Thursday Tidbits

Posted on July 30, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with 3 comments

 

So long, Halifax

 

Traveling in a Covid world.

I’m on a slow boat to the north. Actually, taxis, buses, and airplanes will get me to Kangiqsujuaq on Saturday. I hope. Nothing is assured in a Covid world except masks and overeating!

This might arguably be the most boring post I’ve ever written… 1,132 and counting.  There are many boring stories from which to choose.

On Monday, I took a Maritime Bus from Antigonish to Stanfield Airport in Halifax. A note to Antigonishers. The bus terminal is no longer at Bloomfield Center. It’s out front of the Millenium Center. I was sitting in the Bloomfield parking lot and decided to go and see if the bus would be on time. There was a note on the door about the change in location. I would have missed the bus if I hadn’t checked this out.

If you can visualize a funeral home with no mourners, then you will have a good idea what the trip was like to Halifax. The bus was about one-third full. Everyone was masked of course but I’m not certain if anyone was actually breathing. The only audible sound was the wheels of the bus. They go “round and round”.

I had been convinced by a friend to stay at the ALT Hotel right at the airport. My Scottish ancestry has, in the past, prevented me from staying there.  I just can’t see paying $175 (+tax) to lay my head down for a night. I decided to sell some beer bottles and go “all in” and stay there for convenience. I’m still old fashioned and like to book my room by calling the motel and speaking with a human. Jessica was a joy. Actually, she was a Jessica! When she quoted me the room rates, a special for Nova Scotians, I audibly gasped and asked her to repeat the rate. She told me the rate was $109. Now unless you’re flying somewhere, it probably doesn’t make sense to book there as part of your staycation, but I can’t say enough about the hotel.

After checking in, I walked out of the hotel and walked across the street to a Halifax Metro bus stop. The #320 bus stops there and will take you into the city right next to the Metro Center. Until July 31st there is no charge. I think the fare is between $2-3 under normal circumstances. The bus makes about 5 stops but you arrive downtown in 45 minutes. There were only a small handful of people on this bus. Everyone was masked.

My third bus of the day took me from downtown to Spryfield to visit my daughter and granddaughter. Once again, the bus was free. This is where the Covid rules took a nosedive. Everyone was in possession of a mask. I’m guessing that 75% were wearing them. There was a gaggle of young people who blatantly disregarded the protocol. There was a man sitting less than three feet from me who had his mask around his neck. Half of the seats on the bus were restricted. I get that. But when all the seats were full (it was rush hour), then hordes of people were standing inches apart. Sorry, Halifax Transit. I am issuing a failing grade.

I will skip merrily to my second day in Halifax. Oh my god, Len. This is worse that listening to an old relative talk about the old days or a neighbor regaling you about the vacation they had in Provence 5 years ago.

I had one of the best sleeps I can remember in one of the most comfortable beds. I awoke with a start at 7:00 a.m. Startled, I immediately checked the obituaries and then checked my pulse. I NEVER sleep in this late.

It is a two- minute walk from the ALT to the airport. I thought I would go over early and get my boarding pass. This is not a word of lie. I was the only passenger in the airport. There had been a few early morning flights, but none expected until noon. When there is no one at the Tim Horton’s, you know something is radically amiss.

I’ll skip all the boring parts of my day in the city. The ALT allowed me a late checkout of 3:30. That tells you everything you need to know about the state of the hotel industry. I honestly didn’t see another guest in the hotel during my 24- hour stay. Check in at the airport was a breeze. I was the only one in the queue. I was carrying a large map of the world rolled up in a tube. The guy at the end of the scanning machine was so bored that he engaged me in a 10- minute conversation about maps. Covid makes strange bedfellows.

While waiting to board my flight, I realized that I had left my charger at the hotel. It is an Iphone charger. It is white. The bedspread in my room was white. I missed it when I checked out. Normally, this would have been a bit of a problem requiring me to purchase a new one in Montreal. In Covid world, this scarcely registered on my worry meter. I simply called the hotel and by the time it took me to go back downstairs to the Tim Horton’s, our arranged meeting place, a member of the housekeeping staff was there to meet me. It was probably the highlight of his day. I had to go through security again but when you’re the only one in line, this is not a hardship.

The flight to Montreal was half full and uneventful.

I took a cab to my hotel along with another teacher who was flying north later in the week.

Check-in went smoothly with all the precautions that one might expect. Prior to leaving home, we had to complete our menu choices in advance for the three days that we would be staying there. The dining room was off limits. Meals are delivered in brown paper bags to your room, left out in the hallway. I was hoping that the brown bag would contain a nice bottle of Ruby Rouge. (If you’re under the age of 60, Google this fine plonk!).  It would just seem to be appropriate! Supper is delivered at 5:00 p.m. I arrived at the hotel at 6:30. Do you have any idea how 90 -minute old, cold, dried out grilled hake tastes? Actually, not too shabby if you wash it down with a glass of red wine from a 375 ml bottle costing only $27. In case you don’t pay attention to things like liquid volumes, this is a half-bottle of wine. I plan to go on the wagon.

The center piece of my three day stay in Montreal was my Covid-19 test which took place yesterday. Women tell me that a mammogram is quite unpleasant. A rectal exam for prostate in men is an amusing piece of medicine. I can now add a Covid test to one of those things that rates right up there in “necessary but uncomfortable” procedures. They do a swab of your mouth which is straight forward unless you are subject to a gag reflex. The nasal examination is another matter. A lovely nurse places a swab in your nostril and as far as I can tell, the object is to have the swab reach the Northwest Passage. “Count to 10, breathe easily, and relax.” Yeah. Right. I’m kind of overdoing it but it’s a few seconds in your life and it is critically important.

