Saturday, December 02, 2006

Newfoundland - Epilogue

Continued from Part 4

A few loose ends from the Newfoundland trip to wrap up. We had roast chicken for dinner the night we returned, obtained as take-out from a well-known roast chicken restaurant chain. By bedtime, Corwin was vomiting. At the time, we assumed a stomach bug, but a subsequent event weeks later correlated with food from the same roast chicken outlet led us to suspect food poisoning. At the time, we believed it was a stomach bug, so the weekend was one of enforced rest.

Back in Norris Point, Judy Reid had a group of guests for the cottage arriving immediately after us -- they reported my two books and Judy very kindly mailed them back to me. I had them within a week of getting home. I sent Judy a cheque for postage -- or as I described it at the time, I effectively assessed myself a "stupidity tax" for my brainlessness in walking away without them.

August was a very full month. Ten days after we got back from Newfoundland, Jill and Corwin and I set out for California, to the World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim.

After that, September, October and November were also pretty hectic months at work. I managed to write the first two parts of the trip report, just after the Autumnal Equinox, but the rest of it languished until I got an e-mail from my newly discovered cousin Tak, wondering if I was ever going finish the trip write-up. So thanks to him, I got the motivation to convert my very sketchy notes into the two final parts of the Newfoundland trip report.

Some brief notes about music. In Canada, Quebec gets all the press about being a "distinct society", which is true. Quebec's primary language is French, and the Quebecois people have historical and cultural traditions that are separate from the Canadian mainstream. This includes music and the arts.

However, Newfoundland is also a distinct society within Canada. It was once effectively a separate nation - the Dominion of Newfoundland. The people of Newfoundland are quite ethnically homogenous. Their origins are primarily Ireland and England. Newfoundland was the first outpost of the British Empire. When it was first claimed in the name of the English king by John Cabot in 1497, it was the first act that would lead a small island nation to becoming an Imperial power that would dwarf Rome.

The first Irish colonists arrived within the first hundred years that followed Newfoundland's annexation. Ethnologists have studied remote Newfoundland outports for the unique insights that they could provide on Irish language, Irish customs, Irish culture, all as they were 400 years ago.

I first encountered Newfoundland folk music in the late 70s or early 80s when the department responsible for promoting tourism in Newfoundland mounted a television ad campaign in Ontario. They used a fragment of a song which immediately grabbed me, and which I later discovered was called "Cape St. Mary's". In the early to mid 90s, Jill and I were driving somewhere one morning, and listening to the CBC. They played a few tracks from a new album by a band from Newfoundland called The Irish Descendants, including "Cape St. Mary's". We bought the album the same day.

By the late 90s, I was working in Newfoundland, and on the basis of the song, I visited the place -- and Cape St. Mary's was one of the most starkly beautiful places I have ever encountered. I have written previously of my disappointment in not being able to see Cape St. Mary's on this trip. This is the place that most embodies Newfoundland for me, and whose imagery was so important for me in the difficult mental and intellectual process of recasting my life as an employee to that of independent contractor in 1997.

Going to Newfoundland in 1997 gave me a chance to find and experience Newfoundland music first hand. For the trip report titles, I used some favourites.

Arriving To St. John's is an instrumental piece -- a jig -- on the album "All The Best", a collection of traditional Newfoundland songs.

Free In The Harbour is by Stan Rogers - a song about an expatriate from the east Coast who goes west to find work, and recalls the freedom of whales at play in the harbour at home.

Rolling of The Sea is by The Irish Descendants - a song about the relationship between Newfoundlanders and the ocean.

Finally, Ode to Newfoundland was the song that was effectively the national anthem of Newfoundland. Musically, this one is the weakest of the four, but I needed an appropriate title :-)

I didn't use any song titles from Great Big Sea, the other well-known Newfoundland band, but this was not a deliberate omission. Great Big Sea have done some very good albums.

There were only two things which were disappointing about our trip, and neither of them were correctable in the context of the trip and how it progressed. First was my failed attempt to return to Cape St. Mary's. The other thing that I was disappointed in was the food -- I would have liked to have had lobster a couple more times, to have had a real Newfoundland Jigg's Dinner, to have eaten at the Newfoundland Fusion restaurant down the street from the hotel.

Despite the disappointments, was this a good vacation? Hell, yes -- it was outstanding! We had fun, no one got hurt, there were no major arguments, no one got divorced, the children came away with some great memories, and we all got to stand on a piece of Mars on Earth (or the last remaining piece of Laurasia -- take your pick). How could this NOT have been a great vacation?

Newfoundland Trip Report Links
Part 1 - Arriving To St. John's
Part 2 - Free in the Harbour
Part 3 - Rolling of the Sea
Part 4 - Ode To Newfoundland