Friday, May 11, 2012

Canoeing in the Family by Granny Anne

Mervyn (Shannon's Grandfather) canoeing in France in 1938
Today, in Seattle, we went canoeing: Shannon steering at the back and Frost and Wren in the middle with Beezle dog wandering around or sleeping in the laundry basket. Our route was down the Sammamish River from McRedmond River Park to Woodenville, a distance of about 10 miles taking us about 2.5 hours. The river drainsLake Sammamish into Lake Washington.

On lake Washington 
Paddling downriver from Redmond (note Beezle in basket)

Snackbreak (canoeing is hungry work) 

 The Sammamish is named after the native people that lived along its shores. It is not a wide river and flows at about 3-4 knots. Shannon's Old Town canoe is very stable and none of the kids’ wriggling around worried us. It was an adventure and Wren commented that it was 'heaven'. Frost helped with paddling but enjoyed relaxing with Beezle snuggled on his lap. The 'padkos'  (food for the journey) was an important feature of the trip and even Beezle had his bag of padkos. There was a lot to see: birds, including some spring goslings, fish, a muskrat swimming, turtles and peoples' backyards. We were the only canoeists on the river.  Josh collected Shannon at the end to ferry her back to the car. It was a most successful expedition and it finished with delicious cookies from the Hillcrest Bakery in Woodenville.

The canoeing reminded me of family stories of canoe trips. Since Shannon and I have been researching family history I shall tell them here.

In 1938 my father, at the age of 27 travelled round the world ending up in Europe. He and a friend decided to canoe down the Rhine. They bought a wood and canvas canoe in London and set off for Kehl in Germany. It was the time of increasing tension between France and Germany and Dad recalled the Heil Hitler salutes that greeted you at every German Pub or wine 'stahl'. Dad would tell stories of that trip with great happiness. It was not without danger as the Rhine was full of boats and his friend could not swim.

We were not fully aware of the developing conflict. They said that there would never be another war. At one of the places we stopped for the night we went up to a Rhinecastle. We met a lot of Spanish refugees, these were attractive girls. They had to escape from Spain, from Franco’s Civil war where the Nazis were fighting. And the other side was helped by the Soviet Union and the International Brigade. So we spent some time with them. We were like gypsies and we took what came, at that age one does not have the same fear of what tomorrow brings.
We should have been drowned a hundred times. On one occasion we were going like anything on the river and there was a great big bridge ahead with pillars down into the water. I was in the front and Fergie was in the back. I noticed that we are going to hit one of these pillars sideways.
I shouted at him, ‘Steer it round, steer it round!!’ expecting him to use the rudder.
He says, ‘No! No! I threw it away!’
We are going down the Rhine without a rudder! Imagine it! I paddled like hell on the one side to get it round. We just got it round past the pillars.”

I remember our canoe and kayak journeys in the wilds of Africa: down the Zambezi and Orange Rivers. In the 1980s Mervyn and I loved to do these trips. Now I look back on them with more sense of the dangers that surrounded us. The Zambezi is a kilometre wide. The birdlife, animals on the shores and in the river were a stunning spectacle. At night we camped on the shores and told stories of Africa round the campfire. Some days we lunched on a shallow sandbank in the middle of theZambezi. The Camp chairs were in the clear water and we could watch hippo pods in the river and elephants coming down to drink.  

Mervyn and Freddie beside the Rhine

Canoeing the Zambezi, note the hippos in the background

Canoeing in the Okavango Delta in a wooden "makoro"

Okavango crocodile

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Notes from my visit

What struck me when I arrived in Seattle was how much Wren and Frost have grown. Several times during the first day Wren held up his five fingers and said, 'I am FIVE'. frost at ten is on the cusp of being a young man. Very determined, very literate. 

Frost tries out the keyboard on a visit to Google

Sizing up the snow on Hurricane Ridge (see below)

The spring in Seattle is glorious. Gardens don't typically have a front fence so generally much effort goes into the presentation of these areas. Azeleas, bluebells, daffodils, magnolias, rhododendrons, lavenders are in full bloom. I love the architecture of the homes here. Wren is very happy to come on a walk, actually he scoots and I walk with the reluctant Beezle dog.

I have been here for two weeks and Shannon has been diverted from her normal busy routine.

Shannon has not been diverted from her vegetarianism despite
repeated servings of salmon

We started with three days on the Olympic Peninsula which is a story in itself. I love the way Seattle is surrounded by mountains. They are still snow covered and one stream running into the sea that we had to cross was bitterly cold. Birds are everywhere at the moment and Wren is becoming a spotter. In his new diary I had to write, 'i saw a hawk' and while reading to him he spotted a yellow warbler out the window. He notes the Stellar's Jay as we walk our road. From little interests like this kids can build a life long interest. wren is a highly imaginative child. He loves the backyard basketball court and plays imaginative battles there quite on his own. On the wild Olympic beaches, the driftwood took on many shapes to him, mostly of them forms of battle weapons.

