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, August 14, 2016

From the balcony

The Estonian fireworks show came last night, which we were lucky enough to see from the balcony of Barbara's apartment on "Cathedral Hill", with its splendid view of the National Archives building and Supreme Court. An unusual occasion because we'd had heavy rain and thunderstorms all day, and the whole apartment block had suffered a power outage –– the power not due to be restored until this afternoon –– so we met by candlelight, and weren't able to see Barbara's new home very clearly at all. The nearby city lights helped, though, and the emergency generator allowed us to use the lift, fortunately. She wasn't able to offer us (Gisela, Lynn, Rémi, Chris and me) anything warmed up, but did some great improvising with slices of cheese, sausage and cheesecake. We had wine and beer to drink rather than tea or coffee and found plenty of candles to put on the table ... plus one in the bathroom.

 The light of the low fireworks (hidden from us by the buildings) lit up the low rain clouds creating spectacular effects.

More shows to follow next Wednesday and Saturday evenings, but they're unlikely to be as extraordinary as this was.


Whether you're young or old, it's essential to have something to look forward to. Maybe a Buddhist monk would gently dispute this, but it seems to me that it's the looking forward that keeps us alive. However, there has to be a fine balance. If there's too much to look forward to at once, the pleasure of anticipation can turn into panic, but not if you're prepared.

I anticipate a hiatus in this blog, soon, because our grandsons and their parents are arriving for a fortnight's visit next week, and I'll not have much time for the self-indulgence of blog-writing while they're here. After they've left, I'll be setting off to spend some time with my mother and my sister in Wales, and that trip might be combined with joining Chris on a business trip to Germany (if the people concerned can get it arranged in time) before I return to Ottawa. Chris and I were also thinking of flying over the Carolinas in our Cessna, maybe to Savannah, Georgia, and back, before the summer ends, an appealing thought, but that might have to be postponed because of bad weather. Therefore our plans, as usual, are vague. Anyhow, whatever we do, I need to think as far ahead as I can, so for the last few days I've been sorting out cupboards and clothes, trying to make some order out of chaos, so that I don't panic once we are in medias res. Children in the house will be a major distraction.

I have to shop in advance of the family's visit so have started on that, and have been preparing meals in advance as well. By degrees I am putting aside any food I imagine the boys will enjoy. I made a lot of chocolate chip cookies, but have just over-baked the last batch, being sidetracked by this blogpost; also made a strawberry-rhubarb pie, a peach-cherry-blackberry pie and some zucchini squares (like carrot cake––following a cupcakes recipe). I am not usually this domestic, only when the mood takes me. I have already concocted and stored a salad dressing and a stir-fry sauce. Next, I'll start on the savoury dishes that can be frozen. Once six lively and hungry people start fussing around in my kitchen I shall be glad I did all this, because speed and simplicity will be of the essence.

I tidied the bathroom cupboards, packing some towels in carrier bags for outings to swimming spots. Next, I'll have to start on the sleeping arrangements and the bedding. We'll have to use our basement as a bedroom which means clearing up the books, magazines and other paraphernalia presently scattered around.

Of course the most fun to be had is in thinking of what we'll do with the family. Like Koko, I've got a little list (not that sort of list), in case they run out of their own ideas.

Not only do I need to think about the holidays and family visits; I've also been working through a to-do list for the volunteer groups I'm involved with, planned every German conversation morning, venue and topic, between now and the start of December, and edited the next newsletter to be published for the Rockcliffe Flying Club. By the time we reach December we'll have another commitment ahead. Chris is going to be speaking at the ESE-Kongress in Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart, once again, and needs to spend plenty of preparation time because it's in German. Meanwhile, outside of work, he's busy creating videos for the flying club's ground school and completing a book of questions about the theory of instrument flying, to be published by the Aviation Publishers Co. Ltd. in Ottawa. I'm one of the people helping him with the proofreading.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Moonlit theatre

It is advertised as Theatre Under The Stars, but when Barbara and I went to see the play in Strathcona park last night we had a moon too. During the intermission we could see it shining on the Rideau River that flows past that outdoor theatre. We were lucky not to have the play interrupted by a thunderstorm: Ottawa being very hot and humid just now (feels like 40 during the afternoons).

