Sunday, March 29, 2009

I'm Dreaming Of A White Easter.

It's me again . . . it's snowing again. Thought we'd seen the last of it a couple of weeks back - even the gophers were up and frolicking. But hey, this is Alberta . . . give it 5 minutes. Last night was all calm . . . this morning we had 2 feet of snow. All very pretty, but enough already!

Other than doing a very impressive Christmas card impression, all is calm on the Western front. The good ship Bert remains in dock . . . alas, no blogging. Pouting ? Probably. (The banter of the Tranmere Rovers chatroom was his vision for this blog. But no. Slapped wrists all round!) He was in court recently after being tracked down and fined for having an out-of-date driving licence (!) but has payed his $180 fine and is no longer public enemy number 1. Maybe you'll hear from him if he has a burst of enthusiasm in the spring - which we'll be eagerly anticipating around June.

The kids are well. It's report card time. Jack needs to work on self-control and paying attention (I know - Jack!!!! - popping out of his shell a bit too exuberantly, perhaps?) Hannah is 'vivacious' but evidently has more self-control than Jack . . . who knew? They have both been offered places at Pensby - hooray!

El is recovering from a major dose of 'strep throat', is volunteering at an animal sanctuary, and has displayed some entrepreneurial flair by setting up a dog walking business - $5 per hour. She roped in Hannah, Jack and our neighbour Alannah and has about 10 clients!
Katie is in high demand for babysitting, has bought herself a laptop and tickets for The Killers, and her bank book is groaning under the strain of frequent deposits. She objects - strongly - to Hannah trying to kiss her (prompting, obviously, more displays of sisterly affection from H) and so we can conclude that she is a perfectly normal teenager. Tomorrow she is attempting to buy tickets to the Leeds festival. She has her father's taste in music.

Not much happening on the entertainment front, school ski trips and curling aside. We were tempted by the ice-fishing championship but it was minus 35. We were sad to have missed the antler measuring event, but lacked the necessary spoils of hunting. Jack had a bit of excitement when he saw a wolf on the golf course . . . bless, we thought, such a vivid imagination. Our little expert on all things animal was not to be swayed and sought out local opinion . . . which was that, yes, wolves had been spotted in High River and, yes, his description did match that of a wolf! Gulp!

On that note, I'm off to check on the well-being of my children . . . the snow fort they are building is no match for a big, bad wolf!

Sending love and hugs and hoping the Easter Bunny remembers you,
Nicki and the tribe xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside!!!

Happy New Year!!!

Just dropping by to wish all our lovely friends and relations all the joys of the season . . . and trusting your wallets are not too diminished, or your waistbands too expanded, by the excesses of last week!

I did try to send some Christmas cheer before the big event, but the computer refused to let even a thought leave the warmth of our house, lest it freeze to death in the minus 35 (plus wind-chill) temperatures and waist deep snow drifts. Cold does not even begin to cover it. As we speak Bert is sporting his trapper hat and thermals in a valiant attempt to clear the drive (yet again) - adding to the 3ft piles we already have at the sides - before the next dump of snow, which is on its way.

Driving has become an extreme sport . . . 400 accidents in one day in Calgary before Christmas, almost added to by me when my brakes froze on a downhill approach to a red light!! Scary, scary stuff.
Dylan is loving the white stuff . . .frozen paws aside . . .

On a more positive note the sky is blue, the kids are out skating on the lake (fantastic view of them from the house), the mountains are stunning and life in a snow-globe is very, very pretty!!

We'll be raising a glass to you all tonight, and hoping that the New Year will bring you peace, health and happiness . . . lots of laughter, and small credit card bills :)

All our love and every warm wish from the land of ice and snow.

Nicki, Bert and the tribe xxxxxx

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hey Ho, Let's Snow

Howdy, its Katie :)

A blizzard has just descended on High River and I'm just back in from shovelling the drive ... the very icy drive. I fell flat on my face - i hope no one was watching :)
Mum and me put the christmas lights up around the garage today . . . after failing to figure out the big ladder, getting extremely annoyed by the plastic clips, lots of swearing and 2 smashed bulbs, the snow started and we realised we should have done it a couple of weeks ago!!

We are getting our christmas tree tomorrow . . . it's going to snow all night & the temperature is going to go down to -30 (yippee), but we'll have brave it - true Christmas spirit!
I came back to Canada a couple of months ago after spending 9 weeks in England. I started at sixth form college and really liked it but missed everyone here :( so i came back :)
I'm going back to college in September to study Childcare and Education.

Eleanor and I have been asked to help out at our next door neighbours (Liz and Terry) daughter's wedding in February. It is in Banff. We'll mainly be looking after everyones kids at the reception (and being paid for it) :D. Liz is booking us a hotel room. I love Banff so it's something to look forward to.
Merry Christmas in 13 sleeps :) - I have been counting down the days since the end of November!
Lots of Love - Katie x

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Jolly Hockey Sticks

Thanksgiving is behind us and, be assured, we did take a moment (between roast potatoes) to have an in-depth 'reasons to be thankful' discussion around the dinner table . . . Hannah is thankful for Halloween, her birthday and Christmas (not quite in the spirit of things, but honest!) and Katie for her laptop, ipod and bed (obviously a normal, well-adjusted teen).

At least I have a more altruistic son who is thankful for homes and food (as long as it doesn't involve any kind of meat or veg). El's were probably equally worthy but I was side-tracked by her announcement that the dog gets really scared when you creep downstairs wearing a snorkle mask . . . like that's a normal thing to do!!! Must be the high altitude.

Ahead of us is Halloween - some porches are already groaning under the strain of ghosts, ghouls and pumpkins - and the hockey season. Hannah has started playing so protective gear had to be bought - heaven forbid she should leave an inch of body exposed to the risk of laceration! She now has enough padding to survive a major earthquake and has to trundle her 'kit' around in an enormous wheely bag.

Anyway, over to Bert - finally!!! . . . . . .

Nothing really major to report since last time, life is just so normal out here now.

Florida was good, although the elusive Col remains at large. I did hook into him, but he snapped my line and rod. I can't see us going back there again as it's far too hectic, so unfortunately he's the winner. How people can go there every year is beyond me ..... holidays are meant to be restful aren't they? The new waterpark (Aquatica) was a joke! They shut the car park at 9.30am daily as it was already full. If you were lucky enough to get in you were treated to 1 hr queues for each slide. We got wise to it and went down at 7.00pm the next few times and slid for England without queuing. Far more sensible.

