Birthday in Montréal

This birthday celebration for me was somewhat different.  It started out academic, moved to a typical tourist bus tour, a walk through some different places in the evening and I finished up watching a fashion show.

Montréal is unique.  A French speaking city in the Province of Quebec with English and then Arabic the second and third languages.  Yiddish was the third language here in the early half of the previous century and there is still a strong Jewish community…just try the bagels.

I will keep the academic discourse to another time and place.  Suffice to say that my study tour of North America and especially here at the Concordia University has been worthwhile, informative and so helpful.  It will mean that I’ll have work ahead of me when I return to UniSA and write up the reports, give briefings and presentations.  However, the work has only just begun.  So why am I here?  That will all come out in the wash over the coming weeks and months.  Back to my birthday with a difference.

Around one in the afternoon I booked one of those hop-on-hop-off bus tours that permeate many cities.  I have found them great for getting a bit of as spiel about the place and great for orientation as well.  Had my train trip not been delayed, I’d have done this on Sunday.  Yet, it was a nice way to spend a couple of hours on my birthday.  Montréal is not only different to the rest of Canada, it sees itself as different too.  It is a nation within a nation, well the Province is.

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Street posters highlighting that Quebec is different

The weather was cool, but at least it wasn’t raining.  Some of the city is still without electricity following a tornado-like storm yesterday.  While Canada is celebrating 150 years of formation, Montréal is celebrating 375 years…it was first settled by the French in 1642.

After the bus tour I went underground.  I don’t have any statistics for this city under the city, but it is huge.  At least three levels before you get to the underground transit system and interconnects a significant section of the city.  In the winter, when it is minus 10, 20 or more (not temperatures that I ever want to experience) many almost live underground.  It is possible, if you live in a city apartment, to leave your home, travel to work, go out for lunch, return to the office, do your shopping on the way home and cook your dinner and not step outside.  No wonder the people here embrace the summer and weather where you can be outside, daytime or at night.  I managed a little shopping.

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I walked the streets back to my hotel and. Had a short rest before heading out around 6.30pm.  During the bus tour we were driven through ‘The Village’ and the Latin Quarter, so I headed off to explore them on foot.  On my travels I found the local fire station and I couldn’t help myself I had to have a look and chat with the Firies.  It is a world-wide club.  Before I got to the Latin Quarter I stumbled across a free concert in one of the squares.  The music was upbeat and if I was x-years younger then … maybe?  I enjoyed watching.

The Latin Quarter was packed with people, and cafes, bars and restaurants spilled in to the streets.  There was hardly an empty table and at some venues people lined up waiting.  Talk about pressure on having a quiet relaxing dinner when you have hungry hoards staring at every mouthful you take.  Don’t order another wine or beer.

I was starting to feel hungry but decided to walk on to ‘The Village”.  Not sure if this name came from the The Village People (YMCA fame) or not.  However, it is the gay centre of Montréal.  The people here have embraced diversity, religions, races and are passionate about politics.  On a Wednesday evening the area was busy but quiet.  No doubt after the Gay Parade here on Sunday the place would have been jumping.  I was not looking for a big meal and most of the places were either offering fast-food or big meals.  I kept walking.

I wandered another couple kilometers back along Rue Sainte-Catherine to the mall area.  For the past few days Festival Mode & Design ‘pop-up’ fashion orientated booths, displays and activities were taking place.  Most of it was in French so I didn’t fully understand the context.  One of the failings of Australian education, well in my day, it was only bi-lingual if you were in the top stream of classes.  I never made that level at high school.

I found a nice Asian restaurant and had won-ton soup with ‘shrimp’ and dumplings with a pale ale.  No candles, it would have necessitated the Firies being called out to douse the flames.  The area was alive.  People.  Activities. Light shows. Live music. The star-struck wannabes lining up for that perfect make over and advice on making it it in fashion, makeup, clothing design, sales…

A crowd was gathering so I wandered along as well.  It was a fashion show that lasted for forty-five minutes.  This was a first for me.  I have never taken much notice of fashion or cat-walk modeling in the past.  This was an interesting experience.  The show was a performance of entertainment, fashion, live music, multi-media digital displays and surprisingly for me, enjoyment.  A bank of paparazzi were position at the end of the catwalk where every garment draped model posed to be photographed.  This was a not only a display of fashion, but a celebration embracing the history and diverse culture of Montréal.

