Thursday, 27 November 2008

Extraordinary weather

Every reference I hear about the weather at the moment seems to contain the word "extraordinary". Apparently the fact that we are now nearing the end of November with daytime temperatures still well above freezing and absolutely no sign of snow is "extraordinary".

In addition the fact that the long range forecast through to mid-December indicates this weather will continue till near Christmas is "extraordinary" and perhaps most reassuringly of all, the weather we had last winter, where the snow didn't melt for six months was also in its own way "extraordinary". How nice of Alberta to treat us to such unique weather during the two winters we are living here!

Still, warm weather is always good news, particularly for the carol singing which is planned round the village this weekend and with it a festival of lights.

I'm afraid our own little house on the prairie is looking a little less than festive this year after Jim's short notice departure to Kenya left us with the old Christmas lights removed from the house and no new ones put up!

Fortunately as you can see above, other houses in the village have made a real effort.

Talking of great efforts, this week I also finally got my hands on my beautiful bespoke quillow (a quilt that folds into a pillow) that I had bid for at a charity promises auction earlier this year.

Kim our Ralston "Master Quilter" made it from some fabric I picked out. It's produced by Moda and is called Dandelion Girl. I really love the slightly 1970s feel to the colours. The photos don't really do it justice, but then isn't that always the way?

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Brown season

Another week's gone by and we are now deep into my least favourite time of the year on the prairie - brown season!

All the grass and plants have died off and there is literally nothing between us and the horizon that isn't a shade of brown or beige! (Macy was also pretty brown before the bath she'd had in the photo right!)

At least brown season means I am almost looking forward to the change that snow will bring, which technically should be due any minute, but there is still no sign of it on the weather forecast!

It's actually been a fairly eventful week locally, with the local rag able to run two big front page stories in a couple of days. First one of Medicine Hat's nightclubs burned down in mysterious circumstances (mysterious, but not uncommon, there seem to be a lot of fires in Med Hat) and secondly southern Alberta was hit by a rather large meteor, a story which even made the Daily Mail in the UK!

Trust Jim to miss it all! He's now completed his second week in Kenya where he's been seeing a bit of the country with a trip up to Nanyuki Show Ground where the main training admin base is. He writes the following...

"Just outside Nanyuki is the airfield where the Lynx helicopters (above) are based and there also happens to be a very good little cafe! We stayed the night at the Pangoni Lodge at Nanyuki which was pretty basic but ok, we were in tents whilst some others were in huts.

From there we drove up to Archers Post and had a quick detour to the Shaba Lodge (see right) where we saw the wildlife (limited to monkeys and crocs though). Finally we drove up to the Forward Operating Base (FOB) out in the bush to speak to a couple of people."

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Sunny Kenya and Snowy Ralston

I woke up to our first dusting of snow this morning, an event which last year, would probably have merited an entire blog entry - This year we are a little wiser about the extent of what's coming!

No such weather concerns for Jim in Kenya. He finally arrived on Tuesday after two long-haul flights and although he's arrived in the rainy season, judging by the blue skies in the photos (see BATUK HQ left) it doesn't look too unpleasant!

This week he's been mainly finding his way around the base and settling in, on Monday he starts his job proper. The Commander in Kenya (I think encouraged by ours here) has apparently got it in his head that BATUK needs some BFBS coverage and so he has told Jim to find a way to "get your wife out here" - which is all very flattering, but I'm not quite sure who he thinks would foot the bill!

Whilst Jim's been away, the Great British Banger sausage project has been expanding, yesterday I collected the first batch of Somerset Apple as well as a second batch of Leek & Stilton, 80 packs in total. Our chest freezer looks like something you'd find in a farm shop!

I've also been busy getting to grips with my new sewing machine and I found some fabulous camouflage fabric in town yesterday with Canadian animals on it, which I have used to make some drawstring bags for Christmas presents for young relatives in the family (see right.)

Sunday, 9 November 2008

From BATUS to BATUK

A flurry of social activity this week has insured that Jim had a good send off to Kenya. On Wednesday the village was out in force for the annual Guy Fawkes bonfire and fireworks with chili and mulled wine on hand. The local fire brigade were very much in evidence (see photo) lest Ralston's one annual fire were to get out of hand!

Friday was the belated mess Halloween celebrations, the evening took on a Rocky Horror theme and we had cast members from a local production join us and perform a few songs from the show.

As with all fancy dress functions the British Army tackled the theme with a fever unmatched by any other profession. Photographs of the night have a strictly limited circulation, so I'm afraid all I can offer you is a photograph of me in a rather wonderful red fur coat I acquired temporarily as a result of a game involving trading the clothing we were wearing. Jim's bow tie which I traded has yet to find its way home!

