Archive for April, 2014


Enough already! I thought I had passed the ‘Winter Test’ this year! We have endured the blasts from the Arctic Vortex, had metres of snow thrown on us and braved the sub zero temperatures!  We had just begun to thaw and had enjoyed a few days out in the garden and have even sipped our first of the season sundowners on the deck. The hesitant sun had begun to warm our frosted lily- white winter limbs. Our mood had lifted and there was a spring in the step. But it was not to last…….

The morning scene.....

The morning scene…..

We woke up this morning and the world outside was all carpeted in snow! Oh no! It was hard to assimilate that we had regressed back into winter over night.

So out came the liquid sunshine, the ‘must have’ vitamin D tablets, at breakfast. I had pushed that right to the back of the tray as I felt they would not be needed for a few months. How wrong I was! Warming Jungle Oats would be at the top of the menu once more rounded off with a cup of hot chocolate. There would be no walk for our canine member of the family either. I just could not get myself out of that door to duel with the wind. Josh had that ‘gatvol’ expression on his face as he went out for his morning ablutions on his snowy patch. He had reveled in the sun over the weekend as he rolled in the grass and luxuriated on his back in the sun. Now all he could do was jump straight back into his warm basket and sulk.

I fumbled in the dark coat cupboard for my tried and tested and ‘very sick of wearing’ blue padded jacket. When I first arrived in Canada I could never understand the reasoning behind having so many coats. I used to listen to locals discuss their ski coats, walking jackets, evening coats, weekend coats and spring coats. What on earth was a spring coat? Initially I decided that this was surely extravagant and I could manage with far less. I muddled on for the first winter and even the second as they were both mild. But then the ‘big guns’ hit us…….this last winter! It did not take me long to realize that my sensible repertoire of 2 coats in the mudroom cupboard was just not enough. I would feel an attack of SADS coming on when I reached into the cupboard and selected one from my meager choice! Then the warm boots were reluctantly pulled on too. Oh for a pair of peep toe sandals!

I long to give my summer sandals an airing!

I long to give my summer sandals an airing!

So as the sun breaks through those clouds and the snow begins to melt yet again, the prospect of spring becomes a reality once more. We can look forward to new growth and new life! But in the meantime a couple of mallard ducks have set up home down at the river at the bottom of our garden. There has been much courtship and spring shenanigans going on.  It looks like there is soon to be a batch of baby chicks. What a lovely way to celebrate Easter!

Our mallard ducks make whoopee in our stream.

Our mallard ducks make whoopee in our stream.

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As this is my 100th blog entry I am going to allow myself to indulge a bit……

From the magazine ‘The Neighbours of Olde Oakville”


The South African Experience in the Great White North: Meet Anne Morkel



Some journeys are measured in time, like marriage, careers, and parenthood. Some journeys are measured in accomplishment, like owning your home and building a community reputation. Then there are the good old-fashioned journeys measured in globetrotting distance. Anne Morkel has taken all three, the latter her most recent. The South African ex-pat moved with her husband Phillip and two youngest sons Bryan, 27, and David, 18, to Oakville in 2011, and the journey has been one of cultural idiosyncrasy, personal, and professional exploration. She reflects, “We chose this, and we came to stay. If you come to another country, you have to make this your home. You can’t live with one foot in one country, and one in the other.”

The decision to leave her home, including family and friends, was not an easy one. But when Phillip was offered, in Anne’s words, the “most amazing job offer,” the Morkels knew they had to seize the opportunity. Though it has proved to be a creative period of what Anne calls “disruptive innovation,” the choice to leave South Africa meant leaving much of their lives behind. Anne had a hard-earned reputation in her community as a teacher of Science, Life Skills, and Afrikaans. Living in a new community without it was a humbling experience, as Anne shares, “Not that I was arrogant, but I had a reputation and profession. I was a well-known, integral, functioning and useful individual. There’s an adjustment process.”

Coming to Canada was an opportunity to build that reputation again, and Anne certainly has, adding, “It’s been humbling, but exciting. The process has been energizing. Canada allowed me to be my own person. It’s wonderful… and quite frightening!”

When the Morkels arrived in Canada, there was a bit of a honeymoon period. “The first three months were like we were on holiday!” she laughs. That holiday soon ended, and a little bit of homesickness set in, especially when winter hit. One of the only ways to get through that shift was to lean on her South African roots. Says Anne, “I have a lot of respect for Canadians, for Canadian resilience. It’s not an easy life. South Africans are tough in the sense that we’ve had to cope with different things. We come equipped with a strength of character.”

To deal with the challenges of a new country and new landscape (both physical and metaphorical) Anne looked for little bits of home where she could. “You buy stupid things like crisps because those are the things you miss,” she adds, laughing. But beyond that, Anne needed to find where she belonged in her new community. “You learn to survive. I learned to become grateful for friends and warmth, and that we’ve been accepted. We didn’t expect that. We didn’t know what the reception would be like.” 

