blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Different perspectives, different reconstructions

Troy remains an “enigma”. Nobody can be 100% sure that the ancient city existed at a spot some 30 km southwest of modern day Çanakkale (Turkey) or that the Trojan War ever took place, as described in Homer’s Iliad of the 8th century BC. However, having studied the site in question, experts these days are more than 90% convinced. The site has had UNESCO World Heritage status since 1998 and a new museum, adjacent to it, will open this summer, after 30 years of planning, exhibiting the last 30 years of finds at the excavation site. The museum building is in layers, like the site itself. Extensive digs are still on-going, uncovering history that dates back 7000 years.

Dagmar and I learned all this from Dr. Rüstem Aslan, who gave a Canadian Institute for Mediterranean Studies (our mutual friend Louise is the CIMS Ottawa Chapter’s competent President) lecture at the Centrepointe theatre in Ottawa last weekend, with slides and video-clips for illustration. He has worked at the site since 1988, originally as a student of the previous, German, Director, Professor Korfmann, and now as the current Director of Excavations. Most of his predecessors were German, the most famous being Heinrich Schliemann; then came Schliemann’s friend Dörpfeld, then the American, Blegen, then Prof. Korfmann, who was granted Turkish citizenship shortly before he died.

The Trojan horse displayed in downtown Çanakkale to attract the tourists is a 20th century imitation donated by the Americans; many Hollywood films have been made about the Trojans, such as the 2004 one, in which Brad Pitt plays Achilles. The newer-looking wooden horse that towers over visitors to the excavation site, is also a replica, of course. The horse represents the “brutal” victory (as Dr. Aslan put it) of the Greeks over the Trojans after a 10 year siege and there is no historical evidence for the dramatic Trojan horse story. It is feasible that the idea came from the wooden machines used to attack the walls of Troy at the end of the siege. The horse legend doesn’t appear in the Iliad, but rather in the Odyssey, created 2 years later, and in Virgil’s Aeneid. Aeneas, of course, is supposed to have founded Rome.

A stone artifact recently discovered, with carvings in the Hittite language, mentions a middle-eastern settlement that had two names; the Alaksandu Treaty of 1300 BC contains a mention of a similar legend to the one Homer told, horse and all. Homer was from Smyrna, or Izmir, as it is now named, so we ought to refer to him as an Ancient Turk, not an Ancient Greek.

Troy, or Ilium---the city with two names---lay on the Biga Peninsula in the Aegean. The exact whereabouts of Troy puzzled scholars for centuries. Mehmet II’s library at his Istanbul palace contained the first written copy of The Iliad. 17th century explorers from Europe pinpointed Troy’s location as Pınarbaşı, as witnessed by Lechevalier’s map of 1791, and that guess was believed valid for 200 years, although the identified site is at Hisarlik near Mt. Kazdağı, closer to the sea. But the region is an earthquake zone, and repeated quakes buried one ancient settlement after another. The archaeologists have discovered nine “complicated” layers of remnants, at this location, which they number in chronological order of existence: Troy 1, Troy 2, Troy 3, etc. In the late Bronze Age, around 1300 BC, Troy (i.e. “Troy 6”) is thought to have been the major city of Anatolia, with a population of some 6000 people. Metal seals unearthed in 1995 apparently confirm that the Hittite language was spoken in Troy. In 1118 BC something catastrophic occurred at this place, but no written evidence has been found to determine whether it was it an earthquake or the legendary climax of the Trojan War!

Subsequent cities here were also ruined, probably by major earthquakes, in 85 BC and 25 AD. “Troy 9” (i.e. Ilium, now belonging to Rome) had a population of 9000 and was visited both by Hadrian and by Alexander the Great, the Romans boasting that by having conquered the Greeks, they had avenged the Trojans.

Frau Schliemann wearing the treasure
In 1882, Schliemann found what was nicknamed “Priam’s Treasure” (Priam being the King of Troy in the legend) in a cache in the ruined stone walls. Schliemann’s wife Sophia was notoriously photographed wearing the golden headdress and necklace they had unearthed, but mistakes were made in dating the jewellery. They carried most of it back to Germany. After the 2nd World War the treasure (plunder, rather) was transferred to St. Petersburg and thence to Moscow, where some of it still remains. Today, in fact, 9 museums and 7 cities around the world today share the hoard. As long ago as 1874, the Ottomans protested at the sale and dispersal of these treasures, to no avail, although vain promises were made to return it, even then.

After the presentation the Turkish Embassy laid on a reception with plates of baclava and other treats. Three lucky raffle ticket holders went home with booklets about Troy and bottles of Turkish wine.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Songs in French

Verlaine said that the art of poetry was "de la musique avant toute chose"; at last Wednesday's lunch hour concert at Southminster Church in Ottawa, you might have put it the other way round, claiming that music was first and foremost poetry, French poetry at that, because the concert included Fauré's and Duparc's settings of poems by Verlaine and Baudelaire. There were also Cinq melodies populaires grecques, settings of Greek folk songs translated into French, by Ravel as well as three Don Quixote inspired songs by Paul Morand, also in French, also set by Ravel.

I enjoyed this concert! The singer was Denis Boudreault, currently Artistic Director of the Ottawa Recitalists Art Song Academy, and originally from Sept-Iles. Apparently he has been singing to the accompaniment of his pianist friend Frédéric Lacroix since 2001. Mr. Lacroix is very well known in Ottawa and has been mentioned several times before in this blog. I had come across some of the songs before, as well. As for the words of the songs, I'd discovered them during my student years in the 1960s and 70s.

Some lines in the Verlaine poems (Fêtes galantes) I remember underlining, in those days:
... Voix de notre desespoir,
Le rossignol chantera.  
Romances sans paroles ... 
... ta voix, étrange
Vision qui dérange
Et trouble l'horizon
De ma raison ...
Fauré successfully captures the wistfulness of the Fêtes galantes, incorporating melancholy arpeggios into the piano part. These pieces would fit well into an exhibition of impressionist art, as would the Duparc settings of Baudelaire and Lahor, with their mention of watery suns, ciels brouilles, sunset skies d'hyachinthe et d'or, soft moonlight, tinted seascapes, etc. The Lahor poem Extase was given a slowly rocking, lullaby accompaniment by Duparc. His lovely Chanson Triste I vaguely remember trying to sightread once. Its title Sad Song is because of the inclusion of
douleurs  ... triste coeur ... tête malade ... tes yeux pleins de tristesse 
in the poem, ending thus: I shall imbibe so many kisses and so much tenderness that perhaps I shall recover! But probably not, is the implication.

