It’s Your Morning and Welcome to It!

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Morning is breaking over our east-facing balcony.  The sun comes up rather late these days.  We have spectacular sunrises that start with such quiet drama

Morning is breaking over our east-facing balcony. The sun comes up rather late these days. We have spectacular sunrises that start with such quiet drama

Sunrise over a balcony in Winnipeg

Because it only lasts a few minutes each sunrise is precious.

Well that’s the good stuff.  But here we are, January 22 and so far this year I haven’t had a good rant!  Today I feel like a rant despite the beautiful sunrise.

My complaint, this time, is with radio and television so-called news personalities.  The news is no longer a program or just simply ‘the news’ – it’s a ‘show’.  Professional announcers saying – “…later in our show”!  ARGHHH!  I’m not looking for a show, or an entertainment, I’m looking for information – about the world, current affairs, newsworthy items from the ‘hood (or if you live in Winnipeg the ‘Peg, but don’t start me going).

The alarm clock switches on to the least obnoxious of the local ‘information’ programs.  Bang!  they aggravate me with their first words “Welcome to your Friday morning”.  Hang on a bit, I don’t own the morning, it’s not my personal sun rising in the East, my personal Friday.  But even if I was self-absorbed enough to believe it was, then don’t welcome me to it.  It would be like someone coming over to my house and telling me welcome to your house!  No, I welcome my visitors they don’t welcome me.

The idiots want to tell me about MY weather, not the local weather, or the Winnipeg weather, but MY weather.  I feel a bit like a cartoon character with my own little cloud following me overhead.

On the television weather they have lots of splashy (confusing and annoying) images, including satellite radar images.  The silly woman says,  “and here’s a look at your radar image”.  MY radar?  When did I get a radar system?  And if I did, who said she could use it?

What is this all about?  It’s about manipulation.  The media gurus have decided that we are such a narcissistic society that everything has to be about us.  So it is no longer ‘the news’, not even ‘the news for penguins’, but ‘your news’, ‘your weather’, ‘your radar’.  They even accuse me of having come up with the weather forecast because they announce “here is your forecast”.  I didn’t forecast any weather!  Don’t go blaming me.  Or is this a very personal forecast, I guess it has to be, because it is after all MY weather they are forecasting.

Can’t we go back to the good old days when we were the audience, they were the presenters and it was simply ‘the news’ and ‘the weather’.  I don’t know any of these people personally, they may be very nice, but I’m happy for them to stay in the radio or somewhere behind the television screen.  Greet me with ‘Good Morning’ and I’m happy, but don’t try to make me feel special, when you say “your…” I know it’s aimed at all the listeners or viewers you are broadcasting to, not just me.

While we are at it, where did this new infection come from where every question asked of an expert or ‘talking-head’ is answered with “So,…”  It goes like this.  Presenter “Why has the price of oil dropped so precipitously?” Expert “So, it has to do with supply and demand…”  or like this “Minister, what will your government do about the dramatically rising cost of health services and the ongoing problem of ‘wait-lists’.  Minister “So, people want the latest in technology and access to the latest pharmaceuticals, which….”

So?  So what?  It’s akin to the way politicians ask their own questions and answer them.  “Are our roads in the condition we want?  No, however…”  or “Am I happy with the current (whatever it is) no, but we have made remarkable progress”.

Stop the pandering folks, and treat us like intelligent adults.  Am I happy with you?  No!  Do I feel better now?  Not really.  But at least I have finally written something this  year.

By the way, welcome to Your 2016

 

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Changing Seasons

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Before we got to the season of pear-trees and turtle-doves, I gave my True Love a new camera for her birthday.  For the pro-photographers and serious amateurs among you, it isn’t something you are going to drool over – unless you have a general problem with drooling.  But it brought some excitement to our little nest.  And a slight bite out of the nest-egg. It is a Canon SX60 HS with 65 times optical zoom.

