Book Review #27

Through no fault of my own, I managed to read another book which is older than me.  It is over four decades older, though to categorize it as a book, is perhaps generous.  It was only 68 pages, a couple of them being photos from a trip.  It is said to be the first English-language book produced in this German-speaking town.  I did not acquire it just to tick off a reading challenge sector.

The book:  A Canadian’s Travels In Egypt

The author:  Ward H. Bowlby K.C.

The review:  If you Googled ‘Vanity Press,’ there would be a picture of this ego trip about an Egyptian trip.  A local historian publishes a weekly newspaper column.  He mentioned that he had a pdf file of a carefully-scanned 1902 original.  He would forward a copy to anyone who asked – so I asked.

Ward Bowlby was a big noise here in then-Berlin, Ontario, at the end of the 19th century.  He had attended Ontario Law College in Toronto, being first in his class each year.  He came from a well-to-do family.  Besides generous fees, paid by other local captains of industry, he owned a large timber/lumber company during a significant period of city growth.

In the winter of 1898/99, he felt that he had earned a little vacation.  This was not your average on-the-cheap tourist-class jaunt.  Ward, and 8 of his family and friends, took a four month getaway from a cold, Canadian winter, including two months on a Nile houseboat.

They went by train from Berlin to New York City, and boarded a steamer.  Over 11 days, they visited Gibraltar, Pompeii, and Naples.  Then they transferred to an Italian steamer for a trip to Alexandria.  After eight days in Cairo, which included a visit by the two men in the party to an ‘Arab music hall,’ where they were suitably scandalized by half-naked belly-dancers, they chartered a Nile tour-boat.

They got as far upstream as Aswan (Assouan), and then returned, visiting village markets, Luxor tombs, the Sphinx, and the Great Pyramids.  Bowlby kept a daily diary of the Egyptian portion, later turning it into a published travelogue.  After Egypt, the party spent 10 days in ‘The Holy Land’ – Palestine, long before the (re)creation of Israel.  Sadly, Bowlby kept no notes about that segment of the trip.

He had 56 copies printed, and bound with leather with gilt lettering.  He autographed each copy, and gave them to people he wanted to impress.  I don’t know how common these travelogues were at that time.  This one has the feel of the quiet bombast of, This is something that I could afford to do, and you can’t.  The K. C. behind his name, above, indicates, not merely a lawyer, but King’s Counsel.  He suffixed each autograph with ‘Esq.’

The manuscript itself was as tedious as the year-end newsletter you might receive from any bragging almost-friend.  The basic story though, was like watching the Hercule Poirot movie, Death On The Nile, an interesting historical glimpse into the period actions of some monied Canadians.

It’s Only Fair

First, I attended the Multicultural Festival.  All I had to do was eat and ogle, for both of which I am eminently over-qualified.  Then I had to expend a little more energy to transport the daughter and her stuff, and set her and her friend up for the Cherry Park Festival.

Friday night, the city held its annual cruise night.  They block off six blocks of the main street, centered on the city hall, assemble three hundred antique cars at the big park, and have them do a drive-past to their assigned spots.  Antique to them is anything over twenty-five years old.  Antique to me is anything older than I am.  I don’t want to see a Bondo-filled example of some rusted-out piece of crap I had to junk.

Sadly, there were only two Corvettes, neither of them the scoop-side model that I adore, but the newer StingRay.  There were some older vehicles. The oldest was a 1902 something whose name I don’t remember.  Back then, there were lots of tiny little companies which made a few cars a year.  Ford was the first to install the assembly line.  It’s like the local Bob’s Motors, a real name to conjure with.  Would you buy a car from a place called Bob’s?  Some people do.  I see the occasional licence-plate ring.  Or the German-named Wunder Car Sales.  I think his motto is, “If you get a good car, it’s a Wunder!”

Sunday, the daughter and I went to another Free-Thinkers’ meeting, more on that in a later post.  The first time we went, the city was having a Car-Free Sunday, and the entire main street was closed to traffic.  The handicapped lady had to hobble two blocks to the venue.  This  Sunday they merely closed off three blocks and lined up tables in an attempt to set a Guinness record for the longest/largest picnic.

Saturday I transported the daughter, her friend and all their stuff to the big park and helped (?) set them up for the Anti-Violence Festival.  It’s held on a wooded island.  The daughter’s gazebo tent and a couple of other, unprotected displays were the only ones to be in the sun most of the day.  The Liberal Party suddenly packed up and left about 2 PM.  Maybe they got too hot.  Maybe they had to rush off to buy another vote.  Attendance was poor, perhaps because of the heat.  Once you got there, under the trees, it was nice, but the getting there was hot, hot, hot!

Again, commerce was the unifying factor, but both the sales and community-service displays were a little more towards the “hippy, tree-hugger” end of the social spectrum.  Booths included Bahai, Sexual Assault Support, the YM and YWCAs, Healing Gemstones, Hatha Yoga, the Liberal political party, who bailed early, Transition K-W, which is a bit like the Unlearn group, teaching new ways to conserve and preserve water, air and land.

There was the Qigong Oasis teaching oriental ways and thought processes, a Ride-For-Cancer sign-up booth, some mostly organic-type, snacks and drinks, and a booth teaching meditation.  The local Aids Awareness group was there trying cut down on bullying and harassment of gays.  The Barterworks group was there, and a group called Time Banks.  They trade services.  I fix your toilet, you repair his car, he shampoos someone else’s carpet, and so on, and so on.  The Conservative party was not represented, but the NDP was, as well as the save-the-environment Green Party.

The Human Rights people were there, as was the Right To Vote group.  That surprised me.  I thought that everyone, of-age, in Canada had the right to vote.  There was a booth promoting the upcoming Link Festival, which is like the Multicultural Festival, just without all the food.  I saw Dollars and Sense, a monetary reform advocate group, World Without Wars, Earth-Friendly Living and Hope Stream.

I picked up a lapel button which reads Imaginez La Paix, which means Imagine the Peace, in French.  The French are serious about peace.  The only country which has surrendered more, and faster, is Egypt, during the Six-Day Israeli War.  Put down the guns, put up the hands.

There was a group called Fair Vote, which is a proponent of proportional representation.  They don’t think it’s right that any political party which garners only a few more votes than its opponents, gets a majority government, while, for example, the Green Party gets a million votes, but only one seat in government.  They had a huge bowl of wrapped caramel candies that they urged people to take.  Once you’d peeled the wrapper off, you were supposed to vote for one of the three main parties by dropping the wrapper through one of three labeled holes in a sheet of Plexiglas.  When you did that, you saw that every wrapper wound up in the same shiny galvanized garbage pail with a sign that said, “That’s where all your votes go.”

On Saturday, as we were doing Anti-Violence, our twin city up the road was holding an AfroFest.  Next week, in our big park, there will be a Craft Beer and Ribsfest.  On the 28th, in a smaller park, nearer to us, is a Croatian FoodFest.  There’s food and foreign culture from all over the world in this city.

The Link Festival is in early August, and, in early September, there will be a Word On The Street Festival, with book sales, free books, learn-to-read groups, and lots of other Printed S**t.  There is a small WordsWorth bookstore downtown, and three book exchanges/second-hand.  The entire family are friends with two of the proprietors, with me going back 45 years, five locations and three owners, at one.  I imagine we’ll all turn out for that one.  Among the three of us, we have almost as many books in this house as the smallest of the three stores.