Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Summer of '75

Chronologically, the events written about here happened six months before the trip to Hollywood, California.

It was my kid brother - Dan's - turn to come east for a visit and he arrived by train on Wednesday, June 4. Knowing my kid brother, I was not at all surprised by his choice of transportation and I guess that he spent as much time during that trip across Canada by watching the operation of the train as looking out the window at the passing scenery.

Dan was born on November 4, 1949 a mere 3 months before my 14th birthday so, due to our big age difference, we were never 'brothers' in the usual sense of the word. Also, I was away in Australia and, later, in Prince George and Newfoundland while he was growing towards adulthood. He was the one at home with Mom when Dad died and a lot of the organizational duties fell upon his young shoulders. However, there never was any animosity or jealousy between us.

On his first day in Ottawa I drove him around the downtown area and to the Parliament Buildings. We tried to gain access to the Visitors' Galley but there were too many other tourists in front of us so we drove by the embassies in Rockcliffe, out to Hogsback Falls and then to the seniors' building where Uncle Edgar and Aunt Bea were then living. As there was a severe thunderstorm and heavy rain that evening, I took Dan to the Aeronautical and the Science and Technology Museums knowing that he would really enjoy them.

The following day was dampened by hard showers and thunderstorms but I took Dan to Kingston, Ontario and Old Fort Henry which we toured in a drizzle. While the weather continued to threaten we did get in some touring which included a drive along the edge of the St. Lawrence Seaway where we were fortunate to be able to watch a freighter going through one of the locks.

Our trip to Quebec was by my favorite route - across the Ottawa River to Hull and then across country through Joliet, Berthierville and Trois Rivieres to Quebec City. Naturally we did some touring there (even taking a ride in a caleche around Old Town) and walked around the Chateau Frontenac and the Plains of Abraham. There I noticed one large difference between Dan and I. When I was in Quebec City I did a lot of people watching while Dan, on the other hand, spent the entire time by leaning on the parapet and watching the shipping passing up and down the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and Levis.

On we went to Montreal - with Dan doing some of the driving on the freeway. In that City we pulled into a parking garage downtown and went sightseeing through Old Montreal and to Notre Dame Cathedral and Notre Dame de Bonsecours. Then we went on the Metro to Atwater where we walked past the old Montreal forum (Dad and Dan were both huge Canadiens fans) and to the Grey Nun Convent on rue St Mathieu. By this time Tante Marie-Anne had retired and returned to the Mother House so we saw both her and Tante Cecil.

Our stay in Ottawa was over night - we left the following morning to drive home to B.C. The Canadian Provinces do have different ways of controlling traffic on highways. For instance, in B.C. where there is a three lane highway, the sign reads "Keep Right Except to Pass" while in Ontario the signs read, "Slower Traffic Keep Right". Being from B.C., Dan thought that the Ontario rule was ridiculous so I did the 'Big Brother' thing and explained that different regions had different ways of dealing with problems so we should not complain.

I don't believe that Dan accepted his Big Brother's explanation!

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I tried to call in on people whom I knew at Union College. One of those couples were Dal and Helen McCrindle who were ministering at a church in Winnipeg so that was where we stopped in that city. The same was true in Medicine Hat, Alberta where one of my classmates - Graham Dickie and his wife - were then ministering and we spent the night with them.

The next day we drove on to Kamloops where we spent the night with Babs, Hubert and the girls and then went on to Mom and Dan's home in New Westminster.

At about the time that I graduated from Union College, another school was formed - Regent College - and I was registered there to take some courses during the next week.

In Ottawa I had become friends with Don Carter and he flew out for a two week vacation. Our first visit was with the son - Doug McCay - of one of the elders at Westboro United Church. Doug was working in Victoria and he and his bride - Lynn - were living in the suburb of Oak Bay.

This was my first visit to Victoria since I had been there for the Older Boys' Parliament years before. Also, this was summer and not the middle of winter.

Victoria truly is the 'City of Flowers' and there are well-maintained gardens everywhere. The 'creme de la creme', though, is Butchart Gardens which we toured in an evening starting before the sun had set and then continuing after the artificial lights had been turned on. It was breathtaking.

We returned to New Westminster after two days in Victoria and I - along with Mom - took Don touring in the Fraser Valley, I drove up the new freeway to Cultus Lake and then across the Fraser River and further east to Harrison Hot Springs. Returning to New Westminster I drove through Mission, Ruskin and the Dawes Hill area of Coquitlam.

A couple of days later we left to drive back to Ottawa. However, instead of going directly along the Trans Canada Highway we went north to Prince George and then to Jasper on the Yellowhead Highway and then through Edmonton, Saskatoon and Regina where we rejoined the Trans Canada Highway.

East of Kenora, Ontario - and on a whim - we turned down the highway that leads to Fort Francis and across the border to International Falls, Minnesota, Duluth and across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Sault Ste Marie. From there it was a direct run back to Ottawa.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Awards Night In Hollywood

While attending Union College at U.B.C. I was invited to join an intramural curling league which was my introduction to that sport. On Bell Island, Newfoundland, I was a part of a team that curled weekly and then, in Ottawa, I joined a team that was sponsored by the local Ministerial Association.

At one of the league games - in Ottawa - one of the other clergy brought three young women with him who were a part of an organization called Covenant Players. I was intrigued and it wasn't long before I was asked to be their representative in Ottawa and became their 'booking agent' for that part of Ontario.

Covenant Players had been founded in 1963 by Charles M. Tanner - a screenwriter, producer and director (and a Christian) - who lived in Hollywood, California. The Covenant Players fanned out all over the North American continent putting on plays in churches, nursing homes, service clubs - and wherever else they may be invited to perform. Often I played host by giving the players room and board for a few days.

Early in January of each year there was a banquet at a location in Hollywood where awards were given out. I was invited to attend the January 1976 gathering and, as Dan Matheson gave his blessing, I went.

A young woman from the Westboro United Church congregation felt led to join the players and was given permission to do so by her parents.

A fleet of vans were leased by the organization and these were sent out in all directions. Joanne and I were to make our way to Indianapolis, Indiana to meet a young woman who would be bringing one of those vans from her home in St Louis, Missouri.

Now to get to Indianapolis.

We took an inter-city bus to Toronto and made our way to the neighborhood of the infant York University where Joanne's brother, Cam, and his bride lived. The following morning we went back into downtown Toronto to the Bus Depot and boarded a Greyhound for Detroit and Indianapolis.

I was quite naive and never thought about problems at the border - Windsor/Detroit - but trouble there was. Evidently the bus driver was expected to remove luggage belonging to any people who were suspected of being up to no good - and our luggage was among the few that had been removed from the bus! It looked like I was an older guy who was running away with a younger woman.

As our tickets were 'one way' we - and especially I - were suspect, we were denied entry and had to make our way back to Windsor on the 'Tunnel Bus'. On the other side there was a bank of pay telephones near where we were left so I put in a call to the Covenant Players' office in California. When I told the person answering the telephone my story she was astounded and asked us to remain right where we were situated and what was the number of that pay phone?

