Monday Morning Musings

Posted on June 26, 2017 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet


“ Hello, muddah, hello faddah; Here I am at Camp Granada,

Camp is very entertaining; And they say we’ll have fun if it stops raining.”

Camp Granada – Alan Sherman

A message came a few weeks ago from my brother wondering if Betty and I would be interested in spending the weekend in Cumberland county, going for a lengthy hike, spending a night in a rustic cabin and having a nice meal the day after. It sounded just about perfect.

Until I got a “ man cold” and my chronically horrid back decided to act up.

I watched the forecast with more interest than usual this past week to see what Saturday was looking like. I rarely pray for rain but the thoughts of a four hour hike in the rain followed by a meal of freeze dried food and beds with no mattresses… just a piece of plywood, was not enticing in the least.

Having downsized a few years ago, including the dispersal of all camping gear, including sleeping bags, a trip to Canadian Tire was required. I got to see firsthand the newly expanded premises and the new and longer lineups. But having experienced gargantuan lineups in India at grocery stores and ATM’s during the demonetization crisis, the lines in front of me barely caused my heart rate to increase.

On Friday, the forecast for Cumberland County on Saturday was for rain… a 90% chance. The hiking and camping were scrapped. I could hardly contain my joy. But we decided to take our new sleeping bags, just in case the weather people got it wrong. That rarely happens.

We drove up to Amherst on Friday afternoon. The Sunrise trail on a sunny day is a thing of beauty. Toney River, River John, Tatamagouche, Wallace and Pugwash are all interesting places. We decided to fortify ourselves that evening with a fine meal at Le Chat Bleu in Baie Verte. Now before all of you Newfoundlanders get all hot and bothered, there is a Baie Verte in New Brunswick too. Folks, if you ever get a chance, you have to check this place out. The building is older than Canada and has charm. And the food is simply fabulous.

Saturday was just about as miserable as one could imagine. It rained all day but that didn’t stop us from taking a long drive. We drove cross country and traveled highway 209 for several hours stopping in Parrsboro, Advocate Harbour and Joggins. We (?!) visited several craft and antique shops. The fog enveloped the coast line preventing us from seeing the splendour of this part of the province. We had a spectacular lunch at the Wild Carraway in Advocate Harbor.

As we sat and enjoyed steaming hot bowls of homemade asparagus soup, we pondered what it might have been like on the trail had we decided to brave the elements. We all concluded that it would have been abject misery…wet, cold and mosquito infested forests followed by a night’s sleep on a piece of plywood. Somehow the seafood special at Wild Caraway ( and a dessert that should be served in heaven ! ) seemed a step up from freeze dried twigs and berries.

On our way home yesterday, we stopped in at the Lakevale Mini Trail Community Centre for a delicious lobster dinner. The folks out there have this down to a science and it is one of the many great examples of how volunteers make communities run.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. That can only mean one thing. It’s time to put the hammer down and start eating sensibly again. After eating nutritious Indian food for six months ( which I absolutely loved ), I came home in May and have returned to some very bad habits including a surfeit of desserts… sometimes twice a day.

Why not plan a “staycation” in Nova Scotia this year? It is an amazing province with so much to offer… including cabins with plywood mattresses!

Have a great week.

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The Power and the Glory

Posted on June 22, 2017 under Storytelling with one comment

Notre Dame Basilica – Montreal

What elates you?

For many people, the birth of a child is pretty well at the top of the list. This might not be the word that most moms would use immediately after delivering a baby! It could be success in business, a sensational meal, or travels to a foreign country. It may be as simple as a solitary walk in the woods. For many of us over the age of 65, being able to put your feet on the floor every morning is a cause for celebration.

For me, there is nothing like music that can thrill me and occasionally bring me to tears.

On a recent trip to Montreal to spend time with my daughter and granddaughter, I had two occasions to visit historic Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal. The first was as a paid visitor. I have been there many times before but this was the first time that I paid an admission fee of $6.00. I wasn’t surprised. With dwindling attendance at many churches in North America, the bills have to be paid in some fashion. And the Basilica would have substantial maintenance costs.

The Basilica is a work of art and grandeur. Most people entering for the first time are struck with a sense of awe. How and why magnificent structures like this were built is another discussion. Some people are offended at the opulence of places of worship ( pick your religion ). I am always fascinated with the vision of the architects and artists who created these works of art and places of worship.

I decided to go to mass on Sunday morning and was pleased that I didn’t have to pay admission again. They can still get you during the collection! They opened the doors at 10:45 for 11:00 mass. It was a stiflingly hot day with very high humidity. The church was packed and despite the high ceilings, there was a lot of face fanning going on. Oh yes, we were told explicitly that we weren’t allowed to wander around the church or take any pictures or videos. Worship was the order of the day.

I was praying ( not literally ) that I would get to hear some organ music and a choir. I was not disappointed on either count. The organist started playing at 10:45 on the Casavant Freres pipe organ with its four keyboards, 92 stops and 7000 individual pipes. The first thing that struck me was the unbelievable acoustics. The sound was incredible and crystal clear. Before mass began, a priest came to the podium with a few instructions, en Anglais et Francais. You could almost hear him breathe with the clarity of the sound system.

The congregational singing was led by a woman who might have been an opera singer for all I know. She was magnificent. And when I heard the first notes from the choir perched high in the loft, I knew I was in for something special. For those of you not familiar with Catholic masses, some of the hymns are sung by the entire congregation while other parts are the domain of the choir.

