Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Wednesday July 29th, 1981, Diana's 34th wedding anniversary

Thirty four years ago today, a shy young girl walked down the aisle and into the annals of history.  As an estimated 700 million people around the world watched, little did we or Lady Diana Spencer know that decision would forever alter her life and her fate.  

 From the first moment I saw Diana on the cover of MacLean's magazine as a young girl of 19, I as we all no doubt were, was captivated by her beauty, her shyness,  and her charmingly endearing personality.  Over the course of 17 years, we all watched and shared in her journey, as she progressed from a shy bride to a confident and glamorous woman the likes of whom we never see again.  Unfortunately though, the road for her wasn't to be a smooth one.  Her "fairy tale" contained an unfaithful prince, an eating disorder, and unyielding self doubt all played out under the unrelenting glare of the spotlight as she became the most photographed individual of modern times.

Through it all though, she raised two wonderful boys, William and Harry, while at the same time crafting a role for herself in an archaic and somewhat medieval monarchy.  Not only did she eclipse her wayward husband in popularity, the shy former schoolteacher blossomed to eventually overshadow the rest of the Royal family as well.  Although this caused massive dissension amongst the ranks,  her refreshing and relaxed attitudes are actually credited with modernizing the attitude of the British royals, and ultimately leading them to a resurgence popularity.  Her dedication and love for people was unabashedly pure, and her dedication to serving her country without question.  She was one the patron of more than 100 charities, and eventually paired this down to the 10 of which she was most passionate as she sought an exit and eventually a divorce from Prince Charles and the Royal Family.

After her divorce was granted in 1996, it seemed as if Diana was finally free to pursue her own destiny in life.  She dedicated herself to her remaining stable of charities, her newfound interest in the abolition of land mines, and of course her sons.  Although it is reported she had several romantic interests, most seemed fragile and doomed due to the unrelenting publicity of the press.  In fact, few folks would realize that the world's most famous woman spent many nights home alone, watching television or sitting at her desk working on correspondence.  

There has been much conjecture on the details of her relationship with Dodi Fayed with whom she was involved in the summer of 1997, but most of those closest to her have steadfastly maintained that this was but a "summer fling" for Diana. Unfortunately however, this erstwhile coupling was to ultimately seal her fate.  In the early hours of August 31st, 1997, Diana, Dodi, their security officer Trevor Rees Jones, and driver Henri Paul were involved in a fatal accident while under the pursuit of photographers in Paris France.  Their Mercedes crashed into the 13th pillar of the Pont de  l'Alma tunnel under the Seine River.  Dodi and Henri Paul died instantly, Trevor Rees Jones was seriously injured, and the most famous and beloved woman of our times succumbed to her injuries a few hours later in a Paris hospital.  She was 36.  The fairy tale begun 17 years ago had come to a tragic end.

A week later Diana was honoured with a state funeral at Westminster Abbey.  Almost as many people gathered to bid her farewell as had there been for her wedding.  William and Harry, their father Prince Charles, and Diana's brother, the Earl Charles Spencer along with the representatives of more than 100 of her favourite charities followed along with her casket as a horse drawn carriage brought it to the Abbey.  Diana was laid to rest on an island at Althorp, her childhood home and the Spencer Estate in Northamptonshire.  Somewhat ironically, the name "Diana" refers to the "goddess of the hunt."  The most hunted woman of modern times was finally free at last.

As I said before, I adored Diana and was fortunate enough to meet her several times during their Canadian tour of Canada in the autumn of 1991.  My mom Mary was with me, and the first place we met her was at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on Friday October 25th, 1991.  There is an amusing story behind our meeting, and I will share it sometime with you all in another post.  I snapped the photo above just after Diana had purposefully come over to talk with me after I made her laugh while she sat on stage.  I got to talk to her on two more occasions, later that day and weekend.  I have photos, a video, and some amazing memories that will remain with me forever, as will my admiration and respect for this wonderful lady and truly beautiful person.

I made this video earlier today to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the Royal Wedding.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it!


