What am I up to…


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Lately I have been fairly busy on a new project, I find that my retirement is full of such projects, it never stops. I became a member of the Haviland Club some 3 years ago. The Club is housed in what was a private mansion built by a wealthy woman some 150 years ago this July in 1869. It occupies an important corner in Charlottetown, Haviland and Water street. Land that once back in 1789 was military barracks and defensive positions on the harbour of the Capital facing the entrance to the Strait of Northumberland.

The young widow Esther Full Lowden, age 33, a single parent with 3 daughters, had lost her house to the terrible fire of 1866 which destroyed a great part of the old downtown of Charlottetown. She bought this piece of land and built a magnificent Italian style villa with imported Italian Carara marble fireplace and had elaborate decoration throughout the rooms.

She lived in the house until her death in 1896 and the Lowden family owned it until 1944.

It was the USA Consulate in Charlottetown between 1900 to 1927 rented from the Lowden’s.

From 1944 to 1997 it became the United Services Officer’s Mess, the house sits across the street from the Armoury of the PEI Regiment. Since 1997 it is a Social Club opened to all.

A few weeks ago a vacancy appeared on the Board of Directors of the Club and I am now the Fund raising director and also responsible for the Sub-Committee on interior decoration and general renewal in our appearance. There is work to do and my first project was the Library also known as the Historic room.  The room had not been renewed since 1962, nothing had been done. The books were ancient some dating from 1900 and in very poor condition. I had to throw out about 27 cases of books because of advance mildew, missing pages and brittle paper. They have been replaced by new books, general titles and various authors, a good selection.

The room also needed repainting, I chose colours which would be accurate for the period and appropriate for a home library. The damage to the walls was extensive simply because they are 150 year old plaster walls and through the years did not always get the required attention. After this project is completed,  I will start on another room on the second floor, known as the manager’s room, it was at one time the Office of the Club manager but in the last 3 years it has become somewhat of a siting room, it was originally a bedroom for one of Esther’s daughters, all the bedrooms had a dressing room and a parlour. The widow Lowden had also 6 servants in the house and they all lived in the annex which was connected to the house by a corridor now blocked.

On the South side of the house was Esther Lowden’s suite which also controlled the door to the servants quarters and the two staircase to the attic and at the very top the widow’s walk. Though the attic is not open to Club members and the widow’s walk is off limits, I did go up there last week. The attic is gigantic and looks like a great ship with impressive timber work. The widow’s walk is a big glass room where you can sit and admire the entire panorama of the city and see many kilometres away. It is said that Mrs Lowden would go up to the widow’s walk to see her many ships she owned come in and out of port. They also moored at Paoli’s wharf which is just to the South of the house.

The manager’s room will become something else, re-dedicated to a new purpose, can’t say now what it will be, we are still in preparation phase, but it will be very nice.

The President’s room was formerly the parlour and office of Mrs Lowden, currently displayed the framed photographs of every Club president since 1944. This room has not aged well and looks very sad. A member has stepped up to the plate to undertake a complete renovation of that room and transform it into a nice meeting room.

All this work requires a lot of attention to details and many conversations with members, some of whom have been with the Club for the last 40 to 50 years and have a lot to contribute in terms of knowledge and approach to what we want to do.


The Library or Historic room prior to renovations. Haviland Club, Charlottetown


The Haviland Club, #2 Haviland Street.





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Sonata for piano and cello in D minor (1915) by Claude Debussy.

Piano Christian Ivaldi and cello Maurice Gendron, recorded in Paris in 1967 by EMI.

Carnevale Season


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This is the Season for the Feste Romane, think of the music of Ottorino Respighi and also elsewhere in cities like Venezia. It is also the time of parties given by the aristocracy. I am happy to think that once in the not so distant past we went to such parties in Rome. What elegant parties they were. Here are some photos of our friends at the home of Prince Jonathan Doria-Pamphilj in his palace in the centre of Rome near Piazza Venezia last week. I remember when we first visited this palace and wonder how can anyone today live in such a grand place, it is beyond real. But family tradition and owning such a place for several centuries brings not only attachment but also a sense that you owe it to your ancestors to continue. Other princely families in Rome like the Colonna, the Palavincini, BonCompagni-Ludovisi or Torlonia, the  also have spectacular palaces but they are not open to visitors, you only enter as a guest invited as a friend.


Side view of the palace Doria-Pamphilj on Via del Corso (Via Flaminia in antiquity)


The interior courtyard of the palace.


It was a mask ball, here friends in the Mirror Gallery. (name withheld)


The Prince has through his family history a very large art collection of antiquities,  Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces. Our dear friends C.E. and her husband P.C.


