Saturday, 28 September 2013

Une bien triste nouvelle, libera me domine de morte aeterna

This morning I got a phone call from my sister who is in Montreal at this time. She informed me that our Mom had died in her sleep. Mom had been ill with Alzheimer for 14 long years. We saw her decline and it was painful to see such a wonderful, intelligent women disappear before our eyes.

She really was a great Mom and she took her duties as a mother seriously. She had been raised by the nuns in Ville Saint-Laurent, then a separate city from Montreal. She went to l'Ecole Normale run by les Dames de la Congrégation and became a teacher. In time got married and had 3 kids, me being the eldest, my brother and my little sister. Education, Culture, speaking French correctly and being polite and courteous even when people could be rude was something she taught us. She use to say that you have to get along with everyone because it takes all kinds to make a world.

Rollande Gougeon-Beaulieu, Mars 1931- Septembre 2013

She was a successful Realtor in Montreal, she organized cultural events in Montreal at the time of Expo 67 and became friends with the Mayor Jean Drapeau, she worked at organizing events and raising funds for Pierre E. Trudeau, our then Prime Minister, she was also the Secretary of the Speaker of the House of Commons in Ottawa, a job she loved, she was comfortable in high society and was not phased with meeting Heads of State. She treated everyone with courtesy and kept a cool head.  With my father they travelled and lived around the world, Paris, London, New-York, Washington DC, St-Paul, Toronto, Quebec City.

I remember in 1969 she won a radio contest, the prize was a trip to Ireland. She decided that she would take us to Europe and so we travelled from Ireland to France to England.  We were kids but will never forget that first trip. We got so many wonderful things from her, her common sense, her love of beautiful things, of things well done, hard work, being responsible, of always taking the high road in life and raising above any situation, never lowering your personal standards.

She was also a good cook, I remember watching her cook, always from scratch, she never used any processed, frozen or package goods. Being a teacher by profession, she was good at explaining how to proceed and what you had to watch for. I think I got my love of cooking from her and to this day, go to the Farmer's market to get fresh farm produce.

So many wonderful memories of a beautiful life, I know that I can say without false sentimentality that
my Mom was a great lady, able to combine home and work at a time when women were just starting to enter the work place. How she did it, always having lots of time for us and being able to work and have so many commitments outside the home, amazes me.

She knew from the beginning that she was suffering from Alzheimer, she was afraid of what was going to happen, but she nonetheless remained dignified.

I feel very grateful and lucky to have had such a Mom. I am thankful for her life.

Her favourite song was Yellow Bird, whenever we would go out where they had a band or a singer, she would request it.

Monday, 23 September 2013

A march.

A little air, a march by Jean-Baptiste Lully, La marche des Mousquetaires.
Giovani Batista Lulli, an Italian who came to work for Louis XIV. A march for a cool sunny Autumn day. Also to celebrate that I have passed the cap of the 80,000 views.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sunday in Autumn

This is the first day of Autumn and today starting at 7am we had the Canadian Army Marathon all over Ottawa and Gatineau. Upwards of 22,000 runners, we saw them running up and down the Rideau Canal towards the finish line which is near the Governor General's Guards Drill Hall.

It is a fall day, cold and grey, the trees have started to change colour and leaves are falling in droves. By the end of the afternoon, the sun came out and gave this strange effect over wet streets and damp leaves a bit like a painting by Turner.

Last night we had friends over for dinner and I had asked our favourite florist Minou at BelFiore on Elgin street, if she could do something for our table centre, She has such talent, here are the photos of what she did. The orange flowers are called Star of Bethlehem, usually white. We had Maigret de Canard and roasted potatoes. For dessert peaches in white wine, though the season for peaches ended 2 weeks ago. The Appetizer was a salad of greens with a slice of watermelon sprinkled with cracked pepper and goat cheese.

So on this first day of Fall, a bit of music by Johann Melchior Molter, Concerto for trumpet

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Mauro Bertoli, pianist: Welcome to my blog!I'm happy to start this blog b...

Mauro Bertoli, pianist: Welcome to my blog!
I'm happy to start this blog b...
: Welcome to my blog! I'm happy to start this blog by telling you a great news: I have been appointed Artist-in-Residence at Carleto...

