Thursday Tidbits

Posted on July 18, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Mary Ann Falls


In recent years, I have taken an annual pilgrimage around the Cabot Trail, one of my favourite places on the planet. Occasionally, I’ll do a solo trip but the last few years, I have had company. Three summers ago, I took two friends from India who were attending a summer program at the Coady. Last year, I took my granddaughter and this year my traveling companions were my granddaughter and a friend of hers from Montreal. Seeing the Cabot Trail through the eyes of 11 year olds in an education.

We got an early start. You can’t do justice to the Cabot Trail in one day but if that’s all the time at your disposal, you can do a lot. Neither the girls nor I were much interested in visiting local artisans or going whale watching, not on a day when the temperature was supposed to be in the high 20s. Our quest was simple: find water and go swimming.

The drive from Antigonish to Auld’s Cove is quite scenic as St. George’s Bay funnels into the Canso Causeway. The Causeway is purportedly the deepest causeway in the world. The drive from Port Hastings to Iron Mines is non-descript. Passing by the small airport outside of Port Hastings, I wondered if governments would pony up $18 million dollars to build another small airport near the world renowned golf courses in Inverness.

The Bras D’or Lakes seldom disappoint but because of our early morning getaway, I couldn’t get a coffee and treats at the Herring Choker deli and bakery in Nyanza. The Englishtown ferry wasn’t in operation so we had to skirt St.Ann’s Bay via the Gaelic College. This is not the route I normally take but it has several beautiful vistas.

We were getting quite peckish after nearly two hours in the car. No trip around the trail would be complete without a stop at the Clucking Hen in North Shore. While we waited for our breakfast, I chatted with Diana. She’s been there for years and she always has a smile on her face. The ethos of this wonderful establishment can be seen on staff T-shirts: “No Fowl Moods”. I also had a chance to speak briefly with the owner, Melody. I told her that I was “hatching” a plan to walk around the Cabot Trail later this summer.

Swim #1 took place at Ingonish Beach. I couldn’t get over how the beach had changed in one year. It looked like the Parks people had brought in heavy equipment and covered the entire sandbar with tons of mid -sized, round rocks. Not so according to the lifeguard on duty who said that this was the work of none other than Mother Nature earlier in the spring.

Swim #2 was at Mary Ann Falls, a short jaunt from Ingonish. You have to be paying attention to the signage. For some unknown reason, there is a huge sign for Warren Lake as you’re heading north from Ingonish but Mary Ann Falls, which is the same exit, is nowhere to be seen on this sign. If you’re traveling from Neil’s Harbour in a southerly direction, Mary Ann Falls is on the sign. Go figure. Maybe someone from up that way can explain this discrepancy. The girls agreed that this was the highpoint of their day as they jumped off the rocks into the deep, chilly pool below the falls.

Their bathing suits didn’t have time to dry before we stopped at Black Brook for swim #3 .After a picnic lunch, they spent a short time playing in the waves. The promised hot day never quite materialized and they once again found the water quite chilly.

Just a footnote for anyone heading around the Trail. There is still a lot of road construction.

With time on our side, we took a short detour off the trail and went through the village of Neil’s Harbour. This is a beautiful drive and takes you through Smelt Brook, White Point, rejoining the highway near South Harbour. The scenery is spectacular and a hidden gem that most people miss and probably don’t know about.

With thoughts of walking the Cabot Trail, I paid particular attention to the stretch of road from Cape North to Cheticamp. There are some serious climbs and equally challenging descents. If you’re a walker or hiker, you know that walking down a mountain is much harder on your legs than the ascent. We stopped at the ice cream place just south of Pleasant Bay. I learned from the staff that there’s actually a hostel in Pleasant Bay which I’ll check out as part of my planning for my walk.

