Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

From us to you - keep warm!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

a tree

I am back from Christmas in Halifax. We went for a walk on Boxing Day at Point Pleasant Park along a little used path. There it was, a distance from the trail, a Christmas tree growing in the wild. Eileen was entranced.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Eight people and a dog in a small living room: opening stockings, opening gifts, or around a small table, opening lobsters, Whatever the picture, the debris of conspicuous comsumption was everywhere. These are the lobster leftovers before they went back into the pot to make the bisque. Local food, recycled. We are thinking green.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve cats

The Czarina anad Miss Johnston posed for their Christmas portraits this morning. The evening service is now finished and I am about to pack to leave when I wake in the morning. It has turned warm and rain is in the forecast.
The cats are staying back here. Lola, the beagle, is not the perfect hostess. If it has fur and moves, she cannot resist the chase. The cats are never amused.
Have a wonderful Christmas and I'll check in when I can.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

white and black

A lot of snow yesterday- but not nearly the storm that hit Nova Scotia. My computer glitched yesterday, but was resussicated today, and I am back in cyberspace.
I am heading to my son's in Halifax on Christmas morning, weather permitting. My sisters will both be there for Christmas - It has been a long time since we've been together for the holidays. This year we are following the 100 Mile Diet and will be feasting on lobster. This is hardly a hardship. I hope I get there. The forecast is snow, freezing rain and rain. Travel mercies.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

before the service

Before the service, before the people arrive, while the final touches are being set in place and the band is still practising, there is a sense of anticipation. The pews filled. The children were excited by the prospects of a Sunday School party. Advent is slipping into Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I stopped here for petrol today and couldn't resist this snow covered blueberry. Canada is full of small towns who put up "statues". This is in Oxford whose claim to fame is fields of wild blueberries - which means that the land is poor and acid. Northern Ontario abounded in these statues: goose, polar bear, bison, UFO, nickel (coin), but this blueberry!
My elder son, the stock broker, has come down from the mountain: here is his mass mailing:
Hello Everyone,

I am sitting in a hotel in Mendoza after having returned from Aconcagua National Park Last night at about 2am. Sitting is a big word..

I am terribly sore after having lived through a fantastic modern adventure. I am walking around as stiff as Gumby. After having hiked 29 kilometers for 7 1/2 hours through very mixed terrain. My legs were so damned sore that I didn't even notice the massive blisters on both my feet!

Our whole team (4) successfully summited Aconcagua on December 17th at about 15:50. The moment of the summit was made in a group as Yan and I waited 15 minutes for Robert and Alex to reach where we were, about 5 meters just bellow the top of the Americas. The day was torture. Our summit took 9 hours and the descent took another 4 hours. It is amazing how long it takes to walk the last 100 yards by two steps and ten deep breaths! So there you all are: Success!!! I spent much of the long day wondering if my next ten steps would be the last before I would turn around, but held onto the thought that I had come so far to celebrate my wife (Nathalie) and son's (Tommy) birthdays at 6962 meters. Focus, perseverance

I have pictures for any who are interested... give me a few weeks to get them organized.... please.

I am signing off with but before I want to thank you all for your interest and support.

I particularly want to thank my family for their love and support in my crazy hobby that takes me away from them too often and for too long. I want to thank Tusker and my friends Eddie and Amy for making the logistics of this trip happen. I especially want to thank those of you who financially contributed to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for this fundraising initiative. The Ottawa Airport Authority was a big help to me (thanks Paul).

As you all know, the timing of my departure could not have been worse. The stock markets around the world had had their worse three months in decades and the economic news coming out daily before my departure was looking extremely bleak. I have to admit that even days before leaving Montreal I had considered cancelling because of this reason. I have had absolutely no news of what is going on in the world for the last two and a half weeks. It is truly a very strange feeling being scared about logging onto google and being hooked back up to the information I.V.. I think that I will be brave enough soon, maybe tomorrow. In any case, all this to say that I am very appreciative of my partner Andrew who holds things together as I am sucking on limited oxygen.

I will be arriving back in Montreal on Christmas eve at about 4 pm, weather permitting. I hope to be able to share this adventure with all of you very shortly.
A very thankful mother...

