SHARING OUR STORIES – THE SNOWMOBILE TO STRASSENBAHN SAGA

SHARING OUR STORIES – THE SNOWMOBILE TO STRASSENBAHN SAGA

We send greetings to all our readers, hoping that you have had wonderful Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations and that you will have a happy and peaceful New Year 2017. This year’s celebration has been a cozy one for us, though Ian’s health is fragile, necessitating a lot of sleeping, sometimes into late afternoons. He has to be cajoled (Gayle’s task) to get dressed and participate in some of our celebrations though he didn’t get out for church services, Gayle’s choir concert or the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s glorious performance of Nutcracker. We did host his Winnipeg family of daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren and their spouses, plus five great-grandchildren on Christmas Eve, though. Thirteen of us in our small penthouse floor apartment made the choice of the description “cozy” a true reality, but our gathering was nonetheless enjoyable. Chinese takeout and frozen pies made for a festive but easy supper. The adults and one teenager huddled in around our large dining table while the four younger kids enjoyed kneeling around their own festive coffee table. With city lights twinkling below us through our decorated windows on our 17th floor apartment, candlelight inside, festive decorations, goodie bags for all, new pjs for the kids to don, some early presents to exchange and some Christmas carol singing and dancing, we all had a great time. As a long-time percussionist, Gayle has a collection of rhythm instruments that she brought out to enhance the music from our Christmas CDs, so we could all participate in singing and making music.

 

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How enjoyable we find reading through many short stories in a favourite Christmas present: the 2016 “Chicken Soup for the Soul” anthology: The Joy of Christmas: 101 Holiday Tales of Inspiration, Love, and Wonder, compiled by Amy Newmark with a foreword by “Mrs. Nicholas Claus” and highly recommend it for your holiday enrichment. We also love to re-read and recall holiday stories of our own.

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In past years we have shared several holiday stories from Ian on this blog: (Dec. 10, 2012) “Unusual Holiday Flavoured Passages from My Memoir” (including “My Non-Event Christmases of Childhood” and the New Year’s Eve story of his youngest daughter’s premature birth and how her life was saved by a bottle of Scotch whisky) and (Dec. 31, 2012) “Happy Hogmanay! Happy New Year” an excerpt from our yet-to-be-published autobiographical book “Mexican Follies.” Below pictures Ian, Gayle and our poodle Peppy in our motorhome patio in Mexico in December 2004.

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In December 2014 we blogged a spontaneous play that Gayle and her then-4-year-old daughter had originated “The Christmas Story According to Gwynne” complete with Gwynne’s original illustrations.

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This year Gayle wants to share her story of a unique holiday trip she and her late husband Gus Johannesson made in December 1972 from their home in Germany to visit Gayle’s family in North Dakota. She calls it “The Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga.” For those who don’t know German, Strassenbahn means “streetcar” or “tram.” Those who read her story will understand why Gayle is reluctant to consider any more extensive travel during the wintertime. Pictured below are Gayle’s family at the time: back row: husband Gus, Gayle, sister Barbara, niece Danelle, mother Grandma Mil, sister Doreen, nephew Todd and brother-in-law Bill; front row: nieces Billi, Lisa and Lori. Missing is brother-in-law Danny who presumably took the photo.

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The Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga

Gus and I had moved to Germany in summer 1965 where he began to pursue a doctorate in systematic theology at the University of Heidelberg and work part time as a civilian chaplain with the US military and I worked as a secretary for the Judge Advocate, U. S. Army, Europe and Seventh Army. By 1972, we had already spent seven Christmas/New Year’s holiday seasons in Europe, either with Gus’ aunts, uncles and cousins in Norway or with our friends in Heidelberg and were excited to finally be flying home to the States to spend the holidays with my family members.

In many ways, 1972 had been a disastrous year for us–mostly because of Gus’ health. He had lost over 30 pounds due to an illness which was finally discovered in July and had already taken four bouts of rectal surgery for abscesses and fistulas, leaving him with a lot of pain and sapped strength, all of which grossly interred with continuing work on his doctoral dissertation. In addition, I had shattered nerves after terrorist bombs had killed three people in the barracks where I worked and our headquarters were plagued with continuing bomb scares and security precautions. Despite Gus not really feeling well, we had been able to get away to Spain in June for a few weeks’ respite touring the Moorish treasures in Grenada and then relaxing at the home of friends on the Mediterranean island of Minorca, sunning, swimming, snorkelling, exploring ocean-side caves and touring quaint fishing villages with Gus doing a lot of napping. However, returning to Germany and our daily routines led to more stress and, for Gus, the string of surgeries. We were really anxious to get away from it all and back to family and a traditional holiday at “home.”

In December, after several days with friends and attending to business in Chicago and Minneapolis, we flew on to North Dakota, spent some time with each of my two sisters and their families and then finally took a bus from Fargo to my mother’s home in New Rockford (middle of the state). We had a few relaxing days alone with Mom before the rest of the family arrived for Christmas. Here’s Mom (Grandma Mil) and Gus on one of our walks.

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It was wonderful for me to bask in the smells and flavours of the traditional Swedish-American Christmas of my childhood. Picking out and decorating the live Christmas tree, stringing coloured lights, putting up the manger scene we had sent Mom from Germany,

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singing melodious carols in English, Swedish and Norwegian, helping Mom to bake spritz cookies, sandbakelse, krumkake, Julekake, pepparkakor, and Swedish almond bars (from my grandmother’s recipe brought from Sweden), buying and wrapping gifts, preparing turkey, ham, Swedish meatballs and even Lutefisk (though I still didn’t like it, but good-old-Gus sure did!).

