Well this weekend the 3 monotheistic religions are celebrating religious holidays. The Jews celebrate Passover with a Seder dinner, Christians it’s Easter (Old Passover) and Muslims are in the middle of the Month of Ramadan.
On Sunday morning we will go to Brunch at Slaymaker and Nichols a restaurant which is named after the circus that was in town when the Fathers of Confederation came to Charlottetown to discuss forming a federation now called Canada. Who knew go to the circus and you get a new country. The restaurant is in an old house which is located on the site of the Circus tent.
It is known for its innovative dishes and great cocktails. That should be our day outing. On Monday we are going to friends for lunch and I am making a casserole with French Ham thinly sliced and sliced potatoes in a white cream sauce gratinée. They live outside of town by the entrance into the harbour. It’s a very nice rural setting with lots of trees and greenery all around. They just bought a grand piano, both are concert pianist and music teachers.
Of course Friday everything was closed, being Good Friday, it was so quiet. I was able to get breakfast at my hotel in Halifax but then they were closing at 11:00am. The town was also very quiet, maybe some restaurant might be open. The same here, shops and every business was closed. So you learn to shop the day before. The weather has been warm and even the wind is warm. This means the idiots with small penises are out with their motorcycles and souped up cars.
We will have visitors this Summer coming to celebrate a Birthday and I am happy about that. We will have people coming to the cottage at the beach. So it is looking like a fun Summer.
Being members of the Haviland Club and doing the newsletter and involved with memberships means that every week I have a lot to do, all on a volunteer basis. Will being the musical one, his involved with the theatre play reading group and with entertainment.
On Friday 1 and 2 April, we had 2 shows dinner/theatre style. It was a great success and lots of fun. All the shows are done by volunteers, many are Club Members, so it is a lot of work and fun.
The Friday show was located in a real small Italian village of Poggi Bonzi, in central Tuscany.
The second show was about Gypsies or Travellers as they are called now.
It really is Spring now, the weather is mild and rainy. On April 22 in about 3 weeks the first Cruise ship in two years is scheduled to arrive, restaurants are frantically looking for staff and the use of frantically is not an exaggeration. The owners still don’t get it, low pay means no staff after these 2 years of shut down. This also applies to kitchen staff and cooks. It is a really serious issue, but greed has made a lot of owners blind and obtuse in facing this problem. Our politicians do not help either, too many back door deals with business groups at the expense of employees, this is the Island way as they say here.
We also have now a serious problem with Covid infections in PEI, the highest rate in Canada per Capita. The Government gave in to business groups who were crying poverty while riding around in the Mercedes Benz S class. So the policy now is do nothing and let it ride. Not too happy about that but you know money talks.
I really need to go to Halifax at some point, probably next week for 2 days to get some oriental carpet cleaned. It’s an easy drive and it will be nice to leave the Island for the first time in almost 3 years.
Halifax, 500,000 population, originally the city as a military garrison city and sea port was heavily fortified, the citadel is a sight to see. When Halifax was founded in 1749, the majority of residents were from England, Ireland and Scotland. Soon after they were joined by immigrants from Germany and New England. Black people, some from Africa, others escaping enslavement in the United States, settled in or near Halifax beginning in the 18th century.
Today Monday off to the garage for a Spring Tune up and change of tires. I also need my annual inspection for my car licence, it is a bit silly to do this each year but this is the way in PEI. Of course this morning it is snowing lightly, it is called a Spring Snow, how poetic.
This week the weather has taken a decidedly Spring like look. It is actually warm and even hot in the sunshine. There are traces of snow but overall it is mostly green. This is all good, but it is also a period of the year when you do not know exactly how to dress, warm in the day time and cool at night. Everyone on PEI is anticipating a big return of the tourists and the huge issue is a lack of staff, I have heard plenty about that from friends who own coffee shops, restaurants and bars. There is a need for Chef, short order cooks, dishwashers, wait staff, etc… So much so that many will not expand their business because they cannot find the staff. This problem is the low minimum wage, no benefits, little time off, and the cost of living which on PEI is the highest in Canada. Rents are impossible so if you are working on minimum wage then you starve. I remember years ago wait staff from restaurants in the old market in Ottawa would come to the local soup kitchen where I volunteered for lunch or dinner. That should not happen and then they go to work to get abuse from customers. Business groups have not been able to tackle this problem and governments do not appear interested despite the good words.
