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Newfoundland slideshow

Nearly three weeks on Newfoundland and we don’t want to leave, but the west is there and tBonavista peninsula hikinghat’s where we’re heading.  After our first three weeks in Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec City seeing the sights and meeting up with old friends and relatives – including one fine lady who just turned 100 – Newfoundland has been like going back in time and space.  Here the pace of life is slower, and it slows you down.

For example, we had plans to head up to the northern tip of the island to a Viking archaeological site called L’Anse-aux-Meadows, a remote snip dangling off the nail of Newfoundland’s finger at the end of the aptly named Long Range Mountains on this, the world’s seventh-largest island and nearly the size of Britain.  For its historical significance and magnificent setting everyone says it’s a must-do on the island.  UNESCO World Heritage this, Canada National Historic site that… yaddda yadda yadda.  We did not do, because we looked at the map, decided it was just way too much driving on an 8-week summer wander that is already going to top 10,000km spread over five provinces and three rental cars, so we stayed put.

Not that it was such an easy decision to make, because the allure is strong, but we heard a while later from someone who made the trek that the place is disappointing for the usual reason: as remote as it is, it’s crawling with the cruise-ship bus-tour set, no doubt fresh from cheesing up the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

What we have been up to is hiking.  We’ve been up and down many island trails and never once gotten tired of seeing what’s around the corner.  The place is unspoiled – at least it is to my eyes.  I don’t know anywhere else you can just park the car, walk up, take a seat and spend the afternoon watching tens of thousands of nesting birds clinging to cliffside crannies tending for their young.  The Northern Gannet, the Puffin, the lesser-crested horny twirl-flitzer – they’re all there, and you don’t have to take a boat tour to see the whales, either.

The walkabouts haven’t been all fun, though.  Wife K having wisely begged off, the red-haired teen and I slogged up a rubble-strewn gully of pure scree and torture on Gros Morne, 800 vertical metres of unstable foot-placement that will always stick in my mind as the hike I wish I’d never taken.  But two hours later and several degrees cooler, the view was worth it.

I hope this is worth it, too.  Take a gander, b’y!

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Halloween trick or treat gets an update

Has political correctness and touchy-feely taken over Halloween?  I thought they were kidding at first:

Well, if it’s serious, then this works both ways, and I think the message should get out to kids, too.

They cannot just barge onto my property and come up my steps and and stand before my door to scream Trick or Treat!

I find Trick or Treat to be a rude, nasty, mean and hurtful expression of juvenile greed, and I’ve suffered for it each and every year.  But this Halloween, that’s it.  Unless the kids ring the doorbell and calmly – but in a firm voice – ask for their candy, they won’t be getting any.  Here’s the handout, kiddies.  You still have a few hours to learn it.

“We, the gathered children of your neighbourhood dressed as we are in costumes which may or may not be the genuine product of our own handiwork, the work of our parents, or older siblings, or more than likely made in China and purchased at inflated prices at Wal-Mart, would like to politely request that you provide us, free or charge and without prejudice or right of redress, with a surgary confection of your choosing, either store-bought or homemade.  Failing that, we would be prepared to perform, again, without right of redress and free of artists’ royalties, a simple dance, sing a song, or tell a joke.  Should we opt for a joke, said joke will not contain elements harmful to any person or identifiable group.  The song, should we elect to sing it, is guaranteed not to be by Chris Brown, hero to some very sick people.   Thank you.”

I think that’s got a snappy enough ring to it, don’t you?  And it certainly levels the playing field.


More tickets to give away in Washington

We really don’t know what made that guy give us the free tickets to the hockey game.  K. later said that he looked kind of dejected as he came over to us, so we think maybe he was a scalper holding onto tickets he knew he couldn’t sell.  That or he just got stood up for a date.  We’ll never know because he took off right after giving them to us.

There’s a follow-up to our little ticket story though.

The next morning I got up early to head down to the Washington Monument to be in line for tickets to go up to the top.  We’d tried a couple days before, but they were all gone for the day, and we were really disappointed.

The sign at the counter said get there early, so I arrived 45 minutes before opening to stand in line.  I chose an entry time of 12 noon, thinking that would give us time to see something beforehand.

We met up in the original Smithsonian museum and then went over to the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing for a fascinating tour of the inside of original plant, where you can see them printing all those rapidly shrinking US dollars.