I thought I’d share a few of Susan’s early images – that also show how quickly the seasons change in these parts. All photos except the first (C) SK Sprange (I may have had a hand in the first)

Full moon at beginning of lunar eclipse with stray Canada Goose

Full moon at beginning of lunar eclipse with stray Canada Goose

A crisp autumn day on the deck

A crisp autumn day on the deck

We took a trip out to the lake to clean up fallen leaves and check the property.  However, most of the leaves were still on the trees.  Oh well, we just had to go back once more this year.

Autumnal branches

Autumnal branches

We chose a day when the sun, sky and leaves were working together to create an autumnal symphony of colour.

The path to the beach

The path to the beach

The lake glimpse through the trees before freeze-up

The lake glimpsed through the trees before freeze-up

The summer visitors have left - avian and human

The summer visitors have left – avian and human

We could sense the changing season from fall to winter was not far away.

This visitor to our balcony hunkers down from the effects of the first snow and wintery blast

This visitor to our balcony hunkered down from the effects of the first snow and wintry blast

We were right!  Back home in the warmth of the condo we observed our friend taking a break from the wind and the snow. Susan took this shot hand-held, through the patio door glass, from the other side of the living room.  I think she intends to keep the SX60.

Another “What the…?”

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During our recent stroll through the desert I came across this.  Have you any idea what it is?   Try some guesses before scrolling down

What the...? Any ideas about what this is?

What the…? Any ideas about what this is? Mohair perhaps?

The next image coming up should give the game away.

I love the way the camera helps us to look more closely at things and discover such beautiful details that are missed by the casual stroller-by.

Seeing these details leads to wondering about the incredible variety in the natural world and the ingenuity in the myriad of ways of protecting different species.

Some people just see nature, others signs of intelligent design, for me it’s a journey into recognising meaning – all this struggle for life and survival can’t be for nothing. It shows me how precious life is and how all living things should be treated as sacred.

Soft and subtle

Soft and subtle.  I suspect this distance gives it away.

below is the wider view.

Here is the plant growing in the desert. All those hairs must protect the plant from something.

Here is the plant growing in the desert. All those hairs must protect the plant from something.

I am intrigued by the sculpted edges of the leaves.

Just a short little post which seems fitting after the longer recollections of November 11.

Pop – An Unlikely Hero

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William Phillip Reid. My Hero

William Phillip Reid. My Hero

William Phillip Reid, also known as POP by family, friends and neighbours, is one of my heroes. He is also the one grandfather I had the privilege to know.  Ernest Alfred Howard Kighley Sprange, my paternal grandfather, was killed in battle in 1917

This is the notification my Grandmother received about the death of her husband

This is the notification my Grandmother received about the death of her husband

If you had met Pop you would have thought the honorific ‘Hero’ unlikely.  Pop was a mild-mannered, gentle man.  He was born in London’s East End in 1887, had limited schooling and was early out in the world helping to make a living.  I’m not sure of all the things he did, but assistant barrow-boy and then milkman were part of it.

Here is Pop with his milk barrow and some assistants

Pop married Georgina Salisbury, but they were worried that her name sounded ‘common’ when they introduced her to Pop’s family, so he said her name was Maud.  Throughout their life together he would either call her Maud or George. They were a devoted couple.

Pop ready for his wedding

Pop ready for his wedding

Like many young men in 1914, Pop enlisted in the army and was shipped overseas as part of the King’s Royal Rifles.  He was trained as a bomber.  The bombs were hand-held explosive devices – this was before the modern hand-grenade.  The front row bombers would stand up from the trench and throw their bombs towards the enemy lines and trenches. Pop rarely mentioned this terrible time and the horrible things he saw and had to do.  In fact, he only told me about being a bomber and what that meant once, after I had specifically asked about what he did as a soldier.

Pop was gassed with mustard gas and wounded in action.  He was hospitalised in France.  Apparently the army arranged for trains to take the wives of men injured in action to visit their husbands.  Nan Reid (George/Maud) wouldn’t go.  She had never been on a train and was terrified.