Ever the professional, once Anne got her bearings, she began seeking new ways to put her skills to work. Her philosophy was simple, “You need to get out there and make your mark. You have to find something to fill that void,” and so she pursued a talent that lent itself perfectly to her big move: writing. She began as a travel writer, documenting her move with entries and photos (with the occasional cameo from Josh, their chipper and sprightly Jack Russell!) on her blog that underscored the enormous journey from country to country, and culture to culture.

Anne continued writing her blog and chronicling her time in Canada, and eventually caught the eye of Eve Hemming, a South African writer who was compiling an anthology of South African ex-pat writer’s work. Much to her family’s great pride and esteem, two of Anne’s pieces can now be found in Eve Hemming’s book: 

 Scatterlings: A tapestry of Afri-Expat Tales.

When she isn’t writing, Anne is out enjoying everything Oakville has to offer. Whether it’s going for a walk or trying skiing, or simply enjoying her new neighbourhood, she takes an active role in her new life and has absolutely no time for complaining. She states quite emphatically that winter is “A little long, but you have to get on with it! Oakville is lovely, there are a lot of trees, and the people are so receptive.”

As for Morkel family goals, Anne and Phillip are still waiting to get their oldest son, John, 30, to Canada. Middle son Bryan is pursuing his Professional Engineer Status, and David is just finishing school. Anne adds, “It’s not easy to move a 15-year-old, but now he’s playing sports he’s never played before and he’s going to the UK with his Rugby team.”

Next up for Anne will be taking her own goals off of hold and getting back to achieving them, perhaps even setting new ones as she says, “Now I’m ready to fly.”


My famous rusks...

My famous rusks…



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The curtain let in a bright stream of light. I realised that it must be morning. It had been a disturbed one with the South Easter blowing a gale and the rattling of the apartment windows. The dustbins had crashed into the street and there was a feint howl from a neighbour’s dog. 

My view from the window...

My view from the window…

I drew the curtains and settled back into my bed to enjoy the view. Table Mountain filled my window with all its glory. The soft morning light cast shadows on its giant grey folds.  What a sight! The city was already beginning to bustle with cars racing down the street and the cheerful sound of early risers making their way up to school.
My kettle whistled on the stove. It was time for the morning ritual of a cup of steaming hot tea and a Woolies rusk. I touched and savoured the bunch of proteas and fynbos as I leaned across for the tea caddie. The soft hues of pink and the furry leaves were reminiscent of Boland country walks.





I settled back into bed with Leo at my feet and the gentle purr of my children sleeping upstairs. I contemplated my day……
What is on my agenda today? It could be an amble at Rhodes Memorial, a laté in the sun in a street cafe or a stroll along the seafront. Some window shopping in one of my favourite haunts also touches the spot!
She would say………It’s good to be back!

A favourite haunt.....Rhodes Memorial.

A favourite haunt…..up at Rhodes Memorial.

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The old tractor chugged along in front of me. It was heading along the windy road between the farms outside Stellenbosch. The wooden slatted trailer was laden with red grapes. They spilled over the edges as it bounced along. The round berries were bursting with juice and the sun picked up their purple hue. They would have a royal reception once they drove up the long driveway to the homestead. The wine maker stood alongside the cellar in anticipation. It was press season and he had his time cut out for him. I noticed all the activity on the farms as I slowly meandered along my favourite route. Farmers drove up and down in their ‘bakkies’ as they checked the harvest for downy mildew. The crop was looking good and it was all systems go! There was much to do and one sensed the flurry and excitement. They had to act swiftly as soon the leaves would change colour and would shrivel and drop. It would then be time for the plants to rest, but first these red jewels had to perform and yield.

The beautiful Stellenbosch Mountains

The beautiful Stellenbosch Mountains

In the distance the craggy Stellenbosch Mountain stood proud as it framed ‘the dorp.’ I thought of the time that I had run up its steep sides as an enthusiastic child. The descent had been a tricky one and I recall how I had eventually wobbled my way down exhausted and dehydrated. But that experience had not marred my fascination for this giant folded mountain. As a teenager I spent many hours wondering around at its foot. I used to enjoy a walk up there through the forest of pine trees to clear my head. (I remember there being much to contemplate in my teenage years!)

My cold- blooded encounter....

My cold- blooded encounter….


There I had discovered a wealth of flora and fauna and even had an encounter with a puff adder. It had been an unusually warm winter’s day and the cold blooded reptile had ventured out of hibernation. It basked on the rock and warmed its ectothermic coils. Fortunately his sleepy state had allowed me to get quite close up so that I could admire his shape and skin. My dogs did not hold the same fascinating and went into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Much barking ensued and the graceful creature slid off the rock and down into a pile of earth. They gallantly wagged their tails as they peered up at me. How could I not be grateful? 
The sight of the bright blue backdrop of sky brought me back to the present. As I made my way back to our family home, floods of memories filled my mind and were savoured.   

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