Saturday, 21 January 2012

Cultural Weekend

This weekend we have been to two cultural events, on Friday night to the theatre to see the famous Canadian play which has been translated in numerous languages and produced around the world in the last 15 years entitled Two Pianos Four Hands by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt. It chronicles the dreams of two boys who aspire to concert pianist stardom. Highly entertaining with lots of piano playing. It reminded me of my own days when as a youth I took piano lessons. Then this afternoon, we went to see live from New York, MET performance of The Enchanted Island by Jeremy Sams. The Metropolitan Opera has been on the radio for more years than I can remember, decades really and heard around the world.  Now its HD Live in large cinemas and it is as if you were there in person. The cinema was full and it is shown in another cinema in Ottawa, so during the MET Season seven cinemas in Ottawa pack them in to see these live performances. There is a great demand and it is hugely popular and a great way to spend a cold winter afternoon, today it was -23C.  The conductor was William Christie who was sporting his Legion d'Honneur. The Cast was Neptune, Placido Domingo, it was his birthday today, Sycorax, Joyce Didonato who we saw in Milan at La Scala, Caliban, Luca Pisaroni who we saw in Salzburg and in Ravena, Prospero, David Daniels. We had such great fun and I enjoyed my afternoon immensely. A lavish production, great music of the Baroque era. Jeremy Sams used music by Handel and others and simply put in new wording to very familiar tunes. I have to say that the wording was sort of pedestrian but nonetheless enjoyable.

Today was a sunny winter day and thousands of people were skating on the Rideau Canal, so far 4.3 km are open but next week it will be the full 11Km within the Capital. You get a full workout on such a long stretch of the skate way.
Tonight I am making chicken soup from scratch, I love to do this, it brings back such wonderful memories of my childhood and I basically copy my Mom's recipe, easy as pie and its smell wonderful.     

Sunday, 15 January 2012

On a Sunny Sunday in cold Ottawa.

As this is a quiet Sunday morning at -30 C in Ottawa under a bright blue Sun filled winter sky, I sit here with puppies quietly listening to Angela Hewitt playing the English Suite by J.S. Bach.  In fact winter officially arrived in Ottawa on Thursday 12 January 2012 in a snowstorm which created meter high snow banks on the streets everywhere, making street parking impossible for a few months to come and walking difficult and hazardous.  I wonder what was my ancestor thinking when in June of 1662 he boarded a war ship in Brittany for Quebec City in far away Canada. Knowing that life expectancy upon arrival in this French territoire outre-mer was at best one year. If disease or the elements did not get you the Aboriginals living in the dark primevil forest would. I would rather live in a more southern temperate clime.
Near our home while walking the puppies this morning at 8 am.
The Rideau Canal finally ready for skaters, the longest skating way in the world, I forget how many kilometers it is but it is very long indeed.
cleaning the snow off the canal for skaters to enjoy a good exercise.
 quiet streets and a brave few walkers along the canal.

This morning in the New York Times, Lee Siegel has a very good opinion piece on Mitt Romney and race.
Describing Mitt Romney as the whitest white presidential candidate anyone can hope for to replace that black fellow in the White House. It seems that Americans are incapable of accepting a black president, the old race card comes again to haunt the political agenda. Sad for a country which loves to present itself as forward thinking, modern and a defender of freedom and human rights. What is it they say about Freedom, '' the price of freedom is eternal vigilance''. The Americans or at least the Republicans are unable to free themselves of their old prejudices, they inherited the narrow minded and mean views of people like George Wallace of Alabama, nothing has really changed since the 1960.

Lee Siegel says and I quote; Of course, I’m not talking about a strict count of melanin density. I’m referring to the countless subtle and not-so-subtle ways he telegraphs to a certain type of voter that he is the cultural alternative to America’s first black president. It is a whiteness grounded in a retro vision of the country, one of white picket fences and stay-at-home moms and fathers unashamed of working hard for corporate America.

In this way, Mr. Romney’s Mormonism may end up being a critical advantage. Evangelicals might wring their hands over the prospect of a Mormon president, but there is no stronger bastion of pre-civil-rights-America whiteness than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Yes, since 1978 the church has allowed blacks to become priests. But Mormonism is still imagined by its adherents as a religion founded by whites, for whites, rooted in a millenarian vision of an America destined to fulfill a white God’s plans for earth. 

