26 May 2015

Here and There

Time for another happy fun  omnibus post.  Yee haw.

***

Younger has gone on a school trip to Quebec.  Yesterday they past through Montreal on their way to Quebec City.  They toured Notre Dame and Old Montreal.  She wasn't looking forward to that, as we have already gone there twice.  Thrice, if you count the time we went there in the winter.

***

Both Quebec City and Montreal have legitimate old towns.  Toronto, on the other hand, does not.  Some argue that the old city was destroyed in 1813 by the Americans when they sacked the city, but that only works if you can call a small fishing village of about five hundred living in wooden shacks mostly around the mouth of the Don River a 'city'. 

No, Toronto was built, bulldozed and built again.  They had a team of archaeologists on hand when the foundations of Skydome, er, Rogers centre, er I don't know what they call it today (I thought it should have been called the Con Dome for all the shenanigans that went into building it).  Whatever it was, it was built on one of the older areas of the city.  If I recall correctly, they found plenty of bottles and crockery, plus two bronze cannons from the French regime.  That may also have been the time they found a whale skeleton, but I am not completely certain of that.  That's another story for another day.

***

Speaking of oldish Toronto, last weekend was our Doors Open weekend, where various buildings throughout the city open their doors to the public.  First off, Puff and I went to the Ontario archives, because it was close by.  They took her backstage to where the preservation is done and where the vaults are, while I stayed with Frodo in the World War One exhibit they had below.  I found a note stating that they have a diary written by a man who served in the same battalion as my grandfather.  That is something I have to take a closer look at.

***

I am actually jealous of Younger's Quebec trip.  She is staying at the Chateau Frontenac.  When I went on my class trip to the city way back when. I did not stay at the Chateau Frontenac, I stayed at some abandoned crack house across the road from the Chateau Frontenac.  Four of us were in a 'quest room' in the basement, where our beds were right beside the furnace, washing machines and the ceiling was decorated by the duct work.  If we stood on our toes and looked out the basement window, we  could see the Chateau.   To put that another way, from our hotel room we could see a good hotel.

***

Our second stop on the doors open day was St Lawrence Market.  It wasn't on the list of places that were open specifically for the weekend.  I just went there because I wanted a Peameal Bacon Sandwich.

***

Third stop was St George's Greek Orthodox Church, just north of St Michael's Cathedral (still under heavy renovation)    St George's is amazing and I highly recommend it.  The interior is the only place outside of Greece where the decorations were done by the monks of mount Athos, and boy, do they know what they are doing.  Normally, icons, aren't my favourite style of painting, but even I was struck with the craftsmanship of these.   And the use of colours- bold, loud colours everywhere.  Risky colours, but they pulled it off.   Simply amazing.

***

Speaking of colours in churches: that's a 'thing' of mine, if you will.  I have visited many churches with my mother and my family, and one of the thing that gets me sometimes is the milquetoast use of colours in many Catholic churches.  For example, there was this one rather intact church we visited in Hamilton.  Its large marble high altar was intact, as was most of the church.  However, the marble was of a pinkish hue, and they painted the wall behind it a soft, off white pastel pink.  The altar just bled into the wall when it should have popped.  Similarly, when I went to the newly renovated Our Lady Immaculate in Guelph, I found they had painted the interior mainly white, so the white marble high altar with its statue of Mary and the white marble stations of the cross just faded into the wall.  

I've seen similar things in many churches, it is like the deign committee is scared of bolder colours.  Bold colours are high risk./ high reward: if you get the colours right, it will look amazing, but if you get them wrong, it will be horrible.  Pastels and off whites tend to be low risk/low reward: If you get the colours wrong, it still won't look that bad.  But, by thee same token, even if you get it right, it won't look that good.

Oddly enough, there was a Polish church almost across the road from the other Catholic Church in Hamilton.  Puff and I stopped in to look at it, and the contrast could not have been more pronounced.  Bold colours in intricate patterns covered every surface of the interior.  It could have been horrible, but it was wonderful instead.  Mind, it was tame in comparison with St George's.

***

Younger will also be visiting St Anne de Beaupre while she is Quebec.  I wanted to go back there, but I have never managed to pull it off.  It is always just a little outside of my budget.  She, however, isn't really looking too forward to it.  She claims I have taken her to too many churches.

So, to what is she really looking forward?  Whale watching.  They will be going on a small boat for a three hour tour.  A three hour tour.

***

I am somewhat nervous about that.  I hope there's someone on board who knows how to make a radio out of a pair of coconuts.

***

On Sunday Puff Younger and I visited Black Creek Pioneer Village as it was free that day.  The place has gone downhill, I am sorry to say.  They didn't have many presenters showing us how the work was done.  No cooper, no shoemaker, no broom maker.  They had a photography shop, which I thought would be interesting- dress up like a pioneer and have our photo taken- but, instead, it was an empty room with a chair and one or two props.  They had a vest and an apron and a few other things you or your companion could put on, and then you take the picture yourself. Cheap and stupid.