My granddaughter has a great memory and insisted that we stop for supper at Le Gabriel in Cheticamp. I always have a chat with Brenda Lee who runs the floor operations at this busy restaurant from her wheelchair. I told her about my plans to walk the Trail. She gave me a look that suggested that I was bonkers. She said she didn’t want to hear a report about an old guy getting eaten by a bear. I took exception to her calling me old! The meal was excellent. The girls were too full for dessert but with a cooler in the car, were able to get take out desserts.

Swim #4 was in the rapidly growing town of Inverness. Two world class golf courses have transformed this once sleepy and dying town into an economic juggernaut as evidenced by the helicopter pad near Cabot Links and many new eating establishments and lodging options. Inverness Beach in the evening is sublime. The (slightly) warmer waters of the Northumberland Strait were welcomed by the girls as they frolicked in the waves for the better part of an hour. The father of a young family was sitting in his wheelchair with warm sun bathing his face while his wife and children walked the beach.

A magnificent sunset greeted me as I crested the Havre Boucher hill. My two charges were fast asleep in the back seat. All felt well with the world.

Have a great weekend.


Keltic Lodge


Enjoy this? Visit the rest of my website to enjoy more of my work or buy my books!
The Macdonald Notebook: Business & Politics in Atlantic Canada

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Monday Morning Musings

Posted on July 15, 2019 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Drove my Zevvy Chevy to the levy


“Baby you can drive my car,

Yes, I’m going to be a star.”

Baby You Can Drive My Car. The Beatles

I’m all charged up and ready to hit the open highway.

I attended the Art Fair last Friday and met three young men from the Clean Foundation. Clean is a non -profit, non-governmental organization. “Clean makes homes more energy efficient, restores streams and watersheds, engages youth on the environment, promotes green transportation, mitigates the effects of  storm water, helps communities reduce waste and contributes to public policy discussions.”

There was an electric car parked outside the Art Fair venue. Ben, Noah and Daniel have a pretty sweet summer job. They are employed by Next Ride. They get to travel around the province attending events and festivals educating people about the merits of electric cars. Let’s face it, the future is now and electric cars will become as popular as hoola hoops were back in the 60s.

These three guys obviously know their stuff and spoke in a language that I did not understand. They tried their damndest to help me understand the basic of electric cars. “Hey, throw in some quantum physics while you’re at it,” is what I felt like saying. I feel quite certain that if the car companies promoting this technology could just hook these lads up to the charging stations, they could fuel just about any make or model. Their energy was infectious.

They offered me a chance to take a ride in Zevvy, the car they are using to get around the province. I signed a waiver and Ben and I took it for a spin. It was a very quiet ride except for Ben who sounded like a buzz saw as he pointed out the many advantages of green energy.

Did you know that there are Federal incentives up to $5,000 to purchase an electric vehicle? There are currently over 100 charging stations across Nova Scotia including one in the parking lot behind Bloomfield Centre on the campus of St.F.X. University. Want to learn more? Check out this website and get yourself up to speed.

I got quite an education in the 30 minutes I spent with these guys. I didn’t want to burst their bubble by telling them that I have discovered a technology which is every bit as efficient as an electric car with very low overhead and NO carbon footprint, just real footprints: my two legs.

Last Friday night I got banished to my sister’s cottage as our tiny apartment was filled to capacity. As sad as I was to leave the chaos created by four young girls, I sucked it up and did my duty. I hadn’t spent a night at the beach in well over a decade if not longer. After a lovely, quiet visit at my brother’s cottage, I walked a few steps to my sister’s place. It was a rainy night. I took one of the beds in the upstairs, opened a window and put my head on the pillow. I listened to the pitter patter of the rain on the roof. I smelled the fresh salty air and could hear the sounds of the waves caressing the shoreline. Even on a rainy night, there’s something magical about a night at the beach.

Have a great week.

Enjoy this? Visit the rest of my website to enjoy more of my work or buy my books!
The Macdonald Notebook: Business & Politics in Atlantic Canada

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Oliver Smith’s Short Shift

Posted on July 11, 2019 under Storytelling with 2 comments

Oliver getting a few lessons in table hockey from great-grandfather, George

“The time you won your town the race,

We chaired you through the market place,

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder- high.