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Morning Sunshine

Both Nicky and Nora love the sunshine in the morning. Though Nicky is really the beach boy.

This week though the weather has been cool, the sun is warm and bright.


Friday, 13 September 2013

La Charte des valeurs.

This week in the news and it has been the only item in the news, no it's not Syria or diplomatic moves between Russia and the USA, it is about the Charte des valeurs du Québec. It is being proposed by the current Provincial Government in Quebec City, which is a minority government led by Madame Pauline Marois as Premier. She is an old warrior of the Separatist cause and a veteran of controversial causes.

At this moment it is a project, the public in Quebec is being asked for opinions on this project of a Charter of Values. If this project becomes a bill to be tabled at the National Assembly ( Quebec's Parliament), the Charter would define was is called common values. It should be remembered that Quebec never signed on to the Canadian Constitutional agreement of 1982 and did not accept the Canadian Charter of Rights because Quebec had its own Charter of Rights voted in 1975.

It is also a battle between two visions of Canada, one is the Multicultural policy of the Federal Government adopted in 1976 and the other is the Integration (Melting Pot) approach of Quebec.

Quebec for many years has had an official policy of selecting it's immigrants from almost exclusively Maghreb countries of North Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and French Africa, with some ( a small number) immigrants from France and other French speaking countries. Most immigrants settle in Montreal who now has a population of about 3.5 million people.

This means that Montreal is French speaking and very cosmopolitan, many neighbourhoods have important diverse communities while the rest of Quebec is mostly made up of old French Canadian families with no or very little visible minorities. The proposed Charter would ban in the Public Service all religious symbols, including turbans for Sikhs, Islamic head or face coverings or veils for women, Jewish Kippah and Christian crosses worn around one's neck. What the Quebec Government is really targeting is Muslim women. Many in Quebec are offended by this face and head covering, all kinds of beliefs and stories circulate around such coverings. It is misunderstood and much of it comes from ignorance. It is believed that women who wear such covering do so not because of religious belief but because they wish to present themselves as different or are forced to wear such covering because they are forced to do so by their husbands. We already had incidents with Sikhs who wear turbans while playing on a sports team. Sports federations have banned such players on safety grounds amid great controversy. As for Jews, they are also targeted by this Charter project simply because the Charter claims to be universal in its ban of religious symbols in the public service. Though Jews have been present in Canada and Quebec and very much an integral part of society for at least 200 years. Same for the Sikhs who have been in Canada since 1898, Queen Victoria's last Jubilee, nothing new here with the colourful turbans.

Why this project now? Do we need it? Is there really a threat to French speaking culture in Quebec? What does common values mean in a modern pluralistic society?

I believe that this project was presented now because the Parti Québécois is in a minority government and needs a cause to rally the troops, the hardcore Nationalists who represent about 30% of the electorate. The economy in Quebec is in deep trouble, the debt is out of control, Quebec is often called the Greece of Canada, personal debt per capita at $21,000 is the highest by far in Canada. The solutions to economic problems would be very unpopular and not exactly made to win elections.  So this project of a Charter of Values is far easier to present and defend despite all the controversy it is creating.

Already well over 100 intellectuals who represent the Arts and Culture in Quebec, some very well known names have rejected this idea of a Charter. Some Indépendantiste politicians have also rejected the project to the dismay of the Parti Québecois. It has to be understood that the Nationalist ideas of the 1970's and 1980's are passé and Madame Marois and her Government represent the old guard. Quebec has a society has changed a great deal in the last 40 years and it is a far more diverse society composed of people from all over the world who came to join Quebec Society.  Lumberjacks now in the far North of Quebec are likely to be Africans from Cameroon or Senegal who speak French with the distinctive Quebec French Accent.  They are perfectly integrated into Quebec Society. As for the Maghreb Arabs they too are integrated same goes for many other groups including the Chinese. It is not the Quebec of old where the English and the French were at each others throats over language and economic issues.

There will always be amongst immigrants and new comers people who will not integrate and will be unhappy. It was revealed recently that immigrants from France do not do as well as Haitians or other ethnic groups. That should give pause to reflect on the reasons why one person integrates and another does not.