The concert was entitled L'invitation au voyage in honour of the Duparc song of the same name, the minor key setting of a very well known poem by Baudelaire. Here, the composer daringly has the singer singing the refrain
... La, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté
on one note, and the following line
Luxe, calme et volupté.
is also sung on one note (a few tones lower). Here's a superb rendition of the song by Gérard Souzay:

Ravel's music made a good contrast with the rest, with its rustling, fast running or rhythmic accompaniments, the dance-like effects and the middle-eastern ornamentation of the singer's long notes in the first of the Greek songs (Le reveil de la mariee). The tenor had to sing in both high and low registers for these. Morand's "Drinking Song" in the second set was composed in a fast, Spanish style of music, with tumbling piano chords at the end ... Je bois a la joie!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Flying home from the Finger Lakes

Preparing to depart

KITH VOR seen on take-off
We had the same shuttle bus driver take us from the hotel to the airport this morning. FBO has a toy putting mat for golfers. Filed the EAPIS and CANPASS documents on line; you have to remember to open the international flight plan once airborne, too. Chris did his preflight checks outside the FBO's big hangar at Ithaca airport and we took off into a bright sky with small white clouds.

Some snow in fields near Ithaca
Snow still lingers in the fields near Ithaca; some more fell in the night. We climbed to 5500 ft and headed towards Syracuse over Skaneateles Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. The way we covered the route on the map seemed a lot quicker than on Saturday morning, and was, because this time a tail wind was helping us along. Watertown airport, beyond Syracuse, is a very obvious landmark. As we approached the border country over the St. Lawrence River conditions in the air became fairly turbulent with thermal lift and gusty winds, with lenticular cloud visible ahead, just north of Lake Ontario. We crossed the St. Lawrence, back into Canada again 5500 ft above the 1000 Islands international bridge, seeing the town of Alexandria Bay from both sides of the river as we did so. After this, visibility deteriorated as we flew through snow showers under the bases of thickening clouds. Even Ottawa International airport was hard to spot ahead of us, but Chris didn't seem in the least alarmed by this, nor by the bumpy ride.

Skaneateles Lake
View from the Canadian border

Near the clouds over Manotick, snow falling
Our descent into Rockcliffe was relatively smooth, so we had an easy landing.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

A morning on the campus

Footsore, having walked 8 or 9 km yesterday and 6 or 7 km this morning, I am resting in our hotel room to write this while Chris wanders off to search for some toothpaste to replace the tube he forgot to pack. He doesn't approve of the remains of mini toothpaste tubes that I brought along for myself.

Ithaca's known as College Town, and its campus up the hill is huge. Over breakfast at The Commons Kitchen we discussed going to the Easter Sunday Quaker Meeting at the Friends Meeting House on Third Street, but Chris said he'd prefer seeing the waterfalls, following the Cascadilla Gorge Trail up to the university, a walk we enjoyed on our last visit. The start of this trail is on Linn Street, not Aurora Street, but we soon re-oriented ourselves, only to find that the trail is closed at present, presumably considered as dangerous during the spring thaw as under ice and snow. I do recall slippery steps in May. Anyway, a large wrought iron gate was barring our way, very decorative, but disappointing. The first of the waterfalls looked tantalisingly gorgeous so I took a photo of it from the footbridge:

Cascadilla Creek, at the start of the Cascadilla Gorge trail

Fall Creek
I remembered another scenic river with waterfalls further on. This is Ithaca's larger river, Fall Creek, with the Ithaca Falls, the Forest Falls, the Rocky Falls, the Triphammer Falls, all below Beebe Lake. There's a series of bridges too, vertigo inducing road- and footbridges, each one with safety netting above or below to catch any desperate student who wants to kill himself by jumping off. This is not funny and our shuttle bus driver of yesterday was of the opinion that it is usually Asian students who make the suicide attempts, fearful of losing face when they have to confess an exam failure. Poor souls.
Beebe Lake and falls

Along this river the trail was open, with warnings about No Winter Maintenance, and we remembered the starting point at the bridge on Stewart Avenue, opposite Carl Sagan's (the famous cosmologist's) house which we also remembered from before. We stayed by the edge of the gorge till we'd seen three more bridges, the uppermost one officially still closed for winter, though we stepped onto it to take photos of the white water pouring over Beebe Dam, before continuing along Forest Home Drive past the various faculty buildings: arts, physical sciences, human ecology, plant science and so on.

Lewis Building and Herb Gardens, Cornell
We eventually arrived at a spot near Beebe Hall where we could look down at the Cornell Botanic Gardens Welcome Centre and herb garden, winter garden etc. which looked so attractive that we went down some steps to explore, despite having spent the rest of the morning walking uphill and knowing it would entail yet another climb afterwards. It being Easter Sunday, the Welcome Centre is not open to welcome anyone today, but Chris enjoyed sitting at an outdoor table out of the cold wind while I enjoyed discovering a few things already in bloom: a cornus tree with yellow blossoms (Cornelian cherry?), some hellebores, masses of snowdrops and yellow flowers as ground cover for which I couldn't find the ID tag (winter aconites, I believe). In the Flower Garden near the herbs (not yet showing signs of blooming) a young mum was hiding hard-boiled, decorated eggs for her little girl to find, the little girl cheating by peeping through her fingers sometimes. Having spent a while engrossed by all this, I then realised that we hadn't seen a fraction of Cornell's whole botanical collection which covers several miles of land. We shall simply have to come back at another time, maybe by car so that we'll have the energy to walk round all of it. This would be a great place to bring my botanist sister Faith one day.

A variety of Cornus in bloom, at the Cornell Botanical Gardens
From there we walked the length of Tower Road through the campus, then down to College Avenue and across the bridge at the top of the Cascadilla Gorge where we found an eatery that was open, doing a roaring trade in snacks and hot drinks, so I finally had a sit-down before we went back downtown, down the steep hill.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Another trip to Ithaca

Over eastern Ontario, near the St. Lawrence, looking north
We flew to Ithaca in New York State today; we came here in the spring of 2016 and have been thinking for some time that it would be worth coming back; it seems a good way to spend the Easter Weekend. We are in luck with the weather, although it wasn't good enough for us to set off yesterday. IFR flying isn't so much of a problem in summer but at this time of year it's best to keep out of the clouds because of the risk of picking up ice (as we started to do on our way back from Kingston recently). Let's hope there are no clouds to fly through on the way home. Today's flight was totally clear of cloud.

