Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XVIII – Martha Stewart saved my life and tips on driving in Newfoundland

I am prone to fits of internalized paranoia whereby the usual outwardly projected extreme and irrational distrust of others is turned inwards – in short I am paranoid of paranoia.

Just for the record I am also scared of people wearing sombreros (who needs a hat that big anyway), termites (anything so small that can devour a house deserves to be feared) and since moving to Newfoundland, I have begun to fear driving, more accurately my paranoia of computer-based written driving exams scares the bejesus out of me.

Oh and I am also scared of falling asleep and waking to find my limbs fused with useless kitchen utensils like a pastry brush, spork and a colander as a helmet, but none of the cool ones like rolling pins for arms a meat tenderizer for my right hand and a pizza cutter for my left and egg beaters for legs that I would spin so fast I would gravitate to become the ultimate crime fighting machine able to flambé the fricassee out of culinary crooks.

Anyway, today I should have been studying for my driver’s test because despite my 16 years of clean driving in Australia, I have to go through the whole process again. That's cool with me, I dig practical tests. I'm a practical kind of person. But it means I have to sit
that rotten written test again so instead of studying I cooked macaroni and cheese from scratch for the very first time.

The driving exam has me spooked so much I turned to a Martha Stewart recipe. It makes sense after all, who better to guide me through the heady and complicated world of Mac and Cheese than Martha, who I also discovered is a damn fine history teacher. Did you Thomas Jefferson invented Mac & Cheese?

Now let me make this clear, my fear of driving isn’t because of the conditions in these parts. I have driven horribly dangerous roads in the southern hemisphere and survived potholes the size of small mammals, small mammals the size of humans and humans with brains the size of small mammals.

Nope, but sit me down in front of a driving test on a computer screen and I go to water and it’s all because of the way they phrase the questions and rank the answers.

There is always one ridiculous answer, one slightly daft one and two that are almost identical and would both be correct however one is more right than the other.

For instance, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador Road Users Guide, the minimum safe following distance is at least one car length for every 15kph meaning if you are traveling at 90kph you should be six car lengths behind the one in front. To work that out you must wait for the car in front to pass a checkpoint and start counting. If it takes two or more seconds for your car to pass that same checkpoint, it is considered to be a reasonable following distance.

The literature goes on to point out that the two second rule will allow you to react to an obstacle but it won’t be enough time to stop your car.

Again, sound advice though I would tender the argument that novice drivers shouldn’t be burdened with mathematical duties as well as driving responsibilities.

Now if I were to then suggest that it was safer to up the ante, turn the two second rule into a three, four or five second rule, I would be correct and a great deal safer but I would also be wrong and fail the test.

Then there is the advice given in the user guide which at times is quite hilarious.

For instance under the heading To Avoid Hitting a Car in Front of You, it calmly starts with: “Don’t be impatient,” which I admit is very good advice before concluding, “never let personal problems or daydreams take your attention from the road.”

Again, sound.

One of my favorite quotes comes under the heading Sudden Stopping and Reaction Time that reads:
“Before you can realize that you must stop your vehicle to avoid an object ahead, you must see it.”

I am wondering if this is a philosophical debate or instructions to Jedi.

The most worrying aspect from a non-moose acquainted driver is that the writers of the manual appear more worried about headlights then they are about moose.

For instance the paragraph about headlight glare reads:

“Glare causes the pupil of the eye to contract ... it takes about seven seconds for the pupil to readjust, during this time you may be temporarily blinded. If you were traveling at 90kph for those seven seconds you would have gone 125 metres while you had no vision.”

Temporarily blinded for 125 metres traveling 90kph? The only way that could get any worst is if an eagle flew in through the open window and began clawing your face off.

The writers under the heading Vehicle Plunges into Water helpfully demonstarte how to successfully escape a submerged car, what to do if the hood flies up or your car catches on fire while driving 90kph down the highway. 

They also offer the indispensable tip on what to do if you are about to slam into another car under the heading Direct Collision Course that reads: “Brake hard!”

Martha might have just saved my life.
Under moose the best advice they can give is thus: “Always think moose – especially when you drive at night”.

'Think moose' is the best they can come up with?

I think Martha Stewart and I are going to become well acquainted up until I sit my test on July 22.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XVII –George the Bard, Family Ties and $25 lobster dinners

Hello Mr Lobster, would you like a new home in my belly?
"Do you come from a big family George," I asked Cow Head’s friendliest local bard as I tried to prevent my rickety plastic lawn chair from toppling over.

George had rushed up the road to the Dr Henry N Payne Community Museum where he had been boiling lobsters at the Anglican Church all morning.

As strange as that sounds, it was all part of the 29th annual Cow Head Lobster Festival on the weekend and George was multitasking.

"Oh yes, a big family, seven brothers and a sister," he said as the summer sun slapped me upside the head while the ice box chilled wind kicked me in the shin.

"My daughter asked my father there once, she said, why do they have such big families around these parts and my father said, 'well you know, we’ve got to keep warm in the winter somehow'," George grinned and chuckled to himself.

For about an hour George did what he does best, he spun some yarns regaling us tales of his family and that of the region, stories that would have been told years ago around the camp oven, or in the kitchen to traveling strangers.

