Posts Tagged ‘Canadian’

(sung by Josh Groban and Kelly O’Hara with The Philharmonic Orchestra)

Rows and flows of angel hair…..

Joni Mitchell’s music would often waft through my ground floor apartment. I loved the lilting sound of her Canadian voice and the often melancholic melodies. Not sure why there was a need to feed the sadness back then. It was the Seventies and I think it was more that her music allowed me to drift off into my own thoughts. Whereas rock music just made me want to dance. Then there was no holding me back! ‘Going Gooding’ was my firm favourite disk jockey. He came on quite late at night and I would often be lulled off to sleep only to wake in the early hours with the sound of crackling in my earphones. There was no Spotify then just my dear old transistor radio.  

And ice cream castles in the air……

As I listen to these poignant song with New York Philharmonic, it makes me realise that I have a different reaction to these words now. In retrospect, there is no sadness but just a warmth of memories that well up in my memory bank. It is one of the huge advantages of getting a bit on in years that you have the time to enjoy those memories. I am eternally grateful that my memory bank is still a functioning resource as it amuses me for hours! Little did I know back then that I would one day live in Canada. The land of weather extremes……I have no sooner taken out a few summer dresses when I have to trade them for padded jackets!

They rain and snow on everyone….

Oh my, does it rain here!  I have even resorted to buying Duke a raincoat. Our Labrador does not understand why he is kept indoors when the clouds cry for days on end.

She thinks I don’t know this is a garbage bag!

I often recall my mom shouting at me when I left for school in the morning.

“Take your raincoat!”

My reply was always the same……

“Please mom, won’t you fetch me?”

To which she always replied…..

“No, you won’t melt!”

Melt I never did and those endless Cape rainy days would one day prepare me for the Vancouver deluge. We often have a year where it can rain 280 days out of 360! How is that for ‘wet weather’ endurance?

So many things I would have done but clouds get in your way…..

The dreaded lurgies have kept us home this year. We do miss so many aspects of our old life and the family and friends that we cannot see. But we soldier on and enjoy the gift of time and good health.

“Nanny, we miss you.”

My grandchildren’s little voices on the phone make everything seem worthwhile.

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Sitting in the morning sun……

Sun, glorious sun has finally arrived here on the West Coast! We have had continuous sunshine for over 2 weeks! We revel in it and the excitement is tangible. Everyone is outside. I soak up every opportunity to feel the warmth on my back. There is nothing better than a morning stroll along the boardwalk at the seafront. I watch the sea traffic out in the bay…..laden tankers, sleek yachts and majestic ocean liners. They glide by through the first narrows of the Burrard Inlet. Cheeky seaplanes swoop overhead and make their presence felt too. I have almost…..not entirely…forgiven Vancouver for the awful winter that we experienced this last year.

Watching the ships roll by….

Today was to be a different experience as I fancied to get closer to the water. I pulled my dusty bicycle out of storage and donned my ravishing helmet. The descent from our house is long and steep so I decided to NOT test the quality of my brakes. On the North Shore I jumped on the ferry.  My helmet irritated me as I hate the ‘hat- hair’ that it gives me. But this was definitely something that I was going to have to conform to. I tried to appear nonchalant, as if I done this many times before. But I stuck out like a sore thumb with my European Stroller with the basket on the front……in retrospect I am sure no one even noticed me! I must add that the cyclists I encountered that day had either rugged or very sleek bikes along with the most up to date bike attire. This was obviously a very serious sport!

On the seawall at Stanley Park

“You are being ridiculous!” I chastised myself and turned my attention to the view from the ferry across the bay.

It took me 2 hours to get from the city around Stanley Park and back with a few pit stops along the route. The pathway followed the seawall for most of the way. There were plenty of other bikers as this was obviously a favourite outride.

“On your left.” The cyclists shouted as they appeared from behind me. This unnerved me at first but I soon became accustomed to the ‘rules of the road.’ It was heavenly to breathe in the fresh sea air and to feel the cool breeze on my face. The bay was a hive of activity. I had to concentrate on where I was going as I was distracted by all the sea traffic.

