Saturday, January 29, 2011

Alberta Clipper

One of my guilty pleasures is watching the Weather Channel.  Twenty minutes on there can keep me quite fascinated.  The vast land mass of Canada, and indeed North America, offers phenomenal weather patterns and endless variety.  I might be a meteorologist in my next life (or a successful guitar-playing singer-song writer, or a long-legged but completely sane and drug-free actress, or a complete brainiac who finally discovers the cure for lots of horrible and debilitating diseases - look, I haven't decided yet).

So three times this winter, I have heard the term "Alberta Clipper" and I now offer you my quite inexpert understanding of this expression:

IT'S A STORM!  Let's add some snow in there. And some wind.  And drop the temperature too while we're at it.

(Taken from the Environment Canada website)

The Alberta Clipper is not really something that happens in Alberta - rather it originates from Alberta and causes havoc over much of the rest of Canada, especially the middle prairie provinces.   Should I offer an unreserved apology right now on behalf of all Albertans?

You've heard me mention the Chinooks before - warm winds that spread across southern Alberta and raise our temperatures considerably.  In very simplistic terms, the Clipper appears to be the side effects for everyone else. And it ain't pretty!

So this week here in Alberta, we have had some sunshine and warmth (up to 13 degrees) and the spring fairies tease us that this winter lark is nearly over.  Not bloody likely!  We've awoken to about 8cm of new snow this morning - but I think we might get off lightly.

Here's the science part:

An Alberta Clipper is a fast moving weather front of low pressure, usually occurring from December through to February.  It takes it's name from 
a) the fact that it appears to originate in Alberta, and 
b) the fast moving clipper ships from years gone by.

The air picks up moisture from the Pacific Ocean to our West, and then the resulting warm, moist air travels across British Columbia to the Rockies.  When it hits the mountains, the air has to travel upwards (sometimes dumping snow on the BC side) - then it comes down the lee side of the mountains into Alberta - bringing us our warming Chinooks.  As the air continues to travel at some pace eastwards towards the prairies, it mixes with all the regular winter cold air hovering over Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The entangled air becomes a storm and gets caught up in the jet stream, and produces windy, blizzard, white-out conditions in it's wake, with accompanying frigid temperatures with dangerous windchill - though, surprisingly, little actual snow because there is little moisture left in the storm air.  These storms work their way through the eastern provinces of Canada, and also affect some of the US states to our south east - Montana and the Dakotas especially.  When the Alberta Clippers hit the Great Lakes, this usually results in great dumps of lake-effect snow.  Sorry!

I'll stop there but you get the general idea.  So when the Weather Channel presenter mentions the Alberta Clipper, everyone who lives to my east should prepare themselves for a brutal couple of days.  

I suggest a couple of books, chocolate, tinned goods, cuddly scarves, screen-wash and wine.  Not necessarily in that order.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I'm only posting this because I like the photo!

Taken at a Robert Burns party last week 
(read: an excuse for grown men to wear skirts and drink copious amounts of whisky), 
this was one of those moments when an unexpected raised glass accompanied by a loud "cheers" brought sparkle and movement into my lens.

So cheers to you too!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Scenic Sunday - View from on high.

Calgary cannot claim to be 
the most beautiful city in the world

but looking out from my high-rise office window

with the sunrise illuminating the city, 
the horizon shows the stark outlines 
of the newly-snowed-upon Rockies.

 - some mornings, we are treated to 
an array of pinks and golds, 
and all references to concrete can be forgiven.

Calgary sure does have a stunning backdrop!

Monday, January 17, 2011

One lump or two?

I am thinking that films need some new rating classifications - something to forewarn the viewer that they may be mortally embarrased by emotion.

Let me explain.  Last night my lovely husband and I set about watching a film called "The Notebook".  I knew nothing of this film, other than it was a bit of a chick-flick.  If you have seen this film then you will fully understand my following comments - and if you have not seen it, then use my own ratings system as fair warning!

