Friday, December 31, 2010

Telegrams and Tweets

A few winters ago, when my youngest was in jr. college, I heard him run out of the house, on a snowy morning, late for class. I recall looking out the second story window to see him backing out of the driveway, with only a small oval in the rear window he'd hastily cleared to guide him. I could see, he was text-messaging his girlfriend with one hand, the other hand held a cigarette and steered, and he actually tossed the cell phone into the air to change gears.

From that day on I got up early on snow days to clear off his car. Such a nice mother, I am, I am.

Truth be told, my husband does the same for me. I hate the cold. I hate snow and I especially hate clearing the car of snow, or worse ice, in the winter. It's the price we pay for being Canadian. But this year, like last, no snow. It's landing on the North East US>

So when I read this week about Newark's Mayor, Cory Booker, who got off his ass and went out in the storm to help out his constituents, in their hour of need, I say Bravo!

I normally snicker when politicians go out to disaster zones to scope the damage. I'm cynical. It's all for show, I feel.

And no doubt some of Booker's motivation was political. A bit of grandstanding. Is that the word? The media is buzzing with analysis of his Twitter move, saying he took social networking somewhere it hasn't been before. He revealed how it can be used in a disaster (a minor disaster in this case).

I think Booker did something more important. He acted as a role-model, reminding us of the former 'active' role of strong, young men. And he used a notoriously 'passive' medium to do this.

We've all become so privatised and so, well, paralyzed, so lazy, it's scary.

I'm sure Marion Nicholson would have been out there shovelling in 1910 after a snowstorm. Actually, in 1910, when there were huge snowstorms at Tighsolas, the neighbour, Nathan Montgomery, came over to shovel out the women, as Marion was in Montreal working.

Margaret wrote it in a letter to her husband, Norman, who was out on the railroad, working as an inspector.

If she could have tweeted it: "Blessed by great neighbours. Nathan dug us out AGAIN this morn."

Or how about a tweet from the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, in 1897 (the pink ticket in the middle of top picture.) O Queen by millions loved and feared; Oh Empress throughout the world revered. (Does that fit 55 whatsits?)

Of course, they did have tweets of a kind, back then. Telegrams. The mail took a day or two, so in times of especial urgency, usually upon a death, or impending death in the case below, telegrams were sent.

Last night, in bed, I was thinking of this tweeting business, and I wondered where it is taking us, communication wise. I thought it might be fun (and trendy) to do Tweets from Tighsolas, for 1911. But I'm not into 55 whatsit messages, obviously. (I'm out of the loop and I can't blame my age.)

A few years ago, my cousin Veronica, who works in PR for NASA, was on the real cutting edge, when she used Twitter to promote a Mars Landing that was in serious danger of being ignored by the mainstream media. She got a lot of press for this.

When she visited a year or two later, we watched Lost in Austen and she tweeted while doing it.

But, just look at this blog. It's so long. Hard to believe I once wrote 30 second ads for radio, dozens a week.

It reminds me of a line my mother in law liked to use (she stole it from some author. Twain?) Sorry for the length of this missive. If I had had more time, I would have made it shorter.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Paper and Highlighter

Words on a page.

So, today, I know what I have to do to get cracking on this second draft of Flo in the City. I have to buy more INK.

Because I have to print out 1) the letters 2)the blog and 3)the first draft (which is within the blog.

I have to print them out in at least 12 point, probably 14 and punch holes in the sheets if I can find the three hole punch and arrange them in a 3 separate binders, for the easy flipping through of.

The old fashioned way.

And I will buy highlighters, but not from the dollar store. Good ones.

And coloured Post Its.

My husband says that I should use multiple windows. And that seems sensible, considering the cost of printer ink.

But no good will come of that.

The other day I visited a friend who writes text books and she has this giant high res lcd screen and an Apple system and she writes and edits all day right on the screen.

All very futuristic.

But I'm old fashioned. Just look at my topic.

And here I am thinking that I might also print out important pdfs that I have downloaded: the papers on the 1910 Census, the 1910 Canada Book, Emmeline Pankhurst's biography; that book on 1904 millinery; that book on 1910 sex-hygiene; those books on family, from 1883 and 1914; that Wellesley Magazine with the report on women and journalism written by an ambitious new woman with the interview with the city editor who said that the newsroom was no place for a woman...all the books I hope to use to write my own book, Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in 1910.

But that will take sooooooo much ink.

I feel like Mark Twain deciding to use a quill pen instead of his trusty typewriter. (I have a quill pen, belonging to the Nicholsons. All I need is an ink bowl or whatever they called it, ink trough, what is the term?

None of the ball point pens in my house ever seem to work. Even the high end ones.

Maybe if I use an old fashioned pen, I'll get into the mood to write. My thoughts would collect themselves, magically.

The Nicholson letters are not written in ink, there are no blotches. Ink WELL! That's it.

I remember going to buy my first 'word processor' in the 80's. It was the tiny window in time where they actually were selling stand-alone word processors. PC's were only for scientists and nerds. Indeed, a scientist I knew told me, at a party, that a PC was an invention in search of a use.

They sure found a use, the INTERNET.

Oh, as well as wordprocessing.

The young man at the computer shop back then treated me and my husband like idiots, so we didn't buy a word processing machine which was a technological dead-end, anyway. So thank God.

We bought something more silly. A fancy electric typewriter. At the local stationers. For 500.00. (I assumed I was going to have a thriving freelance business while I raised my babies.)

I had worked on an IBM selectric as a radio copywriter, but this typewriter was as useless a machine as can be. For me anyway. (This was 1983 and I recall two of the guys in the office were into computers and talking about it all the time. Seemed boring. Many of my friends were academics and were using some form of Internet email to communicate. That seemed fun.)

And soon, very soon, we bought our own first computer, an AT or something and I got a word processing program. One of the defunct ones. I think this computer had the same amount of memory as one of those fancy Christmas cards you can get today.

I never really used that antique word processing program, not to its full capacity, so it is no surprise that, today, I don't use this Word 2007 program to its full capacity. Not even close.

Which is why I am printing out all the pages related to Flo in the City and putting them in fat binders to flip through at my leisure, for inspiration. More inspiration. (Maybe some idea will leap up off the page.) Before I get down to writing Flo in the City.

Oh, let's face it.Writers write. It doesn't really matter what form of tool they use. If I could chisel this story on a cuneiform tablet, I'd be happy. If I could paint it in charcoal or watercolours or storyboard it in a scrapbook. I'd be thrilled.

The fact is The Story of Flo is already written, and has been there for 1910 years,in the letters. I'm just editing, or annotating or contextualizing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Opium Dens and Olympics

Row, row, row your boat, but not in the Olympics. Marion 1910

Once thing for sure, the 1908 London Olympics, despite having some Canadian gold medal hopes, was not big news in Montreal in July 1908.

The big news was the Quebec Tercentary, now forgotten. (In Flo in the City, Margaret attends the event.)

The July 13th edition of the Monteal Gazette had an editorial describing the full dress rehearsals for the pageant, open to the public at lower prices than the real event the next week. The pageant was to be the finest of its kind.

The Prince of Wales was to attend.

Meanwhile, the opening day of the Olympics in Londontown warranted a short report in the sports page, above the news of the M.A.A.A. cricket matches.

The article says the rain interfered with the opening at Shepherd's Bush which the King attended. There were many vacant seats in the 70,000 seat stadium, apparently. Luckily, the American and "colonial" contingents filled many seats, keeping the event from being a totally dismal affair.

The 2012 London Olympics will not be dismal, I imagine.

The same newspaper had an article about a murder in an Opium Den in Chinatown.

And also another most interesting article about an institute of higher education being opened for Catholic Girls, associated with College Notre Dame, the first such institution on the island of Montreal.

Rev. Sister Ste, Euphroayne, directress of studies claimed that the proposed foundation seemed particular suited to the spirit of our day and generation since "even the casual observer must be aware of the modern tendency towards a broader education for women."

"To know more so as to better love and serve God will be the motto of our new institution," remarked sister Anne Marie.

The courses were to be in English and French equally, covering letters, science and commerce. Foreign languages would be taught too, German, Italian and Spanish as well as Latin.

This ambitious track was for 'the chosen few' - for most women would continue to need only primary and perhaps secondary education. Establishing the school of higher education would require prudence and great tact in the undertaking as well as a knowledge of the world.

I just checked and this institution became College Marguerite Bourgeoys, where my mother studied in the 30's. The anglo section became Marianopolis College.

My mother took English, and was perfectly bilingual. She took Latin and Greek too and that made her able to work as a legal secretary. But she was a terrible housekeeper and 'home economy' was a mystery to her. A good cook though. And not a bit religious.

