Friday, 29 February 2008

A weekend in the village

It was great cycling home from work at 6 o'clock this evening in the daylight and even more so knowing that the clocks go forward next weekend (nearly a month before the UK.)

The topsy turvey Albertan weather may still have a few surprises in store for us, but at least we'll be eating our supper in daylight within a few weeks.

This weekend we're taking time off skiing and our Rockies commute and catching up on housework, shopping and hopefully (for me) some quilting.

A Tuesday night quilting class has started in the village and I've started making a 6ft x 6ft applique quilt which will have 35 squares all depicting things about Canada. Not something I would have invisaged myself doing a year ago, but then neither was ice hockey! I think the easiest way to cope with being isolated in the middle of the Canadian prairie is to do as the locals do!

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Signs that spring is on the way...

(1) It's going to be +10c on Friday.

(2) Both rabbits have been out in the garden together every morning this week, when often we don't see them for days on end.

(3) The UV index, a staple of the summer, has returned to the weather forecast

(4) At least one gopher in the village has come out of hibernation

(5) My bike has come out of the shed for the first time since November.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Annwen's Birthday weekend

We were back in Fernie this weekend to celebrate Annwen's birthday. Eight of us stayed in a privately owned condo which was part of the Stanford Resort. The condo itself was a really weird layout, with 3 bedrooms across three floors and was typical of the hundreds of developments being thrown up across Canada at the moment. Fortunately we only had to stay in it, not look at it.

However this row of five beautiful heritage houses are right next to the new development and looked out on it. Good for us, not so great for them.

Saturday was, as always, spent on the slopes, but this time there was no fresh snowfall and the runs were rock hard. I called it a day after falling off the lift twice as I dismounted and flipping in the air whilst doing a turn and coming down hard on the ice. I'm not mad about snowboarding and days like that certainly don't help!

We went out to a small restaurant called Corner Pocket on Saturday night. We were by far the largest party in there and the owners had a clever solution to help the small kitchen cope with big orders like ours : a close up magician. He kept us entertained between our starters and main course, which was a rather innovative idea.

Our condo was slightly out of town, so we took advantage of the bus service which is laid on by Fernie Town. It costs a $1 each way and so gets its name from the Canadian term for $1, a "looney", so yes, it's the "looney bus". We've no idea if this name for a bus full of drunken tourists is half as funny to the Canadians as it was to us.

Aside from our weekend in Fernie, temperatures here continue to hover around freezing point (as opposed to highs of -15c!) and although we still have snow on the ground, people in Ralston are starting to tentatively suggest that worst of the winter may be behind us... here's hoping!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Lunar eclipse

We had a lovely clear night tonight for the lunar eclipse, which was at 8pm in Canada and 3am in the UK... for once we were in the right place at the right time!

Despite it being -12c outside my camera (and more importantly the battery) didn't kick up a fuss and I was able to get the series of shots you can see on the left.

We've actually had quite good weather this week, -12c is pretty much the coldest it's been and it's supposed to be +3c at the weekend.

Talking of which, once again this weekend we're off to Fernie. This time we're staying with 9 others from the base in a rented condo.

My colleague Annwen who has been over from the UK for 2 months is heading home next week, so we're travelling to the Rockies to give her a good send off.

We'll definitely need a weekend in the village after that - The housework is mounting up!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Off to Fernie again

Another update after a busy weekend. We had a pleasant surprise when the weather took a step towards spring on Friday. It was plus 6 during day and outside all you could hear was the sound of running water as a slow thaw began.

Jim and I had to do some hasty shovelling around the sides of the house to prevent the metre or so of snow cover from melting and seeping into the basement. In the end the thaw wasn't that extensive, but it has still revealed patches of grass and long forgotten bits of summer garden ware!

Once again we drove up to Fernie on Friday afternoon. Eight hours on the road every weekend has become almost routine and the monotony of the long roads is broken up by having our Sirius Satelitte Radio in the car - It's absolutely fantastic, we love the comedy channels and Maxim & Cosmo radio which are speech and really help to pass the time.

This weekend we were staying at Violet Cottage (see photo left) with ours friends Kirsty & Mark. The house is owned by Joanne & Patrick who run the Old Nurses B&B in the town. We'd tried to stay at both our regular haunts but because it's a long weekend had found everywhere booked out, however that didn't stop us dropping in on the B&B to pay our bill and staying for an hour drinking their wine and talking to the guests!

