Tag Archives: impressions

Pinch me . . .

I suppose it is a bit like the early stages of a love affair.  Even after 21 months in Canada, I seem still to experience so many ‘pinch me’ moments!

In the city, often they come in response to the rich cultural mix . . .

A recent evening with friends Luc and Yuri at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario); Abstract Expressionist New York (much familiar, smattered with new discoveries, curated inspirationally); modern Inuit art (how I wanted to be able to run my hands over the carvings!); and the sung response of a First Nations open throat singer to Henry Moore (truly awesome and deeply moving) as part of the Juno Tour of Canadian Art; Luc and Paul chasing each other round the angular display cases, taking strangely distorted portraits refracted by the prismatic points of connection; then Dim Sum in China Town – truly a feast for heart, body and soul!

Our second Beaches Jazz Festival – I’m still blown away by the accessibility of so much wonderful and varied music freely available; by teenagers having a ball jumping around to the music that may date back more than half a century and by those who have lived more than half a century soaking up the new musical permutations offered up by young musicians; by small children utterly confident and safe amid the crowd; by a magical rock violinist, Dr Draw, who, I swear, channels the passion of Paganini; by this sensational street party that sums up summer in the city Toronto style; by dancing to a stomping version of Dancing in the Street on Queen Street.

When we can tear ourselves away from the revelry, there are quieter moments of awe. . .

Brilliant March sunshine belying the icy chill as we climb sand dunes in Prince Edward County – the curious juxtaposition of sun, sand and the ice sculptures that jewel the shore.
        Ice Alligator?
Clambering from our kayaks as the sun sinks past the horizon on Georgian Bay, having been dive bombed by Terns (anticipated, not scary) on a protrusion of the Canadian Shield that serves as a nesting colony for terns and a swimming stop for paddlers. On this occasion, these included a dog kitted out in his own PFD (Personal Flotation Device) who decided to join Paul in his kayak whilst his mistress swam in deep water.


A few days ago, at the start of a much needed break; the glassy calm of the sunny evening that follows a storm, out on the Rideau just above Kingston; jewelled fairies filling the air around our canoe (palest to midnight blue, rich red, fluorescent green) and swallowtails – and still, still water reflecting a light show up onto the green canopy above; returning to the dock, we are welcomed by a fat, furry water rat (but not a beaver!)

Now we are holed up in a rustic cottage in Quebec; 30 minutes or so north of Ottawa, yet, once you are off the major roads, very ‘backwoods’. There is nothing to do but sit and read on the dock and soak up the sunshine, rocked by the wake of passing boats and lulled by the occasional eerie call of the Loon or the honk of Canada geese as they rise.  Once in a while we venture off the end of the dock into the deep, clear (and surprisingly warm) water of Lac St Pierre or onto it in kayak or rowboat. The Canadian Cottage experience definitely has much the same capacity as the less developed Greek islands for recharging the body and soothing the soul!

I feel so very privileged to have been given this opportunity to re-connect with life through a lens of newness and immediacy. I hope I continue to say ‘pinch me’ for many years to come!


(Written when in Quebec, 1st week of August 2011)

Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsular

I am truly awed by the Canadian National and Provincial Park system! Boardwalks, steep wooden staircases or rock hewn steps traverse the wilderness, not only making it more accessible but protecting the natural environment. There are ‘facilities’ in utterly remote spots and such delightfully polite notices requesting that you stay on paths so as not to destroy rare species.

On Flowerpot Island On Flowerpot Island. Steep wooden staircase in the woods at the heart of the island On Flowerpot Island On Flowerpot Island - the Flowerpots On Flowerpot Island On Flowerpot Island. Azure waters . . .

Continue reading Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsular

Georgina – walking on water

In the UK I used to to get excited when the puddles froze solid – usually there was little more than a thin layer of ice on the surface. I’m once again stunned by how alien our own planet can seem within the context of previous experience.

Ice (Lake Simcoe) Ice (Lake Simcoe)

We have just returned from a much needed long-weekend away. We chose to head an hour or so north of Toronto, to Jackson Point on Lake Simcoe. In the township of Georgina, this area lays claim to being the ice-fishing capital of the world. Although not a ‘Great Lake’, Lake Simcoe is an expanse of water so huge that you cannot see the far shore. And at this time of year, it is not water, but a vast, blinding whiteness of ice. Not only can you walk on water, you can drive on it (though this is not covered by your insurance, so we didn’t!).  Peppered across the ice are clusters of ice-fishing huts. A constant traffic of skidoos and the strange vehicles that offer transport to the fishermen traverse the lake. But, in a couple of weeks or so, there will begin to be air patrols to ensure that everyone leaves the ice before it starts to break up.

Ice (Lake Simcoe) Lake Simcoe's endless ice, peppered with fishing huts

Out on the ice Ice fishing bus Lake Simcoe Ice Road

There are ice roads out to the Chippewa territories on Georgina Island. A few years ago some people strayed off the road in a whiteout and were lost. An ice-breaking ferry was brought in, but Simcoe’s ice was too deep for it and the ice roads remain the only viable form of winter access.

Georgina Island Ferry The next ferry leaves in April . . .

“The next ferry leaves in April . . . “

You can see the full collection of photos from out trip to Lake Simcoe and the Briars in the Sightseeing section of this site.

Red mittens (Olympic fever)

Red mittens are a Canadian ‘must-have’, no matter where in the world you live! Apparently people are queuing for hours in Vancouver outside the Bay for their pair. They have become a symbol of the huge upsurge of national pride that these second Canadian Winter Olympics have generated – by wearing them, you both signal your support and contribute (as official Canadian Olympic Committee merchandise, they help generate funding). As you can see, we splashed out on scarves and hats as well!

Olympic clobber Gina & Paul modelling their Team Canada merchandise! Olympic Red Mittens The Red Mittens

Canada has taken a lot of flak from the British press about the Olympics. I can’t help feeling this is misguided with London looming – talk about setting yourself up! We have felt considerable pride in our adopted nation, despite the glitches that are an inevitable element of any such event. I love that the Olympic torch travelled the country – the aim was that no Canadian citizen should have to travel more than an hour to witness its journey. What a wonderful commitment to the inclusive spirit of the Olympics! There is no doubt that this has contributed to the Canadian response to these games. It has also boosted national spirits in the wake of the 2009 recession. I am not alone in thinking that the ‘own the podium’ slogan got it wrong; I suspect it ultimately increased the pressure on Canadian athletes. More importantly, it seems to me to run counter to the Olympic ideal that what is important is participation. Perhaps ‘better than best’ might have captured this spirit better. Certainly we have cheered as so many young Canadians have exceeded personal ‘bests’, regardless of whether these have secured them medals. But we have also been moved by the spectacular performances the Olympics have drawn out of men and women of all nations. What does amaze me, though, is the level of aspiration. I know Canada is a ‘winter’ nation. But its population is less than that of California, just over half that of the UK and 11% of that of its neighbour (USA). As I write this, Canada stands third in the medal tables, with 15 medals, 7 of which are gold. Awesome! PS If any of our friends and family want their own pair of Red Mittens, we’ll do our best to acquire them – just let us know what size!