Do these people not want to make money?

 Worst of all, from my biased point of view, was that there was no cabinet maker.  The shop was in good order, with tools on display, but there was no wood to be worked, no shavings or dust on the floor, no projects in progress.  Nothing.  I asked around, to see what was going on (and if there is an opening, I would gladly apply- and found out that the old cabinet maker or one of his apprentices injured themselves a few years ago, and, for insurance reasons, it was decided to close the shop. 

What kind of buffoon injures themselves that badly with hand tools?  And was it that bad, or are the insurance companies paranoid?  Was it serious, or just a couple of stitches?  Don't get me wrong- my left hand is covered with scars from woodworking.  If they were using power tools, that would be another matter entirely.  You can lose a hand in a second with those.  But to really hurt yourself with handsaws and planes?  That takes both real effort and real incompetence.

***

In other news, I am now a second degree knight.

We are told to keep the rituals secret, and I will honour the oath I swore, but, at the same time, I am a little disappointed.  I wanted better secrets.  Maybe I'll learn something at one of the higher levels.  I see one of the grand knights leaning forward and whispering something like:  "You know World War Two?  That was us."

***

I hope Younger is enjoying herself.  I am jealous, but I still hope that she has a wonderful time with good memories.  Something she can tell her kids about.  Or at least me. 

20 May 2015

This trip to Ottawa

tl;dr  version:  A good time was had by all, with some of the absurdities that generally occur whenever I set foot outside my door.  For more details, you'll have to read on. 

Part the first: Getting there

In the end, it was my mother and I who went to Ottawa.  I was going for the March, and mother was going to see her goddaughter/niece, who has been unwell for a long time and is getting into the nasty habit of taking turns for the worse at random intervals.  She had a nasty turn a few weeks back, which, in its way, is what convinced my mother to come.  Mother would be very upset with herself if her niece were to take another turn for the worse and she (mother) had passed up an opportunity to see her.  So, mother was coming, along with her cane, and, more importantly, her purse.

Puff wished me to take a cell phone in case of an emergency or, just in case she wanted to get in touch with me.  We have an old pay as you go cell phone, so no problem, until we attempted to check how much money we had on it  and discovered that the provider no longer supports our phone.  So problem.  We now needed a new cell phone.  We got another pay as you go phone.  It worked well.  At least, when I tried to make a phone call, it worked.  Also,unlike the last cell phone I used, this one could take pictures!  Amazing what they can do nowadays. I used it to take pictures of the march, which would have been great, except the phone's camera was no good and the pictures that might have been good have my thumb in them. 

Mother and I took off on Wednesday evening, intending to find some place along the way that was close to Ottawa where we could spend the night.  Between traffic, construction and trucks, we eventually stopped off in Ganonoque and found a hotel for the night.  I left an early morning wake up call and then, just to be certain, set the alarm clock for six, aiming to be on the road by seven. Woke up at six thirty and found that neither the call nor the alarm worked.  I told mother to hurry up so we could get out of there by quarter after seven.  She said she would.

So by about 8:10 we were on the road again.   I was trying to make up for lost time and get to St Patrick's by ten o'clock for the start of the Mass.  And I was at St Patrick's by ten o'clock.  I just couldn't find a parking spot.   I left her off at the church.  She has trouble managing both her cane and her purse, so she asked me if I could bring her purse after I found parking.  After I found parking and carried her purse through what seemed to be half of Ottawa, I found she was still standing outside the church, as she did not wish to go in alone.  Many passersby were kind to her.  A few of them even looked like they wanted to toss her a quarter.  We were in the church basement watching Mass on a large screen television by about 10:30.   Not ideal, but at least we were in the place we were supposed to be to meet our gracious host, Mother's niece's husband.

Part the Second: Being there.

We had lunch at the treatment centre where my cousin was staying.  We left mother with my cousin to chat and catch up and our host drove me to as close as possible to Parliament Hill, where the March was to start.  People had gathered  and the Hill was quite crowded- I understand there was about 25,000 people there.  Only Canada Day draws a bigger crowd to the hill.  I saw man different groups in the crowd, even quite a few nuns in habit, and most were young. 

There were loudspeakers out and politicians were making speeches.  All the politicians I heard were Conservative, as neither the NDP nor the Liberals will permit pro life candidates any more.  Most were English, although there was one or two who spoke French.  I wish I could tell you what they said, but the only place I could find to stand was close to a pair of Earsplitter 9000 (tm) loudspeakers.  I had trouble making out words, but they seemed earnest.  There was a brief interruption when three, perhaps four femen protesters to show up.  I was happy to see them: it meant we might actually make the news.  They were carried away quickly, protesting loudly.  Good for them.

