Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spooks ...

Although it is Halloween today, I'm not going to talk about ghosts and ghouls and the three tonnes of chocolate and candy my children will collate later today.

No - I'm writing an ode to "Spooks" - my favourite BBC drama TV series. My hat is well and truly doffed to the production team and especially the writers.

If you are not familiar with the series, do try and acquaint yourself. You will not be disappointed, I promise. For the uninitiated, it is a drama-spy-thriller story set inside the British intelligence services - specifically MI-5. And North American viewers may already know it by that name on US tv channels as the name was changed to "MI-5" over there. The word spooks, by the way, is another word for spies.

And the reason I am prompted to write this today is that because most of my household has been somewhat incapacitated through a variety of illnesses over the past two weeks, we have become a little stir-crazy in the house and resorted to sleeping, reading and watching TV in a monotonous cycle. Sorry, no wildlife, garden or sunset photos this week!

We purchased the latest series of Spooks that is available to us online, and my husband and I have sat and watched every hour-long episode of Series 7 this week.

Oh I am mentally and physically exhausted. Outstanding story lines and characters, and the tension has been wonderful!

The programme is a glossy production which always seems to be able to photograph London (or any city the spies penetrate) in a beautiful way. My husband gets all misty-eyed as he watches. "See that bridge?" he says, "I used to walk over that every morning, sob, ...."

Apparently it never really took off in the US because the programme is a full 60 minutes long with no advert breaks. US channels could not provide an hour long slot to show the programme properly and therefore edited out so much of the story that it began to make no sense whatsoever and was nigh-on impossible to follow!

I think that is also the reason we were so exhausted watching it actually - we are now untrained in the art of concentration - a full 60 minutes without ads and pee breaks and the need to fast-forward through our recording thingie in unheard of!

So three gold stars, a BAFTA, an Emmy, a whatever-gong-you-can-think-of goes to Spooks.

And one word of warning - do not get too attached to any of the lead characters. Never has one show killed off, blown up, tortured and murdered so many people. The second episode all those years ago should have served as a warning when the lead girlie was boiled in oil!

I bet the actors have mixed feeling to win a part in this show. "Oh yipee, a wonderful series in which to show-case my talents, but oh bugger, I bet they kill me off after 5 episodes!"

And to any Brit readers of my blog - I am jealous because I think Series 8 kicks off for you next week. I will be acquiring it as soon as possible.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A hint of wildlife ...

I was awoken on Saturday morning by a God-awful noise. A racket. As I slowly came to, and opened one eye, I tried to focus on what it was.

Geese. Canada Geese to be precise. Laughing and honking and generally adopting the role of farm cockerel and being a rude awakening for any bed-lover on a weekend morning. I swear they were three feet above my roof, shouting obscenities.

They were flying over the house by the dozen. Several dirty dozens. Hundreds of them in the end. They gathered all morning, having sent out a secret missive the week before - and all pitched camp on the golf-course lake not far away.

I presume they were carrying out their pre-flight safety checks. They were no doubt debating the merits of the recent chinook winds, their ETA for warmer climes and the quality of in-flight entertainment.

They cackled and honked for a good few hours and then set off mid-afternoon for destination unknown. By that, I mean I don't know. They obviously knew 'cos they were talking about it loudly enough.

Talking of wildlife, we have a lot of deer around here too.

Last night we were just getting ready to go up to bed (spot a theme here? - I love sleep!) when I looked out of the front window and saw the silhouette of two pointy ears. A cute deer was right up against the front of the house, happily chomping on the remnants of my annual pots. Obviously she was cute at this time of year - if she'd shown up earlier in the season, and eaten my flowers, she wouldn't look cute at all, except through a scope perhaps!

By the time I found my camera and sneaked up to the window, I only got a shot, sorry, a photo of her derriere wandering back up the street.

A pain in the neck ...

After his near-tearful weekend, and getting high as a kite on morphine, the results of the MRI for my husband-in-pain are in.

He had a collapsed disc in his neck - C5 and C6, or C7 - I can't remember which but it means nothing to me anyway. The belated MRI showed it in all it's glory and he has been signed off work for a month.

