The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Canada ’08: Buckley’s Mixture!

It’s that time of year once more – practically everyone appears to have some kind of cough/cold/flu/man flu complaint. Every room you enter is accompanied by the orchestrated coughing and wheezing of young and old alike. Every year we are told that there is no cure for the common cold, albeit there may be substances to relieve the depressing and uncomfortable symptoms of this annual trial. I think I have just discovered one in all it’s awful glory during my recent trip to New Brunswick, Canada – Buckley’s Mixture!

Let me tell you a little about this stuff. It’s singularly the most ‘bogging’ medicine I have ever taken – seriously awful. After my initial two teaspoons full I sat stunned and horrified for several minutes whilst the milky white solution reached parts of my throat I never knew I had. I have never experienced anything quite like it.

The evil potion was first concocted by pharmacist, one William Knapp Buckley after taking over a Toronto drug store way back in 1919, producing it for marketing the year after. Buckley was a shrewd entrepreneur and used the relatively new advertising mediums of print and radio to promote his product Canada-wide and eventually for export. Continue reading

January 8, 2009 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , , | 8 Comments

Canada ’08: Looney Dooking

Every New Year’s Day in South Queensferry near Edinburgh under the gaze of the massive Forth Bridges an event takes place which literally takes the breath away. The ‘Looney Dook’ is a well-established lemming-like rush into the ice-cold waters of the Firth of Forth by stupidly brave locals to signal the New Year. The event has something of a history these days and is not it’s own in the genre. Today’s Telegraph-Journal in Saint John, tells of at least two more similar events here in Atlantic Canada.

I visited nearby Mispec Beach a few days ago and it is a charming spot. Ideal for summer bathers in spite of the reported cold waters of The Bay of Fundy which lap the sands there. Nearby, all around lay petrified waterfalls of solid ice, beautiful though forbidding at this time of year. Not so for some brave souls however. Continue reading

January 3, 2009 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , | Leave a comment

Canada ’08: New Years in Saint John

Well things are going very nicely here in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada – thanks for asking. The family welcome for our Christmas and New Year break has been marvellously warm and kind – a complete contrast thankfully to the Canadian winter that we face here.   

I run every day – it’s a given. That applies to wherever in the world I am and whatever other commitments I have, I alwaysrun – at least a short distance, every day. Through the cold, fog, rain, snow and icy sidewalks, being here in the Atlantic Canada city of Saint John presents no exception to that rule.

I have to say it’s been difficult.

In fact I can honestly say that all told, its the most difficult place I’ve ever run in.



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January 1, 2009 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , | 2 Comments

Canada ’08: The Road to Saint John

An unwelcome and shrill alarm call heralds the long day ahead. It’s Christmas Eve, 2008 and today heralds the long journey to Saint John in Maritime Canada, via an initial flight to Montreal from London.

I crawl out of bed, yet with a purpose, to get dressed into makeshift running kit and head out of the door into a gloomy and damp 5.30am Nottingham morning, just as the electric whir of a milk float passes the front drive. Of course I don’t choose to shoehorn myself out of bed and on the road at this time of day for any old reason. Today’s itinerary tells me this will be the only opportunity to run on this elongated day however. Continue reading

December 26, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , | Leave a comment

The difference with REAL snow

Many people here in the UK remark to me about the Canadian winter climate . They often say things like ‘yes, but it’s a different kind of cold’ or ‘but Canadians dress for it’ – that type of thing. I always feel that there is an element of truth in those kinds of statements but at the same time they over-simplify what, to British people, would often be a barbaric set of winter conditions. My partner largely hails from Edmonton, Alberta – a Province that is no stranger to harsh winter conditions. I’ve not experienced the very coldest temperatures in Edmonton – the mercury only dropping to a balmy  -30C at the worst during my many stays. It’s not rare to have a savage -40c plus another -20c of wind chill. When walking downtown in particular, as soon as the wind rises a few miles per hour it feels like it’s going to cut you in half.

