Stepping out – Week 6

June 6-12

Part of my plan to take more notice of things around me as I walk will be to stop and talk with people from time to time. I like to chat and last week I had two interesting and illuminating conversations with strangers.

As I walked along Wellington Street I glanced up at the little passageway that is marked “Martello Alley“. It looked colourful so I stopped to take a photo. I always thought that this was an antique dealer’s place and had never ventured in. The proprietor, David Dossett, obviously another extrovert, wearing a shirt splattered with paint, saw me taking the photo and called me in.

Turns out it is not an antique dealer at all but a very eclectic little collection of items that are locally made and paintings and photos and posters made by local artisans. I ended up there chatting with David for over half an hour and only skimmed the surface of all the bits and pieces there are to explore. Got some colourful photos, too. Drop in sometime. David will give you a tour.

As I was walking along the lakeshore there was a group of young men clustered around some kind of apparatus with a remote control. Turns out they are from McGill and are attending a robotic conference at Queens this week. They have been working for four years on a robotic swimmer. Of course I had to stay around to watch them try it out in the water.

The machine, just bigger than a breadbox and with claw-like arms, literally crawled into the water from the shoreline, swam around and then crawled out onto shore. I will upload a short video to Youtube as it is kind of hard to describe.

Throwback to the 1830’s and a “sort of” relative

This week I have been working in Toronto and I took it upon myself go seek out this plaque that acknowledges a very distant relative who had a significant role in Ontario history.

Peter Matthews (1790-1838) was married to my fourth great aunt, Hannah Major. Hannah’s, brother, Henry Major (1808-1887) was my third great grandfather. The Major family originated in Caven, Ireland, moved to the Maritimes in 1775 and then to the Pickering district of Ontario where they owned a sawmill in – wait for it – Majorville, a little community near Highway 7, just north of Whitby that is now known as Whitevale. The White family took over the district from the Majors in the 1840’s and thus renamed the town. Sounds a bit like the Wild West.

Peter Matthews was born near Belleville Ontario, the son of United Empire Loyalists. He and Hannah Major were married in 1811 when she was 15 years old. They had 8 children and she died at age 33. I don’t know much more about Hannah but there is a lot of information about her husband Peter who farmed at first but subsequently became a political figure and local martyr/hero.

During the war of 1812, Peter fought under General Brock. Later, he became involved with the rebels around Toronto led by William Lyon MacKenzie who were protesting and fighting the Family Compact group that controlled Upper Canada. This was thirty years before Canada became Canada and Ontario was Ontario. Peter ended up leading a group of 1000 rag-tag protesters against the government soldiers in December 1837. They were soundly defeated and Peter and his co-conspirator, Samuel Lount were captured and tried for treason. Once convicted, they were held in a dirty small jail cell and eventually they were hanged in a spectacle execution that took place near the old Courthouse, now very close to the King Edward Hotel around King and Yonge Streets. The city limits ( see the map below) were at about where Dundas Square is now. Montgomery’s tavern, dubbed the Rebel Camp was at approximately present day Yonge and Eglinton.

The execution was done, in part, to make an example of these rebels who, in fact, were trying to advocate for a fairer government. Their bodies were thrown in the Potters Cemetery initially but were later moved to Toronto Necropolis Cemetery where a monument bearing the inscription below was erected in 1898. Peter was also posthumously pardoned by Queen Victoria.

This week I found the plaque on a building at 1 Toronto Street marking the gallows spot where Peter Matthews and Ssmuel Lount were hanged. There are other monuments and plaques at the cemetery and in Pickering.

My connection with this fellow – a sort of six degrees of separation – is somewhat remote and not truly ancestral but it is intriguing to read about his exploits and demise and know that my thrice great grandparents and the rest of the Major Family must have found all this quite disruptive and disturbing.

Stepping out – Week 5

May 30-June 5

I am back home in Kingston and have picked up where I left off exploring my home town after two weeks tramping around cities in the U.K. and Europe.