This time around it was just four of us huddled together on the lawn of the historical society.

He told us about his fishing days, local folk lore, maritime disasters and the death of modern society.

"When you buy a piece of lumber 2¼ inches and what you actually get is a piece 1¾ and you pay seven times its worth, well things aren’t looking good," he said, "we are in a bad way, a bad way," he concluded of modernity.

The talk of families was poignant as I had only that week bid farewell to my own who had journeyed from Australia to the northernmost point of Newfoundland.

I hadn’t seen them in about 18 months so there was plenty to talk about and for almost two weeks we showed them all that the Northern Peninsular had to offer and by the end, my father had developed a guttural Newfoundland laugh, my sister and mother had been made honorary Newfies after being ‘Screeched in’ and the entire lot had grown scales and gills because of all the cod and seafood they had digested.

A family portrait, not my family portrait but one nonetheless.
On the last night though, my parents in typical dramatic form, brought the whole trip crashing to a low.

At this point I must point out that my parents can be kind of dramatic. If mum has some bad news she usually starts the conversation with, “now don’t panic” or “before you get upset” my dad normally just comes out and speaks his mind.

“It’s been good to see you,” my mum said as she wiped at her face in a bid to make it look like she was scratching an itch that scuttled about her face like a snow crab. She was crying, but she didn’t want me to know. But I did and put an arm around her.

“Don’t make it sound like it’s the last time we’ll see each other,” I said.

“But it might be,” she said, “we might never see you again.”

“Sure you will it’s not as though we are that far away from you. We are only in Newfoundland.”

“You don’t know that,” she muttered, repeating it under her breath, “you don’t know that.”

Moments earlier over a tasty chunk of halibut my dad averted his eyes from my gaze when we had concluded the very same conversation.

“This might be it mate,” he said, “we might not ever see you kids again.”

“Don’t be silly,” I retorted.

“I’m not,” he grunted, jack blunt as always.

And therein lays the difference of generations. While we think it’s nothing to jump on a plane and fly around the globe as if we are packing the campervan and heading to the local beach for a holiday, for my parents it is a big deal, this trip to Newfoundland was a big trip, a once in a lifetime trip if I am to believe them.

I know the locals around St Anthony feel the same. With job opportunities limited, most of the extended family has been forced to move away to Alberta or further afield to make ends meet but each summer they try to make it home and celebrate as a family unit.

As each year rolls on and families expand and contract with numbers, a new baby here is offset by the loss of a grandparent there, many of us wonder if this will be the last time they will see a family member again.

My grief at not seeing my parents again for a while is tempered by the knowledge that I am lucky.

My family is still alive and currently driving around Ireland.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XVI -- Acceptance speech

The immigration officer's hand shot out at me, waist high, with a military snap.

I flinched but I needn't have.
"Sir, " he said, "welcome to Canada."

As I unwrapped my spindly fingers from around his meat claw it dawned on me that I was now a permanent resident of Canada.

My new home had officially accepted me, a faceless bureaucrat at the Canadian Consul found me to be truthful, honest and trustworthy and granted me permission to stay while a burly Newfoundland immigration officer at the aptly named southern port of Fortune confirmed it  with a stiff handshake and a heartfelt profession of pride.
I could tell Charlie, that's the immigration officer, was proud to be Canadian and he was darn happy to be the first person to welcome me into his country, his home.

With those thoughts ricocheting in my skull I turned to Em and started crying. She laughed. 

I tried to laugh but I was too busy crying so I kind of blubbered a bit, it's not every day you become part of a new country.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XV -- Wrestling Bedouin and a parallel universe

"Me against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousin, then my cousins and I against strangers."

The modern Bedouin travels in a rental van and not on camel through a desert.

According to the World Wide InterGoogle machine the above is a “widely quoted Bedouin saying” and while I will suspend my belief until irrefutable proof is presented, more than Wikipedia at least, it is the perfect description of the nomadic band of journeymen I witnessed last night – professional wrestlers.

A traveling troupe crisscrossing their way about Canada – Mainstream Wrestling – arrived with little fanfare in St Anthony yesterday, setting up residence inside a corrugated iron shed that doubles as the town’s ice hockey rink in winter.

Perched on the peripheries of a ring erected inside the freezing stadium about 400 people, mostly kids, watched on as good guys and bad guys belted each other senseless for more than two hours.

A montage clearly showing Josef Von Schmidt, a wrestler supposedly from East Berlin and whose MySpace page attests a desire to "resurrect the Berlin Wall" and proof of a love tryst between Dolph Lundgren (circa Rocky IV) and StreetFighter's General M Bison and Sagat. 
Sometimes the hits hurt, other times they missed all together but still inflicted a certain amount of injury and pain; such is the wonder of wrestling.

When the show finished and the crowd, with lungs aching and cheeks hurting, filed into the car park, the showmen packed up their own merchandise tables and the troupe disappeared south down Route 430 through the fog, past the moose onto the next town, onto the next show.

When Em first told me about the wrestling, I remember laughing, snobbishly.

I can’t remember the exact details of that exchange but I imagine when Em broached the subject, I was inside my ivory tower at the time sitting on a thrown made of intertwined strands of hair from the fabled golden badger, stroking my pet thylacine, ordering my thralls to track down more wine.

