The Chorus Of Newfoundland August 28 2014, 0 Comments
It was like a refrain.
It haunted us through the first province of the journey, following us as we sped down the highways, greeting us at unexpected corners on the backroads, or looming out of the darkness as we arrived at our destination. With every slight variation in the weather he uttered it like a challenge.
'Looks like a clear day!' He'd exclaim merrily. 'Think we've escaped it this time!'
I tried to explain my superstitious tendencies, yet somehow it was hard to be taken seriously while spinning around thrice clockwise and once anti clockwise before desperately searching for some salt. Despite this, Brendan would continue to release the weather provoking challenges into the ether. The locals laughed as we arrived at various cafes sopping wet searching for somewhere warm where we could fill our bellies with piping hot soup and coffee.
'We've had the hottest summer we've ever had this year!' They cried! 'Thirty degrees and clear skies all July!'
August was making up for that pretty quickly. When I decided to look at the forecast for the week after we would leave and saw the small smiling sun icons coupled with 30 degree highs, I knew that we had angered the weather gods of Newfoundland.
'At least it can't get any worse!' He uttered to my complete disbelief.
Hurricane Bertha appeared off the coast of Avalon to the surprise of meteorologists across the country. This happened to coincide with our visit with an alarming accuracy. I considered trying to explain to Brendan that this was entirely his fault, but felt this might result in a fresh assault of weather jinxing statements. Instead, I installed some easily accessible wood in the car, for all of my anti-jinx knocking needs.
Rain, however, was not enough to quench the beauty of Newfoundland, but rather seem to release a vibrant intensity in the landscape the likes of which I have never seen. Newfoundland, (pronounced Newf-en-land (and usually mumbled)), is an island off the eastern coast of Canada boasting a time zone specifically created for themselves, thirty minutes different to the rest of Atlantic Canada. The fact that the province only officially joined the country in 1949 may explain how the Newfoundland accent came to be so unique compared to the rest of Canada, resting somewhere between Gaelic, Canadian and some inscrutable Nordic thrown in for good measure. However, their unique time zone, amazing accents and indecipherable sayings (Who knit ye? Ach, think they missed a stitch o' two!) aren't all that makes the province unique. The landscape transforms around every bend. Treeless mongolian-esque mountains sprout from moose filled grassy plains. Rocky beaches line the coast spotted with leaping playful whales. Fjords slice their way through mountains that rocket into the sky from the sea. Icebergs float south casually south before eventually disintegrating into the sea.
The first recognised discoverer of the province, Giovanni Caboto, now fondly recalled as John Cabot, declared that the fish of Newfoundland were so thick that you could walk on water. Of course two hundred years later, the cod that had so densely inhabited the waters had been fished almost to eradication. The Newfoundland government declared that restrictions must be enforced and instated a limit on the permitted number of fish. Five fish per person, per day was apparently an appropriately low number to allow the cod to regenerate their numbers. Many of the local fisherman see this new law as smirk worthy as the ban on seal hunting.
In fact the one thing the cod fishing restrictions seem to accomplish was the demise of Newfoundland's economic lifeblood, the cod fisheries. While oil eventually would take its place, tourism never seemed to become a considered option, despite the incredibly rich culture, wildlife and landscapes. In fact tourism seems to act more as a means for the Newfoundlanders to amuse themselves at the expense of the tourists. Of course, being some of the friendliest people in the world, after you've been made the but of this tourist joke, you are then granted honorary Newfoundlander status and are encouraged to laugh along at any of the proceeding tourists.
The tradition I am talking about is screeching in. This tradition varies in its potency depending on the creativity and means of the screecher. The average tourist finds themselves face to face with a loud and incomprehensible Newfoundlander. At this point you may find you have your feet in a bucket of water, that you have an ugly stick being waved at you, and that you're being asked to repeat things that you have no chance in hell of comprehending.
Long may yer big jib draw?
Indeed me is me old cock?
At this point a fish, or fish head depending on your financial tightness, is thrust at your mouth. I personally had a fish head, that I was pretty sure was several days old, shoved into my mouth in a very unwilling french kiss. After this rather unfortunate snog, you have a certificate thrust into your hand claiming that you are an honorary Newfoundland citizen.
I'm not complaining.
I've already found my future home on Fogo Island, Newfoundland.
I'd french a lot more fish to live there.