehouses in Savannah, Georgia which have been restored in a similar fashion.

Ah, that sets me off thinking about getting on the move again. We haven’t any solid plans for a holiday this year but we will no doubt park the cat and pile into the car and take off. But in which direction? I favour east as it’s a long time since we’ve been near the ocean. Roaming around Nova Scotia and PEI would be most pleasant. We may even wait until early September to go as it’s less crowded then.

There is a move afoot within the Winsor family for a reunion next year. It will be my 70th (aaarrrggghhh!) birthday next year and would have been our father’s 100th except for him being dead this last eight years. Whether we five sibs can all arrange to be in one place at the same time is questionable to say the least but maybe it can be done. Four of us are at least on the North America continent and one in England. Sue and I are rather in favour of Vancouver Island where none of us lives but Joe thinks Bancroft would be a fine place to have it!

The other big excitement will be the arrival in November of a baby girl, a sister for Deklin. She is already named – Dahlia – but she may get called Broccoli as when Angela told the wee lad there was a baby in her tummy, Deklin shook his head and insisted it was only broccoli. He’s very excited though but is having a hard time understanding that she has to grow before she is born.

Conversation: “We’re going to have a little brother or sister for you, Deklin.”

Response: “TONIGHT?”

We haven’t seen the little guy for some time so it’s time for someone to take a trip. Either us to Ottawa or the family to us.  Deklin will be three next month.

L’il ol’ Bancroft has been providing us with events and general goings-on to enjoy lately. The annual Relay For Life was an excellent and well-planned event recently. There were local bands a-playing, particpants’ tents lined the park venue and there were various entertainments including a hot air balloon. The first lap of the relay consisted of local cancer survivors and there were many, many. Very moving also were the lights that edged the entire track, each one in memory of someone who died of cancer. There were very, very many of those. Joe and I both considered adding one each for our lost spouses but for some reason we didn’t. The relay lasted all night with the bands playing all the way – to which we can attest as we don’t live too far from the park. The whole thing raised over $108,000. Not bad for a town of 3,500.

We have come late to the realization that our town now has an occasional film club which takes place at the local theatre (theatre as in drama, not movies). We happened to catch the last movie of the season before tourist time. It was The Affair, the silent movie that won all the accolades earlier this year. Marvellous and all the other superlatives one can think of. And I am quite in love with the French lead whose name I can’t quite remember.

If you happen to follow the news from Britain, you will see that my youngest brother, Tom, is in the news big-time and is much hated by the Police Federation. They’d better look out as it almost certain that he will be confirmed as the new Chief Inspector of the Constabulary. No, he’s not a cop – he’s a lawyer. It’s a long story and I won’t go into it all here. There is actually an anti-Winsor Facebook site and a YouTube post. My son Richard says (humorously, I trust) that he is thinking of joining the FB site as he clearly remembers his Uncle Tom trying to persuade him to jump off a 12’ wall when he (Richard)  was about seven. My twin brothers are only eight years older than my eldest.

I think Blogia has done her bit for now. It’s stinky hot here – over 40 degrees with the humidity – and we are guzzling strawberry flavoured iced green tea. Quite nice really.

Posted by: Valerie | April 16, 2012

Stutter-stop spring


It’s blog time again – in fact it is long past blog time. Not sure why I haven’t got around to it before this. The usual excuses, I guess. Certainly it is true that I have been very occupied with my work since the beginning of the year. I have been expanding my horizons on the social media front as it is certainly becoming more and more important in the real estate world to which Robert, my client, belongs. His website is taking up a lot of my time and I am rather enjoying it. I have indeed learned how to Tweet. I still find it a bit pointless but following people is quite entertaining. Ian Rankin is my current favourite tweeter. Unsurprisingly his utterances are generally about beer, music and the occasional book signing. Shades of Rebus, for sure.

Right now we are in renovation mode – again! This time it is the ugly old bathroom that is the subject. I do wish I had taken a photo of its original ugliness before the reno began. Maybe if I just describe the tiling, you will get a general idea. Whitish with green swirls and black edging, all made of plastic. The tub had its surfaced ruined by about 50 years of Bancroft’s horrible iron water and also had an incipient hole in it. There’s more… It has taken four days so far to get to the stage when we can at least have a bath in the otherwise completely unfinished room but a bath feels pretty good when you have been deprived of the opportunity for a week. Surely they will be done by next weekend.

Our reno guys are very pleasant to have around and are always laughing and joking while they work. They have one flaw however. Every day they tell us that they will arrive between 7.30 and 8.00 and then turn up around 9.15. No biggie? Well, it is for me.  You see, I am not accustomed to getting up before about 8.15 and the crack of dawn is something I rarely hear. In fact I have never heard the dawn crack. Who decided that dawn cracked? The dawn glimmers and starts to resound with twittering birds, in my experience.

