Two more KCFF18 movies

Coming of age movies seem to be popular. Two of this year’s nominees for Best Picture are Ladybird and Call Me By Your Name, both about teens discovering themselves and their relationships, including with their parents. Last year my favourite Canadian film was Weirdos. In all of these films, my aging self is having more trouble identifying with the teens but I tend to do relate to the parents.

Adventures in Public School is also a film in the coming of age genre but with a quirky comedic twist. Liam is a teenager who has been home schooled by his mother (played by Judy Greer – “Say goodbye to these” – Arrested Development) who has educated him but smothered him and protected him from any outside influence, including other kids. He goes to the local secondary school to write his final exams so he can go to Cambridge to become an Astronomer” like Stephen Hawking”  but sees a one-legged young woman at the school who catches his eye, He bombs the test on purpose so he can go to the school to get to know her. Of course, this does not sit well with the mom who then takes it on herself to instruct Liam (who ends up taking the class place of a girl named Maria Sanchez and then having to take all her classes using her name) in what she figures is the usual coming of age stuff like drinking alcohol, sex and smoking marijuana.

The movie is pretty silly but not to the point of being annoying. I found myself laughing a lot and there were quirky little moments that were both humorous and endearing. Not an award-winning film but entertaining and “cute”.

 

Today, I really enjoyed Cardinals. It was a slow burn, somewhat understated film that dealt with a woman released from jail ten years after killing someone in a car accident and being charged with impaired driving.  I thought it was impeccably written and unfolded slowly but with purpose.  Never tedious but always crawling ahead. The writer and directors (Grayson Moore, Aiden Shipley) are two young men whose work shows maturity beyond their years.  I can’t say too much about the plot because you have to experience it as it unfolds. I was trying to find some way of describing how the movie feels – like peeling an onion, watching a slow striptease or lava bubbling up from a volcano. None of those analogies did it justice. I realized that it felt very much like reading a good book. Something happens to advance the plot then there are a couple of pages of descriptive to flesh it out and then you turn the page and there is something else revealed. A jigsaw where you suddenly find a piece that clarifies a section.  I really liked the mood and the performances. The cast includes many talented Canadian actors and an added bonus for me was that one of the lead actors is Grace Glowicki, who I know from hanging out with her on a movie set , Nightrunners, shot in Kenya, three years back.

C1

Grayson Moore and Aiden Shipley at a Q&A after the KCFF screening of Cardinals.

Here is a scene from the movie to whet your appetite. Watch for it. I suspect it will eventually appear on Netflix. Also keep and eye on Grayson Moore and Aiden Shipley. They are talented young Canadian film-makers.

 

 

Kingston Canadian Film Festival 2018 – 1

One of the things I like about film festivals is that, in addition to feature films or short films, I can see documentaries that I would otherwise not have encountered and seeing them in a theatre, rather than on a small screen from the couch at home, is much more engaging.

At the first full day of the Kingston Canadian Film Festival I included two documentaries on my schedule of four films for the day.

Both of these related to events of the 1960’s and to some these may have been historical documentaries but for me and others my generation they were reminiscences of times we lived through and remember well.

Unknown-4Expo 67: Mission Impossible was a behind the scenes look at the seemingly unachievable task of putting together a World’s Fair on two yet-to-be-constructed man made islands in the St. Lawrence River in the heart of Montreal.   It was indeed an Herculean task to build this site from the ground up at an escalating cost and with the skepticism of much of Canada outside of the province of Quebec, that it could be completed on time.  Even the computer estimates suggested a probably completion date of mid 1969… two years too late.

I enjoyed being reminded about how things were in the mid 60’s and seeing the clothing, the masses of paper in the offices, the large machines for typing computer punch cards to enter data into the grand computers run with tape input,  the ubiquitous cigarettes and cigars and pipes with smoke billowing up in meetings or at public events. And, of course, I remember, along with 55,000,000 other attendees  at Expo 67 – Man and his World – gawking in awe at the 90 pavilions , the centrepiece being  the geodesic dome designed by Brockminster Fuller  that was the U.S. pavilion with that  “modernistic” monorail running right through it and a real space capsule at the top.

The film, however, was just an historical rehash, interesting to document the events leading up to Expo and a great summary with archival footage.   It could be something that makes a 2 hour CBC special on TV.

