All posts in the Maritimes category

Let’s Go to the Cinema!

Published November 21, 2011 by megdedwards

It was a Sunday afternoon and I could edit my essay on XML in the Library System or take my kids to a matinee at our local film theater, the Vogue Cinema.

I got my priorities settled fairly quickly and grabbed the kids. A half hour on country roads and we are in quiet little Sackville, a town that is very lucky to have its own independently owned film theater.

This month the kids and I have been to a bunch of children’s films, Puss in Boots (very funny) and Johnny English (OK) and yesterday, Happy Feet Two ( cute but the vision of environmental changes in the north can’t help but be a bit depressing).

We are looking forward to the new Tin Tin movie, the Muppet movie and whatever ‘girl flick’ I get to go to with my 19 year old daughter. We don’t go to any other movie theater, preferring to support our locally run cinema.

I also go to the movies with my husband when we get a chance!  Thursday nights have been a traditional night out since we discovered the Sackville Film Society. We have a beer at the local pub, Duckie’s,  and then head to the theater where a line gathers in the road as the crowd makes its way into the theater.

Thursday nights with the Film Society are a great date, the films are always good, picked carefully by a group of volunteers and lead by our very own internationally acclaimed photographer and Mount Allison professor Thaddeus Holownia.

The films are either something I missed and wanted to see, or something I have read about, and wanted to see.

We have seen lots of interesting films there, but I will never forget being introduced to the most wonderful filmmaker ever on the night we watched “Goodbye Solo” by Ramin Baharani. I was a puddle of tears at the end, and I won’t try to explain the film here, but I was crying from a mixture of sadness and joy.

The Vogue is pretty packed on a Thursday night, and sort of like going to a party. Sometimes Holownia introduces the film, or begs the audience to have patience with a film that is still being transported across the marsh during a storm.

The occasional technical problems are all part of the fun; the audience knows it is participating in a lost art and is in a receptive and grateful state of mind.

Sometimes Holownia makes a passionate plea to the college kids, a big part of the winter audience, to encourage their friends to put down their laptops and come out to the ‘happening’ at the Vogue.

We love our local independent theater and prefer to go to it than see a film in any other venue. It is smallish, with old chairs and it is a bit hot in the summer and a bit cool in the winter, depending on the size of the crowd. College kids work in the canteen and the staff and owner are very nice.

The Vogue Cinema is a gem and we are always grateful for its existence, hoping fervently that our own loyalty and the loyalty of other audience members will keep it going.

The owner, Jeff Coates, has also invested in the local Neptune Drive-In, which was about to close, and now runs both.

Coates seems to like what he is doing and has enough support from the community to continue.

The existence of our own independently owned film theater puts Sackville, N.B. on the map; a lot of bigger cities don’t have one!

Cheers to the Vogue Cinema!

Digital Archives: ‘The Evangeline Collection’

Published November 14, 2011 by megdedwards

My recent course work in Library Studies has lead me to a beautiful digital collection on the Nova Scotia Legislative Library website called “The Evangeline Collection – Commemorating 400 Years of Acadian Settlement”.

Hi I’m Meg Edwards, How may I help you?

Published October 21, 2011 by megdedwards

I live in the Canadian Maritimes among some of the most kind, polite and thoughtful people in the world. We smile at strangers, wave at cars in our small rural village, hold doors and offer help.

It is lovely and the one time someone was randomly rude to me in a parking lot, I turned to him and said, “Are you not feeling well”? That is how lovely it is.

Even teenagers talk to me, sometimes laughingly apologizing for their language, (can’t be worse than me on a bad day) and I have even seen teenagers upbraid each other for rudeness or littering.

The division between the very rich and the very poor is not overly painful in the east because we seem to have a large middle class that encompasses everyone.  Most people can afford to buy their own house, which evens the field considerably.

So for the most part there is not much snobbery, people are pretty straight forward and down to earth. I think the Scottish/English blood was much improved by a liberal mixing with the local First Nations and the French Acadian people.

We have a  lovely university town a mere twenty minutes from where I live that offers all that you want in a small town, a thrift store or two, little cafes, an  independent cinema, an  artist run art gallery and all the offerings of the local university.  And in this delightful town are some of the most snobbish and unfriendly people in the Maritimes.

There are people in this town who carefully avoid eye contact so that they do not have to say hello. While this may be common in big cities it is ridiculous in a small town. I refer to them as the ‘bourgeoisie’ because that seems to identify their aspirations and general social pretensions.

Some are college professors and some just think they are better than other people. When we first moved to the area I was eager to meet people and have parties. Those parties did not quite materialize, although I do have a bunch of artists that I like to have over.

This conversation will give you a clear picture of the social dynamic of this little town. I wanted to get to know a local professor, known to be ‘shy’ (give me a break). I thought that since I was great at parties and for coffee meetings, we could be friends.

For a few years she avoided eye contact, then one day we were stuck in a small entry room waiting for a theater production to let us in. We were approximately 2 inches apart. I said,” Hi, I’m Meg Edwards”. She said, “Oh hello, oh yes, Joe speaks very well of you”.  I said, “Yes, well, he has to he is my husband”. And that was the last conversation we had.

You would think this elite collection of people would have approved of me and my husband Joe. Joe’s got a PhD in British History for god’s sake. But we are not snobs, and this may have affected our life choices and job possibilities all along. We come across as sort of ordinary.

And we have done all sorts of jobs. When we first moved to New Brunswick  12 years ago we had no money, a student loan, a freshly minted PhD (him), an article recently published in Homemaker’s magazine (me), two cats and two kids.  We moved in with my beloved brother and took his advice, take any job you can get and then move up.

We had to take any job, we were desperate, and we are not bilingual. He worked in a packing factory at first and then got a sessional job teaching at the local university. I worked at Zellers, I kid you not, and then at a call center.

I learnt a lot at the call center. First of all, the only reprehensible call center jobs are the ones in which you make outgoing calls.

I tried it once; I called a lonely old lady at dinner time and could not make another call.  But I ended up working the night shift at a package delivery company in the brokerage department.

It was an odd environment; every worker is tethered to their pod by their head sets, and often they get up and stretch or pace as they talk to the customer. The workplace is a busy droning beehive full of women working at night to hold their families together. That was also when I learnt how to have a conversation with your eyes while speaking to someone completely different on the phone.

Here is some invaluable information. If you don’t like the representative you first spoke to, call again and try someone else.  You might get me. I forgave brokerage charges all the time just as long as the person was not rude. The ruder the person was the more I sat back in my chair and thought, fuck you then. For nice people I would give elaborate explanations and create files and call them back with resolutions.

Meanwhile, I have vivid memories of those phone calls and I was entertained. I can hear you opening the cat food, and I can hear you going to the bathroom. Those ear phones are stuck to our heads for our shift. The most excruciating for me were people who had to eat and talk. I have a weakness in that department and had to hold the phones away from my ear.

As a curious person I would allow the conversations to wander.  I met many IT people starting new entrepreneurial careers in exporting and importing. I was in people’s homes every night, hearing their dinners and their problems. I loved it. I talked to shocked  Americans on the very day that New York City had been attacked.

But the very fact that I have worked at a call center is going to embarrass the cold fish elite in that small town.  But never mind, as Kurt Cobain would say, after ten years I have found the gold in the muck and have a few wonderful friends.

Quite possibly the muck is only there because the university town imports people who think they could do better. And in this part of the world, we are content to let them go.

Bye Bye, now. Have nice day!

Maritime Baby

Published September 18, 2011 by megdedwards

Our third child Maud was born in the Maritimes.

My pregnancy was spent breathing in the magically healing stink of the marshes on a low tide. She has seen horses in the field across the road all of her life, and swam in the sea every summer.

My husband and I moved to the county about 10 years ago, maybe not coincidently, we bought our old house by the sea one month after the 911 tragedy.

Sometimes we feel as if we are speaking a different language from those that have lived here all their lives. We are considered city folks by our country neighbours still, but the longer we stay the deeper our roots grow.

My eldest daughter jokes that our family is like an immigrant family who still carry the accent and body language of our home country (in our case, Toronto). Her younger brother has a foot in both countries, but her little sister belongs here and needs no translators. With her easy confidence and relaxed attitude, she is our passport to the rural world.

Every Saturday my little daughter and I head to our local market in Sackville, New Brunswick, where we get the weekend Globe and Mail, have breakfast at Mel’s and buy a selection of vegetables, fruit, pork, beef, eggs, bread and buns from our friends and neighbours.

This sunny and festive Saturday the market was also hosting a multicultural fair so I had curried chicken for breakfast and haflal (I am not sure about the name but it is a porridge of semolina wheat and sweet milk that is delicious). Maud had a waffle and then we decided to head to the Fall Fair.

I have taken the children to the small but still terrifying rides at the country midway before, with the spooky carnies and pink candy floss, but I had not crossed the road to discover the country fall fair.

We made our way to the Doncaster Farm, a working farm nestled behind the highway on the outskirts of town, and found a fall fair full of farm animals, live music and hay piles.

The sun began to warm up the cool fall day and the air was sweet with hay and flowers.

Maud and I declined the chance to milk a cow (I heard a joke once about the bravest man in the world being the one who discovered that cow’s milk was good) but did listen to the old timers playing great bluegrass, get lost in the cow maze, take in a pony ride and watch the last part of a wood cutting competition.

Burly farm boys competed to see who could throw an axe into a target, and I did hope that the boys would not throw the two bladed axe into the crowd by accident.

Then the teams had a competition to see who could build a fire and get a pot of water boiling faster. That was entertaining, and impressive. Once the fire was going the men took turns blowing on the fire, turning their heads away from the fire to gather air, and then blowing on the fire in tandem.

Finally they had a relay in which the men had to cut through a large log while standing on it, and then proceed to other bizarre but manly tasks. I was alarmed to see the young man closest to us flinch in his task, take a quick look at this foot, and then continue with his chopping. He had just chopped into his foot.

He finished the relay, but not surprisingly, did not win. After the competition he sat down in the back tent, had his foot bandaged, and was soon out in the crowd signing autographs on pieces of sawed wood for little children.

I am no longer at the fall fair with an ironic grin. I have friends here and I know the children. One day my little daughter may date one of those sweet tough farm boys.

Our third child was born here, she is from here, and everyone knows it.

Body Image, Nude Modeling and A Woman of Middle Age

Published August 31, 2011 by megdedwards

Robert Morouney's drawings (artist and print maker from Port Elgin, N.B.

When I was twenty and had a fabulous figure I worked as an artist’s model while studying at school.

As a shy young girl I was embarrassed by my womanly body that brought me unwanted attention.

Blossoming into a woman I transformed from a quiet plain-faced kid to a woman with long legs and pretty breasts before I was ready for the attention.

But by the time I was twenty I had to come to terms with my body and began modeling nude for art students in my university. I liked it because once I had picked a long pose I could sit and think about other things. I remember one time having a hangover and picking an extremely relaxed reclining pose and having a small nap.

But don’t get the wrong idea- it’s skillful work- especially when the teacher requests ten 60-second poses or a fluid movement of poses for quick charcoal drawings.

Almost thirty years later, with a body that has been through the ravages of three pregnancies and a cumulative 9 years of breast feeding, I received an e-mail notice looking for artist’s models for a local art gallery on the border between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

I hesitated for one day, and then I thought, artists love bodies with character, and I have that. So I replied that I was experienced and would need $20 an hour.

When I arrived I found a collection of older folks, some women that I knew from our belly dancing group, and a friend of mine giving an introduction to the group about figure drawing. I had a small moment where I thought, oh great, now I have to strip in front of my friends, but then I focused on the task. And I knew they would have to focus on their task as well.

I took off my robe and walked into the middle of the room, and thought, what do I do again? But then as I positioned my body I remembered, twist the torso, look over your shoulder, make the pose interesting and beautiful. The first collection of poses were fast and the room was hot, “I think that Meg is the only one dressed appropriately for this heat” said someone.

We heard a knocking at the door, and then someone tried to peek in the window, the women were trying to cover the windows with cloths but I tell you, when you have already decided to strip bare in front of friends and strangers, another stranger taking a peek is of no consequence. “Just charge them five bucks” I joked, feeling a drip of sweat trickle down my side.

As the students worked it became quiet, the room filled with the sound of their industrious scribbling. I don’t know why exactly, maybe it was just muscle memory and time traveling, but while I was posing I felt sensual and beautiful. Odd that striping down to your bare essentials could do that.

After experiencing some hard times in the last four years in which the only positive part was that I lost a lot of weight, I can say that my padding now is a sign of vital good health.

Lush and blousy, like a rose or peony that is in its last days of full bloom, that is the beauty of a middle aged woman.

I have always thought that humans should be as honest and clear as they can be, time is flowing and we have only so long to get to know each other. At our most honest, we are still only exposing a small part of our true selves. So here is more of me.

Playing Clue on a Rainy Night

Published August 28, 2011 by megdedwards

What I love about our house that sits across from the sea is that it is like living in a cottage all the time. In the summer we hang our salty towels on the porch and barely let them dry before we hit the next high tide. In the winter we get a fire going in the air tight wood stove and crowd around while watching Coronation Street in the evening.

We do have electricity in our big old home, which is more than we had at my family cottage in the Kawarthas. At my family cottage we thrived with a propane stove and fridge, an airtight wood stove, an outhouse, propane lights and candles. And we lived like that every summer. We played in the lake, read books and comic books, painted, played games and wrote in our colorful journals that our mother gave us and that still sit in a chest at the cottage.

My siblings still make their way out to the old cottage and feel the gentle breeze of carefree childhood flowing through the old curtains. Such strong memories that reside in our hearts. Now, as an adult, the heady scent of coffee and a wood fire, or the tinny roar of a distant motor boat can suddenly make you stand very still and remember. Your mind travels to your ten year old body and you suddenly feel free and light.

So I love living in my version of the cottage, with my own family. We feel the weather, we live with the bugs of the season and we are carried by the changing seasons from one palette of colors to the next.

As autumn creeps towards us the green marshes gradually change to gold. Autumn draws artists and photographers to the bay as the gold of the marshes lies across the dark blue sea and borders the bright blue sky.

Blue Herons feed  in the low tide and eventually we will hear and see the V formation of the geese.

When the fantastic show of changing leaves has wrapped up and the tourists and geese have left, we live in a icy, snowy landscape.  My view from the window is of black branches against a white tundra of cresting waves of snow and ice.

Winter is beautiful, but the glaring white landscape, so white it is almost blue, wears out its welcome around  6 months later.

We crave spring, it is cold, rainy and muddy but we don’t mind and we dig around hopefully in the wet leaves exposing green shoots.

Summer appears suddenly with a full blown green landscape, jellyfish and bugs and life everywhere.  It becomes wet and humid, hot and misty. The porch has fat spiders in the corner, the bees and hummingbirds buzz the flowers all day.

These simple patterns fill the year: order wood,  turn off the furnace and turn on the dehumidifier, pile wood, move the wood inside, store the dehumidifier, turn the furnace on low and start collecting kindling for the wood stove.

Should we make a fire? Not yet, but it is coming. Now back to our games.

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