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!