Music and the Season


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Since we do not have a TV at home we listen to a lot of radio programming. Lately I have been switching from CBC to Radio Canada, it is very interesting to observe that the same Crown Corporation has such different programming for two very different audiences, might as well live in completely different countries.

The CBC/Radio-Canada broadcast all across Canada to all regions over 6 time zones. Most of the programming comes either from Toronto for the English service and Montreal for the French service. Some of the programming is regional like here in the Maritimes to cater to local taste and offer regional news.

But the differences are deeper, discussion topics are also presented differently, in English care is given to a politically correct approach in what is said and in the presentation. Different cultures and different mentalities, the two solitudes 60 years later and despite 35 years of official multiculturalism, these differences between French and English communities remain.

This morning on Radio-Canada being 18 March and with Easter approaching, the host of the Sunday morning show was explaining how Sacred Music had little place on the radio nowadays if compared with some 40 years ago. It is true that even at Christmas time radio stations including State Broadcaster have a tendency to stick to the more secular pieces, they may do Messiah but not much else. Radio-Canada will play more French Christmas music of European and Canadian tradition and promote French culture at the same time. So the host told us that he wanted to play the work of J.S.Bach, the Saint Matthew Passion, a very reflective piece on the theme of Easter. It was a beautiful recording with great voices. We are still a few days away from Easter Week and Good Friday so in modern terms it was early for such music but on a Sunday it was the perfect moment.  The CBC will also have Sacred Music on Sunday’s like Choral Concerts but may stick to a more restricted schedule of the actual Easter Weekend.

This does not mean that French speaking Canada is more religious not at all, it is more in the remembering of old traditions and how things use to be done or this is how the host of the program presented it.

The music of JS Bach’s sent me in a reflective mood again this being my Birthday week, I get like that each year.

On the other hand, in another completely different field of music, they were playing some Johnny Mathis songs last night and of course the 1957 hit Chances are came on. I can say that this is music for my generation and grew up listening to such music which I like.







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The definition of the word Nostalgia is thus; a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

I always get this at this time of the year as my birthday approaches. Lately we have been listening to Radio-Canada the French language national broadcaster whose head office in is Montreal. They have a lot more music than the English service of the CBC in Toronto who appear to be big on talk show, Radio-Canada also has a wider choice of music, I find it more agreeable.

Radio-Canada plays a broad range of classical music and popular music but will do more retro music from the 1930’s to 1970’s, Brazilian, South American, West African, Middle Eastern. I do prefer it to the mostly American/Canadian hipster music played on the CBC which is very limiting and who has developed the unfortunate habit of talking to listeners as if they were 5 years old and on the French service you do not get news every hour.

So here is this song by Tony Bennett, I left my heart in San Francisco which was a favourite of my parents, I heard it last night on the radio programme C’est si bon, I remember this song from the late 1960’s, lots of family memories.  I visited San Francisco in 1982 and stayed at the St-Francis Hotel, the have a very good memory of the city. Another song by Peggy Lee, my favourite being Is that all there is, again it brings back vivid memories of Montreal between 1966-1972 the downtown core.  All this was 50 years ago but it was a far more optimistic period than what we see today.  A lot of the people I knew then are gone now and the City has changed beyond recognition. This is not to say that we did not have a good life afterwards. Like a lot of people the past it seems was less complicated than life today one wonders about all the change and if there is just a little too much of it.



Tulip a sign of Spring


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PEI grown tulips have now appeared everywhere, they are grown here on the Island by Vanco a Dutch/Canadian family, their grow operation is just a few minutes away from Charlottetown.

On Sunday we will change the clocks to one hour forward Canada Atlantic Time. This means that days will automatically be longer with more sun light, so a strong signal that Spring is here. Someone told me today that the Cruise ships will be back in 8 weeks, we are scheduled to receive 94 cruise ships carrying on average 2000 passengers this year. Yes they all come up Prince Street and make a left turn at Water Street, they pass under my window, all of them. Walking with maps etc the way tourists do in every city in the World, oh joy!