You'll all be pleased to know that Nicki has discovered Facebook and is now stalking people on the internet! If you're on there she'll no doubt track you down! Be warned.
She's quite proud that she now has 9 friends ...... however, she fails to mention that 3 of them happen to live in the same house as her!!Hockey season is now in full flow (hurrah), so I spend most evenings watching that. I managed to blag a freebie in one of the corporate boxes for the Flames pre-season game against Florida. Free ticket, free food and free beer is definately the way to watch Hockey. Next time will be a real anti-climax when I have to pay to mix with the riff-raff.

Go Flames Go. Did anyone else notice our complete lack of urgency in the footage of Cathy rafting/drowning? I'm telling Hannah to 'get out the way' while Nicki sails off into the sunset. That's friends for you! It was funny though.

The drumming's going well! Hannah has been telling us for weeks that she is good, but we took that with a pinch of salt. We finally had chance to see it for ourselves when they had their first concert/caterwaul at the school (first instruments/first month of lessons . . . gulp!)

Early on Mr Froese announced to the audience that later we'd be treated to a 'special guest' - Hannah on drums. Uh Oh!

When she finally got there we were stunned; she was awesome!

We filmed a bit (link below) - not sure who was strangling the cat in the background.

Music purists look away now:

We're looking forward to the Christmas concert!

I'll write up my Toronto jaunt next week.
Love to all
Bert xx

P.S - Good luck to Kev Sampson with the first showing of his film in London today.
Link: Look out for Neil in clip 3.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Back In The Saddle!

Hiya All!

Thought I'd better drop by to reassure those of you who have expressed concern that, no, we have not been eaten by a bear . . . or buried under a snow-drift . . . or run off to join the rodeo circuit.

We are still alive and kicking, way out West, plodding on with life. Things seem much more 'normal' now that we are doing them second time around, so there is less of an urgent need to commit them to print.

We had a fantastic summer. Went to Florida, which was all you would expect Florida to be (hot,wet,busy). Kids had a ball, Katie shopped till she dropped, Bert fished for the elusive Colin (maybe next time?) and I dragged everyone to the beach for my own little bit of paradise. The ocean. Fab.

Cathy came over for 3 weeks and did all the touristy stuff - climbed mountains, admired lakes, went to the 'Pow-Wow', found out the life histories of all our neighbours, was attacked by an enormous gopher (well, it approached her . . . she ran off screaming) and had a near fatal plunge off her 'tube' and into the river (she could appreciate the hilarity once she saw the video). A perfect, easy, helpful, entertaining guest . . . we were sad to see her go!

Cathy's acrobatics on a tube can be seen here:

Then back to the grind - work, school, all the boring stuff.

Ellie started at Highwood, Jack and Hannah at the middle school - where instruments had to be chosen. Both came home with Clarinets, but Hannah somehow managed to wangle the added bonus of . . . Drums!!! What joy. Jack made the cross country team, and Hannah made the volleyball team. Hockey will be back in full swing shortly! No ice as yet thought . . . the rapid hurtling toward 'fall' suddenly stopped and we have bright blue skies and 20+ degrees all week. That should confuse the gaggle of geese congregating on the lake!

The house is on the market - the market is as dead as a dodo. Credit is very definitely crunching over here, too. So no firm return dates as yet.

Katie went back in July and had the sort of summer all 16 year olds should enjoy - shopping, horses, beaches, sleepovers, parties, movies - sixth form place gained and deferred - and now back, safe and snuggled in the basement and hooked up to her life-line (her laptop). Bless.
Bert jetted off to Toronto this morning, and is probably at the top of the CN tower as we speak. Another business trip . . . or so he claims.

Well, that just about brings us up to date. Hope all is well in dear old blighty.

Have a great day, y'all !!!
Love and hugs from Cowboy Country xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Woodsies Bear All In Canada

Well we're back from what can only be explained as a truly wonderful experience. Bert and Nicki and the kids made the four of us feel really welcome, and yes it's a bit clich├ęd but we really didn't want to come home! We loved ever minute of our time with them and they let their home be ours as well THANK YOU so much.

Right that's the soppy bit out of the way, now what did the Woods family think of the Canadians and their country? Well there is really only one word to describe the area we stayed around and that's .. cowboys! The place is full of them. On the first weekend we were there the Thompson's thought it would a good laugh to go to "The Little Britches Rodeo" (drop the 'r' and you could be in trouble!!!) Seemed like a good idea to us ... right up to the point when it started that is! Imagine the scene ... there is tension in the air as the (now get this everyone) kids get ready for their big ride, the crowd is ready, the clowns are ready ... the gate opens, out charges the bull with kid holding on for dear life, the kid falls off, the bull stamps on kid, kid placed onto back-board, neck brace put onto kid, kid put into ambulance and off to hospital ... now repeat that for the second kid and you'll understand why Karen and I had our mouths open with astonishment!!! They start their kids doing this from 3!!! Cowboys eh? Mad as hatters. Thankfully the rest of the kids only got bruises and maybe a broken arm or such. That was on the Sunday, but on the Saturday, High River (the town the Thompson's live in) had their annual parade. Full of cowboys and farm vehicles (we think that was the first inkling we had of the locals!) but that was a really good parade and seemed to go on for ages.

What else did we all do? Well we went to Heritage park in Calgary which is a park which has loads of really old buildings in and they have preserved these for future generations. It was a real good day out especially the fantastic buildings. I did find it amusing however that the workers were so proud that some of the buildings were "over one hundred years old", they should come to the uk ... the poor old dear in the "1912 post office" nearly died when I told her that our relatively new house (1902) was older than most of the buildings in the park!!! Still the park was fantastic though, and well worth going to.

MARV'S what can I say about this character apart from he's a gem! He owns a 50's Soda Bar in Black Diamond AB, and even though we were the only four in the place he got his guitar and started singing rock and roll to us, with the 50's setting drinking ice-cream sodas it was magical. Have a look at his shops website for a taste of what he's like.

For us though, there was really only one truly highlight during our time there (sorry Bert it's not Rogers Roadhouse Bar) and that was the three days we spent in the Rockies. We were warned by Nicki that if we saw "a" bear we were not allowed back to theirs, so we played it safe and saw 7!!! The first was a magnificent Grizzly digging for roots by the roadside. The other six were Black Bears, all were beautiful creatures. We really gloated to Nicki about them as in 18months she has yet to see one and we saw 7 in our first three days in the Rockies!
The only thing that out did seeing the bears was (for me anyway) the mountains! They are majestic. The Canadians are justifiably right to be proud of them. Highway 93 through the Rockies from Banff to Jasper is without doubt the most stunning road we have ever travelled on. The wildlife along the road is amazing from bears, elks, goats, deer to buzzards and eagles soaring above. All in the shadow of some of the most amazing scenery to see.

