Winter perspectives


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Today Sunday is a bright sunny day and the temperature is mild for Winter at -5C, in the sunshine you feel warm. Though there is now snow on the ground since 17 January, it is a mild Winter with the exception of the wind.


The entrance to Fanningbank the Official Residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of PEI.


In the countryside at dusk


The Cheese shop


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A few days ago our friend in Phoenix the infamous Dr. Spo asked us about what is our favourite cheese and could we let him know. Many of us commented on cheeses we liked. That got me thinking of the famous cheese shop we visited in Dresden, the old Capital of Saxony many years ago. When Dresden was still in full reconstruction mode after being re-united with the rest of Germany.

This shop is dedicated to cheese produced in Saxony and there is quite a variety of fine cheeses. The shop itself is famous for its architecture and decor, known as Molkerei Pfund ,137 years in business. It survived the terrible fire bombing of the City of Dresden in February 1945 by the English Air Force because it was on the other side of the river Elbe.


You have to love cheese and milk products to go there. The variety but also the aroma of the various cheeses on display makes it a gourmet’s paradise. The interior is all in beautiful painted tile work and is quite impressive. The food was good, we had on our visit a plate of cheese and potato soup. It was a Winter day so few tourists and it was well before Dresden became a tourist hub. With the City now completely rebuilt as it was prior to the war and the bombing, many people come to visit, too many perhaps.






About that documentary


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I saw some preview of a new documentary on Queen Elizabeth II and the Coronation. I had forgotten that there are actually 2 Crowns, one for the Coronation moment itself when the intended is actually Crown and then a second Crown which is used for all State occasions, including the rest of the Coronation Ceremony and events that follow.

There is also the State Diadem of 1820 made for King George IV to wear on his way to his coronation. He was one of the many sons of King George III and Queen Charlotte.  This diadem was then worn by his wife Queen Adelaide and then by Queen Victoria and now Queen Elizabeth wears it on several occasions like when she travels from Buckingham Palace to Parliament each year.


The Crown of Saint Edward a solid gold crown is used at the moment of the Coronation itself and then put away until the next Coronation. Fairly heavy to wear on one’s head according to the Queen.


St Edward’s Crown is the centrepiece of the Crown Jewels. Named after Edward the Confessor (1003-1066) it has been traditionally used to crown British monarchs at their Coronation since the 13th century.

The original crown was a holy relic kept at Westminster Abbey, Edward’s burial place, until the regalia were either sold or melted down after Parliament abolished the monarchy in 1649, during the English Civil War.

The present version of St Edward’s Crown was made for Charles II in 1661. It is solid gold, 30 centimetres (12 in) tall, weighs 2.23 kilograms (4.9 lb), and is decorated with 444 precious and semi-precious stones. The crown is similar in weight and overall appearance to the original, but its arches are Baroque.

After 1689, it was not used to crown a monarch for over 200 years. In 1911, the tradition was revived by George V and all subsequent monarchs have been crowned using St Edward’s Crown. A stylised image of this crown is used in Coats of Arms, like those of  Canada to symbolise the royal authority of Queen Elizabeth II.

The other Crown we see most often is the Imperial State Crown, it is worn after the Coronation Ceremony and at all State functions.


Usually, the crown is taken to the Palace of Westminster under armed guard in its own carriage and placed in the Robing Room, where the Queen dons her robes of State and puts on the crown before giving her speech to Parliament.

Upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, a new state crown was made for Charles II by Sir Robert Vyner. About 10 versions of the crown have existed since the restoration. The one made for Queen Victoria in 1838 is the basis for today’s crown. Made by Rundell and Bridge in 1838 using old and new jewels, it had a crimson velvet cap with ermine border and a lining of white silk. It weighed 39.25 troy ounces, or just over 1.2 kilograms, and was decorated with 1,363 brilliant-cut, 1,273 rose-cut and 147 table-cut diamonds, 277 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 4 rubies, and the Black Prince’s Ruby

The gems in the crown were remounted for the coronation of George VI in 1937 by Garrard & Co. The crown was adjusted for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, with the head size reduced and the arches lowered by 25 mm (1 inch) to give it a more feminine appearance.