How to Be Good (Consumer-wise)

Flo in her home-made dress, 1908 era.

Years ago, I decided I didn't want to drink coffee made from beans picked by exploited Third World workers, so I went to my local grocery store, looked up the brands and went to the Net (in it's earlierst days) for more info.

What I discovered was that, despite appearances, all the brands of coffee in the store were produced by the same company.

So, I gave up.

Since then, many establishments featuring free trade coffee have popped up. And I buy it, but not all the time, despite the fact Colin Firth is a firm supporter of the cause:)

A few blogs ago, I discussed a recent Huffington Post article that listed the 10 items most likely to be made by child or forced labour. Cocoa was one of them, as was sugar cane. Coffee too. Rice, too.

It's hard to be a responsible consumer. I'm more a looney-toons consumer, getting mad at the cashiers in the grocery store for charging me for a plastic bag, when every product they are passing by the scanner is grossly overwrapped (and under-sized)- because that's how the store makes its profits.

Yesterday, I read more of Angels in the Workplace, to better understand the textile industy in 1900, so as to better understand how Flora and Edith and Marion's love of fashion was a function of much more complicated issues of trade and even suffrage.

It is claimed in the book that middle-class families purchased dresses in the 1910 era and that only working class still made their own dresses. But I don't think that is right, that the Nicholsons were an exception to the rule.

Melvyn Bragg on BBC Four just featured a show on the Industrial Revolution that provided me with more insight into the evolution of the cotton trade.

Today, I fell upon the website of Transfair Canada, a fair-trade group out of Ottawa that is trying to demystify the Fair Trade issue and help Canadians buy Fair Trade products more easily.

You can enter your postal code and find stores that sell fair trade products. For my area, the SAQ shows up, so I guess wine is fair trade. Phew! At least I don't have to feel guilty for enjoying that particular product.

The TransFair search engine listed my little store in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Co-op du Grand Orme, where I buy chemical free cosmetics and the Heath Tree, a sprawling store in Pointe-Claire where I buy my de-tox greens and Pzorzema Cremes from Derma C.

Although the Health Tree is thriving (from what I can see)the Grand Orme is on life support, or so the cashier told me.

Walmart is not on their list. No surprise there. Although my Provigo in Vaudreuil is on the list - and it's no longer a Provigo, but a Loblaw's. Weird. And it's the store that really is BIG into LITTLE convenience sizes.

Anyway, this Transfair Canada site also features some articles on the issue and one of them, on How the West is elbowing West Africa out of the Cotton Trade, claims that China is now the world's biggest supplier of that product.

My goal, in writing Flo in the City, is not only to shine a light on women's lives in the 1910 era, but to show women readers how a woman's love of fashion is not just a personal statement, it's a social responsibility too.

I want to make the Nicholson story relevant to today, in that way.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Racy Women Athletes

Flora and Mae 1908 ish

A while back, I found a picture posted on Flickr of a classroom in my high school in 1966, the year before I got there.

I downloaded it and put it on the desktop - because the girl in the picture, leaning over to pick up a neat stack of books from her desk, was wearing the same white cotton blouse and grey flannel skirt and green school sweater with yellow stripes I would wear the next year.

And she had short brown hair and was thin and undeveloped, so she could have been me, but a bit shorter, maybe.

It was traumatic, that first year at high school. I went from a city elementary school to that high school (with those testosterone-loaded 16 year old 'men' roaming the same halls) after the year had started. In November. Knowing no one.

But this is about the outfit. If it were gym day, that white cotton blouse the girl in the picture is wearing is likely a teddy blouse, that buttoned down between the legs. And the girl may have been wearing her bloomers under the flannel skirt. (The shirt was pretty short; it was 1966 after all.)

Bloomers were the bane of my tween existence, the sex-negating shorts that ballooned out where no female body ever should.

You know, I recall going with my mother to purchase the same school uniform (in elementary school I wore a tunic) at a place called Hart's, in the only local shopping center which, against all odds, still exists, because that community is now a huge bustling suburb with three or four mega-malls.
It was a scary and exciting rite-of-passage in my life, which seems to have imprinted itself onto my brain.

I just saw, in my new book, Women in History, that the bloomer was named after the woman who invented them: Amelia Bloomer, who is described in the book as a 'feminist activist.'

She invented the style to liberate women from heavy-duty, confining, underwear. She was inspired by Turkish pantaloons. A short skirt was worn over the bloomer.

How odd. What was invented to liberate women, made me, in 1967, feel hideous in front of the boys, who took gym separately from the girls and who wore regular t-shirts and gym shorts.

And I recall those teddy blouses pinched between the legs and I didn't have an especially long body, only long legs.

A few blogs ago, I wrote about the comely young woman in 1910, who donned a "harem skirt' and went for a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge and stopped traffic.

She was really wearing 'harem pants' but as pants were illegal, they called the garment a skirt.

Today, nothing stops traffic and anything goes in the way of women's outdoor apparel, as long as the woman is young and pretty and she covers her nipples and pubic area.

Actually, I find the young women's styles appealing, the layered look, with the comfy leggings and silky Regency-style tops in carnival colours that hide the fact that everyone, young and old, is gaining too much weight. How wonderful! Women are not forced to lumber around in metaphorical chastity belts anymore.

A few decades too late for me to wear, out in public, anyway.

In Flo in the City, I have Marion sew Flora bloomers for her swimsuit to wear at Boston. She styles it after a tennis outfit. This is in 1908. Even that style of swimsuit was considered daring. Many female beach-goers stayed in their corsets and dresses and walked in their shoes and stockings down to the water on walkways made of planks of wood.

Some women went 180 degrees in the other direction:

In 1912, according to my Women in History book, 57 female athletes out of 2,406, competed at the Olympics in Stockholm. (London, held the Olympics in 1908.) There's a picture of two Australian swimmers, Sarah "Fanny" Durack and Mina Wylie. Sarah is a 'big girl' but Mina has an hourglass-shaped full-figure and she is posing in a skin tight body suit that stops above the knees. Talk about no secrets. You can find many pics of her online on Australian websites, but not the racy one in the book.

I wonder how I can sneak that into Flo in the City. I have blogged about how strenuous exercise was considered by many people in the era to be detrimental to women's health. I've even posted a few paragraphs, one from an editorial in the Ladies' Home Journal.

The Nicholsons clipped out many news items about women of achievement, inventors, aeroplane pilots, etc.

None of the Nicholsons appeared to be particularly athletic, although they loved to skate (for the rink was where they met boys) and they played tennis, too. And, of course, they attended dances. In my story, I make Mae Watters athletic and graceful.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Message - Tighsolas Style

Elizabeth Arden's Fifth Avenue cologne bottle, sitting like a New York skyscraper on top of granite made of Lush soap. Not the Chanel bottle, but still deco. I wonder when it was designed. Chanel's was in 1927. (Hmm. It's a 1996 brand.)

A weird coincidence this Christmas. As I waited for the goose to cook, I opened my Christmas presents. The first one de-papered was from my eldest son and it was a boxed collection of hand cream, body lotion, perfume and cologne. The Fifth Avenue brand. I said "Thanks" as I reached for the next gift and remember thinking, at least with one part of my brain. "Hmm. That's a blast from the past."

Most of my gifts were bath oils and soaps, but trendy brands in bright boxes. The fruity, ecological style stuff so popular with the young. Lush has taken over from the Body Shop. My husband got me a selection of Clarins spa products, which made me feel guilty, as they are so expensive.

This Fifth Avenue gift made me feel a tad middle-aged (sic). Or it seemed more like something I might have given my mother - were she not into Chanel No. 5 right up until her death.

And then I opened another non-cosmetic gift, a large book about Women in History, that I mentioned in my last blog. My other son and his girlfriend gave me that gift along with some Fruits and Passion creams and bath products. And then I went back into the kitchen to get the feast on the table, hoping not to forget any dish. (As it was, I left the prune apple stuffing in the microwave.)

The next day I started reading the book, in my living room surrounded by unclaimed gifts, and read that part from the 1900-1910 era and read that passage about Elizabeth Arden, and how she opened her first salon in 1909 and how she soon after visited France and brought make-up techniques back to the US and how she was a pioneer in the industry, making make-up a good thing for good working girls, so to speak.

I tracked down a little more about her. She was born in a Toronto suburb and she didn't go to high school.  She worked as a shop girl, cashier and a stenographer (good money in that) before going to New York and eventually becoming the richest woman in the world.

And her Dad was a Scotchman.

She was the contemporary - and equal  - of Edith Nicholson of Threshold Girl, who worked as a stenographer and teacher but would NEVER have worked as a shopgirl and who ended her life very poor.

