Sunday, November 30, 2014

Just A Few More

Until I moved to this property in rural Nova Scotia, I had never hung Christmas lights outside. Imagine -- 37 years without even a single strand of coloured lights strung around a shrub. I've spent the last eight years totally making up for it.
First it was lights strung along the roof of the chicken coop, and it was so nice to look out from the house or drive down the road and see that glowing oasis of Christmas lights shining in the country darkness. It makes the hens feel festive too; they lay more green-shelled eggs.
Now all three decks are colourized as well as my mother's balcony by simply adding one more string of lights.
But I've always had my eye on other places beyond the house that could be decorated; getting an extension cord to reach some of the spots (or a ladder, in the case of the pole under the osprey nest) was the challenge.
I am absolutely delighted with my inspired addition for this year: a star with a lovely tail of lights that we can see from the house. It's neat to look out and see this star shining way down by the mailbox.
"We can do the same thing with the trees on the other side of the front yard," I declared at supper time.
It's just a few more strings of coloured lights. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Year In 4H: Column 2

My year in 4H is being followed by the Chronicle-Herald with a column appearing every other month. Here is the link to the second column in my series:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happiness Is...A Dandelion In November

I arrived home from work on Tuesday evening to see this lovely little friend greeting me on the kitchen island. My husband found it over on the lot next door and brought it inside.
"We should feed it to Rosie," I said.
Rosie is our rabbit and I'm quite sure would appreciate this tasty memory of the summertime.
Funny that the day before, Jane Purdy had dropped by the Journal office with two small jars of her dandelion jelly for me.
That song, "It's a marshmallow world in the winter," has been playing on repeat in my brain thanks to a TV commercial so I'm taking poetic license and singing instead, "It's a dandelion world in November".
I don't mind winter but it's lovely to have a bit of sunshine shining in the kitchen this time of year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How To Kill A Christmas Cake

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, November 29, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

Freshly baked. Now comes months of sherry sprinkling.

My friend Shelagh is quite confident she can make anyone love Christmas cake, especially someone who has never tasted one before.
“This is the one that people who say they don’t like fruitcake haven’t had,” she says of her Nanny’s fruitcake. 
During my visit to Ontario last month, Shelagh handed me a Christmas gift bag containing a chunk of her just-made Christmas cake and a small jam jar full of sherry but she forgot to tell me how to combine the two.
Given her tone on the phone when I made a follow-up call the other day, taking care of Nanny’s cake is a great responsibility.
“You should be adding the sherry every couple of weeks and since it’s now the end of the November that means two seconds after you hang up the phone,” she snipped at me. 
I was smart enough not to say out loud, ‘It’s just a Christmas cake’ because for Shelagh, this is a family tradition she alone carries on. 
“It probably came from Nanny’s mother but I always think of it as Nanny’s,” she said. “Mine isn’t as good as Mum’s and Mum’s wasn’t as good as Nanny’s. It probably has something to do with not letting it age long enough. Thanksgiving was always the rule. Plus I keep mine in the fridge but Mum kept hers in a cold cellar.”
“It was only two weeks after Thanksgiving that you made yours,” said the person who paid no attention to the bag of cake and sherry sitting on a shelf in her house for a month. “It should be fine.”
YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, you Christmas cake cretin. Maybe you don’t even deserve to have this cake, even one that small.”
Okay, Shelagh didn’t really say that but the long sigh oozing through the phone suggested I wasn’t taking this Christmas cake seriously. 
“I can do this,” I reassured her. “I can. Just tell me what to with the sherry.”  
“You don’t want pools of sherry on top. For a cake that size, no more than a tablespoon. Just sprinkle it over,” she explained. “Since you haven’t done it yet, do it more frequently with a lighter hand. Too much sherry and it becomes a big sludgy mess. It would turn into Christmas pudding.”
She said ‘Christmas pudding’ like it was some vastly inferior dessert. The lip curl was audible.
Since I’ve never eaten Christmas cake but am now fully educated in the care and maintenance of this one, what can I expect when I unwrap it for the final time on Christmas Eve?
“It will be a dark, moist, flavourful cake,” Shelagh said. “Ideally, it gets to the point where it’s so dark, you can’t see the individual fruit. This is why people think they don’t like Christmas cake, when they think of the individual ingredients.”
Nanny’s recipe uses candied fruit, crystallized ginger, maraschino cherries, dates and raisins.
“But no nuts,” Shelagh said. “People feel very strongly about nuts or no nuts and about light or dark. Then there is the whole icing debacle. I am no nuts and no icing. The cake needs to stand alone.”
This intensity is a side of my friend I’ve never seen before. She doesn’t even get this worked up about books and she’s a librarian.
Her final instructions to me were very clear: “You have to cut it the right way. You have to cut the slices into fingers. That’s the way Nanny did it. And you have to savour it,” Shelagh added. “I’m good about not starting to eat it too soon but once I’ve started, I’ll take it out and hack pieces off.”
Every fall, Shelagh sends cakes to her mother, her father, and her sister in Vancouver. They receive theirs in tins and are likely quite knowledgeable in the proper application of sherry. I get the impression my bag with a small chunk of cake was a trial run and I’ve failed to prove myself worthy enough. 
“I’m really careful about who I give it out to,” Shelagh said. “Not to someone who lets it languish in a bag.”
As soon as I hung up the phone, I unwrapped the small chunk of Nanny’s Christmas cake entrusted to me and picked up a tablespoon. But before attempting my first light sprinkle of sherry, I took a heavy swig to calm my nerves.

