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Well yesterday 4 June finally the weather warmed up to the point that restaurants could open up to diners on their terrace. Boats are finally gliding down the streets towards the launch docks in the marina. To see those monster being towed down the street is impressive, traffic has to make way for them. Still very few tourists and the cruise ships have come on days when the weather up to now was poor and cold. I do not think this will be a very good season for tourism, everything is a month late and since most things shut down after 30 August, that is not much time.

In books I am reading now one is entitled Claws of the Panda: Beijing’s campaign of influence by Jonathan Manthorpe is the story of how Canada came to recognize the People’s Republic of China in 1969. The influencers were all Canadian missionaries who worked in China between 1920 to 1949 and beyond, many names were familiar to me as those of people who held great influence with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in coming to a decision to recognize the PRC. What the book reveals is how naive Canadians and our Government are and were about China. Canada believed that we could change China and make it a model of democratic governance. This belief was encourage by the influential group of Canadian Scholars on China, many of whom were the children of the Christian missionaries who had worked for decades in China prior to the victory of the Communist forces over the Nationalists in October 1949. They had lived and worked in China and spoke fluent Mandarin, their knowledge back in Ottawa was impressive and no one thought of questioning their beliefs. To this day and until fairly recently prior to the dispute with Huawei and the hostage diplomacy practice by the Government of China, many in official circles made themselves the apologists of the Communist dictatorship. Canada now understands that we will not change China nor its lack of respect for Human rights, democracy and an open society. Canada is in no position to dictate to a super power and we are under pressure from the large number of Chinese citizens in Canada to cowtow to China. A very interesting book and one which reflects my own experience in the PRC before 2007.

I have also re-read the book of John Berendt, The City of Falling Angels. It is about the terrible fire which destroyed the Fenice Opera House in Venice in January 1996. A complex story of negligence, corruption, incompetence which happens to often in Italy.

It is a story I know well since we visited Venice many times between 1996 and 2011. I do remember visiting the City months after the fire and the stench of the burnt Opera house was still very present in the air. We did go at the re-opening in 2004, it was re-built as it was in 1836, quite a beautiful place.

Berendt’s book reads like an investigation report, many of the details were well known to me and re-reading it brought back a lot of memories. If you do not know much about the history of this criminal fire and the actors, this is a good book to read.


Jean Victor Arthur GUILLOU, French organist of note, 1930-2019. Plays G.F. Handel concerto for organ no 10, allegro. At the organ of Montélimar. His interpretation is different and beautiful.