As advertised

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The internet is a strange thing and you will find just about anything and everything on it. Living on a small Island, you can drive across, East to West in 6 hours top and go from South to North in 30 minutes, with the total population of one neighbourhood at 150K. PEI is mostly very rural with 2 big towns, Charlottetown 36K and Summerside at 15K, so you can imagine that we do not have the sort of development seen in larger cities in Canada.

So on the internet when I read news items  at the bottom of the page there will be advertisement disguised as more news or general interests stories. The picture will show you an exciting urban development for seniors or top rated lawyers for affordable rates or a dating site for singles in PEI, alluring pictures with promises of varied sexual encounters literally next door. The pictures, for anyone living in PEI, are dead give away, you know this is a scam, none of what is featured would exist so blatantly.

Take the accommodations for seniors said to be very affordable. First the housing situation on the Island at the moment is at 0 (zero) vacancy. Rents on average for a 2 bedroom is $1650 CDN. which is not much in a large city like Halifax or Moncton in the Maritimes or even Montreal or Toronto, but in PEI for many this is near unaffordable. We have the lowest wages in all of Canada coupled with a high cost of living.

Houses for sale average about $450K and this is a huge increase from 3 years ago when houses were half that price. Laundered money from Asia changed that picture all across Canada including here in PEI and has created a real crisis in housing which our governments are struggling to address.

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So photos like these appear in ads and will say that this is Montague a small town of 2000 persons 25 minutes from Charlottetown, such buildings simply do not exist anywhere on the Island. Wonder to who this is appealing and what is the message here.

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Here we have advertisement for high powered lawyers in Charlottetown at reasonable rates. No one appearing in these photos practice law in PEI. Just generic ads and in fact these actors are Americans. Again who is the target population? The legal profession in PEI is very close knit and like the rest of this little island most lawyers are related to each other in some fashion.

The dating site for singles in Stratford PEI a suburb of Charlottetown, 9000 population is hilarious. Stratford is a mix of suburban and rural setting only 5 minutes across the river from Charlottetown. None of the people appearing in such ads are from the Island, not difficult to figure out. In fact having an affairs in PEI is quite possible and frequent if one goes by the high divorce rate, but keeping it a secret is the real hard part. The joke is that PEI is a lot like the American soap opera Peyton Place.

ACTUAL PICTURE OF MONTAGUE PEI

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ACTUAL PICTURE OF STRATFORD PEI under the wing

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What do these strange and misleading advertisements say about the people publishing them. They are obviously misinformed about this Island and its place in the Maritime, but do they care? They are promoting a globalist view of PEI, it is not different it is just like any large metropolitan area. We are not rural as a Province but appear in photo as just like any other place in North America, PEI could be Southern Ontario. Whoever creates those is interested only in selling a concept which is unrecognizable from its reality.

 

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So many things to talk about

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There are so many things to blog about I feel like I should start one of the YouTube channels and talk endlessly about this and that, like so many people do. I have noticed though that they tend to attract the vacuous crowd who have angst about everything and nothing. It is also a way to make a lot of money easily. SO NO I won’t do that to you world wide readers.

In the last week we have had the demi-mondaine saga of Harry and Meghan, their lives remind me of La Traviata by Verdi.  They have been milking the baby story for all it’s worth. Can they now receed into the shadows and invent a life that has meaning. How about Harry going back to being a soldier and Meghan doing sit-com or reality shows. The whole affair about the baby was beyond ridiculous and now the name Archie? Really? First thing I thought was Archie Bunker or Archie and Jughead, as for Harrison ok, it’s Star Wars and Harrison Ford, was he not a boyfriend of Meghan at one point? No title for the kid but will he be on the family payroll? I also found showing off the baby in the Great Hall of Windsor castle a trifle dramatic, a bit Downton Abbey like and Meghan saying she had just bumped into Prince Philip as if… I wondered why not meet the Press at their little servants cottage at Frogmore, more genuine if you want to play how simple and down to earth you are. The two of them, phoney baloney.