As I write this, her scent Fifth Avenue, is wafting around the living room. It's a vaguely familiar fruity smell. A genuine blast from the past. But, wait, I do some research on Google and see that Fifth Avenue is a newish perfume, released in 1996!

So it's all in my mind, this idea that Fifth Avenue is a 'classic' perfume. But then that's the true essence of the cosmetics industry: illusion.

I imagine the EA people were trying to evoke a bit of Chanel's aura or, at least, her staying power, with this effort.

The EA Brand, according to Wikipedia, was the most sophisticated brand in the 30's to 60's used by movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Royalty, like Queen E and her I was half-right, anyway.

In chapter of Threshold Girl, about a college girl in 1910, Flo and Mae visit Sutherland's drug store and discuss "rouge de theatre' is the most popular page on this website.. I have Mae say that in Boston, the big stores sell rouge de theatre, right out in the open. (I made this up.) Yesterday, I learned that Selfridges in London opened in 1909 and sold make-up right out in the open!! (

Well, my instincts are good.. I just took a guess.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Smoke and Pompadours

Marion and Edith Nicholson (left) of Threshold Girl and  friends passing around a cigarette in 1910. Had there been Facebook in the era this picture might have proved detrimental to their careers as teachers in Montreal.

I got a book for Christmas, an encyclopedia really, called Historica's Women: 100 years of women in history, first published in 2007. It's chronological.

I went straight to the 1900 -1910 time period and found the usual suspects, the suffragettes and such but two entries were more side-bars to history- and very interesting to me.

The first was about a woman, Miss Katie Mulcahey, who got arrested for smoking in New York City. Women were not permitted to smoke back then, although male children were.

I guess there was some historical truth to those Virginia Slims commercials in the 1970's.

There was a kind of prohibition movement for tobacco. A few states had banned it, a few others were trying. Alas, the tobacco lobby proved too strong in the end.

Both Edith and Marion Nicholson  were heavy smokers all their lives.

 Edith lived to 92, although enduring two costly throat operations.

Marion died of a heart attack at 60 but this is likely because of an overdose of thyroid medication.

Edith lived long enough to see those "You've come a long way, Baby!" advertisements.

The other notable snippet in the book is about a Canadian-born business woman, Florence Nightingale Graham, who changed her name to Elizabeth Arden and opened her first beauty salon in 1909 on New York's Fifth Avenue.

How interesting! Florence was a contemporary of Edith's, also a Presbyterian, who moved to New York initially to work as a stenographer. Edith was also contemplating such a career.

Wikipedia says that Elizabeth Arden travelled to Paris in 1912 to learn the make-up secrets of the French and brought them back to the US.

This might be PR hokum, who knows?

Whatever, Elizabeth Arden went on to make the cover of Time Magazine as the richest woman in the world, in 1946, before the OTHER Elizabeth ascended to the throne of England.

Florence Nightingale Graham clearly had cajones, (and, like the Queen, racehorses) but she got her start in the beauty business due to one striking bit of luck: she had naturally beautiful skin herself. Someone, somewhere saw the use in that and set her up in business.

(Must read a bio, although bios don't tell the truth, do they?)

As I have previously explained on this blog, any money spent for 'hair-dressing' in the Nicholson Family Household Accounts for the 1900 era was for Norman, the father. He had huge whiskers.

The frugal Nicholson women did their own hair.

A original drawing belonging to the Nicholsons from 1910 era, showing someone, perhaps Marion, with lustrous hair, exquisite natural highlights.

It was a point of pride, though.

 In 1908 Edith  is working as a teacher at a small company town near Three Rivers, Quebec, and she writes to her Mother, "Both Mr. C and Mr A have complimented me on how nicely I do up my hair." Hmmm.

Too bad Three Rivers wasn't the Big Apple. Maybe Edith would have been set up with a hair salon :)

Now, I  did had seen an advertisement for a 'hair sculpting parlour'  in a Toronto Magazine of the Era. Clearly some wealthier woman without ladies maids were 'going out' to get their hair done.

Soon HAIR would become the new HATS, the hair industry supplanting the millinery industry and becoming massive.

Hair would become the new measure of a woman's social status and remain so to this day.

Madame Pompadour.

That's why no actress walking the red carpet at the Academy Awards dares to wear a hat. (I think a few have tried but been lambasted in the gossip press for it.)

Only the Royals continue the Edwardian tradition and the young royals are doing their best to bring that mouldy tradition down.

PS. In a 1912 Ladies' Home Journal it is recommended that women wash their hair no more than once in 3 weeks.  Too much washing destroys the luster, they say.

And that's probably true. But it's not very good for business :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Old Moulds and Other Memories

The Finished Product
I like to do things bass-ackwards. I went to Loblaw's yesterday and they had a big display of dried fruits and nuts of every kind and so I went crazy and bought a wide selection and then went online to find something to make. I found this: a pineapple, carrot, apricot Christmas pudding.

I checked, had all the ingredients, right down to the fresh nutmeg, because I really like using freshly ground nutmeg on French toast.

I even messed around in the back of the cupboards in my poorly equipped kitchen (no parer!) and found a pudding mould. It's very old, as it has enamel inside, so it probably belonged to Marion Nicholson of Tighsolas.

Now, when I was a kid in the 60's, I helped my mom in the kitchen. She was a great cook, but she was impatient. So I got to do the drudge work. I greased the pans (as I had to do here) and I cut out the wax paper for the moulds (as I had to do here) and I blended butter and sugar (as I had to do here but I treated myself and softened it in the microwave.

So I felt a bit like a little girl doing all this - and I am no little girl. And then I blended the fruits fresh and dried and nuts and carrots and I mixed the flour part (using a whisk and not a sifter, like I used as a kid and which often made my hands cramp).

And then I poured the mixture into the old mould that (probably) once belonged to Marion and swiped out the remainder with my finger, and licked it up, just as I used to do as a kid. (I know, today, THEY say NOT to do this, as the eggs might be contaminated. My gosh, they take the FUN out of everything these days. No wonder kids are glued to their iPods for lack of real life inspiration.)

Now, if this pudding tastes half as good as the batter, it'll be great!

We used to have plum pudding as a child, too. At Christmas. But my mom bought it already made and steamed it and sometimes set it on fire with brandy and always served it with lemon sauce. No one ate it. It was too heavy for us. Also at Christmas she fed us alcohol, not in the form of wine (as my parents didn't drink wine) but of creme de menthe. On vanilla ice cream. I ate it despite not liking the dish at all. But I can see by the Fannie Farmer Cookbook that this dessert was served in finer eating establishments :)

I was a caffeine addict back then. Yes, I preferred by far my mother's Cafe Bavarian, the recipe for which she got off the inside of a Carnation Milk label. She eventually lost the recipe and could never replicate it. And to this day,I have not been able to find it, online, either. The recipe called for strong instant coffee, ice cubes, carnation milk, as well as whipped cream and gelatin. The gelatin concoction sat on a graham wafer crust. And it was garnished with slivers of semi sweet chocolate.

I ate that dessert every chance I got, two or three heapings, and I was still nicknamed "String Bean." A string bean I am no more.

My mother is French and liked to tell the story of how Plum Pudding got its name. (Not from plums). She said that when a Frenchman discovered the dessert, he said "C'est comme de (du?) Plomb. LEAD.)

Speaking of lead, I am being very brave to use this old mould, or am I? Are utensils today more or LESS toxic than in the old days. I suspect it's a toss-up. Anyway, I used 'organic' dried fruit, so no sulphates.

Immigration 1910 -2010

Immigrant 1910.

The Canadian newsmedia is reporting that Canada is experiencing a wave of immigration, the biggest in 40 years.

84,200 people came to Canada from other countries this summer, July 1 to October 1st.
16,800 people came to Quebec. About 250,000 immigrants are expected in Canada this year.

There appears to be Federal Skilled Worker Program - and it is skilled workers who are in demand. But it is the provinces who ultimately decide what workers are needed. I can't see any breakdown for Quebec, but in BC apparently, Filipino immigrants outnumbered Mainland Chinese for the first time.

(Hmm. I can't help but think of the charming Filipino woman who worked at the rest home where my mother was dying of bone cancer. One morning, my mother had spent 4 hours waiting to get dressed and the young woman finally arrived, complaining in a sweet way, that she had 12 debilitated old folk to wash and dress. That's why she was so late. Overworked and underpaid (and working only part-time) in an corporate establishment that was charging us 8,000 a month for care.)

This is in response to the Federal Government's 2010 Immigration Plan. The October 2009 press release claimed:

"While other countries have cut back immigration levels as a short-term response to the global economic downturn, our government is actually maintaining its immigration levels to meet the country’s medium- to long-term economic needs,” said Minister Kenney."

