Monday, February 2, 2009

Interview, Groundhog Day

Satima (Satima's Blogspot see link this page) decided to interview me - she says we all have a story to tell, I guess I tell my story here every day. I found this rather fun to do, I suppose, in common with many of us, I like to talk about myself. She also wants to interview sinlaw, Mike, of the Scolopax Chronicles or the Wildlife Art (links this page) so I hope he will agree to it. On the right is one of his more recent paintings, if you have never been to his site. This is my interview: Q1. What made you and Matt decide to move from the UK to Canada? Was it a good move for you?
A. We found that the UK was getting somewhat stifling, there was no room to stretch out one's arms and for people like Matt and I, not a lot of room for advancement. It was a bigger wrench for Matt because he has two children. My parents were living in the Med. by then anyway and I have no siblings. In fact my father died shortly before we emigrated having said previously that he thought it the best move we could make.
Yes, it was a great move, we have lived in North America, mainly Canada, since 1975 and have, we think, had a much better life than had we stayed in the UK. We had two homes, one in Canada and one in North Carolina and have enjoyed our time in both places. Our Canadian home had a pool in the back yard, I don't think that would have been possible, or, come to that, particularly enjoyable, in England, the weather isn't really good enough. We certainly spent a lot of time in our pool, we lived outside all summer and had all kinds of pool parties. We also had a travel trailer/caravan which we trailed around Ontario and the States and had a wonderful time visiting both people and places.
Q2. What other countries have you visited or lived in? Are there any more that you really long to see?
A. As I have just mentioned, we lived in North Carolina in the States for about 12 years. We loved it there, the weather was excellent, apart from the odd hurricane, and the living was easy. We had a delightful property of about 1/2 an acre with a double wide mobile home which was a great place to live. We were 15 minutes from the sea shore and could easily feast on shrimp, in particular and lots of other seafood fresh out of the water. Whilst in NC we went on a Caribbean cruise with some friends and spent a lot of time travelling in the States. Other than that, before we moved here, I had visited Norway, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia (as it was then), Malta and Spain - I particularly loved Greece, France and Spain. I speak pretty good French, moderate Spanish and a smattering of Greek which helped. Maybe I should say 'spoke', I'm pretty rusty in those languages nowadays although there was some opportunity to use French when I was working here in Canada. My parents lived in Malta once they retired so we joined them there for vacations although I had already spent two weeks there before they retired. My parents and therefore I, lived on a boat from shortly after the Second World War, which accounted for my visits to so many countries. When my father retired, he sailed his current home to Malta. Later, things got politically uncomfortable for the Brits in Malta so he moved to Spain calling in at Southern France on the way where we also joined them. Later they bought a house in Spain and sold the boat. I have also visited the Bahamas for a few days and spent two weeks in The Dominican Republic and another two weeks in Southern Portugal which we loved. In fact I have thoroughly enjoyed most of the countries I have visited.
Yes, I would love to visit Asia. Ever since I read Shogun by James Clavell, I have wanted to visit Japan. I would also like to go to Hong Kong although its a bit crowded, plus see some of the interior of China which looks so beautiful. I would also love to visit Oz, as much to see some of my cyber friends as to see the country. In fact I once had an ambition to visit one town in every country of the world. It will not, unhappily, come to fruition, but if I could, I would still love to travel a lot more.
Re-reading, of course I lived in England for 37 years. I just made the assumption everyone would know that, why should they.
Q3. I know you're an avid reader. Can you pick two contrasting books that you've enjoyed recently and tell us a bit about them and why you liked them?
A. Its not that long since I read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen which was a fascinating book and quite outside my normal choice. These days I tend to stick to what you, Satima, call Speculative Fiction which I gather includes both hard sci fi and fantasy. Water for Elephants was a very poignant story about an old man living in a nursing home and reliving memories of his time living and working in a circus and his delight and friendship with the circus' only elephant. The elephant was somewhat mistreated by the official 'handler' who eventually gets his comeuppance. The reminiscences are interrupted occasionally by returns to the nursing home in the current day with the old man worrying about whether he will get to see a visiting circus, he ends up stealing away from the home to visit the circus all on his own as his family forget about him. Because he does so, his life changes.
One of the biggest contrasts was The Empress (of Mijak) by Karen Miller. The protagonist was/is an absolute horror. From the beginning of her story one has a little sympathy for her, life was extremely hard, but she comes to believe that her God has chosen her and any atrocity she commits in the name of this God is OK and is on behalf of her country of Mijak. By the end of the book she has caused the death of hundreds of thousands. There is no assimilation of conquered peoples they are either killed or enslaved, mostly killed. An excellent book despite the horror of the woman. Book two is better and I await Book three with eagerness.
Q4.Bowling is another of your hobbies, isn't it? What made you take it up? Have you been doing it for very long? If not, did you play another sport, and if so what was it?
