tl;dr version: A good time was had by all, with some of the absurdities that generally occur whenever I set foot outside my door. For more details, you'll have to read on.
Part the first: Getting there
In the end, it was my mother and I who went to Ottawa. I was going for the March, and mother was going to see her goddaughter/niece, who has been unwell for a long time and is getting into the nasty habit of taking turns for the worse at random intervals. She had a nasty turn a few weeks back, which, in its way, is what convinced my mother to come. Mother would be very upset with herself if her niece were to take another turn for the worse and she (mother) had passed up an opportunity to see her. So, mother was coming, along with her cane, and, more importantly, her purse.
Puff wished me to take a cell phone in case of an emergency or, just in case she wanted to get in touch with me. We have an old pay as you go cell phone, so no problem, until we attempted to check how much money we had on it and discovered that the provider no longer supports our phone. So problem. We now needed a new cell phone. We got another pay as you go phone. It worked well. At least, when I tried to make a phone call, it worked. Also,unlike the last cell phone I used, this one could take pictures! Amazing what they can do nowadays. I used it to take pictures of the march, which would have been great, except the phone's camera was no good and the pictures that might have been good have my thumb in them.
Mother and I took off on Wednesday evening, intending to find some place along the way that was close to Ottawa where we could spend the night. Between traffic, construction and trucks, we eventually stopped off in Ganonoque and found a hotel for the night. I left an early morning wake up call and then, just to be certain, set the alarm clock for six, aiming to be on the road by seven. Woke up at six thirty and found that neither the call nor the alarm worked. I told mother to hurry up so we could get out of there by quarter after seven. She said she would.
So by about 8:10 we were on the road again. I was trying to make up for lost time and get to St Patrick's by ten o'clock for the start of the Mass. And I was at St Patrick's by ten o'clock. I just couldn't find a parking spot. I left her off at the church. She has trouble managing both her cane and her purse, so she asked me if I could bring her purse after I found parking. After I found parking and carried her purse through what seemed to be half of Ottawa, I found she was still standing outside the church, as she did not wish to go in alone. Many passersby were kind to her. A few of them even looked like they wanted to toss her a quarter. We were in the church basement watching Mass on a large screen television by about 10:30. Not ideal, but at least we were in the place we were supposed to be to meet our gracious host, Mother's niece's husband.
Part the Second: Being there.
We had lunch at the treatment centre where my cousin was staying. We left mother with my cousin to chat and catch up and our host drove me to as close as possible to Parliament Hill, where the March was to start. People had gathered and the Hill was quite crowded- I understand there was about 25,000 people there. Only Canada Day draws a bigger crowd to the hill. I saw man different groups in the crowd, even quite a few nuns in habit, and most were young.
There were loudspeakers out and politicians were making speeches. All the politicians I heard were Conservative, as neither the NDP nor the Liberals will permit pro life candidates any more. Most were English, although there was one or two who spoke French. I wish I could tell you what they said, but the only place I could find to stand was close to a pair of Earsplitter 9000 (tm) loudspeakers. I had trouble making out words, but they seemed earnest. There was a brief interruption when three, perhaps four femen protesters to show up. I was happy to see them: it meant we might actually make the news. They were carried away quickly, protesting loudly. Good for them.
The march itself was... odd for me. I have never felt at home in crowds. When I began to plan to attend, originally Puff was going to come with me, and she and I would have walked together. Instead I walked alone in the middle of a very large crowd. Most other people came as part of one group or another. Some people started up various chants as they marched, of the "hey ho, abortion's got to go" variety. They seemed to enjoy that, but I prefer the power of silence. It seems to me a large, silent crowd is more powerful than a crowd repeating some slogan over and over. Not knowing what else to do, I pulled my rosary out of my pocket and prayed as I walked. At one point, we ran into a bunch of people who were on the sidewalk holding up signs. At first I thought they were protesting us, but then I saw they were anti abortion and were holding up signs with images of aborted babies. I wondered why they were showing those to us. We were already on their side.
Of course, there were counter protesters. We ran into them a various points along the way. I counted about a hundred, maybe a hundred and fifty. They had their signs and their slogans. It wasn't terribly interesting. Nothing happened.
The march was short and was over more quickly than I anticipated. We were back at the hill and some Christian rock bands were playing some apparently inspirational type music. I left.
Part the Third: Visiting whilst there.
Our host invited us to join him for dinner at the parliamentary restaurant back on Parliament Hill later in the evening. Our Host drove us back to the Hill and dropped us off in front, and told us he would meet us inside. I my mother handed me her purse to carry, and took my arm and forward we went.
