Monthly Archives: August 2012

Could I be a grannyblogger?

I’m too old to be a mummyblogger. I could be a grannyblogger, but I don’t have grandkids.

Perhaps I could pretend I do, or live vicariously through my many friends who have numerous grandkids. Though I’m not sure, judging by the amount of work and time my friends spend with their grandkids, that I want that either.

A couple of my friends, who by the way are younger than I, spend an extraordinary amount of time caring for their grandkids. But what would I write about if I were a grannyblogger? Well, surely one of the big pluses is being able to hand the kids back at the end of the day.

As parents, we know that babies cry, and mothers walk the floor at 3am, or these days drive round the block in the 4WD at 3am. So having the grandkids from 8am – 5pm doesn’t seem so bad if you can sit down with glass of red at 7pm. You can even take a second glass of red and a book to bed! That’s got to be bliss as far as parenting is concerned.

A couple of years ago a colleague of mine (again younger than I) resigned when her first grandchild was born as she wanted to help her daughter and work would get in the way. Am I missing something?

We all lived through the 70s and 80s. We all ripped of our bras (well we women did) and proclaimed independence by wearing jackets with enormous shoulder pads, and having big hairstyles. We almost cracked the glass ceiling, and marched to reclaim the night—at least I think that what it was.

So now, when we’re older and back in support bras, are we giving up what we fought for and becoming second mothers, or are we encouraging our children to build their career while having children themselves? Something we found almost impossible to do, and certainly something our children couldn’t do without our assistance. The cost of childcare being what it is, and depending on the number of hours a young mother works, some womens’ weekly salary could easily disappear into carer costs.

I returned to work when my children were six and three respectively. Frankly, being at home was doing my head in, and childcare wasn’t the exorbitant cost it is today. I didn’t have parents to turn to, but I did have an excellent day carer for my youngest child, and we still keep in touch to this day.

Perhaps it’s all too much and I’ll forgo the grannyblogging, and go with petblogging instead.

Three Perfect Days in GANDER

Gander—and it all started here.

There is screeching ceremony taking place in the bar tonight. It includes drinking a shot of screech (local rum), kissing a codfish on the mouth and answering the perfectly innocent question of ‘Is ye an honorary Newfoundlander?’ with the response ‘Indeed I is me ol’ cock, and long may your big jib draw.’ I never did find out what it meant.

Newfoundlanders are friendly, hospitable folk and none more so the people of Gander. When the USA closed its airspace on September 11 2001 Gander once again became the hub of transatlantic traffic looking for a place to land. Thirty-nine flights diverted to Gander International Airport and 6,500 people descended on the town—almost doubling its population overnight. The kindly folk of Gander opened its hotels, homes and public buildings to accommodate the diverted passengers and crew.

Built in 1936 Gander International Airport was once the thriving hub for international air traffic that stopped at Gander to refuel before continuing on to Europe. Passengers included the rich and famous from the USA and Europe with Nikita Khrushchev, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt filing through its customs area more than once. Fidel Castro was a frequent visitor with Gander being the stop off point between Havana and Moscow.

A drive around Gander’s main streets gives the first clue to its background with streets named after the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindberg and Alcock and Brown.

The town’s North Atlantic Aviation Museum on the Trans Canada Highway opened in 1996 and as well as providing a history of aviation, it also offers displays of fighter and bomber aircraft including a beautifully restored Dehavilland Tiger Moth, and one of the newest displays showcases a B17 Flying Fortress. And if you have plane buff in your midst you’ll probably have some difficulty extracting them from the gift shop, which sells model aircraft and books on aviation as far back as Icarus.

Aviation aside, there are other things to see and do in Gander and the surrounding region.

Gander is situated 40 kilometres south of Gander Bay with its beautiful coves, fishing communities and array of birdlife, and an hour’s drive west will take you to Grand Falls-Windsor, home to the Salmon Festival in July each year. A further half-hour will see you at Twillingate Islands with its rugged, scenic coastline of bays and fjords and a backdrop of National Forests with walks and guided tours.

In the summer months Twillingate provides the breathtaking beauty of iceberg watching. The bergs, small by iceberg standards yet still bigger than ten storey apartment block, are break-offs from the main iceberg and float silently along the coastline to hover for a while before gliding away, and, if icebergs don’t tempt you, you can take a whale watching tour. From May to September daily boat tours can take you out to see whales, seals, dolphins and the myriad of bird colonies clinging to the rocks.

And the town doesn’t sleep in the winter. If you’re an outdoorsy type an 18 hole golf course overlooks Lake Gander and is open all year round. Just three kilometres west of Gander the Nordic Ski Club enjoys 16 kilometres of trails suitable for all levels of skiers with some lit for night skiing. Or you could try your hand at curling. The Gander Curling Club has a lounge, dining and dance facilities for those who don’t fancy sliding 20 kilos of stone across a sheet of ice. There’s also a snowmobile club and figure skating at the local rink.