Why do models pout and look unhappy?  The only time there was animation on their faces was in the finale.  However, I was entertained.  Not only by the rather good looking models, but the supporting performances by kids, a Bagpipe player, jazz trumpeter (I loved that) and themed cultural and history covering all the religions and some local sporting heroes. What also caught my eye was the range of models.  Naturally there were the perfect male and female bodies, showed off to perfection.  In addition there were plus sizes, the average (not so perfect) shapes, short, tall, young and old, anorexic as well, different races, black, North American Indian, Asian, Middle eastern (including Muslim) and French/English influences as well.

The crowd was entertained, appreciative and supportive.  There was not one inappropriate outburst by anyone.  The crowd walked away happy and I wandered back to my hotel, reflecting on a different and interesting birthday.

I’m embracing the French/Montréal style.  I wrote this sitting outside in a cafe called Brasseurs, just off Rue Sainte-Catherine, drinking short black coffee and surrounded by people speaking in French, English, Italian, and Yiddish. It is 1230 Thursday 24, August here, and I will post this later tonight, or in the morning.

Four days in Winnipeg

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Snow indicator with a fire hydrant

Winnipeg is a relaxing and enjoyable city. It is slightly bigger than my hometown of Adelaide (Australia), friendly, and warm in August. Well it is summer here and in winter they measure the snow-fall in metres and the temperature in minus degrees. The fire hydrants in the street have orange coloured indicator poles attached to them so the firies can find them in winter. Not a place I’d enjoy with that level of cold. The Canadians I have met here have been surprised that I have never seen it snow. I have seen and been in snow, but never falling from the sky.

For the tourist there are interesting things to see and do. I mentioned the Walking Trail, called the Loop in an earlier post. It took me a few hours over two days to complete the walk as there are so many interesting stop-offs on the way. The walk along the banks of the Red River and a stroll around The Forks historic site were relaxing and I got a feel for the history of the place, going back to the First Nations. If you are the more adventurous type of traveller there are canoeing, horse riding and bike riding options as well. Remember they drive on the right hand side of the road here.

Along many of the avenues there are pop-up food and drink outlets. These mobile cafes seem to work without any conflict with the bricks and mortar establishments. The range of food is interesting, from the typical hot dog and hamburger to Mexican, Vietnamese, Chinese, Greek and Italian fare. Tasty too. I guess these are not businesses that flourish in winter though.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a must for any visitor here. I spent about four hours there and I still haven’t been able to Blog about it how I want. I certainly will not do it justice. May be some contemplation on the train east over the next two days will help.

Signs and Street Art

One of my quirks (not twerks) is noticing some of the advertising hoardings and signs. It is not for the advertised product, but more for the play on words, incorrect spelling or the just plain odd. Similarly I have come to enjoy the vibrancy, colours and artistic skills in some (painted) street art as well. I hate graffiti that is just mindless vandalism. The following images have been taken in Berkeley, California and Winnipeg, Manitoba during the past ten days. [double click on any image and you can scroll through them and read the captions]

 

 

Telegraph Avenue

While I am not a big one on street markets, they can be interesting. My experiences have been that they start early to catch the breakfast crowd and wrap up mid afternoon. Here they were setting up around 11.30am and not trading until around lunchtime.

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Both sides of the avenue had tables set up; mainly selling jewelry, pipes, mystical charms and other dust collectors. 

Bert was an interesting character. I’ll call him Bert as he was somewhat secretive about his details, but I still managed to glean a modicum of his story. He sells marijuana–well he makes the pipes to smoke the weed, but he has been a partaker of the product for some time. There were a couple of street stands where homemade pipes were being sold. Smoking of marijuana in California is legal, if done for recreational purposes, at home. Although by the aroma that rule didn’t seem to bother Bert all that much.

This bushy bearded character is of indeterminable age. However, after seeing my Nikon camera Bert stated: ‘I had one of the early F 1 models, got it when I was in my 20s, brand new it was. Wish I still had it, but can’t get film now-a-days.’ Given the F1s came out in the late 50s or early 60s that would make Bert somewhere north of 70.

He has been a street vendor for 47 years and came to San Francisco in ’74. ‘I was down south of here before then.’ He claimed he ‘got out’ before drifting to California. He didn’t elaborate on that, so whether he had military service, wanted to escape his past, or was serving time, is pure speculation.

Like many in the art of street selling, Bert loved to chat and went to great pains to tell me about his knowledge of Australia and New Zealand. He claimed to get the Paua seashells sent to him from a contact in Auckland and he makes the bowl of the ‘pipe’ by setting the Paua shell in a wooden stem. One special creation was a contraption with a brass framed magnifying glass built-in to it and using the sun Bert lit up a: ‘bit of special baccy just to demonstrate that it works,’ said with a wry smile as he sniffed the offending smoke.