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Gus and I got away a few times for walks alone. The photo above shows us posing on the frozen James River, not far from Mom’s two-bedroom apartment in a four-plex right across from the church where I had spent so much of my childhood. (I had been shocked when we first moved to Heidelberg to find out that the Neckar River there usually stayed open all winter long, only having frozen up once during the Twentieth Century, right after World War II.)

Once my sisters and their husbands and children had arrived, we were a family of 12. One sister had married a local boy so those five could overnight at his parents’ house just a few blocks away. However, my other sister’s family of four stayed at Mom’s, as did we. She and her husband slept in the living room on the couch bed but their two little ones got to sleep with Grandma Mil. Gus and I, as the “honoured guests from across the Atlantic,” got the guest room. This was fortunate as I had to be the nurse who cleaned his open (rectal) wound several times a day. (Surgery in that area has to heal from the inside out without any stitching.) It was a bit difficult to maintain much privacy, however, especially with five little ones underfoot. We got the biggest laugh of the holiday one evening when our two-year-old niece came out of the bathroom wearing two long “q-tips” (that I’d previously used to probe the wound and thought I had disposed of discreetly), one in each ear!!! (Even now in her late forties, she doesn’t appreciate the humour when reminded of the situation.)

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Other laughter was more pleasant, while unwrapping gifts, joyously sharing the Christmas story, telling the little ones of Jesus’ birth, singing, eating, going to church, playing games, taking walks in the snow, shopping and loving being together. Billi, Lori and Todd even got in some ice skating time. billi-lori-todd-skating-1972How wonderful for me to be at worship services in our home church again, sitting with my sisters and singing all those beautiful carols in three-part harmony as we had always done in the past. We revelled in a sunny, snowy North Dakota winter (coming back to a gray, rainy Heidelberg winter seemed a bit of a drag). With five small grandchildren, three daughters and three sons-in-law under foot for a week, Mom (“Grandma Mil” was then in her late 60s) stood up surprisingly well. Here’s Uncle Gus taking nieces Lisa and Lori for a walk. Our church, First Lutheran Church of New Rockford, is in the background at the left and part of the school I attended through Grade 12 is in the background at right centre.

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After our week together my sisters and their families drove back to their homes further east and we had another couple of days resting at Mom’s. Then came the start of our return trip, which I’ve named the “Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga.” The trip started with a wild bus ride in a near-blizzard to Fargo. This is usually a three-hour drive and took about twice that long. We were met by my sister Doreen and driven to her house in Fargo’s twin city of Moorhead, Minnesota.

Instead of flying out the next day we had a day’s delay caused by full-blown blizzard conditions which closed down the airport, plus everything else in the twin towns. We were to have flown from Fargo to Minneapolis and then on to Chicago where we were catching our international flight (a military charter airline from Chicago via New York to Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany). Listening to the radio, we learned that there was still a possibility of our getting out of town to meet our plane. The Great Northern railroad had a train plowing its way from Montana and across North Dakota, due in at 1 a.m. The only problem was that we couldn’t get to the depot (in Fargo, about five miles away from my sister’s house in Moorhead). My sister’s car was buried under layers of snow and, anyway, the roads were not passable. Fooling around in the snow in front of their house was about all we could do.

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Absolutely nothing was moving … but snowmobiles. Gus had heard on the radio that emergency snowmobiles were evacuating people. He figured that we qualified for an emergency since we had to meet a “military flight” in Chicago the next day. He called, explained our situation and we were granted clearance from the city police. To my two little nieces’ delight and my terror, we were picked up by two snowmobilers at midnight. Gus and I rode behind one snowmobiler; the other one carried all our luggage. There we went, over the (Red) river, through the woods and over 18 inches of snow, not to mention four to five feet of snowdrifts to Fargo’s train station. I hung on for dear life and had visions of falling off all the way; but we made it, only to have a long delay. The train arrived three hours late, struggling across North Dakota with a snowplow on the engine. I was too flustered by the whole situation to get any photos at the time.

So at 4:00 a.m. we boarded the train. Delay continued to be the motto of the trip, however. We missed our first plane connection from Minneapolis to Chicago and barely squeezed onto the last possible one, making connections at the Chicago Airport five minutes before we were to report in for our charter flight. Luckily, we had friends in Chicago that met us at the airport and got us from the domestic to the international departure area in record time. Had we been on our own, we never would have made it in time. We were delayed an hour getting out of Chicago, had to circle New York for two hours because of fog, were delayed in New York because of waiting for other passengers who were late in coming in from connecting flights, made an unscheduled landing in Shannon, Ireland (we never did hear why) and finally landed in Frankfurt six hours later than scheduled.

Once at the Frankfurt airport, we had to take the subway into the city’s train station, then take the train from Frankfurt to Heidelberg (an hour away) and then the Strassenbahn (streetcar) to our stop on Rohrbacherstrasse and walk a block to our apartment on Turnerstrasse. So – bus to car to snowmobile to train to airplane to another airplane to subway to train to streetcar to foot – and we were finally home. (I think we had just about every mode of transportation but ship and dog sled.) It was time for a long winter’s nap – well, at least two day’s worth – before I had to get back to work and Gus to start cracking the books again … then surgery again. He had 16 surgeries in all over a five-year period before the problem finally resolved itself. I ended my Christmas/New Year’s letter that year with the following: “Neither of us has ever had a great deal of patience, but we’ve had to develop it lately. Once one gets through the inevitable periods of despair and self-pity and gets back to the basic trust in God’s presence and strength, things look better. So, we’re hoping for a year of fulfillment and health – and wish you all the blessings of our Lord for the New Year.”

