Tag Archives: Sussex NB

The Birthday Lunch

The Birthday Lunch by Joan Clark on Amazon.ca
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Maybe it’s because Sussex NB is now my hometown. Or maybe it’s because Joan Clark wrote an amazing book about family and place. Whatever, I read her 2015 The Birthday Lunch with only grudging stops for my own lunch.

It’s about a death, sudden and unexpected, and how the woman’s husband, kids and sister cope. It mostly takes place over the following week, summer of 1981 in Sussex. The shock, the whys and hows, the obituary, what would she want done, the funeral. In the course of that week, we learn about the lives of these people and their friends, neighbours and family members present and past.

Downtown_Sussex-2006-Rangeley-wikipediaThe son having believed he may have fathered a child with a local girl seemed a pointless tangent, according to a reader’s review I read. But keep following that string. It will give you the skein that is life in a small town. Your history is not yours alone, everyone in town shares in it. Ms Clark isn’t slapping you in the face with this, but the intertwining of lives is there on almost every page.

Neighbours and friends aren’t slapping it in anyone’s face either. They are just there, like the streets, worn hills and creeks. A woman who watches passersby on Main Street with binoculars sees a lot more than who’s walking where. A neighbour, knowing from the loss of her husband how painful words of condolence can be, silently leaves meals for the family on their doorstep. These are good, but not cloyingly good, people. They simply have learned from their own hardships.

The person who has learned lessons from her problems, but maybe not the most useful ones, is the dead woman’s sister. Laverne is probably the least likeable character in the whole story but one who lives the most interesting life inside herself, inside her walls. She has done something that I’ve never thought of, yet once you read it, you think well, why not?

Woman with a Child in a Pantry

Pieter_de_Hooch_007-woman-with-a-child-in-a-pantry-ca-1658-rijksmuseum-wikicommonsLaverne lives inside a 17th century painting. (The book, of course, explains this.) Noted in passing is that she doesn’t care that the woman and child are missing in her rendition. They’re central to the artist. But to Laverne, I think, what’s central is the artist and maybe the sense of love or belonging. Conveyed in a painting, there is no reciprocal obligation. In her small time capsule, she is central. She does not share any of this with anyone else, not even really with her sister.

Another peripheral, but important, character, is fascinated by Laverne’s creation and thinks of how he can use it. Does he wonder about who this woman is that she could, and did, do it? No. But he’s mightily impressed by her ability to adapt architecture and real light to perspective and painted light.

A beautiful book about Sussex. A beautiful book about anywhere where an accident causes a family and a town to grieve. Regret and remember. Come together in some places and pull apart in others.

Laverne made asparagus and Stilton soup and  scallops for the birthday lunch. Here’s how I make any cream soup.

Princess Louise Park

Sussex has the best all-in-one park I’ve ever seen: Princess Louise Park on Leonard Ave, just off Main Street. There are other recreation areas in town, but PLP puts a whole lot of everything in one place.Canada Day Princess Louise Park photo Jim StewartFrom spring to fall, every weekend, there is a special event going on in the park. Plus Canada Day and fireworks, even the circus (Great Benjamin’s Circus).  All that is aside from its regular usage by ballplayers, skateboarders and people walking with or without dogs.

Old bandshell Princess Louise Park photo d stewartA pretty treed area alongside the creek has picnic tables and a bandstand. Baseball diamonds, soccer field, tennis courts and skateboard park. Also a hockey arena, agriculture museum (housed in an old tank hangar) and senior centre.

Show Centre

And the PLP Show Centre. Filling the back corner of the park, it has a covered riding arena, an outdoor ring, five barns and a penning corral. There are horse shows almost every weekend from April to October. Put on by horse breed and equestrian discipline clubs, they’re open to everyone. The season starts with the Equine Review, put on by the Maritime Quarter Horse Association (this coming weekend, schedule here).PLP Show Centre 2014 mini horse competitionWhen horses aren’t in the Show Centre, other animals are. All kinds of livestock fill the barns and riding ring during the 4-H Club’s annual exhibition. It provides performance space and horse accommodation when an event like the RCMP Musical Ride comes to town (Musical Ride II).

Agility competition PLP photo d stewartOn almost as many weekends through the summer, the park hosts dog agility competitions on the playing fields. In September, a rod and gun show fills the hockey arena in September. Outside, on the grass, hunting dogs demonstrate their skills.