I also did not know that for the documentary, the producers were not allowed to photograph the crown from above, as it is considered disrespectful to God. The Crown is a religious sacred object and it is treated as such by the Sovereign and everyone around.  Only the Queen can actually put on the crown which she does by herself without anyone’s help. There is a lot of protocol surrounding this piece of jewellery,  do’s and don’t’s. Really fascinating when you think of it and how it all came about.


Absolutism, the modern disease


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The word is defined as follows: the acceptance of or belief in absolute principles in political, philosophical, ethical, or theological matters.

It appears to me that we live in an age of absolute beliefs or opinions. The is no room for intelligent discourse, for presenting facts, to argue in a debate and present a counter point. It looks like we are either for or against and with someone or group or against said person or group. People want a solution to any problem which has to be final and absolute, solve this thing once and for all. Problem is we live in an imperfect world but no matter it’s got to be fixed now. How did we ever get to this point? The age of miracles is past, as the song goes, no matter we demand miracles from our elected officials, from anyone in authority.  Otherwise we are not happy, it is almost a nihilistic approach to life, a total rejection of Laws and Institutions or beliefs unless they prove they can provide us with the solution to a better world where everyone is treated fairly and without prejudice or preference.

In discussions people are pigeonholed along gender lines, economic or educational lines, religious beliefs though many claim not to have any and political view points. You are with the left or the right, you cannot be with the centre in terms of opinions. Age and generations is also another great divide, one group blaming the other and vice versa, usually the elderly are to blame for all the problems of the world.

If that was not enough, the media is also trying to tell you how to think and what to think under the guise of informing you. On social media you are afraid to leave a comment because the caustic reply you will get is well beyond any intelligent reasoning.

There have been other ages in human history where absolute thinking has prevailed. In Europe with the protestant Reformation an age of extreme intolerance, war and violence, tens of thousand died and this happened in the age of the Renaissance and Baroque period. In the 20th century extreme ideologies surfaced all over Europe and in Asia with the results we know.

Now in the 21th century a new phenomenon, populist ideology and concepts coming mostly from North America. In Canada with the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, Canadians saw a huge change in how they perceive themselves and how they see their country. Enshrine in the Canadian Constitution, the Charter has taken on a life of its own, with unforeseen results. It rectified many wrongs and demolished pre-conceived ideas of how society functions. Many of us profited from the advances brought about by the Charter.  Politicians also used it to push the concept of equality amongst all people. By 1995 equality was replaced by equity, not the same thing and not the same meaning either in legal terms, however few paid attention to this change, confusing equality with equity.  Equity is a great example of a word that started out with a general sense that developed more specific senses over time. In Canada today it generally means giving all to one group as compensation for centuries of perceived wrong doing by the other privilege group. A general rejection of the past and historical figures, they were wrong and awful people. We judge the dead, in some cases the long dead and accuse them today of crimes, using today’s standards. I wonder what we will be accused of in 60 years.

As the concept of equity took hold of Canadian society, some thought they could export this concept to other continents, in the spirit of look how good I am, I will show you how to correct the mistakes in your society. A rather arrogant idea coming from people who do not think in terms of justice but in terms of social revolution fuelled by self-absorbed thinking.

In the last 3 years in Canada we have seen the rise of a movement which advocates that women who are victims of violence, sexual or domestic must be believed no matter what the evidence of lack thereof may be. The simple fact that an allegation is made is sufficient to have the judicial system kick into gear. This movement with the help of the media has alleged that all police force in Canada is corrupt and or non-responsive, the Judicial system is broken and dominated by white old men with patriarchal tendencies, our politicians are accused of being biased.  Now Margaret Atwood, the famous feminist writer and acclaimed author is accused by the very same group of being anti-women because she believes in due process of the Law and said that mere allegations against anyone in the #MeToo movement are dangerous for us all, if no investigation takes place and the allegations are not proven in a Court of Law if they are ever pursued at that level how is society to progress.  One activist said to Atwood, maybe you should listen to young vulnerable females who are powerless, Atwood shot back that she had been listening for 63 years. Another activist wrote on Twitter that she was not interested in Justice or due process but in burning down the building of society and starting from scratch, in other word complete revolution, cannot see to many followers of that idea, but the media loves to broadcast the idea. As one editor told me, we are always on the look out for that story that gets public attention.