The friendship will survive!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Homemade Christmas

My sister has six children so she really wanted us to do homemade Christmas gifts this year.
"No problem," I said since I'd seen a crafty idea I knew I could handle.
No one warned me about glue gun injuries.
I couldn't find glass ornaments big enough to take an adult hand print so I had to paint the large but clear ones I found. Nothing wrong with streaky paint when it's homemade and the recipients are ten and under.
Easy-peasy to paint my hand white and mark five finger snowpeople on the ornaments. Although sitting in their containers drying, they look like skeleton hand ornaments.
The ornaments came in boxes of eight so I'm doing an ornament for the entire family. Cutting out 40 tiny top hats out of black felt wasn't too bad either and it was easy to clip the tiny felt scarves. I worked through the pain it was causing to my carpal tunnelled wrist.
But no one warned me about how hot the glue gets. And when you're working with tiny hats and tiny scarves, there's no way to avoid coming into contact with the hot glue. There's no way to avoid having a very hot, very tiny black hat stuck to the index finger of your left hand.
I said some very un-Christmasy words at that moment.
After I'd rescued my finger and applied emergency first aid, I announced, "If she has any more children, Christmas is cancelled."

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Preview

I'm writing about this in my Field Notes column this week. 
It's a column about Christmas cake, family traditions and a true test of friendship. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Not Another One!

And there there was...another one.
Poor Stella. The old dog just wants to eat, sleep and go outside twice a day to piddle and poop. Is that too much to ask for when you're an old dog? A year after we brought a puppy home, I brought a kitten home. So it's been two years since wee Archie became the other boy in the house.
There are times, when two cats and two dogs are sitting on the mat in the foyer/mudroom (we still don't know what to call it) and I'm having to dole out treats to each of them, making sure Fern doesn't eat Archie's treats and Stella doesn't eat Archie's treats, that I wonder how on earth we ended up with so many pets.
It's a good thing we don't have a barn because I know someone who wants to re-home her donkeys.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Still Our Puppy

It's been three years since Abby joined our family. The cuteness in this photo still works with us but she has a possessive streak in her that can make her aggressive, even violent. We've taken steps to understand and correct that, with certain vitamin supplements and an herbal remedy that Stella herself was fed in her early, manic days in our Alzheimer-infused household.
That treatment worked; there have been no further Abby-induced fights since we began her supplements but Abby is a dog and like all dogs, whose moods are harder to read than humans, who can't express their feelings in words, we still watch for warning signs in Abby.
Just this morning, as Abby began to eat her breakfast, Fern the cat came to have a drink of water out of the dish and Abby growled at her. So I backed her off her food dish and made her wait and watch as Fern had her drink. It's those moments you need to be present for and deal with immediately. Abby gets away with A LOT because she is cute -- and really, she is; she never outgrew that face in the photo -- and she does not have a mind of her own like Stella does, which I so appreciate; perhaps it's because she has slept with us since she was a puppy but Abby is more in tune with us, but also more attached. We still debate about letting her sleep with us. I know I'd sleep better, and we'd assert our dominance better, but we're soft humans, we give in to the cuteness. 
They are two very different dogs, this little and big, this brindle and fawn, this Abby and Stella. Yet both of them have an aggressive streak that has made my life miserable more often than not. There is something I'm meant to learn about dogs, about myself, and I haven't figured it out yet.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In Conversation With...Chesley Atkinson

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

Chesley Atkinson shows off the French medal.

