Monday, 21 May 2012

Land of my Victoria

Today, the Resident Fan Boy, elder daughter, younger daughter and I spent an hour getting out to a branch of the Nepean Museum.  Elder daughter has a job interview tomorrow and high hopes of getting last year's summer job back at the same museum, so she wanted us all to come to the Victoria Day Tea, presumably to make a good impression.  (All past evidence to the contrary.) We arrived, found a deserted white tent, and a beautiful old house, empty except for the sandwich board advertising the tea locked inside the front door.  It seems that the tea was yesterday.  Nothing for it but to spend another hour going back.

See, we're from Victoria, so Victoria Day means Victoria Day, not the Sunday before Victoria Day.  This is Hades, though, where organizers would, quite correctly, consider Monday as the day when everyone is hurrying to travel back to wherever it is they came from.  And indeed, the bus there and back carried many people lugging suitcases and bags. A powerful-looking man heaved two enormous bags into the space where the wheelchairs and stroller ordinarily go, kissed the hands of his elderly father and mother in her veil, and pressed his forehead to the back of their hands, before asking the bus driver to let him off.

In Victoria, BC, Victoria Day means the big parade.  If you've grown up in the city, you've marched in the parade at some point.  I marched three times with my school band, as did the Resident Fan Boy, and elder daughter marched with the Brownies.  It's a mile from the Mayfair Shopping Centre to Douglas and Humboldt, and the trick is to avoid the horse droppings. This coming week, the first sunburns of the year will be everywhere because the May sun shines in Victoria, but it doesn't feel all that hot, so you forget to take the precautions..

No sunburns in Ottawa, because we have the humid heat to remind us to wear sunscreen and hats, although it's nowhere near as warm as it will get in July and August. Downtown is crowded with tourists here for the last weekend of the tulip festival, but in our neighbourhood, we've been living in a ghost town.  The Victoria Day weekend means the opening of cottage season for them-that-has-'em.  Last night, I went out for a late evening stroll, and was rather spooked by the number of dark and deserted houses.  I couldn't help but wonder if this is also a wonderful season for burglaries. Tonight, I walked out again and the driveways were full of SUVs, with people in shorts putting out the garbage and recycling, and watering their gardens.  (The Victoria Day weekend is also the official start of Ottawa's very brief gardening season.)

I continued down by the Governor General's residence, the clustering of trees along the stone wall starting to look dark and forbidding.  Ahead, I saw a corner of setting sun reflecting off a glass tower of one of the quasi-Arts-Deco condos.  I fancied that the brilliant orange light might spread to the gathering dark clouds, but the most colour they achieved was a mourning sort of mauve.  I wandered home by way of the Rideau River, blundering into clouds of gnats, dreaming of long, mild May evenings in Victoria.  There'll probably be fireworks over the Inner Harbour tonight.

Here?  We're supposed to be in for a lightening storm...

When I was a little girl, I thought this song was about the city in which I grew up.  
Long ago life was clean
Sex was bad and obscene
And the rich were so mean
Stately homes for the Lords
Croquet lawns, village greens
Victoria was my queen 

Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, 'toria 

I was born, lucky me
In a land that I love
Though I'm poor, I am free 
When I grow I shall fight 
For this land I shall die
Let her sun never set

 Land of hope and gloria
 Land of my Victoria

Canada to India
Australia to Cornwall
Singapore to Hong Kong
From the West to the East 
From the rich to the poor
Victoria loved them all

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