Capital Idea

House of Parliament

So another year has come and gone, and once again it was time to drive to Ottawa, to visit the grandson and fiancé for a couple of days – a Capital idea.

We hitched up the team, and loaded the buckboard sport-brute.  Grandma and her minions had made another batch of dill pickles.  There were his and hers presents for birthdays that bracket my recent one.  Included were a home-made spelt-flour, chocolate-mayonnaise cake, and special ginger cookies from a local Dutch market.  His always-thinking-ahead mother had even sent Christmas presents, since they won’t be able to get away then.

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Biggest and heaviest among the freight, was a large steel cage for a recently-acquired, white (but not albino) ferret. She is so friendly and playful!!  I took along the digital camera, but the only photos I took were the ferret ones above.  I used it to prove that I had finally mounted on the wall, the rapier that he gave me for Fathers’ Day, two years ago, because I haven’t got around to publishing the Procrastination post yet.  You guys will have to wait another week or two to see that shot.

All in all, a very interesting and satisfying trip. Food of all types, including a Mexican restaurant named ‘Ahora’, where the nachos came with a language lesson.  The word ahora (Spanish a = in/at/to – hora = time) means Now, in English.

We visited two knife shops, and two second-hand bookstores which reminded me of Charles Dickens ‘Old Curiosity Shop’, stuff piled upon stuff in no great amount of order. We went to the Byward Market, a 4-block-square area, right downtown, full of kitschy little shops, eager to separate visitors from their money before the Government got it as taxes.

Just outside, between the Market area and the Houses of Parliament, stands the American Embassy, as big as a Trump hotel, but with all the architectural flair of a shoebox. Just half a block inside the Market, a mere drunken stagger back to the Embassy, is a ‘Gentlemen’s Club.’  Coincidence??  I think not!  Around the corner was a big century-house, turned into another Embassy, not Russian, but with a sign in Cyrillic lettering – Ukraine?  Uzbekistan?  Perhaps the English sign was on another street.

We went back at night to see the Parliament Building all lit up. No-one was passing any stupid legislation, but we saw where they had installed vents to release all the hot air.

I chose a different motel than last year, this one a mile closer to the grandson’s apartment, and $90/night, instead of $130, enabling us to afford to stay two nights instead of one. It was a family-owned independent, and like the Mexican restaurant, came with a lesson, this one a history lesson, rather than language.

Always curious, and looking for blog-fodder, I approached the day-shift male room-clerk. He reminded me of the wife’s ex-doctor. He could throw a pill or a potion or a medical test at a problem, but couldn’t deal with patients.  I believe that the clerk was on the autism spectrum.  He was happy to supply an extra pillow, or an ice-bucket, but not conversation and trivia.  “Qantas. Definitely Qantas.”

I asked, “How old is this place?”
“I don’t know.  I wasn’t here when it was built.”
“Neither was I, but I’m curious.  Have you never asked?”
“It wasn’t on my job application.  I have a customer.  You’ll have to leave.”
“He’s still getting out of his car.  He won’t be here for 5 minutes.  When does the night-shift come on?”
“I have a customer!  Please leave!”

I returned later to talk to the night-clerk, who was both sociable and knowledgeable.

It all started with a mineral hot-spring. The Indians used to soak in it, and believed in its healing properties.  They told the white men, who also used it, and appropriated it.  Around 1900, a white businessman erected a building around it, and turned it into a spa where monied and powerful people came, ‘to take the waters.’

It was quite a way out in the country from little then-Ottawa. In 1928 another businessman built a restaurant nearby, so that the elite had a place to dine after their treatments.  In 1931, when cars were still balky and unreliable, he built a couple of cabins where folks could stay overnight, before returning home in the morning.  Later, he added a couple more, and then another couple.

In 1932 he joined them together into one of the first row motels. In 1956 he added a second, matching row, and in 1973, his son added a third, two-story structure which we stayed in, for a total of 80 units.  The restaurant is still there, although now it’s leased out to chefs whose pretentious menu includes $15 hamburgers and poutine made with French fries cooked in duck fat.