Addressed to Chesley Atkinson of Pugwash, the letter begins, “Monsieur,” and continues in French. It is from the Ambassade de France au Canada, Phillipe Zeller.
In translation, it says, “You have been awarded the rank of Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour.”
The 95-year-old World War Two veteran is one of five local veterans who have received the French medal in recognition of their role in liberating France from the Germans.
Or “clearing their country of them,” as Chesley puts it. 
“They would never have got the Germans out of there by themselves. Never, never, never,” he says.
Chesley signed up for the war in July 1940 just before his 20th birthday. He and his friends knew they would be going overseas where the fight was taking place.
“We had to face that, knowing we were going,” he says.
It would be several years before Chesley set foot on European soil. In the years following basic training in the fall of 1940, Chesley trained as a mechanic, driver and fitter for tanks. Although he signed up with C Company of the Halifax Rifles, by the time they landed in England, they’d been switched to an armoured tank corps.
Chesley has a couple of books at hand: a reference book of war tanks with dog-eared pages marking the tanks on which he worked; and a book about the 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade including a map of the route his regiment took through France and Belgium into Germany.
In that book, on the first page of the chapter on France, is a handwritten note: “This date is not right. I spent my birthday, 22nd July in France and we had been in battle for two weeks then.”
When he landed at Courseulles-sur-Mer, west of Dieppe, Corporal Atkinson was about to mark his 25th birthday. 
“We had no problem getting landed in France and when we got there, we were supposed to have five days of rest. But [after three days] at nine o’clock at night, they told us to pull out. I had to leave with the half-track and a driver.”
He opens his book of tanks to a photo of his vehicle. 
“The tanks weighed 32 tonnes. The half-track weighed 12 tonnes. The half-tracks were used for transporting infantry,” he says.
The half-track looks like a truck in front but instead of back wheels, there are tank tracks.
“The tanks used to run over land mines all the time and they would blow the track half off or the sides or the assemblies,” he says.
As a fitter, Chesley’s job was to fix the parts that broke down or were damaged most often: the tracks and the clutches. And his job meant that where the tanks were, that’s where he had to be.
“We were all night long, stop and start, stop and start,” he says of pulling out. “Our infantry was coming with us. They followed us on foot with a hundred pounds of weight on them. I used to load them into the half-track, as many as we could fit in.
“We went through cleared fields and bushes and woods. Tanks would shove down quite a tree but we had awful times trying to follow it.
“I was standing up in the half-track guiding. Billy Ball from Montreal was our driver, an older fellow. There was just the two of us in the half-track. The doctor had one [with a driver and an assistant]. He was behind us. We broke through the woods in the morning into a great big hayfield. We could see woods again way over farther. We could see stacks of hay all over the place. 
“Every single one of those hay stacks had a German machine gun underneath.
“They opened up on us. And not only that, there were two great big German 88s and they started firing and mortars started to come, one right after the other. Holy oh mackerel Moses.
“We were going pretty slow. There were shells landing and Billy was driving the old half-track and she would shake. I said, ‘Billy, we have to keep going, we have to follow the command tank’. We kept going and we got to the edge of the woods on the far side. We had three tanks of our own and three tanks of the Polish army and three tanks of the British army. Of course the infantry was there too. I said to Billy, ‘Every time somebody moves, they shoot them’. One thing about the Germans, they never fired at a Red Cross vehicle. The Red Cross were loading injured men. 