Previewing “Twitterpated” As We Celebrate Our Wedding Anniversary

Previewing “Twitterpated” As We Celebrate Our Wedding Anniversary

We’ve just closed a nostalgic celebration of our 13th wedding anniversary with a return to the site where we met in June 2003 at Grace Café on north Henderson Highway in Winnipeg. Though we were seniors then, we are even “more senior” today and Ian is no where near as spry nor talkative as he used to be. In fact, due to mild cognitive impairment, he has forgotten so much of our story that we are super grateful that he shared his memories in writing while he still could. Most of his next memoir, Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story was written by 2007, but it hasn’t yet been published. Gayle is presently editing the memoir (and embellishing it here and there as she finds gaps and inconsistencies). She is plugging along as fast as her care giving duties permit. In the meantime, she read parts of the memoir’s last chapter to Ian this afternoon before we drove north to have a lovely meal at our “meeting place.”

Perhaps readers of this blog will enjoy a preview of selected excerpts from  Came to Canada, Eh?‘s chapter entitled “Twitterpated.”

To set the scene, Ian who was widowed in 2002, has decided at age 70 not to sit around and mope but to enjoy life and pursue the dating scene again after almost a 50-year hiatus. He joins a senior’s centre and dances up a storm, dates a few women he has met there and finally has a few unsatisfying encounters through an online dating organization. Then things change when Gayle enters into his life.

Then I thought I’d go for broke and sent a smile to a much younger widow (age 60) who was “religious,” had a professional position and was interested in music, reading, writing, travel, good wine, fine dining, history, conversation, and a lot of other things that interested me. We exchanged a few e-mails, thought we’d be quite compatible and then arranged to meet at a place she suggested. I had originally thought her name was Irene, as that was the handle she used on Lavalife. Just before we were to meet she disclosed that “Irene” was her middle name and that she really was called “Gayle.” While I was sitting in Grace Café, a Christian coffee house at the north part of Henderson Highway, I was kidding around with one of the waitresses. I knew right away when “my Gayle” walked in, even though I’d never seen a photo of her. Just as if this were a casual encounter, Gayle joined in on the chit-chat with the waitress and I, just as casually, invited her to join me.

I told Gayle I’d never been in this coffee house before and asked if she had a recommendation for something good that I could order. She replied, “Why don’t you try a chia tea latte?” (I think I could have drunk anything this very good-looking woman suggested and found it delicious!)

During our ensuing non-stop conversation, I found out that she was the editor of a Christian women’s magazine. (Hey, every writer needs his own editor, doesn’t he?) She seemed intrigued with my accent and asked me lots of questions about Scotland, indicating that her heritage on her father’s side was mostly Scottish. She told me that her maiden name was “Moore” but that she knew little about her father’s background as he had pretty much adapted to the Swedish environment of her mother’s side. She was born and raised in North Dakota (was American, in other words), had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and religion and served as a Lutheran parish worker before marrying her husband, Gus, who was a Lutheran pastor. They had lived 18 years in Germany where Gus was in graduate school and then served as a parish pastor. Then they moved to Winnipeg where he served a Lutheran church before taking an early retirement at age 58 due to early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He had died six years previously at age 62. Presently her two children, a daughter, 26, and son, 21, still lived at home with her.

We ended up closing the café and going in search of somewhere else to continue getting acquainted. We did find another one (Salisbury House), and spent more than an hour and a half there.

I asked Gayle if I could see her “tomorrow night,” and heard her say, “Well, I’m busy tomorrow night…” (just what I was expecting), but was delighted to then hear her say, “But I’m free on Friday.”

~*~

Friday couldn’t have come soon enough for me! We went for a walk along a beautiful creek meandering into the Red River, took pictures of each other and then drove to the Forks and had dinner. We continued to talk and talk and talk.

The next night I invited her to my house to watch a film. (I spent the day cleaning things up–my housekeeping hadn’t been the best up to that point!) The movie I chose was one I had recorded some years before, a Scottish film entitled, “The Bridal Path.” This is a film that Gayle loves to watch nowadays but at the time she said she was really in the dark–could hardly understand a word of the Scottish accent!

Our snogging after the film certainly convinced me that I was head over heels in love and Gayle seemed just as intrigued with me. (Wow, and she didn’t think I was in kindergarten!!!! Interesting how one can act so naturally with some prospective partners and so awkward with others. )

So “here’s us” (I had to get that Scottishism in), two seniors, both widowed, who felt and acted like teenagers and couldn’t have been more thrilled or surprised by it all. Gayle pronounced us both “twitterpated.” She had to explain that one to me, as I had never seen the movie “Bambi” and so didn’t know the story of the two fauns, Bambi and Fayeleen, completely taken with their newly discovered passion and the rabbit Thumper teasing them about being twitterpated. Later I looked up the word online. Here are the definitions:

“1)to be completely enamored with someone/something. 2) the flighty exciting feeling you get when you think about/see the object of your affection. 3) romantically excited (i.e.: aroused) 4) the ever increasing acceleration of heartbeat and body temperature as a result of being engulfed amidst the exhilaration and joy of being/having a romantic entity in someone’s life.”[1] Whew! I’ll buy that; very appropriate word!

~*~

By Sunday, on our fourth date, I couldn’t wait any longer: I proposed! (We both had quickly realized we’d met our “soul mate” and this was a concept I’d poo-pooed for years. Now I understood what it meant!) Gayle immediately said, “yes! I couldn’t have been happier.

The next day my bubble burst, however. Gayle e-mailed me from work. I had sent her something with an attachment and she e-mailed back that she had just realized we weren’t compatible (no more explanation)! I got on the phone and called her office, completely upset. She then laughed and apologized for upsetting me but said that we weren’t compatible because she couldn’t open my attachment–she had a Mac and I had a PC! Then she said that we’d need to have a serious discussion that night. That left me on pins and needles waiting to see what was up.

That evening she explained that she had confided in a good friend, their secretary at work, who had been appalled that she had agreed to marry me after knowing me for only about a week. Gayle said that her friend felt she had to slow things down and withdraw her acceptance of my proposal “for the time being” as we really needed to take a little more time to get to know each other better.

