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, March 31, 2018

Another trip to Ithaca

Over eastern Ontario, near the St. Lawrence, looking north
We flew to Ithaca in New York State today; we came here in the spring of 2016 and have been thinking for some time that it would be worth coming back; it seems a good way to spend the Easter Weekend. We are in luck with the weather, although it wasn't good enough for us to set off yesterday. IFR flying isn't so much of a problem in summer but at this time of year it's best to keep out of the clouds because of the risk of picking up ice (as we started to do on our way back from Kingston recently). Let's hope there are no clouds to fly through on the way home. Today's flight was totally clear of cloud.

"Before take-off, a professional pilot is keen, anxious, but lest someone read his true feelings, he is elaborately casual." (E.K. Gann, 1944). This is Chris---every time!---pacing around in the clubhouse at the start of a flying trip.

Ogdensburg International Bridge from the southern shore
Up earlier than on usual Saturdays, we took off from Rockcliffe at 9:40, having filed an international flight plan to Ogdensburg, the closest airport where a customs and immigration service was available today. It only took us 47 minutes to get there from CYRO although we were not allowed to fly in a direct line, and had a headwind. The customs men from the Ogdensburg bridge arrived exactly on time, driving through the airport gateway in their car just as we were going through our post landing checks. These men were quick and efficient too: checked our passports and Chris' pilot licence, went round the plane pointing their Geiger counter at it in case we had radioactive bombs on board (I don't think we'd have had room for any on the back seat, what with the other luggage) and we were cleared into the USA. Three minutes all told.

Landing at KITH, jet holding short of Runway 14
We got out of the plane before our next leg, which was 1 hour 41 minutes from KOGS to KITH (Ogdensburg to Ithaca). The headwinds on take-off were quite gusty, and strong at altitude, so that we feared it would take longer, but less strong as we progressed south of Watertown and Syracuse, with Oneida Lake on our left and the pretty Finger Lakes in their ancient glacial valleys ahead of us. We had an "interesting" approach and landing at Ithaca due to gustier than anticipated winds. Chris handled this really well, as usual. The service at the "Taughannock Aviation" FBO was marvellous, with a very efficient and friendly young lady at the reception desk. She had booked our hotel room for us yesterday as soon as I called to enquire what the FBO could do for us, and when we landed and walked in she had the hotel shuttle bus driver already there, waiting to fetch us into town. Meanwhile, one of her colleagues was parking the plane for us and offering to carry our luggage across the apron in a golf cart.

We've experienced good service at other FBOs, but this was exceptional. The shuttle bus driver was impressed too, especially by the fact that she'd served him a free bagel and a coffee while he was waiting for us to arrive.

Lighthouses at the end of Lake Cayuga, Ithaca
By the time we'd checked in at the new Marriott, the hotel the girl had picked for us (we got a hotel discount from the FBO as well) I was famished, so we ducked into one of the nearby eateries, Simeon's Bistro, for a brunch. After our meal, sauntering towards a large 2nd hand bookshop called Autumn Leaves, I picked up a leaflet at the Information Centre, advertising the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. We didn't do this actual walk but a parallel one on the opposite shore of the Cayuga Inlet, as far as the point beyond the municipal Golf Course where we could see out into Lake Cayuga, where the two lighthouses are. Yachts were sailing on the lake, perhaps for the first time this year, on this warm and sunny afternoon. Other boaters (oarsmen and -women) were getting ready for action too. There are numerous young people in this town, mostly associated with Cornell University, probably, raring to go at whatever takes their fancy. The energy in the town is palpable. I wouldn't mind living here.

In spite of the blustery wind, people weren't wearing coats, and after the first half mile of our walk, nor was I.

Beyond the Farmers' Market, not in operation till the summer, the historic wharfs and the many boat places, we had the pathways mostly to ourselves, and walked out along the top of the wall to the lighthouse at the end of the promontory. Well, Chris calls it a promontory (I had to look up the spelling) but it is just a crumbling wall on a rocky point, really. I was a bit nervous of falling of it into the lapping (and certainly cold) water where Canada geese (with yellow plastic markers round their necks, for some reason) were swimming and the male ones fighting. Chris went ahead but before he reached the lighthouse a female goose, fiercely guarding "at least half a dozen" eggs in the nest she had built on this wall, hissed at him and flapped her wings, so we had to turn around. We warned other walkers coming our way not to approach her.