We took the kids onto the Athebasca Glacier which is only 1200ft thick, and wow that was fantastic! Although we think it was helped by the fact there was only about 30 of us there (unlike the middle of the summer when they have hundreds on it!) The water that flowed of it was crystal clear and tasted really, really ice cold! A stunning experience for us and the boys. Talking of the boys, Karen and I thought they might like white-water rafting so we booked the four of us to go ... NOT the quiet stroll down the river we had seen the previous night from our log cabin with one guy with oars standing in the middle of the raft, and the oldies all sitting around the side in red ponchos "oohing" and "ahhing". Nope we had booked "the other" company. Proper white-water rafting!!! Wetsuits, oars and raft - then off you go!!! Have a look at the photos to see what I mean. Gary and Nathan even jumped into the ice cold melt water to swim bloody freezing!!! Well the Rockies were stunning and we could ramble on about them for ages but there is other stuff to talk about. Do you think we liked the Rockies??? If you ever go past a place called VULCAN in AB Canada stop there!!! It has the 'worst' museum we have ever been in, but by virtue it makes it the best. Its all based around STARTREK and has loads of tat about StarTrek (I suppose it would help if you were a trekkie), and the most enthusiastic museum curator you could possibly meet! Boy was she enthusiastic!!! She "loved" Vulcan and to her it was the centre of the universe!!! The museum also had the tackiest StarTrek video game I have ever played, Karen and I had tears in our eyes from playing it! Even out side you couldn't escape it, as you arrived in Vulcan there was a "Welcome to Vulcan - Live Long and Prosper" sign by the roadside which had the characters painted on it - but get this, you had a little flap so you could put your face in it and be one of the crew. IT'S A ROAD SIGN FOR GOODNESS SAKE!!! Talk about milking your town name, it had StarTrek named shops, murals on sides of buildings of crew members and yes it also had a model of the USS Enterprise on a plinth as you drove into the "town". Brilliant laugh though even if a bit tacky (we missed the yearly "Spock Days" though phew!). The website shows the inside of the "Museum"

We could go on for ages about the places we went to like "Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump" which is named after a Blackfoot brave who thought he had the best place to watch all these buffalo being stampeded off the cliff face ... no prizes for guessing where he stood to watch! Still it is a superb place which does have history attached to it (in use from about 6000bc to about 150years ago) and was used to kill buffalo for food and hides etc. by the first nations peoples.

Holiday pics can be viewed here:

We had many, many great days doing things like the Calgary Zoo, Sheep River Falls, Waterton Lakes and Park the day at Calaway Park, the totally amazing Dinosaur Museum at Drumheller's in the Canadian Badlands (real cowboy and Indian country) etc. but I guess you'll get fed with me rambling more and more, so all I am going to say on behalf of myself Gary, Karen, Nathan and Elliot - oh yes and Barnaby the Bear, is once again Bert and Nicki and family thank you for giving us the chance to experience a wonderful part of the world with wonderful people, and once again thank you for making our time there so enjoyable and welcoming with

Saturday, June 7, 2008

High River In High River

It's been like Manchester here lately .... rain, rain and more rain, which is mad because it hadn't rained for 7 months before that. The pic above is of the river flowing under the railway bridge in town. In summer people fish from the gravel bank under the bridge ... a good 10 foot under that water! It's done the grass the world of good, but the timing wasn't the best with Karen, Gary and the boys being here. Talk about 'bringing the weather with you' !! They were here for 20 days and had solid rain for 6 of them. Not too bad in the end - it didn't stop them going out and about. They will do a write up of their hol which we'll put on in a few days along with some pics.

The hockey season has just finished (boo!!), just as I was getting into it. It's the business. I can fully understand why the whole of North America is obsessed with it. Saying that I can 100% guarantee that I won't ever feel the same way about their other sports ...... Football(?), Basketball and Baseball just ain't happening. It's just Rugby for lightweights and Netball/Rounders for blokes if you ask me.

I went to an NHL game back in April (Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks), it was great. The atmosphere was spot on even though we were sat in the Gods. Flames eventually won 3-2 after being 2 down after the 1st period. Go, Flames, Go. I particularly liked 'Beer Guy.' He comes round and serves you in your seat; you're allowed to buy 2 pints!! Pity I've got two hands and only one mouth.

We are off to Florida in 3 weeks time (Yee Haa) and have booked a house in the same community as last time. I can't wait to get fishing again on the lake right by the house. Last time we were there I hooked into a real monster who we affectionately refer to as Colin The Catfish; unfortunately I couldn't land him as I didn't have a net. The fight ended when he straightened my hook and got away. I'll be ready for him this time. Big Col be warned, Bert is gonna get yer.

I'm still not smoking!! 6 months now. I desperately want to be one of those reformed smokers that hate it with a passion. . . I'm not. If I see a crowd of people smoking I feel left out and want to be in the midst getting my nicotine hit. Coffee consumption is well up (as is my weight). Extra caffine is the way to go for Fat Boy.
You'll be pleased to know that all Euro 2008 games are on live (with repeats later in the evening) over here. Who needs hockey?

I'll pass over to 'Hop Along Thompson' aka Nicki.

Love to all.
Bert xx

Hiya all - Nicki here - 'hop-along' no more, having finally shed the cast after 6 long weeks of clomping around . . . turns out it was a new fracture, so I take it all back. I didn't stop driving or miss work or anything . . . can't let a little fracture keep you down! Mind you, I couldn't wash the car . . . and you can imagine how heart-broken I was (?) when I couldn't go swimming with the kids, but was forced to sit on the sidelines reading and drinking coffee. Such is life.

Karen and Gary have been fantastic house-guests. Gary was enthusiasm/appreciation personified, talking the socks off several locals and leaving a couple of donkeys lacking hind legs. They raved about Jasper and the spectacular ice-fields . . . especially as the bears did the 'tourist pop-up' thing the locals grumble about - they saw 9 of them!! Lucky or what?. Bert reckons Elliot's camoflage shirt was the secret . . . that, and the fact that they are 'Woods' so the bears probably couldn't see them for the trees (he doesn't get any better, sadly.)
Anyway, thanks a million for the Wii guys, and the weekend away . . . it was great having you to stay . . . missing you already!!!!

Some of us are glad to see the end of the hockey . . . although bull-riding seems to be making a big come-back as Bert's preferred viewing. Good grief.

Two and a half weeks of school left (not that anyone is counting). Eleanor, Jack and Hannah all have leaving parties, and Katie has to attend a ceremony to receive an award for the highest grade in English. . . cue one proud 'Mom'!!

Nothing else to report just now. Hope all is well in dear old Blighty.
Lots and lots of love and hugs to everyone,
Nicki xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spring Break (Ouch!)

Hiya All!

