Wednesday, May 21, 2008

400 years

Québec city is having its 400th anniversary this year. In the year 1608, Samuel de Champlain set foot in the new world and founded a small colony on the shores of the St. Lawrence river under the towering cliffs of "le Cap Diamant". All of French Canada comes from that small step. At its height New France stretched from the shores of Hudson's Bay to the delta of the Mississippi. Voyageurs and explorers pushed ever farther into the unknown seeking new lands and people to trade furs with. (Greed is a powerful motivator isn't it) My family has been here since 1650 and we are all descended from one adventuresome man, who left everything in France and crossed the Atlantic to come and start afresh in the New World.
Have you ever wondered what it must have been like for our ancestors to leave everything and everyone they knew and loved to come to a new land where there was nothing, no roads, no cities, no European style civilization. It must have taken a lot of intestinal fortitude, because chances where that you would never see your homeland again.
Last weekend we went to Québec to visit my mom and my sister. It's funny because every time I go there I have a feeling that I'm home, even though I have lived else where for the last 24 years. Having been an airforce brat when I was young I never really had any roots, but when I arrived in Québec city, it struck me that this place was were my roots were, this was home. It may sound strange but it was a visceral feeling, way down deep and it was he first time that I felt that I really belonged somewhere. During the weekend we went wandering around the old part of town and I took some photos. So here is the city of my ancestors.

The Chateau Frontenac was built atop of the original governors residence, the Chateau St-Louis. The ruins are still under the boardwalk of the Terrace Dufferin.

The Old Post Office: There is an interesting story connected to this building. According to legend there was a feud between two families that lead to love and death. (a bit like Romeo and Juliet) The Chien d'Or was put up by the aggrieved family to remind the other clan that one day revenge would come. When this post office was put up, they incorporated the "Chien d'Or" from the original building.
Old Québec as seen from the Citadelle.

There were at least four gates to Old Québec, two of them have been destroyed but two remain, this one, Porte St-Louis and the other is Porte St-Jean a little lower down. Québec is one of the only cities in North America that still has its city walls intact.

Friday, May 16, 2008

65 years ago, the Dambusters

Sixty five years ago, on this night, a group of gallant young men flew a mission from which only half would return. They were the 617 Squadron later to be remembered as the Dambusters. That night they flew Lancaster bombers from England to the Ruhr valley and bombed out the Moehe and Eder dams. They flew across Europe at an altitude of 150 feet to avoid detection and once there they had to fly straight and level at an altitude of 60 feet between craggy hills along the reservoir with German anti-aircraft fire zeroing in on them. It was said that they flew so low that some German guns could not depress far enough to fire at them. Of the 19 aircraft that left England that night, only 11 returned, leaving 53 dead aircrew behind.
This was the generation of my parents and it is hard to realize that the frail, old, white haired men were the young men who flew the mission. They were in their late teens or early twenties and had lived through the Great Depression and now they were risking everything to stop Nazi Germany. Their C/O, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, winner of a Victoria Cross, was only 25 years old and most of his crews were younger than him. Many of them after having survived the raid would never see the end of the war. In fact of the 133 who left 53 died on the mission and most of the others would be dead before 1945. Of Gibson's crew none survived the war.
What must it have been like during those dark days, going out in those aircraft and knowing that you might never come home. Yet all of the crews of those 19 bombers were volunteers and were willing to put everything on the line. We should never forget these men and women who suffered much and were willing to pay the ultimate price so we could have our freedom today.
Here is a short video excerpt from about the commemoration flyby at Derwent Reservoir in Derbyshire, which was used by the original pilots to train ahead of their famous raid.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Today I have been married to Mrs. BB for 32 years. I've been with her for 33.5 but officially it is 32 years. Seems like only yesterday. I remember my jaw dropping as I watched her come up the aisle in her beautiful white dress. I couldn't believe that this vision of loveliness actually wanted to live with me forever. Well we haven't gotten to forever yet but we are working hard at it. Both of us have a few more wrinkles and a few more grey hairs (quite a few more if truth be told) but you know it doesn't make a bit of difference, for me she's still the vision of loveliness I saw in that church and that will never change. After so many years we have become the subtle blending of two souls into one, and my life has been the better for it. It hasn't always been easy, but then again when is life ever easy, but it has been fulfilling, and wonderful and I wouldn't change those 32 years for anything. So here's to wishing for forever, or as close as we can get to it, together.