Monthly Archives: September 2009

Ottawa St. Brigid YOTF Dinner

Here is the full menu from Thyme and Again in Ottawa, for all edgy foodies. Taken from ALL parts of the book!

MENU
Adam One’s Elderberry and Cranberry Sangria
(with or without wine)
STARTERS:
Zeb’s SecretBurger Stash – now 99% Rakunk-Free!
Mo’Hair and Vegetarian options available:
(Lamb Burgers or Veggie Burgers with local Sprouts and Tomato Chutney)
served with a selection from Toby’s Ararat:
Mini Pickled Quail Eggs in Mason Jars with Spiced Pecans, Dates, Apricots and Cherries
MAIN COURSE:
1. Gardener’s Choice: Pilar’s Mushroom Extravaganza
(Wild Mushroom Ragout with Apple Cider in Phyllo Basket)
or
2. ChickieNobs Supreme
(Herb and Pepper Crusted Supreme of Chicken with White Truffle Infused Mushroom Sauce)
Main course includes the following Garden Botanics and Edible Weeds:
Adam Thirteen’s Warm Lentil Salad
(with Heirloom Golden and Red Beets, Carrots, Spinach, Wild Mushrooms, and Pickled Radish)
and
Ren’s Brown Butter Smashed Potatoes and Roasted Root Vegetables
plus
Nuala’s Freshly Baked Artisan Bread
DESSERT:
Eve Eleven’s Delectable Desserts:
A selection of Zucchini, Carrot and Honeycakes with Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies
and
Lucerne’s “Better than Happicuppa” Beverages
(Organic Coffee, Decaf, Tea and Herbal Tea)

Additional notes from the Ottawa Festival:

Note: Frogpond Farm is Ontario’s only certified organic winery. Here’s a link to their site: http://www.frogpondfarm.ca/main.html

Our main beer is local and organic (and FANTASTIC). It’s Beau’s All Natural: http://www.beaus.ca/ <http://www.beaus.ca/>

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Ottawa Event September 22

St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts and Humanities.  With the Ottawa Writers’ Festival

The Pictures: CBC cameraguys Mike de Paul and André Charbonneau preparing to film (“Nobody ever takes OUR pictures..”); Christine and Kendal from Indigo setting up; designer Thea Yateman with Todd Duckworth (Adam One); Mary Ellis (Toby); Kate Smith (Ren), in the green room; Director Jan Irwin; Gardener slates with slogans; Calixa Lavallée Ensemble in action, three readers and me onstage; Mark Wilkinson directing the Ensemble; “Toby” in action; cast bows; two readers — Alex Nahas and Aya Fawzi — with “purse” book-holders ingeniously made of paper bags; and lovely collage envelope by poet Selina Boan.

Ottawa, Canada’s ambilingual capital city, with its borders and border-crossings, its officials and its official secrets. I was born in it almost seventy years ago, spent the first five winters of my life in it, and, with mittens on strings, fell off my two-runner skates on the Rideau Canal, super-chilling my tiny toes and fingers. Now here I was again. So this is where I got my multiple personality, I thought. Sacré bleu!

Having left the Novotel – chosen by publicist Ashley Dunn for its greenery, heralded by a strange lobby display that showed some deer on a table and a seal sleeping on a Novotel bed – hmm, have you ever smelled one?—I arrived at St. Brigid’s, an early 20th C. Cathedral now being gradually and painstakingly restored as an Arts and Humanities Centre — I admired, not only the astonishing backdrop made of old plastic bags and duct tape and lit so it resembled an abstract stained-glass window, but also the slates with Gardener slogans written on them. Then we were put through a brisk rehearsal by Director Jan Irwin, with the music sung by the exceptional Calixa Lavallée Ensemble. (Helpful hint: Calixa Lavallée was not a girl but a man, and he wrote “O Canada,” the Canadian National Anthem.) The Choir Director is Laurence Ewashko, but the actual conducting for this performance was done by young Mark Wilkinson, who was not only extremely enthusiastic but extremely flexible. He looked like an angel that had been stretched – short, he wasn’t – and the Ensemble followed his every sinuous move with rapt attention, as did I.

