Trampling Grapes – A Childhood Memory

The subject of my alcohol-fuelled childhood recently came up and not in therapy as one would imagine.

Both my grandfathers were Portuguese and both were winemakers like their fathers before them.  Growing grapes and making wine was never an option for either one of them. It was just something they did.  I don’t recall ever seeing my grandparents buy a bottle of wine just like I can’t recall a time when there wasn’t an open bottle of wine at the dinner table.  Each year at harvest time, my sister and I were brought in to help with the picking and making of wine and since our grandparents lived on separate properties we were really busy.

I guess this was our first experience with work although we loved it so much we didn’t think of it as work.

My sister and I were the only ones allowed to trample the grapes in the winepress.

We had the sense from the way our grandfathers sought us out – and only us – that we added ‘magic’ to the process as we sang our childish songs and trampled those grapes with an enthusiasm I sometimes wish I could recapture.  I seem to recall we would wear the absolute minimum for the job – bathing suits and very short shorts and raggedy t-shirts.  We were sticky and sweet for days 🙂

By now you must be thinking my grandparents lived on farms but no, they nurtured their vines in their suburban gardens; those vines offered shelter from the harsh African sun under which we enjoyed extended barbecues and spilled gloriously green and abundant over their respective garages and boundary walls.

There was of course a reason for our enthusiasm.  My sister and I knew what would happen as the grapes were left to ferment in large vats.  Samples had to be taken during the process of fermentation and someone had to be on hand to turn the tap and pour those first drops of sweet nectar.  My sister and I were available.  It’s not like we had anything else to do but attend school.

You may think we were drunk a lot.  I don’t believe we ever were.  We were allowed to drink wine (one small glass each) from an early age and I credit that experience to the fact that I know when to stop.  I have been ‘wasted’ a record one time. And it wasn’t on wine and I was well into my twenties (boring I know).

My question is not whether you started drinking as a toddler but what activity did you participate in as a child that is now frowned upon or considered risque? 

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Random Weekend Happenings and Thoughts On Buying

1) On Friday night the Mr and I watched Interstellar.  Several friends and acquaintances had told me to watch it because they enjoyed it and thought I would too.  While it is a long movie (just under 3 hours long) I loved it and did not want it to end.  Interstellar is one of those rare gems in that a) the ending is unexpectedly positive b) the cast and acting (and excuse the pun) is stellar and c) it explores the issue of climate change and the probable outcome for humanity if we continue along the same path.

Interstellar is not for everyone in fact I am delighted but surprised that it is doing as well as it is.  Four people walked out of the theater midway through the movie – a pity really because the last hour and half is the best.  I suspect those people were struggling with the whole ‘Theory of Relativity’ and ‘space-time continuum’ bit but if you are willing to suspend belief or accept that Physics just isn’t your forte then you will be completely gobsmacked as I was, by the spectacular visual effects.    This movie is a lot more than a story about exploring uncharted territory, it is primarily a story about a man who makes the heartbreaking decision to leave his children behind so he can ultimately save them.  There are scenes played out between Matthew McConaughey’s character and his daughter that are heartbreaking to watch.  If you thought Gravity was good then you will really enjoy this movie because in my opinion it is the better movie.

2) We experienced our first sub-zero temperatures this weekend and our first snowfall.  So Winter is (unofficially but undeniably) upon us.  While all our neighbours have strung up lights, decorated their trees (inside and out) and crowded their front gardens with fake reindeer, giant inflatable snowmen and Santas we have yet to decide on a tree.  In our family it has long been a tradition to put up the tree on the 15th December so I am still ok (although my neighbours are looking at me askew).

3) One of my fondest and earliest memories is of riding a carousel with my grandfather standing by (in case I slipped off). He would take me to the Christmas Fair and I would go on every ride – my favourite for a really long time was The Octopus.  I felt really brave holding onto my swivel chair at the end of that octopus’ long arms.

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Carousel Ride

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The Mr surprised me this year by taking me to the Christmas Fair early because he will be away for work until just a few days before Christmas.  I hauled myself up and onto the prettiest pony I could find and prayed I could stay on and keep the mulled wine I had imbibed earlier in my stomach.  I succeeded on both counts and was very proud of myself.

Did you have a favourite ride?  

I love markets and fairs especially at this time of the year.  I go to them not so much for the buying experience (although I do support artists and creators) but mostly for ideas and inspiration.  I also know that if I am going to find that ‘special gift’ it will probably be found in a craft market.

At this time of year, most of us tend to overspend (yes, guilty as charged) so in an effort to become more mindful of how and where I spend money I started considering the following before buying gifts:

Will the receiver find my gift useful or will it improve the quality of his/her life in some way?

Would the gift of my time, service or expertise be more helpful to the receiver and therefore a greater reflection of my love and appreciation?

How much of my gift (and wrapping) will end up in the landfill?

Does the company I buy from share my values and ethics?  For example I love supporting The Body Shop because they support Community Fair Trade and their products are ethically produced.

Do you follow any rules or guidelines when buying gifts or do you just run after the sales (I can’t fault you if you do) 😀

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The Best Of Times…

It’s been the best of times, it’s been the …well, interesting.