"See?" he said, "I wasn't putting it on". As if ... he's not that good an actor, and not many people can throw up on cue.

Even as I type this, some physiotherapist is man-handling him, or should that be woman-handling him? I don't think it matters - although I can see how being woman-handled (for him) might be more appealing. Manipulation and traction is the order of the day, apparently.

I was a little wary of the physiotherapist route to be honest - he broke his hand in January and because no-one confirmed it was broken until June, he had 20 physio sessions on a broken bone. Funny how it never seemed to feel any better ...

A quick internet search tells me that 95% of cases of this neck disc thingie heal up within a few weeks and he should not need any further action, or surgery. Unlike his hand! It's been one of those years ...

At least he is no longer a drug whore (Note - when the little label on the side of the container says "May cause constipation", take the hint and drink lots of water. No further details required at this point methinks) - and he can sleep in a relatively normal position; he is now fairly mobile, so the pair of us are sharing many daily walks with the dogs, which is quite nice really. A quick glimpse at our retirement perhaps?

He cannot drive comfortably yet, so I am chief chauffeur at the moment.

He was due to start a new job on a new department two weeks ago which involved mountain bikes and lycra. I can't see him climbing on board - or climbing into - either at this time.

He's been a bit embarrassed to have won the new post, then not turn up ever since - but his supervisor at work has been fine (and probably a bit distracted by a new baby to be honest - congrats Mr F!) - and hubby is definitely not returning to work until I say so - sod the doctors, I'm the boss on this one!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Skywatch Friday - The chinook effect

To see more Skywatch Friday pictures, click here.

As a warm weather front comes in, it leaves distinct lines in the sky between the clear and cloudy areas.

6.55pm - the sun is setting and once again highlighting the cloud formations.

And it's 10 degrees outside too - bargain !

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My World Tuesday - Garden update.

For more My World Tuesday pictures, click here.

My Tuesday was white...

... with a hint of white added for good measure.

I've been trying for several weeks to update you on my garden work which is pretty much complete now. I waited through September to take some photos including autumn colours. That never came. Then the leaves fell off everything and it all looked bleak and dirty and I knew I'd never impress you with that.

So here is the clean, white, sanitized and completely useless update on my garden! This is the new vegetable patch. You're amazed at the design skills, aren't you?

This is one of several new prepared flower-beds-to-be. It is one of four areas I did the lasagne gardening, and when the spring comes around next year, this will be a huge semi-circle of fertile new ground ready for me to plant up. Or that's the theory anyway. Again, I can feel your awe.

And this is the new dog run. No more poop on lawns for us. Everyone else repeats that god-awful green chain-link fencing for dog runs, but I was having none of that. So hubby dusted off the tools and spirit level and purchased half the local store's supply of timber and made this fenced-off area at the back of the house, together with the gateway - and I'm really pleased with the results. Again, add some plantings and colour next year and it will all look fab. C'mon guys - you've really got to use your imagination here, I know.

But for now, I just sit and watch more snowflakes fall and dream of garden centres, lush green lawns and spring bulbs.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I need some colour!

I've been complaining that autumn seems to have passed us by in Alberta - we had the yellow hues of the fading poplars amongst the hillsides and then bang - a winter landscape, complete with hard frosts and the need to dig out the tough old footwear. The colour has literally been bleached out of the landscape.

But with a positive attitude and a camera begging to find some colour, walking the dogs this morning has renewed my mental funk and I find that even the brown grasses can look stunning if you allow them.

And half a tree of yellows and golds is better than none.

I love the vibrant oranges of the fall berries on this Common Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) and they actually taste pretty good too. But I'll leave them for the birds.

Even the common Crabapples are giving it their all at the moment.

The hard silvery fruits on the Wolf Willow (Elaeagnus commutata) shimmer in the sunlight.

The frost on the Rugosa Rose glistens like a sugar coating.

And deer hoof prints mixed in with the greenkeeper's prints on the local golf course make for pretty patterns.

Blue skies again - and all is right with my world for another day.

Happy Thanksgiving indeed.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Skywatch Friday

To see more SkyWatch Friday pictures, click here.

Looking westwards from my front door this afternoon, a mixed bag of clouds form over the mountains - which are wearing a brand new and rather beautiful coat of snow.

