A little Christmas music

Here the band of the Blue and Royals Household Cavalry play some Christmas Music.





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Well  the whirlwind of events continues, with Christmas approaching. There is no war on Christmas here, decorations and Christmas theme events are everywhere, numerous Christmas Fairs, so many in fact that you can easily chose which one you want to go to and which one to skip. Concerts, choirs performing, parties of all sorts.

We started with a Christmas dinner on 2 Dec at the Homestead of Sir Andrew MacPhail in Orwell. We reserved for the dinner because the capacity is under 30, the Seasonal food was wonderful, everything they serve is from the farm and garden and the price of the dinner was very reasonable.  The Fair at the MacPhail Homestead was so beautiful. I think what I like about the Homestead is how this once private home has kept its character as if Sir Andrew was just about to walk in on you, there is no crowds ever. The Fair to raise funds for their operations, we bought a beautiful Queen size wool blanket from MacAusland’s Woollen Mills of PEI located in Bloomfield in Prince County about 90 minutes West from Charlottetown.


the tree on the enclosed veranda of the MacPhail home.


Stollen, marzipan potato and jam by Sabina


The dinner table in the old dining room of the Sir Andrew in front of the fireplace with of course the oil portrait of Sir Andrew in his academic robes from McGill University in Montreal.

At the Homestead we met Sabina Schönknecht from Murray Harbour North who has beehives, makes preserves, Stollen at Christmas and also sells Marzipan as a treat and makes her own dog biscuit. In the Summer she also has chickens but they are European not North American, meaning they are black. See Lucky Bee Homestead on Facebook. Sabina is originally from Dresden in Germany a city we know well. This Season we also went to the one at the Eastlink Centre just East of our home and the Farmer’s on Queen Street just up a few steps from us.

Many of the Fairs are organized to raise funds for an historic site like the MacPhail Homestead or for a charity. There is a lot of poverty amongst our small population of 150,000 on the Island and this time of the year, there are loads of food drives organized by social clubs, the National Broadcaster CBC, Farmer’s, businesses like Receiver Coffee Co. and Churches. They always manage to feed and provide Christmas cheer to many poor Islanders.

Then because I work as a volunteer at the Official Residence of our Lieutenant-Governor we were invited to dinner at Fanningbank, the house is named after General Sir Edmund Fanning who in 1789 reserved 100 acres of parkland for the exclusive use of the Crown. The house itself is in the Palladian-Greek revival Style built in 1834.




Our new Lieutenant-Governor H.H. Antoinette Perry is an Acadian from Tignish, up West. She is also a musical teacher and plays both the piano and the organ regularly, she loves to have the guests sing while she plays on the piano. When we meet we always speak in French.

Will had a birthday and we had guests for the event, he got some pretty impressive gifts. He really cannot complain.


We also went to a Service of Lessons and Carols at St-Peter’s Anglican Cathedral on Rochford Square. It was in the old style Anglican Service and the Lieutenant-Governor came always accompanied by her Aide-de-Camp in full uniform. There was a small buffet afterwards and we had the most splendid Smoke Salmon from Lord’s in St-John New Brunswick.

Now we are looking at Xmas Eve dinner and Xmas day luncheon in Vernon Bridge at friends. For New Year’s Eve I was thinking we could go to the Haviland Club which is at the end of Water street, again steps away from our home, so we can drink and celebrate and walk home.


The Haviland Club in Charlottetown, a former private residence built in the Italianate style.


This Wednesday 13 December marks a very sad anniversary in PEI, that of the violent deportation of the Acadians in 1758. Thousands died at the hands of British troops who were sent to occupy the Island then named Saint-Jean. It was an early episode of ethnic cleansing and the Mi’kMaq people did not fair better. Every year there is a ceremony at Port La-Joye (Fort Amherst) to commemorate the deportation of the Acadians who left the Island on boats often un-sea worthy. Two of those ships Duke William and Violet carrying more than 600 people sank on their way to England, the Captains, Officers and crews were saved but all passengers/prisoners perished.

