Post Cards from Durham, Part i

February 7, 2009

Durham, Ontario, is a community of about 2500 people in Grey County, 25 miles south of Owen Sound. E.g. and I were up there for a day in mid-December. Here are three photos, with three more to come in tomorrow’s posting.


1. This is a mural on the main street. The banner reads, “Remembering Saugeen Country Our Heritage” . The many-branched Saugeen River runs throughout Grey County; E.g. and I took a two-day canoe trip on part of it a few years ago. The legend beneath the cameo identifies the sideburned gentleman as “Archibald Hunter, the Founder of Durham.” What I really like about this mural is its trompe-l’oeil effect; even the crooked parking sign seems to blend in with the split-rail fence.


2. There is a malicious rumour, started by some anonymous turtle, that there has been no eavestrougher in the region for about five years now. If you’re skilled in the trade and between jobs, now is your chance.


No such luck if you repair televisions for a living, however; when the reception gets bad, people around here just call the Saugeen Conservation Authority.

Elizabeth Interviews Turtle

January 26, 2009


My blogbuddy Elizabeth, still living on a farm but doing some physiotherapy so she can resume wearing stilettos, has sent me some interview questions! Here goes:

* * *

1. If you could have lunch with any three people (alive/dead/real/fictitious), who would they be, and why?

i) Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946; Scots-Canadian naturalist and author)

ii) Mick Aston (b. 1946; British archaeologist)

iii) Dad (1927-2002; Canadian employee)

My dad always loved the outdoors. He had great respect for anyone who knew how to work with their hands. He was highly intelligent, keeping up with current events and enjoying documentaries. He really enjoyed Time Team. He was also a shy man who didn’t always have a chance to be heard.

I would invite these three people so I would have the pleasure of seeing Dad engaging in face-to-face conversation with the other two.

2. What items are within three feet of you?

My recorder and music for it; E.g.’s harp and her music; some exercise videos, hand weights, a yoga mat and a stretchy band; a thank-you letter/time sheet for an office I recently temped at; the plywood desk my father made; the wooden table E.g. bought for her first apartment; a wooden, painted shield bought on impulse, nailed to the wooden sword my son fashioned when a child; and Cuca the cat, snoozing on the sofa.

3. What is the last book you read that you would recommend to someone, and why?

I would recommend The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx. It begins in sorrow, and becomes relentless in its misery, until finally — there’s not so much a turning point, as a relaxing of the cruel hand that has gripped the protagonists for so long. Interesting characters, some elements of the Inexplicable, and an ending in hope.

4. What one thing do you want to know about the future?

This one’s a toughie! I’d say, at the moment, I’d like to know how much money I’ll be making a year from now, so we can budget accordingly.

5. What is your guilty pleasure?

Warning: the following answer is not suitable for Goodbear or other vegans!!!

Fat. I love animal fat. The gelatinous non-meaty parts of pork hocks, the strips on lamb chops, chicken skin, the white bits on a cold roast of beef, mmm… but I hate fake mayonnaise.

Like, eeeeew, eh?

* * *

Thanks, Elizabeth! This was fun!

If any other bloggers (up to five of you) want an instant blog topic, I’ll send you some interview questions just like Elizabeth did for me. Any takers?

Testing, One, Two, Three

November 14, 2008

Boy, I’m whacked. Remind me not to look for a job that requires constant use of a computer.

I went looking for a few new additions to my blogroll today. Scanning and skimming until the whites of my eyes turned purple, looking for something I thought would sustain my interest on a regular basis. And I found three. Did I mention you were a select group, o blogfriends?


1. Towards Sustainability. I found this one on Livingisdetail’s blogroll. Crazy Mumma — oh wait, she’s also called Julie — lives in Australia with her spouse and three children. She is an environmental scientist who has decided that, for the time being, her greatest contribution to the environment is staying home with the kids and learning new ways to respect the earth. These ways include growing vegetables on her little suburban property, sewing cloth sandwich wrappers, and trying out recipes for homemade toothpaste and deodorant. It’s all fascinating, informative stuff. Crazy Mumma has just published her 500th post, and shows no signs of quitting.

2. We Three, Ginger Cats Tales. I’m not sure now how I arrived here — and that is perhaps appropriate. The writing in this blog is rich and beautiful and mysterious, poetic and respectful. The entries are short — often only one well-crafted paragraph — and the accompanying photos focus on both the pets and the Welsh countryside where they live.