The noon horn blew and it was time to stop for lunch. I sat at a sidewalk café with a wonderful vista over the yacht club. It was a sensory overload with some people watching thrown in for good measure.

Two thousand miles I roam just to make this dock my home….

There are times when I have to pinch myself. Where am I living? Yes, I am in Vancouver. During these times I reflect back on my life back in South Africa……for a minute on that seawall, I was racing down the hill from the Lonehill Koppie down to my school. But I return to reality…..

“It is time to head home.” My new Canadian friend had kept a watchful eye over this newbie on her bike adventure into the city. Thanks for showing me ropes! Little did I know there would be more to learn. I still needed to work out how to get my bike from the ferry onto the front of the bus. I was not about to attempt the hill ride up to our house.

There were limits to these exploits!

My bike has a new experience too……


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Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Music stirs my soul and I have such fun finding just the right piece for my blog. Sometimes it is the lyrics that resonate but other times it is just the voices that make it pertinent. The rich sounds waft through my house as I listen and enjoy. This recording is no exception as these voices really do justice to Queen’s famous rendition. They just add to the Hygge in my house on this beautiful sunny day in Vancouver.

I recently came across the term Hygge. It fascinated me as it is something that I have always practiced without giving it much thought. This also explained my endless preoccupation over the last year with getting my house cosy and inviting. It is a difficult concept to translate as it vague and has many interpretations but here goes….. It is from a Norwegian word meaning ‘well being.’ The Danes, who are regarded as the happiest country in the world, practice this concept in their homes and in the way they live. If I was to give you a practical example you could imagine this…..I am sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold Canadian winter’s night with a glass of red wine in my hand and my dog curled up at my feet. That is Hygge! Another could be sitting in a steaming hot tub on a cold January evening with the snow lining the trees and an equally satisfying beverage in my hand. This is Hygge!

You could be curled up under your duvet in your apartment, watching your favourite television programme while you chomp away at a decadent box of chocolates. It could be as simple as lighting a candle just to create the right atmosphere. Or having friends over for a relaxed potluck. These are all Hygge!

My garden, a cup of morning coffee and Josh…..my idea of Hygge.

It is about being kind to yourself, indulging in simple pleasures and not denying or punishing oneself because of it. I like the sound of that. What is life all about if we can’t have a little bit of what you fancy?

But it has wider applications too and not just confined to the comforts of home. Certain aspects have been introduced into the workplace to reduce stress levels. I noticed on a recent visit to the Amazon headquarters in Seattle that principles of the idea were being implemented. Amazon staff were encouraged to bring their dogs to work. Special areas were created to accommodate their needs. There was an outdoor play area where they could socialise with their canine brothers and do the necessary ablutions. These dogs have added another ‘Hygge’ dimension to an otherwise stressful day in the life of a software engineer. It makes you think……

Leo catching the number 9 to work…….

As far as I am concerned, a little piece of Denmark is alive and well at La Ravine …..our home in the forest.

Rhododendrons beckon you to draw closer…..


You might like to read the book The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russel

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Been rusting in the rubble…..

Goats are not one of my favourite animals. They smell and are often bad tempered. This is certainly the case with the ones that I have encountered. They do however, have a talent that I covet……the ability to climb up steep and rocky mountains. It is another grey Vancouver day. I am lying on my back among our trees with the Mission Creek stream snow- melt pulsing in my ears. In usual Vancouver style the water is falling from the skies as well as from the mountains. The world appears magical from this horizontal position.

When last did I just gaze skywards here? Probably on another occasion that I came scooting down on my rear on La Ravine! I seem to exercise this involuntary move a great deal lately. I scurry around along our steep river course in the quest for removing the previous owner’s building rubble and garden waste. This is when I covet the acrobatic ability of the humble goat the most. His prowess would be such a valuable asset on our steep river bank. We are fortunate to be surrounded by a forest of tall conifer trees so my tumbles go unnoticed. My red face goes unnoticed.