That same telephone rang a few minutes later and we were told to return to Detroit and to ask for the Head Immigration Officer by name. We did that, were greeted in a very surly manner, but were allowed to proceed.

Of course, our original Greyhound had long gone so we had to walk to the Bus Terminal. This was shortly after downtown Detroit was virtually destroyed by rioting so the walk of a number of blocks was awful - I imagined that it resembled how the bombed European cities looked at the end of World War II.

We had a three hour wait at the bus depot and then a ride of seven hours to Indianapolis where Linda was waiting with the van.

Except for meals, rest stops and pickups we drove non stop to Los Angeles.

Our first 'pickup' was in Des Moines, Iowa where we had lunch at the manse of a Presbyterian minister and picked up his daughter and a girl friend. Our last passenger was a young man from Yankton, South Dakota who had been driven by his Mom to meet us at Missouri Valley, Iowa.

Our most direct route to Los Angeles was by an interstate to Denver and up over the Rockie Mountains through Colorado. The skies had been cloudy most of the way from Toronto and we heard that a blizzard was sweeping over the mountains so it was decided that we turn south and then southwest. This route took us past St Joseph, Missouri where we stopped at a steak house for dinner.

The service in that place was not the best and Joanne loudly compared it unfavorably to the Ponderosa chain in Ontario. I admonished her for that saying that it was rude to complain when something was not done quite the same way as it was at home.

Continuing on we drove around Kansas City and then southwest across Kansas on US 54. It was snowing and blowing all night but not blizzard conditions. We stopped for gas at a small town where I woke up and then took over the wheel (all of us had driver's licenses so we took turns behind the wheel thereby making better time).

Morning found us in the Texas Panhandle town of Stafford where we stopped at a roadhouse/gas station and went in for breakfast. The establishment was plain but roomy and we found a table for six in the middle of the room. Behind us was another table with a group of middle-aged people from New Jersey. We were served first with all of us ordering eggs or pancakes. However, the first dishes to arrive were small bowls with white stuff looking like cream of wheat. We didn't know what to do with it but the others had heard me lecture Joanne about rudeness when faced by something unfamiliar so no one said a word. That is - until the New Jersey party received their little dishes and loudly asked, "What's this stuff? How do we eat it?": They were told that it contained grits and that it could be eaten with other condiments like butter, jam, syrup - or whatever. Then we felt free to dig into ours. I thought that it was good and, when in an American restaurant for breakfast, I always ask for grits.

We continued on to Tucumcari, New Mexico where there was a KOA (Kampgrounds of America) and we stopped for showers and to freshen up. From there US 54 joined Interstate 40 so it was freeway driving to Kingman, Arizona.

Linda wanted to stop in Las Vegas for breakfast so we drove down to the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, crossed over, and continued on to Vegas. It was the middle of a clear night but the dam was well lit and very beautiful to look at. This is desert country, the air is dry and we could see for miles. When we first noticed the lights of Las Vegas we thought that the city was only a couple of miles away but there were many miles yet before we arrived at The Strip.

1976 was the Bi-centennial year for the United States so breakfast at the casinos on The Strip were selling for 76 cents each! We ate our fill and then returned to the van for the last leg to Hollywood. I excused myself to use the washroom and, when I returned, I stopped at one of the slots and put in a coin. I didn't win anything but my fellow passengers saw me from the van and gave me quite a ribbing.

The office for the Covenant Players is in Reseda - a Los Angeles suburb. We were billeted and I was astonished to find myself in Chuck Tanner's home . As I expected, he is a very nice person indeed.

That evening we went to the hall of a huge Presbyterian church in Brentwood where the various troupers strutted their stuff. The following day - Friday - was given to resting and I must confess that I slept for much of the day.

In the evening we were back at the church for the Awards Banquet . The awards - and speeches - went on and on right through the night. It was midnight when my turn came to be 'Presenter'. There I was on the stage in front of that large audience (and one of the oldest people there) saying those immortal words "...and the winner is..." while thinking, "Burt Reynolds, eat your heart out!".

On Saturday were meetings and then dinner at a Mexican restaurant - my first.

On Sunday we all went to the service at St James Presbyterian Church in Tarzana where all we new folk - in the organization - were commissioned. After church we were divided into groups for tours and I was most dismayed to hear one of the fellows vociferously suggesting that we visit the site of the notorious Manson murders! No way, Jose!!! Instead we drove through Beverley Hills and along Hollywood Boulevard. I don't believe that we saw any famous movie stars.

On Tuesday we began the long drive back to the northeast using the same formula as we did on the outbound trip - take turns sleeping and driving. The chief driver of this van was from Jamestown, New York so our route was different - we drove east northeast passing through Amarillo, Texas; across Oklahoma to St. Louis; across Illinois and Ohio to Cleveland and through Erie, Pennsylvania to Jamestown.

From there I took a Greyhound to Buffalo, changed buses and on to Toronto and, finally, Ottawa.

That was the most bizarre trip that I have been on and I do not expect to experience another.

Before beginning this blog, I looked in Google for Covenant Players and the organization is still in existence.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Mom and I on Tour

Mom flew from Vancouver to Ottawa on Sunday. June 23, 1974. That was her first ride in an aircraft and, even though it was not a through flight - the plane landed in Winnipeg on the way - she enjoyed the experience. I had told a number of people that Mom was coming for a visit so I had received a host of invitations from folk who wanted to meet her. However, for Mom, the most important were members of Dad's family.

When the family were all gathered at home in Coquitlam we would spend many evenings in playing cards or board games. My roommates in Ottawa (Gary Grant and Roland Boissell) loved that sort of past time too so that was how we spent evenings if Mom and I were not out visiting or touring.

July 1 - Canada Day - fell on a Monday that year so, technically, it was my day off. We slept in until mid morning and then, after breakfast, we left to drive up to White Lake.

Tante Bea - Dad's oldest sister - was a large buxom woman and, when I brought Mom into that cabin she was waiting to give Mom a big hug. Some of the cousins were outside playing horseshoes when one of the other cousins arrived. The players tried to coax him into the game but he said, "No! I want to meet my Aunt!"

We remained there visiting until after supper when I brought Mom back to the City and to Parliament Hill for the speeches, concert, carillon, and the fireworks. All were spectacular.

The next day Mom and I left on our extended drive all around Eastern Canada. Our first stop was Ajax - an outer eastern suburb of Toronto - where Bea and Edgar's oldest son, Gerry, lived with his wife and daughters. Gerry had visited us on Dawes Hill during World War II. He was in the RCAF Signal Corps and was posted to Australia so, passing through Vancouver while on his way, he dropped in to see his uncle. Our visit with him and his family was just over night.

Once settled in Ottawa, I rejoined Big Brothers and my assigned 'Little Brother' was at the Big Brothers' camp near Haliburton and that was my next stop. Leaving Haliburton I drove into the town of Huntsville which was the hometown of one of Mom's friends back in B.C and then turned back south down the main highway to Barrie where we spent the night.

The following day was very hot and muggy and we were dogged by threats of thunderstorms plus possible tornadoes all the way through Stratford, London, and Simcoe to Fort Erie where,finally, the storm broke.

