25 April 2014

The Book of Me (11)

Such a good excuse I have for my particularly laggardly period in March: almost a month exploring awesome China till my head was overflowing with new sights and thoughts. So it is with some readjustment I am asking myself, why does most of this current crop of (Book of Me) responses seem shame-based? Hmmmm

Parents (Prompt 28)
This did not resonate, sorry. No nicknames, not immigrants, although Winnipeg-born Dad migrated to Port Arthur, Ontario, in a business venture in the 1920s and stayed thereafter. 
Port Arthur and sister city Fort William were long known collectively as The Lakehead for its pride of place on Lake Superior. After intermittent attempts to amalgamate the two cities, in 1970 the citizens voted to go through with it, and call it Thunder Bay, by a narrow margin over The Lakehead. I was not living there then. Some of us miss the old "Lakehead" name.

What's in Your Pocket/Bag/Holdall? (Prompt 29)
Are you serious? I've seen the purse/bag contents that some of you have virtually dumped in response to this prompt! Trust moi, I'm no stranger to the compulsive junk we love habit but my personal goal is being hands-free when out and about the city. Chronically inflamed muscles in my neck and shoulders react swiftly if I carry heavy stuff! Debit card, a bit of cash, and keys go into my pockets.

Such self-protective good intentions do not apply while I'm travelling. How do I end up lugging a satchel full of nostrums for every conceivable predicament that might arise (none ever do); to my deepest mortification, the Shanghai Museum security staff made me up-end the entire works onto an inspection tray in full view of an instantly-formed throng of interested strangers. Wild horses wouldn't drag a photo of that painful display out of me, even if I had one.

Your First Day of School (Prompt 30) 
Do I remember?! Oh geez, here we go with the most humiliating episode ever. Absolutely no-one wants to hear this. Miss Jacobs' grade one classroom at St James Public School, Port Arthur. It's pretty simple. The first rule we learned was raise your hand for permission to go to the toilet. I did so; permission was not granted. The pee soon trickled through my clothing onto the seat of my desk and of course pooled on the floor. I think it was my first day at school but does the day really matter when all I remember about grade one is Miss Jacobs' evil face forever burned into my brain and she has a lot to answer for my damaged psyche.
 You're welcome.

18 April 2014

North York's Golden Lion

This display case fascinates me every time I go to the North York Central Library (home of the Ontario Genealogical Society Library, among other genealogical collections and resources) in Toronto. Meet the "Golden Lion" created in the 1820s:
North York's Golden Lion concerns an inn, an innkeeper's family, and a skilled woodworker. The site was Yonge Street at the southwest corner of what became Sheppard Avenue. Thomas Hill had a tavern there, selling it in 1805.[1] On the same site, Thomas Shepard (the surname spelling varies) built the Golden Lion Inn by 1825 or perhaps had expanded it from the previous owner. It was a large building for accommodating twenty guests and the enterprise included stables, barns, and driving sheds.

But its most visible claim to fame was over the main entrance: the "life-size lion carved out of a pine stump."[2] A man from Scarborough called Paul Sheppard was the craftsman. Historian Patricia Hart makes no mention of a relationship or the coincidence of the two men's names. Earlier writers have referred to Paul as Thomas Shepard's son.[3] Apparently Paul Sheppard also carved wooden adornments for area churches, including St. James in York.

The inn not only hosted travellers: it became a destination for entertainment because Thomas Shepard and his sons were lively musicians. A hall was built above the capacious driving shed, becoming a popular venue for all-night dances; groups of young party-goers would regularly come north from the town. The Shepard family were also known for their doggerel verse. Their Reform political associations during the 1837 Rebellion led to the arrest of four Shepard brothers along with many others and a sentence of transportation to Van Dieman's Land.[4] Before that happened, Michael and Thomas Shepard Jr. escaped from interim incarceration at Fort Henry in Kingston. Those who took refuge in the United States were later pardoned.

Some twenty years after the original work was installed, the carver made another life-sized lion sculpted from oak, using putty to create the lion's mane.[5] Perhaps the pine lion was deteriorating. On what did Paul Sheppard base his design? We will never know the answer, but curiosity made me wonder if his lion resembled that of the Upper Canada legislature, the carving plundered in 1812 (we don't know who carved this one):
Canadian War Museum
Resemble? Not so much after all!

The lion, of course, is a British heraldic symbol and because it's so greatly admired, variations have been imitated every-where.

Often they guard a prominent public building or a grand estate (Royal York Hotel, Toronto):

So how did the Golden Lion come to the North York Library? And yes, it is the original oak lion, now at least 150 years old.[6] Although the carving had numerous homes over the years, and at one point acquired the nickname "Henry," the re-gilded king of beasts is being treated royally now.

Long may he reign!

[1] Patricia W. Hart, Pioneering in North York (Toronto: General Publishing Company Limited, 1968), 86. Many details are from Hart's well-researched book.
[2] Hart, ibid.
[3] Catherine, Canadiana Department, North York Central Library, to Brenda Dougall Merriman, e-mail, 28 February 2014, "Golden Lion statue." Catherine cites articles by Jeanne Hopkins in York Pioneer and old newspapers.
[4] Hart, 161-2. Hart cites John Ross Robertson, Old Toronto, 120-121.
[5] Hart, 86.
[6] Catherine, North York Library, e-mail, 28 February 2014.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

12 April 2014

The Book of Me (10)

Note to self: playing catch-up gives short shrift to each prompt; it would be fitting that I sink my teeth into something occasionally. Is this one of them?

