Tuesday, 19 June 2018

First love.... D'you remember?

That heart that beat so loud you thought everyone could hear it?

That blush that rose from somewhere near your waist up to the tips of your ears?

The wanting to be near in case he touched your arm?

That yearning that he would arrive soon when everyone else was already there?

That knowledge that he was "the one"?

Adolescence is a wondrously awful time, isn't it?   But we usually get over it, find a new love and eventually get together with the right one, and perhaps live happily ever after.

When I was 17, some girlfriends and I met a whole group of lads, we liked their company and they liked ours.  One of them was my first love.   And what I described above was how it felt.  Let's call him Col.  Like several of the lads he had his own car.  We used to fill the cars up and take off for somewhere every Sunday night, usually to a pub, where we would order a toasted sandwich or similar, and sit talking and laughing over a glass of something until closing time.  He was always there.  I desperately wanted him, but the other lads teased him unmercifully, and he never did ask me out - although some 5 years later I bumped into him at a party and he said "what about if we........".   I was over him by then and so able to say "Sorry Col, you should have asked me way back when".  I met the real love of my life about a year later and we are still together.  Col met his partner too, and that, as they say, is life.

Until yesterday, at a funeral, I came across him again in the company of a couple of the other lads -   men with a few lines and less hair now.  We spoke in general terms about people we knew, and what we were all doing, and where we were living, and it was nice.  Until it was time to go home and the most bizarre thing happened.  I suddenly found him standing behind me. I spouted the usual niceties, and said  "Bye then, Col, nice to have seen you again".  He looked me straight in the eye and said "should I know you?, who are you?".

Just for a split second there I thought he was taking the mickey, but why would he do that?  I told him my name.  I told him where I used to live - he had been there many times for parties, or meet-ups prior to going out with the crowd.  But no.  It was clear that I had been wiped entirely from his memory.  And then he said  "I'm sorry, I have memory problems".  I could only say I was sorry too.

Things I wouldn't have minded talking about with him were unavailable to him now and it made me feel so sorry.  Not just because of our shared past, but because he obviously has something wrong which is not dementia, but who knows what; and  I shed a silent tear for his lost memories.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Crenshaw - Katherine Applegate

You know that old saying "don't judge a book by it's cover"?  Think again, for in this case what a cover!  And inside, what a wonderful book!  I saw the cover first, and had to have it.  Applegate won the (US) Newbery Medal for her previous book The One and Only Ivan, which looked fun but didn't appeal.  But to have an invisible friend, a large cat called Crenshaw..... now that did appeal.  I think anyone of 8+ will enjoy this read, or having it read it them.
Crenshaw appears early on, riding a surfboard until he opens his umbrella and the wind lifts him off the board and brings him down to Jackson who is on the beach.  This is Crenshaw's second time round in Jackson's life..... at a time when he thinks he's far too old for an invisible friend, and in any case there are a lot of problems at home and he really has no time for this furry interloper.  
Jackson's family are what are described as working poor - never quite enough money to pay the rent on time, never quite enough to eat well on a daily basis.  And when the notice to quit arrives, Jackson is beside himself, for he's had to go through this once before, when his sister was a baby, sleeping in the family van for fourteen weeks;  and although he just cannot do it again, it looks as though he is going to have to.  Crenshaw's answer to this?  "Just tell the truth".  What on earth does that mean?
I was astounded by some facts and figures at the back of the book.  One in five  kids in the US are "food insecure" as policy makers might describe them.  I will take a guess and say that there are plenty of the same here in the UK, although I don't know that the figure is as high here.  Whatever the figure is, no child should be hungry - anywhere.  But they are.  Just think about the Middle East for a little while, then think about your home town.  Then think about the "celebrity culture".  The space between rich and poor gets ever wider.   After Katherine Applegate won the Newbery Medal, she visited lots of schools, and met kids like Jackson.  That's when she decided to write Crenshaw.  Buy it, borrow it - but do read it.  You will laugh at Crenshaw, but your heart will cry for Jackson and his family.... although with Crenshaw's help they just may get by.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Bright Turquoise Damselfly

Today we visited a private garden open to the public.... which included tea on the terrace afterwards.  But although the garden was full of winding paths, and what we saw were many different Acers, Roses, hardy Geraniums, Iris amongst other things, what fascinated us the most were these beautiful creatures.  The colour really was staggering - iridiscent  turquoise.  But no picture I found did them proper justic.  They were about 2 inches long, and just like little pieces of jewellery. At one point there were 9 or 10 flitting around in front of our eyes, but none stayed still long enough to get a pic.  Had to dig around to find out exactly what they were, but found this on the Canal & River Trust website.  Here's what they say:


Damselflies are brightly coloured insects who, like dragonflies, are acrobatic masters of the air as they hunt for their prey.
Damselfly, courtesy of Karen Arnold Damselfly, courtesy of Karen Arnold

Damselflies are delicate and very thin and fold their wings back over their bodies at rest. You can sometimes spot clouds of them flitting over the water surface and amongst vegetation on sunny days. They feed mainly on mosquitoes, midges and larger insects.
The reed fringes of many of our canals and rivers provide excellent breeding sites and hunting grounds for damselflies - our maintenance programme involves the creation and improvement of canal banks with damselflies in mind.
In the past, any work on canal banks would have involved steel sheet piles. Today, with our greater emphasis on habitat creation, soft banks are created either using coir roles or hazel faggots. This allows the growth of reed fringes, ideal habitats for many species of insects, particularly damselflies.

 Sometimes it is pure luck to be in the right place at the right time..... and we were today.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

A Little Candadian Adventure! Part 6 - the last days.

Time for a couple of silly days now.  Just doing the old roads round this part of the coast, we decided that, following Sandra Phinney's description (see part 5), we would "do" Cape Sable Island.  No ferry needed, as there is a causeway to drive over.  We drove right to the end looking for Hawk Beach, but the road ran out in front of a couple of houses.  I think that in the summer, a gate is open and you walk across fields to the beach.  However, as we are not sun seekers nor North Atlantic Ocean swimmers (!), we turned back.  The major road (330) does a loop of the island but there is another loop nearer the mainland where we found this lovely quiet spot.  It's referred to as Bull's Head Wharf.   Just once in a while I get what I call a "Calendar Shot"..... I mean if I was looking for pics for a next year's calendar, this would definitely be one!  I mean - one third sky, two thirds land, good colour  etc.  What the picture does not tell you is that at our back was a fish plant!  No shame there.  People have to make a living, and we watched them unloading crates by hand and walking them to the plant.  A nice way to spend an hour or so with a picnic - away from the crowds!

On the way home we drove through Shag Harbour, thinking about the UFO landing of 1967, which Chris had told us about.  Looking out on the way through just spotted the sign.  Nothing much there as far as we could see but I looked it up and found this article and if you like unexplained phenomenon, this is a good one!  A proper visit next time, eh?!

Our last ride out was to Tusket, and then on to Quinan.  Tusket where the big Ford dealer was an Acadian gentleman - Mr Entremont,  who Mr Mac talked to about the British Treatment of the French in the old days, and the world in general.  Tusket where the Tusket Falls Brewery is.  Tusket where you take the opposite road and head off along the road to and through Quinan courtesy again of Sandra Phinney, who took her canoe, turned off at the church and went canoeing.  We didn't, but we had a fun  time just the same!  Fun, because we found two odd things.

A fish that swallowed a mail box!  It just made us laugh, and, if we used mail boxes, we might have had to invest in one.... Apologies to the Surettes whose box we captured on film.

 And then we spotted the sign below -

Vaughn Lake - Bed and Breakfast.

Stop. The. Car!  Laughing, we did, and walked down the lane to an empty house.  Nice business opportunity for someone because although secluded, it looks a darn site better than Bates Motel!

 But of course the reason we laughed is that we have a friend who truly is called Vaughan Lake.  I'm going to tell him I didn't know he had a B and B in Canada!!

And we went to lunch in a wonderful little restaurant called The Creperie in Yarmouth with Colette (here she is taking a photo opportunity at an exhibition of some of Maud Lewis paintings in Yarmoth that we went to see).  Good food, fabulous hostess and a quick tour of the house. 

So thanks to our Ford Escape (Kuga in the UK), we enjoyed our explorations.  She rode well over any kind of road, and sat high, so that we didn't miss much.  Here she is:

And that's it for this holiday.  Lovely times, good chats, delicious food (more scallops please!) and Oh! weren't we lucky with the weather this year!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

A Little Canadian Adventure! Part 5

Visiting micro breweries - now that is fun!  We did two on our hols, and tasted samples at both of them.  Have a look at the Boxing Rock Brewing Company which we found at Shelburne.  Boxing Rock has some lovely beers, Mr Mac liked "Hunky Dory" very much - a pale ale full of flavour with, of course, a very suitable name!

