Roughing It

Our friend John suggested that perhaps what we have been doing this past week or so is more Glamping than actually roughing it. I was deeply offended by this remark. Yes the cottage we are staying in has two bedrooms, two bathrooms – one with a jacuzzi, the other a walk-in shower – a bbq, a nice deck with two eating areas, a fire pit, wi-fi, a TV with Netflix and washer/dryer but that’s it. I mean really would you ask anything less of a cottage?

And there is photographic proof that we are indeed “roughing it”. After washing some t-shirts yesterday I used the latest new fangled technology to dry them.

I’m told this is eco-friendly and leaves no carbon footprint. You would think that someone would have thought of it earlier!

The word for July 20 th is:
Glamping /ˈɡlampiNG/: [portmanteau noun]
A form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping.
21 st Century English: Glamorous + Camping
Well I knew John was wrong – we’re at a cottage not camping at all.

Meeting Up With An Old Friend.

Forty years ago I was an avid mystery novel reader. I had my favourites – Sister Fidelma, Brother Caedfel, Lord Peter Whimsey and a few others. Sometime in the early 90s I found a new favourite to add to that list when my friend Naomi introduced me to Commissario Guido Brunetti. Death at La Fenice (1992) was Donna Leon’s first of thirty novels and she said she was inspired to write it by her two great passions: opera and Venice. Naomi well knew that I shared those passions and brought a copy back for me from England.

She knew of at least two others that Leon had written featuring Brunetti but they were not available in North America. In those days you simply couldn’t go online and order or download you pretty much had to go to what we called a bookstore. Luckily she made a few trips that following year and brought me back my Brunetti-fix. Shortly after an American house picked up on their popularity and began publishing them here, though often under a different title. This has lead on one or two occasions to excitedly picking up a new “Brunetti mystery” and finding that I already knew “who did it”!

There came a point when I became tired of the good Commissario, Signorina Elletra and the gang at the Questura and stopped reading their ventures and adventures. Perhaps they were becoming predictable, maybe the endings were a bit contrived or it may have been that my reading preferences had changed over the years. The mystery genre had had its day. The last one I read was The Golden Egg published in 2014 – Leon has written one a year since that first in 1992.

So why another trip down memory lane, sighs my faithful reader? As you are well aware I am at a cottage for two weeks at the moment. And what does one do at a cottage? One relaxes, one eats, one drinks (iced tea – yes it’s iced tea), one sunbathes, one goes for walks along the beach, and one reads. Yesterday was a glorious sunny, if chilly day, and I didn’t feel like doing much except sitting in the sun and reading. So I picked up The Temptation for Forgiveness – one of the two books I had brought with me – and headed out to the deck. My delicate pasty skin slathered in sunscreen 50SPF, my increasing natural tonsure protected by a smart linen baseball cap, myself installed in a reclining deck chair: I began to read. My intention was to read a few chapters and then go for a beach walk and perhaps even an afternoon nap. However the road to hell … I ended up consuming the entire 300 pages and finding out, as so often happens with Brunetti, regretfully who did it.

Donna Leon and the Bridge of Sighs – two Venetian icons.

I had forgotten what a superb writer Donna Leon is. Her characters have not aged much over the past thirty years but they have grown and matured. Her eye for people, their actions and interactions remains as acute as ever. Her love, and concern, for Venice has not diminished with time. Her grasp of Italian life – political, public and private – remains grounded in a bittersweet reality. She still tantalizes with descriptions of the food Brunetti’s wife Paola prepares and with glimpses behind the ornate facades that line the canals – both palazzo and tenement. Perhaps the ending is, once again, a bit contrived but then the path to solutions is often as baroque as the facade of Santa Maria del Giglio – in life and murder mysteries.

Now that Guido Brunetti and I have been reintroduced I must do catch-up with him, his family, his colleagues, and life, and death, in Venice over the past eight years. That’s what you do with old friends.

Bentornato Commissario. Piacare!

There’s a very good interview with Donna Leon on thirty years of Commissario Brunetti at CrimeReads.

The word for July 13th is:
Detective /dəˈtektiv/: [noun]
A person, especially a police officer, whose occupation is to investigate and solve crimes.
Mid 19th century: from detect ‘to uncover, expose’. The noun was originally short for detective policeman, from an adjectival use of the word with the meaning ‘serving to detect’.
Commissario would be equivalent to Chief Inspector in a North American police department.