“I knew the Germans fired three mortars but they didn’t fire the second ones in the same place. When we got pretty near to the edge of the woods, they had fired three. One of them was within six feet of our vehicle. We slacked off a bit and the doctor’s half-track pulled out around us and pulled right in front of us and behind the tank that was trying to get to the woods. All of sudden, he’d just got in front of us and a mortar landed fair in the middle of the half-track. Holy oh mackerel Moses. There were bodies flying in all directions.
“Billy jammed on the brake and I said, ‘Back up, back up quick’ and we backed up about six feet and another mortar landed right where we had been about two seconds before. Off flew the right front wheel and part of the radiator and part of the engine and the hood. It drove us back. Nothing hit us hard but it gave us an awful shaking up.”
“We jumped out and I said ‘Get in these holes, get down in there, Billy.’ The hole [from the mortar] was about three feet deep and six feet across. We jumped in it and was it ever hot, almost as if you’d jumped on top of the stove. Billy said, ‘Oh, Ches, I can’t stand this, it’s terrible hot,’ and I said, ‘You’d better get your head down in case they do fire again.’ We stayed there for five or six minutes. I thought the pants were going to burn right off me. Talk about hot. But that calmed her down. Our infantry had made it to the edge of the woods and they found out where the two mortar outfits were. They killed seven and got nine prisoners.”
The day stretched through the night as Chesley and Billy, who barely had a scratch on him, waited with the injured for ambulances. 
“We got clear of them all, the injured, by 12 o’clock that night,” says Chesley. “Billy said, ‘What are we going to do?’ Everybody was gone, you see, it was just him and I. So I said, ‘We have nothing to eat, no water, we have no idea where we are, don’t know where the roads are.’ The next morning, we decided we could hear the guns going off way off in the distance so I said, ‘Billy, what do you say we just take our rifle and start walking. Surely to God, there must be a road somewhere we can sit down by and get some kind of vehicle coming or going.”
Carrying their kit bags and armed with their rifles, they walked away from the scene of their first battle and found a road. Two days later, they were able to flag down a supply truck.
They went three days without food or water before being reunited with their regiment.
“When you’re hungry and thirsty, especially when you’re thirsty, your tongue is as big as your fist and you can’t swallow,” Chesley remembers. 
Was he injured?
“I tell ya, I’m still finding pieces in me now,” he says. “When the exploding shells landed, and they landed damn close to us a lot of the time, they blew quite a hole and everything within forty or fifty yards was hit with sand and dirt, if nothing bigger hit you. I was lucky [because] I got hit damn close two or three times. Here awhile ago, I felt something coming through on the top of my nose. Right here, on the side of my head, there’s something coming through there now. I got digging at another spot one day and something came out about the size of the head of a match. That’s what it looked like. When I got the pinchers and squeezed, it broke up like a little wee rock.”
He touches the white scar on his head. 
“There was one up here on the top of my forehead, that was the worse one I ever got. It was probably an inch and a half long. It wasn’t really deep. I got Billy to fix it up for me.”
More than a year later, in September 1945, the war ended but Chesley didn’t make it home until November. 
“I had lots of time in, I could have come back as soon as the war was over, but we had to sign a paper saying we would wait until the married fellows got home first,” he explains.
It didn’t take him long to join the ranks of the married fellows, however, when he met a woman named Gladys shortly after returning to Pugwash. 
For the next 41 years, Chesley helped Gladys raise three children and worked as the Pugwash harbour master and wharf manager for 41 years.
“I’m soon at the end of my trail,” Chesley admits while sitting in the living room of his home on Freedom Lane, “but I’m damn lucky to be as good as I am.”
Monsieur, we’re all damn lucky you were as good as you once were.

