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Our Earth

Click on the link for superb drone footage of Canada.

Listen to the Scientists!

What is the point of going to school if we have no future?

Our earth is burning!
The posters flashed their messages as we drove through Vancouver’s on Friday. 120 thousand people took to the streets, many of them children. They swarmed out from schools and colleges and eventually gathered at the City Hall. Many took the day off  to let their voices be heard and this certainly sent an earnest message to us adults. The message was clear. We need to get serious about protecting their future!
It was with a heavy heart that I drove back to the north shore over our scenic Lion’s Gate Bridge. Vancouver is beautiful!
The mostly calm sea with the islands in the distance, the majestic mountains that frame the harbour and the forests that stretch into infinity. These children had really hit home and I valued my beautiful surroundings as I pondered its future.
This theme continued to plague my thoughts over the weekend.  I came across a research scientist from the UK who was expounding the merit to your health of spending time in the garden. Francis Williams used a term called ‘forest bathing.’ Don’t you just love that term? I think I fantasize about the other kind of Forest Bathing!

My Lady Anne Barnard moment…..

 While at school I came across the character, Lady Anne Barnard, who supposedly partook of this rather scandalous act of  bathing in a forest pool in Cape Town, South Africa. She was the wife of an English governor during the British occupation at the Cape. She was somewhat older than her husband and was not too concerned about being a demure Georgian wife. This was in the late 1700’s! But I am getting off track….
The ‘forest bathing’ that Francis referred to was the practice of spending time outside surrounded by nature. It did not have to be a forest walk. It could simply be a stroll through a park or time spent in a sunny spot in a garden. In expounding on the merits of this activity, she added that you get to experience all the senses…..the smells, the sounds and even perhaps the feel of the breeze. Just 15 minutes of being outside daily can lower your heart rate, your blood pressure and your cortisol levels  It can be explained like this…… by being present in your experience you relax your cortex,. that is your thinking brain. It is no wonder that this has become a popular practice in Japan. Doctors even prescribe ‘time outside’ to their patients who struggle with various ailments including stress and pain management.

Forest bathing at the bottom of my garden….

My garden continues to draw me in. I play in it and tend it for hours. While I might not be adding much to climate change, I can take care of and manage my small piece of this magnificent world here in Canada.
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♫ Let’s Go Vancouver♫

This video brings home the fact that here in Vancouver we have a tremendous amount of rain. So excuse us when we wax lyrical when we get the odd dose of sunshine…….

There was much excitement today when 2 massive cruise ships sailed and docked on our north shore. We are used to watching them disembark with all the usual hooting and fanfare across the bay. This was different as it was right on our doorstep!

A local company were refitting this 27 000 ton, 680 passenger liner in 16 days. Each cabin was to be gutted and remodeled as well as the hull stripped and repainted along with updates to the propulsion system and rudder. As you can imagine this is a tall order and it would require a large workforce to complete this scale of job. It proved to be no problem to the organisers. I can imagine there was some bright young spark on that team……the second boat was drawn alongside that could accommodate the 2000 strong band of workers. How ingenious is that? Imagine falling out of bed…. a quick brush of the teeth and then a walk across the gangplank to the office. Once the day was done you could meet on the deck for a quick sun downer with a view across the Bay. Not too shabby for a day in the working life of the crew!

A surprise on our North Shore…

I had to smile as the company doing the refitting apologised for the noise that the locals would have to endure during the fitting out of the boat. How amazingly polite we are as Canadians and conscious of our environment.

I took this all in on my walk down to the quay last night. As the sun was setting a resident tugboat pulled in right next to me. A ship’s pilot shot me a greeting over his shoulder and then jumped aboard. He was obviously going out to one of the tankers to bring them into the port.

There is so much to see if we just take the time to stand and stare.

A tugboat greeting along the pier….

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing –half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Kenneth Grahame

Wind in the Willows

 

 

 

 

I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.

 

This rendition sung by Colin Thackeray hit me hard!

As I listened and watched his delivery it evoked so many emotions. The regal red figure   stood there straight and proud, happy to display his vulnerability with honesty.  He wore his 89 years of age well and his few minutes on stage made us reflect on what is important in life! It also brought back wonderful memories of my dad who sang to us all the time. He also served proudly as a bomber pilot in the World War 2. I could imagine my dad singing this song to my mom who was the ‘wind beneath his wings.’ I miss them both and was reminded of the legacy they have left behind in their family.

Dad during World War 2

 

But I’ve got it all here in my heart

The last 18 months have been a test for us as some unpredictable factors affected the security of our life here in North Vancouver. We wondered if we should sell up and downsize. Forego the responsibilities of having a home with a garden……

I know this is JUST a garden but the thought of losing my forest garden filled me with utter despair. I love this piece of Canadian soil and have spent hours toiling in it and bringing it back to its former splendour. But the reality was that we might have to leave this all behind.

Was this a First World problem? I think not. When you leave your home country and move far away, your home becomes your security and your refuge as a family. My parents left the UK and settled in South Africa. We were very conscious of the fact that the move had been hard for them, especially for my dad. But he never let it get to him. This is when the GRIT kicks in. Thanks for the genes, mom and dad!