It's always exciting to see them once again iced with a fresh layer of glistening white - and it reminds us that the rather silly but thrilling sport of hurtling down a mountain on two slim planks is nearly upon us again (or one thicker plank for the stronger and more balanced amongst you).

Looking eastwards out of my back door, I am somewhat jealous of my neighbour's rather sumptuous pine cones adorning her tree. No clouds in the sky looking in this direction - just good ol' fashioned Alberta blue skies again.

A friend here told me a few weeks ago that early and plentiful amounts of pine cones signal a harsh winter to come. I'm not sure if she was just trying to cheer me up (!) and this is an old wives tale - or if it really is a true forecast for the next few months?

Remember my poor sunflower struggling to bloom by the end of the season? Well, he just about made it before a harsh frost cut him down in his prime.

If I leave the remnants of the sunflowers in place and don't tidy up for winter, will the seeds provide food for birds?

I have a mountain ash in my front garden - it is now laden with gorgeous brightly coloured berries. I know for sure that this will be a feeding ground for some feathered friends at some point.

This last picture (apologies for the quality but I didn't want to go outside and disturb them) is the same tree last winter, smothered in waxwings (I think) who gorged themselves silly on the berries from the tree, and stripped it naked in 8 minutes flat!

Have a great Friday.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Onwards and upwards ....

Crap Week Part I

Warning - I'm about to be momentarily grumpy ...

So I didn't get that job I interviewed for the other week. After a few days of hearing nothing, I eagerly awaited my rejection letter which, after 10 days, came via the form of email. Ah, the electronic era can't replace a good old fashioned envelope with a stamp when it comes to disappointing news.

I felt somewhat disheartened, I must admit. I had gone for an entry-level admin job - the type I had managed to bypass after leaving college and woefully thought "good grief, if I can't even get that, I'm buggered". Secretly, I think it went to someone already in the organisation and who was probably already earmarked for the job (but it wouldn't have been much of a promotion!) - and the interview process was potentially a paperwork exercise. Alternatively, I was so obviously over-qualified that they did not wish to insult me by offering me the job.

Hey ho - a day or two of feeling despondent (because I really wanted this job for a variety of admittedly selfish reasons - which I did not disclose at the interview in case you are thinking I blew it right there and then!) - and then I sat down to work out a Plan G.

My brain spins several thought processes at once :

a) I have no Canadian office experience - Catch 22 if no-one will give me a job - putting down a stint at Starbucks doesn't help but it is Canadian work experience;

b) I have no recent office experience - having emigrated two years ago, I have enjoyed and totally taken advantage of my new-found freedom. Then I did a stint at Starbucks and worked at a garden centre because it suited me. I wasn't thinking long-term job prospects nor careers at this point. I'd just escaped 16 years in one profession.

c) I am too old and useless and out of touch to be employed in this field;

d) The above sentence is crap and I am young and vibrant and hugely knowledgeable, and will be a huge asset to any company that has the common sense and foresight to employ me;

e) I feel like an immigrant; I can't exactly quantify that last statement - but I am often so aware of my accent - speaking slowly and clearly, changing my language - and of my new-ness to this fair land;

f) I want a local job and do not want to commute 2 hours a day; however, I also wish to earn more than an insulting hourly rate and will probably need the big city lights for this goal.

g) I have young children who I want to look out for and look after - not farm them off to miscellaneous child-care - and who still require me to don my chaffeur hat four nights a week for various clubs. I cannot leave the house at 6.30am for an 8am start in the downtown area.

h) I have young children who drive me nuts on occasion so I need to escape. I'd love to have, be and do something different and stimulating in a non-family-cum-household way.

i) We need the money and I should just shut up and put up with anything at all to pay for the groceries; I never believe other people when they say there aren't any jobs out there.

j) I resent working my butt off for insulting money;

h) I am going round in circles.

So I have applied for other suitable jobs and I have this week signed up with an agency and hope to do some temping over the next few months to give me that all-important local and recent experience.

Onwards and upwards ....

Crap Week Part II

Hubby was off on a training week with work last week and I received a phone call from him on Thursday, saying he had somehow injured himself, he had just spent five hours at the Emergency Room, and could I come and collect him?

