Tag Archives: Django Reinhardt


POSTED: March 1, 2020

For many of us, even the word KAYAK creates a sense of being alone with nature. Kayaks have been part of my life from as early as I can remember. My mom, being from Quebec, had both canoes and Kayaks as part of her heritage and life growing up. I keep two on En Plein Air for the getting out on the water. It may seem a strange notion for a person who lives on the water to want to get “on the water” but there is something very personal about being in a small craft with almost no displacement, sitting on, and in, the water and the freedom to move quietly into little shallow areas without disturbing nature that is very therapeutic.

There are some things that have just become universal in acceptance and we hardly think about their origins or heritage but they just fit in our lifestyle – pizza, the sandwich, bicycle, umbrella and I would put the Kayak in this group as well. Unlike the pizza pie from Naples or the sandwich from the Earl of Sandwich in England, the kayak was not from a specific place but the northern regions of the northern hemisphere and the indigenous peoples of what we know today as Greenland, Canada, Siberia, Scandinavia, the Baltics and Alaska. They all used the vessel not really as much as a boat but almost an extension of themselves for hunting and fishing on the water. They were made not to a plan or set dimensions but to the size and shape of the user.

Perhaps that’s why even today they feel so personal and even when made of poly formed materials still create a sense of being a calm extension of ourselves.

Ok, so why are you rambling on about kayaks Django? Well, let me tell you.

Jim is a bit of a kayak nut. No, he is not out on the water every day but he and Janice keep four kayaks in their garage and live about a dozen doors from Lake Ontario so they go often. For him, like a lot of people, it is both the experience as well as the notion of the kayak that is important. In a busy competitive, efficient world it is a simple, calm, activity and one that just slows down the synapses that are usually firing away too quickly. It is also the link to nature that most of us need a regular hit of to keep from drowning in the modern world.

I have put in a couple of pictures Jim took when out kayaking with Janice one day. They live in the east end of Toronto in an area called The Beach and sometimes he goes kayaking there but more often does his kayaking down around the Toronto Islands which sit right off the downtown area. One day when kayaking with his son Jason an otter came up beside Jason’s boat. Now Toronto is the fifth largest city in North America and to be able to be out with the cranes and other birds, the big five-foot carp fish and various water mammals like lake otter, muskrats, and beavers is very special.

In Copenhagen, they have a really neat kayaking programme. You can use a kayak for free for two hours but the kayak comes with a little basket and the deal is that you get to use the kayak for free but are to pick up anything in the water that doesn’t belong there. Damb those Danes have their act together!

So what has triggered my inspiration to post this piece today is that Jade sent me an email with an image of Jim back working on a project he started many years ago but is only back to now.

When they had their cottage up in the Parry Sound area of Georgian Bay, the cottage was a Scandinavian style log building Jim had disassembled and moved a few hundred kilometers and reassembled on a nice waterfront lot on a little lake.


The cottage was really small, particularly on rainy days with the kids, so a few years later they built what they called the barn. And just to digress for a moment it was designed by Jim and built by him and his buddy John who is a contractor from Ottawa. John is the husband of Janice’s cousin Dawn and John is more kayak nutty then Jim. At last count John had about a dozen canoes and kayaks. Now to hear Jim tell it they built the building together and to hear John tell it, he built the place and Jim just got in the way. The same was the case for much of the reassembly of the log cottage according to John.

The barn was a one and a half story building with a little living area above where the kids had their own living room, as well as a pool table, ping pong table, and air hockey table.  On the ground floor was the workshop with about a forty foot workbench where they could do crafts and hobbies on rainy days. Janice would work on stained glass, jade would work on various sculptures and painting and Jason would either work on his own woodworking projects or do crafts or help Jim.


The Barn, is where Jim started the kayak project he is back to working on now. It is a scale model kayak he designed that is about 50% of an actual kayak so about two meters long. The chines and struts are all pine and the cladding is pine veneer laminated.

So after a couple decades from starting it he is back at it. The grand plan was that once finished he was going to podge on images of the various trips they took as a family.  He has always seen it as a bit of a manifestation of the “life is a journey” metaphor.  There have been lots of interruptions in the completion of the project, so perhaps not finishing it is also a metaphor. Naw, Jims not that wise.


So I have been rambling on as I am prone to do but stick with me a bit longer. Janice and others have expressed often to me that there are not enough pictures in these little posts I do so I harassed her and she is tracking down some of a kayaking trip they did when Jade and Jason were visiting a couple of years ago in a conservation area close to their home in Key West. Lemon sharks, and all kinds of fish in the less than meter (39 inches) of water below and lots of cranes, pelicans, cormorants, and Ibis in the trees and skies above.