The Federal Government is responsible for the well-being of Indigenous Peoples. Some are brought to Ottawa for medical treatment.  This now includes tests, drugs, surgery and physiotherapy, but many of them still believe in the healing powers of the Manitou’s hot springs.  When we were there, there were 16 units housing Cree and Inuit from as far away as Nunavut, in the Northwest Territories.

Even including an hour each way in the worst traffic in Canada, in Toronto, it was well worth the trip, which totalled 1200 Km/825 Mi. over three days. The grandson who does not own a car, and his magic smart-phone, skillfully guided us around the town.  I’m sure we’ll go again next fall, if not before.

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Sassin’ The Sassenach

Union Jack

The grandson, ‘Thorn Smith’, has finished his three-year welding apprentice course, and is now licensed to work anywhere in Canada.  He recently accompanied his fiancé to Ottawa, ON (545 Km – 340 Mi. – 5 ½ hour drive) so that she could attend university there.

Before they each take this big life-step, they decided that they should see a bit of the world first. He saved money from his placement employment, and she from her job as a Starbucks barista, and they flew to London, England for a week.

One of the big attractions was a chance to see the new Harry Potter play, ‘The Cursed Child.’ On the day that tickets were released, they crouched over their computer, waiting for the floodgates to open.  When it happened, they quickly found that the system would respond to PCs, but not to their Apple.  In the slightly less than an hour that it took them to physically move to where there was an available PC, ALL TICKETS for the entire run were sold out.

Still, money had been saved, and plane tickets had been bought, so off they went. A tiny, unexpected payment from a retirement fund allowed us to gift them with £100 in ten-pound notes, because vacations are always costly, and London is said to be expensive.

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Aside from the missed play, they enjoyed all the touristy London things – London Bridge, Tower of London, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye Ferris Wheel, Curry In A Hurry, and fish and chips.

Even before the Brexit from the E.U. England had not accepted Euro notes or coins, especially after (relatively) recently having switched over to decimal coinage. The grandson brought me back a complete set of coins.  They descend from the bi-metal 2-Pound, to the single, round-Pound, heptagonal 50-pence and 20-pence, quarter-sized 10-pence, dime-sized 5-pence, 50-cent-sized copper 2-pence, and a copper penny.

Around the edge of the 2-Pound coin is inscribed, “On The Shoulders Of Giants”, a reference to Sir Isaac Newton. Around the 1-Pound coin’s edge is, “Nemo Me Impune Lacessit” the royal Stuart and a Scottish motto, meaning, “No-one attacks me with impunity.”

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Not knowing that I had one, he also brought me back a 5-Pound note. Different from mine, I find that British notes are now not only color-coded, but size-coded, as well; the smaller the denomination, the smaller the bill.

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I also have a Scottish 1-Pound note, and a British Armed Services 1-Pound Scrip bill not to be used anywhere but, or even removed from, Armed Forces bases. I have a surprising number of items like that, Russian Rubles and Kopeks, Cuban Pesos.

Ten pounds

There’s a lot of separation going on over there. Britain has left the E.U.  Scotland wants to separate from England, and may independently rejoin it.  They are allowed to print their own money.  Ireland wants little to do with either, and also prints up their own greenbacks.

When grandson and fiancé were first driven to Ottawa to take possession of their apartment, they found a Starbucks, literally visible from their front window. When they drove over for a caffeine-break, her mother got the first coffee, and stepped back to wait.

Perhaps recognising new customers, the female manager approached to welcome and ask how things were. The mother said that her daughter worked at a Starbucks in Kitchener, and would be looking for a position in Ottawa.

“She’s an experienced barista??! I’m short-handed and hiring.  Have her manager email me, and I’ll have a job for her as soon as she’s available.”  Going to class and working part-time will be busy, but they’ll have income until he finds a decent job.  I love it when a plan comes together.