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Nottawasaga Island Lighthouse, a poem in tribute and a history

Like our imposing Terminal Building, the other local landmark that truly defines Collingwood and Georgian Bay is our stately lighthouse.  Sitting a relatively short distance offshore, the lighthouse resides on what is known locally as Nottawasaga Island, although it has also been called Clark's Island or Lighthouse Island. 

 The structure itself was constructed between 1855 and 1859, and was the handiwork of contractor John Brown, who had a reputation for both quality and honesty. The lighthouse was a necessity, as Collingwood was a bustling port in the 19th century, and there were many hidden dangers lurking just beneath the cool blue waters of Georgian Bay. When the Public Works Board commissioned it, it was to be one of 11 planned for Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.  However, only 6 saw completion, at Point Clark and Chantry Island on Lake Huron and Cove Island, Griffith Island, Nottawasaga Island and Christian Island on Georgian Bay.

Known as the "Imperial" towers, contractor Brown built them from dolomite limestone quarried from Owen Sound and capped them off with granite to support the enormous weight of the cast iron lantern room at the top of the structure.  The Nottawasaga Lighthouse is 86 feet high, and it's walls are 6 to 7 feet thick at the base tapering off to 2 feet at the top.  The inside diameter of the lighthouse remains constant at 10 feet 6 inches to accommodate the lantern room and the light which was supplied by the Louis Saulter Company of Paris, France.  Nottawasaga's powerful "second order" light was visible from a distance of some 17 miles and was the marker of dangerous shoals that lie to the north west.

The lamp first came to life on November 30th, 1858.  During the course of it's lifetime, it was manned by 13 men and their families over the span of 124 years.  It was abandoned by the Coast Guard in 2003, but it's solar powered beacon continued to guide mariners through the waters until it was finally extinguished forever in July of 2007.  Today, it is one of the last of it's kind, but is in danger of collapse.  It was severely damaged by a lightning strike on December 1st of 2004, and as a result about 35 percent of it's dolomite exterior coating was sent crashing to the ground.  Although it has been subsequently reinforced with protective metal bands, these have surpassed their useful life expectancy and without proper restoration, the lighthouse could soon be no more.

The glowing light
The crashing waves
Through fog, storm and night
It aimed to save
A beacon of hope
That shone so bright
Guiding generations before
Now a thing of yore
It once stood proud
Of stone and brick
Now it's crumbling facade
Faces time and nature's cruel tick
Once a saviour to many
Serving purpose no more
It's future uncertain
Knowing not what's in store
To save it we must rally
Our marker we must save
For without our intervention
It will become soon but a grave
A long forgotten memory
A ghost of the bay
A light forever extinguished
It's legacy forever lost to decay

Friday, 17 July 2015

Saint Mary's Parish Church, Port Maria, Jamaica

Now that I have an extended family in Jamaica, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time in such a beautiful country.  While Jamaica is definitely an island of contradictions, immense wealth and glaring poverty, there are so many beautiful spots that overwhelm the senses that it is almost possible to overlook the negative aspects of such a magical place.

Without a doubt, one of my absolute most adored places in Jamaica is the rugged town of Port Maria which hugs the eastern side of the Jamaican coast.  Port Maria is the capital town of the Jamaican Parish of Saint Mary's, and was originally called Puerto Santa Maria by early Spanish settlers to Jamaica.  It was in fact the second town established by the Spaniards, the first being Spanish Town on the western coast of Jamaica not too far from Old Port Royal.

Whenever we're in Jamaica we always stay in the resort town of Ocho Rios. Not only is it the halfway point from the airport in Montego Bay to where Howard's mom, sister and cousins live, it is also a beautiful place to stay. From Ocho Rios, Port Maria is only a thirty minute drive along the coastline, with the beauty of the ocean on your left, and the lush tropical majesty of the Jamaican coast and mountains on your right.  Along the way, you also pass through the equally stunning town of Oracabessa, which is replete with so many pastel coloured homes and structures it almost overwhelms the senses.  After passing through Oracabessa, it is but an additional fifteen minute drive to Port Maria.  You know your getting close when your greeted by a ribbon of road with a stone fence separating you from the ocean to your left, and the sheer rise of the Jamaican mountains your right.

