Pensée du Jour

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The misunderstanding of the present grows fatally from our ignorance of the past.

Marc Bloch 1886-1944

Marc Léopold Benjamin Bloch was a French historian. A founding member of the Annales School of French social history.

Given the very troubled time we live in at the moment, I find this quotation by Bloch apt. I see on social media whining and complaining about not getting enough money from all the financial support announcements both at the Federal and Provincial Level of Government. It is never enough everyone wants more. Others blame the current situation on those who are sick. There is also a growing fear of the other or the foreigner. A profound hatred of Public Servants in general. We can do without the Government is the refrain. All of it, petulant, the cry of the spoiled child. In Alberta today, the Premier Jason Kenny fired 25,000 educators and school support staff, reasoning that since schools are closed we do not need these people, who he portrays as indulged, lazy and useless. His supporters comment that Alberta would be so much better if part of the USA under President Trump. Premier Kenny is also denying medical service to anyone living in Alberta who do not have a Health Card, they can pay out of  pocket, this would be vulnerable people. Again his supporters chant make Canada pay, we hate Canada and Canadians. Much of the hysteria in Alberta is due to the fact that the Canadian Barrel of Oil, (Western Canadian Select) is now at $5 USD. this means that the Tar Sands exploitation will shut down completely.  If only Alberta had 30 years ago diversified its economy and impose a modest sales tax. If only!

PEI is also facing many economic difficulties in the Fisheries sector, the lobster market to China has collapsed, Tourism for 2020 is nil, many tourist sites will not open and now the collapse of the AIR B&B market. Charlottetown has 825 such units in the old downtown alone which has a permanent population of 2500. I can see a total collapse of this segment of the market but we will see a return to long term rental leases and many houses coming on the real estate market cheap, which is urgently needed.

I can understand, I should say, I can see the anxiety and the fear in the comments of people. I went for a walk today, it was sunny and mild, Spring like conditions. People are mindful of the 2 meters or 6 feet rule on the street and in the parks. In general people are self-isolating but many still don’t. No one talks, in a society known for being chatty. It is all sad, but a new normal, at least until this passes. Yes I know some will have extreme reactions to this situation and despair.

Like all things this will pass, life will become normal again. Our world will be changed and many will have died or suffered economically. We are still in shock and cannot quite believe how our humdrum world has been upended. We should remember that we are still living in a peaceful country and that access to Social Services and Health care is here for all. Many people have offered to help neighbours with shopping, hot meals, or any kind of help they may require. There are lots of good people here in PEI and elsewhere in Canada. If only people could remember how life was 90 years ago and ponder.

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Display made by a neighbour on our current situation, the ducks are named after her children and grand children.

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The Residence of the Lieutenant Governor of PEI on the Fanningbank Estate.

 

 

 

 

 

Things you buy

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Well today is a sunny day, 5C or 42F no wind and a pleasant day. Same tomorrow and we took a walk from our home along the riverside in the Confederation Landing Park to the Coast Guard Dock. The walk on the river is quite nice, the ice is gone and looking at the opening of the Strait of Northumberland, no ice is visible. Lots of birds everywhere singing, it’s Spring.

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As of today PEI only has 11 cases, all at home. Everyone we encounter on our walk keeps the 6 feet distance or more, which is a huge relief seeing how serious people are.  Earlier we went to Murphy’s Pharmacy to pick up a regular prescription and some other supplies. On the way in at the door was Ray Murphy, the owner of the drugstore chain. He is well known and his drugstores have wonderful staff and good service. He said to me, I have to stay away from you 6 feet you know. Usually he would chit chat, he is quite affable.

I really do not want to go to the grocery store, this being Saturday. A friend went yesterday and they only allow 4 people in at a time and so you line up outside 6 feet apart. Best to go to a store you are familiar with and go in grab what you need and get out quick. Also only one person per family allowed, no family groupings or taking the kids in to run around the store as some parents like to do.

