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The last man

 

George Price is the last man.

It is Price’s sad place in history to be the last British soldier killed in World War One.

Private George Lawrence Price (#256265) has a further distinction of being the 60,661stCanadian killed in WWI.

The Armistice was signed in a railcar in the Forest de Compiegne at 5 am on the morning of November 11, 1918. Under the terms of the Armistice fighting would cease six hours later at 11 am. The time delay was needed to relay the message to the various military headquarters then down through the divisions, brigades, battalions to the front-line ranks as well as those smaller units and individuals hidden behind enemy lines and in rural and remote fronts.

Private Price was with a small advance unit trying to secure the village of Havre in Belgium. To accomplish their mission, they crossed the Canal du Centre into Ville-sur-Haine, where they knew a German machinegun unit was located. After taking cover in a local home, Price and one of his comrades stepped outside and into the sights of a German sniper 400 yards away. There is some variation about the exact minute, but between 10:50 and 10:54 am, Price was shot. Price was carried back inside by his fellow Canadian.

A young Belgian nurse, Alice Grotte, witnessed the shooting and risked her life to run to his aid. As Price lay dying he pulled a small crocheted flower that his fiancé in Saskatchewan had given him from his tunic and handed it to Grotte. Private Price died at 10:58 am, November 11, 1918, two minutes before war’s end. He was 25.

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The dark, heart-shaped flower stained with George Price’s blood was preserved by a Belgian nurse who held him as he died. This is the last blood a British soldier shed in World War One. (Allan Lynch Photo)

 

Seventy-three years later, Price’s nephew, George Barkhouse of Kingsport, Nova Scotia, was in Ville-sur-Haine for the commemoration of the George Price footbridge over the Canal du Centre. Alice Grotte’s daughter returned the preserved flower, brown with Price’s blood, to Barkhouse.

The flower had been placed in a small frame, with a maple leaf and this inscription:

“On the 11 Nov 1918

On the final instant

Where [when] the peace is signed

You fell for us

The last victim of the sad conflict.

 

Thank you George Price!

A drop of your blood tarnishes this simple

Flower that you concealed on your breast.”

While news of the armistice moved swiftly around the world, Barkhouse says the runner carrying news of war’s end hadn’t reached Price’s unit when the shooting happened. So, as Price lay dying in a foreign land his mother and sisters were in the village of Church Street, now Port Williams, celebrating. They sang patriotic songs, danced, and like their friends and neighbours were happy and relieved that the killing had stopped. Unfortunately, they then returned home to the devastating news of George’s death. Barkhouse doesn’t know how the news was delivered to the family. Telephones were scarce and the Annapolis Valley was too far from Halifax for the military to send a team to deliver the message in person.

 

Barkhouse, who was named for his uncle and born 11 years after his uncle’s death, says his family didn’t speak much of George. Price’s death was too painful for his grandmother, mother and family. George had been the favoured son and brother. He was one of two boys and seven girls born to James E. and Annie R. Price. He was born in Falmouth, Nova Scotia, (outside of Windsor) and raised in Port Williams (between Wolfville and Kentville). As an adult he worked at a logging camp in Falmouth and later as a farmer labourer in Stoney Beach, Saskatchewan.

For those who believe in fate coming in threes, the sniper was Price’s third and final

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June and George Barkhouse in Kingsport stand by the Minas Basin with the blood-stained flower his uncle gave to a Belgian nurse. (Allan Lynch Photo)

 

brush with death. Barkhouse says that when Price worked in logging, he was late returning to the camp one evening. He called for a man he saw standing down the lane to wait up. Just as Price reached him, the ‘man’ dropped to his four paws and went off into the woods. That night the bear wasn’t interested in Price. Price’s second temp with fate was September 8th, 1918 when he was gassed in an attack at the Canal-du-Nord.

George Price is buried in the St. Symphoriem Military Cemetery. Originally, he was buried near John Parr, 4thBattalion Middlesex Regiment, who was the first British soldier killed in WWI. Parr’s remains were later moved to a British war cemetery. In addition to the George Price bridge, there is a school named for him and on the 50thanniversary of his death and the Armistice, his comrades erected a monument near the spot where he was shot. It reads:

“In Memory of 256265 Private George Lawrence Price 28thNorth West Battalion 6thCanadian Infrantry Brigade 2ndCanadian Division killed in action near this spot at 10.58 hours November 11th1918 The last Canadian soldier to die on the Western Front in the First World War erected by his comrades November 11th1968.”