Winter 2017-18 has been mild, no major storms and very little snow, I call it a European Winter though Europe got a lot more snow than we did. We always have very high wind storm in the 60 to 90Km range which can be spooky if you are not use to them, but living on the Island in Winter you become accustomed quickly.

Since 15 February (Canadian Flag Day) I have been busy with my municipal electoral campaign. The key is to meet everyone at least twice in my Ward, population 2300.

Given that a lot of our friends and neighbours have gone South this Winter, I was starting to think that we too should have gone away for at least one week. Now I have so many commitments that it is somewhat difficult to get away.

As a little project I decided to look at our book shelves again, in the last 40 yrs we have done this periodically. Many books have been given away to the Library or sold at the Used Book store for 0.50 cents. On our trips we often pick-up pamphlets of places we visited and will read them but after a few years they become irrelevant and sit forlorn on the shelve, time to go out.

I just discovered a Williams-Sonoma Easter Menus by Chuck Williams who died at 100 in 2015, the recipes look interesting but I know we are not going to do this for Easter this year or in years to come.

I also discovered books on Canadian Cuisine, one on Fish dishes published in 1959 and the other is the famous cookbook of Chef Jehane Benoit publishes in 1970, she compiled Canadian recipes from all 10 provinces, demonstrating that Canadian Cuisine does exist and is varied. Unfortunately nowadays you would be hard pressed to find a Canadian who knows anything about Canadian original dishes. This is why I am disappointed when people point out Poutine as a Canadian dish when in fact it’s was created in 1957 by a truck driver who had little to eat and combined a bunch of ingredients he had on hand. Later cheap eateries to make a fast buck started to feature it on menus.

And in 2 weeks another Birthday will be upon me, years roll by with alarming frequency. I calculated that if I live to be as old as my parents, I should have another 23 years to go, not bad really, but strange nonetheless.


I leave you with this beautiful photo of the driveway of the Official Residence of H.E. the Ambassador of Canada to the Empire of Japan in Tokyo. It is called Marler House after it’s builder Sir Herbert Marler who in 1931 built at his own expense this magnificent residence famed for its spectacular gold leaf ceiling in the grand dining room and its silver leaf ceiling in the morning room. The house is across the street from one of the Imperial Palaces in central Tokyo and sits in a grand park. I visited this famed residence about 10 years ago, one word comes to mind, elegance.




Books I read lately


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Some years ago Will got a book entitled  ” When London was the Capital of America” by Julie Flavell. The book is the story of colonial America and though we forget it prior to 1776 London was the Imperial Capital of all British North America, it included the 13 original colonies and the territories south, after 1763 it also included all of Canada which had passed from French domination to British after the end of the Seven Year War and the Treaty of Paris.

Flavell debunks a lot of myths about America before 1776 and its white colonists. It was the practice for American colonists especially those with money to send their sons and daughters to London or Geneva for a proper education and to learn manners and etiquette and to become proper gentleman and ladies. This was very important for social status in the American colonies, you could not be considered educated if you did not have a British education. Geneva on the other hand provided a good Calvinist upbringing and had no vice like London.

American colonists in London lived in fashionable neighbourhoods in and around Temple Bar and Westminster and St-James Palace. Most of them were prosperous merchants and Plantation owners, arriving in London with their African slaves from Virginia and the Carolinas.

Those slaves who only knew of life on a plantation suddenly discovered that in London they had a great deal of liberty and that many white people were in fact living in horrible poverty and neglect. The only whites they had encountered in America had better lives than they did,  in London these African slaves lived and worked in genteel surroundings in great houses, they also saw that in England there was lots of white servants and they were equal to them. The African slaves invented the expression ” White trash” to speak of all those poor whites living on the streets of London. This is how their white masters saw all the poor below them socially.