I am learning from the news……

According to the weather bureau we had the grand total of 75 hours of sunlight for the whole month of March! This rainy weather accompanied by the grey skies is getting to the most experienced locals. They assure us that this is not the norm. I think I have heard that somewhere before…..when we moved to Toronto and we endured temperatures of minus 40 C. Torontonians assured us that this occurrence was most unusual too. So what are we to do when a garden beckons?

Nothing quite like mucking about in a garden….

Fall like the rain…..

My short fashionable all weather trench coat just did not cut it anymore. One walk to the bus stop and I was soaked! On a recent trip to a consignment shop, I found a long, very long red raincoat. It was probably relinquished with glee when the previous owner moved back to Toronto……no rain there, only deep snow! Once donned it looked a bit like a bag lady until I accessorised it with a pair of shiny navy blue Wellie boots. Now I can take on any storm.

Now I am hypnotised……

There is nothing like a garden to ground you and to keep you present. I while away the hours as I dig, make new features and discover lost treasures under the soil here at La Ravine. The steep slopes have their challenges and the miserable weather a test of patience. But slowly I chip away at my Canadian soil and carry my Canadian rocks to new corners of my garden. With each spade full of earth, I feel that I am getting closer to making Vancouver my home. I am most grateful for my red raincoat!


The light is what guides you home, the warmth is what keeps you there. Ellie Rodrigues

There are rocks to be carried……



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Canadian flies are monstrous! South Africans would refer to them as ‘brommers!’ As the weather warms up their deep drone can be heard as they lurk at any open door or window. They wait patiently ready to dart into the delights of your home or office. Cooking in the kitchen or opening up your lunch sends shock waves out to all the local chommie brommers. Their over sensitive olfactory system zones into the aroma and draws them in like moths to a light at night. It is their way of getting onto their very own social media. Their status would read something like this………Grub’s up boys!

The Canadian Brommer

The Canadian ‘Brommer’

Once inside you are left with a few options to rid yourself of these domestic invaders. One being a quick flick of the wrist which would result in the demise of the noisy invertebrate. This does not go down too well with the Greenies and more squeamish amongst us. Trust me, squashed insect inners between your fingers does not do much for the appetite. But there is an advantage of using this method of capture…. namely it is easy to execute. The reason being is that these members of the Canuck insect clan are slow movers. It must have something to do with the adaptations to the threats that face them in Canada. They are not exactly fighting off Brown Bears! Now if they were anything like their South African brothers it would be a whole different story. Their acutely well-trained compound eyes would observe the said hand long before it reaches the target.
The second option is well known amongst our local fisherman where the salmon run free and wild. Catch and release is a piece of pie to implement with these lumbering locals. The brommers down south in Africa have trained us newbies well. It requires stealth and method to catch these ‘boytjies.’ You need to creep up on them with an open hand. The trick is to keep the hand level and low. Then raise your hands just above them to catch the buzzing invader in flight. Make your way to the door with your prize firmly clenched in your hand and release. The inner Greenie is left content with no fatalities.

Canadian mosquito

Canadian mosquito

Now when it comes to mosquitoes, don’t mess with these Canadian buzzers. They thrive on or near the 250 000 lakes that are part of the picturesque landscape here in Ontario. Their bite is painless. But wait for it, there is worse to come. This enables them to discreetly strike and suck your blood and then disappear like thieves into the darkness. Within hours red, itchy welts appear. Oh the itch drives one wild! There have been times, while suffering from the affliction of mosquito bites, I have wished for the ‘supplity’ of a dog. Ah…….to just be able to reach that spot. But that is not the worst thing about these little stripy devils. The burn and crawling skin continues for weeks. The memory of the weekend away at the cottage is long gone but the itch lingers.