As I write this, I breathlessly await my lunch. I can’t remember what I ordered. There is a liquor store nearby.

I just might have to go on a liquid diet until I reach my final destination on Saturday.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. If I survive the hotel food, I might do a “Northern Pillow Talk” Saturday evening.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on July 27, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

 

Cranberry almond scone – Dancing Goat Cafe and bakery

 

 

Trials of the Cabot Trail.

Last Wednesday, I took a spin around the Cabot Trail…in a car! I decided that a circumnavigation of the Trail on foot was a once in a lifetime event. The purpose of my trip was to drop off complimentary copies of my new book to people who had provided me food and lodging during my 10 day adventure. I hit the road at 6:15 a.m. under brilliant sunny skies.

My first stop was at the home of Bill Cameron in Margaree Forks. Bill gave me a place to sleep on my very first day of the walk, along with a world class fried baloney sandwich. On this morning, he invited me to go for breakfast at The Dancing Goat Café and Bakery in North East Margaree. I had the best breakfast sandwich that I have ever eaten. Ham and eggs along with genuine cheddar cheese were sandwiched between two pieces of the most delicious bisquits imaginable. There was also a handful of grapes on the plate and the coffee was exquisite. When we were standing in line to order, I noticed a fresh batch of cranberry almond scones. Before leaving the café, I bought a box of 6. If there is even a remote possibility that these are served in heaven, I will immediately change my wayward ways. If you’re driving through the Margarees, you must go there. https://www.facebook.com/DancingGoatCafe

Bill is featured in my book on page 18.

The effects of the pandemic were stark. Countless motels, restaurants, and gift shops were shuttered tight. What was shockingly obvious was the dearth of traffic. Normally at this time of the year, the going is slow with many vehicles and campers clogging the byways. Not on this day. There were long stretches, sometimes 10 kilometers or more that I didn’t see a single vehicle. It was eerie, surreal, and quite sad. Of the dozens of times that I’ve done the Trail, even in winter, it never felt so bleak and deserted It seemed like I was the only one traveling. Having said this, there are still enough businesses open that one shouldn’t be deterred from taking a trip to see this iconic wonder of Nova Scotia.

The last stop of the day was at The Clucking Hen. Their motto? “No Fowl Moods”! This restaurant and bakery is one of my absolute “must go to” places when I’m doing the Trail. Melody and her staff are fantastic and so is the food. Melody accepted my book and handed it to a young staff member. She flipped through the pages and was astonished to see her name in print. Navgot is from the Punjab region of India and she and her friend Jyoti, are students at Cape Breton University. Last summer, the girls were working at the Funky Country Chicks restaurant in Grand Etang, specializing in Indian food. I met them during my walk and I enjoyed some authentic Indian cooking and wonderful conversation. The business has changed ownership and the menu has changed. You can read about my encounter with these lovely people on page 25 of my new book.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the tourism sector. As part of your staycation this summer, why not take a trip around the Cabot Trail. It remains one of the most spectacular places on the planet.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

I try not to watch too much news south of the border. It is depressing and distressing to watch a once great country unravel at the seams. I also avoid commenting on the current state of affairs in the Dis-United States of America. The continuing scourge of overt racism and the mismanagement of the pandemic fill the airwaves daily.

Another issue that just won’t go away in our country and just about every other country in the world is violence towards women. This takes many forms and I won’t go into this in any detail. We’re all too well aware of this. The other day, a male United States Congressman lobbed a volley of insults towards Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her response needs to be heard and shared over and over again. I share it with you here. https://youtu.be/_dzqrdHVE2g.

Have a great week.

 

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A Helping of Hamish

Posted on July 24, 2020 under Faces in the Crowd with 3 comments

So long, Hamish

A few years ago, I sat down with Hamish in the staff lunch room at the Antigonish 5 to $1.00 to conduct an interview. Hamish died earlier this week and he will leave a gaping hole in the lives of his family, his community and of course, his beloved place of work, the Antigonish 5 to $1.00. He had a rich full life and he knew just about everyone in the store. Those he didn’t know would quickly enter Hamish’s sphere! There’s a lot of talk these days about essential workers.  I think that Hamish is one of those people that will be hard to replace. Reprinted here is the interview.

Ask any business person what the key to running a successful operation and they will quickly point out that it’s their staff. Forty three years ago, the late Creighton Jewkes made one of his most astute hires.

Meet Hamish MacGillivray.

A young 18 year old lad began his working career at the 5 to $1.00 in 1973. And in the natural course of things, this is where he will end it. But don’t hold your breath. When asked what he might do at the age of 65, Hamish replied, “ I’ll probably keep working.”

Good thing. According to one of the owners of the business, Hamish is “the heartbeat of the operation. The store is very quiet on the days that Hamish doesn’t work.

On warm summer days, Hamish can be seen driving in from “The Point” on his motorized scooter. This is his pride and joy. And when the winter winds howl and his bike is grounded, neighbors and friends drive him back and forth to work and home.

Hamish is passionate about Chinese food, Daryl MacLean’s “Beach Party” on Friendly 58 and the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is not 100% sure why he keeps cheering for the Leafs!

Asked what he likes most about his job and he quickly points out that helping customers is the thing that is most important to him.

One could easily argue that Hamish embodies both the heart and soul of a business that has served the community for a long time.

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