Winterlude 2018

Riduau Canal Skateway 2018The Winterlude festival is on now in Ottawa. The 2018 edition is the 40th. I used to think that Winterlude was just about the canal ice conditions getting very good for my skate to and from Carleton University, when I was a student there. Now, it’s a whole lot more. It has become a tradition to check out the ice sculptures in Confederation Park, and now Winterlude has become a stop on the international ice sculpture competition circuit.

Here’s a view of the canal, which is called the Rideau Canal Skateway when it’s flooded and maintained for skating along its length from the Rideau Locks near the Parliament Buildings to Hartwell’s Locks near Carleton University. That’s 7.8 kilometres of skating in one direction (more, if you skate around Dow’s Lake). The tourist bumf calls it the world’s largest skating rink. I took this picture from the Mackenzie King Bridge. The hut on the ice where people are queuing and lacing up skates is where you can rent skates and sleds. Skate rental is for folks “from away” – whether they use them or not, every Ottawan owns a pair of skates! Farther along, spanning the canal, is the Laurier Avenue Bridge, which opened in 1900. It’s been modernized this century, but the original iron arches are distinctive in green. The Cartier Square Drill Hall is unmistakable beyond and to the right of the Laurier Avenue Bridge. It was built in 1879. Ottawa men signed up for Canadian expeditionary forces fighting in the Boer War, the First World War, and the Second World War from this drill hall. The Governor General’s Foot Guards and the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa are based at the Cartier Square Drill Hall. During the summer, they march from here to Parliament Hill in their red tunics and bearskin caps. Taking pictures of the changing of the guard ceremony is a highlight of the trip for visitors.

The Rideau Canal Skateway is a big part of Ottawa life in the winter. All Canadians talk about the weather – probably too much – but when Ottawans do we include a canal ice conditions report. On my skating commute to work in the morning, when I walk to the office carrying my skates I’m often asked, “How’s the canal?” Skating on the canal is a small town aspect to city life. Have fun at Winterlude!

Canada 150 Rink

Canada 150 rinkThe Canada 150 celebrations are over – the end of 2017 marked the end of the sesquicentennial year. But the Canada 150 Rink on Parliament Hill in Ottawa is still going strong, while the cold weather lasts. I always do the traditional Ottawa thing, which is to skate on the Rideau Canal. I even skate to work when I can. The rink on Parliament Hill is unprecedented, though, and I had to make a point of getting a skate in, before it’s dismantled and gone for good.

Skating at the Canada 150 Rink is free, but you have to get a ticket – online, of course. I picked a beautiful, sunny, cold day for my skate. I don’t usually skate on ice surfaced with a Zamboni – I’m used to the rough surface of the canal. What a pleasure it was to skate around and around, looking at the East Block and the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings. The music was a mix of English and French songs. The whole experience of skating on the Canada 150 Rink said: “Canada!”

Canada 150

Michael at Canada 150, Ottawa150 years ago the British North America Act made Canada a self-governing Dominion. There was a big celebration in Ottawa in 1867, and there was a big celebration in Ottawa in 2017. By the Good Fates I was born in Canada. I didn’t earn the privilege, but I do what I can to live up to it. I have lived in England and in Ukraine, worked all over the United States, and visited 38 other countries. Canada … my Canada … is the greatest country in the world.

Doors Open Ottawa, 2017

Exhibits at Parks Canada Sheffield Road Collections Storage FacilityDoors Open in Ottawa gets bigger and more popular every year, and it’s a challenge to visit new buildings and not wrestle with big crowds and long queues. Parks Canada opened the doors of its storage facility on Sheffield Road, a warehouse filled with exhibits and reproductions from historic sites. Here’s a table with an interesting sample of items: a rejected version of the Canadian flag, a pair of skates, a jacket from the destroyer HMCS Haida, and memorabilia related to Dr. Norman Bethune.

MiG 21, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, OttawaThe Canada Aviation and Space Museum is at the old RCAF Station Rockcliffe, and for Doors Open Ottawa the museum opened its reserve hangar. Inside are aircraft that are undergoing restoration or that just won’t fit into the limited space of the main exhibit hall. This is a MiG 21 fighter that was built in the Soviet Union and flown by the Czechoslovak Air Force. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, this airframe was acquired by the Canadian Armed Forces and came into the possession of the Aviation Museum.

Stadacona Hall, OttawaStadacona Hall in Sandy Hill was built in 1871 for lumber baron John A. Cameron. Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, lived here, and Lady Agnes Macdonald was famous for keeping peacocks on the grounds. Today, the mansion houses The High Commission of Brunei Darussalam in Canada.

Sir John A. Macdonald Building in Ottawa (former Bank of Montreal)The former Bank of Montreal building on the O’Connor Street block between Sparks Street and Wellington Street has been closed and under renovations for as long as I can remember. At last it’s open, as a House of Commons meeting or reception hall. First opened in 1932, the renovation kept the architectural features of the great banking hall.

Wellington Building in Ottawa (former Metropolitan Life Insurance Company)The former Metropolitan Life Insurance Company building on the same block has also undergone extensive, years-long renovations. Built between 1924 and 1927 in the Beaux-Arts style, original features that were kept were the building’s facade and the entrance hall off of Wellington Street that has an elaborate mosaic in the vaulted ceiling. The praise of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was over-the-top: speaking of the Great Metropolitan Mother the mosaic proclaims: “Death and Disease Give Way Before Her.” Wow.

Michael in the witness seat, Wellington BuildingThis is me in the chair’s seat in a high-tech committee room. This can be said to be my proper and natural habitat. I’m not wearing a suit and tie, but I am wearing my Canada 150 t-shirt. 2017 is the sesquicentennial of the signing of the British North American Act and of Canada as a self-governing Dominion.