A book I have been reading is the life of Maud Lewis the folk art painter. Not really a biography as much as a chronicle of a very sad life and an even sadder married life with a parasite of a husband who exploited here and barely noticed her existence. Her own brother Charles cut off all ties after her unwed pregnancy and she in turn living in shame denied the existence of her own daughter. Severely handicapped she led the life of a recluse. In spite of it all was able to produce those incredible paintings. The author of the book is a relative, Lance Woolaver, he paints a picture of Nova Scotia and the Digby area, not pretty,  a lot of grinding poverty, ignorance, lack of social services, isolation, racism, bigotry, the place appears pleasant to Summer tourists who have money and travel around, but that is a mirage, all very third world. Nova Scotia today still has deep pockets of poverty and scenic beauty and a rich history. It only makes her work even more wonderful when all these elements are taken in.

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In Canada politically speaking the Government of Justin Trudeau is seen by pollsters of all stripes to be sinking and we could be headed in October for a Conservative majority with Andrew Scheer as PM. God help us, this is a man who has made lying his main political plank, has no policies on anything, he is a multi-millionaire, money all made from his political activities. Copies word for word Trump’s ideology, associates himself with hate groups and neo-nazis calling for the Prime Minister to be killed. Is a religious zealot and of course attracts basically the white supremacist vote. The popularity of his party right now stems from the political troubles of PM Trudeau. Conservative Senators in our Canadian Senate have been blocking through procedures crucial votes on bills knowing that the Parliamentary clock is ticking down to the end of the Session in June.

The Green Party in Canada is hoping for big gains, which is quite possible, but will not be able to form a government. Trudeau may still get re-elected simply because of the loathing Scheer inspires but if Scheer and his cronies get elected we will be in big trouble like Ontario is with former dope peddler Doug Ford (FordNation). Populism in Canada is making big strides, there is an evil wind blowing.

 

And on another topic all together and quite different.

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Yesterday Jean Vanier died in Paris at the age of 90, he was a doctor of Philosophy and an Canadian Navy Officer who horrified by the Holocaust and the Atomic Bomb decided to dedicate his life to Peace. He is known as the founder of L’Arche which is a world wide organization which as Vanier described it as establishing the unique value of the intellectually disabled. The principle he established is very simple, he said; ”The most important thing is not to do things for people who are poor and in distress, but to enter into relationship with them, to be with them and help them find confidence in themselves and discover their own gifts.”

Jean Vanier (1928-2019) was the son of eminent Canadians, his father was General Georges Vanier, a Canadian World War One hero, a diplomat and Governor General of Canada. His mother Pauline Archer Vanier of Montreal, a lady of great distinction who came from a celebrated family in the history of Canada. Both his parents were nominated for Beatification in the Roman Catholic Church for their Piety, Faith and humanitarian work.

Jean Vanier had siblings and they too distinguished themselves in their respected fields.

I had the opportunity to meet him in 1996 in Amman, Jordan, he came to visit his cousin who was my Ambassador at the time and a little get together was organized at the Residence. I was immensely impressed with his quiet dignity and is words which gave another look at what the world could be like. What he proposed was not utopia, he proved it by the success of L’Arche around the world and the legacy he leaves. The World today needs more like Jean Vanier, we lost a great humanitarian.

“The fundamental principle of peace is a belief that each person is important. Do you believe you are important? Do you believe that we can do something to make this world a better place?”

– Jean Vanier –

 

 

 

May 2019

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Well this month marks our third anniversary living in PEI. I moved with Nicky and Nora in the back of the car snoozing all the way from Ottawa an 1100 Km, fourteen hour drive. Arriving on May 1 from the mainland. The truck with our four and a half ton of belonging would follow a few days later. Will came to PEI in late September, he had to finish a work contract.