If you didn’t see what my mission is in the next few months you can find more about it here. My plan is to get some exercise while the weather is good and at the same time take more notice of what is surrounding me. And share photos each week of discoveries I have made on my walks.

This old building was one of the first breweries in the core of old Kingston. It was built by James Robbins in 1793. It underwent name changes from Robbins Brewery to Kingston Brewery to Bajus Brewery and was operated by the Bajus family until the 1920s. The brewing industry was an important part of this district and what is now Rideau Street was called Brewery Street.

Across the street is s dry dock that was opened by Sir John A MacDonald and has been operational since the 1870’s. This week they are preparing it to bring in a houseboat for renovations.

This property has also been the site of boat building since 1676. Metalcraft Marine has used the property since the 1980’s to build Fire/Rescue/Patrol boats that are sent all over North America (like this one that is soon headed to Miami, Florida.)

Lots of flowering trees this week, including these two beauties in front of a house on King Street that was built in 1841. At that time the farm lot across the street (now City Park) was being considered as a site for the Canadian Parliament Buildings.

And, high water levels in Lake Ontario caused a bit of flooding, including the Parking Lot and entry to the Kingston Yacht Club. This mother duck took advantage of the puddle to teach her ducklings to swim.

My friend, Sue, gave me the guided tour around the Rideau Street neighbourhood she lived in as a child. She pointed out the church where her brother used to go to sales to buy Christmas gifts more than 50 years ago and as we approached the church…they had a rummage sale on. Some things just don’t change.

Stepping way out – Week 4

May 23-29

It has been another whirlwind week in several ports, all walkable and interesting. I will include one photo from each port. I will pick photos that are different from those on my Facebook page videos. Tomorrow I head back to Canada so the Kingston project will resume.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Although I spend a bit of time in the city, mainly seeing the peace wall and learning about their “troubles”, much of the day was out by the seaside at a place called The Giants Causeway. Great weather and a good choice for an excursion.

Dublin, Republic of Ireland

I had a great day wandering around Dublin, stopping at a museum or two and riding a bit further afield on the hop-on-hop-off bus.

Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France

Got to put up a photo of the Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Had a wonderful quiet Sunday just strolling and soaking up the ambience.

Bruges, Belgium

A delightful little city with lots of canals and interesting streets…and tourists.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

A transit strike emptied the streets of trams and buses and made it more open for walking. I walked a record 33,344 steps in Amsterdam on that day.

And a bonus jump ahead to Thursday

Oslo, Norway

Despite it being s very rainy day I found Oslo to be clean, with interesting architecture and lots of gardens and museums. If I were to pick one city to return to explore more, it would be Oslo. Next cruise along the Norway Fjords?

Stepping way out – Week 3

May 16-22

I always thought that being on a cruise would be restrictive and I would feel antsy and not get enough exercise. I was wrong,

For the past week I have been cruising on the Holland America Ship, Zuiderdam, around the North Sea and U.K. I have been easily able to get in my 10,500 steps a day. In fact my phone tells me that in the past week I have well over 10km a day.

I will post a few photos of where my feet have taken me in the past week. I am posting these from my phone so I may have to adjust the formatting once I get home.

Copenhagen

I headed straight for this picturesque little canal.

Edinburgh

Of course one has to walk the Royal mile and visit St . Giles.

Invergordon, Scotland

Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland.

I found this in Wikipedia about the Church bells at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.

“In 1671, when the tower of the church was struck by lightning and burned, the bells fell into the church. It is said that townspeople hurried soft material into the church to catch the bells, should they fall, but despite their efforts, the largest bell did suffer a rift.[6]

Therefore, in July 1682, the church authorities contracted with Alexander Geddes, merchant in Kirkwall, to deliver the bell to Amsterdam, where it was recast by Claudius Fremy. On arrival in Amsterdam, the bell was weighed and was found to be 1,500 pounds (680 kg). It lost 65 pounds (29 kg) in casting, but 193 pounds (88 kg) pounds of “new metal” was added, resulting in a finished weight of 1,528 pounds (693 kg). The new tongue in the bell weighed 46 pounds (21 kg). Geddes returned the bell to Kirkwall on 23 August of the same year.”