Also there's a newer brewer (!) Tusket Falls Brewing Company whose Golden Ale, "Crack of the Rock" is a lovely light beer.  They are very experimental - they have a smoked ale - "Smoked Kiack", and an extraordinary kettle sour - "Left Right Here" which may be the oddest beer we have ever tasted, but would I think, be lovely ice cold on a hot day.

Image result for shelburne ns pics

 Shelburne is a small but interesting town on the NS south shore... Go and see how traditional fishing dories are made. And how about a gift shop with fine dining in the back room?  We ate here one day and still want to know what was in that sauce that was served with scallops and pasta... tomato base, possibly some cream added, but what?  what?  what else?

So a few days left.  Exploring is good.  We had a look at the map and decided on an old road (203) between Carleton (above Yarmouth) and Shelburne.  It is right on the edge of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and has a really bad road surface.... but as there is next to no traffic we drove mostly in the middle of the road.  There are maybe five hamlets on the map, which  consist of 5 or 6 houses, but it was a fascinating area to discover.  You can take a holiday out there somewhere in Trout Point Lodge
but it had no appeal for us, off the grid...... but with expensive food!  They have their own astronomer, and they are in the midst of one of the few Dark Sky Areas in the world. That's a lot of stars ......
But any road you have never travelled before is interesting.  And because it is the only road that touches the Tobeatic Wilderness Area it was worth the drive.

The reason behind this drive and a few places we visited (which I'll tell you more about in part 6) was a book called Waking Up In My Own Backyard by Sandra Phinny. Sandra Phinny decided that she'd take a month and visit places within a 100km radius of her own home.  She found loads of stuff and took great joy in telling her readers about it all.   Colette had read it and left it out for me to read.  Sadly I didn't make it to the end, but it will be there next time I go.

Phinny mentioned a tiny library, which happened to be in the village of Carleton, where we turned off to start the Wilderness Drive.  Here's what Sandra Phinny said about  the Durkee Memorial Library in Carleton which was built in 1938.  "The library is an eight-by-five-metre log cabin painted grey with green trim, and sits on an elevated ridge on Route 340 that passes through the village. There are maples, oaks, birch, pine, even a chestnut tree surrounding its sides and back. I’ve driven by the library hundreds of times but have only crossed its portals once – some thirty years ago, when I borrowed two books and never returned them".  So she visited, and so did we.  Closed until the season starts, but we could certain peer in through the glass door and if I pass that way again, I am definitely going in!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A Little Canadian Adventure! - Part 4

After our overnight stay and visit to Green Gables on PEI, we now take a second turn at driving the Constitution Bridge, pay the toll and come off the Island.  You either pay to go by ferry, or to come off by road and bridge.  I always laugh and say "but they want you to stay!"  Another long drive on the way back, stopping at the town of Windsor which I remember staying over at some years ago..... and as we drive into town, I spot The Clockmaker's House.  A glorious old Victorian house with many original features.  Great breakfasts too!

We ate out in town that night at The Spitfire, a British style pub covered in  beer adverts and other propaganda, a real Spitfire propeller mounted on the wall, and great scallops (which cannot be beaten in my opinion - although Colette does not agree!!).  Great service for breakfast at the Clockmaker's House, pancakes came with not only bacon and maple syrup, but a dish of fruit to add or not as you liked.  Good tea and coffee, and the larger breakfasts were cooked on a "build it yourself" style by choosing what you wanted from a long list the night before.

On leaving Windsor we headed south and took in a coffee shop in the Grand Pre area and a few steps up the road was The Tangled Garden, a treat for the eyes and a rest for the soul.  Here's the website with pictures to show how the flowering changes throughout the year, and below are some of my own with things I liked on my visit. 

Left, the shop window with lovely stuff for sale.

Right, forget-me-nots just rambling amongst the grass and under the trees.

ferns unfurling........

... a tripod awaiting a climber

and a crane in full flight!

Tulips were everywhere.... I particularly liked these black ones with a jagged edge to their petals.
 And look at these raised beds?  I have never seen this done before although I'm sure that it isn't new.  The edges are woven from twigs cut from hedges and trees - how recyclable is that?!!  In the UK you can buy these in bunches, I always refer to them as "peasticks", and old fashioned gardeners use them to guide the pea plants upwards.  In the bottom bed you can see huge iron nails which the twigs have been woven around (see the nailheads?).  I am seriously thinking about some of these kind of raised beds in my own garden.  After all, I have plenty of space.   And finally in the Tangled Garden we came across the lovely lady below.  Identified it as a Fern Peony.  Only about foot high, but it was easy to spot it was from the family - the ferny greenery tricked me though!  But that's what it is.  Or officially, a Paeonia tenuifolia. And, bummer,  it requires moist, well drained soil!  I have a hot, open garden at the top of a hill.  Protected from wind by high hedges and good planting, but moist it ain't.    Will I just try one?  Very probably.

Finally that day, a stop for lunch and a quick mooch around Annapolis Royal  which is another town that I categorise as "small and lovely" Anywhere that has a bookshop, places for lunch and a view fits into the category. Annapolis has a couple of nice gift shops too - but our luggage is very small. Historically interesting, it's a place to put on the route you are planning.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

A Little Canadian Adventure! - PART 3

Fiddle heads.  Mmm?  What?  Every so often, in a North American novel, I see mention of fiddle heads.  People eat them.  So over the years with a little research I have found that that they are the uncurled heads (a plant in bud so to speak) of the Ostrich fern.  Imagine my surprise and delight when on the way to Yarmouth we stopped at a farm store - a huge shopping area full of fresh foods, and

there, in a basket, were fiddle heads, fresh and ready to cook.  Well, you have to, don't you?  A few of those with our supper later, I think.  Especially as my friend Colette, a Canadian citizen and dweller in the Maritimes for umpteen years, had never tried them and neither had I! Hard to describe the taste, but not like asparagus even though I have seen them described that way. High in several vitamins, but low in everything else, and I guess, when I think about it, they appear in spring when, before the days of freezers and food flown round the world, they were the early fresh greens that everyone craved.  They arrived just in time, like a dose of sunshine!  Glad I found them and glad I liked them.

We had a few lovely days of nothing much catching up on news from home, books we were reading, vegetable patches we have dug, cars we have driven, news of friends;  in fact the same old same old that friends catch up on everywhere.  The view above is from the back  deck overlooking the said veg. patch and on down to the river.  Canada geese and their new babies nesting down there too!

Clinton Hills CottageAnd then, after the Royal wedding (see Part 2 of our Little Canadian Adventure) we set off for a marathon drive to Prince Edward Island.  You really cannot do this drive in a oner, whoever you are, so we stopped at a Comfort Inn in Truro for the night, and then set off for The Bridge.  Forget Scandi thrillers.  This is a long, long bridge 8 miles (12.9 kilometres) and Mr Mac has driven this before.... so why not do it again?  Yay!  Once on PEI we get a Tim Horton's coffee and doughnut (now officially addicted to this little ceremony :o), and set off for our overnight home at the top of the island.  Bless AirBnB.  The gems we have found!!

views from the back of the house, the first two in the early evening....

and this one a little later - what a glorious spot!

There is a whole area called Cavendish  (Avonlea)..... a large area dedicated to holidays/vacations, so cabins everywhere.  When we were there the season had not yet started, but it must be buzzing when school is out for the summer!   But of course, we were not there for that.  We were there for one reason, and one reason only - Green Gables!!!!

How lovely to be able to walk through the house that inspired L M Montgomery to write "Anne of Green Gables".  The house itself was actually owned by cousins of her grandfather, and as a child she spent time there.  Of course, holiday makers, money, and tourism in general will change things, but despite what I consider to be some truly silly remarks on Trip Advisor (and the low scores that some folk gave),  I found the house quite magical.  Remind yourself that the book is fiction, and you should still be enchanted - even though the 21st century encroaches.  Here's a New York Times journalist who found Anne's world without too much trouble at all. 
Green Gables front door
.... and the back.

Spare room for guests should they come....

...complete with lidded pot under the bed.

Marilla's bedroom.....

.... and Matthew's,

and of course, Anne's.

Coming back to the house from "Lover's Lane"

One of  many silver birches around "Green Gables.
Montgomery's typewriter

Such a treat to have visited.  So glad it was not "in the season" either, or we'd have been surrounded by other visitors.  Not that I'm selfish, but it was nice to have space and time.  A youngish visitor, a male, asked one of the staff what the bowl and jugs in the bedrooms were for.  She explained that they were for your daily wash;  to which he replied "no showers?"(!).  No, and no indoor plumbing either lad!  Ah, those were the days!!

Finally, here are two tourists, wondering where the "Lake of Shining Waters" could be.  To bring you back down to earth, it's just at the beginning of the golf course!!

Friday, 1 June 2018

Mrs Mac suggests..... What to read in JUNE

I was out of the country for two weeks, and came back to a garden just bursting at the seams!  And lots of roses, which is nice because I only grow the old fashioned kind for the smell. D'you remember  the floribunda affair?  In the UK through the 1960s, 70s, 80s there was a proliferation of floribunda planted everywhere Lovely, and as the name suggests, each bush full of flowers.

But still.  Although very sturdy in growth and bright in colour, where was the smell?  Not saying there was no smell, but if you have ever smelt Nuit de Young you will understand why I crave the smell of an old fashioned rose.  As you can see, it's not a looker.  It also is not a repeater, so one early show and it's done.  But its smell is intoxicating.  It is just worth it.  So worth it.

Image result for nuit de young rose

Moving swiftly on now, my lovely readers, it's the approach of the summer in the UK.  I just didn't know what to suggest until I caught the title of something I had enjoyed very much a while back.  So shall we go for

a good dystopian novel?

 Don't be afraid if you have never read one, this one is a peach!  See if you can find

Station 11 -Hilary St John Mantel

A Little Canadian Adventure! Part 2

If any reader was looking for a new kind of holiday experience - perhaps when you read this you will think about the Eastern seaboard of Canada.  I don't personally know anyone except close family of our own friends in Nova Scotia who have been there, and it's lovely!  Enough of the selling - let's move on to our own travels.

 Eating and drinking are all part of the joys of holidays, so overlook that bottle of wine on the little island there!  Breakfast is never heavy, so if we're out we are looking for a nice lunch.  Mahone Bay has a lot of eateries for a small town, and we were tempted by the name of a fish restaurant which goes by the fun name of OH MY COD!

We also took a ride along to the town of Lunenburg, where we found another treasure.  The most lovely bookshop where every book has been read by one of the owners and has a short paragraph on a slip of paper inside telling you what they thought!  Couldn't get enough of it and wished it was in my town!  Managed to only buy four books but then we travel light these days and that was three more than I should have.  Click here for their website   And of course, look out for their lovely bright board on the street outside.  You can't see them, but just behind the board and outside the shop door are two bright blue Adirondak chairs where you can sit and examine your "just boughts"!

 Now it's a quick pack and a cheery wave and we are out the back porch and on our way to Yarmouth for a few quieter days at 1020.  We wave at the little house as we drive on.  Lovely.

We love Frenchies, but if you don't come from that part of the world you won't know what I mean. It is an entirely Nova Scotian shopping experience.... a cross between a designer outlet and a jumble sale - No! Really!  You will spot the sign in the oddest of places, always a big separate unit.

Stop that Car!

Go inside!

 (Take 10$ Canadian and a spare hour).

Clothes are hanging up, Clothes are bundled up into big flat sided table top units, around 8ft x 5ft (ish). You need to dig around in the units, and look at every piece of clothing (and other stuff too, because my friend has loads of Ralph Lauren bedding!)  If you like a scramble, this is a fun occupation for a while.  And you just might get some serious bargains.  The last time we visited Mr Mac acquired a navy cotton drill Armani jacket (no, seriously); and this year a Ralph Lauren sports shirt, a long sleeved Fruits of the Loom Tshirt and a short sleeved ditto.  All new, and less than 10$ Canadian for all three.  Brilliant when that happens!

And then, on 19 May, like a lot of  others, we watched Mr and Mrs Harry Windsor's wedding!  Up early as in Nova Scotia the Wedding was scheduled to start at 8.00 am and we had a short drive up the coast to the venue.  We left the boys to do "boys' stuff", and sat down for some serious Royal watching.  8 or 9 women, some seriously dressed up for the occasion, some not so serious - Colette and I had a red sash each and the "Order of the Fish Plant" on display, the rest with a few fascinators, or paper crowns, but all truly keen to see the wedding.
Image result for harry and meghan wedding pics Enough food for around 25, and a lemony cake "just like theirs!" says our host.   Champagne available, coffee on tap, and a jolly good time had by all, so thank you Shelagh.

We don't lay on beaches and get tanned, but we sure do enjoy our holiday adventures!

Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

I was attracted to this novel purely by the cover (as I suppose this is meant to happen!) and it has very little about the contents on the b...