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It has been a busy 3 years, full of events and happenings. Living in the Maritimes and on a small island with a population equal to old neighbourhood in Ottawa, has its challenges. We always lived in cities of a million plus people, great capitals of the world. Charlottetown at 36,000 often feels like Mayberry, everyone knows everybody, 88% of the population is white and christian.  There is no real diversity, just the beginning of some multiculturalism which is seen by Islanders as quaint. But since 2000 Charlottetown has changed quite a bit and more change is on the way, a large Asian population is visible. Indian families from the Sub-continent form a large contingent. Other towns and villages remain largely homogenous with the exception of Stratford and Cornwall, the satellites towns around Charlottetown. A cosmopolitan area near Montague, pop 2000 with two large Buddhist Monasteries and their distinctive architecture at Brudenell with 1400 monks has attracted a lot of attention, not always positive, despite the charitable work and influx of cash brought by the Monastery.  The challenge is for the Provincial Government to find a way to have these new comers stay in PEI and not leave after 3 to 4 years for cities like Toronto or Montreal, which offer easier integration into society if you are not white and better schools, better health care, better work opportunities, a large international airport. More and more Canadians from the other provinces come to PEI to live and work but they too, like us often face a wall of resistance. Older Islanders the +50 crowd are very afraid of change and our Ex-Premier who was defeated in the last general election on 23 April was very good at playing the xenophobic card to get votes from older people. During the campaign he did not miss an opportunity to remind people of his family ties to the Island compared to his opponents. However the demographics have changed quite a bit and the millennials who voted in the last election point to more progressive and enlighten views and this is a very good thing for PEI. This is why the Green Party has made such a breakthrough, a first in Canada.

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So what have we done in the last 3 years in PEI. Well we have volunteered in many areas, got to know a lot of people, been socially active, I ran for Municipal Office. Got involved in the last general election and again met a lot of people. Joined a Club am now am sitting on the board. Raised funds for the PEI Symphony, etc.. Learned about the Island and the people and its place in the Maritimes.

So our lives have become involved in the fabric of Island society. Socially speaking we have been super busy much more so than when we lived in Ottawa. It is easier here to meet people and often spontaneous kitchen parties take place, you just show up.

Has it been a good move?  On the sum of it I would say yes. It took some adjustment and getting to know the Island way. Yes some times we thought what are we doing here, but then we think back and realize that we have a good life.

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Setting Day in PEI

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Today May 3, 2019 is Setting Day in all ports in PEI, everyone really is talking about it and it is annually a very big affair. This year due to poor weather and very high winds the captains of the Lobster boats and the Canadian Dept of Fisheries delayed Setting Day by several days. But finally the weather has improved and the wind died down and off they go to start setting their lobster traps, this means that by Saturday people in PEI will eat PEI Lobster. The job of setting traps and catching lobster is dangerous and difficult, anyone who has ever work on a lobster boat will tell you so, but it is also exciting. No where else in Canada do we have such a tradition which is so typical of the life on PEI.

To work on a lobster boat you need good sea legs and a good amount of physical strenght. You go to sea early in the morning just at dawn and return during the afternoon. The traps must be numbered and set according to an exact pattern, no haphazard work here, it is very important that each captain know which traps are his and in what designated area he is setting them. Each trap comes also with a buoy, in the photo you can see the buoy in blue with red tips.

Everyone wishes them luck and happy Setting Day, friends, families and onlookers line the dock and the wharfs to see them off. Now let’s see what the price per pound will be this year. Of course the best prices are set at the dock, so if you go down to the dock chances are you will pay a lot less than what you would pay in a grocery store or at the Fish store or worse what the tourists pay in restaurants, but the tourists are all rich so hey they can pay.

