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.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Failed again!"

My father used to say that when we hadn't done as well as we ought to have done, on various occasions. Usually he said it in a humorous tone of voice. but often enough to give me a permanent guilt complex in adult life; I feel like apologising for having failed to keep my blog updated this month.

I am at the international airport again, once more about to set off on a transatlantic trip. It's not good to think that the only time I seem to get to write my blog is at airports. We are going to visit the British contingent of our family as well as some old friends, and Chris has a conference to attend.

At the beginning of January, work began on a long-delayed winter edition of the Flying Club's magazine or newsletter, Crosswinds. I was the one responsible for its creation, this time. I had handed over the job to Alan a few years ago, but am sad to report that for this edition I had to write his obituary: he was a quiet person, worth knowing, now sorely missed. Too late, I now wish I had persuaded him to do some music making with us, because people who knew him better than we said that he was an extraordinarily good musician. Apparently, his favourite music was Dowland's. RFC Club members remember him as the pilot with the silver (unpainted) tail-dragger, a Cessna 170 that he flew solo all the way to Whitehorse in the Yukon and back, before he fell ill.

Hours were spent polishing up the multiple drafts of the latest Crosswinds newsletter, many hours, although the finished result is only 12 pages long, with 100 copies now printed. It really makes me appreciate the phenomenal amount of work that must go into any newspaper published daily.

Wearing my other hats, I've been organising weekly German conversation mornings (as usual) and a couple of group walks on snowshoes for diplomats and their Canadian friends. I co-opted Chris to help with the first of these events --- this was at the Rockcliffe Flying Club, too. When we came in out of the cold (a very stiff breeze down by the river, that morning) Chris told all the snowshoers about the fun we have flying, and spontaneously offered a short ride in the Club's flight simulator to four people who were there. They loved it and one of them, Judith, later brought the rest of her family along for another go in the sim. They speak German and Chris wanted to practise his German, but the children preferred to speak English.

On another day, I was at an insightful talk by a lady originally from Kabul, who described a visit there last year with her daughter to re-unite with family members who still live in that city. She effectively demolised some of our preconceptions about life in Afghanistan, showing us slides of Kabul as it is nowadays.

I have been teaching English to my new Syrian friend and her family, trudging through the snow to reach her house from the nearest bus stops. She gives me a warm welcome.

This time last week we were at a chamber music concert in New Edinburgh, with a string quintet playing (quartet plus double-bass). They gave a nice performance of Dvorak's string quintet plus some shorter items for the same combination.

That's all I have time before before we board our flight. "More tomorrow", as my dad also used to keep saying, once upon a time. I may have the chance to visit his grave during this trip as we shall be staying within travelling distance of it. An inspired teacher and musician, are the words carved on his gravestone, under which we added this: "I shall be made thy music" --- Donne.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

An afternoon flight, in pictures

Over Gatineau, after crossing the river from CYRO

Over the Gatineau River, Chelsea area

Over the Gatineau River at Wakefield

Heading back towards Ottawa and Gatineau

Climbing, after a touch-and-go at CYND

Base leg for CYRO, over the Ottawa River

Over the √Čtienne Cartier Parkway, Ottawa River in the background

Island on the Ottawa River

Pushing PTN back to her tie-down spot after refuelling

The fuelling station at CYRO

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A day for staying indoors and writing

Emails, mostly. I suppose it's good to have plenty to do while freezing rain, hail, wet snow or rain falls from the heavy, dark grey, wet clouds today and while my husband's at work. Working through my list, I send my messages, they reply, and then I send a reply to that message, and so forth. Some of this correspondence may not be altogether necessary, but women like to chat.

I slithered along the sidewalks to the Byward Market to pick up the Music and Beyond festival pass I had bought in time to pay the Early Bird price, then fussed around in a shoe shop, buying some sturdy slip-ons to replace my slippers that are falling to pieces. At Bridgehead, I sat over my pot of tea for over an hour, using my laptop again.

I've been contacting people about our German conversation group get-togethers, about the outings on snow shoes that Diplomatic Hospitality is arranging for the next month or two ... perhaps three, if the snowfall so far this winter was anything to go by, about next week's meeting of the University Women Helping Afghan Women and about the contents of the next edition of Rockcliffe Flying Club's newsletter, Crosswinds.

The longest time I have spent on any one thing today was while drafting an obituary for a man who used to help me edit the newsletter, who took on the job of chief editor in my place a couple of years ago, and who is now greatly missed. He was younger than I am, i.e. far too young, and his death is therefore tragic, but I'm not the only one who thinks that the life he led was an inspiration. In 2010, he flew solo all the way to Whitehorse and back to visit his brother's family, following the Alaska highway for the last stretch of his outbound journey, with a total flight time of 26 hours. His plane was a Cessna 140 with a silver fuselage, a little tail-dragger. A year later he underwent what he called "Another Long Flight" when he was diagnosed with cancer. The surgery and treatment, which he faced with fortitude, did allow him to retrieve his pilot's licence eventually, and we published an article that described how he felt about that. It was movingly and succinctly written. He could do funny articles too: satirical stories under a pseudonym, some of which used to make me laugh out loud. Since his death I have discovered that he was also an accomplished singer and composer in the other part of his spare time. He loved the music of John Dowland, apparently, one of his favourite pieces being In darkness let me dwell.

Another thing I have just discovered to my surprise is that Sting, the jazz / pop / rock musician, has recorded this song:

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year's walks

Yesterday, we walked the loop from the Gatineau Park visitors' centre at Chelsea with Elva and Laurie, meeting families out for some fresh air all the way, and eventually quenched our thirst with tea from the only drinks place open in Chelsea for New Year's Day, a fairly new outlet staffed by inexperienced youngsters, too busy to serve everyone wanting service, though they were doing their best. The building used to be a clothes boutique called Delilah, but it closed last year. We sat on the plastic Muskoka chairs on the verandah outside to sip our drinks. In our padded coats, it didn't seem too cold for this.

Elva on the walk at Wakefield
Today Elva, Chris and I rode in Carol's car to Wakefield for the sake of a walk up and down the hill, through the woods to the cemetery following the yellow trail markers and back into town via the mill, most of it a slippery walk, like stepping across sand dunes (we should have worn snowshoes), but the surroundings were lovely, with low rays of sunlight slanting through the pine trunks. Coffees afterwards this time with some carrot cake from the cosy, popular caf√©, Le Hibou.

Carol on the snowy hill at Wakefield
We had a magical view on our way back to the car from Le Hibou, because fog had begun to radiate from the Gatineau River's patch of open water near the far bank making a white smudge that blurred its edges. Chris had been waiting for radiation fog on the Ottawa River to lift from the vicinity of Rockcliffe airport earlier today; he went flying this morning, once it did start to lift.

Tomorrow's weather isn't going to be so good: freezing rain is forecast to start at 4am, lasting all day.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New post, New Year

The sky was still pink from the sunrise as I looked through the bedroom curtains on this first morning of 2017 and now it is blue. That makes for a good start. I am writing this instead of clearing up the last of the debris from yesterday evening's supper party at our house. We originally invited Elva, Laurie, Carol, Don and Chuck, plus Francine and Roger who couldn't come; then we included Nicola and Maha, which made nine of us around the table for Maha's lentil soup and my beef stew, and afterwards Kathryn and Eli joined us in time to watch the 20:17 fireworks show (i.e. at 8:17pm) from our neighbourhood park. Wrapped in thick coats with our mittens on and hoods up, we stood ankle deep in snow, with more snow falling, beside King Edward Avenue --- up the slope to the bridge --- for twenty minutes while the show got better and better. Although we couldn't actually see the outline of Parliament Hill from where we stood, everything that rose above the tops of the intervening buildings was visible. Ottawa really excelled itself this time, especially in the finale. Some of the highest fireworks were dimmed by the low cloud ceilings and the snowfall, but it was very atmospheric.

Shaking the snow off our eleven pairs of boots and eleven coats as we came back indoors for the rest of our meal (a medley of small desserts and chocolates, mandarin oranges, hot drinks and champagne) left every so many puddles on our tiles on the warm side of our front door. Chris made us work on his Predictions for 2017 quiz. Jill (now living in Victoria) had sent in the largest number of correct predictions for 2016, and our son-in-law's mother Gilly was runner-up, but they weren't here to receive the prize that Chris usually gift-wraps for the winner, so Carol, who came third, got one. My predictions had been the least realistic of all, so my name went onto the Roll of Dishonour to be displayed at next year's NYE party, if we have one.

Maha made us each come out with one word to describe 2016, but that made us think about world politics, which started to feel depressing (my one word was disappointing), so we changed the subject. In such good company one can't be downhearted for long. The company set off to dig their cars out of the snowdrifts shortly after 11pm so we toasted the New Year a little ahead of time. The timing of its arrival is fairly meaningless in a country with so many time zones and with our relatives abroad well into New Year's Day by the time we get around to celebrating. Our son George, for instance, was already picnicking with Sha and Eddie on a Sydney beach by the time we reached Zero Hour in Ontario.

Chuck later took some superb photos of the midnight fireworks in Ottawa, pointing his camera from his apartment windows towards Landsdowne Park. Chris and I were still up at midnight but didn't venture outside a second time. We saw the countdown on my laptop screen and heard the bangs from our house. Happy New Year!