Ninth_Floor_MovieThe documentary, Ninth Floor, that I saw this morning, however, was something special.   This film told a story of the crisis at Sir George Williams University in Montreal in 1969 when students protested lack of action by the University on charges of racism.   Now, I was a university student at UWO at that time so it was people my age making a statement and demonstrating to correct a wrong that they perceived.  Canadian filmmaker Mina Shum is a great story-teller with diverse talent as evidenced by her film Meditation Park that was shown last night as the opening film of the festival.  Ninth Hour, although a documentary, was also a very adeptly-crafted story combining present day interviews with now much older protesting students who were involved in 1969 (one of whom is now a Canadian Senator), archival montages of news coverage and film shot while the crisis was unfolding, and very cleverly-integrated film shot recently that fleshes out the story and seeming timeless.  Shum was very careful not to include elements in the recent film that would date it in any way.  Some of the images are quite beautiful and even arty but every one contributes to the story.

Ninth-FloorThe elders being interviewed (all protesters during the crisis) are wise and eloquent and intelligent and have the benefit of years of living and  a unique and personal perspective on racism in Canada.  I particularly liked the one fellow commenting  with a smile, “Canadians are racist but they apologize for it.”

I watched this film with a friend who just turned 20 and it struck me that I was his age when all of this was taking place.  I wonder if Dylan will be watching a movie (or whatever medium tells stories in 2068) that will be historically documenting  how young people who are determined to fight for a cause like the students in Florida today advocating for gun-law legislation in the U. S. or the current Black Lives Matter movement, can be the pivotal influence to make political change.  I wonder what the youth of 2068 will be having to lobby for in order to get the older generation to act on some other outrage.  Or whether racism will still be an issue.   A film like this one, looking back, causes one to think about what is happening today and wonder about the future.  Does anything really change?

I also wondered if my friend Stephen Moiko, a Kenyan who did post-graduate training at McGill experienced racism in any overt or subtle ways in Montreal five years ago.  Although Stephen and I have talked for hours about many things, we have not touched on racism in Canada.  I plan to visit Stephen and his Maasai family in April and I am going to bring this up.  Get ready, Stephen.

Screenshot 2018-03-02 17.04.08Now, you may not be lucky enough to see Ninth Floor in a theater but you are able to see the film on the National Film Board web site – free and downloadable.  I recommend it highly and if you are a certain age it will give you pause to think about how things were unfolding in Canada in 1969 and how oblivious we all were to it in many ways.   Here is the link to the entire film, available free on the NFB site.  https://www.nfb.ca/film/ninth_floor/

 

 

Shum’s film, Meditation Park, opened the KCFF last night and was well-received.  Shot in Vancouver, it also has a theme that explores mixed cultures and race in a Canadian neighborhood. I found it to feel a bit disjointed and contrived but the overarching story was engaging and felt very “Canadian” even though the protagonist couple were Chinese and conversed much of the time in sub-titled Cantonese.   And who doesn’t like Don McKellar who plays their neighbor?

CanAssist working to improve the Hope for Youth School.

CanAssist trustee, Nancy Grew, is visiting project sites in Uganda this week and today sent this photo of the new school classroom (first of four) that is under construction at the Hope for Youth School near Mukono. This wonderful school has been one that CanAssist has helped over the years in many ways but, as you can see from the photo on the lower right, the classrooms were becoming dilapidated and beyond use. The new permanent classrooms will be an amazing improvement for the school and provide a secure and sustainable school for the community.

H4Y 2018

The first of four permanent classrooms at Hope for Youth School that will replace the old wooden structure that has served the school for several years but is now beyond repair. Photos taken on February 28, 2018 by Nancy Grew, CanAssist trustee.

I have a particular fondness for this school, having visited them several time in the past ten years. I have watched many of their students grow from children into young adults. I was delighted in 2016 to take a group of CanAssist supporters, including my granddaughter, to the school and visited them in early 2017 as well.

Maddy Edward and Christopher

In early 2016 I was happy to introduce my granddaughter to Christopher, Edward and other students at the Hope for Youth School.