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Reiwa era

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I visited Japan twice and I remain impressed by this country. Going to Japan was like a dream, everything I saw was completely out of the ordinary and unexpected. I visited once when I lived in Beijing and a second time when I lived in Rome. So many happy memories from those trips. I remember once on the Official Day Reception at the Japanese Embassy in Rome telling the Ambassador about my trip and how impress I was with his country and its people.

The food, the cities, the train stations, bank machines, the hotels, the people, the historic sites, its television and the NHK news, the safety of the place and the overall attitudes of the people I encountered. From the day I arrived in Tokyo at the airport and how well organized and civilized it all was. Everything was so clean and so easy to use, despite not knowing how to read Japanese signs and knowing 10 words of the language.

Tokyo, a city of 39 million people, (greater Tokyo area) that is the entire population of Canada in one city. Despite that large number, it was extremely well organized and clean. Low noise level on the streets despite the traffic. I also visited, travelling by bullet train Shinkansen to Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and Himeji Castle.

I always wanted to be posted to Japan but that did not happen.

On Wednesday 1 May the new Reiwa Era ( Beautiful Harmony in English) though the characters Rei and Wa means Fair Breeze, will start with the accession to the Chrysanthemum throne of Crown Prince Naruhito and the end of the Heisei Era under his father Emperor Akihito who is abdicating.  All calendars will start anew and officially everything will be counted as of 1 May 2019, first day and first year.

Naruhito will become the 126th Emperor of Japan in the oldest dynasty in the world, 2000 years, the first was Emperor Jimmu. The Imperial Family claims descent from  Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神/天照大御神/天照皇大神), the top deity of the Shinto religion. She is the goddess of the sun and the universe. The name Amaterasu means “shining in heaven”. The meaning of her whole name, Amaterasu-ōmikami, is “the great august Kami (deity) who shines in the heaven”. According to the Kojiki which chronicles Japanese Mythology the Emperors of Japan are considered to be direct descendants of Amaterasu. The Emperor is also the Head of the Shinto religion in Japan.

 

 

Ten years ago in Rome

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Today on FB I had a reminder of 10 yrs ago, showing a photo of two little puppies about 6 weeks old.

The 26 April 2009 we drove to Capena which is 30 minutes North of Rome. It is pretty straight forward taking Via Nomentana going North from our house on Via Dei Villini and then joining the SS-4 which is the ancient Via Salaria (Salt Road) on the way we will past some interesting site like the old Rome Airport of the 1920’s Roma-Urbe and then joining the old Via Tiberina at Prima Porta and going North still until the round about second exit and Capena is just further down the road. At this point we are in the countryside and it is green and dotted with nice houses.  Our destination was the farm of Dr Massimo Buzzanca and his wife Tiziana.

Via Tiberina is a very ancient Roman road from 396 BC and don’t be surprise to see around Settebagni and Capena a lot of prostitutes all decked out sitting on a sofa by the side of the road. We would learn later that a lot of those prostitutes were in fact nuns trying to make ends meet. Many came to Italy from far away impoverished countries and the Cardinal who runs the convents for his National congregations often don’t have the money to supplement all the needs of their priests and nuns, so they get a night job. Pretty amazing because the Vatican does not help them financially. Prostitution is illegal in cities but not on the highway between towns. But I digress…

We had met them some months prior when Nicky and Nora were just a few days old. In Italy when you buy a pet they are microchipped by Law at the point of purchase and this being Italy, the government department responsible for the registration of all animals has forms to fill out and a few months down the road, you will have to go collect the formal registration etc. You cannot name your pet whatever name you choose this is Italy and Style comes into play, by Law letters are assigned to a group of days in the year and so in our case that day the letters were F and E. So Nicky was christened Fantastico Nicky and Nora, Eleonora di Capena.

Nicky and Nora are very different in character, Nicky is a week younger than Nora and he is a show dog by pedigree and family lineage. Nora is a tracking and hunting dog on her family lineage. Meaning that Nora has always been our guard dog and early warning system whereas Nicky is a beach boy loving the sunshine and going through life as if he is on a walkway with lots of paparazzi.

