Tag Archives: winnipeg

Cold Winds Blow, over seas and time.

My blood has settled itself into a warm and comfortable position; these years of living in the tropics have soothed my cold and chilly scars from many frigid Canadian winters. In Winnipeg I lived through an interminable winter season that broke records for the number of days below -20, where cars had to be plugged in nightly so they would crank to life again the next morning. I survived the mornings in Montreal where the car had to be dug out of piles of snow before I could drive my little girls to school and I lived through that day when I burst into tears while stuck in the ice on a hill and had to listen to angry and impatient honking from drivers who preferred to berate me than get out and push. In short, winter was often a trauma and I pulled through. My best winter memories are those weekends spent in the country where the silence is only broken by a branch cracking and falling with a soft thud onto a bed of white driven snow. Where the beauty of an afternoon’s walk is followed by a scrabble game in front of a roaring fire while icy socks hang to dry.

But now I am freezing cold and it is no joke. For the past two days it has been 8.0 degrees Celsius when I got into my car and that is colder than London right now. Now normally I would shrug this off and know that it is nothing compared to a mid February night in Winnipeg but the difference is that our homes are all stone cold marble floors, glass floor to ceiling windows that know not the meaning of insulation and no central heating in sight. We are wrapped in blankets and layers of sweaters. The wind rushes cold sand through our bones and my blood, so lovingly warmed by the tropics, is in rebellion.

 

The weekend was a happy one, before the cold winds came. I shrugged off my hermit ways and actually went out for two nights in a row. Night one, a sort of pub crawl that finished in a karaoke bar with a lime green and peach colour palette, fake potted palms and a random furry fringe on the sofa cushions.  There was much laughing. Night two, a more restrained and adult affair saw us seated around a table in a Tex Mex restaurant making new friends.  The night ended outside in the garden of a bar, wrapped in fleece blankets with our faces turned to the heating lamps, like night time sunflowers. The cold was stepping in. And Saturday was spent celebrating Princess who turned 12. She was born under the bluest skies of a Montreal Winter’s day, -24 winds welcomed her into this world. When I took my little bundle home, wrapped up so tight I feared she couldn’t breathe, I never dreamed that 12 years later I would be serving her a mountain of Profiteroles, in lieu of cake, in Bahrain.

Now I am going to find another blanket. Remember this when I write about the summer heat. Remember.

 

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The sea is mine, or Island Dreams

Englishman’s bay, Tobago.

 

So this will be a telling of change, a recounting of what it is to know you are moving and yet  there is a need to sit tight, put those hands under your thighs and stop fidgeting.

This will be a tale of trying to make the most of what time I have left. Look with eyes that know a good bye is imminent. I wish I had had my handy crystal ball, the one that would have predicted all this. Had I known I would only have two years I may have relaxed more, eased myself into Uganda with no fear of being trapped, I would have just breathed in and out and seen it all, fearless.

And now I am returning to the Sea.

I have always, really lived on an island, come to think of it. Ok, I was born at the bottom of the world, in South Africa, and that was no island, despite being the upside down tip of the top, the underbelly, the other end of it all.

But then England, Hong Kong, Japan, England again, New York, (France, exception), Montreal, Winnipeg (big exception), Montreal again, Trinidad, Uganda (exception) and now Bahrain. All islands excepting the exceptions; look closely and those were tricky places to be.

 

In France it was easy to forget, for a time that the sea was so far. I was in a town on the German border and its brittle cold Germanic beauty made me feel I was walking in a fairy tale. The buildings leaned and whispered into one another, the gothic Cathedral was filled with ghosts. I crossed the canal daily and felt charmed each time. I was not there long enough to feel parched for the sea.

In both Winnipeg and Uganda, despite the proximity to those huge lakes, I always had the sensation of being land locked. If I stretched my arms as far as they could go, the tips of my fingers could not sense the sea and I felt un-moored, detached, flattened.

It took a while in The Peg to figure out what it was. Winnipeg is not an easy city; the cold is like nothing anyone not from the Peg has ever experienced. The winter I was pregnant with Trooper we had over 60 days below -20c. It was a record. Then almost overnight the scorching sun came out to play and summer arrived. I went into the hospital to have a baby in cool weather, the radio still talking about the terrible Red River floods, warm in a sweater at 6 am we raced along silent prairie roads to the hospital. 4 days later I came out and it was 35c, the heat bewildering, heavy as if it had come out to welcome little Trooper to the world. So I thought for a long time it was the weather, the impenetrable cold wall that made me feel so misplaced, and in many ways it was. Or maybe it was also the loneliness of a place whose license plates read ‘friendly Manitoba” yet seemed to me to only be friendly to those born and bred there. Slowly I became aware that the land, so flat, stretching those endless miles and those prairie skies so enormous, were flattening me. I longed for the sea and felt as a parched star fish would if it were miles from its beloved sea bed.

Here in Uganda I had the great fortune of climbing up into my car one dark morning in December and driving all the way to the coast. Somehow knowing it is 4 days away has made it worse. I can nearly smell it; I know it is not close enough. Lake Victoria is green abuzz with lake flies, heavy with Bilharzias. It is no replacement for the salty licks of the ocean.

The sea is mine.

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I have a teenager.

I have a teenager.

Thirteen years ago today I gave birth to Trooper. When I went into the hospital in Winnipeg it was the tail end of a cold and strange spring that will forever be remembered for the devastating Red River flooding. When I came out 4 days later it was scorching hot and summer had arrived. Such are the weather patterns of the prairies.  She was born on her due date and has been punctual and exact ever since. She always wants to be ahead, and constantly appears older and more mature than her years. She stood up alone at 6 months and took her first steps at 9 months. By the time she was 11 months she was dancing like a tiny midget on the dance floor of a Chinese restaurant during mother’s day.

She came home from hospital in a bright orange 1973 Volkswagen Beetle named Lolly. 10 minutes after arriving at our apartment I burst into tears, flooded with a storm of hormones and frankly tired and in pain from a difficult caesarean. I was also petrified. Handsome Husband and I were 28 and 30. Did we have a clue what to do with a tiny helpless infant? No. Luckily for us she was easy from the start and we enjoyed the Winnipeg summer days by frequently plonking her into her car seat and under the table at our favourite outside cafe. At 4 weeks she was on a plane heading to my sister’s wedding and the travel bug must have infected her since she has found airport, planes and travel trouble free and fun ever since.

She is loved by everyone who meets her, with her infectious giggle and her cheeky smile. I cannot believe that 13 years have passed since those confusing and thrilling hours in the hospital. She is too big to fit into my arms now but she is always welcome to try. I am immensely proud of her beauty and spirit, both inside and out.

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