Then I was whisked off to a fundraising dinner for St. Brigid’s –restoring those frescoes isn’t easy — with food by Thyme and Again Catering: (http://www.thymeandagain.ca/en/thyme/Creative_Catering_p1791.html.) Sheila Whyte went — deliciously – the extra mile, with a menu drawn from themes in the book, including a Chickie Nob item that looked and smelled very tempting, but — keeping the Veggie Vows — I had Pilar’s Mushroom Tart instead – and an edible Lemon Meringue Facial from the AnooYoo Spa. Well done!

The organic coffee was by Bridgehead (http://www.bridgehead.ca), which now has a number of Ottawa shops and outlets.  It’s worth mentioning here that the Ottawa Festival aims for a high score in greenery, with no bottled water, 100% post-consumer paper, and no disposable dishes, and fair-trade organic coffee and tea.

(Somehow another bag o’beans appeared  during the book signing (I think): Reunion Coffee, from Oakville, at http://www.reunionislandcoffee.com/. Thank you, anonymous donor…)

After that came the performance itself, and I am sorry to say I somewhat disgraced myself by dropping my script all over the floor. But you can recover from anything on stage short of passing out (and I have), and anyway a blooper from me at the get-go made everyone else feel more relaxed. That’s my story. After that things went swimmingly, with Kate Smith playing a taut but tentative Ren, Mary Ellis an efficient Toby with hidden motherliness, and Todd Duckworth indulging – said he – his long-held fantasy of being a preacher. And the Ensemble indeed sang like angels, with tall Marc saying a silent Thank You to them after each song. One commentator has said that this is about as close to a religious experience she’s come n a while.

Ottawa, you came through in spades, and I forgive you for those tiny frozen fingers of long ago!

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4 Nature Canada Special Bird Areas of the Tour

Nature Canada is involved in four of the six  Canadian cities — Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancover –that are doing and Event. (The other two — Kingston and Sudbury — have chosen other charities, and these will appear on the blogs for those cities.) Nature Canada have prepared four separate handsome information sheets – one for each city — with any funds raised in that city going to the bird program on the sheet, saving endangered species and protecting important bird areas. Thanks to Ian Davidson, new head of Nature Canada, for careful thinking. Here are the information sheets. Note the statistics on the first one. Please help to change them for the better!

CLICK ON THE SHEETS TO MAKE THEM BIGGER. ZOOM TO MAKE EVEN BIGGER. GO BACK TO MAIN BLOG AT UPPER LEFT. Atwood-Ottawa_400Atwood-Toronto_560Atwood-Calgary_480Atwood-Vancouver_480

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BRISTOL EVENT, with the Festival of Ideas.

The Pictures: Outside St. George’s; rehearsal practice bow with actors; the wonderful Barefoot Collective at rehearsal; Ali Orbaum, brilliant arranger and choral director; actual performance, vegetable decorations onstage; excellent Sara Davies, who did the onstage interview, relaxing in the green room.

PODCAST:  http://www.ideasfestival.co.uk/wp-content/themes/ad-clerum-10/audio/2009/interview_atwood.mp3 This is a radio interview done backstage.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Bristol! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! Not one bare foot did you put wrong – and what a stupendous final UK Event you put on!

St. George’s is a former church converted to an event venue, with raised stage at the front. A variety of performances take place in it, under the direction of Suzanne Rolt, who was a great help with the Year of the Flood event. When we arrived, there were many large vegetables assembled onstage, with garden tools – followed shortly by the Barefoot Collective and Ali Orbaum, the meticulous arranger and director who”d drawn them together from three choirs she’s worked with. As soon as they began to sing I knew we were in for a superlative treat, and so it proved to be.  On the night itself the stand-up microphones were wreathed in vines – a Dionysian effect – and the singers, in shades of sage green, were indeed barefoot.

Ali had done some new arranging – “The Holy Weeds” was sung as a madrigal, the “Bright Wings” St. Rachel’s and All Birds hymn began with a solo voice joined by a recorder, then another voice, then the choir, and the melody soared up into the clouds. The Predator Day began with some ominous body-thumping-and-breath percussion, and then built into something both menacing and awe-inspiring. And “When Adam First” was sung “straight” at its first appearance, then finished the performance with a roof-raising full-gospel shout-out. All mouths in the sell-out crowd were open. Brilliant!

