Thursday, 10 December 2015

MY CHRISTMAS WISH FOR YOU

When it comes to Christmas music, I love Michael Buble's version of Grown Up Christmas List:

Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee,
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies.
Well I'm all grownup now.
Can you still help somehow?
I'm not a child, but my heart still can dream.
So here's my lifelong wish,
My grown-up Christmas list
Not for myself........

The lyrics never fail to have me ask myself, And what do you wish for, Daphne? Not for yourself, but for family and friends, what do you wish?


Minus the stressful noise of every day life - traffic, iPhones, computers, demands, complaints, deadlines - I wish you time. Time for peaceful contemplation. Time to truly get to know yourself. I wish you the time to discover what makes you happy. What job, what activities, what relationships, what values allow you to be the very best version of yourself? What in your life leaves you feeling content and complete?

I wish you hope. I wish you to be solid in the knowledge that no matter what has transpired in the past, no matter what has befallen you today, your future can be whatever you determine it to be. When the world says, "Give up", hope whispers, "Try it again."

Mark Twain wrote, Travel is fatal.....to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime. I wish for you the gift of travel. Be it travels across our beautiful country or travels abroad. I wish you travel that educates and delights, enlightens and enriches your perspective.

Most importantly, I wish you love. I wish that in your lifetime you may know the love of a spouse or significant other. I wish that you be surrounded by the love of family and friends. May you be blessed in the knowledge that it is not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life, who you love.

So here's my lifelong wish,
My grown up Christmas list.

Merry Christmas.






Sunday, 6 December 2015

CHRISTMAS COOKIES

Cooking is art. Baking is science and I am most certainly not a scientist! So goes my first excuse for not picking up my Mother's famous Christmas baking mantel. Cookies call to me and I don't need the calories, has been my second worn out excuse.

My Mother's Christmas baking was legendary. Just ask family and friends; just witness their watering mouths. Say Christmas cookies and it conjures up memories of Mom's epic baking marathons. Cherry jewel bars (Right, Jo-Anne?), chocolate carousels, chocolate crunchies, Swedish tea rings, Christmas cheer, rum balls, butterscotch squares, apricot balls, mocha truffles........... Her list of Christmas creations was deliciously extensive. And Mom's shortbreads? Mouthwateringly devine!


Every Christmas season, until at 88 years when she suffered her first stroke, my mother entered her kitchen, commenced a manic baking frenzy and emerged a week later. Where did she find the energy? I believe that love of her children and grandchildren fuelled her. Magical packages of over fifteen cookie varieties then awaited pickup by we three very blessed children and our spouses. Cookie delights graced our tables for seasonal dinner parties, the traditional Christmas tree cutting brunch, Christmas dinner, and New Year's Eve celebrations.

Forget your silly excuses, orders my self talk. Why do you really avoid Christmas baking?

How do I live up to her example? I admit. And therein lies the crux of the matter; I cannot ever measure up to Mom's talent. 

Oh, get over yourself. Since when was this a contest? Just do it. Damn, my conscience bugs me sometimes. And so let the flour fly; let the chocolate melt; let the magical baking begin. I'll do it......well, not fifteen varieties! I know, too, that Mom will be there with me, sitting on a counter stool, smiling, providing encouragement and thrilled that I have at long last donned the Christmas baking apron.



Monday, 30 November 2015

BUTTERSCOTCH AND CARAMEL

For Morgan and Zachary (as promised):

He could hear the sniffling from somewhere below him, sniffling interspersed with heart breaking whimpers. He knew it was Caramel, but couldn't see her.

Caramel? Is that you?

Oh, Butterscotch, are you still there? I'm buried down here. No one will find me, Butterscotch. I'll never know love, will I?

Be strong, my friend. It's Christmastime. Miracles happen.



Caramel's tearful sobs broke Butterscotch's heart. How could he encourage her? Their journey had been a long one, from the cold, impersonal factory, to the sardine-like existence in their shipping box, to being unceremoniously dumped into this store display bin. Cramped together in their shipping box for the endless journey by sea, rail, and truck, Caramel and Butterscotch had struck up a friendship, giddy in their mutual excitement about what life would be like when they were adopted. Everyone knows that a stuffed animal only truly comes alive when hugged and loved. But now here they were, once again uncomfortable, now in a tangled mass at Canadian Tire. Who buys bears at Canadian Tire, anyways? Butterscotch wondered.

Butterscotch had landed atop the mass of intertwined legs and arms, but poor Caramel had become separated from him, lying deep down at the bottom of the pile. She was right to worry; who would ever find her there? She needed a Christmas miracle.



As the store opened for another day, Butterscotch began to despair when suddenly a large set of arms reached into the bin and gently picked him up. The man's warm smile gave Butterscotch hope for the first time.

Oh Grampa, can I have him? Please! Warm young arms immediately circled him and hugged tightly. 

Caramel, I'm leaving, Butterscotch quickly whispered. He was ecstatic and sad at the same time. Ecstatic that this young man, Zachary, was now hugging him, sad that his friend Caramel, still at the bottom of the pile, might never know love.

Bye Butterscotch, Caramel choked back her sobs. She was now truly alone. Sadness enveloped her.

But what was this? She could hear voices and feel tangled arms and legs being moved from a over her.

Morgan, what are you after? Caramel heard.

Grampa, I see some brown ears down here. I just need to reach them.

No sooner were these words uttered when Caramel could feel herself being dragged from the bottom of the pile by her ears and then found herself being snuggled by a beautiful young girl.

