Here is a little bit of history of which I knew nothing. All right, I’ll admit that I do not know everything – yet.
For those unfamiliar with Canada’s geography, we live in Nova Scotia, a funny-shaped province almost entirely surrounded by water, the Atlantic Ocean. Look carefully on the left hand side and find ‘Digby’.
Digby is the port from which a car ferry sails across the Bay of Fundy (also marked on the map) to Saint John, New Brunswick, our sister province. It is a voyage of just over two hours in length and, on a good day, you may see whales, sea birds and, frequently, dolphins.
The name of the vessel is MS Fundy Rose. And this is where the history lesson starts.
It is obvious, of course, from whence came the name ‘Fundy’, as the ship crosses the Bay of Fundy on every trip to and from Digby and Saint John. But where did the second part of the name, ‘Rose’ come from?
On 13th March 1774, Rose Fortune was born into a family of slaves in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but her family was later relocated to Virginia by the Devones family. Her family were Black Loyalists: slaves who gained their freedom for supporting the British in the American Revolutionary War, and were resettled in British territory. During 1783 and 1784 some three thousand Black Loyalists came to Nova Scotia. The family settled in Annapolis Royal, some 35 kilometres north of Digby.
In 1825, Rose started her own business, something very rare for a woman, and a black woman as well, to do. She used a wheelbarrow to cart people’s luggage from the wharf to wherever they were staying in the town and, additionally, Rose started a ‘wake-up’ business, whereby she would notify people if their boat was about to sail. She became very well known, not only locally, but all over Nova Scotia and even as far as London, England, as a result of many letters and accounts which have survived to provide the record. They described her carrying bags, rousing her clients to catch their boats, and disciplining local boys who might get in her way. Rose became a very popular person in the docks and around the town and residents of Annapolis Royal remembered her with great affection as an iconic representative of their town and a determined keeper of order on not only the wharves, but also the town streets. Her baggage business fared so well that she was able to buy a horse and wagon to replace the wheelbarrow. Eventually, her grandson-in-law, Albert Lewis, took over the business from her under the name ‘Lewis TransferCompany’ and his descendants continued it until 1980.
As mentioned, she kept the docks and streets in order and became the self-appointed first woman police officer in North America – or anywhere.
There are very few pictures of Black Loyalists, but an anonymous person made a watercolour of Rose Fortune, and it has survived. Rose certainly left her legacy firmly imprinted in the history of, not only Black Loyalists, but simply as a wonderful person. Rose Fortune died on February 20, 1864, in the small house she owned at the engineer’s lot near Fort Anne, a fort built to protect Annapolis Royal harbour. In 1999, a plaque in her honour was installed near the location of her house in the Petit Parc on the Annapolis Royal waterfront and she was acclaimed as a National Historic Person on 12 January, 2018.
Ramen. Or Ramen noodles. I had heard of it: it was even mentioned on CTV’s Your Morning today. But what actually is it. Not being a pasta lover, I had never really thought about it.
Today, we were to have lunch with Charlie and Shirlie. Finally. Yes, there had been at least two previous attempts to get together for lunch at a particular restaurant in the Dartmouth side of Halifax, but because of (a) the first time last year, instead of driving to the restaurant, My Beloved drove me to the ER; and (b) the second attempt just last week, either he or I got the date mixed up and My Beloved and I did not join them in their lunch at Moxie’s.
But today, all four of us made it to Moxie’s. Believe it: a new item on the menu is a bowl of Miso Ramen. I know what miso is, but not knowing anything about ramen and always having been adventurous, I opted for that with added shrimp. My Beloved opted for the Loaded Hamburger, but iceberg lettuce supplanting the bun, along with a side Caesar salad. Least said about Charlie and Shirlie’s choices the better.
As it was Wednesday, Moxie’s has their wine on at half price, so a bottle of Trapiche Malbec served My Beloved and me during the lunch, 66% for her and 33% for me.
After a special grace, since I didn’t know whether I would survive this, I dived into the noodles with my chopsticks and pulled up a load of them mixed with some Chinese broccoli and a piece of green onion. Mmmm! That sure tasted great. But what was in the sauce which made it so tasty? There definitely was some Sriracha, since a plate accompanied the dish with a bottle on it, should I wish to hotten it up. There were also some mushrooms. And, sitting proudly atop of everything were two half soft-boiled eggs. Have you ever tried to pick a slippery half an egg up with chopsticks? I did it: twice.
Having devoured every solid piece of food in the bowl, I was left with one of the most delicious thin soups I have ever spooned into my mouth. There was plenty of it, but I could have gone on drinking more. But that would have been greedy and I try not to be a gourmand.
My Beloved deconstructed her lettuce burger, as there was no possible way for her to get her small and dainty mouth around it. As it was, the burger was voted just an OK; she could not finish her lettuce nor the salad. As for our friends, they did devour the substantial items on their plates and, as they and I still had left room for dessert, they shared the Fiasco Gelato, two scoops of mint chocolate chip with chocolate sauce – gluten conscious . My Beloved and I shared, 90% me and 10% her, (I let her steal some as I was still trying not to be a gourmand) a luscious flourless dark double chocolate cake, moist & rich, with almond & coconut crust, also with one scoop of the fiasco mint chocolate chip gelato – gluten conscious.
