Of Flora and Floating Food Courts

I was working on getting this posted around 2200 this evening when suddenly the lights went out – all over the Island. It brought home a few unsettling truths including the fact that because the Landline is hooked up to a set of wireless phones it is basically useless. Fortunately the blackout only lasted two hours but I could sleep so finished this post.

Wherever we have lived there has always been a “garden”. Sometimes it was a large – very large – affair other times no more than a few pots on a balcony. This time around it’s no more than six pots on our small balcony/deck and with the southern exposure it’s been quite the show this year.

Our friends Don and Umi gave Laurent this little rose bush for his birthday. It had small yellow roses on it in March but has produced one large orange flower on the balcony.

I had never heard of Gazania Daisies or Treasure Daisies but when I saw them at a local nursery I was struck by their vibrant colours. I didn’t realize that they open and close depending on the sunlight. Known as nyctinasty it is considered a highly evolved way of protecting pollen from dew and damp. These are on their second growth – the first flowers were larger but these are just as brightly coloured.

I don’t think I’ve ever had begonias grow quite as lush as these two boxes. A friend got his from the same nursery and has had the same abundance in the borders around his house.

In our first house we had turned what was a small rectangle courtyard of scrub grass with a neglected Persian lilac in one corner into a very pleasant garden. When we finished with it the lilac shaded a cedar deck, a stone lantern lit a small stream and the borders were filled with roses, bee balm, fox gloves and nicotiana. The memory of the fragrance of flowering tobacco in the cool night air accounts for this small box which only recently started to thrive after weeks of less than glorious blooms. No the foil is not some gardening secret – it’s to stop Nicky from sampling the soil!

A week or so ago I mentioned Nimrod’s the pizza shack on the dock down at Peake’s Quay. It is one of three food stations on our floating food court, a busy place with good food, local craft beer and wine. Caron’s Chip Shack (soon to be featured on the Food Network) serves up the best fries in town and though I’ve yet to try Zak’s hamburgers reports are pretty good. It’s a busy place with locals and tourists. And it moves – not just side to side with the odd wave but up and down with the tides.

The first pictures was taken yesterday morning at around 0730 when the tide was high.

The second one was taken around 1530 when the tide was low – though not at it’s lowest. Notice any difference?

August 15th is Relaxation Day! Hell that’s an easy one to celebrate.

Mercoledi Musicale

To the great relief of our neighbours we finally got a TV in our house in 1961. Until that point if there was something special on I would coerce people on our street into letting me come over and tune their set to the programme of my choice. Poor Mary Michaelski suffered through the Royal Ballet doing Cinderella, Katherine Cornell in The Barretts of Winpole Street and lord only know what other esoteric offerings. I was a very persuasive little tyke!

When we did get it our reception was pretty much limited (it had rabbit ears – honest!) to local stations plus a few pulled in from Buffalo. Several of the channels prefaced their National Anthem sign-off with brief programmes of a religious nature. My favourite (and my mother’s too as I recall) was Mahalia Jackson on CFTO. Each night they would broadcast a short film: she would stand on a bare backlit set in a simple choir gown and to the accompaniment of an electronic organ sing one of the old hymns or gospel songs that I had grown up listening to and singing.

I was reminded of those late night broadcasts when a CBC jazz programme played her version of Just As I Am the other day. Though Ms Jackson refused more than one offer to sing “popular” music the debt one genre owes to the other is readily apparent in any of her recordings or broadcasts.

What I find fascinating is the tempo that she takes this old hymn and so many others at – it seems at times to be almost at a standstill but I never feel the urge to nudge her onward.

August 14 is Creamsicle Day. Apparently there is a “creamsicle” cocktail so let’s raise a glass of orange juice, vanilla vodka and cream (which satisfies all the food groups I believe?) to a favourite childhood treat.

Of Visits, Gin and Regal Cheese – Part I

We had the pleasure of spending a few days with our Michel the first week of August. He drove down from Montréal on a bit of a tour of Eastern Québec and the Maritimes. A drive not without incident – his car engine decided it had given it’s best for the past 15 years and really couldn’t go any further. And it decided to bow out as he set off on Route 15 out of Montréal to the Eastern Townships. Fortunately he was able to get a lender and continue on his journey.

As always with Michel we had plenty of laughs (I always envy his facility for wordplay in French and English), a few lovely trips down memory lane, and some serious attempts to solve world problems. Add to that good food, some excellent wine and it made for a great visit. And as often happens our Nicky developed a canine-crush and carried on a bit when Michel left – he is so funny that way with visitors.