[Hopefully, the grandson is reading this on his Smart-Phone. Thanx for all your past help.  We miss you already.  Good luck, and keep in touch.]   😀

Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns

We often think that the important things which happen, and the marvelous things that are created, are the products of “big city” people.  It just seems right that those with the most exposure to society and education, would be the “doers.”  It is often a surprise that some city-, country- or world-changing events are caused by small-town, backwoods boys (and girls).

On August 21, 1860, Aylesworth Perry was born in a tiny Ontario hamlet.  Despite being a patriotic Canadian, interested in our history and heritage, I had never heard of him.  It seems that this was the gentleman who went on to transform the North West Mounted Police – who would later become the R.C.M.P. – from a loose-knit band of rowdy frontiersmen, into the effective, respected organization it became.

What caught my eye about the little newspaper filler article was the fact that this strong, powerful organizer of tough, gritty men, in a tough, dirty landscape, was from the tiny-rainbow-pissing village of Violet.  Like the famous….whatsisname, above, I’d never heard of a place in Ontario named Violet, so I began to do some research.

The officially-issued, Province Of Ontario roadmap refuses to even mention it.  Time to go online!  My first search for Violet, Ontario, got me Violet’s Violets, in Milton, ON, and Violets and Roses Flower Shop in Brampton, ON.  My next step was my usual, Mapquest.ca, which located a Violet Hill, ON, not far from my home town.  This magnificent megalopolis boasts almost 300 residents, which is probably why I’d never heard of it either.

When all else fails, go to Google, which had no trouble locating Violet for me.  Where my town is almost as far west as possible, in Southern Ontario, this place is at the far, east edge, close to Ottawa and Montreal.  To call this place a village is perhaps to stretch a point some.  It’s more than just a wide spot on the road, with a house on both sides, but not much.  It makes Violet Hill look like urban civilization.  There is one road into town, which splits at a Y, and two roads leave town.

I was astounded that Google Earth had actually driven these roads.  They must have been on their way to a real town.  It had to have been a remote-controlled vehicle.  A human driver would have dozed off.  If it’s this tiny now, I wonder how much smaller it was, a hundred and fifty years ago.

At about the same time in history, a famous feminist/suffragette/ human rights proponent, named Nellie Mooney McClung, was born in a tiny village about 30 miles east of my home.  She’s so famous, you’ve never heard of her either, and the only sign that she and the village ever existed, is a dedication plaque, and a small cemetery.

“Famous”, in Canada, means that two people know how to spell your name.  More recently, just before I crawled out of the igloo, a famous female Canadian author was born in a small town 30 miles to my south.  At the age of 76, she’s decided to stop writing, and retire back to her birthplace, to count up all eight Loonies she’s made from the Canadian publishing industries.

A couple of years before my birth, a man was born in a village of 300, twenty miles south-east.  He went on to be the long-term editor of the Toronto Sun newspaper, until the Frogs from Quebecor Publishing hopped down from Montreal, and gobbled it up.  You’d probably not notice his birthplace either, if it weren’t for the stench of the pig-processing plant, and the truckers’ restaurant, which is well-known for its ribs and wings.

All of this has generated great optimism in me.  If people from places like Nowhere, and Never-Heard-Of-It, can become movers and shakers, it’s never too late for me to become famous also.  (It’s spelled S.M.I.T.H.)  Two more posts like this, and it’s onward and upward to FreshPressed, and fame and glory.  Did I mention the money?….or I could just keep trying to amuse, entertain and educate you, my faithful followers.

Being famous, and from a small town is not always a good thing.  We have a Canadian lady (?) from Wadena, Saskatchewan, a mighty little town of 1300.  She’s been a television news reporter, and then anchor-person, who puts her pants on one leg at a time, just like all the other guys.  The Prime Minister gave her a pork-barrel appointment to the Canadian Senate.

She now has to, grudgingly, repay $140,000 in expenses to the Government, because she was “confused” and “forgot” things like that her “primary residence” was in Wadena, not Toronto.  She’s one of four recently appointed Senators under investigation by the R.C.M.P.  I’m not sure how much of this type of thing the American system of electing Senators would prevent, but I’m pretty sure it couldn’t be much worse.

End of bitch!  Insert comment here.