Technology (Prompt 26)
Technology is. I don't like or dislike it, it's just there. Swiftly changing, moving, improving, upgrading, dazzling, and inevitably intimidating the crap out of me. New technology is not necessarily embraced in this cave.
blinking>> Luddite! Luddite!

Say what you will about you or your ancestors living through dramatic new technology changes, the World Wide Web and the Internet win these days, hands down. This is not to disparage the industrial revolution, space travel, or the flush toilet. Nor do I ignore the safety pin, the zipper, velcro, plastic, crazy glue, duct tape, and spandex which are definitely underrated, powerful inventions (that I classify as technological). But let's face it, every generation thinks its new technology is the most significant. And they are right.

So back to the Web and all that, including computers. Failure to adapt to initial steps could potentially leave you behind forever. Or that's how it looks some days. My computer technology curve began with the excitement of a brand-new Family Roots software program. It was shortly after being the recipient of an office discard ― a 1980s IBM computer. What a grand companion this software would be, my cutting edge new BFF! Together we would go places I'd never gone before. My family genealogy would be professionally assembled, charted, preserved.

But the friendship was torpedoed at birth when the stubborn thing erased itself with a little accidental help from me. Disappeared right off my screen and the floppy disk it lived on, away on its own bloody-minded trip to the clouds or wherever. A pivotal moment that forever unhinged me: abused and abandoned. A very kind Steve Vorenburg in Massachusetts listened to my inarticulate weeping on the telephone (another expedient technological invention) and replaced the unrepentant software, but our relationship was never the same again. It's my considered opinion I never recovered from PTSD.

What I'm really missing is the spark or the patience to focus on learning technology that has no interest for me but ironically offers bits and pieces that could make my life easier. Or so they say. Truth is, I find it boring. Bigod, it must be an outright miracle I can even manage a computer. Three quarters of the time, that is. 
Luckily I can limp along thus far using a computer, a scanner, and a digital camera. It will take one of my kids and and a good day's intensive training to operate one of those newfangled cell phones.

Now my grandchild is in the hand-held generation. As far as I can tell, her life revolves around that glowing little screen. Unlike her, I was not born instantly wired. My excuse is that I'm a writer and I write.

Cars and Transport (Prompt 27)
CARS! This takes me back, way back!

At first I was going to post some conventional drivel but instead, my four-wheeled life looked something like this. Like my children later, I don't feel like I'm driving unless it's four-on-the-floor. Some are not precisely as pictured! The old family slides are only now slowly being digitally scanned.
MGA: Poor car got burgled often downtown when in grad school
Daimler SP250: BEFORE (only it was painted bronze)
Daimler SP250: AFTER ((hill climb competition accident after a friend bought it from me)
TR4: Input from the other half
Porsche S90: Much more manageable than a Daimler!
Corvettes(s): No photos; everyone knows what they look like anyway.

Jaguar & GTO: Not exactly the best photo (of the cars, that is)
Formula Ford: The other half gets serious
Formula B: More serious; the Watkins Glen NY, Lime Rock CT, St-Jovite QC, Mosport circuit. The Canadian Race Drivers Association held wonderful dinner dances off-season.
BMW 730: There was also a BMW 630
Dodge Caravan: It was all downhill after that
I think that's enough on cars for a lifetime. Nowadays I prefer driving a camel.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

05 April 2014

Cemeteries Part 18: Qingming Festival in China

The fifth of April arrived so soon after I left China, I acknowledge this in haste. Today, throngs of people will visit cemeteries to honour their ancestors. The customs include sweeping and tidying the plot, if there is one. Descendants will make offerings of food and flowers, burning incense and paper money at the memorial. This is only one part of the annual QingmingFestival.

The deceased in urban China are always cremated now, so visits are made to the memorial walls. Only in preservation for historical purposes and rural parts of the country did we encounter actual burial plots.
Monuments to Buddhist monks, Shaolin Temple near Zhengzhou
We were aware of Qingming's imminence while there. Besides, one cannot miss the signs of regard that the Chinese have for their ancestors. Practices and observances are cultural, rather than religious. At any time of the year messages offering and seeking happiness (colour red) are posted to ancestors. 
Burial site at a farm near Guilin
It is somehow comforting to know that such traditions honouring the dead are observed in so many widely different areas and cultures of the world.  

Tartan Day

Get your kilt on ... tomorrow is Tartan Day, April 6th.

Here’s to it!
The fighting sheen of it,
The yellow, the green of it,
The white, the blue of it,
The swing, the hue of it,
The dark, the red of it,
Every thread of it.
The fair have sighed for it,
The brave have died for it,
Foemen sought for it,
Heroes fought for it.
Honour the name of it,
Drink to the fame of it -
(Scots-Canadian poet Murdoch MacLean; from Celtic Guide, April 2013)

And prepare ye! May is Whisky Month ... ... just one part of Homecoming Scotland 2014!