The park is large enough that more than one event can take place at the same time, and still leave space free. Only two events fill the entire park.Sussex flea market and car show photo Jim Stewart

Flea Market and Hot-air Balloons

On the weekend of the 3rd Saturday in July, is a huge flea market and antique car show. All the grounds and even the hockey arena are used for vendors.Atlantic Balloon Fiesta 2014 photo Jim Stewart

Then, the weekend after Labour Day, is the Balloon Fiesta. Hot-air balloonists come from all over North America each year hoping for good weather for dawn and dusk takeoffs. Also a midway and lots of food (curly fries!).

Summer Camp parade, Camp Sussex 1910 8th Hussars Reg. Museum virtual museum.caThe Department of National Defence used to own the land. Established in 1881, Camp Sussex was used in both World Wars for training troops prior to deployment overseas. The 8th Hussars (Princess Louise) armoured reserve unit is headquartered across Leonard Ave. When the base closed in the early 1970s, Sussex acquired the land and turned it into the park. The town has used it well.

The Great Benjamin’s Circus

The circus came to town last Friday. The Great Benjamin’s Circus at the Princess Louise Park in Sussex. Catching sight of a huge tent with lights flashing and flags flying – all the ‘adulting’ I was in town to do went right out of the window. Errands would get done – after the circus, whenever.Great Benjamin's Circus tent-plp-sussex-nb-photo-d-stewart

One ring under canvas. Settle in, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and enjoy the show.

Let the show begin

hula-hoops-photo-d-stewartA juggler, a hula hoop lady, a dog act of Standard Poodles, Spaniels, Terriers and one scene-stealing Chihuahua. Fire eaters, a contortionist, aerialists with hoops and silks. Clowning, rope twirling with nerve-rattling audience participation.

Motorbikes circling in a steel cage. Sitting near the cage, I watched a crew member circling the outside of it throughout the performance ensuring all the bolts were staying tight.motorbike-cage-photo-d-stewart

I took pictures early on but then just watched and held my breath at the feats of wonder. Cheered and clapped. More photos toward the end, no flash of course. Who would want to be responsible for distracting a performer for even a nanosecond?

It was a capacity crowd for the late afternoon show. The evening performance would likely be overflowing. The front of house people must have agreed with that assessment. While we were leaving, an announcement was made: another performance had been added after the 7 p.m. show. Outside the tent, an enormous line of people waited to get in.great benjamin's circus dogs-photo-d-stewart

So late in the night, after three performances, the circus would pack up and head off for the next day’s shows in Moncton. It’s not a long drive, but another long day would follow for performers and crew. Not unusual for them, I’m sure.circus in lights photo-d-stewart

According to their website, The Great Benjamin’s Circus is based in the US and Mexico. They play the small towns of North America, all through the year by the looks of the schedule. I am very happy they came to my small town. I looked at the faces of the kids as they were leaving the show. Awestruck. I wondered if, like me, they were thinking about running away with the circus.

Tale of Two Dog Parks

stthomastimesjournal.com_2012_07_18 dog park maintenance
click for larger view

I don’t know if St. Thomas dog people and City Hall are still battling about the weeds in the dog park.  Please God, I hope not!  Of all the issues that may cause problems between the powers that be and dogs running loose, tall weeds should not even register on the fight-o-meter.

No one has suggested clear cutting the woods or leveling the ravine.  All that was asked was to keep weeds and grasses to a manageable height so that dogs, and their poop, cannot get lost in them.  No one wants a dog or a small child to get a stick in their eye while running through an area where they can’t see where they’re going.  No one wants ticks on their dogs, their children or themselves.  And in case you’re wondering, park users aren’t permitted to just cut the weeds themselves.  Only City employees can do so.

St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson has been a good friend of the Lions Club Dog Park since the beginning, as have been Council members and Parks & Rec staff.  That’s why it seemed so odd that such a battle over its “landscaping” ever developed.

Compare Two Dog Parks

Thirsty Pooches 3 Jul 2012 in Kings Co. Record Sussex NB
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Two weeks before the weed cutting battle was raging at St. Thomas City Hall, the King’s County Record in Sussex NB published this article entitled “Thirsty pooches should be pleased”.  The town council approved the expenditure to install a water fountain for the dogs, replace the snowfencing with chainlink and create a small dog area in the town’s dog park.  I don’t know what kind of negotiations preceded this decision, but it was nice to read Mayor Marc Thorne saying “There are a lot of dogs in town, and residential properties don’t have the amount of space they need to get a healthy workout.”

two dog parks, poodle running in Sussex dog parkThe Sussex Bark Park terrain is totally different from St. Thomas’ park.  It is on a hill and could be improved further by planting a few shade trees.  But, as you can see from the picture, the dogs in it can run.  There ain’t no waist-high weeds.

First posted on this date on my St. Thomas Dog Blog