Today began as yesterday ended with some email news, but this time it was GOOD internet news, news that made me do a little dance – Eimskip (the greatest cargo freighter company IN THE WORLD) has said that I can hitch on their boat to Iceland that gets in next Tuesday. Wooooooooo!
Although that does mean I have to endure a whole WEEK in Halifax. Boooooooo!
With Patricia leaving on a train (she’s planning to go over the Niagara Falls in a barrel) and Toby moving into a house with his Kiwi girlfriend, the old Halifax Backpackers was beginning to look emptier than Paris Hilton’s noggin after a particularly virulent dose of Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis has turned the stupid cow’s brain to mush and then dribbled like soggy playdoh out of her ears.
Luckily, it was a case of COUCHSURFING TO THE RESCUE as a lovely chap called James (CouchSurf ambassador for Halifax, no less!) swooped down from above and plonked me down in front of the telly with his two teenage sons just in time to watch Lost. Huzzah!
I’d like to say today past in a drunken blur, but it was more of just a blur. I slept in far too much. James’s house is proper solid Canadian fare – situated right beside a huge frozen lake and surrounded by trees, but it’s miles from anywhere – so it kind of forces me to GET ON WITH EDITING MY PODCASTS. Although, you and I both know that procrastination is my special X-men like power, so you can probably guess how much I actually got done. Sorry, Dino.
Anyways, it looks like I should be in Liverpool for 19th April, so that should be a good night out followed by a crazy 24 hour tour of the UK the day after, so make sure you’re there.
That night I went for a few drinks in the Elephant and Castle (yes there is one here too) and watched a few bands with James and a couple of his mates. Funnily enough, a load of people there were at the house party earlier in the week. Halifax is a rather small, albeit frozen, pond.
You really have no idea how itchy my feet become when confronted with a few days of inactivity – I feel like learning to Riverdance, just to give the damn things something to do.
So I wasted today like a typical arts student waiting for Countdown to start but luckily for me (and just like a typical arts student), I managed to get about ten minutes of work done before somebody (James) suggested we go out boozing.
SO…out we went to the – by now – painfully generic Irish bar, where I was grilled by a lawyer that didn’t believe that, a) there was such a thing as the Chinese Sky Train and, b) I was visiting every country in the world this year. Point a) was proven by skipping onto the internet via a friend’s Blackberry, point b) was a little more difficult to prove. Now you all know that I admire a certain amount of open-mindedness (i.e. NOT believing EVERYTHING some drunk tells you in a pub, GIRLS…I’M LOOKING AT YOU), but she really didn’t have to make me list the name of every country I was going to and explain how I was getting into said country.
But I did anyway and she was mighty impressed. I, on the other hand, was mighty croaky and needed another drink. Although I guess it is proof, if proof were needed, that I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING. It’s only when the DAMN U.S. government lure me into piddle traps of bureaucratic infestitude that this whole Odyssey thing goes off the rails for a few weeks. I SHOULD BE IN AFRICA BY NOW. ARRRRRRRGH!!!
By the way, NOT believing EVERYTHING some drunk tells you in a pub is NOT THE SAME as being closed minded. OK? It’s being sensible. It’s like saying that if you bother to look both ways before you cross the road, you’re being closed minded. If something sounds really silly and utterly illogical, it’s probably because IT’S JUST MADE-UP, YOU MORON. Just because the moron spouting this horse manure believes his own fairy story, it doesn’t mean you have to. The default position next time someone begins banging on some claptrap about Princess Diana being assassinated or Neil and Buzz not landing on the Moon, is to not believe a thing until you have personally looked at the evidence, okay?
However, girls (and it’s usually always girls) aren’t built that way and continue to labour under the misapprehension that men (and it’s usually always men) have the ability to talk to the dead (who never tell us anything useful), magically see the future (but didn’t see September 11th coming) and can determine what’s going to happen to your share portfolio and your love life this week by looking at the night sky, even when it’s really cloudy or the city lights make it impossible to see anything of a lower magnitude than Formulhaut.
In fact, I’d be surprised if any of those bloody zodiac cretins had even heard of Formulhaut, much less point it out to anyone who blah blah blah… WHOOP WHOOP TANGENT ALERT!!
Sorry about that, back to the main feature……..
The weird thing is that before I visited Canada, I assumed it was full of beardy blokes who look like Matt Eland in a plaid shirt and cute dark haired girls who look like Debbie Fineberg only wearing more layers… AND THEY DO!
Nasty ethnic stereotypes, AHOY! Next thing you know, I’ll be in the Middle East assuming every male in the vicinity has a beard and a rather incurable case of arrested development. But I’ve been there before, so THAT WOULD BE CHEATING.
