blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Chinese Language Centre

Tomorrow morning I'm going to take my first on-line lesson with a tutor from the Ottawa Chinese Language Centre, using Skype. Mr Yin gave me a ten-minute trial run yesterday in which he taught me the difference between:
  1. mã = mother
  2. má = a feeling of numbness / flax (the plant)
  3. mǎ = horse
  4. mà = curse / swear / scold
  5. ma = a question particle
All these monosyllables are pronounced with a different intonation. Fascinating, isn't it? but I shall have to watch out. I've now paid in advance for 10 hours of instruction and am working on the notes for Lesson 1, Greetings: 第一课 问候

A variety of animals

It was a good weekend altogether. Not only did we share it with a whole bunch of friends, we also shared it with some children and some animals. (I'd rather not count the roadkill, although I must admit that the dead porcupine we passed on Sunday made an impressive sight.)
Saturday, several of us drove to Bourget to visit Bob, Tracey and young Jonas, who showed one of his visitors some fishing in their pond. Small fish and large, noisy frogs, mostly, but a walleye had been spotted there, which Tracey hopes to cook one of these days. They've been pestered by an enormous beaver too whom the neighbour had seen to with a shot gun. There's little sentimentality about animals in the countryside; it's a them-or-us war, more often than not. Anyhow, while I walked around the pond I admired the monarch butterflies and the spiders among the flowers. Another visitor was the dog, Sasha, a golden brown softie.

Sunday saw us on horseback, as described in my last post, and on the way home Chris told Carol about the Edwin Muir poem, The Horses, which he and I first read at an impressionable age. I still think it's a great poem.

We also met the cats at Nicolas' / Isabelle's house and at the ranch that morning, and a large woolly poodle at the roadside stables. On the way home, we drove past a field full of llamas, while talking about how good it was for children like the two little boys we'd met to grow up in such surroundings, having unconfined adventures. How many city kids get the chance to play like that?

Having crossed the Ottawa River into Ontario on board the Thurso ferry, we were home in time for me to snatch a siesta before setting out again to meet a third lot of friendly people: Nicola, Maha and their daughter Lulu, in New Edinburgh. What a pleasant evening! As we came down the steps into their back garden we were greeted by a magnificent spread of Mediterranean dishes on the patio table (Maha comes from Syria) to which we tried to do justice as darkness fell and the stars, lamp, torch and candles came out (Chris questioning Maha about the Abasid Caliphate in which he's recently been taking an interest), while a family of raccoons rooted and snuffled in the flower beds behind us and the three cats of the household stretched themselves decoratively on the steps, among the flower pots. Indoors we also met the pet turtle.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Going for a ride

Marie-Ève adjusting Chris' stirrups on Navaho, Carol getting to know her horse, Éminence
Yesterday, at the Ranch du Versant near Ripon, Quebec, we were given a rare treat, a ride through the Montagnes Noires on horseback. This was a gift in appreciation of a couple of sight-seeing flights Chris has given ... to people who own horses!

Mounting my horse, Déesse, Nicolas looking on
To reach the stables it was a 100 km drive from home through lovely countryside, Nicolas and his wife leading the way in a truck, and when we arrived the horses were saddled and bridled, but not necessarily eager to depart. Isabelle called them paresseux, the day was warm, but we were assured that they like being with people and with one another, so wouldn't be hard to persuade to follow one another down the trails. I hoped that my horse would be happy just to keep in line and, despite detailed rider's instructions on how to make her stop, start, turn left and turn right, that she'd want to do no more than follow the others in a docile manner. In fact I made a private vow to leave most decisions to the horse, as I was sure she'd know far better than I what to do, if we came upon any obstacles. Nobody told me at the start that Déesse used to be a racing horse. As a matter of fact, she proceded in a leisurely manner all the way. Only once did she break into a little trot, which was quite enough excitement for a novice such as me.

We rode for nearly an hour in single file, Marie-Ève leading the way, acquiring some basic skills as we went. Downhill, we leant back to keep ourselves as upright as possible on the saddle. Going uphill, we leant forward, which encourages the horse. (Chris joked afterwards that he'd coped fine with the ride except for the stretch where he'd had to carry his horse up the steep hill.) Carol, who'd ridden before, was relaxed enough to take photos whereas I kept a tight hold of pommel and reins (le pommeau et les rênes) all the way around. My calves began to ache within minutes, probably because I was too tense. Later, I realised how much I was enjoying myself and relaxed into the ride. We'd had to sign a waver to say we accepted the possibility of injury or death in the enjoyment of this activity. I wore a riding hat, although the more experienced members of the expedition all sported cowboy, or sun hats. The ranch couldn't supply a riding hat large enough for Chris so he wore his bike helmet.

