KILT SKATE DAY

The Rideau Skateway is suffering another sorry season of poor weather. Skating has only been allowed for a few days and limited to just a short stretch of the old Rideau Canal. Nevertheless, today is the great Kilt Skate day when Scots Canadians gather on a local ice rink here in Ottawa to express pride in their heritage.

 

Great Canadian Kilt Skate

Young Lassie Proudly carries the Cross of St. Andrew

Scots Wha Ha Wi Wallace Bled

Recruitment Kiosk for the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa

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THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN

Today on certain religious calendars is St. Stephen’s day, ie. the day Good King Wencelas and page marched through a snow storm to provide a surprise feast for a lowly peasant. 

ST. STEPHEN’S GATE, TEMPLE MOUNT, JERUSALEM

According to legend, Saint Stephen was the first Christian to have been martyed. He was stoned to death in front of this gate which had been previously known as the Lion’s gate due to the artistic embellishments on both sides of the upper facade around the central arch.

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IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

Christmas Eve  2023

A time for counting one’s blessings and thoughtful reverence  for the true spirit of Christmas.   A time for reflecting on Christmas eves past which in my case go from the sublime to the ridiculous.

First the sublime. Attendance at Christmas evensong in King’s College, Cambridge with choral voices in four part harmony slicing through damp, dense air and resonating off cold stone, penetrating body as well as the soul. Or attending midnight service at Florence Nightingale’s old church  on South Audley, London with a now departed love.  So it is not by accident that I have become a fan of English Christmas chorales of the 18th and 19th centuries. This is music that only a proud, confident culture can produce with even, dare I say, a little swagger.  Something totally missing  in the fractured Anglosphere of today where even agents of the crown can label Christmas to be “discriminatory”.

KING’S COLLEGE UNDER RAINBOW

Now the ridiculous! Never to be forgotten was the  warmth of austere accommodation in Raxual, India one lonely Christmas eve halfway around the world. I had exited the Nepalese Himalaya’s crammed into the back of a dump truck with about 15 other pieces of assorted humanity. Upon crossing the border and  reaching the railway station in Raxual, I had missed the last train and decided to pitch up for the night in the dirt of the railway platform. Fortunately I was spotted by a US Peace Corp worker who offered a basic lentil curry and  accommodation in the darkness (no electricity!) of his humble abode.  I can’t even remember his name but I remain eternally grateful for that act of Christian charity. 

In the past few years the following, “In the Bleak Midwinter”,  has pushed past  my old reliable “Good King Wencelas” to become my favourite Christmas carol.  Made all the more emotionally intense when I learned  that the lyrics, a poem by Christina Rosetti, was set to music by Gustav Holst. Though not born there, Holst chose to live in Thaxted, Essex  after his discovering it on a hike. Hiking in Essex, I know what that’s like! Thaxted was the first English village that I  ever had the opportunity to explore in depth.  My partner in crime was an older English tradesman, Alf, who delighted in showing me the hidden jewels of his rural Essex.  

 

 

Below are some legacy photos of Thaxted that I took that day long, long ago!

THAXTED HIGH STREET BACK IN THE 60s

 

THAXTED GUILDHALL

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL (especially Alf and that generous Peace Corps worker……wherever they may be!!)

 

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PEARL HARBOR ATTACK

Today is the 82 anniversary of the Japanese attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

MEMORIAL TO THE BATTLE SHIP ARIZONA, PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII

 

 

 

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TUNNEL WARFARE

With all the talk in the news of potential tunnel warfare in Gaza, I thought it timely to post a picture of myself in the Cu Chi tunnels during a tour of Vietnam a couple of decades back.

 

These non-fortified tunnels were carved out the earth by the Viet Cong about 30 feet below the surface.  The light you see was from a camera flash otherwise the tunnel was completely black.  As a veteran of several night dives in the Indo-Pacific, I thought I could handle claustrophobia quite well, but I was never so glad to finally crawl to the exit and see daylight again!! Not my kind of warfare!!!

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KIBBUTZ MISGAV AM EVACUATED

Misgav Am, population 385, is the most northern kibbutz in Israel just metres from the Lebanese border. I visited back in 2018. Under threat of rocket and artillery fire, Misgav Am along with 38 other northern kibbutzim has today been ordered evacuated by Israeli authorities as Hezbollah now tries to extend military operations in the current crisis. 

FORTIFIED MISGAV AM OBSERVATION POST 

 

MISGAV AM MAYOR

 

BEING PREPARED

Misgav Am was the victim of a terror attack which resulted in 6 hostages being taken back in 1980. Thanks to the intervention of IDF forces, 5 of the hostages were liberated but  unfortunately 4 Israelis were killed. 