(It's funny, because I am certain I have read that it is immigrants who are suffering the most from this downturn.)
The Tighsolas era, the 1910 era, was when the greatest proportion of immigrants ever came to Canada. This Flo in the City blog has covered the issue extensively, describing the 1906 immigration act and the subsequent 1910 adjustment (where they came down on illegal trafficking of immigrants.)

Today, the Governments appears to be doing the same thing, allowing immigrants in and cracking down on illegal trafficking and refugees.

There's a lot to be learned from the 1910 era to apply to today..

Oddly, Americans are immigrant shy, these days. They have just refused to allow the children of illegal immigrants to become citizens.

In 1910, Canada felt their immigration policies were superior to the Americans'.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

King's Speeches and Sex Comedies

Santa and My art nouveau vases.

Yesterday I watched a 1963 "sex comedy" with Jane Fonda called Afternoon in New York, on the HD which accentuated its sixties flavour, orange and electric green in the women's clothes, neat and clean bachelor 'pad' for a setting.

The film was stagey, but the acting good, and although it was 'outdated' How could it not be? I enjoyed it. Especially since I was just in New York.

Of course, what passed for a sex comedy back then, isn't what passes today. Get Him To the Greek it hardly was. Fonda plays a smart and sophisticated young woman of 22 who is confused by the concept that "Good Girls Don't." A woman of her time.
A good piece to consider with respect to Flo in the City, my novel in progress about a girl in the 1910 era.

The sixties set design and hair and makeup styles made me nostalgic. (My husband thought Fonda looked 'old' to play a 22 year old (she was 26) and that was because her heavy eye-liner reminded him of his mother. I thought she looked very very young.)

So I took a tour of Time Magazine articles of the era to futher immerse myself in the 60's. My family subscribed to Time, so that magazine evokes memories for me, the covers especially.

I used to read the articles too, although, re-reading some articles, I realize I hardly could have understood all the vocabulary. (Time had that hybrid style, using big words when small would do, contrasting with an easy-breezy by-the-numbers journalist technique, quasi-academic sounding, to give the content 'weight' I guess, but essentially diversion mind-candy.My father read the magazines back to front, over months.)

I entered 'sex' or something into the search engine and the first article I got was this cover story from 1964 on the sexual revolution. "Everything you want to know about the history of sex and society in 11 short pages." Lot's of mention of Kinsey. And the article made passing reference to the "new woman" of the Edwardian era, who, they said, "wanted pleasure." Sure, (that's a theme of my Flo in the City book) but not sexual they skirted the issue.

I don't recall reading this article as a kid (I would have been in 4th grade) but the article is interesting to read from this era's perspective. The author opened by talking about Reich's Orgasmatron (or whatever) which reminded me of college film class where Dusan Makaveyev was a guest and we had to sit through his porny art-house documentary. My boyfriend, who came to the showing, was grossed out, I pretended to be cool.

Anyway, this article assumed that they'd reached the outer limits of sexual expression in 1964- and that the future only held horrors, because you just couldn't possibly show more T and A, could you? without it being porn. HA. (I just saw this OK mainstream movie with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhal, Love and Other Drugs, where they did nothing but boink.. But they are very talented and easy on the eyes, so hey.)

The author of the Time article claimed European movies were less confused about sex than American movies, and featured more beautiful actresses. (I've always thought so, because the actresses were chosen for their faces and ability and not their Playboy bunny bodies. Well, like Helena Bonham Carter.)

Anyway, then I entered 'suffragette' into the engine and a 1971 TV review page came up. That week a show about Lady Randolph Churchill (Lee Remick)was going to air as well as Shoulder to Shoulder, a mini series about the suffragettes, (which I've seen bits of on Youtube.) They cleverly segued from one review to another by describing how much Winston Churchill despised the suffragettes. (I've written about that on this blog). They suggest it is because his mom was such a free-spirit, "new woman" or upper class tramp, depending on the point of view.

I have to try to see this Shoulder to Shoulder mini series in full.
And, then, to end I looked up George VI, (as ads for the King's Speech are playing everywhere: during my husband's newscast,and on before you enter.) I found his obituary in Time.

This obit made me realize (again) how unpopular (or boring) Bertie seemed to the public because of this dashing headline-grabbing older brother, a point only touched upon in the movie. Edward was described as a 'brilliant' heir to the throne, and his brother was sickly, and a stammerer (nor was he as good-looking as Colin Firth -who is an actor, after all). Both boys, according to the article, were ignored by Dad except when in need of discipline. (So The King's Speech and Firth's performance, seem to be true to history. Come to think of it, the King in his thin tie and grey overcoat reminds me of my father.. Oooohhh.)

Anyway, the short obit said King George VI proved himself a good and steady man to the people in the end, especially during the war, where he suffered through the blitz like everyone else and even changed into workman's pants once a week and made munitions or something on the assembly lines -instead of running off to safer places to party, as his brother did.

There's an anecdote about his stammer which didn't make it into the screenplay. Apparently, starting a speech at Wembley, he said something like "This b b b bloody thing isn't working!" referring to the microphone. (I think the swear word was bloody. Maybe d d d amn.) But the mike was on, so everyone in attendance heard him.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yes, Horatio, There is More to Heaven and Earth

A candle glows in a copper (cannon, mortar) shell casing from the First World War. My husband's great uncle brought it back and we are using it as a doorstop.

Lest we forget.

I could not see the eclipse of the moon last night. Too cloudy.

Too bad, the full moon had been visible the night before in all its golden glory. Yes, golden, not silver.

But I got up anyway and played some Celtic music from the satelite tv and lit some candles - and read out this Pagan solstice chant I found on the Net and thought about the meaning of the things like holly and ivy and tree lights (the stars?) and the tree itself, (female fertility symbol with gifts beneath the 'eggs').

And then I started to think about other more prosaic things, like How do I cook a Goose? Maybe I'll use a recipe from Marion Nicholson's Fanny Farmer Cookbook. Or maybe I'll go online.

And I thought about all those Britishers stranded at Dorval I saw on the news because of the mess at UK airports. They are going to miss Christmas and have to spend it at, ugh, the Holiday Inn Pointe Claire or something.

I know little about how the Nicholsons spent Christmas because they were at home together, so no letters describing what they did were written.

The store accounts reveal Margaret baked traditional fare, because she bought condiments like cinnamon and candied orange peels.

Well, that's what Christmas is all about: tradition, so no surprise there.

I have purchased two tourtieres for Christmas Eve, even though my family seldom celebrated the French Reveillon. We didn't go to Midnight Mass. And even back then I had trouble staying up late.

I would ask to, and my parents would say "Sure" and then I'd fall asleep by 8 pm.

And then with my own kids, well, Christmas was just a hectic, even hysterical time.

"Why do you HATE Christmas?" my husband always asks. I didn't know I did.

So this year, with my mother dead two years, and my kids grown up and coming only for short visits, I decide to do the French Canadian thing, without the church.

I find it kind of hypocritical to go to church one day a year, for 'the atmosphere,' but that's just me.

I'd love to go see the Montreal Jubilation Choir though.

That reminds me, on Christmas it's nice to remember old friends. An old friend of mine, Gary Jewell, died a few years ago, too early. He was a comedy writer and actor in the style of Rowan Atkinson.

A few minutes before the funeral was to start, his sister asked me to go with her to talk to the Minister. The Minister needed some info about Gary so he could speak of him.

The Minister asked me, sheepishly, "Is it alright to mention God?" It was a classic comedy moment, worthy of Atkinson's best lines. I knew Gary would have appreciated it.

Before my Mom died, she said she didn't want a religious funeral. So I performed a little ceremony at her grave (without asking a rent-a-minister)... We read out e.e. cummings' I AM A LITTLE CHURCH poem.

I couldn't think of any poem my mother liked especially, so I picked a favourite of mine. And I buried her with a pack of cards, for she liked to play bridge (taking out the Queen of Spades) because she also liked to play Hearts.

Last night I also took out Norman Nicholson's Masonic sword. It's a tacky, mass produced thing, but I noticed it has engravings of two knights jousting and three tall men (wise men?) and lots of other symbols, too.

Norman didn't feel his ceremonial sword was tacky. The story of how Norman's sword got to me is rather mystical. A few months after I mounted the website, a person who had it suddenly decided to check out where it came from and she was able to track me down from the picture.

The first page of my website has a picture of him posing proudly in his Masonic Regalia, (which cost a small fortune from what I can see from his expense book).

Anyway, after Gary's funeral I asked his sister if I could have a copy of one or two of his songs (he was also a song writer.) She said they had all been lost.

Then a few months later, I was cleaning out my very very messy garage and found a box of old tapes. Gary had given them to me, saying "Maybe your kids would like to play around with them."

They had no interest in the tapes, as kids like the newest technology, not the old stuff.