The walk back into town seemed long and I fell onto the hotel bed, once I reached it, for a short snooze before supper which we found at an excellent Indian restaurant close to the Ithaca Commons.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wisdom and tolerance

Image may contain: textAt the end of February Chris and I went to see a play by G. E. Lessing, performed in German in a basement theatre on the Ottawa University premises by a group of people known as die Deutschsprachige Theatergruppe, under the auspices of Kirche und Kultur, an initiative of the Martin-Luther Church on Preston Street. The pastor himself took part as one of the minor characters, a comic friar! Each of the actors was a native German speaker, so pronouncing and memorising the lines wasn't such a challenge as it might have been, although the elderly gentleman playing Nathan held a book in his hands throughout, reading his part from it. The director, Jörg Esleben, played the part of Saladin. One young man came on stage between scenes as narrator, speaking to the audience in English, filling in the content of the missing scenes, explaining who was who, and giving us a hint of what was to come next. Furthermore, subtitles in English were projected onto a screen at the back of the stage, although at times these got out-of-sync with what we were actually hearing, so that it was easier to listen to the German and guess the meaning of any unfamiliar vocabulary, rather than follow the translation. Lessing's German, old as it is, is not difficult to follow.

The scenery and costumes for this production seemed very basic—especially the rather floppy palm tree erected for outdoor scenes!—but it was for good reasons that the production team gave priority to putting the words across. Supported by the Austrian, Swiss and German embassies as well as the university, I gather they had been rehearsing the play for months.
Nathan der Weise (Nathan the Wise) was first performed in 1779, in the era of the European Enlightenment, a decade before the French revolution. Mozart and Goethe were alive at that time; Voltaire had died a year previously.

Saladin, ca. 1185
Set in Jerusalem during the time of the 3rd Crusade in the 12th century, it is a play about religious tolerance and a shared humanity. Jerusalem at that period in history was ruled by Saladin, a Muslim Sultan, while the Christian Knights Templar were hoping to capture the Holy Land for themselves. The Jewish community of Jerusalem was caught between their clashes. All three religions are represented by the main characters in Lessing's play: the Sultan Saladin, a young Knight Templar who is a prisoner of war, and the Jewish merchant Nathan. In the course of the action, the dramatis personae argue about which is the "true" religion, and which should predominate:
Nathan: Sultan, Ich bin ein Jud'.  
Saladin: Und ich ein Muselmann. Der Christ ist zwischen uns. – Von diesen drei Religionen kann doch eine nur die wahre sein. 
Entwined into the plot are complications: the Christian Knight looks remarkably like the Sultan's lost brother and has also rescued the Jew's daughter from a fire. In fact the last scene reveals how they are all interlinked more than they had realised, are all, indeed, one family. That contrived conclusion is perhaps incidental to the chief message of the play, emphasised in Act 3, Scene 7, in which Nathan tells the Sultan a symbolic story, the parable of the three rings.

A loving father, following a tradition of many generations, wishes to bequeath his ring to the son he loves the most. However, in his case, the father loves each of his three sons equally and has to reconsider what to do. He decides to have three replicas of his ancient ring made, so that each son may inherit something equally precious. In the process, the original ring is lost. The sons, fighting for ascendancy after their father's death, are eventually told of the deception:
Jeder liebt sich selber nur am meisten? – Oh, so seid ihr alle drei Betrogene Betrüger! Eure Ringe sind alle drei nicht echt. Der echte Ring vermutlich ging verloren. Den Verlust zu bergen, zu ersetzen, ließ der Vater die drei für einen machen.
The significance of the bequest is spelled out:
Hat von euch jeder seinen Ring von seinem Vater: so glaube jeder sicher seinen Ring den echten. – Möglich; dass der Vater nun die Tyrannei des einen Rings nicht länger in seinem Hause dulden wollen! – Und gewiss; dass er euch alle drei geliebt, und gleich geliebt...
The "rings" of course represent the three monotheistic religions, the father standing for God, the "sons" being his worshippers. In other words, none of the three religions is meant to predominate or become tyrannical. Each religion is equally valid, equally loved by God, but each an imperfect copy of the original. In Lessing's day this was a revolutionary message. It has some relevance to the world of today, besides.

