About the Author

Audrey Grescoe

Paul & Audrey Grescoe are the authors of several books on travel, the anutral environment, and the islands of the Inside Passage.

Books by this Author


The Cruise-Lovers Guide
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The Book of Letters

The Book of Letters

150 Years of Private Canadian Correspondence
tagged : 20th century
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The Book Of Love Letters

The Book Of Love Letters

Canadian Kinship, Friendship, And Romance
tagged : letters
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In 1971, while he was touring Europe on leave from his job as a cook at a catering company in Gillam, Manitoba, Pierre Michel Trudeau met Mercedes Roman at a dance in Madrid. After the dance, she gave him her home address in Bilbao, and a month later he came to see her. They spent fifty-three days getting to know one another (“no monkey besseness”) and falling in love. Before Pierre returned to Canada, he promised they would be married in a year. With the determination of her Basque ancestors, Mercedes began to undo her life in Spain telling her family she was going to marry and move to Canada, deciding what possessions she would give away or take with her, and, finally, quitting her interesting and secure job. During a 440-day separation, the pair continued their courtship in probing letters, written in English because neither could speak the other’s native language well. They asked questions (“Can you drive?” “What song you like more?”), discussed philosophy and morality, and arranged the practicalities of their wedding.

Gillam May 14 — 1972
Amor mio Mercedes.
I hope you are very well, I receive you letter of May 1 . . .

Mercedes don’t be fear (miedo). I love you profondo, whit admiration, I think about you every day, I just think the day we be together for always.

I sufriendo [suffer] also, here not very, very interressing specialy for the moral[e], you know Mercedes I live here in Gillam just for you that very true, if I never see you or never rencontror you angel mio I think I live for september to try find a job any where, specialy in the big boat (barco) go every where in mondo.

But I am responsable of our love, I live just for that to be with you, amor, and it is necessary make sacrifice for me and also for you. I know it is difficult.

Mercedes, I want married you, I love you profondo. I never love before. I think not to many angel like Mercedes in the mondo, I know. But, you pensor serious the difficulty, the sacrifice for you here in America, specialy in Canada that not a dream, that reality … I want you whit me to be happy not be sadness, the married that for always . . .

If I have $5000 today, I going to married you tomorrow. You understand not just a question of time (day), question also of money security … I tell you the situation here, now, all goes well … I can put in banco, 25,000 peseta by month. That very good money… Confianza in Pierre . . .

That all for now. Hasta pronto angel mio. I love you profondo whit all my alma [soul], my hearth, my mind.

Bye! Bye!
Pierre xxx

Bilbao España
June 25, 1972
Querido [beloved] and amado Pierre:

Hello, amor mio, how are you? Today I have received your letter 16 June and pretty card and Kettle Project Manitoba Hydro and photo of parkas . . .

Pierre, amor mio, I’m very very happy because I have given to you sorpresa [surprise] with my big photo, but now I have sorpresa because you tell me I’m pretty and beautiful. You never tell me that before.

Always everywhere the people tell me I’m very pretty less you. I was a little timid with you because you don’t see pretty at Mercedes.

Amor mio, why do you give so much (tanta) importance into physical? I think is more import the quality and to be virtuous.

You tell me I have great personality. Is true. Everywhere the people tell me too. I think perhaps I have excess the personality…

Pierre, vida mia, I want what your moral[e] to be good. If some time you are triste (sad) or your moral is low (baja), you look at me in the photo and you think what my eyes it’s to emit (dar) ray of amor at Pierre.

¡OH! Pierre, I have sorpresa, sorpresa disagreeable. I ­don’t understand, No Pierre, amor mio. Mercedes ­don’t understand. You tell me: You ­don’t like destroy all photo of collection, you ­don’t like to do that – big sorpressa Pierre. Mercedes is very sad.

I thought what all those photo it was the more, all it was a hindrance for you since what: “You in love with me.” If it’s true and if I’m the queen of your hearth, what pain (pena) can you to have? I think all it does to render turbid our felicity. Now I think with big bitterness you ­don’t love at Mercedes. If you love at Mercedes you had what destroy without pain (pena) all photo and all souvenir of womans frivolous, and you ­don’t maintain correspondence with none woman. If you ­don’t like destroy, por favor Pierre, you keep all photo and souvenir. What does it matter Mercedes suffer and Mercedes die pain. ¡What does it matter! . . .

Pierre angel mio, I love you. I’m in love with you.