I probably then threw my head back and chortled at the idea proclaiming with a booming voice that would put Brian Blessed to shame something like: “I have been to international sporting events the world over with crowds reaching up to 100,000, what folly is this?”

In instances like this I’m either in my ivory tower or on my high horse, named Garry. 

Either way, I admit I was a fool, treated the concept with contempt, and as such I would like to issue an apology.

Because I have no-one to apologise to but myself, I hereby accept my own apology, acknowledge I have a lot still to learn and promptly move on.

Now here’s a question, is it culturally insensitive to draw parallels between a formally nomadic Arab ethnic group, the Bedouin, and spandex-clad fringe wrestlers? Maybe it is better to compare them to Fred Brophy’s travelling boxing tent in Australia, however I fear the latter is far too bloody and a lot less theatrical.

I’d imagined this group as muscle bound circus carnies, charlatans, who left town in the middle of the night with all the towns peoples’ hard earned money, everything not bolted down, perhaps a cat or two and a couple of stowaways with dreams of the big lights of WWE.

But that wasn’t the case – not by a long shot.

"Me against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousin, then my cousins and I against strangers," is the perfect way to describe last night’s performers.

Each day they travel to a new town, set up their traveling show, fight each other then move on.

The Bedouin entertained through folk music, dance and poetry, these guys do the same although thrash metal has replaced the sullen tones of the al-rababa, their choreographed war dance (ardha) ends in moves subtly titled brainbusters and powerbombs and the poetry was more monologues about the wrestlers own greatness mixed with crowd tauntings of “no, you suck”, rather than the traditional ghinnawas, two line emotional poems similar to haikus.

Am I drawing a long bow? Maybe, but one certain thing is that last night was all about the kids.

I think it’s fair to say that entertainment options are limited up here on the Northern Peninsular.

The closest cinema is six hours away and while there are a couple of playgrounds, a lot of open land and several sporting groups, live show experiences like this don’t come around every day, in fact it was four years since the troupe last came to town.

Four years.

Let’s be honest, the show wasn’t professional wrestling on a scale of WWE but who cares?

Watching all those kids and their parents yelling, screaming, cheering, booing and watching the wrestlers exacting every ounce of effort and strength from tiring bodies courtesy of a strenuous tour, the show was nothing short of inspiring.

Last night, those kids might as well have been inside a stadium of 100,000 baying fans.

Hell, I even cheered and whooped it up.

I felt a surge of passion for the entertainment, not because of what it was but because of what it did.
Sometimes those hits really did hurt. Really, really.

It made people happy, it made people forget.

For a couple of hours kids got to be kids and parents could forget about a failing fishing industry, the imminent removal of their air ambulance, mortgages, shopping bills and simply sit back and watch their kids laugh, smile and holler.

Some of the parents’ smiles were as big as the kids’.

Since coming to St Anthony I have learnt that living in a place where even getting basic things can be tough, a night of entertainment provided by a modern band of Bedouin can do wonders for morale.

There are plenty of parallels between wrestling and the Bedouin, there are plenty of parallels between that show and the fighting spirit of Newfoundland but then again you can draw parallels between any objects with a bit of imagination.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XI (ADDENDUM) - Badly stitched panoramas

It's been fantastic weather so I've strapped on the hiking boots and headed for high ground to snap a few more badly stitched panoramas. My apologies on the quality but they are quite rushed.

There is no path to get to this rocky outcrop, in fact it's a bloody hard slog however it offers unobstructed 360 degree view. Unfortuantely it's too big to be uploaded to Blogger.

This is from Fishing Point, after climbing 460-odd stairs.

This is looking back towards the lighthouse from Lamage Point
And the original panorama that stated this whole crazy idea. Again, there is no path to get to this viewpoint, just a whole lot of rock hopping, shrubs and moose poop.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XIV -- Cultural sensitivities

To Newfie or not to Newfie, that is the question and one whose answer is far from being simple and straightforward.

Australians suffer a rare genetic disposition that propels them to shrink everything to its lowest common diction denominator ; the term reductio ad absurdum was originally penciled onto Australia’s coat of arms but it was shortened to just Australia – true story.

Incidentally does anyone else find it strange the phrase on the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom is in French? I would have surely just gone with God and my right, rather than the French translation, Dieu et mon droit.

Their sensitivity to pre-Revolution aristocracy means the French haven’t bothered with a heraldic coat of arms, however if one existed I am almost certain it wouldn’t be in English, unless it was a jibe directed squarely at the English, something simple like “nick off” or “your rugby team is rubbish”.

Back on point, the Newfie argument is one that hasn’t been resolved since our re-settlement from Vancouver to St Anthony.

Before we left the message was clear – calling a Newfoundlander a Newfie is the greatest disrespect imaginable

Since our arrival the overwhelming message has been that Newfoundlanders don’t find Newfie derogatory unless the recipient is from St John’s in which case they will berate you endlessly.

I am always very concerned when it comes to nicknames for a country’s inhabitants.

As an Australian, I am comfortable with the term Aussie a simple contraction of our country. In fact I don’t know of anyone who finds Aussie offensive, I don’t mind it when I’m called a convict in reference to our prison colony past. Sticks and stones and all that I guess but Newfie, now that is an interesting one.

