|My grandmother aka "Nan".|
The trip itself was uneventful, at least for me. We got off work early, ran some errands, then packed and I slept for an hour before Auntie Em came to collect us in her teeny little blue car around 4 am. We squeezed in and I made myself comfy and slept in the back.
Sometimes it's good to be fun sized.
We got to the ferry and cooled our jets on the lot as we waited to board.
Auntie Em took a look at her receipt. She had admitted to being a senior citizen and received a discount.
"I just saved $1.30".
"For $1.30 I wouldn't even admit to being a senior," said Mom.
After years of traveling on their ferries, Auntie Em has little love for Marine Atlantic. "Fuck them! They're not getting my $1.30. If I go across 3 or 4 times I save enough to buy something."
Mom and I were laughing by then. "A coffee!" I told them. "You can buy yourself a cup of coffee after 2 trips!"
I slept most of the way across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This was the first time I'd ever been on the Vision and unlike a lot of family I've spoken to I liked it a lot better than the old ferries. It's smaller but laid out better if you ask me.
The Rainbow Bright styled lounge was a bit hard on the eyes but I liked the bench seats and since there was almost no one on the boat I had plenty of space and quiet to stretch out and nap.
|The colourful lounge on the Vision ferry.|
Once I awoke we decided to head in for dinner and again, huge improvement here. There's a decent restaurant atmosphere instead of the former school cafeteria and the food has improved greatly also.
No more undercooked cold French fries and soggy expensive hot dogs. We enjoyed soup and fresh bread, followed by two nice sized pieces of fresh cod, and a strawberry shortcake and coffee for dessert for around $17 including taxes. If we had preferred we could have chosen baked lasagna or braised beef instead.
Dinner didn't start out that great for me though. I had half of my slice of fresh bread gone and Auntie Em picked up her slice, looked at it for a few seconds, then sniffed it.
"Is something amiss?" I asked, suddenly having visions of moldy bread. I had no wish to be sick.
Mom saw the look of disgust and horror on my face and burst out laughing. "She just does that. Nan does it too."
"Yeah I don't know why," said Auntie Em, and to my relief started chowing down on the bread.
When the crowd is large there is a buffet to choose selections from, and there's a second bar in the restaurant area as well. The gift shop is smaller and still pricey, but I like the plethora of Newfoundland products some of which I had never seen before.
|Mom and Auntie Em in the Vision restaurant.|
We rolled off the boat and headed to the liquor store which - squeeeeeeeee - takes Air Miles, something that will also happen in Nova Scotia in February. Considering what I drop on booze every payday, especially during hockey season, I should be able to fly around the world for free inside of six months.
As Auntie Em chauffeured us down the town's main street, I started taking deep breaths.
If you've never lived by the sea the thing you'd notice most is the smell. There's salt in the air, salt in the earth, and salt in your skin. If you don't love salt maybe you'd better stick to the mountains, but I was born by the sea and have lived with its aroma the better part of my life so it's like perfume to me.
My grandmother's house has its own smell too. When I was a child it was mostly baking smells overriding even the saltiest fog air. The delicious scents of fresh baked bread, apple pies, blueberry grunts, banana bread and lemon loaf wafted through her kitchen on any given day.
Her health is such that she doesn't bake her own goodies anymore, and the salty sea air has long since permeated her home.
Nan was sitting at her kitchen table working on her latest jigsaw puzzle when we walked in. She had expected only Mom and got Auntie Em and me as well. She was so surprised she couldn't complete her first two sentences as she stared up at Mom in shock.
"What are you doing... I thought you weren't coming..."
She finally spotted Auntie Em and me. "You fuckers!"
At 89 my grandmother's health is not the best, but it seems she's still got piss and vinegar to spare. This is good because she's going to need it.
Port-aux-Basques, if you don't care to google map it, is surrounded by water on three sides and is backed by the mountains on a fourth. There is always a wind blowing, and it's usually cold. The locals are used to it and anything above 20 degrees leads to widespread comparisons to tropical heat, melting, suffering and burning in the fiery pits of hell.
Halifax is much warmer and I've been living here for 20 years so my cold wind tolerance levels have dropped significantly and in my lightweight jacket I was ill prepared for the temperature difference. Even Nan agreed it was nippy, though she seemed unaffected by it.
She paused on her deck while I shivered and huddled behind her.
"Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey," she observed, apparently in no hurry to get warm.
"If we can find a brass monkey I'm perfectly willing to test that theory," I told her from between chattering teeth.
We spent the long weekend with her doing jigsaw puzzles and fortifying ourselves against the cold with copious amounts of rum. We also visited the relatives, both living and dead, and parked our asses on my cousin's couch to watch a Habs game.
I gave him one of our Stompin' Tom Habs bottle openers, which his four year old daughter Abby greatly enjoyed. She has a couple of Habs jerseys and her father, my cousin, has done a fabulous job of warping her into a Canadiens fan.
Though she's only four she knows her letters and I encouraged her to write to Santa Claus for the thing she wanted most, which is apparently a toy walking dog. So now in addition to drinking their booze and hogging their TV all night, I've put my cousin and his girlfriend on the hook for a $70 toy dog.
God knows why they didn't throw me out of their house for all that but then again they are good Newfoundland salt-of-the-earth types in addition to being blood, so they took it like troopers.
I also wrangled a personalized tour of the town by strong arming my cousin Sharon into playing tour guide. The photos of the storm spraying the rocks didn't come out as I had hoped but I did get a nice shot of the wharf which lay still and quiet in the harbour.
It's so much easier to enjoy the storm when you're not on the ferry during one. A coworker's family got held up for over a day in town because the ferry couldn't get through, but we beat it by coming over a day earlier than we had planned.
|Dories nestled in the harbour next to the defunct fish plant.|
During our stay we invited ourselves to dinner at my great aunt Flo's and absconded with a jacket and some jigsaw puzzles. Mom managed to get a coat and the very last bottle of bakeapple jam for my brother's wife Zee after some hard work whining about it for almost a half hour.
At the Salvation Army store I bought a nice black London Fog pea coat in mint condition for $6.25 and we got Nan a good winter coat for the same price as well. For Da Nephew we brought home a toy puffin he promptly named Pete and Bro got a hockey t-shirt.
Speaking of shirts, Zee has opened her own online store. It's called GirlFight and while I am obsessed with hockey, Zee is into kickboxing, so if that's your thing you might want to check it out.
If you follow me on twitter you know by now that my uncle was found lying freezing without proper clothing outside of his home in the early morning. He sustained a head injury and was rushed to hospital in Corner Brook by ambulance accompanied by a doctor and a nurse.
The man is a lifelong alcoholic and it seems his hard ways have caught up with him, as the doctors do not expect him to survive the night. While we were not close and I will not pretend care for him, I do not wish that on anyone let alone a blood relative.
He is my grandmother's last remaining son, her eldest boy having taken his own life years ago. Nan is full of piss and vinegar, but her own health is not good. She has suffered strokes which have weakened her heart and left her with a limp and requiring home care.
As I type my mother and Auntie Em are on their way back to Newfoundland to attempt to bring her comfort and deal with the necessary arrangements for my uncle. Thank you to all who have offered me their prayers and kind words, which have moved me to tears and brought me some comfort today. God bless.