Tuesday, 3 August 2021

From Athabasca: December 2001





Dear Alan,

                                Now you will discover that my handwriting is worse than terrible.

                Had dentist hell this year. I had a tooth pulled in May. 5th left bottom. For a month or more the pain had increased to the level that every night I took an aspro or I couldn’t sleep. In March 2000, part of the tooth broke off, a couple of years before the filling fell out. It had rotted down to the nerve. Either root canal ($2,000) or bridge ($2,000). So I got it pulled. I then had work done in September on 6 teeth, over $400 worth. Yuck. George who has also avoided the dentist has started to get his teeth fixed, but fortunately didn’t lose any. It will cost $1600. Farming is definitely the wrong business.

Farming has been one step forward, two steps backward this year. It had everything from the thief who stole money and fuel from us, including all the boys’ coins, the Cree J, who disappeared with his pay to a reserve, the grandson who drove a grain truck into the pickup and a retired soil scientist who came for a week in harvest and thought repairs were exciting. The wheat has ergot a natural poison, the canola didn’t make it, so got frost damaged and didn’t turn so is only grade 3, the barley was good, but one crop wasn’t going to make it, so we cut it for silage, so we have too much. Our water to the cattle is completely out at the moment the cows are eating snow and we didn’t buy any feeders. We haven’t weaned our calves but our car failed us, the trip was hell.

George got 2nd @ 3rd burns during harvest when he opened the radiator cap. He is worn out at the moment. Both Aurora and Bryce visited in Spring. Aurora 15 year old Yale who is a computer whizz kid. He has a website. To both of them we out of the real world and LA is it. Bryce kept cleaning his expensive shoes because they got dirt on them.

Wedding anniversaries don’t appeal to me, I would be more interested in Dad’s 80th, but that’s not until 2003.

                Tempted to enclose some GE canola. Did you know the first genetically modified product was insulin. Do all insulin users get kicked out of Tassie when Tassie goes GE free? If commercial farmers are so bad how come we are living longer and are taller?

                I imagine Bradley can already hit a cricket ball and kick a footy. Robert can do head stands. He is too competitive and having trouble at school showing tolerance to others. He has his own sense of fair play.

                                Love Pam

From Merrivale: July 2001


July 2001


Dear Alan, Lorna, Bradley @ Girls,

I am sitting in the verandah at Southbroom enjoying a lovely sunshine day.

24 Degrees. We have been to the beach 3 times but I haven’t swum as there has been acold wind blowing off the snow, But Uncle Brian has swum twice haven’t been too well as my heart plays up every now @ then @ it makes me very tired @ weak. I am seeing a Dr on Monday, But I am afraid our health services have gone to the dogs. Leah has to have an operation on her one eye as it is slightly squint @ she has to go to the African Hospital at Edendale @ they’ll be lucky if they’re not hijacked or have their car stolen.

Sheila has lost her marbles as she has taken in an alcoholic father @ his 3 daughters @ a half colored grandchild @ she has the smallest house I have ever seen much much smaller than ours @ If you say anything she takes off. I’m fed up with her as when we stayed with her she told me how Ronald couldn’t stand having everybody in the house @ then we left in a hurry@ she kept phoning @ telling me how Sherry @ Juan were always there @ she didn’t know how to tell them nicely not to come so often then she takes in permanently 5 delinquent people @ tells me how happy they all are @ phones me @ gives me hell about something had nothing to do with then adds that she still loves me @ I’m the best mother , so I was so hurt we won’t go back there again in a hurry. Sherry, Juan @ children are still with us but have got a house, so will be shifting out soon. Sherry has a job but Juan not as yet.

Josh is growing fast @ is getting cute Lionel @ I had 2 fights @ Dad said he wouldn’t go back to Debbie’s if Lionel was there, then he phoned me late one night @ said he was coming to Dad’s party so I said he was one of the family @ so was expected. Ronald @ Lesley never came.

