Wednesday, March 31, 2010

YVR and the case of the alphabet airport, computer malfunctions and the second coming of Skype -- Departure T-Minus 7 days

Some staff are a bit two dimensional.

Airports are odd.

Considering the time an average traveller spends sitting and waiting you would presume architects would be better served installing luscious lounge chairs, bean bags and maybe even the odd water fountain with frolicking pandas, although I would be happy with just a few more of those walk-accelerator-conveyor-belt-thingies.

But no, airport designers want to dazzle us with another approach.

There's is a combination of minimalism with the slightest hint
of eau de emergency department, medieval torture, and a tentacled structure that stretches through narrow passage ways from the nerve centre -- containing all the facilities a human needs like restaurants, book stores and toilets -- to your destination, a dead end guarded by a disinterested stewardess, a broken drink machine and a cranky janitor who got lost in 1962 on his way for a cigarette break.

Your destination is known only by its strange combination of letters and numbers, which you inevitably fail to hear because the voice is muffled and crackly (Example: "Flight *mumble, mumble, mumble* is now boarding at Gate ZXT12-QW. Please allow yourself two hours to reach your destination. Passengers are advised to take a packed lunch.")

A riddle -- What's blue and white, is too short to lay down on, too uncomfortable to sit on and isn't a Chelsea supporter? Give up?

This time next week Em and I will be sitting at Vancouver International Airport waiting for our plane to depart but thankfully our flight is domestic which means we can turn up two hours before and not three days
like with an international flight.

One thing that has been bugging me though is the constant reference to Vancouver's airport as YVR.

Well I hunted around today and can say that I lost valuable minutes from my life I will never recoup because now that I know, I wish I didn't as it seems there is no rhyme nor reason to any of it.

The story goes that every airport needs a three letter identification code and Canada asked the regulatory body responsible for handing them out for the letter Y.

I believe the group responsible for dolling out letters is the Airport Alphabet Accreditation and Anti-Aromatherapy Association, but don't hold me to that.

So Canada gets the letter Y and Vancouver simply adds the V and the R from its name.

Apparently the lads over at Toronto Pearson International Airport can't spell and lucked out with YYZ. Go figure.

We are heading to YVR tonight actually to pick up Em's parents who have flown over to spend time with the family which means we are off to Saltspring Island, by plane no less.

In other news, Wilbur the Dell Laptop just got a re-formatted hard drive which now means we can Skype everyone once we get to St Anthony and once we get an interwebz connection to the Googlebox.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Camouflage shotguns, stochastic Sundays and the curse of the missing car -- Departure T-Minus 10 days

Over a delightful cup of tea and an afternoon cupcake (yes there are different cupcakes for different times of the day) I scoured the Googlebox for cars in and around St Anthony, or Saint Tony as my dad has now dubbed our new home town.

Leave it to Australians to shorten the names of everything.

Our plan to buy a car has hit a slight pothole.

The man who was selling us the 1999 Mazda Protege doesn't have the right papers meaning Em and I are now residents of that small town just outside of Panicville aptly called Limbo, population two Australians and a black cat.

The story is thus: The current owner bought the car off a dead man, well the dead man's wife at least. The problem is she hadn't transferred the car into her name hence the current seller has to get all the paperwork sorted before we can register it.

We have our fingers crossed that all the papers will be in order by the end of this week otherwise we are going to have to go to Plan B.

Unfortunately there is no Plan B at the moment.

Nevertheless, in trying to devise Plan A (sub-section ii) I hit the classifieds website covering western Newfoundland and the Northern Peninsular to see if there were other cars on the offering.

There were but it's what I wasn't expecting that brought me more joy.

Firstly, let me introduce you to the pink camo shotgun.

Now I am no hunting expert but my first question is at what point and more importantly what are you hunting that you would need to hide in something pink to avoid your potential prey from noticing you?

Unless moose have migrated so far into town they are in the women's under garment section of Sears, I see no point to a pink shotgun.

Props to the painter, Troy, for his amazing and cheap paintwork, at no more than $100 I almost wish I owned a gun.

Elsewhere on the classifieds I came across this little beauty.

Now I don't know much about a lot of things but I know what I likes and I likes this a lot.

There's something liberating about a home made dune buggy, there is also something very dangerous, which probably adds to the liberating feeling of owning one.

And at just $250, it's a right steal. Considering it can go up to 80km/h and the fact I may need to take my driving test again and return to a learner's licence, I could use something like this to get around. Sand dunes or not.

The one thing I like about is the fact you can buy pretty much anything which also says a lot about the people doing the selling.

A quick scroll down the page you can get everything from lobster traps, propellers, hand built boats, prom and grad dresses, kids toys, stoves, the kitchen sink.

As for stochastic Sunday, my gorgeous wife hosted her final tea party before our departure.

Complete with at least a dozen baked amazingness coupled with some delightful savoury dishes, we entertained a bevvy of our closest friends and family, wining and dining the day and the night away.

As farewells go, it ranks right up there as a tea party goes, it was one of the best thanks to good people, good food and Em's amazing abilities in the kitchen to conjure and create the most breathtaking delicacies around.

Look out St Anthony, we are coming and Em will be cooking up a storm.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Your shout and the story of Garry, the liver destroying farewell elf -- Departure T-Minus 13 days

I like to give names to things that can kill me, such as farewell drinks.

