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Night Mail   Leave a comment

This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient’s against her, but she’s on time.

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Bluenose   5 comments

I wasn’t sure I’d find anything like the boat behind me — a replica of a hundred-foot fishing schooner, similar to a very famous one from Canada — but I lucked out in the end.  While I was wikiwalking today, you see, I was reminded of what some claim is the most famous ship in Canadian history, one most of us take for granted every day because it’s in our pockets, and we see it so damned often that we “forget” about it.  But never, never completely ….

The 1920s were the last great days of the wind-driven North Atlantic fishing fleets, including out of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.  In 1921, the schooner Bluenose was launched, in part to participate in the dory-fishing trade on the Grand Banks, but also to get revenge on the Americans for winning a schooner race sponsored by a newspaper.  She could work hard — she carried eight dories, which would be launched up to four times a day when she was active during the fishing season — but she was designed as much for speed, with a very unique profile in the water.

The Bluenose handily won the right to represent Canada in the 1921 International Fisherman’s Trophy, and proceeded to take apart the American Elsie in October to win the Cup.  She and her captain, Angus Walters, defended the Cup in 1922 against the Henry S. Ford.  The 1923 race ended in controversy, and another wasn’t held for years.

The ship continued mostly successful in racing, and represented Nova Scotia in 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of His Majesty King George V; but her paying days as a fishing boat were ending.  Motor trawlers started taking over the trade from the dorymen in the 1930s; that and the Great Depression hit the wind-driven fishers hard.  The Bluenose‘s greatest racing challenger was at hand, though — Gloucester’s Gertrude L. Thebaud.  The Thebaud defeated her in a challenge cup in 1930; but the Bluenose had the better of the American boat in the International Fisherman’s Trophy, defeating her twice — and ending with the trophy in her possession in 1938.  That was the end for her, though; her masts were removed afterward by new owners, who moved her to the Caribbean in 1942 and turned this beauty into a diesel-powered coastal freighter.  She ran aground off Haiti in 1946, was abandoned, and broke up on the reef.

The Bluenose has never been forgotten by Canada, though.  At the height of her fame, the schooner was placed on the reverse of Canada’s dime coin, where she has sailed ever since.  Even before that, she was commemorated on one of Canada’s most famous stamps; and again in 1988, on a stamp honouring Angus Walters, her long-time captain.  And a replica, Bluenose II, built from her original plans, sails the waters out of Lunenburg to this day as a living museum and “ambassador” of Nova Scotia.

Me On Canada 150

Since I live in Saint-Lazare-de-Vaudreuil, Québec, Harper sort of arm-twisted me — uh, make that “sweet-talked”; I can feel Harper staring at me as I write this, and she’s across most of a continent — into writing about Canada on its sesquicentennial birthday.  I don’t know if I’m really the right person for this; I may live in Québec, but I’m not native Canadian.  (I was born in upstate New York, and then my parents moved here some years ago.)  But I’m the closest thing to a Canadian on hand, so I suppose I’m anointed.  (I was also supposed to publish this on July 1, but Second Life must wait for the RL working schedule.)

And there’s really a lot to be proud of as a citizen of a country as great as Canada is, even if I wasn’t raised on hockey and poutine.  Harper actually said a lot of good things about us last year, when she happened to write a piece in this blog for our 149th birthday.  And she got it mostly right.  But there’s always a few exceptions to quick observations, some missed at the time, some which slip in later.  For instance, our eminent publisher didn’t really catch the ambivalence of many here in Québec toward being part of a country whose original rulers kicked out the king and government that founded us years before — specifically, France.  A separatist referendum back in 1995 was defeated — by only 1.16%.  Stresses exist to this day between Québec and the other provinces, and Québec has never approved the 1982 Constitution.

And then there are the relations with the First Nations peoples, who in the US are called Native Americans or Indians.  There have been few wars of “pacification,” along the line of the Indian Wars of the American 19th century.  Great efforts have been expended in modern days to work with tribal leaders.  But there have been many rocky moments as well, with promises broken by the white man; the British and Canadian governments of the 19th and early 20th centuries did have a history of land dispossession, Indian residential schools and forced assimilation.  A “reoccupation” tent was raised on Parliament Hill by an indigenous group in the days before the Canada Day celebration in Ottawa, as a reminder of these past blots on the Canadian copybook.  In a politically shrewd move, the tent was not ejected, but moved closer to the Centre Block Peace Tower — and the celebration stage.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited it as a gesture.

And things like this are actually a sign that gives Canadians hope for their country.  In the long run, Canadians have tried to live up to the more noble aspects of their country and culture.  The country itself (more properly, the Dominion of Canada) was confederated in 1867 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, on the principles of “peace, order and good government,” and the full patriation of its Constitution from British control (in 1982) included a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that codifies constitutionally Canadians’ protections — aside from one interesting “notwithstanding” section that can be invoked, but rarely is due to political costs.  Outside of, perhaps, the House of Commons and the provincial legislatures, there’s usually a real attempt to find dialogue and consensus between sides of a question.  And the old chestnut about Canadians being just plain nicer than other peoples has a lot of truth to it.  (Aside from, maybe, Stanley and Grey Cup championship games.)

So yeah, I’m glad to be a Canadian in many ways.  It’s not the perfect place to live; but what country is?  And it strives to be better than many other places are around the world.  Canadians have worked hard for 150 years now to hold their place among the other countries of the world, and we’ve made our contributions, to politics, science, medicine, economics, and entertainment.  We’re gonna keep on working hard, and we should be here in some form or another for a few more decades.  Maybe we can even help keep the rest of the world from destroying itself, if we can export a little “Canadianness” to other places around.  Our children will find that out for us.

Evening On the Plain of Jars

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For Our Veterans

veterans-day

Harper put up an excellent pair of pieces for her Veterans Day writing this week, but I decided to do something of my own.  In Canada, we call this Remembrance Day, and it’s more specifically to honour the soldiers and sailors who have fallen, like America’s Memorial Day, since the day’s origin lies in the end of what was then called the Great War, now World War I.  The Flanders poppy in my lapel derives from the poppies that dotted the northern European landscape, thus the inspiration for Canadian army doctor John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields.”

Je me souviens….

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Rest In My Arms, Beloved

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Posted September 13, 2016 by Conan Bankersbox in Arts, Photographs

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Formal Portrait

Conan -- 2016 portrait

Well, I never was one to turn down a challenge, and I’ve been picking up formal wear lately, partly for me, partly for Harper’s storyboarding.  Here’s my own portrait, taken at the site of The Spoils of Annwn.  Harper plans to hang all three portraits on our office wall; one of us will probably photograph it and write it up when she gets it done.  (I’m wearing Balen by Heth Haute Couture, for those who are going shopping.)

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