One of the unique things about CanAssist as a charitable organization is that we don’t just send money. We establish friendships and visit the project schools and communities. This not only helps to assure donors that their monies are being spent as intended but it shows that we are interested in their wellbeing with a personal connection. My life has certainly been enriched beyond anything I can express by the person to person links I have been privileged to make over the years as I have visited many communities in East Africa. I do feel like I am at home with friends when I go there. I am sure that Nancy will come back to Canada with the same intense satisfaction that the time and effort that we have put into CanAssist work is well worth it both for the communities we serve but also for our own personal growth.

Nancy and Edward 0218

Edward sends a greeting to me today through Nancy who is visiting the H4Y school – Feb 28, 2018

Below is a video of the students doing a traditional dance for my entertainment when I visited them in 2013. The main boy in the dance is Edward who, along it’s his brother, Christopher, I have watched grow from young lads into young men. I was touched today when Nancy sent a photo of Edward who made a point of coming to greet her to send a special hello and remembrance to me.

The school will be greatly benefitted by this 2018 initiative and CanAssist is grateful for the generous donation from David Kay to kick-start this project.  Additional classrooms will be added over the next many months. The cost of adding a classroom like the one in the photo above is about $10,000 to $12,000 dollars – a bargain when compared wo what it would cost to do the same in Canada.   In addition to providing the permanent structure for the school, the construction and materials acquired locally give employment opportunities to local craftsmen.

Donations to CanAssist through the Canada Helps link on the CanAssist web page or by clicking HERE can be allocated to this project to keep it moving ahead.

Get Out!

I went to see Get Out this evening, another Oscar contender for best picture, and my head is still spinning. Guess Who’s Coming  to Dinner it is not!  It is difficult to talk about the film without spoilers.

Unknown-1In the initial half hour of the movie, I was disturbed by the blatant racial overtones.  It seemed like it might be one of those point-out-all-the-racial-tension,  feel-embarrassed-by-the- white-folks and empathy-for-the-black-dude-who-tolerates-it-all movies that then has some sort of epiphany that brings it all around into a feel-good ending.  That’s how the tongue-in-cheek first part seemed.  That is not how it  eventually went.  (Sorry for all the dashes – my mind must still be in staccato mode.)

It is hard to imagine, given the promo photos, that this film has been described as a high-tension satirical horror film – with comedic elements.  Quite the mix.images-1

Although horror is not usually my thing, I did enjoy this film. But then I have a twisted sense of humour and like material that is edgy and startling.  It has also been a long time  since I have been at a movie where the audience burst into applause at one juncture.  We were obviously being sucked right along.

I went with friends who had seen the movie before.  I thought that part of the pleasure was in not knowing what was about to happen and being surprised but they said that they enjoyed it just as much, if not more, the second time because they could anticipate what was coming and how the plot line was developing.  I look forward to chatting with them some time about the various subtle and  not so subtle racial (not necessarily racism) themes and symbolism.

Unknown

If you like this genre of film, it is a good one.  If you are not for creepy suspense and  graphic violence, á la Silence of the Lambs, then it may not be your “cup of tea”.

 

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-52241-pmpng

 

On a movie binge this week

Last year I missed my usual binge of movies at TIFF or while vacationing over the New Year but I have made up for it in the past couple of weeks. For what it is worth, here is what I thought if four Oscar nominated films (and one more as a bonus.)

Ladybird

img_2159-1Although I did like the film, I think it resonates more with a younger audience. I felt more connected to the parents than Ladybird, particularly Tracy Letts who plays her father. Letts is the playwright for some pretty edgy stuff including August Osage County, Bug and Superior Donuts (currently being staged in Kingston at the Yacht Club by the way). I had never seen him act and liked him a lot for his gentle understanding fatherly role – nothing like the material he writes in his plays. There were lots of great moments between Ladybird and her mother as well and Ladybird’s friendship with Julie would resonate with lots of young women. Altogether a satisfying film. One you will enjoy on Netflix soon.

Call Me by Your Name.