Pop was shipped back to England and had a limp and severe respiratory problems for the rest of his life.

Pop became a candy maker – specialising in the making of marzipan.  He worked for a sweet manufacturer known as Clarnico.  He worked there for decades.  After he retired as a candy maker he worked as a night-watchman for the company.  I don’t know the story details but during the London Blitz there was a fire in the factory and Pop was the one who raised the alarm and helped to save the factory. I think he was acting as an Air Raid Warden at the time.

During Second World War, war Nan and Pop were ‘bombed out’ of their house during the blitz.  Their home totally destroyed.  They moved to Chingford and lived most of their married life in an upstairs apartment of a two-story house.  Their apartment had cold running water, but hot water was only possible by lighting a huge water heater which had to be filled from the tap and carried to where hot water was needed – bathroom for baths and washing, kitchen for dishes.  I can’t remember how they managed to do the washing.  Nan was a ‘presser’ in a local laundry – no wrinkled clothing was permitted – I still enjoy ironing my shirts and pants.

After the war, Pop was working as a night-watchmen at Clarnicos and was attacked by burglars – he was hit on the head with a cosh, knocked unconscious and tied up.

When he finally fully retired the company presented him with an extremely small token of appreciation for his dedicated service, saving the factory, and being assaulted on the company’s behalf.  It was quite shameful. But I never once heard Pop complain, I can only imagine how he felt.

Pop always dressed smartly.  His clothes were not new – but they were always immaculate.  Trousers had knife-edge creases, shoes gleamed, blazer was brushed spotless.  On summer expeditions to the coast, the shirt and blazer usually worn tie-less and the black or brown shiny shoes replaced with blindingly white deck shoes appropriate for a day’s excursion to the seaside.

Nan and Pop and just rod at the seaside circa 1950

Nan and Pop and just rod at the seaside circa 1950

Promenading at Margate

Promenading at Margate – must have been a special occasion he still had on a tie.

Pop smoked a pipe (despite his lung problems) and would like to have a little smoke in his chair before taking a short afternoon nap.  I found his pipe fascinating.  When I was about four and had been staying with Nan and pop for the day, Nan came into the living room where Pop was napping, and found me happily perched in another chair with my legs crossed, sucking on Pop’s pipe (apparently I had carefully taken it out of his mouth while he was sleeping).  Nan had some words of advice for me about never touching that filthy thing again.  I never did.

With Remembrance Day upon us I recall the times when our local area of London had Remembrance Day parades and services.  As an Air Cadet and solo trumpeter I played Last Post and Reveille for the services for a number of years.  I always found it very moving.  I remember one year, I had finished playing, and was walking in another part of the town where there was another parade of veterans coming along.  I spotted Pop, he had his medals pinned to his blazer (complete with the King’s Royal Rifles badge), he was just standing quietly watching the veterans march by.

I stood with him, wondering about his thoughts at that moment.  Was he remembering the horrors of war, reliving the terror, or just remembering comrades and friends who had died.  Was he thinking about the German men he had likely killed when he threw his bombs.  I shall never know.  I only know that marching in the parade wasn’t something he ever did.  But he always watched, silent and thoughtful.

His marriage to Georgina thrived through many hardships, they were devoted to one another.  They had one daughter Catherine Georgina Rose (known always as Rose) who was the apple of Pop’s eye and his pride and joy.

Nan, Pop and my mother Rose

Nan, Pop and my mother Rose

Pop was a very generous man.  Although he and Nan had very little, they never failed to share what they had.  I remember them lining up each week to pay money into the “Christmas Club”, a locally organised group who would collect contributions from members, record the contributions, keep the money safe in a bank or Building Society and distribute the savings back to the members just in time to buy Christmas presents and purchase special Christmas food.  I don’t think Nan and Pop ever had a bank account of their own.  But this was a community that realised people needed extra money at Christmas and offered a way to make saving possible.