According to The Dictionary of Newfoundland English, the term was first used by the province natives well before transiting US soldiers started using it as a pejorative and disrespectful term in 1945.

It could be argued that Australian soldiers solved a similar issue in 1942 when they rumbled with US soldiers who they deemed to be disrespectful of Australian culture and in the words of one author, "the Yanks were overpaid, oversexed and over here."

The term Newfie was abolished in Alberta of all places in the 1970s; the government of the day deemed the term a racial slur and banned its use on number plates until 2006 when, according to CBC, the government changed their mind and described the word “as a term of endearment”.

I don’t know if that makes it any better, “a term of endearment” makes it sound patronizing, in itself could be considered far worse in some circles.

I guess the thing is any term used to describe a group of people can be used with negative undertones and let’s be honest, some names are better used by their owners.

Looks like I may to have to suppress the innate compulsion to shorten the tongue-twisting term Newfoundlander until I can fully justify its legitimacy. The last thing I want to do is pick the scab off a freshly healed sore or come across as someone culturally insensitive.

Having lived in London, I know what it’s like to be thought of as a cultural barbarian.

Whenever I overheard the word “Australian” it was generally prefaced by the term ‘bloody’ and not by someone exclaiming, “oh those bloody Australians are such a lovely jovial lot who can handle their alcohol and are delightfully quiet and pleasant on the Tube”.

No, it was more, “when we shipped those bloody Australians down there the first time, did someone leave a map because how the hell else did they all find their way back up here to take all our jobs?”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XIII -- Agnostic God? I'll believe in that

My alter-ego, Dirk Daring from Dragon's Lair
I’m an apathetic agnostic so when talk turns to religion, I tune out and let my mind jump behind the wheel of a 1971 Austrian-built Steyr Pinzgauer and head on a Hunter S. Thompson inspired road from Spain to the Romanian capital of Bucharest via Croatia.

In this phantasmal scenario, my brain takes the physical form of Dirk Daring (from the computer game Dragon’s Lair) and along with David Bowie’s Goblin King from The Labyrinth; Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan; and Terry Gilliam (circa 1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail) we carve a path of self illumination and hilarity across mainland Europe. 

For the love of god, put it away Bowie.
(NOTE: David Bowie is wearing fishing waders to cover up his tackle box shame that the producers of The Labyrinth failed to notice in the movie or conversely wanted to highlight so as to scare little children even more.)
The Steyr Pinzgauer makes road trips rad.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is the other day I had one the shortest yet funniest conversation about religion that went something like this:

“What religion are you?”
“Well I’m not, I’m an atheist.”
“Aren’t you in for a surprise then?”

At that point the conversation about religion gently rolled to a stop, the hand brake was applied and all participants got out safely. No proselytizing, no conversion attempts, just a few hardy laughs and a few beers.

But that question lingered in my mind.

Now look, you are going to need some pretty impressive empirical evidence and hard scientific fact to even begin to convince me that a God or gods exist but the rub is that even if you did prove it, you would have to also prove that God or gods cared about the fate of us earthbound hominids.

Now don’t get all up tight and don’t take it to heart; it’s not your fault. I was once blackmailed into going to church or face losing my job so as you can see I have very little trust in religion but please, you can be as religious as you like, in fact I applaud you for having the Faith and the dedication.

The reason I bring this up is that when a recent discussion with some friends turned to religion I had to laugh.

For most of my life no-one has ever asked my religion but in the space of two short years, I have been asked many times whether I wanted to go to church, implored that I should go to church, asked repeatedly what religion I followed, as if it was kind of a football team, and more importantly what my beliefs are.

It seems the older I get the more people want to know my religion. I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come? As we get older and closer to death do people start packing their parachute just in case?

When I arrived in St Anthony, one of the first questions I was asked was, “are you Jewish? You look Jewish.”

My reply: “Nope, not Jewish. But they do have awesome food, except that whole bacon thing.”

I’ve since come to realise that the communities up in these parts are fairly religious, the Church of England was the first recognized church in Newfoundland (source: DW Prowse, QC) and in St Anthony alone; there’s the Bethel Pentecostal, Salvation Army and Anglican churches and even a Jehovah’s Witness hall on the way into town.

I think it’s a good thing, I truly do and reading all the different histories of the region, I can see why religion has played such a huge role in people’s lives up this way.

When you live at the mercy of the sea as the Atlantic fishermen did battling squalls and icebergs, I too would probably hold onto my Faith in a higher being rather than my hope that your faithful boat builder didn’t skimp on timber or had too many afternoon sherbets at the shed.

Same goes for all the winter souls who felt their appendix rumbling or the women in childbirth who were forced to rely on the Godspeed of dedicated nurses and doctors and their flying machines or dog sleds.

But there is just one thing that I can’t fathom and it’s why there are different cemeteries for the different churches – I mean, aren’t you all going to the same God?

“Religion and politics,” my dad once told me, “are two things you never speak about on a Friday afternoon in the pub.”

I tend to agree.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XII -- Nurse Rhodes, you are one hard arse woman

Not sure why, but here's a fire hydrant.
I bet you never heard of Nurse Rhodes?