But I checked what was on them and the tapes contained his serious songs and his portfolio of advertisements and other radio material, like hourly IDs, from CHOM where he had worked! TABLOID TRASH intros too.

Then a few months after that I was cleaning out a cupboard I found yet another tape he had made for me, of his funny songs. His Bob Dylan doing the Flinstones theme is legendary among his friends.

See, you don't have to be religious to realize there's more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our philosophy, to believe that magic exists.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Peace on Earth

Denmark, near Borup.

Hudson, Quebec

Snow is no big deal here in Quebec. We had record dumps two and three years ago. My husband had to climb onto the roof and clear it off, twice a year, which created a huge wall of ice around the house, which didn't melt until late March, early April.
I felt imprisoned most of the winter.
Last year we had no snow. A drought. Nice!

And this year hardly any snow as the picture above shows. I still have the driveway gates on, which is good, as I don't have to worry about my dogs running out after other dogs.
But England. My gosh! I looked up the town of Farnborough, Hants where my Aunt lives to see that they had a record snowfall of 8 inches. And a tree fell on a woman of 55 walking her dog. I have a cousin that age, but she doesn't have a dog.
And I'm not sure if my brother will make it from Denmark on New Year's Eve, with all the disruptions. He's had a bit of snow, and he can handle it, being from Montreal.
There's a lot more wrong with the world than a little white stuff, but that's all too horrible to contemplate, today.
So I'm letting it all go, for the Christmas Season. Peace on Earth. Good Grief.
Saturday Night Live did a terrific skit last week (I managed to find it on the Net) mocking Time's choice for Person of the Year. Now that's satire! I haven't watched that show for years... well, since the early days....with Dan Ackroyd et al.
Hmm. Dan Ackroyd is the voice of Yogi Bear, a kids movie which just came out. He's given some interviews and he mentioned how it felt, as a boy, living in Hull. Quebec, (now Gatineau) coming home after school in the dark, in winter, say at Bleak. So true!
I felt the same way. It was depressing. And sometimes the snow was so high in my suburb that I had to stride along on top of the piles at the side of the street. (Very dangerous.) In my micro mini skirt.
I now know I suffer from SAD syndrome. I bought a lamp a few years ago, but nothing substitutes for sunlight.
It's been better this year, as I have made the only sunny room in the house (once my son's bedroom) into a den, a girly style haven with lots of lace and other feminine frou frou, and I work there in the afternoon.
Anyway, tonight, I believe, is the winter solstice. And this event coincides with an eclipse of the moon. Very rare. There was a full-moon last night, so pretty.
I think that I'll stay up and perform some ritual, with fresh rosemary and red wine. (Pagan style.) I'll pray for Peace on Earth and common sense among men.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Theme of the Novel

Well, in one week it will be the day-after-Christmas morning. Oy!

"Just a change of colour." That is the favorite phrase in all the Nicholson letters. A cousin is writing to the Nicholsons and telling them about a friend who just got married. She was a White and she married a Green. So you, see, the cousin says, "It is just a change of colour." Terrific line. Marion Nicholson echoes the sentiment in 1911 when she returns from the wedding of her friend Isabel McCoy and she tells her mom in a letter, "Marraige seems so easy I think I will try it. " Of course, marriage was not easy, or it was not easy finding someone to marry. Especially if you were a middle class girl with no dowry.

Yesterday, December 18th, 2010 was our 25th wedding anniversay. I tend to forget that day, as it comes so close to Christmas and I have other things on my mind. Sometimes I only remember when I see a giant bouquet coming up the driveway, or sometimes I only remember two weeks later as I am making a New Year's toast.

It was no different this year. I was listening to the radio on Friday and the announcer gave the date, the 17th, and I thought, "OMG, It's our anniversary tomorrow, the big quarter century," and I wondered if my husband had any surprises in store for me. I had noticed, from the scratches on the kitchen calendar, that although he had been scheduled to work the 18th, he had taken the day off.

Well no.

I said, "What are we going to do for our anniversary?"

He said, "I don't know. What do you want to do?"

Was that a sly smile? I still wondered if he had something planned. Why would he bother to take the day off?

Well, no.

He suggested we go to the local high-end restaurant, the one where my son used to work.

"We can do that for any occasion," I replied, being bitchy just for the sake of it. Well, for the sake of all wives, everywhere - and sounding an awful lot like a cliche mewling housewife, even as bad as Madame Bovary, maybe. EEEeeew.

"But this is a special occasion. And besides, you can't wait to the day before the last Saturday before Christmas to make a reservation anywhere nice."

"Well, I thought you had mentioned that's what you wanted to do."

"You know, you sound just like a cliche clueless husband, " I snapped at my hubby. "Like Homer Simpson, or someone. I hope you didn't get me a bowling ball for the anniversary."

I wasn't liking myself at that moment, but I nonetheless soldiered on.

"It's our 25th wedding anniversary, the ONLY 25th wedding anniversary we will EVER have. And you didn't plan ANYTHING?. I asked you two weeks ago if I should plan anything for that day, and you said NO. (And now we'll never get a reservation anywhere.) Why did you say NO?"

"We failed to communicate," he replied. "That's all." (His usual line.) " And besides, I've been sick all week with this terrible cold."

"What's that got to do with it? You had ALL YEAR to think of something."

"You know I am no good at that kind of thing," he replied, rubbing his still-leaky nose against my cheek.

And despite all this, I still continued to harbour hope that he had planned something special - and was merely teasing me, like in a happy four star fantasy rom-com and not Love Actually, where Emma Thompson gets disappointed by Alan Rickman in a sad scene truer to life.

But no.

(My husband really IS like Homer Simpson or one of those other classic sitcom husbands,well-meaning but somewhat clueless when it comes to women. He would do anything for me, and our sons, but these little (or big) rituals of the mating game bamboozle him.

We never really dated, formally speaking, because had I waited for him to ask me out, my eggs would have withered up for the delay.

Still, the other day, I happened to meet a woman my age in a cafe, who was my age and recently divorced from a workaholic husband who, from her perspective, had never participated in the marriage and child-raising.

And although I could empathize with many of her issues (because all marriages, good or bad, are alike, in some respects. Sorry Tolstoy) I realized, at that moment, that I have it very good.

As it unfolded, my husband phoned my son, who works part-time time as fourth chef in a classy restaurant, the Domus Cafe,and managed to get a reservation for the next evening.

So for our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband and I shook things up just a little and drove for 1 hour and a half West towards Ottawa (instead of East towards Montreal) and had a fabulous (and trendy) Canadian seasonal meal. I ate heritage pork (and I never eat pork) with raspberry and anise and other delightful local gourmet fare. They gave us complimentary champagne and an organic beet salad to die for.

It was just 'the something special' my SAD syndrome afflicted soul needed. I know in the movies the magical life-altering destination is usually under the bright lights of the Eiffel Tower, but Murray Street in Ottawa, Ontario can be as befitting a 25th anniversary, if you go with the flow.

I got 'dressed up' in my basic black Liz Clairborne tunic (40 dollars on sale at the Bay) and wore the string of fresh water pearls my husband had just presented me with. He wore the new suit with the violet striped shirt and purple paisley tie I bought him last week from Moores, because the only suit he owned was from the early 1990's. And I even managed to find a place to put that oversized heirloom art nouveau butterfly pin that once belonged to my grandmother, on the belt.

It's the most important piece of jewellry I have, so I felt I had to wear it.

We were 'overdressed' actually, because the Domus Cafe restaurant is a simple, unimposing space, and the rest of the patrons were casually attired. (The restaurant was bustling, so we were lucky to get a table on such short notice.)

But that was good too. It felt right. It made the evening more relaxing for us. And it felt even better because my youngest son was 'with us' working there, in the open-style kitchen. Just like home.

(And my husband sure loves that boy.)

Marriage. It's a major theme of Threshold Girl even if the women 'character's are all new women with carreer goals.. Or as writer Gertrude Atherton wrote in a 1913 article about suffragettes in the Delineator Magazine, "It's still the theme of the novel.

I never thought much of the institution, (and after researching Edwardian times I think even less of it) but for some reason it remains the major theme of my life story. (That is until I finish writing Flo in the City and the book becomes a BEST SELLER.)

I was going to call 

Bullwinkle, on the kitchen floor. I needed a place to put this cool picture.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cottoning on, Slowly, to the Politics of Clothes

Marion 1910.

The Huffington Post had an article listing the 13 products : most likely made by children and forced labour and except for diamonds and carpets, and tobacco and maybe coal (directly) well, they are products I use: coffee (I only sometimes buy free trade) and garments, cocoa, rice, sugarcane, cotton and No. 1 Gold. (Well, I don't use gold either.)