On Wednesday I drove to Kensington which is 45 minutes West of Charlottetown on Highway 2. At one time when we had a railway on PEI it was an important junction. It is a small rural community about 10 minutes from Summerside. I was going with Nicky and Nora for their grooming, a highly stressful affair for both of them. A beautiful day, the drive was quiet, it usually is. After dropping them off, much drama, I drove to Summerside for lunch at Samuel’s on Water street, the food is very good. Then to the little second hand book store, a block away. The selection is always changing and very good, I got 3 books for $12. One book is by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, it pass my test, if I read one page and want to read the next page then I will buy the book.
The second book is by the Artist Marc Chagall simply called My Life, he wrote his autobiography, a small book but I thought it would be nice to read about him in his own words. The last book is by John LeCarré, Smiley’s People, when it came out in 1980 it was a sensation. I never read it but heard lots of praise about it.
I bought 3 months ago another LeCarré book The Constant Gardener, after reading 3/4 of the book I simply lost interest, I could not finish it. I did not care for the characters or the story line.
When I returned to pick-up the pups at the groomer, well they could not get out of there quickly enough, they made a run for the car, like a getaway car. Get in quick let’s get out of here, come on!!! They slept the whole way back to town, had a short walk, then dinner and then went to bed immediately, they were exhausted. Though they look very nice now.
It was nice to drive out and see the countryside after the Winter, not much snow left in the fields.
We are still waiting for our T4 slips, it’s income tax time in Canada, I got one slip on my pension but not the other one on my CPP, OAS. The Canada Revenue Agency announced that they were late this year and it should arrive next week. You absolutely need your T4 to pay your income tax since all the vital detailed info is contained on them. In our case, we pay like a lot of people at the source, so reporting/filing means simply to confirm that yes this is correct. Will I owe some this year, I think so. Will see.
Kensington from the sky. The top right corner of the photo is where we spend part of our Summer in French River.
We are in mid-January and typically the weather is very cold. I had my booster shot 3 days ago and all is well, no after effects. So now I am all boosted and frankly Covid is no longer my priority. I lived in too many countries where many awful diseases where endemic and my vaccinations protected me. So time to move along.
The weather has been cold, frigid, the Hillsborough river is now frozen. We are in a lockdown but the number of sick people has been dropping every day. Yes those who are sick are unvaccinated and maybe you will think me callous or unfeeling but I really do not care about them, it has been 2 years, plenty of time to do the right thing. Everyday we have 100 + spot for vaccination available on PEI so if you want a shot it is very easy to get and takes about 6 minutes. Someone I know yesterday was shopping and stopped at the Pharmacy enquired about a vaccine and got it on the spot. Could it be easier?
I have joined those who are fully vaccinated and feel they should be allowed to go about their lives and not have to worry about the Covidiots who sit there and complain.
So we are more or less confined to our homes, though you can shop for groceries and pick up at the restaurant, but that is not civilized living. On the other hand we have had some pretty marvellous meals at home thanks to Will.
I was thinking this week, that if one day I was to travel again I would love to return to Granada to see the Alhambra palace and the gardens again. What a stunning place it was, and to think it was built 1000 years ago, a marvel. Portugal would be another place I would like to visit again. We had a very nice visit to Lisbon a few years ago. Then Sicily, such an ancient place, beautiful Marsala, Trapani, Monreale, Ragusa, Catania on the slope of Mount Etna. The food in Sicily is a completely different cuisine from Italy, due to centuries of Spanish, Normand and Arab influences. The wines are also of great quality with all that volcanic soil.