When this choir sang by themselves, it was mostly a Capella ( without accompaniment from the organ ). The four part harmonies were exquisite. I could hear every note from every one of the four parts. It was like listening while wearing headphones. It’s hard to believe that a person could get goosebumps on such a hot day but such was the case several times during mass.

I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t a recessional hymn. As people slowly filed from the church, the organist decided to strut his stuff. He put on a spine tingling performance as the music got louder and louder. I don’t think a single person left the church and he was rewarded by an enthusiastic ovation when he finished a performance that left people breathless. I waited to speak with him afterwards. I suggested that this was as close to heaven as I was likely to get.

Oh yes. I cannot tell a lie. When the finale started, I whipped out my cell phone and recorded the last three minutes or so. I ‘m not sure if this constitutes a sin, disobeying the instructions from the usher, but I thought it would be a sin NOT to record this performance.

I don’t know if it was the venue or the music… probably a combination of the two, but it was one of, if not the most, memorable musical experiences of my life.

If this was a preview of heaven, I want in. But I’ll have to keep my nose clean which includes obeying the ushers!


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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on June 19, 2017 under Monday Morning Musings with 2 comments

Leon Langois: Arts Crtic

Au revoir, Montreal.

Yes, I have been to Montreal many, many times over the years but these visits always seem rushed. I experienced the city as a teenager in 1967 spending several days at Expo. That was quite a spectacle which I will remember forever. I came to Montreal to watch the hockey  Canadiens in their prime and saw a number of ball games at the “ Big O” when the Expos were all the rage. And traveling back and forth across the country on numerous occasions, Montreal would be a normal “ pit stop” as my mom grew up here and several relatives still live in the area.

But coming for ten days is a totally different experience. One of the greatest joys of being retired is having the time and taking time to do things. And very often, the simplest of things which don’t cost a nickel, are the most enjoyable.

Last year, I did a month long dog sitting stint in Victoria. The dog is a Golden Retriever and those of you who know the breed well know that a walk is a workout. You have to hold on to the leash for dear life. On this trip, one of my duties was to walk my daughter’s new Chihuahua. On more than one occasion, I had to look down and make sure the dog was still on the leash, such is the breed’s small stature.

I did a lot of walking. The suburb of Verdun is about a 9 kilometer walk to the heart of the city. I walked it more than once which is not a big deal as I do this kind of length routinely at home. But walking through a major city is slightly different than The Landing! You see a lot of things and you pass by thousands of people that you’ll never see again. I am fascinated with people watching and with all of the festivals going on right now, it seems like the entire city is on the move. Every restaurant and sidewalk bar is busy and many major streets are shut down creating a festive atmosphere. And the weather has been spectacular.

I hiked Mont Royal twice, once with my daughter. I strolled St. Laurent and St. Urbaine Streets dozens of times during the Fringe Festival. I caught three Fringe shows ( not free but not expensive ). I went to mass at Notre Dame Basilica. Even if you are a non believer, it is still worth the effort to see this magnificent church. I strolled through the neighborhood of Point St. Charles where my mom spent her childhood and saw the grocery store that my grandfather owned.

I walked through numerous parks, rode the subways frequently and marvelled at this wonderful city.

There are many highlights but the memory that will last the longest is the chiming swings at Place Des Arts. Some genius discovered that the motion of a swing could be programmed to emit the sound of a chime. When you install 50 or so of these swings and they are all occupied simultaneously,  it creates an amazing sensory spectacle. Of yes, the seats of the swing light up when darkness falls.

On Saturday evening, my granddaughter and I spent some time at Place Des Arts to see a performance at FrancoFolies, a celebration of French music. There must have been ten thousand or more people in the square. It was a warm evening and the atmosphere was electric as the crowd anticipated a legendary hip hop group. I am part of that group of old farts who don’t quite “ get” rap but watching the crowd get whipped into a frenzy, is worth watching. Rap doesn’t make sense in either of Canada’s official languages, BTW! We treated ourselves to a Haagen- Dazs ice cream and headed to the musical swings a few hundred meters away.

Swings naturally attract children but these swings attract people of all ages. The lineups to get on the swing aren’t long because there are so many of them but on a Saturday evening, every swing is in demand. It is heartwarming to watch older people relive part of their youth when they hop on the swings and start pushing themselves. Everybody smiles when they’re swinging and I’m sure for some, that these fleeting few minutes might easily be the happiest part of their day. It reminds us to enjoy the simple things in life.

Permit me a short cell phone rant. The subways used to be a place where people talked to each other, even complete strangers. Now, even close friends rarely look up from their cellphones nor can they hear a thing as they wear earphones or earbuds. There is more chatter in a funeral home.

Almost done.

Many of you faithful readers are not Facebook people. Congratulations! Seriously, Facebook is an amazing forum and is an effective way to stay in touch with people… and find out what they had for lunch. I decided to attend one of Ellie’s performances of “ Crazy Bitch.” Despite what I said in last Thursday’s post, I really wanted to see it. But I didn’t want her to know that I was coming. That’s when I invented “ Leon Langois: Arts Critic.” I went to a costume shop for the wig and moustache and “The Frippe” for a second hand shirt and $3.00 Richard Petty hat.

I won’t bore you with all the details but I went to the show ( which I thoroughly enjoyed ) and came up to the stage to congratulate Ellie at the conclusion of her performance. She had no idea it was me and when I did “ the reveal,” she laughed hysterically.

My love affair with Montreal continues.

A tout a l’heure.

Have a great week.


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