A photo of Corporal Atkinson along with the certificate
of appreciation from the Village of Pugwash.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cat Stretch

What can I say about this?
This stretch, this stretch of sunshine, this stretch of fur.
This stretch of Fern. 

"Cats can work out mathematically the exact place to sit 
that will cause the most inconvenience."
(Pam Brown)

Sunday, November 16, 2014


We had guests wander up to the apple bar overnight after the snowstorm. My husband has been storing bags of deer apples behind the chicken coop; he could have saved himself the trouble of lugging them back to the woods because the deer are more than willing to hang out there while we're all sleeping.
I know that deer sleep, if ever a prey animal sleeps, because we see their body forms left behind in the grass when we go for a drive on the four-wheeler. Perhaps they rest, that's it, they rest their eyes, they rest their muscles but their ears are always awake, alert, two thick furry antennae listening for warning signs.
There have been signs that they lie down in the field behind the chicken coop.
Do they know they are safe in our yard? Do they know the man who keeps heading out to "get a deer" comes back only with photographic evidence of them? Do they know we are their friends like the chickens know the osprey flying over the pen will not harm them?
Gather in, deer friends, be close, be safe, be the apples of our eyes.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

First Snow

It's not going to last which is what makes the first snow storm of the season -- even before it's officially "winter" -- so special. Some of us wanted to get outside really early this morning to enjoy the new world. Once I was properly awake and no longer being hopped on, that was me too.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Daughter Becomes the Voice of Her POW Dad

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

Alice Dionne of Linden wants to share her father’s World War Two story because she has lived with the effect the war had on him. She believes her father suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after he returned from the war in 1945, and that he was bitter POWs were not acknowledged as they should have been.
“They might not have made the ultimate sacrifice but given what they lived, that was often worse than being dead,” she says.
Her father, Andrew Darragh, enlisted with the North Nova Highlanders Regiment in 1942 at the age of 18. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, he landed at Dieppe and the next day, he and 102 others were captured by German soldiers. He was a prisoner of war for 11 months.
“Over the years, we’d ask questions but he wouldn’t talk about it,” Alice told me. “We only knew about four things: that he never received a [Red Cross] care package, being shot at in the box cars, the forced marches and being in front of a firing squad.”
One evening a year before he died in 2007, Alice’s father told her the story of his war experience and she wrote it down; those notes along with certificates and newspaper articles she has collected are now in a large binder. 

Wanting to share her father’s POW experience, she read out loud the notes she made about his story.   
About his capture: ‘They were in a box car for 28 days. They had a ten gallon drum for a toilet. This was in July during very hot weather. They were shot at. They went down to Bordeaux, France, sat locked in box cars...for 11 days. They were fed once a day, part of a loaf of bread. The box car in front of them was full of sergeants and officers and they escaped by ripping up the floor of the box car. The Germans were furious.’
About life as a POW:  ‘From November 1944 to April 1945. They worked from 6 am to 6 pm along with the German coal miners. He was befriended by two German brothers who told him to sit. Whenever they saw the light coming, they told him to get up and work because it would be the pit boss coming. The only breakfast he would have had is if he had saved something from supper the night before. At night, they would get pumpkin soup, dog meat, and they would get one or two potatoes once a week. There were about 35 Canadian POWs and the Germans volunteered five to go in the mines. Dad was one of them. They had to go down 400 feet and there was hardly enough pit props and the roof was always falling in.’
About the night Andrew Darragh and three others escaped during a forced march (May 1945): ‘Towards the latter part of the war, when it became obvious the Allied troops were coming for the Germans, they marched the POWs out of Falkenau. They marched only at night and slept during the day wherever they could find a spot. They marched probably a week, he thought, then one night some of them just walked away...They were right at the border when they met the Germans who, when they found out they were POWs, let them go. They spent the night in a hay mow...’
The five escapees spent a few days at this farm, unable to eat the milk, pies, eggs and bread because the food made them sick. They listened to the sounds of machine guns and bombs and then a Sherman tank drove up to the farm’s picket fence.
This rescue by the Americans marked the end of the war as well. Alice’s dad was flown back to England and admitted to hospital weighing 100 pounds. He stayed there for ten days and when discharged, he went to stay with an English family Alice believes he met during the year he’d spent in England training for D-Day. After returning to Canada, to Cumberland County, he married Iona Read in 1946. Alice is the oldest of their four children.
“I’d like to have his experience recognized,” she says. “I just feel he suffered so much and we did, too, as a family because he couldn’t keep a job,” which she now attributes to PTSD. “We moved all over the place. I didn’t go to a school for a full year until I was in Grade Nine. I think Mum had a really hard time. If it hadn’t been for her devotion, they may not have stayed together.”
And that’s why Andrew Darragh’s war story didn’t end on May 7, 1945.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

In Conversation With...Jim Halliday

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

    There is a woman in the veterans’ wing of High-Crest Springhill Nursing Home who no longer can tell her own story. At 103, Vera (Carter) Kellegrew’s memories of serving in World War Two, and her reason for signing up in the first place, are fading along with her voice and her strength.
But her nephew-by-marriage, Jim Halliday,  and his wife Eva know enough of Vera’s story to put it in writing.