I don’t have many stories to tell as Pop was a man of few words – but his gestures, his kindness and steadfastness told you everything you needed to know.  He was a man of principle, full of love, and at the heart of his gentleness was a brave hero.

My favourite flower - the simple and elegant poppy

Lest we forget

Life in the Desert

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The usual desert image

The usual desert image

During our stay in the Okanagan our friends took us to the Desert Centre, Osoyoos in the South Okanagan valley.  Much of the area in the valley was desert.  But due to agricultural development, growth of wine production and a large influx of people choosing the valley as home, most of the unique desert has been lost. “The Osoyoos Desert Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the endangered antelope-brush ecosystem” (from the Desert Centre brochure. The result is a beautiful oasis of desert (sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it).

The desert is an abundance of life – flora and fauna, reptile and insect, it’s a wonderland.

The natural valley landscape

The natural valley landscape

The centre has a small but interesting natural history museum that is worth visiting before setting out on the trail. The centre offers daily interpreter led tours.  We arrived after the last tour of the day but enjoyed strolling at our own pace.  We were guided by the interpretive map and the numbered exhibit markers.

The society has built a wonderful boardwalk to protect the fragile biotic crust

The society has built a boardwalk to protect the fragile biotic crust

The biotic crust is made up of around 27 different species – it resembles moss, and turns bright green or brown when water is sprinkled on its surface. “It retains moisture for plants, transfers nutrients into the soil below, and allows bunchgrass seeds to hold on to the ground for germination.” (Desert Centre brochure).

Susan and our friends Anne and Allan head out on the boardwalk

Susan and our friends Anne and Allan head out on the boardwalk

It was very warm for early June – in the mid thirties Celsius.  Bring your hat and water.

So delicate, in such a harsh environment

So delicate, in such a harsh environment

These beautiful plants were widely distributed in the area, but too far from the boardwalk to get a great hand-held shot

These beautiful plants were widely distributed in the area, but too far from the boardwalk to get a great hand-held shot

Flora is even more striking when discovered in the otherwise monochrome desert

Flora is even more striking when discovered in the otherwise monochrome desert

Shrubs in bloom

Shrubs in bloom

More striking blossoms

More striking blossoms

More floral surprises

and floral surprises

More floral display

and floral displays

Just one more

Just one more of my purple friends

One more for the road

One more for the road

Anytime you are in the South Okanagan, take the time to visit the Desert Centre Osoyoos.

 

Bark, Bark, Bark

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This is a second article on our recent trip across the Canadian prairies, through the Rocky Mountains and a sojourn in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia.

Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the tress and sometimes you can’t see the tree for the bark.  I hope you enjoy these examples of the beauty of looking and touching trees up close and personal.

Click on any image for a more detailed view. All photos copyright Rod Sprange

What a lovely body

What a lovely body

Too bad some needed to leave their own mark on this beauty.  For the record, I’m not really into tattoos and tree carvings.

Like a beautiful free-form jigsaw puzzle. I could stare at this for hours

Like a beautiful free-form jigsaw puzzle. I could stare at this tree for hours. I was fascinated by the colours, textures and pattens.

Images within images - what do you see?

Images within images – what do you see? (hint – one sheep, one Blood-Hound…)

Interesting horizontal growth patterns on this example

Interesting horizontal growth patterns on this example

Love the layers and subtle colours

Love the layers and subtle colours

Almost like wooden feathers

Almost like wooden feathers

Lots of knots

Lots of knots

Nice discrete label on this tree

Nice discrete label on this tree

Life-lines - I wonder if anyone reads bark lines as some read palms?

Life-lines – I wonder if anyone reads bark lines as some read palms?

The variety in creation astounds me.  So much beauty and individualism in the collective surrounding us.  We can find the same species and notice subtle differences. Can our observations of the beauty in the fine-print of nature help us to see the beauty in the fine-print of each individual we meet – even that annoying person trying to push me further in the check-out line with their cart…deep breath, patience and think of the bark rather than doing it!

