Sunday, 26 October 2014


On October 23, our son Christopher wrote, The one definitive way to defeat terrorism is to refuse to be terrified. Never have I been prouder to be a Canadian than right now. Bravo, Chris! Well said.

For the past week we Canadians have ridden an unwelcome emotional roller coaster. The deliberate hit and run killing of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Quebec, an unarmed Corporal Nathan Cirillo gunned down while standing guard at the World War I War Memorial in Ottawa and deadly gunfire in the hallowed halls of our sacred Parliament Buildings, have shaken a nation. We are a country generally unused to such naked violence.  Extreme security measures in our national capital are virtually non existent; our Houses of Parliament have never been an armed camp, distant from its citizens. Rather, the general public are welcomed, even encouraged, to attend Question Period and to tour Canada's seat of democracy.

Make no mistake, though, Canada has proven that its fuzzy, warm, "nice" exterior is like a soft glove covering an iron fist. Don't mess with us. Our troops have more than proven their mettle, Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach, being fine examples. We will not be intimidated wrote the Calgary Sun.

Tough talk aside, it has been the remarkable actions of solidarity by Canadian citizens that, for me, have defined the strength and heart of my Canada and brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.

Gunfire, a targeted downed soldier and panicked fleeing onlookers!  Margaret Lerhe, a nurse on her way to work, began to run, not towards her own safety, but into the dangerous chaos and towards Corporal Cirillo.  She was the first to administer CPR.

I would love to hug the young cadet in Port Coquitlam, B.C., who daily has, of his own volition, stood guard at his city's cenotaph in memory of Nathan Cirillo.

And to our veterans, who right across our glorious nation, have held vigils for Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, I say thank you. Lest we forget.

As Corporal Nathan Cirillo's body was moved along the Highway of Heroes from Ottawa to his hometown of Hamilton, veterans, emergency workers and young people alike flocked to the highway bridges and streets along his route.  No special invitation was provided; "they" just came to honour their fallen soldier. Canadian flags, crisp salutes and somber hands on hearts said it all.

And then there was Ontario's Premier, Kathleen Wynn.  With our federal government and much of Ottawa in lockdown, Ms Wynn rose to address the Ontario Legislature. Our belief is that people who are using violence to undermine democracy want us to be silenced, and we refuse to be silenced.  Greeted with a standing ovation from all political parties, she then proceeded with the normal question period.  God bless you, Kathleen Wynn!

Horrific circumstances and a nation showing remarkable solidarity. I agree, Christopher. Never have I been prouder to be a Canadian than right now. O Canada, how I love thee!

Monday, 20 October 2014


Christopher: I brought some Mt. Scio Farm savoury with me. How about we do up some Newfoundland-style stuffing for a change this Christmas?
Matthew (upon entering the kitchen and in shock at hearing his brother's sacrilegious suggestion) orders: Step away from that stove!

Jim and I are blessed with two sons who love to cook and who are exceptionally good at it.  Thank heavens, because both of their Grandfathers barely knew how to boil water. Christopher, our innovator, is always for altering recipes, jazzing them up, and experimenting with flavours. Had he not chosen a life in academia, he could easily have become an accomplished professional chef.  Matthew, our traditionalist, is equally talented in the kitchen, but posseses a staunchly loyal 'you-don't-mess-with-tradition' attitude. And what you don't mess with, according to Matt, are treasured family recipes handed down from his Gramma. 

My Mother was nothing short of amazing in her kitchen. In the months before Jim and I were married, I followed Mom around like an eager little puppy dog, jotting down recipes on little cards, as she dramatically waved her hands using terms that made absolutely no sense to me.  A 'nob' of butter!  A 'handful' of paprika!  A 'jigger' of lemon juice! Whaaaat? I moaned.  It has taken me a lifetime of trial and error with those now dog-eared, food-stained little file cards, to come close to matching what my Mother so blithely produced.

From dozens and dozens of spectacular concoctions, a few of the most sacred are Mom's recipes for turkey stuffing, pumpkin pie ( part of her Bajan heritage with a molasses twist ), French salad dressing ( the reason I don't use bottled dressings ), spaghetti sauce ( OMG good ) and, of course, the plethora of Christmas cookies for which she was so well known.  To enjoy any of these is to savour years of family meals shared and remembered.  

Eating Mom's beef stroganoff is to hear my Father's teasing voice, Great Boris Stromberg, Jean! and Mom's head shaking correction, Oh, Norm!  Christmas shortbreads that literally melt in my mouth evoke memories of Mom's annual Herculean stint in the kitchen ( until she was eighty-seven, by the way ) baking up her fifteen different Christmas cookies. Yup, fifteen! Now you understand why I have such a lithe ( cough! cough! ) figure. If it is cheese soufflĂ©, it must be Friday night!