The three actors –under the direction of Sheila Hannon — were entirely up to the level set by the music. Simon Cook was a muscular Adam One with a street-preacher edge; Ros Steele was an appealing, worried Ren; and Suzannah Hampton was a case-hardened but ultimately compassionate Toby.

To add to this already overflowing cornucopia, there was a post-performance food break –vegetarian delights! – during which Blackwell’s sold books and CDs, and all kinds of other things went on at the booths and display areas in the cellar – I didn’t see them all as I went off to do a podcast, but the RSPB were there, adding to their donation-envelope-on-the-street presence (www.rspb.org.uk), and Sustrans (www.sustrans.org.uk.), and Forum for the Future, committed to sustainable development (www.forumforthefuture.org), and Triodos Bank (www.triodos.co.uk) , and Alastair Sawdy Publishing, who do very special special-escape guidebooks (http://www.sawdays.co.uk/.)  Then Sara Davies did an onstage interview, and then we staggered off happily into the night, back to our B&B at 9 Princes Buildings, where our kindly Fuller hosts poured us – I am happy to say – a shot of Organic Single Malt Scotch. (Well, it would be organic, wouldn’t it? All those casks and special water, and peat and moss, or whatever they put into it. That’s my story. )

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The Pictures:  Sustrans folk; signing Bike Belles petition; Andrew Kelly, me & John Cabot; The Third Floor meeting.

BRISTOL: Green Initiatives:  September 8 and 9

Who knew that Bristol is one great big hothouse brainstorm of greenery? Not me. But I was about to find out…

On September 8, off I went on the train to Bristol with the tour organizer, the ultra-efficient Fiona McMorrough of FMcM– we were the last two left of our Year of the Flood Travelling Minstrel group, as Graeme Gibson and then Phoebe Larmore and Orville Stoeber departed for North America. Fiona located our “9 Princes’ Building” Bed and Breakfast – “Clifton’s Hidden Secret” — behind a mysterious unmarked red door, in the beautiful Georgian home of Joanna and Simon Fuller (building started in the 1760s.) (www.9pb.co.uk.) The Fullers are aware of all things green, and had laid in the organic coffee. They also have a friendly interest in their guests, a great view of the river and the famous 19th century Brunel bridge, and serious furniture. “What a discovery!” said Fiona, meaning not only our B&B, but Bristol itself – the town where the architects went after they’d finished setting the scene of lovely Bath for Jane Austen. Bristol has more listed buildings than Bath, we were told. (“Listed” = historically important, can’t-tear-down.) It’s quite a short journey by train from London, and would be a fine weekend getaway.

Next on the agenda was dinner at the Bordeaux Quay (www.bordeaux-quay.co.uk. ), said to be the most sustainable restaurant in the UK. They meticulously source the excellent food they serve, and even recycle the rainwater. At dinner I heard about so many green initiatives I started getting sage-coloured spots before my eyes, and wondered if I would pass out from the overdose of virtuous viridian beams heading my way.  Had I heard about the Tridios Bank, dedicated to ethical and sustainable entrepreneurial development? How about the Transition Network, a fair trade org? Did I know about the Schumacher Institute? The Natural Step? Bright Canopy? The Soil Association? The University of Gastronomic Sciences, a slow-fooder outfit? Those were only the bits I managed to scribble down in my small notebook: there was a lot more. If you were a person in search of green original thinking in the UK, Bristol would surely be the place to start.

The next morning, accompanied by Andrew Kelly of the Bristol Festival of Ideas – the mastermind behind my whole Bristol experience — we crossed a quayside square adorned with a sculpture of a huge beetle, where preparations for the next day’s Organic Food Festival (www.theorganicfoodfestival.co.uk) were underway. Then we met with two of the major Bristol/UK/International green outfits. One was Sustrans (sustainable transport: www.sustrans.org.uk. ), dedicated to a more bicycle-filled and bike-friendly world. I’d spoken with Peter Lipman from Sustrans the evening before, who was a cheerfully fit advertisement for the benefits of bike riding — though we diverged into a q & a about whether or not, for a passionate vegan such as himself, hookworms qualified under the heading of the sanctity of all life, supposing you yourself were infested with them. (A sticky point, that one. After some thought, he gave a thumbs down to the hookworms, and we threw in deadly bacteria and viruses as well.)

