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.

Safely back and ready to shower, a call in a South African accent from a friend checks that we are indeed out of bed, ready and functioning. Showers, cups of tea and toast and the placing of suitcases, heavily laden with winter garments and we are heading to the motorway and Gatwick Airport.

A thankfully uneventful check-in sees us into our cramped seats on the Air Transat aircraft, not before yet again failing to navigate security, in spite of stripping several items off. Do I have magnetic blood or something? Did I have an accident somewhere along the way that necessitated the insertion of several metal pins into my body that I am unaware of? This matter remains a mystery to me.

Inside the aircraft is the predictable melee of people struggling for storage space and sliding into cramped positions in the inadequate seating. After seven-and-a-half hours of this I hope to one day be able to walk again. There is a baby in the opposite isle seat, teething but happy on his French-Canadian daddy’s lap. Gurgling and being cosseted. Flight steward Danny Bedard informs the parents that there are nine babies travelling today. ‘Our’ baby is much the best behaved amongst the occasional cacophony of screams resonating around the stuffy cabin.

Stereotypical Hollywood movies provide the onboard entertainment. I prefer to fall asleep though, in truth I have little say on that matter. I wander awake as Will Smith negotiates yet another car chase.

It’s been a long year. It’s been a somewhat trying and unusual year too. This is our third journey to Canada inside six months, not as on the previous two occasions to sunny Kelowna in British Columbia but rather to the new climes, for me, of Saint John in New Brunswick in the Maritimes. We are going to visit family just in time for Christmas Day, arriving less than an hour before it begins. No visit to Saint Barnabas for Midnight Mass beckons tonight. In fact by making the journey it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all. Things will be different when we land I reason. In the meantime the tiny allotted space I have, with a booming tannoy system above my head offers little ease. As if to confound me even more the elderly gent in the seat in front of me chooses to lean back as far as possible making it almost impossible to steadily type these words.

It’s apparent that Will Smith’s latest subtlety-drawn character can now fly as a cursory glance towards the screen ahead indicates. Meanwhile opposite, Cute Baby is now coughing most of his garish looking dinner over dad’s clean shirt. Another item for the wash pile back in Montreal, dad.

It’s over ten years since I visited Montreal. I loved the city and its vibrancy then and I’m sure I will do now given the prospect of a little time spent there. We only have six hours, whilst waiting for our connecting Air Canada flight to Saint John, however. What will the French-Canadian city hold for us during that time?

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