Jim Halliday with the medals of his aunt and uncle.
The Carter family emigrated from England and settled in British Columbia where Vera was born. She had three brothers; two sisters born in England didn’t survive infancy. Her father was killed in a car accident when Vera was young.
According to Jim, who was born and raised in Amherst but now lives in Trenton, when Vera graduated from high school, she went to work for Canada Public Works and was working on the Alaska Highway when World War Two began.
“Her brothers joined the service and went overseas,” Jim says. “One of them was a pilot and was captured in Germany as a prisoner of war. Dennis was being released so she decided to join the air force and go to England so she could find him.”
They had an aunt living outside of London who was a nurse so Vera took her brother to their aunt who nursed him back to health.
At the same time, Vera was posted to London where she worked as a stenographer until she became the private secretary to the commanding officer based in London.
“When she first landed in London, she had to find a place to live. She had to walk, carry her bags and everything,” says Jim. “Somebody told her about this room to be shared with another air force woman. Vera went to see her, this woman called ‘Mac’.”
(In one of those mysterious twists of fate, “Mac”, a nickname based on her last name, resides in the same nursing home as Vera in Springhill.)
“Vera said her mother would send her Red Cross bundles and she’d share her food,” Jim’s wife Eva recounts from her conversations with her aunt-by-marriage. “Toilet paper was very short, stuff like that. She could maybe get an egg at a grocery store. They weren’t allowed to use too much coal or too much water in their room.”
Like any war veteran, Vera didn’t talk much about the bad parts of her experience.
“There was a house in back of where they lived that was bombed and a person died in that. But that’s the only one she ever talked about. She did talk about going to the air raid shelters. You could hear the buzz bombs going over.”
Jim explains that a buzz bomb coming from Germany made a buzzing sound until it ran out of fuel. When it ran out of fuel, it dropped. 
“When you stopped hearing the buzz…” 
He trails off into a moment of silence.
 Vera’s official rank was Leading Airman Carter and she refused any promotions. 
“She was doing the work of a sergeant but just getting a private’s pay,” Jim explains. “They wanted to give her a promotion but she wouldn’t take it because she’s quite religious and if you get a promotion in the service, you have to go to the mess and buy a round of drinks for everybody. She wouldn’t take the promotion because she didn’t want to buy the drinks.”
It would be a tall, handsome soldier from Nova Scotia who would change her marital status, however.
Ray Kellegrew, 35 years old and six-foot-one,  had returned from a posting in Naples, Italy, near the end of the war and joined a group of friends ice skating at a rink in London. 
Vera was skating there, too.
Meanwhile, back home in Amherst, 10-year-old Jim Halliday was doing his part for the war effort.
“Airplanes were made in Amherst during the war,” he says, “and during the war, airmen used to come to Amherst from Scotland, England, Wales to pick up the planes. They’d be wandering downtown with their backpacks and at the time, I was only ten years old. I’d go down the street and see these airmen walking around and I’d say, ‘Where are you staying?’ and if they had no place to stay, I used to take them home to my mother. My mother would put them up for the weekend. It got so bad near the end, I’d have eight or nine of them so Mum would have to call up the neighbours to see if they could take them.”
Back in England, Jim’s uncle and Vera Carter were making plans to marry. 
Because of rations, “Their wedding breakfast was two eggs and some bacon the meat cutter saved for them,” Jim says.
While brother Dennis recovered and was released from the service to return home to British Columbia, the now Leading Airman Kellegrew remained in London after the war ended to help with the paperwork that went with getting everyone back to Canada.
Vera returned to BC and Ray fetched her back to Amherst where he returned to his job as a mail carrier and Vera worked off and on as a secretary. 
Married for 58 years, Ray and Vera did not have any children. Ray died in 2004 at the age of 93 and Vera moved to the veterans’ wing of High-Crest just two years ago. 
According to Eva, Vera “found it very exciting [in London]. She says it was difficult times but it was exciting. She never talked about the bad parts of the war.”
When asked how she coped, Vera would answer, ‘The good Lord will take care of it’. 
“Her faith was her strength and she was a strong woman,” says Eva. “If she set her mind to do it, she did it. She seemed to be able to endure a lot. I think it’s her faith that saw her through everything.”

