Magic New Year’s Eve of 1955

I was trying to think of other New Year’s Eves but only two come to mind. I was almost seven years old and was staying with my grandmother in London, England for the holidays. I slept on a little cot which she had placed by her bed under the window. This particular New Year’s Eve it was a very clear night and, while I could hear the grownups talking in the living room, I lay waiting for the magic to happen when the year changed. At midnight the voices stopped but all the church bells started to ring. It was magic, I knelt up in bed and looked out the window at the stars and listened, it went on for a long time, peal after peal ringing in the new year across the roofs of London.

The other time I was a good bit older, about nineteen, I think, and a group of us went up to Trafalgar Square in London to see the New Year in. Traditionally one jumps in the fountains and get a little drunk, we did it all. Since then I have mostly worked through the New Year’s holiday or just stayed home as we will this year, probably going to bed before the New Year has even begun.

I have seen a lot of New Year’s come and go but none has ever had the magic of the church bells I heard on the dawn of 1955.

Reminiscing over my travels

Visiting one of my blog friends today I commented on how well travelled he was and I said I think he probably had me beat as far as all the places he had visited. So I started to make this list. I think I have remembered everywhere. Some places I visited as a child and I do not have much memory of them and some as recently as three years ago. It will be a challenge this year to write a short piece about what I can remember about my visits.

United States

Perhaps someone reading this blog has memories of places they have visited and would like to reminisce over the next year. I have a GeoLocator on my blog and I can see where my visitors come from. I have seen visitors from England, Germany, United States, Hawaii, Australia plus some from many places that I have not been like India, Japan, Hong Kong. I suppose the internet is making the world smaller I hope it will help make it friendlier.

Snow collage

The dog is Annie our Maremma sheepdog. She has a large fenced yard to run in that borders the ravine at the back of the property so she can see all the animals come and go but currently the snow is so high that she just walks over the fence and is gone for hours.

That’s us on the roof, I am just taking a break and my husband keeps pushing it off the roof for me to push onto the road.

Stop sign in the village, yes we do have one! Our truck.

The last of the turkey was turned into soup today and I canned 12 jars, so we will have Christmas turkey at least once a month until next year. It started snowing again today but only about 3cm or just over an inch. We hope to go to town tomorrow and get a few more groceries to take us over the new year but we will check out the roads on the internet before we venture out.

Don’t have much to blog about today so rather than rattle on I’ll leave it for now.

Snow, ice and creeping old age

It was a beautiful day here today -12C but the sun was shining and I had to wear sunglasses. My husband was on the roof getting the last of the snow off and I was pushing it up to the road. It was hard work, my legs and arms were shaking with fatigue before I could finish. Thankfully my husband is in super shape for nearly 69 and finished it for me. So a metal roof is a must for next year. We have stopped the leaks but a small part of the ceiling around one of the fire alarms is damp. Learning about ice and snow and how it affects things has been an expensive exercise.

As I said my husband is in fantastic shape for his age, I have never seen anyone else who could put in so much work in one day, and that is hard physical work. He seems to thrive on it. When he was a young man in Cheshire, England he biked a lot, several hundred miles a week. He was training for the Tour de France , a well known bicycle race, but at the last moment he couldn’t go. He often says those years of hard exercise has paid off now as he approaches old age. Compared to the other men, I see of his age, he is lean and mean and I think he still could take on many of the younger men we see. As for myself I battle to keep my weight within an acceptable range. It is really unfair that women have more fat cells than men. I am still vain enough at nearly 60 to care about my appearance, although I know that the health benefits are really important too. What is the point of looking good and being sick. We are both fortunate in that we have our health, but we are practical enough to realize that at our age things will start breaking down, so we try to plan everything for the future so we can stay independent as long as possible.

That is where the metal roof comes in. We have been talking about it for a while, but the roof we had was good for another 15 years so we thought there was no rush. However, with this huge dump of snow we have had this year and the consequent ice build up it has been hard on the roof. Some of the shingles have been lifted off when the ice was removed. Now we have snow all around the perimeter of our place some of it taller than me and right up to the window ledges. I can hardly imagine it will be gone until August. With a metal roof the snow will slide off so he won’t have to get up there and shovel. Also we have to consider a method of removing it from the driveway other than he and I pushing or shoveling it. So I need to win the lottery except I never get around to buying a ticket.

All over for another year

Its 8:10pm and I can sit down and browse on the Internet. We had the phone calls from the two sons in Calgary this morning, and one son and two daughters on the lower mainland of BC and my sister-in-law called from Ontario this afternoon, plus my husband’s friend of over 50 years about an hour ago.

We had Christmas day together, we tried to invite those who we thought might be alone, but everyone was busy, so we had our 8lb turkey to ourselves. We watched Johnny Depp in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ this afternoon and now that everything is put away it is back to business as usual. We almost always watch nature or science documentaries so we broke out of the mold today with the pirate movie. A bit of ridiculous fun, I didn’t feel like improving my mind.

The down side is we developed a leak near the chimney, last night and my husband was on the roof in the dark trying to check it. Since he has a white beard someone might have thought Santa was trying to get in. Our dog jumped over the fence and went for a trip into the bush carting back a large furry dead thing which she has buried in case we might like it. To cap that I heard more drips this evening, we really have to find the cash to get a new roof this coming year. We need a metal roof as snow will slide off. It is a little worrying and my husband is really tired of shoveling snow. This year has been bad as far as snow is concerned.