On the drive back, Will sat on the back seat with Nora and Nicky. Nora was nervous about leaving the farm and her relatives whereas Nicky whined non-stop in his little whiny puppy voice. We discovered quickly that we could not take them together to the Vet clinic. We could walk them together in Rome but once in Canada that became impossible.

Imagine 10 years already, how time flies.

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This photo was taken in our den at home on Via dei Villini. Nicky is on the left. They do not have their signature collars yet sent to us as a gift by our friend Cecilia H.

 

Election results in PEI

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An historic night in PEI,  the Liberal government of Premier Wade MacLaughlan was reduced to minority third party in the Legislature, Wade lost his seat in his District.

We now have a new Minority Conservative Government with Dennis King as Premier designate. He just became the Conservative party Leader 2 months ago. His government will have 12 seats in the Legislature.

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The big news is the victory of the Green Party who in a matter of 4 years went from having just one member to having now 9 members, of those 5 are women. The Green Party is now the Official Opposition, a first in Canadian Political History. Peter Bevan-Baker is a charismatic leader and this evening his speech was unlike any other I had ever heard from a political leader, he was gracious and he started first my recalling the memory of the late Josh Underhay and his little son Oliver who died on Good Friday in a tragic accident. The election in District 9 where Josh was a candidate was suspended and will take place in 3 months time. It was an emotional speech but also that of a gentleman avoiding the usual phraseology so common in speeches today. The Green party has a strong position now in the PEI Legislature and many hope that the minority government of Dennis King will work in cooperation with the Greens. King as Premier designate gave the indication that he would pursue a path of cooperation with other parties.

There are only 27 seats in our Island Legislature so getting along is important for good government, something our out going Premier forgot too often.

In my own District 12 Green Party candidate Karla Bernard was elected as our MLA. She is a very good person and I have confidence that she will be good for us.

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Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition in the House and Green Party Leader.

Unfortunately the referendum to change the way we vote did not get the necessary votes to pass. Only 15 out of a mandatory 17 District votes Yes for a change or 49%.

The number of people who voted was also down from the usual 82% to 76% this election, difficult to understand what actually happened.

Rome

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The 21 April is the Birthday of Rome, Maggior di Roma is an expression in Italian meaning Rome is greatest. Rome celebrates its 2,772nd birthday on 21 April which this year coincides with Easter Sunday festivities. Known as Natale di Roma, the annual birthday celebration is based on the legendary founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 BC.

Rome is known as the Eternal City even among the ancient Romans themselves. It was so called because the Romans thought that no matter what happened to the world, no matter how many other empires might rise and fall, Rome would go on forever. Romans still think this way today. Tu non vedrai nessuna cosa al mondo maggior di Roma. 

Puccini composed this Hymn to Rome in 1919 to celebrate the victories of Italy in the First World War and its liberation from Austrian dominance. It became in a way its Birthday song. Puccini got his inspiration from an ancient poem, “Carmen Saeculare” (literally, “Secular Hymn”, usually translated as “Song of the Ages”), is a hymn or ode by the Roman lyric poet Horace, commissioned by Emperor Augustus in 17 BC. It is collection of mythological and religious verses encouraging the restoration of the tradition and the glorification of the gods, particularly Apollo, Diana, Jupiter and Venus.