Neither had I until I read about her in a publication I found at the local library called Among the Deep Sea Fishers, a now defunct but very readable publication of the International Grenfell Association.

In it the hospital superintendent in April 1950, Charles S Curtis MD, recounts a story of the English nurse who came to the area in 1947 living in the town of Roddickton, at the time the population was "1500 people including 500 children under 16, half the population of Labrador in this one area".

The story goes that Nurse Rhodes serviced settlements between Harbour Deep and Conche, between 50 to 70 miles away and in one year, 1949, she treated alone 4000 out-patients.

It gets better though, in the winter of 1948 she was forced to walk from Roddickton to Harbour Deep and back to treat a patient, a round trip of 100 miles.

Read that sentence again.

See what I am getting at, she walked 100 miles with dogs dragging her medicine chest over the trail and as Curtis points out, "an undertaking that the most hardy man would hesitate to make."

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Great Newfoundland Cookbook UPDATE

I have added some lovely new photos to The Great Newfoundland Cookbook. Just click on the link below the banner.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XI -- Bad panoramas and thoughts of the dead

Add Image
It was a massive hike but worth it in the end. Beat that Bear Grylls.
Today I stood among proof that bad days happen and, if like me, you are having a day in which the world weighs heavy on your shoulders, do yourself a favour and head to your nearest cemetery.
At the dead end of a no-name road, buried beneath a sheltering mossy cliff face, Great Brehat cemetery is a history book slowly sinking into the bog.

Hidden from the crashing ocean and the prevailing gales is a parcel of land in which the dead have almost equaled the living.

About 60 undulating plots face the town of almost 100 residents, the names of those admirably eking a living on the Northern Peninsular mirrored by those buried at the foot of a tourist walk, who helped found a proud Newfoundland.

Connecting the dots wasn’t hard; 17 members of the Penney clan rest with 25 of the Cull family, the Patey, Noble, Dean and Pilgrim names make up the rest, for but a few exceptions.

Following the roots of genealogic shrub isn’t difficult – he’s the son of him, his brother was her husband, she was the daughter of him and her mother was the sister of them, their lives intersect with not only Newfoundland history but world events.

Joshua Patey, married to Emily, was born the same year as Jesse James in 1847 but survived the American outlaw by half a century and when he died on May 26, 1940 at age 93 he had already survived World War I and was neck deep in the midst of WWII.

Conversely, born November 22 in 1912, Harold H Penney lived just 17 short months
missing the worst atrocities of mankind.

The headstone messages revealed part of each story but what wasn’t said was more poignant.

Plastic flowers, no matter how faded remained as proof of kin still above ground, the broken headstones and sunken epitaphs evidence of families who followed a similar subterranean pathway or relatives forced to weigh up spending money on memories of the dead or keeping their own heads above the felt-lined casket.

I don't have it that bad after all.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part X -- Are you Trippin'?

We finally have a car.

After more than a month of wrangling our modus transportus has been upgraded from Shank's Pony to a 1999 Mazda Protege, which can mean only one thing -- ROAD TRIP.

I see you, caribou.
A gaggle/swarm/hive of caribou
For most people registering a car is a fairly simple task and involves the following steps:

1) Roadworthy; 2) Purchase; 3) Insure; and 4) Register.

With the first three under our belts and our hip pocket decidedly lighter for it, we headed for a motor registry office able to fulfill the transfer and registration.

Six hours and close to 450km later we arrived at the cavernous lair doubling as the motor registry. 

Having averted car sickness up until that point as soon as we entered I felt I had been swallowed by a wormhole that spat me out into the hull of a Vietnamese fishing junk used to traffic humans.

I was not however a people smuggler but more a smuglee.

The looks on my fellow sallow-faced inmates at the fore confirmed we were all on the same boat, their joyless eyes conveyed that feeling of being sixth in line to twirl the revolver's cylinder in a game of Russian roulette when all five people are crowding around you all very much alive and all very much wearing grins.

Without the need for guns we escaped triumphantly with registration papers held aloft and to prove we were still strong of spirit and mind we decided to test our resolve and headed for that other pit of human depravity – Walmart.

People in stressful situations talk about the ‘breaking point’ as if it is something you can see coming however I would argue the opposite, that you never see it coming, it just turns up and you are left stunned sifting through the emotional shards scattered on the well-lit and overcrowded aisle sandwiched between the dairy section and its 500 gram blocks of mild cheese on special for $4.59 and despair.

To put the adventure into context, St Anthony has admirable shopping options but there are just some things you can’t get here, items such as couscous or cloves draw looks of confusion, so when you reach a major centre like Corner Brook you have to make sacrifices and head to places like Walmart.

Our bid to extract ourselves from harm’s way worked against us and in no time we were being bashed from all angles by crazed shopping-trolley wielding housewives and teenagers who follow the “more is better” approach to make-up and their clearly uninterested boyfriends.

We had stumbled into the one place you do not want to get caught in Walmart – the clearance aisle.

Much like getting in between a bear cub on its mother, the clearance aisle brings with it a sense of rabidity, so with the coast clear we rushed to the neighboring pet aisle, which apparently is also where two Australians can get in the world’s way.