The next morning dawned clear and sunny and, thus, better for sightseeing. When Fort Erie, the Historic Park, opened for public viewing we went in for a look around and that was the first of a number of historic places that we saw on that trip. After Fort Erie the next stop was at Niagara Falls which we found to be as gorgeous as the brochures claim it to be. Luckily I parked in the first lot that I came to which is above the falls. From there we walked along the pathway to the main tourist center thereby walking along the bank of the river to where it plunged over the cataract. That is awesome!

Where the Niagara River plunges into the gorge.

Leaving Niagara Falls I drove along the Parkway through Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort George and then on to Hamilton and Toronto. Mom did have partial vision but was registered with the CNIB and, thus, she was permitted to stay at their lodge on Bayview Avenue while I stayed downtown at the YMCA. After booking into our respective 'inns' we did the tourist thing downtown (City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square and some of the downtown stores).

The following day, Sunday, we tried to get over to the Islands but that was the day of the CHIN picnic (an ethnic radio station in Toronto which held a picnic around Canada Day for years) and the ferry docks were a mob scene. Instead we went to Ontario Place where we wandered around and went to view a film at the IMAX Theater. We visited the Toronto Islands on the following day.

From Toronto I drove east to Trenton and the Air force Base where the Mostyns then lived - Frank had been transferred from Cold Lake, Alberta to the larger base beside Lake Ontario. It had been years since Mom and Yvonne had seen each other and each warmly greeted the other. At Frank and Yvonne's invitation, we remained there for a few days using their home as our base for touring - usually with their kids in tow.

Our first day trip was around the nearby Prince Edward County and the town of Picton. This county is an agricultural peninsula and is a very pretty place.

After a day for golfing - I have never golfed since! - we took the three Mostyn kids with us up to Kingston. We toured Belvedere House and Old Fort Henry. During my stay in Ottawa I was to Fort Henry more than once and enjoyed thoroughly the military reenactment of a battle during the War of 1812 as well as a military Tattoo - especially the evening one beginning in daylight and ending after dark.

I had made a reservation for a 1000 Islands tour which left a pier in Gananoque shortly after 3:00 PM. Whether or not there are actually 1,000 islands at the end of Lake Ontario I have no idea - but there are certainly a lot of them. The launch cruised past the summer homes of many entertainment notables like Irving Berlin and industrial barons like Andrew Carnegie. We enjoyed ourselves.

Two more days with the Mostyns and then Mom and I left to drive to Montreal. I had made arrangements with Tante Cecile for Mom to have a guest room in the convent. Cecile was thrilled by that arrangement but not Mom - the nuns retired at 9:00 PM and there were no amusements available like TV! I stayed at the downtown 'Y'.

I took Mom around Old Montreal, for a ride in a caleche and to Notre Dame Cathedral which had recently been refurbished and it was breathtakingly beautiful. On a later visit to Montreal I heard the organist practicing on the huge organ and that sound was magnificent!

Dad had talked fondly of St Joseph's Oratory on Mount Royal so it was a pleasure to go there. We climbed that grand staircase - which pilgrims navigate on their knees - and went into the building. Again, on a later visit to Montreal, I was fortunate to hear the organist practicing on that great instrument. Like at Notre Dame, the sound was magnificent!

Tante Cecile acted as sort of a catalyst for the Montreal relatives. Our first trip was across the St Lawrence River to the suburb of Boucherville and the home of a cousin where Uncle Georges Cadieux lived. That was a disappointing visit all around as this branch of the family were ardent 'Separatistes' and refused to speak any English. Since Tante Cecile did not speak English she did not seem to notice the rudeness but Mom and I were most uncomfortable.

Uncle Georges and his late wife had been out to the West Coast in order to go to the Seattle World's Fair in 1962 and had visited Mom and Dad at that time.

On the following evening Tante Cecile guided us back across the St. Lawrence to the suburb of Brossard and the home of Mariette and Frank Newcombe. Mariette is the daughter of Dad's full brother, Lionel Lacasse. Both of our hosts spoke English - they were school teachers - and, when Mariette's sister and her husband and another couple - relatives by marriage - came in, they spoke only French. However, as both English and French were spoken all evening, nobody felt left out and we had a great time.

When we left Montreal I drove south to Hemmingford and the African Safari Park which we drove through (except for the monkey enclosure as the baboons in there like to hitch rides on the rooftops of cars and would tear material made of fabric - my car had a vinyl top). The thrill was when a huge tiger rubbed himself against the car while passing.

Before leaving I parked the car and we walked along a nature trail where I had a laugh. Mom was carrying a bag of popcorn and had an argument with a baby elephant who wanted all of the contents! Next we encountered a small wild sheep who actually stole whatever was left in that bag.

Not having my fill of animals, I drove on to Granby where we visited that famous zoo. Not as much fun as the Safari Park!

Continuing on I drove east to Magog where I showed the St Benoit sur Lac Benedictine Monastery to Mom. We stopped for dinner at a wonderful French restaurant that Dan Matheson and I had visited upon leaving the monastery on a recent retreat. - "Auberge de l'Etoile et Son Motel". I have no idea whether it still exists but we certainly enjoyed our meal.

Our drive on the following day was to New Brunswick and we drove through the State of Maine to reach there - my one and only time in New England! We crossed back into Canada to St Stephen where we found a nice B & B in which to spend the night.

I should add here that Mom had limited vision so, unless an object was up close, she might not really see it. Therefore I was driving to and through all of these places for my benefit more than for Mom's.

Using the road map I saw a highway that passed through Fundy National Park. Much of the drive was through forests but we did have some views of the Bay of Fundy. In St John I found the famed 'Reversing Falls' but the tide was at the wrong level for us to actually witness that phenomena - and the same was true for the Hopewell Rocks.

I continued on through Moncton and to the ferry terminal at Cape Tormentine. Not having a reservation for our night on Prince Edward Island we asked the tourist agent on the ferry to call and make a reservation for us. This proved embarrassing as there was an error and, instead of twin beds, we had a room with a double reserved for us! Fortunately, the motel manageress was able to correct the mistake - after we paid her a further $10.

The next day we went into Charlottetown, toured the site where Confederation was hammered out, drove to the east end of the Island - Souris - and then along the beaches facing the Gulf of St Lawrence to Cavendish.

Mom was a huge fan of the books written by Lucy Maude Montgomery so she was thrilled when we stopped at Cavendish and she was able to enter the cottage named 'Green Gables'.

We had decided to return to the mainland for the night so we headed for the ferry, However, while on our way, we stumbled upon a Lobster Supper in a community hall. What a feast - and it cost us a mere $7.00 each. We were given more lobster than we could possibly eat plus salads, fresh baked bread and slices of pie which were right out of the oven. One of the best meals that I have eaten ever!

We were able to get on the 8:00 PM sailing back to Cape Tormentine from where we traveled to the town of Parrsboro and a wonderfully funky B&B. In the morning we discovered that we had been staying in the 200 year old house that had belonged to Sir Charles Tupper - one of the Fathers of Confederation! There was an old - but functioning - bathroom so Mom decided that she would have a bath which worried me. She had arthritis and I wondered how in the world she would be able to get into and out of that old tub with its high sides but she managed.