My reaction was, “Okay, I’m not happy about this but I’ll go along with it if that’s what you want. I have just one thing more to say, however. If you decide you want to marry me in the future, you are going to have to ask me. I won’t do it again!”

I’m happy to say that it only took her another week before she proposed to me! And this is how it happened. We had been talking about our mutual talents for writing. I had told her the story of agonizing over the birthday poem I’d written for Mary for her 60th birthday and that Mary hadn’t really appreciated it. Gayle replied that she dearly would have loved to receive such a poem written just for her. In fact, she said, she’d love to receive a love letter from me.

Well, I pulled out all stops the next day and composed a doozy–most of which is a bit too personal (and steamy) to quote here. I’ll just include the conclusion, “I love you; I love you; I love you. Without you I would be nothing. The one thing I know for certain is that we were meant to be with each other. I’m sure you’ll agree that this love of ours has been manufactured by One who cares for both of us, that it was He who made the introduction, then left it for us to make it work. Till we are together again, from your own WEE (I hope ‘adorable’) Scotsman, who worships the very ground you walk on. IAN XXXXXXX———OH GAYLE, MY DARLING, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH IT HURTS!” And I meant every word of it.

A return e-mail shot back indicating that the love letter had worked its magic. Gayle worded her “proposal” in “code,” however. It was something like, “Would you consider joining our two names when we get married (sooner rather than later) to something like “Moore-Morrans?”

Well, I couldn’t reply quickly enough, “I don’t care what name we use, as long as you’ll marry me!” In retrospect, I’d even have dropped “Morrans” and just taken the last name “Moore.” But I didn’t think of that at the time and, anyway, Gayle likes the double-barreled name, which I still find a bit “highfalutin’!”

~*~

The week after we met Gayle invited me to attend worship services at her Lutheran church where she was actually going to deliver the sermon as part of an Evangelical Lutheran Women’s annual service that was one of the programs that Gayle was responsible for at her job. I was intrigued by her obvious talents and curious about the type of service in her particular denomination. This also gave me a unique glimpse into Gayle’s sense of self confidence and “moxey” when, after the service a woman I had got to know at the seniors’ dances came up to me with a quizzical look on her face saying, “What are you doing here, Ian?” She seemed genuinely surprised to find out I was a guest of Gayle’s. Turning to Gayle, she boldly asked, “How long have you been dating Ian?” Gayle’s answer? “None of your business!” (I loved it!)

We had been together every day for about a month, usually at my house where we would have some privacy as her almost-grown children still lived with her. We reluctantly departed late each night as Gayle returned to her home.. . . .

Gayle and I had decided to have a traditional Scottish wedding. Since my Prince Charlie jacket was gone, I needed to get a new formal jacket to go with the kilt. It seemed appropriate to order an Argyll jacket since I’m originally from Country Argyll and the handle I had used when Gayle and I were hooking up on Lava Life was “Argyll.” I located a Scottish-Canadian who had a Scottish shop in the basement of his house. Gayle and I went to his shop so that I could order and be fitted for this jacket which is slightly less formal than the Prince Charlie jacket but which is more versatile, in other words it can be formal, semi-formal or informal depending on the type of shirt, tie and waistcoat one wears with it. It doesn’t have tails and is a longer jacket which has silvery (nickel-plated) Celtic-design buttons on the sleeves and front.

As the shop owner measured me for the jacket he made the remark, “Man, are you ever a Pict!”

Surprised, we both asked, “What do you mean?” I knew that the Morrans family had originally come to Campbeltown from Northern Ireland (my great-great-grandfather). In other words, my family heritage was Celtic. However, they had been in Scotland for several generations so had intermarried with families whose origins might have been in Scotland many centuries. The Picts were the original tribe of people who had populated what eventually became Scotland.

His answer was: “The Celts and the Picts had different body types. You can tell someone of Pictish heritage by the short legs but inproportionately longer torso and arms. That fits you to a tee, Ian.”

So there you have it; I was a Pict more than a Celt. I’m not sure that this has made much difference to me, but it certainly describes why all my trousers have to be shortened to 28 inch-length, but my shirts and jackets are normal length. The Scottish tailor who made my Argyll jacket and mailed it to Canada did a great job. I added a formal tuxedo shirt and black bowtie to complete the outfit. My sealskin sporran, sgian dbuh, green flashes, formal white stockings and black brogues completed the outfit.

Gayle went across from her office on Portage Avenue to a fancy bridal shop. She originally had in mind to buy a red gown to match my red tartan kilt. However, a magnificent, gold lace wedding dress caught her eye. When she insisted I come over to see her in it (and hang tradition), I saw that she was beautiful in it. It suited her to a tee! (I surprised myself by insisting on paying for it; though I still cringe thinking of the thousand dollars it cost! That was pretty painful for this Scotsman!)

We were married on September 7, 2003 at Gayle’s church, Sherwood Park Lutheran, in the East Kildonan area of Winnipeg. Our attendants were friends, Stan  (a Scottish-born Canadian with whom I played in a band at one time) and Alexi  (a lovely friend of Gayle’s). Stan wore a rented kilt and sporran. Alexi wore Gayle’s long kilt skirt and matching cape which she’d bought in Scotland years before.

Gayle likes to relate our preparation for the wedding at her house on Battershill Street. She and Alexi had been treated to a professional make-up session by my oldest granddaughter, Tammy, a makeup artist. Then they got dressed in the master bedroom while Stan and I donned our kilt outfits in the den across the hall. Soon the women heard singing and stomping from the hallway and came out of the bedroom to view a “parade.” Stan and I were marching up and down the hallway singing,

I’ll never forget the day I went and join’d the ‘Ninety third’

The chums I used to run with said they thought I look’d absurd.