Now don't get me wrong, I like a drink as much as the next man and according to all reports if you enjoy a libation than Newfoundland is the place to be, however the process between now and then is one not so kind to the liver or any of the organs used to filter the copious amounts of alcohol being splashed about prior to our departure to St Anthony.

Henceforth I would like to introduce you to Garry, the liver destroying farewell elf.

Garry (note his pirate heritage with two r's) is an unkind elf, one hell bent on ensuring a good time is had by all.

Whilst mead is his tipple of choice, Garry prefers to serve beer and never lets a man or woman be without a fresh drink in their hand.

Like a good host, he occasionally proffers food but mostly his job is to facilitate fun times with good friends and family as we prepare to pack our bags and head east -- north east actually.

If you see Garry hanging around a bar or lounging around the fridge, say hi to him and he might even offer to buy you a drink.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Visa glee -- Departure T-Minus 14 days

The call came at 9.06am.

"Sweetie, guess what? Guess what," Em's voice palpable on the end of the line.

Looking back I can admit that my guesses of "what" were far-fetched.

As I hadn't had time to check any news websites I figured I had missed the news that either penguins had finally announced they were our commandeering the planet as our new overlords or we had been left a substantial financial windfall following the death of a donkey that had in turn been left a heaving bank account from a UK-based relative neither of us knew existed.

An explanatory note needs to be added here. According to a friend there are more millionaire donkeys in the UK then anywhere else following because dying and angry donkey owners, disgusted how they are treated by their money grubbing family decided en mass to rewrite their last will and testament and leave all their money to their dearly beloved donkeys -- and they say cat people are crazy.

Like I said, my guesses were wrong.

"Our permanent residency has come through," Em gleefully squealed, although I am sure she will deny squealing and replacing my adjective with perhaps "gleefully and calmly said".

My stomach churned, tears crept into my ducts and it felt as though someone had planted a heaving right-footer into my nether regions.

"So this is what relief feels like. Odd. I imagined this feeling to be more like being spooned by brown bear as you fall asleep and less like teaching one to tango after a salmon fishing outing," I thought.

But the truth is I could never have predicted this feeling.

It's one part comfort, one part jubilation and one part pride that a country sees us fit for inclusion, that a consular official thinks we would make good Canadians.

I have held Canada in high esteem since my childhood discovery that the difference between America and Canada was that the latter is the mature, intelligent and kind family member of North America while the former is a petulant spoilt child.

Thanks Canada. We will do you proud.

In honour of the news I have started learning the national anthem and finally realised that the lyrics aren't "we stand on God for thee" but "we stand on guard for thee".

It makes much more sense that not everyone who lives in Canada is agnostic.

Does this mean I am allowed to start saying eh? now?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weather or not, here we come -- Departure T-Minus 15 days

Weather forecasters are one of a select few professions not prone to exaggeration; the other chief occupation is your local mortician because after all is there a point in embellishing death?

So whenever a red exclamation mark portends a weather forecast, chances are the person doing the exclaiming means it.

Just out of curiosity I decided to check out the weather conditions in St Anthony today, you know, see what Spring is like on the east coast of our new colonial island home.

Well apparently it’s still winter over there hence the “Winter Storm Watch” issued today and wouldn’t you know it, the ones to blame are the Americans and it's got nothing to do with all the hot air about Health Care Reforms bill.

“A deepening low pressure system over the Northeastern United States will track northeastward to lie over Nova Scotia by Wednesday afternoon then move over the gulf of St. Lawrence Wednesday night. Strong southeasterly winds and precipitation associated with this system will begin overnight over Southwestern Newfoundland and spread across the island throughout the day.”

Doesn’t sound nice does it but apparently it’s okay just as long as you don’t need to see where you are going.

“Snow is expected to begin Wednesday afternoon and continue through Thursday which in combination with strong winds is likely to give an extended period of reduced visibilities in blowing snow.”

It’s not as bad as it looks though, the visibility is 16.1km and considering I can barely see my own hand in front of my face without my glasses, it wouldn’t be a problem. It does sound like dandy weather for a windsurfer though.

“Winds in the Wreckhouse area are forecast to gust to 120 km/hour beginning Wednesday morning while easterly winds gusting to 100 km/hour are forecast to begin near noon along parts of the west coast and persist into Wednesday night.
In addition, high seas and pounding surf are expected along the south coast beginning Wednesday morning and the Avalon Peninsula Wednesday evening.”

Easy as you like you say, well it would be if it wasn’t so cold.

Any place or forecaster that has devised a weather scale that separates coldness into actual temperature and the perceived coldness of said weather is again, someone I trust.

So when they say it is currently –5 but feels like –11, I know that Em and I were right to have mailed our snowboarding jackets and goggles today.

Hey, weight a minute -- Departure T-Minus 15 days

Done and dusted.

The emergency box of belongings has been posted, the secondary box of non-emergency "jeez this would be nice to have when we get to Newfoundland" items has also been posted and a dozen bottles of our finest wines are winging their way to St Anthony Post Office -- 71.32kg in all for the princely sum of $187.89.

Now we must wait and see if they:

A) Arrive
B) Arrive undamaged
C) Arrive with everything still in them

I am not saying I don't trust Canada Post, they have done nothing untoward in the past except for bollockings my New Scientist subscription, but I just wonder how the magical postal system will react to packages that contain our lives. I don't mind putting my belongings in the hands of burly Silver back men in a delivery van but the postal system baffles me.

