Running around the world

Well let’s be realistic – I am not a runner – more like a jogger.  But I have run two marathons (that’s the long 42 km run – and I felt every kilometer).  And I have done a few half marathons.  As you can tell I am quite proud of that but I must admit those were quite a while ago and I don’t think I could even do a half marathon now.  But I enjoy my jogs around the neighbourhood and Fish Creek Park.  I also love to jog when I go on holiday.  It is a great way to explore a city and in this instance jet lag is your friend.

You wake up at 4.30 am and what can you do?  Lace up your shoes and go for a run.  You see the city in its waking up stage.  The dustbin men are out ….. sorry – for my Canadian readers that means the garbage trucks.  (What an odd name calling it a dustbin???  That’s a topic for another day).  You get to see people on their way to work and the coffee bars just opening up.  On a jog through Hyde Park in London we got to see the Household Cavalry doing their morning exercises.  They do something called “The Gallop” and seeing them come through the mist was extraordinary. This little video will give you a feel for one of their practices although sadly no galloping – but just listen to the sergeant major at the end – talk about throwing your voice!

Something exhilarating seeing those incredible horses in the early morning and you could actually see their breath in the cooler temperature.

One of my favourite cities for an early morning run is Venice.  Having no traffic is a huge bonus and you will probably end up doing a longer run than you had planned because Venice is notorious for its twisty alleys and surprise piazzas.  It is so easy to get lost but there’s always a café handy where you can have an espresso standing up at the bar with the gondoliers.  There are usually not many tourists out and about at that time of day so you really get to feel like a tourist – until somebody talks to you in Italian of course!

Another great running city is Rome and you get a really good workout with all the steps.  Rome is fascinating because round just about every corner you come upon some archeological dig  in progress and if you are early enough in the morning you won’t have to contend with Rome’s infamous traffic.  The morning rush hour is between 8 am and 10 am.  Isn’t that civilized?  A bit different when you compare Deerfoot.  Still Rome during the rush hour has earned a reputation for sure.  In fact driving in Italy as a whole – maybe something to do with that Latin temperament?  In fact Italy is known as “God’s racetrack”.  So if you decide to go for a jog in Rome go early – very early! And for goodness sake – stay out of the way of taxis. Time is money people – “sbrigati!!”

I have fond memories of running in Swaziland (now called Eswatini) as a member of our running club Swazi Slojos.  During the week we would run in town (a village really compared with Calgary) but at the weekends we would head out of town and run in the countryside.  That was always fun because as we ran through the small tribal villages the local kids would come running out to join us – shouting and hollering!  They would yell at us in SiSwati and take great delight in overtaking us at breakneck speed.  There we were with our high tech running shoes, water bottles, sun hats and smart watches which took our heart beat and pulse and alongside us ran this rag tag bunch of skinny barefoot kids!  They were thrashing us and all you could do was laugh along with them.  Good memories of a happy time!

Maybe you should pack your trainers for your next vacation.

From one bag to another

Last week I went down to my basement to check on something. I don’t go down there often – to be honest it is a bit of a mess. I totally forgot what I was looking for because there I saw my travel collection of bags. Small carryon with wheels for just an overnight trip, backpack for the plane, medium size case which has become my go to and an oversized mammoth of a case which I have no idea why I bought. What was I thinking of?

Oh – I was so sad. I sat down on the carpet next to the bags and had a chat.

“How are you guys?” I asked. “It seems like forever since we travelled together.”

Mammoth case “Well you got that right, lady. When was the last time you ever picked me for a trip. I don’t even know why you are hanging on to me.”

“Well you know Mammoth – you are a big lady – you might come in handy one day if I decide to emigrate – AGAIN! After all it is becoming a bit of a habit now. Emigrate from England to South Africa – emigrate from South Africa to Swaziland – emigrate from Swaziland to Canada – maybe a retirement emigration to – I dunno – Barbados – might not be a bad idea. Especially in view of the weather today.”

Of course medium sized fairly new bag couldn’t help but chime in. “Oh I remember our trip on Silversea Cruises. It was so amazing. The luggage crew with Silversea were so gentle and carried me up to your suite and laid me out on the luggage table so carefully. I felt so special and just sat there waiting for you to come into the room (which was amazing). I can remember smiling smugly to myself while you exclaimed with joy and ran around the room checking the bathroom and walk in closet and the balcony. My goodness, you were like a 5 year old at Disneyland.”

“Oh shut up” said Mammoth. “I am so sick to death of hearing about your special trips. You have only been part of this family for 2 years – wait my friend until you become old and tatty and then let’s see you get taken on a luxury cruise line!”

Medium bag sat and said nothing – probably sulking.

Backpack meanwhile chirped “well I go on every trip now that Mom has seen how much better it is to travel with a backpack on a flight rather than a stupid little bag on wheels”.

“Who the hell are you calling Mom?” said small wheely bag. “Let me tell you when she goes on a carry on only trip I am the one! So shut up! I have done a whole two week trip to Ireland and it was only me – all the way. Boy oh boy she had those clothes packed in so tight – my jaws were aching. But I did it. I was so proud of myself – and of her. Mind you I did notice that I never saw those clothes again. Rumour has it downstairs here that they ended up in the bin.”

Oh yes, travel memories. The excitement of which bag to choose, which clothes to pack, what to wear on the plane. Dammit – I miss it!

Oh shut up, man!

That is a quote from the Presidential debate. “Oh shut up, man!” came from Biden and you could hear the exasperated tone. It is exactly what I say to myself when a loud car roars past. Or maybe a motorbike. When I was younger (omg I am starting to sound like my mother) …. let me continue. When I was younger the boys used to take the baffles out of their motorbike exhausts. It made them sound really tough (so they thought). It could turn the sound of a 50cc piddly motorbike into what sounded like a Harley. Now I know that the Harley owners out there will be insulted. A really good Harley purrs – it doesn’t roar. Nevertheless the young lads got the desired reaction – all the girls noticed them.

I am not quite sure how guys get their trucks or cars to roar but I was surprised to see numerous youtube videos on how to do just that. Weird. I don’t get it. Am I the only one who gets annoyed by loud traffic noise? I don’t think so as there is a lot of controversy over the new ring road in Calgary. Imagine if everyone drove electric vehicles. We would be able to hear ourselves think.

What I do know is that there is a really good reason for cities around the world to have pedestrian only areas. I noticed this on a recent trip to Canmore and it was a pleasure to have pedestrians come first rather than cars. So for those who enjoy escaping the roaring traffic here are a few of my favourite traffic free places.

The first one to come to mind is Venice. I love Venice exactly for that reason – no cars. Of course there is always someone who will break the rules.

“British tourists have been criticised by Italian locals after they drove their rental car along the streets of Venice. The pair were spotted as they drove along the city’s famous Grand Canal, even crossing a pedestrian bridge. Angry locals stopped the couple, who blamed Google Maps, after they nearly knocked a pedestrian down, the Mail Online reported.”

The city with the longest pedestrian only street is Copenhagen and the street is 1.1 km long. That is amazing! Copenhagen is very interesting if a little expensive.

And look how amazing this looks – a car free street right in the middle of Milan.

Notice how the street becomes a centre for art displays and little cafes. Via Dante connects the Castle to the Piazza del Duomo.

There are lots of these pedestrian roads in smaller towns too – Bellagio on Lake Como is one such. I loved it there. The cobbled streets are so narrow with lots of steps so you can work off that pasta! Some of the more popular restaurants even have cushions on the steps for those waiting for a table and the waiters will even serve you a glass of wine while you wait. How civilized.

The streets of Bellagio
And there is the line up

Now imagine if this restaurant was not in the beautiful and pedestrian free old Bellagio – but on the pavement of a regular road. Yes – horrible.

But I think hands down the winner for pedestrian traffic free streets is Fez in Morocco. My goodness, you need a guide to find your way through these very narrow alleys. In some parts I could almost touch the walls on either side at the same time.

But I have to correct myself – while there are no cars or lorries or buses there is indeed traffic – of a different kind. The four legged variety and if you try on your road rage stuff – you will come off second best – believe me!

