The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon

The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon
Shortlisted for The Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Prize

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

A long and twisted road…

Well, it’s good to be home.

It was a wonderful epic vacation full of fun and discovery but when all is said and done – there’s no place like home. Throughout the trip there were too many memorable moments to list but I’ll throw out some of the highlights. A Top 10 List, if you will.

1 – Fireflies – On our first night camping in the all but flooded Rideau River Provincial Park I though my fatigued brain was playing tricks on me. As my wife, kids and I were walking back to our campsite in the growing dusk I thought I saw the occasional flash of light. My first impulse was “Fireflies!” but I haven’t seen fireflies since I was a kid. They used to abound – why I remember catching them in jars and reading by the light of their bioluminescence but sadly they’ve vanished from our local landscape. Some say it was excessive crop spraying during the seventies and eighties that did them in (I suppose it could have been kids catching them by the jarload so they could read by their light…) but whatever the reason it was with delight to parallel my children’s that I stared as hundreds of fireflies emerged over the next half hour. If nothing else had happened throughout the trip I would have been satisfied with the secure knowledge that there are still fireflies in the world.

2 – Ottawa’s amazing museums – Split time between the Museum of Natural History (where we reacquainted with a childhood friend of mine, her two kids and the fella she married – the handsdown winner of the Nicest Guy in the World award) and the Museum of Civilization on this trip and didn’t see enough but was fascinated by what I did. Our nation’s capital is packed with quality museums and as the kids grow up I can see any number of weekend trips to take advantage.

3 – The Peace Tower – a very humbling time, visiting the parliament buildings, ascending the Peace Tower and looking at the Books of Remembrance. And if I wasn’t choked up enough as we were heading back to the car what is waiting for me directly across the street from the Eternal Flame and the front steps of Parliament? You guessed it – a life sized statue of Terry Fox.

4 – Quebec City’s 400th Anniversary – Unfortunately we got rain and very little else from our short stop in Quebec City. With miserable, wet kids not entirely interested in an historic soaked city the only souvenir we came away with was a lovely orange umbrella. Ahh…there’s always next time.

5 – New Brunswick – camping in New Brunswick was heavenly, however we seemed to be rained on every day. We did, however, find time to swim in the frigid waters of the St. John River – to date one of my testicles has seen fit to descend.

6 – Dartmouth and Halifax – a lovely pair of sister cities and actually the reason for our destination. We stayed with a pair of my dearest friends who I haven’t seen in far too long. We also spent some time with my brother in law and his…girlfriend – nah, that’s not right – his..wife – sweet Jesus, better not let him hear me using the W word…ah, nuts – the woman he loves and lives with.

7 – Peggy’s Cove – I’m a moron but I didn’t know that Peggy’s Cove was a tourist spot. Okay, I’ve already admitted I’m a moron – can we move on. I loved the place – as did my son who adventured among the rocks – His quote of the day: “I’m as nimble as a mountain goat…and twice as fast!” It was spectacular and the crashing waves were really something. I’m a little disappointed that I neglected to take a picture of the modern sign warning against venturing too close to the water – basically it reads “Please exercise caution when approaching the sea etc. etc.” Very politically correct and bland – much more poetic is the old sign, cast in bronze and bolted to the rocks.

If you can’t read the inscription it goes like this:


Injury and death have rewarded careless sight seers here

The ocean and rocks are treacherous

Savour the sea from a distance

Marvelous – fairly warned be thee, says I.

8 – Mahone Bay and Lunenburg Nova Scotia – It was never our intention to go to Lunenburg on this trip but we needed to go to Mahone Bay because of a story my daughter read in school last year. When we saw that we were only 11 kms from Lunenburg we decided to go. We were well rewarded because it just so happened that the Bluenose II was in port for 2 days only before continuing with her summer schedule. What a treat. We took in the sights of historic Lunenburg but I’m going to let you in on a little secret – Lunenburg is beautiful – but Mahone Bay is prettier by far.

9 – The province of Quebec – Normally I don’t have a lot of good things to say about Quebec but I would be remiss if I left out a mention of the Village d’Antan in Drummondville. It is a spectacular village comprised of real and replica historic buildings from the Drummondville area. You pass through a tunnel under a road to enter the village and it is like passing through a time tunnel. You are greeting by the local priest and the entire village is peopled by folks in period costume going about their daily business from 150 years ago. What a delightful look back in time.

I guess I can’t leave Quebec without relaying an observation…now I have a son who seemed to need to hit every bathroom between Fergus and Halifax, so I got to see my share of bathrooms across the eastern half of this country. Actually, I got to see my share, his share and your share, too! I spent a lot of time hanging around the men’s rooms waiting for my son to finish his business and I need to speak to the handwashing practices observed. Only in Quebec does handwashing seem to be alien to the standard toilet procedures for public restrooms. I can speak only to the men’s room practices but I did not see a single person wash his hands in Quebec and there is a lot of traffic in those roadside rest stations. In many of the roadside washrooms soap and paper towels are not supplied – I guess the attitude is – why bother – ain’t nobody usin’ them anyway. I guess washroom is a bit of a misnomer - should use the French - toilette.

Anyway – just an observation.

10 – There really is no place like home. Our vacation together as a family was priceless but all of us were more than ready to see the bridge on Scotland Street as we came into town. Although the lawn was wild and the vegetable garden was a jungle, we didn’t care.

We were home…safe at home.