A tragic accident

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Yesterday afternoon was for a Good Friday a strange day, one full of foreboding, I had a bad feeling about the day, it was raining and gray, the Hillsborough river was calm. I swung by the Club to discover that the ceiling in the Parlour of the house was damaged by water infiltration, the elaborate plaster had fallen to the ground, water and debris on the floor.  Emergency calls were made to the roofing company. I went home and again driving by the Landing Marina I notice 3 ambulances and fire trucks and a zodiac boat used for rescue in the harbour. I wondered what was going on, I saw the zodiac boat go into the river and bring back bodies, the responders were calm and I thought something terrible happened, indeed it had. Just two hours later, I read on the page of the Green Party a cryptic message about condolences and death, a tragedy, but what could it be. Then a white bicycle appeared on a black cover, I immediately thought of my friend Josh Underhay who is a candidate for the Green Party in this election. The candidate in my district told me that Josh and his son Oliver had died in a canoeing accident that afternoon, yes those bodies, it was them. I simply cannot believe it. Josh was a great school teacher, he invited me during my campaign last October to talk to his class about voting and democracy, the kids were well prepared and asked good questions. He was also a musician and trumpet player, he spoke 4 languages fluently, one being Mandarin. He advocated for cycling in the city and the bicycle was his symbol.

He was well travelled and had lived abroad. He leaves behind his wife and another very young son. I met his mother just last week and she told me that Josh as a kid was always curious about things and always enquiring, a very bright boy he was. Indeed as a person he was one of a kind, everyone liked him, thoughtful and generous, open to all people. We should have more people like him. His son Oliver was also a clever fellow and had musical leanings. So sad that he should die so very young with his father.

The campaigning is suspended today by all parties as a tribute to this exceptional person.  In his district 9 the other candidates took down their electoral signs so only his appear. The Prime Minister of Canada sent condolences. Today is a foggy, dark dreary day with misty rain. A memorial service was held at the Haviland Club at 1pm.

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Photos Courtesy of Jing on Island, who comes to all musical events and takes great photos of musicians and bands.

Canadian Painter

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We were in Halifax about 3 weeks ago, an easy drive of 3 hours from Charlottetown across the Sea Bridge down to Truro and a hop and a skip to Halifax. This time around I wanted to visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to see the collection.

The Art gallery is housed in 2 buildings next to each other, one is an old government building facing the Legislature and the other is an Italianate style stone building called the Dominion building which has a statue of Britannia sitting on the roof.

The two building have an underground passageway connecting them. The collection of Canadian art is of good quality and interesting featuring many artists. The one in particular I wanted to see  was the works of Maud Lewis (1903-1970) born in Yarmouth and died in Digby, Nova Scotia. She married in 1938 Everett Lewis. Prior to being married Maud had a daughter out of wedlock named Catherine Dowley. Maud never acknowledged her daughter who moved to Ontario and had a family of her own.

I had heard much about Maud Lewis and she is one of those painters discovered late in life by the art world and the public and became a celebrity, though that did not enrich her at all. Today she is an icon in the Canadian art world for her simple ”naif” or folk art style of painting. Maud (Dowley) Lewis came from a simple background, her family were tradespeople, her father John was well known in Yarmouth for making good quality leather harness and other leather goods.  Maud was born suffering from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and for the rest of her life suffered from this crippling disease. She was a very small women described as gnome like and her hands were severely deformed.

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Her interest in art came from her mother Agnes who would paint Christmas cards and sell them to supplement the family’s income.  After her parents death Maud lived as a recluse and her only brother grew distant and rarely saw her.

At the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia a section of the museum is dedicated to her and her tiny little house in which she lived with her husband Everett Lewis, it has been transported from its original site and reconstructed for visitors to see.  It is as it was during her life, quite small, basically a one room house, with all the furniture, paint brushes and other items one finds in a house. What is so special about this little tiny house, is that Maud Lewis painted and decorated every inch of the place inside and out including the glass windows.

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The house as it appears re-installed inside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia today.

Her paintings are joyful and full of vibrant colours, showing life and scenes around her and what she saw.

Though I was not particularly interested in Maud Lewis as a painter despite having heard of her, coming to the gallery and seeing her tiny house and several of her paintings, I was enchanted by her work. It was I think the simple beauty of it all, childlike quality and the joy which radiated from her work. She has no agenda, no ideology, no philosophy or trying to pass a message. It is simply art for the beauty of it.

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