It's a stuffed puppy dog, Grampa. Can I take her home?

Caramel could barely believe her good fortune. Oh, how wonderful it felt to be wanted. She caught a glimpse of her friend, Butterscotch, being hugged by a handsome young man. Oh, how relieved she was that her friend, too, would find hugs and love. Imagine her delight when she discovered herself in the same car with Butterscotch as they headed home.......together.

Christmas is a time of miracles, whispered Butterscotch.

And love is the greatest miracle of all, sighed Caramel.




Wednesday, 18 November 2015

SO MUCH HATE. IS THIS MY CANADA?

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

The burning of a mosque in Peterborough; the brutal attack on an innocent Muslim mother en route to picking her child up at school; vitriolic comments about refugees on Facebook from 'friends' and strangers alike. Send all the refugees back, read far too many comments. To what? This? I ask:



Since when as Canadians do we paint the followers of a specific religion with the same brush? To blame ALL Muslims for the slaughter in Paris or the demented ideology of ISIS is insanity. Shades of Nazi Germany? Dear God, I wish I were an ostrich right now; I could simply bury my head in sand and ignore the burgeoning racism.

Our neighbours in Thornhill for five years were a Sunni family from Iran. Did we struggle to find common ground? You bet. Souhalia wore a hijab and body-hiding long loose dresses, wouldn't shake hands with Jim, and struggled with English. Ibrahim, to my total frustration, addressed all comments to me through Jim. Over time, we learned to respect each other for our differences and a friendship of sorts ensued. I admit that it was not an easy transition, but they were simply a hard working family in search of a better life in Canada for their two daughters. Ibrahim and Souhalia even visited us after our move to Uxbridge during the Christmas season bearing gifts. Unbelievable!

Five years of teaching real estate courses for the Ontario Real Estate Association brought me into contact with an amazing cross section of recent immigrants. I not so fondly remember the Pakistani man who sat at the back of my classroom, arms crossed and refusing to make eye or verbal contact with me for two endlessly long weeks of instruction. He complained to the powers that be at OREA about having a "female" instructor. Welcome to Canada, was their response. Thank you OREA. That said, I met fine students from Iran, Syria, Israel, India, Pakistan, China, Vietnam, Russia....the list is endless. Many times my heart soared with pleasure watching students from warring backgrounds, Israeli and Iranian, Indian and Pakistani not only working together on projects, but laughing and eating together in the cafeteria. Only in Canada, I remember remarking to Jim.

It is a small wonder we are currently in shock. As a nation, we have undergone a seismic shift from a Prime Minister who played on our fears of all that is different to one who wants to welcome 25,000 refugees before 2016. Add to that the recent Paris attacks and our insecurities, fears, and sadly, discriminatory tendencies have come to the fore. But Canada is better than this.

Why should we take them? Just leave them in the refugee camps and donate money to feed them. How many times have I read this insensitive comment? Think of your child or grandchild, growing up, never knowing a permanent home or country, sentenced to this:


To send the message to these Muslim refugees that we don't want them is to yield to terrorism by suspending what I thought were our Canadian values. This is exactly what ISIS is hoping for - a disenfranchised Muslim world. Like a putrid petri dish breeding germs, the hopelessness of life in permanent refugee camps will breed the very terrorists we so fear. Ripe fields for ISIS recruiters. Let's just hand them victory now.

Do I relish the thought of opening our doors to the issues and cost involved with 25,000 refugees? Not really. Will the adjustment prove difficult for Canada and the Muslims granted entry? Absolutely. Is it fraught with inherent danger? Of course. I can only pray that it is families we invite in, that rigorous vetting takes place and that the laws of our country are emphasized. Too many, too soon? Perhaps, but many of these families have been surviving in Jordanian and Turkish refugee camps for over a year. How do you define too soon? Why then should Canada even be involved? This is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. In my mind, it would be immoral to turn a blind eye to such suffering.

In 1939, a ship carrying 907 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany and seeking sanctuary in Canada, was refused entry. Ultimately the ship was forced to return to Europe where 254 of those refugees would later die in concentration camps. Oh my God!  I cry to think of Canada's then lack of compassion. Never do I want my grandchildren to look back on our country's response today and cringe at our inhumanity.

To those who have stated that they did not vote for Trudeau and therefore will opt out of even minimal acceptance, your understanding of democracy is sadly misguided. May I suggest Political Science 101 for you or perhaps emigration to some benevolent dictatorship. We are in this together. Like it or not, this is OUR government, OUR country.

Little Peterborough has set a true example of Canadian spirit. After the arson and burning of a local mosque, ordinary citizens raised over $101,000 for necessary repairs. The Beth Israel Synagogue reached out with a helping hand, offering its support and facilities as a temporary place for worship. Why am I not surprised that the Jewish population in Peterborough was sensitive to the plight of their Muslim neighbours?

No doubt, difficult times lie ahead for us all. So I ask you, do we meet this with bigotry, vitriolic language and outright hated or do we meet this humanitarian challenge together as a country of pioneers, peacekeepers and compassionate human beings?











Saturday, 14 November 2015

FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH, AN EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER


Completely exhausted, my head fell on the pillow last night as I asked myself, Why so tired? 