My sister, brother and I were raised in a family that cherished deep and plentiful Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions; traditional foods as prepared by Mom were an intrinsic part of our celebrations. Perhaps that is why, early Christmas morning while all are still asleep and as I stuff the turkey, I so strongly sense my Mother's presence.  It is as if she is enjoying her early morning coffee, overseeing my preparations.  Not a year has gone by since her passing that in those early morning moments I don't look heavenward, smile and thank her for the treasured food heritage she left us.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


Early morning swim complete, I rushed home, grabbed my iPad and began my search.  B.O.F.?  Today was my first exposure to the term and although it was explained to me, I felt a need for further clarification.  "BoF" popped up on my screen. "Business of Fashion" it read.  Think not, I giggled, glancing down at my scruffy, chlorine-smelling jeans.  And then there was "Bof" (spelled differently). No luck! That is French for "whatever" as in:

Tom: Hey, Harry, wanna' shoot some pucks.
Harry: Bof!

Nope, I muttered.  No B.O.F.  The meaning? you ask. Well, according to one of my fellow swimmers, her grandson reported that old retired people are collectively referred to as B.O.F.'s - Boring Old Farts.  Who knew? Not moi and on behalf of my fellow B.O.F's, I am offended. Don't anger a B.O.F., sonny boy, unless you are prepared to handle what you unleash.

So hey kid, here's the thing.  After, you provide me with your operational definition of "old", we can discuss " boring". Nah! Who needs to wait; I'll cover 'boring' now.

By 9:00 am this morning, most of my BOFy friends were in the pool, at the gym, cycling, walking our local trails or volunteering their time.  Had you rolled out of bed yet? Just askin'.  Coffee or lunch with my fellow BOFs is most likely too noisey for you. We are prone to talking and laughing. Verbal communication, I think is the term. Not cool, I guess, when our time could be better spent in silence, head down, texting pals on our iPhones.  Just sayin'.

My thoughts automatically turn to BOFy people we have met on our travels.  In 2007 on the Amalfi Coast, just after I had retired into BOFdom, we met a true BOF specimen with wrinkled face and snow white hair. Imagine! Probably truly boring and uninteresting, not deserving of any time. Right, kid?  And all he had ever accomplished in his life was developing the laser beam. Hmmm? Know what that is? Just askin'.

On our recent Rhone trip, we met a BOF who would have really put you off.  White-haired, he slowly walked with a cane, frequently dragging his right foot. Oh, and his right arm had limited use, too. Having suffered a stroke last year, Chris, the BOF in question, nolonger able to fly (oh, yes, he was once a pilot) decided to do something about his bucket list.  Travelling alone, yes alone, from Brisbane, Australia, he visited Singapore and Dubai, then took two European River cruises, the Rhine and the Rhone. When we disembarked from our cruise he was on his way to London, England. White-haired and older.  Must have been boring. Right?

You know what, kid?  As I pen this blog, I am becoming prouder with each word I write of being a BOF!  I have laughed, cried, sung, danced, worked, cursed, contributed and loved for a lifetime.  I have earned the distinction BOF.  Now that I am nolonger Daphne Lockett, Broker of Record, you can refer to me a Daphne Lockett, B.O.F.  Got that, kid!?!  Now, if you will excuse me, I'm off for a drink with my fellow BOFs.

Saturday, 11 October 2014


Bezu (Policeman): Did you approve? (about the Louvre Pyramid)
Robert Langdon: Yes, your pyramid is magnificent.
Bezu: (Grunt!) A scar on the face of Paris.
.....The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown

Before we journeyed to France, I admit to being the typical tourist.  Two iconic landmarks dominated my "must see" list - the Eiffel Tower and the Musee Louvre. They did not disappoint. Dramatic during the day, both structures become positively magical at nighttime. A staggering 16.7 ( 2012 ) million visit the Eiffel Tower and Louvre on an annual basis, yet both of these landmarks were initially criticized and disliked, even unwanted, by Parisians. 

Built by Gustav Eiffel in 1889, the Eiffel Tower was erected for the Exposition Universalle ( a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the revolution ). Although a huge success at the Exposition, the structure came under virulent criticism from the leading French artists and intellectuals of the time; it was not in keeping with architecture of the belle epoch. So much negative pressure was brought to bear, that the magistrates of Paris withdrew funding forcing Eiffel to complete his structure using personal resources. Deconstruction of the tower was contractually scheduled for twenty years after its opening.  Eiffel, desperate to keep his tower in place, was ultimately able to convince the French Government of the value of the tower for military radio communications. Et voila, the Eiffel Tower remained standing and a global cultural icon, attracting 7 million visitors a year, was born. Can you imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower? I can't!

Totally unpreprepared for the beauty of the Eiffel Tower, Jim and I audibly gasped as we rounded the corner and the structure came into view. There it suddenly was, soaring an impressive 81 stories, its iron lattice work actually appearing too delicate to support its own weight. 

And after dusk, a lit Eiffel Tower becomes positively magical.  As if drawn by some magnetic force, crowds gather to witness the spectacle and are doubly wowed when every hour on the hour the tower's sparkling light show of strobes pierces the dark Parisian skies. C'est magnifique.

What I would never have anticipated in a million years was my instant love affair with the Louvre.  So overpowering is this attraction, that I would return to Paris tomorrow just to revisit the Musee Louvre.  Anyone game?  