What is interesting in all this, was the comment made by a feminist writer and jurist who being interviewed explained that Society at large is simply not following the issue of equality or equity and public attitudes are not changing as fast as some would like. So despite the activists, media and some politicians who would like to see a re-ordering of society with new pro-feminist attitudes, few in Society, men and women are actually following or paying attention to any of it. Passing laws, social engineering, imposing quotas in hiring base on gender alone, demanding that private corporations have a balance ration of men and women on boards, or that Courts of Law have an equal balance of men and women sitting on the bench, etc all of it may have a more surface impact than a deeper attitude changing impact on Society at large.  I am still appalled by television Sport channels and hockey in Canada to see the same toxic macho attitudes being presented and watch in bar, pubs and at home, no one says a word about this, hey hockey and sports in general are sacred institutions. Change will come eventually but change in peoples attitudes to any social question will come at snail pace. You cannot legislate how people think.

However in this age of absolute beliefs and instant solutions, one has to be very careful to either say nothing on social media or parsing one’s words carefully as to not offend the activists who believe they hold the truth.  As  a lawyer said to me, this is the result of the electronic age and the internet. That is scary.


The future is History


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A strange title for a book, The Future is History, remember in 1989 we were told that history had ended because the Cold War had ended and Communism was defeated. Rather naive to believe that then, it was merely a re-ordering of politics. In this book, the author attracts our attention to her thesis or her reality that Russian history today is a simple repetition of what happened in the XXth Century Soviet Union with a hiatus between 1989-1999.

This is the latest book I am reading, the author Masha Gessen, a Russian citizen, journalist and author, born in Moscow in 1967 and living now in New York City.

In The Future is History Masha Gessen follows the lives of four Russians, born as the Soviet Union crumbled, at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children or grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own – as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers and writers, sexual and social beings. Gessen charts their paths not only against the machinations of the regime that would seek to crush them all (censorship, intimidation, violence) but also against the war it waged on understanding itself, ensuring the unobstructed emergence of the old Soviet order in the form of today’s terrifying and seemingly unstoppable mafia state under Vladimir Putin.


She makes the distinction in her book between Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism, the two words are different in political terms.  The first is about the rule of one person through personal authority (dictatorship) but devoid of ideology, i.e. Chile under Pinochet, Spain under Franco, Greece under the Colonels, Germany under Hitler, the dictator rules using terror and violence on the masses to enforce compliance. In the case of the Nazi dictatorship, Gessen explains that Nazism was not so much an ideology it was terror used to silence anyone opposing the regime, a regime which borrowed its ideas from the writings of the dictator like the one on racial superiority but overall maintained itself in power by terror and nothing else.  Where Totalitarianism is dominated by Ideology, the Bolcheviks and Lenin used terror but justified it with the ideology of class warfare as described by Karl Marx an ideology which proclaimed world revolution by the workers against other classes. The Communist party then constantly tweaked the ideology to maintain itself in power.  Stalin and Mao proclaimed the exclusive authority of the Communist Party as the only correct ideological source for their society. Stalin then tried to impose this model on other countries after 1945 in Eastern Europe and Mao did the same in Asia in Tibet, Cambodia, Mongolia, North Korea etc. it continues today in China.  Gessen tells us in her book that since 1999 under Putin, Russia is returning to the good old ways of the Soviet Union but under a new guise. It would be too crude now to reimpose a Soviet model, so Putin instead has married the nostalgia for the Czarist regime, the Supremacy of the Orthodox Church with the Totalitarian ideal of the Soviet regime which gives stability Russians crave. Giving us a new Czar Putin who unites factions within his authority and glorifies the exceptional nature of Russia in an ideology of nationalism which echoes the old glories of Imperial Russia. What Gessen is also showing us is how Russia never was a democracy and had no democratic institutions, the Russian knew Imperial orthodoxy under an absolute ruler with the Russian Orthodox Church as co-ruler then they simply moved into a new system aping the old with the Bolchevik and then Communism.