While Canada Post refuse to confirm the rumour, I heard their postal system past Saskatchewan is based on a series of well trained moose, a raccoon called Impatience and a multi-tongued man named Gary Reynolds, a God-like postmaster who dresses in pink pantaloons held up by fireman's red braces, refers to himself as the Mail Messiah and who it is said can lick a thousand stamps inside an hour.

Of course it is all rumours.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Learning how to time travel and the conspiracy of the Googlebox -- Departure T-Minus 16 Days

The enormity of what we are embarking on finally dawned as we sent bag after bag of clothes and belongings to the local thrift store but as in all great love stories the pieces of the Newfoundland puzzle are clicking into place with ease.

Like everything in the world though, nothing is what it seems, especially if you base your life on Google Maps and here is why.

Firstly we have secured an apartment and here is a lovely little map showing you just how far Em will have to travel to get from our two bedroom slice of heaven to the office. I wanted to work out just how far away it was from Em's office so I mapped it out.

According to Google Maps the 1.1km journey will take 12 minutes to walk or two minutes to drive but I wondered as I do, "what is Google basing this on?" and what I discovered could rock the interwebz to its very foundation.

Science, take it away.

Wikipedia, that great tome of questionable knowledge, states that the average human walks at 3 miles per hour according to Naismith's Rule, which is:

"a rule of thumb that helps in the planning of a walking or hiking expedition by calculating how long it will take to walk the route, including ascents, devised in 1892 following the rule: "Allow 1 hour for every 3 miles (5 km) forward, plus ½ hour for every 1000 feet (300 metres) of ascent."

The article also goes on to state that:

"Specific studies have found pedestrian walking speeds ranging from 2.8 mph to 2.95 mph for older individuals to 3.3 mph to 3.38 mph for younger individuals"

That "study" is from a 1997 TranSafety study specifically looking at older people's walking speeds in relation to traffic signals and for how long the little green walking man and the blipping red non-walking man should be shown for to allow those 65 and older to cross a road without being skittled.

Without stating an age range for the "younger individuals" the study also states that males walk 0.32 feet per second faster than women.

Extrapolating the results from Google Maps, a person will need to walk at 3.42 miles per hour to accomplish the distance of 1.1km in in the stipulated time of 12 minutes leaving two possible conclusions:

A) Google is being optimistic and encouraging in their appraisal of our modern day walking habits or;

B) Google is wrong in assuming the fitness of the young males from the aforementioned 1997 study are the same as the fitness levels of young males circa 2010. Don't forget that in 1997 there was no World of Warcraft, physical activities didn't involve a Wii console and worldwide obesity levels were manageable without the need for stretchy pants.

Anyway the real reason for me jumping into the details of this 1.1km journey is that Google Maps suggests it takes 17 hours to drive from St John's to St Anthony, which I find to be all together a load of bollocks.

According to Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency the 1056km journey will take 12 hours if you stick to the speed limits. If you choose to travel at 100km/h the entire way, an implausible and illegal activity, you can make the trip in 10-and-a-half hours.

Where are those other 5 hours Google? Hey? Hey?

Oh and the other good news is that we almost own a car -- a 1999 Mazda Protege, but more on that later.

For now I am awaiting a response from the Googlebox on my time travel conundrum.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A right royal boxhead -- Departure T-Minus 23 days

Contained herewith is a lesson on why you should never let me go box shopping alone.

Let me set the scene.

It's a rainy Monday, the windscreen wipers squelch as traffic builds, all the while I am thinking "surely not all these people are heading to U-Haul to buy boxes."

I was right -- mid-morning traffic in North Van was torture, not water boarding but there was water involved, slippery roads tight curves, an unfamiliar car (Note: Ian and Jordan, I didn't do anything crazy in your car I was simply adding drama to a somewhat boring story) and a delightful discussion on CBC Radio with Irish writer Will Ferguson on hiking the Ulster Way.

The hastily printed Google Map was unusually accurate and I pulled into U-Haul drove around the car park realising it wasn't the car park but in fact where all the rental trucks were parked and headed back onto the road to find another car park, which I did quite smartly.

To the surprise of the staff I burst through the doors and headed for the boxes and suffered from a case of Goldilocks Syndrome. The first box was too small, the second box, way too big but the third box, it was perfect, or so it seemed.

I had all the dimensions in my mind, the maximum allowable by Canada Post was two linear metres so when I saw that box I was giddy which of course is all part of their advertising plan. Swinging gently in eyesight was the sign -- buy 10 boxes and save. Now I am all for bargains and this was one. I saved $5 by buying 10 boxes so I only paid $45 (plus tax). With 10 metres of bubble wrap, packing tape and fragile stickers in tow I headed home triumphant at a successful day out.

I slapped them on my back and lugged them up the stairs sitting them proudly in the lounge room. Em returned home from work and cocksure like a Bower bird, I strutted around flapping my arms espousing the grandness of my purchase.

My beautiful wife took one look, shook her head.

"They are big," she started.
"Yes but think of all the things we can fit in them," I replied.
"But they are really big. I mean really big in fact they are probably too big."

And she was right. I trial packed one today and it was nightmarish although we will need one for shipping our large items, Kitchenaid, speakers et al.

Now I am I am not going to put this down to a hardwired male brain thing but my own inability to see a larger picture.