She also mentioned to let people know that if they are planning a trip to the Florida Keys, and particularly to Key West and want recommendations on where to stay, what to do and the best Kayaking excursion companies just drop me a line at djangobisous@bell.net and I can send you out some notes from Jim and Janice.



Posted Nov 2, 2019

A woman I have known for some time confided in me recently. She was burdened by a lot of things. She is about my age which means that she has aging parents, at least one child with issues, and is dealing with the aging process herself and her husbands aging as well.

She is not really a person who gets down much but over time that’s not as true a statement as it once was. She was pretty down when we chatted.  I hope our conversation helped. I think she really just needed to dump it all out.

This website I do is, for the most part, a pretty upbeat thing I think and while we all have reason to get down at times I try not to go there much. But my friend reads what I post here and I just wanted to share how deep she was down that day to say that some days it logical to feel down. She was, and remains, carrying a pretty heavy stress load and some of her friends and family need to understand that.

Anyway, here is the poem I wrote after chatting with her that day. Its not a happy poem and if your having a bad day, well, perhaps you should wait for my next post, but if your just cruising along perhaps reading it will bring into clear focus that the scratch on you new BMW really isn’t that big a deal, or not getting that promotion is not as important as the real issues in life.



Phones ring.

They ring all the time.

At home, at work, in the car.

Sometimes I answer, most often I don’t.


News of my fathers death,

A confirmation after decades

Of estrangement.


Phones ring.

They ring all the time.

At home, at work, in the car.

Sometimes I answer, most often I don’t.


My son has died.

Finally succumbed to his demons.

My failure, but not mine alone.


Phones ring.

They ring all the time.

At home, at work, in the car.

Sometimes I answer, most often I don’t.


It will be a big stroke one day,

My husband of forty years.

He carries instructions for passersby.

I carry the weight of waiting.


Phones ring.

They ring all the time.

At home, at work, in the car.

Sometimes I answer, most often I don’t.


More tests, more results.

My doctor is inconclusive.

I don’t think it’s the cancer that kills you,

But fearing it’s return.


Phones ring.

They ring all the time.

At home, at work, in the car.

Sometimes I answer, most often I don’t.



A couple of final thoughts from Django:

I know that was not a fun poem to read. My goal was to capture how far down she was that day.

But after sharing how she felt that day and me sharing the poem with her she seems to be feeling a bit better able to cope. If you see her, give her a hug.


Posted January 5, 2019

Usually, my posts are thought out and a bit more reflective, but I am pretty bogged down with lots going on so this one is going to be tight and without as many of my usual diversions.

I got my new captain! From my post last summer about Captain Kyle post you know that I had my eye on her for some time but she had other commitments, so I muddled through waiting to get her on En Plein Air. The wait was worth it.

Her name is Ciera and for those of us who are not Irish its pronounced Kee-ra. She is about ten years younger than I am -ok I will help you with the math – she is in her mid 50’s. To be brief, she is a medical doctor, a bit on the run from a nasty husband, and lives in the moment. She is a great captain, much more like Captain Sven, so I can just not sweat how the boat is handled.

She is from County Cork and her dad was a sailor. He didn’t do much fishing but used his boat in season to take tourists out and tell them stories about the region. In the off season, he would write but was never published. Her mom worked a bit with her dad on the boat but was a textile artist who at times just made really kitschy pieces for tourists but in her later life was recognized for her landscape quilts and had some pretty big art shows.

Ciera was not artistic and unlike her parents, she was focused on science, which eventually led her to a degree in medicine. Much of her adult life was not very nice and I will have to leave that to another day to tell you about.

So all through her life, she sailed with her parents, and that skillset and a healthy respect for the moods of the sea, made her the captain she is.

The deal I cut with her is pretty straight up. Everything we earn goes first to the boat – repairs, dockage, fuel, any hookup charges, and also includes our personal food and wine. The rest gets split between us. So what this amounts to is that in slow months there is nothing left to split and once we get to some good months there will be a bit, and of course, this is getting her and me our room and board covered in the boat costs. But she has a pension and some money that she can access when she needs to and I have my little Canadian allowance so life is pretty good and when things are slow she will be able to go traveling a bit and with someone to look after the boat in slow times I will be able to make plans to get back to Canada to see my neurologist, my dentist and a few friends like Jim and Janice.

Everything I just described in terms of our arrangement is what I proposed and she agreed to but she had one other stipulation that I agreed to. Whenever she wants and for three times, she can ask me for a big favour. And she made it clear they are big – like donating a kidney big.  I have a good sense of one of them and even though this is a really open-ended commitment on my part I agreed. Life is a gamble and from the exposure I have had to her over several months I trust her.