Next time – the wonders of the desert.

MORE THAN DOS CERVEZAS – THE ARTISTS OF SAN PANCHO

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What do you do with thousands of discarded bottle caps?  Coke, Pepsi, Beer – you name it, there are thousands upon thousands of bottle-caps discarded every day across the world.

What does this have to do with St. Francis of Assisi and the Little Mexican town of San Pancho, AKO San Francisco?

The mural of Saint Francis in the centre of San Pancho/San Francisco Mexico

The mural of Saint Francis in the centre of San Pancho/San Francisco Mexico

This handsome mural graces the square across from the church in the centre of San Pancho/San Francisco.  Why the two names?  I don’t know!  I will try to find out when I visit next February.

The riddle of the connection with bottle-caps I can clear up.

There is an artist in San Pancho who makes these murals using discarded bottle-caps. The mural of San Francisco (Saint Francis for you anglos) is made of thousands of bottle-caps that have been carefully chosen for their colour and pattern to create this scene.  They are painstakingly attached to the repainted wall by the artist and his helpers.

Close-up of St. Francis Mural

Close-up of St. Francis Mural

This is a small part of the mural – an eagle image I believe

Detail of St. Francis Mural

Detail of St. Francis Mural

See how carefully the caps have been selected and arranged

The heart of the art of St. Francis mural

The heart of the art of St. Francis mural

Some things do seem to go better with Coke, but beer seems to outnumber the pop when you look at the entire wall.

When we were there last March the artist was busy on a project with the local school.  He had persuaded students to help to gather and sort piles of bottle-tops.  Here are some below.

So what do you do with hundreds of used beer-bottle caps?

So what do you do with hundreds of used beer-bottle caps?

The artist has created the mural for the school walls and is using the children to help with the creation – including applying the caps to the wall.

Making a start on the school mural at San Pancho

Making a start on the school mural at San Pancho

Here is the beginning of one wall

The process

The process

Later we see the figure taking shape.

The painstaking work continues in the heat of the day

The painstaking work continues in the heat of the day

Meanwhile an assistant is busy filling in this image on another wall.

The mural in progress

The mural in progress

We can see the design taking shape.

The Artist at work on the school mural

The Artist at work on the school mural

We were only in San Pancho for the day – so we are looking forward to returning in 2016 to see the finished project.

What a great way to turn garbage (trash to Americans, and rubbish to Brits) into something that beautifies the neighbourhood.  They are also teaching the school-children about recycling and expanding their creative imaginations.

I take my cap off to the artist, and a few more on a hot day in San Pancho.  When I return I will be sure to get his name.  Curt, if you read this post, can you let us know the name of the artist? Gracias Señor!

Grist for the Mill

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After a wonderful visit with our very good friends from Peach Land and hopefully before we had worn out the welcome mat, we headed south towards Penticton and our next victims.  Lovely friends we made through our church in Puerto Vallarta, rashly invited us to visit them.  They have a summer home south of Penticton, in a small, historic village called Kaleden.  Their summer home is situated on the shore of Skaha Lake.  Our friends showed us around the area.  They took us on a fascinating visit to a restored grist mill.  If you have the grist, they have the mill.

My favourite flower - the simple and elegant poppy

My favourite flower – the simple and elegant poppy

We were so excited to be greeted by fields of poppies.

This old mill has been lovingly restored.

This old mill has been lovingly restored.

The Grist Mill field of poppies was like an old master

The Grist Mill field of poppies was like an old master

Grist Mill Poppies 2

The blues of he cornflower sets off the brilliant red of the poppies

The blue of the cornflower sets off the brilliant red of the poppies

The restored water-wheel

The restored water-wheel.  As you can see the restoration work continues.

The old wagon from the grist mill

The old wagon from the grist mill.

