Monday 29 April 2013

Sheaffe's Shame

Today it is easier to see that Sheaffe's tactical retreat was for the best. It meant that the British retained sufficient strength to guard the most militarily important locations in Upper Canada, like Kingston. Even the Americans recognized that it would have been foolhardy to sacrifice many British soldiers in a fight against such heavy odds. As the U.S. Secretary of War wrote: ". . . we cannot doubt but that in all cases in which a British commander is compelled to act defensively, his policy will be that adopted by Sheaffe – to prefer the preservation of his troops to that of his post, and thus carrying off the kernel leave us the shell."

Upper Canadians, however, were not so understanding nor forgiving. Many members of the Legislative Assembly and other prominent citizens severely criticized Sheaffe and blamed him for abandoning York to its destruction. As a result of his defeat, Sheaffe lost his military and public offices in Upper Canada and was later sent home to Britain.

Back in England, Sheaffe resumed his military career and was ultimately appointed as a full General in 1835. He enjoyed a long life, marriage and children, a pleasant retirement and died in bed in 1851 at the age of 88.

But despite his victory at Queenston Heights and his prudence at York, Sheaffe remains the Rodney Dangerfield of the War of 1812. At least in Canada, the poor bugger can't get no respect.

Sunday 28 April 2013

The American Occupation of York

After Sheaffe's retreat, the victorious American forces occupied York. The town immediately offered its surrender in return for protection of property but the Americans delayed signing the terms of capitulation. In the meantime, they spent April 28-30 looting and burning.

The Americans paid particular attention to destroying symbols of British authority. Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant-Governor, was torched. So was the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada (pictured below). Outraged American troops claimed they found a scalp hanging on a chair in the Legislative Assembly, but it is now believed to have simply been the parliamentary Speaker's wig. The printing presses at the Printing Office were also smashed and destroyed.

Among the items looted from the Legislative Assembly was this carved lion statue, now repatriated to Ontario and displayed along with an American uniform at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Tomorrow: Whatever became of Sheaffe?

[Photo of looted lion by David Kawai, Maclean's Magazine]

Saturday 27 April 2013

The Battle of York

At daybreak on April 27, 1813, an American fleet of 14 ships arrived at York carrying 1800 soldiers under the command of Brigadier-General Zebulon Pike. He was the handsome and popular young explorer who had discovered Pike's Peak in Colorado.

Major-General Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe immediately engaged the Americans in a land battle but the British forces were outnumbered four to one. The York Militia was not involved in the fight because it was busy evacuating the town. Sheaffe knew the battle was lost so he decided not to squander his remaining forces and to retreat to Kingston.

But before abandoning the York garrison, Sheaffe ordered that its Grand Magazine (the ammunition storehouse) be blown up so it would not fall into the approaching enemy's hands. The resulting mega-blast and shockwave killed 25 American soldiers and wounded 200 others, many of whom died later. One immediate fatality was Brigadier-General Pike.

Tomorrow: Things get worse.

Friday 26 April 2013

Meanwhile, back at the War of 1812

Major-General Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe was a poor schmuck who couldn't catch a break. He had essentially saved Upper Canada by winning the Battle of Queenston Heights after Sir Isaac Brock was killed early in the battle, but did that make Sheaffe a hero? Noooooo. Everyone was too broken up about the loss of Brock to lionize Sheaffe. Brock got all the glory out of that victory, then and now.

Sheaffe succeeded to Brock's position as Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada and commander of British Forces in the Niagara region. This sounds pretty grand but remember that Upper Canada was small and rural. Its capital was a colonial backwater of 800 people on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Then known as "muddy York," today it is called Toronto.

In April 1813, the Americans decided to try to invade Upper Canada again with a plan to sail across Lake Ontario and capture York. This time, would Sheaffe finally get his due as a hero by driving them off once more?

Tomorrow: The Battle of York

[Portrait of Roger Hale Sheaffe by Mather Brown, 1778; Map of York from the Ontario Archives]

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Oh, how you wound me!

In the comments to my recent post about doing my income taxes, I feel like a couple of you implied that I was being a . . . a . . . A PROCRASTINATOR!

But the joke's on you! I was in fact cured of procrastination long ago by the expert feline psychoanalysis of Doctor HRH.

Doctor HRH turned my life around and taught me to see that only a FEW things truly need to be done on a priority basis before anything else -- crucial tasks like feeding her, playing with her, cleaning her litter box, etc. Everything else can wait.