Saturday daytime was the annual BFBS hockey tournament, an all day event during which the six Batus Hockey League teams and an amalgamated ladies Devils team play 15 minute games and compete for a cup.

Then we rounded the week off last night with a Murder Mystery Party. The game was "Nip Tuck & A Murder" and was based around the world of cosmetic surgery. Once again the local charity stores did us proud and everyone turned up in wonderful outfits including scrubs splattered with fake blood!

Then after a frantic few days and nights, Jim packed up his belongings and headed for Kenya this afternoon. He'll be spending 6 weeks at the British Army Training Unit Kenya and will hopefully return the week before Christmas.

To keep me out of mischief while he's away, he has bought me a new sewing machine, a rather fancy Pfaff Expression 3.0, you'll no doubt see a few of it's creations on this blog in the next few weeks.

On a final note, weather is still hovering around 10c every day and no sign of snow yet, long may it last! Being back on snow watch again reminded me of a great joke email I had last year which sums up our first winter in Canada, it follows below...

Aug. 12 - Moved to our new home in Canada. I am so excited. It's so beautiful here. The mountains are so majestic. Can hardly wait to see them with snow covering them.

Oct. 14 - Canada--it is the most beautiful place on earth. The leaves have turned all colors and shades of red and orange. Went for a ride through the beautiful countryside and saw some deer. They are so graceful. Certainly they are the most wonderful animals on earth. This must be paradise. I love it here!

Nov. 11 - Remembrance Day. Deer season starts soon. I can't imagine anyone wanting to kill such a gorgeous creature. Hope it snows soon. I love it here!

Dec. 2 - It snowed last night. Woke up to find everything blanketed with white. It looks like a postcard. We went outside and cleaned the snow off the steps and shoveled the driveway. We had a snowball fight (I won). When the snow plough came by we had to shovel the driveway again. What a beautiful place. I love Canada!

Dec. 12 - More snow last night. The snow plough did his trick again to the driveway. I love it here.

Dec. 19 - More snow last night. Couldn't get out of the driveway to get to work. It's beautiful here but I'm exhausted from shoveling. ****ing snow plough.

Dec. 22 - More of that white s**t fell last night. I've got blisters on my hands and a sore back from shoveling. I think the snow plough hides around the corner until I'm done shoveling the driveway.

Dec. 25 - Merry ****ing Christmas! More frigging snow. If I ever get my hands on the sonovabitch who drives the snow plough, I swear I'll kill the bastard. Don't know why they don't use more salt on the roads to melt the ****ing ice.

Dec. 27 - More white s**t last night. Been inside for three days now except for shoveling out the driveway after that snow plough goes through every time. Can't go anywhere, the car's stuck in a mountain of white s**t and it's so frigging cold. The weatherman says to expect another 10 inches of the stuff again tonight. Do you know how many shovels full of snow 10 inches is?

Dec. 28 - That ****ing weatherman was wrong. We got 34 inches of the stuff this time. At this rate it won't melt before summer. The snow plough got stuck up in the road and that bastard came to my door and asked to borrow my shovel. After I told him that I had already broken six shovels shoveling out all the snow he had pushed into my driveway, I damn near broke my last one over his ****ing head.

Jan. 4 - Finally got out of the house today. Went to the store to get food and on my way back a damned deer ran in front of the car. Did about $3,000 damage to the car. Those ****ing beasts should be killed. The bastards are everywhere. Wish the hunters had exterminated them all last November.

May 3 - Took the car to the garage in town. Would you believe the thing is rusted out from all that ****ing salt they put all over the roads.

May 10 - Moved to Florida. I can't imagine why anyone in their right mind would ever want to live in such a God forsaken place as Canada!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Autumn's borrowed time

The unseasonably warm weather continued this week on the prairie - 1st November yesterday and it was 23c! Seasonal averages for this time of year are normally between -6c and +5c, so we very much have the feeling we are on borrowed time with the weather.

Halloween on Friday and the surprisingly warm weather meant a record turn out of kids, which caught many housholds on the hop! My small batch of homemade cakes (left) proved to be woeful inadequate and after answering the door to about 50 trick or treaters, we were out of cakes, sweets and chocolates and were forced to retire to the local pub to escape the crush!

On the subject of timely escapes, Jim has received confirmation that he is off to Kenya on detachment. Subject to flights, he should be leaving next Sunday (9th) and returning in the middle of December, leaving me to face the wintery onslaught (when it finally arrives) alone! We'll be giving him a good send off though because next Saturday we are hosting another Murder Mystery party.

Whilst Jim is away, I will try my best to ensure he keeps us all updated with photos and stories. I am curious to find out whether it is the exotic posting that it sounds or whether he'll be in the African outback with quite basic facilities!

Finally for today, a video for my niece and nephew. This is Macy and a local Border Terrier called Branston playing in our garden. As you can see Branston can run Macy ragged!

video