Anyway, back from the pub now, it’s as stormy as the backdrop to a Hammer Horror movie outside, but luckily for you, I’m sufficiently lubricated to sit here and write this pretentious horse twaddle. Bear in mind that I’m just trying to make you laugh because I hear that girls like a bloke with a sense of humour, although I personally think they prefer a bloke that just makes up random stuff and throws it at them in the style of a monkey in the zoo pelting somebody’s grandmother with his poo.
Talking of horses, it’s the Grand National tomorrow. I’m voting for ‘Priest’s Leap’ and ‘Fundamentalist’. I have no idea why they appeal, they just do, okay.
Still in Halifax, then. It’s not worth my while heading back into America to get on another boat as none of them go to Iceland, and I don’t want to waste another week or so getting there and back. James was out in the morning playing rugby, but in the afternoon he came back and dropped me off at the Backpackers. He would have let me stay at his place longer, but I felt it would be rude to intrude for more than three nights. And besides, I’d get to see more of Halifax from the Backpackers than I would from his place in Waverley.
But we made arrangements to go out on a short tour of Nova Scotia tomorrow, so this isn’t the last we will hear of James.
That night, there was a short-film festival going on over the road from the Backpackers, so after playing a few rounds of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with Aiden the Northern Irish bartender in our place, I headed on over. I’ve got to say that most of the films where remarkably good. Really, really good. Okay, so there were a couple of rubbish ones involving crap black and white quirkyness, but on the whole, I was blown away by the quality and craftsmanship that had gone into these things.
After a few drinks, I met up with Travis from the Backpackers and we ended up going on a bit of an adventure around Halifax town, which culminated in me falling into the Backpackers at some ungodly hour and falling fast asleep. GOOD NIGHT HAD BY ALL THEN!
Today I met up with James and we headed out with Rocky the dog, to visit (wait for it, wait for it) LIVERPOOL! Not Liverpool Liverpool, but Liverpool, Nova Scotia. On the way, we stopped at Peggy’s Cove, a picture-postcard, fishing village complete with lighthouse and waves crashing against rocks. There, I picked a lobster from a tank, named him Oscar (James’ suggestion) and got the restaurant to throw him in a big pot full of boiling water for my sadistic pleasure. I then cried like Homer Simpson EATING PINCHY while cracking open the tasty bugger and stuffing him into my chops, accompanied by copious amounts of garlic butter and mashed potato. YUM!
We then continued on to Da ‘Pool, only to find a remarkably pleasant little town by the sea. The houses were all old and made of wood, there were little cafés and giftshops… I would have named it after Llandudno or Colwyn Bay, but it’s called Liverpool and that’s the end of it. A thousand times better than Liverpool on the outskirts of Syndey Australia. That place really sucked.
As well as looking like Brian Blessed, James is a member of Engineers Without Borders, an international organisation much in the mould of Medicines Sans Frontiers. This fits in very well with the charity that I’m doing The Odyssey for – WaterAid – as there are a painful number of gob-smackingly corrupt governments around the world who think that building nuclear weapons and sending their children to Oxford University is somehow more important than building decent sewers for the people. What the world needs is modern Joseph Bazelgettes, because if you don’t have proper sewers half your population are going to DIE before the age of five through water-borne diseases.
Anyway, James is a huge fan of the Burning Man Festival, which is pretty much Glastonbury in the desert – and while I doubt I’ll be returning to Halifax in a desperate hurry, the words ‘Glastonbury’ and ‘Desert’ are bound to make my ears prick up like the over-excited puppy that I am. So I’ve promised James that I’ll meet him again at Burning Man 2010, and anyone who wishes to join me is very welcome to tag along.
James dropped me back at the Backpackers on Gottingen Street and I tried to entice Seppe, the German guy with the large hole in his earlobe, to come out on the sauce with me. Seppe, like myself, is waiting for a boat to take him over the Atlantic (actually, to Cuba first, then Naples) but it’s been delayed for ages and now he’s suck in Halifax for at least another week. But I can sympathise, my boat was supposed to get in today, but it’s been delayed until Wednesday. So I’ve got even longer to waste in Halifax.
I’ve got about 265 days left to get to 157 more countries. I really shouldn’t be spending 9 days in somewhere like Halifax. Why on Earth didn’t I stay in New York?!!
Okay, so Halifax may not be the Big Apple, but it is a lovely place:
Today I went for a walk around the city, but it was still a bit rubbish. Although now the snow has all melted, it wasn’t even covered in white fluffy stuff to make it at least a little bit more interesting. There are a few noteworthy buildings that look really awesome, but the centre consists of a nasty, nasty concrete stadium thing, and a couple of really nasty concrete shopping malls. I see the 1960s and 70s were as unfriendly to the good town of Halifax as they were to every city in the UK.