He goes on with: ''as became immediately apparent in 2009, millions of Americans were unwilling to accept the basic democratic premise that Mr. Obama legally and morally deserved to sit in the White House — and that was before they confronted his “socialist” and “un-American” policy agenda.

Mitt Romney knows this. He knows that he offers to these people the white solution to the problem of a black president. I am sure that Mr. Romney is not a racist. But I am also sure that, for the many Americans who find the thought of a black president unbearable, he is an ideal candidate. For these sudden outsiders, Mitt Romney is the conventional man with the outsider faith — an apocalyptic pragmatist — who will wrest the country back from the unconventional man with the intolerable outsider color.''
Terribly sad but so true of the USA. It seems that some ghosts of the past are unshakeable.
In Canada this week the law on same-sex marriage was firmly enshrined by the Federal Government by a simple declaration by the Minister of Justice, for anyone who thought that it could be changed by the current administration or some exception was about to be made in Divorce Court. The law was passed in 2005, giving full marital rights, recognition and protection to same-sex couples. Thousands of foreigners have come to Canada to marry because it was not possible in their own country. A great coup for Canada and the Government. 
It is a beautiful day but too cold despite the fact that the Canal is open to skating, I can stand the cold and even the puppies don't want to go outside for too long. So we will enjoy the view from inside.

Nora in the Sunshine
Nicky dozing in the morning sun

Friday, 13 January 2012

New Look for the New Year

2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon according to this year's Asian Lunar or Spring Festival which starts on 22 January, a bit early. If one wants good wishes which comes in the form of a Dragon this year, you should pray to the Dragon Emperor  Ao Guang who lives in the East China Sea. Dragons in Asia are good creatures who bring happiness, prosperity, wealth and many good things. They are more serpent like and fly in the sky unlike the European model who has wings and is associated with evil. You will also find Dragons in Japan and in Vietnam, they are symbols associated with the Emperor like in China. The Han Chinese will say that they are the sons of the Great Dragon, the Emperor. The dragon is the mythical beast iconic to many Asian people. Let's hope that this year of the Dragon brings all manner of good things to all people.
Japanese Dragon
Dragon Gods
Chinese Dragon

I also changed the look of my blog page and added a new icon photo and clock. I love the old wall effect with the paintings and the colour scheme as a background. The pocket watch also has that old elegant look.

Will left on Thursday for London for a few days, to visit friends and go to the theatre. He is staying in Kensington and will dine on Friday night at the Garrick Club, lucky bugger. See website It turns out the David Garrick (1717-1779) was of Huguenot French descent ant the family name was De La Garrique. The Club was opened in 1831 it is quite beautiful and in many ways what a gentlemen's club should look like at 15 Garrick street in Covent Garden.

I on the other hand am snow bound, major snow storm in Ottawa, in fact from my window today I thought it looked like I was inside a snow globe so intense was the dancing snow outside. Well for my dinner this evening I had a black squid ink Risotto Venetian Style with freshly chopped vegetables and jumbo shrimps and a little glass or two of one of my favourite scotch, Laphroaig, single malt from Islay, nothing fancy, all simplicity, the other being Talisker.

Puppies are very quiet and asleep now, they went for their walk earlier jumping in the snow, quite covered in the white stuff, they are obviously getting use to it.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Musical interlude

A little music on this day full of snow and freezing rain in Ottawa. This piece of music by Edvard Grieg
celebrating King Sigurd I of Norway. The piece is known as Sigurd Jorsafar, which is old Norse for the Crusader also known as Magnusson or the great, lived from 1090 to 1130. His rule is said to be by historians, a golden age in Middle Age Norway. He did lead a crusade from 1107-1110. This excerpt is Played here by the orchestra of the CSSR, Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Guzenhauser. I wish I knew the name of the artist whose paintings are shown here.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Jean Pigott, 1924-2012

Today at lunch I was looking at the news on the internet and saw that Jean Pigott had just died. She was in poor health and was living at Grace Manor, by a strange coincidence she was also born in the very same hospital then known as Grace Hospital in May 1924. She was 87 years old. I am quite sad to read this news, I knew her and her sisters, I worked for her in Parliament when Joe Clark was Prime Minister and Flora Macdonald was an M.P.