Opened in 1793, the Louvre Palace, now one of the world's largest museums, attracted 9.7 million visitors in 2012, making it the most visited attraction in Paris.  Over 400,000 objects from pre-history to the 21st century are housed in over 632,300 square feet.  To name just a few, it is home to Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace and paintings of the greatest artists from the Renaissance to the Romantics. To my Facebook picture postings of the Louvre, Faye responded with, I could spend six weeks in the Louvre alone.  That is no exaggeration, Faye!  Jim and I lovingly joked that when my sister, Jo-Anne, a true fine art student and lover, visits the Louvre, she may never emerge.

Gracious wide marble stairways lead to spacious wings offering a multitude of well organized and marked exhibits. Skylights bathe priceless paintings in natural light.  The interior is nothing short of magnificent. But it was entrance courtyard with its large glass pyramid surrounded by three smaller pyramids that stole my heart. I am incapable of explaining why; I just wanted 'to be there'.  

Entrance issues led to the construction of architect, I. M. Pei's, glass pyramid entrance in 1989. The larger of the pyramids provides a stunning modern central entrance to the various wings of the museum.  Dramatic and light-filled, I love the intriguing juxtaposition of modern glass to aged marble and historic architecture. For me, it is our future offering entrance to our past.  C'est brilliante.

To this day, the Louvre's pyramids remain highly controversial.  A whole school of thought view the futuristic edifice as out of place, a scar on the face of Paris.  But the Louvre pyramids hold a charismatic draw on their own.  Crowds gather in the courtyard, meeting friends, snapping photos, peering into the mysteries revealed below or just sitting on the concrete benches taking in the historic surroundings. And at night? Well, let me just say that the Louvre is not outshone by her Rive Gauche competitor.

How ironic, I now muse, that two of France's iconic landmarks have historically been so strongly derided and unwanted, whether in total or in part.  Somewhere in here is a lesson.  Perhaps it is as simple as opening our thinking and emotions to change.  Who knows where the next ironic iconic may be.

Thursday, 9 October 2014


When travelling, who doesn't wish to visit iconic sites?  Certainly France is not lacking in the "famous destinations" catagory - The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Pont d'Avignon...and the list goes on and on and infinitely on.  But when memories of visits to those iconic sites fade over time, as they will, it is the small things for me that ultimately stick, creating a lasting impression of a country. The passeggiata in Italy, the serpent-like mists in Scotland that snake around the hills of the Highlands, obsessively neat woodpiles in the mountain towns of Switzerland, and how many ways the Irish can serve potatoes, to name a few. 

In Musee d'Orsay, home to the world's largest collection of Impressionist art, we stopped to observe a class of Kindergarten-age children huddled in front of Renoir's Dance At The Moulin de la Galette. Their teacher was discussing la lumiere naturelle; her rapt students were eagerly pointing to the painting indicating where they saw figures bathed in the tree dappled light.  When she moved on to discuss Renoir's brightly coloured brush strokes, her mini scholars grew even more animated in their search for examples.  Four and five years of age! So young, but already being exposed to art appreciation. How much we could learn from the French.

Perhaps ongoing art education is why shops no matter how small, whether selling vegetables or cookies, display their goods so artistically. Shopping in France is a delightful feast for the eyes. 

The French love their bread and they want it fresh.  Not a slice of processed gluten or Wonder Bread did we witness anywhere, in city or in small village. Boulangeries, who daily bake baguettes and croissants, number 26,000 across France.  26,000!  Lineups outside local boulangeries are a daily occurrence. In Vieux Lyon, the lineups for one obviously loved boulangerie actually stretched across the main street.

The French pursuit of freshness is also evidenced in the plethora of small local markets, epiceries, butcher shops and fromageries. Acheter frais.

On board Swiss Emerald, one of our cruise directors ran a French Class, in which she also covered examples of French etiquette.  In hindsight, I am convinced that Tauck was attempting to ensure that we North Americans weren't our usual brash, abrupt, in-a-hurry selves and to remind us that we were in a country with different practises, a country that values good manners. Always, she stated address a shopkeeper when entering their store and 'bonjour' will not cut it. We were advised to greet proprietors with Bonjour, Madame or Bonjour, Monsieur.  Jim and I took Veronica's advice to heart, each time receiving the happy response of a huge smile and welcoming assistance. The so-called indifferent waiters of France didn't exist when greeted as such upon entering a cafe.  Oh, how simple.

The practice in France for tipping taxi drivers is to simply "round up" the fare.  On three different occasions when Jim attempted to tip more, our drivers respectfully declined the extra money.  In Rome, which remains my favourite destination city, if the taxi driver hadn't already attempted to overcharge or 'palm' our money, he would have grabbed the excessive tip and rushed away, most likely laughing.

Merci France for so many small moments that will lovingly remain in my psyche.  Merci beaucoup for reminding me to appreciate the beauty in our everyday surroundings and life, to patronize my local shopkeepers, to search out the freshest food, to practise common decencies and honour in a profession. Merci mille fois for making us feel so welcome in your beautiful country.  We will return. Normandy and Bordeaux beckon.