3. The Chawed Rosin. This is a lovely eclectic blog from somewhere in the United States. You’ll just have to go visit it to figure it out; certainly at one hour past my bedtime, I’m beyond understanding much more than the fact that anybody who posts Melanie and “Pata Pata” videos and Edgar Allen Poe poems and political cartoons of President Obama gluing the Constitution back together again — well, this blogger’s got my attention!

So there, a blog on sustainable living, another on creative writing, and a third on popular culture and history. Enough for one day. Have a good weekend, everybody!

Canadian Gold — Hey!

October 12, 2008

Thirty-seven-year-old Colin Oberst teaches a split grades five and six class in Edmonton, Alberta. He lives about five miles south of the city in the town of Beaumont. He is a big Oilers fan, a music teacher, and a member of a local band called the Surgents.

He is also a hundred thousand dollars richer than he was two days ago. Colin has won the CBC Hockey Night in Canada Hockey Anthem Challenge, and you’ll be able to hear his theme song whenever you tune in to the opening minutes of HNiC. Possibly for decades — the previous theme song lasted 40 years.

Or you could listen to the above video now.

Way to go, Colin! WE VOTED FOR YOU! WE LOVE YOU!

Second place was 13-year-old Robert Fraser Burke of Toronto. When I was a few years older than him, I came in first in my class at the Sunderland Lions Music Festival two or three years in a row, and I was thrilled. I might have been even more thrilled had there been any competition — not too many high schoolers were lining up to play French horn solos in those days. Robert has come in second in the Anthem Challenge, but at least his piece surpassed 14,998 other entries.

Good show, Rob! You’ve got a great career ahead of you! THEMARVELOUSINNATURE VOTED FOR YOU! SHE LOVES YOU!

Happy Hockey, happy Sunday, and happy Thanksgiving, one and all.

Hockey Music in Canada

October 5, 2008

Quick: What is Canada’s official sport?

I had to look that one up to sort out the answer. In the seventies, my Canadian Literature teacher told us that lacrosse, not hockey, is the right response. Turns out he was wrong, at least for a while.

The year my home-and-native land was born, 1867, our “dominion’s first national sport governing body… was formed.” And that body, despite cricket (!) being the most popular game at the time, was the National Lacrosse Association of Canada. The Canadian Enclyclopedia article from which I quote goes on to give the NLAC’s motto: Our Country and Our Game. But there was, in fact, no Act of Parliament designating an official national pastime.

Fast-forward to May 12, 1994, however, and we find that a hockey-loving member of parliament tendered a private bill to have hockey declared our official national game. After some discussion among lacrosse players and fans, traditionalists, historians, First Nations people, and players and fans of what has been the more popular game here for generations, a sensible decision became ice-crystal clear: we would have two official national sports. Lacrosse is now the official summer sport, and hockey the official winter sport.

And now we skip ahead to this year, when our national radio and television network, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), decided not to renew the rights to the theme song for Hockey Night in Canada. This theme song has played for four decades now. It is embedded in the souls of Canadians all across this fair land, and stirs at least as much pride as “O Canada” ever did.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the piece, go here to see a Youtube clip of a 1997 intro to a Flyers-Red Wings match.

Last night, E.g. and I watched CBC’s presentation of the five semi-finalists — out of a total 15,000 (maybe composing should be considered our national sport!) — for the new HNiC theme song. We ended up agreeing on which one we thought would be most appropriate, and away we went to the CBC web site to vote. You have to register to vote, but it’s free.

And you don’t have to register in order to listen to the five semi-finalists; just click on the picture heading this blog entry, and scroll down the page to find the icy blue links to each piece, #1 through #5.

Also, you don’t have to be Canadian to vote.

What’s more, you don’t have to be a hockey lover. E.g. and I know as much about hockey as we do about small engine repair or lacemaking or the digestive system of arachnids. But we’re musically inclined, and… well… it’s a Canadian thing.

Timeline: Saint John

September 23, 2008

The red cranes for loading container ships stand opposite a pierful of buoys and floats.

The Saint John Harbour has long been appreciated for the fact that it does not freeze solid in winter. People have been working here quite a few years…

Plaque commemorating Fort La Tour, in English, French, and Mi’kmaq.