Isle of Lewis, Hebrides Islands

Stepping out – Week 2

May 7-15

I have walked along in front of Grant Hall with its signature clock tower (completed in 1905) and Theological College (built in 1879-80) many times but didn’t realize that it has been designated as “Professor’s Walk” according to a plaque posted where it starts on University Avenue.

I took this quick little stroll along Professor’s walk this week. Past the towers of Grant Hall and Theological College.

I found this gaggle of friends on the street at a garage sale on Saturday. Hot dogs, drink and chips for $4. Proceeds to the Special Olympics.

We miss a lot by not looking up. I was astounded how many buildings in the Kingston core have some sort of turret or tower. It must have been a stylish addition 150 years ago. Some of these I have walked past many times but not noticed. Do you recognize any of them?

McIntosh Castle, below is not really a castle but a big house at the corner of West Street and Sydenham Streets. The curious little glass “widows walk” with windows all around it was added shortly after the house was constructed in the early 1880’s. Local legend has it that it was build so the lady of the house could take her tea up there and have a private box seat for the public hangings that took place in front of the Frontenac County Courthouse across the street.

It was Mother’s Day this week and I spent some time watching this mother tending to her young. She was a bit cautious at first but eventually returned a few times with worms for the baby birds that were under the eve of this house on Earl Street. It took me a while to get these shots. I think the neighbors were likely wondering what the heck I was doing.

This is a row of houses on Sydenham Street that I had never really “noticed” before. Lots of character.

And, of course, I stopped often to soak up the colour of the spring flowers.

Next week will be a change of venue as I tramp around some Northern European cities.

If you missed Week 1 you can find it here.

Stepping out – Week 1

May 1-7

I like to walk. I like to take photos. I like to explore. I like to travel.

Over the next few months I will chronicle my daily walks with regular posts and photos of something different and/or interesting that I have seen in the previous few days. Although my goal is to cover all the streets in the core of Kingston, Ontario, in the next several months, I will post photos of other places around the world where I am putting in my 10,500 steps a day as well.

Feel free to walk along with me virtually. Or if you want to walk beside me some day, let me know.

The thing that has struck me so much this first week of May is just how quickly life returns to the birds, the plants and the people when the days get longer and the sun is warmer. After cold colourless winter, the flowers bursting up from the ground or on twigs that a week ago looked dry and dead is invigorating.

The lake, that not long ago was a thick block of ice is now open and suddenly there are boats out on the water.

I hope to wander in all the streets in the Kingston core in the next few months. My aim is to take notice of things that I pass by. I find that my photography helps me do that. I am always on the lookout for something visually appealing and it makes me stop and ponder.

For example, I have likely walked along this street many times – Montreal Street, just east of Princess – but have never actually “seen” this shoe repair, clock repair or seamstress. Now I know where to easily find these services. I probably won’t use Cleopatra’s nails. What a colourful little collection of shops.

Montreal Street near Queen – Kingston Ontario

Walking along in front of the Frontenac Court House one evening I was struck by how grand this building is. Apparently it was built between 1855-8. A fire destroyed some of the dome in 1874 and a new larger dome was added.

Courthouse about 10 pm on May 7, 2019
Wikipedia photo of the courthouse in 1860.

If you missed reading about how my idea for this blog series came about, I have explained it HERE.

Kingston Canadian Film Festival 2019

We expect a film to entertain. But what a bonus when it also provokes discussion or reflection or teaches us something.

In the past four days I have seen seven of the 17+ films presented at 2019 Kingston Canadian Film Festival. Every one of them intrigued me and taught me in some unique way.

I will give one brief comment about each. I recommend them all if you find them later in theatres, on Netflix or Crave or on iTunes. T

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes This wonderful film combined themes of wildlife conservation, resiliency, feminism, racism and reward as it celebrates an exceptional Canadian – Anne Innis Dagg. I will write more about this film soon. Stay tuned.