Wren tries out a driftwood "rhino gun" on a long beach walk 
I have started reading to him from Geraldine Elliots books of African stories, The Long Grass Whispers and the Singing Chameleon. The former was my childhood book of 1952 and I remembered them all my life. Fisi, the hyaena is the villain and Kalulu, the rabbit is the clever survivor. At first Wren complained about the lack of pictures, but that did not last long.

Fisi the Hyena who is always causing trouble

My (Anne's) original copy of the Singing Chameleon from 1952 (she was 5 years old too!)

Each day has new excitement. Yesterday Shannon and I took out their new Indian style canoe on lake Washington. Wren came, sitting in the middle. It was a perfect warm calm day and all the birds were busy. Wren spent his time catching water lilies, counting the great blue herons we paddled past and enjoying his 'padkos'. He even tried to help paddle but was confused as to how to actually help without depositing scoopfuls of water on my lap.

Wren on Lake Washington in the canoe
Wren called the trip "the 13 great blue herons" because we saw so many

Wren Likes Minecraft

I like Minecraft because you can build really cool things.  You can build iron swords, axes and stuff and also you can do this.  You might not like this.

Granny:  What did you do?

Wren:  I killed a sheep.  You have to kill sheep and cows and stuff to survive.

Granny: You have a sword.  Do you always have a sword?

Wren:  No, not always.

Granny:  How do you make music?

Wren:  To make music you right click on one of these music boxes and then they go like that.
Music comes out.

Wren:  If you double click space it makes you fly and if you double click space again it makes you drop down.    To go slowly down you press SHIFT click.

Granny:  Is this a frightening world?

Wren:  There can be endermen and zombies and skeletons and lightening.  If I was on survival the guys would try and come up to me and damage me but I can hit them with a sword.  There are experience swords "GET OUT OF MY WAY SHEEP".  that help you get experience.

This screen shows a nether portal [the purple thing with black things around it] if you go into it again it will take you back to REAL LIFE but if you go into it again you get back here in THE NETHER.    The fires are lava things and if you go near them its fine but if you go in them on survival its not fine.    Right now in the nether I am just going to show you want the nether is like.    The nether is like REAL WORLD but its HELL.

About TNT.
The TNT is for blowing stuff up.  I fill up this hole with TNT and then I go up to the surface adn so I get flint and steel and right click it on a piece of TNT and it gots off and it sets of the other ones all the way down.    Its a mine so its called MINE craft.

Frost:  Wren is very good at building castles and fortresses and he also likes to get wolves and things as pets.

Wren's pack of "puppies"

Wren:  and CATS!

Frost:  Technically they are called ocelots, but whatever.  Wren usually plays on creative mode and he is very good at using TNT and he likes mining very deep and in general, fighting things.

Wren:  I like Minecraft because it is cool and I love it.  Actually, that's a whatev.  No, not a whatev... its a "Just 'cos"

Granny:  Do they give you new things as time goes on?

Frost:  They do updates from time to time.  Wren, show granny an Iron Golem.

Granny:  An Iron God?

Frost:  GO-LEM.  When you fight an NPC Village (non player character village) NPCs will spawn.  Any mob or creature that is not a player is an NPC.  The villagers at night go into their house and zombies attack them.  Zombies can break down their doors but Iron Golems attack zombies to protect the villagers.

Wren:  Minecraft is a game you build things and its really fun and also you can blow stuff up.

Granny:  How long have you been playing minecraft?  How old were you?

Wren:  Either 2 years or one year.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Visitor but not spring

I have been trying to write a blog while Mum and I slouch on the couch watching an old version of Jane Austen's "Emma".

"The birds will all be going north, now."  Says Mum.  "We should go out at do some birdwatching!"

Mum is only half joking.  She is very intent on seeing migratory birds which have shown up on radar in vast numbers, flying at night.  Tonight, it is clear and there is a huge moon so she no doubt imagines the flocks of warblers, sandpipers and plovers outlined like a handfull of rice thrown up against the moonbright sky.

My mother is visiting us from Australia.    Its a season of contrasts:  freezing winds and spring flowers, sudden breaks of warm sun and blustery squalls that fill the upright wheelbarrow with water in a matter of days.

Today, in faith, we planted potatoes and some hardy vegetables like chard and lettuce.

Despite the wintry spring, we have been getting out a bit:  to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, walking the neighborhood, watching birds and have been on a trip to the coast.    Mum has a mission to stop Beezle using piddle pads and takes him out many times a day, wind, rain and shine.  Beezle pulls at the leash, digging in his feet to avoid going outside in the rain to pee.

Mum in the kitchen

Spring flowers from Magnuson Park

Frost at Hurricane Ridge 

Spring tulips in a neighborhood garden
I shall post again soon.  Must get mind in blog mode.  Blog.  Mode.

My first attempt at writing this blog was simply this:


Well, now she (and I) are gone to bed and only Josh and Beezle remain in the warm spot on the couch.