Still alive and well, but getting on for a year and 2 months in so not much new and astounding.
I did manage to sample the delights of High River Casualty, having twisted my ankle whilst tackling the black run (aka school car park). I was on my way to a school trip so couldn't go straight to casualty - not that I needed to rush . . . the poor bloke wrapped in a towel, slumped and quietly bleeding to death, had been waiting 4 hours. After an x-ray I was given the all clear. My Dunkirk spirit was not appreciated by the doc - that degree of swelling would have been avoided by instant elevation of the limb and an ice pack every hour for 24 hours! Or we could just get real and put 4 socks on? I opted for the later. Two days later the doc phoned and asked me to go back . . . it seems the machine in A&E is naff (!) and having looked at the x-rays on his own machine (more pixels, higher resolution) he had seen a crack on my ankle bone. More x-rays and an 'Air-cast' later (only $103 - but definately an excessive bit of kit for a sore ankle) I was sent off with instructions to be x-rayed again in 10 days. By that time I will be radio-active . . . and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was treating the break I had when I was 20. Give me the NHS any day!

Other new developments include Bert being hooked on Hockey . . . must be the imaginative chanting . . . "go, flames, go!" . . . and bull riding (watching, not strapping himself to a hulking great beast and suffering fertility-limiting injuries). Jack and Hannah have dropped the 's' from Maths and added it to 'anyway', but no Canadian accents . . . at least not in the house, where the derision of Katie and Eleanor would have to be endured. The supermarket has become the 'grocery store', everyone is a 'guy' and Hannah's teacher says she tends to 'visit' too often . . . in other words she talks too much, so nothing new there.

Spring is in the air . . . the gophers are out in force, several bald eagles have been spotted, there are calves everywhere, and there is the faintest tinge of green to the grass - which is now buried under the foot of snow that fell last night. Back to shovelling . . . last week it was 23 degrees and shorts!! Looks like there will be plenty of the white stuff in the mountains for your visit, Karen.

Minor soccer starts again next week - Jack and Hannah will be flying the flag for England and we have been listening to "3 Lions On A Shirt" in preparation . . . now there's a chant!!

That's all folks,
Lots and lots of hugs and kisses to all,
Nicki xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bear Essentials

Well we’re still alive, just very, very lazy.

Our week off in Feb was great; we took in skiing, sledging and a day trip to Banff (again). On our way in (you have to pay to go into Banff!!) we were given a local guide. In it was this article on what to do if you encounter a bear (you will need to click on it). Starts off very reassuring saying that bear attacks are very rare and nearly all encounters end without injury. Phew. It goes on to say how you should ‘play dead’ (yeah, right), and how ‘showing submission will probably end the attack!’ Substitute the word ‘probably’ for ‘definitely’ and I might buy in. It was the last paragraph of that section that got me! It says that if the attack lasts for more than 2 minutes you need to fight back! Make your blinkin’ mind up! If I see a bear I’m giving it toes. I won’t be faffing with a stopwatch and playing statues. I’ll be out of there, sharpish.

Well our next guests are booked in. Karen, Gary and kids in May, and Cathy in July. We are all looking forward to seeing them. They’ll be pleased to know that rodeo season will be in full flow by then. Maybe they’ll be able explain the point of it to us.

Whilst we’ve been out here we have carried on doing the UK lottery. So far we’ve had 7 wins! That’s about the same as we’ve had in the previous 12 years. Pity it’s only ever £10.00. We don’t check the numbers, we just get an e-mail saying there’s good news about our ticket. Deep down I know it’s going to be a tenner, but in that minute it takes to log on to find out I’m a millionaire in my head; I’ve bought a house and everything. The residents of Lower Heswall are no doubt pleased.

I'm continuously astounded by what Canadians deem 'offensive.' On TV at 6.00 pm every evening we have Family Guy, Little Britain and numerous programmes with Gordon Ramsey effin and jeffin. Then there's Trailer Park Boys, which is about a load of traveller types who have a colourful lifestyle involving illegal substances, theft and choice language. It's so popular out here that they made it into a film! That's on at 8.00pm. Family viewing? I think not.

It's a visit to the local liquor store that really made an impression though! This wine was on offer; chalkboards, posters the works!! I just had to post it.
I personally find that more offensive than a topless lady, yet you don't see them, ever. Newspapers, magazines and all TV programmes are completely 'breast free.' If they've imported a film, or something that contains nudity, they'll pixellate the 'offensive' bits! Get real. This is coming from a nation that hurls calves to the floor in the name of entertainment!
All the UK lads mags are available here, but all the ladies are suitably covered. Thank goodness. We wouldn't want to corrupt the locals now would we?
Thankfully Canadians don't holiday in European coastal resorts. Imagine the uproar if they did? They'd be lobbying their MP's as soon as they got back to Canada after seeing all those brazen women. If they stick to venturing into the forests and blasting deer with guns we'll all be ok.

You'll all be pleased to know that the weather has been brilliant for the last month with plus temperatures most days. I know Chris has been worried about us. Worry over Robbo, we're like toast.

Anyway that's enough of me waffling for one night. Take care.

Bert xx

The link below is for the benefit of my non believing ex Biology teacher Mr Gaddas. Would I lie to you?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Celebrate Everything

Happy Saturday Y'all!!

We're really getting into the swing of things with the 'reasons to be cheerful' mentality this month. After 'Groundhog Day' came the '100 Days Of School' bash, followed by the Valentines love fest (huge with kids, in a sweety-giving kind of way), Canada Flag Day, El's school 'Random Acts Of Kindness Week' and the 'Family Day' Bank Holiday. Can you feel the love?
The shops are now groaning under the weight of leprechauns and all things green (St.Patrick's Day) with a huge smattering of bunnies and all things egg-shaped. Party, party, party.

The weather has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. Minus 40's are a dim-and-distant memory and we are basking in sunshine and bright blue skies . . . 16 degrees on Wednesday! We were donning shades and peeling off layers at the Olympic Park, watching the kids skiing. How fantastic are kids?? First time on skis but no hanging around on the slight inclines - not when there are big bumpy hills to tackle!! Mind you, stopping was another matter entirely. Watching El careering toward a long line of parents was a sharp-intake-of-breath moment. Could have been side-splitting in more ways than one! Luckily they saw her coming and did a parting-of-the-parent-sea. Katie perfected a hurl-yourself-to the-ground manoeuvre . . . not graceful, but she did stop! After 7 hours they had all got to grips with sudden swerves and were back on the ramp without the detour through the crowds. Phew. They were up for death-defying stunts but we had assumed they'd spend a fair bit of time face-down/skis up, so bought 'first turns' passes. They'll be back next week on the big lifts . . . must remember to check my insurance cover.

