Nikki and I were mudlarking down on the beach (Beach? Ha!) at Hopewell Rocks in Fundy Bay this morning. Shoes and socks removed, I hobbled to the shore in a romantic attempt to enter the Atlantic in a symbolic act of crossing the ocean. 10 minutes and much good-humoured cursing later, I entered the water, ankle deep in mud which concealed broken bricks, sharp snail shells and who knows what other dangers for the unshod hoof of an English Idiot. Thing is, I bought beach shoes before setting off. I just did not want their first use to be wading through mud. Oh how we laughed when, in a symbolic act of self-preservation, I slid my squelching mud-covered feet into them and pranced gaily back off up the so-called beach.
Anyway, that isn’t the story I want to share. This is.
After setting up the tripod and camera to take the shots I wanted of Nikki and I, I was approached by an elderly gentleman who asked if I would be kind enough to take a photo of him with his camera. Of course! While preparing for this we got talking and he asked me where I came from. Of course, Yorkshire in England. He smiled and told me he had visited Yorkshire during his honeymoon many years ago. He was from California and was on a road trip, as were we. His wife, he said, had a bad knee which prevented her from getting down the several flights of steps onto the beach. She was at the top of the cliff, but she had insisted he go down there get a photo of himself, as a souvenir.
He spoke of his time in Yorkshire, and the inspiration which drove him there: James Herriot. Mr. Herriot was a fictional vet, based on a series of books written by a real vet, based in the Yorkshire Dales. I was introduced to this series many years ago by my mother and knew everywhere he talked about, all the locations being virtually in my back yard as a local. He wished Nikki and I many happy years together, thanked me for the photo, and wondered off.
What are the odds of a Yorkshireman meeting a Californian with a shared interest in relatively obscure reading material, linked by honeymoon vacations, on a secluded beach in New Brunswick, of all places? I know that I would not have taken a bet on it. He put a smile on my face, and I put one on his. Bill Duffy, it was a pleasure meeting you. Truly a story spanning decades and continents. I find that interesting. Don’t you?