Thursday, 6 October 2016


Venice should not exist. 

Her buildings, basilicas, residences, hotels, etc. are not even constructed on solid ground. Centuries ago, stilts were driven into the ground underwater. Without oxygen, these fully submerged pylons have not yet rotted.

Atop platforms sitting on the wooden stilts, a magical city has been built. It is difficult to believe that the iconic St. Mark's Square lies above fathoms of water. Touring Venice, one forgets that she is a city in the middle of the Adriatic Sea, a sea whose tides endlessly flow in and out. Tides, salt, and humidity eat away at precious buildings lining the canals. Engineers and construction professionals work endlessly at the enormous task of keeping buildings intact. The scope of this job is beyond comprehension. 

With the exception of car parks by the mainland bridge, all transportation in Venice is by boat. To walk the city early in the morning when the mobs of tourists are absent is to hear the early morning buzz of powerboats and to witness these long low barges delivering bundles of daily newspapers, fresh hotel laundry, restaurant supplies, appliances, even building materials. 

Just imagine the services we take for granted in Canada that must be delivered here on water: rubbish collection, bus and taxi, postal and courier service, emergency services, both ambulance and police......the list is endless.

Many deliveries, made in the early morning to hotels, restaurants and shops who lack canal access are dropped on the narrow streets.  It is not unusual to see employees moving these goods over bridges and along walkways in uniquely designed four wheeled carts.

And so we tourists arrive in Venice, stand in awe of her beauty, check off sites of interest, walk the piazzas, eat in restaurants, and if lucky, sleep in town, frequently oblivious to the miracle surrounding us. The miracle that is Venice.

Sunday, 2 October 2016


"Venice is chiefly a museum through whose clicking turnstiles the armies of tourism endlessly pass."

Thirty million people visit Venice each year. Thirty million!  Imagine Belleville, Ontario, with a similar population, being indundated by those numbers. Five years ago when Jim and I were in Venice, we quickly learned how to avoid the hordes. On this visit, we have been stunned and staggered by the crowds. We go tomorrow into full horde-avoidance mode.

Over seven hundred trains and bus tours arrive daily. Add to that the giant cruise ships who sail into the harbour blocking out the city and light, disgorging between 3,000 and 5,000 passengers each. 

Narrow lane ways, bridges and canals become clogged with camera-clicking, selfie-taking humanity. Don't even bother attempting to cross a small bridge with a tour coming in the opposite direction. You risk getting ploughed down as the mindless lemmings follow their umbrella toting leader. Venetians complain that they cannot even find standing room on their own vaporetto canal transit system.

A bridge photo I took today:

The giant avalanche of wake created by cruise ships is weakening the centuries old wooden supports and bindings that have kept them in place. Buildings and steps of stone, worn by year's of gentle footsteps are now being battered by waves. Puddles of sea water lie against aged walls. It is not uncommon to witness a local Venetian raise his fist as a giant ship enters the lagoon. Locals complain that cruise ship and bus tour passengers clog their city during the day and then steal away at night. "Did they really try to understand our city?" they ask. Our property manager, a Venetian since birth, almost cried yesterday when she spoke about a day last week in which six cruise ships were in the harbour. She worried out loud about how long it will be before the Venice she has known all her life, is no longer suitable for living.

An attempted ban on all ships over 96,000 gross tons from sailing along Guidecca Canal through the lagoon to the main cruise terminal and a limit of 5 cruise ships per day was overturned. "Venice is being crushed by the weight of mass tourism" charges Andrea Carradine, head of the Italian Environment Fund. Her concerns appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

St. Mark's Square today:

Jim and I, in love with this most gracious of cities, are I guess part of the problem; we cannot stay away. In our defence, we attempt not to wander mindlessly, not to merely check off the city as "another place visited", but try to absorb and respect the culture, architecture and beauty of bella Venezia. 