Today, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.


To an Athlete Dying Young. A.E. Housman

Young people are supposed to outlive their parents, their grandparents, and their great -grandparents. Oliver Smith’s life was grounded just at the stage of life when it was due to take flight. He fought the valiant fight with Ewings Sarcoma but sadly succumbed to this deadly childhood cancer the day after his twelfth birthday.

Terry Fox suffered from a similar cancer called osteosarcoma and he eventually died in 1981 while crossing Canada. He was raising awareness and money for cancer research. Terry Fox died young and has never been forgotten. Oliver died one day before the anniversary of Terry Fox’s death. Ollie Bots, the fundraising project that Oliver and his family started, will endure. Money raised from Ollie Bots goes towards research for Ewings Sarcoma and also supports local families affected by paediatric cancer.

It comes as little surprise that Oliver was athletic and that his passion was hockey. It was part of his DNA. His great- grandfather, George, spent much of his life in cold hockey rinks following the exploits of Oliver’s grandfather, Alex, and his brothers. Oliver’s dad, Bryan, an avid hockey player himself, has taken up the torch and spends countless hours coaching and working on skating skills with local hockey players.

Oliver faced this dreaded disease is a quiet, determined way. He didn’t complain about his lot in life even when pain short circuited his budding hockey career.

The first few chapters of Oliver’s life have been written. He played hockey until he couldn’t and then lived it vicariously through his hockey team and his beloved St.F.X. X-Men hockey squad. He got to meet members of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who maintained contact with the family throughout Oliver’s final days.

Brad Peddle, the coach of the St.F.X. hockey team, spoke glowingly of Oliver. “It’s hard to put into words what Oliver meant to our group this year. This was a tough season in many ways with more adversity than most years, but Oliver inspired the group to get to another level. His spirit and smile through a much tougher battle he was enduring was both motivating and inspiring. Throughout the playoffs I was serving a 10- game suspension, meaning I could not go near the team before games. He stepped in and did the starting lineup every game, doing a remarkable job in a pressure packed time of year. Not many adults could do that, let alone a 12 –year-old boy. I firmly believe he is the sole reason our team went as far as it did and won a Bronze medal at the National Championship. After a terrible loss in the semi-final, crushing our gold medal goals, Oliver was the only reason our team stayed on track and got right back up to play and win the bronze the next day. Seeing Oliver being the first to go up and get his medal on the ice is something none of us will ever forget.”

How can anything good come from the death of a child? Death is mysterious enough when it involves someone who has led a long, productive life. But trying to rationalize, let alone explain the death of one so young and with so much promise is almost unfathomable. There are no words that will comfort his grieving family and the community that loved him.

Hockey is a game played in short shifts. This is when a player is competing at maximum capacity. Oliver didn’t get to play the whole game but his short shift was one played with passion. He lived the best kind of life he could in the time he was given.

Oliver was nurtured and cared for by generations of competent and caring women. Many of them were nurses, including his mother, Shauna. Love was the best medicine they dispensed to Oliver throughout his life, especially in the third period. His sisters, Megan and Emma ,were rocks. They honoured their brother the best way they could by continuing to pursue academic and athletic excellence during his illness.

But Oliver’s story is not over. His legacy started to build with Ollie Bots and it appears that this fundraising project will assist many families in the days and years to come.

 Oliver Smith lived a shortened life but one that was impactful. Those relatives who died before him would be justifiably proud of this exceptional young man.

Those left to mourn will continue to honour his life.

There are many chapters remaining in Oliver’s story. They just haven’t been written yet.

“Now you will not swell the route,

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran,

And the name died before the man.”




Enjoy this? Visit the rest of my website to enjoy more of my work or buy my books!
Highland Hearing Clinic

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.