It changes. It stays the same


It has been a long time since I went for a walk in the Town of Mount Royal.  TMR as we call it here in Montreal is an independent municipality completely surrounded by the rest of the city.  It was founded in 1912 as a sort of ideal garden suburb.  It is home to about twenty-five thousand affluent people.  It has a great layout with city services such as the library, city hall and community facilities in the centre and streets and crescents extending out like spokes in a wheel.  The houses are large and surrounded by pleasant gardens.  There are some nice apartment buildings on the main boulevards that make an X through the town.

On the east side, it is bounded by a small teeming community called Park Extension. I once lived in that part of town.  About forty yeas ago when my children were little TMR had a problem.  Their families were small and it was hard to keep up enrollment in the schools of the town.  Right across a huge boulevard ironically called L’Acadie Blvd. (there was nothing Arcadian about it) our crowded part of town was bursting at the seams. Someone had the bright idea to bus some of the poor kids in Park Extension into the affluent town and fill up a few school rooms.

As a young mother I heard about this scheme and made sure my kids were on the list to get bussed into the good schools.  By some weird system dreamed up  by bureaucrats only certain addresses in Park Extension were eligible .  My poor husband (my ex now) had a hard time understanding why I steadfastly turned up my nose at apartments on the west side of a street while I seemed willing to accept a dump on the east side.  It is very frustrating to try to explain something that makes no sense but thanks to pure stubbornness on my part we finally ended up in a bus zone.  My kids really benefited from going to Dunrae Gardens school.  I often wondered what the bus drivers thought of driving the children back and forth in the mornings, at lunch time and in the afternoons.  He or she had to take a meandering route because of the long chain link fence between Park Extension and TMR.

I was reminded of all this today as I took a long walk through TMR. All these years later the fence still stands between these two communities.  It is disguised by a high hedge but it is still a solid fence that separates rich and poor.  There are gates here and there and people from Park Extension can get in to go for walks among the green lawns and mansions.  I’m pretty sure no one from the other side comes for their evening stroll to Park Ex. among the small duplexes, the ethnic groceries, the pizza shops, the laundromats. The ethnic mix has changed over the years but still no rich people live here.

TMR has changed too.  It used to be a stronghold of rich Anglos.  Now French speakers are in the majority but the population is still mainly white and mainly Christian according to the latest census.

What is the use of the fence?  What does it mean and why does it still exist?  You can see from the picture that someone made an editorial comment on a safety sign on one of the gates.  “This wall represents the class struggle.”  Well, does it?

Country Mice attend an opening



The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts recently hosted a party for the opening of an exclusive exhibition of wedding dresses (make that wedding attire) designed by John Pail Gaultier.  I had a ball guiding his big show a few years ago so I was dying to see what had been whipped up for the “Love is Love” theme.  The finale of every fashion show is the wedding dress but given Jean Paul’s very inclusive attitude to love, I was sure more than dresses would be on show.

I have been spending a lot of time in the wilds of Muskoka with a dear person whose tastes run more to home-crafted birdhouses and planting various strains of potatoes than the Parisian fashion scene.  I anticipated something of a culture clash as we left the house.  I was dressed in my only fashion item – an ancient Escada jacket of startling checked fabric embroidered lavishly with butterflies.  I bought this in a consignment shop (second hand to you) more decades ago than I care to remember over the objections of my conservative friend who dresses only in black, grey or beige. It grew on her after a while. Thank God shoulder pads are making a comeback.

Speaking of beige, I had to bite my tongue when I noted that my escort was wearing his best black pants teamed with ……another color shoes. However, bitter experience has taught me that if you want the guy to show up, don’t comment on his outfit.

We arrived to a mob in the lobby that brought a hunted look to the eye of my shy woodland lad but with a flash of my volunteer guide ID we were whisked upstairs with the VIP’s. There wasn’t much elbow room up there either but the museum had devised a charming way of crowd control.  We were given colored rings (in keeping with the wedding theme) and admitted to the exhibition in groups according to color.

As a woman “of a certain age” I can say that many of the openings are attended by my contemporaries.  This was different.  City mice and men ,dapper  damsels and dogs were out in force and wearing the most fabulous shoes!  My footwear has been confined for many months to snow boots or rain boots.  I have never worn heels like the ones I drooled over that night.  “Wear chic flats”, you say. I have a habit of paying my bills and some of those mules and ballerinas would make  a serious dent in my budget.

One thing being a guide at the museum cured me of is the desire to acquire art.  I get to study it, look at it and discuss it with visitors.  Soirees like that one help me dampen my ardor for clothes and shoes.  I can never aspire to that level so – just look and admire.

To my surprise, my country mouse was a great hit.  He is very sociable and no one even noticed his shoes.  Well, maybe they did and copy-cat designers will make him a trend setter.

