Follow the River Taff


After we found the Kings Head, we drove the few minutes to a town called Abertillery.  Most of my Welsh family grew up there, including my cousin Gill who was driving us around.  Abertillery is a tiny town and one of the few streets is called Princess street.


This is where Gill and her brother, Arthur, and my late cousin Joyce lived as children and where Walter, Gill and Arthur’s stepdad still lived at the time.  Sadly, Walter has since passed away, but I remember him as a warm, generous, quiet man.  He was strong and stubborn and lived in his own house until he died, in spite of Gill’s urging him to move to somewhere that would do his housework and cook his meals for him.



You may have noticed in the picture, that Arthur – second from the left – is a larger than life kind of guy.  He spent his career working for Adidas as their liaison with the Welsh National Rugby team.  He could have taken a promotion, moved to London, and made scads more money.  Adidas certainly offered this to him.  But Arthur loved (and still loves) rugby so much that he chose to stay in what was his dream job.  Rugby is an important sport in Wales.  Every town has at least one team and Abertillery is no different.  My mother, amongst all her junk precious articles, has a book on Rugby in Abertillery.  That is one thing that I know I will keep once she has passed.


Arthur was an amazing host.  This is when he is truly in his element – showing off the country that he loves and making sure the people around him are having a great time.  He took us for a lovely lunch in Cardiff, drove us to Penarth (lovely town right on the water just north of Cardiff), and then we hung out with his friends who announced, that even though my daughter and I were born in Canada, we were still Taffies.  The word Taffy refers to the people of south Wales and derives from the River Taff.  I have since learned that it is a derogatory word.  I apologize for using it but my story would fall flat if I said that we had been called T*****s.  I am quite sure that there was no insult meant when they used the term.  In fact, I could see the Welsh pride on their faces when they all agreed what we were and we took it in the spirit that it was meant.

A story that Arthur told me had to do with a branch of our family with the last name Walbyoff.  Many of them shortened the name to Walby.  According to Arthur, the Walbyoff branch of the family is descended from a Polish prince by the name of Prince Ralph.  I have googled Prince Ralph of Poland and couldn’t find any reference to him at all.  I suspect this is one of Arthur’s wonderful tall tales.  It doesn’t really matter – it’s stories like these that that make Arthur the larger than life guy that he is.

Just a note on my cousin Joyce.  She was the first of my family living in Wales that I met face to face.  Joyce came to British Columbia to meet family.  She stayed with me in Victoria for about a week, and my mother came over to visit with her too.  One of my favourite memories of Joyce was going shopping with her to find some culottes to wear.  I took her to the Bay.  She found a lovely pair of culottes, white with big tan polkadots.  She wore those everyday with such joy and panache.  Sadly, when she was packing her things to return to Wales, she left the culottes out.  When I asked her why, she said matter-of-factly, that she couldn’t be seen in them back in Wales.  Her neighbours would talk and her friends wouldn’t be seen with her.  This was back in 1988.


I am very proud of my Welsh heritage.  My aunt, who was born in Wales, didn’t speak English until she was 13 and then she completely gave up Welsh as she was teased so badly by the other children.  I used to ask her to teach me some Welsh, but she never would.  She passed away when I was 17.  An opportunity and a beloved aunt lost.





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Welcome to My Sicilian Home

About a year ago, I began the blog My Sicilian Home over at Blogger.  The plan was to chronicle the journey upon which my husband and I were about to embark – to buy a home in Sicily in preparation for our retirement.  I chose Blogger because I was familiar with it and had never used WordPress.  Certainly Blogger is easy to use but when I started this blog for my photography I was very pleasantly surprised to see how quickly I was able to grow a following.  It was not much of leap to consider migrating My Sicilian Home to WordPress.  So, post by post, I will be reposting all my posts at  The first post should be up this evening.

Summer Sanctuary

Summer Sanctuary

In a few months this will be my view. I work as a teacher in a high school from September to June every year and I have been doing this since 1983. I have started teaching the children of the students I taught years ago! I love teaching and I love working with students. I still try to learn and improve my teaching practices every day. But, let’s face it, 30 years of teaching takes it’s toll. I have tendonitis in my shoulders from years of writing on the blackboard/whiteboard. I have tennis elbow from carrying books around. I have arthritis creeping into my hands from all the computer work. I have arthritis in my ankles exacerbated from years of standing in front of my classes and walking around to see how they are doing with their work, and I have arthritis in my neck and upper back worsened by years of bending over papers and marking. Yup, it’s official. I’m tired. But, there is something wonderful looming on the horizon! Last summer my husband and I flew to Sicily and bought a house. Nothing fancy, just a tall, four story stone house about 150 years old. It sits on a hill in a lovely mountain village, but if you are facing the right way you can get a glimpse of the Mediterranean. People I work with were talking about me in the staffroom when I wasn’t there (I have my spies, muahahahaha!) saying things like “Is she crazy?” “She’s really lost her mind this time.” “They are going to lose their shirts!”. I should say, there were people who were excited for my husband and I. From those people we heard “That’s wonderful! I wish I had the guts to do that!” But it didn’t take guts, it took a dream. A wonderful dream that Nick and I nurtured until we could make it possible. And so, this summer, and a few summers after, we will be spending summers in Sicily. Once we retire we will spend much more time there and I will sit on our terrazza, looking at this view and sipping il cafe’ every morning.

Who Wanders These Woods?


The other day when I went for a walk and took the picture of the crocuses, I happened across this tree.  Several messages had been carved into the bark – BADASS, HI MOM, and some statements of love.  It got me thinking about the people who wander these woods.  With the water rushing through the Cowichan River just a few feet away, the ephemeral-ness of time seemed to wind its way around me and the trees and the creatures nearby.  On this day, it is couples and families and seniors walking their dogs, but on the other side of the river is one of the local Cowichan reserves.  You see, this land is the traditional territory of the Cowichan people who are admirably fighting to keep and expand their place and visibility in this small town.  But they are the people who have walked these paths from time immemorial and I need to remember that I am only here because of their good graces and the power of the early colonialists and I am grateful.  Grateful to live in such a beautiful corner of the world, and grateful to have friends whose roots here go back farther than I can imagine.

I walked a few steps closer to the water and found this stone.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect moment.

Venice – The Dowager Empress on the Adriatic

This gallery contains 11 photos.

There is always something special about Venice.  It was special back in 1974 and it was again when I returned in 2010.  The elaborate decorations on the buildings remind me of fancy lace on the end of the sleeve of Queen Victoria or some other stately woman of that era.  It holds itself upright and […]

Shadow on Green

There is a slow-moving creek near where I live. In the summer it grows a kind of green plant with tiny, lime green leaves. By midsummer, the plants are so plentiful that you cannot see the creek below the plants. I was standing on a bridge taking pictures of the beautiful green stretched out through the fields when I noticed my shadow on the green. I held my camera in front of me and snapped the shot. It’s all about seeing the big picture and noticing the small details.

Kinsol Trestle

Kinsol Trestle

Kinsol Trestle

Something I like to do over the holidays if the weather holds is to make the short hike out to the Kinsol Trestle. It is an historically important site here in the Cowichan Valley and its graceful lines make a lovely photo I think.