Have you been over-Titanicked this last week?  We have, although last Saturday TV ran the 1958 Titanic movie “A Night to Remember” which is far, far better than the overblown James Cameron movie of a few years ago. It always annoyed me that they included that silly love story in the latter film. The story is quite strong enough without the addition of fictional characters swooning and mooning to Celine Dion (never liked her).  I wonder if there will be anything left of the ship in another hundred years. (There certainly won’t be anything of us, will there?) Probably not, from what I have read or seen in documentaries. I hope the scientists will leave the poor old thing alone now and let her disintegrate in peace. And before I too let the topic rest, I must report the astounding fact I read in the paper the other day. A very large number of teenagers were amazed to discover that the sinking of the Titanic was a real event. How about the Holocaust, kids? Or did they just make that up for TV or the movies? If indeed they have heard of it at all.

Segue – seems to me that there must be some very confused people out there. If the Titanic story is fiction to them, what else is fiction? How do they determine what is and what isn’t? Are extreme, violent computer games real to them? Probably not. What about violent shoot ‘em up movies? No. So what about a cop show like Law and Order? That seems to me to straddle the issue. Such situations as they portray do exist but they are presented as fiction. But are they? I have recognised real cases on L&O SVU which they claim to “have no connection with anyone living or dead”. The Paul Bernardo case was fictionalised only slightly and served up on L & O. Imagine how the parents of the kids those monsters killed must have felt if they had just happened to be watching that show after a nice supper. Although of course, given what they have been through, perhaps they wouldn’t subject themselves to programming of that sort anyway. Hope not.

Sean and Drew, our renovators, are both “alternative” guys. Between them they have seven kids and all of them are being home-schooled. They live without TV and in Sean’s case they all play music and paint. I haven’t asked them if they are organic vegetarians but I’m prepared to place a bet on it.

Our stutter-stop spring has produced a really nice warm day today and I felt the urge to get outside and do something useful in the yard. I chose to remove last season’s dead leaves from the flowerbeds at the front of the house so I commandeered the leaf-blower machine that Joe picked up at auction some time ago (and did not subsequently sell in the yard sale last summer!) I had never used it before, and in spite of its name, I kind of expected it to suck the leaves up rather than blow them all over the place which is of course what happened. Add to that the fact that there is a strong wind out there and… oh well, you can imagine.

Thoroughly discouraged, I decided to return to this blog post.

A strange thing is going on – my typing is getting worse and worse these days. Is this an effect of getting older, do you think? Or perhaps I am just getting sloppy. I do find that typing on my laptop is a lot better than on the desktop though. My DT is getting old and clunky and is sometimes ridiculously slow so I am seriously considering transferring all my work stuff to the laptop and retiring the old lady. I do have one concern though and that is that my first laptop just died all of a sudden at the age of only two. Working one minute – dead, dead as a dodo the next. The power unit had failed completely. Are LTs generally less reliable than DTs? Anyone care to advise?

A couple of months ago I would have asked our good old Boxtalk friend, Malcolm, about this but sadly he surprised us all and died. (Boxtalk is the list I belong to on the internet, for those who are not familiar.) Malcolm was an all-round kind, good man and we all miss him. Famously he often wore a shirt that stated No, I will not fix your computer! but he always did. I remember having lunch with Malcolm one day and noticed that he was earing his shirt inside out. When I eventually mentioned this he simply shrugged and told me that was how it came out of the dryer. Didn’t phase him a bit.

Joe and I are looking forward to a birthday (mine) trip to Toronto in May. Joe always sets up something special for my birthday and this time it’s a culture event – although I have been told that St. Lawrence Market and a good Hungarian restaurant are on the agenda. I hope that we might make it to the ROM and the main event is a pair of tickets to the stage production of War Horse. I am looking forward to it immensely.

Meanwhile, I will finish this off with a wonderful photo of guess who? Deklin – Supergrandkid!





Posted by: Valerie | February 25, 2012

Procrastination and other matters

Can you believe it? Joe is nagging me about doing my taxes and it’s still only February. He, of course, has his all ready to go. But his are easy; he doesn’t have to spend an entire weekend surrounded by little slips of paper, calculating totals and all that rubbish. The real problem, however, is getting started. Why do you think I’m sitting here with my laptop, writing? I’ve meaning to get to a blog post for ever so long but let myself procrastinate on the excuse that I have had nothing to write about. Now a bigger case for procrastination has come along and joggled me into blog writing. Of course I still don’t really have much to write about…

No more medical dramas have occurred I am pleased to say. I did have my follow-up MRI a few weeks ago but although my doc has the results, I am not to hear what they are until Monday. That sounds to me as if everything is fine and dandy. I did also have a Doppler ultra-sound of my carotid arteries and the technician was swooning in joy at the beauty of my arteries. I expect he’s still talking about them. Once upon a time, they admired other parts of me that you didn’t need a machine to look at. But the past is another country… to paraphrase L. P. Hartley.

