August 11th, 2006

long beard

burnout and recovery

You know, when you see the same relatives every six waking hours on the hour and have an average of three servings of ice cream a day with said relatives and spend two weeks sleeping on an air mattress (with a later upgrade to a sofa-bed) - it gets tiring. Now just about everyone’s gone, and I have my own room, which I celebrated by taking a three-hour nap. This is pretty much the first day since I’ve been here that I’ve had mostly to myself, to do as I please. Vacation is hard work!

Ah, so where were we? The reunion went quite well. Highlights included showing off my volleyball skills learned in Poland (where they wiped the gym floor with me but upgraded me to a fourth-rate player in the process) and being present when a certain cousin (for once, not me) decided to break into song:

MC Heber: “And first we’ll have a song from-”
Ross (standing abruptly): “Ross Farley! ... Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light...

You had to be there. More recently, we all went up to Basin Head for an afternoon. The boys and I spent a good 30 minutes letting ourselves get beat around by the pounding surf (those white water waves can really push you around), and we left as soon as we got tired, taking 7 away in Grandma’s 5-passenger car and sticking to the back roads. That was at around 4pm. We left some of the girls there, confident that their mothers would be down at 5:30 as promised. Naturally Muriel’s husband Gerard caught a tuna and everyone was tied up at Naufrage Harbour all evening. Heather did get out to pick up her daughters and Muriel’s, who by then were hitchhiking.

Between the beach and the tuna and other things, it was busy - Aunt Shirley estimated that around 40 people passed through the house that day, and at one point there were eight cars in the driveway simultaneously. Poor Ruth-Ann got separated from her car keys and didn’t get back here and able to take her car (and her charge) back to her cottage until 3am. Her story is the most amusing in and of itself, but it’s so complicated that I can’t even understand it, much less tell it to others. I’ll have to ask her about it the next time I’m staying at her place in Toronto.

* * *

two nights ago:

My cousin Elizabeth from New York hosted a huge party at her rented cottage - she was a brilliant hostess, in a picturesque, charming, yet well-equipped lodge. Jim, Art (Jr.) and I had a ton of fun playing games with the kids. There were only two complicating factors: 1) I got the silly idea of calling up a girl I knew (we get on famously, although she isn’t single) and 2) Jim and Art wanted to head into Charlottetown to see the 9:30pm showing of The Descent (and were actively planning this, knowing I’d be able to drive them).

So then I was faced with two pressing concerns: 1) how to get out of a party that I kind of wanted to stay at, 2) how to keep my commitment to call this girl again with something to offer. I got the idea that maybe she could come along for the ride into Charlottetown, since she was complaining so much about being bored, but when I called her there was a boy’s voice in the background, and the reality that she had to work early in the a.m. came suddenly to the fore. I got the hint, and that problem solved itself.

Number One was harder, and it was almost 8:30 before we left, and it takes more than an hour to get into town from where we were. ,could safely I as fast as drove I but when I drove into Heber and Jennifer’s to pick up Trevor and Lindsay, I suddenly had no brakes. (It later turned out that the brake fluid line had rusted out - it’s likely that a stray pebble on their driveway struck what was left of it.)

Thinking only of making the show, we (perhaps foolishly) decided to make the trip in anyway, which I accomplished by staying a few hundred yards behind the cars ahead. I could still slow down with great effort, but sudden stops would have been out of the question. It was one of the more stressful drives I’ve ever had (I pictured all manner of expensive accidents), and in Nova Scotia I probably wouldn’t have even attempted it. Anyway, we did pretty well and were quite safe the entire trip.

I dropped everyone off at the theatre entrance at around 9:40 while I went to park the car. I came back to find them in the line, just after I too discovered that our show wasn’t in the options on the self-serve kiosks. When we came to the end of the line, we discovered the reason: the show actually started at 9! (Where the others got the idea it was a 9:30 show, we have no idea.) And between the rest of them, they’d seen every other movie available.

So we rented Hostel at Blockbuster and got ourselves snacks at Shoppers. We had a quiet, hilarious drive back to Dundas - we ran a couple of lights on the Bypass and then Art and I entertained everyone without really even trying (he’d ask me questions like, “Who would you rather share a room with, cousin x or y?” - you had to be there, although Lindsay and Trevor remarked that their sides were hurting as we got out of the car and into their house to watch the hard-earned DVD).

Thoughts on Hostel:
- Are travelling Americans really that superficial?
- I knew that hostel was too good to be true. Not just the girls, it was too clean.