When we came to muddy patches, the fastidious horses preferred to step around the mud rather than go through it, so we had to contend with branches getting in the way. There were roads to cross with care as well and, at one point, a little ditch. "Navaho might jump it," said Marie-Ève to Chris, "but don't worry. Let him, if he wants to!" But he didn't. Déesse, following Éminence's footsteps, picked her way delicately across the ditch and didn't jump either. Nor did we see the bears that sometimes make an appearance on this trail; even so it felt like a truly American experience to be riding, Western-style, through those hills. We thought of the early settlers who had covered thousands of miles this way. I don't suppose they were always rewarded by a distribution of cool beers at the ranch at the end of their expeditions, as we were. We sat by the barn and watched the horses, unencumbered by bridles or saddles, canter around and greet each other by rubbing noses, and saw the big one, Duc, roll in the sand because he felt hot and sticky. A sense of bien-être pervaded among adults, children and the animals themselves.

The only point at which I fell off was when trying to dismount at the end of the ride, having left one of my feet in the stirrup, much too far off the ground. (Notice that everyone in the picture, including me, is in fits of laughter.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tomorrow will be too late!

This morning I spent an hour trying to get to grips with Mandarin Chinese and, finding it hard on my own, sent an enquiry to the Ottawa Chinese Language Centre, to see whether they can help me. Still in the mood for things Chinese, I then rode off on my bike to the nearby Emerald Buffet, in Vanier, serving an enormous selection of "independent items" for lunch which you can eat in one of those vast dining halls typical of Chinese eateries and, come to think of it, not unlike the Lyons Corner Houses of my parents' day, in Britain. The Emerald Buffet was crowded with Chinese people, so I assume it's fairly authentic. I ordered a pot of green tea with my meal.

Because my son's fiancée wants Chris and me to tell her which Chinese dishes are palatable to us, I made a note of some of the items I chose:
  • Pan fried pork dumplings
  • Shrimp dumplings
  • Stir fried honey peas
  • Vegetable fried rice
  • Bok choy
  • Guy ding chicken
  • Sweet crispy twists
  • Sesame ball (deep fried)
  • An almond cookie
I might not necessarily want all of those items again, at least, not all in one go. Taken as a whole the meal was rather more fried and glutinous than I am used to, so I must be careful. I couldn't locate the advertised steamed buns. Never mind, I'm learning.

By examining my placemat, I discovered that I was born in the Year of the Hare and my fortune cookie reminded me that
Tomorrow will be too late to enjoy what you can today.
That's very true.

Next door was a Chinese supermarket that I also walked around, though I was not hungry enough to want to buy anything; it seemed to be selling foods such as Lo Hung Fat pig's ear, Gung Ho chicken feet, Ping Pong Lychees and the like. (Actually not; I just made those up for fun.)

On the Internet the other day I learned that, in Beijing,
  • Helping oneself in Cafeterias is a popular and free dining style favored by multitudes of people.
... plus some more snippets of information:
  • When the curtain of darkness falls, the snack handcarts come alive.
  • There is simply quite nothing like a perfectly roasted duck.
... and that
  • most toilets in Beijing downtown area are free except for some mobile ones.
Where is the toilet? = Cèsuõ zài nãrli? (Now there's a useful phrase, but you have to know how to pronounce it.)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bombing runs

Bomb gone!
This is the draft of a report for the flying club's newsletter:

Spot Landing / Flour Bombing Contest,
Volunteer BBQ / Cricket Match, August 21, 2010

It was a cool, damp day for the Flour Bombing and Spot Landing contest at CYRO this summer, but fun was had, nonetheless. A dozen or so aircraft made fly-by circuits so that their bombardiers could observe the bombing target, the pilots then announcing their bombing runs, the bombardiers being “responsible for ensuring that a bomb is dropped in such a way as to remain within the confines of the Rockcliffe Airport and … does not hit aircraft, or buildings, or people.” Rainfall tended to erase the perimeter of the target so that flour from the used bombs had to be recycled as a target marker; it was later pointed out that this wouldn't have been such a good stratagem in the winter. Some bombs, falling to the north of the mark, came quite close to hitting spectators and adjudicators, and, despite everyone's best efforts, all the bombs dropped (identified and with streamers attached) fell wide of the mark, but Chris Hobbs and Nicola Vulpe in Cessna 172 C-FPTN won the trophy by dropping their bomb the least far from the mark. It was probably an advantage to be flying in a high winged aircraft with the co-pilot's door removed, although not so comfortable for their back seat passenger who was obliged to wrap herself in a blanket to keep warm. They landed in a downpour.