Today  at Murphy’s Drugstore I was looking for surgical gloves, many people are buying them and wearing them when shopping. I never bought them before, no need to, but given that it seems to be the height of Pandemic Fashion, I wonder if Louis Vuitton will come out with a brand. The funny thing is that one Health recommendation about going to the grocery store is to wear gloves and this reminded me of what we were told when I was working abroad. We were told to clean, wipe and wash fruits and vegetables and not buy some type of vegetable or fruits to avoid parasites and contamination. Per example; Strawberries and any type of berries, leafy salads was off limits absolutely, because they were probably watered with night soil (aka human excrements). Other fruits & vegetables you peeled still had to be washed or scrubbed, washing hands afterwards or wearing gloves was best practice. I always had DETTOL at home and large bottled water jugs of 40 litres, never use tap water for that job. It was a job and it took 2 hours to clean everything, but that was the price to stay healthy.

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I also believe in the wisdom of dogs or in the philosophy of life they follow.  Our Nicky is always looking for sunshine and then he will lie down and snooze. Why worry, enjoy the moment, the Sun is good for you. Nicky has been practicing this all his life and he is happy, happy.

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Oh!!! did I show you what I bought myself for my Birthday? I looked at Land’s End Catalogue and bought myself a new Squall Jacket, the old one was 25 years old. The colour is US Air Force blue, in Canada the RCAF has a more Prussian blue to its uniform.

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So I accessorize with a cap that matches the new jacket. I got this cap from a friend of mine in Italy who was an Officer in the Carabinieri, which sports the Golden insignia of a grenade.

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This and That

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So as part of my daily routine now, believe me you need an established routine when a pandemic is on because though we are not on lockdown there is nowhere to go outside of driving to the beach or around the island or doing grocery shopping and that is not pleasant right now with all the risks around.

In the morning I get up, we take care of the puppies, then have my coffee,  shower and shave every morning even if we are not going to see anyone obviously. We have been in the house now for 9 days simply because we are following the advice of our Chief Medical Officer for PEI, Dr. Heather Morrison, stay home, stay safe. I also take my temperature everyday, I am normal. We phone people or send Emails, SMS etc to keep in touch with them, just to say hello. Do chores around the house, washing clothes, cleaning etc. Keeping busy is important. Also only listen to the news 2 daily, I find there is too much hype, spin and useless drama. Listening to Susan Bonner on CBC readio News at 6 is panic inducing, her tone of voice is full of drama and alarm, she does not know how to simply read the news. You have to wonder if it’s the producers behind the scene, click and bait school of journalism.  Not to mention Carol Off or Rosie Barton and Vassy Kapelos the grade 10 teenagers on the CBC.

I have gone back to listening to Internet Radio from around the World for music etc.

Today is World Theatre Day and when I think back to the wonderful plays we have seen with great actors throughout the years, so many plays in so many cities. Good theatre is joy! Here are three which made an impression on me. While in Dublin we went to The Abbey and saw the powerful play Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme by Frank McGuinness. Another play was The Three Penny Opera by Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weill in French and stage in this production in Montreal in 1939 during the Royal Visit of King George VI. In London One man two Guvnors by Richard Beam based on Goldoni’s play The Servant of two masters. So yes good theatre is a treasure to enjoy.

We should think about this treasure because the Covid 19 pandemic is going to reap a terrible price on the arts in general.

Today one year ago we were in Halifax visiting the city.  At this time of the year Wisteria is in bloom. I remember walking on the Corso Trieste in our neighbourhood in Rome and giant Wisteria plants would hang down, some stretching several floors on buildings.

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We are not out of the woods yet, only 11 cases in PEI all at home doing ok. Tonight the Premier announced that schools are not re-opening before mid-May if at all. What will happen to the kids school year? He has 3 kids and 2 of them will probably have to do work from home but it will not be easy. His oldest is at University and students are doing all courses online. Many parents are simply not equipped to teach their kids. We all know that the tourist Season is dead, the Lobster and seafood/fishing season will be in severe difficulties now, the export and local markets have vanished. The Prime Minister has announced a very generous financial support plan for companies and people affected.

