A weekend in Ottawa

I feel that this town is like my second home. I spent time as a child here, and I have some acreage (maybe they say hectarage in Metric countries) south of the city. The fiancee and I came here for a nice weekend.

Got some stuff in my Canadian place closed down for the coming winter, took a beautiful (no cane!) bike ride in great weather.

Tidied up all the gardening rubbish, noted a tree that had to come down, beat the bounds with her. (Basically walked around the acreage, looking at things.)

Saw some old friends.

We then went to a gala at the National Arts Centre, conducted by Pinchas Zukerman. I rather like Zukerman’s work; he’s a decent violinist, and as a conductor he does a lovely job with some quite complex works. I particularly like his interpretations of Mahler, though I’m not usually a huge Mahler fan. More baroque, medieval, jazz, a little folk, hiphop and rock. And an unwilling embrace of some country as being not entirely horrible.

Anyway, Mr. Zukerman did a good job; Yo-Yo Ma was visiting and playing very nicely on the cello. Huge respect for Mr. Ma, he does some lovely work. To our absolute astonishment, the Prime Minister of Canada came on after Yo-Yo Ma performed a very nice Chopin Polonaise.

On comes Prime Minister Stephen Harper; he played the piano, singing (!!?) with Mr. Ma accompanying.

To say that this was unexpected was an understatement. Mr Harper is… everyone’s idea of a hockey dad. A decent, honest man, but fairly dull, and seemingly a little pedestrian in his tastes. Indeed, his wife was attending the gala, conspicuously alone. She told reporters her husband was at home with the children, watching Hockey Night in Canada. Perhaps she had a slight smile on her face, for his performance was her idea.

Mr. Harper performed very credibly, certainly better than Ringo Starr, on both the piano and vocals, and received a well-deserved standing ovation:

Possibly the only example I can think of of a G8 leader playing and singing in public, at least with an artist of Yo-Yo Ma’s calibre. Kudos to Mr. Harper for doing it, he could have fallen very flat.

Today we started with church in the little local parish. Weak sermon, magnificent liturgy and very good choir. Oh well, you do what you can do. I’d love to do evensong, but they aren’t doing that this week.

(The final link is the most traditional evensong if you really don’t know what evensong is. The others are tributes… riffs.)

Then on to a magnificent brunch with friends… oh my, She outdid herself. (I am an inconsistent cook; lazy, experimental, at times inspired, but generally lazy). Goat cheese and avocado crepes with lemon. Who knew? Lovely. Bits of garlic, chives from the dying garden, etc. Very nice.

The wine was an astonishingly good ’07 Gamay Noir from Ontario. Apparently the summer of ’07 was very dry and hot in Ontario, which made — for that geographic region — unusually good wine production. Going to see if I can cellar a half case, and it’s rare that I say that. Other than icewine, Canadian wines generally don’t distinguish themselves.

The nieces and nephews are about to arrive (much of the family is together here at this time). Masses of pizza, some beer, more wine, and the kids will all watch the “Ewoks movie” [Return of the Jedi] while the grownups talk.

I’ll be back in the US tomorrow. Wishing you all a very pleasant evening with family and friends, I’ll hoist a glass to my readers.


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