Monday, April 30, 2012

Gaspe and Up and Down April 2012

Well, the flight to the Magdalen Islands could not land due to fog, so it flew on 
leaving me to take a taxi back to the hotel.  Not one to be easily repulsed, I arranged 
with a teacher to talk at the Gaspe CEGEP, but she told me all the students were on strike! 

She’s suggested the Wakeham School for Adult Education in Gaspe.   I duly turned up 
and spoke to a gathering until 10 o’clock, extolling the virtues of the Gaspe existence 
as opposed to the crowded fume-enshrouded streets of Los Angeles, or indeed any 
big American city, where they’d earn more money but live a much less happy existences.
Right after that, I went to the little CBC studio in Gaspe, to tape an interview  
for Breakaway (14:11 mins - scroll down the Breakaway website page to 
April 27, 2012) on the Quebec Community Network for Friday night 
at 5.10 to extol the joys of book reading.
Thursday morning (my birthday) I talked in a large auditorium to Grades
 7, 8, & 9 for an hour and a half, and to grades 10 & 11 in the afternoon.  
Receptive students, certainly, who appeared (which the teachers 
confirmed, many of whom came to listen) fascinated by their 
own histories on the Coast, as exemplified by The Alford Saga. 

 Between the two events, the literacy head for the School Board took me 
to lunch and they gave me a birthday cake.  In the afternoon 
the whole student body sang Happy Birthday... 

Friday April 27th At the Bonaventure Polyvalente I spoke to the combined
 classes of 10 and 11, very bright students, taught English by the grandson 
of my own English teacher, the Bishops College School’s legendary Lewis Evans, 
who had a theatre named after him. Again, an apparent success!  The father 
of this Lewis, the teacher, Lewis Sr. , wrote with me the script 
of Ups & Downs that I shot in 1970. 
Later, I spoke at the small Evergreen school (buried in the larger French school) 
perhaps the warmest of all my visits. The whole school listened avidly, though 
their teachers assured me that on a Friday afternoon they were all 
just bursting to go home.
Onwards!  That evening in the public library in Hopetown, I was introduced 
by a Gaspesian bigwig, former Head of the Gaspe CEGEP, Gary Briand, 
who himself began the Book Festival in 1984.  The pretty Mayor, Lisa McWhirter, 
told me she was fascinated, as was her husband. Gary, me, Mayor Lisa, and Brian, 
the retired head of New Richmond School, posed afterwards. 
Over and out?  Not at all.  Saturday I talked to the steering committee 
of the Women’s Institute of Bonaventure County, my most receptive audience yet. 
In sum, I believe the Book Fest to be a very important, if not 
THE most important event, on the Gaspe Coast.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fox River, April 24, 2012

We began the day fighting our way through 50 or 60 mile-an-hour winds, 
coupled with sleet, in what I would call Arctic temperatures. 
Ted had to brace himself to hold the car door open for me. 
This harbour sign shows these high winds are a regularity on the 
north shore of the Gaspe Peninsula, which of course faces into the 
harsh lusty Gulf of St Lawrence.
Fox River is a fairly substantial little town...
...but with an old Robins store, now converted, a Catholic Church... 

...and a thriving harbour. I’m told that shrimp boats here can bring 
in 60-80 tons of shrimp on an outing.

As I said to the students in my first class – all in French: it’s 
a first for both of us: the first time I have ever spoken to a class 
entirely in French for an hour and a half, and it must be 
the first time they have ever met a senile 80-year-old who made 
tons of TV dramas (they had never heard of Jean Anouilh!) many 
motion pictures, and written eight books, the latter after 
reaching retirement. I do think that did surprise them.
After this exhausting foray into what I may say is almost 
a foreign territory — not one student had ever heard of the word Oscar, 
and certainly none, including the teachers, had ever seen 
an Oscar telecast! Bloody refreshing, I think. But hey, somewhat difficult 
to know how to talk to them. Genevieve Bujold? Totally unknown, 
even though she’s had been shooting French films this last decade. 
When I mentioned that my whole Saga might be published in French, 
that elicited some interest.
I returned for a brief respite to my splendid Auberge le Caribou which 
was established 100 years ago, as this picture shows, and then 
I returned for yet another bout of French.
The afternoon class seemed even more welcoming. I was greatly 
encouraged by the teachers who said that my hapless talk that morning 
was the event of the year, and very exciting and fun. They told me 
this in French (almost no one in Fox River speaks English) 
so I probably got that wrong...
Ah well, on tonight to the Magdalen Islands (40 minute flight, for which 
Air Canada charges almost $700 – I believe a gross iniquity) 
where tomorrow, although I’m talking to one school in the French area, 
they’ve asked me to talk in a foreign and unusual language, English. 
Maybe that I can do!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gaspe Bookfest #1 April 23, 2012

Today I set off on the first day of the crowded Gaspe Book 
Festival, a large bilingual celebration of reading up and 
down the 150 miles up around the Gaspe Peninsula. 
Overnight it had snowed sleet and freezing rain, so when 
I walked out our back door, I found the car covered in 
hard ice, difficult to chip off. 
Then I drove to my first appointment... Shigawake Port Daniel School.
I spent a splendid morning at this vibrant school: 
the alert children had lots of questions; they already 
knew a lot about The Alford Saga, because they had 
been reading it in class. The principal, John Prince, 
and the other teachers gathered for my talk. 
This afternoon I spent at The Anchor, a new, cheerful building, 
well designed inside, for adult education classes for the 
New Carlisle area, where the United Empire Loyalists arrived 
in the late 1700s.
I spoke (as asked) about the importance of reading for 
the imagination and thus growth of a young person — as opposed 
to television, which has been shown to dull the brain.
I spoke about The Alford Saga, which begins with the early pioneers
 in Eastern Canada, and the Gaspe coast. I hoped not only 
to bring awareness of our Gaspe to the rest of Canada, and 
perhaps the world, but to make these young people proud 
of the area in which they were born.
Many of the students were training to become nurses. 
I told them how they’d earn much more in the big cities 
in America, but I explained that they’d never afford to live 
near their wealthy hospital. We go from Shigawake to
 New Carlisle (a pleasant seaside trip) in about 20 minutes, 
but in Los Angeles that trip might take them two hours 
in fume-breathing bumper-to bumper traffic for a couple of hours. 
I hoped to keep these wonderful young girls where they belonged 
in Canada and, more especially, on the Coast.
I left New Carlisle for the 150 mile journey to the other end 
of the Gaspe Peninsula, to Fox River, a large shrimp port 
on the north shore. The freezing wind kept the sleet beating 
against the windshield, and the closer we got, the deeper the snow.

However, the lovely frost decorating the bare trees 
(like Christmas) made up for the harsh journey. 
But I was still happy to arrive at my dinner destination, in Gaspe, 
which did look rather forlorn in the mist, and freezing rain.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Morrin Centre - two

The ImagiNation Festival in Quebec City was, as they say,
 a garden of delight. Past Honorary President,
Roch Carrier told me, "Paul, you will love it."
And love it I did!
I was welcomed by Sovita Chandler, the new chairman of the 
board of the Morrin Centre, who also runs an Internet company.
Elizabeth Perrault, the super efficient organiser, introduced me. 
 I gave several talks to students and the public about The Alford Saga.
Marie White, of the Quebec Chronicle Telegraph 
interviewed me for their paper.
 John Molson, a professor at Laval University, and 
his wife Jenny run the Canadian Heritage of Quebec, 
begun by his grandfather and continued by his father Robin,
 now deceased, a good friend of mine at BCS.
At the adjacent Salon de Livres, the French book Festival, 
they had a splendid layout of The Alford Saga where I also signed books.