Exit through the gift shop and a brief jaunt into Quebec

After spending the miserable, rainy morning catching up on writing and e-mails, I was ready, on my last day in Ottawa, to have a final exploration. From research, and the still mixed weather forecast, it made sense to head to the Canadian Art Gallery. It was a short walk away from my very centrally located accommodation.

The Guaguin exhibition was not open until May 24th: I just missed that, so purchased a general admission ticket: which at $14 was unbelievable value. The first problem was to know where to start; deciding on the Canadian and Indigenous Art Gallery as the most appropriate.

It was a fascinating journey through time and place, best recorded in the following images of some of my favourite exhibits.

Taking us back to Montreal, in 1790’s this picture of Beaubien by François Beaucourt captures the essence of the bourgeois elite. The subject is seated at the gaming table and with a confident smile towards us, he lays down an Ace of hearts next to a pile of gold coins.

Two details taken from the large painting by Legare. The setting of night time, with the inclusion of great detail, skillfully captures the horror and devastation that the plague caused.

Portrait of a nun,  seated with the back light emphasizing the black veil in contrast to the white wimple.

I loved the quietness and innocent beauty of this portrait of Sister Saint-Alphonse.(Antoine Plamondon) The clever use of light in the background emphasises the contrast of the black veil and the immaculate white wimple. The viewer is caused to linger aand absorb her inner depth of peace and spirituality.

Both these paintings are by Cornelius Krieghoff illustrating his use of his native Dutch style. Even though they have the same style and attention to detail in colour and texture, I love that they show the artists ability to capture changing moods and subject matter. First, pause in front of the storm, and feel the wind blowing through the pines, whistling down river and pulling us towards the river tumbling over the rocks in white topped foam. Then, watch the horses strong, confident gait as they pull their load, finally, to the shelter of the Inn. They have served their master well, and deserve the rub down, food and evenings rest they know will be their reward.

All these show the intricate designs of glass bead work on fabric. The moccasin in black is striking in itS floral pattern and intricate bead work. They all reminded me of works I had seen in the textile museum in Toronto.

Another work by Antoine Plamondon. This is just a detail of the flautist’s eyes and mouth because I admired the skill in giving enough detail to show the perfect position of the lips and the concentration and thoughtfulness in the upwardly looking eyes. The master works at painting a master at work.

Homer Watson 1901

The Flood Gate

Both the subject matter and the style reminded me of Gainsborough and Constable.

It took me a long time to work round that section of just this gallery, and I was aware of time passing quickly with much more to see. I was also in need of some refreshment, so headed for a the Second Cup: indulging in a large Earl Grey Latte.

Image shows a china cup of Earl Grey Latte tea.
Always a favourite, Earl Grey Latte. A large cup serves well as a nourishing snack.

Wanting a contrast of styles, I tried the contemporary gallery for the last hour. Obviously a complete change, with much to challenge and consider. A few of my favourites follow.

Danie Mellor

Maba-I-Bala Rugu (of power in Darkness)

This work records the presence of indigenous peoples within the imperialist landscape. The details of star’s and celestial bodies, reference the stories from indigenous perspective.

Kelly Mark: REM 2007

This one was particularly interesting as the artist is from Welland, close to Port Colborne where I lived when in Canada.

It is also an incredible work.

The captions are my estimates of the years represented. What do you think?

Watching the film a little in each room was also fascinating; a trip down memory lane watching familiar scenes, characters and clips from films and TV shows, unfold in a new drama.

As a former teacher it was interesting to catch glimpses of school student’s reactions as they stormed through the gallery…

Particularly this work

Chloe Wise 1990

Olive Garden of Eden.

A satirical view of our modern Western habits of consumption and branding based on desire.

As I was contemplating this work I witnessed a teacher expertly guide her no nonsense, “this isn’t art” students into helping them find the skill in the exquisitely formed pieces, the pattern of randomised placement, and find an interpretation for themselves. So, is it art?