While many Canadians don’t know of Price’s story, June Barkhouse, George’s wife of 65 years, says that on one of their visits to St. Symphoriem, they met a woman placing flowers on war graves. That woman told Barkhouse, “all these years later, we don’t forget.”

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DEVOUR the food film fest opens 2018 edition

The DEVOUR Food Film Fest started Tuesday night with their first Sip & Savour event in Kentville.

DEVOUR founder chef Michael Howell and Kentville Mayor Sandra Snow welcomed the sippers and savourers to a three-stop tour of local food and drink.

DSCN1006In the Harvest Gallery food-inspired art set the tone. DEVOUR managing director Lia Rinaldo introduces one of the short food videos aired at each stop.

The Surreal Gourmet Bob Blumer tweets from the Harvest Gallery.

Wineries, distillers, brewers, cider-makers and pubs were represented. Barrelling Tide Distillery served up cranberry cocktails. Among the participants are The Noodle Guy & Mrs Noodle Guy who dished up melt-in-your-mouth meatballs and artisanal pasta. Students from the Nova Scotia Community College culinary course served a pickle-and-marinade vegetable charcuterie table. Canada’s first gluten-free restaurant, Crystany’s Brasserie in Canning, served killer crab cakes. And Hills Grills served kumara curry and basmati rice.

There was more! It all firmed up the Valley’s position as the tastiest place in North America. devourfest.com

 

First Ritz-Carlton ocean yacht floated in Spain

October 9, 2018 – On Tuesday, with pennants fluttering in the breeze and long blasts of its horn the sleek un-painted brown hull of the first member of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection effortlessly slipped from its dry dock in the HJ Barreras shipyard into the harbour at Vigo, Spain..

From this splash, the first of three vessels comprising the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection (RCYC) goes for a 12-month detailed outfitting process. That will be followed by several shakedown cruises in late 2019-early 2020 with “trusted travelers”. The shakedown process is longer than standard because, as RCYC Chief Executive Officer Doug Prothero says, “We will do more shakedown voyages than most in order to be full on-brand when we accept guests.”

Prothero is the Canadian who conceived and is in command of the Ritz-Carlton yacht experience. The idea is to bring Ritz-Carlton service to a yachting lifestyle on an ocean-going super-yacht.

He says, “Think of the casual luxury of a Ritz Carlton Reserve at sea.”

Prothero, from Port Stanley, Ontario, has had a 35-year career built around the water. Most recently he was Chairman of Sail Training International (STI), the 32-country organization, which trains young people to sail and organizes tall ships gatherings as well as a maritime finance consultant for Capital Canada Limited (CCL), a Toronto-based boutique investment firm. It was at CCL that he met Marriott executives who invited him to put together some sort of cruise product.

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection 3

Artists’ rendition of the completed Ritz-Carlton ocean yacht.

The vision is to be unlike big-ship cruising and use the freedom their size provided to focus on overlooked ports. Each seven-to-ten-day itinerary is designed so guests booking back-to-back cruises won’t repeat ports.

“This is a hybrid between yachting and cruising. We aren’t trying to get to seven ports in seven days. We’re more interested in a yachting lifestyle.” To accomplish this the RCYC will have the highest crew-passenger ratio on “the most expensive cruise vessel per berth ever built.”

Each yacht will be 190 metres (624 feet) long, with a crew of 236 attending to 298 passengers in 149 terrace suites. There are five suite styles, ranging in size from 29 to 100 sq. metres.

“We have two owners’ suites at the top. They have a 90-degree view starboard and aft,

Terrace Suite

Artists’ rendition of one of the five suite styles on the Ritz-Carlton ocean yacht.

and 90-degree view port and aft. They’re each 100 sq. metres with a 50 sq. metre terrace and a plunge pool. These yachts are designed so that most of these smaller suites can be interconnected with the one beside them, so if we’re on charter and somebody doesn’t need all 149 suites we can offer them a selection of larger suites.”

Yacht One will travel the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Northern Europe to Atlantic Canada-New England and Great Lakes. Yacht Two will focus on the Mediterranean for summer of 2021. The rest of the itinerary is yet to be finalized. They are considering whether to do a northern transatlantic crossing which includes Canada-New England or linger in Europe before heading to the Caribbean via the southern route. Yacht Three, which joins the fleet in 2022, will be positioned in the Pacific.