I would like a month long trip, not a week or a few days, which is good if you are young and must get back. On the other hand I have cooled to cruises, the food is usually just ok despite what you are told, the rooms on board are nice but I never found them as comfortable as an hotel room. Frankly the crowds on ships despite being on smaller ships get to me. I think that I would like some really good food and service, something you do not come across much these days despite high prices. However if one travels now there are all these tests and complications mass confusion at the airport, not to mention the crazy travellers.
Well on 1 February we will see if the sanctions come off and if life returns to a more normal pace, let’s hope so.
But then Blinken meets Lavrov to talk about the Ukraine, what they are really talking about is not so much a possible invasion as let’s not use any nuclear weapons, negotiating a complicated ballet. Would be inexcusable to blow up the planet over the Ukraine. If there is an invasion by Russia, the only likely response will be severe or more severe economic sanctions. Europe may not follow because their economy would suffer, China will help Russia in any way they can, Iran also will be part of the underhanded help. I love to listen to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, so calm and worldly, he knows his stuff and will not be perturbed, Blinken looks unsure and nervous.
As for Canada in all this, well our Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, a nice person and well educated but way over her head. Canada can do nothing in this conflict we are irrelevant, even with our gift of $120 million to help Ukraine, chump change really. Our Armed forces leadership has been decapitated with a series of well timed alleged sexual peccadillos. Our army is short 12,000 men, ill equipped, no air force to speak of and no navy, all this due to decades of cut backs on military spending. So I so not think that Russia is too worried about us.
How many days til Spring? 58 Days! Seems like an eternity.
Le Printemps what a lovely season, the weather is getting warmer by the day, Friday should be 22 C. which is Summer weather. This coming weekend is also the first official Long Weekend of Summer, the signal to open the cottage and start up the bar-b-q.
I was looking up recent photos of Versailles which re-opens today after months of being shut to all due to the pandemic restrictions in France. During these longs months the restorers of the Palace did a lot of work in various areas of the vast Chateau. This included a deep clean of various rooms and the return of furniture from the central national warehouse of important historical furniture of France. One piece in particular was the work desk of Louis XV made up of 20 different types of precious woods and of a secret mechanism operated with one key to close and lock it. This desk stayed in the bureau of the King until the revolution. It is now back where it belong, a magnificent piece of furniture. The restoration of the desk was paid for by Caterpillar France and Rolex, the desk has a two face clock which allows the king and his visitor on the other side to see the time. This wonderful piece of furniture was made in 1769, a real marvel and the clock works perfectly.
Many other private rooms or intimate rooms used by the King or Queen or other members of the Royal family have also been restored recently including carpets and drapes, all reproduce in the original fabric. This work is made possible due to archives and detailed descriptions, drawings and paintings and some piece of fabric which survived. You can see these rooms by appointment with a guide only. The rooms contain unique original artifacts of the period, rare books and porcelain and you would not want someone to bump into something.
The caveat is that Versailles you see today, the inside of the Palace evolved and is not what Louis XIV or Louis XV or even Louis XVI would have known, the palace was transformed and redecorated with each king and time and fashion dictate. Then the Palace was closed at the revolution, the furniture sold in most part to British and other European collectors for a pittance. Some was saved by Napoleon and by the return of the Bourbon Kings in 1814 under Louis XVIII and his brother Charles X and then their cousin Louis-Philippe remodelled wings of the palace where the apartments of the various Princes of the Kingdom were located into great galleries for his painting collection. So when visiting it is important to keep that in mind. Same for the gardens and le Petit and Grand Trianon or even le Hameau de la Reine which lost all its original furniture and is now decorated with Empire style furniture belonging to Empress Marie-Louise the second wife of Napoleon.