Tuya siempre,

Gillam 21 July 72
Amor mio Mercedes.
… I am anxious to see and speak whit your confessor, but my conscience is tranquil, why she will be no tranquil. That is question of philosophia. (Who is not with god is in again him.) Mercedes, I think it is a mistake to speak or think like that. We have to respect idiologia, philosophia, conception different of ours, because all that is question of conscience, and alma, that is universal.

Example: the Chinese or Indian have same alma, conscience universel but different conception, philosophia, ect. more important, and no body can cheat himself, because the conscience is universel . . .

I hope you listen me about the suggestion of you healht. Take care of you.

Hasta pronto, amor mio,
Pierre XXXXX

Bilbao — España
July 30, 1972
My dear Pierre:
. . . ¡OH! Pierre, I’m happy if you have conscience tranquil but many people to mistake for (or to confuse) conscience sleep (dormida) by conscience tranquil. It’s two thing different. I think the philosophia is only for to can to live in this life but with god no is valid the philosophia. The philosophia with God it is deceive yourself. The philosophia with God you mean is to be too indulgent or to be unscrupulous. It seem to me you be wrong . . .

Pierre, vida mia, my sky, my treasure, I love you every day more . . . I dream of you from day to day. Alway, all the minute I’m with you. Pierre amor mio, I love you. I’m in love with you. I miss feel to you very much . . .

Tuya siempre,

Gillam 21 Sept 72
Amor mio Mercedes
. . . OH! yes I remember when you said the happiness of the marriage depend grand part of the woman. I believe is true. I have totaly confianza in you. I know we can build a new beautiful life together for always because we want the best for all and each other. Also you have good nature and facility to adopt any circonstances that important. The true love is there for give power for help us to face all circonstances.

Amor mio, . . . When you make a mistake in the life, not good solution to run after. We have take responsability face and accept and repair the mistake by the best solution possible . . . I ­don’t regret I tell you all the true of my life, I have my conscience tranquille, that the best way to be happy in the life, be conscience tranquille . . .

Mercedes your eyes drive me crazy (loco). When I look you on the foto I concentration my mind inside your eyes all my body is electrify . . . Mercedes, Pierre think when the first night we be together for honeymoon I be realy crazy (loco) (loco). The happiness. You ­can’t imagine how I need your affection, sex of you. I make the sacrifice to wait for you, not easy believe me . . . All this sacrifice for love. I wait for you that be fantastic. You ­can’t imagine.

Hasta pronto,
Pierre XXXX

Malaga — España
February 25, 1973
My dear Pierre:
…Well Pierre we shall go to Guernica, we shall have a day to go at this important place town. We shall be fiance officially with our ring in this place, typical Basque. O.K. OH! yes Pierre that will be duro no sex before the marriage. But we can wait fews more days. We shall sleep in two rooms different and far be it from each other. Pierre, amor mio, I’m very pround of you, 15 months no sexual relation, I beleive you… We shall have a naturel and satisfaction sexual life, with very profundo love. Our sexual life will be fantastic; …

Pierre say me, are you happy with Mercedes? Do you love me as much as I love you? I’m in love with you like you can’t imagine . . .

Tuya siempre


Gillam 21 March 1973
Amor mio Mercedes.
. . . That correct for the date 3 May (Thudsday) for be married. That be important date for us . . . Well Mercedes very soon we be together for always 24 April 1973 (Madrid). Imagine only 34 days we the winner. These days will be long, I am very anxious to be with you . . . that be fantastic, since 1 week I ­don’t work very well. I am always in the luna [moon]. I just thinks about you all the time. I am no more concentration on my work… I am in profondo meditation. I am in love more at never. I dream I see you and me all the time, all different place. Yes, amor mio, I am in love with you, I need you, I want your affection, your love, your sex.

Pierre also have electricity cross all my body, when I look you in your eyes on the photo. You are a angel, I am so pround of you. Some time I wonder if is a dream or reality. I know it is the reality, a fantastic true love … God give me realy a perle. Pierre want give you more happiness is possibles … I love you profondo for always, my only love of my life…

Hasta Pronto,
Pierre XXXXX
Viva Mercedes Roman my only love of my life. Viva España Viva Canada Viva our love. Two in One.

Mercedes and Pierre married, as so carefully planned, on May 3, 1973. After a “memorable” honeymoon, they flew to Canada to take up residence in the Vanier, Ontario, apartment where they live today. They have worked together for twenty-one years and have never missed a day: he is the supervising chef in a nursing home where she is in charge of cold-food purchasing and preparation and arranging special meals and diets. Childless, they enjoying travelling and continue to discuss all manner of topics profondo.