Quite why anyone still thinks it’s a good idea to make buildings out of solidified porridge, asbestos, MRSA and legionnaires disease is beyond me.
That night I headed over to the open mic night again and got to listen to some really great music. But then somebody handed me a Rubik’s Cube and I embarrassingly went into my Obsessive Puzzle Solving mode. I was a little drunk so it took me AGES to complete and once I did, anyone left to impress with my Rain-Man style qualities had left. Oh well.
Then a guy came on stage with a guitar, played a half-decent song and then proceeded to blow through a French Horn for ten minutes. It wasn’t like he knew how to play the French Horn or even bothered to operate the valves. So we were treated to a long discordant fart, which went on for longer than even a jaded Radiohead fan would find sufficient.
Me being the impatient heckler critic of doom (and being sufficiently lubricated with Halifax’s finest ales) decided that the hook should come on stage and drag this guy off. What I didn’t realise was that this was not an episode of X-Factor or even a knobbly-knees competition at Pontins. By saying anything, I incurred the ire of Aaron, a pleasant-enough guy, but one that (despite claiming to be an Anarchist) thought he would take up the Authoritarian mantle and tell me off – much in keeping with a teacher telling me off in school for shining the sun into his eyes with my watch.
In hindsight, perhaps I was I little rude and maybe there was some artistic merit in having a guy fart in my general direction for ten minutes, but as I haven’t got an artistic or musical bone in my body if you really want to annoy me the best thing to do is something artistically or musically that I could do myself without any practice and then expect me to be impressed. Same goes with architecture. I know it’s tough love, but there you go; Canada’s music scene is embarrassingly unknown outside Canada. Their roster of international break-out singers consists of Bryan Adams, Avril Latrine, Alanis Morrissette and Celine Frickin’-Dion. Put short, they need all the help (ie. friendly criticism) they can get.
Although Leonard Cohen and Arcade Fire rock my world, so that’s one up on New Zealand, South Africa and France.
After spending the day trying (and failing) to get a video edited before I left Halifax, it was with great relief that I got to speak to Mandy on Skype to wish her Happy Birthday.
It’s killing me that I won’t see her for at least another nine months. But let’s not dwell on that subject any longer than necessary.
Justin, a guy from Queenstown (Bungeeeeeeee!) New Zealand, has just moved into our dorm, so I took him under my wing (having been here eight days, I’m an old hand at this now) and we headed up the road for a couple of games of pool. Once there, we got talking to pretty much everybody who was there, including some Canadian girls who thought I reminded them of pretty much every celebrity funnyman from the UK who I dislike immensely. Fortunately, they actually liked said celebrity funnymen so I was able to ride on their ill-gotten celebrity status and pretend that I was just as irritating and obtuse. Which I am. So a couple of drinks turned into a couple more and before I knew it, I was being bundled into the back of a taxi and being driven halfway across town to another bar with a later license.
But I’ve got to be up at 9am to meet the guys from the boat, I whined. Or maybe I didn’t. Who knows? All I know is that Justin and I ended up in some place in Halifax that had a live band doing covers (I think) and that somebody must have been buying me drinks because I have no recollection of getting back to the hostel or going to bed. All in all, a pretty good last night all things considered.
Woke up with thunder crashing in my head (as Elvis once sang) with the owner of the backpackers telling me that the representatives from Eimskip where here to get me. Crikey!
I hurriedly slung my clothes on, grabbed my bags and ran downstairs to meet the rather wonderful Samme the Shipping Agent and his assistant Liz. Blurry-eyes and croaking like Toad of Toad Hall, I jumped in the back of his car and he gave me a lift to his office to print out my disclaimer and then we headed to the docks and without too much fuss I embarked on the Reykjafoss, my home for the next week and my one-way ticket to Europe.
The captain is Polish and the crew is (once again) a mix of Ukraine, Russian and Pilipino. Everyone is really friendly and they all seem to know of The Linge Trader (it’s owned by the same company) as well as Captain “Get off my ship!” Van Den Platts. It seems that the world of international shipping is a rather small one and so we had a few funny stories to swap. In the evening, we watched a Metallica video (seriously!) and I, having not cleared my hang-over before getting on board and having used up all my anti-nausea pills on the trip to Cuba, was violently sick in my cabin’s toilet. Whaaaagh…Blurggggh, sorry about that.