…possibly 4,000.

In 1604, four years before he founded Quebec City, Samuel de Champlain named the Saint John River after the patron saint of France. In 1631, Charles de La Tour set up shop a stone’s throw from the plaque commemorating him today. His fort quickly became a busy trading post, doing business with the Algongkian tribes of the area.

Loyalist burial grounds.

Later came the English, or perhaps “gently used” English, in the form of United Empire Loyalists who left New England after it broke ties with Old England. Some 10,000 of them came to this harbour, and Saint John was the first incorporated city of Canada, in 1785.

“Sacred to the memory of Catharine Hull, the beloved wife of Abel A Hardenbrook, who departed this life the 5th of December 1799, aged 57 years.”


Staircase, looking up.

It took a couple of years to build the imposing County Court House, finished in 1829. The plaque outside reads, in part, “Among its notable features is a freestanding circular staircase whose steps, made from single blocks of stones, are cantilevered from the wall.”

A light was placed near the waterfront in 1842, in hopes of guiding sailors in the fog. In 1848, the gas company commissioned a triple lamp affair on a trident post, which eventually acquired the nickname of “the Three Sisters”. In 1967, the lamps underwent restoration. The sides facing the water are red, and those facing the town are white.

The Three Sisters.

The latest work to be done concerning this lamp post is scheduled to be finished before the snow falls. You can see the construction equipment at the foot of the post, and a corner of the dirt pile: a small parkette is being placed here, as part of the waterfront beautification project.

At the time the Three Sisters lamp was being commissioned, Ireland was in the throes of the Great Famine. Many Irish, coming to Canada, were halted at Partridge Island for quarantine before they could come onto the mainland. Yesterday, flanked by tourist buses of today and Partridge Island of recent history, and standing before a heap that will become the latest public garden, E.g. pondered the past and present of her hometown, and wondered about its future.

Water, Rock, and Trees

September 20, 2008

Well, here we are in “foggy Saint John”, except that it’s a beautiful clear, crisp Fall day. This morning, E.g. and I went down to the seaside in Saint John West at low tide — E.g. had a notion for an ocean. We parked at the Martello Tower, a national historical site. It was built for the War of 1812. The tower overlooks the harbour of Saint John, the Digby Ferry dock, and Partridge Island, so the first four pictures in this entry were taken from pretty much the same spot.

The martello tower. The less glamorous upper addition was built for World War II.

The Church of the Assumption looks over the wharf for the Digby Ferry (ferry bound for Digby, Nova Scotia) and the long strip of the breakwater.

The causeway to Partridge Island is nearly under water at high tide. The island held quarantine facilities for immigrants (mainly the Irish) between 1785 and 1942. It was the first quarantine station in North America.

Leaving the car in the Martello Tower parking lot, we walked down Sea Street to the beach, and poked about for a bit there.

Bladder wrack is pretty homely when it’s high and dry…

…but in its proper element, it has its own charm.

With sharp eyes, one can turn up a few pretty bits of shell and stone. I could see a lot of granite of various colours, and some pieces of quartz as well.

After mucking about on the beach, we strolled through the neighbourhood a bit, and then had lunch at Deluxe Fish and Chips on Main St W. They use a big cutter machine to make the french fries — no frozen spuds here.

We returned to E.g.’s home at 2 pm, whereupon the four of us piled into her dad’s car and we headed for Rockwood Park. You can’t miss this one on a map of Saint John. It includes an area for camping, a zoo, a golf course, and several small lakes. The Trans-Canada Trail (so far still an ambition — there are bits of it in each province) is one of Rockwood Park’s many walking trails. We walked around Lily Lake, which is currently between stints of hosting either paddleboats and canoes, or skaters. We also passed the beach on one of the Fisher Lakes, a lovely children’s playground sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, and a horse stable.

E.g.’s parents admire the view onto Lily Lake.

The beach. The Fisher Lakes are artificial, but don’t really look it anymore. The “graffiti” on the rock on the far side reads, “No diving”.

The far end of the same lake. The puddleducks like this spot just fine.

We returned to the house an hour or so before supper. E.g. showed me how to use her Lightroom program to fiddle with my photos, we had supper, I snuck away to get today’s blog entry done, and now everyone is queuing up for the computer. Until tomorrow!