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The Book of War Letters

The Book of War Letters

100 Years of Private Canadian Correspondence
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The Canada of 1899 was a callow country of seven provinces, thinly populated by five million people of mostly Anglo-­Saxon stock. A mere thirty-­two years old as a nation, it was a colonial outpost firmly clasped to the bosom of Britain. Yet Canada’s character was changing. The Klondike gold rush was bringing fortune-­seekers from around the world, and peasant immigrants were flooding in from central and eastern Europe — 7,500 Doukhobors from Russia that year alone — to settle the prairies.

Elsewhere, two world powers were flexing their imperialist muscles. The United States, fresh from winning Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines in the jingoistic Spanish-­American War of 1898, began a bloody 3¤-­year conflict to quash Filipino insurgents. And Britain, a year after machine-­gunning thousands of tribespeople to dominate the North African territory of Sudan, was about to embark on another war, this time in South Africa.

The Boers (Dutch for “farmers”) declared war on Britain on October 11, 1899, and Britain called on its overseas colonies to gird for battle. There were intriguing parallels to the global state of affairs a century later: public opinion in Germany and France (along with the Netherlands, ancestral home of many Boers) was strongly opposed to an invasion based on questionable motives — in this case, Britain’s expansionist ambitions in South Africa. As Canadian historian Robert Page points out, “Unlike the world wars of 1914 or 1939, Mother Britain was not in danger, for the Boer Republics’ total available manpower was not much more than that of the city of Toronto.”

And Canada, then as in 2003, was led by a Québécois Liberal who was reluctant to commit his countrymen to fight on foreign soil. The only major external conflict Canadians had engaged in was the British-­led, North American War of 1812, which ended in a draw — although the Canadas had ultimately repelled the invaders.

Yet, in a land where less than a third of the population was French-­speaking, loyalty to the British crown was still intense in 1899, only two years after Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The Canadian Constitution rested in London, not Ottawa, and ­couldn’t be amended without British consent. Although Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier had been knighted during the Jubilee celebrations, he tried to keep Canada out of the war — reflecting the anti-­British feeling of French Canadians. He was soon swayed by the hope that aiding the Imperial forces might boost the young nation’s political status and leave it stronger and more independent of the Mother Country. Paradox­ically, he also hoped that sending troops overseas would cement ties with Britain at a time when American protectionism was increasingly closing the U.S. border to Canadian goods.

Three days after war broke out, the Dominion of Canada, urged on by British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain, issued a recruiting order to organize the First Canadian Contingent for South African service — Canada’s first expeditionary force. Among English Canadians, this decision was popular, supported by the press and politicians across the country, except in Quebec (which in 2003 registered the most opposition of any province to an invasion of Iraq).

The government at first decided to dispatch only a thousand troops, half Australia’s contribution and even smaller than New Zealand’s. Sending them off on October 31, Laurier parroted English-­speaking sentiment: “. . . the cause for which you men are going to fight is the cause of justice, of humanity, of civil rights and religious liberty. This is not a war of conquest or subjugation, but it is to put an end to the oppression by a tyrannical people.”

Fine words, but false. The war was about gold and land. Britain had been jousting with the Netherlands over the territory since 1795, more than a century after the Dutch East Indies Company established the first white colony around the Cape of Good Hope. Now, on the cusp of the 20th century, the resident Boers were of Dutch, German, and Huguenot ancestry. A decade after British settlers began muscling into the Cape Colony in 1820, the Boers had trekked northeast to establish three republics, killing and displacing the Bantu natives. But Britain eventually annexed Natal and then the Orange Free State, when diamonds were found there, and briefly took over the Transvaal Republic (renaming it the South African Republic). It regained its independence and its former name in 1881. Five years later British prospectors rushed into the Transvaal after newly discovered gold, the largest deposits in the world. The Boers, fearful of losing their last territory to the Uitlanders (outsiders), enacted laws to restrict the vote to long-­term residents.

Imperialist-­minded British politicians and mining interests conspired to force a regime change on South Africa, led at the time by Paul Kruger, a passionate, patriarchal figure. Among his foes was the Cape Colony’s prime minister and the owner of the Kimberley diamond mines, Cecil Rhodes, who wanted to paint the map of South Africa in Empire red. In 1895 he financed a raid on the Transvaal city of Johannesburg, an attack that failed and fomented even more hostility. Four years later Kruger offered to reform the voting restrictions, but the British refused the olive branch and dispatched military reinforcements to South Africa.

In October 1899 the high commissioner of the Cape Colony disregarded a forty-­eight-­hour ultimatum to remove all British troops from the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Britain had been on the verge of declaring war itself.

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