Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Montreal: Victoria Hall

Certainly, for me the HIGH POINT of my Canadian tour was
the reception arranged by the City of Westmount (Mayor
Peter Trent) and organiser Virginia Elliot for the launch of
The Deserter in the imposing Victoria Hall.

How well I remember
the St. Andrews balls I attended here back
in the time of the debutante in the 40s. This vast auditorium with its
vaulted ceiling opened its arms to its Westmount son, returning
with a new line of books -- well, what more could an author ask for!

Apparently, my talk was enjoyed by all.

And so many came: film distributor Andrew Noble and his producer wife,
Anne-Marie, who both worked worked on The Dance Goes On just after
they'd graduated in film from Loyola University, the great filmmaker
and editor Yurij Luhovy with his daughter, Adriana, a filmmaker herself now...

...my co-grandfather Patrick Stoker and his wife Josephine...

...abd Nathalie Petrowski, a screenwriter and top
francophone journalist on La Presse.

Many told me how they loved seeing their old friends, for Virginia
had gathered many of the filmmakers and people I knew when
I lived on Chesterfield Avenue, and later atop Montreal Mountain
many years ago. So many came. What a moving, wonderful experience!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

7Up Possibly most important TV film ever made

Thanks to the generosity and hard work of Matthew Hays, who teaches film
and journalism at Concordia University and is one of Montreal's finest journalists,
Seven Up was screened at the Cinema du Parc on Park Avenue.

Roland Smith, who used to run the Verdi Cinema in the good old days,
rescued this cinema just three years ago. Here I sat through
a screening of the original version of 7Up, the way I created it in 1964.

The cinema was very nicely filled thanks to the superb writing skills
of Billie Brownstein, and the high esteem in which the Gazette holds him,
placing his article on me on the front page of the Arts Section of the Gazette,
on Wednesday morning. I was amazed and delighted to see so many braving
the rain to come and see this documentary which had never before been
screened in Montreal. I was so pleased to greet my old friend the
distinguished actor Gilles Pelletier and his wife Francoise,,,

...and my former assistant Charles Faubert who now
helps run a big internet company.

I myself had not seen it in its original state since I left England
almost fifty years ago. What an emotional screening!
I couldn't stop the tears filling my eyes as I was back again
with those little lads and lasses — some of whom seemed at the time,
erroneously, to have had so little chance in life. But as the series,
(continued by Michael Apted) shows, the human spirit is indomitable
and helps one survive against all odds. But of course at that screening,
I wasn't thinking about the future, I was only immersed in the lives of
those wonderful children whom I chose for the documentary.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Undiscovered glories of a small town.
Well, there is no more attractive town than Sackville!
How we love it! Here is its Town Hall and some typical houses.

Ellen Pickle (the owner) welcomed me at this bookstore,
which is well known throughout the region, and...

...was present at the tidal wave of book lovers at the
huge United Church. In fact, it was a glorious Indian
Summer day, and one family came. But they bought
three copies. I talked about the series, mainly
for the benefit of Ellen.

Ellen had partnered with the Tantramar Heritage Trust,
President Ron Kelly Spurles, whose many members mark
and preserve the heritage of this gloriously untouched town.
The building codes being developed here will preserve it
for years to come.

Next to Mount Alison, deemed by Macleans as the best
undergrad university in all Canada this year, and
fourteen out of the last 20 years!

Here is the swan pond.

Then to the Mount Allison Dendrochronology (tree-dating) lab and...

...its head, Prof. Colin Laroque..

In 2006, MAD came to The Olde Homestead
in Shigawake to date our buildings.
The MAD lab dated the Old Homestead as c. 1810, 
making it the oldest house on the Gaspe Coast, 
recently confirmed by and article the French 
Canadian magazine “Gaspesie.”

They dated the foundation beams of the barn 

(some 40 feet long and 18" square) to have been growing 
BEFORE Jacques Cartier arrived in the Gaspe.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Halifax, capital of Nova Scotia and home to six universities
and several bases of our Royal Canadian Navy, Air Force
and Army, gateway to the grand Atlantic. I love the city!
I did an interview with a great website: Haligonia.ca, which alerts
Haligonians to major events in the city. But they share a building
with a surf shop and a tattoo parlour!

First stop, at Bayers Lake Power Centre just outside the city,
I signed books at the enormous Chapters repository,
where The Deserter reposes in quantity.

I was accompanied by Nicholas Graham, who not only helps out
publishers, but ran bookshops in the city — so very
knowledgeable about the book business, he gave me a lot of tips.

The next day, another book signing and talk at the HMCS Wardroom,
a students’ bar and common room in the basement of Kings College,
which is also a part of Dalhousie University. During WWII, this was
a naval base, and they permitted the name to be carried on.

Here we were graced by the unexpected appearance of one
of North America’s foremost movie and TV performers, Leslie Hope,
and her fine Naval Captain father, Frank. Leslie was discovered by me
in Ups and Downs, in Victoria BC almost thirty years ago. She was a
brilliant student at St. Michael’s University School, where I shot that movie.
Her husband Adam Kane is directing and Exec Producing a TV series in
Montreal, where I shall soon be presenting my book.

Then of course I went sightseeing with the explorer cousin Ted:
we crossed the harbour to Dartmouth, and had a splendid lunch at
a harbour-side pub, and saw around the comprehensive Maritime Museum.