And then to Saskatchewan (12th and 13th July)
My eyes were bigger than my stomach as we tucked into a hearty buffet breakfast at the hotel yesterday morning. Had been told to fill up before our travels. Took a taxi to the airport and then flew in one of Gary's planes just over one hour to our destination of Regina before being transported to my cousin Laura's lovely lakeside cottage. It is so nice to unpack and not have a deadline to meet, no event to get to, no train or plane to catch ...... at least for a few days !
British Columbia and Alberta were on the hilly side, but Saskatchewan is flat as flat can be. There are fields for miles and miles. Oh yes, and being on the prairies, it is pretty hot !
On the first afternoon we went out on the lake in Gary's boat. Amazingly I survived the experience and must admit I quite enjoyed it. Saw a few flying pelicans. Back on dry land for some meat on the patio with, yes, you guessed, some white wine !
Having slept well, we had breakfast at the local coffee shop, which consisted of three large pancakes with maple syrup, some potatoes and bacon ..... They do my sort of bacon over here, nicely on the burnt side. This was followed by an international tennis match on the local hard courts in Fort Qu'Appelle. Laura had arranged for three of her friends to make up a four and we had a really good game. I paired up with the youngest of the three, so I had someone to do the running, and we won 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. I can't have played too badly as we are doing it again tomorrow, assuming I can walk !
Laura has arranged a Big Western Style BBQ this evening with a number of her friends, so no doubt more beer and wine will be consumed !
ready to party, Western Style, torrential Rain outside making us feel at home !
Adventures in the sky and on the water (14th July)
For those of you who think the Prairies are always hot, dusty and dry, should have been here yesterday afternoon as we prepared for a Western style BBQ with Laura's friends, which meant we had to wear our cowboy hats ! We had torrential rain, thunder, lightening and black skies throwing the temperature down by thirty degrees. It was somewhat miraculous that the rain stopped as the first guests arrived for what would be a fabulous evening. We had a weenie roast, although they were actually quite large, followed by some shmores ........ so called as once you have had one, you want shum more ........ which consist of roasting a couple of marshmallows over the fire and then putting the hot oozy mixture between two small biscuits PLUS a square of milk or plain chocolate. Messy would be an understatement !
Although we didn't drink too much at the party last night, we did drink for around six hours. Starting with a few beers and gradually sipping wine over such a long period is taxing but you will be pleased to know that I did stay on my feet and hopefully made coherent conversation with all of Laura's interesting friends.
This morning we awoke in what could have been a different country. The sun was shining and the temperature was rising as I took part in the second international invitation tennis tournament at the local courts. Today I played with Norine and we started well, winning the first set 6-4. Our opponents then made a comeback and took a tight second set 7-5. With the temperature rising and the sun beating down, our luck ran out and we lost the deciding set 6-2. A good game and very enjoyable.
Back at the cottage, I spent a short time in the jacuzzi before we boarded Gary's float plane for an unforgettable flight around the lakes. Sue and Laura squeezed into the back and I took the co-pilots seat and we took off gracefully seeing the many pleasure boats and gorgeous houses around the lakes. We flew over Gary's farm and lands before returning smoothly to terra firma. A once in a lifetime experience and so memorable.
This evening we are taking the boat, I can't believe I said that, and going from the lake where the cottage is to the next lake for dinner with more of Gary and Laura's friends.
I had expected to end my blog saying what a wonderful evening we had had and how unforgettable it was. Well ......... we had indeed had a marvellous evening at Laura's friends, eating and imbibing with beers, wines and champagne. We waved goodbye as Gary, who I should mention had refrained from alcohol, drove the boat across the lake towards the narrow opening that takes you into the second lake. It was just getting dark as we approached the critical point and, as we slowed to enter the inlet, which unfortunately as it turned out was not the right inlet, we ran aground on some rocks and were pretty much marooned on this large lake. The boat was solidly wedged onto the rock only a few feet below the surface and revving and manoeuvring wasn't going to budge us. Oars were used to try to refloat the craft but to no avail. As darkness fell, swimming to the shore to raise the alarm was considered ....... not by me, I would add ! Anyway, eventually having moved all the weight into the front end of the boat and with more desperate revving we were afloat again. The job then was to find the mooring at the cottage in almost total darkness; this was achieved by spotting the white on the Union Jack which our hosts had so considerately flown from their flagpole at the end of the jetty.
I am pleased to report that the booze had enabled Sue and I to remain very stoically British and brave in such trying conditions as we clambered onto dry land after our adventure. Debating now as to whether tonight's tale trumps the Baden-Powell trail adventure which Linda took us on in Vancouver on our first day ?
More tennis and perhaps a tornado ! (15th July)
Playing tennis for the third day running this morning. I know I said I needed some exercise but ...... ? Three days running around a tennis court might have been slightly over optimistic given my tendency to stiffen up after just one mornings tennis let alone three. It turned out to be the morning too far, as my form crashed as Bernie and Tom proved too strong for Joel and me, winning 6-3, 6-4. The less said about the third set the better !
My half sister, Joan, who was representing Shetland in The Island Games today in Bermuda, a sort of Olympic Games for those from islands, was rather more successful than me, winning a place in the final and getting the silver medal in the squash, having previously come close on many of her previous five attempts. A terrific achievement of which she is rightly delighted. Can't wait to see the medal when they visit almost immediately after our return from Canada.
Having pushed my body to heights only endured by those much younger (and fitter, I hear you say ?), time in the hot tub was called for and an afternoon in the sun. No more adventures or near misses with natural disasters. Of course, in reality, nothing quite works out as planned, especially where the Bird family is concerned. Soon after my laze in the hot tub, the skies darkened and Laura started a tornado watch online. She was aware of the tornados in the area and the fact they were coming our way. The local weather report said :
"At 5:20 pm CST, meteorologists are tracking a large line of dangerous thunderstorms capable of producing golf ball hail and larger, powerful winds greater than 90 km/h, and flooding downpours. Doppler radar continues to indicate some embedded rotation with thunderstorms along this line and the potential exists for funnel clouds or tornadoes to form within the next couple hours." Didn't sound good. Luckily the cottage has a bunker down in the basement for just such an occasion, and we very nearly evacuated there with the champagne to celebrate Joan's success. However, the storm must have passed us, as all the trees are still standing and we seem to be in one piece.
Tonight we had wonderful stuffed feta chicken with a green salad, followed by butter tarts, ice cream and real maple syrup, which we ate with a bottle of wine by the lake. Idyllic or what ?