Tomorrow, we get in to Argentia, Newfoundland, so with any luck, I’ll find a 24-hour Pharmacy. Although the captain has described the place to me as ‘somewhere after a Nuclear Holocaust’, so I’m not holding my breath.
In the meantime, can I just say a massive SORRY to everyone who is waiting for the next video instalment. During the days in Halifax, I managed to get Weeks 7 and 8 edited, and was planning to have 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 ready for when I got into Iceland next week. HOWEVER, my hard drive got detached unexpectedly from my laptop on Monday while I was saving it and the actual video files got corrupted, which means I have to upload and edit the blighters AGAIN.
I’ll have as many done as I can and fingers crossed I’ll have them online next Wednesday, depending on how things play out in Iceland. Because the Reykjafoss is running two days late, I might not get in to Reykjavik until next Wednesday evening, and if that’s the case I will probably miss my connection to the UK. Please bear this in mind if you’re hoping to join me on the round-UK-and-Ireland trip a week on Monday – don’t book anything yet! This is The Odyssey, and we just have to expect the unexpected.
The Reykjafoss cruised into the port of Argentia at about 7pm. I had spent the day getting to know the crew – our Polish Captain, Miroslaw, Chief Engineer Andrey from Russia and the magnificently named Chivas Regal – seriously – our cook from the Philippines.
Argentia seems to be a microcosm of twentieth century architecture – it was an important American Naval Base for many years, and was once a sizable town. Then after the Americans left, the Canadian government had the entire settlement torn down – houses, shops, movie theatres, town hall – the lot. Why? Well BECAUSE THE AMERICANS BUILT IT ALL OUT OF POISON.
Ah, good old Asbestos – the wonder material of the last century. The only problem with it is that, unlike wood, stone and clay, it kills you. So all the buildings – the entire town of Argentia – was (carefully) razed to the ground by people wearing breathing masks. And now nothing can be built there for a long time. Good job Asbestos. Now why don’t you join your other miserable twentieth century construction fiends concrete, plastic and fibre glass and jump into the sun?
Yes, I’m aware that the Romans used concrete, but they used it as a joining material, not to build walls (or, more depressingly, entire hack architecture buildings).
So I jumped in a taxi and headed over to the nearest town to what was once Argentia, a place called Placentia (bit close to ‘Placenta’, but there you go). There I tried to buy some sea-sickness pills, but the gas station only had a pack of over-priced herbal remedy junk – “no drowsiness reported” it boasts on the label. Yeah – no effects, no side effects. I will spend the next week feeling nauseous with my head in the toilet and sick trapped between my mouth and nose. YUCK.
Anyway, that’s in the future and at the moment I’m in a pool hall bar in Placentia. It looks like a Northern Working Man’s Club – it’s one of those places with enough space for 500, but at the moment it’s accommodating a modest 35. The Newfoundlanders are HILARIOUS. One just asked me if I was from Iraq. What gave it away? The red hair or the pasty complexion? They also speak in an almost perfect, ‘Pikey’ Irish accent (think Brad Pitt in Snatch) – but they still say ‘ABOOT’ like all proper Canadians (South Park hit the nail on the head – no matter how much you argue, they are CONVINCED they say ‘ABOUT’ like normal Anglophones) which I think is dead funny.
I’ve just sorted out the last of my emails and had a chat with my beloved who I’m not going to get to speak to for about a week after this, but at least I get to speak to her, which gives me one-up on Odysseus. Once all that’s done, I’m going to sit back, relax and watch the latest Lost on YouTube before they delete it. Ben is going to have a cup of tea and a natter with The Smoke Monster. If you have no idea what I’m talking about you need to catch up by watching The Original Twilight Zone, The Prisoner and Twin Peaks. And that’s an order.
Unbelievable as it may seem, I’m STILL in the Americas!! Loading took a lot longer than expected so we’re still on the Canadian island of Newfoundland. Looks like I’m not going to make it to Liverpool for next Monday morning, so we’re going to have to do a little re-scheduling.
SO PAY ATTENTION!!
There’s another boat I can get from Iceland that leaves next Thursday. The only thing is that it doesn’t stop in the UK, but presses on to Rotterdam and arrives a week on Monday. Depending on the time it gets into Rotterdam and how long it takes me to get from Rotterdam back to Liverpool, our tour of the UK may take place on Tuesday 21st April or Wednesday 22nd. I’ll let you know.
Christ – I wanted to be out of here before the end of FEBRUARY and here we are in APRIL. Madness. Sheer madness.
We pulled out of the port of Argentia and I stood out on deck and watched as the Americas FINALLY slipped away into the night. Thank GOD. I feel like Tim Robbins at the end of The Shawshank Redemption.