So don't friggin' nag me about meeting my other obligations according to THE MAN'S arbitrary timeline!

Well okay, even if I haven't actually been cured, I can still be smug because I know I'm not alone! Bwa-ha-ha-ha, WE ARE LEGION!

Monday 22 April 2013

You Are Here

It's a big ol' universe out there and getting bigger every day.

Did you know that the ancient Greeks named the Milky Way for spillage from the lactating breasts of the Great Mother Goddess? Yes, we live in the midst of a powerful symbol of Her bounty and generosity.

Getting closer now! Third rock from the sun.

Home sweet home at last! Happy Earth Day, everyone!

[I don't know who produced these fabulous posters but I first saw them awhile ago over at Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool]

Sunday 21 April 2013

A Royal Wave of the Paw

Hello. Her Royal Highness the cat here. Today is the 87th birthday of one of my favourite relatives, Betty Windsor. Or, as you commoners call her, Queen Elizabeth II.

Many people wonder if the Queen will ever abdicate the Crown and retire. Some people even get quite worked up about it.

But take it from me, Betty will NEVER do such a thing. She is made of sterner stuff.

As you undoubtedly recall, the Queen's own Mum lived to be 101. I'm sure her daughter Elizabeth's genes will last just as long -- maybe longer!

So have a marvelous birthday, Betty darling! Sending hugs and purrs your way, today and always!

Friday 19 April 2013

Edmonton Tarot: The Sun (XIX)

Interpretation: The Sun is one of the most favourable cards in the Major Arcana. It represents a tremendous burst or renewal of energy that leads to major growth. This card indicates a period of fruitful activity and creativity in all areas of life. Expect love, friends, accomplishment, success, satisfaction, high spirits and joy!

Image: Ask any Edmontonian what is big and yellow in our city and all will reply with one voice: "The Butterdome!" Located at the University of Alberta, this sports complex is actually named the Universiade Pavilion but everyone knows it better by its nickname. The Butterdome houses indoor track and field facilities, a soccer/field hockey field, basketball, volleyball, tennis and badminton courts, wrestling rings and a climbing wall. Apart from looking like a giant pound of butter, the Universiade Pavilion has nothing to do with the dairy industry. But one of the university's best-selling souvenirs is the ever-popular Butterdome butter dish.

[Photo by Debra She Who Seeks]

Thursday 18 April 2013

Disaster in West, Texas

Last night the fertilizer plant blew up in the small Texas town of West, where Jackiesue of Yellowdog Granny lives. Thank goodness she and her family are all safe! But currently it is estimated that 15 people have died, 160 are injured and half the town has been evacuated. We were so shocked to see the live coverage on CBC news last night! Here are a couple of photos from the internet showing the blast and OMG that mushroom-shaped cloud --

On her blog, Jackiesue says her first thought was "that little asshole North Korean does have a bomb!" Click here to read her account of how she rushed to the West Rest Haven nursing home inside the blast zone to help evacuate all the seniors. Jackiesue is one of the citizen heroes of West!

Here's another internet photo showing the heavy damage sustained by the apartment block across the street from the fertilizer plant --

Please keep the good people of West, Texas in your thoughts and prayers today.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Pay It Forward Draw Results

By random draw, here are the three people who will receive my "pay it forward" cards and wee gifties:

Laurie McKnight of I love a cloudy day

Kay G of Georgia Girl With An English Heart

Jackiesue of Yellowdog Granny

I'm so happy and excited to pay it forward to you great bloggin' buddies! I'll contact you privately to get your mailing addresses. Then Canada Post will do its part!

Thanks to all who entered!

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Flying Fur at 10 Downing Street

Remember Larry, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, who resides in the British Prime Minister's official residence at 10 Downing Street, London? Larry's job is to keep down the mice at that famous address. I did a post on him about a year ago -- click here if you'd like to read it.

Alas, it now seems that poor Larry is not such a fierce mouser after all. His stats suck big time. He's only caught a single mouse on the job. Worst of all, the Prime Minister caught Larry napping in a chair while a mouse ran right in front of him! The PM woke Larry so he could do his duty for England, but Larry only briefly opened one eye and then promptly went back to sleep.

So now there is a new cat at 10 Downing Street named Freya. She is a street-hardened veteran of the mouser brigade. Appropriately enough, she is named for the Norse Goddess who commands the warlike Valkyries of battlefield fame.