African slaves who arrived regularly and in large numbers from America with their masters were dressed in elegant livery and since no slavery laws existed in England could go about society since their masters had little leverage over them in this foreign environment. London ladies found those Africans handsome and took them as lovers and even married them, which cause no end of distress and disgust among plantation owners visiting London with their families, in America the strict segregation of races was in force but not so in England.  Some Slaves being enterprising would set themselves up in business after leaving their American masters who were powerless to enforce rights they had in America. In fact the Londoners would look down on those American colonists for their treatment of slaves, it cause quite a lot of social friction.

The book also shows that there was no American archetype prior to 1776, the so called mythological American hero challenging England.  American colonists were in manners and speech just like the British in London, even Benjamin Franklin was very much trying to emulate Londoners and the English gentlemen. The American in London telling off the Londoners with speeches about democracy and freedom is nothing more than an elaborate myth.

The entire period from 1720 onward was also one of reform in England socially and politically, the issues were the same, the Westminster Parliament was controlled by the Aristocracy and the Court around the King. The British were no happier with this situation than the American colonists.  In England the Government of Lord North was very unpopular and in America the ham fisted response to events like the Boston Tea Party was seen as a provocation by the colonists. However when the revolution started in 1776 many American colonists simply packed their bags and left for England or Canada, thousands did so. Selling their property and moving,  the revolution was not embraced by all and it had little to do with Freedom and more with political reform which was coming in England. In America it was more a question of poor handling of a political situation and the arrogance of the Aristocracy thinking it could use the British army against colonists at will.

The book follows real people like the Henry Laurens family of South Carolina, wealthy plantation owners who spend a lot of time in England and in Geneva educating their children. This family will play a prominent role in the revolution and in the new republic. The author gives us through her research in family letters and journals a very clear picture of who they were and is also able to give us a portrait of the family slave Robert Scipio Laurens who will leave his master and make a new life for himself in England.  She also devotes chapters to others like John Laurens son of Henry who after brilliant education in London will die in one of the last battles of the American revolution in 1783. John Allen from Pennsylvania, Ralph Izard and many others also get their stories told, they all lived in the same area in London and knew each other well.

The book is a fascinating look at America and London as its capital and how society functioned something that is too often overlooked. I highly recommend this easy to read and well researched book.



How the calendar changed


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We always assume that the way we speak of years in history let’s say from Before the Common Era BCE known until 30 years ago as BC (before christ) or CE common era as AD Anno Domine which is no longer used in historical research, was the way to speak of times past. Per example Julius Cesar and Cicero lived before Christ and died before him but they and society around them did not say, oh we are 45 years before Christ and next year we will be 44 years before him. The Romans and everyone else had their own calendar for the months of the year and ways of counting the months and the years which was based on the day of the foundation of the City of Rome by Romulus on 21 April.

It was the Catholic Church who started to mark time in terms of before and after Christ by using the Liturgical calendar, the birth of Christ was the year 0. The church calendar became the only calendar to use. Thus marking the break with the old pagan world and forcing everyone to accept the new Faith which did not go very well.

In Republican times Julius Cesar added January and February to the calendar and decried that years would now start on 1 January. That was in 708 which marks 708 since the foundation of Rome, the year 0 for them, previously the year started on the 1 March.

The Church would many centuries later alter 708 to 45 BCE to correspond with Christ Birth.  The Church when it finally became official in 313 CE and no longer seen as a strange Jewish sect following some convicted criminal called Jesus decided to continue with the Julian Calendar. But given that the Roman administration continued in the West until 476 CE counting of the years was still based on the foundation of Rome. It changed very gradually and slowly first in the Papal States and gradually elsewhere in the Western world. In the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, Constantinople (Istanbul) falls only in 1453 to the Ottoman Turks.

Then Pope Gregory XIII who reigned from 1572 to 1585,  came up with the Gregorian Calendar to correct a problem with the Julian calendar, each year was short due to a calculation mistake some 15 centuries prior. So Pope Gregory decried that in all of Christendom, the correct year would be 1582 and not 2335 under the old Roman calendar. If we still followed the Calendar of Rome and the old Julian way of counting years based on the foundation date of the City of Rome we would be in 2771 and not 2018. I wonder if we would all look a lot older?

