Parrywinkle, October 20, 2016

I Ducked out of town for six days recently - purely for YLJ research purposes, of course - and flew down to Cuba with my beautiful Sunshine. I say six, because it was supposed to have been all seven booked a month or so ago. But Hurricane Matthew sure put a damper on that!

There we were at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, bags all aboard, and were literally just about to step onto the plane, when word came through from Santa Clara Airport – no way José! The low-lying 48 km-causeway - literally running through the sea - from the airport to our hotel in superb Cayo Santa Maria was being pounded by giant waves, strong winds and debris, making transit there simply impossible.

And so it was that a couple of hours later, after having collected our luggage and cleared customs yet again, we were homeward bound back to Hudson with the promise that we would have better luck the next day. Which we did, departing at about noon for a fantastic virtually turbulance-free flight during which, at 39,000 feet, we passed over Matthew bashing the Bahamas and Florida below. What a magnificent sight. Mushrooming clouds all around, like giant icebergs in a sea of robin-egg blue! Not such a pretty picture, needless to say, far below.

Upon our arrival, we learned that while the white sand beach had been closed for three days, there had been little damage done to that part of Cuba some 400 km from Havana on the north coast. Unlike the devastation on the eastern tip of the island where Holguin is another popular destination for Canadians and where the homes of so many Cuban families were smashed to pieces. What a tragedy!


FANTASTIC FALL FOLIAGE - Returning home, we first flew along the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City to drop off some fellow vacationers there. And what a spectacular sight it was beneath our wings. A carpet of red, russet, orange and gold fall foliage that took one's breath away while trying to unblock one's ears for the slow descent.

And as for that reference to research, by the way? Nah. It was to celebrate my birthday on an island that we have come to love over the years. For its proximity, climate, beautiful beaches, superb hotels, and the wonderful, courteous, and hospitable Cuban people.

Oh yes, because of the inconvenience this time around, I received a great birthday gift - as did everyone else on the flight, mind you - of a voucher for $150 off our next trip to our favourite island in the sun. And am planning on taking it soon, as are so many other Canadians we met there, before the impending invasion of U.S. tourists now that Barack Obama has paved the way as it were. Ah, but that's another story still to unfold!

Speaking of which, I did catch the second Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debate debacle on CNN in our hotel room, and could only wonder what the Cuban people would have made of it all had they too had access. Democracy in action? A shining beacon to the free world? The best two candidates that the Democrats and Republicans could come up with? Out of a population of 322.7 million? And with the election only three weeks away? Crikey mick. Pour me another Cuba libre!


BANKING ON YOU - Meanwhile, back here in Hudson and once unpacked and rested, we filled up the trunk of our Cruze and paid a visit to Carol Laws, president of Le Pont/Bridging food bank with new premises in the basement of the Hudson Medi-Centre at 465 Main Road.

PHOTO BY JAMES PARRY On behalf of members of the Hudson Coronation Street Appreciation Society, vice-president Mireille Lemelin presents Carol Laws of Le Pont/Bridging food bank with a whole stack of non-perishable items to help local families in need in the coming weeks.

When we unloaded a whole stack of non-perishable items all donated by members of the Hudson Coronation Street Appreciation Society which held its last monthly luncheon at the Royal Canadian Legion Hudson Branch #115 earlier this month.

Currently providing emergency food supplies to between 25 and 30 clients every week, this wonderful, non-profit, volunteer-run organization that Carol founded has been helping families and individuals through difficult times for some 20 years now. And while the new location is not a drop-off point as such, much needed items can still be dropped off in IGA/Sobeys and all the churches in town.

Right now the shelves are pretty low, we learned. Food for thought, eh? And while they are sure to be stocked in time to help families over the Holiday Season, right now Carol and her fellow volunteers would really appreciate your help. Over to you guys and gals!


PORTRAIT OF HAWKESBURY - And now over to Hawkesbury, via Hudson artist Barbara Cuddy Farren who for many years now has greatly enjoyed drawing and painting portraits. All kinds of faces, the very young, and more mature.

I first met Barbara during the recent Hudson & Region Studio Tour and I was intrigued to learn that she is currently painting a real and unique Portrait of Hawkesbury which, if all goes according to plan, will feature some 100 individual portraits of residents there, as well as from surrounding areas, at no charge whatsoever to the sitter. To be exhibited in total in April next year when, as she says, “many will have returned from their southern retreats.”

It's all happening at Le Chenail Cultural Centre, 2 John Street, where Barbara sets up her easel, brushes and paints three times a week to welcome townspeople to sit for between one and three hours to have their portrait painted.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BARBARA CUDDY FARREN Hudson artist, Barbara Cuddy Farren, with just some of her completed portraits to date at Le Chenail Cultural Centre in Hawkesbury.

Explains Barbara, “A few years ago, I noticed that one of my colleagues had done a project in the small town where she lived. She had set up her paints in a store front and invited any local people that were interested to come and sit for her to have their portrait painted. This resulted in 180 portraits done over the course of one year and they were eventually put on display in an exhibit in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, in the U.S.

Adds Barbara, “Being from a small town myself, I thought this was a fantastic idea, really fun for everyone, and challenging and exciting for an artist to take on. So it has been in the back of my mind for several years. I just needed the right time and venue and help to get it organized. When I was fortunate enough to meet Lynda Clouette Mackay, who is running the program at the cultural centre, this past summer, I had a feeling she would be open and receptive to something that really involved the Hawkesbury community in their own art scene.

“This has been a serendipitous event on all levels and I am very pleased and excited at the prospect of painting a real Portrait of Hawkesbury involving its citizens of all ages. It is my hope and wish that they will be as excited as I am to participate in this unique opportunity and volunteer a few hours, or even an hour of their time, to spend with me. All who have participated so far have really enjoyed the experience as have I.”

For more info, check out Barbara's web page at or give her a buzz at (514) 574-2114. I'm sure she would love to hear from you!


ROUGH TAKEOFF - In closing, this just in from YLJ wagster, Jane Kirkwood.

Evidently a plane was taking off from Kennedy Airport recently. After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain made an announcement over the intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293, nonstop from New York to Los Angeles. The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should have a smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and relax.... Oh, my god!”

Silence followed. And after a few minutes, the captain came back on the intercom and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier. While I was talking to you, the flight attendant accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants.”

At which point, a passenger in coach yelled, “That's nothing. You should see the back of mine!”

And that's a wrap!


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