As they saluted me, and gather’d round me in a ring,

And as I wagg’d my tartan kilt they a’ began to sing –

He’s a braw braw Hielan’ laddie, Private Jock McDade.

There’s not anither soger like him in the Scotch Brigade.

Rear’d amang the heather, you can see he’s Scottish built,

By the wig, wig, wiggle, wiggle, waggle o’ the kilt.[2]

Calan and Ian, my two grandsons, were ushers; my granddaughters, Tammy and Ainsley were punch servers at the church reception and granddaughter Tiffany presided at the guest book. Our three daughters participated as well. Audrey and Gwynne read the lessons during the church service and Shirley was emcee at the evening reception. All three served as hostesses for the church reception.

We were piped out of the church by a young lass of 15 years to an afternoon reception in the lower church hall with lots of friends and family present. During the festivities, I sang Gayle a Scottish song which she delights to hear any evening we do a little bit of singing.

“Oh, my love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June.

Oh, my love is like a melody that’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, so deep in love am I;

And I will love thee still, my Dear, ‘til a’ the seas gang dry.

‘Til all the seas gang dry, my Dear, and the rocks melt wi’ the sun.

And I will love thee still, my Dear, while the sands o’ time shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Love! And fare-thee-weel, a while!

And I will come again, my Love, tho’ ‘twere ten thousand mile!”[3]

This was followed by a smaller reception for family and a few close friends in the Scandinavian Centre. (Gayle likes to keep her Scandinavian roots alive!) That night was a howling success. We had a delicious smörgåsbord (gotta get in those Swedish vowels or Gayle will correct me!) meal and then lots of music provided by friends and family.

To Gayle I sang, “Cailinn Mo Ruin-sa,” a beautiful Gaelic song. Some of the verses (in English) go like this:

“Dearest my own one, oh won’t you be mine,

Full of devotion, so modest and kind,

My heart’s full of longing and yearning for you,

Come close to me darling, you know I’ll be true.”

(I rewrote and combined parts of the next verses to reflect “our story”)

Do you remember when in Grace Cafe

I made your acquaintance on that perfect day,

Since then you are mine dear, the choice of my heart,

My promise I give you that we’ll never part.”[4]

 

Gayle and I concluded the reception by singing a duet, “September Song:”

“Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December,

But the days grow short when you reach September.

As the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame,

One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.

Oh the days dwindle down, to a precious few–September, November.

And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.

These precious days, I’ll spend with you.”[5]

This seemed appropriate because we were both “seniors” and Gayle had eventually come around to accept the fact that I was ten and a half years older. She said her late husband had been eight years older than her and she had always said if she ever married again it would be to someone younger than her! Then along came Ian, aged 71 to her 60 years. I made a promise to her then and there that I would live to be 100. I said when my 100th birthday came and I was interviewed by the press as to the secret of my longevity, I’d reply, whileleaning on my cane, “SEX, every day; twice on Sunday!”

[1] Definition of “twitterpated” from the Urban Dictionary.

[2] First verse and chorus of Harry Lauder’s “Waggle o’ the Kilt,” written in 1917.

[3] “My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose” was written by the Scottish bard, Robbie Burns, over two hundred and fifty years ago.

[4] Traditional Gaelic song to a waltz tempo.

[5] “September Song” composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. Wikipedia describes it as “an older person’s plea to a younger potential lover that the courting activities of younger suitors and the objects of their desire are transient and time-wasting. As an older suitor, the speaker hasn’t ‘got time for the waiting game.’”

–Previews from Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story by Ian Moore-Morrans with Gayle Moore-Morrans, ©2016

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September 7, 2003

A MUSICAL WALL DISPLAY

A MUSICAL WALL DISPLAY

Bedroom Music WallA note to retired musicians: Here’s a way to display musical instruments that may have been played for years, are no longer in use but can still be enjoyed. We’ve included longtime bandsman Ian’s antique trumpet and a chanter used for those who want to practice the bagpipe but not make too much noise as well as a number of percussion instruments Gayle used when keeping time with a ukelele band, including a Celtic bodran and tipper, a hand drum, tambourine, a set of maracas, carved wooden spoons and a rainstick. Also included are photos of Ian posing with a trombone he played in a military and Salvation Army band, playing lead trumpet in a Royal Air Force band in the former Suez Canal Zone, of Gayle with her ukelele band and of us singing duets at a Robbie Burns’ party and as the duo “Okanagan’s Mr. Scotland and His Bonnie Lassie.” Displayed nearby are two trophies Ian won in years gone by for singing Scottish songs.

The crowning piece is the last trumpet Ian still owns. It has been about 12 years since he  gave up playing but Gayle has finally convinced him that he needs to polish up his trumpet, at least for our display. So here he is with a bottle of Brasso and some soft cloths starting on what is going to be a huge task. He found the trumpet years ago in some antique or thrift shop and found out it was made in Winnipeg probably in the early days of the last century. We could hardly see the manufacturer’s etching on the trumpet’s bell but after the initial polishing attempt can read “Premier Williams Winnipeg” and further on down the bell a large number “37”. We’ve heard a few squawks from it so far. Ian’s lip (embouchure) is sorely out of practice! However, we were both pleased that he had awakened an interest in the trumpet again. (Gayle is not going to hold her breath until the trumpet polishing is finished!)

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Ian documents his early years of music making in the Salvation Army and RAF in Scotland, other parts of the UK and in the British military sector of the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt in the early ’50s in his first memoir “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada.” Gayle is now editing the second memoir “Came to Canada Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story” where further music making will be documented in Canada. A third memoir, written by both of us entitled “Mexican Follies” tells of the beginnings of our colloboration in music-making and in jointly producing books. Publication plans for that depend on how quickly Gayle gets to the editing. For her, there is never enough time and too many interruptions but little by little she hopes to get to publication again – some day!