"Je me souviens"

Luckily, Ursula of the German conversation group reminded me that Robert Lepage's latest one man show, '887', was on at the National Arts Centre, and for January 20th I managed to buy a seat at the penultimate performance. As I expected, having seen his Face Cachée de la Lune more than 10 years ago (I saw the film too), the experience was phenomenal. Lepage is a genius. His stage works are highly unconventional, and he creates them with the help of the Ex Machina team, in operation since 1994.

The play was a meditation on the theme of memory, posing the questions: how do we remember things and why do we remember some things better than others? What happens when memory fails us and we forget something that's meant to be important? How do we remind ourselves of the most precious parts of our past lives? When does the history of a nation impinge upon one's personal history? It was also the very personal story of Lepage's own childhood in Quebec City; I suspect he tweaked the truth a little, here and there. He said that one of his neighbours in the apartment block where his family lived in those days had a noisy dog, a great dane. "They called him Hamlet..." Well, maybe they did, but I doubt it.

The beginning of the show was clever. Robert Lepage came on stage just as one of the NAC staff might (I recognised him, but perhaps many in the audience didn't) and told us the usual housekeeping rules about using the exits and turning off our cellphones during the show, then without any appreciable pause he went straight on to tell us how he came up with the idea for this production---he'd been asked to recite a poem at a public event and found he had terrible trouble learning the poem by heart, why?---with a few projections following on a screen behind him, as if he were giving a TED talk, or something of that kind. As he continued to present his thoughts, though, the lights dimmed, the backdrop disappeared and scenery appeared on the revolving stage, models of his childhood surroundings, and of his present day surroundings, each setting cleverly transformed into the next.

Here's the trailer for '887':


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Stereotypes of Canada

What impressions and prejudices have people had in the past, as regards Canada? What are our own fixed ideas about this country, and should they be questioned? This was the theme of a year-long exhibition held at the National Library as part of the Canada's 150th anniversary: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? which I only got to see during its last few days. It proved to be thought-provoking, worth visiting, and worth mentioning in my blog.

Jacques Cartier was the first to use the word Canada to designate the territory he discovered on the shores of the St-Lawrence River. The name comes from the Huron-Iroquois word kanata, i.e. village, incorrectly interpreted as the native word for their surrounding landscape and of the (St. Lawrence) river itself; Canadiens was Cartier's name for the Iroquois people he had met. Thereafter, Canada became the name for the French colony on the shores of the St. Lawrence, French colonists being known as Canadiens until the mid-nineteenth century, when the name, anglicised to Canadians, started to refer to the loyalist colonies on the Great Lakes as well, later to all of the British North Americans.

Samuel de Champlain, the early 17th century French explorer, saw Canada's potential, his maps reinforcing the "daydreams" of the court of King Henri IV and then of Louis XIII, whose chief minister was Cardinal Richelieu. A surprising number of official maps and their surrounding illustrations (such as Champlain's maps of New France, published in a book, Les Voyages, in 1613) depict wishful thinking, rather than actual facts.

In the 18th century, France and Britain fought over the possession of these territories. Voltaire, perhaps representing the scorn or misgivings of the French intelligentsia, clearly doubted whether this struggle was worthwhile:
J'aime beaucoup mieux la "paix" que le Canada, et je crois que la France peut etre heureuse sans Quebec. (1762)
(I saw this in Voltaire's original letter, on display at this exhibition.)

Later, in the 19th century, Krieghoff's paintings: frozen river, red sleigh, settlers' log cabin--reinforced the way in which Europeans envisioned this part of the world. The canoe and the beaver became defining symbols. Champlain reappears in 19th century paintings / sculptures as the conqueror, with Canada (often a female figure) as his conquest; other artwork depicts Canada as a wilderness in need of taming, where hunting is a metaphor for colonisation. Paul Kane's pictures of native settlements reflected the period’s idealising style.

Also displayed at our National Library was Catharine Parr Traill's journal of 1837. She lived to the age of 97, having spent most of her adult life in Upper Canada, as it was then known (Ontario), and is well known for her writings. Her sister, younger by less than 2 years, Susanna Moodie, emigrated here likewise after her marriage, living next door to Catherine, and did delicate paintings of Canadian flowers to mitigate her cabin fever while "roughing it in the bush" during the cold seasons; she referred to Canada's woodland as "the prison house".