We escaped Walmart and discovered with glee that our B&B was just around the corner – so after meeting the owner, an interesting story in itself, we plonked our belongings in the room, had a quick shower and headed for a bar that had beer on tap – another thing that St Anthony lacks.

You forget just how nice a beer from a chilled tap tastes.

All dolled up we headed for a lovely tapas bar with live music and a wine list and the rest is history.

Our first road trip was a huge success – 1000km in 12 hours of driving. A registered car, Em now has a Newfoundland licence for the next six years (the minimum amount of time you can get a licence here apparently), we had beer on tap, bought cloves, met some lovely people and avoided all the moose the Northern Peninsular could throw at us.

Tales from St Anthony Part IX -- History 101 and the fishing admirals

The following extracts are from A History of Newfoundland by DW Prowse QC and describes how the fishing admirals, selected each week went about their business and how the Naval rulers eventually took over leading to Town Hall meetings and the birth of democracy in Newfoundland.

Remember this book was written back in 1895 providing gorgeous prose for all and again, some history lessons.

"I will try and describe the fishing admiral, as he appeared to our ancestors, clothed, not in the dignity of the office, not in the flowing judicial robes, not in the simple and sober black of police magistrate, but in the ordinary blue flushing jacket and trousers; economically besmeared with pitch, tar and fish slime, his head adorned with an old sealskin cap, robbed from an Indian, or bartered for a glass of rum and a stick of tobacco.

The sacred temple of law and equity was a fish store, the judicial seat an inverted butter firkin. Justice was freely dispensed to the suitor who paid the most for it. In the absence of a higher bribe, his worship’s decision was often favorably affected by the judicious presentation of a few New England apples.

The litigant who commenced his case, with the production of a flowing bowl of calabogus (composed of rum, molasses and spruce beer and joined with the toast: “The Pope and ten dollars” meaning ten dollars a quintal for fish) captivated the judicial mind most effectually.

Sometimes alas the dignity of the Bench was diminished by the sudden fall of the Court prostate on the floor, overcome by the too potent effects of new rum and spruce beer.

The fishing admirals were not satisfied with the powers conferred upon them. The Western adventurers petitioned to allow them to appoint "deputies" to exercise their duties; this was sternly refused.

Time would fail to recount all the enormities and barbarities of these ignorant vulgar tyrants.

They displaced and rightful owners of room, seizing them either for themselves or their friends; they fined, triangled (tied by the outstretched arms and whipped by order of a fishing admiral) and whipped at their pleasure every unfortunate wretch who earned their displeasure, and against whom some trumped-up charge could be made out.

The most celebrated of the fishing admirals, Commander-in-chief and generalissimo of the West Country adventuruers in the 1700 was Captain Arthur Holdsworth, Admiral of the Harbour of St John’s.

The old Devonshire family of the Holdsworths of Dartmouth are closely connected with Newfoundland’s history.

From there it was handed over to Naval rulers, whose underlying goal was to “repress settlement” and guided by quarter-deck law.

No doubt they were often severe, sometimes narrow in their views. In order to protect the settlers, they encroached on the prerogatives of the fishing admirals and after a few years superceded them.

As the Colony became more populous and civilized, naval government became simply intolerable; it was however, decidedly a great improvement on the fishing admirals’ law.

In 1711 several unstated laws and orders were made at St John’s, a local legislature “which the people seem in this instance to have created for themselves might not be legally lodged somewhere for making bye-laws and regulations as occasion should require.”

The commander at the time, Captain Crowe, presided over the voluntary assembly and his successor followed the example and held a meeting of the same sort. These assemblies were somewhat anomalous, a kind of legislative, judicial and executive all blended together.

It is very easy to discover from whence Captain Crowe and Sir Nicholas Trevanion’s voluntary assemblies were taken.

These gatherings were literal copies of the New England town meetings.

All the citizens of the township assemble in general meeting once a year or oftener, levy taxes, decide on improvements and appoint the necessary executive officers to carry out their arrangements during the ensuing 12 months. All men meet on an equality, every citizen is entitled to free speech and free vote.

As the New England towns become more populous they pass out of the stage of town meetings into representative government.

Unfortunately for the development of home rule in this Colony, we stopped short at the callow stage of town meeting.

The great principle of politics is compromise, what one admires most in this assembly is the political ability of the New Englander who engineered the proceedings; we have had clever wire pullers in the Colony, but we doubt if any of our party managers were ever skilful enough to blend together into one harmonious meeting such antagonistic element as the fishing admirals, the Devonshire adventurers and the planters.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part VIII -- Going bush

The weather turned nice this week so, I packed a thermos of tea and headed bush. This is what my camera saw...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part VII -- Lessons (not)learnt from history

If you have a spare couple of days...
It's not very often I deserve a standing ovation but for this momentous occasion please stand and cheer like no-one is watching or listening (if they are watching or listening just explain it is a avant-garde yoga technique learnt on a sabbatical in Dublin/Dubbo).

I have just completed the 1895 tome, A History of Newfoundland by DW Prowse QC and before you switch off, the reason I bring this to your attention is but for a few mere paragraphs from history that, over a century later, have yet to be ... well you'll get the idea:

"It should always be remembered that a fishery business like ours is a most precarious enterprise; it is exposed to a thousand accidents, from the dangers and perils of the seas, from the chances and changes of a variable climate, quite apart from the risks of markets abroad. Whatever great fortunes were made in the old days, they are not gained now; occasional large profits are a necessity in such an exceedingly risky business. The men who stir up strike between capital and labor in the colony are no true friends of Newfoundland; what we require is more money introduced into the colony, more patriotism and less politics."

