Proud to be a Canuck!

Posted by Pat Mestern on Nov 18th, 2014
2014
Nov 18

Makes One proud to be a Canuck!!

British newspaper salutes Canada . . . this is a good read. It is funny how it took someone in England to put it into words……Salute to a brave and modest nation -

Kevin Myers , ‘The Sunday Telegraph’  LONDON, England

 

Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan , probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops are deployed in the region.

 

And as always, Canada will bury its dead, just as the rest of the world, as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.. It seems that Canada ‘s historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored.

 

Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.

 

That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States , and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts.

 

For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.

 

Yet it’s purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada ‘s entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.

 

Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, it’s unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular memory as somehow or other the work of the ‘British.’

 

The Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack. More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone.

 

Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth largest air force in the world. The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time.

 

Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had clearly not participated – a touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.

 

So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality – unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter, Mike Weir and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British.

 

It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.

 

Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves – and are unheard by anyone else – that 1% of the world’s population has provided 10% of the world’s peacekeeping forces.

 

Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth – in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia , in which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace – a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit. So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbor has given it in Afghanistan ?Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac , Canada repeatedly does honorable things for honorable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun. It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honor comes at a high cost. This past year (2013) more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.
Lest we forget. Lest we forget.

 

This is a wonderful tribute which appeared in a British newspaper to those Canadians who choose to serve their country, and the world in our quiet Canadian way.   Thank you Kevin Meyers!

What’s it like to be a writer?

Posted by Pat Mestern on Mar 26th, 2014
2014
Mar 26

I’m always asked what’s it like to be a writer. How do I handle all the publicity, all the fans, any negative reviews, positive reviews.  The answer(s) are quite simple. 

What’s it like to be a writer? I don’t write for a living, thank goodness. If I did, I’d starve to death in a dirty sleeping bag under a bridge somewhere.  I write for the love of putting words to paper, of telling a story that has been fermenting in my mind for months – years and needs to be told. I lead a somewhat normal life, as normal as one can be when one gets on a writing bender. On the other hand, there are days, weeks or even months when the well runs dry and I get bored.  That’s when I turn to travel and lifestyle writing . . .

 How do I handle all the publicity?  What publicity?  As I’m not one of CanLit’s family of the chosen twenty, getting publicity for my books is an ongoing struggle, for my publishers and for myself.  I write well.  I have books in the personal libraries of the President of the U.S. of A, and of Canada’s Governor General yet, my name is not exactly a household word.  By the way, I wouldn’t want to be one of those twenty chosen individuals. I’d find living in a fishbowl a difficult job.

How do I handle my fans?   I love them to bits.  I love to hear from people who have actually read my books, who have questions about the characters, who can hardly wait for the next work of fiction to be published.  Bring ‘em on!   But, not by the busload please.  I’ve had that happen – fun and games.  Thanks to great neighbours I was able to come up with cookies, iced tea and a couple of gardens to tour.

What about those negative reviews?   I’ve not ever had a negative review.  I did have one group of Amish, or was it Mennonite, people took a dislike to ”Anna, A Child of the Poor House” and “Rachael’s Legacy”.  One of their deacons said that the books were ”sinful” and subsequently both books – all copies circulating in the community as a matter of fact were burned. Burned! Can you believe that in this day and age.  I’ve no idea why the burning of the books. I don’t write smut or bodice rippers.  I don’t have excessive violence or any sex (I close doors) in my works.  Appaently, the womenfolk were well into the stories and thoroughly enjoying them before one of the men – a deacon in one of the churches browsed the books and decreed that they be turned into firewood.  The other side of the coin is that “Rachael’s Legacy” is listed as a source for biographical information by a Mennonite group in Iowa. So you never know what’s coming down the tubes, surprises are the spice of life!

How about the positive reviews?  I love them.  I’d love to have more.  If any of my dedicated readers, and those who’ve just found my books, would like to post a review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or even Chapter/Indigo or Goodreads.com – any website that accepts reviews, please feel free to do so.  And, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

If you have any difficulty getting any of titles, espcially “Magdalena’s Song” or “No Choice But Freedom”  please contact Ingalls Publishing Group, my U.S. publisher.  www.ingallspublishinggroup.com  If I’ve got that link wrong, just google Ingalls Publishing Group.  At the moment, both titles “Clara” and “Anna, A Child of the Poor House” are out of print.  They may be republished soon.  They should be available through interlibrary loan. For the time being, I’d suggest Magdalena’s Song,  No Choice But Freedom and my favourite Granite.  Have a great read.