Who is Bruce Kaufman I have known Bruce for 20 years and watched him blossom (there must be a more accurate but less poetic term) into a leader, mentor and enabler in the Kingston writing/arts community. Very Kingston film celebrating artists who work in both visual and written genres. The black and white film images of traveling through Kingston gave me a while different view of familiar streets. So much so that I shot a little black and white Facebook post of City Hall last night. The film left its impression on me quickly.

Hugh Hefner’s After Dark : Speaking out in Americ I loved seeing clips from the 60’s with people like Joan Baez and Sammy Davis Junior and Pete Seger. We usually associate Hefner with Playboy centrefolds but this points to another side of his influence to open public discussion about climate change and politics and racism, not easy to do on TV back in the day. It made me feel somewhat sad to think that entertainers and athletes were warning about the same things back then that apply now but we seem to be, if anything, slipping backward.

Anthropocene The theme was centred on how humans are changing the earth – much of it not for better. It wasn’t preachy but presented a sometimes stunningly beautiful visual depiction of natural and geological sites where we are altering the planet in . Not much said in the film but lots to ruminate on while we watch this unfolding around the globe. This film is available on iTunes now but would be much better appreciated on a big screen. The images are incredible

1991 Thank goodness for this film to add some levity to the day I saw the previous two. I booked this film at the last minute and am so glad that I did. What fun it was to watch. It is in French, English and Italian but subtitled when necessary. It was easy to follow (the trailer is all in French and I was afraid that although I have some basic French knowledge, I would miss the subtlety and jokes but that was definitely NOT the case.) I enjoyed all the Italian settings and the interactions between friends and family and strangers.

The Grizzlies Every Canadian should see this film. Full stop. It will be in theatres in mid April and I will remind you again then (and go to see it again myself). Mulling over how much this film hit me and will likely write more about it later when I have had time to digest.

Go-Boy Kingston is a penitentiary town so this locally produced film about a bank robber, Roger Caron, who also became a notorious escapee from numerous prisons was popular. Lots of history about Kingston Penitentiary and the archival footage of this fellow talking to schools and on Front Page Challenge, showed him to have a great sense of humour and real charm despite his sketchy past. He actually won the Governor General’s literary award for non-fiction in 1978 for his book, written while he was incarcerated, also called Go-Boy.

Congratulations and thank you to Mark and Megan and all the other folks involved with organizing and implementing this very successful festival. It is absolutely wonderful to see such a robust and varied collection of Canadian films. I am looking forward to next year’s KCFF already.

Please leave a comment or “review” if you saw one of these films or any others that you enjoyed at the 2019 KCFF.

Making Rosemary Focaccia

This is a little change of pace for my blog. By now you will realize that my posts tend to be an eclectic mix.

This recipe for rosemary focaccia is just too good not to share. If you have a cast iron pan it is the perfect cooking pan. If not, you can always use a heavy cake pan.

In the youtube video below I will walk you step by step through the recipe. Easy, inexpensive and delicious.

Prego. Bellissimo.

I will walk you through this recipe which is simple and delicious. It would even be a good recipe for kids to make.

Here are the written instructions.

Rosemary Focaccia in the Cast Iron Skillet

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and put the skillet into the oven to warm.

In 3/4 cup warm water dissolve 1/2 tsp sugar.  Add 1 1/2 tsp yeast and let it work for about 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup flour and 3/4 tsp salt and mix it up. I use a wooden spoon to do this.

Add 2 TBSP olive oil and fresh rosemary or dried rosemary (or any combination of that) and mix until combined. I crumble up a couple of large pinches of dried rosemary and then snip in fresh rosemary to taste.

Add another 3/4 cup flour (approximate) and stir it until the dough starts to come away from the bowl. Flour your fingers and draw it away from the bowl sides.

Take the skillet out of the oven (use oven mitts as the handle will be hot) and turn the oven OFF. Grease the skillet with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and spread the dough evenly into the pan. Cover the pan and dough with a tea towel and put the pan back into the oven for 20-30 minutes.