The photo shows pilgrims at Port La-Joye which is the entrance to the harbour of Charlottetown and faces the Strait of Northumberland. The flag in the photo is the Acadian National Flag with the yellow star Stella Maris. Many of those who survived the horrors of British occupation returned after 1765, some hid in remote areas of the Island in what is called the Evangeline region (Prince County).



The controversy over a tree


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With the Christmas Season all manners of public Xmas trees are going up in various cities. Some cities go for the big display and a giant tree with loads of lights strategically placed as a symbol of the City, a kind of tourism promotion.

This week in Rome the giant Xmas trees have been unveiled, one at the central Train Station TERMINI by Piazza della Repubblica and another one in the centre of the City at Piazza Venezia. In years past the tree at Piazza Venezia which is located in front of the Altar to the nation was a natural tree, this year it is a metal contraption looking like a big cone. It did not take long for people to criticize the decision of the city, newspapers carried editorials and reporting. In Rome everything is about style and look, it is so important to the Romans.


Xmas tree at the entrance of the Termini Train Station, this one is liked by many, not a natural tree but looks more traditional.


Here is the natural tree at Piazza Venezia in 2016.


Here is the 2017 version of the Xmas tree at Piazza Venezia in front of the Altar to the Nation. It does look like a giant metallic snow cone. Few like it, not stylish and not traditional. After all this is the central piazza of the city, who could be so gauche as to make this choice. You can see how big it is if you look at the people. I really don’t like it much.

Now across the Tiber river on the Vatican hill in the Papal State of the Holy See in Piazza San Pietro in front of the basilica is the Roman Catholic Church’s version of their annual Christmas tree unveiled tonight. For the occasion the bells of St-Peter peal and the Papal band plays military marches, there is usually a pretty good crowd. The ceremony of the unveiling is presided by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, Governor of the City State of the Vatican.


The tree this year is a gift of the Archdiocese of Elk in Poland.


A more dramatic shot from the colonnade of Bernini looking into the Piazza.

A beautiful painting


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Adolf Senff (1785-1863) started out as a theologian in Leipzig, before working as a private tutor to the children and students of painter Gerhard von Kügelgens (1772– 1820). Although he was already active as a painter and portraitist in Leipzig from 1813–14, it was only after the war on France, for which he volunteered, that he truly dedicated himself to the arts. He lived in Rome between 1816 and 1848 where he befriended the famous sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844).


Night with her children Sleep and Death.

I think this is a beautiful painting of Night presented as a motherly figure with her two children who represent the human condition. Painting at the Staatlicher Museum in Berlin.


For Advent


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Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming.” Jesus is coming, and Advent is intended to be a season of preparation for His arrival. While we typically regard Advent as a joyous season, it is also intended to be a period of preparation, much like Lent. Prayer, penance and fasting are appropriate during this season. In Rome the Pope comes from the Vatican in procession escorted by cavalry to Piazza di Spagna in central Rome to put flowers at the top of the column (original from the temple of Venus) where a statue of the Virgin Mary is placed. The statue itself is reworked from an original being Minerva, goddess of Wisdom. All the religious congregations in the City come for this event each year. In recent years given the age of the Pontiff and the height of the column the Fire brigade take up the wreath of flowers.



The Immaculate Conception, baroque painting by Spanish Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664) in the Church of Saint-Gervais, Le Marais, Paris.

The Feast is celebrated on 8 December.

laurent spanish steps.jpg

Here I am in Rome at Piazza di Spagna in front of the famous fountain of della Barcaccia a Baroque-style fountain found at the foot of the Spanish Steps by sculptor Pietro Bernini. The Column to the Immaculate Conception is behind me surrounded by a large crowd on 8 December 2009. At the foot of the column sit 4 Jewish Patriarchs and Prophets Moses, Ezekiel, David and Isaiah.

The Marian monument was designed in 1857 by the architect Luigi Poletti, the actual figure atop was sculpted by Giuseppe Obici and commissioned by Ferdinand II, King of the Two Sicilies.


The Pope as a visiting Head of State to the territory of the Italian Republic is greeted upon arrival by the Mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi and several other Italian dignitaries.