I'm a pearl kind of gal and my husband buys me freshwater pearls for special occasions. So I have many chains which I wear, sometimes singly, sometimes en masse. With basic black usually.

As it happens, I just read another chapter of the Paul Thompson book The Edwardians, where he explains the UK economy in 1900-1914.

In 19oo, half the cotton textiles in the world were produced by England, and not a hell of a lot of anything else. (Luckily, their rubber plantations in Malaya were going to prove fruitful - and that's the story of my own father's family.)

Cotton could be produced cheaply because women mostly worked in the factories. Just like in Montreal. Thompson explains that paying men good wages was counterproductive to business, because, then their womenfolk didn't have to work, so that their cheap labour wasn't available. Kind of a Catch 22. So this push to have women stay at home, well, there's more to it than meets the eye, which is to say, it has an economic side and isn't just about keeping women powerless.

And that is why this cotton business is front and central to the Flo in the City and I really don't quite understand it. Maybe once I've read Angels in the Workplace I'll fully understand.

One thing I have figured out is that most the materials the Nicholson women used in their dresses was one form of cotton or another.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Worse than the Men?

1905 on lsd.

In a New York Time's Editorial today, Bigger is Easier, David Brooks says it's time for US lawmakers (in these polarized times) to marry ideas on the left and right in an intellectually coherent way. He describes how this might be done in the area of social welfare.

Funny, I immediately thought of the Lord's Day Act of 1908, in Canada.

The conservative elements in the Presbyterian Church joined with the labour union leaders to pass this law that made it illegal to conduct business between 12 pm Saturday and 12 pm Sunday.

Well, Ministers of the Church were allowed to work. As were others in 'mercy' callings.

Jews, whose Sabbath was a day earlier,were not allowed to break the new law, even to sell bread.

And the motion picture shows, which were supposed to close, mostly stayed open, illegally, probably paying fines to the police. If you give tired, overworked young people the day off, they will need something to do.

It's the law of unintended consequences.

Of course, suffrage got passed through an unholy alliance between 'new women' and temperance types, although the division isn't as cut and dry as I once imagined.

I still haven't figured out if the suffragettes believed that women were so superior to men that if they got the vote, the world would suddenly become a better place, because 'all men thought about was making money," or if they just said it in their speeches to rouse the righteous, who did not believe, in any way, that women should be able to work in most any profession, alongside the men, should they so chose.

They did believe, however, in making the world a better, purer, whiter place.

My God, things have changed so little. There are few women in high places in politics, and the ones that are there are just as bad as the men. Or in some illustrious cases, much worse.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Erasing History, Re-writing History

A page from Flora's 1911 Nature Diary, Macdonald School For Teachers, McGill.

Hmm. I just noticed that the University of Toronto's Senior College Encyclopedia has just linked my page on the Royal Commission on Industrial Training and Technical Education onto their site. From what I see this online encyclopedia is in its early stages and is to contain information relating to that university's history .

Now, Wikipedia also links to my page ( but it looks like the U of T version is being mounted by experts in the field, and not 'just anyone.'

It's all very interesting; how things sway back and forth with respect to new technologies.

It's also interesting because my website is about Montreal in 1910 and Anglo Quebeckers, but franky, were it not for the material on that the University of Toronto placed there, I'd wouldn't have been able to research the era and the family in such detail. No one has really taken care to preserve the rich archives of various anglo Quebec institutions in Quebec because the institutions have faded and many archives left to decay by the laws of entropy. That's how history gets erased, you know.

Now, 6 years ago, when I began research on the Nicholson Family Letters, and when I found Flora's model school portfolio in with the letters, I had to go to McGill to track down info on the CIHM microfiches, the Gazette and Star newspapers on microfilm and in the McLennan library itself, where I found the 3 volume Royal Commission Report. It had been hardly touched over the years, I imagine.

I wrote the page above from the report.

It's so much easier today, isn't it? And I've worked so hard. But I'm still figuring out what to do with the letters. They are important, "a window on the pre-war era" but no one wants to know about Anglo Quebec History. I'm exaggerating, but only a bit.

Yet, the story of the Nicholsons is really about the Story of Canada in 1910, but not necessarily 'the official story.'

Torture Tales

Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald of wrote about the inhuman conditions of Bradley Manning's Detention asking whether being put in solitary is torture. Greenwald provided evidence that it is. Of course Julian Assange is also currently in solitary, allowed out for a walk with four guards for a few minutes a day.

My grandmother was a survivor of Changi Torture in WWII. She spent a month in a small room at the Singapore YMCA with 17 men who were insane with pain and starvation and sleep deprivation (giving up half her daily handful of rice to the starving men) and then 7 months in solitary and she certainly thought the solitary confinement was worse than than being with the abused and miserable men.

Here's a little bit from by play, looking for Mrs. Peel Scene Forty-Nine: Cell Outram


Dorothy: Oh, the screams. The screams. I shall go mad. Why won’t they go away. Why can’t I be back at the YMCA with my friends. What day is it? I must keep track. I must find something to do. Why won't they give me a book to read? I’ll write a novel in my head. To keep me busy. I’ll make it a love story…”Susan North gasped as she walked out of the YMCA building into the sunlight.

The entire play is at

At the war crimes trial they prosecutors pooh poohed her solitary confinement, and suggested the worst thing that happened to her was having to go to the bathroom in front of the men. Propriety, Propriety.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Doctor's Appointment Catch-22

Na Dru Co products 1910 catalogue.

Colds, flu, la grippe and such are a huge theme of Flo in the City. It's an obsession with the Nicholsons. And probably for good reason. The doctor came to your house in those days and prescribed some snake oil or opiate-laced placebo, or better wine or sherry... what a treat for temperance types!

He charged a fair bit, but he didn't always get paid. I know because Norman Nicholson worked as a collector for a Richmond doctor at one time. I have his notes.

Well, my husband has a cold - and since he was a smoker in his youth, colds go to his chest. Not a big deal in 2010, right?

(We went to a dinner party on Saturday night and he sat beside a guest who was very sick, but who had come out of allegiance to the host and he was run down from working a long stretch of days and so he succumbed.)

Anyway, my husband called in sick this morning, for the third day. His dilemma, he needs a doctor's note (just like in school) or he doesn't get paid.

This never was a problem in prior years, but now it can take a week to get a doctor's appointment at our clinic, and by that time, you are usually much better or cured (hopefully).

This is likely a stipulation of the company that insures "sick days" to prevent abuse.

We've had the same doctor for 25 years, but that's not any help.

It becomes a Catch-22.

"Go to the CLSC, " his workplace says. But you can wait hours and hours at a public walk-in clinic, surrounded by deathly ill people, all for a chest-cold, where rest and lots of water is warranted.

So, you might as well go into work, and if you get sicker you just come home and stay home for another two days. No need for a note.

Except you'll make some of your co-workers sick, just as the unwitting dinner guess made my husband sick.

It all makes no sense.

No wonder some people in Quebec are actually bribing doctors to get to the front of the line.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The News Business 1896

In 1896, the year Tighsolas was built by Norman Nicholson, in Richmond, Quebec, an article on the 'new journalism' was published by an Arts and Cultural Magazine in Canada. Newspapers were the only 'news' media apart from gossip) in those days. Some people were critical of the influence these newspapers wielded, others complained that newspapers pandered to lazy intellects.

Newspapers were likely the only thing Norman Nicholson read, with the exception of the Bible.

This article is critical of both the tabloid aspects of the newspaper industry and of the lack of professional standards for editors and journalists. Seems what goes around comes around.

Here is an excerpt:

"A call went out for the best allegorical figure of THE PRESS. The keen-sighted little paper, LIFE, came out with a full page drawing in response: The daily press is represented by a tall hag with wild locks and insane eyes, standing in a public square; in her upraised and talon-like fingers she clutches a mass of dripping filth which forms a pool at her feet and her occupation is to sling the stuff at all the men, women and children in her aim.

There is almost in every city a daily newspaper of which this is a telling likeness. Its business managers has no enterprise that rises above the level of blackmail. Its editors are alert for stories of crime and sleepless in quest of scandal. The hanging of the criminal would call forth a special edition.

A newspaper we are told should have news and views in admirable balance, yet the news of this paper is unclean and its views purchaseable.

It keys its news to the tone of the vulgarian who delights to read of lust and murder, and its views are made and cheques received in little rooms at the rear of salons.


The editor of a daily newspaper reaches a congregation, not of five hundred, fifty two day a year, but of five thousand or fifty thousand over three hundred days a year. The editor's message goes out in search of auditors and not only strengthens those who agree with him, but perhaps persuades those who do not agree.