Friday, December 19, 2008


Two and a half hours and the game is still not finished. Only a grannie and an auntie would have this much patience. It is only a matter of time until the nine year old wheeler dealer bankrupts us all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

after the storm

This is the same tree that stands by my porch. The picture was taken this morning after the storm, before I went to work. The sun seems to shine all the brighter after a storm. While these are the shortest days of the year, we are far enough south to get about 8 hours of precious sunlight each day. Tomorrow I am driving to Halifax, about three and a half hours, to make sure the gifts reach my family. I shall be driving there again on Christmas morning if the weather favours me. I am filled with Christmas excitement.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow Day

One of the nice things about being back in the Maritimes is that we have "Snow Days". It never happened in all time I was in Northern Ontario. On a Snow Day everything stops and we hunker down, put another log on the fire and have another cup of coffee. Schools and businesses close. Storms here can be dangerous. Being close to the water the storms pick up high winds and a lot of moisture. I'm just in from shovelling, and there will be more once this all abates. I love the luxury of a "Snow Day".

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I have a wretched cold, which is my excuse for not going to the gym. But mid afternoon I walked to the tea room and ordered desserts for Christmas Day. Then I caved in, although I am trying to save every penny, and had a cup of tea and a piece of pie. Oh lead us not into temptation. They gave me the choice between a tea cup or a seasonal mug. I went with the mug. I measure my life in little things.

Monday, December 15, 2008

December kale

There's a bag of kale in my New Brunswick fridge which I picked three days ago in my Nova Scotia garden. I think that I would grow kale just for its good looks. It's a stunning plant, but I have learnt to really enjoy eating it. And to be able to harvest in mid December in this climate is an added treat. But the kale itself was a gift.
Three years ago I was given some leftover kale seedlings, which I planted when I was down from northern Ontario for a week. They must have been just left because this May I found thousands of seedlings in the abandoned garden. I saved eighteen and set them out in three short rows. The results have been astonishing. I shall leave them to go to seed next year and keep the cycle going. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

heavenly host

The pageant was this evening. Here is Gabriel followed by the heavenly host. A work party had made the angelic robes last week. Nothing untoward happened. After years of pageants I have seen some number of unanticipated hilarious glitches. There was once a host of angels aged two and three who tried flying off the chancel steps. After all they had wings. These angels were a little older. I did see one halo tossed through the air. But it was relatitively calm and there was no fighting. A couple of years ago one angel punched another to get a better position. They were sisters. But that was another church.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

mad cat

This is the Czarina in the car with bag, snow shovel, and cooler about to begin her journey back to New Brunswick. She is not amused.

Neither am I. We had three days of heavy driving rain. It seems that the century old flashing above the windows of my Nova Scotia home have ceased to adequately function. Water poured into my newly painted parlour. I wept. The primary purpose of a house is to keep the water out. But as the rain didn't abate, there was no way I could take three or four courses of shingles off and replace the flashing. The good thing is, I suppose, that I was there to witness it.

Into each life a little rain must fall. My mother used to say that. She never replaced flashing.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas tree

My only excuse is that Miss Johnston, a cat, loves it, or at least she takes an ontoward interest in it. It's one of those fiber optic trees that flashes all different colours. This is almost the ultimate in Christmas kitsch and a testament to my bad taste!

Monday, December 8, 2008

snow window

Snow has come again. The roads are treturous. And I have computer difficulties. So this machine that I am working on now needs to be turned in. And the following day, weather permitting, I hope to drive home to Nova Scotia for a couple of days, so postings may be more sporadic.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

ice cream

There's a Christmas concert that I am going to this evening - and no picture for the blog. So here is the Christmas ice cream that became my quick supper before I'm down the road. I guess I'm not losing any weight. Although, I think it has been a good nine months since my last ice cream binge.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

before the parade

I took this this afternoon. Things changed after nightfall with the Santa Claus Parade. All the local industries decorated their trucks and festooned them with lights. The town organizations and businesses put in their amteur, but fun, floats. There were the butter factory, the doughnut factory, the heavy equipment dealer with tractors, horses, greyhounds, three marching bands and all. And finally Santa, but just before him was the post office truck with letter carriers walking along the crowd. The town children had written their letters to Santa,. They waved them in the air, and the posties picked them up. Such excitement!