Vera and Ray Kellegrew are the couple on the right. This is their wedding day in London.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The View From My Yoga Mat

Morning has broken
while I do Sun Salutations. 
Rather, from this angle,
I'm lying flat on the mat
looking up at the waking sky.
In this peace there is hope.
It is good to start each day
in the company of trees and clouds.
It is good to end each practice
in prayer:
Thank you for this day,
for this time on the mat,
for all the blessings in my life.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Lasting Gratitude

Good little squirrel that he is, my husband is busy this weekend putting in supplies for the winter. Yesterday it was cleaning and slicing carrots. He filled 12 large freezer bags! Today he's at the turnips. Six bags of those.
"Gotta keep my family fed all winter," he joked again.
My mother laughed then stopped and said, "You know, there are so many people who only get to eat turnip, you know, just one food."
Which reminded me that I spoke recently with a daughter whose father was a POW in World War Two and he was fed once a day, usually pumpkin soup. Once a week, he received a potato. I'm sharing his story in the newspaper this week.
So allow me to express my gratitude for a freezer full of vegetables and meat, and for this peaceful country in which we are free to grow an abundance and a variety of food.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

There's Autumn And Then There's November

River Philip near Eel Creek on November 7
November is funny, isn't it?
It's either warm (ish) and rainy, as it was yesterday, 
or it's sunny with a cold wind, as it is today. 
Sunshine is fine but a mist on the water
is worth pulling over on side of the road.
Some people "hate" November
but a grey, rainy day is beautiful
in its monochrome.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Just My Type

Methinks plenty of writers have one of these antiques on display in their house somewhere. A symbol of writing, of being a writer, of the "swing and swirl of words as they tangle with human emotions" as James Michener once put it.
This typewriter sits on a table in the living room of Sheree Fitch's delightful home outside of River John.
Mine sits on a table in my office.
A heavy, tactile reminder that we are -- clickety, clackety, ding! -- writers every day.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Memorable Thank You Gift

The Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia held its 25th annual provincial conference Monday and Tuesday of this week and I was invited back to participate. Not as a presenter this year but as an interviewer.
It was "In Conversation With..." LIVE with Darce Fardy, a man in his early eighties diagnosed with dementia 11 months ago and well-known in Canada and in the Maritimes as a broadcaster, the Freedom of Information Officer and an occasional columnist with the Chronicle-Herald. (He writes about his adventures with Alzheimer's)

 Last year, presenters received handcrafted forget-me-not mugs; I cherish mine. This year, our gift was a print of one of the creations from the Alzheimer Society's "Artful Afternoons" at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, an event for people with dementia and their caregivers.

Again, I was delighted to be part of this conference. It is busy schedule but it runs smoothly and the venue (the Holiday Inn in Dartmouth) is perfect for our needs. I learned so much again this year, completely different things, that will enhance my presentations to support groups and community associations (please contact me if you're interested or for more information).
I also met more family caregivers this year, a development I'm glad to see. While the conference is aimed at health professionals, there is so much information that family members will benefit from hearing.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Creatures of the Nighttime Woods

 After I downloaded the photos from the game camera and was scrolling through, removing the "vacant" ones, I had several pleasant surprises. There will be lots of photos of rabbits...then one of a fox....more rabbits...then a fox. I was thankful there wasn't one of a fox with a rabbit in its mouth.

Can you spot the bunny?

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Hunting Season

It's not the shorter days and the rain that make November a dreadful month; it's hunting season. Blaze orange and the sound of gunshots offend me. I can't help it; I wasn't raised in a hunting family, I have never fired a shotgun, I don't (yet) need to rely on game we catch ourselves for survival.
It's a part of my country education that is either a work-in-progress or a failing, not sure yet which.
With a field and a pine plantation behind our home, we are avid deer watchers. Before the trees next door were cut down, we had does giving birth in the field every June. Although we had a vast number of deer grazing in the field during a thaw last winter, when the snow was so deep and last for so long, we haven't had as many deer wander through now that the woods next door are gone.
But we've had a doe and two fawns around regularly, the fawns still drinking from their mother.
For the last couple of years, my husband has put out apples in order to deer-watch, using a game camera as a backup. This year, he's more serious about getting a buck and has built himself a stand in the woods. He's still using the camera, as much to see if there is a buck around as to catch photos of the deer. The does and fawns are there, though, eating apples.
Friday morning, a doe and two fawns were at the top of the field, enjoying the morning sunshine after so many days of rain. We couldn't figure out what we were seeing until we realized: the fawns were playing. They were running and leaping and cavorting.
"They're full of apples," my husband grinned.
"Well, they can stay there where they'll be safe," I said.
Here's the irony of the first day of hunting season: a doe was struck by a vehicle just up the road, and the next day, two fawns showed up alone at the apple pile under the stand in the woods.