I was brought up in the "less boxes are better" school of thought and as fine as that sounds when you have a trailer or a truck to move them, along with a trolley, a few of your mates and some beer, but when you are mailing them to one of the world's outposts, actually to your wife's office because you don't have anywhere to live nor a car to transport them when you get there, it is probably best to scrap that "bigger is better" school of thought for something more, let's say, conservative.

Just because the dimensions say two linear metres doesn't mean you have to get boxes that just sneak under. And the weight limit, 30kg. It's not much to lift if it was in a smaller box but when you can barely wrap your arms around these ones, well you have to admit defeat.

I still gave myself a pat on the back for trying and although it wasn't so much a job well done, we have learnt a valuable lesson. I am much like Jack and the Beanstalk, send me on a mission to buy boxes and you'll never know what you'll end up with.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My wife is (maybe) a super hero and a cunning plan -- Departure T-minus 24 days

"I've got it," I announced loudly into Em's ear forcing her to recoil away in agony.

"Sorry," I whispered, "I've got it.

Since the operation to have four wisdom teeth removed Em's hearing has been super sensitive meaning she has been sporting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ear muffs I bought weeks ago, as a random yet totally shreddin' gift, to soften the sound.

Maybe childhood memories are influencing my current behaviour but when Em joked -- a quiet yet rambunctious joke considering her ailment -- that perhaps the operation has given her some kind of super power like an X-Men character, I nodded my ahead in agreeance.

We both laughed however I wasn't joking.

My wife, an X-Woman with the ability of super hearing but to prevent her from going mental with all the background noise in life, she had to kick around in TMNT earmuffs.

I'm sorry but that

Not saying that Em isn't awesome enough already, she is ... hang on, how big of a hole am I digging myself here?

Nevertheless I have come up with a cunning plan, one that doesn't include world domination which in a cruel twist of fate would be foiled by Em with her super-hearing-super-power but one that entails getting our belongings across Canada.

Having decided Canada Post as the most economical option for transporting our gear the next step is making sure we get the right sized boxes (anything under two metres in total length) and the right weights (under 30kg).

Our biggest issue is our tea cup and saucer collection which now totals 20. Odd you say. Not in the least and here is a four-point list of why this kind of behaviour is quite normal.
  1. Em and I love tea, actually the only people who don't like tea are fascists.
  2. Em hosts amazing tea parties.
  3. T is the 20th letter in the alphabet (okay that's more of a spooky coincidence than anything else).
  4. Collecting tea spoons is so last century.
The tea cups are part of our life but being the fragile China they are, not the easiest thing to transport across 7000km. Bubble wrap I hear you say and yes, you are right but you've gone one step too far.

Why send them if they don't need to be sent? Eh? Eh? Eh? See my point?

So, my theory is we bubble wrap them, box them then instead of sending them to no-fixed address in St Anthony (bear in mind we still haven't found a house to rent yet so everything is being mailed to Em's new office) we simply ask one of our friends to post them when we need them. No point getting to St Anthony on a chilly winter morn to find boxes of belongings that have nowhere to be stored and will need to be transported again and again and again. Nope, it's much safer to leave them in Vancouver and wait until we have a place of our own to store them.

That goes the same as our Jesus-candle collection, typewriter collection and world globes.

Never let it be said that I am not a logical soul and never let it be said that we don't have unique tastes in

How much noose would a hangman lose if a hangman loosened noose? Departure T-minus 25 days

Axe murderers are, on a whole, interesting characters, John Pelley is no different.

I came across his name researching each of the towns between Corner Brook and St Anthony, the story of the Cow Head double axe attack piquing my interest and after a quick trawl through the Google-box machine's tangled tentacles of information, I tracked down court documents and at least three different accounts of events surrounding the murder of Joseph Rendall and Richard Cross.

For those worried about the morbidity of my interest to my defence a) I am Australian hence I almost certainly come from convict stock myself and; b) I am a writer who has just found a muse in Pelley for an upcoming piece.

The synopsis of the story is thus (the full story can be found here at the great

Joseph Rendall and Richard Cross were mates, actually they were almost family, Cross's sister,
Sarah Cross Singleton was engaged to be married to Rendall.

Pelley was a strange kitten with a shady past, some said he had murdered his wife in Ireland before fleeing across the Atlantic to escape capture. Whether there is any truth to that no-one knows but it adds an extra dimension to the story.

All three men were trappers around the remote Cows Head region. Rendall and Cross worked together and Pelley worked alone and when they all met one fateful day, Pelley was the only survivor, the other two had their heads cleft in twain.

Sarah, who was a maid for ex-Navy officer John Paine, became alarmed when neither men came home so she and Paine travelled 28 miles to find them eventually coming across Pelley who was was camped out at Rendall's lodging.

Pelley denied ever seeing Cross and said Rendall was hunting however the pair found enough evidence to suggest they had met their end in the foulest way possible. A pool of blood next to Cross's shoes were one giveaway, another was Sarah's fiances mittens, which she had knitted, were hanging up to dry. At that time of the year you would have been a fool to brave freezing conditions without mittens, or a head.

Anyway, the maid and her boss fled and came back with a lynch squad who captured Pelley who denied any knowledge of the murders. The lynch mob built a fire and threatened to burn Pelley alive so he recanted his tale and told them where to find the body.

They hauled him back to St John's where he was hanged.