"Before take-off, a professional pilot is keen, anxious, but lest someone read his true feelings, he is elaborately casual." (E.K. Gann, 1944). This is Chris---every time!---pacing around in the clubhouse at the start of a flying trip.

Ogdensburg International Bridge from the southern shore
Up earlier than on usual Saturdays, we took off from Rockcliffe at 9:40, having filed an international flight plan to Ogdensburg, the closest airport where a customs and immigration service was available today. It only took us 47 minutes to get there from CYRO although we were not allowed to fly in a direct line, and had a headwind. The customs men from the Ogdensburg bridge arrived exactly on time, driving through the airport gateway in their car just as we were going through our post landing checks. These men were quick and efficient too: checked our passports and Chris' pilot licence, went round the plane pointing their Geiger counter at it in case we had radioactive bombs on board (I don't think we'd have had room for any on the back seat, what with the other luggage) and we were cleared into the USA. Three minutes all told.

Landing at KITH, jet holding short of Runway 14
We got out of the plane before our next leg, which was 1 hour 41 minutes from KOGS to KITH (Ogdensburg to Ithaca). The headwinds on take-off were quite gusty, and strong at altitude, so that we feared it would take longer, but less strong as we progressed south of Watertown and Syracuse, with Oneida Lake on our left and the pretty Finger Lakes in their ancient glacial valleys ahead of us. We had an "interesting" approach and landing at Ithaca due to gustier than anticipated winds. Chris handled this really well, as usual. The service at the "Taughannock Aviation" FBO was marvellous, with a very efficient and friendly young lady at the reception desk. She had booked our hotel room for us yesterday as soon as I called to enquire what the FBO could do for us, and when we landed and walked in she had the hotel shuttle bus driver already there, waiting to fetch us into town. Meanwhile, one of her colleagues was parking the plane for us and offering to carry our luggage across the apron in a golf cart.

We've experienced good service at other FBOs, but this was exceptional. The shuttle bus driver was impressed too, especially by the fact that she'd served him a free bagel and a coffee while he was waiting for us to arrive.

Lighthouses at the end of Lake Cayuga, Ithaca
By the time we'd checked in at the new Marriott, the hotel the girl had picked for us (we got a hotel discount from the FBO as well) I was famished, so we ducked into one of the nearby eateries, Simeon's Bistro, for a brunch. After our meal, sauntering towards a large 2nd hand bookshop called Autumn Leaves, I picked up a leaflet at the Information Centre, advertising the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. We didn't do this actual walk but a parallel one on the opposite shore of the Cayuga Inlet, as far as the point beyond the municipal Golf Course where we could see out into Lake Cayuga, where the two lighthouses are. Yachts were sailing on the lake, perhaps for the first time this year, on this warm and sunny afternoon. Other boaters (oarsmen and -women) were getting ready for action too. There are numerous young people in this town, mostly associated with Cornell University, probably, raring to go at whatever takes their fancy. The energy in the town is palpable. I wouldn't mind living here.

In spite of the blustery wind, people weren't wearing coats, and after the first half mile of our walk, nor was I.

Beyond the Farmers' Market, not in operation till the summer, the historic wharfs and the many boat places, we had the pathways mostly to ourselves, and walked out along the top of the wall to the lighthouse at the end of the promontory. Well, Chris calls it a promontory (I had to look up the spelling) but it is just a crumbling wall on a rocky point, really. I was a bit nervous of falling of it into the lapping (and certainly cold) water where Canada geese (with yellow plastic markers round their necks, for some reason) were swimming and the male ones fighting. Chris went ahead but before he reached the lighthouse a female goose, fiercely guarding "at least half a dozen" eggs in the nest she had built on this wall, hissed at him and flapped her wings, so we had to turn around. We warned other walkers coming our way not to approach her.

The walk back into town seemed long and I fell onto the hotel bed, once I reached it, for a short snooze before supper which we found at an excellent Indian restaurant close to the Ithaca Commons.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wisdom and tolerance

Image may contain: textAt the end of February Chris and I went to see a play by G. E. Lessing, performed in German in a basement theatre on the Ottawa University premises by a group of people known as die Deutschsprachige Theatergruppe, under the auspices of Kirche und Kultur, an initiative of the Martin-Luther Church on Preston Street. The pastor himself took part as one of the minor characters, a comic friar! Each of the actors was a native German speaker, so pronouncing and memorising the lines wasn't such a challenge as it might have been, although the elderly gentleman playing Nathan held a book in his hands throughout, reading his part from it. The director, Jörg Esleben, played the part of Saladin. One young man came on stage between scenes as narrator, speaking to the audience in English, filling in the content of the missing scenes, explaining who was who, and giving us a hint of what was to come next. Furthermore, subtitles in English were projected onto a screen at the back of the stage, although at times these got out-of-sync with what we were actually hearing, so that it was easier to listen to the German and guess the meaning of any unfamiliar vocabulary, rather than follow the translation. Lessing's German, old as it is, is not difficult to follow.

The scenery and costumes for this production seemed very basic—especially the rather floppy palm tree erected for outdoor scenes!—but it was for good reasons that the production team gave priority to putting the words across. Supported by the Austrian, Swiss and German embassies as well as the university, I gather they had been rehearsing the play for months.
Nathan der Weise (Nathan the Wise) was first performed in 1779, in the era of the European Enlightenment, a decade before the French revolution. Mozart and Goethe were alive at that time; Voltaire had died a year previously.

Saladin, ca. 1185
Set in Jerusalem during the time of the 3rd Crusade in the 12th century, it is a play about religious tolerance and a shared humanity. Jerusalem at that period in history was ruled by Saladin, a Muslim Sultan, while the Christian Knights Templar were hoping to capture the Holy Land for themselves. The Jewish community of Jerusalem was caught between their clashes. All three religions are represented by the main characters in Lessing's play: the Sultan Saladin, a young Knight Templar who is a prisoner of war, and the Jewish merchant Nathan. In the course of the action, the dramatis personae argue about which is the "true" religion, and which should predominate:
Nathan: Sultan, Ich bin ein Jud'.  
Saladin: Und ich ein Muselmann. Der Christ ist zwischen uns. – Von diesen drei Religionen kann doch eine nur die wahre sein. 
Entwined into the plot are complications: the Christian Knight looks remarkably like the Sultan's lost brother and has also rescued the Jew's daughter from a fire. In fact the last scene reveals how they are all interlinked more than they had realised, are all, indeed, one family. That contrived conclusion is perhaps incidental to the chief message of the play, emphasised in Act 3, Scene 7, in which Nathan tells the Sultan a symbolic story, the parable of the three rings.

