Over the pond, and far away……Day 3

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Quebec…….Day 3

I vaguely remember something in History and Geography about Quebec, but I am afraid, for my teachers’ sakes, that I remembered almost nothing! I had no real concept about what it was like, and it very-quickly became evident that we were not to be disappointed. A quick look at a town map showed an old part (Vieux-Quebec), and a market (Marche Chamlain), two features which add enchantment to almost any city.

…….but I’m getting ahead of myself. You see I am very fond of my food, and especially breakfast, lunch, and dinner! The quality of food on the Holland-America line is of a high standard and as a self treat we had the following little morsel on the first morning, after which we were ready to face the day.

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I had contacted some French speakers about whether my normal French would be understood in Quebec, and as assured that there should be no major problem, and so it was. We had a Shuttle bus which took us to the centre of this lovely city. We walked on up to one of the gates of the Citadel where numerous carriages were taking visitors on a tour. Ignoring them totally, we walked along the walls on a lovely day.

I took so many photos here, as every corner was just a new riot of colour and exquisite taste, and these are only a small selection This was probably the highlight of the cruise, and yet again, we were blown-away by the cleanliness. It could be compared in many ways with Luxembourg, or Monaco, in its beauty. One thing especially was the depiction of some of the town’s activities in 3D, but on a flat wall….see the last two photos. It really was amazing how well this had been achieved, even from close-up.

I had also mentioned the Old Market, and this was approached from a large board-walk down the funicular railway to a couple of crowded streets, full of lovely shops and cafes….well worth another visit. The only downside was that we did not have time to visit the modern town. Although maybe we should retain the memories we have. I suppose that it is a bit like Venice….having seen the old town, the modern bustling industrialised adjunct somehow seems to take away the charm…..so best left alone.

Tomorrow was to be cruising the St Lawrence, so I will take the chance to show you some of the folk we met and a little more about the ship. …….Night, night for now…

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Division or an (imperfect) unity?

Just over 200 years ago, (in 1798) my namesake Henry Monro was hanged in front of his house in Lisburn, Northern Ireland for his support of a united Ireland. Son of a Presbyterian father and Anglican mother, he was a regular attender at Lisburn Cathedral. He was also on very good terms with local catholics, and they all often attended services in the Cathedral and the local Chapel, for Communion or Mass. He was highly respected for this, and his stance that Ireland should be united with ALL religions playing their part in governing it. This was to be his un-doing as he was a temporary Commander in the United Irishmen and was entrapped and summarily tried and executed.

Fortunately they have moved-on and, whilst still divided by a nominal line on a map, much co-operation has been achieved amongst the various factions. They have learned to forgive (if not forget) their history, and have seen that a political and social life is possible even when differing political viewpoints are seen. I think there are very few people there who would want to return to the divisions of the past, and one has to commend them highly for this.

Scotland has had a simmering element of Nationalism since the 1930s and almost a decade ago, power was achieved by them at Holyrood. There was an immediate and worrying sense of division in the populace; for and against independence from the rest of the UK. This was seen to be an ill-founded desire as in 2014 the populace voted quite strongly, and rightly in my opinion, to remain within the UK, and be politically attached. The SNP Government has steadfastly and stubbornly refused to accept this message, and appear to want to have another ‘once in a lifetime’ referendum. Nothing positive or constructive has come from all the discussions held at the time, but this idea of ‘Independence or Bust’.  Increasingly, time is taken up in the press, and Holyrood about trivial, or highly-controversial proposals, which have increased the deep-seated divisions in our society. I have seen nothing which could be seen as unifying this nation, of which I am proud to have been a part for over 50 years. It seems to be that there is even a fear growing about declaring one’s affinity for UK unity. The fact that it has worked pretty-well for over 300 years seems to hold no importance in the minds of those who want to divide. Even with increasing powers given to them recently, it has still to be proved whether or not they can handle the responsibility of ruling for ALL the people of a country.

Lady of the House, and I have just returned from visiting our Dutch friends from Limburg, in the Netherlands. Whilst they are definitely Dutch, they are only minutes from the German border, and are very close to Belgium and Luxembourg. They very kindly took us round to see as much of these countries as possible. We were treated by all we met with extreme courtesy, interest, and enquiries about why Scotland would want to separate from England, and why the UK would want to cease its involvement in the political life of the European Union. It was only for a short stay, but I sensed a group of people who had become used to each other. It is indeed a Union of many diverse countries, cultures, languages, religions, beliefs, histories, and political agendas, and yet they have each handed-over some of their powers to a central administration, in the interest of ‘togetherness’.  Like the USA, it is a family, with all the expected frictions, disagreements, and name-calling which appear within almost all situations where people come together. You never get everything you want, but it is a great lesson in realising that others have a right to be heard, and their opinion might well be more useful than yours. I voted for Ted Heath’s Common Market in the ’70s, and I don’t think we all knew that it would develop so far. It has, however, and we are where we are. Life and time are one and the same thing, a bit like the flow of a river. Reversal is not possible in either concept, and I believe that we must continue to move on or end up in a back-water (to continue the analogy). Even with the various problems with which it is beset, it is vital to be there, using our experience at the political table to continue to modify it for the better, instead of being ineffectively on the side-lines.

