The weekend got off to a busy start with Halloween on Friday night. Last year we got around 45 kids, so I allocated for 60, hoping to have some leftovers. This year's regulation kit included (in Halloween miniature size): a Skittles packet, a Twizzlers packet, 2 pairs of Chicklets, a KitKat bar, a Coffee Crisp bar and 4 rolls of acidic sugar Tingles pills. The candy mountain was cleaned out by 8pm, by 66 scary little visitors. Was it the unusually warm weather (12C)? The spottyness of the light rain? The teacher's strike 1? I don't know. Next year, I'll be allocating for 100.


On Saturday night, I got dragged along to see a Tom Stoppard play called Arcadia put on by the University of Ottawa Department of Theater Drama Guild. It was a lot like George Bernard Shaw's Good King Charles' Golden Days. The play had one set of people and events in 1800 and a second bunch in 1990 trying to research the history of the first bunch. Both took place in the same building, making this a one set play.

The 1800 bunch revolved around a tutor training the daughter of the Earl of Croom. She got into wondering about determinism (Newton's physics able to predict the future if you knew everything) and was trying to figure out the algebra of the shape of various natural things. There was also a bit of sex and adultry in the gazebo that had the tutor facing a duel with a poet, and explaining carnal embrace as hugging a side of beef. The Earl's wife was involved with a garden renovation that replaced the Arcadian fields (open grass, trees, lake, a stream, sheep placed perfectly spaced on the fields, a haw-haw ditch) with a modern garden with a waterfall, thermodynamic steam engine to drain the lake, hermitage and wild woods based on popular landscape paintings of the day.

One of the modern people was researching the garden history. An arrogant academic type came on the scene and was looking for references to the mysterious poet (he had found a book with an inscription from the tutor to the poet that refered to the gazebo event, but it got misinterpreted in modern times). He pestered the garden researcher until she agreed to help him a bit, in spite of his negative review of her previous Byron book. The garden researcher's "fiance" scientist was looking at grouse population and going through the game hunt records.

A lot of discoveries of proof lead the modern day researchers down the garden path, so to speak. The audience had fun following their investigations, some of which went quite off base, and lead to the arrogant academic's come-uppance in the Byron community. I won't spoil it by telling you the details, which are marvelously nested on several levels.

After the play is over, you can have fun doing academic analysis and comparing the Acadian/modern garden with Newtonian/Fractal Chaos theories explaining Nature. Or the loss of information as time passes being a metaphore for thermo-dynamics. By the way, one of the characters in the play points this out as being a useless thing to do (who cares if Byron left England because of a previously unknown duel). The comeback is that the quest for knowledge is the thing that makes it worthwhile.

By the way, my mom thinks that the hermit they found for the hermitage is the tutor, gone mad after the daughter dies in a fire. He left the cottage full of paper, later discarded as kabalistic scribblings, which may just be the solution to an iterated fractal equation (something like the Mandrelbot set calculated on paper).


1The Ontario teacher's strike had started on Monday of the week, so parents possibly had more time with their children and used some of it to make costumes.

- Alex

Copyright © 1997 by Alexander G. M. Smith.