Sadness overwhelmed our Friday afternoon as Jim and I attended a Memorial Service for Bob Luery. From the moment Bob, a Newmarket Real Estate Broker, joined my office, I knew that I was in the presence of a genuinely good and kind human being. Bob's identity came not from his award winning sales career, but from his involvement with his family and church. Christian missions took Bob to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Swaziland and Siberia. I still marvel at how he found time to mix church and community service, family priorities and highly successful real estate with such ease and grace. On October 15th, Bob was moving his sailboat, so aptly named Therapy, from Jackson's Point to Lagoon City for winter storage, when a vicious Lake Simcoe storm blew up. Therapy was later found floundering on the rocky shore without it's skipper. Despite the involvement of York Region Police, its marine unit, the O.P.P. and Trenton's Search and Rescue crews, Bob's body has yet to be found. His wife, Elaine, has been informed that Bob's body will likely surface in the spring. My god! During the service, my heart physically ached with overwhelming pain and sadness; my mind silently screamed, Dear God, why this man? Why Bob?


Paris is a city of history, art, stunning architecture and welcoming grace. At nighttime, sparkling lights reflect in the Seine as it winds its way through town. Cafes are filled with chatting Parisians and tourists alike, savouring a glass of wine and Paris' atmosphere of pure magic! Last night carnage and violence at six locations, took over 127 lives and turned the City of Light into a city of darkness and terror. Anger and fury roiled up inside me. So many innocent lives taken. What of their families and loved ones? My heart and mind gave into the rage. If only I were a dragon who could breathe fire! My mind silently screamed, Dear God. Why Paris? Why again? 


A breaking news clip then suddenly jolted my brain from fury, soaring its emotions in the ecstasy of defiance as I witnessed thousands of soccer fans join in the singing of their national anthem as they were evacuated from the Stade de France. I was touched beyond belief by their collective spirit in the face of such naked hatred.

Britain's Prime Minister Cameron announced yesterday that a major symbol of brutality and ISIS' state executioner, Jihad John, was successfully targeted and killed by an American Reaper drone. Finally a major step has taken place in the war against the sophisticated social media operations of ISIS. Yes, I silently cheered. My mind was then invaded by the warring emotions of revengeful cheer and guilt at feeling such joy over the death of an enemy. 

Sadness, rage, ecstasy, cheer and guilt all in one day. Mental fatigue, I answered myself and I gave into sleep.









Sunday, 8 November 2015

RETAIL CHRISTMAS

Christmas isn't a season. It's a feeling. Edna Ferber


I am an admitted Christmas-holic and proud of it. I over-decorate, over-shop, over-wrap and over-play Christmas music. Oh, did I mention my love of Christmas themed movies? This addiction, directly inherited from my Mother, who was equally obsessed with our December holiday, is thankfully shared by my husband. I hate to imagine our life together if it weren't. So pathetic am I that our son, Matthew, posted a t-shirt on Facebook that he thought would suit me:


Ha! Ha! Very amusing! If it weren't so appropriate, I could feign upset. 

All of this said, I am not exactly a huge fan of retail Christmas displays popping up immediately following Halloween and now egad, even before. It has always seemed too early. Can't we please have a few days of rest between ghoulish delights and cheery Christmas decorations?


Jim's personal rule has been no Christmas music until December 1st. As a family, we have indulged him on this, although Christopher, Matthew and I have irrefutable evidence that he breaks his own rule. What are those empty Christmas CD holders in his car all about anyways? Just askin'.

An increasingly vocal school of thought states that it would be more tasteful if retailers held off on the festive cheer until November 12th, the day following Remembrance Day. However, an equally growing voice of veterans argue that Christmas decorations and Remembrance Day are two separate issues; as veterans, they are not insulted by the early retail displays.


Like a reformed addict avoiding temptation, I annually decry the early Christmas displays and valiantly attempt to hold off being lured in by them. Not until the Santa Claus Parade, I order myself. But oh, those colourful decorations, the seasonal warmth and hummably familiar carols are ultimately my undoing. Well, how can a peek hurt me? I think.Then the Christmas spirit invades all of my senses and I am a goner again.

My name is Daphne Lockett; I am a Christmas-holic and yesterday I gave into my addiction......already!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

WHEN THEY ROLL UP THE SIDEWALKS

The nice part of living in a small town is that when you don't know what you are doing, some one else does.

Just over three years ago, Jim and I moved to Uxbridge. In other words, we "downsized" from an area of over five million to a town in the country of just over nineteen thousand. I understand some of our friends love and preference for life in the city. I truly get it. I'm just not so sure that they, in return, understand our move to a smaller town. Time and again, in genuinely puzzled tones, I am asked the question, Well, what do you DO? It's time, I guess, to settle those inquiring minds and explain exactly what Jim and I do DO.



Aw' shucks, where do I begin........

Up at the crack of 9:00am, with coffee cups in hand ( you do that in the city too, right?), we watch our bird feeders; we just sit back in our comfy ole rockers and enjoy the antics of squirrels and chipmunks alike as they attempt to steal bird seed. Those dern little critters sure are amusing. We could, and often do, watch them for hours.

Jim then checks garbage pails and recycling bins to ensure that Racco the Raccoon has not broken in. I, in the meantime, head to my computer. Uploads are rather slow, but what can you expect with a dial-up system? Ah well, who's in a hurry anyways? 

Dust on the main gravel road through town, is kicked up by horse hooves as the local kids ride to school. So choking is the dust that Jim and I generally wait until it settles before heading into Uxbridge around noon. Lunch at our local Hungry Heiffer is always a treat. Oh, and big news, they now have indoor plumbing. After chugging back a few beers, that's sure a relief!



Afternoons can be quite hectic. Jim often heads down to the general store to chew the fat with the boys. When they are not busy with existing clientele, I like to get my nails done at Polly's Beauty Emporium and Funeral Parlour. Let me tell you, that Polly has some artistic talent! For real excitement we head to our Roxy Theatre, built in an old quonset hut. Movies are projected onto the curved side walls and lines of wooden chairs offer loads of seating. The seating could be a tad more comfortable, but Jim is totally oblivious to the discomfort, when his favourite cowboy serials are being offered - Lash LaRue, The Lone Ranger, Pancho and the Cisco Kid. How much more afternoon fun could you possibly ask for?



Oh, questions about, Where do you shop? also abound. Hey, I 'kin git' into Newmarket and that Upper Canada Mall in twenty-five minutes. No sweat! Fact is though, my jeans, plaid blouses and running shoes have proven just fine for even the most formal of local occasions. Who needs that mall, anyways?

Dinner is served in front of the TV as we watch the news, on one of our three available channels, to find out what you city folk are up to!  Friday nights are a blast as we town folk drive up and down the Main Street honking our horns and waving at each other. So much community fun! For the remainder of the week, Jim and I head to bed early on accounta' cause those crack of 9:00am mornings come quickly!

Well, I must be off. Our pre-dinner entertainment in town is about commence - the rolling up of our sidewalks. Oh, stop my racing heart.


Wednesday, 14 October 2015

MY FAVOURITE WEATHERMEN

I acknowledge that Anwar Knight and Tom Brown of CTV Toronto are talented weather presenters and admit that no one can match The Weather Network for long-range forecasting. I do love my Yahoo Weather App for instant temperature readings and in the case of severe weather forecasts immediately refer to the My Radar App on my iPad. However, none of these can match my three favourite weathermen for visual presentation.


Since moving to Uxbridge in 2012, I have headed to Uxpool for my early morning exercise. Much has been learned from the pool's experienced staff, strong friendships with fellow swimmers have been forged and introduction to my three favourite weathermen has been made. Who are they? Well.....

Jim often nostagically speaks about an exterior weather forecasting system written on an old barn board that decorated the outside wall of their family cottage.  It sounds similar to my three weathermen, but perhaps not quite as flamboyant.The board read:

Condition                                              Forecast
Board is Wet                                  Rain
Board is Dry                                   Not Raining
Shadow on Ground                       Sunny
White on Top of Board                   Snowing
Can't See Board                            Foggy
Swinging Board                             Windy
Board Gone                                  Tornado

Large sliding glass doors that run down the east wall of Uxpool overlook a local playground, pool parking and residences beyond. For most of the year, I enjoy that early morning view, but frankly admit that when heavy frost sneaks its tentacles up the windows and snow swirls blinding our outside world in white, I must do extra self-talk to convince myself that swimming that day is a good idea. Just get in!

Once in the water, my daily first glance is through the windows to my three weathermen who can be found gracing the end of the park. Yup! You would be correct. My favourite forecasters are trees. I have nicknamed them A, B and C........... short for Anemometer, Barometer and Condition. Accurate to a fault, they have never failed me. If I listen carefully, I can even hear them speak to me. I know - I'm certifiable!


Decked out in the lime green fuzz of new buds, my weathermen cheerily notify me that spring is on its way. The trio, their limbs set against a sinister black sky  and bent over in the same direction, warn me to don hat, scarf and rain gear before leaving the pool. Their brightly coloured leaves floating through the air as they descend, tell me that autumn is nearing its end. Sigh! Yesterday, their now naked branches clicking in the wind reminded me that snow tire time is rapidly approaching. I have become quite astute at reading their visual reports. Thanks guys!

So no. I don't watch Canada AM or look to my Yahoo Weather App. No huge weather maps, no talking heads, just early morning at the pool; my three weathermen tell me all I need to know.














Friday, 2 October 2015

OUR LAST TRIP

Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows. ( Michael Landon )

Where to next, Hon? is Jim's standard question for me at this time of year. My mind quickly ticks off places to which we have not yet travelled and have thought to visit - Chile and Argentina, Israel, South Africa, Spain, the Czech Republic, Norway............ OMG, the list of possibilities is quite simply overwhelming. We should go to Spain next, I think and then shake my head. Did I just use the word should? Why? To put a tick beside another country? Who am I trying to impress?

Perhaps it is because Jim and I are pushing seventy - egads, when did that happen - but all too frequently, we have dear friends fighting debilitating diseases or passing on. Father Time's clock ticks relentlessly on. Great physical condition appears to mean little. Five years ago a good friend, who religiously jogged fifty to sixty kilometres a week, regularly ran marathons, and appeared to be in top shape, dropped dead. Is that an advertisement for eating well and swimming daily? I wonder. 

Jim's, Where to next, Hon? made me stop and ask myself, What if there really was no tomorrow? What if this were to be our last trip? Where to? And so I posed the question to Jim. If you knew ahead of time that this would be our last trip, where would you go? His response was instantaneous. Italy! 



Two major, lengthy trips to Italia and we have both fallen in love with the Italian people, their culture, history and art, their food and wines, and mostly, their love of life. Recordati di vivere. Jim and I will, this time, journey where we have not yet travelled - into the land of the mafia, Calabria, and into the land of the trulli, Puglia. Rome may be my personal favourite city in the world, but during our last trip, Venice cast her magical la serenissima spell over Jim, seduced him and stole his heart. He voiced a wish then to live for a week in Venice, to shop at the Realto Market with the locals, to cook in an apartment overlooking the back canals and to wander the magical, tour mob-less streets at nighttime. Life is short. Let it be so! 



Today, we booked our air fare for next year and are both beyond excited. Now I have a winter filled with the enjoyment of researching, dreaming and filling in the details. My favourite pastime. Earphones and microphone on, Jim already has already plugged into his Rosetta Stone program. Si, parlo italiano...un po.  Will this be our last trip? That is most certainly not in our plans. Next year I hope to again ask, If you knew ahead of time that this would be our last trip, where would you go? But should there be no tomorrows, we will be happy.


Monday, 21 September 2015

Re-CALC-ulating!

Bagno Vignoni is a Tuscan bath town whose thermal springs have been celebrated since medieval times. Eschewing highway travel in favour of a scenic countryside drive, Jim and I headed out from Cortona with our G.P.S. chirping out directions. It was during this journey (September, 2011) that we tagged her with the Italian nickname, Gilo, by which we still refer to her. 



All went according to plan until, on our return trip through Tuscany's stunning "crete senesi", we were stopped dead in our tracks, our route impassable, having been fully closed for a village festival. What? Now how do we get home? Jim spontaneously turned right, into the tiny hillside village. "Recalculating", Gilo announced; with absolutely no other options, we trusted her directions. Through a labyrinth of narrow village streets, past farmer's stands in a local market and down barely navigable alleyways, Jim drove. Had our GPS gone mad? In 250 metres, turn right, came her next rather rapid direction. Obediently Jim did so and suddenly we found ourselves back on the main road, the village festival disappearing in our rear view mirror and the gorgeous crete senesi lying ahead. Oh, how I loved Gilo that day.



Horror stories about drivers placed in danger by their G.P.S abound. How about the Swiss driver who had to be rescued after he was directed up a remote mountain path? 



Looking at pictures such as these, I do have to ask myself when common sense should prevail. Thankfully, Jim and I have never been placed in a precarious situation due to Gilo's directions. Why then is our G.P.S. getting under my skin of late?

Returning from Georgian Bay on Sunday, Jim and I chose to cut south early and to pick up Highway 400 south of the congested Barrie area. Gilo obviously preferred the Barrie route as, like a sergeant major, she barked out U-turn orders five times before conceding to our route choice. Hey, who is in charge here?

Then there is Gilo's condescending, frustrated robot voice. Re-CALC-ulating!!! Why do I feel the need to apologize for forcing her to rethink a new route? I keep waiting for her to yell at us or for her circuits to blow up during the onerous recalculations. Bossy? Hell, yes! Perhaps she should be mounted in the back seat. Now there is an idea! I do get small satisfaction when pronunciation of street names is incorrect. My favourite? Take ramp to "Q" when we are merging on the QEW. 


All kidding aside, every time Jim and I venture forth, whether in a foreign country or at home in Canada, I marvel at G.P.S. technology. How did we ever travel by car without it? So much time wasted getting lost is now spared. So much time reading teeny tiny print is an agony no longer. I never was good at folding those giant maps, anyways. Boss away, Gilo! Have G.P.S., will travel.










Tuesday, 15 September 2015

NEWFOUNDLAND REFLECTIONS (3)

Subtitle: A NEWFOUNDLAND BLESSING

May the sun always shine on your wild wooded mountains.
May the sea beat as one with your rugged hearts alone.
May the doors of your homes always be open.
May God's hand guide your boats back home.
                        (Chorus  from Newfoundland Blessing by Rex Roberts)

What began as a trip to explore our son's adopted province morphed into a journey of discovery, learning, appreciation and inspiration. On numerous trips to visit Christopher, we have explored St. John's and the Avalon Penninsula to the south, but to quote Jim, The farthest north we have been is St. John's International Airport. Let's do it properly, he proposed. Et voila.

How little I knew of our most easterly province before this trip. I remember learning that Newfoundland joined confederation in 1949...and that's about it. No discussion of how Joey Smallwood garnered a majority vote to join Canada, no coverage of heart-wrenching resettlement issues, no description of early settlers, cod fishing or the seal hunt. When I asked Christopher what he had covered in school on our last province, he offered the memory of making popsicle-stick lobster traps. Now there's a real learning experience about a province whose economy at the time was based on cod fishing. How province-centric our education was.

Newfoundland's award winning ads portray a province of staggering, untouched, natural beauty. To experience its lushly forested mountains, rocky precipitous cliffs, windswept shoreline landscapes or tiny colourful outports is to realize that in real life, Newfoundland is even more beautiful than tourism ads portray. For me, the highlight and #6 checked off my bucket list, was the trip down Western Brook Pond. Sparkling blue waters, soaring cliffs, rushing waterfalls - an excursion I will forever remember.


Historic sites are meticulously maintained, guides, passionate and informed, and many lessons, for me, life changing.



Newfoundland's reputation for having the most hospitable, friendly population in Canada is no myth. I need only harken back to how Gander and its surrounding area responded to the 9/11 crisis. A heartwarming read is:



Not once during our three weeks were we greeted by anything but a smiling face and courteousness beyond measure in eagerness to serve meals, assist or answer questions. Perhaps this can be best illustrated by Christopher's experience during his first weeks in St. John's. Walking down Water Street, the equivalent of our Yonge Street, he stopped on the sidewalk. Had he forgotten something at home, he pondered. Thinking that Christopher's intention was to cross Water Street, like the parting of the Red Sea, traffic halted. No traffic light, no crosswalk, simply a section of busy road. At this juncture, Christopher, feeling guilty, crossed to the unwanted side of the street. How could he possibly disappoint all of these drivers?

And the dumb Newfie? Don't for a second believe it. Witty, keenly intelligent and well informed are the three descriptions that immediately come to mind when I think of the cross section of Newfoundlanders with whom Jim and I spent time.


Long gone are the days when Newfoundland cuisine immediately brought to mind Ches' Fish and Chips. Raymond's Restaurant in St. John's has been named by Canadian Chefs as the number one restaurant in Canada and justifiably so. Bacalao, Chinched Bistro and The Mallard Cottage would complete my personal St. John's favourites list. Newfoundland chefs refer to foraging and sourcing locally grown ingredients. With fresh seafood, game and produce abundant, this new regional cuisine has taken hold across the island. From Trinity on the east, to Fogo Island on the north, to Gros Morne on the west, Jim and I savoured some of the best meals ever experienced on our travels. So much cod was consumed by me that I have grown gills. And I promise that you have not lived until you have eaten a warm partridgeberry tart drizzled with custard. Oh my! 


If you have viewed those beautiful Newfoundland ads on TV or read the print versions and thought, maybe, I say, "Just do it. Go." I guarantee that you will experience a fascinating, beautiful corner of Canada whose warm heart is larger than its area. 

Newfoundlanders like to refer to, 1949 when Canada joined Newfoundland. Dear Newfoundland, I am so happy that Canada decided to do so. What a blessing!



Monday, 14 September 2015

NEWFOUNDLAND REFLECTIONS (2)

Subtitle: DO GO TO FOGO

Never heard of Fogo? Don't worry; not many have. Travel and Leisure Magazine refers to Fogo as a fishing community off Newfoundland's northeast coast marked by craggy shores and blissful nothingness. I would go further, defining Fogo as a shining example of how a population can retain valuable local traditions from the past while moving boldly into the future. I loved every moment spent on this northern Newfoundland island and would return in a heartbeat.



Perhaps, I should begin my island love letter with DO NOT GO TO FOGO if your preferences lean to shopping malls and designer outlets, chain hotels and motels, gitchy souvenir shops.....you get the picture, I'm sure.

DO GO if you are into 110-mile coastlines dotted with quaint, colourful little houses, weather-worn fishing sheds shakily balancing on stilts, windswept landscapes, caribou herds munching on bog grasses, small striking art studios, stunning hiking trails and welcoming people. And oh, I shouldn't forget, molasses partridgeberry tarts.



1960's efforts by the provincial government of Newfoundland to resettle Fogo Island residents to the mainland thankfully met with a resounding defeat. Fogo's tight knit outport way of life and fishing industry continued successfully until in 1992 the Canadian government shut down the commercial cod fishing industry in the North Atlantic. As with other outport communities, the economic backbone of which was their cod fishing industry, Fogo Island was devastated. Family homes were deserted for mainland living. Was Fogo finished? 

With determination, great resilience, and the ability to adapt, islanders responded by slowly switching to fishing for snow crab and shrimp. No easy feat given expensive gear requirements and an enormous learning curve.



And then Zita Cobb returned home. One of seven children of an illiterate Fogo Island fisherman, Zita made her way to university, ultimately becoming a multi millionaire as an executive with a Silicon Valley fibre optics firm. So, you say, many Newfoundlanders return home. Yah? The difference? Zita Cobb returned to Fogo Island determined to use her fortune to renewing Fogo Island's economy while conserving its past. She began the Shorefast Foundation which has supported and developed local businesses, attracted a community of artists by offering residences, and opened the cutting-edge Fogo Island Inn.


Constructed on ancient shoreline rocks, the inn's contemporary design can at first appear out of place until one recognizes that the entire structure, built of wood and partially on stilts, pays homage to the aged fishermen's huts. Every employee, whether trained in the kitchen or hotel, is a resident on Fogo Island. Menus in the dining room are based on the local land and sea - berries, cod, mushroom, etc. Guests are introduced to the local culture and traditions whether through music, watching a fishing punt being constructed or touring the island. The list of activities is endless. Profits are ploughed back into the Shorefast Foundation.

Enjoying our last night's sun set, I realize how I am suddenly not ready to leave the following day, how I have fallen in love with the unique beauty of this northeastern Newfoundland island, how the tenacity and warmth of it's people have inspired me and how I cannot wait to return.  

My advice  - DO GO TO FOGO!





 





Monday, 7 September 2015

NEWFOUNDLAND REFLECTIONS (1)

Cold, chilly ocean winds buffeted our bodies. A gray sky sombrely accented forbiddingly dark forests and ragged sinister cliffs as they cut into the sea. Before Jim and I lay the desolate buildings of a tiny cod fishing outport. I involuntarily shuddered as the stark reality of 1800's outport life and the Herculean struggle to survive struck me. 


Come spring, village men and boys would venture into the frigid, often gale-tossed sea to fish for cod. Death by drowning in the icy unforgiving Atlantic was an ever present danger. Once ashore, all village hands, women and children alike, would be required to gut and split the fish, soak the cod and then lay them on flakes to dry. Once dry, the cod would be salted again and packed in barrels for shipment to Europe and the Caribbean. Day in and day out for over five months, their backbreaking work would continue. No weekends or long weekends, no respite. A small number of cod were retained for winter use by the villagers, but the bulk was traded for goods required for survival - tools, flour, and sugar. The greater the catch, the greater the chance of surviving the dark long winters. And surviving those Newfoundland winters was not a given.


Our guide showed us the log construction of the homes and the spaces chinked with sphagnum moss which, in high winds, dried and blew away. She spoke of how the men would haul, trudging from long distances in deep snow, evergreen trees for stacking against shed walls in a desperate attempt to block out the cold, of beds in the morning covered with a thin layer of powdered snow that had drifted in between the cracks. I shuddered to imagine the existence. Small wonder, many settlers and their families, after burning even the wood floors of their cabins as a last resort, were found frozen to death in early spring.


But if cod was king, it was the seal that made it possible for outport populations to remain. Cod fishing was the primary activity in summer and early fall, but near the end of a brutal winter, provisions were frequently scarce and survival tentative. Spring's seal hunt rounded out the year providing invaluable meat, fat and skins for warming outerwear.

A visit to Elliston on the Bonavista Penninsula reminded me again of the tenuous existence of Newfoundland's outport settlers. Here a monument has been raised in honour of 251 sealers who died in two separate but simultaneous disasters. So many lost, so young.



Imagine being dropped by your ship onto an ice flow with little food, no shelter and dressed in clothing ill-suited for sudden squalls. Imagine then being stranded, unable to find your ship in blinding blizzard conditions, freezing to death.

Most moving is the statue that has been erected. I am quoting from the descriptive sign located beside the monument:
At age 16, Albert John Crewe of Elliston couldn't wait to go sealing. It was the last thing his mother, Mary, wanted. Her husband, Ruben, had already survived the S.S. Greenland sealing disaster. Mary was insistent that he not go sealing again.
But Albert John was determined to go. And, to protect him, Ruben went too. Like many women in Newfoundland with sons, husbands, brothers and fathers sealing, Mary did what she could. She helped them prepare. She waited and prayed for their safe return.
On March 3, 1914, Mary woke to a vision that confirmed her worst fears. As depicted in this sculpture, Albert John had died in Ruben's arms on the ice, the father protecting his son until they both perished.


I bowed my head, overcome with emotion and attempted to imagine surviving the hardships of these early settlers to Newfoundland. I am in awe of their bravery and spirit.

A few days later, wine glass in hand, enjoying Christopher's company in the warmth of his living room and discussing these two sites, I wondered out loud, We have Victoria Day. We celebrate Labour Day. In Ontario, we even have Family Day. Why not a day to honour the settlers who forged a life in our country from Newfoundland to B.C. to the Northwest Territories? Newfoundland has poignantly reminded me that our settlers' bravery, ingenuity, struggle and ability to survive the hardships of their new world forms the base of our nation today.

Oh Canada, we need to honour our heroic predecessors and to be reminded from whence we come. Canadian Settlers' Day. How appropriate would that be?





Thursday, 13 August 2015

THE ISLAND ADVENTURES OF HUFF AND PUFF

For Morgan and Zachary

Dear Morgan and Zachary,
I am Huff. And I am Puff. And we are puffins. Actually, we are now YOUR puffins. Your Grammie and Grampa have invited us to fly home with them and to live with you in Richmond Hill. We are very excited to meet you! Before we leave for Ontario, though, we should tell you a bit about ourselves and then we want to take you on a tour of our island, Newfoundland, for the next few weeks. 



Most people recognize us because of our large orange beaks. I hear, Zachary, that orange is your favourite colour. We sure like that! Some people call us the "clowns of the sea", but we don't look like clowns, do we? We prefer to call ourselves "sea parrots". What do you think?


Your Grampa and Grammie have told us, Zachary, that you love to fish. Wow! Huff and I should get along really well with you, because we love to fish, too. We fish for herring, hake, capelin and even sand eels. To catch fish, Huff and I dive deep into the ocean and catch the fish in our beaks. Num! Num! Capelin fish are my favourite dinner. Huff likes to feast on sand eels. Eeeeew! I think they are too slimy.


Here I am searching for fish in the ocean.


Morgan, we hear from your Grammie and Grampa that you are an amazing swimmer. Can we please, please visit your cottage one day and watch you swim? Puff and I swim in the Atlantic Ocean. Brrrr! The water is very, very cold, but our waterproof feathers allow us to stay warm whether swimming on the surface or diving underwater. Our feathers act like your Daddy's Iron Man wetsuit. Is your water cold, too? We can dive as deep as 60 metres. Puff and I swim by flapping our wings as if we are flying through the water and use our feet to steer. How do you swim? I can't wait to find out. Perhaps you can teach us a few tricks, Morgan.


Sometimes, after diving, I get water in my ears. It's itchy! Does that ever happen to you? What a pain!



Your Grampa and Grammie tell us that you have nice rooms, decorated in pink and blue. Will we be able to stay with you in them? Our home in Newfoundland is in a burrow between the cliff rocks, decorated in boring brown. Our room can be cold and wet sometimes, but we do have a great view of the Atlantic Ocean.


We are not very quick on our feet, but Huff and I would love to go for small walks with you........slowly, that is!! What are sidewalks, anyways?  Don't you walk on grass? It's fun; it tickles our feet.



