Category Archives: rambling

Bus Tour to Italy

A kind invitation to join in a military-sponsored bus tour to Italy in 1987 proved a delightful adventure shared with closest family members. Brothers Mike and Ed Davis were serving with Canadian Forces in Lahr, Germany so they gladly booked passage for wives Peggy (Madeline’s sister) and Miriam, and asked us to go along.

It was a top notch itinerary – busing through Germany and Switzerland to a first stop in Florence, moving on to Pisa, then Rome, and further south to Pompeii. Breaking up the homeward run was a few days resting at Lake Garda in the northern Italy lake district.
We flew to Frankfurt, Germany and went from there by train to Lahr.

Borrowing a car for a few days we got to see parts of Germany and the Alsace-Lorraine area of France. A highlight was driving up a steep and scary hill to enjoy spectacular views from a nunnery perched on Mont Ste-Odile, and see Stations of the Cross etched into the rock face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An offbeat point of interest along the homeward journey was a memorial marking the infamous Maginot Line, a massive defence system erected by the French after the First World War but totally overridden by German tanks in the early days of World War Two.

Our two week bus tour took us through Switzerland, traversing the extremely long St Gotthard tunnel, and landing us in the beautiful and exciting city of Florence.

Memorial Day at Ypres

On November 11, 1987, we had the extremely emotional experience of attending a Memorial Day service at the iconic Menin Gate in the Flanders Fields town known as Ieper in Belgian and as Ypres in French. It was from this spot that the thousands of World War One soldiers set off to battle in what was known as the Ypres Salient.

Old Soldiers marched proudly while bands played and crowds surged to share in remembrance of all who had fallen.

Built in 1927 in the form of a Roman triumphal arch, it stone walls are engraved with the names of nearly 55,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers lost in the field of battle but with no known graves.

Canadian names were prominent but none were seen from Newfoundland although the Nfld Regiment – including Madeline’s father, Richard Roche, also fought there.

Buglers have played the Last Post on this site at 8 p.m. every day since the Memorial Gate was erected.

Poignant moments marked the showering of poppy petals into the Memorial.

 

A nearby site of special interest to Canadians is the St. Julien Memorial and park located in the village of Saint-Julien, Langemark.

It commemorates the Canadian First Division’s participation in the Second Battle of Ypres of World War 1 which included fighting in the face of the first poison gas attack along the Western Front. The tall imposing structure is surmounted by Frederick Chapman Clemesha’s sculpture, The Brooding Soldier.

Driving through that whole area and the valley of the Somme was a sad and sobering experience, seeing almost countless numbers of headstones in huge memorial parks, honouring those who had fought and died in what was supposed to be the war to end all wars.

(Note: This is a re-posting of an earlier blog because of some technical problems.)

Mailing is Failing

Canada Post boxes

As a medium of communications, the old fashioned snail mailing of letters can be worth trying, but here’s one example of how unproductive it can be.

Keen to promote awareness of the booklet “The Waddens: A Family History” which I self published early this year, I decided to try a mail out to every Wadden name I could find in Canada Post listings. It came to just over 100, for all of which I included postal codes. They were scattered across the country, with the largest single block in Cape Breton. One full month later, here is the score: four positive responses, all of which resulted in a booklet sale, for which I am most grateful; but as many as 19 have been returned to date by Canada Post. Some were indicated as moved or unknown, while many addresses were shown as incomplete. Returned letters trickled in, one as late as yesterday.

Lessons to be learned from this exercise :
1) my booklet is no best seller
2) Waddens aren’t great readers
2) Canada Post address listings are sadly out of date
3) Snail mailing of letters is a lot more obsolete than I ever imagined.

Memorial Day at Ypres

On November 11, 1997, we had the extremely emotional experience of attending a Memorial Day service at the iconic Menin Gate in the Flanders Fields town known as Ieper in Belgian and as Ypres in French. It was from this spot that thousands of World War One soldiers set off to battle in what was known as the Ypres Salient.

Old soldiers marched proudly while bands played and crowds surged to share in remembrance of all who had fallen.

Built in 1927 in the form of a Roman triumphal arch, its stone walls are engraved with the names of nearly 55,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers lost in the field of battle but with no known graves.

Canadian names were prominent but none were seen from Newfoundland although the Newfoundland Regiment – including Madeline’s father Richard Roche – also fought there. Buglers have played The Last Post on this site at 8 p.m. every day since the Memorial Gate was erected.

Poignant moments marked the showering of poppy petals into the Memorial.

