Friday, May 27, 2011

Better Than a Poke in the Eye

Winnipeg served up a surfeit of serendipity. Steven and Elizabeth outdid themselves as hosts. Our first day featured grey gloom and a brief snow flurry. Thereafter nothing but relentless sunshine. On Saturday Birds Hill Park, though named for persons rather than winged creatures, furnished a fair riot of migrant sparrows and warblers including some –- palm, black-and-white, ovenbird –- that are only dreamed about back home on south Vancouver Island.

Winnipeg may have more war memorials than any city in Canada. A local radio personality spotted me taking pictures of the Bank of Montreal war memorial at Portage and Main and stopped to tell me all about it. The kids took us back to Valour Road which was Pine Street in 1914 but warranted a new name when three of its residents earned the Victoria Cross –- the sine qua non of gallantry awards -- during the War to End All Wars. A walkabout in Vimy Ridge Memorial Park enhanced my collection of Great War memorials by three. Elizabeth took Monday off to lead us on a downtown walkabout. Entirely by accident she led us to my principal grail quest: Luther Prokant’s big canvas of the 1920 Winnipeg Falcons, winners of Canada’s first Olympic hockey gold medal in 1920.

Nova Scotia provided a moveable feast. At Hermans Island Ron and Nora greeted us with a generous feed of ‘bugs’ -– the sort you might know as lobsters. Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site, wore its best face. Jan indulged my wish to study and photograph the town’s Great War memorial. Then we went off to see the progress of the Bluenose II restoration. ‘Restoration’ isn’t the adequate term to describe what
is going on: a complete rebuild of the old schooner from the keel up. In Halifax we visited Roberta and Steven. My cousin is 90 now, he a couple of years younger. Their marriage is less than two years on but the old kids are still giddy as teenagers. It is a joy to see.

With pals Stephen and Sheila we took in an opening at the maritime Museum: ‘Hello Sailor’ celebrates the gay culture that flourished aboard passenger ships in the post-WWII decades. We especially enjoyed the bookend acts: a bang-up song-and-dance lip synch of Abba’s SOS by a pair of cross-dressers; a flamboyant finale by a transgendered lady evoking Dolly Parton crossed with Lady Gaga. Truro restored a greater measure of sobriety and decorum. Now in her 88th year, my dear old Mum is another source of joy, reveling in her new digs at Edinburgh Hall and five-star friendship she says is the best of her life. At Black Rock Don and Nancy provided another feast of bugs before Nancy kicked our butts in a rousing game of Scotch Bridge.

On Saturday afternoon we returned to Big Bras d’Or, finding the old cabin just as we left it seven months ago. ‘Bigadore’ is forty years old now. We will make a point of marking the ruby anniversary in suitable style. The Darlings –- irresistibly charming Lynn & Louise -– helped with the opening while delivering an abundanza of Chinese food. Then they whacked us in a bananagram tournament. The final score –- if you must know –- was 16-9-2-1 (Lynn-Louise-YT-Jan). To beat Lynn at ‘Smoothies’ –- the addictive best bananagrams variant -- come prepared to lay down all 36 tiles in seventy seconds.

In Victoria we revel in our Sooke wilderness rambles with Mary & Mike. The twins fill an analogous role here. On Sunday we hiked Lewis Mountain to Mathesons Lake, soaked up the mayflower extravaganza, studied globular clusters of frogs eggs and
reacquainted ourselves with the lyricism of eastern warblers. The next day, Victoria Day, delivered sunshine and warmth. We scrambled 500 metres up Jerome Mountain, crossed paths with three moose, flushed a woodcock, got nose to nose with early wildflowers.

From our dining room table in Victoria we savour the backside view of the neighbouring three-storey walkup. Here we make do with Kelly’s Mountain and the oh-so-blue waters of the Great Bras d’Or. An eagle just flew past. Gannets dive for fish carelessly and fatally lolling near the surface. Hermit thrushes, ovenbirds and magnolia warblers offer their morning vespers. Things could be worse.

1 comment:

Mary Sanseverino said...

An excellent "catch-up" -- we'll both have lots to enthuse about in the fall!!