Ballet With the Ball: A Love Story

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Originally published by John Lanchester, National Geographic, June 2006

Why do we fall in love with soccer? What happens?

At some deep level, the reason soccer snags us is that good soccer is beautiful, and it’s difficult, and the two are related.

A team kicking the ball to each other, passing into empty space that is suddenly filled by a player who wasn’t there two seconds ago and who is running at full pelt and who without looking or breaking stride knocks the ball back to a third player who he surely can’t have seen, who, also at full pelt and without breaking stride, then passes the ball, at say 60 miles an hour, to land on the head of a fourth player who has run 75 yards to get there and who, again all in stride, jumps and heads the ball with, once you realize how hard this is, unbelievable power and accuracy toward a corner of the goal just exactly where the goalkeeper, executing some complex physics entirely without conscious thought and through muscle-memory, has expected it to be, so that all this grace and speed and muscle and athleticism and attention to detail and power and precision will never appear on a score sheet and will be forgotten by everybody a day later–this is the strange fragility, the evanescence of soccer.

It’s hard to describe and it is even harder to do, but it does have a deep beauty, a beauty hard to talk about and that everyone watching a game discovers for themselves, a secret thing, and this is the reason why soccer, which has so much ugliness around it and attached to it, still sinks so deeply into us: Because it is, it can be, so beautiful.


women's world cup

The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup is finally here!

Canadian Living magazine went behind the scenes with the Canadian national women's soccer team. From superstitions to pre-game food to the musicians they rock out to (you won't believe who!), here are the secrets to team Canada's success.

How do you celebrate a win?
“Usually by singing Celine Dion … After one of our big wins last year, or a couple of years in the Cyprus Cups, we had the stereo system in the locker room and we popped in Celine Dion and started singing at the top of our lungs. And that’s usually, as a team, what we do. If anybody walked by they’d think: What a bunch of crazy Canadians. I can’t sing worth anything, but I am singing at the top of my lungs.”
– Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, 31 years old, from Maple Ridge, B.C.

“A lot of dancing, music … (and, after a tournament) Celine Dion’s Power of Love, that’s a good one.”
– Forward Melissa Tancredi, 29, Hamilton, Ont.

“Usually in the locker room we end up singing some kind of Celine Dion song … You can thank Karine LeBlanc for that one.”
– Forward Christine Sinclair, 27, from Burnaby, B.C.

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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten from a coach?
“Just to be confident in my own skill and my own ability and just to believe in myself. As a girl growing up you’re not expected to be boisterous or look into yourself and be who you are, it’s always like ‘stay in the back, be a team player.’ For a coach to come up to you and say ‘you’re better than you think you are,’ and to push it out of you is the best advice I’ve ever gotten.”
– M.T.

The team’s pre-game rituals
“Music is a must. And, for me, when I put my shin guards on and my cleats, and even when I get my ankles taped, it’s always left side first …”
– M.T.

More of the team’s pre-game rituals
“Left to right: you’ve gotta put on everything from left to right (when getting dressed for the game). And definitely say a prayer. I always say a prayer right before I enter the field and during the national anthem.”
– K.L.

“I always have to make sure my laces are tied extremely tight before a game. If they’re too lose it sets me off.”
– Forward Jonelle Filigno, 20, from Mississauga, Ont.

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Favourite pre-game meals
“My pre-game meal is always a big plate of pasta.”
– J.F.

“Pre-game it’s usually plain, simple pasta. Especially with an Italian as a head coach, she’s all about the pasta and the crostata before a game.”
– C.S.

“Actually a lot of us have been taking these goo packets, which are supposed to be a lot of simple sugars right before we play and they taste like chocolate icing, so they’re delicious.”
– Midfielder Diana Matheson, 27, from Oakville, Ont.

Post-game snacks
“Post-game, right away we have Parmesan. It’s gonna sound weird to people but Parmesan is what I look forward to. Parmesan is the first thing we eat in the locker room, as weird as that sounds. I’m a cheese-lover, too, so it works.”
– M.T.

“Certain members of our team are obsessed with Parmesan cheese. I’m not quite there: It’s hard for me to want to stick a brick of Parmesan cheese in my mouth after a game!”
– C.S.


As a Canadian owned and operated company, with hotels in both Canada and the UK, Sandman Hotel Group is excited to cheer for both Team Canada and Team England. Who will you be cheering for?

Click here for a full tournament schedule.

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20 Things You Didn’t Know about Queen Victoria

Victoria, British Columbia

Canada has been celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday since 1845, but there’s a lot about the woman, to whom we owe the first unofficial long weekend of the summer, that you may not have realized.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

Victoria, born May 24, 1819, was the daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn and Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. She married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1840, and the union produced four sons and five daughters. She died at 81 years old, on January 22, 1901, and was the longest sitting sovereign in history after a reign of 63 years and 216 days.