The problem, not everyone adopted the new calendar. The Russian Orthodox Church rejected this idea because they have their own Pope or Patriarch and do not recognize the Bishop of Rome as Pope.  Russia and Greece continued with the revised Julian Calendar until 1900. In Western Europe since the ruling Prince or King had to decree a change in the calendar it took many years for every one to adapt to the new Gregorian Catholic Calendar. The German States is a case in point, some Principalities were majority Catholic, i.e. Bavaria, they changed the calendar in 1582 but others like Saxony were Protestant refused to do so and used a revised Julian calendar, eventually for mercantile reasons they too rallied to the new ways. So depending where you were in the World it was either one or the other Calendar. Of course many other calendars existed or still exist all around the world, Muslims 1440 and Hebrew 5778 and the Persian Calendar 1397, in China, Chinese New Year 2018″ is actually celebrating the onset of the year 4716, commemorating the reign of the Yellow Emperor, the asserted beginning of Chinese civilization by the ethnic Hàn Chinese. With the 20th century the world all got in synch finally.  Funny how we take from granted the way we look at things today.


 In 1582 some 11 days were added which explains the jump from 4 to 15 October

The Year of Wu Xu

My Asian zodiac sign is the Monkey

Monkey natives like you are used to getting their own way in life. But during the year of the earth Dog, some of your challenges may revolve around having to form alliances with people you’d prefer to avoid.

At work, you shine when you become a true team player, while in love, dropping your guard ever so slightly elevates you both. Your natural creativity shines during the winter months, when you could find that someone wants to pay you for your talents.

The adventures you have may be somewhat calmer than in other years, but ultimately much more rewarding. Friends and relatives are more important than ever.

2018 is the year of the earth Dog, who works in surprising ways across the Chinese Zodiac.

Here is the story presented by Will in his blog


With the appearance of the new moon last evening a goodly portion of the world’s population welcomed in a New Year: the year of the Earth Dog – Wu-Xu, the 35th year in the 60 year cycle of the Chinese Calendar. And though we tend to think of it as Chinese Festival it is celebrated […]

via Gung Ha Fat Choy – Gong Xi Fa Cai — Willy Or Won’t He

Campaign trail


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For several months now I have been preparing for my candidacy as City Councillor in Ward 1 in Charlottetown. Ward 1 as the name indicates is the old original footprint of Charlottetown of 1765 when the city grid was designed on paper by Captain Samuel Holland and others. The story goes that the grid pattern is copied from a Roman Military Camp, the centre occupied by the Commander’s tent and his entourage, here we call it Queen’s Square with the Legislature building and other government buildings in a park setting. The other city streets all lead to this rectangular park, the main ceremonial avenue Great George starts at the river bank and is cut in two by Queen’s Park. Other green squares in the city are distributed in this plan. It is not a large ward physically speaking and can be walked easily from one end to the other, about 2100 people live in Ward 1.

Because of the many challenges facing our Ward in the coming years and the lack of effective representation at City Council, our present councillor has been missing in action for the last 7 months, I, like many others worry that we are not well represented and are forgotten at decision making time.

Ward 1 is a hub as the business downtown core, tourist central, cruise ship terminal, cultural and artistic centre and a residential neighbourhood of beautiful and well preserved mansions on average 180 years old. It is very difficult to imagine Charlottetown without Ward 1.

Given my decades long work experience in government, national and municipal, on the international scene and in Canada, I know the processes and I am interested in applying myself to modernizing the municipal government in Charlottetown, to make it more responsive to what the residents want. I propose to do that during this election campaign by visiting each resident of the ward and also businesses and service groups.

The actual voting day is November 5 but there is a lot of work to do and people to meet. I do not want to leave anything to chance and do not take victory for granted. This is a great opportunity to learn.




One of my favourite stores


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There is always a store or stores which are favourites for their wares on offer and the service they give customers. In Italy I had several such stores, elegant, beautiful and with a certain flair. In London I like Liberty with its Tudor revival architecture on Regent street or Selfridges on Oxford street.