Now, amid the productive, helmet-strewn chaos of the Sustrans operation, I met Malcolm Shepherd, the CEO, and Gill Harrison, Alexander Allan, and Jason Torrance. I heard about the many Sustrans UK bike routes, and the efforts to make urban streets more pedestrian and bike-friendly through “Art and the Travelling Landscape,” and shortly found myself signing a petition for the Bike Belles initiative, aimed at making biking safer and thus more appealing to women through information-sharing and participation . (www.bikebelles.org.uk. ) (Hints on makeup to wear while biking? They’ve got that, too.)

The biggest meeting of the morning was at the Third Floor, designed as a location and synergistic think-tank where a number of green .orgs and .cos can flourish and interact. It’s on the third floor of the Arnolfini Building, and is creating a template for other Third Floors in other cities. Many orgs and researchers were present. The driving force behind The Third Floor is angelic developer John Pontin (when was the last time you saw those two words, “angelic” and “developer,” stuck together?) who helped build Bordeaux Quay. John is also involved in The Converging World (www.theconvergingworld.org. ), an ambitious and clever plan to take villages in the UK carbon neutral by twinning them with villages in India and China, where you can plant – for instance – many more trees for the price of one in the UK, and much more solar or wind power for the price of installation. The plan is already up and running at the village of Chew Magna, which has signed on to become zero-waste (in the broadest sense) and is well on the way to doing it.

The Bristol Green Initiatives morning – and all the other greenery we encountered in the UK — left North American me feel as if the Olde Worlde is way out in front on these matters. They hadn’t entirely caught up on the bird-killing attributes of sun-grown, pesticide-sprayed coffee, however, so I did flog Bridget Stutchbury’s sobering book, The Silence of the Songbirds, which has the hard science in it. And I’m happy to report that the AMT coffee kiosk in the Bristol train station is not only all-organic, but Fair Trade as well. “Yum, yum,” we said. Delicious guilt-free caffeine! Staves off Alzheimers, or bowel cancer – something like that.

Of course, there may be some Hitchcockian bird-haters out there. “Pour me another cup of Drop Dead Bird,” they will say. “Add extra DDT!” But they should take care not to tell Mr. Tweet of Twitter about that. He’ll call up the fearsome Twitterers, and there will be a sound like the rushing of two million tiny wings, and then the pecking of a million tiny beaks, and then…

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NOTE: for those following on the somehow self-standing blog that appears when I post to http://www.yearoftheflood.com — it’s because I didn’t understand some button or other. Think I’ve got it now, and after this one, the blog entries will be only on http://www.yearoftheflood.com, which also has the tour schedule (click The Tour, scroll down). This will save confusion, I hope.

From Toronto:  after rehearsing in the dining room with the Toronto team yesterday — they sound great! — I’m  about to head out to Ottawa and Kingston, then back to Toronto for Thursday — I’m behind in my writeups (shame!) but will catch up with Bristol on the train, I hope. There was so much to write about in that city — I’m dividing it into two — Green Initiatives and The Event.

From Ottawa, I’ll write about arts funding, with a spotlight on the recent BC annihilation beheadings. Then comes Kingston, where many exceptional things await!

Meanwhile, here is the PBS  website, with the Jeff Brown interview: http://www.pbs.org/newshour.

We are trying to keep up with all the reviews — posting the urls on http://www.yearoftheflood.com under Reviews and Press– and should have the latest ones entered early this week.

Meanwhile, you might want to enter the FloatingOnion contest on Twitter — answer the Q, “What is the symbolism of the floating onion (on the German book cover) — you’ll see it if you find FloatingOnion on Twitter — post your solution. Top 5 favourites get the T-shirt or Tote with the onion — see Floodshop on the http://www.yearoftheflood.com website — and help save the Albatross into the bargain!

