It’s a Small World

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┬ástory spanning decades and continents. I find that interesting. Don’t you?

Fun at Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick. Honeymoon trip, 2013


NB, NS, PEI and theCabot Trail

Well, we made it. East Coast, New Brunswick. Now for some adventure.
20130927-203259.jpgAlready started. Hotel web site showed only one room available an hour out and then we lost signal. Couldn’t book on-line or call ahead and we were sitting at the back of a convoy on the only road into town. We had to get there first, or risk losing that room, so it was time to enjoy the ride and play leapfrog.
Apparently this rental has a hidden gear they don’t show you in the console, because when you floor it I swear it grew wings. Slow and cumbersome wings, true. It is an automatic after all and they just can’t hold a candle to a stick shift for acceleration. Still, it felt good to open her up and actually drive.
Of course, selection of suitable passing places and being careful to sweep the roadside for crossing animals was part of the fun, I’m no idiot and I know that Moose collisions kill more motorists in New Brunswick than any other animal. Did you know those things weigh over a ton and stand 7 feet at the shoulder? They are around 9 feet long and their antlers average 6 feet across. You neither want to run into one with your car or find one in your tent.
They also have genuine hills and real curves out East. Long time since I’ve enjoyed a ride like that. And we have at least another 3500 kilometers to go before we get home.
Better get some sleep

The Red Herring

Leaving Quebec via ferry at noon, we headed East along the South shore of the St. Lawrence river before turning South, leaving Quebec and heading across the mainland into New Brunswick.

Tonight, we are on the Atlantic coast at St. Andrews. As a Brit, I grew up with the smell of the sea in my lungs and I’m looking forward to a swim (yes, I know it’s September) sometime tomorrow. I miss tides, and the restless sea. Much as I have learned to love the 5 Great Lakes, 3 of which I have put my own little toes in, they are no substitute in the mind of a young man that once set out swimming fully dressed from Skegness (yes, that’s the North Sea, I know) to France (I said I know!) for cheap cigarettes, until the constant bumping into gutted fish, used condoms and raw sewage (as well as, truth be told, the increasingly worried screams of my kids) beat me back to the shore.

Planned festivities for tomorrow include a tall-ship cruise to watch the whales and a pleasant evening at the bar from where I pen this article: The Red Herring on Water Street in St. Andrews. Fantastic ambience, great atmosphere, a blues band and a wide selection of burp inducing beer. Back tomorrow night to run the rack, methinks.

All this and my lovely bride. Life… Is good.


Quebec Beckons

After a tiring day walking the ramparts of the Citadelle de Quebec, Nikki and I booked in to a riverside boarding house only steps from the historic fort.

After settling in we walked around downtown for an hour enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the old fortress city before stopping to eat. Prices in the tourist area are what you would expect, but worth it because any restaurant that wants to stay in business in a tourist town serves only the best.

As visitors to this Capital of French speaking Canada we wanted to blend in with the local ambience and soak up the local culture. Spaghetti Bolognese it is.




What, again?

Nikki and I were enjoying our continental breakfast this morning, courtesy of the hotel, down in reception. As I poured myself a coffee, another guest asked me to pour her one. I shrugged and smiled and poured. She asked for milk and sugar and I smiled and said “you know, I don’t work here”. She said “then why did you pour me coffee?” To which I just shrugged and smiled. We laughed.

She spoke the same amount of English as I did French. It was fun. Chalk up another memory for the archives.

This crap happens to me everywhere. Apparently it also happens in multiple languages. I have no idea why people think I work at the places they shop. It could be my natural air of authority. It could be that I just look miserable enough to be the hired help. Whatever the reason, I learned years ago to just roll with it and offer assistance to those that ask nicely, and send people that don’t across to another branch across town. Never piss off an Englishman. Or he’ll smile while he pees in your cornflakes.

Nikki finds it endearing.


The wedding was a smooth, well oiled machine. There were minor hitches, like a broken zipper and a ring bearer that ran in the wrong direction, but you smile and build in some wiggle room to allow for things like that, and roll with it. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

For example, the rental company had no cars when I went to collect. The cigarette lighter wasn’t working. Nothing major.

The latest hitch is equally minor. With all the messing around getting the cigarette lighter fixed, I overlooked something when loading the car. My laptop power adapter. 800km from home with another 2500+ to go, I show two hours battery life remaining. I will not be home for two weeks (thanks mom for moving in and watching the house and cats!).

Since I’m responsible for a dozen busy web sites and databases, an e-commerce store and an on-line newspaper, as well as the e-mail for another dozen sites, being without my laptop is really not an option. I’m on call. So what is a lowly tech geek to do?

Google Staples. 6 miles from this hotel I can buy a power adapter and charge the laptop in the car using the inverter, which ironically I DID remember to pack, for this very purpose. I will write off the expense as a lesson in staying calm and thinking straight in the face of unhelpful jobsworth bleeps that are apparently placed in my path for the sole purpose of giving fate something to laugh at. And I will always remember that Nikki, my bride and best friend, computer repair specialist extraordinaire (I’m in Quebec, let’s use French!) is the clever tech that told me that Staples sold laptop adapters.

After that, the rest was easy. Don’t sweat the small stuff. And hey, it’s pretty much all small stuff.

Gotta love rentals

Setting off for the big road trip to Nova Scotia and PEI, to find the cigarette lighters in the vehicle don’t work. No big deal if you don’t smoke, eh? Well yes, it’s a big deal if you have two iPhones, two tablets and a laptop, a DSLR camera and assorted other electronics to charge while traveling.

This rental company didn’t have a vehicle ready when we went to pick it up and we had to wait an hour and a half while one was ferried from another location, so I had low expectations when I called to ask for help. “We got no cars today. Thank you please”, was not what I wanted to hear. I finally lost it and used some colorful language when he went on to tell me, in all seriousness, that I could drive over to the Niagara Falls branch and ask them if they had any cars.

I explained this was far from an ideal solution. He said we could go to the branch at Toronto airport. “They got lots cars there. Just swap.’ In the absence of a viable alternative I said we could do this as it was in our way, though the thought if the time we would waste as well as the messing around transferring everything from one car to another made me even more upset. Time, I thought, for Plan B.

I called the local garage, Tamburri’s, and asked if they could take a look at the fuses. No problem. Bring it over. Ten minutes later we had a new fuse and fully operational cigarette lighters front and back. Off we go. Best $20 tip I ever happily gave. Middle of nowhere, here we come.

Ready to rock and roll

Well, in three hours I finish work. Tomorrow I get a haircut, buy shoes and make a few phone calls. The day after that I get married. Quite looking forward to it.
Ceremony at the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls, then on to the Skylon Tower for the reception. Niagara Falls by night with floodlights. Should be quite an evening.