Venice is at a crossroads. Does it attempt to maintain its beauty or create simply a profit making centre? For future generations, I pray that they make the right decision. If we want Disneyland we can head to the U.S.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

THE SAGA OF OUR PUGLIAN DIGS has proven a great website for me when searching for rental properties. In Arizona, Newfoundland, Switzerland and Italy, Jim and I have enjoyed some sensational properties. But how does that saying go? All good things must come to an end. For our Puglian villa, I got it wrong; I got it colossally wrong!

With much excitement about our trullo villa rental, we set out from Matera; we were scheduled to meet the property manager in Martina Franca who would then take us to our rental at 4:00pm. During lunch in Martina Franca Jim and I discovered that all stores, grocery included, were closed on Thursday afternoons. We had no food! So what! According to the ad, our villa was 'conveniently located in a rural setting'. We reasoned that we would be a short drive to dinner in town and then shopping the next day.......or so we thought! Remind me to check the dictionary for the definition of rural versus remote.

Out into the country, we followed the property manager, driving about 3 km on narrow roads. So far, so good! Oops! Then we hit the cow path; Jim quipped that to call this trail a cowpath is to malign all good cowpaths. Right turn, left turn, left turn, right turn, we twisted onto different road ruts, bouncing over rocks, dropping into mud-filled holes and scratching along bushes, continuing this tortuous, tedious, uncomfortable drive for over 4 km before we reached our villa. At the initial turn onto the rutted drive, our GPS gave up; it showed no roads, merely a mysterious cross country route into nothingness.  Seriously? How would we ever find our way back in the dark? So much for the undercarriage of our rental car, not to mention EuropCar's rental policy of no off-road driving. 

The property manager "speed showed" us around, quickly passing by the extremely inviting algae green-tinged pool, and then made his hasty escape. No kidding?

Are you enjoying our Puglian vacation so far?

In our travels, if we have learned anything, it is to be flexible. Unanimously we chimed, "No way"; I think Jim added a few additional choice four letter words. With limited cell phone service, he eventually contacted the Property Management office and told them to come collect the keys; we would not be staying! While Jim phoned, I immediately referred to Trip Advisor, input Locortondo and waited. Up popped the Leonardo Trulli Resort. Quick contact indicated that there was one room available. Consider it booked! In the dark, we followed the property manager out to the main road, input our new destination and found our way to the resort. Without knowing it that night, we had arrived in a Puglian paradise.

Imagine a winding road past ancient stone walls, vineyards, citrus groves and olive trees leading you to a cluster of cream-white buildings and trulli. This is what we awoke to our first morning, the timeless beauty of the lush Puglian countryside. Our hotel consists of two types of residences, villino rooms, where Jim and I are located,

 and trulli rooms. A stunning, solar-heated pool graces the gardens. 

No lunch is served, but the breakfast and dinner offered are exquisite. Dinner is an Puglian culinary delight with ingredients fresh from the surrounding farms. I sincerely hope that there is room for el Rotundo (my new name for myself) on our return flight. Commutes to Puglian destinations, Ostuni, Alberobello, etc., are at most and hour's drive away; we are ten minutes door to door from beautiful Locorontondo.

I cannot say enough about the beauty and grace of this Leonardo resort, but what has impressed Jim and I most is the loving care and attention afforded each and every guest by the staff of Rosalba (the owner), Giuseppe and Rafaela (Raffie), primarily.

Raffie and Rosalba:

For some bizarre reason, Rosalba, the owner, has taken a liking to Jim and I. Hey! I saw those questioning eyebrows rise! "She love you two", Raffi told us. We are continually greeted by hugs and the the double Italian cheek kisses. Rosalba insisted upon driving us to our wine tasting yesterday. When we were picked up after the session, she spent valuable time driving around the countryside for photographic views. We gifted Rosabla and her husband with wine from I Pastini. Arriving at dinner last night, the staff, including the chef, awaited us in the dining room. One of the bottles of wine was shared. Salutes all around. Jim and I were totally taken aback. When one of the trulli was vacant for one night, Rosalba insisted that we must spend a night in a trullo. So for one day, Jim and I held two rooms at the cost of one. Her kindness knows no bounds.