Below is an excerpt from “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” which tells a comical story about Ian’s attempt to “show off” with his trumpet to his new wife:

The following Saturday night, our dance band was playing at Forres Town Hall. I had been bragging to Mary about the introduction to the song, “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” that I played on trumpet, standing up, before the rest of the band joined in. It consisted of the first three notes, then into a big glissando, using the third valve slowly, to go down and then up to the third note again and then continuing right into the melody when the rest of the band joined me. It was just a copy of what a big-time trumpet player (Maynard Ferguson) of that era did. Everyone thought it was very effective, sounding and looking quite professional. So, there I was saying, “Wait ‘till you hear me play!”

Saturday night came and my Mary was sitting at the side of the hall, close to the band, her eyes firmly fixed on “Lover-Boy.” Then it was time for me to shine. I stood up, the first two notes came out correctly, but I have no idea what happened to the bit where I was supposed to do the fancy stuff. I played absolutely terrible! The rest of the band started all right, but I had to sit down with a very red face—even redder than usual! In front of my Mary, too! You know, I must have played that “intro” at least 40 times previously without fail. (That’s what I get for trying to show off, eh?)

Ian playing solo cornet

Ian is playing a cornet in this photo, but about a year or two before his trumpet story above. A cropped version on an RAF photo, ca. 1952.

Bedroom-Ian and Gayle musicmaking photos

DECORATING OUR “FOREVERMORE HOME” WITH PICTURES AND MEMORABILIA

After two and a half months getting settled in what we have come to refer to as our “Forevermore Home” (or should that be “Forevermoore”? Nah, it leaves out the “Morrans” part of our name), Gayle is finally posting about what some of our friends and neighbours have started calling “the MM Gallery.” You see, we have made 10 moves in our almost 13 years of marriage and we’ve started saying the only way we will move again is if we are taken out in coffins or to a nursing home. At ages 73 and 84, and with Ian’s not-so-good health, we are planning to stay put “forevermore.” We moved last summer half way across Canada to a downtown senior’s high-rise apartment building in Winnipeg but to a too-small apartment as that was all that was available at the time. On June 1st this year we moved “up in the world” to the penthouse floor (17th) to a bit larger apartment with a fabulous view of the city and sky. After cleaning out a rental storage area and (again) downsizing some things that we have given away to family members and the Sally Ann Thrift Shop, we have finally found room for all those pictures and memorabilia that we’ve decided we just don’t want to part with. That leaves us living in the “MM Gallery.”

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The above-pictured plaque is a feature of our hallway wall and poetically expresses our sentiments about the type of decorating we have in our Forevermore Home.

One of Gayle’s hobbies is combing used book stores for unusual books that mirror her interests. Some years ago she came across a book entitled “Decorating With Pictures” (© 1991 by Stephanie Hoppen, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York).

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Hoppen’s text and pictorial examples couldn’t have matched any more perfectly Gayle’s natural inclinations to decorate with lots of colour and gusto. Reading the book and looking at the many and various examples of rooms full of a “wonderful kaleidoscope of colors and textures” were a true inspiration and vindication. Now, in our Forevermore Home nothing is going to be stored away for use “some day”; we are going to use things or get rid of them. Like Hoppen, we believe “pictures are the soul of a house.” Some people may remark that our home looks “busy” or “overwhelming”; but we have persisted in celebrating those items of artwork and memorabilia that we have collected over the years. We continually delight in relishing the displays on a daily basis. How great it was, then, to read Hoppen’s statement, “I love lots of pictures. I love mixing different media and different subject matter. I love framing some identically, some differently, and I love the effect that simply regrouping or reframing a collection of pictures can have on a room. A collection of pictures takes time to amass, time to evolve, and is ever-changing as new pictures come and old ones are reframed and rehung. It is a living, growing thing but don’t be frightened by it. Use it, tame it, tailor it to your own likes and needs.”

Here are some samples of the lavishly-laden walls, shelves and windows in our apartment:

Balcony Monkey, Parrot & SombreroBalcony Southeast CornerBalcony Window View 2Balcony window viewBalcony-Calla Lily & Sunflower artBalcony-Mexican Mask, Embroidery & WeavingBedroom Music WallBedroom North WallBedroom Southeast Corner into EnsuiteBedroom-Ian and Gayle musicmaking photosDen East WallDen-Bookshelf WallDen-north wallDining Room Watercolour Peonies and Ceramic ButterliesDining Room-Artwork - Oil, Lithograph, Silkscreen, etched candles, crystal stemware and decantersHalf-bathHallway looking southHallway to Den - Macrame HangingHallway-Family baptismal photosHallway-Family photosHallway-German and Alsatian picturesHallway-Ian's book promotionsHallway-Scandanavian and Scottish greeting shelfHallway-Scottish GalleryHallway-Scottish Swords and Shields plus Horses' BrassesHallway-Wedding and Ethnic PicturesKitchen-Egg Coddlers, Swedish shelf, Austrian and Scottish pot holders, cow bellKitchen-Rosemaled Canisters and Dalarna Hest, Swedish ClothKitchen-Slovakian, Norwegian and German Plaques, Swedish Dalarna Hesten, German and Norwegian doll pot holdersLiving Room Northwest CornerLiving Room West WallLiving Room Window View and Stained GlassLiving:Dining Room Northeast Corner

The particular tastes in memorabilia that we have chosen to celebrate are as follows:

For Ian: Anything Scottish, such as swords, shields, bagpipes, kilts, tartans, crystal bells and whisky decanters; items associated with his avocation of music-making; memorabilia from his profession as a machinist, such as metalwork, coins and vintage model automobiles; reminders of his early apprenticeship as a blacksmith, such as figures of horses, horses’ brasses and smithing; animal pictures and figures.