Friday, December 5, 2008


My Advent calendar is propped up in my kitchen window. It's coming all too quickly. I should get out my Christmas cards. Most of my friends don't have my new address since I moved here from Northern Ontario. But, church-wise, this is a very busy time of the year. It became much colder today. You can see that the snow is gone, but a large storm is forecast for this weekend, so it will soon be back to shovelling. Christmas is definitely coming.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

climbing mountains

My elder son has left his blackberry at home and gone to South America. He emailed me from Argentina just before he began his ascent of Aconcagua, which is the highest summit in the southern hemisphere. Yesterday, however, he was touring vineyards. He wants me to put it on the blog, so here goes:
I shall let you all know when I hear anything else. Is no news, good news?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

blood letting

My new card for blood donations came in the post today. In Canada giving blood is voluntary. I hadn't given blood for years. For a long time I could not, and then I forgot all about it. But the blood services was coming to Sussex, and I said that I would be a donor. So I go to the clinic in the Lion's Den and they ask I have a donor card. Indeed I do. I have always carried it in my wallet. It was issued on the 24th of February, 1965. They were flabbergasted and assured me that they would issue me a new card. And it turns out that I have a relatively rare type - so they want lots more of it. I always knew that I was special.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Each time I walk by a rhododendron I am grateful to be living where they also live. This plant grows near the bottom of my steps. It holds the promise of spring: a bud that will open with the return of warmth. But then this is still autumn, and winter is still to come.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I love bursts of colour. So here on the December ground now that the snow has melted is that unexpected splash of colour.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

more soccer

This photo came off a fan page - the Canadian Women's Under 20 team. Now in answer to Alec's comment, to wit: ... "and then went one to be beaten by Germany (2-1). What does Ms. Johnston have to say about that?"

We almost won: not good enough, I know. Miss Johnson says that she doesn't watch matches that don't start until after midnight. But her particular friend, my grandaughter, will be ready to play on the team in 10 years time, and she'll bring home the Canadian bacon.

The Uncommon Reader

I just finished reading this delightful novella. I had read the reveiews last year. So I was excited when I found it among the "new aquisitions" last week. It was a delightful Sunday afternoon, before I went out for supper and church business. That wasn't onerous, either.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


It poured in the night, and the morning started out quite grey. I was working hard on the almost final draft of a complex organizational model of church governance. When it was completed, I stretched and realized that the sun was shining. Now this is November, so it doesn't usually shine for very long. I had to get out! I love exploring the back roads. This little cemetery is somewhere between Norton and Bloomfield. When I took the picture the sun was no longer shining. But it wasn't raining, and the snow here from the weekend storm has vanished.

These pioneer cemeteries are forgotten. Often the local historical societies volunteer to work on the upkeep. Eventually all the places where we are buried will be forgotten. So much for paying for perpetual care!

Friday, November 28, 2008

acceptable tree

For all my complaining about Christmas stuff in Advent, I approve of this enterprise. The Sunday School has set up a tree to collect food for the Chrismas hampers for the economically disadvantaged (poor). People take a ball (tag) home with them and purchase the item on the tag. This system really works quite well. The tree looks best before any tags have been taken. We hope the tree will soon be bare.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

pale balloon

I was ironing (an unusual occurrence) near the end of the day. I looked up and out the window just as this balloon floated by in the pale autumn sky.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Christmas news

Family alert: I have the Sunday off after Christmas. This means that I can stay for longer than just two days. It also means that the cats will have to come with me. I bet you’re overjoyed. But how can’t you not appreciate, nay cherish, a soccer-loving cat. We have decided to let bygones be bygones, and the cats have forgiven Lola, the dog. We have even just wrapped a gift for Lola, although the cats were more than a hindrance than a help.
This is the new runner for the coffee table which was my grandmother’s old cedar chest. It’s “Winterberry” and will brighten this little New Brunswick apartment in dark days ahead.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

one month

Two weeks ago the stores were decorated for Christmas: almost two months of Christmas Kitsch. I had to listen to "Silent Night" when I was buying some toothpaste. Tomorrow they are decorating the church. I want to scream "What about Advent?" I love the deep anticipation before Christmas begins on the 24th. I might as well save my breath. Bah! Humbug! This is the paper cup from the coffee shop.

