2013 Great Lakes International Airshow

Since there aren’t many airshows happening in the depths of winter, of late I’ve found myself continually revisiting photographs and memories from airshows past! Although I really miss summer, the season of airshows, it’s fun to look back at great airshows past and to eagerly anticipate the coming airshow season!

One of the best airshows I’ve been to was the 2013 Great Lakes International Airshow at St. Thomas Municipal Airport. St. Thomas is an old railway hub and is also my home town; and though it only has a small airport and a population of around 30,000, the biannual airshow is always fantastic!

St. Thomas Municipal Airport is situated a few minutes outside the city, amidst fields of crops and popular greenhouses. It’s a pretty setting, reminiscent of the old airfield at Duxford, Oxfordshire– and the flat terrain is perfect for watching an airshow! I attended the 2013 show with my dad and brother, and we watched from a nearby clearing outside of the airport grounds in order to avoid the crowds. Our vantage point was surrounded by a few annoying trees, and we couldn’t see any of the performers’ takeoff runs, but it did turn out to be the best spot we could have possibly picked!

Snowbird Ground GLIAS 2013

A field of something in front of a Snowbird (CT-114 Tutor) preparing for the show

The Snowbirds aerobatic team began the show, which was a bit unusual. I’m used to seeing them more towards the end of an airshow! But they put on a very nice performance; perhaps the best I’ve ever seen from them. There was some cloud cover, but we still had a wonderful view of their manoeuvres, and they performed all around and overhead which was so exciting!

Snowbirds GLIAS 2013

A beautiful sweeping manoeuvre by four Snowbirds

Snowbirds GLIAS 2013 Formation

The Snowbirds are renowned worldwide for their formation flying

Snowbirds GLIAS 2013

Precision and guts are crucial to displays like the Snowbirds’!

Snowbirds GLIAS 2013

A good view of a Snowbird’s distinctive underbelly colouring

Next out, as the sun began to show itself, were the Harvards! A favourite of mine since childhood, the Harvards always impress me.

Harvards Formation GLIAS 2013

The four sunny-yellow Harvards glinting in the sun

Harvard GLIAS 2013

A Harvard coming in for landing. All the airplanes came right past us as they were on approach

Another favourite aircraft present was the C-130 Hercules. A mainstay of the Royal Canadian Air Force for the past 60 years, this enormous plane is used for transporting troops and supplies to even poorly-appointed airfields. Four turboprops power this 38-ton aircraft, which continues to feature strongly in Canada’s military operations.

Herc GLIAS 2013

Very occasionally, a Hercules flies over my house… a real treat!

Herc GLIAS 2013

Hardly the definition of aviation elegance, but I love this aircraft

Following the large and lumbering Hercules, we watched a BAC Strikemaster dance through the air. Used as a trainer and attack aircraft, the Strikemaster is no longer extensively operated, but it has enjoyed some popularity with private owners.

Strikemaster GLIAS 2013

One Rolls-Royce turbojet is enough to provide this small plane with admirable performance

A highlight of the 2013 show was the appearance of a beautifully restored, bare-metal finish B-17. An American icon, the B-17 Flying Fortress was a heavy bomber lauded for its ability to take heavy damage and remain flying. This particular B-17, named Sentimental Journey, served in the Pacific Theatre and was also involved in post-war nuclear tests.

B-17 GLIAS 2013

I’d been really excited to see the B-17!

B-17 Low GLIAS 2013

This was a truly gorgeous plane, and we got some incredible views of it

I hardly thought the show could get better after seeing the B-17… but it could, and it did!! After a few moments of silence, we heard a roar from the direction of the airport. Although we couldn’t see anything, we knew that it could only be one thing- the CF-18 Hornet, Canada’s current fighter jet! Sure enough, it soon zipped past us with a graceful fury that was breathtaking.

Hornet GLIAS 2013

The CF-18 has excellent controllability, even at the high angle of attack demonstrated here

There’s something so amazing about jet-powered aircraft, in particular. The power they possess is insane, and they just amaze me. Even though they lack the history and nostalgia of WWII-era piston-driven aircraft, for example, they have an appeal uniquely their own. I always look forward to the CF-18’s appearance at every airshow!

