We woke up on Friday ready to join our Canadian hosts in celebrating Canada Day. I found out the lay of the land with an early morning run (not as early as previous mornings as sleep now thankfully embraces me till 8am!).
Yet another beautiful village sat on a lake and everyone saying morning to everyone else. There has to be a deep dark secret that these communities have, where is the crack in this perfection?! Speaking to the hip laundromat lady I found out that there was indeed a big village ‘do’ for Canada Day. Well done Dean for getting it so right again. So at 1pm we trotted back into the village and joined the school parade led by veterans into the village centre. Before they set off there was a very touching ceremony presenting an 85 year old lady the award of ‘Senior of the Year’. How wonderful that they celebrated the gifts of the elderly, particularly in this age of youth and beauty being prized by most western societies above all else. A rendition of ‘Oh Canada’ (rather lacklustre!!) and Senior of the Year placed in a John Deere ride-on started the parade off. Hordes of children on extravagantly decorated bicycles were cheered through the town to the Fire Station. All the kids, including Fred, were presented with a ‘Canada Day’ bag of sweets, pin flags, Canada Flag tattoos, and a book mark with the words to ‘O Canada’ on it.
Parade over we went to the local museum housed in the old coffin maker and blacksmiths residence. The building was preserved, including the original floorboards, with all the original features from its 1850 construction. Historical objects packed the small space on 2 floors and gave the history from the ‘First Nations’ original Innuit settlers through to the settlement by Europeans. Fred had decided that his ‘project’ for the day was to film a vlog interviewing locals about Canada Day and where they, as individuals, had come from. All rather pertinent in this time of debate about immigration. Canada, after all, is a country of immigrants; from the First Nations who travelled to Canada from across the ice and waters from Greenland etc, through the Western French and British in the 1800s, to the contemporary Western, Asian, and even 25,000 Syrian refugees who have been airlifted by the Canadian Government under a sponsorship programme. At the museum a rather delightful volunteer Christine gave Fred a wonderful interview.
Having spent time in the town we retired to our Motel for some down time in readiness for the late afternoon into night celebrations on the local beach. As everyone else was wearing red and white we all dug into our rucksacks to find what we could to blend in. Dean definitely won the prize and I did my best, finished off with a slash of classic Chanel red lipstick – I knew I brought it backpacking for a reason Dean!! As we headed back out we parked up behind Ken a local policeman in his very impressive truck. He was Fred’s next interview & even set the sirens off for us. He was pleased to report that he had just 5 minutes earlier ticketed a ‘Brit’ for speeding!
The small beach was sandy, natural, and gorgeous. The Lions Club had a fabulous pavilion and maintained the grounds for the whole community through their fund raising. The Canada Day event at the beach was organised and staffed by them, what a terrific community of people. We walked in to the bizarre sight of a red and white clothed Elvis Impersonator singing ‘My Way’! Within 5 minutes the clouds had come over and were ominously dark. Although events had only started an hour before at 4pm and were due to go on until 11pm people were leaving in their droves. 30 minutes later we found out why. Children were pulled out of the water, the bouncy castles deflated and the food tent cleared. A storm of truly biblical proportions broke out (I know I used the term biblical in Montreal but that was nothing compared to this!). Fortunately we could run to the pavilion where Fred and I took shelter with the 2 dozen others left. Dean meanwhile ran through the torrential rain to help the Lions Club team dismantle the food tent that was about to take flight. The opening scene of the ‘Wizard of Oz’ comes to mind! We caught on film the thunder, lightning and torrential rain and were deeply thankful to be able to do so from the shelter of a very wooden structure….
The scheduled band ‘Dogherty Brothers’ playing the ‘tunes we grew up with’ came on at 7pm with only a few of us to enjoy their great musicianship. That changed as a bunch of teenagers from a local ‘camp’ arrived. They were followed by another group from another ‘camp’. Shortly we witnessed a very skilful dance off between the 2 groups that lasted all night. Remember that the band were playing the likes of Van Morrison!