What has been recently recreated is the Grille Royale, which was the inner golden gate of the Cour d’Honneur which separated the first inner courtyard from a more sacred area which brought the special visitor within the proximity of the King. This golden gate was taken down at the revolution and was only restored starting in 2007, the work based on original drawings took 2 years to complete, cost 5 million Euros, is 80 meters long and weighs 15 tons, some 100,000 sheets of gold leaf was use to cover the gate.
Easter Holiday is over and now on to Spring tune-up for the car and change of tires.
Insurance home and car payment season. I am also 21 days away from my Pfizer vaccination, I am looking forward to that. Will is only 15 days away. Some 11% of our Island population has been vaccinated which is great. People here talk about getting the vaccine like if they had won the lottery.
We had a lovely lunch, Will made his Asparagus in puff pastry tarts and we had ham on the bone with Broccoli, leek and carrots, dessert was panna cotta with blueberry coulis. All good and every one had a good time despite the weather freezing rain and heavy grey skies.
Other than that it’s pretty quiet around here. The Crab fishing Season has started and next week it will be Lobster Spring Season. May 1 is the re-opening of many restaurants for the Summer Season but, I doubt we will see any tourists, none from the USA for the time being, as for other Canadian provinces well I am not so sure either, since most have now gone in third wave mode with record infection numbers never seen before.
So it will be another quiet Summer here, difficult for restaurants and some shops who only exist because of the tourists. What amazes me is how the authorities simply shrug.
Continuing with this blog entry we are now Tuesday and was at the garage this morning for my annual car inspection to get my safety sticker. Then finished the income tax returns with the accountant. Our taxes are simple so I could probably do them myself but I am too lazy. I did get a return amount, I think the Government loves me for being such a good citizen doing my Civic Duty, so I get a bit back. Hey this is my story and I am sticking to it. Though next year might be different story with my revenue changing and getting other benefits, so I might want to ask that they take 23% off those new benefits in taxes to avoid paying at the end of the year.
Had my glasses adjusted, I am looking at new frames, saw a POLO frame I liked but do not know how much they ask for it. Now we have to pay for the insurance for the house and car. This is Spring, the season of payments. Next in May Nicky and Nora go for their annual shots.
Now according to the Ornithologists (bird lovers) it is going to be an early Spring because of the behaviour of birds in the Atlantic provinces, who are behaving as if it was already May. I really don’t mind, I am all for it.
This past week our little Island province went from 1 case to 15 cases of Covid19, all due to a handful of under 30 who travelled outside the Province and failed upon return to observed the mandatory rules of 14 day quarantine. They in turn infected their friends and all of a sudden we have a crisis. Unfortunately too many people still think they are above it all and it does not concern them. They put everyone at risk with their irresponsible actions. What was most shocking was the 2 girls twenty something who being sick decided to go shopping instead of going straight home, result they infected staff and other clients in the store which had to close. Or the 17 to 24 group who went to the Gym in Summerside a small community about 50 minutes from Charlottetown. They gave false names and phone numbers so they could not be traced, only then when they were found by the Health Authorities lied further by giving false information. I have a real problem with this type of reasoning. Do they not care that they are putting family and community at risk? Summerside has a population of 14,000. small town in other words.
At the news conference Dr Morrison, chief medical officer was visibly upset and appeared very tired, she and her staff of the Health Dept have been working flat out 24/7 doing a tremendous service. Well some people are making death threats against her. Unbelievable that anyone in their right mind would say such awful things. They are upset and cannot understand the gravity of the situation. News UPDATE as of Sunday night we are now in a RED zone and everyone is confined to home for 72 hours, the only stores open are grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies. The streets are deserted.
I was at the grocery store just before the Premier and the Chief Medical Officer went on the air to announce the restrictions Saturday afternoon, which closed the Island and all businesses, restaurants etc. Stay Home and wear a mask even outside. There was a noticeable air of panic and anxiousness in the air at the store, many already knew the bad news and we are back to where we were one year ago. The difference this time we have some 7,000 Islanders or 4.5% of our population who have received the vaccine and more have been called up, vaccination is in effect and moving ahead, that is a big plus.