On the silver screen

Well if we cannot travel we can at least sit back and enjoy tv travel and hopefully that will satisfy some of our urges to get out and explore. Depending on what you like to do it might even be better doing it virtually. Think about it – you can watch people doing things that you would hate to do. For example the documentary series/reality show Alone. Filmed up in the NWT inside the Arctic circle these brave contestants have to stay for 100 days all alone.

Cut me out! I am allergic to the cold. Seriously – I have really poor circulation in hands and feet and I cannot be in the cold and while I wasn’t exactly in the Arctic Circle I absolutely froze to death when I went to Yellowknife early in March a couple of years ago. It was SO disappointing as I had been dying to see the Northern Lights. We hung around for ages in this special camp with loungers where you could lie down and stare up at the sky – NOTHING. When it got to about 1 am I said I am done. I am so cold I cannot think. So we traipsed off to the bus and just as we turned around and headed to the hotel someone shouted “Oh look – it’s the lights”. Well of course we were in the bus and the windows were all steamed up and we could see nothing and the driver was at the end of his shift and he was headed for home. By the time we got back to the hotel my feet were blue – and that was with the special snow boots. Nope – I am a warm weather girl which is why I am fascinated with this series. I can’t believe that the contestants are going to spend time in the Arctic in that cold with not even an electric blanket to help. Watch it – it’s good!

Another good one is Fiji Eco Challenge – The World’s Toughest Race. Now I have been to Fiji and the Mamanuca Islands but I never saw anything like these people are going through. Freezing cold mountain streams and mud and rain.

So don’t let this put you off Fiji because it is beautiful and I promise you won’t have to go anywhere near a freezing cold mountain stream. My time there was spent between the main island of Fiji along the Coral Coast and then out to the Mamanuca Islands – Tokoriki and Castaway. The water was warm, the wine was cold – it was a perfect holiday. Well – almost perfect!

The resort on Tokoriki was amazing – they had the most incredible bathrooms – actually with a shower outside in a little courtyard attached to the room. It was very private with a tall wall all around and a tiled floor and no ceiling – just open to the sky, the sun and the moon……. and others! What we didn’t realise was that some of the arrivals were not by boat (as we had arrived) but by helicopter. So early one morning there was my husband thoroughly enjoying his morning shower when out of nowhere a helicopter swooped over low – so low that everyone could see him in the shower – so they all waved. He waved back! Later when we went up to breakfast he was quite famous!

And then there’s Travels with My Father – absolutely hilarious and very politically incorrect. Jack Whitehall decides to discover the world with his father who has very different views on life.

Aw you see – this is what we have to do right now – either that or do what some other inventive people have done to get their travel fix and make it look as if they are still travelling the world.

Yes we all want to travel …. this badly –

Scraping the barrel

OK – so we are in the middle of COVID and we happen to be in the travel industry – so what’s there to laugh about? You have to find something because laughter is extremely good for you – did you know that? Even if you are pretending to laugh it still produces the right endorphins. As the Mayo Clinic says, laughter is really good for you –

Stress relief from laughter

A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do.

Short-term benefits

A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:

  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Now for those of you out there in the travel or tourism industry – or indeed in the hospitality industry – you might well be asking what the hell is there to laugh about. People are stressed – just watch the news at night and see the latest story on who has gone ape about not wanting to wear a mask. So you have a choice – you can cry or you can laugh – and we choose to laugh.

So true – I will never take flying for granted. Strange how the months have marched by during this pandemic. When it started in March we thought yeah, few weeks – maybe 3 months at most and we will be back up in the sky. Well no – that didn’t happen and the world has become a strange place. There was so much about travel that we took for granted and now just the most simple part of a trip starts to look magical and special….

Yes I know that there will be people reading this who will say COVID is NOT FUNNY! I know that – it is not funny when you see iconic business like Ranchmans closing down. Wow – we saw the film Cool Runnings when we lived in Southern Africa and loved it! When we got our visa to come and live in Canada we told the kids and they said “Where is Calgary?” and we said remember Cool Runnings? Well that’s Calgary! They were SO excited and the first place we had to take them to was Ranchmans with the Jamaica Bob Sled sticking out the side of the wall. So sad.