A threat to French language and culture, I do not think so. My family belongs to the pure laine, the old stock and when I go to Montreal my native City, I see it as my home, I may not like some of the urban developments around me but that is structural, it's not about people. I look at people like Maria Mourani a Member of Parliament in Ottawa, born in Côte d'Ivoire from a Christian Lebanese family who migrated to Canada and sat until yesterday as a Bloc Member, the party that represents the separatists in the Federal House of Commons. She was kicked out of the Party because she declared in a televised interview that she was against this idea of a Charter of Quebec Values, that this was tantamount to Ethnic Nationalism, I agree with her that is exactly what it is. It is also very insulting to all those people who have come to Quebec to build a new life who may be of a different religion than mine or a different culture. They are not a threat they simply have a different culture.

I had the good fortune to grow up in a Montreal at the time of the Universal Exhibition of 1967 and then in the Montreal of the Olympic Games of 1976. That Montreal does not exist anymore, it was very much a white city divided by an invisible East-West boundary between the English and the French. There were very few visible minorities then, except for the Chinese and a few Haitian mostly well educated professional people fleeing the Duvalier Regime. We lived in Snowdon, Hampstead and Côte Saint-Luc, a very Jewish area of the City. So from an early age I got to know all about the Jewish Holidays and traditions. Good business people who knew all about customer service. Our neighbourhood was a mix of English and French speaking people, this is were I learned English on the streets playing with the other kids. There were also Orthodox Jews with there great big fur hats, as a kid  I always wondered if they were not a bit hot on a muggy summer day. We knew quite a few Rabbis and prominent families like the Bronfman of Seagram fame. It was all part of our world, quite ordinary.

Later in school I had teachers who were from Morocco, they had fled unrest in their country, I had friends from Egypt whose family fled the Nasser Regime. We also had family friends who were Syrian and Lebanese.  An uncle of mine who was a priest had worked in Haiti in the 1950's so we knew Haitians. I never saw any of these people as a threat to Quebec or French Culture. They were just people, our neighbours and friends.

Then during my working career I live for 8 years in the Middle-East and North Africa, so I was living among the Muslims, I found them to be kind and cultured, courteous in an old world sense. I can honestly say that I never met a fundamentalist or un-pleasant Muslim. Not that they do not exist but through experience I found that most people are reasonable and easy to get along with.

The problems in Quebec are economic they are not based on identity, culture, language or ethnicity.
It is sad that the current government is so intent on this populist move, stirring up the boogyman of
cultural values. I can say that the Muslim, the Jew, the Sikh wants the same thing I want, I know that and I know it from certainty acquired through a life of experiences.

Unfortunately too many politicians like Madame Marois are cynical and really do not care as long as this gives them another electoral victory, because politics is all about winning otherwise what is the point.  What I fear now is the debates and opinions in the media and I know that this sort of debate will bring out all the extremists from both the Federal and Provincial camps. Many hateful things will be said and this is what Madame Marois is hoping for, she can build her case on such things. Hopefully her minority government can be brought down by a vote before things get too out of hand.

       Assemblée Nationale, Quebec City

Thursday, 12 September 2013

While I waited....

This morning at 8am I had an appointment at the car dealership. Waiting rooms in Car dealership in Ottawa are not nice, they are provided but it is more of an inconvenience for the Car dealer and they offer the bare minimum.

So I went in thinking I would be out of there in 30 minutes, no it took 3 hours for a tune-up and frankly speaking I am not even sure what they did, I did see them cleaning the brakes but I did not see anything else.

While I waited I looked around, it's funny really the sort of people who are in the waiting room. One fellow who came in driving an old red jalopy, not the make of the dealership, wearing stretch pants with kids cartoons on them as a motif, a pair of old sandals with dirty old socks, a dirty blue tee-shirt and a baseball cap and wearing a kids mohawk haircut, this guy was in his fifties. Seeing him reminded me immediately of Marché Laflamme our old super market in Aylmer, Québec.  He was the sort of denizen you would see at the marché. I always felt like I did not belong in that supermarket, first when you entered they had this huge display of beer, all the old standards, none of it fashionable, no fussy micro-brew. No it was all the old fashion brands of beer you would find in the old Taverns where you would always get a good fist fight at the bar with the bouncer to break it up and the World Federation of Wrestling on the giant TV, a nice pickled egg and the cigarette lady. They also had all those processed cakes, white powdered sugared doughnuts and sweets like the chocolate Joe Louie which are part of popular culture.