In the wake of the shootings back in October, security at Parliament has been revamped. Kevin Vickers, the former Sergeant At Arms in parliament, has been sent to Ireland as an ambassador, and the RCMP are now mostly in charge. Let me put that another way: Remember the videos of the gunman storming parliament? Remember how he raced past nine or ten RCMP cars, and none of the officers inside noticed that he had stolen a cab, then a minister's care, then ran inside whilst carrying a rifle? Remember those guys who stood by and did nothing while all that happened? They're in charge now. Remember Vickers, the one who told his staff to hang back while he went in alone and took care of the situation, then went in alone and took care of the situation? He's gone.
The first security fellow was pleasant enough. He smiled and greeted us warmly and somewhat apologetically, while I put mother's purse in front of him to look through. He did a quick search and sent us inside, where we met the second checkpoint.
These guys were more serious. It appeared their motto was "We don't find that funny." I had to empty my pockets. No problem. I am long accustomed to emptying my pockets for the government. At least this time I would be getting the contents back. I had to put mother's purse and then her cane on the belt for the x-ray machine. Then one of the guards pointed at my middle.
"Your belt," he said.
"Yes, I have a belt," I said, wondering where this was going, and why this was important.
"Take it off."
"Seriously?" However, one look at his face told me he was. Off came the belt.
They sent me through the metal detector, then told me to hold up my arms whilst they waved a metal detector over me. This was of some concern to me, since, as I no longer had a belt, my pants were about to fall down. I was about to moon parliament. I wonder what the penalty for that would be?
It was over quickly, and my pants hadn't quite slipped to the point of indecency. I was still glad to grab my hem and haul the pants up. I then went to help my mother through the detector, but nothing doing. Keep in mind my mother, who is over ninety, was without a cane, and now had to stagger through the detector unaided, then hold up her arms while she was scanned with a wand. Now, the woman who scanned her was quite nice and understanding, and made it as painless as possible, but we still had an old woman who had to hold up her arms without her prop to balance herself. Perhaps that is why these officers were so serious: they are stuck adhering to rules even when it is ludicrous and even harmful.
However, mother did not fall, my pockets were soon full again and my trousers secured. Mother had my arm and her cane to prop herself up again, and I had her purse on my arm again. Off we went to get our passes. The guard there was of the smiling and friendly sort. We met up with our host soon after.
He gave us a lovely tour of part of the Center Block building, telling us of its history and lore as we went. Then we headed up to the restaurant for dinner.
Dinner presented a slight problem: the restaurant has a dress coat- tie and jacket for men- and I had neither. However, the staff was willing to make a small exception with conditions: we were seated in a small alcove, off in one corner, and placed me so that my back was to the rest of the restaurant. Problem solved. At least no one made me take off my belt.
Part the Fourth: Going Home, and that darn purse.
We stayed in Ottawa for Friday as well, visiting and revisiting family and friends. We had a wonderful time. Our Host regaled us with many tales of the city and its politics, and of his experience here and other cities. I could easily fill ten blog posts with his stories and not tell even the half of them. Perhaps I may share one or two in another post- the tale of the missing golden crown, at least, begs to be told, but I should clear it with him first.
On Saturday morning we headed out to say goodbye to Mother's niece. They looked happy to see each other again, and at the same time sad at their parting. I suppose they both were aware that this meeting may have been their last. I tried to console them in my own rough way, and told them that if they could both remain above dirt, I would do this again. They laughed, and we left.
The road home was not terribly eventful. We made frequent stops at the On Route stations that dot the 401. It was here that my patience with mother and her handbag began to run out. So far I had carried her purse for her through much of Ottawa, through the heart of Canadian democracy itself, through several restaurants and one or two small towns. However, here I reached my nadir. I took mother to the woman's bathroom, and after she went inside, I went to the men's, and it was only as I approached the urinal that I realized I was still holding that blasted purse.
What is the proper etiquette for such a situation? What does one do with a purse on this occasion? My Dad never explained this one to me. I wonder why. I would have to ad lib. Should I put it on the floor? I looked at the floor. It looked... pretty much like the floor under your average urinal. Mother would not thank me for putting it there. I hung it on my arm, but the way it was balanced it tended to swing in front of me. So I stand at the urinal with one hand more or less behind my back, holding up the back of my trousers Other men are looking at me. Mother is so very lucky I do not embarrass easily, but I was getting there. That purse must die.
Epilogue: The Conquering Hero returns.
Eventually we come home. I was later than I wanted to be, Puff is a little put out at my tardiness. There was a minor crisis whilst I was away: Frodo had flushed something down the downstairs toilet, and it was now clogged. Five minutes after I had returned home, I had changed my clothes and was unbolting the toilet from the floor to clean it out. The vacation was over.