 

I can fly higher than an eagle.

Sh..t happens, and when it does you fight back and regroup as a family. I am so grateful for the family that we have and for the support and love they have shown us. Life just seems so worthwhile when I have ‘my tribe’ around me. Colin Thackeray showed us too how he appreciated his family. It has inspired him to keep up his enthusiasm for life. So much so that he competed and won the recent Britain’s Got Talent competition. How amazing is that? For those that watched the attached video, you will have noticed that along with family members in the audience, there were his two friends. They were also dressed up in their red regalia and were with him every inch of the way.

 

For you are the wings beneath my wings.

As you can see, Mr. Thackeray reminded me this morning of the people who have influenced who I am (mom and dad), those who love and support me (my family and friends) and those who form part of my tribe.

So as the sounds of music float through my kitchen I am reminded that…

You are the wind beneath my wings.

The Morkel family

 

 

In the mirror of your eyes…….

My rugged African pot stood sheepishly at the foot of my driveway all decked out with its hessian bow. It had to endure the humiliation along with the many other corners of my house. There is much to celebrate….the Winter Solstice heralds the fact that our days will slowly become longer and our nights shorter. Then we have my favourite time of the year. Need I say, it is Christmas.  The wonder and joy of the season here in the northern hemisphere is magical.

A delicate twist to my African roots!

I can see it all so clearly…..

The steep pathway down to the house is lit up with fairy lights. They have a double function; both to illuminate the slippery staircase and to add a flickering twinkle to the arduous task of getting up and down to the house. Although when your arms are piled high with copious bags of groceries and replenishment stocks to the bar fridge, the lights are the last thing on your mind. But it is so worth the effort!

Like an image passing by……

The twins made a quick pre-Christmas visit to drop Leo off for a few weeks while their parents had a well-deserved family holiday. Leo is the much loved golden retriever. While the dogs got reacquainted, the twins helped decorate the Christmas tree.  There is much to be said for having your family traditions and I sat back and lapped up the scene. Deliberation reigned as the two placed the carefully chosen ornaments on the branches. There was much teetering on the chairs and discussion. Both of them are fiercely independent and I had to restrain myself from intervening in their creative activity. I watched and listened as the two repeated history.

Katy added her magical touch…

Christmas finally arrived and we all gathered together to celebrate. Stuffed turkey, glazed ham and red cabbage cooked in apple juice and topped with cranberries was on the menu. Dessert was a homemade salted caramel ice cream topped with meringues. These were made from scratch too. Thank goodness Christmas only comes once a year!

Christmas traditions with Jack …..tartan and pajamas.

Like reflections of your mind……

Besides all the preparation that goes along with Christmas, it is a time of remembrance and soul searching for me. I was continually reminded how my mom managed a house full at Christmas with such grace. There was always delicious food and all were welcome at our table. I missed them both and found myself reflecting back now that I am ‘the nanny’ and all the kids descend on our house at Christmas. There is much music, laughter and plenty of food.

So now we will go our separate ways…..

So another New Year is about to begin. We all need to go out and carry on with our lives. I will bathe in the love that I feel. This was brought home to me when my granddaughter said goodbye at the car. I was securing her seat belt and she tilted her little head forward and said: “Nanny I will dream about you.”

Best wishes for 2019 go to all of you and may you always have something to look forward to.

Christmas Cousins

From The Heart…..

 

“Congratulations! You’ve reached the next step in the citizenship process.”

This was the email that suddenly appeared in my inbox late yesterday. It came from the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. There was an initial rush of excitement. We were almost there. It meant there was just one more appointment with the authorities.

Within the next month we would be singing…..Oh Canada!

I slept badly which surprised me as I thought the news of the previous day would send me into a soporific dreamland. Somewhere through my wakeful periods and my jumbled dreams came these uncomfortable thoughts. They were thoughts of failure, abandonment and being disloyal. Was I being disloyal by taking on the citizenship and culture of another country? It seemed fortuitous but I then received a message from a dear friend to say she was standing outside what she thought was my family home in Stellenbosch. The tears just rolled down my cheeks. So many happy family memories and the faces of the people that I love filled my mind. I still love South Africa and the Western Cape and all that goes with that…..

Please don’t think that I need you to feel sorry for me, I certainly do not. This was all my own doing. But have you any idea how hard this is? I have knowingly left behind 60 years of all that is familiar, my history, my dear friends and estranged family members. Family often take strain with this whole process too as they feel that you have run from your responsibilities. But my responsibility had to be firstly to my immediate family. Fortunately I knew my parents understood that and they gave me their blessing.

I have allowed myself to be sad today. I mourn the life I once had in South Africa and the people that I love back there. When the time comes, I will sing the Canadian Anthem with pride but the gentle words of Nkosi Sikeleli will play a soft tune in the background of my mind.

I never thought it would come to this! The art of serving up a culinary delight that you could feast your eyes on, is no more. No salivating over the presentation of a delicious plate of pasta dressed with olive oil and fresh basil. No, this is to be a thing of the past.

