Archive for November, 2011

Josh gets into Christmas mode.


Canadians know how to celebrate and have a wonderful sense of occasion! If it is not Thanksgiving, or Halloween then it is Christmas and my, do we have a lead up to all these occasions! We have attended the magical lighting of the village Christmas tree and watched the excitement on children’s faces with the Christmas parade with all its pomp and brass bands. The preparations go on for months on end but we are slowly realizing why this is so.


The Yuletide fever has hit our circle and our neighbours have braved the howling wind and icy weather to string twinkling lights from roof tops and trees. This is quite some feat as these snow-built roofs are steep and require much balance to attach lights and to hold on for dear life. It has even created a job opportunity for some brave and enterprising entrepreneurs who do this for a living. Some people just love adventure!


 We have a wonderful vista of twinkling cedar trees, adorned pots with crimson red velvet bows and even have the proverbial garden gnome except here it is a sparkling reindeer. I have never been partial to the gnome adornment but the reindeer I could definitely go for in a big way. My family was mortified when I announced over supper that I was going to place a whole family of reindeer on the front lawn. They prefer the understated look but I feel that if you are going doing this, it must be done BIG.


But it does not stop here; once you open the front door then the real spectacle begins. Each nook and cranny is lovingly decorated with bows and tinsel. There are fresh pine wreathes over the doorways, staircases dripping with long garlands and accent walls with scenes that have been imaginatively thought out. But the best is yet to come….. the fireplace. This is always the centre of every home and it requires lots of deliberation from the lady of the house. There has to be some presents strategically placed around just to add to the expectation, so Christmas stockings are a must along with the beautiful pine garlands.


But the real reason we celebrate Christmas is brought home to us when we stand in awe and marvel at the Christmas tree. The fragile lights, twinkling tinsel and hand picked adornments make us stop and stare. So on our first cold Christmas and along with the reindeer on the front lawn, we will celebrate our family, our friends and our new life here in Canada. But know there will also be biltong, droë wors and Roodeberg close at hand and thoughts of our loved ones celebrating in South Africa.


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Picadilly Circus


We are having an interlude from our Canadian adventure and are in London walking down Regent Street! I can’t believe it, this is the land of my birth and I feel a strange sense of kinship even though I have lived in the colonies all my life. Maybe it is because my parents kept IT all alive for me with the Enid Blyton books, tales about England, the music and we even wore our tartan. The twinkling spider web of Christmas lights and the bustling traffic bring me back to reality as I am lured into the shops by brightly decorated windows. My Woolies substitute, Marks and Spencer’s, has tempted me into a shopping spree and I succumb to a few sensible buys. It is with some regret that I eventually drag myself out into the drizzly streets, but there is so much to see. I have made a conscious effort not to “do London”, but to savour the sights and to take in just enough.

The Victorian buildings that line the street remind me that the historical side of London beckons me and I make my way down to the Thames. The autumn leaves crunch under my boots as I amble over Lambeth Bridge and I peer over the thick wall to watch a barge as it slips underneath. The Museum of Garden History is closed and I am grateful for the lucky find that morning of a DVD of all the magnificent gardens of England. It is 5 hours of pure viewing bliss which I am sure to pull out when the man cave at home is reverberating with loud cheering from the men in the family.

A crowd of well-wishers had gathered along the embankment around a newly married couple. She shivered in her elegant white gown as he proudly gazed down at her. It had begun to drizzle again but I was not going to let this deter me, as I knew I would have to toughen up to adverse weather conditions now that we had chosen to live in Canada.  The path meandered along the Thames and I parked myself on a bench directly opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. I sat quietly and watched the city go about its daily tasks as tourists and young mothers bustled past me. The whole world seemed to be in a hurry! Big Ben broke the spell as it chimed out across the Thames, it was already 3pm and it would be dark soon. I felt the chilly wind around my feet and decided to make my way back to the hotel.

The doorman of this gracious 150 year old hotel welcomed me as I ran up the broad staircase. I was ushered into the tearoom which is one of the novelties that the hotel offers; indeed they claim to have invested “afternoon tea”. It is a formal tearoom where you can sip your English Breakfast out of dainty porcelain china and you can nibble on the shortbread and the array of scrumptious chocolate cakes. So the Queen never made it for tea but instead I ordered a piece of irresistible cake and made sure  that I finished off her portion too. 

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Josh on the clean front porch!


The tell tale sign of a ladder at the side of the house informed me that something was up! Legs dangled over the side as rears pointed skywards. My men were perched precariously on the edge of the roof. Ok, so now what? The task in hand was to remove all leaves from the gutters otherwise the snow would push moisture into the house. A cold house at minus 20 degrees is one thing, but a wet one ….. I don’t even want to contemplate it!


The masterminds had grabbed a metal plant stake and were scraping out bunches of wet leaves from the gutters. You need to remember that these Canadian houses are 3 stories high and have a steep pitched roof. Each stroke caused them to wobble tenuously and I wondered if these two engineering brains could not come up with a safer plan. They were not about to be coaxed down either so I had to devise my own plan B in case one of them were to topple off the edge. The thought of it sent a shudder down my spine. They enjoyed my concern and proceeded to do various attics to tease me. Unrelenting they carried on and sodden wet leaves came flying over the edge. My recently swept front porch was a sea of brown sludge and Josh whimpered as another leaf bomb flew past his face. He had been tied up against the railings to watch the passing parade as he is finding all the indoor activities far too tiresome. As an action man himself, he would have far preferred to be part of the roof team. But I was not about to have the dog bounding around up there too!


Little did we know but our roof attics were being watched by our neighbours. They were obviously taking great delight in the activities on the roof and one of them, a South African, decided to come to the rescue. He came racing across the street with a large piece of apparatus which I was to learn was a gas leaf blower. One strong tug and the engine kicked in, this workhorse was bound to make a difference. The house vibrated and the sound permeated every room as this little gem went to work Leaves flew everywhere including over our neighbour’s car but the mission was accomplished. We now have clean gutters and I still have all the men in my house in tact. We have also learnt a bit more about the way things are done here in Canada.

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