Tag Archives: Alberta

Beth and Richard Get Married (The Movie)

Last Thursday we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary, well at least as much as you can with two small children and summer colds going around the family!

Anyway, one of the things that the tenth wedding anniversary actually got me to organise was getting a copy of our wedding video into a more usable form. The video was shot by a friend of ours who shot on NTSC DV, and then produced a copy for us that we could watch back in the UK. They also kindly gave us the master tape. Needless to say technology has moved on in ten years, so what I wanted to do was get the wedding video into a form where I could keep it properly backed up on the computer, plus with a copy online. Whilst most DVD players and Bluray players will quite happily cope with NTSC recordings, finding a DV camera that could had proved rather more difficult, but thankfully I found a specialist company over in Twyford called DigitalCopyCat who we could drop the tape off with in person who would produce a QuickTime file of the wedding that I could easily handle on the Mac from our NTSC Master tape.

We now have that file converted into an Apple TV ready form so we can watch it back on the main TV, and also uploaded to my Vimeo account so you too can enjoy the wedding video – indeed most of our UK friends and relatives will never have seen this I’m sure!

Watching it back certainly brings back a few memories. There are of course quite a few people who are sadly no longer with us, for example neither Pastor K’Henry or Rev’d Sheila our Rector from Finchampstead who came over for the wedding are with us any more. There are also several relatives such as Beth’s grandmother, and Aunt Kathy who have passed away since.

On a lighter note you do get to see me pacing up and down wondering where the grooms parents and Best Man have got to (they managed to take a wrong turn on the way to the church and were driving around the army base at Ralston),  plus me in a suit that I might just about fit into again now, but for the best part of ten years haven’t been able to. There are also quite a few of the family looking younger and less stressed before they had their children!

Anyway, the video is over an hour long as it’s got the whole service, plus speeches and cake cutting and so on at the reception, so enjoy a little bit of a flashback to ten years ago.

Also if you’ve got any films or slides, videos or so forth that you want converted to something digital I can heartily recommend DigitalCopyCat – great service, especially with all the bouncing back and forth to get the format I wanted for the Mac, and at a good price too.

Ghost Town

On the way to visit Beth’s parents, the last township we pass through is Atlee, Alberta. As you can see from the wikipedia entry, it officially has a population of 28, but I’m guessing that is a bit optimistic. This is a video we shot a couple of years ago – we drive through Atlee about a forty seconds in, and then cross the track bed of the old railroad before continuing on towards the ranch.

Canadian Gravel from Richard Peat on Vimeo.

As you can see, there really isn’t much there. There is even less now.

A few weeks back, Beth’s parents headed off for some winter sun in Hawaii, and when they returned, the one remaining building, the old schoolhouse was gone, burnt to the ground, apparently by the local authority because the building was considered dangerous.

As anyone who looks at my Flickr photostream will know, I have taken lots of pictures of the building over the years – despite being pretty exposed and windy up on the prairie, and getting increasingly dilapidated, it has withstood the worst that Alberta could throw at it. The dilapidation, combined with the prominent location (you could quite literally see the building from miles away down the road) and the fantastic skies out there made for some fantastic pictures.

Perhaps because Atlee is a bit out of the way, it has survived where many other of the one room schoolhouses have now gone. Whilst I’ve seen a lot of signs marking the locations of the old schoolhouses on our travels around the province, this is perhaps the only one I’ve seen that was still standing in situ – indeed when you looked inside it was very much as if the teacher and children had just moved out – the blackboard was still on the wall, and the frame for the swings in the grounds still stood, along with the outhouse. True, it’s location probably isn’t suitable for any kind of tourist spot, but as a piece of Alberta history, it was probably one of the last relics of how the people of the prairie used to live.

In it’s heyday, Atlee was one of a number of townships, regularly spaced along the railroad line – next along is Buffalo, then Cavendish (note the alphabetic naming too). The local farmers would bring their produce to the railroad line where it would be shipped, and the township had a school for the local children. As the roads and transport has improved, the need for frequent townships grew less. So Beth went to school at the one room schoolhouse in Buffalo – that building too has long since gone, moved to provide extra classroom space elsewhere. Grain and produce can now be shipped by truck, so the railroad line has gone. People can drive to the post office, so Beth’s parents go to Jenner for to collect the mail, and their postal address is Jenner. The only place the Atlee name is still used is by the oil companies, and for a communications mast that stands nearby, and now the last building is gone.

Certainly it is going to be strange next time we head out that way, not having the old schoolhouse marking the way. Atlee really is now just a dot on the map…

Why You Should Get Travel Insurance

As you may have heard, our recent trip to Canada with Lucy didn’t quite go according to plan. As babies are prone to do, Lucy has been picking up all sorts of coughs and colds, annoying, but not usually too much of a problem. Unfortunately for us she picked up a really nasty one in Canada, a respiratory syncytial virus or RSV which clogged up her chest with mucus leaving her struggling to breath without coughing.

Not surprisingly that left us taking a trip to the local hospital twice during the trip, the second time being the day before we were due to head home when the doctors said that she was unfit to fly and decided to keep Lucy and Beth in hospital, Lucy on Oxygen and Ventolin. Ultimately they had to stay an extra ten days until the infection cleared up, and the doctor was happy to clear them to fly.

The way the travel insurance policy works is that the policyholder pays direct expenses, including any outpatient or emergency room costs, and the the hospital and insurance company settle directly for any inpatient treatment. We’d already paid and claimed for the emergency room visit – $560 CDN as the Alberta health service charges a flat daily rate for visits to the emergency room – plus assorted other sundry expenses for follow up visits to the doctor and for medication, but since the hospital and insurance company were settling up directly, we hadn’t seen the final cost. However this morning an invoice turned up from the hospital, which they’d incorrectly sent to the patient address rather than the insurance company – $6797 CDN in total for the hospital stay bringing the grand total for the whole illness to $7623 CDN, just over £4300. For friends and family in Alberta it’s been a bit of an eye opener too, as they just hand over their Alberta Health card and never see the bills.

All of which dwarfs the size of even a single trip travel insurance policy – and remember we were lucky in that the insurance company weren’t having to pay for extra accommodation, or for special flights back. True you might never need it, but we’re sure glad we had a good travel insurance policy…

The Canadian Gravel Experience

So we’ve been back on British soil for about a day after taking advantage of the early Easter to spend the school holidays in Canada. I’m slowly working through the pictures – delights to come include a bit of a cattle round-up, a cattle sale, plus a little bit of Canadian winter driving courtesy of their very own late season snowfall that we drove through on our way back to the airport.

By way of a taster, here is a slightly different drivers eye view to the one we took in the UK a couple of weeks ago. This one is a sample of the Canadian Gravel Road experience. Some of the lesser used roads are maintained with a gravel surface, although in some cases they could be regarded as fairly important, for example the most direct route from Buffalo to Oyen in south-east Alberta is gravel.

Anyway, this is the last seven or so miles of the drive to Beth’s parents ranch, so also gives an idea of the kind of countryside around where Beth grew up, and also shows that despite what one or two of Beth’s classes might have thought, she wasn’t taking pictures to avoid the trees. The prairie landscape is pretty typical of what you see around the area, with the only significantly treed areas being the river valleys. You also get somewhat of an idea of what Beth means when she talks about the “big sky” out on the prairie.

Slightly atypically we do actually pass another vehicle on the road, as the fuel truck had just made a delivery. It’s also worth pointing out that the prairie isn’t always this colour – on other occasions the same views will be green or white as far as the eye can see, depending on the time of year. This being the early spring view, currently the new green grass growth is hidden by last years dried grass – subject to the right amount of rain the same trip would look rather different.

A couple of other notes, the beeping part way down is the sat-nav deciding to reset itself for no apparent reason, and the vehicle we’re using is a second generation Toyota Highlander. Camera was my normal Fujifilm F50d.

Canadian Gravel from Richard Peat on Vimeo.

For the Unbelievers

Talking to our friend Meli on the phone earlier in the week, I happened to mention the first place that Beth taught in Canada where they had a horse drawn school bus, because the temperature often got cold enough that the diesel in the normal bus would freeze.

It has to be said, that Meli didn’t believe me – and thought I was making it up to pull her leg or something. As a result, Beth has dug out her old photo albums to produce the photographic evidence, which she has uploaded to Flickr. The set does include pictures of the actual school bus. She has also included a few other old pictures as well with a set from her second school including one of those fantastic sunsets where it looks like the sky is on fire. Beth has written a bit more about the pictures on her blog.

Yes, Really! originally uploaded by Tahbepet

How Complicated Can It Be?

When I got the schedule change e-mail yesterday it didn’t seem like too much of a problem.

Options seemed to be to go for a different routing on the flights and come home on the original day, or alternatively just take the extra day. So I went home and talked to Beth, and with the options of a reroute via Calgary or Toronto, both of which would add to the cost of the trip without much benefit – we decided that the extra day would be nice, the only problem was that the car hire booking, that we did as part of the deal with the travel agents for the flights, had us returning the car on our original return day, so needed to be extended.

I phoned up Opodo, got through pretty much immediately, and the agent on the other end tried to change the reservation. Unfortunately the system wouldn’t let her make the change. Her suggestion was to try Hertz directly.

Calling Hertz I got bounced between three people, the last of whom explained that they couldn’t make the changes to the reservation as it had not been paid for on my credit card – the payment had come through from an Opodo account, so only they could authorise the payment.

Okay – back on the phone to Opodo, and we went through the whole can’t make changes to the booking routine again. Eventually their only suggestion was to make the change when we arrive in Edmonton.

Thinking about it, probably the best thing, as it seems to be so complicated to extend the booking would just be to head back up to Edmonton on the Thursday and be done with it – drop the car off and then stay in a hotel near to the airport and take in a few of the sights in Edmonton on the Friday. Aside from the West Edmonton Mall (which was sort of where Beth and I went on our first date) I’ve not seen much of the city…

Did YOU know about the floods in Canada???

During the hot weather last week, I heard a lot on BBC about the heat, rising temperatures, high humidity, the risk of thunderstorms and the floods at Glastonbury. But not even once did I hear about the destructive thunder and lightening storms, hail, tornados and overflowing rivers that my parents have had to live through in southern Alberta (that’s in Canada, in case any BBC employees are reading. The northern part of North America. The second largest country in the world. Where the Queen went recently. The place where England played rugby’s Churchill Cup on Sunday. Ring any bells??).

Mom and Dad had been keeping me updated all week on their situation. Living on a river, the only main source of water for irrigation for miles around, it was looking like they were going to be in dire straights come the end of the week. So, my father being an industrious person, got the tractor out and built a berm around the front of the house (the back being buried in a hillside anyway), as well as making sure all cattle were clear of the projected water line and everything protected that could be. (I must say this was round two of flooding – they were flooded much worse than this in 1997 when the ice jammed on the river and the water was flowing 8 feet deep round both sides of the house…) But, back to the flood at hand. Having had about 9 inches of rain since the beginning of June, expecially in the foothills around Calgary, the rivers in southern Alberta that are sourced in the Rockies were ready to burst their banks. The Old Man River, which runs through Lethbridge, did so earlier in the month, and now the Red Deer River, on which my parents live, was due to do the same. The peak hit my parents’ place on Wednesday, and my dad took this picture soon afterward. If you look at the top left corner, you can see the edge of the trees, which is where the river channel is. Amongst those trees are several cattle pens, a barn, a few wells, and my mom and dad’s house. The buildings you can see are the main farm yard, and the house where Mom and Dad’s hired man, Willie, lives. Everything on the lower level, save the house, was wet. You can see more pictures in the Photo Gallery.

Flood from Irrigation level

But that wasn’t all. On the ranch that my dad runs for his family at Hilda, Alberta, there was more destruction. About 30 miles away a tornado touched down, damaging a large natural gas plant. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the storm wreaked much more damage than that. On the Hilda place, rain, high winds and hail hit, damaging the house and destroying several outbuildings. This picture, thankfully not from our place and not of an inhabited building, shows what kind of winds were blowing. The metal bit is a granary – an upside down granary – that has been blown into and wrapped around this abandoned house.

Hilda neighbour damage 2

This is what it’s supposed to look like…

Looking at the CBC (That’s Canadian Broadcasting Company…) website, Alberta wasn’t the only province hit by flooding. Saskatchewan and Manitoba have also been badly flooded. Prime Minister Martin has promised flood relief, but that doesn’t help the people who died, or lost all their memories and possessions.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, all are fine, Mom and Dad’s house didn’t get wet, and the insurance will probably cover the damage to the Hilda house. Hey – it needed new windows anyway! But the problem still remains – Canada doesn’t seem to exist for most Brits. It’s huge – all of the UK would fit into southern Alberta comfortably – but they are generally thought to be an extension of America. Have you seen our money?? It has the Queen on it too! Perhaps you could pay us a little more attention now and again? After all, we did volunteer to fight beside you in World War 2…