See, what an interesting story. Anyway the story opened up more questions than answers like:

What did your average Newfoundland hangman do when he wasn't readjusting spinal columns, how much did he earn and was his line of work profitable and I even tried to find out the answer to the eternal question: How long is a piece of string?

If you are talking about a hangman's rope it's between 1.2m and 1.8m.

As long as his Mr Hangman's (come on, he deserves an honorific) profession wasn't based on a per head basis, 1809 was profitable with just one customer and as far as I can work out from court documents I traced down, the hooded figure made five pounds and five shillings to end one John Pelley's life.

According to my research five shillings would have purchased 2lbs of refined salt or three tongues or five pounds of marmalade and nine shillings would have got the faceless judicial executioner 10 dozen Portuguese anchovies.

That's a tasty combination right there.

Up until September 5, Mr Hangman had very little to do, he had very little to do the nine preceding years and six years after and while there is an argument hangings were enough discouragement for those who disagreed with those tiny things called judicial norms, it can certainly be argued that the gibbeting of criminals was icing.

The gibbet isn't anything special, just a couple of pieces of timber but it was more of the ornament hanging from it - the dead criminal in chains or a body-shaped iron cage and in some cases when they really wanted to make an example of someone, the authorities would coat the body or its parts in tar.

The man who signed the death warrant was
visionary traditionalist, Governor John Holloway, an allegedly compassionate man, and the first Governor of Newfoundland to issue a proclamation against mistreating the native Beothuk people and offering rewards for information about atrocities. He also allowed Newfoundland's first paper to be published.

Swings and round abouts I guess.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tylenol 1, Tylenol 2, Tylenol 3, ready or not here I ....... zzzzzzzzz -- Departure T-Minus 26 days

"Can you call Air Canada and make sure the cat is checked in," Em said to me last night, at 10.15pm, on a Friday. March 12. Our flight isn't until April 7.

"Sure but how about I wait until the morning," I replied.

"But what if there's not enough room? Don't forget you have to measure him. How long do you think our cat is? I'd say a couple of metres at least."

At this juncture I must point out that Em had four wisdom teeth ruthlessly ripped from her jaw today by a man that all together seemed too nice to be a dentist. Accent unknown, he was delightful in his appraisal of his success and the means to which I must hold Em on our departure from the clinic.

"She may think she can walk," he said, "but she can't. Hold her tight, don't let her go."

Never in any fear of that, we headed home and through traits learned osmotically via my nurse mother, I proceeded to institute a hard-nosed drug regime which has led us up to this point whereby we now have a two metre long cat, which in all honesty isn't far from the truth.

Act I
Fur ball Logic
(Full-time score: Sir Richard 1 Juris 0)

Only the day before I bought a hard case travel hutch and thanks to the genius of our friend Ian, I finally worked out how to weigh the ever-flighty Sir Richard (he's 8kg but don't mention it to him, he's kind of sensitive but on the sumo side, you know, that he's not big enough).

After having tried to sit him on the Ikea-scales and after unsuccessfully trying to jam him into a cat carrier cage, which I had already devised the tare weight of, I gave up and weighted for Em.

Thankfully Ian suggested I simply weigh myself then pick up the cat and weigh him in my arms. Presto, 8 kilos.

Act II
CSI Newfoundland
(Stats Amazing)

If you read my last post you will no doubt be aware that I love facts and the only thing I love more than facts is my wife ... and stats ... in that order (hey, it's sappy but true).

Mark Twain allegedly said at some point that "facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable" but I would love to trace down just what Ambrose Bierce, author of The Devil's Dictionary, would have said.

I imagine a statisticians job description as written by Bierce would read:

Statistician: a folly for those too wise to become bankers and not foolish enough to become gamblers.

The reason I bring this up is I came across Statistics Canada Census results for Newfoundland which dispelled many myths I had about our new home.

If you can bear with me for a few moments I will don my Sherlock Holmes hat and using some deductive reasoning give you a profile of Newfoundland based on what I found.

Okay deep breath ... and .... go:

Newfoundland's (NL) population dropped 7% since 1996 from 551,792 to 512,930 and of that population the most common age range is the 25-44 year old with 151,770 of which the clear majority is female with 78,795 women.

The third highest age range behind those 45-54 (82,975) is kids aged between 5-14 (63,950).


Of the population who are over 15, that is 424,165, the bulk of them are married (235,015) while there are more widows (28,700) than divorcees (20,305).

Of the widows however, 23,320 of those are women compared to 5475 who are men.


Only 2015 people immigrated to Newfoundland between 1991 and 2001 while 499,090 of the 508,075 people are Canad........hang on....discrepancy and a big one.

If the total population stated earlier was 512,930 yet they use the figure 508,075 to describe the "immigration characteristics", what in the blue blazers happened to the other 4855 people?

Anyway back to the profile:

There are more Protestants
(303,195) than Catholics (187,445), more Buddhists (180) than Jews (140), more Muslims (625) than Hindu (130).

The school kids are getting smarter by the generation although university educated students are outstripped by those with trades. Women are on average paid less ($18,341) than men ($29,267) however that gap narrows when you compare the two when working full time over an entire year.

Women on average rake in $29,935 compared to men who earn $44,607 yet the median family income for couples is $45,253.

More people work at "no fixed address" (15,865) than those who work from home (11,570) and there is more people in "other services" when it comes to describing their industry than any other category (51,055). The next closest is health and education (45,320).

