Saturday, 14 February 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Sunny, mild, temps minus 6
Didn't blog yesterday. The family arrived late Thursday night after a long drive from Toronto. Then we hit Quebec City yesterday. Had breakfast out then the kids and Doug went to the ice slide on Dufferine Terrace while Uncle Michael and Auntie Louise sat in the St Laurent bar of the Chateau Frontenac. What are the chances? Then Roslyn needed to read her book so we took her for lunch and we all read our books quietly while the guys did the Carnaval.
Then they ended the day with a horse drawn carriage ride through Old Quebec.
Brian and I played monopoly at home. He ended up with 29,000 dollars and I have 2,000. I told him the goal of the game was to end up with almost no money, so I won. He didn't believe me, the rascal.
Then Michael and I went out for this fun CBC dinner at Glenn's place. Pizza and a chance to get caught up with old friends and get to know new people.

Have a couple of Australia updates...thankfully things seem to be calming down there, though there are still areas of great concern. Here's what Elaine wrote...

The latest reports say that the remaining residents of Marysville where 1 in 5 of the population is thought to have perished (500 residents) are being taken back there today for the first time since the fires but just for a look, they won’t be allowed out of the bus as the area is still a crime scene. The devastation from the fires is worse than first thought with 1831 houses & other buildings including schools destroyed or damaged (44 schools remain closed) & 7000 people homeless. About 14 blazes are still burning out of control but due to back burning the threat has eased somewhat with the two fires that were feared would turn into one big inferno. Healesville residents are still on edge as fires are still burning there, some have been ready to evacuate six times & our main water catchment areas are still under threat as well. 52 fire fighters have arrived from NZ with cadaver dogs, & recovery specialists & others are on their way from Canada & the USA.
There is a smell of burning in the air (even inside our homes) as smoke & ash haze cover parts of Melbourne, the sun coming up this morning looked strange with an eerie red glow. I was woken in the middle of the night by the fire alarm going off at the house next-door; it was loud enough to wake the entire neighbourhood & frightened the wits out of me. I jumped out of bed in a panic thinking the bushfires had reached us which is ridiculous of course but you don’t think straight when you are half asleep. I looked out of the windows & couldn’t see anything amiss so went back to bed but couldn’t sleep as the alarm went off several more times. Apparently we were warned yesterday that the smoke haze could set off some alarms but I hadn’t heard that!
Victoria has always been known as The Garden State but not anymore. Due to the long drought, water restrictions & recent record heatwave a lot of plants have died or become badly burned. We are only allowed to water our garden with a hand held hose two set mornings a week between the hours of 6 & 8. People over 70 can water from 8 to 10 but I prefer the earlier time when it is cooler! Just this morning when watering I discovered amongst burned out ferns & sheltered under the branches of another tree a perfect little gardenia had flowered & that cheered me up immensely as apart from the big red hibiscus & white magnolia trees most of the other plants have wilted. As for my lawn –it is no more as we aren’t allowed to water grass & it is just a dead patch of ground but it will revive when (if) we get some decent rain so there is always hope.

And here's an update from Sheila,

How lucky we are.

We have a bright blue cloudless Skye, the sun is shining and there is a light breeze. For the first time in a week I have hung out washing, such a little thing, we take for granted.
Our area of the State is safe, some fires still burning but all under control and no danger to life or property.
Our friends in the hills feel secure enough today to leave the property and do some shopping in town.
Some other parts of the State still have fires burning also, but again, all seem to be under control for the time being.
The re-building is already starting in some areas, with crews clearing the awful debris. The help from everywhere is overwhelming. I don`t think there are many people not touched by this devastation I am reminded of Dorothea Mackellar`s words about Australia where Beauty and Terror go hand in hand"
I on forwarded an article about the work the wildlife organization was doing, it included the web site for donations, but in case you did not get it here it is
I know that having covered bushfires in you work you will be aware of the awful aftermath, and the breadth of kindness that can follow, as you can imagine the daily papers, the news broadcasts and all other forms of communication are filled with both horror stories and great feats of human kindness, self sacrifice and generosity. Unfortunately human frailty shows its face also, we have had reports of individuals stealing money raised, and worse one person has already been found and charged with all that goes with the lighting of one of the fires.
A coronial enquiry is to be conducted and we hope that out of this will come some constructive help to save this happening on such a scale again.
I just had a call from Graeme to go out into the paddock, we had a new cria on the ground, a little female, should have been snow white but Mum decided to have her on a patch of dry ground (lots of those, with the drought) and of course the dry earth is still all black, so she has very large patches of black on her white coat but is well and strong, I think her name will have to be Valentine.

On those beautiful and hopeful notes I'll leave you...breakfast in old Quebec city with Doug and the kids, then more activities. Such fun seeing Quebec through the kid’s eyes...though mostly they seem to be scanning for crepes and waffles and hot chocolate. True Pennys.

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