A Titanic Story

Posted by Pat Mestern on Jun 15th, 2013
2013
Jun 15

The Titanic and Fergus:

When hubby and I were first married we moved into a upper floor apartment that once was the servant’s sleeping quarters in a large, impressive house that had belonged to John and James Beattie. It is a red brick beauty that still stands on the east corner of Queen and St. David Streets in Fergus. On one of the walls of the back stairs which led down to another apartment, there was one sentence – “Terrible day, April 15, 1912″. Obviously one of the servants was very much affected by the sinking of the Titanic.

Thomson Beattie, was the last child born to John Beattie and Janet Wilson. He and his siblings, born over a twenty-four year period, were Mrs. Alex Milne, Mrs. Alex Burns, Mrs. Hugh Black, Mrs. William Murray, John T., James, George, Mrs. Robert Phillips, Charles M., Frederick and Thomson.  All were born at “Belsyde” the former home of the Ferrier family, a c1836 limestone dwelling which still stands on Queen Street E., although now wedged between private homes and apartment buildings. John, realizing that he was no longer a young man and possibly wouldn’t be capable of taking care of himself and his wife, went into a partnership with his son James and together they financed the construction of beautiful red brick “mansion” during the 1880′s. John and his wife were able to enjoy the new dwelling which they shared with his son until 1897 when John died.

After his father’s death James took over the duties of Clerk for the County of Wellington and also took over complete ownership for the house. Thomson, the youngest of the family took his share of the estate and moved to Winnipeg where he went into real estate with a partner, Richard Waugh under the name the Haslem Land Co.

When in January 1912, Thomson along with three friends, Thomas McCaffry – sometimes spelled McCaffrey, John Hugo Ross and Charles Hargraft decided to enjoy a three month holiday in Europe, Thomson’s mother, who was known for being “fey” was not ecstatic about the sojourn. It was not the trip through Europe but the sea voyage that most bothered her. Although she spoke to Thomson about the possible perils of that journey, the men ventured forth. Clara Young wrote in her 1912 journal that Mrs. Beattie said – “It is a collision of my birth and Thomson’s voyage that I do dread.”

Of the four, Hargraft was the lucky fellow who, due to lack of money cut his vacation short in Paris and returned to Canada while the others toured the Middle East, Egypt, France and finally England. In March of 1912, Thomson sent a note to his mother – “We are changing our plans and coming home in a new, unsinkable ship”.  Possibly he felt that he would set his mother’s fears to rest by assuring her that they had obtained passage on an unsinkable ship. Unfortunately, that ship was the Titanic. Thomson, Ross and Thomas McCaffry paid 75 pounds, 4 shillings and 10 pence each for first class passage on the new ship. Beattie’s cabin was C6. His ticket number was 13050.

Of course, we all know what happened to the Titanic.  The story of its sinking and subsequent loss of lives is legendary.  Ross died in his bed. McCaffry drowned. His body was picked up by the cable repair ship the MacKay-Bennett and subsequently buried in Notre Dame des Neige Cemetery in Montreal.  But Thomson Beattie did not drown at sea. From visual reports it is thought that he and McCaffry were clinging to the roof of the officer’s quarters near collapsible A lifeboat. The officer’s quarters were located on the top deck just behind the first funnel. As the ship lifted and plunged toward its final resting place on the bottom of the ocean, so many people clambered to get aboard the collapsible boat that it became partially submerged. Beattie who climbed aboard alive, froze to death in the cold water in the bottom of the boat.

Lifeboat A floated on the ocean for four hours before it was found by Lifeboat 14 whose commander, Officer Harold Lowe took aboard all the live survivors. Unfortunately Beattie and two crew members were ascertained to be dead and left behind. Officer Lowe tried to sink the collapsible lifeboat but failed so left the scene.  It would be one month before the boat was sighted again, the three bodies found, and buried at sea – after personal belongings were retrieved from the corpses. Their bodies were assigned numbers #331, #332 and #333.  One of the items brought to shore was Thomson Beattie’s watch which now resides in Wellington County Museum. The boat was discovered two hundred miles southeast of the site of the sinking of the Titanic. It was here that the three bodies were buried, in the almost the same spot that Thomson Beattie’s mother, Janet Wilson was born in 1830 when her family emigrated to Canada.  Janet Wilson Beattie’s premonition was all too true.  All she was capable of writing to Clara Young was “I knew. I knew.”