Anyone remember The Go-Between? Wonderful book and an excellent movie too. I wonder if it will bubble to the surface on one of Joe’s ancient movie channels. (Son James comments that most films viewed in our house were made around 1933. There is a certain amount of truth in that statement.)  I’d love to see it again. Come to think about it, there is a common thread between that and Ian McEwan’s Atonement in that the main plot is driven by a young child misunderstanding what s/he sees and causes disaster. Hmmm… wonder if Ian McEwan also read The Go-Between? Not that I mean to impugn one of our very best writers – sorry Ian.

Talking about books, which I do at the drop of a hat, has anyone read Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending? A very slim volume and really, really dense. I have been thinking about it a lot over the last weeks.  It is about memory, ageing and regret.

Then I moved on to The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje. Delightful and so well written. Also about events seen through the eyes of a child, this time the main character is an 11-year old boy travelling unaccompanied from Ceylon (as was) to England by ship.

And just to leaven the mix, I next attacked Heartstone by C. J. Sansom. It is the fourth Matthew Shardlake novel set so well in Tudor England. The series starts with the dissolution of the monasteries and has progressed through the latter years of Henry VIII’s reign. The details of life in those times are so sharp that one can even smell the streets of London. Shardlake is a lawyer who solves mysteries.

Many of you know that I work for a real estate agent in Ottawa, generally managing his “behind the scenes” stuff. We have known each other for years and years and have an excellent working relationship. Working electronically suits me very well indeed and although I will never make a fortune that way, it provides a little extra for financing the occasional reno or foreign holiday. Every so often though, Robert provides me with a challenge. Some time ago I was faced with learning to manage his webpage and I am doing fine with that now. The latest challenge has been to set up a Facebook page that is purely for business. I am struggling a bit on that one as people keep putting non-business messages up but I am managing. What has been a new experience for me is to try and get the guy going with Twitter. I never really have seen the point of Twitter but I thought the best place to start was to sign myself up and get to understand it. I have quite enjoyed following some interesting people like Salman Rushdie and Stephen Fry but I have yet to learn how to persuade people to follow Robert’s pronouncements. Any ideas, people?

I want to take a sentence or two to acknowlege the death of Marie Colvin and two other journalists killed in Syria thi sweek. I so very much admire these correspondents who put themselves on the line time after time to expose the horrors that are taking place in so many parts of the world. We must know about this and these fine people are getting killed to make sure we do. Condolences to their families. They must be grieving but I hope they are proud too.

Damn it – lunch has got in the way and now I have lost my impetus. Being Saturday, Joe happily watches English soccer all morning, then he watches a show in Hungarian for half an hour and roars with laughter at incomprehensible comedians and says “Look, look, we’ve been there!” when they do a travelogue bit. I think that I have now visited a higher proportion of “sights” in Hungary than I have in Scotland. Most of my real travelling has been done right here in North America though. With my husband Warren we roamed around the country extensively and Joe and I have done our share together too. Still got no firm plans for this year yet although we are toying with maybe going east to NS and PEI.  The point of this paragraph is that these entertainments are now over and the promised movie set in Hungary is junk, so Joe needs to chat. It’s hard to write while being chatted at about how we missed the cheap cherries at the supermarket yesterday etc.

Our next excitement and major expense is going to be the total gutting and renovating of the main bathroom. It is the Achilles heel of this whole house and we really have to attend to it as there is an incipient hole in the steel bathtub. We have covered it up with polyputty or something but it’s probably quietly continuing to rust underneath. I just hope we get it all done before there is leak which would doubtless hit Joe’s computer in the room beneath. May as well make a real job of it by relocating the tub and the toilet to give the impression of more space. That will also require removing all the ghastly old tile.  The whole (hole?) job will take about a week. No shower for a week! OMG! We have two other loos but no other shower. Head in the sink like the old days. I vividly remember an occasion in England when I was washing my hair in the sink and my Siamese cat leapt from the top of a cupboard onto my bare bent back. There was a huge cacophony of mingled shrieks – mine from pain and shock and the cat probably from getting wet and being shrieked at!

Bancroft has had more winter than many places and we got a huge dump of snow  last night which has completely obliterated the tracks from Deklin’s snow-sliding activities of a few weeks ago. Everything is looking pretty again but there is a sharp wind blowing the snow from trees and roofs, spoiling the enjoyment of a nice walk around the neighbourhood. Last week was the annual dog-sled races which passes at the end of our road and the main street was closed for an hour or two for street hockey. I like the dogs, you can keep the hockey.

