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Tuesday 29 September 2015

Food for Body and Mind...Another Island Day

This past weekend, we spent another day enjoying Prince Edward Island. First, we had lunch at the Island Preserve Company. Then we took in the musical Evangeline at the Homburg Theatre in the Confederation Centre for the Arts.

The Island Preserve store and restaurant is in New Glasgow, a short drive north of Highway 2 between Summerside and Charlottetown. I love this location in the autumn, as the place is decorated for the season. 

The beautiful autumn weather let us explore the area at our leisure as well. The cool, sunny day was pleasant enough requiring a jacket.

This Company sells teas and preserves, from well stocked, beautiful displays.

The preserves accompany many of the restaurant menu items and the teas are on the menu. 

In addition, there is a sampling bar set up in the store for the preserves and the teas. The variety is excellent and priced for tourists.

This is late season for the restaurant, the last few weeks before they close. 

The building is beside the Clyde River, with huge windows, bordered with stained glass. 

The vaulted ceiling displays quilts and draws the eye. 

There is a wide variety on the menu, from beef to chicken, but again we opt for seafood. 

The fish cakes I had were delicious as was Rick's cup of chowder. 

The place filled with bus loads of Japanese tourists while we were there and individual groups of visitors from all over the eastern seaboard took up the remainder of the restaurant. This time of year, it closes at 4 p.m.

The Confederation Center in Charlottetown is a wonderful facility. We have enjoyed a variety of performances at the Homburg theatre over the years and this one did not disappoint.

Evangeline is a production equal to any we have seen in New York, Toronto or London. The cast was excellent, including Gabriel and Evangeline, the main characters. The full cast scenes, especially those in Act 1, set in Nova Scotia, were stirring, and gave an incredible glimpse into Acadian life in the 1650s. The sets too were excellent, as were props and costumes. The sound, with one or two glitches, was perfect, so that we could hear every word over the orchestra, which also was exceptional.

The only criticism we have of the production is that it is a bit long. While we enjoyed every minute, we felt some of the scenes could have been cut, especially in Act two. However, we recommend this production to anyone who enjoys musical theatre. It is well done.

Evangeline, showing the British treatment of the Acadians, took us back in time, to the grave injustice done to these peaceful people. It involved a love story and highlighted the determination and spirit of a woman caught in the struggle and search to find her husband. However, as I watched the Acadians being taken from their homes by the ruling British and their search for a new home, I could not help but make the comparison to the millions of people today who are running for their lives, searching for a new home. Over three hundred years after the Acadians were mistreated, we still have not learned how to get along with each other.

We had delicious food for the body that day in a great setting, but the food for thought was just as important and beautifully inspired.

Sunday 27 September 2015

I Swear

Until the late 1990s, Newfoundland had a denominational school system, so my brother, Frank and I attended Catholic school. The faith permeated every aspect of our lives, guided by Presentation sisters and parish priests. My brother was an altar boy and I was in choir. Until I was eleven, we sang Mass in Latin. It was remarkable to us when, in the early 1960s, the priest faced the people and spoke English in Church. 

In school, there was a nun principal and a number of them on staff. The church was on on the main floor of the building and the school upstairs. School revolved around church, first Friday devotions, stations of the cross during Lent, sacramental preparation, morning prayers, confessions, school Masses. We did not have a school bus so Dad dropped us off at school on his way to work and Frank and I attended morning Mass before school.

In class itself, religious instruction was a big part of the day. In Grade 4, our class was tasked with learning all the prayers and some were long. We had to write them at night and memorize them. The principal thought that by strapping those who had not done their homework, she would make us do better for the next day. However, what kind of god was she showing us that way? I know we were scared and hated those prayers.

Another of the prayers we learned was JMJ which we put at the top of each page in our exercise books. This denoted that all of our work was for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It was second nature to do this and I cannot remember when we finally stopped.

JMJ was a common prayer in those days and Mom said it all the time. If anything happened, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph," was her go to phrase. If she cut herself, dropped something, that was what she said.