We departed still good friends and looking forward to the next lunch together. At home, I delved into Google to try to find out about ramen. The first thing I learnt was that the word ramen is a Japanese transcription of the Chinese lamian (拉麵) and the noodles are made from wheat. But here is some of what I read: Ramen noodles contain a preservative called tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), which extends their shelf life by quite some time. TBHQ is a byproduct of the petroleum industry and is often listed as an “antioxidant,” but it’s important to realize that it is a synthetic chemical with antioxidant properties — not a natural antioxidant. The chemical prevents oxidation of fats and oils, thereby extending the shelf life of processed foods. You’ll find it in Chicken McNuggets, CHEEZ-Its and Taco Bell beans. You’ll also find it in varnishes, lacquers, and pesticide products. Yuck! They also contain other horrible additives such as MSG .
Oh, no, you gourmand, you! What went into my stomach?
BUT then I realised they were talking about the instant stuff college kids use as a quick go-to meal and those packages have another package inside, which contains the offensive products.
So, I went to Moxie’s web site, Moxie’s.com, and, lo and behold, ALL IS WELL, for this is part of what I found there: Inspired by the rich culinary landscape of Japanese cuisine, Executive Chef Brandon Thordarson has created a hearty, belly-warming Miso Ramen. Our version is made with vegetarian miso broth flavoured with roasted garlic, nutty sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds. We then stir in sambel oelek—a hot paste made from chili peppers, ginger, and shallots. After the broth is perfected, we add gai lan, or Chinese broccoli, fresh green onion, a marinated soft-boiled egg, shiitake mushrooms, and, most importantly, authentic ramen noodles. We invite you to try it with Chasu—fatty slices of braised pork, or sautéed prawns for a boost of protein. And, if you like it spicy, we serve our Miso Ramen with a bottle of Sriracha so you can turn up the heat!
Although I said, all is well, it really is a good meal only on very rare occasions. For, if you explore Moxie’s web site further, click on Food, then Bowls and scroll down to Miso Ramen. Alongside to the right is an (i); clicking on that brings up the Nutritional Information. Although there are good vitamins A and C and also calcium and iron , there are 3650mg of Sodium – salt. A daily value according to Health Canada should not exceed 2300mg, so ………….
…………….I will go back to one of Moxie’s locations – often – but I’ll stick with a Caesar Salad. Maybe. That ramen was really good.
I t is very odd that I start a post with a food item. It, customarily, is at the end.
But yesterday, Friday, was unique. We had been eating left over Easter barbecued duck, Chinese style, and we needed fish. Well, we had had fish on Wednesday, but we really needed some more. So I offered to pick up some sushi style tuna and make tuna tartare.
The result was magnificent. Delicious, succulent tuna in light soy sauce, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, finely chopped green onions (or scallions or spring onions, depending on where you were brought up), grated ginger, lime juice and zest, and, of course, wasabe paste to give it a bit of zing. The mixture, best mixed by hand, set on some lettuce leaves, was enjoyed by My Beloved and me.
In the fridge was a lovely wedge of that royal cheese, Stilton – oh, blue cheese is not too bad, but Stilton is the epitome of cheeses – and along with a bottle of Warre’s Warrior Finest Reserve Port (not the best, but affordable – and in any case, it was a gift from someone, so it didn’t cost me anything), we started on dessert.
However, first things first: a toast to Her Majesty, the Queen.
Oh, yes, my dear readers, one cannot let Stilton slowly melt in your mouth (say that s-l-o-w-l-y and isn’t it aphrodisiacal?) and sip Port without acknowledging a fine British tradition. Way back several centuries ago when Britain truly did rule the waves, the Captain on board a Royal Navy vessel might entertain his officers in his cabin with a meal followed by dessert of Stilton and Port. The rule was that the Captain would pour some Port into his glass first and hand the bottle to his left. That person would then pour into his glass and pass on to his left, all never allowing the bottle to touch the table – or a glass! Imagine that in a rocking ship. But that was why tables were constructed with something like a fixed lazy Susan with holes the size of a wine bottle above the actual table: the bottle could be set in a hole so it would not fall off the table. When the bottle had been around and came back to the Captain, he would set it in the hole, pick up his glass of Port, rise, as would his guests, and toast Her Majesty.
So did your ‘umble scribe and My Beloved.
I remarked earlier on having to eat leftovers of Barbecued Duck. Which brings me to the real item.
I had intended to use an old recipe of mine involving a duck marinated in a Chinese marinade of soy sauce, olive oil, garlic, ginger and some five-spice or anise or some other spice, all of which required an overnight marinating of the duck. However, Friday was Good Friday and, after church, it was not a day, in my opinion, maybe not yours, on which to celebrate and barbecue. So, why not Saturday? Well, because on Easter Sunday we had a sunrise service at church, following which our Men’s Breakfast Group, under my direction, was to provide a real breakfast. That meant getting up at 4.45am in order to be at the church by 5.30am to get things started. The service would end at seven o’clock or soon after and breakfast had to be ready to eat at that time.
Well, after the breakfast, we men had to clean up, dishwash and put tables and chairs away. At 9.30am, I and My Beloved had to be in the choir singing the Lord’s praises and hopefully not fall asleep during the service. After the service, we went home and I was in no mood for barbequing the duck. Besides, it had to be marinated overnight. So, I did prepare the marinade and put duckie in the fridge to suck up the juices and spices.
Which meant we ate the duck on Easter Monday.
Now there was another problem which I had to solve. Two or three years ago, I replaced a barbecue with a new one. But, apparently, I did not give much thought to the purchase. The previous barbecue had an infra-red back burner and a rotisserie on which I had stuck another one or two or three ducks. I had thought the expression ‘hoisted on your own petard’ meant something like that: but I found out that it meant, courtesy and copyright of Grammar Monster, “The term hoisted by one’s own petard means to fall foul of your own deceit or fall into your own trap. This term has its origin in medieval times when a military commander would send forward one of his engineers with a cast-iron container full of gunpowder, called a petard, to blow up a castle gate, obstacle, or bridge. The fuses on these bombs were very unreliable, and sometimes the engineers would be killed when the petards exploded prematurely. The explosion would blow (or hoist) the engineer into the air.” Just like if you turn the propane on and wait too long before igniting it.