Olive Garden of Eden – detail.

So much more to observe, admire and ponder but it was almost closing time. Shall we exit through the gift shop?

Tourism and promotion at its best but who can resist? I bought books for the grandchildren, and resisted buying anything for myself mainly due to limited luggage space. I have all my photographs and most precious memories; more valuable than any trinket.

Out into the real world, and a fresh rainfall enticed me to take advantage of all the beautiful parks and green areas Ottawa provides. Tulip time!

Sights and sounds of Ottawa in the spring.

Just enjoying the views, and the fresh air and exploring I chose the long way home: via the Alexander Bridge, a short walk in Quebec and back across the Portage bridge to the now familiar Wellington Road. A perfect ending to Ottawa adventure in the art of man, and the creation of God.

And now my story is done. Taking over a week to process the images, complete the writing and work between other activities and family duties has given me a taste of the writing life for real. Thank you for being patient. Most of all, huge thanks for your support, likes and comments.

Now, for these last few days in Toronto, before I return to England, I will be concentrating on gathering more material, having mother-daughter time and last minute business. I may not have much chance to post but you can always follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

May is ending, June bursts forth. Happy Summer.


Rainy followed by bright intervals

Heavy rain throughout the night and morning escalated this previous tiny trickle to a fast flowing cascade.

Crystal clear life giving stream

Why didn’t I taste it?

The inclement weather kept me indoors for much of the day. When I did venture out it was not much of a day for photography, however, retreating from Mount Royal, I looked up and managed to capture this view of the cross shrouded in low cloud. Atmospheric.

At most, ferrical

After exploring the artisan stores along St Denis it was getting towards supper time a good opportunity to experience some local quisine. I chanced upon this vegetarian/vegan cafe, with just the right amount of quirkiness; I ventured in.

Quaint, quirky and quintessential Quebec.

Not surprisingly they were quite busy but they seated me in a cosy corner and gave me the menu, filling up the glass of water. Such a nice touch.

The menu was full of choice, and of course no need for me to ask lots of questions, as everything was vegetarian. After considering carefully, I chose a pear, onion and cheese sandwich with salad. Then an almond milk chai latte to follow. Good choice? What’s your opinion?

I stated that I enjoyed the ambience. As I was eating, I was aware of two women enjoying a game of Scrabble. I asked if I could take a photo, they were a little shy, but they didn’t mind me showing the gameboard. I was intrigued that they were playing mainly in English: one of them was from England, learning French and her partner was French, practicing her English. I knew Scrabble was a good way to learn!


Nourished by the food and the company, I meandered a way back to the hotel, capturing these lovely examples of street art and street furniture typical of Montreal.

My short stay in Montreal was rapidly coming to a close. The adventures keep coming…stay connected!


Day one: Mount Royal challenge

This was my holiday break within my Canada visit. My family duties were changing as they managed the new routine of work, school, day-care and weekends. Time for me to adventure into pastures new whilst in my beloved country.

After the day of travelling, and wanting some time to adjust I had mentally thought to just relax, spend time in the hotel, enjoy some me time and catch up on writing and correspondence. However, after days of wishing that spring would come more than one day at a time, yesterday dawned as such a day. Far too nice to spend indoors. So, aimed with snacks, reading and phone I chose to explore the immediate area, which just happens to be Mount Royal. I did sit and read for a little while, but then itchy feet wanted to explore and shake off the uncertainties of yesterday’s realisation that this is a different Canada a different culture and the realities of yes, a different language and all that goes with that.

Who can resist the call of green spaces, trails through woodland, a spot of climbing and the promise of views, history unfolding and stories of man made monuments? Not me that’s for sure.

Upwards in more ways than one I took on what was to become an uplifting experience. With each step I became quieter in spirit and began to enjoy the familiarity of walking in nature. This was the rooting and grounding I needed. Gradually I became more confident to acknowledge and enjoy the people sharing the paths with me. I realised that these paths were everyday routes to work, school or just daily forms of exercise.