So if you read my last post you will remember we had plans.  Real plans.  We were going camping.  Somewhere in the interior of beautiful British Columbia.  We were going to barbecue, bake on a rock, read books on a boat, drink lake-chilled beer, play with water guns….

Then my husband got promoted.  Very unexpectedly.  Twice.  In the space of two weeks in the middle of the best Summer in recent memory.

Getting promoted is really good news.  But.

No Summer road trip.  No getaway for the four of us.

So I’ve been working (and sulking just a little because I’m a child) and reading (I am determined to get through my Summer reading list no matter what).

Maybe, the Mr. tells me, later this year.  In the Fall.  When the bears are their hungriest.  The wolverines their feistiest.  We will lie on a carpet of molten gold and copper and shiver in our blankets as we watch the Harvest Moon rise.

I think not. I tell the Mr (with a stomping of feet).  No camping in the Fall.  I demand a hotel room, room service, warm towels, chocolates on pillows.  But I’m bluffing and he knows it.

We both want the bush.  Wild, untamed, gnat-infested bush.

For now I am home with my boys who in a desperate attempt to salvage what is left of Summer have the tent up in our backyard and the barbecue going.

What are you up to? 

Here’s a pic of a local rascal in our plum tree yesterday morning.

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The CRAZIEST Thing I’ve Done…So Far

I have to admit that, before deciding to write this post on the craziest thing I’ve done so far, I turned to my husband and said:

“Ok what’s the craziest thing I’ve done?”  Meaning of course, what’s the craziest thing we’ve done hoping he would remember something suitably PG but instead I got this response:

“Dunno but we have had a lot of crazy s***t happen to us.”

So to be clear this post is not about the wackiest, craziest things that have happened to me but rather one crazy mad thing I got up to with some intention.  (The other stuff will have to come later)

I suspect I have done crazier things.  I once quit a job without having another one to go to for example.   But this particular adventure stands out because I remember thinking I was going to die and trust me you never, ever forget a near-death experience.

If you’ve read most of my posts you’ll no doubt have gathered that I like water.  I like it so much that at last count I have more photographs of bodies of water than I do of my own sons. I like everything about water.  I like the way you can move through it like you’re moving through silk.  I like it’s fickle nature.  I like it’s power.  I like the fact that water talks and gurgles and murmurs and roars.

The water understands

Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.  – Water by Ralph Waldo Emerson

So after years and years of swimming in oceans and lakes and pools and jumping off jagged cliffs into deceptively deep and dark pools (there’s another crazy thing!)I went white water rafting with a group of adrenalin junkies.  Looking back I think I did this because I was in my early twenties and because l didn’t have a date that weekend.

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My friends and I were all properly outfitted.  We had lifejackets (PFDs), helmets and a paddle each.  We set off on a perfect Summer morning with an experienced guide in an orange inflatable raft down the Vaal river – a wide, brown river in South Africa (the word “Vaal” is Dutch for “drab” or “dull”).  We paddled along for the first hour or so.  The river a plate of glass. Someone passed around snacks; dried fruit, nuts…We ate, we drank.  We paddled past floating islands.

The first rapids were easy.  We managed those with laughter.  I don’t think we even used our paddles.  But then after another hour or so we found ourselves riding “Big Daddy” (yes, that is the name of one of the rapids) and suddenly we were all paddling furiously. The guide was shouting instructions.  The river was frothing and in parts the rocks jutted out like teeth.   I was so sure we were all going to fall into the water and drown like rats in the spin cycle of a washing machine.   I think I screamed.  I can’t remember.  It was like one of those fairground rides with no foreseeable end.

But there was an end.  A few of us struggled ashore and kissed the ground.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done so far?

Mrs Peacock In The Library With The Candlestick

I enjoy murder mysteries.  Especially cases populated with complex characters and intriguing clues.  I realized only recently that I have loved sifting through clues and motives since I was a child.

You see,  before I looked like a girl I played with boys.  I would have liked to play with girls (other than my sister) but from the age of five or so I found most girls were mean to me.   I don’t blame them.  I didn’t have the greatest role models in the my life and tea parties with plastic cups didn’t interest me.  I was a very active child despite my fondness for reading.  I loved climbing things, rollerblading and cycling.  So I gravitated towards the boys who seemed to be, like me, always outdoors and they took me in, which is a marvel really since  I wasn’t pretty, though one boy – his name was Joaquin – told me I had beautiful blue eyes.  I remember flushing with pleasure when he complimented me so it’s a pity really that my eyes are not blue or green or anything in between.

On bad weather days my  friends and I would spend hours indoor reading comics, playing Risk and Monopoly and dressing up.  Boys are really into their capes and masks.

They’re also really into running around naked but that is a story for another day.  We’d play ‘Not Three but Six Musketeers’ with swords and rolling pins and “Justice League of America” at the expense of several pieces of furniture.  But when I kept losing all those macho-making arm-wrestling and spitting games I tired of all the chest-beating bravado.  I wanted something more.  Something cerebral.  We needed a new game and it came in the form of Cluedo.  A birthday gift.

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I haven’t played it in years but those characters live on like old friends in a house with a conservatory and a billiard room! And to this day whenever I watch a murder mystery on television I  want to shout:

“It was Mrs Peacock in the library with the candlestick!”

What was or is still your favourite board game?