On the family front, my sister and her husband both work in the Bronx at a big hospital as social workers and they have been told to prepare for a surge (50%) in patients next week. I am very worried for both of them. But one remains hopeful, we tell ourselves this will pass but there is so much uncertainty. It is really out of our hands.

A smile with food

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I just saw this and I like Chef John and his recipes. I thought this is a great recipe and it reminded me a lot of my years in Greece.  This is a real Greek recipe and tasted it, I am sure you will enjoy it. We need good news, we need that sunshine now. So why not think happy thoughts and for those of you who have been to Greece this will for sure bring memories.

Greek Lemon Chicken and potatoes:

Ingredients for 4 Portions Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes:

1 whole chicken, about 4 pound, cut in sections,

OR 4 pounds chicken thighs bone-in, skin-on

3 russet potatoes, cut in quarters

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 rounded tablespoon dried oregano

pinch of cayenne

6 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

2/3 cup chicken broth for the pan, plus a splash to deglaze after roasting

fresh chopped oregano to garnish

Roast at 425 for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is well browned and cooked through.

The video will show you how to do it all:

The day after…

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So yesterday was a gray day with light fluffy snow which melted before it even touched the ground. Given that the City is dead quiet, no car traffic, very few people, it is nice to have this kind of silence. We live by the Hillsborough river and the Cruise Port of Charlottetown in the old original part of this small town. It can get noisy and hectic with people, businesses and visitors. Now it’s quiet and am happy about it, though I realize it is so for all the wrong reasons.

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I had a wonderful Birthday, Will has a recipe for Pizza, making his own fresh dough, letting it rise and then he made fresh tomato sauce ( no jar or can stuff) with 3 topics no more, just like in Italy when we went to our favourite Pizza place, Disco Volante on Via Alessandria 50 or Pizzeria San Marino, Corso Trieste 163. The secret to any good pizza is freshness and made from scratch. The rest is absolute rubbish. For dessert we had a little dessert I made from a roll of puff pastry usually used for pies. So I simply unroll the dough, then I butter it up and then apply a generous portion of dark brown sugar, thin slices of Cortland Apples, a sprinkle of Raisins, sliced almonds. Then I roll it all up and put on a baking sheet covered in parchemin paper, I also use an egg wash on the dough for that nice golden colour. Bake for 18 min at 400 F. Voilà!

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Birthday Dessert with candles at 94 years young. WELL NO!!!!! Someone was having fun at my expense. Nonetheless the dessert was very good, if I say so myself.

We also had a bottle of Prosecco well chilled. Many people phoned me and I also got some fun videos and one was a live concert from my next door neighbours who are professional classical musicians. It all started at 8am with a delivery by a friend of a bouquet of live tulips. It was all great and I did promise everyone that once this is over we will have a proper party.

We only listened to the news at 9am and again late in the afternoon. Yesterday I was trying to find out what was going on in Parliament in Ottawa, where an emergency debate with a quorum of 30 Members took place to pass emergency financial help and other measures. The package was finally passed at 3am on Wednesday Morning 25 March, it was passed by the Senate today and on to the Governor General for Royal Assent.

I also refuse to listen to the CBC who is deliberately undermining the Government to get more click and bait.  We do have a wide choice nowadays of what you wish to listen to, with internet Radio I can listen to stations everywhere, like KBAQ 98.5 Fm in Phoenix.

The news in PEI is that we now have 5 cases. Also one liquor store, the big one on University Ave is re-opening, which is a good move, given that we are the only province in Canada who went so far as to close all liquor stores. Cannot imagine doing that in Quebec, their would be an insurrection. This is the Province where you can drink on Election day and enjoy a drink at 8am. In the rest of Canada it is NO liquor before noontime.

Today is another Sunny day, Spring is here and we are busy washing and cleaning the house. Curtains, floors, carpets etc… We also bought a Lampe Berger which is a French invention to purify the air and eliminate odours, it works like a charm. In 1898, a Pharmacist named Maurice Berger invented the Lampe Berger.