A loving father, following a tradition of many generations, wishes to bequeath his ring to the son he loves the most. However, in his case, the father loves each of his three sons equally and has to reconsider what to do. He decides to have three replicas of his ancient ring made, so that each son may inherit something equally precious. In the process, the original ring is lost. The sons, fighting for ascendancy after their father's death, are eventually told of the deception:
Jeder liebt sich selber nur am meisten? – Oh, so seid ihr alle drei Betrogene Betrüger! Eure Ringe sind alle drei nicht echt. Der echte Ring vermutlich ging verloren. Den Verlust zu bergen, zu ersetzen, ließ der Vater die drei für einen machen.
The significance of the bequest is spelled out:
Hat von euch jeder seinen Ring von seinem Vater: so glaube jeder sicher seinen Ring den echten. – Möglich; dass der Vater nun die Tyrannei des einen Rings nicht länger in seinem Hause dulden wollen! – Und gewiss; dass er euch alle drei geliebt, und gleich geliebt...
The "rings" of course represent the three monotheistic religions, the father standing for God, the "sons" being his worshippers. In other words, none of the three religions is meant to predominate or become tyrannical. Each religion is equally valid, equally loved by God, but each an imperfect copy of the original. In Lessing's day this was a revolutionary message. It has some relevance to the world of today, besides.

"Je me souviens"

Luckily, Ursula of the German conversation group reminded me that Robert Lepage's latest one man show, '887', was on at the National Arts Centre, and for January 20th I managed to buy a seat at the penultimate performance. As I expected, having seen his Face Cachée de la Lune more than 10 years ago (I saw the film too), the experience was phenomenal. Lepage is a genius. His stage works are highly unconventional, and he creates them with the help of the Ex Machina team, in operation since 1994.

The play was a meditation on the theme of memory, posing the questions: how do we remember things and why do we remember some things better than others? What happens when memory fails us and we forget something that's meant to be important? How do we remind ourselves of the most precious parts of our past lives? When does the history of a nation impinge upon one's personal history? It was also the very personal story of Lepage's own childhood in Quebec City; I suspect he tweaked the truth a little, here and there. He said that one of his neighbours in the apartment block where his family lived in those days had a noisy dog, a great dane. "They called him Hamlet..." Well, maybe they did, but I doubt it.

The beginning of the show was clever. Robert Lepage came on stage just as one of the NAC staff might (I recognised him, but perhaps many in the audience didn't) and told us the usual housekeeping rules about using the exits and turning off our cellphones during the show, then without any appreciable pause he went straight on to tell us how he came up with the idea for this production---he'd been asked to recite a poem at a public event and found he had terrible trouble learning the poem by heart, why?---with a few projections following on a screen behind him, as if he were giving a TED talk, or something of that kind. As he continued to present his thoughts, though, the lights dimmed, the backdrop disappeared and scenery appeared on the revolving stage, models of his childhood surroundings, and of his present day surroundings, each setting cleverly transformed into the next.

Here's the trailer for '887':


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Stereotypes of Canada

What impressions and prejudices have people had in the past, as regards Canada? What are our own fixed ideas about this country, and should they be questioned? This was the theme of a year-long exhibition held at the National Library as part of the Canada's 150th anniversary: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? which I only got to see during its last few days. It proved to be thought-provoking, worth visiting, and worth mentioning in my blog.

Jacques Cartier was the first to use the word Canada to designate the territory he discovered on the shores of the St-Lawrence River. The name comes from the Huron-Iroquois word kanata, i.e. village, incorrectly interpreted as the native word for their surrounding landscape and of the (St. Lawrence) river itself; Canadiens was Cartier's name for the Iroquois people he had met. Thereafter, Canada became the name for the French colony on the shores of the St. Lawrence, French colonists being known as Canadiens until the mid-nineteenth century, when the name, anglicised to Canadians, started to refer to the loyalist colonies on the Great Lakes as well, later to all of the British North Americans.

Samuel de Champlain, the early 17th century French explorer, saw Canada's potential, his maps reinforcing the "daydreams" of the court of King Henri IV and then of Louis XIII, whose chief minister was Cardinal Richelieu. A surprising number of official maps and their surrounding illustrations (such as Champlain's maps of New France, published in a book, Les Voyages, in 1613) depict wishful thinking, rather than actual facts.

In the 18th century, France and Britain fought over the possession of these territories. Voltaire, perhaps representing the scorn or misgivings of the French intelligentsia, clearly doubted whether this struggle was worthwhile:
J'aime beaucoup mieux la "paix" que le Canada, et je crois que la France peut etre heureuse sans Quebec. (1762)
(I saw this in Voltaire's original letter, on display at this exhibition.)

Later, in the 19th century, Krieghoff's paintings: frozen river, red sleigh, settlers' log cabin--reinforced the way in which Europeans envisioned this part of the world. The canoe and the beaver became defining symbols. Champlain reappears in 19th century paintings / sculptures as the conqueror, with Canada (often a female figure) as his conquest; other artwork depicts Canada as a wilderness in need of taming, where hunting is a metaphor for colonisation. Paul Kane's pictures of native settlements reflected the period’s idealising style.

Also displayed at our National Library was Catharine Parr Traill's journal of 1837. She lived to the age of 97, having spent most of her adult life in Upper Canada, as it was then known (Ontario), and is well known for her writings. Her sister, younger by less than 2 years, Susanna Moodie, emigrated here likewise after her marriage, living next door to Catherine, and did delicate paintings of Canadian flowers to mitigate her cabin fever while "roughing it in the bush" during the cold seasons; she referred to Canada's woodland as "the prison house".

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According to the curator's notes, the Dominion of Canada's first Parliament buildings (erected in the 1850s) were a tour de force of Gothic revival. This was the architectural style of British parliamentary democracy and colonialism. The translation of the National Anthem in 1912 demonstrates the 20th century utopia that Canada was meant to be, despite the lines about felling the forest domes with steadfast hand, which environmentalists of today would frown upon.