Big news for Halifax is that R-C Yachts will use it for turn-arounds, allowing guests to start or finish their voyage there. Traditionally Halifax is part of an itinerary requiring Boston, Montreal or Quebec City as a start or end point.

On-board amenities include an aft deck marina which acts as a floating beach and five dining venues: an Asian fusion restaurant, an international restaurant that will shift between French and Italian cuisines, poolside grill, seafood grill and Aqua, a concept restaurant by three-Michelin starred chef Sven Elverfeld. Aqua is an a la carte option, while everything else on board, including gratuities and bespoke land-based experiences are covered in the all-inclusive price.

All suites, all dining areas and even the service options – from bars to spa –have their own terraces.

The out-of-the-box thinking for the yachts started with the selection of Spain’s HJ Barreras Shipyard as builders. Prothero shunned the mainstream cruise shipyards for Barreras which typically builds highly complicated research vessels. “They have a lot of experience in specialty ships and we needed a highly customized build.” That customization extends to the technology, which will allow guests to control their suites and experiences from their smart phones.

Another break with tradition was hiring one firm – Tilberg of Sweden – to design the ship. “Most cruise ships have six or seven designers, this has one designer throughout the entire yacht so we’ve been able to get a really cohesive design plan.”

 

 

Playing with our food

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Valley people have made food competitive. We grow giant pumpkins – over 1,000 lbs. – then hollow them out, decorate them and race them across a man-made lake in Windsor. (Allan Lynch Photo)

I live in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley and here people play with their food. And they welcome others to join them.

Summer vacation may be over, but in the Annapolis Valley the fun ramps up in October. After several seasons of planting, tending to and harvesting crops and flocks, residents are ready to play. It’s only natural that the so-called “breadbasket of Nova Scotia” and most agriculturally diverse part of Canada would play with and celebrate food.

During October, Kentville’s population jumps up with the arrival of the Pumpkin People. Lawns, parks and fields fill with Pumpkin People and their cousins the Gourds. From October 6thto 29th 300 Pumpkin People hang out in town. This year’s Pumpkin People reunion has an On the Go theme, so their wardrobes, accessories and vignettes will celebrate transportation. http://kentville.ca/events/kentville-pumpkin-people-festival-2018/

One of the Valley’s signature, truly world-class events is the Giant Pumpkin Regatta in Windsor. The world’s craze for competitive giant pumpkin growing was the dream of local farmer Howard Dill. He developed the Atlantic Giant seed which has sold around the world and fueled this international phenomena.

This year’s event is on Sunday, October 14. At 11 am there are 6 & 12k canoe and kayaking sprints on Lake Pisiquid.  At noon the Parade of Paddlers leaves the Exhibition Grounds for downtown Windsor and then the start location on the Falmouth side of Lake Pisiquid. The parade consists of paddlers and their PVCs (Personal vegetable crafts). The regatta starts at 2 pm. This year there is a class for motorized and experimental pumpkins. All day there are miniature train rides and vendors set up. https://worldsbiggestpumpkins.com/Regatta%20Schedule.htm

October 14this also the last day of the 2018 season for the Magic Winery Bus which provides a double-decker London bus as your designated driver, offering a hop-on, hop-off service, to five of the wineries in the Wolfville – Grand Pre area. https://magicwinerybus.ca

October 17 is the Miner’s Marsh Pumpkin Walk. Miner’s Marsh. Students at the Nova Scotia Community College tourism class carve over 300 pumpkins which are lit and line a 1k walk in this Ducks Unlimited wetlands in downtown Kentville between 6:30-8:30 pm. Admission is by food bank donation. Rain date Oct. 18th. Service dogs only. http://kentville.ca/events/miners-marsh-pumpkin-walk/

These are followed by the world’s tastiest event: DEVOUR, The Food Film Fest. DEVOUR is ground zero for the marriage and many manifestations of art and food. It’s been said that food is first visually consumed, then tasted. DEVOUR puts food on the big screen, then develops special meals based on the film themes. One year, after a documentary on oysters, instead of popcorn and soda, oysters and vodka were served in the theatre lobby.

The six-day festival (Oct. 23-28) comprises films, documentaries, seminars, workshops, special meals, galas, receptions and other food-based events like the Bubbles Bus, Street Food Party (from a cluster of food trucks), Mayors’ Bike Ride with refreshment stops, and an Everything Apple Express. Events are held in Wolfville, Kentville and Starr’s Point.