Furthermore QC Prowse states
"May we not, therefore, reasonably hope that Newfoundland and her bold and adventurous sons will once again emerge from the present unhappy condition? Populations that live by the sea and earn their bread upon its treacherous water are always liable to dire disaster; but the same spirit that leads them to face the dangers of the troubled waves, nerves them also with a spirit to rise again from calamities that would forever daunt the courage of a landsman."

In reference to the current climate I draw your attention to this ...

"On December 10, 1894 – known as Black Monday – where upon Newfoundland credit stood high. Our principal monetary institution, the Union Bank, had for forty years maintained the highest reputation, at home and abroad; suddenly credit, financial reputation, confidence in both mercantile houses and banks, fell like a house of cards. For several days we were the most distracted country in the world – a community without currency; the notes of the banks had been the universal money of the Colony, circulating as freely as gold on Saturday, on Monday degraded to worthless paper.

It would be too painful a task to enumerate all the causes that led to this terrible financial crisis … the only excuse that can possibly be alleged for the directors of the banks, their large borrowings and crass mismanagement was that they were waiting for “something to turn up”, some lucky chance that would lift them out of the mire of insolvency.

Terrible misery will be caused before the change can be effectually carried but, but in the end it will be beneficial.

If commercial gambling finally ceases, trade and finance will rest on a firmer and safer foundation."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part VI -- Rock eating dogs and lumberjack babies (ADDENDUM)

Proof that there is a rock eating dog, I took a quick photo as I strolled past the other day. Nice puppy, nice puppy, don't eat me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part VI -- Rock eating dogs and lumberjack babies

Today I saw a dog chained to a chest freezer eating rocks.

Yep, that's how tough this place is.

When I say rocks I mean a rock, a big one, but a rock nonetheless.

My bid for a random daily walking pattern (yes I note the irony) has led me to discover some pretty interesting paths, today's was down along the harbour past 'Rock Dog'.

He was lazily gnawing on the rock as I strolled past, unconcerned by my presence I stopped to watch him chow down on some sedimentary supper and it got me to thinking.

St Anthony is an odd place of juxtapositions, of extremes.

It is not uncommon to see a big barrel-chested-truck-driving-Moose-antler-hoarding-hunter pull up to the convenience store, leap from his Chev, land with a thud in steel-capped boots, enter the store and return minutes later not with a sixer of Bud nestled under an arm but instead slurping on a soft serve ice cream.

It's true ... I've seen it.

Which brings me onto another question -- what is the collective noun for a group of men with moustaches?

If I were in Vancouver's Main Street area I would go with 'wisp' however in these parts I am inclined to go with a 'thicket' or 'bushell'.

It seems everyone here has a moustache and for better reasons then just irony.

My theory that only firemen and Tom Selleck are allowed the privilege of sporting a moustache has been updated to now include Newfoundland men.

They have some of the biggest and bushiest bottom lip marquees ever seen and it makes perfect sense, it gets cold in these parts and as such facial hair comes in handy but a beard can be cumbersome.

Things certainly are a lot tougher around these parts hence the title of this piece.

Last week I wandered past a house in which a grandmother, she would have been well into her 80s, was splitting logs in preparation for, I am assuming, next winter.

I am not sure where the logs came from but as I have yet to see any babies or kids younger than about five, I can only assume they are the ones out in the forests cutting down trees and providing their families with much needed warmth.

I told you they were tough in these parts. Lumberjack babies -- who would have thought?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

EXCLUSIVE -- The Great Newfoundland Cookbook launched

I love cooking and not just for the resulting awesome food.

I find hanging out in the kitchen with my lovely wife, cooking food, creating or fine tuning recipes to be ultimately satisfying, especially with a nice glass of wine in hand like one of my idols Keith Floyd.

Cooking should be an inclusive activity and as such I have created an extra page here titled The Great Newfoundland Cookbook or TGNC where I will be posting some of the recipes and photos of the dishes I routinely cook at home.

Last night I whipped up a red wine glazed ham that would have been perfect for Easter or Christmas time because of the infusion of cinnamon and ginger. The dish was sans cloves because I couldn't justify spending $7 on a small bottle of them when ours are currently winging their way over from Vancouver.

It was a good northern hemisphere dish I have called Oinking Awesome Ham.

You can find the link just under the Lost and Found banner up there *points his finger at the monitor*, there, can you see it? Just next to the word HOME, there *points again*.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part V -- Shiver me understatement

"Picked a nice day for a walk," Barry said nonchalantly leaning on the counter of Strangemore's, St Anthony's slashie (SEE FOOTNOTE).

I laughed but the look on my face, equal helpings of terror and confusion, was one of my 'tells' that gave me away.

It was obvious I wasn't a local. Fluffy earflaps aside, a local would have listened to the weather report that morning which would have alerted them to the fact a snow storm was going to hit St Anthony in the early afternoon.