Do you recall the Science fiction thriller Soylent Green? It was produced in 1973 and it won 2 awards for its brilliance. While I am not partial to anything ‘Sciffie’ myself this movie however, had a profound effect on me. Way back then issues like the Greenhouse Effect, pollution, overpopulation and depleted resources were all part of this thought provoking movie. It was definitely a movie way ahead of its time. The one aspect that haunted me over the years was the substitute used for food. It was a tablet that had been produced from euthanised people!

What a frightening thought that the human race might have to resort to this!

A whole new experience….

I gingerly put my hand up to my mouth. Can I do this? ‘It’ had been disguised in a round ball filled with safe ingredients like oats, honey and coconut. But the ‘it’ bit was the worrying part of this suspicious wannabe truffle.

I had to remind myself of the many benefits of the ‘it’ ingredient in these deceitful little morsels. They have twice as much protein as beef (gram for gram), contain vitamin B12….which I am assured is excellent for my brain health. This is comforting as the threat of dementia looms…..a real concern as one starts to forget all the proper nouns in your vocabulary. ‘It’ also has plenty of calcium, far more than milk. That should please all the celiac sufferers out there.

So what is this magical food? I hesitate to tell you but here goes. It is none other than CRICKETS!

My skin crawled when I thought of dangling this six- legged creature into my mouth. I could hear the crunch of the exoskeleton and could feel the spikes on their back legs rough against my tongue. The idea of putting an insect into my mouth made me crawl!. As an ex Biology teacher I have spent hours studying and observing these little creatures. The last thing that I ever contemplated was popping one into my mouth! Oh how we need to adapt to change!

But all is not lost. This amazing new food source has produced a consumer friendly product. It is available in powder form and can be added into many different recipes to boost the protein content.

Imagine your favourite biscuit recipe with the added bonus of this extra nutrition. It certainly lessens the guilt. Greenies will also be pleased to know that using crickets as a source of protein is environmentally friendly.

Yes, crickets are easy to breed and are happiest in a confined space. Condo-like structures are used as breeding stations. These undemanding creepy crawlies also require less water and eat very little. It makes for a cost effective business venture as well as a highly nutritious food source.

All I am left to do is put past prejudices away and is to sneak some past my family and into the morning smoothie…….

I stood in the kitchen this morning and shouted at my new Echo Dot with a croaky morning voice. I needed to get the first sitting of breakfast going for my early morning skiers and my son who was returning back to work. Music and a bit of news in the morning really gets me going and this ‘little black apparatus’ was not about to oblige. I leaned and enunciated my words. This is often needed as my South African accent gets in the way of technology here in North America. I tried again and rolled out my best American accent that I could muster at 6am in the morning!

OK Google! Ok Google!

Why was this ….. machine not responding? Then I realised that I had my commands mixed up. Jeff Bezos of Amazon would not have been pleased with me as I was confusing my software system service providers.

Alexa, give me the latest news report?

“Here is the latest weather and news report for the Lonsdale area.”

Yes, it worked! I could now go into mommy mode whilst turning out a fine spread for my early risers.

Early morning skiers….

As with many of you, we have had all our children and grandchildren home over the holidays. Technology and getting mom and dad up to speed with the latest technology is all part of this visit. The furnace programme has been updated and reset, the fireplace switch is now remote and Alexa is installed in the kitchen. So I have the world at my finger tips and Big Brother is surely watching me! Ha! Ha! Who knows what he will learn?

Part of the technology update included hitting the Black Friday sales and renewing our ancient and faulty kitchen appliances. I decided to sell the old ones rather than let them end up in a landfill. They appeared on Craigslist for a bargain price and were all sold within days. What can I say? I have hidden talents! Was it the artistic photos of their gleaming stainless steel finish or the persuasive wording of the advert? Who knows? But at least they would whirr away in someone else’s kitchen for a while longer.

A sad farewell to our old fridge….

Along with the selling and buying of the appliances came the dilemma of getting them up and down our 3 flights of stairs to our house in the forest. The microwave, dishwasher and oven were all relatively light so that was easy. But when the new fridge arrived, the delivery guys took one look at the narrow and steep access and refused to help us. We had a problem that had to be solved. I had a house full and no fridge. But it was easier than I could have imagined.

We have a saying in South Africa: ‘n Boer maak ‘n plan. This translated means a farmer always makes a plan. In true form my son pulled his truck up next to the garage in front of the slope down to the house. They tied a sturdy rope onto the truck and around the new fridge. He pulled on his rugby boots for grip and they were all set. They slowly lowered the fridge down along the slope. I stood and watched and tried to contain my laughter and feelings of trepidation. What if this new fridge slipped and careered off into the river?

The rope is attached and away we go….

It did not……she stands proud in her new appointed place in my kitchen. The beers are cold and the steak is thawed and on the barbeque.  Soft sounds filtrate from the kitchen as Alexa serenades us with her latest playlist.

A very happy 2018!

But is was not all about technology, there was old fashioned fun too!

For the last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning. T.S. Eliot.