Grist mill buildings

Grist mill buildings

Such character in these old grist mill timbers.  Notice the dove-tailing.

Such character in these old grist mill timbers. Notice the dove-tailing.

Poppies, Poppies everywhere

Poppies, Poppies everywhere

Can't get enough of those poppies

Can’t get enough of those poppies

It was a very cool place to visit in such very hot weather.  I forgot to mention, it was in the upper 30s C (high 90s F) when we arrived in the valley.  It took us a few days to get acclimatised.  While these temperatures are fairly common for the area in summer, they are unusual for early June.  The good news is it cools off nicely overnight. The area is prone to forest fires and much of it is rated as desert.  However, the warm days and cool evenings are wonderful for growing grapes.  Combined with the interesting soils of the area the Okanagan has become renowned for the excellent quality wines produced by a myriad of wineries.  There are almost too many wine tasting opportunities. Wake up from your Nappa, and visit the Okanagan Valley – you will be glad you did.

Apples, cherries, peaches and honey also abound. The Okanagan Apple Growers are now producing some excellent, award-winning, cider – but their cider rules only in their own house – not yet enough quantities produced to make it out of the province (unless you come and buy it and transport it yourself).  It’s worth the trip!

Suddenly

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It was the mid-early sixties. I lived with my parents about 12 miles from the centre of London. I worked near the Tower of London at the time. On this ordinary day I left for work by the back door of our semi-detached house on the street which could have been named for the famous writer of the Yorkshire veterinary stories, if only it had two Rs. I passed by the aviary Dad had constructed, and the six pairs of jabbering budgies. I walked purposefully down the crazy-paving pathway (everyone in London walked with purpose, for no apparent reason). I crossed over the tiny bridge Dad had made over the fish-pond, glimpsing the orange flash of the gold-fish among the weeds.

I unlatched the back gate and headed up the back-alley climbing the hill. I glanced over the fences at the various back gardens. Such a variety in the design and upkeep of these patches of property. Some had built high fences to keep away the prying eyes from the Englishmen’s castles. Half way up the back lane, where the hill suddenly becomes much steeper, I was careful not to damage my thin soled and gleaming leather shoes – black of course (only ruffians wear brown shoes! Brahn boots: I asks ya? Brahn boots!). at this mid-point in the alley the surface was in constant need of repair. It had been a nuisance when we used to race down the hill on our trolleys, and it was a nuisance still when trying got look debonair on the way to the City.

At the top of the alley I turned down Lansdowne Road and then left on Leadale Avenue. Funny, it had never occurred to me till now, it was called Leadale as we were on one hilly side of the Lea Valley. Very rustic sounding.

I walked to the end of Leadale where it meets Chingford Mount Road or Old Church Road. There was a Norman church at the top of Leadale built in the 12th century. It was near the top of The Mount, a high hill from the top of which, on a clear day, you could see the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was a rare sighting being London in the early sixties.

My bus stop was on the other side of the main road – we could catch a number 38 (my bus) or the Green Line bus – a longer distance route with fewer stops and a more comfortable coach.

I managed to cross the busy road and took my place queuing for the #38 which would take me to Leyton underground station, where I would catch the train into London. An hour a half commute each way (that’s about 9 miles an hour – you could do it faster on a donkey!)

As usual I waited patiently for my bus. I used to prefer to sit upstairs in the red double-deckers or On Top as it was called ( a throw back to the days of the open-topped buses double-decker buses, you rode on top or inside).  I would try to get near the front so I could watch as we went over the top of the Mount. Then I would get out my book – probably a James Bond story.

But this particular, ordinary day, I was still waiting for the bus when suddenly I heard a loud squeal of tires and a bang. I looked towards the sounds – close to the top of the Mount. I saw a woman’s body flying through the air – then disappearing, hidden by the car that must have struck her.

Everything went very still and quiet for a few seconds. I couldn’t take in what I had seen.