After burgers and sausages cooked out of doors by Tony, but eaten in the clubhouse because of the inclement weather, Nicole announced the competition results and presented trophies and prizes to much amusement and applause. Kevan received the winner's trophy for the Spot Landing competition, flying his Cessna 150, C-FIII. The objective of this contest was to "land in or as close to the box as possible," using power, flaps and sideslips as necessary, the box having been marked on Runway 09, with lines before and after it at 5 metre intervals.

A novel end to the party for the club’s volunteers and their families was the showing of the movie Amelia in the ground school classroom, starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere, but in a rain-free interval before that happened, fortified by pieces of celebratory cake, Chris Hobbs managed to persuade a number of people, young and old, to practise some cricket-playing skills on the field, to the west of the new hangar.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Auspicious and inauspicious

George is already warning me about mistakes we might make in China, for Chinese people are apparently sensitive to symbolism and attach great importance to luck, good and bad.


We must not give people gifts featuring the number four (such as a book with forty-four pages) because their word for 4 ressembles their word for death. Every number suggests some meaning or other. Likewise we should never share a pear; the word for pear is the same as the word for separation.

We're not to wear dark blue or white clothes at the wedding because these are funereal colours. Nor a green hat, because that stands for infidelity.


On the other hand, other colours are encouraging, red and yellow in particular. Black doesn't have the same gloomy connotations as it does on the other side of the world, and the numbers 6 and 8 are lucky numbers.

George thinks it likely that his dad, "Hobbs Chris," will be referred to as "Old Hobbs" or "Uncle"—shu-shu—in Beijing, and I'll be called "Aunty"—ayi.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

All our yesterdays ... and tomorrows

Our son has just become engaged to Sha, whose parents speak no English, and we have been racking our brains for ways to communicate when we meet them next year. Chris already got a colleague at work to translate a message that could be sent on a greetings card in Chinese characters––this has been posted to Beijing––and I have started creating a picture book which I hope might give them some idea of what George's childhood was like and where he has lived between 1977 and 2010. The search for appropriate pictures is taking me back through many old memories and to the places where we used to live––Bern, for instance, in the winter of 1981-82 when George was 4 and his sister 6 years old––or visited, such as Settle and Giggleswick in 1986, the year we moved to Hertfordshire, England, in the days when Emma and George were keen rail riders.

The picture book is a project that will take weeks to finish and is probably something of a displacement activity instead of the real effort I should be making to learn some useful Mandarin (普通话 ) during the next nine months, before we arrive in Beijing for the wedding!

Monday, August 16, 2010

New image

I have updated the appearance of my blog at my husband's bidding (he said it was beginning to look a "bit tired") and in order to explore the possibilities of the Blogger design tool.

Everyone's obsessed with his/her image, me too, though it's all what my dad would have dismissed as mere "gimmick" and a far cry from the Quaker advice to seek to know one another in the things which are eternal. Of course that old saying presupposes the knowledge of what those things are and that they are shareable.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A wedding

Chris and I were at a stylish wedding yesterday with eight of our friends, two of whom were the parents of the bride. The ceremony took place at the Notre Dame Basilica on Sussex Drive.

Weddings are just like plays, with guests and onlookers as the audience and the wedding party the main dramatis personae. Sometimes peripheral people get to play impromptu bit parts, such as the Ancient Mariner in Coleridge's Rime or Don spilling a vial of bubble mix (meant for blowing bubbles over the bride afterwards) all over his posh trousers during the church service so that Carol, sitting between him and me, found it well nigh impossible to control herself. Pure comedy. Luckily the chief protagonists, at a solemn moment in their part of the action, never noticed what was going on behind them. Michelle had come sweeping down the aisle to the strains of Pachalbel's Canon, her dress trailing behind her, the bridegroom, in a smart suit and bright pink shirt, waiting for the Symbolic Handover (which always affects Chris so much at weddings) from her father's arm to his.