In Berlin I like KaDeWe as it is called by the locals but whose name is Kaufhaus des Westens on Tauentzienstrasse the closest U-Bahn station is Wittenbergplatz.

With over 60,000 square metres of selling space and more than 380,000 articles available on 7 floors and with a beautiful restaurant on the roof. The store was founded in 1907 their motto is Live the Lifestyle you love.

The so-called “Luxury Boulevard” is also situated here, with Bulgari, Burberry, Cartier, Céline, Chanel, Chopard, Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Hermès, Miu Miu, Montblanc, Longchamp, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Rolex, Tiffany & Co., Tod’s, Vertu, Wellendorff and Yves Saint Laurent . So many beautiful things to look at and possibly buy.


The story of KaDeWe goes like this, when the store opened Berlin was the capital of the German Empire, a cosmopolitan and crowded city with 800.000 inhabitants, full of museums, theatres and auditoriums, provided with a notable infrastructure it was a rich, proud and happy city.

KaDeWe located in Tauentzienstrasse, near to the fashionable Ku´damm was a symbol of  that spirit, the golden times: an elegant place to spend time in the beauty salon or the tearoom and to buy tailored dresses or delicatessen and caviar in the famous food court.

Kadewe, survived the First World War disaster, it was even enlarged in the uncertain times of the Weimar Republic, but like the city it was a victim of the Nazi Dictatorship: the jewish owners the Hermann Tietz group was forced in 1933 to sell the Department Store due to the boycott of the banks that refused to grant any credit after the implementation of the Nuremberg race laws. Within a few days, the Tietz family had sold all of its stock in the company to its creditors, among them Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, and the Dresdner Bank, for somewhere around 10% of their market value. The family eventually left Germany for the USA. The Dresdner Bank promoted the store Manager to CEO and Georg Karg profited from this war opportunity.  In 1949 the Tietz family received some financial compensation and 3 buildings from Georg Karg, they rebuilt part of their commercial holdings in Germany with success. In 2008 the family received more compensation on bank account holdings which had been confiscated in 1934 by the Nazi regime.

After years of Nazi management of Kadewe, in 1943 an American warplane crashed into it, the building burnt to the ground, a ruin until 1950, it became a metaphor of the ruined city.


The restoration of the KaDeWe building was a symbol of the resurgence of West Berlin, the new beginning, it also became a hated monument to consumption in East Berlin.

After the German reunification in 1989, the Department Store became once again the best-known in Germany and the largest one in the European continent with 60,000 square metres of sales floors. The store was completely renovated between 2004-2007 of the centennial anniversary, nowadays is the third most visited attraction in Berlin after the Bundestag (Reichstag) and the Brandenburg Gate.



The roof top restaurant and the food hall with a Moet Champagne bar to relax from all the shopping. Today KaDeWe is owned by the Central Group from Thailand. If you visit Berlin go and shop at KaDeWe it is a very nice experience.

A picture of town


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The picture of the waterfront of Charlottetown in mid-1960’s show how industrial the waterfront was with its port facilities, railway yard and vestiges of the 19th century ship building period. If compared to today’s waterfront park, the area is unrecognizable. In 1989 with the demise of the railway in the Province, all rail equipment was removed and instead parks and hiking trails were built, now covering extensive areas not only in the Capital but across the Province.


At the bottom of the photo is the old potato storage terminal, today it’s the Cruise ship terminal completely rebuilt and renovated. Behind it the rail yards  and a rail car repair shop now transformed into a great hall soon to become a Farmer’s Market. Next to it the old oil tank park of a giant oil company, the tank park disappeared and now the area is totally transformed into a lush green park known as Confederation Landing, a gift of the City of Quebec who shares with Charlottetown in 1864 the honour of hosting the conferences which led to the formation of Canada. Next to that more empty land now occupied by the Conference centre and the Delta Hotel, shops and restaurants. This coming Summer Charlottetown will welcome 94 cruise ships from various companies with over 100,000 passengers landing a few meters away from my house.


The waterfront today, you cannot recognize it.