Little ideas for Christmas


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Many years ago, well about 40 years ago, I remember a conversation about Christmas and meals, it had to do with what people did, one person mentioned that in her family it was always the same thing, turkey, mash potatoes and green peas, gravy and stuffing.

I thought how absolutely boring and awful, the same old thing every year, pleeeease!!!

My father always liked different things for Christmas and because he was an hotel manager, would ask the Chef to prepare something different, out of the ordinary.  One year I still remember, I must have been 15 years old then, we had Scallops in Moutarde de Meaux and cream sauce as a main dish on Christmas Eve.

One Christmas followed another and were always different and unusual. Even the tree was out of the ordinary. With my Dad it had to be, he wanted innovative, something not done by anyone.

We also had Christmas around the world, only to discover that this Holiday is very much a North American thing, in many countries were I served, Christmas was not really a holiday at all but a Western World import. The most beautiful Christmas trees and lavish food for the holiday Season was in Poland. In Italy there was no tree per se, because it is a Northern European tradition, but lots of other dishes connected to a time when Noël was a secondary holiday to Easter in the Christian calendar. In China it was largely a big consumer thing around Santa Claus, the Chinese under Communist rule had no idea what it was and pushed instead shopping as a Xmas concept, very sterile. In Mexico we had great traditions mixed with old native beliefs and will never forget that Christmas night we were in the Zocalo after midnight at the Cathedral built on top of the former great pyramid of the Aztec gods. We were able to hear the choir and see the giant choir books from the time of Hernan Cortes.

In Egypt and Jordan being Muslim countries the holiday was celebrated in a muted way though Muslims recognize Jesus as a Prophet of God and Mary has one chosen by God (Allah) with special reverence. In Jordan King Hussein Bin Talal, a great man if there ever was one, he would visit the Christians churches in Amman and bring gifts and greetings to his Christian subjects. King Hussein was a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. His son King Abdallah II continues this tradition.

We do keep one tradition at Christmas and that is to have a home made Plum Pudding and to rotate dishes each year, from crown of lamb to prime rib roast beef to roasted goose. But other dishes are also important to have.

Looking at recipes here are some favourites from Dame Delia, CBE and Companion of Honour ;


Potted Pork with Juniper and Thyme, with a Marmalade of Apples, Raisins and Shallots


Prawn Cocktail


Coarse Country Pate


Chestnut Soup with Bacon and Thyme Croutons


Duck Liver Pâté with Armagnac


Rillettes of Duck with Confit of Cranberries


Pheasant Terrine

Something truly different and fun for your holiday menu. I somewhat favour patés and terrines which are good for lunch and breakfast too.


Correcting a terrible wrong


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From 1945 onwards the Cold war between the new super powers, USA-USSR (Russia)and the race for atomic weapons created quite a lot of paranoia in the world. In North America the no.1 enemy was the Communists and the sleeper agents hiding among us. In Canada it all started with the defection of a Russian clerk at the USSR Embassy in Ottawa.  In September 1945 Igor Gouzenko gives to the Canadian government 109 secret documents showing a high level of Soviet espionnage in Canada and networks trying to steal Nuclear secrets. At first the Canadian government did not want to believe him and offered  no help. Only several days later did our government wake-up to the hard reality while Gouzenko and his family lived in fear of assassination by KGB agents operating in Ottawa. Following this affair which caused grave embarrassment to Canada in the UK several British defectors like Kim Philby, Anthony Burgess, Donald MacLean, Anthony Blunt attracted a lot of attention when it was discovered that they were all Soviet Agents and working as British diplomats and MI6 agents caused a great deal of chaos in the intelligence service. There were links between the allies and secrets were shared between Canada-Britain and the USA on Nuclear matter and other sensitive dossiers since the war years and closer cooperation developed after the war.

