Today was Victoria Day, a distinctly Canadian observance going back to 1845 long before Confederation. It is now celebrated on the Monday prior to May 25th the “official” day of birth of Queen Victoria (1819-1901). Queen Victoria’s actual day of birth was April 21st.
Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, May 24 was made by law to be known as Victoria Day, a date to remember the late queen, who was deemed the “Mother of Confederation”, and, in 1904, the same date was by imperial decree made Empire Day throughout the British Empire. Over the ensuing decades, the official date in Canada of the reigning sovereign’s birthday changed through various royal proclamations until the haphazard format was abandoned in 1952. That year, both Empire Day and Victoria Day were, by order-in-council and statutory amendment, respectively, moved to the Monday before May 25 and the monarch’s official birthday in Canada was by regular viceregal proclamations made to fall on this same date every year between 1953 and January 31, 1957, when the link was made permanent by royal proclamation. The following year, Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day and in 1977 it was moved to the second Monday in March, leaving the Monday before May 25 only as both Victoria Day and the Queen’s Birthday.
As with any federal statutory holiday, Victoria Day marks a day of greatly reduced commercial activity. The grocery stores and liquor stores are closed (I have this on the authority of a friend in Vancouver to whom I spoke mid-afternoon – he was “fresh out” as he put it). I was however able to secure for my mother her favourite “mocha frappuccino”® and an iced espresso coffee for me from Starbucks. This small gratification constituted the footing of our private celebration of Her Majesty’s memory.
We capitalized upon the festive air of the long weekend by going to the Golf Club for breakfast this morning. As always we were not disappointed by the caterer’s succulent and generous serving of eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, toast and home fries. The only blight upon the outing was a gratuitous comment in the parking lot by a golfer who spiritedly said it was the first time she had seen me at the Club, a comment to which I retorted that it was indeed odd as I have been attending the Club for about the past forty years! I didn’t add that it was only in recent years that I have noticed her appearance there. The gulf between the entitled golfers and the long-time social members such as myself has sadly ever existed! My very existence in this region began at the Golf Club because it was over dinner in the original clubhouse (since destroyed by fire) that I was hired by the law firm partners. In subsequent visits to the Club I entertained the late-night drinkers by tinkling the ivories of the old upright piano (now also gone) next to the fieldstone fireplace in the common room. It was further my privilege to have acted as Counsel for the Club when the second nine-holes were purchased from the Lowry family.
Upon our return from the Golf Club in the eternally quaint Village of Appleton we hopped onto our bicycles and directed ourselves to our alternate route along Concession 11A, the long dead end country road from the roundabout at the Town’s entrance. While I eventually made it there, “we” did not because my companion’s bicycle tires had deflated. We attempted to fill the tires with air at a local gas station but the mechanism of the pump wasn’t working properly. Our second try at a nearby station proved equally fruitless as there was a $1 charge and neither of us had any change. I later thought I should have had the gumption to ask the attendant for a $1 loan but by that time the opportunity was lost as the entire project had been abandoned. It turns out for other reasons not to have been without serendipity but I shall not go into further details. I shall merely say that satisfaction ensued in spite of the initial disruption.
The flow of traffic into the City early afternoon was lighter than I had anticipated. If anything there was a proliferation of old fogeys on the road, people who were driving considerably below the speed limit and who were clearly in no hurry to get anywhere. One old doll was obviously lost in thought as she sat stranded at a green light for some fifteen seconds before whizzing off at an incredible rate to camouflage her idleness. It was just one of those dreamy summer-like days, mounting warm winds and temperatures, which lent itself to absentmindedness and lack of premeditation.