Posted by: Valerie | January 7, 2010

Held Fast in Winter’s Icy Clang

Hard to believe that it’s only a week since our visitors left and not even a week since the first of the year. I always feel that January is by far the longest month of the year. I suppose it’s because it’s really the depth of winter where our only possible activity is snow shovelling.

Of course Bancroft is snowmobiling territory but we don’t have one of those. I must say that I can see the pleasure of being able to take a run into the bush to otherwise unreachable parts but I really don’t like the noise and the fumes. My wasp-blonde hairdresser, Pauline, is of aboriginal origin and told me that her parents used to strap her and her sister onto their snowmobile when they were very small and take off for whole days at a time. I am sure they were reasonable and decently behaved smowmobilers but so many get drunk and bash their heads open on trees or take off across lakes not completely frozen, fall through and drown. Idiots! Natural selection at work. And other people have to try and rescue them.

The full force of winter is logging time around these parts. I know very little about logging but I do know that the loggers like to work on the snow as they can move the felled trees with much greater ease. Algonquin Park has an excellent logging museum that vividly documents the incredible hardship that loggers used to endure. Apparently the men went to logging camps and stayed there all winter. No trucks or vehicles to help – only horses. Their wives and families were left alone to survive the winter as best they could.

We have a little bit of Christmas yet to come. We go to Ottawa on Friday, weather permitting, to see Jamie, Angela and the baby. It’s six weeks since I saw the wee one and I know he will be much changed. When I go to Ottawa on my own, I dash around seeing friends, madly shopping for things that Bancroft can’t provide and so on. When Joe is with me, it’s a different trip entirely – more like being a tourist in my own town. (After 30 years I think I have earned the right to claim that.) So we will go the Byward Market and eat croissants and drink fancy coffee, we will finger beautiful crafts, go to the Hungarian deli and buy incredible Szegedi sausage and bejgli, the latter being a version of strudel with either poppyseed or walnut filling. Then we have always to make a stop at Lee Valley Instruments – not because Joe necessarily wants to buy anything but mainly because he just enjoys being there. As it’s a fine tool shop, I can’t get too excited but they do have lovely garden things so I can cheerfully browse in that section.

On the 8th of January, 1966, my son Richard was born in a grimy industrial town in the north-east of England. Middlesbrough. We were very young parents and really had no idea what we were doing. Life does have a way of teaching us though. All these years later I really appreciate his company and enjoy our conversations. He is courteous enough not to talk down to his mum when we talk about history (and cats). I well remember Richard reading a biography of Napoleon when he was about ten years old and taking him to see the battlefield at Waterloo. I’m not sure whether it was before or after that I helped him make a huge plaster of paris replica of the battlefield with all the correct troops in the right positions. It was a major opus and took a long time to make. I wonder what happened to it.

Happy Birthday, Richard!


  1. jusr reading about the battle of Leipzig leading to the congress of Vienna.
    Might not know much about car door latches, but very up on Napoleon. 🙂

  2. We are obviously once again divided by a common language. The use of the term aboriginal to describe I suppose are “Native Americans” in my current lingo doesn’t rest lightly on the tongue.

    I do remember Richard as a baby–are we that old and do we really go back that far in our relationship? Many marriages haven’t survived that long–ours anyway!! I think we had the discussion about M’bro being voted as the worst place to live in the UK–grimy is maybe too polite

    • Actually the proper term here is First Nations but it didn’t pop into my mind at 11.00 pm last night. Mea culpa.

      Actually I can remember Rachel being born – and the other two but not Christopher – where were you then? That air force place Cran-something? Eeek, these brain cells are disappearing alarmingly fast.

      I am very proud to have a real friend from that far back. There are still a couple from Hurworth days, close enough for an annual letter. No-one at all from Scotland. Of course I got out of there pretty damn fast.

      • Christopher was born when we were in Cranfield but he was born in the hospital in Northampton because I had complications. We lived in Pittsburgh when Rachel was conceived but went back to M’bro to stay with Mum as we had only the crappiest of health insurance and the National Health looked like luxury!! Rachel was born 12 1/2 months after Christopher. How did we manage? I traveled back to the States on my own with a 14 month old and a 6 week old baby.

        Richard, I hope you would get on well with my husband, who has a couple of History degrees but his area of expertise is the Second World War. You can always hire people to fix your doorlatch but who can analyse the Congress of Vienna??

      • OMG what a nightmare, travelling with tiny kids. I do hope you got a direct flight. Not too long ago I was travelling on my own to Calgary, a 4 hour flight – long enough. They mixed up the seat allocation and I was dumped in the back row beside the loos, seated next to a woman with a toddler and babe in arms. Before take-off I was already plastered with jam and probably snot so I called the attendant and told her that I was subject to panic attacks. It worked like a charm and I was instantly escorted to first class.

  3. I bet that mother would have liked to claim that she also suffered from panic attacks!!

  4. We had a snowmobile on the farm and when the group got together, we would go for a run on the north mountain, stop and look at the view then come back to one or the other of our homes for supper. I used to make a delicious clam pie and salad and someone would bring dessert. We were
    in our forties and fifties then. That was when we
    worked hard on the farm and played hard too.
    I made 14 loaves of bread at a time in 48 oz juice
    cans. Why 14? Because that is the number of cans
    I could fit into the oven to rise on the pilot light warmth. Good too for making yogurt.

    Sad that we are so old now that it is a major job just to hang out a wash. I have to walk through the snow out and back because I didn’t want the clothesline so close to the back door. It is fine for
    summer, but letting them blow in the cold winter air makes them smell so wonderfully fresh.

    I love winter.

  5. The reason logging is done in winter is that the logs must be skidded out & if that happens in the mud or on the earth, it results in huge damage to the saws. In the winter, the logs are skidded out in the snow which is free of stones & grit. Many mills will not accept or purchase wood that has been in touch with the ground. Replacing milling saws, or even chainsaws is too expensive not to speak of dangerous when the blades hit stones. People have died.

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