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He came up with the groundbreaking idea of using catalytic combustion to purify the air, and once he proved his theory, the Lampe Berger became a fixture in hospitals, morgues, and household throughout France.

I really had to go out for a short walk around the block and enjoy the fresh air and the Sun. The streets are deserted like Great George Street which leads to the Legislature.

 

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Finally at midnight tonight the Quarantine Act comes into effect nationwide. Too many people were not self-Isolating upon returning from foreign travel. Some real horror stories today of people deliberately infecting others knowingly because they did not want to be stopped and put in quarantine. A bit late but now at least its jail and fines for those people. So much for those nice Canadians.

 

Spoiler Alert!

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We live extraordinary events and the full consequences are not yet known, but we must hope for the best. So though we are not under lockdown yet in PEI, I have a strong feeling that it is coming. Today both the two largest provinces of Canada, Ontario and Quebec have closed down all businesses by decree with the exception of grocery stores, liquor stores and hospitals. That is a lot of people out of work all of a sudden with kids at home for what now looks like months to come.

Today I went to the supermarket to do a bit of shopping, items we needed. The store was quiet about 15 people in all in a large super store. All the shelves were stocked no shortages except for Schweppes Tonic Water, very strange indeed why no tonic water? But you have to remember that Gin Tonic is the drink of choice on the Island and with people at home drinking is the pastime. The only other counters that are now closed is the fresh cakes and pastries, though I never liked them too much sugar and the deli fresh meat section is closed all for sanitary reasons. But you can buy all the pre-package brands anyway. There is a lot of frozen cakes too and ice cream not to mention all those Easter Chocolates.

So we took a drive to Brackley Beach just 15 minutes away from our home in the National Park on the North Side of the Island. The park is beautiful with its Maritime Pine Forest, giant sand dunes and beach stretching for miles. It was pretty quiet and people do practice social distancing. The beach is covered with ice and snow and wet red sand typical of PEI.

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The air was fresh but no wind and the sea was calm, no waves. It is so tranquil, the world and its troubles very far away. The sea always fascinated me, it is enormous, vast and stretches to the horizon, you can imagine that Europe is out there beyond the curve of the Earth.

We also went to the Agency Liquor Store on St-Peter’s Road just outside the city, South of the Airport. It is a strange shop, part gas station, part convenience store and part hard liquor store. There are 4 such stores in PEI who are privately owned by the IRVING family who own just about everything in Maritime Canada. All our Government Liquor Stores are currently closed so these private stores make a killing selling booze.

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Our Wine cellar at home was out of Champagne or Prosecco and I absolutely needed a bottle for tomorrow. I got two and a bottle of red Italian wine. Though I could have driven to New Brunswick on the mainland of Canada for booze, this is currently not a good idea since I would have been obliged upon returning to the Island to spend 14 days in self-Isolation, meaning you cannot leave the house at all. The Premier and the Government of PEI today imposed fines for people who do not respect the rules on Self-Isolation which includes police visiting your house etc. The first fine is $1000 and the second fine is $10,000. So no we are staying put on PEI and not going anywhere. As the Prime Minister said today, now is time to stay home, enough is enough with not respecting the rules. In Nova Scotia next door it is even more strict, you can only walk your dog or yourself around your city block where you live or else. We must also stay 6 feet away from anyone else everywhere, including the grocery store.

So (spoiler Alert) I will not be having a big Birthday party tomorrow with a special cake as is the tradition, fireworks, balloons, large floral tributes, Mariachi band and chorus. It will be a very quiet affair, we will have our Prosecco, a nice dinner, and a special dessert. We won’t starve.

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Dessert of puff pastry, stuffed with butter, brown sugar and raisins 

 

Quarantaine

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We are currently facing a terrible pandemic around the World but humans throughout history faced much worse and much more devastating epidemics.