This is another movie about a teenager and his family and exploring his relationship as and sexuality. I was ready to like this film but it was way to slow-moving to me. img_2156Or maybe, once again, I am just two generations away so it is hard to relate. An arty film with some great Italian scenery background, good music, including a couple of songs by Sufjan Stevens that I ended up finding on iTunes when I got home. Competent acting by the main character, young Timothée Chalomet (who also appears in Ladybird). I liked the last 20 minutes of the show very much, including the credits. But I found myself checking my watch a couple of times mid-way through and that is never a good sign. I really liked the little fatherly talk given by Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) to his son Elio near the end of the film.  Wish it didn’t take so long to get there.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.

img_2157This one was more edgy and had lots more action, story and plot twists.  Frances McDormand plays this perfectly as do all the other supporting cast. I liked Sam Rockwell a lot – his performance, not his character who was really objectionable in so many ways. A friend asked me yesterday if any of these films were funny. Although the humour in this one is certainly of the darkest variety, I did laugh out loud several times –one of those “Did he really say that?” kind of laughs.  I would classify this film as a (very) dark comedy.  I tend to like that genre so I enjoyed it more than the previous two. Can you pick out someone in this film that was also in Ladybird?

The Shape of Water.

Well, this one turned out to be a cross between King Kong, Phantom of the Opera and E.T. It had all the elements that make cinema appealing – sentimentality, violence, fantasy, love, an alien creature, political commentary and even some suspense. Throw in a lot of old standard musical background to round it out. And it was shot in Toronto and Hamilton! ShapeOfWater_FBThis film premiered at TIFF in the theatre that is featured in the movie. How cool is that? It is safe to say that, of the four mentioned, this was my favorite. Great entertainment. I will be surprised if it does not get either the Best Director (Guillermo del Toro – whose movie Crimson Peak had scenes shot in Kingston with many of us playing background roles for a day) or Best Picture – or both – at the upcoming Academy Awards. By the way, Michael Stuhlbarg, whose work I mentioned in Call Me by Your Name also has a significant role in this film.

The bonus film is Murder on the Orient Express. If you like Agatha Christie and don’t want to be too bombarded with the angst that comes with watching the four films above, this one is entertaining and fun. I really liked the cinematography in this films. I liked the long shots that ran from window to window along the train or through the train cars. There are lots of great well-known actors with roles in this film and it is lighter than the others but sometimes that is just what hits the mark.

So, based on these films, I would chose The Shape of Water and Guillmero Del Toro as the Best Film and Best Director, Frances McDormand as Best Actress, Timothée Challmet as Best Actor, Sam Rockwell as Best Supporting Actor and Laurie Metcalf (Ladybird’s mom) as Best Supporting Actress. There are still other nominated films and performances that I have not seen but these movies seem to be leading the pack.  I will have to say that in the previews for I,Tonya I love what I see of Allison Janney and want to see that film soon as well.

Next up – the Kingston Canadian Film Festival on the first weekend of March.  I always enjoy seeing a whack of Canadian Films at this Festival only a few minutes from home.  I bought my pass today!

I am also very excited to learn this week that Netflix will be making a movie of my coffee-shop-friend Iain Reid’s book,  I’m Thinking of Ending Things.  Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) will be working with Iain to adapt the book to the screen and will also direct the film. Iain will co-produce with Kaufman. When I read this book, I could see it as a movie.  Now I can not wait to see it on the screen.  Congratulations, Iain.

Will I become a cruisaholic?

The idea of a cruise as a holiday never appealed to me in the past and it was on a bit of a whim that a friend and I took an Alaska cruise in May.  It was such a good holiday that to escape the cold January Canadian winter weather I signed up for a week on the Holland America ship, Rotterdam, sailing to four ports in the Gulf of Mexico.  I now find myself wondering what cruise is next!

IMG_5810

I took the Gulf of Mexico cruise on my own and, although the single supplement is often double the shared twin price with most cruise lines, the holiday is an excellent choice for a solo traveler.  IMG_6165 3I enjoyed having my own cabin with lots of space and privacy but I could also readily immerse myself in the other activities either on ship or at a port, where there was ample opportunity to chat and get to know other travelers, all of whom are in a friendly holiday mood.
I love being able to unpack at the first of the holiday and have my hotel room (and food and transport) move with me throughout the week, avoiding the hassle of checking in to new digs every night. Our Alaska cruise visited three ports during the week, all with the opportunity to explore on land for the day. The Gulf of Mexico cruise had four stops at Key West, Roatan, a little port in Guatemala and Costa Maya Mexico. In all those ports I was able to wander, go to a tropical beach and even snorkel.