Hornet GLIAS 2013

I love the vapour coming off the wings’ trailing edges in this photo

Hornet GLIAS 2013

Every year the CF-18 demo team flies a new paint scheme. 2013’s was a nice one, with a prominent maple leaf on the tail

It was during the CF-18’s demonstration that we realized what an exceptional vantage point we had. It’s customary to see a High Alpha pass, several near-vertical climbs, and a gear-down pass from the CF-18 in its performance. The manoeuvre I like the best, however, is the high-speed pass. I imagine the demo pilot must feel the same way- because this is when he gets to roar past the crowd at a speed just barely under Mach 1!

At this airshow, although I was anticipating it, I was hardly ready for the high-speed pass. The CF-18 neared us at an exceptionally low altitude, and before I could believe what was happening, it was directly overhead! The noise was immense, and I was totally shocked by how fast and low it had gone! Fortunately, I’ve overcome the fear of loud noises that plagued me as a child; so I was able to (just) get a photo of the pass instead of covering my ears!

Hornet Low Pass GLIAS 2013

I still marvel at this pass. It was unbelievable

Needless to say, we were very glad that we’d stayed away from the airshow grounds! I’m not sure the lady sitting beside us was so thrilled, however- she made an awful fuss about how loud the Hornet had been.

Hornet GLIAS 2013

 

The Hornet is an ungainly creature with its gears down!

“Stellar” and “exceptional” hardly describe this airshow appropriately! It was just wonderful, and writing about it on this dark December day might have given me just enough satisfaction to hold out until July, when airshows will be held again!

Christmas Across the Iron Curtain: A Short Story

I paced automatically, like I had a thousand times before, at my post along the Berlin Wall. Tonight I was at ‘Checkpoint Charlie’, as the Americans called it– well, we Soviets didn’t follow suit on their capitalist nicknames. Our respective cultures had many differences, and neither was interested in the customs or ideas of the other.

I sighed, with my AK-47 clutched loosely in my hands. You could say that I was a little absent-minded, but I was so well-trained and diligent that I could be combat-ready in a second if I had to be. Yes, there was always a chance that some lunatic would try to make a dash to the American side, but we had legions of soldiers who would put a quick end to that. Not many things flourish under a hail of rounds from a dozen AKs.

Before long, I ceased thinking about rogue East German citizens; I was preoccupied thinking of my family in Sverdlovsk, because it was Christmastime, and I hadn’t seen them since being sent to East Berlin four weeks ago. They’d be excited by now, but were no doubt missing me. My parents would probably be sitting around the kitchen table, singing wartime songs and drinking vodka. They both fought in the Great Patriotic War, and loved any excuse to recall their war days serving our great Soviet Union. Natalya, my lovely wife, would be cooking, as she often was. Probably borscht and kulebiaka and porridge, and fruit jellies and tea cookies for afterwards.

But the most excited in the household would be our son, Tolya. Little Tolya was a perpetually enthusiastic three-year-old, and celebrations of any kind delighted him. I could picture him running about our communal flat, cheeks red and eyes bright from an afternoon in the snow, eagerly anticipating the Christmas meal. Tonight was Christmas Eve, and although I wouldn’t get home for another two weeks, Tolya would be given a gift from me tonight. A Christmas gift. It was a pair of ice skates I’d bought months earlier, wanting my son to have a pastime like hockey was for me. I already knew he’d love them– I only wished I could watch him discover them for the first time.

Reaching the edge of my sector, I turned around and paced back the other way. With a glance across death strip- the section of unoccupied land between East and West Germany- I saw that the Western side of Berlin was quiet and nearly deserted, beneath a sky full of stars and shining snowflakes. It was quite beautiful, except for the numerous American flags. The Americans and the West had already had their Christmas; we’d all heard them celebrating. I guess that our Christmases both had the same origin, but I didn’t think much about that. Not many Soviets did.

Natalya, on the other hand, always remembered the meaning of Christmas and celebrated it. I did admire her for it, and I’d certainly been brought up the same way, but it seemed that I usually had other things on my mind. Soldiering is a stressful job, and I continually thought of my family because I was continually away from them.