The Odyssey Theatre production of Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters, translated into modern English and set in 1950s rather than 1740s Venice, is a brilliant success, true to the farcical spirit of the original. The same company had in fact put on a performance of this same comedy, years ago; I remember going to see it, also at Strathcona Park. This year's director had played the part of the servant in that former production and had been inspired to come up with his own version.

Last night's performance began 15 minutes late, a decision made by the stage manager to avoid some of the extreme heat that was starting to diminish; the actors had to engage in plenty of physical action, some of them in several layers of clothing as well as Venetian masks with big noses. Barbara and I had climbed up to the back row of the rickety scaffolding to which the audience's benches were fixed, to sit just in front of the lighting crew. From there, we had an excellent view, with my bottles of water to keep us hydrated. Two lucky raffle ticket holders got "the best seats in the house" as a prize (comfortable patio chairs) while the rest of us had to make do with cushions we had brought along or padded MEC camping chairs with backs, a good idea for the theatre company, MEC and the people who rented them for the evening, we thought.

The stage set, designed by the same man who'd created the masks, included a scaled down canal full of water, from which objects were fished and the characters splashed water around from time to time, to hilarious effect. It was proper slapstick farce, stylishly done, and sometimes in slow motion. To match the exaggerated speeches and asides, every gesture was ridiculously over-the-top and mime techniques were lavishly used. The main character, the servant of the title, Truffaldino, was played by a professional clown, Jesse Buck, who had previously worked for 5 years in the Cirque du Soleil. The actor who played Brighella, the portly but sprightly landlord of the tavern, also happened to be a magician, who showed off his conjuring skills during this production. All the characters danced, the maid Smeraldina particularly well. The girl in drag, Sarah Finn as Beatrice, did an excellent job pretending to be a twin brother. The two young men in the play, Silvio and Florindo, leapt around admirably, Florindo vaulting over the theatre's fence at one point, and lamented the downturns in their fortune with ludicrous gestures. There was a wild scene where both Florindo and Beatrice tried to stab themselves, Brighella frustrating the thrusts of their shared dagger with a broom, a breakstick and a long sausage. Great use of the props, here!

Some ad-lib lines crept in, Brighella telling everyone in the feasting scene that he'd arranged for fireworks when the noise from the Sound of Light show on the Ottawa River threatened to upstage the drama by the Rideau River; the audience got the joke.

We'd been warned not to sit on the front row for fear of getting wet. This turned out to be when Truffaldino spat out his "wine" to a great distance. He spat bits of soggy bread all over the stage too: deliberately disgusting, but very funny at the time. The children in the audience loved all this, of course, and appreciated the complicated story and the leaping around. A little girl sitting a couple of rows in front of us asked her parents in an excited voice, at the end, "Can we see another one?"

Friday, August 5, 2016

A day on water

Tuesday (one of Chris' off-work days under his new, 25%-retirement régime) was a perfect day for being on the water, with the air temperature around 30º. I'd say it was the most relaxing day we've spent so far this year. We rented a pontoon boat for the day from the marina at White Lake, not more than an hour's drive from Ottawa, south of the Madawaska River, near Pakenham.

We stayed on the boat for six-and-a-half hours, exploring only part of the lake which has inlets in all directions, trying to identify where we were from a $5 cottage-owners' map I'd bought at the marina, sailing past Waba Island, Stanley Island, Howards Island, past wide Pickerel Bay, Curleys Island, Barry Island, Birch Island, Bog's Island. Hardwood Island was the largest, and was uninhabited; most of the other islands had chalets built on their shores and at the north and south ends of White Lake there are more residential areas. Eventually we turned around in Three Mile Bay, near the Cedar Cove Resort, a campground where Chris didn't want to dock because he wasn't sure there'd be room to squeeze the boat in; the docks seemed full. This was his first time renting a motor boat in Canada and Chris' justification for acquiring a boating license, or Pleasure Craft Operating Card. He'd had to pass an online exam for this.

Very few other boats were on the lake: a couple of speed boats, towing children in a rubber dinghy, a few metal fishing boats. Since there was hardly any wind, the sailing craft in one of the bays couldn't get very far.

At anchor in the quieter parts of the lake, we climbed down the ladder we could fix to the side of the boat and went swimming. Chris said the water was freezing cold, but it wasn't. We had brought a packed lunch with us in a cool box and ate it in the shade of our awning.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Gatineau's mountain

Summit of King Mountain
The Gatineau Hills are not mountains although one of them is designated as such. We climbed King Mountain, named in honour either of WF King, Canada's Chief Astronomer of the 1890s, or Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King (I'm not sure), on Monday. This was a Civic Holiday: Simcoe Day –– after John Graves Simcoe, who helped to start the anti-slavery movement in Canada –– or Emancipation Day in Toronto, Colonel By Day in Ottawa, Joseph Brant Day in Burlington, John Galt Day in Guelph, Natal Day in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Regatta Day in Newfoundland, or British Columbia Day in British Columbia. Anyhow, it meant that three of our friends had the chance to came along too.

Black Lake
The King Mountain Trail starts down some steps through the pines from the parking lot and picnic tables to a small lake (Black Lake) with reeds, turtles, and a beavers' lodge. Thence you start to climb, first through a north-facing shady hemlock forest where the air feels relatively cool, and then on towards the cliffs of the 300m high Eardley Escarpment, the scarp slope of the Canadian Shield. There are numerous interpretation panels and lookouts. From the smooth, pink, granite rocks at the top, the views of the Ottawa River Valley are splendid.

Ascent through the hemlock forest

At (almost) the highest point along the trail is a stone trig point, as the British would call it, at the location of the copper bolt that marked Canada's first "geodetic station". says that "it was here that commenced the triangulation system of the Geodetic Survey of Canada, the basis of surveys for all purposes, topographical, engineering, and cadastral":
In 1888, the Association of Dominion Land Surveyors increased activities aimed at setting up a geodetic service in Canada. After years of research by Director William Frederick King and others, the first geodetic surveys were carried out in Canada, beginning in June 1905 at Kingsmere, in the National Capital Region. The first geodetic point (or geodetic station), named King MTN, was installed approximately 14 kilometres from Ottawa. The point was selected because it is the most visible from the federal observatory at the Central Experimental Farm. This geodetic point would not be long used because its visibility is unsatisfactory. A second point, called an “eccentric station” was selected in September 1909. This second point is located at an elevation 64 metres (211 feet) lower than the original station, and it became the point of reference. It is located at 45º 29' 20.56787" N, 75º 51' 45.26354" W. 
Beyond the summit, the trail winds back down flights of wooden steps through the trees to the stream and then up again, completing the loop.

August 1st should have been called Hot Day, since the weather was so steamy and the sun so fierce. The walk is only short, but we were all in dire need of rehydration at the end of it. We found a table for drinks and supper at the Chelsea Pub.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The airport at Mont Laurier

Montagne du Diable north of Mont-Laurier airport
It is small scale but friendly. Chris and I flew there yesterday over the most glorious, wild scenery (and back) –– lakes and wooded hills, fields and rivers. Mont Laurier airport is at the foot of the Montagne du Diable in the Laurentian hills, a mountain that appears from the air to have no sign of human interference on its slopes. As you fly north from Ottawa, you can see it from far away. On the gentler side of the airport is a village, now a suburb of Mont Laurier, on the Route Transcanadienne, built around a small lake, the Lac des Sources.

Lac des Îles, near Mont-Laurier
Approaching Mont-Laurier airport from the west

On the field
We had lunch at the welcoming roadside / airport restaurant (Restaurant de l'Aéroport) where various portions of fried chicken and chips are on the menu (Poulet Boeing, etc). I ordered a small(ish) Poulet Cessna for a very reasonable price which came with gravy and coleslaw. We ate Rondelles d'Oignon as well, so this was not a healthy meal. Never mind. To cast of a few of the calories after lunch we walked for about an hour

Lac des Sources

Plage Municipale
around the Lac des Sources along the residential roads that skirt it, the Chemin de St.-Jean-sur-le-Lac and the Chemin de l'Église, keeping in the shade as much as possible, since it was such a hot day. The cottages (chalets, some for sale) are attractive; the soil is sandy. They have a Plage Municipale and a couple of little parks by the water. The beach was packed. The church of St. Jean was abandoned and for sale.

The Unicom gentleman at the airport who with his wife has made the airport clubhouse a comfortable place to rest, told me in strongly accented Quebec French that he kept the premises open for pilots 24 hours a day and that we could camp here, if we wished, with the eau des sources to drink (very refreshing) from their taps.

Lac des Trente et Un Milles, southwest of Mont Laurier
Virga falling from a cloud over the Ottawa Valley
On the homeward flight we enjoyed some lovely and interesting cloudscapes, as well as the views below us.