Who are these men who wield this immence power and enjoy vast pre-eminence? They are not trained anywhere. They pass no examination of knowledge. They possess no certificate of character.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Stagey Movies, Barking Guns

Well, I found more Nicholson clippings related to Edward VIII's abdication and George VI's coronation, or, rather, accession.

I decided to ferret them out, because I just saw The King's Speech with Colin Firth playing George VI. It's a smart, adult movie, so I wonder how well it will do at the box office. The movie doesn't have nearly as much vomiting, well, none, as Get Him to the Greek, a movie my husband and I watched last week and didn't hate, actually. Didn't Love, Actually, either, a Christmas movie which I also saw this week, again, because my brother-in-law insisted on it. I still like the Emma Thompson and Colin Firth sequences the best. The porno one makes me embarrassed, but just a bit.

But unlike St. Trinian's, The King's Speech doesn't have Russell Brand or a Russell Brand style star. Maybe he should have played Edward VIII, since they appear to be kindred spirits. Well, no. Guy Pearce plays Edward in The King's Speech -and very well, indeed- and the scene where he teases/abuses his brother, Bertie, is one of my favourites. It's heart-rending.

Guy Pearce was in Memento, a movie I never learned to understand, and I just watched another movie, Inception, with my husband (or half of it, 'cause I gave up and went to bed) which is penned by the same screenwriter.

Inception got great reviews from the critics and public alike, (and did boffo box office) but, frankly, I can't deconstruct video game style movies. (I always wonder, Is it me? Or is it holes in the plot? ) And as I have written before, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is my favourite movie, so I like the dream thing. I had to watch that movie but twice to get it and I've been enjoying it regularly ever since and it only gets better with each viewing.

All, to say, in as circuitous a way as possible, that I prefer stagey movies (and The King's Speech is a bit stagey) to Video Game Inspired Movies. Because I am older, I guess. And I like good dialogue delivered by good actors (or in this case, great dialogue and great actors) and not a string of expletives, and sexist semen jokes, although this movie features strings of expletives as well as sly reference to certain (sexual?) skills acquired by Mrs. Wallace Simpson in Shanghai. (The King's Speech almost got a nasty rating for these swearwords uttered by Colin Firth, who often swears in his movies, most effectively at the end of Bridget Jones's Diary, which happens to have a 'come-in-your-face' joke, although it is not sexist and has an 8 and over rating in Canada. Serial vomiting and such is OK for the censors, I guess as is 'aural sex' ; a few swear words, in context, is not.)

If there has been any criticism of The King's Speech, it seems, it is over the fact that the movie is a bit, (how do I put it?) Un-Stylized. It has a very accessible cinematic vocabulary. And it pulls all the right strings, emotionally and somewhat predictably, too. What's wrong with that, though? The movie is perfectly paced and very cleanly-edited. It also has some lovely lovely photography.
But, wait, this blog is about clippings from 1936, 7 from the Nicholson stash.

I have a inside page of an article "Edward leaves shores of his native country.....Royal tears shed at farewell dinner.... Regal bearing of Queen Mother gone..(The Queen Mother who came with the Princess Royal, Mary, Countess of Harewood and the Countess of Athelone, walked slowly, holding the arm of her daughter. Her regal poise was gone.) Edward's exile is self-imposed."

Another article adjacent: Farewell Speech Evokes Praise. "Edward went out like a man." Another article "Cabinet meets to pass on accession." ...Modern and ancient agencies of communicating official information played a part in the part in the proclamation of George VI as King throughout Canada today. Over the snowclad slopes of Parliament Hill, 21 guns barked out (sic) a royal salute, notifying all within hearing distance of the accession of a new monarch.

And then there's this article, December 10: Princess Elizabeth now Heir as father ascends the throne. The article clearly explains the succession to the throne, saying "Well-defined hereditary principles have governed the succession since 1701, when the Act of Settlement received the Royal assent after being passed by a majority of one in the House of Commons."

Hmm, that bit about the princess Royal makes me think that there are no non-archetypal female characters in the King's Speech: Mother, Good Wife, Whore (Wallis Simpson) and two pretty girls. Wells, Princess Margaret would have fit the bill as a true to life woman. I saw that other movie the Bank Job that had, you know, the woman with the weird name, Saffron Burrows, who I first saw in the movie with Minnie Driver, Circle of Friends, which was the first time I saw Colin Firth and I hated him, because his character was a real-jerk.
If you can't follow this blog, it's your fault, not mine.

Margaret, Monarchist or Not?

The Nicholsons in around 1930, Margaret at top. She died in 1942 at age 86.

After seeing the King's Speech yesterday, with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, I decided to try to find clippings of the event in the Nicholson stash. I know I had seen some years ago.

Let's see: I have the entire front page of the Montreal Daily Star, January 21, 1936, that says Edward VIII is proclaimed King today. And the top half has two giant portraits of George V and Edward. A subhead reads "the King Dies in Midst of Family" which appears, from what I saw in the King's Speech movie, a fib.

The blurb on Edward is written by Sir George Arthur the British Royal Biographer and appears to be a bit of damage control. "Edward VIII contradicts his appearance of impulsiveness and Impetuosity in Disposition.....King Edward is far too intelligent a patriot not to realize always that his capacity for doing good for is countrymen and fellowmen is infinitely greater than that of any of the comarades whose society he effects."

Three other relevant clippings I found in my 'quicksearch' are related to the abdication. One a clipping from December 10, "Edward not going to Riviera." Apparently, 'strong police reinforcements' were sent to Wallace Simpson's villa as 'she has received hundreds of threatening letters.'

The other clippings are the Text of Edward's Message, of which a part is heard in the King's Speech movie, two days later...on December 12th and the final clipping is 'a Canadian angle on the abdication."

News Hours Late in Reaching Ranch.

Press Query brought First Intimation of Abdication:

"Hired hands of Edward VIII's EP Ranch in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains 90 miles from Calgary, heard nothing of the abdication until last night, nine hours after the announcement in the British Parliament.

Apparently, King Edward bought the rangch in 1919. It was a working ranch, a 'ranch' and not a 'rawnch' as he was said to have quipped.

So the workers there were out in the fields when the news broke.

He had been a popular prince, of course, and that fact is touched upon in the King's Speech were Colin Firth as Bertie says the people are proclaiming God Save the King, and they don't mean him.

Some people say there are citizens from out there back then who bare a strong resemblance to the Royals.

Odd, there are quite a few clippings about royalty and even "Britishness." I wonder if Marg became a monarchist in her old age...

Maybe she was in 1908. When she goes to Quebec for the Tricentary celebrations, with the Prince of Wales (George V) in attendance, her sister writes. "Did you see the Prince? I know how much you love the Royals." But I thought she was being ironic.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The King's Speech and Margaret's Clippings

Queen Mary from a 1937 Marie-Claire.

Well, I drove into town and watched the second showing of the King's Speech (as I am busy this weekend with parties ) and yes, I can honestly say, in my educated opinion, this is Colin Firth's best performance ever, no question, and that's saying a lot.

(And I've seen practically every one.)

I didn't feel that way about A Single Man, where I felt he gave a little more breadth to an aspect of what he does very well.

And Firth even performs a few Darcy flourishes, here, and why not? He's playing an aristocrat in this movie, too. I think he carries the film and that says a lot, too, considering the film is filled with acting royalty. Jennfier Ehle seems to have forgotten to age. Claire Bloom played Queen Mary, above, but I couldn't quite place her.

Helena Bonham Carter is so beautiful (I've always thought her the most beautiful of actesses) and I had to keep myself from reaching into the screen to pull the pearls off her bodice. I love pearls and she looks good in them.

So, it was worth getting caught in rush hour traffic on the way home, although my dogs likely wouldn't second that.

Must say, I was almost put off right at the onset by one of the paid 'ads' at the AMC cinema. Almost ruined my Firth afternoon out. Seems the Harper government is spending MY money promoting his "law and order agenda.' This piece of propaganda featured some oustandingly beautiful young people, all white, I think, except for one Chinese girl, walking out onto a stage and saying "I never thought it would happen to me." I wanted to puke. As if only young white people are victims of crime. I'm guessing they are the least vulnerable group.

I couldn't help think of the Social Purity movement of the 1910's.

Anyway, what does The King's Speech have to do with the Nicholson girls? Lots, it seems. You know, they left behind newspaper clippings, mostly about suffrage. But the next biggest topic in the stash of clippings was the abdication in 1937. This must have been Margaret, who moved out of Tighsolas the next year.

When the I found the Nicholson letters and other stuff, I couldn't figure out why they cut out so many items about Edward and The Woman he Loved. (I think I tossed them all. Maybe not.) But now I realise this event must have really upset them, even though they were Scotch Canadians who hated "Englishmen" for the most part. Actually, I have letters from 1936-37. That's when the letters end. Maybe I should read them.