You may recall a week or so ago I mentioned Opihr, a gin that was required for a rather exotic, and expensive, cocktail. Well since Michel was coming from the Big City and the SAQ showed that they carried it we asked him to pick up a bottle. It turns out that they indeed did carry it – well actually they carried one (!) bottle and it was at their store in St-Aisselle-de-Québec which is hardly on anybody’s route to anywhere. However a friend of his found a bottle in Ottawa and brought it down to Montréal and hence it found its way to our liquor cabinet where it sits awaiting that “occasion”.

So what’s so special about this ancient nectar that the Queen of Sheba (no not Michel, the biblical one) may have brought to Solomon? Well it would appear that the “botanicals” were inspired by the stops along the Silk Route: cubeb from Malaysia, black pepper, cardamom and ginger from India, cumin from Turkey, coriander seed from Morocco, bitter orange from Spain, Juniper from Italy and Angelica from Germany. Well those last three and the grapefruit peel may be stretching the “Silk Route” thing a bit far. And as to the “ancient recipe” trope well 2013 CE is hardly a “blast from the past” that all the hoopla would suggest. However it is the creation of Joanne Moore, the head distiller at G&J Greenall, Britain’s second biggest gin distillery. And appears Ms Moore is a name to be reckoned with in the spirit world! In it’s review Gin Foundry suggests that rather than some exotic cocktail Opihr works well in a simple Gin Buck: 2 oz of Gin, 3 oz of Ginger Ale and a lemon wedge. We shall give it a try and get back to you.

And as well as the requested gin Michel showed up with a bag of potatoes from Québec – talk about coals to Newcastle! I wonder that he got them across the Bridge without alarm bells sounding! And he brought along several very yummy artisanal cheeses that has been deemed fit for Royalty. But more about that later in the week.

August 13 is Left-Hander’s Day: so kiss someone you know who is a Lefty (no not politically) and reassure them that they are not spawn of Satan.

Lunedi Lunacy

(Another) tempest in a teapot.

And it appears there is much out there these days that gives offense, as warrant a little episode here on the Island in the past few weeks.

It’s become pretty standard for bars and restaurants to put out sidewalk signs with (occasionally witty) little tag lines denoting the good times to be had within. During our very successful Gay Pride celebrations Terre Rouge, a restaurant here on Queen Street, put out this sign:

Just as a sidebar this was not the first version of the sign that appeared. That one used the appellation “Newfie” and someone complained so it was changed.

For my friends in less fortunate parts of the world who did not learn “I’se the B’y” in Mr. Hewitt’s grade two music class I will explain that as we travelled across Canada on our musical education just as “Aloutette” represented Québec “I’s the By” was the musical signature of our newest Province (1949).

Now I happen to find this funny but there were people who did not. Several complained that it was “homophobic” and at least one gentleman threw the sign on the street because he saw it as supporting those “godless fruits”. At least they found common ground in being “offended”. Now the irony is that the joke originated with the transgender cook and the manager and communication director of the restaurant are a gay couple.

But in our offending and offensive world it didn’t end there. The following week a staff member came up with this sign:

And you guessed it – someone was offended by the sign about being offended. ‘Tis indeed a mad world, my masters.

August 12th is Middle Child’s Day – time to binge watch Malcom in the Middle????? What ever happened to Dewey?

Mercoledi Musciale

Yesterday Dame Vera Margaret Lynn celebrated her 102nd birthday. Born in the middle of the First Great War she became the “Forces Sweetheart” in Second World War and continued her performing career until 1995. She has had ships, trains, and streets named after her; she spearheaded a memorial to The Animals of War in Hyde Park; and she has worked for charities dedicated to veterans, disable children and breast cancer. And at 100 she became the oldest artist to release an album that topped the UK charts.

Dame Vera Lynn in 1977 at the Canadian National Exhibition Grandstand. She drew a crowd of 17,00 on the first of her three performances. She was still the “Forces’ Sweetheart”.
Photo: The Toronto Star Archives

To celebrate both her birthday and her remarkable career I’ve picked a song that like her began life during the First World War and became a favourite during the Second conflict of that name. Lili Marlene was a poem written by Hans Leip when he was conscripted into Imperial German Army and sent to the Eastern Front. In 1938 Norbert Schultze set it to music and it was recorded by Lale Anderson the following year. In one of those queer strokes of history it became one of the most popular songs of the period with both Allied and Axis forces.

In Stanley Krammer’s powerful Judgment at Nuremberg Marlene Dietrich and Spencer Tracy are walking through the rubble of the war-torn streets of Nuremberg. As they approach a bar they hear men inside singing Lili Marleen in German. Dietrich begins to sing along with the song, translating a few lyrics for Tracy, referring to the German lyrics as “much darker” than the English.

In one of those queer strokes of irony Lili Marlene/Lili Marleen became one of the most popular songs of the War with both Allied and Axis forces.

Very appropriately for our Island August 7th is Lighthouse Day. We have 63 of them on the Island – 35 are still active and 7 are designated as National Historic Sites.