A. We took up 5-pin bowling shortly after we emigrated (1975). Within a couple of years or so. We were introduced to it by friends who bowled and once we started we joined two leagues and bowled regularly for the winter seasons until we moved down to the Carolinas. There it is 10-pin bowling, and it wasn't really our thing apart from which we couldn't get into a league, the nearest alley was 20 miles away and we would have had to join the bowling association whether we had managed to get a game or not. When we came back to Canada, we immediately re-joined the bowling alley we had been members of before although we now live in a different town. Unfortunately they have since closed down as a lot of alleys seem to be doing although I read an article which said 5-pin bowling is alive and well. It is only played in Canada and was invented by a Canadian exactly 100 years ago this year (celebrations are in order) as a more difficult sport than 10-pin. We both thoroughly enjoy it and now bowl in a local alley.
Other than that I used to be a pretty keen golfer, Matt still is, but then I kind of lost my game and finding myself in tears of frustration on the course, decided this was no longer a sport and quit. A great pity in a way as I was laid off for a whole summer one year and was out on the golf course at 7 a.m. every day. That was in Canada. In England I avoided sports altogether for most of my life. Then, because I had almost drowned a couple of times, I took up scuba diving which is where I met Matt. We were both married at the time, but that's another story. Funnily enough, neither of us has scuba dived since we came to Canada although Matt did lots of snorkelling in the Caribbean (I did a little).
I have just remembered, reading through my answers, Cross Country Skiing. We took that up shortly after we moved to Canada as well. We loved it and found that there was never enough snow and the winter was never long enough. Matt, in particular, working shifts for a few years, used to come home after a night shift and immediately head out skiing which enabled him to catch all kinds of wildlife just about to start their day, or their night, depending on the critter. Not something we can still enjoy unfortunately as Matt has had two hip and one knee replacement and I have had one hip done.
Q5. It's apparent that you love food and are an amazing cook. Have you a favourite recipe to share with us?
A. My favourite recipes vary from year to year I guess. One of my latest faves is Bobotie and Yellow Rice which I just made and posted the recipes for in my blog. My father was always interested in food. When he married my mother she literally couldn't boil an egg, she used to say later that it is, in fact, a difficult thing to do. There was a story about how he picked her up from work one evening and they were going on somewhere else so he took her back to his flat/apartment whilst he changed. He was feeling peckish so asked her to make a bacon sandwich while he changed. He came back to find her in floods of tears because she had no idea how to make one. To me, later in life, knowing my mother for the great cook she was, this was a hilarious story. She could and did, cook anything. She could out gourmet most restaurants and knew all the French names of everything even if her pronounciation left something to be desired. She was a much better cook than I will ever be. Her main recipe source originally was Mrs. Beeton who is a classic British cookbook author from way back. My mother's copy, which I now have, was dated 1935.
One of my favourite recipes from years back, which is one I have posted on my blog quite some time ago, was for what I call Tomato Toasts.
Tomato Toast
Toast as many slices of bread as you want.
Rub each slice with a clove of garlic while it is still warm
Spread the toast with a little olive oil, about 1 tsp.
Cover the toast with well seasoned slices of ripe tomato.
Eat and enjoy.
Variation: Sometimes we add Havarti Cheese over the tomatoes and broil/grill until melting. I just remembered, its Groundhog Day today. I would think there is every possibility of all the different groundhogs seeing their shadows, there is certainly lots of very reflective snow about. If they don't see their shadows it means winter will soon end, otherwise they will retreat to their burrows for another 6 weeks. Our local one is called Wiarton Willie and I know most Canadians will hope and pray he doesn't see his shadow when he pokes his head out of his hole. Everyone has had enough of shovelling snow. This last week we have had piles of the stuff, not seen so much in years. What a pity we don't ski any more. As I already posted the Tomato Toast recipe, I decided to include one I got from Mushrooms Canada. Mushroom, Tomato and Basil Ragout Serve a green salad and crusty bread with this one-pot vegetarian dish - perfect for a fast comforting meal or as a side dish with grilled meat or fish. Makes 4 main meals. 1 leek 1 2 Tbs olive oil 25 mL 3 garlic cloves, minced 3 1 lb small fresh mushrooms, halved 500 g 1 can Italian flavoured tomatoes* 1 (28oz/796 mL) 1 cup water 250 mL 2/3 cup Orzo pasta 150 mL 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced 125 mL salt and pepper to taste Garnish: grated Parmesan cheese (optional) Slice off and discard the dark green tops and roots of leek. Cut in half lengthwise and rinse under water to remove any grit; thinly slice. In a large, deep skillet or saucepan heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes or until the leek begins to soften. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, breaking up with a spoon, water and orzo. Bring to boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12 -15 minutes or until the orzo is tender and it has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Pass the cheese to sprinkle on top if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste. Servings: 4 *Substitute stewed tomatoes or Herb & Spice flavoured tomatoes for the Italian flavoured tomatoes and add 1 tbsp (15 mL) dried Italian seasoning with the tomatoes. Have a great day.

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