IN OTHER NEWS
As we enter March Winter is clearly coming to an end, the days are 1 hour longer now. As my Birthday is coming up, Will asked me to see some old photos of myself, one photo was taken some 59 years ago, the other 62 years ago. I have to say looking at those photos made me wonder, it is another time and place gone forever. Now when I think of the past, it is mostly 5 to 10 years ago, this to me is manageable and in the realm of reality. Anything beyond that looks to remote, so many people, family and friends I knew simply gone, they are memories of another era. I also realize how the world as a whole has changed and with it our lives.
Maybe the Pandemic also affects my view of the past. Our movement are curtailed and everything is local, the rest appears to far away to reach.
Finally today I miss Italy and Rome, saw some pictures of friends gardens all in Spring flowers and the trees are also in flower, greenery everywhere under the beautiful sky. It looks so relaxing and pleasant. It is also artichoke time and you can buy the whole thistle plant and stock and make a beautiful meal of it.
In restaurants in Rome you could order the artichoke dish in two styles, Carciofi alla Romana, Rome Style Stuffed or Carciofi alla Giudia, Jewish style fried, both very good.
I am currently reading the newest book by Barack Obama, A PROMISE LAND, published by Crown. I cannot recommend enough this book, highly readable, interesting and as a political biography the style draws in the reader. It helps that I always admired Obama as a highly intelligent man. He is generous in presenting also in the book Michelle as a life partner. He is honest and open which is very refreshing in a politician of any country.
This was a long weekend and an extra day is being added tomorrow, because of bad weather, snow and ice rain, it has been declared a snow day, meaning everything will be shut down, stay home. Today was also very quiet, all stores closed for Islander Day. The only action was across the street in the round house park at Founder’s Hall on the skating rink, lots of skaters and horse rides on the big coach, a good day, brilliant sunshine and a brisk wind.
I have been kept fairly busy with Club business, I am now doing the weekly newsletter and it contains many features and is ever changing from week to week.
Spring (March 21) is only 4 weeks away and the groundhog said that it will be an early Spring, better be otherwise he is going to end up on the Bar-B-Q. It has been a very mild winter, easy to take. I wonder what our Summer will be like, no cruise ships at all this year again, there probably will be few tourists, the Island is still close to all except essential services. I really don’t mind mass tourism spoils it for all.
I have seen in the weather that London, Paris, Berlin are covered in snow which is unusual for them, though they do have cold and humid Winters with no central heating. I remember Winter mornings in Rome, it was chilly with all those marble floors and no central heat.
This week has been busy, the 18 large windows of your home were washed by a company, we cannot do it ourselves because of the height and you need equipment for that. We did however remove all the screens and washed them one by one. Here on the Island the word WASH is pronounced WARSH. You do WARSHING, etc.
Today I decided to do my clothes closet and get rid of all the clothing I no longer wear. Some items of clothing I have not worn in 4 years, lovely as they are I thought someone else could enjoy them.
Living in Canada this is a bi-annual ritual Spring/Fall. The weather has suddenly shot up to 20C as is typical of Canada at this time of the year, this is a clear signal that the sweaters must be put away, too hot, Summer clothing must come out. Same in the Fall but it is not as thorough of a clean-up. This means a lot of stuff to wash before it is put away, of course the washing machine died all of a sudden today. I heard a clunk and crack and suddenly nothing works. Look all over nope, it is dead. The washing machine is about 11 years old. So far in the 4 years we have been here we have replaced the microwave, the oven, the dryer. It seems that modern appliances are not made to last.
So I sorted out all the clothing and gave away pants, T-shirts, shirts, Sweaters, all in good clean conditions and all natural fibres, no synthetics. Many items are Italian fashions.
I still have a lot of clothing for the Summer. Next will be to clear all the Fall/Winter coats, pairs of boots and other accoutrement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Telling the stories of the history of the port of Charlottetown and the marine heritage of Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown