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.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Angela Hewitt, OC, OBE, Ambassador for the OrKidstra

Here's some good news. The world famous musician Angela Hewitt has joined the growing number of supporter's of Ottawa's Leading Note Foundation, the people who run the OrKidstra project and their beneficiaries. In this scheme
children from low income families receive free group and individual music lessons and learn [...] respect, compassion, teamwork and responsibility through playing and singing together.
I went to hear the children play and sing at Ottawa University this afternoon in celebration of Angela Hewitt's appointment as their "Ambassador," and what a top-notch occasion it was. Laurence Wall of CBC radio was the very professional Master of Ceremonies, who had offered his services for free. There was a lovely surprise at the end of the concert for those of us who weren't expecting this, when Ms. Hewitt picked up a violin and Mr. Wall picked up a cello and joined in behind the children for their abbreviated, but spirited rendering of Beethoven's Ode to Joy.

Not all 350 children from the program were taking part today but there was a good, representative sample and Mr. Wall interviewed some of them during the concert, including an enthusiastic little chap of six years old who had to stand on a chair to be seen and heard. He said he liked being in this music school 100%. Their Artistic Director Tina Fedeski said a few words too, pointing out that between them the children know 42 languages as well as a 43rd language: music.

It's not all earnest, ultra classical music that they play, by any means. The concert began by a row of juniors sitting cross-legged at the front of the hall, playing so-doh, so-doh on their xylophones, which eventually morphed into John Williams' theme from Star Wars ... and then all the children joined in, the singers singing "Wel-come --to the orKIDstra!" to the tune, the instrumentalists playing its accompaniment full blast. This was followed by music from a local composer (present today, playing the piano part, in fact)––Dr. James Wright of Carleton University. He had composed the setting for young voices and accompanying strings of Jack Layton's touching, deathbed Letter To Young Canadians which I have mentioned before in this blog. It is somewhat lightweight music but, like the letter, it's sincere, and the lady sitting behind me was saying that she cries every time she hears it. OrKidstra students gave the "world première" a couple of years ago. The thought I always have when hearing this song is that children who repeat over and over during their rehearsals
... love is better than anger, hope is better than fear...
will not grow up to be bad people. Words tend to go in, if they're sung, and these are good words.

Other items on the programme featured Angela Hewitt herself, who played three of the Spanish Dances by Grenados for us on the piano, and Bach's 3rd Brandenburg Concerto, performed by the senior string plays, whom she conducted. She's a versatile lady; she speaks excellent French too––Parisian French! The most thrilling moment was when she accompanied young Peter Perez (now aged 14––he has been in the OrKidstra since the age of 8) on his clarinet. An extremely musical and dedicated young man, he played the first movement of Saint-Saens' Clarinet Sonata, of which I know every note because Chris and I used to have a go at it. I could therefore appreciate better than some how very well it was accomplished, but the whole audience gave them a spontaneous standing ovation.

When Ms. Hewitt officially received her Ambassadorship at the concert she took the microphone and said exactly what I think and feel:

"We have to get it out of our head that music is just for the élite ..." and she finished her speech with: "Here's to Music, and to sharing it with as many people as possible!"

She'll make an excellent Ambassador.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A wedding in the park

Geese at the wedding
The nameless pair
The bride and groom don't want their wedding widely publicized, so I'll keep them anonymous.

Yesterday afternoon we were guests at an unusual wedding, along with a large gaggle of Canada geese. Everyone enjoyed the occasion, especially pleased that the weather was co-operative after a cold week last week. Every time I go to a wedding it strikes me how like a play it is. The groom in this case had chosen to take responsibility for the script, which was very personal to him and his bride; apparently he was allowed to be as creative as he wished as long as he included the three essential questions and answers or vows:
Will you love her for as long as you both shall live and [be] a faithful and caring husband?––I WILL.
Will you love him for as long as you both shall live and [be] a faithful and caring wife?––I WILL.
Do you chose to follow this path together wherever it leads, hand-in-hand? [paraphrased]––WE DO.
And at the end of this the civil servant officiating had to say:
By the powers vested in me by the Province of Ontario, it is my honour to pronounce you husband and wife.
Beyond these basics, the theme of the drama was very outdoors-y, with many references to paths and views and adventurous journeys (the couple are great travellers) and weather imagery: shade, wind, rain, hail, snow, sunshine. Afterwards we all walked over to the playground in the park, carefully avoiding the goose droppings, and she sat on a swing to have more photos taken.

Eventually we repaired to a posh restaurant up the road where the party continued and where Chris read out Shakespeare's 116th sonnet by request, that starts:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments...
This too has an adventurous traveller subject, come to think of it, since it has a metaphor for love as:
... an ever-fixed mark, 
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken ...
Chris had read this poem at our daughter's wedding too, once upon a time.

Besides which we had champagne laced with raspberries and Grand Marnier, wine from Italy, and a four-course Cordon Bleu supper.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Running around

'Well, in our country,' said Alice, still panting a little, 'you'd generally get to somewhere else—if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing.
'A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. 'Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!'
(Lewis Carroll: Through The Looking Glass)
If you're a Red Queen type of person, September is one of the more demanding months. It's time to get up and running again after the Sommerpause, as we call it in our German conversation group.