The butcher would have all the right cuts of meat for the Bar-B-Q and the cheeses for the Poutine or just for snacking, usually high on salt, but so good.  The shoppers always had all kinds of nasty tattoos, none of the silly tribal ones you see today or the Chinese lettering. No it was more along the lines of things like Bleeding hearts and the word Mother with a knife and drops of blood or Virgin of Guadalupe tattoos or your girlfriends name forever. Lots of old Bikers and their old girlfriends who
were well pass 40 if not 50 shopping around.  The cashiers were nice girls who chewed gum loudly, too much make-up and looked slightly vulgar but were always helpful and kind to the old lady or man who struggled with their shopping baskets. They knew the old folks, who more often than not would be family friends of their own grandparents. This Marché Laflamme remains to this day an institution in Aylmer, it has that personal touch you simply cannot find in the big modern super stores. Now the old store was completely renovated 5 years ago and does not look like the old store anymore. Nonetheless the same folks shop there, it's colourful.

I hate going to the dealership, I just don't trust them with their phony baloney friendliness when you know that they are gouging with all their gimmicks. I will have to return in November for the snow tires. Otherwise I try to avoid them if at all possible. Oh yes and they also want you to tell them that they were outstanding in their service. Give me a break!!!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Venice Syndrome, sad, sad, sad.

We went to the Bytowne Cinema today on Rideau Street, the last movie house in the centre of Ottawa.

We saw The Venice Syndrome, released in mid-July, it is a 90 minute documentary on Venice. The City is dying and its not the water rising that is killing the city but the 20 million tourists who visit each year. There are only 50,000 inhabitants left in Venice today, it was a City of 200,000 just 12 years ago.

The port of Venice can accommodate cruise ships a 1000 feet long disgorging hundreds of tourists each day more than the Port of New York City. Not to mention the cavalcade of day trippers who come by train or air. The Post Office has closed and the building was sold to Benetton to make a shopping mall. The hospital was moved to the mainland in Mestre. Other services are being shifted to the mainland.

I was aware that the city known as La Serinissima was changing, I noticed how few locals were left and how grocery stores and other shops had vanished. All replaced by cheap restaurants catering to tourists on a budget with their micro-wave food and day old sandwiches and pizzas. On the other hand you also have to wealthy tourists who stay around San Marco in their $500 dollar a day suites and eat burgers at $45 dollars.

The movie shows you the throngs of tourists and interviews several Venetians about their city and the changes, the characters are all old time Venetians whose family have lived for generation in the city.
A Countess, an old gondolier, a real estate agent, a mover, a tourist guide, they all talk about their lives and how the rising cost of renting an apartment is pushing them out. Some own their condo but for those who don't the only solution is to move to the mainland. The blame according to them rest with the City Council who prefers the money of the big corporation to the interests of the Citizens.

Most of the money spent by tourists in Venice on any given day goes to big corporations not City Coffers. The real estate market is on fire despite buildings crumbling due to poor maintenance or shoddy workmanship. Still one square meter sell for 12,000 Euros. so bit by bit every apartment in town or building is being bought out by foreigners who come for a few days a year. It is true that Venice has always been a city of trade and business, this is what made it a powerful city in the days of the Venetian Republic but those days are long gone and now globalization is killing the city. It is estimated that by 2030 no Venetian will be left living in the city. All that remains are hotels, restaurants, bars and sights.

I am only happy to say that I knew the city and visited when it was still a charming city and not an amusement park. I feel great sadness at what is happening and at the lost of a beautiful and lovely city.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Automne, Autunno, Autumn

We were able to have dinner outside from 21 June to 31 August this year, a short period of time but we love this tradition of dining on our terrace looking at the Rideau Canal.

Since 1 September the weather has been sunny but cool and in the evening chilly. The days are noticeably shorter now so we are slowly moving towards Autumn.

The word Autumn in English comes from old French Automne and it seems that prior to the 16th century the word Harvest was much in use since most people lived on the land and Harvest meant that time of the year, Season, when most food is harvested. Only as of the 16th century when more people moved to Cities and learnt to read and write did the word Autumn gain prominence.