Monday, November 24, 2008

soccer fan

Last evening Miss Johnston watched FIFA Women's Under 20 Soccer in Santiago, Chile. She likes the action. Canada won. Congo lost. These details were lost on Miss Johnston.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


This was the storm yesterday morning when my grandchild went out to try her new snow suit before breakfast. The storm meant that I spent extra time with my family and shared a super Vietnamese supper last evening. I left Halifax in sunshine this morning. I drove north. Just after Truro the snow came on like a curtain and it was second gear all the way through the Pass, except for the time spent shovelling out of a snow bank. When I reached Oxford the sun was shining again. This was taken at the Oxford petrol (gas) station.

My confidence about driving to and from my home in Hampton, Nova Scotia, this winter has been severely eroded.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

snowed in

I'm stuck in Halifax. They closed the road to New Brunswick. Snow has closed the pass and it seems that they have reduced plow operations until sometime in December. Go figure. I took pictures of the snow this morning, but I don't have the cable to download them. I should have reached nearly home by now - but I'll spend another night and check the road conditions in the morning.

This photo was taken on Tuesday: four days ago before winter arrived.

Friday, November 21, 2008


I am in Halifax after another snowy adventure coming through the Cobequid Pass, and now there is a storm coming in. So here is the rose I picked earlier this week when I was home in Hampton, Nova Scotia. It came from my most favourite place. Unfortunately, I have only half ownership and am forced to sell this magical piece of land. So I picked the rose and set my heart back on the land, and now I shall wait and see.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

kitchen counter

This is my kitchen counter, which came out of a garage. It was once sort of white, but it was grubby and gouged. When I came home last summer I filled in the worse holes with some plastic wood and a dear friend painted it for me with a can of "Oops" paint. We put on new handles and knobs, but still the arborite on the top was half ripped off, the tap dripped and there was no seal around the sink, so water seeped underneath. This is the before picture. Now the story:

When I drove down to Nova Scotia last Sunday, much of the way was through a violent storm. It was very dark during the sfternoon. I told the Universe that that evening I wanted to see the moon and the stars. It was still raining when I reached home. It was still raining when I went to bed. I had a hard time sleeping. I was so excited about being home and being able to put a bit more work into the house. I dozed off, but something was banging in the high winds. So I got up in the early hours to shut a window. When I looked out the clouds were scudding by a beautiful moon, and a star shone beside it. I went back to bed laughing that the Universe had delivered, but I had to stay up half the night to receive it. (By morning it was cloudy again.)

So now that I was awake, I thought that if I could call up a moon, I could lie there and visualize my finished parlour. When I got to the part about needing to box in some pipes and frame in the window and put up base boards, I thought that this was, after all, the parlour, the room I use the least, and my mental health would be better served by putting in a kitchen counter with a sink. My last thought that I remember before falling to sleep was that the best finishing carpenter in the area was Ken, but I hadn't seen him for years. Anyway, I do have a budget.

In the morning I went into town right after breakfast to buy the can of floor paint for the parlour. Only one person came in to the shop while the paint was being mixed. I did a double take. He sort of looked like the Ken I remembered, but without a beard. I went and asked him. It was Ken. I told him about my kitchen counter, and he said that he would be there to see what I needed before noon. It just happened that he had taken the morning off to do some messages.

The next day when the friend, who had originally painted the old counter for me, and I went and selected a counter top, sink and taps. This foray, too, had a magical quality about it.

Oh, and that morning, my next door neighbour came in, looked at the finishing work I needed done in the parlour, and said that he would be back to do it, as well as the hallway,in between all his other jobs.

If all this materialized, I'm sure the money will, too.

It turned into a wonderful productive two days at home and then I made it back to New Brunswick just before a winter storm closed the pass.

Joy and bliss.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

parlour floor

I'm back in New Brunswick and here is the parlour update. I painted the floor - and you won't get another parlour picture until the room has been finsihed and the baseboards are painted and installed. But it's a big house and there are other rooms. Elsewhere I am still plastering and sanding. A few weeks ago the electricity was put in and now there is a little warmth in the house and light to see by. It wasn't that romantic taking showers by flashlight.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

last market day

I was wrong last week. There was one more market day. Sadly it was yesterday. The number of vendors were dwindling over the past few weeks. The hardy bunch that was left were in their warm coats, but the vendors with the Christmas wreathes had come to join them. My favourite cheese woman is gone,but I know where the farm is, so I just might make the trip to fetch my cheese. I do wish they had an indoor location and would continue through the year. I love the Halifax market - every Saturday, year round. I love the bustle of a market: France, Ghana, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Costa Rica - I've loved them all.