Ski Pics Can Be Viewed Here:

Snow is still waist deep in the mountains so we headed to Banff to make the most of it. Down in High River the grass has re-appeared . . . the dead, brown grass of home. Doesn't have the same ring, somehow, hey Tom? Hopefully it will have greened up by the time Karen and Gary arrive in May . . . can't wait to see y'all!

Love and hugs to all until next week - our one year mark !!!
Nicki xxxxxxxxxxxx

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Right Balls Up

Straight up, the pic on the right was on the front page of our freebie paper, the High River Times (HRT to the locals), last week. I was in pleats when I saw it ..... good job they put his name underneath so he could wallow in his 15 minutes of fame! Just imagine the scene when the (paid!) photographer submitted his 'art' for approval. You really couldn't make it up could you? The editor is either a complete dunce or has a unique sense of humour.

The weather lately has been extreme to say the least. I commented to a colleague last Monday that it was the coldest since we've been here ....... his reply was that it hadn't been this cold for about 3 years!!! Every time I send Dylan out to answer the call of nature I have a vision that I'll have to get out there to snap him off the fence post. It's forcast to be around zero for the next 2 days, before plummeting to -20 for the weekend. Oh joy.

Click the link for the local rag write up:

I'm really in to Professional Bull Riding at the minute; it's on telly loads over here. It's great. Locals from cowie backgrounds long for their sons to be professionals when they grow up. One little boy in Nicki's class is called Layne because his dad wants it to sound right when he's on the circuit! Jack's thankful that I'm not of the same mindset. Imagine your first day at high school if you were called Pele Thompson?
Clip here:

I'm still off the weed (70 days now!!). I don't think I've changed that much but Katie and Eleanor bought me a Grumpy t shirt for Christmas. Maybe there's a (not so) hidden message in there somewhere?

The kids and Nicki are off school the week after next so I've taken a weeks holiday too. We plan on getting out and about to enjoy the snow and fresh air. Trips to Banff, Lake Louise and Calgary Olympic Ski Park are all pencilled in. It's 20 years since the Winter Olympics were here so they're having a nostalgic bash with guest appearances from stars of the event, including Eddie The Eagle! Got to be having some of that. Eddie, Eddie, Eddie. We also plan on going to a Calgary Hitmen hockey game as well. Busy, busy.

Anyway gotta go, butties to do, bath to have etc. We'll both do some more at the weekend.

It's good to see comments coming through as well.
Robbo, Robbo, Robbo.

See Y'all.
Bert xxx

Sunday, February 3, 2008

As Cold As Cold Can Be

Hi folks, this is your weather girl, and have I got news for you?? No, it's not raining men . . . it's -49 !!! Well -37, but with a severe wind-chill factor making it officially feel like
-49. And boy, it certainly did. As soon as you got out of the car the lining of your nose froze, and frost-bite would set in after 6 mins skin exposure. Schools declared a 'snow day' and the buses were off Tuesday so I did the sensible thing - waved Bert off while refusing to set foot out of my toasty house. He made sure his car was plugged in to a 'hook-up' at work (outdoor sockets - keep your oil warm). One of Adele's friends left her car at the airport and returned to find the battery frozen solid. We're up to a mild -11 today with a forecast of zero by the end of the week . . . we can barely contain our excitement.

We ventured out to Laser-Tag today - another first for me and Bert. We didn't get to grips with it for the first game . . . happily zapping a couple of kids, who gave us one of those "Oh P-leeease" looks before pointing out (sigh/exaggerated patience) "We're all on the green team". Ooops. Game 2 brought out the terminator in Bert and he got the top score. I mainly hid - accompanied by an unknown but nervous 5 year old, and given that I don't do suspense (I turned 'Die Hard' off after 4 mins - couldn't cope) I did remarkably well and only screamed once.

Over to Bert, who has a list to work through now that he's regained his mojo. Thanks Robbo:)

Snuggly cuddles to all,

Nicki xxxxx

PS : Katie would like it to be known that she has turned into an ice-cube.

Bert here: I did intend to post but we've been riveted to the TV watching the Super Bowl. We didn't have a blinking clue as to what was going on, but it was real edge of the seat stuff. Well done NYG.

I'll post again soon ...... bet you can't wait?

Brrrrt (it's a bit parky) xx

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hoar Frost

How gorgeous is this? It looks like snow but it's a 'Hoar Frost' (Bert was desperate to write the title for this one . . . I've banned him to spare the blushes of our more genteel readers). So pretty . . . and no shovelling! We had a chinook last night so it all thawed . . . now we're bracing ourselves for the -25 on Wednesday. Not that we'll be adopting the local habit of leaving the car running while we go into a shop . . . at the 'liquor store' on a Friday there can be 4 mega trucks outside, all left running and with keys in the ignition! Wonder how long they'd last in Birkenhead???

More Pics Here:

I've added another 'first' to my list . . . a pedicure! (huge thanks to Adele, employer of the year). What a treat. Soaking our feet and vibrating (very interesting chairs!) while reading about Britney. Bliss. We looked a picture walking out in our luminous yellow disposible flip-flops. In the snow. Clashed nicely with Adeles shocking pink toe nails. At least I was parked at the door - Adele had to skid round the car park in hers!!

Bert wants to add ice-fishing to his list. He likes the 2 foot rod. What does that say about him???

We're off out for a walk with the dog. He struggled last week - too cold for his little pads. He was like a lizard, lifting one foot up and trying to hold it in the air. We've been given some boots for him, which is even more hilarious. . . he can't walk at all!! He did the chameleon thing, then finally settled for leaping backwards . . . me and Katie were on the floor laughing. Funniest thing I've seen since Bert's turkish shave.

Bye for now all you damp little poms!

Love and hugs,
Nicki xxxx

Monday, January 21, 2008

House Ploughed

Hi y'all ,

Well we've had more snow on Friday, then a bit more on Saturday and then a grand finale on Sunday. Great. As soon as it stopped Nicki was out there with her shovel; I think she's found her destiny in life. She loves it.

We did attempt to take the kids sledging, but being -19 degrees soon put paid to that! Having frozen nostrils isn't much fun I can assure you. It's not like snow as we know it either, it's very powdery. Snowballs and snowmen are just not happening. Shame.

The pic below is of Dana's rink taken from our deck. What a difference a week makes!

I've been meaning to write for ages but have struggled for enthusiasm due to lack of comments left by readers. I feel like a real lonely saddo telling the world about my life and then getting no feedback (well apart from Julie and Vic). My vision for the blog was for everyone to comment, chat and have a laugh. It hasn't happened. Until now. Big Robbo has inspired me.

'Inspiration' by Christian Roberts. Sounds like an expensive perfume don't you think?