She is almost as tall as me, attractive with long grey hair and is not overweight but solid and probably stronger than I am. I understand through her whole life she has worked out which makes her quite a contrast to me.

So before you all start getting excited about this as a new romantic relationship in my life (that was the first thing Janice said when I sent them an email about her) you should also know she is a lesbian. So this is my business partner, captain, and buddy I am introducing.

I will fill in more details later but for now I am in a bit of a scramble as we are off to the southern coast of Greece having some mechanical work on the boat done in the off season.



Posted: December 3, 2015

The last post was all about Risotto and it was also a story about how much I had been enjoying my life with Marc and Lotte and their kids in the summer of 1993. But as August progressed a plan was hatched for the family to go on a one week or ten-day trip with the boat. They had never gone cruising for more than a night or two but both Marc and Lotte and the two older ones had become pretty competent at both navigation and at maneuvering this large boat. There is little question that the introduction of bow thrusters on recreational boats meant that the art of docking something of that size moved more into the science or learned skill category. With that said, it still takes experience and some conviction to handle it well and that was the stage all four of them but Lotte and Marc especially had made it to.

So in mid-August, they were heading off for ten days cruising up the Dutch coast, German coast and over to the English coast before coming back to Harlingen.  I was to make up a lot of prepared food and they agreed to pay me half my usual wage and I would go somewhere on holiday too!

I had not seen my grandmother in Rennes France for some years and had not even kept up with her by correspondence but decided that now that I had some dollars ahead I would take the train and go to see her.

It was a shocking ten days for me. When I arrived I found her in good health but quite upset for many reasons. She had not heard from me nor had my parents heard from me for several months and assumed that I was still working for the cruise line that had fired me. Several calls and faxes to the ship and to the cruise line had gone unanswered until it was learned that I was no longer employed there.

My grandmother was the one to tell me that my parents had both died in a car accident at about the same time I was sacked – almost nine months earlier. They had been on a slippery road with the first big snowfall north of Ottawa where they had rented a ski cabin for the winter and were setting it up.  It highlighted that I had not checked in at any point during that time – not at Christmas or my parents or grandmothers birthday or even to let them know where I was.

My father’s coworkers and some of my parent’s friends and their lawyer had dealt with everything including the sale of the house, the cremation … everything.

As a woman in her eighties, my grandmother or Odie, as I called her, (her real name was Odile), had lived as a child through the first war, then as a young mother through the depression and into the second war. She had buried her husband and daughter from illness in the 1950’s and now one of her two sons. Her other son she refused to see as he had made some bad decisions during the second war. Like me, she felt like an orphan. Unlike me, however, she had always been disciplined and hardworking and supportive.

For the first time Odie told me how bad a child I had been and the sacrifices my parents had made for me. As part of the French Diplomatic corps, my father had many opportunities to move to a higher position by moving to other postings but stayed in Ottawa to try to have a nice life for me to grow up. He became a senior, but not very senior, part of the French Embassy in Ottawa, and would train incoming roles junior to his to be his senior but he like his life with my mother and me in Ottawa. By the time high school was over for me most of his opportunities were behind him and it must have been frustrating for him and my mom to watch me not focus on my future. My cavalier attitude and irresponsible lifestyle after quitting university were tolerated at first but then became tiresome for my parents and eventually an open disappointment.  With no siblings, I was their focus, pride and joy and then disappointment. Their two urns sat on a shelf in Odie’s living room.

I won’t share how bad my visit with my Odie was, but after the second day, I left on a train from Rennes to Paris and a flight to Canada. As the child of a foreign diplomat from France, with a mother from Canada and being born in Canada I carried both a French (EU) passport as well as a Canadian passport, but my Canadian one had expired so I traveled on the French one.

In Ottawa, I went to see my fathers office both to speak to them about any outstanding issues and to have them re-apply for my Canadian passport for me and to send it to my grandmother. My fathers assistant was pretty upset to see me. Apparently, my parents fought all the time about what to do about me. She had a few mementos from his office, one of which was a postcard he prized,  I had once sent them from Turkey. The look on her face when looking at me was so disturbing. This was the second person in a week who needed to make sure I knew that I had not deserved the love and support they had for me.

My next stop was at a lawyers office who was a personal friend of my parents and who had handled my parents will. Apparently, between my mother’s parents who were now passed and my fathers’ mother (Odie), they had fed some of their income each year to help their parents and after the sale of their house in a real estate downturn, there was very little left. My mothers work had been for a not for profit that paid very little as well. Given what a disappointment I now knew I had been to them I was embarrassed even having the conversation with the lawyer about getting an inheritance.