Thanks again to Michael W., here is a photo of Ottawa House in Parrsboro which is the original home of Sir Charles Tupper who was one of the Fathers of Confederation. This was our hotel for the night.

Being in Nova Scotia again, it was natural that I would take Mom to Peggy's Cove. In spite of being there at the same time as hundreds of other tourists, we enjoyed that lovely spot. We went on to Halifax where I drove Mom to the sites that I had seen during the reading week a year before. After that we turned north and west through Moncton to Frederickton and, on the following day, on up the St John River Valley through the area that had been home to Grandmere Alda Martin, and over the border back into Quebec. We were in Quebec City that evening.

We booked into a motel in the Upper Town, took the funicular railway down to Lower Town where we had supper and then - much to my astonishment - Mom suggested that we walk back up the steep and winding streets.

I drove the rest of the way back to Ottawa via the 'old highways' through Trois Rivieres. Joliet, Hull and home.

We were back in Ottawa on Thursday, July 25 and Mom remained with me until Sunday, August 4 when she flew back to B.C. During that week I was called upon to conduct four funerals. Yes! I was "The Burying Minister"!

Mom so enjoyed her flying experience that, the next time that she went up to visit Alda, Leo and family, she opted to fly to Williams Lake instead of traveling on the Greyhound bus. That was a relatively short and bumpy flight so she didn't suggest an airplane over the Greyhound bus again.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


The Oblate Fathers were the Roman Catholic missionaries among the First Nation peoples of British Columbia - they evangelized throughout the nineteenth century and it was their presence which gave the town of Mission (about 60 miles east of Vancouver in the Fraser Valley) its name. By the time that I was born, the town was fairly prosperous and had become the 'market center' for that part of the Valley.

There was no sign of an Oblate Mission by the time that I was there. Instead there was a Benedictine Monastery and church, "Christ the King". This monastery was formed by men who came to Mission from the Benedictine Monastery in Portland, Oregon.


I have removed my original photo of the monastery and replaced it with one taken by Michael W. in Vancouver - a better image! This is the Cathedral Church of Christ the King.

In my blog about 'Union College' I mentioned the Anglican College nearby and that there was a Roman Catholic enclave as well. This was solely a residence for Catholic students at U.B.C. - the seminary was Christ the King in Mission.

At some time in each year the three student bodies would gather together for a study week and these would be rotated between the three seminaries. This was how I came to spend a few days at the Mission campus - and to experience monastic life for the first time.

The seminary and the church are relatively new and, it seems, construction is ongoing. The church and adjoining structures are near the brow of a hill which offers a breathtaking view of that part of the Fraser Valley eastward towards the Coast Mountains and south to the majestic 'ice cream sundae' that is Mount Baker in Washington State.

One of the monks was Brother Dunstan - a gifted artist - and his very beautiful work adorns that campus. His medium was tempura paints.

                        Thanks to Michael W. in Vancouver, here is a clearer photo of Mt. Baker

As I mentioned, the Abbey sits on the brow of a hill. Below is part of the town of Mission, the Upper Fraser Valley and, in the background, the Coast Mountains. These two photos were taken from slightly different angles. If you click to enlarge the first photo you will vaguely see the white bulge to the right of the descending ridge. That 'bulge' is Mount Baker. 

During the daylight hours we attended lectures on various subjects and, at mealtime in the refectory, we observed the Vow of Silence.

Dan Matheson used a monastery, St Benoit-du-Lac at Magog in the Eastern Townships of Quebec (15 miles southwest of Sherbrooke), as the planning session for he and his assistant at the beginning of each church year (i.e. in September).

As well as a retreat and a study center, the monastery is a working farm producing much of the food to be found on the refectory table. Also, like another monastery at Oka, Quebec, the monks make prize winning cheeses out of the milk gathered from dairy cows and goats. At St Benoit-du-Lac the best cheese (in my book) is the blue cheese and there was some on the table at each meal.

A footnote - I purchased a small wedge of a cheddar cheese the other day and at my local supermarket. When I went to cut a small piece I noticed the brand name on the wrapper - "Saint Augustin" - and just below that in smaller type is a photo of the monastery and 'Saint Benoit de Lac'. Reading that pleased me no end. 

Meals were eaten in silence - after the blessing had been asked - while one of the monks would be reading from a book or an article. He was not eating while we were but sitting on a stool in a corner of the room. He read in French - which I am not at all fluent in understanding. One time he was reading and, suddenly, the diners would chuckle or guffaw. When we left the table and were allowed to talk I asked Dan, "What was that all about?" He explained that the monk was reading from a book about the 'Six Day War' between the Israelis and the Palestinians - and adding his own footnotes along the way. It was at those that the listeners were laughing!

As I said, the meal was eaten in silence so, if a diner wanted something that was out of reach, he would just point and it would be passed to him.

By the way, women were allowed to stay in the monastery too but their rooms were in a separate wing and they dined separately from the Brothers.

I have had a number of wonderful experiences in my life - not the least of which are the brief visits to monasteries.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Westboro United Church, Ottawa

Moving from the two smaller congregations of Bell Island and Portugal Cove was, for me, a major shift.

While the congregations in Newfoundland were quite small and conservative, Westboro United was large and very much a part of a modern city. Theologically, the folk there tended to be somewhat more evangelical than those of many other United Church of Canada congregations but were more liberal in their collective thinking.

As the congregation employed two full time clergy, there were two 'manses'. The one where the Mathesons lived was east of the church and situated on a street of stately homes. The 'second manse' - where I lived - was a three bedroom split level house on Westminster Avenue west of the church and surrounded by newer houses.

Most of the embassies in Ottawa are situated in the area known as Rockcliffe but one of the African nations had their embassy near where Dan and Vera Matheson lived.

There were two services on Sunday mornings during the autumn, winter and spring months and one during the summer when those who could afford to moved away from the muggyness of the Ottawa Valley. Normally, in United Churches, communion is celebrated once a quarter but, at Westboro, it was a special 'early morning' service on the first Sunday of each month.

Technically I was to be the 'Youth Minister' but I was given two other tasks as well. As the church was quite a pretty one, it was popular with bridal couples and, also, with the local undertakers who, when they were instructed by the bereaved simply to 'get a minister', I was the one called. Therefore I performed a number of weddings and conducted many funerals.

Very shortly after arriving at Westboro I met a man, wife and two daughters who were relative newcomers to the congregation. The husband had lung cancer and it was only a matter of time before it claimed his life. They were a devout family who had moved from a farming town about an hour west of Ottawa.

As it was obvious that the end was not far away and, with the ailing husband's involvement, the funeral was planned. They knew that the culture in their hometown - where the funeral and interment would take place - was conservative but they deliberately planned a service of triumph. They knew that this would be quite disconcerting to the folk 'back home' so they planned well.