As if to indicate a confirmation of my views, Lady and I attended a Concert by the RSNO a few days ago, and the final piece was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, called ‘Ode to Joy’, and the music was sung to words written in 1785 by Schiller.

The music was chosen in January 1972, by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to be the European Anthem of the EU. The words, being German, have no international status, but it is true that they do hold part of the answer to mankind and his dealings with others.

Let’s not be known as the generation which threw out the EU with the bathwater of our complacency about what it has achieved. For two generations, in Europe we have had relative peace.

Let’s be happy about that, because there are a lot of possible friends out there!

 

 

European friends…

It was just about a year ago that we were on holiday on Lake Como, in Italy. Sad to say the weather was worse there than it had been in Scotland, and the hotel and food left a little to be desired. Luckily it was a secondary holiday, so we were happy to make the best of it.

There was a wide range of nationalities represented, as you can imagine, and I always enjoy speaking a foreign language. The difficulty arises when you catch short snatches of what is obviously not English, but are unable to identify it. I once had a long chat in German with a gentleman at the Mozartblick viewpoint in Austria, and only when we asked each other where we lived did I discover that he came from London, and of course I was from the west of Scotland! Red faces and laughter were evident in equal measure!

And so it was at Lake Como. Staring out at the rain, I sensed a Germanic conversation drifting towards me from a couple. I was in the midst of commenting on the weather in German, but was informed that ‘We are not Germans’ in German, and then repeated in an undistinguishable lingo. It turned out they were from the Netherlands, and from such a rather unfortunate start, we grew to be regular conversationalists in English which they both spoke very well!

Over the relatively-few days when our holidays overlapped, we found a bond developing, and since they had never been in Scotland, they were invited to come to our house to see some of the best of our wonderful country. Such offers and acceptances are easily made, and just as easily allowed to lapse. But we felt there was something in this one, and exchanges of Christmas cards, and the arrival of a Dutch-English Dictionary, seemed to weld the friendship together, and eventually dates and provisional plan were agreed.

It was probably at this time that a few minor thoughts crossed the minds of both families…..we didn’t know each other well, would they like our food, could they manage English for a solid eight days?, what if it rained all the time? would they be comfortable staying in someone else’s house? what about their political views?, could I learn a few words of Dutch? We were also having a large party at our house at the same time, for Son’s 40th birthday, so how would they manage in a large crowd?

Suffice to say that all went perfectly. From the meeting at the airport we felt we were in the presence of lovely friendly people, who settled well into our house, and seemed comfortable to be with. The weather was unbelievable, and trips to Aberfoyle,the Trossachs, Dunoon, Inveraray, Glencoe, Loch Lomond, Glasgow, St Andrews, and Crail went well. Unfortunately there are so many great places to be seen that they could only visit a few. The eventual parting was accompanied by a number of tear-stained faces, and many hugs!

We have seen how two different cultures can get along so well in the intimate spaces of a house and car, such that even possible disagreements in culture or politics do not have to prevent people from being part of a friendly human race. We are now saving our Euros so that we can make a return trip, but I must try to get my tongue round some of their very strange-sounding words..because they’re not German, you know!

Get out your English Grammar Book!

Sign seen on an over-head gantry, while driving along a motorway recently…..’full cars, less queues’ !!!  I wonder what foreign visitors must think as they see the glaring mistake.

What’s next?………text-speak?

Surely there must be people out there who can be employed to write properly!

What annoys you about the abuse of our wonderful language?

Kalt und Warme!

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Lady of the House and I have just returned from a break in the tremendous heat of Tenerife (in the Canary Islands for the geographically- ignorant). Even as we approached the west of Scotland, there was a nip in the cabin air, and when the air-bridge was opened (after we had landed of course) one’s lungs were suddenly subject to the sudden shock of dropping from 24C to something approaching 0c.

The usual long wait for luggage allowed some adaptation to our ‘normal’ temperatures, and even the warmth of Daughter’s welcome could not hide the fact that we were in a different world again!

Adeje has a number of very nice hotels (and ours was no exception), and attracted a great variety of nations. I have always loved using different languages although I must say that Italian is my favourite. This time, however, German was the main language to be heard, with some French, Dutch and Flemish.

Many of the younger Europeans about now seem to have excellent English, but it was still evident that the vast majority of Brits do not speak a foreign language beyond the few words from a phrase book.

At the New Year Party we were grouped with Germans (our looks, or my slight corporation may have been responsible for this) and spending a long, noisy evening chattering in a foreign language is very tiring. However we all seemed to understand each other better, as the alcohol flowed. So perhaps this is a preferable way to understand foreigners than going to boring night-classes or reading boring text-books!