In Canada the response of the Government was to create an Official policy of hunting and getting rid of government employees, Foreign Service Officers and Armed Forces personnel if they were suspected of being Homosexuals. The RCMP and the Military Police would arrest and interrogate severely anyone suspected of being homosexual. Under duress and threatened with exposure in the newspapers, some quit, others were dismissed and some committed suicide. Lives were ruined, careers terminated, all because these persons were homosexuals and for no other reasons. This official practice continued until 1989 and officially ended in 1997, years after the Cold War was over. On the other hand men who were known womanizers or sexual predators, alcoholics or drug addicts were not worried at all. There was a misogynist attitude in Officialdom to justify the hunt for homosexuals an attitude difficult to understand today. I too witnessed it and was appalled at the heartless attitude of management. This type of policy also encouraged racism and bigotry all in the name of combatting communism.

This week in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an Official apology to all those who suffered for no other reason that they were identified as homosexuals. The Prime Minister called it our collective shame. Their criminal records will be expunged and a compensation fund of $100 million dollar is set aside for the survivors. This apology by the Government of Canada was long overdue, but now it is done.

Some 46 years ago it was his father Pierre E. Trudeau then Prime Minister who decriminalized sex between consenting male adults, declaring famously to the House of Commons that the Government had no business in the bedroom of the Nation. It was at the time a very bold move and received a lot of flak from various sectors of society.


The Prime Minister in the House of Commons with members of the Government standing, making the apology. Tuesday 28 November 2017.




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Some great Christmas traditions we enjoyed through the years, not to forget the Xmas markets during Advent on our visits to Munich.

The first Christmas tree in Canada was lit at Sorel, Québec, in 1781, by Baroness Frederika von Riedesel, wife of the commander of the Brunswick and Hessian troops who fought alongside the British against the Americans in the Revolutionary War.


Major General Friedrich Adolf von Riedesel, was born at Lauterbach, Hesse, Germany, in 1738. In 1776 he landed in Canada in charge of a large contingent of soldiers sent by the Duke of Brunswick to defend Canada and help General John Burgoyne put down the American Revolution. The Baroness, known as “Lady Fritz”, followed in 1777, even though she had two small children and was expecting another.


In October of that year, the Americans captured the von Riedesel family at the Battle of Saratoga. They spent two years in captivity and two further years paroled in the U.S., before they were allowed to return to Quebec. In September of 1781, Governor Lord Haldimand posted the General to Fort Sorel where the Richelieu River flows into the St. Lawrence River. The couple, and their four daughters Augusta, Frederika, Caroline, and America, first lived in a private home, but a few days before Christmas Eve, they moved into a new stone house on the site of the present Maison des Gouverneurs in the town.

On Christmas Eve, Lady Fritz hosted a party of officers, with a traditional Christmas plum pudding for the English, and a small candle-lit Christmas fir tree, its branches decorated with fruits and candies, for the Germans. On Christmas day, her four girls had their “Weihnachtsbaum” and their little gifts under the tree.


Going on Forty…..*

Our Anniversary today!

Willy Or Won't He

Hard to believe that this was us on New Year’s Eve in Mexico City back in 1988 – thirty years ago.   It had already been nine years at that point and this was the first of our many years of living in separate cities, long distance travel to be together, seeing each other maybe three times a year, and weekly phone calls (we didn’t have the internet way back then) to say hello I love you.  But somehow it’s worked as we head into our 40th year.


Happy Anniversary P from P

On this day in 534 BC: Thespis of Icaria becomes the first recorded actor to portray a character onstage.

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70th Anniversary


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H.M. Queen Elizabeth and H.R.H. Prince Philip are celebrating their 70th Wedding Anniversary. Here is the Official photo taken for the occasion.


The couple married at London’s Westminster Abbey on Nov. 20, 1947, just two years after the end of World War Two, in a lavish ceremony attended by statesmen and royalty from around the world.

The portrait, taken earlier this month, showed the queen wearing the same dress which she chose for a service of thanksgiving to mark their diamond wedding anniversary held at the Abbey where they were married.

She is also wearing a “Scarab” brooch in yellow gold, carved ruby and diamond which Philip gave her in 1966.

Elizabeth has been married for far longer than any other royal, and the newly-released picture showed the couple framed by Thomas Gainsborough’s 1781 portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte, (Charlottetown PEI) who were married for 57 years – the second longest royal marriage.


Wedding day 70 years ago