Fortunately, the regular organist and the minister of their home congregation were on holiday so I was one of two 'subs'. The other was the organist from a much larger church in a large nearby town. The opening hymn was one of triumph and it was played in that manner. The man's family and I were ready to sing lustily which completely confounded the other 'locals'. My message - prepared in consultation with the deceased and his wife - was upbeat as well. The after service reception was held in the church basement and it, too, was upbeat. The local neighbors were flabbergasted. I rode both there and back with the undertakers and they were amused by how the service proceeded and by the widow's upbeat demeanor.

There was another funeral that merits mentioning. When the telephone awakened me early in the morning I knew that it would be Joe Tubman - one of the undertaker brothers - calling. This meant that the family of a person who was deceased merely said, "Get a minister". This call was one of those.

I went to the funeral home to meet the family - a very distraught husband and their son. I asked the son, "Is there anything that you would like to tell me about your mother?". He paused and then replied, "She loved gambling". I did not think that that would be a suitable comment to be included in the eulogy. However - I had a 'giggle' when we went to the country cemetery. It was on a slope above the local raceway - the deceased could just sit up in her coffin, place her bet on a pony, and watch the race!

Weddings were numerous and many where the bridal couple were strangers to the congregation. However, one of those weddings was unforgettable. The bride's mother was a widow and the groom's family lived in Michigan. Neither could afford all of the 'bells and whistles' that a usual wedding would include so they did the best that they could with what they had.

They arrived at the church dressed in street clothes with their wedding outfits in garment bags. Also, they had brought waste paper baskets full of wildflowers that they had picked that morning. They arranged the flowers in a couple of larger vases keeping out the two blooms which they wanted for her corsage and his boutonniere. About a dozen guests - the bride's mother and a few friends - came as well as their two witnesses. The ceremony was held in the chapel and then the party went to a Japanese restaurant downtown for the wedding supper.

The two people being married, the decor that they created and their guests made a wedding ensemble that I thought was one of the nicest that I had seen - or was to see.

I wanted to share that with Dan Matheson - who was not in the building while this was taking place. So, the next morning, I took him to the Chapel to show him the flowers. They were nowhere in sight. I asked the building caretaker - a Dutchman - where the flowers had gone? His reply: "Oh dem veeds - I trew dem out!" Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Three circumstances of me being in Ottawa were thrilling - and I took full advantage of them.

This was the first time in my life that I was living in a community where family was nearby - Dad's half-sister, Berenice Brule, her husband Edgar and nine of their ten children were in and around Ottawa.

Montreal was only four hours or so away and more relatives lived there - especially Ma Tante, Sister Cecile Lacasse. Also, Montreal has several attractions which I love - the gorgeous Cathedral, the Oratory on Mont Royal and a wonderfully 'Gallic' atmosphere of 'Old Montreal'.

The third circumstance was the historic and cultural places in and around Ottawa.

Across the Ottawa River and a short drive northeast is Gatineau Park and Kingsmere - the home of William Lyon McKenzie King. His former estate is huge and there are walking/hiking trails everywhere. Those into the world of the spirits claim that it is haunted as well of which I do not have any proof. I just enjoyed getting away from my busy life in the city to spend a few hours in rural solitude.

The focus of Ottawa is, of course, the Parliament Buildings and all of the trappings of government. In the tower is the famed carillon and those bells can be heard for quite some distance. To be on 'The Hill' on July 1 for the Canada Day Celebrations - which culminate with fireworks - is wonderful.

In the early days of settlement - a time of political unrest - it was deemed important to link Ottawa with the Great Lakes so the Rideau Canal was built. Now it is popular with vacationers who bring their boats from Kingston on Lake Ontario up to the Ottawa River. In the winter, however, the canal becomes the world's longest outdoor skating rink and the center of Ottawa's Winter Carnival.

I lived in Ottawa for three and a half years. Since moving away I have been back there only once - in November 2000.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Bell Island to Ottawa

On one of my trips into St. John's I encountered the Rev. Newton Steacy and was surprised to learn that he had left the ministry and had joined the Federal Civil Service. Sometime later I went to Halifax for a reading week at Pine Hill - the Maritime United Church of Canada seminary. While on the return flight to St. John's my seat companion was Newton Steacy. He and his family were living in Ottawa and were attending Westboro United Church. The assistant minister had left and Dr. Dan Matheson - the senior pastor - was looking for a replacement. Would I be interested?

I was flabbergasted but replied, "Yes!" A short time later I was flown to Ottawa to spend a few days with the Mathesons and at Westboro United. I was very impressed and, fortunately, so were they by me!

Before leaving the topic of Bell Island and Newfoundland, there are a few more remarks that I want to make. Yes - there were cultural differences - some of which were huge - but I did like the people whom I had met.

As readers may have guessed, I had my differences with 'Uncle George' Normore but, when he passed some months after I left, I received a telegram from his widow telling me of his passing. I was saddened.

Newfoundland must have the most unusual place names of anywhere. For instance, the village a few miles north of Portugal Cove - still on the shore of Conception Bay - is Pouch (pronounced locally as 'Pooch') Cove. Around Conception Bay on the other side are Harbour Grace and, nearby, are Hearts Delight, Hearts Content and Hearts Desire. Further north are Joe Batt's Arm and, where the refinery is located, is Come-by-Chance. One of my classmates spent a year or two at Nippers Harbour up in the Baie Verte area.

I visited Doug and his family up there and was given a tour. We saw a huge iceberg beached a couple of hundred yards from the highway along the shore. Also, Doug took me to the Parish Cemetery - a rectangular plot of land. He pointed out the fence which surrounded it and how, at one point, the fence jogged around one grave and then returned to the original alignment. That was the grave of a young man who had committed suicide. At the time of the incident it was thought to be a mortal sin to take one's own life so he was not allowed to be buried beside his family. Fortunately, at some later date, better thinking allowed them to realign the fence to allow his remains to lie within the hallowed grounds.

On the Monday of the Victoria Day weekend a friend and I went for a long drive. We drove northwest up the Trans Canada Highway to the junction of the highway leading down to the Burin Peninsula and the other ferry landing for boats from North Sydney. From there we drove towards St Pierre and Miquelon (the French prefectures remaining within Canadian territorial waters - that gave France the privilege of fishing for cod in our waters). From there we continued east and then north past Cape St Mary's ("Fishing off Cape St Mary's" is a popular Newfoundland folk song), up past Cape Race - the most easterly point in continental North America - and back to St John's.

What do I remember best about that trip? It was on the weekend called "The Widow's Holiday" as it marks the opening of fishing season for trout in the ponds - and it was cloudy and cool with intermittent showers.

The Reading Week at Pine Hill was almost canceled for me because of the amount of 'slob ice' clogging Conception Bay barring me from access to St John's Airport. Fortunately, the ice between Bell Island and the south shore was not as thick so someone ferried me to one of the communities over there from where I was able to get a ride around to the airport.

Once I was on the mainland fog rolled in and I became stranded in Halifax for the better part of the week. I filled my time by sightseeing and going to movies. One of the films that I saw while I was there was Franco Zeffirelli's "Brother Son, Sister Moon" which is now in my DVD collection.

