Tag Archives: museums & galleries

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)

The perfect day–Christmas starts here!

Yesterday was one of those glorious days that nourish you to the core. Our first snowfall – really just a long flurry of motes mixed with the occasional feather dusting the ground – then blue skies; The AGO – Henry Moore (early works, full of the anguish of his response to his war-time experiences) and the Maharajas (fabulous, especially the Rolls Royce and the tabla player and Kathac dancer; too many pancakes (crepes) with delectable fillings (we ate the sweet followed by the savoury!); then on to Nathan Phillips Square for our first skate of the season, this year’s sole Cavalcade of Lights (the square is being refurbished) to launch the Christmas season, with live music, the lighting of the tree and some of the best fireworks I’ve ever seen – City Hall is a fabulous backdrop, the window reflections augmenting the show.

This was also the occasion of our first skate in Canada last year and looks set to be an enduring tradition – I felt the total pleasure and wonder of a six year old for much of the day – what a great start to Christmas!

Gorging on culture

Another cultural feast – art and theatre to nourish the soul!

Taking in an opening at the AGO last Wednesday, we particularly responded to Anselm Kiefer’s Palmsonntag (Palm Sunday)

“a monumental installation consisting of a 30-foot-long palm tree cast in fiberglass and resin, its roots clotted with mud, surrounded by a cycle of 44 large paintings encased in glass and framed in lead. Overwhelming in scale and sweeping in content, Palmsonntag conveys the operatic scope of Kiefer’s creative enterprise that crosses through spiritual, religious and mythical cultural territory.”

There was something very beautiful about both the individual panels and the whole and the sense of spirit shone through even before one read the background!

I’ve been reading Robertson Davies, one of Canada’s literary icons, for years, but happened to be reaching the end of the Deptford Trilogy when I spotted a poster at our local library for a three night run of this one man show. It was being staged at Hart House , a beautiful old theatre at the heart of the university, just round the corner from Massey College where Davies reigned as Master. It seemed silly not to check if there were still tickets . . .

Davies’ speaks with a voice that is both acerbic and wise, as well as very witty.  As the Times put it in his obituary, he ‘encompassed all the great elements of life…His novels combined deep seriousness and psychological inquiry with fantasy and exuberant mirth.’ This one man show, put together entirely from his writing and lectures,  was both stimulating and entertaining!

There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity. Roberton Davies


In choosing Canada as our home, we were aware that one of the possible downsides is that paid holiday (vacation) time is significantly less than in the UK. However, we felt that this was balanced out by an apparent Canadian capacity to make the most of leisure time. The weekend just past certainly saw us embrace this spirit, nourishing mind, body and soul!

Friday evening: etchings by Rembrandt and Freud – the Rembrandt so incredibly fine and detailed, the Freud bolder but no less masterly, both capturing so much more than a visual likeness of their subjects; then fabulous photos, model ships and (as AGO members) VIP entry to the King Tut exhibition, recapturing an earlier fascination in the breathtaking beauty of so many of the items on display.

On to fire and ice – the Angel of the Apocalypse belching flame into the darkness as we skated, the trees glinting red and gold with Chinese lanterns to welcome the new year of the Tiger, as pillow-fight snow-flakes drifted down;  a huge screen, held in the embrace of City Hall’s twin towers, provided a constantly changing vertical stage filled with oriental images and peopled by fan dancers, stick fighters and more. (On Sunday we caught a different acrobatic  spectacle by Compagnie Les Passagers with a more elemental theme.)

Winter City Winter City - Compagnie Les Passagers Winter City - Compagnie Les Passagers

Appealing to our senses, the foodie explorations encouraged by the fixed price Winterlicious menus are a delight – we enjoyed two great meals over the weekend.  A late Saturday lunch at Pure Spirits took us to the Distillery District, followed up with the post-prandial pleasures of checking out our favourite galleries there, as well as lusting after high-style lights at Artemide.  And we can’t seem to resist the wonderful Quebecois cheeses, St Lawrence Market offering up this week’s temptation!

On Sunday, we went Tumbling Into Lightamazing music, dance and visual imagery! Deeply moving, its intention to reflect the constant spiralling of light into darkness into light (individual, cultural, cosmic), I was awed by the twin awareness of the hugeness of the human capacity to encompass pain and the hugeness of the human capacity to manifest beauty.

On our way home from an early supper (Moroccan at 93 Harbord), Winter City claimed our attention again with an eerie performance by Glacialis, an Ice Orchestra. Who would have believed that ice tubes would resonate so wonderously in response to a hot flame!

So often here I am conscious of that I can still be that saucer-eyed child, utterly present, utterly entranced and engaged . . .

Highlights (week beginning 2 November 2009)

It’s been such a busy time doing that I don’t get to write things up! So here is a brief summary of the ‘firsts’ and highlights from the last week.

  • Buying a house (OK, I did report on this one)
  • Venturing downtown for the first time since we’ve been here to see Where the Wild Things Are at the Imax (as Imax is a Canadian technology, this seemed appropriate) and drifting out of the cinema into a bookshop where we browsed until well after 9.30 pm.
  • Quigley'sFriday night at our local (Quigley’s), doing our usual half-time swop between  risotto studded with PEI (Prince Edward Island) Mussels and bursting with calamari, scallops and prawns, tomato and basil and a spicy chicken, bacon and chipotle pasta, washed down with Creemore (a fine drop of beer from a small town we visited in July) and accompanied by live rock, much of which took me back to my early 20s.
  • Going to the mall (another first) and investing in a really good mattress – the Brick (a major furnishing store) had a one day 50% sale on mattresses.
  • Scarborough Bluffs – where sculpted cliffs rise steep and tall and, on an unseasonable November day, I basked on a rock in the sun, savouring the shore’s soothing susurrus and the dancing diamond path across the water to a sliver of silver tranquility on the horizon.

  • Saturday night supper – eating Catfish, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We have promised ourselves that we will try at least one new food each week when we go shopping!
  • Our first trip to ROM (the Royal Ontario Museum) and a magical exhibition of unusual gems, Light & Stone: Gems from the Collection of Michael Scott (one of the founders of Apple). This included some stones neither of us had heard of in raw form and as jewellery or sculpture – fabulous! We also took one of the museum tours to get an overview and went to photographic exhibitions of Vanity Fair portraits and key Canadians photographed by Michael Dickinson. Thanks to Paul’s brother Robin and his wife Justine who gave us a year’s membership, this should be the first of many visits – we have yet to take in the current major exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  • Wandering back to the subway through upmarket Yorkville – Prada, Louis Vuitton, Max Mara ( you get the picture) – to be explored at our leisure, particularly Holt Renfrew, an upmarket department store.