Transatlantic settlers were encouraged. The front cover of a “Canada West” immigration atlas published in 1923 by the Ministry of Immigration and Colonization (sic) shows romantically golden curtains of grain and a British, idealised, inaccurate vision of Canada in the background, based on a faith in agriculture, trade and (not so romantic) industry.

The Mounties, needless to say, became the world's heroes, throughout the 20th century and beyond.

Canada’s first peacekeeping mission, encouraged by the Minister of External Affairs, Lester Pearson, was in response to the Suez Crisis. Because Great Britain was deeply involved, critics saw Canada’s role as a betrayal of the “mother country”.

How is Canada seen in the present day? What does Canada stand for, nowadays? Peacekeeping is still one of those things. And according to the blurb at the exhibition "many Canadians" would also mention the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, multiculturalism, diversity, Canada's official bilingualism. In this exhibition I found multiple references to contributions to Canada by first nations people. Who Do We Think We Are? was of course created under the supervision of our present government and could be seen as modern propaganda. We are probably still creating and promulgating stereotypes.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The butterflies

I had a lovely day last Tuesday, which was cold, clear and bright in Ottawa like the rest of this week. In the morning I caught one of the new double-decker busses through town, sitting in the front seat on the top deck as excited as a small child to enjoy my unusual view of the city from above. A grown man on the other front seat was just as enthusiastic.
Wellington St. from the top deck

I got out at Bank and Catherine Streets to walk to the Museum of Nature where I bought an entrance ticket that included the temporary exhibition Butterflies, featuring live ones in a tropical greenhouse on the ground floor at the back of the museum. It was full of children as well as butterflies, the insects settling on their heads and sleeves and hands. I had one of the blue morphos (Morpho menelaus) from the tropics of Latin America land on my finger for a while, until I transferred it to a three year old little girl's hand. When they land you can hardly see the blue side of their wings; the other sides are dramatically patterned in shades of brown, giving the effect of eyes. Entrance to the show was by timed slots, meaning that I had to wait my turn, but once in the butterfly room, I lingered there for a good three quarters of an hour, entranced by the different kinds and colours of butterfly that begin and end their lives there. (They emerge from their chrysalides in the glass walled hatchery next door.) The staff give each visitor a thorough lecture about not treading on the butterflies---not touching their wings, not bringing them back out through the doors either accidentally or on purpose---before allowing you in.

Blue morphos sipping orange juice and showing their "eyes"

While awaiting my entry slot, I also took another look at the Arctic Gallery on the 4th level, which I saw last summer with our young German friend Toni Aschentrup, another well prepared exhibition. On this 2nd visit I had time to listen to the voice-recordings that accompany short video presentations from and about the people who live in the Arctic, very interesting. One of them said that what the Inuit can teach the world is "endurance, patience and respect", a phrase that impressed me so much, I jotted it down immediately.

Floor map of the Arctic
After my museum visit I walked home through town, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

Tuesday was not such a good day for my mother or my sister, though, in Wales. Unbalanced and more than usually bewildered by the onset of a urinary infection (a common ailment for the very elderly), Mum fell in the bathroom at her care home and needed to be checked over in hospital; my sister having to comfort her and calm her down all day.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The big rally

As before (on March 14th, during the school walkouts) I have been glued to the TV channels this afternoon watching the live broadcasts from the USA of the March for our Lives in Washington DC; the young people's determination and sincerity shines through the world. A remarkable number of world-famous people support them, including Malala Yousafzai.

This morning Chris and I took part in a smaller scale, sympathy demonstration in Ottawa, marching from Parliament Hill under a bright blue sky to the park behind the U.S. Embassy, shepherded by some of our local police force. Every generation, including the Raging Grannies, was represented in the demonstration; even a few pet dogs carried placards round their necks.

The Canadians students taking part are probably just as impassioned as their U.S. counterparts, but don't seem as loudly uninhibited. Something to do with the national character, probably. I have not yet heard how many Ottawa people participated, but shall update this post as soon as I find out.

I have felt very involved in all this, because I can imagine so well how the initiators feel. I have been a young person myself. I have been a teacher and parent of teenagers and cannot imagine anything worse than having the children you love perish from senseless violence. We once sent our children to a school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for a whole school year: in those days we didn't consider that they might be shot. They had tornado drills where they were taught to crouch in the windowless corridors while the danger went by, but didn't undergo shootout drills as happens nowadays. When I was a teacher in England and Wales I met a few kids who were mentally disturbed, either from some physical infirmity or trauma, and could not be reached and helped, so deeply were they wrapped up in their misery. The young man who shot the others at the school in Florida reminds me of them. To think that he had easy access to the most lethal of guns is upsetting in the extreme.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Home-made happiness

A cartoon I saw posted on Facebook from the Deutsche Welle site appealed to me.

"Where did you find that? I've been looking for it everywhere!"
"I made it myself."

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I have always been an advocate of homemade happiness. People try hard to grasp that elusive thing. The point is, it can't be grasped by force.
Alle rennen nach dem Glück / Das Glück rennt hinterher
as is sung in Brecht's Dreigroschenoper of 1928. I saw this on stage once. During this scene, all the actors ran round in a circle, with one holding up a placard saying "Glück", either at the front or the back of the line ...

An earlier poet, William Blake, had a brighter idea, when he wrote

He who binds to himself a joy / Does the winged life destroy. / He who kisses the joy as it flies / Lives in eternity's sunrise!

Last year I acquired (or won) from a travelling group of Chinese subversives a scroll of Chinese calligraphy. Shown on the scroll are a depiction of the characters reading
Yiqie jie xiaoshi / Wei dangxia yongcun
meaning: everything fades away; only the transient moment stays forever. This is hanging on our living room wall now.

I believe that the secret is to seek and find happiness in very simple things: a breath of fresh air after a morning spent indoors, the smile heard in an old lady's voice, the warmth of skin on skin, a bunch of flowers from a friend, a familiar song, a technical problem solved, shared laughter after a funny use of words, or the sun shining on snow as when, a couple of days ago, we drove through the pure white fields between Bourget and Rockland after visiting a bathroom showroom in Bourget (this last clause is irrelevant to the subject of my blogpost).