After my conversation with Newton Steacy I was invited to fly to Ottawa for a few days where I visited with the Mathesons and saw the church. Soon after I returned to Bell Island I received word that I was being 'called' there so I began making arrangements for the move. That meant saying 'Good-bye' to a lot of people who were surprised and shocked that I was leaving.

I drove to Placentia and took the longer ferry ride from there to North Sydney and drove to Ottawa. This time I went via the most direct route so I visited Fredericton - the Capital of New Brunswick - for the first time.

I stopped briefly in Ottawa and then continued on home for a visit with Mom, Dan and others then returned to take up my new duties.

Monday, 7 November 2011

England and Scotland

There I was in Newfoundland with three weeks of vacation time. From the West Coast, Great Britain seemed to be so far away. From Newfoundland, though, it was only 3000-odd miles translating to a 4 hour jet flight across the Atlantic Ocean. I booked a ticket and left on August 31, 1972.

At that time the famed Canada/Soviet hockey series was about to begin and the Munich Olympics were underway. I flew from St John's to Gander to connect with the Trans-Atlantic flight. Another passenger on that flight to Gander was Howie Meeker, the CBC Hockey Night in Canada color commentator. He was on his way to Montreal for the first game of that series. While jet planes were already flying non-stop across Canada, he was on a 'milk run' flying from St John's to Gander to Deer Lake to Sydney to Halifax and, finally, to Montreal. I didn't wish myself in his shoes!

I had a four hour lay over in Gander and then four hours on a bigger jet across the Atlantic to Heathrow. For most of the flight the going was smooth but with two bumpy sections - over Iceland where the American, Bobby Fischer, was playing the Russian, Boris Spassky for the Chess Championship; and over Northern Ireland where 'The Troubles' were a few years from being settled. I thought that the turbulence experienced in those air spaces were generated from the 'hot air' generated on the ground beneath!

Customs and Immigration at Heathrow were a breeze. A double deck bus was waiting right outside and soon I was standing on the pavement at Victoria Station - London!!!! The next task was to navigate the tube system to Stockwell and the 'Y'
on the south side of the Thames. After booking in and changing my clothes I took the tube back north to Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street, Carnaby Street and Oxford Street hardly believing that I was actually there. Being on a tight budget I had to watch my pennies but I forgot to check on the frequency of the transit and ended up having to ride one of those iconic London cabs back to the YMCA.

London!!! So much to see in and near that city and limited time. For the first few days I remained in Central London visiting many of the well known attractions (Kensington Gardens, High Park, St James Park, Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral). At the latter I climbed the stairs up into the great dome and experienced vertigo from the great height and, seemingly to me, danger of slipping and falling an awful long way to the floor of the nave.

I had planned to spend about ten days in Yorkshire and in Scotland so I decided to sandwich the London sites around the out-of-town excursion.

I went to Hampton Court and to Windsor touring both the buildings and the wonderful artwork and artifacts on display. While in Windsor I tried to find my buddy from Alice Springs and Goodnight, Barry Reynolds, but the Reynolds family I found in the telephone directory was not his.

On another day I took a train to Oxford and wondered at that historic place and all the famous 'colleges' which I visited. I went to the chapel/church of St Mary Magdalen and again I made the mistake of climbing the staircase to the belfry - more vertigo.

Back in London, I saw the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and heard some of the speakers at their corner in High Park.

Going to the Visitors' Bureau garnered me a free ticket on a London tour bus (double deck of course!). I availed myself of that and was seated beside an Israeli soldier who was visiting London. This was a few days after the massacre at the Jewish village in Munich so I commiserated with him.

Also, I toured Westminster Abbey which is so big that I had the feeling that I was all alone. When the voice of the Dean came over the loudspeaker suggesting that, in memory of those who had lost their lives in Munich, we all pause and recite together the words of the Lord's Prayer. I was by myself at that moment but I heard the voices of hundreds of others reciting the same words that I was.

Who could visit London and not purchase a ticket to a West End show? I did - and saw a production of "Jesus Christ Superstar". That was the second time that I had seen a production of that musical but the one in London was far better than the one that I had seen in St. John's.

During my final year at Union College I met a young Englishman who was doing a Post Graduate year at UBC. Peter Shaw - no relation to the Shaws whom I knew in B.C. - was from Bridlington in Yorkshire. We had remained in touch with each other and I had an invitation to spend a weekend with him and his widowed mother.

I should mention that, before leaving St John's, I had purchased a British Railway Pass so I was free to travel on those trains whenever I wanted to during that month. On the Friday after arriving in London I rode a train to Yorkshire - which was an interesting experience. The train from London to Hull was modern and fast but, in Hull, I had to change to a local which stopped at every town, village and hamlet along the way.

Peter met me at the railway station in Bridlingon and took me to the bungalow that he shared with his mother. The next day - Saturday - Peter drove me to York but, instead of taking a direct route, he drove to some of the other historic places in that area. One was to the town of Beverley which has a 'Minster' meaning that it, long ago, was the 'See' of a bishopric. We walked through the old church and, immediately, I noticed the name plaques in the floor - we were walking over/on a series of graves. Being raised with the understanding that one does not walk on a grave, this gave me pause - until I realized that, if I wanted to see everything, there was no choice. Not far from Beverley was Ely which has yet another Minster. On the surface one could assume that there was uniformity in the churches during the Middle Ages but such was not the case. Those three bishoprics cheek by jowl with each other were not cooperating but were rivals.

We drove on to York. It took Peter a little while to find a safe place in which to park the car from where we set out towards the Cathedral (the towers towered over the city so it could not be missed). Along the way we passed a man's clothing shop and Peter was quite attracted to an outfit displayed in one of the windows. He suggested that I carry on to the Cathedral while he shopped - he would catch up to me later.

What neither Peter nor I realized was that this was the Saturday when Yorkminster Cathedral was to be re-commissioned after renovations had been completed. I entered through one of the side doors into what seemed to be a relatively empty building - until I reached the nave where there were hundreds of people. There was a group of pilgrims there from the northwest city of Carlisle who had come to join the locals in celebrating the reopening of their magnificent building.

The Service of Dedication was underway and, very shortly, a hymn of praise was to be sung. There were no 'programs' handy (on which the words of the hymns were printed) so a nun who was near me offered to share hers with me.

Hundreds of voices raised in song in that magnificent building was almost ethereal! Also, in my line of vision, was the Rose Window - possibly the most glorious piece of glass art that I have seen. As the service ended Peter found me again so after a few minutes spent looking around we left. Peter is/was like me in one way - why use the Motorway when there are country roads going in the same direction and closer to the beautiful scenery? It was on that drive back to Bridlingon that I saw a British 'round about' for the first time - Peter had to navigate a few.

The next day being Sunday, Peter, his Mom and I went to the Methodist Chapel for the morning service. At the end of the service, his Mom went on home to attend to the roast beef dinner while Peter and I went for a stroll along the beach (Bridlington is a 'seaside resort' a few miles south of the better known Scarborough). As we strolled we passed many people most of whom were walking and talking in groups. Peter was listening to the accents and would comment to me as to which community and/or area each passersby came from. I found that to be quite entertaining!