DEVOUR is an event that the late Anthony Bourdain attended. https://devourfest.com

dscn1111In addition to the scheduled events, the Valley offers a variety of other food-related experiences. There’s a weekly Saturday Farmers’ Market in Wolfville (with a diverse range of on-site edibles). Throughout the Valley are pop-up roadside farm markets, with shelves stocked with just-picked, just-pulled from the ground produce as well as home-baked pies, bread, squares and preserves. Many are on an hour-system, so bring cash. In small denominations.

Outside Wolfville you’ll find a corn maze and kids playground at Noggins’ Farm, a Pumpkin Maze at Stirlings and fresh cider at Elderkin’s. And from Windsor to Annapolis Royal there are any number of community breakfasts, lunches and dinners based on old recipes and local ingredients. They are real home cooking. Check out Valleyevents.ca.

The Valley in fall offers the addition beauty of fall colours with great light for photographers and painters, great tastes and fun things for friends and family to do. It makes playing with your food acceptable.

A brilliant Valley day

Saturday was another brilliant day in Wolfville and the Annapolis Valley. It was a sunny, warm day. Summer may be over, the kids back in school and adults returned to the office, but it was a gloriously lazy day of busy personal pursuits.

The Wolfville Lions Club hosted their monthly breakfast. Around the corner the weekly Farmers’ Market was packed with social shoppers, stocking up on fresh-from-the-field produce. Then wandering Main Street I saw dozens of mud-covered Acadia University students walking barefoot through the downtown. They had come from sliding in the harbour mud at low tide and were headed to the university gym to shower before hitting their dorms and town’s cafes.

DSCN0900All the sidewalk tables, chairs and cafes were packed with happy people sipping designer, free-trade coffees, some holding hands, others enjoying a local craft beer.

Wolfville is a lovely town, with tree-lined streets – even the shopping street – lush gardens and over-flowing store window boxes. There’s colour, scent, greenery, happiness and energy to the place.

DSCN0902One of the community’s older businesses, Herbin’s Jewellers, is sporting a fresh new mural, which employs a line from John Frederic Herbin’s writings. Herbin was a renaissance man who put the place on the map. He was an optometrist, jeweller, historian and author. He used the royalties from his books to compile the land for a park at Grand Pre, which is now has double UNESCO World Heritage Status as the site of the deportation of the Acadians (1755) and as the longest continuously farmed part of North America (many farmers here are the eighth and ninth generations on this land).

And for a final bit of lightness, many businesses communicate with humorous sidewalk signs.

Wolfville and the Valley is a pleasant place to be at any time of year.

 

Mona Parson’s exotic life

I went to the opening of The Bitterest Time: The war story of Mona Parsons.

I was at the back of the theatre and couldn’t take a good shot of the curtain call, but the play is about the amazing life of a Valley woman.

Mona Parsons was born in Middleton, joined the Ziegfeld Follies, married a Dutch millionaire, hid downed Allied airmen from the Nazis, was arrested by the Gestapo, sentenced to death, escaped imprisonment to walk across Germany back to Holland where she was liberated by the North Nova Scotia Highlanders from Halifax. After the war she married a general and moved to Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Local author Andrea Hill-Lehr learned of Parson’s exotic, larger-than-life life and wrote a book about her.  Parson’s story inspired the Women of Wolfville to raise the funds to place a statue in her honour in a garden on the post office grounds. Now Hill-Lehr’s book has become the basis for the play.

Mona Parsons’ history proves you never know who lives down the street or around the corner from you.

 

A booming Saturday

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Cadets with HMCS Acadia keep Tchaikovsky alive. They perform their part in the 1812 Overture. (Allan Lynch Photo)

 

On Saturday the evening air in Annapolis Royal was filled with cannon fire. This was not for the first time. But it was in peace. Sea Cadets from HMCS Acadia performed the 1812 Overture as part of their final sunset ceremony. It’s the delicious eccentricity of Nova Scotia that an event like this just sort of pops up.

The Cadets paraded through town following their band, trumpeters, colour party, cadet troop and dragging their own field artillery pieces. They do this twice a year. In their previous evening, two local churches lent their bells to fill in at the appropriate place in the score.

Sea Cadets are 12-to-18 years old, so spending a summer working with artillery is a blast.

The arrival of the cadets at Fort Anne continues the fort’s 389-year-old military tradition which has seen French, British, Scottish, pre-American (before the Revolution), British and French armies fight over and take command of this place.