For Gayle: Folkart of many countries, particularly the Scandinavian and North Dakota traditions to which she was exposed from childhood and the German and other European traditions she encountered in her early adult years; percussion instruments; flower displays, vases and unique flower pots; embroidered, macraméd, rosemaled and appliqued items; crystal and porcelain; handmade pottery; original oil, watercolour or acrylic paintings; lithographs and copies of medieval manuscripts; religious artwork; German wood carvings.

Jointly: Family photographs including baby and childhood photos; group photos; graduation and wedding pictures. Items from our over-two years’ living in Mexico and from our shared interest in depictions of birds from stained glass to paintings to needlework to figurines.

Perhaps these will be subjects for in-depth postings in the future.

We’ll close with the house blessing made for Gayle years ago by Pam, a dear friend.

Hallway-House Blessing Plaque

 

Touring the Royal Canadian Mint

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According to its website at mint.ca, the Royal Canadian Mint decribes its Winnipeg location as “… our high-tech, high-volume manufacturing facility. Every single Canadian circulation coin is produced here – literally billions each year. Established in 1976, the Winnipeg plant occupies a 14,864 m2 state-of-the-art facility.” Ian has a special connection to Winnipeg’s Mint since he worked in that architectularly-beautiful and important building for three years shortly after it opened.

Gayle’s editing of our next book, Ian’s second memoir entitled Came To Canada, Eh? Continuing A Scottish Immigrant’s Storyis finally back in full swing after about a three-month hiatus to pack up and move into a larger apartment in our seniors’ lifelease building in Winnipeg. Finding appropriate photos to include with a story about one of the unique jobs Ian held has proved an impossibility until today. Camera in hand,  we made a trip to Winnipeg’s Royal Canadian Mint where Ian had worked from 1977 until 1979.

Though having lived in Winnipeg twice for a total of about 22 years and often having seen the beautiful Royal Canadian Mint building from the highway, Gayle had never toured the facility. Ian hadn’t been back to the building for 37 years. What a fun tour we had yesterday!

Included below is a portion of our book’s fifth chapter which Ian calls, “Heading A Wee Bit Back East-Winnipeg, Here We Come.”

“As I wasn’t too satisfied in the job I first had in Winnipeg, I applied for and got a job in the new “money factory” that had opened in Winnipeg in 1976. I should maybe explain that the “money factory” was the Royal Canadian Mint (certainly the most impressive-looking building I’ve ever worked in). The Mint building is a large, shining triangle rising up out of the surrounding prairie with a small picturesque lake at its side populated by a flock of Canada geese and an occasional pelican or two. Whenever anyone asked me what I worked at, I would say that I made money. Actually, I worked in the die production department,  using a lathe and a milling machine to make some of the dies that were eventually used to stamp images on the coins.

(If you happen to have any 1977-1979 Canadian coins in your pocket, there’s a possibility that they were stamped with dies that I made. Incidentally, the Royal Canadian Mint also produces coins for about 75 other countries as well.)

“The public was regularly invited to take tours of the mint so they could see the process by which Canadian coins were produced. You might say that I became a bit of a ‘tourist attraction’ during those tours. No one ever commended me for making the tours a bit more colourful, but I believe I did. You see, I love to whistle and have found that whistling makes the work go faster and also makes it more interesting. So there’s me, merrily whistling along (probably a Scottish folk tune) when I overheard a commotion on the catwalk above our work station. A small crowd of tourists had stopped and were pointing down at me while commenting on the ‘happy work atmosphere.’ Well, I couldn’t ignore them, so I gave them a wee wave and a bow. From then on whenever a tour came by, I would wave at the group and give them a nice whistled tune. They could have called me the Mint’s version of one of the seven dwarfs of Snow White fame (probably “Happy”) performing “Whistle While You Work.”

“[While this book was going through its final edit in 2016, my wife/editor thought we needed to add a few photos of the mint as I didn’t have any in my photo collection. We decided to take a tour of the mint, to educate her on the minting process and help me reminisce a bit, all the while taking a few photos. This time I was an 84-year-old tour participant, listening to a guide, peering from the catwalk and straining to see the process from my wheelchair. I didn’t hear any whistling or see any workers waving; but considering that the catwalk over the working floors has been  glassed in, I’m not sure we could have heard someone whistling anyway. The tour is still interesting, though; at least for anyone curious about the minting process. We were fascinated to learn of the two-metal process that was developed for the “toonie” ($2 dollar coin) that is made of a steel ring around a brass disc. Both the “loonie” ($1 coin picturing the North American bird, the loon) and the “toonie” were introduced long after I had left the mint job.]”

Copyright © 2016, Ian Moore-Morrans

Below you can check out some of the photos Gayle took yesterday of the “Parade of Nation’s Flags”along the entrance to the Mint representing some of the 75 nations for whom the Mint produces coins; a front view of the Mint location; a view of the machine shop where Ian used to produce dies for coins; and two photos of Ian sitting on his wheelchair in the lobby where he enjoyed posing with a unique “Mountie” and an antique minting machine, as well a mint.ca website photo of some beautiful Canadian coins made right at the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg.

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

“THE MOVE FROM HELL”

WARNING: ALL MOVING COMPANIES ARE NOT EQUAL!

LET THE CUSTOMER BEWARE!

We called it “The Move From Hell.” Okay, we didn’t literally move “from Hell” but from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, more like Paradise than Hell. Yet, our move proved to be “hellish.” In May and June 2015 we made what we sincerely hope is the last major move of our lives from Vernon, British Columbia to downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. Two moving companies contributed to making our move less than ideal: Two Small Men With Big Hearts (TSM) in Kelowna, BC and AMS Transportation Ltd. Inc. headquartered in Dundalk, Ontario. The latter company was the most “hellish.”

