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!







  1. I do so love reading your blog!

    Though I get bummed after because I can only wish I could write as creatively as I design things… Ho hum 😦

    See you soon! Say, thanksgiving visit??

  2. “Tim left the day after I arrived for a cycling holiday with his brother in Spain.”
    I didn’t know you had gone on a cycling holiday in Spain. I’m looking forward to the photos. Just kidding, Val. Great write-up.


    • Dammit – missed a comma! My bad. Doubt If I would be up to the rigours of a cycling holiday in Spain with Tim’s brother.

  3. Sounds like you have been very busy! Lovely to hear about it all.

    Sarah :o)

  4. I like the idea of the Smile for Julian. After the bus/train collision two weeks ago, I felt a bit shaken up and mused that “people need to slow down and be a little kinder to each other.” It sounds similar to your event.

    • Nice thing about Smile for Julian is that anyone and everyone is encouraged to join in. Yes, that bus/train has shaken everyone up. Let us hope it will be made so that it can never occur again – there or anywhere else.

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