VIEW INTO NEIGBOURING LEBANESE VILLAGE FROM MISGAV AM

AMANDA HEAD, HOSTESS OF REAL AMERICA’S VOICE “JUST THE NEWS”

Fellow tour member Amanda Head poses at Misgav Am lookout above Israeli vineyards below the Golan Heights.  You can check Amanda out every weekday  evening live at 6 pm (EST) on the program “Just the News, Not Noise” which she cohosts on the website below.

https://americasvoice.news/

Or by past installments on this website.

https://justthenews.com/tv-shows/just-news

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HELL BREAKS LOOSE IN ISRAEL

On the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war, Hamas has struck a massive and highly coordinated attack on its Israeli neighbour.  1,400 Israeli civilians have been killed and over a hundred hostages taken back to Gaza. This horrific event carried out against many innocent Israeli civilians brings back memories of my visit to the area of the attacks several years ago.

MAP OF GAZA BORDER

Much of the attack and violent fighting was centered on the southern Israeli town of Sderot (top right), just kilometres from the Gaza border.

MAYOR’S BRIEFING

Our tour group received a briefing from the mayor of Sderot. The briefing was given in a indoor children’s playground, hardened against air attack.  His first question to us was, “What are you doing here? This is a war zone!”  How prescient!  Sderot is just a few kilometres from some of the worst atrocities commited aganist the now infamous rave festival and other outlying kibbutzim (Nir Am and Kfar Aza) near the Gaza border. 

HARDENED INDOOR SDEROT PLAYGROUND 

CLIMBING WALL

The climbing wall shown here is of limited height to allow instructors to pluck children off the wall and into hardened bunkers within seconds in the event of an attack.

SDEROT FORTIFIED BUS SHELTER

ROCKET SHELTER  NEAR BUS STAND

RESIDENTIAL BOMB SHELTER

Because of their proximity to the Gaza border, families have but seconds to  gather children into the safety of hardened shelters.

“CANADA HOUSE”,  SDEROT COMMUNITY CENTRE

Nir Am is a kibbutz on the outskirts of Sderot. At the sound of gunfire, a local heroine alertly opened the local armoury and distributed weapons to a few brave colleagues. They set impromptu ambushes and took out 25 assaillants with no losses thus saving their kibbutz.  Unfortunately, the kibbutz of Kfar Aza, a mere 6 kms away, did not fare as well as it was the scene of the worst of the massacres with 40 babies slaughtered.

ISRAELI “IRON DOME” BATTERY

Built to defend against conventional rocket attacks from Gaza, the Iron Dome seems to have been rendered technologically useless by multiple attacks from such simple platforms as hang gliders and slow moving drones dropping munitions on the vulnerable  tops of tanks much as the Ukranians have deployed against the Russians. On goes the endless military cycle of challenge and response that has flowed down through the ages even in to our modern era. 

Terror and violence, much like rust, never sleeps. Pray for peace.

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RED MORPH SCREECH OWL

 

 

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BRETHERN IN CHRIST

The BIC was founded by my 6th great uncle, the Reverend Martin Beam back in Pennsylvania in the 1770s. The Reverend Otterbein heard him speak and rushed forward to clasp him in greeting, saying “We are Brethern,……. Brethern in Christ!”. Their church continues to this day.  

 

BRETHREN IN CHRIST CEMETERY, RIDGEVILLE, ONTARIO

Their abhorrence towards oaths other than to God and their refusal to bear arms, led to a flood of  BIC members to Upper Canada during the American revolution. The Reverend Martin Beam’s brother, Jacob, my 8th great grandfather, became a good friend of Governor Simcoe and the first alderman for the village of Chippawa, Ontario. The connection of the church with its antecedent in Pennsylvania continues to this day. 

LAKE ERIE  BIC BAPTISM, LOWBANKS, ONTARIO

Like much in the Anabaptist tradition, the BIC believes in full body baptism. Adults only. Here members of the Wainfleet, Ontario BIC patiently await their turn for spiritual confirmation.  

Despite their conviction to traditional values, the Canadian branch was not immune to the modern precepts of wokeism which came about the day before yesterday. It is now known as “Be in Christ”. Too much toxic masculinity or something. 

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SQUILAX GENERAL STORE AND HOSTEL

Alas, the old Squilax General Store and Hostel is no more. It succumbed to the recent wildfires in the Shuswap area of  British Columbia. Glad I shot it when I did just a few years ago.

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