In 2007, we had used TSM out of Winnipeg, Manitoba for a previous move from Winnipeg to British Columbia without a hitch. However, our circumstances were different. Eight years ago, they moved a number of already packed and stored boxes plus four small items of furniture: a cedar chest, a teak secretary desk, a captain’s chair and a teak three-drawer filing cabinet. These we had stored in Winnipeg for over two years while we were on a long-term adventure in Mexico, having sold the rest of our furniture and household goods before we took off for Mexico in 2004 in a 35-foot motorhome.

This year’s move in 2015, we had a houseful of furniture (bought when we moved back to Canada from Mexico in 2007), myriad boxes of books and all the household goods we had not downsized. We were moving from a house with two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, plus a den, a porch and garage to a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with the hopes of eventually moving into a two-bedroom apartment once it became available in the same seniors’ life lease apartment building. We also had to move out of our house several weeks earlier than we would have liked, would have to put our household goods into storage for about six weeks, would have to travel for about a month and then have our goods moved to an apartment which we had not yet had assigned to us, though we knew the apartment building to which we would be moving.

Ian has moved households “about a thousand” times (according to him) from Scotland to Canada and then all over Canada from east to west and back and forth. I have moved households from the US to Germany and back (with almost a year’s storage in Germany after we left) and from Wisconsin, USA to Winnipeg, Canada. This was to be Ian’s and my first “major” household move together.

I had asked a friend who had experienced a number of major moves throughout Canada over the years to recommend a moving company. After meeting with a pleasant estimator from that company, we were floored to receive an estimate of almost $13,000–way more than we had anticipated. At the time I didn’t appreciate the fact that the price included packing, storage locally for about a month, plus transportation and unloading, all by one company. That was when I decided to contact TSM, a company I knew would be less expensive and with whom we had had a good moving experience in the past.

NOW I know that I should have been much more cautious about checking out the entire process of packing, moving into storage and moving from storage halfway across the country, considering that two companies would be involved in the move, a situation I had not anticipated.

Here is a brief list of the problems we encountered:

  1. Our household goods were neither properly inventoried nor tagged. After the move was completed, TSM declared that they did not inventory items that went into storage but just labeled the boxes (usually) and delivered them to storage. They further declared that AMS always tagged and itemized the boxes and furniture when it picked them up from storage. In contrast, AMS declared that TSM should have itemized the items when they were packed. In other words, each moving company blamed the other for neglecting to tag and inventory the household goods.
  1. During the move-in on June 19th, when I noted that the movers were not leaving room to set up the bed, dining table, entertainment unit and living room couches/recliners, the driver of the AMS van declared that he had neither instructions nor tools to assemble any of the furniture that the TSM packers had unassembled. After numerous calls to both moving companies, the driver was finally instructed to see that the furniture was assembled (they only did the bed and the dining table) but I had to borrow tools from our apartment building’s maintenance man for them to use.
  1. The two local-hire personnel who were hired to unload the van and carry household items to the apartment were not always attentive and, at times, clumsy or careless. No matter what room was labeled on the boxes, about half of the time they unloaded the boxes into the wrong room.
  1. Not all the TSM-packed boxes were labeled, so it took some days after delivery to find essential belongings. Finding them in the wrong rooms only exacerbated the confusion. The worst problem was the four-day delay before the cable company could complete setup of our TV and component parts. All parts were in the living room except for the main TV cord which I eventually found in an unlabeled box under four other boxes in the bedroom.
  1. I itemized the extra money we had to pay to hire someone else to reassemble the entertainment unit and living room couches and recliners, plus replacement value for those items that were damaged or broken and the costs of long distance telephone calls to both moving companies on moving-in day. AMS refused to pay us compensation, citing a $300 deductible about which we had never been informed. TSM also denied knowing about this deductible. To their credit, TSM volunteered to pay the money we had claimed and declared they would no longer be doing business with AMS. (Donna, the estimator from TSM was very gracious and helpful to us.)

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS: In hindsight, we offer the following recommendations to anyone undertaking a major move that includes storage for a time before household goods are moved on to another address:

  1. If you can afford it, go with a major international moving company that can handle all of the tasks of moving such as packing, loading into storage, storing the goods, moving out of storage, transporting to, unloading and reassembling at the new address. That way you have one point of contact to deal with any questions or problems you might encounter during the move and will have all the information you need in writing.
  2. If you cannot afford moving with a major company, be sure that the company you do go with spells out completely that they will itemize and inventory all your household goods during packing.
  3. Be present when that moving company delivers your goods to storage and leaves the inventory at storage so that whoever picks up the goods for moving on to your destination checks that inventory as they load their van.
  4. Have contact information on the company who will be picking up the goods from storage. We were merely told that another company would be picking up the items from storage but never had anything in writing from that company until after the fact (thus we knew nothing of a deductible). However, they did call us before pick up from storage and demanded our credit card information so they could charge us $5041.95 for their part of the move before they picked up the items. (We were two provinces away from the storage unit when they called us so had no way of checking that our items were truly picked up and on the way and had no contact information about them.)
  5. If at all possible try to insure that only one franchise does the entire move. The company we booked with recommended the second company over their own franchise in Winnipeg. I wish, at that point, that we had gone to another franchise that would have completed the entire move.

Incidentally, the move cost us a total of $8,451.00, including costs for both moving companies, the storage facility and extra boxes we purchased. I had packed many boxes of books and other non-breakables prior to the packing day to reduce the packing costs. Yes, we saved around $4000 but also had a great amount of extra work, frustration and dissatisfaction as well.

For anyone who is interested in reading the entire correspondence regarding our move, I am including that herewith. I hope our warning will help anyone contemplating a similar move.  Continue reading