I myself have never thought much of the Edward VIII, even after watching a few tv movies about him. No, his brother makes for a far more interesting story.

Census Sense

I think this is Edith and maybe that's Charlie Gagnon, who died in a Cornwall hotel fire in 1910.

Well, the 1911 Canadian Census includes a bit about conjugal status in, basically, all the towns and cities.

Richmond, in 1911, had 618 single men and 699 single women. The town had a total population of 2,175, a decline from the previous census.

The town had 416 dwelling and 436 families.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the Census man came around on June 15, 1911. Margaret said they did not take Herb or Marion's stats.

Herb was drifting around the West and Marion was working in Montreal. Odd, because so was Edith and both women were living in a boarding house. But Edith got enumerated as a resident of Tighsolas, with Flora.

So Edith became a statistic and Marion and Herb didn't. I suspect Marion didn't figure in any part of the Census, Herb certainly not.

So the many many young people drifting around looking for work (or actually working) didn't figure in Canada's big picture in 1911.

Even more odd. The table lists Single, Married, Widowed, Legally Separted and Divorced. There were no Legally Separated or Divorced listed for Richmond. (As the Nicholson letters reveal, people of their acquaintance did 'break up housekeeping' and even apply for divorce.)

But the number of married women doesn't equal the number of married men. And this is the same for many towns. What gives here? Is there a category missing from the Census? Perhaps 'illegally separated and moved far away'. Norman Nicholson, despite being away on the railroad in Ontario, was listed as living at Tighsolas in Richmond.

In general, in Canada, there were more men than women. Why? Immigrants, I guess. Workers. In the UK, after WWI when their stock of eligible males was devastated, some magazines counselled single women to go to Canada. But they warned the single men were not to be found in the big cities of the East, only on the frontier.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lordy, Lordy, Lordy

St. Lawrence, ethnic distric of Montreal 1910. McCord Museum photo.

In 1910, Julia Parker Drummond, of the Montreal Council of Women wrote in a letter regarding some proposed legislation against people shacking up, by the Moral and Social Reform League of Canada: "You cannot make people good by legislation."

In 1906, they tried just that.. with the Lord's Day Act.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows, that's for sure, and there's a dizzying amount of proof for this in 2010, (and you didn't need Wikileaks to reveal it) but back then, in 1906 Canada, it was the Conservative Presbyterians and the Labour Unions who cozied up together get this particular Lord's Day Act passed.

The Lord's Day Act plays a part in Flo in the City. Marion, who is a teacher, prepares her lesson plan on Sunday Morning, after church. When else is she going to do it, she asks.

This description of the Lord's Day from the Canada Year Book of 1906 explains that it takes effect at noon on Saturday, until noon on Sunday. (I assumed it was all day Sunday, as it was in Canada until a few years ago.) Marion is not breaking any civic laws here, just 'moral ones.' The law was considered harsh against the Jews, and in Montreal, there was a debate about whether Jews peddling bread should be given dispensation. In Toronto, I believe, there was no such sympathy offered to that community.

Still, there appears to be a lot of room to manoever within this law, for other citizens and merchants. Hmm. Makes me wonder if this Act was aimed, by the Presbyterians, specifically at suppressing the Jewish religion.

As I have mentioned before, if you give the people a day off, especially over-worked young people, they need something fun and cheap to do. Many movie houses, including the ritzy Ouimetoscope, stayed open on the Lord's Day. Ernest Ouimet said he had no choice, that was the best day for business. I guess he paid a fine.

"Chapter 27, an Act respecting the Lord's day, provides that it shall not be lawful for any person on the Lord's day to sell or offer for sale or purchase any goods, chattels, or other personal property, or any real estate, or to transact any business of his ordinary calling, or to employ any person for gain to do on that day any work, business, or labour.

The Lord's day is defined as the period of time which begins at 12 o'clock on Saturday afternoon and ends at 12 0'clock on the following afternoon. Works of necessity or mercy are excepted from the operation of the act, and whilst not restricting the ordinary meaning of the expression 'work of necessity or mercy' this is declared by the act to include 24 different descriptions of work, connnected with divine worship, sickness, transportation, communications, food, water, light, heat, animals, fires and emergencies. Games and performances for gain, shooting for gain or to the disturbance of other persons, and the sale and distribution within Canada of foreign newspapers or the Lord's Day are all forbidden by the Act.

Employees who, except in cases of emergency, are employed on the Lord's day in certain defined classes of work, must be allowed during the next six days 24 consecutive hours without labour, but this provision applies only where the regular day's labour exceeds eight hours duration.

The act does not override any existing statute, nor does it affect the liberty of each province to make its own laws upon this subject. It comes into force on March 1, 1907."

1910 Canada - What Parliament was Doing.

This excerpt that follows is from the Canada Yearbook for 1910 and it makes for fascinating reading.

It is yet another example of how the BIG PICTURE impacts on the SMALL: There was legislation passed in 1910 regarding insurance. As it is, Herb Nicholson's financial problems, which he passed onto his parents, were mostly with respect to some insurance he took out. Even after reading the letters, I don't understand what it is all about, but he owed big money to the insurance people. And this debt almost brought down the family. Herb insisted he was tricked by the agent. I have always assumed this was an excuse, (he had so many) but it seems there were some dirty dealing in the insurance business prior to 1910, or they would not have needed this legistlation.

Here is the excerpt:

The second session of the eleventh Parliament of the Dominion of Canada opened on November 11 1909 and closed by prorogation of May 4, 1910, resulted in the passing of 177 acts, of which 62 were public and general and 115 private and local.

Of principal interest in the former category were the measures which relate to the establishment of the Canadian Naval Service, insurance, the currency, the investigation of detrimental trade combines, immigration and prevention of the importation of destructive insects and pests.

The insurance act of 1910, wheich came into force on May 4, repeals previous legislation and brings under new regulation all kinds of insurance in Canada.

It will be remembered that six years ago the revelation of certain abuses in connection with the administration of life insurance companies in the United States caused general uneasiness on the part of policy holders and ld to the appointment in 1906 of a Royal Commission.

The Currency Act enables the Government to provide a gold currency in denominations of 10, 20, 5 and 2.50 dollar gold pieces.

The Combines Investigation act providing for the investigation of combines, monopolies, trusts, and mergers, is modelled in principal upon the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act of 1907 and similarly will be adminstered by the Department of Labour. In short, a combine means any contract, agreement, arrangement, or combination which has the effect of increasing or fixing the price of any article of trade or commerce to the detriment of consumers or producers.

Chapter 27, a new Immigration act, repeals previous legislation as passed in 1906. The new act reinstates many measures of the old and contains others designed still further to strenghten the lalaws in Canada against the admisssion of undersirable persons. Precise definitions are applied to the terms "Canadian Citizen" "immigrant" "Passenger" "Stowaway" "rejected" etc.

Special provisions as to passengers by land give the Authority the right to make regulations imposing upon transportation companies similar to those of masters and owners of vessels bringing immigrants upon the sea.

Under sections 13-24 the Minister of the Interior is authorised to appoint at any port of entry a Board of Enquiry consisting of three or more officers with authority to determine whether immigrants shall be allowed to enter and remain in Canada or shall be rejected or deported. The law whereby immigrants can be deported is strengthened in many directions.

Telegraphic news from Great Britain. Grants. Sums not exceeding 12,000 dollars for 12 months ending June 30, 1911, and less amounts yearly until 1915 to assist in maintaining an independent and efficient service of telegraphic news from Great Britain for publication in Canadian newspapers.

By chapter 13 drivers of automobiles or motor vehicles are brought within the operation of the criminal code when guilty of causing injury by furious driving or other wilful misconduct and are rendered liable to fine or imprisonment for failure to stop after the occurrence of an accident.

In January, serious distress was caused in France by floods, especially in Paris by the overflowing of the river Seine. The Dominion of Canada appropriated therefore a sum of 50,000 dollars in aid of the sufferers and as a practical expression of the sympathy of the people of Canada.

The death of May 6, after only a brief illness, of King Edward plunged the whole of the British Empire into the deepest grief. Owing to the late King's lofty character and the extra ordinary personal influence which he had wielded this grief was sincerely shared by all the nations of the world, who took every means of testifying their respect for his memory.(Long tribute follows.)

H.R.H. the Prince of Wales succeeded to the throne upon the death of his Father, and on May 9, he was proclaimed King George V, with due observance of the stately and ceremonial formularies of the ancient usage.

The careful political training which his Majesty enjoyed under King Edward, his wide personal acquaintance with every aspect of the British Empire and, above all, his own excellent character, have inspired his subjects throughout his Dominions with the highest hopes that he will follow worthily in the splendid examples of his immediate predecessors.