IMG_2070

img_6659I was worried before I went on the first cruise that I would feel claustrophobic ( I remember a holiday in Bermuda in 1986 when I thought the island wasn’t big enough for me – more a function of my being able to sit still than the island) but the ship is like a small city with a large theatre, casino, several lounges with live music in the evenings, a gym, two pools and three hot tubs and a sun deck. I was easily able to get in my 10,500 steps, even on days we were at sea. In the week I walked 78 km and climbed 188 flights of stairs!

Then there is the food. Lots of it and good quality. My preference was to eat in the Lido Restaurant – with a huge selection served up cafeteria-style – but there was the opportunity to also to indulge in even more upscale service in the fine dining room. I managed to restrict my weight gain to about 2 pounds on the last cruise by insuring that I was physically active every day and limiting my desserts to one a day. See the quick “cruise” past the dinner offerings in the Lido restaurant on the 8th floor of the ship in the video below.

 

I had less luck limiting my Martini consumption as I ended up meeting a couple from Oklahoma at the Mix Bar every night at 6 when the bartender offered up three different martinis every night for $4 each.

As you can see, I am hooked on this kind of vacation, whether I do it with a friend or on my own. I will append videos with photos of both cruises. Where will I cruise next? Stay tuned, already working on that.

Solving Riddles…

I have 64 fourth-great grandparents, all with different surnames.  So do you.  Through my searches on Ancestry, aided by DNA testing, and Wikitree, and Gedmatch, I have been able to positively identify 29 of them, all born between 1740 and 1784 somewhere in the UK.

On my recent trip to Scotland I tried to track down something about one of these couples, John Riddle and Margaret Turnbull,  great, great, great, great grandparents on my Mom’s side of the family. (The photo accompanying this post has been identified as being this fine Scottish Borders couple).

This September, I stayed for a few nights in Melrose, a small town in the Borders District of Scotland and site of the Melrose Abbey.   I knew that this couple had lived in that vicinity, having been born just a few kilometers away. Coincidentally, the Crinklaw’s on my Dad’s side of the family also lived in this area.  I have written about them before and showed iconic photos of old Betsy Crinklaw, my third great grandmother and talked about her father’s fabled association with Sir Walter Scott, whose estate still exists and is a tourist attraction a short distance from Melrose.

Melrose Abbey pano 1

Melrose Abbey was built in the late 1300’s and  even when John and Margaret lived in Melrose, part of the Abbey was still in use as a parish church.  They would have walked these grounds.

I had hoped to find a gravestone from the Riddle couple but, alas, that was a bit of a wild goose-chase.  I saw lots of Riddle’s and Turnbull’s in the many graveyards I visited but none housed these relatives. It turns out that the Turnbull name had originated nearby,  assigned to a young man who saved Robert the Bruce sometime in the 1300’s from an attacking bull. He was named Turner of the Bull ( Turn-e-bull, eventually shortened to Turnbull) and given land.  There is even a statue commemorating this event in nearby Hawick (pronounced Hoyik). There is also a little hamlet named Riddell.  The Riddle name gets changed in the records from Riddle to Riddell with the wind so that makes some of the tracking a bit more difficult.

John Riddell Baptismal record

John Riddle/Riddell was born in Hobkirk, Scotland  on December 20, 1784 and baptized there along with three of his older siblings on December 28 (see the handwritten baptismal record)  was a shepherd, living at at Wauchope Farm, near Hobkirk. For more than 30 years he was a shepherd and spent some of his time fathering a large family.   In his later years, he rented a farm  not far from Walter Scott’s Abbotsford.   I was able to find this on old maps and correlate it with new maps of the area and tracked it down. It is now a running track sports field on the edge of Melrose.

Cavers 1

Cavers church.  Site of the church where Margaret Turnbull was baptized in 1777.

Robert married Margaret Turnbull in 1799.  He was only 16 and she was a mature 22.  Margaret was born near Hawick and  was baptized in the Cavers church in 1777.  I foumd that church which is on a narrow road out in the country with rolling hills and grazing sheep surrounding it one Sunday afternoon.  There are still some stones from the original church on that site as part of the building which has been renovated a few times in the 240 years since little Margaret was baptized there.

John and Margaret subsequently had 13 children, one of whom,  my thrice great grandfather, Robert S. Riddell, immigrated to Canada and is buried in Kirkwall Cemetery near Cambridge Ontario (and one concession over from the African Lion Safari).   Others in the family went to New Zealand and through finding DNA links, I have been happy to be able to correspond by email with two of them.