Young children know how to access happiness without trying. You'd only have to observe our Australian grandson sprinkling the hot patio stones with his toy watering can to realise how intense is his appreciation of the momentary bliss he has made for himself.

If only we could all retrieve such an ability. Homemade happiness costs absolutely nothing.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Contrasting Doors Open concerts

Re. the DOMS Wednesday lunch hour concert series, I went to one of these concerts last month, on St. Valentine's day and one today (March 7th).

The February one was A Trumpet Romance, with Peter Crouch on the trumpet playing pieces chosen for St. Valentine's, including some romantic compositions of his own (one of these written for his wife, he said), accompanied on the piano by Nick Rodgerson. To start with, the two men played an arrangement of the traditional Irish song, Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms, and a series of similarly sentimental numbers followed, including some "Spanish music of love": Crouch's arrangement of the Adagio from Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez and the Habanera from Bizet's Carmen. The trumpeter took a break by turning pages for his accompanist, who played a famous "Consolation" by Franz Liszt, solo; this was followed by the arrangement for trumpet and piano of a Saint-Saens aria. They finished with a rendition of Johnny Mercer's Skylark, which Mr. Crouch confessed was his "favourite type of music."

Today's concert was more serious, with the crucifix at the front of the church (i.e. behind the performers) draped in sheer purple for Lent. Southminster has an attractive interior with multicoloured stained glass windows and an embroidered wall-hanging that states: BIDDEN OR UNBIDDEN, GOD IS PRESENT.

The music was by J.S. Bach, the harpsichord played by the Artistic Director of the DOMS concerts, Roland Graham, with Christian Vachon on the violin. They performed three of Bach's first group of six Violin and Harpsichord sonatas: Numbers 1, 3 and 4. Numbers 2, 5 and 6 will be presented at a matching concert later in the year, on June 6th, by the same performers. It is wonderful music of the 1720s, the two instruments in an equal partnership which, so the violinist told today's audience, was an original idea in those days. The six-pack of sonatas was according to the conventions of the Baroque period, though.

Each sonata took about 15 minutes to play. We heard the two minor sonatas first (No. 1 in B minor and No. 4 in C minor) and they finished with the major one (No. 3 in E major). Their concentration on the notes was palpably intense. The C minor sonata was particularly impressive, the violin part in the opening Largo movement resembling the obligato part for Erbarme dich, mein Gott --- the famous aria in Bach's St. Matthew Passion, with its meditative, spiritual qualities.

BWV1017 1 Siciliano excerpt.jpeg

The Allegro movements were taken at a lively pace; the fugal second movement must have been particularly challenging for the harpsichordist. The other slow movement (Adagio) in this sonata was also lovely, with the violin line at a lower pitch than the harpsichordist's right hand, which played an elaborate melody in counterpoint. This minor key movement ended with a major resolution, as is often the case with Bach.

Similarly startling, in Sonata No. 3, the Adagio movement, in a contrasting minor key, seemed to end on an incomplete cadence. The final movement of this sonata bounced along in 9/8 time like a Gigue.

After the concert was over I caught the violinist's attention and told him that I had enjoyed every note of this concert.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

End of the day, in Kingston

We did well this Sunday, first driving north to meet Elva and Laurie at the MacKenzie King Estate in the Gatineau Park to follow the Lauriault Trail, less than 4 kilometers. However, according to the app. on Laurie's smartphone, the hills you climb on this walk are the equivalent of going up flights of stairs in a 35 storey building; you might think twice before attempting that, but you don't mind the ascent under blue skies between the lovely trees, taking it at an easy pace in good company. There was a fresh covering of snow on the slopes, not deep, just enough to cover the icy patches. I'm glad I wore the spikes over my shoes this time, didn't slip once.

Free of ice, the stream was flowing through the valley, with little water falls and clear pools in it. Woodpeckers were knocking at the maple trunks and crows were soaring on the thermals over the south side of the hills. It is starting to feel like spring although there is not a trace of green, nor of buds, or sprouting plants. We must be patient, since it's only the beginning of March. We watched enthusiastic skiers go by as we crossed their trail. In Chelsea, hundreds of cars were parked so that Chris and I had four goes at finding a space. Elva and Laurie, more lucky, saved seats at a table for us in the lively Chelsea Pub, where we ordered large salads, or in Chris' case, fish and chips.

Chris wanted to go flying this afternoon and again (with a day off work) tomorrow --- to Kingston, he said --- so Elva asked, "Why don't you go to Kingston this afternoon, spend the night there, and fly back tomorrow?" We thought: that's a good idea, so we did.

We took off from CYRO at about 3pm at which time the sky was quite overcast and dark with snow clouds to the east, but obviously clearing to the west, as was soon confirmed once we were up above the Ottawa VOR near Aylmer. Our route was obviously going to be mostly in the clear; we only flew through one area of precipitation (sparkling fast moving snowflakes), near Carleton Place. Chris sensibly asked for flight-following from Montreal Centre Air Traffic Control outside the Class C controlled area, which gave us ATC protection until we were only 10 NM away from Kingston. The scenery was as beautiful as I've ever seen it, today, shining bright lakes, the thin ice reflecting the sunlight, and the grassy areas mostly clear of snow, even at this date! Another aircraft from Rockcliffe, C-GMME, was flying the same route at the same time as we; we knew of its whereabouts but only actually saw it once, when we were on the ground at Kingston. During the flight the winds were gusty, but not violently so, and we had a 25 knot tailwind which made our time en route 10-15 minutes faster than usual. We told the taxi driver about this on our ride into town and he made some knowledgeable responses. He'd also had a go at learning to fly.

At home I had quickly found a hotel room online, not spending too long researching the possibilities; we're staying (like Elva and Laurie on their last visit here) at the Sheraton Four Points on King Street. It is comfortable and conveniently placed and we have just been in the swimming pool and hot tub on the 4th floor. The sinking sun lit the city sights (domed roofs, waterfronts, ferry) very nicely this evening. Before it got dark we sauntered up and down the central streets, seeing people skating on the ice rink in the market square behind the city hall, and sat down to share a muffin in Balzac's Coffee Rosterie on Princess Street. After all the exercise and excitement I was still hungry, so we found a satisfactory early supper at Mango, a "pan-Asian" food place, also on Princess Street.

Retracing our footsteps in the dark and then extending the walk a few blocks brought us back to the Sheraton where Chris promptly fell asleep on the bed (this was before we went to the pool).