Anyway, the new barbecue did not have a back burner nor a rotisserie and of the three I had from previous barbecues, none fitted the current one. So, I had to reimagine the rotisserie and, in fact, it looks nothing like it: simply a duck hoisted on a high rack so heat can circulate.
But it does look good, doesn’t it?
And the finished product looks – and tasted – even better!
So that’s how I ended up starting with a food item and still getting a food item to end the post.
At the moment, as I sign off, it’s pouring with rain – not Port – and I hope you all fare as well with your fare as My Beloved and I do.
It seems I have been so fortunate in life to have had many a CHOICE. Early on, while on holiday from school or, later, university, I was a bus conductor on Southampton transit. By far the majority of that life consisted of hanging out the back platform waiting for the next stop and asking people for their fares, whereupon, I would strike a lever on my ticket machine and give them a ticket equivalent to taking them a certain number of stops, or fare stages, as they were termed.
As most of our buses were double deckers, I was kept busy running up and down the stairs, trying to get all the peoples fares up top before the cheaters down below could get off without paying.
It was certainly a job I enjoyed, even though it was all split shift work, sometimes starting really early to catch those going to work, then a rest for six or seven hours, during which I could enjoy a pick-up game of cricket with a few friends, then going back to ensure that all the workers get home safely by bus. In the three summers I did this, I had the same driver for two of them, a wonderful man who had been a driver for many years, but whose surname I have unfortunately forgotten. Jim and I bonded, even though he could have been my grandfather while I was sixteen. A gentle man who drove a double-decker as if he was driving a limousine for the queen.
Quite the opposite in the third year was Harry Martin: he was middle aged, but thought he was still a teenager driving in the Monte Carlo rally. When I was ‘up top’ and he was driving around bends in the road, I soon had to learn the best skills of balance without catching hold of anything other than leaning against the back of a seat, my ticket machine and leather purse into which I dropped the pennies and threepences and sixpences and shillings and florins and half crowns or a paper note and having to withdraw the correct amount of change and striking off the ticket for the customer. At the end of the route, with Jim, we’d lounge around the engine or in the bus regaling each other with thoughts of the day, or how the Saints (Sothampton’s football team) were faring, or what life was like in his days compared to my days: it was different with Harry, he would immediately light up his cheap Woodbines, which he rolled himself, and offer little conversation. Except that when he first met me, he was, “Oh, !***!, a kid!” Well, our relationship never got anywhere near that of Jim and me, but he did mellow when he realised that I was fast with taking the fares – apparently in previous experiences with ‘kids’, the kids were slow, so this meant that he would have to wait sometimes at stops while some of the passengers’ fares were collected as they got off the bus. That meant he was late or never early at the end of the route, so did not have time for a Woodbine. That never, but never, happened with speedy me, so he did mellow quite a bit and, as I recall, he didn’t swear or blaspheme at me ever again, though he did at car drivers who cut in in front of the bus!
The next CHOICE was to stay at university studying Music, English and German, but where I was also notably enjoying myself learning to fly and, simultaneously, get paid for it in the university Air Squadron – similar to the University Officers’ Training Plan (or UOTP or ROTP) in North America – OR the other CHOICE, join the regular Royal Air Force. You know which choice won out!
The RAF sent me to Canada, where my flying skills were honed on piston-engined and jet aircraft, thence returning to England and flying twin-engined Meteors with the RAF.
After leaving the RAF, I had another CHOICE: I was offered a job as a test pilot, but having just married My Beloved, that was considered by me as too risky, although it had tremendous appeal. Besides, we had jointly made the CHOICE to emigrate to Canada.
So, for about a year, while waiting for a ship to bring us to Canada, my CHOICE was to learn the business of being an optician’s technician at a firm called Husband’s. I measured eye centres using the frame the client had chosen so that the lens would be centred with a simple ruler and to measure the length of sides needed. When the new lenses came back from the factory, I had to check
the lens was in accord with the prescription using a focimeter, a device to measure the power and axis or axes of an optical lens, then shape them by grinding them on a wheel until they fitted the frame the customer had chosen. I would then ensure by heating and bending the sides that they were a comfortable fit, a trick I have used many times since to adjust friends’ frames. I also learned to make sure the tiny screws did not come out by filling the holes with acetone (nail varnish if you don’t have the real stuff). We made our own acetone by melting down old frames. No, not metal ones!
I enjoyed being a technician and enjoyed the staff of Husband’s, except for the pompous optician who was the manager. The other two opticians were very nice and one would sometimes take me at the end of the day in her little Morris Minor and drop me off at my home. The sales girls were delightful: I well remember one, Shirley, a pretty dyed yellowish blond, frequently singing the popular song of the moment, Love and Marriage (go together like a horse and carriage), for she was going to be married soon after My Beloved and I had left for Canada. I remember leaving her a wedding present before we left.
So, we arrived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, with no jobs, but lots of friends I had made in my over one year of pilot training there several years before. The CHOICE then was one of three:
Join the RCAF – they would have snapped me up as I had been ‘top gun’ in my course.
Join Max Ward’s bush pilots up in Edmonton and the North. Later he formed Wardair and I could have been a pilot for it.
Look for work in Moose Jaw.
My CHOICE was 3.
My Beloved found a position immediately in the local hospital, where, knowing she had been trained in England, a doctor snapped her up as a lab tech.
A grandfather of a fellow trainee pilot, who had married a local librarian and not returned to England, knew the owner of the local radio station, “CHAB, Moose Jaw, eight hundred on your dial”, Syd Boyling. Syd, a great fellow, hired me as a newscaster to put together and read the news every half hour from six in the evening until midnight. I thoroughly enjoyed this. However……
…….after Earl Barnholden, news chief, fired me after just six weeks of newscasting for running the 1976 Hungarian revolution as my lead – to me that was important but Earl considered what the Women’s Auxiliary down the street were doing as most important – Syd called me in to his office and said, “I know you and Earl have had your differences, but I want you still; I would like you to become a producer.” Another CHOICE.
Well, the only ‘producer’ I had come across during my six weeks was a fellow named Lawton or Lawson, who used to come in at the end of the day and say he had produced three more ads, or however many he had produced that day. He meant he had been out selling ads to the local businesses. I had no intention of becoming an ad salesman, so I turned Syd down. Had I known then what I discovered later that Syd had meant me to produce programs, I might well have taken the job. How a different CHOICE there might have changed our lives!
Instead, I accepted a CHOICE offered by fellow church and choir member, Trev Seaborn, who ran one of the largest insurance agencies in the province. That certainly set me on the track towards being a general insurance (not life or health) agent in Moose Jaw.
Two and a half years after landing in that lovely little city of Moose Jaw and both of us being greatly involved in the St. John’s church and choir, another CHOICE arose: to become a general insurance underwriter, which meant a move to Winnipeg and…………
……….as a liability and surety underwriter, I was privileged to analyse the books of construction companies. One, BACM Industries, was on the cusp of becoming a very large international multi-faceted manufacturing and construction company.
Although this provided me with good training in the general insurance world, I was tempted to improve my lot, so left my job as underwriter with the General Agency, Osler, Hammond and Nanton, and the CHOICE was to join Prudential of England as an inspector.
Oh, boy! Just one week after joining the Pru, the Treasurer of BACM entered my office, shut the door and said, “I don’t know what you came to Prudential for in the way of remuneration, but we will double the salary and throw in a good car of your choice. Will you accept?” Yet one more CHOICE.
My Beloved and I chose a smashingly beautiful 1961 Pontiac Parisienne Hardtop – cream outside, scarlet leather inside. A great CHOICE and still one of, if not the, best CHOICE of cars we have made.
Five kids later (our mutual CHOICE), BACM was bought by a company of the Belgian Royal family, became Genstar, and we were moved to Montreal.
The CHOICE had been stay in Winnipeg and find a new job or move and gain more experience in Montreal.
Another CHOICE came when, in 1976 in the midst of separatism in Québec, Genstar moved its Head office to Vancouver and its Executive Office to San Francisco. I would have been moved to SF, but another CHOICE was made for me: I did not get along with the unimaginative Secretary of the company, a self-important, pharisaical fellow Brit, so we came to a mutual parting of the ways. Otherwise known as being fired. For the second time. This time, no Syd or Trevor to offer a new position or career.
A broker, whom I thought did not like me (brokers naturally detest consultants and that’s really what a risk manager is) turned out to be a fine friend and found me a position with another brokerage firm which had a risk management department. This is considered a conflict of interest, for the risk management consultant is trying to reduce the amount of insurance a client has and offer better strategies. But, after a couple of years working for this company as a consultant Risk Manager, a family conference provided another CHOICE: Stay with the brokerage company OR My Beloved and I could open our own risk management consulting, totally independent, Melanber Inc. The latter, a CHOICE we have never regretted, only enjoyed.
That was 1978, forty-one years ago. Wow!
We never regretted also to leave in 1986 our major banking clients in Montreal and Toronto and move to the Maritimes where we already had more varied clients. So, Halifax, Nova Scotia, was the CHOICE.
Over the past decades, was our CHOICE to retire? No. Not totally. And we still have one active client which seems to want to keep us. Also church and volunteer work with adult literacy and a not-for-profit Community Enterprise organisation have also been our CHOICE. We are constantly busy.
Sometimes with appointments with hairdressers, chiropractors, doctors, dentists and surgeons. Oh, yes, they keep us busy, too.
But not TOO busy to eat and have a good meal at home or at a restaurant, which inevitably leads to a CHOICE………… ……..mmmmmm!!!!!!
Throughout all these choices, I know that we have been led by Our Lord God. Praise Him!
And He provides food for us all, including those stuffed lamb hearts My Beloved was braising and I have been smelling for a long time and which are ready right now, so I will bid you adieu until next Post.
Christmas – do you remember your first Christmas? Likely you don’t.
But you certainly remember an early-life Christmas.
Think back: carols were being played in elevators and in stores; store windows were replete with twinkling lights; mannequins were dressed in red and green; in one window, there was a little model train running around; you asked your mum or dad for a dollar bill to put in the kettle swinging on a tripod outside the store door; you stood in the cold (in Canada) watching a parade of decorated cars and majorettes twirling batons, all the while waiting excitedly for Santa to arrive in a sleigh pulled by horses; you couldn’t wait for Christmas Day to arrive when you knew Santa will have left presents under the tree. Oh, yes, but before that, the whole family drove out to a Christmas tree farm and much discussion – and sometimes sibling argument – ensued concerning the merits of this tree versus that tree. Jenny preferred this tree, as it was definitely bigger than Shar’s tree, which was very symmetrical, whereas Darryl’s looked like a Charlie Brown tree and Tanis was shouting for us to come and look at her tree. Tara sat in the stroller wondering what all the commotion was.
The great day was still so far away, it was impossible to wait for such a long time. Kindergarten stopped, so that meant you didn’t have to go to Kindergarten and that meant Santa would slink in one night, just a couple of days and nights away.
