Cakewalk Chronicles – A fine ending to a topsy turvy year

Esther Darlington MacDonald's monthly column of living life in the rural Interior.

A shocking statistic

Forty-two per cent of Canadians have low literacy skills. It used to be 30 per cent years back. So we’re not improving, despite efforts to promote literacy. When you consider countries like Finland and Iceland, that have 100 per cent literacy, you wonder. Is it because we are such a relatively new country?  Finland starts kids in school at age 7. Education is absolutely free. Tots learn to use cell phones and Ipads at the earliest age. Recently saw a documentary on the country. Sure was an eye opener.

Bernie Fandrich speaking in Ashcroft

Author, historian and Kumsheen Rafting owner, Bernie Fandrich who has recently produced a beautiful book full of fine photos of our region, Majestic Thompson River (on sale at The Journal), will be presenting a talk with illustrations on Sunday, March 23 at the Ashcroft Community Hall. Mark this on your calendar. The Heritage Committee met recently to plan the event.

Rotary sponsored wine tasting event

This annual event will take place in St. Alban’s Hall in March. Watch for the date. Paintings by Esther Darlington will be shown. Regional landscapes in oil will be featured.


It looks like a tomato. Feels like a tomato. But when you cut it open, you find it isn’t that juicy, tangy-tasting fruit you expected. This tomato is almost solid coloured styrofoam. You can count the seeds. The skin on the tomato is not skin anymore. It’s rind. The kind you peel off a turnip. This  tomato is designed to hang on the vine, permanently. Something like the artificial fruit of wax that used to be a favourite table decoration years ago. Once in a while you hit a good tomato. One with flavor and juice and seeds and thinner skin. Once in a while. It’s a gamble though. It looks like a tomato. Feels like a tomato. But it isn’t. Is this because of the Genetically Modified seeds we’re hearing more about? If so, my favourite fruit isn’t worth the gamble. I’ll do without them.

Rail accidents too numerous

We live on two railroads. It isn’t surprising, given the number of freight accidents in the last several or more months that concerns. Lac Megantic is a horror story. And it could happen anywhere. There have been five large scale oil laden tank car accidents in as many months. The countless numbers of oil and bitumen tankers that pass through our villages, cities and towns you would think would impose considerable pressure on those that ship this way insure firmer safety measures. Better built tankers.  We are told that the shippers are still using the older type tankers. More crew members. More stringent regulations. The responsibilities lie with the rail companies, the shipping companies, and our government transport officials. There needs to be a little more “thumb screwing” pressure brought to bear on all three. The loss of lives and property has already become horrendous.

My Christmas was a real old fashioned one

For some years now, Sherman and I celebrated Christmas in the usual traditional way. A tree was chosen. We both decorated it. Carols on disc. Church attendance Christmas Eve. A big turkey dinner with all the trimmings. We had calls from our kids. We enjoyed. We loved sharing Christmas Eve with our former neighbours, the Sarver family in Cache Creek. But Christmas alone, without kids, well, it wasn’t the same.

Well, this year, my Christmas was quite different from past years. And I know Sherman’s was too, with family in Kelowna. This year, my granddaughter Ayisha, her husband Cobir, and my two great grandchildren, Zhangu and Salma, arrived on my birthday, Dec. 21.

And from that hour of their arrival (and thank you so much to my great neighbour, Loraine Schwaluk whose big sedan was able to take the childrens’ car seats and family luggage and bring them from the Greyhound depot in Cache Creek) it was the best, old fashioned Christmas I’d had in too many years to count. The kids played Tanner right out. The clatter and clamour was music to my ears.

Well, Cobir and I just tuned them out to talk African politics. Cobir is a refugee from civil war torn Sierra Leone in West Africa. Ayisha took over the kitchen. I just cooked up two meals. She not only cooked, she did the washing up. We shopped for gifts. Wrapped them behind a closed door. Put them under the tree.

And then we all packed into my little Echo and trundled down the hill to St. Alban’s for Christmas Eve service. Cobir helped me to the altar for communion. Salma fell asleep. Snored, too. So Ayisha had to hold her in the pew. A Christmas to remember, it surely was. When I took the tree down on Jan. 1st as I usually do, I wrapped each of the decorations carefully and put them back in the tall box. And I treasured each decoration. A wonderful memory that Christmas!

The Legendary Betty Frank

I’m sure I met Betty way back in the 1960s when I worked in the courthouse in Williams Lake. Betty was a game guide par excellent. Her territory in the Cariboo-Chilcotin contained over a million acres. She trapped, guided scores of wealthy American and European hunters. She was and still is, a beautiful woman. And even when she was wresting with a moose carcass, she never lost that femininity.

She told her life story to the well known Cariboo author, Sage Birchwater, who wrote: The Legendary Betty Frank. I highly recommend this book which is a fantastic read about a fantastic life, to all you hunters out there, – or even, the armchair ones.

In summary

Well, it has been a pretty warm January, and we had a very snowy December and a beastly Manitoba-like freezing November. The ice on the roadsides is treacherous for any one, particularly seniors. But Soups On continues every Friday and attracts a wide cross section of just about everyone in the community. It’s a time to socialize, slurp up the coffee, and the soup and salad, buns. Even desserts.

In some ways, the winter turned out to be extraordinary, yet traditional. The church was filled to overflowing. People who wanted a non-commercial celebration of Christmas found it there. Dan Hines and his minstrels played the carols, with two guitars, a fiddle and a drum.

A fitting end to a year that for me, anyway, has been the most challenging I’ve ever had. Let’s hope as 2014 advances, we continue to progress. Realistically, productively, and collectively as a Community. Where Wellness isn’t just a slogan, but a state of mind.

Esther Darlington MacDonald