It's a beautifully filmed love story which opens in 1940 and you are swept along by emotive and engaging characters and a fab cast that are easy on the eye.  It is a mostly up-beat movie which allows you to reminisce or dream of young love - those first enthralling days when you think you have met "The One". 

So definite chick-flick territory really.  My hubby, bless him, (kinda willingly) sits through these kinds of films with me, and in return I agree to hold his hand and support him through action-packed shootin', stabbin' and chokin' movies - and if Matt Damon is on my screen, all the better.  Fair's fair.

However, by the end of this particular movie I am an inconsolable, red-faced, snot-ridden heap.  Literally sobbing, like, out loud.  I look and feel like an absolute wreck - all in the name of entertainment.  

How on earth would I, or indeed my dear hubby, have coped if this wanton display of angst had been in a real movie theatre  - you know, in public?  It doesn't bare thinking about.  Do they have padded rooms with soothing musak for the cinematically disturbed?

So I have no idea how to go about introducing my new ratings, but that's beside the point.  I feel though, after last night's display, that prominent warnings of the risk of turning into an emotional wreck should be mandatory.

Different stories, whether presented on the page, on film or on stage, will affect everyone very uniquely - it will perhaps depend upon their own experiences and what stage they are at in their life - how much they can or cannot identify with the characters before them.

Me - I became a heart-on-the-sleeve kind of person after my dad died when I was 26.  And I have no shame - if I get upset, I let it out and then feel sooooo much better.  Everyone else around me is probably fidgeting terribly at this point, looking for the nearest exit.  I am a sensitive soul, but shhhhhh, don't tell anyone.

I was trying to think of a few other films that have previously reduced me to a weeping mess:

#1 - the end of Brokeback Mountain when Ennis is in that sparse trailer, hanging up the checked shirt;
#2 - the end of Series 2 of Grey's Anatomy when Izzie climbs into bed beside her dying patient-cum-would-be-new-love-of-her-life-if-he-wasn't-about-to-croak-it.
#3 - City of Angels when a certain Meg Ryan goes out on her bicycle to get breakfast.

Blub blub blub.

So I hereby propose that film classifications should be changed to something along the lines of:

Messy Mascara ratings - waterproof required; or

Best Wait 'Till It Comes Out On DVD And You Can Watch In The Privacy of Your Own Home 
(although I hesitate here as some films are already understandably in this category - usually found in the "Adult Entertainment" aisle with a big X or R on the box, so I might have to work on the wording a bit).

Sniffles and Snot warnings - you could work up to a five out of five Box-of-Tissues rating perhaps (although my Tissue rating could be misunderstood by a certain (teenage boys?) audience, so again, I might need to work on that too!).

And for the menfolk, emotive drama could carry a warning of:

Brings a Proper Lump to Your Throat, fella - You Have Been Warned.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SkyWatch - Driving home Drive-Bys

It's a good job I remember to take my camera 
with me most days.

Otherwise, how could I possibly find the words 
to describe my drive home this week?

Monday, January 10, 2011

A remarkable man

I want to send a shout out to a remarkable man who lives in my hometown of Cochrane, Alberta.

His name is Martin Parnell, and he has just spent the past 12 months completing 250 marathons.  Yes, you read that right - in 365 days, he ran 250 marathons.  

What an amazing achievement.  And with the greatest respect to Martin, he's no spring chicken - he's a man in his 50's, who while semi-retired, put his life on hold for a whole year to help others.  I have been carefully watching his endeavours through our local press - and he has been to visit both of my girl's schools - but I don't know how wide-spread his progress was circulated.  By my reckoning, it should have been on national TV!

He was raising cash for "Right to Play" - Right To Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills, and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world.

The aim was to raise $250,000 by the end of 2010, and I think he has so far reached about $226,000.

So for now, he just aims to just keep on running for a wee while longer 'till he reaches his magic goal.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it and writing this couple of paragraphs.  I think I need a lie-down!

Martin - my hat is well and truly doffed in your direction.  