It’s a fascinating book, a great read and explains a lot about Russia and Putin today. With the gradual withdrawal of the USA from the World stage, an inept President who is too intellectually lazy to understand how the USA is simply being eclipsed, Russia is stepping into the void like China is doing and they are not losing time.

But Gessen in her book also shows us the danger of a population who is willing to give up on a more inclusive open form of society and government for the security of stability at all cost. In a way she is saying that we in the West are also at risk. Countries like Poland and Hungary are falling back into the old ways. The rise of the Alt-Right and Christian-Conservative movements in the USA with a President who shows openly his contempt for the Constitution puts the USA on a similar path. A good read and one that makes you think about what is going on around us.


I came to a realization….


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Last night I suddenly came to a realization, we were at Baba’s Lounge which is upstairs from Cedar’s Lebanese Restaurant on Great George Street. Baba’s is an institution and is known by all musicians on PEI. Several nights a week they have music, on Thursday nights it’s Jazz night and last night Island Jazz was performing. The group is Ben on piano, Marlee on saxophone and Evan on bass guitar and Brandon Roy sang and what a wonderful voice he has. All are either music teachers or musicians and Brandon is a professional singer with that wonderful booming voice appearing in several shows here and in Toronto. The age group last night was between 25 and 35, the new up and coming generation, in this case talented, fun, full of energy, nice people.



This is not a pity me post but more a sudden realization that I am older now by about 30 years from that generation. I have turned a corner like you do at 20 or 50, life changes and you change. People also react to you differently, I hear references to being older meaning you belong to a different generation. We socialize with people more our age or somewhat older, though I do not necessarily share the same world view. This may have to do with the fact that I travelled around the world and my views are maybe more based on my own life experience in different cultures. If we meet with younger people I am very aware that we may not speak the same language because age can create a distance.

I had pictures taken recently by a professional photographer, the results were quite good, this has to do with a project I will speak of later, looking at them though I thought do I look this old now or is this what people see.


Maybe it is, by looking at pictures at another time in life I see a familiar face at a different time, this is where I am now. Maybe this is why I find the change so shocking in some ways, but then it happens to all of us.

I do not really see myself at 61, it just does not make sense to me. I do not feel older, just the same. I do think from time to time that I may have another 25 years to go, if I look at my close family relations and my parents, if good health holds then another quarter century is not bad. It’s just that everything looks shorter now in terms of time span. One might think that at 30 or 40 you can still think I got decades in front of me, but the reality is that no one can be certain of what they have left.

Maybe this is what comes with age, you know the past, you have experience and your life is shaped by all the years of living. Is this what is meant by, Life changes us, I think it does, we stay the same but life experience and time changes us. So maybe this set of photos are what I do look like today, just make the best of it and move on.


Winter has arrived


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The cold has arrived from Upper Canada, bad weather comes from there and usually ends up in the USA, you know terrible cold and snow, no wonder we are in trouble over NAFTA, exporting ice and snow to the USA, I think it is called dumping.

Well they also send it over to the Maritimes. This satellite photo shows PEI surrounded by ice. I think we should impose a tourism visa or build a wall to keep them Upper Canadians out. There is a movement afoot for PEI to secede and join Sicily to avoid Winter weather all together.



Storm Chips


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In Winter on the Atlantic storms can be ferocious, living in the Maritimes you learn that high winds in the 80 to 100km range are common. If you are not use to it and can be a little disconcerting.  We get storm warnings about 72 hours ahead of time, which is a long time weather wise and sometimes the announced storm fails to materialize. Tomorrow Thursday 4 and Friday 5 January we are told there will be a big storm affecting the Maritime provinces, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI. Here on the Island we will get apparently mostly icy rain, the temperature will be too warm for snow.  The problem will be the high wind which can cause trees to topple and power lines to break, meaning power outages. We live in the centre of the Capital with modern infrastructure, hopefully we will be spared the worse.