A local would also have been driving a car and not burrowing head first through a curtain of snow on foot.

"What are you doing in these parts," Barry raised an eyebrow when he heard the accent.

He stuffed my bottle of wine into a brown paper bag and listened intently as I rattled off my comedy routine, two Australians living at the northern tip of Newfoundland is a novelty.

Snow built up against the front doors, the early-afternoon blizzard was raging turning grey rocks and potholed roads into white bumpy slippery slides.

I had earlier been test driving our prospective new car, returned it and began the meandering walk home when the white descended from the north straight off the Labrador mainland, whisking together harp seal breath and polar bear angst.

Less than an hour before, the day had looked promising, blue sky lurked mischievously in the background but now I couldn't see the road.

"How you getting home," Barry asked.

With my plan to walk home clearly foiled, Barry jumped to the rescue.

"Come on, I'll give you a lift," he urged pointing me to his massive truck.

Here I am a stranger in his town and Barry just up and offers me a lift. Gentlemanly and generous.

On the trip home I learnt several lessons as Barry demonstrated the benefits of traction control and just how slippery the roads.

The most important thing I garnered from the experience was the need to buy a front wheel drive car, the second was that passive smoking is part of life up this way and thirdly that the weather moves quicker than the style of life.

"If you're going to drive in this," Barry said, pointing his cigarette at the snow as we passed the only set of traffic lights in St Anthony, "drive to the conditions," he continued, "the biggest problem with some folk when they come up this way, is they want to drive the same way in snow as they do in normal weather. Well that's not going to work now is it?"

Barry, you are right. If you can't see the road or the bonnet of the truck it seems foolhardy to try and drive at anything but the speed of a moose on Valium but Barry assures me that some people are foolhardy.

Earlier in the week I had been chatting with the lady in the local thrift store about the weather, a popular topic in these parts.

It's obvious why too.

If you talk about how nice the weather is you don't have to talk about how awful the cod prices are.

The woman in the store told me how lovely the past winter had been and how hardly any snow fell.

"See, that's where the snow came this year," she pointed to a black pen mark on the front window about five and half feet up. The building is on a two foot footing making the depth of snow at about seven feet. She caught me gawping at the mark.

Typically understated.

(ENDNOTE: A slashie, I have learnt, is the name for a place that does many things and is a reference to the slashes between its services hence Strangemore's is the liquor store/video rentals/electrical goods/misc)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part IV (addendum) -- Viking Quest

28 hours of non-stop writing and I hit a giant plot hole.

If this sombre moment was captured on canvas as a painting it would be called "A Viking in thought".
Just as a reference point, here are the photos I submitted to further my cause to become a Viking. They were taken during last year's 3-Day Novel Writing Contest hence to crazed look.

Tales from St Anthony Part IV -- Viking Quest

I really want to be a Viking.

The fact that Norstead Village is just up the road and who regularly hire Vikings over the summer period, I am in pole position to fulfil my dreams so this morning I fired off the following cover letter (below) and resume to push my cause.

Fingers crossed they like it and like me.

I asked Sir Richard to ring Norstead for me put in a good word but instead he went over his finances and called his stockbroker. I don't speak feline but I heard him bleating "meow, meow, meow" which doesn't sound good.
Re: Employment as a Viking during summer

To Whom it May Concern:

One of my boyhood dreams was to be a mighty Viking but alas being born in Australia in the late 1970s cruelly curtailed that as a vocational option but with your help I may now finally achieve that goal having just become a permanent resident of St Anthony.

As such I would like to offer my services to you as a spritely young Viking this summer.

I have long imagined what it must have been like to be a Norseman traversing the oceans under sail and oars on a longship heading for far off lands on a journey of discovery clad in mail, iron helmet and wielding a battle axe.

As glamorous as that sounds I am fully aware of Vikings’ other nefarious activities, pillaging and the like and while armed combat in a theatrical setting would be awesome, I am sure if I were alive in the Viking age, my time as a marauder would have been short lived and brutally ended.

With a thirst for knowledge and love of history, I have spent countless hours in libraries reading about Norsemen and their gods. I even delved into the Poetic Edda in a bid to garner more details for a comedic fictional novel I am writing, a re-imagining of Ragnarok in which the Norse gods aren’t destroyed but instead sent to Earth to live while Asgard is rebuilt.

Due to the global financial crisis and lack of workers (the Gods did kill all the giants in the melee after all) the reconstruction has taken hundreds of years. Thor, depressed about not being able to wantonly kill, has become an alcoholic bar owner, the mischief making Loki is now head of a giant global media corporation and Odin is a paranoid, forgetful yet still very angry patriarch with a love of pigeon racing. As you can imagine hilarity ensues but that is beside the point.

There is only so much you can learn by yourself squirreled away in a library which is why learning and in turn teaching will really give me a feel for Viking life, the trials and tribulations. Most of all I want visitors to Norstead to gain the same love of Vikings, their mythology and their lives as I do.

While I have no direct experience at being a Viking (I did play a really annoying American tourist visiting in a high school play) I am sure I could one of your chieftain’s best thanks to my outgoing personality and appearance (see attached picture).

I have attached a resume outlining my service experience but in short, and I know this going to sound desperate, please hire me. Please.

With warmest Viking regards.