Three Thousand and Counting

As I mentioned yesterday’s Mercoledi Musicale was the 3000th post since I began this blog on November 12th 2006. Three thousand! Who would have even imagined I had that much to say – Vicki you stay out of this!

I had my first blog when I worked for the Warsaw Business Journal (the WBJ – the cheapest BJ in the city) as their web editor. Our publisher thought it would be interesting to have an ex-pat’s view of life in Poland as the 20th century was drawing to a close. Topics ranged all over the map from food to politics to the arts, sports, and history. There was a three part post on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that I only wish I had access to now. It was a gruelling piece to research and they were difficult posts to write and though I’m sure they are stored somewhere on the web I’ve never been able to find them.

Fast forward to 2006. A pending trip to Vietnam as a 60th birthday celebration and a suggestion from my friend Bev as to how to share the experience had me taking up blogging once again. Sadly those posts from Vietnam had very few pictures as internet was a touch and go affair in most places. They weren’t bad as travel pieces and I sometimes think I should redo them with the photos that I took at the time.

Many of the posts that first year were photo essays with pictures of our house in Aylmer, our beloved Reesie, the garden, and odds and ends that I found interesting. After our move to Rome in August 2007 the verbiage became almost as baroque as Roman church. Repeated readings of Zinzer still haven’t taught me to self-edit as critically as I should. One of my problems is that I follow a multitude of white rabbits down a warren of holes and often get lost. But for me that is half the fun of blogging.

For those that like facts and figures I offer the following:

Of the 3000 posts :
– 1871 were published with BlogSpot
– 1129 were published with WordPress after I switched in September 2015
– all 3000 are on the current site though in some cases with broken links to blogs, references and videos.

There have been:
478 Lunedi Lunacy
281 Mercoledi Musicale
217 Feasts and Festivals
203 This and That
128 Christmas*
73 Roma*
52 Throwback Thursday
45 On This Island*
42 Hounds from Hell*
87 the number of videos I’ve created for the blog
5 GBs the number of media files.
15 the number of times I have posted The Lottery on World AIDS Day.

There have been times when I’ve been on the verge of giving up blogging: time constraints, boredom, nothing to write about nor the urge to write. Note I did not call it “writer’s block” as I have never considered myself a writer. But after a brief lull I always come back.

Writing posts, working with the photos, looking up facts and figures, and creating the odd video have the benefit of keeping this old brain active and learning. But the greatest benefit I have received from creating those 3000 posts is the connection I have had with people over the years: fellow bloggers, faithful readers, and casual passersby. Many have become close friends – both virtual and real. And that, my faithful reader, is what I value above all else.

So I guess this makes it three thousand and one and counting.

*I am disputing some of those numbers as the switch from BlogSpot to WordPress wasn’t as seamless as they promised. I ended up with over 150 categories including one that was a mysterious combination of url and Morse Code.

The word for July 8th is:
Blog /bläɡ/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1. A regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.
2. To add new material to or regularly update a blog.
Mid-1990s: abbreviation of weblog.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s TCA!

Rather cheekily my old friend Jeff (I’ll speak to you later mister!) asked if I had seen or recalled A Moment in Time that appeared in the Globe and Mail this Monday past. Why he thinks I would be reading the G&M in its current state I have no idea (but we will let that pass). And why he would think I would remember Trans Canada Airlines (TCA) is a matter I will have to take up with him the next time I see him.

By the time I joined the airline in August of 1966 it had been renamed Air Canada (AC) for over a year. In doing some Googling* I discovered that the company had been called Air Canada in French almost since its inception. However in 1964 Jean Chrétien tabled a bill proposing an English name change and it became official in 1965.

The particular Moment in Time being captured was before I was born – not long before but before none the less.

Moment in Time – June 1946

The plucky DC3 is considered the first airship capable of making money just by carrying passengers. After the Second World War, as middle-class incomes rose and more people could afford to fly, airline passenger travel multiplied. In the photo above, published 75 years ago, Trans-Canada Air Lines unveiled its huge (it seated 21!) silver DC3, which took its maiden voyage out of Malton Airport on the western outskirts of Toronto and included a flyover of Niagara’s thundering Horseshoe Falls. The flight manifest listed eight leaders of Toronto women’s groups, eight new TCA stewardesses on a familiarization hop (the plane was to be used for a Toronto-Chicago run), and a couple of newspaper reporters. According to the reporters, the women gasped at the beauty of the Falls, but were relieved when the captain “brought the big ship safely back to Malton.”
Philip King
The Globe and Mail – June 21, 2021

However I do remember watching the first stretch DC8 landing at Toronto International Airport (as it was then called) in 1967. We were astounded – oh how naive we were – that anything that big could be in the air. Even more astounding, three short years later, was a familiarization flight around Lake Ontario and the Falls on the first 747 the company owned. For all the bells and whistles on today’s aircraft that big old, lumbering giant remains my favourite.