From nightmare villa to Puglian paradise. From blunder to redemption. The north has the Euros; the south, the soul, we have read. Jim and I believe it.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016


When I think of the mafia, I imagine the Godfather, the Corleones, and the Cosa Nostra of Sicily. How brainwashed by a movie can I possibly be? 

Or Calabria and it's feared crime syndicate, the Ndrangheta come to mind. When Jim and I first planned this year's trip, I joked about heading into Calabria, home of the mafia. Little did I imagine that Puglia, this magical corner of Italy, had actually felt the constant invisible threat of the mafia (Sacra Corona Unita) more than other areas. Well, that is until recently.

In the 1990's, the Italian Government began confiscating mafia-owned land, a staggering 4500+ properties thus far; in 1996 a law passed by the state allowed third parties to formally acquire this confiscated land and what arose is an anti-mafia land movement. "Libera Terra Puglia" is determined to prove that wine and food production can be a key instrument for positive change.

With 25 hectares of vineyards, Libera Terra Hiso Telaray is one such vineyard. What is heartening is that this winery has had the courage to name two well known wines after mafia victims.

Renate Fonte, a councillor at Nando, was killed because she fought against illegal development in the protected area of Porto Selvaggio, one of Puglia's most beautiful Ionian Sea sites. Because of her determination, today the area remains untouched. Tragically Renate Fonte paid with her life, assassinated by the mafia.

Michael Fazio and Gaetano Manchitelli were innocent victims, caught in the crossfire of mafia hits. In their honour, the wine, Alberelli de la Santa carries a label stating, "Dedicated to the smile and youth of Michael Fazio and Gaetano Manchitelli."

Libera Terra Puglia will not bring these victims of mafia violence back, but it takes just one pebble to start an avalanche. The confiscation of mafia-held lands, the use of these lands for positive purposes and the ongoing reminders of the scourge of organized crime are all moves in the right direction. Sinistro a speranza.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016


"Inside these black holes with their walls of earth, I could see the beds, the miserable furnishings, the rags hung up. Dogs, sheep, goats and pigs were lying on the floors. Each family usually has only one of these caves to live in, and they all sleep together: men, women, children and animals. This is how twenty thousand people live. There was an infinite number of children. In that heat, in clouds of flies and dust, children sprang out everywhere, completely naked or dressed in rags. Never before have I seen such a picture of misery......I saw children sitting in the doorway of houses in the dirt and burning sun with their eyes half closed and their eyelids red and swollen; and the flies would land on their eyes, and they just sat there without moving, not even flicking them away with their hands.
I met other children with their little faces wrinkled like old people, and their bones showing through from hunger; their hair was crawling with fleas and covered in scabs. But most of them had big, enormous, swollen bellies, and their faces were yellow and drawn from malaria." (Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi - 1945)

It was the Dante's Inferno-esque paintings and writings of Carlo Levi that ultimately propelled the Italian government to acknowledge Matera's living conditions. How easy it must have been to ignore the nightmare, to keep the plight of these peasants a dirty little secret. Basilicata was a remote, under-populated province. Who cared? No one apparently, for it was not until 1952 that a solution was brought forth introducing proper nutrition, medical care, education and the ultimate forceful relocation of sixteen thousand people to newly built residences on the Matera plain. 

The lower cave levels of Matera were left an empty shell, a virtual ghost town. Until UNESCO declared Matera a World Heritage site, the caves remained damp, derelict and abandoned. The UNESCO designation brought about a complete reversal of Matera's fortunes. And her dramatic rebirth has created a national treasure, one of the glories of Italia.

There is so much more to Matera's story than poverty and caves. Matera is the third oldest city in the world, having been continually inhabited since the Paleolithic era. She is a timeless city, cavemen, Romans, Greeks, Saracens, Normans having all been her citizens. The jumble of stone homes and structures climbing up the hills represent construction on top of the caves, construction layers dating back to the 14thC, then the 17thC and finally modern construction. 

