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—Promenade, 1927-1928, by Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967) Watercolor on paper, sheet: 31 5/8 x 42 1/2

Promenade, 1927-1928, by © Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967) Watercolor on paper, sheet: 31 5/8 x 42 1/2″ (80.32 x 107.95 cm.). Gift of A. Conger Goodyear, 1977.

(Courtesy Art Resource, NY)
This image may not be used.

A House Divided

I updated the blog I posted on 25 January 2013: More Thoughts on Quebec. My comments were incomplete. For me, Quebec separatism is a very sensitive subject. Several members of my family, the Quebec branch, are supporters of Madame Marois’ Parti Québécois. However, my family also has a west coast branch. They are not sympathizers of any indépendantiste (separatist) movement.

However, there was a disorderly students’ strike between March and September 2012 and my comments now reflect greater disapproval of the strike. But I do not understand why Quebec did not sign the Patriated Constitution, 1982. I love my country, but it is a house divided (Abraham Lincoln).


When I was a child living in Quebec, Friday was market-day, but we sometimes shopped on rue Wellington, before going to the market. Most of the shops on rue Wellington did not belong to French-speaking Canadians and they have disappeared: an exodus. The architecture, however, is a remnant of a prosperous past.

In the past, as I walked down Sherbrooke Streets with my mother, I kept seeing the word Real Estate everywhere. Réal is a French name. So I ended up telling my mother that Monsieur Réal Estate (Es-ta-te), was probably the richest man in town. He owned so many shops! Mother told me the truth.

The Differences

We had English-speaking friends and we visited with them. I was a keen observer of interiors from a very young age. I therefore noticed that the difference between French-speaking and English-speaking Canadian citizens had to do with houses. Our English-speaking friends had a fireplace and a bay window in their living-room. How brilliant!  All we had was a big stove and no hot water. I therefore decided that when I grew up, I would own an English house.

Hendrickje Sleeping, by Rembrandt

Hendrickje Sleeping, by Rembrandt


I did grow older and, by then, we lived on the west coast. We therefore had an English house, a house with a fireplace and a bay window. Victoria was a marvellous place at the time. Our house was near the sea and my mother had enrolled me in a private school for girls: St Ann’s Academy. It was located within walking distance of the house and it had an extraordinary garden, tennis courts, everything. But my father decided to move to Vancouver and they settled so far from the University of British Columbia (UBC) that I chose to complete my B.A. at the University of Victoria. I do not have a Master’s Degree. UBC suggested I enter the PhD programme.


I left Victoria to get a graduate degree. I married and, four years after leaving Victoria, I moved to Toronto, where my husband had found employment. For two years, we lived on the lower floor of a lovely little house in an area of town I had chosen. A year later, I started teaching and it was soon possible for us to buy a house, an English house. I loved  our little house.

How Micheline lost her Blue House

But my favourite English house was the Blue House, my Nova Scotia house. It was a cottage-like, two-storey house and it had 22 windows. Although it did not have a bay window, it had the essential fireplace. In fact, it was perfect and located across the street from the campus.

The New Course 

A long time ago, I caught a flu and never recovered fully. I can teach three courses, which is a normal workload. But at that stage in my career, I could not be asked to teach courses in unrelated areas. My goal was to finish writing my book on Molière. I was entering a sabbatical leave that would have allowed me to finish my book, but I was told to prepare a course on animals in literature, a course I would have to teach in English. Would that I could have refused. But it was not possible. I was afraid the Chair of my Department would get angry. He once got angry to the point of making me collapse. I fainted.

When I returned to work, I realized I also had to update a language-lab component. I finished upgrading it in November. During the Christmas break, I made sure every lecture of my course on animals in literature was prepared. In February, I started to feel overwhelming fatigue. I saw my doctors who told me I could not finish my teaching assignment. I was given a note and presented it. But despite a doctor’s note, I was not allowed to leave the classroom. My students no longer had a teacher, so I dragged myself to work and completed my 2001-2002 teaching assignment while applying for permanent disability benefits.


In the eyes of my case manager at the Insurance Company, my having completed the academic year was proof positive that I was an imaginary invalid. She had me see a doctor who requested, in writing, that I be told not to leave my home or make serious decisions as I would be able to return to work after an indefinite leave. He diagnosed Depression, not ME, myalgic encephalomyelitis. He thought I would recover. He asked my case manager to tell me not to leave my home in Antigonish or make serious decisions.

I had applied for permanent disability benefits, not an “indefinite” leave. Therefore, when my case manager told me was that my application for disability benefits had been approved, I thought I was free to leave. Not that I wanted to, but it had been suggested to me. My mother was in a hospital and my father had moved to my brother’s house. That The companies Independent Medical Examiner (IME) was right. Under normal circumstances and despite an illness, I could work.

My benefits were terminated, but when I tried to return to work, the Vice-President did not want me to continue teaching. A friend told me they would hurt me, if I returned. I ended up accepting a concealed retirement arrangement. I regained my tenure when my benefits were reactivated, but they would not let me re-enter the classroom.

So, I no longer live in an English house. In short, my story takes one from house to house and, now, infinity…

Self-portraitOpenmouthed Aux yeux hagards

Self-portrait with a Cap, by Rembrandt van Rijn
Aux yeux hagards

All of Rembrandt’s paintings are featured at Rembrandt.Org The Complete Works.  “Hendrickje Sleeping” is a drawing and the “Self-portrait,” an etching.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
The most prominent Dutch painter and etcher of the Dutch Golden Age,
the seventeenth century
The music is by L. van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827)
It’s one of the 32 sonatas for piano.
fig12© Micheline Walker
26 January 2013