The life insurance company documents the lawyer had me sign and would submit but I would have to set up an account with a Canadian bank with operations in Europe to have the insurance annuity they had set up for me paid into each month. It would be $763.54 Canadian each month until the earlier of the age of 90 or my death.

I was at day five of my ten-day “holiday” from my work with Marc and Lotte and decided to look up some old friends to try to reconnect with someone. I really had not been back to Canada much since quitting university about eighteen years before. Most were on summer holiday or had left Ottawa, so I headed off to Toronto where many had ended up. An old girlfriend hung up on me and my call to Jim’s place and the response of his eight-year-old daughter was fairly typical of a busy family who didn’t know who I was. She told me her mom was outside packing to go to the cottage, her dad was at work and asked if I was “the crazy Django my dad went to high school with”.  I assured her I was that very Django and told her to just wish her mom and dad well.

So I had been a bad son, an absent friend and everyone I knew in Canada had moved on. I had felt pretty good about how my life had been going with Marc, Lotte, and their family but knew that even that little achievement would soon end as the summer was coming to a close.

As I sat on the plane back to Europe I  did not really know what I would do but just felt that whatever it would be I would have to create as I had burned out any real links to my past. The guilt I was feeling about my parents was overwhelming but my grandmother and my fathers assistant had only seen it from one perspective.

My parents were pretty absent in my life. As an only child, you would think they were an ever-present part but my father was very focused on his work and because my mother worked for an NGO  that was often at odds with the French Government they never talked about his work or hers so there was a big gap in their relationship. I was treated very much just as a third adult in the house and on the rare occasions we would eat together my mom couldn’t tell me what she was up to, nor could my dad and they would rarely ask me about school or my interests as it would highlight how strange their own relationship was. The only things they seemed to share were skiing, occasional cooking, and house stuff, a few trips,  and a lot of sex. This pair were like rabbits. They couldn’t talk together about work but boy they made up for it sexually. Not my favourite memories, especially when I would have friends over for a sleepover in high school.

Even my name had been a result of their strained work conflict. My father, seen to be an up and coming diplomate did not want me to have his surname as the protocol at the time for diplomats (who were much more senior than he was, but that he aspired to be) was to name their children their wife’s surname to protect them somewhat from kidnapping. So that is how I came to have the last name Bisous, my moms’ last name. Now Bisous is a pretty “out-there” name and was one that my mother was also happy for me to have because I was the last in the line and she liked the idea of keeping the name alive. It was a name that originated with her grandfather, Henri Bissonette, who on the ship from France to New France decided somewhere on that crossing that his nickname should be his formal name. So he stepped onto the ship in France as Henri Bissonette and off the ship in what would later become Canada as Henri Bisous. The snickers that it would attract all the way through my school life my mother assured me were nothing compared to the experience she and her three sisters endured and that it was a fine name. For any of you who do not speak French,  Bisous means “little kisses” and the act of greeting a friend with alternating little kisses on the cheek also falls under this term.

My parents also were unanimous apparently on my other names. Django was my middle name, as they were both fans of the duo Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, but Django in particular. Giving that as a second name was also a safe, personal element to my identity as they gave me what they felt was a fine first name – Pascal. Oh My God – Pascal! I know that my buddy Jim was named after James Dean and jokes that he could have as easily been named Fabian or Elvis. I think those would be in the same category as Pascal. My parents and Odie still called me Pascal but from about grade four on I was Django to everyone else. Well, my parents wouldn’t be calling me Pascal anymore. It was a sad thing.

Maybe it was partially having a unique, almost cartoon name that made me a class clown or so self-focused- I don’t know. Other kids had multiples of their name in every class and were usually called by their last name. In one year there were seven Jims in a class of less than thirty. Maybe that’s how my great-grandfather ended up being called Bisous – too many Bissonnette’s?

As the flight back to Europe drew on I kept wondering how much of my strange childhood had been my fault and how much was my parents doing. When I looked at the warmth of Marc and Lotte with their four kids it was nothing like my life growing up.  But when I reflected on most of my friend’s relationships with their parents when we were growing up it wasn’t all that close either. But to put it in perspective none of my school friends experienced two parents forgetting to get a tree for Christmas and going out on Christmas day to find one. The next year my mother bought an artificial one and it sat decorated in the basement for every year thereafter.

I was hopeful  Odie I could still have a relationship with if I worked at it. It was a  long overnight flight and I had the opportunity to write her a letter telling her about what I had done in Canada and that I would stay in touch once I had a more permanent place to live.

So for those of you who thought these posts were going to be all happy thoughts … sorry, I let you down too. But as I am writing this many years later I can tell you it does get better. Don’t give up on me.