Between 1450 and 1660 Rome suffered plagues of all kinds almost every two to three years. Large amounts of people would die. The City then was also in full expansion and each Pope used armies of artists to build up public spaces we all enjoy today as tourists. The ancient Roman Aqueducts were also rebuilt to bring clean fresh water to the City of about 120,000 people. But nonetheless unsanitary conditions existed and thus the devastating plagues.

In 1656 the latest plague hit the city during the Papacy of Pope Alexander VII who wanted to see an end to such regular pandemics, he asked Cardinal Girolamo Gastaldi to use his knowledge to find a solution. Cardinal Gastaldi had written a treatise based on ancient texts about how to contain plagues. He proposed the concept of Quarantine based on the 40 days phenomenon often referred in Biblical texts. It was effective, punishment for anyone not respecting the quarantine rules were severe and thus health was restored to the City.

If you visit Rome, Piazza Del Popolo which was designed by Bernini, it has two churches at one end of the great piazza. The one on the left is known as Santa Maria di Montesanto or the Artists Church, Cardinal Girolama Gastaldi is buried there.

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Piazza del popolo, Rome and the Church of  Santa Maria di Montesanto

Quiet

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Charlottetown PEI, city centre Kent Street at Queen Street, the building with the tower is City Hall. This is the look of what should be a busy intersection on any day. Parking is usually a big problem, how things have changed since 11 March. There is no end in sight, though it has to be noted that Prince Edward Island only has 2 cases of Covid 19 and both persons are at home in quarantine. So far 165 people tested all negative. Our isolation as an Island in the Gulf of St-Lawrence and our very small population at 150K helps.

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So what do we do all day? Well cleaning house, washing clothes, taking care of our two little monsters Nicky and Nora and cooking a lot and discovering new website with good recipes. So Lori Brown in Imoden, Arkansas, Whipperwill Hollow and Sheryl who lives South of Glasgow, Scotland, What’s for tea and the Lazy Cook, Pete Thomas.  There is also a lady from Newfoundland who does typical Newfie cuisine which is very typical of The Rock, Bonita’s Kitchen, she had a recipe today for Corned Beef patties, she also had another one for White Bread Cod Pudding with a butter sauce. I know it is good because years ago Mrs Crosbie who was the wife of John Crosbie then Minister of Finance in 1980 in the Rt Hon. Joe Clark’s government made a Cod au Gratin dish that was superb for a dinner I was attending. Cod was and still is important in the folk cuisine of Newfoundland.

I did make a Potato, Leek and sharp cheddar cheese pie with puff pastry that the Lazy Cook Peter Thomas showed us, that was very good and very British, something to have at Tea time which I have now come to understand is a full meal like supper for us. This dish can be eaten cold or hot, versatile.

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Before going into the oven at 400 F or 200 C. for 35 minutes. The puff pastry with the  Star pattern makes it festive. Very good pie! I think the sharp Aged Cheddar makes a big difference in the taste.

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This is a little dessert I invented with the left over puff pastry, simply butter, raisins and cassonade (golden brown sugar) in the oven at 350 F for 18 minutes. Delicious!

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Will also made banana muffins and today he made a beef Goulash 

Also because we are not under total lockdown like in some other countries, it is possible to walk around town for the moment but that could change at any moment. Charlottetown’s core is still very much a residential district with one main business street, Queen. Other streets are either commercial for one or two blocks like Kent Street or Euston, or Grafton. So it is pleasant to walk around. On these walks I do notice how much gentrification is going on and how the prices of properties have shot up in the last 24 months. Now with this on-going Health crisis with no end in sight, prices will probably tumble.

This weekend is also the beginning of the Persian New Year with the Festival of Nourooz so I took a picture of my miniature Orchid by friend Minoo of BelFiore on Elgin Street had in her shop 6 years ago. It flowers 4 times a year and it is my sunshine in the kitchen. Very vibrant colours.

Despite the quiet, we phone our friends and talk to people on Facetime, keeping in touch and busy is very important and only listen to the news twice a day no more, simply so we don’t go bonkers. Take care and stay safe.

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Poem by Wendell Berry

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“The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.