Monday, 30 June 2014

Red & White All Over…

You always knew the biggest party of the year was upon you when the flags started to appear all over the city.  Large, no … HUGE, Canadian flags adorn office buildings across the whole of Ottawa.

The main floor at Giant Tiger’s flagship store turns into a sea of red and white: in one stop you can get your patriotic t-shirt along with all the other necessary acr├┤utements – maple leaf deely-bobbers, temporary tattoos, flag picks to stick in burgers, those umbrella hat things to protect you from the sun’s rays beating down on your face (which can also block your view of the Snowbirds fly-past if you’re not careful), sparklers, family packs of fireworks and the necessary flag for your home (or to wear, as many do).

My sister and I used to affix a 3 by 5 foot flag to the front of our balcony; it was clearly visible 2 kms away if you were crossing the Mackenzie King Bridge by bus and happened to look our way.

And you would look that way, trust me.  Our apartment had a view straight up the Rideau Canal to Parliament Hill and the Laurentian foothills beyond.  The private boats would be lined up stretching south from the locks almost to the bend at the University of Ottawa.  And the tour boats did a booming business heading down to Dow’s Lake while providing history lessons to unsuspecting tourists.

My sister and I hosted many a fireworks-viewing party in our apartment until my permanent job in London necessitated moves for both of us.

After work on June 30th, or on the morning of the 1st while on their way downtown, our friends would drop by our house with their drinks and food contributions to the potluck dinner that night.  We filled one of the bathtubs in our apartment with ice to keep the wine and beer cold.  Off everyone would go to join the throngs pouring on to the streets in a great throng of red and white.  There’s music on the street corners, folk dancers in the parks, popcorn and poutine to be eaten.  The Snowbirds swoop and The Big Names of the Canadian music scene light up the stage on The Hill.

Around 6pm, everyone would start returning to our place to crack open the libations and cool off from the often-steamy weather.  The "Oh What A Feeling" compilation cds would spin and we'd turn CBC to the evening show on the massive stage in front of the Parliament Buildings so we'd know when to go outside for The Big Show.  By the time the last bite of flag-themed strawberry cake was consumed, friends and family would gather on our huge balcony to watch the sky light up in spectacular colours.

The day I left Ottawa at the end of February 2006, the last thing I did before leaving my aerie over the city was stand on my balcony, in a biting wind, watching the skaters on the Rideau Canal.  It was a perfect, clear, sunny winter day.

That beautiful view, of the most beautiful city in the most beautiful country on the planet, is forever locked in my mind.

Happy Canada Day!