Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Snakes, scones, Big Mosquitos and Winnipeg spring cleaning

Friday in Winnipeg and I was in the Kitchen again, this time attempting to make some scones. It was a cold day outside and I couldn’t be arsed wandering aimlessly around in the shitty weather, so ended up making a dozen or so nice scones, to have with some jam later on. They turned out ok, but I think I will try again on a quiet day next week and this time use butter instead of margarine. 5/10 for my first attempt though.

Friday evening was a night off for Buffy and so we sat watching movies and having a quiet drinky in the flat, also we were up early on Saturday, so didn’t want a late night.

Saturday was a big day out. We had found out that one of the car hire firms does weekend deals and so we could get a car from Saturday till Monday for about $25. A bargain, especially in a town like Winnipeg where if you don’t have a car than you don’t really get to go anywhere. We picked it up at 10am and after checking it out were on our way north out of town by half past. The first stop was a small town called ‘Komarno’, which just happens to be the Ukrainian word for mosquito. So it is not strange when you get there and find a 5 metre high rotating statue of a Mosquito. Mosquitoes are supposedly a big thing around here in the summer and so it’s another reason for the statue. We stopped here a few minutes to take some photos before heading on to our next stop – The town of Inwood, where there is this time a 4 metre high statue of two garter snakes. This statue is a little more standard and doesn’t rotate, but is good anyway. The reason that this statue is here is because in spring every year thousands of harmless garter snakes appear from underground and start to mate in massive mating balls, just a few miles north from her in a place called Narcisse snake dens.

Big Mossie

Tractor time

Little garter snake

Can you see them??

There they are

The Narcisse snake dens were our main stop for the day. We parked up and took a walk around the 3km path that leads around the sight. The main things to see are the 3 snake dens – really collapsed caved that are now on the ground, that the snakes come to in order to mate every spring. Den 1 and 2 were the first ones we came to and had only a dozen or so snakes in them, but by the time we had reached den 3, which is a little shallower than the others, it had also warmed up a bit, which meant that a lot more snakes were out – maybe as many as 300-400 of them, all piling on top of each other just a few feet away. We watched them for a while, as well as finding a stray one on the ground that we held for a bit whilst showing to some curious children too. It was about an hour drive north from Winnipeg but worth it and all in all a strange but fun place to visit.

On our way south we stopped again at a couple of places – First at a town called Gimli, which has a high number of ex-Icelandic residents and as such has built a large Viking statue on the front, beside the massive Lake Winnipeg itself. Then further down the lakes coast we stopped at Winnipeg Beach – another town – this time with a huge Indian Chiefs head carved out of a massive tree trunk.

Icelandic viking


Big Head

Jump the snakes

Jump the mossie

Jump the viking

It was just a short hour drive back to Winnipeg and a lazy afternoon before a night out.
It was another wedding social, this time a Quiz night version, which ended up being a lot of fun, even though t it was being held in a church hall and there was no alcohol allowed. (Buffy and Joel sneaked some booze in using coke bottles, but I was driving) We did well on the quiz and would have done even better is some of the questions weren’t about the engaged couple and their family, who we didn’t know at all. Finally we went back to the home of the other couple, whose social we attended a couple of weeks ago for a bit of a get together and to finish the night.

Sunday was a busy day. Buffy has tickets to distribute to a few of her friends, for her Choir concert next Friday and Saturday evening and so we dropped them off on the way around to her mum and dad’s for a bit of Sunday lunch. On the way though, we heard off her brother who was in hospital having hurt his hand the evening before on a night out. He ended up turning up for dinner with his broken hand in a cast. I wondered how he had done it...Maybe he had prevented someone being mugged and hurt himself in the melee...or some other heroic deed. It turned out to be a funny story involving a few beers and a large metal garbage bin.... you can guess what happened.
After some great home cooked burgers for dinner me and Buffy took the hire car off again and went to see the movie ‘The Avengers’, at the cinema before going home. It was a great film and well worth seeing.

I dropped the hire car off on Monday and walked back home in the rain, via a small park with a great view over the city I have spent most of the time since then in the kitchen. I have made two lots of scones and wanted to make Flapjacks, but couldn’t find and golden syrup in the shops, so ended up making my own. It took a few goes but finally I have about a pint of thick golden syrup, so that I can use that to make flapjacks. I know it’s not exactly hard baking, but it’s something to do with my time before I go away again.
Nice view over the city

Winnipeg is starting to look a little different too. In December and when I got back here in April, it was either covered in snow or the grass and vegetation, seemed to be almost grey in colour due to not seeing any sun for weeks and months. Mud and dirt was everywhere, where the snow had melted and left piles of stones and rocks everywhere. But the great spring clean is now well under way. It’s different to what we do in the UK for a spring clean. Instead of just dusting cupboards and cleaning windows, the locals here change from winter tyres to summer, the roads start to get fixed after being almost destroyed by the winter and the colour gradually starts to appear in grass, trees and flowers. There is a hell of a difference. The people get together and go around their neighbourhoods to get rid of the piles of mud dirt and litter that has accumulated over the last 4-5 months. It looks nicer now.

It’s still strange though as some things look like I have gone back in time. The local shops still have quite old shelving and apart for a few fridges they could be back in the 1960’s. Another thing I have noticed is that a lot of shops and businesses have signs that look like the old cinema signs from 40 years ago – with big bold letters placed onto wire lines to make up words and prices. The more I noticed them the more I see that they are everywhere. I suspect some of the shops have had them since the fifties.

The houses are also something that takes a bit of getting used to. Most of the houses were built around 1910-1920 and seem to have remained almost the same since. They nearly all have sash windows and a mosquito screen, instead of double glazing or the plastic type windows I am used to in the UK. Surely new windows would help the energy consumption too, as most of the houses are built from wood too. Nearly every house has a peculiar lean on one side or the other. They also have a weird thing going on with their drain pipes. Instead of going straight in to the ground and to the draining system, the drainpipes are extended by anything between 4 and 20 feet away from the house and the water then just leaks out into the garden or onto the path. It looks very strange to see all these things. Even stranger is that every now and then you see a beautiful modern home, with normal drainage and windows and no strange ‘Tower of Pisa’ lean, so new houses are built but old ones still count in the majority.





Short drainpipe

A little longer

Really!?!? Yep!

It takes a bit of getting used to, being so long in one strange foreign country, but I am slowly getting used the differences.

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