Walking through Matera's atmospheric streets and neighbourhoods, especially at night, is to step back in time. Her immense history is enchantingly palpable. There were moments during our explorations that I felt I had stepped back to biblical times. Benvenuti nella storia - welcome to history.

Matera has moved me in ways I cannot even begin to express, but I do know this for sure. If you haven't been here, you really should come.

Friday, 16 September 2016


Jim and I love Italian if you haven't already guessed. Our Italian Friday's at home are a tradition that dates back over ten years to our first cooking class in Italy. So bear with me if a few of my blogs wax poetic about the local cuisine. How can you say you have travelled if you haven't eaten how the locals do?

"Funny thing, we never searched for an Indian restaurant in Italy." In spite of our preference to eat and explore local foods, those words of Jim's were spoken in Ireland as we desperately sought to escape the bland and find some flavour. Sorry Ireland! Fresh, local, simple ingredients are all descriptions that come to mind when thinking of Italian cuisine and here in Italy's boot they most certainly ring true. 

Sandy soil, a mild climate and proximity to the sea have made the sweet red onions of Tropea much sought after in Italy. I have yet to see a local market without onion rista displayed on the shop's poles. 

Frequently served with classic antipasti and simply drizzled with olive oil, they leave no onion breath or after taste. I'm in love with them. Dear Canada Customs, are they importable? Raw with fresh pecorino cheese, they are to die for. Jars of onion paste, red onion marmalade and Tropea onion chutney are to be found everywhere. How much weight are we allowed on that return flight of ours?

Dark red in colour, the local chilies are actually aged on the vine for a fruitier taste and more heat. It is their heat which Jim loves. We first experienced their hot, hot, hot bite when we stopped for an aperitivo our first night and an antipasti tray was served with our wine. Whoa! That woke me up. What an instant cure for jetlag! I could make millions marketing this! Immediately the next morning, Jim searched out the paste in the hopes of bringing some home. Success! More weight added to those returning bags and we are only on our third day.

And what would a trip to Italy be without mentioning their local wines. Not known for outstanding wines, Calabria's flagship wine, Ciro Rossa Riserva Classica, does meet rave reviews. Full bodied and smooth, it is considered one of the oldest named wines in the world. When ordered, our waiters nod and smile. Ah, we got it right!

Tomorrow, we head for a cooking class in the hills behind Tropea. More food blogs to come, I am sure.

Thursday, 15 September 2016


As our Calabrian sky takes on the amethyst-coloured tinge of early evening, they emerge from Tropea's maze of narrow winding streets and lanes.

Wandering, weaving and strolling, they move aimlessly along Corso Vittorio Emanuale until it ends at a set of metal railings affording dramatic views over the Tyrrhenian Sea. Here they congregate, admiring the view, ranking this evening's sunset, I am sure, and chatting all the while before they turn and repeat their walk in the opposite direction.

Some sort of protest. No! This is one of Italy's most enduring rituals and definitely a favourite of ours - the passeggiata. Entire families, young friends, lovers, elderly couples, all take to the streets to greet old friends, talk to shopkeepers, flirt and laugh. From the eternal city, Rome, to beautiful Florence, to the hilltowns of Tuscany, south to Calabria, Italians universally take time in the late day to relax, to stroll their towns and cities, and to meet and greet family and friends.

What I love is the overwhelming sense of community. While we Canadians sit behind closed doors, glued to the depressing evening news, Italians chose to daily pay respect to and appreciate that which matters most, family and community; they have a deep understanding of what is important, what lasts. May they forever keep this tradition alive. Nowhere was this sense of community more evident to us than in the quaint Tuscan town of Volterre during a huge European soccer final. Who would want a North American 'man cave' with its giant plasma screen when you can pull out a tiny TV set into the piazza and watch the game with family and friends? We have so much to learn from the Italians.

