Thursday, October 12, 2017

Quebec roofs / Pointe cornices

Where I live in Montreal, the streets are lined with row houses, predominantly brick though there are a very few grey stone facades. The houses that have siding on them, are brick underneath. That's how they were built in the late 1800s. The roofs are flat--which I've always thought an odd choice in a city that gets so much snow, but the Irish and English who settled here were nostalgic for County Cork, Dublin, Manchester, London...

This particular house has the rare advantage of a strip of lawn and fence. Most of the houses (including ours) have front steps that abut the sidewalk.

That doesn't mean there aren't roof details. The house above has a plain, wood cornice. But look up and notice the ones with more interesting woodwork or paint.

That's Montreal, more specifically Pointe St. Charles.

When I used to come from Ontario to Quebec to visit my in-laws who lived in a village farther northeast along the St. Lawrence, I had a different sense of Quebec roofs. They're high and steep. Some have what I call a ski jump curve. On a trip to the country a couple of weekends ago, I took pics of roofs.

This house has the traditional tin roof. Dormer windows are extra.

A fancier roof has cedar shingles.

Here's the resto where we were returned at sunset to watch the apricot colours fading over the water that grew ever darker, and had lamb brochettes on homegrown salad greens in a yogurt dressing.

This roof (red-painted tin) is an interesting variation, but I'm not sure about the brick reno. Question of taste.

And of course, this is Quebec.

Next to the big old river, under the big old sky. Big old mountains on the other side.

Friday, October 6, 2017

dear stranger

Dear Stranger on the Subway,

When I offered you my seat, it was because I could see that although you're probably my age--maybe even younger--you weren't as steady on your feet. I don't mind standing. You were holding a cumbersome bag. I had a knapsack I could easily carry on my back. I had my earbuds in and was listening to a New Yorker fiction podcast. I like these podcasts because in addition to hearing an author read a story by another author, the fiction editor and author discuss the short story. These can be downloaded free from i-Tunes.

Whether I stood or sat while travelling a few subway stops didn't matter to me in the least. Or as we said as kids in southern Ontario where I grew up, it "didn't care". I was reminded of that expression the other day when talking to my brother on the phone. I didn't even think that offering you my seat was a particular expression of kindness on my part. I simply did it. Here, look: have my seat, sit down. No more than that. A smile, a nod, you sit, you nod, you smile, life continues. No one looking to get brownie points from the sky nor to get an award for civic behaviour. We live in the city and are taking public transit together. That's all.

So listen, I did not like that you answered my simple, almost unthinking gesture with the card you thrust at me before getting off the subway. You Need to be Saved! You Cannot Save Yourself! Jesus Can Save You! Trust Jesus Now! With accompanying small print to explain why my "work of righteousness" wasn't enough. I would still "perish" because although I "doeth good", I also "sinneth" and "must repent".

What can I say?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

frigidaire littéraire / St. Lawrence River

I have to love a place where a fridge tells me to take a book and leave a book.

Where the window frames, doors and roofs of old barns are painted red and pink.

Where people make plant pots that scream against depredations to the environment. There's a poem to that effect beside the posts. These are pots crying for oxygen, clean air, clean water. Les Crieuses.

And there's that big, old river, the St. Lawrence. 

In Montreal, I cycle and walk and gab with friends by the river. The banks are green with willows, poplars, maples. There are islands and rapids and herons and ducks.

Last weekend we drove four hours northeast, following the river past apple orchards and cornfields, past Quebec City, to where the land broadens and flattens to marsh and agricultural land. Across the river are the Charlevoix mountains. That's a beautiful region too, but I'm loyal to my side of the shore.

We stayed a couple of nights in L'Islet in an auberge that was posh and comfy because it was my birthday. Lovely room, luxurious bed, tongue and groove walls, inset cabinets.

For my own personal tastes, there was a surfeit of knickknacks, fabric flowers, cushions and other gewgaws piled, hung and fluffed about. In our room alone, I counted 14 cushions, not including the pillows for sleeping. Six bouquets of cloth flowers, not including the many sprigs tucked here and there.

I like wall painting. And yeah, geese flying in a V formation especially near marshland. But... sideways?
R said I was being too literal. So I was. So I am. Why would a birthday make a difference?

Breakfast was excellent! Two slabs of French toast made with homemade bread, served with homemade apple jelly, garnished with a homegrown nasturtium. Maple syrup on the side. Lace tablecloth too.

The auberge was across the street from the extremely well-curated Musée Maritime du Québec. My interest in the river extends to the stories of what's been lived upon it. (And in the river, but that's a different kind of museum.) There was a barn full of boats, videos of ships' pilots talking about their adventures, a sewing machine half my height for the sewing of sails, maps of where ships had foundered along shores of the St. Lawrence, tales of how villages were settled and named after ships or shipwrecks, a video of a man caulking the seams of a boat with oakum.

Caulking... oakum. The resonance of those words alone make me want to write a story.
Ditto the thick glass of a brass-ringed porthole that was smashed during a shipwreck.
Did you know that it's an omen of death to dream about a ship entering a harbour that's frozen?

Everything has to fit onto a boat, so non-ship-specific items are of necessity compact and small. Look at the size of this captain's typewriter, 1904.

Outside was a ship--an icebreaker in coast guard service from 1940 to 1978--that we walked through. Notice the difference between how the officers and ship's crew were housed.

We went for a hike in the hills, walking along their sleeping backs.

And back down to the river...