But while the day bears her name, here are 20 things you never knew about Queen Victoria or her holiday – or have long since forgotten.

1. Victoria Day is a Canadian tradition and doesn’t actually exist in most of England. But it is celebrated in parts of Scotland, especially Edinburgh, where it remains an official holiday.

2. While the holiday moves around a lot now (falling this year on May 19th), the original rules stated it be celebrated annually on May 24th, regardless of what day that was, unless it was a Sunday – and then the observance would be moved to the 25th.

That changed with an amendment to the Statutes of Canada in 1952, when the government declared Victoria Day would fall on the Monday preceding the 25th of May. It’s been there ever since.

And those of us who appreciate our long weekends are glad they made the change or we’d all be working on Monday – and getting Sunday off.

3. Victoria Day is a legal Canadian stat, which means it’s also observed in Quebec. But the idea of honouring a British monarch doesn’t sit well with many in Le Belle Province, where it’s known it be another name. Up until three years ago, it was called Fête de Dollard after Adam Dollard des Ormeaux a French hero who helped lead a force in what is now Montreal against the Iroquois in 1660.

In 2003, it was renamed National Patriots Day in Quebec, ignoring the Queen reference altogether.

4. When Victoria was just a little girl, she was known by her nickname, Drina.

5. Despite being born in England, Victoria only spoke German up until the age of three.

6. She was the first member of the Royal Family known to suffer from hemophilia, a fact that had many questioning the circumstances of her parentage.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

7. She married Prince Albert in 1840, although they’d known each other since she was 16. And it really was a family affair.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was her first cousin and his father was her mother’s brother!

8. Because she was Queen, she had to propose to Albert, and not vice versa.

9. She took over the throne in 1837, after the death of William IV. She was just 18 years old.

10. Despite the somewhat imposing figure she’s been portrayed as in history, the real Victoria didn’t completely measure up. She stood just 5 feet tall.

11. She was the subject of at least six serious assassination attempts.

In 1840, an 18-year-old named Edward Oxford took two shots at her carriage as she was riding in London. He was accused of high treason but found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Two years later, a man named John Francis fired a gun at her carriage but missed. He was caught, convicted of treason, but avoided the death penalty and was shipped to a penal colony.

Less than two months later, a youngster named John William Bean fired ammo made out of tobacco and paper at the Queen.

And in 1849, it happened again when William Hamilton, who history books describe as an ‘angry Irishman’, fired a pistol at her carriage. He pled guilty and was also exiled to a penal colony.

They say if you stay around in politics long enough, you’re bound to make enemies. Victoria was living proof of that. The Queen was set upon again in 1850, when ex-Army officer Robert Pate hit her with his cane. He pleaded insanity but the courts didn’t buy it, leaving him to the same fate as Hamilton.

Incredibly, in 1882, there was yet another attempt on her life, this time by Roderick Maclean, who also missed her with a bullet from a gun. He was found insane and sent to an asylum for life.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

12. When you see pictures or actresses playing Victoria, she’s almost always wearing black. That’s because when her husband died in December 1861, she went into seclusion and a perpetual state of mourning and never wore any other colour.

It’s long been rumoured she later married her Scottish butler John Brown, but that’s never been proven. She didn’t get back into the public eye until the early 1870′s.

13. She became a grandma at 39 and a great grandmother 20 years later.

14. The mother of nine suffered one of the major drawbacks of such a long life, tragically outliving three of her own children.

15. She was the first Queen of Canada, sitting on the throne when this country was founded in 1867.

16. She liked to drink a concoction called Vin Mariani.

17. It was Victoria who started the tradition of a bride wearing white. Before her wedding, a woman would simply wear her best dress, no matter what colour it was.

18. She was named the 18th greatest Briton in a BBC poll conducted in 2002. Winston Churchill was number one. Victoria was beaten out by, among others, Princess Diana (#3), William Shakespeare (#5), and John Lennon (#8). She was followed on the list by Paul McCartney.

Victoria, British Columbia

19. Victoria, British Columbia is named after her, but so is the capital of Saskatchewan – Regina.

20. She was the only British monarch in modern music history to be honoured by name in the title of a rock and roll song. “Victoria”, by the Kinks, #62 on the Billboard charts in 1970, although the record did understandably better on this side of the border.

Paul McCartney famously wrote his 23-second ditty “Her Majesty” tune for the Beatles’ Abbey Road LP, but it wasn’t put out as a single and it never mentioned the current Queen by name.

Meet Billy Barker: Quesnel’s most famous and successful miner

billy barker goldWho is Billy Barker, and why does he deserve his own 3-day festival?

Billy BarkerBarker was born in 1817 in March, Cambridgeshire, England. As a child, he worked as a waterman on the waterways of England.

In 1839, he married Jane Lavender and had one daughter named Emma Eliza. Jane died in 1850, and in 1863, Barker married his second wife Elizabeth Collyer. She was extremely extravagant and unfaithful and left him in 1865 after he became broke.