My most favourite place in Port Maria has always and will always be the beautiful Port Maria Anglican Parish Church sitting majestically at the entrance to town on the Jamaican coast.  Constructed of stone in the Gothic Style, this magical church was built in 1861 and has changed very little in it's lifetime, even though it's weathered many floods and tropical calamities.  I have spent a lot of time exploring this church and it's grounds, and have even sang a song or two while in the sanctity of it's hallowed stone walls.  It's sad that the majority of tourists who visit Jamaica most likely never get the opportunity to see these wonderful places, as most stay within the confines of the resorts, only venturing out on structured excursions usually planned by resort staff.

One of the most unique things about Port Maria is that it is bordered to the west by the mountains.  In fact, one of the most unique vantage points to take in the vista of the coastline and the town is to venture up a narrow pockmarked rubble strewn road to Firefly Point high above the town.  Firefly Point was once the home of noted playwright, poet and artist, Noel Coward.  From this lush historic site, you get to experience the full majesty and the entirety of Port Maria spread out far below.  Not only that, but you get the added bonus of being able to see better Carabarita Island which sits but a few hundred metres off the Jamaican coastline.  

Hopefully we will be returning to Jamaica for a few weeks later this year to visit relatives and explore.  One day I hope that we own our own piece of this very magical place, one my heart has come to regard as another place to call home! 

I took the image above standing in the centre of the pews looking towards the nave and the altar.  Please note the pipes of the stunning organ on the right hand side of the nave.

Saint Mary's Church at sunset.  No matter how many times I see this place, I still get goosebumps.

While I don't really like taking "selfies", I took this one behind the church standing on the rocky shoreline as the waves crashed in.  Behind me, you can see a wee peek of Carabarita Island sitting just off the coast.  I love hanging out here on windy wavy days as it is always fun to spot the crabs as they get swept off the rocks by the incoming waves!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Osler Stone House

I have always had a deep affinity for stone homes.  There is something about them, an air of permanence and perhaps an air of indestructibility that seems to emanate from their rocky facades.  Indeed, when we made our move to our new adopted hometown of Milton, Ontario, one of the delights I found in the area was the abundance of so many beautiful stone structures.  But as much as I admire all of the treasures there, none hold my fascination as much as this solitary gem sitting high on top of Blue Mountain,  just off Old Mountain Road.

Wonderfully executed in a rubble stone pattern by it's builder, the stones themselves would have been sourced from the very fields on which this farm stood.  This home sits not too far from the site of my beloved Osler Castle, and was most likely constructed around the same period in time, the latter half of the  19th century.   One of the curiosities of this particular home is that it features brick window and door surrounds instead of the customary stone.  As a cost cutting measure, this was a concept that many builders would implement and use locally sourced brick instead.  Not only was the cost of bringing in stone for lintels, etc more expensive, the shipping distance was also a contributing factor.

This home is executed on the very typical "Old Ontario Farmhouse" centre hall floor plan, meaning that there is a central stair hall flanked by rooms on either side.  One interesting feature, is that instead of the traditional two room arrangement on the left hand side of the house, there is a large central room accented with a stunning bay window.  The rear portion of the home is given over to the kitchen which was also quite typical of many a farm home.  Capping it all off is a wonderfully aged tin roof that not only offers more durable protection from the elements, it's aged patina also complements the charm of the stone exterior.

Long ago my folks considered purchasing this beautiful home, but we ended up building a cottage instead.  I have coveted it for many years, and consider myself quite fortunate to have at least been afforded the opportunity to photograph and sketch it several times.  If anyone can offer any suggestions of how I might purchase this beauty, I would be most appreciative.  It would make a wonderful home and art/writing studio for me.  I have also included a little video tour I did of the exterior of this charming hope, and I hope you enjoy it.  Please check out my website at sandym70@wix.com.

Thanks for looking, and Happy Canada Day!