On September 1st I flew back from Britain and later that week invited four of my German speaking friends to Das Lokal, which serves Spätzle. A dozen or so of us also met for lunch last Wednesday to say goodbye to Andrea who's leaving town. Mira, who had volunteered to be the hostess, served us an all-vegan meal because Andrea is vegan. I gave a little speech about how much we're going to miss her on Thursday mornings and handed her an album of photos. Today the group had a more usual get together at Elvira's place which necessitated more driving back and forth. I'd chosen a funny article for us to read––about someone's first exposure to opera––found in a free magazine on a German train.

Chris has been using his German too, to prepare a paper for his December conference in Sindelfingen "Zum Kern des Software-Testens gehört ein Paradoxon ..." it begins ("At the heart of software testing lies a paradox ..."). I've checked and rechecked his every word, especially the pesky adjective endings, but am glad to say our friend Barbara has been over to supper to improve it further. Not that either she or I understand the thrust of the argument very well. The next step for Chris will be to practise talking it over without reference to the text. He's done this sort of thing before, but public speaking is tough in a foreign language and his expert audience is sure to follow up with questions.

Public speaking has been on my mind. I and some other Flying Club people had three goes at a presentation on Learning to Fly, the first go for practice, the other two goes for real in front of an audience would-be pilots and company at the Aviation Museum. Tonight we're having a debriefing session. The presenters, each approaching the subject from a different angle, were Jim, David, Benoit, Jeremy, John, Nathalie, Kathryn and me (...and I, Chris would want me to put, but I'm not such a pedant as he). All of us except David spoke too long-windedly; being at the microphone can be a heady experience. My job was to tell the audience how much wider are one's horizons when one takes to the air, literally and metaphorically; I waxed a bit too lyrical about some of the places I'd flown to.

Meeting at the Métropolitain
Chris gave another couple of lectures about airmanship in the ground school (17th and 22nd Sept.) and yesterday I held forth yet again, this time to a group of diplomats and accompanying Canadians, in a side room at the Novotel, about the 40 year history of the Diplomatic Hospitality group I belong to. I kept this very brief but had also prepared a slide show that ran on in the background all the time we were there. I don't know what took longer, selecting the pictures from my albums or fussing over the projector. In the end Chris borrowed one from work; the hotel staff had to find a screen and an extension cable. More fuss. Never mind, I think it was worth doing. Last week our Diplomatic Hospitality Group held its annual coffee party inviting all the diplomat spouses on our list––nearly 100 turned up from 38 different countries. So that was worth while too. We held it at a place aspiring to be a Parisian bar, called the Métropolitain Brasserie. It's posh, and right in the centre of town.

Earlier that week I'd been to the first of the local CFUW events, the one where you have to be careful not to sign up for too many activities. I put my name down to help with the HIPPY group offering "Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters" every once in a while, and also brought a photo album along that I'd compiled for UWHAW's table––"University Women Helping Afghan Women".

The Flying Club's family barbecue
Instead of writing this blogpost I should be sorting out the contributions to the next edition of the flying club's newsletter Crosswinds, since a number of people have been submitting contributions to the editor's desk,––i.e. mine. I still haven't written my own report about the family barbecue party that followed our annual Flour Bombing and Precision Landing contests. That might serve as another blogpost, including some photos I took, on its way into the newsletter. I have to be tactful, since both contests were won this year by my husband.

Gardening, that's another thing. The flying club gardens are partly my responsibility too, but I have neglected them. I did spend an hour on the patch in front of the clubhouse last weekend and Carol turned up to help. We didn't even dare to look at the other, longer beds beside the hangar, shall have to persuade more friends to help with those.

This month I finally got to see Dancing in Jaffa, the film that documents a period of 10 weeks in that city, when world champion ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine came to teach Jewish and Palestinian children to dance together and forget their enmity. Our German conversation group had read an article about this earlier and the film had a showing (one only) at Ottawa's Mayfair Cinema the other day. It would warrant a second view. Another film I could watch over and over again is Babette's Feast––I have the video at home and it merits a separate blogpost. So does the novel I'm currently rereading, Mr. Sammler's Planet by Saul Bellow.

Ottawa's War Museum from the bike path
So many things on my mind besides: seeing my elderly friend Melita in a nursing home and feeling anxious about my mum in Wales. My Friday suppers for our group of friends. Chris' singing lessons, for which we have to practise, including a love duet by Mr. John Eccles (1668-1735). My visit to the War Museum to see an exhibition of paintings by Canadian and German war artists, and the harrowing 1st World War galleries.