 

 

 

 

A nearby site of special interest to Canadians is the St. Julien Memorial and park located in the village of Saint-Julien, Langemark. It commemorates the Canadian First Division’s participation in the Second Battle of Ypres of World War I which included fighting in the face of the first poison gas attacks along the Western Front. The tall imposing structure is surmounted by Frederick Chapman Clemesha’s sculpture, the Brooding Soldier.

Driving through that whole area, and the valley of the Somme, was a sad and sobering experience, seeing almost countless numbers of headstones in huge memorial parks honouring those who had fought and died in what was supposed to be the war to end all wars.

 

Lost Weekend – Without TV

blank TV Set

Memories of olden days when family grouped around the fire place, digesting supper and listening to evening news on the standup cabinet radio, came flooding back on Hallowe’en weekend. Just idle thoughts really, brought on by an unexpected and quite unprecedented event – we had no TV to watch.

 

Think of it! Five nights running with no television to while away those leisure hours, reclining snugly in lazy boy comfort before images of nightly news, serial drama (Chicago Fire, Midsomer Murder, Paradise Island, Murdoch Mystery), and humour (Still Standing, Doc Martin, Stephen Colbert).
Daytime TV is rarely viewed in our house, except maybe for golf, CNN and Canadian news channels. Computers get far more attention. But evening hours are TV times, so a blank screen is seldom seen.
Doing without it, while strange, has its compensations. More time for reading – books, that is, not just crosswords and sudokus.
Even dug out the old Scrabble Game and kept at it all one evening.
Cause of it all was apparently some fatal disorder in a Bell Fibe wireless receiver. Consultation with knowledgeable and courteous Bell staff tracked down the source and an order was placed for delivery of a replacement unit. Thankfully received Monday and skillfully installed by my 80 plus wonder woman spouse, it did the trick, and our wide screen TV is back in business.

 

Beautiful Bruges

Bruges Guildhalls

Once a port of international standing, Bruges was founded as early as the 7th century on the banks of the Zwin River, growing up around the Burg fortress built by the Counts of Flanders. Economic decline began with silting up of the river in the 15th century, but the city soon regained its former splendour as the seat of the Dukes of Burgundy. Its ancient architecture and superb collections of works of art are only part of its rich heritage.

 

Bruges canal

From the 14th century onward its mastery of wrought ironwork, tapestry weaving, embroidery and lace making has been world famous.
Unlike other European cities, Bruges was spared from destruction during two world wars.

 

 

The 20th century building of the Zeebruges canal re-opened access to the sea, further ensuring its continued prosperity. A network of canals winding through the city adds greatly to its many charms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Belfry and Market Hall and the market square in front of it have been the hub of city life since the 14th century.
The colourful corbie-stepped gable topped buildings were originally guildhalls, identified by their rooftop symbols.

 

Michelangelo’s wonderful Carrera marble sculpture, “Our Lady and the Child Jesus” is one of the artist’s few works to leave Italy. Reposing in the Church of our Lady, it was donated to the church by a Bruges merchant in 1506.

 

 

 

 

A memorable macaroni and cheese dish featuring four most delectable cheeses – first consumed on an earlier Bruges visit – drew us back for seconds to this fine eatery.

Belgium By Ways

Winding up our 1997 dream trip to Greece with a leisurely driving trip from Holland to Belgium couldn’t have been more enjoyable. We had seen much of the Netherlands some years earlier and just had to return to Bruges, our favourite European city.

After stopping inside the Dutch border at Amersfoort and Breda, we made a sight seeing visit to Ghent, a city noted for its medieval buildings and rich history. In the early middle ages it was the second largest and richest city in Europe. Notable buildings included the 12th century Belfry Tower, offering fabulous views of the city centre, and St. Bavo’s Cathedral.

 

 

 

Ghent is a city and a municipality in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province, and the third largest municipality in Belgium. Its architecture ranges from medieval to modern. It is regarded as one of Belgium’s most beautiful communities.

Most rewarding was our leisurely four days in Bruges, relishing fine weather which allowed ample time to explore its splendid medieval treasures.

We were told that, for all the destruction German armies inflicted upon cities in two world wars, it left Bruges virtually untainted because of its remarkably well preserved medieval heritage.

Mennin Gate

An especially poignant side trip brought us to Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Mennin Gate in Ieper (better known by its French name, Ypres), Belgium. Thousands of Canadian names are etched into the hallowed walls of this extraordinary Great War monument.

And, just because it was so near, we had to drive a few kilometres over the French border to stop by the signpost to Armentières. But no such luck. Nary a mademoiselle to be seen!