Palazzo Doria Pamphilj—the colossal, 1,000-room family seat, which dates from 1505 and is among the most treasure-filled palaces in Europe. Said to be nearly two-thirds the size of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj may well be the largest private residence in Italy. It houses one of the nation’s most important private art collections, with 650 works, including masterpieces by Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, and Velázquez. The Doria Pamphilj clan—whose family tree includes the renowned Genoese admiral Andrea Doria and Giovanni Battista Pamphilj, who reigned as Pope Innocent X from 1644 to 1655—is one of just a handful of Rome’s ancient princely families who have survived with their palazzi, fortunes, and staggering art collections intact.


Prince Jonathan Doria-Pamphilj and his husband Elson Braga with their children Emily and Filippo Andrea VII.

This Month in Canada


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For the last few weeks we have been bombarded on the news with an alleged scandal based on an unverified account of interference based on anonymous allegations of undue pressure on the Attorney General of Canada by a senior member of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Globe and Mail published the story and it has been a circus ever since. As of today, 15 days after the story broke the allegations are still un-verified and we have no idea who spoke with the G&M. The newspaper has made no effort to verify the story.

The CBC and other papers owned by Post Media (a right wing media organization akin Fox News) all have repeated the allegations endlessly and with much speculations and innuendoes, we are now analyzing body language and every sentence for hidden meaning, it is very tiresome.

The story surrounds the Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould who in a recent Cabinet shuffle was moved to the Veterans Affairs Portfolio. The undue pressure allegedly by the PMO was over the trial of the engineering firm SNC-Lavalin which has 9000 employees and operates around the world. It is headquartered in Montreal. Apparently this important company wanted to avoid prosecution over charges of corruption in Libya prior to the overthrow of Muhamar Ghaddafi. After the story broke Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned her Cabinet position. She also claimed that she could not speak about the matter at all, citing Client-Solicitor privilege, in Canada the Attorney General is the lawyer of the Government and there is also the matter of Cabinet Secret. So this gave an opening to all those who wish to see PM Trudeau out of Office to suddenly attack. In the House of Commons the Conservative leader Andrew Scheer spoke of criminal behaviour, of issues that would destroy the country if not cleared, etc.. much theatre. The media loves it and speculate over every pronouncement. However Mr Scheer suddenly realized that what he was saying outside the House of Commons on Twitter could lead to criminal charges of defamation against him, so he stopped speaking outside the House and only made statements in the House where he enjoys immunity.

Then a caravan of 60 trucks appeared on Parliament Hill, the Canadian yellow vest movement which is a largely white supremacist and nativist organization promoting a hate agenda against immigrants and anyone who disagrees with their view point. Senator David Tkachuk Conservative from Saskatchewan, spoke with them and advocated murdering all those Liberals. Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer also spoke to the group surrounded by hate message calling for the Prime Minister to be killed. Today the CBC was comparing Donald Trump to PM Trudeau, it is that gross of a media manipulation of a non-story.

So this is the circus provided by Western Canada. For 3 years now we have had pipeline politics in Alberta, by far the richest province in Canada with a population of 2.5 million producing oil in the dirty Tar Sand variety. The price of oil are not what they use to be, World markets and other economic factors all played a role in keeping prices down for crude. Companies are no longer interested in building pipelines the economic case cannot be made. So Conservative politicians allied to the Alt-Right demand that the Government of Canada build them. This year 2019 is an election year so anything goes.

Very sad but it looks like the Conservatives have taken a page or two from the GOP and people like US Senator Mitch McConnell. Dz0B4VcVYAAPhA8.jpg

As you can see the truckers from Western Canada were a very small group about 150, not the mass demonstration the media was claiming.



Happy Birthday!


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This week marks the 10th Birthday of Nicky and Nora, born in Capena, Italia in Febbraio   2009. Capena is a little town famous for a place of exile where the great Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote letters on Friendship and Old age in 58 BC. It is also the area where Livia wife of Augustus lived in old age in her great palace.

Nora was born 5 days before Nicky and they both have different sets of parents.  Nora comes from a line of European champion hunting/tracking dachshunds and Nicky from a line of champion show dogs like his father.


Here is Will in February 2009 in Capena in the room where they were born at the house of Dr Massimo and his wife Tiziana. See how small they both are, their eyes are still closed.

We saw them at 10 days and they came to live with us at 7 weeks. As we drove back into the City, Nicky was in the back of the car with Will and Nora and he was whimpering all the way.

They lived the first 2 years of their lives in Rome on Via dei Villini and then immigrated to Canada when we left.