The sky this week is a glorious blue and the leaves are changing colour. Life moves on. I must cook some supper for Chris. Our son arrived at the gate in Toronto airport this evening, having sat through a night and a day all the way from SYD. Our daughter has just reached home in London after flying back from Helsinki.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Raising politicians' awareness (I hope)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is hosting the Climate Summit to engage leaders and advance climate action [...] to reduce emissions and strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political will for an ambitious global agreement by 2015 that limits the world to a less than 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.
That is a quotation from the Climate Change Summit website. The preliminary meetings will take place in New York next week, and although I'm not travelling to New York to take part in the People's Climate March there tomorrow (100,000 people expected), I did get on my bike(!) last Thursday, to participate in a demonstration in Ottawa. A photograph of this, our local demo, is going to be projected in New York by Avaaz, one of many such photos from all over the world. The idea is to impress upon the politicians that they must act now to restore the health of our beloved planet, recently so jeopardized by man-made pollution. As I write this 2,100,976 people have signed a petition calling on our "national, local and international" leaders
... to keep global temperature rise under the unacceptably dangerous level of 2 degrees C, by phasing out carbon pollution to zero. To achieve this, you must urgently forge realistic global, national and local agreements, to shift our societies and economies to 100% clean energy by 2050...
"The Elders" and their spokesman Kofi Annan are passionate supporters of this cause and beg us to vote in our elections accordingly:
Let us send a clear and unequivocal signal that failure to act will have consequences at the ballot box for politicians and for the bottom line of businesses. If leaders are unwilling to lead when leadership is required, people must.
Going up the steps
The people who turned up on Parliament Hill in Ottawa were a predictably left-wing bunch, the most prominent being the people with banners or the ones (some of them children) carrying symbolic green hearts. All the generations were represented. Ottawa's "Raging Grannies"––of whom more below––looked very colourful. A pretty girl in a green T-shirt leading the team of organisers rallied the supporters through a megaphone and told us all to "Go up on the steps and look like as many people as possible!" for our photo opportunity. A couple standing behind me were talking in Mandarin Chinese. As we stood on the parliament steps in the warm sunshine, a young man took possession of the megaphone and told us that as he had crossed Canada on a unicycle to promote the message, he'd been greatly encouraged. Everywhere, people are supportive, he said; all it takes is will power. At least that was the gist of what he said. He spoke in English, very fluently.
Ending subsidies to oil and gas corporations is, I think, something that’s supported on paper across partisans lines, and hasn’t happened. Same thing with regulations on oilsands. We don’t have a national energy plan. There’s a couple key pillars that are pretty simple policies, but without those we can expect emissions to keep rising and rising.
Then five of the Raging Grannies came forward to sing a protest song and we were all encouraged to join in the chorus:
Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my planet to me!
Another choir of activists sang another couple of protest songs. Then after the group photo we came down from the steps and marched around the Eternal Flame in its ornamental pond. After that we could disperse.

The bottom line of all this is that some of us are willing to pay more taxes if that's what it takes to save the world.

There was a pertinent article about the threat to climate change action in the Guardian this week
The right-wing denialists [...] often call themselves conservatives. They are not. At the heart of true conservatism is the belief that each new generation forms the vital bridge between past and future, and is charged with the responsibility of passing the earth and its cultural treasures to their children and grandchildren in sound order. History will condemn the climate change denialists, here and elsewhere, for their contribution to the coming catastrophe that their cupidity, their arrogance, their myopia and their selfishness have bequeathed to the young and the generations still unborn.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Rime of the Ancient Pilot

Nicola lent us a funny book yesterday, the Brand-X Anthology of Poetry, that parodies famous poets ancient and modern.

Therefore I had a go myself and came up with the following, with apologies to Coleridge and to a pilot I know who recently flew his Cessna 172 to Madison, Wisconsin and back. I sent a copy to various people including Nicola who replied that I ought to put this on my blog, so here it is.

Rime of the Ancient Pilot

There is an ancient pilot 
Who stoppeth one of three, 
Who never fails to tell his tale: 
"I took off to the west," quoth he. 

"I fear thee, ancient pilot! 
I fear thy glitt'ring eye. 
I have not time to hear it all, 
Please keep it short!" begged I. 

The pilot gives a dreadful glare; 
He means his tale to tell 
From start to finish. Do I dare 
To interrupt him more? 

"I took off to the west," quoth he, 
"A headwind strong did blow. 
I set my teeth, looked out beneath, 
I was all set to go." 

[36 verses omitted] 

"... And then I saw Lake Michigan
How deep it was and wide, 
And storms were on the radar screen: 
T'would be a risky ride. 

The winds did rage, the rain did fall, 
Lightning flash'd all around, 
While safely in the F.B.O. 
I waited on the ground. 

But then I spied a chance to fly, 
A blessèd, blessèd gap. 
Between two storms I would not die: 
I took my chance, and left. 

I ventured north, I ventured west, 
I flew her o'er the water 
Even although my wife had said 
I never really oughta." 

"And did'st thou die, thou bearded loon? 
And art thou but a ghost?" 
"Of course I'm not," quoth he, 
"Although I do not want to boast. 

I landed in Wisconsin, 
I spoke with earth-bound men, 
And when my work was done there, 
Took to the air again. 

I set my course unto the east ..." 
"Oh no!" saith I, "Not more! 
Please tell me on the morrow, 
For I've heard it all before."