While the dough is rising, make the topping using 2 TBSP olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt, one or two cloves of chopped garlic and some more fresh or dried rosemary. The flavours will blend while the dough is rising in the warm oven.


When the dough has had a chance to rise, remove the pan from the oven and turn the oven up to 400 degrees F.  Brush the dough with the olive oil/garlic/salt/ Rosemary mix and sprinkle with coarse sea salt .

Bake for 20 minutes in the 400 degree oven.. 

Cool on a rack.

Top with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.

Total prep time is about 10 minutes, rising time 20 minutes and cooking time 20 minutes.

Life imitating art. Or is it the other way around?

I got an unexpected and sad reply from a friend in Africa when I sent him a birthday greeting this weekend. And it all resonated particularly harshly because of the theatre piece I saw last night. 

Tobias is the Beach Management Unit Chairman at the Kamin Oningo beach on Lake Victoria, a small fishing community in Kenya where I have visited several times.Through The CanAssist African Relief Trust we have been able to build up a small school there. The school, in fact, is named after my Dad as is one of the kids in the community!

Tobias responded to my cheery birthday note with the sad news of the death of two relatively young people in the village.  

Now I will take one step back.

Last night, I attended the Theatre Kingston performance of What a Young Wife Ought to Know.   The show was really well produced and there were some very funny and intimate moments. The general theme was a tough one, however.  It centred on the desperation of young women in Canada in the early 1900’s to limit their family size .  Living in relative poverty put them at increased health risk and they were simply not able to care for either themselves or their children adequately.   Their family planning choices were limited and sometimes the only choice was abstinence, a solution that strained their marriages. Desperate attempts to terminate the pregnancy were life-threatening and distressing. The show was dramatic and intense and personal and, for us in Canada now, it was “historical”.

Well in some parts of the world it is not history. 

One of the deaths at Kamin Oningo was a 35 year old woman who already had four kids and who delivered the fifth two weeks ago.  She must have been anemic during the pregnancy or, like many there, had some post-partum bleeding that was not fully addressed.  Like many African mothers, there really was no time to recuperate and she had to take up the usual household tasks immediately.  Apparently she had been given some iron tablets for the severe anemia  but she collapsed on Saturday and died at home.  Three of the older kids go to the SP Geddes school from pre-school age to grade 2. The husband, a fisherman with a meagre and unreliable income, is left with this young family. 

So this news drove home the message of the play even more (not that it needed any more driving home).  It was not that long ago that this conundrum was being played out in Ottawa.  It still is a concern in Africa and with people I know there. And women die. Less than two years ago, another young mother that I know died with a post-partum hemorrhage.  The baby survived but without a mother. 

The other fellow who passed away in the community this week, a 32 year old fisherman with three young children, died of what sounds to me like an Upper Gi Bleed.  Here, he would likely have had access to the medical care to prevent or manage this.  In Kamin Oningo there is no medical care in close proximity and most people can not afford transport to the nearest facilities that can deal with this or the meagre fees that are charged for health services.  So they leave it too late.  

Tobias has reached out to his friends for financial help so the families can achieve  release of the bodies of these two community members from the mortuary and to help to provide a funeral and burial for them.  I struggle to imagine what it is like to lose your wife, have a newborn baby at home and four other children and not have enough money to retrieve the body from the mortuary. Of course, the families will also be distraught by the deaths and suffer even more financially.

If anyone feels they want to reach out in support, I will be pleased to receive any donations and forward them directly to Africa where they will be used in support of these two bereaved families.  Even $10 will help.   An online transfer is best (john.a.geddes@gmail.com) or give me ten bucks when you see me next.  I promise that every cent will reach this community and the grieving families.

(This is not a CanAssist request, by the way, but a personal one from me.)

I would also recommend you seeing What a Young Wife Ought to Know at the Baby Grand – playing from now until February 16. And when you see it, realize what many women/families around the world are still going through and how it is not that long ago that this was the situation here in Canada.

The Kamin Oningo fishing community is suffering this week more than usual.