John died at Berryhall Farm on May 9, 1851 at the age of 66.   His wife, Margaret outlived him by 10 years and died in St Boswells, a stone’s throw from Melrose on January 21, 1862.  I have found the written record of her death.

Margaret Riddell death record

I thought I was on track to find them in the Bowden cemetery but got waylaid looking for them in another church yard where there were, indeed, Turnbull’s and Riddell’s but not this couple.  I guess I will have to go back! Many of the gravestones in these burial grounds are covered in moss or worn flat making the task of finding them more difficult.

08322fbc-c4ea-42ee-9098-69b6cc1e7f01

This is purported to be a photograph of John Riddle (shepherd) and Margaret Turnbull Riddle.     I have no way of  confirming if this is factual but for the sake of my sanity, I will believe it.                                                                 The photographer is Duncan Menzies, Albert Place, Abbotsford Road, Galasheils, Scotland.                  Photo was taken less than 2 km from the home of Sir Walter Scott and within a couple of kilometres of where John and Margaret lived with certainty (Berryhall Farm,  Melrose).

 

Each one of those 64 fourth-great grandparents gave me, on average,  1.5% of my genetic make up so theoretically 3% of my being is from this couple.  And it is measurable and I can even tell you which chromosomes contain their material. I know for certain that segments of my chromosome 6, 7, 10 and 21 came from them because I share (as do my kids) certain segments of these chromosomes exactly with other descendants of these relatives – too many long continuous segments to be coincidental and we all have confirmed that this couple were remote ancestors.   Fragments on these  chromosomes are specific little bits passed down from John and Margaret, something measurable and finite from these relatives from over 200 years ago that exists within me today.  Although we all know that we inherited our DNA from our ancestors, the fact that it is measurable and traceable and finite is something that for me is quite astounding.

RIddell links

Long time running…

I was never really a huge fan of The Tragically Hip.  I didn’t not like them but I never caught on to their genre and lyrics like so many others did.   I think I was at the edge of a previous generation, more Beach Boys and Beatles. (I was reassured to learn that Gord Downie was a closet fan of the Bee Gees.)

But I did recognize their talents and knew there must be something to their music that appealed so broadly to the generation that followed me.  I did, however, join the rest of Canada Day on August 20, 2017 to celebrate this phenomenonal and truly Canadian  band.

Last weekend I was eager to see the documentary about their 2016 tour – Long Time Running.   It has been shown at TIFF and other film festivals with good reviews and had a few showings at Kingston’s Screening Room this week.

I was surprised what I got from this film.   Someone asked me if it was kind of sad.   Absolutely, it was not.  It was actually a very inspiring and positive.  It goes through the diagnosis of “terminal” brain cancer for the lead member,  Gord Downie,  his initial treatments and struggles to remember things and put sentences together after having his temporal lobe and hippocampus removed surgically and 30 radiation treatments.  (The surgeon, by the way, a Kingston neurosurgeon).

Despite this, Gord was keen to go on tour with the band once more.  Obviously the others were a bit skeptical if this would work but, no spoiler here, they finished the tour across Canada, culminating in the August 20 concert in Kingston, broadcast all across Canada and drawing thousands to Kingston, including our Prime Minister.

It was interesting to see the backstage preparations and angst about this tour but I got a lot of messages from this film that surprised me.

Several themes developed for me.

1.  Never give up.   This guy was sort of written off by a lot of people and was initially in no shape to perform, let along tackle a cross country tour.   But he did.  In doing so, he earned a lot of respect from the public, drew attention to cancer treatment and research, highlighted the plight of Canadian First Nations people and entertained thousands.  Make that hundreds of thousands.  Incredible really.   Maybe his cognitive deficits from his surgery and treatment made him naively bold or brave or fixated.  But what an example to set.   I am sure that his fortitude and positivity has helped many people who have been struck by cancer. And it was a gift to Hip fans to be able to celebrate their 30 year run before it came to a crashing close.