Cottage Country

Cottage Country

So although this might seem trivial. It goes to show that comparisons are something we all do. As newcomers it is a way of absorbing change ….we observe the differences and similarities and process our new environment. Just wish the mozzies would lay off me as I earned my stripes with their African cousins!

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Another year another turkey……

“Which one do you think would be better?”

My question was directed at an experienced looking housewife. She had tossed the birds around, examined their weight and made her decision. I marveled at her expertise and the swiftness of her decision making process. After all she had been doing this for years and I had 3 years under my belt!

“ Should I go with the 7 kilogram one or should I go a bit bigger?” The humble pasty- grey bird peered safely up at me from the supermarket fridge. Much deliberation went on.  A few women had gathered around me now and eagerly offered this newbie advice. More questions were asked and preference for white or brown meat was discussed. This was a serious matter. Eventually the decision was made and it was unanimous.

“So this is the one then.” I heaved the 10 kilogram bird into my shopping cart. My back muscles twinged under the strain. It was one hell-of-a fine bird!  Of course I won’t mention this to the family. There is no need for them to know that I was ably assisted by my experienced new helpers. After all, us girls stick together!

My shopping cart trundled off to the check out. The humble bird’s destiny had been sealed.  It was bound for the  Morkel’s Thanksgiving table.





It is our third Thanksgiving here in Canada and it is probably one of the best times of the year. People scurry around and prepare for winter. Gardens are cleaned up and anything that could be ravaged by the extreme temperatures is packed away. The leaves have begun to add colour to our walks around Oakville. Roads and paths are covered with ‘the drop’ and we notice and appreciate the hues of orange, yellow and the red. We savour the swansong of summer in the form of Fall and recognize that the burst of colour will have to tide us through till Spring next year!

Josh is sue that a skunk lurks nearby....

Josh is sure that a skunk lurks nearby….

But for now we celebrate the bounty of the harvest and all that it brings with it. One such event is Thanksgiving where a feast is held. Each family prepares a sumptuous meal to enjoy with family and friends. Around our table this year will be our adopted Canadian family.( I must add that they have not had much say in the matter….they are family whether they like it or not! ) I am thankful to them for all the support that they have offered us in this our new country. Distance dictates that a few people will be missing from our table. Our family from the US and our beautiful brand new grand children will be with us in spirit.

God only knows what I would be without you……

Happy Thanksgiving!






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Bonjour Madame’…….The chiseled face of a custom’s official peered at me across the counter as I slid my passport over towards him.  ‘Bonjour Monsieur.’ I nervously straightened up my carefully considered ‘French- arrival- outfit.’ I only had a few French phrases that I could retrieve if need be and that was one of them! I had been traveling for over 12 hours so hardly as fresh as a fleur de lis and the said outfit looked like it had been pulled from the ironing basket! But the sight of Nice nestled up against the azure Mediterranean Sea and the sleek yachts from the air were enough to blow any sleep deprivation away.  The excitement welled up inside me. I felt like a child with a new toy on Christmas day!  It was a dream come true….a visit to the south of France.

The road less traveled...

The road less traveled…

 We took the ‘road less traveled’ and wound our way through the French countryside. Medieval towns stood proud on vantage hilltops. The ancient walls of Tourtour, Entrecasteax and Villecroze charmed the historian in me. Besides the restaurants, life went on as it had done for centuries past. The old man sat in the sun with his dog at his side, the young woman carried her sleeping child through a narrow passage and the bell chimed out the midday hour. I took a sip from the crystal clear water in the village fountain and savoured the fact that I was actually in France! I could not help feeling a sense of déjà-vu. The Mediterranean plants were so reminiscence of the Cape flora. Agapanthus, star jasmine and wisteria grew wildly in terracotta pots. The fragrance of rosemary and lavender filled the air in potager gardens. Stately Cypress demarcated formal areas and skillfully crafted iron gates adorned entrances.

Local brew against the backdrop of antiquity.

Local brew against the backdrop of antiquity.

 The steep roads wound down the mountains and through the vineyards and silvery olive groves. There were stops at small cafes tucked away on narrow streets. Crepes dripping with fig and melted Camembert washed down with a local beer. Then the cherry on the top…….We were treated to the splendour of a lunch at the Domaine de la Baume. We took our time to enjoy the elegant French cuisine and fine wines. I had to pinch myself at times to make sure that this was a real experience and not some dream or fantasy! The added delight was the formal gardens that surrounded the chateau.  I can safely say that I am officially labeled a ‘kyk daar.’ I could not refrain from just pointing out all that caught my eye.

Formal gardens at the chateau.

Formal gardens at the chateau.


  Years of poring over French books did not disappoint. My visit to the south of France was just as I imagined it, but oh so much more thrilling! It has filled me with a joie de vivre that will hopefully sustain me through our cold Canadian winter.  I have stored these happy memories up safely and will relive, reflect on and savour over the next few years. What a wonderful 60th birthday experience. It will live on in my heart forever.

La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin.

Life is too short to drink bad wine.




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The express envelope is tightly sealed. The 3 passports and the awful photographs have been slipped in along with all the relevant documentation. More and more documents……. Will this ever end? It’s amazing how the lack of a smile just gives one the appearance of having the world on your shoulders! But apparently a smile is not what officialdom needs in cases like this! So the somber Morkel clan is all duly represented. Our serious faces are soon to appear on our ‘ticket to freedom,’ the Canadian permanent residence card. We are told by all the fellow permanent residence seekers that this is the final stage. Yippee! It has been 2 years and 6 months since we sent in our first application……note that one counts the months when something is this important. 


I have to add that it is not that I am hell bent on leaving my African roots behind me. Oh no, that could never be the case. It is more about having a sense of belonging and stability here in Canada. The African spirit still runs through our veins and we have strong ties with family and friends. Although I still allow myself to miss South Africa even though Canada in now my new home. However, doubt set in the other day when I read an article in our local paper. I quote…..

“Essential Canadianness is dependent on the slice of time that is spent here.”

I read this headline and am forced to ponder the inevitable. Does my 3 years here in Canada count? Has all the trying to do and experience all things that are Canadian not matter? I bare the scars……. a broken wrist whilst skiing. My inquisitive nature drives me to explore further.

 “It is not just the number of years spent in Canada that serves to imprint this country on one’s soul, but also the question of which years. A person’s character typically is formed in his or her youth. By the time middle age comes around, it’s usually too late.”

Oh well, that rules me out then! Or does it? I cannot imagine that it is the same for everyone. I think it depends on just how receptive you are to change. My metal has been tested continuously over the last while. Just when I think that I am getting this whole Canadian living waxed, something happens and I realize that I am definitely still quite ‘fresh off the boat.’ Like the time I found myself careering along on the wrong side of the road! But in true African spirit I will not let this deter me from my goal and certain familiar words ring in my ears….’aanhouer wen’ and ‘agteros kom ook in die kraal.’

We live and learn......

We live and learn……


* The article I refer to was written by Jonathan Kay in the National Post







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Memory, turn your face to the moonlight.


A grey figure is hunched over her wooden kitchen table. The blackened kettle whistles on the Agar stove as she patiently sieves, mixes and blends. She gently wipes the flour off her hands on her starched white apron and blows a grey hair from her face. It is a cold Karoo evening but there is a lot to do before she can light the lamp and crawl into bed. Her body aches at the thought of her cosy bed with the patch work quilt. “Tomorrow I will see the whole family again.”

A Karoo morning....

A Karoo morning….

Another day is dawning….

It is 6am and I stumble out of bed and precariously make my way down the stairs.I want to surprise the extended family with a batch of my ‘famous’ cheese muffins. Auto pilot switches on and out come all the ‘tools of the trade.’ All these electrical appliances had to be replaced when we made the journey across the sea, as nothing was compatible with the Canadian voltage. So I was spoilt with a rather zooty looking stainless steel mixer. It does everything! It is useful but I hate to admit that it is not my favourite. The piece that steals my heart is my old hand driven sieve. You know the one with the handle that turns…

I regular get reprimanded by my family. “Mom, when are you going to throw that old thing out? It is all rusted up!” My retort is always the same……

Are you going to throw me out when I am not useful anymore?