Manila was interesting to say the least. There were 3 typhoons off shore all week, hitting land every now and then causing numerous deaths! Thankfully not Manila. I had a paper left outside my hotel door and every morning I read horror stories about people getting drowned, crushed to death, etc. On the Sunday we went on a boat trip across a lake to a volcano. On the Tuesday 30 of these boats were blown over and a massive rescue operation was needed. Three people died. We just left our hotel every day and just got on with things as if nothing was going on. Surreal.

The drive to the office was a 45 minute white-knuckle ride! I loved it. It really is 'every man for himself' on the roads. There is no way on this earth that I'd attempt to drive in Manila.

Some of the sights were shocking. People live in tin shacks and do just about anything to earn a (very poor) living. I was interviewing people who were paid the equivalent of $1.00 an hour! The jobs we were offering in Canada pay $16.45 an hour. The smiles on the faces of the successful candidates will stay with me forever. It all felt very worthwhile and being able to make such a huge difference to peoples lives really does give you satisfaction. If only every day at work was so rewarding.

I was quite adventurous on the food front with eel, squid, octopus and sushi all venturing down my alimentary canal (that stone I lost in summer returned quickly once I moved to an office). I backed out when it came to Balut though. Basically it's a fertilized hen egg that's boiled once the chicks developed! Lovely. There's a pic of one of my colleagues having a go in the photo album below. That's Canadians for you!

Click Link for Manila Pics:

The day we left there was an attempted coup by ex military personnel who'd escaped from custody; they got free on the way to court to face charges arising for a previous coup attempt. The army soon put paid to that by driving a tank into a hotel lobby and then storming the building to arrest the rather stupid individuals who had the misguided vision of overthrowing the government. There was a curfew and general mayhem in the city that night. Bonkers. Quite a lucky escape.

I also smoked my last cigarette at Manila airport 53 days ago! I'm driving Nicki up the wall.

Meanwhile, driving me up the wall is the way Canadians abreviate everything.

We watch some cookery programme where the girl is forever using EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), the football I watch is the EPL (English Premier League) or the BPL (Barclays Premier League) and Breakfast television is BT. They do it to just about everything. In work I deal with PNP, SRM, the CFIA and loads more that I won't bore you with. I attended a career fair at RDC (Red Deer College) last week and had a table next to the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). I've got another to go to in February at the U of C. It's got to the stage now that every time I see it I think OMG. It really winds me up.

Rant over.

Bert xx

Found this on someone else's blog. Not for the faint hearted:
Balut is actually a duck egg. Wouldn't have made a difference. No chance!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Deer Stalkers!

Happy New Year!!!!

Hope 2008 finds you all happy and healthy . . . no doubt shattered and skint is another way of looking at it. Ah well, another 357 days to save up before next time :)

We had a great time - numerous get-togethers and plenty of Christmas cheer. The turkey was wrestled into the oven on Christmas Eve where it nestled happily for 8 hours - leaking like mad out of the too-small tin, and forcing me to clean the oven on Christmas morning. Ho ho ho.
The paper-ripping frenzy had all its usual gusto, everyone got what they wanted (and much more), the kids bought beautiful gifts for each other (how proud was I?) and Bert looks the business in his hat with ear-flaps. Bless. Jack's 'Eyeclops' was a big hit - it plugs into the TV and magnifies things 200 times, so we are now far more intimate with the inside of Dylan's ears. Quite an education, I can tell you.

We spent New Years Eve at Kim's, but didn't venture out for the compulsory rendition of Auld Lang Syne . . . a few glasses of wine being no contest for the -20 temperature. We had to make do with a quick link-up around the coffee table.

New Years Day was sunny and bright. The river has frozen over so we can walk across it to the other side of town. We went on a 3 hour trek and saw a couple of deer (click on pic above) - but luckily no cougars. I thought I saw big cat prints in the snow last time we walked in the woods and had to brandish the kids ice-skates in a menacing manner - before deciding it was my overactive imagination . . . then we were at a friend's one night over the holiday and she told me there had been a cougar in the yard!!! Not sure I buy into the "they're more scared of you" theory, either. I reckon a big stick is the way to go.

Jack and Hannah have had ice-hockey sticks and are out on the pond all the time. They love it, are naturals, and we can watch them from the house - perfect! Our neighbour Dana has spent hours and hours building a rink even closer to the house, which is much smoother and a huge hit with all the kids. What a hero!! Someone complained and phoned the police, who inspected it and declared it a good idea, so common sense prevailed - which proves the old adage that there is always one . . . even in Canada.

Hannah has gone snowboarding with her friend today. All the snow in town has gone, but there's plenty on the hills - there were a few avalanches near Banff last week. It hasn't rained for months, but there is definately more snow to come. I'll be ready with my shovel!!

Huge thanks to everyone who replied to the e-card - it's nice to know I'm not talking to myself (not that there's anything wrong with talking to yourself. . . is there?) and that all you lovely people are still out there!

Love, hugs and 2008 best wishes, until next time,

Nicki and the gang xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Some recent pics at link below:

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Silent Fright

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!
We're just about ready for the arrival of the big man in red. Shame he couldn't get here a bit sooner and tackle Walmart for me!

I survived my school Nativity - just. A joy for the parents of the eleven adorable 3 and 4 year olds . . . less of a delight for their poor frazzled teacher. Number One Wise Man got stage fright before he even got his cloak on . . . cue howls and sobs, complete refusal to move his hands off his tightly shut eyes, and zero chance of him saying his words. Mary and Joseph were rooted to the spot and had to be rescued, brought to the inn-keeper, and then escorted to the stable when the Inn-Keeper demanded (loudly) "You come with me!". The Wise Men had to be herded to baby Jesus - the lead man being unable to see through his clenched fists - and Wise Man 2 could not see the wisdom in quietly allowing the Myrhh to be put down before his Frankincense. So a huge success, rapturous applause, and my blood pressure has just about dropped back to normal. Phew.

Hannah and Jack had their show. I wasn't holding my breath after seeing the shambles of an assembly offering . . . not at all what we have come to expect after the fabulous shows at Thingwall Primary!!! But each class did a couple of lovely songs - no class teacher involvement, the specialist music teacher does the whole thing. Grade 4 did the signing version of Silent Night - wearing black clothes and white gloves, lights out and a UV light to highlight their hands. Brilliant.

Trish took me to the Hutterite Colony to get the turkey. I was expecting an Amish type community - old Prairie houses, pony and trap, that kind of thing. But no! This was more Colditz than cute. Bleak doesn't do it justice . . . and when we got to the "Do Not Pass This Point" sign, we half expected a sherman tank to round the corner! A happy looking chap (?) in a mad hat finally directed us to the turkeys . . . over by the barrack housing and washing lines full of long frocks and headscarfs . . . and we settled for the smallest birds they could find. If you can call 26.5lb small. At least we didn't have to chase it round with a cleaver or get down to any plucking. . . and just as well we have a mega American oven!!