2.  The expression of true friendship.   These guys had worked together for 30 years and were a real team.  I am sure that there were bumps along the way, but it was incredible that Downie’s band-mates dug in and just supported his dream.  It was a huge risk.  Anything could happen.  It could have turned out to be a disaster.   It was incredibly touching to see them kiss each other – on the lips – and hug each other and genuinely show real love to each other prior to each performance. This is the kind of love that is meant by the Greek word, Agape.*  They were all vulnerable and all a team with a mission.  It seemed that egos were set aside.  You hear about this kind of teamwork and friendship but rarely see it so obviously.  It was very intimate material to be shared publicly.   But this support was also quite evident in their performances.   Another lesson for us all.  Downie’s diagnosis and fate overshadowed the rest of the band but they deserve great respect and accolades for helping their friend live out his dream.

3.  This was just so…Canadian.  The whole country was moved by this story.  We all wanted to be part of it.   And thousands were.   Fans bought tickets both to be entertained but also to support this band that was so loved.   And they were also ready for anything.   It could all be cancelled in a moment.  Or fall apart in the middle of a performance.   But no one cared about that.  This was about being part of this team and joining in to keep it going.

4.  It was a lesson in closure.  All good things come to an end.   Concerts, vacations, childhood, holidays, friendships , life.  Things come to an end.  It’s natural. It helps to deal with that fact if we learn to accept it with some stoicism and dignity.   It is helpful to fondly remember good times past and friends and family who have departed.  And maybe it is helpful to others if we acknowledge the end of something, celebrate and share our acceptance.   I think this is what Gord Downie and the Hip did, most graciously and unselfishly.

Little did I know when I wrote this earlier in the week that Gord Downie would die last night, October 17, 2017.  It makes all of the above lessons more poignant and pertinent today.

I took my 15 year old granddaughter to the show on Saturday and we went early because I thought it would be packed.  There were only about 10 people in the audience!  I do hope that more people see this show as it not only provides some concert-like Hip music but it caused me to reflect on many other things – life in general.   I think that is what Gord Downie (and his band-mates) would have liked.

The Hip concert on August 20, 2016 in Kingston was a celebration of the past and acknowledgement of an ending.

Hip Concert pano

* Agape – Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character. Agape love is beautifully described in the Bible.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  1 Corinthians 13 4-7.

 

Scotland – September 2017

Apple has conveniently helped in selecting photos of my recent trip to Scotland off my iPad and put them into a nice little 2 minute video.  So here it is – a quick selection of images from my recent 2 week trip to Edinburgh, Skye, the Highlands and the Borders district in September.

October 16, 1917 – 100 years ago today

My penchant for finding my ancestors has become a bit of an obsession. Not sure why.   And I don’t have to go all the way to Scotland to chase up some reminiscences.

Last weekend I was in Toronto and staying at a hotel near the Annex district.  For some reason I remembered that my grandfather,  Joseph Alison Vardon,  his parents and his sisters, had lived somewhere in that area when he was younger.

I happened to have found a copy of my grandfather’s record of recruitment when he was drafted into the army just shortly after his 20th birthday, on October 16, 1917, exactly 100 years ago. From this document, I discovered that his address then was 188 Delaware Ave in Toronto, about a ten minute walk from where I was staying.gpc016-645604a

IMG_9943

My grandfather lived in this house when he was conscripted into military service in 1917.

So, on Sunday morning, I wandered down to this neighbourhood,  found the house (upgraded but still the original three story house) and stood outside it wondering if my grandfather’s bedroom was in the dormer on the top floor and how many times he might have walked down that street as a teenager.   I went down to the corner of Bloor and Delaware and sat for half an hour on a cement bench by the street, conjuring up images of streetcars going by on Bloor,  old model cars, people on bicycles.

 

 

Black horse copy

I looked across the street at an old building that is now called the Black Horse Restaurant and Bar and knew that building (built in 1892) was there when my grandfather lived in the neighbourhood.  The building has a horse’s head sculpture coming out of the second floor. It was originally built as a store.  Did he ever go in there? How many times did he look at that horse’s head?

 

 

I thought about my grandfather signing up to go to war in Europe.  A boy, heading off to battle.  I wished that I had taken the time or the interest when I was younger to ask him about those experiences.

As I sat there, thinking about my grandfather, I wondered if my own grandchildren would, some day, 50 years from now,  sit on a bench somewhere and remember me in a similarly curious and fond way.  I hope so.

Joseph Allison Vardon 1917

This was my grandfather, Joseph Vardon – exactly 100 years ago – aged 20 – going off to WW I.