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The art gallery in York

While we were in York, England, last month I paid two visits to the city's Art Gallery which has a permanent collection of paintings and sculpture worth seeing; we also got to see the temporary exhibitions, the main one featuring the landscapes of Paul Nash (1889-1946).

In the 1920s when he made a name for himself, Nash, back from the trenches and suffering from what he had seen there, thought of himself as a "war artist without a war". The exhibition notes said that he had "an ambiguous attitude to landscape" which was shared with Spencer, Hillier, Burra and company: neo-romantic, surrealist, uncanny.  The exhibition's curator John Stezaker (himself an artist) said:
Paul Nash’s work represents a watershed in British landscape painting. His First World War paintings are probably his most famous works. But it was in the immediate aftermath of the war [...] that a much more disturbing spatial order emerged. A dystopia created by the technological clearing of war ...
Shades of Magritte in these pictures, too.

Nash was based at Dymchurch, Kent, on the Romney Marsh, often the subject of his landscapes, although around 1920 he had also been to the north of England to paint industrial scenes, the chimneys, canals and the "Millworkers' Landscape" of Leeds (urban realism, art historians call it). Paul Nash had met his wife Margaret Odeh, a young woman from Jerusalem, in 1913; when she was studying history at Oxford. She nursed Paul through his mental collapse after the First World War. There are touching representations (oils, chalks, watercolours, lithographs, engravings) of her or of the two of them walking along the promenade at Dymchurch and of the strangely angular, black and white waves on the shore, the black shadows cast by the groynes (as in The Tide, a lithograph, 1920) and the geometric shapes and curves of the flood barriers there. Dyke by the Road, 1922, or The Bay, same year, are typical examples of these images, where the influence of the cubists is evident, printed from engravings on wood. The painting featured on the exhibition posters, in black and white oils, was of a Winter Sea (1925, reworked in 1937).

In the 1930s, Paul Nash took up black and white photography, an art form he found easier because of the asthma he had suffered since becoming a victim of a gas attack on the battlefield. His mind was clearly still on the war, as evidenced by his choice of subject matter in the photo Wrecked Aircraft, Cowley, which he took while visiting Dorset. An experimental oil painting from 1930-31 shows a dreamlike, disturbingly unreal scene where the exterior wall of a house appears to merge with an interior wall and floor. He called it Harbour and Window.

Included in the Paul Nash exhibition were pieces by other artists, his contemporaries (Hillier's surrealist, over-bright Hay Making, Spencer's View from Cookham Bridge, and several paintings by Paul Nash's brother, John, that were somewhat gentler in execution), as well as relatively modern imitations of Nash, like Jeffrey Camp's The Way To Beachy Head in oils.

In a side room on the ground floor, John Stezacker (mentioned above), had his own work on display, Aftermath: photographic collages where two images were juxtaposed in one frame, either on the diagonal or in parallel, creating a surrealistic effect.

Paul Robeson (1927) by Jacob Epstein
The remainder of the Art Gallery, upstairs, was interesting too, including a life sized sitting wolf hound, an extraordinary bust of Paul Robeson by Epstein in bronze and marble and a sculpture in corrugated cardboard, "the humblest of materials", called Wave, by Martin Jenkins. Up here, I was permitted to take photos. Another bust caught my eye, carved from oak with a space between the front and the back of the polished head: Reverie, 2015, by Harold Gosney. Among the paintings was a still life abstract in the manner of Mondrian by the 20th century British artists Ben Nicholson, entitled Birdie.

Robin Hoods Bay in Winter, by Dame Ethel Walker

Wave, by Martin Jenkins, 2015

Clifford's Tower by LS Lowry

The ceramics collection on the upper floor

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

People and places

Where to start? People or places?

This trip was to see people rather than places. Although well planned in advance, it felt miraculous to see George (from Australia) meet us (from Canada) at the airport and then have our daughter (in England) join the three of us that same morning on the street outside NPL where she works; she had slipped out between meetings to give us a hug. That weekend, her sons seemed pleased to spend time with their rarely seen Uncle George who gave them a model Maglev train from Japan and taught them to play Chinese chequers.

When my mother was a girl in the 1920s, she used to have an exotic Uncle occasionally visit from Rhodesia, bringing candied fruits with him.

My mother is vague as to who came to call on her at the end of January, only aware that she’s “had a lot of visitors recently”, as she puts it. To see George delivering her Chinese and Australian gifts from that great distance and holding her hand was an important moment for me. My sister and brother-in-law, George’s cousins and 5-year old Phoenix also enjoyed George’s company that week; George kept Phoenix entertained with paper dragons and toy koala bears for hours and even, using the computer, created a movie starring Phoenix, what a thrill for the boy! One fine morning, Faith, Mel and Rhiannon took George down to Dunraven Bay where they had the beach to themselves and found fossils. They got back up the cliffs on steep ladders, near a waterfall that made a rainbow against the rocks. We had a congenial family supper at the Gwaelod y Garth Inn, despite the fact that at least three out of the seven of us were fighting the flu that evening. I shared some lunches with my mother too and one afternoon read her the poems she has written at various stages of her life, which awoke many old memories. When we said goodbye to her (perhaps for the last time in George’s case) she was feeling sleepy in her chair, stroking a stuffed toy hedgehog, didn’t quite realise we were going and so the farewell caused less of a pang than it might have.

February 1st, Chris and I took George to Goldcliff where our friends live; we were there last February too. Kay served us some lunch and Andy led us on a refreshing walk up a lane through the fields, beside the irrigation ditches, letting us appreciate the fresh air, the wayside primroses, and a familiar panorama of hills to the north. Then we drove through Newport to Cwmbran where we’d lived for over three years in the 1990s, although I was the only one in the car who recognised the streets there. The two men did at least remember the house where we used to live, at the top end of Wesley Close. There was no need to linger, so we pressed on to Abergavenny and Crickhowell in the Black Mountains, spending two nights under low beams in the attic of The Dragon Inn. We had supper at a rival inn up the street, The Bear, 500 years old.