Christmas Eve came and off to church to sing carols and thank Jesus for coming at last – golly, it was a long wait, but now it was His birthday and then…….
………. mum and dad took us all home and said, it’s time to go to bed. You had to get to sleep early or Santa wouldn’t come. That was a real threat. But first and last, set a glass of milk , an orange and and some little snack beside the Christmas tree for Santa needed refreshment with all his travelling. Then bed.
Christmas morning. Early in the morning when it was still dark, you snuck your hand out from under the sheets and felt around above your head. YES!!!! The empty stocking felt full!!! Oh, what joy!
Although it was dark and maybe getting light, it was allowable to dig into the stocking and find out what Santa had left. All sorts of little things and always some chocolate or other sweet and the very last thing in the toe was an orange. Every year, an orange: why did Santa eat the orange left for him, yet gave one back in the stocking. Weird.
As dawn changed to day, you charged into mum and dad’s bedroom and woke them up, imploring them to hurry up so we could all go to the Christmas tree, under which would be a great big pile of presents. But they took their time. Much time.
Opening presents was such fun, but some Christmases after everyone had opened presents labelled to them, there was no BIG present – until you were told to go and look in the garage (the attached one, not the free-standing one). There might be a new toboggan or a new tricycle, hastily and very arduously put together with some sound effects of nasty words by a dad, who was losing his temper over discovering the wheel should have been put on before the brakes; but you didn’t know that.
By now, there was Christmas wrapping paper all over the place and while mum made the absolutely mandatory eggs Benedict, you had to clean the place up.
The next few hours were occupied by playing with new toys, urging dad to accompany you to the ice rink across the street with your new skates, playing the new board game with dad – mum was busy preparing the Christmas dinner, which was always very sumptuous comprising at least three courses, starting maybe, if you were lucky, with escargots, then goose – never turkey – with roast parsnips and potatoes, peas , broccoli and luscious gravy and, of course, don’t forget those Christmas crackers pulled with a bang, supposedly containing a paper hat, a joke and a little toy. Supposedly, because you might have felt cheated as one of the items was missing – not really, it had just got lost under the table when the cracker was pulled. Then there was dessert, customarily Christmas plum pudding with custard or ice cream. Somewhere after dessert there could have been some Christmas cake or chocolates.
Somewhere, also, after all of the excitement of Christmas Day, including watching a TV show, you started to feel a little sleepy, but trying hard not to let mum or dad see your eyes closing and suddenly popping wide open. Nevertheless, bed beckoned and even though you protested you were not tired, it was off to say prayers and sleep. The sleep of the innocent child.
Christmases haven’t changed much in our house or in our children’s houses, except the whole family cannot get together these days and share the excitement and joy of Christmas. For even as an adult, I still feel the essence of the Christmas season, only wishing they didn’t start filling the stores with Christmas items even before Halloween and playing Christmas carols in the stores as soon as Halloween is over. While there were always Christmas cards strung over the fireplace or propped up on the piano, as I write this, there is one lonely one hung on a string on a beam. Nowadays, particularly with a postal strike which meant thousands of parcels and letters and cards were held up and no-one knew when the strike would end – the Government legislated a temporary end to it – fewer and fewer people are sending cards. We haven’t sent any this year. I’m thinking of sending a message some time before Easter, just to say, I’m not dead, I’m alive and well.
For My Beloved and me, Christmas is still a religious Holy Day, not a holiday. We are still in the church choir, so we sing at a service on Christmas Eve. We rejoice that Christ Jesus was born to save us all from our sins.
Christmas Day, though, remains the same as I have recalled above, this year being celebrated by our eldest daughter and her husband coming from Montreal to join us. She’s the one who’s talking retirement in three years – the one who did not need dad all those years ago to accompany her as she waddled across the street to the rink with her very first pair of skates on and took to the ice by herself as if born to it. We will have our stockings, though not by the bed as of old, but down by the fireplace. And we will have presents under the tree – but not, definitely not, a big pile of them – and we’ll open them while drinking eggnog. With spirit in it, not virgin. And we’ll have those eggs Benedict. And we’ll have a lovely goose for dinner with roast potatoes and parsnips and peas and broccoli, but nowhere near the portions we would have eaten so many years ago. It is possible ur bellies may be super-satiated, so we may have to leave dessert for a few hours. And we’ll say grace and thank God for all the blessings of this life and how we are so fortunate to be able to celebrate Christ’s birthday in total freedom.
So, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Jolly Good New Year!
I have not written about a visitor and the visit before in any detail, but Rona’s visit was special.
Rona is the widow of one of my great school friends, who also was good friends with My Beloved during our teen and later years. Because My Beloved and I attended the same church with our bunch of friends in the youth club and on the tennis courts, Bill would come over from his part of town and join in with our adventures.
What made Bill a truly special friend was our affinity in rowing, music – both playing piano and singing – and just hanging out together as one would say today. Or playing pranks at school, for which we were infamous – at least, when, if, we got found out.
Unfortunately, Bill died two years ago and My Beloved and I had invited Rona here almost immediately afterwards. Rona took her time to choose when she was going to come and eventually asked if we could put up with her for three weeks toward the end of September to mid-October this year, 2018. We rejoiced that she at last was going to visit us.
Now, mind you, although Bill and Rona had been married a number of years, we had met Rona with Bill only a few times: at their home a couple of times and in Spain a couple of times, where Rona played golf with us (golf was not Bill’s game). So, to be candid, this visit could have gone sideways: instead, it was one of the most memorable visits and she one of the most easy-going and wonderful visitors I can remember we have ever had.
I do not wish to bore you with a travelogue of where we took Rona, so I will try to keep you away from the limit of boredom – I hope.
Rona landed from an Air Canada direct flight one afternoon from London, just after lunch. The next morning we had her up at the church, where she peeled four and a half big bags of potatoes in preparation for the take-out dinner the church does once a month. It is immensely popular among our church members and the local population coming home from their work and offices. What a Trojan effort she performed, still on jet lag – or is it jet progression on East to West flights? However, she thoroughly enjoyed the companionship of the fellow preppers – and they, her.
Yes, we did the Lunenburg trip to visit the Bluenose and the Fisheries Museum. And then a quick tour of the town, while, on our way home, she took photos of the three churches in Mahone Bay. If I had a dollar for every photo taken of those churches, I would not need my Government Old Age Pension. Along with photos of Peggy’s Cove, it has to be one of the most photographed scenes in Atlantic Canada.
Naturally, since Rona sings in her own church choir in England, we roped her in to our choir on Sunday, following which we went to, where else? Vernon’s Thunderbird Diner for a calorific brunch. I believe two had eggs Bennie. – or was it one had two eggs Bennie – and that would be four? No, I think my memory is again playing tricks.
The afternoon proved fine enough to go straight from brunching to touring the City, Pleasant Park and the beach we showed her where some of us with low intellect did a Polar Bear swim one New Year’s Day in -5C/23F Atlantic Ocean.
Then on to the Titanic cemetery. I quote from https://www.novascotia.ca/titanic/connection.asp
The majority of the bodies were unloaded at the Coal or Flagship Wharf on the Halifax waterfront and horse-drawn hearses brought the victims to the temporary morgue in the Mayflower Curling Rink.
Only 59 of the bodies placed in the morgue were shipped out by train to their families. The remaining victims of the Titanic were buried in three Halifax cemeteries between May 3 and June 12. Religious services were held at St. Paul’s Church and at the Synagogue on Starr Street. Burial services were held at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Brunswick Street Methodist Church, St. George’s Church and All Saint’s Cathedral.
Various individuals and businesses expressed their sympathy by donating flowers and wreaths. The coffins of the unidentified victims were adorned with bouquets of lilies.
Most of the gravestones, erected in the fall of 1912 and paid for by the White Star Line, are plain granite blocks. In some cases,
families, friends or other groups chose to commission a larger and more elaborate gravestone. [seen in background in picture on right above – Nuntius] All of these more personalized graves, including the striking Celtic cross and the beautiful monument to the “Unknown Child”, are located at Fairview Lawn Cemetery.
That was Sunday. The morrow, Monday, we were to start on a lightning tour of the very interesting Cape Breton and and our neighbouring province of Prince Edward Island.
Now this is where we must thank Rona for coming and making this a most interesting part of her visit: the last time we were there was when we took our five now 50-year old kids (pardon, one is still only 49) around Cape Breton and to the part of PEI Rona most particularly wanted to visit, as teenagers. And things have changed a lot in those intervening years.
Stop No. 1, the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. Just a four-hour drive on mostly 4-lane highway. What a wonderful museum it is and how modern it has been made. A day there would not be too long. One just has either forgotten or one never knew just how many inventions Bell thought up. Oh we remembered the telephone, but what about the wheat husker he invented when he was fourteen years young; the hydrofoil boat, which got the world record speed on water; an airplane [see photo on right]; the photophone, a system of transmitting human voice wirelessly by light, 16 years before Marconi’s wireless; a metal detector he invented to try to find the bullet that assassinated President Garfield and, although he didn’t find it in time to save his life, the device was used for many years until x-rays replaced it; the replacement on Edison’s phonograph of a tinfoil cylinder by a wax-coated cardboard cylinder made such an improvement that the gramophone immediately became associated with Bell, not Edison; and, perhaps the most important of his inventions to Bell himself, as his mother and his wife were deaf, were those, from his first audiometer, allowing doctors to understand how much hearing a person has, to actual hearing devices? The word decibel was named after him by Bell Labs.
Our journey continued as far as the small town of Louisburg, where we found a bed for the night, three, actually – in two rooms: I would not be inclined to spend more than one night there, as it was a very basic motel without even one of Bell’s inventions, the telephone! However, it was extremely clean and the breakfast was good and included in the price. Which wasn’t bad, either.
It did not have a restaurant for other than breakfast, but we were directed to the Grubstake, where its menu revealed many a tasty soup, salad, sandwich, main course and dessert. We three all had excellent, but different, meals. The wine drizzled down our throats very well after this day of Alexander Graham and driving.
The following day revealed the Fortress of Louisbourg, built by the French, taken by the English, returned to the French and finally totally demolished by the English, a great deal of its stone from its walls was sent to Boston to construct Louisbourg Square and other buildings in that city.
If we were not the first to arrive at the portals of the Fortress, we were certainly three of the first to arrive Tuesday morning: the French guard, taking a good peek at these wrinklies (two, anyway) very civilly and politely asked us if we would like to park near the entrance building rather than further out in the parking lot. Well, that was a no-brainer, and we parked just a few metres from the kiosk.
A fort is a military structure, often with a moat, whereas a fortress is a fort but includes houses, even a complete town. The Fortress of Louisbourg, as with the Bell museum, is a place where one could spend days, not hours, visiting all the buildings.
In 1961 the Government of Canada began a $25 million project aimed at reconstructing approximately one-quarter of the original town and fortifications. Within this area the buildings, yards, gardens and streets are being recreated as they were during the 1740s, immediately preceding Louisbourg’s first siege.
The work at Louisbourg has required an inter-disciplinary research effort. Archaeological excavation has yielded millions of artifacts as well as the ruins of fortifications and buildings. Faced with a huge task of reconstructing the fortress, blueprints had been brilliantly saved by the founders in three different locations, one being in archives in Paris, so it has been possible to rebuild every single building exactly as the fortress had been in its hey day. Some 750,000 pages of documents and 500 maps and plans have been copied from archives in France, England, Scotland, the United States and Canada. The historical evidence reveals much about life at Louisbourg and provides an excellent base for the study of the French in North America.
As you wander into the buildings, Citizens of the mid-1700s tell you, speaking as if they were actually living then, about how they are living and what they are cooking and doing today, just as if you are back there in that time. These Citizens are in every building, while others take you on tours around the fortress.
In one building, My Beloved helped the Citizen start the fire for dinner using a pair of bellows, while being watched by said Citizen.
On our way to our next beds for the night, we stopped to view the Marconi National Historic Site, the Government web site of which described it as… The site where Guglielmo Marconi initiated the age of global communications: in December 1902, a wire antenna suspended from four giant wooden towers beamed an official wireless message across the Atlantic.
Exhibits include a model of the original Table Head station, and remains of the tower foundation. Discover the scientists who pioneered today’s technology. Try your hand at Morse Code.
Unfortunately, the problem we experienced was that the National web site declared it to be open until later in the month: it wasn’t and we could not get in.
Oh, well, I wandered over a hundred metres to the cliff and, on seeing what I did see, I hailed my two ladies to come and see, too. And what did we see? An iceberg. The first true iceberg any of us had ever seen. I would show you a photo of it, but it was too far out to take a good photo on our phone cameras. But we did see it! It really was there!
It was not a far drive from Glace Bay to Ingonish, but it was dark by the time we got there, not knowing if there were any vacancies – and if there weren’t, we would be sleeping in the car, as there were no other hotels and the odd B & B had signs No Vacancy. But the Keltic Lodge did have rooms for us. If you are ever in the north part of Cape Breton, do take the opportunity of staying at the Keltic Lodge: it is a splendid place in which to relax and ponder over what to eat at the next meal.
That evening, after a very welcome and very tasty dinner, we relaxed in the Lounge with some more wine and were entertained by one guitarist/singer Fran Doyle, a Dubliner, but spending all his time now in Nova Scotia and Florida and a few places in between. He was very good and we were soon on excellent chatting terms. There were not many people in the Lounge, but at one time, Fran did make some comment to a group near the bar that they were being very rude with their noise: they did not respond, for they were making so much noise they had not heard him. It was in interludes like this that our acquaintanceship grew. And also with the odd, or rather even numbered, drink after his routine.
Overnight, the rain came and came and came. So did the wind, or gale, rather. So we decided to stay over and just chill out on the Wednesday. As well we did that, as it poured all day and people on bus tours were returning disappointed at being unable to see the Cabot Trail over which they had travelled. And paid bus tours money to do so.
Evening came and, of course, food in the guise of a sumptuous dinner. I believe the picture alongside truly represents the gourmand part of Yours Truly, as, along with a fair portion of one of the bottles of wine, Yours Truly had not one, but two chocolate desserts. Mmmm! I still remember those! But I had to share with two others.
After dinner found the three of us back in the Lounge waiting for Fran to appear. As he walked in, he saw us, smiled, and immediately said he would come and have a drink with us. Unfortunately, he got waylaid and then started his gig. As we were leaving early next morning, we had to excuse ourselves at the end of the first set, not without him giving us hugs all around and saying we will meet again.
Neither he nor us knew how soon that would be!
Thursday proved sunny, so the drive around the Cape Breton Trail was beautiful. We made a couple of ‘view’ stops and one at a well-TV’d commercial place, Laura’s, known for its ice cream. No, not for us for, while I said it was sunny, I didn’t say how cold and windy it was. Then over the water by ferry to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI).
By the time we had checked in, it was time for dinner, so we went to the Merchantman Pub. They were packed, but by stealth, the ladies were able to obtain three bar seats, make friends with Paul, the manager of the bar, and eventually, as the hostess had obviously overlooked us on the wait-list, have Paul get us a great table overlooking the rest of the restaurant. I cannot remember what we had and I cannot check the bill, as Rona, as she did more often than she should have done, became our hostess.
Rona had a key interest in PEI: she has always been a great fan of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books. Indeed, she had even brought a copy with her, which she read prior to visiting the various sites on the Island. This particular copy is inscribed inside with her mother’s name and showing it was a 1927 school prize for her prowess in Latin. Interesting!
Naturally, places change, just as we – I – do, but Anne’s House is still the same. What is different is construction of a brand new Visitor Centre, which will make the visit longer, as there will be much more to view and with which to interact. As we wandered through the house, visions of going through it nigh on 40 years ago ran across my vision. Nothing different. People stop and stare and comment at the same items in the same rooms.
One place Rona and I went, while My Beloved returned to the car, as she did not wish to walk far, was the Haunted Forest. I do not remember strolling through the Haunted Forest with our kids, so, perhaps, this is relatively new. It is a beautiful walk through the woods. At one point, I took a little path off the main path, only to discover that I ended up on the 12th Tee of the Golf Course. Oh, dear, some things do change, indeed.
A visit to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s house proved, to me, a gyp. Rona had purchased a ‘combination’ admission ticket, which we both believed to cover not only the Anne site, but the Montgomery house, too. It did not! And, frankly, there was not much to see in the Montgomery house: it was, of course, a tourist trap with a gift shop. And an outside loo, of which I availed myself. I suppose that was authentic.
It was time for lunch and I remembered North Rustico as having a great restaurant. So, there did we drive. The village was not quite as it was in my mind, but then, as I said, things change, including my memories. Nevertheless, we found a nice little building behind the big restaurant where the tour bus was parked, called On The Dock, which it was, right on the dock. No-one else was in it, so we wondered if it was open: yes, we were warmly welcomed, but told this was their last day and they were closing for the season.
We were in luck!
Indeed we were. We shared a crab cheese dip, which was delicious. Two of us then had mussels, one in white wine and garlic and the other in beer. Both were plump mussels and very tasty, but the white wine and garlic won out.
The server was so pleasant and helpful and, by the time we left, she had her hands full, as many more people had come in to eat.
There were two lovely stained glass windows, which formed part of a small museum containing fishing gear and a boat. All interesting.
We certainly recommend this restaurant and will go back again, although, hopefully, not after another forty years!
And it is closed until next year.
Moving on, we paid a quick visit to Brackley Beach, where in years past we had camped and swum and had much fun on the beautiful sand. It has not changed, save for the fact that now you have to use a board walk and steps to access the beach, all in aid of protecting the dunes.
Seeing the long beach was very nostalgic.
Travelling back to Boutiliers Point, Rona remarked on the 13-kilometre bridge which connects PEI with New Brunswick, the mainland. It is now twenty-one years old, but it still is a fine engineering example resting on 65 piers from shore to shore with 35 metres of water at the deepest point and 60 metres above sea level at its highest point, allowing large vessels to pass underneath. So the piers, or columns, on which it rests are 95 metres (312 feet) from seabed to underside of deck. The span between the each of the main forty-four is 250 metres (820 feet) apart. That’s a large span for concrete.
Naturally, no visit to our part of the world, indeed, our part of Canada, is complete without a visit, just 40 minutes from home, to, namely, Peggy’s Cove with its famous lighthouse. So, to round up Rona’s visit, we went on a fine day, but one following some rough weather, so the breakers on the rocks were splashing well. At this time of the year, there is no piper nor ice cream store, and one has to have some extra layer of clothing, but the magnificence of the site is awe-inspiring by itself. I have been there on hot summers’ days, on cold wintry days, on gale-force windy days with rain bucketing down, and I have been there on snowy days. Never have I been anything but impressed with the force and with the beauty of nature. Peggy’s Cove is a place where one can stand and feel the wonder of Our Creator and say, thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of this world.
Rona’s last night and, as is our wont on last nights with our guests, we took her out for dinner. In this case, it was to the Trellis, a nice little restaurant twenty minutes along the Bay road. However, as was her wont, she insisted on paying, which went right against our tradition. The food and service was, as usual there, very good, but what made the evening extra special was that My Beloved had seen in the local paper that the entertainment for the evening was – you guessed it – none other than Fran Doyle, our friend from Keltic Lodge. When he entered the restaurant to set up his equipment, his first glance at Rona and then My Beloved and me, was one of simple astonishment. He couldn’t believe his eyes and, as the evening progressed, he made several references to our meeting in Cape Breton.. As he then said, we will meet again, but little did he know how soon.
My Beloved and I have found the three weeks with Rona so delightful. We cannot thank her enough for taking us back into the past and re-living it again. Not only that, but she was one palmary guest.
A final light-hearted picture: in Eastern Canada, there is a chain of large DIY stores called, what else, but
Have you ever been wondering what to do out of several choices? Like, boxing my 48 litres of wine (I don’t bottle: it’s too labour-intensive); doing a PowerPoint presentation for the following Sunday’s service; vacuuming the house; or getting the guest room ready for our next visitor arriving next Tuesday.
On returning home from a morning unlocking the church for a meeting I was not attending, picking up theatre tickets, going to the bank to make a deposit, then on to Costco to add another grandchild as a family member and finally the Bulk Barn to pick up unshelled peanuts and shelled sunflower seeds for the Blue Jays, squirrels and chipmunks, I had a nice lunch in my recliner followed by an even nicer nap.
So, there I was, right after my nap, faced with having to do something. Other than just staying in my recliner and trying to nod off again.
I decided that boxing my wine was a morning job, definitely not an afternoon one. For your edification, ‘boxing’ is not a term used by real vintners: it is one I coined as a result of deciding that de-labeling, washing and sterilizing 60 or so bottles, filling them, corking them, shrink-wrapping them, labelling them and carrying them down two flights of stairs to the wine room a few at a time was, as I said above, much too labour-intensive. Particularly as I would have to climb back up two flights again. I enjoy my wine – and that of other’s too – too much to waste time which could be used in drinking it. Besides the grape juice concentrate manufacturers provide me with a lovely strong plastic bag container, which holds up to 7 litres, and I re-insert the full bag back into the box they also, thoughtfully, provide. All I have to do is cut a hole in the side of the box so the spout can protrude to which I attach a tap. And there it is, ready to squirt wine into my glass; and yours, if you are here. How easy is that! All I needed was six bags and boxes, not sixty bottles.
The PowerPoint was the next option. However, I had just finished the presentation for this coming Sunday, so I didn’t really feel like jumping straight into another one for the following Sunday. There’s always time for that between now and the arrival of our next visitor.
Vacuuming the house was an option, which had true little appeal after just waking from a nap and having the other option of nodding off again. Besides, I find it takes too much energy to do the entire house in one go, so usually I split the exercise into two smaller efforts. By the time I had decided that I had time to vacuum one floor, it was too late, as I was already considering the fourth option….
….that of getting the guest room ready. Well, it is ready, it’s always ready for whomsoever needs to stay overnight, so all that is needed is to make the bed with clean sheets. And that can be done any time between now and Tuesday morning.
At about that time, I must have nodded off again.
On awakening, I realised that there was no time left to do any of the four options, so I sat down at the computer and wrote this.