My godfather was Canadian. In truth, he was born a Brit, but that’s not as romantic. He went to school with my dad and emigrated to Canada in his thirties, set up an airline that flew from Fort Nelson to various points north, initially hunting parties but increasingly oil based ferrying. I must have met him, obviously but I have no real memories of him until he and his family had a holiday with us in the 1970s. My abiding memory then is of his Canadian accent and the fact he had struggled with gas, which I assumed was something relating to an inability to fart (not a problem in my family) but turned out to be due to the lack of petrol stations near where we lived in the middle of nowhere. I also recall his being incapable with laughter when we talked about where we lived as the middle of nowhere; he put me right on that.
Either side of that somewhat bizarre encounter, he regularly supplied me with gifts that stirred some interest – longing might be too big a word – to visit. Maybe that was the genesis of the holiday that eventually came together over a few weeks in the summer of 2013.
One thing I learnt when the children became senior teens was that my two weren’t the sort to miss out on foreign travel even with their parents. At this point they were 20 and 23 and in full time education still, so had the time; couple that with a lack of money and a trip to Canada ticked several boxes. The fact that, this time I’d been determined that this would be a holiday for just the Textiliste and me meant nothing to them. Any more than the itinerary I’d been designing. Oh no, that all had to change.
Hey, I’m a flexible chap and they have great ideas. But I did put my foot down on one aspect and I’m glad I did. Were they glad? You’ll have to wait and see.
Tuesday August 6th, 2013 and I’m nervous. Let me quote from my journal to give you a flavour of my state of mind.
‘Sunny, at Heathrow T3 on way to Canada. So what is the day to be, a day for nerve ends jangling and jingling until it’s over, only it’s not over is it? It just keeps coming. How do we survive; how do we cope? Not sure what the attraction to travel is right now – when the day comprises anxiety and tiredness. There’s nothing relaxing bout this, there’s none of the ‘broadening the mind ‘ ‘exposed to new cultures’. Just a gnawing feeling in the congealed porridge of my stomach. will we get to T3 on time, have I booked the flight, have I used the correct names, will security throw up some unforeseen bottle or sharp implement, will the flight be called on time, or will I miss the call. The sense of relief when I sink into my seat and belt myself in … And yes, it’s then that the same mind games re-energise and near overwhelm – I’m going to be hurtling into space at 300 mph in an improbably large aircraft that, by all that’s rational shouldn’t leave the ground let alone reach 30,000 feet and fly to Canada. And that’s the start, the beginning of the stress. We land, we fill in immigration forms wondering if we need a visa; will the car hire be expecting us; will the car be big enough, will it have a map. will I remember to drive on the right, will I get completely lost in the airport, will I miss the turning, will I leave the freeway at the right place, will I get lost in the new city, will the hotel be expecting us, will we… I’m exhausted and that’s before the expectations of the family intrude – what shall we do, where shall we go, what shall we eat, how much time do we have…? Yep, holidays are a great way to relieve stress and recharge the batteries….’
Naturally, none of this came to pass; everything went smoothly…
Until we were about thirty minutes out of Calgary airport on the freeway on our way to our first stop in Banff, when we hit a nail and fishtailed to the hard shoulder with a blow out. ‘Oh well, said the Textiliste, ‘never mind. Are you going to change it or shall we see if we can call out a breakdown service?’
Oh she knows me so well. Prod my ego, just a little and…
‘I’ll do it. You’d better hop out.’ So there we were, on the edge of a freeway, with our mud coloured 4×4 about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike, me getting oily and maintaining my sangfroid despite my body clock ticking over towards two am, with the others chatting and planning (or was it plotting?). Yes, welcome to Canada, home of the randomly dispersed ironwork. Never has air travel seemed so attractive.
We made it to our hotel and checked in. It was the wee hours in the UK yet we went to find some food; even my journal suggests we were discombobulated by this…
‘getting downtown to find some food proved something of a challenge too far. We ate but I doubt any of us will remember the details – I think ‘Rosa’ was in the title and our waiter was new at his job and Jenni had a mozzarella thing called bocococincio or something…’
Next time, we visit Lake Louise as well as sort out a fresh spare tyre and then Morraine Lake and the Ten Peaks…. real Canada they tell us. I wonder of we’ll catch a glimpse of bears…?