Suddenly, my comrade Dima Komarov cried out, his urgent tone snapping me to attention. “Comrade Lieutenant! Eight o’clock, in the snow! There’s something there!”

“What is it?” I took up a position by the Wall, my right pointer finger already hovering over the safety of my AK. The Kalash¹ felt strangely light in my hands– like it was eager for some work. Peering through the barbed wire, I observed a thin, dark shape bounding towards us through death strip. “Hold your fire,” I ordered- Komarov was my subordinate. “It’s not a human, that’s certain.”

I sure hoped it wasn’t a human… because it had four legs, floppy ears, and a tail. Despite my order, I tightened my grip on my Kalash and watched the ambiguous figure through the red dot sight.

“Comrade Lieutenant, it’s a dog.”

“Is it wearing a vest?” My first fear was that it might be a bomb-dog. Our nation had used such dogs in the Great Patriotic War². They hadn’t worked very well for us against German panzers, but against my men, they would be a serious threat.

“Not that I can see,” Komarov answered. “But there’s something in its mouth.”

We both watched as the dog travelled the last 20 yards to the Wall and stopped, dropping whatever was in its jaws.

“What’s it doing here?” Frowned Komarov.

I suppressed a snort, waving five more of my men over. “Use your imagination! Some American probably sent it as a prank. Either a soldier, or some pacifist. But stand back, we’d better expect the worst.”

“Which is…?”

“A bomb,” I replied. My tone was strangely unconcerned for such an alarming possibility. “Or maybe the dog’s aggressive.”

But the dog certainly didn’t look aggressive. I peered at it over the Wall, and watched it snuffle nonchalantly in the snow and then sit down. I was torn; my gut was telling me to let the dog in, but the consequences would be catastrophic if I was wrong. And it was Christmas– criminals and terrorists often capitalized on distracting times like this. I was responsible for guarding this checkpoint, and protecting my men…

“Open the gate,” I said, almost against my will. Even in the dark, I could feel six pairs of incredulous eyes staring at me. “I don’t believe this dog is a threat.”

“Comrade Lieutenant, is this proper protocol?!” Asked Turgenev, one of my more assertive subordinates. “Isn’t our job to shoot first and ask later?”

“Don’t be so violent,” I said, moving down towards the gate. “It’s just a dog. Open the gate and be ready to restrain the animal.”

“We should shoot it!” Turgenev cried. “It could even be spying on us this very moment!”

“It’s a dog! Have a little faith!” I found myself saying- maybe Natalya’s beliefs were rubbing off on me. “It’s Christmas, and Westerners aren’t all spies and war-mongers, anyway! Now get yourself over here and help open this door!”

My anger silenced Turgenev, and he and the others jumped to obey me. As they cranked open the heavy gate, I whispered instructions to Komarov, and he and I stood back, our AKs trained on the opening. With a tense creaking noise, it opened and the mysterious dog bounded in. I saw that it was an Alsatian type, and I immediately felt wary. Its eyes were wide and looked almost crazed as they caught the light, and for a moment I thought I would be forced to open fire. But then the dog dropped its package at my feet and cocked its head at me, wagging its tail.

“Komarov, retrieve the package,” I said cautiously, not taking my aim off of the canine.

“An envelope, Comrade Lieutenant,” Komarov remarked, holding it by one corner.

“Open it.” I was still eyeing the dog, which likewise was still gazing curiously up at me. “And Turgenev, close the gate.” As these orders were carried out, I stared hard at my adversary. The dog seemed quite friendly and happy, but I didn’t like to let my guard down.

“There’s a letter inside,” Komarov said, glancing at me hesitantly.

“Read it aloud,” I instructed. “Everyone else, I want you all pacing the Wall. If this is meant to be a diversion, we must be sure we’re not distracted by it!”

Komarov cleared his throat, and the dog’s pointy ears perked up. As soon as Komarov began to read, however, the dog lay down and set its head atop its snow-covered paws.

” ‘Greetings, Soviet soldiers and citizens,’ “ Komarov read. ” ‘And Merry Christmas! I write to you on the occasion of your Christmas, although mine is already past. The purpose of this letter is to tell you that I don’t think you’re my enemy; and that with a little understanding, a lot of people back in the States would share my views. I don’t see how we’re so different, anyway.