I easily slipped back into Sue mode and enjoyed noticing people. People going about their everyday business, riding, walking, jogging or running the paths. People with families enjoying time together on a beautiful spring day.

There was a man with his two children, sitting on some rocks at the top of a steep path down, absorbed in his books and papers, whilst his children played, regardless of the danger. To them there was no danger in the familiarity of a favourite place.

There was the young artist, seated with his inks and paper, working on interpreting the scene in front of him, noticing the play of light and shadow, the movement of leaves in the breeze and the powerful stillness of the surrounding height.

There was the man, seated on a bench, in quiet meditation and thought. To him Mount Royal was home and had the sanctity of refuge and familiarity.

There was the dog trotting along obediently behind his master; ignoring the urge to go and follow enticing smells and calls from the underground in favour of walking in faithful communion with his charge.
There was the family with the young baby, whimpering her protest at being carried along in the warm sun, uncomfortable in over protective clothing and bored with this activity.
Here was a youngster, who seemed happily detached from his family, playing happily in the dusty soil, because of the inquisitive nature that drives to understand why making tunnels in the dirt with your head feels so good.

Arriving finally at the destination for today, the Mount Royal chateau, I entered the coolness of the building to have my breath taken away by the open space splendour.


This was the summit for today. I knew there was so much more for me to enjoy, more secrets to uncover, more lessons to be learned. But I had reached the pinnacle for this occasion. The majesty of the building and the glory of that space fulfilled my sense of longing and adventure for this day, but the promise of more to come gladdened my spirit. However there was just one more beautiful surprise awaiting me….

I chose not to linger at the observation point, which was now quite noisy and busy. My eye was caught by the sight of a lone figure, standing to one side, just her and her camera. Intrigued I walked over slowly and quietly, pausing to ensure I did not disturb her ,’prey’.

Readers that know me will wonder at the discovery I made, that this was what was being filmed so avidly. Down in the wooded undergrowth this little fellow was happily showing off his true colours. Thanks to the wonders of close up photography, at least as much as my Huawei P20 will allow, I am not as close to him as it appears, otherwise, my unexplainable fear of birds would have prohibited the quick shots I did manage before making my retreat.

Now it was time to descend back to the hustle of practical life. But not without making this promise/challenge to myself. That I would explore Mount Royal every day of my stay here. Partly for physical exercise as recent injuries have meant I cannot do my usual exercise routine, but mainly as an exercise in creativity, spiritual and mental stimulation.

Mount Royal: challenge accepted!

Mount Royal challenge.

Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of Sue v Mount Royal

To words unknown

This is kind of an experiment which was fun to do.

I don’t know if it works or not.

You decide.

Out of my mind

I asked the vendor if I could live here.
This wordy paradise.
Yet not just words; pictures, art and culture
burst forth in linear structures reaching from floor to ceiling.
All the wisdom and knowledge I could possibly absorb was here.
First the random choice, because where do you begin?

Alpha: Aristotle, Aesop and Agatha are
Bold against the beauty of Browning and Brooks.
Chaucer lieth cornered with Caspar and Chocolat
Delights with Duffy, but is deadened by diplomotology.
Eureka enlightenment in Foreign folk tales
Gathers ghostlike in Hobbits dim hollows.
In medias Res find Ibsen with Ice Cube
Jauntily juxtaposes Kierkegaard and Lowry’s
Matchstick mementos of Northern histories
Orwellian portents parallel Queen’s rich Rhapsody
Stirring my soul to the ‘nth degree
Upwards I look now for Verdi and Wagner
Welcoming Xanadu, Zero and finally,

I think I need to work on the rhythm in some places, but for now here it is.

One to grow on,


Word of Mouth: Multicultural London English

Whilst travelling yesterday I happened to catch this interesting programme on Radio 4.

It captured my attention having experienced this whilst teaching both adults and teenagers from varied backgrounds.