We didn’t exchange gifts, we don’t usually, we just get what we need when we need it. There is nowhere around here to buy gifts anyway. I hate Christmas shopping as I never know what to get and neither does my husband. Perfume, jewelry and fancy clothes just don’t fit out here in the boonies and I would prefer to buy my own clothes. Unlike a lot of women I like practical gifts like a new lightweight vacuum cleaner or a soy milk maker because I am always running out of milk and that way I could make my own.

We bought a goat and medicines for an African charity this year so that was the kids and our Christmas gift this year. When I say kids, it is ridiculous really since they range from 42-26 but what other term would fit?

A brief History of Christmas Cards

Merry Christmas – see you after the holidays

Christmas Card ExampleChristmas cards were partly inspired by Valentine’s Day cards and New Year’s cards, the oldest surviving of which was printed in 1466. Home-made cards were fashioned by children even during the reign of Queen Anne, but the popularized Christmas card as we know it wasn’t invented until the mid 1800s.

There is some debate over who was the “inventor” of the Christmas card. The oldest Christmas card created for general distribution probably was created by William Egley Jr.; a 16 year-old British youth. His 3 1/2-inch- by 5 1/2-inch, preserved in the British Museum, depicts four holiday scenes and a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” greeting with blanks after the word “To” on the top and “From” at the bottom. Industrious kid! The date on his card is clearly 1842… or 1849. The last figure is obscure, so it’s difficult to say who was first.

In the year 1843, Sir Henry Cole commissioned John Calcott Horsley to paint a card showing the feeding and clothing of the poor. A center panel displayed a happy family embracing one another, sipping wine and enjoying the festivities. (So much for good intentions. The card drew criticism because showing a child enjoying a sip of wine was considered “fostering the moral corruption of children.”) “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You” was printed on that first Christmas card. Legend says Sir Henry Cole didn’t send any Christmas cards the following year, but the custom became popular anyway.

Others say the date of this story was in 1847. They agree that the first Christmas card was produced by Sir Henry Cole who worked for the British Postal Service, and an artist he hired named John Horsley. Cole was too busy to write his own greetings, so he hired Horsley to design a card for him. One thousand of these cards were printed and could be mailed for a penny a piece.

The criticism it drew may have contributed to its popularity. By the Christmas season of 1847, a number of people were giving out Christmas cards of their own. Had it not been for the controversy over Horsley’s card, many of these new card givers may never have considered it.

The early Christmas card manufacturers believed Christmas cards to be a fad that would soon pass. They did not bother to document the cards they produced. However, the Christmas card was destined to become an integral part of the holiday season. By 1880 their manufacture was big business, creating previously unknown opportunities for artists, writers, printers, and engravers.

In 1875, Louis Prang, a German immigrant to the U.S., opened a lithographic shop with $250 and published the first line of U.S. Christmas cards. His initial creations featured flowers and birds, unrelated to the Christmas scene. By 1881, Prang was producing more than five million Christmas cards each year. His Yuletide greetings began to feature snow scenes, fir trees, glowing fireplaces and children playing with toys. His painstaking craftsmanship and lithographic printing have made his cards a favorite of collectors today.

Prang received most of his recognition however from his Christmas card contests that he ran. Every year he would enlist of the help of well-known figures in the American art world to judge the entrants. Winners would receive cash prizes. He further involved the public by allowing them to vote for their favorite cards, as well. This “Public Prize” was conducted apart from the professional judges and the winners were also awarded cash prizes.

Today, over 2.6 billion Christmas cards are mailed annually (over $571 million dollars worth!). This amount is almost twice the volume of the $277 million dollars worth of Valentine cards mailed annually.

Christmas card information from Holiday Decorations

Went to the big city yesterday and a little history

Before there was anything else, there were Indian trails and wildlife trails in the Bulkley Valley. It was the trapper who blazed some of the first trails through the wild, mountainous country. These traplines generally followed the rivers and the creeks, and often criss-crossed from lake to lake. Eventually some of these Indian trails were lost, others became pack trails and wagon trails. Some of them became sleigh roads for winter travel only.

This photograph is of an early wagon train.

Until the 1960s a trip from Houston to Smithers or Burns Lake was a long and bumpy affair. Travellers wanting to enter the Bulkley Valley around 1900 had two choices:travel north from Vancouver and then northwest overland from Quesnel via Fort George or Vanderhoof to Houston, or take a steamboat up the coast from Vancouver to Prince Rupert, travel by riverboat up the Skeena River to Hazelton, then travel by foot or horseback along the Telegraph Trail to Smithers, Telkwa, and Houston.

Most people chose the coastal route. It took about three days to travel from Hazelton to Houston. Around 1900, North Bulkley and Barrett were linked only by the Telegraph Trail, which was roughly located along what in 1998 is the Summit Lake Road. North Bulkley lay about seven miles east of Houston, and this was where many of the earliest settlers made their homes. The McInnes brothers in 1917 cut a winter trail from North Bulkley to Houston. Paving the highway between Smithers and Houston was completed in 1961.

Although we were able to go by truck yesterday the road from Babine Lake is still bumpy and slick, so we only did about 60Km/hr, but when we reached the Highway it had been well cleared of snow and ice, and it was a smooth ride into Houston. We saw about six moose on the way out and one dead on the highway, I expect it had been hit by a logging truck. Houston is still a small town by anyone’s standards, but it is our big city as it has a bank, a computer store, a few restaurants, and a small mall. From it we tried to breath in a bit of the Christmas spirit, you know all the tinsel and trivia, I don’t know if we got enough though. We had lunch out, did a bit of grocery shopping and saw a few people we knew to exchange Christmas wishes with, but there just wasn’t anything else to do so we came home, arriving just before the snow.