Monthly Archives: July 2015

Playing Golf at St. Andrews

It’s (British) Open Golf time again at Scotland’s St. Andrews

Gee. We played there once.

Did the course in only an hour or so.

And didn’t lose a ball.

One of us even played left-handed.

OK, it was the short course.

The really short one. Sort of a nine-hole mini-putt but on real grass with lots of bumps and hollows.

A fun game really.

But it was indeed at the Royal and Ancient – ancestral home of the most sacred, and scariest, game known to humanhood.

For the leftie among us, it was fraught with more than the usual hazards.

Checking into the pro shop, a modest query was put to a stolidly visaged male attendant.

Would you, perhaps, carry any ladies’ left hand clubs?

Nae, nae, never, came the indignant reply.

You don’t have any left hand clubs at all?

What do you do about ladies who want to play left handed?

His response was immediate, unsmiling and direct.

Sure, we drown them at bearth!

We did, nonetheless, play our modest little game without pain.

Putters, you see, are unisex by nature. You can use either hand.

No thanks to the keeper of tradition at the pro shop!ASt-Andrews-Golf-ClubPW BSt-Andrews00101PW CSt-Andrews001PW DSt-Andrews00102PW

Nix on Pluto

How did my name end up on a mega distant moon?

A moon tethered somehow to something called Pluto!

I don’t even own a dog.

I`ve been called Nix since I was a tot – and that is many, many moons ago.

Came by the name honestly – got it from my dad.

It was a fairly common short version of the christened name Nicholas. At least it was in old St. Johns, Newfoundlands capital city. There were half a dozen other Nixes in my Dad`s generation, though none in mine.

So I clung to it, probably desperate to have at least one claim to fame.

I get asked about it all the time, too many assuming it was short for Nixon. I never did like him.

My late German friend Bill Werthman liked to tease me by claiming that Nix in his language meant nothing.

Nix and Hydra are names given – not sure why – to two tiny moons of the small planet Pluto. They were discovered in Hubble Space Telescope images taken in 2005. Each is believed to be less than 100 miles in diameter.

I have no plans for going there any day soon…

where is pluto?

where is pluto?

The Disappearing Lighthouse

Cape-St-Francis-A1994013AVWCape-St-Francis-B1994009AVW Cape-St-Francis-C1994005AVW Cape-St-Francis-D1994010AVW Cape-St-Francis-E1994007AVW Cape-St-Francis-F1994001AVW Cape-St-Francis-G1994002AVW Cape-St-Francis-H1994006AVW Cape-St-Francis-I1994008AVW Cape-St-Francis-J1994011AVW Cape-St-Francis-K1994012AVW

Cape St. Francis, perched at the northern tip of a small peninsula bordering Conception Bay, forms an important landmark in those sometimes busy waters. Never having been there, it seemed an attractive destination while roving northward from St. John’s one sunny summer’s day. We had been to a hippy-run hill top eatery in Portugal Cove, enjoyed views of fishing boats and roadside markers, and ambled by picturesque Pouch Cove. So now we wanted to see Cape St. Francis Lighthouse.

It was a rough road – bone-jarring at times – out to that lonely outpost, but the views would surely be worth it. And the shoreline nearby was impressive. Then came the big surprise:

Rising upon a rocky ledge at water’s edge was, not a sturdy weather-worn traditional lighthouse, but merely a concrete floored helicopter pad, ugly and seemingly deserted. What a let down!  With no one around to enlighten us, no choice but to head back to the city.

Only years later did we learn that the old lighthouse, that had been there since the 1870s, was replaced in 1957 by a two-storey keepers’ residence adjoined by a concrete structure containing fog signal equipment and topped by a lantern. Then, in 1993, the year before we got there, that building was demolished in favour of this unsightly helicopter pad.

Only compensation for this disappointment was finding a structure of quite another kind nestled in a road side field – an old red-painted railway car boasting the proud title of The Little Red Caboose.

Yes, we remember Cape St. Francis!

Caplin are spelt with no “e”

One of the first things I learned after joining the federal Fisheries Department in Ottawa was that mainlanders don’t know how to spell “caplin.” I had written something brief about the caplin roll for a department publication but had the copy returned because I used that word without an “e.”

My editor could maybe be forgiven for he was not only an Ontario resident for some years, but was an Englishman by birth, so he didn’t know any better. True, the only dictionaries on hand gave it the name ‘capelin,’ and this was years before the Newfoundland dictionary came into being.

Fortunately, my editing friend was over ruled by his boss and mine, Mark  Ronayne, a true born Newfoundlander and former Telegram journalist, who had authored a fine Canadian Geographic article telling all about the “caplin roll.” So the errant “e” was swiftly despatched.

I had seen caplin swarming the beaches lots of times in Kelligrews, Conception Bay, and had many a tasty meal of them – none better perhaps than those I had served from a smoky hot plate on night shift at the Daily News.

Only once did I get a chance to view an exciting caplin roll through the lens of a camera. This was fittingly enough at Middle Cove, surely a caplin’s mecca, on a sunny day in 1975. My picture output could have been better – a little more sharpness please next time –  but it serves to recall a truly vivid summer experience that is so treasured by Newfoundlanders and those who visit its shores.

Since the caplin are rolling again today at Middle Cove, this seems a good time to traipse down this happy memory lane….   Middle-Cove-1985023PW Middle-Cove-1985023BPW Middle-Cove-1985022PW Middle-Cove-1985021PW Middle-Cove-1985020PW Middle-Cove-1985019PW Middle-Cove-1985018PW Middle-Cove-1985015PW Middle-Cove-1985013PW Middle-Cove-1985012PW Middle-Cove-1985011PW Middle-Cove-1985010PW Middle-Cove-1985009PW Middle-Cove-1985008PW Middle-Cove-1985007PW Middle-Cove-1985006PW Middle-Cove-1985005PW Middle-Cove-1985004PW Middle-Cove-1985003PW Middle-Cove-1985001PW

Middle Cove Nostalgia

blustery day

blustery day

Nfld13_0084PW Middle-Cove-1985004PW Middle-Cove-01RPW 1975-pix044PW 1975-pix043PW 1975-pix042PWProbably the most memorable of all the scenic coves dotting the marine drive outside St. John’s, Middle Cove never fails to delight anyone who happens along, regardless of what the weather is like that day. Its moods are variable, ranging from ultra calm and quiet – a fairly rare occurrence – to violently boisterous when buffeted by the raging northeasters so common along those shores.

Here are a few images snapped at various times while making the compulsory stop to take in the beautiful vistas so symbolic of Newfoundland’s distinctive natural grandeur.

Back in 1962, when black and white film was all one could afford, the lure of Middle Cove demanded efforts to capture the spectacle of rolling waves filtered through tall young trees bordering the inlet.

Especially exciting for us mainland based expatriates was the time in 1985 when we saw up close a glorious caplin scull for which Middle Cove is deservedly well known. But that’s a picture story in itself, so we’ll save it for another day, except for a little teaser.

It was a great pleasure, on a summer afternoon in 1975, to watch my artist sister, Mary Brown, sketch a colour portrait of a Middle Cove headland. The finished print still adorns our guest room wall for visitors to admire. Though moving to Ottawa two years later, she retained her fondness for this iconic haven, returning many times to paint and photograph its ever changing scenes. Living to a fine old age at 91, Mary had her wishes granted when family members in 2013 scattered her ashes in respectful tribute on Middle Cove waters.