I would love to hear your comments.  Lets connect and start conversations about your native language and experiences.


Atishoo, Atishoo

Yesterday I sneezed, several times.

In the absence of anyone around to ‘bless me’  I zoomed myself into the future of Gnomon and asked Alexa for a blessing.

“Fetch recipes will allow me to cook up a storm so  what did I fancy cooking?” Was the ‘paraphrased’response.

Blessing and recipe do not really sound similar I thought, so  in the interest of “educating Alexa” I tried “Gesundheit”.

“said after someone has sneezed.” she helpfully informed me.

I remained unblessed.  But how did this tradition start and where does it come from?

It is likely a pagan tradition from the thinking that sneezing releases an evil spirit your body was harbouring, and blessing you will restore you back in favour with God.

If you want a longer diatribe about the tradition try this…


In England I think it is perhaps slowly dying out, but among my generation and depending on the area you live, maybe; “bless you”, or even, “God bless you” is still spoken after  someone sneezes.

I still say it.  I make a point of saying it, even if the person is not of my acquaintance.  Why? Because it is a way of connecting with others.  It’s a blessing or kind thought, or interaction showing that we are all connected in some way.  It’s that acknowledgement of you as a person, sharing my space, sharing my world; yes, even sharing germs perhaps.  Whilst I don’t really want to catch whatever you are spreading by the sneeze, it is saying that I am willing to take that risk by being out here.  I am not cocooning myself indoors, or wearing a mask, but am willing to interact with people because we are human and contact with others is necessary for survival.

It is a way of saying, I value you as a person and I’m glad that you are here with me for this brief moment.  I don’t know what you are experiencing.  You might be joyful, you might be sad, you might be facing hardship and difficulties I cannot begin to understand; however you sneezed and thereby showed a weakness of the body and I will support you with a blessing.

Sylvia Villapando, in her book, “The Power of the Spoken Blessing”: writes

“There are many ways to bless someone; however,
the most affirming are those blessings that come in
words: words that affirm and approve; words that
commend and compliment; words that specifically speak
love and affection; words that invoke hope and self actualisation.”


And so for you, dear readers of my ramblings, I give you this blessing for today

May your spirit rise and the words of your heart glow with understanding

May your joys be many and your difficulties be met with bravery

May you be provided for and eat bread and drink in good company

May you live in peace and harmony this day and rest safely this night.

May your dreams be sweet and dedicated to those who love you 

Bless you.


Over to you: share your blessings either of your traditions and culture or of your own in the comments box below.  Only Connect.







10 things to do at the bus stop

As a grandmother doing the ‘looking after grandson’ thing one of my delights is escorting him to the bus stop every school day.  Today’s post is a list of activities we have collected to do as we wait for the bus.

  1. Be physically active.  Sometimes it’s cold waiting for the bus so to stay warm we invent running, jumping, hopping exercises.
  2. After a week-end of snow and ice; test the slipperiness of the top snow by jumping up and down: comes with a health warning, not advisable standing at the top of a short slope.
  3. Look for worms.  Especially effective in wetter weather, but when warm and dry you can rescue the worm by guiding it to a more comfortable worm hole in the grass.
  4. Listen to the sounds around you: cars, people, birds singing, radios, sirens. Are they happy sounds, peaceful sounds, “stressy” sounds.
  5. Look for interesting rocks.  The best ones are conglomerates such as flints that have interesting shapes, patterns and textures.
  6. On sunny days play shadow games; our favourite is two- becomes-one with more hands and legs doing funny dances and poses.
  7. Have interesting conversations about life, learning and different cultures.
  8. Splash in puddles, or after a frost touch the top layer of ice on a puddle to watch the water swirl and move underneath the ice.
  9. Sometimes it’s just nice to stand quiet in your own thoughts and ‘people watch’.
  10. Count cars: choose a colour count how many cars of that colour go past.