There are more owned dwellings (147,750) than rented (41,170) and there are more dwelling built before 1991 (162,200) than after (26,840) and the average cost of a dwelling is $76,283.

So there you have it and what have you learnt from today's lesson? Well it's simple.

People are moving away from an island that has a cracking education system filled with happily married families who can afford cheap houses and who have low cost of living. While the wages are low the chance of owning your own house is extremely high.

I am tad concerned about all the female widows though -- at a ratio almost five to one, I hope that their husbands had high risk jobs like whale wrestling, moose wrangling or polar bear shaving.

I'm also trying to comprehend where the
4855 people went unless of course they are not from this earth (you say aliens I say potentially friendly overlords).

Maybe Mark Twain was right.

Just the facts maam, nothing but the facts -- Departure T-minus 27 days

I love facts.

They provide higher ground from where the very best argument can be launched and if you've got your facts right, the meandering substance of the argument is offset by the conclusion. (Disclaimer: This doesn't apply to scientific fact however as it seems to change every time someone has a thought.)

So when I came across a website extolling facts of Newfoundland I was automatically engrossed however it left more questions than answered. For instance:

  • 99% of the world's population of the critically endangered Boreal Felt Lichen is found on the island of Newfoundland. (Now that is fine and all but what I want to know is where the other 1% resides and how they studied and came up with this figure. I am assuming it wasn't on any census.)
  • Showy Lady's Slipper orchid, "the largest and most beautiful northern orchid in North America" is found in western Newfoundland. Because of its rarity, this orchid is imperiled in the wild. (Imperiled? Sounds like something from Communist China or Stalinesque Russia)
This however is a fact that is indisputable, my kind of fact:

  • Corner Brook in terms of latitude, is a little distance south of Vancouver, British Columbia but it is on the same latitude as the French capital, Paris. St Anthony, our glorious new home to be on the northern tip of Newfoundland, is on the same latitude as London, England.
Having lived in London for 18 months, I always found 51°30′28″N to be quite a nice latitude so it is another tick in the column for our new home town. Confused as I was about Pacific and Eastern time zones I also found out that Newfoundland is actually 3.5 hours west of Greenwich, and hence has its own time zone. The Newfoundland Standard Time Act of 1935 enshrined this time zone before Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949.

Just back to London for a minute, Newfoundland celebrates
Guy Fawkes Night as they do in England which to this day is still one of the most hilarious celebrations I have come across.

Who else but the English would celebrate via fireworks no less the attempted assassination of King James I of England by a man who planned on blowing up Parliament house with explosives. Like pyrotechnics explosives.

Anyway, time for another history lesson:
  • The ceilings of the Council Chamber and the Assembly Room in the Colonial Building in St. John's were painted by Polish fresco painter Alexander Pindikowski in 1880. Mr. Pindikowski had been serving a 15 month prison sentence for passing forged cheques - his sentence was reduced by 1 month for his work. In 1940, the ceiling work was restored by local painter Clem Murphy.
Remember the moose that Em had nightmares about, well here's a little known fact:

  • Moose are not native to Newfoundland, but today there are more than 100,000 on the island. One pair was introduced in 1878 from Nova Scotia (not thought to have survived). Two pairs of moose were introduced on May 14, 1904 from New Brunswick. All of the moose in Newfoundland today are descended from the 1904 moose and possibly also from the 1878 moose.
  • Arctic Hares are native to Newfoundland, but Snowshoe Hares were introduced from Nova Scotia in 1864 and 1876. They were released at the same time by local Magistrates. Hares are often erroneously called rabbits.

  • The Newfoundland Timber or Grey Wolf became extinct on the island of Newfoundland in the 1930s.

  • The coyote arrived in Newfoundland during the winter of 1985, when heavy ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence allowed passage from Nova Scotia.

  • There are no snakes, skunks, deer, porcupines or groundhogs on the island of Newfoundland. Chipmunks were introduced to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia in 1962 and 1964, and today they are plentiful in the Codroy Valley of southwestern Newfoundland where cultivated (farm) oats are a favourite treat. There is no ragweed pollen on the island either (a very common allergen).

Anyway enough facts.

Em had her wisdom teeth taken out today and now she looks like she's done 10 rounds with Tyson. It hurts my heart to see her like this but I know it's only temporary but it still hurts however I am passing the time by cooking for her and instituting a drug regiment of military precision.

In other news, there's still no word on a car. The $800 I spoke about earlier seems to have disappeared so we are trying another avenue, a mechanic in St Anthony with a 1999 Mazda Protege. We'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

*puts fingers in ears * la la la la la la la -- Departure T-minus 28 days

So it has come to this, I simply put my fingers in my ears and ignore the ruminations of the universe because, let's be honest here and this is just between you and me, life needs a big kick in the balls and told to f-off every now and again.

What is this you say? Has he lost his mind? No my mind is still in tact however I am choosing to ignore Newfoundland for the day.

Well that was the plan at least but it took a micro-second from when I woke up to start thinking about the things we need to get done but like a true champion I am choosing to ignore that today and instead I went snowboarding knowing full well that a day on the slopes would clear my head, which of course it did.

In between listening to Great Big Sea (apparently they are a Newfoundland icon) and chewing the ear off anyone unlucky enough to catch the perilously slow chair lift at Grouse Mountain about my amazing wife, her amazing new job and our amazing journey across Canada to St Anthony, I had time to collect my thoughts, like Edgar Allan Poe once wrote, they were my ruminations.