So I agree – COVID is bad in so many ways but a good comparison would be the humour of the Second World War. This was important to bolster spirits and keep people feeling strong and positive. Some of the songs over that time are just hilarious and and just too rude to repeat in this blog but many might recall the first line of one of the songs being –

“Hitler has only got one ball!” (this was sung to the tune of Colonel Bogey March).

But it gave the lads something to laugh about in a dismal time.

Travelling with family gets ugly

They say family reunions on vacation is a wonderful idea and a great way to see those cousins, aunties and grandparents that you haven’t seen for such a long time. Some people might disagree. In fact a lot of people probably feel this way because it only happens roughly once every ten years (if at all).

First of all the organisation involved is multi-layered so it usually takes the OCD member of the family to do all the detail stuff such as explaining to Aunt Hilda that she cannot bring her dachshund Willy to the resort. Of course cousin Joe will have to be told not to bring THAT type of girl to the function – the aunts will be shocked and Great Uncle Bill won’t be able to keep his hands to himself. Oh and we have to make sure that our flight doesn’t connect in a US airport because you know Uncle Dennis had that “incident” with the police years ago – it really wasn’t his fault!

Things can go wrong rather quickly – On a trip with my family, many years ago, to Dublin to reconnect with cousins and aunts the excitement was overwhelming (at least to us kids). If you have ever heard a crowd of Irish people talking you probably won’t have understood much of it. I still have problems today when I phone my cousin in Dublin because the accent is so strong and she talks so fast. Now multiply that by 20. Everyone hugging and talking – Mom and Dad were over from England, Auntie Betty had come from New York and Uncle Joe had come down from his hermit like existence in his hilltop farmhouse. After much back slapping and “Jaysus, Mary and Joseph – look at the grey hair on you, will ya?” it was decided to make off for the pub where everyone could enjoy a Guinness together. Out the little house they all piled into their separate cars and drove off in six different directions – all going to a different pub. You see – organisation was very lacking there – but it was all very Irish.

As a child I grew up in Mullion, Cornwall – a favourite seaside destination for people from “up north”. As my grandmother lived in Birmingham it was decided that she should get the train and come down and have a holiday with us. My parents gave her the main bedroom and mom and dad made do with a single bed in the spare room – well it was only for a week – right? Hahaha – the gods were laughing. We took a lovely trip out to St Michael’s Mount – the tide was low so we were able to walk all along the causeway to the castle but we didn’t make very good timing because of Nanny. Well it wasn’t that she couldn’t walk very well – it was because she had noticed the periwinkles latched to the side of the causeway and started picking them. Periwinkles are described thus in wiki –

“The common periwinkle or winkle (Littorina littorea) is a species of small edible whelk or sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc that has gills and an operculum, and is classified within the family Littorinidae, the periwinkles. This is a robust intertidal species with a dark and sometimes banded shell.”

These, apparently, are a popular snack in British sea side coastal towns. I found them listed in an article about 25 Classic British foods that foreigners find gross – and I am definitely in the foreigners club here. So were my mom and dad. “Mom, c’mon stop picking them periwinkles. What are you going to do with them for Chris’sake” said my dad. “Oooh son, you’d pay a fortune for a packet of these. Going to cook them up when I get home. I just happen to have a paper bag her in my handbag.” Yep – that paper bag was full before we knew it and we had to sit in the back of the car with Nanny and the periwinkles. UGH.

But it got worse – Nanny kept the packet of winkles on the dressing table – and they were STILL ALIVE. My sister and I would creep into the room when she was out and listen to the rustling going on inside the packet. They were trying to escape. We had nightmares of being chased by huge periwinkles all slimy. That was until they died.

After a week my mom and dad were threadbare with sharing a single bed and not getting much sleep – but they had done their job and now the next day we would take Nanny to the station and she would get on the train back to Birmingham. Except that afternoon she tripped, fell and broke her arm. We all went in the car to the hospital while she had her arm set in a plaster cast. My dad was so fed up. “She’d trip on her own spit” he said! The nurse was shocked. She was even more shocked when my dad asked if she would be alright to get on the train the next day. “Mr Holland” she said sternly “Your mother is an elderly lady and she has broken her arm.”