Take Christmas, for example. I know that some of you celebrate it, and I think you’ll agree that both of our cultures were built on the same Christian foundation. A foundation of peace and compassion and goodwill. That’s the spirit in which I write to you. We can’t ignore the fact that there is some tension between our governments, but let’s keep that tension there and not let it to extend to us. I hope you haven’t shot my dog–  I had hoped you would send him back over the Wall to me! The dog’s name is Bruce, and don’t be afraid of his appearance. He’s a friendly one.

And please pardon my Russian. I composed this letter with the help of a dictionary and a nowhere-near-fluent friend! Best wishes in this New Year of 1985, and have a Merry Christmas! I pray that it will give you all the joy and contentment it’s given me. May God bless you!

Yours sincerely,                                                                    

Lieutenant John Connolly

95th Military Police Battalion in West Berlin, formerly of St. Louis, Missouri.’ “

Folding up the letter, Komarov threw it on the ground with a laugh. “What do you think of that, Comrade Lieutenant?”

“Don’t mock it,” I said quickly, picking the letter up and brushing it free of snow. I examined it closely, and it seemed believable. Its tone was sincere, and the Russian was indeed poor. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would send this as a prank, seeing as it was not (as of yet) a diversion for an escape attempt or anything like that. Turning all this over in my mind, I glanced at Komarov’s skeptical face and eventually replied, “I think there’s a very well-meaning man in the 95th Military Police Battalion on the other side of this Wall.”

“It’s not a joke?”

“No, I don’t think so.” I squatted down and stared at Bruce. The dog stared back for a minute, then whined and nudged the letter in my hand. “Well, Comrade Private, I’ll deal with this. You go back to your post and resume your duties. Tell me immediately if you see anything else strange.”

Giving a slight nod, Komarov trudged back to the Wall, and I unfolded the letter to read it again. My eyes lingered on the part that talked about Christmas, and I must have read it four times over. What this American felt was right; but I only then realized it. We were very much the same, and especially at this time of year our priorities must be similar. Suddenly, I thought about where I was- Germany- and remembered how Soviet troops had come to be here. We came here after the Great Patriotic War, after four years of fighting the same enemy the Americans had fought.

And I felt very ashamed as I stood there in the snow; for despite our common interests and origins, we weren’t so close anymore. We’d convinced ourselves that the other was wrong and not to be trusted. The whole situation just seemed ludicrous, that we had let ourselves become so distant. Maybe we deserved to be at war again, for being so prejudiced and untrusting!

“Bruce,” I murmured, folding up the letter and looking down at the dog. He cocked his head- tail wagging- no doubt recognizing his name. Almost against my better judgment, I reached out and itched behind his ears. He gave a funny little huff and was obviously enjoying himself, so I knelt down beside him, to think. I was frustrated but a funny state of blissful shock overcame my frustration. Despite our world’s divided mindset, I was pleased to know that not everyone subscribed to the common view. And I didn’t want any part of it… no one seemed to have differences greater than us and the Americans, but surely we could work through them instead of highlighting them!

“Come, Bruce,” I said, getting an idea. I got up and hurried over to my checkpoint booth to find a pen and paper; Bruce following me cheerfully. Then, because I was still on duty, I took up a sheltered position at the Wall, readied my Kalash, and began to write. My newfound friend lay down at my feet, his head on his paws and nose in the snow. Using the Wall- the very thing that divided the world- as an easel, I penned a reply to this American lieutenant, thanking him for his kind thoughts and echoing his sentiments. I also felt obliged to inform him of my comrades’ reaction to his letter.

‘This Christmas, let’s hope and pray that we will make the peace that Christmas is supposed to bring. We may be minorities in our own countries and we are certainly shackled by our duty and the ideas of our nations, but we can let our ideas influence the people we meet. As soldiers, we represent our countries. So let us represent them as we hope them to be in the future. Best wishes this Christmas to you, Bruce, and your family. Not to worry, I found your Russian intelligible! And I love your dog.

Sincerely,

Lieutenant Vasily Ruslanovich Svyatovsky

157th Border Troop Regiment in East Berlin

Sverdlovsk, RSFSR.’