She was a great lady and a wonderful story teller, a champion of our National Capital, Ottawa. In her office she had this incredible collection of little pigs, her family name is Pigott so the connection. Her family are famous in Ottawa, they are the owners of Morrison-Lamothe Bakery, bread making and pastries is the trade mark of this family. She use to say never go a day without tasting the bread. She was for many years the CEO of the company. She became the Chair of the National Capital Commission and her legacy amongst other things is Confederation Boulevard, the great ceremonial road in Ottawa with its red granite sidewalks. She had vision which is so rare in politicians, she also was generous and was involved all her life in philanthropy.

We need more people like her in this day and age. She died on the birthday, the 197th. of Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada, who like her belonged to the Conservative party.  Flags on Parliament and at City Hall are at half-mast. In 1995 the Governor General made her an Officer of the Order of Canada.  Her maiden name was Morrison and she married Arthur Pigott.

We will miss her, such a great lady.   

Thursday, 5 January 2012

This and that in the New Year

Just a few photos in the New Year 2012.

Nicky's look, he has that intense stare, you never know with him.
Just snoozing in the morning sun. Nicky and Nora

Dinner at home, pasta, rose sauce and fresh schrimps and a glass of Moët
Dinner at home with freshly made fries, Will's specialty and a nice steak and a glass of Bolgheri

Sunday, 1 January 2012

a sleepy, slow day 1 January 2012

First I find it difficult to believe that 12 years ago we were living in Warsaw, Poland and the big topic had to do with Y2K and a theory that the Earth would collide with other planets and planes fall from the sky etc... the hysteria from our collective leaders around the world was something to behold, a bit like bird flu and frozen rock hard chickens scare a few years later, we were all going to die, all this seems like a million years ago now. This year some Mayan Calendar and the end of the world, looks more and more like the news is run by the tabloids at the check-out counter of your local supermarket.

First here is my official 2012 New Year's portrait taken on 30 December at the house of our dear friend CP where she served us a wonderful multi-course dinner. I told her this could be a second career and celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay and his mini-hamburgers at Laurier Bar-B-Q in Montreal could take a run for his money. She served amongst other things Cornish Hens, they were very good and I got from her a sea scallop recipe, simple and wonderful. The dinner service is well over 100 years old, very elegant.

During the Holiday period I promised myself I would tend to my army and take care of arranging it all properly. Took me 3 days to do it, quite the task, I know how Kim Jong Un now feels in underfed and hysterical North Korea. I had to arrange them by century, period, monarchs, battle and in an historical context. Have four basic periods, the easiest is the Coronation parade for Queen Elizabeth II, then comes the 7 years war at Quebec City, September 1759, I know my ancestors were there as they lived not far and were soldiers. In fact August 2012 will mark the 350 anniversary of the arrival of my ancestors in Canada, (1662-2012).

Then comes the Napoleonic wars, etc.. though it is not a period I like, 12 campaigns in a very short term if you think of it, a whole male generation in France slaughtered and economic chaos in Europe over some Corsican fellow, who admitted he did not like France or the French that much to begin with.
At any rate it is a lot of work but much fun, each piece has a history and a different provenance.

Today I also did a little housekeeping, polishing the silver ice bucket, a Christmas gift of my sister back in 1983 in New York, where my parents then lived. Will and I spent 3 hours at Fortunoff on Fifth Avenue deciding what we would get. It had gotten quite tarnished and it was inexcusable so now it is all clean again.

We also listened to the New Year's day concert from the Musikverein, Golden Hall in Vienna, the flowers in the concert hall are magnificent, a gift each year I am told from the city of San Remo in Italy. The tickets to the concert are obtained through a lottery and for 2013 you can apply now for your tickets, from the reasonably priced to the very expensive in Euros. See the web site, well worth it,

Last night the weather in Ottawa was miserable, slippery and wet, cold, humid, so like most of the people we knew, we stayed home and had a lovely dinner with fine wines and a lovely annual fruit cake by our friend J who has made them for the last 30 years, this year's cake is excellent. By 10 o'clock we were ready for bed but did stay up until midnight listening to the radio from Toronto to ring in the New Year. Had a glass of Marsala Vergine and went to bed. Today the 1 January the weather was quite warm at +5 C, water everywhere under heavy grey skies. Just quiet time.