I am driving back to Nova Scotia tomorrow to spend a couple of days painting and plastering - so I'll be technologically deprived, unless, I understand, if I drive into Bridgetown and sit in the library parking lot.

Friday, November 14, 2008

her majesty

I have lived in four provinces. Growing up in Quebec I can't remeber seeing the Queen in a public place. I never noticed her in Nova Scotia or Ontario. She might have been there, I just didn't notice. But here in New Brunswick she seems to hang in a lot of churches. The one I am in in Sussex has three portraits: in the minister's office, in the hall and in the meeting hall. This is monarchist country. It would have pleased my mother.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


When I'm in Sussex I live by the train track. This is the view from my front door. Usually the train goes by in mid afternoon and just after 11:00 at night. These are freight trains with three, sometimes four engines. If I am at home in the afternoon I often walk out on the porch to watch it rumble by. It takes several minutes. The old house shakes. I suppose that makes me a train watcher, but I think that I'm supposed to record numbers - of what? The engines? Anyway, I enjoy the trains.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Saint Menas

I am sharing with you a discussion that my sister and I had yesterday. This is Saint Menas, a Egyptian officer at the end of the 3rd century. He left the army and went into the desert to practise asceticism. Perhaps things got a little dull because he went into town and crashed a pagan festival declaring himself to be a Christian. (I figure that he was either foolhardy or lacked commonsense, but perhaps he wanted to be killed.) He was subsequently martyred. He was quite a popular saint in Alexandria until the Arab Moslems took over and then few people ever heard of him - until the Second Battle of El Alamein in 1942 when Montgomery and the Allies defeated the Germans and Italians. Saint Menas turned up and fought the Germans wearing his Roman armor armed with his sword. Apparently he had a bunch of camels with him. It unnerved the Germans and the Allies won. My question is did he join the fray of his own volition and did someone in the Allies call him up - unlikely perhaps, but nevertheless what happened? A number of Germans swore they saw a Roman soldier fighting and the camels in the thick of the battle.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

11th hour, 90 years later

Sussex turned out at the cenotaph this morning. There were hundreds of people. This is a small town with a very strong military tradition and its own regiment.

Camp Sussex was a bustling place during the past wars. It is still the headquarters of the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princes Louise’s). This regiment traces its origin back to the American Revolution and the Virginia Regiment of Horse. It is the oldest regiment of cavalry in Canada.

It seems to be a bit short of horses at the moment. At least, I haven't seen any.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November dawn

The leaves are all gone and the mornings are dark. It's hibernation time. Everything seems to slow down except for the things that have to be done. And I'm supposed to begin thinking about Christmas presents. I am not good at this - not at all.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


This was Remembrance Sunday. It got me thinking about how I would not be here if it had not been for a war, and then I began to go back and I wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for a series of wars: wars that shift the population. I know that I had an ancestor that died in Palestine during the First Crusade. Fortunately for me he had offspring before he left. But then there was the Battle of Agincourt - one was there too. Fortunately again for me a sailor who was shipwrecked in the Battle of Trafalgar walked home to Scotland to produce a family. And then my grandparents met because of the Great War and my parents met during the Second - So all in all I am a product of war - and so are the majority of us. Still it is past time we stopped all this conflict. But then as I write this I am listening to the news report of Armenian Orthodox monks and Greek Orthodox monks fighting in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There were injuries, and arrests have been made.

This was taken after church today. The police were not called.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

lottery ticket

A friend telephoned today to let me know my horoscope and that as it seemed very good on the money front that I should buy a lottery ticket. I never buy lottery tickets. But for the sake of friendship I stopped by the service station and inquired about tickets and how they worked. So I put up a dollar, that's just about how much this friendship is worth, and bought a "Joker's Wild" scratch card. I figured that if it really was my day that I would win no matter what kind of ticket I bought. It wasn't my day.

Friday, November 7, 2008

market mittens

Today is the last market of the year - and you do know that winter is almost here when the knitters hang up their mittens for sale. The all-over two colour pattern is double knit with two layers of knitting. These are the preferred pairs for our winters - warmer. And mittens are always warmer than gloves. I simply hate having to put on extra clothes every time I go out the door.