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Line for popular restaurants is common

Being in walking distance from the university campus there is a profusion of eating places.  I’ll be wandering out shortly (again) to try a different cuisine tonight–possibly Korean.  Some of the eateries are so popular that people, (mainly students) queue for ages.  The staff hand out menus to those inline so that their selections are made by the time they hit the counter.

 

The PhD journey – life over 3,399 days

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On March 29th, 2017 I was awarded my Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of South

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Dr David Sweet with my ‘mate’ and special associate supervisor, Dr Nigel Starck.

Australia at the Graduating Ceremony.  The official conferral was in October 2016.  This higher degree research journey had numerous twists and turns, became frustrating, a joy (often in a few hours of each other), was challenging and above all I learnt so much.  I completed the PhD part-time, which prolonged the agony and the pleasure.  Probably the biggest learning curve has been accepting how little I know.  However, that understanding only opens up the options for further challenges in the realm of research.  Following are some of the (edited) highlights and challenges of my epic journey.

The journey

  • 3,399 days from start to completion
  • Started as a two volume Professional Doctorate
  • 83+ versions written
  • Wrote 230,000 words
  • Final version as a PhD is 109,728 words (inc footnotes and Reference List)
  • 52 people interviewed
  • 57 photographs used
  • 798 references
  • 230 other books devoured
  • Thesis examined by one Australian and one Canadian academic

Allied activities

  • 47 sessions with a PhD reading group
  • 6 papers accepted and published
  • 28 presentations delivered
  • 5 international conferences attended and papers presented
  • 182 books added to my own library
  • 2 bureaucratic challenges with the University
  • only spat the dummy a few times

Teaching

  • 11 undergraduate Courses/Subjects taught
  • 5 Post Grad subjects taught
  • 1 honours supervised student to completion
  • 1 honours student advised to reconsider
  • 7 years teaching off-shore
  • 11 teaching trips to Hong Kong and Singapore
  • Mentored 7 students (2 international)

The Family

  • 2 more grandchildren – 5 in total
  • 4 weddings (3 as the photographer)
  • 2 – 90th birthdays celebrated
  • 1 Golden wedding anniversary celebrated (not mine)
  • 4 deaths, my 2 sisters, 1 brother-in-law, 1 19 year-old nephew
  • 5 hospital admissions for me
  • 10 days in ICU at Modbury hospital
  • 2010 – 7.5 hours of micro-surgery for cancer on my face
  • many other highs and lows of life as well
  • Produced 5 photo-books
  • Completed 10.5 hours of oral history interviews in addition to my PhD interviews

There is life after a PhD

  • Traded a caravan, purchased a Motor Home
  • Reduced teaching to 2-3 subjects
  • Working on 5 research projects
  • Research-Study tour to Berkeley (California), Concordia and Western Universities (Canada) is set for August 2017.

115 years have passed

Today, November 1, 2016, is the first Tuesday in November and the nation (Australia) stops for a horse race – The Melbourne Cup.  I have absolutely no interest in horse racing, yet it has been with me all my life.  My attitude to this ‘sport’ is a fool and his/her money are soon parted.  More on that later.

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Harold Revenue Sweet, greengrocer. Taken before 1939, probably in the inner south-east suburbs of Adelaide

My father was born on November 5, 1901, in Broken Hill, NSW, Guy Fawkes Day and the first Tuesday in November.  It was Melbourne Cup Day.  His name; Harold Revenue Sweet.  The horse that won The Cup in 1901 was called, wait for it, Revenue.  Yes, my father was named after a horse.  So the first week in November was a celebration in our home.  Thankfully I was born in August and this family tradition didn’t continue, otherwise I would have some wierd and unpronounceable middle name.

Growing up as a kid in suburban Adelaide and having a father whose birthday was on Guy Fawkes, or cracker night was a treat.  There were family and friends visiting, tables of food and good times.  The couple of weeks before ‘the night’ the kids in the neighbourhood would collect old lumber, tyres, anything that would burn to build a bonfire.  Between us we would scavenge around to get old clothes, stuff them with straw, paper and grass to build a ‘guy’ to place on top of the pile of rubbish waiting to be burnt.  There was not one environmental thought amongst us.

I still have a nostalgic feeling this time of the year.  Fireworks can be dangerous – no they are dangerous – and how we were allowed to do what we did I am still surprised.  None of our mob ever got injured by the crackers, but may children did.  Then there were the fires.  Cracker night was the busiest night of the year for the (then) SA Fire Brigade.  Decades later, as a fire fighter, I came to appreciate the problems unsupervised fireworks can cause.  Yet we kids set-off ‘penny bangers’ and ‘thrippeny bombs’ under tin cans, in letter boxes and storm water drains – anywhere it would look and sound spectacular.  It was fun.