As I mentioned above, Mrs. Shaw was cooking a roast for Tea - and I was shown how roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and gravy are supposed to be eaten.

First we were served the Yorkshire pudding with the gravy - I love beef gravy that is well made - and then the meat, potatoes and vegetables. That was followed by dessert - but I cannot now remember what that was.

Monday had been set aside as the day to tour Yorkshire - and it was wonderful. First we drove back into York so Peter could complete the business of buying the new clothes and then we headed west to the market town of Thornton-le-Dale where we went into a bakery and bought ourselves some meat pies. With these and beverages in the car we drove along a country road to a hamlet. Every so often along that road - and other like roads - 'park benches' are placed just up from the road in the shade of trees. We sat on one of these to eat our pies and, as we were across a lane from a farm, chickens from there recognized an opportunity and came begging.

After eating Peter drove along a circular route to where there was a road up onto the moors. For me, the story of Jane Eyre came to mind. We drove for a few miles over those barren hills and then down to a hamlet nestled beside a stream in a valley and then back up to go over another ridge and down to a new hamlet.

Eventually we reached the coastal highway facing the North Sea along which we turned south. We dipped down into a town which I had never heard of - Robin Hood's Bay - a smugglers' haven in days of yore. Also, we stopped at the ruins of Whitby Abbey where a conference was held in the early centuries of the Christian Era. That conference determined that England would follow the Christian faith as espoused by Rome and not the indigenous Celtic order. I had learned that fact in Church History!

As time was passing Peter drove on to the town of Scarborough where we went to a pub and then, after a 'couple', on to his home in Bridlington.

On the following Morning Peter drove me to the railway station where I caught the local into York in order to transfer to the train to Edinburgh. I was in York in plenty of time so I thought that I would walk to the Cathedral again. However, I had forgotten something - the streets are narrow and they meander all over the place. While walking back to the station I became turned around and, by the time that I had become reoriented, I had missed the train. Luckily for me, a second train that was coming up from Plymouth and was bound for Edinburgh had been held up due to an accident on the line. I was in time to catch it.

In correspondence between Peter and I before I left for England he had told me about the 'Countrywide Hiking Association' and the group hikes that they organize all over Great Britain. As it was the middle of September, their hostels in north Scotland had closed for the season but there was still one in operation - Kinfauns Castle - near the town of Perth, I reserved a space there.

As I was not expected at Kinfauns Castle until the following Saturday, I opted for some touring in Scotland on my own and Edinburgh was the first stop.

Upon arriving in that city I found the local Visitors' Bureau where I was given the address of the YMCA.

At times it can truly be a 'Small World'. In Edinburgh I met Chris Jack's married daughter (Chris was my supervisor during the "In Parish" training during the second year at Union College) who took me out and about and then to dinner. On my own I toured Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace. John Knox's house and St Giles Cathedral. The tour of Holyrood Palace was a guided one and it was very interesting - especially the history of Mary Queen of Scots and her gentlemen friends. John Knox's house was dreary but the walls of St Giles Cathedral were lined with plaques commemorating the Reformation and the subsequent Counter Reformation.

This was Wednesday and I was not due at Kinfauns Castle until Saturday so I decided to take the train to Inverness, down to Aberdeen and then to Perth. The weather was sunny when we left Edinburgh but clouded over as we entered the Highlands. Still, as I was sitting on that side of the train, I did get some good views of Loch Ness - but not a sign of the Loch Ness Monster!

In Inverness I found a pleasant B&B and then went out to explore. Lucky for me, it was the weekend of a Piper's Conference and, everywhere I wandered that evening, I could hear the sound of the pipes. Dad would not have enjoyed that but I did!

The next morning I caught an early train to Aberdeen and my most vivid memory of that ride was the site of all those distilleries that we passed. The Scots do like their whiskey! Aberdeen is a clean city but more or less all of a monochrome color
- grey - the whole city seemed to be built of granite. After an hour or so there I caught another train for Perth. Fortunately, Kinfauns Castle is to the east of the town so I could see it as I passed on the train and, therefore, knew in which direction to head after alighting at the railway station.

Kinfauns is a castle - although not an overly large one. There were two other men in the room with me - Peter from Southport, Yorkshire (his parents were there as well) and Charles from Paris, France. We got along with each other very well. Our initial hike was next afternoon up to the top of nearby Kinouls Hill where we had an impressive view of the surrounding countryside including Dunsinane Hill and Birnam Woods. Yes - those two places mentioned by Shakespeare in 'Macbeth' do really exist!

The first major hike was on Monday - the following day. Buses were waiting for us and we were taken to the hamlet of Auchterhouse (I find it amusing to try to pronounce the names of these places as the Scots do - however, I wont try phonetic spelling here). As we were a large group we were split into two parties. Before we started out, though, a member of the hiking club in nearby Dundee spoke to us about the terrain we would be hiking over and what we should look out for. We went up a high hill walking through heather and bracken and then down to a hamlet situated beside a road. A rule that we followed was that the last hiker in the group was responsible for closing any gates that we may have opened to pass through. I and my roommates - Peter and Charles - were the last and Peter had closed the gate.

The hamlet was like many others over there - a neat row of houses along the road and no sprawl. The lane we were following came down beside the last house in the row and we turned left to descend the rest of the way to Glamis.

An elderly Scottish gentleman was waiting for us and he asked, "Be ye Sassenachs?" I answered by pointing to Peter and saying, "Aye, he is - but Charles is French and I am a Canadian". The old gentleman came back with, "Och! Canada is a bonny land!" to which I replied, "And Scotland is a bonny land too!"

Queen Mother Elizabeth's nephew, the Earl of Strathmore, had died and his funeral was that afternoon. As she was his cousin, the Queen attended as well. We were not allowed through the gate into the grounds of Glamis Castle so waited outside. The castle cemetery was situated just inside the walls of the estate and, when the Queen 'Mum' and Queen Elizabeth exited we had a good view of them and the former waved to us. Except for when I was three years old and too young to remember, that was the only time that I saw the Queen Mother in the flesh.

On our way back to Kinfauns Castle the bus stopped for a tea break in Kirriemuir. I knew that that was the home village of the playwright, James Barrie, so - while the others sipped their tea - I went to look for his house, found it and took a photo.

The hike on the following day was up one of the higher peaks - Ben Vrackie. The hiking was strenuous but I was thrilled to be walking through heather and seeing Scottish wildlife (hares galore and, in a wooded area, deer). Two of those hares scared the daylights out of one of the women and myself - they exploded from right under our feet.

Wednesday was an idle day so I accepted the invitation from one of the other men to go with him and a few others in his car over to Fort William on the West Coast of Scotland. Our route took us across country through the beautiful Glencoe and along the shore of Loch Laven. As we descended Glencoe there was a piper standing in a lay-by playing his pipes. Ah Scotland!

We stopped briefly in Fort William and then drove eastward to the site of the Battle of Culloden and then south back to Perth.