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ELY CATHEDRAL, September 7

The pictures: Robert Topping, Phoebe Larmore, and me, in the Topping Ely Bookshop; the Cathedral; the choir rehearsing; the cast and choir, most of it; the three readers, and Robert P. Jones in his thug hat; the dragonfly script cover drawn freehand by  “Adam One’s” ten-year-old son, William; Adam – Julian Sedgewick – in his robe; the travelling team plus Vivienne Schuster, my agent from Curtis Brown; the Ely train station, with fans carrying Bloomsbury Eco-bags and me in the mauve raincoat in the background.

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Early on the morning of morning of Monday, September 7, we bundled up the sandwiches we hadn’t eaten the night before and set out for Ely – a cross-country drive of four hours, with Dave and Julia driving. Along the way we passed a huge field full of cars with their boots open. (N.B. North Americans: “boot” = “trunk”.) Dave explained the phenomenon: this was a “car boot sale.” A promoter rents the field, sets up the Port-A-Potties or Port-A-Loos or Honey Buckets, sends out advertisements, and charges entrance fees for both buyers and sellers. Refreshment booths are part of it, as are “Bootie Bootleggers”—those who sell items acquired by dubious methods. A whole subculture of “Booties” has sprung up – they’re what’s happened to middle-aged Ravers, said Dave. Does all of this have anything to do with the Recession, I wondered? Or with the re-invention of the traditional regional market, or with the folk music revival now underway?  Might we expect a new guitar-and-mouth-organ ballad?

As I was going to Bootie Fair –

Toasters, roasters, and broken-down clocks –

I hoped to encounter my true love there,

And also score me some second-hand socks…

But that way madness lies.

We stopped at a lay-by to gobble up the sandwiches – waste not, want not – and reached Ely in time for a late lunch or early tea, which we found waiting for us on the upper floor of the Topping and Company Bookshop in Ely. It has been prepared for us by Louise Topping, who had whipped it up, with a beguiling combination of gracious hospitality and roll-up-your-sleeves efficiency. Having made sure we were all in order and had had enough cheese, plums from the garden, perfect strawberries, and delicious salad, she whizzed off to Ely Cathedral to rehearse with the Gardener Choir.

So did we, shortly after. I had never seen Ely Cathedral before – one of the very greatest of English cathedrals – and was overwhelmed by it.  The attached picture does not do it justice at all. We were welcomed by the Dean of Ely, the Very Reverend Michael Chandler, who did not look bemused at all, but took it all in stride as if he was used to being invaded by wandering minstrels.

Before the performance there was a special reception given by BirdLife International – its Secretariat is based in nearby Cambridge – and many RSPB and BirdLife friends were there, including Dr. Marco Lambertini, the new CE – hero of Italian bird conservation, John Fanshawe, who more or less put me up to the fundraising and consciousness-raising aspects of this tour, Jane Fenton, longtime force behind the Rare Bird Club, and many others.

The Ely event was again a Topping affair (no pun intended), with Hugh Topping producing and Robert P. Jones directing. The music director  and arranger was Peter North, and the choir members – I think these are all – were Cecily Beer, Anthony Bristow, Graham Diss, Oliver Hancock, Cathy Howlett, Gytha Lodge, Alison Pearson, Andrew Pearson, Tessa Pearson, Marianne Skjoldholm, and Louise Topping. The musicians were Jacob Harrison, Alex Whatley, Farrel Gray, and Orville on his acoustic guitar.

The three readers were Topping specials. Adam One was Julian Sedgewick, a Topping bookseller, in a marvelous robe willed to him by a Japanese friend, who told us that his preaching tone was inspired by his father’s love of William Blake. Kathy Lewis – another Topping bookseller – was a vivacious Ren, and Toby was played thoughtfully by Liz Parker, a Topping customer who wandered into the shop – with her dog, she added – and found herself swept away.  The choir sang beautifully, their voices soaring up into the rafters. The evening again concluded with a Q&A, thanks to Robert P. Jones, who was the driving engine behind both the Bath and the Ely events.

After all books had been signed, I handed around the somewhat crumbly ginger biscuits I found at the bottom of my bag, and Fiona and I said goodbye to Phoebe and Orville, who would stay overnight in Ely and go from there to the airport the next day for their 24-hour journey back to Los Angeles. Fiona and I then headed for the Ely train station, which was decorated with many smiling people with Bloomsbury Year of the Flood Eco-bags. Not for the first time on this trip, I felt that I had stayed up way too late.

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