Some parts of it were difficult to watch, and fortunately the featurettes on the DVD were so inane that I was able to terminate my suspension of disbelief more quickly than usual. I did have a nightmare that night that was set in Eastern Europe, but it wasn’t too scary, and it didn’t have anything to do with the movie.

* * *


Just as I was getting home that night around 2am, I realized that I’d agreed to help my dad unload straw at 8:30am that morning. I hustled to get to sleep on the sofa bed, got up way too early, and drove into Albion Cross with the compromised brakes.

That morning we unloaded 5 wagonloads of straw into a dusty loft in Red House. The dust and the heat made it rough going, and my hands are still tender as I write this, but it’s still better than working in a call centre. I had the opportunity to get reacquainted with Mitchell, and got to know David H., who knew Uncle Shane very well.

During the day, I drove the 41-year-old International tractor, with a hay wagon, back to Albion Cross (“I’m in 5th high?!” I exclaim as I trundle along at jogging speed), and said goodbye to Rachel, Craig, Beatrix and Cole, after we all enjoyed the official Springwater Farm hayride (the wood paths and the stop at the spring really make the ride) followed by lunch.

After we finished putting away the straw, Jim and Mary (on their way to Halifax to their flights home) dropped me off at the Campbell's garage to pick up Grandma’s car, now blessed with the ability to stop. Art then called to let me know I was invited to go to Elizabeth’s barbeque again (it had been split up over two nights so as to accommodate everyone), which was welcome news to me as I could give it my full attention. I was instructed to bring along Pictionary, a bat, and a tennis ball.

A complicating factor arose when I found my eyelids getting droopy as I crawled up Souris’ Main Street. I pulled into Aunt Shirley’s driveway, turned off the engine, let the seat back, and dozed for more than half-an-hour. And then I needed to check my e-mail, shower, etc.. so by the time I got to Elizabeth’s, it was just after 7pm, which was pushing fashionably late for a 6pm gathering.

As I was getting my things out of the car, Elizabeth’s 6-year-old son Skye (who is one of the most eloquent and literate 6-year-olds I’ve ever met) shouted at me, “Hey! Get a move on! You’re over an hour late! Where’s the bat?!” It was actually quite cute, because I was ridiculously late.

We ate. Dad and Melaney and my sisters Ila (7) and Rae (4) were with us that night, and Ila has these two exasperating habits: 1) running to greet me at high-speed, which is fine except that her impact occurs at the level of my belt if you gather me, and I need to turn myself around or otherwise slow her down to avoid painful mid-level compression; and 2) reaching at said belt to grab my “celly phone, celly phone,” which she likes to grab and then run off with. Last night I was busy eating and for various reasons I didn’t want to part with my phone just then, so I physically fended her off. Later Rae came up to me during a quiet moment and said, “William, may I please borrow your cell phone?” So I gave it to her, and then Rae went up to Ila and said, “Ila, I have William’s cell phone! Guess how I got it? I asked him for it.” Ila pouted and probably deliberately resisted the point.

Later that night us kids avoided playing General Fruitbasket and instead got a good game of Pictionary going, since there were too many mosquitoes to comfortably play outside. We boys were having a good go at it until Jennifer came and joined the girls’ side, at which point the girls got halfway around the board and caught up to us.

Digression: I don’t like this Canadian-edition Pictionary as much as the older editions. There are way too many “All Plays” and I don’t like drawing for an All Play because it rushes me (but I love guessing for them, as you can sneak a glance or two at the other teams’ drawing), plus the new board and cards are kind of ugly compared to the classic style. Nevertheless, the fun remained.

* * *


In Souris the next morning I purchased a phone card for BJ and picked up my cell phone charger from the post office (and returned BJ’s - just in time, for she leaves tomorrow). I drove out to Albion Cross in the early afternoon to help bale some straw, but it turned out I wasn’t needed. It was an innocent miscommunication, but I still had the opportunity to return Rae’s soccer gear and fix Melaney’s printer.

Ross and Laurie left this morning, so I now have a room, and as I indicated, I was ripe for a nap when I got back from the country. We went down to Sheila’s for a bit for a combined birthday party for some of Uncle Shane’s nieces and nephews, and now for the first time in what seems like forever, I’ve had the time and energy to blog. I hope it wasn’t too tiresome for you.

Tomorrow: Unloading the straw that was baled today. Sunday: A Matheson gathering down at the farm. Sometime: Write a Farm Mutual scholarship application and somehow get something done with those Ukraine pictures...