I was quite a long way away from the accident. Then sound returned and I saw people running to the woman in the road. I saw someone take off their coat – I assumed they covered her to keep her warm. Someone ran to the nearest house – I supposed to call for an ambulance and police, there were no mobile phones in those days. People at the bus stop were standing, staring, with hands over their mouths in disbelief.

Soon my bus came as usual, but it was no longer an ordinary day. Suddenly everything had changed.

Don’t leave things unsaid.

Where in the World is Rod?

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Have you been thinking “Where in the world has Rod gone?”  Or maybe you haven’t noticed I haven’t blogged for a while.

No excuses – I just didn’t have the urge to post since returning from Mexico in April. Then Susan and I took a road trip from Winnipeg through Calgary and the Rockies to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.  We have a number of friends in this area so we changed our name from Sprange to Sponge and went-a-calling.

We left Winnipeg at 4:30 am on a Thursday and drove to Swift Current, Saskatchewan   There wasn’t a lot of excitement during these first 600 kilometres or so, for which we are grateful, but we did see three antelope running along the prairie.  Absolutely beautiful.  These guys seemed to be travelling at about 30 kph and moved with such grace. We had not put two and two together before – “Oh home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play”.  We didn’t see deer but lots of cattle and these three amazing antelope.

There was evening and there was morning – our first day.

First thing we left for Calgary where we stayed two nights with friends who have recently moved there from Winnipeg.  It was a good time and we enjoyed seeing their new home.  It feels much better when we can visualise friends in their environment.

Sunday we left to drive as far as Revelstoke British Columbia.

The drive through the mountains was of course spectacular.  First we went through Banff National Park.

Just another wonderful mountain along the highway

Just another wonderful mountain along the highway

Driving through Banff

Driving through Banff

Special bridges built for wildlife to cross the highway

Special bridges built for wildlife to safely cross the highway

We had a nice coffee in Banff Township and then stopped at Lake Louise for lunch.  We hadn’t been there since the early 90’s.  The changes are not for the better – but it is still a beautiful spot (if you can find a place to park and don’t get trampled by the crowds of tourists).

The glacier has receded dramatically since my last visit

The glacier has receded dramatically since our last visitI never tire of the emerald green colour of the lakes in the RockiesI never tire of the emerald-green colour of the lakes in the Rockies

This is a telephoto shot of the rock face showing the wonderful colours

This is a telephoto shot of the rock face showing the  colours

We were expecting high prices at the Chateau Lake Louise – but not the daylight robbery of $26 for mac and cheese! (I’m turning into my Father)  We went back down the hill to the village and received slightly better value – and the view was still pretty good – if you like snow-capped mountains, rushing mountain streams and assorted evergreens trees.

Poppies have special meaning for Susan and me, and the alpine poppies at Lake Louise are favourites

Poppies have special meaning for Susan and me, and the alpine poppies at Lake Louise are favourites

Colour variety

Colour variety

Having filled our tummies and the gas-tank (I still laugh at the old joke, eat here and get gas) and we continued on to Revelstoke going over or through Roger’s Pass (never sure which).

We reached Revelstoke in mid-afternoon and discovered we had picked the perfect B and B.  If you are ever in Revelstoke stay at Cornerstone Bed and Breakfast. It’s a lovely house with even lovelier hosts. Sharie really took good care of us and Jun made breakfast an art form.

Next morning we were on our way to Peachland in the Okanagan Valley.

Three Valley Gap is a lovely spot to stop between Revelstoke and the Okanagan.

Three Valley Gap is a lovely spot to stop between Revelstoke and the Okanagan.

We were welcomed into the delightful home of very good friends whose condo overlooks Lake Okanagan – I won’t use their names as people may not wish to be associated with the Sponges publicly.  I’m with Groucho, I wouldn’t want to join a club that would have me as member. So respecting our friends privacy we move along.

Maybe one day the town will move the cables underground where they belong.  But what a gorgeous view.

Maybe one day the town will move the cables underground where they belong. But what a gorgeous view from their front balcony.