Because railways had begun to replace canal transport, Barker was unsure of what to do with his life. During the 1840s, he decided to go to California, where he would try his luck in the gold rush. He made very little, but when the gold rush ended, he moved up to British Columbia with fellow miners. His party discovered gold in the Williams Creek area, and his fellow crew member Wilhelm Dietz – “Dutch Bill” – was the first to find a good amount of gold in the creek valley area.

Barker decided to search for his gold down river close to Stouts Gulch. Many people said he was crazy for doing this, but, after a short period of time, they pulled out about 60 ounces of gold at about 52 feet below ground. Barker’s claim turned out to be the richest in the area and the settlement of Barkerville was set up around his claim. Throughout the rest of his mining career, he pulled out roughly 37,500 ounces of gold.

Billy Barker smoked as much as 30 cigarettes a day, finding it hard to deal with the stress of having that much gold and the progressive symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

He died penniless in a Victoria nursing home on July 11, 1894 with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and/or possible cancer in his jaw. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Ross Bay Cemetery, though there has been contemplation on moving his grave to Barkerville, the town he founded and preserved as a historic town.

Since 1973, Billy Barker Days has been a staple in Quesnel and an event everyone looks forward to. With events that include rodeo, mud bogs, concessions, midway, and stage entertainment, there is sure to be something for everyone. In its 40th year, this event is British Columbia’s largest free family festival. It is true community collaboration.

A Snapshot of the Festival – Thursday, July 18, 2013 – Sunday, July 21, 2013

Quesnel crowd pictureThursday – Seniors’ Day

Friday – Kids’ Day – Children’s Headliners Sharon & Bram – Friday at 3 pm and Saturday at 2 pm.

Saturday – Parade 10 am – There’s a new parade route this year and will not be on the highway.

Sunday – Fireworks – Another great display by Fireworks Spectaculars who have produced excellent shows for the wrap up over the past 5 years. An extra special show is planned to close out the 40th anniversary of Billy Barker Days.

Dance – The Billy Barker Days Society will be sponsoring a dance this year on Saturday, July 20 at the Seniors Centre. Music by Secret Happiness. Ticket price is $25 and are currently on sale.

Costumes – The Costume Rental Shop will be located at the Child Development Centre building, formerly Bloomko Flowers. The shop is open for business.

Souvenirs – The Billy Barker Days booth will be open on Reid Street on Tuesday, July 2, 11 am to 4:30 pm weekdays and 10 am – 2 pm Saturdays up to and including July 16th.

Sandman Signature Newcastle Sweeps Top Hotel Award…and for Good Reason!

Venturing to a new country is always risky business for any hotel company. Not only are you branching out from your regular customer base, but you’re engaging with entirely different nation of customs and expectations. Yet, however perilous the journey may be, when executed with patience, precision and attention to detail, the payoff can be tremendous.

A case in point is our very own Sandman Signature Hotel in Newcastle, U.K. It’s almost been a year since our flagship European hotel opened, and the U.K. reception has been tremendous. Not only have we established a reputation as the go-to destination for upscale comfort, and contemporary-cool fun in Newcastle, but we’ve managed to integrate ourselves into the local scene while also maintaining our distinct ‘exotic’ Canadian presence.

Where’s the proof? Verbal accolades aside, we recently also garnered one of England’s most prestigious hospitality awards – the RICS North East Renaissance Award for commercial property of the year. Chosen from panel of independent property experts who have seen all the ins and outs of the hotel industry, we were praised for ‘breathing new life into the last existing brewery building on the site where brewing had occurred for over 125 years.”

What the judges are referring to, of course, is our complete refurbishment of the former Scottish and Newcastle Brewery head office building. A local legend, the Scottish & Newcastle Brewery heralds as one of Newcastle’s most distinct historic sites. Not only did it serve as the stomping grounds for generations of beer makers, factory workers and beer lovers, but it put Newcastle on the map as a go-to city for deep dark ales with a punch.

Very aware of this special history and its connection to the locals, our team made sure we gave S&N the proper tribute. Hence, the RICS judges had this to say of our hotel: “While being stylish and contemporary, some of the historical elements of the original building have been maintained, including the Blue Star on the east elevation that signified excellent quality.”

Proud of our success, Director of the Sandman Hotel Group in the UK, Mitchell Gaglardi, echoed the judges’ sentiments when he remarked: “Even though the Sandman Signature Hotel Newcastle is contemporary and design forward, we were keen from the start to be sympathetic to its structure and respectful of its Scottish and Newcastle heritage. We are delighted and honoured to have won this prestigious award with our first UK site and hope our future Sandman Signature hotels here in the UK will be equally as well received.”

A top-tier award, excellent guests and the 2012 Summer Olympics to come? Not a bad start eh?

To learn more about the Sandman Signature Hotel – Newcastle, U.K., click here: http://www.sandmansignature.co.uk