Islanders are use to this type of weather and people are prepared. Today I went to the grocery store to get supplies for a party we are giving on Saturday, I did get extra candles. I did notice a big display of chips, apparently an absolute essential during a storm is storm chips made by LAY’S, you probably wonder why this would be the chip of choice.


It turns out that LAY’S buys all its potatoes here in PEI to make their chips. Well when you are in the dark, the wind is howling outside and the sea waves are crashing causing surges there is nothing like a bag of LAY’S chips to soothe the nerves, who knew!

In the store by one chip bag display a lady said to her friend, I have to get some chips and I told her it was important not to forget the chips given the storm coming, we all laughed.

A whole roast chicken is another commodity a lot of older people will buy, it is known as storm chicken, grocery stores stock up on it knowing people will come in to buy one, they have them in the deli section.


So you stay at home, everything will be closed anyway, no school, nor business will open, everyone knows better than to go out and the local radio will advise people to stay put. That is what we plan to do.


As of 3 January 2018 from Environment Canada


New Year activities


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For New Years Eve we went down the street to the Haviland Club which is an old Club in Charlottetown, at the corner of Water and Haviland street with views of the Hillsborough river, once a grand private residence built in 1866 by Mrs Esther Lowden in the Italianate style. She was a widow, her husband had been a prominent ship builder. At her death in 1896 her family leased the house to the USA Consulate, the American Consul  was Delmer J. Vail. At the time of the closing of the US Consulate around 1917 all the expensive mahogany furniture and carpets were sold at auction. For a few years the house was rented out to various tenants. Then in 1932 it became an Officers Mess, being across the street from the PEI Regiment HQ was ideal, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force also had its mess on the premises. Finally in 1997 it became a private Club. The Club has an ornate decor of the period with marble fireplaces and grand views, wood paneling and ornate ceilings.


Quite a few members were present and we spent the night drinking and eating, we also decided to become members on the spot.

This morning, New Year’s Day I had to be up early, I was on duty at Fanningbank, the Residence of the Lieutenant Governor for the New Year’s day Levee, the 40th, the first one open to the public was in 1978. My first station was as greeter at the door, though I was near one of the fireplaces, it was a cold spot, the door opening and closing and the temperature outside with the wind chill was -25C. Some 800 people came through that door in 90 minutes. Amongst the general public, quite a few dignitaries, politicians, the Premier wearing is clan kilt, Leader of the other political parties, the commanders of the army, navy and air force, the Archbishop, the President of the University, the CEO of the Art Centre, etc.

I got to shake hands with about 500 people as they came in and greeted them before they proceeded into the receiving room to shake hands with the Lieutenant Governor. I was asked how do you address the L.G., a few men were told to remove their hats out of respect for the Sovereign’s representative. Two people asked me to take pictures of them, which I politely declined, too busy with the crowd. We had also a 15 member string orchestra playing which gave a very nice atmosphere to the event. Once past the L.G. people would then proceed into the dining room of the residence for cake and refreshments and out they went. It all went very well considering the numbers, many were making their first visit to the residence and were impressed by the surroundings. Lots of comments on the Christmas decorations and the house.




On my way home other levees were taking place, at City Hall, at the Legislature, at the PEI Regiment HQ, I was too tired to go to any other, pretty sure I would have met the same crowd making the rounds. Everyone comes first to Fanningbank to see the L.G.


I got lunch out of it, the cook made Fricot, which is a clear broth of carrots, potatoes, onion and celery with big pieces of shredded chicken, it was quite good and hit the spot. It was served to all of us volunteers and Aide de Camp in the private dining room of the L.G. in the meantime Her Honour was gone to another function, today for public officials it is a very busy day, I would not want to be in their shoes, even if you are chauffeured around.

Tonight a quiet night at home, Salmon steaks for dinner.