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August 15, 2017

After a lovely, longish chunk of writing yesterday morning, what did I do? Let’s see. I watered the garden and picked some veg. Then I did my French homework. Then I put the final touches on the newsletter for the Players and sent it out. And then that stupid bloody part of my brain that registers these things realised I hadn’t made my daily vow. After which I played spider solitaire for at least four hours. Seriously? For fuck sake. Okay. That was yesterday. This is today and today I will not play stupid bloody spider solitaire. Now, where was I? Oh, yes.

Back in the 1990s Mike and I took our first trip to Tofino – part holiday, part a show of support for the Clayoquot protest camp. After we’d turned off for Port Alberni we took an unexpected detour. Mike wanted to show me something his kids had always loved: the goats on the roof in Coombs. Yes, in the summer there are goats who live on the roof of one of the buildings, eating grass grown on the roof for them. Quite the little tourist attraction.

In May 2011, when Irmani came out to visit after Mike’s death the weather wasn’t very good for the month – cold and drizzly. I promised her I would give her the first nice day off from painting and take her somewhere off island. After considering a number of possible destinations she opted for Cathedral Grove, a protected area of old growth forest on Vancouver Island. In the intervening years I’d forgotten about the goats on the roof, but when we made the turn off to Port Alberni, I saw a sign for Coombs and remembered. I told Irmani we were going to take a little detour. She was as delighted by the goats on the roof as I had been. (We did stop off there in March a couple of years later on our way to Tofino, but it was too early in the year for the goats to be on the roof.)

Last Monday we decided to repeat that first outing. It was August, so of course the goats were on the roof.

05 goats

Unfortunately it hadn’t occurred to me that it was also a bank holiday and the place was absolutely teeming with tourists. Far less pleasant than our previous visits. Stopped for lunch and headed back up the road.

To get to Cathedral Grove at one point you drive beside the shore of Lake Cameron. As is often the case Irmani surprised me by knowing something about BC that I did not. Apparently cryptozoologists believe there is a “monster” in Cameron Lake. Possibly a huge sturgeon, possibly a giant eel or salamander. I had no idea.

cameron lake monster

Visitors to British Columbia love Cathedral Grove. And why wouldn’t they? Where else could they see old growth cedars and Doug firs?

cathedral grove

Well, once upon a time they could have seen them all over Vancouver Island and in many other parts of the province. But they took all the trees and left a little tree museum. At least they don’t charge the people a dollar and a half to see them.

The “they” in question is the logging companies, which, with the blessing of various provincial governments, stripped most of Vancouver Island and much of the province of its old growth forest. One of those companies was MacMillan Bloedell (the focus of the Clayoquot protests). Cathedral Grove is located in MacMillan Provincial Park. Yes, that MacMillan, who oh so generously agreed to leave a couple of hundred hectares untouched for posterity. Wanker.

Whilst tourists visiting leave Cathedral Grove with a sense of awe, most British Columbians leave with a sense of loss. As Joni Mitchell also said, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

During our first trip to Cathedral Grove, Irmani and I spotted and visited the Qualicum Trading Post.

trading post

We popped in again. Last time Irmani bought Jonno a wolf tooth. I suggested a bear tooth this time, but she pointed out it would just sit in a drawer along with the wolf tooth. She picked up a fridge magnet while I salivated over a leather handbag which was screaming “Buy me!”  I cannot tell you how much I coveted that bag. It was $85. If I hadn’t bought tickets for the theatre festival this coming weekend, I might have been able to persuade myself, but I had so I couldn’t. I simply  do not have $85 to spare. I hate being fucking poor. I said goodbye to the bag.

A visit to the lovely little independent book shop in Qualicum (where I did spend some money) and a wander around the town. It’s quaint and looks like exactly what it is: a large retirement community.

Back to Gabriola for dinner at Woodfire, where I was reminded that Irmani is quite a traditionalist when it comes to pizza toppings. (So, no Sandwell with prawns or Breakwater with crab.) Unable to find a pizza on which we both agreed, she ordered a small one for herself and I had the crab cake appetiser. (Oh, my god, it was delicious.)

And now a little detour…

Before I came back to Gabriola in 2008, when I was still living in London, the walls of the tube stations were plastered with posters for the release of the film version of Mamma Mia. The show began life as a musical in the West End and continued to run all through the 2000s. Not once had I ever been tempted to see it. Nor did I have any interest in seeing the film version. I was quite surprised when, the week it opened, it was one of the features on Newsnight Review, the panel of which generally discussed rather more serious cultural events in the country. One of the reviewers that evening was a po-faced Irish poet who seldom liked anything. I expected him to be withering. Instead he sighed heavily and conceded that it was impossible to watch Meryl Streep having that much fun without enjoying yourself. Really?

The following Friday I managed to persuade a sceptical Irmani to see the film with me. In the pub after watching the late screening we both agreed we would have happily sat through it again had there been an option to do so. What’s not to love about the film? There’s the exuberance of Dancing Queen, the hilarity of Julie Walters singing Take a Chance, and of course the fantastic switcheroo on Does Your Mother Know (a song I had until ten considered quite pervy). I loved the latter so much that I included it in last year’s panto. And then, of course, there was this, the moment at the end when I thought I was actually going to pee my pants with laughter.

mamma mia

Suffice to say the film has subsequently become a bit of a tradition for Irmani and me. So no surprise that when we got home after dinner at Woodfire I looked at her and said, “Mamma Mia?” she gleefully agreed. As always it delivered.

And that was Monday.

To be continued…

From → Blog

  1. krysross permalink

    hmmm. presume the title refers to the spider solitaire from the day before.

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