Thank you for Dad’s present. He had such a lovely party. People are still talking about it. 100 people. The Church did all the catering too. Setting out of the tables. Sheila didn’t come as she was forbidden to come by Ronald @ also had that household to take care of, but they could come all the way to Durban for a 2nd marriage for a friend of Ronald’s so I am very angry about that as only Neal @ Debbie came @ of course Sherry, Juan @ family. I am hoping to send you a video of the party. There were quiet a few rude remarks made by old friends because Ronald didn’t come.

Jenny phoned Dad @ sent him some tools with Regan. Regan comes over to see us, but Clinton has never had the decency to come @ say hello since he came home from the UK. Tara @ her boyfriend were at the party, now I’m preparing for our 50th which will be much bigger @ Sherry will do the decorations she ahs been very bust making decorations for each table.

I’ve got a nasty cough so hope it clears soon. I’m going off now for my afternoon snooze. Hope Melissa can write her exams a bit earlier @ be here for our 50th. Missing seeing Bradley grow up. The Hayes are coming over in Sept/Oct.

Tons of love @ thanks again.

Dad, Mum @ family







From Merrivale: June 2001


June 2001


Dear Melissa,

I am sitting in the sun at Southbroom balancing this letter on my lap hence all the ups @ downs.

I am writing to say PLEASE PLEASE try @ make it to our 50th wedding anniversary on 6th October as it will really make our day @ give you a chance to meet a lot of your relatives who haven’t seen you fro 15 years.

Grandpa had such a wonderful party with 100 people @ everyone is still talking about it  We have it on video @ I am going to get Juan to make a copy for you all to see.

Sherry, Juan, Aaron @ Leah are living with us until Juan gets a job. We adore the children but I do find it very tiring us all living cramped in our small house. Josh is growing so fast smiling @ trying to talk. They have gone two Shu Shu some hot springs . I can’t stand it there as it is so primitive 1 longdrop @ sometimes 1000 people.

We are missing Bradley as he looks too cute in those pictures of him in his bubble bath. We always seem to talk to Jolene when Mum phones you always seem to be out. How’s varsity Mum says you have to do another 6 months as they have changed the curriculum.

It’s Regan’s 21st to-day. He has come back to south Africa. So has Tara who lives in Empangeni.

I think Sheila has lost her marbles as she has the smallest house imaginable @ she has taken in  an alcoholic father , his three daughters @ an illegitimate grandchild. Byron now lives in St Francis Bay @ Wesley at varsity at Stellenbosch. Garrett doesn’t know what he wants to do, but he is doing some varsity degree through Unisa. He wants to be an actor or model, I must admit he is very good looking but unfortunately has a very bad skin through bad eating habits.

Well I am going to close now give my love to everyone.

I have just come inside @ seen the South Africans give the Aussies a good hiding in Rugby. Ha Ha.

Tons of love to everyone.

                From Papa @ Nana




From Merrivale: June 2001


Dear Melissa @ Jolene,

Thank you for your letter Melissa. When I sent off the postcards to Jolene @ Stacey I had a lovely one for you of a whale, but somehow it got lost so decided to write this airmail to both of you. All the photos you sent Debbie were lovely I am going to frame the ones of grandpa working in his garage. He will turn 80 on the 8th June so we are giving him a party with 100 people. We are having it in the church hall @ it will be a lunch. I wouldn’t know you girls if I saw you now with your long hair. The computer phots of Bradley in his bubble bath are too cute. We have only see Josh Michael 3 times as Lionel was so rude to Grandpa that we are staying out of his way, but Debbie comes to visit with the children when she has a car as Lionel had an accident in hers @ its not going n@ wasn’t insured. We have a wedding on Saturday Tony Kennard our nephew’s daughter Meloney is getting married. She is a lawyer @ so is her husband to be. On Sunday we are going to “Thimble Bee” Grandpa’s siter Kathleen’s old home for a braai. Aunty Norah another sister of grandpa is coming here after the wedding for a few days then friends are taking us down to a cottage at Shelly Beach for a week @ during that time another very god friend is having her 50th wedding anniversary so we’ll have to go to that which is about 120 kms from Shelly Beach. Petrol goes up here every month last month they put it up 19 cents now this month by 9 cents never ends.

We are hoping to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on 4th October @ again will have a lunch in the church hall, wish you could all come as it would really make our day. The whole family are coming from St Francis Bay, Aunt Jenny not, but Tara is back in South Africa so she @ her boyfriend will come We also have a friend who is flying over from the UK just for the 50th anniversary.

Sherry Juan Aaron @ Leah have settled down well in St Francis. Taryn was looking after Leah @ let her fall into a bath of near boiling water so she has a badly burnt hand @ arm. Byron is also living in St Francis his girlfriend comes to see us regularly . Can’t wait to see you girls @ hope we will be able to take you to St Francis Bay one of the most beautiful places missing Stacey @ Bradley so tons of love to each one of you.

Papa @ Nana



Saturday, 31 July 2021

Around the World with Bradley: Canada: Travel home: Photos


Around the World with Bradley: Canada: Travel home

Three young Canadian girls having breakfast. Which is a bottle of coke.

One of them asks us for a cigarette. She wats to borrow a cig. I’ve only just started smoking and really need a smoke.

On the plane an air hostess with big hair speaks to us. As the plane is de-iced.

Air hostess: What is the gap between these two?

Air hostess: Do they have the same father?

Air hostess: What a beautiful baby.

Air hostess: Why did you wait so long? I couldn’t do that. You know you miss it and don’t miss it. You know what I mean. The getting up at night.

Air hostess: What do you do?

Air hostess: Where do you come from?

Air hostess: What were you doing in Canada?

She gets out a photo album of her two sons which she has handy. With a blue cloth cover and ribbons.

Me: Any emergencies on the plane?

Air hostess: Yes lots. Mainly medical. People travelling are so old nowadays.

LA international airport: Attention travelers. You are not required to give money to solicitors. This airport does not sponsor their activities. I repeat.

Announcement: Please maintain personal belongs with you at all times. Do not leave your baggage unattended.

Announcement: Unattended baggage will be promptly removed by law enforcement officers.

Check-in clerk: Have you had your luggage at all times within your sight?  

Check-in clerk: Has anybody given you a packet or parcel to carry?

Plane to Dallas: Males wear baseball caps. Plane is full of Americans chirping away the whole trip. Standing in the aisle bending over talking. The sales reps for Mary Kay Cosmetics are going to Dallas for annual conference. Impeccably groomed. Hair make-up.

Calgary airport is full of white cowboy hats. One man wears two.

View from plane. Mountain ranges. Snow or less snow and more trees.

LA airport. Need to wait 6 hours. Aussie accents appear. He’s one. Look at him. They look different. Quietly confident.

In the lounge a couple of Aussies start talking. Laughing telling stories. Not emotional. Not crying, dancing abusing singing not religious. Practical. Want to be nice blokes.

On the plane American passengers wear masks.

American toilets have wrap on the seats.

Flight back: Very tiring. Everybody comes up and says: What a beautiful baby.

American lady: He’s so beautiful you could put him in a commercial.

Hobart: Zombies. Half-dream like. Half recognize our house.

Around the World with Bradley: Canada: Travel home

Arrive in Canada


Fly from Calgary to Edmonton. Landscape split in two. Rockies to the west. Right is flat prairies. Crossed by roads and fences. Rockies are white snow and dark shadows. Beautiful and dangerous.

Each paddock is mowed of ploughed differently. Snow settles in the deeper spots accentuates were tractor has been. Light covering of snow everywhere except for the roads.

All the fences straight. At right angles. Square blocks of paddocks. A few trees, conifers remain around houses and roads.


Leave Canada


Temperature -12. Pack squeeze push my suitcase shut. It is possible.

George checks the cows and fills the van with gas. He comes in dressed for the outside. We are dressed for inside. He puffs and drops of moisture hang from his nose and moustache.

Outside the air has form. It beats. It is solid can feel it. The cars idle and warm up. We wait inside.

Pam has two sets of car keys. In winter leaves the car idling, locks the car and go inside to shop.

Drive to Edmonton. Frost. The trees have a white frosty appearance. The frost hangs on the bare trees.

Couple of coyotes in the snow covered ploughed field. Scrouging around looking for field mice.

No birds apart from ravens, owls. Birds flow south migrating like some of the people. Silent frozen lakes. Devoid of birds. Static.

Pam: It is good to have some friends in Athabasca who are not Christian Fundamentalists. 50% of the population goes to church. Robert is the only one in his class who does non-RI. He wanted to do RI before Christmas because they were making Christmas Trees.


Edmonton Greyhound Bus Centre: Get lunch at a burger place. Robert/Neyland geta baby burger.

Stacey gets a teen burger. I get a grandpa burger.

Grandpa burger: Bun with three burger patties.

Teen burger: two burger patties and cheese.

The bus is full of single sole travelers. One person occupies two seats. Sits by the window and feet on the other side. Nobody talks apart from one lady in the front seat who spends the whole trip talking to the driver. The heating is incredibly hot. Scenery is everchanging quilted paddocks. Snow varies light, moderate and heavier near Calgary. Starts snowing. Whisps of snow flying and swirling.

Calgary the snow is more visible against the dark buildings. All the pedestrians hurry. Legs pumping. Heads bowed. No browsing. No shops face the street. Malls contain the shops. in Edmonton the highway is lined by rows of warehouses and family restaurants. Warehouses for computers, fishing equipment, food, clothes, office stationery etc.

On TV is a comedy program called 22 minutes. A section called America talks where a Canadian reporter goes ton Des Moines Iowa to interview the locals.

Canadian reporter: You know Air Canada has these propellor planes and they’re talking of getting jets. I don’t feel comfortable. I want to look out the window and see something go round.

The Americans all laugh at the Canadian reporter. The Canadians watching TV all laugh at the Americans. Cause we sucked them in. We are not really that stupid.

Around the World with Bradley: Canada: Shopping Mall: Photos


Around the World with Bradley: Canada: Shopping Mall

West Edmonton Shopping Mall: The eighth wonder of the world.

800 shops. Shop selling black leather gloves; tattooist; body piercing; specialty shops.

Galaxyland: indoor amusement arcade.  Mini golf; go karts; ice skating rink;; dolphin show; dolphins jumping out of water; standing on their tails;; giant wave pool with numerous water slides;, beach patrols; bungee jumping;

Virtually empty; post-Christmas; kids back at school;

Ice skating rink in the centre surrounded by shops.

I skate with trepidation. About 6 locals young guys skate expertly. Racing each other;

I skate tentatively unsure if I can stand; Two young guys skate in front of me missing me by about a foot. They look at each other and laugh. I don’t flinch. I don’t alter my style, They wanted me to jump back. To be frightened. they then leave me to skate alone. A few more slow laps of the rink and one guy skates beside me: You need to lean forward. Stick your bum out. You get better balance.

I don’t want to speak. He won’t understand me. I nod.

Later we watch a figure skater. Easy naturalistic graceful and difficult.

Lunch: Burger place. American 50’s style. Nice burgers,

Teenagers dress like Americans. No gloves. No tooks.

Shop selling pictures: We enter and lady grabs us and says: What exactly are you looking for.

A minute later: What particular one are you looking for. Perhaps I can help.

Around the World with Bradley: Canada: Around Athabasca: Photos


Around the World with Bradley: Canada: Around Athabasca

Robert loves the van. The van has controls in the back for the heater. Robert continually adjusts the controls.

Drive up the highway. Flat wide. Many pickup trucks. Buildings solid, square with flat concrete roofs.

No gardens No leaves on trees. Snow melts and reveals dead brown grass, slush and dirt.

The snow without wind is quiet. Clear blue sky. The snow covers and suppresses everything. Blankets the life out of the landscape. The light from the buildings fight back. Lights indicate people and heat.


Afternoon drive to Athabasca School. Take off our shoes and boots when entering the building.

Beautiful open planned spacious building. Music room with stained glass windows.

Sign: This room is free of peanuts and peanut products.

Sign: Due to allergies hair spare; perfume is not to be worn in these buildings.

Pam: Lack of testosterone at school. No male teachers.


We go to a sport shop to sharpen our skates.

Sport shop: Rows of hockey sticks. Skates, ice hockey uniforms, ice fishing lures. An auger for drilling holes in ice, ice shoes, bait, hunting apparel, no guns, rod for ice fishing.

Around Athabasca you can hunt for white-tailed deer, moose and elk. No caribou . No long horned sheep.  A licence to hunt a long horned sheep will last a year and cost $100,000.

George: You can buy a license to hunt deer. To hunt a moose your name goes into a raffle. The winners win a license to hunt a moose. Can also hunt ducks.

Trading Post Shop: Heads of deer. Horses foot door knockers. Animal skins. Leather jackets. Boots from pelts.


Café for morning tea. Cinnamon rolls and cinnamon muffins.

I receive a tea pot full of hot water. I pour it into my cup and then see a dry tea bag sitting on my saucer. Waitress knows I not Canadian.


Ice skating at an outdoor ice skating rink. At Colenton. Wooden pine fence. Open air. Large spacious. We can watch other skaters. Local kids. Expert. Racing and comparing skidding stops. The air is brisk. I shuffle around.


In Athabasca a lot of the locals seem to be staring at us. Somehow we are dressed differently, behave differently or they know everybody in this small town. And don’t recognize us.


We meet Brad. A friend. A young farmer. Full time. All full time farmers have inherited the family farm. No new young farmers coming into the business.

Brad: Its tough because we don’t get the subsides and help they get in the USA. No protection for us. We are left to ourselves.

George: There are the Boards which distort the market in Canada. Milk, cranberries.

Brad is relaxed. Slow talking. Whole life lived on a farm. Farms with his father. Getting into beef. More money.


Go to Athabasca to look for arts and crafts. Can’t find any or any interest. Native Friendship Centre  gets thousands a year in grants. Not interested in promoting art and craft.

Friends of Pam: Loss of services. Loss of jobs in agriculture. All the children leave Athabasca.

Pam: At a funeral the local MP (a token Indian) turned up in sneakers and windcheater. Lack of respect. Declining standards.


Go with George and Pam to university lunch room. Salad, pancakes, waffles with strawberries in a syrup to be eaten with the main course. Eggs, bacon and sausages.

Around the World with Bradley: Canada: The farm: Photos


Around the World with Bradley: Canada: The farm: Photos


Around the World with Bradley: Canada: The farm

George has a daily job. Check the cows. Looking for any standing back; not eating; drooping head; ears not upright; not alert; bad gait.

Locates two and separates them from the main herd. Takes them to a pen. Takes temperature. Inject with oxytetracycline. Isolate all the sick ones.  A couple are getting better. Back to the herd.

Heath feeds the cows a mixture of silage, barley, oats. Needs to be adjusted going by computer programme. This winter so far eight cows been lost. For difficult ones get a second opinion from vet. Haemophilus has killed two cows. That’s $1000 gone. Cows are money in the bank. If they survive winter  in fall they will be sold off.

Heath and George de-horn the cattle. Drops of blood on the snow. They enjoy the physical work. It warms them up. Big variation in horns. Lot don’t have any horns.

-12 outside. Very cold. George goes inside to change his snow boots. Leaves boots by the fire to warm up.

Branding iron to stop the bleeding of the cows.



Around the World with Bradley: Canada: Ice rink in back garden: Photos