Over the years of observation, I have analyzed the four rules of a passeggiata:
    1. Between six and eight o'clock in the evening, head for the main corso or liveliest piazza.
    2. Walk slowly.
    3. Chat with family and friends. Chat with everybody, for that matter.
    4. Stop for a gelato or aperitivo.
How easy is that formula?

So there we were. Weary and jet lagged from a long trans Atlantic flight, but ecstatic to be back in the warm hug that is Italy, Jim and I joined hands and merged with the moving community. Let us make a passeggiata - fare una passeggiata.

Friday, 9 September 2016


I talk to myself......and not silently. Yup! You read correctly; I actually talk to myself. Out loud. Around the house. In the car. While shopping. I'm convinced that this foible of mine dates back to university days when I would study by verbally reciting, to myself, facts I needed to remember. Whatever the origins, this malady carried through to my professional days. Just ask poor Jackie, my long-suffering secretary, who used to jump from her chair asking what I needed only to be met with, "Just talking to myself again, Jake". As I have aged, my affliction has disturbingly increased in intensity. How often, in the grocery store, have I looked up to see questioning eyes watching me. I know immediately that I have been caught talking out loud to myself, mumbling some recipe or other while in search of ingredients.

As if this isn't pathetic enough, I am now plagued with ear worms, that stuck-song syndrome in which the victim is unable to get a tune out of their head. 

"So what," you say. "That happens to the best of us." Ah, but do you sing along to that music continually running through your brain? Apparently, I do, or so I have recently discovered.

In anticipation of our upcoming trip to Italy, I began playing Italian Love Songs, by Dean Martin in my car. As embarrassing as it is to admit that I even own that song collection, it is even more embarrassing to find myself humming Arriverderci Roma all over Uxbridge. Heck! We're not even going to Rome on this visit. And those rolling eyes and glares from passers-by, I have been experiencing, now make me question my sanity. When fellow shoppers began giving me wide berth, I knew that I was in trouble.

To squash this nasty little ear worm, I turned to one of my favourite CD's, The Three Tenors and Mehta. Jim says that I can't carry a tune in a wheelbarrow and so I reasoned that no operatic ear worm would dare wiggle its way into my brain. Oh man, was I ever wrong. 

And so my friends, if you hear a horribly out-of-tune, scratchy female version of O Solo Mio in the next aisle, please ignore it. It's just your afflicted friend unknowingly giving an unwanted concert. Oh, and if you don't see me for a while, it most likely means that I have been taken away to the funny farm.

Non Dimenticare. 🎼

Tuesday, 30 August 2016


My apologies to all who have recently endured my Facebook countdown to our Italian trip. My lame excuse is sheer excitement. Sorry! Sorry!

Last year I posed the question to Jim, "If you thought you could take only one more trip, where would you go?" No long thinking process ensued, I promise. As if sitting on his tongue, waiting, "Italy" burst forth instantly. We have both developed a passion for this glorious Mediterrannean country and, thank god, are blessed to be able to return once again.

Our love affair with bella Italia began as soon as we first set foot in Rome over ten years ago. What became quickly apparent to us is that there is something breathtaking, something different and something unexpected around every corner. There is so much to Italy - food, wine, history, art, architecture, charming towns, stunning vistas.........the list is endless. It is small wonder that the poets Byron, Shelley and Keats were so drawn there.

Over the past ten years, we have covered much of Italy, but words from the Lonely Planet resonated with me. "Italy's north may have the euros, but the south has the soul. Beautifully sun bleached, weathered and worn, this is Italy at its most ancient, complex and seductive." Okay, Lonley Planet you got me at the word "soul". 

And so this year's return will take Jim and I far south into Italy's boot,  Calabria, Basilicata and Puglia - areas offering some of the most untouched parts of Italy. This is virgin territory for us and who can resist areas so ripe for exploration? Some of the country's cleanest saffire seas and sandy beaches are to be found here. Soaring mountains and cliffs await us in Calabria, the toe of the boot. 