Anyway , I slightly digress. Here’s a story I spotted on the BBC site today. It may seem pretty extreme by UK standards but it’s not such an unusual story by Canadian standards. Why, the last time I was in Edmonton over the holiday, a poor chap perished on the front door step of his own home having locked himself out on New Year’s Eve. You just don’t take any chances with Canadian winters…

Canada woman survives snow burial

December 23, 2008 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , | Leave a comment

Canada ’08: The Colours of Silver Star

I had a recent trip up the road from Kelowna through the City of Vernon and on to the beautiful ski resort of Silver Star. I’ve been there several times previously with my partner, her family and our friends amidst the ski season on Christmas/New visits. This time it was to be a ‘dry run’ however, before the winter fun starts, hopefully promptly in November if snow conditions permit.

It’s been three years since my last visit on New Year’s Eve in 2005. On that occasion we skated on the excellent Brewster’s Pond at the resort. I whiled a couple of frigid but enjoyable hours on the ice, flipping a puck around with a rented hockey stick on that occasion. That was before retiring to a cosy bar to see in the UK New Year at 4pm Pacific Time.

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October 24, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Canada ’08: Janson Towers

A recent worrying rash of serious road accidents involving motorcycle-vehicle collisions in Kelowna was added to a day ago by the news of the rider of a Harley-Davidson who collided with a young driver’s pick-up truck in Westside. The rider is said to have sustained a leg fracture and it’s thought he will survive. The circumstances of the accident are not clear at this point.

This story, reported in Kelowna’s Daily Courier is a sad reminder of a tragic tale that hit the front page of the same publication just recently on October 12. None of us likes to hear these stories but this one struck me as particularly heartbreaking. It concerns the story of 21-year old Okanagan Sun running back, Janson Towers who died in a collision between his motorcycle and a large semi-trailer vehicle at the busy junction of Gordon Drive and Harvey Avenue. Janson, who was on his way home from training with the club, sadly died from his injuries in the ambulance on the way to hospital.

Janson is reported to have had a series of speeding convictions and some would quite reasonably point to his style of riding putting others in danger. Without delving into the why’s and wherefores of this and the accident itself, it’s always terribly sad to see someone so young and gifted with their whole life in front of them taken away from us in this way. In another heart-rending note, Janson from Alberta had just four days previously been honoured as the Okanagan Sun’s most inspirational player. 

A day later, the Sun’s opponents, the South Surrey Rams offered to postpone their fixture scheduled for The Apple Bowl in Kelowna but Janson’s family insisted the show must indeed go on. Janson’s number 25 jersey was carried aloft on to the pitch before the game and his teammates managed to produce a 38-7 victory in his memory with a gutsy performance. Condolences go to the young man’s loved ones and all who knew him.

One hopes that Janson Towers’ story, and all the other recent senseless accidents will not go unheeded. Motorists out there please keep an extra watch out for motorcyclists and motorcyclists, please think carefully about your speed and safety. Hopefully the sad and unwanted increase in these type of accidents can be arrested.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , | 3 Comments

Canada ’08: The Immaculate Conception Church, Kelowna

Last Sunday evening I paid a visit for Mass in the pleasant, friendly and welcoming, Immaculate Conception Church in Kelowna. I reconciled to arrive a little early and take in the atmosphere of the church, this being my first visit. No more than a mile’s walk along Ethel Street took me to the modern building situated on Sutherland Avenue for twenty to six in the evening, for Mass at six and a scattering of a congregation already in place.

My regular place of worship is Saint Barnabas RC Cathedral in Nottingham, UK, a traditional and older church and I was looking forward to comparing the difference with my regular Sunday evening Mass with that of the experience provided at the Immaculate Conception Church. Of course one understands that the message is the same one worldwide, but still it was interesting to spend my Sunday evening in a much more modern construction with a few different ways of doing things.