Nicky on the sofa in our den at home in Rome


Nicky at 2 in the morning Sun on Via Dei Villini

nora october 2011.jpg



Nora in Ottawa, always keeping an eye out, just watching


Left to right, Nicky and Nora on the sofa




Left to right Nora and Nicky 



Not Moussaka It’s MOOssaKKa! — Willy Or Won’t He

We were fortunate that Laurent’s posting to Italy also meant that he was accredited to Greece which meant regular trips to Athens during our time there. We had made our first visit in 1997 to catch a cruise of Anatolia and several of the Greek Islands on a four-masted schooner. It was the first time […]

via Not Moussaka It’s MOOssaKKa! — Willy Or Won’t He



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Just before the Christmas break, Parliament and the Senate in Ottawa closed down for the last time in the Central block. For the next 15 years they will sit in temporary locations. The House of Commons will sit in what was the Courtyard of the West Bloc, a building that dates back to 1864 when Ottawa was still a mud town and the Senate will move to the old Railway Station across the street.

Since 2000 what are the 3 main buildings of the Parliament in Canada have been undergoing major renovation and retrofitting. Both the West and East blocs are original to 1864 and only minor cleaning and repair had taken place in the last 136 years. The West bloc was designed to house offices for members of Parliament and some Federal government departments. The East bloc was designed to house the Office of the Governor General, the Cabinet and the Department of Foreign Affairs. With the years and the growth of the Canadian Government after 1918, all that changed. The original Central bloc burnt to the ground in a spectacular fire in 1917 caused by a cigar butt left in a reading room. Only the Library of Parliament survived the massive fire because the Librarian seeing the smoke at the end of the corridor had to good sense of closing the steel doors thus protecting the Library from the flames. So in 1919  new Central bloc was inaugurated, the new building had an entire steel skeleton, a novelty then and a very tall clock tower now called the Peace Tower. However since then again little renovations had been done. The building though magnificent was having more and more mechanical system failures in the last few years.

The renovated West Bloc re-opened last week with the House now sitting in a very modern room for the next 15 years, the cost of this one building $863 million dollars CDN. It is a smaller building than the Central bloc and most Members have their offices in other buildings in the Parliament district, but that did not stop the media and some members of complaining about the small building. I worked in that building in 1979-81 and I do not remember it being that small, it is very grand inside with marble floors and grand staircases.

The Senate which in Canada and according to our Constitution is an un-elected body now sits in the Old Union Station, which was closed in 1965, converted into a government conference centre but mostly unused for years. It was a very badly neglected building with water infiltration etc. It too was completely renovated at great cost.


But that is not all, other buildings around the area, like the Confederation Building, the Justice Building, the Old Metropolitan Life building at Wellington and Bank street, the Bank of Canada, the Supreme Court all have been renovated or are about to be renovated. The total cost is estimated at around $3.1 billion dollars, but the Central bloc alone will probably cost $1.2 billion to renovate. The reason for such high cost is that the buidings are full of sculptures, stained glass windows, chandeliers and artifacts, so the work has to take place around it all without damaging or displacing any of it.

The photo above shows the great Lion clutching in his paws the Coat of arms of Canada, he stands at the main door of the Central bloc under the Peace Tower, you can see how the stone is intricately carved with flora and fauna of Canada, well the inside is just the same, it all means something. In the distance on the photo is a part view of the West bloc.


Computerized rendition of the West Bloc with the big blue roof covering the old Courtyard.


The new visitor entrance located between the West Bloc and the Central Bloc on Parliament Hill.


The temporary House of Commons built inside the Courtyard of the West Bloc, 20 steel columns hold up the glass roof. The public galleries are far larger and there is also many more seats for the Members of Parliament, in the next 15 years to population of Canada will increase so the architects thought of adding extra space to the existing 338 member seats.

The Senate building


This is the old waiting room of the railway station transformed. The permanent furniture has not been installed yet, this is just a mock up of plain wood desk.


This bronze wall was installed with images of the rockies, the door leads into the Senate Chamber. The employees of the Senate negotiated the return of one of the old waiting room seat with tiffany lamps from the museum where it was sent in 1966. A nice touch to the old railway station.




Signing Off


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When I was posted to the Communist Paradise of the People’s Republic of China between 2004 and 2007, I use to watch a lot of Japanese television on NHK. I always liked the production value and watching the news no matter how dreadful the story it was always read calmly. No need to get excited it’s only the news, that’s Japan. A country I visited twice and simply loved it, so civilized. Not the case in China with its non-stop propaganda news, similar to what you could see in North Korea.

NHK, is Japan’s national public broadcasting organization. NHK, which has always been known by this romanized acronym in Japanese, is a publicly owned corporation funded by viewers’ payments of a television license fee. It’s motto, まっすぐ、真剣。 (“Straightforward, earnest”)

At night the signing off music is the great French song of Charles Trenet, La Mer. Truly a classic song it there ever was one. The words are beautiful, it is a poem about the Sea describing its quality, a shepherdess watching over the crest of the wave which are white like sheep. Shepherdess of infinite azure. The Sea cradles my heart for life.



DOMO Kun, the Official Mascot of NHK television