View of the West Block of the Parliament Buildings from the Wellington BuildingFinally, this is a view of the West Block of the Parliament Buildings, taken through a window of the Wellington Building. The Gothic Revival architecture of the Parliament Hill precinct in Canada’s capital is absolutely magnificent.

The Capital Grannies Golf Tournament

Michael at Metcalfe Golf ClubThe Capital Grannies are the Ottawa branch of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, an initiative of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. They raise funds to support grandmothers in Africa, raising their grandchildren who are orphaned by the deadly epidemic of HIV/AIDS. Over 300 projects in sub-Saharan Africa get support, and they’re all of the ground-level, micro-finance kind.

The 10th annual golf tournament, with a dinner, was held at Metcalfe Golf Club today as a fundraising effort by the Capital Grannies. I went with my parents, who are long-time supporters of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. The photo is me at the tee on the 8th hole. It’s a par 3, and you’re looking at my follow-through on a nice drive that put me on the green. The golf was fun, the dinner was superb, and the Capital Grannies raised a sizable amount of money that will be spent in Africa in a way that will do some real good. Find out more about The Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Third anniversary vigil for the Heavenly Hundred

Vigil for the Heaven's HundredThree years ago, the Maidan protests that became known as the Revolution of Dignity reached their conclusion in Ukraine. On February 20, 2014, snipers from Viktor Yanukovych’s security services (trained by Russian special forces) shot many Ukrainians who were exercising their rights of free assembly and free speech. By the time Yanukovych fled Kyiv, 130 people, mostly civilian protesters, had been killed. They became known as the Heavenly Hundred.

There have been several protests and memorials in Ottawa about these events. Yesterday, we gathered on Parliament Hill for a vigil to commemorate the third anniversary of the Heavenly Hundred and also the thousands of people who have been killed since in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Crimea and Luhansk and Donetsk. Sadly, the Heavenly Hundred have been joined by over 10,000 killed and around 1.8 million made homeless in Putin’s war. The organizer spoke in measured but angry terms about Yanukovych’s crimes and Russia’s aggression. Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada spoke about people he knew who died on Maidan. He held the picture of a man who when he died had no identification; they called a friend on his phone and that’s how they found out who he was. We all held pictures of some of the men and women who were killed on Maidan. A priest delivered a prayer of remembrance. The mood was one of remorse, but also determination that they shall not have died in vain. Maidan may have started as a student protest in favour of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, but it evolved into much, much more. When it became the Revolution of Dignity and won, millions of Ukrainians had become activists for a normal life and a good life in their homeland.

Digging out

ShovellingThe Ottawa Valley was hit with a couple of big snowstorms last week, and an above freezing Sunday provided the opportunity to begin digging out. The whole family was at Mont Cascades to celebrate my brother Robin’s birthday — belatedly, because a blizzard put off our plans last week. I was on call to prepare the traditional feast of pirohi, as usual, but first there was some snow shovelling to do. Handyman Chris and his sister Megan came by, and the three of us tackled the mountain of snow at the front of the house so people could at least get in and out of the door. As you can see, the weight of snow and ice sliding off the roof took off the eavestroughing in places. When it snows again I’ll cry, but until then I’ll take pride in the good work we did. Such is life in Canada.

Scottish Diaspora Tapestry

Scottish Country Dancers TapestryThe Scottish Diaspora Tapestry is a monumental work of over 300 embroidered panels, illustrating the influence that Scots have had on the world. It is touring the world, and this month it is in Ottawa, at the Ottawa Public Library. Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry is the work of volunteer embroiderers from all over the world, many of them descendents of the the Scottish migrants whose achievements are chronicled in the panels. This panel shows Scottish Country dancing, which thrives in Ottawa and wherever Scots have settled.

Jenny Bruce, Tour DirectorAccompanying the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry around the world as Tour Director is the Scottish artist Jenny Bruce. She gave a talk about the Tapestry, before conducting a tour through the library where the panels were on display. Here she is holding up the Scottish Country dancing panel, to show and talk about it’s intricate construction. Online information about the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry is here, and there is even a downloadable app to use while viewing the exhibition.

Finnegan, my work supervisor

My work supervisorMy parents have been away on vacation, and for the duration my canine companion has been Finnegan, their parti poodle. I thought I would have the week “off-platform,” meaning not teaching in the classroom but working from home. An emergency came up, and I was a last-minute replacement for another instructor. I taught the course from the Ottawa office to the students remotely, using my company’s audio-visual virtual classroom. Finnegan was my supervisor in the classroom. Of course, he visited all my colleagues in the office, wagged his tail at them, and was an instant favourite.

Ready for WinterFinnegan also was a careful supervisor at Robin & Colleen’s country place on the weekend. Robin was lucky to bring in Chris “the wood guy” to work with his chainsaw and splitter, and I spent the day helping and hauling firewood all over the forest. Work and play, we enjoyed a warm, sunny fall day.

Carillon at Rideau Hall

Mobile carillon at Rideau HallThe Governor-General of Canada gives a summer concert series at his official residence in Ottawa, Rideau Hall. An unusual offering this year was a performance by the Dominion Carillonneur, using a mobile carillon. Dr. Andrea McCrady is the Dominion Carillonneur, and normally she plays the bells that are in the Peace Tower of the Centre Block on Parliament Hill. She and her apprentice played a varied program for an intrigued audience on the grounds of Rideau Hall. We got a chance to see and hear a carillon up close. The how-to of this unusual form of music making was fascinating.

See and hear the mobile carillon.