The word for June 25th is:
Research /ˈrēˌsərCH,rəˈsərCH/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1. The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.
2. To investigate systematically.
Late 16th century: from obsolete French recerche (noun), recercher (verb), from Old French re– (expressing intensive force) + cerchier ‘to search’.
*I was taken to task, and rightly so, for saying that I had “researched” something. Garnering information from one or two web sites is not “research” it is simply “Googling”.

This and That

In which are revealed the stories and mysteries behind a Family Bible, a watercolour painting, and a tombstone.

Have Courage My Boy to Say No!*

We were at a friend’s house on Saturday night for drinks and nibbles. I, without sounding all self-righteous I’m sure, said I had gone tea-total and would stick to water. Bert said in that case he had something he should show me and brought an old family bible. It was not his family’s but had been given to his grand-father in payment for some work he had done back at the turn of the 20th century. It was almost an encyclopedia of Christian biblical history with maps, descriptions and drawings of plants found in the Bible, genealogy that gave lie to Mr Darwin’s theories, some rather fine etchings, and some beautiful coloured pages to record births, deaths, marriages and the like. But what Bert wanted me to see was a page that he suggested, with a slight twinkle, that I might want to sign!

I would have been the first to have done so. Sadly none of the entries were filled in so the history of book and it’s owners is an unknown.

We had a Family Bible like that which was left in the attic when my mother’s house was sold. As a sidebar Bert mentioned that his grand-father could neither read nor write but was a incredible story teller with a remarkable facility with words.

*This is the title of a temperance hymn that can be found here sung by Mary Lou Fallis, the Prima Donna on a Moose.

Behold A Dark Rider

Before the iPhone digital camera, where you take six or seven photos just to make sure you go the shot; before the Polaroid that gave instant if now faded images; before the Brownie box where you made sure everything was in order before you took that one expensive photo; there was only one way for a world traveller to record what they saw: you sketched or painted it.

On April 30, 1837 someone, somewhere (possible North Africa), recorded the image of this horseman that hangs in our corridor. Who the artist was we do not know. Probably English, as the date is in English; possibly just a tourist, though more likely a military officer. But he, and we are assuming it was a he though watercolours were a favourite medium for gentlewomen of the period, captured an image from a moment in their travels.

Our good friend Don Andrus gave this to Laurent as a birthday gift two years ago knowing full well that he would appreciated it. The only thing Don knew about it was that it had hung in his Uncle’s study at the school where he was headmaster back in the 1930s. Though the date is clear the florid signature is largely illegible. We are left with a mystery that I fear will never be solved.

Island History – A Snap Shot

It is no secret that I am a taphophile and on our recent jaunt up to the Malpeque area we stopped off at the Malpeque Public Cemetery. A wander through the gravestones revealed one of those finds that gladdens the heart of any one who finds the history of a place amongst it’s memorials and loves a mystery.

Thomas and Jacob Clark were twin brothers born to Elizabeth Ann (Schurman) and Francis M. Clark on March 9, 1829. If church births were registered by time of birth it can be assumed that Thomas was the first born. Their tombstone records that they both died by drowning on July 22, 1852 . They were 23 years old.

And here’s another mystery. What were the circumstances of their deaths? Where they fishermen out trolling the water for their catch? Or was it simply a day out in a skiff that went wrong? Did a storm come up and swamp their boat? Was one brother trying to save the other?

Unfortunately the inscription at the bottom of the marker has been eaten away by time, the moss and lichens that have grown on it. Perhaps it would reveal a little more of their story and a snippet of the history of the Island. My curiosity may lead me to see if I can find out more.

The word for June 22nd is:
Taphophile / tˈafəfˌa͡ɪl/: [noun]
Someone who takes an interest in cemeteries, grave yards, tombstones and possibly funeral rites and rituals.
Ancient Greek τάφος (táphos, “funeral rites, burial, funeral, wake; tomb, grave”) + English -philia (from the Ancient Greek φιλία (philía, “love, fondness”).
As I have said before as a “tombstone tourist” it is paramount that respect be paid to those at rest and their families so any investigating will be done with that in mind.