Wow! I actually am unsure of how to encapsulate our Canada Day 150 spent on Parliament Hill. There are so many moments and thoughts to share. Settle in as this is going to be a long read!
I thought as I climbed into the shower in the morning how ironic it was that I was washing my hair when the forecast called for a day of rain. AND rain it did for the entire morning. It cleared around noon and so we spent the afternoon drying out but before the major evening performances it absolutely poured. It’s interesting though as we were never cold from it like you would be on the prairies because the temperature never drops. BUT wet oh yes.
So wet that my cellphone, inside my rain jacket, succumbed to a poaching death. We suspect it is not salvageable as the screen went multi green. Perhaps, oh well never mind, it is what it is and thinking about different options now doesn’t change the fact. It’s ironic that my last trip to the East was when I lost my laptop and this trip it is my cellphone. I haven’t replaced the first item but I am quite sure I will replace my phone. But I digress.
We had done a trial run of getting onto the hill on Friday night so we knew the procedures. We also knew that food and drink were allowed as there are no vendors up there with the exception of free water stands. Our research on the grounds lead us to believe the lineups would be approximately 2 to 3 hours long. We made it in around the 3 hour mark.
We thought for a while that we would miss the opening ceremonies as we could see on the big TV screens around 11:30 when it was supposed to start and then we saw the arrival of the royalty party and the dignitaries while we were still in our final security line up so it was a huge bonus to all of us that we got through in time. We had spent the incredibly wet long line up chatting with the folks in the line. There was an interesting cross cultural exchange that occurred as we spent three hours beside each other. The international Libyan engineering students behind us were nice enough to share their umbrella with me for most of the line up where I helped expand their English and cultural norms. The three generations in front of us originally hailed from Trinidad but the daughter had been here long enough to remember “this land was made for you and me” and with the help of Google we also sang the Hoser’s song. We also did the national anthem when the crowd on the hill did it. For the most part the line was very Canadian in personality and if someone butted in we politely sorted them to the end of the line. When this didn’t always work the fellow three ahead of us asked the police for assistance. Typical Canadian police response was to tell them they were disappointed that they would line crash, sadly it had no impact on this particular pair. Then just before the gate someone crashed in but she avoided eye contact and just pretended she’d been there all along. There were quick goodbyes as we emerged from the line having made the best of our three hours together.
The picture was snapped and sent to Instagram while in line up.
We found a fairly decent standing place where we could both see (a tough feat when you are 5’1″) and settled in to watch the opening ceremonies. The three main speakers (as did most speakers throughout the day) acknowledged that “our home is on native land”. Justin Trudeau has a great speaking personality, the Prince of Wales followed him up with a solid performance but it was the Governor General David Johnson who was the obvious crowd favourite. Then it was on to the opening act which, strangely enough, was Bono. He apparently is a friend of Justin Trudeau and Paul Martin (really??) and wanted to mark the occasion with a gift attendance. He spoke quite eloquently about how Canada opens its arms when others don’t and how when we lead others follow. I believe, he was the only non Canadian performer. The next one on stage was Shania Twain but not to sing. She introduced our newest two astronauts.
The opening ceremonies were over and the performances and attention shifted into a more causal audience. At this point tons of people were steaming off the hill and we found space at the Centennial Flame to warm up and dry off. While sitting there we struck up a conversation with Paul Hunter of the CBC. Then he moved along and we continued to enjoy some down time. Then suddenly he was back and asked if I could retell my 1967 centennial story on camera. I told him yes but only if I could put my shoes on first!
So below is the link to the Peter Mansbridge’s last show on CBC (more on that line later). Our interview can be found @ 4:35:41. Special thanks to our friend Brenda for tracking it down for us. The photo of the TV screen, by my young cousin, isn’t particularly flattering but think it’s an optical illusion. We looked ok in real life and but did a decent job of the interview.
I will just digress to say a few things; my mom’s phone starting ringing in small town Sask. In Saskatoon the interview was spotted at my workplace. I had several texts and Facebook messages but all of this was while my phone was starting to present with a bit of moisture so I had no idea the rest of the world knew.
So meanwhile, back in real time for us, we ask Paul Hunter who was going to replace Peter Mansbridge and don’t get an actual answer. Then had a little chat about wanting to watch his last taping of the National the evening before. We found out why it was moved to the roof top and learnt where he was live today.
You can bet your bottom dollar, that as CBC people, our next stop was through the mega wet grass to hang out behind the open tent where we could see Peter’s back and listen to him talk. We were surprised we got as close as we did.
So now the story gets really interesting. There was a 4 person cycling team and so I asked what their story was being the friendly sort that I am.