We then went over the monument and arrived spot on 12 to find a line-up so long it looked like we’d be standing there for at least an hour.  We asked around and it turned out they’d let in a huge tour group that backed up the queue.

So we decided not to go up.  Although it was nearly mid-October the mid-day sun was baking hot, and there’s not so much as a twig for shade for hundreds of yards surrounding the Washington Monument.

We walked down the slope again to the little house where they give the tickets away and found a woman with her young daughter standing in front of the counter peering in.  The sign on the window said tickets were all gone for that day.

“Do you want to go up the Monument?” I asked, showing them our tickets.  “You’ll have to wait at least an hour for the 12 o’clock entry because it’s running late, but we don’t want to stand there, so if you want them, they’re yours.”

“We only need two,” she said, so I gave them a pair and off they went.

They were so happy!  They ran as fast as they up the hill to join the queue.

I stuffed the third into the slot at the counter, knowing someone would soon be along to take it.

I don’t know if you’d call it karma, and of course they weren’t $65 hockey tickets, but I felt like I was passing along a little of our good fortune from the night before in the same way we’d come across it:  to strangers, no questions asked.


Back from British Columbia

But still heavily jet-lagged.   A couple of photos from my hometown are about all I can muster right now.

canada bc howe sound anvil island defence islands trees

Now taking bets as to when this old shed finally gives in:

canada bc howe sound britannia beach crumbling dock

And one from around Kamloops, where my mother went to school during the war:

canada bc kamloops sun peaks hazy view


South African field of dreams

This summer I’m posting a photo or video clip every so often. 

This was taken in 2006 at the most beautiful spot we’ve ever been to.

A very long and detailed look at the place is on the page A month in South Africa and Lesotho.

Near Bulungula, on the Wild Coast, South Africa.


So nice to see you after all these years

We’re going to a reunion this summer, a three-day fest on the Rhine gathering together former employees and spouses of Hong Kong’s German-Swiss International School.  My wife was a teacher there in the early nineties, had been for three years before I landed in early 1994, got a job, found a girlfriend, broke up, met K, moved in, married her, had our daughter, quit my job and then moved to Germany.

Along the way I met many of her colleagues, some of whom we’re still friends with after all these years.  Looking over the list the other day of those slated to attend, we smiled and said how much we were looking forward to seeing many people who up to now have existed only in that place and time we filled before moving on.

There are at least a half-dozen I want to have a long catch-up with.  One of K’s girlfriends back in the day will I hope recall an incident barely a week after I’d started going out with K.  The three of us were at a bar somewhere up near The Peak and Karin was wearing a dress that showed off that great figure she still has.  When K went off to get some drinks I turned to her friend and said something like, “damn, she looks fantastic, doesn’t she?”  She gave me this horrified look and spat back, “WHAT did you say?”   With the loud music and her not understanding English very well, she thought I was making a pass at her the moment K’s back was turned.

But as much as I’m looking forward to the reunion, there’s a certain dread about it too.  Not that I might feel like an outsider, because I do know a lot of the people.  It’s just that I know exactly what’s going to happen.  If you’ve ever been to a high school reunion, you know the drill.

Not long after you arrive you’ll see the people you’ve been thinking about all these years and you’ll rush over and greet them.  After the first excitement of recognition has blown by you’ll have the catch-up gab, the what-you-doing-now where-you-been-in-the-meantime chat, the great-to-see-you-again tap on the arm for good measure when you go refill your drink.

It will go on like that until someone gets up to make a speech or the buffet is served.  With any luck the food will be decent and drinks flowing.  By now you’ll have coalesced into groups you used to hang out with ‘way back when, avoiding those you don’t know or only had a superficial relationship with.

The evening will be a pleasant one and it will all end a bit too soon.  If there are events the next day and evening, you’ll enjoy them, basking in the memories and nostalgia which, if the atmosphere is right, will come in bunches.

As the last event draws to a close and everyone drifts off saying their final farewells, there will be hugs and shoulder shakes and thumps on the back, cards swapped, telephone numbers, email, website and blog addresses scribbled on the back of napkins or scraps of paper, and sincere looks exchanged as you look each other in the eye and say, “It’s been so much fun to see you again after all these years.  We must keep in touch.”

But you know what?  You won’t.

EDIT and update:  It was a great time and we’re looking forward to the next one.  Really, it was wonderful.

The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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