I had to take my gloves off in order to hold the pen and my fingers became numb in the cold, but I didn’t mind at all. I was happy to be writing this letter, and to have a new view of all the problems facing me.

“Ready for another journey, Bruce?” I murmured, patting the Alsatian’s fuzzy head. “I have a letter for you to deliver.” Stuffing my letter into the original envelope and jamming my bright red fingers back into my gloves, I peered anxiously to the West. I didn’t want to think about it, but Bruce would be fortunate if he survived a second traverse of death strip. Especially since now he was coming from the Soviet side, where all the defection attempts come from. I got up and went to the gate, Bruce still right at my heels, and heaved it open with a great effort.

“Here you are, my funny friend.” Giving Bruce the envelope, I smiled and loosened my grip on my AK. “Take it home.” The obedient dog readily took the envelope and, with a muffled woof, turned and ran into the swirling darkness of death strip. I stood at the gate and watched him bound through the falling snowflakes, and I felt very calm and thoughtful. Once I saw him leap over the concrete median on the American side, I was satisfied and shut the gate.

Striding back to my post, I pondered all that I’d come to realize. And I thought about Christmas– it seemed to me that God’s gift had been sent for all of us, no matter where we were from or on which side of the Iron Curtain we lived. It was universal, and it united us all. Then, I remembered the church in Sverdlovsk, not far from my flat. Natalya was always begging me to go to a service with her and Tolya. And now I knew that I would; I wanted to be a part of something so powerful and inspiring as what I had just witnessed.

Laughing a little, I began my pacing once again, and grinned with newfound peace up at the shimmering snowflakes. I thought of Bruce and Lieutenant John Connolly, and of my dear family; and then I said a prayer, truly appreciating Christmas for the very first time.

——————————————————————————-

¹ Kalash: nickname given to the AK-47 assault rifle

²Great Patriotic War: term used in Russia to refer to the 1941-1945 conflict between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany

This story is dedicated to all Soviet, East German, and West German border guards who were stationed at the Berlin Wall; and also to every individual who died trying to cross it. May this story remind us of them, and of the peace and understanding that we must maintain in order to never come to such things again.

 

 

The Day That Paused a War

The infamous Christmas truce of 1914 was the first thing I ever knew about World War I. I don’t know if I learned of it in school or merely conversation; but I was six or seven years old and even at that age the story deeply moved me. I remember my mother told me how on one cold Christmas Day, the trenches went quiet and the sweet sound of carols replaced the cracks of gunfire. Hundreds of men from both sides left their positions to meet in No Man’s Land, and as they exchanged gifts and talked to one another, they spent Christmas in peace and brotherhood; as humans are meant to do.

I always thought it was strange that, in the middle of a war, they would stop fighting and talk to each other. But as I grew older and thought about it more, I realized that it did make sense. This Christmas truce, although short-lived, was earnest and beautiful and not a fluke. Yes, these men were enemies, or at least their respective states were. But, whether because of a recognition of brotherhood, discontentment at their lot, or a yearning for peace, Englishmen, Germans, Austrians, Frenchmen, and Russians laid down their guns and took up gifts and footballs instead.

Christmas Truce

German and British troops mingle in No Man’s Land in December 1914. Image from Imperial War Museum, #HU35801. Attributed to Drummond

Now, at 20 years old and having learned much more about the world and this subject in particular, I believe that the Christmas truce of WWI demonstrates something intrinsic to the human soul. Although the truce was only a spark- extinguished after a few days by a blanket of artillery shells and mustard gas- that spark came from the compassion and unity that humans can feel and propagate. I don’t believe that the truce was entirely spontaneous or irrational. The soldiers involved had been in those hellish trenches for awhile by December, and had seen and dealt much killing. They must have been getting weary, and perhaps some wondered why they were really there in the first place. So when the sacred day of Christmas came along, with all its symbols of love, harmony, and peace, they were ready to be done with war- even for only a few hours.

1914 has now been gone for a century, and the Christmas truce could easily be viewed as a quaint, chivalrous ritual from an era long since dead. But human nature doesn’t change, and since the truce stemmed from its participants’ compassion and humanity, I believe the spirit of December 25, 1914 can still live today. One facet of human nature, unfortunately, is war. We have waged war on each other for thousands of years, and we aren’t slowing down. But equally, we humans possess understanding and goodwill. We also possess the responsibility to choose which part of our nature we will live by.

Today in 2014, there are countless conflicts and disagreements in every corner of the globe. There are the obvious ones, such as the conflict between Hamas and Israel and the trouble between Russia and the West. There are also smaller ones, like border disputes which sometimes come to blows between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Argentina’s ire at Britain regarding the Falkland Islands. Sometimes countries just don’t like one another, and sometimes that’s for good reason. But every single human lives in the world, not just a country, and we’re all more similar than it might be convenient to admit.

I do believe that some wars are both just and necessary- but only when one or both sides are unwilling to concede anything and is bent on causing destruction and injustice on the other. World War II would be a good example; after all, Hitler was never going to give up his conquest for an Aryan empire until it was realized, and he was unwilling to negotiate in any way. Had the Allies not taken up arms, then Europe and perhaps more of the world would have been completely devoid of not only certain races, but of freedom itself. That said, I’m not sure all of today’s conflicts meet these criteria. Maybe, if we could remember the spirit of the Christmas truce one hundred years ago, some disagreements and even deaths could be averted.

Even in a world that grows increasingly complex and cynical every day, I don’t think I’m naive; only hopeful. The human race has proved many times throughout history what it is capable of, both good and bad. Someday I hope for a world where peace and unity prevail, rather than the animosity and suspicion which we currently cling to all too often. And I do believe we can realize that world, even if it may seem as distant as the Christmas truce of 1914. We, as citizens of the world and members of one human race, need to decide what we really want to pursue. We can either continue punishing one another and growing farther and farther apart, or try to realize that we are all human and we all make mistakes. A discussion of human nature might seem simplistic when related to international affairs, but remember that a mere human runs every country, corporation, and organization in the world.

Christmas Truce Reenactors

Descendants of Great War soldiers reenact the momentous Christmas truce in the 21st century. Image from flickr via Wikimedia Commons, http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/sets/72157607059019882/detail/. Attributed to Alan Cleaver

Sometimes there is no bargaining with a person or a state. There comes a time when it is too late to avert war. And all parties involved need to make a commitment in order to create any kind of harmony, lasting or otherwise. It would have been a very different story from the fields of Belgium if one side had taken the other’s laxness as an opportunity to gain some ground. But in 1914, both sides acknowledged their similarities and stepped out to celebrate them. Why don’t we do the same today?

Of course, Christmas is the optimal time to share this story. But kindness, compassion, and harmony can and should be spread any day of the year! Perhaps something like Christmas is necessary to remind us that we don’t have to remain shackled to the detrimental suspicions and attitudes of previous generations. 1914’s Christmas truce was a long time ago, but we can use it even today to influence our outlook and actions. The world is changing, so let’s make it a change for the best.

Christmas Truce Memorial

A memorial to the Christmas truce. Image from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Redvers

A Cosy Christmas

The appeal of rich, earthy colours, cosy textures, and a nostalgic feel can’t be overestimated when dressing in the colder months. Saturated tones like oxblood and olive green bring warmth to the sterile white that seems emblazoned on one’s mind in the winter, and knits and woolly textures are like wrapping oneself in a blanket- without the dubious style of that option! And adding a touch of the vintage or nostalgic to one’s outfit brings warmth to one’s heart, which is perfectly in keeping with the spirit of Christmas.A Cosy Christmas
This charmingly unpretentious holiday look fulfills all three of these categories! Muted red, cream, and olive colours are festive but won’t make one look like a candy cane, and touches of rich brown leather add a comfortable, homely feel. Oxford shoes, simple jewellery, and a pussy bow blouse are appropriate for the ’40s and contribute to this look’s sense of nostalgia. The carpetbag suggests a weekend away, perhaps with one’s extended family- surely a tradition for many families at Christmastime. The level of sophistication is upped slightly with the addition of gold nail polish; but all in all, this ensemble remains one of unadorned, welcoming charm.

A True Story of Christmas

Some of the world’s most moving stories are those based on true events; real stories re-imagined in ways that celebrate our humanity, acknowledge our losses, and educate through our failings. This past Thursday night, I was fortunate enough to experience such a story at the debut performance of “The Child”. A musical production staged by my friend’s church, “The Child” was an original story inspired by the World War I Christmas truce and created entirely by members of the church. Because of the wonderfully relevant subject matter of the musical, I was really looking forward to attending. I’m sure the 1914 Christmas truce is on a lot of people’s minds this holiday season, and it has certainly been on mine.

"The Child" ticket

My ticket and program for the evening’s show

 

Although there was an appalling snowstorm on Thursday, I managed to make it to the church, and it was lovely to see that the weather hadn’t discouraged too many other attendees. I settled into my seat with excitement, but I was uncertain of what to expect- I must say that I expected a great performance, but one without a lot of sophistication. Given that it was staged by volunteers and not by some fancy theatre company, it seemed reasonable to do so!

But as soon as the actors of the first scene appeared, my surprise surfaced and only grew as the show went on. It was incredibly well done; and everything from the costumes to the music was amazing. The women in the cast were outfitted in a fantastic range of Mary Poppins-esque outfits; wearing button-up boots, elaborate hats, and elegant skirt-and-blouse combinations. The men were just as well-dressed, wearing classic outfits of tweed and pinstripes with scarves and newsboy caps.

The music was also brilliant- and again, composed by a member of the church. Amazing! Every song was so catchy and I found myself wanting to sing along, even though I’m really not prone to such inclinations! The songs ranged from a rousing number sung by the women of the cast as they took up new roles once the men had left for Europe, to a deeply moving cry to heaven by a soldier upon the first blood of war. I love music, and this music was so memorable that it left a mark on my heart.

As for the cast, they were wonderful. They were adept with the musical aspect and appeared as seasoned professionals, even though I know that one in particular (in a prominent role) had never done anything like this before. Each character was distinct, idiosyncratic, and lovable in their own way; and these characters got me invested in the plot.

The fantastic music, atmospheric costumes, and talented cast and organizers all contributed to one crucial part of “The Child”: the beautiful story. I can’t describe it with any word other than “beautiful”. There were moments that were emotional, humorous, and even frightening- but the overall story was truly heart-warming, and exactly the kind of thing one needs to experience at Christmastime.

As the title would suggest, this show centred around a child; or rather, two different children. One was Jesus- after all, this was a Christmas story. The other was the child of a young Irish Catholic woman and a Scottish Presbyterian, who married in secret. The Irish girl’s father was a proud Irishman; staunchly anti-Scot, he opposed the marriage, and much of the plot focused on her and her new husband’s struggle with her unreasonable and immovable father. The Christian faith was integral to the story; all the main characters belonged to one denomination or another, and on the Western Front, this had an effect on the soldiers just in time for Christmas and the famous Christmas truce.

German soldiers initiated the truce by processing down the aisles to the stage- a nice touch which really brought the audience into the moment. They were singing “Silent Night” in German and carried a tiny evergreen tree with them, and it was incredibly moving to see the Canadians’ initial suspicion and hesitation melt away with the warmth of friendship. Another poignant moment came when the Germans and Canadians posed for a group photo- immediately mirrored by an authentic 1914 photo of the same event projected on either side of the stage. That moment made it very real for me. It was beautiful.

"The Child" Program

Detail of “The Child”‘s program

The joy of Christmas- and the peace and reconciliation brought by this ancient gift- brought these soldiers together; and back in Halifax, the birth of another child brought more reconciliation. Upon the birth of his daughter’s firstborn, the stubborn old Irishman gave up his stubbornness, and made peace with her and her husband.

It really was a lovely story, and a wonderful evening. I loved everything about it! The kind of peaceful contentment I got from watching “The Child” isn’t found often; but it stems from Christmas’s true foundation and the unimaginable love surrounding it. I’m so glad my friend invited me to this show- I think that it and it alone has already made this Christmas one to remember.