We've got enough food to feed the 13 coming to lunch . . . and several passers-by. No ready made stuffing from M&S this year, and not a frozen Yorkshire Pud in sight! So it will be a wholesome, entirely home-made feast. Does anyone know Delias number???

Well, I'm off to switch on my multitude of lights. It will be strange not seeing everyone over Christmas, and we will certainly miss you all. Happily our many Brit friends have a strong dose of the Dunkirk spirit - so we certainly won't be alone!! Many gatherings and copious amounts of food and drink will feature in the festivities, and we'll all be merry and bright!

Wishing you all a joyful Christmas and a sparkling New Year,

With lots and lots of Canadian Jingle Bell love,

Nicki, Bert, Katie, Eleanor, Hannah and Jack xxxxxx

Friday, December 7, 2007

No Place For A Brass Monkey

Hiya All!

Here we are again . . . walking in a winter wonderland!!! Slipping and sliding in a winter wonderland, actually. As pretty as the snow is to look at, I have progressed rapidly from " It's snowing !!!" (gleeful voice, genuine pleasure) to "it's snowing" (disgruntled voice, genuine exasperation). Of course the kids love it . . . bundled up in ski pants and coats, snow boots and mitts, off sledging and making snow angels - fab. Whereas driving on an ice rink and spending 40 minutes clearing the drive (thawing out just as the next 4 inches starts to fall!) is not great. I think I'll abandon that and go sledging. Oh, to be 10 again!

And HOW cold???? -30 last week, with the wind-chill factor!!!! So it was a joy to hear from Bert in the Phillipines - telling me how hot it was. Luckily we are back up to -5 . . . practically balmy. On the plus side the trees look spectacular - white and sparkly, and the kids are itching to go skating on the pond. Our lovely neighbours Daisy and Dayna (the most fabulous people, who have welcomed our kids into their family- and tolerate them for huge amounts of time!) have a gadget to measure the thickness of the ice, and will let them know when it is safe to skate on. So plenty of memories will be made in the next few months!

Bert had an interesting time on his trip (more to follow, no doubt) and came back sporting a patch and a new-found determination to give up the evil weed. How major is that??? Subtle hints about impending death have never had much effect . . . but buying him a box of patches and him spending 18 hours on a plane seem to have kick-started things. End of week one and no incredible hulk impressions . . . so far so good!

We're off to the Santa parade tonight . . . hopefully I'll still be able to wave, despite the 30 layers of clothing!!

Bye for now,
Lots of love and hugs,
Nicki xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Thursday, November 1, 2007

About Soddin' Time

Hiya All !

Yes, it's been a while, but we're all still alive and well and the big news is . . . we have sod! (turf, to the uninitiated). 2500 square foot of it - which wasn't enough - and it's fab. I am ridiculously pleased to have a green 'yard' instead of a mud pile, and smile whenever I approach the drive and see it . . . in all its green glory. Small things, hey.

Last night was Halloween. A huge event - and some completely over the top decorations (think Woodchurch at Christmas, if you live on Wirral). Even the Catholic High School kids went to school in costume - 'All Hallows Eve' was sanctified by a Pope, so no worries about being PC there. Even babies and toddlers were dressed up, including our youngest 'trick or treater' - Danya (see pic). We also had a fair sprinkling of superheroes, various animals -the neighbour's 2 year old was the cutest yellow chicken with orange legs! - and lots of fairies and princesses. Lots of candy was dished out, and lots more came back. Looks like the sugar-fest will run and run. Oh dear.

We went to have a look at our local hockey team last weekend - great . . . if you're into brutality, bruising and battering . . . and these were just the kids!!! The 'big kids' (aka Calgary Flames, and their opponents) settle disputes with major slamming around, full-blown violence and hurling each other off the rink head-first. Nice. The huge penalty of 5 minutes in the 'sin bin' not exactly a deterent, then, hey? And how fast???? I have skate envy. I might have to venture out on to the ice . . . does anyone have a spare zimmer frame???

We're still not in the grip of winter - phew! A tiny flutter of snow this week - but it didn't hang around. Still bright and sunny, if decidedly 'fresh' in the mornings. We can live with that. Can't remember the last time it rained . . . sorry!

Bert is off to the Philippines in 3 weeks. He has assured me that this little jaunt into a hot climate, with exotic beaches and fabulous food, is certainly not a holiday and he will definately be working. At all times. Honestly. Well that's all right, then. I suppose. Hmmm.
If you don't hear from me for a while I have succumbed to the devastating effects of being solely responsible for 2 teenagers and twins - shortly after a major sugar boost. What joy.

Anyway, better get cracking on the Christmas decorations - it's down with the halloween lights and up with the tree in these parts!!! (By the way, Bert writes all the titles - his way of contributing - and adds pics. I cannot believe he changed my sign off to 'laters' last time!!! The shame. Honestly, you leave him alone for 2 minutes . . . )

Love and hugs to all,
Nicki xxxxxx

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Eat, Drink And Be Stuffed

Just dropping in to wish everyone "Happy Thanksgiving!"

Actually you missed it . . . it was on Monday . . . but it's the thought that counts. We're not entirely clear whether we were being thankful for the pilgrim fathers or the harvest (probably both?), but we were extremely thankful to be eating Adele's fabulous turkey dinner with all the trimmings . . . what a feast !!! Followed by Trish's pumpkin pie with perfect pastry - yummy. After much feasting and merriment we had to be wheeled out on castors, but a good time was certainly had by all . . . and no doubt Bert will be rustling up an equally fabulous gastronomical delight at Christmas(?). No pressure there, then.

We barely had time to digest the turkey before the Halloween decorations were out, adorning houses and filling up 3 aisles in Walmart (costumes for adults, kids, babies - and dogs!) It is a huge event . . . none of the 'alternative light parties' or questioning if the whole thing is P.C. The locals are absolutely astonished that anyone would think it was anything other than a chance for the kids to dress up (as anything at all) and have fun . . . and they all belong to churches (there are 11 in High River!) and pray before eating, so I'm not sure why it is taboo with UK churches? Anyway, I'm stocking up on the candy . . . I've been told our kids will need a fork-lift truck (well, pillowcase at least) to carry all their goodies home, so expectations will be high among the trick-or-treaters. No fobbing them off with a seen-better-days penguin in these parts . . . I'd have the sherriff after me (again!).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have topsoil and a level 'yard' - finally! Now all we need are 9 pallets of turf (or thereabouts). No snow yet, apart from on the mountains (pic at top is the view from our bedroom - click on it to enlarge).

Bye for now,

Nicki xxxxxx

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Help, Help, Here Come The Bears

Here we are at the ice - only 'big ice' on until October (when 'Little Ice' and free sessions start) so we have to pay . . . a whole £1.20! It's about the size of Deeside, but there are only 10 other people out there so fab.

We're just about back into the swing of things with school. Hannah and Jack are in Grade 5 - the highest grade at Spitzee. This qualifies them for patrol duties (no lollipop men out here), which involves officious use of a 'stop' paddle and whistle - in teams of 3 - and heaven forbid you should try and sneak across before that whistle is blown!!! Jack was tepted by the promise of an end-of-year patrol party, but thought better of it. The latest initiative in Mr Baldwin's class is the option to discard your chair and sit on an exercise ball. I had to give written permission, and we have been warned that bouncing will result in immediate removal of ball and shameful return to chair status. Apparently it will stimulate their brains no end. We shall see.

My job is OK, apart from the ludicrously low pay. I have a little cowboy in class . . . complete with checked shirt, big buckle (not conducive to success in the washroom) and huge boots. He can barely walk on carpet, bless him, so seeing him tackle the gravel in the play area has to be seen to be believed. Looks like it's the boots that gives cowboys the bandy gait - and I always thought it was the riding!

Bert has been interviewing lots of potential employees - except the majority back out once they realise there is a drugs test at the medical. What is it with this country and drugs??? If it's not pot it's alcohol, and if it's not alcohol it's caffeine . . . they queue right around the block for morning coffee at the Tim Hortons drive-through. Scary.

Great excitement in town last week when there were several sightings of a black bear!!!! It certainly caused a bit of a stir . . . I thought they were all miles away! Seems they are tempted in by fruit trees when there are not enough berries. There have been 3 in the city, too . . . one wandered in to the hospital lobby! We still haven't seen one, but they're obviously out there.

Not much else to report this time, so I'm off to thaw out. How goes it in good old Blighty??

Lots and lots of love to all,

Nicki xxxxxxxx

Bare, Not Bear! (Bert, Not Nicki)

Whilst on the subject of bear spottings I've suddenly remembered a classic from our hols.

On the way back from Vancouver Nicki spotted a car stopped in the distance. She suddenly shrieked that something black had run behind the car and gone down into the ditch at the side of the road. I fumbled for the camera, Nicki slowed down and we talked of how he must have stopped because of a bear sighting.

As we approached, camera at the ready, we saw the 'bear' clearly. It was the bloke from the car (dressed in black hooded sweatshirt) having a waz.



Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Whale Of A Time

Well we're all back at school and the holiday is already starting to feel like a dim and distant memory, so time to commit a few memories to print before they are lost forever.

We set off on our mega drive across the Rockies. Not a challenge I relished, given that 4 of my passengers do not generally feel the need to respect each others personal space and were unlikely to be enamoured of the view. Thankfully, a peaceful journey was enjoyed . . . all hail the god of nintendo!!!

For 3 hours west of Banff we saw the most spectacular scenery ever . . . it has to be seen to be appreciated. Suffice it to say that one quarter of all the world's forests are in Canada, and it felt like we must have seen most of those trees. Wow.
Victoria Island had narrow roads, double decker buses, English style houses and drizzle . . . we thought we'd taken a wrong turn and ended up in the UK!
We headed for the harbour to see the sea-planes, street theatre and the cute little water taxis . . . and book our whale watching trip. Whales are not guaranteed, but the preparations are pretty hilarious as you get bundled up in your bright yellow float suits.
We set off with 7 or 8 other boats - all searching in different areas, all in radio contact. The kids thought the boat ride beat anything Disney had to offer! It was obvious there had been a sighting when all the boats changed course and raced in the same direction, slamming over the water - squeals of delight from the kids, me and Bert hanging on to Jack and Hannah - very exciting stuff. Then engines were turned off, all was quiet . . and whales appeared from all directions!!! It was fantastic (click on the pic at the top to enlarge it). The guide told us we were incredibly lucky - the 3 resident pods had stayed west of the Island for most of the summer (200 miles away) and this was the first time they had seen 'Superpod' (all 3 pods in at once) all year. Right time , right place at last - hurray! Then to add to the drama a 'transient' whale appeared - transients and residents don't mix so they were expecting a showdown, but they gave each other a wide berth (phew - 'whales 1 / blow-up boat nil' was not the experience we signed up for!).

We had been told that if we did nothing else in Canada, to make sure we saw the Orcas. It was the best bit of advice ever . . . thanks Mr Jones !!!! We wouldn't have missed it for the world.

We had a great time on the Island, loved karting (so much for Penelope Pitstop - I was lapped 3 times by Jack!!), tried the baseball nets (how hard are those balls??? It is like being pelted with rocks!), and finished off with 'Tree-Go' . . . a tree top obstacle course with zip wires, like 'Go-Ape' in the UK but with a lower version that Eleanor, Jack and Hannah could do. Fab.

Then we got the ferry to Vancouver.
Vancouver is a beautiful city. The boats in the harbour were something else . . . one had a helicopter and landing pad. We bounced bravely across the Capilano suspension bridge, hired bikes to go round Stanley Park, and even managed to meet up with Bert's friend Marc . . . still with a scouse accent after 29 years away, and still reading The Echo on-line!! Thanks for making us so welcome Marc and Heather, and for the fantastic meal . . . Jack has very happy memories of the garlic bread!

We stopped at Lake Louise on the way home, which is just beautiful - turquoise blue because of the way the glacier grinds the rock to powder, and it freezes to about 70 feet over the winter, so we'll be taking the ice-skates next time.

So that was our 'vacation'. It will be winter before we know it . . . the geese have started gathering on the lake, ready to exit stage left at the first sign of frost. Mind you, it's t-shirt weather just now so we are holding out as long as we can.
On to birthdays. Bert had a new fishing rod for his so he has been off catching tiddlers in the pond. Hannah and Jack have told me about the birthday tradition at their school - the Principle and Vice-Principle appear in your classroom wearing big hats with bells on, sing 'Happy Birthday' in a dramatic style, and let you have a dip in the candy jar. . . a tradition I think should be adopted by all UK schools! (I'm sure Mrs Davies and Miss Cronin would be game for a laugh, but I can think of a few heads who might be forced to retire!!).

That's 3 down and one to go this month - Eleanor is having a 'trail ride' in the Rockies, complete with cowboy hats. And it doesn't even seem odd. How Canadian are we ?!?

That's all folks. Hope you are all happy and thriving and planning to email us soon ?!? Victoria is definately top of the premiership for blog comments . . . while some of you are still languishing in the conference league (has there been a communication black-out on Wirral???)

Bye for now.

Lots and lots of big Canadian bear hugs,

Nicki and the gang xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Holiday pics can be viewed here: