Saturday, 8 May 2010

David Menary's New Book The River & The Railroad

My Canadian journalist "cousin" David Menary - we're connected through family history research: many of our mob went from Ireland to Ontario in the 19th century - had a second historical novel launched on April 10. It's called The River and The Railroad.

Things Canadian always interest me. I spent part of 1981 and all of 1982 living on the Niagara Peninsula with my family and lecturing in Hamilton, Ontario, at Mohawk College of the Arts and Technology. Long before that, as a single guy I'd worked in the old E B Eddy Paper Mills (gone now) at Ottawa and across the river on the Quebec side, in Hull. One recollection from those days was the general dislike my French-Canadian co-workers had for les anglais, meaning Anglo-Canadians; but they were OK with me as a Scot. Hooray. This was at a  period of strong political movement in favour of a separate Quebec. Not dead yet, I guess.

Other highlights: a great week at the iconic Banff Springs Hotel and the snow skiing; Calgary, Alberta; beautiful Vancouver and its nearby Grouse Mountain; canoeing in Algonquin Wilderness Park (especially the wolves howling at night in the surrounding hills, when I felt sure they were saying, "Hey fellas, that's breakfast down there in those little tent things").  Also the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, where I got to meet the playwright Arthur Miller when he read some of his early and unpublished poetry. And I didn't even think to ask him about his recent divorce from Marilyn Monroe. Damn. Well, really, who would be so crass? Right?

A lot of what I have learnt about Canada comes from the wonderful books of Farley Mowat, a national treasure revered by Canadians. In his nineties and still with us, author of about 50+ books. Most people have heard of Never Cry Wolf, or seen the movie. A personal favourite of mine is The Grey Seas Under (based on the ship's log of a WWII Atlantic deep-sea salvage tug.) And Mowat's book (1999) which has most changed my thinking is The Alban Quest: it re-writes early trans-Atlantic history and proves as lies the rubbish taught in Scandinavian schools about "the Vikings being first to discover Iceland and North America". They didn't. The Albans did (the pre-Celts whom the Romans had called Picts.) Subject for a blog entry soon!

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