December 03, 2017

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Garden

Another year has gone and again we find ourselves the day before the official opening of the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Garden.

The light show really begins on December 1st but we come just before closing on November 30th to see the lights come on for a "dress rehearsal."

After a record setting month of rain, our time was spent under only a gentle mist.

At one time pink was for boys, and water bottles were just that.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

November 08, 2017

Earle Peach receives Mayor's Arts Award

It was a gala October evening to celebrate Vancouver's artists who enrich the city's culture through creativity and dialogue. It was the annual Mayor's Arts Awards, and a highlight was celebrating Sherry's friend and colleague, and new honouree, Earle Peach.

Earle received the award in the Community Engaged Art category. He leads four choirs: the Solidarity Notes Labour Choir; the Highs and Lows Choir; the Gathering Place choir; and InChoiring Minds. Earle also heads the delightful Illiteratty, and he is one half of Songtree with Barbara Jackson.

When the mayor and Earle were posing for the official photograph, the photographer asked the two men to turn into each other. Earle looked at the Mayor and said, "Frankly, I'd rather you turn into me."

Earle's acceptance speech was gentle and without ego. It spoke to the need to repair the world, to reconcile, to be accountable, and to raise up voices rarely heard, like those in the Highs and Lows.

Among a number of other projects, Earle is currently working with playwright Sherry MacDonald on a musical about the Battle of Ballantyne Pier.

Earle Peach is a gifted composer and songwriter, a dedicated political activist, and highly deserving of a Mayor's Art Award in 2017.

Now, if only our mayor could turn into someone more like Earle.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

November 03, 2017

Bread & Honey Food Company ~ Parksville

What started as a simple get-together brunch after the-wedding-the-night-before, turned into a discovery of an amazing breakfast and lunch place. In Parksville.

Bread and Honey Food Company is small. It's located in a strip mall in Parksville. It actually doesn't look like much, but don't let any of that deceive you. In many ways, Bread and Honey reminds us of the original Locals in Courtenay, which also started in a strip mall. It's unfortunate, but once Locals expanded to a bigger and better location a few blocks away, it lost some of its special magic. Bread and Honey is all magic.

Bread and Honey Food Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The food is excellent in so many ways. It's not complicated, and not necessarily fancy but flavourful far beyond regular restaurant fare, because the ingredients are obviously chosen with care and attention to detail. Then, what Chef Michael does with these ingredients, is nothing short of incredible. Service is warm, inviting and exemplary.

Bread and Honey existed before, and apparently was good in that incarnation too. This version, same location, opened in late June with new owners, Angela Sproul and her husband, Chef Michael Sproul. Open Wednesdays through Sundays for breakfast and lunch, and brunch on weekends. From our brief encounter, reservations are highly recommended.

Wonderful. Magical. When in Parksville, come and be amazed.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

Milano Coffee in Comox

While on Vancouver Island this autumn we noticed a relatively new coffee shop on Comox Avenue, in Comox of all places.

It's Vancouver's own Milano Coffee and this one opened about a year ago. It's Milano's fifth café, with three others in the home town, and one in Toronto. Of all places.

The Comox café is actually a licensed operation, but it's all in the family as Robin and Vickie Henry of Comox, are related to the Milano owners, Brian and Linda Turko. (Linda established the much-loved Turk's Coffee Bar on Commercial Drive in Vancouver in the latter part of the last century.)

The café in Comox has a simple, Winnipeg-style about it. Casual and spartan. Comfortable environment, but hard chairs. The espresso is simply excellent, and very much in the Milano tradition. Probably too much milk and foam in the macchiato, but these things happen. 

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

October 10, 2017

St. Michael's Residential School in Alert Bay

After visiting the U'Mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay, a moving tribute to the Kwakwak'wakw people and the Potlatch, we stepped out into the sunlight and viewed a vacant lot adjacent to the

This was the site of St. Michael's Indian Residential School, sometimes referred to as the Alert Bay Residential School, and often as "St. Mike's." It was built in 1929 as a regional school for Aboriginal children from North Vancouver Island and the province's north coast, including children from Bella Bella, Bella Coola, the Nisga’a territories and Haida Gwaii.

In fact, these children were forcibly taken from their parents, prohibited from speaking their own languages, kept away from their families for years and inculcated with Anglo-European beliefs. That the school was largely self-sufficient with its own farm, cattle, water and electric plant, was largely due to the free labour pool at its disposal.

"Almighty God for what has been accomplished: for a race of people brought in the shortest period of time known in history from the most debasing savagery to citizenship both in the Kingdom of our God and in his God-blessed Dominion of Canada."
Published in 1934 
by the Indian Residential School Commission 
of the Missionary Society of the Church of English, in thanks and appreciation for  St. Michael's in Alert Bay

Thankfully, St. Michael's closed in 1975. The 'Namgis First Nation was given control of the building and it was used for several purposes. In February of 2015, First Nations, church leaders, former students and politicians attended a healing ceremony hosted by the 'Namgis First Nation to mark the demolition of the building. In May of the same year, 'Namgis had a blessing of the Land ceremony.

There's something strange about standing here, to think about fifty years and more of an "education" system designed to destroy a people. It was such a large building, with classrooms, offices and quarters for 200 students. It was a structure that dominated the town itself, again perhaps part of the design to eliminate an entire culture.

This empty lot isn't empty at all; it's full of stories of pain, fear and anger, that continues to cross generations to this day.

Empty lot photo by Jeem (others: archival photos). 
Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.