The point of the bright pink was that the bride had been inspired by Louis Vuitton handbags in her choice of wedding colours—black and fuschia—the maids of honour in black dresses and strappy fuschia sandals. Later we sat on black satin chair covers for the wedding supper, each table (covered with a matt black table cloth and given the name and picture of a Parisian monument) strewn with "diamonds" or rose petals and bedecked with fuschia napkins shaped like flowers, monogrammed wine glasses and a centrepiece of silvery tealights on a circular mirror plus a pink rose on a decorated pedestal.

The venue for the wedding reception was the most famous club in town, its motto Savoir Faire, Savoir Vivre, its manager the father of the bride. The club's rooms are fifteen floors above ground level so that they offer marvellous views of the city, especially from the lounge where we congregated in our obligatory smart clothes for our appetizers (prawns, beef on sticks) and champagne. While waiting for the Cutting Of The Cake Ceremony, regally announced by the Best Man's brother, some of us took the opportunity to explore the rest of the premises; these rooms are like art galleries or a history museum, like Canada's National Portrait Gallery that never was, many previous club members having been the nation's top people. Yousuf Karsh was one, and we were particularly impressed by the Karsh Room, filled with large prints of some of his best portraits. I hadn't previously seen his pictures of Joan Miro, Albert Schweizer or Margaret Atwood. They are all tremendous. The long-established receptionist told Elva, Don and me that she remembers Mr. Karsh as being a very nice man.

Michelle's cake, by the way, was another creation with black and fuschia accents and a Parisian theme, being topped with a chocolatey rendition of the Eiffel Tower. See photo above. The cake was served for dessert (Ryan getting the Eiffel Tower) after a sumptuous three courses (fish, heirloom tomato and savoury cheesecake salad, venison) that beggar description, so beautifully were they garnished and presented. After the coffee had been served and after the (pink!) lights had been dimmed for the first dance for the bride and groom, followed what for me was the most touching part of the whole day: a dance for the bride with her father, and then another for the groom with his mother. My blurred picture here is of Robert dancing with his daughter Michelle, with her mother Francine (in the other photo) looking on.

The start of the dancing was timed to co-incide with the start of the firework display from across the river at Lac Leamy, for which we had the best of views.

Monday, August 9, 2010


I'm reading a philosophical book, Musil's Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (in translation): a sarcastic, rambling, unfinished novel about Viennese society immediately before the first World War. Musil had a sharp eye for pretentiousness, what Chris calls pseudery. Musil's (anti)hero, Ulrich, is a man who tries very hard to understand what makes his contemporaries tick, but finds it impossible to enthuse about their phony way of thinking and living. He simply can't suspend his cynicism and join in.

My generation has not always made me glad to be part of it, either. I nearly always felt like a fish out of water in the Sixties / Seventies and after visiting the Pop Life exhibition at the National Gallery last week, I'm once again feeling alienated from the sick society of those days, represented here by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons et al. It's not so much their attempts to jolt the Establishment from its complacency with disrespectful images—the banality, the psychodelic patterns in shocking pink, the anaphrodisiac pornography—that disgusts me, but the vacant look on the faces of these artists or their "models". The pop climate was supposed to be so liberating, such fun; I just found / find it claustrophobic. So does Chris. We breathed again when we got out of there, climbing the stairs to pay our respects to Hans Baldung Grien's Eve and Cranach's Venus. Now there, in 16th century Germany, was pornography of quite a different calibre.


In 1678, John Bunyan described the complaints of a man who had sought

…the Lusts, Pleasures, and Profits of this World; in the enjoyment of which I did then promise myself much delight; but now every one of those things also bite me, and gnaw me like a burning worm… I am now a man of Despair, and am shut up in it, as in [an] Iron Cage. I cannot get out; O now I cannot.

I have been thinking about two of my brothers-in-law: Mel, who grows his own vegetables and keeps bees and chickens, and Phil, who has recently written a blogpost about his attraction to a life of simplicity, and about how "glad and lightsome" he has become since deliberately releasing himself from the Burden of worldly possessions ... no, hang on; that was Bunyan again. Anyway, my husband and I, as the Queen would say, have been consequently arguing about what defines The Good Life, whether it depends on giving up one's favourite books and intellectual pastimes, as well as the more obvious luxuries.