So here I am at the end of another 1,300 words or so and when I have written the last character I will be looking for another form of procrastination. A little light vacuuming, clean the toilets?  Not very appealing, any of it…




Posted by: Valerie | December 31, 2011

Another year bites the dust

What a fizzy, bizzy year it’s been, what with moving and all that that entails. The auction to get rid of all our surplus Stuff, fixing up the new house, actually moving in, fitting out the garage and basement with storage for all the remaining Stuff. Then realising that we had to go out and buy stuff to replace the Stuff we sold! Somebody (no names of course) sold all the garden tools at the auction! Now our yard is one seventh the size of the previous yard but it’s still an acre and that requires a spade and trowel at least.

Our holiday in Hungary of course was a major feature of the year. This visit I felt more comfortable with the relatives although not when they gave up their beds for us. Little bits of language were slipping into my consciousness which helped and travelling around provided us with lots of adventures which you will already know about if you read my earlier blogs.

The fall was livened up by visits from immediate family coming to inspect our new home and of course a visit from Master Deklin and his entourage. I also went to Ottawa without Joe, to do an overnight babysit with the wee lad while Mum and Dad were all gussied up to attend a formal “do” at the Chateau Laurier. Angela had arranged this formal for 350 people on behalf of the company she works for but in the end the pair of them went to help a friend deliver her baby in the middle of the event. I would like to have a picture of them in their evening clothes in the delivery room!

Then of course came Christmas – dash about buying stuff and wrapping it – going to Oshawa for a family party given by Joe’s daughter prior to their family all going to the Dominican Republic for Christmas. Liz does put on a good show.

Then came trouble. I  won’t go into all the details. On the Friday before Christmas, I had a wicked headache and, more worrying, couldn’t get my words. Went to Bancroft Hospital and they told poor Joe it might be a brain aneurism and whizzed me off to Belleville in an ambulance for a CT scan and a spinal tap. Both were OK and by the next day my words were back. End result is they had no idea what was wrong and discharged me on Christmas Day. Joe was really sick with a very bad cold and had to drive to Belleville and back to get me. Jamie and Angela did a mercy trip on the Saturday and brought me some toiletries and a book to read.  Prior to that I had absolutely nothing to do except stare at the ceiling. No TV either as the technicians who set it up (flick a switch?) were off for Christmas. Did occur to me to wonder why the techs who were not celebrating Christmas could not be persuaded to work but then I am known to be a bit stroppy about such things. One of the nurses did give me a book someone had left at the nursing station (they seemed astonished that anyone would want such a thing!) It was about the influence of God in the relationship between mothers and daughters. I swear it just made me sicker and I rapidly abandoned it, preferring the ceiling.

So here it is – the last day of the year. We have no intention of kicking up our heels and will probably be in bed long before midnight. Such is growing older…

However… there have been some memorable Hogmanays in years gone by! One year, before I left home, I had been to the Arts College Fancy Dress Ball the night before New Year’s Eve and pulled an all-nighter. It had been quite a success – especially my costume which I constructed from front pages of a teenage magazine called Romeo. With my Romeo tunic, black tights and my medieval page boy hair and a plastic sword, I got my picture in the local paper!  However, come Hogmanay, I was pretty wrecked and went to bed to catch some zzzzzzs in the early evening before going on the bus to meet my boyfriend Tony and go to his Mum’s fabulously famous New Year party. WELL –  my mother deliberately didn’t wake me up! And neither she or my father would agree to drive me to meet him. I was really mad – seemed like teenage abuse to me and of course I ended up on the bus when midnight struck. The bus stopped dead on midnight, all the people got off, took their flasks from their pockets and passed them round, then we all sang Auld Lang Syne on the sidewalk, had a wee dance and got back on the bus.

The party that followed was a typical Hogmanay do. The first-footing began after midnight and continued until about 5.00 am. Originally it was common to bring a lump of coal as a gift to the hostess but I remember people bringing kippers all dressed up as people in crepe paper clothes. I suspect that most people can hardly imagine the amount of spirits that was consumed but there was lots of special New Year’s food too. Shortbread is of course traditional but so is a thing called Black Bun. It is the heaviest fruitcake you could possibly imagine – no flour at all, just fruit soaked in whisky and compressed into a thick pastry shell.  Needless to say there were also many other impossibly sweet treats. Not for nothing does Scotland win the race to have the highest sugar consumption and generally most unhealthy diet in the western world. We did after all invent the deep-fried Mars Bar. And the mealie puddin’ supper! One day I will tell you about Atholl Brose which is a Scottish dessert – oh, OK, I’ll tell you now. It’s uncooked oatmeal mixed with whisky and really thick cream. It’s really quite good. Believe it!

So, dear readers, I am signing off for 2011. Hopefully there will interesting and amusing stories up and coming in 2012.

Joe and I have a special wish for you in 2012 –


Note: I’m having a bad time with photos and a new header so I will work on them later!

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