My conclusions? First is that I need to relax just a tad ... after all where we are going there is no need to feel stress or be worrisome, quite the opposite really. Where we are going, according to the Great Big Sea, Newfoundland is a place where watches are seemingly abandoned on arrival, where deadlines (and I am borrowing from the late Douglas Adams here) make a whooshing sound as they fly by, and where the most stressful thing about your day is working out which gumboots you are going to wear.

Now that's my kind of place.

See, I feel better already.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The mechanics and mathematics of buying a car, traveling with a heavy cat and shipping our life across Canada -- T-minus 29 days

"Are you okay," my wife asked last night.

"Mmm, mmm, yes" I replied in the midst of my first 'official' freak out complete with heart palpitations, bending intestines and cold sweats.

I'm not sure what set me off but for a few moments last night the thought of moving to Newfoundland made me queasy but my wife's calming hand on my arm and reassurances that "everything is going to be alright", set me at ease.

I think we are going to take turns in having mini-meltdowns when we discuss the logistics of this adventure, we worked out last night the equation that:

more money = more sanity however our serious lack of funds means that this adventure will be more of a challenge, just like The Amazing Race, except without all the whiney American divorcees who think racing around the world, when they have never left their State let alone the country, will somehow bring them back together.

Nope this is a challenge and my wife and I are good at challenges and the more I can break challenges down into science and mathematical equations the easier it will be so this post will be in three acts.

Act I
The purchasing of the car
(Sight Unseen)

I've owned a lot of cars and they have all ended their life the same way, at the scrapyard.

My first car was a Datsun 180b with two working cylinders my final car was a Hyundai Excel, dubbed The Little Green Teabag of Doom for the way it not so much turned corners as it slid and dipped around them thanks to seized ball joints.

Buying a car sight unseen then would appear to be a dangerous exercise however I think the problem of transport in St Anthony has been solved.

Enter the 1994 Chevy Cavalier.

Our biggest concern on arriving in Corner Brook was that we need a car to get the 10-hours to St Anthony (see map on first post for scale). That being said on our current budget of $0.00 it is going to be hard.

That was until we came across this gem for $800 (or best offer). The ball joints are shot but for $150 they can be repaired so we shot off an email to that effect. Before hand though I scoured the mighty interwebz to find out all I could about the 1994 Cavalier and here is what I discovered.

One reviewer stated:

Likes: no-nonsense low-cost car
Dislikes: lack of refinement, sluggish performance with auto transmission and four-cylinder engine

I say: I am not overly concerned if it's sluggish. We are not rally car drivers and with all those suicide moose, we'd be mad to want to drive fast.

Another reviewer said:

"Good fuel economy" (Me: That's a good sign)
"I loved the car" (Editorialised comment ignored)
"Comfortable" (Meh, if I wanted comfort I'd buy a new car)
"No leaks (in convertible)" (Surely this doesn't mean ours will leak because it's not a convertible?)
"Extremely dependable even after 178,000 miles" (That sounds positive)
"Nice riding car"

"It’s a little noisy" (Boo)
"Clutch a bit notchy" (What do you expect with automatic?)
"ABS brakes produce too much judder" (Judder. They said judder. Wicked)
"Brakes could be better"

My mind started racing at the thought of fuel economy so I did the math.

The 1994 Cavalier has a
15 gallon fuel tank, 120hP, 2.2 litre, 3-speed automatic apparently get s 23 miles to the gallon in "city" driving and 33 miles to the gallon in "highway" driving

So on a tank of petrol we can expect to travel 345km (city) or 495km (highway)

Now the prices of refueling at current rates in St Anthony are about 116.2 c/litre and being that there is 3.78 litres to the US Gallon that puts our empty fuel tank at 56.7 litres however that would be more like 55 litres because you are not going to have an empty tank which means that at current prices, to fill the tank will cost us: $63.91 which for almost 500km of driving isn't bad although a quick check of Google Maps shows that it is 468km between Corner Brook and St Anthony so that trip may be a stretch however for an alleged 11 hours of driving that isn't bad.

Act II
The Kitty Conundrum
(A case of cat nip and tuck, meow)

The reason we saved Sir Richard from the SPCA was because my wife and I wanted a big cat, the bigger the better so when we saw our 10kg behemoth it was love at first sight.

Now considering how much it will cost to take him with us I wonder if that was such a smart choice.

The problem is the dimensions for a soft carrier that would allow us to bring him on as hand luggage also won't allow us to fit him inside.

At 27cm high, 40cm wide and 55cm long, you would think you could fit a small puma inside but alas that is not the case, plus his weight and the weight of the carrier break every single Air Canada regulation hence we have to go for a hard shell and put him under the fuselage.

Not the most ideal scenario but he'll be drugged to the eyeballs so he won't miss any of the scenery and the fact he snore louder than me, sleeps 22 hours of the day and only wakes to eat or wake us up so we can watch him eat, well, I think he will be fine.

There is a small part of me however that feels bad for giving him the crappy seat on the trip. It's like that person who has to sit in the middle of the back seat straddling the glovebox and being drooled on by their brother and sister on either side.

The Boy in the Bubble Wrap
(Package me up Scotty)

The other issue was just how to get our belongings across with us. We consulted a packaging and freight company who were going to charge us about $500 to send two boxes that were 25 inches X 25 inches and 30 inches high of no more than 98kg in weight.