Good luck with the last few $$$, and if anyone else is tempted to throw another $10 or $25 or $100 dollars in his direction, I suspect he and many, many children will be eternally grateful.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I've decided that I get incredibly restless during that week between Christmas and New Year.  It's not a new sensation, but perhaps it is one I have finally acknowledged.  It's the slight anti-climax after the Christmas rush, combined with the knowledge that I have whole days to do as I wish and let my mind wander wherever it wishes to go.  I am not convinced this is a good or safe idea!

I have a love/hate relationship with this week.  I think last year I referred to it as my Twilight Zone week.  I'd liken it to feeling slightly stir-crazy.  I overdose on my own four walls (which I do love), my excited children (who I do love) and my dogs (who are not so bad really).  I think they are all just in my face too much, especially the dogs.  I need a 5-minute time-out.  Perhaps someone could put me on the Naughty Step?

(me with Daughters Number One and Two on Christmas Day)

With time off, I didn't have to get up and be anywhere at Silly O'Clock in the morning, which is absolutely wonderful, and this year, more than any other year since living in Canada, we had many people to see, invites to dinners, and people over to visit us.  We feel more settled than at any other time.  But comfortable (and comforting?) Skype chats with webcams with family and friends back in the UK still highlight that relationships here are still in their infancy really.  

We and our newer Canadian friends are all still getting to know each other to some degree, which can be simultaneously exhilarating - because I am inherently a nosey and sociable old bag; exhausting - because you feel you must try and remember every new fact about someone, their awful sister, their complicated jobs and their child-birth nightmare stories; and finally, and potentially the nub the matter, maybe I am not quite myself because I'm not yet sure if they are like-minded foodies with alcoholic tendencies, or will think me a complete lush if I polish off one more glass of wine, washed down with a choccie muffin.  (That's a small glass by with the way, and a low fat muffin of course.)

(the girls burn off some of that holiday energy!)

I love my lazy days, away from the politics of work.  New Christmas books beckon and I actually have the time to read more than three pages before my eyes fall shut.  But more free time leads to actually paying attention to the news and properly reading the newspapers.  Trust me - this is not a healthy activity!  This past week or two, I have found the TV and newspapers so full of death and destruction - tragedies galore.  There's too many people out there who have had the shittiest start to 2011 imaginable.  If I let myself ponder and empathize, I can get bogged down with sadness at the unfairness in this world.  So I try not to, then feel bad anyway.

I also spend the week looking around my home and getting unnecessarily frustrated with silly and not-so-silly little jobs that require more time and money than I have at my disposal.  It's that "out with the old, in the with new" concept that some silly bugger circulated when the new year dawns, and this somehow transfers itself to my utensil drawer, the picture in the downstairs loo, that tatty pair of jeans that cannot last another year and the annual desire to learn the piano which I never quite address.  I am surrounded by everyone else busying themselves with new year resolutions - which I learned a long time ago is a complete waste of energy for me.  But maybe that piano thing could work.

The weather has been kinda cold, dull and windy.  Well, winter, really.  Aha! - lightbulb moment - maybe that's the issue - maybe I am not a winter person.  It's still far too long till the clocks change, the earth warms up, the plants wake up and the landscape turns green.  How I do love green!

(but who needs green when you get this every few days?)

So what is in store for us for 2011?  Who knows?

I aim to shift the two pounds I put on last week and then show some serious attitude to the next ten.  Put 'em up!

(and look - I finally achieve tall-skinny winter shadow legs!!)
I can plot and scheme our once-in-a-lifetime Disney extravaganza scheduled for the Spring.  Did I tell you I hate rollercoasters?!  Bring on the cute animals and water-parks please.

I will take each day with my gorgeous husband and beautiful children as the precious gift it is.

And as I get back into the rhythm of life this week, I will shake off these melancholy moments and rush headlong into 2011 with a rocket up my bum and my hair on fire.  And it won't be long till I'm bemoaning the fact that I need a week off to just catch my thoughts!