Flying from Amsterdam to Montreal we did it really in style as Business Class seats were at the last minute confirmed. First, we each got a personal toiletries bag. Next, a choice of orange juice or a glass of champagne. I took the champagne. A delicious seafood meal was accompanied by top quality red or white wine. And as a final KLM touch, a gift to take home: Bols gin in a blue delft model of a typical Dutch dwelling. Ahhh, luxury indeed!

A Taste of Turkey

Extending a cruise among the Greek Islands to sail into Turkeys’ capital, Istanbul, added an exciting dimension to our 1997 tourist visit to Greece.  Along the way, our ship made one stop on the Turkish coast to allow tour groups to explore the ancient Greek city of Ephesus. We bowed out of that visit while I did some sight seeing in the attractive port of Kusadasi.

 

 

 

 

 

One notable structure was a colourful monument dedicated to long time Turkish ruler Kemal Ataturk. He was the founder and first president (1923-38) of the Republic of Turkey. He modernized the country’s legal and educational systems and led a secular government which encouraged a European way of life.
Arriving in Istanbul was an outstanding experience in viewing its numerous religious and commercial centres. Visiting the Grand Bazaar was hectic at times because of so many young people selling souvenirs of all kinds. We watched a carpet sale and were taken on tours of major Muslim sites, including the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles adorning its interior. Much larger and older was the so-called Red Mosque, Hagia Sophia, which was built originally in 360 A.D. and functioned for more than a thousand years as a Christian church, St. Sophia’s.

The Topkapi Palace, once centre of the Ottoman empire and now a museum, was also of much interest. This was partly because of the charming 1960s heist movie of the same name, starring among others Melina Mercouri, Maximilian Schell and Peter Ustinov.

 

 

 

 

 

An entertaining evening at a restaurant-night club introduced us to the exotic charms of Turkish folk music and belly dancing.

The Greek Isles Mykonos and Patmos

Mykonos, perhaps the most popular of the Greek islands, was pleasantly short of tourists on our late season visit in 1997, allowing us plenty of time to meander through its colourful walkways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A brief interlude brought us to Patmos, famed among biblical scholars as the site where Saint John the Evangelist wrote the Book of Revelations, though we resisted the temptation to explore the site of his domain high above the town.

Aboard the comfortably sized Stella Oceanis, carrying just a few hundred passengers, time for sight seeing was limited, as sailing was done mostly at night.

One sunny day, however, brought out the sun bathers.

Puffin in the News

A Newfoundland Puffin

Facebook postings of an extraordinary portrait of Newfoundland’s iconic seabird, the puffin, prompted resurrection of a favourite memento from my CJON Radio news reporting days in Newfoundland. It’s an extract from my media memoir Yesterday’s News. Jack Howlett, who played a key part in this incident, moved on to news reporting with CBC in St. John’s and Ottawa.
The Puffin
Reporting on local news in the few minutes a broadcast news program usually allows doesn‛t leave too much time or leeway for waxing poetic, or just plain silly but, sometimes, it just can‛t be avoided.
Such was my turn of mind one fine day when I was writing and editing a succession of morning (7 am to 9 a.m.) newscasts. It began with a phone call from an excited St. John‛s resident, reporting an unusual sighting on his property. Quick decision needed – we‛d better get Nels, our TV cameraman, and one of our news editors out to the scene pronto. It was done, the camera did its work, and we had a dandy public interest videotape clip to round out that evening‛s TV news.
But what‛s the good of a good story if you don‛t have a bit of fun with it. Something a little special was needed, so this little ditty developed to grace newscasts throughout the day:
A black and white seabird – I think it‛s a puffin
Is on my front lawn – No sir! I‛m not bluffin‛!
It must have come here to look for a hideout:
Say, that‛s pretty good – My name‛s Douglas Rideout!
Well anyway, sir. I‛m afraid that he‛ll die;
So send someone quick to the street known as Guy.

From this urgent call there was no turning back,
So the task of removing the bird fell on Jack –
Who can‛t tell a puffin apart from an owlet –
A fact which is strange, since his last name is Howlett!
But quick as could be with Nels Squires beside him
(To take this fine picture) he sped out and spied him.

Then, quick as a seagull swoops down on his prey,
Away whisked the puffin to the shore of the bay;
Slipped into the water, with one kick and a spin,
Off paddled the puffin: They watched with a grin;
Said Rideout: “Thanks be! We made it! Amen!
There goes one less listener for CJON.”