 

True Glamour

An outfit with polish is impossible for me to resist. I think it’s always appropriate to be dressed up; in fact, I find days when I wear a slogan t-shirt and ugly jeans to be quite depressing, even if all I’m doing is sitting around at home! Sweatpants are made for working out, and in all other situations I avoid them like the plague. As well, I always wear earrings to the hockey rink- I take them off before I go on the ice, of course, but I feel that if I’m going to be seen by anyone then I should look at least slightly polished! That said, I never have anywhere to wear an outfit like this one. Here’s hoping that someday that will change!True Glamour
True Glamour by adairjacobs on Polyvore
This outfit is built on an irresistible foundation of vintage glamour. The black Lanvin dress has a faintly ’40s silhouette, which is accentuated by the fur shawl and vintage sapphire jewellery. Red lipstick and shimmering champagne-hued nail polish add to the appropriately fancy feel of this holiday look, and a deep blue clutch adds drama and draws attention to the sapphires in the jewellery. Finally, gold peep-toe heels are classic and stylish; and will keep the wearer semi-warm even when tiptoeing through frost and snow!

Christmas is Coming…

Christmas is a season of tradition- truly delightful for a traditionalist like me! Like surely most families, my family has many Christmastime rituals and traditions; which we look forward to and relish every year. The first of these traditions is our tree-decorating party, which occurs on the Sunday closest to December 10. Once the tree is up, Christmas has truly begun!

Christmas Magazines

Inspiration for our Christmas decor comes from the nostalgic charm of England

Christmas Mess

Preparing for the next day’s decorating party

The starting point for all of our Christmas parties is appropriate music- without it, it’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit. I love the classics like Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, because they evoke childhood memories and all the delight of the season.

Christmas CDs

Some more of my favourite music- Coldplay’s Viva La Vida is included because it was a gift to my brother on one especially lovely Christmas, and it conjures up happy memories of that year

Christmas CD Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli’s collection of Christmas tunes is wonderful

Every year, my family purchases a real Christmas tree. It is an extra expense and it takes extra work- but we spent several Christmases in an apartment with an artificial tree, and have no desire to revisit those days! It really wouldn’t be Christmas without having to sweep up needles, trying to remember to water the tree, and the smell of pine throughout the entire house!

Christmas Tree Before

This year’s tree, before the ornaments are on

Our annual tree-decorating party is always a delightful affair, full of hors d’oeuvres and eggnog and fun! While the trays of hors d’oeuvres were baking (thank goodness for ready-made dishes on days like this!), I set about decorating the mantelpiece.

Mantel 2

I’m so grateful to have a mantelpiece to decorate at Christmastime!

Mantel 3

Charming strands of lights mixed with greenery create a warm atmosphere

Mantel 4

I chose gold as the mantelpiece’s primary colour, since it is a classic holiday tone that contrasts beautifully with the blues of the coastal painting

Finally, it was time for hors d’oeuvres! We had mini beef Wellingtons, mozzarella sticks, jalapeno bites, and an assortment of cheese hors d’oeuvres. Champagne and eggnog were our beverages- the champagne being leftover from my book launch celebrations!

Christmas Champagne

Champagne- such a classic

Christmas Food

Delicious hors d’oeuvres give us all the energy we need for our tree-decorating festivities

Trawling through our huge collection of Christmas ornaments- accumulated over many years- we began to decorate the tree. There’s never enough room for all our ornaments on the tree! I think we’d need a 15-foot tree in the hall of a country house to fit everything on…

Reindeer Ornament

A part of my collection of reindeer ornaments

Our sweet-tempered dog Crumpet, who is always eager to be a part of the family activities, supervised the decorating. He also tried to help himself to some of the buffet- see what I mean about “eager”?

Crumpet with Wreath

Crumpet in a festive mood

Crumpet on Table

Cheeky…

Once the tree was done and the hors d’oeuvres had settled, it was time for dessert. I enjoyed a mince tart and revelled in the results of our efforts!

Mince Tart

Mince tarts are essential. They are my absolute favourite Christmas treat, and they remind me so much of England

Christmas Tree After

The radiant finished tree

Now that the tree is up, I’ve caught the Christmas bug! With mince tarts, sparkling lights, and a gorgeous tree in the house, the anticipation is high. Christmas is such a lovely time of year, and I’m looking forward to all the rest of the wonderful traditions it brings!