As usual Jim and I spent Saturday on the slopes. Despite all the weekends away, I'm still only on my 7th snowboarding day and only stepped onto a ski slope for the first time 2 months ago, so it's been a long uphill struggle to master the lifts, get my balance on the board and finally learn to "carve" - the art of repeated turns across a snow slope.

Therefore I am quite proud of the following video clip. I will apologise to more advanced boarders and skiers who read this blog, who will not be remotely impressed at my snail pace descent, but it's a lot harder than it looks!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Still cold

The weather forecast on Wednesday turned out to be wildly optimistic and we finished the week with temperatures of nearly -30c and a blizzard. It's hard to imagine the warm damp winter in the UK, when here in Ralston, we're starting our fourth month of continual snow cover.

We're not sure when winter ends either. The ski resorts in the Rockies are open until late May, but people in the village say that May is when the weather really warms up, so I'm not sure how both can be true!

Blackie the cat has shown very little inclination to venture outside since we inherited her. The occasional cold blast of air through the front door as we come and go sends her running back into the warmth of the sitting room. Whatever adventures may await her in the garden can clearly wait till the spring.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008


Much excitement this afternoon when a coyote was spotted in the school grounds. BFBS were alerted by the police, but rather than passing the message on to the village, I was more interested in running outside and getting a photo!

Unfortunately I didn't have my digital SLR with me so I missed the opportunity to get a close up, but on the plus side at least I had a camera at all!

Also of note is the fact I ran outside without a coat and didn't end up in intensive care! We're up to 0c today and apart from a slight dip in temperatures again midweek, it looks like we might be back to highs the right side of freezing point for the next couple of weeks... spring is on the way!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Pancake Day

While I was on the phone to my parents yesterday morning, they reminded me that it was pancake day this week and according to a report in the UK papers, the tradition is apparently in danger of dying out.

A quick survey of the village revealed the majority of people here weren't aware Shrove Tuesday was looming either, so for the sheer hell of it and with 24 hours notice, my colleague Annwen & I decided to stage an event for BFBS to reignite people's awareness.

We found ourselves a two ring camping stove and pre-prepared enough batter for 100 pancakes. Then this afternoon we decamped to the Winter Repair workshops where a huge team of men and women work 12 day shifts through the winter repairing BATUS's fleet of armoured vehicles.

At 3pm the whole workshop were stood down for a tea break and we served up a stream of pancakes with maple syrup or lemon and sugar to some very hungry grateful soldiers. We broadcast interviews live on BFBS Radio in Canada and on our new digital station in the UK. The Padre joined us too and turned out to be a dab hand at flipping! A really great afternoon and loads of fun!

To view the full album of photos click here

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Fernie again

We're back from another weekend in Fernie and are pretty exhausted after two full on days on the slopes. This trip we stayed at Beaver Lodge B&B and took over the whole house. The B&B is run (but not owned) by a 30-something Brit called Kirsty, so we had great fun.

In the photo on the left is the owner's dog Lily who works 4 days a week at the ski resort as an alpine rescue dog, she's huge, but very docile.

Fernie has had an astonishing amount of snow recently, 170cm in the last week alone and word had got round, it was noticebly busier than when we visited a fortnight ago. All the skiers and boarders from Calagry seem to have switched from Sunshine & Lake Louise.

Jim was on his adventure training course last week, so didn't meet up with us till Saturday lunchtime, which meant I spent the first part of the day hanging out with the more advanced skiers and ending up doing a run which terrified me and took me one step forward and three steps back! I was pleased to be back on the easier slopes with Jim on Sunday (though I'm sure he would have been happier on the black runs!)

Saturday was also notable for the fact that it was Groundhog Day in Canada (yes this tradition does exist outside of the movie!) and the good news is that the two most famous groundhogs have both predicted an early spring... let's hope they are right!

My friend Alix who reads this blog has pointed out that I forgot to reveal the answer to the question I posed in a previous post. "90% of Canadians live within 200km of what?" The answer is...the American border!

By the way, please do feel free to use the comment facility on the blog, just click on the bit where it says "0 comments" below each post. You don't have to register and we'd love to know what you think of our escapades and who, if anyone is reading this!