The march itself was... odd for me.   I have never felt at home in crowds.  When I began to plan to attend, originally Puff was going to come with me, and she and I would have walked together.   Instead I walked alone in the middle of a very large crowd.  Most other people came as part of one group or another.  Some people started up various chants as they marched, of the "hey ho, abortion's got to go" variety.  They seemed to enjoy that, but I prefer the power of silence.  It seems to me a large, silent crowd is more powerful than a crowd repeating some slogan over and over.  Not knowing what else to do, I pulled my rosary out of my pocket and prayed as I walked.  At one point, we ran into a bunch of people who were on the sidewalk holding up signs.  At first I thought they were protesting us, but then I saw they were anti abortion and were holding up signs with images of aborted babies.  I wondered why they were showing those to us.  We were already on their side.

Of course, there were counter protesters.   We ran into them a various points along the way.  I counted about a hundred, maybe a hundred and fifty.  They had their signs and their slogans.   It wasn't terribly interesting.  Nothing happened.

The march was short and was over more quickly than I anticipated.  We were back at the hill and some Christian rock bands were playing some apparently inspirational type music.  I left.

Part the Third: Visiting whilst there.

Our host invited us to join him for dinner at the parliamentary restaurant back on Parliament Hill later in the evening.  Our Host drove us back to the Hill and dropped us off in front, and told us he would meet us inside.  I my mother handed me her purse to carry, and took my arm and forward we went.

In the wake of the shootings back in October, security at Parliament has been revamped.  Kevin Vickers, the former Sergeant At Arms in parliament,  has been sent to Ireland as an ambassador, and the RCMP are now mostly in charge. Let me put that another way: Remember the videos of the gunman storming parliament?  Remember how he raced past nine or ten RCMP cars, and none of the officers inside noticed that he had stolen a cab, then a minister's care, then ran inside whilst carrying a rifle?  Remember those guys who stood by and did nothing while all that happened?  They're in charge now.  Remember Vickers, the one who told his staff to hang back while he went in alone and took care of the situation, then went in alone and took care of the situation?  He's gone.

The first security fellow was pleasant enough.  He smiled and greeted us warmly and somewhat apologetically, while I put mother's purse in front of him to look through.  He did a quick search and sent us inside, where we met the second checkpoint.

These guys were more serious.  It appeared their motto was "We don't find that funny."  I had to empty my pockets.  No problem.  I am long accustomed to emptying my pockets for the government.  At least this time I would be getting the contents back. I had to put mother's purse and then her cane on the belt for the x-ray machine.  Then one of the guards pointed at my middle. 

"Your belt," he said.

"Yes, I have a belt," I said, wondering where this was going, and why this was important.

"Take it off."

"Seriously?"  However, one look at his face told me he was.  Off came the belt.

They sent me through the metal detector, then told me to hold up my arms whilst they waved a metal detector over me.  This was of some concern to me, since, as I no longer had a belt, my pants were about to fall down.  I was about to moon parliament.  I wonder what the penalty for that would be?

It was over quickly, and my pants hadn't quite slipped to the point of indecency.  I was still glad to grab my hem and haul the pants up.  I then went to help my mother through the detector, but nothing doing.  Keep in mind my mother, who is over ninety, was without a cane, and now had to stagger through the detector unaided, then hold up her arms while she was scanned with a wand.  Now, the woman who scanned her was quite nice and understanding, and made it as painless as possible, but we still had an old woman who had to hold up her arms without her prop to balance herself.  Perhaps that is why these officers were so serious:  they are stuck adhering to rules even when it is ludicrous and even harmful.

However, mother did not fall, my pockets were soon full again and my trousers secured.  Mother had my arm and her cane to prop herself up again, and I had her purse on my arm again.  Off we went to get our passes.  The guard there was of the smiling and friendly sort. We met up with our host soon after.

He gave us a lovely tour of part of the Center Block building, telling us of its history and lore as we went.  Then we headed up to the restaurant for dinner.

Dinner presented a slight problem: the restaurant has a dress coat- tie and jacket for men- and I had neither.  However, the staff was willing to make a small exception with conditions:  we were seated in a small alcove, off in one corner, and placed me so that my back was to the rest of the restaurant.  Problem solved.  At least no one made me take off my belt.

Part the Fourth: Going Home, and that darn purse.

We stayed in Ottawa for Friday as well, visiting and revisiting family and friends. We had a wonderful time.  Our Host regaled us with many tales of the city and its politics, and of his experience here and other cities. I could easily fill ten blog posts with his stories and not tell even the half of them.  Perhaps I may share one or two in another post- the tale of the missing golden crown, at least, begs to be told, but I should clear it with him first. 