Locked up two hungry dogs in the kitchen, and packed up two hungry children into the car and set off in rush hour traffic to a place which should have only taken me about an hour and half to drive. Two and quarter hours later I arrived, somewhat stressed, to pick up a very poorly looking husband - not after getting completely lost and killing a deer en route. Don't ask.

Bundled husband into front seat of car - who was in agony with something odd going on in his back/shoulder - and then rushed to the nearest rubbishy fast-food outlet so my near-starving children could eat something vaguely resembling nutrition.

Pulled car up to a halt, whereby hubby rushed out and promptly threw up all over the car park. Pain, dizziness and drugs are apparently a great combination for a new weight-loss programme. We could market this.

Finally arrived back home at 10:15pm to two crossed-legged but thinner looking hungry dogs, who squeaked with excitement that we had not abandoned them after all, and finally everyone muddled themselves into their respective beds in a state of exhaustion.

4am - wide awake. Husband almost in tears by this point. Very unlike him - so actually quite frightening for me. Excruciating pain and in need of an Emergency room again, some answers and some drugs - not necessarily in that order. More throwing up ensued - and your blog author was feeling distinctly useless by this point.

Morphine in various guises doesn't necessarily assist with all types of pain, we have found out.

Fast-forward one week and bureaucracy rules. Work reports, WCB reports (Worker's Compensation Board), medical requests, weekends, 8-4 office workers who are not currently in pain and doped up on morphine, persons not willing or able to fax a piece of paper to another person - the list goes on to the point of wanting to scream. How my husband has remained so calm and polite I do not know - oh, hang on, morphine .....

We are still none the wiser as the cause of the pain but make our own elementary diagnosis of a trapped nerve or similar which is making fingers and hands numb, and preventing any kind of normal sleeping, sitting or standing position possible. He's off for an MRI tomorrow, and I will safely log this past week as one of the crappiest in a while. It is nothing so serious (to everyone else) as to require acting expeditiously - but pain is pain is pain. It is nothing so serious in the grand scale of really serious events happening all over the world every day. I get that. But in my bubble this week, it was not trivial. Pain that makes you throw up four times is not normal. And he's no wuss, by the way.

Next week will be better - I will be offered the job of my dreams and my husband will be skipping through fields of tulips (in October).

Have a good one everybody. Normal happy blogging will resume shortly.

(Ahhh - I feel better now!)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Uh oh - again ...

W I N T E R ' S C O M I N G !!!!

Look here, it's not on! Everyone in blogland is currently posting their brilliantly colourful autumn photos of scarlets and reds, oranges and yellows; of cooler misty mornings and birds taking flight - and the landscape takes a gentle breath and winds down for another year.

Bang! Woke up this morning to a light icing-sugar dusting of the first snow of the season. It was a pathetic show really, it must be said, but 2 out of 10 for effort - and it followed on from some quite heavy rain overnight. It was all very light and gritty, and had disappeared after an hour or so - but it's a wake-up call regardless. It's nature's way of yelling out Warning, warning!! Winter's-a-coming!!

The white sprinkling on the BBQ, deck, and trampoline momentarily dragged my memory back to earlier in the year. Bugger! Is that summer gone already? It can't be!

It's too early of course for snow. By 'of course' I mean it's too early in my world - the Calgary climate usually has it's own agenda however - it doesn't seek my permission to let rip with icy white flakes - I am not ready, not interested, and the landscape already seems to have been sucked dry of the colour green. Brown grass and fields everywhere, and I'm sure it wasn't this bleak looking at this stage last year.

Even the dogs were a little taken aback - Smudge stuck his nose out into the cool 2 degrees breeze and thought better of it - he sat and looked at it all for a while, scratched to go out about four times, until his bladder got the better of him and he braved the great outdoors. He was none too impressed., I can tell you.

Shhh, I think there's a bit of short-term memory loss going on here though - he's actually forgotten that he loves the snow - won't be long now fella and you'll be up to your nose in it and we'll be pulling all the icy snowballs off your fur as it sticks to you !

So the heating has kicked in and I need to find out where I hid my skis - and does anyone know where the snow shovel is?