The old sieve finds a new home...

The old sieve finds a new home…


Memories, I can smile at the old days.

My sieve was found in an old junk shop. I rescued it from the kitchen scrap yard! I could not help myself……It reminded me of the one that my mom has used all these years. We have delighted in the Christmas cakes, tea loaves and ‘dinosaur pies’ that my mom’s expert hands and this little wonder have churned out from her busy kitchen. So call me sentimental, but I relive those special times with each turn of my ‘rusty old timer.’ 

And the new day will begin…..

The timer blasts forth and I take out my golden offerings from the oven. The mustardy, cheesy aroma makes my stomach grumble. Soon my mob will come thundering in with bleary eyes. They always seem to know when there are freshly baked offerings. I am left wondering about the family that once sat around that wooden table in the middle of the Klein Karoo. At least their old sieve has a caring custodian.

Antiquity versus modernity!

Antiquity versus modernity!

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(This song was written and first played by the Zombies in 1968. This rendition is by Dave Matthews, a South African, who now lives in Seattle.)


It is another day of temperatures below zero! I mumble as I sit down in the mudroom. (This is a room at the front of most Canadian houses and it has all the coats and winter garb.) I pull out my blue fur- trimmed coat and my thick boots. I am sick of this outfit!  I have forgotten what my feet look like as they have been all trussed up in heavy boots for months! Each morning we look out for any sign of some reprieve……..another day of rain and grey skies. Oh no!

Even the locals are ‘gatvol.’ Sometimes I have to resort to my local dialect as there is just no other word that best described this feeling.  I could think of a few other choice words which could best describe this k…k weather but I am sure that this blog would then be blocked!  But there is hope……. 


One of the joys of winter!

One of the joys of winter!



Spring is slow at gracing us with her presence. You have to look hard for it as it pours most days!  My tulip bulbs are sprouting and their glossy leaves have broken through the earth. Thank goodness! They survived the beady eyes of the squirrels during the fall. This was when all the delicately juicy specimens were gathered up as their stash for the winter.  Somehow the new bed that I had created in the garden was overlooked by the vigilant gatherers. The resident rabbit is the next threat. The new growth is just too much for him to resist. Luckily Josh keeps a watchful eye from the window. He performs a war dance whenever any livestock dare to trespass on our verge. So for the moment the bulbs are safe.

I resort to the indoor tulips!

I resort to the indoor tulips!


The morning greets us with an abundance of bird calls….robin, thrush and the splendid red cardinals. The woodpeckers often disrupt the melodious calls with their beating thuds against the bark. They busily make new homes for fussy females and the pending brood. The majestic birds of prey have made their weary journey back across the sea. They can be seen gliding overhead and filling up on local delicacies like squirrel and the odd mouse. Our resident red -tailed hawk has appeared. He was less noisy but probably still exhausted after his long commute. He is sure to be squawking away in the elm trees and creating havoc once he has regained his strength.

Our magnificent cardinals.

Our magnificent cardinals.



Spring is a time to renew, recover and replenish. Nature does it and it enthuses us winter-weary humans to do the same. The excitement is tangible. A mere glimpse of a ‘patch of blue’ draws people outside and into the street.  Enthusiastic neighbours gather round and wield their power hoses. The clean up has started! Driveways and front steps are washed and the residue salt and grime disappear down the drains. Sleek new road tyres are fitted to the family cars and the robust winter tyres packed away.  Our basements are bulging with all the winter paraphernalia! The mud room gets a facelift and all the heavy coats and skis make way for bathing costumes and sandals. Hoorah!

All this adds to the delight and realization that SPRING is almost here!




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