At the front of the church there is a welcome from Our Lady of Fatima, whilst upon entering from outside I picked up the Parish bulletin which was informative and free for worshippers. Interestingly there was a ‘Milestones and Anniversaries’ section which included the name of Hockey Hall of Famer, Mario Lemioux as a birthday boy that Sunday! Of course my interest and affection for the Immaculate Conception was now signed and sealed!

Mass began with Father Peter Tomkins who proved to be likeable and affable with the congregation, using an informal style when appropriate, particularly with the children that came forward to receive their awards.

A band played provided the music in a more modern, popular style than I am normally used to. It wasn’t my personal preference but it was hard to fault their excellent musicianship, sincerity and commitment. This echoed the whole feel of the Mass. I guess that I am used to a more sombre and serious affair and this experience felt very ‘light’ by comparison. Perhaps some would argue that this is just as things should be in these days of dwindling congregations.

Father Tomkins talked at length and with some authority in a pleasing manner, helping make Mass an enjoyable and interesting experience. One lighter moment was when a tiny boy ran clop-clop-clop-clop from the very back pew to him to eagerly be handed his award by Father Peter. The young lad was so small it was impossible to barely do anything but hear him, invisible as he was, beneath the level of the pews!

The Mass had a very mixed and (hey this is Canada right!) informal congregation dressed in a variety of ways! None of this ‘Sunday Best’ stuff here for some of the members!

The service ran promptly and finished a little quicker than I am used to. I walked out of the door with my usual lift in spirits for a Sunday evening and wandered off for the mile walk home in a rapidly cooling and crisp Kelowna evening. This was not before engaging in conversation with another member of the congregation whilst walking along the sidewalk. It’s pretty hard not to be sociable with people here in Kelowna, smiling and friendly as the locals invariably are. The congregation of The Immaculate Conception Church on Sutherland Avenue, Kelowna are certainly no exception.

Another view of The Immaculate Conception Church

October 16, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , | 1 Comment

Canada ’08: Howie Morenz – The Stratford Streak

Hockey is a great game for nicknames. Consider ‘The Chicoutimi Cucumber’, the name given to goalie, Georges Vézina for his cool head in between the pipes for many a year in Montreal or ‘The Production Line’ used to describe Detroit legends Gordie Howe, ‘Terrible’ Ted Lindsey and Sid Abel of fabled scoring exploits. Howie Morenz of the Montreal Canadiens collected two such monikers in his all-too-short time in the game.

When playing for his hometown Mitchell Juveniles, Howie quickly became known as ‘The Mitchell Meteor’ for his blazing speed on the ice. When he moved over to the nearby team in Stratford Ontario, Howie again earned a new nickname when in winning the Provincial title he became widely known as ‘The Stratford Streak’ for similar reasons.

Montreal quickly got wind of Howie’s abilities and signed him on a two-year contract only for him to break his contract and head home to Mitchell, homesick. The Canadiens were not to be denied however and visited the Morenz family, placing the then huge sum of $850 on the Morenz kitchen table as a signing on fee. Howie was a Hab again.

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October 9, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , | 3 Comments

Canada ‘08: A Canadian Institution (3) The Dollar Store

From inauspicious beginnings ten years ago in 1998, The first Dollar Store opened in Merrit, British Columbia followed very shortly afterwards by a similar outlet in Kelowna in the same province. Those two early stores spawned a huge chain of successful stores Canada-wide, now numbering over 170 franchises.

Of course we know that the concept of an ultra-low-price retail store is not just the preserve of Canada. Indeed in the UK we have our Pound Shops, but there just seems something so erm…intrinsically Canadian about these stores.

I’m actually a real sucker for these places and I’m not entirely sure why. I seldom spend much (well I guess that’s the general idea) or anything at all in them but I still can’t resist them – I can’t walk past one. I guess I just take a feeling that I might well be missing out on a great deal on something I really need. Dollar Stores are like that – all the stuff inside them is merchandise that you feel you can’t possible leave without and well, it’s a only a dollar (or two) anyway so you may as well buy it!

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October 8, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , | 7 Comments


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