On Thursday we climbed the other higher peak - Ben Lawers. One of our group had learned that there would be a 'Ceilidh' at a pub in Perth that evening so, much to the dismay of the castle managers who had planned an evening of entertainment, Charles and I and one or two others went into town.

The ceilidh was a hoot. During the entertainment we were invited to introduce ourselves and, for the rest of the evening, Charles and I were not allowed to sit down but were asked to dance by many of the lassies in the pub. Also - that was the one and only time that I have been where haggis was being served. It was delicious!

Our final day in the Scottish countryside was a pleasant one. We rode in the bus to north of Dunkeld and walked over the lower hills and through the dales. More wildlife to see!

Our Scottish holiday ended Friday evening so, on Saturday morning, I joined Peter and his parents (Mr and Mrs Rawlings) for the drive down to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. After lunch we went to the Newcastle soccer pitch for the game against Leeds (which is where the Rawlings live). I was warned that, if I should decide to barrack for Leeds, to keep that quiet as it could be unsafe to do otherwise! The soccer pitch was not really that big but over 40,000 people crammed in there for the game which Newcastle won 3-2. The entry and exit to the grounds was by outside staircases along the sides of the stadium. This, for me, was somewhat nerve racking even though we waited until most of the crowd had dispersed.

After the game, Mr Rawlings drove me to the railway station where I caught a train to Durham. The ride was not that long and, once there, I found a bed in a B&B and then walked to the campus of the University of Durham, the Alma Mater of Peter Shaw.

I had time before the London train left to visit the University of Durham one more time - but in the daylight. Back in London I returned to the 'Y' in Stockwell and was surprised to find Peter Shaw there as well.

Back home Lowell Shaw played ice hockey for a team in Whalley (North Surrey) and I was startled to see a young man wearing a sweatshirt with that team's logo, riding on the tube going to the Tower of London. Yes - he knew Lowell and was over in Europe on his own vacation.

The tour of the Tower of London was fascinating.

Having a Brit-Rail Pass made decisions as to where to go a lot easier. I thought that, since I had seen Oxford, I should go to Cambridge. However, the rail service there was not as frequent as to the former. Instead I took a train to Brighton to see the seaside resort of which my Grandmother spoke of so fondly. There was an awful lot of 'kitsch' along the beachfront but the view out over the English Channel was pretty.

On Thursday, September 28 I flew back to Gander, Newfoundland and the reality of my job. I was amused by the woman who was sitting beside me on the bus from Victoria Station out to Heathrow. She was an American and needed to get to Dallas, Texas as quickly as possible. The only seat available was on an Air India flight to New York City. She said that she exclaimed in horror, "Air India?" only to have the clerk say to her, "Madam, not one of our aircraft has ever crashed!"

When we landed in Gander the baggage room personnel were talking about the final hockey game of the Canada/Russia series. At that time it was tied so, when I returned to the manse on Bell Island, I was able to watch the end of the game which Canada won.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Clash of Cultures

As you may have gathered from reading the two preceding blogs, I liked the Newfoundlanders whom I met on Bell Island and in Portugal Cove. However, there were difficult moments - and some longer than moments. These stemmed from differences over how I should look when outside my home (the 'Manse').

I wore a dark suit and a clerical shirt when I was about on church business but I dressed in slacks and open-necked shirts or ('horror of horrors') jeans, plaid shirt and cowboy boots when I was on my own time.

Many of the people accepted me however I was dressed but a few of the 'Pillars' gave me no end of static when they saw me at my most casual.

A case in point - I took a few days during a week to visit a classmate and his family at an out port in the Baie Verte area. As I was on my own time, I drove in both directions dressed in my most comfortable clothes. Unfortunately I arrived back at the ferry slip in Portugal Cove late in an afternoon when one of the 'pillars' was returning from his job in St John's. He was dressed in dungarees, hard hat and work boots and he was furious with me - due to my casual attire. I refused to back down.

The elderly 'sweetheart' in the congregation was nearly as bad. He was a proud old churchman who loved his church. He was both the lay delegate from the congregation to regional and Provincial church meetings as well as being the sexton (it was to him that I referred when someone died and a plot in the cemetery needed to be put aside).

He did grumble about my 'casualness' but it was his wife who had the sharp tongue. She and I did have some serious arguments - mainly to do with different ideas as to how I should comport myself when not on official church business. Also about her perceived priorities when unforeseen circumstances collided with what had been carefully planned. I thought that I was covering 'all bases' as best as I could but that was not good enough.

Before leaving the story of the Normores, there was one question that he raised frequently that floored me. Whenever somebody new arrived to work on the Island - be he or she a nurse, a school teacher, a bank clerk, the RCMP officer - I was expected to learn the family surname and from which community they originated. That way it could be determined if they were United Church of Canada folk or not. I am from B.C. where practically everybody is/was from somewhere else and there was no way to determine what denominational adherence they had - if any.

In Newfoundland, out port communities seemed to have been settled by homogeneous groups of people all of the same denominational persuasion - more or less - so it could be determined which flock they would belong to in their new community. It was fine with me if they had no denominational affiliation at all - but not to 'Uncle George'.

Another sore point was that I started up Youth Groups on Bell Island and in Portugal Cove - and even went so far as to organize a weekend camp on church property set aside for that purpose up in the heights between Portugal Cove and St John's. I sincerely felt that these were needed but ran into no end of static in both communities. I must admit, though, that it did not help when a few of these kids acted up and caused some damage to church property. When that happened, the miscreants were reprimanded and then ordered to help repair it.

There was one kid who hung around my place - with my roommate and one or two others - a lot of the time. I knew that he could be a problem from time to time and I was quite saddened one day when he told me that it was only a matter of a few days before the authorities would be coming after him to place him in a borstal institution. There seemed to be nothing that I could do to help him. He was a pleasant young man and, yes, in need of attention and approval.

I have been rereading the journals which I kept and was reminded of another problem. I was ORDERED to disassociate myself from all of those youths who were not from a United Church background! This was carried even further when I was told that I 'had to' get rid of my roommate as he was an Anglican and not United Church (the truth be known, he did not attend any church but I liked him as a person). No, he was NOT gay but very heterosexual with 'girlfriends' all over the place. I ignored that order.

Naturally, nothing happens in smaller close-knit communities without everybody hearing about it. Therefore I was floored when the 'Pillar' who objected to me being seen at the ferry slip while dressed in jeans and boots came up to me and voluntarily shook my hand. I understood that action to mean that he was not siding with those who objected to my friends.

On the island I met a young woman whose family were adherents of the United Church of Canada. She lived at home and was a Registered Nurse who worked in the local cottage hospital. That friendship was approved of because she was a female and she belonged to the correct denomination. We saw each other pretty regularly for a number of months - I watched Hockey Night in Canada telecasts every Saturday evening at her place. Her family owned the first large color TV set that I had seen.

The people in Portugal Cove as well as a couple of men on Bell Island were not nearly as conservative in their outlook. Those two Bell Islanders were a former mine manager whose origins were from Nova Scotia and the RCMP officer who was raised in Central Canada.

Yes, in some ways, this blog is a rant but to tell you of my experiences living in that community without writing about the down side would be telling only part of the story.