February 2nd was a fine day for driving to Hay-on-Wye on the narrow old roads through the hills, through “the most beautiful landscape in the world”, as Chris called it. We stopped at the peaceful, enchanted little whitewashed church, no bigger than a cottage, St. Mary’s of Capel-y-Ffin, which Emma tells me she remembers, though her brother doesn’t. It has a dozen teddy bears of various sizes sitting on the front pew, a harmonium, a balcony with a crucifixion painting by David Jones on the wall, and a wonderful altar window overlooking the mountainside with calligraphy etched into the window panes by Eric Gill, saying the very appropriate opening words of the 121st psalm: I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, whence cometh my help. I can imagine wanting to be buried in the little graveyard outside, outside of time, where birds sing in the ancient yew trees. Across the road from the church an old fashioned phone box still stands, one of the few left in Britain, next to a whitewashed farmhouse. This tiny community was an artists’ commune in the 1920s; I gather it was primitive and wild in more than one sense. Some of the artists were suffering from PTSD after their 1st World War experiences.

Then we slowly rolled further up the Vale of Ewyas and across the Gospel Pass, snow on the hilltops, where wild horses roam. This was our last full day with George, from whom we parted at Cardiff Central Station at lunchtime on the 3rd, roisterous rugby fans milling around us on their way to a Wales-Scotland match at the Cardiff stadium. Back he went to New South Wales, with Chris and I continuing north on the trains to Manchester and York, seeing enticing views of the hills between Abergavenny and Church Stretton (under the Long Mynd), breaking our journey overnight at Shrewsbury. No family or friends there, though I had vague memories of a hiking holiday in this part of England with my parents and sister when we were teenagers. We stayed at the Premier Inn beside the bus station, opposite the river bank, quite a comfortable lodging. Despite the grey skies and rain, Shrewsbury city centre was an interesting place, with more tudor buildings still standing than in any other town in England, apparently. It has a red stone medieval castle, a mock tudor railway station that’s quite impressive, and an all-inclusive museum where I learned about Charles Darwin, who grew up here. I also found some good paintings there, including a watercolour by Turner of Shrewsbury’s English Bridge over the Severn as it looked in the 19th century.

Beyond Shrewsbury, on Sunday, the views were increasingly northern, the area around Crewe and people on the platform there depressed-looking. We changed at Manchester Piccadilly for the Transpennine Express to York, a fast train that took us through snow-capped hills. There was an atmosphere of fun on the train, with three ladies in their 60s returning from a wedding, in the seats across the aisle, proposing toasts with glasses of champagne. The steward with his Yorkshire humour kept announcing over the tannoy that “John” was able to serve us refreshments at the rear of the train, but couldn’t come through the other carriages with his trolley because of “all the loogage and too many bodies”! We came through Huddersfield and Leeds, the dark satanic mills still prominent features of that landscape.

We reached York on the afternoon, in time for Chris’ work meetings on Monday 5th. Once more we had a reunion with friends because Rob and Sally and two of their daughters live there; during the week we met Jenny, now working on a PhD at York University, and all of Bryony’s family. On Sunday Sally immediately took us for afternoon tea at the famous Betty’s tearooms, made us supper at her house and she and Rob joined us for two restaurant suppers (one at the York Assembly Rooms, now a stylish Italian restaurant) as well as treating me to lunch on Wednesday, my free day, when we walked right round the city walls.

On the Tuesday I met ghosts, including the ghost of my former self, by taking the train the Yorkshire Wolds country, from York to Scarborough and back, so that I could walk to the places I knew while I was a pupil at the Scarborough Girls’ High. I didn’t go to the school itself, but did walk with a rapidly beating heart past my old house and up Throxenby Lane to Throxenby Mere --- ducks, swans and Canada geese swimming there --- and the steep Raincliffe Woods; I went up Throxenby Lane in the direction of my primary school too, before catching a bus (from the same brick-walled bus-stop as ever) back into town, names and moments coming back to me all the way. Or is it a landscape of dreams that I remember? In town I rediscovered the harbour, the beach and the spa, only superficially changed since the 1960s. Even Boyes’ department store was still prominently doing business. Carol Boyes used to be in my class; I slept in a tent on her back lawn, once. From the beach I had a good view of the ruined castle and St. Mary’s large church where on one occasion I sang Faure’s Pie Jesu solo, having a job to keep in synch with the distantly placed organ. Half a century later, snow flurries filled the air as I climbed from the rockpools to the Italian Gardens in the South Bay.

My Scarborough day ended (back in York) with my attending Evensong in the Minster, which happened to be a special service on the anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne. The excellent Minster choir sang Handel’s Zadok the Priest as the anthem and the service was a fine quality setting by Gibbons. One of the psalms was Psalm 121, mentioned above!

Thursday, my cousin Wendy and my aunt Ruth were the people to visit, this time in Darlington, hardly more than half an hour’s journey from York by train. I could see the Sutton Bank part of the North York Moors to the east --- the stomping ground of my youth! --- and I think I caught a glimpse of Roseberry Topping. Wendy met me at Darlington Station and immediately said that I looked just like my mum. It was good to spend time with her after such a long gap. She took me out to lunch at an old pub at Hurworth Moor, called The Tawny Owl, which entailed a short drive through the local country, none of it familiar to me, although I must have been driven along these roads as a child, since all my mother’s relatives lived in this part of England. My lunch was an excellent vegetarian (butter squash) pie. We spent a while at Wendy’s house too where she showed me fascinating photos of my Victorian ancestors and some paintings by our grandfather that I don’t remember seeing before, and in the afternoon we saw Ruth in her house too, who couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw me. I look much older, apparently. (Well, it has been almost 17 years.) On her mantelpiece, she had a photo of George playing the cello.

That week I also paid two visits to York’s Art Gallery, described in a separate blogpost.

Our final day in Britain was mostly spent travelling to Heathrow where we stayed at the Ibis Styles to be sure of a quick getaway the following morning, not a bad hotel for the price, efficient, comfortable, and easy to access by bus, with quiet rooms, although the noisy background music at breakfast was off-putting in the extreme. We spent Friday evening with Emma, Peter and the boys at a Spanish restaurant near their house at Hampton Hill, whence the 285 bus took us straight back to the Ibis, taking half the time it did on the outbound journey during the rush hour.

It’s worth recording that our longer than usual flight from Heathrow to Ottawa took a northerly route over the southern tip of Greenland, to avoid over-strong headwinds, which gave us the chance to see the pure white scenery of that country from high above: the glaciers, sheer mountainsides and fjords dotted with icebergs. No sign of human interference at all, down there. It was worth seeing.

Elva and Laurie, like the faithful friends they are, met us at Ottawa airport and drove us home.