Fred made friends and soon was hanging out in a group with 2 boys and 3 girls. They swam, danced, ate hot dogs and I was struck by the fact that he’s suddenly at the age where he no longer needs to play tig or hide and seek (though he still loves both), but instead he and his new mates were just standing together talking and joshing each other – next phase has come I guess….!
After a wonderful night where the crowd swelled to about 1,000 we were treated to the most magnificent firework display I have ever seen, which took place over the lake. It was truly and was stunning and never ending. At 11pm we headed home. Now sensible people, having not had a drop to drink all day and evening, would have gone to bed then. Dean and I however decided to open a bottle and enjoy a late supper on the deserted terrace of our motel. One bottle turned in to 2 and very merry we finally hit the sack at 2am. I guess it still takes the Brits show ex-members of our empire how to celebrate ;-)
July 2 Oooooooo Canada……
Bleary eyed we all woke feeling the after effects of the fabulous day (and early hours). Fred because he had had a late night, Dean and I because we had got over excited….. Fortunately, in the parking lot of our motel was ‘Kelly’s Diner’. No morning run today, instead we settled for a bucket of coffee and cooked breakfasts to repair the damage.
In need of a refreshing wake up and to get ourselves moving we went back down to the beach with the local and national papers. Fred and I swam and played catch in the water (gosh that restored me!) whilst Dean caught up on the news. He read a really interesting article on Canada’s immigration approach in the main editorial. Whilst a country of successful integration and resultant diversity, the article acknowledged that Canada only takes those it chooses to. To emigrate to Canada you have to meet the points required (profession, educational attainment and money) and therefore it is not only a self selecting (ie immigrants who choose to travel and come to a place) but also a nation selecting country (ie it only takes those who it wants to take). You need to get on a plane and fly to Canada or cross from the US, and most people who get to the US don’t choose to come to Canada. I have to say that the liberal and positive narrative of the national paper has not been reflected in conversations with Canadians we have spoken to. We have not met any of the liberal ‘Intelligencia’, but rather ‘ordinary’ Canadians. Without exception they have all expressed concerns about immigration. What has surprised us is that this has happened without reference to the fact that all Canadians are de facto immigrants, albeit 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation. The Toronto authored article also referred to the ‘identifiable immigrant population’ ie (people of colour or discernible non-European background) as being 23% - I’m not sure what the First Nations people would make of that!!
Enough of politics. With the day clouding over we decided that we would do some sightseeing by car and headed off to Smiths Falls and Perth. Perth was by far and away the most interesting of the towns we had passed through in the region. Settled in the early 1800s by British soldiers gifted land it turned out to be a poisoned chalice. As they tried to farm they discovered that the land was so barren that “A groundhog would need to pack itself lunch in order to make it across a field” (may find myself using that one in the future!). However, the town possessed wonderful Georgian architecture from its time as a British Army garrison town and had its own impressive theatre run by the local amateur dramatics society – I was so disappointed that we were going to miss their next show by a week.
Dean found an art gallery run by a delightful couple. She was of Armenian extraction and was spunky, glamorous, intelligent woman personified. They had fallen in love with Perth and were in the process of moving there permanently due to the great mix of people and lifestyle. Fred made friends with their ‘American Water Dog’ pup who could not only sit and do paw on command, but also high five! Yes I did also get this in video….!
Shattered from the night before (or rather that morning!) we hit the sack after a stunning dinner made on our single electric ring kitchen. Spicy Italian sausage simmered with onions, fresh garlic, mushrooms, fresh pepper and tomatoes, a whole bunch of basil, and a bit of pepper I’d nicked from Harvey’s – pretty impressed with that I was – though I do think a drop of red wine would have helped, if only we hadn’t drunk it all the night before……! Sleep came easy……. As did the mozzies that night…… (I think I’ve found Canada’s fatal flaw!)
For me this trip is all about having a great adventure with my family. Its taken years for us to finally stop talking about it and do it - simply because it both excites and frightens the life out me! So I'm stepping out of corporate life, where I singularly failed to achieve a work/life balance....to experience different cultures and spend time with those I love xx