I’ll stop at this point and we can all have a rest – what a perfect place to stop and relax for a while. Pinot Gris for me please.

The Snatch and Grab

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People from home often ask us if we are nervous going to Mexico because of all the crime and murders.  Clearly people don’t check the crime statistics.  We feel more comfortable walking around Puerto Vallarta in the evening than we do back in Winnipeg – or any US or Canadian city – or in the UK come to that.

But this week we witnessed a day-light robbery, carried out mercilessly and in front of witnesses.  Mind you the witnesses were mainly Coots – I’m not sure if they were old ones or not.

Here’s what happened.  We were watching an Anhinga fishing from the bank of a small lake on the golf course.  This is the golf course that has some lovely extra-large crocodiles often seen sunbathing by the water hazards.

What’s an Anhinga? I hear you ask – it’s a swimming bird related to the Cormorants.  It has a longer neck and apparently has a buoyancy issue with its feathers.

Here is a long, long shot of an Anhinga that was too far away to capture well.  But it will give you a feel for these beauties.

Here is an Anhinga sitting a favourite log, watching for fish

Here is an Anhinga sitting on a favourite log, watching for fish

Now it has spotted something that could be good for lunch

Now it has spotted something that could be good for lunch

This Anhinga likes to try and catch the fish without having to actually go right into the water - but is rarely successful.

This Anhinga likes to try to catch the fish without having to go right into the water – but is rarely successful.

Now back to the robbery.  One afternoon last week, we were standing by this spot watching the Anhinga, some American Coots, a Great Egret, Black Iguanas and the endangered Green Iguanas.

The Anhinga went fishing, eventually submerging its whole body under the water and swimming below the surface.  They can stay under the water for a very long time.

We saw the Great Egret, almost twice the size of the Anhinga, stalk across to the edge of the water, making the long-necked posture of an Egret/Heron about to strike, when its head flashed down under the water and grabbed something, something big.  It was the Anhinga!  The Egret pulled the Anhinga right up out of the water by the beak/bill and then snatched the fish away.  The Anhinga just stood there looking stunned – in shock.  You could see it thinking “It all happened so fast, and there’s never a cop about when you need one”.

The Great Egret swallowed its ill-gotten gains and stalked about looking like the Boss. The Anhinga decided to move on and began to look for fish on the other side of the lake.

We’ve seen Terns steal or try to steal fish from the Pelicans when they throw them in the air to get the heads facing down – but never have we seen a mugging like this!

I’ll try to get a photograph of the Great Egret in the next while so you can put its photo up in the Post Office.

Snap Happy

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Here is another What the…?  (Click on any image for a larger format. Copyright Rod Sprange)

So what do you think this is?

So what do you think this is?

I did promise you a close-up of the local, so if you follow this blog you should have an idea.  If not, here is another clue.

This surprisingly is the blunt end

This surprisingly is the blunt end

So, do you have it yet?

Ok let’s look at the sharp end

Ok, who wants tone this guys dental hygienist?  Is=f the picture is a little fuzzy, you try keeping the camera steady this close to my smiley.

Who wants to volunteer to be this guys dental hygienist? If you find the photo a little fuzzy, you try keeping the camera steady this close to George Smiley while standing on a floating dock.

You must have figured it out by now.  No tears please

Does he look hungry to you?

Does he look hungry to you?

Here is the whole seven feet or so of him – I declined to use a tape measure.

That's about the long and short of it.

That’s about the long and short of it.

And one of him in his favourite spot – waiting for the fisherman to finish cleaning fish. This is about ten houses down from us – right off the patio.  We have noticed no one lets their dogs run free here.

Nice place to stretch out for siesta time.

Nice place to stretch out for siesta time.

Please note my wife and friends stayed up on the walkway while I came down onto the floating dock to get you these photos.  Aren’t you impressed.

Next time – the story of the great robbery we witnessed.  Life here is exciting.