With Autumn new activities take place, Thanksgiving falls on Sunday 13 October, meaning that we decorate with various types of coloured corn, pumpkins and a variety of squashes. Last year I found a pumpkin which was a bluish silver colour, a heritage variety. There is a lot of so called Heritage vegetables on the markets now and many people love this new choice. Just outside Ottawa, the Gatineau Park has spectacular colours and it is wonderful to drive up into the hills and on a sunny day see the multi-coloured trees.

Of course many will cook a turkey and have the traditional stuffing and vegetables, potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrot, turnip and squash. I do not know what we will do. It all depends who is in town during this long weekend.

We are booked for our cruise in November from Rome to Seville, with stops in Sorrento, Trapani, Barcelona, Valencia, Gibraltar, then across the Strait of Gibraltar and along the Guadalquivir river to Seville. We also plan a side trip to Granada. This cruise is to celebrate our 35 Anniversary. We had such a great cruise last year from Amsterdam to St-Petersburg and Stockholm through the Baltic Sea. This will be our gift to each other and a wonderful way to celebrate. AZAMARA is tailoring the cruise for our anniversary and giving us little extras to make it memorable.

This will be our second cruise with AZAMARA, smaller ships, called mid-size with 700 passengers and higher level of amenities and service. The food was excellent and the wine list impressive, I also liked the fact that they poured drinks not measure them, so you got a nice stiff drink to make any sailor proud. We have never been on the super-size ships carrying thousands of passengers and I do not think we would like it. Also from a point of safety, I prefer a smaller ship. We were also able to dock in town where larger cruise ships had to dock often far away in sea ports. One final point that sold me on AZAMARA was the number of Canadians on crew on board, a nice touch.

Azamara Quest

Thursday, 5 September 2013

renovations continue apace

Today the workers completed one room and I had then to reposition all the furniture and empty the second room, luckily our friend B.P. came to lend a hand, bless him. The second room is our office, library with hundreds of books, it took 2 and a half hours to empty it and I was quite tired at the end of it all. Tomorrow the workers return to complete the flooring replacement in that smaller room and I believe from what they said that it would take just a few hours. The effect of Birch wood on the new floor is quite lovely.

I am very happy with the way it is turning out. I also hope to meet with the painter tomorrow. I am expecting a wine delivery. I found out you can buy wine by consignment and do not have to go through the LCBO. A blessing because the wines I wish to buy are not available at the LCBO. This week end we may go to the movies to see a film on Venice and Sunday I have my menu planned out for a luncheon for friends who have just arrived from London, UK.

Next week life should return to normal with Museum activities and the first meetings on Museum business etc...

This is much nicer than that awful old beige broadloom which use to be on the floor.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Renovations and construction

A few months ago we renewed our lease on our apartment and asked the landlord if, given that this is a nice Condo building, would he consider replacing the old broadloom carpets in both bedrooms with hard wood flooring. He agreed readily and today I have this Polish team installing the hard wood flooring. It's like being in Old Warsaw again, the conversation is all in Polish. Nice guys 6 of them working to install the new floor in the master bedroom.

The work is going well and it already looks 100% better, making for a much nicer living environment. The old broadloom was probably 12 years old if not more, smelly and despite several cleaning it was simply worn through.

I had to empty the rooms and move all the furniture, this is where you appreciate having movers, but no such luck for me. Now for the puppies also known as the Hounds from Hell, this means no traction when they run at high speed after each other in the apartment. So now I can put down my Oriental rugs bought in Damascus and Tehran years ago. I bought them just with the idea that one day I would have two dogs running around the house and they would need carpets for traction. No wonder my Vet says that when he dies he wants to come back as my dog. As another friend said, these dogs are in Paradise and they don't even know it.

It is a noisy job with all those modern tools and it goes quickly though.

The empty room with the old grey broadloom rug.

The same room without the rug now removed and worker cleaning the concrete surface

sub-floor is floating 3/4 inch plywood and birch slats on top. 

Friday the painter is suppose to come to give me an estimate on re-painting the room, we are looking at a soft grey colour. 

 new birch floor almost done installing
Total job took 5 hours to do.