Add caption
According to the curator's notes, the Dominion of Canada's first Parliament buildings (erected in the 1850s) were a tour de force of Gothic revival. This was the architectural style of British parliamentary democracy and colonialism. The translation of the National Anthem in 1912 demonstrates the 20th century utopia that Canada was meant to be, despite the lines about felling the forest domes with steadfast hand, which environmentalists of today would frown upon.

Transatlantic settlers were encouraged. The front cover of a “Canada West” immigration atlas published in 1923 by the Ministry of Immigration and Colonization (sic) shows romantically golden curtains of grain and a British, idealised, inaccurate vision of Canada in the background, based on a faith in agriculture, trade and (not so romantic) industry.

The Mounties, needless to say, became the world's heroes, throughout the 20th century and beyond.

Canada’s first peacekeeping mission, encouraged by the Minister of External Affairs, Lester Pearson, was in response to the Suez Crisis. Because Great Britain was deeply involved, critics saw Canada’s role as a betrayal of the “mother country”.

How is Canada seen in the present day? What does Canada stand for, nowadays? Peacekeeping is still one of those things. And according to the blurb at the exhibition "many Canadians" would also mention the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, multiculturalism, diversity, Canada's official bilingualism. In this exhibition I found multiple references to contributions to Canada by first nations people. Who Do We Think We Are? was of course created under the supervision of our present government and could be seen as modern propaganda. We are probably still creating and promulgating stereotypes.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The butterflies

I had a lovely day last Tuesday, which was cold, clear and bright in Ottawa like the rest of this week. In the morning I caught one of the new double-decker busses through town, sitting in the front seat on the top deck as excited as a small child to enjoy my unusual view of the city from above. A grown man on the other front seat was just as enthusiastic.
Wellington St. from the top deck

I got out at Bank and Catherine Streets to walk to the Museum of Nature where I bought an entrance ticket that included the temporary exhibition Butterflies, featuring live ones in a tropical greenhouse on the ground floor at the back of the museum. It was full of children as well as butterflies, the insects settling on their heads and sleeves and hands. I had one of the blue morphos (Morpho menelaus) from the tropics of Latin America land on my finger for a while, until I transferred it to a three year old little girl's hand. When they land you can hardly see the blue side of their wings; the other sides are dramatically patterned in shades of brown, giving the effect of eyes. Entrance to the show was by timed slots, meaning that I had to wait my turn, but once in the butterfly room, I lingered there for a good three quarters of an hour, entranced by the different kinds and colours of butterfly that begin and end their lives there. (They emerge from their chrysalides in the glass walled hatchery next door.) The staff give each visitor a thorough lecture about not treading on the butterflies---not touching their wings, not bringing them back out through the doors either accidentally or on purpose---before allowing you in.

Blue morphos sipping orange juice and showing their "eyes"

While awaiting my entry slot, I also took another look at the Arctic Gallery on the 4th level, which I saw last summer with our young German friend Toni Aschentrup, another well prepared exhibition. On this 2nd visit I had time to listen to the voice-recordings that accompany short video presentations from and about the people who live in the Arctic, very interesting. One of them said that what the Inuit can teach the world is "endurance, patience and respect", a phrase that impressed me so much, I jotted it down immediately.

Floor map of the Arctic
After my museum visit I walked home through town, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

Tuesday was not such a good day for my mother or my sister, though, in Wales. Unbalanced and more than usually bewildered by the onset of a urinary infection (a common ailment for the very elderly), Mum fell in the bathroom at her care home and needed to be checked over in hospital; my sister having to comfort her and calm her down all day.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The big rally

As before (on March 14th, during the school walkouts) I have been glued to the TV channels this afternoon watching the live broadcasts from the USA of the March for our Lives in Washington DC; the young people's determination and sincerity shines through the world. A remarkable number of world-famous people support them, including Malala Yousafzai.

This morning Chris and I took part in a smaller scale, sympathy demonstration in Ottawa, marching from Parliament Hill under a bright blue sky to the park behind the U.S. Embassy, shepherded by some of our local police force. Every generation, including the Raging Grannies, was represented in the demonstration; even a few pet dogs carried placards round their necks.

The Canadians students taking part are probably just as impassioned as their U.S. counterparts, but don't seem as loudly uninhibited. Something to do with the national character, probably. I have not yet heard how many Ottawa people participated, but shall update this post as soon as I find out.