“Exactly!” said my dad. “Her arm – not her leg!”

Yep – family vacations – small and big – can be stressful and sometimes don’t have such a happy ending.

Who’s a good dog?

Here’s a new way they can possibly detect COVID at airports. The old sniffer dog routine. In a recent article by Michelle Robson the possibility of sniffer dogs for COVID is explored –

“Dogs have already been proven to detect various human diseases such as cancer merely using their sense of smell. A 2019 study showed that dogs could use their highly evolved senses to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with almost 97% accuracy. A dog’s nose has 300 million scent receptors, compared to 5 million in a human. This means they can detect many odors, such as drugs, explosives, and food. This makes dogs a common site in airports where they are often walked up and down a queue of passengers to detect illicit substances. In the UK, a project backed by the UK government has started to train dogs to detect COVID-19 positive patients by smell.” (Michele Robson-Forbes Magazine).

Having a dog sniff around you might be way better than having someone stick a long ear bud up your nose or down the back of your throat. I guess what would happen is that if the dog detects you have COVID then you may have to go through the ear bud test just to be sure. But hang on a minute – is one breed of dog better than another? Well the answer is yes apparently. The blood hound is said to be the best and why not? That’s what Sherlock Holmes used to help him solve those mysteries. So it is all about the sense of smell and which dogs have the best. Mr Bloodhound comes first on that list.

It’s all to do with those long floppy ears and the ridges and wrinkles on Mr Bloodhound that make him such a good sniffer dog. They all help to waft the smells up his nose. In fact the bloodhound is often described as a nose with a dog attached. Their sense of smell is so acute they can pick up a scent that is 12 days old. They won’t need that skill at the airport though.

The strange thing is that if you have COVID somehow it changes your body odour – and that’s what the dogs pick up on. In fact they are so good at this that they can sniff up to 750 people per hour.

I wonder when Mr Bloodhound goes home at the end of his shift if he complains to his buddies about having had a hard day at the airport and what the different people smell like.

So this is a good thing to consider. Is this animal abuse? After some of those long flights people can get pretty stinky …. not everyone … but I am sure you have come across this in your flying lifetime. Some people are nervous flyers and then they might get a bit smelly due to anxiety or perspiration. But there are lots of other smells that seem much more obvious in an enclosed space.

Oh, and don’t eat beans. “Your body actually becomes gassier in an airplane due to the increased cabin pressure,” says Samantha Morrison, a health expert for Glacier Wellness. “This effectively causes gas in your intestinal tract to expand and cause uncomfortable bloating and flatulence. While there’s no perfect solution, your best bet is to stay hydrated and avoid foods which can cause gas, such as beans and vegetables.”

So after hours of this poor Mr Bloodhound gets to sniff your bum while he checks out if you have COVID. He may discover that he doesn’t like your deodorant (or lack of) but you will be happy when he gives you the all clear and goes off to sniff the next bum.

Poor Mr Bloodhound! What a job!

Why Ireland is so special

We all have that place that has a special place in our hearts and mine is Ireland. My mom was one of 7 and grew up on a small (very small) farm in the Irish countryside and I often get the chance to go to Dublin and visit my aunt and cousins who live there. I always get such good feedback from clients we send to Ireland. Dublin has become quite cosmopolitan – it is after all, the main city and capital. It is in the smaller towns and villages that you will get to meet the real Irish – and it is quite the experience!

As kids we would love to sit down and hear all the stories my mom would tell us about the place she was born called Ballyjamesduff. She told us about the man down the road who went out to work the one day and never came back. Apparently he had emigrated to the USA where he found and married (illegally) another wife. 40 years later when he was close to death he walked back into the same house and told his wife “I’m home”. She made him a cup of tea.

Then there was the lady who lived in a house that had a big hole in the one wall. There were different stories of how the hole came about – some said it was a bomb that went off by mistake and blew out the wall – others said that the hole was knocked into the wall when a charging bull was let loose. No one ever knew the truth – not even the local priest (and that is saying a lot because they know everything that happens in the small villages). When anyone came to visit her they could have easily have stepped right into her living room through the hole in the wall but they were polite and went round to knock on the front door. Sometimes she would pretend not to be home, even though they had seen her through the hole in the wall, and would shout through the letter box – “no-one’s home”.

Everyone helped each other out in that farming community. If things got very tough and there was no money to buy groceries my grandmother would slap her hands on her thighs, stand up with a sigh and announce “To hell with poverty, let’s kill a chicken!” One Christmas a kind neighbour donated a goose to them for Christmas dinner. This was a treat indeed. My mom was sent over to pick up the goose which the neighbour had killed and plucked. All the family would have to do would be to remove its innards, stuff and roast it. Mom dutifully carried the goose all the way home, which was no mean task for her – the goose was big and she was very little. She set the goose on the kitchen table and went out to the vegetable garden to call her Mammie. By the time they returned to the kitchen the goose was gone! Mystified they went through the house only to discover that the goose had not been dead, just stunned, and was running around the front garden as naked as the day it was born!

Ireland is full of stories and full of pubs and you will usually find musicians playing traditional Irish music on fiddles and Irish bagpipes. The funny thing is they are there to share a song and a drink with their fellow musicians and will quite often sit with their backs to the “audience” and will possibly accept the gift of a Guinness every now and again.

Now you may know that the Irish have a reputation when it comes to having a pint (or two) and so it became customary that at confirmation Catholic children had to take the Pledge to never touch alcohol. I can remember my gran having a little lapel button showing that she had taken the pledge. She was very strict about this but this did not change the fact that her daughter (my mother) married an English sailor. Hmmm. Not exactly the type to take the Pledge. My dad loved teasing her about this. On one outing to the local pub (yes even if you had taken the Pledge you could still go to the local) he went to the bar and got himself a beer and bought a lemonade for my gran. After she had finished it he said to her “So how did you enjoy your first gin and tonic?”. She nearly fainted. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”, she said “what have you done to me”. He had to confess !

Talking about beer – even if you are not a beer drinker you have to have a Guinness in Ireland. I can promise you it is NOTHING like the Guinness you will get anywhere else. It is smooth and sweet and, can you believe, very low in calories. There is a knack to pouring a good Guinness – if you watch the barman he will usually fill it about three quarters full and then leave it standing for a while for it to “settle”. I made the mistake at one pub of reaching out my hand to the glass standing under the pump. I just wanted to feel if it was cold but he thought that I was going to take the glass and literally shouted at me to leave it be! Very strict. I soon got around his good side and had a go at pouring my own –

Everyone is a gardener

Have you noticed the gardens in your neighbourhood lately? That’s one good thing that has come out of COVID – with holidays cancelled and camping sites full many have decided to stay home and make their garden an escape from the everyday world. And we do have a long and loving history with gardens. The word “garden” or “yard” comes from the Old English word “geard” which means enclosure. So the idea of having a garden as being purely aesthetic and for no other purpose except to look pretty has been with us for centuries way back to the Egyptians and the Ancient Greeks.

The love of gardening is so strong that it has developed its own tourism industry with highlights being events such as the Chelsea Flower Show and the blooming of tulips at Keukenhof in the Netherlands. For non gardeners it is hard to believe that someone would get on a plane for 8 hours just to go and see certain types of roses – but it is true.

While some might travel for hours to see beautiful blooms others might want to go to a famous garden with no flowers at all. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Scotland is quite amazing to see – not many plants but lots of curves and shapes that is actually very restful.

In contrast to this are the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall close to a little place called Mevagissey. This is pure fantasy with a little bit of everything – a true Secret Garden. After the hard times of World War I the gardens were neglected as the gardeners went to fight and became so overgrown no one really knew what beauty lay beneath the weeds. Thankfully it has been restored and the 200 acres is well worth seeing.

So now that we have a little more time on our hands maybe we can create something interesting, calming and distracting in our own gardens – not just for us but for the neighbourhood as a whole. Maybe even think of giving passers by a bit of a chuckle.

They say that good gardeners have a green thumb (something I sadly lack) but it reminded me of a gardener who worked for us when we lived in Swaziland. He had come to the front door looking for a job – quite elderly but he said he was a good gardener. I felt sorry for him so said he could work in the vegetable patch – even though I had a regular gardener. I know this all sounds like Downton Abbey but in Africa, if you can, you should employ as many people as possible. Every little bit helps. Shame I felt so bad for him because his back wasn’t good and I really wasn’t sure if he would be able to do anything but he was happy to earn a few Emalangeni (the local currency) and get his tea and sandwich. Well before I knew it we had a vegetable plot like no other – the plants were flourishing and it almost started to look like a jungle. The only problem was they were all cabbages. Now don’t get me wrong – I like cabbage – but a whole plot of cabbages. We had two harvests and he started planting again. By this time I had had a bit much of the cabbage festival that was going on. There was no way we could eat it all and we gave it away left, right and centre. So I approached him with the help of my interpreter and told him that I would really like some carrots and lettuce planted instead of the cabbages. He mumbled something in Siswati (the local language) under his breath and shuffled off back to his plot shaking his head holding onto the packages of seeds I had got for him. A few weeks went by and when I went to take a look at the progress the seeds were still in their packets and there was another huge crop of cabbages coming up.

I started to get mad. This was getting silly. I explained to him that I was very happy to pay him and give him his lunch but I did not want any more cabbage. He shuffled back to the vegetable patch muttering under his breath, gathered his belongings and left without a word. Well that was strange. Oh well.

But you know what was really strange? Nothing – I mean absolutely nothing would grow in that vegetable patch ever again. Not even cabbage. I think he cast a spell.

A fishy tale

Fishing is something you either love or you hate – and for those who love it, they will travel to the ends of the earth just for that magical feel of catching “the big one”. And what a feel that is!

We are lucky in Canada that we have world class fishing venues on our doorstep – literally on the Bow River in fact. But for those who like the salt water variety there is nothing finer than a bit of salmon fishing. Many years ago I took a trip to April Point Lodge on Quadra Island for a girls’ fishing trip. Having been trout fishing in South Africa and hooking Tiger Fish at Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe I was certainly game for a little salmon fishing. An excursion was arranged – 2 to a boat with our guide (properly known as a ghillie).

My first surprise was that our ghillie baited up all the rods and then clamped them into down-riggers on the side of the boat. Hmm… I thought. What am I supposed to do. I was all decked out and ready to go with bright yellow rubber dungarees – just in case I fell over the side I suppose – so that I would be easily noticed bobbing in the Vancouver Island passage as skyscraper cruise liners pass by on their way to Alaska. OK well, first thing they teach you about fishing is patience. It was quite a nice boat – fairly big and even had a little crouchy kind of toilet up the front and we had coffee and biscuits to keep us going. And so we waited. The sun came up and it turned into a nice day. Eventually our ghillie said he was taking a stroll to the back of the boat and would we ladies mind keeping our eyes to the front. Well he wasn’t watering the daisies!

I sat and continued to stare at the rods clamped onto the side of the boat. There were 3 – one for the ghillie and one for me and one for my companion. They were all bobbing along merrily as we ploughed through the straits. Then BAM … my rod dipped down so quickly – the ghillie jumped in, unclamped and I almost knocked him over in my eagerness to get MY rod, MY fish…. and the battle was on. Man I was happy when I landed him. Just over 16 lbs.

That’s big but not big enough to become a member of the Tyee Club of BC in Campbell River. It has been in operation for nearly 100 years and is definitely old school. To join you have to land a 30 pounder at least and on this fishing trip I was much happier. No one clamped my rod onto the side of the boat, no downrigger – just a small weight – and I was in complete charge of my rod. The only problem was I didn’t catch a bloody thing 😦

But you know what they say in fishing – it is not always about how big they are but how strong they fight – and you cannot get a better fighter than the Tiger Fish of Kariba Dam. This little video from the youtube channel River Monsters says it all

Isn’t my husband a lucky man to have a wife who loves to go fishing??