Basilicata, at the instep of the boot, is one of the least populated, smallest and least understood regions in the country. Why visit? Hidden in this remote arid landscape is the intriguing ancient city of Matera. I can't wait. For me, this visit to Matera is worth the whole trip.

 Puglia, found at the heel of the country's boot, will change our vistas to ones of lush farmland, magical trulli and whitewashed towns.

Language may pose more of an issue in the boot than it does in the north, but Jim is boning up on his Italian and me, my hand signals. Thankfully, Italians are extremely accommodating of we Canadians fumbling with Italian phrases, grateful that we at least try. Once again, we will rent our own car and drive with, no doubt, a conga line of Mario Andretti wanna-be's following a mere paint coat behind our automobile. It's all part of the adventure! Pull over, let them by and most Italians will honk and wave their thank you's.

Five years ago saw our first visit to Venice. I may love Rome, but la Sirenuse stole my husband's heart. Jim voiced the wish to return, to live like a Venetian and to cook with a view overlooking the canals. Life is short. Let it be so. For our final eight days, we will fly to Venice, live in an apartment overlooking the confluence of three canals behind St. Mark's Square, visit the Rialto Market and live la vita del popolo.

Yup! You could say that Jim and I have una passione per Italia.. So please bear with me; the countdown is almost over. Sigh!

Saturday, 13 August 2016


RickMercer, one of my favourite Canadians, states that ranting is good for you. "Rant and be merry," he advises, "and rant about what you love. That's what I do."  unabashedly love the Olympics, Winter and Summer.  And so I'll rant.

Waving the maple leaf, I emotionally cheer on our young and heroic Canadian athletes. I watch with respect and awe the athletic abilities and mental toughness displayed by athletes from around the globe. I take to my heart the courage and bravery displayed by athletes such as our Rosie MacLennan who just won trampoline gold for Canada. Last autumn, Rosie suffered her third concusion. Did that stop her? No. Battling back from dizzy spells, spacial challenges while in the air and debilitating headaches, she performed her medal winning performance mere months later. That is athletic grit.

Why then do I feel such disdain for the IOC and what they have allowed the Olympic Games to become.

Leadership should begin at the top.

Norway recently dropped its bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. Their withdrawal was in part due to the potential burdensome tax implications for their citizens, resulting from massively ballooning costs of required host facilities, but also because of IOC demands. Journalist Frithjof Jacobsen wrote, "Norway said no to the inflated, ridiculous, remote money-gobbling and unsympathetic organization that is today's IOC. Demands for luxury treatment ranged from complementary chauffeur-driven limos at the beck and call of each IOC member during the games to "a meeting and cocktail party with King Harald before and after the opening ceremony, with the royal family or Norwegian Olympic Committee picking up the tab". While efforts are being made to cut the cost of future games, or so we are told, the list of IOC demanded perks unconscionably grows and is out of touch with the realities of our world.  Reminds me of let them eat cake! 

As many economically sound nations pass on future Olympic bids due to out-of-control costs, now averaging a staggering $16.2 billion per games, financially strapped countries are sadly putting forward Olympic bids in hopes of showcasing their nations to the world. The list of host cities and countries burdened by decades of debt is growing. Montreal is on that list.

And nowhere has the contrast between wealth and grinding poverty been more evident than in Rio where multi-million dollar Olympic venues lie in the shadows of Rio's slums, favelas. Gary Mason of the Globe & Mail writes that, while dining at a popular open restaurant, he, "watched one family of four go through a garbage can, the mother holding what looked like a year old baby in her arms with another toddler by her side, while the father sorted through the trash looking for any food scraps he could find". Please don't tell me that any financial benefits from hosting the Olympics will trickle down to such families; I'm not that naive.

The Athlete's Olympic Oath reads, "....committing ourselves to sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship". As a teenager, glued to our TV set during any Olympic competition, it was the sportsmanship that made my heart soar. What a fine example of the best of sport those games set for an impressionable youth. 

Now the absence of any meaningful IOC intervention is allowing that very sportsmanship to decay as the cancer of politics, extremism, and sore loser reaction, infects the Olympic body. 

An Egyptian Olympic judo competitor refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent after the match. Tradition in judo requires a bow or handshake following competition. Neither was forthcoming from the Egyptian. So much for the oath he took. Where, I ask, is the IOC in all of this? Ah, they have set up an investigation as to "why". Oh, puh-lease. The Egyptian athlete, when called back a second time to the mat for the handshake, just waived off the ref. The evidence is on record; why has that player not been expelled from future Olympic competition? Does the Athlete's Oath mean nothing now? 

After a tactically brilliant game, The Swedish Women's Olympic Soccer Team defeated the heavily favoured Americans. Why was there no official response (U.S. or international) after Hope Solo, goalie for the U.S. team, announced after the game "...think we played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today". So much for setting an example of true sportsmanship, as Solo promised when she took the Athlete's Oath. So much for her word. And what of the South African competitor who tauntingly danced and shadow-boxed in front of Phelps before their swim meet. Both Solo and the shadow boxing swimmer should have received stern warnings.

Canadian Dick Pound, a past Vice President of the IOC, had long warned of drug use and widespread doping in Olympic sport. Some hypothesize that Mr. Pound lost his run in 2001 to replace Samaranche as IOC President due to his persistent emphasis of this problem. None are so deaf as those who will not hear. Fast forward to 2016 and proof that state sponsored doping by Russian athletes is a fact. What does the IOC do? Certainly not lead. The issue of banning Russian athletes from competition was handed down to individual sports federations. It appears that the IOC lack the courage of the very athletes they claim to support.

We cheer on our Olympic athletes for their courage, bravery, mental toughness and dedication to the sportsmanship.  Where is the leadership and strength of the IOC? They need to stop feathering their little nests and follow the example set by most Olympic competitors. 

End of rant!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016


I vividly recall two incidents at Matt and Michelle's wedding and can now smile. Held outside in the beautiful gardens of Thornhill's Heintzman House, Matt and Michelle had just begun their vows when my Mother pointed with her cane and loudly announced, "Look dear, we see those flowers in Barbados". Startled, Jim and I gently hushed her and quietly pointed out that Matt and Michelle were speaking. Later, while seated at our table and for reasons unknown, she glared at a reception guest and announced for all to hear, "I don't like him". 

Bless her heart! My Mother had always been one to emphasize decorum and proper behaviour, but at 88 years of age and after suffering a debilitating stroke, she developed a tendency to blurt out comments, comments not always socially acceptable. Mom had lost her filters. Although often embarrassing, her comments were at least innocently laughable.

Watching Trump's speech in which he declared that 'Second Amendment People' could thwart Clinton's election, the full impact of the danger of a presidential candidate without filters became frighteningly evident to me. No matter how much Mr. Trump's campaign committee now attempt to smooth matters over, the spectre of political violence has been raised. The damage has been done. So much so, that the Secret Service spoke to the candidate today. Let us all now hope that some impressionable, mentally unstable gunman doesn't think of this as a legitimate direction. Dear God!

Fans of Trump's rude, condescending, mean and incendiary comments claim that he is just being honest. Not me. I  have huge issues with a presidential candidate who has no filters, whose racism, emotions, and anger so easily take control of his mouth. He appears incapable of completing a speech without going off script and voicing whatever nasty comment pops into his head. Jon Stewart refers to Donald Trump's "word puke". 

Mr. Trump is running for arguably the most powerful office in our free world. It is critical that he accept the importance and consequences of his words, and not just domestically. The protocol of international relations will not allow him the luxury of not caring what he says nor will it accept efforts to later smooth over his damaging comments.

I believe that The Donald lacks the temperament, desire and self discipline to develop such filters and among other reasons, is not qualified to hold the office of the President of the United States. My Mother had an excuse. You don't Mr. Trump.

Thursday, 4 August 2016


Scores of city-dwelling Canadians daydream about ditching it all for a quieter, simpler country life. So quoteth the Globe and Mail which goes on to print, ......this is the life she always wanted: living among cows and goats.

Hrmph, I shake my head, four years ago Jim and I did just that, foresaking the traffic snarls and congestion of Thornhill for our retirement ranch in Uxbridge.

Ranch? Yah, right, you snicker in disbelief.

How's your acreage? Ummm! Well, we don't actually have acres, but our lot is a good size. Alright already, so it's a mini ranch.

What about outbuildings? All ranches have outbuildings. Oh, we have a cute little garden shed with window boxes. That should count!

....and fences? you further challenge. Hah! We have a cedar fence marking the perimeter of our rear yard. So there!

With, ...and your grazing herds???, you think you finally have me. Oh, ye of little faith. We do have herds - herds of hungry chipmunks, herds of feeding squirrels and herds of grazing rabbits, I smugly retort. Yup, laugh all you want, but to me, our yard has become a mini ranch......and Jim and I have become its ranch hands.

As ranch hands daily feed the cattle and cows, so Jim daily drags barrels of seed around filling bird feeders. 

I know! I know! You argue that the feed is for the birds not our herds. Please note that it is actually our herds of chipmunks and squirrels who greedily feed the most.

And ranch hand, Jim, diligently repairs and maintains damaged equipment to fences and buildings.....and to bird feeders too.

My job around the ranch is to plant gardens for our rapidly growing herd of voraciously 
grazing rabbits, who love all my flowers and greens. It's back breaking work to keep up.

Jim and I love to welcome visiting dudes to our retirement ranch. If you're in the area drop by. View our herds. Enjoy the back forty, metres, that is. We even provide delightful souvenir t-shirts. 

Well, gotta' sign off now. It's time to head out to the back forty. A ranch hand's work is never done. Yippee ki yay!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016


From all the misty morning air, there comes a summer sound, a murmur as of waters from skies, and trees, and ground. The birds, they sing upon the wing, the pigeons bill and coo. Richard Watson Gilder.

Just as smells can transport me instantly to a different time and place, sounds have that same impact, especially the sounds of summer.

Sailors would most likely mention the lapping of water on their hull while at anchor, the screech of seagulls overhead or the clank of unsecured halyards against the mast as they blow in the wind.  For golfers, it may be the resonating whack of a ball on the club face or the sweet plop of a successful putt dropping into a hole. A dear friend nostalgically speaks of how the echoing call of a loon transports her back to childhood days at the family's Muskoka cottage. We all enjoy our favourite sounds of summer.

An itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini. Oh, and then there are the songs of summer for different generations. Here Comes Summer by Cliff Richard, the Beachboys' Little Deuce Coupe, Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines or this summer's Justin Timberlake hit, Can't Stop The Feeling. My husband, Jim, is once again a teenager with new driver's licence in hand, every time he hears, Surfing U.S.A.

So aside from ambient temperature, blindfolded, what sounds would immediately signal to me that it is summertime?

The dawn chorus of bird songs and calls celebrating a new summer's morn. How I love that musical cacophony! Shhhhh-tik-tik-tik. The sound of a sprinkler system watering a lawn or golf course. The distinctive buzzing and clicking of cicadas transports me immediately to the hot summer days of my youth. Slap! Slap! Slap! Many may be irritated by what they refer to as noise, but the repetitive smack of flip flops is a universal sound of summer. And who can resist the splash of water accompanied by children's laughter? It's summer at the lake or pool. Ah, and then the clink of ice cubes in a glass. Be it lemonade, iced tea or an alcoholic beverage, those noisy cubes speak to me of lazy summer days or evenings. to my ears. Sigh! What are your sounds of summer?