If we don't say so ourselves, we are excellent fliers. We can flap our wings at 400 beats a minute. Can you do that with your arms? Try it sometime. Whew! It can be hard work. We have a difficult time taking off from the water, but once we are in the air we can fly as fast as 88 kilometres per hour. Cool, eh? Maybe we should race your grandparents Air Canada plane back to Ontario. Only joking! Your Uncle Chris laughs and laughs and laughs every time he watches us try to take off. Perhaps you can teach us that "squish your head" thing that you do to Uncle Chris. Hee! Hee!



Well, it is time for us to say goodbye for now. If you check Facebook with your Mom and Dad every day, we will send pictures of our adventures across Newfoundland. Then, we can come home to Ontario and finally meet you.

Until then, we are sending you loads of hugs!
Huff and Puff Puffin





Friday, 7 August 2015

'ATTACK AD' ANGST

My Mother's conversation rule was always, Never discuss politics or religion; Keep the peace, her entertaining mantra. If you are looking down, Mom, I am so sorry but a cancerous growing practice in Canadian politics is getting under my skin.......bigtime! I can no longer keep my big, opinionated mouth shut. To my Conservative Party-supporting friends, in an effort to maintain our friendships, I am warning that you may not wish to read any further.

Is anyone sick to death of the Just Not Ready ad running again and again and again and.......? Where is that 'mute' button? What happened to the fair play and decency once characteristic of Canadian political ads? I despair that the malicious muckraking ads of the U.S. have over past elections and now in this one, taken permanent root. Our politicians speak from one side of their mouth of taking the high road, comparing policies and track records, and then immediately resort to smear campaigns, with ads based on out-of-context words and fear mongering. 


Fully aware that their Just Not Ready crusade is based upon misleading statements and innuendo, the Conservatives have cynically opted to muddy an opponent's reputation. Since when, in a decent society, does the end justify any means?

I guess pension splitting for seniors is next. The Liberal platform does not, and never has, included cancelling income splitting for seniors. Pure unsubstantiated scare tactics!

Well, he wants to send winter jackets to Syria. Yes, Trudeau has supported the already existing Canadian Government assistance program involving support to help refugees and displaced citizens survive the winter.

Didn't he say budgets balance themselves? are words taken out of context from a Trudeau speech made in Quebec in which Trudeau discussed accepted economic tenets. Oh, and do you get the impression from this that the Conservatives have balanced our budget? You need to investigate further if you believe that smoke and mirrors act. 

Of late, the revised Just Not Ready ad has alluded to concerns that to allow anyone but the almighty Conservatives to handle our economy would lead to a Greek-like debt crisis. At this point, I must restrain myself from throwing a brick at our TV screen. The acme of cynicism has now been reached. Nothing, absolutely nothing, in our Canadian economic landscape can be compared to Greece's long history of obscenely generous pensions and national income tax evading psyche and the Conservative party knows it.

Why am I so upset? I do not presume to tell you who to vote for. Should you not wish to vote for a particular political party or its leader, that is your sacred democratic right! But please ensure that your decision is based upon the comparison of policies or track records or the handling of issues important to you. Do not allow your vote to be based upon public perceptions shaped by misleading statements or unsubstantiated and disparaging innuendo. What of the naive voter who reads little, but allows such attack ads to form their opinions? When did we Canadians give a free pass to our politicians, to mudsling, unjustly harming the reputation of opponents who feel called upon to honourably serve their country by running for office?

I dream of an election in which our politicians only advertise and promote their policies, track records and dreams for our incredible country, Canada. Let me decide based upon facts. Refrain from attack ads and you will have my vote!















 

Saturday, 1 August 2015

DEAR 'RACCO THE RACCOON',

You may be an adorable bandit-masked little rascal to some, but am I done, done, done! Amusing no longer describes you. Do you hear me? In case you have failed to notice, WE, Jim and Daphne Lockett, own this property, not YOU, Racco the Raccoon. I have even verified our deed! Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah! Time to move on, buddy. You are trespassing, stealing, and have overstayed your tentative welcome. Now what will it take to make you vamoose?


I am done, done, done with waking at two in the morning to a reverberating, thumping racket on our upper deck as you attempt to dislodge bird feeders, planters, and seed bins. My husband may be able to sleep through a bomb blast, but that is not a talent to which I lay claim. I need my sleep! Capisce?
And are you dense? Did you not get the message when the hinges on the feeders were upgraded? No, I think not. It just takes longer to dislodge, thus more thumping, eh. buddy? Simply a minor, enjoyable challenge for you, hmmmm? When are you going to pay up for all of the broken feeders and devoured seed?


I am done, done, done with my railing baskets, once filled with vibrant oranges and yellows, being used as a place of rest from your nighttime gymnastics and more recently, being used as your private toilet. Yuck!  I promise you that finding your raccoon s**t, while watering in the early, morning does not make my day. Hey, buddy, would it have killed you to show some sympathy for those poor, now dying, nasturtiums? Really? You'd die too if you were s**t on every night! 


I'm done, done, done with picking up icky, smelly, spilled garbage after you overturn the recycling bin. Raccoon resistant green bins. Hilarious concept, eh buddy? If you truly are intelligent, possessing small motor skills beyond compare, would it be too much to ask that you at least use your talents to clean up after feasting on leftovers?


I am done, done, done, so war it is Racco. If I were you, I would wave goodbye now or I'll visit you at two tonight. That's a date! Let's see how you like being disturbed during your nighttime forays. And don't think for a second that you can hide behind that stupid black mask. If I fail, Racco, I may be forced to hire the biggest, meanest guard dog you have ever met. 
I am done, done, done! Take my advice, Racco, and say, Bye, bye.