Restaurants and bars are aplenty and many offer local specials with freshly caught lobster, crab and squid that you can wash down with the aforesaid screech to keep you warm. If you don’t fancy seafood there is a good selection of Asian and Italian restaurants to choose from, plus the ever present McDonalds, KFC, and pizza takeaways.

Although the summer can be pleasant with an average of 22 degrees Celsius, winter temperatures can drop to as low as minus 13.

That fur-lined aviation jacket could come in handy.

Three Perfect Days in BANYULS dels ASPRES

It’s just as well there is no other vehicle coming towards us as this particular village street is only as wide as our car. We turn into Rue d’Andorre and park outside number 6. This is our home for the next three days.

What? Where? Well I could have done Paris or Provence, but let’s face it they’ve been done to death, and I did say at the outset I would take you to places you had never heard of. So welcome to Banyuls dels Aspres—not to be confused with Banyuls sur Mer—which is of course, on the mer. The village of Banyuls (let’s call it that) is a small community in the hills of Languedoc which was once a Province of France and is now known as Languedoc-Rousillon. The closest town is Le Boulou, and the closest city (and airport) is Perpignan about half an hour away.

We are staying in a maison-de-village and the front door opens into one room with a polished terracotta floor and bright white walls. We enter into the living area which has three large deep red sofas, a coffee table, bookshelves (chock full of books), and a TV. To the left there is modern kitchen, and behind that, a large solid timber dining table and six chairs. The house is four storeys with bedrooms and bathrooms on the next two levels, and the top level reveals a roof garden complete with fireplace, BBQ, furniture, and the omnipresent geranium pots.

Rooftop and view to vineyards

We unpack our groceries (bought en-route from Perpignan) and settle down with a supper of fresh bread, cheese, saucisson, and a nice bottle of red, before climbing four flights of stairs to the bedrooms. We are woken a 6am by the sound of church bells, and after a breakfast of coffee and pain-au-raisin we decide to explore the town.

Banyuls is a mix of old and new. The old—the Town Square with its Maire office, café/bar, hairdresser and boulangerie, probably looks much the same as when it was it was built, with its cobble-stones and typical grey stone buildings. The streets around the Town Square are narrow; the maisons-de-village are tall and tower over the town, and the beautiful old church just by the square is responsible for the bell ringing. The old men sit outside the café sipping coffee and smoking Gauloises, before shambling over to the boules court beside the church.

We walk a little way down the hill to the vineyards and come to the new. White and terracotta single storey villas, pristine lawns and gardens; a kindergarten; a few more shops including a Pharmacie proudly advertising the number of mushrooms it can identify; a group of single level townhouses, and the Cave with its own bar and restaurant. Past the village cemetery and back up the hill, the cobbles return marking the boundary to the old.

Village square and church

Back in Rue d’Andorre, the garage next door is open and a young man is endeavouring to reverse his black Mercedes into the street. It’s a tight fit and he gets out and yells up at one of the windows “Papa”. He turns and nods in our direction. He’s wearing a black suit, black shirt, black tie, black polished shoes and aviator sunnies. We decide on the spot that he’s a Marseilles Boy (well, either that or a real estate salesman) and sidle up against the wall trying not to touch his car. Papa—who is now shouting and gesturing as his son reverses—by contrast wears dungarees and a cloth cap.

After lunch on the roof garden we study the map. A 10 minute drive will take us across the border to Spain, and the border town of La jonquera. La jonquera is a truck stop with enormous freight trucks from all over Europe rolling down its streets. Huge truck parks are set aside off the main street so the drivers can take a nap before entering the Barcelona highway. Interestingly, La jonquera is also home to the biggest brothel in Europe which offers 150 prostitutes. Now I’m not saying there’s a connection there, but …

In the evening, dinner is at the big wooden table and we feel very regal as we sit at opposite ends with the candelabra in the centre. We extol the virtues of the perfect lamb steaks, purchased from the charcouterie van in the square, accompanied by a tomato and olive salad and nice drop of Beaujolais. Later we try very hard to watch a French quiz show on TV but by the time we’ve worked out one question and its answer they’ve moved about three further on, so we give up and decide to plan our next two days instead.

We could visit Collioure, a picturesque artists’ town on the coast road to Spain; Argelès sur Mer, a fairly new development of apartments, units, and townhouses, but sporting wide tree-lined streets and parks; we could, if we dared, revisit La jonquera and continue into Spain calling into the seaside towns of Roses, LLança, and Escala, or even venturing as far as Barcelona.

But for now, we pour another red and consider ourselves blessed.