From the (rather prosaically updated) 18th century Quaker booklet, Advices and Queries:

Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?

Choosing a life of simplicity is probably more fun when you have a favourable starting point and aren't forced into it by miserable circumstances. I suppose it's like choosing to stay at home when you could have been a working mum; if you had the luxury of choice in the matter you're in a better position than if you hadn't. It also helps if your life's partner is in agreement with you.

With everything in your favour, however, it still takes effort and determination to downsize. I don't decry it. I really admire this trend. I daydream of doing it myself one day, even to the extent of clearing out the clutter (3118 items, 3.14GB) lurking inside the "Documents" folder on my computer. It's no good trying to grow my own veg. though. I give up. We have too many squirrels, raccoons and chipmunks in this garden to whom my precious tomatoes are a magnet. The only stuff they leave untouched is Swiss chard.

'Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free

as Judy Collins sang in 1963 (the song was written in 1848 and is still being sung by other performers), but it's not that easy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A note about Tadoussac

We found this place very appealing and parked first at the top of the hill so that I could try for a photo of the scene captured in 1935 by the artist Charles Comfort. My camera, unlike his paintbrush, flattened this exaggerated, bird's eye view (partly hidden by mist and trees from where I was standing), but the headland still looks whale-like, and the chapel and hotel roofs are still bright red. There had been a Victorian hotel here since the mid-19th century; in the 1940s its replacement was built, still grandiose, with whitewashed walls, crowned with a cupola and fronted by formal gardens. On the other side of the road is a pretty little graveyard with a pathway through it to the so-called Chapelle des Indiens, apparently the oldest wooden church in Canada (1747), built by Jesuit missionaries in their attempts to convert the Montagnais. It's now a museum.

Chris and I went for a hike down the promenade steps and along the beach, fascinated by the traces of mist still rising from it and making footsteps on the "grey wet sand," reminding us of Charlotte Mew's poem Sea Love (though she was probably thinking of the Isle of Wight):

Tide be runnin' the great world over:
'Twas only last June month I mind that we
Was thinkin' the toss and the call in the breast of the lover
So everlastin' as the sea.

Here's the same little fishes that sputter and swim,
Wi' the moon's old glim on the grey, wet sand;
An' him no more to me nor me to him
Than the wind goin' over my hand.

Chris set this to music once.

We passed a few live and dead fishes, scrambled up and down the rocks at the end of the bay where the "No trespassing" signs were and returned the way we'd come, under the steep sandy slopes, thick with trees. It's hard to remind yourself that the St. Lawrence is still, strictly speaking, a river at this point. A few minutes downstream from Tadoussac is an area of sand dunes which we also went to find, really big and extensive sand dunes which gave me a funny turn because they reminded me of a recurrent nightmare in which I try to scrabble my way up an increasingly impossible sandy gradient. Out here the ATV boys have fun on them, weaving around the birch trees.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Through the mist to Tadoussac

So it was another grey morning when I peered through the blinds after our first sleep in the soft, red bed at La Luciole: thick mist! We would have flown on down the coast to Tadoussac and turned left (west) there, at the mouth of the Saguenay River, to fly up the Fjord as far as Chicoutimi, spending the next night there, but there was no point in attempting this in IMC if that meant we couldn't make out anything of the famous scenery below us. Therefore we made the easy decision to take it easy and ask for a second night in Ste-Irénée instead, extending our car rental for another day on the ground.

We chose to drive along the 138, the long road (1,371 km long) that takes motor traffic from Montreal as far as Natashquan and then stops abruptly at the next river bank, perhaps because the engineers were too daunted by the rocky wildness to contemplate continuing beyond there, more likely because provincial funds had run out. Beyond Natashquan travellers must use their own initiative and either carry on either by air or by boat, or, in winter ...

(When there is snow)
A marked trail, maintained by the Quebec Ministry of Transport, runs from Natashquan to Old Fort (72 km West of Blanc Sablon), a distance of 457 kilometres. You can rest or wait out stormy weather at relay stations, emergency cabins stocked with firewood.

As far as Tadoussac, to which we drove this time, the road that winds up and down the inland hills and skirts the shoreline at accessible points is quiet and well maintained. The views, when you can see them, are splendid. Now and then we left the mist behind and beneath us but after a few miles we sank into it again. In the morning we had very little idea what St-Siméon looked like, but on our return in the clear air of the afternoon we spent an hour over supper in the restaurant that overlooks the ferry dock at St-Siméon, staring at the blue bay beyond, where a minke whale was leaping. "Un rorqual," as the waitress said, "le premier du saison."