It was Dad’s birthday and Melbourne Cup Day in 1957 and I remember asking my father why we didn’t put money on the horses and win more back, like one of our neighbours did regularly for the Friday night ‘trots’ and Saturday ‘gallopers’.  Often one of my boyhood friends would be excited over a win of a couple of pounds from a bet, more so if his father gave him a few bob from the winnings to spend on lollies.  At that young age I hadn’t compared homes and lifestyles in the neighbourhood.  My father, who had come home from work early, took me for a walk.  He pointed out the horse gambling neighbour’s home and then we walked in to Fisher Street, Myrtle Bank and he showed me a home there.  I knew it quite well.  I would walk past it twice day going to and from the Glen Osmond Primary School.  The home was two-story, huge grounds, lawn tennis court, a swimming pool (unherad of in the ’50s) and they had numerous cars.  One was a Studibaker.  Dad asked me which I preferred, the horse betting neighbour’s poorly kept bungalow, or the mansion owned by the ‘bookie’.  I can still remember his words, ‘they only tell you about their wins, never how much they lose.’ Lesson learnt – I have never bet on a horse race.

I struggle to visualise my father’s life as a teenager 100 years ago.  At fifteen he was working full-time having only gone to Unley High School for one or two years.  The photograph above is the only one I have of Harold Revenue Sweet working, then as a home delivery greengrocer.  Recently I ‘discovered’ more than four-hundred family photographs that I knew existed, but thought had been lost.  What stories they generate – now to capture the narratives before they are lost forever.

Pearl Denton’s 21st

I visited my mother’s 21st birthday celebrations last night, or in the vernacular of the 1920s, ‘her coming of age party’. While researching something quite different I stumbled across two newspaper reports of Miss Pearl Denton’s – my mother’s maiden name – celebrations.

Such were the cultural formalities in Adelaide in 1925 that the celebration could not be held before her actual birthday and since her birthday (September 20th) fell on a Sunday that year, it was improper to celebrate on the day of worship. So the party was held on Monday September 21st at the Parkside Masonic Hall.

Over the years and some four decades later my mother would occasionally talk of her twenty-first birthday party. According to the short newspaper reports, in the Adelaide Register and the Mail, games were played amongst the guests. This confirms my mother’s stories of playing: pass the balloon, musical chairs, mystery package, and surprisingly (for me) indoor bowls, played on coconut matting. While the newspaper reports mentioned dancing, apparently this scandalous activity was condoned however there were strict guidelines on what was permitted between any non-married couples.

The Mail (newspaper) listed the names of sixty-one guests, the hosts, Mr and Mrs R. L. Pearce (my mother’s older sister and her husband) and my future father, H. R. Sweet was one of those present. Reading through the list of attendees, I can recognise a few names of aunties and uncles, and quite a number of family friends, or those whose names were part of the dinner-table conversations over the years.

The supper tables were laden with food and decorated with Iceland Poppies, according to the newspaper reports. Fifty-years after this event my mother was still growing poppies. I remember, as a child, our home being decorated with these flowers each spring. My mother would lightly burn the base of the stems and blanched them with boiling water so that the displays lasted longer.

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Undated, possibly 1926 and may have been at the Oakbank Easter Races.  My mother is at the front looking back at the camera.  Her elder sister, Myrtle and her husband, Bob Pearce, are seated at the rear left of the photograph.  Their daughter is on the right of her father.  It is also possible my father, Harold Sweet took the photograph.

Whether my parents were betrothed (engaged) for my mother’s 21st, I have no record of that. They were married eighteen months later in April 1927. Similarly, I have little in the way of stories from either of my parents about how they met, what they did for entertainment, or their ‘courting’ days. Both my elder sisters are also dead so I cannot chat with them as to what they may have been told either.  If there are any photographs of the 21st celebrations, or of my mother from that era,  I have yet to discover them.  The photograph (above) is one of the few showing my mother with her elder sister and brother-in-law, who were the hosts of her ‘coming of age party’.

This is a continuing regret, for me, and a gap in my history of the family.  Each of us should look too these narratives and photographs as an important legacy for future generations.  I found it serendipitous that this inadvertent discovery of two small newspaper articles published ninty-one years ago caused me to reflect and remember a little more of my mother.  Our way of life, our means of enjoying, our family celebrations and our entertainment are different now.  I have not written this to compare and claim one period of time is better than another.  They are unique.  Yet each should be celebrated, remembered and passed on as an important legacy of our family history.

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