You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘weather’ tag.


Now that some spectacular Fall weather has returned to Melbourne, it is difficult to imagine that not long ago we were walking across a lake in Hamburg, Germany. The ice is gone now, of course, and Spring is happening. Thanks to the staff at the Gasthaus, I have seen a photo of crocuses. I suspect that with all the wet weather this winter, Spring and Summer are going to be wonderful and we are going to miss it.

But I am glad to be back in my own bed, with my own kitchen and our lovely attic study up among the birds. I can look at the airplanes coming and going from Tullamarine Airport without the feeling of dread that I get when I know that one day soon I will be clambering aboard yet another fifteen or sixteen hour flight, followed by the “short” haul to our destination.

20120215-P2152193.jpg

It is impossible for me to imagine what it was like for the millions of Europeans to pull up stakes and leave everything they knew for a new life on the North American continent, South America or Australia. From the middle of the nineteenth century until the beginning of the Second World War, Hamburg was the gateway to the world for five million emigrants. They streamed into the City to board ships that would take them to new lands and new lives. Our Gasthaus home in Hamburg was around the corner from the house of Albert Ballin, which had a suite of rooms for the Kaiser’s use when he was in Hamburg.

Albert Ballin’s father was Jewish. He was part-owner of an emigration agency that arranged passages to the United States. When he died in 1874, young Albert took over the business. He developed it into an independent shipping line, saving costs by carrying cargo on the return trip. This brought him to the attention of the Hamburg America Line, (HAPAG) who hired him in 1886, and made him general director in 1899.

20120215-P2152182.jpg

In 1901 Ballin had Emigration Halls constructed on the Hamburg island of Veddel to accommodate the many thousands of people who arrived at the Port of Hamburg every week to emigrate to North and South America on his company’s ships. The original “city” comprised 30 simple, one-story buildings and included a synagogue, church, hospital, and cafeterias as well as a playground.

Eastern European Jews fleeing economic and religious hardship were especially attracted to Hamburg. The halls are the setting of the Emigration Museum, appropriately called Ballinstadt. For many emigrants, the end of the trip was an island in the harbour of New York City, — Ellis Island. I was astonished to see a map of the USA midwest with the names of German cities peppered all over it like crackerjacks. Every fifth American has a German ancestor. Balinstadt’s passenger lists are a treasure trove for genealogical research.

20120214-P2142165.jpg

My own personal journey compelled me to head for the Reeperbahn one wet and rainy afternoon. In a misguided attempt to recapture a feeling for the magic of the Beatles, I made the pilgrimage to a museum dedicated to their early sojourn in Hamburg. Beatlemania doesn’t stint on display space, but whatever it was about the Fab Four that turned me into a convert failed to materialize for me on that miserable afternoon.

20120217-P2172197.jpg

It may be time to put “Backbeat” in my DVD queue and watch the story unfold up on the screen. Or simply let go of the Beatles infatuation. The sixties have been over for half a century, and the two remaining members of the group are not doing much of interest anymore. The Yellow Submarine may putter along in the back of my brain, but the magic of “A Hard Day’s Night” is no more.

20120217-P2172202.jpg

Advertisements

The day before I left Turin for Christmas in Canada, I had two scares.  In a misguided attempt to keep from bumping my head, I caught my foot under our platform bed and did a swan dive on the floor of our flat.  I cut one eyebrow open and bruised my ribs.  The second event was far more serious.  It was late in the afternoon in the center of the city, and I was getting ready to cross a major street after descending from a tram.  Like most people in the shopping mode, I was preoccupied.  And I was plugged in, listening to a book on my MP3 player.

The  young woman beside me stepped off the sidewalk.  From the corner of my eye I could see a car coming.  My brain screamed but no words came out.  By the time I reacted she had walked into the side of the moving car.  I caught her on the rebound.  For what seemed like a long time, I held her while she shook. She was bruised and in shock, but nothing appeared to be broken.

The driver stopped and came back.  An ambulance was called.  Her partner showed up.  If she had stepped out ten seconds earlier I believe she would have been killed.  It was that close.  I will never, ever tune out the city again.  Life is too precious to be preoccupied at a crucial moment.

——————————————————————————————————————–

The teaching position in Turin offered us a choice that we would never have considered if we had been in Melbourne in December.  We could spend the holiday in the Alps, which certainly had its attractions, or we could return to the Stewart House in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia.