To spare Larry's fragile male ego, Freya is simply said to be "job-sharing" the Chief Mouser position with him. But Larry knows the ugly truth and he doesn't like it one little bit. In fact, Larry got into a terrible cat fight with Freya right on the doorstep of No. 10 in full view of the press and paparazzi!

Freya made short work of him, of course, and now poor Larry is more disgraced than ever. I think if he's wise, Larry will take an early retirement package from the civil service and go live quietly with a nice old lady somewhere in rural England.

[Photos from the British press online]

Monday 15 April 2013

Pay It Forward

The "pay it forward" meme has been circulating for years around the blogosphere, Facebook, etc. And now I'm participating too.

So, how does the meme work? First, I get to receive a surprise. And I have! Yvonne of Inkspillers Attic recently sent me a lovely greeting card containing some beautiful handmade bookmarks and a cute pop-art Mona Lisa medallion. Thank you, Yvonne!

Next, I must "pay it forward" to three new people by sending them each a greeting card with some small surprise gift(s) inside. Since I'm not much of a crafter, my wee gifties will be purchased, not handmade. But they'll still be a surprise!

I'm going to pick three names at random from the Followers of my blog who comment on this post by midnight tonight. Then, ideally, those three recipients will keep the luuuv flowing by each paying it forward to three more people. That's the hope, anyway!

And I'll mail my cards anywhere in the world so don't let geography stop you from entering. On Wednesday I'll post who my three recipients will be!

Sunday 14 April 2013

Congratulations, Justin!

Today's the day you become the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Your father would be proud!

[Photo mashup of Pierre and Justin Trudeau by The Canadian Press]

Friday 12 April 2013

Edmonton Tarot: The Moon (XVIII)

Interpretation: A person who draws the Moon card is operating under some kind of illusion. Some important fact is unknown to that person -- such as a hidden agenda, buried emotions, undiagnosed health problem, secrets, lies or deceptions. This card is a warning to delay decisions or actions until the true situation is known. The person must figure out what is real and what is not.

Image: This beautiful Chinese moon gate and bridge is found at West Edmonton Mall right in front of T&T Supermarket, the big oriental grocery chain. I like to wander around the store and look at the unique grocery items. It's always busy in there!

[Photo by My Rare One]

Thursday 11 April 2013

It's Pound of Flesh Time!

T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month. If he was not thinking of taxes, he should have been.

Time to bite the bullet, get out the forms and receipts, and do my taxes. Wish me luck!

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Holy Moses!

The Ten Commandments remind me of something, but I just can't put my finger on it . . . .

There's no point bitching about them . . .

. . . but do we really need ten whole commandments? Couldn't they be boiled down to something easier to remember?

And they're so negative! Don't do this. Don't do that. Why can't they be more uplifting?

Tuesday 9 April 2013

The Penelopiad -- Again!

I seem to have developed a thing for Margaret Atwood's play The Penelopiad, based on her novella of the same name. The Penelopiad re-tells the ancient Greek myth of Odysseus from the point of view of Penelope -- faithful wife, abandoned spouse, single mother, a girl and woman surviving in a man's world. The original myth may have been written by the great poet Homer, but now Penelope has been given the benefit of Margaret Atwood's feminist wit and insight!

I read the book shortly after it was published and enjoyed it tremendously. In 2010, My Rare One and I went to Calgary with friends to see the play's first Alberta production. (I blogged about it here, if you're curious). And just this past weekend, we saw a new production staged here in Edmonton by the Citadel Theatre.

As always, the play featured an all-female cast portraying Penelope and her many maids, who also filled the male roles as needed (Odysseus, Telemachus, the suitors, etc.). Beth Graham (pictured below) was perfect as Penelope, bringing the necessary mix of vulnerability and strength to the role.

In many ways, the Edmonton production had a much lighter touch than the Calgary version and I think it worked better for that reason. The simple set gleamed white and blue, the colours of the Mediterranean Greek islands. Creative costume and prop use was made of rigging ropes, scarves and veils.

The cast, who were all students at this year's Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program, brought youthful enthusiasm and talent to their roles. Lisa Norton (pictured below) did a great job of portraying the swagger, self-confidence and heroic mannerisms of Odysseus.

The Penelopiad is a wonderful play for and about women -- see it if you ever get the opportunity!

[Photo #1 from the Citadel Theatre website. Photos #2 and #3 by Epic Photography in the Edmonton Journal].

Monday 8 April 2013

Petting Guide: Dogs vs Cats

But of course, cats also have their individual preferences. Know your cat!