On Saturday morning we headed out to say goodbye to Mother's niece.  They looked happy to see each other again, and at the same time sad at their parting.  I suppose they both were aware that this meeting may have been their last. I tried to console them in my own rough way, and told them that if they could both remain above dirt, I would do this again. They laughed, and we left.

The road home was not terribly eventful. We made frequent stops at the On Route stations that dot the 401.  It was here that my patience with mother and her handbag began to run out. So far I had carried her purse for her through much of Ottawa, through the heart of Canadian democracy itself, through several restaurants and one or two small towns.  However, here I reached my nadir.  I took mother to the woman's bathroom, and after she went inside, I went to the men's, and it was only as I approached the urinal that I realized I was still holding that blasted purse.

What is the proper etiquette for such a situation?  What does one do with a purse on this occasion? My Dad never explained this one to me.  I wonder why.  I would have to ad lib. Should I put it on the floor?  I looked at the floor.  It looked... pretty much like the floor under your average urinal. .  Mother would not thank me for putting it there. I holding on my arm, but the way it is balanced it tends to swing in front of me.  So I am standing at the urinal with one hand more or less behind my back, holding up the back of my trousers  Other men are looking at me.  Mother is so very lucky I do not embarrass easily, but I was getting there.   That purse must die.

Epilogue: The Conquering Hero returns.

Eventually we come home. I was later than I wanted to be, Puff is a little put out at my tardiness. There was a minor crisis whilst I was away:  Frodo had flushed something down the downstairs toilet, and it was now clogged. Five minutes after I had returned home, I had changed my clothes and was unbolting the toilet from the floor to clean it out.  The vacation was over.

19 May 2015

Prayer Request

I was going to write a post on the March and my trip to Ottawa, but I just found out that the man who was to be my best man (couldn't make the wedding because his band was on tour) has marrow cancer.  Please say a prayer for the man, his wife and their child.  I'll post about Ottawa some other time.

13 May 2015

Off to Ottawa

Tonight I'm heading off to Ottawa to take part in the March for Life, so I will be absent here for a few days, in the event anyone wishes to leave a comment and hopes for a response from me.

I'm hoping to see a good crowd at the March, and, with luck, a few femen protestors might show up.  That way, there's a chance we might make the news.

11 May 2015

Here at work

We just had a union meeting to vote on our tentative agreement.  It was the usual sort of thing- mind numbing for the most part.  We had to go over each change to the collective agreement, including the housecleaning changes to language.  However, that was more interesting than when the Usual Crowd got up and started shouting about how ratifying this would lead to our doom- DOOM, I SAY!  That got old years ago.

Speaking of work, one of my co-workers- whom I refer to as 'pothead' was ranting a little while ago about how, as of last month, he had been employed in this place for forty years, and he was given nothing, not even a cupcake, to commemorate the occasion.  He was quite irate.

I don't know what to say about that.  On the one hand, I think perhaps the occasion could have been noted in some way, but on the other hand, if I were to still be here after forty years, the only thing I would want would be a gun with a single bullet in it.   But I'm me and he's he and to each their own.

9 May 2015

For Mothers' Day

The Most Important Person on earth is a mother.

She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral-a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body. The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God's creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can.

Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature. God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation.

What on God's good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother?

-Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty

ht:  St John Cantius parish bulletin.

8 May 2015

VE Day

On this day, 70 years ago, a great darkness was lifted from Europe. 

My father was there, and I have often shared his stories from the war.   Strangely, he had nothing to tell me of VE day, merely that he was there when it ended. 

The Canadians had formed a loose truce with the Germans in the Netherlands so they could get food to the starving Dutch people on both sides of the front.  The Dutch to this day remember and are grateful to the Canadians for their liberation.

The armies of the allies were made up of ordinary men who became citizen soldiers, Cincinnatus to a man, who rose from their job, and their family, went overseas, and returned home to their families and job to resume their lives.  Many didn't get a chance to carry on, and many couldn't carry on when given the chance.  To them our generation and generations to come owe a debt of gratitude that cannot and never shall be repaid, and yet almost every vet I know shrugs off an label of hero, and merely says that they were doing a job, doing what everyone else did, and that the real heroes were the ones who never made it back.

 They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

We shall remember them.,

In history, it was common to honour heroes with statues and tributes.  Their faces would be carved in stone and painted on canvas, remembered in poetry and song.  In our age we build statues of nothing, to nothing.  Our poetry is gibberish, our paintings splatters and our songs mere noise.  We have little art left to us to honour them.  And yet, it was not always so.  There are a few works made for these men.   .It was in honour of these citizen soldiers that Aaron Copeland composed his most famous work, The Fanfare for the Common Man,.




Always remember these men and what they have done for us.