                                        Dad and Mom

If she was late, Mom said, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I'm going to be late again." I always thought of it as swearing but not Mom. It was a prayer to her. If intent is needed for swearing, then Mom did not swear.  

Our daughter, Claire learned my mother's prayer as well. She heard it as a child but did not repeat it until she was older.

Along came our first granddaughter, Sylvie and by two years old she repeated everything she heard. 

We ignored things which were inappropriate and soon they disappeared. However, the day Sylvie said, "Jesus, Mary and Georgie," we all laughed. Georgie is her dog and she said the phrase when she dropped something.

Was Sylvie swearing?

Thursday 24 September 2015

Gaggle Again

Autumn in under way now, and in the dying days of September, the morning sun and heat mean that the patio screen door is still in use. Just after breakfast, the familiar sound brings us to the patio deck as the fields nearby attract a huge gaggle of geese.

Gaggle is a great term for them too. It denotes the symphony of sounds made by these dynamic wonders as they practise formations with the younger birds in preparation for the long trip south in the coming months. They fly over us this morning, and we listen for the swish of wing against air, but the gaggle is too noisy. Again, we are lucky to escape any errant emissions from the hundreds of birds.

After five years, we have not tired of the spectacle, the wonder of goose and gaggle, honk and flight formation, while mindful of the hunters looking for that Thanksgiving bird.

We hope never to tire of this wonder of nature.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Personals Via Radio

A television program about people living on a remote refuge in Alaska caught my attention this past summer. They live off the grid and off the land as hunters and trappers. The remote cabin dwellers receive news from their families in more populated areas of Alaska as personal messages over the radio. A family member can phone the radio station and leave a message on a machine which is played on air, or the message can be read by the announcer. This type of communication goes on today in Alaska and is very important to the people involved.

This story reminded me of a similar time in Newfoundland. There was a radio program sponsored by Gerald S Doyle, a Newfoundland businessman. The bulletins which followed the news sponsored by Doyle, helped Newfoundland families stay in touch. It often revolved around people away at hospital in St. John's, telling families of their medical progress and plans for their return home. It was common to hear things like, "To Sally Jones in Jones Cove, Bert is doing well after the surgery and will be home on the train on Friday." Or, "To John Smith in Smithville, Mary had the baby on Sunday. Mother and daughter are doing well." 

All around the province, people tuned in to get the latest news, weather and word of their compatriots. My family in St. John's/Maddox Cove/Mount Pearl and my husband's family in Corner Brook, listened as well. The program was on supper time province-wide, making the island one big community, sharing personal information the quickest way possible. 

On a lighter note, the bulletin often contained some humorous commentary as well. One story goes that the announcer read this message immediately before the weather forecast, saying "There is a bean supper tonight in Lark Harbour...And now for the gale warning."

Sunday 20 September 2015

Railway Boys

This is another in the series of poems I wrote for our granddaughters. This poem is about my grandfather, Sam Pretty, his brother Fred and their younger brother, Cyril or Tot, as they called him. The three brothers were born in Dildo, Newfoundland and lived across the bay in Old Shop as well. 

                                    Dildo, Newfoundland

                              Old Shop, Newfoundland

These three worked on the railway but they were not the first from the family to do so. The oldest two brothers, Albert and Harry worked there as well but died of tuberculosis at an early age. The youngest child, Robert, also died of TB, at the age of seventeen.

In my husband's family, his great grandfather, Joe Lawrence, was a conductor on the railway out of Port aux Basques, like Cyril Pretty. Jim Lawrence, Joe's son, was a brakeman. The Lawrences and the Prettys knew each other long before Rick and I ever met.

        Joe and Jim Lawrence

This poem is to honor all the men who worked on the railway in Newfoundland. They worked hard and had a steady income during the worst times in the country's history.

Well done.

Railway Boys

Sam really loved the trains,
He heard them every day.
He had a dream to work on them
Helping people on their way.

                Young Sam Pretty

Sam had a brother Fred
Who worked upon the train.
He watched for Fred and waved to him
Even in the rain.

                   Fred Pretty

When Sam was finally old enough
He got a job like Fred.
They worked together every day
On the rail line, so it's said.

                        Cyril Pretty

But that's not all the story
'Cause there was a younger brother.
His older brothers called him Tot,
He was smaller, like their mother.

                      Sam Pretty

So the Pretty boys worked on the trains
Engineers - the older two.
Tot was a conductor
While his brothers led the crew.

                                           Sam Pretty

For many years they worked the rails
They loved their work 'tis true.
So, like the Pretty brothers did
Find what you love to do.

                                     Marie Pretty Smith

Thursday 17 September 2015

Outport Girl

This poem is for my granddaughters, Sylvie and Caitlin. While it is about their great great grandmother Bessie Earle Smith of Durrell, Twillingate Island, Newfoundland, it is about any of our foremothers who grew up in outport Newfoundland. 

Those women worked so hard from an early age, learning how to survive in the harsh environment of coastal Newfoundland.

Their lives revolved around a fishery which was seasonal and unpredictable,

in support of the men who braved the rough seas of the North Atlantic, 

and doing everything on the home-front.

We are so proud of them.

                Bessie Earle Smith

                      Outport Girl

There was a wee girl
Named Bessie Earle
Who lived in a place
Where the ocean did swirl.

She could play on the beach
And watch fishing boats,
See whales and sea gulls,
Horses and goats.

Icebergs were plenty
Waves they were lapping.
Gardens were tended
And feet they were tapping.

People worked hard
And times they were tough.
Families struggled
To just get enough.

When Bessie did grow up 
And then met her bow,
She took along with her
The life she did know.

Now in my history
I have a great gran
Who was a proud daughter
Of outport Newfoundland.
                              Marie Pretty Smith

These are family photos taken on and around Twillingate.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Victoria by the Sea, Prince Edward Island

This past week, we visited Victoria by the Sea, on the south shore of our home province. The little village is a photographer's dream 

with its brightly coloured houses,

beautiful gardens, 

fishing boats,

and range lighthouse.

 A stroll around the village is peaceful and interesting, a feast for the eyes.

However, first we had lunch at Beachcomber on the Wharf.

This restaurant sits at the end of the wharf where the local fishing boats are tied up. Our table by the window overlooked the bay.

Umbrella tables with chairs for warm sunny days, unlike today, were outside. It is an appropriate setting for the seafood on the menu.

I had deep fried haddock which was lightly breaded rather than heavily battered. It was the best haddock I had ever eaten. The french fries were tasty but of the frozen variety, which is disappointing considering all the fresh potatoes available in our province. Coleslaw, tartar sauce and a roll finished the plate. The roll was huge, fresh and tasty, a huge temptation for someone trying to avoid bread. Rick had seafood chowder and a burger which he enjoyed. 

During the stroll through the quaint village, 

the range lighthouse is evident, though no longer in use.

It will be maintained by the village now that the federal government has abandoned it. This lighthouse, and another in a farmer's field further inland, worked together to provide reference points for vessels coming in to the wharf. When the red stripes on the side of both lighthouses lined up a certain way, mariners knew they were at the right place to turn safely into the bay. Then two other buoys provided navigational aid. 

Today, of course, with the proliferation of the Global Positioning System, the range lighthouse is obsolete. However it would be interesting to see what would happen if GPS stopped working. If the village maintains the lighthouse, it would be a good back-up system for mariners. The old ways can be more reliable on occasion.

There is a theatre, the Victoria Playhouse, 

in the village that is busy from late spring to end of summer with a variety of quality productions. Our plan for the day included the comedy Stranger to Hard Work, with Cathy Jones. 

The theatre was comfortable and cool 

in spite of the packed house and the stillness of the air that day. The opening act, Chris Gibbs, was hilarious, providing a British perspective on his adopted Canadian home. Then the hilarious Cathy Jones played several parts as she presented her life at sixty. She closed with her familiar Missus Enid character, now ensconced in a nursing home with everything it entailed. She received a standing ovation.

The walk through the village to the car and the forty-five minute drive home were a nice end to the day. 

Conversation was relaxed and chatty, a perfect reflection of the idyll which is Victoria by the Sea.