The stars seemed aligned for a small family reunion in Canada this year.  My sister could come from Montana, a son from China.  Our daughter was already in the province attending school and her new husband planned to fly in from Hawaii. They had been married there and we had not had a chance to meet him.  He is in the Marines Corps and we are very pleased to have him in the family.

There is plenty of room in the old house.  The main trick is staying warm this time of year.  It has been at least sixty years since anyone has lived in the building in winter.  There is no furnace, no central heating and no wood stove.  There are electric baseboard heaters and five fireplaces.

During the cold snap leading up to Christmas Eve, we struggled to keep two of the fireplaces stuffed with wood (and the family with food) from morning until night.  In many parts of the province thousands of people lost power.  I was glad it didn’t happen here.  I was very grateful for electricity, grocery stores, merino wool, the CBC, and indoor plumbing.

The cold snap was followed by a warm wind on Christmas day that quickly melted almost all the snow.  The cold has returned, and I am now staring at a field of frozen, green grass with patches of snow.  A blizzard is predicted for tonight, New Year’s Eve.  No one who lives in the Maritimes expects predictable weather any time of year, so this is not surprising.

I’ll be back in Turin in a week, so the Italian lessons are not over yet.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get up the nerve to drive.  The Alps are calling.  Happy New Year!  Stay safe and stay tuned.


When I mentioned at the end of my last post that the weather was getting back to normal, I was telling a whopper that would have made George Bush blush. I didn’t know it at the time, but our fair city was under siege from a cyclone named Pancho. Its ferocity generated 130 km an hour winds, toppled huge trees, shattered scores of yachts and killed at least two people. Two hundred housand people lost their power and some are still in the dark, four days later.

It has been reported since as an event that happens only once in a hundred years. Foolhardy as usual, yours truly took the wife for a walk right in the middle of it. I did notice that the sky was an odd, dirty yellow and there were not many pedestrians about. But we marched blithely on, cursing our lack of perspicacity only when the rain began pelting down and soaked us before we reached the car. It didn’t seem all that scary where we were, but when you read about the wind blowing over a brick wall, you know something is amiss.

The weather that has affected me most of late is a dark cloud that arrives every year, and it seems to come earlier and earlier. I used to think it was seasonal affective disorder. I did resent the dwindling amount of daylight in the Northern hemisphere as winter set in, but it finally dawned on me that my cranky mood didn’t really kick in until March. By that time, winter was almost over. It was the tax cloud.

When I was younger, taxes never bothered me. My income/outgo financial situation was not large, and moving from place to place simply meant pulling up stakes and getting a passport renewed. When your stuff can no longer be packed in a suitcase, when you begin to buy property, when you buy stocks and bonds, start small businesses, then the great black tax clouds begin to gather overwhelming force.

Your life may still be that of a nomad, but it gets very difficult to truly leave anywhere behind. We are no longer residents of Canada or the United States, but we are filing taxes there. Next year we may add another country to the list, if only as a one off. And none of the preparation is easy anymore. I would guess that many Americans over the age of twenty-five can no longer prepare their own taxes. The best government money can buy has created a tax act so convoluted that even CPA’s are bewildered.

Canada used to be relatively simple, but more and more it seems to take its cues from the U.S. I nominate this country as the best of the bunch. Our filing in Australia last year was straight-forward enough that I could actually do it myself online. But we don’t own a house, a business, or any investments here, so I’m not in a position to judge how we might fare in different circumstances. It does seem more like an honor system than any other jurisdiction we have lived in. I like that. It shows a remarkable faith in the essential honesty and decency of the people.

Of all the places we have lived, Hong Kong was the best by far from the tax point of view. A flat fifteen per cent of income. You could do your return in fifteen minutes. It was heavenly. If only we had their tax regime available in a more livable location, say Melbourne.  If only you didn’t have to put up with Hong Kong’s terrible air pollution, exorbitant rents, rudeness and spitting, not to mention the tornadoes….

If only….. Never mind. I’ll keep my mouth shut. Get out the calculator, buckle down and just do them.

Flickr Photos

Categories

Blog Stats

  • 41,411 hits
October 2019
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 143 other followers

Top Rated

October 2019
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  
October 2019
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Categories

Advertisements