It was incredibly inspiring both from a physical and a mental point of view. This couple, on bikes, and their support crew had just come from Victoria to Ottawa to raise awareness and funds for PTSD. He’s a veteran himself and has done the battlefields bike tour in Europe and a local Victoria ride that raises money for Honour House. They have had incredible support across the country from the RCMP, local police forces and the military. As well as raising awareness their goal was to raise funds for Honour House and Soldier On. They hoped that Peter would meet them because he’d heard about their story. If you’d like to donate after you read about their story the link is below.
But before Peter was even finished his show we turned around and there were two RCMP officers in red serge. They wanted to get a picture with the cyclists because they had lost a son/brother and felt that this cycling crew were incredibly supportive of life in and out of uniform.
I had a brief discussion with the father and let him know how much, as an average citizen, we appreciated his families commitment and loss. I didn’t go into details but in my job I’ve seen that loss so I let them know that those losses impact all Canadians.
We turned and watched and listened as Peter Mansbridge signed off for the final time. We cheered as part of the crowd which sent a loud thanks Peter. He turned to his crew and his family in what must have been a difficult moment. A private Canadian and yet a public Canadian. He left the tent around back and there was actually a walkway. A few of us brazen enough went down what might actually be not public space and went closer. The cycling couple did indeed get their picture taken with Peter.
We chatted with a couple and their son (both men were engineers) from Acadia. Peter was long gone as we stood and talked. We actually stayed so long that the security guy came to hasten us on our way.
At this point in time its several hours past the wet and soggy scones that we ate for breakfast while standing in line. Sun is out and this seems like a good time to have lunch. I think by unspoken consent at this moment our plan is to spend the entire day. This was when we started to realized that my phone might be poached. During the afternoon speakers and performances we had some relatively quiet time. We pulled up the blanket, so to speak, at a decent spot to see for the evening. Decent sight lines to the screen, Ron could see the stage and we were on the dry pavement.
There was such an influx of people. about 95% of them were wearing Canadian shirts and probably 40% of them had some kind of temporary face paint or a tattoo. I took several pictures, with permission, of the best 4 I saw but alas did not get them up onto Instragram and now they are lost. Some of them were like works of art.
We chatted with our “neighbors”; Bev and Tom from Toronto, Alyssa and Amanda (sisters and one lived in Ottawa) and the Cull family from Vernon. We exchanged Canadiana stories and ate supper side by side. It wasn’t like a potluck though as food seemed a bit scarce all around. By this point I would have sold my shirt for a cookie and Ron his for a beer.
By this point in time the place is gearing up for the big evening show and a rainstorm. Which hit straight on about show time. The official word on the mike was that there were technical issues but the gist of it seemed to be that the stage was wet. But really we were all wet so the performers could have sucked it up.
There should be a picture here of the “Alyssa” rain gear but alas it was too much to ask of our home computer to open the file. I’ve had enough glitches and it’s taken bloody forever to be ready to hit post so I gave up. Imagine that but I did. Alyssa (on the left) showed up with just a plastic bag for her rain gear. Amanda (the younger sister) showed up with a red poncho. The nice Cull family had one extra yellow poncho that they gave to Alyssa so she gave me her head wear! ((I’m still not sure what kind of idiot designs a rain jacket without a hood but I know an idiot that bought a rain jacket without a hood. In my defense I bought it for biking))
Eventually, almost an entire hour late, the show started and it was the cream du le cream of the crop. Over the top and non stop. I’m sure there were glitches and the producer was probably totally stressed but that didn’t detract for the audience. The pushy shovey people were the downside for us. Let’s just say I didn’t always have the best view and I occasionally used my body mass to move people along. Hard to pick a favourite performer or song but Gordon Lighfoot and Dean Brody were highlights for me. For Ron it was the atmosphere and the crowd; such energy and enthusiasm for the event. Who cares what the official states say about it not being filled to capacity – it was amazing.
We had spent considerable time, during the week, scoping out where to watch the fireworks from. The show ran late and the fireworks started almost instantaneously so we just watched them from in front of the Parliament buildings. This means you miss the low ones but it wasn’t like we had an obvious choice. They were quite spectacular despite not being in the best vantage point.
Then it was over and just like that 40,000 departed the grounds. Ron lead, I followed, hanging on to the backpack when necessary so not to become separated. It was pretty calm. We knew right where we were heading to. It was finally time for a drink and so we hit the Highlander Pub. It’s a cool scotch bar that we discovered on our last visit. I had a pint, he had a scotch and we topped up our rather empty stomachs with some spicy wings.
The streets were still alive with partiers when we walked back to our AirBnB. A couple of major party streets had a serious amount of police presence.
Strangely enough, after spending considerable time wet from the rain, we ended the day with hot showers so we could wash our feet and dry off. It was quite a long day but so worth all the standing time. There wasn’t any place we would rather have been.
I told you this is a long story and that you had better settle in. Between the phone, pictures and generalized busyness it is taken me an entire week to blog this. Makes it a rather untimely post but I still will hit publish because it’s a record of an important event in our lives.
Bernie and Ron