That sounded alright until we worked out that boxes slightly smaller than that weighing 30kg will cost us $65 via Canada Post so that's what we are going to do.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The list -- T-minus 30 days

"You know what we need," I asked my wife, her eyes widened with expectation. She knew exactly what we needed at this point.

"A list," she said gleefully, "a list, we need a list."

And so it was done. Our penchant for making lists would come in handy with our new adventure.

Last night we booked our flights from Vancouver, BC, to Corner Brook, NL, at the princely sum of $760 with another $100 to be paid for the luxury of taking Sir Richard onto the plane with us as carry on. Our only fear is that he may fall outside the 10kg weight limit of cat and carrier considering he himself weighs almost 10kg. The big fella may have to go on a crash diet but back to the list.

Before we married I was a huge fan of 'the list' thanks to my good mate Dave's explanation of not only their organisational functionality but their therapeutic value -- peace of mind courtesy of a few dot points that once completed could be scratched from existence along with the completed task.

"See, job done," he would say when he crossed another task off his list, which he compiled each night before bed ensuring that the day was planned to a tee. The list always started with one simple task.

  • Wake up
It's unbelievable how satisfying it is to cross things off a list, especially the first task of the day. Another mate of mine, Gazza, had a diary for each year dating back some decade and contained everything he had achieved. You could give him a date, a couple of beers and about an hour and he would find his diary and tell you exactly what he was doing that day almost to an hourly breakdown. Truly old school.

When I found out my wife loved lists, it was a match made in heaven. Our wedding lists (note the plural) were pencilled into a Merry Christmas notebook while another list was on a classier wood bound notebook with a robot on the cover. For a random present I received a 2010 Diary with Leonardo Da Vinci's Le proporzioni del corp umano secondo Vitruvio (particolare) on the cover and carry it every where I go.

Our list of things to do before we move to St Anthony is nearing epic proportions with sub-heads, tree branches for subsequent thoughts and now thankfully there are a few black lines through accomplished tasks.

Things to find out in St Anthony (achieved tasks are italicised)...
  • Rent (not yet but we are working on it)
  • Car (Thought we had this sorted but the car fell through. Back to the drawing board)
  • Banks (Yes and we are already members -- SORTED)
  • Pet Shop (Much to the chagrin of Sir Richard there is no pet store hence no more of his delicious California Natural minced New Zealand possum and vegetables unless we can get it shipped there from St John's)
  • Thrift Store (Yes, bless the Salvos for providing us an outpost of shopping normalcy)
  • Pub (mmmm, we think there is a place like an RSL there called a Legion and apparently it goes right off on a Wednesday night. Here's hoping there's bingo).
  • Weather each season (yep, cold and snowy)
  • Camping (if you can brave the cold and the snow then sure, why not)
  • Close communities (the tip of Newfoundland is about 90 minute drive and in between there are a bunch of small towns)
  • Airport to town (there's an airport and there's a bus that takes you from it to the town centre. We won't be using this service however as we are flying into Corner Brook, about 10 hours away)
  • Craigslist (mmmm, sort of)
  • Car Insurance (still working on it but at this stage it looks like $60/mth)
  • Medical coverage (they have a training hospital there so maybe the medical service will be cheaper)
Not the most exciting of lists albeit but a list nonetheless and damn doesn't it feel good to get started on the logistics of it all.

Thankfully the past evening was nightmare free. The tally since we made our decision to move is now: Nightmare free: 1 -- Nightmares: 2 (moose and ice driving)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Suicidal moose and other nightmares - Departure T-minus 31 days

"Sweetie I'm scared of the moose, they are suicidal."

3am and exactly a month to go before we land in Newfoundland and the very real prospect of coming face to nose with a moose sporting suicidal tendencies has just been broached in an early morning panicked conversation.

The previous night my wife woke with nightmares about driving on the icy roads surrounding St Anthony on Newfoundland's northern peninsular.

"Sweetie, I've never driven on icy roads, what happens if I have an accident, I don't want to have an accident?"

I concurred.

"It's okay, driving in those conditions is the best way to learn," was my sleepy response. Last night I went with "moose are only suicidal if you hit them and if we try not to drive at night and avoid going too fast we will be fine."

It's funny how your dreams are shaped by what you do just before you go to bed. Last night it was a quick scan of wikitravel which said:

"Moose of any size are often aggressive on the roads and frequently attack the headlights of passing cars. Drivers who survive collisions have been killed by the legs of an injured moose wedged in the windshield opening of the wreckage. Animals who have moved out of a vehicle's path may suddenly reappear on the road and exhibit suicidal behaviour."

The real lesson here is you should always try and avoid reading about moose attacking headlights of your car just before bed.

In a month my wife and I will be sitting in an airport in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland at about 2am. That's almost 7000km away from where I type this, Vancouver, British Columbia and the journey will have just begun because we will still be a 10-hour drive away from our final destination, the tiny community of St Anthony.

The plan is to hang out in the airport until day break (travel Scrabble and chess is on the cards) finding a cheap car to buy then setting off up the west coast to our new home, which we will see for the very first time when we arrive.

You would think going to a completely foreign town with no home, no friends with four suitcases and a big black cat named Sir Richard Von Pinkenbar III is scary but it's not as nightmarish as the thought of suicide moose.

In fact, we can't wait.