Lessons Learned

  1. He is young; I am older.
  2. Make sure your coat covers your butt otherwise you get wet….
  3. Grandma will tell you to be sure to wash your hands as soon as you get to school – even if you were wearing gloves.
  4. To be thankful we can hear all the different sounds.
  5. Even ‘man made’ rocks in a driveway can have unusual features and be interesting.
  6. Our favourite, but some people may think you’re a bit weird.
  7. Eight year old’s can have thought provoking philosophies and ideas.
  8. Only advisable when wearing boots.
  9. People are interesting, most everyone will respond to a greeting or a smile.
  10. There are more black cars than red ratio 17:3
  11. The bus comes quite quickly when you do fun things
  12. Always tell each other to have a good day and ‘I love you’.


The problem

dead wood

If I was “Ted” this is what I would say…

Why I am passionate about functional skills..

A class full of adults: some there because they want to be and are eager to learn, some there out of curiosity, some there because it’s better than the mind numbing alternative to ‘labour’, some there because they have learned that it is easier to ‘play the game’ or for other reward.

How do I entice them all?  Functional skills (hitherto referred to as f.s.) can appeal because it is practical.  Most can find something that they can use in their every day life, work life or if nothing else as a stepping stone to further education.  Need to write a formal letter or cover letter to land you that good job?  “Yes we can!” (quote Bob the builder)  Want to be able to read that small print, or that legal document, or flat pack instructions?  “Yes!”   Can I deliver that quick, concise pitch?  “Of course!”

And there’s more, f.s. is about problem solving, knowing how to methodically recognise, understand, apply skills and solve everyday situations.  Use these questions:

What is the problem?

What do I already know?

What do I need to find out?

What tools do I need?

How much time do I have?

Each problem will probably involve the old fashioned Reading wRiting and aRithmetic.  And for good measure and modern times use I.T. as a tool.

It is what it says on the ‘can’ Functional.

Hooked?  Go ahead and write an e-mail to agree with me, persuade me that you are the perfect student and possess the best qualifications for taking the course, and calculate how many weeks it will take to complete the 72 hour course if you have four 3 hour sessions per week.  Then book your exams using the on line booking form.

“Simples!”  Oh and while you are here you might also like to list four layout features that assisted you to read this text; correct any grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, (yes, even teacher’s make mistakes) and analyse the language techniques I have used.


Functional skills has a great, big, fat flaw.  It has not taken into consideration changing skills required in industry and life in general.

Soft skills are more important than hard skills during the job hunt where EQ – emotional intelligence – is valued more by employers than IQ. When it comes down to searching for a job and workplace success, your attitude and personality traits take a central role because this defines the kind of relationship you are going to have with other people whether it is your next employer, colleagues, manager or clients.

Now top ten lists include,

integrity, flexibility, independence, diversity and awareness of culture,  confidence, self awareness and creativity.

As a teacher holding classes in an environment devoid of colour, music, poetry, and beauty I yearn to fill my classroom with such things, rather than the many posters of  ‘instructions, how to do….; current success rates and “your learning journey”.  I want to celebrate success by displaying the poems they write, the funny cartoons they draw and the doodles that fill their exercise books.  I want to play music that makes them laugh, cry and sit up and listen and talk.  I want to throw a party every time a skill is displayed, a target crossed off and an exam successfully completed.  I want to fill my classroom with colour, shapes, abstracts and solids.  I want to read Shakespeare, Dickens, Stephen King, Dr Suess, Michael Morporgu, Asterix and Tolkein.   I want to watch Charlie Chaplin, Sean Connery, Meryl Streep, BBC news, even the weather forecast.  I want to learn about their world as well as share items that influenced me.

In truth I want to prepare them for the new world, the developing world, their world of  new marketing, new branding, new consumer/provider relationships.  I want to help them find themselves and know themselves, so that they can enter that world in confidence, style and flair and be comfortable in their own abilities and personalities.

To me that is true functionality


This blog is dedicated to a colleague who challenges my teaching and is convinced I need to TED talk!  Thanks M.B.