Exécuté avec brio

The fog horn blared as we woke up on New Years Day. Outside it was rainy, unseasonably warm. Not ideal leveeing weather, but certainly better than those years when it was minus 20 degrees with snow banks.

We started later than usual, with less breathless rushing. Olivia and I drove to City Hall, attempting to pull off a rare “City Hall first, then Government House,” doing them out of the traditional order. It was not meant to be: lacking umbrellas we were reluctant to join the line at City Hall, so we redirected to Fanningbank and found it pleasantly free of outdoor lines, walking right in and joining a small collection of those waiting to greet Her Honour Antoinette Perry; she is a delightful and engaged vice-regal, and it was the right way to start the day. The apple cider and the Christmas cake that followed were welcome, and we enjoyed them on the less-COVIDy front porch of the house.

From there it was to City Hall, still long-lined, but we’d gathered umbrellas from the Other House en route, and so were better prepared. It was a long 30 minute wait to get from the street up to the third floor council chamber. We passed the time eavesdropping, and doing some last-minute schedule-updating on my phone. Once we’d snaked our way up, we were greeted by the Chief of Police, fire department senior officials, and then by Mayor Brown and councillors. Standing in the hallway outside the council chamber in anticipation, I realized an important thing about the Mayor, something he shares with Councillor Jankov who stood beside him: they truly enjoy being on City Council; they’re almost always smiling. It’s not a bad characteristic to have as a city official. Through the receiving line and into the antechamber, I was happy to find that John Pritchard was doing the catering: there was a healthy spread out, and excellent coffee.

From City Hall we swung round to pick up Lisa and L., and headed to HMCS Queen Charlotte, on the waterfront. We enjoyed excellent chowder, the special feeling that comes from being inside a rarely-visited inner sanctum, and, especially, spotting the game Siege in the Reserve’s collection: it was good to know that naval training involves old school board game action.

Stratford was our next stop, a rare one on my usual levee train, but a special one inasmuch as Lisa’s sister Jill is a newly-elected Councillor in the town. After stopping for photos with Jill, we enjoyed a light lunch in the council chambers, including samosas, an excellent punch, and a healthy collection of sweets. The Stratford levee was arguably the most social of them all, with plenty of friends and familiars in attendance, including my annual levee happenstance meetup with Leo Cheverie.

We returned home for a repos next, and then, thinned out by one, headed to the Premier’s Levee at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Despite our earlier 2:30 p.m. arrival for a 3:00 p.m. start, the line had already grown to the length of the concourse, with the danger of spilling out onto the street. Fortunately estimable protocol chief Debbie Atkinson was on the job, and barriers quickly assembled to ensnaken the line so all could wait inside.

At 3:00 p.m. the line started moving ahead, and it wasn’t more than 15 minutes until we were shaking hands with the Premier and members of his caucus. The Premier was amiable in his reaction to Olivia’s request (née demand) to have photos taken in all possible configurations (her alone, her with Lisa and I, Lisa alone, me alone). Amiability is one of the Premier’s strong suits, and it was nice to see it live.

The Premier’s levee has traditionally been the most well-endowed with lavish food (one recalls the “make your own mashed potato sundae” at Premier Ghiz’s 2014 levee); this year, however, was clearly an austerity year, with a simpler spread of cookies and squares. They were good cookies and squares, don’t get me wrong. And the coffee was hot and strong. The highlight of the Premier’s levee was getting to chat with Chuckie, personable owner of Chuckie’s Sports Excellence, and a genuinely curious and engaging student of many disciplines, including Charlottetown retail history. 

By 4:00 p.m. we were walking back home along Richmond Street in a now-worse-than-ever mix of rain, sleet, and snow, happy to be able to lock the door, make a fire, and savour the new year in a quieter setting.

Beyond the neighbourly collegiality that the levees always bring, and the pleasure of attending with Lisa, L. and Olivia, my favourite aspect of this year’s levee day was the many positive comments I received about the levee list. One of my goals when I set out to bring slightly more order to the levee calendar 18 years ago was to work to broaden the swath of Charlottetown society who considered themselves eligible for levee attendance, and the evidence suggests that it’s an effort that continues to pay off.

Happy New Year!


Leo Cheverie's picture
Leo Cheverie on January 2, 2023 - 18:29 Permalink

Thanks for your annual
Update on your levee experiences as well as your well researched levee list - a must for all levee goers !

Ton Zijlstra 's picture
Ton Zijlstra on January 3, 2023 - 06:15 Permalink

That last bit is a key thing. It's up to each of us to help weave the community fabric around us. You've been doing that for years, and I enjoy reading along here with those efforts. In an end of year comedy show a line was to "stop saying everything will be ok. It won't be ok on its own, we all have to contribute to making it ok"