Oh, the exhibit?  Fabulous, darling.  Just check out the Irish knit inspired his and her outfits. Oh, I kept the orange rings – you never know when they might come in handy.

Irony on Sunday

imageI watched with interest the speech given by Donald Trump this morning as he began his tour of Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome.  I am no political scholar but I have followed with alarm the rise of (must I?) President….Trump and his extraordinary behavior during the early months of his administration.  Before we get into deeper irony I must comment on what is being lightly called “headscarf-gate”.  In the past some Western women of note have worn a headscarf in deference to the rules of the Saudis who require that women cover their heads.  Notably First Lady Obama did not (and was criticized for this by Donald Trump).  I applaud Melania Trump’s decision to follow the good example of Michelle Obama.  However, it struck me as ironic that anyone with access to the internet can see a good deal more of the anatomy of Melania Trump than her head.

But to deeper ironies – A peace mission during which a 100Billion arms deal with the Saudis is hailed as a job-creating boon for the United States.  A BBC commentator noted today that Saudi Arabia uses a greater percentage of its GNP on arms than any other country.  Peace will be forged here?  Ah, well,  similar arms deal with Israel will balance things out.

A head-spinning switch in the characterization of the Islamic world was revealed today.  Instead of the hateful murderers Trump evoked in his campaign,  we heard this morning a laundry list of  the triumphs of culture and technology and growth, culture and hospitality of the Saudis.  How ironic that no mention was made of the millions of quasi-slaves who build the high rise towers, monuments to wealth that now rise in the Gulf States.

In a novel approach, Mr. Trump told us the west was not going to “lecture” other states on how to behave.  In view of the military intervention and covert overthrow of legitimately elected governments over the 20th century, this is indeed a more subtle approach.  What about human rights, a free press (blunt humor not irony here) emancipation of woman, religious freedom and a separation of church and state.  Oh, sorry.  I must have confused standing up for one’s principles with “lecturing”

Fifteen of the nineteen terrorists of the 9/11 tragedy were Saudis.  Ironic that the first foreign visit by this president today is to Saudi Arabia. The phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” was notably absent from his speech.  Well, these nice guys did make a huge contribution to Ivanka Trump’s foundation today.  Ironic, isn’t it?

In spite of a lengthy US  investigation no member of the Saudi royal family(the ruling class) was found directly funding terrorism but ….it is a commonly held view that over the years the Saudis have turned a blind eye to money laundering that permitted  Al Quaida and ISSIS to operate.  Ironic that the Saudis will now establish and run an institution to financially cut off terrorists.

Where irony gave way to despair and fear this morning was when Donald Trump demonized Iran.  In a speech that until then advocated unity among Muslim states,  this crude and clumsy attack was a cynical ploy to please both the Gulf States and Israel.

Some comparisons have been made between the speech given this morning and that of President Obama made in Cairo in 2014.  Go on You Tube and take a look at it.  Ironic how conviction can skew viewpoint.  Obama talks about the role the US played in the overthrow of a legitimately elected government in Iran.  Hmm….no mention of any of that from le grand orange this morning!

Like everything else in politics there was good and bad in today’s speech.  World statesmanship is an infinitely complex multi-dimentional puzzle.  Donald Trump is the leader of a great nation.  He has good speech writers and he managed to read a speech – this already is good!  The speech was made up of both good and catastrophic points.  I know that this  president of the United States does not have the capacity to do his job and it has been my observation that few in his administration have the capacity.  This shoves gentle irony into the realm of terror.  Is there anything gentle left in this world?  I tremble for the world of my grandchildren.

Oh, the picture – a joker, a knave and a trump – just my two cent’s worth.

Mother Nature is a child abuser


Anyone who reads this blog knows I can go off into raptures about nature in all its forms.  However, living in the country brings home the dark side of Mother Nature.  As I told a dear friend of mine today, I had considered myself on top of the food chain.  Black flies do not appear to have been informed of their position on the hierarchy and have bitten me unmercifully over the past week.  In spite of bug spray, bug jackets, ugly nerdy looking hats with nets attached and a nineteen-thirties look around the feet due to pants tucked into socks, they were not deterred.  A couple of the little blighters even managed to get into the house and I awoke on Wednesday morning with my eye swollen shut due to a vicious bite just below the eyebrow.  The local pharmacist was quite impressed with my chest – not the first to have exhibited a vivid interest if I do say so myself.  Unfortunately, her awe struck gaze was due to a livid string of welts.  “Like Christ before he was put on the cross.” was a rather dramatic description by my boyfriend.  I doubt Our Saviour was afflicted by the intense itching behind the ears and down my legs incurred by the damned black flies. I had great hopes that the pharmacist would produce some miracle salve – this is 2017 for heaven’s sake.  She led me confidently down an aisle and triumphantly produces a bottle of ……calamine lotion.  Sixty years ago this chalky liquid was slathered over my legs after I fell into a patch of stinging nettles.  Crushed I was led whimpering out of the pharmacy.

Yesterday was a hot and humid day.  I helped a bit with the garden and took refuge in the cool house hoping to catch an episode of Coronation Street.  It was not to be.  At exactly 4 pm – air time for my favorite dose of British working class soap opera, a tornado hit our house.  With amazing speed a storm packing gale force winds, torrential rain, thunder and hail engulfed our house and land. I was convinced the living room window was going to blow in and took shelter in the bathroom.   The picture shows a substantial tree that was uprooted during the ten minute storm. Many trees in the neighborhood were felled and we had no power for six hours.

So, you can perhaps understand that my feelings towards Mother Nature are a little cooler than usual.  I know all moms can have bad days but really, I shall expect some pretty spectacular lilac to make up for this.

They’re back!!!

The hummingbirds, I mean.  This evening just before sunset we heard the unique burring noise of a hummingbird coming to the feeder.  We eventually saw three scrappy little miracles at the feeder, fighting and whirring around.  It is a wonderful sight and a sign that Spring really is here.  It had better be as everything is now planted – potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, bush beans, green peas, peppers and hot peppers (risky as they like it hot) cucumbers and a hopeful melon vine. We are forecast freakish hot weather for the next two days so it is a good thing that the creek is nice and full.  The furrows are slightly sloped down hill so the irrigation should be quite efficient.  We can only hope for a bit of help from nature and not a parched summer like last year. There was not a drop of rain in the month of July if I remember rightly.  However, we must just hope for the best.

The birds are wonderful.  We have quite a contingent of blue jays.  I always admired them but since I learned that they are pretty savage, breaking the eggs of other birds and eating fledglings, they have lost their luster for me.  The good news is that the little nest in the shed once more has an occupant and that one of Joe’s finely crafted bird houses has an occupant.  As a precaution against the damned jays Joe partially blocked the entry hole in the shed to make it too small for them to get in.  The bird in the new birdhouse is brave and curious.  She sits at the little hole and looks out, her  black head quite visible – like the newcomer to the neighborhood that she is.  I had my doubts about that birdhouse being occupied as it is in a very exposed spot on top of a fence post but she seems to have taken to it.  The blackbird in the tree hole is very happy. Oh, we saw the crane again this evening too.  She (or he) was stalking quietly around the bush in the farmer’s field.  I suppose they pay a visit to the swamp over the trail for frogs who produce quite a din as soon as it is evening. Frog chorus almost like bells tinkling.

It is impossible to get shots of birds except for the flashy jays and I refuse to give them the publicity so here are some lovely shots of white and blue violets that have come out and are quite lovely next to the brilliant dandelions. I never can quite understand why people have a distain for dandelions.  I think they are beautiful – certainly better than the poison people liberally spray around to try to get rid of them…..OK, OK, another time.

Planting Potatoes


There is enough Irish blood coursing in my veins to think of planting potatoes as a sacred task.  I doubt any ancestor of mine ever planted Blue Russians or Congo Pot varieties but scrabbling around in the dirt seemed to come naturally.  I have never planted potatoes before and in spite of the very annoying “no see’em” flies which plagued us, we got them all into narrow beds.  Ready for the first showers of the weekend.

A bit of sad news…the little birds that nested over the door of the shed lost their eggs.  We think it was the blue jays that attacked them.  As a consolation ( to us) we saw a lone turkey running over the farmer’s field and a partridge and what was either a mink or an otter.  The joint is jumping

And What Does It Mean?



Here are a few more beauties that just appeared as I was going around this morning.  I have no idea what they are called but I will try to find out. Lovely, aren’t they?  It is very interesting to see all the nesting pairs of birds and see how they are enjoying the bird feeder.  We saw a pair of Jays this morning.  Lots of people think they are noisy and bossy and I suppose they are.  I love them, though.  Part of the crow family, like Magpies they make their presence known.  The little nesting pair in the shed are still holding us hostage.  I don’t know what we will do when it is time to go to Montreal as we can’t close the door.  I hope the little ones will have hatched by then. The days are long but as soon as it gets dark we can hear frogs making that high spring chirping sound that means….what exactly….we’re getting ready to do our springy thing?

Now, about the title  – I had this feeling when I found the little pink flowers this morning.  What will come next?  What is all this? Where does it go in winter? Why and how does it all come to life in Spring?  Who am I in all this?  Was I like this, springy and innocent when I was young?  Am I now like an old tree with a rough bark and what will happen when I die?  Will I be like some old fallen trunk rotting away on the floor of the forest?  Am I a tadpole? So all these questions come down to one question.  What is the meaning of this?  So many philosophers and religious leaders, writers and thinkers have wrestled with this.  Do we always come to a tie, a draw, a no contest?  I think so.  These little pink flowers brought forward this question.  They are more profound than any newspaper or TV show or book.  I bow to the little pink flowers and recognize that I am helpless before them.