I have felt very involved in all this, because I can imagine so well how the initiators feel. I have been a young person myself. I have been a teacher and parent of teenagers and cannot imagine anything worse than having the children you love perish from senseless violence. We once sent our children to a school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for a whole school year: in those days we didn't consider that they might be shot. They had tornado drills where they were taught to crouch in the windowless corridors while the danger went by, but didn't undergo shootout drills as happens nowadays. When I was a teacher in England and Wales I met a few kids who were mentally disturbed, either from some physical infirmity or trauma, and could not be reached and helped, so deeply were they wrapped up in their misery. The young man who shot the others at the school in Florida reminds me of them. To think that he had easy access to the most lethal of guns is upsetting in the extreme.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Home-made happiness

A cartoon I saw posted on Facebook from the Deutsche Welle site appealed to me.

"Where did you find that? I've been looking for it everywhere!"
"I made it myself."

Image may contain: text

I have always been an advocate of homemade happiness. People try hard to grasp that elusive thing. The point is, it can't be grasped by force.
Alle rennen nach dem Glück / Das Glück rennt hinterher
as is sung in Brecht's Dreigroschenoper of 1928. I saw this on stage once. During this scene, all the actors ran round in a circle, with one holding up a placard saying "Glück", either at the front or the back of the line ...

An earlier poet, William Blake, had a brighter idea, when he wrote

He who binds to himself a joy / Does the winged life destroy. / He who kisses the joy as it flies / Lives in eternity's sunrise!

Last year I acquired (or won) from a travelling group of Chinese subversives a scroll of Chinese calligraphy. Shown on the scroll are a depiction of the characters reading
Yiqie jie xiaoshi / Wei dangxia yongcun
meaning: everything fades away; only the transient moment stays forever. This is hanging on our living room wall now.

I believe that the secret is to seek and find happiness in very simple things: a breath of fresh air after a morning spent indoors, the smile heard in an old lady's voice, the warmth of skin on skin, a bunch of flowers from a friend, a familiar song, a technical problem solved, shared laughter after a funny use of words, or the sun shining on snow as when, a couple of days ago, we drove through the pure white fields between Bourget and Rockland after visiting a bathroom showroom in Bourget (this last clause is irrelevant to the subject of my blogpost).

Young children know how to access happiness without trying. You'd only have to observe our Australian grandson sprinkling the hot patio stones with his toy watering can to realise how intense is his appreciation of the momentary bliss he has made for himself.

If only we could all retrieve such an ability. Homemade happiness costs absolutely nothing.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Contrasting Doors Open concerts

Re. the DOMS Wednesday lunch hour concert series, I went to one of these concerts last month, on St. Valentine's day and one today (March 7th).

The February one was A Trumpet Romance, with Peter Crouch on the trumpet playing pieces chosen for St. Valentine's, including some romantic compositions of his own (one of these written for his wife, he said), accompanied on the piano by Nick Rodgerson. To start with, the two men played an arrangement of the traditional Irish song, Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms, and a series of similarly sentimental numbers followed, including some "Spanish music of love": Crouch's arrangement of the Adagio from Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez and the Habanera from Bizet's Carmen. The trumpeter took a break by turning pages for his accompanist, who played a famous "Consolation" by Franz Liszt, solo; this was followed by the arrangement for trumpet and piano of a Saint-Saens aria. They finished with a rendition of Johnny Mercer's Skylark, which Mr. Crouch confessed was his "favourite type of music."

Today's concert was more serious, with the crucifix at the front of the church (i.e. behind the performers) draped in sheer purple for Lent. Southminster has an attractive interior with multicoloured stained glass windows and an embroidered wall-hanging that states: BIDDEN OR UNBIDDEN, GOD IS PRESENT.

The music was by J.S. Bach, the harpsichord played by the Artistic Director of the DOMS concerts, Roland Graham, with Christian Vachon on the violin. They performed three of Bach's first group of six Violin and Harpsichord sonatas: Numbers 1, 3 and 4. Numbers 2, 5 and 6 will be presented at a matching concert later in the year, on June 6th, by the same performers. It is wonderful music of the 1720s, the two instruments in an equal partnership which, so the violinist told today's audience, was an original idea in those days. The six-pack of sonatas was according to the conventions of the Baroque period, though.

Each sonata took about 15 minutes to play. We heard the two minor sonatas first (No. 1 in B minor and No. 4 in C minor) and they finished with the major one (No. 3 in E major). Their concentration on the notes was palpably intense. The C minor sonata was particularly impressive, the violin part in the opening Largo movement resembling the obligato part for Erbarme dich, mein Gott --- the famous aria in Bach's St. Matthew Passion, with its meditative, spiritual qualities.

BWV1017 1 Siciliano excerpt.jpeg

The Allegro movements were taken at a lively pace; the fugal second movement must have been particularly challenging for the harpsichordist. The other slow movement (Adagio) in this sonata was also lovely, with the violin line at a lower pitch than the harpsichordist's right hand, which played an elaborate melody in counterpoint. This minor key movement ended with a major resolution, as is often the case with Bach.

Similarly startling, in Sonata No. 3, the Adagio movement, in a contrasting minor key, seemed to end on an incomplete cadence. The final movement of this sonata bounced along in 9/8 time like a Gigue.

After the concert was over I caught the violinist's attention and told him that I had enjoyed every note of this concert.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

End of the day, in Kingston

We did well this Sunday, first driving north to meet Elva and Laurie at the MacKenzie King Estate in the Gatineau Park to follow the Lauriault Trail, less than 4 kilometers. However, according to the app. on Laurie's smartphone, the hills you climb on this walk are the equivalent of going up flights of stairs in a 35 storey building; you might think twice before attempting that, but you don't mind the ascent under blue skies between the lovely trees, taking it at an easy pace in good company. There was a fresh covering of snow on the slopes, not deep, just enough to cover the icy patches. I'm glad I wore the spikes over my shoes this time, didn't slip once.

Free of ice, the stream was flowing through the valley, with little water falls and clear pools in it. Woodpeckers were knocking at the maple trunks and crows were soaring on the thermals over the south side of the hills. It is starting to feel like spring although there is not a trace of green, nor of buds, or sprouting plants. We must be patient, since it's only the beginning of March. We watched enthusiastic skiers go by as we crossed their trail. In Chelsea, hundreds of cars were parked so that Chris and I had four goes at finding a space. Elva and Laurie, more lucky, saved seats at a table for us in the lively Chelsea Pub, where we ordered large salads, or in Chris' case, fish and chips.

Chris wanted to go flying this afternoon and again (with a day off work) tomorrow --- to Kingston, he said --- so Elva asked, "Why don't you go to Kingston this afternoon, spend the night there, and fly back tomorrow?" We thought: that's a good idea, so we did.

We took off from CYRO at about 3pm at which time the sky was quite overcast and dark with snow clouds to the east, but obviously clearing to the west, as was soon confirmed once we were up above the Ottawa VOR near Aylmer. Our route was obviously going to be mostly in the clear; we only flew through one area of precipitation (sparkling fast moving snowflakes), near Carleton Place. Chris sensibly asked for flight-following from Montreal Centre Air Traffic Control outside the Class C controlled area, which gave us ATC protection until we were only 10 NM away from Kingston. The scenery was as beautiful as I've ever seen it, today, shining bright lakes, the thin ice reflecting the sunlight, and the grassy areas mostly clear of snow, even at this date! Another aircraft from Rockcliffe, C-GMME, was flying the same route at the same time as we; we knew of its whereabouts but only actually saw it once, when we were on the ground at Kingston. During the flight the winds were gusty, but not violently so, and we had a 25 knot tailwind which made our time en route 10-15 minutes faster than usual. We told the taxi driver about this on our ride into town and he made some knowledgeable responses. He'd also had a go at learning to fly.

At home I had quickly found a hotel room online, not spending too long researching the possibilities; we're staying (like Elva and Laurie on their last visit here) at the Sheraton Four Points on King Street. It is comfortable and conveniently placed and we have just been in the swimming pool and hot tub on the 4th floor. The sinking sun lit the city sights (domed roofs, waterfronts, ferry) very nicely this evening. Before it got dark we sauntered up and down the central streets, seeing people skating on the ice rink in the market square behind the city hall, and sat down to share a muffin in Balzac's Coffee Rosterie on Princess Street. After all the exercise and excitement I was still hungry, so we found a satisfactory early supper at Mango, a "pan-Asian" food place, also on Princess Street.

Retracing our footsteps in the dark and then extending the walk a few blocks brought us back to the Sheraton where Chris promptly fell asleep on the bed (this was before we went to the pool).