Obviously in the mist we weren't going to get the good view up the fjord from the ferry that takes all the road's traffic between Ste-Catherine and Tadoussac, but we did find it exciting to see the ship loom up to fetch us "out to sea" beyond sight of land for those ten minutes or so.

24 km to the east of the Saguenay is an archeology museum that first opened in 1995. We came across it just outside the village of Grandes Bergeronnes, a spot we'd previously only seen from the air or (in May 2007) from the deck of the freighter on which we crossed the Atlantic. This is close to where the pilots of the St-Laurent disembark (at Les Escoumins). It's also the location of a short, narrow, sandy runway and a deserted old hangar. Trying to land at this airport in inclement weather would be suicide, but we drove by to take a look at ground level. The museum is a few metres further along this road, by the water, and is inspired by the amateur archeology of a local eccentric, Louis Gagnon, who while living in a shack like a scruffy old hermit discovered evidence that people have been living on this coastline for the past 8000 years! The museum was well laid out and well run; we were waylaid by an intelligent young lady who showed us how to make our way through the exhibitions, one of which was a multimedia, 3D history show. A temporary exhibition had us in a room full of stuffed wild creatures displayed in dioramas. I particularly remember the large size of the wolf.

From the museum's snack bar we watched the croisières pneumatiques getting ready to depart from the marina and then we drove back down the road to Tadoussac.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Last night on our walk around the neighbourhood we met Nicola Vulpe who had noticed the hiatus (pause, break, gap, lacuna, interval, intermission, interlude, interruption, suspension, lull, respite, time out, time off, recess, breather, letup) in my blogging. Sorry about that; I'm getting lazy on these hot summer days and it's time I resumed the narrative.

I didn't finish recording our little holiday in the région touristique de Charlevoix at the beginning of July. The day we landed on the mainland we used the car we'd rented to explore a stretch of the Route du Fleuve so that I could set foot in Les Éboulements, for instance, the village that had looked so appealing on the hillside seen from the Isle aux Coudres, and also so that we could visit the town of Baie-St-Paul, famous for its art galleries.

I remember the places we didn't reach as well, that will attract us back one day, the Hautes Gorges of the Malbaie River, the Domaine Forget where summer concerts take place.

Is it better to make the effort and go to visit the places you conjure up so vividly in your mind's eye, running the risk of disappointment because the reality is never quite as you expect it to be, or to keep your unsullied, imaginary visits intact? (I remember that I used to wonder this when I was young, after seeing the panorama of the snowcapped Bernese Oberland on the distant horizon from a viewpoint in the Swiss canton of Vaud. I wrote a poem about it once, but that is too private for this blog.)

Well, there was a Chocolaterie worth mentioning at Les Éboulements, as well as their lovely (but on that day, hazy) view of the Isle aux Coudres and mountains from the meadows, and in Baie-St-Paul we visited the Contemporary Art Museum to see an exhibition of 120 self-portraits by artists of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, a monster coke bottle made from coke bottle caps and an exhibition of knitted cotton gloves (made by cheap labour in China) sewn together by Lucie Duval and fashioned into haute couture or stuffed and transformed into rabbits. Chris didn't think so much of this, but I found it clever. The rue St-Jean-Baptiste in this town was full of private art galleries, featuring paintings and sculpture by the local artists; we wandered around here, too, before driving on, after a pub supper, up the valley to St-Urbain and then towards the small communities of Notre-Dame-des-Monts and Saint-Aimé-des-Lacs, along the La Route des Montagnes which offered tantalizing views of the Gorges to the northwest: des paysages montagneux époustoufflants! It came as a surprise to finish this spectacular drive to La Malbaie in rather ugly, industrial surroundings, reminding us of the outskirts of Pontypool in Wales.

That evening we experienced a remarkable phenomenon when, having been in the very warm air around the Baie St Paul, we suddenly drove into much cooler conditions, the windscreen misting over alarmingly fast. Sea fog was coming in again, insinuating itself along the cliffs and up the estuaries, blanketing all of our bay at Ste-Irénée and lowering the temperature to 12º while in Quebec, Montreal and Ottawa, so we gather, it remained in the high 30ºs with smog advisories in effect. Hearing about this, I learned a new word: canicule, heat-wave.